I was reminded not to take family members’ health for granted. Also, that the NHS has many problems but a) is staffed by some truly wonderful people and b) I’m really, really glad it’s there when we need it.
I was also reminded that I have some really supportive friends and colleagues. You know who you are. Thank you.
Lower down the hierarchy of needs:
I finally got the (Enterprise) Architecture as a Service service that I’ve wanted to launch off the ground. After years of thinking that it might be useful for clients to have access to someone for a day or two a month, it seems that a couple of days a week is more useful – it’s actually time to do something meaningful. Anyway, it’s given Thom McKiernan (@ThomMcK) an opportunity to go back on site.
Related to above, I found I’m a little jealous of colleagues who get to visit clients and interact with humans again. I don’t want it every day – just one or twice a week would be nice.
Related to above, I found that Facebook Marketplace is a strange mixture of nice, normal people, and some very odd individuals who didn’t seem to understand why I wouldn’t accept their low offer when I had plenty of interest at the asking price.
My weekend activities were mostly cycling-related: riding in the sunshine; transporting my son to/from an XC MTB race; youth coaching, and marshalling at a road race (where my son was also racing).
This has been a short week (with only 3 days at work) but I’m pretty pleased with what I achieved in that time:
Publishing the Architecture Toolbox I’ve been working on for a few months. That sounds a bit grand for what’s really just a library of re-usable artefacts but, hey! I finally realised that I can’t do everything (perfection is the enemy of good) so it’s time to let it fly and let others contribute…
Starting to get under the covers of a new engagement with a local authority client where we’re carrying out some digital service design. It’s fascinating for me to learn from my colleague Richard Quayle (@RichardSQuayle) around concepts like the locus of control, the negatives of a command and control structure (cf. Edward Deming’s approach), failure demand – and much more as we jointly deliver this Business Consulting engagement.
A very insightful chat with a client where we’re looking to engage around an Architecture service. It was refreshing to hear that they find TOGAF too conceptual and want to take a more pragmatic approach around EA on a Page (which I referenced in my post on developing IT architecture skills).
I’ve struggled with procrastination/distraction this week too. The challenges of back to back online meetings are obvious but it seems meetings spaced out through the day can be equally problematic. The challenge is that they leave no time to really get into flow before the next meeting is due.
Outside work, the UK’s easing of “lockdown” restrictions saw the return to Caveman Conditioning – training outdoors again instead of over Zoom!
I also completed some online learning around First Aid Essentials in Sport. This is a requirement for my certification as a British Cycling coach but I’ve struggled to complete an approved course during “lockdown”.
A look ahead to the weekend
This weekend will see me:
Meeting up with another family for a country walk (something we’ve not been able to do for a while!).
Returning to Youth Training at my local cycle club (the first time we’ve been able to run a session since I became a coach).
Resuming Cyclist’s Dad/Directeur Sportif duties as my eldest son returns to racing.
In addition to celebrating the 49th anniversary of my arrival on this planet, next week will be mostly spent at home including some time doing geeky hobby stuff in the Man Cave. There will also be the final assessment for my First Aid Essentials in Sport certification (which will be interesting over a Zoom call, to which I’ve been asked to bring a pillow and a bandage!).
In the last few hours of 2019, my family planned our holiday. We thought we had it all sorted – fly to Barcelona, spend the weekend sight-seeing (including taking my football-mad son to Camp Nou) and then head up the coast for a few more days in the Costa Brava. Flights were booked, accomodation was sorted, trips were starting to get booked up.
We hadn’t counted on a global pandemic.
To be clear, I’m thankful that myself, my family and friends, and those around us are (so far) safe and well. By April, I didn’t much like the prospect of getting into a metal tube with 160+ strangers and flying for 3 hours in each direction. We’re also incredibly lucky to be able to access open countryside within a couple of hundred metres of our house, so daily exercise is still possible and enjoyable, with very few people around, most of the time.
