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Mowing misadventures

Another weekend, another pass with Marte, only this time something unfortunate happened.

A mower missing a wheel
And then the wheels fell off...

I 'stole' a circular clip and washer from the top of the axle (necessary because how would I move the mower?) and refitted the wheel the other way around. It was good enough to finish the mowing, but... yeah, I think I'm going to have to try and track down some replacement parts here if I want to keep Marte running.



Sometimes being an annoying and persistent bastard can pay off, especially when you run into a company that tries to fob one off with "whatever", only having not bothered to see if "whatever" actually works.

This was the case with Danew, whose odd-but-nice-for-a-freebie dBook 111 unexpectedly died (no charge, wouldn't take a charge). I sent it back (twenty euros) and they sent me back a dBook 110 after concluding that my machine was shagged.
Which wasn't great, as it was an old model so half the spec and running Android 9 (like, given that these Chinese things never see firmware updates, is it even safe to put such a thing on the internet?!). It was good that it had a touch screen, which I identified as a major omission on the 111, because Android really isn't built for a device without a way to prod it with various fleshy appendages.
Unfortunately I never got the chance to try, as when I did a full power cycle (a basic part of the new-device test procedure), it came up telling me that my data was unrecoverable (encryption failure) and that I should restore the factory defaults. Which, yeah... that didn't work.
So I sent that back in a canibalised box to get the weight under 2kg so it could go for less money. I asked for it to be tracked so I'd know when it was received, but this time I didn't bother to insure it. I'm sure that you can understand that I had run out of effs to give.

On Friday, like a year to the day (or was it May?) of when I received the original 111 model, I received an email from Danew to say that they were sending me a replacement, a brand new dBook 111.
It arrived on Friday, and the Chronopost delivery man left it on the front doorstep. Thankfully it was cloudy without rain...

So here I am now, sitting outside in the Western Wilderness writing this in the sun and out of the wind. I don't get WiFi down here, but that's a bonus as the apps can't shovel advertising at me. ☺

An Android portable computer
A new portable computer (and windswept hair - yes, it is windy).

Earlier I did the faffing around to Englishify the keyboard. You know, when I bought those stickers, a little voice in my head said I should get two sets. Little did I know the palaver that would happen in between using both of them.

I do not imagine that I have any guarantee now, as this model is a replacement for one that was under guarantee, and that has probably expired. In order to try to not have the battery fail this time, I'll set an alarm on my phone to remind me every two weeks to turn it on and check.
But, then, my tablet that I turned on to pull the backdrops, it powered up with a fully charged battery having been off for ages. Maybe it was just a dud battery? Maybe something on the motherboard fails? I don't know. What I do know is that if it fails again, this time I'll open it up and look at what the battery is up to. I mean, can't send it back so nothing to lose.
That being said, even with the quirks of the lack of touch screen and the keyboard system that tries so very hard to force French (I'm using External Keyboard Helper to override this), it is quite a nice little device.

This is a later revision of the dBook 111 than I originally had. It identifies itself as "dBook111_EEA". Why EEA? Well, the most notable thing is that it no longer has its own power pack with a dinky little barrel plug. Now you don't get a power adaptor at all, instead you get a USB lead, as the charging port is a straight USB-C socket. You can see from the above photo that I'm running mine off an external battery pack.
Additionally, there was a rather prominent prompt during setup to ask me what search engine I wanted to use. I chose Brave, and the system downloaded the Brave browser automatically, and also set up the main screen search bar to use Brave instead of Google. Not that I ever use the search bar, I wish it could be tossed as it takes a load of screen space for no good reason.

That's not to say that everything is fine. As I already mentioned, this being a French machine made for the French market by people who give even fewer effs than me, they have bastardised the keyboard to follow the AZERTY layout. This time it doesn't even bother to revert to French-AZERTY, it is currently set to UK English and... AZERTY... Thankfully External Keyboard Helper can sit in the way and fudge things so the system can dick around all it wants, but I will see Q when I press the button to the right of Tab. I'm not yet sure if this is something that I'll need to set up every time I boot the machine. Probably.
I have also turned off all of the security on this machine, so I rarely even see the lock screen. The reason for this is that Android requires you to swipe up in order to enter a PIN, password, whatever... and this is extremely difficult to do correctly using a touchpad faking being a mouse.
It seems that every time I bring the device out of standby, and at random times otherwise, nExt Camera pops up a prompt asking if I'd like to connect to the onboard camera.

