Feb 14

I refuse to buy backup software

So, I’m writing a powershell script that:

  • Uses volume shadow service to take a backup of a directory
  • Compresses the above backup using 7zip / whatever
  • Time/Datestamps the compressed backup and copies it off-server to a given location
  • Looks at the above location and deletes backup zips older than a given number of days (i.e. retention period), e.g. keep 30 days of backups
  • But wait, it won’t delete anything unless it knows that a given number of backups exist from the last x days (retention period). After all, if your backups had been failing for 30 days, it would be pretty dumb to delete everything over 30 days old. So the script allows you to set what you deem as a good total number of backups to exist within your retention period in order to delete everything outside of the retention period. Some contingency built in.
  • It connects to your authenticated SMTP server (e.g. Google Mail) to send you an HTML formatted report of exactly what it found in that backup location (filenames alongside their age), whether it detected that recent backups were indeed found, and therefore whether backups older than the retention period were tidied.
  • Obvs, it supports reading / writing to network shares.
  • It supports multiple backup sets per report, using a set of commands like this:

Backup-Tidy 8 6 28 “c:\dir-to-backup” “d:\dir-to-store-zips”
Backup-Tidy 4 2 7 “c:\another-dir-to-backup” “d:\another-dir-to-store-zips”

The arguments for Backup-Tidy:

Backup-Tidy 8 6 28 “c:\dir-to-backup” “d:\dir-to-store-zips” “ForReal”

read as follows: “If you find 8 files from the last 6 days, then remove all files over 28 days old”

  • The “ForReal” is a safety belt. Without this argument, the detailed report email is generated but the backups and deletions don’t get done.

And the pretty HTML report looks like this:

Mat’s Backup Tidy Report – 22/02/2014 04:00:36

\\internal.hazymat.co.uk\root\Backup\Mat’s Files [retention period = 28 days]

Recent backups were NOT found. We needed at least 8 zip files 6 days old or less; there are only 3.
We didn’t touch any files; it wasn’t safe to delete anything.

Name Size Age
backup-log-2014.02.19-193402.txt 8k 2d
images-2014.02.19-193402.zip 930m 2d
images-2014.02.18-193409.zip 870m 3d
images-2014.02.17-193355.zip 840m 4d
Total size: 2.6g


\\internal.hazymat.co.uk\root\Backup\Big Files [retention period = 7 days]

Recent backups found. We needed at least 5 zip files 7 days old or less; there are 7.
Old files were removed: jolly good.

Name Size Age
backup-log-2014.02.19-193402.txt 8k 0d
images-2014.02.21-193402.zip 930m 0d
images-2014.02.20-193409.zip 870m 1d
images-2014.02.19-193355.zip 840m 2d
images-2014.02.18-193402.zip 930m 3d
images-2014.02.17-193409.zip 870m 4d
images-2014.02.16-193355.zip 840m 5d
images-2014.02.15-193355.zip 840m 6d
Total size: 6.12g

Feb 14

One year today

I wanted to write an eloquent status update reflecting my thoughts, beliefs, and status one year on.

But I am so besieged with grief, and so incapacitated by regret that I cannot.

Last night I walked his last journey from Lilac Ward Tolworth Hospital to the tree. It broke me that I could walk back, get in my car and drive home again to a warm home with loved ones.

* Please see my previous post “one week today”

Jan 12

LrReview Test

This is looking VERY nice. I like the way I can set ordering at the point of creating the collection.

Dec 11

Qype: Chipotle in London

LondonEating & DrinkingRestaurantsMexican

Tucked away on a corner of Baker Street usually inhabited by (infested with?) large packs of spotty teenage tourists with matching yellow rucksacks of a Saturday morning, or suited office types of a weekday lunchtime, lies London’s newest addition to the fast-growing world of _quality fast food_.

As one who has always believed the phrase _”quality” fast food_ to be completely incongruous in itself, and therefore who usually shuns fast food (fast), Chipotle is, admittedly, a place that on any other day I might pass-by without giving it a thought. It’s unique to this country; sadly the idea of quality fast food has passed us poor Brits by, yet every time I visit the US – a deli in NYC or a burger joint in Portland, I am bowled-over by how decent the food is. On the other hand, your average UK sandwich shop or independent burger shop (Chicken Cottage, anyone? Subway? EW!) fill me with The Fear.

