Monday, January 31, 2011

Moins de masse

I believe I am translating the Swiss French Audi TT RS Brochure title line correctly when I say "less weight". Just one of the brilliant factors which have culminated in the order of our new car ... an Audi TT RS.

At 1475Kg and with a little over 300 BHP it should move along nicely.

It has been over 6 years since the purchase of our last car and many of the reasons for the purchase of this TT, over say a Nissan GT-R were already outlined here. But to be clear

  1. 4 Wheel Drive
  2. Hatchback and Folding Seats
  3. S-tronic 7 Speed Dual Clutch gearbox
  4. 1475Kg and >300 BHP
  5. 33.2 MPG i.e. 08.51l/100Km Combined Cycle
  6. 197g/km Carbon
  7. Beautifully Compact
  8. Will not attract Chavs

So today I'll focus on what was chosen and why, for other perspective TT owners.

First note that Audi does an online configurator. For English speakers use the AUDI UK TT configurator

A World of Options
The best way to lose money on the resale of a car is to specify options , the Swiss Audi dealer does not take any options costs into consideration for their trade in prices. But if you need to live with the car during its lifetime comfortably some personalisation is necessary.

ZM Alacantra Leather
We try to kill as few Cows as possible, so partial Alacantra and leather is the best we can do.

PQU 19” x 9J ‘5-arm rotor’ design titanium finish alloy wheels
20" wheels are available but this compromises the suspension and with 20's you can't order the Magnetic Ride.

7K6 Tyre Pressure monitoring system
Tell you if you have a blowout or a flat tyre, which these days (sic) is more difficult to determine than you might realise.

1BQ Audi magnetic ride
Another Corvette stolen feature (first was tyre pressure monitoring). Special shock absorbers contain metal particles that can be charged so affecting the viscosity of the oil and hence varying the dampening. So we can have soft suspension and turn it hard if we need to race somebody at the lights, or more usefully down a twisty mountain pass.

WB4 Technology package – DVD-Navigation, Phone Prep Bluetooth interface and AM I
Yes we selected the preposterously expensive Colour DVD satnav else we think it was going to me monochrome (in a 100K + CHF car, outrageous!)

WBI Comfort package.- Rear Park sensor, Cruise, light & rain, dim mirror interior
Lots of comfort items like the heated seats and cruise control. The Auto light sensors are good value in Switzerland with the frequency of tunnels. You have to switch on lights whilst inside a tunnel. I have 5 on the 15 minute drive to work for example!

8RY BOSE surround sound system.
Not as the brochure suggests on the back parcel shelf! Just better quality speakers. A slight indulgence as the stock speakers are quite good enough.

7P1 Electric lumbar support
Helping us to counter back pain as we get older.

OVF English Documentation

5J1 Deletion of fixed rear spoiler
We chose not to go with the big fixed spoiler and opt for the traditional more discrete movable one. Anybody with A level Physics or better can prove that the increase of downforce using the fixed spoiler is going to be negligible below 200 Km/h

6XE Electrically folding door mirrors
Makes the car marginally less scratchable whilst in town or in tight car parks

8Q5 Adaptive lights
8N7 High-beam assist.
Light that follow around corners a la Citroen SM. A must surely! Though we hope it never breaks down, Audi Suisse would fleece us for a repair.

Not Chosen Options

PV1 Electric Front Seats
We thought, expensive, add weight and don't have a memory setting for husband and wife

OP6 Sports exhaust
You can pay a large fee to have all that careful sound deadening and exhaust
technology replaced by something very noisy. So no

QQ1 Interior light package.
including illuminated door handles, vanity mirrors and glove box, foot-well lighting, puddle lighting and ambient lighting

QE1 Storage Package
Extra pockets under the front seats would be welcome but the net pockets on the back seats that are part of the package are a turn off, so no.

PQQ Top Speed 280Km/h
The current TT 3.2 never went beyond 200Km/h so we think we don't need the de-restricting.

Q1D Front Sports Seats
Made out of leather only, so with great sadness (I mean they look great) no.

UG1 Audi Hill Assist
Stops the car a rolling back when you take your foot from the brake pedal. We'll manage!

VC1 Garage Door Opener
We were not sure it was going to work, so not ordered.

YSK Alacantra Headlining
Nice, soft and furry but too expensive.

And Finally
Well apparently the car is so much in demand that Audi want us to wait 6 months for it, whilst first handing over a non refundable 15% deposit. What a cheek!

So July 2011 it is then


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Beat Boxing Beardyman

If you love Dance Music then I expect you tuned into the BBC Essential Mix to listen to Beardyman.

His 2 hour live set was just totally amazing. To give you a flavour here is a short 5 minute video clip.

Beardyman .... producing music on his own, no recorded music, MP3 samples etc. just himself and some effects pads. The man has talent:

Beardyman Live @ Kendal Calling Part1 Part2
Beardyman tickets
Beardyman YouTube channel
Beardyman: I done a Album

Shuttle is Down

After a week of stuttering, some little distressed squeaking sounds coming from the hard disk our Shuttle XS35 is down!

