Friday, June 30, 2017

Bicycle Art: Condor Baracchi

Subtitle: 34 years in the making

Marcus and Agata are not prone to Ostentation, but we are so very proud of something exquisitely old and beautiful that is now on display to anybody visiting us in England.

Yes, it is Marcus' Condor Baracchi bicycle serial number 2583 meaning the 25th bicycle manufactured from Condor Cycles in 1983. As of the 17th June it has reached the age of 34.

The Original Aerodynamic Shimano Dura Ace
Until the early 1980's bicycle components were large and clunky but all of this changed in about 1981 when Dura Ace AX was introduced.


The AX series as compared to others in the range had some design innovations most of which set the scene for other manufacturers to follow. On the plus they were innovative. On the minus 34 years later there were some disasters

- The pedals have a non standard diameter thread to the cranks meaning that you can't mount standard pedals. So when these run out, i.e. the bearing races wear, then you are screwed.

Briefly, at the time people made some converters to attach regular pedals. I thought: I'll never need them. Oopsm that was a big mistake :-(

- The brakes require specially shaped pads, not available anywhere

From the catalog ...

Believe me, even with new pads these brakes were not very effective, even when new!

My Build

After some polishing and reworking, here is the Condor restored as best I can.  34 years later this bicycle is still a beautiful machine.

700 x 18C tyres.  Back in the day when a thinner, lighter tyre actually made you go faster.

Originally I had the Mavic SSC tubular rims, but these were not ideal (understatement++) for London riding. I gave them back to Condor (free) and bought the next best thing at the time some Mavic Ceramic clinchers.

Due to gross stupidity I forgot to clean the bicycle rim edges on my last cycle so many years ago. So today in 2017 I find the surfaces totally pitted. Eaten away. Attention to detail Marcus! Today and for all my bicycles used in the last decade, at the end of every cycle I clean the rims and even the tyres. Once bitten.

The original Aero handlebar cabling, featuring slots actually cut into a standard aluminium bar.

A truly wonderful Condor Build.  Condor Cycles of Grays Inn Road London is still very much alive. 

Thanks Condor for a superb bicycle that gave me so many years of service, at last enjoying its retirement artfully.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Waiting for it

Whilst I am about to argue that "Waiting for it" is classic IT wisdom it is a principle that can apply to many disciplines.

In Ostentatious 2017 there continues to be a tendency to be seen with the latest thing.   It is often the latest technology, or wearing the latest Shoes,  or reporting on the latest FAD.

To this Marcus says:

Can't you just wait a little.

Certainly in the world of technology there are droves of people using beta versions of Apple's iOS or Google's Android on their daily phones, just to be able to say 'they are using the latest thing'.

And even when a supposedly stable production release is made, well, things can still go wrong.   Here is one example from April 2017

Fingerprint Sensor Unusable

Marcus is now on Android 7.1.2 having first used it on the Test Phone and then when it worked fine moved it to Production.  (NB: My test phone is the Nexus 5X that Digitec told me was water damaged.  Since I fixed it by reconnecting the power supply wire, it is still working 8 months later and I now own a spare phone. )

IMHO then

01 Always have a Backup

02 Never Use Beta Software on a Production Machine

03 Did you run it in your Test Environment?

04 Let Others Try it First

05 Can't you just wait a little :-)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Ragley Hall Swimming

Swimming in the UK
You can say that Marcus and Agata have been spoilt, but we have come from the fantastic Pully Pool in Lausanne Switzerland to England, a country where due to the climate, Open Water swimming is not really practical, and 50 metre indoor pools are as rare as catching a Golden Snitch

However, we have found out about Open Water swimming at the nearby stately home called Ragley Hall

Getting There

We are a mere 5Km from Ragley Hall so we used leg power to walk there and back.

 Apart from the odd large road, that we have to cross ...

the walk in the countryside is rather pleasant.

What you Get
So on Tuesday night 18.00 to 20.30 or on Sunday morning the Ragley Hall lake is open for swimming.

It costs 6 GBP per person for the swim and unless it is too hot you are advised to wear a wetsuit.  In exceptionally hot situations e.g. last week you are not allowed a wetsuit and must just use Swimming Trunks or a Triathlon suit.

The lake has a 750 metre swim course marked out and there are safety monitors on Stand Up Paddles monitoring the situation in case of any emergency.

How Does it Work

- You join this facebook Group for Ragley Hall Swimming

- You register with  and receive your electronic band / bracelet   You can't swim without it

- When you arrive you must buy a token which you hand over before entering the water.  It is 6 GBP per person , per swim.  Members of the Evesham triathlon club, who actually organise the event, get a discount.

- As you enter the water your bracelet is scanned and when you get out it's scanned again, so they can tell how long you swam for  (but not the distance obviously)

- There are men's and women's changing rooms but no showers.  Most people arrive by car, change into a Wetsuit by the lake  (not in the changing rooms) and swim

Overall Then
 The 750 metre course is well marked with buoys

 Over 100 people swim within the 2.5 hour slot.  That is a lot!

Marcus and Agata really enjoyed it.

Part of the skill involves dodging the vast amount of bird poo.  You get used to it.

Back home, it is important to wash the Wet Suit.

Tonight Agata being much tougher than her delicate husband only had to wash her Swimsuit.   No wetsuit needed for her!

Weather and schedule permitting we will be a regular visitors to the  Ragley Hall swim.   This is about as good as it gets in England! Really recommended.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Using a 4K TV as a High Resolution Computer Monitor

Subtitle: Samsung UE40JU6580U Review

By the end of this review I hope to convince computer IT geeks that your desktop should definitely include a 4K TV screen as an output device for your ultimate PC workstation

If you are an IT professional, a Geek, a Gamer, or simply somebody with less than average eyesight a larger than usual screen real-estate may really improve your Computer productivity.

