Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Withings Pulse Wrist Band

So finally it has arrived!   

The Withings Pulse is a fitness step and running tracker.  I reviewed it here  and since October 2013 it is my primary tools for measuring daily steps walked or run.

It is also pretty unique in that it contains a Heart Rate Monitor and Blood Oxygen analyser.

Shown here next to my Mio heart rate monitor

On the controlling smartphone app  (to which the pulse sends data via Bluetooth periodically) you can ask to have the time rotated by 90 degrees as shown here so that when you first press the button the time is displayed the right way around.

The unit simply slides into the strap and stays there by friction. Not a chance for it to fall out.

Overall then:  The band costs about 15GBP / 20 CHF so was relatively cheap.  After a week of usage I actually prefer wearing the Pulse on my waist using a clip, so I'll only use it on my wrist on lesser occasions.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Living in America

The above graphic is one of those annoying examples that we in Europe face on a steadily decreasing basis.  Some years back the newest items came to be sold in America and only America first.

Today, well it is just some of the time.

Likewise, years ago living in America was the dream of the many, today... not so many.  In Marcus and Agata's ticklist of pluses and minuses it looks a little like this:

Cars of all brands are cheaper in America.  Actually it is almost insufferable that quality European brands like Porsche and BMW sell the same product in America at sometimes a 30% or greater discount than the identical home product.  Quite shameful, but good if you live in the USA.

Housing Costs
Housing even in trendy areas is a fraction of the cost of Europe.  In fact if your needs are modest, say less than 3 bedrooms and 2 garage spaces; it is sometimes difficult to find a place small enough in a rural mid west USA location.

In 2014 the USA experienced a property bubble based on the cheap money supply provided by the US government.  Even allowing for this, property / housing is very cheap.

Opening Hours
America still leads the way in a 24x7 shopping culture paradyn.   You can step into stores like Wall-mart at virtually any time for those missing items, or for a complete family shop.   The UK is not far behind in terms of Supermarket opening hours but only America has stores of every description open at the customers and not retailers convenience.

Service Culture
At least on the Surface, a strong service culture is present throughout American retail; and in general for the whole country.  Retail service culture is engrained and whilst it is certainly on the wane in modern times it is streaks ahead of any other country in the world.  Period.

Conferences/Trade Shows
If you like Electronics/ Computer or Cars then recall that large shows like CES, Apple Developer Conference or numerous Product launches are made in the USA.

Even something simple like the Pebble Beach concours is in the US.

Positive People Vibe
Positivity grounds America, like the Service culture; it is one of the hallmark features that I love about the USA.  Of course, this very possibly comes from and is re-enforced by the idea that America is the worlds best superpower, country, economic power-house, as told to Americans by Americans.  In the future should America be demonstrably become number 2 (behind China) in many of the important business metrics that define a country it will be interesting to see if this Positivity holds up.  But for now, it is there.

Stuff here First
More American companies [than you think] have a myopic vision that product launch starts in America, and maybe sometime later we'll ship internationally.

So whilst I detest this attitude, it's pretty handy should you live in the US

About the Same
Consumer Electronics Cost


No Go Areas
Areas where you/family by virtue of your Ethnicity/ Culture/ Wealth can enter and have the expectation to be assaulted/ attacked/ murdered.  Of course these exist in many countries, but are regrettably more proportionately present in America than one might expect for a leading first world democracy.

A country where waste is everywhere and deemed socially acceptable by a large proportion of the population.

Currency Collapse
The dollar is the World's reserve currency.  Meaning many commodities (principally oil!)  are traded in USD.  This allows the US to be a borrower of last retort [did you see what I did there :-]

Still it won't last forever, meaning if you convert your equity into USD whilst moving/living there, when the big collapse happens, well you will suddenly be poor

So long as America holds its status at World Reserve currency, the whole world and absolutely including the American Public are steadily increasing their Debt to others in order to continue to live above their means.  This is not just regrettable, but morally indefensible, placing a greater and greater burden on American youth who will need to pick up the bill.

