Saturday, September 20, 2014

2 Factor authentication.

Now is probably the time you should be turning on 2 factor authentication for websites, especially if you cannot remember complex passwords.

This should be definitely turned on, especially for the email address that use to send your password resets to.

I have used Google's 2 factor authentication for my google sites (and any other sites that I can add to this for some time.)  Its simple, works with an app on my mobile phone and has backup codes incase you lose the phone as well.

Setting up is easy, download the Google Authenticator app onto your mobile phone, then on your PC log into your google account and enter the account area, follow the tab for security and enter the 2-step verification page.  Choose the method that you wish to use to verify your account, and then follow the instruction to set this up.

I used the method which continually provides me with one use codes on my phone, as long as you have your phone with you you can use your password and the code to enter your account.

For PCs that you use all the time and where convenience is more important than security, then you can set these up to not require 2 step authentication, and indeed override this should the PC be stolen or you are ready to dispose of.

This method can be used with some other companies systems as well, one of the other accounts that I use with Google authenticator is my hotmail account to get access to all my microsoft systems.

Facebook also have a version of 2 factor authentication for login, which relies on you receiving an SMS on your mobile when you log into a browser or device that Facebook does not recognise, I would strongly recommend this feature being activated as well.

This advice is no excuse to have a simple password, but it can help mitigate any risks from a weak password, bearing in mind that even a complex password if your really unlucky be surprisingly weak.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

My experiences with Mobile Phone Roaming in Europe.

I have recently been on the continent, staying in Germany, Switzerland and finaly France.

Three UK expanded their ‘Feel at Home’ service to more countries including Switzerland and France on the 3rd July 2014.

Unfortunately the outbound leg of our trip through France started prior to the switch being thrown on this, however a few years ago before going on a trip to Italy I purchased a Vodafone Italy SIM card from Europasim , which was prepaid and had good roaming rates within Italy and throughout Europe. Previously I had also used Three’s daily £5 data tariff for all you can eat data for 24 hours, over a 14 day trip this would start getting expensive.

As I was researching for this trip I discovered that the rates had changed on the Vodafone SIM to be called ‘SmartPassport’, the SIM which I had was still live and so I arranged for the tariff to be changed to the Smart Passport and topped up the credit on it.

So my plan was to use the Italian SIM in the areas that Three did not cover with their feel at home package, and then change back to my Three SIM as we entered Switzerland.

Shortly after getting on the ferry at Dover for the run to Dunkirk, my phone connected to Maritime Net and ended up with £3.45 worth of data going over their network, so first lesson is to switch roaming off unless you're sure that you're within a good roaming area.

Approaching Dunkirk I switched over to the Italian SIM and was happy to see a connection and receiving a text message in Italian announcing that 3 euros had been debited and my allowance for the day.  Getting off the ferry I fired up Waze and was happy to see that it connected and downloaded my route to the apartment in Germany that we were staying, along with the emails that arrived whilst we were on the ferry.

For the next few days this worked perfectly, me having 3 euros debited and receiving the same text from vodafone.

The transfer from France to Germany worked fine, with only a couple of minutes lost connection whilst the SIM registered with the new Network.

The apartment was in an area that was only covered by a 2G signal (and did not have WiFi, but although the connection was slow, and I had to be careful to time big downloads and uploads for my quiet time, one night I downloaded the German language pack for Google translate.  I averaged around 100-200MBs/day, well within the 500MB allowance. Including one evening downloading the Google Translate German dictionary, with no problems.

During this time I made a few, although not many calls back to the UK, staying within the 25 minute call allowance.  I checked my credit amount a number of times using the short code 404 and daily the credit decreased by 3 euros each day.

Entering Switzerland I changed the SIM card back to my Three SIM, and waited a few minutes for the connection and confusingly received a text from Three explaining the roaming rates within the EU, shortly before receiving the text that I was in a feel at home country and I could use the phone as if at home.

I found the data rate and experience in Switzerland good and had no problems with signal.

The return back to the UK involved a night in France to break up the journey. Crossing the Switzerland/French border gave the same two texts, first the Euro charging rates, and then the Feel at home text.

During the trip abroad I found both SIM cards lived up to the expectations that I ahd and the service that was advertised.

Both cards could be slightly problematical on the move. The transfers between towers seemed occasionally not to happen, and I would loose signal, and wait some time for the SIM to be registered on the new network, although I did not notice this with the Three SIM until I was in France, so maybe the Swiss network is much better at this.

