Another Short Canoe Camping Trip Along Thames

I thought it might be worth putting up my notes of a two-day canoe and camping trip that I did with some friends just south of Oxford.  Our kids are between 6 and 8.  They totally loved it.

The overall plan is to go from Clifton Hampden to Shillingford.

Camping Day's Lock Oxford

Day 1 – Clifton Hampden to Days Lock – 4km (approx)

You can get into the water very quickly at Clifton Hampden.  You can park next to the Church and carry the boats down to the water’s edge.  I then moved the car to another car parking space (so that the Church has the parking spaces available on a Sunday).

It’s a lovely paddle down passed lots of beautiful houses and fields.  It’s about 1.5 – 2hrs slow paddling.  As you near Day’s Lock, you can see the Wittenham Clumps in the distance.  The lock itself is motorised, and you don’t need a lock key.  The campsite is below the lock.  It is on an island and you can only enter from a small platform.

 

This is the entrance to the campsite.

The campsite is well equipped.  It has toilets, bins and water.  It also has a shower (but no hot water because the power was off).  The ground was quite flat.  You can’t officially have a campfire (apparently there are by-laws which prohibit them).  The campsite also feels a little hemmed in.  You have to get a key from the lock keeper to walk off the island because there is an imposing gate to keep people out.  Frankly, it didn’t feel as welcoming as it could have done to me.

There is a beautiful place to swim in shallow water in the NNW part of the island.  You can step out the boats (while in the river), tie them up and go for a swim.

Day 2 – Days Lock to Shillingford – approx 4km.

We headed up the Wittenham Clumps in the morning for breakfast.  The kids loved playing in the field, rolling down the hill and looking at the view.

We then pottered down the river to Shillingford.  Again, it took about 1.5 to 2 hours.

It’s pretty straightforward to get out at the Shillingford bridge hotel.  They have parking and you can grab a cheeky pint too.   Hope this inspires someone to do this route!

Extracting data from Brother P-Touch Label Printer .lbx Files.

We recently had to extract barcode data from a large directory of .lbx files, which is the file format used by Brother P-Touch Label Printer software. We could have found the software, opened each file in turn and cut and pasted the data into a spreadsheet, but this didn’t seem very efficient.

Opening the files in a text editor revealed that .lbx files are actually standard zip files – if you change the extension from .lbx to .zip you can open them up to reveal two files inside – label.xml and prop.xml, both standard XML files. The contents of the label can then be found by opening the label.xml file and looking for a node called ‘pt:data’.

We wrote a quick and dirty PHP 5.2 script that extracts all the label data and displays it in a basic html table:

// Eg my_web_server_dir/data_dir/labels
$labelsDirectory = 'labels';

echo '<table>';

foreach (new DirectoryIterator($labelsDirectory) as $fileInfo) {

if ($fileInfo->isDot() || (!stripos($fileInfo->getFilename(),'lbx'))) {
continue;
}

$zip = zip_open($labelsDirectory . '/' . $fileInfo->getFilename());

do {

$entry = zip_read($zip);

if (!is_resource($entry)){
continue;
}

$entryName = zip_entry_name($entry);

if (trim((string)$entryName) != 'label.xml') {
continue;
}

$entryContent = zip_entry_read($entry, zip_entry_filesize($entry));

$xml = simplexml_load_string($entryContent);

$matches = $xml->xpath('//pt:data');

$barcode = '????';

if (isset($matches[0])) {
$barcode = $matches[0]->__toString();
}

echo '<tr><td>' . str_replace('_', ' ', str_replace('.lbx', '', $fileInfo->getFilename())) . '</td><td>' . $barcode . '</td></tr>';

} while ($entry);

}

echo '</table>';

How To Connect Phone To Mazda Mx3 via bluetooth

My friend has a reasonably new Mazda MX3.  Unfortunately she could not get her phone to connect to the Mazda’s bluetooth.  The main problem was that the Mazda bluetooth never appeared as a device on her iPhone.   She asked me to help and we followed the instructions in the manual.  The instructions for connecting a phone via bluetooth are:

  • Get your phone out and enable bluetooth
  • Navigate through the menu on the car
  • Select ‘BT Setup’ – annoying the last item in the menu
  • Select ‘Pair Device’
  • You are then offered a pin (by default 0000).
  • You should then see the car appear as a device on your phone (by default Mazda).
  • You then theoretically click on Mazda and then enter the pin.
  • You should then be connected…

The problem for us was that the Mazda never appeared as a device.   This means you can’t select it on the phone and the car just shows an ‘Err’ message during the BT setup process.   If you Google around for solutions, they all say you need to reset you whole car by disconnecting the battery or go to a dealer.  Well, who wants to do that!

The Solution

The solution we found was to setup the phone through the voice command system.   So, this is how to connect your phone to a Mazda via bluetooth.

  • Hold down the phone button on the steering wheel.
  • The car should go into ‘Listening’ mode and you then need to speak to it.
  • Say ‘Pairing options’
  • Then follow the instructions all the way through to the end which finishes with giving a name for your phone (you can make this up).  Please note – don’t give up too early (even if you think you have completed) because unless you name you phone it won’t be able to connect.

Voila – you should finally have connected your iPhone to your Mazda bluetooth.  I hope this helps someone.