Blog

Unlike every other weblog you ever saw, this one is in correct chronological order so you can read it the right way round.

DateSubject
1 Jan 2012New year resolutions
2 Jan 2012The plunge
4 Jan 2012Where's my money?
5 Jan 2012Best of times and the worst
6 Jan 2012Delivering ... almost
7 Jan 2012Honeymoon over
11 Jan 2012Wish came true
15 Jan 2012Deleting form fields
18 Jan 2012Stop internet censorship
4 Feb 2012Above average
14 Feb 2012Browser update
26 Feb 2012Losing the thread
4 Mar 2012A good week
8 Mar 2012Superkalafajalistickespialadojus
20 Mar 2012We have contact
1 Apr 2012It's not Elvis!
3 Apr 2012Ordinary people
6 Apr 2012Egg hunt
24 Apr 2012Join one
25 Apr 2012Future proof
3 May 2012Jubilee
12 May 2012Automatic cars
23 May 2012Transit of Venus
2 Jun 2012True grit
16 Jun 2012What's hot
21 Jun 2012Cookies crumble
26 Jun 2012The inevitable
9 Jul 2012Names to faces
20 Jul 2012Nice surprise
1 Aug 2012July top pages
3 Aug 2012A few years
14 Aug 2012Bike shed
16 Sep 2012It's fun
19 Sep 2012Magic
27 Sep 2012What club?
1 Oct 2012Navel fluff
9 Oct 2012Control
14 Oct 2012Local storage
23 Oct 2012Keeping track
4 Nov 2012Your badges
12 Nov 2012Weekend away
17 Nov 2012Stuff IE9
19 Nov 2012More than three's
3 Dec 2012Lurid dreaming
30 Dec 2012A Good Year

New year resolutions

Is it just me who is sensitive about well meaning questions regarding New Year Resolutions?

Are people suggesting that I should consider where my habits could benefit from some correction? If the cap fits I suppose I better wear it. And, as my dad used to say, "If the boot fits, wear both buggers!"

So this year, instead of suggesting resolutions for other people (send more stories and photos to LPMCC.net, come to reunions etc) I'll adopt a few myself.

1) I'll watch my diet. It's all well and good going on regular cycle rides but the calories burned are refuelled with interest as soon as we reach a pub. Will cut it down to half a pint and a soup ... with a roll ... and butter.

2) I won't promise to spend less time on the website this year but I will log the hours I fritter away beating pages into shape. Monitoring may moderate my midnight oil burning excesses and it could provide measurable targets for improvement next year.

Here is the big one ...

3) I will put the Trident back on the road this year.

You have been warned. Watch out for me on the roads.

The plunge

Stepping into unfamiliar technology is always a little bit daunting. I'm not too worried about drowning - most things are fairly idiot proof these days. But there is always the fear of sticking out as a Newby thrashing about just out of depth and making an almighty splashing. But you don't learn to swim by reading the book so ...

As 2011 took its final gasps I found myself pressing links that dragged me ever deeper into creating an LPMCC.net group on Facebook. It turned out to be so easy that I have a nagging suspicion that I've missed some vital bits out.

I've had a Facebook profile for some time but it seems to be a very clever communication tool for which I don't have a lot of use or time, unless I want to speak to my girls. They seem to have a Facebook implant in the place where their brains used to be.

I am beginning to see possible advantages for LPMCC.net, particularly now that we are becoming more active. I've already dabbled with updating my status using my mobile phone. That could be useful when we are out and about to let others know which pub we are sheltering in so they can join us.

There is a useful Events system which can be quickly updated and it is easy for people to register their interest in participating.

There is no intention to replace www.LPMCC.net by the Facebook group. The two have different functions. One purpose of Facebook is to drive traffic to the LPMCC.net website. Another advantage of the group page is its immediacy; the feeling is that it is an ever-running, babbling stream rather than a reservoir of stagnant memories.

It remains to be seen whether LPMCC.net's audience will take to these fresh waters with enthusiasm or prefer the quieter backwaters.

A few brave souls have already given the group a thumbs-up. If 25 people say they like the idea we can register a more intuitive name than http://www.facebook.com/pages/LPMCCnet/293764957327781.

Give it a try. Now you have a reason to be on Facebook and we can explore the advantages together.

Where's my money?

I watch browser use on LPMCC.net very closely to see when I can begin to use HTML5 goodies without alienating you. Today Microsoft announced that IE6 use is less than 1% in the USA. On LPMCC.net IE6 (and under!) is used by about 1.02% of visitors, give or take a couple in ten thousand.

Google is also in the news today because someone has been promoting their Chrome browser by paying bloggers to feature their promotional video!

When I added their video to my February 1 blog last year it was to encourage you to try the fast and future-proof browser that doesn't require you to buy a new computer (IE9 does not run on Windows XP). It was an unsolicited testimonial. I wasn't paid for it.

Now I want to know ... where's my money?

Best of times and the worst

When you make a New Year resolution, such as giving up chocolate, there is a period of grace when you have to clear the house of all the confectionary you received as Christmas gifts. It would be churlish to throw it out, not to mention children starving in China. So you have a week to gobble it all up. Call it "aversion therapy".

This year I vowed to cut down on the time I squander on LPMCC.net but I had a backlog of things waiting to go on-line. So, in the best traditions of diet preparation, I spent the past few days clearing up the backlog. I also resolved to record the time I'm frittering away having fun.

The shocking truth is, since new year I have already spent forty two hours beavering away on LPMCC.net.

Good job I've got lots of chocolate to keep me going.

Delivering ... almost

About this time last year I made my excuses for being lax with my blog updates and proposed a blog every ten days. It turns out that the blog appeared 36 times over the year which is marginally below target.

Delivery was a bit lumpy, some months I drivelled on six occasions and some months just once.

That's life, folk. Sometimes the muse takes me and sometimes I just can't get a drink anywhere.

Honeymoon over

For the past couple of years I have been encouraging you to try Google Chrome because of its speed, simplicity and standards compliance. Regrettably my recent experience with their browser is giving me second thoughts.

Over the past month or so I've noticed that Google Chrome takes ages (or refuses) to open the first tab upon opening. I have resorted to opening a second tab to access a website. It seems as fast as ever on other tabs after the first. I suspect it may be doing a background update but that is just speculation.

More recently, attempting to open some pages has resulted in the blue screen of death that indicates either a serious memory infringement or Microsoft putting in a trap for non IE browsers.

At the moment I'm withdrawing my recommendation for Chrome and pointing you instead to the other excellent browsers out there.

Firefox used to take aons to open in the first place and still has a few quirks but is generally a robust choice.

Opera and Safari are also fine choices. They are fast and keep to the web standards. They also have some decorative features.

Enough of opinions - how do they measure up?

It's over a year since I last ran a speed comparison between the browsers. Time to run a similar test. I timed from the opening of the browser until the completion of a test script. Here are the results.

BrowserVersionTime
Chrome16.0.912.752'25"
Opera11.603'5"
Safari5.1.11'30"
Firefox9.0.10'45"
Internet Explorer8.0.600122'16"

Firefox has leapt into prime position for speed. Safari again comes second with a creditable score. Google dragged its heels due to the first tab hang-up.

Internet Explorer 8 came home with a derisory time after going into the computer version of snoring REM sleep - an hourglass cursor and a flickering disc light but no other activity.

Inertia keeps people with their old browser and it is a similar story with gas and electricity and motorcycle insurance. There are useful gains to be had from shopping around but folk just can't be bothered.

See Internet Explorer 9 time reported on 14 February

Wish came true

After my old digital camera gave up the ghost I shared my wish list for a replacement. Santa came up with the goods!

My new camera is a Canon A1200 that ticks all the boxes. It is about the only digital camera that still has an optical viewfinder, absolutely essential for bifocal users in bright sunlight.

It runs on a couple of AA batteries. Maplins hybrid batteries are £6.99 for four in their sale until 24 January.

