Repurposing a door, again and again…

I love this door to our downstairs toilet.

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The door was originally at the bottom of the starirs. It was originally painted and was the downstairs door to the lounge (now gone as we changed two small dark rooms into one airy room). I removed the door and sent it to be “dipped and stripped”, then added it as a new door on the downstairs toilet. I did intend to wax the door, but I’ve not done so and so the door has acquired a patina of use.

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The door has been repurposed many times. There are four other holes that have been used for various locks. Whether that was new locks, or the door was used for different doorways. When we used this in the downstairs toilet, we put the lock on the other side of the door as it swings out and so we added yet another hole! Perhaps that’s why they the previous owners had painted the door to hide those holes? I removed the filler that was in each of the old holes. I have considered covering it with a panel. But I think overall I prefer to see the holes as they show the history of the door.

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Before we had a bathroom

We’ve got plumbers in today replacing a few items that have broken in the 15 years since we fitted them. Before we moved into this house we had about 11 months of renovation to turn a flimsy house with no insulation, minimal plumbing and wired with appallingly dangerous wiring (rubber coated cables where the insulation had disintegrated), into something that could be lived in.

I could rant about how the plumbers back then made absolutely no thought as to future maintenance, but I will not. However, in looking for how the shower was fitted (so it can be replaced) I came across this photo before the bathroom even existed.

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In this photo the flat roof of the utility room below has been removed and replaced by joists to provide a floor. The door opening was previously a window at the top of the stairs. The shower was fitted between the two studs you see to the left and in front of the white door.

Here’s how it looks now from the exterior (the window you see is about where I was stood when I took the above photo 14 years ago.

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A years old Wifi issue finally sorted! Yeah!

I’ve always wondered why I had wifi issues in my garden office on my phone and more generally everywhere else in my garden. It’s only 10m away from an access point with good quality external aerials. Which should give decent coverage over the entire garden and offices.

I have a central Draytek 2820n router connected to a Netgear GS724t switch (then another in my garden office). There are two Draytek Access points connected to the switch. AP-800 and AP-900. Both legacy products now, but OK.

Wifi reception in the house is generally decent. But in the garden and our garden offices it is rubbish. There are multiple Smart switches that are always disconnecting (in fact I threw one away a few years ago and replaced it with a new one). A pair of Sonos speakers that are always disconnecting (though they should be using SonosNet and not general wifi) and a Raspberry Pi on the boat that I can rarely reliably SSH to.

Our garden has some overhead power cables above it. These are 11kv with three phases and power the entire village.

Yesterday morning I just noticed that I was getting a very decent wifi signal on my phone (20Mbps down). Then it dawned on me that the cables are turned off today for tree work and the village is being powered by a diesel generator for the day. The naive “jumping at straws because this dammed wifi problem is never going away” person in me immediately assumed that interference from the cables was the issue

Then more knowledgeable people than me told me that a 50hz electricity cable will not interfere with a 2.4/5Ghz wifi signal. The frequencies are too different. Still something is awry. I also noticed that the three smart plugs in my garden that are generally problematic are connected without issue. Same goes for two Sonos speakers. I could even connect to the RPi with a decent connection. Enough to update Raspbian without having to use Tmux.

However, then the connection fails again and the power has yet to be restored to the cables. So what is the problem?

The Draytek router has AP central management and I configure the two Draytek access points using that tool. I’ve rarely looked at the config pages of the actual APs.

Draytek CentraAPmanagement

But now I looked at one. Turns out that it was using two wifi networks with the same SSID.

The AP in the house had both SSIDs connected to LAN-A, but the AP in the garden had one of these “pseudo” networks connected to LAN-B. The LAN-B is not connected to anything!

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So when the power went off the APs rebooted. Then the devices get a decent connection. But as the phone roamed it switched to the SSID with no network connection and so the iPhone goes crazy with no internet connection and switches to 4G. I have no idea why the Smart switches disconnected though.

I just turned this off on both APs and everything now connects flawlessly with a strong signal. I have had this problem for years…! Sheesh…!

