Wednesday, February 29, 2012

More Mclaren MP4-12C

On my almost daily running or cycle exercise route I pass the above DeLorean.
Well in fact I mean I pass these 2 DeLorean's !

I am not boasting but in Lausanne we do have an Aston Martin, Ferrari/Maserati and Bentley dealerships.

Then in nearby Vevey there is the famous Garage Donati who will restore your cherished Testarossa or Stratos

All in all this is high density SuperCar and Classic car region.

But I just watched Chris Harris's living with the McLaren MP4-12C review

It made us absolutely sure that this is the kind of insanely & meticulously Engineered, non bling, reasonably practical Supercar that we can really aspire to.  If you are listening McLaren, Agata and Marcus would really be prepared to become  "Living with the MP4-12C for a year" unpaid test consultants.   You know it makes sense :-)

McLaren fine Driving
Chris Harris (as above) Living with the MP4-12C
DeLorean Motor Company

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Internet Sayings

Home is where you hang your @

The E-mail of the species is more deadly than the mail.

A journey of a thousand sites begins with a single click.

You can’t teach a new mouse old clicks.

Great groups from little icons grow.

Speak softly and carry a cellular phone.

C: is the root of all directories.

Don’t put all your hypes in one home page.

Pentium wise; pen and paper foolish.

The modem is the message.

Too many clicks spoil the browse.

The geek shall inherit the earth.

A chat has nine lives.

Don’t byte off more than you can view.

Fax is stranger than fiction.

What boots up must come down.

Windows will never cease.

In Gates we trust.

Virtual reality is its own reward.

Modulation in all things.

A user and his leisure time are soon parted.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to use the Net and he won’t bother you for weeks.

There’s no place like

Monday, February 27, 2012

No Interest

In preparation for filing my Swiss taxes I have been reviewing the interest I have received on deposits for the tax year ending December 31 2011.

International deposit rates are now at an all time low, thanks predominantly IMHO  (in my humble opinion) to Quantitative Easing.

This was brought home quite tragically when I checked an interest statement.   In exchange for lending an International Bank a sum equivalent to a Chevrolet Corvette  the bank gave me about 25 dollars (i.e. 25 CHF, 18GBP) .   That is about 5 cups of coffee.

Let me reverse that,  how about I'll buy you a Starbucks coffee each working day next week, then on Saturday you and I walk down to the Corvette dealer and you buy a car for me.  In one years time I promise to buy you another 5 cups of coffee.

In practical terms then, it is just impossible to in any way 'live from the interest'  from even a quite enormously large bank deposit.  It is therefore back to work for both rich and poor,  we are now subsidising the prior generation of borrowed hard, spent large, lost large, earned little.   Thanks a bunch :-(

Oh, and here are some more let's print some money balance sheets:

Living in a QE World

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mr Monk

Sometimes time marches on and excitement is hard to find; but for Marcus and Agata finding a new decent television serious is certainly a rush.

And when we can be entertained and come to learn something, well it just gets better.

Character actor Tony Shalhoub finally found his perfect role on the television show MONK, winning both an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his performance. Shalhoub plays Adrian Monk, a neurotic, obsessive-compulsive former police detective who now solves crimes in his spare time, but secretly hopes to be reinstated on the force. However, as valuable as Monk's brilliant, deductive mind is, it is matched only by the depth of his obsessive fear of germs, heights, and crowds, ultimately rendering him unfit for duty. The highly acclaimed detective-comedy has been called the successor to COLUMBO.

We love to watch the imaginary lifestyle of someone who is even more fussy and particular than we are. Follow the link below and in 3 short purchases you can purchase Series 1 through 8 inclusive.

Disclaimer: All characters appearing in this series are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead,  Agata or Marcus, is purely coincedential.

Mr Monk Series 1-6 (Amamzon)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

We remembered Sion

Once in a while it is good to do the tourist thing.  Especially true when Uncle Rob and Aunty Hilary are visiting.

We thought we would trundle out to Sion.   Marcus was initially excited because he thought we were going to Psion :-)

After parking our car Marcus found a Lithium Ion battery powered funky car

The bicycle racks here are clever, there are upper and lower level

 We passed by the cool dudes skateboard clothing shop

 Our first decision,  how long a ramble shall we make this?

