Friday, August 31, 2018

Single File

It was time for our daily exercise and yesterday it was Cycling.   First time in England, well in some months.

Since the ride was to be considerably over one hour in duration some on ride nutrition might be necessary.  And so Marcus had to find a Gel Bar.

But Where?

Well in the Box where all, I mean every single Gel or Energy Bar, must be stored.

Because in the Agata and Marcus house we implement a Single Filing policy.

If there is a thing, it gets stored in one place and one place only.

And preferably a logical place.  So storing the Gels in the Bedroom under the pillow might not be optimal.  But storing them in the Kitchen close to other food items might be a better way.

And Why

- Because in the long run it saves so much time.  Not just finding but also storing

- For storing there is no question as to random filing, file where the other stuff is, the logical place.

- You find one of X, you find all X

- We actually know where to find stuff

- And if you forget you can always ask:  Where would it be logical to store it

And So

With all this time saved we had time to chill out to some serious Creamfields.  Thanks Martin.

See Also
(Just for Fun)
First, Second and Third NF

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Welcome to our DMG Demilitarised Garage Zone

Welcome to our Garage.

Now first, for you to be amused about the title  (DMG) you are first going to have to understand that it is of course a wordplay on DMZ  Demilitarised Zone

If you read the Wikipedia Reference  you will understand that the DMZ is outermost edge of your Computer Infrastructure and thus the most easily penetrated or invaded by hackers.  It is the place where you would place your least trusted servers.

The Space Race
In our previous home the Study was completely packed full of Electronics equipment, but there was a separate empty Guest bedroom, quite a suitable place for .... guests.

In our new home in England, with one less bedroom there are no such luxuries.  So the thinking has been hard and long as to how to improve any Guest experience in the study as they try to sleep amongst a sea of fans and LED flashing lights.

And now we have had a genius idea:

- We are converting the Garage into a Workshop
- We will extend our Internet Network there
- The network extension allows for Internet Security Cameras  (very useful to answer the question, did I close the garage door)
- We will place one or more servers there, for example any Webserver that needs to be on 24x7
- And the Printer!   We try never to print anything and the printer is flippin huge.  What a great space saving from the Study/Guestroom

This then is now our least trusted DMG  (Demilitarised Garage Zone).  Funny right!

Not So Fast
For those thinking of breaking past our Webcam (and other) security protected Garage traps .. as shown above, so that you can invade our network

The Primary Webserver - behind 3 custom firewalls, each from different manufacturers

The Wireless Network in the Garage - behind 3 custom firewalls, not the same ones as the Webserver!  This wireless network is completely isolated and is really there so that Marcus can stream BBC Radio 4 Audio and chat with Agata over Google Hangouts.

So yeah!  try and get in, why don't you.

First Test
Our long suffering friends Rob and Hilary are scheduled to try the new and improved Study Guest room this weekend.  Fingers Crossed!

To continue our wordplay theme .. At last there will be Space In our Place

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

A Date with Sarah Kendall

When you get to a certain age  (yes I have) then life is often a game of catchup.    We used to say that Leonardo  (Da Vinci) lived in an age where it might be possible to have a handle on just about everything.

Today, well there is just too much.

And so it gives me great pleasure to stumble across a new Comedy talent to me, but one who has been around for well over a decade.   The BBC enables me to /catch up/ quickly and after the fact I can say nonchalantly to all   /of course I've been following Sarah since she was nominated for the Perrier in 2004 :-) /

Sarah Kendall 
Is an Australian who gives us thoughtful, Intellectual, often Gut wrenchingly hilarious but sometimes rather poignant comedy.

To get into the mood

Start with A day In October

The BBC has 6 episodes to listen to

And to top it all off Funny From the Fringe

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Google Pixel 3XL (et al)

Subtitle: The Cat is proverbially out of the bag.  

Or is it?

In order that review of new products happens in a timely fashion, pre launch products are sent to reviewers, stock is sent to Retailers, and case designs are sent to Accessory Manufacturers.

In the established world order a NDA  (Non Disclosure Agreement) or similar is signed such that details are not revealed before announcement day.

But no more.

The Gutter press Journalism side of the Tech industry stoops to new lows and pre-announces everything there is to know.

