Dear Diary...

This is my diary. How things are. Or something. Please note that the diary is archived month by month, so feel free to click the links for the archives.

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Friday 23rd June - I Can't See What I Have To Do!

It was a good day at work again and managed to get to the bottom of how to get the post-install SQL scripts working the way I wanted to. I simply added the sqlcmd executable and its corresponding DLL to the installation folder for the add-in (this way either on x86 or x64 it was in the same place) and then had to parse the paramaters for sqlcmd to use the instance (using the -S paramater) and then calling the SQL script using -i and the script path name.

There's a section for Custom Actions in the InstallShield installer where you specify that you want an action to run once the MSI has installed the add-in into its file location and normally that's specified as [INSTALLDIR] so all good (and is consistent on both x86 and x64.) However, when calling the custom action, you have to specify the file path (easy, [INSTALLDIR] but it's then getting the syntax correct for the executable called and its parameters itself. The -i path parameter cannot have spaces, so as this is expanded, "[INSTALLDIR]\CreateDB.sql" is acceptable so it takes that.

However, the database name specified in -S is going to the computer name and the SQL instance. Naturally, normally you'd go for %COMPUTERNAME%\<instancename> and that's fine. But any system based variables in InstallShield have to be specified in a certain way, so you use [%COMPUTERNAME] instead. Took me a few reads of the manuals to note that and remember it - it does work perfectly though, so the scripting did its thing and it's pretty close to a fully working installer how I want it to be. Been a good learning curve that.

I also spent some time sorting out one of the remote sites which two of my colleagues were at, so mainly checking over SCCM collection membership, ensuring that the software distributed without issues, and also seeing how they'd all be working too. In essence it looked like it was a pretty good rollout and that the staff were all good. One of the colleagues did mention that it wasn't an open plan office, but lots of little rooms instead, so probably a bit more difficult to head around too.

I got home later and had a relaxing evening in, and noted that The Crystal Maze was back on Channel 4 (make Zack Lawrence's classic theme tune tune of the day) - and that at first it was a celebrity special. It was a notable mix of people with the likes of Alex Brooker from The Last Leg, Ore Oduba (BBC presenter and last year's Strictly winner) and also Louie Spence, who did appallingly bobbins on one game and was locked in. Surprisingly Vicky Pattison from Geordie Shore was the star in terms of collecting most crystals and helping the team members out the most.

I am not quite sure if Richard Ayoade is the right person to be the host and front man for the show. He does have the wit and a dry sense of humour, but somehow it needs to be a little bit more camp as well as dry, something Richard O'Brien completely nailed as the original host and Ed Tudor-Pole didn't do too badly in other series. In fact why didn't they give Stephen Marchant a go after he hosted the one off special last year? It may take time for Richard Ayoade to settle in, but we'll see how that progresses over time. Still has that "I can't see what I have to do!" urgency about it though..

Thursday 22nd June - On A Roll

Well I had one of those really positive days where everything I was doing seemed to all come into play and be right at work. Whether it was the fact that the weather was back to its more normal state of mid twenties, or the fact it meant that after some uncomfortable nights sleeping I was looking forward to a better nights' sleep, but maybe also the fact that I was able to relax a little when I woke up, have breakfast and coffee, and generally get the focus on for the day, not sure, but it did work nicely.

So I've been checking over an installation which is in the main an Excel add-in but requires SQL Server Express 2012 SP2 to be installed along with a named instance. The named instance is all good, and the silent command line to install the named instance with all the correct users and indeed works fine when ran alone. It's however going to be an InstallShield pre-requisite so it installs before the main software does, and I've noted the .prq file which has details of the pre-requisite and how it's supposed to be detected etc.

Two things to note: if you're going to use your own SQL instance, you have to amend the detection criteria so that it detects the registry key created for your own instance, along with the version number. And in addition, when adding the command line using the cmdline and cmdlinesilent switches, you need to substitute any quote marks for &quot; - because without that, the quote mark will assumedly end the switch parameter that you had planned to put in.

Once I'd got that sussed, it was then seeing if the installation would sort the pre-requisite out, and it did, so it detected if the SQL Server Express instance was there, did the install, and it does do the check after the fact as well so then returned a correct value and all was good. Excellent. And then for the next trick, a case of testing out how I'd get a couple of post-install scripts running. I have a good idea about this but need to look into seeing how that would be done first..

I got home later and it was a case of playing some classic vinyl singles and went for my collection of 10" singles, always a nice size for an EP or definitely a case of being cute and in between the 7" and 12". So on went Juliana Hatfield's "Universal Heartbeat" which I still love as one of my favourite songs of hers, so tune of the day for that one. "A heart that hurts is a heart that works" she proclaims, and especially as there's also a great B-side on side two called "Girl In Old Blue Volvo Disowns Self". Ha, beat that for a title, Morrissey.

Wednesday 21st June - Summer Solstice of Sweat

It was the hottest day of the year today, with temperatures in central London reaching 34 degrees centigrade and almost touching 35 close to Heathrow. Again, having an air conditioned office was really useful to have, not least as I was sorting out the latest SCCM patch upgrade following the move to 1702 a few weeks back. The good thing is that the patch fixes some of the small glitches that were present in 1702, and so is good to be able to have a nice stable release.

Having run through a test on the test server, and having a backup finally confirmed, the live system was all good to go with no one logged in etc, and so carried it out. It did take around an hour or so, but the good thing was that it all went through smoothly, and the admin console was suitably upgraded as well, so sent out some instructions about that so that everyone was in the loop. I think it's a good thing when you're able to get things done and have them done efficiently.

The way home was just me dripping in sweat, even with a stop via Waitrose and then via WH Smith to get a few bits, and at home the temperature was really warm, even with a little breeze from outside it was 31 degrees on the temperature gauge used in Winter to determine if the heating needed to be on. Later on I felt it was a good move to head outside as the dark skies were starting to come, so I headed to the local Sainsburys where the big bottle of Cobra beer was down to £1, so got one, it was cold, and took that up to the roof terrace in the apartment block.

Surprisingly perhaps the roof terrace was empty but it did allow me to at least be able to chill out and relax there with drink and overlook the other parts of the town and see what was going on. It was also good that the artificial grass put down meant that it wasn't at least muddy or uncomfortable, so sat there relaxed and with a drink - and certainly a good way to be able to see the weather gradually get a little cooler as the evening drew to a close - still warm though!

Tune of the day is "Hot Hot Hot" by The Cure, as certainly that's what most of us were feeling today. I can only imagine how warm it would be at Glastonbury setting up a tent for the weekend, or indeed anywhere else that has music on. I would also imagine how warm it would be in a gig venue seeing a band - no wonder there was aircon on in the O2 Islington Academy last week! I definitely too need to revisit some of The Cure's singles again too while I'm at it..

Tuesday 20th June - Warmed Up

My, it's rather warm still down here it has to be said. And in fact the fourth day of a five day heatwave. Now I know for a fair number of you across the world that around 31-32 degrees centigrade is nothing compared to what happens in other parts of the world. But at the same time, homes are air conditioned, there's more of a different climate and sort of heat - here it tends to get rather humid and sticky at the same time as warm, and that can (and will) end up being rather uncomfortable.

I must admit I was glad that the office at least does have aircon, as does my train to and from work (and the aircon hadn't broken down either, so a definite plus there for sure.) It allowed me to concentrate on the tasks in hand which was to sort out some packaging for an Excel add-in. In fact it turned out that because it was an Excel XLL type add-in, and because registration needed to happen (even though it was free) it tended to prefer the user profile's add-ins folder.

This is where SCCM applications rather than packages really do rock for this sort of thing. It was fairly easy to create an application for deployment, set a compliance rule up (presence of registry key which tells Excel where the add-in is) and then have a simple install which copies the add-in files and merges the registry key. I tested this as a test user and that worked well, and also then tested it with one of the users who wished to have the software deployed. It was a lot happier all round.

