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Monday, 14 May 2018

Bloody computers.......

I'm fairly well educated and thought my problem-solving skills were reasonable so why is it that the moment that our desktop PC decides to misbehave, I turn into a knuckle-dragging moron with psychopathic tendencies?  Even the cats steer clear of me when something goes wrong with the computer.

Let's go back a month or two.....

The Institute of Advanced Motorists in NZ is growing fast and emails with documents attached leave a bit to be desired in terms of rapid communications between regions.  Similarly, it's difficult getting key players physically together to do some forward planning.  Enter Microsoft on their white charger, bless 'em.  They provide a suite of tools which falls under the general title of Microsoft Teams free of charge to charitable institutions and all the indications so far is that it's an absolute gem and will save bucket loads of time.  It makes document sharing and editing in real time a piece of cake.  Nice clear folders giving multiple access to all the key documentation any of us need.  All installed and working first time up by one of our IAM Observers who also happens to walk on water when it comes to IT systems.  He also talks in clear, unambiguous English but more on that later.  Shame he rides a BMW.

Simple, free and works brilliantly - screen shot of part of the system

One of the other superb features of MS Teams is the ability to multi-party teleconference by video, or voice alone.  This is a godsend, just as it is in the normal business world or academia.  It's particularly valuable to my region of IAM which covers an area of some 34,000 sq km.  Getting the voluntary regional Observing team physically together for planning purposes is a nightmare but with teleconferencing, easy peasey and all part of working smarter.

In the short while the system has been working, I've used a combination of tablet and Samsung S8, principally because my desktop PC has no camera or mic.  However, having a nice big screen to use whilst teleconferencing would be a big plus for an old codger like me, so let's buy a video camera with an in-built microphone and hook it up - how hard can that be?  Well as it happens, soaking up half the weekend with several losses of temper, not to mention plummeting self-esteem!

Nice, simple Logitech camera clipped to the top of the PC screen

Last Friday, my Logitech camera duly arrived by courier and the sparse instructions optimistically said, "Clip it to your screen, stick the other end in a spare USB port and the world will be your oyster".  You just know that it's going to end badly, don't you?  Although the video worked fine, the audio was non-existent and the control panel only partially resembled what was on the instruction sheet.  After an hour or so of blundering about and finally admitting defeat, a quick search of the internet implied that Windows 10 was the work of the Devil and the various builds and patches ensured that getting peripherals to work properly had about the same chance as winning Lotto.  What to do now?

With a sinking feeling, I explored making contact with Microsoft or Logitech and it appears they've both got quite cunning to avoid both expense and direct responsibility for solving the problem.  I was directed to what are euphemistically called "Community help boards" where supposedly IT-savvy people unconnected with the main parties try and solve your problem.  Messages detailing the problem were duly placed and literally within minutes, replies were posted.  This turned out to be quite a depressing experience as they may well have been talking in Martian.

An example: "Yes, Windows 10, build version 17134 stuffs up the camera drivers and you need to roll it back to an earlier version called Zog 1634, revision xyz "(I made that bit up but you get the picture).  Here are the instructions on how to do it - we hope that you have a doctorate in computer systems as it will only take 24 hours in that case".  One look at the instructions indicated that trying to follow them would likely end in complete disaster.  The community boards yielded completely differing ways of solving the problem but there was a common thread.  When I asked whether their solutions would solve my problem, you could sense a mental crossing of fingers and a long-winded answer which boiled down to "Maybe".  Plain English and confidence in getting a good outcome are clearly skills lost to IT people.

Not wishing to turn a bad situation into a hopeless one, I had a nosey about on the Microsoft website and saw that a major update of Windows 10 was being rolled out.  Windows 10, version 1803 to be precise, so that it looks as if I know what I'm talking about.  Using that time-honoured IT expert solution of crossing my fingers, I started the download and a couple of hours later and answering some Microsoft startup questions which I took an (un)educated guess at EVERYTHING WORKED, INCLUDING THE MIC!!  Why didn't anyone simply tell me that there was an update and to try that?

Success is why you see a smile in the next photo taken on the webcam.  If it had been a video, you would have heard me singing ,"We are the champions".

A happy non-IT person

Having now offended every human being on the planet with IT skills, I will take my leave.  Running the maintenance engineering team at a large pulp and paper mill was child's play compared with hooking up this video camera to the PC!  Good job spending a whole Saturday getting a solution was whilst it was pouring with rain and I didn't want to get the Suzuki covered in crap!

Until next time........



