Monday, February 28, 2011

Relative Spending

By relative spending, I do NOT in fact mean spending on ones relatives.

Rather I would like to propose that spending to me seems relative.

Due to my tired and clumsy car crash in the corporate car park last week, which we now have established will cost over 2000 CHF ( about 1300 GBP) to put right I have come to the somewhat logical conclusion that:

If I'm going to spend all that money on something that does not bring me pleasure, then I feel somewhat more liberated to fritter away some money on something that does.

Well my backup laptop, the now 6 year old HP/Compaq nx8220 just will not boot up correctly. it keeps losing visibility of the hard disk. It is some sort of hardware glitch. And so in fact this Sunday February 27th I tried without success to make it into a Linux laptop that I can take to work to use as new workstation (my corporate laptop is even worse!!) But what did not install?

  • Ubuntu 10.10 or 11.04 from the CDROM - no

  • Ubuntu 10.10 or 11.04 from the USB key - no

  • Tried both the internal CDROM drive and an external DVD drive - no
After several hours of frustration and getting absolutely nowhere I've decided to cascade down the household laptops. This one is going to Silicon Heaven, Agata may get my SSD, super fast HP Envy 15, and I am now shopping this minute for a Sandy Bridge Processor driven replacement.

Ideas anybody?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Swiss Timing

Oh joy. We have had a letter from the Swiss Cantonal tax office giving us the good news that for the tax year of 2008 they have calculated we have paid too much tax. Our refund of 21.70 CHF is going to be put against our 2011 tax bill.

So, to compound the stereotype I can therefore say, the Swiss, slow but sure get there in the end

Now, pop quiz ... what's the positively unique thing about the Swiss taxation system? Answer there is no marginal taxation rate. By that I mean your entire income, or if you really like paying a LOT of tax, your married joint income is taxed at a constant rate.

In all other countries in the world normally the first (say) 1000 is tax free, the next (say) 10,000 is taxed at 10% , the next 30,000 (say) at 30%. Not so in Switzerland, your entire household income get taxed, i.e. all of it, at the band for that salary.

So will all due respect to the authorities, thanks for the 21 CHF, but it might just get lost in the thousands (and I do mean several thousands) of Franc that you would like us to pay you every month.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

sNOw Problem

Just a few years ago it was true to say that during Winter at least one day of the weekend would be spent on the Ski slopes.

I mean our local resort of Champery is but an hour away, door to door. Things now have changed a lot! Last year I think we managed only a single digit number of snowboard days and this year of 2011 it is still a low 0! So this Saturday it was destination Les Crossetes Portes du Soleil to change that.

Of course just snowboarding there might be considered a bit passe, so we thought it would be more interesting to walk up the mountain carrying our snowboards, then board it down. How did we get on?

Who would have thought? First snowfall for 2 weeks, it is Saturday lunchtime, and many other people too have decided like us to head to Champery. A Swiss traffic jam, we are shocked!

Arrival at Crossette. A fine vintage motor against the backdrop of a traditional Swiss moutainside

Agata is ready to ascend. We seem to only have one rucksack with straps so Agata is carrying everything in her snowboard bag! Not as easy as it looks.

Meanwhile, Marcus decided that the majority of time would be walking uphill so he is wearing basically mountain running gear and carrying his wide snowboard in his Clive Skating rucksack. This has a skateboard carrier on the back which with some difficulty sort of fitted the snowboard.

We start walking and see a rather sad sight. The Piste is a sort of yellow from overuse with respect to the lack of snow. It snowed Friday but that could not make up for a whole Winter of little to no-snow.

Here Marcus is struggling uphill. Without sticks and wearing only Salomon SpeedCross 2 running shoes it was decidedly dodgy. On a steep section if I was to slip then I would not be able to stop sliding down for tens of metres. Each step is performed by kicking into the surface to create a foot hold. Very slow indeed.

I am sorry to say it is all melting!

Finally we are at the top of the lift and it is time to board down. Boots on!

Agata is looking fantastic and can't wait to get started.

Almost back down, that took no time at all!

