Monthly Archives: August 2014

Moving our Bytemark server to York

We‘ve had a dedicated server at Bytemark since 2009. This has always been physically located in Manchester, which has been fine. However, recently Bytemark finished their own wholly-owned data centre in York, and naturally wanted as many customers as possible to move.

I was a bit nervous about this – although our service from Bytemark has been good over the years, especially the uptime, their support team has been a bit hit-and-miss lately.

In fact, they completed our move well within the proposed migration window, the server came back up correctly, and we were able to keep the same ranges of IPv4 and IPv6 we’ve had for years, with only the addresses these routed via having to be changed.

There was an unfortunate follow-on cock-up a couple of days later, but at least they fixed it promptly and wrote up what happened. That, incidentally, is exactly why every managed switch I’ve deployed has all the unused ports set to disabled…

Motorway driving

I drove from Coniston to Oxford today. It took far too long, mostly because both the M6 and the M40 kept bunching up and slowing down. Often, the cause of delays on the motorway isn’t an accident – it’s too many cars driving too close together. One driver dabs their brakes, the next one does the same, and the whole stretch of motorway slows down.

I don’t consider myself the best driver in the world by any means, but it always shocks me that nobody seems to have heard of the two second rule, nobody obeys speed restrictions posted on the overhead signs (except on the “managed” motorways where these are backed up by speed cameras on every gantry), and people persist in changing lanes into too-small gaps. Often doing the right thing can leave you being tailgated and flashed at and feeling significantly less safe for trying to obey the rules.

I can’t help but wonder if a second driving test for those wanting to use motorways would be a good idea – but it would have to be applied retrospectively to be of proper use, which would be rather difficult practically and politically.

Here’s another thought – could we have camera enforcement to prevent tailgating?

Of course, an even better idea would be significant police presence on the motorways – I saw one marked patrol car in 300 miles today.

Cheap GPS

No, not that cheap GPS. This one:

IMAG0164I bought myself a Garmin Dakota 10 last year to use for road cycling. It does a great job for that – crucially, the basic UK road map it comes with is good enough that if you pre-load your route into it, you can usually see which way to turn at a junction without having to stop and consult your paper map. This really helps keep up the momentum. It also happens to run on AA batteries, which is handy as I carry a full spare set of those to feed my bike lights anyway.

However, setting off last Friday for a weekend in the Lake District, I threw it into my backpack just in case. It turned out to be extremely useful as we climbed Weatherlam in near-zero visibility caused by fog. You have to dig in to Settings > Position Format:

Settings screenWhat to select for OS map referencesAnd select “British Grid” and “Ord Srvy GB”. Having done so, you can add the “Location” field to the compass view, and it will tell you your OS grid reference:

Compass screen with OS grid referenceIn the above example, “SP” is the OS grid square, and the two rows of numbers are the X and Y references within that square (I’ve blacked out most of the numbers so you can’t see where I live).

This is very useful when your best efforts at map-reading start to come unstuck on the ground. Some semi-jokey remarks were made in our group about it being cheating, but I wouldn’t go out without a GPS now – it could literally be a lifesaver if you get lost or stuck, and you can get one for less that £100.

Obviously, the reference is only as good as the accuracy of the GPS (on mine, you can tap the bars showing the satellite signal strength to see how many feet/metres it thinks it’s accurate to) – but I certainly found the first three digits of each co-ordinate to be close enough for my purposes. What you have to be wary of is placing too much reliance on the difference between readings taken a few minutes apart, because the inaccuracy could be big enough to make it seem like you’ve gone the opposite way to what you actually did.

The compass, incidentally, is useless – slow to update and very dodgy [Update: A friend writes: The compass in cheaper GPS units often isn’t a dedicated chip.  It only works based on your direction of travel as reported by GPS co-ordinates.  So you need to walk in a straight line for a few yards with the GPS unit held in front of you for it to do anything resembling the right thing.]. Just use a proper magnetic one instead.

Also, I can heartily recommend having a laminated OS map. “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad equipment”.