To set the scene this computer is connected to our Television in the lounge. Its main function in life is to read movies or other videos from another server and display the Television, since the TV has a HDMI input.

As a bonus, since it is Internet connected it can broadcast anything from an Internet streaming source such as YouTube or the BBC iPlayer.

When in use the device takes less than 50Watts of power, and when we are finished with it, we hit the Windows 7 suspend button.

AND SO: I was pretty cross that my viewing of a BBC Horizon video that I'd been given could not be played because Mr Shuttle crashed and would not reboot!

The strip down, analysis, and finally rebuild is shown below:

With the top off you can see that there is a surprising amount of space available. You see the ultra thin DVD drive on the left and on the right the 500GB 2.5" hard disk

Next stop is a spot of cleaning. Our guest kitten used to jump over this computer en route to her hiding spot and I thought the computer might be full of kitty hair. Turns out it was very clean inside ... practically no dust and no hair. Oh well .... let us continue.

The BIOS is still working fine. From here we can see that it is a Seagate Hard Disk

First Diagnostic is to load Memtest86+ You see here that I ran the test for over 10 hours. No errors so the memory is not faulty

At this point I thought I'd give Windows Repair tools a go

Using Windows 7 startup repair to fix the computer

Most of the time Startup Repair failed.

But sometimes it worked, or at least did not give any errors. However on reboot the same problem ... past the BIOS, Windows logo, hard disk noises, then noise of Hard Disk resetting and back to BIOS, loop!

Eventually I decided to restore this computer from the Windows Home Server backup. I have used this System restore successfully in the past but .... Having booted from a specially made CD ..

The CD loads, all drivers are found, BUT then it just can't find the Windows Home Server (WHS) computer. How bloody annoying. Some hour of Googling later I met many others with the same problem. The server and the Shuttle are even on the same Network Switch and Network.

I am particularly cross here because each Shuttle backup made to the WHS took ages due to the underpowered nature of Shuttle and the fact that WHS runs inside a Virtual machine (disk writes are virtualised and slow). All those backups have been for nothing! Grrr.

I booted from the Windows 7 Ultimate 64bit DVD and tried System Restore. Er, then I realised that I preciously switched off Restore points to improve Shuttle Performance (trust me, the Atom processor is really really slow)

At this point I thought I'd verify the Hard disk...

Seagate Seatools is a self booting CDrom. If you perform both a short and long test you can be pretty sure your Hard disk is OK. To my surprise the disk passed clean. My conclusion therefore is that some sort of Windows update has screwed the system. Well we know it was not Memory or Disk, so in fact Windows update or VLC media player or Chrome browser or AVG updates.

Okay, time to try UNIX once more. Last time I tried Ubuntu the Graphical desktop top line was missing when displaying on our Television 1920x1080 pixel display. So it was impossible to control the computer ... What would happen this time with Ubuntu 10.04?

And it is all working:

Applications installed / Configuration

  • Chrome Browser
  • xrdp (Microsoft Remote Desktop). But now using Tight VNC to connect to this screen from a remote Windows display
  • Static IP and not DHCP
  • Power Management Utilities installed
  • VLC media browser
  • System updated using Ubuntu Update Manager

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Falling Down

Well it has been an interesting Saturday afternoon. One thing I can say is that I am now very good at falling down and getting up. Such was the end of the second lesson of Alpine Skiing. Part 1 was carried out on tarmac, since snow is pretty thin on the ground in Switzerland this year.

Agata prepares for a pre Ski run in the snow

Marcus prepares for his pre Ski run too

We find some old wooden skis. I realise later: if only Agata was to use these this morning I would be able to keep up with her.

We encounter a nice ice sculpture on our warm up run

Marcus is now re dressed for Alpine Ski. Nice boots!

After about 1 hour of falling down Marcus stops for lunch. We encounter a terribly cute puppy. To my knowledge Agata has not yet fallen over, but it was difficult to tell she was so far ahead of me.

Lunch is over and time for a group photo with Kathy and Carsten

Marcus practices a snow plough on Alpine ski's, difficult for me since my weight balance is all wrong, and too far backward. This is why I keep falling over! I know this, but it's difficult to correct multiple years of bad ski posture in one afternoon.

Posture lesson: Bend the knees. Knees should be above toes and stick your behind out!

And this is what never to do: Martian position, skis up, weight forward. On alpine skis this will guarantee you an intimate meeting with the ground.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Change of Diet

Yes, what you see here is a fundamental change of lunchtime diet!

To step back a little, I love the challenge of a new work contract. A new contract exposes you to a new environment: new technical challenges and also new people!

