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That Android portable is dead

Remember this from the end of last April?
The Android portable
The Android portable.

I last used it at the end of October. I left it, with a charged battery.

Turned it on Saturday afternoon. Well, I tried to. The little blue LED blinked briefly. That was it.

I had it on charge for Saturday, through the night, and most of Sunday. The red charging light never went out, and the behaviour was the same. A brief blink and nothing else.

It's a little annoying as I quite liked the form factor and the real keyboard, despite Android not really being suitable to something that lacks a touch display.
It is also annoying as it shouldn't have died that quickly. I fired up the earlier tablet that I hadn't used in almost as long and it booted with 84% charge remaining.

I sent an email to danew. I don't imagine I'll get a response as their "support" is by way of a premium rate number that's something like €0,45/minute. I don't plan to spend my money trying to communicate in another language, thanks.
Also, I'm not sure if I still have the box if they want it back - it arrived before the big clean up so the box could be anywhere. I don't think I discarded it, but...

I'll have to see if they bother to reply. But, remember, you get what you pay for.


Anyway, since the little portable was a dodo, and I couldn't find my Bluetooth keyboard for using the tablet, and it was too cold in the living room (about 6°C thanks to two nights that hit -6°C) and much warmer outside (about 12°C), I grabbed the dutch hoe and rake and went and hoiked up some of the grass out front. Wild boars had come through and grubbed up lots of it, so I decided the simplest thing to do was to make the tarmac out front much larger by tidying it up. It's back-breaking work when the stuff is wet, but it won't come up when it is dry, so...

I have archived security camera footage from around the 10th of December, but nothing looked good as the camera's position makes the work look kind of insignificant and "that bit over there". So I just went out and took a long exposure. Much of what you can see is the uncovered tarmac (you can see the dead roots and such). The green mossy stuff that you can see as you get closer to the house is the part of the driveway that existed before, the rest was grassed over.
And, as you can see, there's plenty more to do.
That's the thing about here. There's always more to do...

Long exposure out front
Long exposure out front.


Malory Towers

I recently hooked up my satellite receiver, following a discussion on ROOL that pointed me in the direction of Talking Pictures TV (lots of black and white movies). As part of the scanning process, I had to add a few transponders manually as it didn't seem to find the channels the first time around. This landed me on BBC's CBBC children's channel, and this:
Screenshot of Malory Towers
Screenshot of Malory Towers,
© King Bert Productions / WildBrain Studios / BYUtv.

When I was a lot younger, I read the book series (by Enid Blyton) and the other one - Saint Something-or-Other.

Let's just say, it didn't exactly prepare me for boarding school life. Maybe it's because it was set in a girl's boarding school in the forties? For starters, never had a midnight feast. Not once. I've also never played lacrosse. I'm aware of the game (from said Blyton stories) but it wasn't a game that was played. Maybe lacrosse is a girl thing? The big games at my school were football and cricket. There was also badminton, basketball, rugby, and once in a while rounders (*)... but pretty much the posers played cricket (and dressed in really dumb outfits) and the brutes played football. Those, like me, who sucked at physical things just got told to run around the woods where we could be forgotten about for a while.
Or, maybe, the teachers were smart enough to realise that giving a group of rambunctious teenage boys something that could be an improvised weapon was a kind of a bad idea?

* - Rounders is like proto-baseball with a shorter bat that is supposed to be held with one hand, and you get one ball and you have to run regardless of whether or not you hit it. I used to cause consternation as I am a left handed person that held the bat two-handed like a baseball bat (because, with an American mom, baseball was my closest reference). I'm also dyspraxic, so the chance of me swinging at the ball and actually hitting it was.....low.
Oh well.

Still, it's kind of cool that they appear to have made a fairly faithful recreation of the stories. It's a more diverse cast than in the books, but that's to be expected. It's set in the UK with British girls, so no "middle of America" setting (like that awful War of The Worlds movie (I'm thinking of the one from 1953), but arguably the other one too), and it's also set in the correct time period. No update to a world with mobile phones and social media.



I wanted to revive my bread maker.

But, problem.

These are the paddles of my old bread maker.

You don't want to eat anything these have made
You don't want to eat anything these have made.

I gave them a good wash and then through some old flour and water into the pan to get it to knock up some dough.
Some dough that contained lots of tiny bits of teflon-stuff.

So I decided the harsh treatment. I used an abrasive scouring pad, and a blade to scrape off the flakes of non-stick.

