What to take on a mountain biking road trip

Maps

Clothes hangers and pegs (for drying stuff)

Plastic boxes

Coffee mate

Coffee

Power extension lead for phone chargers and stuff

Towel

Casual jacket

Full face helmet

Xc helmet

Earplugs

Blankets

Camelbak bladder

Camelbak

Energy bars, gels, and drink powder

Proper food

Camera and charger

Phone and charger

Sat nav

Shower gel, toothpaste, deodorant, toothbrush, etc.

Clothes!

Spare tubes and tyres

Tools, oil, grease, pump, etc

Cigarette lighter

Bike videos!

First aid kit

Bike lock and spare key

Pen and paper

Ibuprofen or your preference of painkillers

Booze

This list.

Opening multiple calendars with Outlook 2003 and Exchange 2010

Due to the way Outlook 2003 interacts with Exchange 2010, if a user on outlook 2003 tries to open multiple shared calendars, they may receive an error:

The action could not be completed. The connection to the Microsoft Exchange Server is unavailable. Outlook must be online or connected to complete this action.

This is because outlook 2003 has to open multiple mapi connections to exchange 2010 for each calendar, and in doing so, hits the default limit of concurrent connections set in the default throttling policy (20). This problem occurs due to Outlook 2003 dependencies on reference Mailbox Database support, which is not supported in Exchange Server 2010. Outlook 2003 clients must now reference the Exchange Server 2010 Address Book service when they open shared calendars.

Usually, restarting outlook provides a temporary fix, but as more mapi connections are created, the limit is reached again.

Using Exchange Shell, I created a new throttling policy with a maximum of 40 concurrent connections.

To create a new policy:

  • New-ThrottlingPolicy <policyname> -RCAMaxConcurrency 40

Check the details of the policy:

  • get-throttlingpolicy <policyname>

Check the user has the default policy applied already:

  • Get-Mailbox -Identity <username> | fl

To apply it to a user:

  • set-mailbox -identity <username> -throttlingpolicy <policyname>

Then test opening multiple calendars.

There is actually a registry key that sets a limit on the Exchange Information store, at 32 connections, so without changing this, clients will still be limited in the number of calendars they can open, but it looks like 32 connections is enough to open 5-6 calendars.

If you were to change these registry keys, they are:

  • Maximum Allowed Sessions Per User
  • Maximum Allowed Service Sessions Per User



I rode with Brian Lopes

Tom Geraghty with Brian Lopes

I won a competition last week to ride with Brian Lopes at Dalby, during the World Cup XC race there. 6 of us ended up riding on the day with Brian, on a short stretch of the red route, with a few stops to chat and bug him about his career, bike, and life in general. It was a great day out, and Brian was really awesome, welcoming, and chatty. At one point, he was behind me on a technical singletrack section; I don’t think I’ve ever felt such pressure to ride well, than when I had Lopes on my tail.

Mountain biking up (and down) Ben Nevis

On Tuesday 10 May 2011, a bunch of mates and I biked up Ben Nevis, and back down again. We’d been planning it for quite some time, as we’d previously mountain biked Snowdon, and it got us thinking about the next level.

We knew Nevis would be a much bigger challenge, especially with bad weather, but given we’d had terrible weather when we did Snowdon, we figured ourselves fairly well prepared for it. Planned as part of our mountain biking Scotland 2011 8-day riding trip, we sandwiched the Nevis ascent between a couple of days biking Glentress and Innerleithen, and the rest of the trip afterwards that included Fort William DH and XC, Laggan, Golspie, and Balblair.

Snowdon’s summit is at 1085 metres above sea level, and took us 2.5 hours to climb on mountain bikes, up the Ranger’s path (which starts around 50m above sea level). Ben Nevis is 1344 metres above sea level.

We stayed at the Ben Nevis bunkhouse, which is conveniently sited right at the start of the trail up the mountain. The night before, we prepared well, by having a big dinner at the Ben Nevis Inn, and sinking quite a few local beers. We also discussed safety, made sure we each had maps, knew the route, and had the right kit, including  waterproofs, layers, walkie-talkies, first aid kits, whistles, torches, spares, tools, tubes, food, drink, and something to celebrate with at the summit…



On the day, the weather was poor, but not terrible. Some wind, and some rain, but not torrential, and not too cold, so we kitted up and set off around 11am. Just a few pedal strokes from the inn, we found ourselves pushing and carrying our bikes, which was to be the style for the next few hours. The first section, up to the lake at 570m, is stepped and rocky, with rocks worn smooth by years of walking boots passing by. This was pretty tough stuff to carry bikes up, as the steps are just that bit too big for a wheel to roll up. Those of us with heavy full-suspension bikes were struggling a bit compared to the guys with light hardtails. We passed one poor chap who looked in a pretty poor condition, and Joe kindly provided him with some painkillers so he could make it the rest of the way down after hurting his leg earlier on.

