Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sunday Sermon: Not a Religiously inspired Murder, just Murder

Like Andreas Lubitz, Marcus too has run a Marathon, and with all the senseless killing in this world I too am sometimes quite depressed, although probably not clinically so.

But an important lesson for all: 

Correlation is not the same as Causation

Politically (In) Correct
To me this is a simple case of a deranged person, deceiving their employer and willingly and knowingly murdering the passengers on the plane he was co-pilot to, whilst at the same time committing suicide.

Lubitz was not a convert to Islam as some uninformed and agenda setting articles would have let you believe

He had a recent relationship breakup

His clinical depression was in 2009, some 6 years ago, not currently.

At the time of the murder he did have a medical condition but the details are not public except to say that Düsseldorf University Hospital who was treating him said it was not for Depression.
He had been praised by the FAA in late 2013 as a pilot setting a positive example

Who is not responsible
I never studied German Law, but based on my English training, Lufthansa probably has a duty of care towards it's airline passengers.

And so if there was a conscious and demonstrable neglect in some way, Lufthansa could face legal action.

However claims that

- Lufthansa are definitely responsible and liable
- That poor procedures and standards were in place

I believe are patently misguided, and evidence of the spreading blame culture into Europe.

Employees can lie and deceive their employers as are the indications in this case.

Procedures are already in place to gain access to the locked cockpit via a code  (see my article) should the only occupant lose consciousness.  This was not the case here. 

Learning Points

  • Not all acts of mass murder committed in first world countries are via religious fanatics
  • For the Germanwings Plane, the co-pilot Andreas Lubitz was not a follower of the Islamic religion
  • When atrocities are committed please let's all wait for a fair and balanced assessment of the situation and the motives of the individuals concerned.
  • Depressed people are not prone to acts of murder

Saturday, March 28, 2015

AeroPress Coffee Machine

The AeroPress is a lowish cost manual way to make a quality cup of  coffee from granules of your choice, let's see how

Can it really be this good?

Marcus and Agata drink a lot of coffee.  I wrote in December that we were striving to ween ourselves away from the High cost and also relatively high waste Nespresso coffee machine environment.

The cost of Nespresso is of course relative.  If you have own a yacht in the neighbouring Lausanne harbour  (we don't by the way!) that say costs 20,000CHF  ( 14K GBP) to keep afloat each year even if you don't every use it, then paying about 1000 CHF  ( 700 GBP) a year for convenient coffee at home might sound like a good deal!

But we are trying to economise where it makes sense and so I'm delighted to talk about the AeroPress coffee machine.

It makes a truly excellent cup of coffee with minimal fuss and waste ...

In Practice

 You get a few extra bits that you don't need if you are careful.  So what you need is 

- a kettle to boil the water
- some ground coffee grains
- AeroPress machine
- filter paper and screw top
- spoon to put coffee in
- something to stirr coffee in AeroPress
- Cup which is big so that AeroPress can sit on top of it (see later)

 Put the ground coffee in

Add boiling water, or if you are freakishly sensitive you can heat to the best temp which is below boiling  (some Googling indicates between 90-95 degrees C, hotter and the coffee comes out more bitter)

Put the filter paper inside the screw top and attach

These days I am using these glasses from Ikea as coffee cups since the fit over the unit directly

Turn over and being to press

The AeroPress is so named because as you can see below the plunger is a layer of Air and then the hot coffee below.

This is supposed to be the fun part, where you press the hot coffee thru the filter.  It makes a nice whoosh at the end since after all the liquid is expelled the air layer follows.   Marcus with his puny arms says it is quite exhausting!

 Remove the end cap

Peel off the paper filter and then press the plunger and the coffee grains shoot into the organic recycling

 These bits need washing

Marcus and Agata add different milk according to their preferences

Marcus being obsessively fussy now heats up the coffee to a precise temperature (normally 40 seconds, 750Watts) with his measured milk.

