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View your Credit Rating for free

There’s been a gradual move in the UK credit reference market towards getting people to subscribe to a service that monitors their credit rating. One pretty tenuous justification behind selling this idea is that if someone impersonated you in order to make a dodgy loan application, or they perpetrated an identity theft scam and defaulted on some finance deal, then this would damage your (genuine) credit rating – so by monitoring your rating, if it plummeted suddenly then you would know something was wrong.

Hence the two mainstream agencies Equifax (£14.95 a month) and Experian (£14.99) offer subscription services to help monitor your rating or check out anything untoward on your credit file. A Statutory Report is available at £2 a time. However a third UK agency called CallCredit has been a gamechanger in this field. Instead of trying to tie you in to nearly £170-worth a year of credit monitoring that I would suggest you don’t really need, Callcredit offers a consumer-friendly service under its Noddle brand to give you basic checking and a view of your history all for free, as I wrote back in 2012 here.

Noddle has now gone a stage further by offering users a chance to see their credit rating, again for free. Now anyone can log into their Noddle account and see their credit rating instantly. A 3-digit value is displayed.

I did notice the values don’t seem to tally with those provided by e.g. Experian  For example the values for a Good or Excellent rating on Noddle equate to Poor on Experian. But it’s still officially ‘Good’ or ‘Excellent’ as far as Callcredit is concerned.

Noddle also offers a range of credit rating monitoring, protection and improvement services that are far cheaper than their rivals so log into Noddle now and see what your rating is for free.

Everything you need to know about credit reference agencies will be found at the Information Commissioner’s office website at




Basic Soldering Guide by Alan Winstanley.pdf.exe – Torrent Malware warning

It’s come to my attention that a pirated copy containing malware is starting to circulate in the Torrent network. As always, this is fuelled by people’s greed, fools trying to download something for nothing and coming unstuck in the process.

A phony copy of my book has been disguised as a PDF but it's actually a small executable (.exe or program) file called The Basic Soldering Guide - Alan Winstanley.pdf.exe. I have nothing to do with this file. It points to an illegal, pirated version of my original ebook, presumably hacked from Kindle. The .exe tacked onto the end should immediately cause alarm bells to ring. When you try to fetch this file for ‘free’ from Torrent websites, it tries to drop a suspiciously small .exe onto your system that will then install Malware, tricking you into thinking that it’s installing a pirated PDF.

Torrent malware tries to drop this small "PDF" as an executable program file [click to see]It should not be run under any circumstances or it will install harmful malware onto your system that may prove very difficult to get rid of, or could cause permanent damage.

Downloads folder (IE11) shows filename and signatory [click to see]A programmer named as Yuriy Drachev has been associated with this malware. That name also popped up when I analysed the .exe – see screenshot above. It is possible the name is false or spoofed but see FreeFixer which identified the same issue at

and Herd Protect

The good news is that Kindle sales of my 'BSG' are higher than ever. The only way to get a clean, malware-free copy of the Basic Soldering Guide by Alan Winstanley is via your local Amazon site. A hardcopy paperback is also on sale, and a spiral-wirewound layflat version for education and benchwork is sold on Magcloud.

Don’t be fooled by innocent-looking files fetched from the dark web. Some downloads and file attachments could even destroy your system completely – such as the deadly Rombertik virus that arrives in a small screensaver (.scr) file but will try to smash your hard disk MBR and render your PC useless.  See Cisco’s log at if you don't believe this.


How to store a spare car battery at home?

I had a spare car battery that's good enough for running 12V accessories or maybe an inverter, the problem was how to store it safely at home. I found the solution in a battery box used in the caravan and marine sector. More details...


Full list of constructional projects

I've posted a page of web links to the article PDFs of all my constructional projects. You can access it here.


Teach-In 93 Mini Lab gerber files

Teach-In 93 Mini LabAgainst all the odds the PCB design files for the EE Teach-In 93 Mini Lab have been found and offered by its designer and co-writer Keith Dye. I have zipped them up for free download here. It's all there is and I can't help with any design questions, sorry.


Corsair Carbide 300R flickering LED fix

This stylish and versatile gaming PC case seems to have odd problems with flickering LEDs. It's caused by straining the wires during assembly and installing the motherboard. If you can solder, then I describe a fix here. Otherwise you need a replacement front panel loom from Corsair.



How to build a new PC

Late 2014 I decided I needed a new PC to replace my ten-year old Pentium. In this article I show my chosen spec. for a good, quiet, middle of the road PC along with a step by step rundown of assembly details and photos. If you've never considered building your own PC then maybe this will show you what's involved. More details...




New 0% US Tax Withholding Relief for UK Kindle authors?

