All posts by Andy Henderson

Photo competition 2022

And the winners are:

Wait for it...

Looking after jockey wheels

Jockey wheels feed your chain around your rear sprockets and force the chain to move between gears.

The wheels run on bearings which wear over time as can the teeth.

Excessive movement in the upper wheel means the gears won't change when you shift (forcing you to shift twice and back again to change a single gear) no matter how much adjustment you make. Worse, jockey wheels can seize.

To check your jockey wheels, either:

  • Remove your chain; or
  • Take it off your front gear so the chain is loose and you can pull it away from the jockey wheels.

Look for:

  • Lateral movement of the upper wheel (some lateral movement of the lower wheel might be by design)
  • Worn teeth
  • After cleaning, the wheels don't spin smoothly

Replacement jockey wheels come in pairs. Normally there is a difference between the upper and lower wheels and they have to be fitted right way round. Replacing them is easy - once you've figured out which wheel is which and which way round to fit them.

On my bike (SRAM Force 1) the inside hole of the upper wheel is slightly larger so it cannot be fitted in the lower position or the wrong way round. It doesn't matter which way round the lower wheel is fitted.

Other wheels will be marked with an embossed "U" (upper) or "G" (guide), and "L" (lower) or "T" (tension). Normally, the wheel indication faces out away from the bike. Some show an arrow showing rotation direction (it can be a bit mind-bending to work out which way they rotate when fitted).

This video shows how easy it is to replace your jockey wheels...

For common Shimano jockey wheels I've used Tacx - as recommended by Alan Morgan. These come with a set of plastic inserts so, provided you match the speed (number of gears at the back), there's a good chance they'll be compatible with your bike.

I bought these ones recently as they have the narrow-wide teeth used by my bike.

Home automation article 2

This note provides additional information to the article published in the Autumn 2021 edition of the Pedal. It lists examples of all the types of equipment I refer to in my article. Each example is one I use at home. I also describe some alternatives and, where appropriate a little bit about the technology they use and some 'gotcha's.

This is the second article in the series, you can see the notes for the first article here.

Portsmouth CTC will earn a small commission (at no cost to you) if you purchase anything through one of the Amazon links even if you decide to buy something different.

Amazon Echo

Echo devices

The link on the left is to the main Echo device but it's just one of a family of devices all of which can be used for home automation. You can see the whole family here.

We use an Echo in the living room - it gives good sound quality and includes the technology to control Zigbee devices.

We use an Echo Dot in the bedroom - where sound quality is less important. That being said, the quality is not at all bad.

As Amazon has released better quality devices (and when they are on offer) we've purchased better quality Echo devices for the living room and placed the superseded ones elsewhere. The one in the kitchen is good for playing music while cooking. The one in the exercise room allows us to play music, change channels and skip tracks without having to stop exercising.

Echo routines

Once you've installed the skill needed to control a device, you can start operating it with your voice. For example "Alexa, turn Andy's blanket on".

Routines provide far more flexibility. For example, you can:

  • String commands together and execute them with a single request. For example "Alexa, spotlight settee" turns on the lights above our settee to full brightness.
  • Control devices from different manufacturers in one routine.
  • Add delays between steps in the routine.. For example, we have a routine that turns on the ceiling fan in our bedroom then turns it off after two hours.
  • Start a routine at a given time of day (or sunrise or sunset - it just knows what that is). For example, we turn the lights on and off and open and close our living room curtains while we're away.
  • Specify the exact phrase you want to use to execute the routine. For example we can say "Alexa, Sky" to turn on the TV, amplifier, Sky box and switch the TV to point to the Sky box.
  • Execute any echo command as if you'd spoken it. For example, there's no built-in routine command to play a BBC station - but we can use a routine to execute voice command "Alexa, play BBC Radio 4 extra" as if we'd said it.
  • Trigger routines from a variety of devices including buttons (see on). and Alexa software running on PCs, laptops, mobile phones, tablets and a whole raft of Alexa-equipped devices.

