Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Soft Cell: Frustration

I am sure that I remember reading a comment from Les Tokar of the SSD Review  website bemoaning some of his friends who continued to complain about their workstation performance [using spinning hard drives] yet were not prepared to spend a mere afternoon upgrading their systems to using a Solid State Disk [SSD].

Les,  I **really** know what you mean.   Marcus has some dysfunctional friends and family too. People who steadfastly refuse to upgrade their technology despite the fact that the cost (in both their earnings time and effort) is below trivial.

I made an example list

Not only will I list their dilemma but in ( ) I will also list the time that said people would expend to pay for the said item

For over 2 years I said: I don't need a running watch  (5 hours) - now I hang my head in shame. I have one now and it's an excellent training tool.

I must get a Smartphone soon, it will be very useful.  Not sure which one.  - That was 18 months ago.  He is still thinking about it  (3 hours)

Yes,  I will setup Skype soon,  it seems to be a little complicated.  -  My very charming IT friend,   it has now been 6 months and counting

The dishwasher is broken,  I'll do the washing manually until we refurbish the kitchen.  - 2 years later, manually washing for 6 people, the kitchen was renewed   (8 hours)

I've been too busy to look at any of the Teaching videos you sent me.  - Somebody  who to this day, some 9 months later has not watched even 1, Chromebook teaching video. Consequently they can't use that computer system effectively.

My Auntie,  normally forward looking, but a computer phobia:
No, I'm not prepared to use a computer.  I think it would not be reliable (5 days). - I offered to buy her a computer, she refused!

So the moral of this story is, that you can't force stubborn determined people to do anything.  You just have to hope that one day they will see the light.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Knowing my Musical Limits

Music is very important to me.

But as I commented back in 2012  today most of us in the /First World/ have the luxury of the selection of an almost infinite music catalog.

From the legal Streaming services,  free Youtube videos and moving on to the less legitimate torrent sources.

The concept of going over to a friends house to listen to their latest album, (and possibly taping it),  well it makes a quaint tale from mine to the current generation. 

So given the infinite musical catalog that I can now listen to I have had to make some rules:

Establish some limits: For me:

  • No more than 1 new album per day!  That is 7 albums per week tops.
  • No more than 16GB of portable Music!  (Can I imagine the equivalent which was carrying 100 vinyl albums over to a party or a friends house! Er no.)

Where to Get stuff from

Magnetig/Tom Forrester in Poland

Don't be afraid to dump
  • Listen and Listen.  But if it's not good just delete it.   Don't keep rubbish.   Our musical lives are too short

Keeping it Tidy & Prepare
  • I often spend Sunday evening usually correctly formatting all sources using Mp3tag
  • Make the necessary conversions with AudioConverter
  • Loading  up the SwimPlayer for the week
  • Loading up iTunes with the latest albums for the week

Always have a Backup

And now, back to the music

Jools Holland/Marc Almond:Say Hello

Monday, April 28, 2014

Stupidity and Samsung Gear [.*]it

First there was Apple on it's glue everything, don't upgrade just buy again mentality.

But then I noticed that  the implementation of a potentially revolutionary and useful Health and Quantitative Self fitness tracker by Samsung has gone hopelessly wrong.

Not the Samsung fit but possibly the unfit:

Samsung Gear fit in theory

and in practice:
DC rainmaker: Samsung fit

Gizmodo:Samsung Gear Fit

And now Samsung again: Because the Smartphone market really needs another new Operating System and meagre software offerings.

Wikipedia: Tizen

What is Tizen?

Tizen Blog

Basic Mobile OS Comparison Chart

One thing to be sure.  The folks at Apple just can't believe their luck.  Just when it looked like they were running out of innovation and <reluctantly> handing over the crown of new ideas to Uncle Sammy, it looks like

the competition is in self destruct mode.

Finally  whilst I am always extremely critical of Aunty Apple it's normally because of their intensely smug and haughty attitude, but boy they don't make a mess of things on the phenominal scale that Samsung is doing.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sunday Sermon:Pleasure is Good and Enforced Pain is Bad

It is supposed to be short sighted and not the done thing to be resentful of the past.

