Tuesday, 22 May 2012

This week I have been mostly ...

... recovering from a very busy and enjoyable weekend and trying to get through the mountain of photos and videos that I need to process! In fact last week I was chipping away at that mountain and expect I'll be doing the same next week as well!

Anyway, as well as Dr Sketchy's flashmob on Saturday the highlight of the weekend has to be the Miss York 2012 final.  I was thrilled to be one of the photographers there for the evening and it was a fantastic show and everyone had a wonderful night.

Hopefully this week will be a little less busy and I can get the rest of my pictures processed before I take even more!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Project 365

Several friends have been doing the photo-a-day thing for a while now and I finally decided I should try this aswell.

Rather than be sensible and, like my friends, just take pics with phone camera or something simple I'm going to go completely over the top and use my DSLR for all the images!  This could maybe get a little irksome sometimes but it's also a good challenge and means that I should have my camera with me whereever I go and can maybe get some other shots as well.

Anyway, for anyone interested, here is a link to my Project-365 album on FaceBook.

Dating (again?)

Having just split up from an on/off relationship for about the 4th/5th, but most definitely last, time I find myself in the position of having to endure the whole dating thing.  I was going to say "again" there but then I had a think.

I don't believe I've ever really done the dating thing!  I've been lucky in the past to meet friends-of-friends, who I just get on with really well, and like immensely (hardly surprising given they are close to people I'm close to) and thing have gone quite rapidly to the "going out with" state.  Well, that's the way I've always seen it because I'm an incurable romantic and am inclined to believe all that mushy stuff about love at first sight.

Well, it's early days yet anyway but I should really alert my friends to start searching for any prospective dates because I've pretty much found no-one suitable on PlentyOfFish or GaydarGirls!

Friday, 20 January 2012

And now for something completely different ...

Had to have some pics on here at last, and these are some of the items I got from Ikea the other day while we were having a mad girls shopping trip.  Okay, maybe not the most obvious things to buy but they should hopefully come in useful for upcoming photoshoots :-)

6 weeks on

Doesn't time fly.  It'll be 6 weeks on Tuesday since my surgery and certainly I've made alot of progress since then but there is still a fair way to go and I'm not completely back to normal in a physical sense, lots more healing and getting back in condition.

Thankfully there is little to report, I seem to be healing fine, I haven't needed any pain killers for some weeks now and my dilation routine is trundling on, still at three times a day.  All, fairly uneventful which is really how I wanted it.  I'm still rather tired though and I've not got back to my previous routine of getting up early and having very full, active and energetic days. 

I guess this is to be expected, not because there's anything in particular that is preventing me getting around now it's just that I've spent alot of time being fairly inactive and it takes a while to get back up to speed.  I'm generally sleeping okay now and I just need to get early nights and regular exercise - even just a walk at lunchtime - to get fitter.  It's a few weeks off yet but I'm looking forward to being able to swim for the first time in several years and I'm hoping that'll really help.

I'm back at work next week, though starting slow and, thankfully, working at home so that I can accommodate my dilation routine into the day.  Since it's taking me around 1hr for dilation I'm obviously not going to be managing a full day of work either but at least I'll be doing something useful and I'm more than fit enough to sit on my bum in front of a computer so might as well :)

How do I feel?  Well, I feel normal.  There's no great change in mood or revelation, it's just nice to be as I should be now and, while there'll still be a few things to get use to and experience, essentially now I just feel like I'm not really thinking about the surgery and the changes it's made, I'm back to getting on with my life and concentrating on everything else; which is exactly how it should be :)

Sunday, 15 January 2012

(Not) happy with Audi

UPDATE (17th January 2012):  I just got off the phone to York Audi (they phoned me) and they are going to sort out the dashboard issue for me, they will take care of it!  This is absolutely fantastic news and I have to say I am amazingly grateful to them for this.  As I said to the guy on the phone, my faith has been restored, I can carry on waving the Audi flag! 

I really was a bit emotional as well, it was such a weight off my mind and means that, when I can get back to driving in the next few weeks it will be the car that I love and I really am so looking forward to it!

So, what was all the hassle documented below: well, I'm going to choose to believe that it's simply a misunderstanding and that, given the car is quite old now it's just not clear how to handle these kinds of issues.  Thankfully this one guy did listen to me and did some research and found that something could be done.  And I'm very grateful for his patience and the time he spent on this.

