Monday, September 29, 2008

1.5TB coming soon

1.5TB Hard Disk drives are coming. Today only Seagate has formally announced.

But let us look a little deeper.

Today I would still suggest that the 3 platter, Samsung HD103UJ 1TB drive is the best buy. This drive was the original 3 platter 1TB drive.

In order to get to 1.5TB, Seagate have improved things slightly. The Seagate
Barracuda ST31000333AS 1TB drive packs an average Areal density of 228Gbits/square inch over 3 platters and 6 surfaces.

The ST31500341AS, 1.5TB drive packs an average Areal density of 277Gbits/square inch over 4 platters and 8 surfaces.

So my advice is currently: Take advantage of numerous retailers "dumping" their stocks of 1TB drives, now retailing for 80GBP or less. Wait for the 1.5TB to arrive, price settle and perhaps migrate to 1.5TB drives but not before 2009.

Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB ST31500341AS Drive Announcement Letter

Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 User Manual including 1.5 TB

Toms Hardware 1.5TB drive review

Buy this 1.5TB drive today from Scan Computers


Sunday, September 28, 2008

What a Race


I could so easily be talking about the thrilling and action packed first Singapore F1 race of Sunday 28th September.

But instead you will have to settle for our report on the Geneva Marathon. I was tipped off by an office coworker that this was this weekend and on investigation decided to try out an experiment.

I'd already debated with Agata that her October Lausanne Marathon training plan was hardly necessary, she just needed to be fit enough to get up and do the marathon. So to prove this, without any training I signed up for the Geneva Marathon. As usual things did not turn out as expected.

The plan was to get up before 06.00 this Sunday morning and drive all the way to the big smoke (Geneva) and set off at 08.30 for the marathon. Most importantly to take it easy and under no circumstances go for it, thus finishing the race as bright as button with no aches and pains, therefore proving to Agata her training plan was a torture that was not entirely necessary..

In fact Marcus finished in under 4 hours, totally cocking up the slower race plan, and although only upper thighs were a little tired I was harldy "bright as a button" as per plan.

The largest disaster was that I contracted heavy flu on Friday evening so spent the majority of Saturday in bed with a fever feeling sorry for myself. After a night-time of sweating I started the race this Sunday in dubious physical condition. Turns out that the flu brings on the frequently necessary toilet stop! So after settling in to a nice slow running group (slower than 4 hours according to race plan) I had to keep stopping for repeated flu induced toilet. And then after catching the group up it was difficult not to keep overtaking, i.e. going too quickly. So I ran far too fast and finished rather tired, still with flu. On the positive side: no falls, no blisters, no rain, a great 3.2 Kg weight loss, and back in time to watch the Grand Prix


And here's the winning photo of the half conscious but happy finisher:



Friday, September 26, 2008

Honey, I left the Internet (TV) ON

You might often think of Switzerland as the land on Fondus, spectacular views and a yearly ski season.

However, when those nice people at Swisscom started laying fibre connections all over Switzerland to anticipate the fast internet download requirements of the coming decade I have never looked back.

Our 30Mbit/ second or so connection really makes a big difference.

But with great bandwidth comes great responsibility!

Imagine the concequences of leaving the Television on all night. You know, a large fondue and a bottle of wine and then you wake up next morning having left the TV on. Can you imagine the download damage!

2Mbits/sec x 7 hours x 3600 seconds per hour = 6GB

You can of course (yes really Dvorak John C) check your total monthly download and upload totals. Let us just say if you exceed 300GB per month you may want to cut down just a little.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

AAA: Annoying Airport Activities

Having just flown home to Switzerland we reflected on the frustrations that we as diligent, prepared and respectful citizens are often subjected to as we make the conscious choice to use air travel.

Here then are the situations that you may all be all too familiar with

Unable to switch off cellphone
The passenger who insists on making last minute calls whilst boarding the plane and until almost forcibly restrained by suitably frustrated airline staff. The same often has to turn on the phone the moment the plane touches down (illegal in many jurisdictions) and begins to text or call as they deplane.


