Irregular Injection of Opinion
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 Thursday, 07 January 2010
Chris and Dave do Denniston

Denniston is a former coal mining area situated on an alpine plateau about 30km North of Westport on the West Coast of New Zealand (Wikipedia here). It was actually an active mining area right up until the 1960’s. In recent years it has fallen under the ambit of the Department of Conservation. Along with the Buller Cycling club they have been building out a bunch of Mountain Bike tracks around the area.

You can pull details on the cycling area from the DoC site and from the Buller Cycling club. 

Dave and I decided we’d try and visit the tracks as part of our summer South Island road trip. We drove in via Murchison as we did some paddling along the way. We had a couple of days in the Murchison region where the water levels were well up. Paddled a few runs that I’ve done before as well as a new run down the mangles that started with about a 2m waterfall- pulled quite a crowd when we ran that one for some reason… didn’t seem that difficult.
The crew on the Middle Matakitaki river Whitewater shuttles of doom.

We drove into Westport the evening before we planned to ride and found ourselves a nice motel (Buller Bridge Motel) with free WiFi. Got up early and headed up the hill. This place really is quite the plateau. The hill rises steeply off the ocean almost to an altitude of about 650m at the carpark. The views were pretty good for us; on a really fine and still day I can imagine you’d be able to see all the way up to Karamea.

Once we got to the top we had a bit of a potter around looking at some of the old mining ruins. Denniston is famous for the Denniston Incline which is a frighteningly steep, two pitch, coal railway that literally goes straight up the side of the hill. Check out this video from the NZ Archives for an idea of what it was like.

Below the carpark. Looking down to the incline top loading yard. Walking among the wagons in the loading yard Looking down the incline!

Then we headed up the hill to the Museum Car park which is the designated starting place for the Mountain Biking trails. While getting organized we saw the Google Car driving around- yes, even in the middle of bloody nowhere there is Google!

Getting organized at the museum Google car. Ho9pefully we'll be able to see ourselves!

We started out with the Ropers Hotel Circuit. 
Straight away the riding was quite different to anything we’d ridden before in New Zealand. Lots of slick rock and ledges. Was quite fast riding and reasonably hard on the suspension. A 6” trail bike is ideal- we had a Trance and a Mojo. The last part of this track before it hits the road is walking only- for ecological reasons rather than ride-ability. You definitely want to do this track in the predominant direction indicated on the map as it would be a pain to walk up that hill.

Next we rode out on one of the longer trails. This was nominally on 4WD track but I’d challenge most people to take their 4WD there and get it back in one piece. The track was Sullivans Circuit and it went off the other side of the Plateau back down towards Westport. 

Looking up towards Mt Rochfort More ruins. We think the top of the old aerial ropeway 

This track had plenty of challenging riding. Lots of large rocks and ledges. it was all too easy to go far faster than 0.1mm of lycra really should justify.

P1062417 P1062422 Just a little off

Finally we rode the Miners and Drill track circuits. Again, lots of hairy riding with a bunch of sketchy single track, some of which we both had to walk.

Gratuitous Bike Porn Riding the Slick Rock Self Porttrait

There was still plenty of sign of the old coal mining stuff and indeed the coal itself.

Coal mine fire Coal seam

Despite only doing about 30km (in 3.15hr!) we were in need of a beer once we got back to the car.

Post ride beer time Some amazing Rata trees on West Coast. This is a small one!

Here’s the GPS dump


And the full TCX file of my Garmin 310XT is here:

Adventure Sports | Gettin Fit|Thursday, 07 January 2010 17:42:29 UTC|Comments [0]|    

 Friday, 01 January 2010
Interesting Stats from 2009

Thought it would be interesting to do a blog post of my stats for 2009.

It was a pretty hellish year for travel. It’s the first full year that I’ve used TripIt which has proved to be a really useful tool. TripIt also provides travel stats.

Now not all of this was work travel (I had a couple of overseas holidays) but it was still a pretty full on year.

This is borne out in my exercise stats. Obviously my most exercised location was Wellington, but, I also did a whole heap in Issaquah, Washington and also in Bangalore, India.

