Monday, July 30, 2012

Enriching the Soul


Saturday Drama is a Saturday Afternoon spot on BBC Radio 4 showcasing some very high quality and thoughful plays.

Now even with my level of BBC Radio4 addiction I can disclose that my Saturday afternoons might be interesting enough not to be in front of the wireless.  Hence I tend to record these and other memorable programs using iPlayer+



And so eventually I have had time to listen to a real treat
Harold Pinter's - Betrayal


It is a complicated play with Pinter starting out in the year 1977 and working backwards to 1968.  After writing down the timeline on paper and listening to it 3 times, I'm now fully insync with events.

Agata and I briefly discussed the play and that of the countries we have lived in, for example England, America, Poland; no other Radio Station puts on a remotely convincing thought rendering experience like the British BBC & in particular BBC Radio 4.

It is quite astonishing not only that famous actors take the time to participate (since BBC rates of pay are not known to be so plush), and that thanks to iPlayer it is freely available the world over for upto 7 days after broadcast without charge.



So once again thanks Mr BBC,  I cannot express in words how the quality of life would be diminished without Radio 4.


Postscript:
The time to download and listen to this Play via the iPlayer or other tool has expired. But don't despair:   My friends tell me the play is still available from 'the usual sources'


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Conspiracy Theories


how the stock market
August the 1st is fast approaching so I am really trying to stay positive.   However even Swiss Independence day is not enough to overcome my belief that individuals every where seemed determined to rip me off.




01 oil change
I think  the final straw might have been the salesman Raymond from Audi Crissier.   Without any analysis or clear knowledge he told me that ‘sure, 470 CHF for an oil change’ was perfectly reasonable.





02 tv license
Recently the TV license bill became due.  The first figure is for radio reception, the second is for TV for a 462 CHF total.
Evan a car with an unused radio requires a radio license and Streaming non Swiss TV from the Internet requires the TV part meaning that we are liable.





03 tax on 2 kewers 46GBP
I went to the Post Office to pay the duty (7.3 CHF) and the mysterious inspection charge  (18.70 CHF) on my 2 Cycle Skewers of value 40 GBP.
Even the Post Office believes in daylight robbery.







04 over 1M francs
On Saturday whilst out walking in Epalinges we saw one of the smallest and newest semi detached houses for sale.
  

Over 1Million CHF please



So all in all, whilst Switzerland is so beautiful it is an increasingly expensive place to live.  No wonder when the time comes to retirement, most non Swiss nationals choose to ‘get the hell out of Dodge’

Olympictastic 2012

 

rown and bond

We are very proud to announce that we stayed up from the Friday 19.00 UK time kickoff into the early hours of Saturday morning to watch the Olympics kick off.

Initially I was a little ‘luke warm’ about the  Industrial Revolution montage but it began to grow on me .. And when the Olympic rings became assembled in mid air, then at last I became impressed

The two entertainment highlights for me were

Yes the Bond Video

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19020220

Yes Rowan Atkinson

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19021660

 

Then of course a rather long wait until we could see United Kingdom, Team GB in the country procession.  I had thought we would be indexed under UK  (i.e. almost at the end of the A- Z procession).  But turns out the host country displays last.

We made it, and then saw David Beckham, trundling in on a speedboat with the Gas powered Olympic torch  which was handed to some young hopeful athletes to light the flame.

We were so impressed that by 02.00 Swiss time on Saturday 28th, we felt just a little sorry that we had not got a last minute flight and tickets … apparently some posh tickets  (1500 GBP + ) were not taken.

 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Skewers


When you have focused on providing your bicycle with an optimised lightweight set of cycle wheels it would be folly not to also consider the cycle skewer.

The skewer is the removable spindle bit that sits in the centre of a bicycle wheel.  It is normally called a Quick release skewer since via a lever and a cam it can be quickly tightened or released.

My 1999 'state of the Art' Campagnolo Super Record skewers

Agata's current 2010, Shimano Dura Ace skewers before upgrade!



Stock Mavic R-Sys SL skewers


Front One23 Titanium skewer

Rear One23 titanium skewer


Marcus' existing Spin Cycle Works front skewer

Good design, 2 parts so that frame is not scratched by rotating closing nut.


