rashbre central: June 2014

Monday 30 June 2014

a wristed development

I'm still using fitbit as a kind of health tracker. I like that it is stealthy, meaning that I can use it without it being visible, unlike many of the others with their illuminated arm candy. It also syncs wirelessly and without me needing to do anything, except remember to charge it about once a week.

As blogger FAQ mentioned the other day, there's a whole next generation of wearable devices getting prepared, some of which are going for a more analogue look. The Withings Activité is a great example, with its fundamentally stylish analogue watch plus the added accelerometer, altimeter and bluetooth to permit more or less the same tracking as the fitbit.

At the moment various Google and Apple devices are also being prepared, following the announcement of the relevant health kits and similar as the basis of hubs to provide the services. I see Withings and Nike are already 'close' to Apple on these hubs.

As a user of fitbit and also of various Garmin devices when I cycle, I know that there's a certain additional encouragement when there's some metrics to cross-check. It's a bit corny to mention the 'what gets measured get managed' kind of line, but it is true and I know I keep more of an eye on step-counts, calories and heart rate type things as a result.

So if the Apple Quanta iWatchy thingy eventually emerges, it will be interesting to see the trade offs between amount of sensors, battery life, style and 'glanceability'. That last one is becoming a key design point with things on the wrist. How simple are the gestures to change modes and how simple /legible is the actual device?

I suppose style is personal, but some of the watches (including my Garmin) look a bit like something from a cereal packet. As I only use the Garmin watch if I'm doing something that requires bright clothing, then it probably doesn't matter too much.

I wonder if a sensor race will break out? How many sensors/measures make, er, sense?

1) Accelerometer - to measure steps - in terms of battery use, this could last a year as a step counter.
2) Altimeter - to measure height but also ascents/descents (e.g. flights of stairs). Also battery efficient.
3) Positioning - expensive on battery - a GPS sensor - my Garmin watch has that but it burns the battery fast. Probably takes the battery down to day-ish.
4) Activity rate - such as low, medium, high - the fitbits do this kind of thing from the accelerometer.
5) Need for activity - really a timer. Easy.
6) Calories burned - use a simple calculation from body weight and activity level.
7) Thermometer - ambient temperature anyone?
8) BMI body mass index. Needs weight for this, but I guess the watches will have a link to scales. Even my bike computer can do this.

Fairly easy
6a) Heart rate in watch - tricky on a watch - they usually use skin colour (i.e. to spot the heart beat) but it's an expensive battery user.
6b) Heart rate near watch - what I use - which is a heart rate belt, which is low power and lasts for months. Needs to be picked up by ANT+ or Bluetooth. My Garmin watch can pick up this signal, as does my bike stuff.

Slightly more complicated
7) VO2 max - kind of lung capacity related - a calculation derivable from some of the others, as long as there is also a heart rate being measured. My current watch does this (probably quite poorly compared with a 'lab test')
8) Jiggle - How much up and down in a step? A fancier version of an accelerometer. which can pick up on posture. My heart rate belt does this, I can't see it working in a watch. Also raises a basic question about wrist mounted activity measure. Not much use on a bike, for example.

Needs to link to something else
9) Blood Pressure/Cholesterol/Insulin - I can't see how this would be possible inside a watch type device. But it could store it from another dedicated device.

Other stuff
I suppose payment protocols, ticketing and proximity charging would be other useful non health things to embed.

We seem to have a couple of directions opening up for these devices. Simple sensors with linkages to a glanceable display vs something that tries to repeat most of the phone functions on the wrist?

And then to figure out a style that doesn't look like something out of a toy factory. The wrist is still prime real estate.

Saturday 28 June 2014

wondering about post Aperture photo management

I see Apple are functionally stabilising the Aperture product which I have used for the last few years as the place to store all my digital photographs.

They say Aperture will still work with their next operating system called Yosemite, but the replacement is called Photos and supersedes both the old iPhoto and Aperture.

Like many, I have at least tens of thousands of photos in Aperture, so I guess the transition will be interesting. I'm also wondering about all of the plug-ins, such as the flip across from Aperture into Photoshop, or the other generally useful software like Nik and One.

