Friday, January 31, 2014

The Cycling Tools



Winter in Lausanne seems to be fast disappearing so it was time to review the mandatory cycling essentials that Marcus and Agata carry on every ride.

By every ride, I mean on every ride except a race.  For a cycling race, example Triathlon we would endeavour to strap all essentials to our bicycles or ourselves.

Or course if there is no time pressure or if in the event of a breakdown you can call a Butler for rescue then disregard the following.  Else read on:





For Marcus, the 1190 gram package includes the excellent OMM Ultra 15 Rucksack, reviewed here

As per review this is large enough to carry your cycling toolkit, plus your daily essentials on the way to work, say a Tablet, phone, and some lightweight clothes.



So what is inside?

Bottom left: Muji Wallet

In left mesh pocket:   Felix Party Mix  (emergency kitty food) and Zipvit ZV10 Energy Chews (emergency human food)

In the top pocket a Lowe Alpine wind and water resistant jacket with hood.  Protection from the elements.  Also about 100 GBP   (150 CHF) of loose notes and a coin for emergencies.

On the right the trusty Apple iPod Nano  gen7

In the Centre the Cycle Toolkit and the Lock


The Abus lock is strong and streamlined.  It's old but I can't find a better one.  I have tried!



The toolkit contains

The Carbon Fibre pump
Lezyne Carbon Fibre 5 Multi Tool
Cannondale Plastic Tyre Levers
Continental Supersonic Inner Tube
Cassette Lockring remover
Surgical glove and tissue


The most important toolkit check is testing! So the next time I do a routine pre-emptive tyre and tube change at home I'll use the toolkit to make sure it all works, from taking the tyre off with the levers to pumping up with the handpump.

So back to our cycling audience, what do you carry on your regular rides and did I miss anything?



Thursday, January 30, 2014

Siemens C610 IP Phone Review


This is a short review of the Siemens/ Gigaset 610 IP phone.

This phone has dual functionality

  1. A regular cordless Analog telephone
  2. An IP phone
It does not have an answering machine facility and we did not want one, so that's good.



It is small and efficient and is powered by 2 Rechargeable AA batteries which are automatically charged as it sits in its petite docking station.

The phone comes in 2 parts.  The phone as shown above which talks wirelessly upto a range of about 10 metres, and second a separate and powered Base station.


To use it as an Analog phone (only) you would connect in your phone line, and power the base station.  (Middle socket about, in our case unconnected)

The base station then talks wireless to your phone.



To use it as an IP telephone instead  (or in addition) you connect a cable from the base station to the internet or in our case via a Switch and some Firewalls, and eventually to our Optical Internet Router.

Other Noteworthy Points
We connected a Siemens Headset/ microphone to the jack on the left side of the phone.  Works brilliantly.  (I'm not sure this headset is still available and you may need L410 hands free instead)

The unit is really inexpensive.

Small size.  Good Simple phone menu.

Phone quality (via our Internet SIP connection) is fantastic.


Tell us about the Web Gui
Even if you use the phone for pure Analogue Telephony it's useful to connect the Ethernet/ internet so that your phone gets information (like the weather) from the Internet!







The GUI allows you to set various parameters including what is displayed on the phone.  We have chosen the local weather forecast.  Displaying eBay or currency prices we think can be done better on our Computer/ Mobiles!



What is IP Telephony?
For us we have given up  i.e. cancelled our Analog Telephone line completely.  We only have an Internet connection and we use a third party (i.e. non Swisscom) series of providers to provide us with a SIP (Session Initiated Protocol) telephone connection instead.

I will cover the exact setup of our SIP connection in a separate article shortly.

But to summarise:  We don't pay for an Analog Telephone line which saves money.   We have a SIP, Internet connected phone which is ridiculously cheap.  We also find the SIP dials and connects instantly compared to the old analog. Again, exact setup details to follow soon.



But What About Skype or Google Plus
Skype and Google Plus are actually the other two forms of communication that we use and we don't use the C610 for that.  Rather both Agata and Marcus have Logitech Wireless Headphones that can be generally used instead


Summary

The Siemens C610 IP makes an ideal inexpensive Analog or IP telephone.  



Links
Siemens C610 Website
Siemens C610 Digitec
Siemens L410 Hand Free

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Swiss Car Taxation Game


We received our yearly taxation bill for our little Audi Car here in Switzerland and was shocked to find out that the Government asked us for  971CHF    (1080USD or 650GBP)

At first viewing I was convinced they had it wrong.  The Audi TT does not weigh 1875Kg.



