Things I built and kept myself busy during 2020 lockdown

Living room friendly server rack

This is just a cheap flatpack book case. The back wood plywood piece is missing, done deliberately. I need to eventually make a piece of metal to reinforce the thing vertically.

This has my two HP Proliant Microserver G8 cube-shaped server computers. Top one has i3 processor, 16Gb of RAM, with Server 2019 and Hyper-V, and 6.5Tb (500, 3Tb and 3Tb) disk space. I use it as a file server and have virtual machines with it. I can stream video to my Samsung smart TV.

The bottom one is similar with 8Gb of RAM, 2Tb of disk space (4x 500gb) and Server 2019, and runs Microsoft SQL server 2019 on it. I use this to learn database work. The days of oversized huge tin box tower computers are gone. These are small, neat and expandable. A few years ago, a basic model one of these was about £150 new, you have to supply your hard drives. In the past I ran VMware ESXi 7.5 which runs great. Now HP’s current iteration of the G10 plus Microserver is more like £500 sadly.

There is a small HP Laserjet printer up the top, its just black and white and costs <1p per page to run, there is an 8 port switch and a TP-Link AC 300 class wireless router.

This provides an extra wireless connection which the BT/Virgin routers may not cover a whole house. A network connection comes in through a Powerline adapter from the ground floor. The network switch, (thing with the blinky lights) provides 8 network cables to be connected, to run all the servers and printer.

My laptop computers connect to these using RDP, therefore they don’t need a keyboard, mouse or screen.

1952 wireless radio

This radio I bought from ebay, had been relisted at least 4 times as no one wanted it. It was collect only so I had to drive to the other side of London to get it. I then removed most of the innards (it was broken) and fitted inside some Altec Lansing speakers which are held in with screws and cable ties. The power switch and volume potentiometers were rerouted to the front the unit. the front fascia was scratched and had the wooden veneer broken, so this was removed off and painted. I added the four large black knobs. The the two left ones are power switch and volume, the two right ones are purely a façade and are not connected. The channel meter thing had the needle broken, but it does light up with a white LED, as I soldered this onto where a green LED was on the computer speakers. This requires two generic USB phone adapters to operate.

This reborn 1952 radio uses a Google Chromecast audio for me to listen to music and podcasts while I’m working from home. There is a non functioning record deck under lid. I’ve put a 7″ record on it, but all the circuitry to run the turntable has removed so its just for decoration now. Sadly Google have discontinued CCA which means they can only be bought used on eBay for higher than the were new.

Table top retro arcade game system

I bought this iCade games dock in 2014 and then abandoned it, only to finish it off this year. Its a small arcade game system specifically to be used with an iPad which would sit where you would expect the screen to be. Most people who bought these grew tired of it, as the bluetooth connection for the joystick and buttons was laggy making the game experience below par.

Instead, I dismantled an old Acer Aspire One netbook (actually three as I accidently fried the motherboard on one, and they were all a bit broken to start with) The screen of the laptop was detached, and I binned the keyboard, battery, palm rest, web cam, hinges and other pieces. This means the screen and base have about 30-40cm of cable in between. The 10.1″ screen is neatly fastened to the front and the laptop chassis sits behind with a 64Gb SSD drive and 2gb of RAM it runs Windows 7 Starter, AdvanceMAME arcade emulator and AttractMode front-end system. Joysticks and now wired via USB. I have most of Atari’s back catalogue of games, and although the PC has a weedy Intel Atom 1.6Ghz processor games older than 1994 all work very nicely on it.

The speaker ‘shelf’ section, was made from some pieces of balsa wood (crate of cherries from fruit and veg market) with some USB speakers dismantled and fastened on with some bolts. Front is covered with grey fabric (from a free t-shirt I got from an IT convention)

It needs finishing off aesthetically still, but its great fun to play. I need to fabricate a plastic sign of the top above the speakers. There is a LED light to illuminate this. I wanted to show this to my nieces are Christmas the games Daddy and Uncle Jonny played, but not this season sadly.

Home built table lamp

I like old lamps especially Middle east, Chinese or Victorian. Mainly as I found an amazing shop in Morocco with dozens of exotic ones, these were too large and fragile to take home, so I later bought a smaller one when I went to Turkey.