UPDATE March 18, 2023

So the wifi failed again. I went back to check and the multi SSID option had been re-enabled. Turns out the AP Management tool on the router has a profile that enables it, and it kept cloning it to the access points. Now that’s fixed. Fingers crossed.

UPDATE April 18, 2023

So the problem was not fully solved. The issues above were real, but the heart of the problem was hardware. In these days of reliable hardware how odd to have an issue that is not PSU related. I swapped out the AP, but the only spare AP I had did not have a built in Ethernet switch, and there’s an IP camera attached to the existing AP. So I disabled wifi on the faulty AP point (Draytel AP-900), used that as a switch and plugged in the Ethernet portless AP (Draytek AP-710). For a week before our holiday and the few days we returned it has proved to be faultless. I do need to remove that faulty unit completely. The AP in the house is plugged into an adjacent switch and so only needs a single Ethernet port. I’ll swap the two over soon.

migrated blog to new hosting provider

So after moving my old hosting provider to a monthly renewal 12 months ago in preparation for moving it. I finally found a day to migrate it all over to a new provider on Saturday. I chose Mythic Beasts. A Cambridge based company that I have a few other domains hosted on and have been impressed by their plain talking sales, sensible pricing and proper technical support.

Their support pages suggests a “no downtime” workflow that involves copying their DNS entries for your new site to your existing hosting provider’s DNS record. So even though you do not know when the changes propagate through DNS servers both your existing provider and the new one’s all point to the same new server on your new provider’s site. Very straightforward.

I also discovered a cool WordPress plugin (Updraft Plus), that I’ve been using for backups for some time, has a very restore function that you can easily and quickly restore a backup to a new site. If I’d have known how easy and reliable this perhaps I would not have bothered exporting my site, and importing to a backup server. Just In Case.

Spring is coming – flowers in the garden

Our garden was well planned by the previous owners. They bought the house in 1933 and spent their lives planning the garden. No lawn, but vegetable patches in the middle and flowers around the borders. We have left the garden much wilder. The vegetables patches were replaced by grass (although we reverted part of that to vegetables patches during the first lockdown). The borders are still full of flowers. All planned so that the last weeks of Winter and Spring are full of flowers, snowdrops, aconites, crocuses, daffodils, then tulips, crown imperials, irises and plenty more. Here’s the first batch:

(The first daffodils photo is from elsewhere in the village, but it’s a lovely photo!).

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Goodbye to my boots!

So I say goodbye to my Lowa walking boots this morning. I’ve had these many years and they have really stood up to abuse. The left boot developed a leak in the heel that stopped them being used too seriously. But there again since my daughter was born serious hikes have been rare. Still I kept them as they feel like trainers but are very firm. Also the hinged ankle protector makes it impossible to twist your ankles regardless of the angle you put your foot down.

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But in clearing out the “solar thermal” cupboard I realised the material in the sole had rotted way. unrepairable so into the bin they go.

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half term holidays

So the plans for the start of half term were well and truly skewered by covid finally catching up with me! it was quite mild apart from two sleepless nights, but no venturing anywhere until those parallels lines became singular.

We had our first outdoor dining experience of 2023. Naan breads and sausages cooked over a fire.

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A visit to the nearest pub (Crown and Punchbowl) then ham, egg n chips at the newly reopened Plough and Fleece (how lucky we are to have two pubs in Horningsea).

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To round off the week we stayed overnight in an Airbnb in the middle of a wood. Really lovely new wood cabin in the grounds of Houghton Hall.

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The surrounding woods were lovely. Within the space of a twenty minute dusk walk we were circled by a barn owl hunting, watched by a single deer, and saw the hind legs of two hares as they scarpered.

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The next day I had the nicest bacon and egg sandwich I’d have for many years then a lovely walk the next day on the beach at Holme Near Sands rounded off our 24 hr trip to Norfolk. Our tradition of always calling at Brancaster Staith for some dressed crab was spoilt somewhat as the van was not there. But it was saved by a roadside place selling fresh mussels. So our dinner on our return was moules marinere. Yummy!

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First outdoor cooking of the year

It’s school half term, so whereas it’s still pretty damp outside, it’s a good time to cook sausages and naan bread on a campfire outside.

