Dear Diary... November 2020

Monday 30th November - Magic Monday

Well if anything summed up a magic Monday it had to be the FA Cup third round draw which was shown tonight on BBC One. I have to say that if Robbie Savage ends up drawing some of those ties out, can we have him every single round please? It proved to be a very interesting draw, and with a fair number of non-league sides getting plum home ties against at least Championship opposition, which really does allow them to test their mettle perfectly. Case in point was the eighth tier Marine getting a massive draw at home to current Premier League leaders Tottenham, and Chorley's reward for beating two league sides away was a home tie with Derby County. Nice.

In fact I was pretty pleased overall that Manchester City had got a home tie with Birmingham City - not the easiest, as they are a Championship side, but being at home is all you can hope for really and especially with the ties being decided on the day - and with no replays whatsoever. It was also interesting to note that of the other parts of the draw, Aston Villa at home to Liverpool could be a potential TV tie, but so many games where there's a non-league club at home then you do have to wonder if there could be a few shocks on the cards - I do fancy my friend's team Doncaster Rovers to go to Blackburn and get a result.

I also had an arrival today in the post too - the Compact Flash PCMCIA card for the Amiga! Yes, because an A600 (which I have) and the A1200 have PCMCIA slots, you can get a compact flash card reader that plugs into there and with suitable drivers mount a FAT32 PCMCIA card complete with any data you want to transfer over between the Amiga and PC, and vice versa (a Compact Flash card reader for the PC is also coming.) With the driver disk supplied, you can boot to it and then you see the drive and it functions, which is nice. I made a backup of the Workbench discs and attempted to add the driver to there, which sort of worked but I still had to mount the drive in the command line before I could see it. Still, good to see.

Eventually the long term plan might be to see if I can actually run WHDLoad and so on natively from the CF card after booting it from the driver disk and seeing if I would be able to run the games natively, which could potentially mean not having to install a hard drive into the Amiga itself - although that might be a long term option anyway. At least I can read the card anyway which is a positive start and certainly for me a good beginning to contend with.

I also then loaded up some Ocean games on my Commodore 64, two of which arrived in the last few days and one of which I had wanted to own first time around - Double Take, a rather different Denton Designs game with the first time that Peter Clarke had his music on an Ocean game, a reworking of the Mission of Mercy song he had composed the same year (make that tune of the day) - it is a very odd game for sure and the instructions at least do help you work out what you need to do, which is a definite plus for sure. I still enjoyed it immensely and for me it's going to come back to this and work more out later on.

Sunday 29th November - Catch Up Sunday

As I was online last night having a chat with a few friends, I did miss some television that I would have normally have watched, and definitely something that I would have watched with The Love In My Heat as well. So I got up and had some breakfast this morning and decided to get BBC iPlayer on to watch last night's television highlights. The first thing to put on was Strictly Come Dancing, and down to the final seven contestants giving it their all on what I have to say has been the highest quality series in terms of numbers of consistently good dancers, and proved it to be the same tonight.

Maisie and Gorka really managed an effortless quickstep which was really good, but perhaps for me the best of the night was HRVY and Janette, whose couples choice really not only had the music timing and the story telling, but a real sense of feeling as well. The three tens were deserved and it was the first time there had been a perfect score in week six as well - and Janette's first perfect score too. I also liked JJ and Amy's dance too, and Amy looked beautiful in her dress and having JJ in a kilt was an inspired move. In fact the only weak dance I thought was Clara and Aljaž - which said a lot.

I did also see Match of the Day as well and managed to see the goals as Manchester City hammered Burnley 5-0 - for the fourth season on the bounce. That was pretty impressive to see, and later on there was Final Score as the FA Cup second round ties were underway. Some were one-sided but others were very close run affairs, and certainly for the drama, there was plenty of that. One tie went all the way to penalties and Stevenage and Hull City served up a mammoth fourteen penalty kicks - it was 4-4 after the first five each, then sudden death, and the Stevenage keeper saved the final penalty to win 6-5.

I flicked over for the UK Championship snooker too and several shocks had already happened this week, and another one today as Alexander Ursenbacher was able to pull things back and keep his belief going to beat Ronnie O'Sullivan 6-5. With Ding Junhui crashing out to David Grace in a final frame shootout as well, it's certainly hotting up and both matches being shown on BBC Two this weekend too. In fact there's a full week more of the UK Championship ahead, which is pretty good to look forward to.

After a lovely chat with The Love In My Heart later on and with Brian the cat deciding to sit in the box that had been customised to resemble a sleigh for Christmas (because he can) I then settled in to watch the Strictly Come Dancing dance off. In the end it was the right decision to keep Jamie and Karen, meaning Clara and Aljaž heading home. It was close, and certainly for the dance off both couples upped their game. As for tune of the day it was Bill and Oti's dance from last night with them dancing to a Blondie classic: One Way Or Another, and certainly having Oti adopt a more punk Debbie Harry look, and that was pretty ace.

Saturday 28th November - Brooks and Parks

It was a relatively early rise for me this morning, and after some breakfast it was off to West Croydon train station in order to get the trains and tubes to get me to the start of the walk I had planned for today. I was taking on section seventeen of the London Loop, which starts at Cockfosters and ends close to Enfield Lock station, a walk of some nine and a half miles. It's also the last section that is longer than six miles or so, so good to get the three really long sections out of the way so that the home straight of the final seven sections is in sight - and I have to say it's been a very enjoyable thing to do.

So it was Overground to Canada Water, Jubilee Line to Stratford, then Overground to Highbury and Islington, then Victoria one stop to Finsbury Park followed by the Piccadilly Line all the way to Cockfosters. The swap at Finsbury Park was super smooth, and it did mean it took much less time - and for £1.50, because Zone 1 had been avoided. Once I took the new lift out of Cockfosters station, it was straight into section 17, through the first bit of woodland and towards Trent Country Park, where the café was actually open for takeout but the queue was very long indeed, so even though a coffee might have been nice, I thought better of it.

Once in Trent Country Park I followed the paths through Oak Wood and then past the lake in the Japanese Water Garden before climbing uphill past the historic monument of Camlet Moat and onwards to the Sassoon's Obelisk which stands tall on the edge of the country park. It was then downhill towards a path which followed the Salmon's Brook - admittedly the path wasn't too bad alongside the brook but you did have to cross over a ploughed field along the way which was very muddy, before then heading alongside the brook in nicer soft grass and being able to follow the path uphill, through a very small wooded area and towards the Royal Chace Hotel.

I then followed Rectory Farm Road downhill, past the farm, and then uphill towards the Red House and under the railway bridge, following a path to the right hand side and towards the first of two very large urban parks in this walk - Hilly Fields Park. You followed through the trees to a clearing and then crossing over a bridge, it followed the Turkey Brook to the left all the way around, past the bandstand (which was closed) and the hills to the right could be seen as a nice backdrop, you can understand why the name changed. There was also a second information board on this section of the loop too.

Crossing over the road, I followed a path and then entered into Forty Hall Park, heading alongside the Turkey Brook again and following the fields with the sheep, before then seeing the Woodland Lake on the right hand side, and eventually Forty Hall to the right in the distance over the hill. It was a nice walk in this park and certainly families were out a lot and walking their dogs too, so definitely a place I felt that the locals would go. It was then a crossing over past a primary school and over the A10 Great Cambridge Road before passing Enfield Cemetery on the left hand side.

A quick pass under the railway bridge and a left took me to Turkey Street and indeed the railway station there too. A very nice statue was close to the brook, and I walked along Turkey Street towards the main road, and then took some back roads to get back to the brook. The path further up was closed due to the maintenance work in Albany Park, but a nicely signed diversion got me back on track, then over the railway bridge and to the humpback bridge that was the end of the section, before then getting to Enfield Lock station to complete the walk - and did really well overall, taking around three hours to complete.

It also meant I didn't have to wait too long for the train to Stratford, and from there the tube and Overground worked really well and this allowed me to be home relatively quickly, which was nice. I took the time to sort out the pictures from the walk and then blast out some tunes in the late afternoon including the Clint Mansell soundtrack to the film High Rise. The opening track Critical Mass is tune of the day - it really does set the scene well and would have been perfect background music for the walk as well.

Friday 27th November - Friday Fantasies

It was a good day all round today as I strove to write up the documentation about reporting from the inventory software. I had carried out some tests yesterday and had also grabbed some screen shots too, which actually proved to be really useful when I was compiling the document together. Actually, it also made sense that some of the testing I had done would prove to be a useful report, so I could also include that there and leave it as a report for others to use, which definitely does work pretty nicely.

As is the usual thing on Friday now, we do have our team meeting extended and we have a little quiz at the end of it. This has proved to be pretty good and I did an Only Connect themed one the other week (and with pretty hard questions as well) so it was my manager's turn this week. He had an idea of television and film themes, with the first one being of film themes - which had been sung by his brother when he had devised a quiz for the family ages ago. Actually it worked out pretty well with themes from the likes of Superman, ET, Terminator and indeed Up as well (was pretty pleased with myself to get that one.)