I gave up after fifteen minutes, it was a lost cause.


Enter Lidl. More specifically, enter Lidl and their big bread maker - the SBB 850 E1. On special offer for €49. I got it, as I priced up a replacement pan and paddles for mine as being nearly €40, so...

New bread maker default settings
New bread maker default settings.

The problem with the Lidl bread maker is that it is big. The smallest size it claims to be able to make is 1000g, however interestingly the pan is the same size as the previous one (that started at 750g). Go figure.

I made up enough mix for a 750g loaf (that was what the instructions suggested). It took three hours, but it turned out an almost reasonable attempt at bread. Obviously heavier than commercial bread, though it was great for sopping up stew. Some parts of the crust were too hard to eat (my teeth aren't like they were when I was young and used to gnaw the caps of Bic pens), so I will try the next loaf on light setting instead of medium.
A good thing about this bread maker is the final programme is customisable. I can, for instance, knock five minutes off of the baking time and double the rising time if I wanted. Maybe that would make a fluffier loaf? Or maybe I should just accept that if the kitchen was three flippin' degrees, the machine can't work miracles?

I notice that the bread has a fairly pronounced yeasty taste. It's like the Guinness of bread. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make me wonder how commercial and bakery bread is risen that it doesn't taste so yeasty.

Because the bread from this device is chunkier than commercial bread, it rather lends itself to being coated in a thick layer of butter (or marge) and then heated in the microwave. It may also work well as that thing where you dip bread into egg mix and fry it?

I might knock up some more this coming weekend, to slather bean juice over.

The bread maker comes with a booklet of recipes. Unfortunately it's only been "vaguely" translated to French. German flour and French flour come in different types, as expected, but they aren't called the same things. Here in France there's T45, T55, T65, and T110 - I think. Generic white flour is T45. I think it determines both how finely it is ground plus how much bran is in it. Germans use 405, 550, 1050, and 1600. They suggest that 405 (fine white for cakes) isn't so good for bread, to use 550 instead. Maybe I shouldn't use T45 general purpose white flour, but should look for something with a higher number? But it's a shame they didn't translate the flour types as well.

What is good is to have a selection of recipes for my machine - bread with potatoes, herbs, beer, pizza style, honey, poppy seed, wholewheat, grains, oat (or is it barley?), chocolate, almond, gluten-free, carrot, baguette (it makes the dough, you'll need to cook it in an oven in a baguette rack), egg noodle dough, normal pasta dough, pizza dough... and instructions on how to make yoghurt and jam (with recipes for strawberry jam and orange/lemon jam).
Obviously I'm not going to try most of these, but it's useful to see actual exact measurements for my machine rather than guesswork. Something I used to like, back when I was at boarding school, was to pop down to the village baker and pick up a nice, fresh, hot, cylindrical "milk loaf". I won't be able to make it in the original ridged style, but if I can make it at all, that would be cool.

I have found a recipe that calls for 450g of "strong white flour" (strong?), 7g of fast action yeast, 250mls warm milk, 25g melted butter, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of honey.
So it looks like it's a straight bread recipe only it's swapping the water for milk, and the vegetable oil for actual butter, and putting a dash of honey into the mix.
I might try this the next time. I mean, the worst it can do is be a failure, right? I'll just keep an eye on the first kneading in case the milk behaves differently and I need to add some milk (or flour).

The standard programme is as follows:

  • Preheat - 15 minutes (to warm the machine)
  • First kneading - 13 minutes
  • First rising - 25 minutes
  • Second kneading - 12 minutes (2+5+5)
  • Second rising - 30 minutes
  • The bit when you can take the paddles out
  • Third rising - 30 minutes
  • Baking - 55 minutes (1kg; 60m 1¼kg, 65m 1½kg)
Light/medium/dark doesn't alter the cooking time, so maybe it alters the temperature?

To experiment...


Stew and a chunk of bread
Stew with a chunk of bread.