Flash is pretty good. It stays off in Auto, Live and Program modes. In "Easy" mode it turns back on every restart. Three out of four ain't bad. I've still to try it with a slave flash to see if it is synchronised.

The "ON" button is sufficiently recessed to prevent being caught when in a (clean) pocket or being put back into its case. And the camera is small enough to fit into the same case that I used with my old camera.

It will operate in low light and has an ISO setting of 3200. Eat your heart out, grainy Tri-X.

Significantly it has a "Kids&Pets" setting that is appropriate for the crowd I mix with. It means it takes the picture when you press the damn button, not ten seconds later after adjusting shutter, aperture and focus.

After being very impressed by the quality of Steve White's Ashby Folville video, I'm bemused that this dinky sub £60 camera can take nearly half an hour of HD video. Better than my pukka Canon video camera!

It just needs a couple more things.

Me to choose and frame the pictures with some grace.

You to be the subject.

Deleting form fields

Just reading a forum on PC problems and a guy asked how to remove email addresses that appear whenever he is asked to fill in a form.

The answers were a bit technical and involved downloading and running dubious software. There is no need for such complications. Just move your mouse so the field is active, press the down arrow key on your keyboard to the first entry and press the delete key. Keep doing that until all the (unwanted) entries are removed.

Email input box      

This is especially useful if you have been searching for a secret birthday present on a shared computer.

Security conscious sites identify their input boxes with randomised names so the previous entries are not displayed to anyone who snoops on your computer.

Stop internet censorship

Today you may have noticed that many of the top websites have blacked out. This is a protest against poorly considered legislation being rushed through by the US government that threatens the day to day working of the internet, its freedoms and ultimately lil ol' LPMCC.net.

Let's get this straight. I don't condone piracy or provocative slander. But the broad and loosely phrased laws being proposed will make it simple for an American corporation to snuff out the likes of LPMCC.net on a whim. It looks very much like the entertainment industry is bidding to take control of the internet for profit.

The internet is much more important than dollars. It is a revolutionary medium that puts people in control. That is what it comes down to. Who decides what you have access to. The year that the Leicester Phoenix Motor Cycle Club started the UK chose to let our wife or servants make up their own minds. Time the USA let the customers vote with their mice.

Above average

I was watching the BBC News last night when they were deploring the poor education of Welsh children. They revealed that 40% are below the national average for reading.

Think about that on several levels.

There are different types of average but we might expect 50% to be below average and 50% to be above with a bit of allowance for the percent that are bang on average.

I also wondered if the BBC were subliminally telling us that 60% of the kids are above average so don't complain.

My kids are fond of telling me that they have an above average number of legs.

The reason I mention this is that at the end of every month I publish the latest LPMCC.net statistics for anyone who might be interested.

Many websites have "hit counters" to indicate how successful they are. The problem is, it is so comparative. For one thing, a "hit" is quite arbitrary and is different from a visit or the number of page views. Also 1000 hits is quite good for a blog or a family webpage, 1000 a week is reasonable for a small business and 1000 a minute small beer to the likes of Google and Amazon.

Within the World Wide Web, LPMCC.net provides a niche service so we don't expect to be up there with the big players. The statistics should only be used as an indicator of healthy progress from month to month.

It is too easy to be seduced into data mining for statistics that don't add up. For example:

Over the past year the number of visitors who have put LPMCC.net in their favorites/bookmarks has averaged 85%. That is a very encouraging number indicating that when someone discovers LPMCC.net they are sufficiently interested in the content to want to return sometime to explore further. Indeed 50% of visitors each month return during the same month. That leaves a gap of 35% who add the site to their favorites but don't return within the month; sufficiently interested to bookmark but too busy to return. The gap between intention and action.

That is to be expected. I can't remember why I made half of my bookmarks. If 85% of new visitors each month returned to the site then visitors would have increased from 2000 in February last year to 1 million a month. The actual month on month increase in visitors is close to 9%.

What really jolts these figures into nonsense is that apparently last July more people added LPMCC.net to their favorites than visited the site!?

I take consolation in 50% of LPMCC.net pages being above average. I'm always delighted to receive Star Ratings to indicate which pages they are.

Browser update

I gave the latest results of browser speed tests on 7 January. Today I had the opportunity to test Internet Explorer 9 on a Windows Vista system. Here are comparative figures.

BrowserVersionTime
Internet Explorer9.0.42'17"
Chrome16.0.963.462'22"

At least Internet Explorer 9 is in the land of the living but if you are on Windows XP then Chrome and Firefox are still the browsers of choice because Internet Explorer 9 is not available!

Losing the thread

My family gave me a new computer chair for working on the website. It is a really comfy black leather tilt and swivel. I spend so much time at my computer putting LPMCC.net together that a good chair is essential to prevent a bad back.

The reason it was in a sale, and appropriate for me, it had screws missing.

My Trident was made in 1975 when British industry was half way into fifty years of metrication. So the Trident is mostly Imperial threads but anything added later is metric. Seems this chair is from the same design school. Most of the screws are UNC thread but 30% are metric.

I expect I could have bought the lot at an autojumble for a couple of quid. I shopped on the InterWeb and, with post and VAT, they cost a quid apiece.

I have a habit of picking up screws and nails I find in the street. Partly to keep them out of someones tyre but also because I had a feeling the day would come when I'd be desparate for a screw.

Rachel says the chair will work on 100 or 240 volts.

A good week

The Club AGM on Tuesday evening was awesome; the room was alive with the kind of buzz that has always made belonging such a pleasure. Official reports were mercifully short and to-the-point, elections returned an experienced committee to see the Club into the next fifty years. The Leicester Phoenix MCC remains in the safe and capable hands of Chairman Mick Bemrose.

Wednesday the fine weather tempted out a small group on a local ride to check the Vale of Belvoir area for a future cycling run. John Muschialli was prevailed upon to air his venerable Triton which ran well once sparkplugs were replaced.

Wednesday evening was our Skype Night with a band of old friends talking across the world. Mush told us about his day's ride and we made arrangements for a few future events and visits. The conference included Derek Foster via his mobile phone. Derek, who is still in hospital in Tenerife, was able to give us a quick update on his health and join in the general chat for awhile.

Thursday we had eight friends take to the Brampton Way on bicycles, welcoming a new rider for the first time. It shows we aren't just embers of the old Phoenix fire. There are sparks as well.

Thursday was also the 1st of March when I went through February's statistics. The fine weather may be tempting riders out but people are still spending time on LPMCC.net. Ratings in February were significantly boosted with over 30,000 page views for the first time and the number of visitors recovered to 6000 after the Blank Wednesday fiasco a year ago. I think leap day made a difference.

Bob Nash Dave Parry John Muschialli Mick Ayriss Bob Nash Chris Edmonds John Muschialli Dave Parry Ben Crossley Ian Bower

Superkalafajalistickespialadojus

I can say that without fear of contradiction - or copyright infringement.

You probably don't recognise the word. It comes from a 1949 song. It is not the superficially similar word that was in a song written fifteen years later. The writers of the second song were in no way copying earlier intellectual rights as was determined in a court case. Disney would not do such a thing and have the lawyers to prove it.

Disney do not compromise on intellectual property theft and come down heavily on anyone who incorprates any of their characters in their own work. It has made sound business sense across the years.

Double Olympic gold medalist Rodney Pattisson's Flying Dutchman sailing dinghy, currently on display in the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth, had the similar name to the above. Pattisson was told by the licencee to change it. Sound business sense.

A similar thing happened when the Nottingham 41 wanted to name their rally Muffin the Mule.

It will be interesting to see if Disney make any claims to Edgar Rice Burroughs' out-of-copyright Barsoom stories in the wake of their latest John Carter film.

Somehow the idea has developed that this is a free country. By that people mean Free Speech. Nothing of the sort.

Here are a few if the laws that limit what you are allowed to say.