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I’ve learnt from previous years and rather than having to turn a naan regularly so it does not flow through the grill bars, I used a baking tray over the fires instead. It still needed turning quickly to avoid burning, but they baked nicely and were the yummiest I’ve done yet!

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The grill is made from the steel bars of an old scrap iron bed frame at the right width to slide a grill from an oven. Fit’s nicely across the fire pit.

Migrating My Root Drive Raid1 Array to a Pair of NVME Drives.

I’ve always tried to keep upgrading my own Linux boxes. I enjoy it and as I found out a few years ago if I do not regularly keep updating hardware then I completely lose knowledge of doing so.
My latest project is to move all the services from my workstation to a separate box. I’ve got a few RPis around the house running a few services, but I’ve always used my workstation as a games machine/server/development/everything else. In fact for a number of years I stopped using Linux as a workstation at all and this machine was a headless server.
Because of this cycle of continuous upgrades this computer has existed for probably twenty years. Always running some form of Linux (mainly Gentoo).
Currently it’s using some space heater of a server motherboard with a pair of E5 2967v2 on a Supermicro X9dri-LN4 motherboard with 128Gb of ECC DDR3 RAM (very cheap!). That’s fine over winter (my office has no heating) but I do need to fully transfer all the services to the low power Debian box under my desk instead!
Anyway this computer boots from pair of SATA SSD drives in a RAID1 array, with a six disk RAID10 array for data. That array needs to be replaced by a single large drive when I’ve finished moving services to a new machine….!
The motherboard is too old to EFI boot from NVME drives. However, whilst browsing Reddit I came across some people talking about using an adaptor card to add in four NVME drives and using bifurcation toggle each drive proper access to the four PCIe channels that NVME devices need. So x4,x4,x4,x4 instead of x16.
This was not supported on this board, but turns out Supermicro did release a new BIOS that does support bifurcation.
So I bought the card they suggest and a pair of 1TB NVMe drives. The drives are only PCIev3 as that’s all the motherboard supports. PCIe is backwards/forwards compatible. but PCIev4 drives are considerably more expensive than PCIeV3 ones. I may as well get a pair of these, then when I upgrade to a PCIeV4 motherboard the available drives will likely be larger and cheaper!
– Asus M.2. X16 Gen 4
– 2 x WD Blue SN570 NVMe SSD 1TB
The adaptor and cards came. The adapter has got a lovely heatsink that sandwiches the drives in with a small low noise fan.
The adaptor took ten minutes to install. When booted up the BIOS setup disk was a little tricky to enable bifurcation as the slots are numbered from the bottom. This one was CPU1/slot 1.
I had to recompile the kernel to add NVME support, but once booted the pair of drives were there.
After many, many years of using /dev/sdX to refer to storage devices (I was using SCSI hardware before SATA), it does seem a little strange to be running parted on /dev/nvme1n1 then getting partition devices like /dev/nvme1n1p2
I know I should likely move to ZFS, but I’m knowledgeable enough about mdadm not to completely mess up things! ..and replacing a pair of RAID1 devices is just so easy with mdadm.

Workflow is:
– partition drive.
– add to raid array as spare
– fail drive to be removed and then remove it.
– Wait until raid1 array is synced again.
– repeat with second drive
– resize array, then resize the filesystem

procedure

fdisk /dev/nvme0n1

We can use fdisk again as fdisk is GPT aware. Previously we’d always used parted. But I prefer fdisk as I know it!
– partition
– Label the drive as GPT
– Make 256mb partition and mark as EFI boot.
– Make 2nd partition for the rest of the drive and mark that as type Linux raid.

Now add that drive to our raid1 array. For some reason it was not added to a spare, but was instead immediately synced to make a 3 drive raid1 array. I think this is because I previously created this array as a three drive array (for reasons I forget). I guess that’s stored in the metadata of the array.

mdadm /dev/md127 --add /dev/nvme0n1p2

We can watch the progress:

watch cat /proc/mdstat

Once completed we can fail and then remove the drive

mdadm --manage /dev/md127 --fail /dev/sdh3
mdadm /dev/md127 --remove /dev/sdh3

Then let’s update our mdadm.conf file

mdadm --detail --scan >> /etc/mdadm/mdadm.conf

Then remove the oldlines:

vi /etc/mdadm/mdadm.conf

Finally let’s wipe that old drive of RAID data so the array does not try to reassemble it to the array.

wipefs -a /dev/sdh3

A reboot is a good idea now to ensure the array is correctly assembled (and new PAT reread).

