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Entries by Alan W (110)


Life after Clearmymail

I must say that life without Clearmymail hasn't been bad after all. Seems my ISP (or the network in general) filters out most of the spam before it reaches my mailbox, and in truth I am only seeing maybe half a dozen spam messages a day.

The free version of Mailwasher handles one POP3 mailbox and lets me screen out any junk before it is fetched onto my PC, and I can also bounce back any unruly mail.  It does a very good job of analysing incoming mail. The paid-for Mailwasher Pro ($29.95 per year, 3 machines) handles multiple POP3s and enables the Message Preview pane. It also syncs to mobile devices. A lifetime licence, though, is about £60 / US$100 which is pushing it a bit.

If you like to manage mail the traditional way - on your PC - Mailwasher is worth a close look.

  • Clearmymail is still in business and their website is here.
  • Check my earlier Clearmymail blog entries here

My Hermes and how to phone them...

An item on the Royal Mail's scandalous parcel rates, details of My Hermes as an alternative carrier that's much cheaper for heavier parcels, and how to phone My Hermes as you won't find their phone number on their website!

Click to read more ...


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.

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