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Letter #8 Delivered 3 Oct 21

Hi Craig,

You’re right that I’m a dedicated Sci-Fi reader. I grew up with a great love for the potential of science and technology. My dad was always tinkering with stuff in the garage, reading New Scientist and watching episodes of Equinox etc. My mum has more of a humanities background, but whilst her academic work was on Robert Browning, her first love is Sci-Fi. I was also heavily influenced by various non fiction books on the potential of technology, often with cutaways to show how things work. It’s therefore no surprise that I chose a career in engineering, and I continue to enjoy Sci-Fi as a way of exploring what will become possible (and the dangers that might come with that).

I try not to limit myself to Sci-Fi though. During my teens my mum insisted that I read some ‘proper’ books (besides computer manuals, Sci-Fi, and war stories), and incentives were offered. Orwell’s ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’ has really stuck with me, along with Jilly Cooper’s ‘Class’, which although a little dated now still does a great job of explaining why the typical Englishman puts up with the lot inflicted on him by the establishment.

Though I’ve read a fair bit of Asimov, I’ve (to my shame) never taken on Foundation, so sadly I’m not familiar with ‘the Mule’ who you mention. Foundation has however just made it to the small screen, with a big budget, high production value series on Apple TV+. So far it’s been glorious. I hope they get to complete the proposed eight series run.

Your comments on charisma remind me of a time when I went to see a talk by Eric Raymond, author of ‘The Cathedral and the Bazaar ‘, his seminal work on open source software. Eric is not an attractive man. Descriptive adjectives would include: stunted, gnarled, twisted. But oh boy does he have charisma. He can captivate an audience, and persuade them. The old Dungeons and Dragons player in me would score his Charisma attribute as off the usual chart. The “IT” you describe is definitely a thing.

I wonder if there used to be more “IT” in politics, and it’s been driven out by a hyena press corps? Or if simply the commitment to use “IT’s” powers for good has succumbed to the easier ‘dark side’ path of using “IT” to gain power and wealth? Cory Doctorow had an excellent thread this week on the entanglement of debt (for many) and wealth (for few) based on the works of David Graeber, Thomas Piketty and Michael Hudson concluding that estate taxes need to be properly enforced.

Yours,

Chris

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Highlights of Craig’s reply

Interesting about “Foundation”. I suppose special effects have progressed to the stage where these kind of high concept Seci-Fis can be rendered on screen.

I once had dinner with Arthur C Clarke in Sri Lanka, actually as part of my FCO job, to discuss ocean thermal energy! He was a very interesting man, at that time wheelchair bound. The idea of OTE was to pump up water from the super cold deepest ocean in the tropics, and generate electricity through the differential temperature between that and the tropical surface sea. I never did understand the technology. Arthur C Clarke described it as a fridge in reverse.

The US government built a pilot plant in Hawaii. The pumping of nutrients from the ocean bottom made it profitable as an abalone farm! I haven’t heard the technology mentioned for decades, so I suppose it was too inefficient.

The Doctorow thread sounds interesting. Wealth tax, as opposed to inheritance tax, is important but enforcement on the rich of any tax is not serious. But there is a more important need to prevent the absurd concentration of capital in the first place.


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Letter #7 Delivered 28 Sep 21

Hi Craig,

It’s a shame that books sent from Amazon aren’t making it through. I was wondering what I’d write about this week, as I wanted to steer clear of politics, and somehow the week concluded with a few bookish things.

Your letter reminded me of how I came to read Accelerando in the first place. Tim Bray, a prolific software engineer with lots of interesting things to say on his blog, had enjoyed Stross’s ‘Iron Sunrise’, so I grabbed a copy for myself, and also loved it. It’s one of those books that should be part of a series, but sadly Charlie made some rookie mistakes that painted him into a corner that prevented much continuation. But I didn’t know that at the time, so I started eagerly diving into his other work, which brought me to Accelerando. A few years later I got to meet Tim for a pint in London, and asked him what he thought of it. ‘I gave up after about 150 pages’, he said, ‘too slow’. He stopped just before it got good. That book is a rollercoaster. Yes, there’s the boring bit at the start where it’s just clicking up the ramp to gain potential energy. But after that… wheee… So if the copy I sent does arrive, and you do choose to read it, I hope you can persevere through the intro sections.

