All posts by m3z

Renovating VideoLogic Sirocco Stereo Speaker System, Part II

Previously I started working on renovating an old speaker system that I have. See the article here: Renovating VideoLogic Sirocco Stereo Speaker System.

I left the project at the point where I was attempting to find replacement potentiometers for the controls of the amplifier. I tried suppliers like mouser and element14 and other similar ones looking for pots but found nothing that fitted as I wanted. It seems that digital controls are causing older analogue controls to become obsolete. I have also looked on eBay, and while I can find potentiometers of the right value, I have been unable to find ones with the same shaft length and type and I can’t be sure of the quality.

Therefore I have reconsidered my plan to replace to the potentiometers. Instead, I have determined that the “Sub” and “Attitude” potentiometers are in good enough condition to reuse. The volume potentiometer is not in good condition and the wiper makes intermittent contact which is a problem. Therefore I have determined the resistances across the pins of the potentiometer when it was near maximum and will use resistors to permanently set the volume. I don’t mind doing this for three reasons:
The first is that I use a separate DAC with a volume dial (ASUS Xonar Essence One) to connect my computer to my speakers so I will be able to have control over the volume that way.
The second is that the quality of the amplifier is enough that you don’t get that annoying static hiss as you often get with computer speakers which are turned up to the maximum.
And finally, I will be putting the amplifier out of sight so a hole in the front panel where the volume pot used to be won’t be too terrible.

I have used two 20k Ohm and two 50 Ohm resistors to join up the contacts in a way that was the same as if the wiper of the potentiometer was turned up to the maximum. I’ve also resoldered the other two potentiometers back in their places, soldered bridging wires onto the headphone socket (because that was causing intermittent contact issues and adding noise to the output) and replaced the blue led with a yellow one (personal preference).

With those small jobs done, I cleaned everything up and reassembled the amplifier enclosure. I attached all the cables and powered it up and it worked a treat. Turning either of the two remaining potentiometers does not produce any crackling sound through the speakers. Both channels are again working and producing even sound. In review the speakers I replaced are, I think, producing a slightly higher frequency than the original Audax ones. Previously I would have the attitude set somewhere between half way and maximum, but now I have it set much nearer to the minimum value which to my ear is now producing a more natural sounding audio. I will soon install the speakers in a more permanent location and be using them daily.

While I decided to make some compromises with my original intentions, I regard this project as complete. This is the first project I have completed in recent years (see this for why: Depression, Weight, Finance, Responsibility, Recovery) and completing a personal project is a goal that I have set myself. I’ll be writing more about setting goals and other things soon.

Depression, Weight, Finance, Responsibility, Recovery

I am aware that this article may be somewhat disjointed and disorganized. I’ll confess I have never written anything remotely like this before and it is a very emotionally charged subject for me, so I haven’t spent a lot of time editing and re-reading each part. I do hope you understand what I’m trying to say. Perhaps I will rewrite this someday if my writing skills improve. Anyway, on to the article:


For the past (at least) 5 years I have been living from day to day, month to month without really planning ahead. It was a case of just “surviving” through my situation and actively not thinking about anything but the very near future. I have heard several people make a distinction between existing and living and I would have to say I was definitely only doing the first.

The reason for this is complicated (things like this always are). It is because I was feeling and experiencing several things which combined and reinforced each other. I was overweight (at my heaviest I was 28st 8lb) and I couldn’t walk particularly far or stand without feeling severe back pain. I was continually exhausted without the energy needed to do more than a couple of light activities in the house each day. I was lazy. I was in debt which was getting worse and worse. I was highly stressed and I was depressed. Each of these things would make the others worse, for example, the more overweight I got the lazier I was and the more exhausted I felt and the more depressed I became.

I have, in recent months, and with a lot of help, managed to reverse this situation. I am by no stretch of imagination particularly far into this journey of reversal but I am making progress. I have my setbacks but the overall trend of the last few months has been positive. I am writing this now partially as an aide-mémoire for myself, partially as an encouragement for myself to see how far I’ve come already and also as an example for other people who may be in similar situations. I don’t expect or want pity from anyone as I got into this situation myself and hold the sole blame for it.

