So Long 2021

Like most things with the blog, I’m late to my 2021 wrap up post. Last year was deja-vu from 2020. Still mostly working from home, covid still dominating and much of the focus was on staying healthy and following the rules with the big difference being covid vaccines and hopefully a path to living with covid thats a bit more normal than what we’ve had for the last two years.

Fitness

I’d no big plan for 2021 apart from keeping my daily walks going while working from home. Thanks to Chris doing a virtual Lands End to John o’ Groats walk through the year I thought I could up my walks to do a little bit more each day/week.

2020 vs 2021 walks

Around the end of August I realised that if I’d been a bit more ambitious I could hit 2000km for the year so I upped the distance and also the pace.

Monthly distances through 2021

Boom – 2000km hit by mid December. I find the walking essential as it clears my head, gets me out of the house and also helps with the ever constant weight battle – more on that next. Would love to get back to running but thats not an option at the moment. As for 2021, more of the same. Want to make 2000km again and maintain the pace.

Health

As well as following covid rules and getting vaccinated as soon as it was available one issue I had was my weight. Through 2020 and then the first half of 2021 my weight was slowly creeping up. A weird weight loss at the end of 2019 had masked the gradual weight increase but hitting 91kg in July from a maintained low of around 83-84kg was the kick up the arse I needed.

Summary of health through 2021

Over the last 6 months I cut out some of the extra’s (bread!) I was having and coupled with the walking + pace increase has seen the weight drop back down to 83-84kg. Really pleased to get back down into that range. 2021 aim – maintain!

Not so good was sleep towards the end of the year. Through November and December I ended up averaging 4-5 hours sleep per night which is nowhere near enough and miles away from my normal of 7 hours. Can’t really call out a strong reason why although suspect work pressures/stress were the major contributor. Frustratingly the year ended badly with a real flair up of the chest illness I had a few years ago. So I’m back at the doctors and awaiting blood test results. It’s not stopped the walks although I have had to drop the pace a little but one by product is I can sleep all the hours. I wonder if the lack of sleep has ended up causing a relapse? Time will tell.

Media

Thanks in part to covid and also the massive amount of money being invested due to streaming, TV now dominates film for me. There’s just too much TV to watch although I had a good go through the year in watching it all.

My most watched networks

Surprising was how much the BBC and Ch4 dominates my watch time although many of the other networks you could lump together as Sky in the UK. Some shows that I watched and enjoyed through the year were:

  • Ted Lasso – season 2 was never going to live up to the season 1 hype but was still an enjoyable watch
  • The Expanse – season 5 and most of season 6….only one more episode left before it comes to an end! One of the best shows out there.
  • Line of Duty – another show that was never going to live up to the hype but still enjoyed it
  • Cobra Kai – a really easy but enjoyable watch
  • For All Mankind – best show on Apple TV+ – season 2 was excellent and a step up on the first
  • Vigil – enjoyed it especially the location spotting in Glasgow and the West Coast
  • Wandavision – outstanding – loved it
  • Loki – like a good season of Doctor Who with a bigger budget although the end underwhelmed
  • Great British Bake Off – classic season although still maintain Jürgen was robbed
  • The White Lotus – great to watch although not sure it landed the ending
  • This Way Up – cracking comedy/drama on Ch4
  • Showtrial – Another beeb drama that kept the suspense going week to week
  • It’s a Sin – stunning. If you watch only one thing from 2021 make it this. Joyous and sad at the same time.
  • Succession – essential, even just to hear another Fuck Off

Also binged Halt and Catch Fire from a few years back and highly recommend it. Next on the list of classics for me to tackle – The Soprano’s or The American’s…but I’ve got a few things from last year to finish off first.

As for films, Zack Snyders Justice League was surprisingly good, No Time To Die was a great end to Daniel Craigs Bond run and Dune was stunning…roll on part 2.

Games had a better year. Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite came out in the last couple of months and have been excellent. Most surprised by Halo after the delay in 2020 and the worries around the graphics and the studio. Returnal on the PS5 is a pretty stunning game to look at although I do struggle with the gameplay. I’ve got Metroid Dread to play plus a couple of PC and Xbox games but I’d say 2021 has been one of the best years for games in a long time…and 2022 is looking just as strong if not more so.

And finally a shout out to a simple game thats taken the internet, and Twitter, by storm – Wordle. A daily word puzzle that has no ad’s, no multiplayer, no in app purchase. I love it especially the sharing on twitter by fellow players and trying to work out their opening words/moves.

