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Updating my Debian box — a non-expert’s experience

My Debian desktop box was running the LTS (long term support) version (in other words, older than oldstable, getting minimal updates and getting outmoded and old and crufty), which is the 7.x series. Support for that even as LTS is scheduled to end May 2018, not far away.

So I bit the bullet and decided to update to current, which is 9.3 (‘stable’). I like Debian, rather than one of the many distributions derived from it. I’ve found for me it words pretty well. Most problems I have are with applications not the OS, and when I’ve fiddled around with other Linux distributions, I have generally found that they are different but not better, and often have fewer packages. So Debian it is.

I don’t have a great network connection where I live (in the bush in Australia, which has poor broadband even in towns), so rather than do a net install I downloaded the iso for the installation disk and burned it. This file: I did not bother grabbing 2 and 3; I have enough internet to grab anything not on the DVD from the server, and eventually the DVDs get out of date.

I also made what I think is a good decision about backups. I began with a 1TB drive. Not big now, but  the computer is about 7 years old, I’d guess. Maybe more. It has an i7-2600K, which was a pretty good chip at the time. When I got it I was using it for numerical modelling, like here, but I don’t do much of that these days, and with 8 GB RAM it is still perfectly capable of running a responsive desktop, so I do not feel a need to upgrade the processing power or the RAM. Since then, I bought a 2 TB drive for storing media, and bunged it in the case and mounted it as /home/username/Music. Worked fine. So with that in mind…

    1. Went into VirtualBox and exported all the virtual machines I wanted to keep to an appliance, ‘Appliance.ova’ — this was a 34 GB file.
    2. Went into firefox and exported my bookmarks to a json file.
    3. Used rsync to copy /home/username (including the Music folder, since it was mounted at the time) to an external USB backup drive called SAMSUNG. Here is the rsync command, for reference:
      rsync -a -v -v -v --stats  --log-file=logrsync.log /home/username /media/SAMSUNG/home/

      and note that I have excluded nothing, since I want to keep my web history as well as the actual data. This command will grab stuff like .mozilla/firefox profiles and the like, though more on that later. The Appliance.ova file was also in a place where it would get backed up externally.

    4. Left the 1 TB drive in the case but disconnected power and SATA cables from it. Since I’d been getting some errors from the drives, I decided to use the second row of SATA sockets for the new install where previously I’d been using the first. So I plugged in the CD/DVD and the 2 TB hard drive into the second row of slots, the DVD into the white socket and the HD into the first blue socket. I made sure to use SATA cables with clips.

      Picture of the mother board and which SATA sockets I used.

      Using the right-hand set of sockets for the SATA drives instead of the left.

    5. Double-checked that the USB backup drive had all my data — /home from the 1 TB drive and Music from the 2 TB drive. Yes, it did. Also had the Appliances.ova and the .mozilla hidden directory with all my web history and stored passwords (more on that later). Disconnected it from the machine. So now only the 2 TB HD and the DVD drive were connected.
    6. Put Debian 9.3 DVD 1 into the drive and rebooted the computer.
    7. Pressed ‘Del during boot to bring up BIOS menu and selected CDROM as first boot device. BIOS menu showed that we’re using IDE channel 1, not channel 0 as previously. That’s OK.
    8. Let the machine boot off the DVD and selected Install, not graphical from the menu. Graphical is probably fine but I’ve been doing this for a while and I have no problem with ncurses. Wired internet connection was in and on.

      Picture of the menu.

      Menu to select the Debian install method.

    9. Clicked through the install (Language, Location, Keyboard map, Hostname, Domain, Root password, User account, Clock

      Picture of the menu.

      Menu to select language.

    10. Partitioned the HD. SCSI 2(010)(sda). Whole device. 16 GB swap (2 × the RAM), then rest of disk at ext4 Linux, mount point ‘/’, and set this partition bootable. Done.
      Picture of the partitioner screen.

      Partitioning — setting up swap space.

