Bacon, Chicken and Blue Cheese Stuffed Peppers

I really like cooking, and I also like to come up with my own recipes and play around with flavours. This week I had decided to make stuffed peppers, and I know when I go shopping I can usually get some reduced bacon and blue cheese, so this is the basis of the recipe.

The girlfriend and I absolutely loved them, and we had the left overs for lunch the next day too. That said I think I could have easily have added more spinach which may have improved the recipe, as there wasn’t much and you can miss that its there.

The ingredients are:

  • 4 large Bell Peppers (I used red, but any colour should be fine)
  • Packet of smoked bacon (~200gms)
  • Blue Cheese (~ 200gms)
  • 3 chicken thighs (~250gms)
  • Spinach (~150gms)
  • Large Red Onion
  • Something to go with it, I used rice, but pasta, potatoes would work too

You will want the oven on at 180-200 degrees. A baking sheet and a saucepan or frying pan

Step 1:

Half the peppers, remove the stalk, seeds and any white bits. Then put them into the oven for about 20 minutes while you prepare the stuffing. The goal here is to soften the peppers and remove some of the liquid that will come out during the cooking process

Step 2:

Dice the Onion, Chicken and Bacon and lightly cook them. Add seasoning as required.

Step 3:

Add the spinach and cook it in. Wait for all of the liquid to cook off so the mixture is dry

Step 4:

Take the peppers out of the oven. They should be soft, and light browning. Empty out any liquid which might be sitting in the bottom of the peppers

Step 5:

Stuff the peppers with the stuffing mixture

Step 6:

This is the most important step. Add some blue cheese to the top of each pepper

After about 15-20 minutes they should be done. Taken them out, and enjoy them

New PC – Great things come in small packages

My current PC is based around a Antec P183 case which is hench to say the least, and this meant when I switched to a standing desk, I had this placed on a secondary desk next to my main desk.

Antec P183My last build (Intel i7 3770, 16GB Ram, NVidia GTX 660) also used a fair whack in the power department (avg. 250W).

This lead me to my key requirements for a new PC:

  • Core i7
  • Support for up to 32GB of RAM & DDR4
  • M2 SSD Support
  • As small as possible (NUC / SFF)
  • Can drive 2 4K Monitors @ 60Hz (future proofing)
  • GPU does not need to be entirely as powerful, but good enough for work station task
  • Use <100W

So I started looking at the various NUC style PC’s which seemed to be perfect from a size, power point of view, but they only really went up to Core i5 most of the time, the i7 models were really out of date (Haswell, 4th Gen), with not much of a GPU. Those with their own GPU (Gigabyte Brix Pro GTX), still used out of date CPU’s.

Then Intel released the Skull Canyon which seemed to fit all my requirements. Latest Core i7, 4 Core, 8 Threads, support for up to 32GB of RAM, M2 SSD support.

New PC vs Old PC

As you can see it is tiny. It is fitted out with 32 GB of DDR4 Ram, a Samsung 950 Pro NVMe 512GB SSD. It is beautifully silent, mind blowingly fast, and just a wonderful machine. I teamed it up with 2 new Dell U2515H monitors and we have the near perfect setup

New Desk Setup

Anandtech have put it through its paces. Peaks at 87W. 

Its been a long year

Last year I got a new job, and since then I have not blogged that much, I didn’t even get around to finishing my series on my new NAS server. I have been very busy since then, but I have learned a lot about development, people, and project management.

This post will be a round up of many topics, which I hope to develop into deeper posts at a later stage.

New Phone – Lumia 950 XL

So I just got a new phone the Lumia 950 XL in black, it is amazing, and Windows 10 Mobile is great. People keep asking me, why have I stuck with Windows as a phone operating system. People make good arguments about the lack of Apps (which I have never used, or have needed to use) but I have everything I need and I seriously prefer the UI and UX over iOS/Android.

Its fast, fluid, great camera, easy to develop for (far better tooling, language, and platform), its perfect for me.

Xbox One

After having upgraded to a Raspberry Pi 2 for my Plex client, I have since aqquired an Xbox One. So I have replaced all of my living room devices with just the Xbox One.

  1. This means only one device needs to be on – this seems to have created a small power reduction, even when I include the new soundbar
  2. I can switch between lots of different media sources, using consistent and wonderful voice controls (thanks Kinect!)

Health, Body, Food and Gadgets

Just a note on this section, when I use the word diet I use it in a general sense of what one eats, not a weight loss plan.

In the last 18months I have gotten the Microsoft Band (now replaced with the Microsoft Band 2) and a Withings Body Analyzer Scale, which has enabled me to keep and eye on my activity levels and accurately measure my calories used and weight, which has really help me to lose weight. Simply by knowing how much I have burnt off a day and comparing that to how much I have consumed (thanks MyFitnessPal) I can ensure I am always losing weight.