  • Official Secrets Act, Press D Notices.
  • Causing sedition in the ranks.
  • Libel and slander.
  • Blasphemy, swearing.
  • Intellectual copyright infringement and plagiarism.
  • Incitement to racial hatred.
  • Conspiracy to commit a crime.
  • Perjury.
  • The Communications Act 2003.
  • Insults - Section five of the Public Order Act.

I have probably missed many out. The laws are there to either replace a general lack of good judgement or to bolster the power of those in authority.

You can only speak freely after you have properly considered what you are going to say, and preferably had your lawyers vet your words.

Meanwhile the big corporations who have copyrighted the language (The following words included - Sky© Star Wars© Easy© Olympic©) have their lawyers fighting each other at vast expense knowing that you and I will pay for their fight through product pricing although we cannot afford to defend ourselves.

When Ford called a car Thunderbird, Triumph Motorcycles pointed out that they had registered the name. Ford simply said "So sue us!"

Start of quotation It's just as well that Henry Ford never saw our previous club patch which had our club motto "Any colour you like as long as it's Black" around the edge.

As for our new Club Name - The Black Jacks MCC - I hope we don't get sued by Jack Black. End of quotation

- The Black Russian

We have contact

LPMCC.net is about communication and as any motorcycle instructor will tell you, communication is a two way process, or at least it was before one way bike-to-bike intercoms.

For the past couple of years LPMCC.net has used a unique system called, for want of a better name, the Contact Centre©. The window keeps up with you as you scroll the page and follows you round the website from page to page. It hides off the left of the page and normally only the "grippy edge" is visible. Click on its grippy edge and out pops the all-singing, all dancing, all purpose Contact Centre©. You can type Notes and they stay until you are ready to press the send button.

I send you the page via the World Wide Web. You send back your Notes using the Contact Centre©. But it doesn't end there. Even if you don't send your name or email address, communication can continue because I can put a message on the server that only you can receive through the Contact Centre© in the Mail tab. To alert you to Mail the grippy edge turns  green .

Send me a test Note now and I'll respond to indicate that it works. A message is available for three months to allow the sender to discover it. For test messages I'll leave it on for about a week.

The Contact Centre has lots of other uses - you can rate and bookmark pages, check the page documentation for contents and changes. It also provides some rudimentary navigation help. It is used when you can identify a face on a photograph and to encourage you to trace lost friends. It reports missing photos and for one month each year it receives page error messages in the hope that you will click the send button to report problems.

It is also what is used if you click the COMMENT button under this blog entry.

As your Notes enlarge the grippy edge fills up like a fuel gauge. When it turns red it is time to Send it before it fills up, or copy and paste it into a document. Tip. The easiest way to do that is to click the Email button and then save the resulting email.

In addition to all the uses it has for you, it reports on various tests and generates script used on the pages. But it isn't communication when I'm talking to myself.

It's not Elvis!

Today NASA scientists have announced that a peculiar crater observed on the far side of the moon is not the artefact of an alien civilisation and totally discount any connection with similar looking Nazca geoglyphs. The strange feature was spotted in the early hours today by the Russian Moon probe Chelovek, Odurachennyi 1 Aprelya.

Speculation and conspiracy theories always attach themselves to new discoveries. In this case we are presenting the evidence for you to make up your own mind.

We believe LPMCC members became lost on the way home from a particularly boozy rally.

Ordinary people

I like a joke as much as the next person so when the news broke on April 1st that the government are to introduce draconian web and email monitoring laws I chuckled at the cheek of expecting people to believe such rubbish on a Sunday.

Oh, how wrong I was to laugh. They really are considering bringing in legislation that will compel your Internet Service Provider to record the sender, recipient, time of communication and geographical location of social networking sites and internet phone services such as Skype as well as web access and emails.

The claim is that "ordinary people" have nothing to fear from this. Nothing to fear maybe, but the patient, law-abiding taxpayer will forfeit more freedom and privacy and have the privilege of paying for it to boot.

Small-World interconnections mean there are only six degrees of separation between you and anyone else on the planet. Data to be collected by ISPs has the potential to flag you as suspicious if you have too many undesirable people in close connection.

Who are "ordinary people" anyway? Certainly not you. Courts are already equating all motorcycle clubs as centres for drug trafficking and organised crime without distinguishing between sports and social associations and patch clubs.

Meanwhile "criminals, paedophiles and terrorists" (to name but one category) will skirt round any surveillance with all the technology that evil money can buy.

Home Secretary Theresa May uses the argument that phone records were often used to solve crimes - including child murderer Ian Huntley, as well as the "gangland thugs who gunned down Rhys Jones", the 11-year-old shot dead in Liverpool. So why do we need more legislation?

Never mind the certainty that there will be security breaches and your communications will be currency on the criminal markets if not the newspapers.

Whoever is in government thinks this is a good idea. Whoever is in opposition recognises it as the thin end of a very sharp wedge. I drew attention to the prospect of Thought Police in News Update on 9 February youtu.be/SjbSEjOJL3U. How long before you are taxed with a hefty fine for thinking about motorcycles?

Yes, it must be a joke. If this legislation goes through we are all April Fools.

Egg hunt

Tradition is that we hunt eggs at Easter. In our family the girls only find the eggs by solving puzzles that have become progressively more difficult as they have grown and I have become more devious and obscure.

This year I thought you might like to hunt for eggs on LPMCC.net - I've hidden away a dozen on pages throughout the website and if you let me know when you find them we'll see who finds the most.

You are looking for little eggs like this ...

Click on the egg to report your success via the Contact Centre. The hunt operates from Good Friday through Easter Monday.

Finding the eggs will be a bit of a lottery - only 1% of pages have an egg. If there is enough interest an egg hunt could be included in future years, with obscure clues pointing to pages the eggs appear on.

Join one

Bill Newton Dunn, Liberal Democrat MEP for the East Midlands, recently put out the following message about the proposal to consolidate existing EU motorcycle laws into one regulation and to bring them up to date. Bill says ...

Start of quotation This proposal is becoming an interesting case study in how to lobby and how not to lobby. In the UK, motorcyclists tend to join one of two groupings.

The BMF gave me a calm and personal briefing, but the other group MAG triggered its members to ride in mass demonstrations and to send hundreds of identical anxious emails to MEPs (to every single one of which I have replied personally). MAG refuse to send experts to explain their objections to UK and continental MEP questions and to answer questions in the parliament. Instead a minority of MAG members now send email abuse and in one case a threat to me.

The contrast is striking: one grouping understands that to persuade elected representatives it is wise to explain their view by a calm personal approach: the other grouping prefers aggression to try to get its view across ... End of quotation

Well, we always knew that. It's called customer choice.

Future proof

What do you find most frustrating about bad websites?

  1. Not there. Broken links. Sometimes the whole site has disappeared due to something catastrophic. (Gulp - Blank Wednesday!) Often pages have been rearranged without thought for bookmarks made by loyal followers.
  2. Technically shoddy. Slow to open, visibly broken with missing or overlapping content, obscure error messages. Unforgiveable on a professional website. Do the webmaster a favour and let him know with an email.
  3. Out of date. Not just "last week's" stuff, sometimes two or three years out of date. Press ctrl+f5 and if it is not improved you know the webmaster has lost interest. So will we.

Put briefly they are Out for the Count, Out of Order, Out of Date.

I'm not one to shout. Until recently we ran a very lucrative kitten basket business for anyone who spotted a mistake on LPMCC.net and we still receive plenty of error reports even though the bounty has been revoked. Of course, I cheat. Friends tend to be a little bit too forgiving when they encounter errors. They know I'm a doddery old fool doing my best so they turn a blind eye. However, if someone is kind enough to send in a comment or a star rating, the message also notes some errors that they have encountered while browsing the site. Yesterday I received a star rating that also identified a mistake on another page.