And so, even with the melting slushy snow, and the traffic jam we still had a great time. Let us hope we can make it back before 2012! :-)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Lazy Update

Here is a pop quiz

Lazy Update refers to:

  1. Update of the Object Data Manager (ODM) structures relating Logical Volume Manager (LVM) disk structures only on failover import to the secondary

  2. One of an array of techniques to speed up CPU operation such as on IBM POWER 7 CPU chips.

  3. One of a set of disk caching policies utilised in modern Operating Systems.

  4. Apple's new MacBook Pro range of Laptops
Well I was not expecting miracles but then neither earth shatteringly lazy updates. And this is why:

  • They kept the DVD drive in: what were they thinking! I would rather they removed the drive altogether and left me with a hole I could keep my pencils in. That would have been more useful.

  • Rather than try and provide USB3, eSATA interfaces the lazy option was ONLY to provide their Thunderbolt (aka Intel Lightpeak over Copper) interface.

    Of course I appreciate the tremendous benefits a high speed IO interface can make. We already have USB3, Fibre Channel, 6 GBps SATA-III, eSATA 3Gbps, 6Gbps SAS and now 10GBps copper Thunderbolt.

    I just slightly worry that Apple's real motivation was to bring out a proprietory (now) interface to destabilise the market and existing Laptop and computer makers.

  • The Screen resolution did not improve!

  • They Used Sandy Bridge Processors (++), but not the fastest ones!

  • Did they use Sandy Bridge support chipset, 6Gbps SATA, who can say? Here is a few pointers:


Well don't worry your little heads over Documentation of the exact Processor, SATA disk interfaces or speeds, Chipset details. Look at the case .... shiny! Must buy now.

Links (Will be updated as more information becomes clear)
New MacBook Pro .pdf manuals - we just can't be bothered

Thursday, February 24, 2011

But they didn't read me my rights

I was extremely impressed with I heard Michael Cicchini on the Point of Inquiry radio show.

You can listen to that broadcast right here

But do not stop there, why not download a digital or print edition from Amazon.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Colonel's new day job

You could claim it is disrespectful to poke fun at the Colonel, but then his critics might have much harder reposts to make than I.

For me, I just can't help wondering whether the Colonel has a secret day job as Bobo the Clown, or are his aids and advisers just trying to make him look totally ridiculous

But now

I'd postulate a more serious message to all the frustrated youths out there. Whilst European style governments are for the most part quite silent on your protests, trials and tribulations, (they are emasculated for fear of criticism) please consider that the absence of a tyrant is a necessary but not sufficient condition to your future prosperous free society.

Most European democracies:

  • Have a separation between church and state, meaning that your religion should not interfere or dictate the politics and laws of the country

  • Have not gone into a National outbreeding competition (at worst religiously inspired) producing a youth age demographic that is out of step with the local societies infrastructure, job opportunities, or in worst-case the ability of society to even feed or educate you.

  • Have an underbelly of hard working professionals, who after a tortuously long and competitive cycle of education starting at about 5 years old and ending no earlier than 25 years later form a bedrock for society. This just about supports the easy going, carefree, don't give a shit, but expect a lot, lifestyle majority you might have seen advertised in our broadcast media
I can see others have a similar view

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wired vs Wireless

There is a lot of talk about the speed of Wireless communications these days. But quite frankly there is a much faster alternative ... yes, a wired connection. So Hypothetically if we were building a new apartment we might just make the Ethernet CAT7 cabling as equal a priority between rooms as the Electrical connections :-)

So I'm proud to announce another winning eBay purchase, that of the USB Gigabit Ethernet connection

The great eBay bargain seller

The Thruput accross the Wireless Card on the ultra slow Nokia book to the Nseries wireless router

The Thruput using the USB Ethernet Adapter

Verdict: Go wired , go!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Finis Swimp3 review

There are two principle reasons that stop me from Swimming more frequently. The first is boredom and the second is other people. Luckily if you use a waterproof MP3 player you can overcome that first problem.

But what if your chosen waterproof MP3 player keeps breaking down! And so it was with the H2o Interval case (housing a regular Apple iPod shuffle). All 3 generations of H20 cases have been quite unreliable and invariably even with meticlously gentle care one or more of the headphones always stops working. This actually causes stress and frustration, and returning the case to the USA for replacement is a long and pain in the arse procedure I can tell you.