None of the above needs any IT expertise.


There's more. Alexa skills don't always provide full control over devices. Device manufacturers provide their own mechanisms to send commands to their equipment using many of the features described above for Echo devices, and routines can execute those scenes giving even more flexibility.


You can probably tell, I'm a big fan of Echo devices, but there are alternatives:

  • Google Nest/Home (the name keeps changing). There seems to be a consensus that Google devices sound better (albeit marginally) and are better at answering questions but they lose out on price and flexibility.
  • Apple HomePod - worth considering only if you are heavily invested in Apple stuff - be prepared to pay more for less flexibility, however.
  • Amazon licences its Alexa technology to third parties so there's a load of Alexa-equipped devices out there that you can use instead of an Echo.

Power switches

The link on the left isn't to the exact device we use but it's clearly the same one sold through a different outlet (and you'll see identical items on Amazon sold by different companies).

In fact there's a ton of different devices implementing the same function. You're spoilt for choice. Apart from simple plugs like the one on the left, you can also find power strips containing several sockets each of which can be remotely controlled.

The item on the left is an inline power switch. It takes in live and neutral wires (so it is self-powered) and a wi-fi signal activates a relay which switches the output live on and off.

Again there are a ton of these around. I chose this one because:

  • It is cheap - four switches for £25
  • It works with the Smartlife app so we continue to use that app for most of our devices

We use three of them to control the three banks of lights in our kitchen so we can say "Alexa all kitchen lights" and "Alexa all kitchen off" to turn them all on and off. We also connect them to a motion sensor (see below).

These switches are tiny: smaller but a little deeper than a matchbox. They have two wings that slide out to allow you to secure them to something if you want. The wires are secured only by the contact screws so they should not be used if tension can be put on them (one of the images on Amazon shows one in line with a lamp - don't do it!)

Light switches

Just one of many

Again, there are loads of competing products. This one (and, I guess most others) is deeper than a normal switch. We installed a spacer to allow it to fit in the existing cavity.

We use it to control a ceiling fan and it works well without a capacitor (see below).

Take precautions

To install the switch you need to remove the existing switch and wire in the new one. That's a simple process, but you will need to take care to ensure there is no power to the switch before you start. I have a multi-meter to double-check.

No neutral wire required, but...

This switch works with most UK light fittings that have just one wire in and one wire out. It also works (and works better) if the wall cavity also has a neutral wire which will then directly power the switch.

Without a neutral wire, the switch gets its power by:

  • Letting a small amount of current through when in the off position.
  • Adding a small impedance to the line when in the on position.

For analogue devices like old-fashioned bulbs, fans and halogen devices powered through a transformer, that works well.

The method can cause problems for digital devices such as LED lights, including flickering and randomly switching on. To address that problem, Yagusmart provide a capacitor to fit across the neutral and live wires. That means getting access to the light fitting. It's worth trying the switch without a capacitor first, though.

Dimmer switches

As I write this, there are no 'no neutral wire' remote control dimmer switches. If you already have a dimmer switch installed, however, it's likely you also have a neutral wire in the light fitting. If so, there are a variety of remote control dimmer switches available.


If you're not keen to rewire your light switch, there are alternatives:

  • WiFi or Zigbee controlled LED bulbs can replace any mains powered bulb to give you remote control. I used them to replace our halogen ceiling lights - more here.
  • A button-pusher (see below) that can work the switch for you.


There are a number of buttons on the market but the Flic2 ones are the clear leader (for now) because they're:

  • Reliable
  • Work well over distance with good battery life (the hub is USB-powered but the buttons use commonly-available coin batteries)
  • Provide three operations per button (click, double-click and hold)
  • Each operation can execute a wide variety of functions - most importantly executing Echo routines

The buttons need a hub connected to your broadband network by cable or WiFi. Each hub can work with 32 buttons.