Enter: Chipotle.

By _”quality” fast food_, I mean that the ingredients are sourced by the restaurant directly, all food is created from scratch onsite and on the same day – even the tortilla chips – and more importantly, a great deal of care and love is pumped into all aspects of food creation.

Chipotle is an American-Mexican restaurant which I dearly hope will play a small part in changing the game with UK fast food. Even *I* can bring myself to use the R word (rather than calling it a “joint” or mere “outlet”), especially when I know my quick-grab lunch is the product of about 6 hours of preparation by real cooks.

It has a rather beautiful and quirky history; a chain with a soul, if you will. Despite its brief foray into some form of partnership with the proprietors of the Big Golden Arches (eeeevil), Chipotle has stayed true to its roots and sources its ingredients locally, where possible. Essentially that means: meats and vegetables from the UK. Of course there are exceptions: avocados are seasonal and they are mostly imported from far-off warm lands.

To give you a quick idea of the level of care and knowledge that goes into the food here, our guide Jacob talked about the difference in flavour of avocados from various different countries and at different times of the year. We were moving into the time of the year where the Hass avocados are sourced from Chilli, which meant they wouldn’t be perfect for another few weeks. Or what about the difference in flavour profile of guacamole depending on what kind of salt is used? Enough said, right? They know their stuff!

The proof was in the pudding, though. The pork burrito with black bean and mild chilli and guac was absolutely superb.

I’m all about a good burrito, it used to be difficult picking one up anywhere in London – especially to go – but it’s getting easier these days.

Don’t be fooled: although Chipotle serves your lunch in 3 minutes flat, this is some seriously brilliant food.

Check out my review of Chipotle – I am hazymat – on Qype

Apr 11

Qype: Franco Manca in London

LondonEating & DrinkingRestaurantsItalian & Pizza

Franco Manca gets my seal of pizzapproval!

I’m upping sticks and leaving my home of 7 years in Shepherd’s Bush for the far more chic, distinctly less scary, and most definitely more beautiful Chiswick. And I simply can’t want to get stuck-in to the many delights Chiswick has to offer for the foodie; the supper clubs, the posh local food markets, and not least the great looking restaurants.

Franco Manca was recommended to me by the owner of a lovely little coffee house place in Cambridge called Massaro’s (completely unrelated); they are really serious about the quality of the meats and breads they serve, and they said I would love Franco Manca. In fact they were visiting London a week previously, and detoured all the way to Chiswick just to eat here.

They also told me the story of how it got its name. The original restaurant in Brixton was opened on the site of a little Italian place called Franco’s. One day Franco went missing and nobody knew where he had gone.

After a while, the new owners took over the place, but weren’t sure what to call their restaurant. So after a bit of thought they simply called it Franco Manca, Italian for “Franco’s Missing”.

Franco Manca is a pizza restaurant which serves really well-priced tasty Naples-style pizza, with an emphasis on good quality ingredients.

We visited for the first time of many on Saturday night, and found the pizza to be brilliant. The restaurant was very busy with queues out of the door at around 7.30pm Saturday night, and I can see why. Although there was a queue, the front-of-house chap knew exactly what he was doing and didn’t leave anyone hanging, instead coming coming back to check numbers and tables every few minutes.

The crowd is quite young and unfortunately a little noisy at this time; maybe I’m getting old but the group next to us was so unbearably loud we had to move. One Glaswegian woman had the most unbelievably shrill voice. What is it with the unruly Brits?!

Anyway. Are you a fellow Chiswickian? Or are you seeking out London’s best pizza joints?

The restaurant was extremely busy when we went, and they did mess up our order a little. Luckily we were quite excited about the pizza and overlooked the mistake, especially as an apology was forthcoming immediately.

Aside from this I found the service to be swift and no-messing.

Superb pizza, thin with toasty flavoursome crusts. If you are looking for a quiet Saturday evening then perhaps give it a miss, otherwise if you are no stranger to a youngish loudish crowd and you love good pizza, Franco Manca is a must-visit.

