Author Archives: daniel

Printer review turns into commentary on content farming

My old Canon MP610 is something like 17 years old, and does the job I need it to – sits in the corner out of the way, occasionally used for printing and scanning.

I even got it to work in Windows 10, though I don’t know what’ll happen with my next OS once Win10 falls out of support. (It may be possible as a consumer user to pay for updates, but it won’t be cheap.)

Anyway, I sometimes ponder a new printer. Not that I need one, but if I did, this review caught my eye:

The Verge: After a full year of not thinking about printers, the best printer is still whatever random Brother laser printer that’s on sale.

It’s not just a printer review; it’s a commentary on the new world of AI, content farming, and hopeless Google search results, and it’s well worth a read.

New used laptop

I just realised it’s the new year, and I should push out some posts that I wrote last year but never got around to finishing.

I’m rarely in a rush to upgrade my laptop – the old one is a secondhand Thinkpad T430 which I got in 2018 – that model was first released in 2012.

It’s been good, and I was reluctant to invest the $1000+ for a new one, so I thought I’d try another secondhand one: an ex-government T480s for $499. i5-8350U CPU (1.7 GHz), 12 Gb RAM, 256 Gb SSD.

This is a big upgrade for me – from then 7-year-old tech to 4-year-old tech. The T480s was first released in 2019. It got good reviews at the time.

Comparing the CPUs in’s ratings, the old scored 2639, the new 6265, or 2.37 times faster. Up against that is a shift from Windows 10 to Windows 11… which at first glance seems to have more cruft in it, but runs mostly okay… except Chrome, which is a little slow to get going.

(For comparison the new-used desktop that I recently got given has an i5-4670K CPU that scores 5557, but it’s got a much better GPU.)

Laptop setup:

  • It came with Windows 11. I did a reset on that to get rid of anything funky.
  • It also came set up to automatically logon as “User” – after creating my own standard and admin users, turning off the auto logon seemed quite tricky, and I ended up using the SysInternals Autologon tool, which once found was quick and easy.
  • Find the Lenovo site and check for driver upgrades. For some reason the Lenovo tool for checking for updates is quite finicky, and needs to be run as an Admin user. Updates included a BIOS upgrade.
  • Swap Ctrl-Fn in the BIOS – I just can’t get used to Ctrl being anywhere but the bottom left corner, as on every other keyboard I use
  • Turn off Touchpad taps. I’m terrible for false clicks on this, though this one seems less prone to it than the T430

Other than these last two dot points, the keyboard seems good, as Thinkpads generally are.

The proper touchpad buttons are at the top; on the T430 they were at the bottom. This may take a bit of getting used to.

But overall I like this new machine. Heaps lighter and thinner, faster, better screen.

(I also recently got a new used desktop machine, courtesy of a friend who was upgrading. It’s a beefy beast, but uses Win10, and can’t be upgraded to 11. No matter, at least for now. 2023 seems to have been the year of new PCs for me.)

WordPress Collapse-o-matic plugin retired

For anybody using the very handy Collapse-o-matic plugin on WordPress, according to a (slightly vague, and difficult to find) support post, it’s being retired due to ongoing security issues.

The plugin provides an expandable section in blog posts.

Fortunately WordPress now supports this natively via the Display block type. Some people are hunting around for other plugins with additional functionality, but Display looks good to me.

One issue I had was finding which blog posts used Collapse-o-matic.

The solution I found was in the WordPress admin posts page, search for [expand

Then it’s hopefully easy enough to move the relevant content into a Display block, and deactivate the plugin.

For anybody else using WordPress, this is probably a nice reminder to review WP plugins and check for any other vulnerabilities that haven’t been widely advertised.

Fast uploads on NBN

I had been on Uniti Wireless for some years for home broadband. Costing $79/month, it was pretty good, and is the equivalent of NBN 50/20 speeds. But I really wanted faster uploads, and Uniti recently has had slow down problems, with speeds dropping randomly through the day. And twice this year it’s had outages.

