The Blog of Zak Spade

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  Oops!
Tuesday 29 March, 2022

I like to think I can fathom out simple IT technical stuff. I know my way around operating systems and volumes. Many a year has been spent faffing about with hardware and the code that run on it.

All very clever stuff and I feel smug knowing that I can understand it all. Well, most of it. Okay, some of it. Bits of it...

On Sunday I was doing battle with a microSD card that kept being reported as corrupt in a mobile phone but which was passed as fit and healthy by various computers. In the process of dealing with it I got down and dirty with command line utilities...

...and managed to format and destroy all my data on my laptop.

Not so clever now, eh?

The first ten minutes were a bit of blur as I took in the enormity of my blunder. The following day and a half was more leisurely as I restored all my data.

Thank goodness for backups!

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  Cables
Saturday 26 March, 2022

I tend to be careful with cabling. I don’t like to see it. I don’t like to be untangling it. I don’t like to abuse it.

A mains extension cable needs to be fully unwound. Leaving any of it still coiled up allows for a magnetic field to be created in which there could be a heat build up. Rare, but possible.

That gives rise to the spectre that is known as a tangled mess when a ten metre extension cable is used to bridge a two metre distance. The opportunities to introduce kinks and damage to the lead are many.

So, what to do?

Obviously one should coil the excess up so as to protect it from becoming tangled.

Uh-oh, nope, that is exactly the wrong thing to do – another coil that could become hot.

Unfortunately, the only way is to snake the lead across the floor in a manner which doesn't introduce kinks while not catching unwary feet and avoiding the creation of coiled loops.

Or use a two metre extension in the first place.

Mains extensions I have mastered. However, I have been defeated by USB leads.

I tend to dab a spot of epoxy resin around the headers of USB cables where the cable enters. In the past I have had to discard those which have broken and frayed about the connector as it is the part that flexes the most.

For the most part it works well.

For the most part.

Despite my best efforts, I have just suffered two cable failures. Both were for the same reason. My pre-repair strategy worked fine. Unfortunately it outlasted the outer sleeves which became brittle and cracked everywhere the cable tried to bend.

They both looked as if they had been dipped in a liquid nitrogen bath then taken out and used to flog a horse, dead or otherwise.

The result is a USB cable that is in great condition at each end, but the braided shielding is coming to the fore.

Otherwise they are both performing well.

One might think they were designed to fail eventually, no matter what steps are taken from the start to prolong their lives. However, that would be the thoughts of a cynic, and economically we would all be doomed if we all shopped as cynics.

   
  Manners
Sunday 20 March, 2022

My parents taught me to say please and thank you. I hold doors open for others. Barging through openings and gaps ahead of others isn’t for me.

However, it seems that they taught me badly in terms of supermarket shopping.

There I am, approaching an obstacle and an elderly shopper is coming the other way. My choice is to tackle them head on and try and make the gap at the same time as them. Or I can stop and stand aside to let them through.

As I will be old and frail one day, I opt for the latter in the increasingly vain hope that the same will happen in my favour when it is me hanging on to a shopping trolley so as to avoid collapsing in a heap.

My intention is to carry on once the aged trolley wielding shopper has passed. As I move, anyone behind will push ahead and cut me off.

It would be annoying if it were it a one-off, but it becomes disturbing in light of being it being a normal occurrence. It is something I know will happen every time I stand back to let a disabled or older shopper past me through a gap. So pronounced and predictable is it, I have taken to stopping a step further back and hogging the way as the object of my seemingly wasteful politeness passes me.

If one person shoved past me I would label them ignorant. When it is all shoppers, I wonder what term is best suited. In addition, it causes me to worry for the future of society when it is considered the norm to push past to be first at the expense of manners or civility.

   
  Haste
Thursday 10 March, 2022

We have all experienced The Moron - the driver who seems to be trying to fit their car into the boot of our own. It is usually caused by one of two things. Either they have left x minus 1 minute to complete a journey of x minutes, or they have brains the size of walnuts.

There I was, driving along roads which were punctuated by a seemingly never ending series of roundabouts. I was driving at 40-50mph when the limit for cars was 60mph. However, I wasn’t dawdling. No, I was merely matching whatever lorry, van or car was in front of me.

Enter The Moron. Naturally, in their opinion, driving at 50mph along a single carriageway behind an articulated lorry, which was limited to 50mph by law at that point, was too slow. So they flashed their lights and tailgated me for at least a mile through two roundabouts.

Eventually, whatever disappointment they were eager to reach had them perform an overtake manoeuvre which had me brake hard before they then rushed past the lorry and into the face of oncoming traffic.

Whatever. Their problem. Why bother? I’m proud my head is devoid of grey hairs.

