Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Moving on Up (The Internet Speed)



M People: Moving On Up

This is a simple post about the depressing reality of Internet Speeds in the UK.


It's all true believe me.


The UK has for over 20 years now a strategy of Fibre to the Cabinet.   (FTTC). This means that high speed Fibre connections constitute a UK backbone.  To green boxes all over the land.  And from there are slower speed copper connections to your home.

This standard gives at best a 80 Mbits/second download connection.

As such large parts of rural England, I mean the UK generally,  are served at appallingly slow rates.  Example, our UK home we had a 2 Mbps copper connection.   Just to confirm, I really mean 2 Megabits per second, max sustained download rate.

In 2020 that is practically useless.

Fibre to the Home/Premises (FTTH / FTTP)
In many UK cities there is an emerging Fibre to the Premises network.  

Example in London, my previous home is served by Hyperoptic.  In 2020 you can get a 500 Mbits/second connection there for 40 GBP per month.

But still many parts of even London and nearly the whole of the UK countryside this is not possible

Compared to Switzerland

Our Old home in Lausanne Switzerland was served with 1000 Mbits/second Internet on the outskirts of the town, and in the countryside 100 Mbits/second 4G internet is frequently available.

Ironically then, in mountainous Switzerland, in the middle of bloody nowhere you are likely to get better Internet reception that in most UK towns.  A disgrace.


What Numbers Do I Need? In 2020

Latency is the time to get from your system to the target system.  You should aim for 20 ms or less

Speed is the Thruput.  For Marcus and Agata we would need at least 200 Megabits/second


We Got Fibre Upgraded

I continue to be indebted to Piers, the neighbour who has arranged the Private Fibre to the home connection for our small community.

Recently we paid a reasonable price for an upgrade,  so we now have a pretty decent symmetric Fibre to the Home connection.

- I can download a full Raspberry Pi OS Distribution in 100 seconds

- I can pull down a 100GB virtual machine from the cloud in less than an hour and begin working on it

- I can push a 1TB cloud backup at wire speed in less than a working day.

- I can stream multiple 4K video conference calls bidirectionally without glitching

Look how I downloaded

My Windows WSL Linux command line was missing the aria2 parallel downloader.  So this was installed thus:


wget https://github.com/aria2/aria2/releases/download/release-1.35.0/aria2-1.35.0.tar.gz

tar -xvpf aria2-1.35.0.tar.gz


cd aria2-1.35.0


apt-get install g++


./configure


make


make install


type aria2c


aria2c is a tracked alias for /usr/local/bin/aria2c


# And finally then let's download 32bit Pi OS

aria2c http://downloads.raspberrypi.org/raspios_full_armhf_latest.torrent

I went to make a coffee and by the time I came back to my desk it was fully downloaded.  Result!
The 80% Rule

My generic rule of thumb sizing rule applies for IT systems. At max daily load your system should get to only 80% busy.  You always have that 20% reserve in your design for emergencies.  Be that for Hardware, Disk, or in this case Internet Network capacity.

With the increase in bandwidth I can now open up the throttles so at most I'll at any peak use upto 80% of the uprated bandwidth

Everything  is just working so much more smoothly.  Before the upgrade any single demanding network download or upload could destabilise our entire smart-home.   Right now things are at last back to stable


Cloud Resume

In the 3 years that Marcus and Agata have been back in England we halted all significant Cloud Storage accounts.  Now they are beginning to be reactivated.   As a test I pushed several TB in one day to iDrive.   No issues whatsoever.   The subject of forthcoming article.


Extra Cooling


In our IT cupboard we just added some extra cooling. It cost about 10 GBP,  but we are running mixed 1Gb and 10Gb links internally and things are getting hotter.

