Saturday, December 21, 2013

60 minutes of music I've discovered in 2013

Friday, December 20, 2013

Linn DS Alarm Function

Update 2014 - An alternative to this is available on GitHub which uses Node.js and should be cross platform. Linn DS Playlist and Alarm Server

Switching the radio on in the kitchen in the morning is a low priority amongst setting table, pouring cereals, carrying children, etc. The Sonos has an alarm clock facility which allows you to switch on the radio at a set time avoiding hassle of starting a controller.

When I upgraded to my Linn Sneaky DS, I no longer had this function, though the remote control made it easy if I forgot to take my phone downstairs with me.

Last week I decided to figure it out. I have a Linux machine which runs Ubuntu and runs all the media servers, backups and network shares. I decided to investigate how to control my DS from the command line.

Conveniently, the DS can be controlled via a web api, so after reading the docs and a few examples I was able to switch off and on and change source via Postman (Chrome REST client).

I then set about writing a curl script to send the commands and package this up as a shell script.

One final problem was discovering the IP address of the DS which I solved by using gupnp-tools which has a scanner; this scans my network for UPNP devices and since I know the UUID of the DS I can extract the correct IP address.

By adding the script to my Linux box' crontab, the DS starts on the radio each weekday morning.

How it works


Need to install gupnp-tools which provides gssdp-discover.

I created a script called discover.sh which takes a parameter of the UUID of a Upnp device and returns the IP address:

#!/bin/sh
gssdp-discover -t ${1} -n 3 | grep Location | sed 's/.*http:\/\///' | sed 's/:.....\/.*//'

Next is a script called source.sh to set the source of the DS:

#!/bin/sh
curl -X POST -d @${2} $1/Ds/Product/control --header "Content-Type:text/xml" --header "Accept:text/xml" --header "SOAPAction:urn:av-openhome.org:service:Product:1#SetSourceIndex"

This takes in 2 parameters, the first is the IP address of the device you want to control and the second is a file containing an XML body containing details of which source to set on the device, in this case, it is the radio function (source Id 1):

radio.xml
<?xml version="1.0"?>
<s:Envelope xmlns:s="http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/soap/envelope/">
  <s:Body s:encodingStyle="http://schemas.xmlsoap.org/soap/encoding/">
    <u:SetSourceIndex xmlns:u="urn:av-openhome.org:service:Product:1">
      <Value>1</Value>
    </u:SetSourceIndex>
  </s:Body>
</s:Envelope>

Finally it's all put together in the following script. Set the SCRIPTS property to where you've saved the files above. Set the UUID property to the UUID of your DS - you'll need to scan your network to find this. In Windows, my DSs appear in the network view of Windows Explorer and I can see the unique identifier (UUID) if I right click the DS and view properties.

#!/bin/sh
SCRIPTS=/home/barry/scripts/ds
RADIO=${SCRIPTS}/radio.xml
UUID=uuid:4c494e4e-0026-0f21-d74b-013330780171
DS=`${SCRIPTS}/discover.sh ${UUID}`
${SCRIPTS}/source.sh ${DS} ${RADIO}

Now just add it to your crontab:
45 6 * * 1-5 /home/barry/scripts/kitchen_radio.sh

Enjoy one less thing to do in the morning :)

Here's the api documentation for the DS:
http://docs.linn.co.uk/wiki/index.php/Developer:Davaar

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Photo Workflow Failure

Ever since losing a few photographs about 6 years ago due to hard drive failure I've been a bit of a backup fanatic. Up to now, everything seems to have been working well.

On my machine, my Lightroom import folder is continuously backed up to a network drive and an online service along with my network archive of photographs.

After import I usually go through and reject photographs I don't want and periodically delete these photo from my drive. However, the next time I import from memory card, Lightroom highlights these previously deleted photos as importable again, so I usually uncheck all and import only what I want. I managed to train myself to assume some photographs have already been imported and rejected, when in fact, they may never have been imported!

I lost about 14 photographs, because I never imported them from my SD card. After a few photoshoots, these unimported photos got list in the noise of 'deleted photos' and then I formatted the SD card - Oh no!

A simple workflow change will sort this, either:
a) never delete photographs; I don't see the point of this, if I reject a photograph because I have another, better version, then deleting is an essential housecleaning task.
b) move deleted photographs to another folder, this way Lightroom retains knowledge about them, but I can exclude them easily from my library.
c) always synchronise the cleanup task of deleting rejected photographs, with a format or 'delete all' of my SD card.

