Fasting on Radio4

Super programme this week on Fasting on the Food Programme on Radio 4. Check it out: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qnx3

1&1, Exchange and my Bluetooth woes

So, if you look into the history of this blog, it should be no surprise to see that I use 1&1 for my exchange services.

During October 2012 I replaced my iPhone4G with a Samsung Galaxy S3, and in doing so lost a whole bunch of techie treats I thought I couldn’t live without. I managed to resolve the majority of these, but one of them lingered through until now… I’ll explain:

I commute in my car a lot. When I’m driving, I like to have access to my phone via voice commands on my Jabra bluetooth speaker. When I was using my iPhone, this would magically connect when I got in my car, and I could then hold down the call button to activate the voice recognition. This would crucially bypass the lockscreen on the phone, and then carry out any command I wanted. “Play Music”, “Call Home”, “Next Song”, anything… When I moved to android, this stopped working. When the screen was unlocked, the voice recog worked fine, but it could not bypass the lock screen. This was highly frustrating.

After a test I carried out with my good friend Mole, it seemed that there was some setting or other on my phone that was preventing the bluetooth activation from unlocking the phone, because it was working fine with his phone on two sample bluetooth speakers I provided. The single major thing on my phone that was different from his (and almost anyone else I griped at) was that my phone used my 1&1 Exchange Server for email, calendar and contact sync.

This Exchange Server pushes out a security policy that controls how the mobile device should police the lock screen (amongst other things). Removing the connection to the Exchange Server suddenly allows the behaviour I once loved. So I wrote a very explanatory message to 1&1 Exchange support, asking that they relax the security policy on devices. They wrote back and said that I would need to call them to get this sorted. My past experience with 1&1 support was that it took a very long time to get to the right person, and they were very stubborn about server settings. So, I guessed that they were not interested in fixing this… or I was the only person with this problem!

I started looking around for another Exchange Server provider… and Microsoft (duh!) popped onto the radar. Microsoft offer Exchange services in the cloud for you to take advantage of, for a small fee. I’m currently paying £6.99 to 1and1 for my exchange service (per user/per month); Microsoft want £2.60 (per user/per month). So I opened an account with Microsoft…

Now for the tricky part:

  1. I have a number of users on my domain who use POP/SMTP for their email, so I can’t move the entire domain over to M$ for them to service, that’s just going to be too expensive. So they need to keep their POP hosted at 1&1.
  2. I need to migrate all of my personal contacts, calendar, notes and inbox to the M$ exchange server.
  3. I want to test the install with M$ works with my domain, before I move over the other exchange users to this paradigm.
  4. Before M$ will start sending email from your domain, they need to prove that you own that domain. This is done by asking you to update your MX record to point at them…

So points 1 and 4 in this list are in contention with each other; if I point my MX record at M$, all messages destined for POP accounts at 1&1 will be dropped. There is a neato priority field in MX records, but since the M$ mail-server will resolve, it will bounce and other servers in the priority chain will just be skipped. It was inevitable that all users would suffer a short email outage period. :(

So I point my MX record at M$, wait 15 minutes for it to propagate  and get M$ to test. They acknowledge the change, and I then dash back to 1&1, and set them back to be the default mail provider. This took 30 mins in total, an pretty much all mail in that period would have bounced… so I did it late on Saturday…! What I have achieved tho is that the M$ Exchange server will now allow me to change my default domain from blah.onmicrosoft.com to blah.com. Wahoo… but it’s not getting mail from there, because the 1&1 servers know nothing about the M$ Exchange account. I don’t want to set M$ as the MX host, because of my other POP users at 1&1, but I can now change my me@blah.onmicrosoft.com account to use my me@blah.com account as the primary.

When you set up an Exchange service with 1&1, they do pretty much the same thing; they give you a god-awful email address, and then tell you to forward messages from your preferred user@domain to this email address. This sorts out the routing. So that’s what I did, in the 1&1 email admin panel I point me@blah.com to me@blah.onmicrosoft.com, and since this obtuse email address is registered with M$ as an alternative address, it picks them up!

In Outlook on my desktop, I click on the root folder, and Export->As PST->All sub-directories. I then remove the 1&1 Exchange account from my PC. Now, using the me@blah.onmicrosoft.com account I add my new Exchange account to Outlook. This works a dream and is all automated (much easier than 1&1). I then import the PST into the root, and dah-dah all my current inbox, contacts, calendar, etc are synced to my new Exchange server. I then remove the 1&1 Exchange from my android phone, and set up the M$ Exchange server instead. This is also a dream, and works straight away. I’m missing my inbox organisation rules, but really that is the least of my woes.

