A brief round-up to clear the cobwebs:

Thanks to some inspiration from my old friend Sam Bail I’ve decided to try and run every day in July.

Perhaps it was the hashtags or maybe it was just Sam’s infectious enthusiasm, but primarily I think it’s an acknowledgement that my running form of late has been below the level I would hope to be at during the summer months.

So a kick up the bum it is: #31DaysOfRunning / #31DOR and I am not planning to spam all my socials with daily updates, but I will be interested to see how this consistent effort will affect me. And you can follow along on Strava if you’re interested. I’m also on Garmin Connect* but I’ve seemingly only ever found one friend who uses that?

Last summer I got into the habit of running nearly every day, and actually managed to fit in two runs for a number of days. As usual I jump into this stuff with no agenda, goal, or medical advice. I expect to feel pretty tired by the end of it, but I also hope to see an uplift in my general fitness, and perhaps more strength in my leg muscles.

The main idea, really, is to get into the habit of running every day. Simple enough, but means that your mindset is not ‘shall I go for a run later?’ but ‘when shall I run today?’

* More as a reminder to myself, but potentially helpful to others: For the second time in about 12 months, my Garmin Forerunner 35 managed to corrupt a .FIT file so I could see some of the basic stats of a run but could not sync it. You can plug the device into a computer and get the .FIT file off the watch, but I’ve struggled both times to find a simple fix for the file – until this time, when I found which fixed it perfectly.

It seems like the device records a few timestamps which are before or after the previous/next ones, and so the file gets corrupted despite still having rich data for all other timestamps. It would be good if Garmin could ingest that data, ignore say +- 5% ‘bad’ data, and calculate the route on the good data.

I led a walking tour this week for work.

I chose the subject of life on Hampstead Garden Suburb the first and second world wars, and drew upon eyewitness accounts in the form of letters, diaries and memoirs to try and paint a realistic picture.

As usual with these events I let the deadline guide me, meaning that the weeks leading up to the walk were a steady increase in anxiety and mental anguish which was either a background annoyance or genuine terror during which my brain tries to invent ways to get out of having to do it.

The walk went fine, of course. It was a well-organised event (no thanks to me!) and the audience were polite and interested, and they responded well to my plea for them to chip in with their own contributions.

What really led to my anxiety wasn’t the research or the speaking as such but the physicality of leading a walking tour. It’s hard to come up with a route that allows a talk to be threaded around it. And as someone who finds this stuff quite difficult, standing up in front of a group of people and basically talking and leading them around for more than an hour is… pretty far outside my comfort zone.

Anyway – it went fine, and I’m pretty proud of myself.

As a continuation, I’m trying to right the wrongs of me never having learned about the wars in school and have been reading some elementary level stuff on WW2, with WW1 to follow. (I’ve also read with interest the monthly issues of some British amateur radio magazines in the run-up to September 1939 as the clouds of war close in and make their presence felt throughout the editorial. Collecting the ‘final’ issues of magazines and other periodicals that suspended their activities during the war would be a pretty fascinating subject.

I still use my Chromebook regularly – an Asus C223 (codename BABYMEGA*) – which is cheap and nasty but works well enough. I’d already tried running the built-in Linux environment on the device, which was occasionally helpful for tinkering with Linux apps (Audacity and VLC, for example), or for trying out command line…commands… for stuff like a full website site-rip and diagnosing high-CPU processes. Plus it’s just always been kinda cool to play with the terminal.

* that’s honestly the official codename for this device

I read with interest that beyond this, you can actually run full Linux distros on Chromebooks, and although I do actually kind of enjoy the ‘limitations’ of the Chrome OS, I still wanted to give Linux proper a go, to see how it would fare on this very budget, low-spec machine.

I got Gallium OS installed without too much issue – the process involves a bit of wiping the device’s firmware, and sticking it into developer mode, but as with all these things there are plenty of tutorials that tell you exactly what to do, and forum threads where people who are facing the same issues as you do get answers.

Gallium ran nicely, and it was briefly novel to see a new, and full-featured, OS running on the Chromebook. However, going into the process I had seen that two things were listed as ‘issues’ with my hardware: internal sound, and suspend. The first means that built-in sound simply doesn’t work – though it does via Bluetooth or USB devices. And suspend means the ‘sleep’ function when you shut the Chromebook lid.