I still took the week off work though. After cancelling my Easter break, it’s been a while since I took annual leave and even my Furlough period was not exactly relaxing, so I could do with a rest.
The weather has been glorious in the UK this week too, making me extra-glad we re-landscaped the garden last year and I’ve spent more than a few hours just chilling on our deck.
Unfortunately, we also got a taste of what it must be like to live in a tourist hotspot, as hundreds of visitors descended on our local river each day this weekend. It seems the Great Ouse at Olney has featured in a list of top places to swim in Britain, which was recently featured in The Times. It may sound NIMBYish, but please can they stay away until this crisis is over?
As for the holiday, hopefully, we’ll get the money refunded for the cancelled flights (if the airlines don’t fold first – I’m sure that if they refunded everyone they would be insolvent, which is my theory for why they are not increasing staff levels to process refunds more quickly); FC Barcelona contacted me weeks ago to extend my ticket and offer a refund if we can’t use it; and AirBnB had the money back in our account within days of us being forced to pull out due to cancelled flights.
(I did spend a few weeks effectively “playing chicken” with easyJet to see if they would cancel first, or if it would be us. An airline-cancelled flight can be refunded, but a consumer-cancelled flight would be lost, unless we managed to claim on travel insurance).
Even though I’ve had a week off, I’ve still been playing with tech. Some of my “projects” should soon have their own blog post (an Intel NUC for a new Zwift PC; migrating my wife’s personal email out of my Office 365 subscription to save me a licence; and taking a look at Veeam Backup for Office 365), whilst others get a brief mention below…
Please stop resetting user passwords every x days!
Regularly resetting passwords (unless a compromise is suspected) is an old way of thinking. Unfortunately, many organisations still make users change their password every few weeks. Mine came up for renewal this week and I struggled to come up with an acceptable, yet memorable passphrase. So, guess what? I wrote it down!
I use a password manager for most of my credentials but that doesn’t help with my Windows logon (before I’ve got to my browser). Biometric security like Windows Hello helps too (meaning I rarely use the password, but am even less likely to remember it when needed).
I’ve been watching with interest as my occasional cycling buddy (and now Azure MVP) James Randall (@AzureTrenches) has been teasing development on his new cycling performance platform side project. This week he opened it up for early access and I’ve started to road test it… it looks really promising and I’m super impressed that James created this. Check it out at For Cyclists By Cyclists.
So… its time to let this out into the wild I guess. Always nerve wracking. Feedback of any kind welcome!https://t.co/9FoBumpJwN
It’s early days yet but initial testing suggests that the microphone is excellent (although the supplied USB A-B cable is too short for practical use). I had also considered the Blue Yeti/Raspberry but it seems to have been discontinued.
As for the photo lighting, it should be just enough to illuminate my face as the north-facing window to my left often leaves me silhouetted on calls.
Smart lighting to match my Microsoft Teams presence
I haven’t watched the Microsoft Build conference presentations yet, but I heard that Scott Hanselman (@shanselman) featured Isaac Levin (@isaacrlevin)’s PresenceLight app to change the lighting according to his Windows Theme. The app can also be used to change Hue or LIFX lighting along with Teams presence status, so that’s in place now outside my home office.
One particularly useful feature is that I can be logged in to one tenant with the PresenceLight app and another in Microsoft Teams on the same PC – that means that I can control my status with my personal persona so I may be available to family but not to colleagues (or vice versa).
I still have a couple of exams I’d like to complete this month. I’ve been procrastinating about whether to take the Microsoft Azure Architect exams in their current form (AZ-300/301) or to wait for the replacements (AZ-303/304). As those replacements have been postponed from late April until the end of June (at least), I’ve booked AZ-300/301 and am cramming in lots of learning, based on free training from the Microsoft Learn website.
