* Posts by Martin an gof

884 posts • joined 27 Jan 2010

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Virgin Media? More like Virgin Meltdown: Brit broadband ISP falls over amid power drama

Martin an gof
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Re: Backup

We didn't demand perfection and just got on with life rather than acting like the world had just ended.

Well said.

For businesses relying on a working internet connection the answer is simple - have an independent backup. For all other uses, crumbs, no internet or TV for a couple of hours is not the end of the world. Annoying perhaps, especially if it's for much longer than that and you miss your favourite serial, but you can always catch up later, and in the meantime, don't you have any books in the house? Any DIY that needs doing? Have a long relaxing bath? Walk the dog? An "old fashioned" radio to listen to? A family to play Monopoly with?

Or - and here's a thought - the TV that you are using to watch cable via a box is pretty much guaranteed to have an aerial socket on the back*. If TV is such an important part of your life, pay an aerial fitter a few pounds to have an "old fashioned" aerial installed and take advantage of normal broadcast TV forever after, for free. Many TVs will even operate as simple PVRs if you plug in a USB drive, though usually without the ability to record one thing while watching another.

And when the dust has settled there is usually some kind of compensation available, if you want to chase it down.

M.

*yeah, my old Trinitron has a socket but is analogue only, but let's face it, just about everyone will have a digital-capable TV these days

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Does Google make hardware just so nobody buys it?

Martin an gof
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Re: But muh headphone jack!

I'm confused about the bitter clinging to the headphone jacks

Well, quite apart from the charging, there's the slightly inconvenient aspect of swapping about. At home, unplug the flying 3.5mm and plug it in to the next device, or spend 30 seconds to force a re-pairing with the Bluetooth-enabled amplifier.

At work, where I often have to get clients audio into PA systems, 3.5mm 'just works' and is easy to swap around, or to have two or three of. Bluetooth often doesn't, and isn't.

Many phones have excellent DACs built-in, particularly when driving a line input instead of low impedance headphones, and quite frankly for PA purposes very few people would even claim to be able to hear a difference, let alone be able to reliably prove it. Processing algorithms aside (personally I'm of the school which believes there should be as litle faffing about between the source and your ears as possible), I see no advantage to having only Bluetooth available, and no real disadvantage to fitting a 3.5mm jack as standard to everything.

M.

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On the first day of Christmas my true love gave me tea... pigs-in-blankets-flavoured tea

Martin an gof
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Re: Sprouts Are little green globes of gorgeousness!

excellent substitutes for Ferraro Roche chocolates

Boss at a previous job had a particular fondness for removing the paper lid and confetti from party poppers, then jamming a sprout in and firing it across the room at work Christmas parties. Priceless.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Christmas is essentially Page 71 of the Brand New Monty Python Bok

Having Thanksgiving at the end of November effectively takes up everyone's party attention, so Christmas doesn't really get going until after that.

We have a family birthday in early December, so Christmas preparations are effectively banned until that is well and truly over. Does the job.

What really annoys the children though is that the shops are full of "back to school" branding in mid July, before the Summer holidays have even started!

M.

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Facebook's new always-listening home appliance kit Portal doesn't do Facebook

Martin an gof
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Maybe Zuck should have a word with Lord Sugar?

Of course, Sugar's Amstrad made a similar device of its own once upon a time. I actually knew someone who had one of the first-generation devices...

Edit. Here's a better link

M.

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Rookie almost wipes customer's entire inventory – unbeknownst to sysadmin

Martin an gof
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Re: @Martin an gof

more likely to get things resolved to your satisfaction if it's a PSA car combined with an appropriately motivated tech

Diamond/Nissan.

I don't usually take my cars to the dealer - I have a "bloke in a backstreet" who is absolutely fantastic that I've been using for 20+ years now. I only used the dealers for those issues because the car was still relatively new and hence under warranty. On more than one occasion my bloke has had to repair something that a dealer had previously "fixed", the classic being a clutch on a second-hand car bought from a main dealer.

The original failed within a month of driving away from the forecourt so the dealer "fixed" it, and within six months it had failed again. It wasn't a problem with the clutch per-se, it was (as my "bloke" discovered) that when they screwed the thing back together they had used seventeen almost completely random screws, only a half a dozen of which were the proper length and taper (who knew?) and many of which had therefore failed. Even when I plonked the broken clutch and collection of screws on the desk of the dealer's service manager, it took a good hour of wrangling before they would agree to refund most of the repair cost.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: @Martin an gof

he car was reloaded with the CCF stored at build for that VIN

In terms of my car, what I didn't mention was that the thing had been back to the dealer several times from new due to sudden unexplained and temporary loss of power. You know, the sort of thing where you'd put your foot down, the thing would start going, then hesitate for a few seconds, then carry on as if nothing had happened.

Mostly what the dealer did - apparently in consultation "with France" - was re-map the ECU and clock up quite a lot of driving miles while doing so.

This was until the car pretty much failed on my wife an hour from home and we had to pay to have the car recovered. Taking it to a different dealer, they spotted that the vacuum switch on the turbo was loose - had probably never been fitted properly when manufactured - and had rattled around and eventually cracked (it's part of some bigger component apparently). Fixing this solved everything, but I never worked out what they did with the ECU mappings, and I suspect that the original garage, which was the one which later also replaced the steering wheel, re-loaded something incorrectly, hence defeating cruise control.