For the time being, the Flic2 buttons and hub are available only direct from the Flic web site which ships them from Stockholm. Keep orders below £135 (at time of writing) to avoid having to pay import duty.

We use them to execute Echo routines:

  • in places where we don't have an Echo
  • in the bedroom so we don't need to use voice
  • instead of using voice - frequently saying "Alexa..." gets tiresome after a while

The hub can also be used as blaster (see below).

Button pushers

Switchbot has cornered this - somewhat niche - market.

It's a battery-powered robot with a little arm that swings out to press a button. An attachment also allows it to turn rocker switches (such as light switches) on and off.

It needs a hub that connects the button pusher to your Wi-Fi network.

The same hub can also operate other Switchbot devices such as curtains (see below). It can also be used as blaster (see below).

It's an alternative way to operate light switches if you don't fancy rewiring. We use one to press a button.

We use one to switch off the fire in our living room. It pushes the relevant button on the fire’s remote control for 10 seconds. OK, I kept forgetting to do that myself so the fire was on all night. I couldn't replace the remote control with a blaster because it uses ultrasonic signals, not infra-red.

See it in action...



The link on the left goes to the device we use but it's been superseded by this one.

The latest version also provides the ability to control devices that use wireless signals (as opposed to WiFi). These aren't as common in the UK as they are in the US.

Since we bought this we also bought a Switchbot hub and a Flic hub each of which can do the same job.

Once installed, you use a phone to load profiles of remote controls to operate your devices. For example, we had to experiment with the profiles provided for Panasonic TVs before we found one that worked for us. Alternatively you can create a 'blank' remote control and record buttons from an existing remote. You can also mix and match if a supplied profile doesn't implement all the buttons you need.

You can then use the phone as a remote control for all your devices or you can operate them using voice commands via a combination of routines and Broadlink scenes (important because routines do not have the ability to use all possible buttons.

When using infra-red, the device works best if it has line of sight to the infra-red receivers on the devices you are controlling. You can try bouncing signals off walls and ceilings but might not work well.

You do not, however, need line of sight to control wireless devices.

Note that it's not just TVs and related equipment that use infra-red. To start with we used this IR-controlled light switch which we controlled with a blaster and a spare button on our One-for-all remote controls.

Motion sensors

There are quite a few of these around. They detect movement by spotting warm bodies moving in front of the sensor (they don't react to an opening door, but they do react to you behind it).

We chose this one because:

  • It is the only one that can activate Echo routines - important as we use it to control kitchen lights using an inline switch from a different supplier.
  • We already had a SwitchBot hub - otherwise this would be a very expensive sensor
  • It includes the light sensor so, in theory, we can turn lights on only if the room is dim.

Unfortunately there's no way to use the light sensor in Echo routines. I contacted support and it says that feature is under development. In the meantime, I use the If This Then That web site ( to prevent the lights coming on unless the kitchen is dim.

We use the sensor to switch on the work lights in our kitchen. After two minutes of no movement it turns all the kitchen lights off. After five minutes of no movement it stops the kitchen Echo from playing (so we can go to the toilet without having to restart it).

Infra-red receivers

This is actually a tiny computer that receives infra-red signals from a remote control (we use a One-for-all remote that works with all our IR appliances) and IR blasters.

It works with most types of computer including Windows, IOS, Linux and devices including: PCs, laptops, Playstation, Xbox and Raspberry Pi.

We use one to operate a fanless PC so we can use it as a media centre for playing movies, TV programmes, videos, photos, etc. We use the free Kodi home theatre software.

Because the Flirc is programmable it can emulate keyboards and media buttons as well as running sequences from a single remote button. It can also wake up the computer and send it to sleep.

Central heating

We started with the kit on the left and added more thermostats over time.

Fitting is really easy. The hub has a standard backplate so we simply removed our existing thermostat and replaced it with the hub. If you already have Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs - they've been compulsory for some time in new builds), it's easy to unscrew one and screw in the replacement. It configures itself automatically.

