Friday, January 30, 2009

Saving money in 2009

8 money saving measures we wish to implement forthwith:
  • Reset you financial expectations to at best "not losing money in 2009"

  • Buy a car magazine subscription and not a new car

  • Don't invest in equities this year

  • Make a spreadsheet to analyse your total earnings and expenditure. Is anything out of proportion?

  • Reduce your coffee plus alcohol budget to less than 10% weekly

  • If your country provides safe to drink tapwater then bottled water should be at best an occasional luxury

  • Stop buying a newspaper, read it online

  • Use Skype to call friends not your house phone or mobile

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

2TB disks arriving Q3

Well wouldn't you know it. I am mid way upgrading the home master server to use 1.5TB SATA hard drives when Western Digital unexpectedly announce a 2TB disk.

Here is the press release via Engadget

Official WDC press release

WD Caviar Green Power-saving Hard Drives Specification Sheet

Some of the headline figures are:

I would not expect volume shipments before 2009 Q3 so for now 1.5TB disk purchases still make sense. Not to be outdone Seagate has also announced Constellation 2TB drives

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Extraordinary Claims require Extraordinary Evidence

Following on from Carl Sagan's famous phrase please view this video from Michael Shermer and discuss whether he really has developed the ability of detecting colours using only the sensation of touch.

For more information check Michaels blog

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Let us drink

Necessary preparations for drinking sorted by gender

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Good Design#1: Nespresso TX 150

I don't think you need to be an Engineer to appreciate good design, but I certainly think it helps. Today I want to pay homage to the humble yet excellent Turmix TX150 Nespresso Coffee machine.
Originally we bought this model because from research it seemed to be pretty good, however now we've found that we simply can't find a better implementation for a capsule coffee machine.

So Why Capsules?
Traditionalists might argue that a fine Jura coffee machine or even a simple cafetiere are the best way to indulge your coffee drinking experience. But I beg to differ. Though the experience might be slightly superior you're going to spend a significant amount of time washing up! So in a nutshell, if you are happy with the selections and quality of the coffees then capsules provide a more convenient solution.

So Why the Nespesso TX 150
  • From poweron to temperature in less than 60 seconds
  • Does the obvious, makes a small or large cup of coffee using the Nespresso capsule system
  • It just keeps on going ! Simple construction and low maintenance pay off.
  • Very compact: On of the smallest machines available. No uneccesary features like cup storage keeps the size to an absolute minimum
  • Simple controls: Two programmable buttons on the front (large and small coffee) and a power switch on the back - that's it
  • The same pump pressure internals as much more expensive models in the range
  • Nespresso capsules just contain the coffee you don't have to buy a larger and more expensive Capsule system like Dolce Gusto
  • All the bits to be cleaned can be put in the dishwasher, or run under a tap. (There is no perspex tray to get scratched)
All in all just an exceptional product, if you are considering a Nespresso style machine then I can't see how you could make another choice.

If you want to look at other capsule machines, feel free to look at others like Bosch Tassimo, chibo Cafissmo, Nestle Dolce Gusto, Solis Oh Expresso, Delizi, Amici rosso.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Wrestler

Any seasoned performer or artist knows the feeling ... . There comes a point in any career when you realise that this year you might be a fraction slower than last year. You might be a runner on a Sunday 20Km race, an IT specialist trying to learn a new language or in Mickey Rourke's case a Wrestler coming to terms with past glory in a now aging body.

Bruce Springsteen - The Wrestler
Springsteen wins a Golden Globe

So please see this film, I think it is easily worth 115 minutes of your time

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

the 12 month rule

Since it is just January it is time to uncover a little secret that you can employ to simplify and cleanse your life. I'd call it the 12 month rule.

Simply put: If you have not worn it, used it, played with it, interacted with, or communicated with it in the last 12 months then seriously consider

Dumping it

Some of the things you can apply this rule to include: clothes, books, cars, houses, computers, phones and even friends.

