PPI adverts

I wonder what will replace all those TV and Facebook adverts about reclaiming PPI once the deadline has passed…

CDN blues

Interesting week. A couple of days ago we heard of Cloudflare’s issues with a software rollout gone wrong. Yesterday I noticed I could not see one of our iPhones on FriendFinder. It later became clear that the phone had not received any iMessages either and the associated iPad was in a worse mess. It took several cycles of logging in on both to restore normality, and that meant logging into iCloud and FaceTime and message separately. Oddly he iPad had iMessages from 2018 but no later and the iPhone had missed a whole day of messages – I had expected both to pull down the current messages but on checking the o/s is too old (these are old Apple devices).

Then this morning my Mac, which is up to date o/s wise wanted the iCloud password, but putting it in resulted in an ‘unknown error’. I rebooted it and it appeared ok, but then I had to go through the cycle of logging into iCloud, iMessage and FaceTime. For iMessage it would not play ball and suggested that I was not logged into iCloud on my previous account name, changed some months ago. Potentially I’d never had to log in since the change so that may be why. Anyway, logging out and into iMessage again fixed this. My iPhone has not (yet!) had the same issue…

Given the Facebook / Instagram issues yesterday with stored photos and videos not displaying – also CDN based – it gives me an ‘eggs in baskets’ feel. Where you have one large infrastructure provider such as Cloudflare with so many services sitting upon it that provider has to work all of the time. Corners are easily cut (not saying they were here!) and mistakes can have far reaching effects. Of course the solution where everyone has their own infrastructure is not very ‘green’ these days with the proliferation of data centres and such and so these large third party providers make a lot of sense. But when they go down the world goes with them – well, ok, the web goes with them!

Notebook blues

A notebook came in the other day that had had tea poured into it and now refuses to work. I’d never seen inside one of these before and we wondered if the hard disk could be removed and installed elsewhere to recover any files. At that time I’d not been to Google to check on the model etc. because there was a disk-sized lump which surely must be it?

No, it’s part of an odd shaped battery! On inspection I could only see two connections and even though the whole ‘thing’ was connected by a multi-way plug it definitely looked very un-disk-like. Off to Google.

Yup. It’s a battery alright. This notebook has no disk, just some Gb’s worth of flash. All data is stored on OneDrive. Hopefully!

You live and learn…


I can see the fascination with the 6m band these past few days. Lots of sporadic activity waxing and waning. Bearing in mind all I have is a wire dipole in the loft running roughly east-west I see plenty of FT8 activity from Europe and sometimes the Middle East, plus almost copied some SSB this morning. Now it has drifted off with only a couple of strong EU stations left.

For a week or so I’ve tended to leave the PC on running FT8 on 50.313 just to see how things go. It should be firing data off to PSKReporter.

US now wants your Facebook details when you visit

Lots of chatter today that the US now requires “nearly all applicants for U.S. visas to submit their social media usernames, previous email addresses and phone numbers”. (1) Essentially it requires visitors to give their social media information, phone numbers and e-mail addresses for the past 5 years.

The BBC carried a bit about this back in 2017 (2) which also stated that critics considered that checking up on these “could lead to extended, fruitless lines of inquiry or the collection of personal information not relevant to security checks”. Well, yeah, and I would need several continuation sheets to fill all my information in over that period.

A quick trawl through the visa waiver website suggests (a) that it is out of date because it does not indicate the requirement is now absolute and (b) clearly they will use this information to check up on you i.e. if your Facebook page marks you out as undesirable you’re out of luck. I did not delve further.

So your social media profile may now exclude you from entry. Of course, no undesirable type is capable of creating a fake Facebook profile are they…

So, is a blog social media? I’d argue not, yet I know this blog is spidered by Google (other spiders are available) regularly!

1 – https://www.cbsnews.com/news/state-department-now-requires-us-visa-applicants-to-share-social-media-accounts-2019-06-01/

2 – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-40132506

Hacking Instagram

So I caught sight of a TV programme tonight regarding someone’s Instagram account being hacked and the difficulty in getting the account back. The suggesting is that Instagram should have been presumably instant at helping. But it missed the point by a country mile. Here we have something that is essentially free to use, and trusts you to be you. What I mean by that is there is no global ID scheme proving you are you so the only thing to rely on is, for example that when you subscribe with an email address you actually receive an authorisation email and take some action.

How you can point the finger at something which exists primarily to process your personal information while providing you a service for free, and says as much when you sign up to it, defeats me. IT’S FREE. Don’t expect 24/7 service if you are paying nothing at all for it. This is the real world. Make sure your password is strong and turn on 2FA where available.

Oh yeah, and if some scrote hacks my Instagram account you can keep it! I’m quite sure that my followers, few that they are will realise that anything odd is simply not me and should be ignored. QED.


I find myself in China again. And it is as fascinating a place as last time. Different city, same sized hotel, huge rooms and facilities that put most affordable hotels in the UK to shame. By comparison, the hotel in Hong Kong presented us with a squished cockroach that came flying out on the air conditioner. Hmmm.

