Sunday, 11 February 2018

My Cars

I suppose my love of all things motorised goes back to my father's first car which was a Ford Popular as shown on the right, this is not the actual vehicle of course as it has long since decomposed into a pile of rust. His was a powder blue vehicle with a 3 speed gearbox and wipers operated by the engine vacuum, this meant if I remember correctly that when you put your foot down the wipers stopped. My father learned to drive quite late in life and before that the only other cars I had been in were a Wolsley 1500 and a Vauxhall Victor estate belonging to my late Uncle Mike. Then my father passed his driving test and bough the Ford Pop, it then spent the next few months in a garage getting the engine rebuilt but eventually it came home and we ventured to far away places such as Aberavon and Portcawl and once even as far as Llangadog. Eventually, it started to slowly fail and had to go, it was replaced by a far more spacious Mark 1 Ford Cortina as shown on the left, again not the actual car, his was dark blue car with a 1200cc engine and to be fair was extremely comfortable. In this we journeyed as far as Bristol which is in a different country, the journey seemed to take about 4 hours and after a day in Bristol Zoo we faced the ordeal of another 4 hour drive back.
Over the years of ownership, the dreaded iron eating worm kept attacking the car and we fought back with sandpaper and fibre glass. The one fateful Saturday, my father was picking me up from a friends house in Gorseinon, we stopped to let a car come through a gap as cars were double parked and there wasn't enough room for two vehicles to go through, The car we so thoughtfully left through the gap drove right into the front of ours, apparently the other driver couldn't see a thing as the sun was in his eyes and the Cortina was no more.

Next up was a Hillman Avenger with a 1500cc engine, again this is not the actual car, it was a light metallic green which was called the rather exotic name of phantom mist, and once cleaned and polished looked rather nice to be honest. The speedo was one of those strip ones and went up to 90MPH. Again vast distances were travelled in the car, we once got to the Severn Bridge and stopped at the services on the other side, then we turned round and went back home, it seemed to take forever to get there and back again. My father let me have use of this car after I had passed my driving test until such a time as I got my own
transport which was in the form of a moped.
It was a dark blue Puch 50cc beast with a huge looking engine that was mainly cooling fins, there was no battery so if you turned the engine off, the lights went out and it had a sort of a rev counter that got more accurate the faster you went. It had a top speed of about 40 MPH, downhill with a tail wind looking back was a bloody awful machine.
It went through a set of bearings and had to have an engine rebuild and then was part exchanged for a much nice and faster Kawasaki KH100.

This was a nice bike to ride, it could reach 70, it would go uphills at the speed limit and in the winter, rain hurt more when it hit you in the face at higher speeds, this meant I had to go out and get a full face helmet which offered much more protection.
I still had use of the Avenger when my father wasn't using it and when it was really cold but the bike was my favoured method of transport.
In those days, I used to attend Llanelli technical college one day a week, it was supposed to be one day and an evening but it was easier to stay there all day so we started at 09.00 and finished at about 20.00. One cold wet day, I attended college full of man flu, then the day was finished and I made my way home, it was raining heavily and as I rode up a hill the bike started to run out of fuel, I went to switch to reserve and realised I was already on it and so ran out of fuel completely. I pushed the bike up to the nearest petrol station and opened my top box to get my wallet out and realised that my wallet was back in the college with all my books. I asked the people in the garage if I could borrow some petrol and they agreed as I was a regular visitor and then made my way home. I borrowed money from my father to pay them and then feeling even worse started making my way back to the garage to clear my debt. At some point in the journey I fell asleep and woke up a short distance behind a stationary van which I narrowly avoided missing, I ended up skidding down the floor and was taken home by a stranger who I think I thanked. A hospital check up showed nothing broken and I was taken home, it was then that I realised I didn't have a clue where the bike was.

The only way to find it was to start walking towards the petrol station some 6 or 7 milese away, thankfully about a mile away in Hendy I saw a parked Ford Transit with a dent in the back that looked a similar shape to me, I knocked on a door and found my bike and rode it home.

Some time later I managed to invert the Avenger and a slide down the road on it's roof put an end to the life of this car.

