Saturday, September 16, 2017

My experience with very cheap ink

In February 2016 I ordered a set of really cheap ink for our Canon Pixma printer: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/251740970361 . That is just over €12 for four complete sets of ink. Contrast that with the official Canon price of €57.99 for a a single multi-pack of four colours: https://store.canon.ie/pixma-mg-5650-cartridges/cp928eed/

I am fully aware of the razor and blade model  that inkjet printers use and I had often bought third party ink before but I had never gone so cheap. At some stage you do get what you pay for and that ebay ink is only 1/18th the price of official Canon ink so I bought it as something of an experiment. Well here we are 19 months later and that ink is finally running out. I would like to share some of the fears I had when buying such cheap ink and my eperiences with it. 

1. It won't work at all or have some annoying incompatibilty. Nope. Ink worked perfectly and is 100% compatible. Even has a little LED on each cartridge to show its status and it reports ink levels correctly to the printer softeware. 

2. Cheap ink like this will clog the jets and damage the printer. Given a brand new printer costs no more than a single refill of ink I was willing to risk this. Happily I can report that the printer has chugged along nicely on the cheap ink and doesn't seem to have suffered at all. To be fair we aren't heavy printers but with two adults and two school going kids there is probably something printed most days.

3. The print quality will suffer. If it has I haven't noticed but we aren't printing wedding photos. We are printing graphs for school projects and tickets for the cinema. We neither know nor care if the colours are a little off.  

4. The ink will fade. Again I cannot say if it does or not. The bar code I printed a couple of months ago has long been discarded. There are some craft things my daughters printed a few  months ago and they seem to have held their colour.

5. The cheap ink cartridges won't be properly filled. This hasn't been our experience. The twenty cartridge set has lasted us over 18 months (and only two colours have actually run out so far). It seems to me that the cartidge itself complete with circuit board and LED probably costs more than the ink inside it so there isn't much of an incentive for them to skimp on the ink. 

Overall conclusion: A very sucessful experiment. Am going to order the same set again.

Aside: I bought this printer just over two years ago and I remember that it cost about €60. That is pretty much identical to the price of a single refill of official ink. The thing is that the printer came with a free set of ink cartridges. I have seen suggestions that these initial cartridges are only half full but that has not been my experience. The awful truth is that if you insist on buying own brand printer cartidges you may as well just buy a whole new printer everytime you replace the ink. 


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Do you carry a pocket knife?

My father was a practical man. He grew up on a farm and enjoyed hunting and fishing. He apprenticed as a carpenter and built houses for a living.  As a crasftman he knew the importance of good steel but he wasn't a knife nerd. I remember him  carrying a succession of knives over the years both cheap and expensive. The one constant is that he always had a pocket knife and he used it for everything. The same blade that cut carpet tile in the morning was used to peel the apple my father ate that afternoon. He firmly believed that every boy and man should carry a pocket knife and  I still remember him bringing me to buy my first knife at age seven or eight. The salesman talked him out of it that day sadly and I didn't get a knife of my own for a few more years.  I still have his last  pocket knife before he died. It is an old and battered knock off of a swiss army knife. It is my most treasured momento of my father.

Given my father's habit it is hardly surprising that I myself carried a pocket knife through my teenage years and right through college. A boy's life is full of adventure and a boy's pockets are deep and full of things. Carrying a pocket knife made sense when it was the only tool I owned but even in the 1970s this was somewhat unusual. I was the only boy in my middle class surbuban secondary school  classroom who carried a knife although I did meet other tool carriers later in engineering college.

Then I grew up got and got a job in an office and somehow a pocket knife didn't seem essential any more. Adult pockets are filled with keys, wallets, jangling change and later phones. In the adult world we have dedicated tools which are better for any given job than a pocket knife. In the office we have real scissors, guillotines, box cutters and other dedicated tools. At home I have a kitchen full of chopping, peeling and paring implements, and a shed full of tools. No matter what the job there is almost always a proper tool at hand to do it.  Why carry a pocket knife?

I do still have several pocket knives. I keep a battered single blade folding knife in my tool kit and I keep a Leatherman in my car for emergencies. My favourite knife however is Victorinox Huntsman that I bought in Zurich airport about thirty years ago. It is about as large as I can comfortably carry in my pocket and it does have a number of useful tools including a long and short blade (I prefer the short), a scissors, an awl and a corkscrew. I don't carry it every day and I don't need to but I know where it is and it regularly gets called into service when we cannot find a corkscrew or a package arrives from Amazon that needs opening. Occasionally I put in in my pocket in memory of my father. I think I will carry it today.

