Thursday, April 30, 2015

Because the Few ALWAYS ruin it for the Many

This week Marcus and Agata have been on the receiving end of Fraud against us.  It has taken some hours of effort and analysis which will be reported on later but things may come to a neutral conclusion.   Nothing positive to report yet!

This got me thinking as to how certain aspects of our lives are foverer changed .....

Aircraft Terrorism
The untold misery that the actions of a few twats have caused the many is quite intolerable.   I'm primarily talking about the liquid restrictions.

The stemmed from a terrorist plot by British born muslims in 2006 where eventually 11 members were arrested and prosecuted.

The plot was to murder people on a number of planes using Peroixide based liquid explosives.

Full details here

Because of their actions for almost 10 years now

- Liquids may not be brought on board
- Liquid based foods such as yoghurt also banned
- Restrictions on other liquids such as perfumes
- Bagging of items mandatory

Since 2006 then the lives of EVERY passenger flying has been made considerably worse.

Laws have been changed

A whole new infrastructure for scanning, detection, threat response has had to have been developed.

The actions of these British wankers have forever blighted the already tough restrictions implemented as a result of prior terrorist actions.

I hate those bloody terrorists and remember the evil actions that they tried to perpetrate in pursuit of their religion every time I pass an Airport scanner.


Most pop or media concerts these days forbid alcohol and sometimes all drink.  Why?  It's a safety issue because small groups bring in alcoholic bottles and these can be used as weapons by drunks.

So now most times you are forced to buy from the overpriced and bad selection at concessions; drinks that might be less healthy than you would like, or sometimes of questionable hygiene.  All because of the few tossers who have ruined it for everybody.

Rubbish Bins
Terrorists have also sought to kill people at random by placing explosive devices into rubbish bins in City areas e.g.
1978 Sydney Hilton
2008 Istanbul bombing
2013 Boston Marathon

The response, certainly in the UK is the removal of all bins at Railway stations and in many other public areas

Since 2014 at home in Lausanne we need to put all domestic rubbish into special white plastic rubbish bags.  These cost money.   See this article.  So now wankers have started putting household waste into public bins.  So much so that the canton has had to weld the above plates on top of bins and use a locking mechanism.   All because of the selfish actions of a few people.

Email Deletion
I once worked at a large multinational company who suddenly announced that it was to be corporate policy not to store any emails!  I mean they told us, read any email, then delete it.  It was just unbelievable.

It turned out that a disgruntled employee felt they had been victimised and left the company.  But they thought that in their Corporate email records  (which they had not taken with them) stored on the server, and backed up as a matter of course  [this is actually Swiss Law] they could prove victimisation.  I was actually called by one of the HR CIO's to help with this process.

Again the stupidity of one employee tried to cause a radical and ridiculous change in corporate email policy. Something that if people had obeyed the ruling would have caused total chaos.

Public Toilets
In many large cities the local government has drastically reduced the provision of free public toilets.  Why?  Because a few people
- Abuse the facilities
- Don't clean up
- Use them for immoral or illegal activities
- Cause vandalism e.g. graffiti

It's a very small minority but the local council has to constantly provide repairs and it can become a /game/ where the same individuals constantly deface the buildings just to annoy the Council.   This begins to be too costly, so the facilities are then shut down.  Thanks to the few selfish idiots we have nowhere to pee.

Contractor Abuse
As a computer contractor I know that I have a job of work bounded by the dates of a contract that I have signed. However when I worked for XXX it transpired that a contractor who had been hired [via an agency] via multiple separate contracts over an 8 years plus period was note renewed. So he decided to sue his end employer [not the agency] saying it was illegal. That his 8 year employment record qualified him to be permanent.  [Note; During this time his contracting salary was over 250%, i.e. > 2.5 times the salary of other equivalently qualified Permanent staff he worked with].