I could move to Adobe's Lightroom, but I guess I'll wait until I see what Photos provides and whether it's been dumbed-down like Final Cut Pro X was, such that two years later I still have two versions of FCP running on my iMac.

One of the attractions for me of the Mac has been the simplicity of managing it and that 'It just works'. I do hope that these latest changes re not going to start introducing more fiddly-ness to the proceedings.

Many recent software changes are linked to the increasing emphasis on storing things in the Cloud, which I've noticed even MS Word tries to impose nowadays unless over-ridden. It's a great dandy highwayman revenue model too, "Stand and deliver, your money or your data"

I'll persist with my own storage solutions at the moment; the Cloud has its place but in the last couple of days I've seen two different situations where cloud services I use have been unavailable.

Friday 27 June 2014

telly glasto

Working until early evening again today, but then a fix of festival music, from the telly as I tuned into this year's Glastonbury.

The early acts I watched were the right kind of feel-good bands, not necessarily my daily listening, but with a good vibe for unwinding into the weekend. John Newman, Yorkshire soul/Stax/funk singer with a strong band, then the Crystal Fighters who had teleported from deep in the last century, the lightning-interrupted D&B Rudimental, including a twang by Ed Sheeran and some proper pop too.

I know it isn't the same as being there, where the music forms a sort of backdrop to all the other stuff, but it's still fun to watch, with generally good tv coverage by the Beeb.

I gather this year sold out in less than 90 minutes and there's 175,000 people on the site at the moment. I'll be watching.

pull over - your magenta cartridge is low

I've been doing something paper intensive recently.

I just had the little message pop up on the home printer.

"Cartridge low."

I've had to press the reserve tank button to squeeze another 50 pages. I always order a complete set of toner cartridges when I replace the previous set. They seem to cost almost as much as the printer, even when the cheapest place to buy them is Germany and have them flown to the UK.

They also always run out within a couple of days of one another.

Aside from the black being one of those Xtra capacity toners, I'm pretty sure that I print a lot more, say, blue than, say, red or yellow. I can't really work out the exact blend of magenta, cyan and yellow but it is suspicious that they all always run out at the same rate.

It's software counter in the toner packs, I assume, rather than them actually being empty. I understand the business model, but it's still a slight price shock at the moment of purchase.

Wednesday 25 June 2014

maybe I can spend a little longer in the attic after all?

Big Ben 'found in the attic'

It's Wednesday already.

I've been zooming around but managed to get today's big meeting turned into a conference call.

Dial-in instead of spending multiple hours travelling to and fro. Then, this morning a couple of us briefly discussed the session in a pre-meeting and managed to reduce it from half a dozen people for two hours each to...


We've agreed the next things in a way that avoided the need for the big forum altogether. I reckon it's saved me about 7 hours. And probably saved around 30 person hours all together.

I'm still on the hook though. I'd better get back to my garret and get my stuff done.

I know, I used the video once before, but that was in 2006.

Sunday 22 June 2014

orange berries attract the jackdaws

The tree with all the orange berries is attracting plenty of birds for varied squabbles at the moment.

There was a punch up between a few starlings and a magpie earlier.

This time it's a comedy trio of jackdaws taking the berries, with a couple of young birds the same size as their parents but still wanting to be fed, instead of foraging for themselves.

Saturday 21 June 2014

Windows 8.1 Pro and Windows 7 in Parallels on Mac OS/X

I gather the technical problem affecting the video from last Sunday has spread from the camera to the computers. I'm not directly involved in any of it and am too far away to provide any sort of direct assistance. It seems to be something to do with Windows and compatibility, but I'm not completely sure.

For my movie making I use the Mac mainly, which seems to cope with most things quite well. It's a long way from a few years ago when, with Windows, I had to plug in special hardware accelerators and other general gadgetry and then switch everything else off during the lengthy 'rendering' process.

I do still use Windows from time to time on my Mac. I have that Parallels utility which lets me run multiple copies of Windows alongside the Mac OS/X. At the moment I have both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 Pro installed, as I'm halfheartedly migrating from one to the other.

In the olden days, when a new version of Windows came along, it was possible to do a kind of in-situ upgrade (very much like with the Mac). Nowadays the upgrade assistant wants me to re-install each piece of software separately. Not a problem with, say, Microsoft Office, but quite an irritation with software that uses separately licenced plug-ins.

