WordPress releases a new major version!

OK, I’m probably late to the party with this one, as it’s been a week or so since I last logged in, but WOrdpress has released a shiny new version, 5.0! It’s the first major update since… erm, the last one. Actually, it’s been a good few years since their last major incarnation (as far as I can remember. Before I do that, however, I’ll do the most important thing…

I know this one brings in a shiny new editor. I shall politely decline that one, and continue using the lovely text editor what was originally included. I don’t see the need for all of those bells and whistles in an editor. It’s only going to detract from the most important thing, and that’s polluting the internet with my absolute twaddle.

Speaking of updates, my webhosts kindly updated my account to include 50Gb of space for the same price I was paying for 20Gb. That means I have over twice as much space to upload stuff that nobody is interested in!

If you didn’t guess, this is a test post, and if everything goes wrong during the update, you’ll know where the site’s gone, or something.

My new toy

What’s got 2 legs, drinks crap beer and spends far too much in charity shops?

Well, I doubt I even need to answer that question, for you know that idiot is me. When it comes to charity shop shopping, I have two rules, never buy anything over a fiver, and never buy anything electrical.

So, on Thursday, I bought a £6 tape recorder.

This isn’t just any tape recorder, it’s a 4-channel tape recorder. Something I’ve never seen before, but apparently, they were once a thing. And this one is in really good condition

For some time, I’ve been after something that can play tapes. I’ve been after one to hook up to my computer, as I still have a load of tapes from my childhood to go through, and convert. I’m sure I was an absolute scream when I was 9, but it’s things like the old radio clips I want to convert. I do have a USB one, but the sound quality is dubious at best. I wanted something a but more… sturdy.

On Thursday, after knocking back a bag of chips for my dinner, I sauntered back to work. and decided to check out the Alice House charity shop. I was on the mooch for CDs, after only picking up a small amount on my travels. Before I even got to see the rotating plastic demons, something caught the very corner of my good eye. It looked like a tape recorder. And, clearly it was! I took it over to the little seating area they have, and by the time I’d sat down, a complete stranger said “You’ve got a bargain there!”. Upon closer examination, the sticker shows that it had only been PAT tested the day before, so yeah, it looks like I was indeed the first one to pick up the bargain!

Now, despite the obvious difference of having more knobs than a Taiwanese brothel, I didn’t quite know what I had hold of. Turns out it wasn’t just any old tape recorder. This beauty has the rare ability to record an all four tracks of a cassette tape. For the uninitiated, cassettes tapes have four tracks on them, but you only ever hear two of them at a time, the left and right channel. You turn the tape over, and you hear the other two left and right channels. This particular recorder uses all 4 tracks on the tape at once. Back in the day, it was a simple and relatively easy way to get a multi-track setup for home recording.

Last night, I plugged it in to make sure it all worked. And it did! One slight problem was that it was playing all 4 tracks at once, meaning at Side A was being played forwards, and Side B was being played backwards. 4 channels, y’see… there must be a way to have it just play stereo, but time was getting on, and I demoted it to the cupboard. I had a feeling it might have stayed there for a while.

I was speaking to a lad at work who knows more about this type of stuff than I do, he said just change the pan and tilt controls, and set channels 1 and 2 to L/R. This was too obvious to work

My interest in the device was rekindled. I’d planned in my head how I was going to announce my new bargain to the world. I hadn’t knocked up a Youtube video for a while. My camera battery was charged AND I knew where all the bits of my tripod were. This was all falling into a place.

I even got home and shot the beginning of the video. There was also a truly hilarious joke that I was going to include that saw me plug the power adaptor in, I’d then turn the light off, and then edit it so it looked like it tripped the lights, followed by a truncated “OHHH, FUUUU.”, and then immediately cut to the close-up shot of the tape recorder all set up and working, followed with “Only joking!”

This is where karma kicked me right in the balls. I’d got it set up, camera positioned, aaaand, the power supply for it went south. The power light was flickering, and the output lights were jumping around. I was not amused. Turns out the bit of cable that goes into the power supply is intermittent. Looks like someone’s picked up the (relatively heavy and brick-like – you can see it in the bottom left of that screenshot) power supply by the cable, and stretched it to near breaking point. Could this be the reason why it looked so good? Was the previous owners’ attempt to use it thwarted by a small piece of cable? I will never know,

One thing I do know is that it’s working again, after fashioning a makeshift splint from a bit of masking tape and some cable ties. I’ll farthom out a more glamorous s

I’ve yet to hook it up properly to my computer to have a proper play around with it, but I’m eager to see if it sounds as good as it looks…

September 7th,1998. The Quest Project. Angel.