The second round were television themes, and a good cross section of all sorts, including the likes of The Chase, Come Dine With Me and even the rather good classic theme that is Grandstand (make that one tune of the day because it is a real classic.) I did well on both rounds and scored 17 overall which meant a win, nice to do so but it was good fun with the rest of the team and proved to be a lovely end to what was a pretty productive week all round - I like it when that happens.

I did have an arrival in the post today too which I played after work - which is one of my favourite games on the Commodore Amiga and indeed one of the finest of its genre - Pinball Fantasies. Because I've got an Amiga A600, I needed the 3 disk version which is the standard release - the enhanced AGA graphics version which only works on the A1200 and A4000 models is four disks in all. It was for its time superb, only surpassed by the AGA only sequels Pinball Illusions and Slam Tilt later on.

Playing it today really did still show how excellent it was. I played two of the four tables, Stones and Bones (with its haunting music) and the fun Party Land as well, both worked first go and it was good to be able to use the shift keys for the flippers and space bar for tilt and bump, with the music sounding really good and the table being superbly playable too. It definitely was a positive for me that's for sure, and I will definitely have to go back and play this one again over the course of the weekend.

Thursday 26th November - Touched By The Hand Of God

It was a quite productive day for me today as I looked at testing out a number of reports with the inventory system we have in order to produce some results and a way that we can get those suitably output and distributed to others. The plan will be to document this tomorrow, as writing documentation takes time but is also easier if you know which way you want to be planning how you will write it. I must admit that for me it's pretty good to be able to test out how the approach will work, and come up with some suitable suggestions as examples for writing too.

I also had a nice arrival in the post today - one of many packages which should arrive in the next few days. This was the Commodore 64 version of Combat School, released by Ocean, which was based on the arcade machine of the day (also called Boot Camp in some countries). The thing that always struck me about this was the impressive Martin Galway title theme with sampled drums, and a version of I Wanna Be A Drill Instructor to boot - but effectively very catchy, so tune of the day without question. It still is pretty hard and having a Cruiser joystick where you can make it a little bit more loose for the likes of joystick waggling games is pretty decent.

Of course the big news from last night was the passing away of Diego Maradona, who of course had tortured England in the 1986 World Cup with the infamous handball goal in the quarter final, followed by one of the most superb solo goals ever seen at any football match, with some quality England defenders trailing in his wake. He also played for Napoli in Italy for a number of seasons and helped them lift the Serie A title, and when The Love In My Heart and I went to Naples a couple of years back, everywhere you went in the old town had either a picture of Maradona or some form of mural or artwork dedicated - it was clear there was a relationship between the fans and the player there.

Of course it would be easy to focus on that handball goal, but there were so many other facets to the game and so many other games that he changed with his skill and the ability to turn matches around virtually singlehanded. Indeed, there will be still a younger relation to follow in his footsteps, as Maradona's daughter married Manchester City striker Sergio Agüero when Sergio was at Atletico Madrid, and their son Benjamin may hopefully have some of the genes of Maradona and you never know, might even play for City one day. But nonetheless, it is a sad loss of one of the all time football greats.

I also headed out to Tesco tonight to do the food shopping for the week, and I have to say that doing so later in the evening during midweek is definitely the future. The supermarket was very empty so felt a lot safer to wander round, and on top of that, everything I needed was in stock. I made sure I didn't get too much, and that also meant I kept within budget but also planned meals based on what I already had. So I had the crispy chicken, so some katsu sauce and rice would sort a nice meal out, and got some carbonara sauce and pancetta to make that one evening (I had pasta already) with also some pasta sauce for a bolognaise as I had the Quorn mince already too. Shopping on a weeknight with no one around is the future.

Wednesday 25th November - Midweek Musings

It's already the middle of what seems like a longer than normal week. This is primarily because normally I would have been making a visit to the office to be able to do some work where normally I'd only be able to do when connected internally for testing (for example PXE boot and testing build process and so on.) The facilities management had decided that we couldn't go into the offices without a say so from the line manager and had to be a good reason, so after some discussion with my manager, we agreed to postpone any office visits until the end of the current lockdown, but after that we'd need to be around where possible.

I did spend some time today checking over the server that our inventory software was running on, as it did look for some reason as if some of the services had stopped for some reason. I decided to do some further investigation and worked out what the state of play was - it was actually down to the machine's paging file looking like it was short of space (and RAM potentially). A quick call in to one of my colleagues and we were able to allocate some more resources for the page file and that was effective when we restarted the server. I suspect what it might be is that the newer version may need higher resources.

I also checked over a few other things and worked out just what was happening with one machine that for some reason wasn't deploying the new version of the MECM client correctly: it looked like the scheduled task to install the client later on had actually borked, so even if you asked to run that scheduled task straight away, it failed. The key here was to remotely delete the scheduled task, and then re-push the client out. Did that, worked perfectly. Something else must have gone amiss but good to know that at least there's a good way of getting things rectified.

I also decided tonight that it was time to not only get some Christmas presents ordered (one of which I had been sent the information to from my sister for one of my relations, so nice and easy to sort that out of course) but also that I was going to make my chorizo pasta bake for tea, one of my favourite things I make. I had everything bar the chorizo until I had been shopping last weekend, but it was good to get everything prepared and in the oven to bake nicely. And it tasted very nice indeed, possibly because I had got some of the proper Spanish chorizo slices when I went to Tesco, which did taste a little bit more spicy and had a good kick to it.

I listened later to the early Champions League kick off as Manchester City were away at Olympiakos. It was a pretty one-way affair with City heading forward constantly but the same as previous games in the Premier League, it was lots of chances, not enough taken. One that was thankfully was Raheem Sterling doing a neat move and backheeling the ball towards Phil Foden, who finished well. We didn't score any further goals but it did all look comfortable and that meant we'd qualified for the next round with two games to spare. Nice. Tune of the day is the classic The Boys In Blue, the 1972 Manchester City song. They will never give in.

Tuesday 24th November - The Accelerate Car Crash

This afternoon I had been invited along to an online event hosted by Lenovo, which was their annual Accelerate event that they host where they get to showcase some new developments, and also have some breakout sessions where you're able to find out more about what they are doing with their technology and working with their partners: more so in the current world where of course there is much more dependency on remote style working. I had been to the event last year in happier times when it was held at the English National Ballet, not that far from Canning Town station.

This year was all online, so in effect it was an event of two halves: the first would be a showcase and with some prizes to give away, but instead of you just winning some Lenovo gear, you could also donate £1,000 to a charity of your choice in what they called the Grand Giveway. This first half was hosted by Claudia Winkleman, and of course that was rather lovely. Claudia was Claudia as ever - witty and funny, but also warm as well. Nice trouser suit outfit too - wasn't so sure about the gold heels, but certainly was striking. And the Lenovo people were all good, talking about the X1 Fold laptop (yes, the screen does fold) and the return of the Motorola Razr phones with foldable screens too.

That was all well and good, and the second session was individual breakouts where you got to hear about one of three different subjects, and like football being a game of two halves, so was this event. The first half was all smooth and the video worked perfectly. The second half was an absolute car crash of the worst order and an embarassement to Lenovo. None of the video was working correctly: occasionally you may have got sound but even then that sounded distorted and clearly inaudible in places. And that was if you were even lucky enough to actually get a connection to that particular stream.

The chat window on the right hand side was clearly showing things not working, despite Lenovo support claiming it would be fixed as soon as possible. One by one, people started to leave as they were getting frustrated at not being able to view the sessions, some claiming that their time had been wasted by the ineptitude of being able to fix the video stream. In fact, it got to around 3.45pm and they eventually decided to go back to the main stream to end the video with Claudia saying goodbye. Not that many people had actually bothered to stay by that point, of course. It was appallingly bad.

It did make me realise that when doing such events, preparation is everything - and a case of prevention and stress testing might have helped matters here to be perfectly honest. It might not bode well for future customers if the reliability of their technology to host an event is something that a prospective customer was looking at - especially as this was being hyped up to the nth degree. It made me think later as I was listening to the likes of the excellent Penfriend with the single Everything Looks Normal In The Sunshine (tune of the day) and how much that it's been a very different year all told.

Monday 23rd November - The Reportage

It was good to be able to get a number of things done at work today and really feel like I'm pushing into the next stage of several projects as well at the same time. The important stuff first: get the Windows 10 November updates deployed out there to the masses after some successful testing early on. Crucially, this also will include the new version of Microsoft Edge (the Chromium based one) which is now an add-on update for all versions below 20H2, and then included in 20H2 as well. So far from what I can see, all was going pretty well so no complaints there.

I also documented the way that the additional reports for our inventory system software had been generated, and how we could effectively modify the master report and save that out as a duplicate in order to tweak it for the results we wanted. In fact it was working pretty well overall it has to be said - meaning that we were able to effectively get out the information needed in a suitable format and have it presentable and exportable in Excel format across the board. Nice. And felt very pleased that we had made progress on that one.

I had two packages in the post today too: one of which was a swap I had done with a fellow 8-bit computer user who was after some C16 and Plus/4 games - I had some duplicates, so swapped a couple for Emlyn Hughes International Soccer for the Commodore 64 - and nice to have that original cassette back in the collection. It still is my favourite football game for that system, and so playable. The days I'd spend with relatives round at my place going "Get Emlyn on!" and playing two player as a team against the computer. Those were indeed the days, and the title theme by Barry Leitch is tune of the day - ah, memories.

