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 2013Spanking new
13 Jan 2013A fresh aspect
2 Feb 2013Terry Riddle
23 Feb 2013Upwardly mobile
27 Feb 2013Skype Night
2 Mar 2013About them cats
13 Mar 2013Heading off trouble
17 Mar 2013Fish 'n' chips
2 Apr 2013Phone Home
23 Apr 2013What a bind
28 Apr 2013Picture this
1 May 2013More time, more updates
25 Jun 2013MITE work
27 Jun 2013Time moves on
19 Jul 2013Challenge
2 Aug 2013Be Prepared
17 Aug 2013It's a Date
20 Aug 2013Full of Holes
24 Aug 2013That simple
7 Sep 2013Foggy thinking
20 Sep 2013Hijacked
20 Oct 2013Visual effects
30 Oct 2013Acceptance speech
10 Nov 2013Film buff
16 Nov 2013Skeumorphs
20 Nov 2013Top Gear types
1 Dec 2013No experience necessary

Spanking new

Happy New Year.

We greet the new year with optimism despite the doom mongering that I won't reiterate here. What have we to look forward to in the new year?

First and foremost we'll be getting out on our bikes (motor and pedal) in company with great friends.

There will be reunions at the slightest excuse. I reckon about March or April we are due for a knees up. Suggestions for date and place are welcome.

I'm hoping this is the year that you'll sit down and write something for LPMCC.net or search out those ancient Agfa slides or Ilford nprints for us to see. Lend me your slides or negatives and I'll return them with your digital pictures on a CD.

A fresh aspect

Before Xmas I went to the cinema twice to see the same film, second time in 3D. Can you remember 3D films in the 50s and 60s? I recall a western where a tomahawk came out of the screen - I wonder how a stone attached to a stick can embed itself in a cowboy? Cowboys must be made of jelly.

Cinemascope soon became more popular and ... er ... widespread. We watched the cartoon and Pathe News or the first feature and then curtains would draw aside to reveal acres more screen for the big film.

Over the holiday I sorted and burned this year's cycling photos to CD for the Embers. It's easy enough to pop a CD into your computer and view the photos as a slideshow. I renamed all the photos (and titles) to the date/time convention "MMDDhhmmn" that I've mentioned before. That allows them to be sorted into chronological order.

A couple of issues showed up when I tested the CD in a DVD player.

To alter file attributes I use AutoHotKey which is a powerful free system that is simple to use and indispensable
  1. They didn't appear in alphabetic (date/time) order. So I had to change both "Last Saved" and "Created" attributes to get them to show in proper sequence. I think the real problem is that DVD players only take account of the old 8.3 DOS filename convention.
  2. All our photos were taken as 4:3 ratio and are displayed on LPMCC.net as 500 pixels by 375 pixels. Modern TVs are "widescreen" and are 7:4 aspect. So the slideshow on a TV has black edges on both sides.

I don't intend to change 4:3 aspect ratio used throughout LPMCC.net (Actually LPMCC.net started with a standard of 500 pixels by 350 pixels, 10:7 aspect). It is easy to simply rescale the many photos that are sent in that ratio. On top of that, all the style sheets and fancy-pants Javascript widgets are written for that size.

The general layout of LPMCC.net remains aimed at a screen size of 800 pixels by 600 pixels. That doesn't restrict all the content to the same ratio. It is so that you don't need to scroll across to see content on low resolution monitors. Screen sizes have changed a lot since the site first went live more than ten years ago. You could be looking at a smartphone screen.

The content area of the page started out as 500 pixels wide to accommodate the photos and to keep text in a column that allows you to read it without skipping lines. But it has ... er ... evolved for various reasons and is now generally about 540 pixels wide. So there is no reason that photos added to the page couldn't also be 540 pixels wide. In 4:3 ratio that would mean 405 pixels high. It's something that I'll try in the 2013 Gallery to see if it works.

Monitor Ratio - size 540x338

This "widescreen" guff is all a con to sell you smaller screens. They aren't any wider, they're just not as tall ! A 20 inch widescreen TV shows 12% less area than a 20 inch old size TV. Measurement is diagonal; do the maths.

TV Ratio - size 540x309

4:3 Ratio - size 540x405

Terry Riddle

"If I'd known I was going to live this long I'd have taken better care of myself!"

A typically droll remark from Terry Riddle as ill health crept upon him. Terry fought bravely and cheerfully on in the face of approaching doom so it still came as a shock to us learn that Terry had passed away last week.

To say Terry was a larger than life character hardly does the term justice. He was a constant joy to be with on rides and rallies in the 1960s when he first came down to the Phoenix with his Mountsorrel companions. That may be when he began to abuse his body with hours of riding Eccles (his 350 Arial) on icy roads, buying double rounds of drinks in The Sun at Hawkshead, cartwheeling back to the campsite from the Chandlers Arms at Wells-next-the-Sea then acting as draught excluder in our tent until we stuffed cold Gaz bottles into his sleeping bag so the gas would warm up and we could mash a pot of tea.

These past few years Terry became a dependable marshal at our National Rally control at Kegworth, cheering up the late night watch with episodes we'd all but forgotten, tales of new adventures and a whole bunch of fresh witticisms. Riders usually arrived just in time to interrupt another chorus of "Harry was a Bolshi".

Terry's funeral was on Monday 11 February at 11:45am at All Saints, Thorpe Acre, Loughborough. From there he was carried by motorcycle hearse to the crematorium and friends made up a motorcycle escort.

Start of quotation Sad news about Terry. I travelled many miles with him in the past. One of life's characters I'm glad I met. End of quotation

- Rob Winnett

Start of quotation I shall of course be attending Terry's funeral next week and hope to be part of his motorcyle escort. End of quotation

- Dick Stott

Start of quotation You did him justice with the words you wrote, Yes I remember Terry very well and, as you say, once met you're a friend for life.

I truly wish I could be with you all at the funeral. I'm so sad that I can't be there to pay my respects to a great guy.