Really Likes to smoke
This passenger not only searches out and uses the really inconveniently placed and often ironically poorly or unventilated smoking areas but uses techniques such as deafness to continue smoking. For example, leaving the smoking area, still smoking whilst walking to the gate. Walking briskly they pretend not to hear repeated airline staff calls to stop smoking.

Uncontrollable Passenger Volume and Importance
(Often in conjunction will Cellphone addiction) this passenger talks loudly to a companion or perceived underling on the telephone giving a series of loud and bossy orders so that passengers within a 2 metre radius realise how important he is. It is always a he BTW.


Determined Drinker
On flights with free alcohol this passenger feels it is not only their right but duty to continuously ask for more and more alcohol. It is almost like they are trying to offset their flight cost by the value of the alcohol they can consume on board.

Over Anxious Bagscan passenger
This passenger attempts to push past the queue in front of them on the grounds that they are late for their flight and that the plane might leave without them. The first question to ask this passenger is: "have you any checked bags?" If yes, remind them that the plane cannot take off without them unless their luggage is deplaned, a process that would take an hour at least. So if they have less than an hour before their plane leaves tell them to wait.

Totally Ignorant Bagscan Passenger
This passenger is unaware of the new (2006) security regulations restricting the quantity of liquids that can be taken onto a plane or that computer items should be removed from closed bags prior to bagscan. As a consequence the painfully slow inch forward to the bagscan is further delayed as they begin to remove the necessary items of clothing, stow their metal objects and expose their electronics.

Limbo Competition
This passenger has a blind spot when it comes to spacial perception. As soon as they can and often before take off they maximally recline their seat into a most horizontal without consideration for the passenger behind them. This can be combined with a seemingly random tendency to vary their seat recline whilst you are trying to eat dinner thereby throwing your food and drinks uncontrollably around your cabin space.

Misplaced Economy
This passenger is unable to accept the fact that by paying a small fraction of the cost of a Business or First class ticket and i.e. by buying an Economy ticket they should not be given the privileges of the former category. The drama can begin as early as the ticket checkin when this economy class passenger attempts to use the Business class checkin, all the way to futile attempts to steal the nicer selection of Business class magazines, requesting Business class drinks and even trying to upgrade themselves to Business class based on sheer self importance and arrogance. If you want the special treatment, buy the ticket!

Doddery Passenger
The passenger who is just not prepared for air travel. They potentially know all the rules but checkin, bagscan and getting to the terminal seems to happen in slow motion. These passengers could be old and infirm but equally just a little detached and do-lally.

SeatPull Passenger
This passenger sits immediately behind you but for reasons unknown needs to get up frequently from their seat. Their way is always to grab hard the seat in front in which you are sitting and perhaps sleeping, shaking it so violently as to wake you from your slumbers.

Outraged Parent Passenger
This is the parent, or usually parents who believe that the presence of their children should entitle them to special behaviour at all times of their journey. For example, children singing, screaming, wandering around the isles, engaging in a long term kicking the seat ahead contest are all behaviours that these parents feel are quite acceptable.

Large Bag Competitor
This passenger forgets that there is always a size limitation for cabin luggage and that larger items are hold baggage and should be checked in. Like a good actor this passanger is both bewildered and/ or outraged at not being able to board with their elephantine package.

Asking for Trouble
Since 911 airport and airport security has to be seen in a new light. With it our once carefree demeanour that could be envisaged needs to be tempered with some common sense. If you present yourself or act with suspicious intent then do not be surprised if you are treated if a terrorist suspect. Here is an example:


Ms Provocateur .. 19, was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt covered in wires and an electronics breadboard including LEDs and approached an airport employee in Terminal C at 8 a.m. to inquire about an incoming flight from Oakland, according to Major Scott Pare of the State Police. She was holding a lump of what looked like putty in her hands.