I also cheat about keeping the website up-to-date. Some methods are explained in content documentation. There are also tricks to embargo content until an appropriate date or to hide summat after its sell-by date.

What set me thinking this week was the recent Egg Hunt that operates from Good Friday to the end of Easter Monday. I have automated that to run every year over Easter weekend using an algorithm to calculate the date of Easter. The same function is used on the Calendar page to mark Easter Sunday every year.

Type year in box

LPMCC.net is now guaranteed to stay correct up to the end of the fortyfirst century.

Jubilee

I count my life's milestone events from the Queens's coronation in 1953. I was eight years old and we were invited to my Aunty Violet's home to watch the coronation on her 12inch TV set. We crowded round the tiny blue and black screen in a room with curtains closed. I was not impressed, but my mum was determined that we should have a television as soon as we could afford one.

Mum would troop us down to the local chemist shop to weigh us on their big scales. If we hadn't put on half a stone by the end of our fortnights holiday, we hadn't had our money's worth.

Every year dad took us on a fortnight's seaside holiday. In 1954 it was agreed that instead of going to the seaside we would rent Amy Timson's chalet at Swithland Woods so that the extra money could be put towards the cost of a 14 inch Vidor TV.

We enjoyed that holiday so much that a couple of years later we bought our own chalet for a holiday home. By the time I was in secondary school we were staying at the chalet throughout British Summer Time with just a couple of days back at our home between dyeworks and engineering factory so that we could do laundry. We never watched our TV in the summer. Both dad and I cycled ten or more miles to work and school each day.

Dad was a painter and decorator. Cycling to and from work and climbing up and down ladders all day eventually took a toll on his knees. They swole up with fluid. The doctor gave him some tablets but said the cure was not on the NHS. The doctor advised dad to get a moped.

A second hand Mobylette moped became family transport. When dad moved on to an NSU Quickly I inherited the Mobylette.

When I began my apprenticeship at Brush in Loughborough I soon traded the Mobylette in for a Honda Benly from Newtons Cycles on Humberstone Road.

Most of us had motorcycles and scooters in those days. Lol Mounteney had the chalet next to ours. Bruce Gibson was an old school friend. Malcolm Sheppard was a Brush apprentice. We went to evening class at Mantle Road School to learn how to fettle our bikes and Brian Porter suggested we visit the Rocket at Stephensons Drive one Wednesday to see what we thought of the Leicester Phoenix Motorcycle Club. We were hooked!

By the mid '70s Japanese motorbikes had moved away from "noisy, dirty". The new criticism was that they were "dangerous". Therefore the BMF advised clubs to appoint a Safety Officer to their committee. LPMCC committee knew that I had more than my fair share of accident experience so they appointed me.

I dabbled about with a few ideas for awhile. Then I spotted a paragraph in the Harborough Mail from County Road Safety Officer John Wilmot who was trying to bring motorcycle training to the town. Pretty soon LPMCC was roped in to operate an RAC/ACU Training Scheme that was conducted at Leicester cattle market pro tem.

Meanwhile, to learn a bit more about committee work, I volunteered for various education programmes run by my trade union and soon became a branch officer. To cut an even longer story short, my union activities resulted in the Leicester factory being closed and everyone made redundant. For a time I moved from job to job including a couple of fantastic years at Triumph Meriden. This was a geographical factor in moving allegiance from LPMCC to our brother club, the Corby and Kettering MCC.

In 1982 the introduction of the Two Part Test system resulted in the closure of the venerable RAC/ACU Schemes. Several organisations stepped in to fill the void. RoSPA secured government funds to support training centres under Assistant Director Ron Bryan who we knew from his role with RAC/ACU Mitcons and, before that, the Fellowshop of Riders branch of the BMF. I landed the post of RoSPA Motorcycle Training Scheme (RMTS) Chief Examiner.

This was a job from heaven. Motorcycling all over the country to spend time with real enthusiasts. We had centres from Cornwall to Fife and over the years all of the instructors and examiners were trained in the style of Mitcons. I was paid for work I would (at the end) willingly do for nothing.

One day I received a call for help form the new Officer In Charge of motorcycle training at our centre at RAF Hullavington. Pilot Officer Harris was an Education Officer at the camp as well as a motorcycle enthusiast so was quickly roped in to assist with Instructor Training at other locations.

On 3 May 1989 Pilot Officer Harris - aka Rachel - became Mrs Crossley. It all started with the coronation.

Automatic cars

Google have a self-driving car that looks like the shape of things to come. I still get confused by current automatic cars that expect me to go to the effort of putting them into Drive.

Rachel's latest car has a few automatic additions that may save the driver energy and thought ... but isn't that the last thing we should be doing? Drivers don't think enough as things are.

The lights turn on when it becomes dark. Drivers get used to that and stop thinking about putting their own lights on. That is why so many cars are out there in rain, spray and mist with no lights on. The tech cure for this is fairly simple - wire the lights to go on with the wipers.

Rachel's car also has an economy mode that turns off the engine when the car is stationary but it only works with the footbrake on. Using the parking brake turns Eco mode off and the engine back on. That must be why I am always waiting at traffic signals behind a 4x4 with its brake lights dazzling me. Another simple tech cure - wire the damn thing to the parking brake. And while you are at it - turn off the headlights while the handbrake is on. Not just to save the eyes of the drivers facing, but also as an indication when the handbrake is let off that the vehicle is (about to) move off.

And while we are being clever-clever ... wire the horn through the brakelights so that the horn is only sounded as a warning of presence, not aggressively or as a rebuke or to hail a mate. Good grief, if pals don't see you unless you hoot, leave them to concentrate on the road ahead!

On the subject of horns there is another tech feature I would add. Whenever I approach one of the local hump-back bridges I hoot and listen with the radio off and the window down. Drivers coming the other way may sometimes hoot but never listen. They have windows closed and radios on loud. So I would have horns transmit an RDS signal to jolt them out of their complacency.

While we are on a roll - wire the headlights into the speedometer and put RFID on lamp columns so headlights flash on cars travelling 10mph over the urban speed limit, giving the rest of us a chance to keep outa the way.

I see many motorcyclists blithely riding straight ahead past junctions with their indicators blinking. Little wonder cars pull out on them. One contributory cause of false flashing is the self cancelling properties of car indicators that are suddenly missing on a motorcycle. Another compounding feature is the chin of a full face helmet masking the tell-tale indicator light. Buzzers were one simple solution that lost favour because of confusion with pedestrian crossing bleeps. Why not have a buzzer that starts up ten seconds after the signal is switched on? Hopefully before the next junction.

Transit of Venus

Two weeks to go!

Last transit was on 8 June 2004 and I watched it using the setup shown in the photo. The card circle round the telescope was to ensure the projection of the sun was in shadow because the contrast wasn't very high. I watched the transit through a window so the glass took some heat from the light and the contraption didn't catch fire. It was also free from wind movement.

This year's transit will be almost over at 4.43 BST sunrise on Wednesday 6 June in Leicestershire. If the weather is clear and you have a clear view to the north-east, you will get about half an hour before Venus moves completely off the face of the sun.

Move your mouse over the left or right button to pan clockwise or counter‑clockwise. Sunrise will be at 56° and the date is close to summer solstice.

Next transit will be on 10 December 2117. Hope you will be there.

True grit

It was my ambition on retirement to drive in rush hour at 25mph and generally hack off commuters. I never achieved that because 25mph is at least 20mph faster than rush hour traffic usually moves. Even on rural roads I get stuck behind summat going even slower than me. Usually a big yellow digger or an agricultural vehicle doing its bit for traffic calming and driver enragement.

Yesterday I was presented with a rare opportunity to legitimately drive at 10mph, courtesy of the local authority who liberally grit roads and then leave motorists to chuck the excess through each other's windscreens.

It's totally unrealistic to put up these signs to side-step claims for damage to paintwork, jammed disc callipers and chipped windows. Heaped up grit at the road edge and on bends is a serious hazard for motorcyclists; when they slow down they have white-van-man driving up their back number plate.