The other package was also for the Commodore Amiga - and a game I had wanted to play for some time after seeing many people praise it in reviews: Arcade Pool by Team 17. I had seen it on eBay for a relatively cheap price and settled on a best offer price which meant it wasn't that expensive at all. And it even had the receipt of the original purchase inside the box, which for me is fascinating stuff. It loaded on Amiga A600 without issue and was a very enjoyable play - especially as the ball physics are spot on, and even detects the type of Amiga you have so if you've got an A1200 with AGA etc it'll do the enhanced graphics for you too. Nice.

Also, purely out of curiosity because I love the C16 and Plus/4 version so much (it is a classic) I thought I'd try Anco's Winter Events on another format - the MSX. So with OpenMSX set up and with the cassette image downloaded for authenticity, I loaded it up. You can tell there's been attempts to port the fonts etc used on the C16 in the menus and so on for example. The biathlon was pretty playable although pretty hard to hit the targets in the shooting section, and the speed skating worked well once you got the right rhythm. The slalom and downhill events were awful though.

The ski jump was pretty much the same as the C16 version, a case of making sure your skier matched the image on the right with the controls. It did seem very tricky to land it even if you had the right phase though, so maybe needs some more practice on my part. The bobsled perhaps was for me the best event, it really did seem like thought had gone into it somewhat realistic - some nice graphics and resembled the original well. It definitely was a case of being a decent conversion, although I'd still want to play the C16 original any day.

Sunday 22nd November - Watch The Football!

Watch the football, watch it, watch it, it's gonna move! Well, quite. To date it's possibly the finest piece of comedy David Mitchell ever did, and was so true of the over top way that Sky Sports really go OTT with the football coverage. In any case, I was up and had some breakfast this morning, and was showered and changed in preparation for another Premier League game but this time on proper telly - as Fulham would take on Everton in a 12 noon kick off, and all live on BBC One. Made for a pleasant change.

As it turned out, the game was very good and a bit of a goalfest, so I'm pretty sure that the Beeb were happy they chose it. Dominic Calvert-Lewin bundled in the opener from close range within the opening minute, and Fulham did get back on level terms a few minutes later through Bobby De-Cordova Reid. However, that was going to be as good as it got for them as the Everton midfield dominated and the wing play of both Alex Iwobi and Lucas Digne really proved to be the undoing for Fulham: as first of all Calvert-Lewin added a second with a well taken finish, and a Digne cross found the head of Abdoulaye Doucoure and it was 3-1 to Everton at half time.

The second half saw Everton almost get a fourth, with Richarlison spurning some good chances, but then a lifeline came for Fulham in the guise of a penalty, as sub Ruben Loftus-Cheek was bundled down in the area and the referee after a quick check pointed to the spot. The penalty was one of the worst I had ever seen though, as Ivan Cavaliero slipped, and hit the ball with right foot off left foot and over the bar - so also would have been a double hit and disallowed even if it had gone in. Fulham's only good thing was that it didn't stop Loftus-Cheek scoring a minute later after some good work down the right, and they huffed and puffed for an equaliser but none was coming. A very good game for the neutral like me to watch though.

It was onwards with a bit of old school game playing again during the afternoon, and it was back on with the Commodore 64 - this time with another blast of Head Over Heels. It's still to this day one of the best isometric games cross platform - probably still the best version is the Amstrad one I grant you, but the C64 one really can hold its own well and at least plays very nicely. I had played it on Friday but wanted to give it another go to really see if I could get further, and did. I must admit I never got further than say one of the five crowns back in the day, so if I could do more, that'd be pretty good actually.

I settled in for the evening later on and saw the dance off in Strictly Come Dancing. I must admit I was surprised that Maisie Smith was in the dance off again, makes me wonder if the public don't like her for some reason. That said though it was an easy decision to keep her in over Caroline Quentin, who was still decent, but I suspect had been dealt the hand of the cha cha cha this week - one to get out of the way early rather than later. It was still though a decent effort all round - and even having Billy Ocean do a medley including When The Going Gets Tough, a song I always remember from the Romancing The Stone film - so tune of the day for me that one.

Saturday 21st November - The Longest London Loop

Today it was a relatively early rise and some breakfast, and it was then getting myself showered and ready to face another long walk. It was to take on section 16 of the London Loop, from Elstree to Cockfosters, a massive 10.5 miles worth and the longest section of the London Loop too. The previous section 15 I did the other day was quite a long one, and good to get these nailed and be almost on the home stretch to complete the whole walk of some 150 miles and 24 sections. So it was the train from East Croydon, changing at Blackfriars and then heading up North through the likes of West Hampstead and Mill Hill Broadway to get off at Elstree and Borehamwood station.

I followed Deacons Hill Road up a pretty steep hill, and a small descent before another sizeable hill on Barnet Lane. This was quite nice with trees on one side and houses on the other, and then a descent down into Scratch Wood, following the wood over a stream and then out towards Thistle Wood, and following this and passing an etching on a waymarker which said Nude Lives Matter. Not that you'd want to be naked in the woods, but each to their own and all that. I did also think that all the woodland in these sections really did make it seem longer than it was too.

After diverting to take a subway under the A1, it was back to Nut Wood (not the one with Rupert The Bear, although the Jackie Lee theme tune is tune of the day!) and following the paths up to Moat Mount Open Space and following the series of paths that would be the Dollis Valley Greenway, following Dollis Brook. A lot of these paths were very muddy and with wet sticky mud at that, more so at Totteridge Fields later and also as you then went through plenty of country fields with lots of people walking their dogs too as I headed further along and towards Barnet itself. A lot of muddy paths alongside the brook but also this gave way later to a hard tarmac path, that was much better.

It was onwards towards Barnet itself, through playing fields and skipping the nearby football ground, before then arriving at the bridge carrying the tube to High Barnet station. I spotted a Tesco so it was meal deal lunch time, and had a quick break with that before carrying on up the hill to the other side of the station, and following the back roads towards King George's Fields. It was a climb up there but the view from the bench at the top was impressive, and ended up at Hadley Green, which looked a rather lovely and posh open space, especially with the houses facing the green.

At the end of the green was a house which is Livingstone's Cottage, a former residence of the physician and explorer - it all looked very nice and had a plaque at the front to depict that fact. Along with the Wilbraham's Almshouses and the church, Monken Hadley around the corner looked rather magnificent. I followed the road down to Monken Hadley Common, walking through woodland, heading over a railway line, and then following the path down the hill towards Pymmes Brook, with a litle bridge taking you over. It was very pretty, and a climb back up towards the Cock Inn.

It was then to Cockfosters, not far away, and the section was fully completed. I adored the iconic design within the tube station, another Charles Holden designes station. Even the old black and white signage here has been retained, which is good. I'd never gone this far along the Piccadilly Line, so was good to tick off some tube station I'd never been to as well. I also knew there was a way of getting back home for just £1.50 by using TfL services only and avoiding Zone 1, so it was tube via Finsbury Park and changing for Victoria Line to Highbury and Islington, then Overground to Stratford, Jubilee Line to Canada Water and finally the Overground to West Croydon. It did take some time, but was worth it.

Friday 20th November - Delivering Commodore Goodness

Well I had a nice surprise or three today, as plenty of parcels arrived during the day when I was off work. The first one to arrive had three Commodore 64 games from the same seller, who was selling off duplicates in his collection. I had negotiated a sensible price for the three including postage, and they were posted off quickly to me - and arrived as I got back from doing some food shopping from Tesco in perfect timing, almost. They were Quedex by Thalamus, and Head Over Heels and Mutants by Ocean. I love all three games, so to get them in one fell swoop was rather good. In fact I never owned a fully boxed copy of all three originals back in the day (I had two with just the bare cassette only.)

It was great of course that all three games loaded up first go, and that showed that the seller had looked after the games (which I expected really) and so posted some positive feedback so that others who may be interested knew they could buy with confidence. Quedex went on first, (it's officially pronounced Q-Dex by the way) and it's still as hard as I can remember it - it really is a sensible dexterity test. In fact, the difficulty of the levels depends on which order you take them on in, so sometimes you have to be sensible with the way you approach them too.

Mutants went on next, and I did manage to do around a quarter of the first level of the game. In effect, you arm your ship with different weapons, and enter a zone to retrieve a piece of the grid, head back to the centre, then go back to the main ship and head through a maze to get the piece back - which also tops up your lives. It really helps when you do read the instructions for this, and once you get the hang of it, it definitely all makes sense too. I also adore to this day the loading and title theme music by Fred Gray - one of my all time favourite Commodore 64 pieces, so tune of the day no question.

It was then with Head Over Heels, which is an isometric 3D game with lots of puzzles. It's great on all main 8-bit formats, with probably the Amstrad the best of the three, but the C64 version had lots of really good coding from Colin Porch to make it playable and fast, which for isometric games the C64 often struggled on. The two main characters have different characteristics too - Head can jump higher, Heels can run faster. If you meet and combine both have the same powers when together. However, you can't always do that - some of the steps that are dog statues vanish when Head enters, so you have to do those rooms with Heels alone. Similarly, some aliens need the doughnut gun firing at them which only Head can use. Working those out is all part of the game - but I can see why it got a Zzap! 64 gold medal.

