Unlike every other weblog you ever saw, this one is in correct chronological order so you can read it the right way round.

25 Jan 2017A good week
8 Feb 2017Random objects
16 Feb 20172+2 = 5 stars
28 Feb 2017Closure
5 Mar 2017Honest engine
1 Apr 2017Patent nonsense ©
16 Apr 2017Cache 22
1 May 2017Asymmetry
20 May 2017Ancient grease
26 Jun 2017MotoGP report
18 Jul 2017Missing links
26 Jul 2017Spot the bike
1 Aug 2017Helpful hands
23 Aug 2017In a hurry
5 Sep 2017Workers of the web untie
17 Sep 2017Mobilisation
24 Sep 2017Seeing stars
3 Oct 2017Cache my drift
16 Oct 2017Zero hour

A good week

Just had a good week making lots of corrections to

...or to be more accurate: Just finished a bad week screwing up

Any-road-up, thanks to the ever vigilant Phil the Spill we headed off lots of errors in recent reports. The site has become so sophisticated that I just cannot hold it all in my two remaining brain cells while I create or update a web page. To mitigate this deterioration I have introduced new strategies and procedures. One is a simple check list for special pages. Another is the extension and updating of a long-existing feature of this website - self documenting pages. This now includes a check of Open Graph protocol meta tags. If you want to know what they are, Google it!

All I need to do (apart from the work) is press ALT+W to see the page's self documentation, check there is an appropriate picture to represent the page and there is nothing about open graph items highlighted in red. You can do it as well.

Second problem fixed was a failure to find our 2017 Rally Listing as reported by Konni from Hamburg. Major panic on that because Hans Veenendaal's Treffen calendar is the most popular page on the site and we cannot have that failing. Turns out Konni was following an old address, maybe in his bookmarks or maybe an out-of-date link from another website or a search engine. Easily fixed by replacing the out of date page by a redirect.

Third correction was to the ©ontact ©entre that I noticed had become malformed. That was because I'd suffered a bout of New Year cleaning frenzy and deleted some style sheets that control this and a disused quotation bubble. Reinstating the deleted code from a backup fixed that.

So, thanks to Phil and Konni, it turned out to be a good week.

Random objects

Changing a road layout to reduce accidents usually involves a tried and trusted list of measures. Whatever we did to a road, good or bad, would often have a short term safety benefit

simply because drivers who are familiar with the old layout would suddenly think "ay-up, there's summat peculiar here" and jump out of auto-pilot into Observant Conscious Driver mode.

So it is important to make the thing look different.

Putting up new signs is an easy measure. It is there to be seen. A lot different to what sometimes happens. Say a road with street lights has 40mph speed limit signs part way along it and then repeater roundels on frequent lamp columns. When some joker decides that it would be safer to reduce the speed limit to 30mph what do they do? Simply remove the 40mph signs. Hey presto, the road is now subject to a street lit 30mph! People rarely see road signs. It's a safe bet they never see road signs that have been taken away. Snap!

I like to keep your attention on the website. Adding new content is the best way. But not the only way. With over 1600 pages of stories and photos there's lots of good stuff you haven't seen yet. So I put a button on the bottom of the left hand links table that will take you to a random page. The symbol on the link is supposed to be a dice. It is easier to see on the mobile version's BIG button.

For pages that you have seen and return to I may encourage interest by subtly changing items. The Home page has appropriate quotes and they are served up at random every time the page opens.

On the rally pages there are sometimes pull quotes to pull you into the text. If you click on the pull quote it could take you to the paragraph that contains the phrase. Very often the quote will change at random every time you open the page.

Pages with a lot of photos can be slow to open because of all the picture files to be downloaded. One way to spice things up is to only open a random selection each time the page loads. You aren't going crazy. That photo was on the page yesterday and may be tomorrow. It just didn't make the team today.

