TapChristmas Lights

8 Jan 2021 14:25 by Rick

Yes, a sudden return to writing. I don’t know if I will keep this up.

I have often wondered how Christmas tree lights manage to display flashing patterns with only a few wires. In the old days of filament bulbs the cables were thick and heavy bundles of wires which weighed the tree branches down. Some bulbs were attached to to one string and others to different ones and the stings woven together to form the bundle. It addition, for fixed lights, the low voltage bulbs were connected in series usually 40 x 6v connected to a 240v mains supply. I haven;t looked at chaser bulbs to see if those were the same.

Now with LED bulbs there are many fewer wires—usually three or sometimes only two. So checking out a short set of two wire lights from our door wreath before putting them away for the year I took some measurements. This runs on 3 x AA cells so between about 3v and 4.5v supply. Getting a steady display with all lights on revealed an AC signal of about 2v. Looking at this on my little toy oscilloscope I could see that this is a 500Hz square wave. To get alternate lights on used a DC signal and the oposing alternate lights were obtained by the opposite polarity.

So that is how they work. The LEDs are all wired in parallel across the wires but alternate LEDs are wired the opposite way around so a +ve voltage lights up one set and a -ve voltage lights the other set. An alternating voltage of sufficiently high frequency appears to light both sets at once. By using 500Hz it avoids any apparent flicker. LEDs are not very tolerant of reverse current but presumably they are sufficiently under-run so as not to damage them.

TapGloucester Road – Year 6

1 Aug 2016 17:09 by Rick

(Late again!)

It has been a bit of a tough year as can be seen from the statistics. Discrete businesses are up from 380 to 385 as retailers downsize and vacancies are up from 24 to 29. Other than that there is not a lot to report. The mix remains roughly the same.

Again I have attached a PDF of the full survey and I have highlighted all the significant changes from last year.

TapGloucester Road – Year 5

8 Jul 2015 12:17 by Rick

Sorry, a bit late this year.

No change in the number of empty properties this time, but there has been quite a bit of movement with businesses moving around and a few that have come and gone.

Charity shops and Takeaways are both down, Restaurants and Estate Agents are both up a little in each case but not a huge change in the character mix. Off licences are down.

Again I have attached a PDF of the full survey and I have highlighted all the significant changes from last year.

TapSMS Spam+

25 May 2015 17:55 by Rick

On May 7 I had a spam text message from “Free Msg” which just consisted of a web link so I ignored it. On May 9 a very similar one came from a short-code number (82999). When an identical one arrived a week later it was starting to get annoying—but not as annoying as discovering that I was being charged £3 each for them.

It looked like some toe-rag had signed me up for a premium text service. I don’t know how; I think (hope) that it is unrelated to changing phone service provider.

I enquired of the excellent GiffGaff agent service and also doing a bit of research I discovered phonepayplus.org.uk which apparently is the regulator for UK SMS marketing. They provide a lookup service for the short-code and from there I discovered that the service was run by Veoo and their (required) contact number was 0800 157 7502. With trepidation I rang that and got a very pleasant woman who took some details and then told me that the marketing company using that number was Total Solve Ltd who could be contacted on 0161 884 1078. This number matched one that was in the spam messages. So far so good; not a free number but my contract would take up the cost so I rang that as well.

Again there was a very agreeable lady on the other end who took the same details. She also told me that it was a subscription download service (soft porn considering the link name) and checked that my “account” had never been used so agreed without any hesitation to block it and refund the money by PayPal (direct bank credit was also available).

Both calls were very quick with no sleepy music or marketing announcements. The downside could have been that now, they not only had my name and phone number but also my email address. I wasn’t going to give out bank details.

You will be glad to know that there was a happy ending—the refund duly arrived today.

For information the text of the message read (I don’t suggest that you go there so I have inserted spaces).

http://g l a m o u r h u n n i e s . com/ ?pass=[hex codes] HelpLine ? 01618841078

TapiPhone move from Orange(EE) to Giff-Gaff

20 Apr 2015 17:09 by Rick

This should all be straight forward:

  1. Unlock phone from Orange
  2. 30 days in advance, notify Orange/EE that you wish to terminate the service or transfer the number.
  3. Sign up to Giff-Gaff and activate their SIM
  4. Put in the Giff-Gaff SIM
  5. Use Phone
  6. Get the number transferred

Things are never as easy as that. These instructions may apply to other network moves.

