Charging batteries is surprisingly thrilling…

…when you have the Technoline i-charger (aka La Crosse BC 900).

Blogging Computing Guidance Useful Information

My bookmarklets

I used the Complete extension to assist me in posting to I could right-click a page, choose “Post this to” and a handy dialog came up, prepopulated with the URL, title, and description (populated from whatever text was selected on the page at the time). This was perfect for my needs.

Since upgrading to Firefox 3.0, it seems that the only compatible extensions are the ones that “integrate” your bookmarks in an intrusive fashion. I don’t want integration. I want the exact opposite. I want total disintegration. So I’ve gone back to using bookmarklets.

I basically use for two things. Firstly, I use it as a todo list. I post links with the “do not share this” flag set, and tagged “todo”, so that I can look at them later. This is the bookmarklet that I now use for this task:

Bookmarklet #1

I got it here. It’s not perfect though. It doesn’t seem to work the first time you use it in a session. I guess this is related to the fact that it uses https. It also pops up an alert at the end that says “OK, tagged as todo” whether it actually succeeded or not. I tried removing this alert, and the bookmarklet stopped working. Can’t fathom why.

On to the second bookmarklet:

Bookmarklet #2

This one is much more straightforward. It just opens a window containing a small “post” dialog, prepopulated in the same way as the old Complete extension. It doesn’t use https, so it never asks me for my login details. The window closes when you post it.

I just thought that I’d post these bookmarklets here, partly for my own reference, and maybe because someone else might find them useful at some point.

Blogging Guidance TITGIG

Possible WordPress date formatting bug

As you have noticed, I do not display the time on my posts – just the date. However, anything published between midnight and 5am gets the words “in the small hours” appended to the datestamp, to indicate that even though it was technically posted on date D according to some atomic clock in a large city in Europe, it was posted on D-1 according to my internal daily rhythms.

To implement this, I use the function `get_the_time(‘G’)`. This should return a number between 0 and 23 which indicates the hour of the post’s timestamp. However, this stopped working, and it would actually return a very large number (of the order of about 1.1 billion) so the test failed. I don’t know whether this was caused by the upgrade to WordPress 2.5, or my recent move to a different server.

I managed to “fix” the problem by commenting out the following few lines near the top of `mysql2date` (defined in `wp-includes/functions.php`)

if( ‘G’ == $dateformatstring ) {
return gmmktime(
(int) substr( $m, 11, 2 ), (int) substr( $m, 14, 2 ), (int) substr( $m, 17, 2 ),
(int) substr( $m, 5, 2 ), (int) substr( $m, 8, 2 ), (int) substr( $m, 0, 4 )

However, this is not the ideal solution. Firstly, it’s hard to know if this change is causing a breakage elsewhere in the system (where the code relies upon this apparent bug). Secondly, when I upgrade to a new version of WordPress, I have to remember to fix the new `functions.php`

I discovered a better solution to the problem. I put `functions.php` back to its original state, and then replaced my calls to `get_the_time(‘G’)` with `get_the_time(‘G ‘)` – note the added space. `$dateformatstring != ‘G’` but the function returns the desired result. Get in.

I would report this on the WordPress support forums but I can’t be bothered to create an account.

*Update: I’ve discovered that the offending block of code was added for WordPress 2.5 to address this issue.*


How To Leave Pipex: Part 5

The refund did eventually materialise, and it only took five weeks. It felt like longer, but I suppose that’s because I live in an ideal world where such a simple task (type in an account ID, verify that you owe them money, click a button to create a transaction of the specified amount) should take five minutes at most.

Maybe they read this website.

*Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.*

Displeasure Guidance

How To Leave Pipex: Part 4

Of course, it’s never that simple. The Pipex business model, like that of most letting agents, revolves around *surprising* you out of a few quid at the tail end of your contract.

Here’s how it works. When you sign the Pipex contract, you agree to give 30 days notice. Those 30 days begin on the day when you **receive** the MAC code. So when I received my MAC code on the 26th November, they scheduled my account to close on the 26th December.

So even though they ceased to provide me with a service on the 13th December (when the changeover took place) they were going to keep charging me for the next two weeks. Okay, I’m not entirely happy about it, but it’s what’s in the contract, so other than appealing to their good nature, there’s not much I can do.

But Pipex have one last trick up their sleeve. When my billing date came around (19th December) they weren’t going to just take payment for the remaining week of my contract. Oh no. They were going to take a month’s payment, and I was then permitted to request a pro-rata refund for the unused period (ie 26th December to 19th January). Unsurprisingly, this refund has not yet materialised, despite my best efforts.

So the one piece of advice that I would offer to anyone planning to leave Pipex is to request your MAC code 5 working days ((Pipex are obliged, by law, to give you the MAC code within 5 working days)) before your billing date (rather than a week after) and then, if you wish to minimise “overlap”, set the changeover date to be as late as possible. In my case, I should have requested the MAC code around the 12th of the month so that my contract came to an end just before my billing date, rather than a week after.

Pipex are ruthless bastards, and will use all the tricks at their disposal to wring every last penny out of you. Don’t expect any mercy from them.

*Continues here.*

*Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.*

Displeasure Guidance

How To Leave Pipex: Part 3

Your changeover date will arrive. You can monitor the progress of your order using your new ISP’s “Order Status” page, and they will probably also email you when the migration is complete. Oh, and your Pipex connection will stop working.