At 5pm I showed true grit by driving at exactly 10mph for three miles of loose chippings, to the fury of workers making their way home for the bank holiday. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I did the journey again an hour later and twice today.

Can't wait to come across these stupid signs on a main road!

What's hot

Recently I added a graph to the Statistics page to indicate any trend of interest in the dozen different sections of LPMCC.net. These figures are comparative and tell nothing about what people are actually interested in. So I delved into the web logs to find what people are actually looking for.

Unsurprisingly the top target page is the basic default Home page. That is what you get by typing LPMCC.net into your browser.

Next most popular - and deservedly - is Hans Veenendaal's European Rallies list for 2012. Closely associated is Hans' PDF list to download and print to carry in your tank-bag.

Right near the top is the 2004 Foz Annual that is one place ahead of the News page that I slave over every Thursday.

Rally pages are bound to be popular; where else do you get the blend of stories, photos, badges and history? But with so many reports to choose from what is the most popular? Top report is the 1963 Dragon transcription. Dragon and Elephant rally reports continue to have great appeal. Not far behind is the history of the Solent Motorcycle Club by Graham Cooper.

Transcriptions of ancient Megaphone articles were only expected to be of interest to old members, possibly just the scribes who wrote the originals. It is therefore gratifying that a couple of the stories are high up in the top pages read. The Song of the Dragon Men by Martin Wyatt is linked from the Dragon Rally pages. Roland Potter's 1974 road test of the MZ ES250/2 Trophy brings enthusiasts out of the woodwork to complain about technical accuracy and bias thirty years after Roland put pen to paper.

As for this Blog ... my 2008 Blog gets more readers than my latest ramblings. But that won't stem my ravings.

Updated on August 1st.

Cookies crumble

Since 26 May a new EU cookie law (e-Privacy Directive) has applied to websites that set cookies.

LPMCC.net sets cookies for several purposes but does not record personal data and cannot identify you or your activities from those cookies. They are used as follows.

  • To record when you first and last visited LPMCC.net so that an appropriate menu of new or recent pages can be listed on the left of each page.
  • The Contact Center saves your bookmarks and notes that you jot down to remember or send to LPMCC.net. They are not transmitted unless you press the send button. Any identifying name or email address you include is not recorded.

You can check Cookies saved by this site. This is also a common feature of the latest web browsers (under Tools). On LPMCC.net you can check at any time by pressing Alt+V.

Cookies are not vital to LPMCC.net, they are only there to be helpful for your return visits. The site will still work OK if you turn them off.

Something I noticed when checking different browser cookie display tools is that there are other cookies set when visiting LPMCC.net and it's not being done by me! I'm a bit worried about those 'cos I don't have control over them but I am responsible for their legality. Concerned about being imprisoned by the EU Thought Police means some third party widgets are being taken off the website.

Trying to figure out how to inform you of LPMCC.net use of cookies proved to be a problem. You would not want to give (or deny) permission on every page and visit. But I can't make a record of your choice (not) to accept cookies without ... er ... setting a cookie!

Until I figure a way round that problem I hope you will trust me not to collect any incriminating evidence off your computer and to reduce the opportunity of third parties who hijack LPMCC.net to rob your on-line bank accounts.

The inevitable

I know when to give up the struggle against the inevitable. I cringe at the Americanism "For Free". If something does not cost anything it is "free" and you can have it "free". Even the BBC now uses the phrase "for free" without shame. I'll now give up complaining, but I still don't like it.

Inevitably access to on-line content is moving towards mobile devices, particularly phones. Recognising that, I first dabbled with WAP enabled pages and more recently produced a page suitable for mobile phone use. LPMCC.net/mobile/ lists coming events, new content and a daily Foz Spot in compact form. Every time the site gets new content I update this mobile page. Last week I checked what pages were looked at through May and the Mobile page was never opened!

I don't know why. Maybe people don't know it's there. Maybe it doesn't work on their phone. Perhaps it isn't of any interest. Perhaps the folk who use this website don't have the latest phones. For whatever reason, I've been banging my head on a brick wall as usual.

Unless people suddenly begin to use the page I'll bow to the inevitable and discontinue it. Instead I'll use a ready made and popular alternative. Mobile devices will be redirected to our Facebook Group at facebook.com/LPMCC.net. They know how to deliver mobile content faultlessly, have a huge and active user base and ... its for free!

Start of quotation There is the possibility that a lot of your readers are of the same opinion as myself. It may be old fashioned but I firmly believe that telephones (mobile ones included) are for making and receiving phone calls. All the other stuff should be carried out on your computer.

There is nothing worse than having your conversation ignored by someone playing with their telephone. End of quotation

- The Black Russian

The big struggle is getting some of the guys onto a computer!

Names to faces

On this year's National Rally we had about 150 riders through Kegworth Control. A few take photos but they won't be on them unless someone else uses their camera. This year we made an effort to catch everyone as they arrived or signed in or set off again. The task is to match names to faces.

Out of the camera a photo file has a date and there are a few other properties that can be read. Unfortunately, as soon as the photo is edited for the website or sent by email, all those properties go to pot. Also it is quite possible for your camera to name a new photo the same as one you already have so there is a danger of overwiriting earlier files.

 

BAT FILE
Pronounced "batch file": These are MSDOS line commands used in prehistoric days. They are MicroSoft Disc Operating System commands that do essential geeky things. For convenience the commands are saved in a file with a ".bat" extension.

First I'll tell you about my routine photo renaming system. Make sure the date and time are set correctly on your camera!

I put a BAT file where I save the photos from the camera. The BAT file creates a text list of the photos. It consists of just one line ...

DIR *.jpg > file.txt /ON

Double click the file (mine is named "dirn.bat") and it creates a directory list of all (the wildcard star) files in this folder with a ".jpg" suffix and writes them to a text file called ... er ... "file.txt" and does this in Name Order (/ON). The resulting text list can be viewed using Notepad and is summat like...

 Volume in drive C has no label.
 Volume Serial Number is 0C8F-56AA

 Directory of C:\Documents and Settings\General\Photos

08/07/2012  07:50         1,323,493 100_5878.JPG
08/07/2012  07:50         1,336,543 100_5879.JPG
08/07/2012  07:54         1,297,041 100_5880.JPG
08/07/2012  07:54         1,289,121 100_5881.JPG
08/07/2012  07:54         1,307,475 100_5882.JPG
08/07/2012  07:56         1,286,676 100_5883.JPG
08/07/2012  07:56         1,306,728 100_5884.JPG
08/07/2012  07:57         1,347,497 100_5885.JPG
08/07/2012  07:58         1,301,546 100_5886.JPG
08/07/2012  07:59         1,304,487 100_5887.JPG
             10 File(s)    13,100,607 bytes
              15 Dir(s)  54,116,904,960 bytes free

not part of the file but note format ...
DD MM YYYY  hh mm                   filename.JPG

But I don't read the file. I have a little HTML webpage that does that for me. The page includes the following script...

<iframe id=IFrame src=file.txt style=display:none;></iframe>

There is a bit of JavaScript that reads the file, splits it into lines, junks the top and bottom stuff and changes the order of the text to the following, which it prints on the webpage.

ren "100_5878.JPG" "p2012070807500.jpg"
ren "100_5879.JPG" "p2012070807501.jpg"
ren "100_5880.JPG" "p2012070807540.jpg"
ren "100_5881.JPG" "p2012070807541.jpg"
ren "100_5882.JPG" "p2012070807542.jpg"
ren "100_5883.JPG" "p2012070807560.jpg"
ren "100_5884.JPG" "p2012070807561.jpg"
ren "100_5885.JPG" "p2012070807570.jpg"
ren "100_5886.JPG" "p2012070807580.jpg"
ren "100_5887.JPG" "p2012070807590.jpg"

not part of the file but note NEW format ...
     filename.JPG   pYYYYMMDDhhmmN.jpg

The above lines are then copied and pasted into another BAT file, this one I call "renr.bat". Stand back and double click this new file and the photos are renamed. The names are made up as pYYYYMMDDhhmmN.jpg where ...

