Ferrari: Under the Skin at the Design Museum

The Design Museum, now in Kensington, currently has an exhibition called Ferrari: Under the Skin, all about the brand and most importantly – their cars. So when my Dad suggest a trip to London to see it, I didn’t take much convincing – especially as he’d planned it to coincide with Porsche night at the Ace Cafe!

The journey to the Design Museum took in car (Porsche of course), tube and bus. Whenever I’m in London I’m reminded how lucky I am to live in Coventry, walking/cycling distance from most places I need to go – getting round London is a faff. A very slow faff. I was impressed that I could travel on the tube and bus, just by waving my iPhone at the machine though.

The Design Museum’s new location is impressive in itself and much bigger than the old site near the Tower of London, that I visited with Jen in 2015, for their bike exhibition. We were on a tight schedule, so unfortunately only had time to look at the Ferrari exhibition. The first few sections were about Enzo Ferrari and the background to the formation and early years of his most famous racing team. I particularly liked the original design drawings from the 1950’s. I work with automotive CAD at work, so seeing similar drawings done by hand was very impressive. The next section – about the design/construction of Ferraris, as an automotive geek I was in heaven. There were wooden, wireframe and clay styling bucks from over the years, a rolling chassis from a 250 GT and various bits of engines, paired up as rough castings and finished parts. I love seeing how cars are put together!

The rest of the exhibition was cars, first road cars, including the gorgeous 275 GTB4 (the blue one in the photo), which was my favourite. Then race cars, on a large banking, starting with the Ferrari 500 F2, which Alberto Ascari drove to victory at the F1 championships in 1952 and 1953 to the Ferrari F1-2000 driven by Michael Schumacher, which also won a world championship. The F1 cars were impressive, but I liked how close to the road cars the GT cars were, including one which Stirling Moss won the Tourist Trophy at Goodwood, whilst listening to the race commentary on the radio! The final part of the exhibition was “the future” and the star car was a white LaFerrari Aperta – one of only 200, this one owned by chef Gordon Ramsay.

The car that made me smile the most though, and grab my phone to get a photo, was the little Fiat 500 driving up Kensington High Street, at rush hour, in the rain. I love seeing classic cars being used, but after having driven one I had even more respect for the driver – it was difficult enough to drive on empty country roads, London rush hour in a Fiat 500 would be way too stressful for me!

From the Design Museum, we were back on the bus/tube/car to the Ace Cafe, taking about twice as long as the way there, due to London rush hour. We were still one of the first Porsches there, so grabbed a burger whilst waiting for more to arrive. I’d forgotten just how good a flat six Porsche engine sounds, hearing them all pulling up had me thinking that it may be good to have one in the garage instead of the MR2…

Unfortunately we had to leave before it got really busy, we had a long drive ahead and my Mum was babysitting Owen whilst Dad and I were out looking at nice cars. I can’t wait until we can bring Owen along on our automotive adventures!

Bitcoin: Wallets

The main thing you need to get started with Bitcoin is a wallet to hold your coins. There are a few different kinds of wallet available, I’ll run through them in order of security, starting from the weakest. As with most things there is a trade off to be made, as the less secure wallets are more convenient to use.

Online wallets are the easiest to use as they are online and can be accessed from many devices such as smartphones and web browsers. The downside of this convenience is that you don’t own the wallet, it lives on someone else’s server and you could lose your money – as happened to Mt.Gox customers. These wallets are often part of an other service like such as exchanges such as Coinbase or LocalBitcoins or faucets (free bitcoin sites), like freebitcoin. Some others that do not come with a service are Blockchain.info and Green Address.

Desktop wallets are installed on a computer and keep your Bitcoins there. This is safer than using an online service – you are in control of your wallet, but also responsible for backing it up and ensuring your system is secure. To make desktop wallets more secure you can use some of them in an “offline” state, if you have an old computer not connected to the internet. You can usually only access the wallet from the machine it is installed on, so they are less useful when it comes to spending Bitcoins out and about, although you can get “desktop wallets” on your smartphone. The official Bitcoin Core client is a desktop wallet, albeit one that requires downloading a large section of the blockchain – so make sure you have a lot of free space on our machine! Other examples are ArmoryElectrum and Copay, which is also available on iOS.

