Healing the divide

Having exited the European Union last night, amongst all the guff and jingoistic articles appeared one that seemed a little more thoughtful.

Reconciliation rather than polarisation seems to me to be the better approach, whether that is political systems, forms of governance, or belief systems.

Take a read at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-51281916

Accessing a Vigor 130 modem

As intimated earlier, my Vigor 130 modem is not accessible as it sits behind a router. The 130’s address range is 192.168.2.1/24, while my LAN sits on a 192.168.1.1/24 range.

Try 1

Although Draytek have an article about using tagged & untagged VLANs to access these modems behind routers, the setup didn’t work for me (I suspect their use of the ‘0’ VLAN tag as shorthand for an untagged VLAN didn’t work for the particular router I have).

Try 2

Instead, I want to set up a route policy and any requests for the address range of the modem should be passed back through the WAN2 interface to be resolved there. At least I think that is how it is done. Using Routing / Load-Balancing Route Policy I setup a policy so that any requests on the 192.168.2.1/24 range go via WAN2, and should go to the modem. However it doesn’t work.

Try 3

I think I have the wrong concept about the route policy and have to instead use a virtual WLAN such as WLAN5? An excellent article explained it better, however it was for another type of modem. Dantheperson’s explanation was that by adding a secondary static route and pointing that at the WAN interface, “Now when your PC routes the request for 192.168.0.1 to the router, the router knows it can access that address via the WAN interface, instead of forwarding it to the default “internet” interface.” This is what I want to do, however I think that the Vigor router uses the permanent virtual circuit (PVC) idea to do the same thing. So my current setup is Route Policy –> virtual WAN5 which sets up a VLAN on the WAN2 interface. It still doesn’t work.

Argggggh!

Strange latency spikes

I’ve purchased a new Vigor 2862Vac to be the main wireless and router at my house. I used to use a Fritz!Box 7390 and loved the ease of use combined with the technical power of the combined modem, router, firewall, VoIP and DECT base station. But things are getting older and with new VDSL/2 capabilities I have swapped from a cable connection to a fibre-to-the-cabinet through another provider, Andrews and Arnold. They are stupendously great, and techies all the way. Don’t expect any hand-holding.

But I’m starting to see some external wierdness after installing this new router. I have enabled ICMP from the WAN (ie. , being able to be pinged from the Internet) as I run an external monitor to test my broadband access from outside the home. This works using a Firebrick device that can sustain many thousands of ping requests per second and attempts to access my public internet address once per minute, then graphs the results.

The graph is showing some strange latency spikes:

Probes from outside

Although I haven’t noticed any particular instances of slowdowns locally, this is a little worrying as my graph was nice and clean before, and those yellow spikes are a little regular to me … in fact, too regular at 30 minute intervals every couple of hours.

So a little digging – I run a Vigor 130 modem on the front-end that does the VDSL dialling and syncing. This is great, as I can then take the signal via Ethernet connection into whatever I like: a switch, my own router, pfSense running on a PC, or a commercial AP/firewall such as the Vigor 2862Vac. What does cause an issue is that the Vigor 130 runs on its own IP address range, and once it passes the connection to the router it is no longer accessible. I need to access it to see if the spikes are coming from it or the router.

Options after Brexit

The Politico website has an excellent explanation of the options which the UK has to exit the EU. I’d like to present some slightly more unhinged things:

Become the 51st state of the US.

I think we are halfway there already. An American radio announcer on a local commercial radio this morning, quasi-imperial measurement system, and lots of US television – if Trump re-emerges after the mid-terms then he’d be open to the idea I am sure. Although, what we’d do with our remote representation would be difficult but I am sure that PM Boris can make matters work quickly.

Run an offshore tax haven

One of the more likely scenarios. Becoming the rogue state of Europe is in our blood (“Yarrgh”, pirates!) and we love the sea. We already run a pretty good operation in hiding who owns what world-wide, and this already had serious implications for global money laundering. We can ride on the whole ‘we have a financial centre of power’ for a few decades until the shutters would be brought down on our movement of money. SWIFT is based in Brussels, lest you imagine it is a US organisation.

