Archive for category PC Tweakage

Model M Keyboard Surprise

A friend gave me a New Old Stock IBM Model M keyboard, built by Lexmark on 1/30/96. Although I intended to try it out, I first showed it to Mary and it immediately ended up at her desk:

IBM Model M 1996 - media keys

IBM Model M 1996 – media keys

I favor off-lease Dell boxes intended for office use, so the PS/2 plug on the end of the (permanently attached) cable slid right into the PS/2 jack on the back panel. Gotta love it.

She’d been hammering out testcases and doc on Model M keyboards basically forever, so her fingers snapped into position and the room sounds like her old IBM office.

The “101 key” layout predates frippery along the lines of multimedia keys, so I gimmicked the top row of the numeric pad to control the mixer volume and muting toggle:

  • /amixer sset 'Master' 10%-
  • *amixer sset 'Master' 10%+
  • amixer sset 'Master' toggle

While doing that, I found the semicolon key fired at the slightest touch, so I popped the keycap to see if I could frighten it into compliance:

IBM Model M 1996 - dome switch

IBM Model M 1996 – dome switch


It seems Lexmark replaced the classic buckling spring mechanism with less clicky rubber dome switches, even back in 1996, perhaps for use in libraries & suchlike. Come to think of it, this place is more like a library than an office, so muted clickiness seems appropriate.

For completeness:

IBM Model M 1996 - label

IBM Model M 1996 – label



Google Pixel vs. USB Mounting

For reasons undoubtedly making sense at the time, the Google Pixel (and, most likely, current Android devices) don’t support the USB Mass Storage protocol. A bit of poking around suggests the jmtpfs utility supplies the other end of the Pixel’s Media Transfer Protocol and the process goes a little something like this:

  • Once upon a time, create a mountpoint: mkdir /mnt/pixel
  • Unlock the phone
  • Plug in the USB cable
  • Pull down the top menu, tap USB charging this device
  • Select Transfer Files
  • sudo jmtpfs /mnt/pixel -o allow_other,fsname="Pixel"

The allow_other parameter sets the directory / file permissions so ordinary users can access the files. The fsname is just for pretty.

The Pixel’s storage then appears as the awkwardly named /mnt/pixel/Internal\ shared\ storage/ directory.

Despite being somewhat Linuxy under the hood, the mapped storage doesn’t support the usual filesystem attributes, so don’t try to transfer them with, say, rsync -a:

rsync -rhu --progress /mnt/music/Music\ for\ Programming /mnt/pixel/Internal\ shared\ storage/Music/

When you’re done: sudo umount /mnt/pixel

This may not be a win over bankshotting off Dropbox or Google Drive, except for sensitive bits like private keys and suchlike.

Thunar apparently knows how to detect and mount mtp devices automagically and I suppose GUI-fied drag-n-drop works as you’d expect.

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Epson R380 Continuous Ink Supply: Tubing Failure

After 4.5 years, one of the silicone tubes on the Epson R380’s continuous ink supply system broke:

Epson R380 - broken CISS tube

Epson R380 – broken CISS tube

The yellow smudges in front of the tubing clamp and across the top suggest the total mess lying in wait between the cartridges. Donning my shop apron and wielding damp paper towels cleaned things up well enough.

I cut through all the tubes a few inches back from the clamp, pulled the stubs off the elbow connectors, reinstalled the fresh ends, and re-repaired the clamp with a new cable tie:

Epson R38 - CISS tubes

Epson R38 – CISS tubes

Although the failing yellow supply surely contributed to the problem, the printhead seems to be on its last legs after nearly nine years. IIRC, I got the printer for $15 after rebate, spent maybe four times that on CISS tanks, and perhaps $200 on good-quality ink in pint bottles, it doesn’t owe me much.

Maybe I shouldn’t buy ink in pint bottles any more.