Paper wallets are simply a print out of the data needed for a Bitcoin wallet, usually in the form of a QR code. They don’t have to be printed on paper, they could be printed on something more durable, such as metal. As they are not held on a computer they are secure, but not so user friendly and have largely been replaced by hardware wallets.

Hardware wallets are small devices designed to hold cryptocurrency securely, offline. This can mean that they are possibly too secure – as the founder of Wired magazine found out! Trezor and Ledger Nano S are examples of hardware wallets.

Wallets are usually referred to as “hot” or “cold” with “hot wallets” usually being online wallets, containing a small amount of Bitcoin for servicing transactions. “Cold wallets” are offline wallets, such as hardware or paper wallets for long term storage, much like a savings account.

Based on my research, I have set up an account with Coinbase, so I am using their wallet as my hot wallet. I noticed that the service struggled with the number of users caused by Bitcoin reaching $10,000, then $11,000 on the same day, so that is something to keep an eye on. I have also set up a desktop wallet with Copay, which rather niftily can be duplicated on my iPhone. I also plan to set up a paper wallet, but that is a project for another day/post.

Some of the links I’ve posted are referral/affiliate links, but in general with Bitcoin/crypto currency you need to be wary of the links you are clicking, as some of them may be scams. At the time of publishing this post, all links appeared to be genuine.

Bitcoin: Introduction

I’m no expert in Bitcoin, or any crypto currency, just a regular guy with a bit of background knowledge. I’m starting to experiment with Bitcoin partly to diversify my investments, but mostly out of curiosity – I am a geek and this sort of thing interests me! I thought I’d blog about my Bitcoin journey in case anyone else is looking into it, but also to serve as a notebook for myself.

Bitcoin is a form of digital currency, created and held electronically. No one controls it. Bitcoins aren’t printed, like dollars or euros – they’re produced by people, and increasingly businesses, running computers all around the world, using software that solves mathematical problems.

– Coindesk: 20th March 2015

In the UK we have already started to change how we use money, even five years ago the major banks had a monopoly, but now fintech startups and even the big players such as Apple/Google are trying to replace the old banks. I was an early adopter of Apple Pay, registering and using iron the first day it was available in the UK. Bitcoin is certainly a part of the changing landscape for our money – I especially like that it is decentralised and not run by a company whose main motivation is do get more data about us. I spend a lot of time online, both for work and leisure, and Bitcoin has been in my peripheral vision for years – I’m not going to think about how lucrative it could have been to have bought some Bitcoin when I first heard about it! The value has already doubled since I put “Research Bitcoin” into my todo list three months ago! I am not interested in learning about the mining side of things, it seems like I have already missed the boat on that. Mining now seems to be the domain of large “mining pools”, plus my old iMac doesn’t need anything else to slow it down!

Whilst I’m certainly no financial expert, I have researched stocks/shares/funds etc and how to invest in them efficiently over the last few years, both for myself and for my young son Owen. I came to the  conclusion that I prefer to take a hands off approach to investing, and that fees can eat into your profits so need to be minimised. Obviously the biggest risk is that the value of your investment can go down, as well as up. I got caught out by investing just before a big dip, but stuck it out, investing more when the prices were low and did OK when things bounced back. I’m going to take a similar approach to Bitcoin, finding a balance between returns, effort and fees, and to start with – not investing more than I can afford to lose!

This is going to be a series of posts, documenting what you need to get started with Bitcoin, how to get Bitcoins and hopefully how I become filthy rich – if only it was that easy!

Cannock Chase Ride

One of my goals for 2017 had been to “Ride the full Follow The Dog and Monkey Trail loops at Cannock Chase”. I’ve ridden them before, but skipped sections out and/or pushed my bike up the hills. Last Friday I managed to do the almost impossible – align my time off, Owen’s childcare, the weather and permission to escape for a day out on my bike. It was to be the day I tackled the full loop at Cannock Chase.

