Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Microsoft Band 2 and Heart Palpitations

At several times on Wednesday Marcus was in possession of fits of almost uncontrollable heart palpitations, rage and anger.

The reason?

Ironically, the combination of the Microsoft Health App and the Microsoft Band 2 activity monitor which together have conspired against me.

On Wednesday Marcus and Agata had some important face to face business meetings but I found myself distracted.  Whilst the logical part of my brain told me to stop farting about and concentrate on the important, the IT  (Information Technology), part of my brain reasoned: Must solve Band 2 syncing issue ...

- surely I must be doing something wrong
- Nobody could possibly design an application this badly
- One that has a fail state that leaves both the application and the device unusable
- One that deletes all data on your device before an update
- One that if the updates fails, cannot easily be restarted
- One that if the device update fails there seems to be no way to power down the device, its stuck in an update cycle, waiting for its battery power to die.

So, after trying so many random procedures, including rebooting smartphone, reinstalling software, restarting application  (well about 30 times, and I am not exaggerating),  restarting the Microsoft Band to Android pair process, again over 20 times, because yes, I did count, and generally almost bursting a blood vessel, finally at about 18.00 in the evening, having been trying since 09.30,  I managed to

- update the MS band 2 firmware to 2.0.4829.0
- make the initial link from Band 2 to Android Smartphone
- start counting steps, (not helpful as my primary garmin tracker says 16,000, and of course there is no way to enter them in manually

So, Microsoft Health and Band then

I did not make a full review yet, but I can say

- I was an early band 2 adopter.
- This means I paid a high price (almost 200 GBP) and received a half finished product , well in terms of software; that I thought might get better with time
- There is no insider programme with the Microsoft Band, in other words all the updates that I apply are supposed to be production quality code improvements
- But today's update has been more difficult than I can possibly imagine

I a still so bloody cross that I think if I had a hammer handy there is a good chance that I would get the Microsoft Band 2 and crush it into pieces.

Microsoft is not rewarding me for my early adoption and loyalty, quite the reverse, they are punishing me.  Today the Band 2 has had drastic price cuts, and still to me the multiple sensors on the device are not being well used by the software, and some basic features are just missing.    I will write a full review soon, but let me say that this 6 month experiment has so far not exactly had me /singing in the isles/

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

An Effective Team

An effective Team

Whatever dismal lessons Marcus and Agata will draw from our significant loss (due to recent theft), one thing has been re-focused into Marcus' mind

Marcus and Agata are an effective team.

Whenever we face adversity and jointly react to problem solve, and to try and find a way forward,  together, with a single purpose: to make things better for the marcus-agata team.   Is this what other couples do?

We both have significant personal experiences from sources too close to put forward in print herewith that some others do not

Overcoming Trauma
- Shouting, especially at each other is not the answer
- Tears and emotions laid bare are both understandable and fine
- You need absolute trust in each other to be able to continue
- Physical contact is encouraged

A Sunday Example
Following the loss of our Race Bicycles, Agata researched bike shops in Girona that could do road bike rentals

We managed to find a secure car park to leave our motorhome in whilst we checked out the rental shop and came back 4 hours later when they were ready and picked them up

Agata managed to download the routes to Marcus' remaining GPS watch, since her Fenix 3 was stolen

Marcus noticed some below spec bicycle points so we took some extra tools and components on the ride.  Just in case.  We even looked up some public transport ways to get back if stranded.

On Sunday we successfully managed a 100Km plus ride, with moderate effort.

Agata did superbly on navigating using the Garmin loaded route and Marcus tried to do good constant speed and wind break style cycling whenever possible, and tried to be calm on ascents

We had a wonderful calorie burning,  Tour de France stage preparing time.

We finished the evening in good style with some Internet based research for the next day.

A good combined effort.

As usual.

No Longer An effective Team

Not  an effective team

Our advice to those of you no longer in an effective team.   If you have tried reconciliation,  which requires both parties, the default position is to separate.  A misery despite and because of each other should not be promoted or endured.