I see this individual is now protesting on the Internet that security staff who arrested her were unusually heavy handed. Come on!



And lastly here are some suggestions that we feel could improve matters:

  • The supply and use of Segways in airports just like baggage carts. You put in a coin, release the Segway and then motor on to your gate. This would not only be entertaining, generate revenue, but improve the mood of the user
  • Free Wi-Fi instead of the unattractively priced service provider offerings. Service providers would be free to provide high speed chargeable offerings
  • Replacing Business class (or higher) desks, or adding a new category: Competent checkin. This is a class of checkin where you know all the rules, have your ticket ready and will not be taking up an inordinately long time to checkin. Further, should you actually complete the process quickly, you would receive an airmile bonus. If you continue to try to use this checkin desk and you always create or have problems then you'd be banned from using it until your checkin time improves.
  • Once you have achieved Competent checkin status you should be given preferential Bag Scan status, i.e. a Bag scan where it is assumed you also know the rules, take out your laptop, take off your coat, have your liquids allowance correctly bagged. Here also should you consistently moose things up you'd be barred from that prefered area until your actual performance improves.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The ultimate iPhone case

First let us get one thing out of the way. If you want the ultimate thin, lightweight iPhone 3G case it would be hard to beat the Invisible Shield from ZAGG.

Here is the installation video

But what about a travel case, such as you might like to use while your iPhone is on a plane journey or up a mountain on a trek.

For the 1st generation iPhone I would venture that that ideal case is the Agent 18 EcoShield hard shell case. What made that case brilliant was that it was simply 2 pieces of plastic that surrounded the iPhone 1G and cunningly you could put the case on backwards.

Whilst backwards the hard shell back covered the front screen and only the aluminium back was left exposed.

But for the 3G it the EcoShield case is not a snap on and off affair. So I had to search further. In the end I contemplated 2 solutions

a) Small furry glove bought in Polish market


+ low cost - about 0.5 GBP
- not the best looking case
- the iPhone might slip out, if you are a total idiot and shake the glove in a brainless fashion

b) Diving headband from Decathlon
+ medium cost - 3 GBP
- needs some DIY action to customise

lets focus on option B:

  • Visit Decathlon and head to the Swimwear section
  • Buy a Adult (not child) size , Neoprene snorkel pad.

    This is a thin neoprene garment originally designed to attach to the strap of your diving mask


  • Find somebody with a sewing machine (this was the difficult part for us)
  • Sew up one end of the headband and cut the excess length of neoprene away
  • And this is the final product. After completing this case we have realised some extra benefits:

    - Suitable for iphone 1G and 3G. Change your phone but keep the case!
    - Is flexible enough to accommodate all iPhone which have the Invisible Shield installed.

    Overall it is a winner!


Here is the case holding an iPhone 3G

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mama


Yes I came out of the film version Mama Mia; laughing and almost crying. One companion said that it was one of the first time in months grumpy Marcus had looked happy.

It was totally wonderful! The highlights for me:


And finally the way that the Swiss audience refrained from signing or making any kind of noise all the way through. Marvellous!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Special Risks in Securities Trading

How thoughtful and I'm sure with purely coincidental timing ... our bank just sent us a handy guide on the risks of investing in the stock market

  • Perhaps they honestly wanted to appraise us of the risks
  • Or they honestly wanted to scare us in not investing in their financial products, since unless they are shorting, we would be losing money in 2008
  • Or they wanted to remind us that our short term loses are really our sole responsibility
In any event this guide serves as an excellent introduction to some basic Stock Market terms. It is of course no tutorial on the finer points some of my personal favourites such as the Black Sholes or the GARCH volatility models but a great introduction (and disclaimer)

After all today if our investments turn to dust it is now firmly
investor beware unless your are a major British or American mortgage lender, enough said.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Live from 25 Broad Street

The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) opens at 9:30 A.M. Eastern Time and closes at 4:00 P.M. Eastern Time.