Since my teenage years, I have always been quite overweight, probably because I wasn’t very active and ate too much food. Whatever the reasons my weight grew slowly during university and my first job. It was at my first job that I developed an addiction to Coca-Cola which of course only made matters worse. The company I worked for was a web design and hosting provider. Eventually, thinking I could do a better job of running the company and with my boss talking about retirement I took on the clients of the company I worked for under my own company name and this is where the rest of the problems began. At first, I was too shy, insecure and fearful to call the clients and chase them for money. I would email and send letters which would be ignored or lost or just get a response of “yes, we’ll get that to you” but I would never get it and so I wasn’t getting paid for most of the services I was providing. I sent letters threatening to cut off the service for some of the customers who hadn’t paid and again these were ignored or never received. Because I was too afraid of confrontation and just talking to my clients however I just kept issuing these letters but rarely did I actually cut off a service. The problem was exacerbated by poor record keeping both before and after I took over the clients which lead to me never being completely confident that I had sent the letters to the correct address or that the customer hadn’t somehow paid. Not wanting to incorrectly turn off a customer’s service gave me another excuse that I used on myself to ignore the problem.

However, because I wasn’t being paid by most customers and I was still providing a service my costs were adding up and I had to borrow money to keep the service operating. My fear of communication lead to me losing existing customers who wanted new work doing just because I wouldn’t answer the phone or talk with them. So, the business was not doing well and was going into debt. I then made a poor decision to help the company from my own money so using personal cards and the like I kept the business running. Then the debts started to build up and I became scared of opening my mail unless I was sure what was in the envelope. This caused me to miss a few payments from customers who sent cheques as well as to miss other vital paperwork. Eventually, I missed paperwork for tax returns and company accounts and was fined for late delivery of the documents. During this time, I started to get very depressed because of my debt, my weight and my feelings of inability to make myself do what I knew I should (e.g. I spent many hours just staring at my unopened mail willing myself to open it, but I never did manage to do so). Of course, these behaviours that I felt I couldn’t control kept making the underlying causes worse. Throughout this, I still thought that if I could just get myself to start opening the mail and to call the customers I would be able to recover the situation and everything would be OK. I didn’t want to go to anyone for help because at the time my parents were going through their own financial issues and I didn’t want to add to their load. This went on for around 2 years.

At this point, my parents, who I was living with at the time, had noticed that something wasn’t quite right with me and encouraged me to go and see a doctor which I then did. The doctor diagnosed me with depression and gave me medication for it. After a week or so the medication started to work and it did improve my feelings of depression and stress. However, the medication also gave me a feeling of something akin to a mix of carelessness and the sense that everything was fine (I didn’t worry about anything even when worrying might have actually been a good idea). While on the medication I was able to call customers easier (although still not easy) and I opened some of my mail. The situation improved slightly but the medication didn’t do much to help me fix the underlying issues. After a 6-month course of medication, I came off and realising how the medication had changed my thoughts didn’t go back to the doctor. The issues were still present and quickly brought back all of my fears from before and brought me back to my nearly paralysed state. In fact, I would say that after coming off the medication the problem was worse than before. Shortly after that, we moved and then moved again. I kept my company’s services running but did little else with my time. At this time, I was making such a little amount of income I was able to pay the credit card bills and for the services but had no money left over so anything I bought or needed went on a credit card. I had also borrowed money from my parents and owed them for a share of the rent. I was eating worse than ever, sneaking out to buy biscuits, chocolate and Coca-Cola on a nearly daily basis. All this, of course, kept making the situation worse and worse.

At this point, I then managed to get a job through a friend (whom I attended university with) on his recommendation and without my having to provide a CV or any qualifications. The job was a short 6-week contract but it was in a city far enough away from where I lived that I had to stay there for the duration of the contract. I was able to work well for the company and impressed them with my technical abilities such that they then offered me a full-time position with travel and accommodation expenses paid without ever having asked for my CV which was a blessing for me as, somehow, I imagine having only been the owner of a company with late accounts in my recent work history wouldn’t impressed. I again went to see a doctor about the depression I was still suffering and again went on a course of medication. This had a somewhat positive effect for a while, but of course, it didn’t last for long and I stopped taking the medication and the problems returned as before. I had been unable to deal with more than a few of the symptoms of my problems whilst on the medication.

Eventually, I was able to change jobs to one that paid better and was significantly closer to home. I was now no longer struggling quite so much to make each and every payment. However, my underlying issues were still present and I still continued to ignore my company. I lost quite a few clients because they couldn’t reach me. Eventually, I was not taking calls, viewing any emails or opening any mail regarding the company except the occasional piece. I was building a very large collection of unopened post in several box files. I put the company for the most part out of my mind and didn’t think about it. Every time that something caused me to think about it my mood would drop through the floor and I recall one evening after dwelling on such thoughts during the day I spent hours in the shower crying.

