Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Garmin 405 GPS Training Watch review

For over 1 year now Agata has taunted and teased me with her Garmin 305 GPS assisted training watch. She wears a heart rate monitor belt on her chest and her Garmin 305 monitors this and her GPS position whilst on a run cycle or trek.

You can then dock the Garmin 305 to your PC and upload the data to the Internet where you can see your route graphically, see what heart rate you had where. Basically amazing functionality.

So when Garmin announced the 405 watch this spring 2008 I felt at last time for some payback. Here are the results so far.






Initial Impressions

  • My initial experience with the 405 was disastrous whereby; I accidentally set the language to an Eastern European totally unpronounceable and unreadable (to me) language. Then spent over 30 angry minutes trying to reset back to English. The 4 page supplied paper guide did not help or the PDF manual
  • The getting started manual could do with some major improvements, particularly the precise end to end set of steps to getting yourself registered and downloading the necessary ANT software.
  • Like any HR watch you need to wear a HR belt over your chest. I just want to grumble that I still find this very irritating, either it's so tight that I fell slightly constrained or loose in which case it keeps sliding down to my large tummy.

Functionality

  • First to say. Yes it works! I can go for a run or cycle, monitor my heart rate, distance travelled, speed etc whilst I workout. On finish, stop the timer and GPS, then as I approach my PC the data is automatically uploaded to my place in connect.garmin.com from where I can view the details e.g. look at the route or my heart-rate
  • Like old garmin GPS (pre maps) you can mark a waypoint and give it a name. Then navigate to it with a compass point display
  • Says Water resistant to 1 metre for 30 minutes but I have been too chicken to take it swimming so far (plus the manual expressly tells you not to use it whilst swimming)
  • Installing the PC software was slightly troublesome. You have to register at connect.garmin.com and download some programs. As a PC professional I determined it was Garmins' and not my fault.

Unused so far

  • Virtual partner allows you to set a pace before the run and then whilst running display whether you are ahead or behind
  • Workouts: Set a series of stps eg calories, heart rate, times and then perform activities in sequence against this goal set.
  • Courses: Follow a course you either previously recorded or uploaded into the Unit. E.g. a set of way points detailing a local 20km run.
  • Transfer workouts, courses and locations to another Garmin 405 wirelessly (but not to a 305)

Good Points

  • Scrolling thru menus by rotating your finder around the watch bezel is a really great idea. Makes for better usability than Garmin 305
  • Certainly small and looks like a watch not some monster abomination on my arm
  • GPS finds position much much faster than the 305, typically about 30 seconds
  • Can talk to Garmin foot pod and Cycling cadence sensor
  • Can setup 4 screens (Training 1-3 and Heart Rate) with upto 3 fields per display
  • Auto Scroll will move between these 4 screens automatically
  • Can select running or cycling mode. When the data is uploaded it is automatically tagged as such
  • Supplied with a USB male to Garmin watch cable so can be charged by the Mains to USB adapter (included) or any USB power socket
  • Pressing both buttons locks (or unlocks) the touch sensitive bezel. Good since otherwise touching it whilst running can switch display or turn on the backlight.

Bad Points

  • Within one week of careful use I have managed to scratch the sharp bezel (not the glass face)
  • It makes a track point every 4 seconds and can store 20 hours of points. So after that it overwrites points. There is no option (for example) to slow down recording so as to allow a greater time recording. So this rules out its use for a multi day sporting event when you have no PC access
  • Garmin 305 has a bigger screen allowing 4 (instead of 3) information points (e.g. altitude, speed, workout-time, time of day) being displayed
  • Garmin 305 internal battery will last for over 12 hours, the 405 will last 8 hours max.

Here is the Garmin 405 user Manual

Monday, July 28, 2008

Paleo 2008


For us Vaudoise locals there are certain events that are burned into the yearly social calendar. Of course the Paleo music festival is pretty much a compulsory event. Not that the organisers make it that simple.

Every year you can check the programme a month or two in advance and then begins the scramble for tickets, yes even here in well organised, calm and beautifully planned Switzerland.

Last year in 2007 we waited at the Post Office only to find that the ticketing printer ran out of paper. This year the Post Office printer jammed and we left despondantly. . Having left our name and address we were nicely suprised to find 3 few days later that our REM tickets had indeed been safely generated, just a little late.

And so late on the night of Sunday July 27th we set off to Nyon to imbibe the ambience, sights, music and of course the food of this charming festival.

Since this was the last day we made sure not to miss the end of festival fireworks demonstration. This year, in a most non Swiss fashion (remember no noise after 22.00 hours please) the fireworks started at 23.00 and actually preceeded the REM concert which began at 23.30.

