Monday, January 30, 2012

It broke down

It had an honourable life but after many tens of uses as my swim bag the above has finally and joyfully reached an Engineering state of  U2R.  

Uneconomic to Repair (U2R) means more than the cost of my time is just not worth a recovery action.

In Switzerland when you enter any Running or Cycling or Athletic event the cost is not cheap. Usually 50-200 CHF  (50 - 200 USD).

But on the plus side you normally get back a Tshirt (or other clothing item), a Water Bottle, a goodie bag  (as above) and maybe even some Sponsor creams e.g. massage, deep heat.

So after > 20 competitions in 2011 you can imagine our store of goodie bags is overflowing.

Therefore I shall recycle the above bag now.

We try so very hard to use all our possessions to the fullest degree and we trust our Engineering ancestors do not disprove.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

What is up with Firefox

It is a cheap shot I know, but what the hell is up with FireFox versioning?

I don't mind being behind the leading edge but change the version number is seems almost every few months leaves me feeling like I am ancient running my Firefox 4 browser.

Update: Since writing this email tonight I received another email ...

The madness continues, but since one of my employers mandates use of Firefox as the corporate browser, well, I have to play along

If I had to generalise however I would say that 

  • Firefox is perhaps the ultimate backup browser
  • I'd recommend Google Chrome Canary as your primary browser
  • Or regular Google Chrome  (i.e. non beta) if you don't want to be bleeding edge
  • And finally Chrome Portable,  as the browser you can run from your USB key on your intentionally crippled non Administrator access corporate PC.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mac Mini SSD 2nd Disk Upgrade

Ifixit is a famous (to Apple fanboys) company that sells tools and components to upgrade your Apple computers.

As will be clear from this posting Apple is now going to obscene lengths to make it as difficult or near impossible for you to perform any upgrades, except the ones they permit you of course.

But there is one thing that iFxit could not sell me .... new Eyes.   Knowing what I know now, upgrading my modest i5 Apple Mac Mini was a terribly stupid idea and I don't recommend it to anybody.

Why is it stupid?

  • The rear cover of the Mac Mini allows you to replace memory. You can easily put in upto 16GB (2x8GB) SO DIMM.  So far so good!
  • Inserting a new Hard disk  (what I document here) involves removing the motherboard but the connectors for the Fan and Wireless are not designed to be removed.
  • The design is claustrophobic and the chances of you buggering something up are high
  • To attach the  2nd hard disk you need the iFixit Dual Hard Drive Kit which can only be shipped to Europe at > 30 USD even though the cable weighs less than 50 grams  (On the plus side the kit comes with a wire to lever out the motherboard and a Torx set)
  • All the disk and fan and other sockets are really tiny.  I mean a child with perfect eyesight would have difficultly making the reassembly

Anyway here is how it went, and let's just say it all worked out in the end

I used some of the above tools plus large magnifying glasses and 2 headtorches

Getting the back off and memory out was the easy part

 By moving the motherboard to the left slightly you can get the Apple Hard disk out

 But this is what happens when you try to pull a connector out.   Busted!

We will try to fix that later!

 This is the Dual drive cable from ifixit

It's like this.    With the Mac Mini upside down i.e. looking down onto the internals as is my photos you will find the factory installed disk on the top.   I am adding a second 128GB SSD.  So my desired config is 128GB disk as primary disk  (physically on top) and original Mac Disk  (500GB spinning) on the bottom.

So the ifixit cable and hard drive mountings are attached to the Apple Disk.  Then my Crucial disk will use the original Mac SATA cable and be placed on the top.

Now the Gotcha:  You can't mount the bottom drive without taking the whole motherboard out.

A long while later both hard disks are installed, but we had to take out the Motherboard, insert the disks, then slide back Motherboard.

Also note in above picture the connector I broke still needs fixing.

This ifixit Guide formed the base instructions.  Unfortunately ifixit don't mention the fragility and size of the connector blocks.

Power on the and SSD is not found.      Take apart again ...

The SATA connector for the SSD had disconnected itself.  It's a terribly small, non standard connector, which seems to just sit in position.  No reassuring click or confident closure.  Not impressed.

Now eventually both SSD and Original 500 GB Hard disk are operational.  That was not easy!

Partition the 128GB SSD with 2 Partitions.  127 GB Macintosh SHD  for the Operating System and 1GB Recovery SHD for the Recovery Partition

Download SuperDuper and cloned your current OSX Lion to the SSD

Before shutdown in Control Panel select the new Disk as my Startup disk

Rebooted fine (to SSD)

There is a 6Gbps SSD connected on a 6GBps interface .. good.

This Mini has only 8GB of RAM but 16GB is possible, I tested it.