If the WordPress gods have aligned, you will be reading this post at 9AM, on September 7th 2018. That’s because, exactly 20 years ago, to the very second, I’d have been in a record shop, in Hartlepool’s Middleton Grange shopping centre, looking to pick up a record. Not just any old record, but to me, one of the best songs that never saw the light of day. Some of you may know the story, but as the majority of my readership won’t be familiar with the original post, I’ll go through it again

It was the summer of 1998. I had just finished college, and had been seconded to a local accountancy firm, or rather the software sales arm of said accountants. They dealt in business software, and to be perfectly honest, I lost all interest in the work placement when I discovered the password for the internet. Mornings and afternoons would be filled with random surfing (Angelfire chat rooms, and improving my poor attempt at an Angelfire website) and doing various other things that simply didn’t involve working, whilst the two people who ran the business disappeared around the local area selling, and installing software. I hated it there.

Whilst travelling home one day, there was a voice, coming through the radio, behind a panio melody. It started off scratchy. The vocals kicked in. “Where’s my Angel? Can you hear me? Can you see?”. They sounded strange. Echoey, and even slightly slowed down. The scratchy piano sample carried on in the background. A drum beat kicked in. More and more dance samples were added, and then the drum beat kicks in. The song evolves, and eventually ends with a cracking little synth melody. I absolutely loved it. the DJ spoke over the end.

“And that was The Quest Project, with their new song ‘Angel’. It’ll be hitting the stores on September 7th”. OK, those weren’t the exact words, but you get the picture. I found out it was a new song, and when I can buy it.

Days passed, and it disappeared off the playlists. Nothing strange about that. At least I knew when it was going to be out.

Days went by, September 7th 1998 turned up. I got out of bed early, with the whole intention of heading to the local record shop and snapping up a copy. It must have been the first time the record shop had ever had a queue outside before the shutters opened. This is how early it was. As I went through the door, one of the assistants was waving a CD in front of the door to verify the theft detectors were working. I rushed to the new releases, and… nothing. Not a single copy.

Surely there must have been some mistake! I’d heard it on the radio after all! I asked the bloke behind the counter. He flicked through a tatty, Biro-filled notebook, looking for the releases. I could just about work out through the barely readable scrawl that there was no track called “Angel” coming out on this day. Surely there must have been some mistake. For weeks, I checked the releases, just in case it had been delayed, or somehow slipped through the notebook of biblical proportions that they kept behind the counter. Nope, nothing, nada. The song disappeared out of everyone’s consciousness, except mine. I played the small recording I;d got off the radio over and over again. I can’t have been the only person to know it.

There was one course of action left. The radio station where I’d heard it in the first place, the now-exists-only-in-name “TFM Radio” in Stockton. I reached out to a producer/DJ named Richard Kell, who said he knew the song, but didn’t know if the station still had a copy. During this time he’d taken over the late-night talk-in. Richard would often use edited versions of some great songs as the music between tak breaks, and one night, I just happened to be hovering over the pause button of my favourite tape recorder… “Teeee – Eeeeef- Emmmmm!” I depressed the pause button. Out came the familiar scratchy piano intro. I let out a scream of excitement. This was a perfect case of right place, right time, and I know the song wouldn’t have been aired if it wasn’t for me asking for it.

And that, as far as I know, was the last time it ever got played on the radio. Now, one thing I didn’t know at the time was that the version I liked, and the one being played on the radio wasn’t the proper version. It was a remix by “Trouser Enthusiasts”.

This made tracking it down just that little bit harder. Thanks to the likes of… ahem… “online services”, I tracked down the original version. It had a slower backing track, slightly different vocals, and sounded a hello of a lot more “jazz-funk” than the version that I knew and loved. Where was that upbeat sound? The progressive melody going through the song? I hate to say it, but… I… wasn’t a fan. In fact, I’m pretty sure I posted on here that it “sounded like shit” to the more upbeat version. Imagine my horror when I actually got an email from a member of the band! This was back in 2003, so I don’t think I’ll be as lucky now, especially since 20 years have passed, but it’d be nice to hear if they’re still around.

A few years ago, Jon Cox, a member of the band, posted the official video on YouTube, explaining that the record company got took over, the track got pulled, and all of the CDs that were already pressed, never saw the light of day. A few did slip through the net, mainly promos, so with the help of eBay, and other sites like it, I’ve amassed a few different versions.

The first one is the 6 track promo., catalogue CIDDJ 715 There’s no cover art for this one, as it was just a plain brown CD sleeve. It contains the radio edit of the Trouser Enthusiasts mix, along with 4 other mixes, and a remix of their earlier single “Initiate The Creative”

The second one is CD1 of the single (CID 715) . At the time, if everything had got released as it should, this would have been the one I’d bought, and as you can see by the tracklisting, there’s no “Trouser Enthusiasts mix. This was back when CD singles were a luxury item to me, earning a mere £45 a week whilst in college, so if I’d picked this one up, I’d have been somewhat disappointed.

