Thursday, July 30, 2015

Kitten Spotted

In Lausanne Switzerland, Marcus is unofficial guardian to a tiny, and very scared black and white cat.

After about 3 years of trying to befriend "scared paw" as he is called is now brave enough to come for a quick petting and nomming session. He is normally fed twice per day.

Imagine Marcus and Agata's slight surprise then, whilst visiting Warsaw we found an almost identical black and white cat just outside our balcony.

It was a sort of double take!

He has been around for almost a week now and does not have any collar or identification.  So we thought about all the humorous collars that he could be fitted with

Courtesy of Bored Panda:

As you can see Marcus is still obsessed with cats, even on vacation, which perhaps explains why Cat food has been brought and is still carried at all times, because kitties of this world need feeding. Whenever they feel like it of course.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Cycling Warsaw with Veturilo

Queen: Bicycle

London England was one of the first cities that Marcus and Agata knew about that implemented a bike sharing scheme for short journeys.

Today we would like to report on our second experience of the Veturilo, Warsaw Poland System

We used this system during our recent stay in Poland.  We first used it  in 2012.  And we documented that here.  Please read our review for all the basic scheme details.

Here is what we learnt in addition for 2015

The Basics
As previously documented:  you register your local Polish phone on the website and setup a PIN.  You need both each time you rent a bicycle.

Additionally you need to charge your account (typically via a credit card) with some local Zloty PLN money.

You approach any bicycle stand, and enter the 5 digit bicycle number and your account and PIN.  

The first 20 minutes of the rental are free and then its a small charge for the additional minutes

You see that the rental costs are reasonable but losing the bike or not returning it is expensive. So after use make sure that you return the bike into the any stand and check it is again locked and that from the panel that it is returned.

To make double sure a bicycle is returned you should always goto the website or use the local Smartphone app and check your account.  It should show that the bikes are returned and that you have been charged appropriately.

This is the digital ordering panel that allows you to order bicycles and when returned and locked back displays the bicycles back, and hence your rental ended

In a few select places there are free tools and facilities to enable you to service your rental bike or even your own bicycle.

Our Multi Day Experience

In contrast to 2012 this time we tried bikes several times and here are some to the learning points, now that the novelty has worn off a little

- The bicycles are really heavy.  Imagine the weight of the heaviest bicycle you ever rode and double it

- They all have a 3 speed Gear, enormous fat tyres capable of riding up any curb, an adjustable seat, and a combination lock (you get the combination when you unlock the bicycle)

- Charges are reasonable but only if you don't forget to checkin the bicycle

- In Warsaw many dedicated cycle lanes are open, especially in the Centre and also Ursynow. But this is an example of Islandism since Cycling between these two areas means pavement since road cycling is almost certain to result in accident  (car road speeds can exceed an illegal 100Kmh in the city)

- Overall the number of cycle paths is astonishing, let down by the fact that in the areas without them you need to cycle on the pavement which reduces your average pace almost to zero

- Warsaw has a good Metro system for longer journeys, most people use that.  Marcus and Agata have tried the bikes mostly because we love exercise and cycling.

- Getting these bicycles upto anything like 20 Km/h requires superhuman effort and that is on the flat

- The Android or iOS app show you how many bicycles are at each Bike pickup/deposit point.  So you need to check this otherwise you risk walking to a point and finding nothing to pickup

Scheme or Buy
If you intend to spend any time in Warsaw you could instead visit Decathlon  (or other reasonably priced store) and buy a economically priced sturdy mountain or city bike instead.  We thought about this approach:

Your bike would be
+ much lighter than the city bike
+ High spec and would get you from place to place faster
+ But city bikes are great since once returned you don't have to worry about the bike cf locking up your bike and worrying about it being stolen
+ Bikes are still not an effective all round solution for Warsaw based on either the weather or the island of bike paths and the fact that the streets are still not safe to cycle on, certainly in a general sense.
+ If I was spending say 2 months here I could buy a Decathlon bicycle, then try and sell it before leaving, and at worse just give it away!