Some of the qulaifications might be:

  • Dumping it means first trying to sell it, then giving it to Charity, then friends and family, and by last restort - move to the dumpster
  • Clearly anything that you digitised and properly indexed, for example: music, books, magazines: can kept for ever, but the originals well they can go
  • Don't throw any excess item of clothing away if you'd find yourself immediately replacing it with a similar item you wont wear. Rather keep the existing paid for and unworn item to remind you of your stupidity
  • Friends may need a higher time limit: we advise at least 5 years
It is hoped that by following this rule for a few years you'll modify the amount of stuff that you supply to yourself to be closer to what you actually need and deserve.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Down but not yet Out in Lausanne

I did courageously manage a 12Km walk to work this morning though this might be seen as a pyrrhic victory in the days to come.

In short it has been an agonising 4 days since an innocent fall on the ice outside my home on the way to the post office on January 10th at 10.30am . After the fall I got up, but less than 2 hours later I was truely in agony.

To put painful into perspective this is the severest pain I've been in for about 25 years, I can't extend either arm nor raise it more than 15 degrees from my side. I believe this is referred nerve and not muscle pain, originating from some concussion in my neck. For those more accustomed to muscle pain here are some random thoughts:

  • With muscle pains you have typically over exercised, so you did something quite energetic to get you into pain. Doing nothing allows the muscle to recover.

  • With nerve pain you might have a sudden or even mild shock to promote between mild to severe pains restricting movement and leading to paralysis in some cases

  • Many cases of nerve pain are due to nerves being trapped or pinched in parts of your neck or spinal column

  • In these referred pain cases the place where you experience the pain (e.g. arm) is not related to where the actual pain is generated or caused (e.g smashed discs in neck)
  • In my case I now have severe pains in both arms, this being referred pain from nerves trapped in my neck. To add insult to injury the neck feels fine, has 100% range of movement and is not swollen.
  • I can't comfortably lie down as pressure on back of neck or upper shoulder is enough to send sharp pains to my arms. This means entering sleep and then awaking from a sleep can really become a practical painful nightmare

  • I am currently at the first phase: loss of movement (else searing pain). A second stage is where the nerve signals begin to waste and die and you get tingling say at finger tips which means that paralysis is just around the corner.

  • I spoke to Agata about this and we thought that in our current lives arm paralysis would be worse than leg paralysis, so I was a bit despondent! Of all the short straws, I wish I had contracted leg pains now!

What is particularly irritating is that no superhuman or vaguely human exercise was performed to bring on this agony, in fact the mere suspension of exercise (due to illness) and then a fall (admittedly onto my neck) seems to have precipitated this crisis

Early Philosophers and many people of faith derive conclusions from their inner contemplative and physical state. In a corresponding effort, I can say that the evidence of my own agony conclusively proves to me that if this design is the very best the divinity can provide, well I am pretty unimpressed.

For others who have experienced such injuries I would always recommend A leg to Stand on by Oliver Sachs as a good starting point

Sunday, January 04, 2009

29 films

Well as most friends will know I have a mantra:

The future is indeed digital.

Today I will be looking at recovering, remembering and immortalising you and your families photo collection.

In fact over Christmas I have managed to digitise some 29 films of Agata's family. So what's the big idea? Younger views read on and older readers ... well just smile:

  • In the days before digital photography there was something called an analog camera using usually 35mm film.
  • What happened was you took black and white or colour photographs and sent them off for developing. Typically you got back:
  • Positive colour film usually mounted on an individual slide or on an uncut roll
  • Negative colour or Negative monochrome film from which paper prints could be made
What tools will I need?
  • A slide or film strip scanner. The current Nikon slide scanners are here
  • Meanwhile I bought my Nikon LS4000 scanner (complete with a USB 1.1 interface!) in about 2001, so whilst this tutorial might be outdated it's a good starting point
  • My LS4000 scanner is connected to a regular Windows XP computer
  • Every night by schedule the disk containing all the scans gets copied to a duplicate disk - believe me, with the time you are going to invest the last thing you want to do is lose your scans in a hard disk crash
  • Download IrfanView. This imaging tool should be used to look at scans at do simple edits, rotations or grayscale conversion as required.
Before you get started
  • Identify a directory structure in which you will save your scans. We have a simple hierarchical structure like this:
00 family
majzel family

bennett family
01 agata

02 marcus
1961 april - last min family photos, but world survived
1962 dec - the great UK blizard photos
01 jan skating
02 feb motorbike tour