Then one day at the beginning of 2017 I opened a letter which I had convinced myself to open as I thought it didn’t have anything to do with my company. The letter was junk mail as I had suspected but it was a company who were selling services to support you and your company through a county court judgement. Because I had not opened my other company mail I had been fined (for being late with the accounts) and then ignored it for long enough that the company had received a county court judgement.

After I realised that my company had received a county court judgement I felt numb. I spent the rest of the week in an alternating state of numbness and panic. Somehow, I realised that I wasn’t going to resolve this on my own and that I needed help. As much as I didn’t want to burden my parents I didn’t know who else to turn to and so I wrote a letter to them to confess everything I had been hiding from them.

Giving that letter to them was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I experienced such strong emotions as they read it that I couldn’t speak – I just wept. After I recovered the feeling of relief was intense. They helped me sort everything out, do the relevant paperwork and eventually dissolve the company.

I was still in quite a bit of debt personally (near enough £20,000) but, with some more help from my parents, we came up with a plan based on my current income to clear that debt over the next 3 years (by the beginning of 2020).

They also encouraged me to visit a herbalist which I did. The herbalist gave me a herbal mixture to reduce stress, detox and help with weight loss. She also recommended a change of diet. Since then I have been trying to take the advice and I have lost around 20kg. I’ll go into more detail on that in another post.

Financially I am recovering also. I have stuck to the plan that my parents and I came up with and I am already well on the way and in the last 6 months have paid off nearly £4,000. This also has stopped me worrying about how I’m going to pay things off as I am making constant progress.

Just a few weeks ago I got the final notice that dissolution of the company was completed. It’s great to be finally free from the worries about whether I was letting someone down or forgetting some paperwork that I should have done.

I am finally starting to feel a sense of freedom and it is impacting other areas of my life also. I’m starting to make plans for the future as well as taking more of an interest in improving my living conditions. I can do things in the evenings such as writing this article instead of spending all my time reading fiction to escape or just sleeping. It’s great.


Now that I can look back over the past few years I can see the self-destructive habits and tendencies I got myself into and that they operated a kind of negative feedback loop. Each thing would feed back into my emotional state and situation making it a little bit worse. In turn that would make the habits harder to break and caused me to bury my header deeper which of course made the problems worse and, well, you get the idea.

It’s something that I think is experienced by many people although their reasons may not be the same as my own. What I think is important to realise in such situations though is that there will likely not be a better time than right now to resolve the underlying issues. And it is the underlying issues that you need to resolve – solving the symptoms won’t do much as they’ll soon be back. If you don’t deal with them as soon as possible they will continue to get worse and dealing with them will get harder and harder.

In my case, my depression was a symptom of my financial and physical condition. Treating that depression with medication alleviated the symptom of depression for a time, but ultimately did nothing to help. Instead of dealing with the issues facing my company, my growing debt and my weight have significantly improved my depression. I still have the odd day where I feel down, but they are few and far between and definitely not with the same intensity of hopelessness and paralysis as before.

It may be that you feel you can’t get yourself out of your situation and you can’t imagine doing so in the future. Alternatively, you may also be deluding yourself as I did. You may be telling yourself that “all” you have to do is open just a couple of letters or do just one little thing, but if you put it off time after time then you’ll never get there. If you are feeling like that, now is the time to reach out for help. Talk to someone you love who supports you, or your closest friend or even see a counsellor, but talk to someone and you’ll be on the path to recovery.

If you want to talk to me leave a comment and if I am able I’ll try to get back to you.

Renovating VideoLogic Sirocco Stereo Speaker System

I have had a VideoLogic Sirocco speaker system for about 15 years now, originally manufactured in 1999 my dad bought it to use at a kid’s club he helped run. A couple of years later he was no longer involved and the speakers were not being used – stored in the shed for a while they became a little damaged by the elements with some rust showing on the amplifier cabinet. He then gave them to me as a replacement for an awful set of speakers that I had which had been damaged (i don’t remember how). Since then I’ve hung on to these speakers because they seem to me to be pretty good quality and I love the tone and clarity of the sound that they produce.

damaged cone

Sadly time has taken its toll on these speakers and the original Audax mid range speaker cones which were made of foam and cardboard have now disintegrated. Additionally, the original volume and adjustment potentiometers are noisy (and I have tried cleaning them) and the headphone jack socket which uses a spring to complete the circuit when there are no headphones attached doesn’t reliably maintain the circuit.