My effort from today:

Wordle 204 3/6

🟩🟨🟨⬜⬜
🟩🟩🟩🟨⬜
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩

Tech

A strange year of virtually no tech purchases. Thanks to a power cut at home I needed to buy a new printer, and I hate everything to do with home printers so that was a real grudge purchase. Mid December and my iMac failed which turned out to be a failed logic board (maybe power cut related???) so that was an expensive fix too. The only notable new tech this year was the Oculus Quest 2 which I picked up late December. Not used it much but surprised by how good the visuals are and how easy it is to use untethered from a PC.

One area I did invest in was upgrading my NAS, not by buying a new one, but upgrading the RAM and replacing all the drives as I had virtually no capacity left. My Synology is almost 7 years old but still supports the latest software releases and with the extra RAM and faster drives, Plex and also a couple of docker images are running better than ever.

2021 saw no new Apple purchases – so still using the iMac from 2017, iPad from 2018, Apple Watch from 2018 and the iPhone from 2020. 2022 will be different though. Really want to move to a new Mac with an Apple processor and leave the Intel to PC’s. Will wait for iMac and Mac Mini updates in 2022 before making a decision but leaning towards the Mac Mini and another monitor rather than heading down the iMac route again. Also expect to pick up a new Apple Watch in September/October but still undecided on the iPad as it’s still doing everything I need it to do so might squeeze out one more year.

As for other tech, if I could lay my hands on a new PC graphics card I could be tempted into an upgrade. A new camera to replace my Fuji XT-2 is also on the radar as I’m a couple of generations behind…but thats an expensive 2022!

Themes

As before I don’t do resolutions but look for overall area’s to improve or focus on. One that stands out is simplifying both in and out of work. Juggling a lot and need to focus on the things that matter and drop the rest. Second area is on health and focussing a bit more on understanding me, my body and also my diet. That’s a challenge but the biggest improvement would be to have a more positive and normal year. Fingers crossed.

Moving Hosts

I’ve hosted my websites via DreamHost for years. Good price, excellent uptime and ok performance. Recently though I’d been starting to see the shared hosting plan I was on creak at the seams. My needs were pretty minimal but it looked like I would need to move to one of their VPS plans. It’s at this point all the podcast adverts rang in my head…so I tried Linode.

Linode’s front page says ‘hosting for developers’ which as Shak keeps saying isn’t me! However the plans looked appealing and I took advantage of an offer to try it for a month for free and so far it’s been really good.

Linode is a bit different to the hosting I’m used to. You pick a Linux distribution, tell Linode where in the world you want it deployed and boom – you have a Linux server that’s all yours. That means root access and ability to install whatever you like…but also means you are responsible for security and keeping the server updated.

Linode supports many distributions and also has an excellent set of tutorials and guides. Within a day I’d migrated a domain and WordPress website over to Linode from DreamHost. Performance was superb compared to what I was used to. I actually enjoyed controlling Apache directly, setting up redirects and getting to grips with installing security certificates.

Last weekend I migrated this blog. I’ve stuck with WordPress for now but starting to look at static site options so I’m more in control and rely less on plugins. Again the performance of WordPress on Linode is excellent and the website migration was pretty trivial. Next up is the podcast which will be a little more involved but hopefully not too bad.

If you are using shared hosting and thinking of moving to something more beefy then consider Linode. Requires more effort but being this in control of my sites is something I wish I’d done years ago.

Now

I stumbled on an idea from Derek Sivers – the Now page. It’s simply a page that describes what you are thinking/doing/focussing on right now. I liked the idea so I’m giving it a try on the site at iand.net/now. For me it’s an extra on top of todo’s and almost a light weight sprint in that it’s the areas I want to focus on in the coming weeks but doesn’t necessarily have a deliverable that can be ticked off in Todoist.

Will it work? We’ll see if it’s still on the site in a couple of months.

It also made me chuckle that Derek was behind one of my favourite TED talks on how to start a movement and he’s now kicked off the now page movement with a little help of course.

Blocked

As happens every so often with the blog I’ve been quiet for a while. Busy at work, busy with other things but also 4 or 5 posts in draft that I will never finish and are stopping me from publishing more. So it’s time for some quick updates and a mass deletion of drafts.

