• Important changes for Azure DevOps Pipeline agents and GitHub Actions runners

    I don’t think this has been publicised as widely as it should, especially for Azure Pipelines consumers. ubuntu-latest is now resolving to ubuntu-22.04 rather than ubuntu-20.04.

    This has been mentioned in the GitHub blog and there is an ‘announcement’ issue in the runner-images repo, but I haven’t seen anything official for Azure DevOps/Azure Pipelines. Both services use the same agent virtual machine images. As of this writing, the Microsoft-hosted agent page still suggests that ubuntu-20.04 is used.

    This issue summarises the software differences between 20.04 and 22.04, and they can be significant. For example, I’ve already seen builds failing because they were assuming a .NET Core 3.1 SDK was preinstalled. The 22.04 image only includes .NET 6 and 7.

    This is in addition to the already announced removal of ubuntu-18.04.

    So make sure you declare all your tool requirements in your pipelines. Even better, run your jobs in a container (Azure Pipelines or GitHub Actions) with a custom container image that precisely specifies the tools and versions required to build and deploy your application.

  • Logitech MX Vertical Advanced Ergonomic Mouse

    Many years ago, I was working at UniSA developing software. I tended to grind my wrist into the desk as I moused, and over time my wrist and hand became quite sore. UniSA was quite proactive with occupational health and safety, and I had an OH&S consultant visit me in my office. She suggested resting my right hand as much as possible, using a wrist rest, and trying out different-styled mice. For a few months, I switched to mousing with my left hand. I acquired a mouse mat with a gel wrist rest, and I also trialled a trackball mouse. The trackball didn’t work out for me, but since then I’ve continued to use a gel wrist rest for both the mouse and keyboard.

    So it was a bit of a surprise when the discomfort returned a few months ago. I used a similar approach of switching to my left hand to give my right hand a break, but I realised that would only be a temporary solution.

    Asking for suggestions from my SixPivot colleagues, Logitech mice were frequently mentioned. With its unusual shape, intended to fit your hand at a more comfortable angle, I decided to give the Logitech MX Vertical Advanced Ergonomic mouse a go. Spending more than $100 on a mouse may seem a little extravagant, but if it would reduce the discomfort I’d been experiencing, it would be worth it.

    The mouse is certainly different. The ‘sculpted’ curve is covered in a rubber-like material, so it grips nicely.

    Mouse viewed from the rear

    One thing I’d read about was that it was easy to knock over. It is true, I’ve accidentally whacked it several times and tipped it over. Probably because it sits higher (almost reminiscent of a tiny Sydney Opera House), so if you are liable to be waving your hands around that’s something to consider!

    Mouse being held in a hand, sitting on a mouse mat

    It has the usual left and right mouse buttons and a scroll wheel. It took me a little while to get comfortable scrolling on the side, but I don’t think about it now.

    Mouse showing left and right buttons and scroll-wheel

    There are some other buttons near your thumb that some people might take advantage of, but I have yet to use them.

    Mouse showing top and thumb buttons

    Likewise, there’s a button on the top, that allows you to change the pointer speed. I can’t say I’ve used that yet either.

    Mouse viewed from above

    One feature I didn’t consider initially but do make use of now is that you can pair it to up to 3 computers and toggle between them via a small button on the base. In my day job, I may have a customer laptop in addition to my regular laptop. While I might use a tool like Mouse Without Borders to share a keyboard and mouse between the two, if I just want to use one laptop it’s a quick button press to use the mouse with that device.

    Base of mouse

    The mouse has a USB-C port that is used for charging as well as making the mouse usable as a USB mouse if you didn’t want to use Bluetooth. It seems to hold a charge for quite a few weeks if not months - probably depends on your usage.

    You can pair the mouse with Windows and it just works. Optionally you can install Logitech software which lets you customise how the different buttons work.

    I’ve been using the mouse now for a few months and have grown to really like it. I’m pleased that the discomfort in my hand has reduced.

    Recommended! (Affiliate links)

  • Elgato Green Screen MT

    When I do presentations from home I like to have a non-distracting background. For a while, I was using a really old movie projector screen that originally belonged to my grandfather! The kind that is on a stand with tripod legs, it was getting on in years, and required a pair of multigrip pliers to hold the screen in place! I was just waiting for the day the pliers would fall off and the screen collapse mid-presentation, but thankfully that never happened!

    It also needed to be packed away in my shed when I didn’t need it. So I started to think about getting something more fit for purpose, that could be built into the room where I work from. Enter the Elgato Green Screen MT!

    Elgato Green Screen MT

    The screen itself is 2 metres wide and 1.8m high (the actual mounting points are 2.12 metres apart), and it is intended to be mounted on a wall or ceiling. I chose to do the latter, but after using a stud-finder I determined that my ceiling joists were not the same width apart as the screen. To compensate for that, I used light-gauge chains to join the screen to the hooks.

    Closeup of ceiling hooks and chain

    I took a lot of care to measure out how far back from my desk the screen should sit; so that I’d have enough room to sit in front of it, but also to try and avoid gaps showing in the video feed past the sides of the screen.

    View of the screen mounted on the ceiling with desk and screens in the foreground

    Now, most of the time the screen is retracted/up, but if I have a meeting or a presentation, then I can pull down the screen. Even more so in the evening, as our TV is in the same room so I can participate in the meeting online, while family members can still watch the TV without accidentally ending up on the video feed.

    David sitting in front of the screen with a microphone

    If you’re thinking about buying a green screen, this week is a good one to do it with the price discounted.

    Check it out online (affiliate links)