Walking photography

Introducing a new feature to my blog, an interactive map showcasing some of my amazing pictures I have taken while I have been on some of my mammoth walks, trying to keep healthy and fit.

The map can be found below, but you can also get to it from the side menu of this web site, and via the following link.  I will be keeping it up to date with new photographs when I take them.

Walking photography

 

DevOps home server – part one – the equipment

 

Ah, DevOps, such a buzz word now.  It seems that everyone wants to bring Operations and Development together, in a harmonious gathering of intellectual minds.  To get in on the action, I wanted to do some hands on development, with a little saucy operation to go with it, and so wanted to experiment with some home server shenanigans.

Why bother, I hear you say, why not just use the existing cloud services I hear you cry.  Well, I really don’t have an explanation, other than to say, why not.  Sometimes, a workplace environment may not be in a position to use the various cloud services, and may have to host everything themselves, so its worth having a bit of experience with such a situation.  So, I bring to you my experience of setting it all up, using Windows Hyper-V.

Firstly, a little bit of background as to what I already had, before I get in to the most recent information with regards to my little home development environment.

Equipment

The existing Hyper-V server

 

I have always had the drive to have my own little server at home, primarily to run my own instance of Microsoft Dynamics, simply because for development purposes, it was too expensive to have an online instance for general experimentation.  As a result, quite a while ago, I purchased a small Intel NUC small form factor PC to run Hyper-V on, and host my development environments.  This was an Intel i7 PC, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a 1TB Hard Disk. It was a small machine, took very little power, and since Windows 10 Pro also provided Hyper-V Virtualisation, there was no need for it to run Windows Server.  On this PC, I set up a Virtual Machine to host Active Directory, and then a second Virtual Machine where I was able to install Microsoft SQL Server, and Microsoft Dynamics.  This provided me with a nice little CRM test environment.  Overtime, I hit a little snag when my requirements overstretched the little machine, as I needed other Virtual Machines to host other bits and bobs, and the initial CRM VM also became bogged down with the amount of different CRM organisations I was running.  It was time for an upgrade.

Hyper-V server, the second coming

 

So, keeping with the excellent experience I had with the intel NUC, I decided to get a new one, but the latest version.  This little baby was the latest i7, it had a maximum of 32GB of RAM, but otherwise was pretty similar to the original one.

https://www.intel.co.uk/content/www/uk/en/products/boards-kits/nuc/kits/nuc7i7bnh.html

Coupled with 32GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD for the operating system, and a 2 TB 2.5 inch Drive, it was ready to receive Windows 10 Professional.

Installing Windows 10 was easy, then adding Hyper-V, and then moving my VM’s across to it.  With the 32GB of memory, I was able to increase the memory of the Dynamics Virtual Machine to give it space to grow, and I still had memory left over.

Enabling the server for remote desktop access enabled me to unplug it from the screen and keyboard, and position it out of the way, simply connected to power and ethernet.  And there it sits, chugging away.

 

 

Servers in action

And this is what they look like.

An ode to the number 42

The pronic number of 42 is the second sphenic masterpiece,

To me it represents a perfect piece of molybdenum, set at the base of a perfectly angled rainbow, it is the asterisk to find everything.

The source of its power from the Orion Nebula, can sound like death in Japanese, is inevitably the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, and its me, the number of years on this planet.

Continue reading “An ode to the number 42”

An update on my health

Well, Its been over a year since I started down the road to get my legs sorted.  Two operations later, and I am feeling pretty good.  I seem to be able to walk pretty well, managing significantly more than the 10 minutes walk to the shops that I could barely do before.  I still get a little bit of pain if I either over stretch myself, or, if I have been particularly lazy, and get out of practice.

Its still a lot better though. I can comfortably manage a good 3-4 km walk in one go, exploring some places I had never previously seen before.  My standard working from home day involves about 30-50 minute walk on a lunch time.

Feeling pretty good, losing a bit of weight, and generally feeling like a new man.  However, it now feels like I have swapped bad legs for a bad back 🙁

GPD Pocket review

I’ve always enjoyed small gadgets. They make me happy. I always seem to have a desire to game and compute on the go, using all manor of devices. I remember when I was a young lad, and I was holding down a Saturday job in a computer shop, selling Amigas, PC’s and games etc. I remember at one point; my boss had a Psion Series 3 sat on a shelf that he was given by a rep as a freebie. He had no intention of selling it or using it himself, and when I showed an interest in it, he took advantage of me. I don’t remember how much he charged me for it, but it wasn’t cheap. Since then I was hooked, moving on up to the Psion Series 5, the Psion Series 7, and countless PDA’s in the years after.

