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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French Tablecloths and Fusion 360

OK this is a silly one I know but follows on from my theme of just how valuable a 3D printer is to own and how it makes you think outside of the conventional box when solving simple problems.

French markets always have a stall selling brightly coloured table clothes in various materials.   These rarely have a prepared hole in them for your sun umbrella to slot through as you sit quaffing and nibbling in the sunshine.   If they already have a hole it usually doubles the price.   If you make a hole yourself then it will fray and degrade.

Up steps “Fusion Man” and in five minutes you have a design for a locating boss and ring to sandwich protect the hole in the material and keep the cloth fixed on the table.   Design done and its off to the Sindoh 3DWOX to print it.

Lay the table cloth on the table where it will be used and ensure it sits square all round.   Crawl under the table and with a Sharpie pen or similar, draw the shape of the hole on the back of the table cloth.

Remove the cloth from the table and flip it over.  Place the printed ring over the marked circle and remark the circle position to the ring ID.  Cut out the marked ring circle but make the cut about 3 or 4 mm smaller all round.  (Nail scissors are ideal for cutting curves).  Test fit the boss. Because the hole in the cloth is slightly smaller than the boss diameter, the material will naturally turn up the vertical face of the boss.  Check it is not causing wrinkles in the cloth when on the table.

Put hot glue around the boss at the horizontal/vertical interface and then push the boss through the cloth to let the glue hold it in place.

Apply glue to the locating ring and push this in place over the boss to sandwich the material between the ring and the boss.  Here is a greatly exaggerated cross section.

Job done.   Siesta time.

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