Where there is a list of names to add to a paragraph I'll sometimes avoid doing them in alphabetic order. In fact they may be put in random order. Different every time you open the pesky page!

I like random but it is not easy to achieve. Mathematically it is very nearly impossible. Even the Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment, or ERNIE, invented by one of the Bletchley Park code breakers, consistently fails to choose my numbers. There pretty much isn't such a thing as a random number but we can get by quite well with pseudo-random numbers. And luckily JavaScript caters for my random fetish ... almost.

Mixing a list up into random order gave me problems. I wrote a function to take a list (array) of names, shuffle them and send the shuffled list back for use in the website content. Easy, worked well, no problems. Until...

I sent a list of data in. (Or in tekky-speaky, an array of strings) It came back nicely shuffled, except it was no longer text strings. Importantly, I could no longer break each line of data into a sub-array with string.split(","). I usually do a lot of splitting and joining thus....

var name_list = ["Archie Andrews", "Bertie Bassett", "Charlie Chaplin", "Desperate Dan", "Eddie Eagle", "Freddy Fox"];

When they have been shuffled, go through each name and split it at the space, then join it with a non break space character ( ) so the name does NOT get broken at the end of a line.
name_list[n].split(" ").join(" ")
Then I join the whole list of names together with name_list.join(", ") - It's a bit better than that though because I put "and" or "or" between the last two names.

I tried to print a list of names (in random order of course) but it would not accept the .split() function because that will not work on an OBJECT - the shuffle had changed my strings into objects. I had to modify the shuffle() function to internally change what had become objects back into strings using object.toString()

It doesn't get more random than that!

2+2 = 5 stars

Thanks for all the star ratings that you sent in over the past six months.

Regretably I didn't receive them.

We don't get a lot of stars so it took ages to dawn on me they may not be getting through. A quick test proved that any star ratings sent via our Contact Centre were being blocked somewhere along the line. A check of the code on showed that notes, photo requests and other items sent via the Contact Centre were coming through fine. Just a block on Stars.

If you look at our statistics page you may notice Portugal up there in the top ten non English speaking visitors. Usually we get a couple of hundred hits per month from "our oldest ally" compared with up to 30,000 hits from Germany and the Netherlands. Sweden and Spain consistently give about 1000 hits per month. So why is Portugal up there near the top? Because in the middle of last year we had half a million hits from Portugal in one month! Someone was taking a big interest.

And maybe they star rated all the pages.

I had an email from my hosting company saying they were fielding a lot of emails through my server and suspected someone had hijacked it to send spam. My guess is that they saw all the stuff identified by as the sending address and put a block on it. That was my star ratings banjaxed.

I have changed the sending address and star ratings are now getting through. I will make regular checks that it doesn't get blocked again.

So, once again, thanks for your valuable feedback with star ratings and many apologies for not picking up the problem earlier. Please keep on letting me know what you think of pages on I am guided by the stars.


Every now and then I borrow a book from (what remains of) our public library and my imagination is ignited by the contents. This happened in February when I leafed through Closure by Michael Bolin (ISBN 9781449381875) that covers a complex JavaScript system used by the coders at Google to construct many of their online products. Actually I became totally lost after about a dozen pages, but that's not the point; it was the principle that mattered. JavaScript should be modular, structured and documented. JavaScript on is like Topsy - it just growed.

Inspired by this clear new philosophy I set about revisiting the festering hunk of script that is the engine of, a charnel house of code snippets and tangled logic that began in 2001 and is piled ever higher.

No good ever comes of poking into these dark places. For every improvement made there is consequent damage spreading out through the website. When Phil the Spill alerts me to a problem with a page it indicates something amiss that puts whole sections of in peril. In frustration I abandoned my usual lazy random sample checking in favour of a 100% scan through all 1600 pages of the website. There is a switch in the system that opens a page then scroll down to the bottom before opening the next page, all the way through the site. Watching pages scroll up for hour after hour results in severe vertigo. Bit like Lez Lumps' dizzy sticks.