I'm going to go for c) for the moment.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Majik Linn System


As long time regular readers may know, I'm interested in hifi and snapped up an offer to work at Linn last year as an application developer for factory operations. 

I finally decided to purchase a Linn system and after trialling 2 systems in the factory's 'Linn Home' I settled on a black Majik DSM with floorstanding Majik 140 speakers in a white finish. Linn very kindly allowed me to test the system in my living room for a few days before my purchase and once setup I couldn't believe the sound. I've never heard music sound so good in my home! 

I recall when leaving my last work, the owner stopped me to wished me luck at Linn and said to me "the first thing you need to do at Linn is buy a Majik system". Well I can see why and he was right!

I'm now busy rejuvenating my music collection by re-ripping in Flac as the difference between mp3 and flac is clear. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Star Trek Organist at Kelvingrove

I was surprised on a recent trip to Glasgow's Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum for the organ recital on Saturday. I heard the Doctor Who theme and a little later the Star Trek theme.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Mac Unzip .zip and .cpgz

Just had a weird problem where unzipping a downloaded file using Finder resulted in a .cpgz file; clicking this resulted in another .zip file and thus starting a loop.

I worked around by opening a command terminal and invoking the command like 'unzip' on the file in question and the file uncompressed correctly.

unzip myzip.zip

Here for anyone else who discovers this odd issue!

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Getting back into Vinyl


When I was 16, all I wanted was a pair of 'decks' and a mixer; I wanted to be a DJ. My parents bought me a set for Christmas in 1998 and I learned to mix happy hardcore records. I later sold those records and replaced them with a increasing selection of hard house and trance 12" singles - which I still have. I loved the feel of vinyl and the joy of music, I even recorded a mix CD!

After university I gave up on the DJing realising it was too pricey to purchase singles for the fun of it... the turntables went up the loft and never saw the light of day until a few years later when I decided to start purchasing LPs, this time Mr Scruff, Nightmares on Wax, Gold Chains and Rob Dougan. I remember having just 1 turntable hooked up to my Rega Brio and enjoying the music. However, for some reason this setup (and the LPs) went up the loft. 

Then I started working at Linn... 

That initial love of vinyl started to return to the point I nearly bought an LP12. I resurrected one of the turntables from the loft and even hooked up my old mixer as it was the only phono stage I had. I started buying some LPs again, I replaced the mixer with a Rega Fono Mini and then replaced the turntable with a Project Debut Carbon. A good beginner setup which I can later replace with an LP12!

One of my first experiences was listening to a remastered, 180 gram pressing of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon with a 10 year old Jura in one hand and the album sleeve with lyrics in the other. I read the cover whilst the music was playing. On the back of this experience, I have now started purchasing new physical albums for the first time in a while, LP of course, repurchasing some older favourites either 2nd hand from eBay or new remastered 180 gram recent rereleases. 

I recently started to listen to the Scottish musician Rachel Sermanni; advertised on her website are purchases for 'physical' and 'download'.  Imagine my disappointment do discover 'physical' meant CD! So I emailed her manager and asked about an LP version of Under Mountains to which I received a swift reply saying they are negotiating pressing on 180 gram vinyl. Awesome!

Then, today I visited my local HMV store enquiring about the new Daft Punk Random Access Memories album and if I could preorder it on vinyl. Sadly that particular HMV does not sell vinyl, so they cannot preorder it - however they did say the store is getting a redesign soon and a vinyl section is included in the redesign! Even more awesome!

I like my use of Spotify to consume music whilst doing other tasks - driving, cooking, working or reading in the house; even discovering new music. 

But to listen to music?

Nothing beats vinyl, the effort of tuning a table, positioning the stylus, removing fluff - is all rewarded with a different and worthwhile sound and experience.

I am glad vinyl sales are increasing!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Glasgow Science Centre


On Tuesday 9th April we had an incredible experience at the centre; on the way in, my niece lost her "Upsy Daisy" teddy because the wind blew it out of her hands and into the Clyde! She was hysterically upset and for a short period so was my son, Ethan exclaimed "Daisy's Dead", and later a more worrying "I want to get Daisy for Ava". I was ready for abandoning the trip and returning home, but my wife calmed Ava down and we decided to proceed with the visit.

