Things people don't understand – Thermostats

Have you ever noticed how some times people don’t operate an appliance/machine properly because they don’t understand how it works? Often, it’s because they’ve never been told or seen an instruction book. There are probably a lot of things I think I know how to use, but don’t.

One of the most annoying things I find that people don’t know how to work are thermostats. You know, the device that turns your heating on in your house or office. Thermostats have a scale of temperatures, the one in the photo goes from about 4 degrees centigrade to 32 degrees centigrade. 4 degrees means that it will turn on to prevent frost, 32 degrees is probably too hot for comfort.

What do you do when you feel cold? Most people turn the thermostat up, but in reality that probably isn’t a solution. A thermostat will turn the heating on when the temperature falls below the temperature it is set too, and it will turn off when it goes over that temperature.

So, you get into work in the morning and it feels cold. The temperature on the termostat is set to 22 Degrees. It seems most people will then turn it up to 30 degrees. When I ask why they say “because its cold and it will warm the room up quicker”. This is the point – it wont warm the room up any quicker. The heating system output is unchanged by the thermostat – a thermostat sets the heating on or off. All that will happen is that eventually the room will heat up to 30 degrees at which point someone will walk over to the thermostat and turn it down. Typically they turn it down to 16 degrees, no doubt thinking it will cool the room down quicker. When the temperature eventually reaches 16 degrees people will be cold and turning it back to 30 degress…. and on it goes.

If you feel cold when you get into work in the morning (or home at night for that matter) the problem isn’t the thermostat not turning on the heating when the temperature falls below it’s setting (22 degrees in this case) – it’s probably that the heating system has an overideing on/off switch on a timer, so the office isn’t heated overnight and the house isn’t heated during the day when it’s empty. The solution is to change the timer to turn the heating on before people get into work/get home. Once the room is at 22 degrees the thermostat will turn the heating off by itself. Perhaps these graphs will explain it better:

i-e1e7ee729de25e4a500317619019c17b-tempgraph1_web.png

i-dff0377d4b73cf87f850990621d771f3-tempgraph2_web.png

So why are we able to set the temperature then?
As humans we prefer different temperatures for different activities, doing the house work will probably warm our bodies up and therefore we will prefer a cooler ambient temperature (say 18degrees). Sitting down at night to watch a movie and we may prefer it slightly warmer (say 24 degrees). Working in an office with little movement we may prefer 22 degrees, whereas working on a trade counter which involves a lot of movement we will probably prefer 20 degrees. Every day we prefer something slightly different, and that’s why we have the control of a thermostat through a range of temperatures. Including a “Frost Protection” setting of around 4 degrees, for when the office is closed over christmas and we wouldn’t want pipes to freeze in our absence.

So, the next time you feel cold at home or the office, don’t jump up and put the thermostat on it’s maximum setting, move it up by a couple of degrees then go and check to see the heating timer is set correctly.

Subdomain Redirects

I mentioned a while ago I was playing with subdomain redirects for some ATC related domain names I registered. Well, I’ve got them working to the point I’ve started telling people they can be used. The domains in question are:
http://www.airtrainingcorps.info
http://www.atc-sqn.org.uk
http://www.atc-squadron.org.uk
and if you go them you can see more about how it works.

Basically, the www is a commonly used subdomain of internet domain names. Normally it points to a web server that replies with a web page but I made my web server read the the subdomain name and look up another location in a database. If there is another location, the server will tell a visitors web browser to go somewhere else.

Therefore other cadet units can turn addresses like http://www.freehostsite.net/~user879744x1/ into a more readable and logical address like http://1242.airtrainingcorps.info. When the server gets the request for 1242, it will redirect the user to the free hosting web site. The advantages are:
1) If a squadron moves to another free host the rest of the ATC don’t have to update their links to point to the new location (I update my redirect list and visitors automatically get redirected to the new location)
2) It means ATC squadrons get a relevant domain name for their publicity for free (as opposed to buying a domain name for their use and having to manage it).

It was programmed using PHP and MySQL, with a neat DNS trick called Wildcard DNS.

Memories, Music and co-incidence

i-6327b4ac807dbb50b294c2d792a1491f-strawbs.gifWhen I think of my Granddad, one thing has always sprung to mind. It’s a song with the lyrics “you won’t get me I’m a part of the union, you won’t get me I’m a part of the Union…”. (Text really doesn’t mean much when you think of songs, so If I ever get round to it I’ll see if I can put an extract here too.)