I know Terry was always a joker so if I said that I'd give my right arm to be there, is that going too far? End of quotation

- Derek Foster

Start of quotation Just a little note to thank you so much for attending Terry's Celebration last Monday and escorting him from the Church. Please also thank Dave, Paul and Peter (his photographs are great). I did manage to have a quick word with you but not the others - please apologise to them. We were so overwhelmed with the number of people who turned out to pay their respects - Terry would have loved it!

Thank you all again, End of quotation

- Janice, Joanne and Colin, Stewart and Lizzy. x

Upwardly mobile

Six months ago I was contemplating giving up the struggle of weekly updating the LPMCC.net mobile phone page. However I just kept going our of habit; it is written automatically whenever I update the site and I figure the daily Foz Spot may cheer someone up in these dismal times. Any-road-up, it clung on.

In the intervening time I've noted with some envy the modern hardware that members, embers and friends are turning up with.

Earlier this month I realised that the preview wasn't very exciting. So I gave it a makeover to better represent what you get in a decent smartphone.

This week I received an unsolicited sales email (spam) that claims more than half of internet access was via mobile devices during 2012. Mostly smartphones. It sounded like I might be on the right path. All commercial websites now need to make their on-line presence work in a mobile phone or risk going out of business. The email concerned Hans Veenendaal's PDF file of his rally list. It is consistently one of the most popular pages of LPMCC.net and I am always looking for ways to add value his hard work. So this weekend I adapted his data to work in mobile phone format.

It's now available at LPMCC.net/mobile/rally.htm.

Hopefully you will be able to make use of it on Sunday morning as this week's rally winds down and you are making plans with friends to meet up again at a future rally. Simply click a country and a month (it defaults to the current month) and then scroll down the list for your next great weekend.

It sure beats dragging your laptop around the country in your throw-overs.

Skype Night

Another successful Skype Night bringing old friends in contact on a regular schedule. Last Wednesday of every month. Easy to remember that - so I've no excuse forgetting it!

It is marked in our Calendar and I don't need to write it in every month because it is calculated and inserted automatically.

Except.

Last night, fresh back from the Club AGM I added a few future events to the calendar and when I checked ... oops! Next months Skype night was down as a Tuesday. So was the one for March 2014. Why? What went wrong with the calculation?

Working out the last Wednesday of the month is not a simple problem. People cannot do it. Unless you have access to a calendar. Then it's pretty simple. Find the last day of the month and if it isn't a Wednesday count back until you reach Wednesday.

A computer program to do that is pretty similar except it's not so easy to find the last day of the month. Instead find the first day of the next month and then go back one day. So why did the program fail occasionally?

It was because I was using Javascript to define the day using ...

First_Day = new Date(Year, Next_Month, 1);

... then counting back days. That is done by turning the date into Time in milliseconds and subtracting a day's worth.

Time_Date = First_Day.getTime();
Day_Before = Time_Date - (24 * 60 * 60 * 1000);

The problem was due to me setting the First_Day at midnight. No such thing as midnight. Or in this case - too fine a razor edge between two dates. Although computers are very accurate they are not perfect with real numbers. Now and then if they go back from midnight Thursday morning by one day they can be 1/1000 second out and give you midnight Tuesday night instead of midnight Wednesday morning and Wednesday appears to be skipped over.

The simple solution was to redefine First_Day away from the razor edge of midnight: In fact I redefined it as the time we start our Skype meeting...

First_Day = new Date(Year, Next_Month, 1, 21);

Problem solved. You can now plan Skype Nights ad infinitum. Check the Calendar.

About them cats

It's some time since I offered a bounty of kittens in return for bug reports. However the reward might return now that Feross Aboukhadijeh has found a way to deliver unlimited supplies directly to your computer using the very means that is now being rolled out on LPMCC.net

There is a description of the system on the BBC website and the tekky bits are in Feross' Blog - for heavens sake don't click his demo links or you'll have more cats than you can eat.

I'm pleased to see that my current favourite browser is immune. Well done Firefox!

I promise that we won't use this system to send you kittens. Until I find a supply of chocolate kittens I'm afraid your kudos for bug reports remains metaphorical.

Heading off trouble

Last year I had trouble with laptops. A hard drive failed and, because recovery files are on the hard drive, there could be no recovery. I put in a new hard drive and used a recovery DVD made when the laptop was brand new to reinstall Windows, then went through reinstalling all the applications and reloading data from backups; a long task but 99% successful.

That experience of laptop woes sent misgivings about my main computer, the one I use for LPMCC.net work. I back up the website files several times each day but there are many other applications, original photos and emails that are only backed up occasionally. Any-road-up, I don't want to chuck away a good computer because the hard drive fails and loses the operating system. Added to that, my hard drive is almost full - the tiny replacement in the laptop had more storage capacity and was quite inexpensive.

Physically fitting the hard drive in the laptop had been a simple procedure, so simple that I thought I must have missed summat vital. It seemed sensible to do the same for my main computer before it gave problems. So I bought a 2TB drive to future proof storage needs. This slotted into a USB hard drive docking station I use for general backups.

I installed Macrium Reflect (there is a free edition for non-commercial use) and looked up Clone Disc in its help files. The process is painless.

Don't you hate installations that take hours and keep popping up "click NEXT to continue" dialogues every few minutes so you have to sit and watch the paint dry? Luckily Macrium Reflect doesn't do that. Once the cloning begins it is all done in one long uninterrupted process, so I could leave it running and do other things (on the laptop!)

Main computer with side panel removed. Hard drive is on right with blue lead and multicoloured wires ending in mini plugs. Drive is held in the frame by four small cross head screws.

When cloning was finished the computer was powered down, static discharged through a nearby radiator (ouch!), side panel removed, connections pulled off and hard drives swapped. Up and running again as though nothing had changed.

The old hard drive is now in the box the new drive came in, with a note that says "Original working HD - replaced 13/3/2013". It will be stored in case of drive failure at some time in the distant future.

Fish 'n' chips

I'm on a strict diet of fish 'n' chips because they contain low levels of sugar.

My daughter will not eat fish because of unsustainable fishing. She figures that in a few years all the fish will be gone and is optimistic that her individual action may delay their final demise. At least she has a morally defensible position.

