Car boots, football, obscure tapes and manky keyboards

hmmm. It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update. I’ve had a bit of writers’ block. Well, I wrote a couple of things, but they just ended in vitriolic rants about certain people. Thankfully, however, last week was a week off work, so I’ve had time to catch up with things that I love. Record collecting, for example.

The last couple of weeks have certainly been part of a record collecting binge. This is the first time since I was a kid that I remember having such a long, hot summer, and since the weathermen have guaranteed long, hot weekends, I’ve been able to arrange trips to car boot sales with Chris. Last week, it was Seaham, and the week before was Sedgefield.

Now, I’m sure I started typing about the Sedgefield one, but I can’t find any trace of it, so I mught have dreamt it, but basically, I bought lots and lots of CDs and records. £2 entry fee, which wasn’t too bad. I just remember knocking out some crap jokes. A guy selling plants, and I said to Chris “they’re mint, them”. Of course, it was an actual mind plant. Shris laughed. the guy behind the stall said he must have been easily amused. I was just happy that someone else heard the joke. On another stall, I commented that one of the CDs he was selling was Absolute Garbage I had to spell it out to the store owner, who seemed to be slightly offended that I happened to be slagging off one of his CDs. No mate, just a crap pun.

It seemed to close early, as most of the people were packing up to go see England play. By the time I’d got home, they’d scored 5 goals. Turned out to be a great day overall.

Another week passed, and it was time flr the first Middlesbrough record fair. This was the first one for two years, and it was nice to have it back! Unfortunately, the day ended in absolute disaster… hanging around for three hours for a lift, only for my lift’s battery to run flat, and having to get the bus home anyway. I was fuming, and my foot went up like a pudding because of it. Great times.

I did bump into Glen – a fellow blogger and ex-work colleague whom I’ve not mentioned on here for what must be a decade, vut we had a bloody good catchup for about an hour. Preally nice to see him again.

Sunday arrived, and another visit to a car boot sale was arranged. Chris wanted some “tat” for “something” – saying what he wanted, and what for might actually spoil a surprise for someone, so I won’t say what. Of course, there’s absolutely no chance that the person involved will ever read this blog, but you never know. Stranger things have happened.

Anyway, we turned up, nice and early at the car boot. Roughly 9AM. There were a queue of cars waiting to get in and set up, but not many buyers. Had we got there too early? Well. Turns out that if you’re a buyer, it costs you £5 to get in before 11:30. the doors then close between 11:30 and 12:30, meaning if you want to get in early, you pay an inflated price. If you want to pay the cheap price, you’ve got to then queue for an hour, and miss out on potential bargains. Crafty.

Seeing as there were very few stalls set up, and it didn’t look that big anyway, myself and Chris went to Sunderland. Honestly, you’ve heard of ghost towns. You’ve never seen a ghost town until you’ve walked around Sunderland city centre at 9:30. My word. Even the pigeons were hobbling about, looking like they had hangovers.

I couldn’t bear the thought of being in Sunderland for any time longer than I needed to, so I quickly abandoned the idea of hanging around there for two hours, then queuing in the baking sun. Instead, I bit the bullet, paid myself and Chris into the car boot at the inflated price. Damn them. their cunning plan worked.

Unfortunately, there seemed to be more stalls selling absolute garbage than music, which, to me was a little saddening, although I did come home with quite a few CDs, a Zodion SS6 photocell for a streetlight, and a cassette tape for a format I don’t actually own…

Ah yes, the humble DCC. I remember, as a kid, I picked up a copy of Q magazine from 1993, that had a huge article on DCC. I mainly got it because it had a free CD on the front. As I’d only picked up my first CD player the Christmas before, any type of cheap CD to expand my music library was always welcome. Though, as a snotty teenager, the articles went more in-depth than what I liked. I think I’d only stopped getting comics at that point. Still, I was interested to see if this format ever made it into the wild. It didn’t, DCC sank without a trace (at least in your everyday consumer spectrum anyway) and I never ever saw one for sale.

That is, until I bought the one above. the guy had three for sale, one unwrapped. He’d clearly, at the time, bought these by accident, thinking they were just standard cassette tapes. I like to think he’s been carrying these to boot sales every weekend since the 90s and this is the first time he’s sold one. Probably not though.

