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This is why I don’t let users change their own printer cartridges

I was in a classroom today when the teacher told me that they hadn’t used their printer in years because it was broken.

At least, I think that’s what they said, because whenever someone tells me they haven’t used a printer in years, what I hear is “Despite my annual protestations, I don’t actually need my own personal printer, please take it away”.

Which I did.

However, when I went to remove the cartridges for recycling, I found out why it didn’t work.

As much as I hate changing printer cartridges, I put up with it because this is the inevitable alternative.


It is a fact that on 9 out of 10 times the maintenance company comes in to look at our fire alarms, they will manage to set them off by accident without warning.

Sometimes they’ll do it out of term time, and only upset the holiday activities that everyone else forgot were on site

Sometimes they’ll do it in the early evening and irritate certain site residents who were in the shower after an entire day moving computer equipment.

And sometimes, they’ll do it right in the middle of a massive sports tournament while teams from 30 other schools are on site, leading to the Headmaster thundering across the school to the admin building like a bat out of hell to see whose backside needs kicking.

Speaker Trouble

A few weeks ago while installing replacement workstations, I came across a ‘pair’ of speakers that didn’t work properly. The ‘pair’ were in fact two completely different speakers that happened to have compatible interconnects. They needed a 15V power supply, but had a 9V one. The 9V power supply plug was held in with blue-tack because it didn’t fit properly.

Nobody had ever reported this problem.

Spot the difference: is your Griffin Survivor case a counterfeit?

Recently I had the misfortune of buying a Griffin Survivor case for an iPad mini that turned out to be a counterfeit product. The purchase was made from the Amazon UK marketplace, which is not normally known for particularly dodgy sellers, and the seller had a feedback rating in excess of 95%, which is normally a reasonable sign of trustworthiness. It’s entirely possible the seller themselves didn’t know they’d been had by their supplier, but I was suspicious from the moment I received the product.

Griffin themselves have blogged about this as their premium products are an ongoing target for counterfeiting. However, not all of their advice is useful: they suggest anyone with a big price difference from their own store is selling fakes, but I eventually got my hands on a real one (from Amazon proper, who were out of stock when I originally purchased) for less than half the price Griffin list on their UK store.

Now that I have the genuine item, here’s a quick spot the difference so you an get a better idea of whether yours is dodgy or not.

Read More…

Children are filthy and disgusting, and that’s why I’m going to buy these keyboards

Even when they aren’t wetting themselves, vomiting due to Norovirus, or expelling more snot than Slimer from Ghostbusters, children are still disgusting, filthy, disease vectors. And their hands are all over the lab keyboards. We do some cleaning, but there’s a very fine line between effective disinfecting and destroying the keyboard.

That’s why I’m extremely tempted to kit our labs out with these:

Hopefully we can get the price down a bit lower than the £34.99 RRP.

Stock Control

Welcome back! Oh, you didn’t get a break for the summer holidays? Well, neither did I.

What I did instead was spend most of the first half of the summer trying to catch up on delayed install work because the construction company was late handing over our new building, and the second half of the summer wondering why nobody has decent stock control any more.


The link boasts of “standard 3 working day delivery”. In stock! Order now! So I did. Admittedly not the same day as that tweet, but not long after. And my EcoCart 20 still hasn’t sodding well arrived, because the delivery date has been changed three times due to what Bretford finally admitted today to be “issues with the manufacturing”. Apparently they have the 16 and 30 models in stock, but that’s not really much use to me right now.

Then there’s Dabs. I ordered an Acer machine from them to drive some digital signage, which is not something I’d normally do as I’m not fond of Acer kit, but it was cheap, the perfect size, and even comes with a mounting bracket. Unfortunately, when I ordered it, it had a 1-week lead time.

I was not even remotely shocked when the in-stock date came and went, only to be replaced with “Awaiting stock from supplier, delivery delayed”.

Ordering anything on Dabs that is not immediately in stock is practically the kiss of death, in my experience. Every single item I’ve ever ordered from Dabs that has not been in stock has ended up with the order being cancelled because the item gets discontinued. Stay tuned for what will be an unsurprising climax to this tale in about a week’s time.

TTS Tuff-Cam – “USB Device Not Recognized”

This is the TTS Tuff-Cam 2. It takes rubbish photos and is seriously overpriced, but many Nursery and Reception teachers have an aversion to giving 3-4 year olds a cheap Canon camera that they are normally perfectly capable of using, so insist on these “child-friendly” monstrosities instead.

TTS Tuff-Cam 2

Don’t buy one of these.

Against my better judgement, we bought one for our Nursery 6 months ago (and it will be the last one we ever buy). Occasionally, it goes on the blink and displays some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Camera won’t turn on at all.
  • Power LED appears to be stuck half-on.
  • Windows displays “USB Device Not Recognized” when camera is plugged in.
  • Other USB devices, such as the mouse, stop working completely a few seconds after the camera is plugged in, and start working again as soon as you unplug the camera (my personal favourite).

All of these have one simple cause: the camera is utter junk. Luckily, there is also a simple fix. Just stick a paperclip into this unmarked hole on the side for 5 seconds:

TTS Tuff-Cam reset

The camera will reset and probably start working again. At least, until the next full moon, or a butterfly flaps its wings near it, or something.

So that’s where that went

After removing a projector this week that had finally packed up after 8 years, I discovered the final resting place of a long-lost Allen key:

It was jammed into one of the adjustment bolts, and needed a percussive maintenance tool to remove it. Clearly the original installers didn’t have one with them.

How to confuse your cover teachers

I recently installed these into the languages classrooms of our school:

Dell KB212-B QuietKey AZERTY Keyboard

This makes it a lot easier to produce accents, cédilles, and other diacritics. Our languages teachers, who are both French, love them.

The cover teachers… not so much.

The Case of the Disappearing Start Menu

I was summoned urgently to one of the admin offices to deal with a mysterious problem – every time the user clicked on a menu, it would open, then immediately vanish again.

I walked in, and lo and behold, she could demonstrate the problem perfectly.

“Look, I can click on Start, and it pops up for a second, then disappears! I can’t do any work!”

Restraining myself from commenting on how giddy she must be at actually having an excuse to be in her normal state of ‘not doing any work’, I quickly ascertained the cause of the problem. Leaning over the bomb site that passes for a desk in these parts, I gingerly lifted the pile of class registers off of the top-left corner of the keyboard, releasing the Esc key that was being held down and cancelling out of every menu.

If only they were all that easy…