 In stereotypical tradition Marcus marvels at the gizmo wires that are used to keep the growing vines tidy

 In winter time when all is pruned back I am glad to report that it is still very tidy

 30 minutes of walking later the villas on the hillside are starting to get very fancy

 Arrival at our lake destination.  Time to return back downtown

More impressive villas here with added witch protection

 We made a tour of the local cemetery.  Always interesting

 Walking thru the old town

 Jesus Saves at the Cathedral

 Ah Gucci goggles.  No price.  Well I suppose if you have to ask ....

Probably the cantonal building?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Itchy and Scratchy

So it has been a seemingly long 3 days and 3 nights since Sunday.  Because in that time I have had less than 10 hours sleep total.

Now you might recall that my skills in the Not Sleeping department are legendary.  (I don't count Parties where I always fall asleep)

But this week I have been assaulted by an all over itchy and scratchy red rash.

It started after a swim in Mon Repos pool this Sunday and has been so severe that I am basically unable to sleep.

What are the learning points so far?

  • I visited my excellent local Doctor (Dr Bally, Victor-Ruffy 6, 1012 Lausanne)
  • He told me it was not chickenpox.  This is good because 'at my age' I've been informed that this would be serious.
  • Not chickenpox because I only have a mild fever
  • Not contagious, so I have been to work
  • I found out that the itching and pain is excrutiating.  It can be temporarily relieved by taking a BOILING HOT shower.   The relief lasts about 30 minutes
  • So the best way to try and sleep is  shower, then drink the best part of a bottle of wine (quickly).
  • It is now Friday morning 01.00 and if the above works then I can get a whole 4.5 hours sleep till the alarm wakes me at 05.30.  Luxury.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cold Weather Heroes

The native population in Switzerland is accustomed to cold weather.   But life away from the ski slopes may not be so easy.

In this post I'd like to say a big thank you to the people that continue to deliver our post daily: the men and women from Swisspost.

2 factors that non Swiss readers will never imagine

  1. The postmen are equipped with underpowered tricycles as shown above.   With the skinniest tyres known to anyone I really would say that no amount of encouragement / money in the world would make me venture out on this equipment in icy and snowy conditions.

  2. In Switzerland there are only 2 principle Supermarket chains Coop and Migros.  Each of them produce a large heavyweight paper magazine.

    For at least 1 day each week then the Postman's job is dominated by by regular mail but by this enormous advertising magazine.

Put these two factors together and during the last 3 weeks of very cold and snowy weather, well respect is due to those heroic men and women from Swisspost.

During this time I ask 2 of our local cats what they thought:

Ungrateful kitty said:  Marcus please keep your Audi bonnet warmer, I have had to sit on your neighbours car today, it is hotter.

and a week later ..

Last Sunday,  Mon Repos swimming pool kitty told me: I am glad that cold snap is receding.  Time to get back out in the sunshine.

VLC Video Lan Client

Video Lan Client or VLC is a superb video and audio player available for a wide variety of Operating Systems.

VLC was first brought to my attention many years ago because it was simple to install and did not rely on Codec support from the underlying OS.  Rather everything is built into its own binaries.

Plus you can copy it by just copying a directory of files, so it can run quite happily from a USB key without Windows admin rights

What makes it so great??

  • Lots of options to twiddle
  • Support for Subtitles and moving subtitles and audio forward and backward vs the video, for badly aligned videos

  • Online help can display keys
  • Plays DVD's  (and usually Blu-Rays if you have any)
  • Many Super Advanced Options (I rarely use)
  • Streaming Internet Radio 
  • Media Converter  i.e. Transcode
  • Media streamer,  take input media e.g. video on hard disk and send it to target computer on the network
  • Media Receiver: Point VLC at a network or internet based URL and have it stream audio or video to you directly
  • Available Free for Windows, OSX. Linux

So quite simply you can simplify the media players for all your computers.  Multi platform, multi media,  choose VLC. And free!

Video Lan Main Page

Monday, February 20, 2012

Greece: Making Your Mind Up

keep thinking

Ostensibly today is the day when Greece finally has to make its' mind up.

Based on their track record in the last 6 months I am quite sure that it will be no, no, and thrice no  [Frankie Howard], then quite suddenly they will agree to everything.

One thing is evident to me the following videos may help me make light of what is really not a Greek but a European tragedy.