On the bright side, the car has now done some 155,000 miles, still regularly achieves well over 60mpg (62 - 65 being my "normal" range, but then I do a lot of motorway driving) and hasn't had any other "odd" problems, just the usual wear-and-tear. And a completely rusted-through bracket under the radiator. I did mention it was French :-)

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: And then billed 3 extra hours?

doubled your memory size by connecting up a wire...

Seems to be fairly common in all sorts of areas. Three car-related ones. My mum had a Renault 5 back when we were changing from Leaded to unleaded petrol. The car as delivered used four-star and the upgrade to unleaded (which was lower octane) essentially involved connecting up a jumper wire under the bonnet somewhere.

Likewise, a friend of mine had a Passat. He discovered that replacing the (?)indicator stalk for one which included the control buttons for cruise control, then flipping a bit somewhere (via the OBD socket connected to his laptop) enabled cruise control; i.e. all the other prerequisites (presumably sensors and things) were already installed and working.

My own car had a problem with the "leather" on the steering wheel - it started peeling off like bad sunburn. It was only a few months old, so this was fixed by the dealer, but when I got it back I discovered that cruise control had been disabled. Again, turned out to be a bit-flip in the ECU rather than something simple like the garage forgetting to connect the buttons up after swapping the steering wheel.

Given a few minutes I could probably think of dozens of other examples. I'm not sure if I think it's a good thing or not...

M.

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Spoiler alert: Google's would-be iPhone killer Pixel 3 – so many leaks

Martin an gof
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iamanidiot

Now I'm curious what phone you are using Cambsukguy. Most 4 year old phones I know don't get updates anymore. Let alone monthly ones.

Rainer

Which vendor still supports Android on a four year old phone?

Here's a clue. My nearly five-year-old Moto G (the original one) still gets regular updates via LineageOS. There's a new build out every Wednesday and I tend to install them monthly.

It could do with a better camera, but in all other respects it suits me well (though I still hate on-screen keyboards). Even the non-removable battery hasn't been a problem yet. With careful management it will last me six or seven days, though I could squeeze as many as ten when it was new.

M.

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iFixit engineers have an L of a time pulling apart Apple's iPhone XS

Martin an gof
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Re: Slavish followers

Windows 95 did look vaguely Mac-like

I remember at the time that W95 came out with its fancy bar along the bottom of the screen, the rumour was that Microsoft UK had a room full of Acorn machines and were copying (badly) RiscOS's "taskbar". At the time Apple was still on OS 6 or something which looked a lot more like Windows 3, so the "dock" was nowhere in sight.

I'm not aware of anyone putting such a thing on a desktop GUI before Acorn, but I'm willing to be corrected. The original OS for the Archimedes had a very rudimentary bar in 1987, but the full functionality only appeared with OS2 in 1989.

M.

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Open-source alt-droid wants to know if it's still leaking data to Google

Martin an gof
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Re: Lineagoes + FDroid?

my old Moto G

Also a user of LineageOS on an original MotoG, 14.1 as it happens (suspect there won't be a version 15 for the G). Installed it without Google apps and am using FDroid - how much data does Google still slurp?

Quite keen to encourage #1 son to swap once his G5 is a bit older. He's using the stock OS at the moment, albeit without signing up to Play Services. He uses FDroid but also Yalp Store and is very good about keeping data turned off unless he actually needs it.

M.

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I want to buy a coffee with an app – how hard can it be?

Martin an gof
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Re: Try travelling with First Bus and their (cr)app

Cardiff Bus

And everything was going so well until some idiot planner decided to build offices and a new TV studio right on top of the extremely-well-designed-considering-it-was-the-1960s bus station right outside Cardiff Central. You used to be able to hop off a train straight (more-or-less) onto a bus that would take you anywhere within Cardiff and beyond. Now you have to hunt around a dozen sidestreets looking for the current location of the stop and queue on a crowded pavement.

Being publicly-run didn't help them there unfortunately.

That said, and I'll wait to see how it pans out, the newly-formed Transport for Wales sounds like it has someone working for it who has a sensible head on his shoulders.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Almost...

Banks also charge for cash transactions.

When I was working as a jobbing electrician people thought they were doing me a favour by offering to pay in cash rather than cheque, even for the big jobs. As a Good Boy who always did his accounts (or, rather, had a Good Accountant to do them for me) I wasn't in the habit of trying to avoid taxes and while the bank charged a flat rate for cheques (something like 50p - can't remember offhand) they charged a percentage for cash - 2% if I remember correctly. Thus for any amount more than about £25 (my hourly rate was £30) it was actually cheaper (for me) to be paid by cheque than in cash, unless I was going to take the cash to the wholesalers to buy the bits for the next job.

Things are different now, but I couldn't take cards either. The machines from the banks needed a deposit and a monthly rental, as well as a fee on each transaction and would have made the whole thing uneconomic.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: designed by guys [...] who "kind of know" how to do it but in actuality, not quite

execrable user interface foisted on me after the latest ATM "upgrade"

For simple cash transactiona I have found that the ATMs around here which have an option to choose Cymraeg for the UI often have a different (sometimes radically so) interface for Welsh than Engliah. One in particular offers a much simpler, cleaner, quicker interface in Cymraeg than in English.