Soooo, practically the only Swimming player that I have not tried was the Finis Swimp3. So it was time to order one and after a second long swim today I can report:

  • The big difference with this player is there are no headphones. It uses bone conduction technology making for a sealed unit. Hopefully therefore it just can't break like all the H2O cases

  • The capacity is a modest 1G Byte but this is easily enough to store at least 4 MP3 albums. Surely 4 hours of music is enough!

  • You take off the cap plug it into a USB socket and using Windows Explorer drag .mp3 files into the filespace of the player. That is it.

  • Charging also takes place via the USB interface

  • In videos I see people not putting the player over the ears but in front. For me however placing over the ears currently seems best

  • Since you are not now using headphones I also use Speedo earplugs, otherwise water is going into my ears and I don't want that.

  • The controls are definitely fiddly and worse than on the H2O interval case

  • Each part of the player has a clip to attach to your goggles cord. However to date I prefer to put in under my tight swimming cap. This holds the player just fine.

  • The audio quality is not quite as good as 2 working headphones, but at least it is consistent and there is no chance of a headphone breaking down.

Overall it is early days but the player seems like it is going to be superior to all the previous H2O cases. The cost, via eBay and shipping from the USA was about 120 US dollars, expensive, but if it does the job without constantly breaking down, worth it.

    Speedo TriathELITE LZR Racer top

    This weekend in Lausanne has been quite rainy and so Agata and I both focused more on indoor exercises.

    What better opportunity than this to start wearing some of the exotic clothing that we purchased at last weeks Triathlon Cycling Running Show

    Here is the summary:

    • The one piece weight is 140 grams

    • The zip is at the front

    • The cycle pad is huge. Agata thought it might be a drag in the water. I'd like to think it is providing extra buoyancy and lifting me out of the water

    • It is a single thickness fabric except at the front where a second layer hold you manly bits, and that could provide some extra warmth that could be useful whilst cycling.

    • No pockets

    • Cost was about 70 GBP

    • Material is extremely slippy and water resistant. So much so that I don't want to put it in a washing machine for fear of ruining it.

    • Cosmetically there are large annoying TraithELITE logos on the costume sides. I don't like that.

    Overall a superlightweight top that I'm going to use whilst pool swimming and training.


    Saturday, February 19, 2011

    Laptop Quickening

    My home laptop is now about 1.5 years old and Agata's is at least 5 years old. One of us is sorely due for an upgrade!

    I've spoken before about the prospect of getting an Apple Macbook but until the Optical Drive disappears and the Screen resolution improves, the "overpriced Mac " purchase is certainly on hold. After all, if you really must finder, iWorks, we all know how to buy a copy of OSX and run it inside VMware right?

    I have begun to look around at the possibiliies for machine upgrades. What did I find?

    • Apple Macbook Air range are grossly underpowered, but their unconventional use of direct attach (non SATA) SSD disk makes for a reasonable all end to end performance.

    • The Apple MacBook Pro range is up for a refresh. Rumours about it will be Feb or March 2011

    • The Lenovo brand seems to have the greatest variety of heavily Engineered and user upgradable laptops, particularly the T series

    • In the US and the UK you can Build to Order (BTO) your ideal Lenovo notebook and also receive a large discount. In Switzerland I could only find Build to Plan (BTP) and no configurator and no discount!
    • In Switzerland Lenovo does not seem to provide a US keyboard option.

    • Although I've been using 6Gbps Crucial C300 hard disks for over 6 months be aware that the faster Crucial C400 announced Jan 2011 will be shipping soon. Best buy a laptop with easy to remove HDD and spec one with the cheapest disk that you will replace with the C400 is shipping

    • This leads onto the fact that no notebook manufacturer so far ships a Laptop with 6Gbps SATA III interfaces, so inserting a C300 or C400 will be limited to 3Gbps (that's 384 MB/sec)

    • The current gold Standard for laptop screens is 15.6" and a resolution of 1920x1080

    • Lenovo and others allow provide options for a telephone SIM to allow 3G access and an onboard GPS

    • The current state of the art (and now fixed) Mobile Intel Chipset is Cougar Point. Not shipping on any laptop yet. This is the techspec reference

    So in summary:

    It is going to be interesting to see what technology will be revealed in the forthcoming Macbook Pro refresh

    And now the non Apple i.e. mainstream notebook manufacturers will also respond.

    If we do invest in another notebook, it is worth waiting for a state of the art 2011 one.