One very good Samaritan behind the tills asked why she was upset and went well beyond the call of duty by making a phone call and coming back shortly afterwards with a seal cuddly toy, badges, stickers and a dinosaur sponge from their lost and found; my son was given two dinosaurs and some stretchy men. This was amazing and what was doomed was turned around by this gesture as both kids were delighted and really enjoyed the rest of their day!

Sadly I failed to take note of the staff members name, but I hope this message makes it to all the staff involved!

Monday, April 22, 2013

My First Cupping Experience

A few weeks ago I was invited to try out some Kenco Tassimo discs and give feedback. Since they were complimentary, I thought I'd try my hand at Coffee Cupping for a bit of fun!


So I put some music on and had a go...

My first attempt was not particularly constructive as I didn't really know what I was looking for, but with the helpful "Beginner's Guide to Cupping" I could start to appreciate flavours I didn't even know existed.

What was surprising to me most, was the coffee I used to buy regularly, I favoured the least...

Anyway, I'll post a proper review later in the week! I suspect 6 cups of coffee is too much in one evening :)

Monday, April 01, 2013

Feufield Trust Farm

Feufield Trust Farm-4015132

This morning when deciding where to take Ethan, Louise suggested Feufield Trust; a Llama sanctuary near Biggar. I had a puzzled look on my face, but after reading their website and checking the map I was intrigued (http://www.feufield.com/). We visited this morning where we viewed some of the smaller pets in their shop (their tortoise was hiding) after taking a walk around their farm where they have goats, horses, llamas, dogs and chickens roaming free with geese and some other animals viewable behind fences. Ethan seemed to love it, the goats took a liking to Ethan's woolly hat giving it a nibble and Ethan wanted to pet the horses, chickens and dogs.

After the walk, we had some fresh coffee and cake in the Llama Larder cafe where we were given an impromptu rendition of Pie Jesu from Kim and a showing of her Blondie cover on DVD during our cake. After, we ventured into the shop to see 5 1 week old chicks. Ethan gave them a gentle pat and we had another walk around the farm.

We bought some Rhubarb preserve; Hot Courgette Chutney and a half dozen of duck eggs from their farm shop. 

A recommended day out for the family!
http://www.feufield.com/

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Tea; Earl Grey; Hot! JJ Abram Style


Earl Grey JJ Abram Style
<!!>Originally uploaded by bazwilliams.</!!>

I bought my wife some Earl Grey Tea for Mother's day a few weeks back. This is Federation issue tea fit for Picard!

However, we didn't have a strainer for loose leaf tea bags, the only option available was a Star Wars death star strainer.

So here is a picture of Earl Grey - Abrams style!

Smartphone

A few weeks back I blogged about losing my Nexus for a week whilst it was in for repair. This is a continuation or conclusion to that after my use of the repaired phone for a few weeks.

To summarise, I prefer my smartphone.



So what did I miss without my phone?

  • Taking notes/photo notes when out and about
  • Easy access to the internet for information
  • Tweetdeck
  • A password database
  • Photography depth of field calculator
  • Google maps
  • Draw something!
  • Calendar and ToDo widgets
  • Spotify

With this analysis in mind, once I got my phone back I let Google restore all my apps onto the phone and I restored my Titanium backups, but didn't organise my home screens the same way as before. This time I decided I'd only add an app after I used it for a few times - this has kept the home screens relatively clear. I then switched off as many notifications as I could find. I now find I rarely check emails on my phone - however I do find I search for my Gmail from my phone.

I put Remember The Milk! and Google Calendar on my home screen.

I also had a think about backup strategy; whilst cherished information like photos were automatically synced to Dropbox, I was lucky last time that I could get my app data and SMS messages off the phone. I now use Titanium Backup to backup to a Dropbox synced folder weekly or at least after I think a backup is worthwhile. I've decided keeping all my SMS messages sent and received ever is pointless for me, I've never once searched them so I didn't bother importing them and now delete conversations once finished. 

Surprisingly, I've not installed an ebook reader on my phone or synced my calibre library to the device. I simply haven't had the desire to read a book using my phone, ironically, this was one of the main reasons I bought a phone with a big screen... 

But I still have to charge my phone every day... 

Friday, March 01, 2013

Music Curation and Discovery

I've not bought a CD in years for music - I quickly adopted iTunes and built up a large music collection by purchasing and ripping existing CDs. A few years later when Spotify was announced I started using that more and more relegating this (large) music collection to a virtual shelf.

