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Tax declaration

Well, I've finally done it. Gotten around to sorting out my tax declaration.

It's a bit of a pain to do, because I can claim "frais réels" which is basically a deduction for my journeys to and from work. As a necessity, I have to go through all of my timesheets counting up how many days I worked each month. And then because it's me and I suck at maths, repeat the entire process in reverse order to ensure the numbers that I end up with are the same.

I worked 224 days last year. Which adds up to a mite under 5,400km travelled. Actually, it's closer to 5,600km because I rounded to a whole kilometre the first time I did this many years ago, and over the course of two hundred odd days, that little bit adds up. But I've not bothered changing it because...

My earnings in the course of the year are about €17,500. Because of the milage travelled (well, kilometrage I guess...), I have a rather nice deduction of €2600 which puts me below taxation level, so my tax this year is €0,00. ☺

I have, for the first time, also declared that I don't have a television. Truth be told, I have only watched French TV (on-line) twice in recent times. The first was the president's speech for the first lockdown, and the second was when Notre Dame was on fire (mom wanted to watch the news report). Because I live in a dip, I don't get terrestrial television. There's no antenna, there's no point. I barely get decent FM radio.
My "television" viewing has been BBC from satellite, and very rarely. Doctor Who was the last thing (maybe the only thing) I watched in the past year. And that's not on a television, that's usually dumped to SD card and watched on my phone or tablet later on. I have unplugged the satellite receiver and stuck it into a drawer for the time being, I just don't watch broadcast TV any more. When I have both Prime Video and Netflix to watch stuff as I want, what's the point?

I do, technically, possess a television. It's an ancient red thing that has a rotary UHF tuner, only handles PAL, from a UHF input, displays everything with far too much red, and there's about a 70% chance that you'll either get a picture that rolls and tears like it's on an insane roller coaster, or a bright line in the middle of the screen. Which doesn't change if you hit it.
Of course, I must point out that I'm talking a decade ago. I've not used the TV since, it's not feasible to get to it (piled stuff around it) and if you really want to switch it on, please take it outside so if the tube implodes or something, it's your problem, not mine.

I had always figured in the past that I watched FilmFour, Horror Channel, BBC, and ITV but couldn't pay for a licence in the UK, so I'd pay a licence in France.
But, as I said, with the arrival of Prime Video and Netflix in my life, it has dramatically changed how I watch things. And, oddly enough, since mom's death, I find myself watching a lot less than I used to. Yesterday I watched only one episode of Russian Doll (about half an hour) as I was outside until half eight. Then I made linguini but procrastinated (got lost with TV Tropes) so it was quarter past ten by the time I finished and could sit on my bed with a big bowl of pasta and something to watch.

Which makes me question the value of... what, €136 or something for the TV licence for channels and content that I not only do not watch, but would not watch (I still have difficulty following French at conversational speeds, and if I'm watching for pleasure then I don't want to break my brain over trying to work out what was said, or miss important plot points because of this).
It works out to be a little over €11 a month.
Thank you, ticking the "I don't have a TV" box has just saved me more than Netflix costs.

If it's anything like the UK, they'll probably send somebody around to check. I'll just tell them what I said above. I don't watch French TV, can't even receive it, and don't watch broadcast TV these days because I have streaming video. I would imagine I'm not the first who has abandoned broadcast for streaming...


Brakes again

I have not made a single journey without the ABS and brake failure lights coming on. My "dirty sensor" theory is backed up by two things. The first is that the fault light does not always illuminate immediately. Sometimes it comes on as I start to move (usually when it's hot) and sometimes I can get halfway to work (usually colder damp mornings). On the days when I can get as far as the forest, I probably could make it to work if I did the entire journey at 30. It's when I'm doing full speed that usually causes the light to come on. Likely the wheel rotation is fast enough then that the sensor is no longer able to pick up a clear signal. Which means the ABS is no longer able to track the speed of the wheels, which means it can't work its magic.
Asides from that, braking seems more or less normal. Clearly a harsh brake or skid would be completely different, but thankfully in my time of driving I've not encountered either.