We both passed, and overtook a few groups of hikers, and almost each and every one expressed some form of surprise or disbelief that we were biking up there. One very hairy and Scottish trail maintenance guy described us as “fucking hardcore”.

We had a few stops to regroup, and got to the lake within two hours, I believe. From there, there actually is a bit of riding for a while, and as long as you can hop the drainage gullies, you can get a reasonable ride out of it. Soon, however, it begins to steepen, and get considerably looser, so that even if you could find the strength to climb on the bike, I doubt you’d find the traction. This is where the trail begins to zig-zag up the mountain, and the loose scree, rocks and pebbles make it tough going, so you’re either pushing the bike and frequently slipping your footing, or lifting the bike up and over the boulders in your path. It’s more punishing for your arms than your legs.

The cloud level must have been about 850-900m on this day, so visibility was poor – we could easily see the path ahead of us (usually), but we never saw any decent panoramic views across the mountains. Up here, even in May, there was quite a bit of snow, and the temperature noticeably dropped. We could tell we were nearing the summit when we came across a 100-metre stretch of deep snow to climb, which required innovative technique to haul a bike up and not slip back down with every step. Once over the snow, it’s a gradual loose scree path winding up to the summit, avoiding the two nasty looking gullies to the north. The summit itself felt somehow even colder, quite suddenly, so we all very quickly climbed up onto the cairn with our bikes, took the appropriate photos, and got back down to find some shelter to have a quick snack before the descent.

Mark celebrated his ascent with a can of very Scottish BrewDog punk IPA, while I preferred the more traditional slug of whisky from my hip flask. That combined with a more sensible Torq energy bar and gel, prepared us for the descent. This was the bit that I was most looking forward to.

Imagine one of the most technical downhill trails you’ve ridden. Now imagine it with extra rocks and loose scree, at around minus 15C, wet, windy, and tired. Now imagine you’re nearly 1.5km above sea level, and where you’re heading is just 20m above.

Until you’ve warmed into the descent, it’s quite tricky, and easy to pick a wrong line, slip the tyre, or grab too much brake, but once you’ve warmed into it, it becomes actually quite flowing. The descent through the snow simply requires a little speedway-style foot-out drifting down, using the rear brake and foot to modulate your speed. Once over that, and into the zig-zags, you can let go a little, but with cold fingers and bad arm-pump, the constant braking becomes hard work indeed, so the stops to regroup and wait for the slower riders to catch up involve quite a bit of arm-waving, clapping, and fist clenching to bring the blood back and loosen / warm up.



Down to the lake, you can pick up some quite high speed, which is probably unwise this high up, so careful braking and gentle turns are the name of the game, watching out for the drainage gullies that are just wide enough to drop a front wheel into. From the lake for the next 300m or so down is certainly not rideable in the wet, with tired arms, as the steps are big and close together. A good trials rider could do it, and a skilled downhiller might be able to nail a few sections in the dry, but it wasn’t to be on this day.

As a final treat, Ben Nevis provides an awesome and fast last 10 minutes of trail back to the Inn. Rocky, fast, technical, switching, and unpredictable, this section rewards a fast rider with kickers over mini-rock gardens, drops into turns, and enough pump to build up insane speed without pedalling. Through the gate, and we were back at the bunkhouse, where our good friend was waiting with hot coffee, dry towels, and more beer.

Note: the photos aren’t quite in the correct order, but you’ll work it out.

Edit: You can even see the detailed tracking information here.

Today’s illegal downloaders are the entertainment industry execs of the future.

The entertainment industry has been slow to embrace the internet, and it’s fair to say that it still hasn’t got its head around a business model that enables consumers to purchase music and films at a reasonable price, online, and without heavy-handed restrictions on use.

itunes was (is) only successful because it’s easy to use. For people with one computer, one iphone or ipod, and an itunes account, it’s the easiest way in the world to purchase music and film downloads online. However, if you have more than one computer, and/or more than one playback device, the DRM imposed upon itunes downloads restricts your use and enjoyment of your purchase measurably. The alternatives are to use Amazon, play.com, or another DRM-free download outlet, or simply use a P2P “illegal” download service. Frequently, due to the technology behind P2P / torrent downloads, it’s also the quickest way to get hold of digital media. This is patently absurd. I can think of no other product where the “free” version is easier to get hold of and easier to use than any paid-for option.

