Sunday 2 November 2014

Nest Thermostat - Guess I must be saving money?

I fitted my Nest's about six months ago and whilst for most of that period the heating has not needed to come on, it looks like I am already making a saving.  Just had a letter from my energy provider informing me they are reducing the size of my direct debit as I not using as much energy as before.  Whilst this probably isn't just down to the Nest, I am sure its a major contributor.  Although it will be some time before a recoup the purchase price of three nests. All in all I still very happy with my Nest's and if the energy savings continue I will be very happy indeed!

Saturday 20 September 2014

Airshow - Lancaster Bombers

Having tried to see the two Lancaster bombers flying together at the Bournemouth Air Festival earlier this year when I was disappointed to find the Canadian bomber VeRA had suffered an engine failure.
My dad and I were determined to see it but could not make it to any of the other air shows it was meant to be visiting but found out it would be flying over Collingham, Nottinghamshire on the 20th September. Having moved a few things around we decided to go up and have a look and were not disappointed.

The venue turned out to be a village show which seemed to have a lot more attendees that they normally would of had, as the Lancaster's were running late we decide to have a look around the show and grab a bite to eat which was a pleasant enough way to pass the time. When they finally arrived there was no warning over the PA that they were about pass over. Hearing he sound of the eight Merlin engines was the first I knew and with in a few seconds they broke into sight over the trees and within a minute they were gone again, luckily I had my camera at the ready, but with so little notice it was difficult to frame a shot.

Whilst I did not get any great pictures I will always remember seeing and hearing them go over head and I am so glad we made the effort to go and see them.

Monday 8 September 2014

New Workshop - Introduction

When I purchased my house one of the main reasons I chose it was because it had a double garage at the bottom of the garden which would of made an ideal workshop.  After several year of letting the house out and a couple of an extensive remodel I finally moved in.  Many months passed before I was recovered enough from the effort of the building work to think about using my workshop.  To my dismay I soon discovered that the garage frequently flooded due to water seeping under the doors and between the walls and the slab. It was clear that I was going to have to do something about this.  After investigating a lot of options to stop the leakage it became clear that the only repair option was to dismantle the garage poor a new slab at a higher height and rebuild which was going to be a big hassle.

So I decided to make the best of it and build a bigger and better workshop with more space so I can work on multiple different projects at the same time and insulation so I will be more comfortable.  It will be a large single room of just under 50 square metres but I may partition off an area for use for small electronics / modelling projects in the future.  Having investigated various construction options I have opted for conventional construction with rendered cavity walls and a tiled roof.

With a design in mind it was time to draw up some plan and apply for planning permission. Which was easier said that done.  On the third attempt the council finally accepted them and it was just a matter of waiting for a decision.  The planning office decided she need to see the site and gave me a good grilling about what I was intending to use the space for, finally I got the approval!

So its all stations go, next stage will be the emptying of the old garage which will be no mean feat!

Sunday 31 August 2014

Great Dorset Steam Fair

Having always wanted to go to the Great Dorset Steam Fair when the opportunity arrive I leapt at it.  To paraphrase The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy this is big, really big whilst we only went for the last day I can see how you could easily spend a few day at it.

Unlike other steam fairs I have been to where there might be a dozen traction engine there, here traction engines, showman's engines, steam ploughs, heavy plant, and stationary engines as far as the eye could see.

Hopefully I will be able to make it next year.

I have posted a few pictures on my flickr follow the link below.

Saturday 30 August 2014

Airshow - Bournemouth Air Festival

As the Vulcan was not at the Royal International Air Tattoo this year and we wanted to see it fly we had a look around at the options.  As we were going to Weymouth anyway we opted for the Bournemouth Air Festival a show we had never been to before.

Later we found out that the Canadian Lancaster bomber would be flying there also which would of been an amazing bonus but unfortunately it was cancelled due to engine problems.  Hopefully we will  be able to see it for it goes back to the other side of the pond most likely never to return.

So what about the show?  Well its a very different show from the ones we normally go to such as RIAT or Cosford and was in fact the first seaside show we had been to.  This has some plus points and some negatives, on the plus side you are much closer to the flight line so you get a great view, the only real negative is that you miss the take off and landings, oh and its a bit sandy!