By now I have reached line 5894 of 6352 in the main cadaver of code, have documented ancient scripts that were written with obscure intentions and evil methods, polished several incendiary functions and put out resulting conflagrations. I have identified 32 vestigial routines that predate Babbage and they will be surgically removed in April.

There is, as always, an Admin page dedicated to this housekeeping task where old functions are tested new ones prototyped. Open Admin Testbed at your own risk.

I am pausing for awhile to let waters clear as muck settles to the bottom of the pit. I will stir thing up with renewed fervour after April. In the meantime I'll think up some new errors to cause you untold misery.

Honest engine

Right at the beginning of, Steve White reminded me that I shouldn't let the truth get in the way of a good story. It might seem unbelievable but everything* on is the absolute gospel truth.

Except, obviously, the Bogri stories involve fictional characters ... but some of the embellished stories are based on true events.

And my attorney (Dave Smith) cautioned me to warn readers at the time that the Megaphone Bikers series was a spoof. We lived in fear of some bright spurt taking the advice seriously. Even more likely in these times of speculative litigation.

Oh yes, the Statistics for February have also been massaged. When I filled in my timesheets for work on the website I "forgot" to add the many days I spent improving the background scripts and then putting them right. Take with a pinch of salt that I only spent 28 hours slaving over last month.

But, other than that, almost everything on is gospel. Honest Engine.

* Post-truth alternative facts

PS. Don't believe anything written on 1 April.

Patent nonsense ©

An American company has taken out a worldwide patent on the shoelace bow knot. If you wish to tie a bow in your shoe laces you must take out a licence from the company on their website. Payment is accepted by PayPal or credit card.

An industry Intellectual Rights spokesperson claims this is just the tip of the Titanic; there are many other everyday items that will soon be subject to USA patents and licensing arrangements. For some time intellectual rights advocates have lobbied for the US Patent Office to move its emphasis away from technical innovation in favour of profit making applications. It is believed that the new Washington administration actively supported the recent granting of this landmark patent. Other notable patent applications include toilet paper, digital clock displays and cutlery forks with four tangs.

A clandestine toilet roll, the illicit bow and an illegal four-tanged fork, photographed by an undercover reporter at an undisclosed location.

The shoelace bow patent was contested in Japan by a group who claimed "prior art" in a painting of an unusual bow on a geisha's obi, rather than a more traditional otaiko musubi or drum knot. However this was ruled as inapplicable as it was not specifically on a shoe.

Stock market value of companies selling slip-on shoes surged following the patent announcement but settled back to slightly ahead of yesterday's prices when Wall Street analysts declared there was bound to be a delay importing products that avoid the new licence.

In a parallel move, some USA Intellectual Rights companies have begun to trademark commonly used words from Webster's Dictionary, encouraged by the Trump Administration that is keen to curb the indescriminate use of language without executive authorisation. So far these organisations have trademarked 37% of the 14,564 different words in the King James version of the Bible™.

Our Political Correspondent says "America has a long history of intellectual imperialism. It took the rights to jet engines, computers, radar, traffic roundabouts, bobbies helmets, phone tapping and many other technological innovations from Britain as payments for lend-lease. It is now consolidating its financial grip on data in order to bolster its burgeoning public debt brought about by increased military spending and tax benefits for the wealthy."

This blog is written using words. All trademarks acknowledged.

Cache 22

As you browse though our content you will hopefully be reminded of your own adventures and be inspired by consequent or tangential ideas. That's when you summon our Contact Centre to jot down a few words to send to us. Or more basically you could be kindly sending me a note about a website error.

When you do, sooner or later you should receive a reply acknowledging your contribution and pointing you to your addition or the corrected page.

At such times I usually advise you that the page you see may still be the old version that you have recently opened. That's because your browser has thoughtfully saved the old page on your hard disk to reduce the data being requested and make the page load a bit faster. (It's called the cache.)

