2019 so far.

I can’t really place my finger on how 2019 has been for me so far. Way too many ups and downs for me to really keep track of. Hey, can someone answer me this.  As you get older, do you begin to forget the negatives, or do they just mean less?  Serious question.

Here’s a really quick breakdown from oldest to newest news in 2019.

  • Talked to someone who imminently wanted to kill himself. I’m still trying to get my head around that one. I could go into that topic so much. But I won’t.
  • Took my mother in law and my two children and wife to America so that my mother in law could see her sister. It was the first time in 27 years that they had met in person. The two of them didn’t seem too overwhelmed by it, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment when they met at the door of the house in Dallas.
  • Enjoyed the second year of the Fleadh in Drogheda. Anyone who has read this blog knows how much I love traditional Irish music. To have it in my hometown meant way more than anyone could understand.
  • Louth county Council and the organizers of the Fleadh took Music at the Gate away from me during the Fleadh. I tried my very best to make this a success, but certain organizers made this impossible unfortunately.
  • A friend that I’ve had for years has completely turned her back on me. This has cut through me like a rusty blade for over a year now. I have no idea what I’ve done wrong. I’ve had many sleepless nights over it. This person comes up in my memories on Facebook nearly every week. It is a sense of particularly massive torment to think that I’ve done something so bad to her, but I have absolutely no idea what I’ve done. It has lead to me seriously questioning all personal interactions in my life and I’ll admit here because, why the hell not, I’ve distanced myself from a lot of social interactions because I am so anxious not to make the same mistake twice but I have no idea what that mistake is.  It overshadows everything in 2019.  I’m still not sure how to get over it.  What makes it worse is I strongly suspect that this person has been talking about my wrongdoing to other people in our mutual circle of friends and the change has been about as subtle as a force 8 Earthquake.
  • In work, things have been really good. I enjoy what I do. I’m challenged, the people I work with are fantastic and I believe in the outcome.

There you have it. Social media can seem very positive. Everything looks great. But with Blogging, I’ve always felt that I can be a lot more open. So, there’s the good, the bad and the ugly for everyone to see. Comments are welcome.

Password expiration is dead! So says Microsoft in Windows 10 1903.

I’m quite happy about this.  expiring passwords is quite frankly stupid.  All this promotes is simple, easy to crack or hard to remember passwords.

In Windows 10 1903, Microsoft got it right.  They said: look if you think this is improving security your mistaken.

Here’s the really well written article that they published about the change.

Now, it will take the industry, in particular auditors in the industry to catch onto this.  Nothing against auditors but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this continues coming up in audits for years to come.

Staying productive. How?

People often praise me for my seemingly unending motivation and energy. But often, I come back at night, spend time with the children, grab something to eat and by 8pm, I sit down at the computer and just think, god it would be so much easier to turn on Netflix or something and just sit and do absolutely nothing for a few hours.  I rarely give into this temptation though as there are so many things niggling at the back of my mind that I want to achieve or get experience in. Not because I’m massively motivated to be productive, but because I just really enjoy the result of working  on something and knowing at the end that I made it.  But at the beginning of a project or when something goes wrong it’s damn near impossible to get that motivation back.

There are two things that suck the motivation out of me. noise and sometimes just not knowing where to start. so, here are a few tips from a busy person.  These might work for you. They might not.  All I can say is they work for me.  Most times.  Some have been very recent changes. Some have been there for years.

Firstly, let me pass on something very profound that my mother said to me about five years ago.  It was one sunday evening while standing in her kitchen.  She was walking around putting things away when she came up with this and it gave me the start I needed.  She said that no major change happens over night. It happens in bits.  You decide what you want then you break that goal up into little parts. You take the pressure off yourself by not restricting yourself to unmanageable deadlines but you aim to change those parts of your life that you don’t like in little stages until one day, you wake up and you realize that it’s all done.  That day will come and for me it came much faster than I expected once I figured out where to start. I’m not saying I have everything right. I’m hardly that conceded. But I made the change that I needed to make at that time.

