November 2012 in the Life of Ben (Blog)

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  10. October
  11. November
  12. December

Various Cycling Updates (30th November 2012)

Ordered Cateye Strada Wireless (Pink) cycle computer for Fiona.

Marlboro Mirage (Blue Racer)

Specialized Secteur

18th Scalextric Club (27th November 2012)

Classic and Can-Am cars roared around the 6-lane track at the London Scalextric Club this evening.

We had 3 minutes per race as we were only using 5 of the 6 lanes.

I borrowed a short Gulf Can-Am from Steve the chairman.

Blue Lane

Quite closed to 2nd place!

Fastest Lap 9.82s
Laps: 17.90
Position: 3rd
Crashes Not sure.

Yellow Lane

Car ahead of me had 3 crashes but I just wasn’t fast enough to take advantage.

Fastest Lap 9.35s
Laps: 18.30
Position: 4th
Crashes 1

Green Lane

Fastest Lap Not sure.
Laps: Not sure.
Position: 3rd
Crashes Not sure.

Brown Lane

Span out twice before the bridge. Caught out by the short wheelbase.

Fastest Lap Not sure.
Laps: 17.55
Position: 4th
Crashes 2

White Lane

Fastest Lap 9.26s
Laps: 17.00
Position: 3rd
Crashes Not sure.


We had the mid-way break and the committee worked out the running order and lane choices for the club’s mini tournament format, which they call ‘Finals’.

It’s a knockout competition where only 1st and 2nd go through to the next round.

I didn’t record my performance data as the format moves between races very quickly.

Managed to reach the 2nd but just off the pace. Kept slipping off the controller as it was so cold! That secured me last place.

Cateye Strada Wireless Cycle Computer (25th November 2012)

It arrived today, brand new in it’s box. Wow, it’s all so tiny…but the numbers are plenty big enough.

No tools required to fit it, not even scissors as the cable ties can be wound back and threaded between themselves and the front fork. Neato.

Stealing Bicycles in New York (23rd November 2012)

A pair of 5-minute videos where a film-maker steals his own bicycle:

He use various tools in various busy locations during rush-hour and lunch hour.

How do you think will people react to this? Watch it to find out!

17th Scalextric Club (20th November 2012)

Grand Touring cars grace the track at the London Scalextric Club tonight. Races started late, it was nearly 9:30pm! We are only using 4 lanes to ensure full marshalling. Each race is 4 minutes long so plenty of action still to be had.

Bought a Fly Slot BMW 3 Series GTR from Steve for £20 this evening. Has a fancy guide, floating motor mount but standard tyres.

Bought a set of Oortman racing tyres for £3.25 – they make a world of difference! Everyone at the club uses these.

Unfortunately we found the gears were meshing badly. The trail of fine metal filings inside and out of the chassis, just near the crownwheel cutout, is a tell-tale sign of unhappy cogs.

So for this evening I borrowed a white Porsche 911.

White Lane

Fastest Lap 9.68s
Laps: 22.25
Position: Not sure.
Crashes 4

Caused a Slow Punture (15th November 2012)

Took the rear wheel out and the tyre off to check for spokes poking through after truing the wheel. All looked good.

Sadly I noticed the pressure had gone the next morning, when I wanted to ride it to work. This made me just about 1 hour late.

Probably caused by pinching the inner tube with the tyre as I faught it back onto the old steel rims.

My local bicycle shop, Hadron Cycles, charge £12 for a puncture repair with replacement inner tube. Annoying that I caused the puncture myself but at least the mistake is fairly cheap. Would soon add up if I did it often, though!

16th Scalextric Club (13th November 2012)

Wheel-to-wheel action at the London Scalextric Club tonight as Touring Cars take to the track.

Brown Lane

Fastest Lap 9.88s
Laps: 14.35
Position: 2nd
Crashes Not sure.

White Lane

Fastest Lap 9.77s
Laps: 14.35
Position: 1st!
Crashes 0?

Red Lane

Fastest Lap 9.83s
Laps: 14.45
Position: 4th
Crashes Not sure.

Half Time Break

Delicious carrot cake!

Yellow Lane

A longer distance than my race on white lane but came dead last! Everyone got faster!

Fastest Lap 9.85s
Laps: 14.50
Position: 6th
Crashes Not sure.

Blue Lane

Finished just ahead of Steve, club chairman.

Fastest Lap Not sure.
Laps: 15.30
Position: 3rd
Crashes Not sure.

em or px for Media Queries? (13th November 2012)

(In response to Alastair Campbell’s blog, In Defence of Pixels.)

I think the simplest method is to use pixels, and leave it to the manufacturers to get the ratio right.

— Alastair Campbell

Yep. I remember that. We expected and encouraged UAs to adapt our pages to meet their user’s context and preferences. People forget so easily!

Device manufacturers are the only ones to know their device and their audience before launch. It’s their decision but it must be based on the expressed and observed preferences of their prototype users.

Try-hard coders can add several lines of proprietary code to turn off some of the lies. That makes things a bit more predictable and lets websites put more faith in the true capabilities of the device.

Websites Must Stay Cheap

The ~1,000,000 web developers worldwide won’t have time or budget to use media queries at all. Let alone get into any level of detail we are discussing.

Most web pages assume they are being displayed on a desktop monitor. Getting those sites working well is the 80% solution. A new device has to crack that to become popular, way before it tries handling the myriad approaches to ‘responsive’ layout.

“The Problem is Choice”

Although the default is 1em = 16px, users can customise that to any value. They can also set a minimum font size, which I’ve seen in iOS and WP7. This breaks layouts which have any limits on available space - basically any layout.

With that in mind, using em for the size ranges we choose in media queries has some neat side effects. I’m almost convinced that The ems have it. Almost.