I almost fell at the first hurdle, I was feeling full of cold when I woke up and considered staying in bed. I was so glad I didn’t though, as it was a lovely autumnal day – perfect for mountain biking! Still unsure if I was going to do the full loop, I paced myself for the first few sections to see how my legs and lungs felt. Although I could have done with some more speed over the new rock garden, as once you stop it is difficult to get going again. Just over two kilometres into the ride is “Cardiac Hill” – my nemesis. I have managed to ride all the way up it a couple of times previously, but it was always really difficult, with a particularly cruel increase in gradient right at the top. This time I feel like I conquered it, my legs were still burning and I needed a rest at the top, but felt in much better shape than I had before – probably a combination of stronger legs from my midweek rides and having lost some weight! At this point I knew I was going to do the full loop!

Crossing the railway and road onto the Monkey Trail felt much more remote, and I had a few more breaks to take in the view, watch the wildlife and consider how lucky I was to be there on my bike. The best view was at the top of “Over The Rainbow”, where the photo at the top of this post is from. By now I felt like I was riding the best I have ever ridden and hadn’t even noticed that I’d missed lunchtime! I managed to stay on my bike down the “Tom, Dick and Harry” rockgardens, which was better than my attempt a few years ago, when I went over the bars. At the bottom of “Upper Cliff” I managed to take a wrong turn, which resulted in some unnecessary climbing, before having to descend again to join the trail for the “Insidious Incline”, which leads to “Lower Cliff” – regarded as the best piece of trail at Cannock Chase. I’d never actually ridden this trail before, as it had either been closed, or I’d been put off by the extra climb. I had been missing out – the climb wasn’t all that bad and the descent was amazing. It felt more exposed than other trails at Cannock, Chase as the trees have been felled in that area, and there was lots of loose gravel waiting to catch out an unwary rider, but that all added to the fun! I even caught up to an other rider during the descent, not something that has happened to me before.

Crossing the road and railway again, back onto the “Follow The Dog” trail, I was faced with a long climb up “Kitbag Hill”, another section I’d never ridden before, having just gone up the fireroad on previous visits. My legs were starting to tire by the top of the climb, but I knew I was on the home straight and took things easy. By the time I’d got to “Son of Chainslapper” my legs felt much better and I could attack the last few sections of trail. This is the part of Cannock Chase I’ve ridden the most, mainly on the Leisure Lakes Demo Days, which use these last few sections of “Follow The Dog” as the demo loop. I found myself whizzing past places I would usually have stopped for a breather, which was another indication that my fitness has improved significantly over the summer. The very last section of trail is closed for renovation, but knowing how my legs felt and that I’ve ridden that trail loads, it wouldn’t have posed a problem. So I’m claiming a full loop of “Follow The Dog” and “The Monkey Trail” and ticking it off my list of goals for 2017!

I was still buzzing when I rolled into the car park, not only had I achieved a personal goal, it had been the best day I’ve had on a bike. To celebrate, and because I’d missed lunch, I treated myself to a Burger King on the way home, still smiling to myself at how much fun I’d had on my bike.

Cyprus: Part Three – Protaras

Despite his late night, and my even later night celebrating Partho and Marilena’s wedding, Owen was awake at 7:00 and not at all sympathetic to Daddy’s hangover. Jen took him for a walk along the beach, so I could catch up on some much needed sleep. We met Partho, Marilena and Richard for a late breakfast as we would all be going our separate ways that morning. Partho and Marilena for a minimoon in Ayia Napa, Richard over the border to Northern Cyprus (which Jen and I checked out in 2011) and we were going to Protaras for a few days relaxing. Before checking out, we took Owen for another swim in the indoor pool, which he enjoyed.

When we visited Limassol in 2011 there was a lot of building work happening near the old town – a swanky new marina was being built. We decided to have a look round and grab some lunch before settling off for Protaras. The marina was beautiful, with super yachts parked in the turquoise waters and pastel coloured villas lining the marina. I’m not sure if the boats or villas would be more expensive, but imagine that the owners have both anyway. There were regular security patrols on golf buggies, making it feel a bit like a Bond villain’s lair. We had frappes (iced coffees) sat outside Cafe Nero, as that was what the locals do. Then we went for lunch at TGI Fridays, not normally somewhere we’d go on holiday, but it was sheltered from the sun and wind and had a great view over the marina.