  1. To unlock the phone from Orange go to their web site and you will find instructions if you look hard enough. Basically you have to ring them and pay about £21. It can take up to 28 days. In practice you may need to remind them as they seem to forget; so do it in plenty of time before your contract expires—I would allow at least two months.
  2. If you want to transfer your number then you will need to have requested a PAC from Orange/EE. They do this fairly quickly but subject you to an inquisition first. The PAC lasts 30 days so you can request it in good time before hand. (Edit: I thought this was free but I see from the bill that they charged me £5.65+VAT but I can’t be bothered to quibble.) Alternatively, if you don’t want to transfer the number, then you need to notify them (30 days in advance) that you wish to terminate the contract/service.
  3. The easy bit—just follow the excellent Giff-Gaff instructions.
  4. Now the hard bit. They say just take out the old SIM and put in the new activated one. On an iPhone it doesn’t seem to work as easy as this as the phone still thinks it is on the EE network and refuses to recognise it. The only way I could get it to work was:
    1. Connect the phone to your computer running iTunes.
    2. Do a full backup of the phone to iTunes (not iCloud).
    3. Eject the phone from the computer.
    4. On the phone, go to Settings ==> General ==> Reset ==> Erase All Content and Settings—scary I know.
    5. Switch the phone off and remove the old SIM card.
    6. Insert the new Giff-Gaff SIM card and switch the phone back on.
    7. Connect the phone to the computer again.
    8. Go through the new phone setup process and when it gets to that point, restore from the backup you just made.

    It will do that quite quickly and then reboot, but now it will go into Sync and restore everything else. This takes quite a while (depending on how big a phone you have).

  5. Use the phone
  6. If required then you fill in their number transfer form and that only takes a day but you will be without any service (except Wi-Fi) for a few hours and you may need to re-boot the phone.

TapSuperscript for WordPress

26 Mar 2015 22:10 by Rick

When editing WordPress pages or posts there are a number of buttons in the editor to make things a bit easier; Things like Bold, Italic, Blockquote etc. There are in fact a lot more built into the editor than are actually shown in the menu bars. I rather like having superscripts and subscripts come out properly so I have allowed for it in my themes; things like 2nd and H2O. To make these easy to edit I have crested this little WordPress plugin – RJP-Superscript. Just add it to wp-content/plugins on your site and activate it and new buttons Sup and Sub will be enabled in both the Text and Visual editor (in the Visual editor, click the “Toolbar Toggle” on the end of the first line to reveal the second line of buttons). It can’t do magic though—if your theme doesn’t style super and subscripts then nothing will happen in the finished post.

TapJava 8 problems

11 Mar 2015 14:23 by Rick

There don’t seem to be many reports of this but Java 8 was a significant change from v7 and I have found at least two programs that no longer work. It is particularly difficult as the programs concerned are not actively maintained any more so there is little chance of getting the developers to make changes to allow for the new release. The problem seems to be that Java is now installed in a different place—dependent on the version number. I am testing using version 8u40

The programs concerned are

  • EasySearch v3.0.4 running on WinXP (download not working). The only fix I can find for this is to remove Java 8 and install an old version 7u76 and also force it not to update (Control Panel >> Java >> Updates). I needed the JRE x86 offline version. Java 8 had been saying that some things won’t work in Winodws XP for a while but I wasn’t expecting it to be this serious. There is the same problem under Win7 running EasySearch in XP compatibility mode.
  • YawCam running on Win7. There is a work-around for this one. Apparently the new way to find java is via \ProgramData\Oracle\Java\javapath but something this program does doesn’t work with this so you have to use the old style path which is \ProgramFiles(x86)\Java\jrel.8.0_40 . I would have reported this but the forum registration is not working.

JavaRanch [sorry, I lost the link] is reporting a similar problem.

Java doesn’t like to be told not to update—in fact it seems to ignore it and keep nagging you.

TapWordPress Exploit Scanner

5 Mar 2015 09:11 by Rick

The WordPress Exploit Scanner was a very useful WordPress plugin that would check your site for interference by hackers. It does this by checking the hashes of all the modules against what they were when the code was published and also looks (as best as it can) at your posts and comments database looking for common inserted exploit code.