Today I will make primary reference to the Google Pixel 3 XL. This is the third generation iteration of the Pixel Smartphone, and the XL is the Larger version of the phone.   Google releases new phones on a yearly cycle so it is due sometime this Autumn.

Except that at this time of writing, specifications, photographs and even full blown video reviews are now commonplace, all over the Internet.

What gives?

I would distinguish this coverage from cock-ups where for example; some Smartphone network carriers accidentally put up a test web page on a forthcoming product,  and some smart-arse finds the URL,  and publicly discloses information.  These are accidents.

Contrast that to a wilful spilling of the beans in order to gain .. well me first I suppose.  Except that the hard work was in the Design of the phone,  the Software Integration and the thousands of hours of design, product integration, testing, re-design.

Simply pre-announcing all of that to get 'a scoop' is not only low, it is now endemic.

In publishing the links below I'm trying to give an example, not the air of publicity to these twats.

Personally, so much speculation time is wasted on: if this, and possibly that, and scoop this.

Am I the only person on the planet who thinks that New Product release cycles are already far too short for anybody except Tech Journalists.  In the real world, we might need to actually save up for a new 1000$ smartphone, or wait until a two year contract expires.   So an endless stream of what might be coming serves only the Tech Media and is really a dis-service to the end user.

The What-ism is at worst when a new product ushers into speculation on the next generation, say on the week of a new product release.  Example:  Samsung Note 9. Just released. Already we have wankers speculating:  Note 10, what we want to see

Presented As Fact
Another example from the gutter tendency, shown in the link above, from the once factual and always glitzy T3 magazine, is the possibly, what if video, that as indexed by the title shows up in Google searches, as almost factual.  Just infuriating.

In this instance the source is a beautifully glossy YouTube video of somebody's pure invention.  Nothing more.  Not a single fact in there!  Just fantasy and supposition.

The Chinese Whisper Chain Reaction
The main issue I have with this journalism,  is that it is picked up, and the tale retold.  From Mock Up, to I read that, to possibly, to likely, to almost certainly, to definitely, to it is a sure fact that new product X will ship on this date with that feature.

Hoping for Fake News!
I really hope that all of the current Google Pixel 3XL videos that are surfacing are fakes.  I mean that Google has seeded a set of early pre-production,  diversionary hardware prototypes to a whole set of muppets who will in the process of a few weeks be shown to be total idiots.  But I think in this instance the chances are slim.  Still Google  (and other manufacturers) something to think about for your next hardware releases!

2 Vidoes Then

Actually I won't even embed them here,  you need to click on the links if you want to.   My overall comments are

- This kind of gutter level journalism should be stopped, or not encouraged

- It is susceptible to elaborate fake videos

- It can be from stolen shipments,  so the posters are fuelling illegal behaviour

- We already have too many products being released in the tech cycle.  The last thing we need is endless speculation, and competition as to who can break a manufacturers' trust

Monday, August 27, 2018

Upgrading the WileyFox Swift 2 Smartphone to Oreo 8.1

Why No Oreo?
For months now WileyFox the unbankrupted Smarphone supplier  has been promising Android 8.1 Oreo on its range of Smartphones.  In fact if you buy a new one it does ship only with Oreo.

So how come more than 3 months later I don't have Oreo installed on my WileyFox Swift 2+ Smartphone?

Contacting Support
On the shit scale  (where -1 is good, 0 is neutral, 1 - 10 is between shit and unbelievably shit)  I would rate WileyFox support about a 6.   There is no telephone support, and registering on the website does not entitle you to ask a question.   You have to go via the ironically named online Care Website. In my case despite sending them a wealth of information, the support person Kenneth  managed only 2 vague replies in 65 minutes of conversation.  This was I repeat 65 minutes of me hanging around, patiently explaining the problem.  The problem was passed to a supervisor who days later suggested a full Reset, which would then prompt an upgrade.  It didn't.

So after Internet research and thinking here is a risky way to do an Oreo 8.1 installation.  Risky because the phone has a locked bootloader and therefore no means of unlock (in theory) so in fact a manual upgrade should be completely impossible.  But read on ....