Start a new Empire

It has a certain ring to it, the idea of resurrecting the Empire. Where shall we invade next? Perhaps Papua New Guinea has a small enough army and navy, and would welcome indentured servitude after we won the war and killed a few. Plantations are a good idea for population control and we’ve had our share of them over the years.

Thalassocracies have certain advantages as they have lots of access to coast lines – just ask the Russians about Crimea, and shipping can be controlled – just ask the Iranians about Gibraltar (or was that the Emirates about the Straits of Hormuz?). They also supply good remote outposts once the natives are removed (Diego Garcia anyone?) and blockades can be established on shipping lines. Getting the population to agree to war is easy, just look at the second invasion of Iraq!

Slink back to Europe after most voters are dead

This is based on the enthusiasm I note amongst the generations. Older seemed better informed, while younger are attached to the ideas of freedom of movement, and opportunities for growth which the EU represents.

Whatever emerges from the current battles and sets our course for the next decades, I am utterly certain that all voters in the 2016 referendum voted for what they saw as the way to make things better. Nobody voted to make things worse, and politicians of all stripes need to be aware of that.

Subversion

I’m fascinated by the subversion of power “by other means”. I’ve been told stories about the rise of Caesar and the replacement of the Senate by what essentially became a new king, when the whole system was set up to prevent exactly that. Political infighting and the inevitable “all that matters is me” led to the downfall of a democratic system and the rise of an imperial one.

Another example is the rise of the largest commercial army in the world at the time of the British East India Company, of which my own family profited as they formed part of the management in India and lived there for some time. Of course, without a lot of digging around I don’t know that they took part in the growing and harvesting of poppies (which the depressing Sea of Poppies novel details well) and so don’t understand if the British Empire’s imposition of drug selling into the opium dens of China is part of my history. Even dear old Queen Vic herself refused to listen to the pleads of the Chinese to stop the trade. But the transfer of Hong Kong to the British for winning the right to impose hard drug sales into China was one outcome which we exploited to our benefit.

Today I learned that the US Constitution says that a Census must take place every 10 years, and that this census is used to then establish the size of voting representation and so avoid the wonderful practice of “gerrymandering” an electoral area to ensure your side of the political divide wins. Mr Gerry had it good, and could draw his salamanders all over the electoral map. Trump has to manipulate further upstream to ensure that census data has worrying questions that will put off Democratic party voters, so meaning that there is less of them in areas where the GOP isn’t winning the vote. Ah, politics – doing evil in plain sight and then holding celebration rallies to glorify the whole thing. Twas ever so!

It looks as if these emerald English isles will soon resound to the gleeful cries of pirates again. Having tut-tutted for so long in our hypocritical way about Russian oligarchs (while welcoming their Chelsea homes), we’ve found a way to do it ourselves! After all, as we sail away from Europe on the good ship Britannia we can establish our own off-shore money schemes and do what the Caribbean held a monopoly on for so long. Get thee into finance – I predict a great future, even if a little murky.

VR

I been using my VR (Virtual Reality) setup more. Having brought it several years ago when Bitcoin was at a peak I could cash some in and purchase an expensive item without authorisation from my wife. Having used it with around 30 or so purchased games, and more I’ve come to realise what works best in Virtual Reality.

Toys.

Toys, or more specifically miniature models in a VR environment, work well because they are unreal. In those games you act like a sort of ‘giant’ that manoeuvres an environment to progress the game, perhaps by removing obstacles for your mini protagonist or remotely causing them to battle or manipulate something around them. It gives the experience of a space where your expectations are that you’ve never been there before, so you are not prepared to compare what you are seeing with what you are feeling. Nothing clashes.

Compare that with games that mimic an environment. Having played a fair share of standard PC games ported to the environment there are quite a few that fall flat. Take the space exploration genre, for example – this is replete with with efforts where you physically move through nicely depicted environments and float along by grasping handholds, or using jet packs. While that’s nice, it can be nausea inducing and actually the contrast between your actual body experiencing gravity and the visual simulation of your eyes makes it less than enjoyable. ‘You’ clash with you, as seen through your eyes.

