COVID-19 is the name of a coronovirus disease first identified 2019-12-31, of an animal to human zoonotic event that occurred at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in China. According to Wikipedia, zoonosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites that spread from non-human animals (usually vertebrates) to humans.

This event did not affect me personally for 56 days, until my arrival at AMS, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, on 2020-02-25 at 9:00. It was then that I was asked if I had visited China, or had any of the known symptoms. While our flight OSL – AMS did not include anyone wearing face masks, there were at least four passengers on our AMS – SFO flight.

Since then, events have intensified.

On 2020-03-17, NRK, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, was reporting that Norwegian (the airline) was refusing to transport non-Norwegian-citizen residents back to Norway. One day later, two members of my family and I did not have this problem with Delta/ KLM. Everything went smoothly. We had gone to Detroit after San Francisco. At DTW, Brock had to present his residency card in order to get a boarding card to fly from AMS to TRD. Trish and Alasdair had no problems with their Irish passports.

On arrival at TRD, a representative of the authorities boarded the plane, and read out the rules. This included 1) no tourists would be allowed to land, but would be transported back to AMS, 2) that passengers must remain quarantined for 14 days, and 3) that people with corona symptoms would not be allowed on public transport, but would have to use private vehicles. After that Norwegian citizens were allowed off the plane. Once they were off, the rest of the passengers were allowed off. That could have been about 8 people, including us. We then had to present our passports at the immigration desk. They checked our status, and allowed us in. Then we had to be inspected by the health authorities dressed in hazmat outfits. Again, we were allowed to proceed. We picked up our luggage, and ran to the train, arriving on the train platform with a minute to spare.

Alasdair used his Vy (the train company) app to buy the train tickets. There were very few people on board the train. Alasdair had to “inspect” the tickets for the conductor who, before Corona, would normally be handed the telephone and press the ticket inspection button him/her-self. We then contacted our personal food shoppers by SMS. Trish had days earlier sent them a shopping list, and now paid them using our “Vipps” (bank) app.

At Røra station, we found our car – almost without any snow on it. We then drove about 7 km to Straumen, where we picked up our groceries, from the back of the shoppers’ vehicle, and transferred them into the back of our vehicle. We talked to the shoppers who had come to the door of their house, thanking them, but keeping a distance of at least three meters. Then we drove 13 km home to Cliff Cottage.

As this is being written, there are now 6 people dead from Corona virus in Norway. The average age is 89! Our local area has opened a special emergency clinic for people with respiratory problems.

The Norwegian krone has never been so cheap (or the American dollar so expensive). Today, it was 10.50 to the dollar.

On our arrival home, we began our 14 day quarantine. Because we are symptom free, we can walk in the woods and work outside, but have to avoid people.

Covid-19 World Cup/ Superbowl

The Covid-19 World Cup/ Superbowl will be taking place on 2021-01-01. This will allow cities/ counties/ states/ countries/ regions/ continents in the world to compare themselves with all the other players. There will be winners and losers in all categories. At the very least, everyone will be comparing themselves against China.

As Oliver Milman reported: The US is on course to be severely ravaged by the coronavirus outbreak due to a delayed and dysfunctional testing regime and misleading messaging from the Trump administration, public health experts have warned. (2020-03-15 02:54) Unfortunately, this early tactic of denial will probably put USA towards the bottom of developed countries.

Milman also cited an editorial by Herbert Holden Thorp (1964 – ), a chemist, inventor and entrepreneur as well as the editor-in-chief of Science:

For the past 4 years, President Trump’s budgets have made deep cuts to science, including cuts to funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the NIH. With this administration’s disregard for science of the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the stalled naming of a director for the Office of Science and Technology Policy – all to support political goals – the nation has had nearly 4 years of harming and ignoring science.

Now, the president suddenly needs science. But the centuries spent elucidating fundamental principles that govern the natural world—evolution, gravity, quantum mechanics—involved laying the groundwork for knowing what we can and cannot do. The ways that scientists accumulate and analyze evidence, apply inductive reasoning, and subject findings to scrutiny by peers have been proven over the years to give rise to robust knowledge. These processes are being applied to the COVID-19 crisis through international collaboration at breakneck, unprecedented speed; Science published two new papers earlier this month on SARS-CoV-2, and more are on the way. But the same concepts that are used to describe nature are used to create new tools. So, asking for a vaccine and distorting the science at the same time are shockingly dissonant. (End quote)

The fantastic thing about this championship is that there are any number of metrics that can be used to describe winners in contrasts to losers. Of course, politicians are not really interested in this at all. They have a vested interest in explaining why their area is fantastic, and other areas are not. Even then, not all countries/ states will be playing fairly. Some metrics can be found today. The first metric is population, along with an estimate of the percentage of people aged over 60/ 65/ 70, if this is available. Another metric available immediately, is the number of intensive care unit (ICU) beds. Figures from 2012, show this to be 8.0 per 100 000 people in Norway. More recent figures show figures for the world in the following graph.

The dates of test kit availability, and their first testing indicates how prepared the country/ state was. Indeed, the legitimacy of other metrics are, in part, dependent on the availability of these kits. At the end of the year, it will be important to know: how many people were tested; the number of positive test results, which with sufficient numbers of tests, could be an indication of the breadth of infection; the number of associated deaths. In order to compare players, data must be expressed as a percentage, or more usefully, absolute numbers per 100 000 people.

South Korea will undoubtedly emerge as the winner of the world cup/ superbowl, teaching the world how to approach similar epidemics. Given its population of 50 million, 74 new cases emerged on 2020-03-17 in contrast to 909 at its peak on 2020-02-29. Later, Reuters reported that South Korea kept new infections around a low 100 or less each day.

Numbers may yet resurge. Behind Korea’s success so far has been the most expansive and well-organized testing program in the world. This has been combined with extensive efforts to isolate infected people and trace and quarantine their contacts. South Korea has tested more than 270 000 people, (5 200 tests per million inhabitants). In contrast, USA has tested 74 per million inhabitants, according to the CDC.

“Diagnostic capacity at scale is key to epidemic control,” says Raina MacIntyre, Professor of Global Biosecurity at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. “Contact tracing is also very influential in epidemic control, as is case isolation.”

Legislation enacted in South Korea in 2015 gave the government authority to collect mobile phone, credit card, and other data from those who test positive to reconstruct their recent whereabouts. That information, stripped of personal identifiers, is shared on social media apps that allow others to determine whether they may have crossed paths with an infected person. In addition, South Korea established 43 drive-through testing stations, and in the first week of 2020-03 their Ministry of the Interior rolled out a smartphone app that can track quarantined people and collect data on symptoms.

