Saturday, October 03, 2015

Show me the Code

A quick level set.

Audi, Seat, Skoda, Volkswagen diesel engined cars are now believed to have custom computer code that tried to detect when they were being detected for NOx emissions.

NOx by the way is just shorthand for the 2 gases NO and NO2

NOx gases are directly bad for humans

Note: CO2 gas emissions have not been doctored.  CO2 gases are indirectly very bad for all humans on the planet, since now all but /nutjobs/ believe that they are the principle source of Global Warming.  And recall that Global Warming will precipitate catastrophic changes in climate and sea level within our lifetimes.

Just One Question

There must be source code somewhere back at VW

And this is complicated code, so it must surely have comments saying who wrote what

And the code is surely checking into a Source Code Control System, so who checked in what and when.

So, show me the source code!

I am interested.

Fiirm action is required
EPA allowed for secrecy
CO2 Manipulation
Fuel Analysis

Friday, October 02, 2015

The Computer Backout

This is a wise tale about service.

As an IT consultant (or is it ex IT consultant?) and also a professional and certified nice person, well the opinions of my customers are vitally important to me.

I am happy when you are happy.

The rules are of course suspended should you be an idiot,  an absolute bastard, or a persistent liar who seeks to exploit others.

That said, Agata's mother in Poland is none of these and so when she told Marcus and Agata that her new computer that I upgraded her too was very slow.   I had to investigate ... 

What we Supplied

I covered the build process in July here   and at the time I thought that the system was acceptable

 First it is a very quiet and small PC.  You can barely hear the fans spinning at all

 A full 8GB of memory and Windows 10 Enterprise

 A dual core Atom CPU running at 1.8 MHz

 A 128GB quality SSD

More USB and other ports than one quite knows what to do with!

Making it Vroom
I had thought that the addition of

- a fast 128GB SSD Disk
- 8GB memory
- Windows 10 with all excess services removed

Would be enough to make it fly. Like a professional I asked for a list of problems ....

Make Me a List

- Dodgy Power Button
Yes.   True.  Somehow, after powering on you also had to press a recessed reset button, and occaisionally do all of this twice.  Pretty annoying.

- Office Complained About expiration
Yes. True. Office 2016 beta was installed and it kept threatening expiration, but only in November 

- AVG 2015 issues
Yes. True. AVG the virus program intermittently stopped working after some Windows Updates were installed.  This causes and AVG alert and also a Windows 'what the hell has happened to your antivirus program' alert too.

- Media stuttering
Yes.  True.  That Atom processor is never going to win an awards for speed.  And that is the polite reply.

The Backout

So with the greatest reluctance it was time to revert BACK to the old Shuttle computer.   But as a concession at least change the internal disks to all SSD and use a Windows 10 build ....

For generations to move a Windows installation to a new hardware architecture I would normally
- use acronis or other to make an OS backup
- re install from exact same OS media a bare level OS
- restore over the backup on top of the base OS

This is because simply cloning the disk (at bit level) and placing the cloned disk into the new target system normally Blue-screened.

But in Warsaw with limited resources and limited time I did a clone.  And guess what ...  it started, downloaded drivers, rebooted twice.  And all was well.  Fantastic.

When all was re-done there was a testing period.  In case we had to backout the backout!

Luckily it became clear that the working power button and superior speed of the 'old' shuttle made operation easier.  It was then a matter of fixing the remaining software issues.  Easy.  Well, easyish.

What Did I learn?

My old Quad core computer with dedicated PCI graphics, from 2009  was still a lot faster than the 2013 Intel Mini ITX computer.

A separate PCI graphics card really is so much faster than planar / motherboard graphics, even from 4 years later.

Even adding 8GB to the Intel Atom powered ITX motherboard could not make it fly.  The Atom is one seriously slow CPU

Windows 10 could be cloned to a new hard disk and then booted on the new target computer architecture.   The target machine downloaded the necessary missing drivers and after 2 reboots all was well.

All is well that ends well then.   Mr Quad core shuttle is back in a new home office environment, and mother is happy++

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Another Wonderful Weekend in Warsaw

I am just filing away our report on Marcus's recent September weekend in Warsaw.  As usual it was full of action.  Oh, and hotness.  Although Lausanne was stiflingly hot, I had no idea that Warsaw would trump it.   It is autumn!

 I picked up some SIM cards at the airport.  Free sims, with instructions in Polish, German, English (phew) and a 5GB for 15Zl offer  (4 GBP).  It is totally and utterly bonkers.