I think it's good to use the experience I have and also apply it to a more common sense level. Being able to have a think about how to process what I am going to do and then carrying it out, and having that time to think, is pretty important really. I also know that for me that when I am able to get things done the right way, people are generally happier. I know that I've had good feedback from some users since I implemented the first part of a multi-part plan to fix some issues with Outlook too, so small gains (like the cycling teams do) is a good way forward also.

I also spent some time tonight on the trusty Wii playing Wii Sports Resort, and it's always good fun to do the 100 pin bowling game or the frisbee golf, which is simple but massively great fun to play. Sometimes it's not all about the mega fancy graphics, it's about game play, and add to that the wonderfully lovely and happy title tune by Ryo Nagamatsu which gets you in the mood (and even has the little Wii Sports jingle at the end of the theme tune) and with all the horrid things going on in the world, a bit of happiness goes a long way and so is tune of the day.

Monday 19th June - Southern Fail Again

So it was off to work, and things weren't too bad in the morning due to a rather delayed 0645 train from East Croydon to London Bridge being at the time I hit the station, and as it turned out the usual 0658 I get to work had problems with the train and with the air conditioning, so one of the senior staff got in to the office later than I did, despite me having to take the bus from London Bridge. Mind you, if only I knew what was to come later in the day as the whole Southern Rail and Govia Thameslink Railway thing failed massively, yet again.

It transpired that not far from Redhill, there was a line side fire, and so services were disrupted. Unfortunately as that's on a part of the Brighton main line that a lot of Southern and Thameslink trains use, it meant alterations to services, cancellations and delays. In fact I was to get the 1629 train home, that was cancelled, and then the 1651 arrived a mere 17 minutes late and became 18 minutes by the time I got to East Croydon (so a total of 42 minutes delay overall.) Meanwhile at London Victoria the situation was even worse, with a massively overcrowded concourse and similarly unsafe platforms too. Not very good.

Naturally, the blame will be on the hot weather (and it was rather hot today it has to be said) but it's not so much how something happens, it's how you manage to recover the situation from that and get things back on an even keel as soon as possible for people. London Bridge by all accounts was similarly awful too, so I consider even with my delay being not so good, I got off lightly. Needless to say of course I've put in my Delay Repay Claim tonight, and others should do so as well.

More than that, the Association of British Commuters have launched a new funding campaign to help take them on to the next stage of the judicial review. They now face a massive day on June 29th, when they meet the Department for Transport at the Royal Courts of Justice for a permission hearing. If that gets granted, then the case will lead to a declaration of unlawfulness on two counts: Goverment accountability for both rail franchising and indeed their responsibility for disabled access to rail transport. With the changes Southern and GTR are making, it means many disabled passengers now can't turn up and go, a massive betrayal of the Equality Act.

If you are able to, I would strongly urge you to back the court case, maybe use some of the Delay Repay payment that you get in order to help out. Regardless of any industrial dispute, it should be mentioned the whole of GTR's service (notably Southern) has been appalling for a long time, and that by removing staff from trains and stations it means that there's a real risk to passenger safety and passenger access, something which isn't really good. Tune of the day in fact is "Waiting For a Train" by Flash and the Pan. Seriously appropriate on today of all days..

Sunday 18th June - Basking in Mancunian Sunshine

It was warm and sunny in Manchester again, as it had been yesterday. I must admit it was good to see the nice weather being all over the country and not just down the South East, so was noticeable that the weather was getting people out in droves. It had done yesterday with the amount of people in the city centre, notably the fountain in Piccadilly Gardens and the squares around the centre too. Of course being sat in a pub having beer sounded good to me!

In fact The Love In My Heart and I were off to Dukes 92 to meet up with some friends for Sunday lunch, and it was going to be a hot one. We headed off to the tram station to head on the tram into the centre of Manchester, and the tram would take us close to the pub too, and arriving at Deansgate Castlefield, we saw that there was now a lift to take you down to Deansgate itself, thus improving access to the station massively, a definite plus point in my view.

In fact we stopped off at Atlas Bar opposite for a drink. However, as nice as the beer garden was outside and the staff were nice, the minus points were that the drinks were £4.95 a pint (this is not London) and no cask ale on offer either, the Shipyard IPA was about the closest that I'd get. I don't care about places attempting to be trendy: if I want to pay London prices, that's what Central London does, not the centre of Manchester. It's not the only place to do this, but thoroughly annoying.

We made our way to Dukes 92 and after having a chatter with our friends outside, we headed in and had a table reserved for four. A small breeze was coming in and the venue was light and airy, and not too hot either. I have to say the staff, notably our waiter Ben, were also ace, going above and beyond to check the desserts for any traces of nut allergy for one of us, hugely appreciated. I had the Sunday roast ham, as did The Love, and it was rather gorgeous all round, especially with the roasted vegetables too.

In fact I had the sticky toffee pudding for dessert, which was really lovely, and I'd had their own Albert's Ale, which was a light coloured cask ale with a hint of mainly grapefruit and citrus flavours. It was actually really nice, and was right for the weather too. The meal was lovely, company was ace, time went by far too quick and plenty of conversation to be had as well. It was sad later heading off home but I knew that The Love In My Heart would be enjoying Take That at the Etihad Stadium tonight, and we'd heard "Giants" during the rehearsals this morning which sounded very good, so tune of the day is most certainly is.

Saturday 17th June - Vinyl and Ale

It was an early-ish start for me and The Love In My Heart, as we both were off out today but for different reasons. The Love had arranged to see one of her friends and do a bit of shopping and lunch in the city centre, and as I knew she had planned that already, so I had made an alternative plan to do a fair bit of record shopping and in the suburbs, so I got myself an all day bus ticket on Stagecoach buses, and set off for the city centre, and then via one of the cemeteries to see some of my relations, which felt the right thing to do first, and pause and reflect.

It was then on to Sifters Records on Fog Lane in Burnage, the one made famous by an Oasis song no less and one I've been in many a time. It's one of the few places you can get albums on cassettes if your in-car player has such a function, but it also has a good range of vinyl and CD too at sensible prices. The collectors' corner does have some good rarities, a bit more pricier of course but then you get what you pay for in terms of how well looked after the vinyl is here. I didn't see anything I was particularly after today, but always well worth a visit if you have the time.

From there it was off to Chorlton and on to Kingbee Records, which again is another of my South Manchester record haunts. Again, a cracking selection all round, and the vinyl is sensibly priced. Some of the collectors' stuff is really well looked after and fairly graded, so you know what you'll be getting will be really good. I saw some nice punk 7" and indie 7" singles too, nothing I didn't already have, but some good stuff if you haven't. I was sorely tempted by a first issue of Frank Zappa's Hot Rats on vinyl, and was fairly priced, but had to be good and resist it.

I then headed towards my old work place and on Oxford Road I re-acquainted myself with one of my former haunts, Babylon, and had their pizza and two toppings deal for £4 in there. I was pleased that the quality was still well up to scratch, and indeed I spent time then heading round the Manchester School of Art degree show. The quality on offer was very good there, and some of the large throws from the textiles in practice students were really good, particularly the one hanging by the café in the ground floor of the Benzie Building, which you can't admire but look down from the top and enjoy the architecture.

It was then into the centre of Manchester, had a good mooch around Vinyl Exchange and noted plenty of stuff to be had, but again, was tempted and was good. The Love In My Heart had called me, as her and her friend were round the corner in Rosylee, so I met up with them both (I've met her friend several times, she is lovely) and joined them for a drink there as they were having lunch together. The service for drinks was pretty slow though so we ended up having a change of scene, and I suggested 57 Thomas Street as they had Marble beers. It was a good move, they even had the Cornish Harbour Ale on cask, so that was me sorted, and a nice pilsner for The Love and her friend. It was chilled out in there too, so all good.

