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
11 RANDOMIZE TIMER
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$="" then goto 60
62 CLS:LOCATE 1,1
65 for d=0 to 21
70 for x=0 to 10000
71 next x
72 print "REACTION! REACTION! REACTION! REACTION! REACTION! REACTION!"
80 NEXT D
90 FOR X = 0 TO 20000
100 NEXT X
110 CLS
120 PRINT "THE IDEA OF THIS GAME IS TO STOP THE COUNTER AT THE LOWEST"
130 PRINT "NUMBER POSSIBLE. YOU CAN DO THIS BY PRESSING ANY KEY!"
140 PRINT "SOUND EXCITING? WELL.. NOT EXACTLY, BUT SOMEONE LIKED"
150 PRINT "THE AMIGA VERSION I WROTE! (2 YEARS AFTER RELEASE I"
160 PRINT "RECEIVED AN EMAIL!)"
170 PRINT "ANYWAY, GET READY WITH THAT KEYBOARD AND";:COLOR 11,0,0:PRINT" BE PREPARED!"
180 PRINT:PRINT "PRESS ANY KEY TO BEGIN"
190 IF INKEY$="" 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.

p42

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.

p43

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.

People of ZX Spectrum land!

I’ve been going through some old tapes, and found the following (rather knackered) recording. I have no recollection which game it’s from, but if you do, I’d appreciate it if you let me know!

[UPDATE 10/2/2014]
Poot, 28 comments and 160+ downloads of the file and still no further forward! I’ll keep searching. Thanks all for the help so far though!

[UPDATE 19/11/2014]
Added this to the Spectrum 4 Ever Facebook group, on the off-chance someone knows what it is. To answer questions, yes, the tape is knackered. It would have been a recording taken directly from my Speccy+’s Ear socket, into a cheap “slimline” tape recorder. Probably running of batteries, I can’t remember.

My first few days with the QPAD MK-80

… and this, I promise, will be my last post on the matter. It’s been several days since I brought home my latest toy, the afore-mentioned mechanical keyboard, and I have to say I’m really liking it. It’s supposed to be a gaming keyboard, but that’s not really the reason I bought it. I just wanted something that actually felt decent when I typed.

Admittedly, this isn’t the first mechanical keyboard I’ve used or owned. Back in the late 90s, I was given an old PC that came with some bits and bobs, including possiblt the oldest keyboard known to man. I swear, I was expecting bits of typewriter to be stuck to it. It was so old, that the F keys were down the left hand side of the keyboard. It was so old that I can’t find a picture of it. Photography probably wasn’t invented back thenIt was also switch controlled, but unfortunately, some of the keys were knackered. It was OK to type on, but a few of the keys were unresponsive, and I eventually gave up on it. It kept me in supplies of small springs for ages. Years after, I was still standing on them with bare feet. Nasty.

Anyway, I digress, and I go back to my review. I’ve settled on typing with it really rather quickly. For those of you who couldn’t be bothered or have “forgotten” to watch the video, it’s got Cherry MX Blue switches. There are many different type of switches out there, but you’ll need to find these out for yourself. I doubt I’ll have the money to invest in other keyboards in the coming years, so unless some kind companies want to send me “samples” of their keyboards, then this’ll be the only review you’ll be getting!

So, functionality. Well, it’s not exactly feature rich as far as some gaming keyboards go. Pass-through connectors for 2xUSB, audio and microphone jack. The USB ports are handy, I can never have enough of those near the front of my PC, so two more is an added bonus. The pass-through connectors… meh, I can live without those for now. My PC case has mic / headphone jacks on the front, so I don’t really need those at the moment. I’ll probably end up getting a new computer in a couple of months, so maybe there’ll be a use for them then. Seeing as this is a gaming keyboard, however, there are absolutely no other gaming features. The blue LEDs, however, have four levels of brightness. When I first discovered the LEDs were blue, I was just that little tad disappointed. Some of you may remember that my streetlighting interest came about partly because I could see a blue halo around mercury streetlights. About 25 years later, I actually worked out that was because my eyes actually saw blue light as slightly out of focus. Thankfully, the light levels range from just comfortable, so it looks like the writing on the keycaps is blue, to an intense sheen of blueness, that wouldn’t be out of place on a hospital toilet ceiling to stop the smack rats going in and shooting up.

