Thursday, October 31, 2019

Trail Marathon Training Day #1

Marcus, Agata and Tuula are now in formal training for our November trail marathon.

Every day we will be running, and I intend to go for a programme of steadily increasing distance, hopefully at least +1km every day.

Wednesday was our first day of training and despite the 2 degrees climate we got out and about.  Very gentle pace.

All About The Training

Marcus thought about what makes for good training.  First we can set the scene that all of us can quite easily run a trail marathon, in awful conditions mud/rain/cold.  The desire is not just to finish, but finish well, and finish using a fitness level so that if we had to perform the same activity the next day, or every day following, it should be no problem.

Here then are my training tips for those wanting to hone their technique

- Train with a friend.  
Doing it solo is just soul destroying.  Not for Marcus anyway

- Music is your friend too.  Agata and Marcus will train together but we'll most likely be listening to music or a good book.  Something exciting.  Marcus' current favourite is Peter James.

- Every day
You can have an off or illness day, but you yourself will know if you excused yourself when you should instead have just gotten out there

- Temperature and Clothing
Wearing too many or too few clothes has a dramatic effect on performance.  On my first run today despite the 2 degrees C I was sweltering.  Tomorrow I will be better prepared.

Also, closer to the event you need to run in exactly your race clothes and carrying exactly race loads.  Again this makes for a huge difference!  If the rules say carry 1.5 litres of water and a waterproof,  make sure representative training runs do so, with the race bottle and the race jacket.

- Shoes for
You need to run with shoes allowing for temperature  (hot cold), conditions  (wet, dry, muddy, torrential).   No single running shoes will cover everything.  I'd say a dry shoe, a waterproof wet shoe and a mud shoe.  Practise running in all of these and select the shoe on the day.

- Blisters
For something as short as a 42.1km marathon I'd take the clothing and especially shoes and make sure they are good for the full distance via training without causing blisters.  It's a paranoid step, but failing to make it because you have the wrong shoes (equipment failure) is just heartbreaking.  Don't do it

- Check the Stats
Agata and Marcus use Garmin Connect, but you might use Strava.  Whatever your watch is recording, sit down and actually look at the data.   What was your pace, your min and max heart rates, how many minutes do you pause for when you eat and drink?   Your metrics are there to see, check them!

So Then
You might indeed be a naturally talented runner.  But even you will benefit from training and developing your technique to match the upcoming race.

Having a focus and a goal, in this case a specific Trail race to aim for is not just an isolated target in itself.  In doing so you'll also eat and sleep more healthily to match your improved training plan.   It might slide you into a healthier lifestyle that after an event you might think ... you know what, I like how I'm feeling now, maybe I should make this positive change and set it as my daily norm.   Keep training and improving, because nothing is so rewarding as making real measured progress after a determined effort.  Every runner and athlete will tell you that.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Healthy Diet, Healthier Body, Healthy Planet

I thought I would point readers and friends to a recent Guardian Article on Healthy Diets

Marcus and Agata restrict the foods we eat.  We acknowledge that some foods we have eaten earlier in our lives, say as children, taste delicious to us.

However some of these childhood foods present what we now judge to be an unacceptably high burden of cost to the enviroment, whilst others are made from the suffering of animals.   Animals which are reared purely for the purposes of food production to humans.

Just one easy statistic

One kg of lentils uses about 50 litres of Water

One kg of red meat requires between 5000 to 20,000 litres of Water.

I know, it's just unbelievable.  But please Google it and don't take my word for it.

We restrict our diets in part based on ethics and economy, which turns out to be healthier since they are normally lentil based.  Plant based diets are so much kinder to the environment.

I think it comes down to this:

We choose to go without some things that we like and want very much because of the payoff that it gives us both emotionally, philosophically and morally.  In this connection I urge you to watch the following wonderful video

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Our BREXIT Meltdown

I would notice with a combination of sadness, anger and horror that further monies are being frittered away in pursuit of BREXIT.  The latest is the destruction of the 50p coins celebrating the October 31st departure.

Something that is now agreed to be cancelled in part due to the EU's Flextension

Probably Boris is not scrutinising this article, but Dear Boris, Marcus and Agata have had enough.   We are implementing what Marcus would call the Douglas Adams, Hitchhikers Mice and Dolphin Plan.  

This is of course:  To shut up UK shop and return when the UK has got its act together.