The Love and I headed back to hers later (me via the bus, she via the tram, and the bus won!) and said a fond farewell to her friend - it was lovely to see her actually too and we had a good giggle about all sorts, and reminisced about Frank Sidebottom also (we're both fans, you know we are, we really are..) Once home, The Love and I settled in and sat outside the patio on the decking with the chairs (the side of the apartment block has shade in the evening, so nice to sit outside) - and she made us a lovely tea later on.

We both then watched Gogglesprogs on All4 on the NowTV box, and that was massively entertaining, not least as some of the kids just tell it like it is, especially as they were also watching some classic films including Mrs Doubtfire and also having their own take on the General Election as well. I have to admit it was really good fun, and The Love couldn't help but adore some of the comments made too. Tune of the day happened to be from the remnants of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason which we caught the end of and indeed it was filmed close to where I now work! The Love Affair's "Everlasting Love" plays at that point so all good, much better than having a Jamie Cullum jazzed up mess in the end credits...

Friday 16th June - Back Up North

It was the first time in four weeks that I was returning up North and back to Manchester, and I must admit I have missed the place a heck of a lot. It's just the way things have worked out due to weekends falling in certain ways and that I've been to some gigs as well, but at the same time I have missed the cats Jô and Brian a lot, even if they may not have missed me in return. Of course with the weather being nice it was thankful that the office had air conditioning and that it was fully functional, so I was able to work on quite a few things during the day.

I headed home and it was then a case of packing the case for the weekend, having some tea, and then getting into the shower and getting changed ready for the journey. I must admit I did feel relatively warm even before I left the flat and off to East Croydon station, and whilst having aircon on the train was good, you can imagine the horrible conditions later on via the tube. In fact because lots of trains to Victoria weren't running, I instead went to London Bridge and took the Northern Line, and it was almost a mirror image of my journey to Angel yesterday bar getting off at Euston instead.

I got myself a bottle of water for the train and it's at times like this when having the announcements to your phone before they go up on the boards was handy: I got to platform 15 in good time and once the gates had opened it was off down the platform and on to the train, and it was good that the train was air conditioned and relatively calm, so I was able to look out of the window and have a nice calm journey with the likes of Kraftwerk's "Pocket Calculator" on the iPod (tune of the day that) and as I'd put on the first two Echobelly albums, good to hear stuff from that on random too.

I got into Manchester Piccadilly and The Love In My Heart picked us up, and she was really relaxed and chilled out. We headed back to her place and Jô and Brian were waiting at the living room window looking all cute as we arrived back. Brian was his little shy self but once he got himself accustomed to me being back, he was all being soft and cuddly as ever, whereas Jô is always a bit more stand-offish, especially when he has his cross ears look, and looking at me like "It's MY Mummy!" as he's quite clingy to The Love at times.

We did settle in and see most of the Graham Norton show, which was quite entertaining really. I quite liked the Alison Moyet song that she played as part of that, and The Love also enjoyed the fact that the celebrities were almost battling Graham to pull the lever for the big red chair, especially when one of them mentioned that he was an accountant! It was a real sense of a good way to wind down after a long week, and with the weather looking rather lovely, it was going to be an excellent weekend.

Thursday 15th June - I Can't Imagine The World Without Echobelly

It was another gig for me this month (two in June doesn't usually happen) and so it was off to the O2 Academy Islington to see Echobelly. I loved the band from the 1990s and having had them recently release a new album, and also seeing them last year as part of Indie Daze, I simply had to get tickets for tonight, and they were reasonably priced too. It was another London gig venue I'd not been to before, so it was a tick all round for that, and indeed alighting at a tube station I'd never stopped at before either.

So it was off from East Croydon to London Bridge and then from there off on the Northern Line Bank Branch to Angel, and up the long escalators (especially the second one, felt like it was never going to end) and then out on to the main road. From there I spotted the shopping centre that the venue is in, and after passing that it was off to get a cold drink and have a bit of relaxation time before making my way back to the venue, and up the stairs to the main Academy. The air con was on as well so it certainly made the venue a lot more comfortable with it being so warm outside.

First up were the support act October Drift, and after initially doing a bit of prog rock-esque guitar intro, the band settled into some pretty decent songs. The singer certainly liked to be in amongst the crowd as he headed with a long mic cable for one song to wander around. Highlights for me were the very nice power rock of "Cinnamon Girl" and the very moody and haunting "Lost" as well. I quite liked them so will definitely check them out if I get chance to again.

At around 9pm on came Echobelly, and it was a rather good gig all round. Certainly it was good to hear songs from the new album Anarchy and Alchemy, starting with the really gorgeous "Hey Hey Hey". It set the tone for the evening, as Sonya Aurora Madan's voice was on excellent form, and she had a massive smile on her face as she was singing and in between parts, and it was infectious - you couldn't help but feel happy watching her enjoy herself so much.

Second song in and my favourite Echobelly song ever, "I Can't Imagine The World Without Me" - well of course it's going to be tune of the day. In fact the band were really tight on this one especially, and the soaring vocals before the final crescendo of "me! me! me! me!" etc were awesome. In fact later on when she belted out "Great Things" the audience sang along to the chorus, so much so that she doesn't always have to, but it's a rather joyous feeling. I also loved "If The Dogs Don't Get You, My Sisters Will" as one of the new album tracks, delivered with raw passion throughout. Everyone you could tell was rather enjoying it all, and with good reason of course.

At the start of the new album's title track, someone in the audience had put Sonya off and she duly forgot the first few lines and giggled about it with the audience before then kicking back in and really giving it some, and was fully appreciative of the audience, blowing kisses too. Glenn on the guitar was his ever cool rocking self, and Oliver on bass and Ash on drums really cemented the sound rather well too, exemplified not only by the likes of "Car Fiction" (I still love that massively too, they did a verse each in French and English!) and the encore having "King of the Kerb" which of course got the crowd bouncing around.

It was a most excellent show, and certainly showed that the band were on top form, the venue had a sound mixer with the sound right (needed a a smidge more volume on Sonya's vocals, but minor) and lots of happy people as they left the venue. I took the 43 bus to London Bridge and then train home, and I couldn't help but sing along to Great Things and I Can't Imagine The World Without Me in my head all the way home. Oh yes, it was ace. And I still do adore Sonya!

Wednesday 14th June - Taking on The Train Line

I watched a fascinating programme on BBC2 tonight, and yes, it was about trains. Not that I'm in any way, shape or form, biased, but as it was focussing on the Southeastern franchise (rumour has it that it's almost as bad as Southern but not quite) then it was intriguing to see what would happen. Effectively, it was to see if a group of passengers who were ultimately fed up with the rubbish service could actually put together a franchise bid and effectively be the people running the railway line that they use.

It was well presented by Jacques Peretti, who explained that in fact "cattle class" was doing an injustice to cattle, as there's many laws and rules about the way that they are transported, unlike rail commuters, who are crammed in for maximum profit so it seemed. The disgruntlement of passengers was well shown as he had seen first hand one of the many protests against Southern, and indeed the vented anger of similarly like minded passengers.

Cue rail expert and consultant Phil Marsh, who was pretty objective at giving an overview of what you would need to really run a franchise, and then also what obstacles you would be potentially up against. It was good to see Phil getting optimistic on behalf of the passengers, but it soon became apparent that there were many difficulties, not least the fact that the initial application form was massive, and required a mass of knowledge just to fill each one in, requiring legal expertise as well as railway expertise.

