things Lewis Collard likes, by Lewis Collard

Let's play: "remove suspension bushes", on easy mode

This is a top link from the front suspension of a Rover P5.

This is part of the "rebuild the entire front end" subproject of my Rover P5 project. Among other things, I am replacing every suspension bush. That requires removing perished six-thousand-year-old rubber suspension bushes. This is nobody's favourite job, for any person that is lacking (say) a 12-ton hydraulic press.

I learned a little trick that makes it painless to remove suspension bushes. It uses tools and random junk which you probably already own if you have a car project.

First, identify the side of your suspension component that has more protruding bush than the other. We're going to call this side the receiving end.

If neither is an obvious candidate, then pick either one. It's not hugely important; it means marginally less effort to remove it.

Next, find a socket that fits fairly snugly over the bush on the receiving end. You should find one just large enough to accommodate the bush inside. The depth of the socket is not too critical.

In this case, a 32mm Metrinch socket was a perfect fit.

Next, find a bolt. It should be of the right diameter to fit through your socket. It should have sufficient length to go through the socket, your suspension component, and leave enough thread poking out the other end to accommodate a nut and a washer. 10 mm of "spare" thread (that's 3/8" if you're reading this in the United States or in 1965). Slide this and a protective washer through your socket.

I did not have a bolt of just the right size, but I did have a random length of somewhat-munted threaded rod which was of just the right size, so I used that instead.

Next, put a nut and washer on the other side of your bolt.

Ideally, the washer should be just a little smaller than the internal diameter of your component. It is sufficient to be just somewhat larger than the nut.

Next, put a spanner on the bolt head on the receiving end, then tighten the nut on the other end. You can do this by hand if you have to. I had other things I wanted to do that day, and I also have an impact wrench, so I went full send with an impact wrench.

This will extract the suspension bush into your receiving socket! ⭐ 🎵 IT'S A KIND OF MAGIC 🎵 ⭐

And the now-thoroughly-destroyed bush should quite easily pull out of your socket.

Do that another three times, then spend a couple of afternoons cleaning them up, and you'll end up with four spiffy-looking suspension top links...

...which do not have suspension bushes yet! Most people working on most project cars would be happy to fit polyurethane bushes from here. Polybushes are usually easy to fit without a press, so the next step would be straightforward and would not require a press. I would not want polybushes on the P5 even if such a thing existed for the P5; I want rubber bushes to keep the original characteristics of the car. I don't trust this same method to fit rubber suspension bushes (after all, I didn't care about destroying them when removing them), so this meant ordering that 12-ton press I mentioned. Oh well, I'm not convinced a press would have done the job any faster.

There are other field-expedient ways of removing bushes. You can burn them out with a blowtorch, but this stinks and takes forever. You can use a hole saw of exactly the right size. That stinks slightly less but also takes forever. This method is not just smell-free, but it is also very quick; it took about 20 minutes to find exactly the right combination of random bits of stuff in a box of shit and about 2 minutes in total to extract all four bushes. I hope this helps someone else.

The desk chair post

This is my desk chair.

It is a front seat from a 1990 Vauxhall Astra GTE, bolted to a subframe made from steel box section scavenged from some industrial shelving, welded to a swivel-chair base that I found in a skip. I've had some variant of it for over a decade, but I had cause to re-engineer it recently, so I am posting about it now. It's extremely comfortable! It is more supportive than any other chair I have used, including chairs that look like car seats, and including chairs that cost upwards of a grand.

There are two of these in existence! My brother was dismantling an Astra GTE that he purchased for an engine donor (MOT-failure GTEs were not worth much more than scrap weight back then, and that is a memory from the "painful to think about" department, next to the working two-door Range Rover I helped dismantle...). I got the seat for free on the condition that I made the other front seat into a desk chair for him as well. That other chair is still in use by a kid in the family as a gamer chair, and that makes me happy.

It has been rebuilt several times. This is because office swivel chairs are made of no material in particular, especially the cheap kind that gets thrown into a skip when it becomes too ugly to use. Usually this does not matter, because the sitting part of a swivel chair is also made of no material in particular, so the system in its entirety has plenty of flex. The Astra seat has a lot of extra weight, and there is no flex in the over-engineered subframe, so swivel chair bases tend to break.

This is what the subframe looks like.

It's not pretty, but you can't see it when you're sitting on it. If you look closely, you can see where I cut out a reinforcing section in the middle in the latest incarnation. This is in a probably-vain attempt to try and un-engineer a bit more rigidity out of the frame. I might try speed holes next.

I had a stroke of luck last time this broke a swivel-chair base. The base collapsed, and literally minutes later I saw my neighbour throwing a shitty-looking desk chair into a skip. I'll have some of that, thank you.

I can understand them throwing it out.

