Dear Diary... November 2022

Wednesday 30th November - The Last Songbird

I had a relatively busy day in the office, and managed to get plenty done including investigating some possible blockages from clients sending data into one of our systems - potentially an issue with the way some of the load balancing and certificates may work, which I've asked one of our Platforms folks to look into. I know this was working relatively well before, so something must have happened somewhere and is definitely well worth some investigation. As it transpired, I think I've got some answers but will probably need to have some further research carried out.

I decided due to bus delays getting home last night that I'd take the train from City Thameslink back home, as more expensive that might be. The good thing was that I got there in good time for the East Grinstead train, whch is traditionally less busy than the ones to say Brighton for example, and so got a seat without any problems. That's always useful to get on at City Thameslink as you're more guaranteed to get a seat before the masses pile on at London Bridge, which always seems like chaos whenever I go through it these days. But those are the breaks, I guess.

I did arrive home to the rather sad news though that Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac has passed away aged 79. She was responsible for writing some of the most well known songs by the band, including Don't Stop, Little Lies, Everywhere, and perhaps most famously of all, Songbird, the closing track from Side One of the Rumours album. It's just her and a piano and it's utterly majestic as a piece of songwriting - it showed that less is often more, with the voice given room to breathe freely and softly, and of course later on was adopted by the likes of Eva Cassidy in years to come. It's definitely the original version I adore to bits, and that's tune of the day.

It's also perhaps worth noting that pre-Fleetwood Mac, McVie was also a highly regarded blues singer and pianist, and spent some time early in her career (as Christine Perfect) in the band Chicken Shack. Some really good numbers included the likes of Get Like You Used To be, well worth checking out if you get the time. And in recent years she recorded an album with Lindsey Buckingham that with other members of Fleetwood Mac contributing bits might have been one of the Mac albums in all but name. In fact, said album was one of my albums of 2017.

So I do feel pretty sad, and as I dig out my DVD-Audio version of the Rumours album and play some of the great songs McVie wrote on there, including You Make Loving Fun, which was a note to the affair she was having at the time, and Oh Daddy, which is rather dreamy and melodic. And of course part of the whole band who co-wrote the proper F1 theme The Chain, with the distinct bassline of her ex-husband John along the way - absolutely iconic. So being a part of that alone is so worthy of merit, and a sad passing.

Tuesday 29th November - Frosty Feeling

It was off to the office today to undertake some on-site testing and indeed to be able to work in a more lighter environment. I do have to put on the big lights in the flat around 4pm or else it's too dark to work in, and with all things energy wise costing, it really does impact when you need to be able to see to do some work but also know you're using up costs and prices rising, so that has to be said that being at least in the office does mean less of that, and I get super fast Internet and all the connectivity that I do need from the desk, so there is that at least.

It was pretty cold though and in hindsight, a jumper might have been preferable on the way in to the office at least as I headed on the X68 bus. There are some temporary lights near Beulah Spa which did slow down things getting in, but arrived in good time and was able to do some checks on some of the software installations and reply to some queries during the morning. My manager was in and so it was actually pretty nice to be able to head for a coffee in the lower ground floor of the office and have a one to one in person and without any distractions, so definitely a win there.

I did head out for a walk at lunch time, primarily as I wanted to head over to Fopp to pick up a Christmas present, and that did mean heading via Seven Dials market on the way out, then taking a walk into Covent Garden's main piazza on the way back including noticing that there's a temporary posh Dolcé and Gabbana concession disguised as a big Christmas present, with plenty of people stopping by to have their picture taken as they tour around central London - which sort of makes sense, I guess, as people were around and about. I got what I needed too, so that was good.

I did also go for a quick drink with some of the staff from our team after work, and understandably that was quite busy because of the football match tonight between England and Wales in the World Cup, with the pub we were in having plenty of reserved tables for later, for obvious reasons. I did head off home later before the football started, primarily as I've not been watching any of the games live - there are reasons for this - and would just see the highlights later on if need be. I've not really missed that much to be honest, and although it may have been nice to have a few beers, I just couldn't be meithered.

In fact, England did win 3-0 with two goals from Marcus Rashford and one from Phil Foden, so all goals coming from players playing for Manchester clubs at least. Senegal is next and that is on a Sunday, meaning no potential game to interrupt a rather nice weekend for me and The Love In My Heart coming up. I also was able to look at a few plans for the forthcoming few weeks and see how any future train strikes might affect things, primarily to make sure whether I can get to where I need to go. With that in mind, the excellent Two Minutes by Train by the indie band The Caretaker Race is tune of the day.

Monday 28th November - Sorting Out

It was a work from home day today after having had a long journey yesterday on the train home. I was tempted to get some food shopping from the local Tesco this morning, and primarily to help with later this weekend, but as it transpired when I got there, the majority of what I was after wasn't in stock anyway. It was therefore easier to be able to decide to order online and have it delivered from the big Tesco later in the week, then nip into Sainsburys on the way home and get some milk for some coffee for during the week - which of course I would need for today.

In fact it all proved to be a positive day really. I did do a couple of data pulls for some of the monthly reporting that I needed to do, including getting some prepared data for an import later in the week. In fact it was good that I was able to make sure I had some consistency in there and did some cross checking when working with everything, which did seem at least sensible to do. I did also note that one of the bits of infrastructure that was powered off in the weekend was back up, so gave that a check over to make sure all was well and working as it should be.

It was good too to be able to check over a few possible present ideas for Christmas, and in fact there'll be quite a few gift cards that I'll be getting - primarily as people did suggest it as a good idea as they can get what they'd like whenever they fancied then and not necessarily be tied down to a single shop per se. It's also I guess lighter to post, although there will be a couple of places that I'll be visiting in order to be able to get some physical gifts too, having managed well to get a number of them already.

It was at least pay day today too, and so that did help me think about blitzing a few things at once and no doubt that when I get chance to, it's a sensible thing to have them readied. I do need to actually get a few envelopes at the ready for posting off some festive cards as well as some birthday cards, and indeed a couple of other small things planned to be sent out, so made sense to check what I have and see what would work out well in terms of recycling what envelopes I have (because it's better for the environment) and going from there.

I did wind down nicely tonight by playing the classic pinball game Slam Tilt on the PC. It's still a great little game to this day and I did manage to find a way to get the executable running on my Windows 10 box, so all good. The four tables each offer a different challenge, although I do admittedly like the more thrash metal sound that is on the first table, Mean Machines, and the main theme plus the super fast multiball tunes are superb. Kudos then for the sound design to Christian Björklund, and that main theme is tune of the day.

Sunday 27th November - Aeroplanes and Diversions

The Cute Little One slept a little longer last night, and so this morning woke up The Love In My Heart and myself around 8am, which was pretty good. She always seems to be full of energy once awake but was happy to say "hi" to us both and have a little cuddle too, which was good. Brian the cat had slept in the spare room and on the big spare chair with a cushion on, so he felt like he was on a throne and the king of cats at least, although I know full well he'd rather have been next to his Mummy. We shall see how that might work out tonight once I'm home!

After some breakfast, we all got ourselves changed and ready, with The Cute Little One having her wellies and bright warm coat at the ready, and the three of us were going to to the park later to have a good safe playtime. Along the way though, we thought it'd be nice to pop in and see my Mum for a coffee and a chat, and I knew it'd cheer her up to see The Cute Little One again. It definitely gave her a big smile on her face and although she was a little shy at first, The Cute Little One was soon bounding around and being all adorable, so that was pretty nice to see.

We then headed off for some lunch later on, the idea being that we'd work off the lunch with the exercise of the park. In fact, it worked out nicely as the kids meal that we ended up getting was the main of a nicely cooked pizza, along with a choice of fruit to go as a side, and a nice drink including the Pip organic ones, so we got her one of those. Let's just say she loved it and was happily drinking it from her water cup with all the happiness that she could ever need. I had the turkey and that was spot on, and so did The Love too. In fact I even had a Seven Brothers Throw Away IPA ale as they had local beers in stock - not going to say no to that!

It was onwards later on to Bruntwood Park in Cheadle. It is also a place where you can hear a fair number of aeroplanes too as the flight path to Manchester Airport for landing takes you over there - so in fact The Cute Little One was happy to stand and look up and hear the planes as well as decide that feeding the ducks in the pond was something that she would like to do. Unusually she didn't want to go on the swings that she normally loves, with either of us giving her a little push, but the planes were definitely a positive to keep her amused - as was the tub of ice cream she and I shared later on (one small spoon each) - and she loved that little treat.

The Love dropped me off at Manchester Piccadilly later on and The Cute Little One was asleep, but gave her a gentle kiss goodbye - it was so nice to spend time with her, and she says my name too now which is rather lovely. I was setting off a little earlier than planned because I had to get the train to Birmingham on Crosscountry, then walk over to Birmingham Moor Street and get the Chiltern train to London Marylebone. It all did work out well at least and I had the iPod on blasting out some tunes including Cabaret Voltaire's brooding beats that is Vasto, so that's tune of the day.