Google Pixel XL: Google Play Services Phone Number Update

This notification appeared every day after I got my shiny-new / soon-to-be-obsolete Google Pixel XL:

Screenshot_20170906-085931 - Update Your Phone Number - detail

Screenshot_20170906-085931 – Update Your Phone Number – detail

Fast-forward through nearly a month of doing the obvious things to no avail:

  • Tap the notification to update my phone number
  • Update my phone number from Firefox on the Pixel
  • Update my phone number from Firefox on my desktop
  • Ditto, from Chromium
  • Just dismiss the notification, repeatedly
  • Change my phone number in various Google places
  • Ditto, in various ways

Searching on the obvious keywords provided very few hits and none with a resolution. I followed one suggestion to flush the Google Play and Google Play Services caches, to no visible effect.

So I started a chat with Google Support by coredumping the entire list of Things Already Tried. After ten minutes of pleasantries, mostly spent idling while Holmes (great name for a tech support guy) read my coredump (and, most likely, timeshared a dozen other support chats), this transpired:

11:36:01​ ​ Holmes:​ ​ I ​ ​ see​ ​ that​ ​ you’ve​ ​ tried​ ​ almost​ ​ all​ ​ the​ ​ things​ ​ to​ ​ get​ ​ rid​ ​ of​ ​ the​ ​ notification​ ​ for​ ​ Google​ ​ play services.
11:36:05​ ​ Holmes:​ ​ Is​ ​ that​ ​ right?
11:36:57​ ​ Ed​ ​ Nisley:​ ​ It’s​ ​ everything​ ​ I ​ ​ could​ ​ think​ ​ of,​ ​ plus​ ​ a ​ ​ bit​ ​ of​ ​ searching​ ​ the​ ​ usual​ ​ forums.​ ​ A ​ ​ few​ ​ other folks​ ​ have​ ​ the​ ​ same​ ​ problem,​ ​ but​ ​ none​ ​ have​ ​ a ​ ​ resolution.
11:38:04​ ​ Holmes:​ ​ Sure,​ ​ I ​ ​ understand​ ​ that.​ ​ Please​ ​ don’t​ ​ worry​ ​ at​ ​ all,​ ​ we’ve​ ​ a ​ ​ dedicated​ ​ team​ ​ of​ ​ experts​ ​ for Play​ ​ related​ ​ concern.​ ​ I’m​ ​ from​ ​ hardware​ ​ nexus​ ​ Support​ ​ team.
11:38:15​ ​ Holmes:​ ​ I’d​ ​ connect​ ​ you​ ​ directly​ ​ with​ ​ them.

I’ve never gotten to Level 2 that fast in my entire life!

Fifteen minutes later (again, mostly his reading & timesharing):

11:54:37​ ​ Calvin​ ​ S:​ ​ The​ ​ issue​ ​ might​ ​ be​ ​ due​ ​ to​ ​ some​ ​ residual​ ​ files​ ​ that​ ​ might​ ​ hinder​ ​ the​ ​ download​ ​ process.
Lets​ ​ try​ ​ to​ ​ clear​ ​ cache​ ​ of​ ​ Google​ ​ Play​ ​ Store,​ ​ to​ ​ see​ ​ if​ ​ the​ ​ issue​ ​ can​ ​ be​ ​ resolved.
11:55:06​ ​ Calvin​ ​ S:​ ​ I ​ ​ can​ ​ help​ ​ you​ ​ with​ ​ the​ ​ steps,​ ​ if​ ​ you​ ​ want​ ​ to.
11:55:10​ ​ Ed​ ​ Nisley:​ ​ As​ ​ I ​ ​ said​ ​ in​ ​ the​ ​ initial​ ​ description,​ ​ I’ve​ ​ already​ ​ done​ ​ that.
11:55:39​ ​ Calvin​ ​ S:​ ​ I ​ ​ appreciate​ ​ your​ ​ efforts​ ​ to​ ​ fix​ ​ this​ ​ issue.
11:56:08​ ​ Ed​ ​ Nisley:​ ​ Blew​ ​ away​ ​ all​ ​ the​ ​ caches​ ​ for​ ​ anything​ ​ to​ ​ do​ ​ with​ ​ Google​ ​ Play​ ​ anything!
11:56:20​ ​ Calvin​ ​ S:​ ​ Could​ ​ you​ ​ please​ ​ let​ ​ me​ ​ know,​ ​ what​ ​ all​ ​ troubleshooting​ ​ steps​ ​ you​ ​ have​ ​ tried?
11:57:05​ ​ Ed​ ​ Nisley:​ ​ Did​ ​ you​ ​ read​ ​ the​ ​ initial​ ​ description​ ​ I ​ ​ sent​ ​ to​ ​ start​ ​ this​ ​ chat?​ ​ Took​ ​ Holmes​ ​ five​ ​ minutes to​ ​ chew​ ​ through​ ​ it.
11:58:11​ ​ Calvin​ ​ S:​ ​ I ​ ​ see​ ​ that​ ​ you​ ​ have​ ​ cleared​ ​ cache​ ​ of​ ​ Play​ ​ services.
11:58:50​ ​ Calvin​ ​ S:​ ​ Let​ ​ us​ ​ uninstall​ ​ updates​ ​ for​ ​ the​ ​ Play​ ​ Store​ ​ app​ ​ Play​ ​ Store​ ​ and​ ​ Google​ ​ Play​ ​ Services.