There was another piece of advice given to me by a friend of mine. Sean Conway. It was late on a saturday night and a few pints were probably had but the advice really rang home to me. It related to music but the same can be said for many other parts of life.  He said find out the absolute fastest you can go where you can fit all the technique you want in. Then ease off the throttle and go a little slower. You’ll be more comfortable, your technique will be even better because you’re not struggling and you will always have that bit more to push if you need to.

I’ll give you the last bit of wisdom that this time my father imparts quite regularly.  His commonly used quote is “You can’t put an old head on young shoulders.” I’m 37. So I have a few years of experience by now. But I don’t know everything. I’ve lived through some very weird situations and found my self in environments where even at the time I thought, “wow, I can’t believe it’s me here that needs to handle this”. But still, I’m by no means an expert on anything so this rambling meandering torrent of words should be considered within the bounds of my fathers quote.  You can’t put an old head on young shoulders.

So, how do I get and stay productive.

The honest answer.

  1.  I love recognition. Cat, a friend from years ago said in a comment on this blog when Darragh does something, he does it right. I don’t know if that’s absolutely right but I like to aspire to live up to that expectation. Again, let me draw from an experience with my father.  When I was 16 I worked in his factory. I couldn’t understand why we were sanding down the back of head boards.  Surely if we did along the top and a tiny bit of the back, no one would notice that the rest of the headboard wasn’t sanded as it would be up against a wall. Stephen, the person spraying at the time commented with admiration that Ken, my father had high standards. It was those high standards that the customer was buying. They could buy furniture in other places but Alpine did it right.  I like the idea of that recognition.  Being a person where the job would be done right.
  2. Typically I do things that I really enjoy. I’ve often said it.  I play music and I absolutely love being able to make people happy with a tune, or letting people reflect as well with another. It might sound really cheesy but it really is an honor to play music for people. I get as much enjoyment out of it as others do. Then, when I’m not playing music, I@m working.  I’m in an organization at the moment where I’m challenged every day by technical solutions to find but most importantly, I get to design and implement systems that make a difference.  It might just be securing user accounts or making it more efficient to deploy updates. But it also could be a new way for students to onboard for the first time or making it easier for students to print.  I’m not one for talking to people, I’m honestly more comfortable at a keyboard, but it gives me a reason to get out of bed in the morning when I know that what I do makes things better for people. It’s an added plus that I often get to design how these systems work.  I’m a really creative person. I like that opportunity to let that side out. It’s not something that happens in technical roles very often.  So this is all a long winded way of saying, find something that you enjoy doing.  My father is coming across as a fountain of knowledge in this post but again, something he said to me when I was trying to decide what direction to take in life always stuck and it’s something I try to pass on when I can.   He said do something you love when you can. But do something that you can like to pay the bills.  That way you always have your first love to go back on.  I’m lucky. It turned out that I retained a great interest in both music and technology.  Many people after 15+ years working in technology for their 9 to 5 would get home and not touch a computer at night.  Which is absolutely fine.  But I think that when what you do to pay the bills is as important to you as your hobbies, motivation and sustained energy is easier to come by.
  3. Private office. Showing 3 computers on a very clean desk.My next suggestion is a new one. It’s find a space. In my opinion, open plan offices are the work of the devil and they should be swept away as one of the massively bad ideas of the 20th century.  I have recently moved into a private office and the sense of calm is so energizing that I’m finding myself less tired even at 9pm at night.  Noise! I said it earlier.  It’s one of my major obstructions to good productivity. In open plan offices, people are constantly talking and there’s always movement.  Just when you get into a flow and the right frame of mind to really get stuck into a difficult task that requires serious focus someone starts a conversation that you can hear and your mind wanders again. Or someone walks by you and tips off your desk or even worse, your chair.  It’s infuriating!  Now, this is because I’m not necessarily a people person. Don’t get me wrong please. It’s not that I dislike people.  That’s just not true at all. But I like getting things done and I like getting into a focused frame of mind where I can really get hold of what I’m working at and think hard about it.  Open plan offices get in the way of reaching that clarity. I have also designed a space at home that is really conducive to creativity and productivity. It’s really open, there’s space to pace around, I have a few different types of keyboards and I can move into different seating positions when I’m working on something for a very long time. I also have a great sound system and an equally good pair of headphones.  I listen to my computer speak through the headphones so I can always focus on that but then if I’m into something that is not too difficult but requires sustained focus, I turn up the music to an outrageous volume. I enjoy the boom of the sub so even when the computer is talking, I can get into the beat of what is playing.