A targeted musical interlude now follows


Waiting for A Train


Monday, October 28, 2019

Mud Trail Training

You might ask what sort of mindset could possibly enjoy getting up at stupid-oclock, driving for an hour or more, and then going trail running in grass / mud / inclement conditions.

Well Marcus, Agata and our normal victim Tuula try to partake in this activity frequently.

I feel that fitness is something hard fought and easily lost.  In November we have a trail marathon in England. And this probably means all of

cold conditions

And so decent preparation and adaptation must be made


In the next few days Agata and Marcus will be running in an alternate forest close to home.   Our not so secret plan is to start easy and increase the distance by 1km each day.   Easy to talk, but lets see how we actually get on.

Update to follow

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Moving up to Android Version 10

Marcus had a nice technical surprise this month, a Smartphone Operating System upgrade to the very latest Android version 10.

To read why its rather significant read on ...

Dear Apple Users
Many dear friends fall under the category of Smug or sometimes proudly ignorant Apple iPhone users.  In return for investing higher (than Android sums of money) into the Apple ecosystem it is undeniable that Apple in return does whenever possible, launch the latest iOS smartphone operating system on all its recent phones

But to those in the Android world manufacturers have a different policy:

Buy own new phone.  The subtext is that we really just can't be bothered to port the latest Android release to your phone.

Project Treble

Treble creates a separation between the core OS and the Vendor additions so that the core OS can more easily be replaced.

For more technical details see this and this

Choosing OnePlus

- OnePlus is many things but I'd rate them as Enthusiast Android Phone manufacturers

- They have close links to Oppo

- They produce high specification phones at more modest prices than probably anybody else

- They thrive on user input and have a strong support culture rivalling if not exceeding Apple when it comes to software updates and bug fixes

- I'm using a March 2018 phone but I have the very latest OS build.

And so it was kind of expected that I'd have Android 10 soon-ish.  But to have it before Google  (er, the creators of Android) was not expected.  Of course it's technically a beta, but after a week I can say that everything is working.  Of course including the all important Gcam  aka Google Camera, which is important as Google Camera makes or breaks photography on your Android phone

In Summary

OnePlus continues to deliver me a great user experience.  The latest OS software arrives on time, in fact months and even a year ahead of many competitive vendors, thus giving me extra facilities and all important security patches right on time.

OnePlus' pricing is keen, as a rough guide about 50% ish percent of Apple.   I'm now on Android 10 and loving it, even the new full screen gestures for back, home, and tasks, instead of on screen buttons have been mastered.  Wahoo.


Saturday, October 26, 2019

Goodbye to eBlocker

I think the graphic says it all.    Whilst eBlocker is no more I thought I would review its capabilities in case friends can tell me what the replacement product might be.

These are the main options

For some time I had wanted to upgrade to the eBlocker Pro model (lifetime subscription).  This would have enabled the https option whereby connections are terminated onto the eBlocker device  (not your computer) and a separate https connection is made from eBlocker to your computer.

 Since our home IOT network consists of over 100 things there are multiple pages of devices listed

The product had German routes so the Languages reflect that

One of the best features was that IP anonymisation could be performed on a device by device basis and using Tor or VPN.  We have a separate VPN server running locally so could point to that or use a specific VPN configuration local to eBlocker.

Farewell eBlocker
We first saw eBlocker at CES and have been using it on a Raspberry Pi platform for over 1 year now.  The product was mostly sold as a hardware device including a software subscription.   If you were an enthusiast (like us) we paid for just the software alone to install onto a Pi.

I guess at the end of the day they just did not have enough sales to make the product fly.  Desole.

Friday, October 25, 2019

End oF Term: QNAP TS-853A

You know, Marcus is genuinely sad as I shutdown my QNAP TS-853A for the very last time.   This is a NAS i.e. Network Attached Storage.

This is my end of term review

Why NAS?
For any serious IT professional, and for most people who have significant data storage (at home), a Network Attached Storage makes sense.

These days many people have laptops as their primary computing device, in other words the Desktop or Server they might have considered their primary storage device is no more.

So now the sensible place to put your home's significant shared data is on a NAS.

And for larger datasets anybody living in the Country, or in a country with pathetic Internet Speeds  (UK and USA to name two) will rely even more heavily on Onsite rather than Cloud storage.

Not the Same As a Homegrown Server with Disks

Given the puny CPU's and modest memory installed in nearly every NAS, most IT enthusiasts mistakenly first think they might just build a hands off server with a large disk or set of disks.  That would be a NAS right?