The dreaded US Withholding Tax swallows 30% of our US Kindle earnings, even when we’re UK-based writers who have never even visited the USA let alone worked there. To circumvent this tax at source it’s necessary to obtain a US taxpayer ID or ITIN. This is do-able but as I described in this article, the method of getting a US ITIN number and filling out countless forms as a ‘non-resident alien’ is a very onerous process. US bureaucracy is every bit as bad as anything British or European, and even more hard-nosed.

The IRS identity checks have been particularly rigid; the US Embassy in London stated that I would have to visit with my UK Passport or photo driver's licence (haven't got one!), as they would only accept UK Government ID if the authentication was conducted by the US IRS themselves.  British Notary Public notorisation was not acceptable. Otherwise I would have to mail my passport to the IRS in the USA and complete the process that way instead.

So I decided to swallow the US 30% Withholding Tax, as the cost and effort needed to escape it far outweighed the 10% extra benefit gained by paying 20% UK tax and NIC on Kindle earnings instead. That's the thing: as my accountants pointed out, I'd pay UK income tax and NICs on earnings instead, so the benefits of enjoying 0% Withholding weren't that great.

A bunch of envelopes appeared in the post from Amazon, being the annual 1042-S (Foreign Person’s US Source Income Subject to Withholding) summarising the tax withheld by various Amazon websites including OnDemand Publ. LLC, the name behind Amazon’s Createspace print on demand.

The arrival of these envelopes prompted me to log into my Amazon Kindle account where in the Tax Information section I spotted that, even if I still had no ITIN number, it seemed I could now enter my UK Tax ID Number instead and claim 0% tax under the tax treaty that way.

Entering a UK HMRC tax ID to claim 0% tax relief on Kindle royalties [click to see] So that’s what I’ve done: my Tax ID from the HMRC Self Assessment statement was entered online and the resulting W8-BEN (Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding and Reporting (Individuals)) was signed electronically and submitted by Amazon. We’ll see what happens and whether future royalties are going to be assessed under the 0% tax treaty.


Interview Part 8: Here comes the future

PhizzyB by Clive MaxfieldIn the final part I explain how the world-wide web grabbed my attention, but not before I had completed two more Teach-In series, helped bring the PhizzyB computer to fruition and wrote the story of electricity generation in "From Pipelines To Pylons". I round off with a 50 Years Golden Anniversary celebration of our magazine. Read more...



Cashback offers on Asus tablets - hurry

Upgrade your old 7”+ tablet for a new Asus and get up to £50 cashback

Thinking of buying a new tablet?  Me too! If you have an old, unloved but fully working 7”+  tablet you can currently trade up to a brand new Asus Android tablet and earn up to £50 cashback direct from Asus. This offer runs to 15th March 2015 and qualifying vendors including Amazon UK are taking part in this great promotion. If you order a new qualifying Asus tablet, register the purchase and a box will be sent to ship your old one back. After inspection and approval a cashback will be paid direct by bank transfer.

You might be wanting a better display or battery life, faster wi-fi performance, Bluetooth or removable memory cards (or all those things, in my case), or simply get another tablet for leisure or the kids. Now is a great time to buy, especially after Christmas when offers are keener than ever in these cash-strapped times: there's no need to fork out for an expensive, top of the range tablet when Asus offers better value and good quality.

The promotion rules are very clear – your old tablet must be 7" or more, in good, serviceable condition with no undue wear, cracks, chips or heavy cosmetic damage, chassis or water damage etc. and it must power up properly. You must claim within 14 days.

Popular Asus tablets including the MeMo ME170C (7” 8GB, wifi) and MeMo ME181C (8” 16GB, wifi) are great value but other Asus tablets (eg the 10” TF103) are also in the promotion. Some products on Amazon don't seem to highlight the cashback offer for some reason, but here is the definitive list of Qualifying Tablets and FAQs published by Asus.

I’ve chosen a funky purple (which was lots cheaper) Asus MeMoPad ME181C – it’s Intel 64 bit quad-core Atom-powered, has Android 4.4 (Kit Kat), an 8” 1280x800 IPS smudge resistant screen, 16GB onboard memory (expandable to 64GB with MicroSD cards, not supplied), 802.11n wifi, GPS, Bluetooth 4, G-sensor, 9 hour (max.) battery.

Note that Android tablets cannot work with Amazon Prime streaming video service. Consider an Amazon HD Fire instead for that.

Below are a few useful links for the Asus 8” ME181C , so you can check the details yourself.

Have a look at the Asus Tablet store on and see what you think and you could bag yourself a bargain. I'll let you know how I get on with mine - even if it is purple!

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