Goodbye Micro Mart, I shall remember you fondly.

Ah, so 2017 starts off with the first sad death of the year… my favourite little magazine… “Micro Mart”.

Well, OK, technically, it died last year, as this last issue is dated 29th December – 31st Never, but still, I didn’t find out until I was browsing a local WH smith.

I must start by saying , I wasn’t a prolific reader, and instead decided to just pick up an occasional issue, either when looking for a new PC (or parts for an existing PC). In fact, it was waay back in 1996, when one of my old college lecturers told me about it, and especially one of their advertisers, called something like “Page 72”, who, you guessed it, always ran their adverts on Page 72. I’m probably wrong with the page number there, but I always thought it was a nifty little martketing tool. You’d always know where to find them!

In fact, I bought my very first computer from out of a Micro Mart advert, around that same time, possibly from that very first issue I bought. Of course, way back in 1996, the internet barely existed. For me, it had only just started existing, and I certainly didn’t have the ability to shop for a new PC. I relied on the pages of Micro Mart to tell me what I was looking for. And it didn’t disappoint.

My very first PC was a Pentium 166Mhz (With MMX no less!), 16Mb RAM, 2Gb hard drive, and a 1Mb graphics card. Eventually, I outgrew this little machine, and the next one I bought also came from the hallowed pages of Micro Mart.

Time gre on, the internet became plentiful, and I didn’t really rely on Micro Mart for anything after that, but my love for it didn’t die. In the back of my mind, I’d be in a service station somewhere, or an airport, and I’d think to myself “Well, I’ll need something to fill the journey time”, and I’d walk out with a copy of MM under my arm. Sometimes I’d even pay for it!

Ho ho, I jest. In all seriousness, print medium when it comes to computer magazines is shrinking all of the time. Although there’s roughly 100 feet of shelf space in every large WH Smith, the computer section is dwindling rapidly. The vast majority of what’s left, taken up with “special” publications which seem to hang around for months, and the old established monthlies (and in MM’s case, even more frequent) are going to the great paper pulper in the sky. And I, for one, will miss them.

RIP Micro Mart.

Obligatory “Pokemon Go” blog post

How do you get 100 Pikachus on a bus? Pokemon.

And, if you haven’t heard that joke before, you’ve been under a rock for the past 15 years, or you’ve not sat next to me for any period of time recently, because every time someone comes out with a Pokemon Go comment, I come out with that belter of a joke. And by “Belter”, I mean that I should be belted hard across the face. With a chair.

But it still gets a laugh from somebody. Sigh.

I know, I’m getting old, my knees are hurting from jumping on and off of these bandwagons, but this is one that I couldn’t pass, even though it’s possibly the “saddest” I’ve ever even got partially involved in.

Pokemon started off as a cash-in for Nintendo. A card game, highly successful console game, and of course, a long running cartoon. I personally paid absolutely no interest in any of these, so I had no idea what the hell Pokemon go was supposed to be.

So, what’s the premise of the game? Well, if you don’t know by now, you really should have stayed under that rock you’ve just crawled out from. You play the game on your phone. It starts off by having a street map of where you’re currently stood, and you walk around the area. Literally, walk. With your own two feet. Every so often, your phone will vibrate, and in the local vacinity, is a “pokemon” (short for pocket monster in case anyone’s still actually wondering), you click on the little monster, and it’ll appear on your phone screen, with whatever your camera is pointing at, as the background, so it looks like the pokemon is there in front of you. Obviously, when you move your phone, the pokemon moves with it, and you have to flick pokeballs to catch it. Sometimes, some pokemon are very common, and you’ll get sick of seeing them. They’re very easy to catch. Others are larger, and will run around, causing you to turn your phone 360 degrees, chasing after it, and often meaning you’ll miss with a pokeball and lose it, and some will break out, meaning you have to throw again to catch it

With me so far? No? That’s OK, neither am I, but I shall persevere.

The crafty thing is….. you only have so many pokeballs! and you have to earn more (along with other collectables) by visiting Pokestops. These are actual real life locations, usually landmarks, meaning if you want to actually get anywhere in the game, you have to get off your fat arse and get them. You can add “lures” to these real life locations, which means more imaginary pokemon visit there… and therefore more actual real life people who also play the game. And it works.

