All posts by Dougie Nisbet

Species List, Attempt One, Take Three

Ok, if I create a table, that’s fine. Except that I’ll update it won’t I. And then it won’t be a reflection of current recollection. So let’s keep it messy. What do I have. What do I remember?

Trees:

  • Beech (Fagus sylvatica)
  • Silver Birch (Betula pendula)
  • Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) 
  • Stags Horn Sumach (Rhus typhina)

I have a share of a gorgeous Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris). It’s half in Mike’s garden, as is a Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) that fell over last year and had to be cut down. That’s coppicing nicely. I thought and hoped it would. It is. It’s great to see.

Shrubs:

  • Hazel (Corylus avellana)
  • Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)
  • Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)
  • Beech (Fagus sylvatica)

Actually the beech should be down here. There’s no big beech trees. Only little ones I’ve planted.

There are Cherry Trees. I think they’re probably something like Prunus kanzan as they fit the picture when in flower. Definitely not wild cherry (Prunus avium).

There’s a big tree I forgot. I think it’s Leylandii (X cupressocyparis leylandii) although it might be a Leyland Cypress (Chamaecyparis leylandii).

I’ve got some:

  • Elder (Sambucus nigra)
  • Willow (Salix spp. not sure …)
  • Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus)
  • Dogwood (Cornus?)
  • Spindle (Euonymus europaeus) [yeah, I looked it up]
  • 5 Apple Trees. Little ones.

Lots of Snowdrops, Bluebells, Daffs, crocuses, aconites.

  • A holly tree. (Ilex aquifolia). Right next to the house. Should give it a hack really.
  • Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris)
  • Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata)

 

 

Species List (First Attempt)

yes, after 10+ years living in Durham it’s about time I had a stab at this. There’s a couple of things I want to do on the garden:

  1. Species List
  2. Map

And whenever I start thinking about it I overthink it about all the things I’d like to note, plot, monitor. And in the end, I do nothing.

So let’s make a start:

Hang on, where’s my Tablepress plugin gone? It should be here? I’ve just installed it. Back in a tick.

Permissions on /dev/video0 running motion on Raspberry pi

It pretty much happens that every time I setup motion on a new build that it doesn’t work right away. There’s usually a few things I miss. Usually it’s an error reading from the camera, the logs reporting something like:

Feb 17 10:51:21 pi2 motion: [1] [NTC] [ALL] motion_init: Thread 1 started , motion detection Enabled
Feb 17 10:51:21 pi2 motion: [1] [NTC] [VID] vid_v4lx_start: Using videodevice /dev/video0 and input -1
Feb 17 10:51:21 pi2 motion: [1] [ALR] [VID] vid_v4lx_start: Failed to open video device /dev/video0:

which invariably means the camera is broken or I’ve misconfigured my motion setup.

This one was puzzling me a little though. It’s on a raspberry pi, imaginatively titled pi2, and it was failing to read from the camera. The reason I was puzzled was that the hardware combination had worked before. What had gone wrong was the micro-SD card, and I’d done a new raspbian build, copying over the relevant motion configuration files from the old card.

Clearly the difference had to be something to do with the OS. So what was different? I’d taken the opportunity of the SD failure to download and install the latest version of raspbian and everything looked good to go.

Running motion as root worked fine, both against the vanilla configuration file, and the customised config file I wanted to use. So let’s have a look at the video file:

root@pi2:~# ls -l /dev/video0
crw-rw----+ 1 root video 81, 0 Feb 17 11:17 /dev/video0

Looks about right. Ah, the video group. I need to be in the video group. That might be it:

root@pi2:~# usermod -G video dougie

Restart motion and try again. Nope. Let’s have a closer look at that file.

