2022 Manifesto

I've not done New Year Resolutions for last year...didn't seem much point due to the huge amount of un-certainty. I did end up ticking off most of my 2020 resolutions, albeit not to the initial timescales...global pandemics will do that to you!

For me, 2022 will be about adapting to the "new normal". I've lost a commute, and gained a dog, for starters.

Get Track Accreditation and compete in Reading Track League

On Mondays through spring and summer there is a velodrome-based racing league in Reading (at Palmer Park, literally 10 minutes from my house). I've not done track riding before...there are a couple of significant differences between track racing and road racing (which is what I normally do);

  1. No gears or freehub (proper fixies)
  2. No brakes
  3. No right-hand turns

I'm going to go for my track accreditation from March (when coaching starts), and then compete in the Monday evening track league. Compete, for me, means "be competitive", not just attend.

Track accreditation, at it's core, consists of doing coached sessions until a certified coach considers you not a danger to others or yourself. It can take a couple of weeks, it can take months. Once I've gotten past that, I'll need my own track bike in order to race. I've been doing (road bike, with gears and brakes) training sessions down there throughout autumn and winter so far (and I've done this in previous years...it's a great way of getting some leg strength over off-season), and know a number of the regular league riders and organisers from there. It'll be a good way of getting my racing fix in, without the hassle of getting to London. It will also improve my general skills on the bike.

Upgrade the Plex Server

In 2020 I replaced Google Music with Plex on a Pi4. Possibly one of my most successful tech projects, and it's pretty much re-couped its costs already. The media server has now grown well beyond the initial scope, with all my DVD's, online video purchases, music, audiobooks etc are on there. I'm nudging the top of the 2Tb storage I plugged in, and it's worked pretty much flawlessly.

I've now hit an issue with transcoding. It's something that the Pi4 simply cannot do. Most devices I have can do direct streaming, however my old tablet does not play well with Plex (it crashes, the version of android on it is too old). I've risked going with an Amazon Fire HD Tablet...they are simply too cheap to ignore. Downside is that their supported codecs are mainly limited to 30fps. I've captured most of the footage at 60fps, so the Pi attempts to transcode the video...which takes a while (about 4 hours per hour of 1080/60 to 1080/30 transcode). This is totally not the fault of the Plex server, but it is what Plex is supposed to do...it's just designed with a slightly gruntier processor behind it.

So, I'm going to build a new server. The goal is still; small, passively-cooled, and low power requirements. I still want it headless and running Linux as well, as it's simply more efficient and reliable for what I want. I also want more storage. My current plan is to buy an older Intel NUC running (probably) an i5 x86 processor, then install a basic Linux distro (probably Debian, as thats the one I have most/all my experience with). That will then have some HDD's attached (internal or external) for increased library storage. This should be enough for real-time transcode of a stream, as well as opening up some other features such as Sonic Analysis of Music for auto-playlist creation. I can run the servers in parallel, so this once can be got fully up-and-running before decommissioning the old one. I'm half-tempted to put in a NAS, and then a separate processor box...however the setup cost of a NAS box is fairly large (looking at a Synology box with a couple of large Ironwolf HDD's in there, and its >£500).

Sort out the home office

I now spend 7+ hours a day in my home office. It was already pretty well set up, and I've done some ad-hoc upgrades in the last year (a good desk mat, to keep my forearms comfy, and a new office chair which has worked wonders for my back). I've also gotten a new laptop, and a new phone. I already had a good monitor and desk, so I now have all the hardware for a good, ergonomically correct working environment. What does need sorting is the room around it. I'm currently in a small niche formed from a green-screen pinned behind me. I like working in a smaller area, it increases my focus and removes some distractions...but it's a bit messy, and probably won't cope with a labrador in a couple of months time. A re-shuffle of the room, and probably some Ikea stuff is needed.

Complete the dog training

Reaver is now almost 10 months old...at 7 months we hit the "teenage years", where recall goes out of the window, hormones start to come in, and generally he stops automatically obeying us. We were expecting it, and thought we could work through it, but we definitely hit a plateau. I had a fortunate encounter with a dog trainer a couple of weeks ago, and after some guidance and pointers yesterday we've now got some plans and support moving forward. We've got some key goals;

  1. Good close lead walking - currently this is a bit of a battle, with everything being a distraction
  2. Recall - was great until 7 months old, now non-existent
  3. Calmness around other dogs - they have become more and more exciting
  4. Stop eating poo - I wouldn't mind so much, but it gives him a dicky stomach, forming what is the worst sort of feedback loop

I'm pretty confident that we'll get there. The trainer we've found is a part-time gamekeeper, and works with spaniels and labs a lot at a local shoot. Within 5 minutes he had Reaver walking at heel up and down our road, as well as sit/stay at distance and a good "Leave". Made us look like idiots when he immediately started jumping up on us.