You just need to use a phone or tablet to connect the hub to your WiFi network and turn your old thermostat up to maximum (so it doesn't interfere) - that's it.

No plumbing or electrical expertise needed.

You can then use a phone or tablet to program the TRVs individually so they come on at the specified days and times and at given temperatures. That's a lot more flexible that a system that uses a single thermostat in one location.

The system comes with an Echo skill so you can ask Alexa to, for example, turn the hot water on for an extra two hours or turn a radiator off if you're not using a room.

Some people have had issues connecting the devices. You should be OK as long as the hub can connect to WiFi as the TRVs communicate between themselves so the most distant one can use other TRVs to relay commands.

If the hub loses its Wifi connection it continues to work and run your programmes. There's also a mechanism to reprogram devices using a directly connected phone or tablet (instead of connecting via the Internet) - but after a few years we've never had to use that.

Curtains and blinds

We use the device on the left to open and close our curtains. It's not just convenient:

  • Whether open or closed, they look much tidier than they do when moved manually.
  • We can open and close curtains remotely and to a schedule. When used together with an Echo routine to switch lights off and on we have a useful burglar deterrent when we're away.

We use curtains with grommets that fit onto rods. Amazon points out that's not a supported application. SwitchBot provides a kit to overcome issues with that type of equipment - but it's ugly. I treated this as a DIY project and was able to implement a reliable solution using low cost alternatives. That's the topic of my next home automation article.

This is Paul Hibbert. He makes a YouTube broadcast most week-ends on home automation. Even if you're not interested in what he's discussing, it's always good for a laugh.

When he's talking about something I know about, I mostly agree with his conclusions so I guess that's some kind of recommendation.

His channel is here. You can also see his "Starting a smart home in 2021" broadcast here.

Options for emailing members

This web site generates emails to members including:

  • Regular update emails
  • Notifications of new rides and updates
  • Notifications of new events
  • Notifications of new forum topics and replies

The site can send emails from third parties using:

  • Links from descriptions of rides where you are ride leader
  • The 'email' option provided by the member lookup service
  • Other links on the site

Also, members can send emails to other members.

You have several options for email addresses you use to send and receive email addresses. All have advantages and disadvantages. Click any of the options below to see more details.

That's the easiest option. It suffers two key disadvantages:

  1. Emails from the site have to be sent from addresses registered with Amazon. Unless you take steps (see next section) we have to use an alternative 'from' address - - for emails you send through the site. The body of the email explains that people cannot reply directly to your email (which is a pain) but they have to rekey your email address (provided in the body of the email) instead.
  2. Emails sent to you come from Amazon's servers. These have a high reputation but - even so - delivery is not guaranteed. If you have problems receiving our emails there are steps you can take. Another alternative is to create a Portsmouth CTC mailbox (see below) which ensures you get all emails.

We arrange for you to receive an email from Amazon with a link to confirm your registration. Once that's done we tell the web site it no longer has to use as your 'from' address. People receiving your emails can reply to your emails directly.

There's one big drawback: some ISPs instruct recipients of your emails to reject them if they didn't originate from their servers. That's arrogant, but there's nothing we can do about it. So far we know of just one ISP that does this: Yahoo mail which includes all BT Internet addresses.

We instruct the Portsmouth CTC web site to forward all emails it receives to to your normal email address. This has three key advantages:

  1. You can update your email address on the web site to Your emails sent through the server will show that as your 'from' address (not so they can reply to you directly.
  2. Your personal email address is not revealed to recipients.
  3. By using a address you make it clear you are a member of the club - which may give your emails more authority, useful when campaigning, for example. Note, however, some email services need a mailbox to be set up (see next section) before you can send from that email address.

The approach has a big drawback, however: forwarded emails are sent from the Portsmouth CTC server. We use a server shared with a large number of other web sites. That saves a lot of money but it means we are tarred with the same brush as other sites less well-behaved than ours. We use protocols that allow receiving sites to know where our emails come from, but they ignore that and treat every site using a given server the same. It's therefore possible your emails will end up in your spam folder or, in the worst case, dropped silently! The next section explains how to overcome this issue.

