Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Sermon: Not so Scared


Most people consider that Halloween is a Chrstian Festival on October 31 celebrating Hallow's day.   

What started out as a religious festival where the dead are remembered has today degenerated  (at least in America) to a time when kids dress up in ever more elaborate ghoulish costumes, and movie studios get in the mood by releasing seasonal horror film titles.


To bring things back to a happier moment I would suggest:

A visit to your local Church


(Lausanne Cathedral)

They are beautiful places, and you can cetainly admire the architecuture and splendor even if you might think that the underpinning religious angle is well, completely crazy.


Watch a Nice Horror Film


Warm Bodies is a recent suggestion



Remember People and Times Past from your family

A lifetimes past.

Logitech H800 Wireless Headset

I'm not sure what the world's best Wireless Headset is; but from a comfort and functional point of view the Logitech H800 takes some beating.

Here is our mini-review

Why Wireless
The nice thing about a wireless headset is that you can potter around, in our case our tiny apartment whilst still on the phone.  We don't have a landline telephone any more meaning all voice calls come in via:

SIP  (on my Android phone or Samsung Galaxy Camera)
Skype
Google Talk/ Hangouts



The freedom to pootle into the kitchen to make that coffee or to start preparing dinner whilst you are in the middle of that long [yet boring and tedious] teleconference cannot be underestimated.

Connections
The H800 connects to your computer via a tiny nano USB transceiver and to your mobile phone via Bluetooth.

Controls and Buttons



Besides selecting computer connection or Bluetooth, there are buttons for volume up/down and music track forward/backward.

Microphone & Folding Stuff
Obviously there is a microphone and it swivels out of the way if you are just listening to music.  Also the headphones do hinge at the sides of the headband so they sort of pack up.

Charging
Micro USB, I  have a general purpose cable which rotates between the headset, Bluetooth Speaker and Nexus phone. (Apple users, micro USB is the charging socket your company is too proud to use) 

Compatibility
Works via Bluetooth with a Chromebook, via the USB Dongle with Windows  (including server 2008/2012) and OSX.


The Logitech H800 is a very versatile headset.  It costs about 90CHF  (60GBP)  and you can use it to listen comfortably to music or with the inbuilt microphone for 2 way computer phone calls or as Bluetooth headset to your mobile.

Links
Logitech H800



Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Leading Edge




With the absense of a sooper dooper, flagship laptop to replace the non Haswell  Google Pixel,  and the non announcement of the Google Nexus 5 phone my mind has idly been wandering to the darkest corner of Retail spaces

/The land of the Apple Macbook Pro/

So far I have resisted to temptation to order, because


Price






They are flipping expensive! [1840 to 2400 GBP]


Sourcing Difficulties
Not the greatest of issues for laptops, but for phones  Apple has a phased sales release cycle that means our home country of Switzerland is never first, and usually close to last.

A /bleeding edge/ friend flew to England to buy his iPhone 5S, it's not yet available here.


Unknown Quantities
Buying now means buying on faith.   Full benchmarks of the new laptops have not conclusively landed yet.

How fast is the speed bump from early 2013 to late 2103 products?

By how much did the battery life improve?

PCIe disks are how much faster?



Teething troubles








Though companies strive to test their products prior to launch, true volume testing cannot be performed these days except by the general public.  More users == more testing.






So as usual it comes down to this.


  • Being Apple leading edge requires you to have a lot of money.
  • It's also helpful if you are in the demographic that simply has to advertise your new wares to your friends.
  • The stuff you buy might go wrong because it is not fully consumer volume tested
  • The price will never go up, only down.  You literally pay a premium to be first

So, no purchase just yet.  Still thinking, and fantasying that Google might do something!





Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I Spy with my Little Eye


There comes a time when the revelations exposed due to Edward Snowdon's courageous exposure of the NSA outweigh the unlawful nature of his activity.

The illegal monitoring of the German chancellor's telephone calls is the latest shocking example.






In modern societies we quite expect some level of covert surveillance of the /bad guys/,  but clearly the German head of state, an ally of the USA should not fall into such a category.

I spy with my little eye something beginning with BULL****


Over to you Rockwell






Links
NSA spied before M office


Monday, October 28, 2013

Monday Sermon: No Woman, no drive




Saturday October 26, 2013 was due to be a mass protect regarding the discriminatory law of Saudi Arabia which forbids women to drive.