  4. Have someone that you can rant to. All that person needs to do is show surprise, annoyance, a laugh or just empethize.  Because sometimes it’s just good to talk through something.  Especially if what your working on isn’t going quite to plan.  Often I finish at 12am at night and I go in to my wife and spout what must just sound like verbal diarrhea mixed with one of those technical bullshit generators that can be found online. But while spouting on about some weird thing that’s not working right today, sometimes the answer just comes to me.  More times than not the answer doesn’t come to me but it’s just good to get that frustration off my chest If I don’t talk it through and explain to myself more than anyone else why it’s not working, I’ll try to go to sleep but the problem will continue to eat at me and it will take what seems like an eon to finally find some sleep. But also sometimes, it’s important to note that my wife will hear me say something and pick up something else from a previous conversation and give me a nugget of that back that triggers a completely different line of thought. I’ve been known to have one of those rants, sleep for an hour, wake up with a new idea and go back to the office to write it down and even try it to see what would happen.
  5. don’t ever let someone put you down. I mean it. If you let someone put you down and I hear about it, I’m going to be really annoyed at you. If you know me, you’ll know that I’m a reasonably confident person. But for years one particular person put me down. To the extent I actually started believing him.  I was on the bus this morning and reflecting that around this time quite some time ago, I had upgraded a server. I had absolutely no documentation to go on and I was re-implementing software that hadn’t been installed on a new server in about 8 years.  The whole project was doomed from the beginning.  There should have been an appreciation among everyone involved that this would fail and equally, an appreciation of the time that would be needed to recover from that failure. Instead of that very reasonable approach, I was hailed a total ignoramus. Questions were asked about my suitability and my qualifications. At the time I blamed myself.  I privately hated myself for making this mistake.  But looking back on it even with a critical eye, there was absolutely no way I could ever have known about the undocumented dependencies of that software.  Basically there was a set up file.  This was run but there was a DLL in the software directory that was never registered.  The reason for this was that the DLL was added years after the installer was created. The software started correctly and all functions except for one worked properly. One failed. It was used for card payments.  When I finished the upgrade, people had gone home and I didn’t have a card to test payments.  Why would I.  I wasn’t expecting a problem with a specific part of the application let alone card payments!  The day after, alarms bells went off and I stayed with it until the problem was resolved.  But I just could never have known that one DLL among hundreds was included with the software but the installation process didn’t install it.  Years later, I understand that although there were things I could have done differently, the problem still would have been encountered and that person still would have found a reason to put me down. Soemtimes I’m wrong.  Sometimes we’re all wrong. But if you are getting put down even sometimes in work, go look for a second opinion. You might be doing an absolutely crap job. But you might not. Don’t stay in a situation where you are treated badly regardless.

That’s all my tips.  Not many as it turns out but keep them in mind.  Something might make a difference.

IN summary:

  1.  Make small changes.
  2. You aren’t expected to know everything all at once.
  3. Work within your own pace. find your fastest speed then slow down just a little. You’ll last longer and do a better job.
  4. find what motivates you.
  5. Do what you enjoy
  6. Work in a good space.
  7. Don’t let anyone put you down.

Looking forward to November.

I always really enjoy the month  of November.  There’s the run up to the best time of the year of course but there’s also a month of Music.

Firstly this year, we’ll have the Ennis Trad Fest.   I’ll be down there from the 8th to the 11th of November.  This weekend is just crammed with back to back wall to wall sessions with some of the best musicians in the country just wandering around for tunes.  It’s a little bit of paradise actually. You will find me playing there on the Saturday night from about 9 in Cruises.