We set up an address Instead of forwarding emails we hold them in a mailbox protected by a password you supply.

You will then need to either:

  • Add details of the mailbox to your email system so it picks up emails like it does your other emails. Optionally you can also set up your email system so you decide which email address to use when sending emails.
  • Or use the webmail service to work with your emails.

This approach needs the most work to set up, but it:

  • Sends emails from the Amazon servers giving them the best chance to get through to recipients
  • Allows people to reply to your emails directly (they don't come from
  • Ensures you get all Portsmouth CTC emails

It's the method I use and it works well. We have a limited number of mailboxes available so we might have to prioritise club officials, campaigners and ride leaders.

Proposal for Wednesday rides

This note describes a specific proposal for Wednesday rides following discussion online and on Zoom. I need time to prepare for the possibility of larger rides on May 17th so please let me know of any issues or improvement suggestions by next Wednesday 28th April.

Andy Henderson

I propose that pop-up rides form the basis for Wednesday ride planning and execution. This note therefore starts with changes I propose to make to pop-up rides.

It then describes how the Wednesday rides will appear to riders, ride leaders, ride organisers and statisticians.

Finally, it raises specific proposals for points allocation once COVID restrictions are relaxed.

Click any of the following headings for more information.

I suggest we continue to allow ride leaders to generate their own rides using the pop-up system with the following changes:

  • Ride type – leaders will be able to select from the following ride types:
    • Easy rides
    • Evening pub rides
    • Faster Sunday morning rides
    • Saturday rides
    • Tandem rides
    • WCCC rides
    • Wednesday rides
    • Pop-up rides

    Note that we will no longer need Tuesday or Friday rides which will become pop-up rides.
    If someone adds a pop-up ride for a Wednesday, we’ll automatically convert it to a Wednesday ride. Other types of ride will remain unchanged even if they take place on Wednesdays so we can produce separate statistics for them.
    Arguably we could eliminate easy rides, but I think it importance that they have prominence as separate rides on the home page.

  • Destination – leaders will be able to search and select elevenses, lunch, tea and pub destinations from our database; they will also be able to request new destinations be added (I’d like that to remain a manual process to prevent duplicates and maintain some consistency).
  • Ride size – I suggest we allow selection of between 2 and 24 riders with an option of ‘No specific limit’ (although, May 17th will probably introduce a 'rule of 30' that we'll have to follow until restrictions are lifted altogether).
  • Ride date – Allow rides to be added up to the ride date and for, say, three days after the event (to allow for rides created ad hoc on Wednesdays); this gives scope for someone to maintain a clique by giving no-one else the opportunity to ride, but we can watch for that.
  • Route maps – exploiting the WordPress mechanism for uploading files that allows for drag and drop.

In any case, leaders will be able to go into the detailed ride edit page and make changes there.

When a ride leader adds a ride other than a Wednesday one, members will be sent an email depending on the interest they have registered through their profile. So, for example, someone who has registered an interest in easy rides would be notified of a new easy rides.

When a ride leader adds a Wednesday ride we will notify only those people who have registered for that day. That will encourage people to register in advance.

We will show a single entry on the home page to cover all rides for a given Wednesday. That entry will appear at least two weeks before the ride is due to take place.

