travel, leisure, personal

I’ve decided to have regular trips inside the UK and as my first stop I chose Bletchley Park. This post is a compilation of my notes about the trip so that I can take a look as a refresher for the next one.

Departure: London Euston to Milton Keynes Central

I booked train tickets on Virgin Trains and I was very pleased with the experience.

They sent helpful email and text messages before and after the platform was announced. Boarding process was completely hassle-free. Just showed the QR code that was saved in my Apple Wallet and Virgin Trains app. I used the Wallet this time but the app would work just as good probably. The train departured at the exact time so all went well. Also there was a charging unit in my seat I got to charge my laptop and phone on the way.

Milton Keynes Central to Bletchley Park

Euston to Milton Keynes Central takes 30 minutes only. It’s shorter than my daily commute so it ended before I knew it. The train passes through Bletchlet station but doesn’t stop. So I had to buy a return ticket to Bletchley too (which is just 1 stop away and takes a couple of minutes)

Bletchley Park

Arrived at Bletchely park at around 9:20. It opens at :30 on Saturdays but it opened earlier so didn’t have wait too long.

Park entrance

OVerall the staff members were very kind and helpful. In the lobby, I had my ticket printed which apparently is an annual pass so you just buy one ticket and visit the park as many times you want for a whole year which sounds like a great deal. At the end of the visit I was overwhelmed with information I just might take them on that offer and visit again to have it all sink in.

Bletchley Park

Apart from its historic significance, it’s a very beautiful park too. The weather was especially great when I first arrived so didn’t mind just taking a tour outside and enjoy the view.

The park is smaller than it first like at a first glance at the map. But walking around the whole park just takes a few minutes of brisk walk so it’s easy to find and visit all the buildings.

One interesting I learned was the founder of Graphy Theory was one of the codebreakers there: William Thomas Tutte

Graph Theory

The building called The Mansion included library and was the headquarters and the recreations center.

Library

Enigma machine

Actual codebreaking was carried out in buildings called Huts. They were very well-preserved and authentic. Also they added projections and sound recordings to make the whole experience more realistic

Hut 3

Hut 11

Overall, the level of technical details was overwhleming. They explained every machine and approach to break the codes in detail.

The Bombe machine

I think I will need to make some research on my own and go back for one more time to fill in the blanks.

Milton Keynes

After the visit to the park I had a tour of Milton Keynes. It’s a small town with lots of parks, lakes and kind people.

Everybody I met was very nice. I’m not sure if it was my luck or just because people are less stressed in small towns.

Teardrop Lake

Furzton Lake

Notes to self

  • Check out local transportation
  • Work on the itinerary instead of just picking one direction and walking

Conclusion

It was a great weekend overall. Bletchley Park is a beautiful park and visiting a place which played such an important role in World War 2 was very exciting. I think I had better go back and complete the parts that I missed the fist time as there is so much information to digest.

Resources

personal, leisure, travel

This is getting harder every year. When I first made up this little tradition of mine 2 years ago I had 5 pints in 5 different pubs in my neighbourhood. This year my goal was to have 7 pints but didn’t quite work out!

Attempt #1: Bermondsey Beer Mile

Apparently it’s a thing!. I took the train to London Bridge and walked all the way to the first pub in midday only to find out it was completely full! Being not a huge fan of crowded places I made a quick change of plans and decided any pub would do! So kept on walking to hunt for empty pubs.

Attempt #2: Random pubs

It was a very beautiful sunny day to be outside. So I really liked spending time in this pub: The Old Bank

I guess the problem was I spent too much time in this one that having to visit 6 more started to be daunting. But I soldiered on!

My second stop was a pub named The Ancient Foresters

with a rudish barmaid but nice cider brand called the Hogs Back

OK, after the cider here I was really looking forward to go home and enjoy the rest of my day off so I had to accept stopping at 2 pints and fail miserably.

Attempt #3: Something healthy

Since I’m in charge of making up the rules for this so-called tradition I thought I could make it more useful and healthy tradition. So for this year I decided to run 7K to commemorate the past 7 years in the UK!

I’ve recently started to run early in the mornings (mostly to play Ingress and capture enemy portals!) So I thought it would be a good fit to dedicate a running session specifically for the anniversary. Maybe not as fun as 7 pints thing but still better than nothing!

Ideas for next year

So it’s made itself abundantly clear that it’s hard to find 7-8 things of the same type. So next year I might run again 8K or divide the celebrations into 2 days and make it more managable that way! Maybe 8 parks and/or museums? Or maybe mixing and maatching would work. Since the main idea is to force myself go out and do something, I guess any celebration would do. We’ll see how it goes next year.

