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.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Wherefore art thou 5G?

Pixel 4 Specs

Both Uncle Google and my personal favourite Oneplus have had October smartphone launches

And a very curious thing ...  phones without 5G cellphone support.

In the Oneplus case it's even more significant as their previous Oneplus 7 Pro iteration was available with 5G.

One might try to make the analogy of 3D Television.   I remember one year at CES when every flippin TV was 3D capable, and then a year later it began to wane until finally in 2019 it's dead as a dodo.

5G networking is in a slightly different category of course.  I don't regard it as a bad idea, just one, that principally because of coverage and range will be between difficult and impossible to implement within even a decade timescale. And then only in cities, because even planting Celltowers the necessary 500 metres (max) apart, can't work in the countryside if for no other reason that it needs an Internet backhaul, and that would come from where exactly?

Instead of rambling further I'd invite you to watch a recent MKBHD video that explains the current limitations all to clearly.   (For details of 4G categories please read my earlier article )

MKBHD talks 5G

Shortly I will be at home in a country  (not the UK!), where from my OnePlus smartphone, my 4G Internet Speed as reported by Speedtest exceeds 150 Megabytes/ Second. Take that 5G.


We need 6G says a man with great and unmatched wisdom

Friday, October 18, 2019

BREXIT In Our Time

Image may contain: 2 people

To be clear, I'd much rather the UK leaves the EU with a deal rather than no deal.  And since 11am on Thursday October 17 2019 there is now a credible chance of one.

Here is the 18 minute press conference

Boris makes a deal

If you live in the UK and only choose to listen to one single programme this month, let it be BREXITCAST ...

Brexitcast 17th October 2019

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Petwant PF-103 Connected Cat Feeder

Petwant PF-103 Cat Feeder

We are testing out cat feeders at the moment and our current recommendation is the Petwant PF-103

This is a sturdy, white plastic design that runs on mains power.  In our testing the Internet facilities did not work on batteries alone, but the programmed feeding still did.

You can get at least 4 kg of dry food into the easily removal inner hopper

There is a manual feeding button on top, and a plastic lid that closes and locks to prevent your kitty from pressing that button to get her own dinner.

What an Application :-(

You don't so much work with this application as endure it.  Basically it's a let down, but still you can use it to the best of its  ability

First you need to register at petwant.com, then download the App and login.   

Next you associate your PF-103 with your account.  Unfortunately you can only associate one device.   (We bought two hoping to give us a long kitty feeding time), but were astonished to find that only one device can be supported.

Once configured to your 2.4 Ghz wifi network you would setup details of your pet.  Again this assumes a single pet.  You can have multiple pets of course but the device does not distinguish who is feeding from it.

 The main screen of the App is where you define upto 4 feeding times and the number of 10 gram portions to dispense.   These will happen daily at the times indicated unless you deactivate it using the slider

You can record an audio greeting or several and this can be player prior to the feeding.   You could have a morning one saying: 'Hello kitty, breakfast time' and one in the evening announcing Dinner, etc.

On the video page you can take photographs or shoot a video from the remarkably clear and high resolution camera.  The media gets timestamped in the top right.

Next you can use the microphone on your phone to speak to your pet, since this unit has a speaker

Lastly you can listen to what your pet is saying since this unit has a microphone.

You can view photos and video taken via the app from this screen too


This is a pretty decent cat feeder with a large capacity for food.  I'd say at least 4kg.   You can pre-program a daily feeding and a matching announcement.   You can't trigger a video recording when motion is detected which is a shame.

You can make ad hoc photos and videos using the built in camera and talk and listen to your pet remotely.

The app is annoying but you learn to live with it.

Official Website

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Workstation Makeover Part 2

Makeover Part2 with Lian Li O11 Dynamic

Whilst a new workstation would be nice the best I can hope for with my current funds is a makeover of my existing Supermicro Motherboarded workstation case.

The current workstation uses an E-ATX motherboard and this large size severely limits the choice of a new case.  In the end after a lot of analysis of over 10 possible case designs I've gone for Lian Li O11 Dynamic.

This should not be confused with the all aluminium O11 case, and in fact though this is a steel case with some nice glass size panels. Its later design means it has some advantages over its more expensive brother.

 I paid about 125 GBP from Amazon (CCL computers) for this case.

 Like many mornings our neighbours cat came in to help.

Like a professional I had one bowl for screws from each machine.   Don't confuse the screws

On the left the new case which is oh so beautiful and on the right the outgoing Corsair 540 Air case.   In fact the Corsair case is only marginally larger but has 2 media bays, and if you need them then the Lian Li case is no good.  It has zero media bays.