Check out my review of Franco Manca – I am hazymat – on Qype

Jan 11

Qype: St Pancras International Station in London

LondonTransportationPublic TransportStations

Okay, I admit it. I’m an anorak.

I’m crazy about train stations, and when St Pancras International opened after its long-awaited refurbishment, I visited late night on a Sunday on an architectural pilgrimage with camera and tripod.

I was honoured as a photographer to have one of my photographs of St. Pancras printed onto a large poster and installed into a 2m high display on the concourse of the station itself and featured in the Metro last year for a Valentine’s promotion. (http://www.matsmithphotography.com/photolife-blog/mat-smith-photography-in-metro)

I had the most glorious time admiring its historic beauty, the gorgeous monument to timekeeping that is the iconic Dent clock commissioned as a replacement for the original as part of the Eurostar refurb, the magnificent statue “The Meeting Place” by British artist Paul Day, and the Betjeman statue by British sculptor Martin Jennings; I wasn’t the only one. At this time the station was filled with single old men wandering around gazing in awe with their cameras. It was a bizarre but special night for me.

Since then I have been back a number of times, not to travel, but just to enjoy.

The St Pancras Grand Brasserie, Oyster and Champagne Bar (Searcys at St Pancras) is a fabulous place to enjoy a glass of bubbles. If you sit along the concourse adjacent to platforms, the booths are designed like little train carriages, and when it’s cold you can even grab a complimentary blanket and turn-on the seat heaters using a button below the table. It’s one of my favourite places to drink Champagne.

The station also has a Carluccio’s if you are that way inclined, and the station ground floor concourse has a whole host of places to shop, offering everything from precious gifts, useful travel purchases, M&S Simply Food, restaurants and decent small cafés – something for every budget.

St. Pancras is a destination in itself, a wonderful large open space when you are feeling London-claustrophobia, a place where you can pretend that modern train travel is still romantic, and a useful drop-in for convenience shopping when in the area.

And if you are an architect geek like me, you will love the stunning refurbishment of this historic building.

Check out my review of St Pancras International Station – I am hazymat – on Qype

Dec 10

Qype: Sartori in London

LondonEating & DrinkingRestaurants

Sartori is a new Italian joint, opened October 2010, in the heart of the theatre district in London’s West End.

I love pizza.

By that, I mean I hate Pizza Sexpress, can’t stand Deep Bland Pizza, abhor Pizza Slut, can’t be arsed with Ask, and please don’t get me started on how Dodgy Domino’s has single-handedly bastardised the concept of pizza and turned it into the Divine Brown of the UK Pizza scene. (“You’re hungry, you say? And you have no soul? Here, use my Domino’s Calling Card! You can find them in most phone booths around town! It will feel great at the time and they will deliver straight to your door!”)

Truth is, Brits just don’t *get* pizza. The idea that there exists this unspoken hierarchy of quality that differentiates Ask from Pizza Express from Pizza Hut is absolutely bonkers. Fact is they are all lowest-common-denominator, hen-do-serving chain restaurants whose sole purpose is to shovel out food that is marginally above adequate according to the British palate (and we all know what that means), thus making the most profit possible.

It’s how Tesco and Starbucks operate, and the discerning foodie should shun them not because they are all corporate and evil like, but because they have forgotten what it means to do things that make you smile.

Sartori, this lovely cosy and sophisticated little restaurant in central London, is the perfect antidote to the picture I have painted above.

If I tell you that this restaurant transported their pizza oven piece-by-piece directly from Naples and reconstructed it in their basement (no expense spared: the whole thing cost a cool £18k), you might correctly assume that they also shipped-in chefs from Naples to operate the beast as well.

And if you know a thing or two about the average food ethic of a chef in Naples, and the commitment they have to the art of making pizza, you might start to understand that you are in for a rare treat.

Actually I first heard about this place when I was looking at reviews of my favourite new coffee house nearby, Notes Music and Coffee, who have probably the most expensive and sought-after espresso machine currently in the world. Sartori was noted in the same piece as having the Maserati of pizza ovens. I had to investigate. I had to see it for myself.