      Picture of the partitioning.

      Setting up the root partition.

    11. Write the partition information to disk.
    12. Start installing.
    13. Threw a corrupt file error while installing the base system and dumped me into a text menu. Selected ‘Install base system’ or whatever it was (ie, have another go, please) and it went through. I only installed the base system (ie, command line tools).

      Picture of the error screen.

      Red screen means error.

    14. Linux image was amd64, and the kernel image (it told me) was 4.9.0-4.
    15. Told it I was not scanning anymore DVDs.

      Picture of the apt configuration screen.

      Setting up apt (the package management).

    16. Yes, please set up a mirror.
    17. Chose a mirror and let it configure apt. It said something about ‘upgrading’ but I don’t want to toast my bandwidth so I turned off my router. For now I just want to use the DVD, so once apt was configures with the correct mirror, I figured it would be OK to turn off the internet.
    18. Chose some software, set it to install but it halted at one pointed — needed to get something from the net, should not have turned it off yet. Reran with net on and ok.
    19. Yes, GRUB to MBR, please.
    20. Rebooted with web off. Changed BIOS to boot from HD and left DVD in as a file repository.
    21. As root, edited /etc/apt/sources.list and commented out the web repositories for now.
    22. apt-get update
    23. apt-get –install-suggests install mate-desktop-environment.
    24. Chose gdm3 as my display/login manager, since MATE and Gnome should work well together.
    25. Added some other stuff using apt-get; xsane, libreoffice, that sort of thing.
    26. Plugged in backup USB HD and, with a command line open in /home/username/, coipied all the backed-up material into my new home directory:
      cp -irv /media/username/SAMSUNG/home/username/* .
      cp -rv .[^.]* .
    27. Edited /etc/apt/sources.list to remove comments from web repositories, now that the bulk of the software was installed.
    28. Downloaded VirtualBox installer from
    29. As root, installed a few packages it needs:
      apt-get install dkms
      apt-get --install-suggests install linux-headers-amd64 linux-headers-4.9.0-4-amd64
      apt-get install  libqt5opengl5
      dpkg -i virtualbox-5.2_5.2.6-120293~Debian~stretch_amd64.deb
    30. Then ran VirtualBox and imported the Appliance.ova file, and there everything was. Once I installed the guest additions, it all worked smoothly.
    31. Ran Firefox. Despite the exact copy of the old profile directory, it remembered nothing. I tried running firefox -P and selecting the profile that matched the old one rather than the new one it had cfreated, but that did not seem to help either.
    32. Mounted the old 1 TB HD using a SATA to USB adapter and recopied old profile directory from the 1 TB HD to the new directory (profiles live in /home/username/.mozilla/firefox with filenames like brqhj45.default-1234456787655).
    33. That fixed my passwords but not the bookmarks.
    34. Within the bookmark manager of Firefox, imported the json file I created in step 2, and that fixed that. Done.

So at the end I had my old root drive (minus the Music folder) on the old 1 TB drive as emergency snapshot and backup, I had a current backup on the external USB HD (including the Music folder) and on the 2 TB drive, which used to be just the Music folder, I had everything, including Music.

Still got some issues with Windows progs installed under the old wine not working with the new one — but install media not working with new one either so cannot reinstall…

Relatively painless.





Accidental/coincidental fix of ethernet socket

The lights were out; those little LEDs that flash on the back of the computer when the Ethernet cable is plugged in. Dead. No internet. Could plug the cable into a different machine and it worked, but my main desktop could not even see the router.


Worse, I was working at home and needed to upload a day’s work to the server and it needed to be that day because it had to go to a client.


I tried rebooting, wiggling cables, jiggling the connections between the socket and the motherboard (it’s the built-in port, so attached directly to the MB). No good. Despite previous tests, rebooted router. No good.

In the end I copied the file onto USB and uploaded from the other computer. Then I turned the desktop off and left it for a few hours. Turned it back on.