Not tried any other languages, can't say that I've noticed machines around here which have any. Does anyone have any experience?

M.

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First Boeing 777 (aged 24) makes its last flight – to a museum

Martin an gof
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Re: 777?

Dan-Air comets anyone?

They were regulars into Cardiff well into the 1970s - I've recently scanned a few old photographs of my dad's which prove it :-)

At least, I think it's Cardiff. Mostly looks like Cardiff, but being dated 1976 I don't really remember, some of it doesn't look like Cardiff. Several Britannia and Aer Lingus 737s, a Transeuropa Caravelle, even a Hercules in the background in "camouflage" paint (odd) and a Dan Air Comet 4C, the "doesn't fall out of the sky" version.

There's a Comet 1 at Cosford. James May's "Airfix" Spitfire is there too. Well worth a (free, apart from the car park) visit with some extremely well-displayed aircraft. My favourite is probably the Lightning - hung vertically so you can stand underneath and look up the pipes.

M.

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Guess who just bought Maplin? Dragons' Den celebrity biz guy Peter Jones

Martin an gof
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Re: Well, best of luck to him...

BC547's are 11p, get with the times!

Always wondered why "old fogeys" insisted on using 741 op-amps when the 5532 was so much better, or the 071 or 081. Are those things even available any more? These days I often find myself just getting a "module" instead. Is there a risk of losing old design skills?

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: More Powa!

because eating lead was bad for you, lead within ten yards was dangerous

Why do you think they banned Lead in petrol? It's breathing it in that's particularly bad in this case, though I suspect that the amount of Lead you could breathe in, even if you leaned right over the iron, is near zero, certainly when compared with the stuff chucked out by pre Lead-free petrol cars.

Not so sure about the "colophony" comment. Most solders use rosin as their cores, which I don't think is at all dangerous in normal use, though possibly the small particles released by soldering are an irritant which is likely to be a particular problem for someone susceptible to asthma. This is why extraction systems (or even a simple desk fan to draw the fumes away) are recommended when soldering.

M.

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Martin an gof
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The old "Maplin catalogue" & "magazine projects" customer base of the 1980s can easily be re-imagined in the "hack tech" current era.

I suppose Maplin really came to the fore in the "analogue" days, when people tinkered around building or improving radios, amplifiers, electronic synthesizers and the like. In the "digital" present many new companies have arisen, as mentioned in other posts, but it's encouraging to realise that some of the old guard, who never really lost the ethos epitomised by Maplin's fantastic cover art, and the stories that went with it are still going. I always coveted one of Maplin's modular synthesizer kits, but what I actually bought from them was small electronics, and then I went to Greenweld or Cricklewood, or Watford Electronics before they dropped that side of their business in favour of computers, to buy "bargain bin" bits. I still have a massive array of 5x7 LED matrixes and a "Micro Professor" thermal printer in my "useful bits" drawer...

M.

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Martin an gof
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I bought a couple of their basic electronic kits for my sons once and I kid you not, I couldn't get the solder to stick to the pads

Too late now, but I find this is common with Lead-free solder, which is probably what was in the box. Despite what it says on the reel, most Lead-free solder needs a much higher tip temperature than ordinary Lead-Tin solder in order to flow cleanly, and in my (limited) experience, cheap "hobby" soldering irons in the 15W - 25W range just can't hack it. Yes, they will melt the solder, but they can't keep it hot enough to stay melted while it flows into the joint.

I once ran a series of "learn to solder" courses for children at work. I insisted they bought 40W "temperature controlled" soldering irons, but they were admittedly quite cheap ones. Even they struggled, but we had remarkably few outright failures, and I only had to re-make a small number of dodgy joints to get the kits working for the children to take home.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Well, best of luck to him...

big hitters like Farnell

Yes, they've actually done it quite well too with their three slightly-differently-targetted brands of Farnell (decades-long rival to RS), Element 14 (educational) and CPC (gadget tat for the rest of us). Of course, despite the different "shop fronts", the stuff behind the scenes is identical, so you effectively target three different markets for the price of one.

That's not to say that there aren't other players in the market too. Companies such as Pimoroni, The Pi Hut and ModMyPi are very big on the education side, both re-selling and creating their own kit (despite their names, not just Raspberry Pis!), and suppliers such as Kitronic have huge ranges aimed directly at schools, all of which could quite nicely benefit from a bit of high street exposure, should Maplin like to do down this route as suggested by an earlier poster.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Well, best of luck to him...

At least he won't have the overhead of all the brick-and-mortar stores, so that's something.

But he does have a few Jessops stores. It seems to me that Jessops and Maplins could be quite compatible bedfellows. Maybe the stores wouldn't have the stockroom at the back staffed by a PFY who will happily dig out half a dozen BC109s, some stripboard and precisely the length of CF100 cable you need, but adding a Maplins-branded "gadget" section to the Jessops-branded cameras etc. section of a store might just work.

M.

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Martin an gof
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I would never use a park-and-ride.