This time around, I decided to give the Astra seat a deep clean after reassembling the chair. I did not know how badly it needed one. This little thing is a game changer:

It's a brush attachment for a drill, which you can buy for about £15 on Amazon as part of a set. It demolishes baked-in cat fluff and everything else on a seat that a vacuum cleaner won't touch. I was impressed.

This is what a vacuum cleaner doesn't get out...

Everything mentioned so far, I acquired for free. This time around, I have got some improved castors for it, to replace the usual scratchy-sounding castors that you get on cheap desk chairs.

These have roller bearings, seem to be made of actual metal, and its wheels are made of a material not entirely unlike that of the small bouncy balls we had as kids that could be launched at the floor and which rebounded to the height of a four-storey building. They roll very nicely. They're also a lot stronger than flimsy desk chair castors. This isn't an unqualified good. See also what I wrote about the subframe earlier; they don't flex, which means they transfer forces elsewhere. That might cause the swivel base to break earlier than it would otherwise. We'll see!

You may have noticed that it does not have arm rests. You are not the first. I showed a photo of it to someone earlier today and they said "it needs arm rests". It doesn't need arm rests, but the fact someone thinks it needs arm rests means that it isn't the unquestioned best desk chair in the world. So maybe that is a project for another day...


The easy, snarky post would be "it's the current year and there are still systems out there that can't handle non-ASCII characters", on Twitter. Snark is boring! Pretending to be offended is sad!

Years ago, there was a blog (whose name I forgot) that documented cracks in the system like this; tiny reminders that systems that we take for granted, that we have little cause to give thought to, are oft computer systems written by humans, and humans make mistakes. I enjoy these reminders.

Conjecture: the text was originally written in some older version of Microsoft Word. Word converted the apostrophe in haven't to a "smart" quote, and that got pasted into a system that didn't understand it. Still, the system worked, I got a receipt, KFC didn't buckle under the weight of a thousand UnicodeDecodeErrors, and the world kept turning. :)

Assorted things that happened to Lewis

Here are some things that happened in my life recently, none of which really merit their own post.

The Shed passed an MOT.

Who's a good little sheddy-weddy? You are!

It actually failed an MOT, then passed an MOT, after £164.78 of parts and labour from a local garage. It's work I could have done myself, on some theoretical level. If I had resolved to do it myself it'd have ended up in the project queue behind a bunch of other things that want my time, and I would own three cars that don't work.

I don't like spending money, but the invoice showed numbers such as "18.40", which reminded me that buying a shitty Ford for a daily was a really good idea.

I found a remnant of King's Lynn's railway network that I didn't think still existed.

These rails are on the Boal Quay, and haven't been used since 1968. I'd seen what looked like rails on Google Maps' satellite views. I assumed that either it wasn't what it looked like, or that the satellite imagery was out of date. I hadn't cared to visit them in person to see if they are still there, until a couple of weeks ago. They are still there!

I have a web page at my other website on South Lynn's railway remnants. That page has been online for over a decade now! Depending on your definition of the area, this remnant might not actually be in South Lynn. I updated the page with it anyway, hoping Actually Guy (you know the one) won't show up and complain, and while I was there I added a ton of new information, more-or-less re-writing the page in the process.

I took the photo above on my Fuji X100 (the second one). Since I bought that camera, it has been nearly everywhere with me. I have been getting used to its various weirdnesses all over again. So while I was there, I almost completely rewrote the page on my other site about it.

I've been shooting raw (RAF) in the X100, because I can. That means processing them with software, and because I am on Linux, Darktable is the best software out there. I have a webpage about that on my other site too, which was also a decade old, so while I was there I completely rewrote that as well.

One of my many weaknesses is being able to dig some, oft several, layers of "but, while I'm here..." below doing a simple thing. Still, none of that was a bad way to burn a couple of days over Christmas!

My cat is still completely adorable.

She got a new cushion for Christmas. She likes it very much.

OLD AND BUSTED: sleeping on cushion NEW HOTNESS: sitting next to cushion

That is all!

"Ain't that some bullshit", 365-to-Migadu-migration edition

TL;DR: Use imapsync with DavMail.

So my subscription for Office 365 (or whatever it's called these days) was due for renewal in January. I only ever used it for email on my domain. Given how increasingly hateful the Outlook web client has been in recent years (worst among them was when it randomly disabled the ability to send plain-text email for some time), and my general desire to move as much of my life away from software I have no control over, I decided to migrate my shit to Migadu. Partly because Migadu is kinda cheap, partly because Drew DeVault recommended them, but mostly because I really like their beautifully simple and functional website. I'm shallow!

Obviously, I didn't want to lose any of my email in this process. What should have happened is that I would enable IMAP on Office365, plug in some command line options to imapsync, and by the magic of open standards email would be moved from one place to another. Open standards are good! People who write open source software are awesome!

Of course, one half of that involved dealing with Microsoft. That and the rule of time estimates (increase the unit, halve the quantity) and the rule of everything is bullshit and never fucking works meant that I wasted more than a few hours trying to make that happen. Greetings from 3am!