I also got a pre-review copy of my friend Anne Currie’s ‘Heliotrope’, which it the sixth in her ‘Panopticon’ series set in a post climate breakdown world where ubiquitous surveillance is used for communal good. Since I’m only half way through the fourth book this is just the prod that I need to spend less time on Twitter and more time reading proper stuff. So I think I’m about to have something of a social media holiday. Also Charlie’s ‘Invisible Sun’ is out next week, which closes his ‘Empire Games’ series, which has been a lot of fun.

The topic of communal good also came up in the context of energy supply problems and panic buying fuel shortages. My friends with electric cars, solar panels, and battery storage systems are all being rather smug at the moment for getting ahead of the problems. I recall people telling me ‘I don’t care about the economy, we just need to take back control’ on the eve of the 2016 referendum. It’s why I think we should say ‘our collective welfare’ rather than ‘economy’. It’s much harder to say ‘I don’t care about our collective welfare..’ and not sound like a selfish fool. For most people ‘the economy’ is a ‘them’ problem, whilst ‘our collective welfare’ is more clearly an ‘us’ problem.

Stay well,

Your aye,
Chris

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Highlights of Craig’s reply

I would like to be one of the smug ones, with 14 commercial size solar panels and a Tesla Powerwall, but in practice in Scotland production is negligible for 4 months November through February.

You seem a very dedicated Sci-Fi reader. Somebody has sent me Azimov’s Foundation Trilogy, which I read almost 50 years ago. It got through to me somehow.


September 2021

30Sep21

Pupdate

There was a local sausage dog meetup, which was a lot of fun for the people and the dogs:

GraphQL

I had to spend a bit of time learning GraphQL, as it’s used by the latest GitHub APIs, and there’s no other way to access the data behind the Projects (beta) boards. There’s a full post on the atsign.dev blog on how I updated the dump_cards scripts. Since then I’ve also added a nice little command line UI using InquirerPy.

Dart article

The nice folk at Container Solutions asked me to write something about Dart and Flutter for their ‘WTF is Cloud Native?’ series. Hopefully it provides a good overview of the tech we use to build The @ Platform – ‘WTF are Dart and Flutter?‘.

Datacamp

$son0 figured out that he needed to properly understand R programming for his genetics degree, so I went looking for some good interactive courses. Datacamp is where I found them, and I’ve been working through some R and Python stuff myself.

Cast Iron Griddle

After watching yet another Teflon coasted pan get destroyed by too much heat (while making chapattis) I decided to buy a cast iron pan. I’ve not had the chance to make chapattis on it yet, but it’s been excellent for searing steak without firing up the BBQ.

CO2 monitor

After reading about various people using CO2 monitors to keep an eye on ventilation I bought this one. It’s presently telling me that there’s 1145ppm CO2 at my desk. Opening windows doesn’t seem to make much difference, whilst opening the door down to the rest of the house quickly gets things back to an ambient 450ppm or thereabouts.

DSM7

I had to shut down my Synology NAS whilst having some electrical work done in preparation for the installation of an air sourced heat pump. Whilst I was in the control panel I noticed that an upgrade to DSM7 was available. So once the electrician was done I pressed the button… A few minutes later I was up and running again. It was a quick and painless process. So here’s to another 300+ days of uptime before I need to do anything with my NAS.


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Letter #6 Delivered 19 Sep 21

Hi Craig,

Heeding your words about not getting research done I’ve decided to keep to a weekly cadence.

I’m now wondering which Lord George Murray you’re researching, as a quick search brings up a few of them over the years?

It’s good to hear that books are making it through. Though it’s sounding like you’re inundated with correspondence. My top pick from the selection I sent would be Accelerando. A colleague who read it at my recommendation many years ago was commenting a few days back that it’s one of the most memorable books he’s read, ‘especially the strange dreams’. You may also like that some of it is set in Edinburgh.

Part of my weekday routine is to take the dogs downstairs for lunch at midday, and I usually put BBC News 24 on in the background whilst I prepare something to eat. On Tuesday the channel was rebroadcasting Sturgeon’s keynote to the SNP virtual conference. It was pretty captivating. Across a whole range of topics I found myself wanting what she’s selling – climate, Europe, land reform, healthcare, education. The entire package. It’s easy to see why the cult of St Nicola is so strong. The cognitive dissonance of holding that together with the implications of your reporting must be too much for many people. For those of us who can deal with that dissonance what’s left is an almost suffocating level of disappointment and emptiness. Who can be the leader to deliver the package whilst not being mired in corruption?

