The Omnicharge is the second “mains supply” battery backup that I have backed on kickstarter what seems years ago, and the second one to turn on in the last month
Heralded as far more advanced and adaptable compared to its competitors such as the ChargeTech Plug but it has a far lower output wattage (100Watt), so will it still be any use to me with my monster laptops?
—V The Omnicharge comes in a very nice compact box, minimal packing that survived the air trip perfectly.
The Omnicharge accessories match the amazing build quality of the main unit, with the adaptor tip being of especially high quality for some reason (not that im complaining)
One thing that bit me slightly is that if you are outside of the US you can’t order the accessories afterward so if you were dumb like me and did not order the DC cable or looked at the dirt magnet that is the case with its raised power button and realised a case is a mandatory requirement then poot to you.
When the Omnicharge arrived, I did not have a 90Watt power supply at hand, so I plugged my 130Watt in to see how it handled the extra load expecting a polite cut off message, but NOOOO, everything just worked, I glared at the info screen to see what was going on to discover that the giant power adaptor was ACTUALLY only drawing about 39Watts, let’s hear it for modern adaptive power supplies, this means I can use my P50 with the Omnicharge and my normal charger, sweet!!!, after a bit of experimentation, I found could make the Omnicharge peek at about 81 Watts (4 VM’s running, with me working in 1 of them) this is perfectly usable, I suppose I could have popped the limit if I have done something like video encoding, but that is not the goal.
—V The part of the Omincharge that sets it apart is that it will accept a very very wide range on its input charge, from USB solar panels up to monster power supplies (4.5V to 36V), if this circuit and it matching detailed control screen was built into actual laptops it would be a HUGE game changer but I will take it in any form at the moment.
—V The Omnicharge is only 20.4K mAh, about the size of my laptop battery, meaning it would only add about 2 hours to my battery life, then I had a realisation that I could charge the Omnicharge with the big Anka USB battery I normally carry at the same time it is providing power to the laptop, which should mean it should charge my laptop about 40% longer than it should on its own (on average my laptop takes about 40 Watts).
—V As you can see it works, but as you can also see the temp is rather on the high side, indeed its only 3 degrees short of the cut off temp with its little fan going for all its worth
conclusion The Omnicharge is truly a very smart bit of kit, by far the cleverest battery I have ever owned, again if a laptop provider incorporated this tech into their laptops it would be a massive game changer, but for the time being it is an essential bit of kit… just don’t forget to buy your accessories…
I must first apologise for the lack of technical blogs recently, but real life has interesting bits in it at the moment.
As I mentioned earlier this year, life has been utter chaos and I have been drinking more and more caffeinated soft drinks. When I started seeing a litre’s-worth of cans on my desk each day, I decided it might not be as healthy as I might like — and it was costing a fortune too, so cold coffee it is!! I have tried cold coffee before and it tastes… well like coffee you have made then put in fridge. It has a nasty bitter aftertaste: perhaps I was just making it wrong?
Turns out there is this thing called “cold-brewed coffee.” I’ve had seen it online obviously, and it’s typically made in £40+ Kickstarter coffee pots then served in handcrafted mason jars… Meh. I dismissed as an over-priced fad.
Thankfully it turns out that large parts of the world have been making it for ages, and I could get a Japanese single litre glass pot that fits in the fridge door for a far more sane £17.
It turns out that pre-ground coffee is not suitable, after a period of suspicion I discovered that this is indeed correct: you get a lot of grit at the bottom of the pot with pre-ground coffee, <sigh> so how much is a fecking coffee grinder? Well about £9.50, and approximately 10 minutes of one’s time to prep. enough coffee for the week. That is bearable (ohh and un-ground coffee is a bit cheaper that ground, on a brand-by-brand basis). Sold!
You are supposed to use filtered water AS WELL (this is starting to sound like stone soup). Well, I drink London water so I can see their point there,. “But I’m not buying a water filter!” says I… Hang on, didn’t we get one when they had one of those “buy one cartridge get 10 free + plus the jug” deals a while back? <rummages in a back cupboard> Bingo! OK, we have filtered water. For more filters, Robert Dyas always has sales on.
Let’s finally make the stuff. It seems you use 80 grams of rough ground coffee for a litre (8 normal coffee spoons), pouring the water slowly over the coffee in a spiral just like with a normal filter coffee. Give it a good stir and pop it in the fridge for at least eight hours before attempting to drink (I have found a simple 24 hours works best). I wash out the filter and make the next batch as I put today’s in the thermos.
I normally have my coffee with lots of sugar and milk but found I did not need the milk at all as the coffee is far less bitter. The sugar on the other hand was a small pain as it obviously does not dissolve well in cold coffee, so I now make a batch of sugar syrup and keep it in the fridge with the coffee. I make the syrup like so:
Apparently sugar syrup lasts up to a month in the fridge so there is no worry there.
