Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Multiple Monitors on one Computer




Subtitle: Including the Gigabyte GTX1060G1

When you work with computers day in and day out you really begin to appreciate your peripherals.   You can and should carefully select your Keyboard, Mouse and Screen setup.

In our case this involves choosing the best components to do the job; and today I focus on driving multiple screens from a single computer and single Graphics Adapter


No Gaming Please
Over the years I have migrated from multiple PCIe graphics cards in a single computer to just one to drive a multi monitor landscape on which I can interact most productively

The last iteration was the Gigabyte GTX 960 described here.

It seems my solution involves purchasing a powerful multi port Gaming card which means

- Entering the bizarre website world of the gamer
- You will be introduced mainly to the importance of weird stuff like being able to have an LED lit graphics card
- And being able to change the colour of the lighting on your card  (which you could see if your computer case has a perspex side screen)
- But on the plus side you get multiple ports and a fast response from them



This Nvidia 1060 based card from Gigabyte has no less than 5 ports and can drive 4 of them concurrently.

The card is 2 slots wide and plugs into a single PCIex16 slot. Take careful length of the card to see it will fit in your motherboard case i.e. not bump into something on the motherboard or case edge.

The top DVI-D socket is now only useful for older monitors

You get 3 DisplayPorts each capable of handling a 4K screen or in fact upto a 7680x4320x60Hz screen.   I know: bonkers!

And last a HDMI 2.0 port supporting upto a 4K screen (4096 x 2160)


With Unlimited Resources?

If cost was not a limiting factor I would attach 3 Dell 8K UP3218K monitors on 3 DisplayPorts only


Back to Reality
In reality,  in the land of definitely finite expenditure I've chosen to connect


a) 4K TV  (see my article here )  via HDMI 2.0

b) My 6  year old  HP ZR30W screen on DisplayPort  [NB This screen is old and also very power hungry at about 130 Watts comparing with only 60Watts for newer 4K screens]

c) A relatively new Iiyama 4K screen on DisplayPort

The Idea Then
So a single server houses the Nvidia 1060G1 Card

For economy this server is also my workstation

The Card enables 3 High resolution screen attachment (with the chance to add a 4th screen in the future!)

I don't attach screens to other computers but ssh, telnet, vnc, Remote Desktop into those headless systems displaying their usually graphical desktop window on one of the above screens.



The server OS allows the customisation of multiple screens into one logically huge screen.  And I choose to scale up 4K screens to 125% so that the windows are legible to me.

Performance!



The recommended  Gigabyte GTX1060G1 is a high performance gaming card.  It's almost sleeping with the load that I am driving it with.   If however you really want something faster I'd recommend the Gigabyte Geoforce 1080 Ti card with water cooling,  oh and 11GB of onboard memory.  Bonkers.


Summary
Using a enthusiast level, gaming graphics card from Gigabyte enables me to drive multiple 4K screens simultaneously on a single Workstation.   And multiple screens give you the flexibility to have multiple open and discrete windows active to give you maximum productivity.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Folklore, and, the Wisdom of the Ancients



 Subtitle: And the Old Wives Tale

Recently we have been out collecting Conkers, for various reasons.

One reason is that our neighbour confidently informed us that they were a deterrant to spiders.


Before I had chance to research this conkers had placed themselves in several Spider hotspots of the house



However it soon became clear that the deterrent as such was simply not working.

Today Marcus lives in the world where I more believe in the wisdom of the Internet / World Wide Web.   Oh and theories, when used in the scientific meaning of the word,  backed up with evidence and the Scientific Method.

I call Bunkum to those who rely on, espouse, or promote their opinions when I find they are based on Folklore, The Wisdom of the Ancients,   An Old Wives Tale, or something they learnt from their parents who learnt it from their parents.