Which brings us to BoZo’s reshuffle. Nadine Dorries! I can only imagine that she was made Secretary of State for Culture Wars because Hatie Kopkins isn’t an MP, and ennobling her would be too far even for this lot. I feel like I’ve seen this show before, with Major’s cabinet full of inadequates after a decade of power had chewed up and spat out anybody with gumption. But somehow this remake is much much worse.

And the dead cats keep bouncing. Vaccine passports. No vaccine passports. Changes to travel restrictions. Imperial weights and measures. On the latter point this from Prof Tanja Bueltmann really landed with me “Those who use the past to make policy in the present… do so because they have nothing to offer for the future. No solutions to pressing problems; no offering for the next generation. Just a big gaping hole. It’s bleak.” The press has not yet learned to see past distraction and keep their eye on the balls in play; which is why we need you back in front of a PC soonest.

Keep strong.

Best regards,
Chris

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Highlights of Craig’s reply

Yes, Nadine Dorries as culture secretary really is beyond satire. We live in some strange kind of earthly hell. Somebody else wrote me about the return of imperial measures, and I honestly thought they were joking.

Nicola Sturgeon is very convincing indeed… The banning of protests from near the Scottish parliament is a much better guide to what’s really happening.

Some books are reaching me, but only those bought through Blackwell’s I think. I don’t think any which are supposed to come via donation to the library have actually got here yet, including Accelerando.


TL;DR

Bad input validation is the main underlying cause of many application security issues, because we haven’t made it easy enough for developers to implement good input validation. So how about a TypeScript[1] like language to resolve that – ValidScript – a language that makes it easy to do input validation?

Background

Wendy Nather recently asked me:

Survey for my talk at OWASP’s 20th Anniversary conference:

In the last 20 years, what’s one of the most important things you personally have learned about appsec?

After not much thought my answer was:

Input validation should be baked into languages and frameworks, to make it stupid easy for developers to write safe apps, but still isn’t.

I then went on:

My thinking here is that if there was a language (likely a JavaScript derivative like TypeScript) that treated input as UNSAFE until it washed through a set of standard validators, then we could get to the place on input safety that we seem to have achieved with memory safety in Rust. The compiler would essentially support an input taint checker.

Wendy suggested that I should blog about it. This is the post. I’m calling my invented language ‘ValidScript’, and I’m somewhat amazed that the name isn’t already taken[2].

The problem

The OWASP Top 10 has pretty much remained the same for the whole time it’s existed. The ordering might shuffle around a bit, but the underlying problems remain firmly entrenched.

The root cause for many of those underlying problems is not doing (adequate) input validation.

Why?

Because input validation hasn’t been made easy enough. Because in every popular language it’s still left as an open ended exercise for the developer to write their own validator.

We’ve made great progress on memory safety

The proliferation of garbage collected languages made it harder to coerce a buffer overflow from some bad input, and then Rust came along to provide memory safety without the garbage collection overhead (you just have to fight with the compiler borrow checker instead).

But that doesn’t really solve the problem

Buffer overflows are just one of the things that can go wrong. Bad input can still go on to cause database injection, cross site scripting, insecure deserialization etc.

An example

I maintain some scripts to dump cards from GitHub projects into a .csv file that can be imported into Planning Poker. Our scrum master, who’s the primary user of the scripts, complained that import had been truncated to just 7 cards (from 18). I took a look at the file[3], and it was quickly clear what had gone wrong. Somebody had put a comma into an issue title, resulting in too many columns in that row, resulting in a bad import. I’d failed at input validation (and frankly so had the Planning Poker importer[4]).

I’d note that this code doesn’t even directly take user input. It’s reading stuff out of the GitHub REST and GraphQL APIs, which both output JSON. But valid JSON doesn’t necessarily make for valid .csv.

Of course I can take to Stack Overflow and find out how to strip out any commas with something like:

title = card["title"].replace(",", "")

But that doesn’t deal with other special characters that might cause trouble in my .csv, and it quickly becomes unwieldy (and slow) if I run the string through multiple replace operations.