Now that the multiple firewalls are all having to work way above actual thruput speed of 100 Mbits/second, the Networking gear is really getting toasty





Life in the Faster Lane



So back home in Switzerland, my neighbour can now get 10 Gb/second Fibre. At least I am not not 100 times slower than him any more :-)










Tuesday, June 02, 2020

My Portable Projector Gets Cosy With Amazon Fire TV



Portable Projector meets Amazon Fire TV

Last night I had this brainwave.  What would happen if I took the Philips Portable projector that nobody is buying from me, and connect it to the house Amazon Fire TV.


We only have a 4K Fire TV, but this combo should work equally well as the regular HD Fire TV stick


Here is the working config.  The projector is plugged into the mains, thought there is a  2+ hour internal battery in the projector, so you should be able to watch a movie wirelessly.  The HDMI input is plugged into the Amazon 4K Fire TV stick, and that is powered from the USB socket of the projector.

I Bluetooth connected an oldish Logitech UE Speaker to the Fire TV stick and then we are in business.  (Note I detected a small lag and the next thing I'd try is making a connection from the Philips projector via a cable to the Logitech speaker i.e. not using Bluetooth.)

Actually I taped up the audio input because you can accidentally plug in the power adapter, something that could fry the unit I suppose.  What were you thinking Philips?





In multiple house moves the original power adapter was lost so I only have a third part one now.

I managed to set my Phone (also recording the above video) to Hotspot.  And amazingly in the cave there was just enough Internet Signal to provide the Fire TV with an Internet input



And So
Yes everything works just fine.  The Fire TV interface is so complete and wonderful.  BBC and ITV television.   Netflix.  Amazon Prime Video.  Youtube.  

I had the projector creating about a 55" image onto the cave wall, and with the lights out, the viewing was fine.

If there were no money issues I think I'd keep the configuration, as it is, it's up for sale.  But I'm not holding my breath.





Monday, June 01, 2020

Marcus Makes An Audio CD



Marcus is still in the process of trying to sell my ancient but still fully working HiFi system.

Interestingly in Switzerland I never had a Hi-Fi for over a decade.  And why? Because despite a decently insulated apartment, as a good neighbour I did not want to disturb any of my neighbours with sound pollution.

These matters are taken very seriously in Switzerland.

Now back in England this HiFi is up for sale, because in 2020 I prefer to use an Internet Connection feeding a soundbar.

If you have a decent cassette or CD collection please consider the sale, which is here



Making an Audio CD




A potential buyer contacted me with a very reasonable request for me to make a video of the unit playing a CD.  And then I found that with all our house moves I don't have a single Audio CD in England!   How about that for optimisation  ( and I removed the last optical drive from my workstation about 9 months ago).

So I actually had to get my old version of Nero portable and try to burn an Audio CD.  And find my emergency external DVD drive. This failed and then I was delighted to find out that native Windows 10 can burn an Audio CD.

So I dug thru my John Mayer digital collection and made an audio CD



Here is the Demo then



So all of this working technology for only 50 GBP.  And yes I am quite sure they don't make them as well as this unit, made back in the day.

I'm going to just sit back (with John) and wait for that torrent of offers to flood in.






Sunday, May 31, 2020

Sunday Sermon: Morals Without Religion



Morals without Religion

It's a talk that will help you form a concise answer to dumbos who seem to believe that morals can only derive from Religion.


Alice Roberts reads from the 1950's humanist Margaret Knight essays of the same title whilst also talking a little about her interactions with that fanatical and unforgiving 21st century tyrants: social media and print media.

If I had to make the choice between a sermon at my local church or watching this lecture I know which I would choose.

Oh, wait,  I understand the House of God is temporarily closed, it not being able to defend its adherents against the coronavirus flu.  So I guess the choice is clear.

Happy watching

#MoralsWithoutReligion


Saturday, May 30, 2020

Giving Up Milk On Principal


The argument of course is this:

For a cow to start producing milk it needs to be a mother and hence this intimately feeds into the meat producing industry of any county.

