Tuesday, March 31, 2009

20 compalints from Holidaymakers

  1. A tourist at a top African game lodge overlooking a waterhole, who spotted a visibly aroused elephant, complained that the sight of this rampant beast ruined his honeymoon by making him feel "inadequate"

  2. A woman threatened to call police after claiming that she’d been locked in by staff. When in fact, she had mistaken the “do not disturb” sign on the back of the door as a warning to remain in the room

  3. "The beach was too sandy."

  4. A guest at a Novotel in Australia complained his soup was too thick and strong. He was inadvertently slurping the gravy at the time.

  5. Topless sunbathing on the beach should be banned. The holiday was ruined as my husband spent all day looking at other women.

  6. We bought 'Ray-Ban' sunglasses for five euros (£3.50) from a street trader, only to find out they were fake.

  7. No-one told us there would be fish in the sea. The children were startled.

  8. It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England it only took the Americans three hours to get home.

  9. My fiancé and I booked a twin-bedded room but we were placed in a double-bedded room. We now hold you responsible for the fact that I find myself pregnant. This would not have happened if you had put us in the room that we booked.

  10. I compared the size of our one-bedroom apartment to our friends' three-bedroom apartment and ours was significantly smaller.

  11. The brochure stated: 'No hairdressers at the accommodation'. We're trainee hairdressers - will we be OK staying here?

  12. There are too many Spanish people. The receptionist speaks Spanish. The food is Spanish. Too many foreigners.

  13. We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure. Your brochure shows the sand as yellow but it was white.

  14. We had to queue outside with no air conditioning.

  15. It is your duty as a tour operator to advise us of noisy or unruly guests before we travel

  16. I was bitten by a mosquito - no-one said they could bite.

  17. I think it should be explained in the brochure that the local store does not sell proper biscuits like custard creams or ginger nuts.

  18. It's lazy of the local shopkeepers to close in the afternoons. I often needed to buy things during 'siesta' time - this should be banned.

  19. On my holiday to Goa in India, I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry. I don't like spicy food at all.

  20. We booked an excursion to a water park but no-one told us we had to bring our swimming costumes and towels.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Cromemco Z2 now using 5.25" HD diskettes

I am thrilled to report that after some juggling which will be described below my faithful 1979 Cromemco Z2 is now interfacing with a 5.25" HD (High Density) diskette drive.

Why is this important? Well ...

The original Cromemco Z2 was able to connect to both 360K 5.25 and 1.2MB 8 inch floppy drives using (at best) the Cromemco 64FDC diskette controller. Today however 8" drives are no longer produced and 8" diskette media is rare, expensive and somewhat unreliable.

If you look at the electrical specifications of a 5.25 inch 1.2MB diskette you will notice that it is remarkably close to that of an 8" diskette drive. So the cunning plan is to connect the 5.25" drive instead of the 8" one.

But there is one problem. When IBM introduced the PC in the early 80's they changed the signal definition for pin 34 of the diskette drive. Initially pin 34 was to represent READY (RDY) but IBM changed it to Disk Change (DC). After a few years manufacturers optimised most diskette drive designs for RDY only and often did not even have jumper option to select RDY or DC. So without further ado here is the end to end procedure that worked for me


  • Teac FD-55GFR 1.2MB 5.25" diskette drive . This drive has jumperable Ready
  • Some fine wire. I bought some from eBay UK. You are going to use this to connect the 64FDC 5.25 inch disk Ready to the 64FDC 8 inch disk controller READY

  • The Cromemco 64FDC disk controller. Well in principle anything newer than a 4FDC will work i.e. a controller which has a non Persci 8" disk electronics and IDC connector. My current 8" drives are YE Data 174.
(Click on the photo to enlarge) and identify the arrow showing pin 22. This is a pin closest to the card edge. The inner row of pins are the odd numbered ground lines. You dont want those! In fact the IDC numbering looks like this for the 8 inch drive connector

and like this for the IDC34 5.25 inch drive connector

You will need to repeat this procedure to locate pin 34 of the 5.25 inch floppy IDC 34 interface. Pin 34 is the pin closest to the edge connector on the left.

  • Switch off the Cromemco computer and remove the 64FDC controller. Using my excellent diagram locate pin 22 and using the fine wire wrap around pin 22.

    The put back the original 8" drive IDC 50 pin connector. That will keep your wire in place.

Now connect the other end of the wire to pin 34 of the 5.25 inch IDC interface as shown above (click on image to enlarge).

You are now ready to reinstall the 64FDC and of course don't forget to connect the 2 wire Interrupt daisy chain cable if you are running Cromix.