So back to Stack Overflow for a more general purpose approach:

title = re.sub('[^A-Za-z0-9]+', '', card["title"])

But that strips out all the spaces, and a few other characters that I still want, like @ and .

Also I see some very long titles, that I want to truncate, which means I end up with:

title = re.sub('[^[email protected] ]+', '', card["title"])[:80]

This should not involve Google and Stack Overflow

My modest proposal is that the ValidScript language has input validation built in.

If you want your code to compile, then you have to specify where input is going, so that an appropriate validator can be applied.

For the case above I’m putting my input (from the GitHub API) into a .csv file, so I’d choose the CSV validator.

The validators can of course be overridden, but that’s an active choice, and the aim is to have safe defaults.

Conclusion

Input validation should be a first class construct of a programming language, and that’s what ValidScript would do. To make it easy to do input validation, to make it easy to avoid OWASP Top 10 mistakes.

Notes

1. I’m not a huge JavaScript fan, but I get the reasons why it’s #1, so building on the TypeScript approach seems like a pragmatic way of reaching the most people. I’d also note that most of the issues come from strings, so extending the TypeScript approach to better string safety seems sensible.

2. I already grabbed validscript .com, .org & .net and for now I’ll get them redirected to this post.

3. Looking closer at the file it’s almost like The @ Company team were playing a game of bad input golf. Double colons, leading spaces, mismatched quotes, the list goes on.

4. The importer shouldn’t have failed on one bad line, and I’d expect it to continue with the other lines.


Background

This post has been a long time in the making. But a couple of things happened in the past week that prodded me to finally write it.

Firstly there’s this epic thread from Shahid Kamal Ahmad about becoming a games developer in the early 80s.

And then there was the awful news of the passing of Sir Clive Sinclair, who made computers cheap enough that I was able to write programs in the first place.

The early part of my story was very similar to Shahid’s. I even once put a classified ad into a computer mag for my awful BASIC ‘Draw’ program for the Dragon 32, and I too got zero orders. I was younger, and a bit slower to learn machine code, so when ’84 came around I wasn’t the kid being asked to port Jet Set Willy to the C64.

It was October ’86 before I got anything published, and then I hit jackpot with two programs in the same month.

Simon

The first to hit the news stands was Commodore Computing International (CCI), who carried my Simon program for the C16 and Plus/4:

CCI never actually paid me for it, despite various chasing phone calls, letters, invoices etc.

This wasn’t the last time I coded Simon. It became one of those things that I often repeat as a way of learning my way around a new language or platform.

Commodore 1541 Disk Utilities

Personal Computer World (PCW) my favourite magazine of the era published these, which I used frequently myself:

PCW did pay (£60 if I recall), and then a little while later another cheque came from VNU for ‘Synd pub’, which was a pleasant surprise. I think the cash went towards paying my mum back for the Star LC10 printer I’d bought so that I could produce decent listings.

The front pages

CCI was featuring ‘Hands on the 64C’

and PCW heralded the debut of Amstrad’s cheap PC clone, the 1512, which was about to earn my a lot of pocket money as I got the small businesses of North Shields up and running on Sage accounts etc.

Who’s C Whitfield?

The eagle eyed amongst you might be wondering who C Whitfield was. That was me. Long story, and not one that I really want to recount here…


Here begins a new series for this blog…

I’ve been writing to Craig Murray whilst he serves his prison sentence for contempt of court arising from his reporting of the Alex Salmond trial.

I don’t recall how I first came across Craig, and his first book Murder in Samarkand, but I’ve been a keen follower of his blog (and reader of his subsequent books). I can’t say I agree with him on everything (who does?), but he’s succeeded in opening my eyes to how the world (and particularly the British Establishment) really works.

His campaign team have been encouraging people to write to Craig to help the time pass, and so I’ve been doing that. But I was also a little bothered that it was taking writing time away from blogging, so I asked Craig if he’d be OK with me posting some of my letters, and he agreed.

I’m not going to post the first 4. In part because they were written before I’d asked Craig about blogging, and in part because they were just getting to know each other stuff.

There’s likely to be a lot more politics than my usual output, and a leaning towards Scottish politics, as that’s one of Craig’s main concerns.

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Letter #5 Delivered 12 Sep 21

Hi Craig,

It was nice to get such a swift reply to my last letter. I was just getting used to a weekly(ish) cadence, and thinking about sending something out of sequence, then boom, a reply inside a week.