Because of this, my same end employer [not my agency] had to devise a strict set of rules denying contractors equal rights to
- the canteen
- any free drinks
- sports facilities
- any concessions due to employment by XXX
- no office supplies like paper or pencils or biros!
- no presence at shareholder or large corporate meetings

They forced me and all other contractors to feel excluded, all because of one lazy shit who was taking the piss and claiming he could not be sacked when his contract, that he had signed, ended, on time.

Supermarket Car Parks
Supermarkets used to provide free parking for their paying customers.  But today they often charge.  They have had to erect barriers,  with ticket dispensing machines, and matching ticket payment machines, or getting stamped at checkouts  (which you can forget).  This is inconvenient for most customers, delays entry and exit, and has the possibility to bang your vehicle against those ticket machines on harsh concrete curbs.  And why this change?

Because some tossers have started using the previously free car parks as a /free work car park/ if they work in a City Centre.  The Supermarket car parks then becomes full of illegal parkers leaving no room for real customers.

and finally ...

Anibis Scam

This week Marcus and Agata were targets of a money phishing scam when we tried to honestly sell a Samsung camera on the Swiss sales website.

We sell a lot of surplus items on Anibis. What is our motivation?
- We have some items that are surplus to our needs
- We would like them re-used not junked
- We sell them at fair or bargain prices
- All items work excellently and are always tested
- Considering the time spent advertising, responding to questions, meeting buyers, it is really not done for the money.

In this context being scammed for money, especially as we were the seller, was not in our game plan. As a result now we'll have to be constantly vigilant to any other Anibis buyer of our more expensive goods.  We'll subject them to questions to prove their good faith, to pay in advance.  In short we'll be pretty suspicious of them, whereas in the past our attitude was 
- We trust the buyer
- We offer to send goods in advance of payment
- We bust a gut to dispatch quickly

Of course the above restrictions will only apply to purchases over 2. And you know I'm using this Marcus scale here

So back to the original tagline:

Yes, the FEW always spoil it for the many

Sparse Files

I am still a great fan and proponent of the Syncback SE or Pro backup program sold by 2BrightSparks.

I commented on and recommended Syncback here

I noticed in their latest email that it supported Sparse Files. More advanced OS allows via an API call to create a seemingly large file (reported as large by directory listing commands) but with a bytes used footprint equal to only the data stored.

Example,   I create a 1GB sparse file, it shows up as 1GB in size but the 1MB of data stored inside it means the file is still actually only taking up 1MB of actual space on the disk.

I wondered, hmm .... which OS that I use actually have this facility built in.

Wikipedia Sparse files

Wikipedia File Systems

The basic requirements are that 

a) The installed filesystem that your files are stored on must support Sparse

b) The OS too needs to support sparse

So I did some digging as to Sparse support on the OS that I use daily:

Windows NTFS

Well yes of course.

GetVolumeInformation() - Determine if fs supports sparse
Code example sparse in C#
Command line create sparse with fsutil
NTFS Sparse files notes programmers


At a file level I ssh'd command line into my Android 5.1.1 phone and created a sparse file without issue.

also: Sparse file image format Android


On MacOS, the default filesystem is HFS+ which does not support sparse files. You can optionally format a volume with UFS which does support sparse files. HFS+ is the default filesystem on MacOS.

If you use UFS  (Unix File System) under OSX i.e. the one that nobody uses (!) then there is Sparse File support.

Slightly less flexibily but more usefully to end users is the Sparse image format for disk images  (.dmg)  This enables a single file to contain an image of a hard disk with greater efficiency and is used by various backup software including Apple Time machine.


My production Linux systems run Centos 64bit Linux and use the default XFS filesystem which supports sparse files.  The above image shows that whilst the filesystem thinks the file is 4G big the space used is zero.

Copy regular file to a sparse file
Various UNIX Sparse notes


I'm not hands on daily here just daily reading  (today it was 
IBM z13 Configuration Setup) so over to Google:
I did not find any mention of /sparse files/ under native zOS for IBM mainframes.   I do find mentions in the UNIX utilities such as System Z Personal Development Tool but these just relate to Linux Sparse files.