Hot Weather
Many states have either an uncomfortably constantly hot climate or climate extremes that are uncomfortable for European folk.

The desire to show one's wealth, or possessions is something practised throught America.  In England we have a word for this: Chav, and this is not a compliment

My July 4th post refers

Overall then, whilst in previous times we would have traded in our European citizenship for an American one,today  in 2014 we feel that just living in, our touring America for say one to two years [at our own cost] is all that we can summon enthusiasm for.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Synology DS411+II Network Attached Storage End of Term Report

At the Marcus and Agata household we are involved in some Digital Consolidation.

And so we have come to say goodbye (for Production use) to our 100% faithful

Synology DS411+II

Network Attached Storage

Note: Not all NAS Operating systems are created equal. IMHO there are only 2 high functional choices Synology or QNAP.   I don't care what fancy hardware other vendors have, their OS is abysmal!

Note2: In principle you could rig up an old Intel Server and install FreeNAS onto it or even Windows 2012 storage server.  BUT, you'd probably have a big, noisy and energy hungry solution, one that didn't power on and off automatically on a schedule and was generally high maintenance.

For these reasons I'd choose Synology any day...

4 disk bays, and an alerts screen on the right showing any out of line events etc.

Access to low level SMART information of course

Able to set HDD spin down as well as whole device power on and off, silent or with beep power schedule.

I upgraded the memory to 4GB.  (the maximum possible)

Always provided at least 50MB/sec transfer rate  (sometimes 80MB/sec +) for windows transfers

Raw disks are added into a resizable (upward only) Disk storage pool

This is what is actually puts onto the disk.  I presume the OS and other low level information onto first 2 small partitions.

What would a Nextgen Product Have?

  • SSD Caching (say a M.2/ NGFF long slot)
  • Large Memory Caching (say upto 16GB RAM memory)
  • At least 4, 1Gbit Ethernets
  • For a high end product 10Gb Ethernet (and not at ridiculous cost!)
  • Excellent Software

I'm still waiting for a worthy Synology nextgen (or even Qnap) product at not hysterical cost.  In particular Synology has a current habit of using slow=ish processors and small memory footprint, they don't have SSD caching on almost anything, and are pretty mean with 4 Ethernet units.  

10Gb Newby
(Multi part and the best practical article for home 10Gb I have seen so far)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sunday Sermon: Human Nature

(Human Nature tribute - John Meyer)

Although the world of July 2014 seems to be torn apart with religious conflict and hostility I do have to hope that the positive aspects of human nature will in my own lifetime win through.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Start Fitness - Sock Report

Both Agata and Marcus really enjoy are running.  However we realise that we need to constantly care for the health and well-being of our legs and in particular feet.

Aside from the right shoes for the right surface, terrain, distance and climate we would also recommend that you look carefully at what socks you are wearing.

The Parameters that we care about

  • Cushioning.  Should it be a thick or thin sock.  Cushoned in certain places only such as heal and toe?
  • Ventilation:  Mesh parts to improve ventilation, but then at these areas less or no cushoning
  • Durability: The sock should last at least a couple of months of use.  Let's say at least 500Km of running.
  • Specificity:  Special socks for Cycling as Opposed to running.  For Marcus, more padding for trail socks at toes is helpful on descents, as is a sock which slips less
  • Length: Low cut sock exposing ankles, slightly longer just to cover, or longer still to make for complete skin coverage when teamed with long trousers

These are just some of the factors we consider.  After much research we would recommend the vendors:

a_n_manufacturer original e.g. Nike, Asics etc.

Here are some of Marcus's top choices

London running sock.

Best overall running sock.  Marcus choice for Marathons and general training.

Fell and Trail Sock

Thin sock overall but padding at the ends.  Excellent ventilation.  Marcus choice for Ultra Marathon.

Oregon Trail
Quite a padded sock.  Good for plodding trail training runs

Cycling Tour Sock:
The defacto sock for cycling

Decathlon Kanergy
A must for post race wear.  No matter how sore by feet, ankles or calves are after a race, with these on, I can walk normally and smile as if to say /yes, that was easy/.