Now, everything is a lot more advanced, but, not as fulfilling as it once was. While waiting for the Gemini PDA to be released (a re-invention of the Psion Series 5, with a full keyboard, but Android, and smartphone like internals), I wanted something that would let me compute on the go, and that’s where the GPD Pocket comes in.

It’s a small 7″ Windows 10 PC, with a keyboard, but in this modern age, runs an Intel Atom based processor and has 8GB RAM to hopefully give it the ability to perform at a decent pace. 128gb of storage is not as much as I would have liked, but it is sufficient enough to be more than useable.

Build quality

The build quality of this device is impressive. It’s a full metal body, no flex, feels cool to the touch and looks like a little mac book. When opening it, the screen can be positioned at any angle you choose, the hinge is solid, and when switching it on, looks amazing. The screen is very bright, the resolution is spot on (it’s a full 1080p display) and is very readable. The keyboard has a nice feel to it and has plenty of travel for such a small device. It has a USB-C port, a standard USB port, a headphone jack, and a mini HDMI port. In such a small device, they couldn’t fit a trackpad in, but instead has one of those lovely nipples common in older laptops, or IBM ThinkPad’s of today.

Overall, I am very impressed with the build quality.

Usability

As for usability, it works very well. The screen is easy to read and not too small, the trackpad works well if your used to these kinds of things, and the keyboard is much better than I was expecting. I had read a lot of reviews about the keyboard being a little difficult to get used to, but I have warmed to it very quickly. The layout is a bit non-standard, with the tab key being in an unusual place, but I am quite used to it, and can type at a reasonable speed. The fan is a bit audible, but nothing too bad, certainly not the loudest I have experienced. I find myself using a mixture of the nipple, and the touch screen (did I not mention it also is touch enabled) to navigate around, and the size of the device means it can be put in your pocket (it still needs a largish pocket). I don’t normally use standby on laptops, but with this, I find I am more inclined to just shut the lid, so I can resume where I left off.

Portability

As already mentioned, it does fit in a pocket, maybe a jacket pocket, but you would not want to stick it in your jeans pocket. It’s the perfect size though for either throwing in a bag, your coat pocket, or even just carrying it. Its no bigger than a paperback book if you hold it in your hand.

It certainly has allowed me to take a computer with me where I would not normally take a laptop, which I like.

Battery life

So far, battery life has been very good. Its rated at up to 12 hours which is most likely very unrealistic. I have not actually done any timings yet, but it feels like I am getting around 6 hours of use. Maybe about 2 days of regular quick bursts of use. The good thing is that it charges over USB-C, so, if I am on the go, I can keep a battery pack at hand to keep it going for longer and can even charge it with a decent smartphone charger. No external power bricks required.

When putting it in to sleep mode, it seems to lose around 1-3 percent of battery overnight. It should be noted though that I was experiencing a few random restarts when in sleep mode, until I set Windows 10 to disable Wi-Fi when asleep.

What I use it for

My use so far has been to do a bit of writing on the go, or when away from another PC’s. So, writing blog posts, stories etc. I also have Visual Studio for some on the go development, which works surprisingly well. The usual Office and Outlook is also present.

Oh, and how about a bit of gaming. Now, I know I am not going to playing PC games on the keyboard (and its too much clart on to connect a Bluetooth controller to it (which does work)), but, how about a bit of retro ZX Spectrum emulation. This works well, and playing some old spectrum games on the keyboard reminds me so much of the good old days.

And how about a quick ZX Spectrum gaming video!

 

DuckDuckGo Follow Up

This post is a little late, but I feel it needs to be written. It’s a follow up post to a previous post that explained that I was ditching the google search engine in favour of using the DuckDuckGo search engine.

The previous post can be found here

Well, I am sorry to say that I am back to using google. I liked the formatting of DuckDuckGo, but I really struggled with the quality of the search results. It reminded me of searching on Bing by accident. After not getting the desired results, I would repeat the search on google instead.

In principle it was good, but, being used to google so much made it very hard to change.