Sunday, November 29, 2015

Monday Sermon: A taxing week for the meek

Roger Hodgson: Hide In Your Shell

It has been an emotionally difficult week past for Marcus, the week after the awful events of the Paris terrorist attack.

Because of all the bullshit comments that have been flowing in from my social media subscriptions,  I have gone into <temporary> hermit mode,  until matters calm down just a little.  Some of the angst that I alluded to last Sunday includes

- The tippy toeing of the Worlds Media, oh, and the worlds Politicians around the Paris attacks and refusing to name the Elephants in the room

- 'Bigoted', well, ignorant anti Muslim comments from 'the man in the street' as reported by first hand experiences. Whenever possible, we, (the nice people) need to call this out whenever we can.

- The refusal of many Muslims to accept the Religious motivations of the Paris murderers, instead concentrating on insults towards them, those insults are of course unacceptable, but let's together rather focus on what the in-group should be saying to: their peers and out-groups first please

- The Regressive left, or the Ostrich Brigade (naming by Gad Saad) who summon a Twitter army of Apologists to defend the indefensible and implausible.

- The concept that changing your Facebook Picture (to a French Tricolore) and repeatedly saying 'pray for Paris' to be a sufficient response to terrorism.  Some thinking please people.

- Various taunts and slanders.  Trite, unconstructive criticism, the favoured tool of the fuckwit.

So what has kept me sane this week?
(Arranged in increasing duration )

Finding a Space for God

Just 5 minutes people!

Coldplay: Adventure of a Lifetime

So much to unpack. There is the music, the Lyrics, the Technical Wonder and beauty of this animation and production, just evolutionary I hope you might agree :-)

Detective Ostrich interviews a Terrorist

When it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is usually ... a duck.

Dan Barker talks to Matt Dillahunty

A charming and informative 30 minute talk between 2 famous Secular speakers.

How Islamic is the Islamic state?

For Interfaith dialogues, BBC's Beyond belief is really my benchmark standard.  Surely it deserves your attention too?  30 minutes an episode, and currently 170 episodes to listen to.

Gad Saad interviews Faisal Saeed Al-Mutar

I feel that I'd like to invite Faisal Saeed Al-Mutar to tea because it was the first time I had heard him speak and it was impressive.

And so dear people, here endeth the sermon for this Monday.

Keep smiling, and most of all thinking.

Rudimental: Lay it All on Me

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Wingamm City Suite Motorhome

Subtitle: The motorhome that got away

But for geographic considerations we would probably have bought the above Wingamm City Suite Motorhome.  It is that good ... please read on.

Wingamm City Suite Video Review
Our Requirements
As with many aspects of our lives Marcus and Agata prefer to own small, compact and powerful things.   We like well designed, and, just large enough to do the job.

And for Motorhomes we have a preference for small.  And inconspicuous.

Small means it is easier to drive down narrow or windy roads.  Small means that it has lower charges on some ferries or chargeable transport options.  Small means lighter and more economical.

But for us we also want a Motorhome that stores our exquisite and somewhat delicate road race bicycles inside  (not an exposed rack on the back), and a Motorhome with decent storage, so that we can spend multiple weeks away not just a weekend.

What makes the Wingamm Different?

In words, the City Suite is a fantastically compact 2050 mm wide + mirrors , 5990 long and  2770mm high Motorhome.

As you know, traditional Van conversions are 2000mm+ wide and so this is the size of a Van but actually made from a single Glass Fibre monocoque shell   (just to repeat, the body is NOT metal).

Wingamm stresses that its a single piece waterproof construction with no joins.  Just perfect!

Next please notice that at the back is a large tailgate that opens up to a large load space under an electrically raise-able rear bed.

Optionally there is a drop down bed at the front.   Now Agata is about 160cm tall and she said it was too small for her.  So our thoughts about having this as the only bed and re purposing the rear bed as a large storage closet would probably not have worked in practise.

For longer trips you need a comfortable bed each night, not one that you can make do with.

This is the rear electrically raise-able bed.