The most important rule we live by is to make sure the socks are in good condition and to change them when you notice the slightest bit of detoriation.

These More Mile socks shown above are only about 4GBP  (6CHF, 7USD) per pair.  This is a fraction of the price of a branded /Acics or Nike sock/.

Really recommended!

Friday, July 18, 2014

The 10 Megabit Network cometh

If I tell you that Gigabytes of Data leaves our Apartment weekly, but that internally tens or occaisionally even a hundred times more data normally flows around you will understand why it is important that all our computer, phones, or even weight scales are 

Network connected.

For reasons of performance  (but also security) we recommend   Wired Networks

And so here is a tale of the long overdue Ethernet NETWORK connection to almost the slowest computer in the house .... our IBM PC!

Back in time, let's say in the 1990's when Microsoft DOS ruled the home computer landscape, Ethernet Networking was usually tied to an Operating System.

At first this was usually Novell but with the advent of Microsoft Windows 3.11 (for Workgroups) and then later Windows 95, Microsoft began to play with gusto.

Problem Outlined
My IBM is too slow to run Microsoft Windows, and not having a 386 processor  (only an Intel 80286) it really needs to stick to a DOS based operating System.

Additional reasons are that my forensic software  (one example Image Disk by Dave Dunfield) needs DOS.

So I need to implement a TCP/IP stack under plan jane DOS

The False Start
For years I had diligently saved my best ISA format Ethernet card a 3COM 3C515 card (and discarded my other older cards)

So, imagine how surprised I was to find that it's one of the few cards that is not compatible with regular DOS!  Fine if you might be running Windows 3.1, but not for Mr DOS.

A lot of research later, followed by an eBay purchase and a wait of some weeks for the card to arrive from America ...

3Com EtherLink III 3C509TP 

This has become my saviour.  Here are the simple get it working instructions

a) Insert into old fashioned IBM PC (circa 1985, a very good year)

b) Use the stand alone  (i.e. not stack) but single 3c509 packet driver from Crynwr

Packet driver for a 3c509, version 11.0
Portions Copyright 1992, Crynwr Software
Packet driver skeleton copyright 1988-93, Crynwr Software.
This program is freely copyable; source must be available; NO WARRANTY.
See the file COPYING.DOC for details; send FAX to +1-315-268-9201 for a copy.

usage: 3c509 [options] <packet_int_no> [id_port]|[io_port]|[board_num]
   -i -- Force driver to report itself as IEEE 802.3 instead of Ethernet II.
   -d -- Delayed initialization.  Used for diskless booting
   -n -- NetWare conversion.  Converts 802.3 packets into 8137 packets
   -w -- Windows hack, obsoleted by winpkt
   -p -- Promiscuous mode disable
   -u -- Uninstall

c) Use Mike Brutman's excellent TCP stack for DOS.  

My implementation is as follows


# mTCP FTPSrv user/password sample file
# User file format
# user password sandboxdir uploaddir permissions
# Commands with permissions: dele, mkd, rmd, rnfr, stor, appe, stou
# "all" is an alias for everything
# DOS paths are in /drive_X/path form where X is the drive letter.
# For example, e:/ftpdata is written as /drive_e/ftpdata .
# For sandboxdir, enter [none] or a full path name (drive letter included)
# For uploaddir, enter [any] or a full path name (relative if using sandbox,
#   or absolute if not using the sandbox).
mb        mypas     [none]  [any]             all
# ftp       [email]   /drive_e/ftpdata  /testdir/incoming stor stou
# anonymous [email]   /drive_e/ftpdata  /testdir/incoming stor stou
# The next line defines a readonly user - notice there are not
# permissions defined.  Don't worry about the [any] in the
# uploaddir field - it is just taking up space.
# readonly  [email]   /drive_e/ftpdata  [any]

MTU 1500
FTPSRV_PASSWORD_FILE c:\dos\mtcp\ftppass.txt

FTPSRV_LOG_FILE c:\dos\mtcp\ftplog.txt

path c:\dos622;c:\dos\useful
set comspec=c:\
set mtcpcfg=c:\dos\mtcp\tcp.cfg
c:\dos\mtcp\3c509 0x60

d) Now let's Run the server and retrieve a few files onto my Windows 2012 server.