Once again we opted for the hospitality which made the rush to find some space on the beach not a problem.  I would however say this is probably the ideal family air show as even if you have no interested in planes (and naval ships) you can still have a nice day on the beach.  The only other suggestion I would have is go by train if at all possible it sounded as though parking was a nightmare!

Below is a link to a few more pictures I took although I was having camera / operator problems so unfortunately they are not great!

The highlight of the show for me was rather predictably the Vulcan which did an amazing howl.  My dad agreed but added that the Typhoon was a very close second for him.  So would we go again, yes, yes I would.

Monday 11 August 2014

Sous Vide - BBQ Brisket

Brisket of beef vacuum packed ready for cooking.
Last month I held my annual BBQ, and decided I should have ago at doing something different.  As I now have Sansaire emersion circulator which of recent times had been under used I thought it would be fun to combine sous vide and BBQ.  After careful thought I decided to go with cooking a brisket of beef.  I was limited in size by the max width of my vacuum sealer, next time I may get the butcher to seal it for me so I can go with a larger piece of meat.  The piece of brisket I ended up cooking was about 12" x 16" x 1.5", whilst I could of gone a bit longer any thicker or wider was not an option. Below is how I went about the cooking, its not at all a recipe but it might give you a few ideas.

Four days before I wanted to serve I trimmed the excess fat and any sinew from the meat, applied a dry rub (heavy on the black pepper but with only a small amount of salt at we do not want to cure the meat) and vacuum packed it.  Now whilst this is a cheap cut of meat it is going to take four days to cook, a do over is not an option so I opted to double bag the meat just to make I would not have a bag split.  Once bagged I left the meat in the fridge for 24 hours to let the flavours from the rub permeate the meat.

Beef brisket cooking in water bath.
After the 24 hours were up I transferred the brisket to the water bath, as the cooking time was going to be around 72 hours at 55c I decided to invest in a good quality cooler to try and save some electricity and so I would not need to top it up as often. As the Sansaire is sticking out the top I was unable to fit the lid but I placed it on the best I could.  Despite this I still had to top up the water level every day to allow for evaporation.  In the future I may buy an extra lid and notch it around the Sansaire or possibly opt for a layer of ping pong balls. I'm not sure which will work out best value, ping pong balls may be cheap but I would need a good couple of hundred.

Brisket having just been moved to grill and basted.
After the 72 hours were up I carefully removed the brisket from the bag trying to keep it in one piece and transferred it to the BBQ and cooked it using the indirect method at about 150c for a further 2 hours.  Whilst on the grill I basted it about every 20min with my home made mopping barbecue sauce. After removing from the grill I rested the meat under foil for around 30min and then cut into 3/16" slices and served.

The meat was succulent and tender and full of flavour, but you don't get the smoke ring or as much of a char on the outside of the joint, so it is a trade off. I would also in future reduce the time and up the temperature on the grill as the meat ended up a little more done than I would of liked, either that or maybe finish with a blowtorch? Rather annoyingly I don't have a picture on the final results as I was busy entertaining guests, but I did find one of the shoulder of pork I did for pulled pork :).

Shoulder of Pork after 18 hours.

Thursday 7 August 2014

Nest Protect

Nest Protect
A few weeks ago after a very long wait, first for them to rerelease the Nest Protect after they withdrew the from sale and then for Nest to for fill my order my Nest Protects finally arrived.  I decided to opt for one wired and one battery model, I would of preferred both wired but it would have been awkward to of got a cable to the one in the kitchen without pulling down parts of the ceiling. 

Fitting in both cases was pretty easy and I would say any competent person could fit either providing in the case of the mains model you are replacing an existing mains unit.  The design is clean and they look good in most rooms, it would however of made fitting much easier if they were round so you did not have to align them with the axis of the room. When fitting the mains version its a bit difficult in some cases to get the cable to come through the ceiling in the right place other than that fitting is easy. I also like the fact they include push on Wago connects and the screws.