Its amazing how being able to monitor your activity levels pushes you to make small changes in your day to day life to just do more. For example now instead of going to Bank station, and standing on the esclators, I either walk up the esclators (about 6-8 flights of stairs) or I go to Tower Gateway and walk into work (0.7miles) depending on the weather. At the weekend I will walk to Waitrose instead of getting the tube (Tube takes about 20minute, walking takes 30minutes).

Making small changes really does add up, and its sustainable, It’s making small, changes that I can keep doing forever to maintain my health, rather than requiring significant unsustainable changes.

I also noticed as a batchelor that its really hard to cook healthily, varied and tasty food for one, which lead me to eat the same thing day in and day out, and it wasn’t that healthy. So what I have done is to switch to Joylent which is a European Soylent alternative. Which I eat for 2 out of 3 meals a day, having pasta and meat (and sometimes Spinach) for lunch.

This enables 5 positive things:

  1. I am eating much healthier and it is a balanced diet.
  2. It is significantly easier to control the calories being consumed.
  3. I always feel full from it
  4. I get a steady energy release across the day from it, instead of high’s and lows compared to my other diet
  5. I save ALOT of time and money

So I still do not have a lot of variety in my meals, but I make up for it at the weekend, when I can spend a bit more to get special ingredients and make something different. I’m 90% of the way there.

Finishing off the NAS

I will not be completing my series on the NAS I built, and I never really got to the applications I run on it, to make it useable:

  1. Plex Server – for media streaming and some management
  2. Sonarr – for managing TV shows
  3. Syncthing – for Backing up from various devices

And that’s it nice and simple really.

Wrap Up

That’s about it for now, I have a new other posts up myself that I want to get to.

Thoughts on the Surface Pro 3

The Surface Pro 3. Wow, just wow.

It looks like an amazing device and one which could finally fulfil Microsoft’s aims and goals with its Surface line. That is to provide productive tablets, which truly can replace the need for a laptop. It also looks like the best device on the market which could fulfil my needs.

I am a prolific note taker, I make pages and pages of note (today I covered 3.5 A4 pages with notes just at work!!). Really though in those 3.5 pages of notes there’s only actually 1 page of notes that’s useful, its just that erasing pen is hard which leads to notes being consistently rewritten (as its quicker and tidier) or information that become useless very quickly. What I’ve always wanted is a great device for note taking and digitizing it all, so I can access it in better and more efficient ways (and search for information easier!!). Microsoft has been pushing Digital Ink for years, (2003 with XP Tablet Edition and Windows Mobile could both handle pen input and do some really quite cool things with it), and it seems the hardware has finally caught up with it fully.

It really is amazing and while the reviews are not in yet, I would be surprised if its not as good as it looks and I think it is, The hardware is just amazing in itself. for a 12″ tablet, with Core i7 and 9 hours battery it weights just 800gms (iPad Air = ~450gms, iPad 4 = 652gms) which is insane when you think about it.

Today though I was really disappointed though, I was really waiting for a 8″ Mini Tablet, but I think Mary Jo Foley’s here gives a good and reasonable reason why it hasn’t been announced yet. There are two main reasons why I want the Mini over the Surface Pro 3.

  1. It will be ARM. This means no badly written x86 applications running in the background sucking out the performance and battery life of the device, when I want that performance for tablet things (hence worsening the experience and annoying me).
  2. Size, its more portable – it should *just* slip into my jacket pocket, and while I prefer to note take on A4 it would be preferable to take this device with me over a smaller note pad, or over a A4 note pad. Generally my note pads just sit on my desk and don’t go anywhere.

That’s my thoughts now, based on what I currently have, (Dell XPS 13, and Surface RT) and what I think I may need in the future.

So what’s next for Surface?

Well this is where I’m not sure.

There could either be an autumn refresh (Broadwell maybe – but unlikely) with the improved battery and design of the Surface Pro 3, applied to the existing Surface Pro 2 range.

But given the expected arrival of Windows 9 in April next year (February for the preview), and this release of the Surface Pro 3, that they will hold off on the autumn refresh, and do a refresh in the new year. Which I suspect (and hope) will contain a Surface Mini/Surface 3 (Qualcomm 808/810 based), with high resolution displays. Along with a refresh of the existing Surface Pro 2 lines (10″ tablets) and the Surface Pro 3 lines with Broadwell CPU’s (massively improving their battery life), and taking on the thinner and lighter design of the new Surface Pro 3 designs if not improved even more.

I definitely don’t think we will see a refresh of the Surface RT/2, as Microsoft will want the next variant of the ARM tablets to not have a desktop. So unless (like I suggested here) Windows 8.1 Update 2 (is optional) and removes the desktop on ARM and introduces the Office Touch apps as a stepping stone for these users, they will hold off until Windows 9 to announce this and release it (which makes sense).