I use the excellent Filezilla client FTP program

Everything works

How is this Useful?
For vintage computer work  (that is work with machines on the 1970 to 1980x) era that are not DOS based but perhaps running their own /proprietory/ Operating System the IBM PC is the Swiss Army Knife of computers

Programs like Dave Dunfield's IMD  (Image Disk Program) or a myriad of other Disk Analysis and recording tools can run on such a computer.

But once on this machine how to get the data into an Internet Connected Server?   Well instead of sneaker-net transferring the data 1.2Mb 5.25 inch diskette at a time I can now simply FTP it from this PC acting as a server and directly upload it to our Vintage website.   Saves a lot of time and effort!

So my deepest thanks to Dave Dunfield and Mike Brutman for all their work, making it oh so easy for me.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Running Pouch Review

A most economical running bag

Subtitle: Fanny Bag, Money Belt, Water Resistant Pouch for Running

This is a review of the /no brand/  Waist Mounted Running Pouch for Runners.

Why do I need one?
During a running race a race belt is normally used to hold your race number or Dossard.  However in recent years it tends to do more.   It can also have loops on the belt to hold nutritional or hydration gels, and some belts include a small pocket for small items such as keys or even a pocket large enough to hold a credit card wallet or a Smartphone.

What is a Running Expo
When you attend a running race you will often find an exposition of Running equipment and gizmos in a tent or area near the race.   They often sell these belts.

In fact here we picked up some alternative belts  (as shown in the above video).

We had a Zipvit Race Belt, which is an elasticated belt with some loops to hold Gels.    Then we also found the SPI Belt which has a small zippable elasticated water/ sweat resistant pouch

Why we'd recommend our ebay bag find because:

  • The cost was only 3GBP including postage.  Amazing.
  • Large zippable pocket that can accomodate my Nexus 5 smartphone and wallet and a house key.
  • Pocket is slightly waterproofed inside  (not quite as good as SPI) but pretty good and we would always recommend wrapping water sensitive items in a minimalist plastic bag anyway.
  • Nice thick belt - helps keep my tummy in!
  • -ve: No loops to hold gels or to attach Dossard so not the best for races, better for everyday /run to the office/ use.

eBay: Running Bag
SPI Running Belt at Wiggle

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Innovation Intrigue Interesting

TBWA Advertising McDonalds

In sophisticated Europe as many [North] Americans sometimes prefer to describe it, we sometimes elect a diet of Intriguing advertising.

And so it is that certainly in France and Switzerland we have seen hoardings displaying one of these 6 icons:

Actually there are 6 different advertisements each showing a McDonalds product and to the bottom right a small McDonalds logo.

What does it all mean?

  • It's sort of Advertising by Intrigue
  • You have to have a basic idea of McDonalds merchandise to associate the icons with product.

    In other words it makes existing [McDonalds] consumers feel smart
  • It is different, so if you don't /get it/ you'll probably ask somebody >>viral marketing.
  • Clearly if all fast-food companies utilised similar techniques, chaos would result, but McDonalds is first and hence different, and market differentiation in the fast food market is very good.
  • Here in Europe we can be double Smug ... far too sophisticated fayre for the United States of America, we like++

Whatever next, Americans asking what the acronym TBWA stands for ?

Adweek on TBWA Paris
McDonalds Advertising but not in the USA

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Stretching is Important

I've never been a great pre or post exercise stretcher but quited marked pains in my feet at the plantar fasia have let me to revise my opinions.

To those in similar foot pain:

Monday, July 14, 2014

31Km training run Prangins

Pre run report

Yesterday we got a last opportunity to test our kit and gear on our 31Km Ultra Marathon training run around the Swiss town of Prangins.

Prangins is close to Nyon and has a large Castle / Museum which we just ran by.  

