Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap Year 2016

Clean Bandit: Rather Be Live

So we get an extra day in 2016 this year.   A leap year. I suppose in absolute terms I will not live 'an extra day'.

Nevertheless,  I dedicate today to a celebration, to all who read this and the fact that personally I am rather glad to 

Rather Be

as opposed to Rather Not Be


But Why is this a Leap Year?

Is this a Leap Year?

=IF(OR(MOD(A1,400)=0,AND(MOD(A1,4)=0,MOD(A1,100)<>0)),"Leap Year", "NOT a Leap Year")

sub IsLeapYear { my $year = shift; return 0 if $year % 4; return 1 if $year % 100; return 0 if $year % 400; return 1; }

int isLeap (int year){
return (((year%4==0)&&(year%100!=0))||(year%400==0)) ;

And back to a Celebration of Being alive in 2016

Sigma: Redemption

LMFAO: Party Rock

ThePianoGuys: Paradise

Sculpting the Wind

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sunday Sermon: The Other Religions

Oh, those other religions

Boy George: My God

Homer confronts Pascal

Which God is the most likely? But choose wisely, Gods are unforgiving in this respect.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Double Blind Test

Subtitle:  Do try this at home

Whilst this principled Scientific experiment uses Chocolate as the test substance, other materials are available :-)

Still Eating Chocolate?
Although technically off the list of consumables due to a healthier living lifestyle for 2016 race preparation, Marcus has made an exception in the name of Science.  Seems fair, right?

The Costs of this Experiment
At our local Swiss supermarket, the Lindt 100 gram milk chocolate bar is 2.60 CHF and the Coop house 100gram bar was 0.5 CHF

Experiment Goal
To see if Marcus can detect and prefer the top shelf expensive Lindt Milk chocolate over the very cheapest Supermarket brand.

What is a Double Blind Test
This means that neither the subject of the experiment Marcus, nor his skilled experimenter Agata know which chocolate bar is which (during the test).

To do this though, Marcus has to be literally blindfolded in the test. Had there been 3 people, this would not have been necessary.

In this Test
Marcus is doing the eating
Agata is doing the feeding to him and noting down his reactions and test data

Are you sitting Comfortably?

Good then we shall begin

With Agata well out of the way Marcus opened both bars of Chocolate

 Now both milk chocolate bars are slightly different in colour, the chunk sizes are slightly different, and on one side is a recognisable logo.

For this reason Marcus is going to be blindfolded during the test so he can only use his taste buds to tell the difference.

Marcus prepares two sets of samples.  The Coop house chocolate is on the left, marked 1, and the expensive Lindt is on the right marked 2.

[Postscript: in order to ensure that the taster cannot distinguish brands based on size, an extra step would be to cut the chocolate squares into randomly shaped sizes. ]

Marcus gets ready and asks Agata to come in.  She does not know which chocolate is which   (the logos are face down) and she is asked to choose a random order to feed me chocolate squares and write down my comments.

 I know,  I'm making this look too easy

Hopefully I am holding up the results, not some idiotic message, I can't see anything yet

Okay, now I get the wrappers out and I had numbered on the other side the 1 and the 2 so there is no dispute

There are the highlights of what I said, transcribed below.

Agata's Randomly selected order and Marcus Comment


D.1  Tastes Good
E.2  I think this is the same chocolate as 1
C.3  This is slightly less sweet, so first 2 must be Lindt, this one is Coop
B.4  This is the same as first 2, ie creamier, it's the Lindt
D.5  I like this the best so far, this one. Not sure which brand it is though!  Surely the Lindt?
E.6 This is creamier, than the last.  Must be Lindt.  Wait, this means 4 Lindt, so I must have got one wrong.  Oh No!


- Marcus did not correctly identify the 2 different Chocolate varieties all of the time

- He then chose, the Coop house chocolate as his favourite (D.5) and also simultaneously mistook it for Lindt!