Interim Solution and Final Solution
For many years, and I mean at least 8,  Marcus has used a solution of driving 3,  30" 2560x1600 monitor screens from a single Computer.

With the advent of 4K I would ideally transition these screens to 4K resolution, professional quality PC monitors but this would be really expensive.

Starting in 2016 I switched to a single Nvidia High Performance Graphics card.   The 2016 setup is here

This single card has 3 Displayport, 1 HDMI port (Capable of 4K) and 2 DVI ports (capable of 2560 x 1600 resolution)

So using this new card I can drive 3 screens with ease  (actually at one point I had 4 screens concurrently under Windows 2012 server), and one of them can be a 4K resolution screen using a HDMI 2.0 interface.

The Final Solution in 2017 is to drive multiple 4K screens, with the first being a lower cost TV screen used almost exclusively in 4K PC mode, with the occasional use as a TV.

Setup in Detail

Let me outline exactly how this works then

- You have a Windows 10 or Windows Server 2016 installed on your workstation 

- I use a single high performance Nvidia Graphics Adapter in a PCIe x16 slot.  Actually the current Gigabyte adapter is a Gigabyte GTX1060G1

- We will connect the Samsung TV to the only available HDMI port. Further 4K screens will typically attach via a Displayport Interface.

- This Gigabyte card, like the original 960GTX card can support upto 4 screens concurrently. I know, totally bonkers

- In the current setup I cannot fathom why but the HDMI screen must be the only powered screen on boot.  TOTALLY and utterly illogical.  But otherwise the boot hangs!

- So,  this 4K TV is switched on, the system boots, and when the Control-Alt-Delete prompt appears then I switch on the remaining 4K screen(s).  

- Windows Dynamically reconfigures itself before logon to a multi 4K screen config as per last shutdown.   Now,  logon as usual.

- Windows 2016 sees all screens as a continuously available single window.  Obviously then you can drag Applications thru physical windows,  'through' the edges of one physical screen into the other

- Windows server allows per screen scaling.  So you can adjust all your screens to be first as large or small text as you can like to see it clearly for you, and if you have different resolution or physically sized screens, adjust the scaling so that windows are physically the same size on different screens.  Otherwise as you drag a window from one screen to the other the size will jump too, which will look ridiculous and also be ridiculous.

About Our Screen

- We selected a 40" screen.  Any larger and it begins to be difficult to see it, well with multiple screens on a single desk.   I strongly recommend you don't go bigger than 40"

- Choosing a curved screen really enhances the view but makes the build more costly.  Still, worth it I feel

 Click on the images to see the specifications.

There are integrated speakers and you can use your fancy graphics card to send the audio down the HDMI 2.0 interface to them.  So in principle, for an initial setup, you don't need either a sound card in the PC or to buy any external speakers.

Means -> Lower cost PC build, more elegantly simple, less desktop clutter  (no speakers or speaker cables)

 Okay you are going to be able to use those 4 x HDMI inputs each capable of 4K input.  Fantastic.  Less useful are the USB sockets.

You can of course still connect up the TV coax or Cable TV inputs and have your 'TV' screen serve dual function etc, useful for when the PC is off and you want to just watch Youtube or TV and switching on the PC would be too much of a hassle.

It is important to note that the 2017 and later screens have full support of the H.264 codec to natively support Youtube 4K videos in the Youtube Application.  Without it your 4K TV cannot play 4K content directly  ( I mean direct 4K content, not something output from the PC which can be processed by the video card).   This is important if you have any 4K TV stations (bloody unlikely) but there are many Youtube streams with predominantly 4K content.  So, for direct viewing of them make sure your TV can play them natively.

The Benefits

- Main benefit of the Samsung TV cf another 4K screen is Cost.

- Just to repeat, the cost is dramatically lower, plus you get a 40" screen which has larger real estate that I find helpful.  To Marcus, a 30" or smaller screen at 4K is really more pixels than my tired eyes need.  I really cannot see the justification for 4K on a 27" or smaller screen.

- We did test out 43" inch screens but when you aggregate them I found this just too large.  If you can make a test, perhaps take a laptop with a HDMI 4K capable output to a retailer and make an actual test.

- Our Samsung UE40JU6580U has multiple HDMI inputs.  So for example it's connected concurrently to all of my principle workstation, Hardware firewall,   OSX server and a Raspberry Pi, all at the same time.  Wonderful.

- Besides being a screen for 4 different computer systems, it is also a Cable TV,

- Oh,  and with a wired Ethernet  or wireless Internet connection it is also acting as a Great SmartTV with applications like Youtube and BBC iPlayer, though of course the latter can run via a browser windows under Windows workstation.

- The colour and accuracy of the screen I find to be top notch

- The TV firmware is updated well, a lot more frequently than ever I had a firmware update for any monitor screen  (which was never!)

- In my case the TV screen is curved, which is a tremendous advantage when you have multiple screens connected together


I simply can't recommend enough that at one of your PC screens on your main workstation be a 40", Curved, 4K TV screen.

It will cost you less than the equivalent dedicated PC screen, but still look great, perform great, & in our case has 4 HDMI inputs, and can also double as a SmartTV and treble as a Cable / Coax TV.

But Please Hurry!
Samsung and other manufacturers have got wise to this idea and would prefer to sell you a much more expensive 40" or thereabouts PC only screen.  They are stopping production of 40" curved screens, in fact already I am pretty sure, you can only buy 40" flat screen products new now, so you might need to shop around for unsold stock of curved.  So don't delay, go 4K TV for your next Computer screen.