After lunch we drove to Protaras, taking the coastal route to Larnaca, then the motorway to Protaras. It was good to see some new parts of Cyprus – I’d previously only seen Limassol and the motorway from the airport. Some of the smaller villages were really nice, others just seemed like ramshackle hamlets. Our first impression of Protaras was driving down “the strip” to get to our hotel. It looked much like any other typical holiday resort, with English themed pubs (Only Fools and Horses bar etc) showing English football and advertising full English breakfasts. After putting Owen to bed, I popped out to the ice cream shop next to the hotel – this was to be a recurring theme of our stay.

Once again, Owen woke up at 7:00, despite our efforts to keep him on British time, so I took him for a walk. Fig Tree Bay was two minutes down the road and looked beautiful, with shallow clear water and a small island in the middle of the bay. We walked around the headland to the main beach with all the big hotels. I really liked having the promenade/boardwalk along the beach and that there were municipal sun loungers and parasols, rather than the beach being carved up by hotels for residents only.

After breakfast we took Owen to the beach for his first taste of swimming in the sea! He seemed to enjoy it, splashing away and wriggling his feet into the sand. When we got out he made friends with the couple on the sun loungers behind us, playing peekaboo and waving at them. I went back into the sea with my GoPro and swam out to the island, where there was a shelf of rock just under the water, which was a perfect place to watch the fish swimming around. There were even some pipefish swimming around, which I had never seen in the wild before. Some of the GoPro photos looked otherworldly and some even had fish in the frame.

All the swimming and playing in the sand must have tired Owen out as he had a long nap, meaning we had a late lunch. We walked back down to Fig Tree Bay, to Zefkas, for traditional Cypriot kebabs. They were amazing, probably the best food we ate all trip. Jen had pork, I had Sheiftalies (a Cypriot sausage) and Owen had halloumi and lountza -Cypriot ham. To work off our lunch we walked the length of the promenade to the other side of town, stopping for an ice cream, then back via the strip. In the evening we went to Paladela, which was just across the road, I had Pork Tavas (chunks of pork and potatoes baked in a tomato sauce), Jen had moussaka and Owen had pizza. Then when Owen was in bed I went to the ice cream shop to bring back a late night snack. Once Owen was in bed it was nice having some time to relax, sitting out on the balcony reading a book, sorting through photos or blogging.

Our last full day in Protaras was much the same as the first, except that Partho and Marilena joined us for lunch at Zefkas and a walk along the promenade. We all then joined Partho’s sister and brother-in-law at the beach, where Owen befriended some Russian kids, although I expect he was planning to steal their ball! Our evening wasn’t quite so relaxing, as we had to pack for the flight home. We still managed to have ice creams though.

The journey to the airport went without a hitch, we even had time for breakfast pizzas and a bit of shopping at the airport. We had seemingly the only empty seat on the plane next to us and Owen had a much better flight than on the way out, despite a fair bit of turbulence. We got through the airport quickly – our bags came round the carousel just as I got there, which never happens! Before embarking the long drive back to Coventry we stopped at McDonalds for a late lunch, which was Owen’s first Happy Meal, he was especially excited to be given some balloons.

Traveling with Owen was certainly different to our previous travels, we’re used to traveling light, but Owen had more stuff than both of us combined. He seemed to cope well with the food, even if he wasn’t eating as healthily as he would at home – but that is all part of holidaying, right? We did miss out on a few things, such as paddle boarding and eating later with everyone else but he certainly made the holiday more fun.

Cyprus: Part Two – The Wedding

Photo by my good friend Richard Long, as I was too busy being best man to take any photos.

After a busy build up, this was the day we had come to Cyprus for – Partho and Marilena’s wedding! I had been told that my services would not be needed until 13:00, so we had a relaxing morning, swimming with Owen. The outdoor pool was too cold for him, but the hotel had a heated indoor pool, which was perfect for Owen. It was also empty, so he could splash and squeal in delight as much as he wanted! I was going to take him in the sea, but had been told it would be better to wait until we got to Protaras for that, as the sea in Limassol is “cold” – this was from a Cypriot, who obviously hasn’t surfed in the English Channel in February!

