anarag's blog

insanity level: clockwork orange and up

Itʼs getting past the point.  Really.  For quite a while itʼs been cheaper, often, to buy things from Germany or the Netherlands, even France, and sometimes Spain, than from most businesses in the South of Scotland or England; and why?  Because of the increasingly insane deregulated UK postage and courier ‘industry’.  (Donʼt you loathe it when services get called ‘industries’ to make them sound like theyʼre real jobs?)

Itʼs also been increasingly an issue that eBay in particular now allows sellers to easily exclude areas without thinking about why – which almost always means everywhere North of Perth, West of ooooh Alexandria maybe, sometimes Galloway or Dundee but not Aberdeen, sometimes Paisley but not Greenock; and always means anywhere you need to get on a ferry, a plane, or cross a saltwater bridge to get to.

You kind of expect this from English sellers; and yes I know it includes English Islands too – Isle of Wight notably.  But thatʼs what I mean – England gives the impression of being so hugely divided you expect them to behave in an exclusionary manner towards each other.

But this time, I looked for one specific product on eBay, and itʼs a seller, in fact multiple sellers apparently (but I have reservations) in GLASGOW who a) wonʼt post to the Highlands and Islands, or any ‘offshore’ (whose shore?) part of the UK or associated territories – but, b) will post to the rest of the world, including specifically, Iceland.

Default to Home

OhhhhhFFs.  Oafs.  What happened to Firefox?  Not surprising its market share has crumbled away, thereʼs so much wrong with it since about version 18 (or 5?) ... seems now there is no longer any option to really set the default encoding recognition to UTF-8, which means FF canʼt be made to work as a convenient tool to view plain page fragments any more – unless youʼre a Windows-using American, addressing only that part of the domestic Anglo audience which has never had any exposure to either traditional typography or emoji, to take two examples.  How many of that remainder can even read ASCII I couldnʼt say, but thatʼs the market segment Mozilla are catering to here.

Apparently this default is now set in Gecko, and so canʼt be changed in FF about:config.  You could recompile it, presumably, if you really wanted to.  Oh, and adding a BOM doesnʼt trigger recognition, and the menu option retains the UTF-8 setting on reload even though the display is mojibake – not interpreted as requested.  And changing locale doesnʼt make any difference.

Seriously, Mozilla, if you donʼt want people to be able to view fragments and text files, donʼt allow FF to open anything without an HTML header.  Then your project can just die off quietly and you can all go home and find something useful to do.  <angry dinosaur emoticon placeholder>

foolish child

Thereʼs always one; every year.  Sometimes down the chimney, sitting in the stove wondering where the world went.  Sometimes bashing themselves silly against the windows.  (Found a dead one outside a window just last week.)  This one found the one remnant bit of netting from an old chicken run someone hadnʼt cleared up, wrapped round a fencepost, and wondered what the world would look like if it put its head through.  How long it was hanging there I donʼt know, but I happened along.  It seemed to have lost its voice, but that might have been exhaustion rather than near-strangulation.

Iʼd like to think it learned a lesson, but Iʼm not convinced.  Theyʼre supposed to be intelligent birds, but what lesson?

Donʼt try to squeeze your head into gaps you canʼt fly through?

Is that not instinct already?  Probably not.  Thatʼs how you find nesting holes.

If these big clumsy ground things grab you and scare you near to death, they might not eat you?  Even if they start chewing the thing you canʼt get away from, right beside you.  (One hand holding bird, one holding net.  No scissors to hand, only teeth ... to, er, mouth.)

I doubt it.  You have to be able to understand the lesson to learn it, and I think all it understood was ‘eeeeeeee...(etc.)...eeeeeeeee’, repeated every time it caught a mental breath.  If.  Then shutdown.  Until Iʼd got it back to the house, got someone with scissors, juggled bird and camera for a bit and thrown it skyward, since when it might have some opportunity for reflection.  Until a cat or a hawk gets it.  I donʼt hold out any more hope for its good sense in future than I do for comprehending gratitude.  Still, photo.  Thatʼll do.

I canʼt help but think thereʼs probably something in existence that could put me in such a situation, only it might not involve something big wandering past that doesnʼt eat humans, and I might not feel quite so able to fly nimbly away on restart, if let go.  Or it might be something that traps us collectively, and there might be no-one who can make sense of it whoʼs in a position to help, or willing.

Vermona Synth Fault Requests

Message Received

Flavio, 2016-06-06

Hi there!

Thanks for your articles on the Vermona Synthesizer - I read entirely through the first part, went a bit too techy in the second article but still very interesting.

I got my Vermona Synthesizer a couple of days ago and Iʼm now facing two issue, which I hope you can help/suggest how to solve them.

First of all: for VCO 2 the register buttons donʼt remain pressed (none of them). I opened up the synth and I found out that the mechanism is somehow “stuck” in the “open” position (the position in which nothing gets blocked).

