Monday, December 31, 2012

May he watch over us

Yea, verily; He watches over us both night and day.
We are truly blessed by his Noodly Appendages.
- Lynette   (Bend, Oregon)

Designing a Smart Watch

I've been forced due to frustration to write this free article of suggestions to manufacturers of smart watches

Subtitle: Are you idiots or do you think your consumer is an idiot?

This is my conclusion based on the raft of inappropriate and useless new generation function watches that I've surveyed in July 2012.

This Friday Intel joined the rumour party

My suggestions are, that a 
new generation watch might have

Essential features like

  • A primary ability to clearly display the time - it is a watch right?
  • Bluetooth connectivity - user should not have to plug it in to upload data from all of the sensors listed below
  • Heart Rate Monitor
  • Compass / GPS
  • Accelerometer
  • Altimeter
  • Skin Temperature sensor and ambient temperature sensor
  • Vibrator - to wake you gently from sleep state

Optional / Nice to have (but not a strong selling point)

  • Bluetooth link from iPhone/smartphone to discretely buzz on appointments / text   ( about 0.001% interesting or useful)
  • Music Player
Currently there is nothing shipping that meets the above useful requirements, however the Mio Alpha presents an interesting answer to heart rate monitoring

Mio Alpha video

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Apple Mac Mini torture part2

No really, this will really be the last time I get myself into a tortuous situation with an Apple computer ....

For more than 1 month now  the HP Envy Laptop  has been valiantly running our website whilst I try to fix the old Server or order a new Server

It does actually look like the root cause of the problem on the old server was Crucial M4 disk firmware.  Something must have changed on the underlying OS low level disk drivers causing the bullet proof configuration  (runs for > 6 months without a reboot normally 24x7 etc) to crash.

Anyway the cunning plan to make things easier for us was

  • Order an Apple Mac Mini i7 Server, with 2 spinning disks
  • Wait for ages for the custom config to arrive
  • Continue with HP lashup until Mac Server fully installed and upgraded to use 2 x SSD disks

Here is the step by step process to upgrade and move over:


  • After Mac Mini Server Arrives, boot and complete customisation of OSX  Server
  • Now on the HP laptop:  shutdown VMachine and make copies of the VMware  OS and Webserver Data  (about 32GB and 400GB) to a NAS server
  • Restart HP Laptop and web server, but remember any changes made here will be lost when you fall over to the new Apple system
  • On OSX install and license VMware Fusion
  • Fusion is not half the product that the PC VMware version is!  I found some significant bugs.  (I've bought Fusion 5.02, but still bugs)
  • Basic Plan is to create and test config on externally connected SSD.  When all is good open up Mini and swap disks.
  • Sounds easy?   Well no

  • Start with OSX operating Sytem.  Use Carbon Copy Cloner  3.5.2 to clone the OS partition and the hidden Recovery partition from internal Spinning disk to external SSD
  • The Crucial external SSD disk is connected via USB and special Apricorn SATAwire kit  which you buy as a bundle with the Crucial M4 disk
  • When OS cloned reboot Mini and by holding down <Option> key boot from the externally connected drive to check all works OKAY.

  • Now more tricky.   Copy from the NAS server the Windows OS onto the external 512GB SSD.
  • Startup VMware Fusion and add a virtual machine with that disk ... <Note. due to bug it insisted instead on copying the entire OS onto a local disk.  So after it did that.  Stop Vmachine, edit the .vmx file that specifies where all the files are, point to the correct one, i.e. on external disk, delete all local files, restart VM>
  • Now create a disk to hold the data  (about 400GB in my case) and this took Fusion > 6 hours, so next day ..
  • To the virtual machine also add the Remote NAS image  ( I could not add it directly to VM as the old VMware disk was 500GB and the new one is 400B and Fusion can't resize like VMware for PC can.)  <Note: Due to a bug, fusion again insists on copying the  NAS  .vmdk files to a local disk, whereas I specifically told it NOT to do this>.  About 15 hours later !!!!.... it finished and I made the necessary edits of the .vmx again.  Hmmm
  • Now in a position to start Mini server from OSX on external USB connected disk.  From VMfusion startup the Webserver.  Use Total Commander to copy from the 500GB disk (local) to the new 400GB disk located on external USB connected SSD.  About 5 hours later ...

