Wednesday, October 31, 2012

In Practice

Have you ever come back to your car to find a dent in the door, and no note on the windscreen with an apology and telephone number.

You promise yourself that if places were reversed you would do the honorable thing.   Then one day you accidentally dent someone else's door and think, well, maybe next time.

So tonight we found a Louis Vuitton wallet in the street.   Some money and cards inside.  We're going to try and track down the owner.  And why?

Because it is the right thing to do.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ankle Protectors

This might sound like an intensely boring subject but the humble or in my case indispensable ankle protector as shown above has been a saviour to me.

Ever since I not once but twice badly twisted my ankle whilst in my teaching days in Terahulpen Belgium I had to come up with a solution.

That solution was the neoprene Ankle protector.  And so for over 10 years I have been a faithful user of the Scholl ProSport Supatherm protector.

And to my dismay it's disappeared from the shops and is now unavailable.  I can't actually run without it and here is why:

  • It has a 2mm neoprene construction which provides a layer of cushioning
  • The neoprene helps insulate and keeps the foot warm
  • The extra warmth helps blood flow
  • With the protectors its almost impossible to fold over your foot and twist your ankle

In desperation I'm trying to find the wholesalers who might still have stock in my size.  No luck so far, but I keep eBay searching!

Meanwhile I found a stopgap alternative RDX Ankle Foot Support.  (Right in photo).I tested them today.  They work, for cycling at least.  But including postage costs they are impossibly expensive  (about 50 CHF per pair with postage) about the same price as Scholl.  Ironic then that Scholl contacted me to say they are stopping production due to reduced demand and economics.  I'd hoped at those prices they could have been manufacturing forever.

All in all, the search is still on for a successor.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Now I don't think you wanted to

Office politics can be strange and none stranger than the sabbatical/ office absence/ holiday.  

How best to cause mayhem, disharmony, and disharmony in the office whilst you are away.  Show them you are the really important cog in the shared office machine. 

Here is a collection of real life stories.  They are used typically by white collar employees.   I will say that one of them is false:

  1. Forget or badly document your departure
  2. Don't set an out of office email
  3. Accidentally leave an incorrect telephone contact number
  4. Setup your work and office mobile phones into a loop 
  5. Arrange to get your Laptop confiscated by Security so you can't take it on your trip
  6. Arrange handover on last day, then call in absent that day with a family emergency
  7. Don't return from holiday at appointed time.  Citing family emergency, airline problems, theft, sickness , etcetera
  8. Leave projects poorly or badly documented. Combine with deadlines expiring in middle of absence to maximise inconvenience to coworkers.
  9. With (1) book fictitious offsite meetings 2 days prior to holiday, and leave early
  10. With (1) Leave jacket on chair and don't announce your departure at all. Return a week later and claim that you've been working remotely. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Lausanne WarmUp Marathon 2012

Of course I am using the title ironically because in view of my earlier posting I can confirm that the Lausanne Marathon 2012 was flippin cold!

I am talking 1 degrees, with no sign of sun except for a few minutes.    On the plus side the winds of 50Km/h plus did not I think materialise....

Lausanne Marathon has a special place in our hearts because it is a sporting event supporting our home town  (Lausanne).  We were supposed to take use this as a 'warmup' training race to our forthcoming IronMan.  How did we get on?

Pre Race Report

Race Report

Marcus set off in Block 1 and tried to follow Oliver the 03.30 balloon man.  Should be easy I thought.  It seemed so, and so I ran past him.  I had a fantasy of catching the 03.15 balloon man.   Yes, that remained a fantasy.

After 10Km it soon became clear that I was overheating so I came up with a cunning Plan.   I should run past our friend Ingrid at Rivaz and so at Km 17 I stopped to give her my jacket, glasses and 2 buffs.   I was so much lighter and better ventilated I began to speed up.

On the first half i.e. Lausanne to Vevey it was certainly very windy, but I don't think to the 60Km+ predicted.  I'm guessing more like 30Km/h max.