In contrast to South Korea, and even China, USA is the developed country that I expect to come in last place. This will demonstrate that private insurance (and health care) have no place in the modern world. It may indeed indicate an end of USA’s (and capitalisms) dominance in the world, especially with respect to the economy, and innovation. In the short term, I expect a brain drain of intelligent people, and others with the opportunity to leave, from USA for places with better health care, and welfare. Canada, New Zealand and Europe will be sought after destinations. Australia and Asia, not so much. In Europe, and Italy especially, Cuba and Russia have received praise for their aid and assistance during this crisis. Perhaps these two countries will also be sought after destinations for disillusioned Americans.

In Scandinavia, there will be a regional competition between three groups of countries: Finland, Sweden and Norway/ Denmark. Finland looks as if it will be the winner.

Bjørgulv K. Bjåen writing behind a paywall in the Norwegian newspaper Vårt Land, states that Finland is in a special position. While other Nordic countries have reduced their emergency preparedness stores, the Finns have chosen to have large emergency stocks – buffers – especially with respect to drugs. In the current situation, it looks like the Finnish government will stop sales and exports of these from Finland.

Because of its Second World War experiences, Finland became a borderland between the East (The Soviet Union/ today’s Russia) and the West (Western Europe/ today’s European Union). For a decade after 1945, it had to pay major war reparations to the Soviet Union. In the process they learned to make things that they had never made before, such as icebreakers.

The contingency idea has massive support in Finland. After 1991, the Soviet Union was disbanded and four decades of a hot Cold War cooled. Sweden and Norway downsized emergency stocks, in contrast to Finland’s continued crisis thinking that embedded the principle of being prepared for surprise.

The Finnish Medicines Agency (Fimea) currently has a list of 1 400 drug types that are stored in so-called turnover stocks: One should at all times have enough for six to ten months of consumption. Manufacturers, wholesalers and hospitals rotate stock, as a matter of principle. Normal consumption is calculated from last year’s consumption.

Norway has chosen another solution. Until the EEA regulations became Norwegian law, Norway had large emergency storage facilities organized by the state medical Norwegian Medical Depot (NMD). However, after the EEA Agreement entered into force in 1994, the wholesale company changed its character; from state, to semi-state, to privatized. The Norwegian parliament (Storting) decided that the state monopoly had to be disbanded because it was in breach of EEA law. No one had told Norway to disband it.

This has resulted in the down sizing of emergency stocks, and the have been scaled down, and responsibility has spread to many players. In a report from last year, National Drug Preparedness, the Directorate of Health acknowledges major shortcomings:

“Many actors with different responsibilities for drug preparedness in Norway make the landscape unclear.”

“Only a marginal proportion of medicines consumed in Norway are produced in Norway.”

“Contingency stocks in Norway are largely concentrated in the central Eastland area, and also have inadequate content”.

“The specialist health care procurement systems are not robust in terms of drug preparedness.”

“Many municipalities have not secured emergency supplies of medicines for the health services they provide.”

“There is low awareness among the population about the importance of having a supply of necessary medicines at home.”

Sweden also recognizes that emergency storage has been replaced by the idea that most can buy something when it is needed. Last year, the Swedish Defence Research Institute analysed Sweden’s supply readiness. Finland copied Sweden’s earlier model for total defence planning and developed it further, while Sweden reduced it. There is now a shortage of drug readiness stocks.

In Sweden, emergency preparedness changed dramatically after it joined the EU in 1995.

Finland also has large emergency stocks with other important crisis products, fuels, groceries, seed, grain, metal and agricultural spare parts. Fuel stores are to secure up to five months of consumption. Grain stocks will last for six months.

In Norway, emergency grain storage facilities were closed in 2003. Today, grain storage is sufficient for only three weeks. In 2014, the Norwegian Institute for Agricultural Economics Research presented a report that said grain stocks were low.

When the right-leaning Solberg government presented the state budget for 2020, it was stated by the political parties supporting the government, that national emergency stocks for grain are not needed, because Norway can buy grain from abroad. That the supply lines are completely blocked off “for some time will not be seen as realistic”, Minister of Agriculture and Food Olaug Bollestad reported in the budget document.

Marcus Carlsson, a mathematician at Lund University, discusses two approaches to pandemics in a video, mitigation and suppression. The upper model in the video shows mitigation. This is the strategy Donald Trump appears to favour 2020-03-25, and the one implemented in Sweden. It is the same one used by South Korea, but with one major difference. To be successful, it requires extensive testing and tracking of cases, from the beginning. Until now, USA has lacked the ability to test. Yet, Trump is afraid the economy might tank without this approach. Others believe that mitigation might cost an extra million, or more, lives in USA, and take at least two years to complete. Not only that, the economy will probably still tank.

Carlsson is not an epidemiologist. He is an amateur. However, he is concerned that there is no evidence of a “herd immunity” approach controlling a virus outbreak anywhere in the world, without extensive testing. He described the Swedish government’s approach as “a mad experiment with 10 million people”.

A second approach, the lower model in Carlsson’s video, is suppression. This is the approach being used in Norway and Denmark, and in most other European countries, including two that have recently given up on the first approach – Britain and the Netherlands. According to Carlsson, this is the preferred approach, especially if there is a lack of testing. In the video he reads from a paper supporting it.

In an article in the Guardian newspaper, that describes Carlson, and comments on the 18m mark of the video, Carlson calls Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, deceptive.

The Directorate of Health (Hdir) and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) recommended different strategies to the government. They chose to follow Hdir and suppression, rather than FHI and mitigation. If suppression fails, then mitigation will be used.

Interestingly, Hdir has been given an overview of how much contamination equipment, including personal protective equipment (PPE), is available, but it is secret. They believe the figures will create fear, uncertainty and weaken Norway’s position in the international market if it becomes public knowledge.

FHI’s fourth risk assessment for covid-19 was published 2020-03-24. This assessment is translated into English immediately below.

In the risk assessment, FHI presents the first estimates of the number of infected in Norway with projections of the number of infected, the need for hospitalization and intensive care for the next three weeks.

  • FHI recommends that the choice of strategy for the further course is postponed one to three weeks. During this period, among other things, a better basis for decision can be obtained, in particular knowledge of the effect of the measures from March 12, says Director of Public Health Institute Camilla Stoltenberg.

In the coming weeks, it is crucial to win time and fight the epidemic with measures that can significantly reduce the spread.

  • A clear goal for the strategy is important. A key premise is that there is only high enough population immunity that can provide lasting protection against new, large outbreaks – this is achieved by getting many people infected or by vaccine, says Stoltenberg.
  • The choice of strategy and measures is made under great uncertainty, and there is a need to obtain more and better knowledge quickly and continuously, she continues.
    Prerequisites for the risk assessment

The Institute of Public Health is working to understand the situation and provide forecasts for the epidemic’s development in Norway. For this, a mathematical simulation is used together with real-world data, especially on hospital admissions.

The Institute today presents the first estimates of the number of infected persons in Norway with projections of the number of infected persons, the need for hospitalization and intensive care for the next three weeks. Thus we also have the first estimates for the dark figures in Norway.