  • Now we have a valid external OS and valid external Webserver disk  (both the Virtualised OS and its Webdata now reside on single SSD of 512GB)
  • Change Fusion settings to remove the Webdata copy disk .. now your Virtual Machine has again 2 disks: OS disk and Webdata Disk

ALL WE NEED TO DO NOW is open up the Mac Mini Server.

And so the nightmare begins once more.  And after the last time (see here for details)

  • Get out the special tools previously bought from ifixit

  • Enlist services of very patient and always smiling Agata, my fellow Engineer and Partner.   We also needed head torch, watchmakers eyeglasses, and Marcus head mounted magnifying headset

  • Remove back cover and take out memory.  You need the special U shape tool from ifixit to remove motherboard

  • With moderate swearing, jiggling and sweating motherboard is out.  Contrary to ifix instructions don't take off the fan or antenna wires

    But watch out to disconnect disk connectors and some 2 sets of power connectors on right top side

  • Now you can get both spinning disks out.  First will just fall out, second needs unscrewing

  • Now place the proprietary Apple Hard disk connectors onto 2 x SSD.  At this point I was heard to shout b****y Apple frequently

    Also put onto these disks special plastic covers and spacers from original spinning disks

    Label each original spinning disk so in even of backout you know which one to use.
  • Both disks can go in before Motherboard
  • Now gently slide in motherboard and connect those 2 very small and fiddly power blocks on right side, then put back long screw on bottom left to hold motherboard

That should be it, more of less .. However in our case ...

  • Disaster:  One of those, idiot small, non standard SATA connectors has got jammed by the edge of motherboard.  So we have to take motherboard out again!  But wait, that motherboard screw won't unscrew, even with the special tool.
40 minutes later, using Leatherman and shouting frequently, screw is removed.  Now have to unconnect  power blocks again, slide out motherboard, get SATA connectors in clear, and put all back.

Another 1 hour later ! ....

Motherboard IN
SATA connectors attached to Motherboard
Powerblock connectors ON
Fan plastic duct and Fan back screwed in
Antenna foil back on
Memory Back in
Back cover on

All done!

Startup Mini ... and Using Disk Utility   (with extra options enabled via macPilot)  we can see that 2 SSD are in and installed OKAY.

  • To finish up, logon to Hardware Firewall  and change port forward rules for  HTTP and HTTPS  from old HP server to new VMware Fusion hosted server.
  • After new server is up and proven  (check httpd logs daily for about 5 days) then old server may be sunset .. again.

That was definitely not easy!

The proud husband says, now it is time for a break.  Goodnight all.

ifixit mac Mini 2012 teardown

Saturday, December 29, 2012

NOT 2012's most important Automotive Stories

Autocar just published it's top 2012 news stories.   Let me see, what does relaxed, holiday mode Marcus have to say about all of that:

01  New Range Rover Spotted
At over 70,000 GBP for the entry level model this just goes to show that more than one idiot manufacturer can build European cars as large as that other monstrosity ... the Audi Q7.   Can't everybody be happy with the Range Rover Evoque?

02  The Mk7 Golf
Understated if a little pricey.  Models for every persuasion and taste.  What's not to like?

03 New McLaren P1 £800k supercar revealed for Paris show
McLaren is never cheap but I always thought the MP4-12C was the ultimate Engineer's sports car.  (Mclaren, when you read this, then don't hesitate to call us).  Almost affordable, and then they come out with the P1.  Now that's over the top both in terms of usability both mostly in terms of price.  Instead, why not stick with the MP4 and produce an economy version too.

04 Porsche Macan
Small (well; smaller at 4.6M long) and cute, what's not to like. 

05 Mercedes A Class
We have seen them on the roads in Switzerland.  Suprisingly attractive.

06 Saabs on the way to the crusher
Yes, to me inevitable.   When you have a product line that you have been too lazy to modernize for the last 15 years, really what do you expect.  Good riddance!

07 Ferrari F12 revealed
I did oggle the F12 at Geneva but was too chicken to bluff or stride my way onto the stand. Something must happen, a sort of automotive transubstantiation when you become an owner that makes you keep coming back for more, because to me, it's just a beautiful car that revs highly, and lately might get a little hot for its owner

08 New Jaguar F Type
Quite light and billed as a sucessor to the Jaguar E type.  At least it has the visual DNA of a classic Jaguar but being a softop, (and since I'm alergic to the Sun) , well interest pour moi is minimal.  To have some fun start with the F type configurator

09 New Land Rovers
Having moved up the food chain from an essential, 4 wheel drive workhorse, it is a natural progression to compete in the luxury and leisure SUV market.  Surely it must be easy to beat the established (and lazy) American competition.   I hope it goes well.

