Apr 212013
 

Yesterday, 20 April was International Geocaching CITO Day.

CITO Stands for Cache In Trash Out, where Geocachers will get together and (traditionally) clear the rubbish from a particular area, often in partnership with a local authority. For Example,

A group of cachers went to CITO Event and this was what they collected in just a couple of hours:

That’s a truck load of trash! Photo by Richlay

I was lucky enough to be invited to attend Cache On Wheels’ CITO event at Holton Lee near Wareham in Dorset.

Holton Lee is a unique, secluded part of Dorset where visitors can get away from the stresses of life and find time and space for personal growth through access to the arts and the natural environment. All the facilities at Holton Lee have been designed and built to ensure that they are accessible to everyone. Whether you are interested in holiday accommodation, a wedding venue, artists’ studios, exhibition space, conference rooms or just a walk in the beautiful surroundings, Holton Lee has it all!

Holton Lee does have it all, including 20 Geocaches placed on wheelchair friendly paths in two rings of 10 caches.

The Holton Lee event embraced another side of CITO which is preserving the environment. With the help of Geoff, one of the site staff, we planted 20 or 30 trees and bushes, all native species, in a small area. Although we were 90 minutes late arriving (I was intending to be there at 10am…) we (Rach and I) were welcomed and I got to plant an ash tree in what has been dubbed “Cachers’ Corner”.

I will add more photos to the gallery when I have pulled them from the camera. :)

A new series of 10 caches (Holton Lee 2 series) were published at 1pm and after a spot of lunch off we went to find the caches as a group. Except that the group very quickly split up when the main group of walkers with kids and geodogs heading off for the First To Find honour. Being in a golf cart (playing chauffeur to Cache On Wheels) we hung back a little for Paul who was struggling to walk. We managed to get hold of a Tramper (all terrain buggy) for him and followed the main group in our own time. You can read the logs from our adventures on my Geocaching Profile.

For me this was the most fun part of the day, a great laugh racing the Tramper and the golf cart, sometimes the slowly slowly route through muddy water just doesn’t work and you have to floor it!

Thanks to Heather for inviting us, we hope to be at the CITO event in June too!

Apr 132013
 

Clash of Clans is all about building your base, defences, Elixir (E) and Gold (G) Collectors and, of course, attacking other players’ bases.

For many this is the most enjoyable part of the game. I tend to average 50k G & E with attacks, mainly due to careful selection of the base I want to attack. Just occasionally there’s a player who doesn’t understand how to protect themselves for their level. Usually they are the ones who see the Trophy Count as the most important part of the game. It’s not. Look:

photo

This is my best haul of the game so-far. The base was really easy to attack too. Put down some archers as “distraction” for the defences, wait a second or three, run the wallbreakers in, then the giants. Wait for a few seconds for the giants to start attacking the defences and then send the goblins in. After that it’s simply dumping the rest of the archers, putting the clan castle in last and if nothing pops out of the defender’s clan castle, use the lightning spell if you need/want to.

Here’s my troop list:

  • 50 Archers (level 4)
  • 5 Wall Breakers (level 3)
  • 9 Giants (level 3)
  • 75 Archers (level 3)
  • Lightning spell (level 2)
  • Whatever your awesome clan mates have donated to your castle. In my clan this can be anything from level 4 barbarians to a Dragon!

The most important thing to remember is to choose your attack carefully!

Apr 122013
 

*not really…

We – Chris, LJ and myself have become known for bantering while recording the UK Geocaching podcast.

I feel that a little humour and banter relaxes the presenters and enables us to chat about the subject rather than sounding like we are reading from a script in a monotone nerd voice.

That scripted monotone voice is perfect for getting technical details across, but an informal situation like ours would make for really boring listening. I could point you in the direction of that type of podcast but I am not that mean.

We had a comment on our Facebook page yesterday that said the listener thought there was too much of the juvenile banter and not enough about Geocaching.

I understand what he meant exactly and am grateful for the honest feedback. I went back to the latest pod and listened again. If we took out all the banter the show would be about 45 minutes instead of the 90 minutes that it was this month.

However, taking out all the juvenile stuff would make the show exactly what I don’t want – scripted and boring.

I think I just need to watch out for the amount that I leave in the show and be lots more judicious with the delete button when editing.

I also need to slap LJ and stop him playing on his iPad when we’re recording…

Apr 112013
 

This is my first tip for Clash of Clans, an iOS game (free to install an play with optional in-game purchases).

When designing your base, if you are worried about trophies, there’s something fundamentally wrong with this design:

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It’s not a major thing, but an attacker managed to take 4 trophies (and get me a 12 hour shield) without even breaking through a wall.

How? He deposited 180 archers around the outside of the base and took out everything outside the wall.

I had positioned all the collectors and builders hits etc thinking it pushes the spawn point further away from the walls and stuff I wanted to protect. Unfortunately this also had the effect of pushing everything outside the range of my canons, archer towers and mortars.

Thankfully this is easily fixed by moving everything back against the outside wall, bringing them under the protection of the defences.

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Baddabing baddaboom, thirty seconds work and the job’s a goodun!

This will not stand up to the dedicated attacker with dragons, pekkas and the like but it’s a pretty bloody good setup for most attackers.

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.

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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.