There are still major uncertainties, and forecasts may change next week. As the epidemic progresses, FHI will have better data that can be built into the model, and the institute will adjust the model. The assumptions used in this assessment are:

  • Overall mortality among infected persons below 1% (lethality).
  • Severe age-related mortality; 90% of deaths in the group > 70 years.
  • About 1% of all infected people will need hospitalization and ¼ of these will need mechanical breathing assistance.
  • The measures should be adapted so that you get RE (the number of infections, ie how many an infected person is infected) down towards and maybe below 1.
  • Depending on the strategy choice and the effect of measures, we can expect that around 5% – 50% of the population will be infected during the epidemic.

FHI’s recommended strategy

It is clear that measures to reduce the number of infections are necessary. The choice of strategy and measures is difficult and must be done under great uncertainty. There are no simple solutions, and all strategies are experiments. Decisions with potentially major ripple effects must be made under uncertainty, regardless of who takes them.

FHI recommends that the choice of strategy for the future course be postponed one to three weeks. During this period, a better basis for decision can be obtained, in particular knowledge of the effect of the measures from 12 March.

Furthermore, the institute will develop new tools to optimize testing, isolation, infection detection and quarantine. This work is in full swing and moving forward at high speed. During such a period, the burden of measures can also be analyzed, ie the negative effects of the measures on societies, businesses, groups of sick and individuals, including consequences for life and health, and build better capacity in the health service. (End of Assessment)

In Norway, we get a daily status report from FHI. A summary of this status report for 2020-03-25 follows.

A total of 2,916 infected persons have been reported. This represents 54.3 cases per 100 000 in population. Of these, 264 of the infected were reported in the last 24 hours. 00:00 to 24:00. Highlights from the day:

  • 12 deaths have been notified to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (2020-03-24 at 08.00). The average age of the dead is 84 years.
  • The average age of those infected is 47.7 years, 46.8 percent are women and 53.2 percent are men.
  • 1 437 people have been infected in Norway. 1 043 have been infected abroad and for 350 the infection site is being clarified. Of those infected in Norway, 724 have been close contacts of a known infected case and 671 have no known path of infection, 42 are being clarified.
  • In Norway, 73 089 have been reported tested for coronavirus (SARS-CoV2) (as of 2020-03-25 at 12.00).
  • 237 patients admitted to hospitals with proven covid-19 (figures from the Directorate of Health as of 2020-03-25 at 12.15). The number of admissions per day is increasing.
  • There are a total of 74 persons who have been or are in intensive care with certified SARS-CoV-2, of which 51 are hospitalized (figures from the Norwegian Intensive Care Register). The average age of those admitted to intensive care is 60 years. Of these, 77% are men. (End of status report)

Politico asked 34 opinion makers how they expected COVID-19 to change the world. They comments are interesting and warrant attention. Unfortunately, Politico did not reach out to anyone at Cliff Cottage. Brock’s expectation is that this epidemic, will lead to increased ruralization. That is, the urbanization trend will be stopped, and there will be a new back to the land movement, reminiscent of the early 1970s. Activities where random people congregate will decline. These will include visits to stores, bars, cafes and restaurants, theatres and cinemas, amusement parks, casinos and sports stadiums. The concert era has ended. The cruise ship era has ended. Instead, people will focus on small-scale growing of their own crops, and entertain themselves at home, producing their own music and art.

Tim Lang, is concerned about food supply, and fragile supply chains. For several years now, I have been talking (but not doing anything practical) about the use of 15 m2 (150 square foot) geodesic domes as hydroponic greenhouses to grow foodstuffs. People without gardens can grow food on balconies. People without balconies can grow food indoors. I did buy some LED lights optimized for plant growth. However, everyone should be considering how they can grow their own supply of food.

For several years now, I have suggested purchasing an abandoned motel and setting it up as a commune. There would be a common kitchen, dining hall, and socialization area. Half of the units would be used for accommodation, half as workshops.

In terms of location, I have often wondered about – then dismissed – Ocean Falls, British Columbia. This has had an important place in my wife Patricia’s family history. Her uncle, Mort Heaps, was mill manager. Her sister, Aileen, was a nurse at the hospital. This video provides an overview of its current state.

Other locations that I have considered are located in the southern interior of British Columbia, or Vancouver Island/ Gulf Islands/ San Juan Islands/ the rain shadow of the Olympic Peninsula.

This scourge will end! For every activity that is eliminated, a new one will emerge or more likely re-emerge. There could be changes. Online shopping will predominate, while physical stores will decline. Some shopping centres may be re-purposed, but many will have to be bulldozed. Hopefully, their area (including parking lots) can be used for other purposes, including housing, recreation and urban agriculture. People will grow and process more of their own food. Hopefully, it will be healthier and more organic.


A Canon i-Sensys MF633cdw colour laser printer with scanner suitable for family use. (Photo: Canon)

Conclusion: A printer is no longer the necessity it once was. Frequency of use is part of the equation in determining what type of printer (if any) to buy. Often alternative sources can provide all of the printing resources needed. At other times, it may be prudent to invest in a colour laser printer with scanner.

Before rushing out to buy a printer there are several questions that should be asked, and answered.

  1. Who in the household needs to use a printer?
  2. What do each of these people want to use the printer for?
  3. What will their monthly production/ consumption be of premium colour print, regular colour prints and black and white prints?
  4. How much will each person need to scan objects?
  5. What alternative printing and scanning sources are available? at what price?

Unlike most of the products discussed until now, the answers to the above questions will show that most families will probably not need their own printer!

Ink in an ink jet printer will dry out, if not used at least once a week. Thus, most people with low usage requirements and an alternative printing source, will find that owning a printer is an unnecessary expense. While ink tanks attempt to make printing cheaper, they are only a solution if one is printing a large number of sheets regularly. Ink jet printers have a problem with drying out, regardless of how the ink is provided. Using an ink jet printer at home – say, once a month – will be frustrating and potentially expensive, as one has to cope with, and repurchase, dried out ink cartridges.

Laser printer toner cassettes do not dry out. They can be used minimally without problems. This is one reason why the author of this weblog post has purchased a laser printer, and disposed of the previous ink-jet printer. The laser printer is used mostly at the end of the month to make a paper copy of accounting documents, ingrained from long-forgotten accounting courses, that required people to keep a paper trail of transactions. Other people may not feel this need. Laser printers are more expensive to purchase than ink jet printers.

While many product reviewers are keen to emphasize the existence of monochrome (read: black & white) printers, these may be offering false economy. An inability to print a document in colour, may make the entire printing process irrelevant. A colour printer, can always print in black & white. Standard printing size is 8.5 inches by 11 inches in North America, and A4 in Europe. There is no need for most households to deviate from this. If there is, time should be spent sourcing where appropriate printers can be found, and used.

There are essentially three types of printing: Premium colour printing on glossy paper, for photographs and renditions of artwork, regular colour printing and black & white printing.