Dunno where you live, but in most of the "big shopping towns", cities and the like that I've visited recently, park-and-ride either by bus or by train or by tram actually works out cheaper and is often more convenient than trying to park in a town-centre multistorey, where you first have to fight your way through town-centre traffic and then try not to faint at the prices.

The downside is that if you are carrying large bags, or happen to have a pushchair / wheelchair, some public transport can be "tight", but it's gradually getting better, even here in Wales where our dreadful old Pacers and Sprinters are soon to be upgraded with a mix of slightly newer trains, converted trains, trams and brand new Diesel and bi-mode units.

M.

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Microsoft: You don't want to use Edge? Are you sure? Really sure?

Martin an gof
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Re: Links to resolutions, will work with any browser

Windows in a VM is great for most applications, only downfall are things like gaming as 3D support in the hosts I've been dabbling in is sadly lacking or experimental at best.

The main reason I need Windows is to run Xara. This doesn't really rely on heavy duty graphics cards or direct metal access, so yes, maybe it's VM time. Never done it before, might have some issues to sort out regarding shared data discs, but certainly worth looking at. I use the aforementioned Handbrake in Windows mainly when I need to do a quick conversion without rebooting into Linux, so if Windows is in a VM that point becomes moot.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Links to resolutions, will work with any browser

Internet "wisdom" suggested a 2GB partition might be sensible.

You're kidding, right?

I can't check at the moment, but my memory is that when I ran the upgrade for OpenSuse, it suggested that the existing 100MB partition was too small and that 500MB would be ideal. This on a five(ish) year old machine that's seen several updates and re-installs of both Linux and Windows over the years.

I did a bit of looking around, and came to the conclusion that 2GB would be perfect for a new machine I was planning on having at least a 5 year lifespan and therefore would also have to endure several OpenSuse updates and probably a W7 to W10 transition too.

The point isn't really about the exact size of the EFI partition, the point is that the W7 installer will only create a 100MB partition and that I've had great difficulty persuading it to use the partition created by the OpenSuse installer. I would have had the same trouble if said partition was 500MB or 200MB or even (I suspect) 100MB.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: I bash google when possible

until you divide by zero...

I have completely forgotten the context, but I well remember the lesson. My A-level class (back in the 1980s) once spent an entire 40 minute "single period" maths lesson struggling to follow the teacher as he wrote a whole rolling blackboard worth of proof for something-or-other, carefully balancing both sides of each and every equation until, two minutes before the bell he triumphantly announced he was nearly finished, paused for a heartbeat, and sighed.

The last line he had written boldly proclaimed:

0 = 1

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Links to resolutions, will work with any browser

overwrote the EFI

Ugh. Been there, done that, currently fighting with it again. I thought I had the recipe - install Windows first, then install (in my case) OpenSuse over the top. Turned out that Windows 7 creates a 100MB EFI partition by default, and the last time I wanted to update OS, from 42.3 to 15.1, I was told that 100MB was no longer enough and I needed half a gig minimum. Internet "wisdom" suggested a 2GB partition might be sensible.

But how to create that on the new disc when I was re-installing? OpenSuse's quite happy to do so, but persuading W7 to use the partition has so far proved impossible. Even to get W7 to recognise the partition was there at all I had to give it a textual label that OS didn't need, but then although W7 seemed to install fine, it refused to complete "preparing Windows for first boot".

Seriously considering whether now is the time to abandon dual boot (which was always a bit of a pain because I do switch a couple of times a day) and go with Windows in a VM. Put it off before because of worries about performance (I use Handbrake a lot in both Windows and OS) but now I have a new machine with Ryzen, perhaps not such an issue.

M.

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A boss pinching pennies may have cost his firm many, many pounds

Martin an gof
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Re: Penny pinching boss

solid ink, i.e., fancy, expensive square crayons

Compare them with original laser toner and they aren't dreadful - about £100 for 3,000 pages (colour) or half that for black compares well with many manufacturer costs. The big advantage is the ability to add another crayon at any time, without really interrupting printing, and that the only waste is a very small cardboard box (recyclable in the normal bin) and a small plastic pot not unlike a child's yoghurt pot (recyclable). Compare that with most laser printers where there's a big plastic contraption with cogs and springs and (in some cases) the imaging drum, which can only be recycled by sending it back to the manufacturer.

With regard to teachers, it's an absolute doddle to add ink, so less chance for wastage or breakage.

ball-point pen, and sometimes even pencils, cannot write over the wax "ink."

It's also a bit hit-and-miss to laminate solid ink printouts. Some laminators are just a little too hot and colours will change as the printout passes through the machine!

On the other hand, that slightly-raised feel, particularly on high quality paper, does lend a certain "class" to printouts, especially letters and invitations :-)

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Penny pinching boss

And then the podule backplane

Already had the backplane (four slots!) because I also had a handheld scanner (Watford Electronics), and I'd upgraded to MEMC1a and 4MB RAM by then too. I think I also had a Watford IDE interface (I certainly had an IDE disc, though maybe that came after the printer). I had a lot of money invested in that machine. A few years later the scanner and the printer transferred to a RiscPC.

The LBP-4 itself is currently sitting in the pile of things that still worked last time I used them, but for which I have no use now. I don't want to chuck it, but finding someone who wants it...