Num. activities - Location

I remained pretty steady over the course of the year in terms of the amount of exercise I did. It was still really hard to maintain anything approaching a good training program though.


Once again it was a shitty year for me skiing wise, though these stats do miss out a bit of skiing I had in January. I also did far less mountain biking than I would have liked to.

Time - Category

I did do over 300hr of exercise over the year and travelled 2700km. I also burned 65,000 calories.

Will be interesting to see what I can manage this year.

Adventure Sports | Gettin Fit|Friday, 01 January 2010 03:42:44 UTC|Comments [0]|    

 Wednesday, 21 October 2009
Microsoft Office Extensions to the Open XML File Format (ISO29500) Specification

So the question was asked today in my Open XML Development for Office 2010 and beyond as to whether the Word 2010 Extensions documentation was available anywhere.

I had to take an action item to follow up and find this.

It can be found here:

Office2010 | SPC09|Wednesday, 21 October 2009 23:37:28 UTC|Comments [1]|    

 Monday, 19 October 2009
My Hopeless Gym Experience at the Mandalay Bay Spa

So… I genuinely object to paying US$20/day to use the hotel gym. But, needs must sometimes and so it was that I found myself at the Mandalay Bay Spa  $20 the poorer this morning. Been working reasonably hard in the build up to the K1 road race in a couple of weeks so needed to get some time in on the stationary trainer.

Well, what an utterly useless experience that was. I got inside the Gym to find that;

  1. They had two consumer grade exercycles and that was it as far as bikes went.
  2. None of the cardio equipment was available anyway

So even if I had been able to get on the equipment it wouldn’t have been much good for the Interval workout I had planned- I ripped the crank off a consumer grade exercycle in Bangalore this year so it’s just downright dangerous.

In the end I threw my toys out of the cot, got myself a refund of my fees and went for a run up the strip.


Think I’ll try and find someone friendly at the Luxor for the Gym tomorrow and will not be staying at the Mandalay Bay for MIX10 next year that’s for sure.

Gettin Fit | SPC09 | Travel|Monday, 19 October 2009 14:43:18 UTC|Comments [4]|    

 Tuesday, 22 September 2009
Smashed a new PB on my hill repeat ride

Got out for hills this morning on the road bike. Turned into a shorter ride, but, I pushed the 2nd interval really hard (100% MHR) and in doing so smashed about 7% off my PB up the short pinch climb I do.


The average power was 450 Watts over the 4min 31 seconds. Pity the hill wasn’t a touch longer as it meant my new PB 5 minute power ended up being only 431 Watts i.e. 30 seconds of my rest break at the top was included.. Goal for the next few weeks is to really work on lifting my power profile. I think I’ll probably look at doing Peak 1’w and 5’w on Happy Valley road as it certainly appears to help going up a hill. At the moment my 1’w isn’t even on the chart and I’d like to work on getting my entire profile into the Cat 4 region over the next few weeks in the lead up to the K1 race. Means I need to be targeting 350 Watts for 60 minutes which I think is going to be the hardest bit.

image  image

The other interesting thing is to see just how much temperature variation affects my (supposedly temperature compensating) barometric altimeter on the Polar s625x. All 5 of those intervals should be the same height, but, there is a definite trend downward over the set.

Adventure Sports | Gettin Fit|Tuesday, 22 September 2009 20:16:12 UTC|Comments [0]|    

 Thursday, 03 September 2009
Essential Tools for SQL Azure Development

Much like Wade Wegner I think that SQL Azure is the jewel in the cloud for Microsoft. None of the other vendors have anything like it. While it can be a bit sticker-shock-ish given that nominally a gig in SQL Azure is 65 times the price of a gig in Azure storage, once you actually run some real world scenario models it turns out to be really well priced. Think of a SQL Azure instance not as 1GB (or 10GB… but I see no reason to use 10GB partitions) of storage but rather as the cheapest damn fully backed up and HA relational database solution you’ll find anywhere- and yes FOSSers I include your stuff in that calculation; no greasy haired, under washed and over WoWed engineers needed here.

Anyway… I digress.

