Cheapnified Brother TZ Label Cartridge

After four years, I finally had occasion to use the blue label cartridge, only to have the tape refuse to feed. The mess on the tongue sticking out shows the result after I forcibly pulled the tape from the cartridge:

Cheapnified Brother Label Cartridge - exterior
Cheapnified Brother Label Cartridge – exterior

The proximate cause was a fold in the imaging tape takeup path causing the driven spool to stop turning:

Cheapnified Brother Label Cartridge - folded dye tape
Cheapnified Brother Label Cartridge – folded dye tape

Some delicate unspooling, unfolding, and respooling put things back in order.

However, with the cartridge opened on the desk, it became obvious this was the cheapnified version:

Cheapnified Brother Label Cartridge - overview
Cheapnified Brother Label Cartridge – overview

Compare with a genuine Brother cartridge:

Brother P-Touch TZ tape cartridge - detail
Brother P-Touch TZ tape cartridge – detail

In the genuine cartridge, the base tape (with the sticky side and the colored side) feeds from the lower right directly into the assembly pressure roller. The transparent cover tape feeds from the spool in the lower left, up around the imaging tape supply spool, has the image fused to it, and is then pressed against the base tape on the assembly roller.

Update: Per david’s comment, the cartridges are even more complex than I thought! The printer has sense pins matching a group of cartridge holes to determine (at least) the tape size & orientation. See the pix added below.

Despite using the same cartridge body, the cheapnified tape path is entirely different. The base tape now feeds from the spool in the lower right through what should be the cover tape supply reel, around the imaging film supply spool, has the image fused directly to it, then passes out through the assembly pressure roller.

The cover tape is completely missing!

It turns out the cheapnified cartridges don’t bother with lamination. Instead, the printhead presses the imaging film against the top of the base tape, leaving the black image exposed to the elements. The assembly roller does nothing, apart from pulling the base tape through the cartridge.

Now that I know what to look for, the visible difference is the orientation of the base tape. A cartridge with the correct innards feeds the base tape with the colored side + image facing away from the long side of the cartridge. A cheapnified cartridge has the color + image facing the long side, with the major benefit of making the advertising look more appealing:

Fake Brother TZ cartridge - Amazon image
Fake Brother TZ cartridge – Amazon image

A genuine Brother cartridge would print the image on the bottom of the tape in that picture, so you’d see the blank side of the tape in that picture.

The “Amazon Marketplace” being what it is, I assume any pictures will not, in general, have much in common with what you actually receive, but at least I now know which ones to reject out of hand.

Update: The PT-1090 label printer has cartridge sensing pins:

Brother PT-1090 Labelmaker - sense pins
Brother PT-1090 Labelmaker – sense pins

And the cartridges have corresponding holes, although the printer doesn’t sense all of them:

Brother PT-1090 Labelmaker - cartridge ID holes
Brother PT-1090 Labelmaker – cartridge ID holes

Despite that, cheapnified cartridges are still cheapnified.

I learn something new every day around here! Thanks!

Schwab / Symantec VIP Access vs. Yubikey

A Yubikey 5 NFC turns out to be perfectly compatible with any website using Symantec’s (no longer available) hardware key and VIP Access (definitely a misnomer) app to generate TOTP access codes, because the sites use bog-standard TOTP. The only difficulty comes from Symantec’s proprietary protocol creating the token linking an ID with a secret value to generate the TOTP codes, which is how they monetize an open standard.

Fortunately, Cyrozap reverse-engineered the Symantec protocol, dlenski mechanized it with a Python script, and it works perfectly:

python3 -m venv symkey-env
source symkey-env/bin/activate
pip3 install https://github.com/dlenski/python-vipaccess/archive/HEAD.zip
vipaccess provision -t SYMC
deactivate

That spits out a file containing the ID and secret, from which you create a QR code for the Yubikey Authenticator app:

qrencode -t UTF8 'otpauth://totp/VIP%20Access:SYMCidnumbers?secret=longsecretgibberish&issuer=Symantec&algorithm=SHA1&digits=6'

Fire up the app, wave the Yubikey behind the phone, scan the QR code, wave the Yubikey again to store it, sign in to the Schwab site, turn on 2FA, enter the ID & current TOTP value from the Yubikey Authenticator, and It Just Works™.

