Saturday, January 18, 2020

Just Astonishing Design

Subtitle: And We Can Also Do ...

Behind the scenes this week Marcus has been attempting to investigate what I call the confusing world of Mesh networking.  (I've not finished due to a world of interruptions!  Full explanation report to follow)

Over the last 2 years we have ditched our other Networking equipment from big names like Google, Netgear, TP-Link and others.   And bought Mikrotik instead. It is just ultimately configurable ...


A fully working router / switch.  2 Wireless ports 2.4 and 5 GHZ.  5 Ethernet 1Gb ports.  Full firewall.  Gui and Command line. USB (for 4G connection example).  LEDS. Power Supply.   All for less than 60 GBP.  Absolutely bonkers!

The Downsides

- Sometime you touch one tiny part of your configuration and literally everything stops working

- In the early days, I could touch one small thing and be completely locked out, have to press reset and reconfigure!

Today I know how to backup, restore and gain emergency access.   Learning curve.

- Nobody knows, not even the Internet

Mikrotik web documentation is scant, and if you find it, it could be totally outdated and no longer relevant.  To a large extent you are on your own, or perhaps you need to invest $$ in an online or onsite training course.   Networking is never easy, until it is easy (in retrospect)

- Cheap limits expectations

Mikrotik equipment is so lowly priced that Network professional will scoff and not offer any assistance.  Unless you buy our Professional brand X then we are not interested in helping you.   Of course this mickey mouse unit does not work right!

The Upsides

- When it finally works you feel elated

- The price performance ratio is astonishing

and drum roll ....

We Can Also Do That

This is the syndrome where whilst experimenting, you come across another (positive) feature you were not expecting.

You feel sort of wow, and really, and this is how I might have done it.

This is my experience today, when after over 2 years of Mikrotik experience I realised I can program the LEDs on the unit.  I don't believe it.

Look at all the options!

 Holdon, even more trigger options

And on what interface will they trigger on.

Simply astonishing.

Mikrotik Networking, it can change your life!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Review: Silverstone MS11 NVMe Portable Disk

Silverstone MS11

Marcus has a new, marginally faster,  USB drive and this is the review of the Silverstone MS11

Starting with Philosophy

I had not planned to buy a second ultra fast USB drive.  Even though as an IT professional I do move large amounts of data around frequently, it's rarely via a Physical key.

First reason, these days it's usually quicker via a LAN connection.  We recently upgraded parts of our home Infrastructure to 10Gbe  ( i.e. 10 Gigabits per second) so that is as fast as this key and much more convenient.

Second reason, increased use of Cloud Storage and more reasonable limits on Email (25MB send on Gmail) means that the good ole' USB drive has less reason to exist.

So I have to confess the reason for purchase was that I accidentally friend stashed my best USB in Switzerland.  A full review of the Silverstone MS09 key is here 

As the video suggests the MS09 may be a more practical product.  But lets continue:

What is in the Box?

So this is what you get, minus the M.2 disk that I had of course to add.   Since this is a NVMe only product recall that you need a M.2 disk with type M connector.


It's always an unbelievably fiddly process attaching the drive. The only plus is that it only needs to be done the once.

You can see that different lengths of M2 are supported.

Some Results

CrystalDiskMark gave some suspiciously quick results that were not realised in the real world.  Looks good on a marketing flyer though.

Typically using the Samsung 960 EVO disk, I was getting a sustained 300 MB/second using Windows copy.

Since my workstation now runs from internal NVMe disk I can say that I experience normal copy speeds internally at about 1000 MB/second, so  the MOtherboard or MS11 USB interface or the Caddy are the bottlenecks here.

I got the best speeds using the USBC interface not the larger USB 3.0 Type A interface on my workstation.

Just to remind that you get the caddy and a cable that can end in a USBC or regular USB larger type A interface.

Irony's Law
This is Marcus' pet statement that in 2020 having laboriously upgraded to NVMe for my computers and 10GBe for my networking the performance gains are pretty meh...

