Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Night in Bristol

I found myself in Bristol last night - last minute work thing. After work I managed to catch up with C from Unisys and SB from Uni. C is still running his own marketing business and SB has a new flat near a "massage" parlour!!!!

Good fun catching up with people you have not seen for years - will have to come and visit more often! Oh, also ate a Buffalo burger - interesting.... tastes like beef to be honest :)

Friday, September 26, 2008

iPod Nano / iPhone 3G - not charging

New car - new ipod - dealer interface - what could go wrong? Well, it turns out that Apple have changed their hardware interface on new models. This means that although my devices play music through the car's stero they will not chrage whilst they are plugged in. Bummer! Some digging around provided the answer...

Apple are phasing out FireWire charging. Older units could take this 12V supply and charge from it - very useful for car manufacturers. Now Apple are only using the lower voltage (5V) USB supply. So, your device works but you get a message saying it will not charge.

The solution seems simple - create an in-line plug that hijacks the 12V line, through a resistor drops it to 5V and supplies it to the USB pins. Problem is - where to find one!

Well, a bit of searching took me to RIDAX who provide the only one I can find. It is expensive (about £30 inc shipping) but looks high quality and even allows you to plug an external 5V input should you need it - giving charge capability to those devices that never had it. All other pins simply pass-through so everythign else should be unaffected.

Let's hope it works - it arrives in a week or so...

UPDATE: works great - added benefit is that you can attach a normal mini-usb cable to it and it will charge and sync from the PC - one less cable to carry around now as I can leave the apple cable at home.

Suunto Core - broken!

My Suunto Core (orange/black) watch broke! The top right button stopped working. I contacted the shop who advised it best to use Suunto's on-line support. Well, they were right. After filling in one on-line form I was given a PDF with all the return docs and a number to call for DHL. DHL are coming to pick it up this morning - all for free including packaging. Not bad at all - and they think they'll get it back to me in about a week.

iPod Nano

My new iPod turned up today - a black 16GB 4th Gen Nano. It is lovely and curvy and for once I can get my whole music collection on - for now. It also allows me to play movies/shows on it - although the screen is small it is usable.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

SatMap Active 10 Arrives...

I think you know what happens next - yep, I bought one. Got the base unit, the hi-power battery pack, the bike-mount and a 1:25,000 map of Hertfordshire. Am now off to make sure it is running the latest firmware and see if it is hackable :) Awesome!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

SatMap Active 10

Am getting more and more into this mountain biking thing and as a result I am starting to venture further and further - usually in the dark and rain. In these circumstances a folded paper map is sometimes not always as good as you'd wish. Enter the realm of the portable GPS device. These come in many flavours but this one - the SatMap Active 10 - is the only one that gives you a *real* OS map and a large screen. I think I have spotted my next toy :)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Whilst navigating my way around the 'ring' I put my sat-tracker on. As you can see from the pics below I did a pretty cautious lap of this famous circuit :) My time was around 14:30. However, let's put this in context - a new car, new tyres and brakes and no wish to prematurely shorten its life. Add that to the insane closing speeds between me (the slowest thing on track) and the likes of a GT3RS doing 100mph more and you can see that I spent most of my time looking behind me! Good fun though and nice to say I've done it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mercedes Collection - UK Reg

The final chapter was this morning (Monday). I took the new car to Mercedes in Stevenage and handed it over for pre-delivery checks and to get my UK registration. It took forever but after a couple of hours I was handed the keys to my new car - fully road legal.

The entire collection process had been flawless. Mercedes UK/Germany pulled off seamless handovers form flights to taxis to hotels to the ferry - everything EVERYTHING was perfect. J and I had an awesome time driving through Europe and by the I got home I was fully acclimatised to my new steed. If anyone ever gets the chance to do this - JUMP AT IT. It will give you an adventure to remember!