Suddenly now I am able to pick from any of the unlock methods on my phone that I like (previously it only allowed PIN or Passphrase), and works beautifully with the Bluetooth speaker (like it should!). 1&1 really need to get their act together, this was a major pain for me… I opened a conversation with them, which they shut down… What’s also interesting in this little experiment is that it also means the iOS are not correctly implementing the security policy being pushed out by the Exchange service… hmmm!

Hope this helps someone. Post below if you need any further help.

Rocksmith (PC) Review

I wrote the following review for Rocksmith (PC) on the amazon review page (which was £32.99 two days ago, and is now £45.86 at time of posting). I’m posting it here, in case Amazon decide to censor it:

So I really want to play this game. It’s been on my wishlist since I heard it was coming out. After Xmas I looked at the reviews, and saw that the PC version had 3* rather than the 5* the other formats were receiving. Filltering these for the 1* reviews, I was able to see the the large majority of complaints were about duplicate keys. i.e. After opening the sealed box, the key contained was already in use by another user (Pirate or otherwise).
I could not believe that Amazon would allow themselves to knowingly send out defective keys after all these complaints; They must have fixed this problem by now… and so I ordered anyway.
Well… I got a duplicate key. Knowing that this might be a problem I logged a support request with UbiSoft (http://ubisoft-en.custhelp.com) with the Subject “[Key Inst] Key In Use”. This is still awaiting a reply.
It was always my intention to purchase more copies of this game for my children to play, but what stops Amazon sending me cases containing duplicate keys again. Surely that’s not going to happen?
So I called Amazon customer services. After a frustrating conversation with 1st line support, where they continued to state “Well, if you will not talk to UbiSoft to resolve the issue.”, which I then repeatedly corrected, I was passed to the 1st line support line manager.
After explaining my case again, I requested:
a) compensation for the inconvenience of having to submit a support request to UbiSoft and wait for them to fix a problem Amazon could have prevented.
b) an explanation to the longer term solution Amazon were going to commit to, to assure me that no further defective keys were sent if I were to order additional copies of the game.
The Amazon representative stated that he was not in a position to provide any compensation for my inconvenience, and that Amazon did not intend to do anything more than continue to forward customers with this type of problem to UbiSoft support.
I explained that if I were Amazon, I would have sent back all of their PC stock of this game to UbiSoft, and await uncontaminated replacements, rather than send our defective goods to loyal customers. This did not strike any accord with the Amazon representative, and the call went very cold.
At least he wished me a good day…!
If you really want to play this game, and have a console… get it on the console format, rather than go through this kerfuffle. If you don’t have a console and _still_ want to play the game, get ready for the “Duplicate CD Key Lottery”.
I’m very disappointed both by UbiSoft and Amazon for not offering any acknowledgement of responsibility in this case.

One month on the ADF regime

So, I’ve now been on my variation of the ADF regime for almost exactly 1 month. I’ve actually found sticking to the regime quite easy. Certainly the fasting days are easier to contend with. I tend to eat less on the non-fasting days, but am making sure I eat good (not necessarily nutritious!) food when I do. The first 7 days of the regime I had quite a drop in my weight (5kg), which was both scary and encouraging. That has now seemed to settle down to a steady weight loss. I have been using an Android application called Libra to log my weight each day, the results can be seen in the following two screen captures:

 

NB Until the 2nd week I was rounding to the nearest kg. However I soon saw purpose and validity in recording to the 100g granularity.

I am continuing with my regular 3-4 visits to the gym per week (schedule willing) and have only had two occasions to shift the M,W,F fasting schedule to fit with other commitments. As a result, I did fast for two days straight on one week, which felt pretty tough at the time, but I’m sure I would do again if necessary. I think the key part to this regime is self discipline. These are not words that fall out of my mouth easily, and it certainly has been pretty tough at times (especially with young children gorging on sugar soaked pancakes on fasting days!), but I am encouraged by the results, and will be continuing with this regime though December 2012 to judge if the regime will work for me long-term.

How I lost 5kg in 1 week

Diets don’t work. As a rule of thumb that’s what I believe. I’ve even written and said as much publicly.