Don't give up on us

Making your mind up

Money Money Money

Land of Make Believe  (ideal for a post accord deal)

May <insert deity> save us  (in other words we have absolutely no chance)

Token Alloy Tiramic Jockey Wheel

How difficult can it be to find a decent non bling replacement jockey wheel?

A jockey wheel is part of the rear derailleur of a bicycle, it's the double set of wheels that the chain goes around just below the changer mechanism.

Mine are worn out and so a replacement was sought.  Clearly I wanted to improve on the original and so what did I learn?

  • I searched Wiggle for ages and settled on   Token TK1711TBT Alloy Tiramic Jockey Wheel 
  • I had to go for silver more discreet colours were sold out
  • These jockey wheels weigh only 10grams each  (DuraAce is 11 grams) so 
  • Ceramic bearings are included and are lighter and have a lower rolling resistance
  • Shimano need 11 tooth wheels and Campagnolo need 10 tooth wheels.
  • The outgoing DuraAce had a direction of travel, the replacements had none.
  • Despite going slowly  first time around I put the chain in wrongly - my only excuse was the bicycle was upside down
  • So after 1 hour of buggering about, hands black with chain grease all was completed. The wheels came with some sort of inner sleeve that I didn't use, hopefully that's okay
  • All seems well so far, no opportunity to test so far because it is still snowy here.

Overall then really no complaints then apart from the medium bling colour

Token TK1711TBT Alloy Tiramic Jockey Wheel

Sunday, February 19, 2012

mSATA Disks

Today I am still following but not yet implementing the mSATA disk standard.

An mSATA disk drive looks rather like PCI Mini Express card but is completely different in specification.  But the idea is similar, provide an edge connector for Storage typically on a motherboard.  

The mSATA disk drive is a naked i.e. uncased electronics card that is small enough to be placed directly onto motherboard.

A mSATA disk drive can weigh less than 10 grams

Many new Motherboard designs  have an 6Gb/sec mSATA slot allowing you to place the OS disk directly and avoid a proprietary memory disk based design  (e.g.  Apple Macbook).

The Shuttle SZ68 has a motherboard mSATA slot

The Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD5H motherboard has a mSATA slot

For maximum form factor efficiency the mSATA slot arrives on a forthcoming mini ITX motherboard.

Overall then, worth waiting for is

  • A decent ATX motherboard with a Intel Z77 Chipset. I'd go for a Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD5H or similar

  • The Panther Point Z77 specifications and physicals are still a bit sketchy.  We wait right?
  • A 128GB mSATA drive or better from the likes of Sandisk
  • A suitably compact and high quality Chassis e.g. from Lian-Li

I estimate May 2012 in good retail stores everywhere.

Shuttle SZ68 Barebones computer
GigaByte GA-Z77X-UD5H

Intel Z77 Chipset i.e. Panther Point
Sandisk X100 mSATA disk
Sandisk X100 series brochure

Saturday, February 18, 2012

2011 Filing

I have heard it said that some famalies don't store, scan or catalog their data.  To those delusional people, well in 50 years time how are you going to find anything?

For us then the end of any year presents a major filing challenge.

All our legally download 2011 media (e.g. lectures and videos),  documents, Photographs, Podcasts must be filed to make room for the 2012 media.

I'm going to take Podcasts as an example:

Cleanup the Server

  • Move Podcasts from the Lounge Synology NAS server  to the backup server
  • Podcasts directory now empty (95GB liberated)
Cleanup the Client
  • Podcasts are initially downloaded via iTunes and stored on a local Macbook.   Due to <iTunes> terrible coding Old Podcasts may remain that should be deleted
  • In iTunes Preferences, Advanced Preferences find out where iTunes is storing your Music. Perform the necessary manual deletions

Make Some Longterm Backups

  • Well the Podcasts are stored on a copy disk (of course). A copy disk is a mirror copy of a disk in the backup server.
  • Because of the worldwide disk shortages due to Thai Floods I'd recommend staying with 3TB Hitachi 7K3000 copy disks, the 4TB 7K4000 drive prices are currently just too expensive.
  • For critical items like Photographs an additional 50GB Blueray disk backup is made  (about 3 years of photos per disk)

So now podcasts are handled, repeat for all other media categories until done.

I think therefore I scan

Retirement Benefits

Ah the weekend has arrived but it seems like financial despondency begin to seep into ones lives again with this mornings post.

