November to December 2001 ramblings

Cheeky reader, it's dangerous out there, ntl rant, router dial-up fun, high-speed internet access, running on fumes, Seven Club meeting reports, puncture.


I still get interest in my bike computer page, but some is less welcome than most. I got a message today which consisted of this question, "please halpe me with this wark give me more halp please please tankyou", followed by eight screens of information about an assignment to design a bike computer. I politely replied saying that I didn't know enough to help, but the links on my page might give more information.

Thursday 27th December 2001. Link to this ramble.

It's dangerous out there

The firewall part of my router is doing its job, and I'm glad I went for it. In the last 24 hours it's rejected the following probes by hackers on my IP address: Given that I'm pretty confident that the attacks won't succeed, it's quite interesting to see that they're up to. Doing a Google search for something like "tcp port 53 hack" usually gives good references.

Saturday 22nd December 2001. Link to this ramble.

ntl rant

My ntl cable modem is now installed, and the home network is working great. Getting there, however, was not easy... I just hope that everything stays working and I don't have to deal with ntl any more. They'll probably screw up my direct debit next.

ntl aren't the only ones

Tele2 turned up again last Friday, exactly a week after they should have arrived. ntl were coming on Monday, so I had to tell them to go away again. Can't any of these companies get it right?

Friday 21st December 2001. Link to this ramble.

Router dial-up fun

I just used a borrowed modem (thanks, Andy) connected to my new router to surf the internet wirelessly from my laptop. Excellent! Configuring the router for my Freeserve account was simple, but surprisingly, so was setting it up to dial into our work RAS servers. I did a bit of surfing, ran Outlook; all seemed to work fine.

I'm not sure how workable it would be as a true dial-up solution, because it called out with seemingly no provocation (like when the router finished booting). I couldn't see an option to modify this behaviour, other than by disabling manual dialing. After doing this, I had to go to one of the router's configuration web pages and press a button before it would call out. It's still pretty cool though. I had the iMac and my laptop sharing the connection. I even accessed our work intranet from the iMac. Wonder whether that's a first?

ntl had better turn up and do the business on Monday, because I'm looking forward to trying this thing with a decent WAN connection.

Wednesday 12th December 2001. Link to this ramble.

The search for high-speed internet access

I've been thinking about getting high-speed internet access at home for quite a while, and I recently decided that the time is right to do something about it.


BT don't do ADSL in my area. Tele2 are also out. (Background: they do fixed-wireless broadband in the Reading area, but their website says they don't cover my house. I phoned them on the off-chance, and they said that they had successfully installed at properties near me. They were supposed to come out to do the survey / installation on Thursday morning, but turned up late after I'd gone to work. They said they did the survey anyway, and I can't get the service. That's a pity because in Reading they offer a static IP address, ethernet port, and they don't mind if you run servers.)

Which leaves ntl. They definitely cover my area, and they are coming out to install on Monday. They offer ethernet (or USB), but they don't allow me to run servers, and the upload speed is lower than the competitors (128 kbps). I've heard lots of bad things about their customer service, so I hope the installation goes OK. Incidentally, the web site and other publicity blurb is very confusing about their tarrifs. Don't be conned into thinking that you have to get their Digital TV / Telephone / Internet package if all you want is broadband - I've managed to get away with Telephone (which I don't want) and Internet.


I wanted to be able to use the internet connection from my iMac and my work laptop when it's at home. I also wanted to have the two computers be able to talk to each other, for transferring files. After doing much research on the net I setttled on an SMC Barricade SMC7004AWBR (Practically Networked have an excellent review). This includes a 3-port 10/100 mbps ethernet switch (for the iMac), NAT router (for sharing the broadband connection), 11 mbps wireless ethernet access point (for the laptop), printer server (with parallel port), and a serial port for hooking up to a modem (instead of the cable / ADSL ethernet port). As an added bonus, Action had them in stock as part of a package with a free wireless PC Card for my laptop, for the same price as a cheap wireless access point from many other suppliers (catalogue number 55-53-20).

