Repair A Fordham Elan Toilet

This post is a bit of change from the normal media and programming related stuff I tend to put up here, it’s about how I fixed my broken toilet.

This has been my first attempt at plumbing and I though it may be useful for others to see what I did.

Inside a fordham elan

My toilet (a Fordham Elan) decided to stop flushing after a few weeks of needing multiple pulls on the chain to get the water flowing. Looking online, it sounded like the flush valve on the syphon had gone. The only way to get this working again was to replace the siphon.

tools to fix a fordham elan

The Fordham Elan is an old model, and there were no spare parts available that I could track down. Thankfully I live near a plumbers merchant called Plumbers Mate and they suggested that a Macdee Metro Oblong Adjustable 6/7/9 Litre Flush Siphon should be a workable replacement. I bought this for a bargain £8.30, along with a tube of Plumba Joint Clear, a wrench and a piece of hose.

stop the water

The first job was to drain the tap. Initially I tied up the floating ball valve, but then realised that the slightest knock would send water into the tank. I then notice a small valve on the water inlet. Just a 90degree turn of this turned the water off and I was able to drain the tank. This was just a case of placing the hose in the tank, sucking until a stream of water appeared, and letting this empty into the toilet. The remaining water in the tank was removed using a car sponge.

stop the water by turning this valve

Now the tank was empty, the next job was to remove the siphon. These are two screw connectors on the downpipe, I undid these to release the syphon. It took quite a while as the wrench I had wasn’t quite the right size, but it did the job in the end. I wasn’t able to lift the siphon as the floating ball was in the way, this had to be unscrewed and removed before the siphon could be lifted.

Looking inside the plastic at the bottom had perished.

an empty fordham elan

The new siphon was rested in place, but the Fordham Elan has four small notches near the down pipe to hold their own siphon in place. The generic one I had bought didn’t have these, so I removed them with a pair of pliers.

I placed a rubber O ring on the bottom of the new siphon, ran some of the Plumba Joint around it, then screwed it into place. On my first attempt I over tightened and this forced the O ring off the pipe. The joint needs to be tight, but not that tight. The Plumba sealant needs to dry for a few minutes, so I gave it 10 to be on the safe side. While it was drying I reattached the ball float.

the new syphon in the fordham elan

It was now time to turn the water back on, gently I turned the valve and let the tank fill a little while I checked for leaks. None occurred, so after 5 minutes I let the tank fill. I did notice that the ball float was a little tight next to the new siphon, but it still worked and turned the flow off when the tank was full.

Finally it was time to flush. I placed a selected of towels under the cistern just incase of a flood but when pulled, the cistern emptied correctly into the toilet without a leak in sight.

I hope this has been of use to other budding plumbers. It’s saved me a few hundred pounds.

Q Radio Player

Q Radio Player

Q Radio officially relaunched today at 6pm with Samanthi’s QPM show.

I’ve been spending the past few weeks working on the new Q Radio Player.

Really it should have a “beta” somewhere in the title as it’s still being refined based on user feedback, like any other good site.

We have expanded on the old Q Radio Player on

Improvements include…

  • Now playing information
  • Track artwork and links to buy on Amazon or iTunes
  • Listing previous tracks heard
  • Current show snformation
  • Previous and next show information
  • Listen again for previous shows, along with now playing information
  • Voting on tracks so users can feed back if they like the station output or not
  • Flash streaming, so more users can listen in
  • And more…

Comments (hopefully not bug reports, though they are welcome)? Just contact me.

Using Nokia Lifeblog On Vodafone UK

Those of you in the UK and using Nokia Lifeblog on Vodafone contract may have noticed it no longer works.

We have problems at the moment with Vodafone’s new mobile optimising technology. This takes a page and tries to fit it onto a mobile phone screen. It does this by pretending to be a more competant browser in it’s HTTP headers.

However, in faking the HTTP headers it also strips out the WSSE authentication that Lifeblog uses for it’s security, meaning that each post will fail as unauthorised.

There is currently no easy work around for this except to change network or to register your site with Bango as they are apparently whitelisting sites to bypass this new proxy.

Homebrew Remote Switch For Canon EOS-350D

I’ve found myself needing a remote switch for my Canon EOS 350D camera recently. The official Canon product is the RS-060E3, but at 25 UKP that seems a bit steep.

A quick search on Google, and I came across Chantal Currid’s page on making your own remote control.

It turns out it’s actually really simple to build my own, so that’s exactly what I’ve done.

The EOS 350D uses a 2.5mm stereo socket, the three connections being ground, shutter control and auto focus control.

A quick trip down to the radio studios are work produced an old stereo cable from their junk box. This had a 3.5mm stereo jack plug on it. Next was a trip to Maplin on Great Portland Street where I bought a 3.5mm to 2.5mm adaptor plug, a handheld box, a red push to make button, a black push to make button and a toggle switch.


The wiring is simple, and details are on Chantal’s page on the theory of operation.