Ah, that Black Thursday was somewhat traumatic (allegedly)



I watched in horror, live from dealer screens in Tooley Street


What did Monday September 15th 2008 bring to NYSE? a severe but not tragic 4.4% daily fall



Yahoo ^DJI chart




Come Find Yourself


I must admit that listening to Come Find Yourself is going to be more entertaining that what I have to say. But do read on ...

Since I may be soon forced to look for employments afresh I am trying to take more seriously the mostly childlike calls of prospective employment agencies. My heart sinks to new lows as I am repeatedly asked for all aspects of my life or employment history. Everything is already out there, online, honestly set out on the internet. Our website publishes over 50,000 documents from computer topics from AIX to TSM to Zilog. How we could possibly fake all of that, well I just don't know.

But it brings me to a related point. The Google Sitemap. We all know that we can instruct web crawlers to have a look at our site by placing a robots.txt file onto your website. But it is possible to do better - namely use a sitemap.

A sitemap is a file or files that you can proactively send to Google (or Yahoo) to tell the search engine directly about your files. To save you my learning curve this is how it is done.

  • I first tried looking for free or (low) fee web or native windows versions that would generate a sitemap.
  • Several web sites offer to build a sitemap for you, but they will not be useful if you have thousands of URLs to send. So next step was to find a Windows program. The best I found we gSiteCrawler . However this suffered from a major disadvantage that under Vista64 it would reliably crash after indexing about 3000 URLs. So about 30 restarts later (I'm not kidding) I finished a single iteration. Clearly this is not a workable solution.
  • In the end I went back to Google's own 2005 Python script . Somewhat reluctantly since
    1. My version of the script was written in 2005 and surely that is too old!
    2. Running Python under Windows - sounds like a bad recipe to me
  • Well actually I'm happy to report that actually - all is well.
  • First goto this webpage from Google to understand what a Sitemap is
  • I followed this page for full instructions
  • Install Python for Windows
  • Download this package of Python code
  • Unpack it with winrar and place into a directory
  • Make a copy of example_config.xml into config.xml then edit config.xml
  • I deleted all the optional stanzas and was left with

site base_url="http://maben.homeip.net/static" store_into="mbsitemap.xml.gz" verbose="1"

directory path="." url="http://maben.homeip.net/static/" default_file="index.html"

(opening and closing angle brackets removed as blogger got upset)

Also in sitemap_gen.py I edited

# Maximum number of urls in each sitemap, before next Sitemap is created
MAXURLS_PER_SITEMAP = 20000


As otherwise the uploaded files were rejected by Google as being too large.

  • Test running the Python script, and sit back in amazement when the process that took literally over 50 hours of continuous runtime with gSiteMapper (not including restart times, and I am not kidding) takes about 2 minutes. Here is my Python run .bat file
x:
cd \static
C:\Python25\python x:\static\sitemap_gen.py --config=x:\static\config.xml > x:\static\sitemap.out

  • Then logon to Google (with your gmail id) and declare a sitemap and point to the .xml file that the python script creates


  • Now finally setup a simple task under Vista to run a batch file called x:\static\bat\sitemap.bat with the above 3 line script every day to keep it upto date
Control Panel -> Administrative Tools -> Task Scheduler -> Create Basic Task


So we are all done, we pointed Google at our sitemap which is going to be refreshed daily, and our Google ranking will ascend to new heights.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Goodbye Internet Information Server

Come on, once you have put your macho Command Line hugging prejudices aside which would you rather configure: A graphical Webserver configuration interface (IIS)

Or an ASCII Webserver configuration interface (Apache).

The
grim news is that having spent half a day fighting with IIS I have given up (for now) and installed 64bit Apache 2, to serve the Datastore portion of our website Honestly, everything was working with IIS i.e. Webserver and PHP when on Saturday I made 2 small changes
  • Added a default rule in IIS to catch any unknown extension. In IIS you have to indicate for each file that could be downloaded or sent to the users browser the type of file. Since we server out over 50,000 files with many different file extensions it is simply impractical to list them all.

