Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sunday Sermon: Because You Have to Have Faith

Arguments from Faith (Rationality Rules)

Subtitle: The Equivocation Fallacy

When people come up to me and make an assertion which is backed up with  (because it says this in the bible) or make an assertion based on Religious faith  (see definition below) then I almost wince.

Not a Positive
To Marcus, because it came from an assertion or consequence of something told in the Bible, or something that is based on 'Religious Faith' is more of a reason not to believe it and not the affirmative.

Religious Faith
Belief without sufficient evidence (and often in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary )

To Live in Hope
I live in hope that before Marcus' timely death I will see common sentiment of the population of my home Western country reversed.  Such that, people who espouse a Religious narrative based on their 'faith' or any viewpoint because they are a 'Christian' (or any other Religion) or by quoting a Bible verse to be viewed with the same scepticism or pity  that is already attributed to those that claim that Elvis is in fact still alive and just in hiding.

Meanwhile I would also ask you to consider the excellent talk on faith from Peter Boghossian

Peter Boghossian: Faith

Take it away George:

George Michael: Faith

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Proof Positive that everybody needs a Raspberry Pi

Mouse Hole sizing

This video is proof that every household needs at least one Raspberry Pi.   Perhaps for Christmas, order yours now :-)

Here and here

Friday, December 08, 2017

Installing Android on Raspberry Pi 3

Subtitle: The Slowest Android implementation, ever

So, at last Android is running on my Raspberry Pi 3.  As you will see it is not usable, but hey fellow Raspbians I am sure you are all about to read this and do it anyway ...

- You will need a Rapberry Pi 3, with SD card that will be completely reformatted.

- I had an SD card to USB card adapter because the SD card needs to be created on a Host Windows/Linux/MacOS system

- Logon and Register at

- Download the Installer.  I tried the Linux and Windows Programs
Install the Installer program for example under Windows.  

- Plug in your USB key with SD card that you will later insert to Raspberry Pi3

- Using the credentials you signed up for (userid and password) use this program to start the program actively 

- Start the program and it will download all the files, format your key and place the OS onto it.

(Actually I had multiple problems at this step.  What worked eventually is getting the .zip files from the Linux install putting them into the windows programs expected area then telling the Windows program to use the local copy and dont download.  Overall a total palova but it got there eventually)

- Take out the micro SD card and put into Pi and power on

Installing gApps
Now the machine is up and running Android but you have no, well, few Applications.

But if you install the Google Play store you will have an infinity of them.

So you need to locate the Pico gapps download.  I used size 127,721KB

Actually what you can do is boot your Raspberry Pi 3 with this android and directly download this file to the Pi via a Browser session.  Else you will download it on a PC and USB Key and put that key into the Pi 3 and transfer the file into a known place for the next step

Select Shutdown and reboot into Maintenance.

And what a surprise you reboot into TWRP.  From TWRP you need to select the Install option and install the .zip file you downloaded.  After installation simply reboot

 On reboot you will have the Play store installed. Magical :-)

 I patiently loaded the Play Store and found an old favourite PC program now available to Android: Total Commander. I installed it

 And here it is running.   Yes, it was slow but eventually it loaded.

So now you have a functional but impossibly slow Raspberry Pi 3 running Android.  But this is beta code don't forget.

When I see how slowly Android runs on Raspberry Pi I develop and even greater respect for the Raspbian OS.     Still, we should all keep a look out for this distribution.  It can only get better right?

Thursday, December 07, 2017

The Land that Time and Technology Forgot

Laurie Anderson: From the Air

Sometime before Christmas Marcus and Agata travel 'up North' in England to a place and destination remote from the modern day.   It's a place where technology, organisation, and even Central Heating are kept to an implausible minimum

The Waffle
When you visit friends or family, especially the old and intransigent you have to put up with their environment.  Their rules. And also vague answers like

Q: Do you have a heater, my room is cold
A: We have one somewhere, not sure where

To avoid futile discussion ending in heartbreak and annoyance on Marcus' part (only) we  plan to travel in self sufficiency mode.  This is akin to when in the 1980's you would goto any Party with your own Mixtape cassette in your back pocket.  Then if the Party music became too awful you would surreptitiously  smooze over to the Ghetto blaster and insert your music instead.  We aim to be prepared.

So How to Prepare?

Warm Clothes
Some families in the North of England keep their houses at a barely humanly warm temperature.   Presumably this is to torture themselves, their children and any guests like us who visit.

Going back 20 years, the cost of heating might be an issue, but today with energy costs proportionally  (vs cost of Goods, historical analysis etcetera) lower than low, this is rarely a credible reason. Let me postulate that if there are at least 4 cars in the family they can afford to put the heating on when needed.

