Tech Life Gym Family

Review / Brief thoughts on the Trakke Bairn Messenger Bag

I like the idea of Trakke bags - a UK brand, based in Scotland, and, rather wonderfully, they make their stuff in the country too. I wish this were more the case and a Black Friday offer (and good return policy) edged me to the door of making a first order.

I’m always in search of the optimum small everyday carry bag and decided to get a Bairn Messenger Bag in black. It’s the Mark 4 version of the bag - further details:

At 10 litre it’s a little larger then my usual carry - the 8 litre Tom Bihn Daylight Briefcase ( and it feels incredibly well built in a stiff dry waxy cotton. It includes a dedicated space for a 13” laptop and I liked the idea, if my laptop, a Thinkpad X1, is 14”. But it’s a small 14” and often seems to fit in 13” laptop spaces. It proves a tight fit but the Thinkpad just about fitted, if it was tight and perhaps didn’t go all the way to the bottom of the dedicated compartment. I think if everything else was brilliant then I might have persevered but alas that was not the case.

A fair few comments about the Bairn (on the Trakke website) talk about the difficulty in using the buckles at times. And if you look at reviews of the bag many show an earlier version with very different buckles. It’s clear they have been experimenting with different approaches to lashing the cover flap down (to fully close the bag and secure the contents) and the Mark 4 is just the latest. On the web page for the Bain they are rather coy about how the buckle operates. There is a video to show the bag but it starts with the flap unsecured so you don’t see the difficulty, or otherwise, in opening. Before it arrived it was the big thing I was concerned about.

The good news is that if the bag is off your shoulder on a table or your lap then undoing the buckles to open the bag seems to work well enough - mainly because in such circumstances you can see how the buckles hook into the webbing closures that are under the cover flap (rather than on top). But there is a problem when you are carrying the bag and swing it around to your front to open, get something out and close. The open is OKish but closing is a pain of trial and error. You might get used to it, but not being able to easily see what’s happening just feels too haphazard and unthoughtful design to me. They need to think again and should go for something more conventional rather than trying to reinvent wheels as they seem to have been doing in the two buckle versions I’ve seen to date.

What exacerbates the problem of access is that all pockets on the bag are under the cover flap - there is no small external zipped compartment where you might quickly store a ticket or passport. To do anything you have to totally open the bag each time.

Where you might put a small external zipped compartment, there is instead a side mounted handle. It feels like a kludge because using it has the bag hanging at at an odd angle. The handle is wide but also tries to look flush with the bag, rather then standing proud to properly grab, and that makes it uncomfortable to use. Really, it feels like it should be abandoned, if it can’t be resited to perform properly.

All up I think this is a well built and bombproof bag that would probably last decades, but it’s not as well designed as it should be. It needs a better buckles solution, a small easily accessed external zipped compartment so you don’t need to open the cover flap all the time, and to dump the handle or relocate it to a more conventional position. Trakke obviously know how to make a lasting bag - they just need a better design for all their sewers to do their magic on.

December 2, 2021 Tech

Showing Date and Time with Small Taskbar Buttons in Windows 10

I’m trying to shrink the amount of vertical space taken up by the Taskbar in Windows 10 but I still want it at the bottom of the screen. In Settings > Personalization > Taskbar you can select the Use Small Taskbar Buttons” option, but the time and date display over on the bottom right just shrinks to show time. But I’m too used to glancing there for the date as well and it seems such a simple thing. Doing a search brings up lots of requests but the answers mostly suggest deselecting the Small Buttons option.

I started looking for tray apps and came across T-Clock which I think I used many years ago on WinXP.

The latest version (2.4.4) is dated 2018 which would normally ring alarm bells re support. But it seems a mature solution and I thought it worth a try. So I downloaded the Zip (, ran the 64bit version and all seems good - loads and loads of options so you can get the time and date displayed just like you would like and all compatible with Small Taskbar Buttons.

Here is what the reality looks like - the time shown is 9:05 and 30 seconds

Screen grab showing how I am using T_ClockScreen grab showing how I am using T_Clock

The font I’m using is 10pt Segoe UI with slightly increased line spacing. I’m using the Advanced Clock Format with this coding:

HH:nn     ss\ndd mme yyyy

For completeness I found this link which first alerted me to T-Clock and gives an alternative:

July 5, 2021 Tech

Killing Endless Printer Notifications in Windows 10

I’m setting up a new computer and just added the print driver for an HP Color LaserJet Pro M253-M254. When you are low on toner or whatever HP send you notifications every time you print and it does get mighty irksome.