- From a taste and even packaging point of view there is really very little in it

So for Marcus' staple milk chocolate it looks like he could be more economically served by the Coop, store branded chocolate.

And that dear friends is a Double Blind taste test.


Friday, February 26, 2016

Shopping IRL

Pet Shop Boys: Shopping

Subtitle:  We went outside to Window Shop

At the lower than,  please park my Ferrari in the Hotel parking and I don't care about the cost class, Switzerland can be an extremely disappointing place to shop.

Sure, I can buy Watches here.  But when it comes to Consumer Electronics, Clothes, Food and other staples, the choices for Marcus and Agata are limited, certainly for Physical Shops, with displays.

The Internet Mail Order marketplace is both more competitive and better stocked, so normally we'd shop there.

But this Thursday, with some time on our hands at lunch, we thought:  What the hell.  We'll actually try to visit shops and look around.  Not even with a specific agenda.

I know:  call us the Spontaneity twins or what....

We found a shop to actually look at a monitor we might want to actually buy.  Amazing.  Though I found Digitec is 25% cheaper :-(

Although their Chromebook pricing was so hysterically bad Marcus was almost in tears.

 Porridge choices in Switzerland are plentiful

Save Porridge we have weaned ourselves away from all 'commercial' sugar laden, hyper advertised breakfast cereals. But I feel sorry for parents with young children entering this isle


Marcus is a honey connoisseur and Agata suggested I investigate trading up from my bottom shelf (literally) bargain basement branding.

So the Italian honey from the same company is 60% of the cost of Swiss.

I studied the astonishing prices. Top shelf  (again literally) Swiss honey is more than 700% more expensive, and I didn't dare to try and find the Manuka.

The Samsung S7 spaces are literally reserved.  Not just Swisscom but positively all retailers I know are pushing Samsung S6 out at clearance prices.  I even saw one at Aldi!

I played and lusted over a number of high end Windows 10 mobile phones.  The ones with top quality cameras.  Except the one above that had crashed so badly it would need a battery removal except this would also set off the store theft alarm. So I just walked away, just a little sad.  For a price of over 600 CHF I had expected something more.

Learning Points

- It was actually quite fun.  IRL - In Real Life, yes, we could get used to this. Slow though :-(

- Going to shops means, they do more of the work, you let your eyes and senses do the receiving

- The Electronics shop InterDiscount actually had some good prices & some really bad ones.

- Everybody is trying to get rid of their stocks of the Samsung S6 Smartphone.  Buy one now, if it fits your needs.

- Swiss honey is freakishly expensive,  I feel a taste test coming up soon.  Maybe we will use science to help us.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Farewell to Nexy

Spice Girls: Goodbye

Subtitle: I still have the memories

This Tuesday afternoon I bid what I regard as a sad farewell to my Nexus 5 smartphone.

Now some people just don't understand how anybody could become sentimental over a phone, or of its disposal.  So I am going to explain that here.

The Nexus 5 and I, or Nexy as it was named have gone thru some tough times.  And ultimately in its retirement   (since it was the backup phone) he mostly sat at home, resting gently in the drawer.

Even in 2016 it remains a super fast phone to me.  I don't really notice the difference to my newer Android phone in terms of speed.

Being a Google Nexus it runs the very very latest version of Android.  6.0.1 with all the bells and whistles.

Everything works great, the Bluetooth and the Wireless and the Phone itself.  And the 4G is still faster than my current phone.   Usually over 60 Mbits/sec download.  On a phone!  I repeat on a cellular, not Wi-Fi connection.  On a 2 year+ old phone.

We went thru a sticky patch in our relationship when the charging circuit broke down after just 6 months and when seller Digitec passed it to the official repairer (Mobiletech AG), they refused to repair it.  They claimed water damage, but when I opened it up later, well it was not.  And so when I replaced the power circuit ribbon assembly it's been 100% wonderful since, charging at over 1 Amp using my special USB cable.

From Youtube, to my beloved BBC iPlayer Radio, to Spotify, or Google Locations it really runs every application that I need, bar none.