We are taking warm clothes, slippers, and lots of thermal underwear and outerwear

Sports Clothes
Agata and Marcus have an ambitious Athletics plan set for 2018.  So whilst visiting friends we will try to find an Ultra Marathon to take part in.  Agata is going to find something, I feel sure!

In order that this does not injure us, we are taking suitably warm Sports clothing for 0 degree or lower trail running.  Report to be posted on the day should we find something.  Stand by!

A Heater

We don't want to inconvenience our friends that we visit, nor be under the charge of 'wasting their electricity'.  So we are taking our own portable heating source which Marcus documented earlier


I'm pretty sure the answer to the question,  "Do you have a power splitter" might be  "Sure, we have one, not exactly sure where, but yes".

To avoid a futile search in an environment full of random c**p it might be best to take our own basics.   This will avoid Marcus bursting a blood vessel and uttering things like  "How can you live like this" to himself or mistakenly shouting it out loud.

We thrive best on a daily intake of music.   I recall asking these friends once if they had a Radio or speaker I could borrow.   "I am sure we have one somewhere, not exactly sure ..." perhaps you can guess the rest.  We are taking out own pre-charged Bluetooth Logitech speaker.

Both our phones have 4G Internet access but the access is quite poor in the destination neighbourhood.  Our friends see no need to bolster the 0.3 Mbps Internet connection that is so weak it can barely stream BBC iPlayer Radio, with any Video stream being just a dream.  So we will certainly be taking our own 4G dedicated standalone router, and a large Internet subscription SIM so that we can for our duration have sufficient Internet to load YouTube, answer emails, look up information on Google and write this Column.


Our friends are excellent cooks.  However the food is traditional heart attack ready , fat laden, cholesterol++.   Being as we need to remain in shape until after an Ultra Marathon, now is not the time to deviate from our healthy whole foods diet.

The lentils are coming with us!

It's a terrible stereotype, but if the worst comes to the worst, and we start to shout and row Marcus has a backup plan: get drunk

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

BBC 4K Television Transmissions

Subtitle: TV Manufacturer Conspiracy Theory

Conspiracy Theory?
Are TV manufacturer putting out TV's with missing standards so that you will be forced to buy another one in a matter of only 1-2 years?

Having spent well over 2000 GBP for our first 4K Television in Switzerland was bad enough.   But 6 months after its purchase we found that the TV electronics were missing the necessary codecs to actually play any broadcast 4K content.  Luckily  (?) that series of Samsung TV's had an external box which was yearly upgradeable.

So we bought the upgrade.   Sucker!   We found the upgraded box was still not compatible and so a further year later we bought a second external electronics box, now annoyingly running Tyzen not Android,  with new hardware, and finally we could watch YouTube at 4K resolution using the HEVC codec.

History Repeats Itself
The BBC is about to start broadcast of 4K resolution in the UK via iPlayer but it requires a Television with the HLG  (Hybrid Log Gamma) standard.   Your almost new 4K television may not be compatible!

Other Standards
HDR10   (Amazon, Samsung)
Dolby Vision  (Dolby Labs)
HEVC H.265 (Amazon)

Not Supporting HLG
Amazon Fire TV

Practical Test
- Goto this web page

- Download this 750MB file

- I put this file onto a USB stick and plugged it into a USB 3.0 socket on my television 

- I was able to play this on our 2016 genre Samsung UE55KS7000.  Please try and see if your 4K television can play it too?   I do note that it's not on the BBC supported list though

- I also tried a second file   and that failed to play :-(

Bandwidth Considerations
Is your Internet connection fast enough to reliably stream 4K video without stuttering?

Some rules of thumb are  

BBC Standard iPlayer - 1.5 MbpsBBCHD Quality 1920 x 1080 - 5 Mbps
BBC 4K Quality 3840 x 2160 - 23 Mbps

1 hour of 23 Mbps is  10.1 GigaBytes

You can use or to test your Internet connection.

To Marcus, Prosumer 4K TV incompatibility seems like deja vue.  Yet again the proliferation of incompatible Digital Standards hurts the Early adopter, and this can been seen as a cynical manipulation of the marketplace.  It forces the End User to replace their almost new Television because manufacturers almost without exception refuse to announce firmware updates for products as little as 2 years old.