I’m sure it’s deeper (technically) than I need for an Architect exam, but it’s good knowledge… I just hope I can get through it all before the first exam appointment next Thursday evening…
Learning and Development Days 16-18: AZ-300 exam booked for next week, cramming in as much study as I can before then… and realised there’s a “show more” on the suggested learning paths???? #Azurehttps://t.co/FJqKAOBouB
Some good points in this article – both for and against office work. My PoV: we’ll still have offices, but the layout will change and we may visit them less frequently. Remote working is here to stay (but I’d also argue what we’re experiencing now is not normal remote working) https://t.co/6WW8joUTQC
Minor upgrade to the Zwift bike: new Shimano Ultegra BB and 105 crankset. The rest of the Campagnolo kit will come off when I can finally source a Wahoo Kickr Core and repurpose the 105 shifters, front mech and cassette from my CX bike (which will get a hydraulic brake upgrade) pic.twitter.com/LpUq0YVImb
That’s 3 exams in 7 “working” days since I was furloughed, so I think next week I’ll give the exams a bit of a rest, knock out some blog posts around the things I’ve learned and maybe play with some tech too…
Easter Monday also saw this website move to a new server. The move was a bit rushed (I missed some communications from my hosting provider) and had some DNS challenges, but we took the opportunity to force HTTPS and it seems a little more responsive to me too (though I haven’t run any tests). For a long time, I’ve been considering moving to Azure App Service – if only for reasons of geek curiosity – but the support I receive from my current provider means I’m pretty sure it will be staying put for the time being.
The intersection of cycling and technology
Those who follow me on Twitter are probably aware that for large parts of the year, I’m “Cyclist’s Dad”. At weekends in the autumn, I can usually be found in a muddy field somewhere (or driving to/from one), acting as pit crew, principal sponsor and Directeur Sportif for my eldest son – who loves to race his bike, with cyclo-cross as his favourite discipline.
This weekend, we should have been at Battle on the Beach (not technically cyclo-cross but still an off-road race) but that’s been postponed until the Autumn, for obvious reasons.
Instead, we’ve been having fun as my son upgraded his CX bike to electronic gears, using a Shimano Ultegra/GRX Di2 mix.
It’s all been his work – except a little help from Olney Bikes to swap over the bottom bracket (as I lack the tools for changing press-fit BBs) – and the end result is pretty spectacular (thanks also to Corley Cycles/@CorleyCycles with their help sourcing some brake hose inserts at short notice). I’ve never had the good fortune (or budget) for electronic shifting on my bikes but having ridden his yesterday (long story involving a mid-ride puncture on my bike) I was blown away by the difference that all the components he’s swapped to save weight have made and the smooth shifting. Oh yes, and it’s finished with a gold chain. I mean, who doesn’t need a gold chain on their bike?
Electronic shifting has its critics but first impressions, based on a couple of off-road rides this weekend, are very positive. Maybe I need to get a couple of newspaper delivery rounds to start saving for upgrades on my bikes…
Right, it’s getting late now and Sunday night is a “school night” (especially true since my Furlough Leave is being spent focusing on learning and development). I’m off to watch an episode of the BBC’s new drama, “Devs”, before bed. I’m 4 episodes in now and it’s a bit weird but it’s got me hooked…
Anyone who regularly reads my blog or follows me on Twitter will know that cycling (or being a “cyclist’s Dad”) is one of my major activities. I also commute by bike where practical – I have a Brompton folding bike, which has caused some amusement in the office (think BBC W1A) – though I mostly work from home and commuting by bike up two flights of stairs might be a bit tricky…
With more bikes in the family than I care to admit (I have at least 5 at the moment and my eldest son’s n+1 count is increasing too), I’ve been trying to do more of the servicing myself (or with my son) to reduce costs. This has been spurred on by a few things including:
I needed to call on help from others to swap pedals at a race recently. I had the skills but not the tools. I then bought the right tools…
I discovered that drive chains are supposed to be shiny, not grimy and that they perform much better when you know how to remove and degrease the chain, cassette, chainrings, etc. A chain cleaner is great, but if the other components are still covered in gunk then the chain quickly turns black again.
I also had to remove the cranks and bottom bracket on a bike as part of another project so the bike-specific toolkit has been growing.
