Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Poet’s Day meander back from Wicken Fen

Friday, 19th April 2013: At least the weather has gotten warmer over the month and even more importantly we are signing more signs or Spring. Despite no longer being a spring chicken I seem to forget how long the gap between Christmas and Spring really is – even in a good year and this year wasn’t a good year. (Another thing to note if you follow the link is how little rain we have had in Cambridge during April, my son reckons the farmers are already concerned about drought.

Hedgerows tend to be first in leaf, and at this time of year the leaves can start appearing very quickly. This is White Fen Drove, and this hedge is looking positively green -  I do like the huge changes we see happen so quickly in the Spring. One minute the trees are just a bunch of sticks randomly poking up into the sky, the next they offer a green canopy to the sun.

The hedgerow along White Fen Drove – turning green

Although this is a route ain an area I have explored many times before I have not actually ridden this exact route before. How can I be so sure, well it includes a Permissive Bridleway that I’ve considered a few times but never tried until now.

Spring is also a time for fly-tipping it seems and there was some of that around. I also cycled along Barston Drove for the first time in a while. I am a bit of a fair-surface cyclist.  I like quite byways and bridleways, I don’t mind ruts and bumps. I don’t like lots of mud or very soft sand. Well not on Maisie my Hybrid anyway.  Mud tends to clog up the wheels – well the sort of black sticky mud you can get in the flatlands.

Here is the link to this route on BikeRouteToaster. It is a shade over 50Km and flat, the elevation varies from 1m to 18m. The hardest “climb” is the bridge over Reach Lode.

The route out pretty much follows Lodes Way from end to end – well on the way out anyway. It is a route that has definitely opened up the countryside to more people.  I reckon that Wicken Fen is a more popular place to visit since the opening of Lodes Way and you see more cyclists, walkers (some with dogs) and even cars making their way to the inner countryside.  Halfway along Headlake Drove just after the turns to Upware and Reach there are more signs of trees coming into leaf.

The signpost highlights the route as part of the National Cycle Network, NCN 51 along with places along the way. In this case Reach is 11/2 miles to the right. Having cycled this way many times I know where I am going, it does confuse car drivers still though.  They come down from Upware and start to think they are nowhere.

Headlake Drove – soon to be a leafy lane, Lodes Way

I reckon this lot had rented bikes and were on a ride from Wicken Fen. They didn’t leave me much room to squeeze though as I was cycling in the opposite direction.  They are one Split Drove, just arriving at Headlake Drove which to the right crosses Commissioners’ Drain.

A Cycle Hire Group from Wicken Fen out for a spin?

Having done more than my fair share of getting lost on a bicycle in this country and abroad, despite having a GPS you’d think I would have more empathy for fellow cyclists out exploring. To me it is obvious which way to go, but only because I know it so well. When you are on a route in the back of beyond (as it must feel) for the first time it is better to be safe than sorry. That is what they do – en masse – seven cyclists and six bicycles (one being a Tandem).

There is nothing quite like exploring pastures new, that sense of exploration, wondering what the countryside will look like, which way will the route go. I really must up my amount of cycling and then plan a two or three day jaunt somewhere.  My Mum lives a couple of hundred miles way, perhaps I will visit her and catch the train home?

Lodes Way Explorers – which way now?

I headed up and went anti-clockwise around Wicken Fen along the Maltings Path and over Monks Lode. The path appears as a footpath, however the Wicken Parish Council Minutes for October 2012 do indicate that there is a plan for a Soham Cycle Path which would include upgrading the Maltings footpath. (Item 3.7 Soham Cycle Path)  I have seen cyclists use this path quite often so I wonder if it is one of those grey paths which ended up being classified as a footpath although it has been used by cyclists (and possible horse riders as well).

I can’t track down much on the subject apart from the Parish Council Minutes – one of which suggests it will cost £45,000 for the feasibility study! One note indicates that it could be via Drury Lane which suggests it might go cross-country (via byways and bridleways) that would be great, although at the Soham end it would need a bit of work.

Monks Lode – Wicken Fen

Another of the signs of Spring and an obligatory subject for photographs – Pussy Willow.  The Bokeh is not bad either. I hadn’t realised that the term derives from the Japanese word – boke.

Pussy Willow and Bokeh

On my way back I cycled into Burwell, then the back way to Reach. Although before I reached Reach I detoured along a Permissive Bridleway around the back of Churchfield Farm. (PPA/0136). It is sufficiently new that it doesn’t appear on either the OS map on Where’s The Path or the OSM map or the OS getamap.

Permissive Bridleway Reach

Here is the other end. The surface was solid, quite cycleable. and a nice change. Given the limited nature of the route I can’t see myself using it that often though.

Permissive Bridleway Reach

As the various bridleways were pretty good I cycled along Barston Drove, which circles round from Reach to Swaffham Prior.  Apart from one or two ruts – another pleasant and quiet (well away from traffic) detour.

Barston Drove, near Reach

I carried on with my indirect route home and after cycling round the back of Swaffham Bulbeck  decided to head through Long Meadow. As I mentioned before reaching the B1102 there was some fly-tipping on White Drove Way. Some lazy sod couldn’t even be bothered to get too far of the beaten track.

Fly-tipping – White Drove Way, Swaffham Bulbeck

This is the path between Long Meadow and Lode, so much quieter than the B1102. I had my iPad with me the other day and monitored the noise on a road. It wasn’t very busy although it reached 94dB as cars whizzed by. Personally I reckon the B1102 is worse.  According to this Website at 94dB the permissible exposure time is one hour.  I wonder if anyone has done much research on traffic noise and cyclists.

Path Long Meadow to Lode

Alongside the path is a field – you can see the effects that the recent flooding is having on crop yields.

Poor Crops yields – Lode

I know I keep saying it – but as the weather gets nicer I just want to get out and do a bit more cycling.