Honestly, is this necessary for flat HTML pages in these days of fast broadband and multimedia video files? Yes, because of mobile data high costs and low speeds.

So my advice is to press Ctrl+f5 to force the latest data from our server. Or double click the top title banner.

... But ... changes to a cut-down version whenever the document width is less than 800 pixels. If you are using a PC you can resize the browser window to show this. When you are using a mobile device you not only won't have a keyboard with either a Ctrl key or an f5 key, you also won't see the top title banner!


Therefore there is now a big button at the end of the mobile menu that will snub the cache and tear the latest content, kicking and screaming, out of the bowels of our server.

Problem is, this new Refresh button depends on your browser loading the latest version of our underlying JavaScript file and to get that you have to ... er ... press the Refresh button.


Symmetry shows a lack of imagination. Not sure where that quotation comes from but it is probably from the field of photography.

The world's population is asymmetrical. On one side are the people who love symmetry and consider it an attribute of beauty. On the other side of that line are the folk who think symmetry is boring. I'm with them.

That probably correlates with my love of motorcycle/sidecar combinations. You don't get much more asymmetrical than a combo. My Jet 80 Swallow Sidecar was embellished with seahorses from the Aberlemno pictish stone cross. At first glance it may appear symmetrical but the details are clearly different on each side.

Speed limits are usually symmetrical: They change at the same place in both directions. Now you are thinking about it and it seems pretty obvious. There are two posts, one each side of the road. Each post has one speed limit sign for one direction and another on the other side . Obvious innit?

But drivers take an asymmetric approach to these signs. They slow down after they pass the restriction sign. In the opposite direction they accelerate as soon as they see the derestriction sign.

Now consider speed limit changes on a dual carriageway. There is a convention that these should also be symmetric. I have no idea why. There are rare exceptions when someone takes the trouble to consider the conditions and hazards in both directions, but the normal standard is to apply the speed limits symmertrically, possibly because it makes the paperwork easier.

Take, for instance, the A46 dual carriageway northbound into Coventry. As it passes beneath the A45 and changes to the A444 into Whitley the speed is restricted to 40mph. There is good reason for this. The road ends at an intersection with lots of traffic changing lanes and peak time queues.

The speed limit is symmetric: The corresponding southbound speed limit is at the same location (click the arrows on Google Street View and then look backwards)

If you can ride southbound at 40mph to the derestriction sign, congratulations! That's just you and me and a couple of other pedants. Everyone else is gunning 70+

There are asymmetric speed limits out there, but they are rare as hens teeth. Here is one in Leicester.

Over 500 metres of asymmentry. Southbound is 50mph from the start of the dual carriagaway. Northbound is 40mph from the approach to the left joining slip road.

Let me know when you find one.

The internet is built on asymmetry. Back in the old days your modem could have a half-duplex download speed of 1200 bit/s and send at 75 bit/s. These days are much the same with download speeds something like 10x faster than uploads. Seems reasonable; you only send a few emails, tiny package requests for web pages and receipt confirmations.

Reflect on this. We'll all end up in asymmetry.

Ancient grease

Was a time, long ago, when the best lubricant for a motorcycle chain was sperm oil. It stuck like rocking horse shit to a blanket and didn't wash off in the rain. It's demise was the general ban on whaling and the introduction of o-ring chains. People try to concoct an artificial whale oil without much success, mainly for lubricating firearms.

Back in the 60s my neighbour, Trevor Cross, gave me a jar of thick green grease that proved completely waterproof. Not a very good lubricant but sticky as hell and useful to smear on any threaded or push fit item that was exposed to the weather and might need undoing sometime. It would have lasted me my lifetime except ... I dropped the jar and smashed it. The remains that were (mostly!) free of glass slivers were transferred into a coffee tin that I still treasure.