Unfortunately the state countered in advance with the threat of heavy sanctions and so the protests were muted.

So instead watch with me the above video,  and think about our Western democracies where regardless of your sex, sexual orientation, or religion you are equal under the law.

Links
Defying the Ban
Saudi Woman defy

No Woman No Drive Fullscreen


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lausanne Marathon 2013

(Direct Link Marcus Diary Report HD)

Excuses can only absolve a runner for his or her bad performance so many times.  And so how was our performance in today's Lausanne Marathon?

Marcus and Agata try to participate in the Lausanne Marathon yearly.  It's our /current/ home town  and we feel not just an obligation, but more of a proud and pleasurable duty to participate.

The early call to the bedroom was interrupted at 01.30 due to a Mosquito, after which Marcus was seen to be up /surfing/ for an hour or two.  Nevertheless  we rose at 07.30 for the 10.10 start with a positive sleep balance for a change.


Marcus Race Report
Overall a wonderful time!

The start at 10.10  was very rainy.   In a moment of what transpired to be stupidity I thought I'd put on my rain jacket.   It has a hood and I use it frequently on the Half marathon to work in inclement conditions.

Trouble is, this is a race, and so having started with this jacket I soon overheated.  So I had a jacket off pitstop and then followed the race plan which was to follow the 03.15 balloon man.

This worked until about Km 15.  He was just too fast for me.  On the hills I gained but on the flats he started to edge away.  Having let him go I was then concerned the 03.30 balloon man would catch me.


As 21Km half distance got close I didn't bump into our friend Ingrid at Rivaz where I had hoped to dump off that jacket.   But in Vevey I did recognise a face and Laurent graciously said he take my jacket and buff.

After that load lightening I felt sure I could speed up.  What worked in practise was stopping my eating of Gu Chomps.  Why? Well again on my morning plod runs I'm not breaking a sweat, but here I need more oxygen, and if you are sucking a Chomp for 5Km (each chomp) you can't breathe through your mouth.

So at about Km 24 I ditched my bag of chomps and resolved to eat the Energy bars from the Water Stops.   Water stops were not as advertised  (I'm sure the brochure talked about 12 water stops), still there were enough.

The course was complete with many people in costume. Some good examples:





From Km 34 I started counting down, especially when I realised that the marathon is only 42Km in distance and not 44Km as I keep thinking. [Will I ever learn :=) ]



And then at just under 3.5 hours it was all over.  Not especially tired but I could not seem to run any faster.  Weird indeed.



I might have been tired but I see I was in good company


After finishing I made a quick change of clothes 



at the bag drop then sprinted back to find




my wonderful happy and smiling wife Agata.  It does not get any better than that.


Links
Marcus Diary Report HD
Lausanne Marathon Brochure



Times
Marcus 03:27,  Agata 03:54

Drinks
Marcus drank almost nothing, about 200 ml PowerAde
Marcus Ate 3 Gels (SIS, PowerGel Hydro) + and 2  Chomps
Agata ate 4 Gels 2xSIS + PowerGel Hydro + Squeezy

Injuries
Marcus got a blister.  Annoying! Effectively I can't run Monday then :-(



Postscript

We drove home.  Ungrateful kitty was waiting.  He looked at me as if to say:  I'm so glad you are back,  this car bonnet has gone cold



Saturday, October 26, 2013

Patience is a virtue young Grasshopper



My running colleague Denis was amazed that after so many years of running I still don't own a running/ sports watch!


I am missing a lot of detailed stats on the close to 100Km run weekly.

I do use Runkeeper on my mobile phone but this means that only some runs are recorded, but for example no swims.

I decided to put it right and before this weekends marathon get one.   A mail order later it arrived today:  well sort of.   Wiggle (UK)   often now uses a courier instead of post.

Disaster ...


I needed the goods for the weekend, but the **courier** company unlike the post office is NOT OPEN on Saturday.

Unbelievable.



SO what are the learning points?


  • Living in Switzerland means the supply chain between the product that you want and getting it is usually long
  • Often the product that we search for is not available locally and needs to be imported
  • Importing means at best the Post Office,  Swiss Customs, a "we delivered but you are out card," and a subsequent trip to pickup
  • But in the case of using a courier  then delivery will take longer! [for example]  DH useLess, it means calling before 20.00 to rearrange.  They are closed after that!
  • And as shown above, we are of course not open at the weekend (Saturday or Sunday).  In fact the depot closes at 18.00 [Reminder, this is an international courier company!]
  • Living in Switzerland aligns nicely with the slow moving, cautious Swiss stereotype.  I have retrained my expectations of getting anything here in a hurry.