The second thing is that the front wheel sensor looks okay, here is the right hand wheel. The left is just a mirror image.

ABS sensor on front wheel
ABS sensor on front wheel.

However it's a different story around back.

ABS location on rear wheel
ABS location on rear wheel.

The black wire and black plastic thing in the lower left quadrant is the ABS sensor. The toothed disc is inside where the brakes are. Which means it's probably full of all sorts of crap. Dust, asbestos particles (or whatever they make brake pads from these days), and if there's any metallic compound in the pads to make them last longer, enough of that could contaminate the toothed ring to the point where the sensor cannot get a clear signal.
That's the rear left wheel. The right is similar. The moment I saw that, with the sensor inside where the brakes are, I thought "yup, that's the problem". I'm not sure which wheel (if not both), but I'm pretty certain it'll be one of the rear sensors reporting a problem. And because it doesn't fault immediately, it's dirt and crap and not a broken sensor or damaged wire (as those just wouldn't work at all so would fault immediately all the time).

My major service is in around 700km which is about five weeks of work and back. I'll make a call to sort out a rendezvous in two or three weeks.


The car fault that wasn't

For a few days now, when driving on bumpy roads (that's most of them around here), I heard a sort of metallic "doink!" which sounded as if it was coming from the steering column or something in the vicinity.
When I got home, I looked under, wobbled stuff. Nothing seemed loose. But I really didn't like the noise.

On Friday, I got home after doing a quick shop for the weekend (which appeared to involve me thinking that my meal today would be a box of onion rings...? the hell was I thinking?!) and as I pulled the bag out of the boot... doink!

Whuh? I'm not even moving! How can..... oh.

I nearly dropped the bag as I burst out laughing.

The source of the doink
The source of the 'doink'.

Yup, it's the cross-shaped wheel wrench thing that I bought knocking against one of the metal clips fitted to the floor of the boot. I don't know why it sounded like it was coming from the steering column, but a quick test drive with the thing moved into the middle had no more unwanted doinks.

As it happens, I would have had to have moved it anyway as the grey zipper you can see to the left is the bag with the jump leads that I used on Saturday to start the old C1.
The C1, as usual, fired up just fine from the mower battery and ticked over so damn quietly that in the video that I recorded of the tachometer, you can hear the birds. Just goes to remind me of how noisy Caoimhe is.


Toner refill and adventures with Amazon Customer Support

For my Samsung laser printer, I haven't had a great deal of luck with toner cartridges.

In November 2019, I purchased a "Gootier" MLT-D111L clone cartridge from Amazon. Being the 'L' suffix, it was supposed to have more toner to support around 1,800 pages.
Unfortunately it arrived damaged, as demonstrated by this video. So I had to return it.

On the 13th of January 2020, I purchased a "7Magic" MLT-111S cartridge. Being the 's' size, it was cheaper. I think it's supposed to do about a thousand pages. It managed around 700. But the quality wasn't particularly good. It was as if there was a minor hiccup in the mechanism as sometimes I would have a condition where a line across the page was missing. Not blank, just mising, like the 's' in that word. I never bothered measuring it to see if it matched the drum size, as it was really only noticable if you looked. It stood out like a bolisha beacon to me, but somebody at work that read something I printed didn't seem to notice.