I needed a car to get about in having got rid of my motorbike and also having wrecked the Avenger, so for the sum of about £80 I bought a Vauxhall Viva SL90 similiar to the one on the right, mins was lovingly hand painted in black except for some of the roof which was still grey.It came with loads of spares including a complete new exhaust system all stored in the boot. The problem was that most of the spares didn't actually fit this car and then the clutch cable problems started, it kept breaking them at the same point and having examined the source of the problem, a minor modification was made to the clutch pedal. The hole that the cable went in was a sort of keyhole shape and had opened up a bit with wear and tear, the nipple on the end of cable got trapped in the keyhole and flexed at it's joint and eventually broke. Having removed the pedal from the car and clamped to a fat surface, the modification which involved twatting the pedal with a hammer to close the hole up a bit was accomplished and no more cables were needed.

Some time later during some maintenance on the car, myself and a friend decided that the car has sort of fins on the back, a bit like the Batmobile and so we finished off hand painting the car in black, sprayed red bats on the doors, on the sun visors and on the gear stick knob and then painted Gotham City Cruisers on the back, this caused great hilarity and some embaressment and it's a shame that I have no pictures of the car. One night during a drive round Llanelli, a friend of mine by the name of John Llewellyn was sitting in the passenger seat of the car wearing a Batman mask, he urged me to get round a one way system as quickly as possible as he had seen a police woman struggling with someone. We turned up as some of her colleagues arrived, wound the window down and asked if all was well. The look on the faces of the officers was quite amazing.

The car went in for an MOT and failed in a spectacular style and was scrapped, to be replace with another Hillman Avenger.
This was not a standard Avenger with the strip speedo and single rectangular headlights, this was an Avenger 1500GT with twin headlights, a round speedo, a rev counter and an oil pressure gauge, the twin carbs had been taken off and replaced with a standard single Stromberg and the car did well except for a broken fuel sender which meant I had to work out how far I could go on a tank of petrol. Of course I had to do some modifications to it and eventually fitted some 100w Cibies to the front, a yellow light to the roof and a roof mounted console that controlled various flashing lights. The roof lining was replaced with some fur as this was all the rage at the the time and to be honest I was really sorry when I sold the car, but I wanted a van.

A Bedford Beagle van with a 1256 cc engine was purchased so that I could get away occasionally and sleep in the back if required. This only happened once as far as I remember. The van itself was quite reliable and the handling was quite interesting due to it's antiquated suspension. The whole van as was usual for Vauxhalls of this era was prone to rust and eventually failed the MOT and was consigned to the great scrap yard in the sky. It was during the ownership of this van that I first got involved with CB radio and became one of the original members of the Sunday Club as we used to call it, This was basically an excuse for several people who knew each other on CB to get together for a drink, mainly at the Glamorgan Arms just outside of Pontardulais. Members include myself or Major Tom as I was known, Mobile 1 in his MG, The Smiler, The Red Dragon, The Green Machine and several others whose names or handles I cannot now remember.

A 1300cc Ford Escort with an automatic gearbox fitted was my next vehicle. This was my first introduction to automatics and taught me to tuck my left leg out of the way, otherwise your left foot came down very heavily on the brake pedal instead of the clutch causing a very quick stop. The car was bought from a local garage in Hendy, it's still there but under different ownership now and it suffered from numerous electrical problems and body rot and was eventually disposed of.

I needed a car to get to work and a B reg mini 850 came on the market for about £80. part of the front suspension needed to be replaced before I could drive it and one of the valves broke on the way into work one day. Thankfully my friend David Evans (The Arab) and his magical garage got me going again when he fished out a complete mini head from a box in the back. The car had the long gear stick, a starter button in the middle of the floor and sliding windows and was great fun to drive It was eventually sold and my car for the next few years was another Mark 1 Ford Escort, this time in a lovely chocolate brown.

The Escort lasted for several years and made it to Hull and back once a month for nearly a year, during that time I had to replace the valves and clutch but the car still went well but eventually the engine gave up and lost compression and was sent on it's way.

