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Pledge alliegence to the King!

In a word, NO.

In more words, I had respect for The One True Monarch. Now since she is no longer, it is perhaps worth revisiting the entire concept of a wealthy family who don't actually run the country, have therefore let the country go to the dogs thanks to the numerous abuses of law and democracy by those supposedly elected to do so, and who's sole purpose these days seems to be endless clickbaity Daily Mail articles and enthralling clueless American tourists.
Not to mention, the family is highly dysfunctional. Remember, you aren't just swearing your allegience to a king, it's to the legitimacy of the entire royal family including Andrew.

Plus, I will NEVER accept that horse-faced sad-sack bit-on-the-side that grifted her way to the Throne. That mewling quim will be sitting in Diana's seat.

I will be working an hour earlier on Friday, on top of working an hour extra (so will be getting up two hours earlier - ugh). This is how it is for normal people. Bills need paid and work needs done. So no, I won't be paying attention to the Coronation.
If I should ever want to know what anybody wore (as if) then I'm quite sure the Daily Mail will publish thousands of photos to bore us all comatose. Yup, we'll get to see Charlotte wearing a cute dress that cost more than most people's electricity bills that she'll only ever wear once, and an entire procession of stupid hats. We might even get to see the brothers glaring at each other again. Better watch out or we might end up mistaking them for the Gallaghers.

 

If you're European and would like some souvenirs, just know that Brexit is ruining that too.

 

Oh, and one final thought: I guess it is good that he is breaking from stuffy old traditions to want to have a more modern and inclusive Coronation; but "Defender of All Faiths"?
What validity does The Church of England have any more, when the person whose job is literally to be the titular head of the religion wants to include all of the others?

 

My rotovator is dead

It was ancient old, so I knew this day would come. There's not a lot of resistance when I pull the starter cord (lack of compression) and the spark plug is always covered in oil. Which implies to me that the piston rings have had it. Fixable, perhaps, but a full engine strip down and repair is not only above my competence level, I also don't think I have the tools for such a task.

I have been looking at electric rotovators on Amazon, and will also take a look in local shops that sell that sort of thing. I don't imagine I'm going to find one that is as capable of turning a patch of ground into turned earth, the stuff around these days looks rather less solid until you hit a worrying price tag.

The one I'm currently "considering" is a Brast "motobineuse", 1.5kW motor, 45cm blades, 22cm depth. It costs €169,95 with delivery, though not I note, sold or shipped by Amazon themselves.

For now, for this year, I'm going to have to perform the final turn manually. It's a hard job.

What I have in mind, this year's Garden Experiment, is to have a crack at making Baked Beans.

Bits for beans
Bits for beans.

 

Blossom!

 

My old A5000

I rediscovered my old A5000 after about twenty years. Thought I'd check on it's state.

This machine saw me through most of the '90s. I bought it second hand from a guy in Wales who used to run a BBS, so it came with a second unit (a little PC tower case) that contained a 1GB SCSI harddisc and a 125MB (?) tape streamer. The harddisc was in two partitions due to FileCore limitations. I added Econet, and a massive AKA10 User I/O podule so that I could use my Micron 2 EPROM programmer (which worked under 65Host!). It is also the machine that got me on-line, though its mere 4MiB RAM is why I wrote QuickVoy, a front-end/dialler for ArgoNet's Voyager that did much the same sorts of things but was a lot less bloated. Mine used 128K and I even made a cut-down version that only needed 32K. This was massive when you consider that the official dialler used several times more and you needed a lot of memory for the Fresco browser.

 

A new portable...sort of... Danew dBook 111

You may have seen me mention the name ADLPartner in the past. They are a company that deals with offering magazine subscriptions. In this case, they are partnered with La Banque Postale.

They offer two things. The first is a lower price for the magazine than buying it from a newsstand, and the second is a "free gift" for a 12 month subscription. Sometimes these gifts are utterly uninteresting, but often it is some sort of Android tablet.

I currently have three tablets from them. The first, a Klipad KL6889 for the magazine mom wanted (Home and Garden) was... pretty bad. Slow as hell, naff screen... but it with a Bluetooth keyboard are what I took to the hospital waiting rooms while mom was having horrible things done. During that time, and the summer holiday I was alone without a car (mom in hospital being mistreated by uncaring staff), I wrote 97-odd pages of my book. Which, you know, I really ought to finish some day.
Oh, and it was pretty trivial to open it up to look inside.