Interestingly, following the link to that command on Amazon takes me to a set of 7Magic ink refills for Brother printers, with all of the reviews seemingly talking about a toner cartridge. I think Amazon needs to get it's act together if it's possible to do a Texas Switch on products like that. People are going to see a rating of 4.4/5 for a completely different product.
Actually, as I'm writing this, I'm in a customer service chat with Maroua, who was silent for about a minute before saying "j'ai bien compris". French Amazon, ASIN B09TX8RQG9.
She said to me that it's a third party article sent by Amazon and the seller is no longer with Amazon (despite both articles being "7Magic") so Amazon has replaced the listing with something similar with the same sort of characteristics (laser toner = inkjet ink, huh?).
So I asked why it had the same ASIN and the older reviews and, more specifically, a rating of 4,4/5 for what might be an entirely different product.
She replied that if it's the same article, it would keep the same information. So I pointed out that a toner cartridge for a Samsung laser is not the same as ink cartridges for a Brother inkjet.
Another long pause - over four minutes! - she's probably run to a manager for help. ☺
She said she doesn't really understand the difference as she's not a technical person, but asked me if it seemed that the seller left the commentaries for the previous product.
I said yes, and wrote a very short paragraph outlining the differences between the two types of printer (essentially comparing a laser with a photocopier, and saying that the inkjet makes a page line by line by squirting drops of ink - she thanked me for the explanations). Absolutely not the same thing.
She has said that she's going to pass this over to a department that will look into this more closely, and reassured me twice that this will be seen to. I think my explanation helped demonstrate to her that it wasn't simply a case of a product having a new name, it was an entirely different thing altogether.
And there ended the chat after about twenty minutes. I bet she's written a quick email to whatever people look into anomalies, and has gone for a coffee break with a "why do I always get the complicated ones?". ☺

More recently, I purchased a "Matsuro" MLT-D111S which arrived on Friday. Clearly not an authentic Matsuro as it came in an unbranded box with no branding at all on the cartridge. Well, it was really cheap (€14,99).

Minimalist packaging
Minimalist packaging.

But, it fits into the printer. The machine accepts the DRM chip. I've just printed off my tax return and it looks okay. There is minor banding in tinted parts on the page, but this is normal for domestic laser printers that don't cost the earth. Black is black and otherwise it pretty much looks as I would expect.

Laser print example
Laser print example printed from Android at "best" quality,
so rather less than what the printer is capable of...


The Pentaverate

Mike Myers' latest comedy, on Netflix. Which I can't stand. Don't get me wrong, there are lots of Canada gags and deep sarcasm. It's just... some things are so annoying that they detract from the enjoyment of the show. The star, unfortunately, being one of them. I only made it halfway through the first episode.

But, gotta say, I love this T-shirt!

Canada, just telling it like it is
Canada: Just telling it like it is.
(© 2022 Netflix)


My new tablet - danew DSlide 1021

My new tablet arrived. It was interesting to note that this one isn't a Klipad. Perhaps too many complaints about incoherent mangling of the firmware?

New tablet, old tablet, and trusty Pi
New tablet, old tablet, and trusty Pi.

The base specs are fairly similar to the previous tablet. The display is 1280×800. Aida64 claims the display is slightly smaller (9.86" versus 10.15") though laying them overlapping suggests they're pretty much the same size. The font size is smaller so more fits on the screen, though this is an adjustable setting.

Here's where we start to see differences. An Imagination Technologies PowerVR Rogue GE8300 runs the screen at 75Hz (as opposed to an ARM Mali-G31 at 59Hz).

My lockscreen
My lockscreen.
I normally disable the lockscreen on my own tablets (that don't leave the house and there's nobody else here) but I have this one on swipe-to-dismiss because, well, I like the drawing.

The processor may be clocking the same speed (1512 MHz) but it's four A53 cores instead of four A35 cores. Both tablets can run in 64 bit mode. Both run Android Go in 32 bit mode. ☺
The old tablet was an RK3326 device, the new one a sun50iw10p1 device. That's an Allwinner chip.

In terms of memory, both have 16GB of Flash, with around 4GB consumed by Android. Android 9 (Pie) for the old tablet, and 11 (Red Velvet Cake) for the new one. The big difference here is that the new tablet has 2GB RAM.

The main screen
The main screen, running Launcher3.

The very first thing I installed was Aida64 to report on the hardware. The very second thing I installed was Launcher3 because the Google Search Bar can go and burn in hell. If I want to search for something, I'll start up a browser. I don't want to waste huge amounts of screen space for a search bar that can't be killed.

Then I installed Netflix and Prime Video and CustomRadioPlayer and... that's about as far as I got. Just use it for watching videos, mostly.

