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Welcome to my digital home! There are lots of articles you might find helpful buried in this site on topics such as modifying an Alfa Romeo 159, rebuilding a Lotus 7 (Robin Hood 2B), not to mention a ton of stuff on technology in general. It’s all here somewhere, so use the search function or navigate using the menu structure. if you want to talk, reach out via the contact function, I usually do answer!

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RH2B Build DiaryThe original seats in the 2b were a little worse for wear when I bought the car, but I had mistakenly thought that it would be a relatively cheap thing to fix. Little did I know that trimmers charge a small fortune for their skills! In fact, I was being quoted around £200 per seat to have them fixed, and new seats were about £200 per seat! So, well, you know….. I bought some new seats! That said, I wanted to minimise the cost here as I had hemorrhaged way more than I initially budgeted to get it ready for the summer, so I set about some ebay stalking, and after several back and forth’s on buying expensive branded, quality seats vs something secondhand and cheap, I found a seller with a new pair of the exact seats that were in the car currently (retro style buckets) but in plain black vinyl. The best part about this find was that the seller was clearly just a regular guy that thought he would get rich selling motorsport parts on ebay but clearly didn’t have the roaring success he planned for and was sat on some stock he needed to shift. This presented an opportunity for a cheeky offer! So an offer was made, and accepted, that got me 2 brand new seats for £260 delivered 🙂 #Result! New Seats As part of the change I also wanted to put in new low profile, double lock rails, so that added another £50 to the bill but it was necessary to get the seats fitted in the best possible way. Double lock low profile adjustable rails Once I had modified the rails to fit the bolt pattern of the new seats (nothing is plug and play in the kit car world!) I offered the seat into the car and sat in it for an initial test. This is where my heart sank. I was a good 4 inches over the top of the windscreen at eyeline 🙁 Not an ideal seating position by any means. It turns out these new seats had a 6″ pad in the base that meant I was 4″ higher than the set that came out. This was not going to do, so after several emotional responses from frustration to anger to sadness, I decided there was only one option….. heat a large carving knife up till it was glowing red and trim the foam! Its not that difficult to do as it stands (although i do recommend breathing apparatus as you get very dizzy very quickly!). Just pop the staples off the bottom on one end, remove the foam seat base, heat the knife, slice (like butter) through the foam, then reinstall the foam, glue back on the cover, staple the excess material out of sight and your back in business… all be it a lot lower to the ground! Its not perfect, but I do plan on a major rebuild this winter, and I am likely to be looking for some better / more modern low profile buckets as part of that so this is just for the summer. Once I had the seats ready for install it was onto the floor. I wanted to reinforce the floor where the seats mounted to as the floor had developed flex in one corner of the seat mounting position whcih made the seat seem loose and rock. To solve this I decided to replicate what the builder had already done to reinforce the floor in the front seat mounting location. Essentially adding a 25X25x3mm angle iron from side to side. Again, this was a seasonal fix as come the winter I want to weld in a lowered floor to gain an inch of height inside the cabin. Front (existing) and Rear (new) angle iron reinforcements A purchased a 25x25x3mm 2m length of stainless steel angle iron and cut it to size. I then mounted it on the front edge of the 3mm steel subframe mounts in the rear floor location whcih was the right daytum to provide me a straight line side to side I could use as the rear seat mount. After measuring, cutting, drilling several holes, painting and bolting it all in with M8 stainless bolts, I had the perfect strengthening part that meant the weight of the passengers was spread evenly across the chassis on both sides via the subframe mounts and in the middle via the tunnel mounts, so therefore would not move. Floor reinforcement rail Now the seats, floor and seat runners were all ready, it was just a case of making a cardboard template, measuring, drilling, and then bolting it all together with M8 Stainless bolts. The finished article is great IMO. they look period to the car and are much less garish that the ones that came out, which had some interesting colours and the word “dubollox” embroidered in…. Old vs new seats Related Images: [...]