A useful addition in Parallels 9 is the add on that restores the Windows menu and desktop to Windows 8.1. I'm no Luddite, but I found the Metro-interface to be something of a dumbing down of the way to interact with Windows on a conventional desktop.

These labour saving devices can take a lot of looking after.

Friday 20 June 2014

sweetheart deals?

Friday's commuting in London was surprisingly easy. I'm not sure where all the people had gone. Maybe an after-effect of the previous evening's England departure from the football tournament, or a hint that this solstice weekend was going to be sunny.

I didn't really watch the football this time, the continuing descent into scandal around the edges of Fifa take the edge off what could be harmless fun. Instead I made Friday's commute reading the alarmingly accurate front cover of Private Eye.

The Eye is just the sort of place to find out about the alleged claims of Qatar-related bribes in that curious world of untouchable Fifa President Mr Sepp Blatter. He who has provided his Infront fronting nephew Phillipe with World Cup TV rights to resell. Oh and almost half a million VIP tickets, of which 12,000 are for the Brazil final. Then there's the £6.2m interest free loan to his nephew's part owned company to support Match Services AG in providing accommodation in Brazil.

Sepp has called UEFA disrespectful for asking for his resignation over alleged questionable actions. Although he is 'only' in place for another 11 months, just like previous schmiergeld-taking Fifa President Joao Havalange it would seem a shame to spoil such a good thing.


Thursday 19 June 2014

London to Brighton BHF Bike Ride2014 - 5 minutes in video

I expect it will be the weekend before the official Team Nemo video from last Sunday's bike ride gets made (no pressure JK).

I found some footage of the 54 mile ride on my camera and as an interim assembled it into 5 minute version of the ride.

Wednesday 18 June 2014

BHF 2014 London to Brighton bike ride fly-by - whole route in 9 minutes

This is the BHF 2014 London to Brighton bike ride as a fly-by, from the bike's GPS feed, through google and recorded into iMovie.

This time the whole route, from Garmin GPS feed.

Speed is circa 300mph vs my average 9mph actual.

Elevation is about 75m above road.

Another form of London to Brighton - three in one view

I've just been reminded of the old BBC steam train London to Brighton and the two subsequent updates.

Tuesday 17 June 2014

BHF #L2B London to Brighton bike ride fly-by of route (until the GPS conked out at Ditchling)

I'm waiting for JK to load up some video from the weekend's bike ride. He reckoned there was a technical problem with the camera, so we'll have to wait and see.

Until then, I took the remnants from my own Garmin route track and animated them in Google to produce a flyby from Clapham Common to where my GPS packed up at Ditching Beacon. I'm flying at around 75metres and at around 300 mph in the video.

I also managed to fly a bit close to the ground about 2/3 of the way through, but it'll have to do.

If JK sends me his Garmin log I'll make a full version.

I'll also try to extract some footage from my handlebar camera, but we all suffered from various schoolboy-style errors during the ride.

I also compiled a few lessons learned here:

1) Pack some wet wipes (Nope)
2) Eat the spare banana before it goes slimy (oops)
3) Don’t put the banana skin back in the backpack (oops)
4) Don’t take large bottles of Coke, however attractively priced at Poundland (That one is for Ian)
5) Put devices into low power mode - definitely don't leave the backlighting on (hmm, several of us)
6) After the chain falls off, check that the cadence and speed sensor thingy still working (me again)
7) Don’t put small bike attachments into the place where you put the banana skin.
8) Ask the parents’ permission before holding the baby in one's oily hands (I remembered to do this)
9) Try to have the same number of bikes at the end as at the start (the pickup to get back to London was in the next town yet one of us had sent their bike back by car.)
10) Remember to take lights in case it is dark by the time we get back to Clapham (someone in the Rapha gear, perhaps?)
11) Apply for next year already.

I am certain there are more.

Monday 16 June 2014

BHF #l2b London to Brighton Bike Ride - getting to the start - the video

No time to edit any sort of video from yesterday's actual bike ride, although I found a few snippets of the way to the start in the VIRB, so I've just spliced them together as a taster.