Then I pulled out the Ethernet cable and the power plug. No standby power, nothing. Left it for a day.

Now it is working again.

Don’t know why; not complaining.

Random acts of something.

Extra ultra super glue.

Just a useful trick. Some people use the word ‘hack’ for stuff like this, but I … don’t.

However, I will say that I have found that super glue, by which I mean cyanoacrylate glue, is lousy for fixing the plastic that most kids’ toys are made from. However, some companies now sell a double-pack for fixing that kind of stuff — it’s sometimes called ‘Toy Fix Glue‘ or similar.

You can buy it, but it costs a premium, and what is in the pack is a felt-tip marker filled with MEK or something very similar, and a tube of what smells a lot like super glue. Now, you’ll pay something like $10 for this tube of super glue and a few ml of this primer. It works, though.

But, instead, I prefer to pay like $2.50 for a multi-pack of no-name super glue and then go to the plumbing section and get a container of primer for joining PVC pipes for about $6. Now, this primer can be coloured, so it’s a good idea to get the transparent, colourless one.

I use a paint brush, like a cheap watercolour brush, to pain the primer onto both surfaces to be joined. Then I let it evaporate off, and apply the glue to one surface and then hold the surfaces together firmly for as long as possible.

This fixes plastics that super glue won’t normally bond, as well as ceramics — I’ve glued up teacups that have then been used for years, though I don’t put them through the dishwasher. Probably could, but don’t.


Use in a well-ventilated area!

Some plastics will be softened by the primer, so avoid applying more than necessary, and if it is a really valuable/valued item, maybe ‘do a test in an inconspicuous area’, as they say.

Super glue is dangerous and must be kept away from skin, eyes and any other body parts, whether your own or those of other people.

Keep out of reach of children, and don’t let them touch the glue either.


Glue, ink, whatever.

A fool’s guide to installing a new hard drive in my Linux box.

(1) First I bought a new drive. Nothing fancy, Seagate 2 TB 3.5″ HD. I want extra data space, not a boot disk. I just want to mount it as a multimedia repository. Audacity generates a lot of GB.

(2) Second, I found an empty bay in my tower case and slotted the drive in and fastened it in with all four screws.

Sideways pointless picture of the inside the my PC case.

Sideways pointless picture of the inside the my PC case.

(3) Ran a SATA cable from the drive to an empty plug on the motherboard, and connected power to the new drive.

(4) Disconnected all external storage and booted up, and noticed that the drive showed up in the boot output. (Disconnected external storage to make identifying the correct disk easier when creating partitions.)

(5) I know that my existing HD is sda. Ran gparted. (Applications -> System -> Administration -> Gnome partition editor in the Debian menu structure).

(6) Waited while gparted found the partitions on all the attached disks.

(7) Identified new disk as sdb. Good.

(8) Created partition table: I chose gpt, but msdos works usually too. Device -> Create Partition Table -> select type.

<tt>gparted</tt>. A screen shot too fill up space.

gparted. A screen shot to fill up space.

(9) Right click on its entry in the partition editor window. Selected ‘New’ and added details as preferred. I like ext4, used the whole disk, and gave it a label different from any other disks. It had to be Primary since it is the only partition on the disk.

(10) Clicked ‘Add’, then ‘Apply’. Closed the dialogue when successfully completed. The partition editor took a few seconds and found the new partition.

(11) Okay. Now, to get it to mount on boot. The modern way uses a sort of ‘universal ID’ for the drive — UUID are four letters that come to mind. I just used the fact that the partition is called sdb1.

(12) Created a mount point in my file tree.



$ cd
$ mkdir Music

I was not acting as root at this point — because this is my desktop machine and my data. I am treating it as part of /home/myusername, not creating a drive for everyone to see.

(13) Then edited /etc/fstab. This has to be done as root

$ sudo vim /etc/fstab

This is the added text in /etc/fstab.