Some of you may remember in the Youtube video I posted a couple of months ago, where me and Chris went past “Jimmy’s Green”. I laughed because I thought it couldn’t possibly be a land mark. Well, here it is, swarming with Pokemon Go players…

Photo courtesy of ARD Photography
Photo courtesy of ARD Photography

I have a feeling this will be the same for areas up and down the country.

Here’s a couple of screenshots tro try and illustrate what it’s all about… This is me, walking across the street, and this little thing pops up in front of me…..
… I have to flick the red ball towards it. If I hit it. I’ll capture it, and get points towards levelling up. The more you level up, the more you can capture easily, I presume.

And here’s a wild Rattata I caught whilst sitting on the toilet. I could get him arrested for watching me like that.

And where would I be without the obligatory “Playing the game whilst pissed” photo…


It’s one in the morning, As you can see, the bloody thing was to the left of me, as I was too busy trying to take the screenshot whilst walking after several pints that it had bounced out of view. I wasted so many pokeballs trying to catch that fecker, but a Hartlepudlian never gives up…


Questions? You’ll have a few. But then again, too few to mention. So I’ll mention them for you.

“So, is there any point to the game?” Yes. You have to catch all of them. I think there are something like 136, and some are much rarer than others. Expect to do a lot of travelling if you’re going to attempt this.

“Aren’t you too old to be playing this”? Yes, and no

Yes, as in, I sort-of secretly play it. Obviously, you sort of have to wave your phone around flicking the screen at certain intervals, so I sort of do it in secret. I’ll load the app up when no-one’s around. I certainly wouldn’t go and hunt down a popular pokestop and join a group of people playing it. No, as in you’re never too old to have a bit of a walk, and if it adds to the “point” of the walk, I can’t see any harm in it. Remember, there’s no upper age limit on games (only perceived upper limits), and if I want to play it, I will. Though now that I’ve written this blog, I’ll probably never play it again.

“Where are the best pokestops in Hartlepool?” There’s loads in the town centre, as you’d expect. There’s quite a few on the Marina, especially around the lock gates (watch where you’re walking!), apparently, there’s 11 in Ward Jackson Park, and a load on the Headland.

Well, I think that covers most things. Comment if you have any other questions. I’m going for a Weedle in next door’s hedge.

It’s that time of year, now that spring is in the air…

Ah yes. Spring is in the air. You can tell that because the weather forecast has just put out a weather warning for bloody snow. Well, not snow with blood in, because that would be awful, but you know what I mean. March is always an interesting time of year, because it’s the time where I say I’m going to start doing something producting, but then stay inside every single nmight and laugh inanely, as it appears that Euro Truck Simulator has given me a huge dildo to deliver.


Hur hur hur.

Yeah, so. Been quiet again around these pparts. I’ve yet to test out my mobile blogging device. If you missed the two test posts I made, then oh, boy, you missed a treat!

What I’ve mostly been doing is behind the scenes stuff. I’m in the process of uploading all of the old photos from flickr onto here. I was half-way through writing a long, drawn-out process about why they were hosted on flickr in the first place, but not even I want to read that bollocks. Let’s just say WordPress is much better than it used to be.

I have an interesting few days up ahead.

Some old ramblings…

I was trawling through some old CDs, and found something that brought back so many memories, it’s untrue. Way back in the Amiga days, I used to do some programming. And by that, I used to faff around in AMOS knocking together daft little programs, and upload them to Aminet. Basically, anything tha twas free for the amiga went on there. And it was a great site.

It must have been back in 1996 when I released a crap little game called “Reaction”. The screen would say “GO!” and you’d hit a button as fast as you could to get the lowest score.

My memory is blank on what this looked like, and what it played like, but the Readme file is still available. It mentions “FOX PD”. That’s a repressed memory for another day!

Anyway, where am I going with this?