It's me setting off sedately along the Queenstown Road towards Clapham Common. The area at the start of my route is all being redeveloped, hence the large builders' signs and then, after been passed by a few cars carrying cycle racks, there's the big Norbert Dentressangle trucks unloading yet more bicycles on the way towards the start.

Sunday 15 June 2014

London to Brighton BHF Bike Ride

Well, Team Nemo had a great day doing the London to Brighton bike ride. We were not alone. I think something like 27,000 other folks were also riding, creating a few interesting bicycle jams along the route.

Some of us had met the previous evening to ahem, load with carbohydrates at the Mason's Arms, at which time we also set up the Team Nemo Whatsapp.
Setting up the whatsapp
Good plan, although connectivity on the day was rather lacking - except at the pubs. Fortunately our wonderful supporters team on the beach at Brighton kept us informed by acting as a sort of messaging hub.
0700 must be time to start.
Sunday morning I was awake at 05:30 so that I would have enough time for some porridge before re-assembling the bike and riding over to Clapham, through what should have been deserted streets. Not to be, they were filled with cars carrying roof racks of bikes and then, in Clapham itself, the sight of full sized articulated lorries unloading hundreds of bikes individually separated with cardboard and bubble wrap.
The real start
Onward to the start, which was set up in zones. 06:30 was still displayed when I arrived, but most showed 07:00, which was my start. A couple of Team Nemo had managed earlier starts and I marvelled at the friendly slickness of dispatching hundreds of riders at a time into the streets of South London.
In traffic
Aside from a few sets of well-observed traffic lights and crossings, the elapsed time to leave London was comparatively short, faster than most car journeys, and we suddenly appeared in the Surrey countryside. One of those moments where you felt as if you'd driven over a planner's felt tip marker showing 'Where London stops'.

We approached a few smaller villages, decked out for the race, with tables offering cakes and cups of tea. In addition there were the larger official refuel points that seemed to be every few miles.
Out of London
The early Surrey hills were pretty straightforward and I managed to keep going without much trouble. Some people were walking them, but I thought I'd save that idea for later.

Further along I had a minor mechanical problem when my chain slipped off during one of the climbs. I was probably doing something silly but it meant stopping to fix it which took several oily minutes. Black hands. Memo to self: Remember the wet-wipes.

The first 23 miles passed quite quickly, until we reached a place called the Dog and Duck. A bit of a roadblock here, because of an incident further along, which did create a sizeable delay.

I stayed in the country lane for the first hour, always expecting we'd be moving again. Eventually realising that the other side of the low and temporary fence was a loo-stop plus barbecue and pub it became more sensible to take a proper break. That's when I met some Americans and we had a chat whilst looking at the people in this ever increasing line. Whole teams in matching tee-shorts; Wheres Wally? ensembles; superheroes; people on vintage bicycles; some bikes that looked very, very, very expensive; some rather rusty looking clankers; some with fixed wheels, tandems, a few BMX, the list went on.

As did the wait, which became two hours.

My initial progress had been pretty good and I'd estimated to be finished by around 2 p.m. But now it was midday, and I still had more than half the route to complete. Ah well.
One of the busier sections
As we eventually started again, we were now amongst a huge volume of riders, caused by the compression from the prolonged stop. We likened it to a second start, only this time it was everyone at once.

As we reached the halfway point, the Turners Hill village was operating a holding tank to split us up into reasonable sized blocks for the next stretch, which was a fast downhill section. Yes, I used my brakes quite a lot. Others didn't seem to feel the same need.
Walkers should keep to the left
Then a long mainly flat section until we reached the well-known Ditchling Beacon. For me, it's an impressive bump in the landscape, which you suddenly realise you'll need to climb over. I'd stopped for a nice cup of tea at the previous zone but with 40 or so miles and a few hills clocked I kinda knew I wouldn't get all the way up without feet touching the ground.

I did about the first third. Sounds wimpish? I'll still declare victory. Others walked from the base and only an handful were still pedalling by the halfway mark. I really need to improve my ability to start again on hills after I've conked-out. Quite difficult when there is such a mass of other riders around.