If you do a web search on stopping HP printer notifications you get lots of pages that nominally answer but seem to dig deep into the printer or Device Manager and none seemed to give instructions that easily worked for me. But rather than sort this at the printer I thought I’d see how I can get Windows 10 not to keep alerting me.

Go into Settings > System > Notifications & actions … and lower down on the page you will see Get notifications from these senders” and there you can switch off notifications entirely for HP Smart”. If you click on HP Smart” you can fine tune notifications rather than chopping them all off.

June 29, 2021 Tech

UPS Delivery of Custom Lenovo Build from China to UK - Not Good

Heads-up: This post covers all the frustrations in trying to get a parcel delivered to myself. It was a new computer and Lenovo selected them as carrier - not me. Because of the value it had to be delivered to my address and my address only.

It was supposed to arrive on a Monday and actually arrived in the afternoon on Wednesday.

So I stayed in for three days rather than one. UPS systems (web and app) kept giving contradictory and inconsistent information and there was no way to sensibly talk to the company about the problems and what was happening - their phone number just responds with useless recorded massages and hangs up. On Twitter they just trot out standard messages rather then meaningfully investigating. I’m actually surprised that a supposed first division company struggles so much with customer care. But the core problem seems to be their old and very creaky IT systems. Love the neat vans and drivers, but I’d never dream of using them myself.

No apologies but this post records in forensic detail the failure of UPS and its poor IT systems and lack of decent customer care. Nobody really seem to know with accuracy if a parcel is on a van for delivery or not.

My new Lenovo Thinkpad X1 was sent from China on the 9 June and UPS immediately showed an estimated delivery of Monday 14 June between 12:15 and 15:15

The journey routed as follows

Heifei > Shanghai > Incheon > Cologne (Koeln) > Castle Donnington > Stansted > Feltham

In the early hours of the 14th (supposed day of delivery) there were a number of strange tracking reports involving the parcel moving from Stansted to Feltham, the latter being the depot that actually loads the van for delivery. There was:

Stansted: Arrived at Facility
15:30 14 June

Stansted: Warehouse Scan
16:08 14 June

Feltham: Destination Scan
04:58 14 June

Feltham: Out for Delivery ** < Later, after 22:00, this was removed from the tracking Hstory
04:58 14 June

Stansted: Departed From Facility
05:00 14 June

Feltham: Arrived at Facility
06:30 14 June

Feltham: On the Way
6:30 14 June

What this seems to show is that the parcel arrived at Feltham before it left Stansted and it was immediately shown as Out for Delivery. But the last tracking report changed this to the more generic On the way’. I thought this all strange and rather contradictory but the systems still showed the estimated delivery on the day of between 12:15 and 15:15 and I stayed in.

There was no delivery and at 15:15 and I tried to call UPS to see if the parcel was on the van or not. It turns out that UPS don’t have people to answer the phone. You get asked to recite your 18 character long parcel id and the system reads back the number they think they have heard. It took 3 times of trying to get the automated system to get the parcel id right. You then get told when they hope to deliver on the day, but as I say that was not clear at all to me, and the system offers the option of talking to an agent. I took that, heard a long automated message and the the call is auto-terminated! The message says nothing of use, just suggesting the website or to talk to the people who sent the parcel. It left me incandescent with rage I have to say.

So I looke to twitter for a solution:
“.@UPSHelp_UK How do I get to talk on the phone to an agent about a delivery that does not seem to be happening. The published number of 03457 877 877 does not guarantee an agent and just gives recorded messages of no use to me. Thanks.”

Ans: Hi there. Thank you so much for contacting us. If you need assistance with a parcel, please send us DM with your tracking number, first and last name, phone number, and delivery address to check more information about it. We are here to help you. ^Carmen”

I Send them a DM with the relevent info.

Ans: Hi there, I can definitely understand your frustration. Unfortunately, due to day-to-day variations in package volume, driver delivery routes, driver pickup routes, and your location on these routes; UPS is unable to provide or schedule a specific delivery time. Residential deliveries are generally made between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., Monday through Friday (excluding holidays) & sometimes later depending on the driver’s workload. The estimates are not guarantees, they are simply estimates. The parcel is currently out for delivery, kindly provide more time for the driver to complete his route. -Kendra”

I then DM: Thanks but why do UPS systems say to me to expect delivery between 12:15 - 15:15 then? Also, for my parcel”out for Delivery” is not the last tracking message. An hour later the Tracing is said to be On the Way”, which has been the position for several days. Do you really know it is on the van?”