So yes, I am really going to miss Nexy and I hope the new owner, who is getting the phone for peanuts ( < 60 GBP ) appreciates what a bargain and capable phone they will be receiving and continues to treat you kindly.

Feder: Goodbye feat. Lyse

Nexus 5 is alive
Rooting the Nexus 5
5 days of Nexus 5: Faster
Lollipop on Nexus 5

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Restoring my Trust

Subtitle: Thanks again BBC and Radio 4

It has been a funny old week so far and not necessarily totally in a good way.

Already I had more than 1 group of people trying to perpetrate a fraud against Marcus and Agata, and it is not a good feeling, that people want to victimise poor old us.   We are the nice people after all.

But as I walked steep uphill towards home this Tuesday, in torrential rain,  just so I could save the 5 CHF  (4 GBP) of train fare, I was smiling.   Smiling, laughing and almost crying.

I was listening to  Episode 1, of series 74  (yes 74; really) of the BBC classic panel show

Just a Minute

I am not worthy to relate the humour, innuendo and spontaneous wit of the panelists.   I can only plead with you to immerse yourself in this aural delight to which I have had the privilege to listen to for over 30 years.

Just a Minute.  I salute you.

You are restoring my trust in humanity, one quality programme at a time.


See Also
Momentous Minutes

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Marcus and the Nordic Skiing

Pictured above is Agata after a wonderfully successful Nordic Ski session with our personal trainer Kathy from Zimfit.  Together Agata and Marcus thought it was time to revisit Nordic (Cross Country) Skiing.

Marcus last tried this a few years back, but whilst the falling over factor was not /all the time/ it was enough to be off putting.

So in 2016, with some pressure encouragement from Kathy it was time for a re-visitation ...

The first challenge was to find to find a cold enough Piste  that was not melting.    (Luckily we went last week and this Monday it was 15 degrees C in Lausanne. Yikes. )

Not Attached

As an Engineer my fundamental mistrust of this skiing genre comes from the fact that

- the ski binding is loosely held to the ski, and only at the front.  What happened to the back?
- The ski is ludicrously thin, and so for me turning, stopping and general control remains somewhat of a mystery.

 We set off
Agata, is also a beginner.  However she is described as a natural.  What does this mean?  Basically it means she got no instruction, just put on some Nordic skiis then zoomed off like she was born on them.   Typical!

Kathy pointed out that I am merely skiing but she is towing a chariot with Dominik inside, and that's a lot more difficult.

So actually some of the secret sauce is

- Stay in the tracks when possible
- Always keep hands and weight forward
- Hands back, arse out --> you will fall over
- Bend ze knees

A good hours lesson and Marcus actually enjoyed it.  Well I never.

 Yes, still standing

This hat I was told to wear is the skiing equivalent of the man in the Red Shirt in Star Trek!   Kathy claims it was purely for identification purposes at a distance, but hey I know what was really going on here.

Agata tells me I am a brave husband, and with that I am happy

If you are in Lausanne or visiting,  then we would recommend a course with Kathy who will do the best to get you up and moving well on the Nordic Skis.   Recommended


Monday, February 22, 2016

2016 Smartphone avalanche begins

Blue & Elton: Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word

Subtitle: Mobile World Congress 2016

The above video is officially to commiserate anybody who has purchased a high end mobile phone in the last 3 months.  All I can say is commiserations, and I really hope that you got a good deal...


As I have been constantly nagging:  Mobile World Congress  (MWC) in February of each year is where you will find many of the latest Smartphone announcements.

So if you have finite funds, and you buy Smartphones yourself, with your hard earned money, then it is best to wait until after MWC, because then you can decide on what to buy, the latest phone, at a premium, or the outgoing generation, which will have experienced a suitable promotional, inventory clearing price cuts. Or if your current Smartphone is good enough, to defer purchase until 2017.

Just 3 phones
Even though MWC starts on Monday there are already at 3 significant new phone releases.  This is presented below. 