Saturday, Saturday afternoon’s alright for cycling

Saturday, 13th April 2013: Well the best laid plans, here I am already my posts are two weeks out of date. The good news is that I have managed a few moderate cycle rides between then and now. Seven or so – the main reasons being it is just so nice to have some Spring weather at last.  The flatlands have been lovely just recently, I have been getting out on the bridleways and byways a bit more as they are no longer muddy quagmires, the leaves are appearing and a whole new round of flowers are following on from the daffodils. The only snag is I haven’t had so much time to write about them.

I also realise my Post sequence has gone out of order again! The last Post got in early, perhaps because there was only one picture.

This particular day was a grey day, or rather a grey afternoon, it was sunny in the morning when I couldn’t cycle and by the time I could it had turned grey.  At least I had fuelled my enthusiasm. It was also a little blustery.

Grey days tend to delay my TTFP – time to first picture – especially when the grey is uniform.  This ride took me out towards Lode and then Upware and then back via Wicken Fen, Burwell, Newnham Drove and Lodes Way. It wasn’t until I was halfway up Great Drove that I stopped for my first picture. The fields were being fleeced. According to the link harvest time can be reduced by 1-2 weeks.

Fleece on the fields along Great Drove, near Upware

It has been a few years since I saw daffodils grown in the fields around these parts, but you still see the legacy, daffodils growing in the margins. A quick look using Picasa to browse my pictures shows them in March 2005. Not as long ago as I thought. Checking on my Blog and there are pictures from April 2006 and March 2005

Upware Daffodils – April 2006

Upware Daffodils – March 2005upware daffodils.jpg

The lack of Spring weather has certainly delayed things by comparison with now. Mind you here are a few daffodils growing in the margins. Nature is persistent.

Daffodils growing along Great Drove Verge – April 2013

Farmers have to respond to the weather – it would seem to be more driven by science than ever, well in terms of when to apply treatments. It wasn’t too windy for a spray. If you look beyond the right boom you will also seem some daffodils between the two fields.

Crop Spraying along Great Drove

A bit further along and it would appear that Chapel Farm has been sold. Spring seems to be a time when houses get bought and sold as well.

Chapel Farm , Upware, Sold

As I cycled through Upware I took a picture of this field – it has been fallow for a few years, but is always good for a few (quite a few) rogue daffodils. Now I could have sworn that the Pub wasn’t as visible as it is now. I reckon that some trees must have been removed, probably conifers of some sort. I have had a quick look to see if I have a similar view in my archives but can’t find one to hand. A look on the Pub’s website and yes I wasn’t dreaming it there picture shows tall conifers – Five Miles from Anywhere No Hurry Inn

Wild Daffodils and the Five Miles From Anywhere No Hurry Inn, Upware

And just in case you couldn’t see the daffs in the last picture here they are again, in close-up.

Wild Daffodils, Upware

I was going to cycle along Docking’s Lane (a short byway) which avoids cycling along the A1123 to Wicken, but it was too wet and muddy.

Wicken Fen was busy and there were cyclists about, it looked like the bike rental place was doing business.

An old Boat – Wicken Fen

And here is the entrance to the Cycle rental, well worth a go – this is an easy part of the world to cycle in. According to their website you can hire a Tandem.

Cycle Hire – Wicken Fen

That old boat in front of Wicken Fen – looking from the other direction. Maisie is waiting patiently alongside a picnic table (Maisie is the bike in case you were wondering!)

An old Boat – Wicken Fen

Here is a new boat – it is electric and reduces pollution (sound and chemical). The NT do a kit deal for a boat trip and cycle hire.

Cruise the Fens – the NT Wicken Fen

As the afternoon progressed it did not get any lighter and the wind picked up. The crops in the fields seem to be popping up though. The bank in the distance is Reach Lode Bank, with pylons marching off to Walpole Substation to the west of King’s Lynn (quite a busy one). I stopped on Headlake Drove.

Reach Lode Bank across the fields from Headlake Drove

As you can see the Field Fleecing techniques vary, I presume some of it depends upon the crop being grown. This field lies alongside Highbridge Farm. A quick web-search throws up the Sale Brochure – but dated 2010. The downside of selling stuff on the web is that property plans become public in perpetuity it would seem.

Time for another ride I think!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

“Discretionary Rules” of the Road

SundayMonday, 15th April 2013: (Updated with correct day!) In my last post I referred to this Post from the Cambridge Cyclist – “The OTHER rules of the road”. Well I had to pop out to PC World for some last minute computer stuff and despite the fact I was in a hurry to get there and back I still took a camera with me – although I only took one picture.

The bicycle racks are at the far end of the car park if you are interested. Anyway I popped in and out and was going to speed home (well as fast as my legs would go – which isn’t speeding) and I thought I rarely come this way – because I think that the cycling provision is poor and that the road is dangerous.

One of the things that annoys me is cars using the Bus Lane. The other is how small the cycle lane is – not fun when a bus tries to squeeze past. Although to be fair the last time I cycled along the road a bus just let me carry on in front without hassling me at all. That driver was thinking as well as driving.

So cars using the bus lane – hardly the crime of the century, well yes, but it does increase the danger for cyclists and I know that drivers also slow down the buses. I’ve been on a bus more than once along this stretch of Newmarket Road when some stupid car driver caused an obstruction. One good way of telling how annoyed the bus driver is is to look and see how close the bus is to the car when they end up queuing – not so much centimetres as millimetres.

You can see what happens the car driver is pootling along and thinks hey I want to turn left up ahead – so what does it matter if I pull into the bus lane a little early. The more advanced thinkers also consider how helpful they are being to the other drivers in the non-bus lane, by shortening it. Some probably even drive quicker to reduce the level of transgression. SO what is the harm in that – well consider the case of this schoolboy killed in a bus lane.

Of course in this case that car could be a taxi driver – there is quite along way to go before the bus lane ends to allows left turning cars though.

This is one area where I would change the sentencing policy – a ban on driving in the City and compulsory use of the Park and Ride perhaps, monitored by GPS. It might not even be an inconvenience – would hopefully it would teach errant drivers a lesson.

