Search my site

Amazon AStore

A selection of relevant products available direct from Amazon. You'll find lots more practical info in various articles on my website.

Visit My Amazon AStore

 

Key Web Links
Friday
Jul072017

Saverstore.com lights out?

It has somehow slipped beneath the radar but the website of saverstore.com - the IT vendor that rose from the ashes of the old Watford Electronics - has disappeared altogether. Nowhere can I find any details about their downfall though.

The website is unreachable and at the time of writing, their .co.uk domain name has been suspended at Nominet too. The dot-com domain merely shows a private registration now.

Clearly a wheel has fallen off but it's very sad to see this particular brand name sink without trace. I used Watford Electronics some 40 years ago to supply parts for my Multi Channel gas Sensor and other magazine projects, when they ran a small shop on Cardiff Road, Watford.

The original Watford Electronics shop, 33/35 Cardiff Road.I believe that originally Watford Electronics was set up by Nazir Jessa and his son Shiraz ran it. The name 'Watford Electronics' is now a dormant company [resulting from changing the name of another associated company to Watford Electronics] controlled by Shiraz Jessa, maybe for sentimental reasons(?).  Saverstore.com's address was Jessa House, Finway, Luton founded in the era when the home computer sector was thriving.

Several popular UK PC brand names eventually crashed and burned, including Tiny and Carrera and after diversifying into the IT sector Watford had its fair share of woes.  Today's PC market bears no resemblance to the scene of the 1990s and 2000s. A useful write-up on The Register is here.

I won't rake over the ashes any longer but I wrote a piece about the original Watford Electronics shop, as it now appears on Google Street View, here.

I also scanned my catalogue rear cover (image, left), as a nod to those fun, exciting and pioneering days of 1970s hobby electronics that I grew up with, eagerly awaiting my next packet of parts arriving in the post, paid for out of my pocket money.

 

Thursday
Jun082017

Parker Pen fibre tip adaptor

A new lease of life for a favourite old pen

I have a trio of engraved Parker pens from the 1970’s that have sentimental value, comprising a ballpoint pen, a propelling pencil and a fibre-tip pen.

Parker pen (and compatible) ballpoint refills are commonplace but refilling my fibre tip pen has been a problem as the refills went out of production long ago.  Fibre-tips were a relic of the 1970s - a time when the Japanese Pentel rollerball first came to Britain - and they quickly fell out of favour with the advent of  rollerballs and gel ink. In practice fibre-tip refills often dried out, or the tip would get scratchy and damaged, so they were unrewarding to use anyway.

My Parker fibre tip pen in need of a refill

How to give my precious Parker fibre tip pen a new lease of life? The obvious answer is to see if another kind of refill would fit, but there are so many variables (length, diameter, shoulder height, tip length, end cap design and so on) that I found it impossible to get an alternative.

Then I came across a very helpful precision engineer called Darryl Kingshott based in the UK. He describes himself as an ex-Parker Pen engineer and he manufactures individual adaptor sleeves to fit your choice of Parker pen and pen refill. His website shows many examples of his work at

http://www.moreengineering.co.uk/parker-fibre-tip-adaptors/4582872279

Turned brass spacer adaptor for the tip...Adaptor components can be precision-made to fit both the tip end, so your choice of refill sits properly, and also an extension piece may be needed at the cap-end to get the overall length right within the pen.

... and an alloy spacer piece for the endDarryl identified mine as a Parker P61 and offered to take a look. I also suggested the refill I’d like to use. I recommend Cult Pens for refills, so I chose a Schneider Slider 755 (blue). It needed to be something that would not go obsolete overnight. Also, the pen will only be used very intermittently so I hoped to avoid leaks.

The final result, new refill fitted with adaptorDarryl obtained the refill and then machine-turned suitable adaptors, one as polished brass to fit the gold-plated end of my pen, and an alloy extender for the cap. He also tweaked the pen clip a bit.  At a cost of less than £30 including recorded delivery, the pen was soon back in my hands, an old friend from 1978 ready for work once again.

Darryl’s friendly helpful service was terrific and is highly recommended – if you have a Parker pen and want to adapt it for a modern refill, you can get in touch directly with Darryl via his website.

Monday
Jun052017

Swan Teasmade spare teapot

What a palaver!

Need a teapot for one of these? (Swan STM200N)Somehow the ceramic teapot of our nine-month old Swan Teasmade (STM200N)  developed a crack. Worried that it might smash apart any time soon, it was time to source another. How hard could that be?

The Swan website states that no parts are available for my model, and the teapot’s part number quoted in the instructions STM200-01 didn’t exist either. Bother.

However the one for their earlier model (STM100N) was showing as currently in stock in their Spares section. But the Swan websites states it fits the STM100,  STM101 and STM102 [only]. Would it fit mine?

https://shop.swan-brand.co.uk/products/swan-ceramic-pot

Hunting round (as I do), it’s stated elsewhere (at the Kettle and Toaster Man website ) that the same pot also fits the STM200N. Time to call in some technical help...