So I try to put behind the recent Cycling accident on April 10, 2014   which left my ribs in so much pain that on lying down I was actually screaming out loud with the pain.

Instead then,  I am told to look on the positive side which is that today, Sunday April 27th, the pain is somewhat reduced.    Certainly I am still on a self medicated cocktail of painkillers  (Ibuprofen is my favourite) and my body is training itself to move from one position to another via pain free, con-torsional motions.   

In the last 3 months you see a sharp dip post accident as running moved from pleasure to torture.

But all in all.  I am certainly somewhat better. Although I did have a small debate with a devout /Christian/

The Religious Angle

  • Marcus:Why did God Allow the accident? 
  • Christian:It's not for us to know Gods Will
  • Marcus:I am getting better quickly  
  • Christian:Yes, God is speeding your recovery
  • Christian: And thank God, that your ribs are not broken
  • Marcus: I think it is the drugs, Positive Mental Attitude and careful movements have speeded my recovery
  • Christian: And God provided you with these things
  • Marcus: Well actually the Pharmacy and Googling the Internet provided me
  • Christian: But God created people with skills to create the Pharmacy and Google
  • Marcus: So God is to be given credit for all the Good things and not discredited for my accident? 

My Preference, to any Gods Listening, for the Future

  • No accident
  • I can use my time to reach a higher level of fitness, alertness, competence,  instead of trying hard just to get back to my previous level.
I am of the strong view that I do not need a Supreme being (God) to arrange or allow pointless setbacks to occur, so that on recovery I might feel somehow grateful. For Marcus: suffering is not redemptive.

The best I can do right now to cheer myself up is playing some of my favourite uplifting music. To my knowledge not inspired by, guided by, or written by or in praise of any God.

Clean Bandit: Extraordinary

Faul: Changes

Pharrell Williams: Happy
Lausanne: Happy

Piano Guys: Paradise

Having watched these videos I feel even better now.

For further study into Religion and the problem of suffering start with the links below

Attenborough on Science Religion
Evil and Suffering the Basics
Bart Ehrman: God's Problem
Islam and Suffering  (rambles on)
Hinduism and Suffering (unconvincing!)
Colin McGinn on Pain Suffering
Peter Singer on Suffering

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Lausanne 20Km 2014

So to cut to the chase both Marcus and Agata had a successful Lausane 20Km run this Saturday April 26, 2014

Marcus Race Report

We arrived early enough to see the start of the 10Km race and see the first runner arrive at the 7km distance.

We started on time at 18.00.  As in previous years the 20Km has expanded to an all day event for the whole family.   Whilst in principle this is a good thing,  the people who predominantly pay for the whole bash, namely us 20Km runners, get pushed into a last event in the evening spot. Hmm.

With the TomTom watch I was able to determine that I was running unusually fast to start with.   Over 14Km/h at the start. I did not slow down until I had to; which I am sure in retrospect was a mistake.

My first annoyance was my right shoe came loose so I spent about 30 seconds fixing that.  Then I ignored the 5Km water stop expecting an Isotonic stop shortly afterwards.  None!  I had to wait till Km 11 by which time I really needed some fluids.   What kind of chump does not study the water stops before hand. Marcus you muppet!

The ascent to the Cathedral was as gruelling as ever and then the last 3Km of the race is within eyesight of the finish, which is also excruciating.

Still all was finished well.

 The cool down runners cannon at Km 17

Ambulance staff use Segways.

Best Bits
Well the race was dry and just as we changed post race the skies opened and the rain began.  Now 4 hours later as I write this it is still raining.  What very fortunate timing, I must say.

Also at  the beginning and end of the race I ran into multiple ex Work and other runners who I knew.   Wow!  Lausanne is such a small town this just keeps on happening.  That is so wonderful.

Marcus's ribs are still very painful as a consequence of the recent accident but as for the marathon I was doped up to the hilt with Ibuprofen. 

