Planning for Halloween

This is not a post about carving a face into a pumpkin or preparing some form of scary costume. It is about my planning to avoid Halloween entirely.

Halloween for me normally involves getting home from work, turning off the lights and pretending I’m not home. I don’t want to be giving out free sweets to strange folk knocking at the door.

I do buy in a sweet stash for the emergency situation of needing to fend off marauding freeloaders. But since pack sizes are shrinking I’ve had to spend more to have a suitable supply.

This year poses the additional risk of needing to put the bins out. This leaves me out in the open and vulnerable during the process of multi bin recycling. The outside light will be on alerting the opportunistic sugar hunters to my presence. A waste pre-sort will reduce exposure time but I’ll have to move quickly and remain alert.

Next will be my activities for the evening. TV is a no as the excess light washing around the curtains is a give-away that you are in allowing the hordes to pillage. I need to move to the back of the house where I can have the light on without raising curiosity. I have a quick dinner planned, minimal noise no fuss. I have a project that I can work on quietly. A low backlight on the kindle wont be noticeable from outside.

Hopefully I will make it through the night with the sweet supply intact.

Aims for 2017

It's that time of year again when I look back over the goals I set myself over the previous year and decide on some new ones for the year ahead.

What I intended to do in 2016:

  • Contribute to some open source projects – Failed miserably.
  • Put more time into electronics projects – Plenty of time put in, much frustration and little fun :(.
  • Clear out Garage – It’s getting clearer.
  • Write an android application for my tablet/phone – Fail – idea abandoned.
  • Build a new PC – Some parts have been sourced, waiting for AMD to release the Ryzen processors early in 2017.
  • Do something useful with a virtual machine - Fail, looked into 3D acceleration of a VM. It appears that it is best achieved with a separate graphics card. This requires hardware support which my current set-up lacks.
  • Finish Back Yard – Still need to put a slab in for a step.
  • Buy a new kitchen bin – I still need one that matches, but it functions.
  • Cook a good Lamb Pathia from scratch – Failed – attempt next year.
  • Eat more fruit and veg – More cabbage has been eaten (along with pie & mash).
  • Perform more off-site data backups - More backups in general are needed. 2016 saw me attempt crypto-ransomware recovery. Luckily a success due to decryption program availability. Backup Now!!!
  • Read more books – Didn't get through many in 2015 or 2016.

2016 hasn’t been the most productive year. I hoped to have progressed further with my electronics projects but difficulties along the way resulted in periodic loss of motivation. The PC build was researched and was close to being realised. The VM 3D investigation focused new build on needing 2 graphics cards. Intel’s platform offering made this set-up along with new and future hardware connectivity quite limiting. With AMD’s new CPU offering and Intel’s new chipsets on the horizon the decision was made to delay purchasing core build components until the new year. One thing has become clear, I need to plan my free time to achieve more.

What I aim to do in 2017:

  • Lose weight – I have slowly been gaining weight 🙁
  • Continue work on STM32 development – I’m slowly making progress.
  • Clear out Garage – A few large items need to go.
  • Build a new PC – This will happen, I can’t delay it any longer.
  • Finish Back Yard – The step will be installed at long last.
  • Buy a new kitchen bin – It might happen.
  • Cook something new – I will break out of my routine dishes and try making something different.
  • Eat more healthily – Less chocolate, fat, carbs.
  • Perform more data backups – More off-site backups too.
  • Read more books – I have a shelf of unread books waiting to be read.
  • Plan Free time – Make time for things I want to do.

2017 has some achievable targets. I three I want to achieve are losing weight, building a new PC and finishing the back yard. I need a good excuse if I don’t manage these.

The Case of the Ghost Whistler

Over the past couple of weeks I have noticed on occasion a faint sound. The best way to describe it would be a child playing a single note on a recorder, gradually increasing in intensity before decreasing. Knowing that a family with children of recorder playing age lived next door I thought little of it. Other than being frustrated by continually hearing it and wondering when something more tuneful would be produced.

I began to question what was happening when I began to notice the sound late at night. Not the kind of time once would associate with household attempting to sleep. But it was a bank holiday weekend, maybe the usual enforced bedtime of the children was being ignored.

Tonight I noticed it a little more, always around the door between the kitchen and the lounge. Something must be causing it, the sound was too repetitive. It couldn't be the normal musical talent of a child. I had just finished making a mug of tea when I made the discovery. On pondering tomorrow nights meal based on the dwindling contents of the refrigerator I was struck by the realisation that the sound had reoccurred and was louder. What had I done. Put milk in the fridge? I opened the door, nothing. I closed the door, nothing, no squeaks or creaks or buzzing or whirring. Back to my tea, it was time for a stirring. There it was again, the whistling sound. A thought did sink in whilst my tea I was drinkin'. I opened the fridge door, closing it once more. With my head to the door I counted to four. Then there it was the whistle once more. What seemed to be ghostly was a pressure equalisation; mostly.


