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New Broadband Developments at Bedrock?

It’s been quiet in here as we now spend more time in Spain than the UK.

I’ve recently taken the somewhat unusual step of putting a MARGINALLY technical blog entry over at our bedrock site (recently address-changed to https://spain.scargill.net) – because it seems that at long last we might be about to get better broadband in Galera, no thanks to the local broadband provider but a great opportunity to learn something new.

Do check out the link above if you’re interested in what we’re up to right now. Not much to write about on the English side of things other than our forthcoming visit to our new UK base.

More on that later as we’ll be replicating the Spanish broadband setup in the UK.

No other way to put it – Utter Crap

It seems that LED lights are not the only things that Poundstretcher sell that simply don’t work. As well as a subject I’ve covered in the past wherein Poundstretcher sell Hitachi-branded light bulbs that at best last months, often weeks and which are therefore to be avoided like the plague, I’ve also now discovered that their pretty looking white earbuds-with-microphone are utterly ABYSMAL. Binworthy in fact.

So, do I expect decent BASS for a couple of UK pounds? No. Do I expect ultra high quality? No. But, do I expect them to actually work? YES. I was in a hurry this week for some cheap earbuds as Amazon were out of stock of most suitable models – so off I went to Poundstretcher in Hexham.

When I got to my destination, I plugged the neat-looking earbuds into my phone – AWFUL. I plugged them into my Oculus – AWFUL. The volume controls don’t work and the sound quality is utterly ABYSMAL. Not only that but they don’t properly fit my bog-standard ears. I can’t afford to be an audio snob at my age, my hearing isn’t up to waxing on about frequency range (I’m lucky if I can manage 8Khz never mind the oft-quoted top-end 20Khz figure) but I expect the very basics to work in any set, no matter how cheap.

The Chinese are often blamed for producing rubbish – but I think that’s wrong – they produce to a price and specification – and clearly actually working was not part of the spec that Poundstretcher provided for their white in-ear buds – just as longevity wasn’t part of the spec for their Hitachi LED mains lighting (if you hear the oft-abused claim of 10s of thousands of hours for LED lights, it’s nonsense and applies only to the basic LED when properly driven – not when fed with the cheapest possible power supply – I do however expect to get years, not months or weeks out of modern lights – but I digress).

For reference in both cases I’m referring specifically to Poundstretcher in Hexham, UK. I’m beginning to think that we should just avoid the place.

While I’m here, credit where credit is due, we recently visited the nearby Hexham Homebase store. I’m no fan of their normal pricing but on offer they had 2-for-1 sets of orange flicker garden lights… the sets comprise 4 lamps and so what we came away with were 8 lamps for £12 – looks like a bargain if they last. They’re now up in the garden. I noted some sensible features – they’ve reduced the lights to something like 8 in a vertical row, inside a frosted tube in the main lamp – with the wiring at the TOP and a drain-hole at the bottom. The on-off switch is ALSO inside at the top – sensible. Time will tell if the seal holds (I’m at a loss as to why people fit on-off switches to outdoor lights which automatically turn on at night anyway).

May 2022 Update

The above solar lights are working in Spain with only one infant mortality to date. See this post for more on the lghts and please note, at long last our UK base is no longer in Wark (nearby, but thankfully not in a listed building with all the fun that entails).

A Good, Productive Start to 2022

Willow Cottage post-Christmas lights soon to end up at Bedrock.

After weeks of atrocious weather in Northumberland and even more atrocious power cuts, this week has seen some decent sun and we’ve been to visit our ex-Spanish neighbours and good friends over near Penrith, met up with an old pal from my FSB days and we’ve plans to visit local friends at the weekend – just as we’re having a shedload of work done to the house and garden.

Engraved Bedrock sign

Meanwhile despite Chinese holidays, I’ve acquired my second laser engraver of the season – and it’s a winner – with more around the corner.

Thanks to a very helpful neighbour making me some decent wood blanks as well as a great eBay site, I’ve been busy engraving signs for here (gate and rooms) and Spain.

Engraved bedroom sign

The signs of course started off a bit iffy but I’ve finally gotten to grips with spacing and the various techniques needed to do a half-decent job. In-between our travels and projects, we’ve done more than our share of shopping despite the UK’s current need to overprice everything.

