Inkjet Refilling: End of an Era

Just before the turn of the millennium, I bought what turned out to be a never-sufficiently-to-be-damned HP 2000C inkjet printer that served as my introduction to refilling inkjet cartridges. A few years later, a Canon S630 printer joined the stable and worked fine for perhaps five years before succumbing to a printhead death. An Epson R380 that might have cost fifteen bucks after rebate took over, drank maybe a gallon of knockoff ink through a continuous ink supply system during the next thirteen years, and finally suffered progressive printhead failure during the last year.

Something recently changed in the inkjet market: Epson (among others) now touts their “Ecotank” printers featuring large internal reservoirs refilled by 70 ml bottles of color ink priced at perhaps 20¢/ml, obtained direct from Epson via Amazon. They proudly note you can save 90% off the cost of cartridges (“Kiss Expensive Cartridges Goodbye”), without mentioning how their previous extortionate cartridge business made that possible. Of course, Ecotank printers cost far more than cartridge-based printers, but that seems reasonable to me.

Because the ink bottles fit neatly into the printer through a push-to-flow valve interlock, I can finally retire this relic:

Inkjet refilling towel
Inkjet refilling towel

That’s maybe fifteen years of accumulated splotches.

I hope my refusal to buy their cartridges helped immanentize their eschaton, just a little.

Good riddance.

Mystery Not-Copper Line Cord

Harvesting a line cord for a widowmaker test setup revealed its inner secret:

Mystery not-copper wire - as found
Mystery not-copper wire – as found

The conductors are as thin as I’ve ever seen in an AC line cord, with 0.5 mm² = just under 20 AWG. The color code doesn’t match USA-ian standards, but neither does the labeling, so I’m not surprised.

If the individual strands seem unnaturally straight, they are, because they’re made of (presumably) copper plated on a (presumably) metallic core. Here’s what they look like after bending them sharply around my fingernail:

Mystery not-copper wire - bending
Mystery not-copper wire – bending

Wonderfully springy, utterly non-magnetic, and surprisingly durable.

Scraping the 0.02 mm strands with a sharp blade reveals a silvery interior, so it’s (presumably) not copper-coated plastic. Aluminum springs (ahem) to mind, but I’d expect tiny aluminum strands would snap (or at least deform) when bent and erode quickly when scraped.

Each wire measures about 1 Ω / m from the plug (a convenient 40 inch = 1 m away), which is the resistance you’d get from a single hair-fine 5 mil = 0.13 mm strand of 35 AWG solid copper. An 18 AWG aluminum wire would have the same resistance as a 20 AWG copper wire, both of which should be 32 mΩ / m: a factor of 30 less than this crap.

I have no idea what low-end Chinese factories use in place of copper, but it’s gotta be really cheap.

A hank of the wire goes into the Box o’ Springs, in the event I ever need a tiny straight spring rod; you definitely can’t wind this stuff into a coil! It might be fine enough for a crosshair / reticle, at least for crude optics.

Verizon FiOS Battery Replacement

Being that type of guy, a red LED glowing in the far corner of the basement attracts my attention:

Verizon FiOS - replace battery
Verizon FiOS – replace battery

Back in the day, Verizon didn’t make it obvious that the customer is responsible for replacing the battery keeping the ONT alive during power failures. I expect VZ would eventually let me know the battery was dead, remind me I was on the hook for the replacement, then offer to send a tech around with a Genuine VZ Battery to maintain reliable service.

It’s an ordinary 12 V 8 A·hr sealed lead acid battery and, yes, it’s been in there for a while:

Verizon FiOS - OEM battery date
Verizon FiOS – OEM battery date

However, being that type of guy, I just happen to have a box of not-dead-yet SLA batteries waiting for recycling:

UPS SLA 2021-10-22
UPS SLA 2021-10-22

They’re three years younger than the VZ battery …

Blog Summary: 2021

The overall page view count may be down, but people have been replacing water heater anode rods at an increasing pace:

