Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Marathon #1: New Years Eve

Today Marcus and Agata wind the clock back 1 month to New Years Eve, namely December 31 2016.

We are here in the USA primarily to attend the CES 2017 Consumer Electronics Show.  But to add some spice and challenge we are doing a marathon in Long Beach before the show.

An Early Start
So our Marathon starts at 06.30 meaning we had to pull ourselves out of bed at an early for us 04.00.   The previous night we had met our AirBnb host Heidi  outside her apartment to pickup her keys.

Heidi's apartment had all the promised facilities but we did not notice much as we were so tired.

The Friday night handover was short and sweet but we were careful to check that it would take us about 40 minutes to walk from our location to the race start shown above

Yes, we started in darkness.

Race Report

On the Marathon

This is technically our last Marathon of 2016 and we intend to take it easy.  One important consideration was:

Running Together.  On most occasions we start races together, then after about 5Km Marcus might start to edge away.  But today we would run at the slowest pace of either of us

There were 4 loops of just over 10Km.  And already on the first lap we went wrong!  There was a turn around point at 5.25Km and we missed it leading to turning around at about 6Km so the first loop ended at about 12Km.

We planned to shorten loop 2, which we did so that at the end of loop 2 we were back on track

Facilities could not have been better.  At the end of each 10Km loop Charlie Alewine racing provided good fluid and food, this was all included in the modest race price.

The course was on a very flat surface, designed for walking/running, next to the bike track, next to the Ocean.   Quite sublime.

Several Toilets were along the coastline and Marcus who was not very well, had to go over 10 times.  Yes, I counted. Something of a landmark, but I had Jetlag and Flu and this Chesty 'Bronchitis' symptom that I've not been able to shake in 6 months.  Well, 10 toilet stops, I think it was a record!

Our 4hr30 pace was quite modest so we did not often pass other competitors, but when we did it was always in good humour.

The Big Finish

 We have both finished!  Very importantly, no injuries, smiling faces,  not really tired due to our modest pace. Last Marathon 2016 and first Marathon in Long Beach completed.


Every runner knows that there are 3 associated activities with any marathon / distance run

First the Laundry!  We found one less than 200 meters from Heidi's apartment as expected.  This is something that we had of course checked with our AirBnb host before arriving.   In Switzerland we have at least a complete daily washing load of mostly sports clothes.  And in America too.    Whilst washing we were of course surfing on our Smartphones.

Second the Shower!   Heidi had a shower in a bath and lots of shampoos and other things to try.   AirBnB is like that.  The host gets out of their apartment, locks up personal things and the rest of the house is yours including all her shower gels and like products. We mostly had our own but it's nice and a little bit weird to have the opportunity to just use what is on offer.

Third, the Recovery Meal.   Yes well.  It is new Years Eve.  So some wine and healthy bean and humus products later we are ready to usher in the New Year of 2017

>> The end of a busy day on our wonderful 'holiday', 2017 beckons.

Marathon #2Marina Vista

Monday, January 30, 2017

Journey to Longbeach California

Subtitle: A 30 Hour Journey is never Fun

Today we are time travelling back to December 30th when Marcus and Agata started a Journey to Longbeach California via Istanbul.

The Relative Value Argument
The proposal is along the following lines:  We are prepared to consider any expense.  However if the difference between Doing it Yourselves or Choosing a Commodity Option is preposterously different from the Best in Class, we pretty much always go economy

So Air Travel Then
In our case we selected Turkish Airlines to get us from Geneva Switzerland to Los Angeles California because at half the price of the other options we thought that the extra travel time would be suffered.... We will see

 Not the best of starts.  Some twat next to us on the Geneva train with their dirty shoes all over a seat that somebody else will need to sit on.  Is it too much to ask for them to take their shoes off?