I am, once again a very happy Audi owner and customer of York Audi - long may this state of affairs continue :)

I bought myself a second hand Audi TT last year, there were many reasons for this but probably safest to sum them up as "mid-life crisis".  Anyway, older cars (this one is over 10yrs old) are obviously expensive to maintain and last year alone it had it's cambelt changed, alloys re-furbished, mass airflow sensor replaced, full service including haldex filter change, anti-roll bar replaced, etc, etc, etc.  Expensive but none of those were a real surprise, simple wear and tear and regular servicing costs.

It cost a little more also because I took it to the local Audi dealership (York Audi) instead of going to a non-affiliated garage where I know the rates would be lower hence cheaper servicing/repair.  But, I don't mind paying a premium for the peace-of-mind (knowing the parts are official Audi ones as are the instruments/tools used to carry out the work) and the very good service I recieved.  So no complaints.  Yet.

My car started to develop an intermittent fault where the dashboard wouldn't work - all the dials stayed at zero no matter what!  Scared the hell out of me the first time it did it but I soon found that a "reboot" (switch ignition off/on again) cleared the fault.  Smoothing capacitor I thought, power glitches, nothing serious as it never did this while driving only started in a funny state.  I planned to leave it to the next service to fix.

Then, on the fateful day, it got much worse.  The car locked me out.  There was no sign of the alarm lights flashing on the door but the locks were definitely on and nothing I pressed on the key made any difference.  I even tried the key in the lock, still wouldn't open.  Finally it let me in, but the engine wouldn't start, dashboard and everything else completely dead.  Opened the door, sprang into life.

Obviously at this point I thought something was seriously wrong so I took the car into the Audi garage to get it repaired.  This was on Thursday 8th December, the week before my surgery.  I was very pleased that the garage took the car at such short notice and had no problem with them not having really found anything by the end of that day, understandable.

I did a little bit of my own research on Thursday and turned up the following links:


It seems that there is a known fault with the Audi TT instrument clusters, in fact there was a class action lawsuit concerning this over in the US!

Spoke to the garage on Friday to get some sort of update on what was going on, guess what, the instrument cluster needs replacing, cost £900!  I pointed out the research I'd done and that this is a fault for which Audi US and UK had been replacing the clusters for free!  Apparently they knew nothing about this but did seem to remember alot of replacements a while ago.

Anyway, they said they would continue to look at the fault (in case it was anything else) and would also check with Audi whether the instrument cluster had been replaced by a previous owner (I was told that there new computer system didn't have any historical records so all the previous details about this car were lost - like the fact that a few months earlier the cambelt had been replaced by them!).  I said that was fine but that they should bear in mind that I wouldn't be happy paying £900, I believe it should be free for a known fault, and that I was having surgery the following week so would not be contactable nor in a state to approve any expensive work.

A week or so went by and then at 17:38 on 19th December, which was while I was still in hospital, recovering from surgery, I had a call from Audi York!  I took the call (I was just waiting for tea at the time) and was told that they could to the dashboard replacement for £800 instead!  This wasn't the guy I'd talked to before, so I explained the points I'd made before about the existing fault (I also said that there was no way I could afford £800).  I was put through to the same guy as before who told me that the original fault that Audi replaced the dashboards for had symptoms where the fuel guage would read zero for example, my car had a different problem.  I politely suggested that the fault could still be related to the same cause, i.e. a sub-standard component, and that, for example the dashboard on my old Rover 45 diesel had never failed once; I expected better from Audi.

Anyway, after much to-ing and fro-ing he said that there might be other causes of the faults and would re-open the job-card and get someone to have a look.  I asked again if the dashboard/car could be checked to see if it had been replaced by Audi just to make sure.

I didn't hear anything that week, nor over Christmas week but I imagine the workshops shutdown over this period so I wasn't unduly concerned or in any way annoyed.

So, two weeks into the New Year and I'd heard nothing.  No calls to tell me my car was fixed, nor even any to ask me to pay ridiculous amounts of money to have it fixed.  Nothing.  So I phoned them - already expecting bad things.  MY car was ready to collect and only £56 to pay.  How good is that?!  Wait.  What did they do to the car?  Well, nothing.  It still needs the dashboard replacing!  Cost £900!

So, we went round the whole discussion again: Audi should replace this, the car is clearly not safe to drive so isn't ready to pick-up!  This time I was told that it was a long time ago that the replacement dashboards were done for free (in fact I'd found that a memo was sent in April 2009 telling agents that the criteria had been toughened-up, see one of the links below), I pointed out that, when I first took my car to the Audi garage they replaced the coil packs at no cost because of an existing fault in this component (okay, cheaper item but probably harder to do the work for them, dash is easy apparently).  They suggested that later repairs had been done with Audi making a contribution to this cost, I said that would be a much better option providing it was a pretty big contribution as £900 (or even £800) is ridiculous.  They said they'd talk to someone higher up.