The next tablet, a Klipad KL8889, taken with a subscription to Ça m'interesse was better. Still low on RAM (only 1GiB) so still slow, but a much better display and a newer better processor core.
The main problem I encountered with this device was that the keyboard was hardwired to revert to French AZERTY no matter what choices were made in the system settings.

The third tablet in return for Que Choisir (dropping Home & Garden), a Danew DSlide 1021, was actually quite nice. It's still a 1280×800 display and a similar clock speed, but now it has 2GiB RAM and let me tell you, that extra gigabyte makes a big difference.

I didn't really want to take another magazine subscription, but they made me an offer I couldn't refuse. So I dropped Ça m'interesse and picked a magazine that aimed more for the science side of things - Sciences et Avenir La Recherche. After all, I'm a science geek at heart. I have spent a lifetime taking stuff apart in order to see what makes it work.

In return for that... I was rapidly sent this.

Introduction

A new portable
A new portable.

This machine... is a mixed bag. It's not incapable, but it suffers from some serious frustrations. But we'll get to that. For now, let's first look at the hardware.

This is the right side.

Right side
The right side.

A USB socket, a 3.5mm headphone socket, and what might be a hidden reset button.

Now for the other side.

Left side
The wrong left side.

Here there's a tiny socket for the power adaptor (5V, 2A). I don't know why it is using a titchy barrel connector given that the EU is trying to standardise on USB-C. Perhaps it was considered more resiliant? Just to the left of the barrel is a tiny hole. In here is an LED for telling you the charge state. My battery is 100% and it's blinking red, so...? Perhaps it is solid red (charging) or blinking (charged)? The user guide doesn't say.
To the right of that, a second USB port. The user guide implies that this is for charging, but no, it's fully wired. I plugged in a mouse and it worked fine.
To the right of that, a µSD card slot.

The back has the Danew logo as a cutout in translucent plastic, so it glows white when the screen backlight is in. Yeah... it's no Apple.

Underneath are slits for the sound from two tiny speakers and a few screws. There also appears to be some sort of metal clip that will break upon the device being opened, so I can't whip it open to peek inside. Shame.

Here's the keyboard.

Keyboard
The keyboard.

The keyboard isn't great, but I've come across worse. It's the annoying (to me) AZERTY layout so I've ordered some key labels from Amazon to Britishify the keyboard.

There are three blue LEDs at the top left. The one on the left is when the machine is on. Actually, it lies slightly, because a mini version of some sort of OS starts up when you charge the battery (tap the power key, it'll briefly pop up a graphic showing the charge level), so it can light up when the device is otherwise off.
The middle LED is for Caps Lock.
And the right one? Would appear to be a NumLock indicator. Interesting...

There are two extra holes. The one on the right is labelled as being the microphone. The one on the left looks the same but has no label. Perhaps that's the microphone that The People's Party (CCP) use to spy on us all?

The three blue keys at the bottom perform the same functions as the on-screen icons. Namely Back, Home, Tasks.
Across the top are keys for turning the brightness down and up. Then there's a button to lock the machine which is pretty useless as a quick press on the power key does the same thing. Then there are hotkeys for going to WiFi setup and Settings, Email (which means GMail), the browser (which means Chrome), three keys for controlling media playback, three for the speaker, a Delete key, and finally the power key.
Pressing Volume Down and Power at the same time takes screenshots.

 

Something that I noticed while unboxing the device was that it had already been opened. I suspect it was a customer return, and I rather suspect they will be having quite a number of returns. I'll get to why I believe this to be the case.

Previously used
Previously used!

 

The hardware

It's a Danew Dbook_111 with a sun50iw10p1 SoC. That's exactly the same chip as in the last tablet, so it's going to be pretty much the same in terms of capabilities.
The SoC contains for A53 cores running up to 1.5GHz. They are 64 bit ARMv8 capable, but this is Android 12 Go edition so it's running them in 32 bit mode.

Memory is 2GiB RAM and 16GB flash. Of this, about 10GB remains once you count for the memory taken by the OS and default apps.

The display is a 1280×800 10.1" panel being controlled by a PowerVR Rogue GE8300 CPU. The refresh rate is 60Hz.

Networking is 2.4GHz WiFi, which for some reason seems to report (to Aida64) that the SSID is unknown marking it as a hidden SSID. Hmmm?
As expected these days, it's IPv4/IPv6. Running an IPv6 test shows everything working except DNS6, as this isn't provided by the Livebox/Orange. One should read the AAAA record using an IPv4 DNS lookup, and then use IPv6.