There are many brands of printers available. In my working life I have been subjected to too many HP printers that have had a number of technical issues, such as jambing. In my personal life, Epson has provided the most toxic experience, with its incessant requests to change ink cartridges to those that are Epson branded. In Norway, vendor lock in of this sort is illegal. I have used unofficial inks with Canon ink jet printers without problem. Currently, we are on our first set of original toner cassettes on our Canon i-sensyn MF633cdw printer, so this situation has not been tested, although unoriginal replacements have been purchased.

Many printers are classed as multi-function machines, a misnomer, as they usually add just a scanner. However, this ability to scan documents may tip the scale towards printer ownership. Once a document is scanned, it can be sent as an email attachment. Some printers can even offer faxing as an option. In the circles I frequent, faxes are cult items in the same category as telex machines. Both are irrelevant technologies. However, this is not the situation in all parts of the world, where faxes are still used.

A household printer should be connected to the household computer network of handheld devices, laptops, desktops and other computers. Normally, there is absolutely no need to have more than one printer in a house. There are several ways you can go about installing a network printer. However, two are most common. It can be part of the Wi-Fi network using an infrastructure controlled by your router, or it can be wired using Ethernet. Many printers are also able to read memory sticks, using a USB Type-A port. Not many printers are equipped with USB-C, yet.

There are several alternatives to owning a printer/ scanner. If one attends school or works for a living, there may be formal or informal arrangements for printing/ scanning documents. Some may require payment, others may not. A public library may provide an inexpensive service for patrons. Some office supply stores may also provide this service, charging for each page printed. Then there is FWB, a friend with benefits, which in some contexts may refer to something completely different, but here refers to a friend willing to let you use her/ his printer/ scanner. This may be precisely the benefit you need from a friend.

Another approach is that you become that FWB, and offer a printing service to people you know. This is not a money making proposition, but could be a way of reducing costs provided you are prepared to charge people for the services you provide. Collecting money is easy with an apps developed for this purpose: Venmo provides smart phone apps for payments in the US, Fooi does the same in Canada, and there is Vipps in Norway. Note: There may be more appropriate payment services that I am unaware of. If so, please let me know.

Below are links to spread sheets showing the calculations in LibreOffice format and Microsoft Office format, respectively, that can be downloaded and modified to suit your needs.

Update (2020-11-09)

Owners of H-P and other ink jet printers, are advised to read what Cory Doctorow has to say in Ink-Stained Wretches: The Battle for the Soul of Digital Freedom Taking Place Inside Your Printer (2020-11-05).

Here is some of what he writes: “HP’s latest gambit challenges the basis of private property itself: a bold scheme! With the HP Instant Ink program, printer owners no longer own their ink cartridges or the ink in them. Instead, HP’s customers have to pay a recurring monthly fee based on the number of pages they anticipate printing from month to month; HP mails subscribers cartridges with enough ink to cover their anticipated needs. If you exceed your estimated page-count, HP bills you for every page (if you choose not to pay, your printer refuses to print, even if there’s ink in the cartridges). If you don’t print all your pages, you can “roll over” a few of those pages to the next month, but you can’t bank a year’s worth of pages to, say, print out your novel or tax paperwork. Once you hit your maximum number of “banked” pages, HP annihilates any other pages you’ve paid for (but continues to bill you every month).

Now, you may be thinking, “All right, but at least HP’s customers know what they’re getting into when they take out one of these subscriptions,” but you’ve underestimated HP’s ingenuity. HP takes the position that its offers can be retracted at any time. For example, HP’s “Free Ink for Life” subscription plan offered printer owners 15 pages per month as a means of tempting users to try out its ink subscription plan and of picking up some extra revenue in those months when these customers exceeded their 15-page limit. But Free Ink for Life customers got a nasty shock at the end of last month: HP had unilaterally canceled their “free ink for life” plan and replaced it with “a $0.99/month for all eternity or your printer stops working” plan…

For would-be robber-barons, “smart” gadgets are a moral hazard, an irresistible temptation to use those smarts to reconfigure the very nature of private property, such that only companies can truly own things, and the rest of us are mere licensors, whose use of the devices we purchase is bound by the ever-shifting terms and conditions set in distant boardrooms. From Apple to John Deere to GM to Tesla to Medtronic, the legal fiction that you don’t own anything is used to force you to arrange your affairs to benefit corporate shareholders at your own expense. And when it comes to “razors and blades” business-model, embedded systems offer techno-dystopian possibilities that no shaving company ever dreamed of: the ability to use law and technology to prevent competitors from offering their own consumables. From coffee pods to juice packets, from kitty litter to light-bulbs, the printer-ink cartridge business-model has inspired many imitators.

HP has come a long way since the 1930s, reinventing itself several times, pioneering personal computers and servers. But the company’s latest reinvention as a wallet-siphoning ink grifter is a sad turn indeed, and the only thing worse than HP’s decline is the many imitators it has inspired.

Scheppach HF-50 Spindle Moulder

The Scheppach HF-50 Spindel Moulder/ Router Table. Photo: Scheppach

In North America, a table saw is often used to cut dados (square sectioned grooves). A stacked dado blade set is a sandwich of blades to be fitted onto a table saw for making dados and rabbets. There are two rim (outer) blades. These differ from each other and are referred to as the left rim and the right rim blade, respectively. There is also a series of chippers, specially-designed blades that fit between the rim blades, as well as dado shims aka spacers, that lack any cutting features, but vary in thickness. They can be made of metal or plastic. These ensure that the dado is the precise width that is needed.

The arbour (the axis or shaft that supports and rotates the blades of a table saw) has to be long enough to accommodate the stacked dado blade set. This is the challenge with European table saws. Their arbours are too short to accommodate more than a single blade, and still allow the nut to be fully threaded onto the arbour when the blade is tightened. Thus, making dados is a task that is normally done with some form of router in Europe. The main problem with this approach is that there are is not an unlimited choice of router bits to select from.

While most routers are portable machines, something approaching a table saw is also available, but with a rotating vertical shaft, rather than a horizontal shaft. The spindle moulder (British English)/ wood shaper (American English)/ router table (General) comes with a motor, frequently housed below the table surface.

The Scheppach HF-50 is a machine for DIY enthusiasts, rather than professionals. The author’s many different Scheppach tools, were all purchased for work on a house renovation project, and are not intended to be kept beyond its completion. These are not especially durable machines. The main reason the HF-50 was purchased, was the lack of choice. Professional machines cost five times more than the NOK 3 300 (USD 300) spent, and at least twice as much used. The HF-50, and many other machines, will be replaced by the end of 2023 with a CNC machine, probably with a router as well as laser cutter. It may even include a plasma cutter. Such a machine costs about 20 times the price of a router table, but will provide greater production flexibility.

In contrast to a router, stock (the unprocessed wood) runs along a vertical fence from right to left. Viewed from in front of the infeed, the cutter head can be described as a right-hand vertical side head. Other configurations include a bottom horizontal head, a left-hand vertical side head, and a top horizontal head. A single head moulder will only cut one surface at a time. It is common for multi-head moulders to have up to four heads.