It's that time of year again when I look back over the goals I set myself over the previous year and decide on some new ones for the year ahead.

What I intended to do in 2015:
  • Contribute to some open source projects – I only contributed a single bug report. The only open-source projects I contributed to were my own. Needs more work. Failure.
  • Put more time into electronics projects (Raspberry Pi/Wireless Sensor System) - I have been working on my Wireless Rat Trap Notification System and experimenting with a small OLED display. A variable dummy load is waiting to be built. Success.
  • Tackle the rodent menace in the loft - All the insulation was removed, the holes plugged with wire wool and expanding foam. Re-insulated and as far as I know still rodent free. Success.
  • Clear out Garage – I did clear out the garage but filled it with bags of old loft insulation whilst tackling the rodent menace. Still need to get rid of the stuff. Partial Success.
  • Buy a new Android Tablet – I bought a Pixel C, a vast improvement. Success.
  • Write an android application for my tablet/phone – Didn't get around to to it. Failure.
  • Build a new PC – I am still waiting to find a new case I like and instead spent the money on a Tablet. Failure.
  • Repave Back Yard – Main paved area complete. Needs the edges finishing off and a step putting in. Partial Success.
  • Buy a new kitchen bin – Still got the old one. Failure.
  • Cook a good Lamb Pathia – Haven't had another attempt. Failure.

2015 was another mixed year. Plenty of successes, but too many failures. On the positive side the successes were in bigger/more important projects. The failures are things that can be addressed in the future.

What I aim to do in 2016:
  • Contribute to some open source projects – Other than my own this time.
  • Put more time into electronics projects – More experiments, more fun.
  • Clear out Garage – Time for another attempt.
  • Write an android application for my tablet/phone – I have an idea for something simple.
  • Build a new PC – Current systems are around 7 years old.
  • Do something useful with a virtual machine.
  • Finish Back Yard – A little bit of finishing off from 2015.
  • Buy a new kitchen bin – I still need one that matches.
  • Cook a good Lamb Pathia from scratch – I like a good curry.
  • Eat more fruit and veg – Might have long term benefits.
  • Perform more off-site data backups.
  • Read more books – Didn't get through many in 2015.

2016 has fewer big projects, so hopefully I will have more time to tackle my list. The three I need to get done are the Garage Clearout, Finishing the Back Yard and building a new PC. All should be achieveble and it will be a bad year indeed if I can't manage them.

The Rodent Battle – It’s not over yet

In my previous post at the end of July I had resorted to calling in the Rat Man to assist me in my struggle. When that failed to show results I detailed my nuclear option of removing all of my loft insulation and denying the rodents access.

The button was pushed. I have spent many hours removing all the insulation. It's not an easy or pleasant task but there is no place left to hide. The entry points were filled with steel wool held in place by more expanding foam. You do get some funny looks bulk buying expanding foam but it all got used.

All has been quiet in the loft for the past few weeks. All that is left to do is have a proper clean up of rodent droppings, repair of eaten network cable and re-insulating before winter.
Everything has been going to plan.

Until today. I was sat at the computer catching up on a few podcasts when I heard the noise. The noise that has kept me awake at night, the noise that caused the pressing of the nuclear button. The sound of the rodent scratching about. The precise location I am uncertain about. I suspect that it is not from the loft, unless it has been enjoying its diet of steel and foam. By my estimation the noise is from the cavity wall above the window. I am guessing that little Ratty not being able to ascend to loft level has decided to compromise by setting up home atop the lintel over the window.

How I proceed at this point is uncertain. I need to insulate the loft for winter provided it is still secure. But it appears that a peaceful nights sleeps is not going to be an option in the short term. A new plan of attack is required.

The Rodent Battle

This month I finally called in the Rat Man to rid me of the menace in the loft. He managed to attend 2 out of the 3 scheduled visits. Having time off work and his no show did not go down well. In any case the traps are being avoided but they do like the additional bait they are being provided with. So after 2 visits and not hearing any movement above me I was a little happier. This evening however, following yesterdays no show, I hear scurrying once again. So in summary I have had 3 afternoons off work for no improvement in the situation whatsoever.

I am getting very close to the nuclear option of stripping out all the loft insulation and permanently denying them access by any means necessary (even if it means taking the roof off). It nibbled though my network cable and I have a zero tolerance approach to network intrusion.

