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Empire baby de-luxe; remove and replace platen

There’s really only one trick; the left-hand platen knob in on a left-handed thread, so hold the right-hand knob still and turn the left clockwise (what you’d normally do to tighten a screw). Then it’s just a matter of removing various screws and bit and remembering what order they were in.

Photo of removed platen.

The platen removed. Knob, washer, wheel, platen, knob.



Dismantled platen; screws removed from ends and wooden rod slid out from inside rubber roll.



Some typing.

I’ve put a new ribbon in since I typed this and it looks better now.

Empire baby de-luxe.

Two sheets of paper, and after brake fluid treatment of the platen. Can see that caps tend to strike HiGh.

Also, return lever sometimes does not feed the paper, and sometimes brings carriage back to the second, not the first column.

Also; no bell (replaced it with an old beer bottle lid). (Thunk.)

Also; lack of ribbon tension seems to lead to loops of ribbon, especially after typing a Cap.

Also writing on some keys worn off. I think it’s had a hard life.

it is still a very nice little black machine Ser. No. 23737 Suggests 1939. Most decals faded or worn right off.

Case battered but intact.

Cannot afford to type really quickly; but given its age and the fact that I paid 12 Aussie dollars for it, complaining I am not; merely stating a few facts.

Lines pretty wobbly! It’s certainly got bags of character!

Anyway, wetted the platen with brake fluid as per a bit of Googling, let it sit and gently removed it. Softened the rubber a tiny bit, but helped a lot with gripping the paper. Much more usable now.




A minor reason to use Bing

Something that has always annoyed me about google is that you can’t copy the URL from the search result.

An example of what I mean. Let’s say I google ‘Empire aristocrat’. I get a list of results and I right click on the first one and copy and paste it. I get this:

What a useless load of garbage. The real URL is in there, but so is a lot of Google’s cruft, in there for their own self-serving purposes that I don’t and in fact refuse to understand.

Here is the same search result dug up in Bing. It came up second rather than first. Right click, copy and paste:

So Bing actually gives me a usable URL. Handy for collecting URLs for reference, or making a copy to send to someone in an email or whatever.

Now, no doubt Microsoft is tracking me in some way when I use Bing, but the cruft around the google link makes them look pretty suspicious — and compared to Microsoft! Wow!

It’s a measure of how much better Google’s search is that we still use it, because they suck in so many other ways.

Now, clearly I am ignorant of the details behind all this, but the fact that someone needed to set up a website to clean Google’s URLs ( says something ungood about their habits.


Grump out.

Olympia SG3 — the behemoth has landed

Some text, typed using an Olympia SG3 typewriter.

The text as typed in using the Olympia SG3.

Olympia SG3. Wide carriage — can hold paper 16″ wide.

Paper injector (adjustable). Multiple tabs. Shading key.

I really like the font. The ‘k’ is a bit sticky, so I think kt needs a clean — I tried to type ‘it’ but the ‘k’ was still up and the ‘i’ knocked it into the ribbon.

It has a d o u b l e   s p a c i n g setting, but the paper stand is missing. It weighs a tonne (or a ton) and looks rather well used. The bell is nice and clear.

The double spacing key.

As I said, I really rather like the font. It’s quite strongly modulated for a typewriter face, but compact as well — it reminds me a lot of the VGA font on IBM computers.

This is one hell of a typing machine. I better give it a good clean, and then set it up somewhere I can use it regularly.

And the font seems to work really well with the script I wrote to do OCR using Tesseract.


On the little desk it does not leave a lot of room.


The paper injector lever on the SG3.

Inject that paper!


SG3 wihout the cover on.



Based on the serial number, I think it’s from about 1963 or 64. Made in Germany. I only got it because it was $20 (and that’s in our paltry Australian dollars) and I don’t have a full-on desk typewriter — all the others are portables. And it has the wide carriage, so it can do the jobs the portables can’t. And it has the paper injector lever which is like the typewriter version of a great big blade switch that brings Frankenstein’s monster to life. Which means I’ll never need to buy another one! Especially since I got that Smith Corona Clipper for $14… oh, haven’t I mentioned that?



Business Name Renewal Scammers

What it says in the title.

They want $99 for a 1 year renewal, when the actual governing body (ASIC) have a perfectly usable website and change $35. They seem to be called Online Business Registration Pty Ltd, but the letter just says ‘Renew your Business Name’ in big letters. The first thing that made me suspicious was the off capitalisation of that request. The second one was the lack of any reference to ASIC in the letter or the URL/email. And I’ve got nothing against Altona, Altona Meadows or anything, but it just did not sound like the right address for a national body. I don’t know if this is illegal or just bad faith. They are effectively charging $64 for reminding you to renew the name and providing you with a website through which to do it (if indeed it does get renewed). Do they, by law, have to tell you they’re doing that? I dunno. I’m too ignorant. I do know I would not want to give my credit card information to people who are at the very least misleading.