Stew, made in the Lidl slow cooker, with bread made in the Lidl bread maker. Damn, that middle-of-Lidl aisle!
On the other hand, the bread mix (an actual mix, not just a bag of flour) was about €3 for it plus yeast sachets, and it's 1.5kg so can make three 750g loaves).
The potatoes I already had. The onion I got for a burger and forgot to fry it. Duh! The leek and two carrots cost about €1,50 between them. The herbs (rosemary, thyme, bay) came from the garden, and the beef was a bit pricey. Crap-for-stewing, about 600g for €9. This was a nice hearty meal on Saturday evening. The rest I stuck in a bowl in the fridge, to microwave and eat on Sunday with the bread (now cold and not it's best a day later) dripping with marge which it soaked up beautifully. I'll tell myself all that Omega 3 ought to be useful for something, right? ☺

Took bloody forever to prepare the stew (why oh why oh why did I spend the entire morning standing in the kitchen freezing my balls off - am I crazy?), but it was niiiiiice.


The obligatory political bit

Yeah, I know. It's been a couple of weeks and no politics discussed here. I've put this at the end here where you can ignore it if it's not your cup of tea.

Trust me, you do not want to hear my opinions about the Post Office / Horizon scandal. You'll risk learning new words in three languages, and even those don't convey my feeling about this.
Justice isn't some twat handing back her award (let's see it officially rescinded, that's more serious), nor is it one of the companies involved offering compensation. They're only doing this because of the outcry that happened because it took a bloody TV dramatisation before anybody started to take this seriously.
So, no. Justice will be that plus people seeing the inside of jail cells. Justice will be this plus a full audit of every other contract that Fujitsu has for the government. Not just "how was it awarded" but a full audit asking questions like "show us the code, we want to see if it's as awful as the Post Office stuff" and "who actually has access to this system, and can you prove it" and "does every modification to the data leave an audit trail and if not, why not?".
People died over this.
So other people must face criminal charges. They have a lot to answer for.

But, most of all, why did it take a TV show before anybody started to take this seriously? Why did it take a TV show before anybody started to take this seriously? I'll keep asking that question as it shows that something is very very wrong here, and that needs to be sorted out, to ensure that similar events don't happen. Like, say, Windrush, or the tainted blood scandal, or... much of the blather that has come out of the Home Office in the past five or so years.

Oh well, there's a little "political bit" for you. I'll stop there before I start to get sweary.



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David Pilling, 23rd January 2024, 22:50
For bread you want strong flour, strong as in a high protein content as in lots of gluten. Packets tell you how much protein.  
M&S Canadian Very Strong White Bread Flour  
Protein 14.9g per 100g 
Rick, 23rd January 2024, 23:21
Ah, so I should forget about the weird codes and just look at the protein content? 
Ah, the regular flour is 8.4g/100g and the bread mix is 13.4g/100g. 
Brilliant, thanks! 
jgh, 24th January 2024, 00:13
Ironically a "time appropriate" Mallory Towers would be ethnically diverse, as the early 20th century was the start of the boom in the "brown colonies" sending their children to the Mother Country for education.
jgh, 24th January 2024, 00:20
re Horizon, who on earth writes: 
negate(d) { if d<0 return abs(d); else return d-2*d; } 