Audio Breakdown
Marcus's earphones broke whilst on the bus to the race.  I was just commenting to Agata how they had lasted well, and a moment later one ear died.   So I had to run the whole race in Mono.  I know, it is a wonder I got round at all I can hear you saying :-)


Marcus 01.31 and Agata 01.44.   Marcus was an astonishing 0.5 second  (yes seconds) quicker than last year

Good times for us and I feel that if I had been 100% well I could definitely have run faster.  Right now I can't breathe deeply due to pain, and breathing is pretty important whilst running.

Thanks again to the superb organisation of Lausanne Sports and we hope to see you again in 2015.

Marcus video diary:
Marcus Lausanne 20Km report

Friday, April 25, 2014

HxC testing with Cromemco format diskettes

This is a practical howto document showing some command line examples tests used to validate the HxC Solid State Diskette Emulator 

The tests relate to a Cromemco CDOS and Cromemco Cromix environment

My setup
Drive A = HxC drive A
Drive B = Physical 3.5" emulating 8"
Drive C = HxC drive B
Drive D = Physical 5.25"

For details of HxC and how to set it up please see this link

Copying from HxC drive 'B'  to HxC drive 'A'

A HxC drive has LGDSDDST.HFE file
B BxC drive has 530CDOS.HFE

rcopy -l 128 -v /dev/fdc /dev/fda    # fails, well my patience exhausted after 15 minutes!

system[21] rcopy -l 128 -v /dev/fdc /tmp/fred

"/dev/fdc" matches "/tmp/fred".

oops  -v is copy and verify!  that is what slowing us down.  Let us repeat without the verify

rcopy -t /dev/fdc /dev/fda
Buffer size: 10,240 bytes.

Read buffer: 123, write   buffer: 123, (1,256,448 bytes)
cdoscopy -l fda            4K             4K        14K          10K           14K
asmlib.rel          2K
b1.sbr              4K
b2.sbr              4K
b3.sbr              8K
b4.sbr              4K
b5.sbr             10K

Copy with rcopy Cromix B: Large to HxC  A: Large

rcopy -t /dev/fdb /dev/fda
Buffer size: 10,240 bytes.

Read buffer: 16, write   buffer: 15, (153,600 bytes)

 check fda

Device: /dev/fda
End of dcheck

Device: /dev/fda

Blocks missing:                           0
Bad free blocks:                          0
Duplicate blocks in free list:            0
Blocks in files and in free list:         0
Bad blocks:                               0
Duplicate blocks:                         0

Device files:                           132
Ordinary files:                         166
Directories:                             15
Blocks used in files:                 2,289
Free blocks:                             57
Free inodes:                             39
system[29] free fda
/dev/fda        57 blocks      28K       29,184 bytes

Generating a Blank Uniform Format Diskette
The .HFE virtual file contains information about the RPM of the track so  I created an initial Uniform format file on a PC thus

Now,  save this as an actual blank diskette file, copy to the SD card and format and makfs on the Cromix side ...

68010 XPU 168   Initflop source 1.8

Press:          RETURN to supply default answers
                CTRL-C to abort program
Warning:        INITFLOP can destroy all disk data

Device name? ufda

        Rotational speed:       358 RPM

Sector size (0=128, 1=256, 2=512, 3=1024)? <2>
Single or double sided (S/D)? <D>
Single or double density (S/D)? <D>

First cylinder (0-76.)?  <0>
Last cylinder (0-76.)?  <76.>
Surfaces (0-1., All)?  <All>

1       76
system[44] makfs -b 2 ufda
system[45] free ufda
/dev/ufda    2,188 blocks   1,094K    1,120,256 bytes

Now we have a good blank that I have saved off under the HxC blanks directory as file ULDSDDST.HFE

Ftar on Uniform Large B: to Uniform Blank HxC A:

rcopy -t /dev/ufdb /dev/ufda
Buffer size: 76,800 bytes.