Fast forward a week. If I haven’t bored you already, the weekend was quiet. I didn’t actually go anywhere. Mainly because I couldn’t. My guts were in absolute tatters for 4 days. No idea what caused it, It was a slightly toned down version or what happened to me when I was about 17. I’ll not go into it, but trust me, if I needed to go to a fancy dress party, I could have swallowed some gravel and went as a shotgun. Not nice at all.

Tuesday was the day when I finally mustered up the courage to leave the house safe in the knowledge that I wouldn’t be splattering my jeans. I’d made it my resolution to visit every charity shop in Hartlepool. The first stop was The YMCA shop, where I picked up probably my 2nd best purchase of the day… “No Sound Without Silence” by The Script. Not the type of album I’d normally see myself go for, but when I was in Amsterdam a few years ago, it was the only CD that was played on the coach, and I ended up liking it. Not enough to pay any decent money for, but for 50p, I couldn’t go wrong. It also has the theme to “Mrs Brown’s Boys Da Movie” on it… Terible film, great theme. Sorry.

I travelled from one end of the town to the other. While I was waiting for the bus, I heard a young chav lass shout “Fuck off” to her child. The child was below full speaking age, and was happily gibbering away to his mother Her response… “Oh, yeah, yeah. I had one of those, but the wheels fell off”. I had to laugh.

Towards the end of the day, I headed to the town. In one of the charity shops that shall remain nameless. A lad was looking at some CDs, went to the counter with 3 CDs, but the manager saw he was holding 4 just a minute earlier. Unknown to her, he’d put one back, but it was too late. She’d asked to check in the bag he was carrying. Well. You should have heard it. Not from him, but his mother, who was elsewhere in the store.

“Are you the manager? What’s your head office number? I’ll be reporting this! Do you know how much I spend in here? You didn’t apologise for looking in there”

There were so many things wrong with her argument. Now I know a little about customer services, after being in a role like this, but at the end of a telephone.

Point number 1. You can report staff all you want to a head office. If they’re double checking to make sure that stock hasn’t been stolen, then they’re always going to side with the member of staff. That’s your job. Point number 2. Shops are shops. If you’re offended by someone doing their job, then fuck off. Don’t come back. Don’t buy products from them ever again. If you dropped down dead tomorrow, the charity won’t fold. They won’t be looking out for you, as they stand underneath a big “TO LET” sign with a key in the shutters. No, ther people will buy stuff.

I did feel sorry for the manager behind the counter. I just rolled my eyes, as the complaints echoed out of the store and down the street. It’s probably water off a ducks’ back, but still.

Sorry, I went off on more of a ran than I intended there. I just hate rude people. Anyway you’ll notice that the Script CD was only the 2nd best purchase of the day. I’m sure you’re dying to know the best….

A keyboard. Yes, one of those things that you type into. One of the stores had a plethora of keyboards dumped under the CDs. Now, these were dusty old things. It was clear to see that there was a nice Dell keyboard underneath all of the tat. It looked practically brand new, but with the dust, and a very small amount of key wear.

Now, some places state that keyboards have more bacteria on them than toilet seats. I’ve not looked into that statement in any great detail, but it’s always had me a little wary over 2nd hand keyboards, but at £1.75, this was too good to miss. the knife didn’t come with it, by the way, it was just a make-shift key puller.

It had occurred to me, while approacting the wrought iron gates and gravel driveway or Mercuryvapour Towers, that this keyboard was probably hiding something. Why was it practically unused? Off came the keys, aaaaand….

Oh holy Christ! What the fuck is that? My god, I’d just gotten over a stomach infection, it looked very much like I was on course for another one. I have no idea what this stuff was. These Dell keyboards have drain holes, so thankfully, whatever it was only got caught under the F keys. Out came the Cillit Bang. The smell coming from the muck was ungodly. At a guess, from the colour and the smell, I’d have to say it was vomit, but I’ll never know. After an hour of scrubbing / spraying / wiping down with antibacterial stuff., it came up looking absolutely brilliant, and I can confirm that it actually fully works, because I’ve been typing on it for the entirety of this post!

