De-scale a Dulce Gusto machine using White Vinegar

Yep, it’s true. You really can De-scale a Dulce Gusto machine using White Vinegar.

In 2015 I posted a video showing people how to descale a Nescafe Dulce Gusto machine and it’s been very successful, with lots of people confirming that it works for them.

Using Vinegar is also considerably cheaper than paying for the expensive kits which Nescafe sell.

How to De-scale a Dulce Gusto machine using White Vinegar

It’s really important that you’re careful when you heat vinegar. Putting it through your machine will make it boil quicker than water. Therefore, I recommend you place a mix of water and vinegar in the machine’s water bottle which is a 50/50 mix. Half water, half vinegar.

  • Place the mix or water and vinegar into the water bottle
  • Switch on the machine and wait for the green light to confirm the machine is hot
  • Place a cup or bowl in the cup holder area
  • Run the machine on hot as if you were making a coffee for 30 seconds
  • Switch of the machine and wait 20 minutes
  • Repeat as necessary until the machine is flowing correctly
  • Once complete, run a cup of clean tap water through the machine

This should clear the machine.

How it works

So we go back to school for this bit and it’s really quite simply. No harsh commeecial chemicals involved here, just good old nature doing it’s thing.

Limescale is caused by a build up of calcium, which occurs naturally in the water. In some areas, there is a lot more calcium that others (know as hard water). Boiling the water makes the calcium deposits build up more quickly.

Vinegar contains acetic acid, which is a natural chemical. The acetic acid breaks down the calcium (which is an alkaline) and makes it soluble in water. No nasty chemicals are produced and you just tip the waste down the sink.

Using vinegar is much healthier than commercial chemical alternatives

Vinegar is a natural liquid which is made as a result of a brewing process. If you De-scale a Dulce Gusto machine using White Vinegar, it’s going to be much safer than using some of the nasty chemicals available on the market. It’s also considerably cheaper!

How to prevent scale in your Dolce Gusto machine

Scale is a natural product of boiling water and is almost unavoidable in most cases. However, if you can afford it, you might like to consider using bottled water in the machine, or having a water softener fitted to your home.

Working from Home: how to do it successfully whilst keeping your sanity

Working from homeI worked from home for 8 years for an insurance company full time, so I know all about what it entails. I understand how difficult it can be to get motivated. But how easy is it and is working from home all that it’s cracked up to be?

 

Keeping motivated when working from home

Motivation is one of the most difficult issues for people when working from home so it’s important that you have set timescales and targets to obtain. The problem here is that there can be distractions. Learn how to be disciplined is the key to working from home successfully. You’re going to need to make sure that you’re getting the right amount of work done and that you’re not distracted to the point that you lose focus. It can be all to easy to pop in the kitchen and start preparing dinner, or cleaning the bathroom, but you need to make sure you dedicate these jobs to time outside of your working hours.

Some ways to make sure you stick to your work regime might include:

  • start a daily task list
  • keep a diary
  • move yourself away from distractions such as family and television
  • make sure you stick to a dedicated work routine i.e. 9am until 5pm everyday, but also make sure you take regular breaks (we’ll cover this area later)
  • dedicate a room or outbuilding exclusively to your work
  • set yourself regular breaks for screen rest and rehydration

 

Get a dedicated telephone number for your work calls

There’s nothing worse than getting work calls in your own time and vicaversa. Having a dedicated telephone nymber for your work calls can also mean you can answer the phone in a more professional manner.

There are a myriad of ways to do this and very cheaply. Some don’t even require an additional telephone line. Such examples of services you can use include:

  • Skype – as well as video calling, Skype also offer a “Skype number”, which you can buy with a local code and which will divert all calls to that number to the Skype application. Your callers will never know that they’re calling Skype and there are also voicemail options available
  • Get a second number from you cell/mobile phone provider – may will offer a second line with a second number for little extra a month and you can usually set the second like to show it’s a work call, not personal
  • Consider buying a landline phone number and having it diverted to your mobile phone, if required

Whatever way you want to go, there are plenty of companies offering bespoke, professional telephone services for not a lot of money. There’s never been a better time to move to a professional service – there’s a great deal of suppliers.