Around 15 minutes later, we approached the top. I could hear the tannoy voice as a clue that there's not so far to the summit, and then a cheekily abusive boy-scout shouting out 'come-on! smile! put some effort into it!'

At the top was about half a mile of sprawled bodies, eating ice creams and taking in the impressive view.

From there it's pretty much fast downhill all the way into Brighton. There's even bike lanes on the last stretch and then a taped off section along the road, where it did get slow again.

But after 30 minutes of stop-start traffic, the seafront appeared and then nice long flat route to the impressively crowd-lined finish.


Saturday 14 June 2014


coins including fake
An occupational hazard of central London used to be the number of fake £1 coins in circulation. They are still around, but the number seems to be in decline. I wonder if it's just that they are making their way around the rest of the UK or whether everyone is really handing them in to the police like they are supposed to?

Most of us simply don't do cash in the same way nowadays, with so many more things from cups of coffee to transportation using electronic payments.

The royal mint helpfully gives guidance about how to spot forged coins, but it's totally impractical to shuffle through a handful of change doing the relevant tests.
coins including fake
I just picked three quid at random and took a quick look. They are all well travelled, yet one of them is a fake. Most people wouldn't notice, but the eagle-eyed could work out that the one on the right is a dud. Slightly thinner, a poor edge stamping and the pictures on each side don't line up. Hardly anyone would notice - just the parking machines.

Still, the new one looks like a threepenny-bit.

Friday 13 June 2014

wheels down

Flying over London
Another busy week has flown by.

I've been working a project that has had some rather late nights. One day I didn't finish until the early signs of the dawn sky.
Flying over London
So it's good to have finished earlier on Friday. Tomorrow I'll check that the wheels are pointing downwards on the bike before meeting up with Team Nemo ahead of Sunday's bicycle ride.
Flying over London

Wednesday 11 June 2014

quick result calculation to save the need to watch it all

I've been working with spreadsheets a fair bit this week. I couldn't resist predicting the football results based upon percentage likelihood to win. I'm sure it's been in the news as well, but I tend to edit out the football.

Sunday 8 June 2014

squash down rain cape and shades?

bicycle bits
We've been batting backwards and forwards a list of things to take for next weekend's bike thing. I didn't start it, but a longish list has been developed, aside from the paperwork involved to get the bike back to Clapham afterwards.

The banter made me check what's in the bike emergency kit and apart from too much pumpage (both manual and CO2), I think that part is about right. The little black bag has all the fiddly things like patches and spare chain links. The cash shown is representational. Owl and Pussycat like, I'll take some money wrapped up in an £5 note (other denominations are also available).
bicycle bits
I'll put some SPF30 and Assos on before I start. I know, too much information.

Then it's about what to have for breakfast before several hours in the saddle. I'll be starting out rather early, so I've recreated a breakfast suggestion here: basically porridge or some sort of energy thing. A banana may come into the picture here somewhere as well.
bicycle bits
Then a couple of those pocketable energy bars and gels and some dried fruit for en route. I'm tempted to get some Pineapple and Ginger Torq bars, but I don't have time. I'm not planning to carry a pasty like one of the Nemo Team, I'm thinking thin flat shapes as a preference.

I'm assuming that there will be obvious food stops, but I'll have some self sufficient stuff too, plus water and those electrolyte tabs. Pink Grapefruit is my preference. They take no room at all, although the squash down rain cape isn't quite as small as I'd like.

Oh, and phone, Garmin and sunglasses (obv.)
bicycle bits

Saturday 7 June 2014

spin those cogs or sprockets or gears?

Friday was the first time on a bike for a couple of weeks. I managed to sneak a ride directly after work. A kind of 'take it easy' spin, although by today I can feel it in my legs. More in a good way, they are signalling that they are ready for some more miles.

Actually it's like a kind of curious vector which also runs from my legs, up through my body, all the way to my face. If it wasn't so difficult to pin down the feeling, I'd google it.

Instead, I'll sort out a couple of the charity bike tee-shirts ready for next weekend's 'Team Nemo' expedition from London to Brighton- we'll be somewhere in amongst the other 25,000+ riders.

The official start is in Clapham Common; I'll be cycling to the start from Chelsea and then onward through the various counties, across Ditching Beacon and onward to the coast.