Next car was a Vauxhall Viva 1800 HC automatic and was amazingly fast and comfortable, I can't really remember why we got rid of it but I think the need for an estate car arose and it was sold off to be replaced with

And so I got a Morris Marina, I should have known better really, it was big and roomy, handled like a molten blancmange perched on top of jelly and was just awful, they tried to revamp them in later years and called them an Ital but no matter how much you polish a turd, its will always be a turd.

A much better estate replaced it, a Mark 2 Hillman Avenger 1600 estate, I was back on familiar ground with this and the car did really well over the years eventually going away to be replaced by another Vauxhall.

This was the modern looking Chevette which probably started off the hatchback car, underneath it was still a Vauxhall Viva but the quality of the body was much better.

It wasn't long after this that I left Wales and moved to Cornwall, but my last car bought in Wales at that time was Japanese.

The marvelously comfortable Datsun 180B estate, mine was yellow with some fake wood across the back to make it look like an American station wagon and did remarkably well during it's time with me.

There followed a long period with company cars after this, for company cars I had such delights as a 980cc Ford Fiesta, a 1000cc Austin Metro, a Mark 1 Astra and a Ford Granada and then I went back to Vauxhall with a 1.3 Mark 2 Astra.

I assumed that this would be a better car than the Mark 1, but I was wrong. That's not to say it was awful, it was actually a really good car but lacked the character of it's predecessor.

Following this another period of company vehicles came my way and eventually I went back to owning my own car, this time it was a Ford.

A move down to Merseyside saw me driving round in a red Ford Sierra 2.3 diesel, the engine came from Peugeot and although noisy was quite powerful and economical to drive.

The next car also had French engine in it but this time was a Citroen.
I'd loved the styling of these cars when they first came out, this particular one was a 1.9 petrol engine with an auto box and it was a lovely drive, eventually a hydraulic failure caused it's demise and another French car replaced it.

The amazing Peugeot 405 1.9 diesel, the car was awesome, handling was superb, the engine had loads of power even without a turbo and it was comfortable. Apart from my Avengers and the later Jaguars, this is one car that I really do miss. A leak in the heater matrix which involved a complete removal of the dashboard to resolve meant that the car had to go.

The next car was bigger and faster.

And this was it, a 2.9 litre Jaguar XJ6, not the best engine Jaguar had ever made but it did what it was supposed to do. The Jaguar forums taught you how to keep the car going for next to nothing and I really should have kept it but eventually sold it on.

The Jag was kept mainly for a weekend and holiday car, at the time it was used in conjunction with a smaller vehicle.

The Volvo 480 1.7ES automatic, a superb car with all nice little toys and a reasonable bit of room too. I had the automatic version and it was a delight to drive, another car I really miss.

Another French car followed, a mark 1 Renault Laguna
This came from a local dealer and after about 2 weeks the ABS failed, as the car actually spoke to you it announced this every time you started the engine, the bonnet failed to open on it due to the cable stretching and the heater matrix was blocked. I went to put it in for part ex and was told that it had also been an insurance write off, the last bit obviously wasn't the fault of Renault but the car went and in it's place came.

A Jaguar 3.2 litre sovereign, apparently taken care of and of course without the delightful lady opening the garage door.
It was in really good condition cosmetically but there were other problems that led in it being returned to it's original owner.

I took the plunge and went for another Jaguar.

This was a lovely drive, had it been an automatic it would have been better but it was still a pleasure to drive, there was a problem with a faulty accelerator pedal at one point but this was resolved and the car would still be round if the tangled and twisted tapestry of life not started fraying.

The next car was another Jaguar.
A 3.2 litre Sovereign with cruise control, air cond, electric leather seats all in working order for about
£800. It sailed through it's first MOT and was just an awesome car, financial problems led to me having to swap it for another French car.

If the Peugeot 405 was anything to go by, the 406 should have been amazing, it was faster and more
economical but that's as far as it goes, so many other problems plagued the car and it went and this time I went back to British, sort of.

The Rover 420D, not exactly fast but comfortable, economical and reliable, this is another car I miss it was that good despite having a boring image. The body was from Honda and the engine was a good old fashioned 2.0 litre Perkins diesel which just carries on working.

We had decided that we wanted something bigger that could be used to sleep in for weekends away if we so desired, a people carrier seemed the ideal solution and the one that sprang to mind was.