Saturday 26th November - Bounding Around Bents

The Love In My Heart and I were awoken by The Cute Little One waking up from her sleep a little earlier than we thought, although to be fair she did at least sleep through the night, so that was good. In fact she was full of the joys of the day and had a happy smile on her face seeing us both. She even decided that it was time for hugs too, which was nice. We got up and took turns to fuss over The Cute Little One whilst we got ourselves sorted with a shower and a change of clothes ready, and with us all having some toast (and some with bacon too) for breakfast, all was well with the world.

One thing The Cute Little One adores is the film Sing, which thankfully is on Netflix so she can watch it at The Love's place. I don't know quite why she adores it so, maybe the fact the different animal characters all have their own characteristics so she can look and say "elephant!" and "mouse!" and so on. It's perhaps also worth noting that Taron Egerton who voiced Johnny the gorilla does sing an Elton John song in there, I'm Still Standing (make that tune of the day in fact) which perhaps may have led to the later role of Taron playing Elton in the film Rocketman, who knows?

We left The Love's place and headed down the A580 East Lancashire Road, passing underneath the M60 and carrying on towards Leigh, then turning left on to the A574 and spotting Bents Garden Centre, which is not just that sort of place, but a destination for shopping, some leisure and eating too. The car park was really busy which said a lot and we managed to find a space, and got The Cute Little One into her pram. The Love's sister spotted us and we headed around some of the centre where of course The Cute Little One was fascinated by all the displays.

The Love's other sister and niece also arrived, and so it was sensible to head for lunch. The main restaurant area looked busy but we got a table, and a few of us went up to order. In fact, I headed to get the hot stuff as we were getting The Cute Little One a kids meal which were the chicken goujons with chips and beans, and I fancied the hot turkey sandwich, so could order both of those from the same queue for hot food. In fact mine had fries and even a pig in blanket, and was really nice and wholesome, as was The Love's sandwich with salad also, so everyone enjoyed their lunch.

We did have a further walk around and it was clear that it was very busy. The Cute Little one was walking around with her little rag doll Bea, who we got for her when in Alnwick last year - and she loves it. In fact, there were so many displays and bits to take in, with it being very busy, and that definitely took our time to get round. There's a play area and small lake outside, and we heard the dinasours as part of the adventure crazy golf course that they have (yes it even has one of those too, was very tempted to have a go to be honest.) The Love's sister later handed The Love some DVDs that she had spare, all children's films so perfect for The Cute Little One to watch.

Later on once we got back to The Love's place, we decided to put on one of those DVDs, namely The Jungle Book. I think maybe once she's a little older that The Cute Little One might enjoy it, but I think also she was a little tired from the full day out. She did however thoroughly enjoy her tea - some lasagne that had been made and readied for her - it looked spot on and she enjoyed it. The Love and I settled her in and we all watched Strictly Come Dancing together, with The Cute Little One wanting to dance some of the dances as well, which was rather lovely and cute all round!

Friday 25th November - Optimising Northwards

It was a day in the office today and a day of testing something when creating a Windows 11 build task sequence. I had managed to work out that there's a new Powershell command now which allows you to install the language pack for certain languages, from Windows 11 22H2 onwards. This actually just goes and downloads the language packs online from the nearest Microsoft place it can, but it does mean that you'll always get something recent that works, which is good.

That seemed to play nicely, but what wasn't doing was the fact that the consumer based applications that get pinned to the Start Menu seemed to appear for the user after login - stuff like Spotify, Disney Plus, and other applications which aren't suitable for a business user. I did however note that part of the reasoning is down to the fact that it appears to be the way that some of them appear to just have a download link to then go to the store and then prompt you if you click on it.

But what if you don't want that? I tried a number of things one at a time and late in the day finally worked out the one which was the solution. In effect, what you need to do is to ensure that Group Policy has been set so that the option to Disable Cloud Optimised Content has been set. If you want to do that as a run command line option, you can simply run the command line to say the following, which would then effectively add the key in for you: reg add "HKLM\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\CloudContent" /v DisableCloudOptimizedContent /d 1 /t REG_DWORD /f - and that worked when I tried it.

Flushed with success it was off to Euston after having some tea and getting on the 1920 train from there to Manchester Piccadily to spend the weekend not only with The Love In My Heart, but also The Cute Little One too, who was spending the weekend there whilst her parents were away. I knew by the time I'd get into Manchester I'd have to take the tram to The Love's place - so kicked back with some tunes on the iPod including the excellent Devastate Me by She Makes War, so make that one tune of the day.

On the train of course plenty were keeping their ears to radio and their eyes on phones for the result of the England v USA game being played tonight. It was a 0-0 bore draw by all accounts at the end and so not really that good if you were watching that one down the pub. For me though (and I'll perhaps explain more in detail if I feel the need) I've not been that meithered about the World Cup this time around and so I've felt indifferent about missing the game anyway, truth be told. The Cute Little One was asleep when I arrived so had a good chatter with The Love before we both headed to sleep, with Brian the cat deciding that his play tunnel was his best source of peace ad quiet.

Thursday 24th November - Doing Something Different

It was a day working at home and a pretty productive day at that, it has to be said. I couldn't necessarily do all the build testing that I've been doing in the office (going to be doing that lot tomorrow) but I was at least able to work on some other plans for the next few weeks. In addition, one of my senior managers asked me about a document I'd written and some useful questions as to what some of the plans would mean, so I was able to respond and explain clearly.

One question that was being asked, rightly so, was that I mentioned a number of laptop models would not be able to upgrade to Windows 11 because they don't meet the Intel 8th Generation processor specification (even though they do have TPM.) It transpired that all of those models concerned still in use were made in 2017 or before, so even with a four year replacement cycle, ideally all of those were due for replacement anyway. I suspect that it was more to check we don't have a model now which has a warranty expire later on and isn't compatible with Windows 11 - so there's something.

It was also useful today to be able to write some more documentation also - when there's little distractions or other people in offices, it's easier to crack on and write as needed. Of course due to the Thanksgiving holiday in the US at the moment so that does mean that it'd be sensible to get a lot of the documentation written whilst I won't need to be on hand for any of the US based teams, and definitely a bonus to use the time constructively and wisely.

I did also tonight finalise something on the Commodore 64 planned for next week - so there's an online demo party called Transmission 64, and various competitions that you can enter. I had been on and off working on a tune for the music competition, and so managed to finish it off tonight. I'm quite pleased with it as it's definitely something born from a tune I had in my head, and then developed it over a few days' work in the evenings. It's nice to do something different.

I did think about maybe doing the one line BASIC competition as well, but of course attempting to tokenise some of the commands to make them shorter would sort of work too, so it'd be notable perhaps to see how much you could cram into 80 characters of a BASIC line which would expand a lot more when showing the full commands. Maybe it might be worthy of some experimentation next week, we'll see. In the meantime, tune of the day is the rather ace title track of the album Tresor, from Gwenno, and definitely has a film soundtrack feel to it whilst being sung in Cornish.

Wednesday 23rd November - Testing Two

Another day in the office, and another day of some testing. So after yesterday I'd got some nice progress on sorting out a Windows 11 task sequence, and now for tweaking. Interestingly, one thing I did note is that for Windows 11 22H2, they've now added a Powershell command to basically get the language packs downloaded and installed, so it's a simple case of running that command at some point during the task sequence, and sensibly from within Windows rather than necessarily applying the language pack CAB files as you'd do previously.

So with that in, I tried that, and once the task sequence completed, prior to the login page, you had to select whether English US or English UK (it was mentioned that even after a restart you'd need to do this) so once it was selected, it got to logon, you logged in, and sure enough all the language pack parts including the handwriting, text to speech etc were all working well without any additional installs needed, so that was at least good. I may still see how well the language packs can apply but it seemed to want to download and install them anyway previously (even if applying the CABs as done previously) so we shall see.

The other thing I did note was that some of the "consumer" apps present themselves on the start menu, and stuff you don't want in a corporate environment such as Spotify and other stuff. There are supposedly some registry keys which you can merge (and Group Policy to back that up too apparently) which can do that, so going to see if I can bake that into the default user profile (the same trick I do to ensure that Microsoft OneDrive doesn't attempt to run on first logon for the user, because we don't use that whatsoever) and give that a go when next in the office to see if it all works nicely.

On the whole though, a good day, and a nice bit of productive feedback from one of my senior managers who gave me a compliment to say who well maintained and looked after our Windows estate is. I must admit that it did please me immensely to know that - I set some high standards and want to be sure that whatever we do that we get things right, and make the experience as friendly as possible. We did have a sensible discussion about what in the long term strategy that all fits in - so good to have the voice heard properly.

I did head off to the barbers on the way home, primarily as I was able to get an appointment for tonight and to get the hair sorted before the weekend. There's always a good selection of music playing in there, and this included New Order's excellent Age of Consent (so make that tune of the day) and this did mean that all was well as I relaxed and had the hair chopped before heading home on the 156 bus and then tram. It had been a good day and even better with a lovely conversation with The Love In My Heart also.