Turkish Airlines
Our summary of the plane and service for the flight to Istanbul and then Istanbul to Los Angeles is

+ The food served was great
+ Yes, they do serve free alcohol even offering a Turkish Red
+ The entertainment system was an individual screen linked to a choice of over 100 movies and other attractions.   Simply overwhelmingly good
- Marcus and Agata always try to do some limbering up exercises on planes.  As discretely as possible.   Today given that less than 10 hours after landing in LAX we have to run a marathon, we need to keep focused.  Unfortunately the staff objected to us doing our subtle exercised.  Hmm.
- The airline forgot to mention that to get to the StopOver hotel we would have to buy an exit visa from the airport.  It turns out that was the least of our troubles

Chaos in Istanbul
When we landed we found the airport full of people.  I mean full!

 If this was 24 hours later when Istanbul town was the centre of a major terrorist attack, we can imagine a different sort of problem.

Anyway weather difficulties had cancelled and delayed many flights.  Long queues for stop over hotels were in evidence.  Most people had been waiting over 4 hours.  The officials did not have any clear plan or system to allocate hotel accommodation.  And now we were competing for our agreed room with hundreds of unexpectedly delayed passengers.

At some point in a long, random, queue some barriers opened and a confused crowd including us surged forward & spent another hour getting on a bus without a clue as to where it was going.

 Arrival at a big hotel in Istanbul.  

Personally I do hate it when I have any sort of Religious indoctrination or literature forced on me in my hotel room.

 Marcus has lectured in Istanbul and I do recall spending time in Nightclubs there instead of sleeping.  Tonight, sleep is a priority.  The next flight is over 12 hours long.

Due to previous Terrorist attack all your bags are scanned in an additional security check for all passengers going into the airport. We had to wait in a bloody freezing queue for over 15 minutes just to get in.

12 hours later ...  It was cramped and sweaty, but that was to be expected.

American Landing Annoyances

There were several and I talked already about it


It is late at night and we are tired and we have a marathon in less than 12 hours time.  But now is no time to spend too much money.

We decide it will be the Metro for us!

As planned we have only dual rucksacks each, no wheelie bags.  So we are pretty mobile which is handy to get up some large flights of stairs  (no escalators) at several points of our journey.

The Metro is full of what Marcus can only describe as rather desperate but harmless looking people.  It is sad to see the underbelly of American society this early in our holiday.

With out 3 SIM from the UK working providing Internet we were able to figure out what the best Metro exit stop was and then even catch a bus.

Rather than stay at a hotel we took time in the planning phase to research where our forthcoming marathons would be located in LongBeach California.   We planned

- To pick an AirBnb accommodation that was walkable to the first marathon
- Near washing machine facilities
- Near shops would be nice
- That we can get to arriving from LAX airport 

We stayed at Heidi's house


and here is her profile  Her flat met our above criteria well.  We did not save too much money over a hotel but we did get a small apartment all to ourselves in the location we wanted. We paid upfront and were guaranteed the accommodation.

By 23.00 on Friday December 30th Marcus and Agata exhaustedly climbed into bed.   We have to get up to run a Marathon in 6.5 hours.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Preparing for the American Holiday

Marcus has already alluded to the fact that we have been recently travelling in the North America  (i.e. the USA)  and it is now time to relive the experience.

We hope you'll be motivated to follow our recent adventures in the next days because there were definitely a few learning points

Marcus and Agata travelled to the USA to take part in CES 2017.  CES, the Consumer Electronics Show is arguably the premier single stage for Home, Electronics and Computer announcements each year.  There is a US show and an Asia show.  The US show happens just after New Year.   It will be our first time there.

It's All about the Money

Jessie J: Price Tag

Despite rumours to the contrary our budgets are increasingly finite and our way to help combat this is planning.

We could not honestly justify the expense, or the extravagance of flying to the USA just for the 4 day CES 2017 show.

So we conspired to pack in the following extra activities

- Multiple Marathons and Exploring Los Angeles
- Test Motorhome Rental US style
- Learning about RV USA style
- Hiking
- Reconnaissance for a future Ultra Marathon in Death Valley USA

A Gamble with Complexity
Only attending CES would have been straightforward: just a flight, hotel booking and attendance.   Our proposed trip is vastly more complicated.

