2021 week eight

Hello. Another week has gone by and I don’t know how that keeps happening. 

This weekend I managed to run further than I’ve ever ran before in one go. I recently ran just-about-25 kilometres, helped along by my occasional running partner Melanie. Last weekend I did a neat half marathon (21.1km) into the City and back. And then this week I plotted a 25km route, also into the City and back, and managed to clock in 26.2km, which amused me because a full marathon is 26.2 miles rather than KM. I’m enjoying running into the City on the weekends: it’s so quiet at the moment, and having such monumental parts of London to oneself is a wonderful novelty. It also means my route trends downhill for the first part, which I much prefer. I don’t mind running uphill (a little) towards the end of a run. It’s sufficiently distracting running in such distractingly pretty streets.

I also distracted myself the last few long runs I did by listening to James Acaster read his collection of memoirs Classic Scrapes which has been really enjoyable. I love his delivery in this, as it strikes a middle ground between audiobook read and stand-up routine. In the past I’ve enjoyed Acaster’s openness regarding mental health issues – though I’ve still not seen his recent-ish show which deals strongly with that subject, as it hasn’t come to DVD or streaming yet (apart from ONE SODDING livestream which I didn’t find out about until a month or so later). Hopefully that’ll happen, because I, too, have strong memories of the solar eclipse of 1999 and not being In A Good Place.

This long distance running has also meant I clocked up about 150km this month which feels great. I think that’s the most I’ve run in a month – I’ve only recently started using Strava’s 100km-in-a-month challenges to really track this. I do also tag myself into the 200km-in-a-month challenges, but I don’t know how often that’s going to be a possibility.

I am not a competitive, overly ambitious man, but I know that coming home having deliberately run further than I have ever run before made me feel good and made me want to do that again, but more. I don’t know where that will end.

Services subscribed to in the past week or so:

  • Flickr
    • I’ve had Flickr subscriptions for years but a few years ago gave up on it when the service had a fallow period between owners. They then moved from hosting infinite photographs to limiting free accounts to a thousand images (which is fair enough, especially for a service as longlived as Flickr), and I just got into the habit of curating my favourite thousand shots whenever I wanted to upload something new. Over the past year or two, my use of Flickr has increased hugely (in terms of browsing), and this has led to me updating my account again. Ironically, the thousand-limit instilled in me a discipline for pruning older shots, and only uploading the best of the best (IMHO), and so I never felt the need to renew my subs. But I’ve just grabbed a three month subscription to a) not worry about pruning to a thousand and b) to see some stats and live the Pro life for a while, and I guess a little of c) to support the website I use daily.
  • Ordnance Survey / OS Maps
    • Another service I have actively subscribed to in the past when it’s been a useful thing to have on my phone. Insert caveat about relying on electronic devices for wayfinding in the sticks, but god if seeing a GPS dot on an offline-downloaded OS Map isn’t some sweet, sweet piece of 21st century magic. But I let it lapse a while back and then something strange happened… My subscription continued, with the expiry date increasing every now and again.  No idea why, but whenever I checked in to use it, I found my subscription was still active, even though I was certain I wasn’t paying for it. Well, a couple of years on and the jig’s up: I got an email (sent to me and however many other users) saying they’d finally worked it out and would have to cut access. But though the email directly tackled the issue itself, it lacked punishment or judgement – and they offered a year’s subscription for £10 (rather than £23.99, which is still a great deal), and I gladly took them up on that. I’d love to see some numbers on this loophole (and indeed how many have now gone back to an active subscription).
  • Disney+
    • We’ve had Disney+ since Boxing Day and have very much felt like we’ve been getting value out of it. Blockbuster Disney and/or Pixar films new and old, some really enjoyable documentaries and stuff from National Geographic, and having all of The Simpsons on tap are all very big value adds for what is a reasonable monthly fee (albeit one which has recently gone up slightly, though existing members are locked in for six months).
  • Eurosport Player
    • Cycling’s back! The BBC showed some bike race coverage recently and I was pleasantly surprised to see that – Cyclo Cross, even – but there’s nothing else on normal telly for the foreseeable. So, Eurosport it is, and their app is better than I remember it being (this is through the Fire Stick) and meant we could watch this weekend’s two one-day road races of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. Both were entertaining, and the mixture of live-but-also-on-demand, as well as a highlights-show-on-demand is ideal for these sorts of events.

On Friday I had arranged to go into the office for the first time in a few months, and deliberately when the office was basically closed so that I could give all the PCs a disassemble, clean, and reassemble. One colleague who had regularly been in the office reported that their machine was making a noise, and knowing that our machines have now basically been on for a year almost non-stop made me concerned that they were quickly filling with dust and could do with a blast of compressed air. Some definitely did, but most were much better than I had expected. Luckily we use all Dell machines which, despite various models and generations, are all easy to disassemble and seem to have decent airflow. It’s regrettable how much I have always enjoyed disassembling and reassembling PCs, and having the goal of cleaning PCs which notoriously get very dusty in an office like ours is a good excuse to do so.