At the half marathon point (01:43) I was still a few minutes a head of the 03.30 balloon man.   This should be easy I thought,  especially as the way back from the Half way point from Vevey to Lausanne should have the wind behind me.

But then at Km 35 the 03.30 balloon man and a group of runners, caught me up and then passed me.  I was gutted.  Despite cutting all corners to reduce distance they soon disappeared from view.  I was so disappointed, 03.30 should have been easy.

Anyway, towards the end I managed to speed up.   Orange segments provided a great boost to my muscles and I finished just a few minutes late.   (The clock said 03.32 but my datasport time came out at 03.33, so there).

Agata finished only minutes later

Post Race Video

All in all we are now home; we are very happy to have both finished  Agata with a Personal Best, in just the most challenging conditions.  All good!

Marcus ran 03:33
Agata ran 03:54 (personal best)
Marcus ate 3 SIS gels and at least 12 orange segments, plus about 500 ml isotonic juice

Marcus has a medium sized blister on his left foot

Pre Race Report
Post Race Report

Lausanne marathon 2012

Hurricane Sandy Position

Meanwhile on the East Coast of America:

National Weather Service Hurricane Center

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Don't Let It Snow, Oh No no no, ho ho, ho ho

You see, it is quite simple.  Lausanne marathon starts in less than 12 hours time for Marcus and Agata, but what on earth has happened to the weather?

The temperature is dropping faster than Apple's share price!

Last week I had used my WeatherPro app daily to look ahead for the weather and although on Friday it was a pleasant 12 degrees Centigrade dire predictions of 2 degrees for 10:00 Sunday in Morning were forecast.

Unfortunately nothing has changed!   I keep rechecking it, but sure enough, it is going to be about 2 degrees with winds starting at 17Km/h and gusting to about 50Km/h

This Saturday afternoon

What is all this white stuff falling out of the sky?

Marcus Preparations

I made a few preparation runs this week on the Marathon route.  But the temperature was all wrong. Over 10 degrees Centigrade.  At least I tried :-)

What clothing do I recommend?

  • No short clothing!  (but for me I always run in longs)
  • Hat, Glasses, Gloves
  • Thermal trousers
  • 2 Upper Body Layers
  • Some method e.g zipped clothing, so that if you get too hot you are able to cool down
  • Carry a buff which can be placed on cold body parts e.g. neck, hands, even legs!  in case of emergency

Naturally Agata and Marcus went for a test jog outside our apartment this evening.  We were not cold!

What other preparations should be made?

  • Music prepared?
  • Spare change of clothes for afterwards
  • Camera
  • Identified Bellerive pool for valuables
  • Race Belt
  • Gels to carry and water stops analysed

Friday, October 26, 2012

Absence Makes

Our normally stable family life has been thrown into turmoil this week.  Agata and Marcus are working hard, but in different countries.

In times gone by I can recount how this state of affairs was quite normal.

Marcus:Warwick          Partner:London
Marcus:New York        Partner:London
Marcus:Portsmouth     Partner:Krakow
Marcus:London           Partner:Lausanne

But no more.  When you meet that special person I think you realise why it is so important to maximise not minimise your time together.

And, I'm not just relating to Holidays, or Restaurant dining.  Even a relatively mundane activity like Supermarket Shopping,  or stressful activities like completing a Tax Return are transformed when you have the active, proximate and physical support of that special person.

Of course there are some: Get Outs

  • You and your partner live apart in order to rise above subsistence living
  • You've got to support your immediate family & relations who cannot work.  [NB: Preposterously large families that you created don't count, that is your choice]
  • You're doing it for a fixed period, to save up a nest-egg, enough to enable you both to retire on.

So what have I learnt?

  • Being separated from Agata has absolutely no advantages whatsoever

    Agata's Absence makes Marcus Most Miserable  (AAMMMM)
  • We have the luxury of being able to sustain a more than subsistence lifestyle whilst still living together

Long may that continue


I can thoroughly recommend a viewing of the BBC series below. Sujit works upto 18 hours a day, but he has a dream that one day his wife and 2 children might come to live with him:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

25 most popular passwords

25 most popular passwords of 2012

Soldering Iron NOT Required

I am allowed to say the following because I work in the computer business:

Yes, late last Tuesday evening I almost got excited when I saw the new Apple computers!

