I’ve got a brand new combine harvester washer-dryer..

.. and I won’t give you the key unless you pay me £3 a wash.

Last weekend, the Indesit washer-dryer that has lived in this house for the past eight years or so, died doing what it loved – washing.  It was making some pretty odd noises during the drying process before attempting a new wash where it just sat there doing nothing.

So I bought a new one from ao.com.  It arrived Wednesday, but not without a few problems.  The first is that ao.com delivery folk are uninsured.  So if you’ve paid for installation/disposal, just be aware of this.  The water taps under the sink were pretty stiff and the delivery lads (as nice as they were) were just going to leave it as they didn’t want to damage the taps/pipes.  I said that if this wasn’t going to be installed, the whole lot can go back to ao.com.   They didn’t have any tools but managed to loosen the taps and get the old machine out and the new one in.  They did a quick test and left.

Look how far washing machine tech has come – yet there’s still no app for that..

.. but alas .. they left me without any water to the bathroom and the sink was leaking.  So I called my bank’s home emergency service and got a plumber out who identified that the incorrect tap had been fiddled with – which restored hot water and water to the bathroom.  The leak was actually caused by a rotten waste pipe.  That didn’t classify as an emergency, so I will have to pay for that – and the bloke that came on Wednesday came back out on Friday to fix everything.  Not sure of the total cost yet – still waiting for an invoice by email – but it had to be done and I don’t think it’ll cost that much.

The new washing machine is taking a bit of getting used to.  Dials have been replaced with buttons and a display.  But one thing is definitely noticeable – it’s very, very quiet in comparison to the almost neanderthal aged washer-dryer I previously had.  It also takes a bigger load too.  Yet the overall size makes it a little smaller than the previous machine.  I’m very happy with it so far – not bad for £379.

Will I use ao.com again?  I’d like to – but I’d really like to see the delivery folk fully insured and carry the right tools.  But I may stick with John Lewis who is usually my go-to place for electricals.

New Job!

After nearly nine years at Memset Ltd, I’m leaving to pursue application support and management for an e-commerce agency based in Wimbledon (hence the mysterious Wombles theme tune post).

The chariot that took me from Guildford to Dunsfold affectionately known as the “chuckle bus”,

I’ve generally loved my time at Memset, but I feel that I’ve spent far too long in the customer service role and want to get back to proper sysadminning – tinkering (within reasonable, established procedures) with stuff to get it working optimally and keeping it online.

What excites me about working for my new employers is that as they are a very well established company, they’ve chosen to offload management of the day to day stuff. Thus, G Suite for Business, managed hosting, etc.  which leaves somebody such as myself time to automate stuff and make sure everything works around the application that we supply and support.

While scripting has never been a particularly strong point of mine (never had the time or patience), I don’t shy away from it.  In the past I’ve written Perl, PHP and Bash scripts to do a variety of repetitive stuff.  How efficient those scripts are is anybody’s guess, but they did work!  One downside is that if I spent any great amount of time away from doing these things, I forget it.  So I’ve been fortunate to pick up some digital O’Reilly and other technical books on the cheap, so I have reference books to bone up on.  If this is one thing that I am looking forward to with this job is to get into scripting properly and take it to the next level.

So I think this is a good career move for me.  I think my time working in the web hosting industry has come to an end.

It’s the 20th Anniversary of Drake.org.uk!

Good grief, has it really been twenty years?

Back in 1996 I left UEA in Norwich early to pursue a career and ended up working for a company in Aylsham Road that specialised in building, selling, and repairing PCs. They took me on because I had experience with Linux as they wanted to set-up an ISP.  So I was charged with setting up the servers and infrastructure which would provide dial-up access to 400 customers and web hosting to a variety of local businesses and personal users.

On this day in 1997 I asked my boss if I could register my own domain for the purposes of testing stuff.  As we were members of Nominet, I used the automaton to generate the request and send it off as a PGP signed email. There were no fancy point and click web interfaces in those days!

In the twenty years since drake.org.uk’s registration, I’ve changed jobs many times.  Moved home multiples times.  Got married.  Got divorced.  And I’ve been travelling a lot too.  A quarter of my adult lifetime.  And my domain has been with me in one form or another during all that time.  I’ve ran multiple email services (settling on G Suite – but known as Google Apps for Your Domain back in 2006), multiple web servers (Zeus, Apache, IIS, and nginx to name a few), different web hosting providers.  But I’ve always been a blogger.

I’ve used the WayBack machine to go back through some of my old drake.org.uk web pages/blog posts.  Some of it WTF, some of it has me raging about this or that, and some of it deeply sad (when it came to IVF treatment).

Click on the images to enlarge.

I have had a love/hate (mainly hate) relationship with Windows Server ever since..
Here I was tinkering with FreeBSD and Linux. At the time I was running the Anglian Linux user Group web site/mailing lists too.
Moving houses .. and dedicated servers?
Unemployed just before getting married was awful – but thankfully it all turned out in the end. And this was the beginning of my journey into VFX..
I was still unemployed at the time, but I would find work (albeit I was taken advantage of) within a few weeks. Thankfully that job only lasted 5-6 weeks before I joined MPC.
Even when I was working in the VFX industry, I was thinking about web hosting..
Dealing with spammers was a bane both personally and professionally, and one of the reasons I switched to G Suite in 2006 rather than my own email services.