The whole coffee making process is dominated by the boil time of the kettle, so to minimise, fill the kettle with just the right amount of water, which of course is also the energy efficient thing to do anyway.

How is it then?
Makes a great cup of coffee

Superior to the French Press I used to use, although only just.

Uses grains, so you can choose your own beans, grind them etcetera.  This gives you maximum flexibility and minimum cost cf Nespresso  which is a lot more expensive  (but  faster, and more convenient)

There is no capsule waste and the spent coffee granules go into the recycling.  With a French Press the granules are wasted down the sink.

The AeroPress is pretty easy to clean, much better than a French press.

Overall it is a winner.

Availability Notes
It's not available anywhere in Switzerland so after a preposterously large postage fee and waiting over 1 week my AeroPress arrived from England.  In the UK or the USA you can get them on eBay no problem.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Getting Marcus out the Door

For a period of over 30 years now I,  Marcus,  have been apologising to family, landladies and now my wife Agata

It would seem that getting Marcus out of the Door is subject to a myriad of small, cumulative, yet ultimately effective, restraining factors summarised in the above diagram.

The Critical Self Analysis
I realise that I am very prone to completionism  (my made up word) and interruptism   (again, my made up word). Oh yes and parallelsim ...

- Completionism: The feeling that you have to finish something that you have started

- Interruptism: Means you are doing task x.  Task y interrputs you, so x is pushed to the stack.   In the middle of y, task z interrupts, so task y is pushed. Etcetera. Until multiple stack pop operations are complete.

- Parallelism: Means you always desire to start multiple automated parallel tasks off before leaving

I am still waiting

Agata is often to be found next to the exit door occasionally asking /Husband, what exactly are you doing?/

  • Answering email
  • Downloading latest Podcasts and synchronising iPod
  • Adding another audio book
  • Setting up the robotic vacuum cleaner
  • Setting off the dishwasher and washing machine
  • Starting the iDrive upload  (months to run)
  • Checking paper post, scanning, deleting
  • Feeding the Cats

And on the return now we are both slightly prone to

  • Putting our gadgets, players, phones, health monitors back to charge
  • Setting up the automated photo transfer programs  (from photos taken whilst out)
  • Putting away all that washing
  • If returning from sports, which happens multiple times per day showering, changing, and eating :(

And last but not least, writing the daily Blogpost!

Quaint or a Problem?
I can only apologise profusely to all who have been held up with Marcus' dithering.    In my defence I claim it's eminently rational, and be aware that in the case of an emergency I leave immediately.

Forgiveness please.

Enigma: Mea Culpa

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Another Job Interview

I am just out of another job interview.

No great success story but I like to learn from these interactions.

Sensible Expectations

When both employer and employee finds common ground and is able to find sufficient like with what each other is offering that you can move to the next step.

Of course this does rather assume that both sides are being honest with each other, well, that is something that is very rare these days.

As an employer or hiring manager you might desperately need somebody to fill a position, but the pay-scale might be rotten and the prospects poor.

As an employee you desperately need a job to pay the costs of living but your skills are hardly,if at all, aligned with those of the prospective post

You need to work within parameters

If as an employee you are not a lying, cheating, perhaps necessarily desperate sort you need to draw up a list of what you are looking for.  Here are some of mine

