Monday, April 30, 2018

When you're Wrong, you are Wrong

Supertramp: Hide in your Shell

I would relate that with the benefits of Age,  Experience, and perhaps being your own boss, one tends to gain confidence.

Publicly admitting Marcus was wrong, right here, right now has never been more amusing.  There is no need to be embarrassed and Hide in your shell.

We bought Switches

Marcus bought numerous Netgear and TP-Link Ethernet switches at auction from JohnPye.  After an incredibly productive day of Physical DIY  I thought I'd finally get round to something more sedentary:

Cat 7 Ethernet Cable Upgrading

We came to the UK and transplanted our Swiss IT setup more or less as is.  Networks, cables, routers, switches. For reasons of economy and not having to think too much, it was the best way

But now it is time to upgrade the cabling to be 10Gigabit Ready and all of that

Before A do B, Before B do C ..

Before Installing the Cables I began to optimse Switches.  I wanted to replace 8 port switches with few connected ports with some of the auction bought 5 port devices.

Took 5 port NetgearSwitch out of Box

Plugged into isolated Laptop Ethernet to configure

Could not find reset Button  (that's odd)


Had to Install special Netgear Setup program

Netgear Program requires WinPcap  (WTF!)

And also Adobe Air

A reboot later on my configuration laptop

Can't find Switch

Try Netgear Switch #2 .. No Good

Install IP scanner ... No Good

Try TP-Link 5 Port Switch

Install TP-lInk Easy Configure

Can't find Switch

Netgear Forum .. nothing

TP-link forum ... nothing

At least 40 minutes later

Idiot!  These are not managed Switches

I have a Netgear GS105 unmanaged , not Netgear GS105E managed product.  So there is no IP address to configure for the Switch, there are no options to set.  It's a really dumb Switch, take it or leave it.

I lost at least an hour of my life.

It is now just plugged in and working great.

And SO
So there you have it.   Marcus was a complete dunderhead.  A dimbo,  but I got there in the end.

When I am about to admonish a friend about their obvious faux-pas, I hope I shall hold back, and remember this moment and recall that we can all make stupid mistakes.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Sunday Sermon: Alcester Singers Spring Concert

Subtitle: An Innocent night out or not?

Marcus and Agata are just back from a Saturday night out at the local Alcester Church.  We do visit a lot of churches but not  (of course) for Religious worship,  but usually to admire the architecture and study the faithful  that we meet there.

This Saturday night was a Spring concert held in the Church.

We certainly had the good company of friends, and we always support the right of others to do things, that are legal that we might not approve of.  However in this instance we visited the Church, we paid money, and so in a sense where we supporting this Church and the Religious infrastructure  behind it? ....

What we saw and heard

For more information on the Rossini 'little solem mass'  see this link


So my angle is the following.  The musical performance was by middle to elderly aged people made with care and sincerity.  I want to be clear no malice was seen or shown at any point.

There was even a wine Intermission.

But I still propose that by being there I do somewhat endorse the music and moreover the meaning behind it, and the underlying Christianity contained therein.

A good Tune

Our performance was not in English but it became clear from the parts that one could translate it was a positive salutation and celebration  to the [Christian] God.

By being there, and smiling, and paying our way, were we supporting this cause?

Tomorrow belongs to me

If I said I was charmed by the above song, would you accuse me of supporting that cause too?

Just Good People and Bad Ideas

This week I did watch the entire 90 minute lecture from Stephanie Tessier, who converted to a Religion which resulted in her losing her family: both husband and children.   It is a moving story, and for me a tragic example of what happens when an individual tries to face upto the non negotiable rules that her (converted to) Religion sets out.  She lost and continues to loose.

Stephanie believes to this day that her husband is a good man, but one who is indoctrinated by a Religion including some very Bad Ideas.

Most Religions contain some great ideas, but to Marcus they have nothing to do with Religion and everything to do with Humanism and Philosophy.  Meanwhile, along with the sensible ideas come  (depending on the Religion that you subscribe to)   between a trickle and a torrent of bad ideas.

An Alternative Concert

Here is a copy of a Kraftwerk concert that I attended some years ago.  Now this is much more how I would choose to spend my 2 hours :-)


Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Io ALOT oT

Kraftwerk: ComputerWorld

Subtitle: Digital World Problems

At home in England, Marcus and Agata are being forced into a Network redesign.   It's sort of a zero world problem, but still however quite interesting

And the title says it all, here in England we are facing the

The Internet of A LOT of Things

The Bulbs Did It!
As part of our 2018 Home Automation project which aims to add cutting edge security and convenience to our home in England  we are upgrading our lighting Infrastructure.

