All the printers I’ve ever owned …

bird you can see: hp print test

  • An ancient (even in 1985) Centronics serial dot-matrix printer that we never got working with the CPC464. The print head was driven along a rack, and when it hit the right margin, an idler gear was wedged in place, forcing the carriage to return. Crude, noisy but effective.
  • Amstrad DMP-2000. Plasticky but remarkably good 9-pin printer. Had an open-loop ribbon that we used to re-ink with thick oily endorsing ink until the ribbons wore through.
  • NEC Pinwriter P20. A potentially lovely 24-pin printer ruined by a design flaw. Print head pins would get caught in the ribbon, and snap off. It didn’t help that the dealer that sold it to me wouldn’t refund my money, and required gentle persuasion from a lawyer to do so.
  • Kodak-Diconix 300 inkjet printer. I got this to review for Amiga Computing, and the dealer never wanted it back. It used HP ThinkJet print gear which used tiny cartridges that sucked ink like no tomorrow; you could hear the droplets hit the page.
  • HP DeskJet 500. I got this for my MSc thesis. Approximately the shape of Torness nuclear power station (and only slightly smaller), last I heard it was still running.
  • Canon BJ 200. A little mono inkjet printer that ran to 360dpi, or 720 if you had all the time in the world and an unlimited ink budget.
  • Epson Stylus Colour. My first colour printer. It definitely couldn’t print photos very well.
  • HP LaserJet II. Big, heavy, slow, and crackling with ozone, this was retired from Glasgow University. Made the lights dim when it started to print. Came with a clone PostScript cartridge that turned it into the world’s second-slowest PS printer. We did all our Canadian visa paperwork on it.
  • Epson Stylus C80. This one could print photos tolerably well, but the cartridges dried out quickly, runing the quality and making it expensive to run.
  • Okidata OL-410e PS. The world’s slowest PostScript printer. Sold by someone on tortech who should’ve known better (and bought by someone who also should’ve known better), this printer jams on every sheet fed into it due to a damaged paper path. Unusually, it uses an LED imaging system instead of laser xerography, and has a weird open-hopper toner system that makes transporting a part-used print cartridge a hazard.
  • HP LaserJet 4M Plus. With its duplexer and extra paper tray it’s huge and heavy, but it still produces crisp pages after nearly 1,000,000 page impressions. I actually have two of these; one was bought for $99 refurbished, and the other (which doesn’t print nearly so well) was got on eBay for $45, including duplexer and 500-sheet tray. Combining the two (and judiciously adding a bunch of RAM) has given me a monster network printer which lets you know it’s running by dimming the lights from here to Etobicoke.
  • IBM Wheelwriter typewriter/ daisywheel printer. I’ve only ever produced a couple of pages on this, but this is the ultimate letter-quality printer. It also sounds like someone slowly machine-gunning the neighbourhood, so mostly lives under wraps.
  • HP PhotoSmart C5180. It’s a network photo printer/scanner that I bought yesterday. Really does print indistinguishably from photos, and prints direct from memory cards. When first installed, makes an amusing array of howls, boinks, squeals, beeps and sproings as it primes the print heads.

back to 32-bit

I think I’ll have to install Ubuntu for i386 on the Sempron box, as too many hardware things don’t work. At the moment, I’m stuck with unaccelerated graphics and wired etherent; the via graphics driver isn’t yet 64-bit clean, and none of my wireless adaptors have 64-bit drivers, either.

Maybe at the next release I’ll go 64-bit.

the computer does work

Picked up the new computer from Canada Computers yesterday. High-end it isn’t, but it’s more than adequate. It’s an AMD Sempron 3000+ (on a Foxconn K8M890M2MA-RS2H motherboard), with 1GB RAM, 80GB SATA disk and a DVD±RW drive. There was change out of $400, including tax.

It’s running Ubuntu for AMD64. While there are a few things I don’t have configured, it was all installed in under an hour. It reminds me a bit of OS X. There’s one thing it does better than the Mac; it knows about duplex printers, and assumes you want to be able to print duplex. Under OS X, you have to choose two-sided every time you print. Thanks to Davey for originally putting me on to Ubuntu. My life’s too short to mess with linux configs.

Now I need to move the old hard drive over as a spare, and fit the various cards from the old machine.

pear shaped plan

I fear my plan to have the T21 as a home server has gone wrong. Looks like the mini-PCI network card has blown, leaving it invisible to the network. Since the screen backlight is dead, I can read no diagnostics … ;-(

Update: Aha! The backlight gods must’ve heard me, for the T21 actually graced me with a visible screen for a few hours. It was down to:

  • A bad line in my fstab which was trying to mount an unattached USB drive. This drops OpenBSD into single-user mode.
  • no dhclient configuration, so the machine would not automatically appear on the network. Since I swapped out the purportedly faulty mini-PCI network card for a spare (what?! you mean you don’t have spare mini-PCI network cards about the house? Tsk.) I had to tell the system that this was the new card to get a DHCP address.

So all works now, and I’m happy. Now to attack the LaserJet 4 duplexer, and swap it onto my refurbed printer …

too many wind turbines in the UK? Hardly!

Flying back from Denmark over the UK the other day, I hoped to see at least some wind farms. In a highly unscientific study, I peered out the window from approximately Nottingham to Iona. You know how many wind turbines I saw? Four. You know how many were working? One. Hardly something that’s taking over the landscape.

And strangely, the one I saw working, at Chelker Reservoir, I used to drive past quite often on my way to Skipton. I’ve never seen more than a couple of those old WEG 300kW two-bladers running. I was frankly amazed there were any of them left. Even from 10000m, you could make out the herky-jerky rotation.

happy desktop

Did some upgrades/maintenance to the Linux box tonight:

  • added a DVD±RW drive
  • finally fitted the cheapo Zalman fan controller to take the edge off the CPU fan noise
  • got X11 working with the nVidia graphics card again, under 2.6.14. It was fiddly.

Some people might wonder why I keep maintaining a 3½ year-old Athlon XP1800+. It works, and with the amount of RAM I have in it, it’s plenty fast.

aargh, why’d ya do it

yes, it is windows
Because the Mini-ITX box was sitting doing nothing all these months while there was much bickering amongst the driver developers. At least this will work, for smallish values of ‘work’.

Menace on the Roads

Well, they’re letting me drive motor vehicles now. Today I exchanged my UK driving licence for an Ontario driver’s licence (We like our gerunds in the UK). I didn’t know this, but Ontario signed a reciprocity agreement with the UK back in March. I seriously thought I’d have to start from level one — yay!

Though I’ve exchanged a document that was valid until I’d be 70 for one that’s valid only for the next five years, I don’t mind too much. The UK driving licence is a little photocard which has to presented along with a big dumb paper “counterpart licence”. I’m not sad to see that go.

Okay, so now I’m allowed to drive, what colour should my monster truck be?