Behind the Times? Git Gud

I’ve recently decided to learn Git.

Yes yes I know, I’m over a decade late to the party. I haven’t taken a look at source control since I first played with SVN many (many) moons ago. I haven’t bothered for a few reasons. Mainly, I’ve not had a use for it. Though I have written some scripts for work and whatnot, I’ve not needed the collaborative advantages of using the tool, and neither have I really needed the version control side either.

Don’t get me wrong, it probably would have been useful, however I’ve not missed it or wanted the features it boasts until recently.

However, times are a-changin’. Some of the techs at work have started using my scripts over the last year and they’re beginning to identify issues or quirks which I would ignore or didn’t encounter. I wrote these scripts, so I know how to use them almost instinctively. These issues just don’t show their head for me, or when they do it’s sort-of by design and I don’t hesitate to work around it.

Since I’m now making small changes sporadically, and looking ahead I’m beginning to automate even more things now that I have a slither of free time occasionally, I’ve decided to jump head first into Git.

I’ve built an Ubuntu 18.04 VM at work and installed GitLab onto it. (Slight tangent, but their installation guides are very good.)

The Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery stuff fascinates me, but I’ve disabled them from running on each project by default as I need to focus on learning Git first. I’m eager to learn more about this, though.

I’m going to make you cringe, but I’ve opted to use a GUI front end for my machine instead of relying on the CLI. This is because it seems to be a bit of a pain in the ass to run CLI git on a Windows machine (we’re a Windows network) and, although I will learn the commands eventually, I want to focus on the best practises of using Git rather than mess about with the command line syntax. The syntax is very simple, but I don’t trust my brain to remember it right now.

I’ve chosen to use the GitHub GUI for now. It works pretty well. I’ve moved six of my currently active scripts (all powershell) onto GitLab and have pushed commits to the projects.

I’ve also created a project for our network switch configs. I don’t know if this is something GitLab can do or if some other kind of automatic deployment technology is needed, but it’d be cool to make a change to the repository and for that change to be automagically applied to the relevant hardware. I can think of ways to script that myself, but is there a purpose built tool out there?

I’ve got lots of questions to ask and lots of avenues to explore. For now, though, I’m keeping it simple with version control & branching.

I’m considering eventually creating a public GitHub repo to put code out into the world. It would take some work to de-work-ify the existing scripts and remove any workplace data, but I could also eventually upload these scripts, too.

Boiler High Heat

We had a bit of a warm spell recently. One side effect for us was that some of our sites boiler control systems started to panic in an unexpected way.

Each boiler is fitted with a fire alarm which links into the site-wide system. Unfortunately it got so hot in a couple of the storage-heater boiler rooms that the temperature sensor started flipping out thinking there were flames causing the heat. Luckily, we caught the alarm within the 3 minute silent alarm before emergency services were automatically contacted and the site-wide alarm sounded, prompting an evacuation.

Overriding a firealarm long term is not a good idea, so we had to find a way to reduce the temperature in these small, cramped, dusty rooms.

Our solution was simple, but I liked it a lot – turn off the heating element, then run around the building turning on all the hot water taps.

This refilled the hot water storage tanks with cold water. The taps being on carried all the heat away from the room and within minutes the room had cooled significantly. It is a bit of a waste of water, which is a shame, and there was no hot water in the building for the afternoon, but that beats evacuating out from our cool offices into the high-thirty-C outdoors.

The simple fixes are the best.

Witholding number on external calls on Avaya IP Office R5 Manager

It took some googling to figure out, but eventually I came across the answer to this problem across a combination of a couple of old forum posts. I’m writing it here on the off chance someone else needs this. Or if I need it again.

  • Log into the IP Office R5 Manager
  • Navigate to the Short Code tree
  • Find the “?” entry – the feature name is “Dial”
  • Change the “Telephone Number” field to one of the following depending on what you want
    • “.” – this will withold the number you’re dialing from
    • “.S<number>” – this will show <number> when you dial

<number> should be your number. If I set it to a number I don’t own, it just shows the one I’m calling from.


Sometimes a business has some system or piece of infrastructure that just works. This is a good thing! Unfortunately, some businesses don’t like to invest in technology unless that technology breaks.

In related news, I recently had to figure out how to toggle a setting on some old software, Avaya IP Office R5. As someone who is totally not a phone/VOIP person this was a challenge. Add on to that the fact that the software isn’t very well designed and you have me fumbling about trying to understand terminology and remember where obscure settings are just to do the basics.

This software was managing a 15 year old phone system, and since its inception had been showing as a withheld/private number when calling out to external phones. Not sure why this was ever set, but it’s off now.

Offspring

We had a kid! Spawned a child process!

Having a child is a very strange experience. Being the father I have it pretty easy physically, though mentally and emotionally it’s quite… unique. It’ll take a while to fully digest this mental gear-change and I don’t think I could write about it accurately enough to do it justice, so I won’t attempt to just yet.

Like with most things, theory only gets you so far. You need to experience it to fully appreciate it, and appreciate it I now do.