In the winter Warsaw can get very cold, though in recent years Global warning has kept the duration and any snowfall in Warsaw to a real minimum.  Still, bicycles are removed from all points as winter approaches and the scheme effectively shuts down until spring.

All in All
We think that if we came back to live in Warsaw we'd probably buy our own bicycles.  Because we are far too fussy and obsessive to use these terribly heavy and slow bicycles. But all the curbs and bad roads/ pavements mean that regular road bicycles would be ruined in days, so you'd need a mountain bike and/or something with indestructible wheels!

But overall, the scheme is good for short journeys in a specific Warsaw area, in good weather, and is very reasonably priced.

Veturilo, bike sharing
London Bike sharing

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Three (One plus 2)

OnePlus Two Launch in VR

For those who really (and I mean really) don't follow the Smartphone world:

OnePlus is a Chinese Smartphone company and it is famous to me for it's low priced yet high specification OnePlus One phone.  

I reviewed the OnePlus One phone here

OnePlus is also famous to me for it's quite innovative  (or I would call annoying) marketing strategy in not allowing customers to buy their phones freely on the open market.  You used to have to get an invite to buy. 

Recently OnePlus has put about the fact that it's second phone called the Two would be available and on July 28th it was announced in a VR (Virtual Reality) video.

I did not spend the time to figure out what I had done wrong, but after downloading the Android app to participate in the VR, all I got was the sound and a blank screen.  Hmm.

Two Phone Specs

The Specifications are here

Marcus Analysis
= fact + Good - Bad

= A nicely upgraded phone from the OnePlus One
= Read the spec link above
= Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor and 4GB RAM and 64GB non expandable disk
= 1920 x 1080 Display on a 5.5 inch screen
+ Camera 13 MP Back and 5MP front
+ 1.3 micron pixels for better low light perf
+ improved Image Stabilisation
- USB C connector but it's fronting only USB 2.0 Electronics
-- NO Fast charge capability
-- No Wireless charging
-- NFC functionality is removed (cf Oneplus One which has it)
++ Fingerprint sensor
- Android 5.1.0  (not 5.1.1)
+ Side slide switch to mute sound and notifications
+ Dual SIM?
----- Invite System for purchase

So in words:

Well they are going with that bloody annoying invite system again. Really in 2015?  Couldn't you get the volume manufacturing sorted out, still?

Next, the USB-C physical and USB 2.0 electronics are very disappointing.  NO fast charge is a real design mistake to me.  When I am out and about I'm a heavy phone user, so the  fast charge model is attractive.  (Recall that Samsung fast charge on models like S6 enables a 10 minute charge to provide over 3 hours of phone or over 1 hour of video).   The lack of fast charge is a major omission to me.

Lastly, they removed NFC, apparently because OnePlus users did not really use it.  I use it each time I connect my Bluetooth Speaker.  Or NFC camera. Hmm.

What Else

OnePlus 2 is marketed as a class leading Smartphone at a bargain price.  But it's not freely on sale thanks to the invite system.

Like many existing Smartphone users Marcus has 2 phones.  Say a primary daily phone and say a party phone  (in my case a second running phone which is a smaller Nexus 5). My running or sports phone is also a backup phone in case of unforeseen disaster.

So many people in my position  (dual phone owners) are thinking, should I upgrade my primary phone to a OnePlus Two and demote my current phone to my Party phone?

Well IMHO, availability will make the difference to me.  But I can also say that I currently analysed the Asus Zenfone 2 to be the class leading 4GB memory, Dual SIM phone at a very modest price.  The ASUS is due to be fully available in the next month, and I can simply go into a shop and buy one.

Genesis: And then there were 3
(The lady lies)

OnePlus official
Android Authority: OnePlus Two

The Verge: OnePlus Two
MKBHD: OnePlus Two camera

NB: Shameless request.  If you click this link  then apparently you help me get an OnePlus invite. Feel free to help me!


Monday, July 27, 2015

Monday Sermon: A visit to the Hospital

A shaky Start
It is perhaps a vulgar yet honest start, but Marcus and Agata are continually reminded that our funds and lifetimes are very definitely finite.