The spindle is height adjustable from 0 to 40 mm. While most spindle moulders rotate between 3 000 and 10 000 rpm, the HF-50’s speed varies from 11 500 to 24 000 rpm, close to that found on a portable router. The cutters shanks have a diameter of 6 mm / 8 mm / or 12 mm. Power on the HF-50 comes from a 1 500 W motor. Other spindle moulders may have as little as 750 W, to as much as 5 000 W per head.

Hearing, eye and respiratory protection are necessary when using a spindle moulder. The machine itself is usually equipped with a guard above the cutter, to protect hands and prevent garments from being drawn into its blades. Hold-downs and feather-boards can also prevent injury.

There are two major jobs intended for the spindle moulder. The first is to use it to make drawers for kitchen cabinets. This will follow some of the advice of John Heisz in his video, How to Make Drawers the Easy Way, with additional information provided by Gary Katts in the video, The Quarter-Quarter-Quarter Drawer System. Quarter inch is translated as 6 mm.

The second is to make moulding that for LED strip lighting, that will be covered with translucent plexiglas. This is a relatively simple design, that will allow much of the house lighting to be DC powered. Electricity will be supplied using Power over Ethernet (PoE) standards. PoE cables are in place throughout the house.

In addition, I intend to make an oak table from counter-tops. Since the width of the table is 900 mm, while a counter-top is 600 mm, this means two edges will have to be planed, using a spindle moulder, rather than a jointer. This eliminates one more tools from the workshop, saving space.

After these three projects are completed there will undoubtedly be other projects that will use the capabilities of a spindle moulder.

Note: This post was originally started 2018-03-18 15:23:25. Its original title was Workshop Tools: Shaper.

External Drives

In this weblog post several different types of external drives will be examined for different purposes.

Hard Drives

The main purpose for having external drives is to have off-site backup of files stored on a family Network Attached Storage server(NAS). It is to ensure that irreplaceable data is not lost by storing it in two separate locations. There are five drives with historic data that are permanently kept at a second location. This is because all that data is already on the NAS. Then there are six drives that are divided into two sets of three disks each. One set is taken regularly to the second location. Once there, the other set is returned home, and used to update files on a regular basis for the next couple of weeks. In a worst case situation, a catastrophic event would result in the loss of up to two weeks data.

Currently, hard drives offer lower price than solid-state drives when mass storage is needed, particularly in the range of 1 – 5 TB. Western Digital My Passport products are inexpensive, but offer good performance. This is due to using the USB 3.0 protocol, with its cable terminating in a Type-A connector. In addition it comes with an excellent disk controller. There is 256-bit AES Hardware Encryption available. The maximum transfer read speed is 174 MB/s , and the maximum write speed is 168 MB/s. In general it offers acceptable performance and reliability.

If one selects the Western Digital My Passport Ultra, there are two main differences. First, it uses a more robust metal enclosure. Second, the USB 3.1 protocol is used, with its cable terminates with a USB-C connector, but includes a Type-A adapter.

There are different manufacturers of HDD units including Samsung, Seagate and Toshiba. I have mainly kept to Western Digital, because none of my eleven My Passport drives have failed. In contrast, one of my two Seagate Backup Plus drives failed after minimal use. The second, remaining Seagate drive was quickly given away. Others are not so enthusiastic for My Passport drives. Slant ranks two versions of Seagate Backup Plus as the best drives. I have also considered purchasing Toshiba Canvio drives because of their compact physical size, but their smaller 3TB capacity makes them less practical for a person with large quantities of data to store.

Solid-State Drives

Solid-state drives (SSD) become expensive with large capacity disks. The Western Digital My Passport SSD is considerably more expensive, with storage capacity ranging from 256 GB – 2 TB. There is a USB 3.1 Type-C port and AES 256-bit hardware encryption. At the moment, the main disadvantage of these drives is price, which is more than four times the HDD equivalent.

Transfer speed is up to 540 MB/s. This speed increase is because SSDs access data electronically instead of electro-mechanically. This also improves their mechanical ruggedness. There is continued debate about the reliability of SSDs, with some finding them more, others less, reliable than HDDs. SSDs are sensitive to sudden power interruption, which can result in the loss of a drive.

While there are wireless drives, not all devices are equipped with Wi-Fi. Almost without exception, these devices are equipped with USB ports. Thus, there is no need to invest in wireless external drives.

Price for assorted 2 TB My Passport models (2020-02-08) in USD before taxes and shipping charges.

HDDUltra HDDWireless HDDSSDWireless SSD

USB flash drives aka memory sticks aka thumb drives

Flash drives are used for various purposes. Perhaps the most common use is for the transport of files when a person will not accompanied by their own laptop or other machine where the files are normally used. They are especially useful if one has to upgrade a number of machines to several different devices.

For these purposes one wants a fairly rugged and durable piece of equipment. Personally, I use a Kingston DataTraveler Elite G2 64GB flash drive. For the security minded, the main drawback of this drive is that it is not encrypted. If necessary, one could password protect sensitive individual files. One reason for selecting this drive is its metal casing, which is shock- and water-resistant. It reads at a maximum of 180 MB/s, and writes up to 70 MB/s.

The more security minded may want to consider a SanDisk Extreme Pro USB 3.1 available in 128 and 256 GB varieties. Its read and write speeds are extreme, up to 420MB/s and 380MB/s, respectively. It has an aluminum casing and comes with 128-bit AES encryption software. Its price is also extreme.

One of the main uses of flash drives here, is the storage of assorted Linux operating system distros. Each distro is placed on a new Kingston DataTraveler G4 16 GB flash drive. At one time, these were upgraded as new distro versions became available. However, after a couple of drive failures one learned that this was false economy. 16 GB drives are used not because one needs so much space, but because they are cheaper than 8 GB drives!

There are many times one needs to give people files on a flash drive. This has to be regarded as one of the normal costs of having relationships with people, in much the same way that serving visitors (invited or not) a cup of coffee is an investment in smooth social relationships. These G4 drives are the standard drives given to people. They are usually bought online, ten at a time.

SD Cards

While this section is labeled SD cards, some would argue that microSD cards would be a more appropriate heading. The original SD format is far too large for handheld devices. If a port on a device only takes original or mini-sized cards, passive adapters are available.

Whetstone Sharpener: A tidbit

A Scheppach TiGer 2000 Whetstone Sharpener. Photo: Scheppach.

At my local hardware store (Jula), there are electric grinding stones in all price categories from NOK 250 to 3 200 (USD 32.50 to 416). I paid NOK 1 500 (USD 195) for mine. Why this price difference?

Depending on your worldview, the Rolls-Royce, Maybach, Cadillac, Zil, Toyota Century or Trek (yes, the bicycle) of the grindstone world is Tormek, a Swedish manufacturer. If you want to be convinced that one should spend more money on a whetstone sharpener, there is a YouTube video that explains everything, Why does the Tormek T-7 and T-4 cost so much? Interview and review with Stig from Sweden:

Not being convinced, I opted for a Scheppach TiGer 2000 S, which looks like a plagiarized version of the Tormek T4. The T4 is undoubtedly better. One person suggests 20% better, whatever that means. It also comes with a 7 year guarantee.