At which point it became obvious I was going to spend the rest of the day dinking around:

12:00:58​ ​ Ed​ ​ Nisley:​ ​ Given​ ​ that​ ​ this​ ​ notification​ ​ appears​ ​ in​ ​ the​ ​ morning,​ ​ doing​ ​ this​ ​ step​ ​ by​ ​ step​ ​ will​ ​ take days.​ ​ Give​ ​ me​ ​ a ​ ​ list​ ​ of​ ​ everything​ ​ you​ ​ will​ ​ suggest​ ​ so​ ​ I ​ ​ can​ ​ do​ ​ it​ ​ without​ ​ wasting​ ​ hours​ ​ typing​ ​ at​ ​ you.
12:02:22​ ​ Calvin​ ​ S:​ ​ Respecting​ ​ your​ ​ time,​ ​ I’ll​ ​ follow​ ​ up​ ​ with​ ​ you​ ​ over​ ​ an​ ​ email​ ​ with​ ​ all​ ​ the​ ​ possible troubleshooting​ ​ steps.

The “troubleshooting steps” look like a generic list of progressively more desperate measures applicable to any mysterious Android problem:

Clear app data for the Play Store

Go to Settings > Apps.
Tap Google Play Store > Storage > Clear data > Ok.
At the top left, tap the Back arrow to go to the “App info” screen.
At the top right, tap More (3 dots) > Uninstall updates > Ok > Ok to restore the app to its factory version.
Note: The Play Store will update automatically within 48 hours. If “Uninstall updates” is dimmed, you can skip this step.
Note: If you’ve changed the Google Play Store app settings (content filters, password protection, etc.), you’ll need to set them up again.

Clear the app data of Google Play services

Warning: Clearing the app data of Google Play services can reset settings, affect app performance, and cause unpredictable behavior across the device.

Go to Settings > Apps or Application Manager.
At the top right, tap More (3 dots) > Show system apps (on Android versions lower than 6.0, go to All instead).
Tap Google Play services.
Note: If you don’t see “Google Play services,” check Show all system apps and make sure that both Google Play Framework and Google Play Services are enabled. ​​If they aren’t enabled, download the Google Play Service from Play Store.
Tap Storage > Clear cache.
Then tap Manage Space > Clear All Data > Ok.

After completing this step, you should check the settings on your apps to see if they’re still configured correctly.

Remove and re-add your Google Account

Note: This may reset settings and remove in-app content. However, your purchases and synced data (Gmail, Google contacts, etc.) are tied to your account and will be available after re-adding your account.