Here are the full facts


Base Car Manual       1450 Kg
Base Car S-Tronic     1475 Kg  (Directive 80/1268/EEC)
Car + 1 Passenger + 7Kg Luggage  1550 Kg (92/21/EWG)
Maximum Permissible Weight   1875 Kg

I discounted the idea that the Swiss Government would tax a car based on its maximum gross weight, since that would be totally illogical and just a little ridiculous.  Why, what would the tax be on a minivan I hear you ask, a minivan whose maximum gross weight would be just disproportional to its actual weight.

There then followed what is in respect; some comical letters to the Swiss Motor licensing authority as I asked them to consider a tax based on other values.   I thought the maximum logical weight would be the 1550Kg value.

This is based on the International European Standard 92/21/EWG

Today I took some time to consult a Swiss Motoring Expert.

Guess What.



In Switzerland, they do indeed & ridiculously IMHO, base the tax on the MAXIMUM PERMISSIBLE weight for your motor vehicle.

So the formula is:

Tax = 40 + 
(0.15 * Weight upto 2000Kg) +
(0.3 * Weight over 2000Kg) +
(2 * power upto 100KW) +
(3 * power > 100 KW)

So for us this is 40 + 281.25 + 200 + 450 = 971.25 CHF

Currently there is no benefit for buying low Carbon Co2 engines such as ours.


We also checked, there is no reduction for rarely, if ever driving the car ...


So is there any good news?



Well indeed yes.   Marcus and Agata had planned to indulge in either the baby Audi TT RS or the Nissan GT-R.  However after living with the GT-R for a week  (as a test), we found that the lack of a Hatchback was a real deal breaker.

(For a full review:  Check our Week of GT-R living)

Now, let us do the taxation calculation for Mr GT-R, based on the pre-posterous GT-R Maximum Total Car Weight (2200Kg) that the Swiss tell me is their regulation:

Tax =  40 + .15 * 2000 + (2200-2000) * .3    + 2*100 + (390-100)* 3 

= 1440 CHF

So the GT-R is almost 50% more expensive.  So we try to think of it as having saved money!

Agata further consoled me that if we had stretched to Marcus's other favourite the Continental, the yearly tax bill would have been an astounding 1734 CHF yearly.

But really. Switzerland. Overall: Not playing fair.

Hmm.



Links

Audi TT RS Specification Guide Suisse
GT-R, The Reckoning




Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Cloud Storage - Are You Crazy?



Somebody very dear to my heart lives in rural England.  They do have scenic views, the sound of Birds chirping merrily throughout the day.   But what they also have is




The Worlds Slowest Internet Connection

No Mobile Internet

And in 2014 this is becoming a real issue.  You see even in the 1990's in the post IBM PC Computer revolution, the rule of thumb was that

An analog phone line can at best manage 33.6K bits/second

This equivalences to about 4K Bytes per second 

And so in the UK, and most of Europe there was equality in terms of Internet Access speed whether you lived in the Countryside or in the City.

But then  Telephone exchanges because digital and DSL (Digital Subscriber Line)  technology completely changed our view of the possible.  So sitting at home now in Northern Lausanne we now experience

Crazy Fast Internet


And so, back to Cloud Storage.  The Basic Idea is that you will begin to store your Primary Data not on local hard disks at home but on a Central Server, which because it is connected via a sufficiently fast



link to your local Internet provider will make for a viable experience.

And assuming your Provider does not go bankrupt, is not hacked, and has the technology and resources to provide you with a 24x7 fault tolerant connection, you can


  • Access your data, anywhere, anytime, any place
  • Delegate the responsibility for availability and backup to them
  • Release you from the need to maintain a home Computer Storage Infrastructure




Microsoft OneDrive

I will shortly be reviewing and documenting my choice of Cloud Storage providers, and my current Cloud Storage solution, something I have been testing for the last 12 months.




Even at home in Lausanne with our new found stratospheric sustained Upload Speeds, it's still barely workable.  To be continued....





Links
The 56K bits dialup speed
Modems and 33.6K bits/second



Monday, January 27, 2014

UEFI and GUID Partition Table de94bba4





Relax, for whilst this is a tale of the lost weekend there is a happy ending!  A lost weekend because I had about 4 hours sleep in the last 40 due to continued disk partition issues with my new PC virtualisation platform ...

MBR and GPT
In the 1980's the Industry used the standard MBR (Master Boot Record) way of partitioning a Hard Disk.  This gave upto 4 partitions, which (in the old days) could be used to store 4 different Operating Systems.

But the 32bit addressing allows for a maximum of 2TB disk addressability  (without tricks)

GPT i.e GUID Partition Table uses 64 bit addresses and also removes the 4 partition limitation.  64bits leads to single disk limits of about 8589 TB.  Now the biggest disk is currently 6TB so (famous last words) but this limit ought to be enough for anybody

How does it GPT Look

First I would read this helpful Microsoft Layout article


Configure UEFI/GPT-Based Hard Drive Partitions




Using diskpart I can show you the partition type and Attribute settings.  They are confirmed in the Wikipedia Reference for GPT which is a great read.