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dev

I have been a long time Windows user. About 2 years ago I bought a MacBook but it never became my primary machine. Until now! Finally I decided to steer away from Windows and use the Macbook for development and day to day tasks.

Tipping Point

One morning I woke up and found out that Windows restarted itself again, without asking me. At the time I had a ton of open windows and there was a VMWare Virtual Machine running but none of these stopped Windows. It just abruptly shutdown the VM whic was very annoying and this wasn’t even the first time it had happened. So I decided to migrate completely to Mac. Just to give myself a better understanding of what it took and what is missing I decided to compile this post.

Migration

I thought it would be a painful process but turns out it was quite straightforward. Here’s comparison of some key applications I use:

Email: Mailbird vs. Mail

On Windows I used to use Mailbird as my email client. It allows managing multiple accounts and has a nice GUI and works fine. I was wondering if there would be an equivalent in Mac for that and how much it would cost me (I paid about £25 for Mailbird for a lifetime license but apparently it’s now free). I didn’t have to look far: The built-in Mail application does the job very well. Adding a new Google account is a breeze.

MarkdownPad 2 vs. MacDown

I like Markdown Pad 2 on Windows but it has its flaws: The live preview constanly crashes and it allows to open only 4 files in the free version. On Mac, I’m using MacDown now which has a beatiful interface and completely free.

Git Extensions vs. SourceTree

I do like Git Extensions and it’s one of the programs I wish I had on Mac but SourceTree by Atlassian seems to do the job.

Storage: Google Drive and Synology

Both have web interfaces and Google Drive has desktop clients for both Mac and Windows so no issues in migrating there.

PDF Ops

On Windows, I like Sumatra PDF which is very clean and bloatware-free. On Mac, there is no eed to install anything. The default PDF viewer is perfect. It even handles PDF merge and editing operations.

Virtual Desktops

I love using virtual cesktops on Mac. Switching desktops is so easy and intuitive with a three-finger swipe. Windows 10 has support for virtual desktops now but switching is not as fluent so using them didn’t become a habit.

Visual Studio

Now this is the only application I cannot run on Mac. Microsoft has recently released Visual Studio for Mac and they also have Visual Studio Code which is a nice code editor but they are both stripped down versions. I don’t know if .NET Core will take off but currently I use full-blown .NET Framework which only runs under Windows so for development purposes I need to keep the Windows machine alive.

After the migration

I have absolutely no regrets for switching over. I love the Macbook. the keyboard is much better than my Asus’s and the OS is great. Mac has 16GB but outperforms Asus with 24GB (both have Core i& processors and SSD drives)

Here are some more annoying things that used to bug me in the past about Windows:

  • Quite often I cannot delete a folder that used to have a video in it because of Thumbs.db file being in use.
  • I couldn’t change settings to disable Thumbs.db completely because Windows 10 Home edition didn’t allow me to do that.
  • I couldn’t upgrade to Windows 10 Pro even though I had a license for Windows 8.1 Pro. Trying to resolve the licensing issue I found myself going in circles and nothing worked.

Mac cons

There are a few things that I don’t like about Mac or miss from Windows:

  • On Windows, quite often I need to create a blank text file, then double-click and edit it. In Finder, you can only create a new folder. Apparently some scripting is required to overcome this as shown in the resources section below.
  • iCloud seems to be forced down on me. I don’t want to use it, I don’t want to see it but I cannot get rid of it. Trying to disable is just confusing. I’ve now moved everything to a different folder that it’s not watching be default and trying to ignore it completely
  • Moving windows from dispay to display is hard. Especially in my case as I have 15.4” laptop screen and two external monitors with 27” and 40” sizes. Since the size difference is huge between these, dragging a large window from 40” monitor to 15.4” messes up because it doesn’t auto-resize and I cannot even get to the top window to resize. But now I’m using virtual desktops more frequently and using 40” for multiple applications side by side this is not as big of a problem these days.

Going back?

There’s a lot to learn on Mac but I don’t think I’ll be going back anytime soon. I’m looking into virtualizing the Windows machine now so that I can decommission the laptop. I already converted my old Windows desktop into a Linux server so would have no problem with using the laptop for other purposes.

Microsoft made flop after flop starting with Windows 8 and finally they lost another user but they don’t seem to care. If they did, they wouldn’t disrespectfully keep restarting my machine, killing all my applications and VMs!

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