Half of my life ago (at the time of typing), I was at college, and expected to do a placement, and I ended up at some accountancy place. It was a weird setup, sort-of a company within a company. They dealt with software.

Anyway, me, a spotty 18 year old layabout, in his first ever foray into the work environment, didn’t really enjoy it. It was the first time I’d ever have to work over the summer, and my entire time there, I never felt like I was neither needed, nor wanted. The two people who worked there would often have to go out to site visits to repair or reinstall software. This was before the internet, and patches were mainstream, so as you can imagine, once a software upgrade came out, they’d have to run around the north-east, installing the updates.

This meant I often had very little to do. Sometimes I’d write up college work, sometimes they’d have me typing out letters and stuffing the envelopes. This was the first place I ever had a computer to myself. Inside it was a 33.6K modem. And did I know the password? Did I bollocks.

It was awful. For the very first time, I had the world (wide web) at my fingertips, and this one little dialogue box stood in my way. One day, the boss gave me the password. And no work was done that day week month.

There doesn’t seem to be a point to that story. There isn’t. But, while I was there, and had the full rip of a computer, I decided to have a bit of a play. Part of my college work from the early days was to design something written in basic, and for this, we were provided with a copy of Turbo BASIC on floppy disk (a copy, of course). This has the advantage of being able to compile .exe files.

Anyway, back to my original workplace. The guesome twosome were out installing something somewhere, and I was left to my own devices. Somewhere, out of the blue, I received an email, thanking me for my original Amiga game. I guess that spurred me on to sit down and write a PC follow-up. I think the whole thing took half an hour. Maybe longer.

Anyway. I remember compiling it, and never actually giving it to anybody, or uploading it anywhere of relevance. I maybe had a copy on whichever website I as running at the time, but just like this one, its viewing figures are minimal.

I was 18 then. 18 years later, I’m trawling through some old catalogued CDs for a particular file, and I find one called “reaction.bas”. Could it be that the original file has survived for so long? Well, it seems I “updated” it back in 1999, but the guts are still there, and amazingly, saved in text format. Here’s the … ahem… “source”, in all its glory. I’ve had to remove a couple of comments, because in hindsight they’re probably slanderous!