And so in support of Agata's mothers forthcoming first eye operation we booked economical non refundable nor alterable flights, so that we could be with her during her operation, and provide assistance before and after.

Imaging our mild panic / horror when in transit to Geneva airport we heard via telephone that operation time had been moved to a date outside of our trip.

What a disaster.   

Just Disorganised
Agata's mum was informed of the operation date change via a simple phone call.  No letter or confirmation email.

So we thought we'd visit the hospital to try and change the date again.  After all we'd gone to considerable expense and booked out many days of our time for this procedure.

Marcus' thoughts
- See the consultant or surgeon who is performing the op
- Escalate up the chain until we get a result

What Actually Worked :-)
Agata advised that this was not the right way and so Marcus had to trust the alternative approach

- Goto the hospital in person
- Sign up to registration
- Plead / ask with registration, who seem to be in charge of all scheduling
- Keep pleading and asking
- Marcus was advised not to say anything because it could make matters worse!

I'm glad to say that the personal visit worked and by speaking to the minions (as it were) the operation was eventually rescheduled to an even earlier date than the original  .. when we are around.

The Big Day
So Monday July 27th was the big day. Mum was upbeat before the Operation.   Marcus and Agata were very pleasantly surprised because we were both more anxious than her!

Besides getting up at 05 am to get mum to the hospital, once there there was a lot of waiting. Imagine my surprise then when the complex surgery achievement posters were all on the walls displayed in English and not the local language.

All this did not take away from the unprofessionalism  that Marcus still regarded

- The hospital did not advise us in writing or in email of the new operation date
- On arrival the operation list for the day did not include mum!
- There was no schedule or procedure listed
- We had to fill in forms, but there were no tables, or pens
- There was no waiting room
- There were no chairs only hard benches against a corridor wall to wait.


The Kids go Shopping
As mum went to the operation we went shopping.  There was not much else todo since the Hospital was quite some distance from home. And as I have said there was no waiting room at all.

Most people know that Marcus and Agata pretty much have everything they need in life.  And so we just engaged in /window shopping/.  So much was seen, but almost nothing was bought.

Shops may be full of consumer goods that we don't need or crap that nobody really needs, we have no intention of bringing that to our home.

Post Operation Goodness

- We got mum home safely

- We got home safely

- We immediately started thinking about dinner and also planning to shower and clean everything.  Just because we can.  Hospitals are where the germs are you know.

A lesson to Others
As an ancient person Marcus is aware these days of friends and family with several illnesses. In one case rather than go for surgery which would, if successful, not only arrest the degenerative problem but correct it, they instead continue to argue for reasons why they should do nothing.   They are perhaps, praying for a divine miracle.  And no, I am not kidding.

So, I when I look at the example of Agata's mother who saw the consultants, took the advice, considered the options and then she booked the operation(s).  It is how I hope I would react if I was diagnosed with a serious medical issue that had a good chance of medical correction.

Sometime the body needs medical (and not divine) intervention for a cure.

Don't leave home Without

As a seasoned and experienced Digital traveller Marcus is analysing and taking stock of what he has taken with him on his latest mission.

And so I reflect, what do I take with me, and precisely why ....

A 4G wireless router. This takes a Data SIM and lets you connect all your digital devices to it.

Apple Nano music player, Bluetooth headphones and a Data Sync and Charge Cable. Despite being elderly to Marcus, the Nano is Still the Most Effective Dedicated Music Player At Any Price.

Main trail running shoes also used for general purpose. It's an extravagance to use these 'About Town' but their quick lacing / unlacing make them superb for entering houses or holy establishments where shoes need to be removed as a courtesy.

Backup shoes. You'd be surprised how difficult it is to get your favourite running shoes. Take at least 2 pairs of shoes in case your primary ones fail.

Running clothes and accessories. Assuming daily access to a washing machine, just enough clothes for 2 days max. No extras needed, just a schedule to put casual and sport clothes into the washer daily without fail.

A 4TB hard disk and a minimalist disk dock. Useful for that bulk data back, data transfer, always on my happening on my travels these days.