Thursday, 3 May 2018

Tyres and other stuff

It's been a busy few days for this old fella!  Last Sunday saw an IAM ride in wet and often torrential conditions.  Not the most enjoyable environment but it's good practice riding in adverse conditions whilst making progress to keep us sharp.  Tony, one of our Trainee Observers (mentors) is getting to the pointy end of his training so getting him and a new Associate out in challenging conditions keeps everyone honest.

Yours truly from Tony's Go Pro - rain, rain go away......

The ride went surprisingly well with no anxious moments and all our rain gear did its job with no leaks.  I gave my Cordura gear a wash recently with Nikwax Tech Wash and TX.Direct Wash-in and those two products do a great job of rejuvenating riding gear.  I've used Tech Wash previously on hiking jackets etc but never previously used the two products in combination.  Don't know how long it will last but extremely impressed.

Great for Cordura/Gore-Tex-type riding gear


Tony (Yamaha Tracer) and Jim (Honda ST 1300) at the coffee stop

On Tuesday, it was an early start to the city of Hamilton 160 km away for a routine service and new tyres.  The last 2 sets of tyres on the Suzuki have been Metzler Roadtec 01's.  On both occasions, useful life has been about 11,000 km.  Whilst there is still some reasonable tread left on both tyres, the front 01 goes out of shape and the bike tends to drop in rather than roll into tight corners.  False economy to wring every last km out of such critical bits of equipment so both always get changed at the same time.

Metzler Roadtec 01 front tyre at ~11000 km

Metzler Roadtec 01 rear tyre at ~11000 km - kept its shape quite well

Even with the front tyre going out of shape, they're a superb tyre and grip well in all conditions from torrential rain to a trackday in hot conditions.  I would have happily replaced them with an identical set but more on that in a minute.

Arriving at Boyd Motorcycles, they were waiting for me and the bike was whisked off into the service bay pretty much as soon as I got off it.  Great staff who try and get me back on the road as soon as possible as they know it's just over 2 hours to get home.  Only had time for a quick peek in their showroom as a friend was picking me up rather than hanging about at the dealer,  However, I liked the BMW R9T cafe racer in the photo below.  Not sure how comfortable it would be on a long haul though.


BMW R9 Cafe Racer in the foreground

The service and new tyres took about 4 hours which was pretty good.  The replacements are the new Michelin Road 5's, the successor to the PR3's and 4's which I've previously used on various bikes and liked; especially wet weather performance.  The switch away from the Metzlers is pure curiosity.

Having been been released relatively recently, the pricing is still pretty sharp, presumably to gain market share.  There's a host of technical differences compared with both their predecessors as well as the Roadtec 01.  The most obvious visual difference is that the design more resembles their pure sport tyres than the PR3's and 4's with a high crown and a tread pattern which stops a long way short of the tyre edge - see below.

Michelin Road 5 front tyre

Michelin Road 5 rear tyre

Preliminary magazine road tests suggest that it's a superb all round sport touring tyre and outstanding in the wet.  This is somewhat comforting because that lack of tread out towards the edge is a slight worry.  I just hope that the design brief to the French engineers wasn't " Nobody leans a bike zat far in ze wet, so no tread is needed.  If anyone does, well, merde......".  Well I do, given half a chance so "merde" indeed!  I'm sure that the compound  takes care of that problem (he says hopefully).

Although the Suzuki came with 50 profile tyres, I've gone for 55 profile again for quicker turn-in and a bigger contact patch when leaned over.  Michelin's marketing department are a bit vague on expected tyre life compared with its predecessors but from experience, they speak with forked tongue anyway.  The claim was that PR4's lasted 20% longer than PR3's but from personal experience, there was absolutely no difference.

It's far too early to make any objective comments about performance, not wanting to skate along on my arse on the delivery trip home.  That will have to wait until they are properly scrubbed in.  If they are as good as the Metzler 01's, last for a minimum of 10,000 km and are trustworthy at pace in the wet, I'll be a happy camper!

The ride home was one of those which are truly good for the soul.  No time constraints, beautifully warm and because it was late afternoon, very little traffic on the road.  New tyres meant not treating the road like a personal race track whch meant that I could chill and enjoy the spectacular views along 50 km of coast road.  Arriving in Coromandel at sunset, I pulled up at the wharf which is just a few hundred metres from our home on the ridge in the following photo.

 Sunset on Coromandel town wharf

Aren't days like this what we live for?  Good for the soul indeed and out fishing in the boat tomorrow.  This retirement business isn't too bad at all!