Marcus' irony law states that somehow it seems almost impossible to get sustained network speeds above 500MB/second,  internal disk speeds above 1000MB/second and I will now add: USB transfer rates above 300MB/second.  

I was promised a brave, new, much faster world, but it turns out to be, only just a little bit faster.


In my testing the MS11 key is not significantly faster than my MS09 key.  And the MS09 key has a useful retractable USB Type A standard size connector.

So for me the MS09 is more practical.  And if I work on a USB-C only machine like a 2020 Macbook I can always carry a converter plug.

That said the MS11 performs at a sustained 300 MB/second plus speed.

So a decent if not stellar performer, and certainly if you have a spare NVMe disk lying around then you can really make it useful again here.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Because ... Radio 4

This afternoon of Thursday January 16th, Marcus and Agata managed to squeeze in our first swim of the year at Studley swimming

On the drive back we were just in time to switch onto the the BBC 4 Afternoon play ... Mediation

I found it so gripping that we actually had to startup the Smartphone to listen to Radio 4 as we parked the car in the garage and walked to our house.

Sometimes the plays on Radio 4 are a bit hit and miss, but unlike some countries in which I have lived, in the UK at least there is a strong tradition of quality spoken word, alive and bravely broadcasting on Radio 4.

And when I further investigated I found this is one a a series of plays from the Behind Closed Doors  series so using BBC sounds I can go back in time and listen to the previous broadcasts.

Radio 4, accept no substitute.


My Life Without Cookies

Tracking Cookies

Following the Cookie

Most IT professionals have that crackpot friend, or worse:   crackpot family member, who is certain the Internet, The Government, and well everybody is spying on them.

You know, the sort of people who slip you a webcam cover as a present and think they are doing you a great favour.

It is in fact time to look more closely at Cookies, the data items that are stored for you by your Web Browser.

I recently commented here about the frighteningly large number of cookies that would be stored on visiting a single CES related website.   Time for a closer look.

01 Watch the Above 2 Videos

This should introduce you to what cookies actually are in this Computer context

02 Going Clean Turkey

Marcus uses Google Chrome 64Bit Official Build as my Primary Browser and Firefox Beta Channel as my secondary

In Chrome ...

Settings, Advanced, Clear Browsing Data, Advanced

Cookies and Other Site Data

Cached Images and Files

Settings, Privacy, Site Settings, Cookies and Site Data

I should also of course mention ...

03 Other Security Recommendations

Install the following Chrome Browser extensions  (and also check that all other Extensions are installed by you and are not compromising your security)

04 Remove Most Advertising

Advanced Cookie Issues

Cookie Stealing

05 The Results So Far

- Any cookies that I  agree to whilst using a website are thrown away when I close Chrome browser

- So a return to a familiar website in the same session works fine  (no credentials to enter)

- But Close and re-open the browser and then the credentials need to be re-entered.  But wait!   I have LastPass et al security managers to provide those credentials.  So it is really almost no extra effort

- More of a pain are sites like Linkedin.   So generally wherever possible I used 2 Factor Authentication.  So at LinkedIn the first ever time I sign in I need a code from my mobile phone that is sent as an SMS.   Normally form that point the device can be recognised (tickbox above) so that it's trusted.  In my case however if I close and reopen Chrom the cookie is discarded so I need to get the code from my phone effectively every day I logon to LinkedIn.

Also note that if you don't allow Chrome to run in the background then on closing the last Chrome tab Chrome is really shutdown.  So on the say day reOpening chrome will cause the same behaviour as a fresh launch.

- All 3rd party cookies are blocked and so far in a week of testing nothing broke

Overall I'm so happy I have finally understood cookies better and implemented a more secure anti cookie regime.  My Internet footprint is still huge, but this is by design and via sources like this Website and other information points that I alone control and display.   As for cookies, they are gone.


Click Through
Websites fail to meet the GDPR Cookie Std
Google to outlaw third party cookies

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

CES 2020 ... It's a Wrap

Future is So Bright
Consumer Electronics (hint the name)

Marcus would like to weigh in about CES, note that this is the Consumer Electronics Show.