Can we actually find any Marathons in Los Angeles at the time we require?  How would we actually get to them?   What are the consequences of injury at any step of the holiday?

How are we going to take all the Sports clothes we need? How will we manage the huge washing load that daily sports generates and not just spend all our free time washing!

How will we document CES?  Do we take our Pro Camera gear or just rely on SmartPhones.   Do we attempt to document each day on the fly? Or leave Blog Posts for our return?

Are we confident to hire and drive an enormous  American motorhome?  Do we hire it in Vegas where CES is located or in Los Angeles where we propose to Land.

What hikes are possible in Death Valley?   What is the exact course of the Badwater Ultra?  Isn't the finish covered in snow in January, and we'd be in a Motorhome?

The Planning Concluded
Here are some of the decisions made and why.  We think fellow planners and travelers will find this helpful

Flying to the USA
We chose Turkish Airlines due to their flight price being almost half of other more usual carriers.  On the downside the plane route goes via Istanbul (Istanboom),  extending an already long journey to elapsed over 30 hours from Geneva to Los Angeles.

Turkish Airlines are known for good food, but the plane is low on snacks.  We were to find they had a Great Entertainment system on the 777 but hidden extras like having to buy a Turkish Visa in Istanbul to get to our hotel.

As old young people we'll be travelling with Rucksacks only.  We have to have the contingency of being able to walk on rough terrain with our luggage.  Rucksacks are the answer.   On the downside, Rucksacks dont fly well, their straps can catch so we need to put them in protector bags.  But those bags need to be secure enough to not fall open, because doing so the rucksack has no flight tag (its attached to the protector bag).

CES Registration
CES is a trade show and you have to register, qualify and be accepted and pay money.  Best to do all of this early.

Without daily Internet access our holiday will not work.  We need Google Maps practically at all times  (except whilst at CES).  We need to answer our daily emails.  We need to write a daily Blog! We need to keep in Communication with Friends and Family.   Our Swiss Internet SIMs are basically pathetic.  Luckily we've found and have for some time a 3 UK SIM.  For about 30 GBP monthly you can have a UK phone number, unlimited phone data in the UK and upto 12 GB / month Data Roaming in a large number of Countries including France, Germany, Switzerland,  Poland, USA  (but not Turkey!).   This SIM subscription is literally going to be our life saver.  Once again 3 UK.  


Computer Equipment
We take the bare minimum because theft can not be ignored.  Our everything will be in a Motorhome during the holiday and anybody with a crowbar can get into a Motorhome in seconds.

Marcus plans to upload all Photographs taken during the Holiday to  DropBox Cloud so that in the even of Laptop and Camera/Smartphone theft the photographs are safe.   This will mean connecting to Campsite or chargeable WiFi  since our Phone Internet cannot be used for Hotspot outside of the UK.   We also make sure that all our devices are fully locked down.  This is a bit of a pain operationally:  Marcus' laptop needs 4 different passwords to unlock: machine, hard drives, OS, at every logon.  But well, that is the price we pay for living in a world with thieving barstards.   I will never forgive them.

CES Hotels
During early January many Vegas hotels will be booked out due to CES.  You would need to book early.   In our case we planned to hire a Motorhome which we would use during CES for accommodation and afterwards for touring.

Circus Circus has an RV park very close to the Strip, great for CES.  The other RV parks are several miles away meaning an Uber or Taxi to get from your RV park to a CES Exhibition Hall.  Circus Circus has a shuttle bus taking you right there and also CES attendee pass pickup onsite.

US Marathons
In the US we found that because running is so huge a sporting discipline there are a variety of enthusiast running clubs you can contact.  They put on several marathons and we selected Charlie Alewine Racing.  In Los Angeles

Running Gear
We will take all running gear with us.  You need to use the familiar. Quite difficult as multiple marathons and no guarantee of washing machine daily means carrying a lot of clothes, and tapes and creams.  Also need to take Running Shoes and Trail Shoes.  Somehow it all has to fit in our Rucksacks.

