Another week has flown by – this time I kept notes to keep track of it all in the hope it would speed up the weeknote writing. It didn’t, so I need to work on the format. Anyway, this is how it looks this week.
My week at work
Understandably, I can’t write much about what I do in the day job. Suffice to say, it’s been busy, busy, busy. I’m preparing for a presentation to the Node4 Go To Market (GTM) team next week. This will be me, along with my colleague Bjoern, presenting to the entire salesforce and trying to convince them why they should be selling more of the services we’re responsible for. And, in parallel, I’m refreshing the collateral to support the sales of those same services.
I also spent some time on a call with one of our business partner this week, learning more about how they are developing their offers and how we can potentially do more work together.
My week in cycling
I know, this blog is supposed to be about tech, but I also have two very sporty teenagers that I’m very proud of. Their sports activities are a big part of my week (and my life in general).
Last weekend, I should have been in Falkirk, supporting my eldest son, Matt, at the 2024 British National Cyclocross Championships. As things transpired, that was not to be…
At 2023’s National Champs (Matt’s first senior year), Cameron Mason was so dominant in the Elite/U23 Men’s race that only 7 riders were permitted to finish the race (under the 80% rule). It’s a big investment of time and money to travel the length of the country for a short race but we would have been there, if Matt felt he was ready for it. Unfortunately, after a challenging few weeks with a return to racing after spending the autumn leading cycle tours in Greece, he decided to end his cyclocross season early. Apart from podiums in the local Central Cyclocross League (CCXL), third place in the Central Regional CX Champs was to be his only significant result this season. He’s preparing to build two new bikes for the 2024/25 cyclocross season – and he has plans for the 2024 road season too. I’m sure those plans will end up in these weeknotes in due course.
Just as a side note, after the demise of GCN Plus, it’s great to see BBC Scotland providing mainstream TV coverage of the national champs!
My week in technology
Adding AirPlay to an old Hi-Fi amplifier
With a bonus weekend at home, I got to finish up a tech project that’s been on the list for a while – adding AirPlay to my old 1990s Technics amplifier. When I moved in with my wife, my mid-range Hi-Fi stack was labelled “black loud crap”. As a result, it was banished from the house, but still lives on in the Man Cave. Adding an old Raspberry Pi 2B running as an audio gateway has provided the necessary tech to cast audio, without needing to invest in more Sonos (or IKEA Symfonisk) as I have in the rest of the house. This is the guide I followed, at PiMyLifeUp.
There’s the odd stutter, which I think may be due to a weak 2.4MHz Wi-Fi signal. It could also be down to running on a relatively old Pi 2. It certainly beats connecting Spotify via Alexa which used my account and so only worked for me and not the whole family. Plus it also works with other apps, like Pocket Casts and Audible.
Wilson family digital transformation
Late last year, I convinced Mrs W that we could use the family calendar on our iPhones to manage our busy family life. Previously, the paper calendar on the kitchen wall was the single source of the truth. That’s not too helpful when we’re not at home. This digital transformation of the Wilson family has been a huge success but it’s also shown me that people use calendars in different ways!
For example, our eldest son is currently away skiing. Is that one long appointment for 2 weeks? Or do we just need to know the dates he leaves and returns? And how do we record our youngest son’s Hockey training sessions? Is it the actual session times, or the times we leave the house and return? I’m trying not to be too “Mark” about this, but it’s an interesting insight into how other people think!
On a related note, I also learned this week that not everyone sees pictures in their mind, like I do. I don’t know what they do “see”, but it explains why not everyone can visualise what something will look like when it’s finished!
AirTag all the the things
After a trial with an Apple AirTag in my luggage (very useful when it wasn’t put on the plane at Stansted one holiday), I’ve been expanding our use of these devices. One use case that’s been particularly helpful is my youngest son’s keys… as he’s already had to replace at least one set that he lost before I tagged them. Now I regularly hear the “FindMy sound” as he searches for them before leaving the house.
On a similar note, for Christmas, my eldest son bought me an Apple FindMy-compatible tracker for my glasses. It doesn’t have the Precision Finding feature of the AirTag, but it does tell me where they were last seen, and lets me play a sound. Now, when I leave them somewhere, I can listen for the chirp of the Orbit sensor. It’s a bit strange charging my glasses though, but this is relatively infrequent.
Other bits and pieces of tech
- After seeing a thread about date formats, ISO standards and RFCs, I thought about my frustrations with people who write dates “the wrong way”. By the wrong way, I mean not putting the most significant portion first. The US convention of mm/dd/yyyy is nonsensical. UK dd/mm/yyyy is better, but I generally name files using yyyymmdd etc. because they appear in order. On that basis, I realised that my naming for these weeknotes should be year/week number (inspired by Sharon O’Dea). Previously I had erroneously named them week number/year. From this week forwards, that is corrected.