I, on the other hand, consume fish 'n' chips as if there is no tomorrow. I am a pessimist and I intend to have the pleasure of fish today knowing that soon it will become so expensive that it will be reserved for rich bankers.

Same thing with petrol. Long gone are the days of Sunday drivers. Far too much traffic on the roads on Sundays and the fuel is too expensive to waste just driving for the sake of it. Motorcyclists who still ride for the joy of it seem mainly to be a similar age to me. Getting the last of the fish.

Phone Home

I updated the site statistics for March and basked in the glory of all the extra site activity due, no doubt, to the damned awful weather.

Page views were up and, despite my pessimism last June, the mobile phone pages had been accessed. Surprisingly, nearly 5000 views of the index and well over 2000 looks at the new Rally List.

Pride comes before a fall.

It eventually dawned that the pages load automatically every time an ordinary page opens; rally list with every rally section page and index with all the other pages.

I could not tell how often the mobile pages were viewed on a mobile phone. What's worse is that I had to subtract 7000 pages from the total page views for the statistics to be credible.

I've now altered the system so the mobile pages do not load until you click the mobile link under the main menu.

Last month my work hours spent on the website were bloated for several reasons.

  • I was getting back to delayed badges. That work will continue through April due to badges from Paul Mullis (via Heather MacGregor), Rob and Marjan Karten (via Hans Veenendaal) and Stefan Gats of Black Pig fame, who continue to inundate me.
  • There was a plethora of rally memories, possibly due to the sap rising through corroded veins and reaching the parts other alcohol doesn't reach. Keep it coming. (memories, not sap)
  • There were a lot of back office issues I was determined to sort: Logging incoming photos - tabulate additions and changes each month - exclude cancelled events from the Rally List counts & warn if they are imminent - improve the report list that appears when a badge is clicked.
  • Cosmetic improvements to the appearance of the website to make it more consistent.
  • Seemed to be more than the usual collection of errors to correct.

All time well worth-while and there is little prospect of cutting down on hours this month.

This year's Easter Egg Hunt closed at midnight (or one minute too - let's not go there again!).

Finding 50 Easter Eggs hidden in 1300 pages is no mean task so hunters have four days (and nights) through Good Friday to Easter Monday to search.

If you have your list of eggs recorded in the Contact Centre notes tab you can still send it in to claim glory.

Most interesting thing about this year's Egg Hunt was the number of people who noticed my announcement on Facebook. About as close to viral I've been since herpes!

There will be another hunt next year so mark your diary for 18 April 2014.

By the way: Because the Easter Egg Hunt was still operating on April 1st I didn't put a trick on-line this year. Here is a previous April Fool.

Thanks for supporting the advertisers on LPMCC.net - with the small income it generates (less tax!) I should be able to afford to rent the server for another year.

If there is a surplus I may be able to offer an Easter Egg as a prize for next year's Egg Hunt!

What a bind

Back in the 70s I realised that motorcyclists are not as mechanically capable as they like to think. I passed magazines round at the club in a lever-arch file. Members were invited to take out any that they wanted to borrow. To a man they opened the lever-arch by bending the loops using brute force.

This week I stood by to do an urgent book-binding job - end of course thesis time! I borrowed a comb binding machine and prepared all the parts. I checked I knew how it worked and did a practice run with some scrap sheets of paper. I emptied the confetti tray that holds the punch scrap; it was full to overflowing.

This is a beautifully engineered bit of kit with multiple functions:

  1. Measures the paper to find which size binder to use.
  2. Accurately sets top and back margins appropriate for the book size.
  3. Punches precision holes cleanly and progressively without creasing or tearing the paper.
  4. Holds and opens the binders to the correct extent for the document to be inserted.
  5. Closes the binder smoothly.

Then I put the machine away until the documents arrived.

As soon as the printed document arrived I took the machine out to complete the job.

I couldn't lift the handle up. It was locked down. There are yellow plastic locking tabs at the back of the machine. Turning these up and down didn't release the handle. That night two trained and experienced engineers struggled to find how to unlock the handle without success.

Next day the documents were taken elsewhere to be bound while I telephoned the binder manufacturers to ask what the trick is to lifting the handle. A helpful guy admitted that this was a problem he'd also had in the past and his advise was to waggle the locking tabs in the hope of freeing the mechanism.

After half an hour of industrious waggling I thought I better quit before I went blind.

With the document now expensively bound there was no need to get the machine working. But I don't like to be outsmarted by some goddam piece of machinery.

Out came my tools and the binder was dismantled. If it is broken, by golly, it's gonna be well busted!

Divining from the machine's entrails indicated that one of the locking tabs was being prevented from fully rotating by several pieces of compressed confetti jammed in a circumferential groove. Cleared with a bent paperclip. Machine reassembled and works perfectly again.

For the life of me I cannot understand the need for the groove with a peg running in it to limit the rotation of the locking tabs. The tabs are adequately limited by the casing and it wouldn't be detrimental if they did go further round.

If you have an Acco Rexel CB405 binder with the handle jammed you need a couple of star screwdriver bits (or Allen keys at a pinch) to open it up, a paperclip to clear the groove and a piece of string to help reassembly.

A good design let down by one piece of crap overkill.

Picture this

At the beginning of this year I contemplated enlarging the standard photo width on LPMCC.net from 500 pixels to 540 pixels. New photos are now delivered in that size. The thumbnail gallery system was changed early on and changed to the new size throughout the site. Other than that the larger size pictures have only been introduced on new and changed pages. That's about 120 so far this year. Less than 10% of the pages on LPMCC.net.

The other niggle that gnaws at me is the turn-over images. If you turn the page of a book, the page is flexible and "wipes" across. I tried to capture this geometry with the page turns. It's not a bad simulation but it's not what people expect a page turn to look like. We expect it to look as if the page is made of cardboard and swing across like a swinging door.

So I altered the appearance and changed the size to our larger photo area. This is now being installed throughout the other 1000 plus pages of the website.