    Meanwhile in the land of Apple far far away

    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    An expensive day at the office dear

    From an economic perspective I wish I had stayed in bed all today. I mean I only drove into the Vevey office on Thursday morning because my Wednesday work schedule from 05:15 to 20:30 had left me, well a little tired.

    So when my normal car parking space was taken I thought I might just squeeze past that tight space on the right, just like I'd seen somebody else doing this last Monday.

    About 30 seconds later as baby Audi moved forward a horrible scraping noise started. I immediately applied the brakes as the front bonnet of the car was being scewered by a Solid rectangular cabinet edge.

    Parking the car revealed about a 20cm deep cut in the bonnet, it actually split open the top layer it was such a strong cabinet. I checked that damn cabinet, it is just fine.

    I think the irony is that only yesterday I commented how well the car was going and that it was a pleasure to have such a small and manoeverable car. Clearly I somewhat overstepped the mark. What a twonk I am. I am embarassed and reflect that since 1990 there has been:

    • Reversing the CRX into a car park bollard, bending the back number plate and slightly compressing the rear bumper
    • Reversing the NSX into a car space at the same time as another man shot in (his fault, my damaged wing, his Cavailier unscathed)
    • Now, splitting open the top bonnet of the Audi
    Car parks have been my accident nemesis then for over 20 years. I feel like a right twonk and I am extremely embarassed.

    I am visiting Audi at 07:00 this Friday morning. I think it is going to be an expensive fix.

    Friday night update
    Audi Lutry looked at the car. After a full day of study they concluded a bonnet replacement and respray would be 2260.95 CHF , that is about 1472 GBP. Yes, truly an expensive day at the office.

    McLaren Fine Driving

    I seem to be on the McLaren MP4 mailing list, and well it's the kind of car I'd very much like to own.

    It is low, lightweight and sporty. It is also fairly unassuming by Supercar standards. But then the price which is about 170K GBP, and heavens above what the Swiss price will be. (1GBP = 1.6 CHF, a fact that is ignored by most car manufacturers who seem to use something like 1GBP of motorcar == 3CHF )

    Nevertheless I'd like to promote it here

    • It is a car that as an Engineer I'd feel proud to own

    • Lightweight!

    • Contains no big greedy componentry e.g. relatively modest 3.8 litre engine

    • Good stats: 280g/Carbon/Km. 590BHP @7K Rpm, 100->0Kmh in 30metres, 1301Kg (lightweight options), 11.7l/100 Km, 200->0Kmh 123 metres.

    • Rear wheel drive, 7 speed Dual Clutch Gearbox, 2 seats, Gullwing doors

    • A car configurator that actually makes sense

    Philosophically, this car looks so good you can begin to try and rationalise it's cost when you see the intense attention to detail that has clearly accompanied its thoughtful design and implementation.

    When you own something that is truly beautiful, yet functional and strong enough to be actually usable, it is a very fine feeling indeed. Even at UK prices though, the car is somewhat pricy so it will remain a pipe dream, but we hope to get up close and personal in Geneva sometime soon.

    Wednesday, February 16, 2011

    Biologic iPhone Case

    For some months now Agata and Marcus have been pondering the purchase of a GPS based Cycle Computer. The Garmin 800 has been eagerly anticipated but the arrival of the iPhone 4 presented an alternative.

    Would an iPhone in a special Bicycle case be a substitute, perhaps a superior substitute?

    After much Googling I settled on the Biologic iPhone 4 hard Case

    The Biologic mount on the left and the Cateye mount on the right. I am absolutely thrilled that I can use the Biologic and the Cateye 610 simultaneously.

    Here is the case close up. Click on the photo to zoom in for more detail.

    The iPhone 4 inside the open case. Below the iPhone button is a space for a power cable. So you could plug that in, then close the case and you would still have an almost waterproof seal. Could be useful for a long competition when the internal battery would not last.

    The internal case shown empty. The rubbery base is square cut for the iPhone 4. Also supplied was a curvy inside case for the older iPhone3 or 3GS.

    Back of the case. The mount can actually rotate so the iPhone could be mounted in Landscape or Portrait. For me it has to be Landscape because of the adjacent Cateye Light.