I would say

- Trust the Scientific Method
- The Theories that result from It
- Don't just believe one story you heard on the Internet
- Always consider opposing claims or viewpoints but not without evidence
- Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence
- Draw your oppions from substantial and detailed Internet Research
- Beware of Cognative Biases

And back then to Conkers.  Here are some articles to read

https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blog/2016/09/conkers-spiders/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1217709/Do-conkers-drive-spiders-bonkers-Royal-Society-Chemistry-tests-old-wives-tale.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/6255510/Spiders-v-conkers-are-arachnids-really-scared-of-horse-chestnuts.html






The KLF: Justified and Ancient

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Apple and OSX: it just DOESN'T always work



Reed and Vega: Walk on the Wild Side



Subtitle: A walk to the dark side


There was a day when Marcus frequently dabbled with that expensive, proprietary,  obsessively obsolescent company Apple.  After all, in many ways they do make excellent products.

As such today it is only Agata is my suffering family member and wife who is tasked with being uptodate with all things Apple.

This Sunday I needed an emergency Internet router and so had to dust off my emergency backup Apple Mac Mini



It's never easy with Apple
So I have used Apple since about 1979, so please don't counter my following  irritation as that of a new uniformed user.


I had to find and plug in the damn thing.  Now it is very elegant and small I'll give it that.  But of course using my Microsoft Media keyboard    it's a total challenge to translate those weird apple keys onto a normal :-) keyboard.



Then I had to upgrade it to the latest macOS and include any recent security patches of course



I was going to update iMovie as well but on looking at the size of the update of over 2GB,  I nearly fainted.  Life is too short for this right now.   (WTF Apple!!)

VNC Working
I need to access the system headless because I'm actually running out of HDMI/Displayport interfaces.  I use VNC


You need to enable this in settings, sharing.



USB Tethering
The object of the exercise is to test out multiple WAN gateways, so I need to configure this Mac Mini's Ethernet as a default Gateway, so that in my test client computers will point to multiple Internet Gateways.

The Mac Mini will just be one of them.

Plugged in the Android Phone which tethers without issue via USB to any Microsoft Windows or Linux computer.

With Apple ... a big nothing!!

Bloody typical

NDIS for Apple


So it turns out Apple refused to write the driver so a nice man called Joshua Wise came to my rescue.


Learning Points
The myth that /Apple just works/ is just that.  A myth.

Not only is there an Apple Screen of Death  but Apple is resistant to implementing many forms of interoperability.   This NDIS example is just one.






I continue to think of Apple as  Sharon Stone in Total Recall   Not totally to be trusted :-)



And now I am trundling off to do this router, multiple gateway testing.  What else could possible go wrong now ....





Saturday, October 14, 2017

Living in a 64bit World


Daft Punk: Instant Crush 8 Bit




Subtitle: 32bit shame


Let me be clear.

Apple's iPhone smartphones run a 64 bit Operating System

My Network Attached Storage QNAP runs a 64 bit Operating System

My Apple Computer runs a 64 bit Operating System

My Windows Laptop runs a 64 bit Operating System

My Workstation Runs a 64 bit Operating System


32bit Unclean
However since both Windows Server (or Windows 10) or OSX can still run 32 bit applications some totally lazy application developers can still not be bothered to provide a native 64 bit version.

To name and shame





[System.Diagnostics.Process[]] $processes32bit = @()

foreach($process in get-process) {
    $modules = $process.modules
    foreach($module in $modules) {
        $file = [System.IO.Path]::GetFileName($module.FileName).ToLower()
        if($file -eq "wow64.dll") {
            $processes32bit += $process
            break
        }
    }

}

$processes32bit | sort-object Name | format-table Name


Name
----


avgui
AVG Anti Virus, Server Edition


CefSharp.BrowserSubprocess
Chrome Browser


Dropbox
Dropbox
Dropbox

Dropbox File Sync and Share


EXCEL
Microsoft Excel

ExpressTray
Garmin Express Tray Icon


GoogleCrashHandler
Chrome crash handler


googledrivesync
googledrivesync

Google Drive File Sync and Share


nvcontainer
NVIDIA Web Helper

Nvidia Graphics Driver



PfuSsMon
SSFolderTray

Scansnap Tray Icon and Monitor Software


vmware-tray
VMware tray icon

If there is a single thing that is pushing me to move to Linux it is that the Windows and to a lesser degree the OSX world Application developers are complacent and lazy enough to stay put with 32 bit executables.