Something for nothing…. a “free” mouse…

I’ve always been one for a bargain, so when I see an offer that’s clearly too good to be true on somewhere like facebook, I’m a sucker, and I just have to have it. Well, that’s a complete lie. This is the first of these I’ve ever done, but who knows? Maybe there’ll be more. I doubt it.

Before anyone complains I’m jumping on some type of sponsorship bandwagon, I’m not. In fact, I’m not even going to name the site I got this from. Nobody gets free adverts from me. I’ll tell you, but only if you’re really interested.

Right, so, onto this free mouse then. Way back on 6th December I saw a post on Facey B for a free mouse. Just pay shipping from the US to the UK, all of $9.99. OK, it wasn’t free, I’d never heard of this website, I’d signed up to it using my “spam name”, I’d accidentally got my address wrong while ordering, and the site was saying that due to the amount of orders, it could take 3-5 weeks. Oh, well, this is going to turn up then, isn’t it?

I’d genuinely forgotten about it, but exactly 4 weeks to the day since I ordered it, there was a knock on the solid oak doors of Mercuryvapour Towers, and a parcel from Taiwan. A very flimsy package, consisting of a plastic bag, a zip-lock bag, some bubble wrap and the mouse. I’d show you the packaging, but I’ve lobbed it, but I was very, very surprised that it made it here in one piece.

Upon first inspection, it didn’t feel too bad It’s covered almost entirely in that “soft-feel” stuff, except for the part where your thumb goes, that’s just normal dimpled plastic. There seems to be some type of scribbled circuit design with a swirl in the middle, and the letters “JWFY”. The cable is braided red and black, but nothing special.

What does it look like when plugged in?

Clicky Bigger

A mouse of many colours. I’ve never been a fan of LED-for-the-sake-of-it. RGB gaming and all of that type of crap can go suck a bag of disks. An LED simply for decoration is a waste of the world’s finite resources. I long for the days of beige keyboards, and beige PCs, where they’re heard, and never seen. Now they’re silent disco-balls, and the peripherals are no different.

The mouse is no exception. I’m not going to break it open, but I’d guess there’s 4 RGB LEDs in there, cycling infinitely through a range of colours. The underside is, as you’d expect… plain, with no model number or similar, just a patent number…

Onto the big question… how does it feel? Actually, not too bad. It moves nicely on a mouse pad. The usual features you’d expect from a gaming mouse are present. Backwards + Forwards browser buttons, mouse sensitivity button.

There’s one thing, after an hour of use, that is stopping me from liking this (and the fact I already have a gaming mouse that’s not near as garish as this), and its the mouse buttons. I have small hands, with short stumpy fingers, so this is less of a problem for me, but if you have long fingers, this mouse will give you PAIN. The ends of the buttons are incredibly sharp.

The photo doesn’t quite do justice how bad these are, but honestly, you’ll need to take a file to those bad lads before using it for any period of time. I just caught it while typing that last sentence and had to look to see if I drew blood. Makes me wonder about the legality of the safety marks on the underside of this thing. I mentioned the flimsy packaging it came in. After feeling those buttons, I’m surprised it never cut straight through it.

OVerall, this is a *really* entry level gaming mouse. The free promotion for these has ended, and the site is selling them for $15. they have another design of “free” mouse still available, but you can almost guarantee it’ll be the same circuit board in a slightly different case. For those of you who know which site I’m talking about and are still waiting on their mice, you will eventually get it.

Oh, and a quick thing about the “Spam Name”… If you sign up for a promotion that offers you free stuff, and you think the company are going to sell your details (no company gives something away for nothing!), just change your name slightly when signing up. I call myself “Jay”. That way, if you ever receive anything with that name, and it’s not your “freebie”, it can go straight in the bin without being opened!

‘Running through Russia” is a joke of a game…

Or rather, it’s a “joke game”.

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a fan of Steam, the PC gaming “platform”, for want of a better word. I’ve made no secrets about it, leading to many a good long argument with old work colleagues (“DOWN WITH STEAM!”), however, there was one game that caught my eye, thanks to an article that popped up on some facebook group, and as you should have worked out by now, it’s name is “running through Russia”

Firstly, onto the gameplay…. Jump. Avoid bears. Collect bottles.