I do expect all the pen functionality to be spread across the whole line up of devices in the next refresh (so significantly thinner and lighter tablets with better battery with the pen input)

Its because of these reasons, I’m going to hold off on getting the Surface Pro 3, even though I believe it can now replace my laptop and tablet, and introduce features I really want. But I feel its worth waiting for Broadwell CPU’s if I am going to spend £1000+ on a new Tablet / Laptop, I might as well get the best! Also my Surface RT and Dell XPS 13 still do their jobs fine at the moment. Also its missing LTE connectivity

I need to access my needs properly really.

Actually what would be prefect maybe is given how I don’t really need a pocket able Mini tablet, as even my Surface RT doesn’t really go anywhere with me, I don’t think a smaller tablet would make much difference to that. But a 12″ ARM tablet with no desktop (if Core i7 can get 9hours, imagine what an ARM CPU could get!) but then just remote into my PC for any work. This would solve the performance issues surrounding legacy applications, while ensuring a stellar tablet experience.

Windows 9 will be key I think. Maybe they can find away around ensuring that legacy applications cannot destroy the performance of the tablet, just like a Modern App cannot.

Update: Neowin is posting that the Surface Mini was canned at the last minute. I reckon that this was because like the Surface RT and Surface 2 it didn’t support the Pen input and therefore didn’t differentiate from its competitors enough. Which I think is fair enough, they don’t want to annoy OEMs by doing the same things as them, but to instead do something different.



The Home Server Part 3: ZFS Recovery

To illustrate zfs recovery, and to check it works. I am going to:

  1. Create a number of files, of various sizes.
  2. Produce a strong hash of those files sha512
  3. Shutdown
  4. Remove a disk
  5. Put in a different disk, but of the same size
  6. Repair the pool with the new disk – somehow
  7. Validate that the files I created, match the recovered files by checking their hashes

Now this is only a basic test, and wont cover all scenarios. Its more about getting acquainted with zfs, checking it works as I hope (although the large body of users using it, hopefully means it does). And learning how to rebuild my pool in the case of a disk failure.

The latter is probably the most important part.

So lets create some files. I just ran the command below a number of times changing the output filename and count to change the size of the resulting file.

dd if=/dev/urandom of=testfile1.a bs=1M count=1024

As a interesting note, I saw I was getting a consistent 10MB/s throughput with this which seems quite good.

Next I did

ls -al > ~/test_ls_output.txt

To create a directory listing I can use later for comparison.

Then I generated the hashes:

sha512sum testfile1.a > ~/testfile1.a-CHECKSUM

Then to validate the hash:

sha512sum -c ~/testfile1.a-CHECKSUM

So that’s steps 1 and 2 done, now to shutdown and switch out the drives.

So having rebooted I ran:

$> zpool status

pool: storage


status: One or more devices could not be used because the label is missing or         invalid.  Sufficient replicas exist for the pool to continue         functioning in a degraded state. action: Replace the device using ‘zpool replace’.    see:

scan: none requested config:

NAME                                           STATE     READ WRITE CKSUM

storage                                        DEGRADED     0     0     0

raidz1-0                                     DEGRADED     0     0     0

ata-WDC_WD5000AAKS-00TMA0_WD-WCAPW1902486  ONLINE       0     0    0

ata-WDC_WD5000AAKS-00TMA0_WD-WCAPW1908191  ONLINE       0     0     0

ata-SAMSUNG_HD501LJ_S0MUJ13P651726         UNAVAIL      0     0     0

errors: No known data errors

So we can see a disk is missing, and the pool is degraded (its raid5/RAIDZ so we can still access the pool and its data!) And it gives a hint on how to fix it.

A quick google, and the following command tells zfs to switch out the old disk, with the new one, and to then resilver. (I had to use -f to force it too, as my replacement disk had data and other bits on)

zpool replace storage -f /dev/disk/by-id/ata-SAMSUNG_HD501LJ_S0MUJ13P651726 /dev/disk/by-id/ata-SAMSUNG_HD501LJ_S0MUJ13P651727

If you run

$> zpool status

(only interesting parts of output included)

scan: resilver in progress since Sun Feb 23 10:19:11 2014
265M scanned out of 5.25G at 33.1M/s, 0h2m to go
86.2M resilvered, 4.92% done

replacing-2                                UNAVAIL      0     0     0
ata-SAMSUNG_HD501LJ_S0MUJ13P651726       UNAVAIL      0     0     0
ata-SAMSUNG_HD501LJ_S0MUJ13P651727       ONLINE       0     0     0  (resilvering)

About 3minutes later it finished, and running zpool status again, shows the zpool all backup and running again fine.

Quick and simple.

Now to validate the data is the same and correct.