Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client

Courtesy of my recent upgrade to MacOS Catalina, I’m currently testing version 4.8.00175 of Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client for MacOS. Before installing it I was warned that it might be buggy and possibly might even not work at all.

Having tried it for a short while, here are my initial impressions. Installation wasn’t a problem, but then it rarely is under MacOS. The software starts just fine, and connects without fuss. The connection, once made, seems solid but the connection indicator in the application’s dock and menu bar icons remains stubbornly set to an ‘X’, indicating that a connection has not been made, even though it has. Not a major problem, but a bit of an irritation, especially if one needs to check.

I also noticed that the application starts automatically after a system reboot, and there seems to be no way to disable this. Again, an irritation but not a deal-breaker.

It seems to me that Cisco have somehow managed to be caught out by Apple dropping support for 32-bit applications in MacOS, even though they must have known about it for some considerable time, and have rushed out an update that isn’t really ready for release. It works, at least for me, but that’s all that can really be said for it.

More Motorcycle Woes

On Thursday before last I was riding home up the A41 as usual. I stopped at a set of traffic lights and, while I was waiting there, the bike just died. The engine stopped and the instrument panelk went blank. Switching the ignition off and on did nothing.

So, I got off and wheeled the bike around the corner, where I was able to get it up onto the pavement. I had a quick fiddle with it but it quickly became apparent that I wasn’t going to be able to fix it. Fortunately I’m a member of the AA, so I reported the breakdown using the mobile app, grabbed my kindle from my bag and prepared for a long wait.

Actually, I didn’t have to wait too long. A yellow AA van soon arrived (and what a blessed sight it was!) and the AA guy set about fiddling with the bike in a much more organised manner than I’d been able to. However, he wasn’t able to do anything either. I was expecting to have to wait for another couple of hours for a recovery vehicle, but no. He opened the back of his van and proceeded to assemble a rather elaborate but cool trailer. Having set it up and got the bike onto it, we set off for home.

Pausing only at a garage so I could buy some milk, we soon made it home and unloaded the bike. At which point, my spectacles decided to give up the ghost (well, break a bit, anyway). Since then I’ve had the bike collected by the local dealership and I’m waiting to hear from them. On past form, I’m not expecting it to be soon. Or cheap.

Online Dating

I have recently been dipping my toe back into online dating, via the Guardian Soulmates website. It’s rather like other social media in that it’s horribly addictive. The roller coaster ride of emotional highs and lows that I’ve experienced, even in the mere couple of weeks I’ve been doing it is quite extraordinary.

Chatting with interesting and attractive people online feels great. Meeting them also feels great. Being rejected by them sucks. Hard. I need to develop a somewhat thicker skin, I suppose, but I don’t want to do so in such a way that I treat anyone with anything less than the respect and courtesy that they deserve. Hopefully I shall find my way through this and, who knows? maybe I’ll meet someone special and wonderful.

A Winter Adventure

Last Tuesday I rode my motorcycle into the office as usual. It was cold but not unusually so, and the weather forecast said there might be some rain but that was all. A little before I left for home in the afternoon I checked the weather forecast again, as I usually do in the winter. It said that it might rain, which didn’t surprise me much.

Anyway, I set out for home and all was fine. Up the A41 and onto the M1 at junction 1. A little way up and it started snowing. Really snowing. Before long I was constantly wiping my visor as the huge flakes settled on it and obscured my vision. Looking at the verges I could see that it was settling. Very quickly the road between the lanes started to get slushy.

Pressing on, I got off the motorway at junction 5 and back onto the A41 past Watford. I considered abandoning the bike but it would have been very hard getting home from there and the road wasn’t actually too bad so I kept going.

The slip road onto the M25 was solid traffic. It all crawled along and I crawled with it as I didn’t want to risk riding on the snow and slush between the lanes. The motorway itself wasn’t too awful, and before long I’d reached junction 17, where I leave. The road surface here was bit more problematic as it’s not the busiest of junctions, so I rode down off the M25 very gingerly.

Despite this, just before I reached the roundabout at the end of the slip road, the bike suddenly slid out from underneath me and fell over onto its right-hand side. I said a few choice words then tried to pick it up, only to find that my feet wouldn’t grip and I couldn’t. Fortunately, a couple of people from the cars behind me got out and helped, and soon the bike was upright again.

I was just considering leaving the bike at the side of the road and coming back for it the next day, when a van pulled up and the driver got out and asked me where I lived. Once I’d explained that we were very close to my home, he offered to give me and the bike a lift. After a bit of a struggle we got the bike into the back of his van and set off. It took us a while because of the traffic but we made it and, refusing even a cup of tea, he drove off. What a kind person!

I’d twisted my ankle jumping out of the van, so I spent the next couple of days working from home. It’s still a tad sore but you know what? It could have been a lot worse. On the whole, I was very lucky.

The British Museum

This morning I signed up for membership of the British Museum. I’ve been considering doing so for a few days as I really love the place and would like to support it. I work in Camden Town, not a million miles from the museum, and intend to visit after work sometimes and maybe on occasional weekends too. It’ll be nice to be able to have a quiet cuppa and a sit down in the members’ room while I’m there.

The Nativity Play

three camels
Max’s drawing of three camels.

This morning I went, along with Juliet and her mum, to see Max’s school nativity play. First up was the nursery, which brought back very happy memories of Max as an angel last year. Then it was the turn of the reception boys. This year Max was playing a camel and he looked utterly adorable in his costume, I can tell you. Unfortunately I can’t show you as the school has, understandably, a strict policy against posting photos online. What I can show you, however, is Max’s drawing of three camels, taken from the inside of the programme. Their tails seem a tad long to me but I guess I’m just nit-picking.

