Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Salomon XA Pro 3D Womens Trail Shoes

This is a first look at the women's Salomon XA Pro 3D trail shoes

Agata's old Salomon Crossmax  were completely shot at over 500Km running and so after essential research we ordered the XA Pro from Chain Reaction UK (62GBP + Import Duty + 8% Swiss VAT)

As usual you can save money ordering the SS (Spring Summer) shoe instead of the AW (Autumn Winter) shoe once you have checked the only difference is the colour!

To test out the shoes we decided to venture on a 30 minute journey from our home in Lausanne Switzerland to Saint Cergue

We found this Swiss town, small, quiet and they are building new apartments if you are interested!  Transport links from the Motorway are via a 10Km twisty mountain road, which seems to be a racetrack for local bikers.

For this experiment Marcus was wearing his uncomfortable ultra lightweight Salmon S-Lab shoes.  For our 20Km test run I thought it would be okay

Our whole route was dominated by beautiful scenery and also a lot of cows!

The route is described below but you can see that the first half was basically up, up and up.

 We've just come from there

 More contented cows

Marcus wears his cycling top because lot of pockets in the back for food!

Next the big descent and then home to dinner!

Agata's mini review

  • At the 62 GBP price these shoes are bonkersly good value
  • Also available from Zalando for about 170CHF in Switzerland
  • The shoes are stiff on tarmac as one might expect because the soles are structured for mountain trails of grass and/ or stone
  • As usual Salomon grip on wet/ damp surfaces was appalling  (both these shoes and Marcus's s-lab)
  • The shoes in size 39 are 360 grams each - quite heavy
  • As with other elite Salomon shoes the tongue is not loose but extends down to the shoe sole base to form a sort of upside down U shaped sock for the foot
  • The quick lacing system is excellent as usual.  You can quickly adjust tension say before a steep descent almost without stopping.  Much superior to laces
  • The shoe can be easily washed after a trail run and then hung out to dry, the quicklace system helps.
  • The shoes are narrower than I expected at the front, still okay for me, just.


Marcus Grumbles!

The almost pedestrian pace today (see heart rate) was due to quite severe pains on Marcus's right side that started last week. Probably I should not have run at all, but I had to try.  Agata was very diplomatic and kept waiting for me to catch her up with just smiles of encouragement.

Technical Notes
We have taken to loading up Agata's Garmin Fenix 2 watch with an exact trail route.  It displays the track in dots on the screen with any turns etc. It's a bit of work but it means that it's impossible to get lost when the trail signs can't be found. This happened on multiple occasions on this run.


Salomon XA Pro 3D Womens Shoes SS14
Salomon XA Pro 3D in CH Zalando

Monday, September 22, 2014

An audience with Ali

Of course by Ali I am referring to Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Whilst she might need no introduction to some she may be a stranger to you.

Originally from Somalia, Ayaan moved from her home country to Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Kenya and then to the Netherlands.

After receiving political asylum she worked as a Somali-Dutch interpreter and translator and then gained a graduate degree.  Following this she became politically active and at the age of 33 became a member of the Dutch parliament after winning her seat in her election campaign.

Since 2006 she has lived in the United States and despite numerous death threats she has continued to speak out on a subject that she knows very well Islam.

In 2014 Brandeis University offered her an honorary degree but after complaints by the Council on American Islamic Relations, the University responded to pressure and withdrew their offer.

This brings us to the present day then Ayaan was asked to speak at Yale University.  The Yale Muslim Students Association wrote an open letter to protest this, and regretfully IMHO this was signed by some unexpected groups (AHA for example)

SO,  what could I recommend you to do.  

  1. Watch the 90 minute lecture here


  2. Goto Amazon, buy and read  Infidel: The Story of My Enlightenment

  3. Goto Amazon, buy and read Nomad:  A personal Journey through the Clash of Civilisations

For me, Ayaan represents a brave and courageous woman, whose intellect and intelligence is beyond question.  She continues to speak plainly and honestly despite continued threats against her life.  If you can only spare 90 minutes of your time, then watch the YouTube video.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday Sermon: A question?