Mercedes Collection - Day 3

We woke up and to our surprise found a huge breakfast awaiting us. Fuelled up, we headed to the Nurburgring F1 circuit to see the SF qualifying. We didn't expect to see much but ended up seeing all sorts. In between practice and qualifying was a stunt bike team doing mad stuff (see pics linked in title). We left around 10:30 and headed for Calais.

There were two ways to Calais, the fast way or through the Black Forest - we chose the latter. Once through the forests we realised that we were a mere 30KM from the border of Luxembourg - and cheap fuel. So, we headed to a town on the border to fill up. When we arrived we kept going - until we were in Luxembourg city - we stopped for lunch. Our lunch never came - after 45 mins of waiting in a cafe we gave up and headed off. We stopped in a service station before crossing back to Belguim, filled up with fuel and bought snacks.

Belguim was boring - we got stuck in traffic and there was little to look at. Brussels - which we ringed - was busy. After many MANY hours we crossed to France. At this point we had missed our 15:50 ferry - it was 20:00. We raced to the port and managed to get a place on the 20:45. Apparenlty so had most of the rest of the world - the ferries were super busy due to the ongoing problems with the tunnel. Still, we had club lounge passes which saved the day - with Force 6 earlier the entire downstairs in the ferry stank of puke :( After a glass of champagne and 90 mins to relax we landed on UK soil. Customs (amazingly) let our temp-plate A-Class roll right through and by midnight we were home - exhausted.

Mercedes Collection - Day 2

I woke up early - and excited. Breakfast was downed promptly and we took a quick walk around the town before heading back to meet our Taxi. By 10:00 we were in the collection centre - they seemed surprised/pleased to have an Englishman present. Turns out they serve 250 collections a day here and it is most unusual for there to be anyone other than elderly Germans. I filled in the insurance forms and was thanked for being so young! We then had a factory tour - where J and I got lost. Finally we saw my car in the delivery hall. It was there for 5 mins with two people pointing and phoning before it was driven away again! 15 mins later it returned sporting the headlight deflectors allowing me to drive in Germany at night.

We had a charming lady hand the car over - she was nervous of speaking English but mostly of having to drive a car with the wheel on the wrong side :) Luckily she successfully managed even the auto-parking demo. We set off for Hockenheim - our first stop. En-route we hit autobahns - and 112mph (NICE!).

There was nothing happening at Hockenheim so we set off to our next stop - the Nurburgring. Here we put in a tourist-lap and got the sticker to prove it. It would appear that all the Porches in the world were visiting. We then hung out by the track watching before heading to our hotel for the night.

The hotel is famous - you can see it in all the console games - and it was deserted when we turned up. Finally we found someone to let us in and settled into our room. For dinner we found an Italian restaurant just down the road - who only took cash. Whilst there we were sat next to an elderly chap - who pointed and shouted "Tommy. you Tommy yes!". When we politely pretended to not understand he gesticulated at himself shouting "Hitler, military, Tommy - yes!". We agreed and tried to get on with our beer - someone should have told *him* to mot mention the war - I had all sorts of Fawlty Towers jokes running around my head :) We got back to the hotel (still dead), drank our emergency beers (stashed from the lounge in T5) and watched Star Wars - on telly - in German...

Mercedes Collection - Day 1

After dropping the MINI off J and I made our way to LHR's T5. Here we checked into the BA lounge and started on a few drinks and snacks. T5 is huge with plenty of shops - before we knew it the plane was ready for us. The flight was good - we had champagne. In Stuttgart we were met by the taxi that drove us an hour to Rastatt. We checked into the hotel and grabbed some dinner - steak for me :) After that we went for a walk, found a bar and then ended up in the only place open after 23:00 - an Irish Pub!!! We drank Guinness and Kilkenny.

Mercedes Collected

Just a quick post to let you all know that J and I made it from Germany back to the UK (via Belgium, France and Luxembourg) in one piece. The new car didn't miss a beat and is great to drive. more pics and stories to follow as and when I get time...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

MINI gone...