Grease collected when cooking the Christmas goose would be saved for rubbing onto brown paper and applying to the the chest or back to cure a cold. Grease may also be spread on endurance swimmers. Not to keep them warm or to stop skin going wrinkly, but to reduce chaffing. This may have been goose grease at first, After all, if a goose isn't waterproof, what is? These days it is more likely to be a mixture of zinc oxide, Vaseline and lanolin. It's easier to get rid of the cold than the grease!

When fitting new bearings they should have the preservative grease washed thoroughly from them and then have proper lubricating grease applied, usually a waterproof version. I don't think many people realise that the two greases are different. They just pop a new bearing in expecting the grease to be a lubricant.

Greases run (pun intended) from almost hard wax to very close to oil and that may well depend on temperature. You can get high melting point grease, graphite based grease and 'molysnot'. They all have their applications but being waterproof is rarely one of them. So the popularity of powerful jetwash pumps results in carefully chosen expensive lubricants being washed out of wheel bearings and all the other little places that other beers don't reach.

When passing a ship's chandlers I invested in a tub of Morris K99 waterproof grease. A small quantity fills a medical syringe that seems the ideal instrument for applying enough to things like wheel bearings, steering, suspension joints, brake levers, centre stands and other exposed parts.

Be careful where you inject it

If I go easy it should last me the next fifty years.

MotoGP report

Roland Potter is guest writer for today's blog. Back in nineteenhundred-and-frozen-to-death Roland did a bit of racing, worked for MCN and generally spends more time than he should following the sport.

The season's well underway now, with quite a few surprises!

Who would have thought Dovi, Andrea Dovizioso Ducati, would have won, not one but two races!

Also Lorenzo now getting to grips with the Ducati, but inconsistent. One week struggles in mid-field then next leads the race until his tyres go off. Says he can't ride the bike like the Yamaha, once the tyres go off he hasn't the confidence to push.

Valentino started so well, can he regain that form in Assen, a track he loves and has done well at in the past.

Will Maverick burst back to the front and win some more? Still the championship leader from Dovi who's only 7 points behind him now.

After a brilliant start, can Zarco improve some more and get on the podium?

With Folger getting better and better, he could be in for a trophy soon.

Marc Marquez has been a more cautious than previous years. Sometimes totally dominating and then having difficulties with the tyres but always up the Sharpe end.

Dani Pedrosa has had a better year so far, winning in Jerez, Spain. Last time out though tried an impossible move that would never work on Cal Crutchlow. Taking them both out on the last lap!

Suzuki seem to be struggling, Ianone hasn't shown his form like last year. And rookie Alex Rins starting off steadily, has been out for a few races returns after injuring his leg.

How about the Brits?

Cal Crutchlow, amongst his woes crashing and being knocked off, has been very impressive. I reckon he'll be on the podium soon.

Scott Reading is getting better too. Some strong results I think he could be a Ducati dark horse if things goes his way soon.

Bradley Smith and Sam Lowes both have been having problems.

Brad just had that nasty crash hurting his little finger. But has been making good steps and will soon be in contention.

While Sam has had an enormous step up from Moto2, and learning a new bike and a team to get to know. He's making progress, although not as much as he'd like.

So anything can happen, and in MotoGP it usually does!

It's exciting stuff and always worth watching!

You can watch it on BT Sports or live free streaming on your computer.

Roland Potter © 26/6/2017

Missing links

It's difficult enough to get people to look at so it is vital not to give them a poor experience once they arrive. That means making the pages load reasonably quickly, presenting the content legibly, providing interesting and unique content and assisting them to discover more on the site.

Just recently I failed before the first hurdle: visitors were frustrated by failing to find the page they were expecting. National Road Rally competitors had been assured they would get help with the Matrix but pages were not there!

First to report summat up was Rider 477 who noticed the printout page bore no relation to his chosen route. He was bright enough to spot that the printout was using last year's data. So a new page was quickly written to bring the printout into sync.

