Tech Life Gym Family

Advice to Gym Class Instructors

This is generic advice to those who give classes in gym’s from somebody who consumes them and has seen a fair few different instructors over the years. Much of it is common sense and yet it is still easily forgotten.

Start the class on time
Start on time and never wait for people who are late. Waiting only penalises those who bothered to turn up on time. If people are late that’s their problem.

Finish the class on time
Respect attendees time and do not assume they will view you running over time as a free bargain. The one exception may be for a stretch, but even there the best instructors build in time for a final stretch within the allocated time.

Get there early and be fully setup and ready with the sound system
Music and sound systems are often a problem with Bluetooth connection hassles typical. Know who to contact if there is a problem. And hopefully if you got there early these problems won’t be paraded in front of a room full of people twiddling their thumbs. Alternatively be self contained and turn up with your own speaker (large or small) - no hassles then. Also know how to setup and use the head-mic if you are using one.

Know the gym equipment
This particularly applies to spinning bikes which can vary tremendously in their capabilities. If the bikes change or you are new to a gym then find out about the equipment and the culture at the gym re using that equipment. You won’t last very long (in a competitive world) if you don’t know how to get the most from the bike and give a strong class. Be professional and don’t assume you can muddle through on lots of good will or what you have done in the past or elsewhere.

Make sure you have the right equipment for the class you want to give
If you plan a class with steps then make sure steps are there. Or even put the steps out ready. If you plan on using bands, hand weights or bar bells then make sure a rich variety of weight’s/strengths are available without attendees having to rush around elsewhere in the gym complex for this or that.

Don’t spend lots of time explaining what to do
In circuits type classes sometimes much time is lost while explaining in too much detail what is to be done at each station. If possible use recuperation periods to explain what comes next. Look to start quickly and maintain pace.

June 28, 2022 Gym

Full Fibre Broadband in the UK - Poor roll out information and reporting

At the moment we are with Virgin to deliver fast internet to the house. It is indeed fast and seems reasonably reliable but they charge a lot because there is no competition. The answer is Openreach/BT and their roll out of Full Fibre. You can register on BT to be informed when it can be ordered, but what you really want to know is what the plan is and with some sensible accuracy. Of course we also need to be aware that all plans can change etc. What prompts this interest is that Openreach seem to have been doing work in my area of Slough - pulling underground cables along roads etc.

Openreach has a section on its website called Where and when we’re building which sounds encouraging. But it’s junk - it chunks out the plans into what is being built into 3 very broad categorises: that between 4/2021 and 4/2024, 4/2022 and 4/2025 and finally between 4/2021 and 4/2026.

Really you’d hope the regulator and/or government would demand the release of more detailed plans and reporting against them, but I won’t hold me breath. For the record Government’s gigabit-capable broadband targets can be found on this web-page Gigabit-broadband in the UK: Government targets and policy. And this seems to sum it all up:

The Government’s manifesto commitment was to deliver nationwide gigabit-broadband by 2025. That target was revised in November 2020 to a minimum of 85% of premises by 2025.”

As I say I can’t see that anybody is sensibly demanding the industry report their plans for achieving this with proper and reasonable granularity.

Currently Full Fibre is due to reach us (and many other towns and cities), between April 2021 and April 2024. While it’s pretty piss-poor reporting, there is not much we can do about it. Fingers crossed that it happens in the next 2 years.

April 28, 2022 Tech

Windows 10 Hello Problems - Reset cures things

It started with Lenovo updating the Synaptics Fingerprint Reader Driver to 6.0.26.1136 on my Lenovo X1 Generation 9. After the update whenever I went to use the computer I got this message at the login screen your credentials could not be verified”.

It was like the facial recognition would recognise me but it couldn’t go on to fully log me in. Ditto with the fingerprint reader, if that has never been that reliable for me. The error message was not too serious because I was always able to enter my account pin number and the machine was then all as normal.

I tried switching the fingerprint recognition off and then on again, but could not get it to enrol my finger - the little animation you get normally, was not showing and all I could do was cancel and exit the process.

I decided to Reset the Windows 10 Hello system. Swiftly done using either of these instructions:
https://www.dell.com/support/kbdoc/en-uk/000145172/windows-10-resetting-the-windows-hello-biometrics
https://blog.goptg.com/how-to-reset-windows-hello-biometrics

I used the first link, which although on Dells site is generic to all W10.

The reset totally clears out the old biometrics and so you need to register your face and fingers again. I did this and karma was restored.

March 26, 2022 Tech

Finding the Perfect Mouse - Dabbling with Logitech, Razer and Apple Mice

I always want a better mouse - longer-lasting, silent, smaller (in certain circumstances), less heavy, smoother, more comfortable etc. And it has to be a mouse - trackpads on laptops are for emergency only, because a mouse just seems to make doing things so much easier.