Sometime after that there are a number of posts about the ectopic pregnancy.  It was perhaps one of the most awful times in our lives and I’d really rather not post them here (although you can still read them on the WayBack machine).

It lead to a great deal of depression which I still struggle with today (though I don’t take medicine for it – I felt at the time that I don’t think the drugs that I was given did much anyway).  These days I deal with depression in a variety of ways – this blog (having an outlet to rant is great, though there are times I know I go overboard and have to tone things down a bit – thankfully my Dad reads everything and provides me feedback if I do!), the other is travelling – something I’m looking to do more of.  A bit difficult when one is single, but there are plenty of things I can still do.

It’s an ongoing struggle, but I seem to be winning for the most part.

Anyway, back to happier things.

When I went to the world premiere of Peter Jackson’s King Kong in New York. The ironic thing was that the associate producer of the film (who was there) came to work at MPC and it was only because I was wearing a souvenir t-shirt that I found this out.

 

When I went to Neil Gaiman’s private screening of a nearly compete version of Stardust. Not sure why I was having a rant at MPC, but it’d be a few months before I had quit and started working for Imagineer Systems.

 

That time when I went flying around filming interviews for a video for Imagineer Systems (and getting a valuable lesson on how to setting automatic gain control for microphones).

 

More filming for Imagineer. This time in New York.

So happy 20th birthday, Drake.org.uk.  Here’s to the next 20 years (good grief, I’ll be 60 by that time!).

Vitality Insurance’s Apple Watch Offer fails to reliably read Apple Health data

Update: Having submitted Apple Health data from the past few months (via a series of screenshots) direct to Vitality by email, they added it to my account and the system now appears to be working by itself. However, it’s too little/too late because I’m going to pay the balance off manually and move over to Samsung Gear S3 + the Galaxy S8+.

Technology.  It can be such a pain in the gluteus maximus at times. And no more so when as an insurance company, you’re trying to innovate within the health insurance market by offering customers a heavily discounted Apple Watch in exchange for the user getting fitter (which means they’re less liable to make a claim).

For that very reason I sold my old Apple Watch and traded it in for the Vitality Apple Watch – a 42mm series 2 Nike model for £99.  I figured that an incentive like this would help me walk (including fast walking) more if I didn’t have to pay any more than I already had.

In terms of the watches, there is very little difference between the regular Apple Watch and the Nike branded model other than the straps and watch face, which I love.

Along with the Withings smart scales, I’ve been recording my steps within Apple Health and it’s been working just fine.  But I’ll be darned if I can get the Vitality app on my iPhone 7 Plus to read data from Apple Health so that they can track my progress and decide – if at all – I need to pay any further for the watch.

Things have got to the point where BBC News has picked up on the problem. The app tells me that it’s connected with Apple Health, but no data is ever exchanged between both apps.   You’re supposed to collect 10 points for connecting Apple Heath and the Vitality app, but nope.  Absolutely nothing.  Nada.  Kaput.

Vitality released an app update yesterday, but that did nothing.  So we may be in for a long wait before things start working properly.  I’ve already been in touch with Vitality about this, so they are aware that I’m having problems – as to what they’ll do with the payments remains to be seen.

As a side note, why is the Vitality main web site hosted in South Africa?  Member details appear to be stored within a datacentre based in Slough, however.  Very odd.  But at least my health data remains in the UK.  Hopefully.  I doubt my health data on the Watch or iPhone is shared with Apple in the US.  

The scales of justice!

I’m loving my new Withings wireless scales.  At £52 (bought in the sale – they’re now £89), they’re pretty pricey, but they get the job jobbed.

Over the past six days, I appear to be losing weight (2lbs!) despite trying eating different things to see how much they add or remove to the total each day. After an initial weigh-in last Saturday morning, the biggest gain was a Carluccio’s breakfast (magnifica) shortly afterwards (the biggest rise as seen below in the chart – but I was also wearing clothes at the time – each weigh-in occurs first thing in the morning after using the toilet and while I’m not wearing very much clothing).

After that, I started eating sensibly, or at least reasonably sensibly based around the Weight Watchers point scheme.  I’m still hacked off that there are no meetings near me that offer a time that’s suitable for somebody working a 37 hour week.   But hey-ho.

The slightly raised peaks are Domino’s pizza and a Chinese respectively.  Providing I stick to a sensible diet (I don’t have to cut out my morning coffees – now only taking the smallest size – and a daily chocolate bar at work is okay), things should progress nicely.  I’ve also cut out artificial sweetener.  I should reach my ideal weight by February 2018 according to the Withings app.

As for Apple Watch/Apple Health – I’m currently smashing my target roles and are raised the moving goal considerably, and will continue to do so as things progress with the weight loss.

Note: I have not assumed my identity as The Snail yet – too bloomin’ cold.