Sunday, November 17, 2019

Last Cycle 2019

Wiggle, Speedplay and maybe last cycle
Image may contain: tree, sky, outdoor, nature and water

This is the view from the start of the Stratford Park run this Saturday.  Well, it would have been except that as you can see it was cancelled, due to er flooding.

The end of an awkward week for Marcus and Agata including all too much Administration, Legals and that weather.  Now that the temperature is down to about between 5 to 10 degrees it's time to stop cycling regularly until 2019.

Today there was an additional challenge as my Shimano shoes have been returned, fixed by Wiggle.

I also took the opportunity then to fix new cleats to these cycle specific shoes.  The old ones above are done and have exceeded the 5Km cycled in the last year I'm sure.

So we completed the cycle and as usual there was a focus to our activity

 Our bicycles are screaming, take us home, this is awful weather!

 Ice Cream is attractive despite the chilly weather!

 Merry Christmas :-)

 Sounds unlikely but a variety of wine grown and produced locally.

So that might be it for another year.  All in all we congratulated  ourselves for not just lounging on the settee at home all day.   Daily exercise people!

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Being A Worker

The Worker

Here in the UK it has been quite a traumatic week.  Not only has there been severe flooding on almost a Venetian scale, but we have had to deal with the December 2019 Election Campaign.

All Political sides it seem are intent on shaking a money tree of more or less infinite proportions.

Increasingly I see a small preposterously paid elite / community with unrealistic ideas and time-frames.  They formulate policy, they organise, sloganise, but really they are pretty clueless.

Like providing a free, full-fibre broadband to all in the UK by 2030 via a Nationalised Openreach (Do read the comments)

The above song is instead to celebrate all of us Technical Individuals who like myself have spent decades honing real skills.   Whatever our position today,  however senior, we still have made it a priority, and a promise to ourselves, to keep current those baseline skills, and that critical thinking that hopefully keeps us grounded.

Good solid honest workers at heart.  Not bullshitters!

Friday, November 15, 2019

The Long Slow Road to Garmin Cashback

Whilst I truly appreciate Garmin and the quality of their products, this is a story about Garmin Cashback ...

Money, Principles and Pragmatism
The fact that Marcus has stuck with a seemingly unending process to get a mere 50 GBP from Garmin is an accurate reflection of 2 facts

a) I'm trying to be logical and chase income sources that make sense to me in terms of time and reward

b) The perilous, or what I would prefer to call precise state of said finances.

I refer all back to my 2010 article which asked the question:  What Number Are You?

What Garmin Made Me Do!

I bought a Garmin 830 Cycle Computer

Apparently it came with a 50 GBP Cashback, in the form of a MasterCard, loaded with money that I could simply spend.

The laudable idea is that you carry this whilst out Cycling and (typically) use it to pay for Coffees or other sundries when you have a pitstop.

Sounds excellent right.  Except 

01  I bought the Garmin Unit

02  I filled out the Cashback form online. Reaonably long form.  Hit send ... rejected.  Turns out I have to wait 30 days from purchase before continuing with the procedure

03 I had to put a note into my Diary, because guess what, if you wait too long you forfeit the Cashback

04 30 days later I logged on and completed the form.   It's non trivial in the sense that you also have to send them your receipt

05 There was NO response at all from Garmin

06 Sometime later I got a response from Pure indicating the card was being sent

07 Card Arrives, but of course it's not usable.  I thought for 'only' 50GBP value it would be

08 You now have to register on the Pure Website.  ... < sigh >

09 Then you have to enter all your card information to get a secret code

10 It was supposed to be with me in 'minutes' but it took 24 hours to arrive

11 You go back to Pure and with the secret code  & activate

I note this is a once off card.  It cannot be topped up :-(  What I'm grumbling is:  If this was a top upable card then maybe the hassle could be worth it.

12 I still have not used the flippin card!  Torrential Rain in England  (not Garmin's fault I acknowledge) may keep me from cycling until 2020.  I presume it's going to work.

One Thing is For Sure   When I finally get off my bicycle and use this card for a coffee and cake there is going to be finally some celebration!  What a Palava


Thursday, November 14, 2019

Not Just Another Apple MacBook Pro 16" Review

Introducing MacBook Pro 16"

So if you watch the official Apple MacBook Pro (MBP) 16" video above it's almost as if you  (the user) need not worry your little head about any of the details, such as: specifications, features, or well certainly the price for the new system.

Read this commentary though and you can stand your corner when you talk to any Apple Fanboy or Fangirl.  Let's go:

Level Set
To Marcus the MacBook Pro is an iconic computer, even if you might argue that macOS software is a pretty outdated form of UNIX these days. And don't even get me started on that 1990's throwback desktop GUI design. But, to continue 

MacBook Pro has always been a market leader in terms of eye candy, build quality, weight, screen Rendering. Somewhat less so in recent years for Serviceability, Expandability, CPU performance, Ports, Screen Resolution, Keyboard.