A Renault Espace Mark 2 was next. It was a cheap buy, needed some loving care and attention, the
brakes were bled, a new air filter fitted, an new thermostat (£7.00 for the thermostat and £65 for the hose it fitted into), after this the car started to behave quite well and to be fair was comfortable and had a really good driving position. But things just started going wrong and foolishly I traded it in for another Renault.

This was a lovely looking car, really comfortable and economical and probably one of the worst cars I had ever purchased, it failed it's first MOT with me at a cost of over £400 and then on a drive decided that it wanted to suck all of the oil out of it's sump into the engine and kill itself, the car didn't even last a year.

This was to be my last French car.

Along came another Rover 420D, once more this car was awesome and only had to be put out to rest following a bit of vandalism.

Then I went Japanese with a Nissan Primera, being Japanese you would have thought it would have been a good car. There were suspension problems that were just too expensive to sort and the car was boring, there was nothing about it that made you like it or hate it. They should have called it the Nissam Mediocre.

It was replaced by a BMW 523I in October 2011, the car had a full service history and was my first
German car, it went well, was comfortable to sit in and had loads of toys but the ride was hard and the old XJ6 in my opinion was a much better car. The clutch failed and along with other repairs was going to cost quite a lot to repair. A visit to a car selling place ended up with us trading in the BMW for a Chevrolet Aveo 1.2.

The Chevy, used to be called Daewoo, was probably not the car I was thinking of getting but it's a really good fun little car to drive and has taken us all over Ireland and back and forth from Rotherham with just some petrol, oil and a service, there's no cam belt and I really like this car, it's so under rated. Hopefully it will last another 3.5 years with very little needing doing to it.

It's now up to 85,000 miles and still keeps going.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

A bit about me

Born at a very early age in 1959 in Cardiff, moved to Gorseinon, then to Pontardulais or Pontarddulais as it s now spelt for my formative years.

Lost contact with some good friends including Dai Bone or Eric or The Arab, Torque Wrench, Downing or Eric,  Phil, Dai Miles, Greg Davies and  his brother Steven Davies, Keith Ivy, Steve Williams or Station 22, John Llewellyn amongst many others.

Moved about a bit and settled down in Lancashire for a while and then after some promotion, change of job ended up back in the Swansea area via Runcorn and Rotherham

Things I miss most about the Bont are the taste of the tap water, Double Dragon, The Dulais Glen, Hillman Avengers, Franks chip shop, my mothers Welsh Cakes, the word cwtch, Tiswas, Not the Nine O'Clock news, being able to laugh at jokes without worrying if they are racist, sexist etc, being able to say Golliwog and mean the label on a jam jar and nothing else, the Bont Carnival, singing Baa baa black sheep and not thinking it would in any way be connected with dark skinned people and of course Noake's pasties.

What can I say, I'm a self confessed Geek and computer Nerd, I also enjoy electronics and technology in general.

What you have here is a brief history of why i became this way inclined .

I suppose it all started with my father who used to work on communications gear and repaired our first TV and modified it so we could get ITV. I read his Admiralty Wireless Telegraphy handbooks with mentions of things called Leyden Jars or capacitors as we now call them and Spark Gap transmitters and became hooked.

I eventually ended up with a chemistry set and an electronics kit, but it was the electronics and electrical side of things that got me hooked.

With the kit I made some marvellous pieces of equipment such as a light that came on when it went dark an amplifier and a crystal radio.

I eventually lost interest until that fateful day when I left school and got an interview at my cousin's TV shop. I then became employed by Holt Hi Fidelity with a starting salary of £12.00 a week and enrolled in Llanelli technical college.

I wasn't sure how I would get on but the wonderful lecturer Peter Williams with his talk of transistors getting turned "hard on" inspired me and I came away with distinctions.

Money and problems at home meant I didn't finish my training and I went to work for British Steel earning more there in a day than I did in a week as a TV engineer.

I became involved in CB radio in the early days in the UK and became a rig doctor as they were called, then passed my Radio Amateur exam and got a class B licence and eventually finished my training off in Hull Skillcentre with the help of the excellent Mike Overend.

Then various jobs came and went including work on Sound and Light systems, large screen TV installation, and computers.

