Thursday, April 24, 2014

All is Lost

Robert Redford: All is Lost

Now that the DVD is finally available I can comment that this is one of the most quietly gripping films that I have seen in years.

It is quite the antithesis of the disaster action movie. Everything goes from bad to worse one day at a time and Robert, the experienced but alone seafarer is set as the classic man against nature.

Just superb.

Academy Conversations

Guardian Review
All is lost from Amazon
Video Featurette

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Card Readers

If you came here looking for tips on Card Reading I would instead point you to the OhNo Ross and Carrie Podcast

and in particular the episode on Tarot Card Reading

But first I'll talk about the why you might be interested in the installation of a multi Card Reader into your home Servers


I'm still making final adjustments to my Virtualisation PC. This is to be a platform for transferring information to and from my vintage Cromemco equipment.

With the installation of the HxC Solid State Diskette Emulator this requires frequent access to SD cards.

Also if you frequently move photos from the card(s) in your Cameras a Card Reader can speed up the process dramatically.

This is the outgoing card reader which is the ingenious Toshiba reader floppy combo.  My motherboard only supports 1 floppy and since I now use a 5.25" diskette this unit was not useful.

After a lot of Googling and searching and comparing I came up with this:

A few weeks later my eBay order arrived and I placed this plastic cased unit in.

Lots of wires connect this unit into your system.  Notably the PCI express x1 connector that feeds the USB3 ports

Also shown  2 fan connectors and an audio connector.

Additionally you need to connect the temperature sensor and 5/12V power connector.

And the Card Reader connects via a motherboard USB2 header (not via the PCIe)

I also corrected an error which was the prior connection to FAN1 FAN3 on the motherboard.  FAN3 is not displayed in BIOS so reverted to FAN2

Here is the corrected display (i.e. I'm sticking with case fans connected to motherboard not the /Media Dashboard/ thingy. because this dashboard has no way to display Fan RPM)


Reading an SD card at 20MB/sec.  IMHO speed limitation is my SDcard not my reader.

Writing a USB3 key in the USB3 port at an average of 153MB/sec!!   This is going from the USB3 key to the motherboard PCIex1 connector via the Media electronics. Again I'm impressed,  speed limitation no doubt my USB key

Write speed via the front panel SATA interface.  Since I think this is just passthru this does not tell us much except that the connectors work and the /old/ motherboard is still OK.

What have I got now then?

  • A single unit fitting into a 5.25 inch drive bay i.e. no need to buy an expensive metal plate to convert a 3.5" unit
  • It is about 20GBP  (30 USD) and is shipped from China.  I used ebay here
  • The unit is plastic with some self tapping screws to locate in a case.   From the front though and once mounted you don't really notice it is plastic and not metal.
  • Plenty of card reader slots as shown
  • 2, USB 3 Ports connected via the PCI express connector
  • SATA front panel and power, but this is a simple passthru from my motherboard   (i.e. it does NOT come from the PCI express electronics)
  • Temperature display:  I connected the monitor probe to my CPU cooler
  • 2 Fan controls are just pots (variable resistances) and don't display, so I left them unconnected and these knobs therefore do nothing
  • Likewise the audio sockets are not connected, but along the way I finally  (5 years later!) connected the Motherboard Audio to the LianLi Case sockets.  Required some motherboard disassembly. Grr
  • Likewise with disassmembly I corrected the oversight and the Lian Li 2 Case fans now connect to Motherboard FAN1 and FAN2 and are shown in BIOS so we can see they are working right.
  • I'm very happy with the performance!

Here is the finished product.    Looks great to me!  An excellent 20GBP  (30 USD) upgrade.

Media Dashboard on eBay
Running Different OS on the Virtualisation PC
Migrating to 2.5inch hard drives

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Refuse in Canton Vaud

Here in Switzerland even disposing of garbage (refuse) is now not free.  Well, I can speak for Canton (Region) of Vaud for sure.

So previously you would buy grey or black plastic bags from the Supermarket and put general waste in them.   Now these bags are illegal

You must now buy these special white bags from a retailer e.g. supermarket

And what you put in the bag is officially limited, other items should be recycled or taken to the decheterie   (refuse drop),  and for that you need to be a resident and also have a special refuse-card.

The price is 2CHF (2.27 USD, 1.20 GBP) per 35 litre bag

Bag Quality

And so to my irate post ** here **.  In the above photograph on the right edge you will see that the Official bag brought from Aldi is defective.

