Amiganuts…

Cor, (almost) three posts in three days. I must be spoiling you! OK, so the last two weren’t of particular interest to anyone other than those that has a failed NAS drive, but they still count.

I’m happy to report that this one won’t be of interest to anyone either. Sorry about that.

I’ve spent the last few hours on this dreary Sunday morning, by listening to music. Nothing special there, I admit. This is, however, Amiga music. I’ve spent the last few hours going through some of my old favourite Amiga MODs. Now, for those of you who don’t know what a MOD is, or think it’s something you put on an in-game weapon, it’s short for music module, and it was an extremely popular way of making music via computer, using something called a tracker. My writer’s block is creeping up on me already, and I currently can’t describe what a tracker is (except for a delicious cereal bar), but if you ever played a game on an Amiga, Atari ST, and certainly some of the consoles, you can bet it was composed on a tracker. I’ll let Wikipedia tell you if you want to know any more.

I must admit, I’m not much of a musician. I couldn’t carry a note in a bucket, yet still, I spent most of my last school years playing about with OctaMED, ProTracker and various others, knocking out daft little tunes. This was before the days of the internet, and certainly before mass storage was available, therefore, most of my MODs were only heard by a few people. I’d often give Amiga formatted disks to friends with them on, and then think no more of them. Surely, I’d *always* have a copy, and will *always* be able to listen to them. No. Pretty much all of my Amiga data disks have been destroyed. I have a couple of game disks hanging around, but almost any work I’d done on the Amiga is long gone.

A few weeks ago, I discovered I’d actually lost all contact with Wayne, the old school friend who I mentioned a few times on here a few years ago. My only contact with him was through email, and even then, I’d not heard from him for a couple of years. Thanks to the Virgin/NTL email fuckup, I dropped him an email to see if he’d been affected. Turns out he had, and his email address is no longer valid. I know I’d sent him a LOAD of my stuff back in the day. Gutted, I turned to Facebook, to see if any of my other school mates may have had a copy. It drew a blank

Sadly, yet amazingly, the only one I can think of that survives, is one of the very first I ever did, and one of the ones I’m most ashamed of. I never gave it a proper name, but it is heavily based on “mod.fairlight” – if you were lucky enough to get the Amiga Format version of OctaMED on the coverdisk, you’ll recognise this as the demo track that came with it. Before the internet, I had to bastardize what little music I had, in order to learn the program. I was lucky enough to have borrowed a sampler from the afore-mentioned Wayne, which allowed me to record samples and fit them to the music. For this particular MOD, the vocal samples were mainly from a radio talk show, hosted by a person with the initials “TD”, and this is all it was ever known to me…. td.mod

Computers have moved on, I have went through dozens of hard drives, yet still, this td.mod, like a bad penny just simply won’t go away. Chris came round, and I played it to him again after at least 16 years of not hearing it. He couldn’t believe I still had it. It created an instant ear-worm, to the point he was quoting “Salted-salted-salted peanuts?” to me, some 7 days later.

It is, with the least bit of pleasure, I bring you, one of the most painful things to hit human ears.. here it is… TD.MOD!

And that wasn’t even my original point of the post. It would appear my brain got sidetracked about the fact that everything I have ever done is complete shite…

Hard drive woes 2012, part 1…

Good lord, I bet you thought I’d fallen off the face of the earth. 2 months without an update. I’m afraid I’ve had another one of those “writers block” periods, where anything I write down blog-wise is just got enough to meet with my high standards of complete and utter tripe. Today, I shall strive to meet, nay even exceed my own lofty demands, as I begin to tell you, and explain in minute detail the problems I’ve currently been having when it comes to hard drives, or more exacter, my 2Tb LaCie Network Space 2 NAS drive.

To put it simply, a NAS drive is a network drive. A little box, whose sole purpose is to sit at one end of an ethernet connection, and serve me data.

“It’s easier than adding an internal drive to my computer”, I thought.

“It’ll be more convenient than leaving my computer on all the time”, I thought.

“It’ll be fun”, I thought.