How does it all taste after this faff? It tastes really, really good — clean and fresh and just what I wanted as a replacement to an energy soda. Obviously you need to use a thermos to keep it cool. I use Chillys water bottles which work perfectly. Whilst I was initially worried about the coffee tainting the water bottle so I would no longer be able to use it for normal water, turns out the cold coffee doesn’t seem to do that as much as hot coffee. Even if there was some taint, a tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda filled up with water overnight seems to remove any remaining taste.
Coffee filter: £17
Coffee Grinder: £9
Water Filter Jug: £20 (I already had one)
Thermos or Chillys water bottle: £20 (I already had one)
Coffee: A 1kg pack of good coffee beans costs about £13, 1 litre of coffee takes 80g, so a week is about a fiver.
Water Filters: £36 for 12 months (according to Robert Dyas) so a week is less than a pound.
Sugar: I go through 2 cups of sugar a week, i.e. 400 grams, so about 25 pence
total per week: £6.41 (let’s say £6.50 with a bit for electricity and water)
Conclusion Energy drinks were costing me £4 - £5 per day, so we are onto a winner after about 3.5 weeks. Nice!
An added benefit, that appeared later, is that too many soft drinks were making me cough! I had a nagging and persistent cough for about 6 months, and just thought it was a left-over from a chest infection, and that I would deal with it when I had time. Turns out a week after I moved to cold-brewed coffee it just packed in. When I switched back to soft drinks for a few days it returned. Well OK then: coffee is here to stay.
The conference looked like its exceptional mix of excellent content plus good socializing and in my personal opinion is the best of the ICS related conferences.
An extra wince for me this year is letting Theo down on the presentation of my session, thankfully Matt White stepped in and gave my session for me so a huge apology and much gratitude to him
That’s it just a Slide Deck Post and a groveling apology
P.S. Many thanks to Amanda Bauman IBMs token sane person, for sending over some IBM swag (which I had completely failed to order) as well as the Champion Connect Tshirt
Kickstarter/Indiegogo projects seem to fail rather a lot, but I have long wanted a battery I could charge a monster laptop from and so I could not resist the ChargeTech as they promised a 250 Watt output, which would handle the 130-170 Watt power supplies that nearly all my laptops have. after the delays that are now run of the mill with the outsourced production that is common on Kickstarter projects, they did actually deliver, my wonderful monster battery came in a very smart box and inside the battery in all its glory but with a huge yellow label on it1
The Plug its self has the size and feel of an extremely bottom heavy hardback book, it has a quality feel about it.
The business end of the Plug, I have used a lot of these universal sockets, they often feel fragile and like they are going the break if I push the plug in hard, these, however, feel just perfect. the blue LEDs on the USB are a tad on the bright side, there is also a usb-c and a barrel charge port on the left-hand side.
The accessories you get are basic but expected, I also got a car charger (not shown), I will talk about the charger later, the bag is perfectly satisfactory if a bit tight but in a nice touch it has a hole on the side so you can charge the Plug while it is still in the Bag
Using the Plug is logical and simple, turn it on at the front and get shown a little LED % readout, and then there is a separate switch to turn on the AC power, the % indicator remains on during use, I plugged in my laptop and then every USB port, and it just took it like a champ, happily worked on it for a few hours till the % readout read 00 and then it turned off,I unplugged my stuff and then plugged in the included charger, the % counter then slowly counted back up till it read 99 then FF (for full)…… don’t know what I expected but it behaved perfectly.
Even though the Plug is a product from an existing company and not just a Kickstarter newbie it does have a couple of bits that are not perfect
Charge Levels The charge % on the front has a couple of numbers it seems a bit fond of, mine, in particular, seems very fond of 9% and 64% I don’t know why, but the first couple of times using it I actually thought it was broken.
Power Low After a week in my bag, I took the Plug out and checked the % …. it was at 70%, WTF!!! … after a minor panic, I realised that because the on/off button is a raised one on the front, it was simply getting turned on in my backpack, so I will have to get a couple of small rubber glue on feet to stick either side of the button to prevent this, perhaps make this button recessed in a future release.
I like the Plug, it’s a slightly strange beast, it has the feeling of something that was designed and build by Techs, then finished off by accountants, the 250 Watt outage is done perfectly and will make a real difference to my remote working, though I wish you could do a trickle charge off USB-C or some other method.
The sheer size of the 54,000mah battery was a joy, taking a few hours of my Lenovo P50 running flat out plus all the USB ports in use to kill it, it fills a gap in the battery market that has been open for a long time and I am glad I now have one.