Monday, June 27, 2016

BREXIT: The Fallout

Doom Merchants
I told you so
You will be Sorry

Prior to the BREXIT referendum vote the REMAIN campaign made a series of desperate gloom ridden forecasts on issues from the cost of holidaying abroad to stock market collapse and beyond.  Post LEAVE winning I now see a re-referendum petition has been taken over by grumpy losers

Bad Sports
The key points are

- there was an extended campaign
- Britain voted to leave the EU/ EEC
- That is bloody it
- No second referendum is needed.  Come on

Another Bad Sport

Speaking of bad sports the leader of the Scottish National Party, of course Nicola Sturgeon now connives to remain with the EC, despite losing her previous Independence referendum vote.


UK Political Woes
A close friend considering changing his/her BREXIT vote because of the damage that might be done to the Conservative party.  But in practice they should not have worried.  The Labor party is the one that is really in the shit.

Jeremy Corbyn holds crisis talks with shadow cabinet.

Cameron walks the plank, but with honour IMHO.

In the following days let us see what happens.

Financial Perspective:
Too early to tell, but visions of long term financial catastrophe will have to wait by definition.   Short term, I expect volatility, some chaos, but no true calamity.

If CHF to GBP comes down to 1.1, then we can start talking.

German Perspective: Merkel: No need to be nasty

USA Perspective: US and UK special relationship is 'enduring', Obama says after Brexit

All Markets Down
Markets may be down.  But all the following markets are tragically overvalued, even at cob Monday June 26:   UK, USA, Japan.  Still overvalued by at least 20% IMHO, and this is a pre-BREXIT evaluation.

Ways Forward
Become aware of what formalities the UK must go through== 
Article 50: The Guide

If you want to currency speculate transfer money from CHF/USD etcetera to GBP now.   This policy works best if you might actually need to spend GBP forthwith, in which case you just bought yourself a nice benefit.

Dead Ringers

Then relax bt listening to Dead Ringers,  whatever your political leanings or beliefs about the BREXIT, it will hit the spot.

50 ways to leave your [ex] Lover

50 Ways

I am of course referring to the British exit from the EU.

First of all I would direct you to read the infamous article 50.  Why here of course

Or the simpler version is here

I can credit Reuters with only 10 ways  many of which make little sense.  So until we come up with 40 more bogus ways we will have to settle for:

Happy reading.

50 ways

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Congratulations to

I have to express a warm thanks to the three mobile network.  That is

After the horrific loss of property that Agata and Marcus suffered last week  we have been struggling to recover.

When you have such a loss you need not just a calm head but you need some logistical help.  And a good Internet and Phone connection is in these days of 2016 a must.  Mandatory.

Unfortunately roaming Internet from our adopted home country Switzerland is not possible economically.  What a surprise!

Also in France it is not possible to buy a cheap native Pay as You Go Datasim with multiple GB of data capacity   ( do tell me if our research is wrong please! And yes we tried Free).   This is possible in a number of our other favourite and often visited European countries including England and Poland.

And in this case my UK, phone account comes to the rescue.

If you follow this link

to the feel at home section

You will notice that for many European countries data roaming without too many limits is now possible.

Well, I found that for unlimited data at UK home, it is limited to 12GB in Europe.  This is a pretty large limit, even for Marcus and Agata, the only gotcha is that this connection from your smartphone cannot be hotspot shared

As a test I off course tried to hotspot the connection and was rather surprised when the PC that was attempting the share got a /BAD: you are trying to share this connection illegally/ message.  Sort of Impressive!

So finally
Marcus will not forget this great assistance that has been in our time of need.  Calling banks, credit card companies, insurance companies,  all of that was made easier thanks to three and I'm now sort of a fanboy and will write soon to tell them so personally.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

LokSak Waterproof Phone Bag Review

Subtitle: Not bad then

At a recent Cycle Exhibition in Switzerland one of the stalls was selling LokSak, Waterproof Smartphone bags.  And for a bargain price.  Since this is Switzerland I nearly fainted with shock.   Here is my review

But I have a Case
First off you might not need a cover, but as Athletes we have some specific requirements

- First we take our phones everywhere.  Imagine you are in the mountains, with phone signal, but lost.  There are so many reasons why you should always carry a phone during your training exercise, and for most Ultra trail competitions, a phone is a mandatory kit item, just like a jacket or a whistle.