Looking good for a thirty year old. The toothpick and scissors spring have been replaced while the corkscrew mini screwdriver was a later addition. 


Aside #1: This post was inspired by my stumbling down the rabbit whole of Youtube knife videos. Knives are a big deal for some people and humble Victorinox and Leatherman tools are only begnner models in a hobby that rises to $1000+ custom made pocket knives.

Politics  warning: There is some overlap between knife collecting and gun culture / survivalism  / militarism  particularly in the US so some knife channels may annoy more liberal viewers. Nick Shabazz on the other hand is a very non political non controversial Youtuber who has a great knife channel so go there if easily triggered. Wranglerstar is another channel I really like. It is more of a homesteading / general tool show although he does cover knives. Colby who hosts the channel is a gun loving Trump voting republican who occasionally voices his political views. However he comes across as a very decent down to earth nice guy. He hasn't managed to change my views on politics or on Trump in particular but he has certainly made me reconsider my opinion of Turmp voters.

Aside #2: I now know that the modern parlance for the sort of knife my father carried around is EDC (every day carry).

Aside #3: Irish law is occasionally a source of puzzlement to knife lovers. On one hand Irish knife law is very strict and bans every knife and all other sharp implements. Even screwdrivers have been cited as items that it could be illegal to carry. On the other hand it is an acceptable defense that you have a reason for carrying that knife for legitimate work or leisure purpose. This means there are no hard and fast rules about legal blade lengths or legal blade shapes. If you have a legitimate reason for carrying that knife in that location then it is legal but the onus of proof is on you. Who decides what is legitmate? In the first instance a garda officer (policeman) and then ultimately a judge.  The law is ambiguous however and in theory you could be arrested for bringing a swiss army knife into a public place if a garda thought you meant to cause trouble with it (although given the choice I would rather bring a scewdriver into a knife fight than a swiss army knife).  It probably isn't ideal to have such ambiguity in the law of a modern nation but in practise it seems to be applied reasonably.  You won't get into trouble for a multi tool or pocket knife but you will have a harder job explaining away a dagger or a machete unless you are actually using it to chop down trees.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

The day I was witness to a very professional display of policing.

I was reading an article today about a rather shocking recent  incident where a policeman in Utah abused his powers to arrest a nurse who was doing her job. For some reason this reminded me of a situation I was in a few years ago where I was witness to a much more professionally handed policing incident. Time plays hell with memories so I thought to record what I still remember here for posterity.

It started on the top floor of a double decker bus. I was coming home from work and I sat near the middle as I usually do. This day there was a rather loud gentleman sitting several seats back from me who was clearly intoxicated on alcohol or something else. He was determined to engage in loud conversation with those around him as he expounded his opinions in rather colourful expletive laden language. This happens occasionally on public transport and while it is annoying you learn to ignore it or perhaps move seats. I did my best to ignore the loud gentleman although those sitting closer to him didn't have that luxury and a few of shuffled forwards, some even going downstairs.

There is this thing with some drunks where even when they are being outwardly friendly there is an ominous threat about them.  There is a sense of violence is waiting just below the surface and that if you don't respond in the right way it could explode. It was only when the bus pulled over to make an unexpected stop that I put together the pieces in my mind and I realised that this gentleman was one of those drunks. I put together the half heard snippets of conversation and the fact that some had obviously reported him to the bus driver.  I realised that the object he was loudly  displaying to the other passengers was a  knife and the semi joking rant he was making took on a much more sinister tone.

What to do? Those of us who were still on the top of the bus slowly realised what was going on. Should we continue to keep our heads down adopting ostrich armour or should we flee. The fact that the drunk had noticed and begun to comment on those who had already left made this decision harder.

We didn't have to wait for long because two police cars arrived and at least four Gardai (Irish policemen) boarded the downstairs of the bus. Happily the drunken gentleman didn't immediately  notice their arrival but those of us who had remained on the top of the bus did and were concerned about the likely reaction of this knife wielding gentleman should four uniformed Gardai storm upstairs to arrest him.

Four uniformed Gardai did not storm upstairs. Instead one casually clad Garda officer came up and started to engage the drunk in conversation. I cannot recall the details of what he said but I do remember that  he started to banter with him in language as expletive laden and colourful as the drunk's own. The policeman was non threatening and convivial. He talked the drunk down with tenderness and compassion. He even managed to convince him to hand over the knife and got the gentleman to come off the bus and into a waiting police car. There were no handcuffs involved and no obvious signs of arrest.

The whole incident was so low key it is hard to remember details of what was said and how exactly the policeman had managed this. Shortly thereafter the bus continued on its way. Thinking about it I realised I had just witnessed a master at work.