    Well there has only been a single day of usage but I am pretty impressed. In summary

    • It cost about 100 CHF (100 USD) including shipping from America (well actually the unit is direct shipped from its manufacturer in China, but Biologic is an American owned company)

    • I can really see the iPhone display and use my finger on the screen as though the front clear cover was not there. It is that good

    • On this Day1, down steep hills and very bumpy uneven roads the mount did not slip or rattle

    • Not yet tested, but case claims to be waterproof! (from rain showers anyway)

    • Using Runkeeper you will easily be good for at least 1.5 hour cycle and Navigation. So pretty good for a commute to work.

    • -- On a longer (say weekend Cycle), you might like to take an external powerpack and plug that in, the case allows for that to be plugged in whilst in use. (This is where a Garmin 800 would dance all over the iPhone relatively poor battery life)

    • -- Apple have a nasty habit of changing their phone shapes. Could easily be the iPhone 5, (of course rumoured to be coming in late 2011) might need another case!

    • I love the idea of making the iPhone 4 (with Runkeeper) do the work instead of buying a separate and another gadget. Sort of simpler .... right?

    A further word on the alternatives
    • Garmin 405 watch or Garmin 800 Bike computer
    • Superior Battery Life
    • Lighter
    • More robust
    • But another gadget, and more expensive overall
    • Support for Pedal cadence
    • Better calculation of calories burnt (than Runkeeper anyway)

    Tuesday, February 15, 2011

    Diet ++

    As I logged onto the Runkeeper application website last night it became clear that my weight had not been accurately set. This means that unfortunately the calories that the Runkeeper application assured me I was burning away in the last two weeks whilst exercising were too optimistic

    Now all is reset accurately I need to focus back on the question as to how Agata and I will actually begin to lose weight. To start from the premis: Getting heavier/fatter if

    Calories IN > Calories Out + Exercise Calories

    So it is time to save some money and buy some heathier foods whilst at the same time cutting down on the deliciously tasty but often calorie laden indulgence food.

    I think in the prosperous West we should all reflect on the possible fractions of a day, and for some the fractions even of an hour which can earn us enough money to feed us for an entire week.

    With almost an infinity of choice, the 365 day per year availability of what was once seasonal fruits and vegetables, we have now more than ever to decide what we should be eating, not just what we can be eating.

    And so on our new diets, which we hope will bring our recent weight gains down:

    • A further reduction on the amount of red meat or fat laden dry meats

    • Let the wine isles be territory that shall be temporarily unchartered
    (This will save us a fortune!)

    • Let our shopping basket contain more green objects, more sugar free or low sugar objects

    • Chocolate and Ice Cream are also now banished from our daily menu

    So the daily exercise is set to continue, the Diet moves to Diet++ and Agata and Marcus will try to remove at least 3 kilograms each, not including any cheaty water weightloss.

    Monday, February 14, 2011

    Lausanne 2011 Events

    Apologies for the formatting ... But residents of Lausanne and environs, this is what sporting events we have to look forward to this year of 2011

    As usual you may click on the images to enhance, Blade Runner styly

    So to any friends far away reading this, we take pleasure in inviting you to any one of the above events in 2011.

    Sunday, February 13, 2011

    Sunday Fun Run

    Whenever we are "back home" in London we always insist on running in the area we could once call home. And so it's a fresh, damp and mildly raining Sunday and we're off .. In the above display I actually forgot to switch Runkeeper on in time, so it turned out to be an 11Km run. A respectable effort considering the show, shopping and eating the night before.

    Most of the run if going to be around Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park.

    We missed the fact that Cirque du Soleil is at the Royal Albert Hall . So all we could manage is a run past or two.

    People playing football in the park. Quite dedicated considering the marginal weather (this photo has been brightened!)

    For the ultimately privileged and wealthy a Sunday ride in the park on ones own horse is the way to go.

    Australian War memorial

    Part of the Changing of the Guard

    Sawdust is put down just in case the horses leave a deposit

    We are back in the park now heading towards the palace, so many damn tourists. Oh, wait a minute, we too are now tourists, since we don't live in England any more.

    The crowds around the palace are insane. It's just the changing of the guard and nothing more according to the policeman that I asked

    Queen Victoria Memorial, London version

    It is so cold in London that soldiers are now wearing special thermal hats

    And from here we ran back to our Hotel near Lancaster Gate. Whilst we only managed a comfortable 11Km we enjoyed ourselves as usual.