With just under 64,000 miles, 0 miles of fuel left in the tank (well, actually 0 turned up as I left Knebworth so it is more like -3 miles) and 3 years and 9 days old I handed the MINI over this morning. I am very sad to see it go - it has been such a fun car to drive. I'll miss its crazy under steer, ability to carry speed through roundabouts and the hugging you got from the sports seats. I'll also miss its retro looks and sculpted interior. One thing I won't miss is the lack of space for my right leg on motorways - about the only thing I can say I did not like about the car.

This afternoon I fly to Stuttgart and then on Friday I pick up the A-Class straight from the factory. Home again on Sat. One chapter begins as the other closes...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Murder Mystery at A's

We went to A's for a Murder Mystery dinner party on Sat night. The scene was a local Australian TV mogul had been murdered at his party. We all had a motive but who was the killer!!!! I was Bruce Didgeridoo (musician/songwriter) and K was Alice Springs (beauty queen and 3rd in Miss Australia). M also turned up and was Di Agnosis (flying doctor). L was Dame Edna Average (opera singer). A was Stavros Kebab (TV celebrity chef and our host) and the other A was Mad Max Melbourne (a famous cricketer) and R was Miles Behind (an athlete). We started with a pork terrine, then had duck for main course and a proper toffee pudding for desert. Excellent fun - I ate far too much! More pics liked in title.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Diamond Extended Battery

The extended battery for my Diamond came today (3 days earlier than the Europe release date??!). The battery is bigger and comes with a new back for the phone. This is about 3mm deeper than the standard one so the phone looks a bit more chunky. It boosts the battery from 930mAh to 1340mAh - about 40% more. This should allow me to run my sat-nav tracking software for much longer bike rides :)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Neoguard and Tora (and clean bike)

I cleaned the bike this lunchtime - it needed it after two outings this week - there was an inch of mud stuck to the bottom of the frame! I also fitted the Neoguard that turned up in this morning's post. It'll stop water and mud from spraying me in the face when zooming along. I couldn't resist going for the evil eyes one :) You can also see my Cateye Tora head-lamp - it is excellent in the forests at night!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

iPod Nano 4G and iTunes 8

Apple announced the new iPod Nano 4g yesterday - the one I have been waiting for. I have ordered a 16GB in black to match the new car. Also downloaded iTunes 8.

I don't know what it is with iTunes - but even this new version killed my machine after the install and required 2 reboots to fix. Seems ok now though??

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Bike Insurance

I have sorted bike insurance with ETA (link in title). This has proven difficult. The bike is kept in my locked shed, but as it is of wooden construction many insurers would only insure it if the bike was attached to an immovable object via an approved lock. The lock was not a problem but the object was - most stipulated it must be rooted in either concrete or stone and not un-doable. This rules out any attachment I can bolt into the wooden shed. ETA came to the rescue. As long as the bike is out of sight and behind a locked (any lock) door then it is insured as theft would involve forced entry. When away from home the lock (an Abus Granit Steel-o-flex 1000 - came today) is all that is needed. Awesome...

PS - it also comes with free cycle-breakdown cover to get me home in the event of a mechanical failure :) AHAHAHAHAHAHA!


Am fed up with spray in my eyes on the bike - so have ordered a Neoguard (link in title). It is apparently very good. I went for the evil eyes limited edition one :)

Monday, September 08, 2008


I have decided that this TrackMe software is excellent - as such you can always see my last route by clicking this link - I have also added it to section on the right. TrackMe Link

The only downside is that I have had to order the extended life battery for my phone to get over the max 3 hour limit :)

Friday, September 05, 2008

Endura Hummvee 3/4

It's starting to get a bit cold in the evening and shorts are perhaps not the best thing for these longer rides. So, I found a 3/4 version of the shorts I have. This is good as they have the same excellent pockets and share the inner padded shorts (so I can swap and change as and when).