 

Try to get as much natural light as possible

It’s well know that natural light is much better for people than artificial. Try to place your desk or working area by windows or areas of as much natural light as possible.

 

Make sure you’ve got all the equipment you need

There’s nothing worse than suddenly realising that your printer has run out of ink just when you really need to print and important document.

 

Avoid distractions

It sounds obvious, but radio and TV is likely to be a distraction. Whilst having the radio on can be welcome company for some, for others it can become a distraction. Putting the TV on may make you think you’re concentrating, but the reality is that you won’t be.

 

Take regular exercise to prevent cabin fever!

We’re all told how beneficial it is to get regular exercise but it’s easy to forget to do it when you’re sleeping, working and living in the same place.

Taking regular exercise when working from home gets you away from your screen and the telephone and gives you a change of scenery. Try and plan it into your lunch time, even if you only walk for 10 minutes.

 

Plan days in the real office (if possible)

You’re human and humans need interaction with other humans. Working from home can be a very solitary lifestyle, especially if you don’t have many friends or family around. Planning days in the office are a good way to keep up with the gossip in the office and can help you to keep on top of what’s happening in the company.

Toshiba CB30 Chromebook screen replacement

It’s very easy to carry out a Toshiba CB30 Chromebook screen replacement, and definitely one of the easiest to do. In fact, it’s so simple that even a novice tech can accomplish it.

You only need two tools – a sharp knife and a mini Philips screwdriver. You can buy a replacement screen cheaply here.

Once you’ve gathered together your tools and replacement screen, follow these instructions. There also a Toshiba CM30 Chromebook Screen replacement video at the end of the blog to guide you through the Toshiba CB30 Chromebook screen replacement step-by-step:

  1. Power of the CB30 by holding down the power button for 10 seconds
  2. Carefully remove the grey sticky screw covers on the bottom bezel
  3. Undo the two Phillips screws
  4. Carefully undo the bezel by prizing it off using a sharp knife – it should ‘click’ off
  5. Once the bezel is removed, undo the 4 Phillips screws holding the screen in place
  6. Fold the screen down on the keyboard by pulling the top away from you
  7. Carefully remove the sticky take from the ribbon connection on the base of the screen and unplug it
  8. Reassemble in reverse order.

Here’s the video guide:

 

Scottish Commercial Register Scam

Direct Publisher SLU are at it again with another scam, this time the Scottish Commercial Register Scam. Those pesky Spaniards just don’t seem to give up with these attempts to defraud business owners out of money. So, I continue my quest to warn more people of it and help save people some of their hard earned money.

This scam has many different faces, the main one being the Commercial Register scam. The fraud is pretty much identical in every way. It starts with a letter which asks you to update your records and which appears to be from an official UK Government body. However, if you turn over the page there are a lot of terms and conditions in gray. Once you’ve signed you’ll be hounded monthly with threats of legal action.

“‘Scottish Commercial Register’ notices requesting €990 to approve info held. They’re not legitimate and have no connection to us.” Companies House Edinburgh Office

If you’ve found yourself in the same boat that I did, don’t panic. My advice is to ignore them and eventually they will go away. In the meantime, have a read here. It’s got loads of information from other small business owners who have been targeted by other various scams.

If you’ve found this page helpful, drop me a line in the comments section below. You might also like to consider making a small donation to help towards it’s upkeep.

Welsh Commercial Register scam | Direct Publisher S.L.U.

The Welsh Commercial Register scam is one of many scams designed to dupe genuine business owners out of money by getting them to sign a letter to agree to advertise on their website. It is being made by a Spanish company called Direct Publisher S.L.U. who claim to be based in Madrid.

The website in question is poorly designed and only their as a way to convince business owners that they must pay for the advert or risk legal action.

The Welsh Commercial Register scam is very similar to other scams targeted at small business owners in Scotland, England and across the UK in general. There are various websites warning business owners not to pay for the advert, but sadly some business owners are scared into paying. The most recent scam is the England Commercial Register and Commercial Register which all have similar guises and are designed to con business out of money.

