Apr 112013

One of the first cars I owned was a 1988 F plate Citroen AX GT. Actually, I think it was my third car.

It wasn’t a bad car, a little quirky with a plastic boot with only glass connecting it to the body of the car.

It was also really noisy when driving it. Wind noise mostly. That was simple enough to sort, turn the stereo up!

Jump forward 20 years or so and I am currently sat at the local Citroen garage waiting for the MoT to be completed on the work van.

Wandering around the showroom I had time to take a decent look at the DS3, a VTi120 DStyle Red. It’s black with a red roof and red accent pieces. I have to admit it doesn’t look bad and reminds me of the fun I used to have driving that old AX GT.

Then I stuck my head inside.


The photo above is of that accent piece in the interior. In this case it is the dashboard, what everybody will see when they are sat in the car. I don’t know how well it shows up in the picture but the orange peel effect in the paint just shows that Citroen still do not believe that the little things matter. With just a little more prep and colour sanding this orange peel would disappear and make the whole thing more pleasing to the eye.

A bit of pathetic nitpicking? Probably, but if they want me to spend £15,660 on a French quirky car they have to do better than this.

Apr 092013

But Mostly…

Contrary to popular belief, I do have other interests. I realised whilst scrolling through some old posts earlier that I come across as a bit of a one trick pony. Ok, 4 trick – Caching, computers, bushcraft (which I write far too little about) and Scouting.

I have always thrown myself fully into any particular project that interests me, often to the detriment of most of my other hobbies. For example, I got my Ham Radio licence back in March and since then I have spent much time (ok, most…) reading about Ham radio, antennas, rigs and theory on the internet. As yet I haven’t actually pressed the PTT button on a rig and called CQ. This is hopefully going to change fairly soon.

We have also started the setup of the Fareham West Scouts Amateur Radio Club. We realised whilst running a night activity for the District Scouts that not having our own communications system is something of a drawback when we have 10 checkpoints and no easy way to contact all of them. Yes, we could use mobile phones but that can get expensive very quickly.

The idea now is that through the club we can run Foundation courses with the exam to qualify leaders (and eventually young people) to be able to use Amateur Radio for point to point comms. Although the course will cost £40 or so per person and the equipment setup costs are not cheap, in the long run it will be cheaper to have club equipment (handhelds and mobile rigs) that we can issue to licenced amateurs for the duration of the event. First course is due to run in July with up to 15 attendees. I am really looking forward to the course!

In other news, Clash of Clans on iOS (iPad) appears to be taking over my evenings and any other spare time I have. Seriously, if you have an iPad, you really need to get this game! I will be posting tints and hips that I have learned over the last few weeks…

Apr 082013

So, it has been a hectic few months. Since that last really bad poetry post I think we have seen sunshine just once. Fed up of cold, rain, sleet and snow (especially in April!) and would like some warm weather!

So much has happened, in no particular order:

  • Christmas happened. Just like it does every bloody year.
  • I became an officially licenced Amateur Radio operator. Callsign M0HHN. More about this in future posts.
  • Due to Christmas and a very ill dog I failed to put the Mini through an MoT.
  • Went to the Outdoors Show at the Olympia, exhibiting with Adam from UK Cache Mag.
  • Had a month off work sick.
  • During that month off I started playing Clash Of Clans. I haven’t stopped yet. 8 weeks later, it’s the most I have played a game in years. More than I played Battlefield 3 and CoD Black Ops combined…
  • We released a UK Geocaching Podcast every month from August 2012 to today (well, after I have finished this post…) making it my personal record for continuous release.

I am sure there’s more we have done but I can’t remember. I will be updating a little more regularly with the geekery, got a new Arduino project to work on, building a quiz buzzer system so that the Mini Club can run a Bullseye (Jim Bowen stylee) night, want to build some amateur radio antennas for 2 metres and HF transmission, we have just started an Amateur Radio Club for Fareham West Scouts so we can train Scouters (leaders and young people) to pass the ham exams too. More on that at fwsarc.cornellfinch.com

I am also going to post some pictures of the crappy bases that I find in Clash of Clans as really good examples of how not to do it. Might also write some tips from what I have learned in the last 8 weeks or so too.