- After watching a YouTube video, I successfully resuscitated an apparently-dead Li-ion battery pack (the on-board circuitry needed its capacity recharging before it would accept a charge). This is potentially dangerous – I’m not responsible for anything that happens if you try it, but it worked for me, and saved me quite a few quid. Some say to use a resistor for safety. Others stress to only “jump start” momentarily (as I did).
- I was looking at some communications from Vodafone about the 3G switch off… and wondered if that is the same part of the spectrum as 4G… i.e. more channels freed up for 4G/5G or will 4G/5G have access to extra spectrum now? Twitter helped me out with that…
Thinking about the 3G mobile switch-off. Does it use the same part of the radio spectrum as 4G/5G (i.e more capacity becomes available at the same frequencies) or will 4G/5G now have access to extra frequencies previously used by 3G? pic.twitter.com/Mg9Bency4p— Mark Wilson (@markwilsonit) January 16, 2024
- On the subject of radio communications, I’ve started the Essex Ham Amateur Radio Foundational Training Course as the delivery mechanism seems to suit me better than reading the manual. I made a promise to Christian Payne at the last Milton Keynes Geek Night and I intend to keep it!
- And after watching a couple of videos on YouTube (this was one of them), I took a trip to Screwfix (Argos for Dads) and then spent an entire day installing two RJ-45 sockets and a relatively short CAT6 UTP cable run for my home network. It’s not difficult (the hardest part was working out how to use a punch down tool), but I was far too slow.
Today in “Mark’s Day Off DIY”, we will mostly be learning about wiring Ethernet…— Mark Wilson (@markwilsonit) January 19, 2024
? 50m of CAT 6 UTP cable
? Back boxes, faceplates and RJ-45 modules
? Punch down tool
? Cable tester
? Voltage detector
? Drill (not shown)
Let’s do this! pic.twitter.com/HY7RY5D4XV
- Hopefully that section between the hall (OpenReach ONT) and the garage “datacentre” (ISP router) is all the Ethernet I need to run, but I have plenty of spare cable if I need to pull any more for a potential CCTV project… (I’ve been watching lots of videos about Reolink cameras).
- Oh yes, one more thing. I finally changed my LinkedIn profile picture… my previous professional headshot was taken when I was in my late 30s, I think. I’m nearly 52 and afraid it’s time to look my age. This may not sound like news but it took me ages to find something suitably professional that I liked!
My week in TV
I’ll spare you all my YouTube highlights this week but, over in streaming TV land, Mrs W and I wrapped up three excellent series:
- Mr Bates vs the Post Office (ITV);
- Slow Horses (Apple TV); and
- The Crown (Netflix).
This last season of The Crown has been criticised for being too dramatic but I thought it was well done. There will be no season 7 and it feels like it was left at just the right point, at the marriage of Charles and Camilla (then Prince and Princess of Wales) and the early days of William and Katherine’s relationship (the current Prince and Princess of Wales). It even contained a nod to Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral, with her involvement in the plans but also some scenes that linked to the actual events last year.
And in case we hadn’t had enough Toby Jones, we’ve started watching season 2 of Detectorists, for some light hearted relief from the more serious stuff.
Other things that should probably be a blog post on their own
I was going to write some more, but I’m getting bored of writing this now – goodness knows how you feel, dear reader. So there may need to be an overflow post or two about these topics, or maybe the tweets will say enough:
- Well-paid IT folks moaning about the inconvenience that strikes have on their lives… playing to the “them and us” narrative.
- Rebooting the car to get Apple CarPlay to work again!
- CTOs with 30 years of industry experience being approached about a job that claims to need a technical degree.
Just been sent a job spec for someone trying to hire me (oddly I'm getting a lot of those at the moment ;-) ).— J8y (@JoeBaguley) January 16, 2024
Requirement is a "Technical degree" – I don't have a degree, but sure – someone who did a technical degree 30 years ago is going to be better suited for the role…
- Storytelling. And how pictures can convey messages that words alone cannot. Or bring meaning to words when they are in another language that you only have a passing knowledge of.
Here’s an example of how important good illustration is. I don’t speak Welsh/Cymraeg but I can read a few words and can tell what this article is about. The diagram confirms my understanding based on: costio £2b; llinellau rheilffyrdd; gogledd a’r de; Trafnidieaeth Cymru https://t.co/QSXAshj10K— Mark Wilson (@markwilsonit) January 18, 2024
- Rail fare “simplification” and the very different approaches taken by LNER (UK Government-owned) and ScotRail (Scottish Government-owned).
Two ticketing trials, two very different results:— Gareth Dennis (@GarethDennis) January 19, 2024
??????? requires almost no explanation and is basically guaranteed to give you a cheaper ticket
??????? has required extensive explanation and has resulted in an increase in fares for most passengers pic.twitter.com/7IAoIYar5j
- Public sector IT contracts, and the need to be a good client – it’s not all about the supplier.
- The increasingly anti-social nature of social media.
My week in pictures
Featured image: author’s own