Therefore I have decided to renovate these speakers, more because they have a kind of sentimental value to me than because they’re worth the time. After all, I have a couple of sets of Tannoy HiFi bookshelf speakers which I could happily use instead and decent amplifiers are not hard to find. I started this renovation project when I moved into my last house around the beginning of 2015 because I thought before I took the time to wire them in I should get them back into a working state. I ordered the replacement cones around this time but the project stalled after that and personal issues got in the way. I have now moved again and am getting settled, and in going through my stuff found these speakers and the replacement cones. They are vastly superior to the speakers currently attached to my computer so I am going to get this project finished up so I can use them.

To rectify the headphone socket I am just going to remove it and bridge the circuit as if it was there without headphones inserted. This is because I never use it for headphones because I have a separate headphone amplifier for them. I haven’t yet decided whether to place something in the vacant hole left by the headphone jack or to simply leave it.

The potentiometers I am attempting to find like for like replacements.
The volume potentiometer is a stereo A203 (20k Ohm logarithmic) with no detents, a smooth 6mm diameter shaft, 5mm spacing between pins and a shaft length of 13mm.
The sub potentiometer is a mono A103 (10k Ohm logarithmic) with a centre detent and also has the same dimensions as the volume potentiometer.
The attitude potentiometer is a stereo B104 (100k Ohm linear) with centre detent and again the same dimensions as the volume potentiometer.

the pots

While I am resoldering these potentiometers I also want to replace the bright blue power indicator led with a much less bright red led. This is because when watching a video or something in the dark, the blue led is bright enough to be distracting.

To replace the disintegrated cones I attempted to track down the exact same models from Audax but found that they haven’t been in production since around the time that the system was manufactured. So as an alternative I found some Monocor “One” speakers which, from what little I understand about speaker cones, have similar frequency responses and power ratings to the original Audax cones. I also believed that they were of the same size as the ones I was replacing, however, having ordered these replacements and laid them up next to the originals, while the cones themselves are the same size, the replacement enclosure requires an additional 6mm clearance in the cabinet. I have therefore removed the extra material with a rasp and a file. Finally, the spade connectors of the original speaker cones were a different size to the new ones, so I cut off the connectors and soldered the cables directly to the cones.

Speaker cabinet with new cone fitted

I will complete this project soon. I have modified both cabinets and changed both cones over, I have desoldered the existing pots and am just waiting for new pots to resolder and then reassemble the amplifier and the project will be completed.

Quick Dinner: Mediterranean Style Chicken & Vegetables

I like to think of this as Mediterranean style, but in truth it is probably more inspired by than actually being Mediterranean.

The chicken:
I use either boneless thighs or breasts interchangeably, use as much as you want. I find, per person, 2-3 thighs or 1-2 breasts are a good number depending on size.
To season I used Nutmeg, Ginger, Rapeseed oil (alternative to olive oil) and tomato puree (thick consistency). I dusted the chicken in the nutmeg and ginger, then using the tomato puree as a paste I covered the top surfaces of the chicken. Then I placed the chicken in an oven dish and drizzled the rapeseed oil over the top – cooking in the oven at 180(fan) or gas mk6 for 30-45 minutes depending on quantity. Personally I use a meat thermometer to test my chicken every time to ensure it’s properly cooked but not overdone. Chicken should reach at least 80 degrees centigrade.

The veg:
New Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes

Separate the things that cook quickly (pepper, mushrooms) from those that take a little longer:
Chop all the veg that takes longer into smallish chunks, the longer the veg takes to cook, the smaller the chunks. Then place them in a tray and cover liberally with tarragon, x and x, also adding a drizzle of rapeseed oil and place in the oven with the chicken.
With the mushrooms I cut them in half and the peppers into long strips all of which I placed in an oven dish, drizzled with oil and set aside. These veg cook quickly so I put them into the oven only 15 minutes before everything else will be ready.


Greg Young – Talk
Dino Esposito – Talk
Another Talk
Pluralsight course on CQRS
StackOverFlow – Composition over Inheritance
Design Patterns – log4net with dependency injection
WCF & TopShelf
Wikipedia – Single Responsibility Principle
Event Sourcing vs Command Sourcing



A Couple of lightweight ORMs:

Logging becomes instrumentation? – that is not only did an event happen, but metrics about the event etc
MSDN Performance Counters for .NET

A description of SAAS app methodology that makes for quality applications.