During the trip I noticed a higher than usual battery drain, probably due to the phone trying to find its home network rather than the roaming network.

It was nice returning back into Portsmouth that I did not have to change my SIM card and was ready to go on leaving the ferry.

I would recommend the Europasim product, just be aware that all the texts from the network are in Italian, although the Europasim website has a quick guide to most of these, so you can have at least a good estimate as to what each means. Also be very careful to read the setup for the APN, which Europasim have on their website as this could cause issues with your data signal.

If you are lucky to be on the Three network and are heading abroad to a Feel at home country, it works fine and you should have no problems, if you are not on Three you could always pick up a prepaid SIM card for the time you are away (make sure your phone is unlocked though).

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Cycle route North Hampshire from Sutton Scotney

Distance: 14.5 Miles
Terrain: Roads, no steep climbs, but parts of the route are seriously undulating.
Refreshments: Coach and Horses (Sutton Scotney), The Swan (Barton Stacey) & The Plough (Longparish).
Route: Runkeeper

This is a nice little route from Sutton Scotney to discover the village of Barton Stacey, and touch the ends of Longparish and Wherwell.  This route is 14.5 miles, but for a shorter route start from the village of Barton Stacey and do a shorter route.

The start point is the Coach and Horses in Sutton Scotney, heading up the side road to the left of the pub (Stockbridge Road), past Naomi house to the A30 and turn left.  Follow the A30 through a few undulations until the a right turn signposted Cocum Barton Stacey.

Arriving in Barton Stacey, there is the Swan Inn, should you need some early refreshment, along with a small store.

The Plough Inn, Longparish
Continuing straight up the road, signed as being 2.5 miles to Longparish, you will pass Dever Springs trout fishery, before passing over the busy A303.  Shortly after passing over the River Test you will reach the Village of Longparish, or at least its western end, at the main road turn left to pass The Plough Inn, which is again a nice place to stop for a drink.

Cross in Longparish
Continue along this road as it twists pas the church and the community hall, but take care as we are approaching the busy A303 again and if you miss the turn for the bridge over you could quite easily find yourself on the slip road.  Turn right just before the A303 following the signpost for Exeter, this will take you over the bridge.  Follow this as it curves round all the way to the T-Junction, and turn right to wind your way into the Village of Wherwell.  Again we don't quite make it all the way into the village as just after the primary school we turn left to join the road to Chilbolton.

Head down the B3420 as it twists left then right and continue along until you reach the A30 again.

Unless you started at Barton Stacey, continue along the A30 back into Sutton Scotney, turning right just after the A34 to return to the Coach and Horses.

If you started in Barton Stacey do start down the A30, but turn left signed Cocum Barton Stacey just after the rifle range to complete the loop to Barton Stacey.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Cycle Route Whitchurch, Overton and Micheldever Station

Distance: 14 Miles
Terrain: Roads, gently undulating, no steep climbs.
Refreshments: Numerous pubs in Whitchurch and Overton, The Dove at Micheldever Station.
Route: Runkeeper

This is a circular route that I have done a number of times, in both directions from Whitchurch, this route is on-road.

Setting off from Whitchurch Town Square, head east towards Basingstoke on the London Road, passing the Red house and then the Prince Regent towards the top of the hill.

Continue on London road, where you will pass through Freefolk and then Laverstoke, along the way up a short drive on the left is the Watership Down pub just before a string of cottages, with what must be one of the longest thatched roofs.  Maintain straight ahead until you reach the traffic lights in Overton where we turn right and start to head up a slope towards the highest point of the route, before heading downhill towards Micheldever Station.

Along the road to Micheldever you will pass Laverstoke Park Farm, which has an organic farm shop and calls itself the worlds largest smallholding, and then on past the Test Valley Golf Club.

Pass over the Railway, and then under the A303.  When you arrive at the T-Junction by the railway bridge turn right and pass into the village of Micheldever Station, passing Micheldever tyres, the railway station and The Dove Inn.

Continue straight along the road until you meet the main road, just before the A303, here we turn left before taking the right signposted Whitchurch & Laverstoke.

After an impressive wall on your right you will bend around to the left before a short rise that leads to a sharp right hand bend.  Follow this bend and take the next left and follow this road up and down some slight slopes before the final downhill as you re-enter Whitchurch.

