Shout

April 22nd, 2015

The 80s Tears for Fears song Shout contains the line

These are the things I can do without

and that came true last Friday. Warning: middle-aged whinge content approaching.

I’d already arranged to meet a friend in a local pub, when my neighbours suggested a meal out. I’d got plenty of time, so we trotted (well, walked) off to a local pub. The food and beer was fine, but one thing *really* grated: the volume.

The music wasn’t the problem. What was the problem was a group of people, clustered around the bar (Grrr!) seemingly unable to conduct a conversation at normal volume: even the act of moving out of my way so I could get to the PDQ machine was accompanied by a needless cacophony of shouts (to which I muttered “for fucks sake” under my breath (hopefully)), and something about the acoustics of the room made it impossible to hold a conversation ourselves (though, as we’re all distinctly middle-aged, it could be the start of our hearing deteriorating in a noisy environment).

This was repeated later when I met my friend in another pub, but also with a band playing. Loud.

I really don’t mind music in pubs; or indeed bands in pubs. In fact, I love music in pubs, if it’s decent, but why always so loud? The loud music, of course, then creates the shouting if it wasn’t there already.

This thing really feeds into my perfect pub post: and it’s worth noting that the pubs I really like often have no music, like this one, this one or this one, or music you can converse over, like this one and this one and, again referring to my critera, the old model of multi-room pubs (before they all got knocked into one space) really helps here: it may have been an answer to the smoking issue too (as many pubs had a smoke room back in the day).

This is starting to sound like a grumpy old man’s desire for quiet pubs with no life to them (last Sunday, I visibly winced when one heavily refreshed customer suggested my local needed loud music on the jukebox to “liven it up” (on a Sunday evening, FFS)), but I’ll address that in two ways. First of all, I know I’m not alone, and secondly, having been in this place at work-chucking-out on a Friday, with it rammed to the point of standing room only, and felt the buzz in the place, which, frankly, was infectious, but still been able to talk to my companion, because people were talking, I can honestly say that at times I crave a bit of life to a pub.

So then: am I just getting old (though, in truth, I’ve hated over-loud pubs since my teens), or getting (even more) boring? I know Andy will agree here, but he’s older than me (and possibly, if the two of us are present, this post may become hypocritical…), and others may not, and I suppose here there’s a point to be made that pubs are, well, public spaces, so have to accommodate different tastes.

Break the Cycle

April 7th, 2015

I’ve noticed that subtly, people are starting to label me as a cyclist: family bought me cycling based gifts, for example. I’m not actually that much of a cyclist- I cycle short distances around 5 times a week, depending on weather- and that probably makes me “not a proper cyclist” amongst certain members of the community.

Of course, the whole labelling thing is dangerous, it makes me uncomfortable. I’m a driver, a cyclist, a pedestrian, and a public transport user, and all of these groups can be (and are) labelled:

1) All car drivers use their mobiles when driving
2) All cyclists jump red lights
3) All pedestrians walk out without looking
4) All Public transport users cannot afford a car, or they’d have one.

just for example, to pick four statements I know to be untrue.

I’ve seen something while in Cardiff that did, however, awaken the millitant cyclist in me, and also make me think about the ineptitude of road planners, indulging in a bit of box-ticking.

Cyclists will campaign for seperate infrastructure. A cycle path physically seperated from the road. This seems like a good idea. Let’s see that in action.

This is LLoyd George Avenue, linking the city to the bay. I walked down it several times, noting the totally unused cycle path to my left, and a few cyclists coming past on the main carriageway.

Bloody cyclists, eh? Provide that lane, and they don’t use it.

Let’s look at it from the ground.

*SLOW HANDCLAP*

*SLOW HANDCLAP*

In the pic, the road is to my right. I’m on the footpath, and the cycle path is to my left. In front of me is a side road, with a set of traffic lights to stop traffic on the main road, and a pelican crossing I can operate to cross (though in practice, the side road is so quiet, you don’t need to, and the delay on the lights changing is ridiculous, so you won’t bother).

You’ll notice that the cycle lane comes to an abrupt halt at a barrier.

So, yes, the designers thought that it was a good idea to make cyclists stop every few hundred yards, dismount, push a button, wait for a crossing to change, walk over, get back on the bike, and rinse and repeat.

What the very fuck?

That’s why all the cyclists are on the A470, and the cycle lane is unused.

Why on earth the cycle lane wasn’t built alongside the road, sharing priority over the side roads, is beyond me. It could still be seperate- in fact, just swapping position of the footpath & cycle way and reconfiguring the junctions a little would seem to have achieved that to me: The cyclists would get space, and have equal priority to cars, the pedestrians would be isolated from the cylists.

People are *paid* to do this.

Amongst Piers

April 7th, 2015

I’ve been away on business in Cardiff; network monkeying and packet pushing. Cardiff is an interesting city- I’ve never been before, and impressioms?