I had been told to report to Partho’s hotel at 13:00 for the ritual shaving, a Cypriot tradition where the best man shaves the groom. Although these days it is mainly symbolic and for the photographers. Partho must have wimped out, as I merely had to help him get dressed, button up his shirt, tie his tie etc, again, all for the photographers.

After the photos we had an hour or so to kill, so we thought we would get Owen lunch, which turned into a rushed affair, with both Jen and I getting stressed that we’d be late for the ceremony. Partho actually thought I was doing it on purpose as Marilena was so late to our wedding she missed the ceremony! After the quickest outfit change for all three of us, we made it to the hotel lobby a mere six minutes late. Only to be told that the bride was behind schedule – panic over. Owen looked so smart in his blue trousers, white shirt and blue bowtie, especially as he was matching Partho and I.

At the church I didn’t realise what was going on – I’m not too au fait with British weddings, let alone Greek Orthodox ones, and all the logistics of who needed to be where etc were in Greek. Rather than the groom waiting at the alter, the bride and groom meet outside and walk down the aisle together. I eventually got the right place, next to Partho at the alter, then realised that I hadn’t been given the rings! Fortunately the best man isn’t responsible for the rings at a Cypriot wedding and the priest had them.

The ceremony was a bit of a blur, the priest did explain some bits in English to Partho, so I had a vague idea of what was going on. My best man duties were swapping the rings between Partho and Marilena’s fingers twice. I had been told I needed to do it three times, so was a bit confused there. As I was when I didn’t need to swap their “crowns” (beaded head pieces, which are tied together) – I had been told that I would need to swap them three times, and that if they were dropped the wedding had to be postponed! I also had to hold a napkin under Partho’s chin in case he dribbled when eating the holy bread and drinking the holy wine. Partho joked that I was best qualified for this as I’d had plenty of practice with Owen. One thing that surprised me about the ceremony was that the photographers and videographers where free to work during the service, even posing Partho and Marilena when the priest was talking to them. They had lights and camera dollies set up behind the alter and at points it felt more like I was in a film about a wedding, than at an actual wedding.

The wedding reception was back at our hotel, with canapés on the lawn. This was a good opportunity to try some typical Cypriot food, which was all very tasty. Even Owen ate plenty of it! As best man I was sat on the top table for dinner, but hadn’t been expecting Jen and Owen to be up there with me. Having a tired little boy on the top table was a risky strategy, but Owen seemed to take it in his stride, making friends with Partho’s sister.

I found my speech more difficult than when I was best man at my little brother’s wedding in 2015, despite Partho giving me so much material to work with over the years. The language barrier and the fact speeches aren’t usually part of a Cypriot wedding didn’t help, but Partho had decided I wasn’t getting away with not doing one. I did get a few laughs at the key moments and didn’t upset Partho, or Marilena, with my stories, so I’ll class that as a success!

After the speeches a short wedding highlights video was shown, with both Partho and Marilena getting ready, and some shots from the ceremony and reception. As a photographer I was impressed at how quickly they turned the video around. I’m also looking forward to the full wedding video and photographs, as there was much more focus on capturing the day than at a typical British wedding. I don’t envy Partho and Marilena having to choose the images they want for their album!

After the wedding we spent a few days relaxing in Protaras.

Cyprus Trip: Part One – Before the Wedding

We’re in Cyprus for a few days, to celebrate Partho and Marilena getting married. This post will cover the first part of the trip, which we spent in Limassol before the wedding.

Travelling with Owen is far more stressful than just Jen and I. We tried to get everything organised in advance, but then Monarch, the airline we’d booked with ceased trading and we had an extra stressful few days rebooking. We ended up paying double the price and having to fly from Stansted, rather than Birmingham, which made it a really long day travelling.

Owen slept all the way to the airport, but seemed to enjoy taking in all the sights of the airport – the bus from the car park, the security check, the train to the gate etc. He was mostly well behaved on the plane, but four hours is a long time for a little boy to be sat on his Dad’s lap in such an exciting environment. He made friends with a little Norwegian boy sat in front of us, and the girl sat next to me, who just happened to work in a nursery, so was used to inquisitive little boys. I felt sorry for her a bit – she was probably looking forward to a holiday away from small children!