Image Maps
These define areas of a picture that can act as clickable links. I use them extensively to add names to faces. If you hover your mouse pointer over a face it may show the name of the person in a tooltip

It is a long process because all the other 500px wide photos are being resized to match. Perhaps the biggest knock on effect is that all the image maps also need to be recalculated and changed. Everything needs shifting over 8% extra.

The calculation and writing of the HTML is done the easy way - I use a JavaScript function to find the <MAP> tags, multiply the area coordinates by 1.08 and write the new code conveniently into my Comment Centre - hey presto.

The bulk of the graft remains - going through every page, altering the sizes of the photos and pasting in the new map HTML maps. I think it will take at least a week.

Don't expect many other site updates while that work is in progress. And be prepared to alert me to problems for months to come; kittens' lives depend upon you.

More time, more updates

A cursory scan of hours worked and pages updated may indicate recent rises. Increases are probably due to recent improvements in recording methods.

The good news is that the latest results are more accurate than previous counts. Except I didn't log updating photo file sizes which took fully two days working from dawn 'til dusk. So we were doing more than is shown in the statistics graphs.

Now I get my computer to keep tally, it's like having a boss breathing down my collar.

Betws-y-Coed on the way to the 1968 Dragon Rally. Hover over people to see MAPPED names.
Example of a pannng picture using the NEW generic script.

The work of resizing photographs throughout the website was made easier because many of them are set by Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) classes. I just change the CSS and all the photos of that class change from 500x375 to 540x405. I expected the main task to be changing associated <MAP> definitions but that was also relatively easy using a JavaScript widget that detects MAPs on a page and provides the converted script.

In the event the biggest two tasks were...

  • Updating special tricks such as sparks, smoke, rain, snow and other tomfoolery.
  • Changing the dimensions of photos that pan across the screen.

It was the latter task that caused the most grief. I didn't add this function to scripts contained in the single common.js file used by all pages because I didn't think it was used often enough. Since making that decision the pan is now used on 150 pages of LPMCC.net ... and I paid for making the wrong choice! Every page with a panning picture that scrolls side to side has the JavaScript in the page and the HTML is hard coded. Over time it has evolved so there are different versions of the scripts.

I have now added a pan script to the common file and, when the current update is complete, will update all the existing pan pictures to the new format. Five years down the line when I change photo formats again I'll only need to change one bit of script instead of 150+ pages.

MITE work

Looking at LPMCC.net web logs over the past few months indicates that our European Rally List has, quite deservedly, become the most popular page on the website. The mobile version of the page is even more popular than the "normal" PC version!

It seems that persevering with mobile pages is beginning to pay off. Motorcycle riders (apart from Hans Veenendaal) don't usually take their laptop computers with them. But they do increasingly carry smartphones.

What else on LPMCC.net would be useful to have as a mobile version?

Over the next few weeks hundreds of riders will be studying maps with the matrix and control details as a reference, searching for a route that takes in as many National Road Rally Controls as possible within - and preferably exactly - 540 miles. In case it helps on the day, LPMCC.net now provides a page that shows all Control details and a Google map for when small-hour frustration makes the fluorescent direction boards invisible.

Writing pages for mobile devices is new territory and I need to ask my kids to check that they work OK on their smartphones. However, I've just discovered a splendid utility from Keynote called MITE (Mobile Internet Testing Environment). It will test mobile pages on thousands of emulated smartphones. Using MITE has already enabled me to improve our existing mobile pages. Turning your phone 90° to landscape orientation should work well now and we have weeded out some characters that many phones don't like.

If there is a page on LPMCC.net that you think should be available on your mobile phone, let me know and I'll see what we can do.

In the meantime, if you are taking your laptop on the National Rally, you'll be pleased to hear that our Kegworth Control has free Wi-Fi in Donington Moto Services.

Time moves on

I've expounded at length about methods used on LPMCC.net to give the impression that it is kept up to date. Things like automatically showing or hiding content at appropriate times, changing "last month" to "two months ago" as the calendar page is turned. All done with scripts. Plus, of course, there are lots of real things that need updating on a daily basis ... see the new/recent list in the column on your left.

I still miss vital items despite special effort at the end of each month and year when links need updating. This week I discovered I'd been caught out by two items that hadn't occurred to me:

Bart den Hartog found our virtual Table Top Rally and completed it in a remarkably good time especially considering he lives in Belgium. I checked the page and was horrified to see it had the wrong location for the Leicester Phoenix MCC meeting place. Shortly after this year's AGM the club moved to the Elephant and Castle in Thurlaston. So that page was rapidly updated before it causes ill feeling with anyone closer to Leicester who plans to visit the club.

With the approaching National Road Rally I updated our Matrix tool so that competitors can organise themselves fairly painlessly. No problem with that - it's a last minute job every year as soon as the matrix is published.

Out of curiosity (diligent research I like to think) I checked for "national rally matrix" on several search engines and they came up with our interactive version but for 2012. Obvious really. That page has been on the web for a year for spiders to index. It says in red at the top that it is not the 2013 matrix - but there wasn't a link to the new version ... until now.

If you notice anything else on the website that is past its smell-by-date, drop me a line and I'll see if I can rustle up a few kittens.

Challenge

Through all the years that the National Road Rally has been held it remains a premier challenge for road riding motorcyclists. I use the word CHALLENGE carefully because, if a rider is unprepared it can easily become a trial rather than a challenge.

Some riders, notably those who do not enter the rally, dismiss the competition as merely a procession for reliable modern motorbikes using the latest navigation equipment. What they fail to appreciate is that the challenges have evolved just as much as the equipment and it is still pretty much the same sort of rider as it was when the event began in the 1930s. Provisional figures from the National Road Rally website show that 18% of riders did not complete the rally this year! (See the gap)

Here is a summary of some of the challenges.

Prepare your motorcycle. The competition part of the event covers no more than 540 official miles. This is based on nominal distances between controls rounded to the nearest five miles. Overall the rounded up miles pretty much even out with the rounded down links but there is always a chance that your chosen route will include only rounded downs!

This chart shows real miles versus official miles. Red markers are links above the official miles and green ones are less than the official miles. If you cover 22 links the chances are that you will cover 600 miles.