- If we are out exercising it is likely we will be sweating!  And it could easily be raining.  So water, or salty moisture is likely to attack our phone

For this reason a hard shell or even a folding case covering the front is not sufficient.

You really something that is waterproof.

A Plastic Bag
Until LokSak Marcus used the Plastic Bag re-cycle strategy.

Simply, you find a heavyweight, watertight plastic bag.  Put the phone in it, and I select one that is long enough to have a simply fold to stop water getting in.

This won't work if you fall into a lake, but it will keep the phone totally dry in the rain   (of course you are using Bluetooth headphones so the bag is totally closed without headphone lead).

This is an actual photo of a particularly strong plastic bag that lasted the last 5 months, that is over 400 individual uses, before it tore and had to be replaced.


I bought two loksak bags and the newer design has a double ziplock seal.

Unfortunately after about 3 weeks of use, this split at the top, and so I've repaired it with the unsightly duct tape shown on the left

We are now into month2 of usage, about  5 weeks in

So the views are

- The idea is that you can see the display inside the bag, it's waterproof and you can use the touchscreen and press the buttons.  All without getting the phone out.

Sounds fantastic right?

- The loksak is a little wide, they have different bags for different phone sizes.  The consequence is that pushing the phones side buttons feels like its stressing the plastic body of loksak.  But it is still working and it's still waterproof.

- I did test the waterproof in a sink of water.  Yes it works.  For us though we don't intend to use the phone in a bag underwater.  That would be crazy.  Just inside the bag whilst out exercising in all weathers.

- As you can see between the used and original bags the transparency seems to be fading

- The advantage over a regular plastic bag being able to operate the phone without removal is good.  Though for photos I do take it out, so its not always a saving.

- Putting the phone in and closing the seals is very fast, and faster than putting into the old plastic bag and folding over.

Well if it wasn't for the plastic between the two seals splitting and having to be duct taped I would have given this product a full thumbs up.   Now I still recommend it.  The cost for 2 bags for about 10 USD i.e. 10 CHF.  More than the 0 cost for the reused plastic bag.  If it lasts say 2 months for 2 bags then I'm pretty happy, so it's still an OKay buy.

Loksak Waterproof Phone Bags

Friday, June 24, 2016

Heartbroken and Upset

Subtitle: Robbed Blind

This is a short and bitter post to almost cry and scream aloud on the Internet about the fact that our beautiful Motorhome has been broken into at great loss to ourselves.

This just happened in Avignon France.

We had packed the usual load of mainly professional Sports equipment in training preparation for our French etape stage which is in some weeks time.

We left our Motorhome to goto the famous /Palais des Papes/  and after paying returned to our motorhome to find

- Stolen Bicycles
- In particular Agatas Ribble, Black, Shimano Dura Ace 7900 bicycle.  her only bicycle.  Without which our holiday is diminished and her etape is clearly impossible without replacement
- In particular Marcus' beautiful hand crafted Ribble / Dedacciai  Red framed HF 83+ and Shimano Dura Ace 9000 bicycle.
- Stolen computers
- Sports equipment for example swimming, players, specialist equipment gone
- Our sports timers and watches gone
- Even my specialist bicycle lights and trail running lights stolen
- Even my reading glasses stolen
Our bicycles were discretely placed inside the motor home and our motorhome is also discreet and not in any way standing out in france aside from the Swiss registration plates.

Time and Money
Specialist equipment like this can't be adequately insured  (please let us know if you know different for Swiss residents, suffering a loss outside of Switzerland in a mobile home).  So we face a major financial loss in the order of 5 figures CHF/ USD,  because the even the raw cost of the bicycles was in that order.

BUT TIME is the even greater issue.  Nearly everything that was stolen was researched, and in most cases, bought on special offer and hand crafted in the case of our race bicycles.  This took many months to do, in most cases it was evolutionary.  A change of braking systems here, a new carbon fibre seat there etc.

We are basically totally screwed.  

Oh, and they broke our motorhome too.