Newmarket Road Bus Lane (which allows taxis I think)

The trouble is laws aren’t meant to be broken, even for good reasons. Once you get used to breaking laws and getting away with it – well where next. The unthinkable can and does happen. Like this drunk Nurse who killed a cyclist, moved his bike out of the way… then drove on to her work. Or the disqualified driver who killed the Tandem riders in Bristol.

The Long and not so muddy way to Horningsea

Thursday, 11th April 2013: Despite me banging on about building a new computer I am still finding the time excuses to get out and ride. (But since you ask, this is being written on the new computer.) One good excuse that is always guaranteed to get me out is a lunchtime meeting.  This time I was meeting a friend and ex-colleague at the Crown and Punchbowl in Horningsea.

Although I can’t not mention the Parliamentary Report on Cycling led by the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group – there is a petition on the HM Government site to:

Promote cycling by implementing the recommendations in the 'Get Britain Cycling' report.

Here is the link so get signing. When I signed it there were 600 odd at this moment (10:30am 25th April 2013 there are 23,532 signatures.) Apparently once it reaches 100,000 then it triggers a debate in parliament. Here are some of the main proposals.

Why does it matter, well it is good for society. Unfortunately although cycling has been in the news it has not really become more popular. The DoT’s recent publication “Local area walking and cycling statistics” don’t show any real improvement in numbers cycling. Cambridge still retains ‘cycling capital’ title according to the Cambridge News. Or as the BBC puts it “Cambridge beats Oxford in DfT cycling survey”.

The trouble is we have been “optimising” the roads for motor vehicles for ages. As soon as I read the title of this Cyclists in the City post I thought that’s it. Our roads are set up so that pedestrians and cyclists feel like they are in a game of Frogger.  (Yesterday in real-time I cycled through Soham the cycling lanes are crazy and make you feel you are in some soft of game. When that post appears there are some pictures.) If I as a regular cyclist feel bemused how on earth will it encourage motorists out of their cars.

Cycling investment must go up a gear, MPs say  shows some of the changes that will have to happen. The alternative? Well already British drivers spend up to three days a year stuck in gridlock. Why is this well well I reckon we are over-reliant on motor vehicles for transport.  I was chatting to one of the local County Councillors out drumming up support. We discussed the A14, his view – the problem is all the lorries getting in the way of cars.  Well maybe if you drive a car, but we can’t keep sticking plasters (band-aids) on the problems.  We need to take a longer-term view, for a start importing energy is not good for the economy. Committing loads of people to a life of commuting isn’t good for society. It wastes times, affects health and destroys the land.

Interestingly this seems also be be better understood in the Cambridge City Council. “’More queues warning over upgraded A14”. More roads means more cars, unless there are alternatives.

Let’s face it even as far as the law is concerned motoring is a special case. The limits at which we are supposed to adhere have leeway. Apparently “Just 62 motorists have been fined for breaking Cambridge's 20mph limit in one year”.  Now there is a mixed message if I ever saw one. The trouble is we humans don’t really deal with probability very well. So being told that speeding is dangerous and that the fast cars go the higher the probability of a serious accident or serious injury to a vulnerable road user doesn’t really compute.

I sometimes wonder whether the law is too black and white when it comes to the shades of grey that “breaking it” represent, particularly when it comes to traffic law. Let’s face it the laws on pavement parking differ around the country. It many ways it is a social crime forcing pedestrians off onto the road. Pavement cycling is most definitely a crime except when it is not.  Here in the Cambridgeshire area there are wide pavements that you cannot cycle on and narrow pavements that you can – figure that out.

So I rather liked this Post from the Cambridge Cyclist – “The OTHER rules of the road”. Having seen my kids grow up and go through the learning to drive phase, you very quickly see far too often situations where driving lawfully, such as at the speed limit earns the ire of your “fellow” motorists.  The trouble is there does seem to be the view that motorists are just another source of tax, so I do wonder whether there needs to be an alternate to a fine and points. Not so much to change the view, but rather to change driver behaviour. I reckon there ought to be more awareness courses, perhaps with tests that need to be passed and follow-up refreshers.

The what happens is that an issue gets out of hand and there is a crackdown, and things get better for a while. Such as this with 50 taxi drivers fined for ‘over-ranking’ in city centre. Mind you it is often said that  those who are careless when it comes to following the law are likely to disregard other laws. Perhaps like this Motorist who screwed up a £30 parking ticket and ended up with an £850 fine for littering.  Mind you there is a mixed message there the motoring offence is seen as less serious than littering!  The Littering fine was actually only £200 – but my concern still stands

Apparently on average we knowingly each break 260 rules a year.  The main excuses being that we are in a rush or we fail to see the victim (the so-called victim-less crime). I would also add that sometimes rules seem arbitrary. Like my earlier example, sometimes you can cycle on the pavement and sometimes you can’t. it isn’t helped by comments such as has been attributed to the PCC for Norfolk – “Let good drivers go as fast as they can and scrap speed limits on motorways, says police tsar”. Or ridiculous double yellow lines – as here in Swindon or here in Cambridge.

Phew – way to much moaning - I have been pretty much avoiding the byways and bridleways recently, but my visit to Horningsea gave me the opportunity to take a circle route and get a few kilometres of countryside cycling. It was also warm enough for cycling shorts.

So my circle route to the Crown and Punchbowl took me along NCN51 through to Lode and then back across the fields to Horningsea. Some of the route follows the old Cambridge to Mildenhall trackbed. Then round the back of Allicky Farm along a track called the Drove Way. Then along a track called 100 Acres Road, although I have not seen that name on modern maps.

On the way back I cycled around a loop called Low Fen Drove Way on the OSM and OS maps. However on the old map  it starts as Biggin Road and ends as Pound’s Lane.

It wasn’t a bad call as it happens. The track was quite cycleable.

Route of the Old Railway Line, behind Anglesey Abbey

And the crops were growing in the fields.

