Dec 122018
All cars end up here

Recently we added up what running a car was costing us. Initially we looked purely at the monthly costs, but then we started to look at the ‘per mile’ costs and it was suddenly fairly scary, turning that into a ‘per use’ figure was even more insane. We realised that we were using the car perhaps twice a month and each use was therefore costing over £100, excluding fuel – which given our usage was amazingly minimal. 

We worked out that each mile cost us about £2.50, plus fuel. 

Continue reading “Do you really need a car” »
Dec 072018

I was not raised in an especially religious household, we went to Church on an infrequent basis and I was sent to Sunday school for a while, but in general there was no great emphasis on religion that I remember. I was encouraged to pray, but mostly religion was not a subject that was discussed a great deal

I went to Sunday school because my parents wanted me to go, while there we were told stories from the bible and while interesting, I quickly identified them as fiction. There was no basis in reality that I could see, simple, cute, whimsical stories that often had a moral to them. In near every example the story proved that being good to others would generally lead to a good outcome, while being bad would generally be your downfall. I got good at this, I could identify the bad actors within a couple of minutes. I paid all of this education lip-service, because my parents wanted this.

I distinctly remember some of my peers taking this seriously, they took the stories to be actual records of things that had happened, rather than my interpretation of them as being moral-based stories that promoted better behaviour. Continue reading “My Religious Opposition” »

 Posted by at 6:00 pm
Dec 012018

A long time ago Jeff Lynne wrote a lyric that went like this..

It’s over, it’s over, all over,
It’s all over now
And the way you looked
Don’t even mean I’m down.
When you kick out the sea
And the sun says goodbye
There is nothing much to speak of.

Well a momentous fight that I have been going through for four years and four months is finally over and the lyric has been popping in and out of my head ever since.

On August 1st 2014, I was hit by a car while cycling around a roundabout. The crash broke my collarbone fairly badly, left me with a broken bicycle and a lot of cuts and bruises.

Initially the driver gave me false insurance details, then the owner of the car (his daughter) called me to tell me that I would never get a penny and she was going to sue me for damage to her car. By then I had already filed a police report and had been patched-up at the hospital, so I called a solicitor that specialises in bicycle accident claims to help me to untangle this mess. This turned out to be a brilliant move on my part.

Continue reading “Its Over” »

 Posted by at 8:00 am
Nov 142018

There has been an increase in the number of e-mails and text messages that are landing in my spam folders recently. I am not sure why the upturn is happening, but some of the e-mails are getting very convincing.

It was not long ago that I would get badly spelled, poorly constructed e-mails that were easy to spot,

Subject: Yuor Natwast account has ten tnarsactions pending.

Now, not only do I not have a Natwest account, but the typo’s in the subject line made it super obvious.

Yesterday I got an e-mail.

Subject: Lloyds Bank Fraud Alert. Continue reading “Anatomy of a brilliant Phishing attack” »

 Posted by at 8:00 am
Nov 112018

So, you have just been hacked, now what ?

Firstly, if the hackers have accessed your bank account, call your bank and get them to start sorting this out for you. They are very, very good at this, but it takes time. While you are waiting, lets secure everything we can.

Step 1 – Secure your e-mail account.

First of all, ensure that your e-mail provider supports ‘Multi-Factor Authentication’ or MFA for short.

I cannot stress how important this is, if you use your ISP’s ‘free’ e-mail, there is a very high likelihood that they do not support MFA, even if they do, there is more than a strong chance that in order to access your account from your phone, you are forced to use a static ‘application’ password.

This ‘static application password’ is the email equivalent of having ten deadbolts on your front door and your back door protected by a small, rusty,  99p padlock from Wilco.  Continue reading “Hack Recovery 101” »

 Posted by at 12:18 pm
Aug 312018

I am autistic.

My brain is wired a little differently to the majority of the population, I hide it as much as I can and over the years I have got better and better at hiding it, but there is no getting away from it, my brain is wired a little oddly compare to a ‘regular’ person.

This is not a sympathy post. It is far from it – I do not want your sympathy, autism has given me a lot of advantages and has made me who I am today. I really quite like who I am too, so no sympathy please. I am happy.

What autism means in my case is a variety of things;

  • I can, and often do, retreat from everyone around me, disappear into ‘my own world’, which despite what people may think, is far from ‘little’ in order to work things through.
  • I lack empathy. Or more I lack intuitive empathy, I understand it and I use it, but it is not natural for me to use it or display it.
  • I am stupidly good at some tasks and laughably bad at others.
  • I have both infinite patience and zero patience. Very little in between.
  • I struggle to read people pretty much all the time.
  • I can get incredibly emotional about some things and can be entirely cold about others.
  • Being the centre of attention is torture.
  • Big, Loud, Crowds disorient me.
  • I have had quite the career in the computing industry.
  • I can break exceptionally complex things into simple tasks in my head.
  • Explaining some of this stuff is very difficult.

…and quite a few things that are often inconsistent to a casual observer.  Continue reading “Being a little different” »

 Posted by at 2:11 pm
Aug 012018

Four years ago a ‘driver’ crashed into me and my bicycle, rather than slow down marginally and avoid me. That decision slowed him down a great deal, he had to deal with a battered and bloody version of me for a while, then he had to deal with his insurance company and the courts and eventually the headache of a fine and points.

Which on the whole is not a lot compared to me.

In the last four years I’ve had…..

  • Three surgeries to fix my broken collarbone
  • Mostly recovered from many bruises and lacerations – although I have some scars
  • Gone through a lot of Physical Therapy
  • Not regained full use of my shoulder
  • Spent a lot of money on pain killers

Currently my shoulder is aching, I know that a nice hot shower and some ibuprofen will fix it, but that is not the point, my other shoulder does not hurt.

I have restricted mobility in my shoulder.

I went to see the medical examiner today, this should be my final visit.

We are in court in November, unless the drivers’ insurance company decided to try and settle it out of court and make us a really good offer.

It has been a very long road. The journey to compensation is probably nearing the end, but the pain and suffering will probably continue for a very long time.

 Posted by at 8:00 pm
Mar 182018


1983 Brochure scan (Mark 1)

Back in 1981, my mother and I persuaded my father that a brand new Raleigh Record Sprint would be a much better purchase at £161, than all of the other bicycles priced around the £80 mark in Roy Woods bicycle store.

£161 in 1981 was a lot of money, it is something like £450 in 2018.

For the money though I got a beautiful gloss black bicycle with exotic gold components and new-to-the market Reynolds 501 tubing. Compared to every other bicycle I had ever owned, it was fast and light and the ride quality was sublime.

The black and gold colour scheme echoed the JPS lotus cars of the previous decade, it oozed cool and Raleigh new it too.

Over the next few years despite being able to legally drive cars and ride motorbikes, I still managed to put a lot of miles on it. When I moved to my flat it became my primary transport for a while.

I have memories of riding to see friends on it, taking my cat to the vets on it and riding many many miles for pleasure.

That bike was a very early one, it had Campagnolo gears, safety brake levers and toe straps, it was lovely.

I eventually sold it, but for many years, I have looked for one to replace it.

In the last three years or so I have bid on a great number of them on eBay, usually they are way worn and in need of a lot of TLC, which is good, because this is what I am good at.

I dreamed about getting an old one, preferably a mark1, just like my original and then undertaking a ‘restomod’ on it.

This is where you take an old bicycle and keep little more than the frame, replacing the forks with Carbon blades, the 12 speed with a 2×11 setup and the wheels with something super light. Obviously the brakes would be swapped with modern ones and the pedals would be clipless LOOK or SPD jobs.

The problem is that the old Mark1 frames are virtually all in terrible condition, yet they still command a premium price.

The Mark2 was introduced in 1984 (I believe), it stuck with the 501 tubing, but with a twist, the Mark2 had ‘aero’ tubing. The frame was also slightly lighter. The decals are different too.

Thinking about this, I decided that finding a decent Mark2 frame would give me a good base, I could restomod it to my hearts content an maybe backdate the frame decals.

A week ago a Mark2 ‘barn find’ popped up on eBay. The seller had mispelled many words, it was advertised as a ‘Rayleigh Rekkord’. The photos showed what looked like a nice condition Record Sprint that had apparently not been touched in 30 years. I popped in a cheeky bid.

Amazingly I won it – there was one other bidder, had there been no other bidder I would have paid £30. As it was, the shipping was almost 1/3 of the total cost.  Continue reading “Raleigh Record Sprint” »

Mar 062018

In the wake of numerous school shootings in the US and the beginnings of, and subsequent shut-downs of, debates on gun control, I was thinking about how just how puzzling the this (lack of actual) debate seems from the outside world.

Most of the rest of the world has had already had the debate, guns in the wrong hands are lethal. Restricting ownership to well trained, responsible people is a good idea. It is a done deal.

In the UK and for the majority of Europe, Asia and, well, pretty much everywhere in the world, the cultural shift has been such that declaring that you want to own a gun seems to lead people to the conclusion that you are precisely the sort of person that shouldn’t own a gun.

Its a little bit like the old Douglas Adams quote ‘It is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it… anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.

In the majority of the developed world ‘self defence’ is not considered a valid reason for wanting to own a gun.   Continue reading “Americans and their Guns…..” »

 Posted by at 8:00 am
Jan 062018

Image of 'fixed' network

Click for details

Virgin Media network cable connections can be really rather good.

The real world issue is that they are let down by the quality and performance of their ‘SuperHubs’, hereafter referred to as their ‘Stupid Hubs‘.

There are several problems…

  • The Hub is a combination device that tries to be Cable modem, Router, Wireless Access Point and a Switch.
  • The device is heavily locked down so that only limited amounts of user-tweaks are possible.
  • Wi-Fi performance is poor, not just the range, but its ability to handle loads.
  • Routing performance can be poor under specific circumstances.
  • The lock-down can cause technical issues with some VPN connections.

In our home, literally the only practical place that the stupid-hub can live is right next to the TV.

Because the Stupid-Hub appears to have inadequate RF shielding, when the TV is switched on, the performance of the Stupid-Hub Wifi drops considerably. For reasons that are not entirely clear, even wired connections suffer horribly (but not when Wi-Fi is turned off, suspiciously). The Virgin engineer that tried to sort this out for us recommend that the hub is at least 2m away from TV’s, monitors, microwaves and any other electrical devices, like computers, phones and iPads !

This is pretty impractical in a small house. A quick survey with a 2m long bamboo cane gave me just a handful of highly impractical potential locations. The loft was a strong contender for a while, but apparently the hub does not like low or high temps. Under the bath was considered and mounted on a wall half way up the stairs was briefly discussed. Just the issues running coax and power cables to these crazy locations ruled them right out.

Something needed to be done.

In short, if you want half decent Wi-fi, you need to disable it on the Stupid-Hub and plug in a decent wireless Access Point.

The standard Stupid-Hub was incapable of getting a signal to about half the house. It reached upstairs, but barely and there was zero signal in the office and the bathroom.

There are multiple ways to solve this. We chose to use high performance products from Ubiquiti and Netgear, but I am very aware that you could do nearly all of this on a tight budget by getting a decent Wireless Router from Netgear or Linksys etc.

This entry is all about doing it really well and building a high performance network that is robust, and can be upgraded over time without relying on a specific Internet Service Provider.

For us, step one was just to fix the terrible Wi-Fi.

Continue reading “Fixing Virgin Media Wi-Fi and Routing…” »