After the Rally I had feedback from Rider 454 who had sensibly Googled for the Matrix only to be directed to last year's version. It's a ceaseless challenge to get search engines like Google, Bing and others to index pages. When their robots have crawled our website, pages are ranked for presentation when a relevent enquiry is made. It's pretty obvious (looking back!) that a brand new 2017 Matrix page will take too long to appear in search results.

The solution is simple. All the old matrix pages have been replaced by redirects to the latest version. Sorry, you won't be able to look back at how the matrix has evolved over recent years.

I've planted notes in appropriate places to remind me next year not to miss out those updates. Thanks for the feedback, baskets of kittens are in the post.

Hopefully that will reduce the number of "error 404 - page not found" results that you get. Pity because you really should see our page 404!

Spot the bike

Summer rain brings up the grease on dusty roads. Maybe modern tyres improve road-holding at these times but it is still significantly worse than good, dry conditions.

For me the biggest difficulty brought by rain is the reduction in visibility. We are still dependent upon wind and gravity to clear visors of water. Muck and grease are left behind to be smeared over visor or goggles with the back of a glove, adding abrasions for night-time riding.

Picking out hazards in poor visibility requires exhausting concentration. Do you trust drivers to be able to cope?

We need to ask "Will autonomous vehicles be able to see a motorcycle?" Take a look at the picture below. Can you see the bike?

Yes, you can! Click the picture and tell me if the bike is facing left or right.

This is an artificial test but it shows up how superior people are at recognising objects. It will be a long time before a machine can do what you just did.

Helpful hands

There is so much work involved running the website that I need extra hands. Just take a look at the statistics for last month. The popularity of Roland Potter's new MotoGP series has made it a full time job just logging his star ratings. Another task has been rewriting Open Graph Protocols on over 1500 individual files. Not something I could do with a simple find-and-replace operation.

Long gone are the times when you could put up a notice saying "LAD WANTED SATURDAYS". Gives entirely the wrong message these days what with Health and Safety, Minimum Wage, Child Protection etc Why, when I was a lad we'd fight over cleaning chimneys! So, despite misgivings expressed in my last blog entry I found it was high time to employ more robot assistants.

I set them to work on those 1500+ pages, opening them, composing Open Graph meta-tags, typing them in, saving the file, getting the next one off the shelf...

Problem is, these geezers are getting too smart for an old gaffer like me. Soon as I take my eyes off them they get up to all kinds of shenanigans and generally screw up. (most often a 1/2inch UNC nut on an M14 bolt).

If you find a few of these 1500+ pages are cross threaded, drop me a line so I can run a tap down them and send the offending robot for early recycling.

In a hurry

Have you ever wanted to go somewhere , but just wanted to go a bit faster? Course you have; that's why you ride a blooming motorcycle!

I expect the same characteristic to permeate your use of this website. So I try to make the pages load a bit quicker by paring down the file sizes, keeping photos fairly small and highly compressed. I can't do anything about your slow internet connection but try to mitigate it.

Another area I try to speed up is navigation within Don't laugh! Just because your vibration-deadened alcohol-soaked fingers can't click on our notorious left hand menu options, don't blame me.

When you become throughly pissed off playing wack-a-mole with our deeper menu options there is another way to feel your way round the site. Use keyboard short-cuts.

Holding down the Alt key and pressing an appropriate letter will take you to specific pages on the website. For example Alt+H will take you straight to our Home page. Alt+N goes to the News.

To move from page to page in the same sequence as the menu, you can go back and forth using Alt+< and Alt+>.

Until you become accustomed to using the keyboard to move about you will need a crib sheet of short-cuts. You get that using it's own key combination. Alt+? or Alt+Keys. Some of the pages have their shortcut letter underlined in the menu.

These have been available for yonks so you may already be familiar with some of them. The reason I'm blogging about it today is that we added a few more.

