Stopping an intruder

Over the last few years we have had a problem with an unwelcome intruder.

A cat.

A strikingly ginger cat, just like the one that lives next door.

We had seen the cat in our gardens (front and back) quite often, and seen it in the garden next door too

We ignored the problem for the first couple of weeks, but after a while we noticed the house started to smell of cat urine.

And we strongly suspected the source of the problem wasn’t any of our four cats.

So after a lot of research I bought and fitted a microchip-reading catflap.

You know the kind of thing; an entry-controlling device that only permits access to those cats it has been programmed to allow.

Being responsible pet-owners all four of our cats are microchipped, so after a spot of switching the thing into program-mode and posting our cats through the catflap, we were in business.

Almost immediately the cat urine problem went away (after we’d cleaned through the house very thoroughly, obv).

But my point here is that the smell of cat urine never came back.

Fast forward 18 months and that smell problem had still not reoccurred.

In an unconnected series of events we got a dog at that time.

This didn’t prove to be the problem we thought it might be.

At first the puppy was small enough to use the cat flap, so we felt smug.

We still saw the suspected intruder in the garden (both front and back), but a cat from the neighbourhood roaming the garden is one thing.

A cat from the neighbourhood using the inside of your house as a public convenience is a (completely unacceptable) something else.

Around six or seven months later, it started to become obvious that the dog was getting too large for the catflap.

So I did a lot more research.

Microchip-reading dogflaps don’t exist.

I did wonder why; didn’t learn the answer until very recently.

Faced with not being able to buy what I wanted, I took a risk and bought the largest-sized chip-reading catflap on the market.

With the new flap fitted, and all four cats and a puppy posted through it, we continued being secure from the intruding feline urinator, whilst allowing our growing menagerie unrestricted ingress and egress

About four months later another puppy rocked up.

And with that new puppy, the answer to the question of why there are no dogflaps that are microchip-readers also arrived:


The pace that the older of the two puppies bashed through the catflap was so fast that the chip-reader didn’t have time to activate.

Not wanting to cause the dog any injury, or the panel on the door any damage, I deactivated the chip reader.

What happened next?

The smell of strange cat happened, followed not much later by the smell of cat urine, that’s what happened next.

Then we noticed pee-stains on our furniture downstairs.

And on our brand new super king-sized bed upstairs.

The urine in the bed was so bad it had penetrated all layers of bed-linen and duvet, plus the topper, and stained the brand-new mattress.

Cost of replacing the mattress: £1,000.

This was no longer an intruding cat, peeing in random places and making everything smell.

This was now much more than an inconvenience. This had become a very serious problem.

I wanted to identify the source of the problem so I bought a day/night webcam.

The first night it was installed it told me two things.

Firstly, that our cats are in and out of the catflap so often, while we’re asleep, it’s almost a revolving door.

Secondly, that the source of the prolific cat wee is indeed the ginger cat from next door.

I emailed our neighbour, briefed them on the problem and attached the photograph.

The response was unusual, to say the least.

I paraphrase their email but it can be condensed as: ‘One cat, oh you’ve got it so lucky, we had a problem with six cats in our house and anyway I can’t be sure that is our cat and have you thought of getting a chip-reading catflap?’


I’m not unreasonable, I know there’s very little they can do, apart from keeping their cat indoors 24/7, and that’s not what I was suggesting.

Since then I have been using the motion-detecting webcam to continue monitoring the situation.

The unwelcome urinator is in our house for an average of four hours a night; doing, amongst other things, urinating, eating any cat food in our cat bowls, and jumping up on our kitchen work-surfaces/breakfast bar (things we don’t allow our own cats to do), and stealing food from there.

Despite all of this evidence, there is, as I’ve said, nothing the neighbours can do, short of denying their cat any freedom to roam.

And it isn’t freedom to roam that I have a problem with; my problem is the litany of things that the cat gets up to in our house.

Being a practical person, I am now working out a plan of taking matters into my own hands.

I’m going to lay a mattress inside the front door (the catflap is in the rear door and within clear line of sight), and I’m going to lie in wait for the intruder.

With my rifle.

And when the urinating cat comes in the house, I shall dispatch it.

Of course, there are a number of things that need careful consideration before I take such action.

These things aren’t as simple as just pulling the trigger.