I also further comment, yet again, ad infinitum, that I am not bloody interested in speculation, rumours, renders of phones from a spotty kids bedroom, or maybe's or perhaps.  Wait for the damn manufacturer announcement!


LG G5 Camera

LG G5 Modules

LG G5 User Interface

LG G5 orderable in Switzerland

Samsung Galaxy S7

Samsung GS7 Galaxy S7 hands on

Android Central S7 Page

Samsung Galaxy S7 product page UK

HP Elite X3

HP Elite X3 hands on

HP Elite X3 at Windows Central

And So
To conclude, MWC 2016 formally starts Monday Feb 22 and so there are 3 more days of announcements. Like us if you too are in the Technology sphere you will study and analyse the actual announcements.  Let Google and YouTube, and of course this Blog and G+  be your guide.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Sunday Musings: Donald, Apple, Encryption and the iPhone

Trump: Boycott Apple

I refer of course to the current tech debate that is taking fire and attention away from what we should all be concentrating on, namely MWC (Mobile World Congress).

If you really don't know then start here:

Apple vs FBI intro
Judge orders

In a deeply ironic moment,  Donald Trump, presidential candidate, is known to be using an iPhone for Twitter if nothing else.  

I wonder if he will heed his own advice?

Betting Against Apple
Never bet against the Apple Zealot faithful following as Donald has done.  If you ask the average American to choose between Donald Trump and Apple, it's not going to work for you Donald!  They'll vote for the other guy.  We all know that.

A Geek only Sidetrack
For me backdoors are totally unacceptable.  And the dumbed down Hollywood portrayal or irreverent  journalist representation (or ill informed here ) of them does means the average non technical and non thinking user, who can vote, and be vocal on the Internet, then espouses totally misleading and oft dominating views.  I hate it.

So for geeks only.   

Where is this login screen from?   (Answer is here   )  
Back to the Problem At hand

The common ground is the following

- We agree the Apple iPhone 5C phone was being used by a known terrorist Syed Farook

- We agree that it would be a just and useful thing for the FBI / Government to have sight of the information on the phone because it could lead to assist them in their counter terrorism efforts

- We agree that Apple must not make a backdoor to the government

- That Apple should not leave the Government with technology or information that would allow the Government in the future to bypass Apple security

- That Apple should assist the Government to get the data from this one particular phone, property of the San Bernadino Health Department, and used by Farook

The Apple ID Password

My understanding is
- The Apple phone 5C in question had a 4 digit numeric PIN. 

- Quite separately there is the Apple ID relating to that iPhone and a setting on the phone that backs up information from the phone to the iCloud using the Apple ID credentials

- Apparently, after Farook was killed, somebody at the San Bernardino Health Department i.e. not the FBI changed the password

- So this means that the iPhone would cease to backup to iCloud.   I'm not sure why this is relevant? If it was backing up, then does the data get deleted.  And if not, why can't Apple hand that over?

- Also, presumably it could be that the data on the phone was not backed up to iCloud so the Apple ID issue, is interesting but irrelevant?

- Now the Health Department claims that they worked with the FBI to reset the iCloud password

Can somebody explain?

The Precedent Angle

Governments, particularly US and UK already have wide ranging powers to override the normal enshrined laws via anti terrorist legislation.

If this request is a part of a wider Government initiative to create further legal precedent that will unreasonably tie up or coerce Private companies then this alone should be sufficient reason to rail against it as such Government bullying.

iOS Security Irony
Agata is still an enthusiastic Apple user, whereas Marcus, is an ex Apple user.   Ironically the FBI is now the biggest promoter and validator of iPhone smartphone security.  They might woo me back to their Apple dark [well I mean Smug] side yet

The Options then

  1. Give the phone to John McAfee, who claims he can decrypt the phone. Hmm. I really don't recommend it!
  2. Boycott Apple, achieving nothing
  3. Hand the phone to Apple and let them Blackbox take all the data, and dump it and give that decrypted data in its entirely to the FBI / government.