Home page / Archives23775
Water Heater Anode Rod Access Done Right8432
CNC 3018-Pro: GRBL Configuration5301
G-Code and M-Code Grand Master List5049
Why You Need a 6-Point Socket to Remove a Water Heater Anode Rod4300
American Standard Elite Kitchen Faucet Disassembly2621
Toyota Sienna: ABS Trouble Codes2531
Raspberry Pi: Forcing VNC Display Resolution2011
CNC 3018-ProXL: Y-axis Extension1641
Subaru Forester Fuse Boxes1276
Broom Handle Screw Thread: Replacement Plug1239
Removing a Water Heater Anode Rod1221
Auto-V.I.N Gauge Scam1029
Low Budget Bench Power Supply984
CNC 3018-Pro: DRV8825 Hack for 1:8 Microstep Mode980
Kensington Expert Mouse Trackball: Scroll Ring Troubles929
Whirlpool Water Heater “Lifetime” Warranty: The Good and the Bad917
Digital Tattoo Power Supply: Polarity Doesn’t Matter912
Bed Bugs: Thermal Kill908
Review Phreesia Authorization834
Huion H610Pro (V2) Tablet vs. Ubuntu 18.04821
Kenmore 158.17032 Handwheel Clutch Disassembly799
Shimano SPD Pedals: Creaking Resolved788
2000 Toyota Sienna: Replacing the Bank 1 Sensor 2 Oxygen Sensor753
Schwab / Symantec VIP Access vs. Yubikey751
Toyota Sienna: Rear ABS / Speed Sensor Failure729
HP-48GX Calculator Disassembly: Case Rivets688
Reversible Belt Buckle: Post Restaking683
Kensington Expert Mouse Scroll Ring Fix629
Makerbot-style Endstop Power Adapter for Protoneer Arduino CNC Shield616
Displaying Variables in Gnuplot614
Kohl’s Guest WiFi Terms & Conditions: The Short Version613
Replacing Phil Wood Hub Bearings595
Magnesium Water Heater Anode Rod: Seven Years Later576
Adding a Device to LTSpiceIV564
Philips Sonicare Essence 5000: Battery Replacement550
Browning Hi-Power Magazine Dimensions545
MPCNC: Emergency Stop / Feed Hold / Resume Pendant544
Raspberry Pi Interrupts vs. Rotary Encoder538
CNC 3018-Pro: Home Switches534
Resistance Soldering: Transformer510
Adafruit Touch-screen TFT LCD Rotation489
Quick-and-easy IR-passing / Visible-blocking Optical Filter476
Dis-arming a Steelcase Leap Chair471
Icecast and Ezstream Configuration470
Why You Shouldn’t Use Heat Pumps in the Northeast US465
Baofeng UV-5R Squelch Settings460
Mini-Lathe Tailstock: Alignment449
Homebrew Magnetizer-Demagnetizer446
Arduino Serial Optical Isolator444
Mysterious Noise in Toyota Sienna Minivan: Fixed!444
Baofeng UV-5: Squelch Pop Suppression434
bCNC Probe Camera Calibration432
Demolition Card GTA 5-10-9431
Multimeter Range Switch Contacts: Whoops!425
Realigning Tweezer Tips421
Schwalbe Marathon Plus and Michelin Protek vs. Glass Chip418
Kenmore Model 158 Speed Control: Carbon Disk Replacement417
Kenmore Electric Dryer: Power Resistor Replacement416
Old Kenmore Sewing Machine Foot Control Repair414
Closing the Dmesg Audit Firehose400
Blog Page Views

That adds up to 200 k page views from 122 k visitors, for an average of 1.6 pages / visitor, down slightly from last year. For a variety of reasons, I wrote only 242 posts over the course of the year, so more folks read only the single post matching their search terms.

To give you an idea of how awful online advertising has become, WordPress shoveled 817 k ads at those readers, slightly more than four ads per view. Given the toxicity of online advertising, I just started paying $50/year for a “personal” plan to get a few more gigabytes of media storage, which also let me turn off the ads. Most of you won’t notice, as you already run ad blockers, but it will calm the results for everybody else.

Fortunately, losing the $250 / year income from those ads won’t significantly affect my standard of living.

Christmas Bonus

An email arrived yesterday:

Subject: [redacted] review blog invitation about bluetooth programmer

Message: Hi dear,

Thanks for taking time to read this email.

I am Colleen from [redacted] brand, we sell two way radio on Amazon. I learned that you have wrote two way radio review blog before and I think your blog was written well.

Now we have a product named bluetooth programmer that need to be reviewed. […] We would like to invite you to write a review blog about it.

