Saturday, November 30, 2019

Keep it Simply Labelled Stupid

This is a message about many things, including labelling and simplicity.

For over 48 hours now Marcus has been battling, with minimal sleep to recover my personal Workstation with over 8TB of scrambled data.

I referred to the disaster here.  Suffice to say that I took my own advice and I am slowly transferring all the data to a newly (and possibly temporarily) built NAS  (Network Attached Storage).

After which time I will reformat the troubled volume and erase the ReFS formatted disk and reformat with good old NTFS.  

I've had some time to investigate the disaster and it seems that many users have had the problem of a ReFS volume become raw after a Windows upgrade.  The only recovery is to restore from a backup, or as in my case attach the disk to a different version of windows that can read your data

Some references here

It All started with Black Friday
The troubles first surfaced when I rushed to test some of the new purchases that I have made in the week long Amazon Black Friday jamboree.

As a result of the data disaster all testing of items such as the above is halted until all of my data is restored.

What has been of most Value?
Apart from Coffee, and talking to Agata, the winning item that has kept my sanity I have to say is the above Dymo Labelling machine.

So far I have labelled

- The now RAW format 10TB disk that I am trying to recover
- The 2 x 4TB staging disks
- The above cache board, not used yet until the recovery is made when I will reconfigure my system to take advantage
- All the Computer wires and sockets on the server  (about 20 labels in all) so I know exactly where to plug what.  (I've had to take the server apart and back several times during this recovery)
- Some of the new Black Friday Security equipment, reviews to follow

The above LetraTag machine never let me down.  Moreover whilst I've been considering upgrading to a Wireless product I just realise the portable, far simpler, with keyboard, only 25 GBP device is actually best for me.

I am +48 hours into data recovery.  I am confident it will all work out, but it will take over 100 hours with constant baby sitting to get everything right again.

Meanwhile, I just keep thinking, of all that money spent upto this Black Friday has bought me only grief thus far.  Conversely  my economically priced and every dependable labelling machine has been the real star of this week.

Really recommended

And with that I will leave you with something joyful ...

Hear it for the Boy

Friday, November 29, 2019

What the Truck is Going On?

This week Tesla unveiled the Cybertruck. If you missed the full presentation you can catch up here in just 5 minutes

For a longer analysis consult Fully Charged


In many of my discussions or 'rants' I often come back to the same fundamental.

That of the rights of the individual to make bad decisions.  

And so I segway into the passion of many suburban American families: to own a pickup or truck.  I always imagine it would be written into any 2019 Constitution, because it seems to be such a dearly held belief and apparent need.  In Europe and in the UK from where I write this, that right may be conflicted by the facts that our roads and parking spaces are smaller.

So even if you have the means, and desire to own an inevitably large Pickup, driving it around becomes a pain once the initial excitement factor has worn off, assuming you have no actual need for this type of vehicle.

Based on Desires

I really want to think abut the typical (non need) motivations for Truck, Pickup, or in this case a Cybertruck ownership

- Looking Good/Different
- Making a Statement
- Crash paranoia  (the other party will come off worse)

But really, a truck?  A Land Rover, Range Rover classic (priced from 80K GBP) provide adequate ways to satisfy the above criteria.    And also provide a capable off roader with 4 wheel drive with simultaneously luxurious and capaciously practical abilities.

Based on Price

And to make a financially discreet statement the exclusive Range Rover range steps in nicely,  in case the Bentley Bentayga is a statement too far

CyberTruck for Whom?

So here is my shortlist of decent reasons to go ahead and order

- You need a truck because you are frequently carrying large loads or hauling.  Example a builder or working with horses

- You are passionate about Electric vehicles and see this as the only future to replace your existing Truck/ pickup

- You don't mind putting down a deposit and Bankrolling Tesla, this is a well established Tesla technique.  This vehicle won't ship until 2021 and probably later in the UK

231.7″ long, 79.8″ wide, 75.0″ high
588.5cm long, 202.7cm wide, 190.5cm high

- You really want to make a statement and are not put off by the fact that excepting on your own private land, nowhere in the UK will driving or parking be easy.