My Granddad was a Union Man. I remember growing up and him talking about political things and I’m sure he must have mentioned the unions several times. I can’t remember anything specific that he said about the unions, but I have always associated that song with him. The song “PART OF THE UNION” was released by The Strawbs in 1973 – 3 years before I was born.

Fast forward a couple and a half decades. In 2003 I finally got round to having some guitar lessons. The teacher, Dave Lambert, used to teach my dad many years ago. Dave is an exceptionally good teacher. I also knew he’d had some songs in the charts many years before, including one called “Lay Down”. Now, I’ve never been very good remembering names, so I didn’t know that the band that recorded “Lay Down” were “The Strawbs”. Dave Lambert was (and is) a Strawb.

For several months I had no idea that I was being taught to play guitar by one of the musicians who recorded the song I associate with my Granddad.

Secret Lives

I’ve been thinking lately how little we know about each other. I got thinking about this when someone described me as a “gamer”. They were surprised to discover that I play a game called “Warbirds” with some other people over the internet.

Warbirds probably deserves it’s own blog entry, but for now it’s basically a flight simulator where multiple players get to shoot each other out of the sky. It’s not encouraging war or violence, it’s fun and it’s a challenge. Seeing as I don’t watch much TV (the occasional documentary, just never been interested in the soaps) it’s a bit of me time too.

I always thought it was quite logical for me to find that sort of program. People who know me are quite likely to know that:
a) I have always loved flying
b) I find computers easy to work with
c) I like to keep my mind occupied (I have always liked stragey games, from Risk when I was growing up to SimCity and the like as I got older).
A Flight Sim, on a computer, where you have to achieve some very specific goals against other people – many who are highly skilled, covers all of those things nicely.

So, back to “Secret Lives”. They are not really secret things that we keep from each other but when we meet someone, what do they do with themselves in life?
Where do they like to go on holiday?
What was their earliest memory?
What thing are they most proud of?
Who do they count among their friends?
What do they want to achieve in their remaining life?
What are they doing to achive it?
What have they done in the past?
What sports do they enjoy?
Did they represent the country at the Olympics?

They’re not things that people deliberately hide, but things they just don’t mention.

I guess it’s my curious side that’s asking all these questions. For all I know their is someone I know, perhaps I’ve been seeing them for years as they supply my business or perhaps I know them from a technical newsgroup and have only typed messages to them, has an interest very similar to one of mine but that we’ve never mentioned to each other. Perhaps, just perhaps, I know the same person twice, if you see what I mean. I noticed that once I started running (during this summer, although I’ve done very little for the last month) I met quite a few other people that either were or had been keen runners.

I guess, all of this is made harder by not knowing ourselves that well. I believe we are always changing as we grow, and for a while we may be interested in one thing and then over time that interest will fade to be replaced by something else. I’m sure that eventually my interest in Warbirds will fade and I will move onto something else. In fact, I’m also keen to know what the next new thing in my life will be. As we all go through so many phases of life I guess it becomes less likely that we speak about them.

So, if you are reading this, you know me, and you also have a Blog then let me know where yours is. Then we have one less secret between us. My thoughts are now wondering onto “I wonder how long this blogging phase of mine will last”.

A new category – Root Theory/Root Memory/Roots Observations

Decided to add a new category for the bundle of posts half written that I haven’t published yet. This section covers:

My Theories (on life, the universe, and anything else).
My Memories (We are the sum of our experience, and these are things from my past that pop into my mind from time to time).
My Observations (Those little things that I notice during my everyday life – now I’ve got somewhere to note them down)

Useful Windows Shortcut Key (show desktop)

i-79ecf923eadcc74c51fb5f4c6f8a9be9-windowsxp-2.pngThere’s a useful windows shortcut key that I’d almost forgotten existed. I was speaking to a friend who uses a Mac and he proudly showed how by pressing one key (or combination) he could hide all of the open programs and display the OS X desktop. There’s an equivalent key in Windows XP too, it’s a combination of the “Windows Key” + D. Couldn’t remember it at the time as it’s been so long since I’ve used it.