The home came fitted with numerous LED light bulbs,  we have a strategy to replace them with Smart LED Lightbulbs

Our initial implementation is with multiple TP-Link LB130 light bulbs.   Each light bulb has it's own IP address which is served up by a Mikrotik Router   (dear hackers it's patched and behind 3 further sequential firewalls)

And unbelievably we have just run out of flippin IP addresses in the DHCP domain

All about NAT

Our house in England is now the home to over 100+ individual Internet connected devices. Is there a possibility that the world will run out of addresses for Internet Connected devices?

NB: Simplified explanation to follow!

The world currently relies on 4 Byte Internet addressing.  Each Byte is 8 bits meaning the 4 Byte, 32 bit number can have 2 to the power 32 possibilities == 4000 million = 4 Billion.

This is not enough and so IP6 i.e. 6 Byte IP addressing standards were devised about 20 years ago but are still not widely implemented!

Instead a technique called NAT (network address translation) also known as masquerading has come to everybody's rescue,  meaning that the whole industry has even less reason to move to IP6.

Masquerading is what happens in your home computer's router, or by some device before any device in your house talks out to the Internet.

In our house multiple dedicated firewalls perform the masquerading, but even in the simplest case i.e. you are at home, with just a smartphone and a laptop, connected over wifi to your router and to the Internet,  NAT/ masquerading is occurring.

As IP packets pass into your router, the router rewrites the highlighted sections of the packet, puttings it's IP address into the pack header and sends that off to the Internet

When these packets return, from say a Web server, the router remembers who the packets are for and puts back the addresses of the original source computer and passes them back to the source.    The source computer e.g your smartphone is unaware that any manipulation has taken place.

Outside of your home it appears that all traffic is coming from a single IP address in your home, that of the router,  but in reality the router is making this translation trick for each and every masqueraded device.

Back to Our Issue

In our setup we has allocated a continuous block of 50 addresses.  And over time we had allocated computer with fixed addresses into the total space which is 255 addresses big so that the 50 block is the largest contiguous block around.

Now we need over 100 addresses, what can we do?

Amazing Mikrotik
Mikrotik make amazing and yet affordable Networking products.

A.B.C.150 - A.B.C.199   This was the initial DHCP range

I used an IP scanner .  Its available inside the Mikrotik

So there is a large range from 100 to 199 however addresses 140 and 110 and other fixed are used.

Mikrotik Allows you to create a DHCP server and refer to a pool of addresses that can be linked as shown here, in our case to skip over the .140 and .110 addresses etc.

But wait, there is more!

Mikrotik allows you to create a DHCP server for each LAN interface, and have a custom range as above for each.

It also allows you to take any allocated DHCP address and make it a permanent IP address based on the registered MAC address.

Mikrotik .. they just continue to amaze me.

And for the best tutorials pls check TKSJa, example DHCP

In our household Marcus is in charge of Infrastructure including Networking and Agata is in charge of programming.

Due to the recent influx of  Internet Connected Devices we actually ran out of IP addresses in the IP range that we had set for our DHCP server.

Being very clever,  our Mikrotik Router is able to specify a set of disjoint IP address ranges.  So we chained 3 ranges together and now have a range of 96 IP address that our light bulbs and other Internet of Things devices can use dynamically.

Carrier Grade NAT
Cisco NAT
Port Address Translation

Friday, April 27, 2018

Coming this Friday the 13th

For people of a certain age Friday the 13th brings back memories of what has become a seemingly undying series of horror films.

There has been 12 films so far, they are rated right here

But now our British Prime Minister, a lady perhaps known for anything except a sense of humour may be about to commission episode #13.  A sort of real time, graphic horror story.

Friday the 13th part 1

Yes well, on Friday the 13th of July, 2018, she has invited /he who cannot be named/ to visit our British shores.

Across this Green and Pleasant Land answering machines are being resurrected with recordings for the day: We are awfully sorry not to be in today, please call again later :-)

Some might say that he is intent on bringing violence and destruction,  on ushering in calamity and chaos, and negotiating with tariffs and threats.

We will just have to wait and see.