To be fair, it was all of those three things, until Tuesday night. I’d been out to the Steak club. It’s not a club, but you can buy steaks for cheap. It was delicious. I returned home, and tried to access the drive through the network. Nothing. Not even the smallest hint of a sausage. Well, there was, because I could “ping” the drive on the network, but couldn’t access anything else. Not even the power button was responsive

“Joy”, I thought, as I ripped the power cable out of the back. It was then, when my nice little network drive, became nothing more than a solid, black brick. It would do one of two things, either start flashing red/blue after a few seconds, or slowly flash blue. I’ve left the drive in both of these modes for 24 hours, but still, nothing to report. Of course, just like any tech savvy idiot, I whinged on Twitter…

Bah. Looks like the NAS has given up the ghost. flashing red/blue light on Network Space 2 2Tb? Terminal?

Their reply was a little optimistic…

@mercuryvapour Hi, if its rhythmical red/blue/red/blue that means the automatic backup is in progress.

Yup, I checked the manual, and there it was, the flashing blue/red. I was almost excited, until I realised I’d left the drive in this state for 24 hours. I got back to them…

It is blue/red. Starts about 10 seconds after switch-on, been flashing like this for 24 hours, no other response from drive

I sat, and waited for what would hopefully be a nice, long list of steps I could get around this…

If the drive doesn’t work, you should get in contact with our support guys to investigate whats going on with it.

YE…. oh. You could almost hear my heart deflate, as I stared at the flashing box. It’s crypt of data, cuttently sealed, in a plastic shell, designed by Neil Poulton. the whole purpose of this blog entry is to see if anyone else has had the same problem, if they got around it, and if they avoided having to contact technical support…

THINGS I KNOW:-

If I need to crack it open, There’s just one drive in the box, so that should mean there’s no RAID shit to worry about. It’s either in ext3 or ext4 in XFS format (EDIT: SEE note below), which all versions of Linux should support. there are 10 partitions…

A couple of days before its death, I pulled the logfiles off it, though I doubt they’d give me any insight as to what’s wrong with it, they’ll at least give me some information on how the drive lived before it dies.

Line 57: May 26 23:24:29 NetworkSpace2 [DEBUG resource.handle_event@262] Updating [Disk 4 - /dev/sda - enabled]
	Line 60: May 26 23:24:29 NetworkSpace2 [DEBUG resource.set@460] Setting config value unicorn.storage.volume.root_device to [/dev/sda2]
	Line 65: May 26 23:24:30 NetworkSpace2 [DEBUG resource.handle_event@262] Updating [Volume 1 - /dev/sda9 - enabled]
	Line 66: May 26 23:24:30 NetworkSpace2 [DEBUG resource.handle_event@262] Updating [Volume 2 - /dev/sda8 - enabled]
	Line 67: May 26 23:24:30 NetworkSpace2 [DEBUG resource.handle_event@262] Updating [Volume 3 - /dev/sda7 - enabled]
	Line 68: May 26 23:24:31 NetworkSpace2 [DEBUG resource.handle_event@262] Updating [Volume 4 - /dev/sda6 - enabled]
	Line 69: May 26 23:24:31 NetworkSpace2 [DEBUG resource.handle_event@262] Updating [Volume 5 - /dev/sda5 - enabled]
	Line 70: May 26 23:24:31 NetworkSpace2 [DEBUG resource.handle_event@262] Updating [Volume 6 - /dev/sda4 - enabled]
	Line 71: May 26 23:24:31 NetworkSpace2 [DEBUG resource.handle_event@262] Updating [Volume 7 - /dev/sda3 - enabled]
	Line 72: May 26 23:24:32 NetworkSpace2 [DEBUG resource.handle_event@262] Updating [Volume 8 - /dev/sda2 - enabled]
	Line 74: May 26 23:24:32 NetworkSpace2 [DEBUG resource.handle_event@262] Updating [Volume 9 - /dev/sda10 - enabled]
	Line 75: May 26 23:24:33 NetworkSpace2 [DEBUG resource.handle_event@262] Updating [Volume 10 - /dev/sda1 - enabled]

I feel I’m going to have fun and games with this…

EDIT: The fun and games, of which there were none of, are described in the post following this one. I’m not up on my Linux filesystems, so I’m not sure if there’s a big difference between what I originally said (ext2/3) or XFS. It may be possible to read XFS partitions in Windows, but it’s probably easier, quicker and less time consuming to download a live Linux CD and go nuts with it from there.

The Speccy turns 30!

Happy birthday to what must be Sir Clives’ greatest invention, the ZX Spectrum. Originally rubber-keyed and with 16K of memory (I’ve written longer blog posts!), the Speccy went on to be one of the largest selling computers during the 1980s, and to a lesser extent, the 1990s.

