May 2017 - The Missing Blogs

May started with a challenge which I had not been looking forward to; mine and @geekyjames’ first Tough Mudder. For those that don’t know, Tough Mudder is an outdoor obstacle and endurance course, the ethos is to build camaraderie among participants in order to complete the obstacles, many of which are not possible without teamwork. We decided the previous year that we would book on to one and give it a try, as a kind of goal in which to train for. There are many ‘Mudders’ up and down the UK and indeed abroad too, but we chose Nottingham - I don’t exactly know why, probably because 1. Neither of us had been to Nottingham before, and 2. There is a BrewDog in Nottingham.

We decided the best approach would be to head up to Nottingham, stay overnight in a PremierInn, scout out the BrewDog and have one, maybe two beers. Most of this plan was perfect, except we had more than one or two beers. We ended up opting to get some wings in the UK’s only Hooters restaurant (it’s not the same as the US) and then crawled around the town as you do on a Friday night. BrewDog was fantastic, and we sampled the new LIVE East Coast Crush beer, which was absolutely amazing.

Brew Dog East Coast Crush, Nottingham

Brew Dog East Coast Crush, Nottingham

The following morning I was the opposite of being ready to run around a cold, muddy field, but we both got on with it! The course itself was good fun; we were in one of the first waves of people to use the newly built obstacles, which made it quite fun. I think I enjoyed the Block Ness Monster the most, a big pool of water with two spinning rectangular cylinders suspended above, the only way to get to the other side is to spin the cylinders by pulling and pushing from either side, a complete team effort. After completing the Mudder, we went and have a Burger King to reward ourselves and drove home.

Me, getting muddy during Tough Mudder Nottingham

Me, getting muddy during Tough Mudder Nottingham

Over the past four years, my car had developed a bit of a problem. It seemed to enjoy the oil being anywhere other than inside of the engine; this was very frustrating as it would cause leaks all over the driveway and needed regular top-ups. Lomas, my sister’s partner, very kindly offered to fix it and after an entire day of ripping it apart replaced the head gasket seal which was causing all the problems. Very grateful for his help, my crappy Peugeot continues to run like a dream, and now I can park it without having to put a baking tray under the engine! Thank you, Lomas!

My Peugeot's Messy Engine

My Peugeot's Messy Engine

May was clearly the month for fixing problems as no sooner was the car mended; I was the one being worked on. My wisdom teeth as with many young adults were causing all kinds of problems, becoming infected, sore, and pushing on my other teeth. I decided that it was time for them to go and so after some dentist visits and consultations a date was set for my first ever surgical procedure. Victoria and I headed up to London for what turned out to be a very, very long night, I think we got home at 4 am or something silly. The procedure itself went perfectly well, but dealing with the after effects was much less fun, I was on baby food for just under a week and had a chubby chipmunk face for just as long! Victoria was fantastic and looked after me very well indeed; as I write this, it is her turn to have them removed in just under a week’s time (Eeek!).

Me, waiting patiently at The Harley Street Clinic, London

Me, waiting patiently at The Harley Street Clinic, London

Fast forward a week or so and we treated ourselves to a less horrific trip to London, we stayed in the St Pancras Renaissance and saw Set it Off who were touring in the UK. The hotel is a staple favourite, can’t go wrong, not cheap but worth every penny. We had some delicious drinks in the Booking Hall bar and then had my first taste of solid food in a week at Five Guys. Set it Off were really good, very heavy, loud and we were certainly the eldest people there (kidding), they were not as good as that on time they were supporting Yellowcard, but what can I say!

Victoria at The Booking Hall, St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, London

Victoria at The Booking Hall, St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, London

The Atlantic Coast Line

Clearly not as excited as me to be here...

Clearly not as excited as me to be here...

How best to spend a windy and rainy day in Cornwall? Well, a trip to Newquay on the train of course! This is the penultimate journey of all the Cornish branch lines and one I'd been looking forward to for a while. It's the longest of all the branch lines in Cornwall and during summer special direct services are scheduled using HST sets to/from London. It was the first time I'd ever been to Newquay, famous for the best surfing in Cornwall. 

The branch line runs from Par station and is single track almost all of the way to Newquay. One of the highlights on the 50-minute journey is travelling underneath the Treffry Viaduct, constructed in 1844 to carry both water  and railway tracks. The viaduct allowed transport over the Luxulyan Valley and was an important piece of infrastructure to the Cornish mining industry. It is now disused but can be walked over for some impressive view. 

The Treffry Viaduct, as seen from the train.