Friendly people, great restaurants, “vibrant” nightlife, good pubs (though the earlyish starts, a couple of late finishes, and alcohol combine to make a tiring experience…). There’s a lot in common with other cities, of course, both good and bad, but overall a nice place, though the traffic was a nightmare, with endless traffic lights- and the roads don’t work well for motorised traffic, cycles, or pedestrians- but more of that in another post.

In between proving that “one code per device” and “you won’t be able to create your own networks” can be defeated with NAT and randomly gaffertaping cables, I managed to get a bit of time out for a visit to nearby Penarth, so a couple of drinks and a pier trip: I picked a good day: it was warm, sometimes sunny, and a Penarth had a happy, relaxed air to it.

Penarth pier is beautiful. A proper pier that actually reaches the sea, with a lovely, recently restored pavillion, it’s owned by the council, and is a public space and cinema. There’s a nice tearoom too, and everything is in good order outside too: all the planking is complete and in good order and the pier was busy with happy crowds on Easter Sunday- this considering the pier is a short way from town. Colwyn Bay take note. I took some cameraphone snaps:

Penarth Pier

Penarth Pier


Penarth Pier's Art Deco Pavillion: that clock....

Penarth Pier’s Art Deco Pavillion: that clock….


but if you want decent pics, Google has loads that are better.

A short walk into town, and Penarth has some great architecture too: it’s fairly affluent now, and has been in the past too, by the looks of it, with some grand Victorian buildings and a couple of Deco gems too- yet not up itself, though the locals in one pub proffered the opinon “try living here”. There’s no pleasing some.

Connection Reset by Pier

March 21st, 2015

We decided to have a few days away, and to continue our pier-bothering, we went east again, to within easy distance of Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, so it was a high six to Norfolk, via that old favourite, the A14.

The Cambridgeshire speed nazis have at least now replaced the Gatsos with average speed cameras, with the result that the speeds are now even, rather that 85-brake-to-60-back-to-85. I’ve often said that if you find dual carriageways or motorways boring, then either you’re going too slow, not paying enough attention, or both, but miles of straight, flat, surprisingly quiet DC at 70 mph on cruise control tests that maxim. Mind, if the truck at the end of the M6, just before the infamous Catthorpe Interchange, had been paying better attention, we’d have had an even quicker journey. Fortunately, no one seemed to be seriously injured, but it won’t buff out.
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Pelsall Pub Crawl

March 8th, 2015

It was time to push up the pub count for #100pubs a bit, so a meet up with Andy and his good mate JC and his neighbour saw us in Pelsall for a few drinks, and in our case, a curry.

One aborted visit to The Queens, a curry, and then a wait in The Old House before meeting at The Scratter– which surprisingly both my better half and I had never been in before- it’s a pleasant, surprisingly large club, with decent beer.

On to business: push up the pub count: back to The Queens- amazingly packed- and then the Railway, now, I reckon, the undisputed best pub in Pelsall. After that, taxi home before the locals set up the wicker man on the common; even being in the company of three natives is no guarantee of safety.

He Slimed Me

March 8th, 2015

My continued effort to cycle more is working: I manage to drag myself out several times a week now, but this is noticeably having an effect on the bike- my sketchy cleaning and lubrication regime combined with the grit and mud of canal towpaths means I’ve been through a good few cables, and had a few instances of gears misbehaving. On top of this, the pedals I fitted almost a year ago have developed a nasty click and some play, so they’re next on the list, having spent some time yesterday cleaning and lubing things, and putting slime in the tyres, after having 2 punctures in as many days. I don’t carry a pump (in fact, I don’t have one, as I hate pumping tyres, and use an electric compressor), so I’ve been very lucky up to now and not got stranded, although I’ve ridden home on a soft tyre a couple of times- I’m hoping the slime will prevent the risk of a long walk.

Pier Review

March 1st, 2015

We continued our pier-bothering this weekend: another short break saw us down the M40, M25, A23 and A27 to Worthing. We’d done all the closest piers, and it being February, south seemed like a good choice- and so it was, on Friday: glorious sunshine saw us without coats outside a seafront bar in brilliant sunshine. Sadly, Saturday saw rain, mist, and wind, and I’d forgotten to take the camera out on Friday, so the Pier’s art-deco amusement arcade only got a hurried pic in the rain:

Worthing Pier's amusement hall

Worthing Pier’s amusement hall

In addition to the amusement hall, the Southern Pavillion has been refurbished- nicely so- and houses a tearoom/music/wedding venue: they’ve done a great job of that, but their website’s a bit lacking- unlike the array of (mostly blues) acts they have on.

Generally, the pier is in quite good shape: while we were there, decking was being replaced, which is nice to see, after the horrors of Colwyn Bay. Nice to see a council-owned pier being maintained, and busy, and making money.