Today and The Future
When evaluating CES one has to start with a reference.  To Marcus it's a consumer show  (for the trade).  Meaning it's where I would go to see

a) Innovative products ready for immediate retail in 2020

b) Future technology in terms of silicon and reports from Industry leaders

From the multiple reports that I've read online and the CES Daily publications I will link to below, I've been really disappointed with what the Industry is presenting to me the consumer in either of the above areas.   Let's dig deeper

Loneliness Assistants

Samsung had me in maximum cringe mode when they used their keynote to present a gimmick ridden digital helper.  Perhaps in the far future this technology has significant practical application, but IMHO not in this decade.  Do watch and well, cringe.

Related (But Interesting)

Neon Assistants

Vapourwear but at least the concept seems workable.

Get Out of My House

I saw some small and largely irrelevant technologies slated for retail and 2020 primetime.   Let me begin:

DSLR Cameras
The link takes you to a decent summary.  I'd say for the record that the traditional manufacturers have to reinvent, and re-categorise their product ranges.  It's so simple.  Consumers don't need your products at all anymore. Stop marketing to them (at all) and consider what marketplace you can cater to so that you don't go completely out of business.

NAS (Network Attached Storage)
With the persistent move to Cloud storage, NAS vendors need to evaluate their options for sustainability. Having said that here are some CES announces

Whilst I love high resolution, and large screens, none of my UK broadcast television channels are 4K yet.  So 8K is just farcical.   How any vendor , and I mean you Sony, Samsung and LG primarily thinks this is a direction worth pursuing before say 2025  is a total mystery to me.  Perhaps it will bring down 4K TV pricing and for that sole benefit we can perhaps allow its existence.  Meanwhile did you know about the 8K fight ???

5G (Will Not Change Your Life)
Luckily I did not find too great an abundance of 5G hardware at CES.  Why?  Because in the UK and US certainly, and even in my home from home Switzerland,  5G implementation will necessarily lag the already available hardware.

In practical terms even if you have unlimited purchasing funds, and you live in a large capital city, your 5G networking experience will be worse than abysmal.  

Stop Being Negative!
It's so very easy to be critical and negative.  So you might ask what products would I have like to see more off proliferating CES for 2020?

Wireless Charging
Advances in Wireless charging standards, and implementation of devices to charge SmartWatches, Phones and what about even laptops using wireless or proximity charging.

Wireless Headphones
More decent quality and easy to wear headphones, of course using the Bluetooth LE Audio Standard.


The Smartwatch wearables market is in crisis.  Right now it's a collusion of stupidity in the Android market with CPU power sadly lacking i.e. way behind Apple.   Thus far then Apple is realistically the only decent mainstream Smartwatch provider with the Specialist companies like Garmin and Polar still using proprietary Operating Systems and Applications.

This has to stop!   And improve.   By talking to each other.  But when?

Engineered to Repair or Upgrade
There have been some landmark advances in 2019 on computers built with user disassembly and right to user repair and upgrade in mind.   I'll name Microsoft Surface Pro X  and Apple Mac Pro 2019  Build it slightly thicker but repairable please.  Or perhaps  (like ASUS) manufacture 2 lines, the executive, we don't care as much about repair range, and the value based, you can upgrade most parts range.

Faster Silicon

5K+ Computer Monitors
Unlike broadcast Television or Movies; which is mostly not even at 4K resolution, putting more pixels in front of you to improve your browsing, gaming and other viewing workstation experience is the way to go.   Where are those higher resolution monitors Manufactures?

And by the way I want multiple and modern interfaces like USBC please, faster refresh rates, curved screens colour accuracy.  All the good stuff.

Portable Monitors
As mobility increases a second portable monitor makes a wonder productivity assistant.  ASUS reworked the MB16 here

Decent Wireless Keyboards and Mice
How frikkin difficult can it be to design a quality wireless keyboards and mice that are:

- not full of flashing lights
- not enormous
- able to support left and right handed users

Pet Tracking & Activity
Pet tracking, Pet cameras,  Computer monitored and access feeding stations and the like.   It's a brand new marketplace with currently few vendors, and awful software.    What is stopping established companies coming into professionalise this market segment?  I found link,  and Whistle but who else? Come on manufacturers!