Go to Settings > Accounts > Google.
Tap the name of the account you wish to remove.
Important: Make sure you remember your account password. You’ll need it to sign back in to your account.
At the top right, tap More (3 dots) > Remove account > Remove account.
At the top left, tap the Back arrow > Add account > Google.
Sign in to your Google Account.

Uninstall and reinstall Play Store updates

Temporarily uninstalling updates to the Google Play Store app can help fix some issues.

To revert the Play Store app to the previous version:

Go to Settings.
Tap Apps or Application manager (depending on the device).
Tap Google Play Store (depending on the device, you may need to go to All).
Tap on the menu button, and then Uninstall updates.
If the Uninstall updates button isn’t available, skip the rest of this step and continue troubleshooting.
When prompted to change the Play Store app back to the factory version, tap OK.
Go back to the device’s home screen and relaunch the Play Store. Your Play Store app should update to the latest version within a few minutes.
If the Play Store app doesn’t update, tap on the menu button from within the app and go to Settings. Scroll down until you see Play Store Version. Tap on that to check for an update. If none is available, continue to the next step.

Uninstall updates for Google Play Services

Go to Settings.
Tap Apps or Application manager (depending on the device).
Tap Google Play Services (depending on the device, you may need to go to All).
Tap on the menu button, and then Uninstall updates.
If the Uninstall updates button isn’t available, skip the rest of this step and continue troubleshooting.
When prompted to change the Play Store app back to the factory version, tap OK.

Reset your device to factory settings

If you’d like help with resetting your device, contact us from another device and we’ll walk you through it.

To reset your device:

If you have an SD card, remove it to save the data on the card.
Reset your Android device to factory settings.
Sign in to your device with a Google Account that was signed in before the reset.
If you removed an SD card, reinsert it.

To reload your apps and data:

Open the Play Store app.
Tap the Menu (3 lines) > My apps & games > Library.
Next to the apps that you’d like to install, tap Install or Enable.

If the issue still persist after performing all the troubleshooting steps I request you to reply to this email with the screenshot.

As it turned out, blowing away “the app data of the Google Play services” did the trick; the notification Went Away and hasn’t returned.

I hope I never need that information again …



Optiplex 9010: Xsetwacom vs. Dual Monitors

Having replaced the Dell Optiplex 980 (running from an eBay NOS power supply) with an off-lease Optiplex 9010, I was mildly surprised to find two Displayport outputs from the built-in Intel graphics chipset. Not being a gamer, I don’t care much about graphic performance, but plugging two 2560×1440 monitors into the jacks and having them Just Work was delightful. Indeed, Dell even managed to fix work around the error in the U2711  firmware requiring me to power-cycle the damned thing before booting the PC; now I can just turn the PC on and It Just Works.

Mysteriously, the incantation required to limit the Wacom tablet to the left-hand landscape monitor now uses DP1 instead of HEAD-0:

xsetwacom --verbose set "Wacom Graphire3 6x8 stylus" MapToOutput "DP1"
xsetwacom --verbose set "Wacom Graphire3 6x8 eraser" MapToOutput "DP1"
#xsetwacom --verbose set "Wacom Graphire3 6x8 Pen stylus" MapToOutput "HEAD-0"
#xsetwacom --verbose set "Wacom Graphire3 6x8 Pen eraser" MapToOutput "HEAD-0"

I’ll leave the “HEAD-0 incantations as comments, so as to have a hint the next time …

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Optiplex 980 Power Supply: Capacitor FAIL

Came up from the Basement Laboratory to find my Dell Optiplex 980 PC had failed, with the power button and diagnostic 1 + 3 LEDs blinking amber.  They built it back in June 2010, so section 3 of the Dell reference applies, the power supply status LED on the back panel was off, and, going straight to the heart of matter, I popped the top, disconnected the internal power supply cables, and poked the power supply test button:

Optiplex 980 Power Supply - rear panel test button

Optiplex 980 Power Supply – rear panel test button

… and it’s dead.