Back on the Road

Well, it’s taken almost three weeks but I finally have my bike back. After messing around with the electronics for a while and finding nothing wrong, the mechanics simply opened up the gearbox and manually put it back into neutral. Having reassembled it and taken it for a test ride everything seemed fine so they pronounced it sorted. Let’s just hope they’re right.

Getting Up

Recently, Max has developed a willingness to get up by himself in the morning and go downstairs to play happily by himself until someone else gets up. This has, I’m sure you’ll understand, been most welcome. Today, however, he decided to revert to his previous behaviour of insisting that Juliet or I get up with him. So, reluctantly, at 6:30 I dragged myself out of bed, pulled some clothes on and stumbled downstairs to settle him on the sofa with a blanket and some warm milk.

I confess I was quite grumpy about this and may have been quite short with poor Max. However, a couple of hot drinks and a listen to the wonderful Infinite Monkey Cage podcast have cheered me up no end and I’m ready to face the day.

My Poor, Crippled Bike

Yesterday on my way home from work my bike broke down. I won’t bore you with the tedious details except to say that it was, naturally, chucking it down with rain as I waited for rescue on a stretch of road with no shops, pubs or cafes. The nice man from the AA who attended wasn’t able to fix the problem and had to call for a recovery vehicle.

I arrived home eventually and had a much needed cup of tea, the all-healing drink, and felt much better than I had. It’s amazing how reviving a cuppa and a snack can be, isn’t it?

This morning I phoned the local Honda dealer and arranged for the bike to be collected on Thursday. With luck it’ll be a quick, easy fix. Until then, it’s the Tube for me.

Working From Home

I’m working from home for a few days while the office is cleaned and rewired after a leaky pipe flooded the IT department. I have mixed feelings about it, to be honest. It’s nice to be home, surrounded by all my stuff and with easy access to snacks and drinks, but I miss the ride into Camden Town on my motorbike and I miss the to-and-fro with my colleagues.

I do find the open plan office very distracting at times, though. Once I have home to myself it’s much easier to concentrate here. And I can listen to music without headphones, which I find become very uncomfortable after a while.

Anyway, whether I like it or not, here I am until Thursday. I feel some buttered toast coming on.

A Pleasant Sunday Morning

This morning, the weather being sunny and warm, I jumped on the bike and rode off to Amersham Old Town in search of a cafe for a quiet breakfast. I had a delightful ride but failed to find what I wanted, so returned to Chorleywood and an old favourite, the Peppermill cafe. So here I sit with a veggie breakfast and a cuppa, perfectly content.

Quiet Afternoon Musings

Here I sit on a rainy Bank Holiday afternoon, my four year old son asleep on the sofa next to me, my wife napping upstairs. I have an urge to write something but I don’t really know what. Just some words on a screen. My eyes are sore, my left arm aches. The dryer in the kitchen keeps trying to attract my attention, turning over occasionally to let me know that the clothes I put in earlier are ready to be folded and put away. Later. I’ll deal with them later.

Maybe I should have another cup of coffee, but I’ve already had three (I think it’s three) cups today. That’s probably enough for now. I could make a cup of tea but I’m not sure I can be bothered.

The various bits of housework I could be doing are nagging at me. They’ll still be there when I can summon up the energy. My bike could do with some TLC but I think I’ll wait till it’s dry out.

I know. Netflix.

An Unpleasant Task

This afternoon I performed a task which has to be done every few months, namely clearing nasty, smelly sludge from the drain at the rear of our house. Basically, I have to stir the bottom with a stick until all the water disappears then get my hand in there and pull out as much crap as possible before bunging a kettle full of boiling water down there for good measure and coming indoors and washing my hands very thoroughly. It’s unpleasant but it only takes a couple of minutes and only needs doing every few months, so it’s not too painful.

The drain is shared with next door, although it’s on our side of the fence. I’m pretty sure we’re not putting anything nasty down there so I think it must be them, but I’m not completely certain. If I was, maybe I could pluck up the courage to have a word but, in typical British fashion, I’d rather just deal with it.

Working at Christmas?

It’s Christmas Day today and, for some unfathomable reason, I agreed with work that I’d keep my laptop with me today, “just in case.” It’s therefore absolutely guaranteed that something horrible will go wrong and need my immediate attention.

On a happier note, merry Christmas, everybody!

Please, Alexa. Thank you, Siri.

I have this thing that I do, and it’s quite deliberate. Whenever I speak to Alexa or Siri, the digital assistants from Amazon and Apple respectively, I always end my request with ‘please’ and often also say ‘thank you’ even though I know that, technically, it doesn’t make any difference.

There are two reasons for this. The first and most important is that, although it has no real effect on Alexa or Siri, it does, I believe, have an effect on me. I don’t want to get used to making demands, especially from those who have no choice but to obey, without the little courtesies. I genuinely think there’s a huge difference, psychologically, between ‘do this thing’ and ‘please would you do this thing’.

I know that there are people out there who don’t seem to think it’s necessary to thank people when they’re just doing their job but I disagree. It’s about acknowledging them, showing you’re aware of them as people, not robots. But thanking the robots too certainly doesn’t hurt and is probably good for me.

The second reason is that, although current digital assistants are not in any way conscious or self-aware, that won’t always be the case and it’s probably a good idea to get used to treating them with courtesy and respect now. Once they achieve awareness they’ll be just as deserving of these things as anyone else and they may well judge us on our treatment of them.

Women of NASA

Lego Women of NASA

On Saturday I bought the rather wonderful Lego Women of NASA set. I’ve wanted it for some time, so when I saw it in the shop I just had to buy it. I’ve brought it into the office so I can put it on my desk where it can, I hope, inspire me every day. It’s such a shame that Katherine Johnson isn’t included but I understand that Lego couldn’t obtain the rights to use her image. A real shame as she’s rather a hero of mine.