What Timing

The big Apple announce for this year on September 10th 2019 was only iPhone related.  You could say that Apple did not want to shift focus from their big revenue earner namely iPhone; to lesser important computer items like, this MacBook Pro 16, and the still as yet not fully announced Mac Pro.

So the November 11th announce to Marcus is like:  are we supposed to be grateful for this low key release, or just a bit resentful ?!?  MacBook Pro,  not ready or appropriate for the big time anymore :-(

The Best Reviews

Watch these, any more and I suggest you'll get overloaded

Decently polished Verge review

Brian's charismatic review, of course

Some Important Points

- Of course you can jack up the price to a preposterous amount, but bear in mind early reports are that nothing is upgradable.  So choose the memory and Solid State disk options now, because you can never change it later.

+ Max specs include 8TB SSD, 8 Core Intel i9, 64GB RAM

+ The new MBP16 is a bit of a looker

+ Base cost of the 8 core, Intel i9 processor machine with 16GB RAM memory and 1TB disk storage is 2799 GBP

- USD Prices are quite a lot cheaper.  Unfair to UK consumers Tim Apple,  I cry foul

+ The 15" MBP is no more.  It's withdrawn.  So it is 16" or nothing for the future

+ Official Tech Specs

- 3072 x 1920 Screen resolution. Of course we are not giving you a full 4K screen  (I know!)

+ The keyboard has a Physical  Escape Key, and a Delete key.  I nearly fainted.  (No Backspace of course)

+ After the disastrous butterfly keyboard, Apple has gone back to the traditional scissor switch keyboard.  Like the one they used 2 generations ago. It's now dubbed the Magic Keyboard to avoid embarrassment.

- There is still a touch bar on every 16" MacBook Pro

- A reminder to PC folk.  Apple does not offer touchscreen Laptops, ever.  MBP16 is another example.

+ Astonishingly large 100 watt hour battery

= Claimed better CPU thermal cooling to avoid throttling under sustained heavy workloads. Significant, needs verification.

+ Weight is about 2Kg which considering the battery is impressive

+ Improved Audio over outgoing MacBook Pro 15

- Webcam is still 720p  (WTF)

- Still no Kensington lock, so easy to steal

+ TouchID fingerprint sensor

- WiFi is still only 802.11ac  (If it's soldered you'll never be able to upgrade to 802.11ax).  Hmm, you just know that any 2020 MBP 16 refresh will have 802.11ax, so you can just buy another one right?

+ Bluetooth 5.0

+ Four Thunderbolt 3 ports i.e. upto 40Gb/sec each.  Really impressive.

- No SD card slots

The Way Forward
You'd just have to be a complete Muppet to buy the outgoing 15" MacBook Pro right now, I don't care who might offer what deal on Black Friday

You should also wait for decent tech reviews, before any MBP16 purchase so give that at least another month

It will be interesting to see what components if any are user replaceable, wait for the iFixit review at least.  Let's see if the Apple tradition for designed obsolescence is there (as usual)

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Askhole Paradyn

Due Diligence
I suppose Due Diligence sums up my approach to life, the Universe and Everything.   It means to always do some basic research before diving in with a question.

If I book an appointment with the doctor, I'll have researched my condition / ailment first,  I'll have tried to fix myself any small issues, and only when that fails I seek professional help.

Probably you all have that 'friend' who continues to ask (and ask) you, question after irrelevant question.  And who takes no heed as to your responses.  In 2019 it's now spread worldwide,  to a sea of unthinking, army of Internet based questioners ...

AskHole & JustAsking

Top definition ... We can conclude that an "askhole" is a gaping, cavernous pit of stupidity, into which good, sound counsel is thrown and subsequently lost forever

In this World

It's come to my attention that in many environments, online marketplaces being a gross offender,  people are short on thinking, research, and quick to ask the most irritatingly banal and simple questions.

Some Possibilities are

- Troll
Somebody making an offensive or deliberately stupid comment in order to annoy or rile

- Moron
Somebody who is not malicious, just really so stupid, that day after day, year after year they are seemingly incapable of thinking for themselves.

- Asshole
Somebody who is malicious, not so stupid, that day after day, year after year they are seemingly incapable of thinking for themselves. I'd like you to do all the work they posture.

Why Just Asking Hurts (Me)
A response from  a seemingly offended buyer who asks ridiculous questions, that I object too is often

Just Asking, Mate

[Many buyers seem to regard me as a mate, even though I have never met them]

The implication is that they are offended, by my offence.