Then I did some more analysis and some blood boiling later I realised that Apple had sneakily done it to me, yet again!

Since I co-incidentally sold my Macbook Air computer recently, mostly because of it's memory shortcomings   (for running VMware) and the lack of USB 3.0,  I was really excited to see the Macbook Pro Retina 13 announcement.

I thought that it  had everything, the ports the display .... Then I ambled onto the configurator:

  • I could not find the add memory option.  Wait, it must be fixed at 8GB.  Pah!

    That memory will no be user or factory replaceable.  Not even my soldering iron skills will be of any use here.
  • I noticed the Intel i7 processor: wait Dual core, isn't the macbook pro 15, quad core?  (like my 3 year old HP envy laptop!)

I am absolutely convinced that Apple will announce a 16GB version of the Retina 13" laptop in due course, so if you want to play the Apple game you'd buy the 8GB machine today, wait X months for the 16GB, at announcement buy the new machine whilst selling the old for a large loss.  Hmmm.

Starting to look like the Chromebook might be a good stopgap purchase

Can I express how done over I feel with a musical vibe?

Yes of course I can:-)


Macbook Pro 13 Processors
2.5 GHz (3210M) Intel Core i5 with 3 MB on-chip L3 cache or 2.9 GHz (3520M) Intel Core i7 Ivy Bridge with 4 MB on-chip L3 cache

Macbook Pro 15 Processors
2.3 GHz (3615QM) quad-core or 2.6 GHz (3720QM) quad-core Intel Core i7 Ivy Bridge with 6 MB on-chip L3 cache (15" only), 2.7 GHz (3820QM) with 8 MB on-chip L3 cache

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Life After Ceefax

As posted on the BBC website
Ceefax, the BBC Teletext service is shutting down.

  • Ceefax originators figured out that some of the scan lines sent to the TV were not used and could be filled with data
  • Those scan lines could be tagged into pages of text and displayed on your TV
  • So each TV channel used this data to present a Teletext page.
  • Apart from the News and TV schedules there was often subtitling for any TV program.   This was a great feature.
  • I also used it for share (stock) pricing
  • Over time more intelligent TV's came along with a RAM buffer on the TV.  This would cache frequently used pages, based on an algorithm, so you could access the pages you want much more quickly.   (I bought such a TV, they really charged me for this digital buffer!)

What is the replacement?

  • Today many TV's are Internet connected.
  • But there is a slight catch!   With Teletext you would first goto an index page, to find the page number you wanted to view.

    With an Internet connected page you typically need to use Google or another search engine to find the link to the needed site.

    But how to enter the text?  There is normally some convoluted way to enter the URL
  • You do it for the first week
  • After that you figure out it's a total waste of time so access that necessary Web pages using your PC (not TV) thereby wasting all the functionality that manufacturer Incorporated, all because  [the idiots] did not think thu the user interface!
  • Sometimes you can use a tablet application to act as a keyboard.  But for example, for our Samsung Internet connected TV, you can't  have a wired Ethernet connected TV  (needed due to Video Bandwidth) and connect from the wireless tablet to the TV.  Huh. So we are screwed.
  • In practice then the TV is now used just for TV watching, and Marcus and Agata sit in front of the TV with 2 laptops for information surfing.

Progress huh!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Renault goes for innovation

Okay,  I do not speak from the voice of that much first hand experience but I have to hand it to the French auto manufacturer Renault.  They are really trying to be innovative.

Many manufactures display concepts cars galore at press screenings or Motor Shows. But Renault goes one step further.  It actually produces them

Renault Vel Satis: Weird but wonderful

Renault Twizy: Yes we hired one.  It was certainly an experience

Renault Wind
The roof opens up just like a Ferrari but it is somewhat cheaper to buy.  Unfortunately all too cheap inside too.

Renault Megane RS Trophy: Now if it just had DSG!

