Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Was dark chocolate ‘Brain Benefits’ report leaked to Lidl?

I mentioned the report which found that “dark chocolate actually improved attention, processing speed, working memory and verbal fluency“.

So, it seems (dark) chocolate IS good for you

Thanks to various ‘health nuts’ and gurus, and their claims regarding ‘superfoods’ (such as blueberries), the prices of such foods have been seen to rise to stupid levels.

I wonder if anyone else watches the relative prices of dark and milk chocolate digestive biscuits, as offered by Lidl under their own Tower Gate branding?

Some time ago, the prices were similar, then the dark chocolate version began to rise. The pack size was also changed, from 400 g down to 300 g.

That wasn’t used to hide a price increase, and the price per gramme stayed the same despite the pack size change.

More recently, the milk chocolate version was dropped from 44 p to 42 p as a ‘Special Offer’.

Even more recently the ‘Special Offer’ was dropped, but the price remained at the lower figure of 42 p.

I stopped buying the dark version, so don’t know its price change history, but that version is now 49 p.

Interesting – the ‘healthy’ one is the one that costs more.

How did they know? 😉

Lidl Choclolate Digestive Prices

Lidl Choclolate Digestive Prices

03/05/2019 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , , | Leave a comment

Not a terrible crash – just a folding e-bike

This started out as a bit of light-hearted fun, a humourous post about a folding bike spotted at one of my local Lidl’s, but then became ‘interesting’.

This fairly standard, Chinese made, folding bike looks like a terrible accident when first seen folded, but cleverly turns into a handy adult carrier.

There just happened to be a standard bike behind, offering a comparison.

I was wondering why the owner bothered to fold it while just popping into the shop, but having tried the useless bike parking fixing offered by Tollcross’ Lidl, there’s no mystery. There’s a short row of ‘V’ loops, which a wheel can be shoved into and presumably secured by a locking loop or chain.

They’re a joke!

I tried one recently – utterly useless as it leaves the rest of the bike vulnerable. A thief only has to release the locked wheel and can leave it behind while departing with the rest of the bike.

To secure the bike, you need more chains and locks to secure the frame (and other wheel) to the one tied to the ‘V’. I almost ran out. Fortunately, I carry a few different types to cater for various options, but I did almost run out of… patience!

I also found that a bike in the ‘V’ sticks out into, and occupies half the width of, the footpath passing this ‘rack’.

Not trying that again, I’ll just have to carry on using anything nearby that suits.

Lidl EPlus City Folder

Lidl EPlus City Folder

Things got more interesting when I looked closer, and when I tried to find out more details about this offering online.

There doesn’t seem to be a maker’s web site, but I found this bike on sale on eBay for about £370 – 24 V with 20″ wheels, ‘Manufacturer refurbished’.

Interest continued to grow as there were no proper technical details given, but I noticed the bike on offer, although identical in appearance from it graphics, differed in its apparent system of electric drive.

Referring to retail item as the original, it looks as if the original bike has a conventional pedal/chain driven rear wheel with a few gears, and the electric drive assists this using a hub motor built into the front wheel.

As the front wheel is hidden in my pic, I’ve found an unfolded example.

First, note the front wheel – in the full size pic, wires and connectors can be seen leading to the hub motor.

Second, and more interesting – look at the rear wheel, then compare to the detail I’ve taken from my own pic taken at Lidl.

EPlus City Folder

EPlus City Folder

And rear detail as seen at Lidl.

City Folder DIY Rear Drive

City Folder DIY Rear Drive

I’m impressed!

I’ll hazard a guess and say that the front wheel hub motor failed, and a replacement is not readily available, or if it is, costs as much as the whole bike to have flown in (I found this out the hard way, when some electronic kit failed on me).

I don’t subscribe to the ‘Chinese rubbish’ theory (especially not today, as China is giving much of the rest of the world a wake-up call as it develops – helped by the Orange Moron of course, as it unravels many advances made in the US), but I did wonder the first time I zoomed into that rear motor, its perforated metal strip mounting, the wiring, the sticky tape, and the cable ties.

Then I realised what I was looking at.

I assume that friction drive works.

If I tried something like this, all that would happen would be that the motor would keep twisting out of its mounting, and never stayed in contact with the tyre.