Setup is well thought out and I like the uses of a QR code to save you entering the device information.  It did however take some time for my phone to connect to it and for it to then connect to my Wi-Fi, in fact it took several attempts. Once connected however it seems to have stayed so with no problems.  One thing to note is that you do require a smart phone or an Android or IOS tablet to configure them, it is not possible to do it from a pc or mac.

Day to Day
On a day to day basis the Nest Protect is very easy to live with.  The quick green glow of the "Nightly promise" is surprisingly reassuring, and the Pathlight gives just enough light to stop you from bumping into things. The nice big button is easy to hit with a broom if your detector is out of reach to silence or test.  I also love the idea that it will shutdown my boiler if CO is detected although the boiler will still come on for hot water.

So far thankfully I have not had the alarm sound for either Smoke or CO other than during a test, hopefully I am not tempting fate. All in all I am very happy with my purchase, and look forward to see what Nest come out with next.

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Airshows - Royal International Air Tattoo

Airbus A400M
My dad and I made our annual trip to the Royal International Air Tattoo the other weekend, we have been going each year since 2007 with the exception of the 2008 cancelation and 2012. As always we opted for aviation club tickets for which the private route to the air field and parking on the apron are a big plus.  Add to that, a nice lunch, tea & coffee, toilets you would be willing to use and private seating I can almost convince myself its good value.

So what did I think of the show itself? Well lets get the bad points over with first. We were both, along with many others, very disappointed to see the Vulcan would not be appearing at this years tattoo.  You can read for yourself the "reasons" on the web but what ever the reason many people purchased tickets months in advance on the basis it would be attending. The other big disappointment was that the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II which was meant to be the highlight of the show was unable to attend due to an engine failure and a subsequent grounding, needless to say this was out of the Air Tattoo's hands and regardless safety must come first.  The final couple of negative points; I do wonder whether there were a few to many display team this year, I understand this was to celebrate the Red Arrows 50th anniversary but a bit more variety in the types of aircraft would of been nice.  I could not help but think these long displays may of pushed the Vulcan off the program.  The only other negative and this is more of a personal thing but for the money we spent on enclosure tickets it would of been nice of had wifi access.

Sukhoi Su-22 'Fitter'
Now we have issues out the way let have a look at some of the highlight of the show.  I thought the Polish Air Force Sukhoi Su-22 'Fitter' display was excellent and could well be the last time I will get to see this relic of the cold war smoking up the sky.  When it came to the fast jets I think the RAF Typhoon display takes it for me but the Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet's display gets an honourable mention.  Where the transport planes are concerned whilst I love the Airbus A400M as an aircraft the Italian C-27J Spartan display was as always something else, I am still amazed to see an aircraft of that type loop the loop.  The RAF Chinook display was by far my favourite of the rotary wing displays although the Army Air Core Apache display was entertaining. The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's Lancaster and Spitfire both gave impressive displays and it was nice to see the Dakota flying again.  Finally the Red Arrows were back to the usual high quality display and it was nice that they had a reasonable high cloud level to work with.

To wrap up this article, will I be going next year?  I would like to say if they have the Vulcan etc, but who am I kidding I will most likely go regardless.  Below is a link to a few more of the pictures I took on the day, if you read this far they might be of interest.

Thursday 10 July 2014


Due to circumstances beyond my control, my garden now contains a gnome.  Whilst I would never of purchased one for myself I think I am going to let him stay around for a while.

Collecting - Cable

I received a very kind gift recently of an oak box with a slice of cable inlaid into it the lid.  The underside of the lid is stamped with "British Insulated Cables Ltd Prescot Lancs".  A quick bit of research has found that they changed there name to the above in 1925 and changed their name again in 1945 to British Insulated Callenders Cables or BICC, after their merger with Callenders Cable and Construction Co. This at lease narrows its production down to a twenty year window.

As for identifying the cable itself this has proved a lot more difficult. Its clearly a lead sheathed power cable but beyond that I am struggling .

I think the next step will be to find a catalogue from BIC during that era which will hopefully have a description / drawing that matches.  Failing that the Liverpool Museum seem to of inherited much of the companies archive so that might be an option.  If anybody has any ideas I would love to hear them.

