Category Archives: General

Stuff that doesn’t fit into existing categories

How to light the pilot on a Brivis Wombat 92 central heating unit

I’m lucky enough to have central heating in my house, and as the weather is cold in SE Australia at this time of year, we’ve been using it a bit.

Every few years a strong storm will blow out the pilot light. To fix it I climb up into the roof (fortunately I have an attic ladder fitted) and re-light it. Generally the effort involved to re-learn how to light it is more than the effort to actually do it.

So I’m doing like any good geek would: documenting it.

The unit is a Brivis Wombat 92 (I assume that means it’s a 1992 model). The instructions are written in tiny writing on a label attached to the inside of cover — so tiny it’s quite difficult to read while in the cramped roof space.

The steps are actually pretty quick and easy, as follows:

1. Make sure the heater control (eg in the house) is set to Off, and grab yourself a torch if you have to climb into the roof.

2. Take off the cover. On mine you pull it upwards, but I think my unit is actually mounted upside-down, judging from the logo on the side.

3. Find the dial. Turn it clockwise to the Off position.

4. Find the power point for the unit. The power cord on my unit leads to a power point about a metre away, mounted on a joist. Switch it off.

5. Wait a few seconds and switch it on again. You will hear a regular clicking sound – this is the heater trying to re-light. You’ve got about 20 seconds for the next step.

6. Turn the dial back to the Light position and press down on it. A couple of clicks later you should hear the pilot light.

7. That’s it! Put the cover back on. Enjoy the heat.

So basically, you’re turning it off then on again.

If it doesn’t work? I guess try it again. I know in 2013 mine wouldn’t re-light, and needed a service, but that’s perhaps not surprising for a 20 year old unit.

Good luck!

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Go looking for any help on LinkenIn, and you get lies and incompetent software construction:

Linkedin needs JavaScript to enable JavaScript

Javascript must be enabled to use the Help Center

We’re sorry, but your current browser settings won’t allow you to use the Help Center. You can learn how to enable your JavaScript settings.

Notice the little UTF-square? If JavaScript’s turned on, that becomes a graphic image. Because, without Javascript HTML can’t include images, right? Not only that, once JavaScript is enabled the message with the graphic isn’t visible!

It then explains how to enable JavaScript, in the help centre that won’t help you without JavaScript – which is clearly a crock of shit. If the help centre can help me to enable JavaScript, surely it can help me with other problems also without needing JavaScript? Why lie like this? Why not say “our business model doesn’t work without you using JavaScript”?

To rub further salt into the wound, at the bottom is a “Was this answer helpful?” question, which you can’t answer because the buttons don’t do anything without JavaScript. Egads!

Airliner shootdowns ought to be technically impossible

Using missile to shoot down an airliner ought to be made impossible.  It may be a lack of imagination on my part, but I can’t think of a circumstance where a military force needs the ability to shoot down civilian aircraft.  There aren’t a lot of manufacturers of surface-to-air missile systems, regardless of their level of sophistication and range – shoulder launched or vehicle-mounted – so changing those designs to prevent civilian shootdowns ought not be a big deal. Admittedly there are many more means of bringing down aircraft beyond SAMs, but not a lot of them have the reach to bring down cruising airliners.

Civilian airliners have carried IFF transponders since World War II, so there’s the infrastructure in place already for the identification of non-military aircraft.  Furthermore, it’s a violation of Article 37 1.c of the Geneva Conventions to pretend you’re a civilian – that is, it’s a war crime with all the international condemnation that goes with that, so it’s reasonable to make weapons that refuse to down aircraft that identify themselves as civilian.

So, why is this still happening?


Unless it’s a transient, unrepeatable hardware fault, it’s not a glitch – it’s a bug. Glitch makes it sound like it’s nobody’s fault. And glitches don’t stop all banking transactions for a number of days, that’s a top-to-bottom fuck up – or bug, take your pick.

And for that matter, if legal restrictions prevent parties from being identified, it’s “mustn’t be named”, not can’t.

“Microsoft account”. One product, 6 names.

Hahaha, what a classic:

Microsoft account (previously Microsoft Wallet,[1] Microsoft Passport,[2] .NET Passport, Microsoft Passport Network, and most recently Windows Live ID) is a single sign-on web service developed and provided by Microsoft that allows users to log into many websites using one account.


So over the years it’s had 6 names!

Nice work, Microsoft.

WordPress Content Disappeared

While editing a WordPress post the other day I clicked on Add Media before I had saved or published the draft.

When I tried to upload the image I received the error WP couldn’t write to the disc. Odd. I then returned to editing and went to save a draft before I investigated what was going. Then I got the error that I was unable to save the past as the post did not exist. I returned to the the Dashboard and there were no posts or pages, only a few categories and comments.

I tried to look at the site’s home page but it returned the error the no content could be found in that category. All my posts were gone and no media was listed in the media library when I logged in again. The admin section worked fine, the page template displayed but there was no content for the pages.

The problem was a corrupt database. To solve the problem of WordPress content that has disappeared just run Repair on your tables using PHPMyAdmin and your site will come back to life.