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Knebworth Estate Biking

Went out for a short run tonight (8ish miles) around the back of Knebworth Estate. Good fun but wet and muddy after the rain.

Will have to plan a better route next time as there were too many anti-cycle gates that we had to negotiate. A did well - right up until we stopped at the pub and he fell off in front of everyone on some flat tarmac!

Broke Back Mountain Biking!

Have just come back from the Doctor's - you know that silly accident I had on the first day out with my bike - pulled the wheelie, over the back, landed on my bum still clipped in? Well, the pain in my back has not gone away from it so I thought I should get it looked at. At the best case it is a torn muscle, at the worst a fractured bone (one of the little ones off the side of my spine)! Sounds worse than it is though - *luckily* it is in the top of my spine which is much better than if it had been in the lower part. Either way there is nothing I can do for it other than wait for it to heal - maybe another 2 to 3 weeks. Also good is that I should not have to refrain from cycling or doing anything else - it's just going to be uncomfortable for a bit longer...

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Mercedes Collection - SORTED!

It's all booked and confirmed. J and I will be travelling with BA, business class, to Stuttgart. From there we pick a taxi to Rastatt for an overnight in a local hotel. The next morning we get the factory tour and pick up the new car. From there we head North to the Hockenheim F1 circuit. Form there North-West to the Nurburgring where we plan to do a sightseeing lap. After that we are staying at one of the most famous Ring hotels (the one you can see on every console game of the ring - see picture). We'll drink beer and watch the public lapping the ring from the balcony until 19:45 when it closes for the night. The next morning we scoot through Belgium and then France to catch the Eurotunnel back. A great weekend trip!

TrackMe Software

Another good night ride yesterday. I trialled a new bit of software - TrackMe - that sits on my phone. Every 30s it uploads my GPS fix to a website. This allows me to track the route (see below) but also for someone to see me moving in real-time :) K watched me ride to the woods on her Mac until she got bored. Only problem is that with phone, GPS and GPRS all on the battery life is not great - it managed about 2 hours off a full charge. So, I think I'll try the offline mode which saves the data upload until you are home.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Night Tour of Hertfordshire

In order to test the new clothes J and I went for a 16 mile jaunt around Herts this evening. We left at 20:15 and got back by 22:30 - not too bad considering it was mostly off road. The woods were the darkest I have ridden in tonight (clouds and no moon) - it was certainly a bit spooky, roots looked massive and dips were just black holes. Still, didn't fall off once :)

Monday, September 01, 2008

New clothes....

J and I went shopping tonight to Evans. I wanted a set of full-finger gloves and maybe a new top. In the end I got both and a gortex jacket.

The gloves - Specialzed BG Ridge - are very light and breathable and have a pad on your wrist which is perfectly positioned for where you rest your hands on the handlebar. They have a suede palms and nice grippy fingers.

The fox jersey is AWESOME! It has an inner shell which is tight and sucks the sweat from you. The outer shell is breathable and keeps you cool. Inside there are pockets and a special iPod port with cable routing. This is the best bit of clothing I have bought - kept me warm when we stopped and cool when we rode - simply brilliant - and on sale at the moment in Evans!

The Gore Wear jacket is a simple black gortex jacket - it folds up small and is totally wind and rain proof. Its breathability allows you to wear it on a long ride without having to stop and take it off/put it on all the time. Also on sale at the moment :)

Sunday morning exercise

I woke up this morning to drizzle and a light fog in the air - perfect for some morning exercise. Hopped on the bike to find the rear wheel deflated. Actually it had punctured the evening before but it turns out the patches I have are more like 'get you home' gear than a permanent fix. So, I replaced the inner tube (noting that the factory supplied one was a 1.5-1.75" tube in my 2.2" tyres????). Half an hour later I took this shot whilst I rested. I think I have the shoe clips sorted now - today was the first day I have not fallen off at all :)