Tuesday 22nd November - Testing Time Tuesday

It was the first of two days in the office for me, and it was going to be a couple of days of working on and testing some potential ideas and solutions for how we'd be able to get a workable Windows 11 22H2 build to the masses, as for when the time comes. Thankfully, of course, this is why I have some test virtual machines ready to test with, and indeed be able to keep up the current state of play on Windows 10 also. In fact this morning was spent partly amending the build task sequence to include an updated WIM as well as Adobe Reader and Firefox, and that worked great, so happy times there.

So with that done, I was able to use some nice wizardry scripting to copy an existing MDT task sequence and look at a way of getting Windows 11 22H2's WIM sorted. Basically I wanted it to behave the same way as Windows 10 now, so in effect adding the .NET 3.5 Framework for backwards compatibility, as well as the Visual C++ libraries (the 2015-2022 version is a pre-requisite these days for the MECM client anyway, so always good to have it present to save it having to be installed later, right?) - as well as clean up the unwanted appx stuff and also do a cleanup post update.

On the whole, most things worked well as intended. I did note that someone had made an updated script to get rid of the bloated appx apps you don't need (as I had done for previous Win10 versions) but all nicely Win11 compliant, so spent some time adding that in, and also making sure I added a new cleanup step (to replace the old but good cleanup before sysprep script) which again is more modern and written in Powershell, so definitely a positive there. In fact, Windows 11 WIM created, and 4.5GB of loveliness all told, so not a bad thing.

I then looked at making a Windows 11 build task sequence, mainly based on the Win10 one but will be adding the new OS WIM and also over time adding tweaks to make sure it all plays ball. I did an initial run with the default UK language set, and all worked really well without any issue and it seemed to be a positive - there were some apps which seemed to be added on first login that were a bit meh, so noted what those were and can look at that tomorrow, but it's a decent start - I've got the initial bare bones down and working at least so that's always a good starting point.

I headed back home on the X68 bus later with the usual panicking from some poeple who didn't realise that it was an express bus, and by the time we hit Brixton were proper panicking - oh, it's back on the number 2 from West Norwood for you back to Brixton then! I stayed on til West Croydon and walked back, and it did feel a little colder than normal. I was glad to be in the warm and have a nice coffee as well as my tea, and have a good chatter with The Love In My Heart too, before listening to Gwenno's excellent Tresor album, with the title track being tune of the day - it's delightfully mythical and sung in Cornish too.

Monday 21st November - Hollow

I must admit that although the World Cup is on at the moment, I do feel a sense of not really that bothered about it. It's for a number of reasons including the fact that it's in the middle of most countries' domestic football seasons and they're having to split in half either side of the tournament. But perhaps most of all, it's being held in a country where the rights of workers and women are constantly not respected, and if you happen to be one of the LGBT+ community, then you're seen to have some form of illness, treated with no respect whatsoever and where your choice of who you love could actually result in harsh penalties including death. And that for me isn't on, whatsoever.

This is 2022. It's a modern world where human rights should be respected, and it should not matter one jot if you're a woman, if you happen to be from a different country, or if your sexuality is what you choose it to be for yourself - we're all human, we all have rights. Unfortunately of course it seems that hosting the World Cup in a country that doesn't respect all of that is somewhat wrong to begin with, but then FIFA have caved in to the host country, more so today.

So a number of European countries and their captains were to wear the One Love armband with the rainbow colours and showing one love, supporting the rights of who you love and the LGBT+ cause generally. However, in a disgraceful show of authority, FIFA basically pressured the football associations of those nations with sanctions against their captains, such as a yellow card or worse, if they chose to wear that armband as they would deem it to be a politicial statement. What a load of rubbish, FIFA. That's absolute complete and utter rubbish.

It made the decision for me to be honest. I already felt uncomfortable watching the World Cup but after that? Not watching it live. I may see the small highlights of some games for the football side, and at least know the score, but I really can't be meithered seeing something where not everyone can watch fairly and equally in the host nation. Kudos goes to BBC presenter and pundit Alex Scott who when pitchside with Kelly Somers, chose to wear the One Love armband. Good on her for doing that, and fans of other nations such as Netherlands and Germany have praised her too - a small action it may be but it showed support.

So as well as England played and as pleased that it was a 6-2 win and that Jack Grealish celebrated his goal as requested by Finlay, a young Manchester City fan with cerebal palsy (as Jack had promised too so he kept that) the whole thing just felt really hollow to be honest. It's nothing against the team or players either - they're there to do a job and they have got off to a good start, it's more because of the nature of the way the tournament is. I just can't be interested or care enough to watch - and as hard as that'll be if England do well, there's a moral compass I'm pointing towards. Tune of the day sums up my feeling: Hollow by Pop Will Eat Itself.

Sunday 20th November - Composition

I had a relaxing lie in this morning, primarily because I had a good online chat with some friends last night and I did end up going to bed pretty late in the day. I felt too because I'd got up early yesterday to make the most of the daylight for the walk that I wanted to be able to rest easy, so once I felt it was time to do so, headed up, made a coffee and had some crumpets for breakfast. I then put on BBC iPlayer as I wanted to catch up with the Strictly Come Dancing Blackpool special that was on last night - the first time they had been able to go back there in three years.

I have to say that there were a number of excellent performances throughout: Fleur East and Vito Coppola were in fierce Beyonce mode as they did a Destiny's Child medley as their couple's choice, and got the first maximum of the series with some killer moves. I also liked Helen Skelton and Gorka Marquez's quick step to Valerie (the Amy Winehouse version of the original by The Zutons - so the original is tune of the day) which really did move around the sprung dancefloor even quicker than you'd imagine. I think also from me I really liked the American Smooth from Hamza Yassin and Jowita Przystal too, so all good stuff.

I did see a mixture of sport this afternoon too, and the first of which was the Women's Super League game between Chelsea and Tottenham. The tickets were priced sensibly at £10, and over 38,000 were inside Stamford Bridge to see Chelsea run out 3-0 winners with all the goals in the first half. That proved to be decent, and I switched over to BBC Two for the UK Championship snooker final. Ding Junhui made three centuries in four frames in a purple patch of form, although I felt Mark Allen grabbing the last to be 6-2 behind could be a turning point.

I had already decided that I wouldn't be watching hardly any of the World Cup football though as I do feel uncomfortable about not just where it's held, but also the lack of human rights and the way that certain communities based on their sexual preference are treated by the host nation. I've not felt right about it for some time and although obviously I'd like England and Wales to do well, I do think that I'm not missing that much either to be honest. So with that in mind, something different instead...

It was on with the Commodore 64 and on with the disk drive - and dug out the disks needed to not just load Music Assembler, but also some tunes I'd made before so I could utilise some of the voices. Overall, that helped me start off, and a few hours later, and having had a tune idea in my head, I had composed a piece, which I'll probably enter for a music competition coming up. I think that I was able to get a main idea noted down, and develop something from that and bring in some nice instruments too, so felt rather happy that I was able to do so.

Saturday 19th November - Nature Trails

So it was time to get out the walking shoes again and to spend the late Saturday morning and early afternoon undertaking another walk. After the successful try out of one of the new London Nature Trail walks when I did the South London one a few weeks ago, from Bermondsey to Brockley, I decided that the central walk would make sense, from Swiss Cottage to Kings Cross. I did note that some of the canal walking would have been bits I did before on the Jubilee Greenway, but when I did those sections parts of the canal were closed off, so hopefully a straighter walk this time around.

I headed out of West Croydon on the Overground to Canada Water and switched there for the Jubilee Line to Swiss Cottage via central London. Once the tube had left Baker Street it was empty, and I soon arrived at a very windy station - because of its elevated position high up on Edgware Road, the wind blows through the passageways and I could certainly feel that as I went via the exit for Belsize Road and to start the walk. It was a little downhill stroll towards South Hampstead station and over the main train line into London, which I'd pass under later on.

After that it was following through the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate, designed in the 1960s by architect Neave Brown and built in the 1970s, and although brutalist, the way that the housing was arranged with a ziggurat style and blocked off the noise from the railway nearby. Certainly today the way the apartments are, it lends itself well to a filming location for plenty of films and TV programmes over the years. There's also a small park in the middle of the estate where you walk through and it's a nice green little space - plenty of people walking their dogs and getting relatively fresh air too. I had The Sound of the Suburbs in my head by The Members - and that's tune of the day - well worth checking out.

Leaving here, I followed a number of roads around Swiss Cottage itself, and my, they were posh streets. I didn't dare risk get the camera out, even when I spotted the blue plaque that marked the home of the former sculptor George Frampton along the way. Walking along Elsworthy Road, when your houses have sliding posh gates at the front, and when there's wooden shutters in all the front windows, you know full well that they're well expensive. To give you an idea, house prices here and close to Primrose Hill go for millions - in fact there's one on Elsworthy Road, which is quite large, which is a shade under £16 million. Yes, you read that correctly.