With a few wrong turns and diversions your real miles could rise rapidly. Add your distance to your start control and home from your final control and many motorcycles could be covering about 800 miles on Saturday and Sunday. Just like a continental tour, you cannot set out with half worn tyres, chains that need knotting and mucky oil on the half empty mark. Nor should you set off with something recently added to your bike. A new screen, navigation aid or extra lights could throw up unexpected problems such as coming loose, hampering balance and steering or blowing fuses. Your bike needs to be fully prepared, tried and tested.

Prepare your route. Don't let anyone tell you it is just a matter of joining the dots. You need to start from somewhere convenient.

In the 70s when the Leicester Phoenix MCC fielded a team that started from Sheffield ... where Dave Scrivens was pressed into providing room for ten of us to doss down on Friday night.

Your route needs to wind through the maximum number of controls within 540 official miles and end at a final control convenient for your return home. Legend has it that one year there was only one maximum score route so everyone started from the same control and went round the same way! Organiser Tim Fairbrother takes great care to ensure there are hundreds of possible routes. Plan one that fits your requirements, possibly choose controls that you are familiar with, spot the "rounded up" links or even prepare alternative routes in case the wind is blowing from the other direction! Whatever route you choose we have an interactive Matrix to assist your planning.

Prepare yourself. The National Rally is a challenge for your bike but an even greater challenge for you. As a motorcycle instructor I watched for trainees - basic and advanced - losing concentration. Maybe after 15 minutes of learning a new skill or a couple of hours making progress, the rider goes into trance mode, missing hazards or dreamily following the car in front. Tiredness and losing concentration happens to everyone sooner or later and the only solution is to stop and rest.

You can make small improvements to the distance you can safely ride.

  • Take a rider training course and practice its methods in the months before the rally so they become your "default" style.
  • Get plenty of regular sleep in the week approaching the rally.
  • Keep your speed down on the day so you aren't frying your brain.
  • Drink plenty of water or other non-alcoholic fluids.

When it does all catch up with you, STOP and get your head down for 15 minutes.

You need discipline to complete the rally. One year we saw half our rest breaks literally go up in smoke because a passenger lit a cigarette at every checkpoint! Work it out - 20 fags at 3 minutes each costs a one hour break. Keeping your speed sensible will also stretch the miles between fuel stops.

Then there are things on the day that challenge your ability and resolve. Can you navigate round a diversion for a major road closure? Can you adjust your schedule for traffic chaos caused by a roadworks or event that has drawn a big crowd? Is your summer kit up to dealing with thunder storms and local flooding? Are you carrying WD40 for things that don't move but should? Duct tape for things that do move that shouldn't?

Will you rise to the challenge on 5/6 July 2014?

Be Prepared

If I don't write it down I'll forget it: If I do write it down I'll lose the note.

It's no longer good enough to make notes; the process needs to be automated and linked to prompts and alarms.

I have administration pages that guide me through various processes. Work that needs doing at certain times or intervals is itemised and has links to other pages that do the complex sorting and writing. For example, one set takes me through the process of updating the site statistics every month. That particular list of links and instructions only appears for the first seven days of each month. In between I can forget about what I need to do and don't need reminding.

Updating National Rally pages are similarly scheduled. Those notes only appear during June each year. I've itemised the process as much as possible so that I don't need to make it up from scratch every year. By mid July (after the Rally) I just about have a handle on what is required to improve things for next year, so that's when I make preparations and add new features to give riders a better service or just make my own life easier. The review is a fertile time for website development. I cannot take it too far because there is often a cunning change to the way that the National Rally is operated. For example there may be an outer circle of controls that must be visited first. The number and location of final controls changes every year.

Most of next year's pages are already in place and so are pages for other sections - some as far ahead as 2016 with templates up to 2018!

LPMCC.net isn't living in the past even though it is about the history of the club, rallying and motorcycling from the 1960s. By the time some of our prepared pages are on-line the stories you tell and photographs you send today will be part of that evolving story.

Write it down while it is still fresh in your memory.

I'm also mindful that readers similarly afflicted by the ravages of our lifestyle cannot remember long and complicated URLs. A glance at the queries typed into the Freefind search box over the past month also indicates that, even if people know what they are searching for, they cannot type it after a couple of lubricating jars of ale. That's why I chose LPMCC.net rather than spelling the whole thing out in full. Over the past week I've made a few more pages easier to type in directly ...

  • LPMCC.net/news takes you to the latest News
  • LPMCC.net/rallies goes to the current European Rally List (because it is the most popular page)
  • LPMCC.net/nrr opens the photo page of riders at Kegworth on the National Rally (so I can tell them a simple and constant address)
  • LPMCC.net/matrix will go to the latest NRR Matrix (because riders who can find their way round the country may need help finding their way round this website)

More short URLs will be added as the need becomes apparent (or you ask). In the meantime I have to remember to update the internal link system to keep those working.

It's a Date

Yesterday we had a reunion with Derek Foster at short notice. Old friends came along and there was the type of buzz that made the event a real pleasure.

Getting the details out quickly to everyone is a lot easier these days. It consists of SMS (text messages), phone calls and emails. Additionally I put the event on-line at LPMCC.net so it shows up on the Home page, News page and in the Calendar in the hope that people may find it there.

We also make use of the popularity and availability of Facebook to pass on news and information. Events can be scheduled on Facebook showing date, time, place and who will be going. I have not made much use of this feature so far because of the way Facebook shows the event. It shows the main details as text but it puts up a default image of a calendar page, similar to the calendar image on these blog posts, that always give the idea the event is on the 31st!

I think the calendar metaphor tends more towards "System 1" information delivery*. It is simply quicker and easier to comprehend than small text information. In other words, at a quick glance Facebook readers will think the event is on the 31st of (some) month!

My solution is to replace the default image with a calendar (and clock) image that has the correct day, date and time.

Must be at least 400 pixels wide. Trim inside the dotted lines

If you want to use it for your Facebook events, click here for my Facebook event Calendar Maker*.