Later in the day also I had an Amiga mouse arrive courtesy of one of my friends, who had a spare and was willing to send it over (more so as one of the places he worked at were clearing stuff out and he ended up with an A600HD and three mice) - and the final package to arrive was my Amiga A600, back from repair from Mutant Caterpillar Games. It had all been recapped as the capacitors had failed and had effectively meant the reset line was failing and not resetting anything, so no power on. Now it works perfectly and tested out Workbench and the mouse, all was good. I'm awaiting some games to arrive too, but at least I can see it all working too, so that makes me happy.

Thursday 19th November - Hatch End through Hertfordshire

I had a couple of days off work for the rest of this week, and so with the weather set reasonably fair today, I decided that I would take on the next leg of the London Loop walk, namely section 15 - Hatch End to Elstree. I knew that it would be a challenge due to it being ten miles long, but also due to rain the last few days that it might also be quite muddy in places, so the walking boots were on and was all wrapped well to keep off any cold weather, as it was forecast for around 9 degrees centigrade. I set off from East Croydon after 0930 so was offpeak time, and changed at Clapham Junction then Willesden Junction and got the Overground all the way up to Hatch End.

I then took the walk along Grimsdyke Road to the start point, and the first path I took showed that it was quite muddy, so plenty of that to come along the walk. It was a litttle narrow in places, but negotiable, so got to Little Oxhey Lane and followed that for a while up to the lights, and climbed uphill and then left towards Grimsdyke Golf Course. Of course there was no one on the course itself (closed due to lockdown) so it was easy enough to follow the white markers, head around the side of the hut later on, then head through some woodland.

It did look as if some of the waymarkers had gone AWOL after that, but as it turned out I headed through a path that took me to the Grim's Dyke Hotel, so I could see where WS Gilbert lived (one half of Gilbert and Sullivan) - and from there followed the road out of the hotel which led me back the right way, passing The Case is Altered pub, some name that. It was then back through some very nice woodland and onwards to Bentley Priory Open Space, with a hard path and perhaps the loveliest part of the walk with some great views too. It was a left turn to follow the path out to Little Common near Stanmore, with a path to take me past two little lakes.

From there, it was along the wonderfully named Warren Lane (I know, ace eh?) and then a footpath which took you at the side of a hospital and towards the Stanmore Riding Club, with a sanded little arena with fences set up too. The path here went downhill and soon became very muddy indeed at the very bottom of the hill, and it was a bit of a slog taking up a climb from there upwards towards the M1 and Elstree Road. The long grass did at least wipe off most of the mud that the boots had taken as it was soft and wet, and did the job.

Once along Elstree Road, I followed the road around to the side of the Aldenham Reservoir, which looked very pretty along with the small sailing club there. I then got to a footpath to go to Elstree Hill, and the kissing gate here had swathes of mud, as did the path for a while (and at the other end.) Not too pretty and was glad to get past that and head towards the final leg, which took you uphill and skirted around Radlett Hill Golf Club before taking me towards the Allum Lane Spinney, and eventually back to Allum Lane itself for Elstree and Borehamwood Station, with the film signage before I arrived there.

One look at the walking boots and the bottom of the jeans told me that it had been a very muddy walk, so they would be in the wash when I got home. I took the Thameslink train back home, changing at St Pancras for the train to East Croydon, and that worked really well, and got home to find a nice parcel delivered - two Commodore Plus/4 games I had ordered via Psytronik: Pets Rescue and Alpharay. Going to look forward to playing those later I think. In fact, I decided to put on some music to relax after the long walk I had done, so tune of the day is the rather good Warszawa by David Bowie - the whole Low album for me just has a real sense of depth to it, more perhaps than people realise.

Wednesday 18th November - Successful

To say that today was a successful day at work was an understatement. It was possibly one of the most rewarding days I've had at work, certainly in my current job, but possibly over the last five years or so. I felt so pleased at the end of the day and definitely felt like I had earned the next two days off, which I am taking as annual leave. Of course, I had other things planned for those two days, but still, will get out and do something anyway, because it makes sense. So, after I'd had breakfast and set up the work laptop up and checked a few things, the morning went well.

I summarised all the progress so far with Windows 10 20H2, so in effect I had managed to create a Windows Image (WIM) yesterday and think I also worked out how I could complete the build without a bit of intervention to have to remove a few things, which is what I was testing yesterday - a pause in the task sequence allowed me to enter a command to remove some provisioned Appx applications, and that meant everything completed. I think there is another way, but will test next week. Nonetheless I started getting most of the Lenovo driver packs for 2004 compiled (2004/20H2 use same codebase, so shouldn't be an issue) and also looking at working on a new build task sequence accordingly.

In the afternoon, I had two meetings with a colleague and with a technical member of support staff for our inventory software. I had noted following upgrade yesterday that one of the services that is needed for maintenance and deletion was re-added, but attempting to start the other one failed. We went through some reconfiguration steps, so basically re-added the way that the API communicates, as it's on the same server we can use internal communication for that, whilst still keeping external communication via port 443 for incoming entries and being all lovely. Once we did that, we tested the service - and it ran! It was then the home run of configuring the service to start on Windows startup, so I'll need to check that and we could see from the logs that some of the queued up deletions for machines and they were now being processed. Success, definitely. That was good.

It got even better. The next meeting was to try and get a custom report set up which pulls data from two main tables and then is a view which can be reported on in the front end. One of my technical colleagues on the software side had been working on something, so she and I worked on getting first of all the view set up. In fact, I also requested (and got) the full name field added, so that worked out nicely when we looked at the query in the initial view - and then from there the second query we ran to effectively get that showing as a custom report in the front end. And it was there. And it was customisable and re-savable as needed. I then set up a schedule, and that also worked too via email. Happy days indeed.

It's always good when you have a really positive day and for me it shows that I must be doing something right. I also decided that it would be nice to treat myself to a few 8-bit computer games and had negotiated with someone on Twitter who's respected in Commodore 64 circles to buy some duplicate titles, so there will be some classic games heading my way soon. Had to be done, and settled in for the evening listening to Matt Gray's Reformation Last Ninja 2 album again - with the in game theme from The Sewers being tune of the day - still massively epic.

Tuesday 17th November - An Office of Eight

I managed to get up pretty early today, and made sure after breakfast I was all good to go and ready to beat the traffic of commuters heading into work. As much as the ethos is to work from home, I had been tipped off that it didn't seem as quiet on trains heading into Central London, and so it proved, with the train I was on busier than I thought. It still had plenty of room to spread out of course, but was noticably busier. I think part of that is because like with my workplace, some have given you the option to book to go in if you want, especially if there's more than one of you battling for a prime working from home spot.

As it turned out, the Pret a Manger near work was still open so of course with the subscription loaded onto Google Pay, it was easy enough to head into there on the way in and start with a latte, and back there later for a gingerbread version (yes folks, the festive drinks are already available.) It did give me some structure and a break to the day as there's no tea and coffee making on site at present to ensure we're all safe and compliant. It did mean though that being sensible about timing was key - anyone who's been in McDonalds just after 11am will know there's plenty of construction workers getting their early shift lunches.

I did carry out the upgrade that I mentioned yesterday, it's in two parts - one bit of software gets upgraded first which is the main services, and that went to version 6.4 perfectly fine. The second handles the web based interface and back end, and that had three versions to do, one after the other. The good thing is though that when finished it looked like a few minor issues I had noted had disappeared - so for example when importing user information you don't get an invalid warning message anymore. There were around eight people in all in the office, and when you consider it holds a lot more than that, you can see that it's a really good and safe place to be overall.

And crucially, it looks like one of the services for maintenance has sorted itself, which means that when I do a deletion in the web console, it queues up a deletion later on for the back end and has a service running to effectively move a device to a separate table so it's not visible in the main. I can now see the correct numbers in both sides, so that's something. There's some final checking to do but it really does look like we're sort of on the right path now, and that has to be a bonus. So I think when we get a meeting tomorrow organised so we can get the next part done, that's going to be pretty good.

I headed home later on and made some very nice chicken and mushroom stir fry for tea, together with some noodles and katsu sauce, and settled in for the evening with a good long chat with The Love In My Heart. Brian the cat had been sitting in all high places for a while but later in our call he decided to come and sit on the sofa and snuggle up next to Mummy which is what he normally does. That felt a bit more like normal which was good. In fact I had a good discussion online about the old Toshiba adverts in the 1980s which of course is Ian Dury singing different words than its original source: Ullo John Gotta New Motor by Alexei Sayle, which I have on 7" single, and therefore tune of the day.

Monday 16th November - Back Working From Home

So after a few weeks with The Love In My Heart, it was back home and working from home for part of this week. I did have Thursday and Friday booked off, with the original plan being (if we had not gone into lockdown) that I was going to head off for a day or two and go exploring, but of course I suspected as it got nearer to the end of October that this was a non-starter. I was glad I didn't book anything that I might have not been able to re-arrange later on, so was definitely thinking ahead there.