Jacques' discovery of something I was already aware of, that many train companies are effectively owned by foreign Government state rail companies, with the figure around 70%, showed that in fact the profits were being siphoned off ourselves and then invested elsewhere - not really the way that you want things to be run. But the Government had allowed it to happen. For example Arriva, which is part of the German state railway Deutsche Bahn, own Arriva Trains Wales, Crosscountry, and now Northern Rail as well as Chiltern Railways. That's a pretty massive amount of money not being reinvested.

And the Department for Transport then decided later in the programme to change their own franchise application rules by effectively asking for a guarantee of £50m from the passengers' franchise application (called LSE Rail) before they'd even meet and discuss the bid. And even when they got to the Department's offices, they were told that they only were seen by the department because they legally had to, which really shows how much contempt that they had for passengers - and as one of them said "it was purely a procurement process" and as Phil said "It was futile. You will never succeed".

It does frustrate me that clearly the whole franchising system is not right, and indeed Louise Ellman of the Commons Transport Select Committee has ruled that the current system is not fit for purpose, and yet the Government and the DfT don't agree with that. Could it possibly be because she as the chair is a Labour MP? Possibly. Either way, I share their frustration, and it was a fascinating programme, and with that in mind "Sucks" by KMFDM is tune of the day - as the franchise system is broken and does indeed suck.

Tuesday 13th June - I Am Gene Hunt (Again)

One of my favourite TV series ever was Life on Mars, with its sequel series Ashes to Ashes also being pretty good too. Of course the one thing that held it all together brilliantly was Philip Glenister playing The Gene Genie himself, Gene Hunt, and being a proper old school police officer, hard as nails and telling it like it is. One of the phrases that he'd often say is to "always trust your hunches" and that advice actually bodes well for me a lot of the time.

So I've had a hunch for a few days now that there might just be one particular thing which is partially causing some Outlook related issues for people, and I wanted to try this out. I knew I had a user who had been experiencing problems on one PC, and she had claimed that it was working on others with no issues. So I thought "so what is different about that PC?" and worked on comparisons. And then it potentially hit me. Pretty hard too.

Once I'd worked that out, I then set about amending the setting for just that one PC, and then seeing how the interactivity was for the user. Amazingly, the response time increased hugely, and the member of staff concerned was grateful that I'd worked it out. I did try it with another user later as well, and that seemed to really get things moving nicely for that member of staff too. So, I carefully did some further checks, and although this won't resolve some shared calendaring issues, the speed increase for shared mailboxes is something to behold.

So, what was it? Well, I'm not going to reveal all just yet as there may need to be some other discussions before implementing a final solution, but it seems that one particular product has an add-in installed, but with that running, the overheads in each mail being opened are massive. Disable the add-in (or remove its entry from the registry as it's a per-machine setting then) and badabing, everyone wins. By the sound of it, I suspect that it might well be that it's something to keep an eye out for in future too.

I did have a relaxing journey home, albeit later than planned, but it was good to be able to reminisce a little about some of the favourite railway stations I've visited in my thirst for travel. Furthest North - Inverness, furthest South and West - Penzance, furthest East - Norwich. In fact I totted up that I've stopped at 561 thus far, which will no doubt be increased over the next few weeks when I plan some trips out and around. That's still a mere 2,002 if I wanted to go to every single one, but that shows how impressive the All The Stations project is. The theme tune to that is tune of the day..

Monday 12th June - Just Another (Not So) Manic Monday

And do I wish it was Sunday? Actually, I do. Primarily because of the fact that it seemed everything was going to hit at once and ended up with three meetings this afternoon. Of those three, one was cancelled after the scheduled start time (and I'd already turned up to the meeting room), and the final one was thankfully shorter than planned, primarily due to the fact that we'd pretty much established some ideas what we were going to do in pretty quick time.

I must admit though it did feel a little cooler today, mainly due to the cloudy weather, but still warm enough to head out for lunch. One of my little spots is a small park not far from the office, which still seems to have a remnant from a recent design exhibition which took place there. The locals aren't particularly happy with what they feel is a spoiling of their view of the park, and have already written two messages to, in their words, "take this monstrosity down". According to the organisers Scalerule, apparently they have permission to keep it there for a few months. I'm not so sure that's such a good idea...

Interestingly also, I spotted some of the cabinet reshuffle. And my, is it not good news. Keeping on Jeremy Hunt as Health Secretary? Really? You'd have thought that would have been an unpopular measure, especially considering it turned out that some statistics regarding the state of the NHS had been put back till after the election results. And for those many of us suffering with Southern Fail, to put Chris Grayling back in as the Transport Secretary is just mad, it really is.

A change should have been as good as the rest, with different blood and fresh ideas to actually look at things differently. One thing you might not know is that for years Chris Grayling has been attempting (apparently) to get Epsom within the London fare zones, which would be for example in Zone 6 and therefore offer more possibilities in terms of travel. Currently it's not, despite the likes of Epsom Downs and Tattenham Corner being in Zone 6. You'd have thought especially as he was returned as MP for Epsom and Ewell that constituents would be wanting that too.

However, more pressing than that should be the Chris Gibb report published in full, and without any further delay. It's notable that publication was held back until after the General Election, most likely because the rumour (and I have to stress it is just that) doesn't necessarily put the Department for Transport in a good light with the way that Govia Thameslink Railway and its management contract with the DfT are inexplicably meaning that there's not an incentive to improve, as the contract wouldn't be revoked or lost like a badly performing franchise would be.

Tune of the day in the meantime is Oasis' "Some Might Say". Now I'm not a big fan of Oasis and all that, but it was down to seeing one of the latest instalments of the series from All The Stations, where they located Cromford station in Derbyshire, which adorns the front cover of the said single. Turns out it's a holiday cottage, and the owner allowed for a nice reproduction photo shoot to take place, even bringing out the wheelbarrow. Good stuff, check it out.

Sunday 11th June - Sunday By The Lake

It was good to be out today and after a nice full English breakfast I made for myself and The Love In My Heart, it was a different place to go, and for a little walk together. I pass it on the train all the time to work but wanted to go and explore it a bit more, so checked how to get there, and thought it'd be nice to explore. So it was off towards East Croydon station and Boxpark, which looked rather busy and with people having a Sunday afternoon drink in the sunshine, and off on the 410 bus.

The bus took you along Cherry Orchard Road, then all round a roundabout to go back along a road and on to Davidson Road, a rather long road that almost ran alongside the main railway line. Once over the bridge later and towards South Norwood centre, it was around some more suburban streets and on to Auckland Road, where we got off for South Norwood Lake and Grounds. And actually, it looked pretty nice, with a cricket pitch and clubhouse facing the gated entrance.

We walked around the side of the cricket pitch, spotting the tennis and basketball courts, and a bowls club with a well kept bowling green and headed towards the path that took you around the lake. Off the lake path were other woodland walks (going to explore these at some point) but we kept on around the lake itself, with swans and their cygnets in the lake itself. One duck was getting too close and the swan went in on full attack mode, which was impressive to see actually.

We walked around the whole lake, spotted the wildlife out, and also the launch jetty for boats to go sailing on, along with a café in the ground floor of the pavilion there. There was also a little refreshment kiosk with seats by the lakeside, and had a cold drink from there too, and was quite nice sat there and chilled out together, before then heading off on the 410 bus back towards Croydon centre and off back to mine, where we made sure all was good and The Love was packed and all sorted.

We did think of Sunday lunch at the Crown and Anchor near Euston, and on the way there I said to The Love that I wished that pie was a part of the Sunday menu, as I just fancied it. Imagine my happiness then when not only did the bar have the St Austell Tribute ale on cask (oh yes) but the menu also had the beef and amber ale pie on as well (double oh yes.) As I know it's a proper pie, well of course I had it, and it was stunningly nice as well, lots of meat, proper nice pastry and a stack of chips to go with it. All was very well with the world I have to say.