For the last 12 years or so I've been using a Xerox Phaser (solid ink) 8560. Fantastic printer, networked so the RiscPC can still use it. Takes £400 to restock the ink for 3,000 pages. Alternatively I could buy a brand new Lexmark colour Laser printer with 3,000 pages of toner and save £140. Ridiculous.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Penny pinching boss

You could get a Canon LBP4 for maybe £500-£600 in around 1996

I remember it well. Bought my LBP4 (also re-badged as an HP LJ4 I think?) circa 1991 for £1,200, though that did include an extra 2MB of memory and (and this was the key point) a Computer Concepts LaserDirect card for my Acorn A310 (+4MB).

Didn't make the 4 pages per minute any faster, but the time-to-first-page was lightning quick by the standards of a normal parallel port connection.

M.

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Canny Brits are nuking the phone bundle

Martin an gof
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Re: Telefonica own O2 and GiffGaff, so this is nothing new for them

Is ID Mobile, part of the Carphone Warehouse group, an MVN?

MVNO I believe is the correct term, and there is an easy way to tell. An MNO (Mobile Network Operator) owns transmitters and infrastructure and there are now only four of those in the UK, i.e. Vodafone, O2, EE and Three. All other "networks" are MVNOs (the V standing for Virtual) and will be piggybacking on the infrastructure of one ore more of the MNOs. Some of our phones are with The Phone Co-Op which uses EE at the moment.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Shysters

Years ago people used to refer to the phone+contract deal with the word 'subsidy' - i.e. they were subsidising the cost of the handset.

My second ever mobile phone - a Motorola similar to this one - would have cost considerably more as an unlocked handset than the £75 (IIRC) I paid back in 1998 or so for a whole 15 month contract with the thing. That said, while it seems good value for money, if I remember correctly the monthly free 30 minutes were Orange-Orange only and I was limited to 10 SMS per day - yes, a hard limit of 10. But compared with contemporary deals it actually was quite good value.

For a while after that I had a series of 12 month contracts, never paying more than £15 a month, and gaining such useful bundled phones as the Sony Ericsson K800i (still the best - i.e. most usable - camera phone I've ever had) and the Nokia 6220 Classic (next best - why can't phone cameras have proper Xenon flashes these days?). In fact those two and a Sony J10 Elm are still in the drawer, charged up, as emergency phones.

When standard contract lock-in moved to 18 and then 24 months I went SIM-only, and haven't regretted the move. I'm currently paying around £7 per month (don't use much data) and have a nearly 5 year old Moto G with LineageOS. I'll upgrade the phone when it dies. The contract, not sure.

M.

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Ever wanted to strangle Microsoft? Now Outlook, Skype 'throttle' users amid storm cloud drama

Martin an gof
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Re: we are the Cloud, you will adapt to service us. RESISTANCE IS FUTILE

jump on every outage (of which there are very few when you factor the scale of cloud)

What you're missing here is that an outage in "the cloud" likely as not affects whole geographic regions. In this instance, half the globe by the sound of it.

Something goes wrong in an on-premises system, local systems go down, life in the rest of the world carries on as normal.

Something goes wrong in a shared off-premises system, dozens or hundreds (or more) of companies suddenly wonder if it's worth taking the afternoon off because, short of calling the issue in (if the phones are actually working) there's nothing more they can do than wait.

M.

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Trainer regrets giving straight answer to staffer's odd question

Martin an gof
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Re: Laptops cheap, good, qualified, trained and competent workers not.

After reading the joy some get from making workers pay for tools they need to do their job I feel lucky to have not worked for those companies.

...

The tools a company gives you to do your job can say a lot about what they think of you.

I think that most of the points being made were more to do with not wanting to supply a shiny new hammer every time the carpenter notices a few scratches on the face following proper application to a nail. I am fortunate to have worked in several jobs where "tools" (of various descriptions) would be supplied if proper justification could be given, but I wouldn't abuse that trust by deliberately damaging one of those tools the minute a new model came out.

M.

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Martin an gof
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We had a secretary spill her hot chocolate over her Apple keyboard

Had someone spill hot chocolate over a 3.5" floppy disc and not own up until some weeks later when the data on that disc absolutely had to be read immediately and the chocolate had dried out and glued the whole lot together. Cracked the actual disc out of the plastic case, ran under a tepid tap for a bit, left to air-dry, fitted it into a new case (sacrificed the disc from that one) and I got almost everything off the thing - IIRC it was just one small file that failed.

Still count it as one of the best recoveries ever, but all I got in return was something along the lines of "I suppose I'll have to re-type that [document/spreadsheet/whatever] will I?"

M.

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Hello 'WOS': Windows on Arm now has a price

Martin an gof
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Re: okay lets run the numbers

The second the ram load (it's small even for a linux system and will result in swapping with most GUIs)

Not sure that's the case in Linux to be honest. I've been running OpenSuse / KDE in 4GB on two machines (one desktop, one laptop) for some time, and the only time the desktop started swapping was when I needed to do a bit of slightly complex video editing (Kdenlive) on that machine, rather than my slightly better endowed one. Before I retired it, my 2GB EeePC ran (32 bit) OpenSuse KDE reasonably well, very very little swapping.