  • "p" is an arbitrary letter 'cos I don't like starting names with numbers which can cause bedlam in JavaScript.
  • "YYYY" is the four figure year.
  • "MM" is the two figure month.
  • "DD" is the two figure date.
  • "hh" is the (24) hour.
  • "mm" is the minute.
  • "N" is a consecutive number in case more than one photo was taken in that minute.
  • ".jpg" keeps the identity as a photo file.

I can see when all my photos were taken even after they have been minced. So far so good.

 

There is a full list of riders on the National Rally website. This was cut and pasted into a (JavaScript array) file. We know the times when riders checked in at Kegworth from the check-in register. These times were added to the rider data file.

To find possible names for a photo there is a JavaScript function that ...

  1. Converts the photo name to a date/time value.
  2. Searches the rider data file for names of everyone who signed in within ten minutes of the photograph.

Simple. And it is just as easy to put faces with a name.

  1. Read the time the person checked in.
  2. Find and show the first photo taken within ten minutes of that time.

Next year I'll ask for access to the automatic registration number reading data and local speed cameras!

See it all in action in the Competitors at Kegworth photos in the 2012 Gallery.

If you want more details of how this is all done, take a look at the source code of the Competitors at Kegworth or contact me.

Nice surprise

Chrome seems unwilling to open the first tab and crashes my whole computer if I attempt to chivvy it along. So today I used Firefox to run the JavaScript page that writes routine data files. I've avoided doing so before because it paused for a minute or so despite being on a par with Chrome for speed once running.

Clicked the link and in a blink Firefox was done. No pause, and the timer said 20 seconds.

"Oops," I thought, "Summat must have gone wrong." Chrome takes 80 seconds and was supposed to be fastest of the bunch. So I checked through the output data to see where it went wrong.

Data was perfect. Couldn't believe it so I ran it again! Still 20 seconds. Unbelievable - four times faster than Chrome!

That was with version 13 of Firefox and it's now on version 14.

It will be interesting to see if Chrome fight back with their next update. If so I hope they also fix first page opening and the "Blue Screen of Death" syndrome.

The only times I encountered a bigger speed increase was going from dial-up to broadband and, long before that, changing from a Speccy BASIC bubble sort to a machine code version that speeded up sorting data from an overnight wait to instant.

Now I have to decide what to spend that saved minute on.

Did someone say "Trident"?

July top pages

First of the month is my day to check LPMCC.net progress and update the Statistics page. It is also when I look over your shoulder to see what you found interesting. Here are July's top pages.

  1. The Home Page. Predictable really.
  2. Hans Vennendaal's European Rally List. Rightly at the top. Time consuming research places all the information in one place.
  3. Rally Index page. Entry page to the most popular section.
  4. The News, new every week. Thank goodness someone reads it.
  5. Dragon 1963. The Dragon continues to be the number one attraction because more people have been to it than any other rally.
  6. Arse in the Grass. High up the list. Do people expect a motorcycle rally or summat else?
  7. Solent Club history from Graham Cooper. Hopefully it puts ex-members back in contact.
  8. German rally links. Wow! Remarkable because it isn't usually visible!
  9. Jack Tar Rally. It's held in July so people may have been looking for this year's location.
  10. The Foz Lists. Always worth a revisit. Lists you can laugh at over and over.
  11. Dragon Rally, first page. Still high up the chart despite a split vote.
  12. End of RAC/ACU. A lot of past instructors must read Jeffrey Rose's letter with a tear in their eye. Sniffle.

Not a great deal of change from the position a couple of months back so it should be a good guide to what you want more of.

A lot of people look at the Rear Observation page but not many send in their own scores.

This Blog is up in 28th position - not bad out of about 1300 pages, but probably half of the hits are me checking pie smelling ... oops ... my spelling.

A few years

Some past members are surprised when we contact them with an invitation to a reunion. The usual expression is ...

"But I was only a member for a few years!"

So were we all. It isn't the time that counts, it is the shared experiences and friendships. We weren't there because we were related, or from the same school catchment area, or worked at the same treadmill, or were called up with the same draft. Maybe some of those, but mainly because we wanted to be there and to spend our sparse leisure time in the company of like minded people.

We share many characteristics woven from the club's traditions of openess and inclusivity. But because we come from different decades there is always a doubt that we may not know anyone who attends a reunion. Of course, if you don't go it lowers the chances for your contemporaries who were hoping to meet you again.

Take last Monday's reunion at the Horse and Hounds for example. Friends attended from all decades since the club was founded. How many knew each other? To answer that question I have added a chart at the bottom of reunion albums to indicate years that memberships overlapped.

Click on a name for the chart to highlight the years that person was a member. At the bottom it lists the names of the people who should know that past member.

It's a guess. It's approximate because I'm not sure of membership years - send me corrections.

And, of course it doesn't flag up the past members who have forged new friendships with people they only met in the last few years

Bike shed

When you present a complex design to bosses they usually concentrate their attention on some unimportant detail to the exclusion of the main point. It isn't "attention to detail"; it's more like trying to refute Origin of Species by looking for a spelling mistake or disprove Principia by finding a poorly written number. My friend and director Ron Bryan insisted on perfect spelling and punctuation because typos would take attention away from carefully constructed conclusions.

The principle is related to Parkingson's Law of Triviality: "Bicycle Shed Syndrome"

Everyone thinks they know about bicycle sheds so they join in the discussion to assert their knowledge as a means of promoting their conceit.

The problem is that, once confidence is lost in simple details, vital concepts may be rejected. To mix metaphors, the baby goes out with the bicycle shed!

Next time you are stuck in a committee meeting that is tied up by inconsequential nit picking you will recognise Bicycle Shed Syndrome.

It's fun

Just read Andy Coghlan's 25 August New Scientist article, The best medicine that repeats and confirms that exercise is a vital part of staying healthy. Andy's article not only states the blindingly obvious, it quotes the various scientific studies that have presented firm evidence and covers the science that explains how it works.

The problem is that excercise has become an indoor business. Gone are the days when you could sign up at your local evening classes for gentlemen's keep fit or young men's circuit training. It has become a lucrative business in the domain of expensive health and leisure centres. Just at the age when I need it most (as an alternative to the dreaded statins) and have the time for it, organised exercise has become too expensive!

That is why I like cycling so much. I've had my bike for years so oiling the chain and pumping the tyres up is all it takes to enjoy it on all levels.

Unlike a cycling machine fixed indoors, it comes fully supplied with fresh air ('cos we avoid traffic roads) and great views of the English countryside through the seasons - usually full colour but sometimes B&W in winter.

Cycling with friends rekindles the buzz that we shared back in the 60s and 70s on club runs. Good company must not be undervalued. I don't like cycling alone. Mainly because it then becomes a method of getting from A to B (to C) and can turn into a tireing time trial. Friends are the best excuse to slow down so you have enough breath to talk, to stop for a chat or to fix a puncture. (or watch one being fixed!)

Sure, you get a feeling of well-being due to endorphins produced during exercise. Maybe I should proclaim exercise is the opiate of the massives.

But aside from all the pure motives I cycle 'cos it's fun!

Magic

Back in May Embers cycled to Melton. At the time it was recognised as possibly the best ride and it still stands out as the top day out. What made it so good? Over analysing it could ruin the magic but it's still worth looking at what contributed to the day.