The battery is a 4,000mAh cell at 4.32V when fully charged. It seems to deplete worryingly quickly, so one probably shouldn't forget the power brick if they expect to watch a James Bond film all the way through (No Time To Die is 165 minutes!).

As I said, it's Android 12... Snow Cone? Really? They called it that?

There is only one camera. It's 1.9 megapixel, 1600×1200, but the software doesn't permit this. Pictures are taken at 1280×720, or HD size, so the documentation/promos/website are not telling the truth (shocker!).
Speaking of HD, the video recording is in HD.
The picture quality is best described as "it works". That's not a compliment, it even manages to produce a worse image than the OV2460 hooked to an ESP32.

An example photo
An example picture.

For reference, I switched my ESP32Cam to 1280×768, which is the closest it does to HD, and took this picture out of the window (not the door).

What a $5 device can do
What a $5 device can do.

There are no sensors. No tilt, no accelerometer, no GPS, nothing. More specifically, the device works entirely using the touchpad and keyboard. There is no touch sensitivity on the screen. Remember this, it is critically important.

 

Setup and use

The initial setup was as expected. A new machine, what language, and so on. And, as expected, it was a complete shitshow of being completely incapable of pairing with the previous tablet. The only time I've ever had a pairing actually work between devices was Samsung's SmartShare between two Sansung phones. Google's clever setup has never worked for me on any device.

Once I had connected to my Google account, the device set itself up and then asked me to set up a PIN to access the device, and everything looked to be going well.

But... remember I said there's no touch on the screen? As it turns out, if you set a swipe-to-unlock then you can simply double-tap on the lock icon on the lock screen in order to unlock the device.
But if you set a PIN, combination, or password, then you literally have to drag the lock icon to the top of the screen. How do you do that with a touchpad (or mouse)?
It is possible, but I can do it maybe one time in five. It's very easy to imagine somebody, particularly if they are less familiar with these sorts of things, setting up a PIN as requested and then simply never getting access. The PIN buttons sort of slide up only to vanish again if you don't drag the lock icon exactly enough. I would love to know how many devices have been returned because of this.

My lock screen
My lock screen.

So now, out of necessity, I have Google refusing to permit sync with this device because it is "insecure".
To be honest, the only reason I keep the lock screen at all is because I like the picture, found from a random crawl of Google for backdrops a year or two back.
I call her Miyaki. It's a place, down the far left of Japan.

 

Android is NOT suited to a "computer" style device

Oh my god, where do I start? You know, I would have hoped that the mess that was Windows 8 had demonstrated that portable and desktop devices and mobile devices are not the same and the UI conventions that work on one don't necessarily make sense on the other.

  • First up, Android depends heavily on prodding the screen with bits of flesh. Thus one poke generally toggles settings, starts apps, and so on.
    Traditional systems use a double-click for starting apps, and this is very important as it's a lot harder to tell with a mouse or touchpad what's a tap and what's a movement.
    The number of times I've inadvertently started apps doesn't bear repeating. Nor the number of times I've mumbled "Tabarnak!" in these past 48 hours.
  • Secondly, there is no zoom facility. No pinch, no tap-drag, nothing. I've tried everything I can think of and I think one just has to accept that it's impossible to zoom anything on this device.
  • A complete lack of scroll bars. Because, remmember, you're supposed to swipe around. Try that with the touchpad and it sort of works depending on whether or not it's capable of selecting some text. The arrow keys work here. But, FFS...
    Especially egregious is that using the cursors to scroll the list of applications listed in Google Play (store) has about a fifty-fifty chance of crashing Play. Wonderful!
  • "For our security" the permissions are getting increasingly onerous.
    Chrome literally cannot see anything in the DCIM folder. However photos become available in the Recents list if you give Chrome the ability to record video and audio. If I wanted stupid bollocks like that, I'd be using iOS.

This is a screenshot of my larder spreadsheet. Would it be nice to edit the spreadsheet given that I have a full keyboard? Sure... so long as I can zoom it up a little so I can read it clearly on the screen.

My larder
My larder.
And no, don't suggest changing the system font scaling. Done that. Sheets doesn't respect it. Because we're using Android Go, the Accessibility Options are limited.

 

There are other problems

Now for the hardware/system faults (that are not down to Android's UI being crap at being a portable device).