Both of these are basically deal breakers for me. This cheap laptop has surprisingly decent speakers built in, and I’ve occasionally used it to watch stuff in bed or even listen to music as I work.

And suspend is just too important a feature for a device like this. I basically never reboot this device and it lives in ‘sleep’ or suspend mode, and is always instantly ready whenever I need to use it. (The battery life is fantastic both in use and when suspended.)

So Gallium OS is a no-go on the Asus C223. But it scratched an itch; I used to try installing and dual-booting Linux distros on old computers going back to the early 2000s. It amuses me that even in 2021, the issues I faced were: uncertain compatibility with specific hardware, and still not being able to type, by eye, CLI commands from website tutorials, and then finding it works perfectly when copied and pasted. Plus ça change, etc.

SPORTS: been watching a lot of it.

Inevitably got into the football just like I tend to with international competitions. The cycling has been great so far: it took me a few days into the Tour de France to really grok that this was really the Tour de France, but it already feels like a classic. I’m delighted to see Mark Cavendish’s renaissance. Less delighted by the number of crashes early on, but it has made for an interesting shake-up of the general classification.

Growing a bunch of things in the ‘garden’. Tomatoes, chillis, dahlias, and some cute little flowers that I recently made a cutting of and brought into the house to live in a glass of water for more than a week. Cut flowers: the next big thing?

Vaguely related: the swifts on our street are just fantastic, especially in the decent weather. Hearing their shrieking cries around the clock is just endlessly lovely, knowing that they’re above the roofs just swooping around having a merry old time (I assume).

I had the bright idea recently that WordPress (et al) could come up with a tool that hashes the contents of your unposted drafts and checks SEO hits for those keywords, and it could inform a user that, hey, that post in your drafts folder could actually be popular or interesting to people – how about finishing it and publishing it?

This thought came about pretty much because on the occasion of the Biffy Clyro album The Vertigo of Bliss turning eighteen years old recently (and me having just turned thirty-six), I proceeded to drink lots of coffee, listen to the album, and punch out about three thousand words and memories.

As the coffee wore off, I became entirely convinced that no-one would care about the post, and I just… stopped. And now it’s just in the pile of drafts that live forever in my WordPress install.

Film photography!

I finished off a roll of black and white Ilford XP2 in my Minolta Hi-Matic 7s recently, and sent it off to Take It Easy Lab in Leeds to be developed and scanned. And I’m thrilled with the results.

First of all, Take It Easy turned it around in about two days – I posted it earlier this week and had the scans midway through Thursday. Secondly the scans look great. I opted for the mid-range quality level – the lowest is decent enough for social media, and the best is more for large prints. I had a discount code to use, so I gave the middle option a go and they are a great size.

But most of all, it showed me that the aberrations present on the last film I shot with this camera – Fomapan branded – were an issue with the film stock, and not with the camera itself. Which is a relief. I’ll stick the photos up on /photography shortly.

It all means I am now keener than ever to stick the next roll in – and this time it’s colour. I haven’t shot colour film in years. And already I can’t wait to get the scans back from Take It Easy!

Digital photography!

On a related photographic note, I may write more about this in a dedicated post but: I didn’t realise how versatile Canon’s Picture Styles could be. They’re the ‘filters’ built in to the camera, and you can set some user-defined ones too. But in the camera menu, the modifications you can make are quite basic, and you can’t do a whole lot.

I only just realised that there’s some free Canon software called Picture Style Editor which lets you do just that, and tweak to a pretty fine degree things like tone curves, and individual colours etc.

Until now I had no idea you could do this, and I wasn’t able to find a plethora of information about this online –  expected thousands of YouTube tutorials like you get for Lightroom – so maybe it isn’t well used? Or perhaps it has limitations I haven’t yet uncovered and so not many people bother with it.

The interface is pretty intuitive and I actually loaded up Lightroom in the background and found an image I’d already edited, and was able to copy by eye the settings I’d used into the Picture Style Editor interface. This has given me a nice, heavy, over saturated and contrasty style which I quite enjoy.

The net result is being able to save to the camera some styles that mimic the kind of edits I like to make afterwards – and that means I can now shoot with them as previews in-camera. This has a huge impact on how I ‘see’ the photo I’m about to take, and it’s exciting to have a new way of shooting which helps me better visualise the end result. The other bonus is if shooting in RAW+JPEG then I already have a JPEG ready to share while out and about, but still have a RAW file to tweak later if preferred.