Windows 10 Upgrade and another day dribbled away through my fingers

We are sitting in quarantine and now on Day 5.  Not really any different to how we were before we went to France and when we were in France – just different jobs around the house and workshop and zero outside contact other than food deliveries.  (My wife gets very excited at the prospect of seeing the deliveries arrive).

I got fed up with the boot warnings on Fusion 360 that Win7 would not be supported so I decided that I would upgrade to Win10.  My machine is fairly well spec’d so there was no great desire to upgrade to a new machine.  It was i7 based and had 32MB of memory with a 250GB SSD and a 1TB secondary drive.   Both drives were pretty full and into red warnings so I bit the bullet and opted for a clean load.  I bought in a new 500GB for the operating system and app storage and a massive 2TB data storage secondary drive.   Total cost under GBP100 which is staggeringly cheap.

Changing the hardware was simple. I bought in a SATA to USB dongle to allow the old drives to be available for data transfer and this made life a bit easier. 

Loading Win10 and all my favourite apps took over a day.  It is just never simple.  Finding software keys is always a bit  of a problem as some apps hide it away in Registry.   Finding EXE loading files is another frustration.   Why when you buy an app do some providers send you an email link to download direct with a licence key ?   This results in nothing showing in ‘Downloads’ history to refer back to and reload the app.  When you try to use the old email link it downloads the latest version and tells you that your licence key is no longer valid. When you go to their site the version that did everything you ever wanted has been upgraded and needs you to pay to now use the later version.   ‘Hello .. I have paid for version X and I don’t want to pay for version Y thank you very much.  Just give me a download link to restore what I know and love”.  Rant over on that one.

Some weird effects on Outlook transpired.   I have a GMail IMAP account and three POP accounts all loaded on Outlook.   After loading I had an extra ‘Sent’ folder on the GMail folders tree which contained the Sent items from one of the POP accounts.  Spent a lot of time on this and didn’t satisfactorily solve it other than deleting the contents from this duplicate folder.  The messages are still there in the POP folder so not sure what that was all about.

My 3DConnexion Spacemouse loaded across fine onto Win10 but I still had a related exception error window coming up on booting the machine.   This was the same as it had been on Win 7 so clearly something was common mode.  I could click it and the message window would disappear but it was annoying.  After some digging I traced it to Trend Antivirus.  If I put the two 3dconnexions’ Windows folders into Trend as ‘Ignore’ items it all went away.  Progress on that one.

So I think I now have a (mostly) stable Win 10 machine.  I hate all the nanny state Windows ‘fluff’ that stops you getting quickly to things such as System\Hardware like it was in XP.  In an attempt to ease this I have loaded Stardock’s ‘Start 10’ which mimics the old style Start menu and this makes me feel a bit more familiar. 

Hopefully this was all worth doing and things will now go swimmingly along with no crashes and dramatic improvements in productivity …. gosh were those really pigs I saw flying past ?

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After 3 years of waiting I have finally got bees in my hive

Bees Down the Garden

This is something way left field to my usual stuff.

Three years ago almost to the day my wife bought me a beehive for my birthday.  This is not one of my normal activities and it was not a normal type of beehive.   The design is marketed and I believe manufactured in the UK by Gardeners Beehive and you can see from the picture below it is very unconventional.  It is meant to represent a hollow tree stump and is more in keeping with the natural home that bees would inhabit in the wild.

gardeners beehive
The unusual Gardener’s Beehive that has waited 3 years for some bees to arrive

The concept of the design is that once you have bees in residence you leave them alone.  No white suits, smokers etc that are the norm for conventional hives.   After the first year you can add honey boxes on the side of the hive. These act as additional storage for the bees over and above the bulk stored in the main section of the hive.  Taking honey from these additional storage boxes does not drain the bees main store which they need to survive the winter.   The hive does not deliver loads of honey in the way a conventional hive would but you get some busy pollinators buzzing round the garden.

So why has it taken three years to get bees in residence ?   To be honest I don’t know.   I followed all the instructions with the hive which detail the best location and the use of lure spray to attract the searcher bees but to no avail.    Perhaps it was because swarms are most common in June, July and August when we would normally spend time in France so we missed the opportunities.

This year, isolated at home, we have spent more time in the garden and we have now seen three swarms pass overhead.   It is quite an impressive sight if not a little intimidating. The third one took a fancy to a pear tree in our garden and this looked like a long awaited opportunity to get some residents.   

There is a couple we know in the village who are beekeepers and we quickly rang them and asked for their help. They climbed into the tree and managed to shake most of the swarm into a cardboard box and then drop the buzzing contents into the top of my peculiar hive.   It was then a matter of waiting to see if we had captured the queen and the swarm would like their new home.

