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Religion - briefly

Well, in the comments to the previous entry, I got called an asshole (sorry, arsehole) again, but I'm actually quite impressed. I expected it to be about my assertion that the Queen (the person or the rock group) and the Patron Saint were all less than British. In other words, I was waiting for Brexit Boy... what are we up to? 4? 5?

Instead, somebody seems to have thought that my short commentary on Notre Dame was "tedious lies and Catholic propaganda". If you're somehow under the misapprehension that I'm Catholic, don't be. I was raised the other sort - the ones without the Pope, Saints, and endless bureaucracy.
However, as I grew to understand and appreciate more about the world in which I live, I found that I couldn't really justify attaching myself to a "belief" that practises such widespread misogyny (I basically threw in the towel completely in 2013) and a story which had so many serious plot holes that one could read the stories and come to an entirely different conclusion.
In short, don't consider me to be a Christian. Don't consider me to believe in the concept of the Abrahamic God.

What do I believe it? Well, there's science for starters. And as for the unanswered mystical side of things, it is irrational but I guess a part of human nature, and is answered nicely by this quote (attributed to numerous people, but it sounds like something Native American):

If you take a copy of the (Christian) bible and leave it outside, eventually the wind and the rain will destroy it.
My bible is the wind and the rain.
But, then again, climatology and meteorology are sciences, so we're back to believing in science, even if a tad obscurely.

As for why it is an upsetting event, and why rich people have pledged insane amounts of money (while the local churches keep on crumbling and the Gilets Jaunes keep on looting) is because of what it means in a historical context. The religious side is, to me, mostly irrelevant. What is important are the centuries of history of all that France has been through from the High Middle Ages to today. If you don't understand that, you are - quite simply - culturally comatose. Think about that, dear Atheist, before you call me an assarsehole.



While I don't identify as a Christian any more, this late-Spring holiday is a good reason to have a day off work and eat chocolate. Come on, who needs an excuse to enjoy chocolate?

As I write this, I'm in the process of cooking a UHT lemon cake in the bread maker. It won't rise much (being UHT), but - hey - cake. Cake is good. ☺


Satellite receiver dead

Walking through my room last night, I noticed the little red indicator on my satellite receiver wasn't on. A few quick tests later indicate that the power supply had given up (power enters, fuse is intact). A bit rubbish given this device wasn't quite two years old and spent much of its time on standby; though as an aside I do wonder if the Linky blasting data into the power line may upset switchmode power supplies that expect certain behaviour? It's a guess. This thing never ran hot, it's not like those old Amstrad receivers from the early days of Sky.

As the song contest is coming and I didn't feel like learning the peculiarities of yet another receiver, I ordered a "like new" one from Amazon for twenty euros.
I'll just have to remember to keep it unplugged when not in use.

Ooh, I've just found both the box and the receipt. Bought 13th May 2017, box says "2 year guarantee". Okay then, I've sent an email to, I'll let you know how I get on.


Walkie talkies

Vide grenier yesterday, a pack of two walkie-talkies called "BAOFENG" (model F888S). The woman wanted €6, but accepted a crisp fiver.
I wasn't expecting much, certainly didn't reckon on the batteries being useful. Still, I plugged in the chargers and left the transceivers on for several hours.

There's no LCD, just a little LED that's red when transmitting and green when receiving. Controls are minimal and functional - an on/off/volume, a rotational button for channels 1-16 (with 16 being an all-channel scan), a push-to-talk button, a monitor/squelch defeat button, and finally a control button for the little white "torch" LED. Steady on, flashing, and off.
Switching on causes a disembodied American woman to say "power on, five" (the number being the channel).

Holding certain buttons at power on can cause specific things to happen - PTT and Moni on channel 15 will switch prompts between English and Chinese; doing that on channels 1-5 will toggle VOX mode (where it will automatically transmit when you speak to it); powering on with Moni held will temporarily disable spoken prompts. And so on.