The main reason for the visit was to be there for Mama and her hospital eye operation.  She is looking pretty good to me.

Yes, in still heavily Catholic Poland, Crosses invade even the hospital.  The Religious would say that [Christian] God gave Doctors the skills to save people.  Lucky we have the right God then.

 I am still quite obsessed with getting a better scooter. However after visiting many shops Marcus' Razor A5 Lux is still the best. So, no new scooter for me.

Part of the trip was to upgrade the local Computer Infrastructure to Windows 10 and new Professional Quality style desk.  I begin with a thorough clean, of course

 Multiple trips to Decathlon are obligatory because this shop is suspicious absent in Switzerland.  (Do I hear Cartel anybody?).  Anyway, this trail rucksack was almost perfect  (reviewed here )  but I am still holding out for something better.

 Mothers' new computer Infrastructure seems very slow, so the first fix attempt is a newer build of the Operating System.  I'll upgrade my laptop first, and then if successful, her system is next.  What could possibly go wrong!

In Poland  (and not Switzerland) I have access to Marks and Spencer shopping.  So I am testing out 2 new porridge types. Porridge is my normal breakfast, so I'm always looking out for improvements

The New Road

I commented before that a surprise road is being built nearby so let's look at the progress now

 Veturilo bicyles are back.  Fantastic

 As you can see I like large machinery

And I am totally fascinated as to how they manage to lay down the edging so perfectly.  What a skill.

Of course more Vintage car spotting is obligatory

Mum's new professionally equipped office, concealed cabling, new and hyper clean, and 100% working.

Semisonic: Closing Time

So it is another all too quick goodbye and return to Lausanne Switzerland.

One day I dream of arriving and staying until it is right to pootle back home, not being forced back due to other commitments. One day.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Google Nexus event 2015

Google: Nexus event September 2015  (82 minutes)

Subtitle: Not what but where.

To levelset,  Google had its largest end user announcement of Phone and Tablet hardware for all of 2015 on Tuesday September 29th.   If you somehow did not know about it then read on and pretend that you did.   If you did know about it, then below are some carefully chosen content to direct you quickly.

A word to Apple Users
Even if you are convinced that your Apple Smartphone and Apple devices ecosystem are the best, I hope you might want to open your mind to what Google,  the company that is almost certainly your search provider, and probably your Email provider,  and significant app provider;  has in store.

The Delivery
The above 82 minute presentation was not perfect, it came complete with a couple of technical glitches.  But it was refreshingly delivered, in earnest, straight to the point, no nonsense terms.  

Also, unlike the Apple events that I've been forced into,  there were no whoops, cheers and clapping sounds every 30 seconds from fanboy and fangirl attendees.  Respect.

What was announced then?

Verge: Google Nexus event in 7 minutes

IF you only have 7 minutes of your time then watch this single Verge video.

else ... apart from the main official video at the top screen which is the big kahuna at 82 minutes long ...

2 Beautiful Android Phones   5X and 6P 

(32GB 5X 429 USD, 64GB 6P  549USD)

Comment: With 12MP rear cameras and larger pixels, the 6P is using the 7.81mm Sony IMX377 sensor

Updated Chromecast

Chromecast allows you to send or cast content from your smartphone or web browser typically to your TV via HDMI.  Unless you SmartTV already provides this function (e.g. Samsung) then IMHO you'd be insane not to gen1 have one already  and current ownership or not, the new gen2 device is unbelievably capable and even better value.

Oh and also Chromecast Audio

Pixel C Android Tablet

A beautifully Engineered 10 inch tablet with superior keyboard support. It's not a Chromebook. It does not run ChromeOS.

Android Marshmallow features

(Smug comment):  I have been using Marshmallow 6.0 Android for about a month now. It's a nice upgrade to 5.x 

Production code upgrade to existing Nexus devices in October 2015.

Getting Product

- First try your local google Play store

- Next try your local Computer Retailer,  e.g. in Switzerland Digitec.
 (nothing so far!)

NB: Stoic Advice
Whilst what was announced was great, I'd always caution the reader to think of requirements and need, over greed and having to have the latest thing.  

If you pass that test, and think these products are for you, I'd still take my time to order the phones or tablet, there can always be wrinkles.  But for the Chromecast(s) I reccoment to order now!

A Musical Ending (Daft Punk: Derezzed)

You know Apple gets to have those big budget musical finales.   So I just added mine too.

