Review of CTC Tools – Don’t Buy from CTC Tools!

The prices look good but CTC tools is hopeless.

I ordered some tools and got a tracking code, with a shipping date of Nov 25th. The tracking said the local courier had not yet received the package. After several weeks I queried this and was told that the package had in fact been returned due to an inadequate address. They send a pdf of the package label. The address was correct. The courier (Hermes) must just have been lazy. OK this may not be CTC’s fault but their failure to inform me about the return IS.

They did give me a refund but had taken payment from paypal in USD, in spite of the website being priced in £ sterling, so the refund came out £6.66 short due to the exchange rate changing. They refused to make up the difference, citing a policy (who reads those) which said prices were given in sterling “as a service”.

So, six weeks after shipping, I have no tools and am £6.66 the poorer for it.

No doubt they will protest that none of this is their fault, but it is just cause for poor reputation; I could have spend a few pounds extra and received my tools in good time. I suggest you do the same!

Route Between Crowden Clough and Kinder Downfall

The lay of the land and the nature of the water channels probably makes this route over Kinder Scout easier to find when taken from Crowden Clough to Kinder Downfall. The path is generally visible but a compass is necessary equipment to avoid being misled in poor visibility. HOWEVER, the right of way marked on the OS map appears not to be the way people go, and an attempt to follow this route with a GPS is likely to be an unhappy experience (Google/Bing will reveal stories).

In case anyone should wish to follow a GPS track, or to compare an on-the-ground route with the OS map, here is my track log.

Crowden Clough to Kinder Downfall GPS track log (GPX format). This was (for me) a fairly obvious and reasonable route.

Bulk Upload of Historical Weather Data to Wundergound

A few months ago I bought a weather station but only lately registered with Wunderground and was slightly dismayed that the software I use (Cumulus, which is heaps better than what the station supplier included) does not post historical data; it only uploads to Wunderground what it downloads from the station when Cumulus starts up.

It seems there is no “off the shelf” way of doing this so here is a how-to-do it. The steps should be applicable to any weather station software that stores the data as a “CSV” or formatted text file, with a little bit of fiddling. I guess a similar process works for weather upload sites other than Wunderground too. The steps are:

  • get the stored data into a spreadsheet. This is easy for Cumulus since the data is stored in a text file with commas separating the values and the Cumulus help file tells you what each column is.
  • convert the units. I prefer SI units but Wunderground uses American conventions.
  • create a URL (web address), one for each data record to be uploaded. The structure for these is documented on the wunderground wiki. You can simply copy these into a web browser (Firefox, Internet Explorer etc) one by one but once you’ve had the satisfaction of seeing it work, the remaining thousands of records need a better method.
  • use wget to process a batch of URLs. Wget is free open source software. Windows users can find in installer here.

I’ve uploaded an example spreadsheet that does the conversion and creates the URLs. Notice it has three sheets and that the “Conversion Factors” also contains the base of the URL. This must be edited to have your station name and password. NB there is also a Celcius-Farenheit conversion and the peculiar column L on the “Converted” sheet is needed to get a correctly formatted URL from the date-time combination.

To use wget I copied the URLs into a “.txt” file, one URL per line (just drag down the entries in the column of the spreadsheet and copy/paste into an empty text file) and created a small “.bat” file containing:

PATH “C:\Program Files\GnuWin32\bin”
wget -v -o log.txt -O responses.txt -i “urls Apr12.txt”

You may need to alter the first line depending on where you installed wget. The second line assumes the list of URLs was saved to “urls Apr12.txt”. The “log.txt” file contains verbose logging of each “wget” and the “responses.txt” file should just contain a long string composed of one “sucess” for each sucessful posting of data. If it doesn’t, something went wrong…

Making Elmer’s “Tall Vertical Open Column”

The late Elmer Verburg designed quite a few relatively-easy-to-build model engines. All are made from bar stock. The second one I have made is #32, the “Tall Vertical Open Column”. As many people do, I made a number of minor changes. These are described here, along with some construction notes I wrote to help myself, some observations and some pictures.

The plans can be found online in several places: there are several “Yahoo Groups” as well as ““. I have also uploaded them (see “Files” section).

Notes and Comments

I opted not to paint the base and top platform, having previously made a mess of painting. Instead, I left them relatively “raw”: the as-rolled large faces of the bar stock were very lightly cleaned up and the edges were draw-filed. I’m fairly happy with this approach and like the contrast with the shiny flywheel and brass components.

In the interest of simplifying construction – and reducing the need for careful working, which is not my strong point – an alternative method of constructing the eccentric sheave and the arms that ensure a straight-line motion of the piston rod were used. See the “Files” section below.

The only problem encountered on assembly was that the straight-line that the arms followed did not match the piston rod. It is worth making the holes on the base plate of the cylinder assembly a bit slack to allow for adjustment but I ended up having to insert a 15 thou shim under one corner to get the motion to be “good and free”. I suspect that this is due to having used quite small AF hexagon rod for the columns such that it didn’t pull itself square on tightening. On the other hand, it could simply be a misplaced hole.

Quite a few of the joints leak slightly – see the video – since I just left them as metal-on-metal.

Some other examples on the web:



Death of a Corsa (1.0 Twinport)

The sad remains of my Z10XEP engine.

The piston rod fractured just next to the big end bearing with “intersting” consequences. It didn’t sound as bad as it looks; it sounded like there was just something like a branch caught under the car. Initial diagnostic scan was P0335 – CKP Sensor A Circuit Performance – because pieces of swarf and broken piston ring were stuck to the sensor (it is magnetic).

The Big End (showing its fracture)
The Piston Rod
The Remains of the Piston

A Template for “Top Trumps” using MS Powerpoint

I had a fancy to create a template for my kids to make their own Top Trumps cards and thought I could do better – from the point of view of usability – than what I could (relatively easily) find on the web.

Here is my first attempt Top Trumps Template, NB only uploaded for MS Powerpoint 2007 as there are a couple of niggles to resolve for backwards compatibility. Let me know what you think. The same “Creative Commons” licence applies to reuse just as for everything else on this site. Please feel free to comment…

Some notes on using and adapting the template:

There are 3 layouts set for the “slide master”, one for the card (with lots of placeholder boxes for text and a picture), one for a title card and one for a rear side.

I’ve used a combination of placeholder boxes (i.e. the boxes you normally add your content to) and some boxes that are only editable in the slide master (for content that will be the same for all cards). I’ve also set the background colour in the slide master.

The table at the bottom of the card is achieved by a bit of a dodge. There is an empty table with an alternating row style which I have “sent to back”. In front on the left side is a text box with the category names that can only be changed in the slide master. In front (of the table) on the right side is a placeholder for per-slide text. Font size and line-spacing has been chosen carefully to match the table. Basically: if you want to change the number of categories you need to know what you are doing