My extensive marksmanship experience reminds me that 130 ft/lbs of energy propelling ammunition of 14.3 grain at 900 ft/second is going to cross the 37 feet distance between the end of the muzzle and the cat’s brain at X.

A cat’s brain is approximately the size of a small satsuma.

Therefore, as well as X, I need to factor in distance of trajectory plus slight downward gravitational pull of Y.

Fortunately, wind isn’t going to be a factor; shooting indoors is so much simpler than shooting outdoors.

Another consideration, when I’m setting up the shot, is angle.

If I’m angling too low, I risk damaging the floor, and this cat has already cost us enough money.

Similarly, if I’m angling too high, I risk quite a lot of splatter against the kitchen door, from the exit wound.

But if I can get the cat’s head and body in a perfectly straight line , running parallel to the ground, the chances of any exiting collateral damage are negligible.

Then there’s disposal.

As the neighbours have effectively said the intruder doesn’t belong to them, I don’t suppose they would want the carcass.

So I’m going to ring the local hunt; they’ll have a practical use for a clean-killed, unpoisoned cat; nothing will go to waste.

I don’t think I have anything else to consider.

Oh yes, noise. A gun report might wake someone upstairs.

So I’m going to fit a long-barrelled suppressor to the rifle.

And night-vision telescopic sights, to ensure total accuracy.

That should take care of everything.

There’s no crime of cruelty being committed here; a clean kill is so much kinder than anything else that comes to mind.

Don’t you think?

New motor!

I have spent the day grappling with a new motorised, four-wheeled beast.

It’s a rear-wheel drive automatic.

And carries a massive engine delivering a huge 150cc.

I have a new lawnmower.

Or rather, I have a lawnmower.

A very expensive visit to the Nottingham store of Machine Mart yesterday led to a new member of the family.

A self-propelled Suffolk Punch.

So now, instead of Sam paying a guy £s every couple of weeks, we have entered the world of DIY lawnmowing.

I suppose I’ll need to buy a strimmer next?

If I get any good at it, maybe I should give up work and cut grass for a living?

Blogathon 01/16: Hot (and cold) under the collar

When we bought this house we inherited a number of ‘features’.

We have improved some of these ‘features’ by throwing them in to one of the many skips that have graced the driveway over the last six months.

Other ‘features’ have been improved by updating the thinking behind them by 20> years.

Even more ‘features’ have been improved by getting professional tradesmen in and throwing large sums of money at them, to do things in a safe and legal manner.

However one ‘feature’ has remained impervious to my many attempts of improvement.

The central heating remote control timer/thermostat unit.

The fact that this remote control unit can’t distinguish between working days and weekends is incredibly short-sighted.

And unfixable.

Similarly, the fact that one can set a ‘switch on’ or ‘heat up’ for 05.30, but can’t set a ‘switch off’ or ‘cool down’ for anything after 07.59 is incredibly bonkers.

In a nutshell, the Bosch Worcester DT10RF Programmer is relatively unprogrammable.

In 2013 one brave soul ran in to the same problems, and fought his way around them by building his own.

That is a brilliant – and low-cost – solution.

But it’s not within my capabilities.

I shall do some more reading on the subject and, while reading, save up for a little while and buy a Nest.

Because the Nest seems to be a piece of technology that appears to have been built so that people can tell it what they want, not (as in the case of the Bosch Worcester DT10RF Programmer), a piece of technology that exists to tell people what they can’t do.

Flux (no capacitor)

It is a time of significant change.

I have moved from Rugby. It wasn’t that much of a wrench to leave. Although that little house was perfect for me (and perfect for the bikes), the fact that I haven’t lived there for the last six months made the parting easier – and very logical.

Unfortunately I have had to shut down the podcast for a while, though I do I hope to bring it back when the world changes once again.

I do miss the stream of gigs that out-of-reach Oxfordshire offered. But I think I miss seeing my favourite bands live more than I miss the regular gigs themselves. Besides, I’m getting home too knackered to consider going out on the weekday evenings, and my weekends don’t have too much down time!

I’m mostly commuting to work (Northampton) on the ZX9R. Except when the weather is awful, obv. I need to check the mileage on the ZX9R, but I keep forgetting. I’ve had it just under a year and I reckon I’ve put about 20,000 miles on her clock in the last 12 months. I haven’t heard from the insurance company about the future of the Daytona.