I also wanted to experiment with these modern replicas of these beautiful Edison bulbs I’ve seen recently and I used this wooden jewellery box I bought from the popular UK retailer “The Works” this was covered with oak coloured varnish, a suitable socket and electrical cord with gold coloured fabric was sourced from eBay.

Spending the whole time dwelling on the news, Brexit, US election, vaccines and conspiracy theories gets tiresome so instead I find making and repairing things satisfying. I particularly like mixing up old an new technology together.

I’ve got some more ideas for 2021, with another creation on the go already.

Leaving the EU with a fishing agreement Deja vu

I don’t talk about Brexit on my blog very often. Really my jaunts around small Euro countries were to show these nations cope very well without EU and are pleasant places to live with no crime or unemployment. I think the UK will do the same, the real battle is the fight with Covd.

I remember a few articles that the huge but tiny population nation of Greenland voted to leave the EEC in 1982, and actually left in 1985. Greenland has just 50,000 people, it has its own government but also partly ruled by Denmark which is still in the EU.

I did some research and decided to see if the links on Wikipedia had any meaningful information. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenland%E2%80%93European_Union_relations#cite_note-17

The link on the now deleted EU site doesn’t give what terms needed to be kept when Greenland left, but here is a resurrected deleted article from Greenland’s government site

https://web.archive.org/web/20140416110747/http://eu.nanoq.gl/Emner/EuGl/The%20Greenland%20Treaty.aspx – be patient this loads slowly – or, read this screenshot:-

The deal was over fishing just like Britain today. Some things never change. Greenland’s economy didn’t suffer after leaving, they actually did quite fine.

Modena, Italy – 2. Modena’s main town

Castel Bolognese? A meaty spaghetti kind of place? Actually, this was the journey I made from San Marino/Rimini to Bologna and then onto Modena. I thought it was just Germany that had food themed cities, like Frankfurt(er) and Hamburg(er). But it makes sense that Bologna is the place famous for a Spaghetti dish. Italy, without any question is the food capital of the world bar none.

I really didn’t know much about the town at all Modena. I spoke to my friend on the phone who lives in the north part of Italy, and chose this place as it was halfway in between where we both staying. This was a massive gamble, as we didn’t know how things were for Covid restrictions, when in October we were thought we were at the end of this pandemic. Only whilst looking on my phone on this train did I know this was the Ferrari city.

Daniel showed me around this place with its charming old church and this really superb delicatessen place. He’s a bit shy and doesn’t want to get seen on the internet.

He told me that many Italians are leaving for UK, Germany or Holland. Setting up a small business is frustrating when many are paying 60% tax, thus Italians would like to set up Italian style eateries in other countries without bureaucracy and massive tax. With all the uncertainity about Brexit, its interesting people have forgotten that many EU states have their own massive problems not spoken about much. By the way, Daniel was my housemate in London, and we became really great friends living together for about 6 months, he actually prefers living in London, where as decided to escape London in November 2020 when I got tired of needing to find another place to rent when my tenancy finished.

1. National home of Ferrari2. Modena’s main town – 3. soon

Modena, Italy – 1. National home of Ferrari

Next to this car park is a plastic tent which looks like a jelly mould, that houses a few dozen extremely special motorcars.

Modena in Italy is the original home of the legendary world famous Ferrari and Enzo Ferrari the original founder. Here you can visit this hanger of a special selection of these cars old and new.

Ferraris look beautiful in the quintessential red. This 60s car in China blue I think is my favourite though.

There is a replica of Enzo’s actual office here also.

This smaller external building houses mostly F1 cars and cars used in motorsport

1. National home of Ferrari2. Modena’s main town – 3. soon

San Marino 16. What I didn’t see & finishing up

There are a few museums in San Marino. One was a Torture museum, and one was a general museum for San Marino history, the first one didn’t appeal to me, and the other wasn’t open when I was there.

The other thing is the San Marino race track.

The San Marino Grand Prix where Ayrton Senna and Roland Rantzenburger both died in separate crashes only a week apart is actually 100km away from San Marino the country, in Imola, Italy.

After seeing the castles and the view from the top, I took a bus back down the hill and headed back to Rimini, Italy and got the train to meet my Italian friend in Modena, more on this later.