Another excuse to do so is on my own PC at home. My photo library has been heading towards one terabyte for a while, and getting a new camera late last year has accelerated that process: bigger files, and more of ’em. The internal HDD on my PC is a 1TB spinning disk (in addition to my startup drive which is a 240GB SSD), and I have two 1TB external USB drives connected at all times. I should probably think more strategically and have some sort of NAS (network attached storage) but I’m very set in my multiple-disks-both-internal-and-external ways and will continue thusly. So I’ve got myself a new 2TB internal HDD and have been shuffling things around so I can swap them out, with the 1TB drive becoming an archive of the entire photo library to date in a drawer somewhere.

My backup strategies change quite often – which is not what you really want from something that should be consistent, reliable, and forgettable. My photo library (and it is, as far as is possible, my entire collection of digital photographs taken to date) is my biggest collection of data by far that is important to me. A long way distant, but still quite important, would be other files and documents, and my growing collection of audio recordings. I use Adobe Lightroom to browse and edit this vast collection, and it does an admirable job. It also treats files with care: the actual files do not get touched, only viewed, when making edits (the edits being done ‘on top’ via a much smaller database), and although it can be slow to generate thumbnail previews on files rarely looked at, there seems to be no real performance issues to having such a large number of images in a single Lightroom library.

So I’ll swap the hard drives soon, and having opened the Dell boxes at work, I was reminded how useful it would be to have a larger form factor PC under my desk at home. I went for quite a small model when I upgraded from my busted-ass 2008 Macbook about four years ago. It has served me well and I’ve been able to add a PCI graphics card, swap out the boot drive for an SSD (moving the aforementioned 1TB spinning disk to a secondary SATA port and using it for data), as well as doubling the RAM, but I will one day want to get/build a new machine. And it is expandability I will have as quite a high priority, although this neat little Lenovo box has performed admirably.

I seem to have fixed an annoying thing that started happening recently which I think happens to all WordPress sites from time to time: bots attacking the login page. I tried one approach which limited the number of failed logins in a given period, and then blocking the IP address of those which fell foul repeatedly. Interestingly all the attacks came from one specific block of addresses in one country and on one ISP. But even tweaking the settings meant they kept coming, so I tried the other recommended tactic: changing the default URL or the WordPress admin page to something only I know. In reality it’s not a ‘hidden’ phrase or anything like that – it’s just not the default one and that is enough to stop bots trying, apparently.

An unrelated thought, but one that’s come about as I sit at my desk for hours on end hopping between day-job-work and my own projects online: wouldn’t it be interesting to have a website/web presence which has variable hours of accessibility? I’ve come across a small number of websites and online accounts whose availability varies, whether manually via the user’s settings, or due to external/environmental impacts such as the web server being solar powered*.

Some online services like Flickr, WordPress and so on make it easy to perform bulk operations on a huge number of objects – it’s possible, for example, to make your entire collection of Flickr photos completely private, or to reverse that in a click of a mouse, or to do with a subset based on a tag. It’s feasible that you could have a set of objects which are available or not, depending on your own actions at the time.

And of course I grew up with the practice of logging into ICQ, MSN Messenger et al and being ‘visible’ while online. I guess this practice continues with Slack and Facebook Messenger reporting onlineness, but I feel like with phones and apps running in the background, it’s not quite the same.

I realise the novelty of an actual webpage or similar going offline is almost entirely for the owner of the webspace – for the reader/viewer, it could only really ever be frustrating: going to a website to find it is ‘offline’ or ‘closed’ for a period of time is kind of… stupid? And yet the idea of a live presence on the web which is only live while I’m physically near to it is kind of interesting, too. I’ve recently found it quite thrilling to browse someone’s website seeing they had just updated it (or were perhaps updating it while I browsed), and this liveness of something static was exciting. (This thought was also brought to me recently from following someone on Twitter whose sleeping patterns I reckon I could plot with about 96% accuracy based on their incessant updates.)

* Ironically, the last couple of times I went to check this page, I thought the battery level display wasn’t working, but I think it’s because it’s spring now and the battery has been kept topped up by the Spanish sunshine. I first came across the website in deepest mid-winter and delighted at the prospect of a website with a battery percentage, especially one which was occasionally something like 32%, and the very real possibility of the website going offline because the energy had been depleted.

Anyway. I won’t be making paulcapewell.com solar-powered or limiting the opening hours of it any time soon, but I do find the idea intriguing and I might hack together a little project which toys with that notion. My biggest problem – or should I say learning opportunity? – is not knowing how to get computers or servers to do anything automatically at given times or based on variables… Maybe that’s enough of a nudge for me to finally learn what a cron job is.

On a very manually-updated note, there are a couple of new recordings up at /audio – nothing special, but a couple of fleeting notes captured this weekend while out on a walk.

2 thoughts on “2021 week eight

  1. I was one of the lucky ones who didn’t get billed too. Your post reminded me to cash in the discount, but it expired yesterday 😭

    I’ve asked them if I can have another one. They’ve been kind enough to give me free maps for a while, so it’s worth a go!

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