True Lies

These issues manifest as cross-platform compatibility issues due to the necessary lies UAs use in their CSS renderer. (And what they report via the DOM.)

Things like how large the viewport is on smartphones is usually wrong. It’s deliberate, though, so the plethora of fixed-width ‘iPhone-friendly’ sites fill the screen better.

It’s a hard decision manufacturers take due to this another type of Legacy Content Problem. Web developers try to do cross-platform compatibility but only coded for the device in their hand. Sadly it means percentages have unexpected results due to the assumptions of legacy content.

Spoilt for Choice! (22nd November 2012)

Alastair replied and I followed up on the points he raised.

Part 1

As you and I both know…

Mobile browsers usually adjust minimum font sizes by default.

Firefox provides a menu item to make zooming only adjust text size. (Like the old versions used to.)

User style sheets let users control text size.

…and more besides, no doubt.

My strategy is the same as it always was: Let users choose whatever settings they want, them make the design respond and reflow to suit. You probably do the same.

There are various techniques to try and accomplish this. We can do way more than 5 years ago.

em-based media queries have the potential to do this for a slightly wider range of user preferences. That’s a good thing.

I’d want to see the challenges of this approach first-hand before I’m totally convinced. We should always remain open-minded to better techniques, though.

Part 2

Text size is available directly from the menu in IE9.

Individuals can roll their own solutions, akin to user stylesheets but using different technologies. For example, Safari on iPad text size bookmarklet. These often don't work well, so it's probably a mistake for browsers to remove this feature in the first place.

Another small point...there are more than 5 web browsers which are allowed to use the Internet. Lots, lots more!

Free Cycle Training in Islington (10th November 2012)

London citizens are entitled to 2 free cycle training lessons from their local Council. Fiona did hers last years when she was just getting back into riding the mean streets and says it was a huge help to her confidence and safety.

There are several levels to the National Standard for cycle training, called Bikeability.

Bought a Specialized Secteur Bicycle (9th November 2012)

Costing just under £480 including delivery from eBay. The one careful – although cycle-mad – owner has a double-digit collection bicycles. He rode it 3 times and loved it so much he bought the super-duper carbon-fibe model it was based on, called the Robaix.

Although I’ve been looking casually for a new or newish road bicycle, nothing had really grabbed my attention. Learning about what components are worth having, weight in the frame versus weight in the wheels, comfort versus aerodynamic position…it’s a bewildering multi-dimensional array of choices.

This bike simply looked right. Immediately. Instinctively. The livery, colours, shifters, every detail as well as the overall shape.

It was the first one which stood out to me. It kept drawing me back during the week it was listed.

Reading the description, gathering reviews and comparisons confirmed my feeling that this was a great introduction for commuters. (The similar Allez model has a more racey riding position which some commuters found uncomfortable.)


The seller is clearing out his double-digit bicycle collection and is eroding the mountain of spares which has built up around them. Bonus!

Colour-matched to the bicycle. His wife’s influence, there! I have a red Specialized one which doesn’t fit.
Bottle cage:
Essential in Summer. Even a British Summer!
Front and rear lights:
I have lost a front light during the past year.
Compact bicycle pump:
Could be good for holidays. I have a single-cylinder footpump with good pressure guage but it’s heavy.
Like a Swiss Army knife for cyclists, this one includes the extra-skinny spanner for adjusting axle bearings.

Hopefully a pair of normal platform pedals will find their way into the box. He always clips into the pedals because he loves powering up hills.


The seller recommended Paisley Freight’s Push Bike option. It’s a really nice site, a very different world to Shiply and suchlike. Flat rate fee of about £26 includes £100 of insurance.

They can collect it from the seller’s location on Monday evening and deliver to me during Tuesday. I happen to be off work both of those days, so it works out perfectly.

It’s Arrived! (13th November 2012)

Entire box weighs 15.7kg. The frame and all components look immacculate! The helment has all the proper adjustments and internal padding, so it fits me quite easily.

Some assembly required as it was flat-packed. Everything on it uses allen keys and the multi-tool has all the right sizes. Easy!

Digital bathroom scales tell me it weights about 10.5kg, nearly half my old steel racer. Really feel the difference lifting it onto pavements and lowering into road.

Had a test ride around some quiet residential roads. A couple of adjustments to saddle height and handlebar angle, now it feels just right. Very very smooth ride.

Getting used to the fancy shifters. My hands are only just large enough to reach the little lever from the dropped bars. Easy from the bullhorns. The brake lever shifts gears in the other direction and that’s easy enough in either position.

Transmission runs smooth…so smooth…it’s a lot of money but first impressions are very good.

Unsubscribed from W3C (8th November 2012)

Using their simple instructions to exit a mailing list, I removed myself from:

As all the messages stay in the web archive, I deleted my local folders from Windows Live Mail. There was a lot…

Folder Subtotals Total
Grand Total 44,077
2007 4,407+34+71+47+1,047 5,606
2008 5,793+111+106+118 6,128
2009 9,161+147+328+160+111 9,907
2010 8,370+3+1 8,374
2011 6,219 6219
2012 2,399 2399
(Other) 146+273+182+258+35+1,334+54+3,162 5,444

Windows Explorer tells me there are 43,105 files in 29 folders. Only ask me to count something if you’re OK with a 2% error margin.

They are fairly small size-wised compared to other mail folders I have: 304MB of data taking 400MB of space on the disk.

Skyfall (No Spoilers) (6th November 2012)

Well worth seeing. I’m a huge fan of the recent Casino Royale because it was tough, complicated and spectacular.

Skyfall has a mature pace to provide depth of story and character. It’s interrupted by genuinely unpredictable action sequences with some characteristic quips and cinematic locations.