So my first religious question for today is: From which of the videos below which are Marcus's choice selection of the top 30 Dance Singles as listed by the BBC, do the above religious paraphernalia appear?

Of course I suggest you watch them all just to check:

01 Calvin Harris and John Newman: Blame

02 Lilly Wood and the Prick: Prayer in C

03 Ten Walls: Walking with Elephants

08 Clean Bandit: Rather Be

10 ZHU: Faded

13 Kiesza: Hideaway

21 Route 94: My Love

29 Bakermat: One Day

30 Sigma and Paloma Faith: Changing

Do you have the answer yet?

Thought for the Day
Whilst some devout Christians who watched the above videos might disprove of the adult themes portrayed, the clothes worn [or not worn],  I believe that even they would agree that:

- Non-religious music should be legal
- That women (and men) should have the right to wear the clothes that they like without coersion
- That religion should not discriminate women into the status of a chattel

And for that; the Christian religion, should be complimented on this broad minded viewpoint. It is inline with, and takes its cues from developed 21st Century society.
[some scholars would argue that their current status quo is revisionist but that discussion is beyond the bounds of this short discussion]

I leave it as an exercise to the reader to investigate what other religions not only counter this world view but might even punish their own citizens just for Getting Happy.

Here is a link to help you answer this more important question.


The full BBC Dance Singles chart

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A farewell to Data

Subtitle: Keep only what is important!

This week has been an almost tearful one in the Marcus and Agata household.   Events here in Switzerland and in England have forced a painful re-evaluation of what information and data we keep on ourselves and others.

What has prompted this re-evaluation

I suppose the Eureka moment came when I was making suggestions to family members about what I consider their disorganisation and physical hoarding.

As with all such conversations it leads you to also analyse your own behaviour.

People in Glass houses should not throw stones!

And so we have tried to evaluate 

  1. What data is important to me?
  2. If I'm keeping safe information from others maybe it's time they look after their own data!
  3. If I'm keeping records and journals or say physical or ripped media, will I ever look at them again?
  4. Can I just repurchase it online if I want that 1 title in 1000 I inadvertently discarded  anyway?
The above diagram represents an Electrical diode. Current can pass from Left to Right but not back again.   It's like Marcus's Datastore, which over the years has grown out of all reasonable proportions

Morality and Temptation

From an ethical standpoint here in the West most of us have an oversupply of food, clothing and possessions.  Even if you have the funds, do you deserve an abundance of items that you might never even use?

What are the Savings

Time: Although automation is used, this backing up, and especially the offsite copies, takes a lot of effort.  We are looking forward to relaxing in our twilight years. 

Refocus: Our interests have changed!  We are not so Computer fanatical anymore. Today we might prefer training for [another] Ultra Marathon rather than reading some old Electronics journals of 40 years ago.

Focus on living your life today not /only/ preserving your past.

Complexity:  When you have backups, media and information and automatic backup and computer processes generating and moving and storing data, it is difficult to know what the hell is going on.

Duplication: /Original/ Data gets stored multiple times!  And since we have a 3 copy backup strategy it becomes a real drag.

Clarity:  When you keep /everything/ it's difficult to find and use or look at the items you really value

Cost: Over the years we moved from 100GB disks to 4TB disks.   It's been costly and it has to stop!

Freedom and Mobility:  Too many Physical and Digital possessions become a restriction.  An anchor that limits your mobility.   Instead of owning them, they begin to own you.

The Rule

  1. At the end of every year if you did not use it put it onto the /to be deleted pile/
  2. At the end of the second year delete it, gift it, sell it unless its of legal import, very small, simple, trivial, very space efficient
  3. Every decade re-evaluate any exceptions 
  4. NOW apply these rules to physical and digital stuff

(This excludes old digital photographs and legal documents, which we've checked: Over 100 years of those take up less digital space than a single year of photographs from 2013.  We'll keep that old stuff!  Exceptions must be just that!)

