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A Convenient Coincidence

Story location: Home / Blog / films /

We were watching An Inconvenient Truth on DVD. Today's Dilbert cartoon seemed remarkable appropriate:

Dilbert Cartoon

First Egg

Story location: Home / Blog / quail /

I went upstairs to check on the quail when I noticed an egg in the bottom of the cage. This was a bit of a surprise, although our older quail are getting close to the age when they start laying.

They'll need to lay a few more before we can cook any, unless we want a very small omelette…

First quail egg

Half Term

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /

It normally takes us around 30-45 minutes to drive to the University in the mornings. We normally encounter bottlenecks of traffic near the railway station, along Kenilworth road near the A45, and on Charter Avenue. This week it has only taken around 10 minutes to do the same drive, with no hold-ups anywhere.

We were wondering where all the traffic had gone, then it occurred to us that it was school half term. Some of the decrease in traffic would be due to people taking time off work to take their children on holiday, but I'm sure most of it is due to the absence of parents driving their kids to school.

I find it amazing that all the extra 'school run mums' add enough traffic to make the roads grind to a halt and increase journey time by a factor of 3 or 4.

How I know it's nearly winter

Story location: Home / Blog /
  1. Some mornings, I have to scrape ice off the car before I can drive off.
  2. We've turned the central heating on. Most of the time we try to avoid using the heating but we've decided that it should be on for at least an hour in the mornings and evenings.
  3. We've had to turn up the temperature on the shower, otherwise the water comes through cold.

Thankfully it's not been too cold yet, but I'm sure it'll get colder when we get to winter proper.

Shurdington Hamster Show

Story location: Home / Blog / Hamsters /

We went to the Shurdington Hamster Show, near Cheltenham. We took the Quail with us, because there were a few people who had expressed an interest in meeting them.

They turned out to be one of the main attractions there - most people popped over to take a look at them. We have now chosen names for them all. Our original 3 are Waylon and Rose, and the third (aka Scaredy Quail) is now Dan Quail.

Our new quail are Daisy (which was the name of one of our original quail til we found out she was a he) and Maggie (short for Margaret Flapcher - I know, terrible name).

We took Hank & Peggy and Vande & Graaff along to enter into the show. Vande was a last minute decision. He had had an infected scent gland, which looked like some kind of red cauliflower growth on his belly. We got some anti-biotic from the vets but it didn't seem to be making any difference. A few days ago it magically disappeared. We're not sure if it fell off or he gnawed it off but it now looks fairly normal.

Quail Stampede

Story location: Home / Blog / quail /

We collected two new quail on Sunday. This now gives us 3 females and 2 males. We haven't thought up names for the new birds yet but our unexpected male has now been named 'Dan Quail'.

To introduce the birds, we set up a makeshift 'pen' in the living room. We put a bin bag down on the carpet and surrounded it with cardboard boxes for walls. The quail don't fly very well at the moment so that was enough to slow down any escape. Everyone seemed to get along ok so we put them all in the cage.

One of our new quail

One of our new quail

Setting up the Backup Software

Story location: Home / computing /

Read Part 1.

Part 2

On the Desktop Computer

Setting up the FTP server was straightforward. After installing the programme, select the User Manager and click 'New' to add a new user.
Setting up the FTP Server
You'll need to:

  • Set the password. If the computer is behind a firewall and can't be reached from outside, it'll be safe to set it to blank.
  • Add a 'root' directory. This will be the directory where the files to be synchronised are. The name used on the FTP server doesn't have to relate to the actual name on the computer.
  • Don't forget to give the remote user access to the directory by clicking on it and selecting read/write/create permissions.

On the Laptop

Setting up the SyncBack software was slightly more complicated, due to the extra options available. From the Profiles menu, select 'New' and choose 'Synchronisation'.
Setting up SyncBack
Give the profile a sensible name, then click 'OK'. The profile settings box should appear. Click on Expert to open up more options.
Setting up SyncBack
The 'Source' directory is the directory on the computer which is to be synchronised with the server. The 'Destination' is the directory name we chose on the FTP server. Most of the other settings can be left as they are, apart from the FTP tab.