It you are adverse to eating meal on moral grounds then it logically follows you can't also be an advocate of drinking cows milk



About Not Eating Meat

Just in case you never thought about it:

The reason for Marcus not to eat meat centers on the fact that I don't wish to raise an animal, a sentient being, capable of feeling pain, just for the purposes of killing and then eating it.

Particularly when in 2020 there are other non meat related foods that can keep me alive equally well.

If I was a farmer/ smallholder who can and does do my own rearing and killing for their own consumption then that is different.

Also one need also take into account being prepared to actually kill an animal for food.   If you are not again this counts against your rights IMHO to eat meat.

The milk argument is a natural consequence of not wishing beef / cow production to continue.
  
Genesis 1:26

Unfortunately I really have met people  (did I say family members?)  who honestly interpret the line about 


And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.


As meaning that animals have no rights whatsoever and man is entitled to eat them regardless.  To Marcus it's yet more miserably poor wording in the Bible, there is no mention of stewardship, or cruelty.  Another example of inadequate literature which is further proof against and not for [an all powerful and loving] God.


Ah But

The problem is essentially that most of us, ( and I include myself in this dialog)  are raised on cows milk.  In fact during childhood and during student times and now in adulthood.

Giving up milk in coffee or tea is a modest step, but what about all the cakes and cereals.

This is where it becomes somewhat difficult.

So what I've aimed to do in the last year is experiment with just about every type of milk substitute to find out what could possibly replace the glorious taste of cows milk, because not just on ethical grounds, but of sheer waste (of energy cf substitutes) this is not a product I actually want to support



At Last


I have found a product, Coconut milk, which does not curdle in Tea or Coffee, tastes 100% delicious with Hot chocolate, or in cereal.  In fact though it tastes a little alien in coffee  it is becoming acceptable  as I blend it with cows milk and try to ween myself off of the cow.

In fact (click to enlarge) the above and you will see that per 100ml it is only 17 calories compared to 41 for lactose free milk.   So much less energy although pretty devoid of protein also.


Even Better
   


Actually, I like Rice Milk even more but it is more difficult to source and is more expensive. And 49 calories per 100 ml



Costs Then

I'll take Tesco pricing but it does not vary much by UK Supermarket

Marcus and Agata consume approximately 1 to 1.5 litres of milk per day.  Let's calculate on the lower bound ...


Prices per Litre

Tesco semi skimmed   0.79 GBP

Lactofree 1.40 GBP

Coconut Drink (Milk)  0.99 GBP

Rice Milk 1.50 GBP

So we currently spend about 500 GBP on Lactose Milk per year.  This would move towards only 360 GBP for Coconut, or 550 GBP for rice.   And we currently choose to spend more than the 290 GBP it would cost for regular milk

The Long Haul

Of course, call me cynical, but if it's not a personal health benefit that is involved, such as stopping smoking, but merely the welfare of animals, then I believe most people don't even much think or even care about, a switch to milk substitutes.  

Personally, Marcus forgoing that delicious milk taste [forever] if ultimately nothing changes in society, would be a hard decision to follow thru, but times let us say, they are a changing 


Summary

Coconut Milk or if I feel extravagant, Rice Milk is what I try to use daily instead of regular Cows milk.  And really it does not taste as good :-(  But I persevere.







Friday, May 29, 2020

A Guided Tour of the Cummins Statement



The Cummins Statement

I'm going to ask you to watch and listen carefully to the 25 minute explanatory video above.  It is by David Allen Green of the Financial Times.


It is a fascinating look into witness statements.

Here are some of my observations

- It is really worth watching this video closely.  I really learnt something!

- I concur with the opinion this is a carefully contrived statement.

Many people would regard it as: a tissue of

- I would ask the following questions

- Who looks after the Cummins child in normal circumstances

- As a key worker, Cummins is allowed to send his child to a nursery in London.  Why did he not do this

- Are we to believe that the Cummins family, who live in London have absolutely no close friends who could look after their child in an emergency?

- Is Cummins prepared to surrender his phone to the authorities to verify his location claims

Perhaps there were several more journeys that have slipped his mind.