Next is the HEAnet Higher Education authority network conference in Galway. I’m one of the main presenters this year so that’s a little daunting but I am happy as well as GAlway is one of my favourite places in Ireland for music so when people are networking at night, I’ll quietly sneak out.  The session in the thatch on Wednesdays is one of the best in my opinion.

November ends with a return to traditional Irish music in my home town. The Drogheda Trad Fest has been on the go for over 20 years now.  I have mixed thought’s about this one but I always relish and enjoy any chance to play music in my home so although I have some worries over this one, I’m still looking forward to it.

That will bring us to December and the start of that word that I’m not allowed mention yet.  so, welcome November. I’ve been looking forward to your return.

For those interested, I will be giving a detailed presentation on the role of ICT in the process of incorporating universities at the HEAnet conference.

The most comprehensive review of Aira

Here’s my honest, unbiased and real account of using the Aira service.  I didn’t get any discounts or freebies before writing this so my review is unclouded.

However, I have been enthralled by the potential of Aira since I read the first review and heard the first videos on Youtube. So although I now come to this with a very level head, I opened the package with excitement and optimism when I received the Horizon kit almost a month ago.

The box is reasonably sized.  About 13 inches diagonal and about two inches thick.  Inside there are a few plastic air bags for padding, the Aira Horizon glasses case with the glasses inside, two tethering cables, a charging cable and a plug.  There’s also a print booklet that probably has quick start instructions and a few Braille pages stapled together that also include the quick start instructions.  It’s double sided Braille but it was fortunately easy to read.

The first thing I noticed was that the instructions were very clear but not dumbed down. I hate receiving a product created for people who are blind to find that the instructions are explaining what side is up, what buttons feel like and how to plug it in.  The Aira manual assumed that you knew the basics and aside from explaining what direction the micro USB cable connected didn’t go into too much detail. I appreciated this as I’m not the fastest Braille reader and I just wanted to figure out how this worked as quickly as possible.

I was dismayed, frustrated and annoyed shortly after reading the instructions and turning on the device.   I immediately found that the glasses had no audio output.  Bone conduction would have been fantastic.  Bose make a really stylish pair of sunglasses with bone conductive sound output in the arms of the glasses.  Surely Aira could have done the same.  In addition, the Bose sunglasses worked over Bluetooth where as the Aira Horizon glasses connect over a cable.  At minimum, the tether cable could have another cable attached on to it with an earphone and a microphone.  This could then connect into the 3.5mm audio port that sits right beside the micro USB port.  Having a second cable isn’t ideal of course but it’s a lot better than supplying nothing at all.  I ask you. What is the point in renting the Horizon kit that includes the glasses if by default you then need to hold the Horizon phone in your hand?  It negates the main benefit of the glasses for the user. A cheap Bluetooth earpiece doesn’t cost all that much. Also, by pre-paring it, you would remove some of the complexity of using such a device.  I’ll get to my horrific experience with Bluetooth later because although I feel very negatively about this particular part of the experience, overall, I’m very happy with Aira and I don’t want to come across as not liking what they do. Because it’s quite the opposite for the most part.

The first time I used Aira it was to look around a garden that I knew would have a lot of obstacles.  The agent gave me a fantastic description of what was around me.  There were a few toys in the garden for children, so the agent gave me descriptions of what they looked like, where they were and even how one of them worked.  There was a toy with two holes, a ramp and a ball.  I had no idea what this was for so the agent I spoke to googled it and gave me a description of the game.  When my children came outside, I was able to give them pointers based on what I knew they would like.  For example, I knew Méabh would love the game.  I knew Rían would love the playhouse.  So, although I had never been in that area before, I was able to encourage both children and join in with them when exploring the new activities without any in-person sighted assistance.  This was incredibly empowering and marked the beginning of many great experiences with Aira. Let me go through a few of these very briefly because to detail each one would require separate blog posts but there are important points that are good and bad that I would really like you to be aware of.