Earlier in the year I setup a NAS to serve up music and video to various DLNA equipment in my house and part of this project was to move my old iTunes library making it available to current and future music streaming devices in my home. This presented me with an interesting problem; what does one do with digital music they no longer want? In the 90s I'd give the physical medium away, perhaps move it to a different shelf or even box it in the loft... Ultimately that piece of information still exists, somewhere in the world, but with digital music, for some reason I can't bring myself to just delete music from my hard disk.

I'm attempting to solve this problem by setting up playlists containing the music I like. In Spotify I'm using playlist folders a bit like virtual shelves. That way I can keep the music I like 'pure'.

So this week I've been reorganising my music playlists in Spotify in an attempt to 'curate' my virtual music collection - i.e. demoting albums I'm no longer interested in and also using this as an opportunity to tweak some of my existing mixlists. This process often involves discovering what other albums an artist has created or perhaps related music; this process used to involve finding random album covers which took my fancy in a music store - or by recommendation. Today, I only use recommendation, but not by friends or colleagues, by web service.

Something I've been doing for years (since April 2006) is scrobbling my music to last.fm specifically to discover new music. As of this post I have scrobbled 26,180 listens and last.fm has a great facility to chart my own music, from all time listened to albums to tracks per week. Indeed on this blog you'll see my most listened to artists in the sidebar - clicking it will take you to my last.fm profile. This offers an incredibly powerful ability to match my tastes with random internet people with what last.fm call neighbours. By seeing what artists these "neighbouring" people listen to allows me to discover brand new albums and artists and hopefully those people discover artists which I like too.

last.fm have integrated a good album recommendation application in Spotify which I use and another great source I've commonly used is Spotibot which provides last.fm functionality to generate a Spotify playlist based on your personal last.fm profile.

Incidentally, this is my 300th blog post - wow! I'll sign off with a playlist to celebrate:

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Droidless



My Galaxy Nexus developed a hardware fault over the weekend and it is now in for repair. As a result I reverted to using a candybar phone for the first time in 3 years. I dug out my old Skypephone S2, swapped SIM and charged it up first thing Monday morning.

I'm keeping a record in Evernote of the things I miss, but after using for a few days I'm impressed at how little I'm missing my fully featured smartphone.

The obvious candidates are missing Tweetdeck for reading the news in the morning and a home budgeting application to record purchases when they occur. But, there are other more subtle things like not having Evernote on my phone for snapping photos and recording notes when out and about or my password app (which I needed once to get my Google password).

However, the most significant gain so far is the complete lack of any battery anxiety and the halt of the stream of notifications. Might seem trivial, but it is surprisingly relaxing not having to clear them regularly.

So far, most of the things above can be done on a small tablet either at work or at home and are not really needed on the move. I suppose with the big exception of Evernote...

Spotify presents an interesting problem too as I like to listen to that in the car - although not missed at the moment as I'm using a different car for commuting which doesn't have an aux input. Maybe I can find a candybar phone with Spotify...

Incidentally, I originally chose my phone for the large screen for reading eBooks on it and the desire not to carry multiple devices. Whilst the Galaxy Nexus screen is good for this purpose, looking back I've found myself reading either at home or at work - i.e. not on the move - and perhaps a Kindle or Kobo Glo would be better.

I'll put another post up when I get my Android phone back, but in the meantime I'm quite enjoying checking email when I choose and not when I'm told.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Asus AT37N7A-I Nvidia ION Linux Configuration

I've been using this excellent motherboard for about 2 years, it has now been disassembled as I had less of a need for a silent PC in the living room after retiring my use of MythTV.

 I had Ubuntu installed on this PC and during its lifetime was subjected to many performance tweaks. Rather than delete this work, I've decided to put the files online for other people to use.

Sound

I wanted digital sound over the HDMI cable so it can be played by either my TV or AV amp; I've played back DTS HD with this configuration, my TV had issues with some sample rates which is why the rate is configured explicitly.

asoundrc

pcm.!default front

pcm.analog-hw {
  type hw
  card 0
  device 0
}

pcm.analog-hw-formatted {
  type plug
  slave {
    pcm analog-hw
    rate 48000
  }
}

pcm.digital-hw {
  type hw
  card 0
  device 3
}

pcm.digital-hw-formatted {
  type plug 
  slave {
    pcm digital-hw
    rate 48000
  }
}

pcm.hdmi_softvol {
  type softvol
  slave.pcm digital-hw-formatted
  control.name hdmi_volume
  control.card 0
}