  • It was a warm, sunny day. The weather plays a big part in making any day enjoyable. Sunshine makes even freezing cold days better. We had cycled all winter and the promise of approaching summer raised spirits. Pity it didn't deliver this year.
  • A full turnout. No doubt it is the company that makes the day and with all the Embers present there was a buzz right from the start. Everyone can have their leg pulled in turn without feeling picked on.
  • Familiar roads. But not over-familiar. We don't use maps very often, working on the assumption that we are out for a ride and happy to discover new places on the way. Just a pinch of uncertainty is a benefit.
  • Optimum distance. Simply put, not too far and not too short. It depends on the number of hills, and, of course, the weather. This ride of 22 miles was building up the miles after winter. More challenging for the riders who began at Dave's and did an extra 11 miles.
  • Interesting destination. The first ride where we had a destination in mind - Melton on market day to look round the cattle market. We met lots of friendly people who made sure our bikes were parked safely and had a wander round the town centre.
  • Good lunch. And good value, served promptly in a relaxing atmosphere. There is no substitute for feeding the inner man. The cycling is just a way to get to the pub!
  • Unhurried day. Being relaxed about time is a big benefit of retirement and on this day we made the most of it.

Maybe there were other factors. For example, was it coincidence that this ride was on a Tuesday rather than Friday? Maybe I should also look at the phase of the moon and alignment of the zodiac.

What club?

I have a bit of a phoenix fixation; wherever I see the word or a representation of a phoenix it grabs my attention and curiosity. When I drove through Eastwood, Notts I was delighted to see the phoenix is the town's symbol and appeared on all the local authority railings, buildings and litter bins. It also inspires several local businesses.

Then a few years ago I came upon the post shown below not far from where I live. It took me some time but when I worked out what it was for it seemed obvious. See if you can work out what type of club it represents. The clue is in the colours.

Click here for the answer.

Navel fluff

First of the month and another set of figures added to the statistics page if for no other purpose than to generate a sense of history. I also look at the shape of some graphs and daydream where they are heading towards.

Over recent months the figures have dithered up and down but that is probably to be expected during even a wet summer. Most of you are out and about on your motorbikes testing your waterproofs.

One or two graphs may be charting future trends. I keep a very close eye on what browsers you are using to look at LPMCC.net. We are approaching 80% of browsers being HTML5 compatible. What's that? Well, there are a few gizmos and widgets that will improve your viewing experience and make my life easier. They are available now with the latest browsers. But ...

They don't work on Internet Explorer 8 which is still used by 21% of site visitors. If they are using Windows XP operating system they cannot upgrade to Internet Explorer 9 which is HTML5 compatible. They need to install Google Chrome or Firefox or Safari or Opera.

Extrapolating the trend line of the browser graph indicates we may be able to start including the latest wizz-bang features some time next year.

In the meantime, if you are still using Internet Explorer 8, please do everyone especially yourself a favour and install one of the latest browsers.

Control

Back in the 70s when Bruce Lee was all the rage, I worked in a small office, facing the door with my back to the window. One day I unrolled a set of drawings onto my horizontal draughting table and idly put the elastic band on top of my head like a sweat-band.

Next minute the chief engineer stormed through the door and began a tirade about a technical issue. While my hands held down the corners of the curly drawings I felt the elastic band start to work its way invisibly up my head, through my crewcut hair line and then drop to the floor behind me.

I was aware that the chief had stopped ranting and was watching gobstruck as my hairs rippled up over my head.

After a moment staring with his mouth open he croaked
"How did you do that?"

I fixed him with a beady eye and slowly whispered
"Muscle Control..."

He had more respect for me after that.

Local storage

I've learnt a heck of a lot over the past week and most of it the hard way.

localStorage is a new way for you to STORE information on your LOCAL computer. You can only access it from the same website in the same browser on the same computer.

Back in May last year I looked forward to the benefits of HTML5 and in particular what I will be able to give you with localStorage. I rolled out the first demo of localStorage about a month later when I made the Table Top Rally save your position if you needed to take a break from your computer.

Last weekend I thought it was high time to introduce its benefits to the Contact Centre. Up to now it would only hold a paragraph or two as Cookies and recently Cookies have received a lot of bad press from the privacy lobby. One advantage of localStorage is its huge capacity. As much as you are ever likely to need if you write reports or cut and paste jokes for LPMCC.net.

The first thing I learnt was not to do all the development in one lump. Getting carried away by enthusaism results in a lot of bugs that cover each other's tracks. And it's very hard to unpick all the various files back to their start position.

Another thing that threw me at first is that developing the system as plain files (that is, not on a server) all the different browsers behave differently. To solve that puzzle I did two things. First I made test pages that delved into the foibles of the different browsers. Second, I copied the version of the website that is on my computer into a local server. Here is what I found works without a server.

BrowserCookieslocalStoragelocalStorage
across
folders
Internet Explorer 8+XX
FirefoxX
Google ChromeX
Opera
Safari

By midnight Thursday/Friday I had everything working, sat back and, with hindsight, could see there was a better way of doing it. Start again.

Next hard lesson was finding out how difficult it is to fully remove a Cookie. It took a long time to figure out that's what was causing "Error at line 0" because it's not quite removed. I reckon that I'll add a trail of small files across the website like a fuse that blows out Cookies in each section in turn, a kind of self destruct mechanism in case things go really badly wrong.

I relearnt stuff like the case sensitivity of phrases such as localStorage.getItem("key").

I took a fresh perspective on backing up working copies of files, doing things a little bit at a time, testing thoroughly on all browsers in all environments and documenting what changes are made at each micro-stage. Because at one time I had to go back to a 180KB file written in July and find out how it was changed in September.

The next thing I'll learn is how angry people get when the beta version goes out and busts up the website.

I hope that you'll let me know if owt goes wrong. Save or send your Contact Centre Notes now because they may be lost during the changes. Make a note of my email in case you cannot open this page to find my address when the new Contact Centre Notes finally go live.

It's

Keeping track

After successfully rolling out extended Contact Centre Notes I turned my attention to fulfilling the promise I made in May 2011 to allow riders to make a list of rallies that they plan to attend.

True to form, development followed the usual method. Enthusiastic meddling, desperate retractions, euphoric success. After sleeping on it - cold, hard critique, harsh simplification, meticulous debugging, rigorous user testing.

Oh, just a mo. You do the last bit don't you.

I've become pretty slick at puting your data into localStorage and last week's development process revealed most of the undocumented features. This week's challenge has been "How to Handle Changes" to Hans Veenendaal's rally lists. In the past I've taken a cavalier attitude to changes that Hans has sent. The website list is ephemeral, changing weekly or sometimes even more often. You just have to check back and I've left that up to you. Now I'm giving you the option of saving your chosen data so I have to alert you to any changes that take place. You would probably come looking for me if you rode a thousand miles to a continental rally that was held a week earlier than you expected.

You can home in on a rally location - but don't forget the positions are very nominal.

Rallies you select are also shown on the Calendar of Events in case you need to check you are not double booked.

You will have to muddle through the remainder of 2012 because the custom list applies only from 2013 Rallies beginning with today's list up-date...

... providing you alert me to bugs, errors and suggest ideas that will make the Rally Lists even more useful.

Your badges

The euphoria of getting to grips with localStorage lead to making much better use of our world's best collection of rally badges. It is now possible to mark each badge for inclusion in your own collection of badges.

I've also put extra badges up where you can easily find them. They are badges for clubs, training schemes, race circuits, motorcycle shows and a few alternative versions of rally badges. These too can be added to your collection.

Then, in the middle of the week, Steve Giddens asked where the T‑shirt printing page was.

The T‑shirt page is still down there in the Rallies section and was in the middle of being rewritten to use the new system. It is now finished and ready for you to print your own collection of badges onto a T‑shirt.

If you cannot find your own badges in over 3000 in our pages, you will have to take a good photo of each one, or a hi res scan, and send them in for inclusion.

If you have already sent badges to us you can check them on the hidden Badge Senders' page and save all of them to your personal collection with one click of the button at the bottom.