  • I found the device refused to pair with my phone. Actually, it completely failed to see it.
    The next day, outside, it worked fine.
    The difference? I wasn't connected to WiFi outside.
    This showed up in a more blatant example when I was playing Antenne Symphonic Rock to a Bluetooth speaker. It would play for about ten seconds and then stall for around five. Over and over.
    It appears that the device that handles radio comms can cope with WiFi or Bluetooth, but not both at the same time.
  • The touchpad driver is disappointingly basic. As such, it is often possible to run unwanted apps or choose errant options simply because it doesn't do a good job of telling the difference between a movement and a tap.
  • It comes with the QuickStep launcher that is no only painfully basic (no widgets, for example), it also has that stupid unwanted search bar permanently fixed across the top of the screen that cannot be removed. Okay, Google, I get it, you're a search engine too. Screw wasting screen space on this crap.
    Anyway, switch to another launcher (I tried Launcher<3 and Nova7) and the task list function (square key) ceases to work.
  • Guess what. It's an AZERTY keyboard. That's not a surprise. What is a surprise is the continued French exceptionalism where some twat overrides the Android keyboard layout handling to force AZERTY regardless of what the user has chosen. Whoever is responsible for that needs to be tied to a chair and slapped repeatedly with a dead carp.
    Thankfully External Keyboard Helper helps here, even if the USB keyboard support is "experimental".
    Granted, the device does come with a French keyboard fitted, and it should therefore be expected to be working with a French layout. But intentionally breaking the OS' keyboard handling is not the solution.

Battery status
Battery low at 86%?!?

 

Okay, so what's good?

Well, first of all the price. ☺ It is listed on the Danew site as costing €149,90. I've said it before, I'll say it again. I do not understand how they can offer me a magazine cheaper than it's cover price and give a reasonably competent piece of tech, and still make money.

Secondly, quirks aside, it seems reasonably nippy. It works well enough with Amazon Video and Netflix.

Prime Video
Prime Video (photo because you can't take screenshots).

I suspect the user leaflet meant to say that the charging port and the USB port were next to each other, rather than saying "USB (charge)". Both USB ports are functional, and while I expected it to work with a mouse and maybe some mass storage, I was pleasantly surprised when I plugged in my LapseCam and was able to access it using USB Serial Terminal.

Serial port
Serial port.

Things will probably get a little easier once I receive my key stickers and make the keyboard match UK expectations.

I tried writing the top part of this article on the tablet in QWERTY but kept getting distracted by the keys saying the wrong things (it was better if I didn't look), and then I tried it in AZERTY and that was okay for the alphabetics but fell apart looking for where symbols were.
The rest of this article (all of the parts about the portable) were finished on RISC OS so I could play with the device as I wrote about it.

I mean, for free it's pretty impressive. It is functional, maybe even useful.

My home screen
My home screen (she's called Nozomi).

It's just a shame, perhaps through necessity, they used an OS that really isn't designed for portable computers, so things are harder than they should be due to OS UI design decisions. It's worth noting that Chromebooks, possibly the closest equivalent to this, use ChromeOS, not Android.
Bluetooth/WiFi stupidity aside, it's actually quite decent. You know, you're not a gamer, you don't need cutting edge, you just want to get some tasks done. It appears to be, actually, a slightly higher spec than the original "Pinebok", so it's not just some crap for landfill. It can be useful.

 

Internals

Well, clearly I can't open this up without tripping the detection thingy, so I'm just going to have to take an ill-educated guess.

The motherboard will either be fairly small with the ports on daughterboards, or it'll be a long thin thing across the back. The bulk of the bottom part of the shell will contain a big flat battery pack.
Inside will be the big SoC. This will be connected to 16GiB flash memory chip and a bank of DRAMs. There will be a power management chip for dealing with input power and charging the battery. There may be a display controller here. It depends upon how the motherboard talks to the display. I say this because there is no obvious ribbon cable, so the only option is to have a small bundle of wires pass through the metal lugs that hold the display in place (and act as the hinge). It could be possible to do that with eight wires (5V, Gnd, R, G, B, VSync, HSync, Backlight), and add two extra wires for the camera (it'll probably use a high speed IIC); or 12-14 wires if they're using a thin HDMI cable in there. Which means it's likely the display controller is with the display rather than on the motherboard.
This might, incidentally, explain why the display is clocking a little slower (60Hz) than the dSlide tablet that uses the same base hardware and runs it at 75Hz.
There will be a USB hub, with at least four ports. One will be the keyboard, one will be the touchpad, and the remaining two will be available for the user.