#New 2TB GB drive as ~/Music
/dev/sdb1 /home/myusername/Music ext4 rw,user,exec,auto,errors=remount-ro 0 2

(14) Then gave the machine a reboot and saw what happened…

(15) Use the ‘disk free space’ command to see if I can see the new disk.

$ df -h

Here is the output for the new disk…

Filesystem Size Used Avail Use% Mounted on

/dev/sdb1 1.8T 196M 1.7T 1% /home/myusername/Music


(16) Need to do a test… Can I write to it? Test:

$ touch /home/myusername/Music/testfile

No! Because when mounted Music is owned by root, not by me.

(17) So…

$ sudo chown myusername /home/myusername/Music/ 

$ touch /home/myusername/Music/testfile

Success… (Note, this may not be the cleverest way to do all this, it only works.)

(18) Now reboot and see if I can still write to it…

(19) Yep. OK, now put the sides back on the tower and copy the back-up to the new data space… Yep, that works.

And awayyyy…….

Tapes, cassettes, whatever, ripping to mp3.

OK, so ‘ripping’ cassettes using my old AKAI in the shed. Same method works for vinyl.

Verify the below with a run-through.

(1) Get the two ended 3.5mm plug audio cable, one end into stereo output, other into mic input of netbook.
(2) run audacity (2.0.6) and record…
(3) Massively overloads the input, huge distortion
(4) Mic gain inside audacity is greyed out, says ‘use system mixer’
(5) Playing a tape while recording in audacity and fiddling with System → Control Centre → Sound (on MATE). Reduce mic amplification. (Volume control on my stereo is flaky.)
(6) Does affect the loudness. Dropped it back so that it touched the edges of the scale now and again but not repeatedly.
(7) Playback…Sounds ok.
(8) Record output of tape player.
(9) Find where tracks start in Audacity window. Place cursor there and type ‘Ctrl-B’ and type track name. I use the form ‘XX Title’ where XX is 01, 02, 03… (makes for better sorting of filenames).
(10) Highlight whole thing and Go File → Edit Metadata and set the album and artist name.
(11) Use the noise removal under the Effects menu.
(12) File → Export Multiple, choose your file locations and types and away you go.

Notes: I found I got weird buzzing noise in the captured audio stream when my netbook fan turned on, so it worked a lot better on cold days (!).

Noise reduction can affect the ‘feel’ of the result (can kill the high end frequencies a bit) – do a test and undo if desired,

Check settings like balance, equalisation and Dolby on the tape player. Because the input to Audacity is coming from the earphone jack, these things will affect the result.

If the Audacity display is maxing out a lot, the sound will be clipped and distorted. Reduce either input mic gain on the computer or just turn down the volume on the stereo; it is worth starting the recording, looking at the display, adjusting the volume until it touches the maximum now and again but not a lot, then (just leave Audacity recording) rewind the tape and play it at the new volume level. The bit of experimental crap at the start can be snipped off later.

It is best to give the file a name before you start, say /home/username/audacity/projectname.aup. On a Linux system if you don’t it will be written to some tmp folder somewhere (/tmp, /etc/tmp or something), and it can get very big. If you have a root partition with not a lot of free space on it, it can get filled right up (Audacity can generate GB of stuff, especially if you go off and forget it is capturing the audio). When / runs out of space, Linux can behave a little oddly… Don’t let that happen. Set an alarm or something.

Tapes can be highly variable. Wow, hiss, all kinds of issues. A good tape in a good deck gives very worthwhile results. Much the same process can be used to grab audio from vinyl, of course.


My Vanguard is Alive! (Or: “I’m really out of material for this blog.”)

The Vanguard No 6. Engineered like no other stapler.

The Vanguard No 6. Engineered like no other stapler.

Yes, it’s a stapler. The Vanguard No 6, a real heavy-duty piece of kit. Don’t drop it on your toe!

It only has one problem — you can’t buy ammunition for it any more. The occasional box of staples comes up on ebay or similar, but I cannot find any new product out there.