Today though was a case of checking over the latest batch of Windows 10 updates as they went out to our user acceptance testing group. It also included an update to give everyone the new version of Microsoft Edge (the Chromium engine based one) and so wanted to be sure that when that update went on that it didn't affect any of Internet Explorer. Not that it should of course, but you never know, and as there are still some web-based applications that do need IE (I know, not one I'd design of course) then it's always best to triple check all of that. Thankfully from testing so far all seemed good.

I also was able to do some preparatory work for one of the system upgrades tomorrow. I am in the office tomorrow which will mean faster connectivity and all that, but also that should mean more concentration too. I always feel better being in an actual office working, and whilst working at home has at least been something of a boost at present, it does make me feel better when I can interact with people and makes me feel a bit better. So I'm glad that work decided to keep the office open for purely mental health reasons - made a lot of sense and they were allowed to as well.

I did head down to pick up a package that had been delivered whilst with The Love too - which the concierge of the apartment block had kindly kept safe for me. It was the double vinyl picture disc version of Matt Gray's Last Ninja Reformation album - all of that classic game soundtrack on two gorgeous discs. Naturally of course I am going to keep that in pristine condition as I do have the downloads and the CDs already - and played the CD in the evening, with the somewhat iconic Central Park loading theme still as impressive as ever, and definitely for me tune of the day because of that.

Having been able to arrange a nice little swap with a fellow 8-bit computer gamer, I spent a bit of time testing two titles I had duplicates of, and made sure they were working before sending them off. One of which was Kikstart on the Commodore 16 and Plus/4, which really was a classic but for different reasons than the Commodore 64 version. I actually found it easier to play this on keyboard as the controls are close to each other and makes it relatively good to do - and got my best score in a long while because of it.

Sunday 15th November - Seventh Heaven

I was avoiding the news for most of the day as I knew that the Turkish Grand Prix was being run earlier in the day and on Sky Sports, so wanted to avoid the result until I could see the race highlights on Channel 4 later on. I therefore got up, had some breakfast and watched last night's instalment of Strictly Come Dancing, which I missed last night due to chatting with friends. It was pretty good: I have to say that Bill Bailey and Oti Mabuse doing freestyle to Rappers' Delight by The Sugarhill Gang (classic tune, so tune of the day) was really good fun, and Bill nailed it, and the charleston from Clara Amfo and Aljaž Skorjanec was also brilliant, and well worthy of the high marks.

I then decided to get out the Commodore 64 and get some compositions done, as there's a competition at the moment where you have to produce a piece of music that is a maximum of 15 seconds long and then loops. I did have some good ideas and so started to get something quite Industrial and dark going. I had some good instruments from a previous tune and then got creative with some fast drums and a lead full of ring modulation, making for a very different sound too. It was nice to really drive something and think creative with such a small amount of time to cram things in.

It was then on with Channel 4 later in the day and to watch the Turkish Grand Prix and with all the rain yesterday it was going to be interesting with the grid in a different order. The race was mainly wet on a damp track and due to the new surface, the water wasn't leaving so quickly, although most drivers did switch to intermediate tyres. Racing Point brought in the leader Lance Stroll for new intermediates and he went backwards after that whilst their other driver Sergio Perez stayed on the existing inters and after losing the lead was keeping calm but falling back.

Lewis Hamilton had started sixth and gradually worked up, switching to intermediates well and keeping with them despite the tread going and because the heat was in the tyre to a degree, did at least mean that with a drier line appearing, they could still be run. He got past Perez into the lead and it was pretty easy from then on, and could have easily pitted if needed, but no need. He won, Perez held on to second despite a late charge from Charles Leclerc on the final lap, who was passed by Sebastian Vettel when Leclerc went wide, and Leclerc almost lost fourth to Carlos Sainz on the final straight. Dramatic stuff.

But so well deserved from Lewis, a perfect way to win a seventh world title, the fourth in a row and be level with Michael Schumacher on the most F1 championships of all time. Bear in mind today that the Mercedes was not the best car on track (Valtteri Bottas was a lap behind remember) and it showed that it was the pure driving skill that kept the car facing the right way (see the errors Max Verstappen made today for example) and a well worthy winner and champion. If he doesn't get Sports Personality of the Year this year, you do have to wonder what the people are voting for.

Saturday 14th November - Home and Hosed

It was a very sad farewell this morning as I was heading home after spending almost the last month with The Love In My Heart. I knew I had some work related tasks to do that needed me to be in the office testing (our office is still open at present) and that would give me an added impetus over the next few weeks to get everything all sorted. Brian the cat was being quite soft this morning, yes wanting playtime of course but also appreciating the strokes and cuddles he was getting. I suspect he already knew that when he sat on my case last night for ages he knew what was going on.

It was hugs and kisses as The Love dropped me off at Piccadilly station and I was heading on the train to London Euston. Of course I am travelling back for work reasons, so allowed under current guidance. Not that many were travelling: in fact, when I looked around the first class carriage I was in, there was no one around. Just me. The ticket was checked and the little breakfast order taken: normally the staff come with a trolley but he explained I was the only one in first class, so no need for that. Soon I was having a croissant with a flapjack and yoghurt, with some coffee and orange juice too - just the thing for the journey.

And yes, once connected to the on-train wireless, I did actually connect to the work VPN and try it out to see how it all worked - and on the whole it did. I knew it wouldn't be the quickest but for basic stuff such as email it would be sufficient, and allowed me also to do some writing as well of some documentation, so being able to do that on the go was pretty good. I also spent some time listening to some music on the iPod and before I knew it, I was at Euston, and walked to St Pancras to get the train to East Croydon and then home.

I must admit, it was nice that I had cleaned up all the flat and it was all lovely and tidy when I got home, with fresh bedding on and the place spotless. That helped a lot. I went to the local Sainsburys for mainly bottles such as milk and soft drinks, primarily as I didn't then have to carry them when doing a bigger shop later. For that it was off to Tesco on the bus, and thankfully not as busy as it could have been, so stocked up on lunches from work for the week and plenty of things for the fridge and freezer, as well as some beer too for later on tonight. I was glad I went when I did, queue outside later was pretty mental.

I got home later on and battled through the rain, then went on to relax and have some tea before having a really good evening conversation with some friends online as well. It's kept us all going at the moment, and it was good to look at what 1990s songs had been covered by the trusty Commodore 64 SID chip. It was a lot harder to find than say 1980s versions, but I have to say there were some good ones, not least of course some good Depeche Mode renditions, in the main the likes of Enjoy the Silence (love the original so that is tune of the day) as well as Policy of Truth, and plenty of the likes of the Prodigy covered too.

Friday 13th November - Only Connect Quiz

It was the last day of the working week, and speaking as someone who does have an irrational fear of Friday the 13th, it actually turned out to be a more than positive day all round. First of all, it was announced that the Prime Minister's adviser Dominic Cummings was to leave Westminster by Christmas. Of course, considering his antics to go for an eye test in Durham in the middle of lockdown and have a press conference to effectively defend himself when he should have been sacked by the Prime Minister back then, and after the furore over a new director of communications, it did make me wonder how long that prediction may have lasted.

Also, of course, it was notable that almost all projections in the USA Elections now have Joe Biden as winning Arizona as well, further cementing the status as the President Elect. I know there will be some complaining about the process and trying to put forward some unproven claims about some of the votes, but for me it shows a lot of sour grapes, especially when the said voting system isn't being complained about in states where they are winning. As much as we've been told over the years to accept the result democratically, even if it hasn't gone the way you may have wanted, it's come home to roost for definite now.

We did have a team meeting this afternoon and I was tasked with doing a little quiz following the success of the one last week from one of my colleagues, and I had worked on this earlier in the week. So I presented to the team the Only Connect quiz, based of course on the classic quiz series on BBC2 with the fab Victoria Coren-Mitchell - the theme tune of which is tune of the day and sets the tone perfectly for the show. I did two rounds: the sequences round with three of the four clues given, which was in parts not always so easy. I did try to get a wide variety of questions in this hoping that some answers would be provided.

The second round was based on the final round - missing vowels, where I took all the vowels out of various things and jumbled the spacing around. It worked out well with the ten questions over three categories: American spoting teams, songs from Metallica, and the characters from Sesame Street. It was a really nice way to end the working week and everyone liked it, and thanked me for making the effort. Going to enjoy the fact we will have different people setting these things over time and a good thing to look forward to at the end of the working week to keep the spirits up and everyone motivated, so that will be nice to do.

It was noticeable that Brian the cat had basically sat by the bedroom window all day, although he variated between being sat on the floor and also being sat on the chest of drawers so he could see out. He tends to be liking high spaces at the moment and so for example is being sat on the sofa and being higher up - and on top of the headboard on the bed as well. It's only been a recent thing for Brian to do of course, but he likes being there and attempting to move him results in a loud miaow and a look with cross ears which is not pleasant whatsoever. Best to leave him be and for him to be chilled out which he is too, aww bless.

Thursday 12th November - Pub Puzzle

I headed out to the local supermarket this lunch time as we needed to get some cat food and treats for Brian the cat. Of course like most cats he will go mental for Dreamies of course, and so will be wanting to effectively have some during the day and after his tea. He also only likes certain types of cat food, and thankfully the tuna and prawn Sheba in the dome, which he loves, was also in stock. I also got a little meal deal for tea tonight which included some wine and some dessert too as well as the main and side, so that had to be done, would mean less cooking and cleaning up for The Love, and she could relax a lot more.