A quick look downstairs at this oven, and a chat with a waiter, confirms this is indeed the Maserati of pizza ovens. The waiter actually compared it to a Ferrari, but the point is that this restaurant is sufficiently geeky about the construction of a pizza to employ pizzaioli who know exactly what they are doing.

Their menu proudly states “please refrain from asking for a variation of toppings; our pizzaioli are experienced in the art of combining ingredients”… and my Pizza Napoletana was the evidence.

Each new mouthful tasted different to the last, each made me go ‘wow’, and without wishing to gush too much, each mouthful made me further resolve to tell all my friends about this place.

If pizza isn’t your thing, there are numerous other dishes from Naples to get excited about.

Although the aspirations are high, this is a humble restaurant. The service is smart and friendly, the decor is classy, the atmosphere is intimate, and the prices are astonishingly low given its location.

A great place for a date or a meal with good friends, and it won’t break the bank. If you fancy a coffee pilgrimage at the same time, visit Notes Music and Coffee just down the road. (Open late.)

Check out my review of Sartori – I am hazymat – on Qype

Dec 10

Qype: Barbican Foodhall at Barbican Centre in London

LondonShoppingFood & Drink

I love the Barbican Food Hall, despite the fact it’s overpriced, the staff are rushed, and the food is anything but exciting.

With a title like “Food Hall”, with its “Selfridges Food Hall” connotations, you would be forgiven for thinking it’s one of these multi-faceted, multi-tilled affairs with various different cuisine zones and the like.

Seriously, it is not. For example, £3.75 for a very basic but fresh tuna mayo sandwich on reasonably thin normal bread, in an unlabelled packet.

After its refurbishment this year, the place is a lot more sexy to look at, there’s a lot more choice of food, drinks, and cake, and they serve marginally better coffee. (Previously coffee was a serve-yourself affair with an automatic coffee machine, now it’s a barista and a couple of delicious looking espresso machines, they use Monmouth beans. But that doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t know how to clean a steam wand and prevent your milk from tasting rancid thus producing stuff that’s even worse than using an automatic… I digress.)

Yes it’s sexier. Much, much sexier. The interior is lovely, and whoever came up with the concept clearly understands the style of architecture in which it is situated (brutalism – not everyone’s cup of tea).

It’s for the above reason that I love it. I’m a self-confessed brutalism-maniac and this place utterly floats my boat.

As for floating my foodie boat, I’m sorry but at its heart, it’s still canteen food.

Check out my review of Barbican Foodhall at Barbican Centre – I am hazymat – on Qype

Nov 10

Qype: South Bank in London

LondonLocal Life

Cannot WAIT for this year’s Cologne Christmas Market. Last year wasn’t too busy (at least when I went), lovely romantic atmosphere (great for friends, lovers, and anyone except louts) freezing cold, tasty Gluhwein and sausages, overlooking the river. This year I’ll be bringing a very warm hat and gloves, last year I was f-f-freezing without.

This is my kind of Christmas treat.

Check out my review of Cologne Christmas Market – I am hazymat – on Qype

Nov 10

Qype: The Bathhouse in London

LondonEating & DrinkingPubs & BarsBarsCocktail BarsEating & DrinkingCafes & Coffee ShopsCoffee ShopsEating & DrinkingRestaurants

Stranded near to Liverpool Street Station with a couple of hours to kill, Qype iPhone application came to the rescue and I searched the nearest 5 star place for a cocktail.

The Bathhouse it was; and what a place! We were there at a rather odd time of the evening and they were apparently setting up for a private event, but everything about this place excited me.

It’s a little odd sitting in what you know to have previously been an underground bath. Raise your eyes to the ceiling and breathe-in deeply the aroma of its history; I’m not trying to be pretentious in my description here, it really does smell of an old bath house! You can smell that mixture of towels, bathing, sweat, and salt. Sorry, I know that sounds hideous, but in reality it’s utterly charming and lovely.

I am very fussy about the Bloody Mary. The number of times I have had to return a drink because they couldn’t even put a stick of celery in. What kind of Bloody Mary has no celery! I digress – The Bathhouse made me one of the best Bloody Maries I’ve ever had, period. On this basis alone I will be coming back.

Visit – you are in for a treat.

Check out my review of The Bathhouse – I am hazymat – on Qype