Final valve deletions under way

Ok I’ve been saying this for ages now but now I have finally broken through all the rubbish in the garage and got to where the valves are! Over the next 4 or 5 days I will have finally pulled out all the non-CV types so if there is anything of interest let me know quickly. Note that I will not be creating any more ‘ex-museum valve’ pages now as there is nothing left that is particularly special.

Several will go on eBay by the box load but these will be collect only. Sorry for those of you too far away to consider this but the hassle plus the time I have to sort this make postage simply not worth it for me. What does not sell will find a new home en masse – don’t worry, nothing will be scrapped.

A couple of people have made requests for a few items and these will be sorted soon. Also, things that were donated to me will similarly be donated to other collections.

Final note – I will not be sorting files out until after the collection has been trimmed. After that I will edit all those pages where there are a mix of CV and non-CV valves on a page and remove all non-CV imagery.

Corrupt SD cards

Those of you with Raspberry Pi systems or similar (other small sized computers are available!) will feel my pain…

A few days ago my little web and all-sort-of-other-stuff server fell over. I had no idea why but it seemed to reboot ok. I suspected we’d had a very short power outage but checking the other Pi systems (there are 4 here) all had long uptimes. Anyway, it all came back ok, or so it seemed.

It runs a process every minute to grab data off the weather station and displays this on my private website, which it also serves. The website simply tails a log file and was now showing a Linux error message which looked ominous. Checking the Pi it has gained a nice little file system error and the temp file the weather station grabber creates was corrupt. Rebooting cured this (it runs fsck on boot). That cured the weather station data but the problem persists.

So far there are no other obvious issues except it writes ext4-fs warnings to syslog every time something does anything. No biggie, these are only log files.

So, thought I, I’ll fsck the SD card. Ok, can’t do that running so it needs to be mounted on another system. Where do I have an SD reader? My little Samsung Netbook has a version of Ubuntu on it so I can use that.

This is where things went south. The Netbook takes a while to boot but takes an age for the GUI to settle. And I mean 30+ minutes and still it sits there! Come on, I can do a Windows update faster… Ah, found a USB SD card reader, I can use my desktop instead (the Netbook is destined for eBay I suspect). So, let’s plan this logically. I shut the Pi down (a caveat here is it’s also the NFS server and serves a disk to another Pi that does all the CCTV recording… probably better that one had its own disk!!), pull the SD card, stuff it on the desktop Linux box and fsck the filesystem. There’s a danger it will fsck to death and become useless but everything is backed up or can be reinstalled, all I need is a clean SD card. Um…

Ok… scratch that and order some SD cards first! Ugh.

More rattling about…

Well I fiddled with the teleprinter some more, wondering if I could at least get it to print with just 30-0-30VDC – it needs 80-0-80. Nothing. I tried connecting directly to the relevant pins for the receiving relay but could not feel any resistance when this was applied. Odd, because I could measure its resistance with a multimeter, so what’s up.

Strangely the next time I tried I could no longer measure the resistance. Might have been me. Then it occurred to me that on the 444 everything comes out on the 50-way D connector and you can get directly at the receiver coil, and I can see the relevant ohms. So, re-wiring the lash-up and still with 30-0-30V and with a resistor in series just in case and it burst into life. Almost.

It did print, or rather tried. It got most of the letters wrong, but is at least trying. Most likely the voltage is just not quite enough, or my lash-up resistor is denying it sufficient current but I’d rather not risk the coil right now.

However, and more of a concern was that although it went through the motions, the carriage did not move. It was stuck fast and no amount of fiddling would move it. After pouring over the workshop manual there seemed to be a lever in the wrong position. Moving this freed it up and it does now move with keypresses, even though the letters are wrong.

This lever was in the wrong place and could not move. Freeing it fixed the non-moving carriage issue.

Nearly there then… the ribbon is not rotating but there is at least one broken spring so hopefully that’s an easy fix. All I need now is a proper TU.