Shame on you all





Daft Punk: Instant Crush   (64 bit version)

Friday, October 13, 2017

Garmin 935: Simply the Best



Unofficially Marcus and Agata are quite competitive and one of the ways that this manifests itself is that we often choose slightly different technologies.

And, for some years we have always chosen different Sportswatch implementations.

But as shown above, astonishingly we both agree that there is no better Athletes watch, right now in Autumn 2017 than the Garmin 935.


Audience and Caveats
This is a top tier product and so it will cost you about 400 GBP including UK taxes from Wiggle  (at Platinum level customer discount) but in our opinion this is well worth the investment.

First though, who is this watch for?

- It is for serious athletes
- It is attractive enough that you can wear it 24x7, and with 24 hour heart rate monitoring, you should really do so
- It is lighter and slimmer than its only real competitor, the slightly more attractive Garmin Fenix5
- Posers really don't wear this watch.  Posers will choose something with bling, and something that may have a lot of applications, a better display, but far less accurate activity measurement
- If I was single I'd say that if I saw a potential partner wearing a Garmin 935 I'd say: Yes, serious athlete, investigate further :-)


What does it do So Well?

We wear this watch 24x7 and first it functions as a watch!  The display is on continuously, none of that turn wrist or raise to display the time.  It's a watch, or activity tracker, it is on all the time.

The Essentials
Garmin structures the 935 and other models like 735XT and Fenix 5 into the following categories

Watchface
There is a Garmin standard watchface, but you can choose from over 50 developer made watchfaces in the Garmin App store.  Marcus currently uses a customisable face called WF4COOL which I chose because it has an exceptionally large font and I can customise the watchface to include my current heart rate and number of steps.

Widgets
At the top level display of watch function, a Widget is an application that is not an activity or field within an activity.  Example: A compass, or Steps Measurement or Calorie Count.  As with Watchface you can add Widgets from the App store be they from Garmin or developers.   You can use the left watch buttons to move from the Watchface to any of these widgets.

Applications
Garmin provides a number of standard applications like  Run, Walk, Trail Run, Bike, Pool Swim, Open Water Swim, SUP, Hike, Cross country Ski.  Additionally a vast number of new applications are available from the store

Data Fields
Applications use Data Fields.  For example the Run application uses screens.  You choose say 3 screens, First screen has 1 Data Field == Time, Second Screen has say 2 Fields == Distance, Current Speed.  Etcetera.  But what if you have need of a more esoteric Data Field?  Example Graphical Heart Rate.   This might be available in the store, so Download it, then any app can have this as a Data Field to display.  Hence custom data fields extend any Application.


The Forerunner 935 is like the 735XT or lower Garmin model but it has a longer battery life of over 12 hours and has more Applications and a better user interface than the cheaper models.  (It is the same UI as the Fenix 5)





Garmin 935 in depth

And a Lot More
This is one hell of a product.  It is really unlikely that you will find this watch lacking in tracking and logging any part of your fitness regime.  Whether it is recording that Ultra Marathon,  timing your IronMan,  or simply giving you turn by turn directions on that 100Km weekend Cycle, whilst measuring your time, distance, speed, cadence.  It really does it all.  I have some DC Rainmaker screen shots below of function, from this In depth Review














In Summary Then
The Garmin 935 is currently the state of the art GPS Sportswatch.   I don't feel there is a better product out there.  So if you have the 400 GBP to spend, then absolutely go ahead immediately.




Thursday, October 12, 2017

Let the Buyer Beware




Subtitle: Caveat Emptor

The year of 2017 is indeed rushing along.  Already Marcus and Agata are looking forward to the Christmas season.