It’s a shame that non of the books have reached you yet. The optimist in me hopes that they’re going through some protracted process to be added to the library. But I fear that they might just have been chucked out in line with Grayling’s spite. I’ll hold off sending anything else until you confirm that books are making it through.

I probably spent too much time on Twitter, but a couple of things passed through my time line this week that I feel would grab your interest:

Firstly this from Leah McElrath: “A global right-wing movement is underway to try to destroy democracies, accelerate social collapse, and cement authoritarian control of human populations and resources. It’s happening. The only remaining question is how to respond.” I’d be interested in your view on how to respond?

Leah has previously focussed much of her ire on Putin and Surkovism, but comments “Often I’ve focused on Putin’s role in some of this, but it’s a movement that transcends boundaries. The organizing principle seems to be raw power, not national identity.”

Scottish independence seemed to be the antidote to all this, at least locally, until the petty corruption of St Nicola and her cultists became clear to see.

Then there was a hilarious take down of some crackpot crypto bro idea of having cruise ships outside of territorial limits where they could be their whole libertarian selves without any state oversight. As a specialist on international maritime law it seemed like something you’d enjoy taking apart in a blog post. The whole thing is essentially Sealand on steroids, but with people who research things so superficially that Sealand won’t even have registered. So ultimately they seem to want to cosplay Waterworld.

At about the same time the FT published a ‘Inside the cult of crypto’, which did a decent job of dissecting the bros ponzi scheme along with the climate catastrophe and lawlessness it drives. I mined some bitcoin in 2013 to learn how things worked, which was enough to show me the den of scum and villainy that’s been allowed to grow too big.

Speaking of blog posts, I wonder if you’d object (or indeed have legal troubles) if I were to post some of these letters (and summaries of your replies) as a ‘Letters to Craig Murray’ series on my blog?

Yours,
Chris

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Highlights of Craig’s reply

Certainly you can publish if you wish.

I found that guilt at having such a pile of unanswered mail was stopping me from concentrating on the research materials I have here for my biography of Lord George Murray. I therefore worked hard to clear the backlog and keep up to date. The perverse effect of this is that people feel obliged to also write back immediately, so instead of writing once a week they struggle to write four times a week and so no research gets done anyway.

Books are beginning to trickle through the system.


August 2021

31Aug21

Pupdate

Max had his first birthday, and Milo is now able to join him on walks after being vaccinated.

They also go down to sleep at night in their pen downstairs, which is a step in the right direction. Though there’s been some amazing escapology from Max, and we’re still working on mornings.

Trainers

After the trouble I had with boots last month, it was the turn of trainers this month. I don’t exactly remember when I bought my pair of Reeboks, but it might have been as far back as 6th form college days, so over 30y ago. I don’t wear trainers as a matter of course, but they do get used for my daily workouts. So they haven’t just been sat in a cupboard.

For a while I’ve been gluing various bits back into place, but the whole sole came away, and my attempt at regluing it didn’t hold up. So I have a new pair of ‘Quick Chase’ trainers, that look similar to my old ones, but maybe aren’t so comfortable.

Up North

My daughter has been checking out universities for next year, and wanted to take a look at Durham and York. So it was road trip time, except we didn’t want to drive, so it was actually train trip time. The original plan was York, Durham, and then Newcastle to visit friends and family. But that had to be reversed to fit into how breaks of journey are allowed on train tickets. It all worked out just fine, with the exception of the Ibis Hotel in York, which earned itself a review titled ‘Second worst hotel stay of my lifetime‘[1].

It was great to see my dad for the first time in 18m, and my sister for the first time in years. It was also good to return to York. I haven’t missed the place in the years that I’ve been away, but it was good to be reminded why it’s my favourite city in England.

Documentation, Samples & Examples

Adam Gordon Bell’s ‘An Introduction to JQ‘ shows how it should be done. I’ve been using jq for a while, but I always struggled with getting queries right, because I wasn’t getting the fundamentals. Perhaps if I was experienced in JSON wrangling in JavaScript it would be obvious, but I’m not, so it wasn’t. Adam’s guide fixed that for me, and I was also pleased to find jiq via the HN comments thread.