Thursday 3 July 2014

What are these? - Track Side Makers

I spend a lot of time on railway platforms I have often looked at these things and wondered what they are? I have asked quite a few people but have never got a definite answer.  Guesses include they show the ballast high, they are a vibration indicator or they indicate clearances.

If anybody knows I would be very interested to find out!

Friday 27 June 2014

Bit Coin Mining - Zeusminer Blizzard power consumption

The extra four Zeus Blizzard miners I mentioned in my previous post have now arrived bringing the grand total up to six. Together they are giving about 8.5MH/s and consuming around 292w as you can see in the picture.

To save you doing the maths (we are not American none of math crap here) that works out at 1.42MH/s each with a power consumption of 48.67w.  I for one am very happy with these figures.

My eye has however been draw to an offer they have on the 28MH/s  Thunder X3 for only $1199, I think I am going to sleep on that one.

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Collecting - Cable

I have done it again and purchased yet another piece of cable, the only difference is this time I know nothing about it.  Does anybody have any ideas of how I could go about identifying it?  It looks from the size of armour strands its from a coastal section but other than that I don't have a clue.

Monday 23 June 2014

Bit Coin Mining - Zeusminer Blizzard first impressions

First impressions?  Well when I unpacked them I can't say I was super happy with the build quality. It is "ok" it will get the job done but its not the nicest.  The packaging was excellent by the way.  First I tried just the one with the custom build of cgminer and it just worked right out of the box, once I had set the correct comm port.  To find this you just need to look it up in device manager.

Getting the second one to work took a little more effort.  This was largely due to a lack of documentation but after a little searching on the web I found it was as simple as duplicating the comm port entry in the bat file.

Below is copy of my bat file, password etc removed:

cgminer.exe -o stratum+tcp:// -u Username_1234 -p xxxx --chips-count 6 --ltc-clk 328 -S //./COM4 -S //./COM5

I am surprised how good these work and I am getting about 2.7mh off a pair of them.  That's around the same rate as my three r9 290x rig for about an 8th of the cost.  Power consumption is also a fraction of what my old rig used which is good and along with the drop in power consumption there is a corresponding drop in heat output and thus noise as there are a lot less fans which are not having to work nearly as hard.

So when all is said and done I'm pleased, well I have ordered another four.

Saturday 21 June 2014

Makita 18v LXT Battery - Repair

So as I mentioned in my previous post I have purchased a replacement control board from Ebay for my Makita 18v Li-Ion LXT batteries.  This weekend I finally had enough time to have go at fitting it and whilst it is not just a plug in affair I would say anyone with a multi meter and a half decent soldering iron should be able to do this.

I was lucky and had a battery that had ok cells but a faulty control board so I decided to try repairing this one first. The control board came with ok instructions on how to fit but they don't explain everything, this may be because it can be used with all of the models of 18v LXT battery Makita have made.  Providing you have a bit of common sense you should be ok.

So apart from the soldering you might expect you also have to cut away a lot plastic and that's assuming you are lucky like me and don't need to replace any cells.  If you do spot welding to the cells is the best way to go, as if you solder you risk overheating.

As I had previously got the battery pack out of the case the first thing to do was remove the existing pcb and cut away the plastic pcb support etc as per the instruction.  I opted to cut the nickel contacts instead of desoldering. Fitting the pcb and soldering the wires to the contacts was simple although I had to break out my larger soldering iron.  By far the hardest part was getting the covers back on this took a little fettling of the plastic to get it to fit.

Next came the moment of truth, I put the battery on a charger and it charged ok.  I then discharged the battery using my circular saw and once again recharged the battery and that also worked ok.  Needless to say I will need to let it go through a few more cycles before I am confident enough to call it a success but all in all things are looking good!

Wednesday 11 June 2014

GoPro - Canal trip timelapse

Well I purchased myself a new toy a couple of weeks ago a GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition. Naturally for an action camera like this I needed
to find a suitably hi octane activity to test it with. So I decided to take it on a narrow boat trip, now I do admit that at first glance this might not seem like a natural fit but I had a feeling that I could get some quite good time-lapses.