Alt+L will take you straight to Hans Veenendaal's Rally Listing without passing Go.

For speedy transit of the Sections try Ctrl+Alt+< and Ctrl+Alt+> that takes you through a wormhole to the first page of the previous or next section. (Like the previous/next page keys, they wrap round when they reach the start/end)

That's the documented short-cuts. There are a few others that you can find for yourself.

Now I've tipped you off about how to wring a few more MPH out of the website, don't blame me if you get a speeding ticket.

Workers of the web untie

It is worth reminding you of Wirth's Law: Software gets slower faster than hardware gets faster.

You must have noticed the same with motorcycles. The faster they become, the more traffic, speed cameras, chicanes and sleeping policemen slow them down.

You can pretty much say the same about the interweb; as your broadband gets faster (and more expensive) the adverts, pop-ups, security features, bells and whistles make it even slower.

Here at we are fighting the same rearguard action. I've mentioned before that I use admin pages to check the integrity of data, update essential files and write news and index pages. By a process of evolution these admin pages have become more sophisticated. (That's a euphemism.) Eventually the code would no longer run on some web browsers (step forward IE). I was reduced to running it on Firefox where it whizzed through in less than 10 seconds.

All browsers update regularly to patch vulnerabilities and to add improvements. They compete with each other to produce the fastest JavaScript engine. Occasionally it backfires. Over the past week Firefox was taking two flipping minutes to run my admin page. It's all very well that it gave me time to put the kettle on but my bladder can't take that much tea.

I tried what everyone with a restricted HP engine does. Breathing carefully on my page reduced unsprung weight, rolling resistance, friction, frontal area and turbulence. Paying attention to detail brought the standing quarter back below 20 seconds.

We can do better, replace the old sloper with a four cylinder engine.

Or, more exactly, Web Workers. This is a method of running JavaScript asynchronously. To you and me that mean running several jobs concurrently instead of one after the other.

So now my admin page completes in less than a second on Firefox and under 3 seconds on Internet-wait-for-it-Explorer.

I'm suffering withdrawal symptoms for lack of tea.

Let me know the pages that you find are too slow and I'll see if we can soup them up with a few Web Workers.

"Web Workers of the world, unite: You have nothing but loose change."


US       v       NK

While Kim Trump and Donald Jong-un face off and imperil the planet, here at we have full troop mobilisation for our impending house move.

If all goes quiet over the next few weeks it is because we are either bivouaced in the forests or bunkered down in the trenches.

Normal service (the usual chaos) will recommence after the all-clear.

Seeing stars

It seems like only yesterday that I was weeping in my beer because of a lack of star ratings.

Then along came our MotoGP section - or more particularly - the additional campaign by Roland to promote his pages on twitter. I don't have a twitter account so I don't know how Roland is running his campaign but it is certainly effective. So effective that some of our readers get carried away and just keep sending their star ratings; they don't realise that the stars are counted and added by hand and don't result in an instant boost. Here at everything is checked by real living people, not by algorithms.

Top rater submitted 229 x 5 stars for the British MotoGP on 6 September alone. The top 20 star raters between them have sent 1374 duplicates.

We have systems to sort out the duplicates but it still takes time to go through all those submissions to identify the real ones. Until now.

We have introduced a client side check for duplicate star ratings. If you forget you already sent one (or aren't sure your stars went through) an alert will confirm when your stars were sent and invite you send in a comment or rate another page.

Hopefully that will save your time and ours and maybe encourage readers to explore some of the random delights in other sections of the website.

Cache my drift

Back, long, long ago, in my yoof I had a small Honda that I tuned to just beyond an inch of its life. It went places fast and usually came back on the train. In my more ... er ... mature years my Commando or Trident could handsomely exceed the speed limits (I'm told) even two up and laden with camping kit. In those years my priority was reliability.