Friendly local beekeepers transferring the swarm to my hive
Friendly local beekeepers transferring the swarm to my beehive

All seems well so far with lots of traffic to and from the hive so maybe the three year wait is finally over.

And if three swarms weren’t enough, next day I found a small one down in the vegetable plot clustered on one of the bed protection nets.  It seems it  is a good period for swarms.

Bee swarm in vegetable patch
Another smaller swarm the next day

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    Helping get cable down a duct

    A minor post but it might help someone.

    I had a need to run an armoured cable down a duct to an outbuilding.   The duct had thoughtfully been installed a long time ago with the potential for use in the future.

    The future arrived and it was a daunting cable run of over 25m.   Armoured cable is pretty rigid which helps on the straight runs but when it comes to bends in the duct it had a mind of its own.

    After struggling for some time I had the thought that some form of leader was needed to navigate the bends.   After searching the workshop I decided a cable tie (zip tie) might be rigid enough but flexible enough.   I snipped the fastener ratchet block from the tie and taped the residual length to the end of the cable as below.

    A liberal coating of DC4 silicon grease and the cable shot down the duct and round the bends like a rat up a drainpipe.

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    Supply, IC2 and USB connections over CAT5 connection

    CAT5 Breakout Board

    One of our group of ‘silver experimenters’ is building an Arduino based celestial camera tracker.   This will be deployed in the garden and he needed all control to be routed back inside the house.   The garden installation consists of a USB webcam mounted on a servo controlled platform all powered by 12V DC.

    We pondered long on how we might remotely connect to the garden.  The crucial thought was that the Arduino servo board was a two wire interface using the I2C format data exchange.   Given that the USB needed four wires and the DC supply two wires we had a need for an eight core cable connection.  It seemed like a length of CAT5 cable would do the job and we could elegantly use standard CAT5 sockets.

    The PCB was designed in Design Spark and milled on the Tormach PCNC440 using FlatCAM.

    There is a problem with running USB over more than 5m but I did some tests at 10m and all seemed fine which should be adequate for the application.   

    The breakout boards had a male and female USB connector fitted and the connections had to ‘cross over’ on one of the breakout boards to maintain continuity.   We also paired the Data + and Data – connections with the +5 and Ground twisted pairs in the CAT5 so the Data + and Data – were not twinned together.

    Nothing technically magic but a simple solution to a project need.

    CAT5 breakout board for USB, I2C and DC supply
    CAT5 breakout boards for USB, I2C and DC supply

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    How to Register Velux radio controlled windows

    Velux Window Registration of Window to Controller

    An Off Piste rant ….having just had a few hours of my life dribble through my fingers I thought others might want to avoid having the same misery.

    We have two Velux centre hinge windows in our ‘Summer Room’.   They have been temperamental about behaving to the handheld controller over the years and at the weekend they both went AWOL to the controller while open.

    The handbook is a bit disjointed and has a circular path if you have a problem that does not get you anywhere apart from very frustrated.

    First thing is that if you end up with the window open and not responding there is a tiny white button on the electronics box inside of the window frame which if you press once will cause the window to close.  This assumes that the window has failed fully open and you can get at the button….

    Now to the main problem, getting the remote control to ‘see’ and register the window(s).   I got the spectrum analyser out and checked what was happening.  When you take the batteries out of the controller and give it a hard bounce it takes you into a primary screen asking for the language option you want.   This is followed by a Register menu option.   When I selected this I could see a polling signal at 868MHz (European short range devices frequency allocation) so the controller looked to be working OK.

    To activate the window to listen for a poll from the controller you have to switch off the power to the window and then switch back on.  For the next 10 minutes it should be listening for the controller polling request.

    Well I followed all this but the controller was not seeing the windows to register them.  I could not see the ACK on the analyser coming back from the window so something was wrong.

    Digging in the handbook there is mention of a ‘window reset’.   The same white button that allows you to close an open window also acts as a reset button for the window.   If the window is closed you can manually open it to get at this button. You hold the button down for 10 seconds and this causes the mechanism in the frame to cycle back and forth and make noises.

    When all stopped and it went quiet I turned the windows off and on and re-tried the controller and immediately both windows registered.

    Magic.   I can now get on with something more important or at least more interesting.

    In summary : –

    • Remove the batteries from the remote controller.
    • Manually open the window and press the white button on the black electrical unit on the frame for ~8 secs. The white T shaped part of the mechanism will go into an ‘in and out’ process for 6 or more times and then stop.
    • Close the window manually and switch off the power to the window.
    • Put the batteries back in the controller.
    • Switch on the window.  You now have 10 minutes to register the window.
    • The controller will ask for the language to be selected and will then give an option to Register. Cross all your fingers, hold your breath and then press Register and wait for registration to happen.

    Hope that helps someone lose a little less of their life trying to get this to work.

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