Video 

These are my xorg.conf settings for use with my Sharp Aquos 32" TV, this has been optimised for use with MythTV specifically playback of 1080p playback at 50Hz, 60Hz and 24Hz.

xorg.conf

Section "ServerLayout"
    Identifier     "Default Layout"
    Screen         "Default Screen" 0 0
EndSection

Section "Monitor"
    #Sharp AQUOS Screen Dimension: 701mm x 394mm
    Identifier     "Television"
    VendorName     "Sharp"
    ModelName      "LC32LE600E"
    DisplaySize     701    394
EndSection

Section "Device"
    Identifier     "ION-HDMI"
    Driver         "nvidia"
    Option         "NoLogo"                    "true"
    # If not disabled I can't select 24Hz or 60Hz refresh rates
    Option         "DynamicTwinView"           "false"
    Option         "NoFlip"                    "false"
    Option         "FlatPanelProperties"       "Scaling = Native"
    Option         "ModeValidation"            "NoVesaModes, NoXServerModes, NoPredefinedModes"
    Option         "ModeDebug"                 "true"
    # Options for MythTV performance
    Option         "TripleBuffer"              "True"
    Option         "UseEvents"                 "True"
    Option         "HWCursor"                  "False"
    # Removes non selected modes
    Option         "IncludeImplicitMetaModes"  "false"
    Option         "ExactModeTimingsDVI"       "True"
    Option         "DPI"                       "100 x 100"
EndSection

Section "Screen"
    Identifier     "Default Screen"
    Device         "ION-HDMI"
    Monitor        "Television"
    DefaultDepth   24
    SubSection     "Display"
        Viewport    0 0
        Depth       24
        Modes      "1920x1080_50" "1920x1080_24_0" "1920x1080_60_0"
    EndSubSection
EndSection

Section "Extensions"
    Option         "Composite"                 "Disable"
EndSection

nvidia-settings 

On startup, nvidia-settings is called with the following parameters:

nvidia-settings -a "SyncToVBlank=1" -a "AllowFlipping=1" -a "FSAAAppControlled=1" -a "OpenGLImageSettings=3" -a "LogAniso=0" -a "GPUScaling[DFP-0]=1,1"; nvidia-settings -r

Mplayer

Here are the mplayer-config settings for smooth playback using the GPU:

fs="1"
ao=alsa:device=hdmi
vo=vdpau
vc=ffmpeg12vdpau,ffh264vdpau,xvid

MythTV

There is extensive documentation on the MythTV wiki so I won't repeat that here, for reference though:

http://www.mythtv.org/wiki/Frame_display_timing
http://www.mythtv.org/wiki/Vdpau
http://www.mythtv.org/wiki/User_Manual:JudderFree

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Summer Holiday to Spain 2012

Bit late, but just found this draft...

Summer Holiday 2012 - _7043883

For our summer holiday to Spain we took 3 weeks for the first time since 2009! We planned to travel through France as quickly as possible and spend 4 or 5 days touring through Spain before spending 2 weeks in our holiday house. I put plenty of planning into the routes we should take attempting to avoid motorways and explore nearby and interesting places

Our journey through UK was slower than expected, mainly due to regular stoppage due to inability to stay overnight at a service station - we used to pay £10 and sleep at a service station overnight, but we couldn't do this because we were being classified as an HGV through the now computerised parking system. Even after speaking to them by telephone they couldn't do much, so we had to keep moving! We've since subscribed to a campervan wildcamping site and will use that to find places to stay in future.

Summer Holiday 2012 - _6303828

We arrived about an hour early at the Eurotunnel and stayed the night at the Aire du Baie de Somme service station on the A10. We had a long sleep and a late start leaving around 12.

Summer Holiday 2012 - _6303829

We drove for as long as we could targetting Bordeaux; just after midnight we pulled off the motorway to stop at an Aire near Angoulême and as I was driving narrow town roads the street lights clicked off which was a bit spooky, it was 12.30 so it must be a feature! Unfortunately the Aire no longer existed and had been replaced by a campsite. We turned around and rejoined the motorway, we drove to an Aire near Bedenac arriving very late (1 or 2 in the morning).
The following day we set off for the campsite (Baztan) we wanted to stay at in Eratzu, Spain. We cut off the N10 just before the Spanish border and travelled through the mountains crossing the border unexpectedly in the middle of a small French/Spanish village called Dantxaria. I turned left at a mini roundabout and was confronted with a Spanish sign and a Repsol petrol station! Very odd and happened so quickly I never even took a photograph! We arrived at the campsite in the middle of siesta but we were able to find a nice 'parcela' so set up for the evening and night. This was the first time we could try out our new sun canopy.