Internet Security
Personally we said goodbye to eBlocker, and now have a individual setup of routers and firewalls.  But this is not for the regular consumer.   Consumers should have security enhancer devices that separate their IoT devices from their more private network.  That is a frontline, and then extra level of protection from Internet based threats.  And reporting and alarm on attacks and usage.  And VPN support customisable per device, etcetera.

Home Wifi
Routers and networking supporting 2 new worthwhile technologies.  These are (Wifi6 and 6E).  Secondly Mesh based routing to give performance over the whole home, for those without Ethernet wiring.

I was quite intrigued with

- Tattoo Printer
- Juno Drink Cooler

- Galerdo Swim Coach
- Bosch Virtual Visor
- AMD 64core CPU
- Bluetooth 5 SoC
- Portable Air Filter
- BrainControl

Some Documentation
If you visited CES 2020 you could have picked up those heavy daily broadsheets.  But likely you left them.  So I have the daily magazines here in glorious detail.  Do read them.

CES 2020 Day 1
CES 2020 Day 2
CES 2020 Day 3
CES 2020 Day 4

Engadget report
About Ballie
Engadget talks 8KTV

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

On Being Ill

So this Monday January 13th Marcus got the All Clear, or as a UK National Health Service (NHS) Professional would probably more realistically say "All Clear Beyond Reasonable doubt, based on our Meagre Resources and brief Time Spent".

You see I had quite a few of the symptoms of Prostate Cancer and so a Doctors checkup was made, attended, and necessary tests made, and results waited upon.

And The Rest

Now that Marcus and Agata are back in England I feel it is my duty to investigate an increasing list of persistent health complaints.  The Prostate symptoms now cleared I return back to a set of skeletal and limb problems that I've had for over 12 months.

It's a long and painfully slow process, NHS investigation, one which feels more like an attrition against a seeming wall of "please, just don't bother us".  Only the truly determined and persistent,  probably those not distracted with a 9-5 or absorbing job, have the time and dedication to proceed.  Luckily that is me right now.

Exercising Whilst Ill

There is a huge temptation to stop daily exercise when illness or sickness strikes.  Medical complaints can act as a huge signboard to say to others and society "you see, I can't do anything, I'm ill".  But the truth IMHO opinion is, that people who fall back on this are usually 90% plus making excuses.  And at the end of the day, their lack of activity will certainly not improve overall health.

For Marcus, the last 6 months of daily exercise has been tempered with increased pain during race level workouts.  It's quite an effective training killer I can tell you.  But let me tell you, that wherever possible,  I will try to the best of my ability, to exercise daily.

And this brings me nicely onto the Sunday ...

The Dudmaston / Comer Woods 10K

As usual this necessitated a horribly early Sunday morning start and longer than usual drive to Dudmaston National Trust.  In Pictures:

The torrential rain on the way there nearly had me turning back towards home.  So on arrival the fact that the rain was stopping was a wonderful surprise.

The course was still extremely muddy (not shown!) but at least there would be no downpour as well

 We arrived with less than 30 minutes to toilet and register.  Just made it!

Mini report:   I forgot to drink before the race and there was no real opportunity on course.  Overall I went off too quickly and by 6km I was suffering, though I had managed to squeeze ahead of Agata and past the first female.  Unfortunately I am in the male category!

I had my special Innov Mudclaw shoes on, complete with Waterproof socks so the many very muddy sections did not phase me  (though I thought, what about cleaning my shoes afterwards ... gonna be a nightmare!)

I finished well and happy, though bloody tired!  Agata would have to drive us to our next appointment  (Gardening in Inkberrow)

Of course Julie and Jenny were also running.  Even a dog to help them.

 Alana ran the junior race.

 Of course the fantastic Agata came 1st in her class.

 Even Marcus got a prize, plodding along in 2nd place in category.  Will run faster when well, I promise.