All about 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Selecting a 2018 Security Webcam

There are multiple reasons to want to buy a security webcam for your home.   Let's review

- Monitor your pet whilst you are at work during the day
- To talk between yourselves in a house,  like a video intercom
- Home security: Monitoring rooms or the outside of your house whilst away
- To see who is at the front door
- You just like webcams

Marcus and Agata are currently upgrading their webcam technology

Generation 1

This is the generation that we currently have used in Lausanne and in the UK.

- One or more USB powered cameras
- Cameras have pan and tilt
- Cameras communicate to the Internet via WiFi
- A dedicated Smartphone App  or
- A webpage where you can view the camera's output in realtime
- Basic Motion Detection.   The camera might detect motion in the full picture frame, or some allow you to select sensitive areas and ignore others to reject false positives

When motion is detected a photograph or short video is taken and this is usually emailed to you via the internet connection

Generation 0
Oh, there was a previous generation, where mains powered cameras sent a video feed to a central electronics unit (sometimes a NAS Network Attached Storage) and it recorded a continuous video stream from every camera.   You could review it later if something like a burglary took place.

Some early versions even stored this on tapes but the more modern iterations stored it onto a hard disk or flash card.

In this generation if the burglar stole the recorder you would be screwed, plus there is no notification system.   You return home and check the tapes.

Generation 1 Email
In this most basic case the WebCam has no running connection to the internet in the steady state case

It is not registered with a vendor website

It simply sits there waiting for motion

When motion is detected the photograph or video is taken

Then using email credentials you configured earlier, an email is sent, at that moment to you,  so you will get an email alert

This mechanism is immune from and required no firewall configuration inside your home Internet.  Why?  Because you are simply making an outbound connection  from the camera out to a mailserver

Generation 1 LiveView
(from PC)
In this case the Webcam normally requires your home internet have a fixed IP address or one that if changes is registered to a Dynamic Name service.  Example my camera might always be reachable via

In this configuration you adjust the firewall settings on your Internet router to allow somebody / anybody on the Internet to use a web browser to your IP address ( or name).   There is obviously a username and password to complete, and then you will get a liveview.

This config requires the user to change their Internet Router / Firewall so requires more user skill.

Generation 1 Smartphone App
The later iteration is that your Webcam makes a continuous connection to a vendor computer in the cloud.   It's an outbound connection to a known Manufactures based computer.

You have a companion Smartphone App.   You register both sides with a common userid and password.  Then you logon to the smartphone, it connects to the Manufacturer server and then back down to your camera

In the case of an alert your camera might send photos or videos to the Manufacturer website for storage and computers at that end then alert you

Here you can obviously see that the Manufacturer needs to maintain a computer infrastructure to act as the go between between your Webcams and your Smarphone, and optionally reserve storage to store pictures and videos.

Generation 2

In 2018 I'd like to introduce the current generation of webcams

- 1080P resolution
Can provide fill HD photographs or videos

In some cases e.g. Nest there is a 4K sensor, though no 4K video

- Ability to have Continuous video recording sent usually to the cloud.  More of this later

- Definable action zones, so only trigger if activity in those zones

- Face and sometimes Animal detection.  So can recognise familiar faces and send a message to you e.g.  Agata just entered front door

- Provide a 24 hour summary video of movements detected

- Typically runs from a USB power supply

- May have flexible mounting options.  Example a spherical metal base that the camera magnetically attaches to and so you can move it around to get the correct angle without moving the bracket

- May have an internal battery so can be fully portable for a few hours

- Microphone and speaker so you can hear activity and even have a 2 way conversation with the person triggering the activity

Generation 2 - Persistence
The way these new cameras work is fundamentally different to standard Gen 1.

They maintain a continuous Internet connection from the camera out through your firewall and Router to a Manufacturer Internet Server.

You run a smartphone application that talks to the server and once authenticated a data connection is made back through that Manufacturer server to the camera.  Well that is for livestream.

And why?   Well this setup avoids you having to modify any firewall or Router configuration since no outbound connection from the Internet is actually coming in.  Instead the Manufacturer server already has a connection to your camera, the one the camera initiated and so can enter via that open connection.

In other cases the camera might automatically upload motion videos and photos to the Manufacturer server so that to review these your Smartphone app does not need to talk back down to the camera

Generation 2 - Costs

Guess what, the Manufacturer Infrastructure costs money.  So this is either bundled with the camera or you need to pay for it via a subscription.

Often there are a reduced set of features that are provided at no charge.

