France Visit – Managing Expectations and Martel Railway

It has been a bit quiet due to a visit to France.  As ever France continues to be a contradiction to me.

We are having some work done on the house – a terrace and balcony on the rear of the property and a new wall bordering the driveway to define the terrain.   This has been ongoing for nearly a year since first discussed and agreed with the builder.  There is always a reason why the project is delayed be it weather, subcontractors etc.   Like many other similar encounters there is no communication either positive or negative to let you know what is going on.   You arrive expecting to see something as promised and it is not done.   It results in a confrontation, a shrug of shoulders and ‘tomorrow’ (Demain).   I used to think Peter Mayle was joking in his book ‘A Year in Provence’ but now I am not so sure.

I can’t help but contrast this with when I was in business when I always stressed to my team that they must manage the client expectations.   If the job was going to be late tell the client early on so there are no surprises.   If you are going to delivery before expected then also tell them so they think you are wonderful.  This clearly does not fit with the French psych.   That having been said they are nice people and we have some great times out there.

Anyway the light is at the end of the tunnel and the work they have done looks excellent and very well engineered.   It has just taken a very very long time …..

Martel Steam Railway

Speaking of tunnels we had a friend staying and we visited the Martel Steam Railway for a steam train ride.   The Martel line is a few miles long and has a very steep gradient from the village of Martel down to the valley side overlooking the Dordogne.  The society runs both steam and diesel engines and the carriages are really just open trucks with a roof over them.   It was busy and it was hot (mid 30s).   We had the added pleasure of a brass band on the journey playing ‘umpahpah’ music.

View from the trackside over the Dordogne Valley

There is a lot of history regarding the line.  For a steam engine the gradient is very steep and the engineering of the line involved a number of tunnels of varying length.  During WW2 the line had to be pressed into service for all mainline traffic following resistance action on other routes.  If you are in the area it is worth a  visit.

Martel Steam Engine in the Dordogne

http://trainduhautquercy.info/en/steam-train-martel-le-truffadou/

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IT issues in France – Google Backup and Sync + Port 25

As you might have guessed from the above we are in France and the weather is somewhat hot being in the late 30s centigrade.   It is too hot to sit outside so I am inside playing IT.

For the past three visits I have seen an issue with my desktop having long and erratic ping times and download speeds as tested with Okla speedtest.   I have had support visits from the service providers and still no joy.

I brought out my new XPS13 and discovered that if the resident desktop machine is not online everything is normal for all connected devices (25ms ping and 8Mbps download) (That is fast for rural France …).  If I boot the desktop everything goes very pear shaped.

Huge frustration to say the least with all sorts of things on the desktop being checked and services stopped etc to no avail.

I noticed last night that when ever I turned the desktop off, the shut down process was held pending Backup and Sync closing down.   A search today revealed that Google Backup and Sync is a connection killer.   While I wasn’t really aware I had every loaded it in the first place, I certainly know now that I have unloaded it.   Normal service resumed.  Magic.

The other issue that has arisen which I had forgotten about is that in France the use of Port 25 on POP connections is regarded as spam by France Telecom.  The XPS was not sending messages due to being set to  25 and it now is set to 587 outgoing (110 incoming).

So a useful hour (or two) spent inside from the heat has got me two ticks on the problems to be solved list.

Time for a Pimms and lemonade to celebrate.

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Current Status and Cross Fertilisation of Assets

Not getting a lot done in the workshop at the moment.   Major distraction with the soccer World Cup (we dare to dream …) plus some garden engineering projects have kept me away from things.

It’s great how workshop resources have a significant use and payback when doing other activity.   We had to stake some sleepers (not sure if this is a universal name – the wooden beams used to lay railway steels on) in a new feature in the garden and these needed staking together with through rods.

The Kennedy hacksaw came into play to cut the rods to length and the bench grinder to sharpen the ends to penetrate the soil.    The SDS drill was indispensable to cut the holes in the sleepers etc etc.    All of which justifies the acquired assets to the lady of the house so some points scored.

I also want to install a new desk in the office in our house in France.  The current one is running out of space for the IT router, switch, CCTV DVR, ham radio transceiver, computer etc etc.  I debated buying the materials to make a desk but then looked on EBay and found a complete desk for GBP10 in easy pick up distance.   While picking it up the seller had a drawer unit in poor condition that she threw in for free.   After a day’s remedial work I have a good looking desk with some new chrome handles that were on offer at the local DIY store.   Total material cost under GBP15 which can’t be bad.  I just have to transport it to France on the next run along with all the other items currently stacked up ready to go.  The car could be low on the suspension.

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SDS Rotary Hammer Drill

Some time ago I saw an advert offering a big discount on a SDS Rotary Hammer drill from a local tool store.   I had no idea what a SDS drill was but one of my associates convinced me it was a good deal and worth getting.  Looking like a weapon out of Star Wars, it has since sat under the bench in its carrying case and never used …. until today …..

SDS Rotary Hammer Drill

I had to fasten a new garden hose to the external wall through an outer cement facing and into brick.   Normally if I can see the mortar between the bricks I cheat and fasten into the mortar.   Today however I could not see what was behind the facing cement and the hammer setting on my normal hand drill was making no impression.   Light bulb moment …. let’s try out that SDS.

The wall could have been made of cheese such was the speed that the holes were cut.  Lovely machine.  If you haven’t got one – get yourself a SDS !

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Tormach Purchase Costing Sheet

I haven’t been completely idle while on holiday …

After I decided to buy a Tormach milling machine I had debate whether to go for the 440 or the 770.   This confusion was based on available workshop space and to a lesser extent on cost.  I also did not have a feel for the total cost of not just the items I needed to buy but also what the total package would cost when it landed on my driveway.  In the UK we pay VAT on not just the goods but also the delivery cost.

To help my thinking I put together a spreadsheet on Excel that split out the basic machine parts and then had a common section showing all the accessories I would need.  This totaled everything up in USD and I then did a conversion to GBP at spot rate and then added VAT and duty factors for UK import.

This sheet helped my enormously and once I had all the key prices loaded from the Tormach site I could do ‘what if’ calculations to fit my budget.

I was recently contacted by another potential buyer of a Tormach and I sent him the sheet to help his thinking process.  For anyone else thinking of buying either in the US or an overseas country I thought the sheet might help so I have spent some time cleaning it up and and I attach the new version below.

Simply put a quantity of each item in the column associated and see the impact of your shopping list at the bottom, either as a 440 or a 770.   Clearly the sheet could be extended to a 1100 if that takes your fancy.  (Don’t forget to check the current pricing from the Tormach site by searching on the product code shown on the sheet).

Excel – Tormach mill costing

Don’t forget you will always need one more TTS collet than you have ordered …..

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