I had Covid last week, and spent the time reading through the witness reports. That's only the worst of the ones I can remember from memory. Others include: 
* if the console timed out, the items listed are processed as a purchase. 
* if a reconciliation aborts part-way through, restarting the reconciliation restarts with the balance from where it aborted. 
* standard methods to address "the two generals problem", a standard part of *any* communictions, not just computer comms, was a subject completely oblivious to the programmers. 
and that's just at the technical level. The management oversight was even worse. At one point one "...ran away to (town) and refused to answer questions". 
C Ferris, 24th January 2024, 09:08
Was the PostOffice system running a separate phone line or over the Internet?
Zerosquare, 24th January 2024, 14:12
If (when?) you get nowhere with Danew, you may be able to fix your Android device yourself. I've seen badly designed laptops that drain the battery even when turned off. Then when it's completely depleted, they refuse to start even with external power, _and_ they don't attempt to charge the battery either. 
In that case, extracting the battery, charging it manually a bit, and putting it back is usually enough to get the device to work again. (Until you leave it unused for a while and the same problem reoccurs, that is.)
David Pilling, 24th January 2024, 23:04
jgh - the person who writes code like that has a dodgy compiler. I am surprised no one got a grip on the Post Office situation long ago. There must be 100s if not 1000s of people who know what went wrong, along with a lot of documentation. 
Our local post office was raided in 2001, the case came to court in 2003, and the post office paid them to sign a non-disclosure agreement and go away - because the expert they both engaged discovered problems with Horizon. 
Back to bread. Outside of a bread making machine, one lets the bread rise at ambient temps, around 20C and one starts to panic if ambient is not that high, and it takes a lot longer for the bread to rise. 
I am not familiar with bread baking machines, but I wonder if they keep warm for the rise (using power and heat sensors) or depend on ambient and if they monitor the amount risen. 
I can't say that home made bread tastes yeasty - lets hear it for the "Chorleywood Baking Process" which produces much of the (not very nice) bread in the shops. 
Rob, 25th January 2024, 14:15
I played lacrosse at school. Local public school (i.e. Private, fee paying.) we had a choice of Rugby or lacrosse in winter, cricket or athletics in summer. Everybody who wasnt good enough for a school team ended up in a lacrosse group, where we were walked to an off-site ground to play half-heartedly, or an athletics group where we waited around for turns on the equipment/field after the competent kids had finished with it. I spent most of my lacrosse time in our near goal, where I didn't have to run around too much.  
Horizon. I've read the Horizon Issues Judgement, all 313 pages. The judge didn't have many kind words for the post office and Fujitsu witnesses, nor for their expert witness. E.g. (very roughly) the court had decided that one question to be answered was "did an error/bug etc have the *potential to affect* branch accounts?" And the PO tied to answer "we don't have any evidence any were affected".. Not quite the same thing. Also they tried to turn it into a statistical thing (so many millions of successful transactions, it's inconceivable so may small quiet branches could have so many problems.) Plus they tried very very hard not to divulge the KELs ('known error log' - basically details of each investigation into a reported problem, of which there were *thousands*) and PEAKs (the individual helpdesk logs) when it turned out these were critical to showing that Fujitsu and POL knew about problems with the system all along, and in at least one documented case FJ's attempts to fix a discrepancy "made the problem worse"!!
Rick, 25th January 2024, 20:27
jgh: negate(d) { if d<0 return abs(d); else return d-2*d; } 
I had to pull that one apart in my head because it's just so awful. It's just swapping the sign of the input. So... um... 
The simplest logic I can think of would be to swap the sign by subtracting the number from zero, like so: 
DEFFNnegate(d%) : = 0 - d% 
But this can be further optimised in many cases to just assume the zero, thus making it: 
DEFFNnegate(d%) : = -d% 
Look, come on, I have dyscalculia and I suck at maths, but even little clueless me can come up with something better than Fujitsu saw fit to put into a major national IT system that cost vast amounts of money. 
So what's their excuse? 
Zerosquare: I actually heard back. They sent me a PDF of their return procedure. I need to create an account with them to register my device, then apply for an RMA (return number) specifying the problem and with a scan of whatever justification I have to demonstrate when it was sent to me. They'll respond within ~48 hours. If they respond that the request is accepted, I need to (at my expense) post it to them with the RMA number clearly visible in the original box with all the bits. 
There lies the problem. I can't find the original box. Unfortunately I know it was on the chair by the living room table, and this was getting towards the end of The Big Tidy Up so it's quite possible that - since I was starting to get fed up with slogging through all that crap (So! Many! Freaking! Towels!) I might have just tossed it into a rubbish bag or the recycling bag. I'll rummage this weekend, but it might come down to having to cut my losses and try open heart surgery. 
Extract the battery, Zerosquare? I expect it to be wedged in place with gobs of glue or industrial strength double-sided sticky tape. It'll likely be all I can do to get it out without breaking it (as, looking at the machine, I'm just going to guess it'll be about the size of a teacup saucer (but square) and probably about as thick, which is to say somewhere around 7.5mm or so. 
These things are never made to be fixable. 
