Doctor Dolittle   Leave a comment

Meets The Vapours.

Wednesday was surreal comedy day.

First I learned to speak to a Zebra, then I flashed the Zebra, and finally I insured £65,000 worth of frozen food.

I shall explain, although it won’t be as amusing as it sounds.

The Zebra is a Zebra LP 2844 label printer. Apparently they’re more or less the de-facto standard label printer. It’s also the printer that I discovered how to send raw data to yesterday, and that raw data is its EPL2 printing language. So I got to spend some time looking through the documentation for that and mucking around, wasting labels.

What I really wanted to do was print QR codes. That is pretty easy:
b32,232,Q,s5,"Hello World"

Gosh, that looks like proper programming doesn’t it? Sadly, I hit a problem. “Japanese printer models only”, it says in the EPL docs. Hmm. Happily, it supports other 2D barcodes, but they didn’t print either. Why? Oh, “Requires firmware update”, righto. Do that and they work fine, but still no luck with QR codes.

However, also on the firmware page is Japanese firmware. Could I just flash it with that and print QR codes? Is there any hardware difference between Japanese/non-Japanese models? If not, why only give Japanese models this functionality? Would an unsupported EPROM knacker the printer? For once, Google did not know the answer. I couldn’t find anything saying you could do it.

Or any dire warnings saying you couldn’t. Only one thing to do, then: try it. What’s the worst that can happen? Wrecking a £175 printer, that’s what.

The printer accepted the firmware. Nothing seemed to go wrong. I tested printing a QR code… And it worked. Phew, eh?

Then I tried to scan it with the barcode reader I’d been sent, only to discover it doesn’t support any types of 2D barcode at all. I guess my boss didn’t check that before he decided he wanted to use them? So, in the end, it was all for naught.

Useful information for people asking Google the same thing:

Flashing a Zebra LP 2844 with Japanese firmware 4.70.1C, in order to print QR codes, worked fine for me. I’m in the UK, but it was “Made in the USA” on 04/01/2005 (DD/MM/YYYY or MM/DD/YYYY unknown), part number 2844-20300-0001. Your milage may vary, proceed at your own risk; I don’t work for Zebra or anything, and it’ll probably void your warranty.

Incidentally, I found this post very useful. Microsoft have the same helper library in C++, VB and VB.net; ask Google.

Useful information content ends.

In the evening I had some spare time between dinner and the gym, but not enough to do anything interesting, so I thought I would tackle the looming terribleness of home insurance renewal.

Unsurprisingly, the first comparison site quickly turned up quotes £60 cheaper than the renewal fee. The second turned up more, similar quotes. I decided I was bored with that (I am a bad comparisoneer) and wandered off to Quidco to see if any of the cheap quoting insurers offered cashback. Turns out they did! So off to Esure to type in my details. And wonder where most of the questions had gone. Normally insurers want to know the ins and outs of a hen’s backside, but they didn’t ask for much beyond name, address and start date. Oh. Check the small print: fine. The quote was about the same as through the comparison site. Good-oh. Buy. Red box pops up, “we’re sorry, we can’t offer you the quote you may already have seen”, followed by an ‘explanation’ which was only marginally less brusque than “fuck off”.

This had made me late for the gym, so I didn’t have time to muck around now, or answer the ‘phone. But after gyming, and calling Mum back (about 35 of the 40 minutes the call lasted were entirely unnecessary, but never mind), I decided to have another go. Sheila’s Wheels this time. Their quote-generator was familiar, being exactly the same as Esure’s, but re-skinned in pink. And, predictably, it told me to get stuffed in exactly the same way. Can companies stop pretending to be more than one company? It’s a pain in the arse, and not fooling anyone.

I suspect the reason for this is they have a minimum price where they’re willing to give cashback (to avoid the “paying people to take out insurance” thing), and my quote wasn’t expensive enough for them to consider me worthwhile. So screw them. But by now I was beginning to just want someone to take my money and insure my sodding house.

Next I tried the AA, but their quote was daft. Then AXA (whose quote-generator was the same as the AA’s, but not in yellow). This was amusing, because AXA are the company my renewal quote is from (through a broker), and their new quote was over £50 less, with £32 cashback on top. Once more, not many questions; they seem to go for one-size-fits-all. Half a million quid of buildings insurance is over four times what I need, and £65,000 of contents isn’t far off*, but better too much than too little. Click buy, and, this time, it worked. At friggin’ last. Money spent, cashback tracked, and it should work out over £80 cheaper than the renewal quote, or a tenner less than it cost last year.

Then it was washing-up and being-late-for-bed time.

* Apart from the very explicitly mentioned £65,000 of frozen food cover, as I think the contents of my freezer could be reasonably valued at about £6.50. And a whopping £10,000,000 covering liability to domestic staff. They probably won’t have to pay out on that one.

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