Ans: Hello, we do not have direct communication with the driver to confirm if the parcel is in the van. According to our records, the parcel is out for delivery. -Kendra”

I DM: And my first point… Thanks but why do UPS systems say to me to expect delivery between 12:15 - 15:15 then?”

Ans: As previously mentioned, due to day-to-day variations in package volume, driver delivery routes, driver pickup routes, and your location on these routes; UPS is unable to provide or schedule a specific delivery time. The estimates are not guarantees, they are simply estimates. -Kendra”

I DM: Better not to give estimates that are not worth spit really. I very much hope it is on the van but your tracking systems offer contradictory information that does not inspire confidence.”

And that where it got to as at 16:08 on the 14 June.

As per the tracking system and messages from UPS I continued to hope for delivery and stayed in. But nothing arrived on the 14th.

Its now the 15th June and I’ve sent the following DM and open Tweet to Lenovo: Despite your messages nothing arrived yesterday. I pointed out to you that the tracking system gave contradictory info and looked to you to give me sensible information in the circumstances using your skill and knowledge of the realities. All up I stayed in from 12:00 until 21:00, for no good reason. Bad tracking systems, made worse by poor customer care.”

There were two further Twitter messages from other people repsonding to my initial open tweet

Don’t get your hopes up. All they could do for me is tell me what I already know.”

Ack! I had some of my stuff sent up here a few months ago, so I looked into feedback on all of the available companies, I was so surprised that the big names (FedEx, UPS, etc) all have really rubbish service - not something we should have to stress about, sigh.”

The final thing is that I can’t divert the parcel to a pickup location - it has to be delivered to my home address, I guess for security reasons. But this makes it even more imperitive that the system correctly report when delivery will happen.

Conclusion after a day of no delivery
Any organisation can fail at times, but what you want is to be able to talk to them and get accurate info on the position and hear what they will do to about sorting it all out. UPS project themselves as a prime courier but in reality their systems seem to be lacking and the appearance of a timed delivery slot is a myth (in the UK anyway) and ultimately they don’t even actually know for sure if a parcel is on van for delivery or not. And don’t expect to talk to anybody about a problem.

I’ll update this when I finally get a delivery.

Feltham: Destination scan << on ios app
03:29 15 June

Feltham: On the Way << on web
03:29 15 June

As at 06:00
On the ios app it has: Scheduled delivery - information unavailble
On the Web it still has: Estimated delivery: Monday, June 14 between 12:15 - 15:15

As at 09:00 the ios app and web page are still as above - so no Out for Delivery’ message and not clear it will be delivered today.

There is a DM from UPS as a repsonse to my Twitter message of heavy criticism:

Hi there, our most sincere apologies for any frustration caused. Your package is inside the van, so please expect the package today. Due to high volume, packages that were out for delivery but could not be delivered because of the time, get sent out for delivery the next business day. - Silvia”

My response to them @ 09:30

Currently, neither the web or ios app indicate that delivery is today and there is no Out for Delivery’ tracking message. And why, having failed and inconvenienced customers yesterday, are they not prioritised and delivered to first today? I waited 9 hours for nothing yesterday, and I’m just expected to wait in all today for something your systems don’t actively show is going to happen anyway.”

and this from UPS

I’m really sorry that the website and app haven’t updated this information yet, this is what we have here:

SCAN 5095P/WEST LONDON, GB 06/15/21 03:29 Out For Delivery


SCAN 5095 /WEST LONDON, GB 06/14/21 04:58 Arrived at Facility

  • Silvia”

And my response to them:

Thanks and I’d like to be sure this will happen today but am not. Your 03:29 entry of Out for Delivery’ is contradicted by an 03:29 entry of Destination Scan’ (ios app) and an 03:29 entry for On the Way’ on the web - a generic holding message. I also got an Out for Delivery’ message in the early hours yesterday and it meant nothing. I’m not at all convinced the parcel was on the van at all yesterday, but we will never know. What we want, those of us failed already, is clarity from a premium provider and we see none of it.”