Read buffer: 16, write   buffer: 16, (1,182,720 bytes)

ftar -tv /dev/ufda   # prove the copy is good.  read from HxC

          0 D Jan 05, 2036 06:28  .

    133,752   Dec 02, 1997 08:43  ./cromix.sys

          0 D Jan 19, 1990 13:08  ./tmp
          0 D Jan 19, 1990 13:08  ./usr
          0 D Jan 19, 1990 13:08  ./usr/lib
      6,656   Nov 01, 1989 16:49  ./usr/lib/ksclib.obj
      1,792   May 19, 1987 12:00  ./usr/lib/kslib.rel
     36,864   Nov 01, 1989 17:02  ./usr/lib/syslib.2.4.obj

Transferring a file from a Physical to Virtual Cromemco Computer

This test takes a file from a physical 68000 Cromemco machine, writes it to a 360K physical floppy.   Then takes that floppy to a PC running Windows 2012 x64 server.   Using the HxC Floppy Emulator we then read this diskette in a 1.2MB drive and make a HxC image

Finally we test that image in a Virtual Cromix environment

  • Initialise 360K diskette on Cromix 168 in CDOS Format

68010 XPU 168   Initflop source 1.8

Press:          RETURN to supply default answers
                CTRL-C to abort program
Warning:        INITFLOP can destroy all disk data

Device name? sfdd

        Rotational speed:       301 RPM

Disk type (C=CDOS, X=CROMIX)? <X> c
Single or double sided (S/D)? <D>
Single or double density (S/D)? <D>

First cylinder (0-39.)?  <0>
Last cylinder (0-39.)?  <39.>
Surfaces (0-1., All)?  <All>

1       39
Labeling disk
   Disk name (up to 8 characters)? <Userdisk> 531test
   Date on disk (mm/dd/yy)? <03/05/114> 04/05/99
   Number of directory entries (64-512)? <128>

cdoscopy -bvw sfdd *basic**                   19,456 bytes                10,752 bytes                  24,192 bytes                  26,112 bytes
sbasic.sbr                     256 bytes
sbasicio.sbr                   512 bytes
sbasicio.z80                26,112 bytes
system[23] cdoscopy -l sfdd          20K       12K         24K         26K
sbasic.sbr          2K
sbasicio.sbr        2K
sbasicio.z80       26K

  • Take CDOS format Disk to my Virualisation PC

  • Start HxCFloppy Emulator v2.0.20.1

Disk is now read.  Saved as a .DSK raw image file and loaded to Cromemco CDOS emulator running under Windows Vista 32
So the disk is unreadable.  Lets look at the image by sector ...

The first track is just BLANK.  Lets redo the read and examine what the HxC program tells me

So the diskette reader reading my 360K physical disk can't figure out the data rate on track 0.  It is FM format though!

 I tried reading a regular MSDOS 6.22 boot disk which is of course full MFM format.  Read fine

Result: My Virtualisation PC CANNOT handle FM format on diskettes.  (well in the 1.2MB drive and the 360K drive just does not work well in system at all. So much so I removed the physical 360K diskette from the PC system completely)

Testing 360K Cromix small disk format
Took an existing Image Disk .IMD image and converted it to .HFE using the HxCFloppyEmulator Gui

From the original  061C3105.IMD  I created CSDSDDST.HFE
Put onto SD Card
insert into HxC on Cromemco
select the csdsddst.hfe file to drive a

Formatting under Cromix 168

68010 XPU 168   Initflop source 1.8

Press:          RETURN to supply default answers
                CTRL-C to abort program
Warning:        INITFLOP can destroy all disk data

Device name? sfda

        Rotational speed:       293 RPM
        Speed out of tolerance

Disk type (C=CDOS, X=CROMIX)? <X>
Single or double sided (S/D)? <D>
Single or double density (S/D)? <D>

First cylinder (0-39.)?  <0>
Last cylinder (0-39.)?  <39.>
Surfaces (0-1., All)?  <All>


1       39

Make Filesystem, Write Boot Track, Check
makfs sfda
wboot sfda

rcopy -t -r /dev/sfda
Buffer size: 10,240 bytes.

Read buffer: 3

check sfda

Device: /dev/sfda
End of dcheck

Device: /dev/sfda

Blocks missing:                           0
Bad free blocks:                          0
Duplicate blocks in free list:            0
Blocks in files and in free list:         0
Bad blocks:                               0
Duplicate blocks:                         0

Device files:                             0
Ordinary files:                           0
Directories:                              1
Blocks used in files:                     0
Free blocks:                            725
Free inodes:                            195

Now lets use the original 061 physical disk (hopefully for the very last time ever) and create a fresh and valid 061C3105.HFE disk

rcopy -v -t /dev/sfdd /dev/sfda
Buffer size: 10,240 bytes.