At this point, enter your new connection details into your router’s setup page, and watch in wonder as Internet connectivity returns! Joy!

Now cancel your Pipex Direct Debit. Barring any mishaps, our work here is done.

*Continues here.*

*Part 1, Part 2.*

Displeasure Guidance

How To Leave Pipex: Part 2

If you are lucky, an email from arrives with the subject line “Migration Away Confirmation”. It contains a few paragraphs saying words to the effect of “We’re sorry you’re leaving, are you sure we can’t persuade you to change your mind?” It also contains a delicious MAC code, of the format ABCD0123456/EF78G. The email also contains a reminder that if you are still in the first 12 months of your contract then there will be a cancellation charge to pay. It would be extortion, if it weren’t for the fact that you agreed to it in the contract.

Sign up with your new ISP

This, hopefully, is the last contact that you will ever have with Pipex. All you need to do now is hop over to the website for your new supplier, enter in your details on their signup page, including this MAC code, and then choose a switchover date. It needs to be within the next 30 days, as MAC codes have an expiry date. Don’t worry about downtime – there shouldn’t be more than half an hour between the Pipex service terminating and the new service commencing.

Go to your new supplier’s web page and note down any changes to the settings that you will need for your router. You will also get an email from your new supplier with the new username and password. These will need to be entered into your router when the relevant time comes. You may find that there is an overlap, during which you can use both your old and new ISP, but it’s safest to assume that you won’t, so make sure that you have paper copies of everything that you might need.

Your new ISP should have an “Order Status” page, which you should follow on the changeover date, but the ultimate test will be to enter your new username and password into your router and try to connect.

*Continues here.*

*Part 1 is here.*

Displeasure Guidance

How To Leave Pipex: Part 1

14 months ago, I moved house. Pipex don’t offer a “Move House” service, as such – you have to cancel your own account and start a new one. Pipex are one of the few ISPs who still enforce a 12 month minimum contract, and as a result, I found myself once again chained in. I wish that I had been thinking a bit more clearly that day.

My Pipex contract is “unlimited”. This means that I can download as much data as I want. Oh, but then there’s a Fair Use Policy, which means that if I’m downloading “too much”, where “too much” is calculated by some magic secret formula, they can put me on the slow pipe. Oh, and they cap peer-to-peer traffic to about 10KB/s in the evenings, which is exactly when I want to be using it. Nice.

Basically, they’re unable, or unwilling, to supply what they originally sold me. So I’ve found someone competent, and today I began the process of migrating.

Phone Pipex

Phone Pipex on 0845 072 2865. Press the relevant buttons to get through to the right department. Ask for your MAC code. They’ll ask you why you’re leaving, and you tell them why. Be as polite as possible – remember that the person that you are on the phone to has feelings too, and they are not personally responsible for the atrocity that is Pipex. They will tell you that they are sending your MAC code in an email, and it will take up to five working days. You ask them why it takes five days, and why they can’t just tell you the code over the phone. They reply “Ofcom allows us five days to send you a MAC code.” You may have noticed that this does not actually answer the question, but hey ho, so it goes.

For the next five days, watch your inbox, and Spam folder, like a hawk.

*Continues here*.

Displeasure Guidance Meander

How to obtain a Bankers Draft

1. Walk into the bank at 9:02 in the morning. Walk straight up to the enquiries desk, and tell the lad behind it (who, incidentally, is young enough to be your son) that you want to arrange a bankers draft to buy a house.
2. He will ask for ID. You give him your bank card and driving license. He disappears into the locked-down area, calling back over his shoulder “It will take about 15 minutes.”
3. Loiter.
4. A couple of minutes later, he will reappear with a form. Eventually you will manage to wrap your head round it, and fill it in. He disappears with the form again.
5. Loiter.
6. Twenty minutes later, he will reappear and give you back your ID. He will tell you that the system is just checking your signature, and it will take a couple of minutes. He disappears.
7. Loiter. Wish you had brought a book.
8. Twenty minutes later, he reappears with a slim brown envelope. He asks you to check it.
9. You check the amount carefully.
10. You are distinctly underwhelmed by this thing. It’s basically just a cheque without your signature on it. It appears that you are going to have to deliver this thing yourself. You ask, and lad confirms.
11. 9:45 – Anticlimax.

Ewan Food Guidance

Crumble With Ewan

*Ewan The Shark is currently on holiday in Peru, so he has given me precise instructions on how to create a fruit crumble.*

Hi guys. I’m here today to teach you to make a fruit crumble. First, kidnap its mother.

**Only kidding!**

First, preheat your oven to 180°C. Yes, that’s right – for the first time ever on CWE, we are actually going to use the oven, or as I sometimes like to call it, a hotness box.

We’re going to use an **old metal takeaway container** to cook this guy, so the quantities of ingredients are calculated using that size dish as a basis.

Watch as my assistant pours about **100g of plain flour** into a bowl.


…followed by about **40g of butter**. The butter should be at room temperature – any cooler than this, and you’ll have a hell of a time mixing it all together.


Use your hands to blend this all together. Experiment with your own particular technique, but be prepared that your fins will be all buttery and doughy by the end of this step. Wash them before and after. You are aiming for something that looks like this: