Capdase 180A MKeeper Camera Case

The lovely fellows over at Love Cases kindly offered to send me a free Nikon D3100 case to review for the camera that I bought in March; I didn’t say no! It’s called the “Capdase 180A MKeeper”. Goodness knows who came up with that name but that doesn’t matter! I have to say I’m extremely impressed with it and wouldn’t hesitate to buy it at it’s current price of £17.95. My brother has subsequently bought one after seeing mine, and my Dad is going to purchase one for his new camera also.

Note that the case is only big enough for 1 lens though. If you have two lenses (which I can’t justify) then perhaps the larger model would suit: Capdase 270A.

From the front, minus the main strap (which attaches via study plastic clips to the side):
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A close up showing the quality of the fabric/weave. It seems resistant to buffs, scuffs and nicks so far:
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The front pocket. Large enough for a few batteries and other bits:
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The inside. Additional pocket inside the top flap, and a removable velcro fitting in case you want to keep the lens separate from the body:
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From a tiny zip pocket at the back, a pull out waterproof(?)/resistant cover!
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For a wider range of bags for all cameras check out: dslr camera bag.

The Fight Back to Fitness, Part 2

I wrote quite some time ago about my attempt to find some fitness after almost 10 years off the bike. To be clear, I’m never ever going to stand on a podium. I probably won’t ever make the top 20 in the local cross league but I do want to better myself and crucially, my previous self. This year I think I’ve reached a notable milestone in this aim and so it’s time for a (rather long self indulged) update.

To summarise previous writing I took up cycling again in April 2009 and managed just 4 races in the 2009-2010 Notts and Derby Cyclocross (NDCXL) season before deciding to take some time off. I felt weak, wasn’t enjoying it and for a while other things took priority over cycling entirely. In all honesty I felt pretty demoralized. By March 2010 when I wrote the last post I was feeling chipper again and other issues had settled a little. I was ready to hit the bike! Before that though I needed to reassess things slightly and have a think about “what went wrong”. I came up with a few ideas:

  • Holding unrealistic expectations; while I managed to find reasonable form as a junior in just 12 weeks, the 4 months off the bike prior to that was preceded by roughly 3 years of consistent riding and cross seasons as a juvenile rider. To expect to get even close to that after 5/6 months of training after 10 years off was too much!
  • Not riding enough base miles: Effectively I was starting from scratch and hadn’t yet accumulated any decent mileage. I simply didn’t have the years of conditioning that result in a form of “inherent” stamina (which is my weak point anyway). This kind of thing takes time.
  • Not enough hills, and not enough hills with vengeance!

So with those thoughts in mind I started to focus on the 2010-2011 season and gradually increased the miles from around April onwards (trying to balance it with a little training for the Derby 10K). Over the summer I managed more of the elusive 100+ mile weeks that I’d been chasing the previous year. I rode more hills and I rode them what I thought was hard. Being half a stone heavier and still weaker than my 18 year old self I still couldn’t come close to matching my best time up Sandy Lane but I was making progress. I entered the 2010-2011 season feeling “ok” and in an attempt to manage expectations I told myself that any performance better than last year would be good enough. Hahahaha! Right. Well despite this notion, comparisons to my former self were ultimately inevitable. As a junior I’d finished 16th / 130 odd in the same league on a few occasions; a placing that along with the Sandy Lane time had remained stuck in my head and been a focal point ever since starting cycling again. All in all I managed 8 races that season “trundling” round in around 60-70th place and being lapped EASILY. Best result? 46th at Sinfin which I was fairly happy with, but 25th was 10 minutes down and everyone after that was lapped. Still lacking. Now I *completely* understand that many people would be happy to finish 70th but equally some would be gutted to place 17th or maybe even 7th. It’s all relative isn’t it? We’re all just seeking to improve on what we know we’re capable of. Of course those who would complain about only finishing 7th would be slightly more annoying to the majority of us ;) Anyway I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. The thoughts were persistent:

“I’m only 28! I’m not past my peak yet!”
“It shouldn’t be impossible. It can’t just be because I work a full time job surely?”

Thankfully I didn’t feel as disappointed as before but more thinking was definitely required.

At the end of the 2010-2011 season (about 8 months ago in March 2011) I switched focus a little to getting a few more running miles in the legs as I wanted to do my second 10K in under 40 minutes. Thankfully I did just that :) I started to look over my training logs and thought about the kinds of rides I’d done the previous summer and what I did as a junior. What was missing? Base miles and hard hills can’t have been the answer. Then something hit me. It wasn’t raw data or training statistics but a memory. A particular section of road and a particular feeling associated with it: pain. When I was younger I used to do rides of around 45 minutes but flat out, race place. I think somehow I’d tapped into the youthful desire to prove myself and used that often to ride flat out and really hurt myself. I remembered this one section of road just a mile from home which was a real drag. I’d be giving it everything just to increase my average by 0.1mph, legs and lungs screaming all the way to the doorstep. This was something I was completely missing and the realization of this made me feel utterly stupid. Base miles and special interval sessions on the turbo can’t and wont replace 45 minutes to 1 hour of constant hard pushing on the pedals when you’re training for something that involves almost exactly that. Graeme Obree training in a nutshell. Not only that but I felt like I was holding off slightly whenever I did ride hard. I was missing that extra impetus. So, new training objectives were put in place for late Spring and Summer ready for the 2011-2012 season.

  • Start riding the chaingang to replace the 1 hour non stop hard rides I used to do.
  • Ride hills and ride them harder (note: having learnt once again how to hurt myself *properly* (thanks chaingang beasts) I could ride them harder than I did previously. Improvement in form = more repeats).
  • Do some strength training (either road or intervals) involving big (high) gears. I’d felt my legs were lacking strength in previous seasons and I’d resorted to spinning too low a gear. “Back in the day” (heh) I didn’t have a compact chainset on my road bike and so actually pushed a big gear and this was something I hadn’t been doing much at all even on hills. I knew this was essential.

It’s worth mentioning that by this time I was also in a new and happier relationship – this allowed me to crunch all the training my body could take over the following 5-6 months (an *additional* 1000 miles over the previous year) without worry or compromise – after all I don’t really train that much as the schedules of far more dedicated riders prove! A few 170 mile weeks taught me a thing or two about over training. In June I did the Great Notts Bike Ride – 76 miles in 3:52. In July I managed a particular route of mine at 20.8mph ave. 0.1mph faster than when I was 17. I was really over the moon with this! While still not as fast on the hills I had proved that overall I was pretty much just as fast (all things considered). Finally after 2 years I felt like I could actually relax a bit!

And so, fast forward a little to the time of writing, part way through the 2011-2012 NDCXL season! I’m quite happy with my performance so far. All in all I think I trained as much as possible (for my mediocre body), and *almost* as smartly as I could have done and so I can’t expect any more just yet (that’s next year haha). I was fixated on my placing for a bit but I’ve realised that cyclocross races are not only attracting bigger fields but they’re a lot more competitive these days. More riders. Better riders. While I was 16th / 130 once upon a time, I was still 6 minutes down on the top league riders on a fast course. This season I’ve been 6 minutes down on fast courses and placed in the late 40s / early 50s. The top league riders will always be roughly of the same ability so it’s the “time down” that is a more accurate representation of your actual athletic performance, although finishing with a better position is always a bonus as it means more points! I’ve been able to race all of the races so far except for one (which I got average points for) and have been lucky enough to scrape enough to get into box 1. No more rushing to the start 15 minutes early to get a place at the front of box 2! I feel quite settled and content with my ability at the moment, but I’m still very much looking forward to seeing what I can do next year. If I could reduce that time gap from 6 to 4 minutes I’d be ecstatic, though I realise this may take a considerable amount of extra training. Now, if only this chest cold would go so I can get back on the bike and make myself hurt with a high cadence long interval turbo session…

Are we missing out on beauty?

joshua bell

via: http://www.jeffbridges.com/perception.html

Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approx. 2 thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.

4 minutes later:

The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

6 minutes:

A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

10 minutes:

A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children.. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly..

45 minutes:

The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

1 hour:

He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities.

The questions raised:

*In a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?

*Do we stop to appreciate it?

*Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made.

How many other things are we missing?

Derby 10K 2011!

Well, I did it! My second 10K, and I managed a sub 40 minute time finishing in the top 2.9% (3011 runners) :) My legs are aching, but I’m pretty happy with the result (full results link here).

I’m primarily a cyclist (or at least, trying to be) so sacrificing training sessions for running has been difficult, especially as I’ve just come of the back of a very mediocre cyclo-cross season and I’m wanting to smash the miles ready for the coming season in September!

I use Endomondo for tracking all my training and I love the statistics page (data, mmmm). I knew that last year I did 40 miles worth of training for the 10K with a sub 45 time, and so this year I aimed to run roughly double that in the hope of running a sub 41. In the end, I did 78 miles of training, which included a 40:34 10K training run so I knew I stood a good chance of a sub 40 today:

running stats

Wellllllllllllllll, I said before the race that if I ran a sub 40 I would be able to retire from running happy. Of course, I know now that this isn’t true and I’m already thinking about lowering it to a sub 37 ;) I don’t even like running!

New work mobile and new PC!

Gawd. Still buzzing about having moved up a complete grade at work within 14 months, I found out today that my new desktop (Quad core Intel Core i7 870, with 8GB DDR3) was signed off as approved and my new HTC HD7 phone arrived! It’s such a gorgeous piece of hardware, and the OS is very pretty, but it has a long way to catch up with Android / iOS in terms of usability and functionality. Still, a pretty boss work phone to say the least :) Can’t wait for the desktop to arrive…

SQL Query for WSUS 3 Needed Updates

I wanted an SQL query to retrieve the number of updates “required” by our clients / computers managed by WSUS. Most of the advice online seemed to be applicable only to WSUS 2. With a few tweaks to an existing script I managed to get a working SQL query (key: ComputerID now seems to be TargetID).

This is executed from within SQL Server Management Studio on the WSUS server itself (I migrated the database to the full version of SQL Server).
SQL version: 2008 R2
WSUS version: 3.2.7600.226
Windows version: Server 2008 x64 SP2

SELECT left(tbComputerTarget.FullDomainName,30) as [Machine Name]
,count(tbComputerTarget.FullDomainName) as [# of Missing patches]
,tbComputerTarget.LastSyncTime as [Last Sync Time]
FROM tbUpdateStatusPerComputer INNER JOIN tbComputerTarget ON tbUpdateStatusPerComputer.TargetID = tbComputerTarget.TargetID
WHERE (NOT (tbUpdateStatusPerComputer.SummarizationState IN ('1', '4'))) GROUP BY tbComputerTarget.FullDomainName, tbComputerTarget.LastSyncTime
ORDER BY COUNT(*) DESC

SummarizationState:
1 = Not Installed
2 = Needed
3 = Downloaded
4 = Installed
5 = Failed

Improvements and Suggestions for Endomondo

I’ve recently started using Endomondo on my HTC Desire to track my cycling and thankfully it’s been completely issue free. I love it, although there is room for improvement. Eventually this could be a service worth paying a monthly subscription for (they must surely be funding this through venture capital at the moment). In no particular order, here are a list of things I’d like to see sometime in the future:

  1. The ability to turn on “snap to” when manually drawing routes, so that it automatically follows the roads. Many sites already allow this. For example: http://bikeroutetoaster.com/Course.aspx and Google Maps “My Maps”.
  2. Automatic pausing of the timer. The timer should stop automatically when I’m stuck at traffic lights!
  3. Multiple twitter account support. I’d like to be able to tweet workouts to both my professional and my personal twitter accounts please.
  4. Enhanced privacy options on social networking posts. For example, the option to hide links to your profile and route:
    “<Name> Was out cycling 23.02 miles with #Endomondo.”
    rather than
    “<Name> Was out cycling 23.02 miles with #Endomondo. See it here: http://bit.ly/1a2b3c”
    A link to Endomondo could still be included to promote the service.
  5. Slimline (less annoying) social networking posts. This is really the same as above but relates specifically to Facebook. If my friends were posting workouts daily with a giant map thumbnail taking up my news feed, I’d probably hide them just because of that.
  6. Additional data to include in social networking posts. It would be nice to be able to include my average speed, or total elevation data in my updates.
  7. Email notification whenever someone comments on a workout. After all, we need instant notification right ;)
  8. A login form that allows the browser to remember your password (not “Remember me”). No matter what browser I use, I am not prompted as to whether I want the browser to remember the password. This I believe is by design (perhaps through use of the autocomplete html attribute or using a uniquely named password field), but it’s annoying.
  9. Improved import file function. At present, importing gpx files from Mapmyride / run.com doesn’t work.
  10. A “vote for feature” option on the Endomondo website like Dropbox (https://www.dropbox.com/votebox – this allows members to vote for the features they want to see most. A valuable way to gain feedback from your customers :)
  11. A basic import function for historical training data. It would be nice if those of us migrating from other systems (I’m coming from an Excel spreadsheet) could import our old training data. Even if it could only handle the import of Date | Route Name | Distance | Duration it could still be used towards the “statistics view”. Most systems allow for the export to CSV. Define some allowable import fields and let us know so we can get importing!
  12. A customisable start day for the week (for statistics). Not all of us count the start the week as a Monday.
  13. Sync Endomondo contacts to phone. I’d like to be able to link my Endomondo contacts with the “people” on my phone. This would be similar to the official Last.fm and Twitter client (for example). I can link my friends using those services to the main contact list and see updates accordingly.
  14. Automatic recognition and naming of workouts (based on previously named workouts). If I name a particular workout, then it should be possible to name subsequent workouts based on comparison of GPS route data (perhaps allowing for a variation of 0.1km/mile).
  15. Optional workout (route) selection on application load. This could allow for automatic stopping at the “finish”. I for one would like to be able to have the application automatically pause or stop when I finish a workout (route), then I can focus on warming down, without concerning myself with retrieving the phone from my back pocket, taking out of the waterproof bag, unlocking the phone and stopping the data collection. After a hard session this is the last thing I want to be doing.
    Alternatively, a simple prompt when pressing start saying “Would you like Endomondo to stop when you return to this point?” could work without route identification.
  16. Customisable widgets or RSS feeds. I like many would like to include training data in the sidebar of my blog. A customisable widget or RSS feed for this would be great. Again I’d like to see privacy considered here; the option to remove the actual link to the workout/route and just include the raw mileage/distance/average would be essential.
  17. Integration with “events”. This is more of a long term future feature. Endomondo and other tracking applications should eventually be able to recognise if you’re competing in a public event (for example the London Marathon). Social network posts could be tagged accordingly (perhaps when clicking “Stop” it could ask “We think you were competing in <event>. Is this correct?”). Where these events would be stored, and who would enter them is obviously a critical requirement (has this already been done somewhere? If not, roll on an open database for competitive races!).
  18. Better stats. At the moment these are week, and I’m sure it’s in the the pipeline to develop them further. For some, you can never have enough stats! ;) I’d like to see:
    • Average speed per year/month/week (in a similar fashion to the mileage at the moment).
    • Mouseover for more stats on the current mileage view (idea by SportTracker / Michal Stupo Stupák).
    • Ability to compare mileage for each week (1, 2, 3…) by year. It’d be nice to see what kind of distance I was covering by week 15 in 2008, 2009 and 2010 for example.
    • Best times / average speed for specific routes.

  19. That’s all for now…