Many people have reported the Welsh Commercial Register scam to Action Fraud and it has been reported on numerous websites including Wales Online and the Farmers’ Union of Wales. The advice is not to pay the bill.

For more details on how this scam works, click here.

 

Native Oyster vs Rock Oyster – which tastes the best?

Native Oyster vs Rock Oyster
Native Oyster vs Rock Oyster – which is the best?

Following on from my blog on how to shuck an oyster, I decided it was time to try and put an argument to bed – is the Native Oyster or Rock Oyster the best?

I’m lucky to live in an area where there is an abundance of oysters waiting to be eaten. The wild oysters of the River Blackwater surround miles of coastline of Essex providing a fresh supply of oysters all year round.

I’ve tried many different types of oysters, but the most common in my area at the Native (Colchester) available from September through to April, and Rock which are available all year round.

I first tried a Rock (gigas) oyster when I was about 6. My grandfather told me to “swallow it whole” but by the time I was 13 I was well accustomed to chewing and oyster to fully appreciate the flavours inside (if you swallow your oyster whole you eating them wrong – here’s why).

 

Oyster Snobs

Like with most fine foods, there are snobs when it comes to oysters. People will tell you that the Native’s a “far better” than Rock and have a “sweeter flavour”. I’m calling b*llocks on that right now. Just today I ate three of each before writing this blog and found the Rock Oysters just as sweet but noticeably more meaty.

The thing is that I actually prefer Rock oyster over Native. People consistently tell me that I’m wrong and that Natives are the best, but I disagree. I eats what I likes and I like what I eats and no one is going to tell me any different.

It’s like people who say that the classic prawn cocktail hasn’t been a socially acceptable starter since the 1980s; they’re completely mental. Prawn cocktail starters are a staple entrée at Christmas and Easter and I won’t have it any other way!

I’m a bit of a tight git and I like value for money, and for me the additional cost of the Native Oyster just doesn’t warrant it in terms of flavour. There. I’ve said it. Native Oysters are overrated.

 

So, Native Oyster vs Rock Oyster – which is the best?

Finally, I have an answer for you, but you’re not going to like it. Quite simply, neither oyster tastes better than they other. They both taste great in their own way. Personally, I would chose a Rock oyster over a Native any day, but then I’m an Essex Boy with no taste (apparently).

I started off this blog with the aim of putting the argument to bed, but quite simply, it’s impossible to do so. Eat whichever you prefer. Don’t chose the Native just because it’s more expensive and everyone tells you to like it more; chose it because you like it.

 

Radiotherapy for throat cancer

As my dad progressed in his treatment, it became closed to the day when he would start 3 months of radiotherapy for throat cancer.

When we initially found out he would need radiotherapy, I immediately turned to the internet to find out more about it (I knew nothing previously). The first video I watched was one by McMillan which explained how the treatment was administered.

Since then, dad has been to the local cancer department of our local hospital and been ‘measured up’ for the machine and also been through a dry run.

 

Making the Radiotherapy mask

First of all, he was fitted for a mask. This involved making a plaster cast of his upper body, neck and head. He was placed onto a bed and strips of plaster were slowly added to his upper body until a cast was made. This was then removed from him and left to dry.

Over the next few days, the cast was transferred onto a plastic mould. This will eventually be used to clamp him onto the radiotherapy table to ensure he is kept as still as possible during the 20 minute bursts of treatment.

He’s described the mask as being “a little uncomfortable”.

 

Tattoo markings

To ensure that the radiotherapy machine can be aligned exactly the same place every day, his has been marked with some tattoos. This is important during radiotherapy for throat cancer as it ensures that the dosage is directed at the right place every time.

Read next: My dad has throat cancer

Build a 12v solar charger system for camping, a caravan, or a shed

A solar charger is now even more cost effective to build as you may think. 6 years ago I looked into adding a solar charger for the 12v side of our old caravan but the panels were quite expensive back then, as was the equipment to set the system up. Thankfully solar has become even more popular now and prices have really come down, meaning that you can buy a 10 watt panel for under £20 and a charge control unit for less than £10.