The annoying popup
The annoying popup.
This also caused a USB transfer (from an SD card) to fail, so I'm wondering if the system isn't being a little more paranoid about resetting the USB system? That's a behaviour that is different to the previous incarnation. That being said, the camera is still bloody awful. Below is a photo of me sitting outside enjoying tea (of course!). It's not that bad for a cheap-arse budget camera, but if you try taking a photo indoors under artificial light, it is practically useless. The image is 1600×1200, so it wouldn't surprise me at all if it wasn't some incarnation of the OV2640. I don't think it's the same module as can be bought for an ESP32, as the lid is too thin to fit that in, but maybe a version with a different lens arrangement around the imager might work?
Anyway, I might disable nExt Camera's detection of camera devices until I need to plug in the HDMI to USB adaptor. Which, incidentally, works as expected.
A screenshot from an advertisment
Look Frenchies, school uniforms are so normal in
the UK that they turn even up in random adverts...

Also, sadly, it suffers the same peculiar fault that if you try to use any other launcher (than the shitty basic one that is supplied that can't even cope with widgets) the square button (task manager) functionality completely ceases to work. Which means I cannot use, say, Launcher3> which is an old project (since abandoned, so longer on the app store) but it was a simple frugal launcher that supported widgets and multiple screens and useful customisation options (like no stupid search bar). The machine is quite capable of dealing with it, I have installed the APK and set it up, until I came to want to kill a task and... remembered why I didn't use the nicer launcher the last time.

Still, I now have a portable device with a proper keyboard. This might become important if it's a useful summer. That said, I've still not planted my potatoes ...later...


Spud pics!
Rows for planting potatoes
Rows for planting potatoes.

All of them planted
It's done, they're all planted now.



This morning, Anna was tricked into her carry box and taken to the vet again, this time for a follow-up dose of vaccine. Which, let's face it, she took a lot better than me, seemingly not reacting when the needle was poked into her neck.
She weighs 2.25kg, which the vet said is quite light for a cat her age. The thing is, when she is out with me she is quite happy to terrorise the lizards. Some are dead, some are dented, none are eaten. She'll go for them if they get noticed, rather like the mice, but she's not one for hunting. Instead she'll walk around making a lot of noise. I don't need to put a bell on Anna, she'll announce herself. And, of course, switch to cat stalker mode if something was dumb enough to stick around.
I watched her earlier today. Got a lizard, tossed it around, threw it in the air, and when it played dead even as she was thumping it on the head, she got bored and ambled away. The lizard waited, waited, then bolted.
So, yeah, Anna gets two pouches a day plus various kitty-sticks and crunchies along the way. She... doesn't do much with the wildlife other than leave a trail of carcasses and traumatised creatures. There's a part of me that wishes she'd just eat them, but no, she'll murder for murder's sake, and then hassle me for a Felix. Pretty much in keeping for a cat, no?


So, grass mown, washing done, cat innoculated, potatoes planted, new computer-thingy, it's been an eventful Saturday. Time to close the shutters (AccuWeather still thinks I'm going to wake up to 3°C (though that's better than the 1°C they predicted a few days ago for tomorrow morning) so I'd better look to keeping the heat in. And, oh, I dunno. I haven't eaten all day. I'm thinking chicken nuggets and beans...
...actually, scratch that. It's been a long day. I just want to go to bed and listen to some music with the light off (it's an autistic thing ☺), so I think I'll just make melted cheesy toast sandwiches. That ought to take maybe ten minutes tops.

I'll leave you with a picture of some of the (GC-161) apple blossom. The colours are extraordinarily vivid in the evening.

Apple blossom
Hmm, something in this picture doesn't belong...



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jgh, 21st April 2024, 23:35
It's been *SO* wet up here in God's Country that anything I planted would float away. I normally plant my spuds at Easter, which is three weeks ago. :(
David Pilling, 22nd April 2024, 04:09
House cat == fat cat. Outdoor cat == thin cat. Skews the data for the average cat.
David Pilling, 24th April 2024, 18:36
How to help prevent your cat from hunting 

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