Though of course we are not drawn into any delusional faith based tradition, we do take it as a time to visit family and friends.   In this connection one present we are searching for is a new, bargain basement, yet powerful, configurable and up-gradable laptop


The Chuwi Factor
Marcus does have considerable like for the Chuwi brand of bargain hardware.  Chuwi is a Chinese manufacturer based in Shenzhen.


For about 200GBP you can import this 15.6 inch stylish laptop

They also have a not quite available Chuwi Air  which bears a striking resemblance to the Apple Macbook line of products.


But perhaps paying homage to Apple Computers legendary, designed in obsolescence, featuring in particular soldered in components wherever possible we were drawn to a different direction


Lenovo 305 151IBD aka 80 NJ
I analysed and found an old skool laptop with USB 3.0 ports, HDMI and VGA display output, 2 DDR3L memory slots upgradeable, 1 x 2.5" SATA bay upgradeable,  PCIe LAN Network and Bluetooth upgradeable.


Auction: Beware
I already discussed publicly about auctions in the UK  here and here.   In particular about buying crap, or paying good money for something that does not work. 

Here are the basic steps that we hope have enabled us not to be made fools out of

01 On Friday the John Pye auction list was released
02 We found several potential laptop 'bargains' including Lenovo 305, HP Envy, Dell XPS13, Apple Macbook
03 We researched all the laptops for sale
04 On Monday October 9th, we drove a long way to physically inspect
05 We eliminated some immediately:  The Apple Macbook had a warped motherboard and the Magsafe 2 connector was twisted and almost broken.   The Dell XPS 13 had a weird Windows installation and a massive dent to the side of the case indicating a drop onto a hard surface.
06 We tested some of the remainder and the Lenovo 305 seems promising
07 We researched the amazon.co.uk price for this now obsolete computer.  It is about 430 GBP
08 We set ourselves a limit including auction taxes and VAT that we would pay at auction == 300 GBP
09 We waited until the last minute, actually 4 minutes from auction close and made a bid
10 If you make a bid <3 minutes, it extends the auction close, so the best time to bid is anytime > 3 minutes from close
11  We won!
12 So Wednesday it was another long drive to pay then pick it up
13 By Thursday morning Marcus was disassembling Laptop, checking it, performing a few upgrades ....




Meanwhile  Let's look at the Rest

We had spent a few hours looking at a vast range of bargains on Monday October 9th. One thing became clear as we looked for a computer monitor screen that we also needed.   Over 20 screens were inspected, and all of them were broken in some way, usually the LCD screen panel itself.

And yet on Tuesday and Wednesday we were dismayed to find that bidding on many items continued as though they were perfectly working items.  


Here is our list of final auction prices, for items that tickled our fancy:




And here is what people paid some good money for:


 One of the UPS had something very loose inside


 Somebody paid over 270 GBP for this screen which when powered on will show a crack across the entire screen from top to bottom.  It's basically junk.



 Agata and Marcus unboxed over 9 Hanns.G monitors.  Every single one had a visibly cracked screen.   Hmmm



 I don't think the dual fan cage should be sort of loose, do you?








 Whereas this monitor has something electrically rather oops.




 Mislabeled routers which are actually mini-pcs.  Looked good except that there are no power supplies and each one is about 20 GBP.  Also we don't know if people have not taken out the internals of any unit.   Lot sold for a rather high 270 GBP.


 Great Corsair case but it's been ripped apart and is missing a cover



 Visible signs of extreme use.  Avoid!!



Heavily dropped but still working


Twisted motherboard and visibly deteriorated Magsafe connector.

In Summary
In the coming days we will finish building our Lenovo laptop.  It is going to make somebody a wonderful present, but only if we verify it has no faults,  including no bad keys, a good battery, no panels out of shape, and able to run the required Operating System without issue. 

As for the folks who paid good money at the same auction for Cracked Screens and Computers missing essential components, I hope you took this into account when bidding.

Caveat Emptor  indeed.














Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Review: IIyama Prolite 40 X4071UHSU-B1 4K Monitor


This is a review of the IIyama Prolite 40 inch monitor screen.  I've used it extensively for over 3 months now.   Whilst it has one or two flaws, I still think it represents a do it all Enthusiasts monitor, capable of 4K resolution and multiple input modes for Systems Builders.    Do read on:

One Size Does Not Fit All!
I spend many hours in day in front of my own computer which is linked to multiple screens.   So it is important to me, especially since I am paying for everything, that I get the very best setup within my budget.

My principle workstation has many screens and this 4K monitor will be attached primarily to that.

However as a Systems Builder and Engineer I frequently need to connect and test other computers.  This includes more ancient hardware that outputs only to VGA.   The full requirements list becomes then:

- 4K monitor screen resolution (3840 x 2160)
- Connect via DisplayPort from Primary Workstation
- Additional HDMI Inputs a bonus
- VGA input for connection to legacy computers
- USB Hub, so I can connect Mouse and Keyboard to monitor, then that USB cable can be manually switched to other computers and I don't have to fiddle moving the wireless keyboard and mouse dongles
- Large Real Estate
The 40" size is key.   Any larger (example 43") and I think it's difficult to work with, especially as in Marcus' case there will be multiple 40" monitors all lined up in a row.  No really.

I used to use 3 x 30" montors connected in a row, but I'm trading up to 40" screens, which at a higher resolution 4K can display more concurrent windows without a loss of clarity on each 40" canvas.

- Low cost
In the UK you can pay from 300 to about 1200 GBP for a 4K monitor.  However, if you start at the 40" size then your options are pretty limited.

I am in fact replacing existing 30" monitors that each cost over 1K GBP, but now on a leaner budget I have to be careful what I select.


Why IIyama X4071UHSU 



First and foremost this monitor ticks all the above requirement boxes.  In fact there are almost no monitors which still have a VGA input source.

Another one is for example the Philips BDM4037UW curved 40" screen. But that is about it.

The Cost of the IIyama is below 600 GBP and this is at the cheapo end of the 40" monitor market for sure.





Achilles Heel
The one most annoying factor that sometimes makes me want to take the included remote control and throw it thru the screen is the failure of the remote or front panel buttons to operate correctly.   I need to do this frequently to change the input.  Example from DisplayPort to HDMI, the latter has a Raspberry Pi 3 automation server on it.

The remote rarely works correctly.   The menu just does not appear, or does then disappears again.

I am living with this sole error, but I've noticed this kind of difficult on other screens.  It's almost like this (and other) manufacturers don't expect you ever to flip between inputs.   Hmmm


Picture in Picture (PIP)
You can have any one of the secondary inputs, example main input is DisplayPort, and say secondary is HDMI1.  So the HDMI1 can appear in a small Picture in Picture window that you can place and size onto the main.

This is an excellent way to monitor a second system.  There is also a quick way to remove the PIP or swap the PIP and main screens around  (and back).

Again, great feature for Engineers needing more than a single concurrently displayed Input.  (There is also PbP Picture by Picture where 2 screens are displayed by each other i.e. left right)


Other Great Features
- It comes with a remote control

- Screen Colour seems fantastic to me, though I did not measure it with any tool

- There is an internal Speaker, so for example Audio passed down the DisplayPort or HDMI will be heard.

- There is a Headphone Out connector that could be connected to an Amplifier  / SoundBar / Sound System

- There is no Power Brick.  A kettle cable plugs into the monitor directly.

- As with any other monitor above 30" the stand is fixed.  So you can't raise or lower the monitor.  However the stand legs are small and unobtrusive.

- Power consumption is 0.5 W standby and 60W on

- MVA LED Panel type, contrast 12M:1 with 3ms response time. MVA panels are rated close to S-IPS in goodness.

- You can VESA mount the screen to the wall, or you can use these mounts to attach a small computer to the back of the screen  (i.e. turn this into a iMac esque configuration)


Summary
This monitor has one fault, that switching between different inputs is occasionally troublesome.   