A second USB screen and a stand. This ASUS miracle (yet to be reviewed here) just doubles your laptop screen real estate, and is essential if you are writing longer articles whilst away from the home workstation.

A nano SIM cutter to trim the local Phone sim to the size I need.

 A backup computer running Android. I take a MINIX Neo 7   just in case.

If Agata was coming she would insist on her Apple portabilia.

Of course we'd probably take some cuddly toys. It is sometimes lonely away from home.

The Electric Shaver and toothbrush. And a zapper to numb any insect bites.

Legal and Plain carry on luggage, so that there is no discussion with aircraft staff as to it being oversize resulting in your bag being jettisoned to the hold.

Of course Cat food! Kitties of the world need feeding, not just Marcus' children at home in Lausanne.

Just enough credit and ID cards in a minimalist wallet Muji Necessary for the trip. All excess are removed in case of theft. Take the Priority Pass so you can have a pleasant wait at the airport before a flight or during a delay

Marcus' Android phone in its new case! Your phone with a local SIM is your single most important tool (after money) to help you survive.

Some reading glasses in case the Internet is down

Multiple tools to convert SIMs to different sizes and extract from phones.

USB charger and micro USB cables x many

Specialist running watch, heart rate monitor and chargers for both.

Agata would take some dedicated Apple chargers since you can not charge Apple devices at full current without them due to their proprietary designs with non Apple.

Marcus' trusty Lenovo U430 laptop.

The very lightest Raidlight Backpack which has multiple pockets. An IKEA bag is useful for shopping, at the launderette, for carrying anything awkward. Never leave home on a trip without one.

A full frame camera and spare batteries and fast charger.

A Chromecast is used to stream content from Marcus' laptop to a destination TV or anything with HDMI input socket. For presentations, watching Internet TV or movies from the laptop. You'd be an idiot not to take one.

An Engineering Magazine, For Those Sleepless Nights!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Mobile Internet

Madonna: Into Thhe Groove

I wrote this year in February how Ultrafast and now Unlimited LTE (4G) Internet has enabled Marcus to realize a dream of Streaming Media BBC to me even when i am walking up a mountain pass in Switzerland.

But in 2015 there is more.

Now in Europe, the EC part (ie countries excluding Switzerland and some others) we now have the availability of fairly priced Pay as You Go Internet.

Marcus and Agata used this to great effect whilst testing of a Bantam Motorhome in France during 2014 . On this experiment in mobile living using our Pay as You Go Portable Internet allowed us

- To read our email and stay in touch via social media, skype etc
- Accurately Navigate our route
- Check in advance (via Google Street View) of any height restrictions on our Chose route
- Book our campsite or Aire for that evening
- Make calls or VOIP otherTelephone
- Safeguard our photos by immediate upload to cloud
- Allow us to check our Engineered home security system back in Switzerland

And this got me thinking about our Party Strategy

In the 1980's
Well You Could goto a party and take your own music on a cassette to "bolster did average music provided by your host"

In 2006

You could arrive to a party with at Entire digital musical catalog on your laptop complete with a portable DJ set on your laptop

And today in 2015
We can arrive to a friends house and make surethat we can all get together to party to the highlights of the 2015 Tour de France

Arrive with out portable hotspot, with our own 4G (LTE) sim. Plug in and get a mobile Internet connection.

Setup Marcus' Lenovo U430 laptop and setup the extra screen too (I'm doing some research on Concurrently NYSE: IBM  ). So I can write this article up right now!

Check the Mobile Internet speed. Okay this is not 60Mbps Switzerland but I think the 14 Mbps download rate is going to be adequate for our needs

 Locate the Google Chromekey and find the installer program

Plug Chromecast into a spare HDMI socket and select That input on the TV

Now with some smoke and mirrors: Stream the gripping final timed stage of the Tour de France in 2015 to a friends party on Television ... in 2015

 These adverts are killing me!

Another great British (well sort of!) Cyclist

In Summary
The Mobile Internet. In Europe, just do not leave home without it.

And now, back to the music

Solomun: Boiler Room Set