After a drink there too, I felt sad to have to say goodbye to The Love In My Heart as she headed off to depart from Euston and me back home. The weekend was nice and relaxed, and we'd really made the most of the time together but in a good way. Tune of the day in fact is the rather nice "Lazy Sunday Afternoon" by The Small Faces, which had been on the documentary that we watched last night but also summed up the feeling we had today, nice and relaxed. Ace.

Saturday 10th June - Cricket and Mummy

After a nice breakfast in the morning, The Love In My Heart and I had the day sort of planned: head somewhere for the afternoon, and then off to the cinema near me to see The Mummy, as I know she had fancied it when it came out, not least due to a certain favourite actor of hers being in it. In fact I'd not been in the cinema close to where I live so it was a good opportunity to check it out and see what the state of play was. Before all that though and with the sun shining, it was off out to head somewhere lovely.

In the end, it was off to Richmond. Now normally from East Croydon it's a change at Clapham Junction and on to South West Trains straight there. Not today, as engineering work stopped us from doing that. So instead we were going to go to Victoria but the train looked totally rammed (as was the platform) so an easy win was to get the train on the platform next door to Blackfriars (virtually empty too) and from there hop on the District Line to Richmond. The other advantage was we already had a seat on the tube by the time a fair number of people got on at Victoria, so epic win really.

Richmond was as lovely as usual, with the little shops being all lovely, and one of the small narrow arcade streets with jewellers a plenty also had a really nice little pub, which we went in and sat in their lovely beer garden at the back. Not just that but the Butcombe Best ale was also on top form too, so kudos to The Britannia on Brewers Lane. It was nice to relax there and once that was done, we then headed off around more shops, walked along the River Thames for a while to the footbridge, and back to the town centre.

We in fact fancied a bit of lunch and so headed back towards Richmond Green and spotted a nice fish and chip shops, and they did chips, and a portion for £1.50 which was rather lovely, so we got a portion each and headed on to the green itself, which had a game of cricket being played in the middle. The sun was out too so it was good to sit by the trees (me more in the shade, The Love soaking the sun up) and I then thought "why not have some beer?" and so headed across to The Cricketers, one of the pubs facing the green. They must be well aware of people taking out beer to drink there as had the plastic pint pots at the ready, and the Twickenham Brewery Naked Ladies ale was on too. Oooh yes.

In fact it was good seeing the cricket, and two wickets in two balls no less. Of course they had marked out the pitch carefully and so everyone was on the fringes of the green watching but I have to say that I could have happily stayed there all day and watched it to be perfectly honest, that would have been pretty good. We did have to be elsewhere later though so we headed back to Richmond, got the District Line to Victoria and straight on a train to East Croydon which wasn't rammed. Hurrah for that!

We got back towards my place and it was off to the Vue Cinema, which is in what was a former department store. The cinema is at the back and towards the top, so it's an escalator to the box office, with all machines and no staff on (so you've got to use your debit or credit card only) and once all that was done, it was up and up (and up!) - another escalator to the first three screens, then through the ticket checks and up another two escalators right to the top for the remaining seven screens - we were in Screen 4. And no down escalators, just stairs down..

Anyway, we saw The Mummy, and whilst it was good fun, and The Love of course enjoyed the fact that Tom Cruise was kicking backside, I quite liked the way that Russell Crowe portrayed both Henry Jekyll and his then alter ego Edward Hyde, with him having to use a painful looking injection to stop him turning into Hyde. I couldn't also help but think that there were a few plot holes, and that because it's meant to be a whole thing with Universal's "Dark Universe" series, it might make more sense in context of other films within that being released, such as Bride of Frankenstein when it hits in 2019.

The Love did get a little scared in parts though, mainly with the appearance of a mass of crows in one scene, but also some rather horrible rats and spiders in other bits too - certainly not the film to watch if a little queasy. I did think that Sofia Boutella was excellent as Princess Ahmanet, and had the eyes which certainly were a little evil, dark and mysterious at the same time which was excellent too. So all in all, not too bad, although £11.79 for a film? Come on Vue, sort out a fairer pricing structure, and it's not even Central London for crying out loud. If AMC Manchester can charge a maximum of £8.50 and in fact charge less if earlier in the day, why can't everyone do it?

Later on The Love and I had some tea, and then watched a fascinating documentary on BBC Four hosted by Sharon Osbourne, based on the business deals in rock and pop. It was good to see her walking along Denmark Street near Tottenham Court Road in London, which today has plenty of guitar shops and used to be the home of music publishers. It was of course some clever moves by the likes of The Beatles to make some money (especially with the higher earning rate being 91% income tax at the time) - but then losing their rights to songs along the way meant that income would go (in fact Michael Jackson bought the publishing rights)

It was good though to have some of the background on some of the deals, and how the press turned on and hated Moby because so many of his songs off the Play album had been licenced for advertisements and films, and how Danny Boyle's use of "Porcelain" in the film The Beach helped the record take off was something different. As someone who bought the album in the first few weeks of release and smiled as the record grew hugely in stature, I could see that influence growing. For me, my favourite track off the album will always be "Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?" primarily because of the timing of when I first listened to it, and how the piano and emotions hold, so tune of the day.

Friday 9th June - Hung

Well, I must admit when I woke up this morning I did not expect to see what I saw on the telly screens, and in that although the Conservatives were still the largest party by number of seats, they had actually lost a fair number of seats and could not get a majority alone. In fact the biggest winner appeared to be Labour, gaining a considerable number of seats (and indeed winning the one I am now based in as well) - and on top of that, actually showing well in a more non-traditional area, such as taking Canterbury and on a third recount, and of all places, Kensington!

It was a surprise of course but in a way it was one that showed a massive backfire for Theresa May and whoever her advisers were in the background. A lot of Conserative MPs are pretty much saying that since their manifesto launch, support has gone downhill with many of them saying that targeting some of their core vote in pensioners with policies that didn't really go down too well (the "dementia tax" issue, the removal of the triple lock for pensions and the cut backs to winter fuel allowances) - and in essence, doing that was almost a suicidal attempt.

Looking further into it, the issue with Southern Rail and the way that so many of the local MPs along the South Coast didn't always intervene and try and get a resolution or at least seek a way forward was shown - those that did, such as the brilliant Caroline Lucas of the Green Party (she not only held her seat but with a massive majority increase), Stephen Lloyd who took Eastbourne off the Conservatives for the Lib Dems and swings to Labour in the likes of Brighton Kemptown along with Hove and Portslade showed that commuters hadn't forgotten those issues and voted with their feet (this was also a factor in my constituency going to Labour too, I have no doubt)

So plenty to happen over the next few days, and it was nice after work to get everywhere neat and tidy and then head out to Euston station to meet up with The Love In My Heart, who was coming on the Friday night for a change (in fact her ticket was a mere £10 this time around), and so with the train arriving on time at 2024, we thought a drink in the Crown and Anchor might be an excellent idea, and so it was, and although the pub was busy we got a seat, they had Black Sheep Best on (win) and it was good to chatter and drink beer, and have some good tunes on in the background too.

We headed from Warren Street to Victoria later on and took the train to East Croydon, which was a lot quieter, so The Love appreciated the much calmer feeling, and once at the station we headed back to mine, and chilled out with some wine and some beer, and we saw Gogglesprogs from earlier (ace) as well as Top of the Pops from BBC Four earlier. It had some good songs from the likes of The Icicle Works but best of all Howard Jones' brilliant "What Is Love?" so that has to be tune of the day as we both recognised parts of Paris that he was walking around during the video.