In fact every flippin bag bought there  (2 rolls of bags) was defective.  Leading to bags that would not seal correctly

Now both Marcus and Agata come from home countries were taxing you on the bags is unheard of.  And then supplying us defective bags is the very last straw!

We buy our bags from the Coop supermarket now. The price is the same, set by the Canton.

Sneaky Tactics

Some cheapskates have taken to buying regular black bags and dumping them in town public refuse bins or in other public locations e.g. bins on a public road.

Some Cantons try to fight back by randomly inspecting illegally dumped bags. Identifying the bag dumpers from address labels and prosecuting.  I am not joking

Other Shitty Tactics

Last week I spent some time removing the Glass Bottles and Steel tins from our Apartment complex's Aluminium only recycling. I'm not sure if this is ignorance, stupidity or just another illegal way to reduce what is put into White bags.   This kind of shitty behaviour just completely ruins the existing recycling arrangements. Plus, last time I checked I was not the unpaid Apartment cleaner. 

To Summarise

Canton Vaud, Switzerland has now implemented a pay to dispose of household rubbish scheme based on expensive white refuse bags.

We do approve of recycling wherever possible but also primarily minimising waste by limiting consumption. Charging for bags will go some way to encourage people.

But it is not a cheap option for families and it continues to lead to rubbish dumping by selfish people, which in the worst cases screws up recycling facilities.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Monday Sermon: Beeing Nice at Easter

The Bees that live around our Lausanne home our obsessed with Marcus and Agata's apartment windows.

Our window frames have a small external hole that leads into the casing of the frame.  If the frame properly sealed to the wall I guess it just is a nice space around the frame, else I suppose it could lead to the space between the walls.

And so instead of punishing the bees we have blocked up our external holes to stop bee entry and leave the holes facing our apartment free as bee escape holes for any who are lost and trapped.

In essence we are trying to Be Nice

Or Bee Nice

Or Being Nice

And at this Important Religious time of year  (mostly to Christianity and Judaism) we think it is customary to reflect on our lives, actions, words and deeds and contemplate:

What can I do to make this world a more Peaceful and Prosperous place?  

We started by rescuing this Bee who was found buzzing around trying to get out

And so, you too can practice being nice this Easter.

And when you have managed that you should consider being nice, well all of the time.

Learning Point
During Pastover, Pastafarians across the globe are encouraged to eat copious amounts of Pasta, usually; but not limited to Spaghetti, which is cooked "in His image". Pastover celebrates the time when the Flying Spaghetti Monster first began touching people with His Noodly Appendage.

There is no specific time when this holiday takes place, mostly on the whim of the Pastafarians involved.

Since however Pastover is a holiday which can be likened to the Jewish holiday of Passover, as well as the Christian holiday Easter, many Pastafarians will certainly celebrate at these times.

The most important ritual involved in Pastover is the Passing of the Patch. In this time-honoured tradition, each member at the table takes a turn wearing an eye patch, and talks about why they are happy for being touched (by His Noodly Appendage), and how they can best strive to make the world a more Peaceful, Prosperous and Pasta plentiful place.

Meanwhile: In the land of Irony

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Youth Culture, Setups, And Feeling Anxious

Brownlee 2014 Setup Tour 

I understand from some young friends, I mean people under the age of 20 (!!) that /the kids/ don't watch programmed TV anymore, they just cruise YouTube.

So in the last month I've been giving it a go, maybe I can

/get down with the kids too/

First and from the title I was shocked to find out that I have something called a Setup.

A Setup seems to be some sort of Intensively organised and extreme Computer system.  For kids it is in their bedroom and for me I get to have it in the study. And as the above 2 hour plus Video above shows, it seems to be quite popular with the nerdy, teen, gamer/ computer geek groupset.

I am a bit anxious to find myself slotting into this demographic!

Overall though I'm finding the combination of

a) Feedly RSS Reader
b) Hugely Subscription Channel populated YouTube or others like Vimeo

How to Make a Sick Mountain Bike Edit from on Vimeo.

can fill up my daily reading and video requirements instead of watching the TV or reading a book.
The state of 4K

 I'm even using YouTube in my 4K video testing.   When I have that perfected.  I'll of course post.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Holding on to eSATA

Thunder T11 drive

I did have a courageous vision of moving from eSATA to Apple/ Intel Thunderbolt as my prefered external storage interface.

Sadly,  as I previously predicted for Thunderbolt; besides showing some promise, has gone precisely nowhere in the the consumer market.