This worried me for a second but it just turned out to be a REALLY pushy registration card….. so frankly it can get stuffed… ↩
A quite interesting bit of work I am doing at the moment is building an AngularJS app running on an IBM ISeries, this has presented a whole series of odd little challenges but the one that bit us hard by corporate standards was logout and session expiring, The system and its sessions are on an Apache box sitting on an ISeries, it has turned out that not only was the Apache logout URL not present but that the Apache session expiry did not take effect1.
So what to do….
Basic authentication does not really handle log off very well. For everything but Internet explorer you basically have to perform a fake login.
Followed by a very iffy 30 min log off timer, that surprising works rather well
but even if it had, it would have screwed up the Internal application that most people use to have an Iseries Session via a browser. ↩
Due to a disagreement at the passport office (they said that because my passport got wet 2 years ago1 then it was “damaged” and could not be renewed, only replaced — which is exactly the same process but takes longer)
The session is
“Choose your own adventure: Update/Convert/Replace” Tuesday, May 9 13:30 - 14:30 in Room C. Gorilla 3
A world of adventure awaits you within every app’s lifetime, none greater than when the managers decide it is looking a bit long in the tooth. The realm is a tricky one, your cause may be just but how to you justify you opinion to the grand council of the Elder PMs? Hunt for the hidden forest where backing from the business is said to dwell. Visit the fantasy lands of ‘bolting on the latest tech’ Face the dark overlord of Rip and Replace Your challenges will not just be technical, but political & economic, can you defeat evil forever or will it rise stronger in 5 years time? Let us be your Gandalf, and take you on a journey where you are the hero
Please go, it’s one that entertained me to write and also go grab a drink with the rest of the evil mob Ben, Julian, Matt and see if they will give you a prize off our stand, while I sit here and sob on my keyboard.
Also sorry to Theo who has not put out a contract on my life for cancelling at such late notice.
Apparently not damaged enough for the TSA or Japanese or E.U or British customs, but too badly damaged for a civil servant sitting behind a desk who likes to p**s on peoples lives…. not that I’m bitter or resentful or anything… ↩
So it was time to get a new laptop…
My current one had given sterling service for the last two and a bit years, but there are a couple of broken bits on it, it was starting to make distressing overheating beeping noises and hard drives would often cut out, meaning I had to get a replacement before it gave out completely (and also before its warranty expired as I want it fixed to be my backup machine)
Time to start the hunt, but what are my requirements:
So basically a portable server, I have a separate VM for every client I work with (that includes clients of clients when I am subcontracting), I find that it just makes things cleaner, not only does it mean I can adhere to the desktop standards of each client but there is zero chance of leakage of any client details to another client and lastly, sometimes there is a long period between work for a given client and this way I can just archive a VM till its needed again.
After asking around, the decision was obvious, the P50 series from Lenovo was the only one that matched all the requirements this time round.
I ordered the machine plus various components for it and all had arrived in roughly a week, this time I had splashed out on a docking station as I always buy 2 power supplies anyway and I had drooled over them for years.
I still use Mint Linux (currently version 18.1) as my host OS, and it installed straight away, all standard hardware was detected and function keys worked so that was a nice none event, boot time was 6 seconds cold to login which was a bit jaw-dropping, the docking station worked perfectly with Linux, in fact, nothing went wrong and it was all in all a 10-20 min job, a quick copy over of my existing data and I was done.
Even though the keyboard was one of the new island types, the spacing is the same as the old Thinkpads, so my fingers settled in nicely, an added benefit that I was not expecting is the size and weight reduction, the laptop its self is both lighter and smaller than my current one as is the power brick, nice!
Two changes I did have to make were in the BIOS, Vmware had a little grumble at my 64bit VMs meaning that I had to go into the BIOS and enable “Intel VT-x” as show below
Also when when I was testing using multiple monitors I got a load of terrible screen tearing, even after installing the Nvidia drivers, Linux is know for being a bit poop when it comes to video drivers but in the end it turned out to be the integrated Intel Video, as the dedicated video card is only a 4Gig one, I just turned it on in the BIOS and will live the with slight battery hit (however the quality is so much better that I don’t think I would go back to the Intel one anyway)
Storage seems to be the issue I always have to do the most faffing around with as no laptop producer seems to have the options I want in their customization
Now I did not know that M.2. is just a name for a socket, its not actually a name for the new transport mechanism, it can support mSATA and NVMe, OK, what is the difference, turns out a huge amount, there are hundred of articles and videos on the difference but basically mSATA (the mobile form of SATA) was designed for spindle disks and so is designed around their speed limitation whereas NVMe behaves far more like RAM and so can access SSD’s very very fast
How the feck is this a TB Drive!!!!
fully populated and running like a dream. :)
Nothing is perfect, but in this case, I am happy to report that the minor faults I have found are nothing to do with the engineering of the Laptop and everything to do with me being a minor idiot and a little bit of disconnect on Lenovo’s side.