  • In the Arboretum in Dallas, the agent took pictures of the area and of my children, my wife and my mother in law.  The agent also described the area in clear detail.  At one point my wife and mother in law went to an area that I didn’t really want to walk through.  So I connected to Aira again and the agent enabled me to take a walk independently around the grounds of this massive arboretum.  The descriptions that were given were fantastic.  At one point the agent described a tree as being rainbow shaped.  I was guided over to it so that I could feel it.  I got some landmarks off the agent so that when I met up with my family again I could independently bring them back to this weird rainbow shaped tree.  Again, this was very empowering, but it was also quite special for my daughter in particular.  Her daddy had found a rainbow tree while they were away.  Méabh is a very caring child.  She’s 6 now and especially when I don’t have my guide dog, she looks out for me. It’s not just me she looks out for of course.  If a child falls in a playground she’s one of the first over to see if everything is okay. She just has that nature.  So to be able to show her that I can be very independent even in completely new environments meant something to her.
  • Colorful picture of the gardens. Taken by an Aira agent through the Horizon glasses

  • There were two times when just getting a coffee where Aira came in particularly handy. The first time, the agent found a suitable route and guided me right to the counter.  It was very useful as the fastest route had no paths or side walks as they are called in America. So the agent found a route that would be safer.  The second time was nice as well.  The agent directed me to the counter then stayed really quiet.  When the server came near, the agent told me where he was so I could point in that direction and place the order.  When the coffee came out, the agent told me where to feel for it then offered to find a free table.
  • I had the children on my own in a house that I wasn’t familiar with and as is commonly required, they needed food. I knew where the food was and I knew where the oven was as well.  The Aira agent read out the cooking instructions on the packaging then even helped me to find the right temperature and setting on the oven.
  • Now, here’s a bad experience. I was with my son and he needed a toilet. The Aira agent showed me where the toilet door was but really started to panic when I went to walk through the door.  I understand now that this is because they are prohibited from recording but the agent handled this very badly.  We had discussed where I needed to find. If the agent told me ahead of time of the rule, I would have explained what my requirement was and I’m sure we could have come to an agreement.  I knew that the toilet that I was looking for was a single room where no one else could enter so my request was workable.  The problem I have that I had hoped Aira could help me solve is as follows:  When I bring my son to the toilet, I detest putting my hands down on anything and I cringe with dread with the thought’s of him putting his hands on anything Revolting either.  Men’s toilets can be disgusting places.  So, I spend some time before I let him do what he needs simply determining to a reasonable level that the place isn’t covered in pee.  I would have greatly appreciated it if the agent could have taken a quick look at the toilet area and given me an indication as to if the place was filthy or not.  Also, in what direction the toilet was in the room as well.  These are simple things that people take for granted and when I’m on my own, I’m not particularly bothered with but when you have a very young child along as well, it’s prudent to be more aware and careful.  The agent really didn’t handle this to the expected high standard.
  • One of my favourite experiences with Aira was again related to my children. We were at a massive Lego exhibition, an expansive city scape stretched out in front of me behind glass walls.  At intervals control panels were placed to enable interactive features.  For example, buttons in front of a stadium turned on and off lights.  Buttons at a construction site moved a crane around.  Buttons at a train station turned on and off the lights and moved the trains.  It was great to walk around this exhibit with my two children and be able to share in the excitement of this really impressive Lego city.  All while an Aira agent discreetly gave me details.  Well, reasonably discreetly, I couldn’t get the Bluetooth headset working but it was fine for that environment.   This was especially great for my son.  To bring him over and know that if he pressed particular buttons specific actions could be seen through the glass was great.   He was amazed.
  • A picture taken with the Horizon glasses by the Aira agent. It shows the Lego made city scape.Of course there are the other every day needs as well. Someone sent me an error message in an email that was included in a screen shot.  Indeed , I could have used OCR to read this but it takes time and it’s not always accurate.  Instead, I just held my phone in front of the screen, called Aira and the agent read the error.  This agent also demonstrated the usefulness of Aira by going one step beyond.  It was obvious from the error that more text in another part of the screen was necessary to make a decision so without prompting that text was provided as well.