I'm not convinced.  For UK and Europe, if you don't need a load bed (pickup) or hauling (truck), then funds permitting, buy an entry level Porsche Taycan instead.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Farewell to Google Hangouts (Hello WhatsApp)

Subtitle: Google Hangouts, cancelled due to lack of Interest

Marcus has been a faithful if not proud user of Google Hangouts for many years now.  Hangouts is a multi platform communications tool from Google.  Besides text you can copy paste in photographs or even start a video call.

So why change?

Mostly because of Google's meh lack of interest.  Not only did they profess a move to other tools  Allo and Duo, Google then declared it would be shutting down Allo and probably Hangouts too.

With this level of disinformation I've now fully migrated to WhatsApp

Liking WhatsApp

My initial dislike & hatred of the product stemmed from a family members insistence that it should be the only tool they would use.  No email or Facebook, just WhatsApp.

As such I made it a point of principle never to use WhatsApp!

But now I'm no longer in communication (with them) I am free, and have embraced the product.   Here is what I like about WhatsApp

- Runs on Android and iOS and macOS and Windows.  i.e. supported by all the major platforms

- Using I can chat in a browser window instead.  This is the winning feature IMHO!

- Able to make Video or Audio Calls

- End to End Encryption means that nobody between the sender and receiver can decrypt the communication

- No data is stored by WhatsApp, its all on your local device, which you may choose to backup to your Cloud  (so that you can restore in the event of a backup)

X Needs a Phone number to communication.  Well it has to tie into something unique I suppose

- Can have group conversations

And So

Yes I'm a WhatsApp convert.  Please Facebook (i.e new owner) stay interested in your product and thus don't make me have to switch again  ... I mean ever!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The Cold Sweat of Lost Data

Slow Down!

I suppose this is a cautionary tale, but mostly to myself!

For reasons of simplicity but also austerity in the Marcus household I've been drastically reducing the number of computers and storage devices.

It should save money, and also should we have to move continents, well, there will be less to move.

Black Tuesday (almost literally!)
In my new simple regime I have but 1 laptop and 1 large computer server.

And this Black Friday due to new components I've been simultaneously testing and upgrading both the only computer server  (stores over 40 years of data)  and the NAS system  (stores 40 years of data and backups).

EXCEPT .. that during the NAS rebuild, the NAS would store temporarily no data and the Server is also being rebuilt.  can you notice the possible total and utter disaster scenario ...

 In picture terms, upgrading this card above

Caused this primary Data disk to be totally unavailable.  the ReFs formatted disk was converted to RAW:

And recall that the only on country backup was only partially made to the NAS as that itself is mid way thru a testing and upgrade cycle.

Here are my Lessons Learnt to avoid a potential Heart Attack

Don't Panic Prematurely
This means trying to see the cup half full not completely empty

Phone a Friend
Agata was asked a few technical questions.  Whilst Systems backup and recovery is not her expertise, explaining the 'I may have just lost 40 years worth of data' to a calm person really helps.  You think thru what you have done, and what disaster signals are really there (or not)

Don't Rush to A Solution (slow down)
Really analyse the problem and don't be too quick to make a few esoteric commands or actions that 'might fix everything' but might also 'make things a whole lot worse'.   Really make a recovery plan, do it slowly!

Isolating the Problem
I had to isolate the problem to see which bit had actually failed

- The Windows 2019 upgrade
- The NVMe Disk copy
- The Windows System Backup
- The Windows System Restore
- The Server NVMe hardware upgrade
- The Server backout i.e. downgrade ... failed
- The 10G Network Upgrade

Here are the Actual Problems

- The NVMe backout failed because the original (kept safe) BOOT disk was not securely re-inserted into the ASUS Hypercard.   (Human Error)

- The Windows Backup (conjecture) stored something from the 10TB data disk onto the systems backup disk.  On restore I instructed Windows server to leave the 10TB disk alone.  But it did not!  It's written to it

- I booted from a Windows 2019 server system which could not recognise the ReFs formatted 10TB data disk.  But taking this disk out and attaching it to my Laptop proves the data is still there.  From the laptop examination of the disk it's clear Windows Restore has written data to it  (bug?)