No, that would be a terrible mistake.

The design point of a NAS for home use is a near silent, just always works, hands off data server.  It should be: configure and forget.  Sure there will be NAS OS upgrades now and then, but they are much less troublesome than macOS or Windows.

The NAS is smaller and silent; and has facilities like scheduled start and stop, something that most PC's just can't do.

The only question most experienced users have to make is to select QNAP or Synology.  For these two established vendors have the most beautiful and capable Operating Systems, combined with a comprehensive app store where a whole host of applications can be downloaded.

The TS-853A

- I have owned this unit for just over 2 years now.  It never crashed not even once.

- It has reliably provided about 15TB of RAID5 storage.  This means if any single disk fails then I can replace it with one of the same size and QNAP can rebuild that disk from the other disks and parity information stored.

Oh, and should a disk fail the new disk is inserted and the rebuild continues whilst the unit is again functional immediately.  (It might be slower to operate during the rebuild, but it's still functional)

- The machine had 8 SATA-III bays and I used 5 x 4TB spinning disks and 3 SSD Cache disks.

- In 2019 you can use the included Qtier standard product to take one or more SSD's and have them as a read write cache.  The data is automatically flushed to spinning disk in idle periods or in the case of SSD cache full

- There are 4, Gigabit Ethernet ports any my configuration was 1) IOT Network   2) Secure Network  3+4) Aggregated to 2 Gb/second to talk more quickly to my secure workstation

That 2Gb aggregated i.e. 200 MB/second Network connection matched the transfer rate of the spinning disk in the Workstation, so backups could be made to the NAS at full speed.  (That is a full Linux DVD distribution of 5GB copied in 25 seconds)

Broad Range

QNAP and Synology would love you to use your NAS for things I think a NAS is not suited to.  Including Virtualisation, Email server,  Photo Repository and Data Repository visible from the Internet.  For all those named things I'd use a dedicated server.  

Also I did not directly attach this device to a TV's HDMI port although it has 2 x HDMI sockets and a remote control especially for such activities

So what did I find so fantastic about this server?

- Reliability and Convenience,  obviously!
- Large 15 TB file store
- Configurable storage protection including RAID 0,1,5,6,10
- Accessible via native Apple or Microsoft Networking
- iTunes Server
- TimeMachine Server
- Multimedia DLNA server  (to feed TV)
- Able to write to my Syslog server
- Able to participate in my Mikrotik Dude SNMP management server
- Fine Grained Security allowing, just one example, binding of particular services to particular Network adapters  e.g. 1 IOT network cannot see data files, on public media
- Ability to Snapshot and Rollback disk volumes
- Cloud Sync Apps to push your data to your Cloud Data subscriptions ( In Switzerland with fast Internet I cloud Syn'd over 10TB of data)
- rsync, ssh, telnet configurable command line access
- Able to connect fast USB3 hard disks for offsite backup

I hope you can understand why I am sorry to see this baby go.

I am convinced that my outgoing QNAP TS-853A has many years of good service ahead and I hope the new owner has as much fun and is able to rely on its solid performance and reliability as much as I have.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Proudly Taking the Jab

In Alcester in October it is quite pretty during the mornings, especially here up at the Castle

The perils of living in England though do include an incredibly high moisture content

Oh, and of course entirely too many energetic Spiders, well, in the countryside.

But with the weather turning cold, and the days getting (even) wetter  (!!) it is certainly time for the Marcus and Agata Flu Jab

Who Qualifies for Free?

Almost everybody of a young or old age will get the vaccine for free.

Special Notes for Athletes
It's well know that this category is especially susceptible to Asthma.  Please read this. Unfortunately Asthmatics are not on the above freebie list.  Well my Doctor thought so anyway :-(

Warwickshire Advertising

Our Options

We Googled the options and decided on one of the above.  It cost just over 10 GBP each and was impressively painless and quick.  Even Marcus with his ultra low blood pressure was unphased by the jabbing.

And so we are trusting in the science that we will be protected from the major Flu strands.   Thank goodness we are not (like some) relying on mumbo jumbo, or luck.


NHS Flue Vaccine Overview
About Vaccines and Anti Vaxers
Vaccines contains BrilliantScience

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Serenity, The End of An Era, and Calm

Increasingly Complete

As most friends know Marcus is always philosophical, often sentimental, and perhaps overly reflective.  On what has become, what could have become and what has gone before.