The spinning globe

I’ve long been a fan of TV idents, and I used to love seeing the late-80s BBC1 globe animation, when it occasionally popped-up on television here. As well as the Alas Smith and Jones spoof version.

Here are a couple of fascinating articles on how it was generated: by a standalone computer, which animated the 12 second rotation, at the PAL standard of 25 frames per second.

(Update: Found a better video)

Birthrate<2.0 in Australia does not mean the end of the species

I’m listening to politicians rambling on about paid maternity leave and one just observed that it’s a crying shame that in Australia the birth rate is less than 2.0 per female.  Said same politician is advocating for more financial support for those undergoing IVF.

This planet does not need more people.  Governments should not be encouraging their production.

I’d like to point out that as it has in the past, Australia can very easily import humans to fill any shortage of warm bodies needed to care for the Baby Boomers in their dottage.  We don’t need to breed workers for the elderly-care industry.

Picking an ADSL2 provider

With the need for more than the current quota 500Mb of traffic allowed at home (256Kbps shaped to 56Kbps), it was time to switch plans… and given that change was in the air, no holds would be barred. The current spend is about $75/month including Internet, two mobiles, fixed line rental and phone calls. Mobile calls are carried on the Optus network; coverage and performance is satisfactory.

ADSL2 connections are cheaper than ADSL1 because of the Telstra monopoly. The current provider offers ADSL2, but they don’t have their own DSLAMs in my local exchange, so they resell Telstra product. Because of the need to maintain profit margins and Telstra’s pricing regime, the base-level product is $70/month. That doesn’t leave much room for calls or mobiles. shows both the locations and coverage of exchanges around Australia, and importantly also lists (as does, based on your phone number) what companies have DSLAMs installed. The Google maps mash-up showing the boundaries and location of the exchange allows you to estimate the distance to the exchange, which impacts the achievable line speed. Given we’re planning on moving sometime in the future, this information will also be used in selecting a new home – and because we vaguely know where that is, it would be desirable to have a provider that has DSLAMs in both our current and out future exchanges.

For me, that means Telstra, iiNet and TPG. Telstra is immediately excluded as being a bad idea. There are a bunch of iiNet resellers, and iiNet themselves, but the best deals seem to be from Netspace (I understand that they’ve been bought out by iiNet, so I expect plans bought from them will be grandfathered, but after that all bets are off).

Netspace’s most attractive plan is their ADSL2+ Super 20 Anytime plan, which bundles ADSL2 ($30) with a PSTN line ($30) and gives 20Gb of qutoa (plus another 20Gb off-peak, but when the hell is anyone awake between 2am and 8am?). Just as we were signing up, we noticed that the phone line isn’t $30 a month – it’s $40 and includes $10 of calls. If we made $10 of calls, that would be fine. But we don’t. So it’s not. Besides which, it pushes the plan to $70, leaving $5/month to run two mobiles. Next…

For less quota (15Gb) and more money ($40 instead of $30) Netspace has ADSL2+ Super 15 Anytime, their naked product. This would require VoIP, but given we’ve got $25 to play with, that’s do-able. The only problem is, at the end of the contract, what will the prices be? iiNet, Netspace’s future owner, doesn’t have the super-attractive plans; their cheapest naked plan is $50 and is 5Gb (even less for even more). On the upside, Netspace is does Single Service Transfer, which means about 10mins of Internet outage when the swap-over occurs (iiNet is not, so swapping away at the end of contract will be painful and expensive). Shaping is to dial-up speeds (56Kbps).

No one resells TPG ports. TPG’s cheapest naked plan is $50 for 20Gb (+20Gb), but interestingly they have a $51 plan that includes a phone line! Well, $61 because of the included $10 of calls. Apparently it’s a POTS line, but it does sound like a VoIP thing they’re pretending is a PSTN line. Oh, and the call prices are at full retail (25c local calls, timed national, 40c/minute mobiles), not crazy-go-nuts VoIP prices (~10c calls to landlines, ~25c/minute mobile calls). But they do number porting and give you 130Gb of quota, shaped down to 1Mbps when (!) you exceed it. That’s a bit of a step up from 500Mb and 256Kbps shaped to 56Kbps. But, if you wanted to use crazy-go-nuts VoIP prices, you’d just set yourself up with a VoIP provider. So let’s pretend this really is a PSTN line. It’s $9 less the then Netspace includes-phone-line offer, and you get 130Gb instead of 20 (which I can’t imagine using, so no advantage there).

So, the choice comes down to TPG’s Super Fast Standard /130GB ($61) vs Netspace’s naked ADSL2+ Super 15 Anytime ($40 + VoIP provision). $21/month is a lot of money to buy VoIP with, so I think, perhaps, there’s a winner. We can get a ported number and all the calls we’d make for about $10 from a bunch of VoIP providers.

As for the mobiles, TPG has a $1/month mobile plan with really good per-minute rates – and, importantly, no included calls. They provide bonus data to TPG customers on this mobile plans, but given I don’t use data on my mobile plan – meh, not a compelling reason to sign up with TPG. Each phone has a $20 sign-up fee. I’d expect our phone call costs to be… $5 or maybe $10 a month on this plan.

So, if we go with Netspace for the naked DSL and TPG for the mobiles, our monthly spend will be about $60.