The first one to arrive had a damaged antenna (there are two, and one was loose on its mounting). Action's returns policy was stupid (they pay for a courier to collect it, but wouldn't send a replacement out until they had confirmed the fault), so I got a refund, and then ordered a new one. This one seems fine, but I've only tested the wired and wireless access so far. I'll be able to test the broadband side when ntl deliver, and once I've got a printer cable I will try that out too. The device is about the size of a paperback book, has no fan, and runs cool so I have no qualms with leaving it turned on all the time. It seems to be just what I was after.

Monday 10th December 2001. Link to this ramble.

Stuttering again

My engine stuttered again last night, this time just as I was leaving work. It sounded terrible (a bit like a Subaru :-) ), and it was well down on power. I suspected the spark plugs, but couldn't get the cover off with my Swiss Army knife, so I had to call out Green Flag. Their mechanic arrived in good time, and sure enough several of the plug wells had nice puddles of water at the bottom. (The K-Series head seems like a stupid design - each plug is at the bottom of a tall thin well which is usually sealed by the plug lead. If any water does get in however, it ends up all over the plug, and there's no way for it to get out. I know the Ford Zetec engine is similar; don't know why they did it this way.)

The guy soaked up the water with a rag, sprayed in a healthy dose of WD40, dried off the distributor cap, and sealed everything with a light silicone spray. The engine sounded better when I started it, but when I went to drive away I realised it wasn't fixed. I really didn't want to wait around for a low-loader to take me home, so I decided to take an easy drive. I joined the motorway late, because I wanted to make sure I could safely get up to speed. By the time I got there, the engine seemed to be running fine, although by now I was paranoid and was sure I could hear suspicious noises.

The drives in and home today were fine, so I don't know what the problem was. I really hope I haven't shagged the engine. It's been pointed out to me that my concern out sucking up crud from the bottom of the tank doesn't make sense (because the pick-up must be at the bottom of the tank, so it would suck up the bits regardless of how low the petrol level got). I don't think it's just folklore that you shouldn't run the tank dry, so I guess the explanation must be that some of the crud normally floats on the surface of the petrol, and that's what gets sucked in when the level gets too low.

Tuesday 4th December 2001. Link to this ramble.

Seven Club meeting report for November

Forgot to mention that I've added Steve Foster's report for the November meetings of the L7C Hants. (North) & Berks. area.

Tuesday 4th December 2001. Link to this ramble.

Running on fumes

I've long wondered how far I can go on one Caterham tank of petrol. I've managed about 235 miles, but have been at least a few litres shy of emptying the tank; I seldom get more than 30l in.

Driving home last night, the engine started to stutter just after I came off the motorway. It recovered, so I carried on and didn't think any more of it. Then it happened again. It was at this point that I realised that I was low on petrol; very low.

There were a couple of petrol stations not far down the road. I pulled into the first, but all of their Super Unleaded pumps were blocked off, so I pulled back out and headed for the next station which was literally straight across the road. I just managed to make it to the first pump before the engine died. They didn't have Super either, so I filled up with Unleaded.

I've now broken my record for the amount of petrol used in one filling. I think that getting 36.45l in what's supposed to be a 36l tank means that I had pretty much emptied it dry. Didn't break the miles per tank record though - only 227 miles from that one.

I know that the stuttering probably didn't do the engine much good, and neither did sucking up all the crud at the bottom of the petrol tank. Now that I know where the limit is, I will try to stay away from it in the future...

Thursday 29th November 2001. Link to this ramble.


Got a slow puncture, fixed by Bracknell Tyres for £9.99. I hope that's just bad luck, and not down to how sticky the 32s are, or how little tread there is.

Sunday 17th November 2001. Link to this ramble.

Seven Club meeting report for October

Added Steve Foster's report for the October meetings of the L7C Hants. (North) & Berks. area.

Saturday 10th November 2001. Link to this ramble.

This page is It was first published on Monday 15 April, 2002 and last updated on Monday 15 April, 2002.