I have recently added 4GB to the desktop machine, and only because the children tend to leave themselves logged-in when they are tag-teaming homework, each with a copy of LibreOffice and Firefox running as a minimum. Even so, swapping was rare, but I get nervous when sysguard reports less than 1G free memory, and having some "free" memory for file buffers is always a performance boost, even when running from SSD as this machine does.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: I Wish You Luck

Bulldozer and related microarchitectures were a flop because both performance and power efficiency were beyond comparison (except under very specific workloads).

I presume you mean that the performance was low at a given power consumption? You are possibly right, but you ignore other things. I have been using AMD almost exclusively in low to mid range builds (not that I do hundreds, but y'know) for a while now because for an equivalent amount of computing grunt, the AMD parts have for a long time been cheaper than the Intel parts, particularly when you consider integrated graphics and motherboard facilities.

For example, for a very long time a cheap AMD board would have 4 or 6 SATA3 ports while the equivalent Intel board might have two SATA3 and two more SATA2 ports if you were lucky. It was a similar story with USB3.

For general desktop use, light gaming and life-extension upgrades the A6, A8 and A10 processors (mainly the A8) have been excellent value for money over the last five or six years, though I note that Intel's pricing has moved in the last nine months or so, still, an A8 (two Bulldozer modules sold as "four core" with R7 graphics) is the same price as a two core non HT Celeron with UHD610 graphics.

Ryzen is now competing with Intel in the higher performance bracket, which is a place AMD haven't really been for a long time. I'm just setting up my first Ryzen system. Interesting times.

M.

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Abracadabra! Tales of unexpected sysadmagic and dabbling in dark arts

Martin an gof
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Re: Bah!

After switching to GSM there was a ringtone that buzzed for 5 seconds before the audio tone started.

Next to not-brilliantly-shielded audio equipment, GSM phones can often induce a bzz-dt-bzzzt, bzz-dt-bzzzt rhythm for a second or so before the call comes in. Just as the ringtone is about to start it goes constant bzzzzzzzzz.

I'm not so surrounded by dodgy audio equipment these days but I'm convinced that over the years my body has learned somehow to sense the EM - the number of times I've instinctively picked up the phone to read a message, only to have the alert tone play *as* I pick it up (i.e. it hadn't played when I made the "decision" to pick the phone up) is unnerving, and seems more common the closer I am physically to the phone.

Amazes the children :-)

M.

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We've Amber heard a NASty rumour: Marvell man touts private cloud box

Martin an gof
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Re: Anything is better than WD Home. By default

It's well known that the more knobs you put on a thing, the more people wil misadjust them and then complain and eat your support resources...

Off topic anecdote:

My boss at the radio station I used to work at ordered a new on-air desk with as few frills as possible. If he could have got away with it, each channel would have had a "start" button and nothing else. In the end we ended up with gain, talkback (if appropriate), pre-fade, start and a fader.

An older desk was not specified like this (was there before his time). Jocks would regularly complain "CD2 sounds odd" or "my mike isn't working properly" or "the telephone caller can't hear me", having fiddled with the phase, or the parametric EQ or the phantom power or the pan/balance or an aux send, so he took all the little daughterboards under each channels strip and turned them around so the controls were facing inwards. The knobs were glued back on to the strip. Sometimes the circuitry was simply bypassed, leaving the controls in place but ineffective. Nobody seemed to notice :-)

This kind of attitude is a bit Apple-like, but there are circumstances where it works well and others where it doesn't.

A possibly better solution I have with my new digital desk is the ability to recall settings. If someone's mucked it up, recall "general purpose" and I'm back to a known state.

M.

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Ad watchdog: Amazon 'misleading' over Prime next-day delivery ads

Martin an gof
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Re: Amazon is crap

Not sure how it can be made any easier to be honest?

Well, the main thing (apart from the fact that the website doesn't seem to like my home computers and often fails, requiring a re-load) is that when as a non-member you go to order, you get a whole-page advert for Prime, "do you wish to take advantage of free next-day delivery" or some such tosh, and the "no thanks" button is in small print right at the bottom. Every time.

This sort of tactic is of course not exclusive to Amazon, but it's annoying nonetheless.

M.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 9: A steep price to pay

Martin an gof
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Angel

Re: The one thing I wholeheartedly agree with Jobs on ...

I tried Apple's single button mouse and you needed two hands to summon up contextual menus (using control-click).

I think the idea was a carry-over from the early Mac OS days when there were no contextual menus to speak of. Everything you needed to do was presented on what I still consider to be one of the daftest design decisions ever - the context-sensitive menu stuck to the top of the screen. Well, apart from the one stuck to the top of the application window which is harder to aim at.

Having used 3 button mice for over a decade at that point, I wasn't particularly impressed.

The one thing that I still can't understand is how Acorn got the UI design so right and no-one has copied them. I'm thinking particularly of the use of the right-button for "select-like" actions such as making scroll bar bump arrows work in reverse (handy if you have just overshot as you can Adjust without moving the mouse), the way the pointer "sticks" to the scroll bar when you are dragging it, making it impossible to drop off and have the window spring back to where it was, the use of the third button to scroll in both directions at once and the large resize targets, making it much easier to adjust the size of a window.

And, of course, the middle-button-context-menu, designed in such a way that screen-top or window-top menus were unnecessary clutter.