Some fireworks (iphone camera apologies.)











And so the concert started and though we are not REM enthusiasts it was a great visual and audible treat.

You cannot underestimate the respect I have for a band which has such great lyrics

Thanks Paleo for a great time

First GR20 preparations


As we get older it is common for many people to suffer delusions.

For example, as the years advance I am quite sure that I can easily participate in a back to basics holiday where the prospect of an Internet connection, a bed to sleep in or even Hot running water.


Friends are not so sure. They have cited the look of panic that crosses my mind if I sit in a car or office without Air Conditioning, or if my Panasonic shaver drops below 12000 rpm in the quest for a perfect close shave.


So with these doubts circling my mind Agata and I prepared for a weekend test hike in the Valais region of switzerland Val de Bagnes.

We had a 2 day hike of about 18Km prepared and the idea was to prepare our rucksacks with the exact same provisions that we will shortly be using on the Corsica GR20 hike. (My raidlight race rucksack from likeys has not arrived so I had to use my monster 70 litre sack)

The results: Ouch! It is now the early hours of Monday and both of my short fat legs are really hurting. The sustained pace of the weekend was below our needed GR20 pace, and our rucksacks were of comparable weight. If we are going to cover even half the GR20 in our allotted time we will have to reduce our pack weights and think about a backup plan should our actual sustained pace not pick up over this weekend.

Further it is clear that this level of effort was comparatively easy for 2 days, but from day 3 onwards muscles especially leg muscles might start to complain.

Our weekend route was:


Fionnay 1490m to Bagnoud Cabine refuge 2645m

Bagnoud Cabine to Col des Otannes 2846m

Col des Otannes to Les Rosses 2180m

Les Rosses to Mauviosin Dam

Mauvoisin Dam to Fionnay 1490m


Some Photographs:



Dominique is testing his Vibram shoes



Hello grasshopper






Marcus Smiles



Clarisse and Mariepaule



We are going up



Refuge in sight




Yes, it has started hailing and snowing




Agata the bookworm




Wine arrives at dinner



Pasta please



5 star accomodation awaits us



Ice flowers



Marcus, mountain man in training




Lets go up please



Adjusting boot tension for race mode




Over the snow



Traffic Jam











Marcus takes a nap



Dominique and Clarisse take a nap too



Our super guide Barbara



Mauvoisin Dam



Agata and Marcus



Learning points so far (with GR20 in mind):


  • Refuges rarely have showers. Either cold showers or communal taps. So washing is either underneath a freezing shower or standing by a sink via a small flannel towel

  • No power sockets! An electric toothbrush might last 2 weeks but probably a mechanical one is going to be lighter and more reliable

  • If we cant charge our iPod and iPhone this could be a problem. Battery rechargers are being investigated
  • Our GPS watches could possibly be recharged via solar panels. We've bought some from China and will test when they arrive. But if the watches memory fills then we are stuck again. Taking the GPS watches looks uncertain
  • Maximum total pack weight needs to be 11Kg or less. This weekend I carried about 13Kg including 2Kg water and food. And we still dont have a tent or packed yet. We might have to ditch some clothes!

  • The refuge pillow killed aggravated my old neck injuries. I will need to take a pillow .. more weight and volume!

  • The Panasonic LX2 camera photographs are superb and the iPhones less than average. If we take the camera and 4 spare batteries and make each last 2 days we are in with a chance. Pansonic allows for a video diary, iPhone does not.

  • Washing man made fibre clothing (i.e. no cotton or wool) is almost practical assuming you wash it as soon as you camp in the evening allowing max time for drying before setting out next early AM

  • Overall, total pack weight is the biggest concern

Some Higher resolution photographs


Friday, July 25, 2008

Ridiculously BIG systems


At the risk of playing the macho IT game my system is bigger than yours I would comment that:


In fact, my systems probably are bigger than yours



I noticed this morning a random sysem with a staggering 750GB of memory,... now I remember the day when my IBM 3081 32MB's memory was enough to claim bragging rights at the IBM clubhouse.

prtconf pg
System Model: IBM,9119-595
Type: PowerPC_POWER5
Number Of Processors: 48
Processor Clock Speed: 1902 MHz
CPU Type: 64-bit
Kernel Type: 64-bit
Memory Size: 774144 MB

for i in $(lsvg -o)
do
lsvg $i grep "TOTAL PPs:" awk '{ print $7 }' cut -c2- done awk ' { totmb += $1 } END { print "Total GB: " totmb / 1024 }'

Total GB: 10438.6


And that 10TB of disk, is backed up two times (to disk and tape) daily in 23 hours and the within one week we hope to cut this to 12 hours. We will see!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What is the Corsica GR20

GR 20 - is described as the toughest long distance trail in Europe

GR 20 is a long distance trail that traverses Corsica diagonally from north to south. It's 180km long with variation in height of about 10 000 metres and can be walked in 15 days. Even though the GR20 doesn't require any climbing techniques, perfect fitness level and confidence in walking over a variety of rugged terrains is necessary.