I'm able to use localStorage because, although it is a feature of HTML5, it is already available in all the recent major browsers including Internet Explorer 8 that runs on Windows XP. This month's Statistics indicate that localStorage is now available to 98% of LPMCC.net visitors.

Weekend away

Last year when LPMCC.net was chucked off the web for exceeding bandwidth it came as a shock but not an entirely unexpected event. I'd been taking measures to head off the consequences of LPMCC.net popularity for six months but I was still ill prepared for the sudden switch off of the website. On that occasion it went blank over Tuesday night and by midday Wednesday LPMCC.net was back live with a new service provider.

The new service has a more generous philosophy to bandwidth, although there must be some limits. I keep a close eye on the inevitable upward trend in daily bandwidth use. The old limit was 250MB and in October this figure was exceeded on no less than six days. The horrors of Blank Wednesday were beginning to sink into distant memory.

The day to day bandwidth use is hugely variable but you can see from the graph that there is a clear upward trend with the average about to cross the 200MB level.

Because I had my eye on these figures and they still seem under control I was again taken by surprise when the website failed this weekend!

The cause seemed to be a problem with the server. At about 10pm Saturday evening I uploaded a new Waldgeistertreffen photo page from Hans Veenendaal. Checking the page I couldn't get LPMCC.net! PANIC PANIC!

Sometimes I mess up one of the supporting files (which is why I always check it works) so I first checked it was still working using the off-line files on my local computer. Then I returned to the server to check the files hadn't broken during the upload process. They weren't there!

So I uploaded them again. They still weren't there. They appeared on the server directory but trying to access them resulted in a message that the files were simply not there.

After a sleepless Saturday night I spent all Sunday trying and retrying to get the files up, without success. It is a testament to the loyalty and concern of visitors that many took the trouble to let me know they were having problems. Messages came in through the day via Facebook, text messages, phone calls and emails.

Blank Wednesday was scary enough but it was mild in comparison. That was a weekday outage of about 12 hours. This latest crash took out LPMCC.net for more than 40 hours at the weekend.

Monday morning I was relieved to hear that it wasn't caused by something I'd done or failed to do, it was a server error and the mechanics were adjusting it with large hammers. It was into the afternoon before things returned to normal.

Like crashing a motorbike when it's not your fault you ask yourself "Could I have avoided this?" Maybe. This occurred when I was half way through uploading a set of 27 files: web pages, pictures, indexes and announcements. The only way to avoid it that I can see is to change the names of essential files before uploading them. When they are on the server check they are really there then delete the old file and rename the new ones to their proper names. That way, if they aren't really there, the originals are still in place.

Now I must scour the neighbourhood for kittens, tom cats and scraggy old moggies to send out to all of you who let me know that summat was up.

Thanks for noticing, thanks for notifying and thanks for coming back.

By the way: If LPMCC.net goes blank again, check for status postings on our Facebook page.

Stuff IE9

Last week I was "lucky" enough to inherit a laptop running Windows Vista, and with it access to Internet Explorer 9 which is supposed to be compatible with HTML5. So I had the opportunity to check LPMCC.net in IE9.

I was horrified to find that the TABs aren't sliding across with the mouse pointer over the left and right arrows. Frustrating 'cos they seem fine in all other browsers I've tried.

You can move through the linear sequence of files by using the keyboard and pressing Alt+> to move to the next page and Alt+< to move back to a previous page. But that is a bit pedestrian if you want to scan what else is available.

I unpicked the code that makes the TABs work and far from fixing the IE9 compatibility problem, I screwed up the whole system. So I went back to the original code and thought "stuff IE9 but I better check the < > navigation still works."

Yes it does and blow me so do the pesky tabs now!

If you are beta testing LPMCC.net with IE9 or even IE10, let me know if owt's up.

 

While I'm determined to grumble about Internet Explorer I could mention that this year's Blog is now long enough to make IE8 complain it's taking too long to run (it is) and ask if it can throw in the towel. Say "no" and maker the bugger work for its living!

More than three's

A road safety research project suspected that certain people were more accident prone than the average population. The idea was, if they could be identified then remedial measures could be targetted at this particular group and if that failed, they would be ... er ... discouraged from driving.

The study collected a list of thousands of drivers who had a road traffic accident in the previous six months. A year later they were asked if they had another accident since. A proportion replied that they had indeed suffered a second accident.

After a further year the list was polled once more for further accidents and a surprising number responded "Yes, I had another accident".

"Ahah!" thought the investigators, "we've identified a group that are accident prone."

So they continued to monitor this accident prone group ...

... but they didn't have any more accidents!

So on a scientific basis the only statistically robust conclusion was that accidents happen in threes, and no causation factor could be isolated.

 

It was just one of those things when our Prometheus Windows Vista laptop failed last week. Then at the weekend our website server went down. Oops!

I thought I better bring our venerable Philips desktop computer out and update the files. This old computer running Windows XP is nicknamed Constantine and, although it is long out of date and slow, it has never given any trouble. Until last week. It boots and then switches off.

"Well," I thought, "these things always happen in threes".

I reckoned without a trip to York to replace my youngest daughter's Windows 7 Cleopatra laptop! My guess is the hard drive has fallen on hard times.

So there I was last night, exhausted and despondant, sitting watching Hadrian, my faithful working computer, willing it to keep pegging along when BANG! ...

The arm broke off my computer chair and sent me sprawled on the carpet!

Enough, oh evil Loki! You are supposed to stop at three!

Lurid dreaming

Do you ever have a dream and wonder where on earth it came from? A dream that involves ideas you didn't know you harboured? I had such a dream in the 90s that predated 9/11.

I was in a city that consisted of one huge building. It contained internal transport and apparently free access through sliding doors between its many sections. However, approaching residential sections, the doors would only open to people who were residents. Home apartments would only admit the rightful occupants.

Interestingly the technology was built into glass panels in the floor approaching each door. They contained a scanner that read a simple barcode printed on the instep of your shoes.

I also noticed that there were door lurkers, people without barcoded insteps who followed others through doors. They appeared well practiced at falling into step behind people going where they wanted to be. They were never challenged.

I asked someone why they had used this technology, thinking it was for security and control. Their reply surprised me.

"So we know exactly where everyone is when there is another earthquake."

I suppose RFID implants make this type of thing much more possible now. Pets today, people tomorrow.

 

Last night I had another strange dream. Must have been my cheese supper.

I was with an old friend in a shoe shop - probably having our insteps barcoded.

The shop was air-conditioned but not on an optimal setting. Someone seated near to us was attempting to reset the air‑con using a remote control pointed at a fabric wrapped device about the size of a baseball that was loose on the floor, flashing back LEDs but otherwise not responding.

My friend, who is a red-hot computer programmer, suddenly exclaimed "My daughter Zelda told me about these. You can communicate with them through the floor!"

Where upon he went into some kind of tap dance routine across the floor from the control box and then called for silence.

Sure enough the box responded by resetting the air‑con to the desired level and then replied verbally "From your signature I think we have met before, many years ago".

 

So your Play Station dance mat may be the next way to change TV channels.

Or a quick shuffle and slide will open the door to your apartment or start your Honda.

A Good Year

Looking back at 2012 it has undoubtedly been a good year for me, apart from the weather.

One high point was my youngest getting a place at York University. The city and the subject are so right for her and it is a joy to see her rising to the new challenges.

The Embers Cycle Rides have been a complete pleasure each week, for the good company, excercise and fresh air and for the convivial lunches. We haven't let the poor weather dampen our spirits although sometimes we've taken a corporeal soaking.

Best of all was the few days we enjoyed as a family in July when we visited Rome. Never been there before and it far exceeded expectations. Our hotel was unbelievable - see the view from outside.

The weather in Rome could have been too hot if we had to do more than wander about eating ice-cream. Food, people, scenery, antiquities were all perfect. On top of that the city was teeming with motorcycles.

I would be selfish to expect 2013 to be as fantastic. I'll settle for some good weather!