Overall, I’m really glad after much research and figuring out entry points (and one aborted attempt, the first time I tried to get to Andorra) I got to see the tiny obscure bits of Europe I wanted. I also got to visit my good friend Ian who lives in Munich before I took the bus to Friedrichshafen in southern Germany, get a boat to Switzerland and take the train to Liechtenstein.

San Marino might not be the last of the tiny countries for good, but it is for the time being. With all the concern with Brexit and relations between UK and the continent, I have got to see vibrant, small different nations that are healthy economically.

The end. Actually see my next trip to Italy, where I accidently found the Ferrari HQ (soon)

1. Planning visit to my final tiny country – 2. Flying to Italy for the price of two pizzas – 3. Getting there from Bologna via Rimini – 4. City of Rimini – 5. Walking from Rimini to San Marino – 6. What sort of mini country is this – 7. Serraville, San Marino’s northern town – 8. San Marino’s only youth hotel – 9. Castles in the sky – 10. Safe up the top – 11. The tall centre of community of San Marino – 12. novelty shops, post office and passport stamps – 13. The government buildings and plaza – 14. Automobiles – 15. The three towers – 16. What I didn’t see & finishing up

Related:  Other tiny countries I have seen:-Andorra, Gibraltar, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, MonacoSan Marino

San Marino 15. The three towers

The Guaita is the oldest of the three towers, and the most famous. It was constructed in the 11th century and served briefly as a prison. It was rebuilt numerous times and reached its current form in the 15th century during the war fought between San Marino and the House of Malatesta.

The Cesta is located on the highest of Monte Titano’s summits. A museum to honour Saint Marinus, created in 1956, is located in this tower and showcases over 1,550 weapons dating from the Medieval Era to the modern day. It was constructed in the 13th century on the remains of an older Roman fort.

The Montale is located on the smallest of Monte Titano’s summits. Unlike the other towers, this one is not open to the public. It was constructed in the 14th century. It is thought to have been constructed to give protection against the increasing power of the Malatesta family in that region. It was also used as a prison, and accordingly, the only entrance to the tower is a door about 7m from ground level, which was common for prison architecture of the time.

This little extra outpost appears to have had the walkway put in to make a unique eatery with its own garden.

Restaurants here are actually very reasonable prices, well at least now, as there is a very scant number of visitors. The view is pretty out of the world too!

1. Planning visit to my final tiny country – 2. Flying to Italy for the price of two pizzas – 3. Getting there from Bologna via Rimini – 4. City of Rimini – 5. Walking from Rimini to San Marino – 6. What sort of mini country is this – 7. Serraville, San Marino’s northern town – 8. San Marino’s only youth hotel – 9. Castles in the sky – 10. Safe up the top – 11. The tall centre of community of San Marino – 12. novelty shops, post office and passport stamps – 13. The government buildings and plaza – 14. Automobiles – 15. The three towers – 16. What I didn’t see & finishing up

San Marino 14. Automobiles

This isn’t really a car obsessed country like Monaco, but there are a few cool interesting cars.

Like a lot of garages in the UK, the workers have some project cars, and these were round the side…. The 1920s looking one has US plates, and the car behind I think is a Lancia from the 1960s. Top is a cool 90s Ford Escort Cosworth, the rest of the vehicles are having body repair.

There is also a McDonalds above the garage, which has closed down! Where as McDonalds seems to be the only restaurant that can withstand tough trading conditions in hospitality, here it seems there maybe no love for MaccyDs. I found a pretty good Italian pizza place for my dinner on my first evening staying at SM.

Not all the cars are exotic or vintage, further down the hill was a dealer specialising in microcars, these are tiny cars with a 2 stroke engine, which if the regulations might be the same as the UK, they can be driven with a motorcycle licence. I think I saw some of these in France years ago, but now these look crude and plasticy and worse when you consider electric car technology has matured, they shouldn’t be using lawnmower engines in small cars now.

Outside of the city centre, houses here are luxurious enough to have a driveway or even gates to put your vehicle in. Some have a ‘Batcave’ style underground car park underneath the apartment blocks.

This early model Fiat 500 with RSM plates might be the coolest car in San M.. no wait, actually there is in someone’s front garden in nearby Rimini, Italy.