We are planing to start the GR20 in August at the traditional northern start point of Calvi and walk as quickly as possible to the southern most point in Conca. And we certainly dont have anything like 15 days!






Yes it is going to be all up and down



Monday, July 21, 2008

What the duck


I went swimming in the lake again last Friday, luckily I was wearing a wetsuit. So now only my hands, feet and face are covered in small extreemely itchy areas ... yes it is called Puce de Canard



In a nutshell,

Ducks have a worm larvae called cercaria that lives in the digestive system of birds

Ducks excrement contains these larvae

The larvae then travels to an intermediate host: an aquatic mollusk (snail)



After exiting the water snail there are two choices

a) Back to the Duck

b) Cling to the skin of a swimmer in the lake

In the latter case when you get out of the water and as your skin dries this parasite burrows down into your skin and dies. This is because our human skin is too thick to enter.

Thereafter us humans will come up in bumps or boils per parasite that itch like crazy and last from a few days to a few weeks depending on your luck / skin composition.

So as I type this in, my itching hands, face and feet remind me that it is really necessary to wash thoroughily when you exit the lake, even if you are wearing a wetsuit! A few seconds under the shower is just not enough :-(



Now look away if like me you are squeamish ...






(Not pictures of me, but lets say the worst is not yet over for me, everything is itching like hell)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Long Road to Windows 2008 Server


It has not been either a simple or trouble free upgrade of the master home PC server from Microsoft Windows Vista ultimate to Microsoft Windows Server 2008 server Standard Edition.

All the more reason then to briefly detail some of the problems and solutions that have been employed.

Summary: Server is migrated, but due to a moments foolishness the C: boot volume is a Windows Dynamic (not Basic) disk, there seems to be no way back (see below), also the transition to Solid State C: drive has brought negligable improvements. The RAMdisk has shown some benefits though. Windows Backup is now working though this was not easy!

Overall: Windows Server 2008 makes the ultimate workstation upgrade, just beware that not only is the product more expensive than Vista, but the Anti Virus software vendors and other anti spyware / malware suppliers are also going to take your money - big time!

Preparation steps

  • You can't upgrade from Visa 64 ultimate to 2008 Server standard. Or at least my Microsoft original DVDs dont allow it. So a clean reinstall of the OS followed by all the applications is the only way

  • 1 week ago I made a test install on a standalone PC to get a feel for the product. I had already participated in the Microsoft Betas but felt that the test install of the Gold product was worthwhile.

  • Do a lot of backups - Over 8TB on this server and a lifetimes worth of work to loose. So over the last week all has been backed up to identical disks

  • Make a list of all installled applications

  • I use the excellent Syncback to replicate from Source to Copy Disks. Unfortunately I forgot to export all the profiles, so will have to manually recreate all of themon server reinstall

  • Get the new Hardware: Mtron 32GB MSD-SATA3035 SATA Drive, GigByte iRAM with 4GB RAM which will be used as a RAMdisk

Do the Installation && Don't do This ..

In a moment of stupidity I thought of having a mirrored boot C: drive composing of a SSD and matching partition on a spinning hard drive. I thought it might be faster. To do this you have to convert the C: boot volume to sit inside a Dynamic Disk


In a nutshell there is no way to go back! Even having now made a complete backup to external hard disk and used the Install DVD to do a full PC restore, the restore program reformatted the disk I prepared in BASIC/NTFS to Dynamic/NTFS. The Diskpart convert option can only convert an empty Dynamic to Basic partition so that does not help you either.

So do the install but if you are going to experiment with disk mirroring do it on another disk other than the boot volume.


Fix All the Problems

  • Attempts at a backup gives: Backup Fails with

    ERROR - The location for backup is a critical volume

This solution enables you to make a backup to a target that contains a critical volume. As far as I can see that is an OS volume or one contaning a paging file. In my case however my target contains neither but windows stubbornly thinks it does. So the work around enables you to now do

wbadmin start backup -include:c: -targetdisk:o:

without a problem.

  • Another backup problem

Backup started at '2008-07-13 08:50:08' failed as Volume Shadow copy operation failed for backup volumes with following error code '2155348129'. Please rerun backup once issue is resolved.