So this is why /Just Asking/ hurts

- It shows me that you have a lack of thinking / consideration.
- It puts me on edge to genuine buyers, making me wary and cynical
- It messes with my worldview of others being fair, honest and decent
- It challenges my ethos of trying to treat everybody with care and respect

One Day Soon
Of course this level of irritation cannot be allowed to continue for much longer.  Right now,  I'm tolerating but not enjoying this state of affairs.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Sent from My iPhone


I think it might be time for Marcus to clarify my opinions about Apple.  First it is completely untrue to say that I 'hate' Apple.  I don't hate any technology company.  But I am often deeply disappointed by them.

I do hold Apple to a higher standard than other vendors mostly because of their own proclamations in this department. My disappointment usually comes down to the cost and the greatly inferior value proposition which is often marketed as completely the reverse.

Louis of course says it better than I ever can.  Here

Apple makes fantastic products, and I do agree that their product quality, design, taste, customer support is top notch.  It usually exceeds that of any other single manufacturer, but at what cost?

At the cost of the actual product, at the cost of their arrogance, at the cost of (always unacknowledged) occasional bad design. At the cost of specifically designing non upgradable or user serviceable products. (Say, why not just buy a new one?). And often, at the cost of providing a slightly outdated product  (re rest of marketplace), because then, next year, guess what, you can just buy a new one.

In our Household
It is Agata's task to be saddled with Apple equipment.  I've talked about this before and Marcus' position echoes that of uncle Steve in an interview many years ago.  In that interview Steve professed that they had an Intel version of OSX for many years running prior to its official release.  At the time OSX ran only on POWER.  Just in case he said.

And so Agata has the task of running with, a generally excellent, but sometimes lacking, and (by definition) a little obsolete: Apple.  Just in Case. That now includes a Smartphone and a macOS powered Laptop.   She is basically taking one for the (Marcus and Agata) team.

I'm writing this up at 01.15 and Agata is still awake!   Yes, she has stayed up especially to configure her new beloved iPhone.  Now that is dedication to our family cause.

I can't wait for that first email

Sent from her iPhone :-)

Monday, November 11, 2019

Report from Poland: Peak IKEA

I had occasion to visit IKEA this weekend  (in Warsaw) and believe me it was more than crowded.

It takes me back to the mid nineties when I and most of the UK fell deeply in love with the Swedish Home Furnishing store called IKEA.

To be fair the bar had been set low by years of traditional British firms.  IKEA arrived and offered

- Easy to understand instructions

- Furniture that was designed for Easy assembly and flat packed so you could get it home in your Estate Car

- Furniture that did actually contains all the screws and dowels and other component parts for you to assemble any purchases without irate return trips to get what was missing

- A no nonsense return policy

- Prices that did not make the wallet or eyes bleed

I suppose it is these factors that have now gripped the Polish population too, making a Saturday trip there, one that is also full of frustrated motorists, and waiting.

I am a consistent patron of the IKEA restaurant, but today the queue got to me.  If only I knew the words for: Here is my IKEA card, let me have my free cup so I can get that free coffee

Oto moja karta IKEA, proszę dać mi darmowy kubek, abym mógł wziąć bezpłatną kawę

I did see some new interesting merchandise, that shall be purchased one day soon!

And here is the traditional Marcus visits IKEA shot

Dear Polish Residents

Learn from traditional British behaviour.  Never visit IKEA on a Saturday.  Ever!  Well unless you really like queueing.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Sunday Sermon: Good Omens

I'd don't often mention that I am an ordained minster of my faith,  but I would suggest to my flock that their Sunday ordinance is a simple one

a.  Become an Amazon Prime Member

b.  Watch for free  (I suggest at full 4K resolution if one can) the programme Good Omens

From Wikipedia

Good Omens is a miniseries[1][2][3] based on the 1990 novel of the same name by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. A co-production between Amazon Studios and BBC Studios, the six-episode series was created and written by Gaiman, who also served as showrunnerDouglas Mackinnon directed the series. Good Omens stars an ensemble cast led by David TennantMichael SheenAdria ArjonaMiranda RichardsonMichael McKeanJack WhitehallJon Hamm and Frances McDormand as the voice of God.
All episodes were released on May 31, 2019, on Amazon Prime Video, and will be broadcast later on in 2019 on BBC Two in the UK.[4]

d. This shall be the link from where your glorious journey shall start

I think I can promise the devout, the delusional, the agnostic and even the innermost atheist some surprises.

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Your Internet Connection Away From Home

(Faster) Internet Away From Home

Today I'm going to outline a solution for a semi permanent Internet connection away from your home.