But, you already knew that, and as Glen suggested on Farcebook, I should write a bog about it. I’ll base it around my own memory, and quite an extensive one at that.

I remember Daddykins coming in from work with a huge box under his arm. It was meant to be for my upcoming 5th birthday, but seeing as I’d already seen it, I was given it early. Imagine my excitement. I was fascinated by Ceefax (RIP) at such an early age, and to be able to have my very own computer at that age was a dream come true. It was probably this, that made my parents get me the computer. I’d received it with a load of “educational” games such as ‘Learn to Read III’, “Alphabet Games”, “Magnets”, “Make a Chip” and a number of other games. I could probably name them all, but I’d be here all day, and I’m going to the pub in a few hours, that’s not going to happen.

The first game that was bought for it, came on the same night we’d received it. It was a simple, turn based strategy game called “Viking Raiders“. Daddykins had picked it up from the local newsagents. Imagine that, buying a game the same time you buy a paper…

I’m amazed at such an early age, how much I taught myself about programming, entirely subconsciously. There’d be many times I’d press the Break key and alter games to make them easier. One of these was the afore-mentioned “Alphabet Games”. If you altered one of the lines which contained the graphics of the mouse character and placed it with a load of nonsensical gibberish, you could score a whole load of points more than what you were supposed to. This game also became the first time I had ever experienced tape-tangle. Cassette tapes were never the sturdiest of media, and obviously I know that now, but the noises it made when it went funny, and the sight of loose tape everywhere scarred me for a good few months. I remember having to get Daddykins to load my tapes because I was scared I’d break it again. I’m happy to report that the game still worked, and I’d like to know if it still works, except I have no idea where my tapes are.

Next up on the “games bought” list was a compilation… “They Sold a Million“, with Sabre Wulf, Beach HEad, Daley Thompson’s Decathlon and Jet Set Willy. Each of them classic games in their own right. Only two of the games worked properly. Beach Head suffered from bad mastering which meant the Speccy rarely picked up the signal on the tape, and Sabre Wulf suffered some tape damage, though this was several years into owning it. One of my last Speccy memories involve actually fixing the tape and getting it to play only once.

Of course, it wasn’t long after owning the machine that Daddykins started getting interested in it too. He would often spend a night or so using it to type in program listings from magazines. He also knew friends with Spectrums, and lots of games, therefore our collection of C15s was started.

The permanent home was in the kitchen. It started off on a little white B+W TV, (you know the type if you were a child of the 80s), eventually, the TV was upgraded to a portable colour Saisho variant. This was where I spent many happy days during my childhood…

334949582_786719d16d_o

Of course, my time with the spectrum was not all fun and games. At some point, during 1987 / 1988, I’d discovered the brilliant colour effects you could get if you pulled the joystick port out of the back while the system was on. I wanted to show this to one of my friends at the time, William. He came over, and I said “Watch this!”.. On went the system, out went the joystick port, flash went the funky colours. He seemed stunningly unimpressed, yet I enjoyed the light show. I’d do what I did many times, and unplug the Speccy to reset it. I did this, and…. garbage. Instead of getting the familiar RAM test (black bars, red lines), all I got was yellow garbage on the screen… another power cycle, another set of garbage. I could have cried. In fact I probably did. I was good at crying back then, as Chad often points out on here.

What was I going to do without my beloved computer? Thankfully, Chad’s parents step in and offer my parents their old Commodore 16 while my Speccy was away for repair. Around the same time, Chad also received a Spectrum 128K. It was the superior version of the 48K I had, but with an extra toast rack on the side. I’ve always wanted to own one of those particular machines, but as they were as rare as rocking horse shite (his was the only one I ever saw “in the flesh” for want of a better phrase) I suppose I never will. This meant that the rest of my childhood were spent playing Soccer Boss with his brother, Scott, and receiving dodgy C90s filled with the latest games which I’d never be able to afford, and being mocked by Chad because the cassette tapes I used stunk of cheese. No, they really did.

So, it’s 2012, 30 years ago today, people would have been queuing up to get their hands on Mr. Sinclair’s rubbery offerings. 30 years on, I’m proud to still be a Speccy owner, and although I don’t use my Spectrum anymore, I still have it, and will never part with it. Unfortunately, too many Spectrums will have met the same fate as this one…

1873729975_354e820b44_o

Here’s to you, Clive Sinclair, and of course Daddykins, who also shares his birthday with the machine. Happy birthday Dad!