    But just once it would be good to have been proven wrong :-(


Friday, October 25, 2013

Better Quality Leaks Please


Less really is more it would seem as Apple as predicted launched a lighter and more expensive iPad, plus the also predicted Haswell processor refresh of its laptop range, together with a hugely overpriced, non expandable, underpowered server that looks like a black trash can.

But cynicism aside; Apple leaks were accurate and informative.  Apple not only know how to put on a good show and Annoucement even their leaks are top quality :-)

I'm afraid I cannot say the same about young Google.



(October 24, 19.00)

This turned out to be an internal event and nothing to do with announcements as was initially reported.


Most of the non Apple fanboy world has been expecting the




  • Google Nexus 5 Smartphone

  • Google Nexus 10 tablet, 2013 new edition
  • A slew of Haswell powered Chromebooks  (not the gleaming white outside, old inside - HP variety)

Initially the belief was an announcement in the week of October 14th, however it was rumoured that the debt ceiling games in the US Parliament put paid to that.

Then we were pointed to October 24th (false alarm), now others say October 28th.   Hmm.


Let us list Googly mistakes


  • Bad quality leaks, not quality/ accurate leaks like Apple
  • Press conference date moved - unprofessional !
  • Oct 24th Conference starts at 19.00 US time when Europe is in bed. [How Americanist]
  • You still didn't flippin launch the Nexus 5 phone, even though it WAS accidentally available on the PLAY store last week



I can't believe the Google leaks are so uninformed as compared to Apple.  Come on Google!  Do we all have to go and buy Apple just for you to get your act together?


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Gravitas

Unliking somebody is a difficult task for me. Once I have invested my time and appreciation in a personal relationship or in this case towards a film star it is difficult to undo.   In this respect I'm talking about Sandra Bullock.

Quirky, naive,  sometimes clumsy roles have provided a sound foundation for me to believe she has it. Charisma.




With an innocent charm which immediately says to most people, YES  we want to like you.

And so when film, after recent film brings us  mediocre acting,  corny and predictable plots, we just sit back and think, one day you will redeem yourself.


All about Steve (oh dear)

Premonition  (unconvincing)


(The Heat - Oh dear)


Perhaps in this latest Science Fiction setup that time has come again.   At last we may openly announce our appreciation for Sandra Bullock once more without ridicule.

Gravity was released in the USA at the end of August 2013,  came to the UK via the London film festival on October 10 and just landed in Switzerland yesterday.

Well that is my theory anyway :-)



Links
Sandra Bullock IMDB
John Meyer and Keith - Gravity


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mac-atastrophe - A death in the family



At 19.00 Tuesday, October 22nd technology was humming along just fine in the Marcus and Agata household.




Marcus was innocently watching the Apple Announcements relayed using the CNET live blog with molly wood.

Agata was just arriving.

Then,  Agata arrived and of course first duty was to start her computer.

Her Mac Mini   (reformatted to run  Windows 7, Native)  offered a BLANK SCREEN

2 hours later  after we had tried


  • Transporting to the cooler server room
  • An alternate screen
  • Alternate HDMI cable
  • Mini Display Port interface
  • Different Keyboard/ Mouse
  • Disconnected all other devices
  • Unplugged for 30 mins, && Let it cool down

No, still dead a dodo.

We find it an incredibly strange co-incidence that this should happen on Apple announcement day.

Does Apple have planned product failure built into its hardware, coinciding with announcement days?



Yes, Paranoid we are.

If I cast my mind back to the last time we disassembled the Mac Mini


So we are unsure as to the next steps, including:

  1. Buy Another Mac Mini . Are you kidding me!
  2. Salvage the internal SSD's  (nightmare dissassembly) then attach to another MAC just to read the disk contents
  3. Give up on the Mini, and beat it to death with a large hammer
  4. Just buy another PC desktop/ ultrabook and forget about that Mac Mini fantasy.
The Mac Mini [current generation] is in line with Apple's un-user serviceable  maximum non-standard, non replaceable hardware strategy.  It's now bitten us.