I’ve just prepurchased the game Alyx from Valve to try on my setup when it releases. I did this for a couple of reasons – I like Valve games such as Half Life and enjoy the immersion of it all, and also I am reassembling my VR set up into a better room. Take a look at Skyrim in VR – it is also outstanding! Others that I like that use the idea of ‘toys’ are ones like Moss and A Fisherman’s Tale where the environment is unreal or fantasy. For some reason my immersion is better in those environments than when they try to mimic real life.

Perhaps we should be happy and say VR ≠ real life.

Of sealing wax, and cabbages

I’ve a new phone, and that means a new phone charging stand.

Although the EU standardised on a common external power supply for small electronic consumer devices in 2009, followed by many international and national standards bodies, my new phone uses the USB-C plug. This isn’t a problem as I use a USB charger that has five slots from which I can run either micro-USB or USB-C cables, depending on the need.

What is far more interesting is the charging stand.

For every new phone that I purchased either for work or leisure, I had to replace the charging cable and get a new one for my work backpack, buy a new phone cover, get a new desk charging stand plus a new car holder while driving. This added considerably to the cost of a new unit but was often overlooked. Since retirement I’ve done away with a lot of these distractions and instead:

  1. Use a universal car holder without active power. The reason I can do this is that new phones:
    • hold their charges for much longer, up to 3-5 days for some Huawei phones, and
    • I don’t drive as much, and journeys are shorter.
  2. I still get a new, custom fit phone cover.
  3. Buy a generic desk stand which I adapt using Sugru. These stands are much cheaper than the branded ones and with some plastic magic easily adaptable to the shape of the new phone.

This is how it is done.

First you need the phone to be in its cover, as the dimensions will fit exactly to the outside of the holder. Place the Sugru into appropriate areas of the holder – for me it was the rear kickstand which supports the phone at a correct angle to engage with the USB connector, and the bed of the USB connector. Depending on what generic stand you get this may be different.

Using cling flim, Saran wrap or whatever it is called in your country then cover the back of the phone and press it into the bed of the stand, engaging the USB connector and allowing it to rest gently on the back of the stand. I then leave them for a short time, perhaps several minutes, and gently remove the phone and cover allowing the cling film to stay for some while longer.

Once the Sugru has gone ‘green’ (easily able to be cut but not so hard that it is difficult to work with) then I trim off unneeded parts and neaten. The photos show a couple of examples of a micro-USB and USB-C stand for specific phones. The overall fit is tailored and exact which reduces the strain on the power connector and prolongs the life of the phone.

Egg robot Number 1

The first egg robot was hatched when Bruce Shapiro in 1990 dreamed up the Eggbot™. Bruce published it as an open-source design for both software and hardware however the name is trademarked. While it is available for purchase as a whole machine, I wanted to see if I could 3D print one myself since the initial cost was large.

I found another design by Probot that seemed to do a reasonable job, and although many of the other ones such as the SphereBot are larger this one seemed to produce reasonable quality and I had most of the parts:

  • 308zz bearings
  • 3D printer to print parts
  • Arduino
  • silicon egg cups moulds
  • stepper motors
  • stepper motor controllers

… and that was about it. Most of those I had, the rest I could order easily (for example, I had Nema-17 steppers and this only required 28byj-48 ones, either 5V or 12V). So, in a fit of decision I launched into building it and surprised myself with how quickly it came together.

The base and cover are easy to print with the sides of the cover bending into a living hinge. The ends are bolted shut and there is a sliding swing arm and end stanchion. The living hinge is an interesting design choice which leads me to believe that the designers were very familiar with 3D printing as it avoids overhangs in the upright sections of the print. It does make a very neat and attractive package when finished.