Nov 092012

Wanting to do some electronics with the Explorers, we have been discussing for ages the types of project that we could do with them.

Our primary aim is to get them soldering. We will give them some simply theory at the same time – how to work out resistor values and the like, but we had been kind of struggling with the actual project. I had suggested a small IC based amplifier circuit, either stereo or mono, that could be used with an MP3 player. After all, most of them have an MP3 player and they would be able to see some real results at the end of the project.

We had settled on the Stereo IC Amplifier Kit from Kitronic. This is, from what I can see, a cracking little kit that’s not too hard to build.

However, time constraints of an Explorer evening (we only get 90 minutes) means that this would have to be spread over two or three evenings, especially trying to get 30 teenagers soldering, while we try and supervise the lot. We will still do this, but we decided it would be better to go with something much simpler to start.

So, tonight we are going to attempt them to build the circuit on the right. This, as you can see, is much simpler. A battery (well, two AA cells), switch, LED and resistor. These will all be mounted on veroboard and the components soldered. Should be easy, right? *Yes, I know the resistor value is missing, it was a quick diagram for discussion purposes. **Yes, there may be issues with button bounce. Can’t do anything about it on such a simple circuit.

I built one last week from scraps I had around my kit. Took me about 20 minutes to place and solder the parts into place.

I have written a full instruction for them to follow, and of course we’ll be on standby to assist (and administer first aid to burnt fingers…) and if we get some working we’ll try sending some morse code across the HQ…

If this goes well then next term we will do some more, hopefully ending up with building the amplifier kit and then possibly a housing for it all to sit in too!

Aug 262012

Yep, I got “old”. 17 plus 23 years experience. 17 rather than 18 as my Explorers reckon my mental and sense of humour age is similar to theirs! The cliché says life begins at 40 but in the last week or so I have felt old. Nothing to do with creaking bones or aching back but all to do with attitude. It’s like someone clicked a switch on my conscious and made me even more grumpy. I have to state that I will never listen to radio 4!

I don’t, however, feel it’s time to stop learning. Here’s a few things I have learned in the last week:

  • Dave is a messy bugger. I don’t need to give Dave’s surname, those Scouters who know me will know Dave.
  • No matter how many times you tell them not to, Explorer Scouts think they know best and will refill their water bottles from a nearby stream. This will cause the runny stuff to come out both ends at three am the next day.
  • When at Scout camp, you’re out and about doing a few chores off-site. You spot a nearby Tesco and want to make use of the facilities. Not a wash or shower unfortunately, but certainly a facility with a decent seat and no mud on the floor. It means you can take your trousers/shorts down without fear of them being muddy when returning them to their proper position. What did I learn? When relaxing after doing your business, do not lean back and relax! The toilets have a touchless flush mechanism and will turn into a bidet causing you to jump off the seat and bang your head on the toilet door.
  • Old Man Mode Zorbing is great fun but is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay over priced.
  • One of my old annual appraisals said “does not suffer fools gladly”. This appears to extend to anybody that opens their mouth to speak every thought without actually thinking about it first. For this I apologise to the Explorer Scout that caught my wrath (no, I did not swear at him!) when my stress level was increased.
  • My Explorer Scouts are some of the best young people I have ever had the privilege to work with. I am really proud to be associated with them and if the next 12 months are anything like our week at Camp, it’s gonna be a fantastic year!
  • The modified Trucker’s knot with a slippery half hitch. Used to make a temporary cinch line in a guy rope on a tent, holds beautifully, quick and easy to tie and adjust. I can’t find anywhere on the ‘net that demonstrates this knot simply so might make a tutorial on how to tie it.
  • Carving a simple spoon is easy. Carving a decent spoon seems, at the moment, like it might as well be voodoo…

I’m sure I learnt more without even realising it, these are just the highlights of what I remember.