The way the GoPro does time lapses is by taking a series of stills images in jpeg format one after another at a user defined interval of between every 0.5 and 60 seconds.  These are then stitched together using software to create an avi file. This can take sometime, I would suggest its a leave it going whist you do something else kind of task.

The images that make up the clip below were shot with the camera clamped to the bow tee-stud at one frame per second. I then stitched them together using GoPro Studio although there are other options.  Hopefully I will get time soon to edit together some of the other shots I took on the trip.

A couple of things I have realised since doing this are that battery life seems to be the same regardless of if you are shooting a time lapse or live footage and secondly at HD a 32Gb Micro SD card does not last very long!

Friday 6 June 2014

Bit coin Mining

For a bit of fun I have been mining various Crypto coins for some time. I never expected to make
much in the way of money, just cover my expenses.  I started mining Bitcoin using Butterfly Labs ASIC's based miners but I got into it a bit too late for it to be profitable. Moved over to pool mining alternative SHA coins but once again I was a bit too late. 

So I decided to have a go at mining some of the Scrypt based coins such as Dogecoin. Initially just using my graphics card but later with a dedicated mining rig.  Whilst this has been moderately successful it has kicked out enough heat to make working in the same room uncomfortable to say the least.  At the time ASIC miners capable of mining Scrypt coins were not available but of recent times a couple of manufacturers have started to offer them at a very reasonable price.

Having looked at all the options I have decided to opt for the blizzard miners from Zeusminer and have a couple on order.  I should get around twice the hashing power for the same price as when using GPU's. Along with a greatly reduced power consumption hopefully there will be a significant drop in heat output. They will to arriving in the next few days, I will keep you posted.

Friday 23 May 2014

Collecting - Cable

I said it would only be a matter of time before I added to the cable collection.  I was right,  I just got an absolute bargain on eBay for a piece of the first transatlantic cable with silver plated ends .  I have come up with design for a display rack, so once I have a few more I will start that project in earnest.

Sunday 11 May 2014

Collecting - Cable

Some people collect things, I have never really been one of those, but I think that might be changing. Now my parents would disagree and say the large quantity of vintage computers mainly BBC Micro's filling there loft is a collection, I would say its just some useful equipment I have collected over the years, oh bugger maybe it is a collection.

So what have I started collecting?  Well I have started collecting cable and when I say started I have two pieces which is I guess the minimum to count as a collections but a have saved an eBay search so its only a matter of time before I have more.

I first purchased a piece of collectable cable in 2007 from the Hoover Dam whilst on a lads trip to Las Vegas. It was a pen holder made out of a short length of hollow high voltage conductor cable, designed to carry 287500 volts across the Mojave Desert.  The cable is hollow to save weight, this is possible because most of the electricity flows through the outer surface at high voltages, it is referred to as skin effect.  The construction of the cable is ten interlocking tongue and groove strips on a slight spiral, this enables the cable to expand and contract. Sorry to geek out but I do think its a cool design.

It was a Seven years later I was browsing eBay looking for a Morse key (another project I will write about some day) and I saw a whole lot of undersea telegraphy cable sections for sale.  So I bid on them, all of them.  Luckily I was outbid on all but one of them, if I have won them all I would of been in for a couple of thousand dollars.  The one I won ended up costing me just under £50 including postage so it has not broken the bank.  The only problem I have is that I do not know where or how to display them, maybe I should make some form of display rack...

Monday 5 May 2014

Makita 18v LXT Battery Dismantling & Testing

So I have four failed batteries and decided to find out what has gone wrong each of them.  First step is to get the cover off.  This is held on by four T10 Anti Tamper screws, on newer models there may be a white plug covering one of the screws.  I have found that the easiest way to remove it is to drive in a small wood screw and pull it out with a pair of pliers. I was surprised how much dust had made its way into the batteries.