  • At one point, an Aira agent was guiding me to a house. We took a side street that I had never walked on before when suddenly a dog came charging toward me.  The Aira agent saw and heard the dog and calmly reassured me that the dog was actually behind a gate so couldn’t get out.  This was a relief and again shows the value of this service.

There is something you should know about me before reading my next point.  I’m terrible at accepting help.  Even when I really need it.  But I am happy to pay people to help.  But when I pay people I expect high standards.  I was comfortable using Aira for both mundane and interesting tasks.  I was happy to keep the person on the line a little longer than strictly necessary to double check something or just give me a bit of extra information because I know I’m paying for this service. So I know I’m paying for the privilege of that persons time.  For this reason, I think Aira is going to be a vital tool in my independence and mobility toolkit.  But Aira has failings.

Some of the things that really annoy me about Aira and in my opinions are show stoppers for buying the Horizon kit include:

  • Lack of integrated headset in the glasses. I’ve written about this earlier.
  • Frequent signal drops. This doesn’t just happen when in large buildings.  This made me not even bother trying to use Aira sometimes.
  • Bugs in the Aira Horizon software. Sometimes if a connection is weak and you get cut off, it tries to reconnect you.  But if that too fails, the software can get stuck in a loop where it says the user with this ID is already on a call. Therefore it doesn’t connect.  Also, at times, I needed to bring the device to someone who could see as there was an error on the screen that asked to refresh or reload the Aira app. These alerts were not spoken.
  • Bluetooth again. Aira is developed in a way to make it incredibly easy to use but with this ease of use you have some trade offs.  This requires that Aira works absolutely perfectly as it is sometimes taking over from the default functionalities of the Android platform that it has been built on top of. Take this example. You try to connect a Bluetooth headset.  You hold down the button on the Aira Horizon handset and say “Turn on Bluetooth” Then you say “Connect to Bluetooth device”.  It tells you what device has been found / previously used and you say “Connect to it”. Every single time at this point I had a problem. The Bluetooth headset would be correctly connected but Aira still didn’t use it.  I know it was connected because if I press and hold the call button on the headset, the Android assistant would start talking in my ears and I could access some basic https://www.android.com functionality.  But Aira would continue talking through the phone speaker. This was absolutely infuriating. I gave up one day and threw the headset in my pocket.  Then suddenly Aira just started speaking through the headset!  But that only worked once.  And I have no idea why.  Every other time, Aira just would or could not work through Bluetooth.   Unless they fix this problem, I would strongly discourage anyone from paying for Horizon.  Because without a reliable Bluetooth headset, it’s really pointless.
  • The earlier issue where the agent panicked when I was about to walk into a toilet. That made me feel bad for the agent that I put the person in that position but then I got mad at

Aira for making me feel bad.  I don’t pay $99 per month to feel bad for someone.  That agent should have made this rule known to me before I reached that door so that I could have explained my very reasonable request.

But I must stress again, the benefits far outweigh the problems.  I will continue to use Aira.  Now that I have returned from holiday, my use case will be different but I know that it will be useful and you can be assured that I will write about my day to day use of Aira in the coming weeks.  I have sent the Horizon Horizon kit back and I am now just using my iPhone.   At least with the iPhone I can use a Bluetooth headset and if I need to carry something in my hands anyway, it may as well be the iPhone with it’s better camera. It’s also one less thing to carry around.

There’s a rumour that Apple are going to make AR Augmented Reality glasses.  I wonder if this will enable Aira to work as an app on the iPhone.

There’s one more thing I want to say.  The value in Aira isn’t it’s technology although that is certainly an impressive part.  It’s the human at the end of the line acting as your eyes.  They take this responsibility seriously and the strong training they have received is very obvious.  Their directions, respect and awareness is very clear to see.

Maintenance late on a Sunday night. It’s like rushing to get your homework done before school.

