Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

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 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

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.

TapVirginMedia Pricing (again)

1 Aug 2013 10:02 by Rick

Following on from my post from 2009, the situation is still the same – but different. Technology has moved on and back in March I was having a number of service issues together with discovering that, once again, I was being overcharged. The issue there was that I was on 20Mb Broadband which was not a service that is offered to new customers so it was not possible to find the correct price but my argument was that it certainly should not be a higher price than the current 30Mb service. Again, like the banks, a case of legacy customers being left behind and over charged. The solution to that was to change to the current Broadband L (30Mb) offering and with that came a spanking new Modem/Router which also fixed my service problems. Subsequently, since I am now at home for most of the time, I have upgraded the phone service as well.

So, having got the first uncomplicated bill in July – I have checked it.


This shows a bundle price of £26.40 + the line rental to a total of £41.39.

Going to their web site, which is quite good once you figure out how to work it and convince it that you are not an existing customer (because that only gives you upgrades), I found the “Build your own bundle” page. Entering Broadband L, Phone XL + Caller Display gives me…


The grand total of £39.74 – an overcharge of £1.65.

Back on the phone (free), this time the girl I got was intelligent and, slowly working her through their own web site to get the page I was seeing, I convinced her and her supervisor that I was correct. They will credit the £1.65/month backdated to March. The explanation that it was a one off error not systematic is hard to challenge even if it is not plausible.

The moral—Check and Complain, but you do need to be sure of your facts.

TapGloucester Road – Year 3

12 Jul 2013 10:42 by Rick

For the third year I am publishing my survey of the businesses on Gloucester Road which I started in 2011. I am not sure how I am going to be able to do this in the future as I no longer travel up the full length every day.

Over the course of the year 41 of the 427 commercial properties have undergone significant changes, either by the businesses closing, opening or moving. Not such a high turnover as last year but still significant.


There has been a slight increase in the number of empty shops up from 30 to 33 over the year. The houses/apartments between 148 and 156 are now complete but a large development is underway at the old baths. The empty block by the Baptist Church continues to be a gaping hole.


The mix of types of business is virtually unchanged but some prominent spots have been revived. It is good to see the Hobgoblin back in business but sad to see Cameron Lee & the bike shop close down. Bishopston Trading will be closing partly due to its own success in improving the lifestyle of the community in India where their manufacturing was done. We have gained a new optician, a couple of fashion shops and a vets but lost Blockbuster video rental

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

TapYour tipple – revised

29 Nov 2012 19:03 by Rick

Since I wrote the original article on alcohol tax and prices nearly two years ago things have moved on a bit. The big idea now is that the minimum over the counter price, after tax and everything, should be 45p per unit of alcohol. To save you reading the original article again, a unit is calculated as 1% in 1 litre of liquid. So using these figures this is the revised table.

3.5% beer—pint—Minimum over the counter price 90p
Flandres 2.6% gnats—250ml bottle—Minimum price 29p
Special Brew 9% fighting juice—500ml can ==> Minimum price £2.03p
A nice 14.5% Rioja—75cl bottle—Minimum price £4.89
Budget 30% vodka—70cl bottle—Minimum price £9.45
Bacardi 151 death wish—litre—Minimum price £33.98

I haven’t had a chance to check current supermarket prices yet, but it will make a significant difference wiping out cheap wine. I will update later.

TapThe continuing story of Gloucester Road

7 Jul 2012 13:19 by Rick

As promised I have continued my survey of the businesses on Gloucester Road which I started last June.

Over the course of the year 55 of the 421 commercial properties have undergone significant changes, either by the businesses closing, opening or moving. I think this is a very high turnover, though I have nothing to compare it against.


An improvement has been a reduction in the number of empty shops down from 38 to 30 over the year. That is partly due to the demolition of the unsightly block between 148 and 156 – new apartments are being built there which is a loss of trading but will be a big improvement to the appearance. The empty block by the Baptist Church is still there but looking much tidier and other renovation work is underway so the future looks good.


The mix of types of business is largely unchanged with still over half being Retail (A1). The proportions of types of trade has remained much the same, just moving about a bit. Restaurants & Cafés are up a bit from 45 to 50 but a lot of the increase has been at the upper end of the road where they were not so concentrated already. As far as I can tell (as the applications are not as visible as for planing) the numbers and types of alcohol licences have remained the same. The numbers of branches of National chain stores is higher but that may be partly accounted for by my recognising more of them. This year I have also marked shops from local and regional chains where I have been able to identify them.

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

There is now an informal local history group under the leadership of Chris Wallace who has created a web site devoted to the history of Gloucester Road. I have contributed my data and in June, when the weather was better, I completed a photographic survey of every commercial building which I still need to edit and submit.

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