Thursday 8th June - Voted

So it was off to the local polling station on the way home from work to be sure that I casted my vote for the General Election. Of course all the 650 MP seats are up for grabs, and where I live now is a pretty marginal seat - won by the Conservatives with a wafer thin 165 vote margin. Naturally of course this could potentially go the other way, but it'll be interesting in the morning to see what happens and how the result will go. I must admit at around 5.15pm the polling station was busier than I thought: and probably more so in the next few hours once people go home from work.

I must admit though that I do feel it's important to be able to use the democratic rights that have been fought for over the years and have a say in what happens locally and to the country as a whole. There's plenty of arguments of course for all sides to take into consideration, but certainly some of the press have been rather out of order. Lord Sugar asking people to take heed of what The Sun says, which any football fan worth their salt would rightfully ignore. After all The Scum (as I prefer to call it) was the one who decided to print masses of lies about Hillsborough, and quite rightly at the time it wasn't just in Liverpool that such a newspaper would have been met with such vitriol.

Inside apparently was even worse, trying to encourage the younger voters to take drugs or play computer games so that they would miss the voting deadline. However, judging by the age demographic that I saw at the polling station, it wasn't putting people off - if anything it was actually having the opposite effect, with people clearly thinking "Sod what you say, I'm going to exercise my democratic right!" and head out to the polling station en masse and get voting.

So with the polls now closing, the traditional exit poll, and has of course to be met with a lot of caution. And I mean, a lot of caution. Even the likes of Michael Fallon and John McDonnell had agreed that it was a case of seeing what happened when the results would come in and take it from there. I'm not going to stay up and watch it all night though, I do have work in the morning. However, I am hoping that some of the seats where the MPs haven't done enough to help out over Southern Fail may be paying for it with voters clearly not happy with how they've been.

In the meantime, tune of the day is the rather good "Where's The Revolution" by Depeche Mode, which pretty much sums up the feeling of me tonight. It really does also sound powerful and has plenty of classic Anton Corbijn direction in the video: the band in black and white but with the occasional splash of colour from the flags alone. The train is coming (unless of course it's Southern Fail) so get on board... and let's see where the revolution may take us overnight..

Wednesday 7th June - I Want My Country Back

First of all, I must implore you to listen to my tune of the day which is the excellent "I Want My Country Back" by She Makes War. I've enjoyed her music for ages now and in this single she's perfectly got the feel of the country at the moment, and how things are. The line of "Get your fake news from the Daily Hate" says it all really, and it rocks too. You can also download the single for free from her mini website for the single, but only until the end of tomorrow. So do it! You know it makes sense.

And you know, I do want my country back. But not in a UKIP over the top racist way, but in a way that the country represents the people, with good old fashioned values that don't necessarily have to be politically correct or pleasing the media masses. Why not have a common sense approach where not only do we have more of a say, but makes us feel all the better for being part of democracy? After all, we were given a referendum on potentially leaving the European Union, and although some may not agree with the vote result, the public were asked and that's what they went with. If you didn't vote and still feel the need to complain, then the easy solution is to vote.

Over the last few weeks with the unfortunate incidents of terrorism, one thing has stood out: a will and a resliency to get back to a normal life as soon as possible and not feel any sense of fear whatsoever. It felt positive as the train headed into London Bridge with Borough High Street now fully open, and crossing the bridge on the 521 bus and heading towards work. The good thing is that the barriers have already gone up on the bridge between the road and pedestrians, so that was positive to see - a little bit more protection and security, but no bad thing.

I think too that if we're able to spot something not right, and report it, that it should be acted on. By the sound of it, both the incidents had the perpetrators reported to the authorities, but nothing appeared to be done enough. I mean, when one of them is on a Channel 4 documentary boasting about his life choice, you do have to wonder whether that alone should have meant a closer eye kept on the person's activities, right? After all, isn't prevention actually better than cure after the event, no matter how well the police did (and to be fair, they did excellently on the night to prevent the death toll being a lot higher, it's worth noting.)

So whatever your allegiance might be, it's well worth noting that you don't need the polling card to cast your vote - just get to the polling station, give your name and address (and have some ID handy just in case) - you'll be found, and you can get voting. At least if you do vote then whatever might happen over the next day or two, you've had your say and if things don't go the way you may want them to, feel free to complain because at least you bothered to cast the vote..

Tuesday 6th June - Keep On Rocking

After getting out the guitars over the weekend for a bit of Guitar Hero and Rock Band goodness with my friend, I thought it nice to kick back tonight and have a good go at several songs on guitar, and vocals too seeing as I have a microphone to sing along to. I was also buoyed by the success on vocals last night during Morrissey's "Irish Blood, English Heart" where I managed to not only get 100% vocals but am now equal 1st on the Wii high score table for getting what seems to be a perfect 94,000 score, timing the runs for overdrive perfectly by the look of it. Certainly was all good fun.

So it was on for some serious guitar playing, and so went into 1980s mode with the likes of Oingo Boingo's seminal full version of the theme tune from the film "Weird Science" (make that tune of the day as Danny Elfman is on top form on this one) along with Human League's "Don't You Want Me", Tears For Fears with "Everybody Wants To Rule The World", and two Duran Duran songs in "Girls On Film" and "Hungry Like The Wolf".

That wasn't heavy enough so I had a bit of an Industrial playlist going, so the likes of "Terrible Lie" by Nine Inch Nails, "The Beautiful People" by Marilyn Manson, the superb "A Drug Against War" by KMFDM, that sort of thing. I must admit I still do hold the vocals record on the latter, managing to get an excellent score by timing when the vocals are delivered with their suitable overdrive. And for one final blast, the difficult but massively rewarding "Panic Attack" by Dream Theater - which I can nail on expert vocals and medium guitar (not at the same time though it has to be said).

I did also listen to some more of the new Depeche Mode album Sprit again - certainly hearing it live made a difference into how I'd enjoy it when listening to it at home, with "Going Backwards" a particularly great opener, setting the tone rather well for the remainder of the album too. I do need to fill more of the back catalogue at some point so need to track down both the Black Celebration and Music for the Masses - I've got pretty much everything else from their 80s era and even some 12" singles too ("Just Can't Get Enough" and "Master and Servant" to name but two)

On another positive note, it transpires that a couple of things I'd been working on at work meant that I was able to resolve some issues going forward, and also then set the tone for some deployments over the next few days or so too. I think when things do come all together it's nice to be able to justify the methods I use, and even though the train was delayed in the evening due to the wind blowing a tree down near Hendon, it was good to feel like I had done a lot and when I got home felt even more justified to rock out. As you do.

Monday 5th June - Defiance

It did feel a little surreal heading to the train station this morning to get the train into Central London and into work, but in a good way I think heading in yesterday with my friend reassured me a bit that everyone would indeed carry on as normal after the horrible events of Saturday night. In fact my normal train doesn't go to London Bridge (it would do from Summer 2018 though) so it does at least mean I didn't have to venture near that, which may be a good thing really.

Anyway, I got to work and later in the morning I did receive some good news - it looked like after testing my theory with regards to TCP Window Scaling was in fact correct. It transpired that uploads appeared to be reasonably okay, but downloads on the other hand were being stopped from scaling along the way, meaning that more packet requests were needed to retrieve online items for Office. Now this does mean we'd be able to test further with a couple of live accounts on a live machine, and see how we're able to try and move that forward. Must admit though it was nice to be proven right.

The rain started tipping it down as I headed off home after a busy day with two meetings, and I was thankful that I had a waterproof coat with hood on as I got off the train at East Croydon station later. It had eased off by the time I hit the North End, and so knowing I had a HMV gift card, decided to head into HMV, and once the balance was queried (I didn't know what was on it) I knew I could do the deal of two CDs for £15. Granted it does exclude the special editions (meh) but I would be able to pick up two recent albums, so I had a look round and made my decision pretty quickly.