Renault Clio Estate sport?

Now really this might be just the thing for me. Did they shoot this in Switzerland?

Renault Alpine A110-50 .. It is coming, now that is a car

And, let us not forget the past ...

Renault 5 GT Turbo ...  Get there quickly, then spend 15 minutes idling to cool that turbo down

Renault Clio Williams: Still a practical, reliable hot hatch.

Renault Alpine 310: Beautiful and Unreliable (so nearly bought the Turbo)

Renault Clio V6: Providing all the excitement of a tail happy 911 and not in a good way :-)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Backup Paranoia

Like Google I recognise my hard disk farm is susceptible to hardware failure or theft.  So for many years  a deeply paranoid backups of our data have been taking place.

In 2011 I laid out the basic 3 copy policy

And so today I go further into the detail of what some might say would be paranoia :-)

First Note  (see foil packaging above)  we are now migrating to 4TB disks.  The benefits are that the offsite shuffle is now only 1 disk at a time and not multiple.   4TB is a lot of data!

How does it work then?

  • The 4TB copy disk is made back home in Lausanne
  • The disk is then encrypted.  Let's just say I have a non trivial way to encrypt and then decrypt the disk, so that should it fall into unwelcome hands it is unreadable
  • It's temporarily stored offsite locally, guarding against local theft
  • At a suitable time interval Agata/Marcus/both/Other steps onto a plane
  • We arrive at the Batcave, deposit this encrypted disk

  • We now screw with the original disk. I use a purposefully bad docking station to badly format the disk, use a OSX disk format  (not readable by many) and further dump hundred of gigabytes of bogus information onto it.  That disk is now pretty unreadable I would say.

    Disk now ready to travel back to Lausanne.
  • We update some admin spreadsheets saying what backup is where

Worst case scenario, Marcus gets on a plane to bring back some data.   I did it once in 1999, when my local Laptop hard disk got obliterated after a fall onto some ice.   Worked then, and one can say should work today.  But today,  eSata gives me 80MB/second transfer, as does USB 3.0.

Thunderbolt should be faster but the QNAP JTB-400 disk enclosure is not shipping just yet.

Overall, with current technology a 4TB disk restore takes less than 24 hours, including flight times :-)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Crisis what Crisis #2

I have already used this tag line before

But to all those who are forecasting another Black Friday or Black Monday I'd ask you to consider the above chart.

If you have been insane /  brave enough to invest in the stock market in the last 12 months you are still ahead.

So count yourselves one of the lucky ones !

Ahead, despite notable world governments best efforts to print money at record speeds.  And here we can include respectable Switzerland as well as thoughful England and well America.
However,  if you ask the Germans if there are any downsides to this operation, I hear that buying a loaf of bread can be a paper intensive process  (oh yes, and a small side effect, your lifelong savings are rendered worthless).

At times like this I normally fall back on a musical portrait, so in character, let us turn to SuperTramp ...

Supertramp:A Fools Overture (full screen)

A day with the Apple Nano Gen 7

If you are paying attention you would realise that the Apple Nano is now in its 7th iteration (generation 7) and that this 2012 model is more similar to the 2010, generation 5 model with its longer, non square shape than the previous generation.

First though: Why Nano?

  • You might have an MP3 player on your phone / iPhone<n> but this is smaller and at 31 grams lighter
  • It's optimised to play music not to watch videos or make phone calls
  • Nano has been my music player of choice during races now for some 7 years!

Marcus's ultra critical review

The Nano gen5 set the bar very high and it was known at the outset that some hardware features like the video camera, speaker and microphone were missing.  Apple removed them principally because water damage had lead to user warranty issues (my opinion!)

So my requirement is to have a small music player, compatible with long distance sporting events.  How does it fair?

  • 16GB of memory like before is totally adequate
  • interface is iTunes of course

  • There is a nice small lightening connector. Smaller hole for dust / rain to get in. Good!
  • Apple could have supplied a rubberised cap to cover lightening IO socket
  • No clickwheel, but a touchscreen to select between Podcasts, Music, Radio, Stopwatch etc.
  • No Lock button, but pressing the top right button switches off the screen, preventing you from interacting with the touch screen
  • On the left is a volume up, play/pause, volume down 3 part button.  This is one of the best features.

