Thursday, April 26, 2012

Got a Windows Phone 7? Tread carefully before changing your #Microsoft #Windows #Live ID password #WP7

With the recent improvements to SkyDrive, my use of my Windows Live ID took a turn for the more serious (and therefore more robust security is required).
So, (and I confess, slightly prompted by Barry Collins experience with Hotmail, see – I changed my Live ID password to something far more complex than before.
All seemed well, SkyDrive on the PC threw the expected wobbler until I changed the password, Windows Live on the phone needed the new password and all was well.
Then this afternoon a couple of app updates came through on the phone, and I turned to Marketplace to download them.  It asked for the new password, I put it in.  Fail.  I tried again, fail.
“Hmm”, rebooted the phone, fail.
Tried a few variations. Fail.
Tried some different (not so strong or lengthy) passwords.  Fail.
Eventually, I tried changing my LiveID password back to what it was, and the updates came through.  Once updated, I re-did the password back to the one I want.
But come on Microsoft, is this a WP7 bug, or are you caching credentials somewhere in the phone or the marketplace?  Either way, mend it.  Soon.
PS with no hint of irony, one of the app updates is SkyDrive.
PPS After installing and making my password more complex again, SkyDrive worked first time.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Not a Londoner? Why you should reconsider using an #Oyster card (or regularly check for missing £££) @mayoroflondon

London Transport have bugs in their Oyster system.  I can be certain of this because
  1. I keep my Oyster card in my wallet at all times
  2. My wife has her own Oyster card (so has no need to use mine).
  3. No other people live in the house or have access to my card
  4. They have taken money against my account on days when neither of us was in London.
But whilst the ticket offices can print off a transaction history going back months (entitled Oyster Usage Statement), the Oyster management process only holds the last few weeks of data.  This means that if the transaction is more than a few weeks ago, they will not do anything to correct it.  So say goodbye to your hard earned money.
So, if like me you are an occasional user of the Oyster card (to get the fare benefits and convenience) - but also want to make sure Oyster mistakes aren’t stealing money from you; then you must log on to your account every few weeks in order to check for phantom entries.
If you do not, their minimal data retention means that they won’t entertain any claim, even though other parts of the system have the data.
‘effin terrific

Friday, April 20, 2012

That was a weekend and a half... ...part two

Sunday morning and despite a good night's sleep I am a zombie to the world.  I get some breakfast - but not as much as I'd like to load up with; forget my granary bar backup breakfast and get ready.

To ease us into the day's work we have a bike maintenance session.  Although it is many years since my student bike maintenance days I remember a lot even to the point of adding to the inner tube replacement part a couple of tips (pushing the valve back into the tyre before resetting and letting the inflation reposition it - thus avoiding a nip on the inner that punctures it again).  "Oh yeah" says the instructor, "my Dad used to say that - I'd forgotten".  I feel older.

Whilst contemplating the day ahead, I was thinking over the previous day, I recall feeling that my legs were under-stretched at the bottom of the cycle rotation.  Remembering that the service my bike had on Thursday involved lifting the saddle, I wonder if it was lowered too far.  The rear reflection position seems to support that.  Out come the tools and the saddle is raised.  That's better.

Off we go.  It isn't long before we are off the main road and heading through some lovely (if slightly fresh!) countryside.  Before too long a couple of running repairs are required for others where I help out (thankful for a break), and we then climb onto the top of the heathland in the New Forest and cycle the same route that the Help For Heroes Ride to Recovery team are doing.  It's bloody windy up there, but it's more like home in the Fens!
Disappointingly I spot quite a few used gel sachets on the road side that appear to have been just thrown down by the R2R riders (there were none on my training route yesterday or today).  I religiously take a sandwich bag and store all my rubbish to take home.  What a shame.

We split from them after a few miles, and turn into smaller roads (filled with New Forest ponies!) and reach the pub.

Again, it is outside, but this time I make a better choice of food, and feel a bit better and feel full without a leaden filling. 

So we're off again.  After only a few miles I realise my body is telling me something - I forgot my pain killers.  Damn, I stop and take them and hope they kick in quickly.

By now, I am pretty damn tired and drained.  It's not so much the mileage, but the relentless "up" yesterday (a few 1000 feet of elevation a fellow participant says their Garmin reported).  My flat fenland training has simply not prepared me for that.  I still need to strengthen up.

The tired and drained and drawn feeling only increases despite gels, granary bars, jelly babies et al.  I'm operating on fumes more than anything.