Letter from scammers trying to charge excessive fees for renewing your business name.

Do not deal with these people!


Shame, shame, shame.

Logical climate change denial

Tony Abbott is clearly railing against climate change, but just as clearly lacks the intellectual tools to argue for his point of view. As a kind of service to our (shudder) former prime minister, I offer this simple guide to logical climate change denial.

How about:

Mass of the Earth: 5.972 × 1024 kg.

Mass of all humans: approx. 6 × 1011 kg.

Clearly when Earth is 1013 bigger than us there’s no way we can affect it. Therefore climate change is impossible.

How about this one:

God said: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Somewhere in Genesis.)

Here is the definition of subdue (courtesy google):

verb: subdue; 3rd person present: subdues; past tense: subdued; past participle: subdued; gerund or present participle: subduing
  1. overcome, quieten, or bring under control (a feeling or person).
    “she managed to subdue an instinct to applaud”
    synonyms: conquer, defeat, vanquish, get the better of, overpower, overcome, overwhelm, crush, quash, quell, beat, trounce, subjugate, master, suppress, gain the upper hand over, triumph over, tame, bring someone to their knees, hold in check, humble, chasten, cow; More

    informal lick, thrash, wipe the floor with, clobber, demolish, hammer, make mincemeat of, walk all over
    “he is said to have slain or subdued all those who had plotted against him”
    curb, restrain, hold back, constrain, contain, inhibit, repress, suppress, stifle, smother, check, keep in check, arrest, bridle, rein in;
    control, govern, master, quash, quell;
    moderate, tone down, diminish, lessen, damp;
    informal lick, nip in the bud, keep a/the lid on
    “she could not subdue her longing for praise”
    • bring (a country or people) under control by force.
      “Charles went on a campaign to subdue the Saxons”

So there you go. We have to beat Earth, we have to bring it to its knees! Humble it. Subjugate it.  Climate change is a key part of our overall strategy of smothering and lessening. We have to make mincemeat out of the Earth. And we’re on track! All we are doing is fulfilling our mandated destiny, and anyone who tries to stop that is immoral, unethical and simply wrong.

How about this one:

There are many ways to succeed. Who’s to say that a planet is not at its best with a high-carbon atmosphere? The idea that there is only one way for Earth to be and that we know what that way is is presumptuous and arrogant. Who are we to say what’s the ‘right’ amount of carbon for an atmosphere? How high the oceans should be? How much ice there should be at the poles? We have a long history of thinking we know what we’re doing and being proved wrong, and of forcing our beliefs on others. Instead of telling the planet how it should be, we need to let it develop as it would, and with an understanding that we are products of that planet and part of that development.

How about this one:

Scientists have been wrong en masse before. They used to (almost) all think the Sun went around the Earth, that plague was caused by ‘bad air’ and that aliens built the pyramids, though not that last one. Probably they’re (almost) all wrong now and really the Earth is cooling, carbon is good for the environment and it was the Eiffel tower that was built by aliens.

How about this one:

God just wouldn’t let that happen. He might let it happen to you but he wouldn’t let it happen to me.

How about this one:

All the carbon that’s in the ground used to be on top of the ground. The atmosphere is on top of the ground. Therefore, we are just putting the carbon back where it used to be. We’re tidying up. It’s a good thing.






Scones using only 2.5 ingedients

This recipe courtesy of Kylie Evans at Biotext. May need to try it a few times to get the knack.

First, preheat oven to about 200oC and line a couple of baking trays with paper.

Work fast.

You will need:

• some volume of self-raising flour (a couple of cups)

• half that volume of thickened cream.

Combine flour and cream in a bowl, mixing with a bread and butter knife until combined. The less mixing the better.

The half an ingredient: If any dry material is left (say as crumbs in the bottom of the bowl) use a little milk just to add liquid. Mixture should not be sticky.

Use your hands to press out the dough into slabs about an inch thick. Use a cutter (about 1.5 inches across) to cut out the scones.

Bake for 10 minutes, maybe 12.


Impressions of wine

Wine is a mighty thing. Wine is a project to allow Linux (and Mac OS) users to run Windows programs.  It does not emulate a Windows machine, the way, for example, DOSBox emulates the hardware that DOS runs on or that VirtualBox (VB) does on a much larger and more complex scale.  It is more like an interpreter. The website calls it a ‘compatibility layer’. What that means for us non-experts, is it takes Windows’ instructions, translates them into Unix equivalents, then passes them on. This is a less flexible approach than simulating hardware (it is specific for Windows, for example, where a VM can run any number of operating systems) but it is much faster and allows excellent seamless integration with the Linux environment.