    For example if running  you can, even with gloves on use this button  (gen5 interaction with click wheel would be limited to track forward / backward, maybe pause, but very hit and miss)

Some annoying omissions / limitations

  • No video camera means you can't shoot opportunistic videos in races.  This is a big loss and almost vetoes this player.
  • No lock button or software lock means you could accidentally pause player whilst running which could be really annoying
  • No ability to restrict the menus.  Example remove Radio and iTunesU from menus as i don't use them
  • The display is intentionally non flush with the case. What was wrong with flush please?
  • Once sealed in a fitting plastic bag, (for races in the rain) it might be almost impossible to interact with the touch screen to start music playing

Best Bits

  • With a screen you can navigate your songs on the road, not having to pre generate a playlist and sync like on the ridiculous Shuffle!
  • You can create or edit  playlist on the fly without a computer
  • You can watch Video Podcasts and the screen size and resolution is slightly better than Nano Gen5


Wednesday, October 17, 2012


When I looked out of the window what did I see.   Well Frost.  And what does frost mean? Cold, cold, cold.

I consulted Mr Ferrari who confirmed it was just above the frostline of 4 degrees.  It was time for the winter clothes!

 For the first time since April then it is back to Winter Clothing.

Insulated Trousers - Decathlon

Insulated Football Top - Decathlon

 Neoprene over shoes - Decathlon

Extreme Winter  (minus deg C) gloves - Decathlon

Yes, indeed I'm a walking, talking, cycling Decathlon salesman.  Like any Sports supermarket it's essential to use your judgement to ignore the average products and focus in on the best.   All the above are in this category.

I'm now hoping for an upward break in the weather since below 4 degrees it is icy and really not a firm or safe footing for a race cycle, down steep hills on 700C x 20 mm tyres.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

On the Work Stack

If someone asked me whether I'd prefer to work 4 days or 5 days a week, I would say 4.

So imagine if someone asked you to work, well, 6 or 7 days per week,  and then substitutes day for 'day && night'.

Can you imagine my answer?

What are the consequences

  • More hours are worked, therefore more money will arrive eventually  (I get paid 2 months in arrears)
  • The Swiss taxation system has no marginal tax rate. So if I go up a tax band, then ALL my entire salary (for the whole year) will be taxed at the new rate, not just my additional earnings.
  • Now no time to spend existing or potentially extra cash :-(
  • Previously ordered goods are still arriving.  No time to even open them
  • Even the Apple goodies lie unpacked on the pile
  • Exercise and Health is holding up pretty well in the circumstances

Overall the situation is unsustainable in the longer term.  That is just common sense right?

Soft Cell:Frustration
Soft Cell: Sleezy City
James:Born of Frustration

Faithless:Dub be Good to Me
New Order:Blue Monday HD

Vendange tardive

I know little about wine however I do rather enjoy drinking it. Lucikly for me there is no imaginary friend who has decided (usually a few thousand years ago) that wine drinking is forbidden,   I am therefore free without hypocrasy to continue on drinking.

What did rather suprise me, was that at the local winery there has started another harvest.   They already had one in the summer, and it is defintely autumn now.

Grapes going in

Skins coming out

I think the later the harvest the more sugary the crop so I presume these grapes will provide the base for Swiss sweet e.g. after dinner wines which I very much like.

For more details see link below

Vendange tardive

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Multiplexing your screen

Back at the batcave we are preparing to migrate well thousands of IBM's AIX server systems to AIX 7.1 TL1 SP5.  I call it AIX 7115.

The migration uses nimadm, meaning that a central Installation Management server makes a copy of machine X's Operating System disk to a spare disk on machine X.

It then NFS3 mounts that disk to itself and upgrades the Operating System installed on that disk from (in our case) AIX 6.1 TL6 SP6 to AIX 7115.