By reset I mean ... 
I have to undo all Server Upgrades until the NAS system is 100% back online and upgraded.  

Once NAS is upgraded make a Server to NAS backup so that any Server Dataloss can be recovered from with ease.

Work on the Server upgrade or the NAS upgrade, but not both at the same time stupid!

All in all it was a close shave (grommit)

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The Great Joy of Walking and Talking

(In this picture: Optimism personified!)

Marcus and Agata are back to Warwickshire UK.  Yes, we've had a mini break Up North as some English might say.

With dear friends Robert and Hilary

There was walking, and talking, and discussion, and smiles.  And at the end of the day, good natured dialog between comrades is most of what life is all about.


If these be end times, at least let them be #GoodTimes

Monday, November 25, 2019

Skipton Santa Run

The venue is Skipton in England and team Marcus, Agata, Robert and Hilary are participating in the Skipton Santa Fun Run.

There is a 5km fun run distance, as well as a 3km wheelchair course.

The night before we began to try on our costume.  This was part of the race entry fee.  This is quite shrewd organisation as it means the starting line is going to be filled with identical looking Santas.  Wonderful.

We arrived over an hour early and so there was plenty of time to investigate the many and quite often food related stalls.

We Started

Helpfully runners were in self organised into 3 categories: running, jogging and walking.  Marcus and Agata set off running but our progress was mostly hampered by other slower runners ahead of us on the starting line.  But this is a fun run, so well, we just smiled and overtook one by one.

The weather was dry and mild and by the end of the 5km course we had both overheated.  The Santa uniforms were on top of our regular running gear.  Hot indeed.

Lap #2

Since Rob and Hilary were slower around the course we decided to set out on another lap to catch them up.

We managed to find them at our 8.2km  (they had done 3.2km therefore)
The thing is,  when you move more slowly, things just get into a Santa Jam.

 And don't forget the great Santa Line

We finished in good cheer and with many smiles.

Great times as usual.  Running, Exercise, Good conversation: what is there not to like?

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Sunday Sermon: Choosing The Christmas Tree

Subtitle: At the Ilkley Christmas Tree Festival

Let me be quite clear, Marcus loves to visit Religious places of worship.  As my lifelong study of these pre scientific beliefs, faiths and customs continues; another chance presented itself this weekend in Ilkley.

A most joyous time was had by all.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

A Tsunami Of Spending

To Marcus, shopping can indeed be fun.  And I talked yesterday about Black Friday.  That with a bit of planning, and foresight, you can really save on your purchases from here to Christmas.  Alternatively use the same money and make it go further.

Unfortunately just when I was trying to get into the Black Friday spirit, a quick check of the finances revealed a necessary orgy of Infrastructure spending ...

Moving Home
Marcus and Agata finally moved home to England in the months around November to December. And guess what, so many of our Subscriptions now fall due.  All at once!

I suppose what follows is a list a parent can hand to a child, and then continue to say:  So guess what Jimmy, money for Christmas presents is looking a bit scarse this year ... sorry :-(

Our additional charges list  (i.e. additional to regular) included

01 Car MOT
02 Car Tax Renewal
03 Motorhome MOT
04 Motorhome Tax Renewal
05 Money for new (car) tyres
06 New Mobile phone  (replacing 4 year old one)
07 New Computer Storage  (replacing 3 year old model)
08 Vaccinations + Dental + Physio (health)
09 Car Insurance
10 Motorhome Insurance
11 Multiple Software subscription renewals

And the list continues.

Learning Points
Spending money on those constant grinding Infrastructure items is not fun, and it really hits home when they all come at once.  Ouchy.