Carbon Copy Cloner (Beta) now has knowledge of Recovery HD, the hidden partition which you should also copy as well as the OSX partition.  However I was not confident it would not screw up my original Recovery HD  (at this point new Recovery HD was shown above as unititled)

So instead  I made Carbon Copy cloner clone my source disk to the new SSD  (overwriting SuperDuper's work).  In so doing it makes a disk image call Recovery HD.dmg and places it as shown above.

So then I did a Block copy of that image onto the Small 2nd partition that I created  (and now renamed from Unititled to Recovery SHD).

  • Upgrade performed, but really I would not recommend it
  • Apple are very serious about not wanting you to upgrade their machines.  Must be a nightmare to work in their serivce department!
  • System now boots to a desktop in under 20 seconds
  • I am still not sure my Recovery Partition is working correctly.  Will test laters.

Power on to ready  (including Auto logon)  17 seconds
Power off  16.5 seconds

Crucial Memory for Mac Mini  upto 16GB
ifixit Mac Mini 2011 teardown
iFixit Dual Hard Drive Kit
Carbon Copy Supports Recovery HD

Yurbuds What big ears you have

The quest for the ultimate sports headphones continues.  Today I am reviewing my attempt to reach headphone nirvana

50USD and 2 weeks later a somewhat huge box arrived.  Ah well no chance of any damage, I just hope that I don't get a Swiss Customs duty letter in a few days  (normally 15CHF + 8%)  which would bring the total cost of the purchase to about  70 USD :-(

Anyway in the box are the headphones, a small rather cheap zip pouch, and some replacement red buds (Large) to replace the Medium ones that come fitted.

First impressions? These headphone are flippin enormous!  I mean my ears got scared just attempting to insert them, and, I have large ears.

Second impressions?  Yes Agata confirmed it was not just me, they are large, large large.  Are Americans a race of enormous eared people  :-)

So, it has now been a few days and I have the full picture

  • +They definitely don't fall out ever!   You insert them (see this video) then twist them into position
  • -The red colour, well a bit ostentatious.  I would prefer neutral black
  • =The cord  has a woven exterior, in the 1970's you could get electrical wires like these.  Quite nice.
  • - Sound quality against my Sony MDR-EX32LP is inferior.
  • - There is no tie, to pull the cords together. The Y part is 45 cm's in length and that tends to flap around without a tie
  • --- If you wear a hat or helmet then the pressure onto the <huge> earphones could be an issue:
To explain.  Cyclists wear helmets  (its law in Switzerland and you'd be an idiot without one).   In cold weather you might also wear a thermal hat.

On a snowboard you would be advised to wear a helmet

Any of the above press from the outside onto the headphone and for me mean cause discomfort or even pain if worn for anything more than 30 minutes.

  • The size issue has had me searching for more tiny Sony earphones.  I just ordered some  Sony MDR-EX50LP since the current Sony MDR-EX32LP are so fantastic

Overall, I will try them for a while longer but I just don't see any advantages over my Sony's.

My Previous Headphone finds
Yurbuds main site

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Trading Places

Yes there is still time, but I am afraid only to buy the DVD.  Available for as little as 4 GBP   I am referring to the 1983 classic movie Trading Places.

This movie is an educational guide as to how a Futures Market would work.   You can offer to supply goods e.g. Pork Bellies at a future time at a specific price.  Say you offer Bellies at the same price as today.  Somebody who wants Pork Bellies in the future might think the price will rise so enters into a contract with you.

In the future then if the price decreased  (i.e. did not go up as your buyer expected) then parties are locked to the contract, you win. Alternatively if the street price went up and I had to buy the Pork Bellies later to give to you, then you gain.

Of course the movie does not cover one of the fundamental changes from a gentlemans gentleman industry to one full of Chavs.  From an industry when your risked your own money, to one where you risked someone else's.

Aside from the financials  I think the movie contains so many memorable scenes and quotes.  Here is just one:

Billy Ray[watches Louis clean his shotgun] You know, you can't just go around and shoot people in the kneecaps with a double-barreled shotgun 'cause you pissed at 'em.
Louis: Why not?
Billy Ray: 'Cause it's called assault with a deadly weapon, you get 20 years for that shit.
Louis: Listen, do you have any better ideas?
Billy Ray: Yeah. You know, it occurs to me that the best way you hurt rich people is by turning them into poor people.
Coleman: You have to admit, sir, you didn't like it yourself a bit.

More than this, watch this excerpt  and repeat after me: It was the Greeks, it was the Greeks :-)

And why would you need this humour?   Well with financial armageddon coming to a European country or American Continent, well presently,  you are going to need some laughs to get by.  I thought I might start a little timer ...

It was the Dukes  (Repeat after me: It was the Greeks)
I can see

Who stole my Christmas

Today I am relaxing.  But note I have missed Christmas.

Agata and Marcus don't really celebrate Christmas too much but we feel we do have the right to slow down, drink eat and be merry much like everybody around us.