I entered Primrose Hill itself and had the walk up to the top of the hill, with rather impressive views over Central London including the likes of the BT Tower, London Eye and The Shard. Walking down took me to the back of Regent's Park and close to the London Zoo. In fact the full route of this walk takes you around the outside of the zoo, and I spotted a camel along the way as the elevated part of the path allows you to look over into the zoo itself. It was then a sharp left turn at the Ready Money drinking fountain, then along the Broad Walk, overlooking the Feng Shang Princess restaurant (built on a pagoda on the Regents Canal) and then down the slope on to the Regents Canal itself.

At this point, the walk takes in the last part of section 2 and the opening part of section 3 of the Jubilee Greenway, following the canal towpath past the Pirate Castle (and under the West Coast Main Line into Euston), Camden Lock and then heading down the Kentish Town Locks, past a really nice blue painted little terraced cottage set, and underneath the main line into St Pancras before arriving at a small park fronted by some former gasometers. Here I left the canal and headed over the Somers Town bridge and to a final little surprise on the walk.

And what a welcome surprise it was too, as I walked through the Camley Street Natural Park. It had its own nice little habitat with paths to explore, and one of which took you to a nice wooden pyramid bench overlooking the Regents Canal - a calm quiet oasis in the middle of the city. They even had a little café where you had a little free pastry with each coffee, so relaxed there with a flat white and a pain au raisin overlooking the canal, and the staff were lovely. I walked through Pancras Square, past the bird cage and then to Kings Cross, and walk completed. Nicely done.

In fact I decided to stop off to treat myself a little bit on the way home, so at St Pancras I got the train to Tulse Hill and changed there for the train to Gipsy Hill. Fanny the station cat was around and being ever so cute as usual, and walked down the hill to the Gipsy Hill Brewery tap room. I had a nice new beer that they had - a raspberry and hibuscus saison called Propagator. It wasn't cheap, but it was very lovely indeed and a nice way to wind down after a good walk today. As I headed home, I reflected on a nice day of walking and some leisure time for me.

Friday 18th November – A Lidl Time

I need a Lidl time, to get my shopping, I need a Lidl time, to work it out. Yes, I did have The Beautiful South’s classic A Little Time in my head (and thus that is tune of the day) and decided I needed to get some food shopping this morning. I know my local Lidl opens at 8am, which is perfect to get in there, get what I need and head home before starting my work. So once I had got myself up, showered and ready, it was time to head off and take the relatively shortish walk from the flat over to Lidl.

There’s two other good reasons about heading off to the Lidl at this time: firstly, it’s really quiet. A lot of people are heading off to work themselves, so the store doesn’t tend to be busy, meaning that I can go in and get what I need with minimum fuss. The other reason too is that the stock levels always seem to be nicely replenished in the morning, meaning that anything you are particularly after should in theory be well stocked up for the day and be able to get what you would like. Certainly for some items I like to get, this rings true, such as the ice cream and some of the frozen food as well as the brioche burger buns.

Once that was all done and Lidl plus app scanned in (must get the free bakery item next time) it was back home and on with work. I’d been road testing a couple of potential new integrations for Slack that my colleague had been working on, and had raised a change today in our service desk system. When I saw the integrated link, it failed. Looking it further with my colleague, the link actually went to the wrong place and it was a case of noting where this was going, and then having a chat with said colleague to see what he would need to do to fix it.

I did keep an eye on the UK Snooker Championship at the Barbican in York this afternoon, and Ronnie O’Sullivan was up against Ding Junhui on Table One. Ding had to go through the qualifying rounds as he was outside the top 16, and Ronnie had won his last match 6-0. The first two frames were scrappy affairs with both players missing shots, but Ding got over the line in both to go 2-0 ahead. After that, there was no stopping him, and three very good breaks plus a century in the sixth frame meant a 6-0 win. Six nil. Let that sink in.

In fact, it was the first time ever in a Triple Crown snooker event (UK, Masters and Worlds) that Ronnie O’Sullivan had been whitewashed – he’d had a couple of 6-1 defeats at the Masters, but this was next level. All credit to Ding Junhui who played some good snooker, and I have to say Ronnie also was very complimentary about Ding in his post-match interview. It did make you realise that on their day, anyone can beat anyone, and had the rather excellent Drag Racer snooker theme in my head as the closing frames were being played.

Thursday 17th November – A Day Knowing

It was off to the office today, but the weather was not very kind to say the least. It was through the wind and rain in the morning after the thunder and lightning had happened overnight, and did feel like it was very wet underfoot. I’m glad at moments like this I don’t have to go very far to head on to the bus and indeed the X68 at West Croydon bus station to take me to the office, which is only a very short walk from the bus stop itself. That pleased me and I was able to pop into Coco di Mama on the way in and get a nice breakfast deal to treat myself.

Once in the office, my colleague was very kindly taking a snapshot backup of the MECM server to make sure that all would be well before I invoked a planned change – to update the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK) to the Windows 11 22H2 version. I did note a couple of things that were needed to be done after the ADK was installed, mainly keeping the x86 Windows PE folder structure (so a rebuild of the boot images wouldn’t cause any issues) and also adding a little registry entry to ensure that the Windows HTA screens during the MDT deployment wizard would work correctly as intended.

In fact, once I upgraded the ADK and restarted the server, this took some time as some updates were also being applied too, but once all done, I simply rebuilt the x64 boot image to include the new ADK binaries (as this is always recommended) and had added the fixes ready for MDT to do a complete rebuild of the MDT boot image, which worked well as I had pre-planned the fixes to be added before generating that boot image – so saved time doing it more than once. Windows 10 builds in MECM were successful with the new Windows PE boot image there too.

Interestingly too, one thing that the new ADK has done is address an issue that used to occur during WIM image creation in MDT. As the Windows 10 ADK was based on the Windows 10 2004 codebase (as are all versions of 10 since) when you created the Windows WIM in MDT, and imported it into MECM, it’d shows as build 19041 plus the build extension number (so November 2022 update included: 19041.2251) – but as Windows 10 22H2 is build 19045, when doing that previously it’d show that. However, new version of ADK shows correct info in MECM when being imported, so can now see 19045.2251 for Windows 10 22H2. Excellent!

I settled in for the evening once home from work and had a lovely chatter with The Love In My Heart too – it transpired that she had a busy but good day – and Brian the cat was being a tad mischievous, deciding to head on to the sofa and hog the place The Love might have wanted to sit at. What is he like? I did settle in later and sort out all the new CDs and ensured all of them were in alphabetical order in my collection (had to be done) and out of the recent purchases, played the excellent Mascara Streakz by Altered Images – the title tune of which is tune of the day.

Wednesday 16th November – Bits and Pieces

I remember from the 1980s that one of the films I liked was Weird Science, directed by John Hughes and of course having the rather fab Kelly le Brock in it at the time. The other thing I really liked about that was the fact that the main title theme was performed by Oingo Boingo, whom, little did I know about the time, had a certain Danny Elfman in the band. Of course, Danny would create many of the film scores to films I’d like in later life, such as The Nightmare Before Christmas for example amongst his many works that I’ve grown to love.

So of course with the World Cup around the corner, the folks at Nike decide to do an extended football advert, basically wanting to experiment with creating the ultimate team based on players from recent times. The whole thing is set in a lab, and as soon as you could see people in lab coats, the recognisable intro hooks to the classic Weird Science theme are played (hence this being tune of the day) and even featuring the likes of Kevin de Bruyne and Phil Foden along the way, and a nice touch to include the likes of Alex Morgan and Leah Williamson too.

But back to Weird Science for a second. The film is now regarded as a bit of a cult classic (which it most definitely is) and there was even a TV series done off the back of the film. I think for me what made it work is that in essence the female lead Lisa (played by Le Brock) is also much smarter than the teenage boys who created her, and as such plays down any stereotyping that might otherwise have been accused of, even then. Kelly’s speech of “What would you little maniacs like to do first?” was sampled on the Commodore 64 for the title theme of the game Volfied as well – the game’s composer Mark Wilson explained the tune was supposed to be for a demo, but found its way to the game anyway, hence the somewhat lack of relevance.

And actually, talking of games for a second, and with World in Motion being still one of my favourite football songs, it was also worth noting that when Ocean released Adidas Championship Football on the major 8-bit computer formats back in 1990, limited early editions of the game came with a free audio cassette of World in Motion – supposedly a 12 inch remix of that. I’ve got no idea unless I’ve listened to the audio tape itself if there was any exclusivity on that one, but it was a nice idea to get people in the mood when the game was loading by playing that on their hi-fi systems, right?

It definitely felt like a bits and pieces day at work today, working from home and getting lots of reports and writing done where possible, and preparing for a change to happen tomorrow which should be relatively smooth – in fact I took the time to download all the installs needed to save me a lengthier job later on, and that meant hopefully it’ll take less time to get things up and running, well that’s the theory at least. Roll on the rest of the week, as they say.

Tuesday 15th November – The Morning After The Late Night Before

So last night’s journey home proved to be a later one than planned, primarily because of the sheer incompetence of Avanti Worst Coast, although not all of it was their doing. There were some urgent track repair works needed just outside Euston, which meant less trains could come in our out of the station. So as a boiling hot train was about to leave Manchester, with no catering on offer either I might add, the passengers got the announcement that we’d all have to get off at Watford Junction and then wait for another train to take us into London.