The last 10 miles are a bit of a dreamworld.  A colleague has a puncture and the chance to stop, get off and help is welcome, the van catches us up and more jelly babies are taken.  We set off, I'm soon further back but keep plodding on.

Suddenly we're near the dual carriageway just a short way from home (my phone has had no signal since I looked about 5 miles ago, so I have no satnav intelligence today - it turns out a full power off and on was necessary).  I rejoice in the thought I am nearly there, but remember the long freewheel down the hill to get there.  Damn.
By now, one of the course leaders has come back (on two wheels) to check on me, we keep going, but on the hill I find walking better, and leave her to get on ahead.  At the top we meet up, and it's the last run, downhill, to the hostel.  As I turn in, I change down, and the chain jams.  Perfect ending.

A very slow hour follows where I gently pack the car, shower, get changed, have a cup of tea with my new cycling buddies, and then set off for home - 3 1/2 hours away.

Home. Crash. Sleep

Lessons learned this weekend?
* I can cope with the distance, but not the "up".  I will have to manage that next month.  But to be fair, this was specifically a hill training weekend, so I am hoping that the real ride will not be so severe.
* I have to assume I will supply most of my on the road food needs (either with me, or from cafe/bars en route).
* I really will need to take the painkillers at the right time
* A good night's sleep is essential
* I'm not 21 anymore, and need to accommodate that!

This probably sounds like an intense moan, it really isn't - it's a record (as much for me as anyone else!) of how the weekend felt.  It was a serious part of my preparation after only a few months back on a bike after several decades off.  I have no illusions that the main ride next month will be very challenging, perhaps (at times) more than I can cope with.

But in the end, it's about the blokes who've come back from Afghan, Iraq, and the other theatres no longer 100% in body and/or mind.  They need all the help we can give them.  Even if never get on a bike again after May 26th, for me it will be all over and I can get back to a normal life.  They cannot, and deserve our thanks and help.

That was a weekend and a half... ...part one

Some weeks ago whilst talking to the organisers of the Help for Heroes Bike Ride I commented on the lack of hills (but surfeit of headwinds) in the Fens. Thus was I introduced to the Hill Training weekend in Wiltshire/Hampshire.

Last weekend was that event.

Having worked all through Easter I had created a spare day for Friday and so drove down in the afternoon and arrived at Salisbury YHA in the late afternoon.  I quickly dropped off my gear off in the dorm and spent a bright (but fresh) early evening in Salisbury centre - I can recommend the independent Brazilian Coffee store.
A pasta filled evening meal (loading up on carbs for the coming day was an important side benefit!) plus a quick(ish) half with a few of the others was rounded off with an early night. Sadly the early night did not lead to the accrued benefit of lots of sleep. It is a very long time since I slept in a dorm, and it brought back all the reasons not too - too warm, too much snoring, too much everything. I got about 90 minutes kip.
The worst preparation.

Breakfast was good, but regrettably I wasn't up for a real pig out (and carb load), but got on with what I could.  We then found the start was a bit later than we were all expecting - so I could have got a an extra hour awake in bed!!  But finally, after a quick briefing on what to expect, we were off.  Thankfully the initial start was downhill and dry, that was to change...

Within a couple of miles it was evident some miserable &*"£^"£s had been playing around with the arrows on the lampposts showing us around.  Badly for a couple of us, this meant we took an unexpected and unplanned detour.  Six miles later we were a) back on route b) getting wet as it had started to rain quite heavily; so we plodded on.  We had been expecting a water/snack stop at about 13 miles, but unfortunately the expectation was false as the organisers hadn't asked the staff to put one on!!  Even if they had we would probably have been so far behind as to miss it.

So on we trekked, up hill and down dale (and it seemed mostly up!).  We caught up with a couple of fellow trainees and their gesticulations seemed to indicate the van was there with food, but no.  They were just taking a comfort break and pleased to see someone else.  Off again into the chill air

After the longest morning cycling I've done this year (or so it felt!) a pub loomed, and 2 orange arrows pointed into the car park.  LUNCH!!!!!!!!!!!

During my training for the event, I've been used to stopping half way at a pub and consuming a cooked meal with loads of carbs and protein.  This time it was a sarnie, crisps, tracker bars and jelly babies.  But I did get a hot chocolate from the bar - brilliant choice, this was followed by the mistake of teaming it with 1/2 a chocolate muffin - this was to sit very heavy in me for the next hour or two.  Lesson learned for next month!

We then found we had about 36 more hilly miles to go, but after just 12 or so, we would be returning to the pub for a bit more food, and then head off home.