I expect every birth is different at some level, whether it’s the process itself or the attitudes and reactions of the individuals involved (including family, friends, as well as – and in some ways most importantly – the medical staff, more on this below) but there’s one thing which I suspect is consistent across all births.

Shit me is it tiring.

He was born at the end of May, and I’ve only had the energy to post one small update here since then. In fact, this article has been written in short bursts since the previous one went up because it has been tricky to find the energy to post here whilst we’ve been home (apologies if it reads somewhat awkwardly.) There’s always something to be done, not including the remaining renovation work we still need to do. Being in hospital though? That is an entirely different beast.

We ended up being in the hospital ward for nearly a week. I was lucky enough to be able to escape once or twice a day (to feed the cat, or take receipt of our poorly timed new sofa delivery) but my Significant Other spent every minute inside a single small room. That look on recently rescued miners faces when they see daylight for the first time in months? I bet it was a bit like that for her when we finally left.

What didn’t help our stress levels was the two occurences of building work that went on in that week at the hospital. One was right outside our window, the view from which was simply of a different wing of the hospital across a 20m gap between the buildings, so not exactly a picturesque vista. We had to keep this window open too as it was at least 34C in that room at best. They were running cable or something, and heavy tools were out in use for two days.

The heat in the ward was almost unbearable. I know they keep it warm in there (to keep the little babies nice and snug!) but this was over the top.

It turned out the aircon was broken. This was the cause of the second set of building work. About a dozen intimidating big burly blokes climbing ladders in hallways and going into the suspended ceiling with drills and hammers taking apart metal ducting (loudly) to try and get the ward down to a decent temperature. Having all these workmen patrolling and working, covering everything in ceiling tile dust, couldn’t have been a calming factor for any of the women or babies in there. I felt bad for those unlucky enough to be in a shared room, though (typically) those women get to leave after a day or so at most.

After three days of this chaos they did get everything up and running. Unfortunately this was achieved the evening before we left, so we didn’t really get to appreciate it.

I hinted above that the medical staff’s reaction and behaviour to you is an important element in your perception of the experience. Special and unfortunate mention here for them: they, generally, sucked.

The saying “There are always some bad eggs” is an understatement of such proportions that it gets flipped on its head. We were pleasantly surprised when we spoke with someone who seemed to give a fuck, let alone show compassion. I have a great deal of respect for NHS staff and don’t blame them for being jaded or stressed. They are underappreciated, overworked and many roles are underpaid. But those who show this disinterest would probably do everyone a favour if they moved on to something else. It might kick the government up the ass a bit if everyone on the NHS staff started looking after themselves instead of taking the amount of shit they deal with daily on the chin. Unfortunately, the sick and injured will suffer. Rock, meet hard place.

I know it’s not as simple as that and voting for change is the best way forward. The ward we were on is fairly renown for being not that great once everything goes off-script (as the birth of our child tore up the script then set fire to it, this applies to us) but it’s difficult to fondly remember any part of the birth or the following week. And this sucks.

We’ve got a healthy baby now, though, and that’s awesome. But it doesn’t make the experience okay. There will forever be a bad taste in our mouths when we remember this in the coming years, but for the sake of our sanity, our happiness, and the small human being we now find ourselves responsible for, we have to move on as best as we can.

I expect that as time moves on and he grows (oh, that reminds me: they told us the wrong weight at birth. I don’t know how they got that wrong) I will find myself with more time for this site, and I will no doubt have more thoughts on fatherhood and being a parent in general. I’ve also got renewed focus on some technology stuff now that the home renovation isn’t exhausting us to quite the same level. I’m eager to write up some stuff on that front, too!

Onwards and upwards!

ps. Star Trek Picard looks amazing.

Hello, world!

Hi there.

Interloper

Hey. Been a while!

Spotted enemy number 1 the other day. The cat got into a fight a few months ago and we have finally identified the attacker.

We spotted this cat teetering on the edge of attacking our cat in our back garden a little while ago, but it was dark and we couldn’t clearly make him (or her) out. As soon as it saw us it ran (ineffectively being chased by our own cat – thanks for the assist but you wouldn’t have done anything if we hadn’t been there I bet!)

We’ve finally spotted him/her peering into our property in the daytime:

Evil incarnate

Didn’t manage to get any closer than this before the cat bolted.

I hope this cat and our own can become pals, but I expect it won’t happen. Our cat is too much of a pushover. Poor boy 😀

Catfight

So the cat got into a fight a couple of nights ago. We were merrily being couch potatos of an evening (as you do) when the cat appeared from the back garden. He sat in the doorway of the room we are temporarily using as our living room, looked at us for a moment with that expression of pity all cats are capable of, and started licking himself.

Nothing new there.

He didn’t stop, though. At some point we got up to check and noticed a trail of blood terminating at the cat and leading back to the bedroom. After checking him over (three claws have been damaged, one of which had been bleeding but had stopped by the time we realised something was up) we followed the drips of blood (splattered over our brand new floor, I must add) and it led us to the window the cat had clearly jumped in. There wasn’t anything alive (or dead, though looking for the corpse of something our cat had a fight with is giving the cat a bit too much credit) outside so we’ve no idea if this was the cat being a clutz or the cat being attacked, but our money is on the latter.