A major PITA in using SQL Azure is that the tooling is tantalizingly close to be OK… but in many ways it just doesn’t work. Dumping a SQL script and then re-creating the DB in SQL Azure is a painful exercise in find and replace- check out the hands on lab on Migrating a DB to the cloud in the Azure training kit for the gory details…

Wade has a blog post up about a freebie tool written by George Huey that automates this process for you. Essential for your Azure kit bag. It will parse out all the unsupported stuff.

I ran it up and gave it a nice brutal challenge…. the AdventureWorksLT script that’s used in the aforementioned lab. This includes both schema and data and is a decent effort to parse. The tool churned for a good 3 or 4 minutes…. but I got a script out! The original script includes some real curve-balls like XML Indexes and some tables with data to populate but no clustered index (SQL Azure needs a clustered index before you can insert into a table). I don’t expect it’ll get everything right., but, let’s take a look at how it does against my hand crafted script…..


It doesn’t support cut and paste or saving of the script yet so I’ll need to go and change the source first… More reporting back from me later. This looks really promising and I’m confident it’s going to solve 90% of the pain points I’ve been hitting trying to move complex (hell even simple) databases to the cloud.

Windows Azure|Thursday, 03 September 2009 11:12:12 UTC|Comments [4]|    

 Saturday, 08 August 2009
Rebuild Day: Post #1, software audit and backup

Today is rebuild day for my primary machine, a Lenovo x61t. Moving to Win7 RTM and Office 2010 Tech Preview.

First up is pulling all the Data off my C drive.

This mainly means the data out of my profile folder. A key thing to remember here is to check your filesystem Virtualization folders for stuff that’s been put there by poorly written software. I usually backup to a hard drive but today I’m going to just push it across to my D drive partition- I made the decision last build to run two partitions again which is a move I’m pleased with.

Then it’s time to do an audit of the Program Files folder to determine which of the crap that I’ve installed over the past 7 months I actually need to install again. here is my list, not necessarily in order. Hopefully it might give readers a few pointers.

Polar Pro Trainer
Life Cam
Intelli Point
Live Mesh
Office 2010
VS2k8 + SPs
Expression Studio 3
Star Alliance Travel Desk
IIS + other goodies via Web Platform Installer
SQL 2k8 inc Books online
DevExpress Controls + Addins
Azure SDK
.NET Services SDK
Process Explorer
Sony Vegas
Live Writer/Messenger
eTrust + RAS Bits
K-Lite Codec Pack
Zoom H Series Driver

Office2010 | Windows 7|Saturday, 08 August 2009 22:35:53 UTC|Comments [2]|    

Simple Partitioning with Windows Azure Table Storage

While there are certainly situations where it makes sense to have a natural PartitionKey when working with Azure storage there are other times when all you really want is a simple way to bucket up your data into equal bins. The usual approach to partitioning is going to be some sort of hash function but if you decide to use a Guid as the RowKey for your data you’ve basically got a nice collision resistant equal distribution already, you just need to turn it into a partition key.

I was sitting on the plane back from Singapore having a bit of a think about this. Given that we can represent our Guid as a 128 bit Interger we can probably just do RowKey % PartitionCount  and get a nice simple ordinal for each partition.

So after my birthday dinner I did what any dedicated birthday boy would do and broke out Visual Studio for a bit of a hack around..

First problem was the ‘128 bit integer’ as .NET doesn’t have a native BigInt type. A quick bit of Tiwtter asking and @adjames suggested the BigInteger class in .NET 4.0, but, given this is Azure there’s no .NET 4.0 support quite yet. A bit of Binging (is that a verb yet?) found some posts on StackOverflow and an implementation of a BigInteger class on CodePlex.

A quick console application confirmed that my thinking on the plane was right.

static void Main(string[] args)
            int[] counts = new int[]{0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0};
            DateTime start = DateTime.Now;
            for (int i = 0; i < 1000000; i++)
                Guid g = Guid.NewGuid();
                BigInteger b = new BigInteger(g.ToByteArray());
                BigInteger c = new BigInteger(10); //Number of partitions
                int p = BigInteger.ToInt32(BigInteger.Abs(b % c));
                //Console.WriteLine(g.ToString() + " : " + p.ToString());
                counts[p] += 1;

            DateTime end = DateTime.Now;
            TimeSpan duration = end - start;
            Console.WriteLine("Took: " + duration.TotalMilliseconds + " milliseconds");

Running this confirmed that my RowKey values would be evenly distributed across the 10 partitions- my concern here was that the Guid algorithm might not be quite up to the task but all seems good.


