HP OfficeJet 6950 printer review

Printers are hardly thrilling items but I decided to review my HP OfficeJet 6950 colour inkjet printer. The bottom line is it's okay as far as these things go.

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Toilet paper

Who knew toilet paper would become the dystopian unit of currency? I'd venture to suggest a man with 24+ rolls is now an upper-class elite and his kids would be a shoe-in for Eton. Strange really because, as far as I'm aware, coronavirus doesn't give you the shits.

Instead of pounds, shillings and pence we now have loo rolls, hand sanitiser and pot noodles. The useless gold in the Bank of England has been thrown away and the vault is now full of Andrex wet wipes.

The bulk panic buying (to the detriment of others) is, I fear, an accurate portrayal of much of humanity.

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Arnold sues creator of terrifying robot

A Russian company called Promobot created a terrifying Terminator robot that was designed to work in customer services at trade fairs, answering questions and whatnot. It's supposed to mimic human expressions but I think it mimics serious illness much more.

Sorry, the maker of the video I was display here had a sense of humour error and removed it. Take my word for it, it was frightening.

Apparently Mr Schwarzenegger isn't very impressed with his effigy and plans to sue the creators for $10m.

I'm with Arnie on this one because that robot certainly gives me the willies, although it probably isn't any worse than a lot of the customer services reps we encounter these days.

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Gears of awe

I'm a big fan of pointless gadgets and big numbers, and someone called Daniel de Bruin has built a gadget that satisfies both those qualities.

To celebrate being a billion seconds old (just under 32 years old), Daniel built a gearing mechanism whereby the first gear would have to turn 1 googol times in order to turn the last gear just once. A googol is 1 with a hundred zeros after it and, as Daniel points out, that's a number bigger than the amount of atoms in the universe. A googol is also called ten duotrigintillion, ten thousand sexdecillion and ten sexdecilliard.

The gadget has 100 gears and each gear drives the next with a ratio of 10-1, which means a gear must turn 10 times before its subsequent gear turns once. Do that with 100 gears and you get your googol.

This particular gadget is just a prototype and it wouldn't run anywhere near long enough to turn the last gear once, but Daniel is going to create a version that could run for much longer. This proves he's completely bonkers, which is a quality I respect.

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Ducks and locusts

The most astonishing thing about the BBC’s ducks and locusts article is that a duck can eat 200 locusts a day. I never would have thought them such greedy guzzlers.

China is going to send 100,000 ducks to counter the plagues of locusts in Pakistan. The ducks may be successful in their task but what will Pakistan do about the plague of ducks they’re then left with? Will China have to send 100,000 cats to cure Pakistan of its plague of ducks?

It puts me in mind of the old lady who swallowed a fly.

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Wescot Credit Services — spammers (01482 590502)

I was motivated to write this review because I’m fed up of being spammed by Wescot Credit Services Ltd. I don’t owe them or anyone they represent a penny. In fact I’ve never heard of the person they claim to be after, yet they continue to spam call me.

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iPad shutdown screenshots

Why did Apple make the iPad shutdown button combination the same as the screenshot button combination? Both use the volume up + power buttons, it's just a slightly longer press to shut an iPad down rather than take a screenshot. I've just deleted more than a dozen unwanted screenshots of my home screen, taken whilst attempting to shut it down over the past few weeks.

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BT's inflexible flexible TV packages

BT has announced a so-called 'flexible' product for their TV services. You can basically plug together different packages on a month-by-month basis. However, it's only 'flexible' in certain respects because you have to sign up for a very inflexible 24 months to get it in the first place, and of course you're going to have to pay a fixed monthly fee for the base service regardless.

BT said:

Being flexible is more in tune with how customers want to consume content in a streaming world.

Yes, but locking people in for 24 months is definitely not in tune with how customers want to consume content.

The packages start at £10/month for the 'Entertainment' package and go up to £60/month for the 'VIP' package, which is extortionate. By comparison, Netflix is £5.99 to £11.99 a month and you can cancel at any time rather than in 24 months.

I don't think BT have quite grasped the definition of flexibility that customers really want.

On a related note, sport packages are just ludicrously expensive. When I'm the supreme despotic leader of this country (The Worshipful One), that'll all change.

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The bridge in the Irish Sea

So, Boris is looking at the feasibility of a bridge from Scotland to Northern Ireland. Don’t bother, Boris, I can tell you now it’s infeasible. Oh it’s possible from an purely engineering perspective, but so is a bridge across the Atlantic. However it will be too complicated and too expensive.

When someone first mentioned the idea, it was £3.5 billion. Then when they next mentioned it, it was up to £15-20 billion. By the time they’ve completed their feasibility study it’ll be double that. Then, after a few hundred public consultations, it’ll be pushing £100 billion.

Then of course there’s the matter of the 3.5 km wide, 300 metre deep dyke in the middle of the sea to consider. As if spanning that wouldn’t be tricky enough, we dumped all our unused munitions from WWII in there and, since then, a bunch of waste from our nuclear reactors. That’ll keep the engineers on their toes, assuming said toes don’t fall off due to radiation poisoning.