To summarise: Windows and Linux (including Android) support Sparse files as a matter of course on their normal/usual filesystems.  Whilst Apple's OSX supports sparse files at an OS level the default Apple HFS filesystem used unless specifically overidden by a user does not.


NTFS sparse files
Windows Sparse files by 2brightsparks
Apple HFS+ File System

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Because Honesty Matters

Few of us or perhaps none of us have perfect lives according to our own standards and expectations.  But to Marcus and Agata this should never lead to disadvantageous dishonesty.

As the above photograph shows I've had an Apple sourced hard disk with the wordy Dodg that I had written on it about 1 year ago.   At last I have the time to investigate this disk further.

My first thoughts were that if I could get it to perform reliably after prolonged testing I would offer it up for sale on the popular  Swiss private sales  website

But although the Hitachi manufactured, Apple Mac Mini Disk was certainly electrically and Software visible to Windows or OSX it could not be reliably read or written to.

So to be I would be lying if I had advertised the disk as 'working fine' and a buyer would have been disappointed or cheated if by buying in good faith they had expected a working product.

Plausible Ignorance
(Caveat emptor ... buyer beware)

For Marcus and Agata we are not infinitely wealthy, but we stand by our decisions and actions be they good or bad in an honest fashion.    We have known acquaintances (certainly not friends) who have

- Knowingly advertised as good, faulty or intermittently faulty goods for sale on ebay

- Knowingly advertised faulty goods for sale in Switzerland on anibis

- Broken their hard drive and tried to resell it anyway

- Placed their Apple computer in a bath of water to break it so they can return it via their Apple Plus warranty

- Broken their games console whilst trying to hack it and repacked it up to take back to the shop claiming "unknown, sudden failure"

- Selling their mobile phone on an ebay like site then reporting this phone as lost to the contracted phone company for replacement under their /all risks/ initial purchase policy

If something we own breaks, then it's not acceptable to recoup the loss by dishonestly selling it on to a third party.

And so the hard drive is beyond repair.  All that is left is a disassembly to break down for parts.  As Engineers you never know when you might need those little screws :)

- All screws are removed and kept
- Hard Drives have magnets, useful as Fridge Magnets or the like
- Disk platters can be used as Zen, Coffee coasters

Coffee coaster platters are rescued.  Screws into the screws box.  The rest to the Electrical recycling at the local decheterie.

When something you own that is out of warranty breaks, accept the loss.  Don't pass on your misfortune to an innocent party using a dishonest sales technique.

Finally, recycle wherever possible.


When selling small counts BIG


Do you remember the part in the Superman 3 film when Richard Pryor reprograms the computer to put all the half cents from other payroll accounts into his ... And becomes fabulously wealthy.

Well of course it's not that simple,  but I like to state the principle that in terms of IT  (Information Technology): Individual consumers today make a lot of small purchases and in total this simply dwarfs the amounts made by large Enterprises and Institutions.

IBM for some time has tried to think bigger and bigger.  In fact it has consistently over time sold off small systems. The Personal Computer business, its Printer Business and most recently its smaller Intel  (X series) computer business to Lenovo.

A word about Lenovo
I recently called Lenovo and was delighted to speak for over an hour to a knowledgeable ex-IBM, now Lenovo employee. In a nutshell all Intel X series and even IBM PureFlex (Intel) are now moved to Lenovo.  The fact that some Lenovo technical publications still appear on the IBM Redbooks site is an anomaly.

(zoom to see URL)

For example this SAP HANA guide  .  But all such publications are in transition and soon it will all be hosted on

So now, back to the figures

2014 Q4 revenues
Lenovo 14.1 Billlion $
Microsoft 23.4 Billion $
IBM  24.1 Billion $
Apple  74.6 Billion $

In 2015 small is not only beautiful but bountiful

Apple beats expectations esp. China
Microsoft Q4 2014 results
Lenovo in Q4 2014
IBM Q4 2014 Revenues Plunge

Monday, April 27, 2015

10Gbe Networking still too rich for me

Several years ago Marcus and Agata meticulously planned our last Apartment.  All aspects of the construction were considered including of course the Computer infrastructure.