I was asked later today to check the inventory of machines for a particular site, which was also a perfect opportunity to be able to check over if there were still some machines which needed work - and they were. I decided it needed some further checking and so was able to get some work done in order to pull the information together that was needed, and it on the whole has been working well. I think too that it was a perfect time to be able to check in with my line manager on this and see if we could escalate things slightly, and that worked for the better for me - delegation is good, but sometimes you need someone to have your back too.

Once The Love In My Heart was on her way home, I put the tea in the oven and it was nice to have and enjoy later - it was some lovely gammon with a pineapple glaze, cooked on the bone and melted beautifully off it, complete with dauphinoise potatoes, some carrots, peas and green beans, and there was even a bottle of wine for The Love as well. It was nice to settle down and have tea together, and I noted the England friendly was on ITV so of course they had The Verve's Bitter Sweet Symphony blasting out (make that one tune of the day - and yes I know the opening is also a Rolling Stones song too.)

We switched over to BBC2 for something we both wanted to watch, as chef Tom Kerridge and himself a landlord of three pubs, wanted to go and see how other pubs were doing and what he could do to help them. The first episode was filmed around November and December last year so no idea of course what was going to come. I loved the village pub in Chilsworthy in Cornwall called The White Hart, and straight away a sensible recommendation was to make the most of the rather wonderful view it had over the hills, which I had to agree with - wouldn't mind going there for a pint myself when I am allowed to do so, that's for sure.

What was also fascinating was the pub in Nunhead, South London, which traditionally was a more Jamaican feel and had regulars ekeing out a pint over hours of dominoes. Tom sensibly said that a pub needed to sell good beer and have some real ales on to get the locals in - and on the open house evening, people were trying the beer and liking it, which brought some hope that they would go back. I mean for me, I love a pub with a good real ale selection and I'd much rather go there than some faceless chain place, where Greene King IPA or London Pride shows little imagination in the beer market to be honest. It was a very enjoyable watch and will be keeping an eye on next week's episode.

Wednesday 11th November - Pause For Armistice

It was important for me today to take a two minute pause at 11am, for Armistice Day, and to remember those who gave their lives for freedom, and perhaps also more poignantly for the recent times for those key workers who had put themselves on the front line and perhaps saved more lives, even if not their own. It's always a quiet moment for me - I had relations who were involved in the Second World War and the one thing that I always learned from that is that war isn't the answer, but those who fought for freedom did so for freedom reasons and to ensure we had those freedoms kept. It's certainly for me always a time.

There was an added service today on BBC1 as it was for the 100th anniversary of the Unknown Warrior being buried, as this person had no name but it was a sympolic burial, two years on from the original Armistice. It certainly almost defines the fact that so many died without perhaps being known who they were and their deeds for their countries were still as valued and respected for those who were known. It was a polite, respectful and poignant service, the right way to go about things really and it's good to be able to reflect on the past with respect and dignity, but to learn from that also for the future.

Later on when The Love In My Heart arrived home, I had already started to make my signature chorizo sausage pasta bake for tea. I normally use penne pasta for this, and together with some nice Homepride tomato and bacon pasta bake sauce, some mozzarella cheese and chorizo, it all started to come together and bake in the oven nicely. It went down well and made a change for me to be cooking at The Love's place - I definitely do appreciate all the cooking she does for me so only fair there is a bit of payback really and to be nice to her too. Brian the cat was wanting his usual fussing over of course too and wanted to play out the moment we sat down for tea.

We also did see an interesting programme tonight based on what happened some 20 years ago - an attempted robbery of the Millennium Dome with the really expensive de Beers jewels, not least one diamond worth a massive amount of money due to its size. Ross Kemp went into the background behind it all, interviewing police officers and also detectives in the know. Of course the ultimate twist was that the diamonds had been switched for fakes before any planned robbery attempt, so would have been in vain, but still, to catch the thieves in the act must have been an enormous buzz for those involved on the police side.

I finally watched a documentary on Youtube which featured the Japanese video game composer, Takenobu Mitsuyoshi, who produced some awesome arcade and game soundtracks for SEGA (and still works for them). Subtitles on of course, as it was in Japanese, but the highlight was that he played two tracks on the keyboard from Daytona USA, and then went into the studio and did a new version of the vocal track of Let's Go Away, the main theme from Daytona USA (and therefore tune of the day) - it's still iconic and legendary, and the way he still can put those vocals down years after its release is a special thing. Daytonaaaaaaaaaaaaa, let's go away!

Tuesday 10th November - Meeting Mania

Today seemed to be all encompassing with meetings, and several during the day at that. One of them later in the day though proved to be very useful indeed - it was a good discussion on an upgrade path for one of our pieces of software and indeed a gotcha potentially for issues that the vendor had already seen before, so was good to know what they were before looking at planning an upgrade in more detail. Definitely for me I think it was the case that it's always good to know what other users have experienced so that you can look out for anything the same happening, and indeed that you are prepared.

Brian the cat also decided that today was the day to effectively get up on to the table during the afternoon and park himself close by - thankfully out of camera shot so that it didn't interrupt with any of the meetings I had, but nice to know that he was there regardless and actually being all nice and snuggly. He did though want plenty of attention (and later on some Dreamies and his tea) so he was definitely after a lot of fussing over. He has though tended to sit by the window a lot and look outside at what's going on out in the world and keep an eye out for the black and white cat attempting to make a return.

Later on The Love In My Heart arrived back from work, and it was nice to see that she had had a good day too. I had been on the phone to Avanti West Coast also as one of the trains I had booked had been pre-cancelled due to some timetable changes, and as I wasn't planning to travel then anyway, it was better to get a refund arranged. I had tried via the live chat, but the staff were absolutely useless on there claiming that the train was running when checking National Rail (no it was not) and basically saying the email I had got from their company was incorrect. Shambolic customer service there.

We also had an email from Chatsworth, and although the house wasn't open, the gardens were, and they were going ahead with their festive show of lights etc in the garden. As we most likely won't be going to Christmas At Kew, which is rather fab, then we thought this might be a better idea. It also turned out that the gardens only ticket had been reduced to ten pounds, and that was pretty good. We scheduled a post-lockdown Saturday evening, and this means we could walk around the garden with all the nice lights on and have a good time heading around. Tickets are limited and will be distanced, of course.

We went to the local supermarket later, but for different reasons - me to get some ingredients for tomorrow night's meal which I am cooking for us both, and The Love to get some treatments for Brian the cat. We're both concerned he is preening himself and licking a little too much and want to stop that if we can. When we got back, we settled in again and The Love watched the documentary on the Princess Diana interview with Martin Bashir - fascinating stuff and a back story too. It made me think also of how te early 1990s had plenty of good tunes for the time, including tune of the day I Can't Imagine The World Without Me by Echobelly.

Monday 9th November - Back In The Groove

It was a day to be back in the groove and back in work as well, and working from home of course. The nice thing was that with the course all done and dealt with, I did feel less worried overall which was a positive, and I knew I had plenty to catch up on as well. I had a productive meeting this morning together with a few colleagues and made some progress into what we need to do with one of our systems overall, and was definitely able to be positive on that side. In fact, I was able to effectively re-enable some of the connectors that I had disabled whilst troubleshooting.

Whilst that was being done, I had noted that a number of the connectors were attempting to connect at the same time, and so flagged up a primary key error I had seen before. Sure enough, once the synchronisation had been done at the correct times, all appeared to now be working correctly as intended at least for that side, so definitely felt a more positive approach at least. I also liaised with one of my colleagues over in Salt Lake City and worked out a way forward for one machine as well so we could hopefully claim it back in stock and then get a new one out there when we are able to.

Of course, the big news of the day was that one of the vaccines for the current virus scenario appears to have a relatively good degree of success, which is a positive. However, we need to be a little cautious here. This is because the evidence needs to be peer-reviewed properly (all good science is always peer-reviewed for validity) and then the safety aspects such as side effects taken into account. Only once it has gone through a strict approval process can it then be used, and even then there will be for example priority for NHS and front line workers to be vaccinated first. So good news yes, but the road is long yet.

Brian the cat has had an adventurous sort of day at least. Yesterday a black and white female cat had decided to show up during yesterday afternoon which disrupted Brian's peaceful calm and he was having a hissy fit. The same black and white cat returned today and she was staring towards the window, but Brian hissed a little bit but was then much more calm afterwards. He did have some hairball sick come out later which I needed to clean up as well, but at least it was better out I guess, and might have also been stress related. He has been preening a lot though, which may have meant more hairballs.

I did also note that the number of trains between Manchester and London are back to two an hour during the current lockdown period - which does make sense with reduced numbers. There are people who still need to go to work of course, and there needs to be an essential reason to travel, but at least it's been advertised and passengers contacted where trains affected too. Made me think of Michael Portillo on Great British Railway Journeys (the theme tune of which is tune of the day) and how he would be in pastel colours heading around in first class as well.