I bet you thought I’d got lost…

You know, it’s always the same, I have a big long spell of blogging, and then I don’t do anything for two weeks. Oops. This wasn’t intended, but it seems I did the same last year, after the dizzying heights of the Berlin trip. Oh well.

Even for a British summer, the weather has been truly appaling. There hasn’t a day gone by where it’s not absolutely hoyed down at some point, or been so dull that it’s not even worth sticking your foot out of the door, never mind going around and doing stuff. Ever since I’ve came back from Paris, I have had absolutely nothing to look forward to… I tried to change this by arranging a trip to Countdown for me and Chris, but seeing as he has no holidays left, this has fallen through, leaving me once again, staring to the inky void, where the only light at the end of the tunnel is the reflection from the bottom of a beer glass. Even worse, is that it would have been my last chance to see it under its current guise.

On a lighter, and much happier note, Wayne has finally got back in touch after 18 months of being silent!! Unfortunately, he missed all of the email I’d sent to him in this time, thanks to NTL/Virgin’s policy of only keeping email on their servers for 90 days, but at least he’s still alive! Coatesy, however, is still radio-silent, and it’s looking less likely that he’ll ever get back in touch.

Christ, this is an amusing entry isn’t it? Laugh-a-bloody-minute.

To make things worse, morale at Employment Palace has hit an all time low. Once again, I can’t go into details, mainly because I’ll end up putting my fist through the monitor. This has depressed me more than anything, I think.

On another note, I’m an organ donor. Or rather, I’ve been for months, but I never bothered mentioning it before. I’m only metioning it now, because I’ve just found an old registration form I meant to send off, but never did. On the back of it, it states “Discuss your wishes with those closest to you, so they know your wishes should the time ever come… I’m sorry, I know whatthey mean, but surely that’s the worst way of putting it, ever? What do they mean by “should”? Do they suddently think I’m immortal, or something?

Ahem. On the subject of death, another reason I’ve not been updating much is the “dying” of Beastbits, my main machine… You may remember a few months ago, the 250Gb drive I had, started clicking, going all weird and just not working in general? Well, I replaced it with a 500Gb drive. And that’s on the way out too. It began with The Click of Death.

Eventually, strange things started happening The drive would disappear from Windows completely, and today, during the reboot, in the BIOS detection it wouldn’t reappear. Nasty. I decided the drive was duff. My curiousity got the better of me, and after a physical power-off, it reappeared.

Now, something was up, and I decided to back everything up to an external HDD. During ther copying process, it halted with a CRC error. Not good. Files were on the bad sectors! Oooooo!

I happened to note the name mentally of the corrupt file. Thankfully, it was just an outdated SQL dump I’ve done from my website, and wasn’t of much use anyway. The rest of the backup passed without a hitch. Everything else copied. For a bit of mirth, I decided to copy the original file I’d had a problem with. It copied first time. To me, this began to sound like something more “logical” than physical.

Soooo, I powered up “Darik’s Boot And Nuke”. I had used this in the past to “fix” the bad sectors on the earlier faulty drive I mentioned. Anyway. I started it on this drive, and it failed. It quit with an error saying that the drive may have bad sectors. Duh.

Fair enough, this wasn’t playing ball, so I grabbed the diagnostic software from the Samsung website. I wasn’t expecting miracles. Still, I ran it, and there they were, the bad sectors…

Goosed.

Fair enough, at least they were official.

I wasted at least 3 hours of my finite time on this planet allowing the disk check to finish. It prompted me to perform a disk erase. Meh. All backed up. It can’t do any harm. After all, these sectors were goosed, so another few hours later, the entire hard drive was erased, and I ran another diagnostic check Now, thanks to that photo, I had the exact location the bad blocks. Imagine my surprise as it skipped over them without a single bit of hesitation.

OK, so unbelievably, the drive was back to its normal self. All of this took place on Monday night, so I formatted the drive while I was at work on Tuesday. I returned home, and copied all of the stuff from the external backup drive onto it. And, tonight (Friday), it has gone back to the original problem of the click of death. Joy!

In a thread on Glens’ forum, I mentioned my problems, and although Crag has a very valid point, it’s still a 100% failure rate. And, I can’t even send it back either, because the only way it will detect bad sectors is obviously after the disk has been in use for a few days after an erase, which means there has to be data on it. And, seeing as I know the sort of ahem… “data” I keep on it, I’d rather not let it out of my sight!