Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Breakfast Views and Travelling

It is a busy day of travelling for Marcus and Agata today.  But there is just time to relax to a familiar though recently absent view, from our breakfast table.

Indeed this is not England

In fact the weather in our old home in Lausanne continues to be amazing, although a little hot for Marcus' tastes.  The nice thing about this area regardless of temperature is that although there is rain here, it tends to be short and concentrated.  This leaves a very high DDPM  (Dry Days Per Month) count, which as any cyclist knows is a very important statistic.

Temperatures here are routinely over 20 Degrees C even at midnight, whilst in Winter you can expect Snow, certainly in the mountains around with temperatures down to about 3 degrees C  on average in town

I miss that [dry] weather :-(

But for now it is time to say a sad farewell to dear friends and continue travelling.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

A National Disgrace Indeed

Whilst Marcus and Agata are far away from our traditional home base it seems we can't escape 2 topics Brexit and American Politics, both as ever represented in detail over at Mr Twitter.

Today I was reading another instalment of comments critical to the current Major of London.  Right here and here

I am pleased to see that there was some critical & humorous responses

Despite the original hateful sentiment I would hold out my hands and offer my heart to the many kind and thoughtful Americans who not only do not hate us British but are somewhat traumatised by current political statements and actions emanating from the United States of America today.

Where is the Love?

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Now That is a View

This has been the view from my bedroom window for some days now.  It is relevant because in our new home in England we apparently have an exceptional view from our house.  It is something like this

Why am I talking about this with such ferocity?

Well, when new and established friends visit us today in our home in England one of the most common remarks is:  

Wow, what a fantastic view

My response has been and continues to be:  Sorry, not really.  And then they look confused.  To all these friends who are reading this.  Let me explain.

This is the sort of view that I have become accustomed to for the last 15 years plus from the balcony window and in the environ:

So I  would humbly like to suggest that the views are not comparable, and dear reader you can also make your own judgement too.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

The Short Meaningful VideoByte

Subtitle: Islands of Knowledge

My idea is a simple one.  You start off with a subscription to a frequent, reliable information source.  In my case I'll highlight the Youtube Channel: Microsoft Developer

You need to choose a channel and a distribution medium that is short and to the point, because otherwise at best you might sit thru the first longwinded lectures but soon you will probably just /not bother at all/

You watch this short (in my case) via Video Bytes.  You get informed and longer turn learn something about the subject.  This expands your total knowledge of this area  (in my case Computers) and it all helps to bring up your current expertise and hopefully understanding.

From the  MS Developer library

What is the difference between Cmd, Powershell and Bash?

Childhood Dreams and Aspirations

Trevor Noah: Childhood Dreams

In 2019 we seem to live in a world of entitlement from all sides rich and poor.

And so it was refreshing to hear a 90 second between the scenes soundbite from Trevor Noah.  This South African Comedian has earnt my respect for so many years now.

If you had to ask me who would do a better job of leading the Americn public, Trevor or the current self proclaimed 'Extremely Stable Genius' I know who I would vote for.

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
Trevor Noah 2018

Friday, June 14, 2019

Shopping Locally at Budgens

It is quite amusing to Marcus that in the UK the number of Post Offices especially in rural areas has been thinned to almost  zero.

Well amusing is perhaps completely the wrong adjective.

Because in 2019 as the Internet pervades practically all aspects of our shopping experiences, the number of goods posted or delivered to you has risen exponentially.  And there has been a steady rise in the need to use the Post Office (or similar) to return goods too.  In 2019 we make frequent use of the Post Office.

The Opening Hours

And so yes, you will notice that Budgens is open from 07.00 to 22.00 and even open on Sunday 10.00 to 16.00  And guess what this means the Post Office is open then too.  Compare that with the opening hours for the local Alcester Post Office.  There is no comparison!

So Budgens is now our firm favourite for all things Post Office.