To me it is like conversations I have with enthusiastic parents with their infant child.  Look how intelligent she is.  She going to be the fastest, bravest, most brainy ....  but for now she can only hold a spoon.

Back to Thunderbolt:

  • At launch, dearth of Technical specs or Silicon for Integrators to get their teeth into
  • Before Thunderbolt is established Thunderbolt II launched.  Anybody leading edge enough to have embraced the technology is now obsolete!
  • Adoption by some in the PC community, but not many. Still an Apple and hence niche interface
  • Precious few Peripheral Manufacturers support Thunderbolt, leading to poor choice and inflated prices   (does anybody remember Firewire!!)
  • In 2012 I wrote about waiting for decent Thunderbolt peripherals.  Now I've basically given up hope.

Of course eSATA is not perfect either:

  • USB3 has stolen eSATA's glory so laptops and other peripherals don't have this interface much anymore
  • Speed still limited to 3Gbps  (384MB/second ).  Until recently not hard disk or SSD could saturate this bandwidth.  Today faster SSD and processors make this a possibility.

(example from my laptop showing speed in excess of 3Gbps)

So in fact I am still left holding the eSATA baby.

eSATA key  (into Motherboard)

The Kingspec 64GB key has a dual USB and eSATA interface and on the latter as the above tests show, it is still pretty competitive.

eSATA disk enclosure

My Edgestore DAS401 disk enclosure is now a vintage 4 years old.   I discussed it in detail here (in 2009!)

The actual sustained write speed is neither 30MB/sec from HdTune , not the 130M/sec shown by syncback.  It is more usually around the 80MB/second mark.


In retrospect reading the Synology backup to USB/ eSATA tutorial would not really have helped.  

I did found out in practice that plugging in my above eSata key crashed the Synology.  Restart with key in place?

No good. Seems like the eSATA key does not present itself in quite the same way as a hard disk.  Hmm.

In summary.  I'm still holding onto my outdated eSATA key and disk tower until a convincing USB3 key and storage tower replacement arrives.     Please can it be both functional and beautiful!


Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Sermon: Welcome Poland

The church of the FSM (Flying Spaghetti Monster) is real, totally legit, and backed by hard science. Anything that comes across as humour or satire is purely coincidental.

And so I am delighted to re-announce that Pastafarians the world over are rejoicing in the decision that

Poland has granted official recognition of the Church of the FSM as an official religion


The Independent

The Huffington Post

Jubilant scenes in Warsaw Poland.

And so to close one should come together to regale in the majesty of thine noodle with a suitable prayer:

Our Pasta, who “Arghh” in heaven, 
Swallowed be thy shame. 
Thy Midget come. 
Thy Sauce be yum, 
On top some grated Parmesan. 

Give us this day our garlic bread.
And give us our cutlasses, 

As we swash buckle, splice the main-brace and cuss. 
And lead us into temptation, 
But deliver us some Pizza. 
For thine are Meatballs, and the beer, and the strippers,

 for ever and ever. RAmen.

And a joyous celebratory Carol

Carol of the Bells

Thursday, April 17, 2014

TomTom Multi-Sport GPS Watch review

This is a short-ish review of the TomTom Multi-Sport GPS Watch.

Principally I am going to relate my comments and overall justifications for buying this watch.   It's difficult to compete with professional reviewers like DC Rainmaker!

So read his review for the detail then the following for my persectives:

Why use a running Watch?
Why indeed.  Although my wife Agata swears by the product I have been very skeptical.  My luddite attitude is normally:

Just get out there and exercise, and ...

I really don't need a gadget to tell me how slow I am going :-)

So What changed?
1. I became more obsessed with my heart rate and using that <awful> chest strap thingy  you can measure it.  Contrary to most people, I like to see how LOW I can get my heart rate whilst exercising.

2. I normally use the Runkeeper  app on Android or iPhone platforms but this means I need to carry a rucksack.  On non ultra races I don't carry a rucksack.  So for races a GPS watch would be useful.

3. Some GPS watches including this one can link to a Bluetooth Bicycle monitor for cadence.  Cadence i.e. RPM of your legs whilst cycling is thought to be important.