Solar lighting

On one of our shopping trips, I found some new solar lights at HomeBase and bought them during a short 2-for-1 sale – talk about timing – 8 for £12 (2 sets of 4) – same price as the usual cheap rubbish per lamp but they look decent.

These will soon be going to where there is actually some sun, very soon as we prepare for the first mask-free hot summer in what feels like years.

We’ve both been very busy this winter between repairs, improvements and writing not to mention fittting a weather shield to the heating system (note the “mind your head” below), something that should have been there from day one.

Segmented, 3D-printed kitty

However, its done now and with more improvements to come. I cannot wait to get on that ferry, taking with us the segmented kitty our friend Suzanne made for us along with our three real kitties.

I thoroughly expect this will be the last cold UK winter the trio will have to endure as the future PLAN is to fly back for short trips to see friends and as need be.

Weather shield for the air-source heating

Cats – who would have them? We do!

I have NO idea how, but chunks of our information have ended up disappearing from this blog – like info on our various cats over the years – I’ll do something about that here. So, right now we have three cats – Simba (forefront in the photo), Ruffy and Cloe (the latter not shown – she was sleeping no doubt on our bed) – the latest in a long line over the years – Simba is, I would argue, the best we’ve ever had, despite the un-trusting look on his face as Ruffy tries to cuddle in.

Both cats

Ruffy is very friendly to his brother these days but there was a time when he would cuddle up and sneak in the odd bite – Simba has never QUITE forgiven him – either that or he’s peeved because he’s having to share my chair..

We just got our first “Roomba” clone AI vacuum and the cats are playing it safe.

Crysis Remastered – after years in the Wilderness…

Reality is all very nice – we’ve had some wonderful times since moving from the antarctic Northeast of England to sunny Spain – but back to the REAL world – Crysis – now REMASTERED… THIS is exciting…. glass of wine, keyboard, mouse – never did get into the joystick thing…. you simply can’t beat obliterating the enemy with a huge monster weapon as below – in a sunny jungle….

Even the impressive female voice in the trailer gets me going “Realised… with CryEngine”.

When they put me in the old-folks home, somone make sure I have headphones, Windows laptop, mouse and THIS….

Lovely Sunday at the Almuñecar market

Down at the seafront for a long weekend… our hotel (Casablanca) has great views and there’s a marvellous Sunday market within walking distance.

Any excuse for another coffee. Completely forgot to take pictures at the market…

Things could be worse, could be better

There can surely be no comparison, even in pandemic times, between the cold, damp misery of Northeast UK winters and the relatively dry and sometimes warm winters over in Southern Spain. It isn’t all roses of course as, while hunkered down to avoid Covid, TV in the latter can sometimes be a frustrating experience for Brits as the BBC does it’s best to stop legit licence holders watching quality TV while out of the country.

There are of course ways around the restrictions but the BBC, peculiarly seems to have disproportionate problems with low-bandwidth broadband compared to, say Netflix and other modern services – and this has the effect of producing a pretty low-resolution picture at times. However, there is more to life than sitting at home watching TV and after welcoming in the New Year down at the sunny coast, we just recently took a couple of day trips to Granada, in particular the Nevada Shopping Centre which is always a lot of fun.

Nevada Shopping Centre in Granada

And that’s where I spotted this beauty – the beautiful (now out of production, sadly) Yeelight Candela from Xiaomi. I spent more time than I care to imagine trying to get hold of this, first spotted at the Mi store in Granada (who actually had no stock other than a demo), then online only to find that most online providers had no stock and those who did have stock, had raised the price astronomically.

I found one Spanish online store selling the lights (which glow bright orange like a candle) at a reasonable price. Meanwhile shopping at one very large Chinese store in Granada we also picked up some new seat covers for our outside furniture. I particularly like the faux-wood effect covers as you’ll see in the example below left.

Our trip to Granada provided a welcome break after being confined to our village for a while but at the time of writing we still can’t get to those parts of the coast which are the warmest. Theory is, we’re going to get some snow at the weekend but right now we’re expecting 20c max today and sunny. That’ll do for March.

I’m spending every spare minute working on my tech blog and I’ve decided to copy something increasingly popular in bars and restaurants right now, using QR codes to promote their services, menus etc., with luck I can use the same idea on one or moew ceramic tiles to help one particularly hapless courier find our place up in the hills. I’ve also been giving the PC a much-needed upgrade to solid-state SSD and NVme drives, making the who power-up/rebooting process much less painful than in the past.