0%

I like a beer/wine/whisky, but sometimes it’s nice to skip the alcohol. I needed to restock on Ginish, and found a good price at Wise Bartender, so I used their free shipping on £59 orders as an opportunity to try some other drinks:

SprintzISH

This is supposed to be like an Aperol Spritz, but I found it more like Kinnie, which I’ve had before when visiting Malta. Not a hit with the ladies of the house.

Belle & Co (Bees Knees) Sparkling Alcohol Free Sparkling Brut

It wasn’t clear that the SpritISH was a pre mixed drink, so I got some fizz to mix with it. Sadly this one tasted like fizzy grape juice, and cost a lot more than Schloer.

McGuigan Sparkling

This on the other hand tasted to me just like a good dry fizz. I like it a lot. But unfortunately the ladies of the house found it vinegary. Which is weird, as they’re enjoying Equinox Organic Kombucha, which I think tastes like fizzy fruity vinegar.

Thatchers Zero Alcohol Free Cider

There was a risk of this tasting like fizzy apple juice, but it doesn’t. I’ll be getting more.

Erdinger Alkoholfrei

I’d tried this one before after being introduced to it by a neighbour, but not in cans. They’ve done a really good job with this, as it tastes just like a proper Weisbeer. If only I liked that style more.

Coast Beer Co Alcohol Free DDH IPA

This is the style I like, and it’s really well executed. Another one I’ll buy again. I also got their Single Hop Series Centennial IPA, but I’ve yet to try that, and it seems to be out of stock now.

Beavertown Lazer Crush Alcohol Free IPA

I like a lot of what Beavertown do, but sadly this didn’t hit the mark.

Cloudwater Green Tea & Simcoe Sour Soda

I’ve saved the best until last. I love Cloudwater beers, but this isn’t a beer. It is however really tasty and refreshing. I’ll be getting a sample box for the full range next time.

Pi Stuff

Not much going on with my own Pis this month, but this State of netbooting Raspberry Pi in 2021 caught my eye.

Beating Beat Saber

Another month of hardly putting the headset on, so not much to report. My excuse is that my Apple Fitness target for the month was 250km walking or running, but I missed that too – not by a huge margin, but by enough that I wasn’t tempted to just head out and do one big walk to make up the distance.

Note

[1] If you’re wondering what was worse, it was the New Yorker back in 2003 when it was part of the Ramada chain. Over an hour to check in, waiting with a tired and cranky 2y old. A room that felt like a plumbing cupboard that they’d squeezed a bed into, and the eye rolling receptionist when I’d looked at another room, but asked for one that was hygienic. Third time was the charm though; if we’d had that room from the start it would just have been the check-in that was awful.


Boots

03Aug21

In my July 2021 post I mentioned being a bit miffed about my hiking boot falling apart:

I was annoyed when it happened as:

  1. I’d hardly worn those boots, as they’d been bought as replacements when my beloved Timberlands had fallen apart
  2. The (repaired) beloved Timberlands had been left at home
  3. Now I needed to buy replacements for my replacements for the planned hike up Helvellyn

I subsequently learned that polyurethane (PU) soles have a nasty habit of doing this, even if they’ve been left in a nice dry cupboard for years on end.

This left me with a dilemma – should I spend money on getting them fixed? In the end I sent them off to Cheshire Shoe Repairs thinking that the repair and return postage would be £59. But I hadn’t reckoned on the need for a midsole (£20) and re-randing (another £20). This worsened the dilemma, but in the end the chap from Cheshire made a convincing case that the repaired boots would likely last longer than any new boots I might buy. Also with Vibram soles my Contour boots would be pretty much up to the same spec as the Scarpa boots they were a cheaper version of.

They came back today, and are looking good, and of course they’re as comfortable as they ever were (which was great from day one).

Part of my motivation in getting the Contour boots repaired is that my beloved Timberlands are still going strong after their repair. I got the Timberlands on my first trip to the US in 1997. We were staying at a hotel on International Drive in Orlando, and near the end of the week we discovered a bunch of ‘outlet’ shops, which included Timberland. I found some nice Gore Tex lined boots for (if I recall correctly) $140, which made them a lot less than £100 (a real bargain at the time). I still have the bumf that came in the box:

I wore those boots for my 2008 Helvellyn hike:

But when I got home the original soles were shredded, and those boots weren’t going to come on another hike with me, so I bought the Contours the next day. The shop I got the new boots in had leaflets for a boot repair place (Lancashire Sports Repairs if I recall correctly), which did a great job of putting a Vibram sole on the Timberlands.