  • An environment where you give your knowledge freely and in good faith but in return expect some product and industry education
  • An environment free from bullies and racists
  • An environment that contains men and women 
  • A manager and Infrastructure that cares and defends you and your team without passing the buck or landing you with laughable projects or tasks that they themselves cannot support.
  • A location which I can commute to daily, and ideally one that supports green commuting  (running, cycling and the necessary infrastructure showers, lockers)
  • Flexible working hours and the ability to work from home, so long as I can do this productively
  • Deadlines sure, but not impossible deadlines that ensure the best you can do is fail moderately and likely put emotional pressure on some team members who may never recover, or just quit.
  • Part of a technical team which is not so stressed and understaffed that a shit, botched job is all we can ever hope to achieve
  • Somewhere where I get the time to document things properly (so for example if I leave you have some chance of understanding what I did and why)
  • An environment where time wasters, wafflers, bullshitters are not just sidelined but fired.   These buggers dilute the companies effectiveness,  and are necessarily supported by people who really do care and work hard
  • A proximate canteen at a decent price.  A rule that states that a daily 2 hour offsite business lunch is unacceptable. And that scammers that actually charge this as working time should be instantly let go.
  • Pay which falls into the industry standard for what I am doing.
  • Not an industry whose end product is designed overtly or inadvertently to kill people

What Happened then?

So I did not pursue the job further. Although I felt a good connection to the hiring manager  (we talked for over one hour) the job had some limitations:

- A one hour plus commute to Geneva with little opportunity to run or cycle
- No lockers of facilities at work to enable running/cycling
- A great company but working through a third party, I am not keen unless it is a vendor (who makes you part of their family, otherwise you become an isolated consultant with no associations)
- The salary was under 50% of what I had wanted.  Obviously that was the killer.  So if it could have been 20 years ago, then just maybe!

Overall I am still positive as ever, and this time I'm waiting for the job that I want, not some disastrous compromise.  After all, both Agata and Marcus have put aside some savings for these eventualities in a Consultant's life.

Something about the Aircraft Black Box Flight Recorder

The tragic fatal crash of the
Germanwings Airbus A320 Flight 9525 has taught me one major thing

The state of the current /Black Box/ recording technology for aircraft in 2015 is totally unacceptable.

Now I will be researching this topic further but to the reader I would first encourage you to listen to this BBC overview programme

NB:I would also point out that a subscription to this BBC World Service programme in general is a very good use of your time.

I have worked in the airline industry but not on the telecom systems that support this infrastructure.  As an interested Engineer, the overall question that I'm asking in this year 2015 is

What is stopping you [the Airline Industry] providing multiple, redundant, sub second, monitoring of video, audio/sound, telemetry information to ALL commercial aircraft

At the very minimum

- sub second data collection
- Aircraft position, indication from all major electronics subsystems,  multiple plane mounted video camera streams, multiple audio streams cockpit, passenger areas, vibration sensors.
- Transmission of this data in real time via Internet stream i.e at a base level carrier via Satellite, Radio Frequency, Cellular
- Buffering of data

It's key that that key bulk data be transmitted from the plane in real time and not /just/ stored in a vulnerable physical recording device as is the current Cockpit Voice and Flight Data recorder standard. Or transmitted on flight completion.

Some disjoint systems already exist primarily for maintenance purposes but in my limited analysis I currently find that the online transmission of data is extremely limited.

Consumer Confidence

Germanwings A320-200; D-AIPX; flight 4U9525
AirAsia A320-216; PK-AXC; flight QZ8501; Java Sea
Malaysia Airlines 777-200ER; 9M-MRD; flight MH17
Malaysia Airlines 777-200; 9M-MRO; flight MH370

Airline travel is still statistically very safe however press coverage devoted to any major incident far exceeds that given to the significantly larger death toll of car/ auto-mobile accidents globally.

The consumer shall demand more, and demand it now.

To summarise
Airline Industry: What the hell are you waiting for?

ACARS Aircraft Communications Address and Reporting System
ACMS Aircraft Condition Monitoring System
CVR Cockpit Voice Recorder
FDM  Flight Data Monitoring
FDR Flight Data Recorder
FOQA  Flight Operations Quality Assurance
MFOQA  Military Flight Operations Quality Assurance
MOQA  Maintenance Operations Quality Assurance
FDA  Flight Data Analysis
QAR  Quick Access Recorder


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

When one thing leads to another

Flume: More than you Thought

At weekends, Marcus (and sometimes Agata when she has the time) make a special effort to prepare music or spoken word audio that we endeavour to listen to during the course of the forthcoming week

I have written several articles on music and here is another one but with a point.  This weekend  ....