GeneralI can’t give these little devices enough praise! They are so easy to use and bring a new dimension to your sound. Ok, so most modern mixes have cuts and kills by default, but they are not a patch on one of these, not even on a Pioneer DJM600! These little gems use near analogue circuitry to give you a warm rich softer sound, rather than the cheaper mixer embedded kills you find these days. If you can find some of these, buy them,  they really are worth it. I had to get mine off ebay in the US, but despite coming with 110v power supplies and the hastle it took to find a suitable UK one to replace them, it was worth every penny. This is what you get for your money: “The Electrix EQ Killer ($299) is a Kill Box that lets DJs and producers EQ an element without investing in expensive equipment. Built like a tank, the unit comes encased in a rugged aluminium housing that will absorb a lot of abuse. With the included joiner plate, you can connect two Electrix Mods devices in a 19-inch rack. The EQ Killer can also rest on a flat surface. The front panel is tilted upward, making the controls easier to read. Kill the Band The front panel is divided into three sections: Low, Mid, and High. Each section has a Momentary switch, a Band Kill switch, and level control knobs. The level knobs dial up the amount of gain or attenuation for their respective frequency bands, offering up to 6 dB of gain per band. Unity gain is achieved when the level knob is set at 12 o’clock. Between the Low, Mid, and High level knobs are the Low X-Over and High X-Over sweep controls. The Low X-Over sets the point where the Low band ends and the Mid band starts. The High X-Over adjusts where the Mid band ends and the High band starts. The back panel has three input/output sections. Inputs 1 and 2 have standard RCA stereo connectors. There’s also a switch to select between line level and turntable input levels, and grounding posts for turntables. The third section’s Send/Return loop lets you apply external effects to the killed band. At the front of the unit’s bottom right-hand corner is an input selection switch for toggling between turntables or line-level devices. The button will act as a bypass switch if there’s only one device connected to EQ Killer”. Related Images: [...]
Alfa 159 / ElectronicsFor a while now I have been looking into alternative power solutions for the Alfa due to its power hungry nature that is not helped by the many auxiliary systems I have added over time. For the most part, the stock battery can cope just fine, but I have always wondered about the use of capacitors and what real value they hold. In years gone by, the capacitors you could get hold of were simply not that useful. A 1 Farad 12v capacitor like you would use in an car audio installation was simply too expensive and had far too little power storage.  One reason I had been considering capacitors was not for power storage but for the side effect of cleaning up the overall noise introduced by the power system in the car. This would serve to improve the overall sound quality of the entire system as well as benefit all electrical systems with a cleaner supply. A good explanation and test is here: https://youtu.be/T9mlvbF0flM Capacitors have come on a long way though and the new generation of “Super” or “Ultra” Capacitors are starting to become a viable alternative to a battery in a car. Because of this, I thought it only sensible to buy some parts and see what it was all about 🙂 Here is a video of a car replacement battery using 6x 2.7v, 500F super capacitors to show you what I mean: Obviously starting the car and providing long term, offline power for the systems when its not running are two different things, so if you seriously wanted to replace your traditional battery you would need a hybrid solution that combined batteries with capacitors.  I’ll be looking into that next 😉 Super capacitors come in a few common shapes and sizes but by far the cheapest for the power are the common 2.7v 500 farad units. To hit the target voltage I needed (12-14v) I needed a few wired in series to increase the overall voltage. Fortunately this is a common solution as its a typical voltage used in solar installations. Wiring the capacitors in serial actually decreases the overall farads of the bank, so 6 x 2.7v = 16.2v but the farads are divided by 6 to give you 83.333F. You could add a number of additional banks in parallel to bring the farads back up, but it starts to get a bit big then and you would be better looking into a different style capacitor. such as the Maxwell Ultra 2.7V 3000F, 6 of which would deliver a 16.2v 500F pack ! Also, a point of note is that even though the planned bank has a capacity of 16.2v it will only operate at the voltage its charged too, so if the car charges at 13.5v then the bank will be charged to 13.5v. Its also important to balance the load across a serialized bank of capacitors to prevent damage. Fortunately due to the commonality of the target bank design, a balance board was readily available: The plan was to build a 12v 83 farad bank that would act as a power reserve for the bass amplifier in the boot as this would be a good starting point and bolster the overall power system on easily accessible, existing 4AWG wiring I first bought a