Clicking that entry will show:

  • The name of the person organising the ride and how to contact them (without disclosing their email address).
  • An optional specific description. For example, the ride might be a president’s ride with everyone ending at the same place.
  • An invitation for riders to contact the ride organiser to ask questions and seek advice on which ride to join.
  • A list showing the title of rides already created for the day together with its classification, rider limits and count of people booked (or ‘wait list’); each ride will be clickable to show more detail as now.
  • A list of registered riders (names will appear only to people logged in to the site), the kind of ride(s) they are looking for and whether they are booked on a ride; ride leaders logged-in to the site will be able to see any comment provided with the registration.
  • A simple registration form:
    • Name (already completed if logged in to the site)
    • Email address (already completed if logged in, double-entry required, if not)
    • The categories of ride the person is interested in (A-E with descriptions of each)
    • The length of ride they are interested in: day ride, shorter ride or both
    • Any additional comment they might want to make
    • If not logged in, a reCaptcha box to deter spammers
      The form will make it clear that registration is not a booking, there’s no guarantee they can ride; and that there’s no commitment to ride. They will also be prompted to download a ride entry form if they are not Cycling UK members,
  • A general description of Wednesday rides and how they are organised.

Everyone registering will get an email thanking them for their registration, providing some information about what happens next, and asking them to check their email and/or the web site for details of rides. If the email bounces (because the rider gave us an incorrect email) we will delete their registration.

We will encourage PCTC members to log in to complete the registration form in order to:

  • Make ride organisation and ride booking easier
  • Ensure email addresses are not mis-typed

As now, PCTC members and non-members will ask to join a ride and the ride leader will either book them onto the ride, wait list them, or decline them if appropriate.

For all types of ride except Wednesday rides, the booking system will be unchanged.

For Wednesday rides, the booking system will be as now except:

  • They will be able to select from a list of riders registered for that date
  • As now, they will also be able to select from a list of:
    • PCTC members
    • Non-members that have been allocated points
    • None of the above (for a new rider)

People will therefore be allowed to book without registering.

Bookings will automatically update the status of registered riders to ‘booked’ on the main Wednesday ride page.

Ride leaders will be presented with new options on their ride page to:

  • Cancel their ride, which will remove it from the system
  • Postpone their ride to a different date and, optionally, update the ride description
  • Email everyone booked onto their ride that has provided an email address (with a notification of those that haven’t – i.e. non-members that have booked without registering).

A cancellation or postponement of a Wednesday ride will automatically update the main Wednesday ride page:

  • The ride will be removed from the page
  • On the Wednesday page, riders on the postponed ride will show as not booked
  • The ride type will be changed to ‘pop-up’ if the new date is not on a Wednesday

I anticipate there will be several ride organisers working on a rota. To make sure everything runs smoothly, I will organise the first few rides.

The ride organiser will:

  • Look for one or two rides to form the backbone of the rides on a given day; or nominate suggested destinations
  • Monitor registrations and encourage other ride leaders to fill gaps in demand
  • Suggest rides to registered riders that haven’t booked
  • Provide guidance to people unfamiliar with the system and/or ride leaders
  • Look for opportunities to split rides to accommodate more riders

They will be able to use the web site to email:

  • Selected ride leaders
  • Everyone registered for a given day
  • Everyone registered for a given day, but not booked
  • Individual registrants

The ride organiser will not have to attend any of the rides.

It will no longer be possible to publish comprehensive runs lists in the Pedal. It’s possible that we’ll publish them for some types of ride, but the majority will use the pop-up mechanism so rides will mostly be announced shortly before they are due to take place. Also, with multiple rides occurring on most Wednesdays, we will no longer have a single set of destinations for each day.

Unfortunately, the nature of pop-up rides means members will need internet access (or vicarious access through another member) to be aware of rides taking place.

Before COVID we relied on Alan Brooks, Gordon Sands and Dave Lambert to record main ride attendance in Excel spreadsheets. I maintained several Google sheets for the other types of ride – with some ride leaders recording their attendances directly.

Processing those statistics for year-end reporting was complex and error-prone (not helped by spreadsheet formula errors).

The change of Cycling UK year-end means even more complication since we must produce two sets of analyses: one for the points competitions; and one for my report to Cycling UK.

I therefore introduced a new statistics recording service with the intention of using it to replace the various spreadsheets and allow flexible reporting.

To start with, I used the system to record statistics for all the pop-up rides to test its useability. Since 29th March I have encouraged ride leaders to record statistics for their own rides and – after initial teething troubles – the system is working well.