I got no answer from UPS.

As at 11:00 on 15 Jun 21 there is no change - neither the web or ios app show any delivery information re my parcel. I have no confidence it is on a van at all.

As at 18:00 on 15 Jun 21 there is no change - neither the web or ios app show any delivery information re my parcel. I have no confidence it is on a van at all.

At 18:18 on 15 June there is a UPS message to say that Delivery will be delayed by one business day” and there is a rescheduled delivery shown as Wednesday 16 June, 12:00 - 15:00. So a second day wasted and of course the parcel is not delayed one day but rather it will be two days from their first proposed delivery.

Sent this DM to UPS firt thing on 16 June
““Despite your messages nothing arrived yesterday - Tuesday 15 June. It was the same on Monday 14 June. I pointed out to you on both days that the tracking system gave contradictory info and looked to you to properly investigate and all you did was tell me it would be delivered and to stay in ready. At 18:18 last night UPS messaged to say there would be no delivery that day and it is changed to today, Weds 16 June between 12:00 - 15:00. So I am having to stay in for a third day. I hope it happens.”

And also did a public tweet at the same time:
“.@UPSHelp_UK Despite your messages on both Monday & yesterday, no parcel arrived. I pointed out on both days that the tracking system gave contradictory info but you offered no useful information/support bar saying wait in & it will arrive. I’m now staying in for a third day.”

Re staying in - although delivery is estimated at 12:00 - 15:00 I have cancelled something this morning just in cast it arrives before the estimate. From previous conversations with UPS it is clear that estimates are rather illusory rather then based on any real plan - say in the way DPD work and where estimates are usually accurate to the hour.

08:23 on 16 June I get a DM from UPS:
“Hi Bruce. We have forwarded your concern to our local team, so they can follow up with you on the status of the delivery of your parcel. They will contact you within two hours. If you have any questions or need further assistance do not hesitate to contact us. -Mitzy”

I get a telephone call from UPS and effectifly document it in a DM to UPS:
“The local team have just contacted me. They talked to the driver and it is on the van for today. They also said they have no idea why UPS give out a time slot of between 12:00 and 15:00 (in my case) because it’s not offered as a service and it could come at any time. I can’t help but think it would have been way better to involve the local team’ earlier, rather than just keep being given generic information and a hope it should be OK despite the tracking info being odd. I also note that currently neither the web or ios app show any tracking information at all for the parcel. Hopefully it will work out and I won’t be back here tomorrow…”

So I did the right thing to cancel a trip out this morning because it could come at anytime.

And just to confirm, as at 09:43, there is no tracking inofrmation at all for the parcel - on the web or ios app. All it says is Details not availble” on ios app.

09:43 16 June DM from UPS:
“Bruce, once again I am terribly sorry for the inconvenience with the delivery of your parcel. I appreciate the update and please if for any reason your parcel does not get delivered today, get back to us, and we will follow up.-Mitzy”

As at 11:08 on 16 June, there is tracking info availble again but it has not been updated since yesterday - not yet anway.

And the parcel has been delivered - at 15:46 on the 16 June 2021.

I’m amazed by the length of this record of what has happened. It really shows the uncertainty and impact on folks life when carriers don’t have decent systems and customer care etc. What I will do is add a heads up summary of what has happened to the top of this piece.

June 15, 2021 Tech

Getting a Lenovo ThinkPad X1, Generation 9

A month ago I ordered a new ThinkPad X1 of the latest generation - Generation 9. My current ThinkPad is reaching the end of its warranty and things have moved on…

The new generation can be configured with 32Gb of memory, a 5g modem, Gen 4 PCIe NVMe disk, WIFI6 and has terrific battery life and 16:10 aspect screen. Obviously it is 11th gen Intel i7 which is fine, if Apples new M1 processor looks terrific if you are happy with macOS (too big a switch for me I think) and AMD is causing a performance stir but is not available on any laptop I was interested in.

I really like the 14” screen size of the X1 and that coupled to a light machine really means it’s a go anywhere pc. And I do actually take it everywhere, including bed! I’ve dropped my existing X1 a couple of times and no problem at all. If you rely on a Laptop they are dependable and that counts for a lot, if they are not, of course, cheap! As an alternative I did look at a ThinkPad Nano, but the screen felt too small and the processor/disk are less than prime parts. Also a Dell XPS, but the screen felt small and it weighed a fair bit more. Although I’ve generally maxed out my X1 spec I haven’t gone for a hires screen - the ordinary one (1920x1200) is 100% sRGB (so fine enough for photo editing) and gives better battery life. My full spec is at the bottom of this post.