On to the town itself: walk from our hotel in the east towards town along the seafront and it’s looking affluent and a bit la-di-dah, but elsewhere, like most places, it varies; we had an excellent Turkish meal in an area that, in politician-speak, would be described as “vibrant” (to be fair, the dark, wet evening didn’t do it any favours, but the meal was fantastic).

As you’d expect in the south, prices were a bit high in some places: north of 11 quid for a pint and a large wine give me a bit of a shock, but this was a seafront bistro/bar- back in the “vibrant” end of town it was just over six quid at the architecturally wonderful, but slightly rough Grand Victorian Hotel. Generally, I liked the town a lot.

A Bad Apple

February 12th, 2015

Andy, Ross and BrownhillsBob may be expecting me to have a pop at Apple here (as is my way), but I’m not going to, or at least only a brief whinge, with the main target (again) being idiots that claim to know a product, but don’t.

Those of you with long memories may remember this lengthy rant. A short swipe at OSX, and a big load rant at fucking Symantec (as a colleague commented, is there *any* company Symantec have bought and not fucked up the product?), and a big rant at fuckwits who don’t understand what they are being paid to do.

The OSX server mentioned in that rant failed. To be completely fair, it’s worked completely reliably for six years now, which is impressive. So I’m not going to complain, and it was clearly hardware that was bost.

A few attempts by colleagues and myself to resurrect it failed, so we called the support company (sadly the same fuckwits from the story back in 2009). They wander in, (bringing a manual, which sets off alarm bells- I’d expect a field engineer to not need it….) say the server’s not supported by Fruitco any more, that parts are a nightmare, briefly try (and fail to get) Target Disk Mode, (which, I note, doesn’t work with disks attached to a hardware RAID card, so wouldn’t have helped), shrug a bit, say that our diagnosis of a buggered RAID card might be right or maybe it might be the logic board (as there’s little more than those 2 fucking boards in it, this is hardly advanced diagnosis, and leave.

At this point, I begin to wonder what we’re paying the fuckers for, and I start restoring the files to the only place we have a Backup Exec agent and 1TB of spare storage: a Windows Server 2003 box. Most of the data restores, but some recent work is lost as it didn’t make the tapes (the Mac workstations being too old for Time Machine), and some initially didn’t restore due to file naming incompatibilities (take it from me, anyone using mixed operating systems (our backup is Windows-based) should read this, and this: most of the restrictions are with Windows, but you never know what OS you may be sharing files with. I personally think it all went downhill once spaces were allowed in filenames :-), and here’s my brief whinge: I know the limitation is Windows, but allowing “:” and “\” in a filename is just fucking wrong, and supporting your hardware a bit longer would be nice.

Now then, what to do? The users are (mostly) working again. First of all, the original support co is ditched. We call another supplier, and the difference is incredible: engineer arrives, asks all the right questions, listens to what diagnostic steps we’ve tried, sounds like he knows what he’s talking about, diagnoses a logic board failure, and offers to take the server back to the workshop to attempt recovery of the recent data for a very modest fee. Guess who’ll be getting the support contract, and potentially an order for new machines in a while?

It also makes me think I should have taken better note of the warning signs six years ago: these people claim to be supporting us (and originally claimed to know the product, but, as is so often the case, don’t. I’m glad to say that I didn’t arrange their involvement.

#100pubs

February 8th, 2015

A challenge has been issued by @agm1960: when visiting that fine pub The Black Eagle, a pledge was made: we will attempt to visit 100 pubs together this year. This will be documented by the man himself right over here, and maybe it will get tweeted too.

5 down, 95 to go.

Debian Again

February 5th, 2015

The “server” I built back in 2008 suffered a nasty accident at my own fair hands: a cack-handed attempt to patch the GHOST vulnerability, compounded by a previous, similarly cack-handed (though succesfull) approach to patching bash previously taught me a hard lesson in package managment on Debian-based Linux: Don’t fuck with the rules, and when you see a confirmation that says you must type

Yes, do as I say!

or the operation stops should be taken as n indicator it’s about to break. It did.

The handy bit was that the system stayed up, but I couldn’t start or stop services. This wasn’t going to survive a restart, so I got the data and config files off with SFTP, IMAP’d the email into a folder on mylaptop, and shut it down. Then work got in the way and I had to rely on gmail for a few days.

Rebuild was a bit fraught: Ubuntu Server no longer comes with a suitable kernel for the very old Celeron laptop i use as a low-power server, and I thought I’d have to use a desktop variant, but returning to Debian provided a install CD that worked, and after a few false starts with postfix config, it’s up and going again. The lesson learnt here is to be cautious (don’t break dependencies), but not too cautious (if I’d kept Ubuntu up to date, the 2008 build would have been upgraded by now, and \i wouldn’t have had to bodge the patches).


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