10  Alfas plans for 2014
The Alfa Romeo 4C  is being officially launched at 2013 Geneva.  I'll be there.  But 2014 feels like so far away, I'd really rather hear about 2013 lauches and rollouts please! How about the Hyundai Veloster Turbo,  or even the Corvette C7.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Fiscal Cliff

Let me assume you have been on a long holiday (say for the last 10 years) and have missed a few facts.

In America, year on year the Government  and most individual) spending  is more than earnings.
Over time this means you build up a large debt.

The Bush Tax Relief Reconciliation Act enabled all Americans to pay lower taxes even when Government expenditure was rising, and Obama's reauthorisation in 2010 meant again that Americas were paying an artificially low rate of tax.

These measures expire on Dec 31 2012 and the subsequent increase in taxes is called the Fiscal Cliff.   That's my idiot explanation.

How difficult would it be to balance the budget?
Why not try it yourself:  read this

Probably this is too much like hard work so here are some graphics to express the forthcoming woes

Even kitty is worried:

BBC and the Cliff

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Samsung Galaxy Camera

Normally I am not a big advocate of convergence devices.  A combined Camera and Phone?    Seems kind of dumb, and what is wrong with the teeny weeny little camera say on the back of the iPhone.

But I have to say I'm rather taken with the

So taken that since November 2012 I've been the owner of one.  After using it on a daily basis for about 6 weeks now here is my report:

Wonderful Android
The basics are that this is a full featured Camera but with an explicit and acessible Android Operating System that is fully available to the User.  In addition the camera has a 3G Phone mini SIM slot  (that in Switzerland I've filled with an Orange Pay As You GO card) and a micro SD slot   (which I've filled with a Sandisk 64GB card)

Some Facts
You can read alternative reviews and videos galore.  Here is what I noticed

  • Android 4.1.1 is current
  • Camera is Model GC100
  • 305 grams, 1GB RAM, 8GB ROM, 1.4GHz Exynos 4412 CPU, 4.8" 720x1280 pixel display, 
  • 16MPixel camera,  sensor 6.17 x 4.55mmr

  • 28 - 481 mm , x21 optical zoom lens !
  • Decent popup Flash with button on camera side
When you boot the OS  it always starts in Camera mode.

Camera features

  • The Optical Zoom, relatively large lens  (for a smartphone) and decent Flash set it apart from any Smartphone
  • Bizzare 720x480x120 fps slow motion video
What it can do
  • Ability to send and receive SMS via your SIM
  • Skype works
  • 3CX and provides me a SIP phone number for receiving outgoing calls.  I won't say it is very reliable!

  • Camera modes: Landscape, macro, Action Freeze, Rich Tone  (HDR), Panorama, Waterfall, Silhouette, Sunset, Night, Fireworks, Light Trace, Beauty Face, Best Photo, Continuous Shot, Best Face.

    These modes require some digital processing and can delay time to next shot.
  • Expert Modes: Program, Aperture, Shutter, Movie, Manual, Manual Camcorder

  • Camera effects: None, Sepia, Black and Wite, Negative, Old Photo,Sunshine, Vintage, Retro, Faded Colours, Nostalgia,Comic, Pastal Shades, Gothic Noir, Impressionist.

    The effects can be applied to the Expert Modes.  They can't be applied to Preset Camera modes  (e.g. HDR/Best Face etc.).   These effects don't delay camera operation.

  • Torch Application Works
  • Runkeeper (with GPS support ) works
  • Bluetooth connection to Jaybird Sprint headphones works
  • 50GB Dropbox account in deal with Samsung
  • Automatically upload any photo taken to Dropbox Cloud

What it can't do && Also
  • Wired connection to Audi Music system fails
  • Bluetooth connection to Audi Music fails
  • After day of inactivity needs waking up to use camera/Android
  • Android Boot time is <15 seconds
  • When cold booting get annoying switch to Card for photos message
  • I've setup VPN network tunnels (!!) and this forces you to setup a PINcode security.   (But you can say don't lock for X minutes,  && I set it to 30 minutes, so if shooting shots within that time PIN code need not be entered)
  • 16M Pixel Shots not available on all camera modes. For example, 16:9 photos will be 12M Pixels.
  • Terrible Battery Life!  Well less than 1 day certainly even with moderate Shooting.  SO:  From ebay I ordered 3 batteries  (Same as Samsung SIII) and a charger for < 20 GBP  (35 USD).  Typically I now carry 2 spare batteries.

