Petrol Theft?

Yes, petrol is now expensive enough, that it’s worth the risk to steal it from someone else.

On friday night, some bastard cut the fuel lines of all 4 cars parked outside our house. We are probably the only people on our street who don’t park behind an electric gate, because our driveway only has space for my parents cars on the property. My car lives on the council-owned part of our driveway.

I found out because my sister (who’d been visiting to use our Internet connection) broke down on the way home. With her car, this is perfectly normal, and to be expected. I went out to tow her home (she was only about a 500m away). I couldn’t find the tow hook on my car (my Golf has removable tow hooks, and somebody once broke into my car and stole the jack-set containing the removable hook), but I did notice that my car was trailing a line of petrol… odd… I went back to borrow my father’s car (with a tow-bar), and towed her home with that.

She was going to borrow my mother’s car (she usually does that when my mother is away, and her car breaks down), but noticed that there was a pool of petrol under it, too. Very odd…

At this point, I put 2 and 2 together, and found that all of the cars had cut lines. In the case of my father’s car, they hadn’t got a fuel line, but had god a brake sensor line instead. (Apparently VWs all have the fuel lines on the outside for safety, so they are the easy targets). On my car, they had only cut the fuel return line, so it could still drive, but would trail petrol.

The police were quick to come, but not very helpful: they said they’d never seen anything like it. They were thinking vandalism or neighbour issues. The questions were “Do you have a dog?” “Do you get on with your neighbours?” etc. You can tell what the normal problems in our area are :-)

The AA refused to come and help or tow the cars to my mechanic, saying the damage was an “insurable risk”. I thought most car problems were “insurable risks” and the reason one has AA membership is to sort things out afterwards? This refusal by them is unacceptable, what if it had happened when I was parked somewhere else? Would I have to get my car home by myself?

Fortunately my grandmother’s car was in storage in her garage, and I could rescue it. My sister stole her mother’s car, too. But I’ve now got a whole lot of paperwork to sort out, and 4 dead cars to get repaired… As I said, “Bastards!”

Photos here


  • None of the cars have empty tanks, so if they were trying to steal petrol, they didn’t succeed.
  • The damage came to R500 for the VWs, which isn’t bad at all. (Replacing the lines would be a mission, my mechanic repaired them). Excluding many hours of towing, phone calls, e-mail, and SMSs, though.

LRL2007 Roundup

Lugradio live is now finished and done. It was well worth attending - I really enjoyed it. Wolverhampton is a shit hole of note, but the conference itself was good.

Notable talks I saw were:

  • Malcolm Yates from Canonical: numerous talk on anything that he considered relevant :-)
  • Alan Cox on how to help in Open Source, and persuading hardware vendors to part with their documentation.
  • Matthew Garrett on Power Management
  • Scott James Remnant on 10 really cool things (quite a few of which didn’t work) :-)
  • Michael Sparks from the BBC on Kamelia - a concurrent programming framework
  • Becky Hogge from the Open Rights Group
  • Gervase Markhams brilliant talk - How to Win every argument. He went through various fallacies, and how to use them to your advantage.
  • Joe Born from Neuros

Talks that I missed, but want to catch up when they post the videos (any guesses why I’m blogging this :-)

  • Flumotion
  • IAAL (I am a lawyer)
  • Telepathy
  • Gong a Thong
  • Chris diBona
  • ELER

I walked off with a free Nokia N800, as I’d come from so far away. A man who flew in from Singapore also won one. I have a suspicion that the Californians should have got it instead of me, but the WiFi was down so nobody could google distances :-)

On that topic, I really think that all geeky events like this should have pervasive WiFi coverage. Some of us are a long way away from home, and would like to be able to read our mail in-between talks. Also, it makes the GPG key signing party easier. I didn’t pre-register for the signing, so only a couple of people signed my key, but I did get 2 CAcert assurances. I’ll try and get some more points while I’m in a part of the world, where you can actually find assurers.

The N800 is very cool. It’s ARM based, runs Linux (Maemo), and has decent WiFi / bluetooth abilities. If you want to quickly check your mail, watch youtube (yes it has flash) or do some basic IRC chatting in free wifi zone (i.e. a hotel reception area), then it rocks. The handwriting recognition isn’t great, and it’s quite different to what I’m used to on my P910. So I mostly use the on-screen keyboards (there is quite a good thumb-sized-keyboard option).

It uses Telepathy for Jabber IM, and has a few VoIP options: Gizmo, Skype, Google Talk. But the best part is that because it’s an open platform, you can run most Linux software on it. I’ve installed Xchat, Mplayer, and an Xterm, so far… Because my amd64 laptop can’t run Skype / flash, this is a really handy device to have around.