In fact, approaching Watford Junction, I could tell that in fact the services stopping there for London were all either terminating or being cancelled, and any connecting service that would stop was no way going to get all full 9 carriages of passengers on to an already busy 11 carriage train from Glasgow. As such, I made the sensible decision to bail at Watford Junction and cross over to Platform 4, tap in with Oyster, and take the Overground to Clapham Junction via Willesden Junction and a train home from Clapham Junction. Because it’s not touching Zone 1, it’s a mere £3.60, which is less than the tube/train combo from Euston to East Croydon home. Sure, it may take a little longer, but at least I was on the move and not stranded.

It was off to the office today anyway and I have to say it was a rather not so good day weather wise, with the masses deciding that taking to their cars would be a better option. As such, it was noticeable that the X68 bus coming into West Croydon (just from the depot) was a little delayed, and it did seem like on the approach to Biggin Hill and then to Crown Point, things were crawling. In fact I didn’t get to the office until 0845 which is a good twenty minutes plus after I would normally get there, which isn’t really favourable to be honest.

It was good though to be cracking on with a few things when in the office, and was able to at least work out some planning for the next few weeks ahead prior to Christmas. I raised the change for later this week, and did get a question from one of our service team staff, who did wonder whether this meant we’d be doing a roll out of a certain Windows version (the answer being no: this was all preparatory work being covered by a change) but it’s a positive in some ways that they do read and take in the information provided and don’t mind asking questions, so that has to be a good thing.

I did later when I get home order some presents online for the forthcoming festive period, but I also treated myself to the recent album by Gwenno, which was nominated for this year’s Mercury Music Prize no less. The album is sung entirely in native Cornish language apart from one track, which is in Welsh instead – and with some really nice electronica. Called “N.Y.C.A.W” the initials are for "Nid yw Cymru ar werth", meaning Wales is not for sale. I was able to recognise a number of the words without seeing the translation in the video, because of things like canol y dref meaning town centre when I was little and being on the North Wales Coast. Great song, and tune of the day.

Monday 14th November – Negative Into Positive

It was a day of working from The Love In My Heart’s place today, and that was always nice to have Brian the cat with me, mainly asleep in his box and being all nice and relaxed. However, it wasn’t going so well in the office I am normally at, primarily because of the fact that it looked like the power had gone off over the weekend, and the router failover had also failed to do its thing. It did look like anything that was there was having no power, and after a manual failover, all appeared to be working the right way, which was at least a relief of sorts.

I did note however that some of the infrastructure which is connected to that router directly would of course be down until that was resolved, or the ports on the other one reconfigured accordingly so that it’d match what the other one was. It’s one of those typical things that can sometimes happen, and by the look of it, some of the power went out to the building on the Sunday, and because of the fact it seemed to be powered off then didn’t create an alert like it should have done, so definitely something amiss there.

In any case, I did have an unexpected visitor during the day – The Cute Little One! She had to be picked up from nursery by The Love In My Heart because she wasn’t 100% well, and so was nice to see her happy little face as she saw Brian the cat (and for some reason just says “cat cat” to him rather than his name) and that did make me feel a little bit happier inside as the day progressed well with lots of other things I’d been working on coming nicely to fruition. So a definite positive thing for me without a doubt.

I also had been checking over some possible trains for over Christmas, and have at least booked one train back up to Manchester for the date and time I wanted – only standard class mind you (as first class is proving way too expensive on Avanti Worst Coast to be honest) but that will at least get me up in good time and avoid the mad rush on Christmas Eve, which I really don’t want to do. I’ve found that it means it’s less stress all round and that I can relax with the Love In My Heart more too (she finishes on December 23rd but is back in work between Christmas and New Year.)

It’s a mixed bag of a day but certainly the key thing was turning some negatives into a positive, and that at least means that the week started okay. I must admit sometimes it’s better to have managed to get home on a Sunday night, but the flip side of that is that I do get to spend some more time with The Love In My Heart which is always lovely. In the meantime, tune of the day is the rather impressive Positive ID by Renegade Soundwave – it’s got a real punch and killer bassline to go with that, and the single’s got some nice remixes including a more funkier one. Well worth checking out.

Sunday 13th November – 20 Stories High

Today The Love In My Heart and I were finally heading off to use one of the presents that I got for my birthday. I had been very kindly bought a gift voucher to use in any of the rather posh D&D restaurants, and that happened to include 20 Stories in Manchester, which is in Spinningfields close to the Opera House and also The Ivy. Knowing that they didn’t want to really allow the likes of jeans and trainers, I had my nice posh Next trousers on along with a nice shirt, and The Love had one of her gorgeous dresses with tights and boots, and looked stunning. I am so lucky, really I am.

We headed off to get the tram, knowing that they were being diverted towards Victoria and Crumpsall because of various works, so we got off the tram in Piccadilly Gardens and waited for the next one via St Peter’s Square, with then us walking from there down Quay Street and past the Opera House to 20 Stories. We soon were in the lift to the 20th floor (hence the name) and were shown to the table by one of the lovely staff. The tables for two were positioned so you both were able to look out of the window and to the scenery beyond, which was rather good.

As it was a Sunday, we both thought that the Sunday roast was a sensible option to have, and so I went for the roast beef (done medium, they did ask for that or well done, so nice of the staff) and The Love went for the roast pork. Both of them were lovely and done with Yorkshire pudding, pureed carrot, roast potatoes, broccoli, kale and some nice gravy, and that really did hit the mark. I had a nice glass of the Meantime Pale Ale too, and The Love’s sauvignon blanc had a nice peachy taste to it which she really enjoyed.

I did have a dessert too (I couldn’t resist) and so had the rather nice blueberry tart with some blackcurrant sorbet. It was utterly lovely, and well worth having that and enjoying the experience a bit more. Once we had paid the bill (and the voucher helped keep it down) then we decided to head to the terrace bar, which is open to the elements from above and surrounded by glass on the sides so you get a lovely view from the seating. The Love got me a Meantime ale and she had the wine again, and we relaxed and chatted as we admired the view all over, including seeing the Manchester Town Hall with all its covering as it undergoes its massive refurbishment ready for reopening in future.

That was all lovely, and later on we then headed over to some of the shops along Market Street, managing to get a birthday card, and stopped off in Beermoth for a drink too, which was nice as The Love could have the Augustiner Helles and I could have a co-op beer with the Runway Brewery, Stone’s Throw, which was really pleasant and nice. We did get the tram back later, and fed Brian the cat his tea before we then settled in for the evening, and some hopefully decent telly. The Love did watch an episode of The Crown on Netflix too as she’s been back to watching that as of late.

We did see the results show in Strictly Come Dancing, and finally, Tony Adams was in the dance off. However, due to an injury, he didn’t take part in that and so had withdrawn from the competition, meaning that Tyler West and Dianne Buswell were off to Blackpool. It did seem a bit convenient for the injury, but it is what it is. We did also watch a fascinating BBC Two documentary on the history of Covent Garden too which was really good to see how the piazza was over the time, and always remember Ultravox’s classic Vienna being filmed there, so that’s tune of the day.

Saturday 12th November – Bruised By Brentford

It was an early rise for both me and The Love In My Heart today – she was doing a training course with work (overtime obviously) and for me it was an early 12.30 kick off as Manchester City faced Brentford at the Etihad. My friend who I go with had managed to sustain a bit of an injury midweek, but thankfully he was all clear to go, so met him as he headed off the bus and we got to the ground reasonably early, ready to see what would happen today and how the chance to at least temporarily go top would pan out.

The team looked a solid selection, but from the off something didn’t feel right for both of us. It was Brentford who looked more likely to score as they hit on the counter attack with pace, and from a corner the ball was headed in by Ivan Toney for the opener, and that was a point for him to prove after being left out of the England squad. Try as they might, City didn’t get going and any attack was seen off by some robust Brentford defending until right on half time, when the ball came out to Phil Foden and he smashed it into the top corner for 1-1.

Just after the start of the second half, a clash of heads meant that Aymeric Laporte was down for several minutes. After getting attention he ended up with a head bandage that Pablo Zabaleta would have been proud of, and carried on channeling his inner Zaba through the rest of the game. City didn’t make the changes to try and get a result, assuming that we’d just carry on as we were and would score eventually. However, nothing came to it – the best chance falling to Ilkay Gundogan from an Erling Haaland pass, but was skied over by the German international.

Ten minutes of stoppage time were played and as we went forward for the winner, I felt that if we lost the ball when it was cleared, we’d be hit on the break. That’s exactly what happened in 90+8 when the ball was cleared, the tackle missed and on went Ivan Toney to slot home from close range for 2-1, and a well deserved win for Brentford to be fair – they wanted it more than we did today, and that definitely hurt the pride somewhat. It didn’t feel good to be heading out of there with the loss, but we hadn’t been playing so well the last few games and so it was a case of taking this one on the chin.