While larger diameter grindstones are preferred to this 200 mm machine, because they provide a larger concave grind on edge tools, these larger machines also need a more powerful motor and housing, making them more expensive.

While the unit comes with both a straight jig and an angle guide, some users may want to invest in a wheel dressing jig to flatten/ true the stone edge. Specialist jigs are available for knives, woodturning tools, axes and scissors.

Mount the stone wheel and plugging it in, is all that is needed to set up the machine. The metal shaft is strong. However, the sharpening jig fits loosely. Many reviewers have commented that a Tormek jig is much better. The 120 W motor is more than adequate. Most tools can be ground adequately. The leather honing wheel is also adequate.

Note: The first three paragraphs of this tidbit were originally written: 2018-03-18 at 07:15:29 with the title Workshop Tools: Whetstone Sharpener. Since then it has been waiting for further inspiration, that has never arrived. On 2020-03-08 at 23:00 the text was edited into blocks using the new(ish) Gutenberg block editor, rather than the Classic editor used in 2018. The title was changed to Whetstone Sharpener: A tidbit. The last three paragraphs were added, along with an illustration of the Scheppach TiGer 2000. Prices in NOK were identical in 2018-03 and 2020-03. However, the Tormek had increased its price to NOK 3 800. In 2020, 1 USD is worth almost 10 NOK, this will also influence price comparisons.

Computer Access & Assistance

Many people require access, assistive and/ or adaptive technology to function optimally. Here the Z-001 hospital bed, a form of adaptive technology, is being used to prolong the life of the 87-year-old dying widower, Kiyuro Takazawa, in Roujin Z, directed by Hiroyuki Kitakubo (1963 – ) and writen by Katsuhiro Otomo (1954 – ).

The terms disability/ handicap/ impairment/ incapacity/ infirmity/ invalidity and more, all refer to an inability to do something. Some of the words show greater sensitivity to the person involved, than others. There are lots of things no-one can do, such as turning one’s head 360 or even 180 degrees. This is not a disability because it is not in the human repertoire. There is a developmental curve in which infants transform themselves into adults. A child’s inability to do something is not a disability. At the other end of the age spectrum, people lose some of the abilities they once had. They are genetically programmed to develop disabilities. Yet, there are some abilities even for their age group, that most people have, but a few lack. Most people have an ability to distinguish red from green, but some are colour-blind.

Impairments may be congenital or originate from disease/ trauma. These can be placed in various categories. Cognitive impairments (head injury, autism, developmental disabilities) and learning disabilities, (dyslexia, dyscalculia, ADHD). Visual impairment (low-vision, complete or partial blindness, colour blindness). Hearing impairment (deafness, reduced hearing, hyperacusis). Motor/ dexterity impairment (paralysis, cerebral palsy, dyspraxia, carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive strain injury).

One interesting place to begin an exploration of this topic is with the 84 minute long, 1991 Japanese animated science fiction action comedy thriller, Roujin Z (Old Man Z). This should provide an opportunity for people to decide what they want to avoid in terms of technology. According to British film commentator and sometime Vancouver International Film Festival programmer Tony Rayns (1948 – ), the film focuses on three primary issues: health care for the elderly, the stand-off between traditional values and modern technology and the Right’s covert plans to re-militarise Japan. (Rayns, Tony (1994). “Rojin Z/Roujin Z” in Sight & Sound. Vol. 4 no. 7. British Film Institute. pp. 52–53.) Only the third topic is uninteresting in terms of this post’s content.

Access, assistive and adaptive technology are three levels of technology. Accessible usually refers to specialized but low-level hardware or software features (or both) that help someone mitigate an impairment. It most often involves computing equipment that can be used by anyone, regardless of impairment type or severity.

Accessibility features such as text-to-speech, closed-captioning, and keyboard shortcuts make the use of computer technology less challenging for those with impairments. It also benefits those who are not sufficiently impaired to be considered debilitated. Basic tools are often provided by the operating system being used.

Visual aids include high contrast text, large text and screen readers in addition to desktop zoom features. In terms of keyboards, some people may prefer to use on-screen keyboards, or have visual or audio indicators on caps and numerical locks. Visual and audio alerts can also be used to provide event feedback, for typing assistance. Typing assistance may using sticky keys, that is, it may treat a sequence of modifier keys as a combination; slow keys, where there is a delay between when a key is pressed and when it is accepted; bounce keys, which ignores fast duplicate keypresses. For mouse keys, a keypad can be used to control the pointer; a secondary click can be simulated by holding down the primary key; a click can be triggered when a pointer hovers.

In addition to operating system features, there are many different apps available for both computers and handheld devices. eSpeak is a compact open source software speech synthesizer for English and other languages, for Mac, Linux and Windows. Formant synthesis allows it to work in many languages despite its small size. The speech is clear, and can be used at high speeds, but it is not natural or smooth, in contrast to larger synthesizers that rely on recordings of human speech.

Web accessibility involves making the use of the internet, and the World Wide Web in particular, easier. The World Wide Web’s ( Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) provides not only resources but also web content accessibility guidelines and checklists. Here are links to some of the resources. The resources section is a good place to start. This can be followed up by consulting these resources: Strategies, standards, resources to make the Web accessible to people with disabilities; Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0; Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 quick reference.

Assistive refers to more complex but standardized/ off the shelf objects or systems that are used to help individuals cope with their impairments.

Systems can remind people about turning off an oven or burners on a stove, closing the blinds and locking doors. While users can choose what events are to be reminded, many systems can be expanded to automatically perform these tasks or to turn on or off lights, or to adjust room temperatures. They can also remind users to take their medications. Reminder systems can be based on a handheld or wrist worn device. They can remind people about doctor’s appointments and taking medicine,

Another basic device is remote keyless entry systems which allows people to view who is at the door and then, should they choose, remotely open the door. The system can also lock doors and shut blinds to maintain privacy.

Automated pill dispensers can dispense only the pills that are to be taken at that time. Monitors are available to check their blood sugar levels, measure body temperature, blood pressure and pulse, and to dispense appropriate medications as needed, or to alert others. Robots can provide patients with medication and/ or nutrition.

Adaptive technology is specifically designed for people with disabilities. Sometimes, adaptive technology is regarded as a subset of assistive technology, referring specifically to electronic and information technology that are seldom used by a non-disabled person.

Commercial Crew Clowns

Uncrewed SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft approaching the ISS 2019-03-04 (Photo NASA)

There seem to be two categories of space exploration corporations, winners like SpaceX, and those unable to win, like Boeing. For the past few years, the reputation of Boeing has been slipping, in large part from its inability to manage, design and manufacture high quality, technological products. This was examined in a previous post, Clowns Supervised by Monkeys, about the Boeing 737-MAX, and continues here, about the CST-100 Starliner.

The Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program, is a human spaceflight program funded by the American government and administered by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The goal of CCDev is to fly US and international astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on privately operated crew vehicles.

The CCDev program started in 2010, with CCDev 1 providing $50 million to five US companies to develop human spaceflight concepts and technologies. This was followed up in 2011, with CCDev 2 providing $270 million to four companies for developing vehicles that could fly astronauts after the Space Shuttle fleet’s retirement. In 2014 operational contracts to fly astronauts were awarded to SpaceX and Boeing.

CCDev 3 was renamed Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap). This involved proposals for end-to-end operational concepts including spacecraft, launch vehicles, launch services, ground and mission operations, and recovery. A final request for proposals was released on 2012-02-07 to be submitted by 2012-03-23. Three proposals were selected, and announced 2012-08-03: Sierra Nevada Corporation was awarded $212.5 million for its Dream Chaser/ Atlas V proposal; SpaceX was awarded $440 million for its Dragon 2/ Falcon 9 proposal; and, Boeing was awarded $460 million for its CST-100/ Atlas V proposal.

Certification Products Contract, phase 1 (CPC 1) involved the development of a certification plan with engineering standards, tests, and analyses. Sierra Nevada, SpaceX and Boeing were each awarded about $10 million.

CPC 2 was renamed the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) and included the final development, testing and verifications to allow crewed demonstration flights to the ISS.

On 2014-09-16, Boeing and SpaceX received contracts to provide crewed launch services to the ISS. Boeing received a potential $4.2 billion, and SpaceX up to $2.6 billion.

On 2019-11-14, NASA’s inspector general reported a seat price of $90 million for Starliner and $55 million for Dragon Crew. Boeing’s price exceeds the $80 million paid by NASA to the Russian space corporation, Roscosmos, for Soyuz spacecraft seats to fly astronauts to the ISS. The report also stated that NASA agreed to pay an additional $287.2 million above Boeing’s fixed prices. Similar compensation was not offered to SpaceX.

While the first CCDev flight was planned for 2015, insufficient funding and technical issues caused delays.

2015-05-06Dragon 2 Pad abort testSuccess
2019-03-02Dragon 2 Uncrewed orbital flight testSuccess
2019-11-04CST-100 Pad abort testSuccess
2019-12-20CST-100 Uncrewed orbital flight testFailure
2020-01-19Dragon 2 In-flight abort testSuccess
2020Dragon 2 Crewed test flightPlanned
2020CST-100 Crewed test flightPlanned

The CCDev was aimed to minimize development costs through private investment and development, by using two space transportation vehicles competing with each other. NASA had hoped this approach would provide redundancy both in regards to development and flight operations.

After completing the demonstration flights, each company is contracted to supply six flights to ISS between 2019 and 2024.

As shown in the table above SpaceX has successfully tested its Dragon 2, Crew Dragon, despite a delay caused by a ground test failure, caused by a leaky valve.

On 2019-12-20 an unmanned Boeing CST-100 Starliner space taxi malfunctioned on the capsule’s first mission, an Orbital Flight Test (OFT). The initial failure was due to a timer fault. Now, another error has been found in the capsule’s software which could have destroyed the Starliner. If this second fault had not been discovered, it could have resulted in the deaths of the astronauts onboard a Starliner.

The CST-100 has had greater problems. Its abort test, while successful, still had a parachute fail during descent. Its service module leaked toxic fuel, delaying its uncrewed OFT by months. The OFT was supposed to be one of the last steps in Boeing’s development of the CST-100 Starliner. When that test finally happened, a timer failure prevented a rendezvous with the ISS. It failed its mission. Then it was discovered that there were other issues including inappropriate thruster firings, inappropriate valve mappings, potential collision issues between the service module and the crew module, as well as space-to-ground communication issues.

Doug Loverro, the head of NASA’s human spaceflight section, stated that the software anomalies were “likely only symptoms…we had numerous process escapes in the design, development, [and] test cycle for software…We have a more fundamental problem…”

Boeing is failing in its ability to deliver mission critical software, not only in spacecraft but with the disastrous software failures with the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) system on the Boeing 737.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine held a media teleconference detailing some of the CST-100 issues, explaining it in the “interest of transparency”, thanks to the OFT having “lots of anomalies”.

Given a choice of being an astronaut with SpaceX or Boeing, there is no doubt that every rational person would opt for SpaceX. Boeing is just too dangerous a company.

Input & Output Peripherals

Handheld devices and laptops do not need to attach input & output peripherals to operate. This is one attribute that makes them extremely portable and popular. Yet, neither portability nor popularity, in themselves, make them intrinsically better than less portable devices. Each device has to be examined in context of its intended uses. Unfortunately, Many portable devices make few concession to ergonomics.

This weblog post looks at peripherals that provide a better working situation for most people using a desktop device. Often, the same peripherals can be plugged into a laptop or a tablet. Advice on software to improve access or provide assistance will be provided next week (2020-03-10). Advice for people with specific impairments (vision, hearing, dexterity and/ or mobility) will be given in four weblog posts scheduled from 2020-11-24 to 2020-12-15.


The influence of the typewriter on the development of the computer keyboard cannot be underestimated. Yet, finding the typewriter’s original inventor is difficult. Journalist Joan Acocella (1945 – ) once estimated that significant contributions have been made to its development at least 52 times through history. However, the name typewriter began to be used in 1873 with the production of a Remington machine with a QWERTY keyboard.

Yet, the typewriter is not the only source of keyboard inspiration. The 1846 invention of the teleprinter/ teletype/ TTY by Royal Earl House (1814 – 1895) was also important, even if the 28 keys looked as if they belonged on a piano. A more typewriter-like keyboard for a teleprinter was invented in 1901 by Donald Murray (1865–1945). That same year Herman Hollerith (1860 – 1929) invented a keypunch, a machine that punches holes in paper.

The QWERTY keyboard was used because it was inefficient, making the machine less susceptible to jamming. There are keyboards formats that are faster. In 1936 Seattle educational psychologist August Dvorak (1894 – 1975) and William Dealey (? – ? ) patented the Dvorak keyboard, claiming it required less finger motion to write English, reduced errors, reduced repetitive strain injuries, increased typing speed and made typing more comfortable. People interested in learning why Dvorak is the better system are encouraged to read the Wikipedia article.

Part of the challenge of finding ergonomic keyboards is that some people may need additional features that only comes with software support. This means that if your specific host device is not configured for supported software, such users may not be able to use it optimally. Fortunately, in most cases, the keyboard will still work. For example, at the moment I use a Logitech K380 keyboard ($40) with my desktop machine, rather than a more ergonomic but more expensive ($130) Ergo K860 keyboard or the cheaper ($60) Ergo K350 model. I have found that the K380 fits my hands optimally.

Logitech Ergo K860 keyboard in operation. Photo: Logitech

Other people should examine the Ergo K860 to decide which elements of the keyboard, if any, they need. It should be noted that there are many other manufacturers of ergonomic keyboards than Logitech.