Of course, you can kiss Schwab’s tech support goodbye, because you’re on your own. If you ever lose the Yubikey, make sure you know the answers to your allegedly secret questions.

Equally of course, you’re downloading and running random shit from the Intertubes, but …

Now, if only all my financial institutions would get with the program.

Huion H610Pro (V2) Tablet vs. xsetwacom

For unknown reasons, likely having to do with ordinary system updates, both the Huion H610Pro (V2) tablet’s device name and the display output’s name have changed. This came to light when I discovered the tablet’s stylus was no longer constrained to the landscape display, which worked fine when I set it up barely a month ago.

Running the setup command manually:

xsetwacom --verbose set "HUION Huion Tablet Pen stylus" MapToOutput "DP-1"
... Display is '(null)'.
... 'set' requested for 'HUION Huion Tablet Pen stylus'.
 <<< snippage >>>
... Checking device 'HUION Huion Tablet stylus' (11).
... Checking device 'HUION Huion Tablet eraser' (19).
Cannot find device 'HUION Huion Tablet Pen stylus'.

Apparently, the device formerly known as HUION Huion Tablet Pen stylus is now called HUION Huion Tablet stylus.

Fine, I can live with that. Try again:

xsetwacom --verbose set "HUION Huion Tablet stylus" MapToOutput "DP-1"
... Display is '(null)'.
... 'set' requested for 'HUION Huion Tablet stylus'.
 <<< snippage >>>
... Checking device 'HUION Huion Tablet stylus' (11).
... Checking device 'HUION Huion Tablet eraser' (19).
... Device 'HUION Huion Tablet stylus' (11) found.
... Found output 'VGA-1' (disconnnected)
... Found output 'DP-1' (disconnnected)
... Found output 'HDMI-1' (disconnnected)
... Found output 'DP-2' (connected)
... CRTC (2560x0) 1440x2560
... Found output 'HDMI-2' (disconnnected)
... Found output 'DP-1-8' (connected)
... CRTC (0x0) 2560x1440
... Found output 'DP-1-1' (disconnnected)
Unable to find output 'DP-1'. Output may not be connected.

Apparently, the video output formerly known as DP-1 has fissioned into DP-1-1 and DP-1-8, with only the latter connected. Weirdly, nothing happened to DP-2.

Once more, into the bleach:

xsetwacom --verbose set "HUION Huion Tablet stylus" MapToOutput "DP-1-8"
... Display is '(null)'.
... 'set' requested for 'HUION Huion Tablet stylus'.
 <<< snippage >>>
... Checking device 'HUION Huion Tablet stylus' (11).
... Checking device 'HUION Huion Tablet eraser' (19).
... Device 'HUION Huion Tablet stylus' (11) found.
... Found output 'VGA-1' (disconnnected)
... Found output 'DP-1' (disconnnected)
... Found output 'HDMI-1' (disconnnected)
... Found output 'DP-2' (connected)
... CRTC (2560x0) 1440x2560
... Found output 'HDMI-2' (disconnnected)
... Found output 'DP-1-8' (connected)
... CRTC (0x0) 2560x1440
... Setting CRTC DP-1-8
... Remapping to output area 2560x1440 @ 0,0.
... Transformation matrix:
... 	[ 0.640000 0.000000 0.000000 ]
... 	[ 0.000000 0.562500 0.000000 ]
... 	[ 0.000000 0.000000 1.000000 ]

Well, that worked.

Actually, I had to constrain the stylus to DP-2, then jam it back on DP-1-8, to spread the tablet’s horizontal extent over the entire monitor. Updating the startup script started the tablet properly the next morning.

