Monday, April 29, 2013

Rockwell Apartments Cape Town Review

This is a short plug combined with a thank you to the Rockwell 412 apartments that we recently rented over Easter 2013.

We increasingly find that it is more comfortable to rent a fully furnished and equipped apartment for our adventure holidays.  Our typical needs are:

  • 1 Bedroom with a Double bed
  • An Internet connection
  • A washing machine: Essential to wash sports clothes daily
  • A dishwasher and microwave  / ideally a full kitchen
  • A bathroom with shower
  • A small lounge to relax in
  • Secure parking if we are renting a car
  • Close to shops is always advantageous

Thanks to Agata's extensive searching we found the Rockwell apartments.

Caution however, many companies rent out apartments here and hence those apartments are not all furnished equally.  Plus there are some hotel rooms in the complex which are different again.

A nice spacious hallway

A full kitchen with sink, microwave, full size fridge/freezer, washing machine

A spacious lounge, with Cable TV that we did not really use. A balcony, but it was a little noisy so we did not use it in practise.

A good sized double Bed

Lots of cupboard space and a safe

Some nice touches.

All was perfect and since we had bought our Samsung Galaxy Camera and populated it with a Vodacom SIM  we did not need a room based Internet connection.

And finally: a secure underground parking space for your car.

We would 100% recommend this apartment complex as booked via the link below .

The Rockwell 412

Cape Town Cars

If you have been reading lately you will know that we are fresh back from a wonderful holiday in Cape Town, South Africa.

Marcus is still obsessed with cars, though in these recent years his fascination has turned towards vintage automobiles.

By vintage I mean the cars of my youth, and not for example those horrid ones with thin wheels, a starting handle, lots of smoke and a requirement for glasses.

So here are some of the memorable sights from Cape Town

Let's set the scene by displaying quite the most ugly hire car we ever have had.  It even had a boot!  Meanwhile:

Classic Mustang near the conference centre

Volkswagen by the University

Mini at Newlands

 At the Mount Nelson hotel.

Cape of Good Hope

Capetown City Centre


 Still at Stellenbosch


 Volvo at Coast Road

By the Jazz concert, central Cape Town

Signal Hill

So to conclude:  Cape Town is positively filled with pristine condition my generation, vintage cars.  A positive delight!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

What Service is in a cable

Subtitle: A story about Customer Service

To me, good Customer Service is everything. The normal format is that the supplier of goods and services tries hard to keep you happy.

In recent decades of course the picture becomes complicated when chancers, opportunists, or liars (to give them their proper designation) take advantage of the good, how can we help you published policies of great retailers.

Since this is a Sunday post I'll also entertain a religious angle. Religion deals with the divine, and so if you are a believer/customer of a faith and you have a disagreement, then religion says it's you; the consumer who is wrong!  It is possibly the only Retailer who is always right :-)

Moving back to reality, let's concentrate back on another Apple story

The Apple Mac Mini pictured above has the electronics to drive a very high resolution screen. Unique in a computer of this small size.

You connect the Mac mini to a 2560x1440 Apple 27" Screen via a Thunderbolt cable

But for the rest of us whose screen budgets are more modest you need to connect to the screen's Dual-Link DVI Interface.

This is a fully populated DVI interface where all the pins are driven, instead of half of them, which is the case for displays upto 1920x1080 pixels.

The Apple solution is to buy a Mini DisplayPort to Dual -Link DVI adapter cable with some electronics inside, costing another 100 CHF !!  (about 100 USD).

So armed with this combination I plugged into the Asus PB278  screen whose resolution of 2560x1440 needs the special cable ....

- Screen image keep flickering
- Looks like a TV with bad reception (snowstorm)

The Repair Story

  • Found the answer at Apple link ts3232 which says that at low firmware levels flickering can occur
  • The problem is corrected at firmware 1.03 and it says its a free exchange
  • Applecare Switzerland at first told me to come into the Geneva Apple store.  However the cost of my time and transport there works out at about 500 CHF.  So no deal
  • They next said that they would send out a pre paid envelope and new adapter. Then I'd just had to post back the old one.  GREAT!
  • Then they called back to say that this is not possible  'since this is not an Apple adapter'

    Well this 100 USD adapter is only available from Apple, it's white and should it be ineligible (as Applecare insisted since it is made by a third party)  then to me it's in the same category as the iPhone!
  • I enquired about a local Apple Authorised Service Provider.  Applecare assured me that ART Computer Lausanne could make the exchange in Lausanne
  • I drove to ART and they first told me to goto their Geneva Service Store!
  • Eventually they reluctantly they accepted the item for service. Date March 02, 2013
  • 2 weeks later I get a call from ART asking for the serial number of the connected MAC.  Not relevant but proof they have done nothing so far
  • 7.5 weeks later I got a call saying that the cable was ready
  • 8 weeks after handing in the cable I drove back to ART.  Store assistant told me the cable was in Geneva and to come back later
  • I asked him to check and some time later a cable was found.   I asked him to check (in case the firmware was not correct) but he said this wasn't possible  i.e. he could not connect a MAC and screen in store.

I got home and therefore 10 weeks after reporting the initial problem I again had a flicker free working MAC system with 1.03 firmware.

In Summary then:
With Google's shameful dropping of Reader I wanted to give Apple another chance.  Maybe they can be the supplier of my next notebook.