After typing in all the details, it would be sensible to do a few tests first. Clicking on Test FTP Settings will check whether the serve is reachable. After making all the changes and clicking OK, SyncBack will do a 'test' run to see what files will be transferred.

Once everything is set up, it's only a few mouse clicks to synchronise the data between the two computers. This could be speeded up by telling SyncBack to always run the profile every time you double click on the icon. To do this, right-click on the desktop shortcut and select 'Preferences'. Add the name of the profile after the application name (in this case, work). When the icon is double-clicked, SyncBack will run the profile and then exit.
Running a profile on startup

The only potential problem I can foresee is that a file deleted from one computer but not both will re-appear after synchronising.

Deer in the Road

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /

Part of the Coventry ring road was closed yesterday - there was a long queue of traffic approaching junction 5. Thankfully we managed to avoid it by staying on the slip road and got to our exit ok. The rest of our drive to work was uneventful. There was hardly any traffic on the Kenilworth road - all the cars must have been stuck on the ring road.

According to the news, the incident was caused by a deer on the road. Unfortunately the animal had been hit by a car and had to be put down.

What I find puzzling is where the deer came from. There aren't any large expanses of green near junction 5 of the ring road. Coventry might be a small city but a deer still has a long way to walk to get there from either the parks or the surrounding countryside.

Synchronise Files between two computers

Story location: Home / computing /

Part 1

I have been given a laptop computer for work but when I work at home I sometimes use my home desktop computer. I decided I needed some way of synchronising files between the two machines, so that I could easily keep both up to date.

Both machines have Bluetooth, which I could use to transfer the odd file manually, but I decided I needed something I could automate. All of the bluetooth syncing software I could find was designed for transferring between a computer and a phone, not between 2 computers.

I found other solutions which expected the files to be on a networked drive, but would keep local copies available for editing. I can't change the network settings on my work computer so it would be tricky for me to set up something like that.

The only solution I could think of was to use FTP to copy the files between the machines. One computer would run an FTP server while the other would run some sort of backup software which would synchronise the files.

I found 2 programmes which looked suitable:

  1. Cerberus FTP Server. I'd used this a few years ago and it was fairly easy to set up.
  2. SyncBack. This comes in free and paid-for versions. The free version seemed to do everything I needed.

Both the programmes were fairly straightforward to install. Then came the tricky bits - setting up the computers to talk to each other.

Both computers can access the Internet through our router, and both would normally get assigned automatic IP addresses. I needed a fixed name or address to use, so that the laptop could find the server, so I set the desktop machine to request a fixed IP address from the router. I did this by opening the 'Wireless Network Connection Status' in windows by double-clicking on the wireless network icon which Windows places in the 'tray' in the taskbar. Clicking on 'Properties' then 'Internet Protocol (TCP/IP)' then 'Properties' again got me to a screen where I could specify an IP address.
Specify an IP Address
IP addresses on my network start at for the router and .1.2 onwards for any computers. I chose .1.9 because it's unlikely that we would have 8 computers connected, so that address should always be free.

Read Part 2.

Urban Pie

Story location: Home / Blog / birmingham /

I had thought about going to Urban Pie (outside the Bullring) back when I worked in Birmingham, but never actually got around to it. As we happened to be in Birmingham this afternoon, we decided to eat there.

Fortunately they had a half-price offer after 5pm so we had a pie and a beer each without breaking the bank. My Aberdeen Angus pie was pretty good and Emma liked her Chicken and Asparagus pie. Both pies were well filled, with tasty pastry. Much better than your usual supermarket pie.