So, what did you do tonight? watch something on the dodgy box? Read a book? Go for a walk?  As the dark nights role in, I’m a bit at a loss as to what to get up to when I get back from work and put the children to bed. But I’ll leave all that for another post.  Tonight I decided that it was way past time that I go looking around the various servers I run outside of work to make sure everything was running properly.  Some of these servers hadn’t been touched in 200+ days.  That’s not to say that they aren’t getting updates and that I don’t check in on them, I have a great system called Pulseway that I use for all that kind of thing but there are tasks that you should really check in from time to time and with 2019 being a very busy year, I haven’t really been keeping on top of everything. I’ve been trusting that the scripts and tasks I put in place were running as expected and if there was a failure, something would have notified me by now.

Right, let’s get to it. What did I check.  For the one or two people who might read this and be in any way interested.

  •  Database backups.  I use a tool that does exactly what it says in the name.  It’s called SQL Backup and FTP.  I love this tool. It’s simple, fast, reliable and just does what I need without any fuss. It cost me about €36 to subscribe for the year and in my opinion, it’s money well spent.  I keep database backups indefinitly for most databases.  Yes, this uses a lot of space, but some of the data changes regularly in the applications that I’m hosting so having the ability to go back and restore data from a year ago is very useful.  Of course, there are systems that can’t have backup retention for this long because of GDPR rules so their backups get tipically kept for a week or two at most.  I logged in tonight to make sure all the schedules and retention rules were working as expected.
  • File system backups.  I’m hosting around 4tb of data.  Every night I do a full backup.  I would only normally keep most of these backups for about a week. But I ship every weekly backup off to another server outside Ireland.  I’ve scripted all of this using powershell for the most part.  My bash scripts for backups that I wrote a good few years ago are still working with a few improvements here and there. But again, although I have monitoring and alerting uilt in, to reassure myself that everything was working as it should, I logged in to be absolutely certain.
  • It might seem absolutely crazy, but I also logged into the virtual machine hosts to make sure all their volumes, all the RAM and all the CPU’s were still present and accounted for.  I also checked the system, security and application logs for any weirdness.  Pulseway and other monitoring tools are fantastic but sometimes they can be a bit weird.  For example, in Nagios, you can lose an entire disk and not know about it unless you explicitly add that check in.  So, I always sleep a little better when I’ve checked the basics myself just to be absolutely certain.

So there you have it. I really am a complete and utter bore with nothing better to do on a Sunday night but check the health of my servers. In work, nearly 20,000 students are coming back to university tomorrow so when I’m in my 9 to 5 job, I really can’t afford to have something go bump in the night in my non 9 to 5 activities.  In saying that, all the checks in the world can’t account for someone allocating the same IP address as I’m already using to another customer. Yes. this happened twice to me in the past month and once before in the past year. Someone has also done an A and a B test on the main core switch in the datacentre and forgot that the switch is a temporary replacement and only has an A feed.   Oh, and because it was a temporary replacement, the brilliant system administrator working for the hosting company forgot to commit his changes when he configured the switch so I was off line for two hours while they fixed their silly mistake.  Sorry. I’ll stop ranting.

So, what did you do this evening? walk the dog, watch television, start a new series on Netflix, get the children’s lunches ready? Tell me in the comments. Or don’t. Because most sane people by now would have stopped reading this absolutely mind numming rubbish. 🙂

Appearing on the RTE Fleadh program.

So between you me and the wall, I’ve appeared on national television in Italy which would have many times more viewers than in Ireland, I’ve played on massive stages and I’ve entertained some very important people over the years. But nothing compared to the honor of featuring in the Fleadh program on Friday 12th April. To say it is probably going to be the highlight of my year is not even coming close.

My grand father is 90. I went over to visit him today and he put it better than I could. Unfortunately I forget exactly what he said but he knows the real reason that I play music. It’s the effect it has on people. Especially with the pipes, they can make you sit back and think when you’re sad but put them with a driving beat on a guitar and they can make you want to get up and dance. But it is the same for me as the player. When I’m performing something sad, I can sit back and just listen and enjoy the sound of the notes and the harmony with the regulators and the drones.