What settings did I use?
  • Digital ICE only works on positive colour or negative colour
  • Negative Monochrome - No digital ICE, ROC / GEM default settings. May scan as 8bit colour, then use IrfanView to convert to Grayscale.
  • Positive Colour or Negative Colour - Digital ICE on, ROC / GEM default settings
ICE removes dust and scratches, ROC restores faded colors, GEM reduces film grain

A good method of attack

  • Go for film strips first since the Coolscan can do 6 photo strip at once. Here is the exact procedure used:
  • Insert the film strip
  • Click on the thumbnail slider which causes the 6 thumbnails quickly scanned and displayed
  • Click on each thumbnail photo and use the toolbox to rotate the image correctly. Per thumbnail also set the Digital ICE ON/off for positive/negative, and the ROC/GEM
  • Select all the photos (Control A)
  • Hit Scan
  • Default output directory is asked for and you enter it, also select the starting index of the scan (start at 01 for first scan of a film)
  • Come back about 15 minutes later when this scan is finished
  • Use Irfanview to look at each scan to make sure all went well before considering this film strip done
  • Irfanview is great for rotations, exact cropping of the scan to remove non square edges, or converting to grayscale for Black and White

Care and Storage Afterwards
  • Slides are easy - just put them back in the box
  • Film strips had to be cut into sets of 6. So afterwards you got 6 or more sections. My recommendation is afterwards put them into a roll and hold them together with masking tape. Write a unique number on the masking tape and catalog the film for future reference
  • Each single photograph scans at about 16MB and after cropping and saving with Irfanview it's normally down to 4MB. This means a single 8GB (costing about 2 GBP) recordable DVD will store 8 *1024 / 4 / 40 = 50 films. So don't forget to further stage the copies of these photographs to DVD each time you get to an 8GB boundary.

Keep Going!

My personal slide and negative colour print collection was over 100 films. It took me over a year to complete.

This Christmas 2008 I processed 29 films of the Majzel family.

Yes it takes flippin ages but it is worth it.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Warszawa Scrapbook

It was a pleasure to head back to Warsaw to visit Agata's mother. And here is a random scrapbook ....

We were told to look for an Oval and Expandable table. This is what we came up with.

The last budget and basic radio was stolen from outside the flat. After 1 year we have risked putting the replacement radio into the dash ... though not fully in so that any potential criminal might have an easier removal.

There seems to be a Sex shop down the road, although we think that the presentation could be better

Retreat to Marks and Spencer though after last years M&S Christmas Pudding Fiasco shopping was limited to safer items.

Shopping centres ... bursting at the seams with people.

Ah the Palace of Culture

Another tall building with Ernst and Young in this one

Ah dark skies, a foreboding of times to come in 2009

My First Zuk

Today Zuks are fairly useful as an adhoc storage facility

Driving on the Warsaw racetrack, sometimes also referred to as the high street.

Marcus discovers the iPhone is not as portable as he had imagined.

The best oval table that we are not going to buy.

Robert Welch cutlery, it's come to Poland at last.

Is this the Post Office or Barclays bank in disguise?

We are assembling some extra chairs for our breathtaking Dinner party.

Hello to Tom. Our friend for almost a decade now.

The Trabant is actually fairly rare in Poland.

2008 and the price of Notebooks in Poland has crashed though still higher than than the UK

It's good to see that the local Supermarket stocks more brands of Fondue than in Switzerland.

Last years transport model with this years models.

Time for a spot of famous Polish tea.

They are getting the stage ready for us, or perhaps Bjorn Again.

We came, we saw and yes we visited McDonalds

Pretty Damn cold new Years Evening

Marcus Wraps up Warm

New Years Eve street

Wild Party Girl

Final stage before the New Year of 2009