Plus, since I joined Uniti, my street got NBN, opening up more options.

But I don’t understand why it’s so hard to find NBN plans with upload speeds of 40+ Mbps, and why they’re so expensive. You basically have to pay for 100 Mbps or higher downloads to get faster uploads.

Search sites like Finder have the option to look only for 50+ upload speeds, but then all it finds is one 250/50 plan costing $209/month, which is overkill.

Canstar only allows you to filter by download speeds. It does find one 100/40 plan from Belong, which Belong’s own web site doesn’t know about. Very helpful. Ditto TPG. The big companies, Telstra and Optus, don’t even offer fast uploads.

I found a page that supposedly highlights fast uploads. Two of the five options listed are only 20 Mbps. Really?

Anyway, after some hunting around, here are a few options I found:

ProviderPlan Download/UploadInitial monthly costUsual monthly cost
Leaptel500/50$109 for first 12 months$129
Aussie Broadband100/40$109$109
iiNet450/40$119.99 for first 6 months$149.99
Superloop100/40$75 for first 6 months$89
Exetel100/40$74.99 for first 6 months$88.99

I’m sure there are more, but let’s not make the decision harder than it has to be.

As I understand it, Superloop and Exetel are the same company, which is why the pricing is near-identical. I’m somewhat suspicious of the amount of advertising Superloop is doing at the moment, and wonder if they have an influx of customers, what support will be like when something goes wrong.

My old provider, Uniti (using fixed wireless) has been pretty good but continually falls down with poor support when anything goes wrong.

iiNet I’ve used in the past and they were very good for support, and their service includes mobile internet as a backup during outages. But their only plan with 50+ upload is 450 download, which I don’t need, and is way more expensive any anything else.

But I ended up with Aussie Broadband, which has a very good reputation for good support. So far so good. 100+ downloads, 35-40 uploads.

Good by world standards? Probably not.

But fine for AU. I’m happy with that for now.

WordPress issues and Cloudflare

Cloudflare will speed up one web site for free. I’ve used it a fair bit over the years for my main blog, and it seems to have been pretty good.

Recently I struck some issues:

  • I could not save a post with the word “Casin0” in it. (actually spelt with an “o”; I was referencing the town in NSW.)
  • Sporadic “Updating failed. you are probably offline” errors from WordPress when trying to save (existing) posts
  • Sporadic image upload failures

On the first I temporarily gave up and spelt it with a zero. This is still unresolved, and it affects this blog too. It’s probably a web host issue – a security filter somewhere.

But while researching the second issue, I saw a reference to Cloudflare, and tried turning it off. It resolved it immediately. I suspect it was the cause of the third problem too.

Now I’ll need to more thoroughly investigate WordPress caching. The W3 Total Cache free plugin seems to do an okay job.

UPDATE: And then the error started coming back, but only for saving new posts – not editing existing ones. It seems I need to keep investigating.

One problem I’ve had is WP Multi-site seems a bit dodgy, at least with my setup. There are instructions for turning it off here.

Still worth trying turning off Cloudflare if you’re having issues though.

Refreshing Facebook link previews

Sometimes when posting a link, something goes wrong and the preview doesn’t come up properly.

I hit this issue yesterday when posting a link from my personal blog. At the FB probe went looking, it seemed to hit a database error, so that’s what it said. Not very helpful.

I tried the site itself, and it was up. Retrying from FB didn’t fix it – it was now in the cache. Thankfully there’s a way of refreshing it:

Go to

Enter the URL and it’ll show you the current cached preview image, and any errors.

Click the Scrape Again button to refresh it.


iPhone – directions in Google/Apple Maps not being announced

I was trying to figure out why my iPhone driving directions weren’t being announced – in both Google Maps and Apple Maps.

All the relevant options seemed to be on – within the apps and in Settings.

As is sometimes the case, the typical internet help articles weren’t any help at all. They made various suggestions for settings I’d already found, along with restarts, reinstalls, and factory resets which I didn’t fancy doing as I had no confidence they’d help.