  • I picked up an iPhone 6 and have been enjoying it so far. It is bigger but not as ridiculous as the iPhone 6+. The sculpted edges that meld with the glass are a constant joy, the plastic bits on the back to allow signals through not so much. I’m enjoying the extra battery life, the screen is gorgeous and the camera as always has improved nicely. The power button moving to the side rather than the top is more troublesome than I thought. Muscle memory always takes me to the top to switch it off but I also can’t change the volume without hitting the power button. So fecking annoying. A great phone overall.
  • iOS8 is a bit of a clusterfuck. Buggiest iOS release so far including the 8.0.1 release that removed cellular from the iPhone 6 and had to be pulled. Took a couple of days for Apple to fix but a very poor start. I had loads of wifi problems with the iPad that were finally fixed with the 8.1.1 release. HealthKit still looks to be flaky, HomeKit has delivered virtually nothing and there are still many app’s that haven’t been updated for the iPhone 6 or 6+ new screen resolutions. Only plus point is the many updated app’s now supporting widgets, extensions and touch ID. Lovely. Seen some significant changes to app’s I use daily and maybe 2015 will see some HomeKit movement…and maybe a return to AirPlay working smoothly?
  • Yosemite brought a new look and feel to the Mac alongside some nice integration with iOS devices. I went for a clean start on the iMac which thanks to Dropbox was far smoother than expected. I’ve only installed app’s I need and it has been quick and smooth in day to day operation. Annoying the iMac doesn’t support much of the handoff features but the Macbook Air does and has been quite handy. Best new feature is receiving calls and texts on any device. Really easy and convenient…but is it not beyond the wit of man (ok, Apple) that they couldn’t know which device I’m on and only ring/text that one? One change I have made is the switch to Safari and the dropping of Chrome. Better battery life on the laptop and I love the new favourites view in Safari across all my devices.
  • Plex on the Xbox One was a nice surprise and is now client of choice for my Plex library. Before the year ends I want to complete ripping all DVD’s and pack them off to the attic like I did with my cd’s a few years back. This also means I’m in the market for some external storage. No USB3 on any of my devices and firewire no longer on any new devices I may purchase pushes me to NAS or Thunderbolt. Been burnt with NAS before so edging towards a Thunderbolt drive possibly from OWC. Decisions, decisions.
  • Next year (early March) will see me switching from the Honda Civic to an Audi A3. Tested an A3 and a Mini and while both were nice the A3 was that little bit more comfortable to drive.
  • One of the teams I was working with this year saw some success in the company awards scheme, so much so I was in London at the start of November for an awards ceremony and at the start of December I’ve a few days in Washington DC for another awards ceremony. This will be my third trip to the USA and my first to Washington and while short I’m looking forward to making the most of it.
  • Haven’t been the healthiest of late which I’m putting down to work. Letting things get to me, not taking breaks like I should have seen a couple of issues snowball together. I stop for the Christmas break on December 16th and I’m looking forward to switching off. Time to think about what I’m doing and what changes I must make.
  • Final rant – why are so many game releases broken on day one. Paying £45-£55 for a game is bad enough but multi gigabyte day one patches and constant online issues sometimes weeks after launch are unacceptable. DriveClub and Halo Master Chief Collection – guilty as charged.

Splurge over, hopefully a more regular service will now resume.

New Digs

Consolidation. It’s a wonderful thing. After much postponing it was time to not only move from current host A Small Orange but also move my domain from 34SP. No real problem with either service provider – I’d just rather host everything at the one place which is Dreamhost. Since setting up with them last year for the podcast, I’ve had a couple of issues when they went through a network upgrade and then suffered a pretty big attack in May. The service for me is good value for money for the features and speed that I get.

So last Monday I kicked off the domain transfer (still not complete) and managed to quickly lose access to my e-mail, website etc. One day I’ll learn! However it didn’t take long to get back up and running. Exporting/importing in WordPress worked extremely well and it didn’t take long to get plugin’s and the theme installed.

Scarily, it’s almost seven years since I bought iand.net and stared the blog and it was the year before (16th Jan, 2002) that I first blogged at shweepa.net. Time flies.

New Clothes

The change in season’s has prompted me to give the blog a fresh look. Nothing fancy and quite simple like most of the other blog templates I’ve picked up. I plumped for Modicus Remix which I’ve been tweaking today. Quite pleased with the look although I do want to edit the CSS slightly as some things look a bit iffy.

I also took the opportunity to remove Intense Debate and switch to Disqus. We use Disqus on DigitalOutbox and I’ve been impressed with the better options and faster performance than I saw here with Intense Debate. One big advantage of Intense Debate was the plugin support but they haven’t really taken off yet, certainly not to the level I expected.