At the beginning of the year in Switzerland you are by law sent the summary of your earning from employer(s) in the previous year, this is Jan 01 2011 - Dec 31 2011.  Also you will be sent your pension summary statement.  Some things remained clear

  • The Swiss Pension system is mandatory.  Most schemes invest in Property and Stocks Globally
  • You pay (and pay) for tens of years, and depressing numbers not shown ... ours are not sufficient to pay for the rental on our apartment and food ... Eeek!
  • And their figures are based on fantasy 2.5% rates, whereas bank rates are << 1%
  • As Swiss begin to panic  (well, in relation to Swiss norms) property have already risen uncontrollably.
  • I recommend reading the UBS Real Estate Focus Guide Jan 2012

So are there any answers?

Well no magic bullets, it is more of a damage limitation exercise if you are starting today.  Inflation is low, most world governments have already  curtailed new borrowing whilst at the same time artificially dropping existing rates so that the millions who already overborred don't get too angry. So savers deposit rates, which by definition must be less than lending rates are effectively zero.  But investments in Government bonds or many Stock Portfolio classes  (e.g. banks!) are also doomed/risky. 

So best invest heavily in a modest property to live in, once that is paid up, well just how bad can things get as retirement coasts in.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Korn Shell ksh93 enhancements

The shell programming language is the standard, interpreted, i.e. non compiled programming language that ships with every UNIX computer system.

To me the Korn Shell replaced its Historical predecessor the Bourne Shell as the defacto standard language.

Today the Korn shell has 2 variants the 1988 and 1993.  But what extra goodies might you be able to code in if you start your program with?  (An extract from my Wiki page)


and assuming your UNIX or LINUX or Cygwin comes with

$ ksh --version
  version         sh (AT&T Research) 1993-12-28 s+

Fancy Maths

typeset -i x=2 y
print $x $y
print $y,$x

typeset -i result
typeset -i x=4
print $result

print $result

Associative Arrays

typeset -A sys0
lsattr -El sys0 | while read name value discard
print ${sys0[realmem]}
print ${sys0[*]}
8193 false 0 2097152 1 4.00 IBM,EH350_049 secure 20 true false true 0X800004F117000000 9 128 enable false select 256 false normal 0.10 disk 10000 0.30 IBM,0283332B4 0.01 enable 0X800004F117000065 0 false true disable true 1596000000 4096 IBM,9119-FHA

Linked Variables

source="tomoto sauce"
typeset -n dest=source     # variable dest now linked to v
print $dest
tomato sauce
dest="that is what love is"
print $source
that is what love is

More Parameter Expansions

# print out index names of an associative array
typeset -A sys0   # first create the variable array called sys0
lsattr -El sys0 | while read name value discard; do  sys0[$name]=$value; done  # setup array
print ${!sys0[@]}   # print out all array index names
maxpout capped ghostdev realmem rtasversion max_capacity nfs4_acl_compat fwversion pre430core maxbuf log_pg_dealloc enhanced_RBAC max_logname id_to_system variable_weight conslogin iostat sed_config ncargs min_capacity keylock SW_dist_intr boottype maxuproc ent_capacity systemid maxmbuf id_to_partition cpuguard capacity_inc pre520tune fullcore dedicated autorestart modelname minpout frequency

# print out part of a string to the end of line
typeset -l msg="the little cat sat on the big mat"
print ${msg:11}       # print from  char 11 to EndofLine
cat sat on the big mat
print ${msg:11:3}

# print out command line parameters 
set -- the little cat sat on the big mat
print ${@:3}    # print out from $3 to the end of the line
cat sat on the big mat
print ${@:3:1}

# substitute first match of a string
typeset -l msg="the little cat sat on the big mat"
print ${msg/little/large}
the large cat sat on the big mat
print $msg
the little cat sat on the big mat

# substitute all matches of a string
typeset -l msg="the little cat sat on the big mat"
print ${msg//the/a}
a little cat sat on a big mat
print $msg
the little cat sat on the big mat

# replace beginning of string
typeset -l msg="the little cat sat on the big mat"
print ${msg/#th/Th}
The little cat sat on the big mat
print $msg
the little cat sat on the big mat

# replace end of a string
typeset -l msg="the little cat sat on the big mat"
print ${msg/%mat/mattress}
the little cat sat on the big mattress
print $msg
the little cat sat on the big mat