My son was able to use his new knowledge and my tools to swap components between frames.
Luckily, it needn’t be expensive. Much as I would like to have a wall of Park Tool tools, that’s a stretch too far for my wallet, so this is what’s in the toolkit so far:
Back in 2013, I bought myself a road bike. It’s a Bianchi Via Nirone 7 C2C and it was the first road bike I’d had since my teenage years when I had a 21-speed “racer” (complete with shifters on the down tube).
I’d been saving up for a new bike for a while (promising myself that I could have a new bike when I lost some weight…) but I decided to retire the Bianchi (or at least just use it for Zwifting) and get something new (maybe I can lose some weight by riding more now I have the new bike).
Status update: frame was shipped on time and arrived quickly. @planetxbikes were responsive on Twitter and helpful (if slow) on email. They really need to provide a method to check information quickly as website is not the best but we got there in the end… (cheap for a reason) https://t.co/spwcRoQStc
I also feel guilty every time I shop at Wiggle – we’ll miss our local bike shops (LBS) when they are gone and I’ve relied on a few for parts at short notice recently (including Corley Cycles and Chaineys in Milton Keynes). But, just like buying from Amazon instead of a high street store, sometimes the economics mean it just makes sense. Even so, with a new bike purchase, I wasn’t entirely comfortable buying online.
I looked at some of the other mainstream brands too (how about a Trek Domane?). But what about the price difference?
Well, there were a few things to take into account there:
Online sizing tools are good, but not perfect and the Canyon would need a bike fit before I could be sure I was ordering the right size. Corley Cycles included not only the sizing fit but also an advanced bike fit with the new bike.
Then, membership of my local cycling club got me a further discount (10%).
At this point, we’re getting close to pretty much the same price.
Chuck in some bottles, cages, and a lot of advice – plus I’m helping to keep my LBS in business and I decided that I’d rather have the “purchase from a shop” experience.
So, I’m now the proud owner of the new Specialized Roubaix Comp (2020 edition). Sure, the lightweight endurance bike with electronic shifting became a lightweight endurance bike with mechanical shifting and front suspension instead but my conscience is clear – and it is pretty damned awesome.
When I first started road cycling, a friend suggested I could increase my comfort for not too much money with a carbon seatpost upgrade. A short while later I was the proud owner of a Deda Superzero post and it looked good, even if the marginal gains with me riding the bike were so small that they could be offset by an extra cup of coffee…
Fast forward a few years and my teenage son was borrowing my bike as he’d outgrown his. I went to adjust the seatpost and found it was stuck fast. And I mean stuck. Solid.
Obviously, this was fine for me to ride the bike but I couldn’t just leave it. Over time aluminium alloy (e.g. my frame) will bond itself to carbon fibre (e.g. my seatpost) and even though a bike mechanic had applied some anti-seize paste and I’d given the post a “wiggle” from time to time, I’d obviously left it too long since the last check.
So I hit the Internet and Googled “how to remove stuck seat post carbon aluminium”…
Added to which, there’s more info at Cycling UK including a health warning about cutting carbon fibre. The dust is nasty stuff…
I’d used penetrating oils and hot water on the frame but the bond was too tight – not enough space to get the oil down. So, with assistance from a fellow club member who was very generous with his time and use of his tools, I tried heating and cooling the affected areas of frame and post with a heat gun and some “Shock and Unlock”. Ideally, this would cool the post and heat the frame – the idea being that one will expand and the other contract, breaking the bond. Nothing.
Then we tried the other way – even if it pushed the materials together it might break the bond on cooling. This was quickly followed by disaster – I attempted to move the post when it had been heated, it seemed to move, too easily and I found I’d actually twisted it and deformed the post.
“Right, now that post is a write-off, at least the frame is OK, we’ll have to cut it out.”
We tried using naked hacksaw blades (wet seems to help and I also seemed to do better with 36T blades than 24T), a padsaw, even an electric reciprocating saw.