There are hundreds of shortcut keys, I bet someone out there has an email service sending ‘shortcut key of the day’ too. If I find it, I think I’ll have to subscribe.

OK, pop quiz: Name the shortcut Keys for the following commands (answers in the Extended Entry):
Show Windows Desktop : (c’mon, I’ve just told you that one).
Copy :
Paste :
Switch to another application :
Continue reading “Useful Windows Shortcut Key (show desktop)”

When I realised being sick wasn't so bad after all

Growing up, I used to hate being sick. I know, that’s quite normal. I also remember Mum and Dad never seemed to be sick (or at least be as upset by it) as I was. Well, whilst growing up I had one experience that taught me being sick wasn’t so bad after all.

In 1995 I was fortunate to go trekking in Nepal (courtesy of some hard work and help from the Boys Clubs). One evening, up a remote hillside in Nepal the Sherpa’s made us soup for dinner. I remember seeing the oily surface reflecting in the half light of dusk. I remember forcing it down because although I didn’t feel to good, I decided I needed the energy having been walking for a few days.

Within a couple of hours I was sick. I then began thinking, “oh well, I’m being sick. Not a lot I can do about i,t just let it happen then get some sleep”.

That trip to Nepal was the first time I realised that being sick isn’t always so bad, just something to put up with for a while until you’re better. I think part of it was resigning myself to the fact that no-one else could help. It was apparent to me then that the nearest hospital was a long way away (a 2 day walk followed by a 1 day drive), so if being sick was all I had to worry about, then I really had nothing worry about.

promotional spam that made me laugh

Just recieved a very funny spam email from a company called ..second thoughts, not going to give them the benefit of more publicity. Anyway, It appears they are trying to sell some sort of software firewall/anti-virus/proxy server. Being particularly well written for spam, I took at look at the email headers. Email headers aren’t normally displayed by your email client but they contain all the important things about the email, like which email servers it had travelled through on it’s way to you. They can also contain custom headers, and for an email proclaiming such wonderful anti-virus protection services, I thought the following X-headers were hillarious…

X-4SureHosting-Scanner-Information: Please visit www.4surehosting.co.uk for more info on Virus Scanning services
X-4SureHosting-Scanner: Not scanned: please login to your domain name level control panel and upgrade your package to include Anti-Virus scanning for your entire domains email

4surehosting.co.uk sent me an email this week asking for more information on the spam email. They also asked for me to make it clear on my blog that the spam email DID NOT come from them. As they pointed out to me, my blog entry could easily be mis-read to imply that the spam came from 4sure (it did NOT come from them). So why did it mention them (and for my non technical friends what’s an X-Header)?

When you send an email, it goes from your computer via your Internet Service Provider’s server and on to it’s destination. 4surehosting are an internet service provider, just like BT, AOL but much smaller. Every computer that handles an email messages adds information to the X-Headers that record the path the email has taken and other relevant informaion.

Although 4surehosting are small compared to the big ISP’s*,

  • 1) They are sharp enough to offer their customers virus scanning on email sent though them (and the x-header gets updated to say whether or not the email was checked)
  • 2) They care enough to spot spam and actually want to stop it being sent through their servers.
  • 3)They actually took the time to email me and find out more details about this particular spam message (I don’t think companies the size of BT or AOL would)

.You may think it’s every ISP’s job to prevent spam being sent by their customers but it’s not. There’s no real way BT/AOL/4sure could check every email being sent by someone to check for it being spam or not. How would they know it’s not a genuine mailshot that’s part of normal business?

So, what happened to this particular spammer. I found it so funny, I actually looked up the domain technical contact and sent them an email about it. It turned out the emails had been sent via an over eager new sales agent they had. Full marks for effort, no marks for approach. They were going to educate the sales agent on why not to buy email address lists off the internet.

*I used ISP as a fairly generic term. 4surehosting host web pages but also carry email for the domains. So, even though you use BT for your internet connection, 4surehosting could be carring your businesses email and not BT. At Roots, we use BT for our broadband connection but all of our email is routed through our own dedicated web server. Therefore our email never touches a BT mail server and if ever we move broadband supplier we won’t need to change our email settings.

May be it’s just my warped mind, but I find it funny seeing spam promoting virus scanning that is processed by a third party declaring virus scanning is a service not included their hosting package.