Sunday 8th November - Cemetery and Cornwall

It was nice to have a little bit of a lie in this morning, although I left The Love In My Heart to get some more well earned sleep whilst I watched a round up of the goals from the FA Cup first round on the BBC Red Button channel. It was good to see that even with a modified format (no replays and penalties after extra time on the day) shock results were still happening, and that was the magic of the cup in full flow of course. I did also note that it was the Remembrance Sunday service today, and took the time out to watch that also. It did feel very strange without anyone there.

It also did feel very strange that there was no march past, and for safety reasons, less Commonwealth leaders who were laying the wreaths also. It was a more sombre mood when the clock struck 11am for the two minutes silence also which I had observed of course - it gave me time to think not only about those who are not with us at this present moment, but those who gave their lives in duty over the many years. It's important to remember those sacrifices made which ensure the freedoms we now have, and how much one day we'll be able to look back and realise that any crisis now with the current situation pales into insignificance compared to back then.

Later on The Love and I were to get some exercise, effectively a walk through one of the local parks and onwards to the cemetery to visit one of The Love's relatives, buried there. It meant she could put some flowers there and keep all the area tidy too, and I observed from a little distance back so she could have whatever moment she needed. It was a good circular walk as we took a different route back, and at least meant that some fresh air and exercise was taken as well - always important to do that to be perfectly honest. And a fair walk uphill and downhill too.

We settled back in for a game of Scrabble, where The Love scored well with a number of moves including making HOLE and DAME for 32 in the top right corner, and also craftily using the Q near the end on a double letter having just picked it up and got rid of it sharpish. The Love did also make a gorgeous chicken casserole complete with carrots, mushrooms and potatoes and a lovely creamy sauce, so that was rather nice to be honest, and we watched the likes of Strictly Come Dancing - the results, and no surprise to me that Jason and Luba were the ones to be eliminated - a shame as least they danced to the Star Wars theme (make that tune of the day.)

Later on we watched BBC2 and notably the documentary on Cornwall with Simon Reeve. What for me was more interesting was that he wasn't focussing on all the tourist traps but instead the people who live there all year round, and how much of a struggle it is for a lot of people to survive - lack of employment opportunities during the Winter months, and deprivation too, especially in the inland areas such as Camborne, where the local food bank has been a lifeline for many years, and went to an allotment on an estate where there was an effort to try and skill up some younger people as well.

What I did feel though as well was a sense that, as in many seaside resorts, when it's out of season there is a real struggle for anything local, and it adds to what one person said is that for a lot of people, the first thing they do when able to is to leave Cornwall to find work opportunities. Hopefully the potential to reopen some of the tin mines, and also be able to get industry more settled may help, but it's a long term aim really. What matters now is that there's so much that really does rely on seasonal and holiday trade, and that house prices do price local people out, even more so than in London.

Saturday 7th November - Walking On Water

The Love In My Heart had a nice lie in with Brian the cat - who decided he would sit on top of the headboard on the bed and look over us both with a happy little purr. It was nice for Brian to be able to snuggle up to Mummy during the morning, and I think he was feeling a lot calmer now we had got rid of the Feliway and had a more natural feel to the place. A comfy big duvet also helps of course, and he was more then happy to snuggle by the end of the bed too. He did want to play out during the morning and was doing his little call to the birds as they all flew past.

I had decided to head out for a walk during the day whilst The Love was able to relax with Brian in the flat, to have a little bit of exercise and some space too, and after some thought, I headed off on the tram to Barlow Moor Road and then to walk down towards Chorlton Water Park. I thought a couple of laps around the lake might be a good couple of miles or so, and did notice when I got there that it was very busy, with families taking their children for a walk (and exercising locally) and the ice cream van outside was making a lot of money, judging by the queue at least.

I did a full lap around the lake first, taking a walk along the lower path close to the lake on the far side before joining the main path and then circling around. Lots of people about, and on the second lap I diverted off and followed the upper path along the side of the River Mersey, which was pretty flat and a good view over the river as it curved around and bypassed the local golf club to the right. It was then under the bridge where the tram goes, and onwards to the pedestrian bridge to cross over to the Jackson's Boat pub, where I was able to grab a takeaway coffee.

What they did was use the little outside bar, and have a one way in and out system to it, so that place had takeaway coffee, bacon barms and also bottles of beer if you wanted. I got the coffee and it cost two pounds, and it was massive too - so enjoyed that walking back on the path towards Hardy Lane, and then back to the tram stop to take the tram back. It had been around a three mile walk in all and was good to be able to get some exercise too. The fresh air was also good and that definitely helped me feel better for the rest of the weekend ahead, it has to be said.

In the early evening, The Love headed off to Asda to get some shopping, and I settled in to watch Doncaster Rovers at FC United of Manchester in the FA Cup on BBC Two. It was a good performance by Doncaster, they were professional and had done the bulk of the hard work in the first half and were 4-1 up thanks to some FC United sloppy defending, so being able to finish the job off second half was pretty easy with an early goal. It was good to see that the way that the fans and FC United as a club are together was emphasised well, and that was a nice touch for me to watch.

Later on we also watched Strictly Come Dancing and was able to see some surpsrisingly good dances from a number of the celebrities: Bill Bailey and Oti Mabuse's dance to The Good, The Bad and the Ugly with the paso doble was very good, and also Max George with Dianne Buswell with the classic Danny Elfman penned theme to The Simpsons (make that tune of the day) - especially as they are both in full costune as well. I suspect though Jason Bell and Luba Mushtuk might be on their way out though, but we shall see what happens tomorrow.

Friday 6th November - Final Course Day

It was the final day of the course I was on today, and definitely time to pause at lunch time and reflect on the five days or so. It had been good to get to learn plenty of new ways of doing things Mac with administration, but also good to know that realistically, for a lot of that, you need to be really good at scripting language. Which, admittedly, I am not. I think that I now know where my weaknesses lie and it's going to be a case of learning more over time to address those accordingly. It was however useful to be able to work that out during this week at least, has to be said.

So this morning it was mainly about different ways of applying preferences, whether you script something simple like a defaults write with the preference you want, or even have a plist preference file with all the settings you actually want to set (and then enforce accordingly with a configuration profile). The latter is good if you want those settings not to be changed and enforced, which is pretty good if say for example you are blocking some dodgy Chrome extensions from being installed, or want some fixed application preferences on startup so that they behave the same for each user.

More of that of course can be done with the JAMF Composer, and you can script some of those preferences, but a word of caution: if you already have a valid .pkg package installer, and it's been digitally signed by the vendor and it works, effectively adding and re-saving back with potentially your instance's certificate does tend to break the original digital signature, similar to Windows MSI behaviour when editing and re-saving without using a MST transform (which, Windows folks, you really should be doing for best practice.

In the afternoon with the course over I set up the Mac to do a full repair install of Catalina, so that it effectively would be freshly created and then I could re-enrol it back to our work JAMF instance (of course, I had to make it all unmanaged for the course but also because I added a lot of apps, I wanted it clean). This took time due to the download of the OS, which makes me wonder: all well and good on a fast connection, but in the old days of OS discs, you could just add that and recover (or even from USB stick) - and on slow connections, downloads take time.

The Love In My Heart was home later on, and had been to Marks and Spencer Food as it was next to the car wash where she had cleaned the car. We did have some lovely chicken in red wine sauce together with potato rosti, some vegetables and tiramisu for dessert. A nice way to start the Friday evening and very chilled out too, and even Brian the cat was allowing lots of fussing and attention, bless him. He is so adorable to be perfectly honest. Made me think of Squeeze's classic Cool for Cats tune, so that's tune of the day for definite.

Thursday 5th November - Course Day 4

Today was a bit of a different day all told, primarily because of the fact that it was a case of getting through the third section of the course and to ensure that we were all on the same page. We did have an exercise to do first thing, and once that was completed, we then went on to look in more detail at extension attributes, how you can create them for JAMF and some suitable ways of scripting things. A couple of examples got me thinking how I could use those in a work scenario, maybe detecting the number of apps classified as games and how many there are on a machine.

In fact, one attribute I also thought might be useful is to effectively look at a way of populating one attribute with some information not normally collected - maybe for example if a set of applications is below a particular version for each, that an attribute is flagged for security compliance (either Yes if all have the right versions, No if not.) And of course the scripting can change over time to reflect those versions, so well worth having a good think about as well for next week. That's been one good thing thus far when learning to be honest.

The afternoon was also spent looking at some preferences in more detail, for example how you could look at writing certain defaults for either the global preferences for a user (which can be very useful) or for an application, with a potential to have them written by policy or configuration profile accordingly. It's also notable perhaps that you could do some additional testing and a way of essentially setting some policy defaults. In the meantime tune of the day is the excellent Brassneck by The Wedding Present - perfect to wind down to during lunch and saw it again on Top of the Pops the other week.

As there was a little bit of an earlier finish, it was nice to be able to fuss over Brian the cat for a while and make sure he had his tea and some Dreamies. In fact, as it turned out, he had been sat on the bed for most of the day so was getting back to some sort of normality after experimenting with seeing if he would appreciate a Feliway didn't go according to plan - he wouldn't even go into the bedroom because of it being in the hallway. Then again, this is Brian, this is what he does.