Normally you get the first month free of a subscription to test out the extra features that you are asked to pay for.

Charges Then

Netatmo - No subscription fees

Logitech  Circle Safe,  Basic service is free, the upgrade basic is 6 GBP per month for upto 5 cameras. And the Premium plan is 14 GBP per month for upto 5 cameras.
Lorex Flir Basic Plan free, Subscription 70USD per year.
Netgear Arlo has a base free plan then 2 subscription levels at 7 and 10 GBP per month
Nest Aware subscription is 4 , or 8 or 20 GBP per camera depending on functionality
Canary Membership is 8 GBP per month for upto 5 cameras
Ring 2 -  30 euros per year

2018 Security cameras offer higher functionality and usually 1080P quality.  However they also typically introduce subscription plans which can start to work out quite costly if you have multiple cameras.

Modern camera interface is the Smartphone App rather than the web browser

Cameras achieve a simpler setup by maintaining a continuous Internet connection from each camera to a Manufacturer Server computer.

We are still evaluating a cost effective way to proceed.  Further report to follow!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Casing the Raspberry Pi

Sound of Music: Favourite Things

The Raspberry Pi IMHO makes the ultimate 2018 Home Automation Glue Computer, Educational Tool and so much more.

But once you have finished prototyping, your Pi needs casing.

The case will help protect it from the elements and protect people who think a 5V 1 ampere powered computer can electrocute them  (it can't).

Marcus and Agata have settled on 2 cases.

Closed Case: FLIRC

So this is going to cost you a huge 15 GBP but since all cases start from 6GBP I think of it as a 9GBP tax for something robust and beautiful

Yes it is really metal.  There is a sticky pad you attach to mate with the CPU to transfer heat into the case

First time installation required a bit of jiggling.   My second case installation took seconds.    Single set of screws puts on the ventilated bottom case and holds the Pi securely inside at the same time

Oh and the Micro SD card is easily accessible to slide in and out, unlike with many other cases.

Finally the FLIRC case fully supports the Pi 3B+, and at the time of writing in April 2018 you are unlikely to be buying anything else.

Open Case

The PiBow 3 Coupe is the case we chose where you need a Pi 3 B+ and access to the GPIO pins.  It is just under 9 GBP

 Fun self assembly of <5 minutes is required.

Your Own Case
Owners of 3D Printers can really get smug, for they can print a Raspberry Pi 3 case without issue.  If you know a friend with this technology then please contact them immediately.

Pi Zero?

Initially it might seem attractive to use the 10 GBP Pi Zero W computer.   But remember this is a single core 1GHz 32bit CPU vs a 1.4 GHz Quad core ARM CPU (albeit run in 32 bit mode).

For any future project we think to standardise on a Pi 3B +.   When you consider the delta between the zero and 3B+ including case and memory card, to Marcus the 3B+ seems like a small increment for a much more powerful computer.

However, if you really think that this computer will be powerful enough to perform the task you want, then I'd recommend the official case.    Here is a portable camera that we built earlier

The duct tape attaches the Zero W to a powerful Powerbank which also has a solar panel and bright LED light to light up any night-time scene.

Family Shot

Some Pi we built earlier.  The Pi 3B+ in FLIRC case, with fast 32GB Memory Card  and powered from a Masterplug  comes in at about 60GBP.  Simply astonishing.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Marcus runs the London Nohtaram

Subtitle: Determination, Pain and Smiles

Unlike Agata, Marcus did not qualify in the good for age category for the 2018 London Marathon.   But on Sunday April 22 2018 I did in fact run 

just over 44 Km,  and this was before my unexpected run to rescue Agata who collapsed en route later that day as described here

The nohtaram is as the word suggests a marathon but backwards.  

It is an unofficial event held immediately before a real Marathon.  Competitors meet at a point close to the finish and set off backwards to the marathon start.   The timing should be that you arrive to the start well before the real start so as not to annoy/ alarm/ piss off any race organisers.

The brilliant bit is that hours before the race, streets may be isolated off, at least in some sections, so you can safely run on the road route of the marathon itself.

So at 01.45 Marcus arrived to the iMechE headquarters at Birdcage Walk in full running gear.

Actually not so simple.  So this 42.1+ Km run needs to be self supported.   You have therefore to carry all the food and liquid supplies you will need to run the whole distance un-aided.