The short version is if you use Office 365 in the same manner I did, which is that you were both the administrator of the domain and a user on the domain (because it was for personal email and you're the only person on the domain), nothing you do will make IMAP work for your account. Not if you navigate six levels of Enterprise-ness and a UI with decade-old branding to enable 2FA and then to enable "app passwords", not if you go disable security defaults and probably still nope if you run some PowerShell magic spells that I've seen around.

Give up trying to make IMAP work directly and use DavMail. I did!

DavMail is a proxy between Microsoft's proprietary protocols and protocols such as IMAP that the rest of the world uses. There's a package in the Ubuntu repositories called davmail, but because everything is bullshit and never fucking works the Ubuntu package is broken if you don't install the openjdk-11-jre package first (through no fault of DavMail's authors).

Anyway, once you've worked out that last bit from reading some random Debian bug report, you will want to go into DavMail's settings, under the "Main" tab, and change "Exchange Protocol" to "O365Interactive".

Then run a magic spell...

./imapsync \
  --host1 localhost \
  --port1 1143 \
  --user1 'you@dealingwithbullshit.com' \
  --debugimap1 \
  --password1 'hunter2' \
  --host2 'imap.migadu.com' \
  --user2 'you@dealingwithbullshit.com' \
  --password2 'hunter3'

...and DavMail will pop up a with a link to open in your browser, and that will in turn redirect to a URL that you copy-and-paste into DavMail. Some time later your mail will appear in Migadu or whatever else you decide to migrate to.

So, that was some bullshit. But it's done now! And I only have to do that once. And if I ever do have to do it again I won't waste hours of my time and hours of someone else's time trying to work out why IMAP isn't working, because, reminder, if your account is an admin account for an O365 domain it absolutely never will.

Anyway, imapsync and DavMail are good! They made me happy! I've only been dealing with mail migration bullshit for one long night, but the authors of both have been dealing with it for years. Here's a figurative toast to those fine people, and here's to many years of Migadu and me!

Rail Alphabet survivors at March station

Rail Alphabet is beautiful. It was everywhere on the railway network for decades; for people over a certain age, it is a typeface that says "railway" almost as surely as a double-arrow symbol does, and as surely as "Transport" says "road". It was so ubiquitous that one could associate that typeface with railways even if you do not know it is a distinct, single-purpose typeface - a fact I only learned in recent years thanks to Nick Job's beautiful digitisation of the British Rail Corporate Identity Manual.

Post-privatisation, much Rail Alphabet signage was replaced, usually with weaker typefaces chosen for coherence with a train operator's brand. Rail Alphabet lives on, though precariously, at lesser-loved stations. Those remnants that have survived privatisation might be doubly endangered in the upcoming Great British Railways rebranding.

March - once a major junction, and still has something of the feel of one despite route cuts from the 60s onwards - is one of those lesser-loved stations. It was on my mind that March is undergoing refurbishment, and that it might not keep any of its Rail Alphabet for very long. So, I paid a visit to the station on Thursday to see how much Rail Alphabet was left. As expected, the in-progress refurbishment has replaced or removed much of it, but there were still some lovely survivors on my visit.

Let's start with Rail Alphabet's distinctive "2", on Platform 2. Rail Alphabet is more likely to survive on platform number signs than it is anywhere else, because who would think they could improve on the clarity and function of this?

Here's a "Waiting room" sign, which indicates a waiting room, next to a non-BR "Customer Services" sign that does not indicate a place for customers to get service:

Compare this with the reference plank from Job's digitisation of the Manual. It looks as though it may have had a pictogram on it at one point which has been painted over since, or perhaps it should have had a pictogram on it and never did.

Over at the footbridge on Platform 2, there is a "Way out" sign with one of those beautiful pictograms. This sign was likely truthful when it was installed. Over the years, this has become misleading, and rather charmingly so; the nearest way out is about 15 feet to the left of this sign, along a footpath that crosses the former trackbed for the disused platforms.

On the footbridge, is more Rail Alphabet. The gate guards the section of the footbridge that leads to the disused platforms. As I did not open it, I was unable to comply with its polite request to close it.

There is another "Way out" sign on Platform 1. It scores one point over Platform 2's sign for veracity, but loses that point due to lack of chunky directional arrow.

Outside the station was much less exciting. Most of the British Rail era signage has disappeared in its current refurbishment, but the station sign at the level crossing nearby is still fully British Rail and still entirely glorious.

And finally, apropos of nothing other than that I really like them (the best reason possible), here's a Greater Anglia class 755 unit I saw while killing time at March.

Psst: I've uploaded all the photos above, and others from my visit, to the Wikimedia Commons, where they are available in full resolution and under a liberal license. See the station's category, which has photos by many people other than me, and in particular the signage subcategory, which does not.