Some of these things have been emulated, for example middle-clicking is often used for 2D dragging, but others I really miss...

...except when I'm actually using my Acorn, of course. twenty four years old this year (if I've counted correctly) and still the machine I use most often for basic email.

Icon, for Roger/Sophie Wilson, Steve Furber and the team, and whoever else designed the Acorn UI.

M.

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Devon County Council techies: WE KNOW IT WASN'T YOU!

Martin an gof
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Flame

Re: Actually back in the 1990s I was at a company...

he doesn't go on the "first" day back, as it's an inset day...what the actual...? You've just had x weeks off

(in the UK...)

Blame Kenneth Baker. Yes, it was that far back. He wanted to "professionalise" the teaching profession and among other innovations he decided that teachers should work a fixed number of hours. Up until then teachers had been (to a greater or lesser extent) willing to work enough hours to get the job done. This often involved going into school during "holiday" time, or after hours in order to prepare the classroom or attend a training course. It nearly always involved taking children's work home to mark. Believe it or not teachers are not actually paid during holidays(*) and are not eligible for overtime.

So Kenneth Baker set a fixed number of hours for a full-time teacher. A lot of things changed as a result, not least of which was the introduction of "Baker Days", officially known as IN SErvice Training, or INSET. During a Baker Day, teachers are given time to attend training sessions, CPD, that sort of thing. You know, the sort of thing that you or I would be given time to attend during a normal working day. Most teachers can't do that because they have to - you know - look after a classroom full of rowdy kids. Very occasionally an individual teacher might be given time to go on a course and the class covered either internally or by a supply teacher, but this is expensive so most schools prefer to undertake training either on INSET days, when they can train large groups of teachers together, or in "twilight" sessions, squeezed into the time between sending the children home and the official end of a teacher's day, when they are normally tidying up, marking and preparing for the next day. Of course, many teachers (particularly at primary) also end up taking work home, so the whole idea of fixed hours is a bit moot.

Most teachers are now also eligible for PPA time (this was a Blair government innovation I believe). This is generally 10% of the working week (i.e. one morning or afternoon session) of "non contact" time which is intended to allow an individual teacher to undertake paperwork and other administrative tasks. Good schools employ an additional teacher who covers such time, maybe (particularly in primary schools) by teaching a non-core subject such as music at which the class teacher may not be confident. Not-so-good schools (my opinion) use a "teaching assistant". In theory this time is not the responsibility of the class teacher, but particularly where TAs are used (perhaps less so for Higher Level TAs), the class teacher still ends up planning and reviewing the session.

Teachers do get bad press sometimes, but a lot of it has to do with misconceptions such as that surrounding INSET days. Many seem not to realise - for example - that teachers are not allowed to take their massive allocation of holiday whenever they please, not even a single day. Got a child of your own who is off school sick? Best of luck with that. Even taking an afternoon off to attend a funeral can sometimes be problematic.

Disclaimer (as if you couldn't guess) - I come from a family of teachers and my teacher wife also comes from a family of teachers. I did try it myself for a short time, until I realised I was hopeless at it and couldn't cope with spending four hours a night (requirements for newly-qualified teachers were quite onerous) on marking and preparation.

M.

(*)Well, those in permanent positions do get a monthly salary which doesn't change during the holidays, but it's actually based on the number of hours worked. Teachers who are not on permanent contracts appear to receive a higher salary. In fact they are paid the same as permanent teachers, but the pay is concentrated into the actual working time and isn't spread out equally across the year.

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Phased out: IT architect plugs hole in clean-freak admin's wiring design

Martin an gof
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Re: The cult of the small BOM

Where my PHB have caused me fits though is when a design is right at the hairy edge of possible... And then when your design is deployed... the PHB will hire a bunch of Bangalore Banditos to "improve the value stream" by simplifying the design and cut production costs

A classic case in point may have been the original Chinese-built batch of Raspberry Pis, which were specified with RFI "magnetics" in the Ethernet jacks, but built without them. This caused them to fail their RFI testing and although the Foundation officially called it a "substitution... by accident", it's not a great leap to suppose that someone at the factory specified a cheaper part in order to improve margin.

At the same manufacturing facility I mentioned earlier, I was there partly to evaluate a piece of in-house designed test equipment that a previous employee had built and nearly got working before leaving for pastures new. I'm sure that at the time he'd had the idea it could have been a good step forward for the company - higher specification and lower costs than the equipment they were then buying-in - but it was built almost entirely out of hand-picked discrete logic, a mixture of 74ALS, 74F and other types which weren't always interchangeable due to extremely tight timing tolerances and would probably have been a nightmare to get "production ready".

We moved on to other things.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Not just failed artists

Cheaper to bulk buy all the same.

Was once told a tale of an electronic equipment manufacturer who worked out that it was cheaper to redesign a circuit to use all 10k resistors - including building networks of the things when it wasn't possible to do a simple swap - than it was to buy the dozen or so different values the original circuit design called for. I was told this (IIRC - it's a while back now) by the owner of an electronics assembly business, in the days when surface mount components in "normal" kit were still rare. He was using it as an example of "and then they built it using SMDs and it was still smaller than the original circuit, despite using four times (or whatever) as many resistors" :-)

M.

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Martin an gof
Silver badge

Re: Is that legal now?