We did the forward looking thing and wired the whole apartment for Ethernet.

10Gbe  that is to say 10 Gigabit Ethernet

Marcus felt sure that in the forthcoming years the cost would plummet and it would be economical to install more than the cabling.

However in 2015 I am disappointed that this is still not the case.  Whilst in the Enterprise, 10Gbe Server LAN ports, Network Switches, and SOHO Network Storage are no strangers if not commonplace the focus in the home has definitely been faster wireless.

In fact the Enterprise is now toying with 40Gbe  (40 Gigabits per Second) network adaptors.

Lenovo Mellanox ConnectX-3Pro  40Gbe

So if I was going to upgrade my home Infrastructure right now to 10Gbe networkability what would I choose .....?


If you are building your PC from scratch right now in April 2015 I'd propose the Supermicro   X10RH-iT server E-ATX sized motherboard

This includes 2, 10Gbe ports and I would say that with 16 memory slots you can get to 128GB memory with ease. I personally always recommend a Dual Processor Motherboard for maximum CPU cores if you work with virtualisation  (Although Xeon E5-2xxx are hugely more expensive than Xeon E5-1xxx and necessary for dual processor configs).

The price of the above motherboard is peanuts compared to the cost of processors and memory.  We are looking at about 6K USD ballpark.

10Gbe Cards

Plan B would be to retrofix an existing motherboard placing into a x8 or better PCIe slot the Intel x540-T2 networking card.

Intel provides this dual port single PCIe x8 card for less than 500 USD

10Gbe Switch

For a change [to me] Netgear actually make a competitive 8 port 10Gbe swtich ... Netgear XS708E .Costs just less than 1000 dollars.

You might also consider  ZyXEL XS1920-12

10Gbe NAS

This is an easy choice: Synology DS2015xs.  Of all the items listed here it's relative low cost   (1500 USD without drives). It is a positive bargain.

For the money you get 2, 10Gbe network ports,  and 2, 1 Gigabit Ethernets.

In the NAS world to me decent software is key and so this immediately limits the field down to Synology of QNAP.  If you are a QNAP advocate then I'd a TS-470 Pro with the optional 10Gbe card

Still to rich. What is the minimim?
Even allowing for resuse of components from the existing server and disk in existing NAS,  the upspend to get from current to the above configuration is substantial  (at least 10K USD).  Too rich for Agata and Marcus!

So for the absolute minimum one could:

  • Retrofit your current server with a single  Intel x540-T2 networking card and link with just cables without using a Network switch directly to the Synology DS2015xs.

I don't know how it is going to work out, but our home NAS configuration has not changed for over 3 years now, something needs to be upgraded!

G.Skill 16GB Unbuffered Memory Module
Netgear XS708E digitec
Zyxel XS1920-12 10Gbe Switch
Intel X540-T2 Ethernet Card
QNAP Thunderbolt NAS

And Finally
Last minute interesting developments for those of you with powerful Servers with Thunderbolt (Apple or PC's with a card), QNAP is releasing combined DAS(Thunderbolt 2) with NAS (Ethernet) storage devices soon.

QNAP Thunderbolt

ASUS Dual Thunderbolt 2 card


Sunday, April 26, 2015

AWEH Apple Watch Event Horizon

I write here a tale of warning, rather as a preacher of End times might earnestly lecture to residents in the town square.  

Beware kind folk, for lo ...

I warn of the dystopian dangers that await us

as I witness the end of varied Technical Journalism, as the only plausible topic for reporting today vectors towards the Apple Watch, it's Applications or Accessories.

How have we got here?