Backlit keyboard: Early morning I sit down at the laptop and squint at the keyboard, why is the keyboard not backlit?, <tut>, I have just not turned it on, <moment of squinting at the keyboard> where the feck is the backlight?, quick visit to google, then a shamed visit to the Lenovo order page, a backlit keyboard is an OPTIONAL EXTRA, and like a numpty I had only glanced at the keyboard option to make sure that it was set to the UK, I did not notice that there was a none backlight option, it can be fixed by buying a a replacement keyboard, but seems odd to have an £20 option that has been standard on high end laptops for years set to off.. oh well RTFS
Installing SSd’s: as mentioned above I installed my own SSD, but you can’t just install the M.2. stick of gum, you need a plastic adaptor which is not supplied either with the laptop or with the SSD, these are not hard to find and the ones for the P50 look like this
Very very happy, I feel I have picked the right laptop for the next couple of years, it has the same tank like build that is the hallmark of Thinkpads, and with features like USB-C and NVMe I don’t think I will find it wanting during its life span, it is also claimed that it has a full day battery which is something I have not had in a laptop EVER but anything more than a couple hours will really make my year.
Now if I can just stop it getting greasy and dirty, and get some good stickers for the lid.
This was the main reason that I did not get another laptop from https://www.pcspecialist.co.uk/ all their new laptops have these rubbish 4 pin power connectors which I have had problems with in the past, I phoned up and asked but the guy said that they were stuck with them for the next round of laptops. ↩
Got to get fit , GOT TO GET FIT, want to go back to fencing but I would be an embarrassment at the moment, so I have set my self a baseline first
Run 2.4 Miles (3.9 KM) to the Park and back 1 : 33:45 Fail
1 x Complete 7 Min Workout : 4 out of 12 Fail
1 x Run 2.4 Miles (3.9 KM) to the Park and back 1 : 31:22 Fail
Complete 7 Min Workout : 5 out of 12 Fail
1 x Run 2.4 Miles (3.9 KM) to the Park and back 1 : FAIL WORKING LATE
Complete 7 Min Workout : FAIL WORKING LATE
So the passing score for the Army 2 miles run (I have no idea which Army the US one I expect is 19:30 for an old fart like me I have no idea if that is carrying pack or what but its a good start, the park I will be using for fitness is 1.2 miles away, Sooooo 19.30 which equals 1170 Seconds, Pro-rata that: ( 1170 Seconds / 2 ) * 2.4 = 1404 seconds = 23.24, that will be my baseline the end goal will be the top mark in the old fart chart of 13:36 which Pro-ratas to 16.20 (hahahahahaha) ↩ ↩ ↩
I have recently been merging very old tech (RPG on ISeries) with modern tech (angulaJS 1.6) and it has brought a whole bundle of fun little issues on the ISeries side that I thought I would just note down.
I am NOT an RPG programmer (and never will be), but if you are ever having to deal with REST services (or Web Services) being hand cranked1 for you by a Iseries Dev, there are some of the issues that you may hit
A lot of RPG Programmers will not have done this kind of programming before, so testing the results will be a pain to them, may I suggest that you get chrome and https://client.restlet.com/ installed on their machine so they can test and https://jsonformatter.curiousconcept.com/ so they can test the results they are getting.
Yes hand cranked, The ISeries is very good at dealing with text formats and handles REST/MarkDown and its developers have had lots of practice at coding to such, this combined with the extreme pricing of bolt on features <cough> gouging </cough> mean that its most likely your client will drop the bundle of fun on a developer. ↩
Well that was a hell of a first quarter, a crazy mix of stuff that all HAD to be done, just surfacing on the Easter weekend
so what did I miss:
First year in what seems forever that I was not pounding off to the US in Jan for the yearly pep conference on all that is IBM, alas a thousand things conspired to stop me this year but mainly just too many client deliverables to take the time off, though it seemed I got on the big screen.
From what I could see from other peoples blogs the conference was a good one, and that we are finally shaking off the older stale parts of what we do and getting on with the new stuff.
what with UKLug/ICON not being on this year looks like my only conference will be Engage, where I will be speaking, this years dodgy session is: “Choose your own adventure: Update/Convert/Replace” at 13:30 on Tuesday in Room C (Gorilla 3).
Not spent any time in the chat and even missed the yearly swag frenzy (but thanks to Amanda she is going to bring me some stuff over), but I have been doing lots of IBM champion things in that I have been upgrading a variety of IBM tech as well as integrating it with other modern stuff, just not been very visible.
Hmmm I was supposed have got a s**t load of Salesforce qualifications by now, I have had opportunity enough, free training (thanks to bluewave) and what not, but still spend all my time DOING stuff rather than learning stuff, must MUST get a grip on that. also on the radar is docker and the other platform support bits we are looking at for LDC Via
On the plus side I have solved a huge number of client crises in these last few months and made a number of clients very happy, so that is a excellent thing :)