It can be seen in the difference to the VCO 1 register selectors: there, the right end of this longitudinal metal plate is in its “rest” or “inner” position, whereas for VCO 2 it can be seen that it is “out” and didnʼt get back (I donʼt know how to correctly describe, maybe I can show you pictures?!).

So of course, my question is: how do I repair this mechanical issue? I know itʼs only mechanical, because if I keep a register button pressed, VCO 2 is playing.

Second issue is the keyboard: as some keys were having “double triggers” or didnʼt trigger immediately, I took an eraser and tried to clean up what was accessible without removing any keys at all. I also moved the plated bars slightly a bit more left and then back right... now I got the lower 4-5 keys which play the same note (???) and all the others play ok but some of them are still not “clean” enough. What is your suggestion for this issue?

Thanks in advance and kind regards,



Well, sometimes I am a bit too techy.  Until itʼs the too techy bit you want.  Ignore the rest and let the search engines read it. :-)

(Iʼm writing these articles because I find it useful to record all the information I discover – less or more techy; and the interesting or entertaining thoughts that happen while looking; Iʼm publishing them specifically because I usually canʼt find the exact techy bit I want online, or anywhere else...)

Vermona Synth Update 1: Boards

(This is an update to Notes from an Exploration of a Vermona Synthesizer.)

In spite of the apparent quietness of the last few months, Iʼve been working on synths in between other things; in particular on the Vermona.  After the initial post, in the absence of any written technical information, I was planning to draw my own circuit diagrams.  Actually I did some board drawings, because thatʼs easier when all you have are last yearʼs photos and enough space to sit. :-) [1]  A couple of weeks ago, this was complicated by my discovery of a new (I think) and rather great old manuals page at, which includes circuit schematics [2] for both versions of the Synth.  The full update I was slowly working on will be rewritten in the light of the new information ... but it will be better.  For now, here are my drawings – with the component numbering brought into line with the schematics, as far as possible.  (My earlier numbering was entirely arbitrary as there is no screening on the boards.)

Korg MS-10 Notes

(Synthland 6)

MS-10s need no introduction, so – hereʼs one.  Probably from about 1980 but I havenʼt got it far enough apart to look for component dates.

This arrived in a purportedly “Pro-Serviced” state.  In contrast to my many other gripes on the topic, I must note that it was well-packed, and arrived faster than the estimated earliest date.  Also in near-perfect physical condition, which for me is a first, for a synth without a case.  So would buy again?  Maybe.  It doesnʼt even smell bad.  No rotting food or wildlife, no decaying components, no decades of garage-storage and no undead tobacco[1]

But Iʼd like to kow what “Pro-Serviced” means.  Perhaps that this time Iʼm paying someone to do the things I would normally do myself?  This clearly doesnʼt include cleaning, past a cursory wipe; thereʼs a lot of dust ingrained on the modwheel and at the back of the keys.

a weather report

I have just had a rather disturbing thought about the weather, or its function in human communication.

What if the reason why people blither on meaninglessly about the weather is not, as I had generally assumed, a sort of mutual grooming by which they indicate that they are high enough in each othersʼ regard that theyʼre willing to coexist, and even communicate meaningfully when there is something worth saying?

achievement changes you

Large image and prints at

the tubes

Some tubes from a newly arrived vintage radio, out for cleaning ... for about the first time since it was manufactured.  Arenʼt they shiny?  The story with these is the strange and wonderful alliance of thermionic valve technology and the Internet.

This set is a little over fifty years old.  (And I suspect there are people out there who could identify it from the tubes alone.)  One of the same model used to live in my parentsʼ house, humming away happily for nearly twenty-five years, until one day in the late eighties they said it had stopped working and would I look at it.

MagSafe As It Should Have Been

(Or closer-to.)

(This is an update to “MagSafe – the Last Straw?”)

Since I last wrote on this topic Iʼve been living uncomfortably with my fourth Apple MagSafe PSU in a temporary-repair state; and many other things have been getting in the way, some of which have been much more interesting than fixing old PSUs.  But recently the (now, what, 18-month-old?) cable on Nº4 has shown additional signs of deterioration, requiring further bandaging.  Wonʼt last long.  So on to a full refurbishment of Nº2, which (including previous emergency repair) looks like this:

As the migrant plasticiser had almost completely evaporated when I took photos last year, there is no significant further deterioration, though a few flakes of sheath have fallen off.  The plan was:

“3. Whether or not (2) is successful, open up Nº2 and replace the whole cable.  I did look for something similar in the way of coaxial cable last year, unsuccessfully.  But I suspect this isnʼt necessary; itʼs just a DC power supply.  Ordinary 2-core flex should do – though all things considered I think Iʼll opt for heat-resistant.  Ideally this should include putting a socket in the adaptor, so the cable can be replaced if need be.  This will probably not look very elegant ... but nor does it in its existing state.”

So, to work.  Start with cutting.


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