The Creed lives

Getting to grips with the Creed 444… everything seemed fine and it all rotated ok by hand so with the help of eBay I got the proper power socket and wired it up today. Things did not go entirely to plan…

1st attempt. Lots of loud noise from the motor. Well, at least it spins… the motor has a height adjustment at the rear which engages the worm with the drive gear at the front and this was completely undone. Adjusted…

2nd attempt. The lights went out! Hmmm. So, a tiny strand of copper wire had linked between the earth and live on the plug. Yes, the same one I had just soldered up carefully. Grrr.

3rd attempt and it runs. Key presses work the sequence, the WRU works too. As yet no print as I need to put a ribbon on and some paper in, but more importantly sort out the data side of things. I wonder what the WRU says… I could work it out by hand but I’ll leave that until I get it to print. Equally, I wonder if I can find a blank one to put my callsign into… now that would be an ideal candidate for 3D printing! (can I use this as a reason to buy a 3D printer…)

The motor and gear makes a particular whirring sound and a useful Youtube video of someone testing one of these beasts sounds the same, so that’s good. There is a rattle which I need to locate but I still need to take the unit apart anyway and make sure everything is properly oiled.

I wonder if the kids will believe that we used to use similar machines as input/output terminals on the mainframe at work in the 1980s!

Good old days…

So I now have a Creed 444 teleprinter. I’ve been after a teleprinter for about 2 years now. When I was still at school I used to buy, strip, repair and sell Creed 7E’s – maybe 7 or 8 passed through my hands and on to others for pocket money. Back then I had two 7Es for myself, as well as a tape reader, tape punch and a valved TU hanging off a B40 / B41 setup. Weight was not an issue in my basement workshop… But I’ve never had one of the more modern units like the 444 (yes, modern is a relative term here!)

Having manhandled the beast from the car to the workshop I now need to learn how it is put together so I can be sure it’s not going to fly into bits when I power it up. However, hopefully I’ll get it running and then get an interface set up. I doubt it will be allowed in the shack (aka the little bedroom) so it may well have to run in the workshop – but that does give the excuse to acquire a nice old comms receiver to go with…

Car manufacturer websites

I’ve been looking round several car manufacturers websites today as I am shopping for a new car. So off I went as you’d expect.

Apart from a variety of cookie notices many of which are confusing, though some are surprisingly good, the vast array of marketing methods used and abused is astonishing. I suppose this should not come as a surprise but the following is a few of the worst:

  • Link to prices is circular and you never get near a price
  • Several pages in and you find the car you came to see is not yet available
  • A car you know to be on sale does not appear anywhere on the manufactures website
  • Link to specifications page gives a 404 error (seriously?!)

I may well add to the list!

Now there are some very good and well thought out sites there – I’m not naming any or shaming any here – but for companies that make a bazillion dollars a year you’d think they could at least get this right! I mean, it’s 2019, not 1993 (ah, my first website, way back in 1993…)

EU domains

Who would have thought that .eu domains owned by companies or individuals in the UK would be at risk when the UK leaves the EU? I mean, when you register for one you are asked to declare that you are in the EU… so it should not come as a surprise that if you are not so, you can’t have a .eu domain.

Well, Eurid, the .eu domain registrar has sent a reminder that come the 30th March 2019 if the UK has left with no deal they will be switched off but there will be a 2 month grace period. says it all…

I wonder if the people will register a business address in the EU in order to keep their website running. Yes they can take advantage of the 2 month grace period and have their “we’ve left” party messages, but if they want to keep that message going after that they’ll have to have an office in the EU and I suspect that would be rather bad PR.

If we leave with a deal and therefore enter the transition period this is all offset a fair way but it is still out there… after all, we all signed up to the rules set by the registrar so no whinging. (yes, I have one .eu domain but I can live without it – email via the domain is currently only used by one energy supplier who, for some reason cannot change my email address despite me asking many times, and by a local law firm and then only because I have yet to change it. And some minor spam. No biggie.)

The cookie crumbled…

There are still lots of websites that are now wholly noncompliant its regard to cookies and cookie notices. I came across one today which has the usual 5th of a screen banner popup pleading with me to accept cookies:

“Please accept cookies so we can deliver you the best experience”

Well, I might if it told me even remotely why. Click on the ‘read more’ and it tells me what a cookie is and lists a series of links to browser information pages, each taking you off to the browser suppliers own website. It does not give any option to select what type of cookie I will allow, nor does it say why it sets them, which ones it sets or what it, or others will do with them. And of course it has already set them!