I was wearing my best Ultimate Direction Ultramarathon  adventure vest  chocked full of food and drink.  I figured in the worst case that fellow competitors might not bring enough provisions so it would be prudent to carry a little extra

Distaster Strikes Early
My hotel was 1.6 Km from the nohtaram start.   I got out of the hotel, locked my personals into the car, all good so far.

I began to run.

Immediately I felt a sharp, severe and unwavering pain in my left leg.   It was saying to me:   stop now, don't run, really don't even walk quickly,  you are injured.

So 3 days earlier I strained my groin / and/or started getting 

Sciatica like pains down my left leg.  I left it alone for that time and had not thought to check the leg at all with a test run since.   Now with all my kit on,  the signs were awful

Keeping Quiet
The nohtaram is an unofficial event.   I would be meeting a group of runners for the first time and the last thing people want is some old bloke winging on about how every step he takes is agony, and perhaps would everybody mind slowing down a bit or taking things easy.

So I thought not to mention it.   We set of at 02.00 and the plan was to reach the end of our run, i.e. Marathon start, or as close to as possible to not annoy security, before 08.00.   Plenty of time right?

Literally every step was bloody agony but I thought if I can get to 10K without fainting or screaming then well it might be possible.   The initial pace was quicker than I would like but I managed it.

After about 10Km we split into 2 groups and at about Km 15Km   some people finished  (intentionally) whilst others broke away.

Marcus got talking to 2 really great runners,  Maggie and Gavin.  It turns out they would really save the day for me .....

Slow Down
The three of us agreed to dial down the pace just a little and take things easy.  This way  I'd have some chance of finishing I thought and we might have some smiles and interesting talks along the way.

Dumb and Number
As I continued to run,  the pain in my left leg, to be specific a line from behind my knee upto a point at the top of the leg just got stronger and stronger.   My body started to react by anaesthetising me from the pain.   It turned the leg numb.   I could not really feel the leg properly and had to keep looking down as a visual check that the leg was actually pointing ahead and not for example wildly out leftwards.

I head plenty of time to consider what my left leg condition would be in 24 hours after the endeavour finished

Still Going

Somehow I made it into Canary Wharf and round and out.    We were past the 20Km mark and I was still running.

When you run in continuous pain you have plenty of time to contemplate pain levels, and how in a relativist way this was surely better than, say breaking your leg, or being dragged down the street by a car.

But what mainly kept me going was a very nice conversation with Gavin and Maggie.  None of us knew each other before this race but now we talked in detail about Trail Running

No Music Really

Anybody who knows Marcus realises that I am rarely separated from Music.  Indeed that night I had a playlist organised, and my Race legal Trekz Air headphones on.  But you know, the conversation, and the sights and sounds  were that good, well for once, I just shut down the music and kept running without.

The East End
I used to live in the East End on West Ferry Road, London .  It was a decade plus part of my life that I will never forget.  Some happy, sad and violent times.   And this night the chance to run past my old Flat, seeing those familiar shops and streets and the memories came flooding back.

I hope some of the more interesting anecdotes that I related to Gavin and Maggie were appreciated.  I did not see any signs of that's too tall a tale, or I just can't believe that.    Well all the stories were true,   the Flour Tower,   David Owen's residence,  the early days of Canary Wharf and pre DLR, and industrial action at Wapping.   Yes, those were definitely the days

Km 30+
After Km 30 we slowed down further and had time for a Coca Cola stop and a visit to one or more toilets, and some various photo opportunities as light rose.

At this moderate pace we all exchanged further running tales and experiences.  As trail runners there was discussion of some 'decent ultras' past, present and future.  And not these trivial marathon distance courses that we had put ourselves into like this one :-)

We finished!
Yes, at about 7ish we finished.  I had dragged my feet making unprofessional scuffing sounds for the last few Km, but hey,  I kept going.    A few minutes later I was doubled up being rather sick on the pavement,  a combination of elation, relief, a troubled tummy and pain in a now very poorly left leg.

Salmon Runners

So the time was now just past 8am and I arrived back to Victoria in the presence of some other nothtaram atheletes whom I had not seen since 02.00.    At Victoria  I felt like a Salmon as an avalanche of Marathon competitors came towards us on a train to their Marathon start and what was our nohtaram finish.

Thanks one last time to Maggie and Gavin for making my run interesting, and I hope I did not blab too much along the way.  The UK ultra trail running community is I feel quite compact so future contact is likely.