Ying and Yang

 Like any Supermarket they have special Offers

 People Chugging outside asking for money

 And for Budgens Bidford a Car Park that has never been found to be full.

So despite the average prices I feel inclined to throw our local Bidford branch of Budgens business, based soley on their unbelievably good Post Office Service.

In Conclusion Budgens is now our default Post Office to all things postal and we make it our thankful local choice for top up shopping.  These are the sort of compromises you make whilst living in the UK countryside.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Xtrons PB78ATTIP Replacement Radio for Audi TT 8J

Video review of Audi TT 8J Stereo Replacement

Whilst the video review above explains the many wonderful features of the replacement stereo that we have installed into our Audi TT, generation 8J, I suggest that you read on.

Some Background
Going back only say 5 years we lived in a time when many Auto manufacturers sought to really extract a pound of flesh or in our case almost 2K GBP  (2000 British pounds equivalent!!) for a mere car stereo.

How could they charge so much?

Well first; the unit must fit into a specially sized double DIN hole in the dashboard.  Also it must precisely interface with the Control Area Network BUS CANBUS electronics to be compatible with steering wheel controls and other gizmos already present in the car.  So third party manufacturers have an uphill struggle to physically and then electronically make anything compatible.

We have stuck with out 5 year old, exorbitantly priced unit as long as we could, but continued our search for a replacement, and in particular one that has Internet connectivity

An Internet Stereo
Our dream, or perhaps desire is to have a Car stereo unit with full Internet connectivity via some 4G connection and applications on the radio, example Google Maps, or say Spotify that could take full advantage of this.

Xtrons PB78ATTIP

Xtrons is a Hong Kong company which has a British sales office and the TTIP unit is the third radio we have bought from them because there have been extensive compatibility problems the previous 2 different units and even this unit until somebody other than Xtrons solved the problem.

This unit fits perfectly into an Audi TT, generation 8J car and it is a better electrical fit if you have the BOSE amplifier installed  (otherwise you need to order some extra electronics)

Getting Past the Bug
The initial 2 different radios ordered and even this one came with a fatal flaw.

Whilst the radio worked, every Android application apart from the supplied radio app was unable to play any sound.  It took Xtrons 3 months not to solve the problem but eventually the Audi TT user forum came to the rescue with a workaround and this is it:

Enter the Factory Menu (Google 3 digit password) and set the canbus to 56.  After rebooting your Android applications that you might install e.g. Youtube or VLC will be able to output sound to the Bose Amplifier and thence to your speakers.

Note that whatever the canbus setting, the volume control and radio controls on the steering wheel do not work with the TTIP model.  The chances of Xtrons ever fixing this are zero.  

Some Photos

 Connectors on the back

SD card slot #1

 I have a 64GB micro SD card full of audio and video here

 In the factory menu other low level changes can be made

Example of an Android application that I installed: Audible

Remind me, What is this Again

So this is a physically plug compatible replacement for any Audi TT 8J series that will swap out your dumb radio and install a Radio with a DVD player  (which I will never use!) and running Android 8 on an 8 core processor with 4GB RAM on which you can install any Android application.

And, as I'll show you we now have full Internet connectivity not via a mobile phone Hotspot but by a permanent dongle.

The ability to have a full time Internet connection enables us  to Google Maps for navigation, and that is aware via the Internet of traffic issues and suggests auto rerouting and a host of features.  Recently Maps added speed cameras, so now that is just another standard facility that has become available.  It's wonderful!

Getting an Internet Connection

A first attempt can be made via a mobile Hotspot initiated from your Smartphone.  Here on entry to the car you switch on your Hotspot, which broadcasts a WiFi SSID and you use the Xtrons WiFi to connect to that.

This works but turns out to be a little clumsy.  Every time you enter and exit the car you need to turn on your Hotspot.  It would be much better with an independent connection.
Using a Huawei K3772 plugged into one of the 3 USB ports, the Android Operating System will recognise the Internet Dongle and automatically use it as an Internet Source.