I think that’s because the staples are half inch across the bridge, where modern ones are 12 mm, and that quarter millimetre is enough to result in incompatibility.

But it’s alive again because I picked up a box at a jumble sale. As a machine for driving heavy-duty staples through the spine of an A5 booklet (or a wall), it is better than any more modern stapler I’ve used. Does require a fair bit of force, though, since there’s no lever arm to give a mechanical advantage — you literally just push the staple through the paper using the big black handle.

Anyway, there’s only so much space I can dedicate to talking about a stapler…

Stapler plus ammo.

Stapler plus ammo.


Made in England.

Made in England.


Office Equipment.

Horrible errors on my Linux box.

Horrible errors on my Linux box. When trying to boot up. I mean, eventually it did boot, but this was not good:

Feb 27 15:17:00 lauequad kernel: [21057.921922] ata2.00: cmd 25/00:08:00:08:c3/00:00:16:00:00/e0 tag 0 dma 4096 in
Feb 27 15:17:00 lauequad kernel: [21057.921923]          res 40/00:00:00:4f:c2/00:00:00:00:00/00 Emask 0x14 (ATA bus error)
Feb 27 15:17:00 lauequad kernel: [21057.921924] ata2.00: status: { DRDY }
Feb 27 15:17:00 lauequad kernel: [21057.921932] ata2.00: hard resetting link
Feb 27 15:17:01 lauequad kernel: [21058.643829] ata2.01: hard resetting link
Feb 27 15:17:01 lauequad /USR/SBIN/CRON[6290]: (root) CMD (   cd / && run-parts --report /etc/cron.hourly)
Feb 27 15:17:01 lauequad kernel: [21059.118482] ata2.00: SATA link up 1.5 Gbps (SStatus 113 SControl 310)
Feb 27 15:17:01 lauequad kernel: [21059.118493] ata2.01: SATA link down (SStatus 0 SControl 300)
Feb 27 15:17:01 lauequad kernel: [21059.226065] ata2.00: configured for UDMA/33
Feb 27 15:17:01 lauequad kernel: [21059.250462] ata2.00: device reported invalid CHS sector 0
Feb 27 15:17:01 lauequad kernel: [21059.250466] ata2: EH complete
Feb 27 15:17:32 lauequad kernel: [21089.830651] ata2: lost interrupt (Status 0x50)
Feb 27 15:17:32 lauequad kernel: [21089.830669] ata2.00: exception Emask 0x52 SAct 0x0 SErr 0x58d0c02 action 0xe frozen
Feb 27 15:17:32 lauequad kernel: [21089.830672] ata2.00: SError: { RecovComm Proto HostInt PHYRdyChg CommWake 10B8B LinkSeq TrStaTrns DevExch }
Feb 27 15:17:32 lauequad kernel: [21089.830674] ata2.00: failed command: READ DMA EXT
Feb 27 15:17:32 lauequad kernel: [21089.830677] ata2.00: cmd 25/00:08:00:08:c3/00:00:16:00:00/e0 tag 0 dma 4096 in
Feb 27 15:17:32 lauequad kernel: [21089.830678]          res 40/00:00:00:4f:c2/00:00:00:00:00/00 Emask 0x56 (ATA bus error)
Feb 27 15:17:32 lauequad kernel: [21089.830679] ata2.00: status: { DRDY }

Except they were all nicely coloured and arranged by vim’s syntax highlighting.


This was in the file /var/log/syslog

Freakin’ scary. I thought one of my hard drives was on the way out. Fortunately it’s not my main drive, the one that houses / and /home, but it’s the second drive which mounts at /home/username/Music.

So, I thought maybe the drive was on the way out. My back ups were up to date, but I noticed that when I want to have a look in ~/Music, there were some files that were corrupt. On boot the messages included one telling me to run fsck on /dev/sdb1 (the Music partition) and then dropping me into a shell, and then fsck told me it could not fix the drive…


Double-checked my backups were current, then unmounted the partition and used gparted to reformat it freshly as ext4. Started to copy the files across from the backup.