On pi2 (with a new version of raspbian):

crw-rw----+ 1 root video 81, 0 Feb 17 11:17 /dev/video0

and on pi1 (another rpi, running motion fine, with a slightly older version of raspbian):

dougie@pi1:~ $ ls -l /dev/video0
crw-rw---- 1 root video 81, 0 Jan 8 22:54 /dev/video0

Very similar, but not identical. The newer version of the device file has and extra + at the end of the permissions bit, which means the file has extra security permissions set. I’ve not had cause to use Access Control Lists (ACLs) before, and it was a temptation just to chmod 777 on the file as a quick and dirty, and lazy, fix, but I thought it’d be better to take a closer look. Using the getfacl command:

root@pi2:~# getfacl /dev/video0
getfacl: Removing leading '/' from absolute path names
# file: dev/video0
# owner: root
# group: video
user::rw-
user:pi:rw-
group::rw-
mask::rw-
other::---

I could see that I (me: dougie) did not appear on the list, although the default rpi user pi does. I rarely use the pi account. One of the first things I do is change its password, create my own user, and use that instead. So it looks like the default install for raspbian allows user pi to access /dev/video0. It also looks like I can’t access the file, despite being a member of the group video.

I found a good command summary on the centos documentation website, and using that gave myself access:

root@pi2:~# setfacl -m u:dougie:rw /dev/video0

That did the trick.

 

 

Trackr Bravo battery life

The TrackR does many things badly. The Tile just does one thing well.

Another email from Trackr – this time about their new Battery Program. This is about a wizard wheeze where you can pay Trackr for replacement batteries.

Reading on in their email there’s a section subtitled:

What if every time your battery was dead, you had to buy a brand new device?

Well, what indeed. One wonders what can they be alluding to? I wonder if it’s another well known Bluetooth tracking device that has to be replaced about once a year when the battery nears end of life?

The TrackR Bravo is a slick, elegant looking device, and looks better than the Tile. But having bought a handful of both devices as soon as they hit the market, the Tile is the winner by a mile. On reliability, build quality, and Customer Service the Tile is the winner. My experience of using Trackr has been one of interminable irritability. I’ve tried its various features and abandoned them finding them gimmicky, unreliable and pointless. I’m struggling to think of any redeeming features, and the closest I can get is that the Bravo looks ok.

Trying a different brand of battery

I’ve just replaced the batteries in all my Trackr Bravos. The ones I’ve removed were brand new Maxells. Perhaps I was unlucky. I thought Maxell were a pretty good brand. This time I’m replacing them with GP batteries. I only found the batteries were dead by accident, as I thought I get more than 3 months out of the Maxells. It didn’t occur to me to check connectivity every day, and on the TrackR app (unlike the Tileapp), you need to check each TrackR individually – whereas with Tile you can scan all your tiles’ status in one glance.

I’ve had Tile and TrackR since they became available in the UK – and have been running them head to head since I bought them. It’s a very unequal contest. Give me the Tile any day.

TrackR Tile Head to Head

MLN Orienteering Event

MLN Orienteering, Marne Training Area, 27th January

blue course

Dougie Nisbet

I wasn’t surprised to get no takers for my offer of a lift to Marne Barracks for a bit of orienteering. However, a last minute check of the email and I saw that Paul had decided to accompany me on this drizzly Wednesday for a trip down the A1 to run around an abandoned airfield.

We were somewhere south of Scotch Corner and we’d pretty much solved all of the world’s problems when I noticed the road noise through the roadworks was a bit excessive, and it seemed to be a bit bumpy too. A minute or two of this and I realised that this was just one possible interpretation of the noise and bumps that were hitting our senses. Another interpretation could be that we had a puncture. Yes, the more I thought about it, the more the puncture scenario seemed to fit the evidence, and driving along in a state of denial wasn’t going to change the facts.

Well there's no point both of us getting our knees dirty. I'll just keep an eye on things.