Crops popping up in the fields along the Route of the Old Railway Line, behind Anglesey Abbey

The second half of the track was also not too bad. This leads on to The Drove Way. The field to the right was used to grow Beet and the weather was not kind when it came to lifting the beet. The path also got a bit chewed up.

Whenever I see a dog in the distance am always a little wary. The problem is less one of fear of being bitten than of getting entangled. I have been bitten a couple of times when cycling, although only one broke my skin. (Which reminds me I ought to carry some antiseptic wipes in my Carradice bag.)

The first thing to note is whether the dog is on a lead or not and the next thing to consider is how concerned the owners are when they see a cyclist in the distance. If the dog is huge and the owner is worried then that worries me. What I really don’t like is being chased by dogs when cycling – one of us stands a chance of getting hurt. I always cover the brakes and slow down – the dog is out playing – and will sometimes leap about unpredictably. But if the dog starts chasing then I have to decide whether to outsprint them or stop. Nine times out of ten nothing happens though.

Dog walking along the Route of the Old Railway Line, behind Anglesey Abbey

The line of trees along the edge of the field is the route of the Drove Way, the way I go. Once again the crops are springing up, it wasn’t that long ago that the field was being harvested.

Route of the Old Railway Line, behind Anglesey Abbey heading towards The Drove Way

One of the things I like about the Crown and Punchbowl is that it is is both a pub and a nice restaurant. I did apologies for walking in in shorts – but they were not phased and welcoming.  I do like bangers and mash and they have variations on a them – but this time I had fish and chips – not something I have very often. They also offer more refined items on their changing menu.

Despite having cycled I couldn't manage a desert my friend had one it did look good. But I find it easier to cycle if I am not completely stuffed – quite a lot and often is the motto. Horningsea must suffer from speeding motorists, they have been given the special red-coloured tarmac and Speed Warning signs.  I stopped to see how easy it would be to take a picture of a car alongside the light flashing its warning. I didn't wait long. The first car that came past was through before I had taken my camera out of its bag. This is the second car to go past. It is some way up the road. I am not sure quite how sensitive the detectors are, but I reckon the car was 100m or so. I have not idea how accurate they are not at what speed do they start flashing. Apparently they are known as Interactive Signs and also SIDS – Speed Indicator Devices. According to the report the overall speed reduction is 1.4mph (but varied from 2.6mph to 0.6mph) – see Page 43.

Although the report does suggest that such signs should be rotated between different sites.  The is a discussion on this website that they may be set to flash at or below the speed limit to enhance the slowing effect.

A SID – Speed Indicator Sign – Horningsea

I am also not sure whether the SID is set to continue flashing whether the vehicle slows down or not.

A SID – Speed Indicator Sign – Horningsea

It carried on flashing in this case, I don’t recall another vehicle coming through immediately after.

A SID – Speed Indicator Sign – Horningsea

The car that followed didn’t activate the sign – so for completeness.

A SID – Speed Indicator Sign – Horningsea

It would appear that the local Phone box has also been re-purposed – it appears to be a mini-library.

Phone Box Library -  Horningsea

As I mentioned I went home via Low Fen Drove Way which circles Snouts Corner and Honey Hill. I took the official byway and although it was rutted just near Snouts Corner is was cycleable – I did have to dab my feet down once or twice though. The badly rutted area is where there is a parallel concrete farm-track. The concrete track is been made inaccessible by some earth works.

After that bit the track widens considerably and it looks as if it is being repaired after the soggy weather. It was pretty dry, the real snag on a bike is planning which rut not to get stuck in.

Low Fen Drove Way, near Horningsea

The route then crosses the route of the old railway line alongside a Dog Kennels. Then it becomes a more tarmac-like road/track. Although there are quite a few potholes.  There is then a hill bridge over the A14 and you join High Ditch Road. Look at that leaves coming out on the shrubs.

Approaching the A14 Bridge on Low Fen Drove Way

It would appear that some tosser doesn’t think that it is worth keeping the summer chairs for sitting out in the garden – so they fly-tipped them instead. The flipping Council Tip is not far down the road. Is this an example of Victimless crime.

Fly-tipping Low Fen Drove Way

Here is the hill, notice how the fly-tipper came over the bridge to do their dirty deed out of sight of the through road.

Low Fen Drove Way – bridge over the A14

And finally some pictures – well links to them anyway. Here are some pictures of Chernobyl 27 years on, the Imperial City in 1860 pictures entered into the 2013 Traveller Photo Contest and from the sublime to the ridiculous – Jeremy Clarkson cycling.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Building my new computer–Day 4 Time Windows 8 here I come

After the mechanical construction getting the Software on was pretty straightforward. Windows 8 does seem to want a Microsoft login, I have one, but it is my Hotmail Account and not my more recent user name.  Which means I end up logging into Windows 8 on my Desktop using an out of date email address – nice one Microsoft. At the time their help page indicated that they had suspended renaming the Hotmail account and a dig on the web indicated they were going the way of aliases to deal with the issue.

I do want to change it – keeping old email addresses around is a bit of a cludge. It means that my Outlook address, the main one is treated as a sub-address of my Hotmail account. I can see that I might have to fiddle around with my account settings on the PC and my email client, confusingly also called Outlook (2013).

Not quite the clarity of how I use my various Google apps.

Having said that the installation was easy. I basically followed by Haynes Manual and the instructions on the screen. This was a clean (OEM) install and it was intended to go on the SSD (not the HDD).  It did, it was fast, I didn’t have to wander off, and wait for hours, as I did when I re-installed Windows 7.

Once it was up and running I logged in – phew that’s different(Windows 8) Apps. However having spent a small amount of time getting to grips with the OS I am impressed. The computer –restarts are really fast. That might be due in part to the SSD, but it doesn’t hang around. It discovered my network printer and NAS, more or less fuss free.

After logging in it downloaded 33 updates (698.1Mb) and reported three ”Action Center” Issues. (Updates, Defender and “Trusting the PC”).  Also although the BIOS knows about the HDD I can’t see it.