I was diagnosed with IgA Nephropathy back in December 2011. This is a relatively rare immune disorder which makes my immune system attack my kidneys. The only real symptom of this is protein in my urine, otherwise I appear fine. There is a high likelihood that this will nobble me in the end, but the research on exactly what to do to delay an early demise is thin and generally inconclusive. Two things are true though:

  • Reducing blood pressure and increasing overall cardiovascular function is a good thing
  • Reducing protein and high-nuclide foods in diet is good also

Those of you that know me, even in passing, know that I am allergic to any form of physical excursion and love my food, esp foie gras! You will also know that I am a stubborn polarity responder; so if someone tells me I can’t do something I will do it with fervour, much like my adorable wife.

Since I was diagnosed I have been attending the gym as regularly as my schedule will allow. I have also been taking Amlodopine and Irbesartan to reduce damage to my kidneys and lower my blood pressure (which peaked at 190/110). However in the summer of 2012 my blood pressure was still 140/90 and I still had protein in urea. Something needed to be done drastically and for the long-term… there is no silver bullet.

A month or so ago there was a program broadcast on BBC Horizons by Dr Michael Mosely. The program started by being very sceptical, and clearly challenged claims being made by various leading consultants on the efficacy of Intermittent Fasting Diets. A couple of outlandish claims were made about the physiological and long-term effects of this type of dieting, all of which were initially met with raised eyebrows. Dr Mosely, as a self-confessed tofi, had several metrics taken on his blood work including IGF-1 (a particularly good marker for a number of nasty diseases one would rather avoid). His control results were poor, his visceral fats were high (as he expected) but his level of IGF-1 were also high. He was interested.

The program then sees Dr Mosely embarking on two variants of the Fasting Diet, and measuring his metrics throughout. He appeared genuinely surprised at the stark results. His visceral fats had reduced practically to that of of an Olympic athlete and his IGF-1 marker was low enough to reduce his risk of a torturous demise to zero.

I was still sceptical, but curious.

The internet is a great source of information, unfortunately you have a lot of garbage and red herrings in the way of you getting to the actual substance of any research. At the end of this research I was convinced though… that giving a variation on this diet a go would be worth a short experiment.

Last Wednesday my wife and I decided to follow the following routine, beginning on the next Monday:

Monday, Wednesday and Friday were “fasting days”. All other days were normal days, and we could eat what we liked.

Where my wife and I differed slightly was the definition of a “fasting day”. My wife chose to consume no more than 500 calories on these days; I chose to consume no more than 300 calories. To put that in to comparison  I am a little less than  twice the weight of my wife… my regime meant consuming significantly fewer calories by body weight than my wife.

Rather than go into a break-down on the 4 days I’ve fasted to date, I will summarise them thus:

  • Every breakfast was a bowl of porridge with skimmed milk, equating to approx 200 calories.
  • At 14:00 and 18:00 I would have a thin soup equating to no more than 50 calories each.
  • Drink as much water as I needed throughout the day
  • Go to the gym for 1 hour

One of the odd side-effects of the diet was the psychological one; When I was on a fasting day I did not feel as hungry as I expected to. I knew that if I wanted to eat, I could. I knew food was coming tomorrow, and that I could have what I wanted then. I certainly didn’t get the shakes or any headaches as a result of the nutritional withdrawal  Also that on the non-fasting day I generally couldn’t finish an entire plate of food. I would feel full a long time in advance of actually finishing the meal and would have to stop.

Throughout this experiment I have taken a weight diary to the nearest kg. I started my diet at 105 kg, and today am 100kg. People who didn’t know I was on any diet have stated how much better I look in general (which certainly helps boost confidence in the results). I feel much fitter and have much more energy in general. I also get the impression I am thinking clearer and quicker… my jokes have got no better though (sorry!). Furthermore my blood pressure is a reliable 120/80 as of this week, so I believe this is having the desired effect with regards my condition.

I would not recommend this diet to everyone. You have to commit to it and there are some serious health risks if you don’t manage your nutritional intake and other body functions correctly. I intend to continue with this experiment for at least the next 4 weeks, and will return to my GP for a blood work and general check up to confirm the results. If you are interested in this Alternating Day Fasting (ADF) diet, then I would recommend doing some ground work to begin with. Speak with your GP about any pre-existing conditions which may cause issues with this regime, and ask them to monitor your progress closely. I embarked on this experiment with a clear goal and had the facility to measure and manage my health reliably. If you do not feel you have either of these things, do not embark on this type of diet regime.

I will update this blog with my long-term results once I have them.