My Standard Tel Aviv Jog

•January 6, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Apparently Google Earth thinks I run 4.26km each way, which makes my standard run 8.5km. It’s composed of a few different terrains…

  • A large chunk of it is on beach sand,
  • Next, I move to asphalt (which I try to keep to a minimum, I sometimes detour from it to the sand if the sea doesn’t cover the whole thing)
  • Then I start running on the Deck in the harbor area, which is always loads of fun, since I try to get splashes from the waves crashing at the harbor walls🙂

I don’t really try to run very quickly, but my best time so far is just shy of 40 minutes.

Here’s a snap of the view:

tel-aviv-jog

Illusions Islands

•November 25, 2009 • Leave a Comment

So… I’m learning how to be a skipper, it’s a long haul, and there’s really nothing super exciting about it except for sailing a lot and learning navigation and so on.

I’m doing this in Israel, in a school called Yam-Sailing (English Link) (highly recommended) with my Instructor Roni Cohen. When I started (a month ago) Roni warned me that we better get the navigation chapter done (i.e. I should learn and pass the navigation test) as soon as possible, before January 1st 2010.

The reason for this was because someone in the Israeli sailing association, which is responsible for testing the would-be-skippers, decided it would be a great idea to switch from learning navigation on the English Channel to a map of Israel.
After all, what’s wrong with some local partriotism.. right? right!?!?!

The English channel map that we (in Israel) have been using so far, for the last 30 years or so, contains a fair level of interest/challenge in the form of:

  • Lighthouse markings
  • Islands
  • having the Greenwich line pass in the middle (i.e. East & West Coordinates)
  • Dealing with Geodesic mapping errors
  • French + English markings

Compared with a nautical map of Israel, which has roughly nothing on it (even seen a lighthouse in Israel?) this of course posed a problem…

The solution?

IMG_0013[1]

For those who are not speaking in Hebrew…
The English “translation” doesn’t do it justice.
Literally fro Hebrew to English

Not to be used for navigation

for instructional purposes only
The maps contain elements that do not exist in reality

You’ve got to love it: “do not exist in reality”🙂

Who doesn’t remember ever taking a boat ride to Arik Island (Guess what’s the first name of the person responsible for this for 10 points?)

The culmination of this is of course: Illusions Islands (sic) just off-shore to Natanya with it’s lighthouses Noa & Ela (I’m guessing he has two daughters?)

Bah.

Polar RS200 Impressions

•November 1, 2009 • 2 Comments

I’ve been using a Polar RS200 HRM for four days now. I’ve had a change to go out running four times (busy weekend…) and biking once.
I have to say that while the thing does exactly what it’s advertised to do, I’m left wanting more… And not just from the specific device I have, but more from the entire product line…

rs200

I’ll start from what I like: The Polar wrist watch is splendid, they’ve clearly though about usability: The display is large, buttons are easy to access, and the menu system is very intuitive, the rubber feels ok, and the whole thing is sturdy. Naturally having the ability to take this up to 50m deep (together with the HRM!) is a major plus, and I’m sure that it’s not an easy task to achieve, especially on the HRM side of things.

Now for what I don’t like: The SonicLink stinks. Not so much the idea, or the transmitting side, but the software package that’s supposed to process the chirps and upload them to PolarPersonalTrainer.com.
For those who might be reading without understanding what I’m talking about, SonicLink is Polar’s implementation of a simple modem. The (water resistant) device transmits some chirps, and a software on the other side decodes the chirps into a binary data stream that contains the details of the workout the user chose to upload. This is what it sound like for those who are interested:

https://skunkwerks.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/soniclink-sample.doc
I had to go through three different computer/laptops/microphones until I actually got to a setup that worked. While in retrospect, I can now, AFTER finally getting it to work, can say that it’s probably all about the microphone, I have to say that the Polar WebLink tool is really sub-standard in terms of software engineering / usability.
Polar thought of putting some indicator to help the users understand how good the microphone/settings they are using to record the chirps. Only one problem with it: It’s doesn’t actually work. Two computers where the UI indicated that everything is working properly within the proper sound levels were actually not setup properly (apparently).
It took a third computer, where the level indicator indicated the the input level of the incoming sound is too low, according to the UI, to get it to work.