6500ms for a million rows doesn’t look too bad on the face of it. I’m sure there are plenty of performance optimizations to be eeked out, but, they’ll pale into insignificance compared to a round trip to Azure storage via the load balancer. What I do need to test is that it’s not more efficient to rehash the Guid into 64 bits and then calculate the modulo. But that’s for another night- jaded now and hoping to do 100km on the roadie in the morning.

.NET | Windows Azure|Saturday, 08 August 2009 07:50:00 UTC|Comments [1]|    

 Wednesday, 05 August 2009
TechEd Africa – Session Recap and Bits

So I had a great time at TechEd Africa this year. Will definitely be trying to get an invite to come back next year.

As always you can contact me about my sessions

Here are the follow up notes from my sessions. I’m not going to provide the PowerPoint decks until I’ve done the other TechEd events around the globe. I’ve provided them to the event organizers who will stick them up on the password protected attendee site.

  1. DYN201 – xRM, Dynamics CRM as a Developer Platform
    Good session in a smaller room. I had this one back to back with my other CRM session so this proved to be a good warm up with many people attending both. I used the demos and decks from the half day Business Action World Tour event that happened everywhere in the world *except* Africa so I thought it was appropriate to show the folks over here the content. I also talked about the fact that I eat my own dogfood- we’ve built a company that I’m  major shareholder in called MedRecruit. Go and take a look at the site, it all back ends onto Dynamics CRM 4.0 and runs on Windows Server 2k8 on Hyper-V. If you like it… give us some Google-Juice from your blog and tell all your doctor friends. I’ll be eternally grateful!
    If you want to take another look at the content from this session then check out the Business Action Virtual Tour.
  2. DYN303 – Souping up Dynamics CRM with Silverlight
    This session is the one that Jian Sun is going to be delivering at Tech Ed Australia. He was responsibile for putting together the demos and I built the deck. This was probably the best session of the week for me. I felt the attendees got some great practical skills to go home with tomorrow and start building cool stuff. I promised a drop of the final demo solution that we built during the session. So here it is:
  3. AZP201 – A Lap Around the Azure Services Platform
    I love doing this session because I know the content really well and as a 200 level architecture+business value session I get to put my own spin on things quite a bit. First time I’ve really had the chance to cut loose and talk about competitive cloud technologies at a Microsoft gig though- discussed AWS, AppEngine and all of which (along with Azure) take quite different approaches to the cloud. Will be interesting to see how things shake out.
  4. AZP302 – Programming .NET Services
    Today was a deep dive on .NET Services. I thought this session went really well too, but, it’s always harder to really nail ‘ew stuff’ sessions because it’s not like you got a whole bunch of experiential wisdom that you can impart as best practice guidance. We covered the whole .NET Services platform with demos in 60 minutes. I also tried a new ‘demo’' to explain the Service Bus relay and Direct Connect upgrade via NAT Probing through having three volunteers throw foam balls. I thought it went pretty well- we’ll see what the evals say!

So. All in all a fantastic event. I’m looking forward to getting out to Australia and New Zealand Tech-Ed early next month now.

TechEd | Travel|Wednesday, 05 August 2009 17:17:16 UTC|Comments [1]|    

TechEd Africa – The Pre Event Post

So it’s 1830hr in Durban South Africa and today was the last day for TechEd Africa for 2009. This was my first TechEd for this year and the second time I’ve spoken at TechEd South Africa.

Before I give you links to the demo code I’m going to bore you with some photos of my trip down the Zambezi last week. There’s actually quite a story behind it that you can read all about over at the Intergen Blog.


 IMG_0103 IMG_0118 IMG_0125

 IMG_0143 IMG_0156 IMG_0167

IMG_0168 IMG_0170 IMG_0172


365 Days of Crocs | Adventure Sports | Travel|Wednesday, 05 August 2009 16:47:56 UTC|Comments [0]|