It took finding this Apple Community discussion to solve it. Bluetooth was the problem.

The phone was sending the audio via Bluetooth, but unless the car was on the BT Audio setting, it wouldn’t hear it and repeat it. I do use Bluetooth occasionally in the car for podcasts, but usually it’s on the radio.

The Apple Community discussion mentioned a setting for audio output. I haven’t actually found that yet, but turning off Bluetooth on the phone works just as well.

EDIT: I’ve also found that Google Maps on iPhone won’t announce directions when the screen is turned off to conserve battery. Apple Maps will continue to announce directions. Apparently Google Maps on Android will do it.

Why are streaming apps so dodgy?

Why are commercial streaming apps so dodgy?

In the past few weeks I’ve seen two that I use develop major issues with Chromecast (I think it’s a 1st generation model) from iPad (iPadOS 15.7), which I’d have thought is a very common use case.

Britbox, at the moment, flat out doesn’t work for me. You try to start the stream apart from a big logo, nothing happens. And I’m not the only one:

Disney Plus works, but has more subtle problems.

  • Audio cuts in and out during the credits at the start and end of the program
  • The subtitles turn themselves on every single time I start watching something – they have to be repeatedly turned off.
  • Rating and content information only appears at the end of the program
  • The ”buffering” spinner keeps appearing during the stream, perhaps for half-a-second or so every few minutes – even though the internet connection is strong and fast. Thankfully the audio and video doesn’t drop out.

I’ve also tried on a newer Chromecast. Some of these problems don’t occur on a third generation model, but on the older unit, even switching Disney Plus to the low bandwidth option doesn’t help.

Playing streaming video is meant to be the core business of these companies.

All the others I’ve used recently (apps from all the Australian TV networks – ABC, SBS, 7, 9, 10, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Apple TV Plus*) are okay – how is it Britbox and Disney Plus are so bad?

And why did they work a few months ago, but now they’re broken?

*Apple TV Plus doesn’t work with Chromecast – I use it with an old Lightning to HDMI adapter that I’ve got.

On a Zoom/Teams call? Turn off your sounds

I think a few people need to know this:

If your computer is set up with audible alerts for email and other events, unless you’re on mute, sounds will blast out for everybody else on a group Zoom or Teams call with you.

This will block out your voice (and anybody else’s) and is very jarring.

The easiest way to avoid this is to turn off these system sounds.


  • Search for “Change System Sounds” – or go via Control Panel to Sounds
  • Select the Sound Scheme: “No Sounds”

I’m not a Mac OSX user, but it looks like the option is in System Preferences / Sounds – you need to turn “Play user interface sound effects” off.

These settings will let media and audio calls play as normal, but otherwise the computer should shut up when a calendar reminder pops up, or an email or Slack message arrives.

Making text and lines bolder in Paint.Net

I use Paint.Net quite a lot for mostly minor editing of pictures, including scans.

Scans of text and diagrams tend to come off the scanner with very thin text/lines, so I was wondering how to make them bolder. Thanks to this forum discussion I found a quick one-step way of doing it, without requiring any 3rd party plugins.

From the Effects menu, choose Noise > Median

Set the Percentile to 0, and the Radius to a low value such as 1 or 2. Depending on the file, a slightly larger value might work too.

That’s it. You can adjust the Brightness and Contrast too, but the Median tool makes a huge difference to readability of these scans.

WordPress’s autosave freezes up

I’m glad it’s not just me: WordPress’s Gutenberg editor is very nice, but it has an autosave feature which gets stuck regularly.

Very annoying. If you browse away, you lose changes. You can’t do a conventional Save Draft while the autosave is stuck.

It’s not constant, so I’m not really sure how to fix it. But there are a couple of workarounds.