Inside, the system board sports a Mini-ATX power supply connector:

Optiplex 980 - Mini-ATX power connector

Optiplex 980 – Mini-ATX power connector

I originally hoped to swap a supply from an Optiplex 755 (also in a Small Form Factor case) residing on the recycle heap, but it has an ordinary ATX connector:

Optiplex 755 - ATX power connector

Optiplex 755 – ATX power connector

So I moved the 980’s SSD and dual-Displayport video card into the 755, fired that devil up, and … it worked!

With my desktop back in action, albeit somewhat slower, I popped the dead supply’s case by violating the Warranty Void If This Label Removed sticker to unscrew the last screw:

Optiplex 980 Power Supply - overview

Optiplex 980 Power Supply – overview

Notice anything?

The electrolytic capacitors over on the left look like this:

Optiplex 980 - Good capacitor

Optiplex 980 – Good capacitor

The cluster of caps on the upper right have bulged pressure-relief lids, like this:

Optiplex 980 - Bulging capacitor 1

Optiplex 980 – Bulging capacitor 1

And this:

Optiplex 980 - Bulging capacitor 2

Optiplex 980 – Bulging capacitor 2

And this:

Optiplex 980 - Bulging capacitor 3

Optiplex 980 – Bulging capacitor 3

None had ruptured, but they’re obviously feeling a bit nauseous.

Given the 980’s mid-2010 manufacturing date, this probably isn’t capacitor plague, just simple overheating from operating in a dead-air zone amid all those heatsinks and wires. Some of the Usual Unnamed Sources suggest overheating the capacitors is how manufacturers ensure their hardware doesn’t last forever, without being obvious about planned obsolescence; I’m loathe to ascribe to malice what can be explained by design desperation.

A Genuine Dell replacement supply from eBay ($25 delivered) came from yet another “small form factor” Dell chassis, so it isn’t quite the same size, lacks a supply test button / LED status light, and doesn’t quite fit:

Optiplex 980 - replacement supply misfit

Optiplex 980 – replacement supply misfit

Nothing a sheet metal nibbling tool can’t fix, though, given I haven’t developed a deep emotional attachment to the chassis. I gnawed off the left side of the frame and squared up the rim around the lower screw, after which the opening fit the supply pretty well, although the latching tab bent up from the bottom of the chassis didn’t quite engage the far end of the supply. No big deal: it’s not in a high-vibration environment.

The new-to-me supply also carries an ATX connector, but the eBay seller included a Mini-ATX adapter. Jamming the adapter + wires into the space available required concerted muttering, assisted by tucking the SSD under the DVD-RW drive. No pictures, as it’s a classic seven pounds in a five pound box situation.

And then It Just Worked again.


Canon LiDE 120 Scanner vs. SANE

I just replaced a cheap old Canon LiDE 30 flatbed scanner with a cheap new LiDE 120, only to get flat-black scans. The machinery worked (yes, I released the travel lock), everything seemed fine, the images were the proper size, but they were dead black.

Of course, the scanner worked OK on the Token Windows Box, but wow what crappy software they include.

Turns out the LiDE 120 requires the latest-and-greatest version 1.0.27 of the various SANE programs & libraries. Mercifully, getting those didn’t require compiling from source, just setting up the maintainer’s PPA of the most recent stable release:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:rolfbensch/sane-release
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

Which introduced circular dependencies with the distro-installed version 1.0.25 files, which I solved by ripping the entire SANE Thing out by the root(s) and reinstalling it to (re)synchronize All The Things:

sudo apt-get remove libsane:i386 sane sane-utils xsane libsane-common ia32-libs libsane
sudo apt-get install libsane:i386 sane sane-utils xsane libsane-common ia32-libs libsane

And then It Just Worked:

C-Note - detail

C-Note – detail

Of course, you must keep this WARNING in mind:

Canon LiDE 120 - Legal Issues Warning

Canon LiDE 120 – Legal Issues Warning

Franklin didn’t know about scanners or color laser printers when he observed:

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety

Of course, there’s more to the story, but one should:

Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.