- If his phone or that of his wife has location reporting switched on, may this be surrendered and examined to verify his statement

- Cummins wife is Mary Wakefield and she writes for the Spectator

- Wakefield precisely documented her Covid experience, yet made no mention of the fact they were not at their London home but in Durham.  Some reference articles


https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/may/26/inconsistencies-between-cummings-lockdown-story-and-his-wifes

https://inews.co.uk/news/mary-wakefield-spectator-article-dominic-cummings-wife-coronavirus-story-statement-2865961

- There is the question of the altered Blogpost also

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/may/26/dominic-cummings-faces-questions-over-claim-he-warned-last-year-of-virus-threat

https://theconversation.com/dominic-cummings-how-the-internet-knows-when-youve-updated-your-blog-139517




My Conclusions

- I don't accept the premise for the journey to Durham.  As a key work Cummins had local alternatives that would better serve him and the safety of others, by which I mean his wife, his child and the general public.

- I regard the statement as a cleverly architected and lawyered up list of justifications why he is blameless.

If it is really true in substance and sentiment then Cummins should allow his phone to be examined and road traffic data examination too

- The level, and almost the ferocity of Boris Johnson's defence of Cummins leads me to believe that 

a) Johnson cannot afford to have Cummins as an enemy
and/or 
b) Johnson feels that he can simply not survive without him

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Minimising the USB and Everything



Subtitle:  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.

First, you may know that as an educated 'heathen' as my mother might have categorised moi,  I know the best Bible quotes, and the above from 1 Timothy is indeed appropriate here.

The innocent picture above represents the recent sale of

a) My last spare Raspberry Pi 3B+
b) Almost my last spare USB Power Adapter
c) Almost my last spare micro USB cable


Not Going Out Like That

Before commenting further I want to assure all that you should not be making a quick call to the Samaritans on my behalf.  But I would say the fact that I recall when close relations passed away, leaving Marcus (and Angela) with a world of cleanup, heartache. This has indeed left a lasting impact on Marcus

I do indeed feel, especially in these Pandemic times that if I was suddenly to expire I'd like to leave a tidy ship.

But the main rationale for the above simplification is this


- I don't need it anymore
- It clutters up my life
- Yes, even a single cable, or a single power adapter
- Just enough possessions is good enough
- And minimal possessions is often liberating and not burdensome.

I can tell you, individually recycling excess USB cables, is non trivial.  I honestly deserve some sort of award :-)

In the West we have an orgy of excess if I measure it by the poorer parts of the world.  Let us never forget this,


Keep it simple










Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Death Race 2020

Image may contain: ‎one or more people, ‎text that says "‎In the year 2020 driving with bad eyesight is no longer a crime, IT'S A NATIONAL SPORT! MICHAEL GOVE DEATH RACE 2020 Harn االه ti n MICHAEL GOVE IN DEATH RACE 2020 DIRECTED BY DOMINIC CUMMINGS‎"‎‎




Public Information Broadcast:  Even if you are following the latest UK politics you may be too young to remember.  In which case I present you with ...





Death Race 2000





NB: I have a non flippant, in depth analysis of the Cummins statement publishing Friday.  But I need to check and cross check my facts first.

No Expert

Image may contain: 3 people, text that says "I'M NO EXPERT AT COVID-19 BUT THIS iS THE CURE"

:-)







Anatomy of Another Scammer



My heart actually leapt with joy when on May 25th 2020 I was contacted by Kate Wales, email address jpause21@gmail.com

Finally somebody wanted to buy my perfect condition Tag Heuer vintage watch.

I bought this watch new for the price of about 1000 GBP and it was used only briefly.  So briefly in fact that the original plastic sticker in on the underside of the watch.

Although the watch is a classic I've had it advertised for over 6 months on Facebook and Shpock without much success.   This is mainly because on facebook any attempt to post any picture of the watch means the advert gets highlighted as potentially against Facebook Practice and the appeal refused and then delisted.