If you look closely you can see a Windows Screen on monitor in the picture.

Windows 8 Running on my Newly Built Computer

The computer showing what is what. I forgot to mention the LED showing disk activity is also flashing (with disk activity) – another good thing.  After doing the Update-install it re-started and the screen resolution improved and I was offered a browser choice. I went for Chrome – which is my browser of choice. The only challenge with Chrome is that you can eat up loads of memory with open pages. A bit later on it turned out that this have given me the normal version of Chrome, whereas I use the slightly more advanced, but perhaps not so reliable Beta version.

I then loaded the AUS drivers. Starting with the Intel chipset, Realtek (Audio and Lan), APRP and Norton. Because I loaded them in one go I got a 60 day Norton trial. I didn’t bother and uninstalled it straight away. I had some issues in the past with Norton and since I wasn’t planning on using it this time didn’t need for it to start. The AUSU Mobo comes with quite a lot of stuff, including tools to overclock the machine – I’ll save them for a rainy day. (Two other programs on the disk needed to be installed separately – Intel SmartConnect Technology (interesting – it wakes you computer up from time to time so that various programs can download their stuff – such as email)  and Rapid Start Technology (Wake up from a deep-sleep – I could do with that!).

I then tried to load the Samsung CD that came with the SSD, the software was out of date and wouldn’t install on NT6.1 or later. So I downloaded the Samsung Magician software (4.0) of the web. It seems to allow tweaking of the SSD for speed, reliability or amount of data stored.

Finally I loaded the stuff that cam with the ASUS Blu-Ray – which included cut-down Burner program. (I have since created a Recovery Disk, so I know that the Blu-ray drive will burn CDs.)

The uninstall of Norton required a re-start – fortunately it re-starts so quickly I don’t really mind. (I haven’t time it -  but 10-15s and there are ways to speed it up more I believe.)

Somewhere along the line I also ran Disk management to format the HDD and make it available. In this case I initialised the disk, and formatted as an MBR disk. (Since it was less than 2.0TB).

I also loaded Office 2013 – I did consider switching to an alternative – but I have a lot of email and stuff than I want to maintain access to.  It was pretty straightforward. I didn’t use Microsoft’s Easy Transfer as I wanted to restructure things.

I have used the Microsoft Librarys structure to maintain my HDD as a “data store”. This helps maintain some separation between the programs disk (SSD) and data disk (HDD). In addition I have added a new HDD to my system, a 3TB SATA 2.0 disk which I call Backup and have used it to store a System Image and made it the target of File History. It automatically backs up files in libraries, contacts, favourites and my Desktop. Every hour it also stores files that have been changed.

This does not replace my backups onto my NAS drive, I still back up data there as well.

I have also moved all my Picasa pictures over, I have a minor issue with pictures as I didn’t move the Contacts file across at the same time. I did it after moving my pictures and then starting Picasa, when it discovered a set of unknown Albums. I stopped it moved the Contacts.xml file and then re-started it. Then at the end if named the unknown albums to their rightful names and it all worked.

I also manually transferred my outlook data. I have left the Outlook.pst on the SSD for speed, but archive and additional .pst files sit on the HDD (in a Library). Outlook now opens really, really quickly. Someone rang me to confirm a meeting and whereas in the past I would have to make inane conversation whilst waiting for Outlook to open the Calendar, it was there in a matter of seconds.

I was impressed with my Garmin setup. I loaded and installed Garmin Training Centre, which started talking to my GPS as soon as it was plugged in . I used GTC’s backup on my old machine and restore on my new machine and there it was. I then uninstalled my UK maps data from my old machine and reinstalled it on my new machine. The only problem was tracking the CD case with the key. It looks as if I will have to move on to Garmin Connect as GTC development has been discontinued. That is the trouble with Data that you want to keep they keep mucking about with the ways of using it. (My Garmin data goes back to 21st October 2008.) Oh well, the trouble is when I am cycling in remote parts you can’t always get web access.

HDRSoft also deserve a mention – I emailed them for a licence key reminder, got it, installed the 64-bit version of their software on my new machine enabled it and once again I could process my HDR pictures. One license entitles me to install and register Photomatix Pro on other computers I use.

Having gotten everything across it was time to stick the panels on the computer and stick it under the desk and get back to normal life.

Windows 8 Running on my Newly Built Computer

Before sticking every thing together I used zip-ties to tidy up some cables and re-routed some cable runs. Here it is ready to go under the desk.

Newly Built Computer

I have now moved my world across, the next steps are to clean up my old computer and then run it in parallel for a while, just in case. It is also running form a UPS, not so much to keep working during power cuts as to ensure that I can shot it down properly.

I have also hooked it up to two monitors (I have a spare).

My first impressions are:

  1. It is fast
  2. I like Windows 8
  3. There have been a few s/w glitches on the way, but for the most part it has been painless. (I had some problems with a WD app to access my NAS disk – sorted now though.)
  4. It runs cool
  5. I’m pleased I did it – now back to cycling


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Building my new computer–Day 4 Time to turn the power on

I woke this morning with a feeling of anticipation and some trepidation.  My plan was to do a double check of the connectivity and then power the computer up. The trouble is what do I do if there is trouble. In the past I would start using a ‘scope or logic analyser.  Things have moved on a bit since then. In any case I don’t have either bit of kit or quite now where I would start.

Some additional questions have also sprung to mind, will the computer sense whether the on-board graphic system or the card I have plugged in is the place to output video?.  It will be tricky working out what is going on if I can't see anything.  I will first power things up with the sides of the computer off. Most PCs make a beep when they power up. This comes from a small internal speaker connected to the Mobo. One beep is good, other patterns give a clue as to what might be the problem.  The case and Mobo I have selected don't have them though. Although the Mobo does have a connection for a debug speaker. So I might see if I can salvage one from an old computer I have. Or maybe even just wire up a small speaker.