As the above video suggests, the improvements and tailoring to our house in England are now substantially complete.

Many of us have goals in life, and perhaps owning your own home is something that those of us living in the first or zero world can aim for.

I think however the key for all of us is setting achievable goals.  From Marcus' perspective though I am not thinking ... and now what much greater challenge is next.

No, indeed, an almost perfect home can be that foundation and place of safety that one can rely on when all around you  (and I don't just mean BREXIT) is disintegrating.

So I hope the following musical selection reflects that Marcus and Agata great mood for the rest of the week & beyond


This is Love

The Time is Now


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

2 Factor Authentication Server Startup

Hopefully you have been following my Workstation Migration from a Corsair case to a much more exciting and beautiful Lian Li tower for my 3 year old personal workstation.

If not please see

The new case is both beautiful and slightly smaller than the outgoing Corsair 540 Case.  It fits into our tiny home in England so nicely :-)

Surprise 2 Factor

Being a paranoid android I also thought to setup 2 factor authentication.

Essentially it's now impossible to turn the computer on without first using a Smartphone Application.  The exact sequence is:

01 Poweron Peripherals
Use Alexa to turn on the Tasmota powered SmartSwitch.  This turns on power to all peripherals including the screens, USB hub, scanner etc.

Oh, and also more importantly it also applies Mains power to the Computer's power supply.

This can also be done via a Smarthone App, but a voice command is easier

02 Power Computer

The PowerOn button on the computer is de-activated so the only way to power on the server is via the Smartphone App, or since an Alexa Skill is installed via a voice Command.

03 Vacation Security
When we are away for extended times we disable the Alexa skills so that you'd actually need the Smartphone to switch on the computer and that will not be around, it will be on vacation with me.

04 Boot Credentials
Obviously when the system is booted then you need to enter your Userid and Password credentials

A Diagram

Use this diagram in conjunction with the next video to understand how the system works

Remote Control
Since machine start and controlled shutdown can now be performed using my Internet connected Smartphone from anywhere; it is also theoretically possible to open up a TCP and UDP tunnel so that remote logins to this server can be made from outside on the Internet.

This is actually not implemented for security reasons, but in principle it would involve opening up a particular port from our Boundary Fibre firewall then thru 3 more  firewalls so that you can connect to the Microsoft Remote Desktop Client listener port

The Video

I tried to explain all of this in the above video

It's all working faultlessly.  I love it when a plan comes together :-)

Monday, October 21, 2019

Finding Computer Products With Digitec

It has been 2 months since I visited, but more importantly 2 years since I could mail order anything from the Swiss Electronics shop called Digitec.

However I still use them on a daily basis in a useful fashion and I shall explain why.

Digitec is a leading Swiss Computer retailer and they have a truly excellent website.  It's great for finding out what products are available in the marketplace.

It helps to sign up with them because they have an English language option on the website which is better than using the Google Chrome auto-translate to English feature.

Two Examples:

Q: What 1TB+ NVME M.2 Disks are available

Q: The 3.5" Hard Disks of 10TB or Greater, with 7200 RPM speed and SATA III interface, sorted by lowest cost first

You can play with the filters to further refine your selection to pinpoint what you actually want and afford.   In Switzerland they are to me the cheapest, high volume supplier.  And as a quick guide divide prices by 1.2 to convert from CHF to GBP and see how much the Swiss pay for their hardware.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Alcester Food Festival Autumn 2019

The many came to eat and buy, but Marcus and Agata came predominantly to clean.  We are part of Litter Free Alcester and the food festival is one of the events that we lend a hand to keep tidy.

Like last year we were on towards the end of the day.  This caused a minor issue in that we had time for a 40 km cycle but no time to eat afterwards.  So after a quick change into non cycling clothes we walked the 3km to Alcester town arriving extremely hungry!

Still, this is a food festival after all, so we did have a fine excuse to tuck into some of our favourite but slightly less than healthiest foods.

We exited at the close of the jambouree and I would comment that

- The weather was dry and the temperature was at least 13 degrees C.  Wahoo!

- It was actually quite tidy compared to previous years

- Most of my initial work was removing Cigarette butts from the pavements.  So many of them that I lost count

- We bumped into many Alcester friends on the day.  Because this is what happens when you live in a small club and are members of associations like Run Alcester.

Some pictures of the day

Good weather and phenomenal turnout

Alcester and Litter Free Alcester ... thanks for a great day out.