So farewell to unimportant data.

We will not miss you

And to friends and relations who are also hoarding.   If we can stop it, then so can you.  We now proudly say an end to digital and physical hoarding.   How about you?

Compulsive Hoarding
Digital Hoarding

Friday, September 19, 2014

Late Again

Too Late to Apologise

I have already explained how in the Marcus and Agata household there has been a green light for Agata to replace her now old, slow, obsolete, and terrible reception Apple iPhone 4 with a new shiny iPhone 6.

Marcus's self interest is that Agata might actually be able to call me or text me with the /surely/ better reception of that new ginormous phone?  The current phone is rubbish!

Agata's proposal that we once again become an iPhone family was however met by a fast response of /I should Coco/

Marcus is waiting for iPhone 6++   including I hope:
- Waterproofing
- A better camera
- Wireless Charging
So today Marcus was instructed to head over to the Apple store for Agata's order since it's European release date  ... or so we thought >>






Not yet available !

Oh yes, and I checked  the 64GB model is 999 CHF which is 1063 USD, an uplift of  25% on the USA unlocked price of 849 USD.  Hmmm.

My mother used to quote me me /Everything comes to those who wait/ and whilst I have no idea why she was probably quoting Abraham Lincoln, I do propose to quote this to darling Agata thus:

Everything comes to those that wait, and in Switzerland you can guarantee that you will have to wait, that little bit longer.

Bon weekend, to all.

Lilly Wood and the Prick in Lausanne

Extract from Prayer in C

First a tremendous thanks to Pawel and Ala for inviting us to the Lilly Wood and the Prick concert late Thursday night in our home town of Lausanne.

My critical review is:

The venue Les Docks in Lausanne Switzerland was not as crowded as I had expected given the long line of people entering.  I am not sure where everyone who entered went!  We were upstairs and in stereotypical Swiss fashion this French band started dead on time at 21.45

Contrary to Stereotypes though, we [i.e. my Swiss audience] did not have to goto bed at 22.00 and the band performed till just past 23.00.

Overall wonderful.  Why?  Well, the Prayer in C hit is very fine indeed but I had no idea whether any of their other repertoire was worth a listen.   Overall a strong yes!

I'm not sure whether they put out all their best songs first, but in the first half every song was clear, well played and had us, the audience dancing along.

In the latter half, either the volume got turned up, or the flashing lights got strong, and/ or the music was less impressive.  (Agata tells me it is just that my big ears are too sensitive!)

I checked Wikipedia  and they have two albums Invincible Friends (2010) and The Fight (2012).  I should also mention the Robert Schultz album Prayer  (Sept 2014)  which is just out which contains the Prayer in C track, but it's a remix album with all the other tracks from other artists.

Thanks Lilly and the Prick.  We had a great time.

Prayer in C official Video

The Epilogue
I don't want to over think or sour what was a good evening but I do want to say with a smile and a confident shout out that I am so grateful that

- I live in a Western Country where men and women are free to express themselves musically, together, and in an equal way
- We can all attend this concert men and women together, in casual and occasionally skimpy clothing
- We can all have an alcoholic drink at the bar before, during and after

And all of these things are possible without any detrimental effects, indeed the freedom of expression we enjoy and the multi cultural and balanced male/ female atmosphere added to the evening.

I am so very conscious that in many parts of this world such music is deemed illegal (because it is not religious) and the above three freedoms I've expressed are forbidden, and sanctioned against under the law.  This link provides one recent deeply regrettable example.

Lilly Wood and the Prick official

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Linux bare metal Backup and Recovery with Storix

There are several reasons not to read this post but I am rather hoping that you will if

  1. Computers are your business
  2. If you have an interest in Backup and Recovery
  3. If your home or work computer Operating System disk crashed irrecoverably and without a backup you would have to start from scratch again, and that this would be a considerable inconvenience

In the Trade
Bare metal recovery means a restore of your computers Operating System onto a potential virgin/ new disk, assuming the worst i.e. the original disk is completely destroyed or unreadable.