We stopped off at the castle to admire the view.  There is a nice restaurant which we might come back to one day.

 Lots of Motorcycles around here!

I'm not sure of the History but Prangins is littered with the  Swiss equivalent of the Maginot line style concrete anti tank blockades, presumably from the Second World War??

 I am a sucker for any Town that keeps Bees!   

Remote mountain villages are very posh and have a train service to Nyon making them commuter belt friendly to Geneva.

Post Training Report

Prangins Switzerland
Salomon S-LAB Sense 3 SG

Temperature was 23-24 degrees C
Marcus and Agata ran 31Km
Marcus drank 500ml of High Five energy juice, 1 Powerbar and 6 tiny Glucose tablets

Stepcount for the day is looking good.

Marcus still has some intense chest pains from his Cycling Accident,  I don't want to dwell on this, just to say that I am coping.

Meanwhile, those Salomon S-LAB sense shoes have eaten my feet and given Marcus some blisters.  Agata also has a sympathy blister in a similar place.


So overall we are well prepared for our forthcoming 100Km Ultra Marathon.  What could possibly go wrong!

Clean My Pool

I noticed that, the Swiss daily /bargain website/ listed a Robotic pool cleaner as their daily steal.

Well it was 1690 CHF,  which in other people's cash is
1100 GBP or 1900 US Dollars.

On the positive side it is good to see that Switzerland wants its residents to keep even it's Swimming Pools Clean!

But stepping back for just a minute we are implying that

  • Quite a few people in Switzerland own a Swimming Pool!
  • Clearly, Switzerland a country with a well known snowy climate at Christmas, well let's just say the pool is not in use all year around!
  • Qoqa, perhaps Switzerland's only bargain website lists this /opportunity/ at just a smudge under 2K US Dollars.
We can sum all of these Swiss traits up in just two words


Bienvenue en Suisse


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday Sermon: No Simple Explanation

OFNF vs the Facts

Subtitle: No Simple Explanation

Marcus currently does a lot of YouTube watching.   In fact watching broadcast TV is now practically a thing of the past. And so (amongst a lot of others) I subscribe to 

AronRa's youtube channel

This Sunday morning  I sat at first patiently but then enthralled and interested as Aron documented his attempts to have a dialog with OFNF

Each side has a viewpoint that they are unlikely to change but which view is based on fact and which on fiction?

But maybe there is some agreement on:

  • When you setup a challenge/ debate/ argument you need to be very clear what needs to be proved/ established.  Otherwise each side will claim victory, dismiss the other
  • When it comes to Evolution though a sketch of the truth of Evolution can take a sentence, a convincing argument may not be so simple and in view of its significance perhaps rightly so.
  • Most of us inherit beliefs, behavioural patterns and ways of thinking learned from our parents and environment at an early age.  Later in life even if we are shown and somewhat recognise these beliefs to be in error we find it between difficult to impossible to overcome this early programming.

    Further, that early programming does not typically include the scientific method because we were just too young.
  • Some changes in the world take place so slowly that there is no humanly observable change within a single Generation
  • All forms of knowledge including Scientific are being established at a rate much faster in this century than 2000 years ago
  • In this century we know from the Internet what was said by whom and when, multiple video and text sources will re-enforce a viewpoint.  Conversely 1000 or 2000 years ago this level of recording was not nearly accurate. Some biblical texts were written decades after the event occurred.  Can you think back 30 years in your lifetime to a day and write down the events clearly?
If you have a lot of patience you can watch the above video all the way thru (22 minutes), and for superpoints you can watch the responses to that video and the responses to the responses.

My usual starting point when speaking to Religious Fundamentalists is to ask them how it is that they can be sure that their God's words are inerrant; and that their holy book (or translation of) is true viz a viz a competitive religion.  And, if some part of their holy text can be shown to be in error or inconsistent with observable facts, reality, logic or contemporary ethics how should we move forward?

Now to close, perhaps you do not have 22 minutes of YouTube time to spare so instead how about a more digestible 10 minutes:

Thinking about Religion