The computer does have some internal LEDs one that indicates if there is a problem with the DRAM and also one that indicates whether the Mobo is in standby or not.

The other uncertainty is whether the BIOS is set up to recognise a USB keyboard/mouse. I have a PS/2 - USB adapter, but the Mobo seems to have a combo mouse and keyboard PS/2 socket.  As configured at the moment the computer will have 2 x USB 3 sockets at the front and 2 x USB 3 sockets at the back. There are also two USB 2 sockets at the front and four USB 2 sockets at the back.  What I have noticed is the the labelling of the Mobo diagram in the manual differs a little from the actual Mobo.  The board also has four spare USB 2 sockets and an unused serial port. 

The diagram of the Mobo on Chapter 2-2 of my manual shows the Mobo Overview and labels the back panel USB connectors as “Lan3-12” it should be “USB3_12”.

My Haynes manual, suggests that the video will come out on the Video Card. It has also cleared up the issue of when to load the various Drivers, after the O/S. Which is semi-obvious – I suppose.

I have also read somewhere that you should load the O/S with the HDD disconnected, otherwise the installation will load it onto the HDD in preference to the SSD. My plan is to load the program's on the SSD and install my own working directory there with all the rest of the data on the HDD. There are ways of using super-links to fool the OS into going to another disk. However For me the main things I want to locate elsewhere are the various data sets: music, pictures, cycling data (Garmin) and email are probably the most relevant. That way I will be able to simplify my back up strategy.

Other things that slightly worry me is hanging on to the Google face data when I move stuff around.

Enough prevarication, I have checked the cabling and in the process moved one or two of the cables around.  The HDD drive's SATA data connection stuck out and might have fouled the side panel.  I might still do a bit of re-routing, but before I zip-tie the cables I reckon I'd better power it up.

So I have cabled the PC up, power, keyboard mouse and network. When I switch on the PSU power supply – a little green LED standby light come on on the Mobo – and no smoke. Well that can’t be bad – although it will need to do a bit more than that.

Here are my notes:

Right now to power up my new build. First job is to strip off the protective covering from the case, otherwise the fans won't be able to breathe.  Then the next job is to connect it up to the monitor, keyboard, mouse and power!
I will connect these to the USB sockets at the back and am wondering whether to get a couple of extension leads for for the keyboard and mouse to simplify the cable runs.
The plugs go in through the I/O plate ok.
Now to connect the display. Can I use the old DVI cable?  Not sure - will try it. I do have a VGA cable in case of problems. I might also have to resort to plugging it into the Mobos graphics system?
Mains cables now connected to the Monitor and to the Computer.

Sequence (from the Haynes Manual)
Monitor on.    Message entering power save
Mains on for Computer PSU.        As expected nothing
Computer PSU switch on and look to see if the PSU connected fan comes on
  No it doesn't, but the Mobo Standby LED comes on.
Computer power button
All connected case fans come on, front, rear, back and unexpectedly (for me)  the CPU fan. The DRAM LED briefly flashed red? Then went off and nothing appeared on the screen

My New Computer in Standby

Sequence (from the Haynes Manual)

  1. Monitor on.    Message entering power save
  2. Mains on for Computer PSU.        As expected nothing
  3. Computer PSU switch on and look to see if the PSU connected fan comes on
      No it doesn't, but the Mobo Standby LED comes on.
  4. Computer power button
    All connected case fans come on, front, rear, back and unexpectedly (for me)  the CPU fan. The DRAM LED briefly flashed red? Then went off and nothing appeared on the screen

So the fans spin and the blue LEDs come on, no smoke, the DRAM LED cycles though red and then goes out -  is that good or bad. Well I know that not being red is good but no picture. Oh drat, what on earth do I do now.

My New Computer on, fans spinning – but no picture

Here is the same shot but with a slower shutter speed – just to prove the fans really are spinning.

Should I dig out a small speaker and connect it up and listen for the beeps? In one of the many web reading sessions I remember someone complaining that they couldn’t see the BIOS screen on the DVD-D output as it was configured. So I dug out a VGA cable.

My New Computer on, fans spinning (slower shutter speed)  – but no picture

Then as I go to disconnect the DVI-D graphics cable in order to use the VGA output I realised that despite all my double-checking of the internal wiring I hadn’t paid much attention to the external cabling – (mouse, monitor keyboard.) Instead of plugging the monitor into the Graphics card I had plugged it into the Mobo. So I plugged it into the DVI – D output of the Graphics Card and  and went through the power sequence again.

Ab-so-lutely flippin’ brilliant – the Graphical BIOS display comes up and it has the right processor, amount of memory and well, spinning fans.  It also has some discs as well – Optical, SSD and HDD.  You can’t beat that. I do appear to have gone back in time though!

Unfortunately at this point I had to stop and meet someone for lunch. No beer for me – I want to get cracking with the OS and stuff when I get back. I cycled off feeling quite excited – sad eh

Winking smile

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Building my new computer–Day 3–the wiring

So it is day three in the Big computer build house, the time has come to connect everything up. I am taking my time with this build and fitting it around other stuff I have to do. Although just to add a bit of spice to the mix, the “outgoing” computer decided to accelerate its going, it was showing the Blue Screen of Death this morning. I am not sure why but after re-starting and it crashing within two minutes of login I went through the time-tested method of fixing it and  here it is (in terms of being typed upon) – perhaps it has the sulks.

For the time being I have stopped creating stuff on the old computer to make it easier to transfer from the old to the new. I do have back-ups but it would make it easier to transfer from an operating computer.

So today’s task is to fit the Mobo and connect everything up. I will then leave things overnight and re-check the connectivity tomorrow and start hitting the on buttons!

In my case it was quite easy to identify where the Mobo stand-off studs went, screw them in and then before fitting the Mobo fit the I/O plate. I must admit I stalled on this for some time.  The thin metal plate has various prongs that are inward facing and it took a while to rationalise quite where the prongs were going to end up. This is another subject that gets quite a lot of unrequited attention on the ‘net.  Do you press them in, out or snip them off.