Links

20131024 Postscript
Mini is still down.   One last test is to put it into the freezer (inside an airtight bag), then repower when it is chilled.

20131025 iF**it  teardowns
I notice the opening of the new Apple MacBook Pro 13 and 15 are online.  
MacBookPro 13 -> score 1/10 
MacBookPro 15 -> score 1/10

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Just One More Drink



Yes,

It is October 22nd, 2013

Announcement Day in Apple-Land



So our preparations shall surely be

a)  Visit to local Wine store for some supplies

b) Sitting in Front of our Chromecast  watching the Apple Live Blog at 19.00 CET Swiss Time, Tuesday October 22, 2013.



Until then fanboys and fangirls you can prepare by watching this video.


See you there Tim.

Marcus Live update .. Engadgets coverage was rubbish!  CNET has a video stream here, which I full screened and Chromecasted

http://live.cnet.com/Event/CNETs_Apple_Oct_22_Event_Live_Blog




The Maintenance Manual


I have a small hunch that this week several American Computer companies will launch a smorgasbord of new products.

Just in case you are salivating and waiting to believe that purchases of said technology will lead you to the promised land of Engineering excellence, I shall remind you all [again] that 


Asthetic Beauty  DOES NOT EQUAL Good Engineering.

These days it is of course a tradeoff, and a non replaceable Lithium Ion battery stuck with adhesive to the inside of a portable computer might be slightly more space efficient than a socketed replaceable one.

So there are tradeoffs

But sometimes a company makes extra special efforts to make their products un-servicable.    Let's say


  • They use strange screws and connectors requiring specialist non standard tools
  • They forget to publish a Maintenance Manual

As an example of Better Engineering Design I'd point you to the Lenovo Yoga 2 Ultrabook.  Besides these technical specifications

They also



Now if it only had 16GB of memory like my 4 year old HP Envy, (required for Virtualisation)  then it would have been a buy.


Links




Monday, October 21, 2013

Finally insync with Google Drive



Insync is a low cost (from 10 USD one off)   Google Drive Client for Windows/Mac/Linux  that I have been testing for the last 2 months to replace the free client available from Google.

Why use Insync?

Well, it rather breaks my heart, but the free Google Client that I have tried for Microsoft Windows suffers from a major limitation

It does not [always] work

Now, don't just take my word for it, you can visit Google's Drive forum and see the many users who have had terminal difficulties.   In my case the Google Drive Client


  • Is unable to handle my client to cloud data mirroring with over 100GB data and over 400,00 files.  It simply crashes
  • On crashing sometimes the only recovery action is to delete the entire local drive repository and re download the entire drive from the cloud. This takes days
  • But also, there have been cases where a full re-upload was required.   That took weeks, and in the last case never completed
  • Critically I also found that some files on the PC local copy were missing from the cloud copy.  Inconsistency!

These are all fundamental flaws, but the Insync client instead seems thus far to be 100% reliable so I have to conclude this is a Google client only issue.

Back to Insync

  • You download the client and install it
  • Some basic configuration and then watch it upload your local archive to the cloud
  • In my case this meant first deleting the host copy of all files










  • Upload speed from Workstation to Cloud can exceed 10 Mega Bits per second easily  (though in metadata and for very small files the speed can be as low as 200 K bits per second)




      • Here is the popup from the icon in the Windows tray





      • You can choose what subset of directories to sync from local to Google drive cloud





      • Even in the presence of other substantial uploads Insync keeps going




      • Control of various startup options

      And now the killer feature:  Moving an existing google drive on a workstation without having to resync all files at host



      At first I made a copy of the files to a new drive then pointed Insync at the new place


      But that is not the way







      Whole 124GB move is completed in less than 1 hour.


      •  So instead, you just point to the new empty drive place and it just moves all the files.  Fantastic!




      • You can see Insync is multi threaded



      Summary
      Insync has single handedly restored my faith in Google Drive, with a client that is able to cope with a client to cloud dataset size containing over 400,000 files and over 100 GB data.   Something the Google client could not do.

      I've tested it hard now for over 2 months without issue.

      To me the 10 USD one off cost for Plus and 10 USD yearly for Pro Version are a  price worth paying.



      Links
      Insync Support
      Google Drive Saga Continued
      Google Drive Forum
      Google Drive Report/ View a Problem