Those of you who read my 2017 Ph.D. thesis (I know there are three of you, otherwise don’t bother, it’s not particularly interesting!) will realise that I have an interest in China from an Internet perspective. However, being in China again after some 6 years a lot has changed. All of Google is now blocked, which means I need to use Bing to search (other search engines are available!) and it works well enough but does not appear to have the number of results that I know Google has for certain keywords. WhatsApp is blocked, but as I’ve not been using it for very long I don’t know if this is a recent change. Facebook… well, all I use it for is checking what my Facebook friends are writing and issuing the occasional and probably somewhat daft missive. eBay works fine but my newsreader will not connect to its server – no surprises there. The BBC is still blocked. All the railway and radio forums I use all work fine. Dilbert works, which surprises me a little, and xkcd too but for some reason it loads very slowly.

The one big change I see, however, is in payments. Hardly anyone that we’ve been associating with here uses cash.  Vending machines in the attractions we visited do not accept cash or cards. Everyone pays using WeChat or Alipay to make payments by essentially scanning a QR code and its all over in a flash. I won’t go into details here, there’s plenty of info on the web. You can still use cash in some places but we found we needed to ask first just in case as our mobiles will not work in China – or rather will but would cost the earth.

Fingerprints are now scanned on entry via customs and were also taken when we applied for our visas. I can imagine some people complaining about this but this is the norm in China. Personally I have no issue and we really cannot demand that countries accept our way of doing things just because we want to travel. The last time we were here bags were X-ray scanned at every subway station – people just got on with it and it never seemed to cause any delays. We’re being taken by car everywhere we go this time so no public transport…

And there are a lot of electric cars and electric scooters now. Cars with green number plates are electric. Traffic laws here appear to be something to be ignored, or treated as a minor inconvenience, but everyone just gets on with it. Scooters go every which way, same as Montreal then…

Actually a note on the visa process. It took us a long time to fill the form in online (you fill in the form and print it and make an appointment with the visa centre) mostly because we didn’t understand some of the questions. Fear not. The staff at the visa centre in Manchester are extremely helpful and will correct mistakes provided you follow all the procedures. These include bringing a photocopy of your passport data page and previous visa and other such things, all clearly stated. When we were there some people had ignored these. There is a photocopier there though. I had misread the bit about needing a passport photo as well as submitting the online one. But guess what, the visa centre has a photobooth so no biggie, and at £ 6 it is no more expensive than any others we saw about the place. Anyway, the visas all went to plan and there were no issues at customs which was actually surprisingly quick. I’ll go as far as saying a whole lot easier than getting into the USA! YMMV – do your homework first.


Ok, so I’ve managed to sort the website out now so that valvecollector.uk is the new permanent name. The redirection is in place but not finalised. It should work ok, except I broke it at first because I’d ended up with a redirection loop. Google (other search engines are available!) should update itself in due course. As I mentioned before the old domains will slowly drop out of the registry. Someone else may well grab them at that time but hey, my collection is a shadow of its former self now and I doubt it is referred to that much these days. A few years ago it ran at over 20,000 lookups a day, but back then there were 3,000 valves there.

All good things come to an end. The majority of the non-CV valves are now in their new home at the National Valve Museum, my RAF Type 4A valve tester has been sold and I will probably sell the US one too. I’m keeping the small tester, at least for now. And don’t worry, I am still hunting CVs!

On the rails…

…or off my trolley, not sure which.

I volunteer at a heritage railway as an S&T (signals and telegraph) technician and currently go there at least one day every week. But I remembered recently that I had been to this railway many years ago when I was a kid. Back then, we travelled to a railway station that we were not supposed to. I think I was 10 and with a friend the same age. We were allowed to play trains, i.e. travel on them but were not supposed to go far, and certainly not that far even though it’s only 25 miles or so. I have a photo taken with a very old flash-less camera of a train and, in the same shot is the station name. My mum must have seen it…

Anyway, we saw an advert (remember this was 1970-ish so no web) for a steam railway and so off we set for a 1.5 mile walk. We found the place closed, well, except for the shop. I remember I got a few secondhand railway magazines. The line was short back then, in fact I don’t think it went very far at all. Oddly I never took any photos.

Fast forward to 2018 and I signed up as a volunteer and I’ve been going there ever since. I even got to actually travel on one of the trains recently, rather than just keep out of their way. The line is now very popular and gets a lot of good press.

Domain rationalisation

Since I retired last year I have been taking stock of things. I ended up using tubecollector.org for the valve website years ago but I also have valvecollector.org, and the .org.uk variants of both. I have several other domains as well for all sorts of historic reasons. It’s time to cut back.

The tubecollector.org domain is valid until July 2021 at which time I will let it expire. I realise it has a very long history but everything has a cost. There is a proposal by ICANN to remove the cap on .org and also .info which may mean the prices go up. My vacuumtube.info domain will go too. That one goes in October this year (2019 if you read this later!)

I am going to migrate the valve museum probably to valvecollector.uk but I will confirm this and also advertise it on the museum website. Redirection will go into place to that Google (other search engines are available) picks up the new location when it indexes the site.

No other changes are planned. I still collect CV valves and although there are now very few additions I do still look.