At the moment my default laptop mouse is the Logitech MX Anywhere 2 or Anywhere 2S (longer-lasting, a little smoother and does Logitech Flow, if needed). The Anywhere 2/2S is pretty compact if annoyingly it needs to be charged by a Mini-USB cable and they are no longer actively sold by Logitech, if still listed on Amazon. I also use a Logitech M720 Triathlon for a home PC. Both mouse types are pretty good but can be noisy in some environments. And something smaller for travel would be nice. However, there are some things I absolutely insist on and that means many mice are not for me:

  • I need a Tilt Wheel which I map to Forward and Back browser functions. It’s just so easy that with a finger I can zoom up and down a page and skip back and forward as I want. No need to touch anything else. (Sadly Logitech may be moving away from tilt - their new MX Anywhere 3 does not include it as part of a reengineered scroll wheel. Duh)
  • Need (what Logitech call) Hyperscroll - the ability for the mouse wheel to freely scroll quickly so I can navigate a long web page or document with ease. Click scroll just seems too ancient and slow (and I never, ever, use it)
  • Bluetooth - I don’t want dongles or cables in day-to-day use. That said a dongle as a backup, that always works, is no bad thing.
  • I need a mouse to work on any surface. I sometimes use a mouse on the sofa, in bed or on a train seat and I want it to work on less than smooth surfaces.

I’ve bought a few mice over the years and leave them dotted around so I’m not carting a mouse around all the time as well as the laptop (my constant companion). So a mouse in my man bag for when I’m out and about, one in the bedside cabinet, one in the sitting room. And the Triathlon is in my study with my desktop PC. All perhaps OTT but it actually just makes life easier and more straightforward.

Periodically I look around to see if there are better mice out there and two just caught my eye. Neither of what follows is a full review, but the thoughts hopefully complement reviews out there…

Apple Magic Mouse

The Apple Magic Mouse was on special offer from Amazon (£54.90), looks impressive and I did a search to see if it ran with Windows 10. That threw up Magic Utilities, which looks well capable. So on that quick check, I ordered one.

I love the slim nature of the Magic Mouse and can imagine it sliding in my day bag really easily. Less impressive is the fact it has to be charged with a lightning cable, but not an absolute deal-breaker. I downloaded the Magic Utilities (it’s free to evaluate) which seemed to work well and I was generally pleased with the touch nature (tilt wheel alternative) for forward and back browsing. But I couldn’t really achieve a speedy vertical scroll with the setup. Worse the Magic Mouse sensor seemed to struggle with use on less than perfect surfaces like the fabric of my sofa. It would move the pointer but it was a bit too jerky and imprecise. So while I’d like it as a travelling mouse it fails the reliably work on a train seat test.

Even if I liked the mouse I’d be a bit wary of the Magic Utilities software. I’m not at all against paying for software, but they won’t sell you the software, instead you have to pay a yearly fee. You can buy 2 years at a lower cost but there is no ability to pay more and have permeant use - they give their perspective on all this in their FAQ. I’m not sure paying £10/year and all the remembering to pay etc is a place I really want to be on a mouse. It would certainly have to be an exceptional mouse to go there and the Apple Magic Mouse is not that special - measured against my requirements anyway. So, sadly, another return to Amazon.

Razer Pro Click Mini

I recently saw a review of the Razer Pro Click Mini which looked interesting and nominally fits my requirements. At the moment it costs £70-£80 - a little higher than the Logitech mice I use. But I guess over time the price will drop.

It turns out to be a nice mouse with a size not unlike the Logitech Anywhere 2/2S. It perhaps feels easier to grip and the main left and right buttons are relatively silent - really worth having in a quiet environment. However, the left and right tilt wheel buttons don’t seem so silent. Duh.

You control the scroll wheel with the small rocker switch behind it - one way gives the freewheel/Hyperscroll (I like) and the other a conventional feel with clicks. This works well and is better than the equivalent on the Anywhere 2/2S, which has pressing on the wheel itself as the switch between the 2 modes of operation. On the Pro Click Mini I mapped pressing the scroll wheel to browser page reload/refresh - I truly can’t think of a better setup than that. But…

While the sensor on the Pro Click Mini is better than the Apple Magic Mouse it’s not as good as Logitech use. The Razer works as well on some fabrics but is a tiny bit jumpy on others. Also, vertical scrolling is a bit jumpy/staccato in any browser. It seems to jump 3 lines at a time (following how it is set up in W10 mouse settings) and it feels kludgy. If you change the W10 setting for it to move 1 line at a time, then the freewheel speed suffers badly. Logitech seems to have things better sussed here. I use Firefox as a browser with the Logitech Setpoint extension that makes it all super smooth. The Razer feels OK but crude by comparison.

Another hassle is that you seem to have to register with Razer to download/use the mouse advanced configuration software. Seems a bit unnecessary for an expensive mouse.