Volume Shadow Copy Service warning: ASR writer Error 0x80042404. hr = 0x00000000 Shadow copy creation failed because of error reported by ASR Writer. More info: The backup failed due to a missing disk for a dynamic volume. Please ensure the disk is online and retry the backup. (0x80042404

ERROR - Volume Shadow Copy Service operation error (0x800423f4) The writer experienced a non-transient error. If the backup process is retried,


Solution: Used DISKPART, under booted OS, list disk showed the fact that here previously existed a Dynamic volume (that I deleted) that was sill regarded as being part of the Windows configuration. So even though VSS started and I could make snapshots of C: drive manually (from properties of C: disk), when Backup started it called VSS in such a way that failure ensued. Answer is to delete phantom disk primary mirror (both were shown as missing)

  • Attempting an OS restore fails
This relates to the fact that in order to try and convert the C: from Dyanmic to BASIC partition the idea was to make a backup, the boot from the Windows DVD and user the Complete Restore Option. I get to the part when I select the option having booted the DVD and then I get this error:

The Windows Complete Restore Operation Failed.Windows cannot restore a backup that was created on a differentcomputer architecture. The backup was created on a computer with adifferent architecture (x64) than this computer (x86).

Seems my installation DVD which contains both 32 and 64 bit versions of the OS boots up (always) in 32 bit mode. So when it attempts a restore, it always fails. Solution: Boot with a Vista 64bit (only) install DVD and select the Complete PC restore option from there.

Unfortunately: after performing this fix and sucessfully restoring the backup I made Windows had cunningly reformatted the partition that I had created as a Basic partition. So I am still using a Dynamic Partition and will live with it for now


Some Optimisation Steps

  • Scheduled OS Backup
    Server allows you to create a hidden partition and then it will schedule a backup to that disk. Unfortunately for me, Server 2008 stubornly maintains that my C: (OS) and Z: (750 GB data) are both critical OS disks. In fact Z: is no OS related disk but when I try to use the scheduled backup it exists on having both backed up. So currently I cant use this facility until I can tell Server that really Z: is nothing to do with the OS!

  • Pay a lot of money for an Anti Virus

    There appears to be no way out of this. Mention Windows Server and virus writer believes your budget is healthy. I think I will end up paying about 150 Euro for AVG 8 server

  • Say goodbye to Readyboost

    I lost readyboost and now have a 16GB fast 20 gram USB key I don't know what to do with. My keyring has a 1.5 gram SD HC card so this impossibly heavy alternative will not migrate there.

  • Set Group Policy options GPEDIT.MSC

    Make changes to Computer Configuration
    1. Shutdown: Allow system to be shutdown without having to logon
    2. Turn Off the Hard Disk (Plugged In) Enable 30 seconds
    3. Do not display Initial Configuration Tasks Window - Enabled
    4. Windows Boot Performance: Scenario Enabled
    5. Windows Memory Leak Diagnosis: Enabled
    6. Display Shutdown Event Tracker: Enabled
    7. Verbose status messages: Enabled




  • Switch off IE Enhanced Security(via Server manager)

  • Add Desktop Experience Feature (via Server Manager)



  • Windows Server Backup and Command Line Tools (Server Manager)

  • Enable Superfetch

  • Disable some Schedules: Defrag - since the boot volume is an SSD (and must not be defragged) and the multi TB grows without shrinking defrag can be done on demand.



  • Point temporary variables at RAM disk.
The GigaByte iRAM is a 4GB sized portion of RAM that appears a single SATA drive performing at 150MBytes/second. Edit Enviromental variables inside Advanced System Settings



  • Stop Windows Search - I know where my files are, they are logically named so regular filename searching will do fine

  • Increase NTFS caching
fsutil behavior set memoryusage 2
or via HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\FileSystem

  • Ensure Audio service is started

  • Power Options - Ensure Hard disks switch off asap in order to save power and avoid overheating server

  • Install the essential applications: TotalCommander, Syncback, FireFox,Real Alternative, VLC, rawaverecorder

  • HyperV (if processor supported) or VMware / VMPC for virtualisation

  • Last check Diskpart, checkdsk,virus scan, spyware scan run clean

How to try and compromise your Servers security

After working hard to prepare your bullet proof server you can help hackers get into your system by

  • Disable CTRL+ALT+DEL and allow logon without userids or passwords

  • Install the Bluetooth stack software

  • Setup wireless so that any passing hacker can have a go at your server

And finally:

  • Make sure the scheduled backups are being made OS and all data disks

  • After 2 weeks take out the OS boot disk and practice a bare metal recovery

Some very good links that explain things in greater detail:

Convert your Windows 2008 Server into a Workstation

More converstion articles