Hell, the thing has it's own special charger as while it runs on 5V, it has a dinky barrel plug (no micro USB or USB-C). 
And, yeah, I know these Android things refuse to start until there's about 5% in the battery. My old phone was the same. 
David: I think the problems were known about from the beginning, but the Post Office seemed to prefer to blame postmaster thievery rather than admit there was a problem. That's partly why I want bodies in jail, this wasn't your regular incompetence, this was a malicious cover-up. 
The machine keeps the inside warm during the proving period. The heater clicks on and off, and the viewing window gets damp. I'm guessing maybe 30C or so. 
I spoke to an English woman in town who makes her own bread, and she told me that I absolutely have to put sugar (or honey, something like that) into the mix as it works with the yeast to rise better. I'll try that. 
The bread makers don't monitor the amount of rising, but every one I've seen does warm itself up slightly. The rising is generally time-based. I gave the durations in the article above. 
Over here, the bread I usually use is called "Harry's". It's a little bit smaller than a Hovis slice, more square than rectangle. It's a peculiar long-life bread which has a faint taste of vinegar. It's the closest I've found to sliced white bread as I understand it. It's also kind of icky, but if I want a cheesie-toastie then there's no choice. Most French bread is utterly crap at stuff like that. The traditional style is a hard (near inedible) crust with a chewy gummy inside featuring a lot of large holes. I'm guessing traditionally bits are torn off an dipped into coffee, cider, whatever. For the younger ones, maybe dipped into Nutella. 
There is a sort-of French equivalent to a cheesie-toastie, it's the Croque Monsieur, which contains bits of dead pig as well. 
Or a Croque Madame if you want an egg (which may or may not be cooked) on top. 
Being French, these are usually made with either Gruyère or Emmental (amusingly, both are of Swiss origin!). I think Comté would be better, but then I'd make mine with Cheddar so... 
Rob: Cricket was a summer thing, certainly. It was also highly elitist, unimportant people like me were not permitted to go anywhere near the cricket stuff, it was for the posh gits. There was some rugby, but pretty much "the game" was football (that everybody with a modicum of talent played). Those who weren't good at anything got sent on a "woods run", a longish (about 3-4 mile?) run through the National Trust woodland, up through the village, and back. About 99% of that was off school grounds. Because bad things didn't happen to clueless kids in the '80s. ;) 
I didn't read the judgement (life's too short) but I've been following the reporting in The Register. It's... surprising that the judge has been so accomodating to their painfully obvious obfuscation. Hopefully, at the very least, what we shall see from this is a repeal of the, frankly stupid, guidance that instructs the courts to trust the result of computer evidence as being infallible. That was never the case, and this gross miscarriage of justice demonstrates exactly why. The computer is NOT always right. The computer is only as good as the software it runs, and in some cases (looks directly at the Post Orifice) that's not very good at all. 
And, I dunno, but between you and me I think this is entirely the wrong time for the Post Office to be whinging about three-day delivery and the end of their univeral service obligation. I'm actually surprised that they're so entitled that they think that's important *right* *now* instead of, you know, hiding in shame. 
PS: I'm always amused by the Britishism where "public" means "private" when it comes to schools. 
My place was a fee paying (obviously) boarding school that had pretentions - it called itself a "college". 
We called it prison, borstal, the asylum, etc. ;) 
C Ferris, 25th January 2024, 22:29
If you can get the battery out - how do you charge it?
David Pilling, 26th January 2024, 12:58
Oh yes sugar food for the yeast, and salt kills yeast, so don't put the two in immediate direct contact.
jgh, 26th January 2024, 21:12
"whinging about three-day delivery and the end of their univeral service obligation" 
That's not the Post Office, that's Royal Mail. 
David Pilling, 27th January 2024, 18:20
Royal Mail and the Post Office split around 2012. RM is a public listed company. PO is owned by the government. It leaves RM exposed to what went on with Horizon - presumably the government indemnified them from what went on before the flotation as they appear to have done with things like the pension fund. 
Rick, 27th January 2024, 19:07
Oh, okay, so another example of the government flogging off something that kind of ought to be a public service. 
Thanks for clarifying that. 
C Ferris, 28th January 2024, 11:29
Hmm - is this the reason I couldn't change (cancelled Stamps) to new Stamps at the PostOffice!
David Pilling, 28th January 2024, 22:57
The PO is now acting as agent for couriers like Evri and RM will sell you postage and pick up your item. 
C Ferris, 29th January 2024, 10:47
Interesting that small PCB's ordered from China - postage is quite dear.
jgh, 29th January 2024, 17:30
Hmmmm.... In reading the background I thought RM and PO had split in 1969 when it/they were converted to Statutory Corporations, with "Royal Mail" and "The Post Office" having different descriptions of their history from at least the early 1980s.
jgh, 29th January 2024, 17:33
Near where I used to live there was a Royal Mail "Collectors Office" where you could deal with the Royal Mail direct and bypass the Post Office. Quite useful for people in the know. It was in the middle of the "legal district", so had a lot of work from solicitors.
David Pilling, 29th January 2024, 19:28
Around here the concrete telephone boxes in the pavement (all the wires are underground) bear the legend GPO - General Post Office. BT split from the PO in 1981. Documentary about the Bletchly code breakers, the PO could lay claim to having invented the computer.

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