Later on after The Love In My Heart arrived back home, we headed off to Ancoats and had a nice drink in Seven Bro7ers first of all, which was good to see that they had the Sling It Out Stout back on too, winning. We did nip into the Co-Op before heading back home to get some bits for the tea, and it was nice later to have a little mini casserole and some potatoes courtesy of Tesco, so that was good. And then it was on with Strictly Come Dancing, with hopefully some good routines and those wanting to get to Blackpool doing well.

I think for both The Love and myself three dances stood out: the really lovely slow waltz by Will Mellor and Nancy Xu to Three Times a Lady by The Commodores (quite like that one so tune of the day), then some African beats via the track Jerusalema with the couple’s choice by Hamza Yasin and Jowita Przystal which I am sure Motsi Mabuse would love (and she did), and also I’d say that the rumba from Molly Rainford and Carlos Gu was pretty excellent too. In fact everyone bar Tony Adams and Katya Jones were good, so it’d be a tough call to separate them!

Friday 11th November – Remembrance

It was important for me to be able to pause at 11am this morning and pay my respects to those that had fallen in the World Wars, and join the national silence and moment of reflection. In fact I made sure I took myself to a quiet space within the office where I wouldn’t be disturbed and be able to see the ceremony at the Cenotaph on BBC News also. It was poignant and moving as ever, and the strains of The Last Post (tune of the day because of its resonation with all the moments of remembrance) amongst the total silence was eerie and yet rightfully apt for that time of day.

It’s easy of course for those who may not be old enough or have researched their history enough to ignore what this is all about. However, at the same time we should respect and honour those who gave their lives for their country, battling for freedom and across the many mud soaked trenches across Europe, knowing there was a high probability of not coming back from the front. Maybe we do need to educate more those who don’t see the same significance to politely and calmly explain why it matters and why the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month is such a moment each year to reflect.

As for the working day, it was a busy day and it transpired that our anti-virus vendor released a major update yesterday which supposedly is going to fix an issue I had observed with certain components causing a blue screen. I checked my machine, and yes, it’s up to date now, and all day nothing untoward happened whatsoever. I did though note that as part of the new core agent, the auto-update component is now a native 64-bit application instead of being 32-bit, and the presence of the executable and version is one of the checks I do in MECM to ensure post-install compliance.

So.. with that in mind, I noted on my machine the location and version of that new component, and then amended the compliance rule for the application in MECM to reflect that. I got one of my colleagues to do a Windows 10 build, and once that was done, and shown to be working, that was a positive to take. I also did manage to get a new Windows 10 WIM created with the November 2022 updates included, so can test that more next week and then do a switch over accordingly. Always good when things do work correctly when tested.

It was an earlier train than normal as I headed up to Manchester tonight, the 1834 departure. However, that didn’t stop Avanti Worst Coast being as late as they usually are, meaning that the train arrived 15 minutes late into Manchester (hence Delay Repay kicked in) and because that was forming the 2115 departure back out of Manchester, it was hard to get off because of people waiting to get on. I managed it in the end though and headed off to meet The Love In My Heart, who kindly picked me up and we had a relaxing evening watching Gogglebox and Graham Norton.

Thursday 10th November - Under Packaging Pressure

It was a work from home day today and that meant that I would be able to get a few things done and concentrate on those: mainly some packaging tasks to update some versions of applications to be sure that when users get to install those from Software Centre that all is well and working. In fact, I was able to get some of the Chinese based applications such as WeChat and WeCom (now partly branded as WeWork) all up to date and tested, and the installation process appeared to be working pretty well.

When packaging WinSCP, I did note that the install behaviour is slightly different from previous versions. I knew that it used InnoSetup, but this time using the silent install switch wasn't enough: the installer prompts you to say that you wish to install for just me or all users. Thankfully, by combining the verysilent switch with the allusers switch as well meant that it behaved itself without any problems, and was able to get that easily packaged up in MECM without any issues.

And talking of which, Microsoft have again decided to change the narrative and naming of things, which will be reflected soon. So no more Microsoft EndPoint Manager, it's basically all going to come under the Intune family, with that being mobile and cloud management stuff, and it'll be a renamed Microsoft Configuration Manager (MCM now) being the more on-premises way of management. I suspect anyone who just stuck with the old ConfigMgr shortcut naming probably are at least satsified that it remains that.

I do of course have to plan a change next week anyway to add the new Windows 11 22H2 version of the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK) on to the MECM server, and this is because it needs that version to create boot images compatible with installing the Windows 11 operating system (and if I wanted to build a Windows 11 WIM image as well as deploy Windows 11 with a task sequence, it needs a WinPE boot image compatible the same way, so there you go) - so will look at that next week and get it all done and dusted, that's the plan.

It was nice to chat with The Love In My Heart tonight too, and she is minding The Cute Little One who is staying over, being adorably cute, and also watching the likes of the film Sing (which she has got into). The Love watched it with her earlier and said that actually she could undrstand why little ones like it so much, especially with the animated characters singing proper well known songs, such as Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie (and make that tune of the day because it ais a classic.)

Wednesday 9th November - Wheels Of Steel

It was good to be up early this morning and to head off to the local Lidl not far from the flat: it did mean that effectively I was able to get some lunches, and some food for the freezer as well as some milk, granola, yoghurt and some other nice bits. I have to admit it was nice and quiet so I was able to go round at leisure, get what I needed and get to the till with it. They did have a couple of offers on too so got a big tin of the Azera coffee for not that much money (a good win there) as well as some nice fish to have during the week too.

The working day today was mainly about packaging some software applications for both Mac and Windows usage, and this included both versions of Tableau Desktop and also Tableau Reader. The good thing is that the install switches on Windows are the same for both, and the detection method I have works fine for MECM, and they're PKG installers for Mac, so a nice straightforward job to upload them into our JAMF Pro instance and then be able to apply those to the right policy for installation, and all good.

At lunch time I put the filled Yorkshire pudding in the oven that I got from Lidl (report: it was nice!) I settled in to watch the Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup match between England and Ireland. I would be able to watch the first half during lunch, and keep an eye on the second half whilst working and packaging stuff. England were through to the semi finals already after beating Australia and Spain, but wanted to win the group and so avoid France in the semi finals, and Ireland were playing for pride really.

What I didn't expect was that England were ruthless. Any chance that they had they would move their wheelchairs around and avoid the challenges from the Irish defence, and get try after try. In fact it was 66-0 at half time and that was despite some determined Irish battling. They did get better second half and were unlucky to just be tackled before a try in the corner, but England kept being ruthless and it was a case of a punt downfield on the final play, and score another try, with the final score being a massive 121-0 and a great win. It could be the USA in the semis depending on tomorrow's games.

I did head out later to the large Tesco in Purley, primarily as that one has a Coinstar machine and I had a large glass full of small change which I thought it best to use up. In fact as I used the machine, it was a pretty good £5.62 worth as well, so no complaints there. I had to go to the Customer Service desk to cash it in, and I used that cash to get some water filters for the kettle (Clubcard discount kicked in) and also some beers for the next weekend as well, so that was a worthwhile mission all round.

And also.. the snooker. And wow, Jimmy White! He had already battled through three qualifying rounds and had beaten Stephen Maguire to get through to Judgement Day for qualification for the final stages of the UK Championship. He then played Dominic Dale today and won 6-1 and so is in the last 32 at the Barbican at York. So well done to Jimmy, and he thoroughly deserved it. Everyone I know snooker wise is mega happy to see Jimmy through, and the Whirlwind is going to get some reception next week. Tune of the day is the proper snooker theme Drag Racer by the Doug Wood Band for that reason.

Tuesday 8th November - Train Of Pain

It was an early rise for me this morning, and had already packed the case last night before I went to bed in order to save some time. The Love In My Heart very kindly offered to drop me off at Manchester Piccadilly in good time to get the first departure from Manchester to London Euston - the plan being to get the train, then the bus to the office, and if all was on time, arrive just after 1000 and crack on with work. It was hard to say goodbye but at least we had an extra night together and Brian the cat no doubt will be more snuggly to his Mummy later on too - and well why not?

So I got to Piccadilly, and after grabbing a quick breakfast from Greggs, I waited on Platform 6 for the 0735 train to come in. In fact I wasn't the only one, and knew it was going to be a bit of a scramble. Luckily I knew where the train would stop (and so where the doors were) for Coach C and so managed to get on and get a seat without too many issues. In fact, good job we all did as by the time the train picked up passengers at Stockport it had actually become standing room only in there. I had the iPod on and kicked back with some tunes to keep me going.

In hindsight it was a good job that I did to be honest, primarily because the train decided to lose time at every stop and was over ten minutes late at Nuneaton. Not content with that it seemed to then be behind a delayed train being in front of this one (that excuse) and so had to go slow approaching Rugby and Milton Keynes, and was almost half an hour late at Watford and London Euston. There were hardly any trains out at that time still, and it was just up to the appallingly bad standards Avanti Worst Coast seem to be these days - ironically, tune of the day is Kraftwerk's title track to the original German language version of Trans-Europa Express.