Stopped. Could not access the drive.


Remembered an old POST OF MY OWN.

SATA cable plugs sure do wiggle in their sockets. A lot more than old IDE ribbon cables.

Powered down. Removed power cable. Opened case. Noted which SATA cables went from which socket on the motherboard to which drive. Removed them all, blew some dry air into the plugs and cable ends. Replaced the cables and gave them a good wiggle, then left them, making sure they were not getting tugged out or sideways by tension but were square in the sockets. This involved rerouting some cables so they were more comfortable, and tying a bunch of unused power plugs up out of the way.

Reboot. No error messages. Mount back up drive. Copy 240+ GB of backups onto blank drive. All faultless. Seems to work perfectly.

Take home message: SATA cables are fussy and can cause problems that might look like something worse.

Something worse.

Getting lp, lpq and lpstat to work…

I want to be able to use lp and print from command line, not just from gui. My Linux box (Debian, running FLWM as window manager), prints fine from applications with print dialogues, for example LibreOffice or evince, but I want to be able to use lp, a2ps, maybe print from xFig, and these all use the lp command line interface, and that is not set up.

I know I can go ($ is command line prompt)

$ lpadmin -d [printer-name]

but what is ‘printer-name’? I have a couple of printers attached by USB, not network.

It’s actually very simple.

$ lpstat -a

FUJI_XEROX_DocuPrint_CP305_d accepting requests since Wed 02 Nov 2016 13:26:34 AEDT
HL5340D accepting requests since Wed 14 Dec 2016 17:33:54 AEDT
Stylus-TX100 accepting requests since Tue 13 Dec 2016 20:19:20 AEDT

$ lpadmin -d HL5340D


Wacom tablet, Debian, shenanigans.

Getting Wacom tablet to work…it ought to work out of the box, though my system is getting a little old… anyway, the details…

Wacom PTH-851 (Intuos Pro).

$ uname -a

Linux machinename 3.2.0-4-amd64 #1 SMP Debian 3.2.82-1 x86_64 GNU/Linux

Debian 7.xx, always kept pretty much up to date.

Don’t usually use gnome, but opened a gnome session and ran the ‘Wacom’ control panel GUI thing. Got:

‘No Tablet Detected’


$ lsusb | grep Wacom

Bus 002 Device 006: ID 056a:0317 Wacom Co., Ltd

So the USB device showed up (I am not using bluetooth).

$ xinput list

⎡ Virtual core pointer                        id=2    [master pointer  (3)]
⎜   ↳ Virtual core XTEST pointer                    id=4    [slave  pointer  (2)]
⎜   ↳ Mouse USB Laser Mouse                         id=8    [slave  pointer  (2)]
⎣ Virtual core keyboard                       id=3    [master keyboard (2)]
    ↳ Virtual core XTEST keyboard                     id=5    [slave  keyboard (3)]
    ↳ Power Button                                    id=6    [slave  keyboard (3)]
    ↳ Power Button                                    id=7    [slave  keyboard (3)]
    ↳ AT Translated Set 2 keyboard                    id=9    [slave  keyboard (3)]
    ↳ ACPI Virtual Keyboard Device                    id=10   [slave  keyboard (3)]

$ lsmod | grep wacom

No result.

So no kernel module.
Why not? All the Wacom packages are installed, according to apt-get…. Probably just not loading the module, but… Anyway…

$ cd installs/
$ mkdir wacom
$ cd wacom

Browsed to:

and download the latest version.

$ tar xjvf input-wacom-0.32.0.tar.bz2
$ cd input-wacom-0.32.0/
$ ./configure
$ make
$ sudo make install

It said:

Warning: you may need to install module-init-tools

$ sudo apt-get install module-init-tools
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
module-init-tools is already the newest version.
0 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.