Badwater Ultra

We have aspirations to run the BadWater ultra marathon.  Well one day.  It's limited entry but we know one thing for sure.  We can keep on running! And we are very, very determined.

We mapped out the course and the plan was to drive (not run the course) to see how practical it might be.  This is winter time so just to get an idea of the actual roads and elevation.

In the Vegas, Nevada, Death Valley area there is an not an overflow of interesting Hiking Opportunities.  Nevertheless Agata has done some planning.   Using our Garmin Watches it is possible to put .gpx track file onto our watches.  So using an Internet Connection and a PC you can draw a route, place it onto your Garmin GPS Watch  (735, Fenix 3) and use this to guide you.

Hiking also means taking the correct footwear and headgear and lighting.  We plan to take all of this from our home in Switzerland.  Despite the extra bulk we don't wish to afford buying a set just for the American Adventure.  (If we did though we might goto REI for example).

And SO
So the time clock is now early AM of Thursday December 29, 2016.  Time for a few hours sleep before we board that Turkish Airlines plane to Istanbul and then onto Los Angeles.

The Holiday begins

Madonna: Holiday

Alternative Facts

"The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command."
-- George Orwell, "1984"

Donald Trump, Press Conference Jan 27 2017

Trump and May joint conference

Position 16 minutes and 16 seconds.

I happened to be in Scotland in Turnberry cutting a ribbon when Brexit happened and we had a vast amount of press. And I said Brexit—this was the day before, you probably remember—and I said Brexit is going to happen and I was scorned in the press for making that prediction. I was scorned. And I said it’s going to happen because people want to control who’s coming into their country and they want to control their own trade and various other things. And lo and behold, the following day, it happened. And the odds weren’t looking good for me when I made that statement because as you know everyone thought it was not going to happen.

However I checked

June 23, 2016:  BREXIT Referendum Date

June 24, 2016:  Turnberry Resort Opens

Donald Trump arrives, 1 day after the referendum and mistakenly tweets that Scotland is supporting BREXT!  Like this:

Just arrived in Scotland. Place is going wild over the vote. They took their country back, just like we will take America back. No games!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 24, 2016


The Answer
Is this an example of what the new administration refers to as Alternative Facts?   

Fact#1: Donald arrives Turnberry on June 24th 2016, tweeting his arrival, and a counter factual statement  (so wrong)

Fact#2 On January 27th in a Press Conference with Theresa May he told everybody that he arrived in Turnberry on June 23rd, the Day of the Referendum, predicting a BREXIT leave victory.

Clearly an extreme example of Alternative Facts, I mean because they are both issued by the same person: Donald J Trump.

Sales of 1984 surge
Sales Soar


Friday, January 27, 2017

Supermicro Support

Subtitle:  Good Support: Thank You

This is a short and sweet thank you post to Supermicro, who after some work on both sides have enabled bootable NVMe disk on my Supermicro X10 DRi-T server motherboard.

NVMe Overview
This discussion will mean nothing if you don't appreciate a few feeds and Speeds.  For the last few years Hard Disks in Personal Computers have normally been attached using the Sata III interface.   The reference website is here


Suffice to say that the interface speed is 6Gigabits / second, leading to a theoretical maximum transfer speed of about 560 MBytes/second.

Spinning Disks can manage a sustained transfer rate of (say) upto 200 MB/sec in theory.  See this Hitachi Ultrastar datasheet


Actually in practice my 4TB Hitachi Enterprise Drives get upto about 150 MB/second in real life as measured at the Operating System level.

SSD (Solid State Disks) can achieve better 

This is the performance of  a Samsung 850 EVO M.2 form factor disk using the SATA III interface

But a NVMe disk as shown above can achieve preposterously faster.  Conservatively x3 times read speed shown here with a Samsung 960 EVO disk

But Booting
The NVMe  disk connects to your motherboard using a dedicated M.2 type M storage slot, which under the covers should use a PCI express x4 interface.