Anyway, eventually got to the office, and it was good to at least settle and get through the day as best I could. I was able to get an email sorted which explained the recent domain join hardening steps that Microsoft had put into their latest Windows 10 update in October (and so in any update afterwards too) which meant that occasional domain rejoins on rebuild would cause a problem if either some steps weren't taken or the object removed from the domain. It was good to get that sorted and do a write up with some meetings later on in the day too.

I headed off later to the pub to wish one of our colleagues well who was leaving today - it wasn't the largest gathering, primarily due to train strike delays etc, but was good to at least head off to the pub and be able to have a nice time chattering away to several people and they even had a Brightside beer (more local to Manchester!) so that was an added bonus too. It was good though to get home later and see all was good and be able to watch some telly and chill out and catch up - overall a better end than start of the day!

Monday 7th November – Cat For Company

With the train strikes being called off at such short notice, this did mean no trains running after 1547 from Manchester to London, so that scuppered any chance I might have had of heading home today on schedule. I had factored this in though so it did mean I’d be staying over with The Love In My Heart an extra night and so have Brian the cat for company for during work today. That was actually a nice thing especially as Brian allowed me to play ball with him during lunch too, so he was all a nice hive of activity in between resting on the bed and the pouffle.

I did head out to the local Asda as well during lunch time because we needed to get Brian some food – he’s got more fussy as he gets older and the Encore cat food in broth is now his favourite, I think because it’s less dry and suits his palette well. In fact I managed to get four of the little bowls of the tuna with crab he likes, and a couple of the tuna and prawn pouches also in broth too. Add to that the Dreamies treat sticks which have salmon in (and he insisted I handed him one as a snack during lunch) and all was well with the world there.

Work today was mainly sorting out a few minor issues to do with some of the connectivity with some of the machines, which I was able to do, and prepare a couple of reports for the inventory system and get some data imported. I also needed an Ubuntu compatible version of our VPN client because one of the users over in Ireland uses that OS for some database work, and thankfully a compatible Debian binary was available which our Networks team very kindly snagged for me. Good when you’re able to work together to sort stuff isn’t it?

Brian the cat was being really good and was happily mooching as he needed, always being super cute and adorable. I do miss him a lot when I’m not with The Love In My Heart, and always ask when I have a chat with her on the phone how he is. I know too that he just has a happy miaow and purr when he is contented, and sometimes I’ve heard that purr on the phone when he has been snuggled up to his Mummy. Awww. Tune of the day in fact is the classic Cool For Cats by Squeeze, a proper tune that is.

It’s been a good day all told and certainly showed that actually having a longer weekend with The Love In My Heart really does give me some positives despite all the negatives in the world. I think it also shows for me that if the opportunity arose to head back and keep the current job, it may be well worth considering – if only the train fares to London were a lot cheaper so I could actually head down as needed and head back without being too much expense. That’s the killer right now, and with Avanti Worst Coast being as unreliable as it is, not easy.

Sunday 6th November – Refurbishment

It was a nice relaxing morning of having a good and well earned lie in today, after it being a reasonably tiring day yesterday. Admittedly the football was down to that but I think also the travelling on the train the night before had taken it out of me a little, so was definitely good to be able to get some well earned rest. Brian the cat did want to have some cuddles and fussing though, so he was well up for attempting to wake up his Mummy whenever he could. I did get up and Brian followed, which did allow for The Love In My Heart to have a well earned lie in.

It was nice though to be out later on and we headed over to see my Mum for a while. The added bonus was that my brother was there with his girlfriend and their baby son, who is absolutely adorable and has a massive smile on his face. The Happy Little One certainly seemed to want to play with everything, and have lots of lights on display with one toy that played music and kept him hugely entertained. It was really nice to catch up with them and how they were doing, and of course it was a real pleasure to see how happy The Happy Little One is.

We had coffee and an old school Mr Kipling cherry bakewell, and my brother explained how the time he had spent at the Comicon last week at ExCel in London was busy but good, with a daily commute under the Blackwall Tunnel from Deptford and across over to the venue. He did say that the food and drink queues were horrendous and it was too much waiting around, but the convention was busy and it was enjoyable despite that. I did mention he should go there for Formula E as it was well organised and I had easy access to the food stalls from near where I was sat.

The Love and I later headed to the Elizabethan in Heaton Moor, as it had reopened after being refurbished. Knowing it was likely to be busy, I booked a table for two, and sure enough we did have a table by the window at the front. It certainly looked very nice with the new décor including a painted picture on the wall of Elizabeth I no less. I did also note that the bar stayed in the same place but seemed like it now had more cask options (good) so went for the Founders ale whilst The Love had the Manchester Craft Lager.

We both went for the Sunday roast today – The Love had the roast turkey which looked really good, and I had the gammon which was really moreish. There were plenty of veg too – a massive carrot, parsnips, broccoli, carrot and swede and a Yorkshire pudding with gravy. It was all good and really nice. Unfortunately, the minus point – the slowness of attentive service. It was slow, so slow in fact that I decided not to have dessert and just ask for the bill instead. It seemed that there were too many people walking around without a defined purpose: something they definitely need to improve upon in my view.

Later on after ensuring Brian the cat had his tea and plenty of fussing, we settled in to watch Strictly Come Dancing, and were disappointed to see Ellie Simmonds with Nikita Kuzman be eliminated. Seriously, are there that many Arsenal fans keeping Tony Adams in despite him being utterly bobbins? It really did annoy The Love especially because Ellie has been really good, and a positive beacon to show that anyone can do anything in their right minds. In fact, tune of the day is the Yes I Can song that Channel 4 used for the 2016 Paralympic Games advert sung by Tony Dee (which featured Ellie incidentally) because, yes, I can.

Saturday 5th November – Fireworks At The Etihad

It was nice for The Love In My Heart and myself to attempt to have a lie in, although Brian the cat was more than content to try and get his Mummy awake and about earlier in the morning. He soon realised he was best just relaxing on the bed and having some cuddles from Mummy, and eventually I got up and had a coffee before settling in to watch some James Martin, with The Love soon following and us both having a rather lovely breakfast all round, so that was good.

I later on headed into the spare room and had the television on in there to watch the FA Cup first round match between South Shields and Forest Green Rovers on BBC One. My friend is from there so naturally I was supporting South Shields, but unfortunately they were undone in the first half by Connor Wickham’s attempted header coming off his shoulder and in after a good cross, and right at the death Wickham lobbing the South Shields keeper from the half way line to make it a 2-0 win for the League One side. Class sadly did tell in the end, but South Shields did give it a good go.

I headed off to meet my friend at the Etihad as it was Manchester City v Fulham today. In theory City should win, and more so when we found out that Mitrovic wasn’t playing for Fulham either, one threat realistically avoided. As it turned out we got into the ground just as a lot of rain started to fall and that did mean that it was rather slippery on the pitch, definitely low and hard shots along the deck type efforts on goal were needed. The game got underway and it was a pretty quiet first quarter of an hour, City managing to press and probe well.

City did take the lead when a superb Ilkay Gunodgan through ball met Julian Alvarez on the run, and he slotted it powerfully into the top of the net and it was 1-0 to City. However, the game dramatically changed ten minutes later when Joao Cancelo was (correctly I should add) sent off for fouling the Fulham striker Harry Wilson. A clear penalty and a clear red card which shows that sometimes Cancelo’s defending lets him down. And it does mean the next three league games out, so certainly some Fantasy managers would be changing things next week. Andreas Pereira scored the penalty, and it was 1-1, and that stayed that way to half time even with City down to ten men.

In the second half you wouldn’t think that it was City with ten men, as they pressed Fulham back further into their own half, with them happy to defend and hit on the occasional counter attack, with some efforts towards the box giving us moments to worry about. The game lifted even further when Erling Haaland and Phil Foden came off the bench, with Haaland back from injury and not fully 100%, but needs must. In fact a cross from the left was met with Haaland’s head and we thought he had scored until VAR had ruled it out for offside.

Five minutes of added on time were signalled and the noise around the Etihad was massively loud as the fans encouraged City to keep going. The ball went to Kevin de Bruyne on the right who turned the Fulham defender, was cropped down in the box, and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Yes! Now, we were in no doubt at all that Erling Haaland was going to take it, and sure enough he had just enough pace on the ball for it to squirm under Bernd Leno in the Fulham net and it was 2-1, with virtually the last kick of the gane. We’re Man City, we fight ‘til the end! Everyone was going mental, including me.

Later on The Love In My Heart and I had a really nice chicken casserole which she made, and that went down very well considering the not so warm weather, and then we relaxed by watching Strictly Come Dancing. I have to say that for me Kym and Graziano’s Argentine Tango was really good, as was Hamza and Jowita, who opened the show superbly and deservedly got some 10s for their dance to I Can’t Help Myself (aka Sugar Pie Honey Bunch) by The Four Tops, a really nice cheery tune and tune of the day. I can’t help myself going mental if City win either!