Maybe I'd better get out for a couple more spins over this weekend as some sort of preparation.

Unusually, I'll humbly ask for any donations: simply text (UK) 70070 EDXX99 £2 or click through (any amount gratefully received, all for British Heart Foundation).

Chocolate Mermaid

Yep. Kim Boekbinder sings Tom Waits, live from her kitchen. Chocolate Jesus becomes Chocolate Mermaid.

Friday 6 June 2014

faster than a stream of bits

I've spent today locked away in work, as indeed I was until around 10pm yesterday evening. Although the doors are not as complicated as the NASA JPL instructions above, it sometimes feels like it when I sometimes work in secure environments.

The above JPL warning featured today on brain pickings and it also inadvertently reminded me of another 'The Obald' flashback moment.

I used to work in a place not too far removed from the novel's imagined environment. It was so Civil Servanty that when we ordered any new furniture (filing cabinets or chairs), they would come in a randomly selected colour. We had mainly bright orange, green, shiny grey and beige, I seem to recollect.

We were doing things with special big room computers in times when today's high bandwidth communications were still considered as 'impossible' by various technicians.

I had a secret squirrel task that involved getting a load of data from Pasadena JPL and it had to be sent across by plane on a tape, because it was 'far too much' to be transmitted by any other means. We did have direct communication links with the USA, but only with low-speed lines really only useful for sending short messages around.

So the tape duly arrived, but was corrupted because of something that happened in transit. I sent for another one, creating what was probably a two week response time to my original data request.

The Obald features a computer doing mysterious stuff, ably backed up by similarly manual processes.

Little did we all know just how quickly the pace would pick up.

Thursday 5 June 2014

flying under the radar

I took my Kindle on vacation instead of a pile of books. I still prefer the inexpensive Kindle for beaches and suchlike, rather than fussing around with a somewhat heavier and less legible in sunshine iPad.

Amongst the reading material was blogger R.F. McMinn's novel, 'The Obald'.

I enjoyed it. I don't want to give too much away, but there was one of those jolly good plot twists part way through.

The early scenes build up a 1980's London, with a kind of authenticity that suggests it was being written at that time. A few times between reading, I found my mind wandering off to past times and the kind of differences, for example, in the workplace.

I've also recently re-watched 'Life on Mars', which is set in the late 70's, and there's a similar attention to the detail of the time in The Obald. Kind of pubs in the workplace, flexi-time which was like 12 free extra days holiday per year and colourful points about working in the Civil Service of the time. 'No point in using up a sick day when ill' springs to mind.

Add in a few tunnels, some physics mysteries and a bit of love interest, and there's a good basis for the story. As a regular reader of the aforementioned blog, there were also a few references to things that get written about in FAQ too. Baking bread, Pro-tools plug-ins and living in France, illustrate some of the entertaining diversity.

So, yes, I enjoyed it, and only afterwards did I read the addendum that explained some of its background.

Wednesday 4 June 2014


After last week travelling around on mainly boats, it's back to my more regular form of London travel this week. Like many others, I'm suited and back on trains and tubes.

I'll admit the four hour time zone jump affected me the first day, but I'm back into the groove now.

This was before the train came up with a 'delayed' message.

Tuesday 3 June 2014

a sort of pigeon cam

pigeoncam City
Well, it's back to the City again, suitably refreshed after a few days away.

I even received a comment about the white bit where I'd been wearing my watch in the sunshine. Yes, I'm still wearing the watch, so someone must have been fairly observant to notice the strange white band on my wrist.

By this Tuesday evening I'm starting to feel rather tired, but I suppose that's an effect of skipping a night on the way back. But at least I'm up to date with some recent movies.

Monday 2 June 2014

statutory feet in the water picture

Strange to think I can be leaving this Bermudan land of sunshine and sea in middle evening, yet be back in London in time for the Monday morning conference calls.

Probably best to keep it a secret.

Sunday 1 June 2014

the right stuff

It's quite difficult to send posts from this land of the palm tree, coconut and stripy fish.

There is some wifi signal, but it fades in and out.
I suppose that is really a good thing, because its helping me concentrate on the other aspects of being here.