In a nutshell:



  • Lightweight titanium skewers come in at between 21- 25 grams each
  • My Mavic R-Sys SL wheels  (expensive, 2011 genre) came with 41 gram skewers, so stock expensive is not necessarily light
  • Some example One23 skewers come in about 20GBP for pair
  • Our 2010 Dura Ace Skewers came in about 125 grams per pair
  • My 1999 Campagnolo Skewers were about 130 grams
  • All in all a skewer upgrade is a very cost effective way lose almost 100 grams weight from your cycle.
 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Walkabout



I spend an increasing amount of time on the phone and a Pavlovian reaction develops when some people call me.


I get an irresistible urge to drink a coffee.   Probably because for certain people I automatically know that I will not be ending the call anytime soon



Obviously I'm not going to abuse my corporate SIM, installed into my mobile phone   (my employer could not afford to provide me with a telephone)  probably a hint that usage should be kept to a minimum.


And so the Gigaset ZX400 headset for my house phone is an economical answer



  • In Switzerland this headset costs about 44 CHF  (about 29 GBP), which believe me is cheaper than the rest!
  • It has a 2.5mm jack which fits my Gigaset house phone.  Don't confuse that jack which has microphone and headphone connections  with the stereo left and right 3.5  mm larger jack installed on any MP3 player.
  • One earphone only so you can hear what's going on around you
  • A microphone that can swing out of the way
  • The pictured Gigaset C610 phone has a mute button on the bottom right so the headset does not need one.

So now I can wander around during my conference calls or calls to friends safe to pay one or more trips to the coffee machine without interrupting the flow.  Marvellous

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Pedal Wars

How do you spend your time between 03.00 and 04.00 most nights?


I am normally awake reading or surfing the Interweb.  And last week I was earnestly eBay bidding for some carbon fibre  SpeedPlay Nanogram pedals.  After paying 70CHF  (45GBP) import duty at the post office this Wednesday they were finally mine.


Then  began an upgrade shuffle




For some years I have standardised on the Shimano SPD style of clipless pedal.   To state the obvious ... a clipless pedal means a cycling pedal with two parts.  First a mechanism with some sort of release (usually on the pedal) and a companion bracket (cleat) that attaches underneath your cycling shoe.


Of course there is no 'agreed' standard so if your shoe has a Shimano SPD cleat you can't ride a Speedplay pedal.


Above is the existing Shimano SPD standard,  XTR, on the old blue Condor Cycle, weight 164 grams.




Time to remove the existing 83 gram Titanium Speedplay Pedals from the Scuro cycle and attach them to my old Condor.

But wait,  I found a 125 gram seat, and the Aluminium seatpost can be shortened


Some sawing later and another 100 grams is reduced on the old Condor cycle just on the seat and post.


Moving onto the nanogram pedals


Due to costing a small fortune they are supplied in a pretty presentation foam lined box

Nanogram, carbon fibre and titanium pedals weigh an astonishing 57 grams each.

Test Drive

Obviously I took both bikes out for a spin to see if I could notice the difference.  Technically, not really!  Though now; both bikes have Speedplay pedals it means I can use a common set of shoes which is some conciliation.





I did notice the Scuro is immeasurably faster to accelerate up hills.  And with some weighing determine that it is mostly the difference in wheel weights.   My 13 year old plus Condor with equally ancient Campagnolo Wheels are no match for the modern Mavic's as shown above.




Crank Brothers cleat


Crank Brothers 1 pedal


Meanwhile, Agata is not convinced.   She rates her 
Crank Brothers Egg Beater pedals as a winner instead.  (They too have a 'unique' and incompatible cleat not compatible with Speedplay or Shimano.)






Links
Speedplay Nanogram from Wiggle
Speedplay Zero Titanium
Shimano XTR Race Pedals
Crank Brothers 1 MTB Pedals
Crank Brotthers 1 official Website
















Doing More with More

I postulate,  is a seeming obsession with upward disk migration in the computer world similar to the American Passion with ridiculously large wheels?






I do hope not!


So I've taken a day from work to perform some modest home PC server upgrades


USB3

The Asus U3S6 card was installed some 12 months ago but with external only USB3 sockets at the back of the server USB3 has seen little use.




Since the Lian Li PC-A77FB case has some USB sockets at case top and I have run a wire from the external USB3 ports, back into the case and up to those ports etc.



So now when I plug my cheapo USB3 key in I can get a good 50MB/second performance out of it every time.


(Note: If I only had something like a Supertalent RC8 drive then I might manage some better numbers)




4TB Upgrade


Yes,  I'm migrating all data onto the Hitachi 7K4000, 4TB, 7200 rpm 3.5" form factor SATA III disks.  (what a mouthful!)