Read buffer: 8, write   buffer: 7, (71,680 bytes) compared OK
"/dev/sfdd" matches "/dev/sfda".

# try some writing
mount /dev/sfda /da
d /da
find . -type f -a -exec version -v {} > ./cromix3105.versions.txt
ls -l
         25 D  1   rewa re-- re-- bin         Nov-12  1985  bin
          3 D  1   rewa re-- re-- bin         Nov-12  1985  cmd
    129,584    1   rewa ---- ---- bin         Nov-12  1985  cromix.sys
     11,178    1   rewa re-- re-- system      Apr-07 16:16  cromix3105.longlist.txt
      3,087    1   rewa re-- re-- system      Apr-07 16:13  cromix3105.versions.txt
        111 D  1   rewa re-- re-- bin         Nov-12  1985  dev
          0    1   rewa re-- re-- system      Nov-12  1985  drive

         18 D  1   rewa -e-- -e-- bin         Nov-12  1985  etc

All seems great!  Let's see if we can boot from it ...
boot ./cromix
System shutdown in progress
System shutdown complete
Address: Memory test by 16K blocks
000000h: ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Floppy = 1, STDC = 6
Enter major root device number: 1
 fda =  0,  fdb =  1,  fdc =  2,  fdd =  3
sfda =  4, sfdb =  5, sfdc =  6, sfdd =  7
dfda = 16, dfdb = 17, dfdc = 18, dfdd = 19
Enter minor root device number: 4

System initialization complete

Cromix-Plus Operating System version 31.05
Copyright (c) 1985 Cromemco, Inc.
Boot System

PID = 6

This is Phase one of Cromix-Plus installation.
Please note the following installation steps.

1.      After you have noted the information on the screen, hold down
        the CNTRL key and press Q to display the next page of this information.

2.      If the message:

        "Incorrect version of STDC firmware (1.20 or higher required)"

        was displayed during boot procedure, please enter the command "boot"
        to reboot Cromix-Plus. Please see SUDS note Cromix-Plus-1 for details.

3.      The disk on which you plan to install Cromix-Plus must be
        initialized and the file structure must be built on it. (See
        the manuals for the Initstdc, Initsmd, Initflop, Makfs
        utilities).  If your disk already has a file system on it,
        run the Check utility to verify the file system integrity.
        If necessary, run the Check -s utility or take any other
        necessary steps. Do not proceed until Check reports no errors.

4.      Run the Update1 command. The argument to Update1 command must
        be the name of your future root device. The Update1 command
        will rename a few files in your future /etc directory (in case
        they exist already) to names with the extension ".old".  If a brand
        new file structure was generated there will be no ".old" files.
        The Update1 command will then Cptree the current file structure
        to the new disk and invoke the Boot command to reboot the system.
        This time you should designate your new disk as the root device.

Cromix-Plus Operating System version 31.05
Copyright (c) 1985 Cromemco, Inc.
Boot System

Logged in system Apr-07-2014 16:17:56 on tty1

Message of the day:  Welcome to the Cromix-Plus Operating System

# kill -2 1
System shutdown in progress
System shutdown complete

By convention  I use A=D=5.25 inch and B=C=8 inch drives

In other words the A: via the HxC normally has 5.25 inch diskette images not 8".  Since with CDOS (ver >= 1.07) you use CDOSGEN to determine what disk sizes are where this is an important convention to keep.

The HxC solid state diskette emulator passed all tests and is now in service as the A: and C: drives of my system.   

Thursday, April 24, 2014

All is Lost

Robert Redford: All is Lost

Now that the DVD is finally available I can comment that this is one of the most quietly gripping films that I have seen in years.

It is quite the antithesis of the disaster action movie. Everything goes from bad to worse one day at a time and Robert, the experienced but alone seafarer is set as the classic man against nature.

Just superb.

Academy Conversations

Guardian Review
All is lost from Amazon
Video Featurette