Your can earn $2 from each product sold! We promise it. Just put the link we provided you in your blog and the Amazon backstage will count the data. And we will pay you $2 for per product sold by your link through PayPal on the 30th of every month. (Please provide your PayPal account)

If you are willing to help us write a blog, please tell us if you have a radio and your address we will send you the product for free to review.

You can view more detailed information through this link:

[redacted]

Perhaps this “review” caught their eye:

Baofeng UV-5RE radio - overview
Baofeng UV-5RE radio – overview

Or maybe it was my opinion of the Baofeng intermod problem?

Most likely, it’s just the result of an ordinary web search.

You might think everybody would know about Amazon’s crackdown on out-of-band review kickback scams, but either word hasn’t gotten around or the rewards still exceed the penalties. I think the latter applies, particularly when the offender (or its parent company) can spin up another randomly named Amazon seller with no loss of continuity.

“Earning” two bucks on a few purchases during the course of a year won’t move my Quality of Life needle, so I reported them to Amazon and that might be that.

For future reference, the chat with Amazon’s Customer Support rep produced a deep-ish link to their otherwise un-discoverable “Report Something Suspicious” page; the randomly named nodeld is a nice touch.

Speaking of randomly named sellers, it’s highly likely any Brand Name you remember from the Good Old Days has been disconnected from the tool / hardware / service you remember. Perusing a snapshot of the who-owns-who tool landscape as of a few years ago may be edifying: I didn’t know Fluke and Tektronix now have the same corporate parent.

Enjoy unwrapping your presents and playing with your toys …

The Machine Stops

As foretold by E. M. Forster in 1909, we have two exhibits of the machine grinding to a halt.

Amazon sent one of their prescription savings cards, followed a few days later by a note:

We recently mailed you a physical copy of your Amazon Prime Rx savings card, and are writing to inform you that the BIN listed on your Prime Rx card printed incorrectly. The correct BIN is 019363.

So I wrote the corrected number on my card, not that I will ever use it:

Amazon RX - BIN error
Amazon RX – BIN error

Although the BIN (whatever that stands for) is a numeric value, it’s not treated as a number by whoever reads it. I’d lay money down that the source code’s formatting string changed from %6d to %06d or the equivalent in whatever fancy language they use nowadays.

The Social Security Administration sent me an email telling me to check a corrected version of a statement they sent a few months ago. Unfortunately, attempting to do so while writing this post produces a heads-up notice:

We apologize for any inconvenience accessing my Social Security. We are aware of some technical difficulties and are working on them at this time. We appreciate your patience as we work to solve the problems as quickly as possible.

Attempting to sign on seems to proceed normally, until this technical difficulty popped up:

We’re Sorry…
There has been an unexpected system error.

Your login session has been terminated. For security reasons, please close all of your internet browser windows.

The first statement put my nearest Social Security office 130 miles away in Wilkes Barre, PA. The corrected statement put it back where it belongs, in the hot urban core of Poughkeepsie.

Perhaps an off-by one error in the database lookup?

As far as I can tell, the world now depends on software nobody can understand or control.

Humana Unsubscribe FAIL

Quite some years ago, I had a health insurance plan with Humana, although I gave it up because the premiums seemed entirely disproportional to the benefits. They have continued to bombard me with emails telling me how wonderful they are, with an obligatory sentence at the bottom:

If you do not want us to contact you by email, you can unsubscribe from our online Humana community.

I do not know anything about this “community” of which they speak, other than that they seem to think I want to be part of it.

Clicking on the “unsubscribe” link takes me to a page at their randomly named email service, whereupon I check the “don’t send me anything” box and click the “Submit” button:

Humana Unsubscribe failure
Humana Unsubscribe failure

Did you see the green text near the middle, where my email address should be? Apparently somebody misconfigured the email script to not include the actual address; the %25 gibberish seems to be encoded percent signs, so it may be one of those too-many / too-few / wrong-kind of character escapes.

Just a typo that could happen to anyone. Right?

Having once been a customer, I still have an account, but there is no way to control / shut off those messages. Not being a current customer, however, I cannot use their chat interface, which would likely not be productive. I am unwilling to wait on hold for an hour, because I know my call is not valuable to them, and their customer service rep wouldn’t be competent to solve the problem anyhow.

Fortunately, I can set up a filter to route their emails directly to trash.