I have used Wine on and off for years, but I am not a regular user. I use VB to run a Windows 7 VM on my main workstation, because I have to work with people who use Microsoft Office and various add-ins like MathType, and at the time when I set the VM up it was probably the best solution.

I’m not so sure now.

I have an old CD of MS Office 97. I recall trying to install it under Wine a few years back, and it was not highly satisfactory. Word threw some funny errors, and I could not type into Excel. But that was a few years back, and I use Debian on my desktop, which is not renowned for using the latest versions of packages.

So I thought I’d try it again.

I have a Netbook running current Debian, which is a lot newer than the ‘old stable’ I have on my workstation. I have a USB CD drive, so I gave it a lash.


Plugged in the CD drive. It appeared in the file manager. [Caja — I use MATE, which I think is a great example of a FOSS project. Dissatisfaction with where the Gnome desktop was going (when it switched from Gnome 2 to Gnome 3) prompted people to get together to continue to refine Gnome 2. The result is a desktop environment which is very congenial for us slightly older users who first saw a GUI in the 1990s and reacted violently when Microsoft introduced the ribbon, for example. Now users can choose between Gnome and MATE, and everyone has more options.] I then opened a terminal and went to the CDROM subdirectory (in this case, at /media/cdrom) and ran:

/media/cdrom $ wine autorun.exe

or whatever the installation program was called. Wine opened it like a native Linux application, installed the program (the psuedo-Windows hard drive is hidden away in .wine/drive_c of the user’s home directory).

It appeared in the ‘Other’ menu under the MATE Applications menu. So did a bunch of other stuff; it seemed to generate menu entries for all sorts of Windows executables that I did not want to use.

But that’s OK. Installed and ran Mozo, the MATE menu editor, and turned off all the entries I didn’t want, and moved Word and Excel to the Office category, and bingo I have Word and Excel (97, admittedly) running like native applications, almost no effort required.

Found an old zip file of Rietica1.7.7 (32 bit) on my hard drive; that installed perfectly as well. The Rietica website only hosts the new 64 bit version; I’ve not tried that.


Don’t know if I’ll even use Word and Excel, but the jump in the quality of the experience compared to Wine a few years ago shows how it’s a vibrant, massively useful project. A great solution.


Older tech.

Non-breaking en rule (en dash) in Microsoft Word… not really.

Say you’ve got a number range. The proper way to format that is with an en rule (en dash), so it looks something like ‘4­–5’ whereas a hyphen would look like ‘4-5’. Now, you probably don’t want the number range to break across lines. That’s fine with a hyphen, since Ctrl-Shift-Hyphen gives a non-breaking hyphen (in Word). But you don’t want a hyphen you want an en rule. One option is to put in a non-breaking hyphen then make it twice as wide.

  • Highlight the non-breaking hyphen (and the hyphen alone, not any trailing/leading characters or spaces).
  • Right click on the hyphen and select the ‘Font…’ menu, then ‘Advanced’ (rule #1 in Microsoft products: Just about anything worth doing is considered ‘Advanced’).
  • Change the number in the ‘Scale’ box to be about 200%.
  • Exit from the menus.
  • Type an en rule in your document, alongside the stretched hyphen. (Ctrl-Keypad Minus.)
  • Compare.
  • Swear.
  • Use it anyway since it’s the most reasonable alternative. You may want to adjust the height; but will this highly manual fix work if font is then changed? No.
  • Watch while Word mysteriously moves the instruction to widen the characters to random places in the document so you end up with double width text in unexpected places.
  • Swear.
  • Learn LaTeX where all you need to type is \mbox{4–5}.
Dialog box in Microsoft Word for changing character size, position and spacing.

Stretch out the hyphen (or anything else) using the ‘Scale’ box. Gives fixed selections but can type in other values. Something between 175% and 225% usually works. Note: Can also be used to adjust the position if need be.

I have tried putting text in boxes, but the baseline is not maintained – it sits high. Character positions can be adjusted down, but then Word boxes clip the contents. Perhaps there is a better solution? I tried making it an equation, or using a minus character, but neither was really satisfactory. The minus does not sit at quite the right height, though it may well be the best solution, in truth. I’d like to hear about a better answer because, sadly, using LaTeX is not always viable.

Non-bresaking en rule in Word; results of stretching a hyphen.

Non-breaking en rule in Word; results of stretching a hyphen.

My Word.

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…….