  • Install the Teac FD-55GFR diskette into the front panel of the Cromemco Z2. Make sure RDY is selected. I also selected the diskette as DS1 (counting from DS0 this would become a B: drive)

And now we are done!

And here is the beautiful result. Cromemco Z2 is on top with the new working HD diskette drive. On the bottom the 3 drive YE data 174 diskette chassis I built in 1980. Only 2 of those drives are now connected (C: and D:), A: and B: now being supplied from the Z2.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Scientific License

I am all for Artistic License in a movie, but as an Engineer somebody walks over my reality circuits when for example young Jason Statham charges up his newly implanted synthetic heart from a regular car battery.

I struggled to enjoy the slightly implausible original Crank movie which has a plot similar to D.O.A. (Dead On Arrrival). In DOA,
Frank Bigelow begins his tale by walking into a Police Station and telling a detective "I want to report a murder ... mine" and we follow Frank's last 24 hours of flashback as he tries to find his own killers.

But let you be the judge for Crank2, click on the links below.

Crank 2 the trailer (view source for Javascript page animation - woaah)

Crank2 Trailer 1080 HD quality 166MB

Now that would just never happen !

Saturday, March 28, 2009


I am fast becoming a David Pogue fanboy. His weekly New York Times Technology column sems to be able to communicate with the inner geek in me.

You can start by listening to the words of the marvellous iPhone: The Musical

Then move on up and look at the recently published TED talk

Friday, March 27, 2009

EarthHour 2009

As reported earlier: Don't forget to switch off! This Saturday March 28th 8:30 PM local time

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Various Artists

I hope somebody from the dance music industry is listening. Please and pretty please would it be okay to temper down your fascination for

Various Artists

Let's look at my reference guide for all music charts ... yes the BBC charts list of course I selected the dance tab (as I do every day) and I've calculated the following statistic for the top 40

16 Various Artist Albums
9 Classic but totally ancient albums (e.g. Prodigy Experience)
14 Moderately New albums (e.g. Deadmau5 - Random Album Title)

1 deliciously new album (Prodigy - Invaders must die)

So BBC or perhaps Dance Music record buying public: If you want quality remixed multi-artist dance music try listening free to podcasts like GrooveElectric instead and leave the charts for Branded and not Various Artists - please!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

TV twiddling LGTV, HDMI and Swisscom

It has been a frustrating week of TV fiddling, but with a happy ending.

As earlier posted, we downgraded and simplified our lounge screen from a Dell 3007 2560x1600 Computer panel to a mere LG 32LG7000 television. Now, one HDMI input is from the Bluewin TV box, and the other from the Shuttle multimedia PC.

There was however one terrible flaw, which was the LG Television came with an audio distortion problem.

As supplied from new, whilst viewing practically any program, and especially when listening to material with deep bass sounds, noticable audio distortion resulted, ruining our viewing pleasure.

So we reported the problem and our supplier advised us to send the TV to Sertronics service. Just to be sure, we made a video of the problem and even found a small Java sine/square oscillator that showed that between 250-450 hertz there were noticable frequency spots where the TV's speakers produced marked levels of distortion at any speaker level.

2 weeks later the TV returned, not in the original box, but badly packed in a Philips TV box. But worse was to follow! The enclosed letter said they had tested the TV and .. NFF (No Fault Found).

Now here is the summary good news:

- I spent 40 minutes talking to Mr Bloesch of Sertronics Spreitenbach. He told me at least 10 times that he had no comment to make, refused to progress my claim, and could not comment on the video I'd sent showing the problem. He was resolute and consistently unhelpful. Conveniently his manager Mr Bayrav was not available and he accidentally gave me the wrong email address for him.

- I checked LG Switzerland's web page and found their advertised telephone number is wrong

+ I spoke to LG UK who confirmed that there have been audio problems with LG 32LG7000 televisions

+ I found out that firmware 3.22 is the latest level, we are now upgraded to 3.04

+ To determine your firmware: MENU, press FAVourite button 7 times, takes you to firmware display and upgrade screen

+ At the current firware level there is definitely an improvment.

BlueWin TV .. in English

As Early Bluewin TV adopters we have endured the French onscreen menus but longed for English Language equivalents. Now after reading the Swisscom Bluewin TV English Users Manual I find them:
  • You know the basics: Bluewin TV == TV supplied via your Swisscom Internet connection
  • 29 CHF per month, see this page

  • The Set Top Box can now be switched to English (Menu, Settings, General, On screen Language, English)
  • There is now a setting (Menu, Settings, General, Screen Aspect and Resolution) to set the output to 1080 HD

  • You can rearrange all the English Channels into the order you'd like e.g. BBC1, BBC2, BBC3, BBC4 etc via the remote or via an Internet Page

  • You can schedule programs or series to record onto the local Hdisk for later viewing. This from either the remote, or via a webpage (e.g. whilst out at a friends you remember that you want to record Top Gear, so you simply logon and programme it remotely)

  • You can select a set of Radio and Internet Radio channels - best done from your Swisscom Internet logon

So now we have a TV with less audio distortion, fed from an Internet TV source of incredible HD quality and we're at last, well quite happy.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Shocking Service

How do you turn a banker into a millionaire?