And since this device is simple and cheap, that'll be about it. Since it's a simple ARM device, there's no need to have forced cooling or fans or anything.

 

 

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C Ferris, 30th April 2023, 20:57
Sounds like a simple side valve engine - four nuts or bolts undone and remove cylinder head and looky see.
Gavin Wraith, 1st May 2023, 12:06
I have fond memories of my A5000. I bought it, feeling slightly guilty at my self-indulgence, with some money left me by an aunt. In those days it felt compact compared with the computers of its day. I loved it. 
 
I feel sorry for the king. I despise the cult of monarchy, and the cult of celebrity even more. Those who promote it I rank with drug-dealers, because they profit from the stupidity of others. My late neighbour used to grovel before aristocracy or royalty to the extent that when somebody, for a joke, made a collage of pictures of her house and pictures of the queen she came to believe that she had been favoured by a royal visit. As to the political advantages of a monarch, over a president, I cannot make up my mind. Neither would be best, perhaps. The only antidote to shameful deference is a better education in history. In any case, global warming will soon bring home the folly of rewarding status with wealth.
Anon, 1st May 2023, 13:31
Tragic news about the A5000. I have one in the under-stairs cupboard here with Ethernet and a ColourCard Gold, amongst other things. I believe it also has the FPA10 chip fitted. 
 
Guess I'll have to dig it out and plug it in, see if it still works. Probably a slightly better chance as it's been stored indoors in the dry, but there's still the battery problem of course. 
 
As for the royals - they should have let Lizzie see out her reign and then abolished the whole thing. We now have a head of state who likes to talk to plants.
David Pilling, 1st May 2023, 16:04
Imagine it is 1648, and you're saying the monarchy is finished...
Rick, 1st May 2023, 17:45
Better 1789 in France. It was not peaceful by any means, but they eventually got it right... 
 
Rick, 1st May 2023, 18:02
Thing is, we can't really compare "the past" to today. 
For one thing, pretty much the only people with control of anything were the clergy, land owners, and nobility. Ordinary people were often either peasants, serfs, or vagabonds. No land, few opportunities, and little money. Serfdom was basically a form of slavery. 
 
These days? Loads of people own their homes. We go to work, often choosing how or where to work (within constraints of abilities and education of course). Asides from paying bills and taxes (our social obligations), we're fairly free to do what we want with our money. I can save a hundred euros, or blow it all on Mars bars. I can get into my car and go shopping in another town, something that was unusual and difficult just sixty or so years ago, and I can go take a holiday in a different country, something that was unthinkable for many before the wars. 
In terms of social mobility and freedoms, this feels like the end of the golden age (what with Brexit taking away many freedoms, and the rise of the nationalistic right in numerous countries). In essence, we've never had it so good or been so free as individuals. 
With that in mind, the whole idea of "royalty" is an anachronism of the past. It really belongs, like polio and workhouses, in the past. The king doesn't lead, he doesn't govern, he just politely suggests that it might be good of us to go do charity work while collecting millions from the people, and expecting said people to cough up about a hundred million for his coronation bonanza. That's enough money to give two thirds of the NHS's nurses (the lower bands) a cash sum of £500. 
Which, no doubt, this sleazy excuse of a government would want to tax... 
 
Anyway, it seems to me that the royals are a net expense on the population at a time when so many of the population are struggling to heat, eat, and bathe at the same time. 
David Pilling, 1st May 2023, 20:37
I see the arguments for the time of Kings being past, along with a lot of other things. Just that whilst something has life, someone will keep it going, hoping to get something out of it before it is over. Like Kodak or Woolworths are still alive on the internet. 
Then again as in 1648 it might be that there is more to it than that, Putin looks nothing like a Tsar... 
Rick, 1st May 2023, 20:42
Ah, but are Kodak and Woolies anything like they used to be, or is it just some generic outfit that bought the name? Like "Acorn Computers" once upon a time... 
David Pilling, 2nd May 2023, 01:48
Like Kodak, Kings ain't what they used to be. 
 
Acorn, Apple, examples of can you save an institution whose time is past. 
 
"loads of people own their own home" - owner occupancy in England peaked in 2003. Another reason for the young to curse the boomers. But the good times are not just gone but long gone. 
 
Those places in England where you can't just get in your car and go where you want, and certainly not to buy Mars bars. 
 
In the papers this week "tax people with plastic grass". My neighbour 18 square feet of garden and the state is going to tell him what to do with it. 
 
In summary we're agin the King for his pursuit of a green agenda. Got it... 

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