I was soon home with my new purchases, so first off played Amy Macdonald's album "Under Stars" first. As usual from Amy, it's really nice songs, and her distinct voice really comes through nicely, notably in the lead off single "Dream On" with plenty of passion in the chorus. It's also worth noting she does write her own songs too, so kudos of course where due. I enjoyed that and that'll be getting a good few listens over the next few weeks, no doubt accompanying me on train journeys.

The other album was of course Depeche Mode's "Spirit" which I simply had to get since Saturday's tour. I did put it on my birthday list but didn't get it, so of course using the HMV gift card was a good move. Naturally hearing a lot of the tracks on Saturday made me even more enticed to get it, but certainly for me the opening single "Where's The Revolution?" was a sign of their more darker Industrial side, with an epic chorus that's great to sing along to as well. Definitely tune of the day and perhaps somewhat fitting considering the next few days of course.

Sunday 4th June - Green Chains and Grande Gig

My friend and I got up pretty early, and I sorted us out breakfast and kept an eye on BBC News so we could see what had happened last night and what the situation would be travel wise. As I expected London Bridge was shut, and we thankfully were going to Victoria so at least it was something we didn't have to worry about. The only thing that did delay us was that the train was a little delayed into East Croydon but we'd allowed for that, so got into Victoria a few minutes behind but made some of that up with a tube that arrived almost straight away, so in Euston for plenty of time for my friend to head on the 0945 back to Lancaster.

We'd had an excellent weekend and it was good for us both to catch up, have a good natter and generally have a great time, which is what he mentioned later when he texted me, so all good. I headed back on the tube and train to my place, and deflated the air bed, washed all the spare bedding, and was able to put that plus the duvet and pillows back in the bedside table I'd got from IKEA, so all looks neat and tidy and also means that it's ready for someone else to stay as needed too, so that's good.

Later on I headed out and decided that it'd be good to take a walk in the afternoon, and so decided on section 11 of the Green Chain walk, which takes you from Crystal Palace to Nunhead. I checked trains etc were running, so once at Crystal Palace, it was a walk through part of the park and to the far exit, then taking the road towards Sydenham Wells Park. That park itself was pretty nice actually, as it had plenty of greenery and even some squirrels by the pond too.

After that and a steep walk uphill it was then down to Sydenham Hill Wood, and the former disused rail line track bed which is now a path and part nature reserve too. It was good to walk through there and have a nice different view of South East London, before eventually leaving there and heading to Horniman Gardens, with the house and the impressive Victorian era conservatory not far away either. From there it was along a road downhill and off to Camberwell Old Cemetery, with the path snaking through the well kept gardens and graves.

Just after that I had two options: I decided to follow Brenchley Gardens rather than walk uphill and to One Tree Hill (can always do that another time) and then to Camberwell New Cemetery with its chapel, passing round the edge and to Honor Oak Crematorium, then following streets to the rear entrance of Nunhead Cemetery, passing the old Victorian graves and woodland, then heading past the old Anglican Chapel which looked somewhat beautiful. Getting to the end there was then a short walk towards Nunhead station itself, and walk done. A nice five and a half miles though so well worth doing if you get the chance. I then took the P12 bus to Honor Oak Park station, passing part of the route I had walked, and then the Overground back to West Croydon from there.

Later on I saw the One Love Manchester concert on BBC1. I have to say I've got nothing but respect for Ariana Grande - the way she made a determined way to come back with a gig after the events of two weeks ago, and the fact she visited the children in hospitals, and her manager Scooter has also been really supportive, shows the right attitude and maturity - and at just 23. There's a lot of people who could learn how to handle themselves from her too. Of course musically she's not my cup of tea, but what she did do was make lots of her fans happy with some lovely singing, emotional tributes and having people sing with her - the duet with Miley Cyrus of "Don't Dream It's Over" somehow worked with proper respect to the original Crowded House piece too.

Lots of musical highlights for everyone: Take That performing (and with Robbie Williams as a one off), Liam Gallagher doing "Live Forever" with Chris Martin from Coldplay near the end, Black Eyed Peas belting out "Where Is The Love?" with Ariana Grande, and Chris and Ariana duetting on their version of Oasis' classic "Don't Look Back In Anger", something even more of an anthem over the last few weeks. It somehow though had to have Ariana's "One Last Time" too (the last song she'd played at the Arena) and to have everyone so uplifted and happy with her singing it was a lovely moment, so tune of the day for that reason.

There's a lot to be said that Manchester always answers back with music, and how the music brings us together. It was the same when I saw 808 State at Castlefield Arena back in 1996, six days after the IRA bomb hit the city centre, and the same show of defiance but a determination to have a good time. So many young lives had been affected by the recent events, but this was a good way of showing them that in times of darkness comes resilience, togetherness and one love - a love and respect of each other - that will always, always win.

Saturday 3rd June - Everything Counts In Large Amounts

After some nice breakfast this morning, my friend and I relaxed with some excellent Ninja Warrior USA on Challenge. What made us both laugh was one contestant who had decided to show what he was made of, and got to the second obstacle, completely missed the jump to the rope and face planted into the water - he was okay, but it was just the attitude beforehand of being really cocky and thinking he would tame the course, and then fall flat on the backside - classic really.

We headed out around Croydon in the early afternoon and so we went to the record shop 101 Records and had a good mooch around in there. Plenty of potential bargains to be had for the record buyer, and lots of CDs discounted too as well as some 7" singles of note. In fact I could have bought a fair number of Duran Duran's back catalogue for a mere tenner and had eight or nine singles at least for that price. Lots of vinyl albums too, and a real treasure trove of stuff to be had. I could have been very very tempted!

We then visited Playnation Games and lots of retro stuff for us to get our teeth into, including some boxed Atari 2600 games, some neat Sega Saturn titles, and also a mass of Commodore 64 games, including Operation Wolf on disk, and plenty of tape games too including some more obscure titles, which was good. Definitely worth another peruse I reckon especially when it's a case of being able to stock up on some which aren't as dear really.

Once we had a coffee at mine it was off to West Croydon and on the Overground to Canada Water, changing at the Jubilee Line to Stratford, and we got there on time with no problems. We took the shopping centre exit (the old shopping centre, not Westfield) and then went round to the Wetherspoons pub not far away, and once we eventually got served at the bar, we got a table. I then of course thought that the order and pay app would come in handy for the food, so I got that sorted, and as both burgers came with a drink, we sorted that too. My friend had the Tennessee burger, I had the buttermilk chicken burger, and that worked out nicely. Even more so it was two sticky toffee puddings for £5, so ordered those for dessert too later on. So much easier than queueing!!

We walked back to Stratford station, across the bridge and then down and along the road that took you to the Olympic Park. They were only allowing one main bridge for entry, and security was understandably mega tight - you got patted down, and had to empty the pockets to be scanned, and all bags were searched (good option not to have one, and a fair number of women didn't have theirs with them so wanted to get in). We got in fine, got a bottle of Heineken (not cheap!) and then made our way to the standing section and were virtually stood right next to the centre circle, with the gold circle a bit beyond that was more expensive.

The support band were The Horrors, who were decent enough. It was notable that the lead singer Faris Badwan had a small plaster on one side close to his nose, and a lamé top on too - and he certainly was belting out their songs with aplomb to be fair. The driving guitars and haunting synths of "Who Can Say" was particularly good, and certainly for me "Still Life" was the other really good one, more slowed down but with plenty of purpose in the chorus. Their last album was back in 2014, so hopefully they have some new stuff soon to entice those who saw them.