Big Picture Solution
Even if we download the Oreo upgrade code or reinstallation files we can't apply them because the Wileyfox Swift 2 has a locked bootloader.

There would appear to be no way around this issue until you recall that this phone employs a Qualcomm chipset.  And embedded deep into the Primary Bootloader is a special EDL  Emergency Download Mode mechanism.

So the high level plan will be to set the Swift2 into EDL mode, reinstall a very old Cyanogen Operating System (Android 6) that will allow for OEM Unlock  (bootloader modification),  then once Unlocked we can proceed to apply the Oreo Installation files.

Some Nasty Stuff
The technique has several risks and annoyances

- If it goes wrong you could completely brick your phone and recovery may be impossible.  You are warned!

- The Qualcomm programs you need to install on the PC to force this reprogramming are old and don't play well with Windows 10 secure boot or signed driver standards.  So you have to temporarily make your windows installation less secure, and this could bugger up your Windows if you don't know what you are doing!

Procedure Then
This document lists the entire procedure without reference to any other.

Pre Requisite
Internet connection to download upto 3GB of code
A windows 10 computer with Admin rights and access to the BIOS

Windows 10 test Mode
bcdedit /set testsigning on

Disable Secure Boot (in BIOS)

Install Android Debug Bridge and Fastboot
search for  Windows

- Test that your connection works.  From an admin command line the fastboot devices command must return something when your phone is connected and running in fastboot mode

- To get the phone to fastboot mode, power off phone, then press volume up button and power on phone

Install Qualcomm programs

Install Qualcomm 9008 Drivers
Qualcomm QD Loader Driver 

Install Qualcomm Tools Suite

Qualcomm Product Support Tool

Enter Qualcom EDL mode on phone
Power off phone
Hold Volume Up and Down Buttons together
Power On phone until you feel a vibration
Release all Buttons
Screen should be blank.  If not you did it wrong and try again

Now connect phone to your PC

Download Cyanogen 13.1 for Swift

Use this link to download the .zip and extract it into a directory  ( I still use winrar!!)

Use Qualcomm Flash Image Loader

C:\Program Files (x86)\Qualcomm\QPST\bin\qfil.exe

When connected to the Phone the port must show as 9008

If not  then via Windows Device Manager,  manually update the driver to use the 9008 driver which I installed into

C:\Program Files (x86)\QUALCOMM Incorporated\Qualcomm USB Drivers For Windows\DriverPackage\Qualcomm

Now let's flash like this:

- select build type flat
- select Programmer Path   prog_emmc_firehose_x50_signed_lite.mbn

- In the Download screen , on the Load XML... button select programs from the unpacked Cyanogen .zip file

then second

Press Download

For me this process took ages, with lots of worrying messages from the program saying it was going rather slowly.   I tried not to panic, went for coffee, and just let it complete.

Backlevel OS to CyanogenMod

The result of this flashing is that now Android 6.0 is installed.  If you got this far the remainder is going to be easy.

OEM unlock at OS

First become a developer mode by clicking on Kernel version multiple times, then go into the settings, Developer Options and the necessary /OEM unlocking/ tab is visible.  Wahoo.

Install TWRP

Android has a partition for a recovery program and you will install the best and most sophisticated one called TWRP

First download it using the above links and place into the same directory as your fastboot.exe

Restart your Phone into Fastboot Mode (power off, press hold volume up, power on)

Use the fastboot command to load the twrp latest version into the recovery partition of your phone.

fastboot flash recovery twrp.img

So if you had tried this with a locked bootloader the PC would send the code and the Phone would reject the write.

Download new OS to PC

Download this 1GB .zip file that contain Oreo 81 for Swift 2 and place where your adb.exe file is located

ADB sideload new OS

You need to first boot into Recovery Mode.  I do this by going to Fastboot mode then using the volume up and down then power button to select Recovery mode from the fastboot screen at which point TWRP boots

Now on the phone under advanced, select ADB server

Now on the PC we will send the new OS to the Phone and install it using the adb sideload command

adb sideload

Now reboot the system  and the 8.1 customisation process starts

Go thru Setup

Last min customisation

Android Pixel Launcher Install

Execute URL on the phone to download then install APK file and then select it for use from settings, search Home.