Now let#s copy the partition table (PAT) to the second new drive.

sgdisk /dev/nvme0n1 -R /dev/nvme1n1

Then randomise the UIDs

sgdisk -G /dev/nvme1n1

Check all is OK

Now repeat adding the second new drive:

mdadm /dev/md127 --add /dev/nvme1n1p2
mdadm --manage /dev/md127 --fail /dev/sdg3
mdadm /dev/md127 --remove /dev/sdg3
mdadm --detail --scan >> /etc/mdadm/mdadm.conf
wipefs -a /dev/sdg3

resize after adding new devices

mdadm –grow –size max /dev/md127
df -h
Then resize the filesystem
resize2fs -p /dev/md127

benchmarks

dd if=/dev/zero of=/home/chris/TESTSDD bs=1G count=2 oflag=dsync 

2+0 records in
2+0 records out
2147483648 bytes (2.1 GB, 2.0 GiB) copied, 4.7162 s, 455 MB/s

dd if=/dev/zero of=/mnt/storage/TESTSDD bs=1G count=2 oflag=dsync

2+0 records in
2+0 records out
2147483648 bytes (2.1 GB, 2.0 GiB) copied, 10.0978 s, 213 MB/s

dd if=/home/chris/TESTSDD of=/dev/null bs=8k                                                              !10032

262144+0 records in
262144+0 records out
2147483648 bytes (2.1 GB, 2.0 GiB) copied, 0.666261 s, 3.2 GB/s

dd if=/mnt/storage/TESTSDD of=/dev/null bs=8k                                                             !10034

262144+0 records in
262144+0 records out
2147483648 bytes (2.1 GB, 2.0 GiB) copied, 0.573111 s, 3.7 GB/s

I did think that the write speed would be faster. But I guess dd is not the most accurate of benchmark tools.

Our hidden little coal burning range

Inside an old house in the process of renovation. Walls are bare brick and scaffolding is holding the roof up.

One of my lockdown projects was cleaning up an old range we found in the house. This blog post has been in Drafts ever since.

When we bought the house about 16 years ago. We bought it from an old couple who had moved into a home (we never met them). They had bought the cottage in 1933 and lived there ever since. They were 102 and 98 yrs old.

When they bought the cottage they renovated it. Removing the thatch and adding an extra floor.
We knew it was an old cottage, however, we assumed (and the survey suggested this too) that all the old features had been “modernised” and removed.

Here’s how the cottage looked originally (around the 1890s).

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Shortly after the “modernisation” in the 1960s (photo taken 1970).

An old cottage with a Morris Minor parked outside
Here’s how it looked when we purchased it 18 years or so ago.

A dilapidated white cottage with a pensive looking man stood outside

..and here’s how it looks now. Photo just taken after I’d spent three months putting eight coats of limewash on the lime render.

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But when we started renovating the cottage we found lots of old original features that had had just been covered up. Two lovely features that we discovered are an inglenook fireplace and our little coal burning range in the kitchen. Both were completely hidden before we purchased and it was only when we started ripping down fibreboard covered walls that we discovered both.

Just after I’d started ripping of the fibreboard around the tiled fireplace, and I discovered the oak bressumer and the inglenook fireplace.

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The kitchen looked like this when we bought it:

An old fashioned kitchen(The water tank is where that little range is now)

When I removed the water tank and associated crap. I found an old range. Seemingly destroyed with all the doors missing.

01072009588But when I cleared all the rubble away I found all the missing bits.
A crappy brick wall was removed, cement render removed and repointed in lime and sand.
I put a wine rack on top of it, meaning to go back and clean it up. I’ve only just done so.
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Incidentally the 85 year old son of the owners visited here 8 years ago. He grew up in this house and he has never seen that range.

There is still burnt coal in the range, but the chimney above is missing. It looks to have been torn down when they reroofed it many years ago.

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