I can now produce analyses of any/all ride types for any given period. I’ve also introduced a new ride leader analysis.

I propose to continue with this approach into the future. I will monitor rides and, if necessary, chase missing ride statistics.

The system of awarding points was determined some time ago and was based on all-day rides.

I suggest a simplified system (which we are already using for pop-up rides) as follows:

  • Ride to elevenses: 1 point
  • Ride from elevenses to lunch: 1 point
  • Pub ride: 1 point
  • Ride leaders get double points for the part(s) of the ride they lead
  • Riders who abandon get their point for the part of the ride they were on at the time

The main difference is more recognition for people who help a ride leader by leading some riders in a separate group; and recognition for those who set out on a ride but have to drop out (we all have bad days and mechanicals).

In practice, it’s not going to change the main contenders for the points competitions; but a simpler system will promote consistency between people allocating points.

Home automation article 1

This note provides additional information to the article published in the mid-2021 edition of the Pedal. It lists all the equipment I used to replace my Halogen lights with voice-controlled LED ones. Portsmouth CTC will earn a small commission (at no cost to you) if you purchase anything through one of the Amazon links even if you decide to buy something different.

I bought four packs. Three to replace my 12 halogen bulbs. I used one of the extra bulbs in a different room so I have 3 spares.

The bulbs work well and I'm happy with them. One bulb was delivered faulty but Amazon replaced it quickly.

I could have gone with multi-colour bulbs, but cool white to warm orange was enough for us.

I chose bulbs controlled by WiFi because I can operate them from anywhere, I have good WiFi coverage and they are relatively inexpensive.

I could have gone with Zigbee-controlled bulbs, which would have allowed me to operate them without an internet connection (there are fall-back options for WiFi) but Zigbee is about to be replaced and the WiFi bulbs can be operated (albeit with some hassle) without needing any third-party servers.

I bought a total of 12 of these, one for each bulb. UK fire regulations have changed since my halogen lights were fitted and these fire-retardant enclosures are now required for lights fitted into the ceiling.

The LED bulbs are a lot cooler than the halogen ones they replaced, but I figured I probably ought to fit them.

They are a bit fiddly. They have push-fit connectors which don't need a screwdriver, but getting two wires into each connector (in order to daisy chain the bulbs) took a bit of doing. I'd have much preferred a classical screw fitting.

The enclosures are (understandably) slightly wider than the previous non-enclosed fittings so I had to enlarge the holes in the ceiling (I used a Stanley knife) which - even though I used dust covers - caused some mess.

Not strictly necessary, but this fits over the existing light switch in case we (or a visitor) are tempted to switch the lights off at the wall rendering them unusable over WiFi.

The cover has a slot in it so the switch can still be operated with a credit card, or a piece of cardboard.

That's useful in case any of the bulbs lose their WiFi connection. Switching them off and on again reconnects them.

Also, if we were to lose our internet connection, switching the bulbs off and on again restores them to the colour/brightness setting they last had when they were on - so we still get some light while the connection is restored.

The Tuya Smart app in the Google (Android) Play store and the Apple (iOS) store.

I used the free Android app to set up the bulbs to start with. I already had other Tuya-controlled devices otherwise I'd have had to create a free Tuya account.

I used a single socket to connect each bulb to Tuya individually (turn each one off and on again a few times in succession until they start blinking, then follow the instructions in the Tuya app). That way I could give each bulb a useful name and fit it to the right place in the ceiling.

I can use the app to create 'scenes' (collective settings for all or a subset of the bulbs) and control them from my phone or tablet. But we mostly use our Amazon Echo...

We have a few Echo devices around the house, including one in the living room.

To gain control of the lights, I just installed the Tuya skill, connected it to our Tuya account and all the bulbs and scenes I set up in the Tuya app can be controlled by voice.

I can say "Alexa, turn bulb 1 on", "Alexa, bulb 2 50 percent", etc.