At the T Junction turn right and follow Winchester Road back to Whitchurch Town Square, where you will find a number of pubs ready to quench your thirst.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Old Burghclere and Burghclere walk.

Start & Finish: Beacon Hill Car Park
Refreshments: Carpenter's Arms, half way around
Parking: Beacon Hill Car Park
Conditions:  Mostly dry, a bit muddy on the second half.
Links:  AA website
Distance: 7.6 miles (or more with 2 diversions)

We have been wanting to do the AA's High above Highclere walk for sometime now.  Today started with lovely sunny weather and seeing as we missed out on a walk last week we decided to be a bit more organised today.

This walk has two optional sections.

Firstly you can choose to climb up Beacon Hill at the start of the walk, be aware although not particularly high the climb up there is steep.  At the summit is a large ancient hill fort and a trig point.  Make sure that you head all the way to the other side of the hill as just inside the western end of the hill fort is the gravestone of George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon.

We decided not to extend the walk past the basic length, which is around 7-7.5 miles.

We found the walk enjoyable as there is a reasonable variety of view and terrain as you walk around, through fields, and along the old Didcot Newbury & Southampton Railway track and even through a couple of Mansion grounds.

We were slightly confused by the placing of Pheasant Cottage during point on the AA's chart, the AA have Pheasant Cottage on the right of the trail, when in fact you pass with the Cottage on your left.

After point 8 we didn't find the sunken tree lined path straight away, and walked up the field edge until a short cut-in lead us down onto the path, which in places was a bit of a stream, but that is probably due to the damp weather recently.

We stopped off at the Carpenter's Arms in Burghclere halfway round for a drink, and found a welcoming country pub with nice outdoor seating with a good view.

Walking back from Burghclere the route was undulating, but not too stressful at all.

We really had an enjoyable and not too tiring 7 mile walk.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Another amble in the New Forest

During a lovely, and surprising sunny weekend we decided to head to the New Forest.

Due to the sun we expected the New Forest to be busy, so we decided to find a walk that was a bit off the beaten track.

Searching around we found this walk Church Treasures at Minstead on the AA's website and charged off down the A34.

After parking in Minstead we found a pleasant village with a pub, The Trusty Servant, and a tea house & shop.

We found that following the route was relatively easy, although we were confused by the directions around Acres Down farmyard, trying to work out where the crossroads were, but the route basically heads straight past the farmhouse.

Although we have had a really wet winter after the last weeks fine weather the tracks have dried out, with only a few areas of damp.  The directions also mention a couple of fords, but footbridges were located a short distance from both of these.

Overall it was a lovely walk through different countryside, woodland and heathland, and was surprisingly quite on the trails considering the warm March weather.

Getting back to Minstead we headed for The Trusty Servant, and had drinks, unfortunately the kitchens were busy and we were told there would be a considerable wait for food, so after a drink we headed across to the tea rooms and shop and picked up some sandwiches to eat on the green.

After lunch we got in the car and headed to Lyndhurst, which as predicted was packed with people.

Happy after a good day in the sun we headed for home via the country route.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Raspberry Pi & Windows Media Centre

We have a TV upstairs in the study that we wished to use to watch TV, unfortunately there were no TV aerial sockets upstairs and I didn't want to get involved installing more.

I have been using Windows Media Centre on an Acer Revo R3700 (powered by an Intel Atom) with Windows 7 for a number of years now, and am happy with this for recording TV and watching live TV.  Having tried to run XBMC on a different PC it took some time and digging to get the drivers set up for the TV tuner and the overall experience was not as good as Windows Media Centre.

Not wanting to spend the extra money just to get Media Centre onto the Windows 8 PC that is conveniently located in the same room as the TV, I Googled to see if it was possible to get XBMC to work with Media Centre especially as I have a spare Raspberry Pi with the Raspberrys particular flavour of XBMC, Raspbmc already loaded.

Fortunately there is the excellent ServerWMC, which you can load onto your Windows 7 Media Centre PC and setup another PC with XBMC, with the add-on pvr.wmc to connect to ServerWMC to stream live TV and get the Electronic Program Guide.  Downloading and installing was relatively easy and the software connected to Media Centre without any interaction.  The only setting that I have changed is to set the ServerWMC to start when Windows starts, which is not set as default.