In the UK, as great fans of the 3 Network we ordered the 24 month validity, 24GB SIM for 60 GBP

User Report +2 Months

I have waited almost 2 months to make this report so I can accurately access how wonderful or not the unit is.  Here we go:

+ It runs Android 8.1.  They do a new Android 9.0 unit but it seems to have inferior hardware so I'm not sure it would be superior  (screen resolution is better apparently, but hey, this unit is fine!)

+ I can install any Android app I would like and use it as normal.  This is the #1 sellout feature and it is awesome.  I mean Audible, Spotify, Youtube, VLC, BBC iPlayer.  Without this feature the unit would be just meh.

+ We use Google Maps for navigation and programmed the NAVI hardware button to jump straight there

+ You can change the Android Launcher to whatever you want but we kept the supplied launcher and put all the apps we use regally on the first page

+ We use VLC to play movies and Audio that we put onto the micro SD card.  Movies wont play whilst in motion unless you change something in factory settings.  Now my passenger can watch a movie if they want to at any time.  Movies and Audio plays faultlessly without stuttering and look great on the display.

+ There is phone integration and a microphone on the top left of the unit

+ EasyConnect is some software that will mirror the phone display and to get the sound we use a concurrent Bluetooth connection.   Thought this sounds good in practise but we don't use it much.  Instead since the radio has its own Internet and Android Play store connection we'd rather install the app we might mirror directly onto the radio

+ A2DP application allows you to send any Smartphone output to the Xtrons amplifier and speakers

+ As a security measure we created a separate Gmail userid and hence playstore login.  This is because if you had logged onto the Xtrons using your principal Gmail userid, then if your car is stolen the thief will have access to all your emails. That would be disasterous.  Remember you just power the unit on and there is no userid and password to logon.   

--- Glitches.  Many times applications crash, or are somewhat slow, or stutter.  This could be a slow Internet connection, but it's more likely some Android gremlin and Xtrons does not send out firmware updates  (ever to our knowledge).  So when you get the unit, the OS you get is the one you will be living with for all time.

Despite some glitches in operational speed we really love this unit.  Its cost is about 250 GBP and I rate this as a wonderful bargain especially when I consider Audi made me pay almost 2000 GBP for the original radio, which had DVD based Satellite Navigation, but not even an Auxiliary Audio input connection.

We are most pleased and recommend this Xtrons PB78ATTIP unit to Audi TT,  8J owners.


Xtrons PB78ATTIP

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Some Quantum Computing Musings

The above video details Marvin  (The Paranoid Android). It's an example imagination of a future time when humankind has developed Artificial Intelligence sufficient to create a robot than can meaningfully (if rather grumpily) interact with us.

This post talks about Quantum Computing and Artificial Intelligence.  Today these two topics are often lumped together; because there is a notion that given an infinite amount of Computing power, that some say Quantum computing could provide, we could then be in a position to write computer programs that would simulate human behaviour and so transform the world.    So what exactly is Quantum Computing?   Read On.

Old Fart Credentials
I spent over a full year of my time on a Masters level Engineering course on a project focused on Artificial Intelligence  (AI) .  In those days  (and without explicitly dating it, because the Languages I disclose will) the push in Europe was to try and compete with the Japanese 5th Generation Computer Project.  In Essence the idea was that massive parallel computers and software constructions like Expert Systems might one day lead towards thinking machines. My 'Expert System' had some Lisp language underpinnings but was finally developed in Prolog.   The system was to react to failures in the UK Electrical Power Distribution system and advise Operations Departments so that they could take further action.

And when I left it, all was going well.  But the Japanese initiative fizzled out and the moniker of Expert systems too.  

So when I hear about Quantum Computing and links to AI believe me I am bloody sceptical!