After a day the claw on his front paw hadn’t properly healed. He kept licking it, too, so suspecting infection we rushed him off to the vet. They confirmed our suspicions and gave him a shot and a cone of shame.

Poor boy

Since getting the cone he has become exceedingly affectionate. It’s kinda nice, maybe we should keep it on him all the time… just kidding, of course. His front paw is healing up nicely, though he has figured out that he can stretch his leg out, wrap it around the base of the cone, then push forward onto the floor or bed (yes, with his face) trapping his paw under the cone allowing him to lick part of it. He doesn’t do it often, though.

When The Wind Blows

When deciding to buy and renovate an older, run-down house the one guaranteed thing you have to expect is unexpected things cropping up just when you don’t want them to.

A fence in our back garden has just blown over in the high winds we’ve been experiencing.

The neighbours shed (top left) is the only thing holding it up!

It went over this morning and from what I can tell the posts have rotted and snapped in the ground. Looks like they’ll need replacing. Not too much of an issue in the grand scheme of the universe of course.

We’ve managed to spread out the cost of various things we’ve been doing in the house so we’re not hit in the financial balls all in one go, the fireplace and flooring being the most recent examples. But, of course, chance and nature don’t operate on a schedule.

Technically, it’s not our fence, so we don’t have to pay for it to be replaced/repaired… However there were some fat trees pushing on it for many years which have absolutely contributed to the current situation. I need to speak to the neighbours but I’m thinking we’ll at least contribute to the repairs on a moral basis let alone the fact that it may be partially our fault. Well, the fault of the people who lived here before us. Neighbours gotta be neighbourly and work together ‘n’ all that.

It’s a shame this has happened now. We’ve just paid out for a new floor (not cheap) and have a baby on the way, so we (read, I) are sensitive to unexpected outgoings at the moment. But hey, this is what the emergency fund is for!

The money is only one of two issues. In order to repair this fence, either the neighbours need to move their two sheds (one of which is holding the fence up right now) or we need to remove our horrible disgusting… shed… thing which you can see it on the very left of this pic. This is something we want to do, but we’re actually using it to store a load of trash at the moment (old carpet, ancient chest-freezer, broken lawnmower, etc.)

We need to pay to get the trash and the shed removed as there are some very large bulky things in there and we don’t have the transportation for it. Needing to pay for this stuff to happen is why it hasn’t happened yet. Other things to sort out. We’ll get to it eventually. Or soon, if the fence repairs demand it…

Oh, to make matters slightly more frustrating, I’ve just noticed that the opposite fence by the patio is starting to fall too. Great.

Floorless Victory: Epilogue

The final room has had the flooring fitted and the beading is done!

Shiny!

One last thing to do is the skirting around the fireplace, but that room needs to be decorated anyway so there’s no immediate rush.

Floorless Victory

14.5 months. That’s how long we’ve been living in a building site.

Well, that’s not quite true as for the first few months we had carpet. I’m sure the carpet was nice back in the 90’s when it was first installed but by the time we came to live here it was worn and stained. It had the delicate aroma of dog piss and cigarettes eminating from within.

We ripped up this carpet fairly quickly to remove the smell and found rotten underlay underneath, which we also tore out. In one of the bedrooms, directly below where a bed used to live, the concrete was still wet with the aforementioned dog urine. Yeah, months after moving in, we still had liquid piss in the house from the previous owners pet (and we’re clinging to the belief that it was dog wee and not human.) I love dogs and dread to think what kind of environment it lived in for it to crawl under a bed and piss itself so much that it stayed wet for months afterward. We cleaned the hell out of that floor and had a dehumidifier in the room for a good few weeks to suck out any remaining moisture. Eventually, and thankfully, we got it dry and the smell dissipated.

Since the floor came up all those months ago we’ve been living on concrete. Not the polished stuff you find in modern fancy houses, we’re talking the giant slabs of rough cheap stuff the building actually sits on. It was freezing cold, uncomfortable to stand on and always dirty. The friction from walking on it would pull up tiny stones and dust. We rejoice, however, as of this weekend that is no longer the case. We’ve finally had our floor installed!

The first few boards are down
Ta-da! Oh adequte flooring, how I have missed you so…

We initially wanted to get LVT but ended up going with a good quality laminate instead due to the cost. A family friend installed it for us – doing the door frames and edges is something that I couldn’t do without a lot of trial & error and a lot of time. Plus repairing all the damage I would undoubtedly cause would cost a lot of money, so we decided to get professional help. We’ve still got one room to go, plus the beading around the edges (we didn’t fancy ripping out the skirting) but once those are done we’ll actually live in a house rather than a construction yard!

It’s odd living somewhere with a floor. It feels much cleaner, warmer and comfier. More like a home. I certainly appreciate it more now than I had done in the past.

Next few items on the list: finish painting the livingroom, repaint some walls, buy some furniture. Maybe then we can start unpacking some of the boxes we had when we first moved in!