My train back was re-routed, and in total, it took 5hrs to get home :-( (fortunately I had a movie to watch on the n800)

LRL 2007

For those who don’t know, I’m in the UK, catching up on some sun and geeky events. The sun hasn’t got going yet (I still have my South African cold), but I’m in Wolverhampton for LugRadio Live 2007.

Getting to Wolverhampton was a pain in the arse:

  • My credit card got replaced last week, but the new one has a PIN number that I don’t know :-)
  • I missed my train because of the above, and had to wait until after rush hour.
  • Then ended up catching a train to Manchester by mistake (I’m a geek, I only read signs once, and expect to be going the right way)
  • So an extra hour’s detour later, I was in Wolverhampton, but my taxi got stoned by teenagers hanging outside the Kebab joint.

Anyway, now I’m sitting outside the cafe at LRL, and occasionaly posting photographs

The poor cafe’s internet connection is screwed - the DNS totally broken, OpenDNS is the answer: Mr Butler from Ubuntu UK plied me with Biltong and free “Powered By Ubuntu” stickers. Wohoo!

Chip and Pin Woes

I have the pleasure of having a UK money in a bank account and credit card. This is great, because UK cards are the only ones that don’t charge exorbitant currency-conversion charges when you use them overseas. I live in Cape Town, so I’m almost always using it overseas.

Chip and Pin, never used to be supported on South African credit card equipment, but these days, it’s mandatory in UK, and supported on almost all credit card machines. Back when it wasn’t supported people just used to swipe the card. Now, they actually try and read the chip. The procedure is something like this:

  • Ready”
  • Insert card”
  • Swipe card”
  • Insert card”
  • etc.

At some point, they give up, and ask for another card. The good ones can go between swiping and poking in a fraction of a second, in the belief that the faster they do it, the more likely it is to work. The only real solution seems to be to get the supervisor card out, and override Chip mode….

I thought that was all, until yesterday, when I got an even more interesting error message: “The PAN length does not comply with the min/max length in the BIN file”. Does anyone know WTF that means??? :-)

4 days on the Orange River

I’ve just got back from a week away, rafting down the Orange river. (Yes it was term time at UCT, I bunked classes :-) )

We went with Gravity, on the recommendation of my sister, who is an ex-guide. If you want to not be going with strangers, you need numbers, so we got a group of friends together, and my brother came down from London especially for it.

It isn’t the cheapest way to spend a week (1200kms of petrol and ZAR 2k for the trip), but it was well worth it. Gravity specialise in the Orange river Gorge, and don’t have a permanent base on the Richtersveld section of the river, which we requested to do. But they hired a local camp site, and brought the equipment down for us. Our guide, Ant, was very experienced, a good river-cook, and generally good fun. He even persuaded a friend of his, who was about to go home on leave, to come down with us, as a hard-working assistant, “on holiday”. The food they produced for us was, while made from simple ingredients, phenomenal. There was always too much, and we had a cooler-box per day for us to bring our own cold beer (and other drinks). The ice just lasted to keep everything cold for 4 days.

The scenery in the Richtersveld is spectacular. The river is a strip of incredibly fertile land, down the middle of a barren desert. You are surrounded by a mountain range of loose, rocky mountains, brimming with Quartz seams. While it feels like the middle of nowhere, there are goats, fisherman, and mining activity around, which is a pity — when I’ve been there in the past, it was far more barren. Fortunately, there was no (South African) cell phone reception, and my laptop stayed at home. :-)

I took quite a few photographs (in-between rapids, when my camera had to be packed away in a waterproof container). I didn’t expect it’s battery to last for the whole trip, but it did, which was great as I don’t have a spare :-). Taking panoramas seems to be all the rage these days, so I took quite a few, but I haven’t managed to stitch them together yet…

The river is of course the border between South Africa and Namibia, so on our way, we had to go through the border, get stamped into Namibia, then come back (without getting stamped), and go to our base camp on the South African side (while officially being in Nambia). Then, at the end of the trip, we got picked up from the Namibian side and driven back through the border (getting stamped this time). Fortunately, once you get away from the border post and onto the river, no one cares about borders any more :-)

The day is phenomenally hot (even in this calm time of the year), and so you constantly jump into the water for a swim. Or find someone who you can splash, so that you can start a water fight, and end up soaked :-)

There was quite a bit of paddling to do every day (as the water was low), but it was quite relaxing, and not very stressful. We even had a tail wind one day, and could put up kekoi sails. All in all, we covered 75km in 4 days.

The nights weren’t too cold (thank god, because I forgot my sleeping bag, and had to borrow a rather thin one from the Felix Unite camp), but clear and dew & mosquito-free. It was new moon, and the stars every night were spectacularly bright and plentiful — I wish I’d taken a star-map with me.

All in all, I highly recommend that everyone do this trip. Gravity are great, and our guide, Ant, is worth requesting :-)

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