Apple Watch Reveal

Apple has sensibly concluded that the way to expand is to address, and hopefully conquer, new markets.  For this they are to be applauded and highly commended.

Who could have predicted that their brave entry into the Smartphone market, an arena once dominated by Nokia or the Microsoft CE based Smartphone industry, would be the design that all others copied from without exception.

It's a lesson that Microsoft and IBM never executed to the smallest fraction of Apple.

Delay Delay Delay

The Apple Watch is late.  By at least 6 to 9 months, and it seems usefully so.

- I believe it has been technical issues that have held back production and availability

- But conveniently Apple has been able to take the best of what has been produced by Android and prototyped on Kickstarter (for example person to person interactions) and incorporated it into the 2015, gen1 product.

In this respect it has been slightly payback time as Apple has coincidentally? incorporated non Apple ideas into their first Watch offering.

So I have identified 4 sources of over reporting and it's logical culmination into something quite apocalyptic ...

01 Celebrities are Golden

If you are big name Celebrity, often in the public eye your luck is in.  Apple will gift you an exclusive Gold Apple Watch. I understand the Apple list includes Beyonce, Katy Perry and Karl Lagerfeld. This category is unique in that they are passively reporting on the Apple Watch, just by wearing it in their very public lives.

02 Tech Journos: You are Special

Brian Tong: Apple Watch shower

In early April, before public pre-orders were possible, Apple handed out review Apple Watch units to numerous tech journalists.  To repay the favour, journalists have been falling over themselves to laud out praises on what is still a fledgling product.  


03 Enthusiast Reporting

Wealthy Early Adopter individuals and / or prominent Bloggers have managed to buy or acquire an Apple Watch. They just can't help validating their speculative purchases to report enthusiastically and positively on the amazing fledgling Apple Watch applications and features.

04 Mainstream non Apple Press

Traditional Big media Newspaper, non Android, non Apple affiliated sites are becoming overrun with AWR   (Apple Watch Reporting).

Conclusion: AWR is basically unstoppable and people, we need caution dear readers to avoid the Event Horizon ...

Apple Watch Event Horizon (AWEH)
I pay homage to Douglas Adams and extend his concept 

The theory is summarised as such: As a society sinks into depression, the people of the society need to cheer themselves up by buying themselves gifts. This is usually done through the purchase of Apple products. As more money is spent on Apple merchandise, more Apple Stores are built, and competition begins to dwindle. This leads to more Apple purchases especially of new category products like the Apple Watch.

The above turns into a vicious cycle, causing other non Apple industries to decline.

Eventually the  Apple Event Horizon is reached,  where the only type of store economically viable to build is a Apple Store. And when the time is right Apple switches manufacturing to it's most profitable line  (as per its Shareholder mandate) and focuses all manufacturing on its most profitable Apple Watch.


At this point, society ceases to function, and the Economy collapses, sending a World into ruin.

Apple get stars to set Watch
Apple Watch available at Boutiques
Apple Watch review CNET
Apple Watch sport experiences
Apple Watch misses health
Apple Watch consumer reports
Did you buy an Apple Watch
Explorers Apple Watch update
Game Developers on Apple Watch
How to avoid looking like a
iDrive bring backup to Apple Watch
Is driving with an Apple Watch safe
The Apple Watch Celebrity Fan Club
Software developers see more Apps
Unboxing Apple Watch Sport
Apple Runs up against its own success
Apple's path to Power
Will Apple Inc. share price rise
Trade Apple into Earnings
The fate of the tech bubble in One Company
How to Tame Apple Watch
What living with the Apple Watch is like
Bloomberg: A week with the Apple Watch
Mobiletech: Apple Watch Review
CNET: How to manage Watch Apps
Ablogtowatch: First Day on Wrist
Jony Ive at Vogue on Apple Watch

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Sunday Sermon: 50 Ways to Patronise your Lover / Husband / Wife

Miley Cyrus: 50 Ways to Leave your Lover

I'm normally pretty critical of Miley Cyrus. Her politically incorrect behaviour is a pretty bad example to /the youth/ of today.