Some relaxation after the event

And So
I do look forward to a day when all my bits are working 100%. After well over 12 months of various sufferings,  can it be soon please.

Monday, January 13, 2020

For A Few Dollars Less

Confessions of a Money Mule

Subtitle: Just Do The Right Thing

There are many shades of grey in this world, but to Marcus, Fraud is always wrong.  I stand with Nina in the above video when I say, Triangulation Fraud is not a victimless crime.

In order to understand what I mean please watch the above 20 minute video.   I think you will find the content interesting and well presented.

At the end of the day in this case as with many: your greater personal gain is set against

a) Doing morally and ethically the wrong thing
b) Pushing up insurance costs that these systems necessarily have priced in to guard against such Fraud
c) Being internally forever tainted with the knowledge that you assisted a fraud.
d) The actual debited victims of this crime will at best have to spend their time to rectify their unwarranted charges, and at worse their time and misery.

In the 1980's in London England the equivalent crime I can think of is sitting in Pub in my home of the East End and being approached by somebody selling you a 500 GBP radio for 'just' 100 GBP.  Certainly a bargain, most probably stolen, and if you don't buy it somebody else will.  And the victim can surely claim on their Car Insurance right?

What you should do (at the very least) is walk away, and in 2020, Internet Fraud should not be pandered to either.


Sunday, January 12, 2020

Sunday Technical Sermon: Down The Recursive Rabbit hole With VMware

Wicked Game

It is the early hours of Saturday January 12th 2020.  I should be asleep as a race is pending in less than 12 hours.  But sometimes it is difficult to stop doing the things you still love

This is a Gushing post about VMWare Workstation

I've recently talked about the benefits of subscribing to the Microsoft Action Pack and VMWare subscription programs.

Today I just want to convey my additional thanks to VMware for letting me Virtualising myself ...

I've been in the process of a Windows Server 2016 to 2019 migration for a long time, but I've been saving up for the Server 2019 licenses.  They are not inexpensive.   Now purchased, I want to test out an upgrade in a Virtualised clone environment and VMWare performed faultlessly.  Here is how:

01  Backup Regularly to Backup Disk

So with Windows Server, backup is included.  No kludgy, we got it from a previous version of Windows crap  (ru listening windows 10).   I already dedicate a separate physical disk to OS backups and Server manages the schedule and space allocation by deleting old backups as necessary.

There is a program call VMWare converter that will take a Physically running machine and produce an ESX or VMware set of images.  But I won't be using that.

02 Create New Virtual Machine

VMWare is used to create a Virtual Machine.  It is sitting on my local NVMe disk array so all operations on this disk are fast.   I'm using virtualised SATA not the default SCSI.

03 Make sure to include the Physical Disk

One clever bit is to pass the entire Physical Backup disk into the virtual machine.  You have to be careful to pass the right disk in of course.   This will be used to restore and of course it is an excellent test that the backup made is actually functioning as expected.

04 Boot from a Windows 2016 server .iso

The recovery functions of Windows Server are accessed by booting from the standard installation .ISO (obviously of your OS) and then choosing recovery, and restore

05 Choose a backup and Restore

If you get to this bit and there is nothing to restore it means that you either a) did not make the backup correctly b) did not pass in the whole disk  (i.e. not just a partition) into the Virtual Machine correctly.

I got a choice of all the backups and restored a sample one.

06 Go for a Coffee

It took about 20 minutes.  I had some Nespresso to taste.  Decaf, because at 2am I need to sleep soon.

07 Machine is restored in a VM

Yes weirdly this is a screenshot of my system booted inside a VMWare window running on itself.  Spooky. 

08 Now practise upgrading

A work in progress, but it's going to be easy from now on right :-) ?

In Summary
I am so very impressed.   I'm now running a copy of my entire Boot Operating system inside myself.  I can now test out the varied upgrade scenarios, then when I'm sure actually perform it on the physical machine.

And because this Virtual Machine restore actually tested out the backups I can be sure if something goes wrong I know exactly how to recover.

VMWare, simply fluppin brilliant

Pull My Heart Away