1 rem ****************************************************
2 rem * REACTION - The only game where is pays to have a *
3 rem * shit machine! Programmed by Arctic Fox 27/5/98   *
4 rem * VERSION 1.02! (30/12/1999)			 *
5 REM ****************************************************
10 cls
20 color 3,0,0
30 print "  ###   ####   ###  #####  #   ### "
31 print " #   #  #   # #   #   #    #  #   #"
32 print " #   #  #   # #       #    #  #    "
33 print " #####  ####  #       #    #  #    "
34 print " #   #  # #   #       #    #  #    "
35 print " #   #  #  #  #   #   #    #  #   #"
36 print " #   #  #   #  ###    #    #   ### "
37 print
38 print "         #####  ###  #   #"
39 print "         #     #   # #   #"
40 print "         #     #   #  # # "
41 print "         ##### #   #   #  "
42 print "         #     #   #  # # "
43 print "         #     #   # #   #"
44 print "         #      ###  #   #"
45 color 5,0,0:print "Presents:"
46 color 15,0,0:print:print "REACTION!!!"
50 print "The first program written in 1998 GUARANTEED to work on an"
51 print "8086. In fact it'll work better on one. If you have a P400"
52 print "then you may as well quit now."
53 print:color 12,0,0:print "Press any key to continue!"
60 if inkey$="" then goto 60
65 for d=0 to 21
70 for x=0 to 10000
71 next x
90 FOR X = 0 TO 20000
100 NEXT X
110 CLS
190 IF INKEY$="" THEN GOTO 190
200 print "Marks... Set..."
195 CLS
205 D = INT (RND * 500000)+1
210 FOR X = 0 TO d
230 NEXT X
235 print "GO!!!!!"
240 FOR g=0 TO 10000 step 0.5
241 if inkey$<>"" then goto 250
242 locate 2,2:print INT(g)
245 next g
246 beep
250 IF g=0 THEN F$="False start!! Please try again..."
260 if g>0 and g<1000 then f$="Cool! Now find the hidden messages..."
270 if g>1000 and g<2000 then f$="Yeah! You could do better though!"
271 if g=561 then f$="To MASC - no-one likes you."
272 if g=472 then f$="The one with the jelly in the middle."
273 if g=639 then f$="Email me. [removed] "
274 if g=628 then f$="I like children, but I couldn't eat a whole one."
275 if g=213 then f$="Toooobe."
276 if g=178 then f$="This is hidden message number 1."
277 if g=841 then f$="Alan Robson is the king of talk shows. Except Tom Davies."
278 if g=562 then f$="These numbers are picked randomly."
279 if g=921 then f$="The secret of my success is my good looks."
280 if g>2000 and g<3000 then f$="It's good, but in an average sort of way..."
281 if g=2419 then f$="I'm at work typing this. I really should be doing some."
282 if g=2719 then f$="I've hidden 100 messages. Find them all and win a prize. Offer ends yesterday."
283 if g=2611 then f$="This is program line 283. Cool, eh?"
284 if g=2534 then f$="Reaction ver 1.02 29/5/1998 by [me]"
285 if g=2524 then f$="Programmed using Turbo Basic, you know!"
286 if g=2172 then f$="Greets go to Daniel, who emailed me about the Amiga version!"
287 if g=2511 then f$="... [The Boss] for leaving the office while I did this..."
288 if g=2473 then f$="... and the cat ran away with the money."
289 if g=2162 then f$="Toilet."
290 if g>3000 and g<4000 then f$="Quite poor really, isn't it?"
291 if g=3128 then f$="email: [no loner works]"
292 if g=3829 then f$="Visit [a website]. Tell them AF sent you."
293 if g=3239 then f$="Duke: You peed on my face. I hate you."
294 if g=3814 then f$="When you get to hell, tell them REACTION sent you!"
295 if g=3629 then f$="Lucky message #26."
296 if g=3221 then f$="Hackers, note the bug at $00A4F before recompiling."
297 if g=3422 then f$="Mr. Do! Is the best arcade game of all time."
298 if g=3912 then f$="Lesley, where are you? I love you! I still have your tape."
299 if g=3333 then f$="All the threes..."
300 if g>4000 and g<5000 then f$="Good score! Erm, no. I lied."
301 if g=4820 then f$="Hell! 18 months after starting, I finally get back to it"
302 if g=4204 then f$="HAPPY MILLENIUM!"
303 IF g=4021 then f$="[Removed]"
304 if g=4793 then f$="DAVID ICKE! DAVID ICKE! WAYNE, YOU LOVE HIM!"
305 if g=4309 then f$="Thinking up 100 messages like this isn't easy y'know."
306 if g=4621 then f$="That's probably why I left it for so long."
307 if g=4291 then f$="[removed link]"
308 if g=4999 then f$="Score 4291 and find out how to get paid to surf!"
309 if g=4522 then f$="Bum!!"
310 if g>5000 and g<6000 then f$="Come on! Connect your keyboard!"
320 if g>6000 and g<7000 then f$="The idea of the game is to PRESS the button!"
330 if g>7000 and g<8000 then f$="You really ARE using a pII400!"
340 if g>8000 and g<9000 then f$="Oh dear..."
350 if g>9000 and g<10000 then f$="You play badly."
360 if g>10000 then f$= "Way too slow. Try again."
390 cls
400 print INT(g):print:print f$
410 ?:?:?:?:PRINT "(Hiscore not available in this version)
411 ?:?:?"Please wait, or press X to quit"
500 for x=0 to 25000
501 if inkey$="x" or inkey$="X" then end
502 next x
503 cls
504 goto 1

So, some of the explanations. “ARCTIC FOX” was my old CB handle at the time. It was before I started using “scribbler”, and many years before “mercuryvapour”.

MASC… think I went to college with him. Think I said I was mentioning him in the game.

Alan Robson and Tom Davies are both still hosting talk shows.

Duke was a dog, the father to both of my dogs (now only one dog), And he really did pee on my face. He died many years ago and I didn’t hate him.