Looking past that, it is otherwise a really recommended product.  And why:

It has 4K resolution on a 40" screen at a low price for this type of screen.  There are 5 different inputs including VGA, and the ability to have Picture in Picture or Picture By Picture for the 2nd concurrent display



Links
Buy IIyama Prolite 40
Full Specs  PROLITE X4071UHSU-B1

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Farewell Dear Buff



This is a Buff


I am sure you all know the feeling when you have owned something that has performed way beyond your expectations.  When it is time to say goodbye then Marcus at least gets just a little sad.

This is all relevant because seemingly innocently we received 2 new Buffs whilst at the Birmingham Cycle show in late September.

So what, you might think.

Keeping to our word
We implement a strict and almost totally exception free "no hoarding" policy in our new home in Wixford England.

First to know that moving from our already optimised wonderful home in Switzerland was a real wrench, but the process of moving house puts into sharp focus what you really need to keep or discard.

After spending over 12 months prior to moving gifting or recycling, and not buying, we had whittled down our collections including clothes to the minimum.

And so the entry of 2 new buffs into the house means:   2 old buffs have to go!


This picture shows that all our Summer Buffs, Winter Thermal Headgear and Hats need to fit into a single IKEA box.  Period.



I counted 7 Buffs on the left including the 2 new arrivals.   This means the 2 Buffs on the right are for recycling.

Of Course
We could have upped the Buff count to 9, there is room in this instance.   But 7 is already a pretty big number.   This enables a new Buff per day whilst on holiday and washing at worst once per week etc.  We think that is enough.

So 7 it was and 7 it shall be.

Like any discard Marcus is sentimental.  I think of all the things this technology helped me achieve.   I ran with one buff for about 16 hours straight on the recent 100Km Ultra run in Cornwall,  I use one of these buff per exercise session daily; so at home this is about 2-3 per day.  They work hard and they are now for the scrapheap.

Farewell older buffs, you did me proud.


Monday, October 09, 2017

Alcester 10K 2017


A short post to say that Marcus and Agata had a wonderful time at our local Alcester town 10K run.    Alcester is now our most local town, after our relocation to England, only a 3Km run away from us.



Race Report
We arrived really early because it said race numbers had to be picked up >1 hour before the start.  It soon became apparent that it was really hot and we both changed our tops into something more skimpy.




 The start is from the high Street,  I would estimate several hundred say 500 ? competitors.

For a short race like 5K or 10K Marcus is not at all prepared for how fast to race.   I can work out a suitable km/hour speed for half marathon and above, but for lower distances I figure I should run faster, just not sure how much!

With that in mind I guesstimated  to run at over 14 km/hour speed but this was totally cocked up as I set my Garmin watch to "alternate"  thru its data screens.  Meaning during the entire race I saw my speed only twice.  Statistically that is almost impossible, but really that is what happened.

So Marcus ended using the running strategy: "catch the person in front".   This worked quite well with a final time of 42.5 minutes and Agata came in at 48.5 minutes.




The last Kilometre


 Back to the Hight Street to the finish line




 Agata finishing


A fine range of post race food.


We even treated ourselves to a post race beer.




Allergy


Any athletes first rule is never be afraid or ashamed to get naked, especially in public. However it is not the changing in the high street that is astonishing.  It is that Marcus has never, and I mean never raced in over 10 years in anything but long clothing.  You can read about Solar Urticaria here.

Today however when we ran the 3K from home to the start it was clear that I was totally overheating, principally because I wore a thermal top.   So given the lack of sunshine I decided to wear the official Race T-shirt instead.

It might not seem like much, but this is absolutely monumental!  If I can race in short sleeves it opens up the chance to improve ventilation, wear lighter clothing and perform much faster.  Post race I will monitor my arms for any signs of a rash.  Here is hoping.

Overall
We do like to support our local town and this local event provided the ideal opportunity.  Thank to Raceways for the organisation and to the weather for not tipping it down with rain


In fact as I right this now, this afternoon is turning out to be a beautiful Sunny Autumn English day ( long sleeves are back on!)

#Alcester
#Alcester10K