Imagine my joy when the lorry turned off and I found myself approaching the next roundabout with The Moron stationary, having had to wait for others. I looked carefully, spied a gap, and nipped past them and through the roundabout.

Yes, you guessed it. Despite now doing 60mph with no other vehicle ahead of me, The Moron quickly caught up and started the whole headlight flashing and tailgating thing all over again. It was entertaining seeing them in my rear view mirror pulling out then in again as vehicles approached from my front.

Naturally they eventually passed me when a tiny gap appeared so as to allow them to hardly cut me up as they nearly caused the oncoming car driver to suffer a coronary.

Guess what? Yep. Next roundabout. The Moron stationary. I watched carefully and nipped past.

And repeat...

   
  Dog Treats
Wednesday 9 March, 2022

Walking past a major vehicle dealer and servicing agent, I saw a pair of police vehicles parked in the compound. They stood out from the thirty or so vehicles waiting servicing and/or repair.

I suppose it is possible that the police don’t have their own servicing and maintenance facilities and thereby farm out their requirements.

However, one of the vehicles caught my eye. It was a van with Dog Handling Unit down the side.

Having had a car serviced there in the past, I already know that they have a comfortable waiting area in which free WiFi is provided along with copious quantities of tea and coffee. Despite availing myself of their facilities a while back, I never noticed an area where doggie treats were available.

But then, my nose isn’t as well tuned as our four-legged friends...

   
  Disappointment
Friday 4 March, 2022

A while back I was driving and heard a faint noise that shouldn’t have been there. It was at road rather than engine speed and I suspected that a wheel bearing might be about to fail.

Over the next few weeks it became louder so that anyone in the car could hear it. The digs that it was merely my ears playing tricks turned out to be erroneous. However, being proved right about the reality of a noise didn’t make me happy.

The amazingly comprehensive warranty sold with the car also had an amazingly long exclusions list, and wheel bearings were at the top. That wouldn’t have been too bad were it not for the fact that the make and model of car I own is very expensive when it comes to replacing wheel bearings...

However, something about the noise seemed wrong. Past experience told me that a worn wheel bearing not only sounds louder as the grating rumbles through the car body and into the cabin, but it changes tone as corners are taken. This sound was definitely that of a failing wheel bearing except it didn’t alter no matter how hard I turned in either direction.

I jacked the car up and examined each wheel in turn. The front offside felt rough when turned by hand. I couldn’t turn it fast enough to replicate the sound experienced inside the car while driving (it only started becoming noticeable over 20mph), but the usual checks suggested that the wheel bearings were fine on all four wheels with no discernable play.

Eventually the position of the rear seats didn’t have any effect upon the drumming through the interior of the car so I decided to speak with a mechanic friend to see how much fixing it might hurt my bank balance. As I reported that the wheel bearings seemed okay upon examination, his opinion was the CV joint bearings on my front wheel drive car were failing.

As it turned out, that bearing was covered by the warranty. So, despite the repair promising to be a fair bit more expensive, it wasn’t going to cost me anything.

I had risen from despair and was now on a cloud just short of double figures.

A week later I booked the car into a garage which was part of the approved repairers list supplied by the warranty provider. They agreed, going by what I reported by way of observation, that it was likely a CV joint. Unfortunately, upon their inspection they told me it was a wheel bearing.

I fell from the cloud quite heavily. In addition they told me that the front tyres had been trashed. That had the ground open up beneath me as my fall continued into the pits of Hell.

When shown the tyre wear on the inside tread of each, the play in the bearing was very easy to feel, having gone from noisy to loose in a week. Their initial suspicion was that it had been the cause of wrecking the tyres.

While it is possible for a worn or failing wheel bearing to cause premature tyre wear, further inspection revealed the tracking to be quite some way off. As I am the only driver, aside from when I supervise my daughter, I can be certain it hasn’t been kerbed or similar.

I had arrived at the garage with a budget of £0 in mind and left after having paid a £355 bill.

The car drove really well as I left the garage. In fact, I was bowled over by how well-planted the front end was on bends and bumpy straights and it was within only a couple of miles that I realised the car had probably never been sorted from the day I bought it in 2021.

Given that I ended up having to fix the poor radio reception myself after they failed after having the car in for a day, and they were unable to track down a squeak in the front suspension even though it was loud enough to wake a zombie, I strongly suspect that they weren’t as thorough or competent as claimed when it came to car preparation before sale.

I took two things away from the experience.
Warranties suck. I wish I hadn’t bothered as I would have been better off had I attended to the wheel bearing right from the start.
and
Don’t believe anything a dealer tells you regarding the servicing or preparation of a vehicle you intend to buy.

Still, it could have been worse - the wheel could have fallen off...