Normally in computer repairs, you start with stand alone machines and work you way up to networks. My introduction involved over 1700 desktop PCs on a wide area network, about 50 Novell file servers, several Unix boxes including the largest in Europe at the time, ICL Drs 300s and an ICL mainframe and all the associated peripherals and wide area network stuff so I had to learn quickly.

Since then I have worked on all sorts of equipment including satellite broadband and have recently moved away from Windows into the world of Linux. Using Linux takes me back to the old Amiga days as it puts the fun back into computers.

The list of computers I've owned is something like this.

ZX81, Vic 20, Spectrum, Commodore +4, BBC Model B, Toshiba MSX, Commodore Pet, Amiga 500, Amiga 500+, IBM XT (actual IBM), Amiga 600 since then it's been a PC of one sort or another. I've used Dos from version 2, Windows 1 and upwards, OS2 version 1 upwards, DR Dos and now settled on Linux.


Farcebook is once again pissing me off in great style, I reinstalled the messenger app to enable me to stay in touch with a few people, within minutes the phone was going berserk with waves, other stupid messages and loads of other crap. Then the pass this message on and keep the candle burning stuff started, 10 minutes later it was off the phone and Facebook was once again resigned to the desktop only.

I really would like to dump it as these days it is generally an annoyance with all the fake news and so on.

I'm going to try and see what I can do, I much prefer the Google + world, it's not perfect. I prefer Twitter and Instagram isn't too bad even though it's run by Facebook. I tried Snapchat for about 10 minutes, can't see what use it is other than putting stupid dog ears on your head.

Wishing you all a Happy Year of the Justifiably Defensive Lobster and that's me pretty much done on Interwebs stuff till next year.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Spotweb on Bionic Beaver

Wanted to get Spotweb running on a local machine to do some newsgroup indexing, lots of instructions out there for Raspberry Pis and older versions of Ubuntu with php 5. I've decided to go and install it on a virtual server running Bionic Beaver, it was a lot easier than I expected.

Start off with installing the OS and then updating it.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade -y
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade -y
sudo apt-get autoremove -y
sudo shutdown -r now

Then install the required apps:

sudo apt-get install mysql-server php-mysql php-curl php-gd php-cli nginx openssl php-fpm git zip mc php-mbstring php-xml -y

Change a couple of files:

sudo nano /etc/php/7.1/fpm/php.ini

Change these lines

date.timezone = Europe/Copenhagen
memory_limit = 512M

And do the same here:

sudo nano /etc/php5/cli/php.ini

Make the webserver config file:

sudo nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/spotweb

Copy and paste this into the file:

server {
listen 80;
root /var/www;
index index.html index.htm index.php;

location /spotweb {

        satisfy any;

        if ($uri !~ "api/"){

                rewrite /api/?$ /spotweb/index.php?page=newznabapi last;
location ~ \.php$ {
                try_files $uri =404;
                include fastcgi_params;
                fastcgi_pass unix:/var/run/php/php7.1-fpm.sock;
                fastcgi_param  SCRIPT_FILENAME    $document_root$fastcgi_script_name;

Save it and then close nano

Activate the configuration

sudo -i

unlink /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/default

ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/spotweb /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/spotweb

Install Spotweb:

git clone /var/www/spotweb

Sort out the permissions:

chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/spotweb

Create the database, replace the word password with your password but leave the ' ' in place:
mysql -u root -p

CREATE USER spotwebuser@localhost IDENTIFIED BY 'password';
GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON spotwebdb.* TO spotwebuser@localhost IDENTIFIED BY 'password';

Go for a reboot

sudo shutdown -r now

And now finish the configuration off with your browser.

Go to http://ip.address/spotweb/install.php

Do an initial download and then setup a cron job to run:

php retrieve.php from the /var/www/spotweb directory.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Nextcloud install, the easy way.

I'm already running an ownCloud server, I decided it was time to try and setup another one running Nextcloud. My ownCloud server is running on a shared hosting platform, I've decided to run up NextCloud on a virtual machine under Virtualbox, I'm not going to go into the setup of this bit here, just the configuration of the cloud server.