The new device name certainly makes more sense and, perhaps, the X output connection now recognizes the landscape monitor’s ability to pass its DisplayPort video stream along to a second monitor.

Blog Summary: 2019

Another year of being the Domain Expert of scam-by-mail gadgets, obsolete ABS codes, and water heater anode rods:

Blog Page View Summary - 2019
Blog Page View Summary – 2019

Plotting the log of page views against posts in descending order of popularity gives a power-law relationship of some sort:

Blog Page View Graph - 2019
Blog Page View Graph – 2019

The log-log view has odd discontinuities:

Blog Page View Graph - 2019 - log-log
Blog Page View Graph – 2019 – log-log

Overall page views are down 30% from last year: 205k vs 290k.

WordPress served 1 million ads (vs 1.2 million in 2018) on those 205k page views, nearly five ads per page view, which seems horrifying. If you’re not using an ad blocker, you surely have difficulty finding the blog post amid all the crap.

The implosion of on-line advertising continues apace, however, as WordPress paid only 63% as much per ad: $0.40 (vs $0.70 in 2018) per thousand views. Obviously, ads on WordPress blogs aren’t worth much these days.

Recommendations:

While I could pay WordPress their upgrade ransom to eliminate the ads, it’s better if you defend yourself by eliminating all ads, wherever they may be.

Monthly Image: Deposit Slot

The Dutchess County Board of Elections occupies the building at 47 Cannon St which, if I recall correctly, was a Central Hudson Gas & Electric Company office back in the day.

CHG&E accepted bill payments at all hours through a little slot high on the wall:

Pay Bills Here - overview
Pay Bills Here – overview

A closer look:

Pay Bills Here - envelope slot
Pay Bills Here – envelope slot

It’s solid cast brass, neatly milled, and built to last a thousand years. They don’t make ’em like they used to, probably for good reason.

I’m told somebody once stuffed burning trash through the Arlington branch library’s book return slot. Nowadays, the fire code apparently requires the room behind the slot to be fireproof and isolated from the main structure, which may account for the popularity of outdoor book / media return boxes.

DOT-01 NP-BX1 Battery Status

Back in February, a quartet of DOT-01 NP-BX1 lithium batteries for my Sony HDR-AS30V helmet camera had mediocre performance compared to an older Wasabi battery:

Dot01 NP-BX1 - new 2019-02
Dot01 NP-BX1 – new 2019-02

After eight months of regular use, they’re even further into mediocre:

Sony DOT-01 NP-BX1 - 2019-10-29
Sony DOT-01 NP-BX1 – 2019-10-29

In round numbers, they’re down from 2.8 W·h to 2.5 W·h and now run the camera for about 70 minutes, rather than 90+ when new. Our typical rides go for about an hour, which means I must swap batteries somewhere along the way.

I still dislike the notion of sticking a 16850 cell next to the camera and powering it from the USB charger running the M20 rear camera requires another helmet cable, but it’s obvious NP-BX1 batteries lack enough active ingredient for the long haul.

Beware the Domain Squatters

A squatter has taken over a defunct domain at the far end of a link buried somewhere in the 3800 posts you find here. In place of the useful page I saw, you’ll see this stylin’ popover:

Domain Squat - engineeration dot com
Domain Squat – engineeration dot com

The “standard security check” is a nice touch, although you should keep in mind the Dilbert cartoon about unexpected side effects.

The actual URL, which I will not make clickable, includes the domain ffgetsplendidapps, which tells you just about everything you need to know about what’s going on.

Because they’re squatting, “continue directly to your destination” means being dumped into a Google search after they’ve meddled with your browser & system configuration. Clicking the inconspicuous × in the upper right closes the popover and dumps you into the search, perhaps before doing anything.

I have no good (i.e., automated) way to find broken links and, as far as I know, there is no way to automatically detect domain squatting, so you’re on your own.

Trust, but verify!