It is a big image because Facebook want the event picture to be 400 pixels wide. Save the trimmed image as a JPG file and Facebook shrink it down for the timeline.

This utility is still in development but you get the picture.

* From the book Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. An essential book for motorcyclists!

Full of Holes

It all started with that little widget to create a better Facebook event image. Simple enough to begin with. It just put the date and day over a suitable background. Then I got a bit cocky and added a clock to indicate the approximate time the event kicks off. To avoid using 24 pictures of the half hour intervals I put the hands on the clock using HTML5 CANVAS. I knew IE8 (used by people with Windows XP) needed an extra file to make it compatible but I didn't expect any problems. Firefox, Chrome and other browsers worked fine.

Back in the 1950s Wolf and Black & Decker started to make electric drills available and everyone's dad received one for Christmas or a birthday. I could never understand the need for an electric drill. How many blinking holes do you need, for heaven's sake? It's a wonder all the houses, vehicles and furniture from the 1950s and 60s don't resemble colanders. I can only assume that electric drills were such a craze because life was just boring.

Those little clock hands were the first use of HTML5 CANVAS on-line on LPMCC.net. It wasn't straight forward, but after sorting it out I became like those guys in the 1950s who had just unboxed their new Black & Decker, drilled a test hole in the kitchen table, and were now looking round for other targets for their lustful aeration. I started to ponder what other uses I could apply CANVAS to. My next idea was to create line graphs for some data that I've been collecting.

LPMCC.net data is graphed on the Statistics Page under the buzzword transparency: you are entitled to know all the details although, in reality, you don't give a monkeys. Well, you're reading this so you probably do give a monkeys so I'll press on.

There are already a couple of graphs on the page that are only visible here at Fleckney Marshes, mainly because their provenance is questionable. I'm happy to show graphs that look fairly believable but I'm not going to tell tales that have all the appearance of blatant whoppers. Regrettably, since changing website hosts, visitor numbers have a rather large credibility gap that can only be bridged with an enormous pinch of salt. The new graphs I wanted to add involve what I would call commercial secrets if I had shareholders.

Back in the 60s a guy used an electric drill to commit suicide. He drilled a hole into his brain. When that didn't kill him he kept on drilling until he died of blood loss. (It's the kind of thing that sticks in my head) I was about to follow his example but with HTML5 CANVAS.

It only took a couple of hours on Sunday morning to rough out a generic function that turns an array of data into a line graph. In Firefox and Chrome that is. When I came to check it in Internet Exploder I was sadly disappointed. So I kept drilling through Sunday afternoon ... and evening ...

I was having trouble with Interbleddy Explorer 8 and Inbred Explorer 9 for goodness sake. Get one working and the others wouldn't play. I was going round like I was holding onto an electric drill with the bit stuck in the wall. In the early hours I gave up and turned in, knowing that I always get my best ideas in bed, wink wink.

Sure enough, as the alarm went off Monday morning, some of the possible causes popped into my head. I was already sorting things out over breakfast. Very soon my day was beginning to look like a rerun of Sunday but with less optimism. A lot of the problems were my own making. Sloppy scripting, silly errors, stupid forgetfulness, gross negligence. Just the kind of things that could get me a top industry post. But the intractable obstructions boiled down to Interfering Expletives 8 and 9. Here is what I learned in the process...

  • CANVAS must have width and height attributes in the element; style widths and heights are not good enough.
  • To get CANVAS to work in IE9 use
    <meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="Chrome=1, IE=edge">
    early in the page header.
  • Internet Explorer 7 and 8 can be coaxed to work by including excanvas.js in the page but it will not accept a CANVAS element written using either document.createElement("CANVAS") or document.writeln("<CANVAS ... >").
  • Putting <!DOCTYPE html> at the top of the page screws up too many things to bear thinking about.
    (Item 2 above has a similar effect!)
  • Test for compatibility with
    var canvas = document.getElementById("canvas_id");
    if (canvas.getContext) {
    ... OK to script ...}
  • IE8 using excanvas.js won't draw text - HTML5 browsers will only draw text so...
    if (canvas.fillText) {
    ... draw text in HTML5 browsers ...
    } else {
    ... create text in IE8 using ...
    var text = document.createElement("P")
    }

Any-road-up, you can guess that I won't be rolling out many pages with CANVAS drawings as long as I've got a hole in my ...

After all that you can see an example showing the growth of LPMCC.net on the statistics page ... I hope!

That simple

Would have been nice to sign off the last couple of blogs on a successful result. Life just ain't that simple.

I just couldn't let well alone and looked for somewhere else to flaunt my new skills drawing on CANVAS.

There are 360° scrolling panoramas on LPMCC.net. See a vertigo inducing spin round the Big End Rally camp field and a full survey of Founders Day delights. There's a panorama in the 23 May 2012 Blog where I wanted to indicate the direction of sunrise. For that photo I added the scale directly onto the photo using an image editor and a lot of patience. It seemed a likely candidate for drawing the scale over the top of a photo. It would be useful for assisting your aim if you want to wang a wellie across a rally site and cause maximum devastation to your mates' tents.

Within a few hours I had a working widget that drew a protractor scale across a full circle panorama, added the degrees and cardinal points. It worked in everything except Google Chrome on Windows Vista! I have no idea why. I even reinstalled Chrome to be sure. I could accept an old version of Internet Explorer being prissy, that's par for the course with the cavalier attitude of Microsod. But Google on Vista was very disappointing.

So I reconsidered the whole idea of using CANVAS and concluded that, if the result can be achieved the old fashioned way, it is going to be the preferred method for the next few years.

Footpath from Fleckney to Millennium Wood. The photo opens looking NW towards the Grand Union Canal.
The compass scale is drawn about ten seconds after the page opens.

I not only rewrote the panorama scale system, I went back to the Facebook date/time widget and rewrote that to work without CANVAS. That's the version now linked from the August 17 blog.

I am still using CANVAS for drawing graphs because there is no alternative. Other than that I'll only use CANVAS locally and convert a screen grab to a plain vanilla bitmap for on-line use.

KISS CANVAS goodbye.

Foggy thinking

I was still an apprentice riding my Honda Benly to clock-in for a 7.30am start on a winter morning. It was fairly foggy on the A6 and I was riding two seconds behind a large white van (Transits were not invented yet) thinking that if he stopped I could outbrake him. Wrong!

The van suddenly swerved onto the verge and into the ditch. Like a plonker I watched him go in disbelief, wondering why he'd taken that route. Then I looked forward and realised why. The traffic in front was almost stationary. Two seconds may be enough to outbrake someone slowing from the same speed but not for a sudden "brick wall". I heaved on the brakes and screeched to a stop. The car in front was doing a similar emergency stop and I came right up to the back of him without touching until ...

... as we came to a stop both vehicles settled from their front wheel dives - and the back of the car dropped onto my front wheel. As the stationary traffic moved off again the driver in front of me tried to follow them but his rear wheels were held off the ground because my front wheel was still under his rear fender.

Thank goodness no-one was hurt on this occasion. Disbelief of the two second rule has since kept me alive on a number of occasions, especially following something I cannot see past.

So what went wrong on the A249 on Thursday?

Eight people were left badly injured and 35 needed hospital treatment after a pile-up on the Sheppey crossing. Collisions continued for ten minutes until 130 vehicles blocked the bridge.

There is a terrible herd instinct in such a situation. If you are in the overtaking lane it seems an admission of inferior driving skills to slow down and pull into the nearside lane. The impulse is to follow the lights in front and be ready to outbrake them if they slow down. In the inside lane the urge to press on regardless is compelled by fear of a juggernaut hammering into the back of you. If fog is patchy this fear-from-the-rear elevates your confidence to cope with conditions in front. There is no likelihood of slowing down even if you are travelling at a speed that you know very well is too fast. And the same applies to everyone precisely because it applies to everyone.

It takes a great deal of courage to drive safely in bad conditions, the courage and sense to slow down. Regretably too few drivers have the bottle necessary. It only takes one to be the front target for the stampede behind and the picture above shows the result.

Hijacked

Thanks to Steve White for passing on the message. In today's News I posted the announcement from the Ashby Folville village website cancelling all future Second Tuesday car and bike meetings. For the past few years these have been a pleasant way to pass a summer evening appreciating the care and custodianship by owners and riders of classic vehicles.

Regretably the event attracted the type of person for whom such respect is alien. Thus an idiot minority spoiled these evenings for everyone.

It's a great shame that so many things that should benefit everyone are withdrawn because they are missused by a very small number of selfish people. It applies to all walks of life.

  • You can't buy decent impact adhesive because the glue sniffers have made the manufacturers turn to water based pastes.
  • You can't take photos of your kids as they grow up because of concerns about paedophiles.
  • You can't "have a gay old time" because extreme minorities have hijacked our language.
  • The streets are full of road humps and chicanes because some drivers can only go fast in a 30mph limit.

Anyone who looked forward to getting a Dick Tracy phone watch will be sad to hear that miniature phones will be banned in this country in case they get into the hands of prison inmates. "Sorry, the Government says NO". (Why can't they disrupt mobile phone signals inside prisons?)

We enjoy many freedoms but they inevitably include the freedom to spoil it for everyone when things are taken too far.

There, that's my grumble for the week. Now back to bottling my methylated grouch remedy.

Visual effects

Floaters are shapes that some people see in their field of vision, especially as your eyes change with age. In most cases, they do not cause significant problems and do not require treatment but need checking by an optician if they suddenly increase or are accompanied by flashes.

Floaters are caused by small pieces of debris inside the eye fluid casting shadows on your retina. Those are different from the shapes that you can see if you stare without blinking at something light such as a computer screen or at the sky through a window. They are caused by dust motes floating across your pupil and will move or disappear when you blink.

Another optical artefact is acephalgic migraine which involves scintillating "fortification" patterns in both eyes whether they are open or closed. They expand and disappear over a period of about half an hour. Quite entertaining so long as it isn't followed by a headache.

If you find either of these interfering with your vision when driving or riding, have the good sense to pull up somewhere safe and give it a few minutes to subside.

Acceptance speech

A fan of LPMCC.net nominated our website for the 2013 Website of the Year Award, organised by thegoodwebguide.co.uk. Shortlist was announced today but regrettably we are not on it this year. Nor the "longlist". Maybe we fell foul of Rule 9 Shame, because in anticipation of international fame and fortune, I had started to prepare my acceptance speech.

It would run along tried and trusted lines used at such ceremonies. In one hand I would be clutching the coveted trophy and the other hand will be gripping the dais for stability. I will then squint into the footlights and recite an impromptu list of you guys and gals who write the irreverent content and send in the ancient photos, pausing to quote some of the ruder anecdotes and apologise for the theme of some snaps.

I will then commend the judges for choosing anarchy as the theme to this year's awards, eschewing the lure of expensive jewellery purveyors and exclusive virtual personal shoppers in order to give due acknowledgement to the great tribe for whom motorcycling and rallying is a lifestyle choice. They have at last recognised that there are more rewarding things in life than pandering to the filthy rich. We embrace the plain filthy!

For the luvvies in the designer camp I will point out that the poetry of our HTML is in keeping with the finest rugby limericks and the broad, colourful strokes of our CSS are redolent of primitive graffiti. Our interactive JavaScript is thrown together in spontaneous jamming sessions that would have you believe that busking jazz can be played by a monkey on a kazoo.

I will then thank my parents "without whom I wouldn't be here" and my wife and kids who haven't put me in a home yet.

Then, with a modest wave to my cheering audience, I'll retire gracefully to reality.

Start of quotation The site may not be pornographic or offensive, but it still gets my vote as a great site.

You're doing a fantastic job, keep taking the tablets. End of quotation

- Rob Winnett

Film buff

Phil the Spill has been sending in lots of reports from the 1980s and 1990s along with excellent photographs of all kinds of rally activities - getting rat arsed, falling over, climbing marquee poles, losing trousers. To include as many as possible I've been using all the photo display systems available. As mentioned on April 28, photos on LPMCC.net are a 4:3 aspect ratio but many of Phil's photos were trimmed to a different format. The ones that are taller than they are wide didn't fit available frames. So I sat down to write a new method similar to the special displays such as on the 2010 Classic Clubs page.

JavaScript Include

Using JavaScript to write complex HTML using your computer not my server. Plus I only need to change one common script instead of hundreds of pages. See May 1 blog and Documentation.

It is easy enough to write a simple function that works on images that are all the same size and to only have one such frame on the page. What I needed was a JavaScript Include that will write any number of such frames and use images of different widths. It took all Saturday to sort it all out. Take a look at 1987 G.P.O. Rally to see the result. There are two such frames on the same page.

"There must be more useful ways to spend spare time" thought I. So today I set about making my picture animations into a similar JavaScript Include.

Animations are made from time sequence photos shown in rapid succession like flicking the stick men on a book's page corners. So that you recognise one when you see it, look for the little clapperboard symbol in the top right corner. It means that the picture will come to life while your mouse pointer is over it. Take a look back at the Motorcycle Live albums in the 2013 Gallery that now uses this.

Skeumorphs

There is a backlash against the use of skeuomorphs on websites. Skeuomorphs are the anachronistic visual conventions that represent modern items and concepts often with outdated images of things no longer used.

LPMCC.net employs many skeuomorphs on pages. They include curly corners on pictures that can be "turned" to show more photographs underneath and card index tabs that reveal catalogued information.

Here are some symbol skeumorphs used on LPMCC.net. How many do you know the meaning of? (Untick the ones you don't know)

Symbol Means Symbol Means

You recognise 100% of these Skeuomorphs.

Not a bad score. So why do some folk want to dispense with these useful little pictograms? In my opinion it is just a fad, a bandwagon (now, there's a verbal skeuomorph!) upon which is jumping all the clever dicks who know nothing of perception and understanding. If archaic metaphors are to be thrown out of use and replaced by something more modern then I have just one question. What clever modern symbol will they use to replace the symbol that predates the wheel ... ?

AN ARROW!

Top Gear types

Three types of people watch Top Gear ...

Type 1 are the guys with go faster lights, boom boxes, low profile tyres and sporty exhausts. And cars to match. They swallow it all wholesale and probably quote it to win pub arguments while imbibing a lager.

Type 2 consider the programme as an incitement to commit heinous highway sacrilege and ecological carnage. They can't quite choose whether the presenters should be sectioned mentally or physically.

Type 3 recognise that Top Gear is a comedy programme and think the only thing funnier than the buffoonery of its three clowns is the stupidity of Types 1 and 2 audience.

So I knew what to expect from Richard Hammond Builds a Planet on BBC1. It fulfilled my expectations. It very effectively mocked the usual serious science and nature programmes by using excessive CGI effects and gratuitous location shots. It excelled in dragging me out of my Type 3 deck chair and thrusting me into a Type 1 bucket seat. I couldn't believe they have a two mile high tower in the California desert. But I wanted to!

I even Googled to see if I could find any information about it. I'm a bit red faced about it all now but I admit I swallowed it, hook, line and stinker.

That is the problem with many science and nature programmes. I can forgive film of polar bears birthing in captivity because I would expect that is pretty much how it happens in the arctic. Astronomy programmes are also very up-front about the colours of celestial photographs being enhanced to bring out features. But there are so many times when I just cannot tell if what I am looking at is natural or is magnified to an indeterminate scale, slow motion or time lapse film of the true event or clever computer graphics or a similar but different event from the one described.

But that's the kind of thinking that marks me as a Type 2 yet who am I to complain? I'm the guy who used to present council engineers with 'photo shopped' pictures of how I wanted safety features to be added to the roads. On more than one occasion the engineer said "It's already like that, look at your photo!" er hum.

You shouldn't believe anything you see (or read for that matter) especially On LPMCC.net!

A case in point is the recent group photo posted on Facebook of Embers on our weekly trip to a pub. Nine riders out and nine on the photo taken by Peter Wright. Why is he on the photo?

Group Photos

You can believe most of our whole-group photos because I use a camera clamp and delayed shutter release.

In this case it was two photos stitched together. Mick Ayriss took the other.

At one time there was a convention to use a watermark to denote when a photo has been altered. As far as icons go this one is very obscure. I've added it lower-left to the above photo. Maybe it's time to bring it back in an enhanced form to show if the photograph or film is magnified, green-screened, speeded up, airbrushed, uses actors or is stolen from the National Gallery.

On TV, Press the Red Button Now to read details of how this scene has been digitally enhanced to aid your understanding and improve your viewing satisfaction.

Or then again, we could stay firmly as Type 3 and just laugh at how funny it all is.

As Brian Conley says " It's a Puppet ! "

No experience necessary

Pan Am used the slogan "The World's Most Experienced Airline": When one of their jets ran off the runway at Heathrow, a laconic BA pilot coming in to land announced to his passengers "If you look out of the starboard windows you'll see Pan Am having another one of its experiences".

Experience is what older folk try to trump young pretenders with. Somehow they think it is more valuable than talent, drive and imagination.

Experience is rarely useful. It usually means drawing lessons for the future from past failures. Not very productive and rarely of any use. Things that always turn out the same are boring and routine. Procedures will be written down somewhere for anyone who wants to know them without reinventing the wheel.

The interesting things in life cannot be predicted, there are just too many random variables. If you read any "round the world by motorcycle" adventure, experience was what they came back with, not what they had when they set off.

The really exciting developments haven't happened yet so no-one can have any experience of them. We need optimists with an open mind, unfettered by past obstacles.

Next time some kid comes to me with a hare-brained idea that I failed at long ago I'll try not to pass on the wisdom of my lack-lustre experience. Who knows what can be achieved with today's (and tomorrow's) resources?

It's really a good thing that you cannot put an old head on young shoulders. All you'd get is wrinkly, bald and toothless young people!

Paul Draycott Brian Porter John Ashworth Derek Jordan John Muschialli Ben Crossley Alan Watkinson Dave Scrivens Mick Ayriss