I did manage to find a pretty nice open-source software package to do this though (too bad I was already half-way through writing my own RS200 decoder).
This definitely works better than Polar’s stuff.

The second (and more important thing) I don’t like is the (lack of) recorded data.
Polar seems to be stuck in the 1990’s, and I’m not just talking about the RS200, I’m talking about their entire product line.
What can you get with Polar, after the exercise has completed? Not much:

  • Your average heart-rate
  • Proximal # of calories burned (I don’t trust this at all, but that’s something else)
  • Amount spent in different Sport/User-defined heart-rate “zones”

After doing some research, I found out that you can definitely do better. Take a look at BioHarness BT from Zephyr Technology:

  • Heart-Rate
  • Respiratory-Rate, Breath Depth
  • Skin Temperature
  • 3D accelerometer
  • Real-time Bluetooth transmission
  • SDK
  • 8 Hours of Battery life Rechargeable (USB)
  • Can record 30 days of continuous usage

While it’s not clear how some of the advertised features work (for example: at what rate are metrics recorded on the device for offline processing), I have to assume it has to do with the fact that I don’t actually own one, or have the SDK in front of me, rather than some omission on Zephyr’s side.

I assume that the Hardness is not water resistant, which is minus when comparing it to the Polar naturally. I also assume it’s much more expensive than the Polar too. But you have to admit that it has a very high appeal rate for the outdoor aspiring geek.
I bet there are a lot of interesting things you can generate from breathing rate, temperature, posture information etc. some of which I’m sure no one every thought of before: Zephyr have quite a few White-Papers and Studies done on the data they can pull off the device, that look quite impressive.

Zephyr also has the HxM, which, while looking somewhat less Pro, seems to provide Distance and Speed information, though I might be mis-reading between the lines, since, if the accelerometer on BioHarness is accurate enough, I guess this sort of information can also be extrapolated from acceleration information.

I plan to get one of these, one of these days, and start using it. Who knows, I might end up writing an iPhone app for it at some point.

Unbloating Windows 7

•October 26, 2009 • 2 Comments

I really hate the bloatware which is otherwise known as Windows Vista / 7.
I don’t mean the OS itself… 7 is rather nice, and it’s probably the best OS product Microsoft ever release, that is, apart for Singularity
Anyway, while Vista was a complete waste of time prior to SP2, so I didn’t even bother to deal with it at the time, starting with SP2, and onwards with Windows 7 (which I simply refer to as Vista SP3) the OS has improved quite a bit…
However, the os “bloatness” has become even worse.

It’s really hard to justify why Windows 7 x64 needs to use some 14GB of disk space out of the box (we’re talking about Windows 7 Ultimate x64 here).
Most of the bloat comes from Microsoft deciding the make sure every possible file you’ll (n)ever want to install is located somewhere under c:\Windows\winsxs\, and for the most part in x86 + x64 versions side by side…

Anyway, I personally tend to keep a lot of trimmed VMs around, mostly for testing/debugging drivers:

  • XP x86 + x64
  • 2003 x86 + x64
  • Vista x86 + x64
  • 2008 x86 + x64
  • Windows 7 x86 + x64

One can imagine that it’s a rather large pool of VM to maintain, backup etc.
I end up using tools like nLite (Windows XP) & vLite (Windows Vista) to create customized installations of Windows that I install for these purposes.

So, back to the topic of this post, Windows 7… While with Vista, we had vLite,  for some reason, the developer, nuhi, decided he wants out, and the MSFN community was left without an easy tool like vLite for Windows 7.
This is where the MSFN Community shined through, and a very methodological member, named “liquid0624” went ahead and create a very nice, detailed guide + batch files that together with vLite can generate a much more slimmer version of Windows 7 for us ordinary Joe’s.

liquid0624 offer 3 versions, 7media, 7elite, and 7xtreme, all of which come in x86 + x64 versions. Naturally, there’s no .iso distribution here, just the guides of how to get it done.

I’ve personally used his guides to generate his 7media64 version of Windows 7 x64, and have been able to install it successfully on a number of machines and VMs so far.
The end result seems to be working quite well for me.