State Machines
MSDN Blog discusses State Machines for .NET core

Other things
BDD Risk Management
Latency Sensitive Microservices
Better Naming
Interesting thoughts about meetings
10 Bullets by Tom Sachs
Qubes OS
I bank with multiple current accounts. And other banking ideas

Too Often True:

(sorry, can’t attribute this image to anyone, don’t have any idea where it came from except a colleague forwarded it to me. He didn’t know where it came from either)

My custom setup up a server for php, mariadb, nginx

Every now and then I set up a new server and migrate a few sites onto it. I’ve often considered switching to managed hosting but never been willing to switch. I like having full root level access to the system too much.

So that aside I’ve decided to document my process for setting up a new server to serve some fairly standard php sites (e.g. wordpress/joomla/opencart) and my own custom php code.

My preferences for setup of this kind have changed a lot over the years since I first started messing about with web stuff in 2004. These days I prefer php-fpm and nginx to serve the pages and if a database is needed I was using mysql but this being the first server I’ve set up from scratch since mysql became an Oracle technology I’ve decided to switch to mariadb as it’s pretty much a drop in replacement and is not controlled by Oracle.

In terms of OS I tend to use either Debian or Ubuntu. I prefer Debian because it’s changes a bit less frequently. In the examples below I use Debian 8.

On to the setup.

I’ll assume you either know how to install the OS or like me have used a virtual server image to get started.

I start by logging in as root. It’s often considered bad practice to log on as root however I disagree as whenever I log in to the server it’s to perform some maintenance so I will need root level permissions. I would agree that it is bad practice of you are doing anything but managing the system though.

Having logged in, I like to have the command prompt reflect the name of the server I’m logged into. Therefore I edit the /etc/hostname file to contain my hostname. This is sometimes done during OS install but is often not done when installing from an image. I also edit the /etc/hosts file to reflect my hostname and fully qualified domain name. A hosts file typically looks like this (where <hostname> is your machines hostname): localhost <hostname>

# The following lines are desirable for IPv6 capable hosts
::1 localhost ip6-localhost ip6-loopback
ff02::1 ip6-allnodes
ff02::2 ip6-allrouters

Now those who have some understanding of networking may wonder why the second line is set for the hostname and why it isn’t simply combined with the first line. Having wondered this myself I read some debian docs which explain that it is basically a workaround for some bugs in some software such as gnome. It only applies if you don’t have a static IP. In my case I do have a static IP so my hosts file looks a bit like this: localhost
<my.static.ip> <hostname> <>

# The following lines are desirable for IPv6 capable hosts
::1 localhost ip6-localhost ip6-loopback
ff02::1 ip6-allnodes
ff02::2 ip6-allrouters

I of course put my own values in for <my.static.ip>, <hostname> and <>.

Then I ensure the packages installed on the system are up to date by running:

apt-get update
apt-get dist-upgrade -y

Having set up my hosts file and updated to the latest packages I typically reboot, although it isn’t really necessary.

I then move on to configure email sending from the system using nullmailer and an smtp service like Send Grid who offer a free account.

I create a new API key for the server by signing in to my SendGrid account and using their interface to create the key. It’s important to save the generated API key somewhere as you can’t retrieve it again from SendGrid. That done I’m ready to configure the server and so I install nullmailer by running the following:

apt-get install nullmailer

Then when the installation prompts for smarthosts I enter into the provided box (substituting <my-api-key> for the API key I got from SendGrid earlier): smtp --port=587 --user=apikey --pass=<my-api-key>

This should be sufficient to get nullmailer to send emails out from your system via sendgrid. At this point I also add a line to the /etc/crontab so that you get an email sent every time the server boots up. That way you’ll get an email if the server reboots unexpectedly.

Please Note. This article is a work in progress and I will be adding further steps at a later time. For now I have some notes for myself that I will be working from:

add to /etc/aliases
call newaliases

configure nullmailer

add '@reboot root echo " booted at $(date)"' to /etc/crontab

apt-get install mariadb-server nginx git

apt-get install screen

echo "set mouse-=a" > ~/.vimrc

echo "[client]" > ~/.my.cnf
echo "user     = root" >> ~/.my.cnf
echo "host     = localhost" >> ~/.my.cnf
echo "password = #########" >> ~/.my.cnf
echo "socket   = /var/run/mysqld/mysqld.sock" >> ~/.my.cnf