Aug 102012

Having taken my Classic Mini Cooper off the road due to an engine problem some three years ago, we decided early in July to sort him out and put him back on the road.

Last weekend some good friends in the Mini Club helped out to rebuild the cooling system and without major issue, with a new set of spark plugs, we turned they Key and he caught and fired at the first attempt! Chuffed to bits is an understatement!

Last night I tackled round two. This was to attempt to free the frozen clutch. Two hours and a trip to Halfords for new tools (I knackered my mole grips) it took two get one stubborn, rounded, bolt off the ECU.

After that, a big lump of wood and a hammer against the clutch mechanism and it was free. Almost. With some persuasion and help from another friend we bled the clutch, bounced the car on the ignition and I had working clutch and gears. A slow and gentle ride round the green outside the garage proved that he is now moving under his own power.

Next jobs are full service, set tappets, check front and rear brakes, balljoints and a general health check and he will be ready for MOT.

We have tickets for the Castle Combe Mini Meet at ye end of September and I intend to drive up in the mini.

Wish me luck!

Aug 072012

Reading this report from the BBC, it suggests that the YouTube app, along with Google Maps, will not be pre-installed in the operating system. Instead there will be only the web version of YouTube, and Apple’s own mapping solution.

I don’t know about you, but I would prefer to see the stocks and shares app disappear and Google mapping to stay. The mapping is the most used (default) app on my phone and I am just not convinced that another map solution will do the job.

There’s also a rumour that Apple will end the agreement with Google over search and implement its own search, integrated with Siri, so you “just ask Siri and don’t care where the results come from”. Well, I do care. I have seen lots of search engines and there’s a reason I keep going back to Google.

Anyway, standing in a public place, holding the phone up and “asking Siri” just makes me feel a little, well, Siri*…

*to be said with the cliche Chineses/Japanese accent.

Jul 312012

It is widely assumed that the media in general sensationalises everything just to get the readership. Admittedly the BBC is usually straight in their reporting.

However, in the case of the Twitter abuse towards Tom Daley, I really think that the BBC has played this issue down (link to article).

After coming fourth in the men’s synchronised 10m platform diving event on Monday, the 18-year-old received a message telling him he had let down his father.

Is the only tweet they mention. In fact, over the course of about 30 minutes (I can’t check for sure – the user’s account has been suspended – I did see the tweets though) there were a number of tweets full of profanity including the c word, the f word and some other swearing that I am not sure I even understood. I believe that this (along with subsequent tweets to other Twitter users) were the major issue.

I thought that the tweets that the kid (yes, kid. He was acting like a 12 year old that learnt the words for the first time)sent weree verging on harrassment. If he had been speaking about me or my family using such words I would expect him to be arrested too.

Tom Daley has had it hard for the last few months, losing his Dad last year whilst trying to train for the Olympics. Whether he won the diving or came 15th doesn’t matter. He is doing his best and is doing Britain proud representing us at the games. Same goes for all of Team GB as far as I am concerned.

As Pete Waterfield said (on Twitter)

For all the haters out there, come do what we do then have ur say

Jul 302012

There is a cacher (actually there’s a good few million of us) who has his blog at Blogspot.

I wanted to comment on one of his posts, one about puztoks and the trashing of a D5T5 cache. The content of the comment was not important, almost a throwaway about a spelling mistake which made the UK’s most prolific Geocacher into “Dr Silly”.

Whether it’s Blogspot itself or a setting made by the Blogger, I was unable to type in my details, instead the comments system wanted me to use a Pre-defined account from Google, wordpress.com, or similar services. I have both a Google and a WordPress ID and trying either of them the accounts were refused.

Sucky Blogspot. I keep trying and living in hope that one day it will work. So far I am constantly disappointed.

Anyway, have a read of the blog at SMS Text Blog.

And, congratulations to SMSText on being the first cacher in the UK (and third in the world) to find 100 D5T5 geocaches.