Further Links

MKBHD Nexus 6P 5X ImpressionsInitial DXOmark 6P analysis


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

All Two Much

Until recently our Fiat Ducato had no radio and as a stop gap measure we bought a second Logitech UE Mini Boom Bluetooth Speaker

We previously raved about it here

Now that we have installed a Pioneer Car Radio  it has been liberated,  et voilĂ ,  we now have two units at home.

And via the UE Mini Boom Android application you can join the two speakers together and have them play your music in Stereo or Double mode.

How fantastic is that.

I like the now pretty much defunct UE Mini Boom speakers even more now.

Wait,  I feel a song coming on ...

The Cars: Moving in Stereo

Monday, September 28, 2015

Monday Sermon: Survivor

Presented without too much further religious commentary.

Joel 02:31
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the lord come.

Acts 02:20
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come:

Supermoon' coincides with lunar eclipse

Wait, what's that you say, give me a song?

Beyonce: Survivor


Pioneer MVH X380BT Car Radio

Pioneer MVH X380BT pre fitting

This is a review and a strong thumbs up to the Pioneer MVH X380BT car radio that we have installed and now tested in earnest for a few weeks ....

Our Requirements
It has been over 10 years since Marcus and Agata have stopped using CD's as a medium for listening to music.   In fact Marcus checked and it is about 15 years since I finished digitising my entire Vinyl music collection and following that with my multiple hundred CD music collection.

It's now all in MP3 format, stored on hard disk, Google Play Music, and Cloud Backup.

So I was delighted to find that in the Car radio world you can now buy a 1 din Radio unit which has no CD player at all.

After some research we bought a:

Pioneer MVH 380BT

The most fantastic thing is this unit fits into a standard 1 DIN fitting but is only a few cm deep, i.e. short because there are no CD player moving parts or electronics.   Just fantastic! Oh, and did I mention the price ... 100 CHF in Switzerland which is about 60 GBP.  Un flippin believable.


You are not going to believe this, but after arriving at our garage to fit this technological masterpiece, we found a hole where the aerial plug in the dashboard did not fit.


Obviously in Switzerland we had no chance to buy this locally so it was back to ebay.

We bought this for 1GBP!  Including Postage.  How do they do that?

The Fitting

2 weeks of waitin later after postage from Hong Kong.

 It's basically plug and play.

- Plug in the aerial via the ebay'd adapter plug
- Plug in the 2 square blocks coming out of the Fiat Ducato hole into the back of the radio

The manual says that if your ignition does not have an accessory position then to rewire a power connector.  We don't and we didn't.  It's not necessary for us.

Not Used
In the box was a wired microphone that would allow you to use the unit for hand free smartphone operation.  We don't use that.   If we get a call whilst driving the passenger takes it!

All the Benefits then

 Agata's Apple iPhone connects via the standard Apple cable or wirelessly using Bluetooth.  You have the option to select music control from the iPhone or Car radio Interface

Removable front for security

Marcus connects his Apple iPod Nano or Android Smartphone wirelessly via Bluetooth, selecting music directly from the device.

Since in Switzerland we have an unlimited Internet SIM connection this means I can use Spotify to play any music, anywhere, anytime through this unit

Oh yes and again

- Unit is inexpensive
- No moving parts i.e. CD player mechanism
- Very small and light
- Plug and Play

The Pioneer MVH 380BT is a fantastically simple, inexpensive and capable car radio which can also accept a direct wired USB music player or Bluetooth.

All stations are now GO!

Chemical Brothers: Go

ebay Radio Aerial connector

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Mysterious Ways

The Prolog
I prefer life over death, I want people to live longer not shorter.  I'm upset when people die needlessly, especially if it in the pursuit of something fantastical and unlikely that is believed for the most part only our of sheer circumstance [of birth].

This week in Religion
They say the placement of a lightening conductor on top of a Christian Church is clear evidence that /the faithful/ actively set limits on the power of their own God to keep believers and their property safe.

But this week in Islam. Well.....

This week, in Islam, an all knowing and powerful God allowed the death of 717 pilgrims to the Hajj as well as the injury of at least 863 people.

Here are some articles that you can read

700 Killed at Hajj pilgrimage

Saudi Arabia orders probe

Hajj Stampede multiple links

A Restatement

In the secular i.e. religion free world view, there is no covenant between a human and their God(s).  But for a religious person, you perform certain actions, and there is a reward.  Not only limited to, but normally including: 

01. Heaven / Afterlife  - Usually a place where you will spend an eternity with loved ones (or rebirth)

02. Protection - You God improves your life chances, perhaps by better health, longer life, and certainly from protecting you in general.