    One of many ways e.g.Copy the content from the NV memory chips from the original phone to a special iPhone with firmware they have modified (that does not delete after 10 attempts) and brute force break the 4 digit pin.  Etcetera.

    Oh, and for the FBI's confidence, an FBI computer savvy person should be allowed to sit in and witness Apple's efforts, though, not being allowed to take in any writing materials or digital devices, thus effectively making the observers (rather fallible) human memory the only record of how, but not what was done to achieve this feat.

    Oh, and Apple should be able to charge time and materials for this task, at their highest consultancy rates. They are after all not a charity or a social service.  Have you seen Apple prices?

Don't just take my word for it.  Read the linked articles below and come to your own, informed, non soundbite, opinion.


Boycotting Apple is not the answer.

Apple must not build in any backdoor that is delivered to the Government

Give the phone to Apple and ask them to break the encryption, dump  and return the data, under the visual (only) verification of an FBI person.

And don't whatever you do let John McAfee anywhere near that phone!

Apple vs FBI intro

McAfee says
Apple ID Password
Who changed the Apple ID Password
The contrarian response  (read comments)
Legacy Trailer 2
iOS Security Guide 2015
Tim Cook and Encryption
Tim Cook message Feb 16
Judge order views PBS
More stupid Reuters journalism
Sam Harris initial thoughts (from minute 10)
20160222 More Apple comments
20160223 Google reporting of this case

Legal Notes 
(Example of existing UK legislation)
So could the police require someone to give them the password for their phone? The answer is yes if it is necessary for them to get access to the information on the phone. The relevant law is set out in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. A phone password along with much more technological encryption methods count as a "key". The police can serve a written notice on the person believed to be in possession of the key (so the person with the password) requiring him/her to give it to them. The notice has to contain certain prescribed information (see section 49(4) of the act).

(US Legislation)
It would appear that an Individuals 5th amendment rights not to incriminate themselves are not overriden by the US Patriot Act, though that Act does weaken / override other more traditional US Citizen rights.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

HP Officejet Pro 8620

HP OfficeJet Pro 8620 All in One printer

We were asked to recommend a small and inexpensive printer scanner and so we have been doing some extensive research.

Eventually we settled on the sub 200 CHF  ( 140 GBP) Hewlett Packard 8620 ink jet.

In the printer world things have reached an all competitive low, where prices leave you thinking /Exactly how do they do that/

For many manufacturers the answer is that the printer is shipped with almost empty 'starter' ink cartridges meaning that after only a few prints you'll need to buy the standard or extended sized inks.

Not so for the HP 8620.  It is shipped with a Black 1000 page cartridge, and although they only ship a mains cable, and not for example an USB or Ethernet cable, the majority of users will today connect Wirelessly. Note it is 2.4 Ghz b/g/n networking only.

It's a quite large and 15Kg box.  This is good value if nothing else

 An ironic note about environmental impact.  They wanted to say, try never to use this printer and save the Environment!

 Here it is

 4 ink cartridges including a large black cartridge.  (some other brands use 5 cartridges).

Oh and the control panel is a touch screen

 Zoom in to see the internals and where the ink cartridges.

Our first print and a celebration ice cream to follow.


- 1200 x 1200 dpi internals

- Double Sided Scanning

- Double Sided printing

- And a Fax!

- Motorised sheet feeder and lift the lid to scan on platen

- Wireless, Ethernet, USB, NFC Printing

- Black (2500 page), Colour (1500 page) cartridges available

What is in the Box

- Decent sized ink cartridges: yes
- 2 pin power lead: yes
- USB cable: no
- paper: no

For the price below 200 CHF the fact that the HP can print and scan, and in duplex, has a touch screen controls, multiple connectivity options, and a decent set of supplied ink cartridges is nothing sort of amazing.


See Also
HP 8620 from Digitec
HP 8620 Technical Details
HP 8620 Data Sheet