Some thin prongs press onto the faces of the metal sockets and some stick back into the machine on the sides/tops of the sockets. There easy – the plate itself pushes into the opening and plips into place.

Once the plate is in place then you have to ease the Mobo in ensuring the various prongs sit where they are supposed to. If you look carefully, which I didn’t you will see that there are two that aren’t quite in place. I eased the Mobo in, almost properly and then screwed it onto the stand-offs – firm but not too firm.

Whilst checking out stuff I did find a YouTube video sponsored by ASUS showing an installation in a case like mine. It was an installation video of the Artic Cooler - Freezer 13 that convinced me it would be relatively straightforward to mount the large cooler even with the Motherboard in place.

I/O Panel in place – almost

And here is the Mobo in place – there were six screw points on my Case/Mobo, the four empty holes around the processor are for the CPU fan. To make things easier I put the case on its side. I mentioned that one piece of advice was to have a pair of long-nosed pliers or tweezers to hand in case you drop a screw. Well it wasn’t necessary, some of those screws were tricky to line up but I managed it without a mishap.

Motherboards in place in the case

I didn’t notice that two prongs were out of place when I took this picture.  The offending prongs are over “in” the HDMI socket rather than on it (or IMDH) .

A poorly fitted  I/O Plate

After that little drama it is time for the cables. Firstly the power cable to the motherboard. Although I do have to decide when to fit the graphics card and when to fit the CPU cooler fan. Decisions, decisions.

The EATX12V cable in place – not far from the CPU – my initial confusion was that the plug that goes into the Mobo is in fact two 4-pin plugs that sit side by side. That way if your Mobo only has a four-pin socket you are still OK with the cable.

You can also see the 24-pin EATXPWR cable just above the DRAM. The power cable is also referred to as a 20 + 4 pin cable in some places. In my case the EATXPWR cable was split into two plugs at the PSU end  both labelled 24 pin ATX, one with 10 pins and the other with 18 pins – go figure – that is 28 pins.  You can see why I got a bit paranoid when connecting things up. My guess is that this ensures that the EATXPWR cable can’t be plugged into the wrong socket on the PSU?

EATX12V and EATXPWR Power Cables in place - Mobo

Here is the PSU with both cables plugged into three sockets. Those sockets have shaped holes to prevent you from plugging in the wrong cables. The trouble is that you can end up having to push quite hard – which gets you worrying that you might be forcing the plug into the wrong socket. There are quite a few peripheral sockets as well as PCI-E sockets.

EATX12V and EATXPWR Power Cables in place – PSU

I rather like these cables they look better protected than ribbon cables and are easier to manoeuvre. Apparently some companies selling cables talk about how their mesh covered cables enhance the build. Although my case has a transparent cover, it won’t be noticeable under my desk.

Close-up EATXPWR cable in place – Mobo

My plan is to connect everything up, run the computer and then tidy the cabling up (zip-ties and re-routing), check it again and then put the panels back on.

Close-up EATX12V cable in place – Mobo

And it was here that I discovered I had gotten two prongs out of place on my I/O plate. I decided against unscrewing the Mobo and instead was able to ease them into place because the I/O plate was pretty thin and so very flexible.  The offending prongs are over “in” the HDMI socket rather than on it (or IMDH) .  The blue USB looking sockets are USB 3.0 (2)  and the others are USB 2.0 (4).

A properly fitted  I/O Plate

I didn’t have enough SATA cables – the Mobo came with two SATA 3.0 cables and nothing else had them. So I popped out to PC World to get a couple more. I even agonised over the length – too long and it clogs up the insides, too short and they don’t fit. (That visit will also result in a bicycle/car type of post later.)

SATA 3.0 and SATA 2.0 Cables ( 2 + 2)

I connected the SATA power and data cables to the three drives. In the end I moved the SSD, from the position shown here just below the Mobo and above the PSU, as it was easier to connect it using the multi-terminal power connector in one of the front trays.  I also removed a plate from the front of the computer to allow easier access to the tray. The power connectors were quite hard to push onto the various drives. I also moved the HDD drive to make it easier to reach the Blu-ray drive at the top of the stack.

SSD – just about to move

The two SATA 3.0 drives (HDD and SSD go into the grey sockets on the bottom right of the Mobo.

Do I route the SATA cables in and out of the central area for neatness?

The Case – what’s the best routing for the SSD cables

I reckon I could have gotten the 2.5” SSD drive, on its carrier (which came with the case) in from the back, but followed the recommendations in the Case booklet and took out one of the blanking panels. From memory the power consumption of the SSD is pretty low and therefore it is unlikely to get hot. But just in case I put it in the recommended place – that way if it did get hot the metal around would act as a heat sink.

The bottom two blanking plates are still attached by tags and it has to be twisted out – you can screw it back on again though.

Preparing to mount the SSD in its new home

In this picture the power cables are in place – black ribbon cable with multiple pick-up points. I have two strings of SATA power cables as I couldn’t get all three of the drives connected to one. This also meant I had to check I was using the correct power supply cables as the Corsair sockets are quite firm when pushing the plugs in.

The SATA cables have been connected to the drives but not the Mobo. I am wondering whether to route the SATA data cables out the side and then back in again for neatness?

The red cable is not SATA 3.0  so that is used for the Blu-ray drive.  Whereas the HHD and SSD drives are both SATA 3.0 and will use the two SATA 3.0 sockets on the Motherboard.  I am thinking about sticking in a couple of spare HDDs for backup, once things are a bit more stable!

Drive Power Cables in place on the Computer build

I typed up notes, mainly questions as I went along to ensure (we try to ensure anyway) that I didn’t forget stuff as I went along.

I also ticked of the items that I connected in my ASUS Motherboard manual – just to make sure. Here are my notes after connecting the drives it was time for the rest of the cables.

Connected USB3, it needed a USB 1-2 adapter cable, which I picked up in an Amazon review. The case comes with two separate USB3 cables from the top.