Eventually (and I mean after many hours) I had cut some channels in the remains of the post but it still wasn’t coming out. The idea is that it should collapse in on itself once there’s a vertical cut that stops it pushing against the frame seat tube. What did happen though was that the carbon fibre delaminated and we were able to chisel pieces out using a variety of punches chisels and screwdrivers and a lot of GT85 (being careful not to damage the frame).
Eventually, the post came out, in thousands of pieces over a few more hours. And the depressing part, when the bottom section of the seatpost was removed (the last few inches hadn’t seized), we could see just how little effect the hacksaw had made that far down the post – there just wasn’t enough force to make a difference.
With the last of the pieces out I cleaned up the inside of the frame with some wire wool (using a bent coat hanger to pull it back up) and put the original aluminium seatpost back. There are some minor scrapes inside the seat tube and some paint cracks on the top section too so I’m not sure whether I’ve compromised the frame.
Thankfully, I brought forward my plans for a new bike, bought my son a larger frame for his and this one is now in semi-retirement, relegated to Zwift duties.
It took me (and a friend) at least 8, maybe 12 hours to remove that post so, if you do mix aluminium alloy and carbon fibre components, make sure you (re)move them regularly.
It’s no secret that I enjoy cycling – and I’m also a bit of a geek. My cycling and my tech come together in various places but Strava is one of the most obvious… I have been known to say “If it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen” (of course, that’s in jest – but I do get annoyed if my GPS traces get messed up).
There’s something quite wonderful about maps too. Maybe this is another side of my geekiness but I love looking at a good map. So, what if you could have a map of a ride you’re particularly proud of turned into a piece of art to display on your wall?
I was impressed by how well it was wrapped – indeed, I’ve never had an “unboxing experience” quite like this for a piece of artwork: wrapped in tissue paper; sandwiched between sheets of heavy-duty card; all inside a sturdy card envelope. It would be pretty difficult for my postie to accidentally bend this package!
The print itself is really high quality and the simple (Strava-inspired) colours look amazing – greys, whites and orange highlights. The print that Angus created for me is A4 but there are A3 and A2 options too. I’m now considering buying a second print for the “Man Cave” when I have a suitably big ride to be proud of (or maybe with last year’s London Revolution route).
If you’re looking for something a little different for your wall – a piece of art to celebrate a ride, a run, or maybe a present for a runner/cyclist friend or family member, I’d recommending checking out the Strava Art from Cyced. As the website says it’s “worth more than just a kudos”!
Full disclosure: Cyced provided me with an A4 print in exchange for this blog post but that doesn’t influence my review. Everything I’ve written is my true opinion – but it’s nice to have the artwork for my son to keep as a memento of our 70 miles MTBing along the Grand Union Canal towpath last summer!
There are people working in offices today who not only claim to be IT illiterate but seem to think that’s acceptable in the modern workplace:
Fascinating to sit in on two handover sessions today for replacement PCs. Feedback from one user: "remember we're not IT literate – I wouldn't use a computer if I could help it"; resistance to change is one thing, but not being prepared to use the tools of the #ModernWorkplace?
That operations teams have a tremendous amount of power to disregard and even override recommendations provided by architects who are paid to provide solid technical advice.
That, in 2018, some conference organisers not only think an all-male panel is acceptable but are hostile when given feedback…
Lesson in how not to engage with influencers in your target audience? When the fact that there were no female speakers other than on the #WomenInTech panel was highlighted to @CIOsynergy organisers, @CXOsync responds that the comments hold no value. Astounding. Welcome to 1968. https://t.co/ETo74xQpIY
Gone on a mini-tour of Southern England working in London, Bristol and Birmingham for the first four days of the week. It did include a bonus ride on a brand new train though and a stint in first class (because it was only £3 more than standard – I’ll happily pay the difference)!
Taken a trip down memory lane, revisiting the place where I started my full-time career in 1994 (only to be told by a colleague that he wasn’t even born in 1994):