Anouk: Modern World

Friday, November 22, 2019

Gearing Up for Black Friday

Marcus has written so many times about the advantages of selective shopping on Black Friday.  A google search would lead you to this

In a nutshell, with moderate preparation you can delay shopping for goods and services in the (say) month lead up to Black Friday 2019 which is dated Nov 29 2019,  and also make all your Christmas or winter seasonal purchases then too.

The Caveats are:  a) You need to think about Christmas presents right now and b) don't be an idiot and go on anyway and also buy more presents at Christmas too.  

A word about Campaigns
Marcus has some fairly strident views on Advertising in the digital age.  Overall I'd prefer to live in a world with considerably less advertising, lower prices, and Enthusiast led reviews.   My considered opinion is that Crowd-sourced Expertise is a far more reliable source of unbiased information than the inevitably slanted advertisement

Today I'd ask you to check in more detail what targeted digital marketing you might receive.  One personal example from Sealskinz, who make excellent  (IMHO) Waterproof Socks

I received an email with the above link, clicking on it leads me to

When I, Marcus goto this webpage it means I send the server the following information, which of course it records



Since I'm an existing customer, out of choice, I don't begrudge sending Sealskinz this information, it helps them know what ad campaign worked to secure my repeat custom.

What I have an aversion to however is speculative advertising sent to me.  This is why we run a set of Browser tools and DNS redirection to remove almost all advertising information sent to your Browser (for me it is disinformation).

As an example of where to start you can investigate PiHole.  Here is my article and DNSCrypt modification

After you have removed nearly all advertising from your Browser you can also restrict metadata stored and sent by installing some selected Browser extensions.  I'd recommend Adblock, Privacy Badger, Ghostery

Back to the Black Friday Plot

- For existing purchases that I've made I will read targeted Black Friday Deal emails sent to me.  They are likely to contain special offers on items that I care about

Some vendors like OnePlus will be offering freebies as addons to existing products but not reduction on the latest.  Not interested!   I want discounts on the things that I want not additional freebies that I probably don't want.

- The major other vendor is Amazon  UK

Amazon Black Friday starts 1 week early

Namely 00:01 Friday 22 November until 23:59  Friday 29 November.

My respect for the Amazon model, service and pricing leads me to use them throughout the year and also try to satisfy my current buylist from now until Christmas using lower priced Black Friday deals.

And that is pretty much about it.  I'm 100% not interested in traipsing into local towns to visit department stores that might have a bargain. Those days are gone.

Happy Black Friday everybody.  Spent wisely and frugally.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Is It Time For My First and The Last Corvette?

As Marcus is now a bonafide Old Person you will not be surprised when I say that I was looking thru a recent Pension statement.  I'm now of an age where I can preemptively take this hard earned money pot and blow it on something, well like a Chevrolet C8 Corvette.

I already wrote about the impressive first impression of the 2020 year Corvette (release is 2019 in the US, they always name the year wrong sic. )

But then the very complete Jay Leno documentary above made me think more seriously.   Having watched that great 56 minute expose I was really impressed.

Here are my summary of thoughts for UK ownership though:

- It's more a car for sunnier climbs.  For a hot US state and at US prices, I'd have no other car (in my stable)

- But for wet and mostly damp England the value and enjoyment proposition is very limited

- It does not make sense in any UK urban environment since it is 1933 mm wide and 4630 mm long.   Also, if I was ordering one I'd double check it would fit in the garage prior to ordering please.

- This is a proud new metal design, with a claimed un-named single part carried over from the C7 (!!)  This means great chance for cockup, and best to wait for early adopters to find problems and not you

(Expect the car to be vastly oversubscribed at launch and to  command a premium for immediate resale, there will be flippers everywhere)

- The new Mid Engine design is the right way to go, however the old Hatchback design, which could fit a bicycle into  (yes I checked!!) is now history.  Same capacity allegedly just split into front and rear trunks.

- The Convertible design (even the Coupe has a removable roof) will be of limited value in wet England.

(Dear Chevrolet, if you want to loan me one for the purposes of leak testing it in my wet English climate, contact me immediately!)