Maureen has been working on her garden including a spot of painting and moving large quantities of stones around, replacing pergola panelling etc with a view to giving the place an uplift and today the cats are off to the vets in nearby Baza, always an excuse for coffee and tostada in one of the many cafes up that way.

Busy times to be sure but it keeps us out of mischief while waiting for the return of “normal” travelling once the travel restrictions finally ease up, hopefully in the next month or so. Having the ability to stay in a bar or restaurant later than 6pm would be good, too.

Nicely Settling into Retirement in Rural Southern Spain

Our time in Spain was, until someone had the bright idea of Brexit, largely a summer sport but with the 6-months-at-a-time rule blown to hell, it makes more sense to spend the bulk of our time in the sun. Even today as 2020 draws to a close, it is for sure, cold in the shade in Andalucia, but distinctly t-shirt weather in the Southern Spanish sun.

Nothing the cats like better than pottering around at the top of our local mountain

It seems like we might have a spot of rain this week – something of a novelty – I doubt it will last. Stunning to think we’ve been performing this back-and-forth between the Northeast of England and Southern Spain for more than 12 years now, after decades of travelling around, mainly in Europe and the USA but also as far as China and Japan. In the end there are not THAT many places with the same combination of relaxed lifestyle and decent weather and right now, the idea of going from one country to another and facing two weeks isolation doesn’t seem very sensible.

None of which stops us from keeping in touch with our friends at home and we MIGHT be on the cusp of getting decent speed broadband at last. What we have now is good enough for HD TV but with not a lot to spare.

Does all of this means I’m ignoring the world’s problems? Hell no – but I’ve done MORE than my share of battling incompetence and it is time to back off and make the best of the “golden years”.

It’s a constant source of sadness for me that despite the Internet offering the potential to give more knowledge to more people than ever before in mankind’s history – in reality this wonderful technology has done little more than give fruitcake conspiracy theorists a larger and more gullible audience than ever before.

While those of us who truly want to learn are spending more time than ever before acquiring genuine new knowledge, it seems that significant parts of the population are happier listening to ever-increasing social media SHITE – to name just two of the more dangerous and/or preposterous claims – chips in the anti-viral and the moon landings being staged – both of which are incredibly insulting to the countless thousands who put in the work to get us to the moon and back several times and to the memory of those worldwide who have already died due to lack of an anti-viral combined with irresponsible social behaviour.

Maybe Musk is even brighter than we give him credit for – moving humanity’s smart people off-world could be the best idea yet.

Our hard working but badly organised NHS

Despite all the wonderful hard work of individuals in the NHS and our medical industries, there is still plenty of room for improvement.

Our bolthole in Southern Spain

Every single day I take several pills and have done for years in order to keep nature (I get SO sick of people saying that if it is natural – it is good – what a load of bollocks) from killing me.

No doubt about it, the pills, along with some lifestyle amendments are keeping me fit and healthy – but at what cost to the environment? Each pill is tiny and having listened carefully to the doctor’s advice when they were first prescribed, I have no problem at all taking the right pills at the right time – and yet every month, the new packs (all of them) come complete with endless packaging along with a totally un-necessary set of comprehensive paper instructions.

Worse, the pills are inefficiently encased, sometimes only 7 at a time, in oversized metal and plastic. A month’s worth is then wrapped in ANOTHER metal and plastic pack and the whole thing comes in a massively oversized cardboard box. You should see the stuff I end up throwing away when decanting these pills to my 2-week handy re-useable container.

This applies to almost every pill I take – the same prescription every month, the only exception being the sensibly-packaged American-bought, glass-containered aspirins. We told the doctor we’d organise these ourselves.

While on a short visit to the USA last year (Walgreens?) we picked up a glass container of 1000 80mgm aspirins with no extra packaging, no wasted paper instructions and no plastic other than the lid, for a mere few dollars. Now THAT’s the way to do it – if for any reason I SHOULD want to read more, I simply go online where endless medical information can be had without any waste.

This is Willow Cottage in Bloom – Early Summer 2020

Maureen’s been out in the front, gardening. Nature does it’s best to turn the garden into a vast unkempt forest but there’s an art to keeping only the flora we find pleasing – and a lot of hard work. Personally I’m easy to please and love having lots of magenta coloured flowers.

Willow Cottage Garden