Think Tank

Story location: Home / Blog / birmingham /

We went to Birmingham by train. The website for the Think Tank science museum suggested taking the 'Station Link' bus service, so that's what we did. It wasn't terribly easy finding the bus. There was nothing in New Street Station itself (which was no surprise really, New Street is one of the worst railway stations in the country. The planned multi-million pound replacement can't come soon enough) but there was a sign outside pointing to the bus stop.

The bus took a fairly roundabout route towards Millennium Point, taking us within sight of the building a couple of times before it finally got to the actual bus stop. We were still quite a way from the building itself, so it wasn't that handy a stop.

Things didn't get much easier when we got into the building. The huge atrium didn't make it immediately clear where the way in was. We wandered further in and only noticed the big sign when we turned round.

The museum itself was a fairly typical science museum. There was a mixture of exhibits aimed at kids (literally - many were too low for adults to use) and more serious industrial history. There was a Planetarium on the top floor. The show we attended was about the possibility of alien life and was fairly interesting.

The museum covers similar ground to the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry but with the disadvantage of charging an admission fee. Both cover the past and present of industry, with Think Tank having a floor devoted to the future. Of course both also have sections emphasising local contributions to science and industry.

The £8.50 entrance fee was a little steep. For only a few pounds more, you could take the train up to Manchester and visit a better museum with free entry.

A Whiter Shade of Quail

Story location: Home / Blog / quail /

The easiest way to tell male and female quail apart is to examine their chest feathers. Females have a speckled chest but males are plain and paler.

When we bought our quail, one was definitely male, one was definitely female and the other looked like it was developing the speckles so was considered a possible female. Unfortunately the speckles have faded and it looks like we have ended up with 2 males and 1 female.

We've not decided on a name for the pale quail yet. He's a bit more timid than the other two we currently have Waylon, Rose and Scaredy-Quail. It's better to have a high female:male radio so we are going to collect some more females soon.

Genius on Board

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /

Coventry seems to have more than it's fair share of crap drivers. There was heavy rain this morning. An awful lot of cars were driving around without headlights. When I looked in my wing mirrors, all I could see was a wall of grey. A car without headlights would be effectively invisible.

Another thing I saw this morning was in a slow moving queue of traffic approaching a pedestrian crossing. The traffic was also queued up beyond the crossing. The lights turned red and Mr Genius accelerated to get over the crossing and join the queue at the other side. He risked the lives of anyone trying to cross and saved himself a grand total of zero seconds on his journey.

A few weeks ago I saw a car parked on a zebra crossing. It was also parked on the wrong side of the road, facing the wrong way. The moron driver had parked there so she could go to the nearby cash machine.


Story location: Home / Blog / quail /

Emma had been wanting to buy some Quail for a while. We eventually found some for sale near Halesowen. They are just over 3 weeks old, and if we keep them indoors during the cold weather, the 2 females should start laying eggs after 8 weeks.

One of our Quail
One of our Quail
We have 3 of them - the male is called Waylon and the females are Daisy and Rose.
Quail are notoriously stupid birds. I remember reading a story in the newspaper about someone who bought some and kept them in the garden. They were too stupid to take shelter during a hailstorm, and afterwards they were all found flattened in the mud. When ours eventually go into the garden, we will have a large rabbit hutch for them, so they will hopefully be safe from both the elements and any foxes or cats.

Knock Knock...

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /

Who's There?
The Police with a battering ram...

We were on our way to work this morning but didn't get far because there were some police vans blocking the road. There were a few policemen standing around wearing body armour, with one carrying a battering ram. We stopped and watched for a few minutes while they smashed in someone's front door. They then encountered a re-enforced inner door which needed some other gadget, which resembled a briefcase but made a whirring noise when they used it. Unfortunately I couldn't see what was happening by then because the porchway was obscuring my view.

The police disappeared into the house. We didn't have time to stay and watch any more so didn't see whether anyone got dragged out kicking and screaming. We spoke to someone at the end of the road who told us it was a drug dealer's house.