1. Planning visit to my final tiny country – 2. Flying to Italy for the price of two pizzas – 3. Getting there from Bologna via Rimini – 4. City of Rimini – 5. Walking from Rimini to San Marino – 6. What sort of mini country is this – 7. Serraville, San Marino’s northern town – 8. San Marino’s only youth hotel – 9. Castles in the sky – 10. Safe up the top – 11. The tall centre of community of San Marino – 12. novelty shops, post office and passport stamps – 13. The government buildings and plaza – 14. Automobiles – 15. The three towers – 16. What I didn’t see & finishing up

San Marino 13. The government buildings and plaza

Here’s San Marino’s government offices, known as Palazzo Pubblico della Repubblica di San Marino

Here is the back, plus the office cars

This iconic building features on stamps, and a lot of the brochures shows this place.

There isn’t a king or a president or prime minister. Instead, a local council votes on two leaders known as a “Captains Regent”, both will serve for 6 months. This happens on April and October of each year.

This is one of the oldest democracies in the world. Back to AD301 in fact.

This country has a football team that always loses, and is sometimes takes part on Eurovision.

There is also a really superb view of the south west side of the county from up here.

1. Planning visit to my final tiny country – 2. Flying to Italy for the price of two pizzas – 3. Getting there from Bologna via Rimini – 4. City of Rimini – 5. Walking from Rimini to San Marino – 6. What sort of mini country is this – 7. Serraville, San Marino’s northern town – 8. San Marino’s only youth hotel – 9. Castles in the sky – 10. Safe up the top – 11. The tall centre of community of San Marino – 12. novelty shops, post office and passport stamps – 13. The government buildings and plaza – 14. Automobiles – 15. The three towers – 16. What I didn’t see & finishing up

San Marino 12. novelty shops, post office and passport stamps

There are quite a few gun shops here, with swords, knives and other weapons.

A shop that sells nothing but rubber duckies

Model car shop. Its worth mentioning, that a lot of these shops are open only part time, as we are still in the pandemic. This toy shop has a sign up saying they shut at lunchtime.

The office to get your passport stamped is on this street I believe, but I didn’t find the actual place then. For 5 Euros you can get your passport stamped with an official San Marino entry stamp, meaningless but kind of cool.

I did manage to get postcards with the stamps pre-attached with government buildings and the Pope on. This is on my next chapter. There doesn’t seem to be a stamp museum, or at least not like the one in Liechtenstein.

Also, I noticed from Google’s streetview above, there are some classic cars on some kind of event. I think these tiny streets would be heaps of fun to drive around.

1. Planning visit to my final tiny country – 2. Flying to Italy for the price of two pizzas – 3. Getting there from Bologna via Rimini – 4. City of Rimini – 5. Walking from Rimini to San Marino – 6. What sort of mini country is this – 7. Serraville, San Marino’s northern town – 8. San Marino’s only youth hotel – 9. Castles in the sky – 10. Safe up the top – 11. The tall centre of community of San Marino – 12. novelty shops, post office and passport stamps – 13. The government buildings and plaza – 14. Automobiles – 15. The three towers – 16. What I didn’t see & finishing up

San Marino 11. The tall centre of community of San Marino

So I’ve got to centre of this little nation. There is a few similarities to the other small countries I’ve been. Like Malta, this is a Catholic county, but also these posters are interesting, not just for events, some of these contain obituaries put up my families whose loved ones have passed. I’ve notice all of these are 90 or close to, and one over 100. there are also anniversaries of deaths of previous years. Nice these people have a long life and close knit way of updating the community.

This is a special sort of entrance, with some smart dressed (not visible here) policemen or security or soldiers, I’m not sure which.

San Marino’s tourist shops, cafes, bars and convenience stores for locals are all set on this steep roads that run parallel around the top part of the city centre.

An overhead view shows a better angle of this place.

1. Planning visit to my final tiny country – 2. Flying to Italy for the price of two pizzas – 3. Getting there from Bologna via Rimini – 4. City of Rimini – 5. Walking from Rimini to San Marino – 6. What sort of mini country is this – 7. Serraville, San Marino’s northern town – 8. San Marino’s only youth hotel – 9. Castles in the sky – 10. Safe up the top – 11. The tall centre of community of San Marino – 12. novelty shops, post office and passport stamps – 13. The government buildings and plaza – 14. Automobiles – 15. The three towers – 16. What I didn’t see & finishing up