4. Agata kept telling me I was missing out so basically I caved!

Why TomTom?
I previously had a Garmin 405 before giving it away and so this time I thought I'd give TomTom a shot because

a) The user interface looks appealing

b) Display size was BIG

And so the findings are:
Best Points About the Watch

  • Simple menus
The menus are very simple.  I really like that.  I want to use the basic functions, nothing fancy
  • The display size is huge
One thing is presented in huge characters and this is easy to see on a race, or in poor light situations.  Uncluttered == very good

  • Go time - excellent
The watch get's location quickly  (consistently faster than Agata's Garmin 910XT) 

  • Night mode - yes
You can setup the watch to be have the backlight on continuously

  • Swim mode
The watch can be used for Swimming (laps) and Running and Cycling.  One watch for everything which is great.

  • Bluetooth
The connection to the heart rate monitor and the Cycle cadence is via Bluetooth not Ant+.   So actually you can use the heart rate belt and Bike sensor with other Bluetooth knowledgeable apps say running on your Smartphone

  • Gloves on Controls

I'm often wearing gloves even in the Summer / running to combat sun allergies.   With this watch the brilliant mechanical 4 way selector, not touch screen or annoying small buttons control the watch function.   This is just brilliant.  This and the large display size were the killer features for me.

You Won't believe it BUT

  • No Altitude display

I bought the expensive version of the product and it has a separate hardware barometer.  However no menu is able to display the Altitude whilst you are using the watch.   Unbelievable!

After a run, it could use the GPS coordinates to determine the most accurate altitude information.  So what the heck is the point of this expensive hardware I purchased!

  • No Instruction Manual.
Again I am not kidding.  The firmware keeps updating but where is the uptodate manual TomTom!

  • Website disorganisation
There are 3 principle websites you need TomTom, MySports, and MapMyFitness.  They are all separated.  Worse there are some pathetic flaws like lockout from MySports website cannot be fixed (there is no password recovery option on the website).

I reported the MySports issue to support 16 days ago.  Still no resolution.  Again, I am not joking.

  • No off switch
You can't switch off the watch, so if you travel away for one race you better take your charger, because being /on/ all the time, unless the race is close, your batteries will probably die on you

  • Limited Phone connect
Only recently is there the ability to upload and interact with the watch via your phone.  But not on Anroid, just for iPhone.  So as an Android user I am still forced ONLY to charge and upload data via a PC connection.  Again .. ridiculous.

  • Fixed Screens
You cannot customise any screen.   Garmin by contrast allows you to customise how many fields and what is in each field on your watch display.

Would I buy TomTom again?
The large uncluttered display and gloves on, mechanical 4 way control are the best features of the watch, and they are not available on other platforms  (Adidas is closest).   These two essential features I would miss on an.other branded sports watch.

The nextgen smartwatches will incorporate heat rate sensors on the watch underside, although we'll have to see how reliable this is in competition and in all weathers.

So if/when I make the switch it would be to either a higher function TomTom product with the knowledge that some of the stupid omissions above are rectified, OR probably back to Garmin.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hapiness, Dancing and Staying Young

Stones:On Fire

Sadly Uncle Mick has been in the press recently, pretty much for all the wrong reasons.

However it did bring to mind the fact that, well at last, he's starting to look quite old and wrinkly.   He is now a staggering 70 years old!

Dude looks like a Lady

I made a comparison with Steven Tyler or Aerosmith who is now 65.

I think Steven wins, hands down.   But then we need to check him in another 5 years time to be fair to Mick.

4 minutes

And of course a proud mention to Madonna (now 55) who because she is a woman is held to a much tougher standard than a man in the ageing race.

What does all of this teach us?

Why:  Happiness, Dancing, Exercise are often seen components to the physically old but young at heart

Staying Young: Part1 of 6

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Product Return Ratio

Most of us reading this article have limits.

We have limited time
We have limited money

It is also quite possible that based on our desires and needs we have an almost infinite number of things or services that we feel we would like to experience.

And contrary to popular supposition  Agata and Marcus's time and money are most definitely finite!

So when we consider a new purchase we consider the

Product Return Ratio

The PuRR  as I like to call it.  We evaluate a product on its cost (C) relative to metrics

a)  Cost / Time Used
b)  Cost / Money Saved (alternative opportunity cost)
c)  Cost / Regular Running & Maintenance costs

The Holy Grail might be

1. A product with a low initial cost
2. That lasts for a long time
3. Is used daily
4. Has low running costs (both time and money)
5. Has minimal environmental damage
6. And if not used has costly alternatives
7. Low fragility cost: Use it and forget about it (ease of continued use)

Example#1: Bicycle So for me a bicycle is a good example of a positive 1-6 compared against a motor car, there is really no comparison.  Unfortunately a car can do things a bicycle cannot do, for example travel long distances, use in bad weather conditions, carry loads.  So a bicycle can never be a straight replacement.