I had a vintage dynamo powered lighting system that depended on a similar system driven by the rear wheel. It was fine while I had old-style rubber tyres mounted. Then I switched to modern synthetic tyres. Disaster! The tyre’s surface had insufficient friction to drive the dynamo against the load when in use. The friction wheel just slid over the tyre. Thank goodness I had already dumped it in favour of  LED lighting all round.

One point.

My OCD means I couldn’t sleep at night thinking of that open electric motor sitting in all the muck that gets thrown behind a bike, even when only ridden in dry weather, and getting water inside (esp those exposed windings, where it would never evaporate from in Scotland) would mean losing any sleep I might have had.

Time for a Blue Peter Moment. Even a washing-up liquid bottle cut to sit over it would help IMMENSELY!


Above, I mentioned the relatively useless bike rack at this Lidl.

Last time I was there, someone had been kind enough to ignore it completely, and do what I do – lock their bike FRAME to the fence around the trolley enclosure. A much more secure option, seen just behind the ‘V’ rack on the left, which only secures a wheel rim.

Great Lidl Bike Rack

Great Lidl Bike Rack

14/09/2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography, Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Now Lidl joins the Baillieston closures

Don’t panic though…

This closure is just for refurbishment.

This was notified last week, with the store closing on the 18th (March) and planned to reopen on 17 May, a Thursday, which is handily the day Lidl usually throws out some extra offers.

Lidl Baillieston

Lidl Baillieston

Guess I’m lucky to still have Tollcross, Dennistoun, and Rutherglen to choose from.

19/03/2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , | Leave a comment

Lidl technical problems 2 – Quick clamps

I bought a selection of quick clamps from Lidl a while ago. These the single-handed clamps that you ratchet closed and tighten by squeezing a pair of handles together, rather then screwing closed to tighten.

I haven’t had any real opportunity to use them, but when I repaired a chair which had loose joints, I was less than impressed by the force these clamps could generate. I had on old pressed metal version of this type of clamp from B&Q a few years back, and this generated so much closing force it would bend it’s own frame.

I had a chance to use the Lidl clamps for a real job, which needed the clamp to pull a frame together while glue set.

The pic below shows the result of trying to pull the parts together with this clamp.

The first problem is obvious – the plastic handle just snapped and broke off while I was squeezing the handle to tighten the clamp. This was only with one hand, and I am not Hercules.

The second problem that developed is more subtle – and the tiny piece of plastic seen to the upper left of the screwdriver tip is the clue, together with the position of the handle just above it.

That piece of plastic should stop the handle moving into that position and jamming there, but had already broken off and was rattling inside the casing, which it why this thing is dismantled, to find the reason for the jamming handle and rattle.

I don’t know what’s worst about these clamps, that they deliver such a low clamping force, or that the handles may just break if you try to squeeze them harder.

I guess these are now relegated to light duty holding rather than proper clamping in future, since I don’t need any more broken clamps to go with this one.

Broken Lidl clamp

Broken Lidl clamp

15/05/2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 2 Comments

Lidl technical problems 1 – Rechargeable batteries

A few years ago I was involved in a project that involved working with a tech-type (from the south coast of England) who had similar interests to my own, and one of the things we exchanged notes on was hardware purchased from Lidl. He’d been buying their stuff for a few years, but I had only started, however, he warned me not to expect too much. He’d been let down quite a bit, and further suggested I take their guarantee with a pinch of salt. The problem he found was that by the time something failed, it was off the shelves, and it took forever to get someone to deal with any problems as the items are produced all over Europe, not the UK.

Sad to say, a few years down the road we are no longer in touch, but his warnings have come true, and I think it’s time to mention them.

Rechargeable batteries and the PP3 in particular

I’ve used a few of their rechargeable batteries (all NiMH) in various applications, and they work ok at first, but don’t seem to last.

I replaced a pair of AA cells fitted inside a shaver, and they barely lasted a year. The original cells lasted 10 years before they needed to be replaced, and failed gradually. The replacements started to fail after 10 months, and within a few weeks would not even hold charge past one shave. No fun, since renewal means complete dismantling of the unit to reach them. Now, I can only use the shaver when plugged in to the mains – although the display says I have 34 shaves in reserve.

The same cells seem to have lasted longer in things like cameras, but their use is different, so may suit them better.

By comparison, similar AA and AAA cells from Maplin are still working like new after 5 years and more.