Using a PCIe Express to M.2 type M converter card I have used the M.2 PCIe disk for over 1 year in my principle workstation and server.  But not for booting.  On the existing 2010 Supermicro X8DTH Motherboard the M.2 disk is not visible at boot time only after the OS is loaded.   Clearly this means the OS can't reside on that disk, the best that you can do is place temporary files and frequently used applications there

NVMe disk support means modifying the BIOS so that it scans for a NVMe disk in a PCIe slot at boot time, and if the OS has been installed there, boots from it.

The BIOS also has to contain base EFI Extended Firmware Interface support and must be able to run in pure EFI mode not legacy.

There are other considerations such as secure boot but this is aside from the main issue:  That the BIOS has code to scan for and locate bootable PCIe disk media and boot from it

Supermicro X10DRi-T

Since October 2016 I've been trying to get NVMe booting working and a support ticket has been open for some months.

At last I have a working system because the BIOS is now updated to allow NVMe support.

An easy way to check without the need for an OS install is that in the EFI shell that is accessible via the BIOS the command

map -v -t fd

shows that a NVMe disk is detected.  To repeat no OS needs to be installed,  we just need to prove that the Motherboard can see the NVMe disk at boot time.

The great confusion is that the Microsoft Windows 2012 and 2016 server install program loaded from a USB stick or DVD is able to see the M.2 NVMe disk on installation.  Even with the old non NVMe BIOS. Somehow the Windows Installer does its own EFI scan when locating possible target OS installation disks.   So the 'install' of the OS goes smoothly, but on first reboot the motherboard can't find the OS you just installed and so it all goes horribly wrong.

Anyway, it is now fixed.  So you really can install Windows 2016 server, or Centos Linux, or OS86 based Operating System onto a Solid State disk with 1800 MB/second plus performance.


Now we have the processors, the memory and finally the disk. Time to actually install a production image in the near future.

Thanks Supermicro.  Good Job.

Supermicro LED Code 79
M2 U2 and more

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Welcoming Donald Trump

Subtitle: In his own Words

Dear Internet, 

I ask you, no I implore you to watch the above video.

And now my simple request. If Netherlands is destined to be #2 in the pecking order, perhaps I can put forward a humble supplication to /the Donald/.  How about the United Kingdom as #3

I'm sending our best representative Theresa to see you this Friday January 27 2017.

So, do we have a deal or not?


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Gstaad Darling

Trading Places:This Watch

Surely you remember the scene from Trading Places?

“This is a Roche Vouceau. The thinnest water-resistant watch in the world. Singularly unique, sculptured in design, hand-crafted in Switzerland, and water resistant to three atmospheres. It tells time simultaneously in Monte Carlo, Beverly Hills, London, Paris, Rome, and Gstaad. This is ‘THE’ sports watch of the ’80s. Six thousand, nine hundred and fifty five dollars retail.”

Well our good friends requested that we visit Gstaad for a spot of skiing and so Marcus has been very happy to oblige.  After all they have made it all the way from England,  so after a short trip into canton Bern we arrived.

Although it looked fine the temperature was a flippin freezing -16 degrees C in the shade.   In the sunlight it felt warmer

 Some slalom race training

 At minus flippin 16 cold lots of crystals everywhere

 Hilary and Rob post lunch.  Round #2 to come

Marcus is quite fascinated, some would say obsessed by the piste machines.

 In Gstaad town

A Bugatti Chiron

 A second Bugatti  (Veyron).  Two in one day. Remarkable.

 Old World Charm

 And Expense

With all the running around (well quite literally), I finally made my daily step goal.  Phew.

Learning Points
Gstaad  is a truly beautiful and capable ski resort.  The pistes were practically empty, and in the sunlight the -16 degree C weather did not seem oppressive. Snow was plentiful. Gstaad centre was suitably upmarket.  If you possible have the time do come and visit.

What do you think Valentine?
The Eddie Murphy Rule