 

Use your solar charger system in a camping, a caravan, or a shed

The great thing about 12v systems is that they’re really easy to set up with a little bit or research and these low voltage circuits can be used almost anywhere that you can’t find mains electricity.

I’ve seen them used in caravans, in the desert and in dense forest. You can plan the battery in a toolbox, the control unit on the site and the panel on the top. You can fit the panel to the top of an allotment shed, in a works trailer or as a back-up power supply in a camper. With the right batteries and a big enough solar panel you can also use a power inverter to convert 12 volt DC to 110/230 volt AC.

 

What you’ll need:

  • Knowledge in wiring up 12v circuits and understanding of currents
  • A 12v lead acid battery (deep cycle is better for this but a car battery will suffice)
  • Some cable (13 amp will suffice unless you’re pulling high amperage)
  • A solar panel (10w minimum)
  • A charge controller unit (vital)
  • Some fuse connectors (ignore if you already have fitted fuses) and electrical connectors
  • Some battery terminal connectors
  • Some hand tools including a Philips screwdriver, wire cutter and crimpers

 

Wiring the solar circuit

It’s vital that you use a solar charger controller in this system. If you don’t, you’re going to end up putting well over 14v into your battery at times which will eventually kill it. A charge controller regulates the amount of power going into the battery to prevent overcharging (I set mine at 13.6v). Do not skip this important bit of equipment,

The charge controller will require wiring in a specific way. This is usually (but not always) carried out by connecting the battery first, followed by the solar panel and then finally the accessory output of the controller (if used). Your controller will provided specific instructions on how to do this. Here’s the basic layout:

schematic-wiring-charge-controller

 

You’ll notice if you check the panel output with a voltmeter when not connected to the battery that the voltage will be over 17 volts. Don’t expect that to continue as the voltage will drop once you at the load (resistance) of the battery.

My video below explains how this is done in more detail. Note that I used a controller with 5v USB outputs for easy charging of my phone. This system could be made portable by placing the battery and controller in a waterproof box and then mounting the panel on top of the box. Ideal for wild camping where no source of mains electricity is available and all made for under £27.

 

What’s the best solar panel?

This is open to debate and the quality of panels varies. There are certainly a lot of cheap and nasty products out there but it’s a case of going for the largest wattage you can afford; the more watts produced the faster your battery will charge.

I recommend 10 watt minimum and if you can afford it an 80 watt panel. You can also add more batteries to increase capacity.

 

 

Throat Cancer – a blog of my dad’s fight of the Big C

In September 2016, my mum came to my work to give me and my sister the devastating news: your dad has throat cancer and he has to have major surgery to remove the tumour. Prognoses at this point was unknown, but there was talk of possible nerve damage and even removal of his voicebox. She was in tears and I felt numb. They say that people don’t hear anything after being told they have cancer and I don’t really recall anything for the minutes afterwards. It was just utter shock that a healthy man in his very early 50’s could suddenly be so ill.

 

How the throat cancer began

Just over a year ago my dad had developed a lump on the left side of his neck. It would later transpire that this once benign lump had developed into throat cancer. One of the first questions people as is “was he a smoker”. He was in his 30’s but quit 20 years before his diagnoses. What we would later be told by the specialist was that the main causes of throat cancer are smoking, drinking neat spirits and the HPV virus. In his case it was smoking.

The cancer was secondary and various scans including a P.E.T. (positron emission tomography) scan would need to be carried out to try and identify the primary cancer.

Dad was actually very pragmatic about it all when he found out, but mum wasn’t. The day after the diagnoses she sent me a message.

“My heart is breaking” she said. “I’m trying to hard in front of him but the minute he is out of sight I just break down with grief” followed next.

It was a difficult message to receive. You always look to your parents for support, so when they’re suddenly relying on you to say the right thing, it’s a strange experience. I tried to be positive and remind her that his is still young and that we must be positive or negativity will get us all, including him. If you’ve ever seen the scene in ‘The Neverending Story’ where Artax this horse dies in the Swamp of Sadness, you’ll know how this feels: trying to be positive whilst swimming around is a thick sea of negativity. If you’re not careful it’ll swallow you and everyone around you up.