The only way I have gotten to advertise it on Facebook Marketplace is to advertise it as 'a Watch' and only include a picture of the tool to open the watch, and some text saying PM me for photos.

It has been a ridiculous and frustrating situation that I thought was instantly at an end when Kate Wales offered to buy


Not So Simple

Using Shpock, somebody makes you an offer.  You have to accept it, then finally they must confirm.  Since her confirmation seemed to be taking long I decided to investigate.





From the mail header I found out that the sender seemed to be in New York

never bought or sold anything on this platform


And then sadly I found this whilst Internet trawling.   My proposed buyer said they would be happy to pay the full asking price, and they also nonsensically asked me for more pictures, when I had already included just about every angle of this timepiece.

I replied back that I was happy to proceed with the PayPal but signed the email: Professional Engineer and Security Consultant.


It could just be they are slow, but perhaps they have got the hint.  No more communication to me! The fake PayPal email that they would no doubt send me as the next step does not stand up to scrutiny, but if it comes I will append this posting.

To Remind you of the Scam

  • Buyer contact you enthusiastically wanting to buy your item that is for sale
  • They often offer to buy at listed price, no questions ask
  • They might offer to be buying for a friend, so in other words you will need to send goods not to the registed PayPal address but somewhere else
  • They say then have sent payment
  • You receive an email, not from PayPal but one that looks on the surface like it is from PayPal.  (If you check the originator of the email the scam becomes clear)
  • You then get a message saying the Payment is withheld for security/other-reason
  • To release the payment you need to send them a smaller fee to unlock the payment  (and that will of course be returned to you)
  • This is the scam part.  When you send them money, they take it and run
  • Optionally if you are foolish you post the goods before receiving payment.  In that case you paid them money and you lost your goods too!



Finally
So my beloved watch, no longer used is again back for sale. Ho hum.




Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Revisiting Chromebooks in 2020




I'm investigating Chromebooks as a solution for computer to the elderly in our Warwickshire neighbourhood.

I have used Chromebooks before, and went for a period of 1 year plus in Switzerland, with just a Chromebook as my portable device , (helped no doubt by the fantastic Swiss Internet Speeds).


At the time though Chromebooks had no Linux Command line or App store. Both these basic issues are now fixed ...






The Appstore now exists. And useful applications that I installed include Zoom, Facebook, Fing, Spotify, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger.


Installing Linux




It's a beta and not available on all Chromebooks but on this Acer CB3-431 you can install a separate Linux container and do lots of interesting command line things.  You can be root user.

Note it is a container so Google is trying to ensure you really don't screw up the base chromebook.  There are facilities to share the home directory (or other) from your Chromebook into Linux container and vice versa.




In my hours of testing I managed to install Firefox, only to terminally crash the Linux subsystem after trying to update it to the latest levels.

Overall then it works, it is a beta, but be carefull with OS updates!   The linux level is an antiquated 4.19  compared to the Humbletop that I wrote up earlier which is at 5.4.0.31


The Awful Value Proposition





Both Samsung and Google now make a range of high performance and spec'd Chromebooks that literally cost a fortune.   You can read the prices above.



If I was to choose a Chromebook for that elderly friend I think that all that is needed is a simple low spec Chromebook.   They are still rather overpriced at about 400+ GBP pounds retail but on some sites like Amazon you can find some cheaper devices.   Just make sure it has an OK microphone and webcam that you will need for conferencing.


About the WiFi
Of course to use a Chromebook you will desperately need a WiFi connection, but then today since most applications need the Internet this is nothing special.   The days when you could use a standalone Laptop  (running windows or macOS) are long gone.


Summary

I was impressed how usable a Chromebook is in 2020.  For me the ability to install all my normal Applications from the Play Store and the option of a Linux command line for enthusiasts make it at last a usable machine.

If I was selecting this for an elderly friend I'd shop around and spend no more than 500 GBP max and ideally something down in the 300GBP price bracket.



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