I can honestly say that the money saved in the 1 Watt sleep mode is not going to cost justify the operation :-)



But the drive reduction means that inside the server another disk cage can be removed.  So in the future, should another Server be built, well you would need the smallest case that supports an E-ATX format server motherboard. Disk bays are no longer a limiting factor.


Quick Facts
Hitachi 7K4000, 4TB disk, which after NTFS formatting provides 3725GB storage
64MB RAM Cache, 4K Sectors,
SATA III Interface 6Gb/sec
Power:  6.9 Watts idle, 1Watt sleep mode

Links
7K4000 Data Sheet


Meanwhile: Totally Off Topic

Imagine you suddenly lost your phone, music player, tablet, laptop and desktop.

Well, Tweaktown  (sic) reported that Apple has plenty of immanent opportunities to help you spend and spend.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Google Drive Experiment



Early indications are looking good.  Google drive promises to provide a Cloud based storage solution, available on multiple OS, from a provider that I can trust at moderate prices.


Sounds like a sales pitch,  but for a few decades (no, really for a few decades) I've been carrying an assortment of data around with me.







Probably it started with the Psion 5 MX when I found that I could carry around a pocket organiser with all my contacts, useful data files,  userids and passwords in one portable, password protectable, backupable device.






Years have moved on, now the working combination is PC + USB Key + iPhone + Internet




But Google Drive Promises more




Benefits
  • I divide information into Different Categories, but at the highest level Phone information, Bulk Data, Financial Data and Account Data <2 divisions: typically vendor detail logs, and separately scanned docment information>
  • Uniform Storage:  Using Goodle Drive I can collapse all Account data into 1 category:
Example: Wiggle cycle store.  Phone numbers in the phone area,  list of orders, people correspondence  in data area,  scans or return slips, order slips in scan area.

Now they can all be consolidated in one Wiggle directory

  • Access anywhere:   All I need is an Internet connection and I can browse the drive
  • No physicals:  With data on a USB you can forget or leave the key at home; resulting in a paralysed day at work.  No more.



What not to store
Currently I won't store even a single financial instrument up there.  So I mean no financial logon userids or passwords, no scans of any accounts,  no confidential information.  All that would be stored in another top_secret :-) encrypted fashion




Migration Pre-Requisites
You need to test that Google Drive or Google Web can be viewed from your necessary places.


Example: My Corporate PC allows both the Google Drive Windows application and https Google Drive Screen.   But my primary customer only allows Google Drive https, and they might block that soon! 

If you need data access and your employer blocks both then you are back to a USB key (unless they block that also, in which case resign!)




Buying Storage
Storage plans for Google Documents used to be yearly.





They are now more expensively monthly


Oh,  the storage you buy can be used for gmail email, picassa photos, or gdrive data.   It's absolutely fantastically optimal.




How to Migrate?

  • You upload DSL speed will be perhaps 10x slower than download.
  • For me my 50GB test upload took several days to upload
  • I marked the data elements on the source server
xxxx moved to gdrive

So there is no doubt I should not update those directories anymore.  If nothing goes catastrophically wrong then I'll nervously delete those directories in a few months!


Directory Structure


This is possibly the KEY requirement.  Decide on this before you upload!   I spent 20 years :-)  formulating an extensible   hierarchical tree structure so I am going to use that. 

You can move the structure around online, but then you'll need to resync the drive, so that could be another weekend or two.  Be warned.

  • Whilst it was syncing from PC source to Google Cloud I did not mess with those in sync files or directories.  Just to be safe! 

Drive View and Web View


Having signed up with your gmail userid and optionally purchased more storage you can straight away start making a Web Based Directory structure and filling it, via drag and drop.

THEN

You can install a Windows or MAC based client.  After installation you get a Pseudo local Disk, which shows the contents of your web disk area.

Like any normal disk you can copy, move, create and delete files and directories etc.






Options
You can choose to keep a local copy of your Web files on the hard disk or not  (to allow offline editing).  However for me even when 'Sync Google Docs files' was switched OFF, it still seemed to be downloading everything .  Hmm


Backup
I purchased a separate SSD disk and made it a G: named disk drive   (of course)

I setup a backup schedule from that G: to my existing paranoid onsite / offsite backup infrastructure

I reinstalled Gdrive  Windows helper to use just G:\

So if Google explodes my data is still safe

Conclusion
I waited over 3 years for Google drive to show up, now it is here with a vengeance.  It's more available, faster and larger than its competitors, and, so far, has performed well.