- There will be a RHD version for UK, Australian and Japanese markets

- The car contains a 6.2 Litre V8 with 495 Horsepower.  It's not going to be very economical on fuel, though this ancient engine has proved over decades to be very reliable

(Note the custom dual clutch gearbox is new, so nothing can yet be said of its reliability)

- Although the car could be called traditional American there is not even a nod to the environment with for example a mild Hybrid, it's petrol, petrol, petrol

- Global car markets are now transforming faster than any time in the last 20 years.  Petrol only Personal motor vehicles risk becoming not just unfashionable but unacceptable and un re-saleable within the decade.   Well, this is true for First world Europe, less so for Eastern Europe, and for the USA, who really knows.

If the shift to Electric (only) vehicles moves as quickly as many foretell, this could indeed be the last generation of Petrol only Corvette or even end of the Corvette line altogether.

I think owning this car in the UK would be a frustrating though initially entertaining experience.  If you really must have one in England's Green and Moist Land, make it your Occasional or European GT car, just not a daily driver.

Corvette C8 2019 First Impressions


Wednesday, November 20, 2019

We Are Watching Chernobyl

Chernobyl Trailer

This is an article about Chernobyl, and in particular the powerful mini series that chronicles the events of the worst nuclear disaster we have ever seen.

I'd heard that it was good and indeed received many awards at the Emmy Awards.   My purpose here is to convince you to watch it too

Some Biases
Agata remembers as a child living in Eastern Europe, living much closer to Chernobyl than Marcus, that she was kept inside during the time of the disaster.

Marcus has spent almost a decade with UK Power Generation including working on UK Nuclear Power plants.  And walking and working on the core of a working Nuclear reactor and all that kind of stuff.

So we both have our stories to tell, and overall Marcus was certainly a great advocate of Nuclear power in years gone by, and even today (pre watching) I was of the opinion that Nuclear combined with Renewable (solar, wind) gives us the best chance of a credible Carbon Neutral energy generation strategy.

Remembering Chernobyl
Chernobyl is given to be the Nuclear Plant disaster that occurred in Ukraine on April 26, 1986.  I highly recommend this Wikipedia explanation of events.

In summary; a long overview Safety Test was planned to simulate an electrical power outage of the reactor and the need to otherwise power the reactors water pumps during such a situation.  Whilst the test was in progress a series of bad timing, bad operational decisions, and a design flaw of the RMBK type reactor caused an explosion in Reactor 4.

The result was that the Reactor core was exposed and the equivalent of 2 Hiroshima Nuclear bombs worth of radiation was being emitted every day, for over one week.

The Series Does It Better
With my background in Power Generation and my time later spent in Post Communist Easter Europe I felt immediately drawn into the realism of this tale as told by the TV series.

I highly recommend it to all those who want to think about the pro's and cons of Nuclear Power and Nuclear Weapons.

In the UK you can watch it via NOW TV

My Learning Points

- This was a single Nuclear disaster.  And the largely untold or undisclosed carnage that it caused.  Not just the deaths due to immediate radiation, nor just the suffering of those made ill who died later.  Consider also the fatalities of the many engaged in the radiation cleanup, and the over 500,000 people engaged who could have been more productive elsewhere.

The scale of the disaster and what was necessary to put it right, or at least prevent the radiation from further contaminating the environment  is one that has not been told before

- There is to me no question that if this contamination and make good was necessary for a single Power Plant then the effect of any Nuclear Style war are just un-survivable.

If there is just one take away from this series to me it was that

- We do have to think about the appallingly crude design on Soviet RBMK reactors and whether this pollutes the credibility of the wider nuclear industry worldwide

- We also have to think about the safety of these reactors in a modern world with terrorist elements adding to the risks of Operator/Regime incompetence to judge whether the Nuclear Reactor program can be considered safe in 2019 and beyond


If you wanted to know more about Nuclear Power, watch the series

If you wanted to know the real consequences of an Open core, watch the series

If you wanted to understand the scale of the tragedy, watch the series.

And even if you only  want to see Great Acting and Screenplay, watch the series.

Overall, please watch the series.

Official Explanation