We pulled off the A1 and had a look at the tyres. One of them had a flat bit at the bottom and I knew that wasn’t good. I contemplated calling the AA but, despite being ok for time, wondered how long they’d take to attend a scene for two blokes too feeble to change a wheel. I mean, it couldn’t be that difficult, could it? I’m sure I’ve done it before. The first step was finding the spare wheel. We found it, eventually, under the back bit where I always assumed the fuel tank was. Trying to get the wheel out was a different manner. As an IT technician I then did something that pained me greatly, I had a look for the manual. I’d already tried switching the engine off and on again but that hadn’t helped. We got there eventually, except for the small matter of the jack, which we eventually found in a cubby hole in the car that I never knew existed. We were unstoppable now.

Man at Work.

A false start where we started trying to jack the car on one of the crunchy bits rather than the proper tough bit, but soon we were cruising. Well, I say we, it was mostly Paul. It had started raining so I spent most of the time standing in the bus shelter taking photos and making encouraging noises.

Back on the road and into Marne Barracks, where passports were shown, disclaimers were signed, and we were driving slowly down the old runway looking for somewhere to park. Speed bumps on a runway, no matter how obviously disused, are an incongruous sight. The last time I orienteered here registration had been at the end of the runway out of a transit van. This time it was inside a nice building, with toilets, drinks, warmth and a costcutter. It seemed a shame to go outside again.

choice: control 15 to 16Paul and I were both doing the same course and I went of first with the organisers observing a strict 90 second interval between starters. The first few controls were around the buildings and access roads and navigation was easy, and by the 3rd control I’d already been caught by the guy starting after me, which was pretty depressing. Then out into the woodland and the navigation got a bit more interesting. I bumped into Paul a few times which, given that he started about 6 minutes after me, meant two things. One, he was running a lot faster than me, and two, he must be making a few errors otherwise I’d only have seen him once.

At control 15 our paths crossed again and Paul sped of to the east, which, given that the control was due north, confused me a bit. I headed straight for the control, knowing that there was the small matter of a fence between it and me. Whether it was ‘crossable’ or ‘uncrossable’, I was about to find out. Thankfully it was the former, but Paul had decided to go for the fast long way round. We finished at the same time, which was handy, as Paul’s dibber had failed to work properly, and we could use my time minus the time that he’d started after me to work out his.

Our journey back up the A1 was less eventful than the outward journey and I had fully intended calling it a day until Paul said he was doing a ‘gentle’ ‘slow’ headtorch run that evening. The ‘gentle’ and ‘slow’ bit I liked the sound of. Turned out there was a bit of mis-selling going on there. Perhaps I should’ve offered to help a bit more changing that wheel …

The next army event is at Scarth Wood Moor, Osmotherley on Wednesday 10th Feb. It’s not somewhere I’ve orienteered before but it looks nice. I’ll be going if anyone wants to tag along. Must be good at changing wheels.

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Fishing

We often spot this chap (or chapess) fishing around here. Reassuringly nonplussed by all the building work going on all around. There’s something magical about seeing wildlife getting on with living alongside us; whether it’s Herons, Red Kites or Kittiwakes.

Animalia - Ardea - Ardea cinerea (Grey Heron) - Ardeidae - Aves - Chordata - Durham - Durham City Riverbanks - England - Europe - Pelecaniformes -- Mon 28 Dec 2015 16-18-22 GMT
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) fishing on the River Wear in Durham
Animalia - Ardea - Ardea cinerea (Grey Heron) - Ardeidae - Aves - Chordata - Durham - Durham City Riverbanks - England - Europe - Pelecaniformes -- Mon 28 Dec 2015 16-17-03 GMT
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) fishing on the River Wear in Durham

 

North Eastern Counties Cross Country Championships, Sedgefield, 12th December

In the Bleak-Midwinter

Shelter from the storm
Photo © and Courtesy Karen Newton

Saturday started wet. The rain then turned to sleet, the sleet turned to wet snow, the wet snow to ‘full on’ snow and by the time the senior men’s race started there was a two inch carpet of snow on the course. Thus the scene was set for this year’s North East X/C Champs at Sedgefield.