Note: I’m not endorsing illegal downloading, simply stating that if it’s as easy, or easier, than paid-for downloads, people are going to do it. Make paid-for downloads more attractive by removing DRM, introducing an easy, more universal, very fast method of purchase and download, and look at other ways of adding value (bonus content, concert tickets, graphics and other media), and people will pay for them.

The music and film industry simply don’t understand the new business models, or are not willing to change their own. Instead, they foist anti-piracy adverts onto rental and purchased DVDs (Why?! I’ve just paid for it after all.), they add DRM to their own products, making them more difficult to use (the king of “anti-features”), they hunt down file-sharers and threaten them with court cases, and they insist on sticking by their mantra that one illegal download equals one lost sale (if you were let loose in a sweet shop and told it was all free, you’d grab more than if you were paying for the stuff, right?).

Of course, it’s not all bad. The people that are using P2P and torrent technology to acquire digital media today are the business and entertainment industry executives of the future, and they will understand this technology and these business models better than anyone in the industry at the moment. Maybe we’ll soon see a fresh wave of new businesses, new record labels, new legal download outlets, and an industry that sees its customers as valued clients, rather than a thorn in its side.

The ten principles of IT Management (and probably a lot of other jobs).

1. Work your way out of a job.

If there’s any procedure, task, or process that you have to carry out or manage more than once, you should consider automating it. What’s the point in you doing it, if a machine can? Of course, some things have to be done by a human, but can you streamline the task? For example, can you stop searching through event logs every week, and instead set up a monitoring system that will alert you by email and/or sms to certain types of errors?

2. Make life easier for users

Your users are customers. They pay your wages and are essentially the only reason you’re in the job. By making their life easier, you’re enabling them to make money for the business, instead of working the system. You’ll also be making them happier, and that’s a good thing.

3. Constantly evaluate costs, and try to reduce them.

Costs creep up. They always do, and forever will do. Keep an eye on them, and constantly try to think of ways that you can reduce them: do you need that old server, or can it be virtualised? Do you need all your mobile connections, or can you cancel some? Do you have any old printers that aren’t utilised enough? Get rid of them. Is your hardware vendor giving you the best deals? Are you out of contract with your telecoms firm, support firm, leased lines, printers, or anything else? If so, look for a better deal and/or renegotiate.

4. Constantly evaluate the business, and try to increase productivity.

Don’t take your eye off the ball with what the business is up to. It’s easy to focus on the day to day stresses of the IT function, and your pet projects, while the business starts running in a different direction, and before you know it, you’re off doing something that is hard work, and provides no benefit to the business, or you’ve missed an opportunity. Get involved in the different functions, like marketing, and strategy (even if your directors don’t actively involve you – just get in there anyway.)

5. Consolidate

One contract is better than two. Vendors fight harder for bigger contracts, and there are big efficiency savings to be made by consolidating. Multiple contracts for a similar service just wastes money, administrative effort, and doesn’t make the supplier work as hard for you.

Consolidation applies also to IT systems and infrastructure, of course, but only where sensible. One server can carry out multiple roles, but not at the expense of reliability, or necessary performance.

6. Be a pessimist – plan for disaster.

Shit does happen, and it will happen in ways that you didn’t predict. When setting up and supporting systems, ask yourself:

“How could this fail?”

“What’s the impact if it does fail?”

“How can i recover from failure?”

and

“How can I reduce the likelihood of it failing?”

Note that you can never completely prevent something from failing, but you can make it so unlikely that you don’t have to worry. Ideally, everything should have a redundant partner, ready to failover, but if that’s not possible, make sure to be ready to recover from failure, and mitigate the impact.

7. Be an optimist – plan for expansion and success.

As important as planning for failure, is planning for success. If you have 2000 users now, don’t spec a mailserver with just enough capacity to serve all of them just enough. Spec a server with enough capacity for 3000, or 4000, or 10000. Don’t spend more than you need to, but you can guarantee that if you only spec just enough now, it won’t be enough in a year or two.

8. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

Try new things, and accept that not all your endeavours will work out well. Some may turn out to be awful, but some may turn out great. Try out new technologies, new systems, or even old systems that you haven’t tried before. If you don’t know how to do something, ask. And if there’s nobody to ask, do it anyway, and work it out.

9. Stay on top of technological progress.

Go to seminars, webinars, workshops, training events, trade shows, and new product demonstrations. It’s easy to get behind in IT, and you don’t know the things you don’t know. You can’t do many of the things before this item if you don’t know about the newest technology, systems, products, or services. Also, by keeping really up to date, you can help your business keep ahead of their competitors.

10. Network

And I don’t mean with ethernet cables. Networking is especially important if you work in a small IT team, partly because you learn best from others. You’ll learn what other people are doing, how they’re doing it, why, and who with. You’ll find out how to do a better job for your business, and make a better career for yourself.