The three buttons are now on the top (power and volume up/down) where they're less likely to be accidentally knocked. Also up there is microSD, micro USB, and a 3.5mm audio socket. There's a hidden reset button in case the device hangs.
Double-tapping the power button can launch the camera. There is no magic keypress for taking screenshots nor a button in the bottom bar, though an accessibility feature in Android allows one to set that up by dragging two fingers from the right side of the screen.

In terms of cameras, they're still kind of naff with poor colour rendition. Better than before, at least the orange flowers look vaguely orange now.
1.9 megapixel (1600×1200) for the rear camera, and 0.3 megapixel (640×480) for the front camera. They claim image stabilisation, though you'd be hard pushed to notice any such thing in reality.

Here is a photo from the rear camera.

Rear camera example, scaled
Rear camera example, scaled (original is 1600×1200).

And, avert your eyes for the front camera example.

Front camera example, actual size
Front camera example, actual size.

Note the excessive compression on the front camera picture. The lack of sharpness and compression artefacts are also present on the rear camera picture, but the higher resolution makes it less obvious. There's no method of adjusting the compression. Which is a shame as the 720p video is heavily compressed, with 1m15s of 720p video being 15.84MB. According to MXPlayer, it's 1280×720 H.264 at 30fps with a bitrate of around 1.6 Mbits/sec, and mono audio at 8000Hz sampling rate, encoded with AAC at around 12.2 kbits/sec.

Here is a test video, showing the camera doing a great job of emulating the fuzziness and washed out colours of Super8 ciné film!

In use, this tablet is a fair bit snappier. It's still nothing compared to a decent smartphone for obvious reasons, but the lagginess doesn't make you grit your teeth. I have not installed much on this device yet. Mostly tried it with Netflix and... it's not bad.

The list price on the danew website is €149,90. Uh-hu...