So now, I'm waiting to hear what the next price is going to be or maybe they'll have completely forgotten what is going on and go back to "£900 to replace the dashboard" and I'll have to explain the issues all over again! 

Several things annoy me about this:
  • Mainly that it's Audi's fault.  They used a component that failed prematurely and was essentially sub-standard.  Dashboards really should not fail like this, nor wear out.  Nor should they cost so much to replace!  
  • There are companies that will rebuild/repair a dashboard from a TT at a fraction of the price Audi charge; the garage never offered me that option!
  • Seriously, not contacting me for 2 weeks and then claiming the car was fixed!  That is just bad customer service!
  • Contacting me *in hospital* when I'd explicitly said I would not be available for two weeks!  At the very least that is thoughtless, at worst it felt like they were taking advantage of my situation to get me to agree to a repair which had supposedly been discounted
Overall the customer service has been appalling and it feels very much like the garage, and by extension, Audi, just want to get me to pay a ridiculous price for a repair and all other considerations are irrelevant; particularly that they fault is something they caused and they know about.  I didn't buy an Audi expecting this kind of treatment, I thought it was a good quality and well-supported brand.  It's not.  I'm very, very, very disappointed.

As a final note, here's the links I found last week including some for the services that can repair dashboards for Audi's and other cars:


Apparently modulemasters.com rebuild the cluster for $160 - $350!


Apparently you can get the cluster repaired in the UK from £40:


Another place in the UK that does this work:






Remove the cluster:


Maybe low battery voltage or bad earthing:


List of complaints


Friday, 6 January 2012

Consistent device links with udev

I have a Linux server that contains several disks used for holding photos, movies, videos and any other general junk myself and my partner dump on there. I've had some hassles with several of the drives and I also have one that is mounted in a caddy so it can be removed and hidden away (important data!).

What I found when things failed or needed to be moved was that having the drives mounted through fstab at boot time could lead to the machine just not starting. So I used automount to get round this problem. So far so good, but if one or more drives are removed the device names they use (/dev/sda /dev/sdb etc) change so my automount maps get screwed up.

After much searching I found some articles and bits and pieces that explained how to get around this issue using udev rules. I just had to re-fix this after an update to CentOS stopped these rules matching properly. Here is the file I use now:

KERNEL=="sd*[1-9]", BUS=="scsi", PROGRAM=="/sbin/scsi_id -g -u /dev/%P", RESULT=="1ATA_ST31000524AS_9VPCT2B9", SYMLINK+="array0%n"
KERNEL=="sd*[1-9]", BUS=="scsi", PROGRAM=="/sbin/scsi_id -g -u /dev/%P", RESULT=="1ATA_ST31000524AS_9VPCS7ZT", SYMLINK+="array1%n"
KERNEL=="sd*[1-9]", BUS=="scsi", PROGRAM=="/sbin/scsi_id -g -u /dev/%P", RESULT=="1ATA_SAMSUNG_HD103SJ_S246J90B653757", SYMLINK+="array2%n"
KERNEL=="sd*[1-9]", BUS=="scsi", PROGRAM=="/sbin/scsi_id -g -u /dev/%P", RESULT=="1ATA_SAMSUNG_HD103SJ_S246J90B653776", SYMLINK+="array3%n"
KERNEL=="sd*[1-9]", BUS=="scsi", PROGRAM=="/sbin/scsi_id -g -u /dev/%P", RESULT=="1ATA_WDC_WD20EARS-00MVWB0_WD-WCAZA0998064", SYMLINK+="drives0%n"
KERNEL=="sd*[1-9]", BUS=="scsi", PROGRAM=="/sbin/scsi_id -g -u /dev/%P", RESULT=="1ATA_ST2000DL003-9VT166_6YD0EPBS", SYMLINK+="drives1%n"

The file is save as /etc/udev/rules.d/25-names.rules and looks for specific devices and creates links like /dev/array01 and /dev/drives11 depending on the ID it finds.

The bit I had to change was using %P for the parent device (/dev/sda1 has /dev/sda as a parent) and "sd*[1-9]" for the pattern to match only the partitions rather than the whole drive. Previously I used %k and a pattern that matched both the drive and partitions which did work before but not after the recent update.