So it is clear to me that in this model God has the power to improve your daily life.  And so in the ultimate, if you die what seems a horrible and painful death, God at the very least had the power to prevent this happening but chose not to.  

Back to the deaths of the Pilgrims

What can we make of this situation?   Here are some opinions that some people have put forward:

- We can't begin to understand God,  the fact that God has allowed Pilgrims to die or to be seriously injured, is part of a plan that mere humans cannot understand and should not try to rationalise.

Submit to the will, that is all

- The Pilgrims died as they had just or were about to, perform a violent action of throwing stones. This is a sign that the [followers of Islam] must renounce violence.

- God only provides benefits to this world, and so by definition these actions must have been the work of the Devil or another, non Islamic God.

- Clearly the Islamic god does not exist

- Clearly no Gods exists including the Islamic God

- The Islamic God is surely false,  but my God is much more credible

- I think therefore I am, and therefore I am not Religious any more

- Religion is Mental

And Some Other Notes

- Every Muslim with the means to do so must travel to Mecca at least once during their lifetime. Although Muslims are welcome to travel to the Saudi city of Mecca at any time during the year, the official pilgrimage, or Hajj, occurs over a five-day period from the 9-13th of the 12th month of the Muslim lunar calendar

- Muslim doctrine has it that bodies must be buried before the sunset or at worst in less than 24 hours. This dogma has led to dead pilgrim bodies being bulldozed away in this instance.

- Should a man die there are restrictions put upon his wife, not limited to:
Only men can attend a Muslim burial
The wife is forbidden to re-marry for usually 4 months after husband death  (Iddah )

A follower of Islam or not, what do you feel that this tragedy says about Islam and the Islamic God?

Is the Hajj mandatory?
Hajj on Wikipedia

Fate: Our choice or Allahs?
Islam: Are we predestined?
The Tremendous Rewards of Hajj 
Can a Women attend a Burial?
Hajj Stampede multiple links


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Farewell to the Crashplan Cloud

Subtitle: Oh Crashplan

Marcus has been a moderately happy user of the Crashplan cloud backup service.

I wrote about it here in January 2015

But there have been some important changes to our lives:

- We made the mother of all upgrades to our Internet connection
It's not for full pubic disclosure yet, but suffice to say that Crashplan is now uploading at less than 1% the upload capacity of our line.   As an exercise to you the reader then look at the above graphic.  Calculate our upload speed!  Yes, it is quite insane

Whilst our Internet connection has got faster and faster, now to a quite unimaginable degree, Crashplan speeds have just stayed static.

No good!

- We plan a future mobile lifestyle

If we are at home less then ultra fast upload and download speeds for backup when we are here become critically important, because when we are back we need to resync everything.

- I had to restart the backup

Using some additional techniques to make our Crashplan backups more secure meant I had to restart the uploads from scratch.  

As you can see (from above graphic) it will take almost 80 days for this new backup to complete and that assumes 24x7 on for the upload server, which is not the case. It's more like 8-12 hours daily. So it will take considerably longer in fact.

- So sad
Of course it will sad to go, especially as I have invested over 1000 hours of upload time in keeping these cloud backups valid.   All of that will become just wasted effort.   You can't just 'take' your cloud backup to the next provider,  obviously you need to start from scratch with a new provider.

- I raised a ticket
I don't really want to go, because functionality is okay.  It is just that the speed sucks when compared to the raw upload capabilities of (say) Dropbox and Google Drive or even iDrive.

So if technical support has any magical solutions I am all ears.  I have however read the forums and done my research so unfortunately I doubt that I am missing something fundamental.

Cancelling Crashplan

So I both deleted all my data at their server end and followed it up by deleting my userid.  There were several "are you sure" prompt messages


The service was and still is excellent

There is forum support and even one-2-one technical support

Crashplan does enable you to backup and restore your files

The cost is quite modest

There is no limit to what size of backup space is available to you on the host.  It's unlimited.

There are abilities to backup multiple computers to your single Cloud Crashplan account for a relatively small extra cost

There are some clever initial data seeding abilities  (now also available with other providers) to send them an initial dataload on a disk,  available only for US users (last time I checked)

To me they have everything I need except the speed which at say 5Mbps upload is woefully too slow in 2015

Whilst iDrive is not perfect it's my current preferred cloud provider