Unfortunately this seems to have stopped being updated for the last two versions of WordPress (4.1 and 4.1.1).

All is not lost though as all that is missing are the current hash files and Philip John has stepped forward and is hosting replacements – just that it is not as slick as before and these files need to be manually uploaded. The procedure is as follows …

  • Go to https://github.com/philipjohn/exploit-scanner-hashes
  • Find the relevant hash file based on the version of WordPress installed. Currently this is hashes-4.1.1.php – left click on this link.
  • This generates the required hashes file in a window. The easiest way to download it is to click on the “Raw” button
  • Select the whole page (CMD-A or CTRL-A)
  • Copy the whole page (CMD-C or CTRL-C)
  • Open a text editor (e.g. textedit or notepad)
  • Paste the page into there (CMD-V or CTRL-V)
  • Now save the file and call it (in this case) hashes-4.1.1.php – note: it must not have .txt added on the end!
  • Upload this file using FTP to the web site into directory wp-content/plugins/exploit-scanner
  • Login to WordPress as admin
  • Go to Tools ==> Exploit Scanner
  • Click “Run the Scan”

When I did this on a very clean site (no other plugins, very little content) the number of warnings was down to two, both of them in the exploit scanner itself. In practice you will get more than this as it doesn’t know about other plugins and accidental false positives but with care and experience it is very readable.

TapIraq Hoaxes

2 Sep 2014 10:19 by Rick

The following is a HOAX.

Christians in Northern Iraq are calling for urgent prayer backing as they’re in great danger – serious threat of beheading of all Christians in that area in a few hours. Please forward this request to your praying friends on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ” Thank you and God bless you.

And I am fairly sure that this one is a hoax too

Urgent Prayer Request For Christians Dying in Northern Iraq
Sean Malone who leads Crisis Relief International (CRI), sent the following message Friday night [29/8/14]:
“We lost the city of Queragosh (Qaraqosh). It fell to ISIS and they are beheading children systematically. This is the city we have been smuggling food too. ISIS has pushed back Peshmerga (Kurdish forces) and is within 10 minutes of where our CRI team is working. Thousands more fled into the city of Erbil last night. The UN evacuated it’s staff in Erbil. Our team is unmoved and will stay. Prayer cover needed!”

Crisis Relief International does not exist, it is called Crisis Response International.

You may ask “Why do you pursue these hoaxes so fervently. There is no doubt that there is a humanitarian crisis in Northern Iraq. What does it matter if the details are not quite right, God knows”

Well my answer is that truth is not served by falsehood, however often repeated. The objective of the people who set these hoaxes running is to undermine the truth of the situation. They will be rejoicing if the message reaches the mainstream media before being discovered. And all these little things undermine the truth. The thought planted is that if this one is a hoax, then perhaps the whole story is untrue.

So, please do some basic checks before posting on—Google is your friend (other search engines are also good). These organisations do not send out messages like this by text message.

And do look at the web sites of the organisiations working there (including the ones above) and pray around what is true.

TapGloucester Road – Year 4

25 Jun 2014 15:25 by Rick

Well, I may have been a bit slack posting stuff to this blog recently, but I have managed to keep up my survey of shops on the Gloucester Road for a fourth year running (use the search to find previous reports).

The good news this year is that there are fewer empty shops, we are told that is a sign of an upturn but we will see. It is down from 33 last year to 24 this. There has also been a bit of movement with businesses moving around and a few that have come and gone within the 12 month period.

The gains have been in charity shops—up from 12 to 15—and restaurants up from 51 to 58. The latter possibly due to the relaxing of planning laws. The number of take-aways has, however, apparently fallen from 29 to 27. A few properties have reverted to residential but the overall mix has stayed fairly constant.

We also now have two “Head Shops” which pretend to be like their counterparts in Amsterdam but, of course, can’t sell marajuana. They and another shop will presumably try to exploit an apparent demand for electronic cigarettes, “legal highs” and paraphernalia. We will see if that is what the street wants.

It has been good to see a high profile for many of the shops in the local newspapers and magazines.

Again I have attached a PDF of the full survey and I have highlighted all the significant changes from last year.

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