Bottom Up Analysis
To give my judgement on a current Computer Paradigm I like to understand things from the base up.   The fact that the rate of increase in computer power based on traditional Von Neumann is slowing slowing, and that that Quantum Cubit powers are advancing don't mean much:  unless I actually understand what a Cubit is, what is Superposition, and also how exactly a Quantum computer is built and programmed.

So in this short post I'll cover that 

Some Philosophy

Computerphile: Turing Test

The Alan Turing test was a test whereby a human person is interacting with a remote computer using a series of written questions and answers.  The idea is that if the entity at the remote end is able to have a meaningful conversation with you, indistinguishable from a real human, the mindful enquirer for an extended period then it  (the thing, say a remote computer would pass the Turing test).

Alexa, Google Home, and maybe Siri & Cortana

In the last 2 years Marcus and Agata have seen and used and become part of the Community that uses and relies on Digital Assistants.   Every light in our new UK home is controlled via Alexa.  We have cameras and locks and motorised Blinds.  But, there is a big but.

- Although Alexa responds to my voice and answers questions, and controls hardware, this is impressive but not intelligence, and certainly not consciousness

- You can perform a thought experiment quite easily

- Alexa2 has perfect understanding of what I say and access to all the worlds information without error, plus some means to physically interact with the world

- Can we reasonably ask Alexa2 to 

Find a a cure to Cancer or Alzheimer?  No

Perform a complex medical Operation?  Yes

Solve our UK Energy Crisis?  No

Design new Electric Cars?  No

Neural Networks & Deep Learning

Here are 2 Educational videos that will actually explain something:

Deep Learning

Convolutional Neural Networks

At the end of this viewing I hope you understand that computers with access to enough data can analyse it to come to certain truths and perhaps then make decisions based on them.

Hands On

A good summary video including links to getting started yourself for free. Please also refer to this related web page

Artificial Intelligence (AI) including Philosophy

As an AI practitioner in 1984 I still remember and would point Quantum computing fanboys and fangirls to the 6 programs forming the

Reeth Lecture 1984 

This is 6, 30 minute lectures, i.e. 3 hours.  Not such a big ask right?  Please listen and discuss with a friend.

So What EXACTLY is a Quantum Computer

First you need to watch the entire video.  Then  start again and focus on

04.00 Explaining Superposition

07.20 What it is actually made from

From the above video:

The quantum computer is simulating an atom

It is controlled via Microwaves

It has to be supercooled to work.

It is extremely space inefficient.  How large would a 2 billion cubit Computer be.  Because a 2 billion transister computer chip can fit on my fingernail.

Existing Parallel Computer Architectures

Pi Parallel Compute at Cornell

750 Pi Parallel

Is there a Quantum / AI Future?

To Marcus here are the constant limiting factors that I have not seen any change in since 1980's

- Nobody has devised a computer program which by any reasonable definition thinks and learns and forms a sentient intelligence.

Until such time as programmer-kind does so it's irrelevant how much faster any computer Von Neumann or Quantum becomes

- I see that Qubit Architectures mean the number of parallel operations that are performed.  I can quite literally do that in software!   How many hundred or thousand program forks or a processes do you want me to run, on a single (non Quantum) computer?

- To me the Quantum computer current Achilles heel is that it is not miniaturised.    Even a small cubit computer takes up the size of an office.  A single complex Digital CPU can already contain 10 billion transistors.  Now there is the difference in packaging!

- Quantum computers need their internals to be  cooled to 0.015Kelvin, colder than Outer Space.   This design limits large scale implementation, oh, and also cost effectiveness

- Quantum  Computing advocates can project a bright future as the number of Qubits increases at the current exponential rate.  By why wouldn't it plateau just like for traditional Neumann computing?  Indeed if its based on Supercooled environments, then practically we'd have to put these computers in Space, and that's gone practically nowhere [In 1977 we experienced Star Wars and thought that this could be a near future. 40 years later we didn't even establish a base on our closest moon.  Pathetic!]