So I am taking the opportunity to perhaps move some of eating habits in a potentially healthy direction. We don't have a canteen at work so I have been bringing in an assortment of items. My knowledgeable neighbour Jesus (it's a Spanish christian name everybody) has somehow achieved the impossible twice already:

  • He got me to try and actually like bananas. I previously ate them under duress, but I now realise being ripe (but not too ripe) makes a great difference to the taste. Bananas are finally on the menu

  • I am giving that horrible, bomb proof Pumpernickel bread a second chance. Years ago when my sister Angela came back from living in Hamburg she was pretty convinced all things German were better than English. One of her superior finds was that horribly coarse Pumpernickel bread. And so for all these years I've never really tried it again. But I did this week and it is not so bad

So I am giving this new lunchtime menu a try in conjunction with the established Tuna, Apples, and various dried fruits that are already part of the staple.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Well there have been 3 runs today. Here is the first one ....

Strangely enough this Runkeeper Pro display said 20.06Km the last time I made this run, but the most important thing is that 1691 calories warrants a small celebration. If I drink in moderation I might even lose some calories! Which brings me onto the decidely unsobering subject of Prosecco

Agata and Marcus have recently fallen in like with this delicious Champagne substitute. Of course Italian Processo in Switzerland is almost on par with the price of base level Champagne in England. So certainly in Switzerland we are back to Prosecco. Long may it continue.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Protection Restored

At last, the new Server build including comprehensive data protection is complete!

The new Home server build was documented here, but essentially since September 2010 a combination of work pressures have conspired against me to fully complete the process on time.

But in the early hours of this Wednesday Jan 26 011 the final Data Copies were made.

To explain:

  • This is my basic Data protection strategy. 3 copies of each source disk: 2 local and 1 remote.

  • But there are some disks that are so important e.g. the Personal Data 2TB disk, that it gets a total of 5 copies: Source (master), 3 local copies (not 1), 1 offsite copy

  • The local copies are written to round robin roughly every week, the offsite encrypted disk is updated every few months.

  • When the new server was built somenew 2TB disks were bought but I cannibalised the extra Personal Data copies and the OS-Backup copy disk (5 disks)

  • Finally I have started disassembling the older server and using those old 2TB disks to rebuild those missing extra copies.

So for example, The Personal Data Disk is now copied 4 times using Total Commander. About 8TB of copying later, a file and directory timestamp ms identical copy has been made. Using the new single eSATA dock the copy speed is down from it's old 90MB/sec to about 50MB/second. [Must find a faster dock soon!]

The next step is of course to migrate upto 3TB disk media as the current disks become too full. The choices are still quite limited if I want to move upto 6Gbps which my new server supports (of course!)


Monday, January 24, 2011

My UK IP Address

When your computer is connected to the Internet you will most certainly have an IP (Internet Protocol) Address. But the nature of the IP number that you receive will also disclose your approximate location. Try this link

So an increasing number of Web based applications check your IP address and allow or deny you access based on the Geographical result.

So how can I pretend to be from the UK whilst actually being in Switzerland?

The easiest way is to forward all your traffic though an Internet forwarding site (called a Proxy). Many free proxies are supposed to exist, but in practice you might choose to pay for a reliable service that

  1. is reliable
  2. provides enough bandwidth for video streaming
  3. Is secure (they are not tapping your data and snooping into it)

After much testing I selected Strong VPN

Here is the low down

I know you are going to follow the above Setup Tutorial link really, but here is a cut and paste of their instructions in case you are incredibly lazy: (click image to enlarge)

Whilst I initially used this VPN facility to get past the IP checking of my favourite UK technical website for Motorparts it does also occur to me that using this VPN tunnel all checking applications like BBC iPlayer, 4-on-demand, various bank applications, media streaming services, UK taxation services etc will be convinced that you have a UK IP address. Well fancy that.

Switch Strong VPN location (e.g. from UK to USA)
Strong VPN location speed information
Strong VPN troubleshooting

That is it for Cashmere

It is almost as if we were about to leave the country! I mean that the cleanout continues. Agata and Marcus are striving hard to remove some of the excess stuff from our lives.

Today Marcus focused in on his prolific Cashmere jumper collection.

Cashmere is quite simply Goats wool. it has the fortunate property of being deliciously soft and warm, and the great disadvantage of being rather delicate. With advances in Acrylic technology you can pickup an ultra soft and warm Marks and Spencer Cashmillion Jumper for 12 GBP. Wheras a quality, 2 Ply, hand finished Cashmere jumper might start at about 150 GBP.

So I'm rather afraid it is the end of the line for my Cashmere collection:

  • Acrylic Jumpers are a fraction of the price and can feel and even look rather like Cashmere

  • Wool, Pure New Wool, Merino Wool is actually no warmer than Acrylic, not as soft, and disregarding the price, just more difficult to care for.

  • I can wash those Acrylic jumpers easily, when is the last time you washed your Cashmere jumper? A bit sweaty eh?

  • Cashmere is so fragile that you are continually faced with that sinking feeling when you catch the jumper on something sharp, or spill something onto it.

  • Moths just love to eat Cashmere, but they leave acrylic alone!
No matter how hard I try I think my frugal upbringing regards wearing a cashmere sweater "down the pub" or in a cold "IT machine room" as too decadent so for new purchases, and for practicalities sake I think Acrylic is in.

All new jumper purchases are cancelled until the sizable Cashmere and Acryilc collection are reduced thru usage (I'm hoping for some cold weather)