The blue LEDs are also included in the design of the status lights. Ironically, this is a gaming keyboard, and if you switch them all on, they look like the highest score I’ve made, in pretty much every game I own…

BLue LEDs on my keyboard
BLue LEDs on my keyboard

… and also the mount of actual readers who have managed to sift through this pile of absolute blithering crap. Ahem.

Actual feel of the keyboard is really nice. I’ve been asked if it’s improved my typing. Probably, but then I’ll get to the FAQs in a sec. The feel is that rubberised plastic, on the outer of the board, and on the wrist rest (which yes, I did manage to get fixed to the keyboard!) Best way to describe it is like those sightly up-market “Smooth grip” Bic biros. Although it doesn’t feel too bad, there’s a disadvantage, and that’s every bit of grease on your fingers shows up like some kind of shiny skidmark, and every bit of dead skin that you shed goes into the grooves, meaning that’s only been here for 3 days and it already looks rather unpleasant.

It's a mucky keyboard!
It’s a mucky keyboard!

Of course, shedding skin is a human way of life, and I’d much prefer it if I’d shed moob fat, but due to the matt black nature of the keyboard, and the fact it has a little groove running around the edge of it, I wouldn’t be too surprised if, in a couple of months time, that little groove will look like a re-enactment of the Battle of The Somme, but with extra blood, sweat, shit piss and Iron Brew… OK, I jest, but that brings me to another possible downside, there are no drain holes!. I’ve always got a glass of “water” next to me when I’m at my computer, and many times there’s been a bit of a close shave, or there’s been actual spillage. The last few cheap keyboard I’ve had, have had drain holes in the bottom, should the worst happen, but this doesn’t appear to have theme. Maybe it’s because of the hundred or so switches, LEDs and other tomfoolery crammed inside here, but I have a feeling it’ll be only one small mistake with a beverage and Pratfall Percy sat here, and it’ll all be over. Quite literally. Of course, now that I actually don’t drink as much, there’s much less chance of that happening.

Right, sod it, I’m nearly up to 1000 words. I’ve been asked two questions about the keyboard. It’s nearly 1 in the morning, and I’ve got to be up for work. So, I promise, I’ll break my promise and conclude tmorrow, or whenever I can be bothered. Bet you can’t bloody wait.

So, your Sandisk Sansa MP3 player is quiet…

Cor, two posts in two days. I’m really spoiling you. Well, actually, this is mainly just information for others who have experienced the same problem as me, or are thinking of getting one of these. This is the one I have, it’s listed as the “Sandisk Sansa Clip Zip”, and it looks a little like this…

8754001871_625cc42695_o

Well, in fact it looks a lot like this, because that’s actually it. Now, I bought it a couple of weeks ago, and have suffered with the device having very, very little volume. I happened to be in may favourite chatroom, when Marko (who has posted a few comments on here too) mentioned, in passing that he had one.

[20:18:42] [Marko] I remember showing my mum and dad my little sansa clip mp3 player
[20:19:19] [Scribbler] Haha, I’ve just got one of those sansa clips
[20:21:38] [Scribbler] I need something to make it louder
[20:21:44] [Marko] louder?!
[20:21:52] [Marko] did you set the region to “world”
[20:22:10] [Marko] if you have it set to europe, it’ll be quiet
[20:22:15] [Marko] due to EU regulations

Well, I rushed downstairs as fast as my milky-white legs could carry me. I remember it asking me the region, but thought that was just for the radio, which I’ll probably never use anyway. I negotiated the menu and couldn’t find an option for that. However, I did a factory reset on it (Settings > System Settings > Restore), and got the option for “Europe” and “Rest of World”.

Naturally, I selected RoW, and found out I could then crack the volume up until ELEVEN. Problem solved, and I shall have a happy bus journey listening to “Crap From the Past” until my ears bleed.

EDIT: 14/7/2013 Yeah, I’m trying to sort out the issues with the photo. Turns out Flickr didn’t like me marking all of my stuff private, and even though this image is now public, it’s still not showing up. I presume it’ll fix itself. As a sidenote, I installed Rockbox onto the device, and it’s made it a million times more functional, to the point I can even play Doom on the bus, if I fancy squinting over a 1-inch display.

EDIT: 21/7/2013 Duh. Took me a week to work out that, if I’m marking a photo as no longer public, it’s going to change its filename. Image restored, and sometime, I don’t know why I bother.