But there are worse.

Substantially worse.  Some publications espouse a set of behaviours that by most modern 21st century thinking persons standards are outdated, sexist and reprehensible.

Oh, and it's inevitably backed by Religion

Exhibit 1: 

25 Ways to Communicate Respect to Your Husband

Exhibit 2:

25 Ways to Show Love to Your Wife

Now for a start there is just no concept here of same sex marriage?   If a Man marries a Man or a Woman marries a Woman as is legally possible in the UK   (and I don't just mean Civil Partnership, I mean marriage)  then exactly which tomb of greatness should couples follow here.

I suppose what I am politely saying is that in my opinion these two books re-enforce a totally outmoded stereotype which has run it's course.  In the 21st Century Same Sex marriages exist. Further a man or a woman can be /head/ of the household.   Today it's not the role of the "woman" to faun over her husband and support him regardless, and it's not the role of the husband to "forgive his well meaning wife when she transgresses his rules that found and make his family"

Now I am far too polite in these matters, so I will hand over the lesson to Patti Ford instead.  She can more tell it /how it really is/

Please read the article in full ( < 5 minutes)

25 Bullshit Ways to Communicate Respect to Your Husband


Lausanne 20Km 2015

The Day Before
You need to pickup the race numbers the day before and so on Friday evening we schmoozed over to the West of Lausanne near the running stadium and lake and picked up our race numbers and goodie bag  (containing some pasta, some lotions, a biscuit, and a caramel chocolate bar), oh and the green Lausanne 20Km Tshirt.

After obtaining race numbers we mulled around the /village/ expo and picked up some catalogues for some summer Swiss races as well as a chat to the PowerBar  (now not Nestle since they sold it in late 2014) and also the Compex electro muscle stimulation gadget (that we very much approve of).

Race Day ... Saturday April 25

It was dry until about 10 minutes before the race start at 18.00 and thereafter it rained with a steadily increasing intensity.  This meant that on the course large puddles and even cascading downhill streams of water needed to be avoided.  All par for the course and this is a relatively short run so we thought what the heck!

Agata Report
I am so pleased.   I managed a time that was within a smidgen of my personal best for this race. And no training this year and my mind is currently most occupied with other worky things.

Along the course I of course bumped into many people that I know, this is Lausanne or the village as we like to call it.

It was raining so hard that I almost did not have to drink except for 1 glass of Powerade.

Marcus Report: No ecstasy just agony
For the last 2 months I have had quite severe nerve pains in my right back of thigh, buttocks and waist.    Essentially any attempt to run is quite painful and any attempt to run > 10Km/h is quite agonisingly painful on the right side.

So today I applied some hot lineament before the race, wore my best compression clothing   (which seems to help) and set off....

I has set my Garmin GPS watch to show speed and was careful to keep it to 13.5Km/h or less.  Speed was not a problem but rising hills were.  And in the Lausanne 20Km these start after 3.5Km or so.

Every step up every hill was agony and by 10Km I could barely feel or control my right leg.  It was very painful.  But I only had to get to 12Km and then it was mostly downhill. After that I managed a pace of 5min/km upto 4:30min/km.  Downhill,  the pain was more tolerable.

I was glad to finish and I comment that my overall fitness level is better than ever, I was not even out of breath at the finish. If I can fix this right leg/bottom/back pain I think the prospects for 2015 will be looking up.

I also think my recent fast has helped with the weight, I've lost 2Kg so now just +2Kg over correct race mass.


Agata and Marcus had a great time.  Pain aside the run went well for Marcus and all our race planning like gels and drinking in the right places and times worked out well.  We finished in good spirits although totally soaked with rain.

We made it back home on the bus and had a large celebration meal.  This was our first race in 2015.

Agata 20Km : 01.44.20

Marcus 20Km (injured) 01:32:47

Lausanne 20Km results
Lausanne 20Km website