This is a given and a must for any business, and really for any competent computer professional.

What about home users?

If like Marcus and Agata though your home computer installations are infrequent, but your installation has been built up over time, with hundreds or even thousands of program installs, tweaks, upgrades, optimisations then

Simply re-installing your computer from scratch is not a sensible option!

Windows, OSX and Linux
For Microsoft Windows, Microsoft already has a full bare metal backup, free product embedded into Windows.  In practice I did not find this 100% bulletproof so I'd always recommend the chargeable Acronis products instead.

For OSX I'd recommend Carbon Copy Cloner.

And for Linux?

Linux Enthusiasts
Many Linux advocates/ enthusiasts are used to re-installing their computer system, because only the latest Linux have the ability to upgrade!  Centos 7 for example can be an upgrade from Centos 6.5

But really, assuming you have a credible, complex installation, then you would of course expect a bare metal recovery.

So if you are still with me, we'll just consider Linux now ...

Some Bare Metal options

a) You are running under a Hypervisor like ESX or VMware.

So your Linux installation really consists of a set of .vmdk files on a filesystem.  So you could power off or suspend the Virtual Machine  (for consistency), then copy or snapshot those raw files, then resume or power on your Linux.

Now move those backup files to longterm storage etc.

If you are running a Storage Array then the snapshot and storage can be handled in a space and time efficient manner by the Array storage itself etc.

b) Primative UNIX tools or applications to image copy 

UNIX programs like dd or standalone partition tools like CloneZilla   are able to make a copy of your powered off systems disk to another disk or image file.

Then to recover you simply reverse the process.

For Enterprise Linux of course the poweroff might not be possible (with any frequency due to availability requirements) and even for home Linux this offline option may not advisable: you are bound to get lazy or forget.

c) Online Backup Products

Acronis has something - I did not yet test it

IBM - Used to have Bare Metal for Windows VM, for Physical Linux, no idea, but think not!

Storix - Well yes of course

Storix Bare Metal
I first used Storix backup software about 10 years ago, usually in an AIX environment.

I was excited to hear that they also have a Linux product portfolio and wanted to see if it could really perform a simple bare metal backup, and restore.

And I mean crucially an online backup, so that you don't have to take your system down and insert a /image cloning DVD/ to get the Operating System saved.

Note: I did not get paid by Storix to write this review, in fact they did not know that I was writing it.

My Test and Step By Step Instructions
For my tests I used a VMware 10 Centos 7 installation that I use on a daily basis.  It's my normal local /development/ Linux environment.  

[ I am experimenting with a local development system and a Production partner system in the Cloud hosted by IBM Softlayer.  But that as they say, is another story!]

  • Windows Server 2012 Base
  • VMware 10 installed
  • 100GB Centos 7 partition installed under VMware
  • I made a VMware snapshot before doing anything, so that in the event of a disaster I can recover

  • Inside the running Centos 7 system
  • Register with www.storix.com and download the 64bit Linux product, workstation edition
  • Under VMware add a 48GB second disk that will be my backup target for Storix

Visibility Note!
Is it obvious to say that under any blogspot page such as the one you are reading: you can click on the graphic and it loads a larger image display which can be scrolled using the left and right cursor keys.  Just in case you can't read any of the following pictures clearly. 

Installing Storix

  • Untar the .tar file as root into a temporary directory and run sbinstall

Configuring the Backup Disk and Backup Job

 Centos 7 is installed onto /dev/sda  (100 GB)

I also created a target disk /dev/sdb of 50GB to hold the OS backup

 We configured the target disk /dev/sdb

# fdisk -l /dev/sdb

Disk /dev/sdb: 51.5 GB, 51539607552 bytes, 100663296 sectors
Units = sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disk label type: dos
Disk identifier: 0x00045c59

   Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sdb1   *           1      204800      102400   83  Linux
/dev/sdb2          204801   100663295    50229247+  83  Linux

You can see that Storix makes 2 partitions.  sdb1 will be a partition that you will boot into and the backup data is stored in sdb2

Make a trivial Backup Job

You need to create at least 1 /fullsystem/ backup job. Normally you would create it under a schedule but for this trivial test we'll just make it an adhoc job, then run it

Now Run this Backup Job

What happens if I update my Linux?
The recovery program is stored in /dev/sdb1

But suppose you update your Linux kernel then you need to update /dev/sdb1 like this

Recovery Testing

Well of course this is the important and interesting part.