Friday 4th November – Coffee and CAS

It was a busy day today albeit with the fact that there weren’t many people in the office, and so this gave me a good opportunity to get plenty done with minimal distractions. In fact, part of the day was spent remotely checking over a machine based in China, where it appeared to be out of date both on the Windows and MECM front, and one of my colleagues over there had connected the machine to the wired network to be checked over. It took some time, but the MECM client got its upgrade, and then needed to check for an OS upgrade, but two items were seemingly being put in the CCMCache that never downloaded.

This in fact was stopping the other content, so I checked the log file CAS.log, which told me the content IDs of what was needed and indeed I could cross reference what they were. It was a case of distributing the content to the local DP, and once that was done, and the location was refreshed, the machine found that content, downloaded it, and performed the work needed, and then once done, it then said “ah, I’ve got updates to do now!” and so promptly downloaded the updates needed in turn, and that meant some servicing stacks along the way before finally being fully Windows 10 21H2 updated with the latest patch. Happy times.

The other night at Charing Cross station I had been given a little coffee cup card which was actually a gift card for Costa, and having checked the balance, that was three pounds, so enough in most cases for a small coffee. Clearly this was Southeastern attempting to sweeten passengers and try and convince them that their awful new timetable will actually work (short answer: it won’t, and it’s awful) but I’ll take the freebie of course. So the Costa close to the office meant I was able to have a nice latte in the afternoon with minimal additional funds from me.

It was good to be able to avoid most of the rain as I headed on the bus to Euston, and as I had some time spare after getting some food close to the office, I was able to have a drink in The Signal Box in Euston station before heading on the 1920 train to Manchester Piccadilly. It did seem like more than usual were attempting to get it at the platform and there were people running down the ramp, presumably to get one of the unreserved carriages and a seat. I had no such issue and calmly got to my reserved seat, so all was good there.

It was nice to kick back and listen to some music as I headed up North, with the excellent new album from Blancmange helping things along nicely, as well as the one I got by Master Boot Record as well – their track 80486 is tune of the day. It was good to get into Manchester a little earlier which meant that The Love In My Heart and I, with Brian the cat snuggled up on the sofa with his Munmy, could watch Gogglebox and then Graham Norton before heading off to sleep with a busy weekend ahead.

Thursday 3rd November - VLooking Up

It was my Mum's birthday today, so it was nice to message her earlier in the day and wish her well for the day. I had sent a birthday card and gift which had arrived safe and sound, so she was able to open them and appreciate them too. The Love In My Heart and I will pop over to see her this weekend but it was good that at least on the actual day everything had arrived safely. That was a good positive to start the day off well, with work being effectively quite busy for a number of reasons.

First of all, I had a good call with one of our service team colleagues, who was trying to work on a spreadsheet and wanted to know the best way to use some of the formulae within them. One of them to be fair looked stupidly long as effectively it was saying if value is X, display Y, if value is Z, display A etc. I realised that actually creating another tab with the names in the first column and the resulting names in the second column, and using a suitable vlookup instead was not only much easier to get the data needed, but also offered the flexibility as well so that was something.

I of course also noted that in some cases the lookups were more complicated in other cells than they needed to be, and it was much easier to be able to get a handle on what was being checked and what result was wanted. I think sometimes you've got to think how you get the right values with less time, and my colleague was really appreciative of the fact that I spent some time to demonstrate what would work best, and how to manage the sheet correctly.

It's good too I think when you have a willingness to learn and an enquiring mind, and I fully support those who have that. It's always better to share the knowledge and pass it on to others so that they can develop, but also sometimes it's useful to know so that if they have a goal to aim for as part of their learning objectives, you can actively support that and mentor that member of staff too. One thing I always remember is that I was that other person once and so would be willing to learn too.

I did spend some time this evening listening to the new Blancmange album - and it's rather good. Private View is another good piece of work by Neil Arthur, and shows an impressive amount of songwriting in there, and well produced synth work throughout. For me, primarily because of the nice use of some beats and a crunching guitar to act as the main riff, Everything is Connected is tune of the day - it's really good and well worth checking out if you have the time.

Wednesday 2nd November - November Rain

It was a very wet and windy day all told, and ideally a good day to be in the nice comfortable confines of the office, that was for definite. It did take a lot longer than usual to head on the X68 bus into work though, mainly due to some temporary traffic lights and roadworks in the centre of West Norwood, meaning a tailback down Knights Hill, and then on the other side, pauses to get into the junction at Tulse Hill also. What normally takes just over an hour from West Croydon to Aldwych took an hour and a half, so was glad I factor some delay time in and to be in work on time still.

I did the main task of getting the build task sequence updated and tested, and that worked really well - it made sure that all the testing that I did do yesterday was worthwhile and all good, so a good positive to start the day. Another positive also happened later on as I worked out an issue with a Mac that for some reason wasn't launching the display with Slack correctly - it just kept showing some weird form of being minimised. I had a feeling that the preferences for the user were corrupted, and managed to work out the places where that could be - and upon removing them, it was all sorted. Happy times.

I did note too the rain was going to be a pretty heavy downpour during the afternoon so I timed the walk to the Co-Op for lunch, and then later on as I knew the buses were going to be slow, I walked along the Strand to Charing Cross station - not as a short a walk as I thought to be fair, and then took the train to London Bridge, and swapped not for the Thameslink, but the Southern one leaving platform 13 which started from there and meant I could get a seat easily. The Brighton Thameslink train arrived at East Croydon at almost the same time, and let's just say it was totally rammed out!

More rain ensued during the evening and having had a good chatter with The Love In My Heart, kept an eye to the radio and the evening's Champions League game between Manchester City and Sevilla. City had already won the group, but after going a goal down, it was good to see us coming back second half and with Julian Alvarez involved in all three goals - he found the young defender Rico Lewis with a good pass, and Lewis hit home for his debut Champions League goal, which was good, and then Alvarez scored the second himself before setting up Riyad Mahrez for the third to kill the game off.

I must admit it's the midweek games I do miss a bit with me not being in Manchester to see them, but with the rain being even worse than it is at home here, I probably didn't miss that bit. I'm looking forward though for a return to league action with the Fulham home game on Saturday and hopefully Erling Haaland back on fire and playing. We shall see. In the meantime, tune of the day has to be a song about all that rain - so Why Does It Always Rain On Me by Travis gets my vote!

Tuesday 1st November - A Special Surprise

It was off to the office today, primarily as I wanted to road test the Windows 10 build changes I was going to make during the live change tomorrow, and be sure all was well. I had done the hard work of packaging the applications needed to be added, and so far so good, it all seemed like it was going to do what I wanted it to. I set off one of the virtual machines, and it installed both the new versions of the applications added, and then also did complete without any issues. I launched both of the new versions too, and all good, everything worked out of the box perfectly.

I spent some time today also working out a plan of action for Windows - and came across two different scenario ideas, which would both work well together. My thought was that as the Windows 10 22H2 is a tiny little switcher upgrade, do that first, and then the devices remain in support until May 2024, and then that gives us plenty of time to gradually get people over to Windows 11 as needed. Plus any kit that isn't Intel 8th generation processor won't work anyway, so that would have to remain as is and be gradually phased out over some time.

I was going to get my lunch in Co-Op, but for some reason it looks like they've not had any delivery of anything: unless you wanted a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich as part of the meal deal, nothing was doing whatsoever. I didn't fancy that so it was a walk along Aldwych and to the nearest Tesco, which did the job - albeit with their meal deal now costing £3.40 if you have a Clubcard, and £3.90 if you don't. I did get a nice smoothie as part of the deal too and this was pretty nice because it didn't have banana in it, and tasted nicer because of it. Mental note of that made for future reference.

I headed home on the X68 bus doing the switcheroo at Norwood Lidl for the 468 home, and The Love In My Heart sent me a message to ask if I'd arrived home as yet. The reason was that she had sent me a little surprise parcel and wanted to make sure I got it okay (as it wasn't being delivered via Royal Mail but via Yodel, and we know how crap they are.) Thankfully when I did get home I did see a massive box hidden behind the reception desk, and so carefully took it upstairs, and followed the opening instructions on the box.

What I didn't expect inside was for the box to be so big, and indeed what was in there - no less than a Brewdog beer advent calendar! I know these things aren't the cheapest either, but The Love said that I'm always treating her, and as she'd got some back pay and overtime, she wanted to treat me to something nice too. I feel really humbled. She is so lovely and kind, and to be honest one nice beer in the post would have been lovely, but all of those to have during the festive period and beyond? Absolutely spot on. I just wish I could give her hugs and kisses right now, but I'm sure this weekend she will have plenty of those from me.

That really did cheer me up - I've not been feeling 100% lately for some reason, so to have such a kind and lovely thought and a massive box like that was just the pick me up I needed. I'm very very lucky to be loved by such a wonderful woman, and it's moments like this which I will treasure. Sometimes it's the little things, and somehow the excellent All The Small Things by Blink 182 gives me the same uplifting vibes, so it's definitely tune of the day for me.