Secondly…. er, everything else. At the start, I mentioned it’s a joke game, because that’s exactly what it is, and the author actually states this in the opening screen. It feel like it’s been knocked up in half an hour, as the first tutorial in some really badly written game editor. No effort has been spared with this one.

Maybe it’s a two-fingers up at Steam’s policy on indie games or achievements, I don’t know, but it’ll be difficult to find a game where you unlock so many achievements (4,096 of them) for doing so little.

Every time you jump, (which is the whole premise of the game), you unlock an achievement. Jump 10 times, 10 achievements. as you can see from the screenshot above, they were streaming in. All you need to do is jump over 4,000 times, and you’ve unlocked the achievements.

The game has progressed since its initial release to add some “skill” element (collect 10 bottles in 1 run, etc). Not sure why these were added, as they’re also extremely easy, and if you do decide to play to unlock all of the achievements, you’ll inevitably get them anyway.

In conclusion…

Is it worth the 63p I paid for it? No.
Would I recommend buying it? Unless you like watching steam achievements pop up every second, no.
Do I feel like I’ve wasted 102 minutes of my life unlocking all of the achievements? Absolutely. But then, I spent 117 minutes of my life watching Ant-man at the pictures.

My Amiga’s gooey feet…

I’m sure you’re all wondering what progress I’ve made on getting my Amigas back up and running. Well, I can’t find the power supplies, so that’s not happening at the moment.

Something I’ve found very strange though is that the little rubber feet on the A600 have literally turned to a sticky white liquid, leaving a residue on everything they touch (oh, grow up!).

Take this really rare and expensive “Sandpiper’s Greatest Hits” record for example.

That’s not paint. That’s actual;ly the result of leaving the A600 on it for a small amount of time. So, is this a common thing with these feet? Due to their now squishy and incredibly sticky nature, it’s not possible to remove them cleanly. I don’t think the A1200 is affected.

Anybody know if replacements are available? And the best way to remove them without getting sticky white stuff everywhere? (I knew a lady who wanted a book on double entendres, so I gave her one.)

Amiganuts! POWER!

Today, I saved the life of my Amiga 1200. And I’m slightly relieved.

I’ve typed on here several times about my love of the Amiga 1200, the computer I received on Xmas Day 1993. But what do I mean about saving its life? I removed the battery. Yep, that’s it. I took the battery out. “Hang on”, says both of the Amiga aficionados reading this, “The Amiga didn’t have a battery”. Well, mine did, because I bought a memory expansion which also shipped with a real-time clock, and obviously, a battery backup for it.

Back in 2007, I dragged my Amiga out for a quick play, to see if a problem with the video circuitry had fixed itself in the 10 years it had been in storage. Unsurprisingly, it hadn’t and my screen was still just a jumbled mess. OH WELL. Back in the cupboard it went.

Years went by, and that cupboard fell pretty much out of action. Certain room reorganisations, and knowing there wasn’t much stuff in that particular cupboard meant it wasn’t really accessible anymore. But my Amiga was safe in storage.

Fast forward to 2013. Dave Jones, aka EEVBlog, posted a video about an old Archimedes computer he’d been sent. The video was going great, until he’d opened it up and found that the RTC battery had leaked, completely eating away at most of the circuitry, including the ROM sockets and keyboard connections, turning the machine into a beautiful, yet pricey paperweight. My heart sank. I knew my Amiga had what looked like the same battery, and although that machine was older, it wasn’t MUCH older, and the clock battery in my Amiga hadn’t been changed since I installed the expansion board in 1995, pushing it up to 22 years. That thing must have been a goner.

I spoke to Daddykins about something random, and I mentioned about my Amiga and leaking batteries. I was surprised to find the cupboard now slightly more accessible. Enough to squeeze an arm in, and pull out an Amiga, anyway. Maybe he’d realised I was right, and the little Miggy was worth saving!

I precariously opened the underside door on the machine to see what grotty state the board was in…. Aaand.

Not a speck of corrosion. And yes, I’d taken the battery out before I’d taken this, but it was still in there, and came out perfectly shiny.

So, my Amiga might live to fight another day. If I can get that graphics issue fixed.

I have much more to say about this fantastic machine, so stay tuned for some more inane rambling shortly… Bet you can’t wait.