Also notice that the van is available in a fully non white colour make it rather discrete.  Excellent.

Small but functional environment ideal for a couple.

Cupboards still provided even with front bed.

Strong and functional door

Space under the bed is decent and bicycle tracks were fitted to this show vehicle.   If we had bought one we would have needed something more substantial to keep our bicycles rigid and safe whilst in motion.

Also consider that a separate Garage (like in our current Dethleffs T8) is a better solution because this /open plan/ one make you feel like you are sort of living in a garage, because you sort of are!

But remember this is a 6 metre long vehicle and the space you have is nothing short of amazing.

Decent Storage and a 2 burner hob  (great, because that is all most people need).

Standard Fiat Cab

See video for a better picture of the washroom.  Perhaps the Achilles heel or least promising part of the Wingamm.   There is a combined shower and toilet area.  However we saw no shower curtain and it's cramped.

What Scuppered Us
There is no official Swiss dealer network, there is one in Italy and also the UK.  Since we are on our first motorhome we thought it would be best to buy from a dealer that was pretty local, thus ruling out Wingamm.

UK Dealer Support
Aston Leisure are the UK dealers and have been friendly and responsive on the phone.  If we had been in the UK they would have been our first point of call especially because they can do vehicle hire. So you can rent the vehicle to test it out first and see if it meets up to your requirements.

Fully spec'd up the City Suite will cost you at least 70K GBP. So it's not a cheap proposition but certainly a uniquely small and versatile motorhome.   If you can live with the average washroom  then it absolutely is the most compact and discrete motorhome that we have found to date.  Bar none.

Wingamm City Suite   brochure
Aston Leisure Scotland

Solar Skeptic Report

Marcus is a terrible cynic when it comes to the viability of Solar panels vs using electricity delivered from a mains wall socket.  Normally both in terms of cost, and the cost to the environment.

But there are times when Marcus and Agata need a mobile, self contained rechargeable power source and to this end I am testing out the 

5V 7W Foldable Solar Panel

Back to Economics
To remind you of the economics

- Let's assume the panel is not being sold at a loss
- I'm ordering it from China, direct from the manufacturer, so basically at close to cost
- This is a 5V and 7W solar panel
- Cost is 26 USD , lets say 26 CHF
- Cost of electricity in CH for 2016 is about 0.21 CHF per KWh, meaning cost of panel is 26/0.21 = 123.8 KWh = 123,800 W hours
- So assuming unlikely 7W output at all times, that is  123800/ 7 = 17687 hours = 736 days  > 2 years.
- Assuming a very generous 8 hours per day and 50% average sun that is 12 years of continuos operation for payback
- So in reality, that's never going to pay back!!

But Anyway

Let's take the case where I need a mobile power source. Does it actually work?

here is the Unit

Here is a 20,000 mAh batter pack which needs charging

0.483 Amps charging at  about 5V.  So the battery pack would take a staggering 41 hours to charge up continuously!

0.477 Amps charging

Charging the 3000mAh Smartphone battery at 0.477 amps

Charging the Hand Warmer at 0.65 Amps in Brightest Sunlight ever

The Handwarmer has a Lithium Ion batter of Capacity of 2600mAh i.e. 2.6Wh

The charger at best is producing 5V x 0.65 A =  3.25 Watts. So a full charge would take 2.6/3.25 = 50 minutes about.  Not bad.

My phone has about a 3000mAh battery so it would take again just less than an hour to charge, at least in theory.

Actually I have seen 0.65 Ampere sustained but in normal average sunlight it is about 0.45 A to 0.5 Amps.

Theoretically one is supposed to be able to get 1.2 Amps but I only ever saw upto 0.65 Amps.

Practical Considerations
If you use this whilst hiking and attempt to mount it on the back of your backpack/ rucksack bear in mind that the charge will be far from optimal.   You'd be lucky to get an average of 0.3 Amps even in strong sunlight.

In the evening when you finish trekking, you will be stationary but typically the sun will have gone down!