Give him a billion and wait a little.

Now that I have set the scene I'd like to remark on the truly shocking service I have received from an institution which I'll just call the worlds local bank.

Dec 2008: Letter telling me that since I've not used my Mastercard they would not send me a new one unless I called to request it.

So I called, and the offshore call centre who knew precious little about banking told me that in fact I could not have a card because I had failed a credit check.

Dec 2008: In preparation for calling the call centre I tried to logon I found that my online banking had stopped working.

So I reported that too.

Feb 2008: Credit card received. Also some bank statements indicating that a monthly 20GBP service charge is being debited.

Call centre tells me they sent me a letter (never received), advising I should keep a larger balance, the monthly deduction stands and the offshore team say they can't reverse this.

Online banking still not working.

I notice that my bank card has expired but not reissued. Offshore claim that they sent a letter asking me if I wanted a new banking card.

So to recap: At this time I have a bank account, costing me 20 GBP monthly service charge, to which I cant logon to, and have no valid banking card.

March 17 2008: Online logon is fixed. They then ask me whether I would like to upgrade my account and deposit at least 60,000 GB Pounds into it. This would give me superior service it is claimed!

And who is to say that bankers don't have a sense of humour?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

His and Hers (finally)

So finally we are now both equipped with waterproof underwater swimgear. On the left Marcus's ipod Nano inside an Otterbox case. On the right Agata's Ipod Shuffle (blind mans ipod) inside an H2O Interval case.

Equipped with same we can both enter the Mon Repos swimming pool each in a world of our own. On the occaision of meeting we can shout at each other like an old deaf couple, as we struggle to hear over the sound of our Podcasts and music.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

RedBull Crashed Ice

It was a seemingly quiet night in Lausanne as we stood by the Cathedral but numerous groups of people were swiftly moving to the start of 2009 RedBull Crashed Ice

RedBull, the Austrian drinks company has sponsored a series of extreme sports street style ice skating events in Europe.

With unwarranted optimism Marcus insisted that we could casually get to the start and even take our bicycles with us.

Unfortunately as we reached the start we noticed that all standing room was taken, and the kids had turned into pigeons and were sitting on window ledges everywhere.

Please jump and make the night more interesting

And so the races began

There was a funky remote controlled camera that followed the skaters

It is not as easy at it looks

Group Hug afterwards

Sunday morning we reurned to the start to investigate. Those efficient Swiss were busy dismantling everything.

And totally off subject on the way home there was some beautiful global warming, spring is in

To learn more:

The promo introduction video

Lausanne Crashed Ice 2009

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A roombie death in the family

Please, can I have a moments appreciation for the death of roombie our faithfull blind and deaf daily cleaner of almost 3 years.

It was a wonderful day in 2006 having won a US eBay sale that concluded in our Roomba Scheduler vacuum cleaner leaving US shores for Switzerland. At the time roombie as he was to be called was not available here so we had to import him.

The entire operation has been a gloriously successful experiment. As busy people we didn't fancy hiring a human cleaner and a robot vacuum cleaner just sounded smarter.

Marcus could not quite believe it would work, after all roombie works by randomly cleaning your floor, and when it (quite literally) bumps into an obstacle, be it a wall, a chair, or anything you left on the ground, it takes off in another direction. It does not track where it has been, it just keeps going until batteries get low, at which point it returns to its charging base.

All in all we were pretty doubtful as to the effectiveness; but the real proof is simply by looking inside the sweeper bin after a clean. Yes, surprisingly it is full of dust and dirt particles.

And so back to the present day, and two weeks of manual vacuuming later we are ready for roombie II, but now the selection is enormous .. Which one to choose? To cut to the chase we will probably order a Roomba 560 based on the following knowledge:

  • In our apartment roomba clearly works, we are not just wasting our time!
  • The latest 610 roomba is not available in Switzerland yet, so that is out of the equation
  • Best to order a natively available roomba since then it comes with the right plug (i.e. Switzerland) and the correct voltage (e.g. not a 120V only US power supply). Certainly the scheduler was supplied with a US only powerpack so we had to buy a step down transformer.
  • 560 and above can be scheduled to start cleaning at a certain time of day. 580 contains a wireless control centre, i.e. a remote control to allow programming instead of pressing buttons on the unit.