We try to approach life in a benevolent, tolerant and giving fashion, but events like this make us wonder if this effort is really worth it or not.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Shitournalism Part2

Subtitle: Shit Journalism #2

Marcus already commented on the state of Apple rumour journalism here

I also commented that the Hardware-less WWDC announcements were appropriate

Unfortunately I had forgotten one important factor.  Namely that only an actual hardware announcement would stem the flow of absolute drivel that I continue to face on a daily basis via my RSS articles feed.

Of the 1000 articles of a variety of topics that I scan and read if appropriate,  the number of Apple speculation articles is preposterously high.

Another One
In this latest piece of twaddle

- They say that the iPhone 7, will have an audio jack and 2 SIM slots
- They make reference to a set of photographs, from a repair company,  wow, what a quality source
- In those photographs, I see a dual camera, reference to Sandisk Memory component
- I did not see any Audio Jack
- In a linked photograph I see a Dual SIM part, but not in a completed phone
- Are you shitting me?

Strong language, because this is just a total waste of my time.  I can't think of any rational person that would take this of evidence of anything.

But if I was to believe it,  the story would be

a) Apple decided to remove audio jack
b) Apple thinks again and puts it back
c) Apple gives us dual-sim, which Asian carrier have done for perhaps the last decade and is common Industry Smartphone practice  (even OnePlus now has a Dual SIM offering)

Real Engineering
Real Engineering takes time and involves prototypes.  Prototypes are made with features and tested.  Not all features make the final production design and manufacture.

If we think back to the olden days, with some IBM equipment I was familiar with, whole hardware features might be included, produced, and not switched on or disclosed or used.  Because there was not the time to document, code (the associated Software) and adequately test them

Back in the day,  my Zilog Z80,  which I initially had to hand debug, in Hex,  had undisclosed instructions, that never made the docs.

The Answer
I am going to make a list of the sites that are sending me this drivel.  And see over a period of some weeks the ratio per site of drivel to value.  And if the drivel ratio is too high then disconnect.  And if it gets worse, take the extreme step.  Step of the grid; into a ultra marathon trail running programme.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

BREXIT: Make your Mind Up Time

Today is voting day for BREXIT.   If you have registered to vote, then make sure that you do.

I believe the primary consideration should be the health of your country, that is Britain, post vote.   If you feel leaving will make the country more prosperous, more together, or better by the metrics that you choose and value, then vote LEAVE.  Else if the reverse is true vote REMAIN

Peter Gabriel:JeuxSansFrontières‬

Secondary Considerations
What I think should not be a deciding factor are secondary matters outside the main question.   Here are some factors that should NOT influence your voting choice

- But voting LEAVE will crush the Conservative party
- EC won't trust us if we vote REMAIN
- EC says they will punish us if we LEAVE
- America won't like us if we LEAVE
- But Germany wants us to REMAIN
- But the EC will collapse if we vote LEAVE

In Out Shake it All About

So please, Dear Brits.  Just VOTE!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The End of Money as we know it

Mervyn King: The End of Alchemy

Subtitle: The End of Savings as we know it

Last week, in a further attempt to simplify Marcus' life I have began reconciling, or well actually closing Bank Accounts.  It's like this:

- In the old days you had a Current or checking account
- Then perhaps a Savings or Money Market account

- But today, thanks to Money Printing, Zero and and in some cases NIRP Central Bank Interest rates, deposit account interest is close to zero.

How close?

- Bank account of 1000 CHF  (about 1000 USD)
- Interest per year 0.1 CHF  (10 cents!!)

Multiply this up:  for a Deposit of 10,000,000  [10 million CHF aka 10 million dollars] , interest would be 1000 CHF, in other words not enough to live on, for 1 year.

So if the banks would lend me money on the same basis that they are crediting me,    I could

- borrow 10M CHF
- use 100K CHF per year to live on
- pay my 1000CHF interest to them to keep it legal and nice and tidy
- leaves me 99K per year of usable income
- This would last me 100 years.  Surely enough.

Indeed,   Are you F*****ing kidding me?

- Yes, the banks won't lend me millions of CHF
- However Central Banks worldwide  (well Japan, European Central Bank,  Bank of England, Federal Reserve) are creating money, ie. inflating the money supply like confetti.