We decided to get delivery tonight for myself and The Love In My Heart, and had takeout from KFC delivered to ourselves - we got the boneless banquet box to share and that was really nice with the boneless fillets, popcorn chicken, chips and so on. I think too that for us both at the moment it was really good to spend some time together and relax, and it's helping us both at present. Brian was happy to watch all the fireworks going off, and there were plenty of them to be honest. Think he was watching with intent.

Wednesday 4th November - Course Day 3

I must admit that I did feel better this morning knowing that I wasn't having to face the scenario examinations on the course, and knew I could get on with some learning today too. It was nice to see that Brian the cat was also up and about and wanting some attention and cuddles as I had breakfast before I started in earnest. It's been reassuring having a friendly cute face to share the room with me and that also made me feel calmer about the day ahead too. In hindsight, it's often easy to reflect on taking a different option, but know it was right.

So today was a fair bit more on the way you could automate some things with both loops and arrays to be able to get some functionality and output, mainly using either the API or command line interfaces to do so. This actually in context proved to be useful, so will see how I can use that in a real life scenario. I also found the use of the regex expressions nice to break down, especially with useful website links to verify that the regex code to be used is correct. I did to a degree touch on this back in the days of ServiceNow administration too.

Later on it was second scenario, so broke off and went to do some remote working and checking a few things prior to the weekly status reports for work. I remembered I had registered for remote desktop connectivity and had the Mac client operational, and this allowed me to connect to the servers I needed and working, so was pretty good to remember that. It was good to update a few reports, get things sorted there and have a well earned lunch with extra cuddles and fussing for Brian the cat as well. Because that's effectively what he wants.

The afternoon section was pretty good too as it delved a bit more in to the Jamf Pro API, including how to extract particular parts of information using xmllint together with xpath. That actually proved very handy, but so did the likes of using a xslt template to then further extract the bits you needed, mroe so if you wanted to define as a string and use some handling accordingly. It started to make more sense now particularly when you look at getting a particular set of data or for example updating or clearing an extension attribute too.

With the day over, The Love In My Heart arrived home and Brian the cat immediately decided cuddles on the bed with Mummy was in order. I headed off into the city centre to see if an item for Christmas was in Oliver Bonas - but it wasn't - I'll order it online and that should be all good anyway. It did feel rather eerie anyway, a sort of final evening before lockdown. As for tune of the day that will be the excellent Manchester by The Times - a reminder of 1990s indie days in the city, and name checks to every single Mancunian band too.

Tuesday 3rd November - Course Day 2

Sometimes you have to be pretty brave, accept your limitations, and come to a decision. Today was such a day. In truth, some of the course yesterday really was proving very difficult for me, and I really did think that I was getting stressed about being able to do some of the parts of that as well as have the knowledge necessary in order to undertake the scenario based questions as well. I knew realistically that looking at an example one was going to fry the brain, but also stress me out somewhat, which isn't what I want.

I therefore decided during the morning break to reach out to my line manager and The Love In My Heart for some support to see what the state of play would be. Both of them were supportive and my line manager thanked me for my honesty as well. I really struggle with scripting generally, but some of the tasks being requested really did assume you were really good at that sort of thing. In fact, pre the first scenario and during the break, I had a panic attack. It's the first one I've had in years and didn't feel very happy about it either.

So I knew something needed to be done, and at the end of the day today had a chat with the course tutor. The option was there to effectively do the course modules but opt out of the exam scenarios, and still be able to take away some of the knowledge from the course gained. That was a sensible compromise in my view: still attend and get through it, and if I really did want to in future when I felt more confident, I could do - although the truth of the matter is that effectively I've reached my limit, and know that attempting to go beyond that would just be too stressful.

I must admit I feel relieved tonight knowing that I've made the right decision for me. It's not easy to do, especially as I initially felt a sort of failure, but I think that I'd much rather be honest with myself than cause myself unnecessary stress that I don't really need. I was just thankful that I had understanding and that honesty was indeed the best policy. In addition it meant that I felt better in the afternoon going through things such as for next loops as well as using one of the inbuilt JAMF apps to display system helper messages.

The other thing keeping me going, apart from The Love In My Heart, is Brian the cat. He is tending to rest easy on one of the chairs and have a good lie down but knows when it is his tea time and pops up for some tuna and Dreamies. He is spending a lot of time by the window watching the goings on, so definitely a more nosey cat. I couldn't help but think of the classic Top Cat theme (make that tune of the day) in order to see how Brian is the boss and he is of course the boss of the apartment block as well - no other cat outside dares go near unless they want to be hissed at of course.

Monday 2nd November - Course Day 1

It was the first day of a week long training course today, effectively to be done remotely and via Zoom. In fact, it was a good job I had managed to locate a Mac for testing for the course ahead, as I needed to effectively rebuild and reformat as an unmanaged device so that there was no trace of any form of MDM management prior to the course starting. I had got all the pre-requisites done as well, so was good at least to be able to crack on with a few things as well this morning before we all started in earnest at 9am.

This was in effect, the highest and most difficult level of JAMF Pro course you can do - the 200 level is the certified tech, the 300 is certified admin (which was very hard) and this level 400 is the certified expert. I knew it was going to be difficult and it was proven to be correct, with a real deep dive into various subjects in the first section. This included a look at some of the basics in terms of queries of MySQL (the database system used by JAMF Pro for its back end) and the way that you can query the database itself.

That did prove the easiest part of the day for me primarily because I had been looking at Microsoft SQL queries during the last week or two in terms of what I had been doing, but the afternoon got pretty tough, with the likes of explanations of certification, how to effectively generate a certificate for signing with JAMF Pro, and using that in Composer to effectively sign with an approved certificate all the packages too. That effectively was quite good to know, but wasn't too sure if you would necessarily need that in a real use scenario.

The final part of the dat was to talk about launch agents and launch daemons, effectively a way you could handle scheduled tasks for a number of reasons, and even have those as part of a nice schedule to add them in JAMF Pro as well. I was getting that to a degree but it proved not to be that easy necessarily, so was going to be a way of thinking overnight and working out something. We do have a number of assessments over the next few days, so that will determine the result. I don't feel that confident in truth, but I'll get through the course and see what happens.

Later on The Love In My Heart arrived back after diverting via the city centre on the way home for a little bit of shopping - and managed to get a few items. We had a nice meal of Hunter's chicken with some vegetables and cheese topped potatoes, and then it was time for Only Connect. I got the musical question being types of comedy, with A Muscial Joke by Mozart (the theme tune for the show jumping on BBC1 back in the day and therefore tune of the day being one of the clues. I got that straight off so was pretty pleased with myself.

Sunday 1st November - Last Lunch For A While

The Love In My Heart had a good lie in this morning - however I got up to watch Match of the Day and see the highlights from last night, as Manchester City had won against Sheffield United away from home and that at least was a very good result considering it was the third game in a week or so. I have to admit that it's always a bit different seeing it all first thing Sunday morning but at the same time it does mean I can have a coffee and relax whilst watching it all unfold too, so there's something.

It was good also to have a nice breakfast together, and I was setting up the work Macbook Pro in preparation for an online course tomorrow which needs the Mac side of things to all be working correctly and as intended. It did take a little bit of time to go through all the setup and ensure that it was working the right way, but means I can switch on tomorrow, connect to the session I need to connect to, and start the first day on time. I am hoping it all works well course wise, but it's the first time I'll have done a full course lke this.

Later on, The Love and I headed out for a little bit of retail therapy and headed off to Cheadle Royal to visit John Lewis and Partners. It was nice to be able to head out and have a look around: and in fact The Love managed to get a Christmas present at the same time which was pretty good really. We did see a number of Christmas decorations and some did seem a tad twee to be honest. I must admit though that Christmas is pretty much the last thing I'm thinking about at the moment, it just doesn't feel like it'll happen at all and not something to enjoy either.

We did pop into Sainsburys and I did manage to get myself some new socks as a couple of pairs I had brought with me were ripping at the heel side, and so it was a case of getting a similar set, seven for eight pounds which is good. The Love also managed to get some nice work shoes and she also used some of her Nectar points to bring the cost down a little bit, so that was pretty nice actually. I even managed to get a couple of new beers to try out, and all appeared to be pretty normal thankfully in there and no one being idiots.

It was then to the Ashlea in Cheadle for a late Sunday lunch together, and we thought that as pubs and restaurants will be shut soon, we'll have a Sunday lunch together as we normally would have done. The Love had the Sunday Roast pork belly which looked fab, and I had the chicken and mushroom pie wth chips and vegetables which was rather gorgeous. We also found it a nice relaxing atmosphere in there too which really helped, and nice to be able to wind down and enjoy ourselves and share some nice moments together during lunch.

We headed back to The Love's place later on and the lovely scones she had made yesterday were brought out, so I had one with a coffee later as the Formula 1 came on from Imola. Of course that place resonates due to the late Ayrton Senna for race related reasons, and it was good that presenter Steve Jones had a tribute at the start of the programme - and of the old races, complete with Murray Walker commentary and The Chain theme tune (make that one tune of the day) - and in the end, a one two for Mercedes after Max Verstappen had a tyre failure.