Below is a description of the fault on each battery.
  1. Battery One: Fails to charge with a over temperature alert.  Also the plastic at the side of the release button has bubbled. It is showing 7.99v across the whole battery which is way to low and 0.04v, 0v, 3.96v, 0.04v and 3.97v across each of the cell pairs respectively. Upon opening up the battery there is obvious damage to the second pair of cells.
  2. Battery Two: Fails to charge with classic red / green flashing lights. It is 12.84v across the battery and 3.2v, 0v, 3.22v, 3.22v & 3.21v across each of the cell pairs respectively.
  3. Battery Three: Fails to charge with classic red / green flashing lights. It is 15.54v across the battery and 0v, 3.89v, 3.89v, 3.89v & 3.89v across each of the cell pairs respectively.
  4. Battery Four: Fails to charge with classic red / green flashing lights. It is 18.15v across the battery and 3.62v, 3.63v,3.6, 3.63 &3.62v across each of the cell pairs respectively.
By way of comparison a known good battery seems to measure around 20v when freshly charged.

So I think my best option to end up with an extra working battery is to use the board from Battery One and fit it to the cells and temp sensor from Battery Four.  Changing the board should be pretty simple it just requires de-soldering.  Fixing the other batteries is going to be a little more challenging. Up until recently replacement circuit board were not available so once you had seen the red / green flashing lights three times your battery was bricked.  However recently they have become available for a round £10 which is certainly much cheaper than a replacement battery.

That still leaves the failed cells and whist it is possible to solder cells together the heat required to solder them risks damaging the cells. Having investigated purchasing a spot welder I feel that is out of my budget but I may have a go at making a capacitor discharge one.

Saturday 3 May 2014

Nest Thermostat after 28 days.

It has now been four weeks since I installed my first Nest thermostat in my house and since then I have added two additional Nest Thermostat, one to control the kitchen and one for the upstairs, making a total of three. Currently they are all on Nest stands although I will hard wire a couple of them when I am next going to decorate as I will have to chase in new cables.

Over the last few weeks I have had several days when in some of the rooms the heating has not been required at all.  With my old system I would of carried on heating the area.  I have noticed that the auto away seems to be a bit strange about when it triggers, some times it cuts in fine but other days it does not. I am wondering if it might be down to sun light hitting the sensor?

On the client side, we have now installed several for clients with all types of heating systems and so far everyone is really happy.  I just wish the Nest Protect was available, just about every client we have installed a thermostat is keen to get a couple.  Hopefully they will get there issues sorted soon.

Tuesday 29 April 2014

Sous Vide - Cooking with Sansaire first impressions.

What is Sous Vide, well it literally means under vacuum, referring to the practice of cooking food sealed in vacuum bags.  It has however come to refer to cooking in a water bath a low, precisely controlled temperatures. Why would I want to do this, there are many reason but they nearly always come down to either improving texture or removing timing criticality.

Having eaten food cooked using the sous vide method when at restaurants I was keen to find a way of doing it at home without breaking the bank.  First I looked at commercial water baths but they were all well outside my price range.  Experiments at ghetto sous vide using a cooler and adding hot water to maintain the temp were at best a mixed bag. Providing the cooking time are short (under an hour) and the food you were cooking does not need precise temperature control (so no eggs) you can just about get away with it but all in all it is more hassle than its worth.

When I saw the Sansaire on Kickstarter for only $220 including shipping to the UK I decided it had to be worth a try.  After a long wait it finally arrived middle of March. As I have only had my Sansaire immersion circulator for just over a month  its still early days, here's what I have tried so far.  Sorry for the lack of pictures I will add some more soon.

Well like most people the first thing I tried was an egg.  Having read many article and seen the tables I decided on 63.5c as the cooking temp.  This seemed the best way of getting a poached style egg.  I was expecting the texture of eggs but was surprised by the flavour, in all the articles I had read nobody seemed to of mentioned that the flavour of the white of the egg improves.  For me this was a real revelation, having been used to the white of an egg being pretty tasteless.

Next I tried a simple sirloin steak. I first seasoned the steak and then sealed it in a vacuum bag.  After cooking at 50c for an hour I finished it off in a searing hot griddle pad for just 30sec on each side. This resulted in a perfect rare steak, although the fat could of done with a little longer on the griddle to give it a bit more colour and crisp it up.