As the RaspBMC already comes with the pvr.wmc add-on it was simple to set this up, just enable live tv and then enable the add on in the settings, set the IP addresss of the Media Centre PC and we were up and running, only not just yet, the systems all connected but all TV programs I tried just came with audio only.  The Raspberry Pi does not come with licences for MPEG-2 and VC-1, which can be bought from the Raspberry Pi store, for a reasonable price of £2.40 for the MPEG-2 Licence.

Installing the license has been made simple by just using the Raspberry Pi settings in the menus of the RaspBMC, rather than changing the config files manually.

Top tip as well is to make your Media Centre PC have a static IP address to ensure seamless connection.

Up and running the stock Confluence skin of the RaspBMC is easily understandably and quick to navigate.  When connecting to get streams from the Media Centre it is slow, and when initially turned on it takes almost a minute after the Raspberry Pi has booted to connect and synchronise the channel data with the Media Centre before Live TV can be selected.

At the moment I am running this setup controlling with a mouse which isn't ideal and will be looking to purchase a remote control fairly soon.

I am happy with the picture quality.  Although there have been a couple of lost signals, these have been few and far between.

This has been a far better experience than the NowTV box that I have also tried, although the setup was harder with the Raspberry Pi, the user interface is less clunky, which is a major selling point.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Soggy Hampshire walk round Jane Austens Chawton.

Distance: 5 miles
Start & Finish: Chawton opposite Jane Austen Museum
Refreshments: Cassandra's Cup Coffee Shop, Greyfriars pub
Parking: Car park in Chawton opposite Jane Austen Museum
Conditions:  Dry to start off with, second half of walk alongside a brook with fields that are damp under foot.  400 metre walk along busy road with no pavement, followed by damp fields and one short muddy walk.
Runkeeper Route:  Runkeeper

Having a visitor this weekend who was interested in Jane Austen we decided to do a walk starting at the Jane Austen House Museum in Chawton, Hampshire, and include a visit to the museum.

As Hampshire is currently suffering a number of floods due to the recent bad weather, we were aware that we may have to re-plan when we arrived in the area.  As we arrived at Chawton the first flood related issues became apparent, firstly the A32 was closed south, and there was a power cut in Chawton itself, which meant that the museum and the coffee shop were closed, which caused some upset.

The walk sets off from the car park of the museum, which had a confusing sign which either said car park closed or footpath closed, we took this to mean that the footpath leading out of the car park over the river was closed, which would not affect us.

We followed a walk from the AA guide that we have, but which does not appear on their website.

Heading west from Chawton we followed the road turning right on Ferney Close, to meet and walk along St Swithun's Way just before it crosses the A32.  St Swithun's Way is a long distance walk between Winchester and Farnham.  We followed St Swithun's Way as it heads down a disused railway before turning off the tracks at an old bridge that has been blocked by earth.

Crossing back across the A32 we saw another operation caused by the recent flooding, a pump was pumping water along the road to a stream, the noise of this could be heard from quite some distance way.

Massey's Folly
Heading up the track towards Manor Farm brought us to Farringdon where we headed in to the village and paused for a quick drink on the seat opposite the Village Hall (Masseys Folly) and discussed the building that stood before us.

Yew Tree in Churchyard.
Setting off again we headed through the churchyard, and were amazed by the Yew trees, the first of which had been split at some point in its history.  Exiting the churchyard we set off down the road.

After half a mile we turned left off the road up a track and then right at the footpath sign that directed us down a grassed track, which, after a style became pasture fields.  We were amazed that although this part of the route followed a brook, there was no real evidence of the flooding that has affected the local area.

After heading through a field of sheep and crossing the brook a couple of times, the ground getting steadily damper under foot, but not impassible, we exited the fields at the somewhat busy A3006.  Turning left to walk alongside the road for around 300 metres, not ideal as the hedgerow kept us in the road, which is reasonably fast and fairly busy.  Just after the Shepherds Court with some relief we turned back off the road and again into the fields, pausing to read a sign informing walkers, fortunately not our route, of a path that was now closed by the landowner.  Following the path the fields got damper and damper as we headed towards Eastfield farm.  Skirting the farm through kissing gates we passed through a field with sheep and Llamas.

After the farm we entered a copse which descended into muddy fields with horses and crossed these to re-enter Chawton through a narrow alley, before walking back to the car park.

I enjoyed this walk up until the final 3rd, when the styles became high and uncomfortable, and the busy A3006 would put me off recommending this walk for anyone uncomfortable with main roads.

