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Entries by Alan W (109)


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!


Fixing draughty uPVC windows

Here's a useful item on repairing draughty uPVC windows. I found a high quality white seal that's easy to use, strong and durable (good for 8 years or more). Much cheaper than trying to find new seals, it also looks OK both indoors and out. Read more...


Deleting the Omiga-Search Plus adware browser hijacker

A combination of my speedy new PC, my failing eyesight, poor flat screen LCD contrast and an errant mouse-click while googling around, meant that my brand new installation of Windows 7 Professional got itself a browser hijack right before my very eyes. Curses. My Google home page in IE 11 was hijacked by Omiga-Plus Search - a useless, third-rate duff search page with some garbage links to gambling, gaming and other junk. Read more...


Celebrating the Ambra PC - the computer that so nearly broke the mould

In 1992 along came Ambra, an IBM-compatible PC made by an offshoot of IBM themselves, called ICPI Ltd.  It could have been maybe too good for IBM's own comfort and it was mercilessly axed by IBM after just a few short years. This stylish PC was smart, fast and aggressively priced. Some reprints of original Ambra literature from 1992/ 93 are included in this article. Read more...

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