There are some really good (IMO) sites now which tell you they are setting cookies and let you chose which types, the better ones having the advertising type cookies deselected by default so if you just click through the screens you actually get the best option, privacy wise. Then there are media driven sites – those hanging off newspapers and such – which give you a list of 400+ websites, each of which you need to deselect or even visit in turn to stop that particular cookie. Seriously, those need shredding. I just click away when faced with them, and these days I regularly clear out all cookies anyway. The only ones of any interest to me personally are those that hold on to the fact that you are already logged into a forum, for example, and almost all the forums I use now have an option to automatically log me in using the password stored in the browser, so it matters not that I clear these out.

Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram

So, Facebook is planning to integrate WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram ( ). Facebook has owned Instagram since 2010 and WhatsApp since 2014, and Messenger was a Facebook original. What could possibly be wrong with that? I mean, everyone would want them to, right? And they do own them.

However, for me it’s not so much about the doing but how it is done. Taking just WhatsApp, it always marketed itself as encrypted end to end (E2EE). This is a great concept in these days of rampant surveillance but at least currently, this is only true where messages stay within WhatsApp.

One of the founders of WhatsApp quit and announced that we should all delete Facebook. Riding on the wave of the Cambridge Analytica scandal this added flames to the already burning fire.

Now we learn of Facebook’s plans to better integrate WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram, making it easy for users of each to interact with users of any of the apps. Presumably Facebook will be core to this data merging.  But what of E2EE?

Without searching for documentation on exactly how each app works E2EE is supposed to ensure that messages sent are encrypted before sending and not decrypted until receipt. Ok, this works fine in theory and if apps do what they say on the tin it works in practice provided you remain aware of limitations, not least that once a message is decrypted for display then anything that can get at that display can logically get at the decrypted message.

And here’s the thing. If, say, you send a message from WhatsApp to Messenger then unless the keys are shared between the apps the message will need to be decrypted (and possibly re-encrypted) in order to send between these disparate apps. Think of it this way: The sending WhatsApp app encrypts in a way that the receiving WhatsApp app can decrypt and the message is never touched in between. But if there is an exchange that takes a message from WhatsApp and sends to Instagram then unless Instagram can directly decrypt the encrypted WhatsApp message the exchange needs to decrypt the message prior to sending it onwards. This exchange will presumably be buried deep within Facebook and, if so (and bear in mind this is a worse case scenario – I expect these guys have thought this through and will uphold E2EE. And, yes, pigs really do fly) the decrypted text will be accessible to Facebook. This is my worry here. Mind you, when I want to discuss something in private I do use other means…

There are of course issues with E2EE after a message has been received if, say you synchronise to cloud storage. Messages here will not be re-encrypted by the original app as it is no longer playing. They may be encrypted somehow before storage in the cloud but there are no guarantees here and it will depend entirely on the cloud service being used. However, assuming you are security aware and do not send any such messages off to cloud storage, can one really rely on E2EE in any shape or form once apps begin to pass messages between themselves? I doubt it but time will tell. Maybe I’m being too opsec here…

Trashing websites…

Well that was fun. I had to upgrade the version of Linux on the VPS that runs this and the valves website. WordPress is happy with the new o/s but changes to PHP, Apache and MySQL trashed the valve museum site.

First off, mysql_ is gone, enter mysqli_. I knew this already but I had not picked up on the fact that there is now no replacement for mysql_result. And I used it often. There is also the fact that the upgrade did not install PHP7 so I had to get that installed, plus the apache and MySQL glue. But that was the easy part.

Ok so I got past that with a temporary solution of writing my own mysqli_result() function with the help of a suitable Google search.

Then one SQL query did not work because MySQL now wants any variable that you use in a several to be present in the selected fields. Fair enough I guess, though not sure why.

So, after modifying the PHP scripts (3 of them) it all now seems to work. Phew.