It could be considered that I’m really pushing self promotion here. I can certainly see how anyone and everyone would think that. I’ve started Music at the Gate, ceol FM and a few sessions in Drogheda. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say I’ve grabbed the animal by the horns when I heard the Fleadh was coming to Drogheda and I’ve done a lot to get music going in my town. But believe it or not, it’s actually not for direct personal gain. A friend of mine has a daughter who’s about 17 now. I’m envious of the social circles she has been involved with from a very young age. Not envious for me right here and now, but envious because if we don’t do something in Drogheda, my own children won’t get the opertunities that children have had in Dundalk, only a few miles away. There’s a potential legacy of the Fleadh but it’s not going to happen without musicians in the area putting in the work to make it happen. That legacy could be to bring a return to Drogheda of traditional Irish music. My name is out there a lot. But it’s mainly because outside the hard working people of the Fleadh committee, I’m the only person getting out there getting music back into the pubs and out onto the streets of this town. I don’t want to be. It’s a lot of pressure but I gladly take it on because I want nothing more than to let my children have the chance to enjoy playing music as much as I do. Of course, if they don’t play, that’s entirely up to them, but I want to give them that choice. Even if they don’t play, other children in the next 10 to 20 years could benefit so that’s enough for me. Jasus. That sounds like I have an offel big head and that I’m not enjoying every second of this. That’s not what I mean. Maybe I’m just lucky. I have amazing supports around me. Annie McGinley, Anne McVey, Aine Walsh, Graine Berril, Eoghan Darcey, Karen Devine, Maria Clarke, Eimer King, Eimear O’Cane, the Order of Malta, the Design gallery, the Highlanes Gallery, North East Marquees, The Grey Goose, Sarsfields, Barney Macs and of course, my wife, father and my entire family. I have had support from day one when I started gathering speed in preparation for the Fleadh in 2018. I also love every minute of playing music so I’m incredibly fortunate.

There are musicians in Drogheda and the surrounding areas that I couldn’t do this without. Noreen McManus, Malachy McArdle, Roisin Ward Morrow, Sean Conway, Bríd Dunne, Mick Dunne, Feargal Barnes, Brefney Hoolahan, Maria Clarke, Daithi Carney, Gerry Breen, John O’Reilly, Brendan Matthews and many many more.

I really can’t do this without the support of local musicians and I know they all have their own lives and their own responsibilities. Hopefully they will be able to join me for Music at the Gate again this year or all of this will fall very flat very quickly.

All quiet. On the tech front anyway.

It’s brilliant. Nothing has gone terribly wrong lately so I haven’t had much to write about here. The servers hosting the various website including this site, Ceol FM, Music at the Gate, Computer Support Services and others has been up and running now for a few days short of two months with no major problems. I hope I’m not going to publish this to find that the whole thing has just fallen on it’s face but so far the new system is running really well. All the work to get it into production has payed off.
The most recent and major undertaking that has been completed is the launch of the brand new Ceol FM streaming service. This entirely new version of Ceol FM is built from the ground up to bring features that are specific to people who want to listen to traditional Irish music such as:

  • Browse by album or artist
  • Search by track, album and artist
  • Filter by instrument, tune or song, genre or mood
  • Create custom playlists and save them for future use
  • There are thousands of tracks to choose from

The old streaming service is still available too but now it’s encrypted! IF you’re in to that kind of thing. I don’t suspect many people will care about having their music encrypted as it’s in transport but hey. Who am I to guess such a thing.

March weekends – Podcast

It’s been ages since I’ve gotten stuck into creating a nice long detailed podcast. We had a few nice weekends during March. In this podcast you’ll hear anything from cooking, to a mad session, to children playing to children trying to swing out of me. You’ll also hear the dogs, and Nama walking me through a street in Ennis. It might be entertaining. It might not. If your into audio, you might enjoy how it all hangs together. Or you might find it a complete waste of your time. But in any case, please leave a comment so I know what you think of this.

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