Remove Qualcomm programs

Enable Signature Verification
bcdedit /set testsigning off

Put back Win 10 secure Boot
In the BIOS

And So

Above you will see that WileyFox is now really at Android level 8.1   I am now going to gift this phone away, since it was to be a present and I want the future owner to have the best user experience which includes a better OS and the Google Pixel Launcher.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Sunday Sermon: In Tounges

In Tounges

This video has officially made my day.  I hope it brings joy and very possibly hilarity to you also.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Technical Support in 2018

This week Marcus and Agata have had occasion to use 3 technical support channels.  As a warning this post contains swearing, in the context of my stress level I feel it is appropriate.

To set the scene on the Marcus Technical Support scoring system  

 -1 to -9 From Good to Bloody Excellent
0  Neutral
1 - 9   from S**t to Unbelievably S**t

Fraudland Revenue, score  8
Let's start with a curve-ball.  It was actually fraud, not so much support.

- I got a call from +44 1253 670 005
- A man with a thick Indian accent, said they were from the Inland Revenue
- Unusually they did not ask for any details to confirm my Identity, no NI number,  or UTF
- But apparently I am due a refund
- All I would need to do is give them some bank information

Let's just say it did not end well  (for them).  And for a laugh you are welcome to call this number, where you too can have a nice chat.

WileyFox, scores  6
WileyFox is a budget Smartphone maker who initially produced an amazing set of phones with Cyanogen installed.  Then later in 2017 the company went into administration but is reborn in 2018 with new financing.

I bought 3 WileyFox phones and I wanted to know why my last phone that I wanted to configure to gift away, was not upgraded to Android Oreo 8.1

About 4 months prior there had been official word that the upgrade was coming and the upgrade actually started 2 months ago, with an initial blip of some Oreo power drain issue.

But during the last month this has apparently been corrected and all new phones available from the website are at Oreo 8.1

- I spent 65 minutes on the Web Chat to Wileyfox.  Ironically it is called Care  (when it might rather be more accurately called DontCare or perhaps DonKnow )
- The person I spoke to (Kenneth) knew absolutely nothing and took over 10 minutes to answer the most simple question
- His initial answer was 'just to wait'  it is coming
- I asked how long for, and literally after 10 minutes later he just repeated 'it is coming'
- After 60 minutes I asked to complain and they took my details
- 2 days later I got a suggestion via email.  It did not work
- I replied and I got a 2nd nonsensical / illogical suggestion which I tried anyway, that did not work either

- As a result I took over 6 hours to research away to crack the phone lock, found a possible way, and at the risk of permanently bricking my phone managed a manual upgrade

- I will publish the technical details shortly

- In the interim, no further word from Wiley Fox, presumably they don't give a s**t

Samsung,  scores 3
Agata and Marcus visited a Samsung flagship store in Warsaw to ask about compatibility between Apple iPhone and Samsung Gear IconX 2018 headphones

- We decided to check online, because we could not find any App that the Warsaw store sales lady referred us to
- There is an online WebChat
- Initially it uses some sort of Computer Answering system.  It was very difficult to get thru to a human operator, the Webchat kept telling me to do other things, despite that I types in multiple times 'Icon X 2018 problem' et al.
- Finally I got thru to a real person Srivinas K
- Srivinas K initially told me to download the /Gear Manager/ application from the Apple Store
- The next solution, without apology, since the /Gear Manager/ Apple app has never existed was to use the Samsung Galaxy Watch App
- I loaded the App, and to no great surprise this only allows configuration of the Watch, not the headphones
- I was passed to the Supervisor
- He said /Samsung Gear Manager/ for Apple used to exist, but it has been withdrawn to allow for better functionality
- So we confirmed that today there is no App - YES
- But he was still adamant that the App used to exist
- I pointed out that Google knows nothing ever about an Apple App that from Samsung that would control the Icon X 2018 headphones, and multiple reviews actually comment that it does not exist and this is a major failing   (found this as he was answering so slowly)
- He then said I could print out a transcript of the call after closing chat window.
- Due to not being born yesterday, I had to make a lot of screenshots, because the chat window may not be resized.