Getting through Larnaca airport was fairly easy, apart from when Owen decided to wee everywhere when we were changing his nappy. I guess it was inevitable after he drank a bottle of water on the plane. Our “Golf or similar” turned out to be a Nissan Pulsar, which was fine, for the 45 minute drive to Limassol. For some reason Apple Maps gave us a route, but didn’t give us turn by turn directions. Then when we switched to Google Maps it insisted on spelling out the road names Greek letter by Greek letter.

Just as we got to the hotel, Partho phoned to suggest a nightcap, so it was a case of checking in, transferring the now fast asleep Owen into his cot, then straight to the bar for me to catch up with Partho and Rich, who was already at the hotel. Jen stayed with Owen, but I did bring some beers back, and it was nice to sit outside on the balcony, listening to the sea lapping against the shore.

We decided to keep Owen on UK time (Cyprus is two hours ahead), so it was 9:00 before we got to the breakfast buffet. It was lovely sitting outside on the terrace for breakfast, but it was already getting warm! After breakfast we explored the pool and beach areas and walked up to the shops to get some supplies for Owen. All the heat and excitement must have tired him out, as he was asleep by the time we got back to the hotel. Jen took the opportunity to go for a swim in the adult only pool, whilst I stayed in the air conditioned room with Owen – working on my best mans speech.

When Owen woke up we drove to the Colours Cafe at the Four Seasons hotel, where Jen and I had shared a huge ice cream sundae on our previous trip to Cyprus in 2011. The cafe had been redone recently and it looked very swanky, however the highlight was the long counter with ice cream, cakes and pastries on display! We had lunch whilst waiting for Partho and Marilena to join us for ice cream. I was surprised to see chicken curry pie on the menu, so I had to order it to share with Owen. I thought it was amazing, but Owen didn’t even want to try it – his loss was my gain. When we eventually got ice cream and cakes, Owen’s appetite had reappeared, and he did a good job helping us to polish off our chocolate sundae. Disappointingly the sundae was only half the size of the one we’d had on our previous visit. I also found out more about what my best man duties would entail, complete with a warning that if I messed up my duties during the ceremony, the wedding would have to be postponed until the next day.

After all the excitement of lunch and ice cream, Owen was ready for a nap by the time we got to the hotel so I used this opportunity to go for a swim in the sea and mess about with my GoPro. The hotel had a pontoon to avoid the rocky foreshore, so I jumped in off the end of that. The water was clear enough to see the bottom and shoals of fish swimming by. I also went for a dip in the pool, which was actually colder than the sea. Having worked up an appetite we went out in search of dinner, ending up at a German bierkeller – it wasn’t hard to find, due to the massive inflatable beer on the roof. We were able to get a table outside and all had a great meal, included Owen, who learned about dipping his food into a pot of sauce. The local stray cats must have clocked Owen, as they were waiting by his highchair, waiting for him to throw his food around. However Owen was eating really well and the cucumber slices were the only offerings for the cats. After dinner Richard and I retired to the outdoor bar for a few beers, the plan had been to give Partho a bit of a send off on his last night of freedom, but he was late getting to us as Marilena had given him some jobs to do…

The other posts from this trip are now live: Partho and Marilena’s Wedding and Relaxing in Protaras.

Saved by the Backup

In my last post I explained about my back up routine for WordPress, I wasn’t planning on testing it out so soon, but it has just saved my bacon! The plan was to spend an hour or so tweaking the blog to make it faster, by using the WP Super Cache plug in and Amazon Cloud Front, however something went badly wrong! The alarm bells should have started to ring when I noticed that most tutorials about using Amazon Cloud Front with WordPress referred to W3 Total Cache, however I preferred the look of WP Super Cache and fancied a challenge…

I was loosely following this guide, but somehow managed to take my website offline, probably by sending requests into a DNS blackhole. The problem was this meant I couldn’t get back onto my website to turn the caching off again. At this point I would also like to add that I couldn’t test this phase on my development server, as Cloud Front needed to pull data from the blog, which meant deploying on the live site.