The toggle switch is used to latch the auto focus. The black push button is a momentary connection to the auto focus for when we don’t want to use the latch. The red push button is used to trigger the shutter release. If the toggle switch is on, this keeps the shutter open until the toggle is switched back. Very handy for those long “bulb” exposures.

Here’s the wired up box.

wired up canon switch

And here’s the final finished (and working) remote switch.

finished switch 1

finished switch 2

finished switch 3

finished switch 4

It should be possible to do more interesting stuff with this. How about one of Maplin’s IR beam kits, that we can use to trigger a shot if an invisible IR beam is crossed? Or even fitting in one of their remote control units? There are a lot of cool ideas to try.

It’s Time To Learn Python

Learning Python
No one would have believed, in the first years of the twenty first centry, that mobile affairs were being watched across many timeless RSS feeds. No one could have dreamed that they were being scrutinized as someone studies creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. Few Perl coders even considered the possibility of life with other programming languages. And yet, across the gulf of the blogosphere, a mind immeasurably superior to theirs regarded a certain language with envious eyes, and slowly and surely, he drew his plans to use it.

Yes, I’m fed up waiting for J2ME‘s long development times and restrictive programming model. I’ve been watching Python enviously for a while, and I’ve decided it’s time I added another language to my developers toolbelt.

I’ve gone out and bought O’Reilly’s Learning Python 2nd Edition, and installed Series 60 Python on my Nokia smartphone.

I’m about a quarter of the way through the book, and it all seems fairly simple so far.

Once I’ve got myself up to speed with the standard language, I’m going to move to the Symbian specific stuff. I may then treat myself to Programming Python and the Python Cookbook to get my skills up to a decent level.

Series 60 Python looks to be really full featured offering…

  • 2D Graphics, Images and Full-screen applications
  • Camera and Screenshot API
  • Contacts and Calendar API
  • Sound recording and playback
  • Access to system info such as IMEI number, disk space, free memory etc
  • Rich text display (fonts, colours, styles)
  • Support for Scabale UI
  • Expanded key events
  • Telephone dialing
  • Zip compression
  • Networking support for GPRS and Bluetooth
  • Native GUI widget
  • SMS

In other words, the ability to do nearly anything you want quickly and easily on the phone once you’ve installed the Python sis file.

Another benefit of learning Python, will be the ability to script in Civilization IV. 😉

In London, But OK

It looks like there have been more attacks in London on a bus, and at 3 tube stations.

Although I’m working close to Warren Street, I’m fine.

We’ve been told to stay in the office and not leave.

I’m In London, But OK

Just so you all know, I’m in central London, but safe.

Looks like I’ll be stuck here as the entire transport system has shut down here after todays terrorist attacks.

It’s a good job I didn’t come via Liverpool Street today! – The Best In UK Commercial Radio - Kerrang

I’m really pleased as I made the new site live today. It’s the result of several months hard work by a small team, with me as the lead developer.

Currently it’s the home for 8 radio players at present, with more to follow soon!

Kerrang Radio, Kerrang 105.2, Kiss 100 and Magic 105.4 contain a mix of live radio streams, the best of the weeks previous shows and some other special content.

The BBC has been doing something similar for a while with the BBC Radio Player, and ourselves with the Kiss player, but this a first for UK commercial radio.

All the players cross link to each other and we try to offer highlights from other stations to give visitors a real choice of listening.

Anyway, there’s more to come, so keep tuned in. - Kiss - Heat - Smash Hits

Nokia Sensor – First Thoughts

Nokia have released a new product called Sensor.

It’s a social networking tool that scans the local area via Bluetooth and reports back on other users in the area with Sensor enabled on their phones.

It’s very similar to Mobiluck in the way it works, but seems to have taken the concept to the next stage.

I had a similar idea a while back, and even got as far as coding the Bluetooth detection in Java. My idea was to tie into a FOAF file so you could look for friends or see who knew who in the area. The stumbling point was the difficulty in parsing RDF in J2ME. Ideally the parsing would have to be done on a seperate server somewhere, but like I said, it was just an idea that never got taken further.

When you load up Sensor you have a basic menu of options.

Nokia Sensor Menu

I’ve added a simple profile that can be exchanged with other Sensor users. Here I’ve taken a photo of Larry the Perl camel to use as the photo other Sensor users see when they check my profile out.

Nokia Sensor profile

When you have a profile, you can look for other Sensor users.

Nokia Sensor scanning

Of course, there aren’t any other Sensor users here at present so I can’t see what happens when there is someone else in the area.

It’ll be interesting to see the Bluetooth messages passed and if some bright spark will code up a desktop version. It defeats the object of course, but it’s still interesting to know how it works exactly.

It’s great to see Nokia supporting their handsets with great pieces of software like this and of course Lifeblog. Shame it’s just for Series 60 smart phones at present as this is the sort of thing that I can see the kids loving, and unfortunately not all of them can afford the best handsets.

I wonder when the first Sensor wedding will be… 🙂