Those 12 miles had a 15%, 18% and 20% incline hill.  1 in 5 UPHILL JUST BEFORE THE PUB.  Reader, I walked it.  Even that needed a breather or two!

On one hill I had an interesting experience - it was reasonably steep, and I'd just paused to catch my breath.  On getting back into the saddle and setting off my other foot cleated in and drove down really hard.  The front of the bike stepped up and I was doing a wheelie, uphill.  But not for long.  Losing control within a few nano-seconds, I started to fall, so managed (instinctively) to uncleat my right foot and only half fall over.  What I was only to discover 2 days later, was a massive bruise on my left thigh where I must have slammed into the saddle as I fell.  Hey ho!

During the day the only time I broke away from a solitary ride and caught up with people seemed to be when they broke down.  Still it gave the schoolboy bike tech some practice in running repairs :-)

After the second pub stop it was to be a less aggressive route home.  I set out after pretty much everyone else but made good progress through the miles.  The arrows were up and I could sense Salisbury getting closer (it might have the tallest spire, but it seemed invisible from where I was cycling!).  After a bit the arrows seemed to be missing, but I could tell from the road signs that I was heading the right way, so rather than double back I carried on.

Eventually I hit a main A road, Salisbury to the left.  There was a cross roads, but no arrow there.  So I decided enough was enough, and pulled out the phone and loaded the map,  to my delight, instead of seeing the expected dozen miles or so it told me 3.71 miles to my goal.  Hallelujah!

I set off, making good progress, even finding a slight short cut on what was obviously an old Roman road into Salisbury.  Finally I was home and a hot shower beckoned.

Dinner was not long after, starting with a pint of cider, and then a filling mix of carbs and more carbs!  I was too tired to eat, but I made the effort!  A group of us decided to nip to the pub (the Hartlepool contingent had left a couple of half drunk bottles of wine behind the bar).  I mostly snoozed through most of half a pint (wimp!) and we returned to the hostel and bed.

I zonked out completed for nearly 9 hours - only waking a couple of time as the dorm colleagues coughed and snored their way through the night.

Part two later... :-)

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Oh, that didn't go so well. Bailed out at half time, training for Help For Heroes Bike Ride

Early night, early alarm, and I was ready to go for my longest training run so far. The plan was a trip to a not so local farmers' market, lunch with Mrs B, and then cycle back. All in all, about 80 miles. That would be a good boost before the hill training weekend next week in Salisbury (Fenland not being known for its undulations)

But it didn't end so well :-)

Firstly, forgetting to take my pain killers before going out was a serious error. I have a spondylolithesis (5th Lumbar - caused by an electrocution at school) which has given me trouble since 1977, so it was imprudent of me to forget the tablets. I felt their lack after about 10 miles, but by then it was too far to turn around.
Memo to self - put some spares in the bag.

Next up - it was #}#]^*+[ cold out there. Only a few degrees above freezing. And boy did I feel it.

Then, the headwind. The farmers' market is about due NE from here. The, ahem, cooling wind was from the NE, so it was a headwind all the way. Since I got the new bike headwinds are less of a problem, but over several hours this was not going to help. I would hazard that with windchill it was sub zero out there.

Rain; although it wasn't plummeting, a few heavy showers of near freezing rain, added to the delights of the ride.

Hills!!! At last some hills (of a very modest nature) but at least the route wasn't flat, and I got some "up and down" experience.

But, by the time I reached the market, sometime after my ETA, I felt chilled to the core, wet, tired and bedraggled.
There was nowhere to warm up, and after some shopping and a bite I just didn't feel ready to cycle all the way home. So we put the bike in the car and drive home.

Given that this is the first time in over three months of preparation I've DNF'd I shouldn't feel too bad, but I'd prefer to feel less miffed. Most disappointing is the fact I shall not get to hit a new daily record, especially given next Saturday's long day training in Salisbury will now be a new daily mileage peak.

But, i suppose
it's my longest single run without a break.
I climbed more undulations than before.
Oh, and I'm finally warming up.

File under dissatisfied.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

With no sense of irony, the Post Office does not use the PostCode database #fail

Before the prices go up I decided to order some stamps in quantity, so rang the national number. The call centre takes the call, and the first thing they ask for is the postcode.  The order is then taken.  

Delivery address is then asked for, I give them the first line of the address.
"Is that the whole address sir?".
Me: You mean you don't have the rest of the address from the postcode?
"No sir, we don't have such newfangled technology here" was the flat non-sarcastic reply.

If the Post Office's organisation is so crap that it cannot use its own databases to speed up transactions *and save money*, then no wonder postage rages are go up in 10's of percents this month.