Yet more things (squelch level, VOX level, CTCSS, etc can be done by attaching a programming cable (that's a simple serial cable wired to certain pins of the headset connection). They look reasonably rugged. Better than toys, but not waterproof. More like it shouldn't be game over if it gets dropped.

A wrist strap, heavy duty belt clip, and basic 11cm (4½") UHF antenna. The box and backplate both say <= 5W, which is technically true but also weird, given the actual output appears to be in the range of 2W.
The radio itself falls into the PMR446 group, being a UHF personal radio operating on 16 bands located around 446MHz.

In use, walking up the driveway (half a kilometre; with a stone house in the way), my mother could hear me all the time but I couldn't hear her once I'd passed the crest of the hill and no longer had sight of the house. The signal on my receiver was always a bit noisy right from the beginning, I'm guessing the house absorbed a fair amount of the signal. I would imagine range would be better on open land, or maybe if mom was in the house (so only one wall to pass, not two). In short, reception isn't unlike what I'd have expected for a simple budget transceiver.

However... The F888S offers an antenna screwed into a female SMA socket. €12 will get me a clone of the Nagoya NA-771 antenna (that seems reasonably well rated on Amazon), at 37.5cm (15"). It's a little large (three times as long as the one supplied!) but when it comes to radio transmission, bigger is better.

The PMR446 is similar in concept to FRM/GMRS in America/Canada. They are analogue devices offering 16 channels in the range 446.00625MHz to 446.19375MHz (12.5kHz steps, and bandwidth), and a sub-band encoding system (CTCSS) which permits receivers to only output sound from matching receivers, muting out other communications on the same channel. Voice scrambling is forbidden.
Properly, the PMR466 radios are supposed to have fixed antennas, however removable antennas are commonplace now. Each country differs on implementation (the UK accepting it so long as ERP is less than 500mW). No licence fee or test is necessary in the EU. The frequencies chosen can pass typical building materials so can be used in urban areas, although range may be hundreds of metres, and can achieve up to 6-8km on open ground. The maximum range known so far is 535.8km (333 miles) between north east England and Holland, in 2003. This is not a surprise, when atmospheric conditions are right, radio can do some freaky things. One evening in 1993 I stood beside the River Parrett just north of Bridgwater, Somerset (south west UK) and I was using a CEPT CB receiver hooked to the back of my bike (pedal bike!) with a standard fixed (not magnetic) CB antenna, grounding strip, and all powered from a 12V motorbike battery. With that, I spent fifteen minutes talking to a person who said he was on the side of a mountain in Austria. We never got around to exchanging addresses, shame, because that wasn't bad for a 4W CB!

Some frequencies are reserved - channel 7 (446.08125) with subtone 7 is the mountain channel in France. Channel 8 (446.09375) with subtone 16 are emergency comms in France, Germany, Italy, and UK. This is possibly because the original frequency allocation only permitted 8 channels. However none of these reservations are officially mandated. You'd just be a jerk to interfere.

There is a digital version of PMR446 providing 32 channels (6.25kHz spacing), which is unfortunately overlaid on the same frequency range. This could be an issue in urban areas.


Why vide greniers?

Firstly, something to do. This is not known as a touristy area by any means.

Secondly, although there is a lot of dross, quite a few useful things have come from vide greniers, such as:

So, it's sometimes possible to make a good find. ☺



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Gavin Wraith, 23rd April 2019, 00:34
Rick, are you sure that it was you whom the troll in the comments of the previous entry was berating? I thought it might have been me, with equal lack of wit or logic. 
Your green fingers in the digital garden have me awestruck. A couple of weeks ago I managed to repair the remote on our TV by following some instructions on YouTube. I am still glowing with pride at this feat.
David Pilling, 24th April 2019, 01:31
"Linky blasting data into the power line may upset switchmode power supplies that expect certain behaviour?" 
Has the making of one of those modern theories. Guess one would want to know the amplitude of the Linky signal. Switch modes usually rectify AC to DC, smooth, and then chop at high frequency. 

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