From December 10th

Try it out yourself
(Bandwidth and HLG permitting)

BBC 4K Supported Devices

BBC R&D talks Hybrid Log Gamma
Can I watch Planet Earth II in UHD?
ITU-R BT.2100-1 Image Paramaters for HDR TV's

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Honey I benchmarked the Christmas Tree

This is the year 2017 people.  And the year in which even the Christmas tree in the Marcus & Agata household in England is running Linux. No really

pi@xmas:~/tmp $ uname -a

Linux xmas 4.9.59+ #1047 Sun Oct 29 11:47:10 GMT 2017 armv6l GNU/Linux

Whilst we have already reported on one Organic Christmas Tree that we prepared  here  that has been left behind in the care of another.

So back home in England it is time to think of something befitting the digital age in which we are now living.

The Answer?  A Raspberry Pi Christmas Tree

The Build
 Two versions of the tree are available, we got a pre soldered version from the Pi Hut for 15 GBP.  When I look at the amount of soldering that would have been involved I am glad that I chickened out of that assembly.

I did need a pair of specialised snips to detach the 3 parts of the circuit board from its holder.  Scissors were not thin enough.

In actual fact soldering was involved.

I am using a Pi Zero W as the base computer and this needs a multi pin GPIO  (General Purpose Input Output) header soldering on.

Ah, the smell of solder (!)  In small quantities it is the Engineers elixir,  smells just like Essential Oils to me, perhaps even better.

So then, we are nearly there, attach this tree to the Raspberry Pi making sure to get it the right way around.  Or you will literally blow up your Pi computer  (hint resistors towards the HMDI connector)


I am not ashamed to say I copied the standard minimalist Python program.   Python that programming language that uses indentation to dictate code blocks.   Yes I know, who thought that up?

import time
from gpiozero import LEDBoard
from import random_values
from signal import pause
tree = LEDBoard(*range(2,28),pwm=True)
for led in tree:
   led.source_delay = 0.6
   led.source = random_values()


nohup python3 &

As a curiosity I thought I would benchmark this computer, the one that is running pretty full on Linux, and see if is faster than the first UNIX computer I built in the 1970's.   Again that was constructed using a soldering Iron, but using a Z80 and then Motorola 68000 series processors.

Yes, Pi Zero W is faster.   (For comparison my UNIX computer which of course is still running here at home can write at about 100K Bytes per second.  Raspberry manages 20,000K Bytes per second )

It is quite amazing how some avenues of life have progressed so far in just a few decades.

First some necessary updates (all System updates are necessary by definition, ask any Systems Integrator man/woman)

Here is a test I found earlier

curl -L | sudo bash

And Finally
Christmas is a happy time and so I additionally point you to the following  (now that Prince's video collection is again Public)

Rapberry Beret

Monday, December 04, 2017

The cost of Toblerone

Subtitle: Christmas Costs

It's always been a source of embarrassment / annoyance that Swiss chocolate seems to be less expensive in England that it is in its native Switzerland.

Or is it?  Keep reading for a more in depth analysis.

As chocolate enthusiasts Marcus was interested to find that the UK supermarket Morrisons are retailing a 4.5Kg giant bar of Swiss chocolate Toblerone for a staggering 57 GBP.

This got me thinking is it competitive  (at 1.26 GBP per 100 grams)

The answer is a staggering no, it is a Christmas Special, which although it has significant novelty value is priced higher than their smallest bars, but still cheaper than Switzerland

In Pictures

Morrison 0.83 GBP per 100 grams

Tesco 1.1 GBP per 100 grams

Ocado 0.82 GBP per 100 grams

Asda 0.83 GBP per 100 grams

 Coop Switzerland  1.67 GBP per 100 grams

 Migros Switzerland, 2.17 GBP per 100 grams

Sainsbury 08.3 GBP per 100 grams

But What Else

I'm pretty sure other presents like these jumpers can not sensibly be worn outside of Christmas.  So you can argue that Chocolate is a relatively more sane present at any price.  Certainly less wasteful.

Some Competition
This 660 gram tub is priced at 4 GBP meaning  about 0.60 GBP per 100 grams.  Traditional British Cadbury's chocolate is being sold cheaply at the run up to Christmas.  Far more cheaply than Toblerone and this includes substantially higher packaging costs  (individual wrapping)

The Subsidy

The Swiss Chocolate Law

2017 Developments

Now not widely disclosed but the Swiss Chocolate industry receives generous subsidies  (handouts) from the Swiss Government so that they can more easily compete against the cost of foreign chocolate.   No really, I am absolutely not kidding.  Please read the above explanatory articles.

In Summary

If you buy the Morrisons Toblerone be aware you are being charged dearly for this novelty product.  It still might be more useful than a Christmas sweater/jumper which  might surely be too embarrassing to be worn except at Christmas

Swiss chocolate is cheaper outside of Switzerland a fact that used to irritate the hell out of us when we lived in Switzerland.