I could still SSH into the server, so used the WP Super Cache uninstall instructions for “if all else fails and your site is broken”. However that didn’t help. At this point I was getting a little bit more panicked, but was very glad of my new backup strategy and that I’d had the foresight to make a backup just before I’d started fiddling with the blog. I feared the worst, that I would have to reinstall WordPress again from scratch and reload my data, reading this troubleshooting guide confirmed my fears.

Reinstalling WordPress isn’t the end of the world, I have done it a number of times, but for some reason I have been having a lot of permission issues on my web server, maybe I had taken security a bit too far. This meant that I couldn’t get my FTP client to upload my backup data. I ended up revisiting the AWS WordPress installation guide and also this blog post to find the correct settings and set them via SSL. At least I’ve had a lot of command line practice this evening!

Even with the permissions fixed, I couldn’t use the restore tool on Updraftplus (possibly due to restrictions I have added on AWS?), but was able to upload the data via FTP and got the blog up and running again. I still haven’t got the caching/CDN set up, but I think I’l take the easy route now and hopefully not need to test my backups again.

WordPress Backups Using UpdraftPlus and Amazon S3

I had a bit of a disaster the other day – I went to link to a blog post from a few months ago and it wasn’t there! I remember writing it, and knew it had posted, because I remembered some of the comments from when it appeared on my Facebook profile. I then remembered that there had been some funny goings on with the WordPress Mac app, I’d had a duplicate post and deleted it manually. However now it seems like the duplicate had also been deleted.

Of course it was at this point I realised that my latest backup was a couple of months before the post and I couldn’t recover it from anywhere. I was particularly annoyed at myself because I have a thorough backup routine for my Macs and especially my photography work, yet virtually nothing for my blog. However, it was the kick up the backside I needed to sort out a decent backup routine for my blog!

Given that I was the weak link when it came to backing up my log I wanted something automatic, that would run regularly and email me when it had completed. As with most things WordPress, there seemed to be loads of plugins available, most of them paid services. In my research I’d read good things about UpdraftPlus, so was pleased to find their free option, which is more than powerful enough for a small blog like mine.

To see if it UpdraftPlus lived up to the hype, I downloaded it onto my WordPress development environment (Chassis running on my iMac) and had a play. Looking at the list of remote storage services Amazon S3 was the obvious choice, as I already use Amazon Web Services to host my blog. Knowing the basics of cyber security, I only wanted UpdraftPlus to have minimal access to AWS, I had got myself lost in a maze of IAM, S3 buckets, users, groups and permissions. I was on the right track but this post on the UpdraftPlus blog, told me exactly what I needed to do. The IAM Policy Simulator on AWS was also a huge help in making sure my policies were both written and applied correctly. I went for the maximum security option, which also gave me a chance to delve into the workings of S3, setting up rules to archive then delete the data after periods of time.

Once deployed and tested on my development environment, it only took a matter of minutes to get working on my live blog, giving me regular, automated backups. Now the only task left to do is do rewrite the post that got lost…

Long Weekend in Yorkshire

Jen’s fitness goal for 2017 was to run the York 10km race, and as our main family holidays were earlier (Croyde) and later in the year (Cyprus), we decided to take a few days off work and turn it into a summer mini break.

Our first stop was with our friends, Helen and Phil, in York. Phil and I, along with his son William, had been planning a bike ride whilst the girls ran their race on Sunday morning. However, that plan was vetoed, so we sent Owen and the girls into town and went for a bike ride on the Saturday afternoon instead. Phil had chosen a great route, with some off road sections and a stop at an ice cream boat! After the bike ride Phil fired up the pizza oven for a pizza party! Our other friends, Hayley and Will and their children, also joined us. The kids all had a good time together, especially once the bouncy castle was set up. Owen was the youngest there, but got stuck in playing with the bigger kids, even if he couldn’t keep up with them. We all had a lovely evening eating pizza and playing with the kids.