Having an Internet connected pocket camera is a truly wonderful experience.  Whilst I dream of this functionality with the addition of full frame sensor and compact size, well we have to take things slowly.

For now the Galaxy camera is the ultimate small format,   powerful occaisional camera && 

And Internet Browser, 
and Wi-Fi Hotspot, 
and GPS Map/Navigation,
and Alarm Clock, 
and Torch, 
and Gaming Device, 
and SMS sender, 
and Skype/SIP phone.  

It just does everything  (well apart from making conventional phone calls)

Samsung Galaxy Camera dpreview
Galaxy source code published

xda developers 
Shooting with the Galaxy
Sample Album1
Sample  Album2

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Wanting but not needing a Beautiful Car

And so as 2012 slips by I remark to myself that this is another year where I managed, but only by quite an effort NOT to buy a fancy, or some would say silly car!

The Nissan GT-R or (at a stretch) the Bentley or Mclaren MP4

Many excuses or justifications come to mind but in reality neither Marcus or Agata have time to drive a car.  In fact we make great efforts to exercise our way to work, or anywhere either via bicycle or running, thus diminshing to zero what few driving opportunites we might have (as well as our carbon consumption by the way).

My Angst was however highlighted when we found that a Nissan dealer only 3Km from our home now runs both  GT-R and 370Z demonstrators, and are authorised to sell and service these cars.

Cars in Switzerland are a particularly expensive addiction:

  • Prices here can be   (translating CHF to EUR or GBP) upto 40% higher than an identical car in France (just 100Km away!)

  • Switzerland does not really manufacture any car today (RIP Monteverdi ... I remember you well) and Rinspeed is really a speciality manufacturer.  So for motor dealers to club together in a cartel to offer customers just the very highest, non discounted prices is really not so amusing.
  • Worse, the Motoring lobby pushed thru legislation, enacted Summer 2012, placing high taxes on Personal Imports thereby killing that channel and giving Swiss Motor dealer now 0% incentive to lower prices

Still around this Christmas I have found my fingers visiting looking for bargains ...

So it is really the classic Western connundrum of Desire over Need.  But then who really needs a >540BHP, 4 wheel drive,  0-100Km/h in less than 4 seconds, super car these days.

(I hear a tiny voice still calling I do !)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Fun and Run

Well Christmas day just keeps getting better and better!

Although my sleeping disorder is not cured, I did manage 7 hours of sleep on Christmas Eve and only got up once to Surf.  I think it's a record.

Christmas Eve is the big event here
We had a lot of food and did not need to resort to consuming the holy wafers  (sic).

 Marcus with all the gear on!

Today then, we  decided after some tidying that we better get ourselves out for a Christmas run!

Run notes: What made our run so very easy?

I am really getting into the Jaybird Bluetooth headset.  This way the iPod Nano can be safely enclosed in a waterproof, sweat proof bag and all the controls can be performed wirelessly.

On the icy paths the Salomon S-LAB  performed well.  I'm back to my V4 shoes since the V5 shoes have worn out already.  S-Labs are not waterproof so we returned home with totally waterlogged shoes due to running through puddles.  Not ideal.

My Ski du Fond gloves from MEC.  These are similar. Not available in Switzerland! Good wrist Velcro means they absolutely can never fall off, or can be worn loosely to regulate temperature.

The Polar Buff not only keeps your neck and ears warm but in conditions below 5 degrees I'd recommend that you cover your mouth with the cloth section.  By breathing through that; the air entering your lungs is not so cold.   This means you are less likely to contract a cold IHMO.

Finally the seamless Neoprene ankle support.  In cold conditions provides thermal insulation as well.  Try Boots

Overall then the fun run went fabulously.   A nice gentle 15Km,   with lots of ice and melting snow to keep us literally and figuratively on our toes.   Temperature was about 4 degrees and the area was nice a quiet with only a few families out for Christmas walk.

Next our Celebration Christmas Lunch. 

Delicious, Pasta with some Pesto Rosso. As a ordained minister of my Church this meal was pretty much a holy treat.

I think the rest of the day will be spent most productively with a combination of BBC Radio4, good dialogue and a visit or two to the big Interweb, which thankfully is always available 24x365

Very Happy Times :-)

BBC Radio4: Just William Live