Discover 4 new authors?

This is legit getting harder, though I have maintained it for a few years now. I'm currently in the middle of a marathon Wheel of Time audiobook session (at time of writing I'm halfway through the main sequence, averaging a book every 6 days'ish). Realistically this will continue until March, and I have a backlog of other books from established authors to read once I'm there.

Revise Pension Options

Project 55 is continuing, and the pension fund is about £10k ahead of expectation. I've booked an IFA for early January...normal recommendation is to review your finances 10 years before your planned retirement. Pretty boring, but needs to be done, so it makes the list.

Make a decision on the motorbike

It's now not been used since 2018, is currently under SORN with a rear tyre puncture, and definitely is not accruing value. My "ideal" would be to sell it and get an electric motorbike, however they are cripplingly expensive compared to a petrol machine. I've survived 3 years without needing to transport myself any vast distances...commutes are gone (at least in the short term), and I'm more than capable of self-propelling myself over 20-30 miles without any major hassle.

I should probably sell the bike.

Options are;

  1. Get it fixed up, re-taxed and force myself to use it
  2. Get it fixed up and sell it
  3. Other

Death to Micro-B

This one came about when I was shopping for a new torch (black dog + night-time poo-runs means a good torch is really important). I ended up actively choosing one that had a USB-C port over a Micro-B one, simply as I hate having to have multiple cables sitting around.This led me to think about what I have left on Micro-B;

  • 2 GoPro Sessions (never use 'em these days...should probably sell them or give them away)
  • Garmin 520+
  • Huawei Mediapad tablet - has a spicy pillow forming
  • Kindle
  • JBL Charge Bluetooth speaker - rarely used, already replaced with a pair of Boompods Zeros

So, goal is by the end of the year to get rid of, or replace these devices, and then NEVER BUY ANYTHING WITH MICRO-B again* so I can pack a bag without taking millions of cables.

*my keyboard and mouse have micro-b, but they get a pass (for now) as they don't move from my desk, and only rarely need charging...anda they are new, so replacing them is just a waste!

I have a handful of proprietary charge cables, and included here is an active avoidance of them in future, unless there is a genuinely compelling reason (the 2 main ones are my bike light, which is very hardcore, and an LED lantern with a magnetic attachment).

Clean out the house

We've been in the house for over 8 years now, and there are some items that are simply never used. I need to go through the garage, over-stairs cupbaord, under-stairs cupboard, utility room and my own room and work out what can simply be gotten rid of. It's a quirk of a modern(ish) house that they don't have a huge amount of storage.

On the list of things that can go are;

  • Board games - I have about 40-50 crated up in my office, and the vast majority will probably not get played.
  • Camping gear - stacked up in the over-stairs cupboard, not used since we moved here
  • Motorbike gear - linked to the "what do I do with the motorbike" dilemma
  • Bicycle spares - I have 5 bikes, but realistically only use 2-3 of them. I also have a pile of spares, partially worn items and the like
  • Semi-old tech - notably including a 1080 eGPU, some old gaming laptops (MSI and Cyberpower), keyboards, mice, mini-projectors. All are 3+generations old, but still functional

It's all taking up space, which is becoming more and more of a premium. Plan is to go through everything...if it's worth eBay'ing it will be eBay'ed. Then see if anything can be donated, and failing that it goes in the bin. I've discovered the eBay factor is as much about size as anything else...I recently sold my (never used) PS4Pro, and the box was just beyond the cheap zone for Royal Mail, so ended up costing ~£25 to ship... I can see boardgames being not worth selling for that reason, unless I can find a local way of selling them. We did a car-boot just before we moved here, and I wouldn't sell anything with worth at them, as the vast majority of people are only planning on spending £1-2 on items...good for books and nic-nacs, but not for anything else.

Pay Carbon Offsetting

This will be permanant now. 2020 ended up being cheap, as most of my flights were cancelled. 2021 we got a single long-haul in there, so I'll get that re-factored in. We are (as of right now) still with a zero-carbon energy supplier, however they are currently being run under government support, and there is a reasonable chance we'll get shunted off at some point in 2022. If that happens (and lets hope it's not British Gas, who have agreed to never contact me again, after paying ~£300 for poor service and agreeing that they broke their own T&C's to me) I will ensure that we move to another zero-carbon option. It's not much, but it's something.