I woke up on Sunday with a dodgy belly – thinking that I’d disproved my theory that “there is no such thing as too much pizza”, and discovered the “pizza hangover”. However, in reality I think I’d caught the stomach bug that Owen had earlier in the week. Unfortunately he seems to have spread it to everyone he came into contact with at the weekend. Phil and I took the kids to the Knavesmire to watch the start of the race, then walked further down the course to cheer the girls on, managing to spot them in the crowd of over six thousand runners. After the race we went to Hayley and Will’s for a BBQ. I cycled over with William – I think we were both still excited about our new bikes, so didn’t need any excuses to ride them. It was less than half a mile up the road, but as William is only just starting to ride on the road I felt a great responsibility. I can’t wait until I am able to ride with Owen. Owen must have sensed this, as at the BBQ he was sat on a little trike and looked so pleased with himself. He sat on it for at least half an hour – he never sits still, so this was unheard of. After getting off the trike he crawled over to my bike and looked at it as if that was his next target now that he’d “mastered” the trike. After the BBQ we drove to our next stop an Airbnb in a secret valley in the North York Moors. It really was in a secret valley – located about a mile from the nearest road, but the hosts were lovely and the cottage was perfect for the three of us.

I woke up feeling much better and snuck off for an early morning bike ride. The Airbnb was on some trails mentioned in my Good Mountain Biking Guide book – this was genuinely a complete coincidence! As I didn’t want to eat too much into our day, I did a shortened loop, which started with a brutal climb up through some sheep fields. Looking back towards the Airbnb I could see how it got its “Secret Valley” name – you couldn’t see it at all! The next section of trail was really boggy and just as difficult as the climb. Fortunately the return leg was much more fun, except for the part where I came round a corner and hit another boggy section. The bike stopped dead, but I carried on into the bog. By the time I got back down to the secret valley I was covered in mud, but had a big smile on my face.

After a quick shower we went to Helmsley to meet another of our friends, Els, who had got the bus out to meet us. After a brief tour of Helmsley and some elevenses we all set off to the seaside! When we got to Scarborough we quickly checked off a lot of the traditional seaside activities – fish and chips, 2p machines and slightly disappointing funfair, before heading onto the beach. Owen loves playing in sand, so he was in his element, digging, crawling and throwing sand around etc. I’m sure he could have stayed there all afternoon, but we had to meet Jen’s cousin Virginia, who we have stayed with on previous trips to Scarborough.

We had a nice catch up before driving back to the Airbnb. Before dinner, we had a visitor to the cottage – Vinnie, the owner’s puppy, who befriended Owen. They crawled around the cottage after each other and seemed to be having a great time together. All the reviews had mentioned how good the food was, so we were very excited about dinner. We had lamb tagine with roast potatoes, and homemade bread to mop up the sauce. All of the ingredients came from the farm, from the lamb, to the pickled wild garlic seeds and the wildflower garnish. It was one of the best meals we’d ever had! Jen has said that she is going to try and recreate it sometime – which I am looking forward to. For dessert we had mille feuille and the custard was infused with flowers from the local hedgerows. It wasn’t something I would have chosen from a menu, but I really enjoyed it.

Our last day in Yorkshire started with a pre-breakfast walk up the farm track, with Owen on my back, to see a calf that we’d noticed on our way out to Helmsley the day before. When we got to the field it mooed at us, then walked over to see us. It certainly liked the attention. We had breakfast at the Airbnb, which was just as good as dinner the previous evening. I was actually quite sad to be leaving the secret valley, I could have spent another day there.

The original plan had been to call in at Yorkshire Sculpture Park on the way home, but given that the weather forecast was for heavy rain we decided to go to York Designer Outlet for some shopping. It was Jen who wanted to go shopping, but me that ended up buying loads of things – new work shoes and Jen’s Christmas present, which she had already been dropping lots of hints about. The real winner was Owen, as you can hire little cars to wheel kids about in – he absolutely loved it! After pizza for lunch we drove back to the shire, the heavy rain didn’t let up until we got to Nuneaton for a quick stop off with Jen’s Mum and Dad. All the way down the motorway I had been trying to work out if I could get the car back home just as it clicked over to 75,000 miles, but the odometer just clicked over to 74,999 as I pulled onto the drive.