  • I noticed IIS7 has a dynamic compression facility so I added in that component but did not activate it
The Sunday morning while writing some PHP I noticed that the PHP server had stopped working. No amount of reconfiguration (including obvious backouts of the above) worked. So in desperation it was back to Apache. Last used 4 years ago! Just as when I last checked there is still no official 64 bit Windows build (How very rude) so here is how to get it working.
Options Indexes FollowSymLinks
AllowOverride None
Order allow,deny
Allow from all



Alias /static/ "X:/static/"



  • The startup apache2 via ApacheMonitor.exe

And so, after this mild configuration activity it all started to work. What a ******g liberty! (forward to 08:30)

The search for the 5th Element



Despite the scarily bad weather conditions (see this grumble) we sucessfully completed the Jussy half marathon near Geneva

The build up to the run can be described simply as wet! We consulted the iPhone weather forecast and it claimed that Saturday would be only just a little wet, however the evidence of our eyes was continuous rain right from Friday midnight to Saturday afternoon.

Still at no time did we consider chickening out and arrived for this special midnight run armed with a variety of waterproof and warm clothing. Although all contestants were supplied with a free LED head torch we brought along our Petzel e+lite ultralight torches bought for previous GR20 escapade.


Most suprisingly just before the 21:45 start the rain almost stopped but I had no time to put away my scary Extremeties hat.


So I now had the potential to intimidate fellow competitors as I ran past.


The Theme of the run was the search for the 5th Element (which according to Bruce Willis was love) meanwhile the four classical elements are Earth, Fire, Air and Water of course. So the course oganisers really outdid themselves by organising a course with 4 stations of special effects to represent each one of these elements.





This was the course profile and we had to run 2 laps.





Less than 2 hours later we both finished, no problems or injuries and really not very tired.





Photographs to follow when we have acquired them!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Run to Work OR Work to Run

At the moment my daily exercise schedule is rudely punctuated by sometime called work.


But my manger recently told me that things don't look so bright for the future, so just in case we move town, country or even continent I thought I'd share the highlight of each morning with you , that is; the daily run (or perhaps cycle) to work.

As soon as I step out of my door I am reminded of the sporting nature of Lausanne (home of the International Olympic Committee)


A nice gentle downhill, the start of many on the way to the office . Check out those overhead wires for the trolley buses


The first of many buildings where people can converse with their imaginary friend

Recently refurbished, the local church now has such a charming architecture

Our first town, La Sallaz


Down the leafy lane towards the big Lausanne. You can to annoy motorist by running past them since here there is often something very unusual for Switzerland .. a traffic jam.


Today it is overcast and the outlines of the mountains on the other side of the lake are barely visible



First water stop. Since there's no evidence of horses in Lausanne I can only assume these special water stations are provided just for runners such as me!



Our local computer shop and one of 3 in Lausanne! Hey, don't tell me we are living in a village.


I am delighted to see that many people work hard here to keep the streets beautifully clean






First sight of Lausanne Cathedral





If you are caught drunk or behaving badly you might be escorted to spend the night at the Hotel de Police. Yes, it is a hotel and there will be charge for this pleasure.





Hmm .. advertising for the forthcoming Marathon




In the very heart of the big city Lausanne









After 3 years of waiting the Lausanne Metro extension is nearly complete. This is the new fancy headquarters with the grass covered facade. Apparently it cost a small fortune.





More evidence of cleaning vehicles ... superb

Another water fountain. So for runners; no need to carry those heavy hydration supplies. They're making it too easy for me!




