Monthly Archives: November 2010

November 2010 Round-up

This is a retrospective fill-in post, as I didn’t have any tuits available at the time.

As I’m taking a break from weight measurements as well as being in low-posting mode, there’s not a lot to report. So there.

And Snow it Goes

Goes on snowing, that is. Lots more snow overnight, a fair bit through the day, and temperatures remain low. I had time to grab a quick picture with the Olympus this morning:

Saltwell Park

Saltwell Park

On a snowy Monday morning

Local bus services are stopping at around 7pm, more snow is expected. But I get to work from home tomorrow morning (and possibly all day, depending on this and that).

Nespresso Essenza Magimix M100

I mentioned not long ago that I’d got a new office coffee machine to replace the not bad Dolce Gusto beast. Now I’ve had a good chance to try it out, it’s time for a report.

It’s nice and simple to use – fill the tank, turn it on, lift the lever, drop in a capsule, drop the lever and wait for it to warm up. Then put your cup under the spout and press the button and your espresso is delivered in seconds. Come to think of it, you don’t actually have to wait for it to warm up – press the button as soon as you turn it on and it will produce coffee as soon as it gets the water hot enough. For added convenience, it drops the capsule into an internal bin when you lift the lever to insert the next one. The bin is attached to the drip tray, so there’s just one thing to pull out and clean. Neat.

More importantly, it produces something approaching real espresso – you get a proper crema every time. I’ve tried a good selection of the available blends, and found that they’re all at the very least acceptable, and at best pretty good. Not quite as good as I get using Illy dark roast in my Gaggia at home, but quite acceptably good.

It does work out more expensive per cup than the Dolce Gusto, but the coffee is better, and there’s a wider choice of espresso blends, which is a Good Thing.

Unlike the Dolce Gusto, this is purely a coffee machine, and more precisely, purely an espresso machine. And it pretty much conforms to the general principle that single-function devices designed to do one thing well are generally better than multi-function devices that do several things poorly.

The one potential drawback is that unless you live near one of the very few Nespresso Boutiques in London, Manchester and Birmingham, you can only get supplies by ordering from the Nespresso Club online or by phone. So far, I’ve found the service to be quick and problem-free, so this hasn’t been a problem for me – and I always got my Dolce Gusto supplies online anyway.

So, overall, I’m happy with my new machine. If you want a mess-free way of having a reasonable facsimile of espresso in your home or office, Nespresso is a system you should consider.

Note to self

Make sure not to slam the front door:

Damocles was here..

Damocles was here..

Though there are some much larger and more alarming dangly bits on other houses…

Oh, and guess what? It’s snowing again.

More Snow

Over the last few days, it’s been very cold, and lots of snow has fallen in the North East. This is a lot more snow that we generally see at this time of year, which is apparently being caused by the Jetstream[1] taking a detour and not visiting the UK for a while, leaving us with lots of cold Arctic air instead. There was a moderate amount of the stuff yesterday, but loads more fell overnight, which led me to take a walk in the park this morning. I took the camera, of course. When I got to the park, the sky was mostly clear, but soon some white stuff started to come down, at first as small icy pieces, then progressively bigger flakes. But by the time I’d finished my walk, it had stopped again. Anyway, here are the pictures:

[1] Warm air current, crosses the Atlantic, passes over the UK, stops us being like this all the time

Yes, I am still here…

Just taking a break from the blogging for a bit. Abnormal service and those exciting[1] weight reports will resume err, when I feel like it. This might be in the next few days, or weeks, or some other random interval.

Nothing wrong, exactly, I just think I’ve got blog fatigue. Or something.

[1] For an arbitrarily “un” value of exciting.

Security can be fun

It’s a few months since I moved my sites to Linode, and it’s all still working quite nicely.

But as I have to manage the server myself, I’ve been keeping an eye on the logs, and I found loads of attempts to connect over SSH. If anyone got through that way, they could potentially get full control of my server, which would be a Bad Thing, so I wanted to try to discourage that a bit.

So after a bit of reading, I installed Fail2Ban, which continuously checks the logfiles for connection attempts – you can configure it to only check connections on particular ports. If it sees more connections from a particular IP address than it likes the look of, it adds a firewall rule to sort it out by dropping connections from that address for a while. You can configure how many connections is too many, and for how long the address should be banned. It’s a nice bit of “fit and forget” security.

Anyway, yesterday afternoon I was trying to set up an FTP connection from a laptop that hasn’t had cause to talk to Linode before, and it didn’t seem to want to work. At first I got a quite quick “go away” message, but then the FTP client (I’m still using Forklift, as it happens) started reporting timeouts, after apparently trying to connect for a while.

Hmm, most odd. The server was up, and responding to web requests in an acceptable speedy manner. So why was it not letting me connect? I reluctantly left the comfy chair (you can see where this is going, can’t you?) and sat down in front of the iMac. I decided to start with a shell session. I started Terminal and typed the mystic keystrokes that should have given me a secure session. And it sat there looking at me for a while before deciding to tell me that the connection had timed out. Hmm, I thought. What’s going on here?

So I used Linode’s very useful Lish console for a bit of out-of-band management. Logged in with no trouble, did the sudo thing to be able to see what was really going on and had a look at the fail2ban log. And yes, I had indeed locked myself out.   :duh: As I’d set the duration to quite a long time, I had to edit the firewall rule to let myself back in again.

After that, I could FTP (well, SFTP, to be more precise) to the server from the laptop.

I will now pause for you all to point and laugh:

:rofl: :crazy: :dizzy:

Still, it’s nice to know it works. As the firewall rule is set to drop connections from the offending IP address, it effectively ties up the intrusion attempt until it times out, which is what was happening to me.

Weight and Stuff Report – 14 November 2010

Shocking! Another rise today. But I did have a bit of a walk this afternoon.

Today’s picture is of a quite nifty floating harbour that I saw on the Saltwell Park lake a few years ago:

Floating Harbour

Floating Harbour

A Moral Dillema, or Oh, the ignominy!

This is a difficult post to type, but I feel that it has to be done. Sometimes in one’s professional life, one has to do something that one would much rather not do. Something that while not quite going against one’s moral principles to the extent that one would be obliged to refuse, regardless of the consequences, but bad enough to make one feel extremely uncomfortable with the actions one is obliged to take.

Err, OK, that’s enough of the oneing[1], which was a vain attempt to make the whole thing a little less personal. This is, sad to say a very personal matter which will confront me at work tomorrow. The Powers That Be have decreed that official photographs will be taken of professional staff. Being an IT person, I don’t usually have that label applied to me[2], but as the company has to provide details of key personnel when tendering for major contracts, and this apparently has to include senior IT people, a professional photographer will be taking a standard company-approved picture of me tomorrow.

Which leads me to the Dreadful Situation. In the interests of making these pictures as standard as possible, it has been commanded that…

Gasp! Sob! It’s too much, too much, I tell you!!!

OK, I’ve pulled myself together now.

I will have to wear a tie.

:sick: :angry: :uhoh: :sad: :wah:

Yes, a tie – one of those preposterous strips of material tied in a knot around my neck!! It’s inhuman!!! It’s outrageous!!! It’s… It’s.. It’s horrible!!

I only have to wear it for long enough for the photographer to do his or her work, but it’s going to cost me an outrageous number of Geek Points!

[1] Verbing weirds language
[2] For reasons too tedious to go into