I was relieved to hear that India under the control of Raghuram Rajan has not caved to such short term prosper, long term, catastrophic mechanism.  See here

In view of the ultimately not only counterproductive but unworkable idea of printing money and saddling future generations with debt, one could implement this idea personally.  Well, in fact, you're just mirroring the Government's monetary strategy right ...

Death with Debt Strategy
Moral and Ethical considerations aside  (i.e. the follow is knowingly leaving the world in a shittier place than when you entered)

- You knowingly take on huge debt
- At very low to almost zero Interest
- You service the debt and don't pay it off
- You get old, and die with the debt
- The debtors take the hit

Youth with Debt Strategy
Moral and Ethical considerations aside (i.e. your policy is flawed,  unplanned, illogical, arguably burdening others, but you have to survive)

- You take on large by your metrics debt as a student  (tuition and accommodation costs)
- You are unable to save for a Mortgage at today's House Prices
- You give up on the housing market
- You believe in the new generation of social services like Uber, or airbnb.  You don't invest in your own car for example.
- You don't take out a pension or save for retirement, because your savings are so small, there is just no point
- You believe that eventually somebody will sort it out

Is there an answer then?

My sagely advice would be

- Take the 30 minutes of your life to watch the  above YouTube video please

- Personally I will buy and read/ listen to Melvyn's book
- There are no simple answers
- QE (Money printing),  Government Bank bond purchases and other monetary and fiscal tampering mechanisms have clearly failed.
- Such Mechanism work only in the short term, and only if everybody else is not doing it too, in which case even the short term effects are nullified.
- Luckily for Marcus and Agata our 2 most invested countries  (UK and Switzerland) are not in the Euro, the Euro currency is not sustainable even in the medium term.
- If you have only Euro investments, including Pension Funds, consider diversifying them.  You have time, say an 18 month horizon.  Invest elsewhere.

Monday, June 20, 2016

General Guisan 2016

Pre General Guisan

Subtitle: Ouch and Ouch

After the day spent at Chamonix volunteering we came away with some satisfaction, but also knackered quads from our brief mountain run.

Later that night, literally every step was agony, and so we were not sure if we could or should attempt the forthcoming 40Km hike / march that is called General Guisan.

For background on Guisan see our 2015 attempt

2016 Attempt
Since Lausanne and Vaud Canton Switzerland is experiencing weeks of torrential rain, a dry Saturday morning forced the issue.

Although every flippin step, even to walk was excruciatingly painful, we got up, got on some hiking gear, and got to the race start at Mezieres for a respectable pre 09.00

We still did not know if we could actually jog, but we thought at worst we'd have to walk the 40Km.   The race plan was:

- If it is flat plod / jog
- If it is a descent: plod / jog pain
- If it is a hill: walk

Less than 5Km and we spot the crazy wooden house

 Agata is getting away again.  She is fast

 Stop 1

 Men in military uniforms with Swiss flags

 Beware of the killer squirrels

 Stop 2

 Stop 3

 Agata says get a flippin move on

 Split point for the 40Km marche

 Good Swiss Cows

 More Swiss Cows

 One of many tractors

 Gingerbread house

 Stop 4

Marcus manages a smile, though we are both still in leg based ouch agony.

 Stop 5

We get held up at the crossing for the longest time!  But for that our finish time would have been substantially quicker of course :-)

 Stop 6

5Km to go!

Vintage Tractor

A wall of cobwebs over 20 metres long.  Unbelievable and just a bit creepy

 We finished!

Our checkpoint card

Later that Day
Our closest small town and also metro stop is Sallaz.

For over 1 year, no in fact for over 2 years now they have been buggering about knocking down buildings, resurfacing, rebuilding the library  (yes with books!!) and rebuilding some accommodation.

Today was the /we really have finished/ celebration

Best bit for us was the munchkins playing on stage.  Very sweet.  Not shown but next to the stage a flock of proud parents congregated.

And Finally
Time to get back home finally and celebrate the end of the day with a spot of wine in our General Guisan commemorative glasses.  As you can see we have several years of them  ( one per entry)