The Treffry Viaduct, as seen from the train.

Newquay's vast beach, with surfers in the background

Newquay's vast beach, with surfers in the background

The line continues north past a multitude of small request stops before arriving into Newquay's single platform station. The station in Newquay is very central to the town with a fantastically Victorian feel, there are several grand hotels of old, now refurbished with a new lease of life. Originally railway lines also ran right into to the small harbour to the west of Newquay, the route of which is clearly visible from the curvature of paths and roads which have since been re-purposed. In the middle of the harbour there is a peculiar stone pontoon, currently being used for lobster pot storage. After some research is appears that originally there was a wooden pier built for the railway to allow for multiple ships to load/unload cargo.

Newquay Station

Newquay Station

The small harbour is also the location for the RNLI lifeboat station, where there is currently home to an Atlantic 85 and small D-class launch. The Atlantic 85 is launched with a tractor and trailer down through the harbour. The station has moved and was even closed for a period since it was opened originally in 1860, although is certainly now a key location on the north coast. The RNLI lifeguards are present and also play a key role to the public in the summer months. I may have to work on creating a Wikipedia page for this station as there doesn't appear to be once yet in existence.

Newquay RNLI station

Newquay RNLI station

After exploring the beach and the harbour my brother and I made our way back to the train station, not before stopping at a few pubs and arcades along the way. We had a quik game of pool in the Great Western hotel, of which Owen won rather impressively. We ran across the road to meet the waiting single carriage train, next next of which was in 2 hours' time so didn't want to really miss!

Cisco ICOMM v8 Day 4

Today was a long day, but lots got done. I made the most notes so far today, which must be a good sign that some interesting things were being learnt. We started with BAT, the Bulk Administration Tool. It seems to work fairly well, although it isn't exactly, what's the word... Professional? It's just excel files. I was kind of hoping for something better, but I suppose it does the job alright enough. We imported a phone using BAT as part of a lab.

After BAT we went over LDAP integration. I'm  glad we spent quite a lot of time on this as it's obviously very important, especially in a big corporate environment. I envisage that we may need to make some changes to tidy up the directory prior to the syncronisation with Active Directory but it's clearly the most efficient way of handling users in Call Manager. One thing that concerns me slightly is that if you do elect to use AD integration there is no manual way of adding end users to call manager, it's very much all or nothing. I can't think of an immediate issue, although it's difficult and impractical to add users willy nilly to AD should the need arise.

Extension Mobility was covered, which is a feature I'm totally new to. It wasn't in use when I had been involved with Cisco phones before - I thin the reasoning was that it was still quite immature and buggy. From what we tested the mobility (or 'Hot Desking') seems to work very well, and is almost entirely integral to Call Manager - in fact, depending on how you setup your handsets it can be entirely integral.

In the afternoon we did lots of lab work reviewing most of the major features on the Cisco endpoints. This was very useful, I'd like to think that something like this - perhaps a more cut down version would be great as part of an introduction or staff training session. It's all well telling me how they work but it's the users that will know if the features are any use to them. Busy lamp fields are a personal favorite, as with call parking - both things I had not really been aware of in the past.

No picture today I'm afraid, there simply isn't much else to take pictures of! I tried to find RNLI Tower but think it's up river more from where I am, which is a shame.

Cisco ICOMM v8 Day 3

Today we covered lots of things! The day started discussing the lab that we were using and how it is configured. The course is provided by Fast Lane through QA and the lab itself is located in Windsor - all of the Call Manager servers, are run on an ESX host with a router and switch in the classroom running a VPN back to there. There is also a set of routers which have some voice configuration and allow us to have a branch and main office. When we were talking about the lab we made some test calls and ran a hidden command 'csim start <number>' which instructs the router to initiate a test call of  the specified number.

We moved on to a topic we'd briefly covered - Dial Plans, discussing types of call routing, how and where calling search spaces and partitions are applied. This took some understanding as there is a lot of flexibility as to how this can be configured - we discussed some best practices and why them may or may not be used in a certain environment.icomm3

Hunt groups were up next - they sound pretty boring but I was surprised just how powerful they are. Apparently with the newer call manager versions you can almost have a queuing system just using hunt groups, with call waiting etc..

Finally we went over the IP Phone registration process in a bit more detail and covered off Device pools and date/time in more detail.

The bus was a failure on the way home. i stood in the freezing rain waiting for 15mins (which is long, in London) for one. Was not impressed. I seem to have developed a rather sore throat too, which is not fun. Oh and the picture is the view from the window of the training room, cool huh?