The Swiss government pays Swiss chocolate producers a subsidy to encourage them to produce more chocolate.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Sunday Night Cloud

The Orb: Clouds

A Material Girl

Madonna: Material Girl

Yes, long story short,  initially as a challenge Agata has taken up knitting.  

And so it is not just Madonna who is a Material Girl, I have to add Agata to this list too :-)

Like any field of expertise you might think it is easy, but the more you investigate the more there seems to be to learn.   For example the number of different textures of wool is simply mind blowing.

Whilst out of England we did pick up some family knitting needles but they are old.  So an eBay and some waiting later we now have a new set like this

And so this afternoon a beautiful little penguin arrived in Marcus' study.

I do approve

Saturday, December 02, 2017

IKEA: Exclusively Yours

The Blue IKEA Frakta Bag is now famous worldwide and to Marcus it appeal is precisely because of the wide audience it attracts.

What I mean is that it is used by everybody from the Down and Out carrying homeless possessions,  to the Student taking their washing to the Laundrette, to the Chelsea set carrying plants from the Garden Centre, to the Pensioner carrying home their shopping.

Simply: Universal appeal.

But for Christmas 2017 I announce an important upgrade


Yes, just look at this new colour.  It is now elegant too and remains practical and relatively cheap.

And it is an important BUT, is it available in your country?   You best head over to your local IKEA webpage to check.   Do you feel lucky?

Friday, December 01, 2017

Protecting the Garmin 935

Subtitle: Other Smartwatches are available :-)

The need for Protection
Marcus has already raved about what I still think is the ultimate Sportswatch namely the Garmin 935

In fact it is not unattractive and it makes sense to wear it 24x7 so that you can store and reflect upon your daily heart rate during exercise and at other moments such as working or even sleeping.

Trouble is that whilst doing some manual tasks both Agata and Marcus get a little scared that we will scratch the screen.  But we have a solution:

The Glass Screen Protector!

The watch design thoughtfully comes with a micro millimetre recess so a short google later, then eBay from China and a week of waiting later something arrived.

Rather irritatingly the package arrived with a picture of a dumbo Apple Watch on it.   Quite out of place I think because the Apple Watch is not the success Apple had hoped for, so advertising it on the packet of my Garmin Screen protector is hardly a positive thing.  Hmm.

Inside is now a familiar package

01 First you use a wet wipe to clean the screen
02 Second you use a dry wipe to dry and buff the watchface
03 You peel off the sticky protector from the Tempered Glass protector revealing a adhesive surface that will attach to the watchface
04 There are some placement stickers (in blue) that you can stick to the glass protector to hold it and align, but for such a small protector they are not necessary
05 So grab the protector and place it centrally onto the watchface and press

All done

We ended the day going for a Winter cycle to celebrate, secure in the knowledge that both of our watchfaces are now protected.

Oh, and the cost.  2GBP from china eBay, including postage, for two.  Now that is value!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

How to logon to an Apple Computer as Root User without a Password

Subtitle:  Insecurely Yours

The Apple Hack instructions:

(in some cases repeat steps 4 to 7 a few times)


For  the benefit of "I am far too important to need to know about any technical details of my computer" kind of user, a demographic that for the most part defines the Apple Computer user,  be aware that

- Your Apple computer runs the Operating System called macOS
macOS (previously known as OS X)  is based on UNIX,  and  has kernel origins in Mach
- The root user, also known as the Superuser has supreme rights on your system
- Anybody who is logged on as the root user can destroy your entire computer in seconds
(For example a root user could type at the terminal    rm -rf  / )

I tested it

I am always skeptical of scaremongering,  especially when in this case the severity of this threat, or compromise is so high as to say "this bug is just impossible",   "nobody could have coded in this amount of stupidity"

But unfortunately, I did test it, and the above instructions are the result of a successful logon to an Apple Mac Mini, running macOS 10.13.1  i.e. the highest level High Sierra, with all Operating System patches applied as of  early November 2017.

Here are some links then

How to Fix it Then?

- Set a specific root password that you only know about
(Open terminal and type:  sudo passwd -u root )

- Download the official Apple Software Update

Here we see the Software Update listed (click apple in top left, About this Mac, Software Update)

Now we see from this Terminal Command that the fix is installed  (2017-001)


Sooner or later ever major computer vendor experiences an embarrassing Software Bug of such magnitude that those in the know will be laughing and joking about it years later.

This total compromise of Apple security at the latest High Sierra version 10.13.1 of Apple's flagship Operating System will have Apple cringing for years to come.

Every Windows user, and every Linux user now has the classic line "Remember when you could logon without a password" stored up ready when the next smug Apple user starts pontificating, and believe you me, that does happen rather frequently.

Apple discloses vulnerability