So what with working 10 hours on Christmas Eve, 4 hours on Christmas Day, 8 on Boxing day I can honestly say that **** has stolen my Christmas.  My indignation is basically that in England and in say a traditional International Corporate environment

  • Early December: Christmas Planning
  • Mid December: Company Christmas Lunch
  • A bit Later: Corporate Christmas Party
  • 1 week before:  Absences at work due to Afternoon Shopping
  • Christmas Eve: Disappearing from the Office Early
  • Christmas Day: No Work, Food, Alcohol, Queens Speech
  • Boxing Day: Recovering
  • Until New Year:  Take it Easy
  • New Years Eve: Party
  • New Years Day: Recovery
Yes I missed out on this great British slowdown tradition.   We were robbed.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Show me some Latitude

Every month or two that nice man Mr Google sends me a message

This is a reminder that you have enabled Google Location History on your GoogleLatitude account

Yes, we know that, and from the bottom of our Technological hearts we thank you so much for Google Latitude

I have already posted a small article on Latitude, how are things 1 year or so later?

Well Latitude is still absolutely brilliant.  Since my iPhone is on 24x7 with the Latitude App loaded and also since I gave Google permission to find my position from my gmail login, well Google pretty much always knows exactly where I am at any time.

So what are the consequences now:

  • Google records my position every day.  So I can select this link  and I can look back at exactly where I was on any day in the past.  It is just absolutely amazing!
  • Imagine if the UK Government tried to make me pay UK residency taxes.  A couple of clicks on Latitude would prove to them that I definitely not living in England
  • Agata can find exactly where I am at any time
  • So, for example she can start running from Work to home and I can similarly start running toward her and then link up with her in real time by locating our respective real time locations.
  • You can share your location with only the people you choose; which is sensible
  • The Latitude Dashboard is in beta but shows you additional statistics like time spent at your designated home or work locations.

So if you don't trust Google or if you have something to hide then stay away from Latitude else I really recommend it.

Your Position on Google Latitude

Monday, January 23, 2012

Man we missed CES

The gratifying thing about coming out (ask a Geek I mean) is that you don't have to be a closet Technology advocate.

And so it is with a heavy heart that Agata and Marcus can almost tearfully say that we missed CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2012.

A good place to catchup on what you have missed would be the Hak5 iTunes Podcast feed as shown above

What have we learnt?

  • CES occurs in January.   This is an awkward time for anyone celebrating Christmas and New Year.   Assuming you don't have an infinite vacation you might have cut down Christmas to make room for CES.  Tough choice.
  • CES is in Las Vegas.  We love Las Vegas!
  • A truly incredible range of products is on view and for 2013 we think a booking is a must
  • The lead time between CES and Production, especially European production is at least 6 months.

    So you need a lot of patience to wait for any CES must have technology
  • Although as consultants we normally have a less than 12 month planning horizon (for anything) we feel that CES 2013 is going to be worth an early reservation Jan 8 - Jan 11 2013 

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

In Blogtime it is Monday January 9, 2012.

Today we will be visiting the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. No expense has been spared,  it was completed in 2001  (read modern technology and building materials),  our expectations are high.

But first we must concentrate on the lavish Chedi a la carte cooked breakfast menu

Driving towards the Mosque

Upon arrival we noted the rules,  we note that Women are discriminated against compared to the clothing options for men.

And so the lovely ladies are today a little more covered up than usual.

Next, in several languages , English is shown here, I was treated to a one page summary of Islam.

This is the floor plan.  It is truly impressive.

The entrance for non devotees i.e. visitors is far far away

But it was worth it ....

Truly intricate and quite spectacular

Agata waits patiently for the husband

On exit from this splendid mosque we passed by the Islamic Information Centre.  Apart from slogans as shown above (don't confuse it with Arbeit mach frei ) we picked up some literature including A brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam and Women in Islam.   Here is a random quote from the former:

Page 32: Ever since the Qur'an was revealed, fourteen centuries ago, no one has been able to produce a single chapter like the chapters of the Qur'an in their beauty, eloquence, splendour, wise legislation, true information, true prophecy, and other perfect attributes.

Wow, I never realised that.

Now who said Islam had no positive aspects?

Agata reads "Women in Islam" whilst constructing a makeshift burqa

All the manual workers at the Mosque I saw without exception were Indian.  Therefore it was a nice suprise to see one of their trusty tranports, an Atlas bicycle

Time now to head back to the Chedi, a few more Km in that 103 metre pool and pack up for our last night in Oman this time.

Our farewell dinner was at the renowned Indian restaurant Mumtaz Mahal.   Nice dinner, but in our live music set, what was the lady in the middle doing.  Mystery :-)

And so readers, this is the end of our wonderful Omani holiday.  I know what you are all thinking.   It is practically a crime to send young Marcus and Agata back to work tomorrow.  Well, until we can finally retire it shall be so. Perhaps in 2102?

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
Mumtaz Mahal Restaurant Reviews
Atlas bicycles India
A brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam
Discover Islam