Wasn't long ago that the World Wide Web was delivered through dial up modems and if a page took more that half a minute to open it would be junked and the surfer would move to a different beach. In those days webmasters would strip down pages to their minimum with few small pictures and short text.

To help them deliver a reasonable performance browsers such as Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer would save the page contents on your local hard drive in case you return to the same website within a week or so. This is what is called the cache. Fine for a page that rarely changes. It is still used today even though broadband capacity, eat-all-you-can data and fibre speeds make the need for caching less obvious. The result is that you will not always see the latest page content. Nor access the files that drive the page. has many pages that don't change from year to year. It's an archive with reports of past times. History doesn't change much but we sometimes recall a little bit more.

Then again, we have an important few pages that change weekly. Our Rally List extends regularly thanks to the industry of Hans Veenendaal. The News Update is renewed every week. Indexes are updated each time a page is added or updated and that can be several times in a week. Although these pages carry a note to tell the browser not to cache them, it is often ignored.

From time to time we get an uncontrollable urge to tinker with the engine. There are umpteen background files to every page. Site-wide and section style sheets. Javascripts that write parts of the page, ring the bells and blow the whistles, provide the navigation menu structure, events programme, past member and rally lists, There is no way to tell the browsers they must not be cached.

The result is that sometimes the page you see will be out of date. Or, worse still, the files inside the page may become out of synch; you could be looking at a page that is calling for a function or data that isn't in the cached files.

I have laboured at length about hitting your F5 key while holding down the Ctrl key to force your browser to download the latest files. In my experience you often need to repeat that at least twice in quick succession to get all the support files.

My own solution is more basic. I disable caching on my browser. Here's how ...

Internet Explorer: Click Tools or the little gear icon and a drop down menu opens. At or near the bottom is Internet options. Click that for a dialog.

Click the right most Advanced tab, scroll down the list nearly to the bottom and put a tick in the box next to Empty Temporary Internet Files folder when browser is closed. Now click the bottom Apply button.

Google Chrome: Find your Chrome shortcut icon and right click it for the context menu. Click Properties at the bottom which opens the dialog box shown.

Click the Shortcut tab. In the Target line, leave what is typed and move to the very right (press your End key) and type -disk-cache-size=0 with a space between it and the existing content. Click the Apply button.

Restart Chrome from this shortcut.

Firefox: Click Tools or the icon and choose Options.

Choose Privacy & Security on the left and scroll down the right to Cached Web Content. Tick the Override automatic cache management box and set the Limit cache to 0 (zero!).

Just close that page and it's done.

[Not quite done. Firefox updates render that solution obsolete. See the update blog 15 July 2017.]

You will now get the latest page on all the websites you visit using your reset browser. Your F5 key will get a well earned rest.

Zero hour

House move went according to plan - the Devil's plan that is. I'll not go into details but I'll die in this place 'cos I'm not going through that again in my lifetime!

Any-road-up, I took up residence in the Sanatorium for the Perpetually Perplexed late in Friday 13th. Then, while waiting for the telephone (and InterWeb) to be connected I set to adjusting things, nothing complicated because I haven't brought my toolkit home yet. You know the kind of thing, something needs repositioning or adjusting or easing or wiping.

I spot it out of the corner of my eye and zero in.

One hour later I've found the bits I need to do it, (cycle spanners, washing up liquid, bought another can of WD40 and another roll of duct tape) and refound all the bits I put where I could (NOT) find them while I went to the shop.

Two hours later and I've broken the top off it and discovered the pit of some venemous alien life form.

Three hours later the spore has spread all over one wall, the carpet and my clothes and face.

Four hours later I'm beginning to think this simple job is going to need a proper plumber/electrician to fix.

Five hours later I notice the clip that releases it so it can be washed under a running tap. Make a note for the next time I do this sodding job.

Heaven knows what fun I'm in for when I've access to my toolkit, although some folk say I've been one spanner short of a full toolkit for years.

- Ben Crossley