Pitched with Sun Canopy

Near our pitch there was a barn which somehow reminded me of "The Walking Dead". I did look inside the window :)

Summer Holiday 2012 - _7023839

We discovered another yellow camper van owner who took pictures of our van and his together! We had some wine and decided that rather than trying to tour the Pyrenees, Rioja and staying in Logrono in a few days we'd tour La Mancha for longer instead looking for clues about Don Quixote. The following day we drove directly to Puerto Lapice. We left the campsite just before 12 and stopped at a nearby town to stock up with supplies (and saffron). We then set off on a mainly motorway journey arriving a few kilometres before Puerto Lapice (about 100 miles south of Madrid) in a wild camping area alongside another British camper van conversion late at night.
Our tour through La Mancha was very good, every little town revealed yet more to discover and explore. From the A4 motorway, La Mancha is incredibly flat and boring, the road is incredibly straight deviating only for modern town bypasses. Getting off this road and perhaps 30 or 40 kms away demonstrated what La Mancha has to offer! Sadly I missed an opportunity for cheese tasting - there was a shop open in Ruidera, but I visited a nearby bar instead where we were given complimentary Octopus tapas.

I documented our trip through La Mancha separately.
We arrived at our destination in Malaga and the first few days were very relaxing where I caught up on some reading material and ran through some Lightroom tutorials! We explored some local museums - including a museum about honey; I had absolutely no idea there were so many different types of "pure" honey as it depends on what vegetation the bees feed on!
Unfortunately I had an accident in Colmenar just before setting off for Olvera, lack of local knowledge led me to driving through narrow streets where I clipped someone's bumper, I left my details and received a call from the owner shortly after - another Brit - typical! We exchanged insurance details and finally set off for Olvera for some DIY work. We rendered interior walls, hung curtains, repointed brickwork on the roof terrace and tiled the roof of the stair well. I started early on the roof terrace, but eventually the sun became too warm to work under so Louise had to hold a sombrero to shade me!
We then headed to Benalmadena so we could visit Selwo Marina for Ethan to watch dolphins, this was a very warm day but I think he enjoyed himself! He fell asleep during the penguin feeding session at which point we put him in his pram.

untitled shoot - _7174245

After taking Bruno to the vet for his UK reentry checkup, we visited the beach in Torre Del Mar so Ethan could build sand castles on the beach!

We left Malaga on Thursday to head for the Eurotunnel Sunday morning; this was not the best journey. We left on Thursday around 4pm stopping on the A2 after Guadalajara early in the morning. The following day we left late morning, this journey was mostly okay, but we were definitely falling behind schedule. We spotted what looked like a gum ball rally in Rioja, a large number of Ferraris and Lamborghinis overtook me, but I caught up with them again at a filling station. Every pump was occupied with a very expensive super car - except the one my camper van was at :)

Repsol Gathering

Travelling into France we missed an opportunity for 'Kebabs' and eventually fell back on a McDonalds in Angoulême at 10.30pm. There was a long queue at the drive through and after dinner we left McDonalds just before midnight. The van was also beginning to act odd by not starting properly (whirring noise, but no cranking).

We carried on for another hour stopping near Ruffec.

The following morning we left again around 10 and should have had a 580km journey to Calais, but it took much longer than expected, by 5pm we were only just approaching Chartres and were redirected due to the Tour de France between Bonneville and Chartres, this probably took an extra hour for us to detour. Looking back the detour was only small and as it happened looking at the map afterwards we were on a direct route to Dreux, but I didn't realise this, turning around and making life very difficult! Given hindsight this would have been an ideal time to simply stop, have dinner and review the paper maps - a lesson learned!

We arrived in Rouen around 7 where our Spanish debit card stopped working this added anxiety to the timing and starter issues as we didn't have enough fuel to get to Calais. I assumed it was the Esso garage, so carried on eventually finding another Carrefour market significantly off route. The card was declined again so we used our UK card and set off - after sunset. At 11pm we passed the Baie du Somme, I was very tired so we stopped for the night - we had a 4.30am start to set off for the hours drive to the tunnel and check in at 6.50am.