In the past, I've messed round with installing, SQL, Apache and so on, I thought I'd give the Ubuntu snap package a go.

I've run up Ubuntu 16.04 server, installed SSH onto it so I can manage it from command line and next it was time to install NextCloud.

sudo snap install nextcloud

That's it, it's done and installed, just a few more things to get it working and install lets encrypt, to finalise the whole install, ports 80 and 443 need to be accessible from the Interwebs, I temporarily put the server into the dmz.

Adjust the memory limits with:

sudo snap set nextcloud php.memory-limit=-1

Tell it which ports to listen to with:

sudo snap set nextcloud ports.http=80 ports.https=443

Restart Apache with:

systemctl restart snap.nextcloud.apache

Configure https and install lets encrypt with:

sudo nextcloud.enable-https lets-encrypt

Follow the instructions and you can then remove the port 80 access and connect to your server with: or https://ipaddress

The final configuration is done via web browser.

It really was that easy

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Holiday Accommodation

Holiday accommodation should be comfortable and if you're booked into a hotel with a twin or double room, that indicates there are two of you and two seats should really be available. But now we move onto the most important things, toilets and showers.

A toilet should have ample space around it for you to sit comfortably. there should be room for you to spread a bit for those difficult movements and in an ideal toilet there should be pieces of wood that you can use to bite on when the going gets tough.

I propose a toilet quality indicator called BMI, that Bottom Movement Indicator, the only way to get a 10 is to provide the pieces of wood. At the lower end of the scale we have portaloos and such like, to get a zero it would have to be quite bad and would mean you have to push yourself into am incredibly narrow gap and then have to dislocate an arm to be able to be able to reach around for the paper. I have encountered a toilet which went below this in Kenya, when I say toilet I mean a structure with a hole in the ground, the structure being moved whenever the hole filled up.

The other important thing with a toilet is the flush, several years back in Kefalonia we had a toilet which would have reached a BMO of 8 if the flush had been any better. When the handle was pressed a small whirlwind was created above the water level, unsecured objects in the room were dragged into this maelstrom and after about 20 minutes it died down. Nothing had moved in the toilet itself. At least twelvty flushes were required.

Now we move onto the Orkney scale for showers, to achieve a 10 the water pressure should pin you to the wall and cleanse you completely without the need for soap. A score of 0 started this off with a shower we had on holiday in Orkney. You turned the shower on and after an hour or so a few dribbles would emerge from the shower head at a temperature close to freezing. The shower was fixed and went up to an Orkney 1, the newly repaired shower vibrated furiously before discharging a luke warm driblle over you. The vibrations from the air were more likely to clean you that the water.

Just bear these things in mind when you go on holiday and all will be well.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Chrome Book Stuff

I bought a Chromebook, there, I said it, at the same time we also got a Windows 10 version of the machine. Both Acer R11 machine, Chromebook has 2Gb of RAM, Windows one has 4Gb, both have 32GB solid state drives.

Turned the Chromebook on, I could work on it within a minute, an hour later the Windows 10 machine was nearly ready to start installing updates.

There are things missing from the Chromebook, I can't run Libre Office without paying a subscription and my spreadsheets although not complicated don't want to play with the Chrome office suite unless I do a lot of tinkering. That aside it's absolutely wonderful.

I was reading an article about these little things the other day from Forbes magazine, it compared the three laptop operating systems available. No mention of Linux desktops at all, just Windows, Mac and Chrome. The writer praised the Chromebook but said it was very limited as it had no local storage and you can't install any applications, only "widgets that diddle with the operating system". I realised at this point the writer was a moron.

I take my Chromebook away with me, I take my camera with me, I can put my SD card into my Chromebook and copy the pictures onto the local storage it hasn't got, I can then use an application that I can't install to back these pictures up to my cloud server.

I can also install the Android play store application which give me access to loads of Android applications that I can install too.

If you want a lightweight, fast booting machine with great battery life, just browse the Internet, do some banking and basic office stuff, the Chromebook is for you. It's always up to date, incredibly safe from malware and this one also doubles up as a tablet.

As an side, I put Linux Mint on the Windows version, that was up and running fully up to date with all apps and data in less time than it took the original Windows installation to boot up.