I started Sunday morning by as usual by pruning my iTunes Podcast base load.  Over 500 podcasts per month, they need to be filed for posterity, listened to and/ or deleted....

I checked my RSS and Google+ Streams ... and found Porter Robinson.

He maintains a strong presence on SoundCloud

I moved to YouTube and after Porter with Autoplay on I was transferred over to Flume

I read up about Flume on Wikipedia

I listened to a lot of Flume free via YouTube.

Bakermat: Vandaag

After some more Googling I bumped into artist Bakermat who I unconsciously knew from One day and searched out his musical history

So in the course of an hour I've come up with 3 really new Dance Music sources to investigate and imbibe.  Not just the music but their backgrounds, associates, influences, their take on life, and in so doing who knows where it will lead to. 

Giorgio Moroder:74 is the new 24

Finally I checked the Giorgrio Moroder channel. He might be 74 (aren't we all ?) but his music is still appreciated.  The new album still not available :(

Overall Sunday morning was a mini voyage of discovery.

So what am I suggesting?
You need to design an implement an Internet framework to support your passion.  To connect with like minded souls, to enrich and learn.  It's out there, mostly free, you only need to spend some time and have a computing device and an Internet connection

- It's now not about how much money you have
+ There are plenty of free legitimate music sources out there
+ It is about using your ingenuity, Google search skills and the Internet tools around to pursue your passions

And of course whilst I am talking here about music you can take this as a metaphor for following your own passion: From Salmon fishing to Shakespeare,  from Compiler Design to Calorie Counting.

In modern times please don't think
- You have only follow and obey your parents, peers and relations in music or in any sphere
- Follow only the dictates of a single old magic book or one of supposed revealed truth

To grow as an individual the two primary tools that you need today in the year of 2015 are

a) A computer/ smartphone
b) A decent Internet connection

Mix together with some patience, the ability to question, read, organise and evaluate, and you can thereby support and grow your passion.

The Internet: You are not at home without it.

Giorgio Moroder

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Hosting Webpages on GoogleDrive

Long overdue, but I am beginning to investigate using Google Drive to host webpages.

What are the driving factors?
Currently Marcus and Agata's Vintage computer information website sits quietly at home on an Apache Webserver running on a Virtualised machine under Apple's OSX.

Now whilst OSX is generally reliable, it can crash, plus the Internet connection  (also known as the worlds most expensive Internet connection, thanks Swisscom!) can drop.

Additionally, in the future it could be that we could leave Switzerland or be in a moving, or mobile state.   Me thinks a backup website might be appropriate ....

How to get the Content To Google Drive?
Unfortunately I've had multiple issues with Google Drive. There is even a support call pending right now with BIN file deletion (or rather lack of it).

As such, as a paranoid Android, I use Google Drive as a secondary storage mirror of my primary website data.  Via a series of pulls and pushes using the SyncBack  Pro file synchroniser and the Insync Pro  Google Drive client, website files, and any changes are pushed from a disk containing a copy of the data I value into my Cloud Google Drive.  

[NB: Difference copying from my primary data disk to a synthetic intermediate disk which is owned i.e. mirrored to the Google Drive in the Cloud is inefficient but means that any Google drive screwups in the cloud, which by definition replicate down to local storage can only screw up the mirror data copy, not the original. ]

What about Website Indexes?
When you goto a Website you are normally interacting first with the index.htm or index.html files.   Now these files can either be present as statically generated files or Apache (or other webserver) can generate them on the fly and return them to the user as they click

Obviously I have generated these static index files with relative pathnames inside the index.html files meaning these files are still good even if the website is say, relocated to Google Drive!

I use the dirhtml software from Eric Nitzsche  If anybody knows a better product please ping me on Google+ because this product is now super old and unsupported.