I ordered my X1 on 6 May 2021, and it was a bit of an act of faith - delivery was quoted as over 6 weeks”. Along with the machine I added various 4 year warranty options and those were shipped and charged for immediately - some £496! Although charged for they only activate when the machine arrives.

The Lenovo website has a page about your order, but for me it doesn’t include anything on delivery other then saying your order confirmation email will tell more. That just says they will email you when its despatched. It’s crazy.

My first try at getting an estimated delivery date was via email and it proved a wretched experience, recorded here:

Today I decided to see if I could get anywhere on the phone - in the UK it’s 02037 6914 40. You have to key in your order number to get anywhere and before long I got to speak to somebody and the first thing they ask you for is your order number. Bonkers. But I did get an update on delivery:

Estimated shipping date: 11 June 2021
Estimated delivery date: 22 June 2021

We will see, if annoying I had to call them to get this information.

My spec is…

Processor - 11th Generation Intel® Core™ i7-1165G7 Processor (4 Cores / 8 Threads, 2.80 GHz, up to 4.70 GHz with Turbo Boost, 12 MB Cache)
Operating System - Windows 10 Pro 64
Operating System Language - Windows 10 Pro 64 WE (EN/FR/DE/NL/IT)
Memory - 32 GB LPDDR4x 4266MHz
Solid State Drive - 2TB Solid State Drive, M.2 2280, PCIe 4.0 Performance NVMe, OPAL2.0, TLC
Display - 14.0” WUXGA (1920x1200) IPS, Anti-Glare, 400nits, Multitouch, Narrow Bezel, 100% sRGB
Graphic Card - Integrated Intel® Iris® Xe Graphics
Camera - IR & 720p HD Camera with Microphone
Color - Black
Top Cover Material - Carbon Fiber with Black Paint
Wireless - Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201 (2x2 AX) vPro & Bluetooth® 5.0
WWAN Selection - WWAN
Integrated Wireless Antenna - WWAN Antenna
Integrated Mobile Broadband - Qualcomm Snapdragon X55 5G Modem-RF System
Fingerprint Reader - Yes
Keyboard - Backlit Keyboard Black English (UK) with Fingerprint Reader, WWAN
TPM Setting - Enabled Discrete TPM2.0
Evo Certified Model - Evo Certified
Absolute BIOS Selection - BIOS Absolute Enabled
Battery - 4 cell, 57Wh, 16 hours
Power Cord - 65W
Display Panel - 14.0” WUXGA (1920 x 1200) IPS Anti-Glare 400nits Multitouch Narrow Bezel 100%sRGB , IR and HD Camera with ThinkShutter, Mic, WLAN, Black
Package Box - Retail Packaging
Language Pack - Publication - Italian/Dutch/German/French/English

June 7, 2021 Tech

Cacio all’argentiera - Italian Fried Cheese with Honey, Oregano and Vinegar

Not yet tried, will update later!

Italian recipe by Rachel Roddy, Guardian Feast No 177, 5 June 2021

Cacio all’argentiera (cheese silversmith-style)
Halloumi - usual rectangular pack
(ideally it would be Caciocavallo, Mozzarella, Scamorza, Provolone)
Olive oil - 1 tablespoon
Runny Honey - 1 tablespoon
Red wine Vinegar - 2 tablespoon
Red Cilli powder - big pinch
Salt - big pinch
Fresh Oregano - small handful choped?

Serve with mixed salad, rice and flatbread.

In a small bowl whisk all the ingredienat together except the cheese and olive oil

In a pan over a medium heat, warm a little olive oil and then add 5-6mm thick slices of Halloumi. Should get 8 slices.

Cook for 3 minutes, until a light crust has formed, then, using a spatula, turn over (don’t worry if it sticks a bit) and cook for another 3 minutes, so the slices are bubbling gently and, while not completely collapsed, considerably melted.

Pour the Honey mixture over the cheese, leave to bubble for 10 seconds, then turn off the heat, cover the pan and leave for 1 minute before serving.

Original recipe in the GuardianOriginal recipe in the Guardian

June 6, 2021 Life