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Mick, 9th May 2022, 02:37
Launcher 3 does allow you to hide the Google search bar, but that whole row seems to be unusable which is a pity. Google quickstep launcher gets more irritating each on each upgrade. Android 9 had the annoying search bar, 10 addd a US formatted date also unremovable. Yuk.
David Pilling, 9th May 2022, 13:58
Mysteriously UK TV does not make much of how to stop paying for a TV licence or how many people have done that. I once encountered a Tesco checkout person who was telling everyone he could, how easy it was. 
Even with the repeats and all the rubbish, it is a bargain, but no one likes being forced to do things and you can be in the position of paying for next to nothing. 
We don't see the boss of the BBC being hounded as he leaves his home "what are you spending the money on!, more drink and drugs!!". 
Things go on with Amazon. Get a lot of reviews where people talk about the delivery service, which is fine until you realise Amazon are gluing reviews together based on the product, not the supplier. TBH I look back to the happy days when Amazon reviews were worth something. 
These days, 1000s of reviews by people who know nothing. People who will happily sign up for a 12 month guarantee in return for posting a 5* review. 
Some things are lost causes, try finding out the true resolution of a USB microscope. Or usable batteries. In the latter case, it might be ebay, but they have stopped people selling them. 
Was there ever a product which no one liked and no one else disliked. 
Used to able to get toner refill kits - drill hole in cartridge pour in toner. 
Well done for finding the ABS wheel sensors - more than I managed - also more than the garage did. 
Rick, 9th May 2022, 18:45
Mick - are you using the latest Launcher3? I got rid of the search bar easily enough, and have placed Netflix and Prime Video at the top (as can be seen in the screenshot). 
It seems Launcher3 has been revised a bit recently. The version on the previous freebie tablet has the quick links and apps pop-up available down the right hand side. The current version puts them across the bottom. 
Honestly, I preferred them on the right. ;-)
Rick, 9th May 2022, 19:15
David - the trick to beating the TV licence is not getting caught (seen) actually watching TV. The (British) licence people do *NOT* have the right to enter your property and check, no matter what they might tell you. With all the stray signals around, if you live in an urban area, the only way to prove somebody have been watching TV is to have a photograph of it, the so-called detector vans aren't at all useful. Haven't been for years. 
That's not to say that one shouldn't pay the licence, as it's the licence that keeps the BBC going. I rather imagine, in the future once this shitty government has been and gone, there won't be any broadcast TV that doesn't spam you with adverts every fifteen minutes. 
I wouldn't mind paying a licence... if I watched broadcast TV. But since I pay for, and watch, streaming, I have to question the purpose of paying for something I don't use. 
The BBC boss spending licence money on drink and drugs? How mundane, dear chap. These days one needs to search the internet for tractors and... get a little sidetracked. 
A 12 month guarantee for a five star review? Fool if you fall for that, given that you are supposed to have a two year guarantee (well, for Europeans, have the Tories broken that yet?), and certain other vendors are offering between five and fifteen (euros/pounds/etc) in Amazon gift vouchers in return for a five star review. 
The thing is, Amazon doesn't care. They coin it either way. 
I had an email back from the woman, who said she has temporarily removed the listing for the laser toner cartridge pending an investigation. 
The ASIN given, for the product that very definitely isn't a laser toner cartridge, is still active. So... is this a language difficulty or are they willfully missing the point hoping I'll shut up and go away? 
The true resolution of anything is hard to determine. Take a look at the little negative scanner (23rd January 2022) and note that the resolutions output by the software are something like 5 megapixel and 8 megapixel. It's complete bollocks. Sure, the software *does* output those resolutions, but the actual imager's native resolution is 1344×896. Thankfully the scanner appears as a generic USB video device, so one can open it in VLC and take screenshots. Only, the negative adjustment and colour balance needs to be dealt with in post, however the hassles of doing that are less than the problems caused by the proper software "inventing data". But who would buy a 1.2 megapixel scanner when they could buy an 8 megapixel one? 
Thousands of reviews by people who know nothing. Have you read the Q&A on some things? Seriously, I've seen stuff like "Will this fit into my <whatever>" and the first reply being "I don't know, I didn't buy it". 
Well, then SHUT THE F... UP, TWAT! 
Toner refill kits won't work in a world where toner levels are tied to a device ID (the DRM). Advanced DRM actually changes something in the chip so the toner level lives on the cartridge. The cheaper ones just have the printer itself remember, and it seems that if you have enough cartridges, you can eventually recycle them as printers typically only remember "about three". 
That being said, too much refilling and your drum won't be worth a damn. They're really only good for about twice the rated capacity. 
Oh, and as somebody who used to refill the office Kyocera, it's a horrible messy affair. I'd rather cough up twenty euros for a new cartridge than go anywhere near that stuff again. 
It wasn't that hard to find the ABS sensors. Basically just look for a wire that goes to the wheels. There will be only two, a thin single wire that's the "brake discs warn" contact, and a thicker wire that's the ABS. Seeing a little lug pointed at a toothed ring pretty much confirmed it. 
That your garage couldn't find it... WTF? It's, like, literally their job to deal with stuff like that! 
Mick, 10th May 2022, 10:50
Launcher 3 : Yes, I have ver 2.2 from the Google ad store. I like the feel of the launcher, but on my device it doesn't show notification dots. I never fully investigated the cause as the top row on each page is solely reserved for the search bar whether visible or not. This put me off it and I switched back to quickstep. Interesting that you can use that space.
Rick, 10th May 2022, 14:09
If Google have mandated that the top row of the screen is reserved for their stupid search bar, then f..k Google. 
In fact, just f..k them anyway for the fact that one can no longer purchase digital content from Amazon (eBooks, MP3s) using the app because Google think that entitles them to their 30% cut. Greedy bastards. 
Mick, 10th May 2022, 22:08
I have disabled the search bar,but it can't be removed. As for Google's new stupid date on the first home screen just means I no longer use the first home screen. I will email you a screenshot
J.G.Harston, 13th May 2022, 01:41
I used to look for tractors on the internet, but I don't any more. I'm an ex-tractor fan.

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