As these races represent the North East Champs the senior men still get to start before the women and Striders were fielding a company of twelve of their finest brave men. As the young tend to know no fear Jack Lee went out at the front into the blizzard followed by two more senior comrades Neil Sleeman and Capt Evans. As some of you will know Neil hails from slightly warmer climes than Sedgefield in December but he took to the snow like a koala to a gum tree finishing second Strider home behind Jack and ahead of Capt E after an exciting tussle. Old Tom was next home holding off a challenge from the baseball hatted Aaron who was in turn followed in by James Garland making a welcome return to the fray.

Aaron fends of the snow with his baseball cap
Photo © and Courtesy Karen Newton

Innes must be benefiting from his own grass sessions as he had a good run as did newbies Alex W and Peter H, the latter supported by his understanding family. Shaun the Sheep’s trailer had been held up in the snow bound traffic so he came out of the pen some minutes behind the rest of the flock. Once other runners were nipping at his heals though he was soon trotting merrily along, although at the end, after braving the blizzard, it looked like he’d been ‘dipped’ if not sheared! The two Mikes made up the team with Mr Bennett resembling a festive Santa speeding round the snowy fields and Mr Hughes covered in the white stuff and thinking Sally had had the best of the conditions. And, as it turned out, she had – so well done lads, a great performance – it’s what the club is all about: great days out and shared experiences in face of adversity!

Well, if the men had to face adversity then the women were facing something even tougher! By now the snow was really meaning business not only covering the course in a thick blanket but also trying to bring down the Striders tent with a duvet size overlay. A field of over 220 snow women lined up for the start. Relieved to get under way Penny of the Antarctic skied off with the front runners followed by Elaine, Sarah and Mudwoman. Debs wasn’t far behind and the hangover she was suffering was soon “washed away like the snow in the rain” as she battled through the white stuff. There was no “compromising” either by any of the Striderettes today: Catherine Elliott made a determined effort to duck the snow flakes, Steph P was making a return to form as conditions become more to her liking, our debutant Fiona Wood smiling (or grimacing) in the knowledge that “things can only get better” and Rebecca serenely floating through the white mud dreaming of Mandalay.

Aaron Gourley's view of the Village

They all contributed to another great performance by the women’s team who, cheered on by Jan and many of the men’s team, finished in the top half of the table in a race where the first three finishers were all international runners and household names (they are in our household anyway). What a great day! Yes it was cold, wet and uncomfortable and the race was hard and tough but that’s what makes x/c so rewarding – the harder it is the more we enjoy that post race glass of wine or beer and the more we feel at one with our club mates. We can’t wait for the next time!

Results

U17/20 women

position bib name race time
1 516 Philippa Stone (Middlesbrough Athletic Club) 20:33
28 512 Sally Hughes 25:00

45 finishers.

men

position bib name race time
1 1498 Patrick Martin (Stockport Harriers) 40:53
175 1206 Jack Lee 54:14
187 1210 Neil Sleeman 54:30
197 1200 Paul Evans 54:50
243 1208 Tom Reeves 57:27
256 1202 Aaron Gourley 58:10
279 1201 James Garland 59:19
295 1198 Michael Bennett 1:00:19
301 1211 Alex Witty 1:00:42
329 1205 Mike Hughes 1:02:12
340 1209 Shaun Roberts 1:02:53
348 1204 Innes Hodgson 1:03:39
375 1203 Peter Hart 1:06:48

411 finishers.

ladies

position bib name race time
1 715 Rosie Smith (Durham City Harries &AC) 31.55
22 744 Penny Browell 37:50
58 743 Elaine Bisson 41:29
79 746 Sarah Davies 42:54
84 747 Susan Davis 43:28
113 750 Debra Goddard 45:01
135 752 Stephanie Piper 46:01
147 749 Catherine Elliott 47:08
193 754 Fiona Wood 52:35
209 748 Rebecca Devine 54:49

224 finishers.