Using the Amazon app to add all the bulbs to a collection, I can say "Alexa, turn lights off", "Alexa lights soft", etc.

Using the Amazon app to create routines, I can use shortened phrases like "Alexa, night setting", "Alexa, cinema setting", "Alexa spotlight Sofa" (turns on the lights above the sofa to maximum brightness), etc.

There are many variations of Echo device, but they can all use the Tuya skill. In fact just about all home automation software implements an Echo skill before considering other types of device. Some Echo devices include a Zigbee hub which is worth having if you're considering further automation.

I could have gone for a Google Home or Apple HomePod instead, but they are both more restrictive devices.

This is Paul Hibbert. He makes a YouTube broadcast most week-ends on home automation. Even if you're not interested in what he's discussing, it's always good for a laugh.

When he's talking about something I know about, I mostly agree with his conclusions so I guess that's some kind of recommendation.

His channel is here. You can also see his "Starting a smart home in 2021" broadcast here.

Film night selections

Select any name to show details of that person's favourite film and an accompanying trailer or clip. Note that clicking a new name doesn’t stop a previous video from running - it just hides it. So let videos run all the way through, or use pause before showing the next one.

No name selected

Robert Sebley
Keith Wileman
Andy Henderson
Nigel Melton
Mike Lynch
Joy and Wilf Forrow
Ian Hewitt
Phil Beed
Keith Wileman (2)
Joy and Wilf Forrow (2)

Photo competition 2021

And the winners are:

Wait for it...

You have three main ways to view the entries. Start by clicking one of the buttons below. After a while, the presentation will appear in a new tab (so you can come back here easily if you want). You can review all the entries starting from the first set, or you can use the links in the presentation to review sets individually.

Click the Google link below. The presentation will appear within your browser window.

Note that when moving to a new image there might be a delay while the next slide is retrieved. Please be patient - if you click, tap or press a second time you will end up skipping a slide.

Most PC browsers will display the presentation full screen if you press F11. Alternatively you might find a full screen option in your browser's settings. You can review the entries in a browser window, but they will be slightly lower quality so you might be better trying one of the 'Microsoft' methods if you can't find a full screen option.

To go from image to image:

  • With a PC, click the image; or
  • With a phone or tablet, tap the right hand side of the image; or
  • Use the right arrow key.

To return to a previous image:

  • With a PC, move your cursor to the bottom left of the image to see a small window that includes an icon that you can click to go to the previous image; or
  • With a phone or tablet, tap the right hand side of the image; or
  • Use the left arrow key.

To go to a specific set:

  • If you are not showing the set list, skip through images until you see a "Click to go back to set list" link. Click/tap it to show the set list
  • Click any set listed to go directly to it

Click the Microsoft link below. When the presentation appears, click the "Start Slideshow" link, to present the entries full screen. Note that you will get the option to create a free Microsoft Account if you do not already have one.

Note that you might see a long delay while reviewing entries. It seems that - at some point - PowerPoint decides that it needs to download the entire file (46Mb). If this happens to you, please be patient and click/tap OK if you see a 'not responding' message.

You might see a black bar at the top of the page that means you can't see all of each image. Right click the screen (or tap and hold) to see a small menu appear. Click/tap away from the menu and the bar will disappear.

To go from image to image:

  • Click the image; or
  • Tap the image; or
  • Use the right arrow key.

To return to a previous image:

  • Right click the image or tap and hold to see a menu appear; click/tap 'Previous'; or
  • Use the left arrow key.

To go to a specific set:

  • If you are not showing the set list, skip through images until you see a "Click to go back to set list" link. Click/tap it to show the set list
  • Click any set listed to go directly to it

Click the Microsoft link below. When the presentation appears, click "Download" to save a copy of the PowerPoint file so you can open it on your device.

The notes in the previous section apply when showing the presentation locally.

If you have any problems, let me know, I might be able to help.

See the entries via Google

See the entries with a Microsoft Account