OK, rebooted.

$ lsmod | grep acom
wacom                  56840  0
power_supply           13475  2 nouveau,wacom
usbcore               128741  6

$ xinput list

⎡ Virtual core pointer                        id=2    [master pointer  (3)]
⎜   ↳ Virtual core XTEST pointer                    id=4    [slave  pointer  (2)]
⎜   ↳ Mouse USB Laser Mouse                         id=8    [slave  pointer  (2)]
⎜   ↳ Wacom Intuos Pro L Pen stylus                 id=9    [slave  pointer  (2)]
⎜   ↳ Wacom Intuos Pro L Finger touch               id=10   [slave  pointer  (2)]
⎜   ↳ Wacom Intuos Pro L Pen eraser                 id=13   [slave  pointer  (2)]
⎜   ↳ Wacom Intuos Pro L Pen cursor                 id=14   [slave  pointer  (2)]
⎜   ↳ Wacom Intuos Pro L Pen pad                    id=15   [slave  pointer  (2)]
⎣ Virtual core keyboard                       id=3    [master keyboard (2)]
    ↳ Virtual core XTEST keyboard                     id=5    [slave  keyboard (3)]
    ↳ Power Button                                    id=6    [slave  keyboard (3)]
    ↳ Power Button                                    id=7    [slave  keyboard (3)]
    ↳ AT Translated Set 2 keyboard                    id=11   [slave  keyboard (3)]
    ↳ ACPI Virtual Keyboard Device                    id=12   [slave  keyboard (3)]

And it worked!

And gone.

Last one, I promise. Olympia SF De Luxe

Uh oh. I’ve now got four. That counts as mania. This one was on ebay for $10. It had a sticky ribbon tensioner that prevented the ribbon from feeding, and has a few marks, and the case is perished a little and missing the handle of the zip, though the zip works. Came with a Pelikan eraser, too. Not too bad.

Olympia SF De Luxe. About 1963, I think.

Olympia SF De Luxe. About 1963, I think.

The reviews are good for these. Indeed, now that have a Hermes, an Olivetti, a Brother and an Olympia, I feel that I have a god cross-section of the more common good-quality brands. Enough!

While it needs a bit of attention, it is clearly an impressive machine. It has visible margins, a spring-up paper stand, a carriage lock that works from the top, a good-sized return lever, ribbon selector, a ‘1’ key, metal reels on the ribbon, line spacing selector. Pretty much everything except a tab key, which is not something I miss, and more of an office machine feature anyway.

On unsticking the tensioner, the ribbon started to feed. It was too faded to be of any use, and I get the impression from the sticking that the unit had been in storage and unused for a very long time and could use a little oil. ‘q’ and ‘y’ seemed to stick a bit, with the typebars not returning after a strike; but ths improved with a little use, and with moving the touch regulator all the way to ‘+’. And if things do stick, due to stickiness or hitting more than one key and them jamming, the margin release key doubles as an ‘unstick’ key; very handy. ‘G’ sits a bit low on the keyboard as if its stalk is bent, but works fine. The rubber grommets that seat the lid are completely hardened and crumbling away.

Olympia SF De Luxe text example.

Olympia SF De Luxe text example.

But these are quibbles that can be sorted out with a little care. The key press is very short and definite. It is carriage shift (the paper goes up and down, not the typebars), but on a portable, small machine like this the weight is not a problem. The bell is clear, the whole design careful and extremely well thought out, and the feature set remarkably rich. The text is extremely well-aligned, though even with a new ribbon not very dark. Dark enough, however. In summary, a very fine machine.

Made in Wilhelmshaven by Olympia Werke AG, (Western Germany). Ser. 95-701687 (really good photos of an essentially identical one here).

A real carriage shift.

A real carriage shift.

Scrappy case.

Scrappy case.

Steel reels

Steel reels.

The ribbon feed. De Luxe.

The ribbon feed. De Luxe.