This means saying goodbye to the BluRay drive and also the 4x2.5" Hard Disk caddy.  Both devices are not used these days since I backup and restore to USB/HardDisk not Optical, and 2.5" hard drives are not used here.

In the next video I'll show you the results of the build and dive into greater detail as to how this machine can only be powered on from my Smartphone App.   2 Factor Power on Authentication for my computer!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Best Running Music: Mylo, Essential Mix, 2005

Mylo, Essential Mix 2005

Most of Marcus' friends rightly know that for since the 80's and dare I say even before  (is that possible you say?)  Marcus had been a keen advocate of dance music.

This Saturday on a whim I thought I'd do a celebration run, having watched the epic 01:59 Kipchoge challenge.  I thought back to earlier times in my life, well in this instance almost 15 years ago.

And of course I looked thru all those Essential Mix recordings to find Myles MacInnes, or simply Mylo as he preferred to be called.

I found something amazing.   In the run in the local forest when I switched from DJ Seinfeld to Mylo, my running speed went up dramatically.

And so yes, Mylo, you were the inspiration for what was about to be a Personal Best running time, Birmingham Half Marathon 2019, until it was cut short that is.

But let there be no doubt, the above 2 hour musical journey is not one that I will ever forget.  And if you enjoy the dance genre, and this is, well, before your time, get listening now.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Migrating to the Lian Li O11 Dynamic Case

Lian Li O11 Dynamic overview

Please: apologies for the flickering.   This video can't be reshot.  And why?  Because I'm now in the final stages of rebuilding my workstation.

Operation Small Case
For over 1 year I have wanted to replace the Corsair 540 Air case with something classier.

Of course changing the computer case won't make the machine go faster, but something just a little smaller might make my office cum study feel just a little more spacious.

And so after a lot of research, principally finding the smallest volume case  (and I am not kidding) I have come back to the manufacturer Lian Li.

They used and still do make extremely expensive Aluminium cases, such as the O11 Aluminium.   Here I'll talk about the mostly steel O11 Dynamic and also an overview of the case.

So soon, I hope to have transplanted the workstation into the new case.  What could possibly go wrong?

To be continued. ...

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Almost the Birmingham Half Marathon 2019

Marcus and Agata and over 6000 other people had an unexpected change of plan to their half marathon in Birmingham on Sunday October 13th.

 Right from the start of the weekend we were advised of bad and rainy conditons and sure enough when we arrived on Sunday morning, by train from Birmingham Airport, it was flippin raining.

Eventually we got into our race clothes and stashed the post race clothes into a bag.

Actually we put bags onto a double decker bus which was quite a novelty.

The Delayed Start
The start time was given to be 10.30 and Agata and Marcus got into the correct place in the appropriate coloured race penn according to our projected run time.

But at the last minute, and I mean about 5 minutes before start, an announcement of a delay due to flooding was made.

15 minutes later with everybody still standing around we were told of a 1.6km shortening of the race

To my calculations this would be from 21.2 km down to 19.6km.   I mean,  for flips sake couldn't  they somehow round it to 20km then at least everybody could say that they had completed a 20km?


This turned out to be one of Marcus' and Agata best ever runs in terms of timing.  A combination of good preparation and determination meant that we both had exceptional pace during the race despite the fact that the course was not flat.

As you can see Marcus put the effort in to get his pace per k consistently around the 4.x per km mark, and towards the end less

The Short

Towards the end I was giving the people around me a km countdown, but we seemed to be coming into the city centre a little early.

But I really don't know Birmingham so I did not suspect anything.

An then, almost 2K before I was promised an end the course finished!  It turns out the organisers further shortened the course without telling anybody

So my last 2Km of sprinting that I was to undertake was deleted at a stroke.  I was absolutely gutted :-(


What was going to be my quickest ever 1/2 Marathon was cut short.  I was so disappointed.

The Email

Today we got an entirely unsatisfactory email from Paul from the organisers /The Great Run Company/.  It's unsatisfactory to me because

- Whilst I had a wonderful time competing I was let down by not being able to complete the Half Marathon, or a 20K race timed run.

- The actual distance was in fact changed on the fly, mis-footing my timing, finishing about 2Km suddenly before their promised distance

- I really want to know the answer to the fundamental question which is

a) was this terrorism  (if yes I understand you may not be able to reveal details)

b) If it was not terrorism, then I really do want exact details of how come this vehicle was there.  Was it user stupidity, wilful negligence, what did the police think? Was there for example any charge brought against the owner or person that parked this vehicle

- I want to know in detail about (b) to understand why over 5000 people were inconvenienced.  If it was actually due to some malicious action, then yes, I actually want to know the name of this selfish person.  Again if it was terrorist related then I appreciate the details may need to remain hidden.

Cut short in our Prime