Logitech Keys-to-Go Bluetooth keyboard. Suitable for use in wet, dusty or more extreme environments. This one features the Nordic keyboard.

While ergonomics is important, it is not the only consideration in a keyboard. Despite dust control systems, a workshop can be a dusty place. Thus a less ergonomic, but waterproof and dustproof Logitech Keys-to-Go Bluetooth keyboard has been purchased for use in this environment.


The mouse has its origins in a trackball invented in 1946 by Ralph Benjamin (1922 – 2019). The first pointing device resembling today’s mice included a 1963 design study by Douglas Englebart (1925 – 2013), and its implementation as a prototype in 1964 by Bill English (1938 – ). The 1973 Xerox Alto is regarded as the first modern computer to utilize a mouse.

The main challenge with using a computer mouse is the position of the hand(s). The natural position of the hand is closer to vertical, as if holding a saw, than horizontal. Logitech claims the ideal angle is 57°. When the hand is forced to turn further over (counter-clock-wise for the right hand) mouse operation becomes less comfort and can provoke carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive strain injuries. Its use can become extremely uncomfortable for people with arthritis. Thus, it is important to design a mouse to fit natural hand positions and movements.

Logitech MX Vertical mouse. The mouse is aligned to 57°. (Photo: Logitech)

There are a lot of ergonomic mice available. However, one of the best that is suitable for a wide range of users is the Logitech MX Vertical. Logitech claims it is effective in reducing muscle strain, and in reducing hand movement. It is made from rubber and aluminum. It can be used as a wired USB-C cable, or wirelessly using Bluetooth or with a Unifying USB-A dongle. One of the real challenges is finding an ergonomic mouse for someone who is left-handed.

Graphic tablet

There are times when a mouse is the wrong pointing device to use to input data. This is especially true when trying to work with graphics. While there are many products available, One by Wacom is inexpensive and simple to use, but not something a professional artist would aspire to. It connects to a computer with a USB cable. The active area is about 152 x 95 mm. Even though Wacom advises users to download drivers to PC and Mac computers, these were already installed on Linux Mint. Its pen is ergonomic, lightweight (no batteries), balanced, pressure-sensitive and comfortable to hold. It allows people to sketch/ draw/ paint/ edit graphic works, including photos.

One by Wacom tablet and pen. Photo: Wacom


Speakers, headphones and earbuds are often tethered to a host device. Some few use a 1/4 inch phone connector, dating from 1877. More often a 3.5 mm connector is used. These date from the 1950s, but were popularized in the 1964 Sony EFM-117J transistor radio. At one time they were universally provided in tip-ring-sleeve (TRS) versions offering stereo audio. USB connectors are also available.

Cordless headphones/ earphones receive a radio/ infrared signals from a Bluetooth, DECT, FM or Wi-Fi transmission link. The headphone is only part of a powered receiver systems.

Headphones are especially important in spaces that are shared. While primitive versions existed by 1906, the first fully functional headphones were invented by Nathaniel Baldwin (1878 – 1961) in 1910, and sold to the US Navy. John C. Koss (1930 – ) invented stereo headphones in 1958. Earphones aka earbuds have existed since at least 1984. They too are increasingly cordless. However, because of the small size of their batteries, they often run out of battery power, if used for long periods.

At this point it should be pointed out that open office landscapes typically create un-wellness. To understand the full implications as to why open offices are such a bad idea, people are encouraged to read The Open-Office Trap.

Note: A more extensive work on headphones is planned for 2021.


The most sensitive and least adaptable peripheral is the display/ monitor/ screen. With a relatively shallow desk, an ideal screen size is probably 27″ (70 cm) or less. With a deeper desk, the size could increase to 32″ (81 cm), especially if there are a large number of windows that have to be open simultaneously. In-Plane Switching (IPS) technology should be used to provide accurate colour and a wide (up to 180°) viewing angle. It should be easy to height-adjust, tilt, pivot and swivel the display. In addition, the display should be flicker free and have reduced blue light, especially after dark. It can be advantageous for a display to have built-in stereo speakers. However, if the room is shared, headphones should be provided and used whenever two or more people occupy the room.

Benq promotes the flexibility of its business displays. Adjustment features, angles and dimensions can vary significantly from display to display. Illustration: Benq.

If the display cannot be positioned satisfactorily, then one must consider repositioning the desk. Ideally, a display should be placed at right angles to, or away from, windows and other light sources so it does not create/ reflect glare. Glare may cause eye strain. Once this is done, the display should be centred directly in front of the user.

Desks and chairs are usually not considered peripherals, but they are important for maintaining health, especially if one is going to be working with a device for many hours during the day. Many people find a height adjustable desk ideal, because it allows them to stand or sit depending on their mood. Height adjustments for growing children should made, say, two – four times a year. Adults should probably check things annually. Pregnant women may also want to make frequent adjustments.

Adjustments. Begin by sitting. First, adjust the chair seat height so that feet are comfortable on the floor. Adjustments to the back support can be made at the same time. Second, adjust the desk height so that hands feel comfortable on the keyboard and mouse. Note this position. Third, adjust the display/ monitor/ screen height so that it can be seen comfortably without strain. Place the top of the screen at or slightly below (0 – 30°) eye level. It should also be place about an arm’s length away from the user, so that the entire screen can be viewed comfortably. Fourth, stand and remove the chair. Adjust the desk height once again so the hands feel comfortable using the keyboard and mouse. Note this position. The display should need no further adjustment.

Purchasing/ Repurposing/ Disposal

Many people amass numerous peripherals over time. Thus, even when a peripheral fails, it is not necessary to buy a replacement immediately. This means that it is possible to schedule purchases over a period of time. Yet, because things can be damaged, such a schedule has to be flexible, allowing for a change in priorities.

Sometimes I become very disappointed with a piece of equipment, and want to return it. One reason I purchase products from the Norwegian electronics chain, Power, more than many other suppliers is their 30 day return policy. They allow people to return any product after 30 days for a full refund. This also applies to equipment that has been used. On the other hand, I also buy returned products from them at a discounted price.

Some of the recommended peripherals here have not yet been purchased, yet! Many are scheduled to be purchased at some time in the future. For example, my current display, a Samsung SyncMaster S27B350, was purchased 2012-11-09, so it is not even eight years old. It functions adequately, but is not height adjustable and does not have many of the other features discussed. Because I have some vision issues related to blue-light exposure, its replacement is nearing the top of the replacement schedule. It will probably replaced in the coming year with something similar to a Benq BL2780T. The Samsung display will be repurposed. It is far too good to simply discard. It will probably find a new home in the workshop, where it will still be used, but not so extensively.

Another alternative is to give products away to people who would otherwise be unable to afford them. However, I do not use other people as recycling stations for products that have met their end of life. These are disposed of at the local recycling station. Here, there is even a safe, for the proper disposal of media containing data.