The program itself was obviously not CPU optimised. It ran as fast as your CPU ran. IT’ll be almost impossible to register any type of score these days. That is, if there’s anything that can even compile it these days. Oh wait… Minecraft?

Bye bye Crashplan… er, so what’s next?

the majority of you know I like to back up my data. I’ve had too many run-ins with people handing me crashed hard drives and charred memory cards, expecting me to work magic on them, knowing full-well that their life’s work is included on it. A couple of weeks ago, I even got laughed at for having backups of backups, and storing a lot of stuff “in the cloud”. Well, that’s a story for another rant. I thought Id might as well type something, seeing as I’m saying goodbye to one of my oldest and dearest backup chums, Crashplan.

There are many backup solutions out there, but a few years ago, I punted for Crashplan. Mainly because they had a Black Friday sale on in 2011, and I got a years’ subscription for practically pennies. This year, I won’t be renewing my subscription. And I thought it’d be fair to throw my opinion and experience out there.

I live in the good old United Kingdom of England, where broadband is expensive, yet plentiful At the moment, my broadband speed is something like 120Mbps. It’s lovely and fast. One day, I was a complete pillock, and deleted an entire folder of images, which totalled about 500Mb. Grrr. But, never mind, I knew I had a backup. I went to restore it…. Aaaaaand it took forever. Considering the speed of my bandwidth, I’d expect it to take about a couple of minutes for that amount of data.

I checked with Crashplan to see if they’re throttling speeds…

Due to CrashPlan being a shared service, backup and restore speeds are greatly affected by ISP-provided bandwidth, server traffic, and geographical location in relation to the backup server. Users overseas generally see slightly slower speeds than our stateside users due to the geographical distance between the US and their country (not to mention the generally slower Internet speeds the US has relative to the rest of the world). CrashPlan for Home servers are located in the continental US.

It may also be that your ISP is throttling the traffic - I recommend calling them to confirm.

If your restore speeds drop (and remain) below 1 Mbps, please let us know and we will get logs to troubleshoot.

Well, naturally, I was straight onto Virgin. I know they do throttle some data, but not to the point of what I was experiencing, and as expected, their response was to the negative. This screenshot, showing an almost entirely straight line shows there’s no variation.


So, someone was telling me porkies. I did some calculations. I had about 600Gb of data stored on there. I worked out, at the speeds it was going, it’d take *11 weeks* of my machine constantly downloading, to restore all of my data, should a major issue occur. OK, 600Gb isn’t a small amount of data to be pushed through a little underground cable, but GTA 5 is roughly 60Gb from steam, and it took about an hour, so 600Gb would take at the bare minimum, 10 hours. At the acceptable maximum, a couple of days. I’d whinge at a week.

Crashplan then asked me to send in logfiles. These logfiles consisted of 26Mbs worth of information ZIPPED, and upon closer inspection included the name of every file I’d uploaded there, in plain text. This is where the trail goes cold, and my experience with Crashplan tech support ended. Maybe I’m wrong, but when a tech support department asks for many megabytes of logfile data to answer a simple question, then you’re in trouble. I was going to send an email saying “look, I see what I’m sending. You probably need about 5 lines of it. Tell me what I can cut and paste”, but I clearly never sent it. I just bit the bullet, paid my full-price subscription for another year.

Over the course of the year, my love affair with Crashplan ended. I just didn’t care any more. I began to explore other avenues Currently, I have the majority of my stuff “archived” to Google Drive. It’s roughy £8 per month for 1Tb of space. I back up stuff, I just created an “unsynched” folder on Google Drive (this means you can’t see it from your PC), copy stuff to Google Drive the normal way and then move it into this folder on the web interface. If I need to download it, I just go back into the web interface, right-click and download it again.


I’ve seen grown men physically vomit at the thought of using Google Drive in any form, but it’s a solution.

All of this is my own experience. It could have been something on my end preventing the download running faster, seeing as I never actually finished the tech support thing. But, if you’re in the UK, I’d suggest taking the trial, uploading a few large files and then trying to restore them. Now that I have a different patooter, I might give them another go. Might.