few common, cheap and easily accessible parts off ebay: 6 x Green-Cap (Black) Super Farad Capacitor Parallel Battery 2.7V 500F 35*60MM @ 26.99 6 String 2.7V Super Capacitor Protection Balancing Board 100F – 500F 240x40mm @ 8.75 10 rubber lined 35mm pipe clamps @ £7.29 8 AWG power cable with in line fuse holder and fuse @ 4.99 So for less than £50 I had everything I needed for the experiment. I could have bought a pre-made board with unknown capacitors on for about £26 but I have read a few things about the capacitors being junk so went for a known good brand and DIY. I first assembled the capacitor bank with the balance board to achieve the target solution. Hot gluing the capacitors to the board before soldering them to make sure the finished unit was as solid as possible. It took some real heat on the iron to get the solder flowing, especially soldering in the 8AWG wires. I soldered the 8AWG cables directly to the board to ensure maximum power transfer: Once the bank was ready I used the pipe clamps to install the unit in a free space within the amp enclosure and connected it to the positive and negative 4AWG distribution blocks I already had in place from the original installation of the enclosure: I must admit, I was extremely worried when I first connected the fuse that it would just explode in my face, so it was a tentative and careful moment! Some people recommend installing a resistor inline initially to slow charge the capacitors and protect the systems in between, but as I was on a 4AWG connection direct to the battery I was not worried about the charge / discharge issues. They did make a fizzing sound for a few seconds when they took there initial charge but I was stood by with a fire extinguisher!  Once the fizzing stopped and nothing looked like it wasd going to explode I checked the units for discharge / earth shorts and also for temperature. As everything was ok, I decided to start the car and run the amp. The car started quicker than normal so clearly the extra high current supply had already made an impact on the overall electrical system. Its actually possible to start and run an normal engine on a bank of capacitors like this and replace the battery with them as can be seen in one of the videos at the top of the page. Although for the Alfa, I would need a larger bank with more capacity as the 2.4 is a bit of a power hungry beast! I ran a Bass test loop to get the amp hot and push the sub to its limits for 30 minutes. The amp got very hot as expected but the capacitors only got a little warm which is great as if they got very hot that would be a problem. Once it was all back together you could hardly notice the upgrade unless you looked very closely at the vent holes! All in all this was a great upgrade and I am definitely going to explore more super capacitors in the engine bay in some sort of hybrid battery/capacitor solution next! Related Images: [...]
InfoSecOpen post to see coverage: computing.co.uk – April 2009 – Malware computing.co.uk – April 2009 – Risk in the recession pcauthority.com.au – April 2009 – Microsoft computing.co.uk – April 2009 – Microsoft crn.com.au – April 2009 – Risk in the recession whatpc.co.uk – April 2009 – Security computing.co.uk – April 2009 – Malware Searchsecurity.co.uk – April 2009 – Conficker & Patching Related Images: [...]
InfoSecIf your planning on using Linux in a hostile environment, i.e. the Internet! then its worth thinking about some simple little tweaks to the TCP/IP stack in conjunction with some funky firewall madness to keep your box your own, and not end up “owned” too quickly! Lets start with the TCP/IP stack. There are a number of quick easy wins here that can help defend against attacks through making the default behaviours of the stack more in-line with what we would like: echo "1" > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/conf/eth0/rp_filter echo "0" > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/conf/lo/rp_filter echo "1" > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/conf/all/log_martians echo "0" > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/conf/lo/log_martians echo "1" > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/icmp_ignore_bogus_error_responses echo "1" > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/icmp_echo_ignore_broadcasts echo "0" > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/icmp_echo_ignore_all echo "0" > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/conf/all/accept_source_route echo "0" > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/conf/all/send_redirects echo "0" > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/conf/all/accept_redirects echo "0" > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/conf/all/secure_redirects echo "1" > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_dynaddr echo "10" > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/tcp_fin_timeout echo "1800" > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/tcp_keepalive_time echo "15" > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ipfrag_time echo "2048" > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/tcp_max_syn_backlog echo "32768 61000" > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_local_port_range echo "2" > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/tcp_synack_retries Now, that little lot above needs some caveats. Firstly, use at your own risk! Secondly, As per usual, you often get a small performance hit when you start getting more secure, so test each tweak fully before you go into production. Once your happy with the ones you like, add then to your /etc/rc.local or other start up file of your choice. The next step is to use iptables to help deal with dodgy looking traffic. Step 1, set-up a bunch of new chains: $IPTABLES -N CHECK_FLAGS $IPTABLES -N ALLOW_ICMP $IPTABLES -N SRC_EGRESS $IPTABLES -N DST_EGRESS Step 2, now lets get those chains to do something useful: $IPTABLES -A CHECK_FLAGS -p tcp --tcp-flags ALL FIN,URG,PSH -m limit --limit 5/minute -j LOG --log-level $LOG_LEVEL --log-prefix "NMAP-XMAS:" $IPTABLES -A CHECK_FLAGS -p tcp --tcp-flags ALL FIN,URG,PSH -j DROP $IPTABLES -A CHECK_FLAGS -p tcp --tcp-flags SYN,RST SYN,RST -m limit --limit 5/minute -j LOG --log-level $LOG_LEVEL --log-prefix "SYN/RST:" $IPTABLES -A CHECK_FLAGS -p tcp --tcp-flags SYN,RST SYN,RST -j DROP $IPTABLES -A CHECK_FLAGS -p tcp --tcp-flags SYN,FIN SYN,FIN -m limit --limit 5/minute -j LOG --log-level $LOG_LEVEL --log-prefix "SYN/FIN:" $IPTABLES -A CHECK_FLAGS -p tcp --tcp-flags SYN,FIN SYN,FIN -j DROP $IPTABLES -A ALLOW_ICMP -p icmp --icmp-type echo-reply -j ACCEPT $IPTABLES -A ALLOW_ICMP -p icmp --icmp-type destination-unreachable -j ACCEPT $IPTABLES -A ALLOW_ICMP -p icmp --icmp-type echo-request -j ACCEPT $IPTABLES -A ALLOW_ICMP -p icmp --icmp-type time-exceeded -j ACCEPT for SRCNET in $EGRESS_NETS; do $IPTABLES -A SRC_EGRESS -s $SRCNET -j DROP done for DSTNET in $EGRESS_NETS; do $IPTABLES -A DST_EGRESS -d $DSTNET -j DROP done Step 3, Apply the prior two steps to your input, forward and output chains as needed: $IPTABLES -A $CHAIN -i $EXT_INT -j SRC_EGRESS $IPTABLES -A $CHAIN -i $EXT_INT -j DST_EGRESS $IPTABLES -A $CHAIN -i $EXT_INT -p icmp -j ALLOW_ICMP $IPTABLES -A $CHAIN -i $EXT_INT -p tcp -j CHECK_FLAGS Variables. In all of the above, variables are used to save typing!, here are some of the important variables, the rest are fairly self explanatory: EGRESS_NETS=" 172.16.0.0/12 224.0.0.0/4 240.0.0.0/5 14.0.0.0/8 169.254.0.0/16 172.16.0.0/12 192.0.2.0/24 192.88.99.0/24 192.18.0.0/15 0.0.0.0/8 " What we have just done is setup some new chains, apply some filters that can identify dodgy looking traffic and do something useful with it (limit it rather than drop it, as we don’t want to arouse suspicion with our attackers). Then apply all that nice Packet Mangling to each of our primary chains. I provide all of this advice for free, with no guarantees, any use of the above code should be with full testing prior to its use in a production environment. Enjoy! Related Images: [...]
RH2B Build DiaryI was hoping when I rebuilt the suspension that the brakes were ok. Well they looked ok, and the car seemed to brake fine so I didn’t think I needed to do anything to them until the winter. Well, turns out that they were a little less than perfect and caused an MOT fail! According to the Brake test, there was a 46% difference between NSF and OSF, whcih was a bit of an issue! I am a little unsurprised though as during the suspension rebuild, suspending a caliper on cable ties and occasionally knocking it off was more than likely to have upset a 15 year old braided hose! The fix was simple, rebuild both callipers with new seals and pistons, put new brake lines on, and flush the whole system. Calliper Rebuild Kit First up was a “Bigg Red” Calliper rebuild kit, cheaper than expected, coming in at £27 delivered! This gave me a new set of seals and a new piston for each calliper. The pistons that came out were pitted so a rebuild kit that included pistons was key. While the callipers were apart is was an ideal time to spray them with my favourite Auto-K Calliper paint, so I set about doing that. While the wife was out one day, I took advantage of the oven and decided to cure the paint to 200c (needed for the paint to harden) off the car and before I rebuilt everything. My version of a happy meal Before paint, I put the pad carrier in a vice and filed smooth all the pad glide surfaces to remove many years of corrosion and paint. After I painted them again, I removed the overspray with a file on this area and before putting the pads in coated the entire slide area in copper grease. Filed pad glides The new braided lines were supplied by GBS through Kit Spares, and again, were great value for money. A full set (4 lines) was around £60 delivered, which considering they were branded Goodridge and very high quality, is excellent Value for Money. I have only installed the front lines for now as the rear callipers were fine, but i’ll do the rear end in the winter! Braided lines The brake fluid was old and had lots of corrosion in it. When I flushed the system through the furthest calliper tons of black floaty bits came out. I am pretty sure this fluid had been in the car for several years! It took about 1.5l of fluid to fully flush & bleed the system, but boy was it worth it. The final product went back together very easily and an MOT retest showed perfect front brake bias so I cant argue with that! Another job I wasn’t expecting ticked off! Related Images: [...]