1. Noted on this thread: add this to wp.config:

define(‘AUTOSAVE_INTERVAL’, 86400);

(that’s a full day, so it should rarely be a problem then)

2. This method seems to work for me:

  • Press Ctrl-A twice, to highlight the entire post text
  • Ctrl-C to copy it to the clipboard
  • Paste it into a text editor. You’ll see the WordPress markup, which shows <!– wp:paragraph –> at the start of each paragraph.
  • Jump out of the draft. Ignore the warning about losing your work
  • Go back into it. If it’s like what happens with mine, anything since the previously successful draft save will have been lost
  • Ctrl-A twice to highlight the entire post text, then Delete it all
  • Then Paste from your copy in the text editor. The entire post should be back, including references to articles

Okay that’s a lot of steps, but for an occasional problem, seems like a reasonable workaround, especially if fiddling with the wp.config isn’t your thing.

Sonos memory capacity

There’s an excellent chart on Reddit (and a slightly different one on Sonos’s forum) plotting the amount of memory each Sonos device has built into it. This has increased over the years.

I thought I’d do a table with this info, but also with the year of release, and the new crop of devices just released.

And I’ve also added a column noting if each device supports voice commands (which take more memory) and is compatible with the new Sonos operating system S2 (introduced August 2020), or whether users of these are stuck on S1.

(There are a few gaps which hopefully I’ll fill over time. And I’ve deliberately excluded non-playing accessories such as the Bridge and Controllers. For now I also haven’t included the Sub, which is not a standalone player.)

DeviceYears soldMemoryStorageVoice S1 or S2Supports SonosNetReplaced by
ZonePlayer 1002005-08??NoS1YZonePlayer 120
ZonePlayer 802006-08??NoS1YZonePlayer 90
ZonePlayer 120
aka Connect:AMP
2008-153232NoS1YConnect:AMP (gen 2)
ZonePlayer 90
aka Connect
2008-153232NoS1YConnect (gen 2)
Play:52009-153232NoS1YPlay:5 (gen 2)
Play:32011-186464NoS1 or S2Y
Playbar2013-20128128NoS1 or S2YArc
Play:12013-1712864NoS1 or S2YOne
Play:5 (gen 2)2015-20256256NoS1 or S2YFive
Playbase2017-20256256NoS1 or S2YArc
Connect (gen 2)2015-19256256NoS1 or S2YPort
Connect:AMP (Gen 2)2015-19??NoS1 or S2YAmp
One2017-1910241024YesS1 or S2YOne (gen 2) / One SL
Beam2018-2110241024YesS1 or S2YBeam (gen 2)
Amp2019-10241024NoS1 or S2Y
One (gen 2)2019-202310241024YesS1 or S2YEra 100
Symfonisk Lamp2019-512256NoS1 or S2Y
Symfonisk Bookshelf2019-512256NoS1 or S2Y
Port2019-512512NoS1 or S2Y
Move2019-10241024YesS1 or S2N
One SL2019-512512NoS1 or S2Y
Beam (gen2)2021-10244096YesS2Y
Roam SL2022-10244096NoS2Y
Era 1002023-10248192YesS2N
Era 3002023-81928192YesS2N

There’s certainly a pattern there.

Devices with at least 64Mb storage and 64Mb memory can support S2, but others can’t.

Voice command support appears to require at least 1024 Mb of storage and the same of memory.

S2 was the first big move in the 15 years since the first devices were released that they left behind some legacy devices on an older version. (Though in 2018 they did do an update which dropped support for their CR100 controller, sold from 2005-09, and long replaced for most users by iPads and smartphones.)

S1 will continue to get security and bug fixes – but not new features. And those users can get a 30% voucher for upgrades (and still use the older devices if they want – initially Sonos’s unwise idea was to brick them, but they changed that scheme).

S2 has only been out for a few weeks, so it’s unclear how quickly new features will be added. And from a software development perspective, under the hood there may have been a great culling of legacy code, which might be good for performance and stability (not that either have been a big issue in my use of Sonos).

Hopefully it’s another decade or more before they decide to exclude more older devices from the latest and greatest.

Updates: Updated with new models. Added SonosNet column, as some new models don’t support it.