Finally I tried a piece of belly pork which skinned and seasoned and them cooked in a vacuum bag at 65c for 14 Hours. Once removed from the bag I dried the meat with kitchen paper and replaced the salted skin and finished in a hot oven for 45min. Once again this turned out well with forkable meat and crisp crunchy crackling.

Other than the odd chicken breast this is all I have tried but I will be experimenting more as soon as time allows.

The Sansaire itself

First lets get out the way the bad points out the way. Well for me I am yet to find any other than that the back cover is a little difficult to refit. A few others seem to of had issues with the reset button but so far mine is working perfectly.

So here are my thoughts in general. The unit takes a little over 15min to bring a pan of water up to 63.5 to do an egg and once there the temperature holds to within a tenth of a degree.  I have check the temp using a calibrated thermo couple and the temp seem to be a tenth of a degree too low which I feel to be acceptable. I like the turning the dial to change the temp but the direction seemed to be counter intuitive.  I do however like the clip, the fact that it can be used on a thin walled pan and some thing as thick as a cooler is a real bonus.  The clip does struggle with containers with a pronounced lip, including one of the gastronomes I tried it with, but you can't have everything.

All in all I am very happy but until I give it a real test I will reserve judgement.  Once we get to BBQ season I will have a few more opportunity's to test.

Things To Try

As well as trying a few more recipes I am looking forward to trying a blow torch sear meat instead of using a griddle pan. So I think I will try and hunt one out and give it ago at the weekend.  Pre empting me liking this I have ordered a Searzall which is an attachment for your torch to help achieve a more even heat and reduce torch taint.

I think these new kitchen gadgets are going to be fun......

Sunday 20 April 2014

Nest Thermostat after 14 days - Victor Kiam moment.

It has now been a fortnight since I installed my first Nest thermostat in my house and in the mean time I have added an additional one to control another zone.  According to my energy history it is already saving me money.  The Auto Away feature is now working and has cut in a few times, I look forward to seeing more changes appear to my schedule.

Last week I had a few concerns, lets recap.
  1. "How long will it take it to learn how long my Underfloor Heating takes to come to temperature?  Currently it seems to be going at least 3C over temp."  Slowly the amount it goes over temperature seems to be reducing as it learns how long it takes my under floor heating to heat up and cool down.
  2. "Will having the Nest on the stand on a counter top slightly lower than the ideal have a major effect on performance?"  This does not seem to be causing any problems but intend to check the temperatures with a thermometer just to make sure.
  3. "What should I do in the summer, traditionally I have always turned my heat off from May till the end of September but I am not sure this is the way to go with a Nest."  I have decided I will leave my heating on all year round and see how the Nest Learning Thermostat handles things.
  4. "It would be really nice if you could put the stat into demo mode to disable learning when give demo's to friends and family." This is one thing I would like to see, every friend who come round seems to want to play with!
Now in the interest of full disclosure, I have had a Victor Kiam moment, I like the Nest Thermostat so much I have purchased the company.  Well that's not exactly true, first of all Google beat me to it and secondly the price would of been a bit out of my reach.  I have however done the next best thing, and become a certified installer.  Having owned a heating company for many years it seem an ideal blend of IT and heating.

Friday 18 April 2014

Makita 18v Lithium-ion Battery Failiure

I have been a big fan of the Makita 18v LXT cordless tools for several years now.  In most cases I rarely if ever use the corded tools they replaced, despite this there does seem to be a major week point, the batteries.  Of the eight batteries I have purchased over the years four have failed out side of the warrantee period, plus two failed within or just after the end of the warrantee and were replaced at no charge by Makita with the assistance of ITS the reseller I purchased them from.

Is it just me?

Having spoken with friend and colleagues who have also invested in the LXT range it would seem I am not alone in having these problems, almost everyone I spoke to has had at least one battery die.  A quick google confirms that this seem to be a rather common problem.

Why are they failing?

It seems there are two main failure causes, number one over heating and the second is the first two cells fail due to them being used to power the battery management chip and slowly discharging over an extended idol period.  This causes the battery to be unbalanced. 

So what can I do about it?