GeneralI have been working with a large retailer of late who is a heavy user of Sun & Solaris. As you can imagine, this is perfectly normal, and in fact, considered best practice for what they are doing. That said though, in an area such as retail, with low margins and profits based on sheer quantity, surely a leap of faith into the “dark side” or as we prefer to call it, Linux, would be a better option? Once upon a time the argument was simple, RISC architecture was simply ahead of the game, by a long way, but guess what, x86 grew up, caught up, and overtook. These days, the performance you get out of multi-core x86 is significantly more than it’s RISC based equivalent. I realise that point could be considered contentious by the purists out there, but for mainstream computing in a world that is ever more cost concious, I struggle see how any argument for RISC can win over x86. Once you have your x86 base, you can go with an x86 version of Solaris (not that you would) or thanks to Sun not playing silly games, you can actually use something useful, such as Redhat, Suse, Ubuntu or if you so desire, Novell.This additional flexibility is core to getting the base of your platform right. Large scale architectures need solid foundations to remain stable, perform and scale as desired. Lets consider it for a moment. Sparc vs x86 & Solaris vs Linux, well to be honest, there is barley anything in the comparison except cost. Sun make x86 hardware based on multi-core AMD processors which are blisteringly fast and being manufactured by Sun, they are rock solid. Now. If I were that retailer, I know where I would be looking to spend my money, but thats not what I am there to talk to them about, so I’ll keep it for my blog and not overstep my scope. Related Images: [...]
GeneralIts a strange thing when you suddenly realise the simple truth about something. The fact of the matter is, I am bored with mixing! What I mean is, simply firing up the 1210’s and spinning a few tracks just doesnt do it for me anymore. I think this is a trend that is also reflected in the current dance music scene. Consider a true talent in the scene today, such as Deadmou5, vs an old skool DJ like Dougal or Vibes? The once,  “studio only” production techniques are being utilised on the fly to bring dynamic, real time remixes to the clubs. This is something that really interests me, something I want to pursue further. MP3’s are part of the equation, but so are real-time sequencers like Ableton Live, sample pads, real-time effects processors and a lot of time spent creating, dissecting and amassing lots of custom loops. Put all this together, and you have what the scene now desires, and what I personally want to give. Watch this space…. Related Images: [...]
InfoSecSunday Times – 17th January 2010 – Dark Pools / Hacking Related Images: [...]
Alfa 159I already had the amplifier and sub from a prior install, and in that install I had discovered a problem with the pairing. The sub is an Infinity Kapa perfect 12 VQ rated at 400w RMS and the amplifier is an Alpine MRV-420 rated at 350W RMS. Driving the sub at high voltage, with line levels in excess of 4v and the gains maxed out means that the amp is producing closer to 450W RMS and the sub, which is well regarded as being able to handle much higher loads than 400W RMS, just laps it up, but had one small issue that needed sorting. It would overheat during extended sessions of Drum and Bass at full power! To sort this issue, I stripped the amp back to bare metal, rebuilt it using high grade CPU heat sink paste and added a temperature controlled cooling system utilising 6 x 40mm fans in a push/pull config. Needless to say, it can run at full power and then some, all day long now ! These images are of the strip & rebuild: ” order_by=”sortorder” order_direction=”ASC” returns=”included” maximum_entity_count=”500″] Related Images: [...]

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