Discipline functions

# kinda object oriented functions

function mytime.get 
.sh.value=$(date +%r)
print $mytime ; sleep 4 ; print $mytime
06:35:06 PM
06:35:10 PM

function ncall.set 
(( .sh.value++ ))
print $ncall
print $ncall

Function environments

# the difference between function myfunction and myfunction ()

function myfunction
print myvar inside function is $myvar
typeset myvar=99
print myvar reset to $myvar inside function
return 0

typeset myvar=1
myvar inside function is 1
myvar reset to 99 inside function
print myvar after function myfunction is $myvar
myvar after function myfunction is 1

myfunction ()
print myvar inside function is $myvar
typeset myvar=99
print myvar reset to $myvar inside function
return 0

typeset myvar=1
myvar inside function is 1
myvar reset to 99 inside function
print myvar after function myfunction\(\) is $myvar
myvar after function myfunction() is 99

Return Codes

ksh93: /a/b/c: not found.
print $?
127     # return code 127 means program was not found

ksh93: /etc/passwd: cannot execute.
[The file access permissions do not allow the specified action.].
print $?
126     # return code means it was not executable

Builtin Functions

# more builtin functions and list them with the builtin command
: [ alarm alias bg break builtin cd command continue disown echo eval exec exit export false fc fg getopts hash hist jobs kill let login newgrp print printf pwd read readonly return set shift sleep test trap true type typeset ulimit umask unalias unset vmap vpath wait whence
printf "And the ceiling %s will rule the world\n" $animal
And the ceiling cat will rule the world
# read command can have a timeout to annoy slow users
if read -t 5 answer?"You got 5 seconds to answer sucker "
  print congratulations you answered $answer
  printf "\ntoo slow dude\n"
# use hist to edit commands in your history
HISTEDIT=$(whence vim)       # set history editor to vim
history                      # display history
hist 189                     # use vim to edit cmd 189
# kill -l command is ruined
Now it just lists a long list of signal names with out the numbers as for ksh88 (boo hoo)

And finally.

Yes the definitive paper reference is still chargable and available for a large fee, for example at Amazon. There is still no electronic version of this classic book!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Swiss Humour

Well after over 1 week of walking past a large bag of laundry in our shared apartment basement corridor here in Lausanne I finally snapped.

I mean, how is it possible to miss several pairs of fancy Abercrombie and Fitch underwear? Surely the owner must be walking around practically naked by now.

So I had to practice my best humorous complaint French and managed to put the above note into the bag, then put the bag into our shared lift for a greater audience.

Let us see if this shifts it!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Talking Geneva

As our tickets for the 2012 Palexpo Geneva motor show arrived today my thoughts about what one can do in Geneva were re-enforced.

Living only 50Km from Geneva I can honestly say that we only ever use this city for

a) Geneva Airport
b) Geneva Marathon
c) Geneva Palexpo

Unlike in London where the number of shows, talks, lectures or  attractions could really complete a full Monday to Friday, 8 hours per day diary,  in Geneva we have mostly Palexpo Exhibition Centre.

And the highlight of the year there would be the Motor Show.  This year from March 8th to March 18th.. where we might see?

Audi RS4 estate
(Now Available with Dual Clutch Gearbox)

 Subaru BRZ
(After years of waiting,  nobody can quite believe they actually got around to manufacturing it and not just talking about it)

Bentley Continental
(In new leaner, meaner V8 form it's even more attractive,  perhaps a discount for us breadline Swiss?)

(We have to go just to check out the crazy roofline)

Porsche Boxster
(2 boots, great handling but  no roof, no 4 wheel drive,  and no <price limit> except the one you set yourself :-)

Nissan GT-R 2012 Spec
(Even faster, now priced so high that even the Chavs will wince.  In which country could I actually park this car,  not get scratched up this car, not constantly get pulled up whilst driving in this car .. let me know)

Note: I just spoke with McLaren Automotive about the MP4-12C. This is just the sort of Engineeringly obsessive car that we would delight in owning.   They won't attend Geneva, here for the dealer locator instead.

Now in 2011 we had already ordered but not yet received a new car, so we were Palexpo Window Shopping, not shopping.   And this year in lieu of a EuroMillions bonus, what with a practically new car with less than 5Km driven, we think more Window Shopping is in order.  But well, we can dream can't we?

It goes without saying that friends who are flying over to participate should contact me now to fix the dates please!