Thirteen years later they’re still looking great on the outside:

Though the wear on the inside suggests that they won’t be getting rebuilt again.

But now I have another pair of boots to spread the walking over, as I got some Meindl Merans for that Helvellyn hike (which never happened due to my daughter being bitten by an insect).

They’re super comfortable, though I’ve not had the chance to properly test them yet.


July 2021

31Jul21

Pupdate

The big news this month is the arrival of Milo. So we now have double the fun.

Holiday

The other big news was that we went on holiday for a week in the Lake District. The Lakes were for a while a regular family destination, and then for a variety of reasons we stopped going. But last autumn it seemed reckless to plan a holiday abroad for this year, so we checked availability on Wheelwrights, as we’d used them many times before. All they had was Keepers Cottage on the Graythwaite Estate, which was more cottage that we really needed, but we hoped that maybe the kids could bring some friends along. It was also a bit of the Lakes we’d not really spent time in before, and more isolated than we were used to.

In the end the cottage and location were perfect. It was fantastic to be able to just walk out the front door and explore the various paths and trails through the estate. It was also great to have activities and water sports facilities on our doorstep. I’ve already booked up again for next year.

Boots

I’ll do a separate post on this, but I was pretty miffed about my hardly worn Contour hiking boots just falling apart. Apparently polyurethane soles just rot away in the cupboard, which is where these boots have spent most of the last 13 years since I bought them.

As we were planning a hike up Helvellyn via Striding Edge I ended up having to buy another pair of boots.

Cookaway on holiday

As we were pretty isolated there wasn’t much takeaway food within reach, or any delivery services, so we ordered a Cookaway Indian box to be delivered (and I put the lat/long into the order details to help the delivery driver find the place). It all worked out perfectly, so we were able to enjoy a tasty fresh Indian meal on out final night.

Maps

I’ve already written a post about MapOut and OS Maps apps, and I found myself using OS Maps a lot when out walking.

Travel router

I bought a GL.iNet GL-MT1300 travel router for the trip, and it performed well, though I never tried using it for VR gaming, which is why I’d got it. My full review is here.

Insect bites

Last month Ken Corless mentioned that he’d bought a ‘Bug Bite Thing’ in his monthly update, and I thought it looked useful and got (a similar looking generic) one. Sadly it wasn’t able to help with the bite my daughter suffered that kyboshed the Helvellyn hike, but I think it saved me from some discomfort.

I’ve seen tick warnings (especially for dog owners) on previous trips to the Lakes, but I’ve never previously encountered the nasty little blighters. Things were different this time. After an arrival walk around Green Hows Tarn I found a tick on my shin the following morning, and as the week progressed another couple got me. Max was victimised more, and we were having to pull off a handful each day. I didn’t have exactly the right tool, but I was very glad I’d taken my Tweezerman hangnail clippers.

Pi stuff

I got to do some serious Pi stuff for work this month. We’ve been sharpening up the ‘distributed edge secondary server’ (dess), and one of the target platforms for that is Raspberry Pi. We already had automation in place to build Arm64 images that would work on 64bit Pis running 64bit OSes; but most people run Raspberry Pi OS (previously Raspbian), which is still 32bit, and that needs Armv7 images. Building Armv7 images for Dart based stuff doesn’t ‘just work’ with the Docker Buildx Github Action, so I’ve had to setup a cloud based Raspberry Pi (running on Mythic Beasts) to be part of our continuous delivery pipeline.

I was also intrigued to see this use of a Pi – ‘Digital Film Cartridge Adds a Raspberry Pi to an Old Film Camera‘, though it’s a shame that it’s not full frame. Twenty years ago I’d have loved a digital drop in for my 35mm SLRs, and Intel patented ‘Method and apparatus for taking digital pictures with an industry standard film camera‘, but I guess cost for a full frame sensor, and other considerations (like dust) meant that it was never really practical.

Beating Beat Saber

I took the Oculus Quest with me on holiday, but as the weather was good it didn’t come out of its shiny new travel case. Usage was light for the rest of the month too, although I did try out the new Interscope Mixtape music pack I’d bought – so there are some fresh full combo challenges ahead.