DISKPART> select disk 3

Disk 3 is now the selected disk.

DISKPART> list part

  Partition ###  Type              Size     Offset
  -------------  ----------------  -------  -------
  Partition 1    Recovery           300 MB  1024 KB
  Partition 2    System             100 MB   301 MB
  Partition 3    Reserved           128 MB   401 MB
  Partition 4    Primary            106 GB   529 MB
  
  Partition 1 is now the selected partition.

DISKPART> detail part

Partition 1
Type    : de94bba4-06d1-4d40-a16a-bfd50179d6ac
Hidden  : Yes
Required: Yes
Attrib  : 0X8000000000000001
Offset in Bytes: 1048576

  Volume ###  Ltr  Label        Fs     Type        Size     Status     Info
  ----------  ---  -----------  -----  ----------  -------  ---------  --------
* Volume 3         Recovery     NTFS   Partition    300 MB  Healthy    Hidden

DISKPART> select part 2

Partition 2 is now the selected partition.

DISKPART> detail part

Partition 2
Type    : c12a7328-f81f-11d2-ba4b-00a0c93ec93b
Hidden  : Yes
Required: No
Attrib  : 0X8000000000000000
Offset in Bytes: 315621376

  Volume ###  Ltr  Label        Fs     Type        Size     Status     Info
  ----------  ---  -----------  -----  ----------  -------  ---------  --------
* Volume 4                      FAT32  Partition    100 MB  Healthy    System

DISKPART> select part 3

Partition 3 is now the selected partition.

DISKPART> detail part

Partition 3
Type    : e3c9e316-0b5c-4db8-817d-f92df00215ae
Hidden  : Yes
Required: No
Attrib  : 0X8000000000000000
Offset in Bytes: 420478976

There is no volume associated with this partition.

DISKPART> select part 4

Partition 4 is now the selected partition.

DISKPART> detail part

Partition 4
Type    : ebd0a0a2-b9e5-4433-87c0-68b6b72699c7
Hidden  : No
Required: No
Attrib  : 0000000000000000
Offset in Bytes: 554696704

  Volume ###  Ltr  Label        Fs     Type        Size     Status     Info
  ----------  ---  -----------  -----  ----------  -------  ---------  --------
* Volume 2     C                NTFS   Partition    106 GB  Healthy    Boot



Disk Imaging Goes Wrong

Once the GPT format disk was created and used, I was curious, how easy is it to clone or move to another disk.  The answer is a complete disaster!

Lots of tools that I was expecting to work did not, principally because of the GPT disk layout, combined with my rather ancient Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD7 revision 1 motherboard

Including

Acronis True Image 2014 Premium

Clonezilla

O&O Disk Image


Also failed combination of above and Diskpart debugging and jiggling.  Ah EBD0A0A2-B9E5-4433-87C0-68B6B72699C7  I was close. But no cigar.



In desperation I went back to the official, but hidden Microsoft System Backup tool that already failed, let's see if it can be coaxed to work




Finding the Windows System Backup

So, let us assume you installed Windows 8.1.   Let us make a complete System Image.  Difficult to find but here:








For me the backup of my initial Windows System of about 35GB took about 4 minutes.


Now trying the restore



Windows cannot restore a system image to a computer that has a different firmware.  The system image was created on a computer using EFI and this computer is using BIOS

But actually this IS the same computer!

Actually, this error message is because I had either booted the system from a USD DVD drive or a bootable USB key created with


USB/ DVD Download Tool





In other words via BIOS menu  impromptu bootlist as shown above will FAIL for all USB devices.




Only if you select the EFI boot option and boot from an internal DVD


So finally when it works, it works so elegantly and in less than 10 minutes, or about 30 hours and 10 minutes including head scratching. Now the system is restored.

And also important to note that
Depending on the BIOS setting it is possible to Boot from the DVD, or once installed boot Windows.   What I mean is that initially the setting is AHCI.  Windows will do the initial install from DVD but on the necessary reboot can't complete and sits there with a flashing _ in the top corner of the screen. You have to go back to IDE.






In Summary


  • Assuming your boot hard disk is less than 2TB in size you can still stick with the older MBR Master Boot Record style disk format
  • If you move to a GPT (GUID Partition Table) disk you better make sure your backup/ recovery  tools work correctly
  • Booting from my USB key or USB DVD confused Windows 8.1 recovery
  • Only Booting from an internal DVD enabled the Repair Windows options to correctly restore a backup
  • The Windows Restore utility once working took just minutes to recover my 100GB partition from a last backup
  • Other old and trused tools were incapable of backing up and restoring my UEFI partitioned environment




Sunday, January 26, 2014

Religious Movie Year 2014


The Rapture

As an ordained minister of the Church you might think that I would welcome the avalanche of Religious films due to descend on us   (from the Heavens?) in this year of 2014.