I also tweaked the Google advert locations. I finally put on some ad’s back around April/May and they’ve earned enough to pay for the blog hosting so that’s not too shabby. The theme change also allows for a nice DigitalOutbox link in the sidebar. Nothing like a bit of self promotion from time to time. So that’s the theme change for another year although I do have some thoughts around adding a more colourful theme next time that I want to hand crank myself. Just need a bit more time and motivation.

What’s Occurring?

Quick updates….

  • Picked up an iPhone 3GS on Friday. Expensive but fast and I really like the new camera. I’ll put my thoughts down later in the week not here though but on DigitalOutbox.
  • Speaking of DigitalOutbox, we put up Episode 2 yesterday. Tried to keep it shorter this time. An iPhone special will be up mid-week. Me and Shak are actually enjoying doing it (so far) and we’ve got some idea’s on what we want to do next but we need to walk before we run. We also had a nice surprise seeing our podcast in the iTunes chart. No idea how it’s calculated or what it’s mean but it was a nice ego boost.
  • Another hill walk today. Ben Lomond – weather was a bit sucky but worse was the migraine once I got back. Yuck. Feeling better but dulled much like the clouds.
  • Wimbledon tomorrow. Looking forward to it and also seeing Andy Murray – just how far can he go? Not in the tennis but in the Andy Murrayometer. You couldn’t make this shit up.
  • While in the Apple store on Friday I got to play with the new Macbook pro’s. Gorgeous design. Current plan is to sell my Macbook Pro and iMac and replace with a new Macbook pro and a Mac Mini to act as a media server/always on machine. Need funds for that though. Help.
  • Starting to use FriendFeed a bit more. Impressive site but can be a bt overwhelming at times following ‘noisy’ posts.

With that I’ll end. Getting tired and it’s a school night. Later.

Plinky

Yet another site that I signed up to on day one…and promptly found no use for. It’s premise was to give you topics to blog about and I never used it once. However it was only today that I removed myself from the service and it’s weekly e-mails. In celebration, here’s my answers to this weeks suggested topics.

Recommend a place to get a good cheap bite to eat.
Cleveden Deli – they are very cheap and make a mean roll and sausage with brown sauce of course.

How did you get here? (this stage of life that is)
Not quite sure but I must have been a right nasty bastard in a previous life to earn this one.

What’s the most useless thing in your house right now?
Box of condoms.

You have the opportunity to talk 5 minutes worth of sense into a wayward celebrity. Who do you choose?
So many to choose from but it would have to be Kerry Katona. I’d tell her that carrying on just isn’t worth it and that she’d become loved if she ended it all now. Look what it did for Jade!

What’s the most on fire you’ve ever been?
I don’t do fire. However, this performance in Halo was pretty good.

Killionaire from Ian D on Vimeo.

OH NO, IT’S A RUMBLE! Quick, put together your ideal gang of street toughs!
Oh for fuck’s sake. Get a grip. Anyway, I’d have Edward Woodward but only if The Equalizer music was playing in the background, George Peppard aka Hannibal and Roy Keane. Sorted.

What’s the least fun you’ve ever had at a place specifically tailored for fun?
Plinky’s web site. Boring.

Scrapbook

Tidying up the blog recently has meant my Tumblr site for pulling all my feeds together was redundant. To be honest I never really used it anyway but I really like Tumblr and also it’s new free iPhone app. So what to do with the site?

I’ve seen quite a few good examples of using Tumblr as a scrapbook. Interesting. I’ve wiped my Tumblr account and set it up again as a scrapbook. A place where I can throw ‘the stuff’ that I stumble across online and want to collect but doesn’t fit in the blog, Google Reader or even LittleSnapper.

Time will tell whether it will fit into my work cycle and I find it useful over the long term but I can see it being quite useful.

Tidying Up

I was supposed to be away this weekend but a migraine on Friday soon put paid to that. Instead I spent the weekend tidying up Mac drives, moving data away from MobileMe and getting Dropbox properly set-up. All working well now. Been using Dropbox off and on for the last few months before committing and one thing I like over MobileMe is that the content is held locally on each drive and syncing seems to be quicker and more resilient than with MobileMe. There’s also a change log on who edited a file and when and it’s easy to share folders with other Dropbox users – very handy.

The blog also got a clean-up this weekend. Gone is the sidebar to leave just the post filling the page. Expect to be linking to HD video over time and the wider format will help. This also leaves a cleaner front page. The sidebar which used to list a lifestream has been moved to it’s own page – the Stream. Also finished off updating the About page and added some links at the top of the page. Nothing ground breaking but more to my liking. I did try messing around with some colour but I’ll keep that for another site.

Yes, there will soon be another site but that’s for another day.