All up the Razer Pro Click Mini shows great promise but needs a slightly better optical sensor (capable of working on many different and uneven surfaces) and some browser support to enable smoother scrolling.

December 15, 2021 Tech

Review / Brief thoughts on the Trakke Bairn Messenger Bag

I like the idea of Trakke bags - a UK brand, based in Scotland, and, rather wonderfully, they make their stuff in the country too. I wish this were more the case and a Black Friday offer (and good return policy) edged me to the door of making a first order.

I’m always in search of the optimum small everyday carry bag and decided to get a Bairn Messenger Bag in black. It’s the Mark 4 version of the bag - further details: https://trakke.co.uk/collections/waxed-canvas-bags-backpacks-messengers-slings/products/bairn-mini-messenger-bag

At 10 litre it’s a little larger then my usual carry - the 8 litre Tom Bihn Daylight Briefcase (https://www.tombihn.com/products/daylight-briefcase) and it feels incredibly well built in a stiff dry waxy cotton. It includes a dedicated space for a 13″ laptop and I liked the idea, if my laptop, a Thinkpad X1, is 14“. But it’s a small 14” and often seems to fit in 13” laptop spaces. It proves a tight fit but the Thinkpad just about fitted, if it was tight and perhaps didn’t go all the way to the bottom of the dedicated compartment. I think if everything else was brilliant then I might have persevered but alas that was not the case.

A fair few comments about the Bairn (on the Trakke website) talk about the difficulty in using the buckles at times. And if you look at reviews of the bag many show an earlier version with very different buckles. It’s clear they have been experimenting with different approaches to lashing the cover flap down (to fully close the bag and secure the contents) and the Mark 4 is just the latest. On the web page for the Bain they are rather coy about how the buckle operates. There is a video to show the bag but it starts with the flap unsecured so you don’t see the difficulty, or otherwise, in opening. Before it arrived it was the big thing I was concerned about.

The good news is that if the bag is off your shoulder on a table or your lap then undoing the buckles to open the bag seems to work well enough - mainly because in such circumstances you can see how the buckles hook into the webbing closures that are under the cover flap (rather than on top). But there is a problem when you are carrying the bag and swing it around to your front to open, get something out and close. The open is OKish but closing is a pain of trial and error. You might get used to it, but not being able to easily see what’s happening just feels too haphazard and unthoughtful design to me. They need to think again and should go for something more conventional rather than trying to reinvent wheels as they seem to have been doing in the two buckle versions I’ve seen to date.

What exacerbates the problem of access is that all pockets on the bag are under the cover flap - there is no small external zipped compartment where you might quickly store a ticket or passport. To do anything you have to totally open the bag each time.

Where you might put a small external zipped compartment, there is instead a side mounted handle. It feels like a kludge because using it has the bag hanging at at an odd angle. The handle is wide but also tries to look flush with the bag, rather then standing proud to properly grab, and that makes it uncomfortable to use. Really, it feels like it should be abandoned, if it can’t be resited to perform properly.

All up I think this is a well build and bombproof bag that would probably last decades, but it’s not as well designed as it should be. It needs a better buckles solution, a small easily accessed external zipped compartment so you don’t need to open the cover flap all the time, and to dump the handle or relocate it to a more conventional position. Trakke obviously know how to make a lasting bag - they just need a better design for all their sewers to do their magic on.

December 2, 2021 Tech

Showing Date and Time with Small Taskbar Buttons in Windows 10

I’m trying to shrink the amount of vertical space taken up by the Taskbar in Windows 10 but I still want it at the bottom of the screen. In Settings > Personalization > Taskbar you can select the Use Small Taskbar Buttons” option, but the time and date display over on the bottom right just shrinks to show time. But I’m too used to glancing there for the date as well and it seems such a simple thing. Doing a search brings up lots of requests but the answers mostly suggest deselecting the Small Buttons option.

I started looking for tray apps and came across T-Clock which I think I used many years ago on WinXP.
https://github.com/White-Tiger/T-Clock

The latest version (2.4.4) is dated 2018 which would normally ring alarm bells re support. But it seems a mature solution and I thought it worth a try. So I downloaded the Zip (https://github.com/White-Tiger/T-Clock/releases/download/v2.4.4%23492-rc/T-Clock.zip), ran the 64bit version and all seems good - loads and loads of options so you can get the time and date displayed just like you would like and all compatible with Small Taskbar Buttons.

Here is what the reality looks like - the time shown is 9:05 and 30 seconds

Screen grab showing how I am using T_ClockScreen grab showing how I am using T_Clock

The font I’m using is 10pt Segoe UI with slightly increased line spacing. I’m using the Advanced Clock Format with this coding:

HH:nn     ss\ndd mme yyyy

For completeness I found this link which first alerted me to T-Clock and gives an alternative:
https://windowsforum.com/threads/widen-date-time-area-in-taskbar-system-tray.223614/

July 5, 2021 Tech