Example#2: Dishwasher
1. Cost about 400GBP in the UK  (or in Switzerland about 1000 GBP for the same item!)
2. Should last at least 1500 hours, say 3 years
3. Yes, used daily
4. Running costs are water, electricity, detergent : say 0.5 GBP  (or less in fact)
5. 20 litres water and 2KWh per wash cycle
6. Hand washing is not costly, but your time is. The cost per day: capital + run cost is about (400/365*3) +0.5 =  0.86 GBP/day.   So if you would be prepared to pop around next door and wash your neighbours dishes for about 1GBP, then maybe stay home and don't have a dishwasher

Example#3:Luxury trip for 2 to CES Las Vegas
1. Cost of 2 business flights to Vegas,  5 days accommodation, food,  = 9000 GBP  
2. Lasts 6 days
3. Used for 6 days
4. Running costs negligible as CES trade show is 100% entertainment
5. Hmm.  Flying to the USA and back for 6 days cf. doing nothing has high Environmental impact
6. Alternatives might be CES Europe, YouTube, the latter is free!, but the downside is that there is no experience.

So the next time Agata and Marcus spend 4000GBP each on a bicycle that might last between 5 and 10 years we would argue that it is a more balanced investment than the most pleasurable 6 day all expenses paid to CES.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Drugs and Determination

Given Marcus's perilous physical condition  (re Cycling Accident Thursday April 10th 2014) you might think the last thing I should be doing is entering a running race.

Hmm,  but I just ran another marathon.

Since I seem to have gotten away with it, well, I am still alive and not in hospital, here is the report

Agata's Summary
My darling wife Agata had an even shorter summary than my title:


On Friday, when Doctor Bally confirmed in Lausanne that my ribs were not broken he diplomatically said   (when I proposed the marathon I booked pre accident):  Your Body will tell you if you need to stop.

He did give me a prescription for some adhesive bandages impregnated with Ibuprofen.

Pre Race Drug Loading
I put on 2 of the Swiss formula adhesive pads onto my damaged right chest.   Then I took 4 Nurofen Ultra capsules. After that I could not feel so much pain and pronounced breathing in (blinking painful) was okay.

Km Race Report
The rate started about 8 minutes late so on course timing was a bit out.   But the course was flat.   At first I was on the plod pace because I was not sure if the rib pain might suddenly get worse.

But as the Km continued my chest pains remained both constant and bearable.  So there was a chance to speed up a little.

At best I got upto 13Km/h at Km 20 or so but after that I slacked off to about 12.2Km.h rising to 12.5Km/h for the last 5Km sprint.

I realise that until I am fully regenerated it is going to be difficult to get runtimes back down to a more respectable 03:15 i.e. 13Km/h marathon speed. 

Weather Conditions/ Infrastructure
The weather was about 13 degrees and dry, so quite perfect.

Water stops were plentiful though a little muddled, lots of water and not enough Powerade.  No gels but sometimes Banana and chocolate.

I wore a watch
My TomTom MultiSports allows me to view multiple statistics including pace, speed, distance, average page/speed/.  I started at 11.x Km/h, then after Km5 graduated to 12.0Km/h, and by Km 20 I was upto about 13Km/h.  Piece of cake I thought!  But as distance increased my reported speed seemed to drop.  I swore I was running as fast, so at one point I stopped to see if the Watch had gone wrong!  No, apparently it was right and my perceptions wrong.

In fact in all my Sporting races to date I think this is about the 2nd with a watch!  

(Review of TomTom to follow shortly.   Great display and user interface but issues!) 

Really Interesting this watch thing.

Marathon time: 03:32.  Considering the circumstances, Marcus is very very happy!

Food and Drink
I drank only 4 half cups of water on race   (I was only plodding and not sweating). Post race  I gulped 1 litre of Powerade.  This made me feel sick and I had to quickly return home for some freshly squeezed Orange juice, to calm me down

Marcus ate 4 Powerbar Hydro on the course. I had to carry them because no Gels were provided at any stop.


As Chrissie Wellington also recounted in a story about Triathlon training with a broken wrist, I too can now say: This time I got away with it, but racing with damaged body components is not a recommended long term strategy. Memo to body:  Regenerate.