However the lacklustre service in just exchanging a ludicrously expensive cable proves to me that all that Apple glitters is not necessarily Gold.

Applecare upgrading to 1.03 firmware ts3232

Saturday, April 27, 2013

20Km Lausanne 2013

So we are very pleased to report that Marcus and Agata made a good effort to complete the 2013, Lausanne 20Km, on this day of torrential rain: Saturday April 27.

In recent years, Lausanne sports have thought of more and more categories of running events other than the 20Km itself.   The result is that we  (the main event as we like to think of our category) is pushed to the end of day at 18:10.  Hmmm.

Yes it is 20Km but we think probably not in 20 minutes.   We are taking public transport to the event so that we don't have to find a place to park the car.  (And more environmentally friendly!)

No rain yet!

Agata is normally fastidious on just in time planning.  But today we find ourselves at the starting line with 50 minutes to spare. 

It seems to be just starting to rain :-(

 Ah a pram free zone.

Race Report
Well 2 summarise: Wonderful & Rain!

Marcus report: Although it was raining gently at the start I thought I'd give it my best.  Last year I remember pushing too hard on the many hills.  So today the strategy was:

  • Try to not let fatboys run past me
  • Don't over exert up any hill
  • Sprint down any downhills, even the cobbled street, Lausanne city sections in the wet
It all went terribly well, and at race end I was not tired at all, although curiously during the last 2Km of race, when the rain was pretty torrential, I could not seem to run any faster. It's wonderful to finish a race and not be breathless!

So then it was a quick shower, put on some clean dry clothes, find Agata, and back on this Bus home.

After two hours plus of running in heavy rain these fellow runners are forgiven for raiding the free end of race fruit stall.


Agata 01:44   Marcus 01:30 Good times for us.

Excuses: Very wet, Marcus spent majority of race putting his left headphone in ear as it kept falling out and wiping sunglasses that kept fogging. We were tired from last weeks running & cycling!  Pre race video diary

Thursday, April 25, 2013

New Storage

Forgive me, but I do rather get excited when I see new, faster disk technology.   In the recent news in my humble opinion:

Micron Crucial M500 960GB 2.5-inch SSD

Crucial continues to lead the field in lowest cost high performance Solid State Disk (SSD) storage.  I'm a great fan of Crucial and the new 960 GB drive is less than 400 GBP  (excluding VAT)

In the SSD world there are capacities shortly shipping upto 2TB  (Smart Storage Systems) but only Crucial prices sensibly.

If I was feeling extravagent I would buy a Chromebook Pixel and mirror the 1TB of free cloud storage onto a 960GB M500 which I would install on my main Intel Server.

Foreword on Who Owns Who
In the Enterprise disk business it seems that the company that actually manufactures the physical disks has been unable to be profitable.

Thus although the large Storage Vendors who make Enterprise Disk subsystems obviously need disk drives, they simultaneously seem to regard the actual disks as a commodity that anybody can make!

I really don't agree.

Back to Hitachi Disks.  IBM once had a thriving and profitable disk drive business.  They sold it to their competitor Hitachi.   Hitachi then recently sold it to Western Digital (WD)

HGST (Now owned by WD)
Announced 12Gbit/second hard drives shipping:

HGST press release
Hitachi SSD1000MR Data Sheet

  • Model numbers SSD800MH, SSD800MM, SSD1000MR
  • 1200 MB/sec read 700MB/sec write (see spec sheets for the variations between models)
  • Operating power <= 11 Watts
  • Height 15mm
  • SAS interface

IBM FlashSystem Disk Technology 710,720,810,820

IBM announced a small line of rackable, ultra high density, ultra performance, solid state disks in pizza box formats.

IBM 710 810 Product Guide
IBM 720 820 Product Guide

IBM FlashSystem 720 and 820  datasheet
IBM FlashSystem in Online Analytical DB environments
IBM FlashSystem in Online Transaction Processing environ
Configuring Texas Memory Systems RAMsan
IBM fleshes out flash

Please consult the above links for fullest IBM information, but some quick facts:

  • Model 820 has 20TB of protected RAID storage
  • 4 Fibre Channel, 8Gb/sec interfaces
  • 350 Watts power or less
  • Read Bandwidth 3.3 Gb/sec over Fibre
  • Incredible 25 μs (writes) and 110 μs (reads) latency

Hitachi Accelerated Flash (HAF)

Hitachi has the ability to include Flash Storage modules of currently 1.6 TB each into their VSP storage.  Upto 48 modules fit into a 8U high flash chassis enclosure in each frame. You can have upto 4 enclosures. (300 TB currently).

Hitachi Accelerated Flash Presentation
Hitachi HAF presentation youtube
Overview of HAF in a VSP Storage unit

NB: Since HAF technical and planning information is pretty non-existant I can conflude that these products are not generatlly available today.

More Learning Points: I notice there is a new acronym to learn: Total Bytes Written  (TBW).   Check this IBM SSD release

And SATA IO released a nice paper on power saving modes including devslp

So, if you have [a lot] of money there has never been a better time to reduce the moving parts count within your Storage subsystems and trade up to SSD.

Other Links
The Mythical Hitachi 42MB page size
Feb 2013 Hitachi VSP Update