In the tech world I’m having an interesting problem with directory-based permissions on a server, where the FTP user can upload files, but the WordPress user can’t (error message: the uploaded file could not be moved to wp-content).

And I discovered a very interesting domestic technical problem yesterday, where the Smart TV lost a bunch of stations. Eventually I switched the TV off at the mains, unplugged the aerial, switched on, rescanned and found them again. An hour later they were gone again. As the problem was obviously ours, not the transmitter, I played around with some of the other devices nearby. I soon discovered that if I switched the Playstation off, the missing channels came straight back. Bizarre.


I have moved this website (the TLD and this trailing sub-domain blog).

These websites (and databases, etc) are no longer hosted on my NAS in my lounge in Rugby.

They’re now hosted at a Tier 2 datacentre in Nottingham.

That I built.

Yes, that’s right, I’ve built a Tier 2 datacentre.

I could fill your head with the wonderfully geeky adventures that I’ve been through, to establish the datacentre.

But I won’t.

But it’s been a stunning experience.

In a very good way.

However, it all seems to have been set up rather too well (thanks to my design, and thanks to the sensational technical assistance of a Belgian uber-ninja-geek who I got onboard to do the virtualisation, install the KVM HyperVisor, and build the admin tools).

I say ‘too well’, because now that it’s done it’s all…



And I’m bored, because the actual admin overhead is…


And by ‘minimal’ I really mean ‘next to nothing at all’.

Anyway, the Belgian uber-ninja-geek is sticking around to handle first-line support (none!) and to virtualise the next set of infrastructure which I will finish building, RAIDing and installing the OS on, next month.

I shall move have also moved the Geekblog from the NAS to the datacentre this weekend/early next week.

I could fill your head with the amazing fun and games and geeky adventures and outright learning curves that I’ve been through in the last couple of months.

But it would only bring your excitement to fever pitch.

And we want to avoid you frothing up your underwear at the thought of such rampant geekage.

I have moved contracts.

I’m no longer slogging my heart out trudging down the M6, M42, M5, M4, M32 to Bristol.

Now I just potter a little way down the road to Northampton.

This is a massive improvement in my life, obv.

Especially as the weather has improved, so I’m doing most of these daily trips on the ZX9R.

And finally…

I am moving.



To Nottingham.

How to write good, motorbiking, moving

I stole this off of the Twitter:

How to write good

And I made this earlier today and then put it on the YouTubes:

Hasn’t it been an awesome week (so far)? The weather has been brilliant. I’ve been able to commute on the VFR every day.

And it promises to be a dry weekend too. Woohoo!

So I’m thinking of getting a bike trailer. That’s a trailer to put a bike on, not a trailer to pull behind a bike.

And I’m thinking of moving house.


Not really making an end of year list

31st December 2013

Lists are popping up on Facebook. And on Twitter.

In both Real Life and Virtual Life, there are conversations that mention resolutions.

And changes.

And goals.

Some people have been looking back at the last twelve months and assessing what went well for them; what they’ll try to do differently in the next twelve.

This morning, on my drive in to work, I spent the time thinking about the year that’s ending today.

This time last year I said I would move house within the next 12 months.

Got that right.

I also said it wouldn’t be a local move; would be a significant move to a different part of the country.

Got that right too.

I said that I’d like to teach myself new skills, and enhance other abilities that I had some (but could be better) knowledge of.

I’ve achieved these things too; have become more immersed in building database functionality, become reasonably skilled at debugging other people’s problems, learned how to build forums and improve front-end usability (though none of my experiences/skills in these things come close to being on a par with Punctuation, who is just awesome).

I’m very lucky to have tapped in to the creative, but non-technical, nature of one friend in particular. It was her ideas that drove me to sit up well in to the night for a week or two, learning the technical things I had to get to grips with, to enable me to help her achieve her ideas.

I was also very lucky that my previous contract was in Oxford, half an hour from where I lived in Witney.

I’m unbelievably lucky that my current (soon ending) contract is less than half an hour away from where I moved to, and that I was able to start work the day after I moved here!

And I have *loved* my work so much, in 2013.

As far as other skills go, in the last couple of months I have been getting back in to writing and video production, through working on a series of very short scripted/staged character films.

I plan on shooting and editing these, just as soon as I have finished building the set. And that’s a new thing to attempt, too!

Video and audio editing skills have been revisited, through the randomly free-form HelmetCam edits.