I run past the slow and completely superfluous duplicate set of traffic lights near Malley. Since I am not cycling today there is no slowdown



Running past Renens train station I notice a good train full of logs. How quaint



The local AUDI Garage and R8 retailer

I think something is telling me I must participate in the forthcoming marathon

The local fire station


Nearly there. For reasons of security I cannot say where or who I'm working for, just that they are terribly nice people.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Fictionary

To keep down with the kids I am trying to learn the latest youth phrases. Here we go then:

Work
Conference crawl: n. The incredible physics-defying manner in which time slows down during a conference call.


Missenger: n. The inevitability that you’re in the bathroom when a delivery arrives.


Promotion sickness: n. The queasy feeling you get when someone really stupid gets promoted.

Love
Boreplay: n. The worst kind of foreplay, which rarely, if ever, leads to intercourse.

DIZO: acronym. Dual Income, Zero Orgasm. The all-too-typical busy working couple.

Locationship: n. A relationship based solely on proximity, such as with your neighbour.

Food
Carbonara footprint: n. Obvious and deleterious effects of overindulgence in creamy pasta dishes.

Cereal monogamy: n. A slavish devotion to one particular breakfast cereal.

Crapas: n. One of the many bad versions of the ‘small plate’ craze.

Shopping
Dressing tomb:n. The physics-defying, one-square-foot room in which you’re expected to remove your trousers.

Moose hoof:n. The male equivalent of a camel toe, resulting from too-tight pants.

Pharmasecrecy:n. The secret prescriptions you order overseas.


Nightlife
Dressed to spill:adj. Used to describe a woman’s precarious and flirtatious state of dress, wherein a great deal more than cleavage will likely be revealed.

Nontourage:n. A group of undesirable sycophants.

Restaur-romp:n. A date that gets out of hand at a dinner table and or/bar area.


Environment
Biodebatable:n. 1. The questionable products that claim to be green. 2. Something that shouldn’t be worn just because it’s green.

Fossil fools:n. People who don’t realise the negative impact of their actions.

Hybris:n. Excessive pride based solely on one’s hybrid car.


Travel
Arm restle: n. The ongoing battle waged with your seatmate over the middle armrest. Manoeuvres include ‘elbogarting’ (slow advance of the elbow to gain ground) and ‘recline and conquer’ (capturing the armrest during feigned or actual sleep).

Mathzheimer’s: n. The inability to calculate a foreign exchange rate without elaborate financial and/or tech support.

Technology
Block-listed: adj. Permanently banned from all modes of virtual communication.

Laptopless: adj. Working on one’s home computer while semi-clothed.

Mouse potato: n. The wired generation’s answer to the couch potato.


Monday, September 08, 2008

Rehabilitating the Fundamentalists


Apart from some sublime memories after watching this movieclip I thought: all that those fundamentalists need to broaden their minds and question their cloistered attitudes is a really wild party.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

In the Long Run

Agatas sunday torture is planned




Agata and I continue to have our dis-agreements over pre race running planning. I am of the old and lazier skool point of view: One should generally keep yourself fit enough to accomplish any task (Ironmans excluded), so that at any time, for example for the forthcoming Lausanne marathon we should simply be able to get up in the morning and do it.

Agata, who avidly reads Runners World says this is totally misguided and is following something called a training programme. This is a set of increasing tortuous runs certainly at least one long run at the weekend that prepares you to run the marathon.

And so it was one of the first of these this Sunday afternoon. 26Km she told me!

So we are back and the results are mixed

  • After a nice shower I find I can hardly walk, so my theory of being able to do the marathon "at the drop of a hat" might need some fine tuning
  • Neither of us seemed to be very tired physically
  • Weight loss was just over 2Kg so that's good! I can replace that with White wine, right?
In summary we better do some more training we do not seem to be very well prepared for that forthcoming marathon.

Here are some stats from that nice Garmin 405 watch ...


My heart rate gets upto about 160 max, thus exposing my real age of 220 - 160 == 60. Wow, that is almost correct!

We ran all the way downhill to the lakeside, viewed the huge breaking waves (luckly there is no Triathlon this weekend), over to Ingrids cat, then back up up up hill.



We kept the speed nice and easy