7media64-iso-size

I managed to trim down the installation .iso down from 3.1GB and change (for x64) to just over 1.5GB, which enabled me to shove the whole installation on a 2GB USB DOK that I had laying around, and even install it directly off of the USB without burning a DVD (Or having one for that matter :))

How big is it installed? Well, I can’t speak yet for the x86 version, since I haven’t gotten to creating it, but the x64 version is roughly 5.5GB installed compared to the 14+GB of windows a normal x64 install will consume:

7media-disk-usage

I’ve had some issues like Aero not being turned on by default, or Daemon-Tools Lite refusing to install itself until I install SPTD manually for it, and other small a minor stuff like that…
But in overall, I must say, that Windows is a lot more user friendly when it doesn’t eat up all of you disk.

This “mode” of Windows 7 installation SSDs open a new possibility of purchasing small SSDs as your system drive. Often, those drives are very expensive in their 64GB/128GB versions but are much more down to earth for the 32GB versions.
Let’s take an example:

You can easily see how prices ramp up pretty quickly, though linearly, for the Vertex series.

Let’s take a look at another drive through, a 16GB SSD from Super-Talent:
SUPER TALENT MasterDrive OX FTM16GL25H 2.5″ 16GB SATA II MLC – $65

Now that’s more reasonable.
Let’s take it up a notch and go for 32GB (that way we’ll have more options):

It’s easy to see that with an unbloated version of Windows, the world of SSD becomes much more accessible without shelling out huge amounts of $$$ for the experience as well.

I Heart Foobar2000

•October 25, 2009 • 1 Comment

The best player since whatever.

Too bad it ain’t open-source, but it is amazing as it is in its free as in beer state.

Just switched to using DarkOne theme for foobar2000:

DarkOne

DarkOne

Download and follow the instructions closely from here.

Also, found a really nice Windows 7 Shell integration plugin.

And… Fresh off the compiler, looks like the same guy wrote a Apple Remote Protocol Implementation as a Foobar2000 plugin… (!)/
It’s still a bit rudimentary, but now I can control my foobar from the iPhone with the Apple Remote app.

Cool.

My Novel Approach to Media Storage

•October 25, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Well, I really don’t have the energy to deal with all types of advanced file-systems/raid machanisms like ZFS etc.
I mean, ZFS is all nice, but I will not pay the Solaris x86/x64 tax just to get a more advanced software RAID. I’d rather stay with Linux as my home-server, thank you.

What I really need is a global view for my media drives (a couple of 1TB and a couple of 1.5TB drives at the moment) with the ability to expand this storage as I go.

I also need a more redundant volume for document, project backups, source control and what not, but that definitely doesn’t need to be very large.

My solution?:

  1. Distribute the data over the disks as you see fit
    Your choice of file-systems, mount options etc.
  2. Mount everything in some logical order, let’s say /data-1, /data-2 etc.
  3. Create a united share point: /data
  4. Unite it into a share view with aufs like so:
    mount -t aufs -o br=/data-2:/data-1 none /data
  5. Setup Samba/NFS to expose /data (perhaps as read-only) to the network
  6. Additionally, you can setup share-points for /data-1, /data-2 for direct meddling over the network.

The end result is that /data looks like it contains the merge of both /data-1 and /data-2.
Write operations go into /data-2 (read more about aufs to understand how to set it up properly).

I still need to setup a /data-raid or whatever to get the share for documents etc.
But at least, I can pull that one off pretty easy with a couple of SATA 2.5” el-cheapos and RAID-1.

One note for the cautious. While aufs worked perfectly for me on my Ubuntu 9.04, Samba would not expose it properly over the network for some reason.
Since I was two days away from the official Ubuntu 9.10 release, I just went ahead a did a do-release-upgrade –d and got my self of the Karmic Koala Express.

Hmm… Since there’s no iKeePass yet…

•October 24, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Apple, your miserable, lame excuse for an approval process is keeping iKeePass from the appstore.

Shame on you.

In the meanwhile.

Anyone has anything smart to say about PassPack?
Any comments will be greatly appreciated.