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A selection of relevant products available direct from Amazon. You'll find lots more practical info in various articles on my website.

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Saturday
Jan212017

Stripboard Magic in Windows 7

If you're into using Veroboard or stripboard you may have come across the legacy 1990's program that helped you design circuit layouts - Stripboard Magic by Ambyr. Many people have struggled but it's not as hard as you may think to install it in Windows 7+ as I describe in my Hobby Electronics section here.

Thursday
Jan192017

Sistema Microwave Porridge Bowl

It's that time of year and microwave porridge is now top of the breakfast menu! I found a high quality microwave porridge bowl with lid, BPA- and phthalate-free that's quick and easy to use. It's  made by New Zealand's Sistema and you can read more about it here.

 

Tuesday
Jan172017

BT Call Protect eliminates junk calls - what's the catch?

This welcome new and long-overdue service from BT promises to intercept calls from known junk callers and divert them to a junk voicemail box instead. In theory you need never be bothered by nuisance calls again, or at least the mass-produced junk phone calls that bother us all too frequently.

Some notorious PPI and accident claims lines make millions of blind, automated calls every month and these distressing high-volume pipelines are recognised by BT’s new technology, resulting in their calls being ditched by BT before they ever reach your number, it is claimed. You can dial 1572 to check your junk voicemail box if ever you feel the need.

The rate of ‘false positives’ (false alarms) is unknown thus far. So there may be the risk that wanted calls get flagged as junk; only by checking 1572 will you really be able to tell. By the sound of it though, BT has done its homework on using technology to scan bulk phone callers and put them on a BT Blacklist. Using 1572 you can also create your own personal blacklist to block numbers in future: of course, you'll have to answer them first time round, or use Caller Display (CLID) to decide to ignore them.

So far so good, but what’s the catch?

Usually the first thing I do is check the small print, but I have now ordered BT Call Protect for one of my lines. This was done by logging into My BT / Your Package / Manage My Extras. The whole order form (correct at the time of writing) is here:

The whole BT order form for Call Protect... see the second part [click to see]

When you place an order online for free BT Call Protect, scroll further down the BT order form (here we go again, I thought) to the section called BT Privacy (mainly, to do with Caller Display) where more choices have to be made:

Second part of BT Call Protect order form [click to see]

  • Choose a 12 month lock-in contract, with free caller display (CLID) on offer for 12 months then £1.75 from month 13;
  • Or, if you already have it like I do, continue to pay BT Privacy at £1.75 per month with no lock-in;
  • Or, don’t buy CLID and just ask BT to register you with the TPS, which you can do for yourself anyway here. It is not clear whether this order form option also removes existing Caller Display if you already have it.
  • Lastly you can remove BT Privacy with Caller Display if you already have it.

 In the end I chose a 12 month contract renewal and save £21 a year on CLID.

Within an hour or so I got confirmation of the order, so I’m ready to log into My BT and see how the new service works. More on that soon, but below is an early screenshot of what you'll get.

BT Call Protect control panel [click to see]I'll check this regularly to see if it builds up, but I'm also keeping my BT 8500 call blocker phone system (superceded by the BT 8600) going too for now. It's become temperamental, intercepting and 'announcing' calls that are already on my White List, which I blame on telephone exchange problems.

Thursday
Dec152016

Beware phony scam Speeding Ticket emails

Phony speeding ticket sent by email [it's safe to click to see]The latest scam doing the rounds is the phony speeding ticket. Several of these have arrived by email claiming to come from Greater Manchester Police (GMP). They are entirely bogus and if it wasn’t for the fact that they are perpetrated by thieving scumbags, one could almost admire their ingenuity.

DO NOT CLICK the button labelled ‘Examine Fixed Speed Camera Evidence’ as it clicks through to a hijacked website hosting a malicious script. That is how PCs get infected with viruses, ransomware, keyloggers and similar malware.

Just to be clear, the domain names used as the sender / evidence URL are spoofed, so don't blame them for the scam.

Watch out for these arriving in your Inbox and be sure to spread the word!

Wednesday
Dec072016

Will a Car Cane grab handle mobility aid fit my car?

Car Cane door handle mobility aidIf you have elderly family or relatives who struggle to get in or out of a car, the Car Cane may be just the answer. It’s a very strong handle that simply drops into the door latch mounted on the bodyshell to give some leverage, and it provides a very sturdy and reassuring extra grab handle that helps people to get a secure handhold.

This is a great idea for low cars (like mine) or high SUVs that make it hard to climb in or out of the passenger compartment. When only a door grab handle is available for support, the Car Cane adds an extra helping hand to help you climb out or get seated again.

The Car Cane is extremely strong and not too heavy. It has a steel core and comfort-grip handle and will support up to 350 lbs (25 stones)/ 158 kilos in weight.

The Car Cane has a built-in LED torch powered by two CR2032 coin cells to provide a little extra lighting, which I found handy in a car park at night time. There's more: the pointed steel member doubles as an emergency glass hammer to smash toughened glass side windows (won’t work on laminated windscreens) and also included is a seat-belt slitter in case of accidents where occupants need to be released from their seat belts.

Car Cane grab handle [click to see]Built-in LED torch [click to see]The steel square section just drops into the 'loop' of a door latch and is approx 17mm square steel. So your door lock must allow at least that much clearance or the Car Cane won’t fit through. As a test, you could cut a 17mm wide strip of cardboard to see if it will clear the lock of your vehicle in both dimensions (width and depth, so to speak) with room to spare. Owners of some Peugeots and Citroens have complained that their door locks aren't suitable, but it should fit the vast majority of cars otherwise. It shouldn't mark the paintwork during normal use either. In my case the screw mounting plate of the door latch clearly prevents the pointed end from touching the bodywork, but there's only a few millimeters of clearance.

A Car Cane has already proved a boon during a hospital trip, so for a very modest cost you can order a Car Cane direct from Amazon. Car Cane is one of the best auto gadgets I’ve bought in ages, and a great idea for elderly or infirm passenger or those who struggle to get in or out of the passenger or driver’s seat.

Simply ensure that the 'loop' of your car door lock is big enough to let the Car Cane square section pass through. Even then, you can always order one and return it if it doesn’t fit (unlikely).