The Price of Shoes

I have awkward shaped feet (long, thin, shallow) and when I find a pair of shoes that fit I will sometimes buy additional pairs. Eventually I settled on a brand which offer a consistent fit across their range. I have been buying from their on-line store for a few years now and all the shoes fit perfectly.

For work I wear a pair of black shoes and wear them out over time. Tonight I found, in my inbox, the latest sales promotion to have a look at. Lucky for me my chosen pair (in my size) was on offer so I snapped them up. I checked my previous orders to see how much I paid in the past, what I found surprised me.

December 2013 - £85.00 (inc. VAT)
October 2014 - £70.00 (inc. VAT)
June 2015 - £61.20 (inc. VAT)

Average Price Paid £72.00 (inc. VAT)

The prices for the same shoe are in steady decline. I have snapped up a real bargain this time round.

Aims For 2015

Time for a look back at what I intended to do last year.

  • Contribute to some open source projects – Failed Completely.
  • Put more time into electronics projects (Raspberry Pi/Wireless Sensor System). - Work continues, some code committed to GitHub.
  • Get curtains for lounge – Done, it looks more like a home.
  • Clear out Garage (again) – Some progress but it keeps filling up.
  • Write an android application for my tablet/phone – Failed, never even thought about it.
  • Pay off student loan – Done, mortgage is the next big one.
  • Carpet master bedroom – Failed, sticking to laminate flooring.
  • Build a Gaming PC and/or Steam Box – Failed, didn't have the games to justify building.
  • Repave Back Yard – Failed, never even started.
  • Use a Linux desktop environment other than Gnome 3 for at least a month – Failed, LXQt was on the list but wasn't in the Fedora Repo. It is now.

So 2014 was mixed, some things achieved some not. Too many not unfortunately.
Time to see if I can complete some of last years goals in 2015.

  • Contribute to some open source projects
  • Put more time into electronics projects (Raspberry Pi/Wireless Sensor System)
  • Clear out Garage (This time I mean it)
  • Write an android application for my tablet/phone
  • Build a new PC – A couple are approaching 6 years old.
  • Buy a new Android Tablet – My Nexus 7 (2012) is starting to show its age.
  • Repave Back Yard – It would be nice to have a BBQ surface.
  • Tackle the rodent menace in the loft – They are back again 🙁
  • Buy a new kitchen bin – I need one that matches the rest of it.
  • Cook a good Lamb Pathia – Previous attempt needs significant improvement.

Another to do list, but as before it will be a good year if I can cross a few of them off.

Ending The Year With A Bang

I appear to have suffered an explosive decompression in my garage. I suspect that the recent cold weather and an already cold fridge to be the cause. The force of the explosion was enough to force the fridge door open and to catapult some of the contents across the garage. It could have been worse, if there had been more beer in there some serious spillage could have occured. I'll settle for having to mop up spilt lemonade.


SSD Research

I had a spot of luck this week when I purchased an early Black Friday deal on Thursday evening. I wasn't intending to buy anything but I knew when the deals were starting and decided to have a look. I am currently awaiting delivery of an Intel 730 Series 480GB SSD. I had seen this earlier in the year (around March) and it looked a nice drive but too expensive. A 50% price reduction can change my mind.

SSD's are fragile little things, they only have a limited number of write cycles and need to be looked after. I am planning on using the drive in my main Fedora Linux desktop (which is good as this particular drive runs too hot for a laptop). I decided to research the usage of SSD's as I want it to be reliable and I want to get the most out of it in terms of performance. What I hadn't factored in was the amount of decisions that can be made.

Log files are small amounts of data that are frequently written to HDD/SSD. On my re-purposed chromebook I have disabled most of the logging as it isn't a critical system for me. I want logs for my desktop, so as I plan on having both an SSD and a HDD in the same system I can move the logs to the HDD. This was something I was expecting and reading up on. It was then I uncovered some notes about Firefox cache. Firefox (and other browsers) cache small files to disk in much the same fashion as log files. This opened up a whole new branch of ideas. Do I put the cache in RAM and lose in on reboots? Do I sync the RAM to disc with a script? Do I move the entire browser profile to RAM and sync that? Where is the cache in the first place? It appears that you can just as easily move that cache to a HDD as to RAM and it really depends on where your user profile is in the first place.

As I sit here writing this I probably know more about SSD's than I ever wanted to know. What I am finding is that I still need to know more. Some choices I have partially made, others not. I have a little more time until the drive arrives to make my mind up. I think I might wait until after Fedora 21 is released and do a clean install. Until then, more research.