Connected USB2 these already had a dual-header socket, which plugged straight into the Mobo.

Plugged in the HD Audio. It needs setting in the BIOS, but default is HD Audio (versus legacy audio AC' 97).

Checked the CLRTC, normal

Checked the GPU - set to boost

Not bothering with a serial I/O there are four spare USB2 sockets (configured as two two-way sockets). Could output these in the future.

Front panel Connections
Led+ green power led+
Led- white power led-
IDE LED.  (+ and -)  The case lead say HDD Led with red and white cables. Assume red is plus?
PowerSW marked as power and ground on the board
Case.      Marked as 2pin connector with black and green wires
Reset - marked reset and ground
Case -  marked reset sw with black and red cable

I have just beep-tested the Reset Switch, it is non-polar, with neither connecting to ground. So I don't think it is grounded, which suggested the power switch isn't either.

I was brought up to believe that electrical cables had colours for a reason – but I got a bit worried that the colour coding made no sense for the Power switch and Reset switch. In the end I used my multi-meter to check that the switches were floating and that they could be connected either way around. Better safe than sorry.

iPad record of the build

The next tasks, in no particular order are CPU cooler, fans and graphics card -  I am getting there.

First the fans - although having checked my original fan plan I realised that the fans on the sides and back have large four-pin round plug/sockets (three fans). The fans to the top and front have three pin sockets, with thin prongs. The Mobo fan connections have 4 pins, except the PWR fan which has three.
So I have five fans and three sockets on the Mobo, But only two fans have small plugs!  So it looks as if I will either connect all three large connector sockets straight to the power supply. The Power Supply does come with a Peripherals connection, which means the fans will be on all the time!
Apparently the three pins plugs are keyed to fit appropriately on the four pin sockets! That is the case, phew. Only the two side fans to connect, which I will do after getting the computer up and running, hopefully.

I have also decided to build the computer to its “near” final specification and stick the Arctic Cooler and Graphics card in. Here is the card, in its box, a GeForce GTX 650 with 2Gb or memory and enhanced durability. I am not so interested in gaming performance but I do want to be able to process large pictures. My current machine will sometimes fail to complete tasks with out of memory errors (when using Photoshop Elements). As you can see I have gone for ASUS again – so far the ASUS products have all been well packaged and their website has been informative. Let’s hope they live up to the billing.

ASUS GeForce GTX 650

Here is the Graphics card, buying a moderate level of performance means I am not too worried about whether it will fit or not – unlike the $1,000+ monsters.

ASUS GeForce GTX 650 – side on

And here it is in place. Another benefit of using this card is it did not need an additional power connection, although to be fair that wouldn’t have been a problem with my PSU and case. For some reason I though that the fins above the red thing were the fan. It was only when I went to spin it I realised that it was the heat sink and that the fan was below. So all in all this build will have 5 case fans, one cpu fan, one graphics fan and one power supply fan, eight in total. If it doesn’t work as a computer maybe I can “re-purpose” it as a hovercraft.

I also checked to ensure I removed the right blanking plate at6 least three times – as you can see it is not the top plate.

So the last remaining task is to fit the CPU cooler and I will go for the Arctic Freezer, it seems to fit the space quite well. Although it is tricky to tell. It also seems quite a weight to put on the Motherboard, there are six screws attaching the Mobo to the case though. 

I need to work out is what direction should it face.  I want it to pump air out in the same direction as the rear ran. How can you tell which way the fans pump?
It seems that the fans on the Zalman Z11 plus expel air, except for the front one which brings air in.  Which makes sense. That has filters bring air in except the rear fan.  So I can either direct the air from the CPU cooler backward or to the top. I am tempted to bring it in from the bottom and out through the top.  That might also encourage airflow up around the PSU?

So here are the Intel and Arctic Coolers side by side. At this point I am wondering whether I have gone for fan overkill. Still (un)reliability is exponentially related to temperature, so cooler is definitely better. Also given my rig is over-clockable it will interesting to see how it performs. Mind you I must get everything stable first. I wonder what happens when you ove3r-clock too far.

Comparison of an Intel Cooler and an Arctic Freezer 13

Well it seemed a good idea at the time. The Freezer 13 has a plastic base that you put in first, then you add the heat sink and then re-clip the fan onto the heat sink.  The plastic base went in very easily. The heat sink wasn't too bad, first you have to unclip the fan. It was a tricky screwing it down onto the base, the space is tight and the cooling fins quite sharp. I dropped my first screw, but retrieved it with a pair of tweezers without any hassle. So much for my unblemished record. Then when it came to putting the fan back onto the heat sink, flip it fouled the DRAM. Argh.  I checked on the web and didn't find any major warning flags, and did see some builds with my Mobo and the Freezer 13. So I wondered whether it was the heat spreaders on my RAM, perhaps I should have gone for the low profile RAM, perhaps my bargain RAM wasn't such a bargain after all. Mind you a quick check for pictures and here is my board with DRAM and the Freezer 13 looking tight but doable.

I noticed that the fan clipped onto the heat sink with quite a bit of overlap, so with crossed fingers I pulled out the offending RAM slice and phew, the fan clipped on. Now could I get the RAM back in place, yup – relief. The amount of force to re-seat the DRAM is high, but not so much that I was worried.

So the build has finished. I will get on with my other stuff and then tomorrow check things through and tidy up the cable routing. Then I will give it a go. Although I will wait before putting the sides on, just in case.

In the end the CPU fan blows through the fins onto the rear exhaust fan – so it will also draw air over the DRAM.

My Computer Build – ready to roll

You might also notice that I moved the HDD up to improve the cable routing.

My Computer Build – ready to roll

All the switch and LED cables in place – I have connected the fans and there are also connectors ready foe the side panel fans.

My Computer Build – ready to roll

I can’t wait for tomorrow – although there is a little trepidation. My track record, in the past when building electronic systems has been pretty good – but not 100%!