There are other walks setting out from the same car park.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Hailes Abbey Walk, Cotswolds

Distance: 5 miles
Start & Finish: Hailes Abbey Car Park next to Hailes Church.
Refreshments: Hayles Fruit Farm on the downhill stretch just above Hailes Abbey.
Parking: Next to Hailes Church
Conditions:  Some muddy stretches with a muddy hill climb (during January at least), pass through fields of livestock including sheep and horses, quite a few horses and riders out on the trails and a number of cyclists on the roads.
The AA Walks guide
Runkeeper Route:  Runkeeper

We had the weekend staying in the White Hart Hotel in Winchcombe in the Cotswolds with the plan of spending at least one day walking in the area, Saturday's weather didn't look great, but Sunday was the day with clear skies and just a little light wind.  After an excellent meal in the White Hart in the evening we were ready to burn the calories off on a good walk.

Hailes Abbey Ruins.
We had picked up a reduced priced box of Cotswolds walking guides, published the AA,  from the Bookshop in Broadway on Saturday and chose the walk around Hailes abbey which is 5 miles.

Parking in the car park for Hailes Abbey, which is under English Heritage's care and unfortunately not open during the winter months but the ruins can be seen without entering the grounds we set off and followed the route.

Didbrook Church.
We had a little confusion approaching Didbrook when the card said cross a style, then another style and a foot bridge, the first style has been turned into a kissing gate and there is a style to the left and another kissing gate straight ahead and no sign of a footbridge.  We opted to take the style and head for the public phone box that marked the road through Didbrook.  The AA have corrected this on their online route guide.

After a while following the road up to Wood Stanway you are joined by the Cotswold way and it is the Cotswold way that you follow all the way back to the Abbey.

Climbing up to the top of the hill, which is muddy going especially with the damp winter that we have, gives you a wonderful view out over the valley and there is even a seat to rest and enjoy the view.

The route follows the top of the hill to Beckbury Camp Iron Age fort and Cromwell's Chair, which is where Thomas Cromwell allegedly watched the destruction of Hailes Abbey.
Cromwell's Chair.

Returning back down the hill past Hayles Fruit Farm, where there is a cafe was down a track that was good underfoot.

Hailes Church.
We had an enjoyable walk in good clear weather that gave us good views.

Retrurning home we stopped at the Fosse Bridge Inn on the Fosseway.

Views of the Valley.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A walk around the transport links of Whitchurch

Distance: 3.5 miles
Start & Finish: Either Bell St car park or Whitchurch Silk Mill.  Whitchurch station a possible option.
Conditions: no steep gradients, surface mud underfoot.
Refreshments: (all in Whitchurch town) H's Coffee Shop, The Bell Inn, The Red House, The White Hart, The Kings Arms
Parking: Bell St Car park or the Silk Mill
Whitchurch web walk number 2.
Runkeeper Route:  Runkeeper

As it was warm outside we decided to go for a short walk.  We have a loop around the town that we do regularly but decided to try something different today.

We decided to choose the walk 2 from the Whitchurchweb website.

We started the walk from the Silk Mill and joined the route at the top of Fairclose as it heads up the path.

The directions have changed at the top of the cemetery due to a recent housing development.

After passing the cemetery enter the housing development and follow the footpath sign between two houses, continue following the path as it parallels the disused railway line and past the old railway station and underpass, continue straight until you come to an open field, cross diagonally across the field and rejoin the route as you arrive at Bloswood Ln.

The rest of the route is as described on the website.

Whitchurch from the Northwest.

This walk has a good view of Whitchurch from the north, but suffers in its adjacency from the A34 and the subsequent road noise is present throughout reducing only within the town itself.

Disused Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway.
In places the route is along the disused Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway (DN&SR) which ran from 1882 until its closure in 1964.  The old railway station can be seen early on, although this is now a private dwelling.

West of England Main Line looking East towards Whitchurch Station. 

Also the route passes over and under the West of England mainline and is fairly close the the station.

DNS&R railway tunnel under the West of England Main Line

As an alternative the route could be started from Whitchurch Railway station by exiting the station and heading straight ahead until you meet Evingar Rd, turn right and follow the road downhill, the trail comes up and joins from 'Pesthouse Ln' on the right just before Ardglen Road.  To return to the station, follow the route coming out of the tunnel under the rail line and turn left as it meets Evingar Ln.

We had an enjoyable short walk and will look to do some more in the near future.