If we can count on 5 hours of charging at 5V and 0.2Amps average current then that is just 5,000mAh per day.   Just enough to keep the phone and say a GPS phone topped up. If you are lucky.

You will never justify these small panels on the basis of electricity payback cost.  But they can make the difference if you are away from a mains electricity source and you want to keep your phone charged so that you can use it for communications and photographs whilst away from mains power.


Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday Envy

It is not just me then, because a friend in the UK and I can now both say that we are disappointed with the Black Friday sales opportunities in England and Switzerland respectively.

What is Black Friday
This is the day after North American (not Canadian) Thanksgiving where traditionally retailers have special bargains to officially open the frantic sales season that lasts upto Christmas.

An American 'tradition' it is now percolating into Europe, but as I found up at 00.01 Friday when I logged onto my favourite Swiss Electronics website.  Not much to see.

Another Smartphone?

CHF price from 469 CHF (16GB)

GBP price from 349 GBP

Google Play store 499 CHF  (16GB)

Marcus has been quietly eyeing up the Nexus 5X smartphone.  Now since I fixed the Nexus 5 and then upgraded both it and the OnePlus to the latest sooper dooper Android, well the upgrade rationale is pretty weak.  I can say

- Nexus 5 is still going brilliantly
- But it is now 2 years old  (1 phone year is 25 human years.  So my phone is now 50 !!)
- It's still amazingly fast
- But the camera is really not so good at 8MP && I take a lot of photographs
- It's only 16GB memory, so I'm short of space too
- The case looks like crap  (okay, I can order a new one!)

So to add insult to injury the top picture shows the great US deal that people can choose and from the other photos that no similar deals exist in Europe.  Oh well.

The REI Angle
One of my favourite American sport stores is closed all day Friday.  They want to emphasise that this Friday frenzy of shopping has gone too far.   In the USA they probably have a point.

An Expensive Country Angle
First you should know that is a genuine Swiss bargain website.  It's a refreshing change from the Swiss retailer "I must just go and get a dictionary" response when you ask for a discount in a Swiss shop.

Now I am sure at only 1500 CHF this represents a bargain for an Ironing board that normally costs 2500 CHF ( about 2500 USD).   But one has to ask the question, WTF!  2500 CHF?  Are you kidding me.

Yes many people in Switzerland have money, a lot of money.

In other words don't expect big Black Friday discounts in these parts kiddo!

The Swiss Food Angle
It may not sound particularly logical at the outset, but the high, some would say cartel like exorbitant cost of food in Switzerland makes Marcus want to splurge frequently on other items.

Because, in my mind, other items like electronics are pretty cheap 'relatively' when a careful family of 2, namely Marcus and Agata, can spend easily 300 CHF on a weeks shopping.

And we shop at the Aldi bargain supermarket wherever possible and don't buy crap, processed foods if at all possible.

That is 194GBP or 293 USD  by the way.

And now that we have stopped drinking wine for reasons of both health and economy that is a potential saving of say 40 CHF per week.   This could be put towards Marcus' new smartphone fund!   Just saying

Need Not Greed test
(for Black Friday was / is ... )

- Was something I had already considered and researched
- There was some sort of need, maybe not strong, it was definitely not just greed
- Sanity Check: It must not replace something else in the household that is not used i.e. no need!
- Marcus had already talked to Agata, (or vice versa) about it
- It has passed our joint financial committee :-)
- It is a real saving
- We can afford it without borrowing
- If we're really lucky it could be a Christmas present item, that can be bought for a lower cost and enjoyed early

Escaped Again

So yes,  Marcus and Agata escaped another Black Friday year, this time in 2015 without going buy buy buy crazy.  Mind you, I am going food shopping this evening.  

I feel that expensive pain approaching.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanks for the Giving

So yesterday, I mean Thursday November 26th was American thanksgiving, this post is thus a day late.

Canadian Thanksgiving was October 12, over a month ago.

But since I understand that most Amercians take Friday as a holiday also, I shall continue in the holiday mood...