Sounds easy?  Well no.  But thanks to the talents of the few (and I don't speak of me here) a comprehensive upgrade script has been made.

So what could be worse than after over 3 hours of upgrading a network glitch would cause the above picture ... abort.

Screen, well GNU Screen is one answer

  • GNU Screen for AIX is a simple set of rpm packages you can install
  • After typing screen it is running
  • You can create multiple virtual screens
  • You can switch between them with Control-A + <key>
  • If your session is lost then logon back again that host, start screen again and resume your work with screen -r
  • It's just brilliant


Download the Screen package and some dependents from my colleague  Michael Perzl here

My install command was 

sudo rpm --excludedocs --install screen-4.0.3-1.aix5.1.ppc.rpm info-4.13a-2.aix5.1.ppc.rpm gettext-0.17-1.aix5.1.ppc.rpm glib2-2.28.6-1.aix5.1.ppc.rpm expat-2.1.0-1.aix5.1.ppc.rpm

Man Page

   Start a screen session:

      screen [ -options ] [ cmd [args] ]

   Resume a detached screen session:

      screen -r [[pid.]tty[.host]]

      screen -r sessionowner/[[pid.]tty[.host]]


   -A -[r|R]     Adapt all windows to the new display width & height.
   -c file       Read configuration file instead of .screenrc
   -d (-r)       Detach the elsewhere running screen (and reattach here).
   -dmS name     Start as daemon: Screen session in detached mode.
   -D (-r)       Detach and logout remote (and reattach here).
   -D -RR        Do whatever is needed to Reattach a screen session.
   -d -m         Start in "detached" mode. Useful for system startup scripts.
   -D -m         Start in "detached" mode, & don't fork a new process.
   -list         List our SockDir and do nothing else (-ls) 
   -r            Reattach to a detached screen process.
   -R            Reattach if possible, otherwise start a new session.
   -t title      Set title. (window's name).
   -U            Tell screen to use UTF-8 encoding.
   -x            Attach to a not detached screen. (Multi display mode).
   -X            Execute cmd as a screen command in the specified session.
Interactive commands (default key bindings):

     Control-a ?    Display brief help
     Control-a "    List all windows for selection
     Control-a '    Prompt for a window name or number to switch to.
     Control-a 0    Select window 0
     Control-a 1    Select window 1
     ...            ...
     Control-a 9    Select window 9
     Control-a A    Accept a title name for the current window.
     Control-a b    Send a break to window
     Control-a c    Create new window running a shell
     Control-a C    Clear the screen
     Control-a d    Detach screen from this terminal.
     Control-a D D  Detach and logout.
     Control-a f    Toggle flow on, off or auto.
     Control-a F    Resize the window to the current region size.
     Control-a h    Write a hardcopy of the current window to file "hardcopy.n"
     Control-a H    Begin/end logging of the current window to file "screenlog.n"
     Control-a i    Show info about this window.
     Control-a k    Kill (Destroy) the current window.
     Control-a l    Fully refresh current window
     Control-a M    Monitor the current window for activity {toggle on/off}
     Control-a n    Switch to the Next window
     Control-a N    Show the Number and Title of window
     Control-a p    Switch to the Previous window
     Control-a q    Send a control-q to the current window(xon)
     Control-a Q    Delete all regions but the current one.(only)
     Control-a r    Toggle the current window's line-wrap setting(wrap)
     Control-a s    Send a control-s to the current window(xoff)
     Control-a w    Show a list of windows (windows)
     Control-a x    Lock this terminal (lockscreen)
     Control-a X    Kill the current region(remove)
     Control-a Z    Reset the virtual terminal to its "power-on" values
     Control-a Control-\    Kill all windows and terminate screen(quit)
     Control-a :    Enter command line mode(colon)
     Control-a [    Enter copy/scrollback mode(copy)
     Control-a ]    Write the contents of the paste buffer to stdin(paste)
     Control-a _    Monitor the current window for inactivity {toggle on/off}
     Control-a *    Show  a listing of all currently attached displays.

Perzl downloads
Screen essential keys