So, what will the next twelve months bring?

Hmm, there are a few things that come to mind.

I’m going to continue building on, and improving, the breadth and depth of my technical skills.

There is a portfolio of tasks I want to be able to do, I’m not going to be content with having just a few abilities; I want to learn how to do the whole thing, not just a bit of it.

And I’m more than likely going to buy another motorbike; the Triumph Dayton 955i that I’ve been lusting after.

I may well move house again.

There will be a new contract, or possibly two (because that’s the nature of the line of work I do).

And I haven’t had a real holiday in two years; I love the thought of putting this situation right!

I like the idea of a road trip.

Maybe on the VFR. Maybe on the Daytona.

I need to think hard on this, but I do love the idea of a (relatively) leisurely motorbike trip down to Andalusia.

As I said, I need to think on this, but I do have a few ideas.

One thing’s for sure though, in the last year the kindness and limitless generosity of friends has amazed me.

And I have much to thank one particular friend for.

She has pushed, niggled, supported, carried, nagged, and encouraged me in so many different areas.

She has made my life a better place. And she has made me a better person. And she has made me smile a lot.

Who knows what 2014 will bring (spares a thought for the Mayan supporters who are now 24 months past the end of the world)?

But whatever does happen in the next twelve months, I hope you have a great year.

It’s going to be an interesting time, that’s for sure.

And I’m back (online)


How you doin’?

Crikey, I sound like a cross between Joey (off of Friends) and The Fonz (off of Happy Days).


I have moved house.


I have been without t’Internet for four-and-a-half days.


But now I have it back.


But not the fibre-to-cabinet I was promised.


Apparently when Openreach tells an ISP that “fibre-to-cabinet will be enabled on 25th September”, that translates, to you and me, as “fibre-to-cabinet will be enabled on 14th October”.

No, me neither.

But if I supplied IT services to my customers like that, I’d be out of a job yesterday.

Or on the 26th September.

So anyway, here I am on cranky old copper until the middle of October.

Or until the middle of April – because Openreach do seem to speak a very special language, and one which only they fully understand.

I also have a new job, that I started on Monday.

I’m currently commuting on the VFR, because it’s a fun little bike and makes me smile every time I hop on.

If I open my wrist I can do the door to door trip in a smidge under 22 minutes.

If I don’t hoof it, the journey takes precisely 30 minutes.

My route is, essentially:

  • northwards on the A426 (crossing over the M6 and then crossing through the A5)
  • join the M1 (north) at J20
  • leave the M1 at J21A, onto the A46
  • leave the A46 and pick up the A50 (south)

I’ll have to video it, the M1 leg is much less stressful than one might think, but sometimes the driving/cycling I see on the A426 stretch has had me in fits of laughter.

Simon, ace mobile motorbike mechanic from Banon’s Motorcycle Service, did a very clever job of fitting a video camera on to the VFR.


And remind me to tell you about Simon servicing the VFR a few weeks ago.


I’m going to celebrate having broadband by sticking the kettle on and ironing a shirt or two.


Moving the first




I’m moving house at the end of this month.

The removal people are booked, but that’s the easy bit. I have to organise, pack and label the contents of a two-bedroomed house (plus the almost Alpine-like landscape of stuff that is lurking in the loft), before the removal people get here.

And, meanwhile, I have to continue living in the house (which is difficult enough with many of my possessions and household things packed away).



I also have to be agile, and dodge my way around mountains of packed things, without brushing against any, because I would probably get buried in the resulting avalanche of the contents of dusty cardboard boxes.

This morning my internal monologue became a full-blown conversation.

Me: There is just one person living in this house, right?
Me: Yeah, just you.
Me: Well how come there’s so much bloody stuff to move?
Me (shrug)
Me: (shrug)? Is that all you’ve got? (shrug)??
Me: Well, it’s your stuff too.
Me: Don’t you get smart with me!
Me: I wasn’t getting smart with you, you big geek! I was just pointing out that you own everything in here too.

A fight ensued. Which I won, obv.


After the move, there’s the joyful task of unpacking and sorting everything out, and the rebuilding of stuff.

This will, inevitably, be followed by the months-long ‘I’m not sure I want this here, maybe I’ll try it over there for a while’ conversations that my brain will have with my body, as I wrangle and wrestle furniture around the new house.

So yeah, much joy awaits me, in the coming weeks.