There are also arc fault circuit interrupters or AFCIs

Not wanting to be too jingoistic here(*), but AFCIs are not standard equipment in most of the world, because few parts of the world have electrical installations as poorly designed as the US ;-)

One of the benefits of a higher nominal voltage is that for the same power, current is lower. Put poor fittings (dodgy terminals) together with high currents and arcs are an almost inevitable result.

A side benefit is the ability to deliver higher power using thinner cables - cable size is directly related to the current it carries, not to the voltage used.

M.

(*)mainly because I'm relying on third-party reports, having no personal experience of US electrics

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Martin an gof
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Re: Is that legal now?

the insulation on each is approved for 240V

Standard insulation resistance checks on wiring and on appliances are carried out at 500V, so no problem there. In fact, properly maintained wiring with properly maintained appliances and labelled outlets shouldn't be a problem at all.

M.

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Martin an gof
Silver badge

Re: get out quick

Apologies in advance for brevity...

no earth bonding on central heating pipes.

A lot of things like this are because they weren't mandatory at the time the installation was designed. New editions of the regulations aren't retrospective unless you happen to be working on the part of the installation concerned.

wire plastered into walls with no trunking.

Not strictly necessary, even now. Plastic trunking might protect cable from the plasterer's trowel, but the 17th edition requires either burial 50mm deep or protection good enough to deflect (say) a picture nail or (more common) protection by an RCD.

not a singe socket that has been opened up has any insulation over the earth wires from the T&E,

Not, strictly speaking, insulation. It's mainly there as an indicator to identify the conductor.

and it appears that as each socket was installed, the cable was pulled tight so there is no slack in the cable at all

A properly applied crimp to add a couple of inches of wire will be at least as reliable as the screw terminals in the outlet, probably more so.

find that the knob head cut a notch out of the TOP of the joists to run cables across it, i am supposed to follow that route and not drill a hole through the joist for the cable to pass through...

Drilling a hole would just further weaken the joist, but re-using the notch isn't ideal die to the risk of nailing through the cable, even when you know it's there. In many cases it's possible to fit a plate across the notch, which my inspectors never whole-heartedly recommended, but seemed happy to accept.

Safe Plate

M.

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Martin an gof
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It's a myth perpetuated by people who don't understand the basics of wireless comms that adding more APs (especially in a small space) will "improve" the WiFi.

Depends on the size of the room and the number of users expected. In a typical school hall in the UK I doubt that more than two APs are needed to cover the area from an RF point of view, either at 2.4 or 5GHz and in much of the world other than the US, four channels can usually be used adjacently at 2.4 (1, 5, 9, 13) without problem. Two or more APs on different channels could - theoretically, and assuming an even distribution of users between them - improve connections if there are lots of users.

That said, I've met consumer and "prosumer" kit recently that does not do DFS and TPC which means that it is limited to four or five channels at 5GHz, so the situation isn't necessarily much better than at 2.4GHz!

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: "NEVER assume the architect knows best!"

Havent we got enough different plans for house designs drawn up yet?

To be fair, it isn't always the architect.

Yes, we had a few back-and-forth sessions with the architect who couldn't understand our specific instructions - for example, exactly which one of our children do you think is going to agree to sleep in the smallest bedroom when we asked for the children's rooms to be identical?

Our main problem was actually the planners.

The first planner (when we were still at the "here's a rough sketch I drew myself" stage) was categorical that we could not add a half an upper floor on to our bungalow.

The second planner (who actually came to look at the site) agreed that we could, but that it would have to be oriented thusly, so we had an architect draw up a plan to suit.

The third planner thought that layout looked daft and we should orient the upstairs portion at 90 degrees to the way the second planner insisted upon. This was the design which went through several iterations with the architect and...

...the plans which were finally passed were essentially properly dimensioned versions of the sketch I'd drawn right at the start!

Grrr...

M.

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Bank on it: It's either legal to port-scan someone without consent or it's not, fumes researcher

Martin an gof
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Re: Scanning for free?

Doesn't some AV websites charge you to get your pc scanned?

Follow the link to Shields Up!

M.

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Ever seen printer malware in action? Install this HP Ink patch – or you may find out

Martin an gof
Silver badge

Re: Home network

not connected to wife

My wife would very clearly tell me where to go, if I tried connecting a printer - HP or otherwise - to her.

in a work environment then a business case for networked printers can be made, but not on most home networks

I don't think that's true these days, unless you want to buy one cheap inkjet per device which might want to print.

The obvious counter argument is that there are probably more laptops and tablets in use now than desktops, so if you don't want to use your laptop as if it were a desktop (i.e. no more than a USB cable distance from the printer), the printer has to be networked. Unless there's something clever to be done with Bluetooth.

The obvious second argument is in a multi-device, multi-user environment. At my home there are times during the week when there might be two or three children all working on homework at the same time and maybe my wife working at home too. Yes, more homework is now "delivered" via Google Classroom than used to be the case, but an awful lot of it still needs printing. Having one decent central printer, networked, is the perfect solution. Our current printer is a Xerox solid-ink device. Apart from occasional nozzle cleaning (internally it's like a cross between an inkjet and a laser), it "just works", and has done so for, erm... I think some 12 or 13 years now.

M.

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