    Personally I suggest that scheduling is a complete waste of time! Our normal mode of operation is to press the start button on roombie just before leaving the apartment. He does a clean and when you come back all is done. Just say no to scheduling, you don't need it.
  • 580 comes with some spare brushes, but they last quite some time and you can buy extra ones online as you need them so no big plus there.
  • The obvious advantage of 560+ over the scheduler is that an Infra Red sensor on the front of a unit stops it from bumping into walls and other obstacles, it slows down
All this is best shown in a comparative video which is locally here (95MB takes some time to load) or weblink here

So goodbye roombie, you will be fondly remembered, we will start saving for our 560 now

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

2009 Geneva Salon

Mark and I have just come back from a tremendous afternoon at the 79th Geneva Salon i.e the Geneva Motor Show.

The fun started when I received some complimentary tickets from Maserati; and Mark, whose recent and expensive purchase of a BMW M3 had not been rewarded rang up his dealer for the same.

So armed with tickets, a large Camera and disarmed with cheque books or other apparatus for putting down any large and inappropriate cash deposits we headed to the Geneva Palexpo.

So here is our photo tour (click on pictures for high resolution shots)

Alfa Romeo decided the best way to show off the Mito GTA was behind a glass barrier so nobody could touch it. What are they trying to hide eh?

Beautiful and British

The traditional Porsche Wheel. Now that the Audi TT RS is announced with only manual, the 911 Targa 4S is the only car that meets the criteria of a classy 4 wheel drive, hatchback, dual clutch gearbox. But their Geneva model was in a restricted area so yet again Porsche misses out on a potential sale.

Rinspeed as usual showed a controversial design

Marcus is stunned by the 350K CHF price of the Mercedes CL 65 AMG design

Here we see a model smiling dutifully as a desperately ugly child and family mounts the Mercedes SL. Who said being a model was easy?

The Mercedes SL now comes with go faster fan assisted headrests

My neighbour in England "only" has an old black SLR. Perhaps I should tell him to upgrade, although I swear this car looks so long it might not fit in his parking bay.

This BMW M6 was nice inside but it is such a big car (for me)

I studied the Mini Works interior. I think after 1 month of ownership the dash might go from chintzy to cheesy to down right annoying. Some time ago I recalled my Mini Works deposit for just that reason.

The most impressive car of the show for me. I think in Black it might not look so fast and furious. However I checked and in CH there is a 12 month waiting list, and despite the 4 Wheel Drive, twin clutch gearbox, I note: The rear seats don't fold down (cf previousGTR), the rear spoiler is tacky, the rear seats have between 0 and little leg room.

The 250BHP Renault Megane you can buy

The Renault Megane you can't buy.

Really quite crowded. Don't people have jobs to go to?

Despite the sign I could not find the alcohol simulator

Lots of F1 cars were on show

So lovely, and yet without the option of DSG Gearbox so fatally flawed. There is talk that DSG won't fit inside the Engine bay. If this can be overcome Audi would produce the all conquering, powerful, stylish, 4 wheel drive, Hatchback that I waited some 3 years for already.

Disappointment personified

Audi TTRS Engine Bay ... What a mess!

Standard issue for all Gangsta Rappers in 2009

For the money I would have to insist on a full covering of gloss paint Mr Bugatti.

We spent time in the BMW hospitality suite trying to claw back some money (in the form of complimentary wine) from Marks recent BMW M3 purchase. And that despite the average service and dubious company

The Toyota IQ looked so much better in the catalog than IRL (In Real Life)

So I heartily recommend going to this the 79th Auto Salon. I scanned the Official English Show Guide here

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Jalan, training me in Jura

Best foot forward as they say.

We are just back from a day in the Jura mountains, some achievement considering my arms and hands are not so well and the prospect of falling over (again) is somewhat scary.

The fun started just above Arzier

Our starting point

First snowed in farm house

Barbara our guide. For your personalised tour see her website

First team break reveals Marcus's colour coordination crisis

The seemingly inexhaustible Jalan

Jalan brings back the stick for probably about the 100 hundredths time.

Princess Agata stops for lunch

Another submerged farm house

Marcus takes a rest

Team photograph

Jalan said: "No really, just one more time. After 4 hours of throwing that stick, you have almost grasped it Marcus"

So, all's well that ends well. We snowshoed for 10Km in the Jura mountains the most strenuous part of the day was Jalan training me to pickup his stick, launch it, and then do it again a few hundred times.