- I clicked the X and guess what, no transcript could be sent to me or printed

So the facts are

- For the Gear Icon X 2018 headphones
- There has never been any official Samsung app on the Applestore
- Nor any third party app
- You can connect via regular Bluetooth, but all the fancy facilities are then lost  (Ambient sound, Fitness tracking, audio prompt control)
- It seems you must control the better features via an Android phone, and then the best you can do is then Pair the IconX 2018 as a regular wireless headset.

Three UK   -6  (the winner by far)
Our household has multiple Three mobile phone SIMS.  2 contracts  expire soon and I wanted to know something about Data use of phones whilst abroad, and contract renewals.

The initial sales guy made some errors regarding Data contracts, but this was corrected by Customer Service who did some checking.

- Three are still the only UK supplier to have a truly unlimited Data Plan  (it does not slow down after you use a few GB)
- Besides unlimited there are 30GB and 100 GB monthly plans
- Abroad in Feel at home destinations including Europe and Americas I can use 13 GB per month
- I can also call local country numbers and UK numbers without charge (upto my plan minutes)
- If I am in Europe for more than 120 days continuously, data will continue, but I will be charged at an astronomical rate, and there is no way to stop this, i.e. the data can't be capped so as not to incur a charge say on day 121 that I download 1GB of data
- Once you return to the UK the 120 day rule resets, so you could arrive Heathrow, logon, and then fly out again for another 120 days to Europe for example
- Three only offers 2 year subscription plans for phones with SIMS,  the 18 month plan is no more
- You can only request to cancel or change a contract when it has less than 1 month to expiry

In My Day
- Technical support knew something about their products
- If you were wrong, you would say that you were wrong
- If Entry Level support knew nothing about your issue, the answer was not to fob you off, but to follow a procedure ending in a higher level support.  This continued until your problem was resolved
- Normally there is a ticketing system so that problems that can not instantly be solved can be responded to over time for resolution

And so
The clear winner is the UK Telecommunications company Three, who initially got something wrong, but when passed to a more knowledgeable department took the time to do more research and get things right.

Samsung gave me wrong answers, then compounded the problem when the supervisor made things worse, culminating in a false promise to enable me to have the call transcript sent to me.

Meanwhile WileyFox initially kept me on a Webchat for over 60 minutes, to somebody who knew absolutely nothing about the product.   In further communications with the supervisor by email, nothing was resolved and there is no follow up to date

Friday, August 24, 2018

Which Version of the Truth

Marcus would never claim to be an expert on Politics, but when it comes to Logic, or for that matter Bullies I have a wealth of experience.

Sooner or later in your career you may be working alongside a co-worker or worse for a manager who is a Bully.  Going up against such a person rarely succeeds, but looking back on events from my own personal experience,  though you might lose the fight, you can say that you did the right thing, and if enough of you do the same, the Bully can be removed.

I know that you know that I know
One of the worst aspects of prolonged Bullying is that the Bully can systematically lie,   you know that he lies, and worst, he knows that you know, and your inaction, or subservience, or the lies your are forced under coercion are what /gets them off/.

The Benevolent Dictator Argument / Ploy
One classic Bully tactic is to claim that "I have brought you great prosperity" or "without me, you would be poor".  Any older British person will recognise and reject this.  Britain used to be a Colonial power, and a common argument, now disgraced is:  Without our rule your country would be nothing, simply poor and backward.  The simple refutation is twofold:  First, it is not just about wealth, but well-being and happiness.   You could be financially better off but the whole country could be miserable and downtrodden.  Second, and most importantly, even if it could be shown that every single person in the Colony was better off under Colonialism, it does not matter,  the country needs a free and open Society, and forced rule by a Colonial master, or a Dictator is not freedom,  it is merely living under tyranny.

And So Back to Politics


This week in America as seen some shocking revelations.  Only you can decide if this represents

Truth that isn't Truth

Alternative Facts

Fake News

Or perhaps the actions of a Bully with no regard for the truth

Whatever you decide I urge you to be informed and have an opinion.  Why?  Because here in Europe, American actions have a dramatic effect on our wellbeing.  Just ask Turkey.

3 Versions

If You Can't Cope

If the content here is too painful then you can instead relax to the humour of Sarah Kendall, here talking about lying