The worst example was a Lidl PP3. This is a battery I try to avoid (for its short life and high cost) but this is not always possible.

The first sign that there was going to be a problem was when it would not charge or operate the equipment it was fitted to – a symptom that appeared after only a few months.

Eventually I noticed that the negative terminal was discoloured, and closer inspection showed it to be coated with a non-conductive layer of black corrosion. Scraping this off restored operation temporarily, but the contamination simply returned, and had to be removed repeatedly. Eventually the corrosion caused some of the bent metal spring contacts to break/fall off, rendering the contact unreliable. This was not really relevant – by that time, the battery was no longer working anyway. The state of the negative terminal can be seen in the first pic below. This also shows the presence of liquid which had been leaking from the individual cells used to make up the battery, and had been inside the casing:

Corroded negative terminal

Corroded negative terminal

The next pic shows the condition of the cells found inside the casing.

All are corroded, no doubt caused by whatever liquid has been leaking from them:

Corroded PP3 interior

Corroded PP3 interior

While it seems that they vent hydrogen and water if overcharged, with no seriously toxic materials involved, I still noted that the liquid was oily, and never evaporated as water would have. Unlike AA or AAA, PP3 rechargeables are generally charged on time only, while the others can have a full charge detected, which stops the charging automatically.

I never charge a PP3 until it has been fully discharged in service.

For comparison, While the above battery failed to last for even a year, the one below was purchased around 2000, and is still in constant use to this day. The other one was bought to stand in for it when it was being charged!

RS PP3 about 15 years old

RS PP3 about 15 years old – and still going strong

14/04/2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Plug in, switch on, blow up

I had occasion to pull a little used piece of test kit off the shelf recently, and rather than the now expected reliability of a piece of well ‘burnt-in’ kit, all I got was a WHOOSH and a cloud of smoke after plugging it in and switching it on.

As background to this exciting moment, I should mention the purchase of a cheap infra-red hand-held thermometer from Lidl. Once again, this proved to be a mistake, it didn’t work, nor did a replacement. Both had the same fault, as the reading started out ok, but just steadily ramped down as long as the unit was being used. The falling reading obviously rendered it useless, and at about 1°C per minute, would eventually go negative even when presented with targets at room temperature.

Although the problem was obvious, I wanted to carry out some proper checks, so dug out a temperature calibration bath, which would allow me to create a target with a known and stable temperature to test the Lidl device against:

Iso-Tech Pegasus Bath

Isotech Pegasus Bath

And that was when the fun started, as a cloud of smoke poured out of the bath when I applied power – made all the more exciting by the fan to force cool the interior.

Although I killed the power almost instantly, I noted that despite this cloud, everything appeared to be working, and no fuses blew.

After checking nothing obvious was damaged, and no wiring had been burnt I decided to briefly power it up again. Partly because I could see no damage or failure, and partly because it smelt terrible, but the fan cooling meant this smell could not be localised – EVERYTHING smelled of burnt electronics.

No drama and no more smoke, and it was working perfectly – a puzzle? I knew something had been burning and smoking, so deeper digging was needed.

The only candidate remaining was the temperature controller fitted to the bath, but it was working normally – so it had to come out and be dismantled. Initially, it looked fine, with no sign of anything having burnt or been smoking. However, when I examined the components on the controller PCBs, the problem began to give itself away as I noted that some of the capacitors had cracks in their casings, and this betrayed the fact that they had swollen.

Burst Capacitors PCB

Burst Capacitors PCB

All the same make and type, once removed and examined it was clear that they had failed when mains had been applied, as the insulation within them vaporised, expanding and bursting their casings as the gas made its way to the outside world. The pics below reveal the evidence:

Burst Capacitor Set

Burst Capacitor Set

Fortunately, this was not a major problem, just a nuisance.

Lacking a circuit diagram for the controller, a look at the PCB and the fact that these caps had mains applied to them suggested they were suppression or filter components, intended to deal with electrical interference and/or prevent it, rather than act as part of the active controller circuit.

A rummage around the junk box produced some reasonably similar cap of the right voltage, so this functionality could be preserved.

Test runs of 12 hours and more confirmed the bath operated normally.

As for the Lidl infra-red thermometer?

Lidl Infra-red Thermometer

Lidl Infra-red Thermometer

This little gem will star as a later entry in my ‘Lidl technical problems’ series.

04/04/2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment


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