Backups are useless if you don't test and retest your recovery.   Let me just state that again, in case you are stupid:

You need to test your recovery from an actual backup periodically.  Even if the backup looks like it has worked.

Making a Clone

As a paranoid android, I did not want to potentially screw up my original system, so I created an identical copy of it.

The original setup is in V:\development\centos7

The clone is in V:\clone\centos7

VMware actually as a tool to do this.  In the olden days I'd copy the files manually and edit the control files, but it seems I don't have to anymore ...

I went for a coffee,  I came back 10 minutes later and the 150GB copy had been made.  Great.

Working On the Copy

First I need to edit the .vmx file and add a BIOS boot delay into the config file, otherwise there is not enough time to press the F2 key to enter the bios before it boots

.encoding = "windows-1252"
bios.bootdelay = 4000
config.version = "8"
virtualHW.version = "10"

Power on the system, hit F2 to enter BIOS and change boot device to second disk i.e. SCSI 1, in linux terms /dev/sdb

 Wahoo! On reboot /dev/sdb1 is booted from and 

 I get this wonderful text menu

 Choose the backup to restore from

 Where will I restore to

Although the underlying disk contains Partitions actually Storix is going to make the correct ones again.

I restored at a measley 50MB/second, still I only just had time for a short cofee before all completed. I typed exit and the system rebooted.

 The black screen seemed to take a long time.   Would it be okay?

Of course!  All is well.  System is restored.

To prove that all was well I checked that the /home/mbennett/sema file was missing.  I created this on the source system after making the backup.  Yes, it is missing!  This means the restore had worked from scratch, i.e. it did not overlay any target partitions.  It wiped the physical disk clean, created partitions, then restored from the backup in /dev/sdb

Destructive Test 2

In the first test the OS was restored onto a disk that was actually already in a working condition.  I mean it had a working set of Centos 7 XFS partitions.  Too Easy.

In this more severe test I'll start with a BLANK 100GB disk with no Linux partitions and see what happens

First I remove the 100GB Operating System Partition completely

Recreate the 100GB disk with a new .vmdk name just to be sure

Power Up

Boot failure. Good!   The Bootlist is set to boot to disk 0, but it is a total blank, so the system tries to Boot from the next device which is the network.

So, now as before, restart the machine, enter bios and point to the second SCSI disk which in Linux terms is the /dev/sdb

The master Boot record is read and the active partition /dev/sdb1 loaded containing the Storix recovery program

 I chose the same options as before

 Here is the critical screen where you see that the partitions are created because Storix in the backup process made a note of what is where.  So now before the restore it can create the partitions back again just as they were. Remember this is a blank disk with nothing on it.

After this the restore completes OKay

Enter the BIOS again and change the Boot disk to SCSI 0 i.e /dev/sda in Linux terms

 The grub screen after restore

And of course it boots, I just ran the update program in this screenshot.

SO, all is well.  I am very happy.

One More thing

I used the sbadmin program to do all of this work but these days there is a web interface

Some programs are started at boot time to support that

Besides OS backup you can create a backup job to backup your data as well of course.  Normally all these jobs are run using at the times and dates you want via the Storix Backup scheduler which you configure using the sbadmin or Web GUI.

If you have a non trivial computer installation you need at the very least a backup of your Operating System and your Data.

In the Linux world Bare Metal Linux online backup, and recovery is not so well supported.   This brief experiment showed that Storix worked well for me on my Centos 7 system for online OS backup and offline, bare metal recovery.


Acronis Linux Backup (not tested)