Links
Google Drive

Sunday, July 22, 2012

2XU Mens Elite Compression Tights



2XU  are an Australian Sports  company whose products are often made in Thailand.


For me they are a high end company.  In other words you know you are paying well over the odds for their well Engineered and high quality products,  but you are quite sure what you receive is Precision Made and State of the Art.    I think of them as the Apple of the Sports clothing world.


This is a review of the 2XU PWX Mens Elite Running Tight. To give you an idea of price they will cost a staggering 110 GBP list price including VAT from Wiggle.

Previously I had used Decathlon compression tights but Decathlon stopped producing them.  I had tried other brands but they had disadvantages  (e.g. Skins have no drawstring so they kept falling down!)


What's With PWX?
PWX is an acronym for Power Weight Flex!  You can get the regular Mens Compression tights or for about 10% more the PWX version.


There is some Web blurb about 360 degree stretch.


Since I was spending a small fortune anyway I decided to spend even more and go for the PWX Elite to replace my existing Elite Tights


Elite Tights 
The Elite version (vs regular) has 2 different thicknesses of material shown above by the slightly different colours.


On the inside the garment label is printed on.  I have cut off the care label  (on the right), obviously to save weight.


There is an internal pocket.  Just large enough for an Apple iPod Nano or keys.


There is a drawstring which for me is essential to keep my tummy in!


The pocket area gets wet with sweat so you should bag seal your player / keys to make sure they don't get electrocuted.





Here are the old Elite Tights and underneath the new PWX Elite Tights.  Look identical to me.


Notice the horrible and large garish 2XU logos have started to peel on my outgoing tights.  This is a really great:


  • The silver logo  is not stretchy and so screws up the compression wherever it is placed.
  • The logo is to me tacky, only there for product advertising,  so if it all just fell off after a few washes  (and not over 50 as shown above) it would be a double plus.



Other Styles
My increasing Sun Alergy and increasing paranoia mean that I wear Longs even in the height of summer. If you don't similarly suffer then I'd definitely also try the shorts.

For a short race shorts are going to be lighter, less fiddly, and somewhat cheaper. For long races well you might want the protection and compression of longs anyway.  

Okay, an obligatory screen shot of them on before our Sunday long test run.  Their fabric is great for hiding my leg muffin top.






In Summary
  • An excellent product, but excuse the profanity: bloody expensive
  • Has a real feeling of quality and the compression lasts, use after use, month after month
  • Use for Summer running, there are other products for Thermal winter and recovery use






Links
2XU Mens Elite Compression Tights at Wiggle
About 2XU

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Ramendan


Dear Pastafarian Friends and future believers

Welcome to Ramendan

Definition


Ramendan is a month of sacrifice in which followers eschew other foodstuffs after sundown, to test their devotion to the almighty noodle.


It should not be confused with any other Religious festival.  

During Ramendan  Pastafarians do not fast or pray, as doing so would conflict with our moral standards. Instead, Pastafarians spend a few days of this holy month eating only Ramen noodles and remembering back to their days as starving college students. 

This simple act teaches Pastafarians to be happy about what they've accomplished, and if they haven't accomplished anything yet, to at least be happy that they are Pastafarians. 

Ramendan is the least commercial festival of the Pastafarian which is not saying a lot, since you aren't going to see a Pastover sale at Macy's any time soon. At the end of Ramendan Pastafarians are encouraged to give their extra Ramen to those who are more needy.

Variations

Whilst the festivals' name strongly suggests the food to be consumed; alternatives can also be accepted so long as the spirit is in harmony with his most holy FSM.   Volkorn Fusilli pasta is our preferred choice as shown above.


Timing


 
There is some debate in the Pastafarian community as to dates. Like any religion, it is impossible to fathom the mind of the creator.


Quote: The most holy day of Ramen-dan is decreed by the FSM (Peace Be Upon His Noodles) to be "Whenever the hell you want to celebrate it". R'Amen


The best we can do is follow the words passed down by the prophet Bobby Henderson.


Generally Accepted date for 2012
Ramendan is thought to begin Friday, July 20, 2012, and to end at sunset on Monday, August 20, 2012


Optional or Mandatory?

Ramendan is strongly recommended but by no means compulsory.  Pastafarianism is not a coersive religion.


rAmen.


Links
The Gospel is here
Religious Holidays Pastafarians should observe
An introduction to Pastafarianism