This could be required for something as small as a vacation to a rented property which does not have any Internet.  Or you might have a Motorhome in which you have parked up at a site for weeks, and you wish your own (hence secure) Internet connection.

Or Swiss friends have often asked me:  We have a Chalet that we only use principally for 2 months in the Summer and Winter, please how can we have a fast and reliable Internet connection without a 12 month landline Internet subscription.

Solution Overview
We'll build a solution based on 4G networking (only).  It will use a 4G SIM based router and a dedicated Wireless Bridge from Mikrotik.

Buy This Hardware

At the time of writing I'll recommend

Huawei B525 4G router
This is capable of CAT6  (category 6) LTE meaning a speed of upto 300 Mbps, depending on what your carrier broadcasts.  

In impoverished countries like the UK and the USA I'm betting you will never even get to 100 Megabits per second.  Meanwhile I'm writing this from a country where my carrier broadcasts at CAT7, and at speeds of over 200 Megabits per second.

UK Amazon Link  (125 GBP)

Microtik hAP AC

This router provides Gigabit networking on 5 Ports, an SFP connection, and 2 WiFi Interfaces supporting 2.4 and GHz networks.  It not only supports AC WiFi but you can configure your own channel width upto 80 MHz and frequency range.  It's bonkersly versatile.

UK Amazon link (120 GBP)


You will need some Ethernet cables to connect your gear and maybe some mains plug converters if you locate your kit away from your home country

Local SIM
To connect to the Internet I suggest a local SIM capable off 4G

Further select a local carrier that broadcasts at a high LTE category else you will be guaranteed to get a low 4G speed.

Note: although I have a 12GB per month roaming allowance from my UK Three network provider, according to their rules I'm not allowed to use this as a hotspot outside the UK.  So I play fair and don't break their  (ridiculously unreasonable) rule and buy a local SIM.

In the country outside of the UK this week I bought a 30GB Data SIM for the equivalent of 4GBP

The Configuration

(As usual click on photo to enlarge)

a) Configure the Huawei

This is a simple procedure

- Using the default configuration connect to the Huawei from your laptop  (laptop rather than phone is easier on my eyes)

- These are the default settings

- Initially I set the IP of the router to and leave on the DHCP (otherwise you wont be able to get in from your wireless PC connection)

Later we'll switch off the DHCP as this will be done from the Mikrotik

- Change the password of the admin user

- Make sure the Internet connection works i.e. connecting to this router, from your PC or smartphone, you get a working connection

b) Configure the Mikrotik

Actually configuring the Mikrotik is non trivial but here I go

- On your Windows PC  (Apple not supported) download Winbox

- Ideally with your PC connected via an Ethernet cable to the Mikrotik Ethernet port 2, start Winbox

- Else with the Mikrotik reset, check the default Wifi and password and connect that way

- Logon to the Mikrotik with user admin

- Do a quick set WISP AP

- Do a System , Reboot of the router and check you can get back in.  From an Ethernet connection its much easier as you can always get in even if you screwed up the IP addressing by using the MAC address

- Change the password of the admin user

- I now changed the WiFi networks to be that SSID names from home.  And passwords too.  This way all the devices that we brought to the chalet/holiday home will work immediately!

I also find it nice to number the interfaces in our case from 00 to 08

- I now made sure the address of my Bridge contains all the Ethernet and WiFi ports and it is known as address

- I now change the default route of this system, via IP, Routes  to point to the Huawei Router

- Create a DHCP server on the Mikrotik to serve out the 192.168.2.x addresses.  This involves

- Setup a Pool called NET2

- Setup a DHCP server referring to NET2 address range and operating on the 00 Bridge device that is the composite pseudo hardware device comprising all the Wifi and Ethernet Ports

- Disable the DHCP server on the Huawei

- I use System, Packages, Check for Updates to make sure that the Mikrotik can access the Internet.  If this function succeeds you know it can

- Security hardening the Mikrotik is a long process & beyond any short article.  Google for some pointers

And we are done!

There is More

You might reasonably ask, why do I need the Mikrotik since the Huawei device can do its own DHCP and Wifi.   The answer is that the Mikrotik is infinitely more flexible.  And in a followon article we'll add a backup internet source to the Mikrotik, so you have a fallback Internet, because we all need a backup right!

Marcus and Agata use the above base Hardware and Software configuration whilst away from home using the Huawei and Mikrotik hardware.

It mimics the characterises of our home network, so all our brought with us devices such as phones, Amazon Echo, Google Home, Amazon Fire TV all work seamlessly.

Using the Mikrotik means we can expand the configuration based on its Ethernet and SFP Gigabit ports, and also spend the time to security harden the Mikrotik to make our away from home network very secure indeed.