 

The surgery to remove the tumour

post-throat-cancer-scarWithin weeks, the oncologist had my dad in the operating theatre and was removing the lump from his neck. The surgery involved opening the side of his next from below his ear, down the side of his neck, and across the front of his throat. It took about 3 hours. They removed a lump the size of an egg, his tonsils and a lymph gland. He was stapled back together with 37 staples and a drain was fitted. This was on a Tuesday and by Saturday he was back home. The care he received at Broomfield hospital was exemplary.

 

Recovering from the initial surgery

Unfortunately, after a week he was still in a lot of pain, mainly from where the tonsillectomy had taken place, and within 14 days he was back in hospital. He had developed and infection and needed another general anaesthetic to investigate the cause of the problem. Thankfully this was treated with a big dose of antibiotics and he was back home again less than 24 hours later.

As the next couple of weeks went on his scar from the surgery healed very well, and he looked better despite having lost quite a bit of weight. However, he still got tired very easily. It was clear to see he was losing weight.

 

Telling the children that Grandad had cancer

We’d told the kids that Grandad had a lump in his neck that needed to be removed, but we hadn’t told them why. My son and daughter – 11 and 9 respectively – aren’t stupid. They were soon going to realise that something wasn’t right once the radiotherapy commenced, especially if he had to have a feeding tube up his nose. They have a close relationship and spend a lot of time with him and now we had a complete diagnoses it was time to tell them the truth. Between us we made the decision to tell the children that Grandad had throat cancer.

We decided it was important to be as truthful as we could. Important so that there could never be any accusation that we’d hid anything from them. I sat them down with my wife and gave them the news as gently but as factually as possible. My son, the eldest, initially took the news badly but we were able to quickly explain to him the prognoses and that things appeared to be possible.

Most importantly we encouraged them to ask questions, not just to us but also to my dad. We needed the children to understand that they could speak to anyone they want to and ask questions to whoever they like. I think it reassured them.

It was now time for the next treatment – Radiotherapy

The biopsy confirmed that there was cancer in the lump and gland removed. Unfortunately, the source of the primary cancer still couldn’t be identified. It was therefore recommended that dad was given radiotherapy for throat cancer to his neck to eliminate the risk of the throat cancer coming back.

Dad might have to have a feeding tube inserted into his stomach or via his nose, and could either inject food into the tube himself or wear a backpack to control the feeding for him. He’s also need to have a special mask made of his fact to protect it during the radiotherapy treatment. It’s important he doesn’t lose weight during the radiotherapy as this can have a negative affect on how the treatment is delivered.

It’s clear that he and us are very early in this horrible nightmare and perhaps the worst it to come. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m going to try and update as much as possible.

 

Keeping positive is going to be vital

One thing I do know is that being negative isn’t going to help anyone. It won’t help keep my dad encouraged, it won’t help the family. No, more than ever, it’s time for everyone to rally around and be there to help in whatever little way necessary.

How to descale a Nescafe Dolce Gusto coffee machine

Finding information on how to descale a Nescafe Dolce Gusto machine on the official website is pretty lacking. The Dolce Gusto website only refers to the newer machines (with the water preset on the top) but most people are finding it near on impossible to do the same for the slightly older machines. In addition, the instructions which come with the official descaler kit are less than easy to understand.

To try to make things easier for owners of Nescafe Dolce Gusto coffee machines to descale them, I’ve created a video on how to descale a Nescafe Dolce Gusto which walks you through step-by-step. It covers:

  • using the official Nescafe Dolce Gusto descaling kit
  • using white vinegar as an alternative to chemicals
  • problems which can occur with the machine being blocked
  • unblocking a Nescafe Dolce Gusto machine
  • using the fitted pin to unblock the Nescafe Dolce Gusto machine (where fitted)
  • flushing the machine
  • adding the official Nescafe Dolce Gusto descaling kit

The video also demonstrate a official Nescafe Dolce Gusto descaling kit which you may be interested in purchasing.