Making the Google Drive Share
I followed this Google Instruction

The document id  is 0B8uZBuOkeCQqU1dIS0xKc1NJeFk

Now construct the link to use for friends[doc id]

So you can now test it for me

Please goto this link

Go into the Cromix Directory

Download this PDF called
Cromemco Introduction to Cromix-Plus Users Manual 023-5012 198606 REVD.pdf

Now, when you have gotten the hang for it, navigate the file-tree and download some other files.

You can send me a message on Google Plus and tell me that it worked.


Cromemco Directory on Google Drive
Hosting webpages on Google Drive
Google Plus contact

Monday, March 23, 2015

Todays food shopping cost 26,925 CHF Francs

I am trying not to make too much of the situation but Agata commented that: for days Marcus has been overly excited about the food for points offer at our local Coop Supermarket.

As somebody who has worked in the UK retail Supermarket business I have a keen interest in Swiss retail and I have commented on it frequently.  Example here

Besides the suspicious cartel like nature of Swiss food supermarkets, they implement a loyalty points system where each 1 CHF   (that is 1.03 USD or 0.69GBP) earns you 1 point.  And eventually you can redeem these points in a catalogue of somewhat expensively prices homewares likes toasters or Microwaves.

But,  this Saturday, March 21st Only ...

You can redeem 100 points for 1 CHF of shopping

[subject to a few exceptions noted above]

So in other words, thanks to previously spending 26,925 CHF with Coop Supermarket, we redeemed 26925 points to pay for 269.25 CHF of shopping.

But wait!   This is of course not an entire weeks shopping!   Only a part. No, we goto Aldi to do whatever shopping we can, because it is cheaper, then finish it off at Coop.

And so the above innocent 440 gram chocolate rabbit costing retail 4.95 CHF   (the absolutely cheapest one per 100 grams in the shop, because I exhaustively researched it), cost us about 500 CHF  (515 USD or 345 GBP) of prior shopping points.

Now if I compare the Coop bunny to the bargain priced Aldi Bunny of 200 grams I see that the equivalent Aldi cost is 1.39* 440/200 =  3.06 CHF, so the Coop bunny is over 50% more expensive.

NB: In both stores you can buy much more expensive Easter bunnies ...


Living in Switzerland is expensive, and not for the faint hearted or empty of wallet.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Baselworld 2015

Baselworld is Switzerland's yearly premier show for all things Watch, most argue that it is the single most important Watch event in the world during the whole year

But don't worry:

Quote: Baselworld welcomes everyone. Visitors do not need to pre-register

The good news is that if you read this today Saturday March 21st you still have time to get to Basel Switzerland from most parts of our connected planet.

Athletes Watches
For Marcus and Agata with an emphasis on sports, these days we choose to wear full-time Garmin GPS sports watches.  We realise our exacting requirements are not typical but they include

- We use a watch primarily for daily sports tracking
- Needs to be at least waterproof and incorporate a GPS
- Must at least cover sports: Running, Cycling, Swimming
- Step tracking is also useful
- Battery needs to last only a day (>24 hour races, we'd carry a second watch)
- Heart Rate Monitoring (HRM) or a connection to one a must
[Note that Garmin Chest HRM straps can currently give you more information that any wrist mounted device so there is some reason to have a separate not integrated device]
- Ability to display a route for guidance on long ultra marathons useful
- Notification e.g. from a Smartphone optional, useful but recall you might not be always carrying a phone e.g. whilst swimming.

We see all watches through this lens and realise that many people have different requirements to us

The Changing Watch Industry
The ability to incorporate an ultra accurate digital timepiece in numerous household items from our Microwave to our iPod to our Smartphone has made a dedicated timepiece  optional for most technology focused people.

For Switzerland in General, the country is not as some might believe completely dependent on the Watch industry! They are at about 15%,  and focused mostly at the high end.