After around half an hour, and at 8.15pm, The Beatles' "Revolution" played in part before Depeche Mode then took to the stage. I expected plenty of songs from the new album "Spirit" to be played, so was rather mightily pleased when during the set the lead single "Where's The Revolution?" was played with everyone belting out the chorus in unison. They had opened with the opening track from Spirit, "Going Backwards" before then early on getting "Barrel of a Gun" powering out (still one of my DM favourites that, so mightily pleased that was on!) - and then a haunting version of "In Your Room" too, so good to hear that.

We got a storming "World In My Eyes" where it looked like towards the end Dave Gahan had tripped over somewhat as the mic lost volume, with Martin Gore appearing to sing more near the end. After "Cover Me" from the Spirit album, a lovely gorgeous treat - a mainly piano and vocal version of "A Question of Lust" with Martin really feeling the emotion in his voice as he and the crowd sang the chorus in unison. We also got "Home" in a more stripped back form too which was rather nice actually.

As a brief rain shower had started to fall, the intro came on and straight away my friend and I had a huge grin, we knew what this was: "Everything Counts" and it was as awesome as you would expect, with the whole crowd singing the chorus together and the band playing it really tight too, and extending the end bit so more singalongs could happen. It was a gorgeous moment, and for me tune of the day without question. The rain continued as it was then a fest of classics including a storming "Enjoy The Silence", a powerful "Stripped" and to end the main set, a superb "Never Let Me Down Again", showing that their back catalogue is still very alive and well in a massive way.

The band came back on for the encore, originally with a lovely version of "Somebody" along then with the rather odd video in the background for "Walking In My Shoes". Then, another rather emotionally lovely moment, as they played the full six minute version of David Bowie's "Heroes" and really felt that in the crowd. Dave did the main vocal and had Martin doing the "I remember" and the "by the wall" backing bits later on too. It was a lovely little tribute and just felt right somehow. We ended with "I Feel You" and a kick backside version of "Personal Jesus" with lots of powerful drums (all the drums were live by the way) and everyone really getting into it.

The lights stayed off, and we both thought that there might be another encore but after around seven minutes or so the lights came on and we were heading off out of the stadium. On the way back to Stratford station, I had a text from The Love In My Heart explaining that there appeared to be an incident on London Bridge, which as the night progressed became more apparent that it was an awful attack on people with a van driving into people, then men with knives stabbing people at random also.

Naturally I texted The Love to let her know we were both safe, and that we were on the tube, and to be fair to the organisation of the services after the gig, we got to Canada Water and made it on to the Overground back to West Croydon, and saw a fox on the North End as we walked past the shops and on the way back to my place. We saw some of the news and it looked horrible, and my friend said that maybe the band may have come back on for another song but were told to curtail the set due to what had happened to allow people to get home safe (London Bridge was closed..). It sickens me so much that there's idiots who do this. It also makes me think that The Love and I have been to Borough Market, and the pub near where the van crashed into. Scary stuff.

Friday 2nd June - Rocking Out On Friday Night

It was good to have the day off in preparation for my friend from Ulverston coming down for the weekend. I was able to sort out all the bedding and get that all nice and tidy, and also then make up the spare bed (the electric pump really did come in handy here) as well as then be able to have the food shopping arrive with everything in that I needed. That saved some time and effort all round, so I could relax during the afternoon and be able to get out the Wii guitars for some rocking later on.

I headed off around 3.30pm and off to East Croydon, and got the train to Victoria. I paused at the ticket machines in the tube station and got my friend an Oyster Card sorted, with balance topped up as well so that meant less hassle later on. Once I got to Euston it was as busy as normal on a Friday but I knew that the train was due at 4.59pm at Platform 5, so waited at the top of the ramp so that it was easy for us to meet up, and as ever, good to see my friend too.

The two of us then headed back down to the Victoria Line tube and got the tube to Victoria, and as we headed to the train platforms, we noted that Platform 15 had the train to Caterham stopping at Clapham Junction and East Croydon on the way, and the train was empty when we got on. None of that after Clapham Junction though so it was good we had a seat, although of course a little bit of a battle to get off at East Croydon with people wanting to get on for stations to Caterham, but we managed.

It was a short walk back to my place, and it was good to sit down, have a really good catch up, and generally have a good natter all round. I put a nice meat feast pasta bake in the oven and food was had, and we relaxed a fair bit with some telly in the background and then had the pasta bake with some garlic bread, totally spot on that was and did the job very nicely indeed. In fact we spent some time seeing old game shows on Challenge and laughing at the poor contestants' answers on The Chase (really did beggar belief to be honest) before we thought some rocking was needed!

On went Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock for the Wii, and plenty of tunes to play because of all the content imported from other games and downloadable content too. So of course we had to do a blast of the likes of Wish, The Hand That Feeds, Closer etc by Nine Inch Nails, as well as me switch to vocals for some of the songs so did Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen with my friend on bass, and on expert vocals I did possibly my best run ever, which was good to see.

We then also did some further rocking so it was good to see lots of the old classics given some guitar and bass treatment from us. In fact we got 100% on some tunes and 98-99% on others, so definitely were able to get back into the groove nicely. Switching to Rock Band 3, we also certainly enjoyed the likes of "Du Hast" by Rammstein (tune of the day cue to us both doing the opening line of "Du.. du hast, du hast MICH!" and belting that out at the same time.

Later on it was on with Youtube on the telly and seeing some Commodore 64 related stuff including one video where someone went to the trouble of nominating a top 60 SID tunes. We thought we'd see what was chosen in that but there were some not very good choices, and amazingly hardly any Martin Galway in there either. The supposed top 100 Zzap! 64 games video wasn't that, and some very odd choices from the video creator as to what makes a great game, which had us confused somewhat. It was approaching midnight and a long day, so crashed out and ready for tomorrow.

Thursday 1st June - The View from Croydon

And so to another busy day at work, where I spent most of the time in the afternoon testing out a packaged MSI for the new print queues we're going to be using, complete with the fact that they have a default printer and install a driver as well. In fact I'd noted some potential errors with it and so on further testing today I found out plenty more: the uninstall isn't clean and can often leave remnants of the registry and indeed a service that it installs behind, meaning it's still running, and even if the MSI runs, it seems to invoke scripts which then do work afterwards (naughty that)

But here's the other cardinal sin. Of course if using SCCM or other deploymnet methods, you would of course be installing these as the SYSTEM user, right? So in order to replicate this test you can use psexec and run as system user, and doing that with the MSI (and using the switch to suppress reboot) meant error 1604, which meant that installation was stopped before completion. As it transpires, the MSI decides to go and run some scripts but the MSI has exited at this point, so not very clean whatsoever. Naturally we've fed this back to the print vendor and we'll see what happens from there.

I headed home and had a nice chatter with The Love In My Heart, as notably she had sent me some pictures from her phone of the two cats Jô and Brian, who were really being cute and lovely. I must admit I do miss them when not in Manchester, even though I know that Jô likes to be the boss and only allows me to fuss over him when it suits. They were of course outside on the balcony listening to the Robbie Williams dress rehearsal at the Etihad, which The Love could hear from her place and she'd be going tomorrow (so the weekend of us with friends worked out well actually..)

The view out of the front room with the sun setting tonight was rather spectacular actually, it really did descend into a set of redness and really did cool everywhere down once the sun had set over the Western horizon. I was also listening to the Lou Reed and Metallica album "Lulu", an album which really divides people. I see the artistic and more poetic side of it all, and the main single "The View" really does hold well as a piece of performance art and metal, so tune of the day it definitely has to be. It's rather good actually.

I must admit though I am also getting a bit fed up of the news being nothing but the election now, forsaking everything else. I'd much rather it focus on the appalling decision by Donald Trump to pull the USA out of the Paris climate change agreement, and it's been rightly vilified by many as a bad decision. It's clearly looking after the interests of himself first, not thinking that it's one of the real challenging things that we face in the future and that is something to be taken seriously.