Well the most important thing is if the battery fails to charge stop!  If you continue to try on the third attempt the battery will be bricked.  Whilst I am no expert I think this is down to the battery management chip being a little over zealous and stopping you from recharging what it thinks is an unsafe battery.

Once I realised this I discovered that there are a few things I could do to lessen the chance of battery failure.
  1. Try to keep every thing dust free, its easy for the batteries and chargers to get choked with dust which can lead to overheating.  Where possible don't recharge your batteries on the floor.
  2. If you are using a tool with high current draw such as the circular saw extensively, check the battery temp (just by touch no need to get a thermometer).  If it feels too hot let it cool down for a while before continuing.
  3. Never recharge a battery straight from use let it cool down a bit first.
I have bricked my battery, is all lost?

If your battery is still in warrantee then Makita should just swap it out no questions asked, but even if you are out of warrantee they may still be able to help.  Regardless of if your battery is out warrantee, providing it has seen little use (under 150 recharges seems to be the magic number) Makita seem to be willing to replace it for free.

If Makita can't /won't help you still have options, frequently it will just be one or two cells that need replacing.  Makita seem to use the Sony Konion LiMn cells and these are available online for between fire and ten pounds each or you can frequently pick up failed batteries on ebay and cannibalise these for parts.

At this point you would have a repaired battery but no way to charge it.  Several people have had success using chargers such as the Fusion Elysium Pro although I am yet to try this myself.  Hopefully I will have time to attempt some repairs over the next few weeks.

If you don't fancy trying to fix them.

That leaves you with three options, one get some one else to fix them, two buy replacement genuine batteries or three consider buying some of the third party batteries that are now available.  I haven't purchase any of the third party batteries myself but I have used a colleagues and the seem ok.  For now I will be sticking with the genuine article or having ago at repairing them myself.


Well for me despite the reliability problems I still feel these are a good product. The batteries I have purchased more recently seem to be holding up much better. Only time will tell.

Saturday 12 April 2014

Nest Thermostat after 7 days.

Well its one week since I installed my first Nest thermostat in my house and so far I am very pleased but do have a few minor concerns.
  1. How long will it take it to learn how long my Underfloor Heating takes to come to temperature?  Currently it seems to be going at least 3C over temp.
  2. Will having the Nest on the stand on a counter top slightly lower than the ideal have a major effect on performance?
  3. What should I do in the summer, traditionally I have always turned my heat off from May till the end of September but I am not sure this is the way to go with a Nest.
  4. It would be really nice if you could put the stat into demo mode to disable learning when give demo's to friends and family.
Time will tell, and I will be posting regular updates.

Saturday 5 April 2014

Nest Install Uk

Well after a long wait Nest have released there learning thermostat in the UK.  The product that we have got is quite different from the US model, whilst much of the basic functionality remains the same the installation is very different.  Unlike the US model the UK version can operate via wireless and requires a base station, if you currently have a wireless stat it is very much the same thing.

Should I install it myself?

First of all installing the Thermostat involves mains voltage electrical connection unless you are both competent and confident doing this I would strongly recommend you employ a certified installer to do the install for you. Assuming you are happy doing this type of work the next thing you need to identify is what type of heating system you have.  I would say that unless you are a plumber or electrician you should only consider installing yourself if you have a combi boiler or fancy the challenge of figuring out a maze of wiring!

The install

I decided to install it myself mainly because I have underfloor heating and felt it could take a while to explain how this is set up to an installer.  The install was very simple and took me about 45min.  I opted to mount my Nest on the stand which you need to purchase separately, it costs an extra £29.

The configuration

I found the configuration very quick and easy it takes you through the steps one by one. A few things you need to be aware of:
  1. During the install you are asked if you currently have a programmer, if you say yes you have to enter your program into the stat. I found this very awkward to do at the stat, I would suggest its much easier to set this up through the web portal.
  2. The Nest does not support 5Ghz wifi, this did not cause me much in the way of problems but I know others have had issues with interference from neighbours etc.
  3. The auto away function does not work until it has had time to learn your habits.

To be honest its to soon to make any but so far my first impressions are good. I will update once I have some more experience with it.