The following morning the van failed to start properly on a few occasions and we were worrying about driving off the train. We caught a later than booked train and went through the tunnel. I was really shattered and stopped at the first service station where I repacked the van a little. I then used my phone to connect to the internet and check the spanish bank account to find out why our account wasn't working - turns out Banco Popular limits the amount of transactions that can be made in a month irrespective of whether sufficient funds are available. After a phone call we set off at which point I reversed into a height restriction barrier cracking my roof and bending the bodywork.

We suspect the starting issue was the solenoid not getting enough voltage to engage with the flywheel. I later discovered our Fridge was being connected via our split charging regulator during ignition which would have been a significant power draw, in future we'll switch the fridge off by its switch before starting the engine and replace the camper's starter battery.

It would appear we travelled south in search of Don Quijote, but on return to the UK - we found him… Quite thankful the damage was minimal (though still needs repair), I'm sure it was a combination of the duress of the journey and tiredness.

Next year we need to factor in an extra day on return as mealtimes took much longer than I expected and on average we can only average around 50km/hour over the course of a day.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Kube 2, KHT 2005.3 Subwoofer Buzzing - Solved!

After moving some furniture around in our living room, we had to move our Kube 2 subwoofer to a new location. After re-installation and power up I discovered a buzzing noise. Due to lack of sockets in its old location it hadn't been used in a few months so I was very disappointed. The buzzing only appeared when the input cable from my Onkyo av amplifier was plugged in, however wiggling it about occasionally stopped the buzzing. I initially thought my subwoofer cable was at fault so I swapped it out for another shorter cable and the buzzing returned - both phono sockets on the sub appeared to be affected so it was either something inside the sub, or some kind of grounding problem.

The noise sounded similar to the buzzing I used to get with a pair of turntables if they weren't grounded to my mixing deck, so after doing some searching online I found a few solutions ranging from removing the earth connection from the plug (don't do this), or purchasing a subwoofer cable with included earthing strap (upwards of £30).

To be sure, I connected one of the testing probes of my multimeter to one of the screws on the subwoofer and the other probe to one of the screws on the AV amplifier, the buzzing immediately disappeared.

My old turntable came with crimped terminal spades which attached to a screw earth connector - or in the case of my old amplifier, one of the chassis screws. So I made up a short length of cable with crimped terminal spades on either end and fastened the cable between the two screws.

Problem solved!

I'm guessing wiggling the input cables around occasionally completed a ground circuit between the chassis of the sub and amplifier via the metal phono connectors.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Stargazing LIVE @ Botanic Gardens


I enjoy BBC 2's stargazing live shows and this is their 3rd year. After Tuesday's show I was pleased to discover a BBC Stargazing LIVE event here in Glasgow in Botanic Gardens on Wednesday!

We arrived just before 6pm and obtained tickets for a 'star talk' and 'creating a comet'. The star talk was a 20 minute class on introduction to astronomy and followed the BBC / Open University Star Guide 2013 handout and also closely followed some of the segments on the TV programme. They used an astronomy application called Stallarium which interestingly I had installed on a Linux machine many moons ago (sorry)... This class was unexpected and if this event is held again, I highly recommend attending!

After the star talk we moved nearer the front of the room where they were going to demonstrate what is inside a comet by constructing a model out of water, dry ice, ash, sand and worcester sauce (to simulate biological content). This show was targeted at children and Ethan seemed to really enjoy it! When asked what a comet was made of I prompted Ethan after a few guesses from the audience and he shouted out ice; a little later the same question was asked and completely unexpectedly and unprompted Ethan shouted out the correct answer - he was listening more intently than we thought :). As a bonus we also got to touch some real meteorites which were about 10cm wide!

After these classes we walked around a marquee with various LEGO mindstorms landers. They also had someone dressed as an Astronaut whom I thought was also robotic as she was standing so still - she gave herself away when she suddenly moved out of the way of someone and lifted her visor!

In the Kibble Palace various stands were available about different cosmological studies, these were all aimed at a range of age groups and each very interesting.

Some telescopes were set out for viewing the stars, but sadly it was foggy so I decided not to join the long queue to look through one of them. Shame it wasn't on Tuesday as the skies were incredibly clear and enough for me to spot some of Jupiter's moons through binoculars!

Well done to the team and I hope an event like this is held again in the future!

More details on the BBC Stargazing LIVE website