The challenge comes because of the interaction between different things which were not designed together: hardware and software. The original hardware has an actual PCB created to control the movement, whereas the design I am using replaces that with an Arduino running software called EggDuino. That software has to emulated the responses and obey the commands expected from the original PCB so that it can print things. All this is controlled by an extension to the open-source software called InkScape that sends commands to the egg-robot! Lots of moving parts in this design and 3 different things created by different people does give lots of room for error. So the process goes like this:

Inkscape → Eggbot extension → Arduino running EggDuino → egg

The ‘tail stock’ – if this were a lathe – is based on a printed part with a 308zz bearing inside. The 308zz are a very common type of bearing, sometimes called ‘skateboard bearings’ as they are ubiquitously used for skateboard wheels.

Once completed the whole machine is connected to a computer by USB cord and you use Inkscape to create and print the eggs.

Ties

My collection of ties

I have this collection of ties hanging behind my study door. A couple of observations: I don’t use them much anymore, and secondly – it doesn’t matter.

Long before I left regular work I had noticed that men’s ‘uniform’ for business was changing. Gone were the suited-and-booted approach with winged-tipped oxfords, gone were the vests and suspenders, gone were the extensive range of ties worn every day to work (matched against colour, or themed to fit the sort of environment – oh, and always try to slightly outdress the customer since going the other way was a cardinal crime). Even one of the account execs with whom I worked remarked that they hardly ever put on a tie to visit a customer now, and they would have mixed with CEOs and financial industry heavyweights much of the time.

So one of the things which I grew up understanding was needed to move into the world of work, then changed rapidly when the time came.

Men’s ‘costumes’ always seemed out of kilter with working women’s ability to chose between a range of appropriate attire. While they could chose dresses and blouses, we chose suits. While they could include slacks or skirts, we chose suits. While they could wear cardigans or sweaters, we chose suits.

Ties now seem limited to christenings, funerals and weddings. The “hatch them, match them, and dispatch them” mantra of the modern approach to ritual and ceremony. Beyond that, they seem consigned to the grave.

Blutack and masking tape

I’ve started masking the base PCB of my WiFi doorbell and I am using both masking tape and Blutack. I discovered the Blutack while going through my stationery drawer looking for something similar to the latex masking fluid which is used in real electronic waterproofing. I had thought of using an eraser which would be soft and pressed onto the micro-USB port would mostly seal against the conformal spray. The Blutack is now my best friend for masking, even if the spray dissolves it some and leaves it sticky – but the easiest way to remove Blutack is using more Blutack, which worked very well on the PCB board.

I decided to leave the camera alone as it was already in a unit, and previous experience has taught me that getting near lenses with any type of fluid or compound invariably means that you leave smears, no matter how careful. As it is a single unit I’ll seal around its seating and hope that that helps prevent major water ingress into the rest of the mechanism. If the video feed fails, I’ll know better next time!

The speaker at the bottom is also hard to waterproof: cover it in conformal fluid or seal it in somehow would mean that it likely could not be heard, and similarly for the microphone which needs to vibrate to detect speaking. I’ll simply seal around the edges of those components and hope that their internals are okay with a little moisture.

Miniature speaker at bottom of unit

The door-press button is difficult, as it needs to move to trigger the micro-switch, but isn’t sealed around its edge – I assume that rain against the front of the unit seeps through capillary action around the edges and into the major internal space, and thence via condensation onto other surfaces. That’s bad, as it possibly means I cannot seal one of the areas of major ingress.

Press button is … difficult

Experimenting is fun, so I am going to try a thin film of plastic wrap (sometimes called ‘cling film’ here – other names elsewhere!) glued to the rear of the face plate to see if that works. The plastic film should bend enough to allow depressing the micro-switch, but the real challenge will be getting it sealed against the back of the face plate. I will try a rim of silicone sealant to which I will press a square of plastic film.

Overall the task took me the whole day. While that seems a little crazy (and you may prefer watching box sets on television), I saw it as a learning exercise and bit of a challenge! I’ve thought through how to waterproof a very difficult piece of equipment and although the proof that it’s successful still remains, I am overall pleased with the result and would attempt something similar with greater skill.

The doorbell does work now and I have tested it both via pressing the push button and the mobile app. Bring on the rain!