Phoning the Swan-Brand helpline for Teasmade, the website shows a number of 0871 200 0003. But instead of calling a 10p/ minute number Swan’s Facebook page gives a customer services number of 01733 404 703 (aha!) which goes direct to their switchboard.

There a nice receptionist put me through to their ‘Technical Helpline’ which turned out to be....  a third party supplier easyspares.co.uk.  Anyway, they soon stated that they had no stock and didn’t know when any would arrive either; after quizzing them they confirmed that the STM100 and STM200 use identical teapots (not that they had any).

Easyspares website

Back to the Swan website, then, and I decided to order the elusive unlisted, unavailable teapot direct from Swan – they costs £14.99 with free postage and they claim they’re in stock, so I’ve duly paid by Paypal and will see what happens. Watch this space!

Thursday
Apr132017

Sarcastic reader's letter (1999)

I was rooting through files and found this 1999 letter, which as I recall related to me calling mains live as,  erm, 'live'  rather than 'Line' which the reader claimed was the correct term I should use.  I had pointed out that Line means something quite different to an audio or PA engineer, and most ordinary people understand mains live as 'live' too.

In my experience, I always found the rudest and most intolerant letters came from retired engineers with too much time on their hands. Anyway his reply amused me, so here it is.

[click to see]

 

Wednesday
Mar292017

Dreamweaver CS4 file sync errors: file in use by another process

Over the past few weeks some file syncing errors suddenly occurred where files were locked ‘in use by another process’. I tried all the usual culprits, numerous reboots, turning off every unwanted program, safe mode, checking Windows’ services, using Process Explorer but nothing cured this ‘file being used by another process’ error and my web sites risked getting into a mess.

Well I finally found the culprit after two weeks of problems! More details...

Tuesday
Mar282017

A very convincing spearfishing Word Macro attack

I received this very cunning spearphishing attempt in an Email addressed directly to me, containing what they reckoned was my home address and a Word file attachment called winstanley.dot  It also contains a legitimate-looking sender’s name and a Romanian email address which may have been spoofed, so I have omitted them.

The document seems to contain no virus (according to Kaspersky Anti Virus) but when I carefully peel back the lid, it soon becomes clear that it’s another Microsoft Word macro-laden document.  A macro is a series of commands designed to run like a mini-program as explained by Norton here.  The sequence of commands can also install harmful viruses.

If this was a genuine attempt by someone to warn me of a hack, there would be no need to run a macro in a simple document like this. The password-protection adds some authenticity to the scam.

To: Alan Winstanley  
Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2017 16:54:10 +0000
From: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Subject: Alan

Good day to you, Alan!

I am bothering you for a very significant matter. Allhough you don't know me, but I have considerable ammount of data concerning you. The fact is that, most probably mistakenly, the information of your account has been emailed to me.

For instance, your address is:

XXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXX
XXXXX
XXXX XXX

I am a law-abiding citizen, so I decided to alert may have been hacked. I pinned the file - Winstanley.dot that was sent to me, that you could explore what data has become available for deceivers. Document password is - 9583

Sincerely,

Vxxxxx Zxxxxxxx

By default, in my Word program macros are disabled, and you should do the same. Go to Options / Trust Center / Disable all macros from running.

This scam is a nice try and it would certainly fool some people.

 

Saturday
Jan212017

Stripboard Magic in Windows 7

If you're into using Veroboard or stripboard you may have come across the legacy 1990's program that helped you design circuit layouts - Stripboard Magic by Ambyr. Many people have struggled but it's not as hard as you may think to install it in Windows 7+ as I describe in my Hobby Electronics section here.

Tuesday
Jan172017

BT Call Protect eliminates junk calls - what's the catch?

This welcome new and long-overdue service from BT promises to intercept calls from known junk callers and divert them to a junk voicemail box instead. In theory you need never be bothered by nuisance calls again, or at least the mass-produced junk phone calls that bother us all too frequently. Read more about BT's new Call Protect service in my article.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Dec152016

Beware phony scam Speeding Ticket emails

Phony speeding ticket sent by email [it's safe to click to see]The latest scam doing the rounds is the phony speeding ticket. Several of these have arrived by email claiming to come from Greater Manchester Police (GMP). They are entirely bogus and if it wasn’t for the fact that they are perpetrated by thieving scumbags, one could almost admire their ingenuity.

DO NOT CLICK the button labelled ‘Examine Fixed Speed Camera Evidence’ as it clicks through to a hijacked website hosting a malicious script. That is how PCs get infected with viruses, ransomware, keyloggers and similar malware.

Just to be clear, the domain names used as the sender / evidence URL are spoofed, so don't blame them for the scam.

Watch out for these arriving in your Inbox and be sure to spread the word!

Wednesday
Dec072016

Will a Car Cane grab handle mobility aid fit my car?

If you have elderly family or relatives who struggle to get in or out of a car, this 'Car Cane' may be just the answer. It’s a very strong handle that simply drops into the door latch mounted on the bodyshell to give some leverage, and it provides a very sturdy and reassuring extra grab handle that helps people to get a secure handhold. Read the full details in my article.

Click to read more ...