Sunday, 29 November 2020

I said I would ...

 So today, finally, after lockdowns and closures, I took our accumulated e-waste to the recycling centre.

Mostly it was bits and pieces, dead hubs, old keyboards and stuff like that plus a gaggle of older tablets - not just my original zpad, but J's old 2012 vintage Lenovo K1, and old Samsung Galaxy Tab, which would still be useful today, except that its battery died and it wasn't worth the cost of a replacement.

Other junk that went was my original 2009 vintage e-reader, long replaced by a tablet with epub software.

I'm still struggling with how to get internet into the studio, or at least a decent signal, so I hung onto to my old Cisco Linksys 2008 vintage wireless bridge and my old 3G router in case either of them turned out to be useful.

I still have a couple of old netbooks and laptops with linux installed, but I'm taking my cue as regards their longevity from Mari Kondo - if they spark joy, they stay, for the meantime anyway ...

Friday, 20 November 2020

Bye Bye Zpad

 Back in 2011, I bought myself a no name (it was packaged as a Zpad) Android 2.2 tablet from China for evaluation purposes.

Android Froyo 2.2, 16GB eMMC memory, and surprisingly powerful. 

At the time when I bought it, the Android tablet marketplace was a wild west sort of place, with a lot of players besides the obvious major manufacturers, and I thought we would see something happen in the tablet market place akin to the PC clone revolution of the nineteen nineties with a large number of cheap devices outcompeting the iPad.

In the event I was wrong. For a little while, it looked as if I might be right, but no, the iPad kept is dominant position in the market place. More because of the software ecology around it than anything else. When I look at my recently acquired Huawei Mediapad, or any of the more recent Samsung tablets, I still find it difficult to understand why the iPad is so dominant, it's certainly not operating system or hardware performance.

Anyway, I was clearing out some of old hardware yesterday - a couple of Sun keyboards, some old PC bits and so on and I came across my Zpad - last used about three years ago - and out of curiosity, plugged it in to charge.

It was slow to charge, but it got there

even if the clock was a little out.

I found I hadn't wiped it since last using it, so I wiped it to reveal the factory default desktop

I left it unplugged overnight, to see if the battery still would hold some charge the machine still powered on the next morning.

Of course, the world has moved on, and it is so hilariously out of date as to be useless for all practical purposes, so I guess it's a trip to the e-Waste centre ...

Friday, 6 November 2020

Scanners scanners everywhere ...

 A few weeks ago I wrote about the advent of cheap camera based  book scanners.

Well, I was in our local post office this morning collecting a package, and guess what, they had one of these fixed focal length scanners setup on the counter.

Our post office does document and id checks and processes all sorts of official business as well as the mail, so it makes sense - when I noticed the device one of the clerks was in the middle of scanning someone's drivers licence in connection with their passport renewal.

Interesting to see how the pandemic has made even the business of government increasingly digital ...

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Adventures in calendar land

 I am very dependent on Thunderbird.

I work on a number of machines, Windows 10 (mostly) Linux (sometimes) and OS X (more rarely than I used to) and I use gmail as mail service and google's calendar to manage appointments.

And, while I'm retired and my calendar is not as stuffed with meetings and things as it used to be, lockdown has embiggened it a bit with scheduled video calls, sometimes across timezones.

Thunderbird has the advantage of working across all the three platforms I use, meaning (a) I don't have to think too hard and (b) I can maintain a degree of consistency.

All good. I've tried (and even paid for) some alternative email clients, but at the end of the day I always come back to Thunderbird. Clunky but reliable - kind of like my 20 year old Impreza.

So, yesterday morning, I fired up Thunderbird to check my mail and see what was on for the day.

No calendar. Thunderbird had upgraded itself overnight and disabled the bit of magic 'Provider for Google Calendar' that makes it work with Google calendar due to incompatibilities,

I was not happy

but as you can see, later on in the day, the problem fixed itself.

But for a time I was without a calendar solution. So, being a tinkerer at heart, I tried some other things


It might well work well, but there's something rather screwy about my outlook installation, in that it won't let me add my gmail account. It's not just me, there's quite a number of people on the various Microsoft fora with the same problem, and the fix most likely needs some registry wrangling.

Life is too short and I had things to do, so I left it there.

One Calendar

Not a Microsoft product but a product from a company in the Netherland that claims to handle multiple calendars from multiple providers. Useful if you have to work across a number of different teams using different calendars.

It's a paid for application, but there's a free version, which worked well as a stopgap, but wouldn't let you print, or do a couple of other things without ponying up.

The interface was bit block and tile like, reminiscent of Windows 8 or Windows phone, but it worked.

Microsoft's Windows 10 Calendar application

I hadn't tried this before, because, hey, I use Thunderbird, but it worked impressively well, with a nice full screen view, handled timezones, and let me do all I wanted . Surprisingly good in fact

Yesterday wasn't a linux day, so I didn't look at alternatives. I have used Orage and Evolution in the past, and Evolution is definitely the more serious product. It was however an OS X day, and I can report that the standard Mac desktop calendar app did the job.

And then mysteriously it fixed itself. I don't know why, I'm guessing the update process got a little out of step, but that's just supposition on my part.

However, what I have learned is that if someone ever gives me a Windows 10 S machine and tells me not to do the one time change, there are standard bundled apps that will let me do my job ...