Well you know, if only they were talking about his most excellent Holy Noodle.  (peace be upon him and unto his profit Bobby :-)

Anyway,  you can start by watching the above trailer.

And here are some more ...


Noah


Mary of Nazerath


Heaven is for Real



God's not Dead


Son of God


Exodus (Dec 2014)


Of course if you want to watch something now, I could suggest:

Rapture-Palooza

Jesus! As they say.


Friday, January 24, 2014

Will She or Won't She


Subtitle: New Phone Darling?

For Marcus and Agata to keep in touch with each other we very much rely on our Mobile Phones.

As tech savy people you will know that Google killed off Latitude  replacing some of its functionality with Google + locations

There is just one small catch!

If you turn on location sharing via the Google Plus link
https://plus.google.com/settings/plus#location

Example: Marcus discloses pinpoint location to Agata
&& Agata discloses pinpoint location to Marcus

then,  we find it does not work if the broadcasting device is an iPhone.  Blinking typical!

This, combined with the reasons that 


  • Apple iPhone 4, does not have Bluetooth 4, required by many of our fitness gadgets e.g non Ant+ Heart Rate Monitors
  • Reception at her workplace on Orange is weak.  A new phone could be superior?


  • Agata uses the phone for hours each day as her Music Player, Phone, Internet Portal.   She has cost justified a new phone, over, and over, and over.

prompts me to say ... New Phone, hint, hint.


So will she or won't she?

I can only make suggestions.  Ironically, the talk of a giant iPhone6 spurs Agata into thinking about changing now.   The last thing even a techie needs is to be seen walking down the street with a huge tablet sized phone against the ear.  Not cool.

Now she could go for a lovely Android phone  (and surely I am not biased) but my bets are it will be another iPhone ...





As usual  for the last word I refer you to my good friends at the Joy of Tech, for their Friday cartoon   




Links
Joy of Tech
Show me some Latitude
The Demise of Google Latitude
Getting Bigger in the Bedroom
WSJ:Large Screens for iPhone





The Backup Server


When it comes to just in case technology I am most definitely NOT a carrying fan.

What I mean is that I explicitly refuse to routinely carry around extra gadgets for example batteries /just in case/ , if the chance of my primary gadget failure is close to zero.

The same however cannot be said of my Computer Workstation.  Agata knows, if my workstation is down then Marcus is very down.  And so with some effort I have at last found time to provision the backup server.

This is simply the old master server of 2008 based on the excellent Lian Li V2100 chassis.






 Lots of fans to keep things cool


A CoolerMaster 1000W power supply



 
Removable SATA storage, Floppy, Card Reader and Optical Drives


 The caddies are removable




There is a Promise Exa Track EX8650 8 port SATA PCIe controller card as well as 6 native Motherboard SATA3 ports.


With the BIOS in SATA AHCI mode the summary screen shows no disks.


Update that BIOS

The Supermicro X7DWA-N motherboard might be old yet still capable,  but it would not boot my USB key containing any Linux or Windows!   Initial OS installs had to be done via a DVD/ CD.  How old fashioned.

Finally I found Bios 1.2C .  Here is the Supermicro motherboard spec page

Since the Firmware is 2MB I was unsure how to boot the floppy as suggested online.  I tried to make a CDROM boot emulation floppy but it ended up 1.44MB is size.  Eventually I found booting a Caldera Dos 7 diskette with a smorgasbord of drivers and when booted enabled me to see an attached Hard Disk, where I placed the 2MB BIOS. And then reflash.  Now at Bios 1.2C I can boot from a USB key ... at last.



But which OS?


Windows 8.1 was my favourite but NIC teaming does not work




The Promise GUI allows you to provision Logical Disks from the Physical disks allocated to the RAID controller.  Disks can be aggregated as RAID or JBOD etc.




FreeNas 9.20 installed without issue


RHEL 7 installed eventually  (but only from DVD not from key)



Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 seemed to be the best match after all factors were considered:



  • The R2 version can have installed many Windows 8.1 desktop experience extensions
  • NIC teaming works via the OS
  • VMware support for all virtualisation environments :-)

  • Backup and Restore included within 2012 Server and can effect a restore from end to end in < 20 minutes.

So now, if the primary workstation fails.  A backup is nestling in the basement.


Links
8 core is go
Supermicro X7DWA-N manual