Thanksgiving Music

Thanksgiving special from Coverville

Download Link

Thanksgiving Game

Tic Tac Toe

A simple game for the family that can be made more entertaining by changing the rules

Thanksgiving Eating

Thanksgiving Humour

Friends: Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everybody.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Android 6.0 Marshmallow and CyanogenMod 13.0 on OnePlus One

Although this is a story with a moderately happy ending, it has been a long day of fiddling with my OnePlus One smartphone.

Let us Begin.

OnePlus One Background

I reviewed our OnePlus One phone and how good it is.  Also, the  OnePlus Two and my negative overall assessment


In the Android world you may take the Android source code, customise it, add to it and produce your own distribution.
Cyanogen were one of the first and still perhaps the best known.

CyanogenMod 12.1 is based on Android 5.1.1

CyanogenMod 13.0 is based on Android 6.0

CyanogenMod 12.1 has been a work in progress for months now, a new revision is available practically every day.  And so Marcus updates his system daily!

What went Wrong

As I have done over 60 times before over the last 60 days or so, I downloaded and applied the latest OS upgrade.

However this time on reboot, the OnePlus One smartphone entered a Boot-Loop,  meaning that as it tried to apply the new update it crashed, rebooted and started again.

Normally recovery from this would be easy

- Switch off

- Reboot to the TWRP recovery program
- Clear Caches
- Apply a previous OS overlay
- Reboot

But this just did not work.  However I did notice at the site  CyanogenMod 13.0 early version for download

I thought it was time to risk it!

13.0 Installation Pre-Requisite

- I have a separate Windows 7, 32bit OS with Android SDK installed.

This post shows you how to install the SDK if you have not done so already

- The above post also shows you how to do a backup, something I could not do since the previous installation killed my phone  (okay, I could have done a backup prior, but I did not!)

- Disastrously the state of the current CyanogenMod 13.0 package is such that it does not automatically re-install all your old applications  (never the data, just the code, but still).  This means after the OS is installed you have to manually install each application.

So stop now if all this seems like too much bother!

- Cavet: This is an early version of Android 6.0 so best to install on a secondary phone or certainly have another phone you can use if this at any point becomes unusable due to Software bugs.

- Probably a good idea to copy off all your photos and other data you might want to keep safe

Installing CyanogenMod 13.0 Android 6.0

Start Phone in FastBoot mode

Switch off phone.  Then Power on and press concurrently volume up button.

Now connect phone to your PC

Check a Connection from Phone to SDK possible

From the SDK installation

fastboot devices must return something, else you are going nowhere!

You probably already unlocked your bootloader but just in case

Make sure Latest TWRP installed

 Download TWRP  2870

Get Code

You will need:

Latest Firmware

The Operating System

Google Applications 600

CyanogenMod Apps

Start TWRP

Power Off phone
Power On and hold also volume down button
Release Volume down button
TWRP will load and look as above.

Transfer Code to Disk of Phone

In TWRP, choose the mount option, plug your phone into the PC.  Once plugged the Oneplus must show as a drive.  Drag to copy  the files into /sdcard/ROM6  (I actually made a ROM6 directory via the PC)

After this,  exit mount application and disconnect phone from PC

Wipe Existing Installation

Select the Wipe button from the home screen and delete 4 partitions as shown.

Install new code

You can do this all 4 files at once.  But as an old timer I do it 1 file at a time.

Reboot system.

Logon to CyanogenMod 13.0

On the reboot the normal OS (not the recovery program TWRP) is going load.

First error!!

Reinstall your Applications

Whilst you can do this on the phone via the Play store application I found it easier,  clearer and quicker to do it from a controlling PC whilst logged on as me to Google via

My Apps

You can batch up the necessary apps which will then automatically install onto your phone.

Logon to your Applications

Even if the auto restore had worked all your logon information is lost.  So part#2 of the pain is now to laboriously logon to each application entering in your credentials.

You do have them written down somewhere right :-)

And Finally

So all seems to be working , but time will tell.


Latest CyanogenMod Downloads Oneplus