CD Single 2 (CIDT 715) contains only two tracks, and comes in a sleeve. The original, and the elusive Trouser Enthusiasts mix. It’s just the radio edit again, so both tracks are on the promo CD mentioned earlier. This one proved the most difficult to find. In fact, I paid nearly £8 back in 2015. There is a three track version that comes in a jewel case, but I don’t have that one. I believe mine was actually an import.

The song was also released on 2x promo 12″ singles. (12 ISX 715 DJ) This was the first version I owned and contains the full length version of the Trouser Enthusiasts mix. There’s no timings on that page, but I believe it clocks in at just under 9 minutes. This is, to me, the best version. There’s also a dub version. I don’t really care for the “Dillon and Dickins” mixes also on there, and I don’t have a digital copy of those.

The other one (12 IS 715 DJ) is a slightly extended “album” version of the original, and the “Live at Fatboy J’s Remix” is the same version that’s on the CD single.

It comes as no surprise that there was no album released, and “The Quest Project” disappeared, all going their separate ways. Sian Evans, the lead singer went on to be a part of “Kosheen”.

Das ist a nice keyboard!

OK, well I know that the last proper blog post (ignore the Facebook one) was about keyboards. Well, you’ll be excited to know that this one is too. Of course, you only have to scroll down slightly to find the “absolute bargain” with that Dell keyboards.. a little bit of spit and polish (rather, a load of Cillit Bang, and even more of those disposable blue cloths), and it was back up and running.

Anyway, Thursday, is of course, market day. I’ve mentioned this many times. Sometimes, I weep when I find a badly treated CD that I’ve been after, sometimes I laugh at the prices that some of the stall holders charge, and sometimes, I swear in disbelief at the bargains that can be had, when the person just doesn’t know what they’re selling.

So, I was on an early shift at work. It was sunny, and all of those two things combined mean that I headed off to the flea market. You gathered that, otherwise I wouldn’t be typing this now. The first stall is always a hive of miscellany. My eyes were immediately drawn to a box of records. No surprise there, but the next box along stopped me dead in my tracks. The records no longer had any significance. There were keyboards. and there was one that stood out in particular. A huge one. A single keypress immediate;y informed me that this was no ordinary keyboard, it was mechanical. The satisfying clack of the key. The overall look of the beast. The fact that it looked practically brand new.. There just had to be a catch somewhere.

I grabbed it instantly, and went over to the guy selling them. £2 each. What? Money exchanged hands, and I walked away with a keyboard. I had no idea if it worked. I walked through the town clutching this keyboard, I must have looked a complete wally., but I don’t care. A mechanical keyboard for less than the price of a pint.

It’s actually perfect timing. Some of you have noticed when I’m typing something that there are double characters especially Cs and Ys. It appears that those two switches are possibly on the way out. They might just need cleaning, or they might need replacing entirely. One thing I know is that it’s not easy to do, so I was sort-of hesitating over getting a different keyboard. I suppose this will have to do for now!

Right, so far, I’ve raved about my purchase. I do have a couple of reservations about it. It’s a touch-type keyboard, meaning that none of the keys have marks. It’s completely blank. One thing is though, I’m typing using it now, and the words are flowing like beer from a keg. There are obviously the odd mistakes, but they creep into my typing anyway. Using this might actually improve my already fantastic typing abilities. Ahem.

Another thing is that… I’m not sure it’s a genuine product. It’s by Das Keyboards. A name I’ve actually heard of. This one is apparently the MX3000. There is a Cherry keyboard of very, very similar design, though checking out the Youtube videos on it, It looks better made, I’ve had Cherry keyboards in the past that have had different branding on them, so it might just be a case of that.

Just look at how plain the logo is though.

I’m not going to rip it apart to find out to see if there’s anything more identifiable on the parts inside,, but I do know that the switches are Cherry branded

There’s also the fact that it’s an ANSI keyboard (American), as opposed to the ISO (UK) standard. It’s not much of a problem, but the smaller return key, and you can only get to the backslash by pressing AltGR and # as there’s no dedicated key for it. Seeing as I use the backslash key a lot MIGHT prove an annoyance, but I’ll wait and see.

I’ve been using this as my main keyboard since Thursday now, and I’ve had absolutely no other issues with it. I’m surprised how quickly I got used to not having letters on the keys. As I said, maybe this will improve my typing, maybe I’ll get sick of it and fling it in the cupboard with the other 5,000 keyboards that I own.

But yeah, no letters!

Oh, well, thank you Facebook.

Well, thanks to Facebook’s changing of the rules, apparently, I can no longer update Facebook when I do a blog post. OK, I know it’s not regularly anway, but it was still a nice feature to have. Seeing as it apparently stops working in about 20 minutes, this ccould be the last blog post on here you’ll EVER see. Not really, I’ll just manually post shite instead, and I can probably free up crap by uninstalling Jetpack, which is now completely redundant to me.

You probably should ignore this post, it’s not a work of art.