And don’t forget the workman with the government trowel will be busy with HS2 until about 2310 AD. So if it were to be built at all we’d have to wait a couple of hundred years for it. It’s probably better — and certainly cheaper — just to wait until continental drift moves Ireland close to the mainland and then we can simply jump across.

We must remember we’re not in China, where of course it would be built within a week and would cost about £4.50.

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Why does the universe have a cold spot?

The universe is cold at 2.73 kelvin, which is -270.42 C (-454.76 F), but the small temperature it does have is very useful indeed. This radiation is called the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) and it was emitted only a few hundred thousand years after the Big Bang. In a universe that’s 13.8 billion years old, that’s extremely early. Over the eons the wavelength of this radiation has been stretched to the microwave end of the spectrum by the expansion of space.

Cold spot, circled bottom right.

The CMB tells us many things about the universe and we’ve used lots of high-tech instruments to analyse it. The radiation is homogeneous, meaning it’s largely the same in every direction we look, with only tiny fluctuations amounting to no more than about 20 microkelvins either way (and a microkelvin is 1 millionth of a degree).

That is, except for one particular cold spot, which is on average 70 microkelvins colder than the rest of the CMB and up to 150 microkelvins colder in some parts. This makes cosmologists rub their chins, mutter things like “hmm” and then they start penning theories as to why this might be.

Did we collide with a parallel universe at some point? Is it just a void of nothingness? Or did someone leave the window open when the early universe was forming?

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Universal Credit's problems

The BBC website has published a number of articles about Universal Credit lately and a lot of them profile people who got into trouble after taking an advance on their payments. People take these advances because it’s not until five weeks after applying that a payment is made to the claimant.

The good news is that I’ve solved this problem for the government. It’s a two-step process.

Step 1. Apparently it takes seven days for a bank to transfer the government’s money to the claimant. This is ludicrous. I can transfer money between two accounts in less than two hours and I’m sure the government has more oomph with banks than me. Is the additional six days and 22 hours it takes the government to transfer their money because they route it through the remnants of Pablo Escobar’s drug cartel in Mexico in order to ‘clean’ it? The government should simply demand a modern bank account.

Step 2. Universal Credit is paid monthly, which is fine for the long-term I suppose. However, it’s clear it’s the initial wait for the first payment that’s causing a lot of people problems, so how about making the first two payments on a fortnightly schedule?

And there we are — problem solved. I’ve slashed the wait from five weeks to two by applying nothing more than common sense and I’ve assured myself a knighthood in the process.

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BBC licence fee and banging MPs

BBC licence fee decriminalisation

So, the BBC are having a consultation to decide whether not paying a TV licence fee should be decriminalised. For the love of God, of course it should. It’s a television, not an Uzi 9mm. Not paying something like that should be a civil offence, similar to not paying council tax, not a criminal offence.

The whole issue of whether we should pay a TV licence at all is another matter. As it stands it’s simply a tax because you have to pay it whether or not you watch the BBC. I think it should get with the times and become subscription-based. You shouldn’t have to have a licence just because you own a telly. They may as well start licensing underpants.

I’d probably still subscribe. The BBC has gone downhill in recent decades, as its Saturday evening dross demonstrates. It just seems to be emulating the commercial channels with many of its programmes and chasing ratings, and a lot of it is complete pap. That said, it does produce the best factual programmes (about things like science and nature) and many of its dramas (The Bodyguard, Killing Eve etc.) are top quality.

So, yes, throw in Radio 2 and the BBC website and I’d subscribe. And I’d give them an extra tenner if they finally do away with the formulaic dancing and singing shows, which always have three normal judges, one nasty judge, a public vote and an unerring ability to depress me. The sheer amount of televisual time Strictly commands is staggering.

Tracy Brabin MP

Great reply from an MP to some trolls. I, for one, am glad MPs aren’t routinely banged over a wheelie bin before parliamentary sessions.

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Subscription sites and light switches

Google search and subscription sites

I really don't think Google should display search results for articles where, when you click through via search, you then have to have a subscription or account to see them. It's essentially advertising an article with a promise to satisfy your search criteria but then you can't view said article. Such sites are often subscription newspapers, social media pages or the woeful Medium silo.

At the very least, Google could give you an option to filter out subscription sites.

Light switches

Light switches should always be down for on and up for off. This is a problem when you have two switches that operate the same light. Therefore it should be the law that dual light switches are fitted with servos of some sort that switch the other switch(es) to match when you engage one of them.

Have I just invented that? If so, it's Copyright Gordon Ansell, 2020. I'll apply for a patent whilst I'm doing so for my electric underpants puller-upper (the deluxe model will have a stack system for your briefs on the base).

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iA Writer review and changing my workflow

I’ve tried quite a few Markdown editors but, until now, hadn’t properly investigated iA Writer. However, it now fits nicely into my workflow and in this article I explain how it does so and I present my review of iA Writer.

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