Swiss watch exports were about 24,000 M CHF in 2014  Total Swiss Exports were 16,125 M CHF in 2014

The Current Status Quo

Baselworld this year of 2015 is exhibiting some great quality, mechanical timepieces in a host of exquisite designs.  Just like it always has.  If you want to look at these /traditional/ designs look at these links:

8 posh Dress watches

GQ visits Baselworld

ABlogToWatch at Baselworld

Angelus U10  Bloomberg at Baselworld

The Apple Challenge

The Swiss Watch industry has reason to not just to worry but to run scared.  Since a top of the line Apple Watch can exceed 10,000 US Dollars this takes Apple into and above the mid price range (which I would rate) at say 3000 USD

To Apple's great credit they are attempting to continue to re-invent the purpose of the Watch that sits on your wrist. I think this is the only credible strategy for Smartwatches, and the one already pioneered by Google, Samsung and Pebble.

Getting it wrong is Easy
Most high end manufactures misunderstand the purpose of a Smartwatch. A Smartwatch

- must be able to clearly tell the time
- but time keeping though mandatory should be a necessary but not a sufficient capability
- Other capabilities will make the smartwatch.  Including:
- Sports tracking, Notifications, Health biometrics tracking, remote device control, mobile payments.

The strap adds electronic function to an existing design. Ingenious but ultimately flawed because again, it's just adding to an existing watch, not re-inventing it.


Breitling B55

+ they released something
--- what they released is not even a me too product, it's a confusing mismatch of gimmicks.  To Marcus, a benchmark of how not to Smartwatch 

Apple & the Delay Strategy
IMHO the Apple Watch will almost inevitably become a steam roller product even though there are notable deficiencies designed in limitations with the initial product.

+ The General Public  (cf GPS sportswatch users) don't understand that even an 18 hour battery life with a Watch including Heart Rate Monitor is astonishing.   
- Apple Watch is a tethered product, needing an iPhone.   This limits the sales audience and is primarily because Apple is [currently] too stubborn to write an Android application
- Apple Watch lacks a GPS or WiFi

-- Apple pre announced its watch mainly as a disruptive strategy.  IMHO it was not as a service to potential customers, it was just a message to Apple users to tell them: you will be sorry if you think about buying anything else.

Apple Watch Gen1, is an inspired first product. Its  success depends purely on existing Apple users gullibility  enthusiasm (since non Apple users cannot play)

But for existing Apple users, who are not too sporty  (a rich, must start some exercise soon wannabe would be ideal) the Apple Watch could really be a very useful device and a step forward in convenience and function.

I would predict there are enough of these users out there.  And so the Apple Watchocalypse is inevitable.

Tag Heuer

Scared, and late to market Tag has played the ultimate waiting game card.   They announced an Android partnership intention.

So "we've not actually done anything yet, but trust us, something great is coming along"

Hardly convincing.

Since Tag is part of a larger watch grouping (LVMH) anything useful that is developed could have wider application. Of course I, and so many people have enormous respect for CEO Jean-Claude Biver, but I feel that this time Charisma is not enough.

To Close
Apple is not exhibiting at Baselworld 2015

At Baselworld 2015 to say that there is an Elephant in the Room is incorrect.  The Elephant is not even in the room.

The Apple Watch is not displayed in the Swiss Apple Store


Friday, March 20, 2015

Here comes the Sun

endeavour1&Beatles: He Comes the Sun

Today March 20th 2015 there is a solar eclipse in Europe 

Marcus and Agata headed to Central Lausanne.  We wanted to be with other people and hear the gasps and cries of /The end is Nigh/ from people who has not researched the event ...

However it was firstly freakishly hot, and with less sun you might have expected it colder

And really apart from that little something on the peripheral of the Sun, not much to see.

Agata remains cheerful!

So it was all a bit of an anticlimax.

Next eclipse for Lausanne is September 28, 2015 at 04.47