I give the current state, the Quantum State :-) of computing a low 1/10.  Must try harder [and deliver results within next 5 years] or you will join the Japanese 5th Gen Computing Project in the /did not go anywhere/ bin

Regarding AI: Today, as in 1980 Computer Power is not the issue.  It is the programming or design of a computer system with Consciousness.

Further Listening
Making Sense: Consciousness

John Searle: Minds and Brains
Quantum Programming

Some Algorithms

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Tuesday Sermon: I Don't Remember

Peter Gabriel: I Don't Remember

There were some raised voices in the Marcus and Agata household as Marcus battled with a suitcase.  But not just any suitcase, one that I recommended in December 2018 here

This then is a reflection upon modern complexity, and the failing memory that I associate with old age, my older age ...

[NOT] The Stupidity of Others
I may moan and complain about the incivility and failings of others but sadly it is not under my own control.  Conversely what really hurts is when my behaviour, or in this case memory / organisation / documentation is not upto scratch!  My own failing though can be addressed ...

Locked out of my own Suitcase :-(

 My new Carryon Case has a lock that is controlled from my Smartphone.  This is great until you find that 

  • This is a new Smartphone and you can't find the required application anywhere.  It is not on the Google Play Store
  • When you do eventually locate and install SKGLOCK you can't remember or locate the password and there is no reset ability.
I'm software locked out of my own suitcase!  Only in 2019, right :-(

What Failed

I might have thought that disconnecting the power source and shorting the terminals to the lock would have reset the system. But NO!  I even left it unpowered for over 30 minutes.  After reconnection it still knew about my custom Bluetooth name meaning that I knew my custom and currently unknown password was still in force.   Still buggered.

What Worked

Was remembering where I was likely to have stored the password and then using my mental decryption schema which I apply to my passwords  figuring out the password.  

Recovery Action

The recovery action is simple.  I use DokuWiki to store many information types.  Dokuwiki is a database of Information and I've talked about it many times, most recently here

What is being stored here is not of course the actual passwords.  Only meta information.  In other words UK home passwords are stored in this database on that system, replicated using that software.

So now I just need to make sure DokuWiki is regularly backed up  (it is daily) and that I remember first to use the search facility there when I forget where I have stored information.  Easy.

Learning Points

- Simplify you life and you will have much less to remember

- Store your secrets in a single or small number of predictable places.  I have updated my DokuWiki with a set of pointers to where these places are.  So now I just have to use the DokuWiki search option and it will tell me where to go and look.

- Today we all rely on our Smartphones for just about everything.  Make sure it is working well, in this case the SKGlock software  installed and configured. And do so well before you travel!

Monday, June 10, 2019

Nervous Race Preparation

Nervous Preparation

This Sunday, June 9th Marcus and Agata made a Race ready test of our running equipment for our forthcoming Ultra Race.

Well to be exact, I forgot the Safety kit (plasters, duct tape, foil blanket, mini Leatherman).  A Leatherman is for emergency surgery and duct tape is for emergency stick me back together.

But I digress.

The Nervousness I allude to in the video is that we compete in 1 week and we have had no opportunity to train either at altitude or on a mountainous terrain that we will shortly be experiencing.  Even the projected weather. at 25 degrees plus, but with some mountain sections still containing snow (!), is so very far removed from our moist, damp and wet England.

We had to Try

So on Sunday we made a small run to test the equipment and to a lesser degree our legs.   It all went well.

Should I or Shouldn't I?
I did venture to Agata that in what is now the week prior and traditional pre Race taper,  I , Marcus could instead go out for a 60 km night run.    Agata was not amused,  but of course I am still considering it.   The overall rule of thumb that I work to, is: that to run X, you should always do a test run, in full race kit of at least 0.7 X.   And of course, ideally, about a month before, not a few days.

Still thinking about this Monday night :-) ?