RIP Nick Kamen

Well, it’s not been a good few weeks for losing musical acts who I actually like… We lost Jim Steinman a few weeks ago, and I found out today that we’ve also lost Nick Kamen, who wrote and performed one of my favourite songs “I Promised Myself”.. I first picked up the record when I was in Garmany back in 2007, and I had this to say at the time…

“Another stall sold 7” singles, by far my audio format favourite. I picked “I promised Myself” by Nick Kamen – a song which I’d heard originally in the Hartlepool shopping centre, at about 8AM in the morning before the shops even opened. But that’s a story for another day. I also bought two others which aren’t really worth mentioning, as they were simply ro replace scratched copies of records I already had.”

It just occurred to me that I never told the story of how I heard this song. Right, so I’m going on memories that are *at least* 15 years old, but I remember the main gist of it. As you know, if you’ve followed this blog for over 9 years (well done if you have), that I used to work nights, 3 days on, 3 days off. At rhe end of the 3 days on, it was not unusual for me to have a couple of pints with my fellow work colleagues, and seeing as the local Wetherspoons (which is no longer owned by them), didn’t open at 9, I’d have 45 minutes or so to kill. the shopping centre was next to the afore-mentioned establishment, so this would often see me walk around aimlessly, especially as none of the shops would be open.

One thing that was noticeable, is that the tannoy system was actually audible. It plays the entire time that the shopping centre is open, but it’s normally barely audible by the sound of screaming children, dismayed parents, and all of the other sounds that a shopping centre in a deprived area of the North-East would emit.

Thankfully, as mentioned, it was audible, and I heard this particular song. I’d not heard it before, and insteantly fell in love with it. This was long before the days of Shazam, or even Android (I was probably rocking the world with a (a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_Ericsson_K800i”>K800i back then), but I somehow got enough lyrics for me to google it, and find out the artist.

And… ero, that’s pretty much it. As mentioned, I tracked down the single in Berlin. At some point, I picked up the album on CD, and on 20th February 2016, I picked up the 12″ version. It still amazes me that this song wasn’t a bigger hit than it was, at least here anyway, reaching a measly #50.

In other news, it’s now under a week until I get my second COVID jab. Hopefully things will return to some type of normality, and I can start typing about the crap I’ve found in charity shops again. I bet you all can’t wait for that!

Late Spring snow and early Fall sleet

Well, wasn’t this morning fun? As you’re no doubt aware by the title (which I’m sure I can improve on, but probably won’t), today saw the first heavy snow shower in April for as long as I can remember. Now, snow in this month isn’t that uncommon, but usually it’s just a very brief blast that might last a few minutes, and melt shortly after. Apparently, it was cold elough for it to not even snow, but lay too.

Let’s turn the clock back a few hours. It was 5AM. I’d just finished my weekend late stint at the computer, and was getting prepared for bed. I’d gone for a pee, and noticed the sky was a very weird colour. Sort-of a light grey colour. Although the nights are indeed getting shorter, it was just too early for the sun to be rising. I did a double take, and noticed that the roofs were covered in snow… Yep, it had been snowing, and there was plenty of it too. The cars and the road were covered. Lovely!

Now I’d intended to go to sleep at that point, but I decided not to. I really wanted to see more of this, and get some photos at least. It’s the first time we’d had proper snow for quite a white. We’d had snow earlier on in the year, but…. it wasn’t quite right. It was more hail than snow, and wasn’t that photogenic, if you know what I mean. This was proper snow, the fluffy type, the stuff that piles up on the top of things, sticks to tree branches, and gives everything that wintry, frosty look.

It was definitely the first time I’d seen it since I got the “new” phone with the decent camera, so I decided to break my duck, and actually head out of the gravel driveway for only the second time this year, and the first time for purely a leisure walk. The only other time was Wednesday, as I met up with “somebody”, as he’d ordered some beers and got them delivered to Mercuryvapour Towers.

I’m lucky enough to have a small park area not too far from where I reside, so this was the perfect opportunity to blast out of the camera, At just before 8AM, I donned my coat, and headed off for the first proper “leisure walk” of 2021. I was well aware that the paths were going to be extremely slippery. It appears that the temperatures had dropped again since the snow had fallen, as there was a slight crust of ice forming over the snow. I took no chances, and walked in the middle of the road. The small amount of vehicles that had went through the commoners’ suburban streets had thankfully melted a walkable path. It wasn’t just me who had this idea, as there was another set of footprints oddly going through the middle of the tracks and not actually on them. Surely you might as well have just walked on the path? Oh well. Makes it look like Fred Flintstone’s headed out to get the paper…

It was early, there weren’t going to be many cars about, and if there was, I’d hear them a mile off, crunching through the ice. I was also painfully aware that I hadn’t put my phone on charge for any period of time, therefore it was cooking at about 15%. Considering it was about to take the amout of pictures that it did. For the record, it conked out literally as I got to the front door.

I had a very brief walk through the afore-mentioned park area. As I was taking photos, I had a brief chat to a lady who I hadn’t seen for a good long while – I’m sure I’ve mentioned her in my (unpublished) ramblings, but she’s from the Birmingham area, and used to always get the bus at the same stop as me. The last time she’d seen snow like this, was just after her son was born, and it was just outside Coventry.

There wasn’t that much more to photograph to be fair. The sun was starting to break through the clouds at this point, making way for a typically sunny, if a little chilly, spring day, and just a few hours later, any trace of the snow ever existing was to be confined to memories, and of course, these photos.

On a side note, whenever it snows, I always pile up a little bit to see how long it lasts. I’m not talented or patient enough to make a snowman, but somehow, I managed to accidentally sculpt a silverback gorilla facing away from the camera…

Let’s hope it starts warming up soon, eh?

EDIT: As I’m sure some of you will be wondering (lol, righto), and my usage of the word “fall”, the title of the post comes from the Don Henley song “A Month Of Sundays”. It was the B side to his big hit “The Boys Of Summer”, and also featured on the CD pressing of the album “A Month Of Sundays”, but not the LP pressing. Whenever there’s snow in April, or November, the whole section of that song plays through my head… “Late pring snow and early fall sleet, I held the leather reins in my hand, felt the soft ground under my feet”. It was on the fery first CD album I ever bought and was going to be part of my “10 albums in 10 days” blog, but I never finished it.

More Amiga stuff… Some Gravity Power Levels!

One thing I loved about the Amiga was the creative aspect of it. In fact, I’m sure the first program I loaded up on that fateful Xmas day in 1993, was Deluxe Paint IV. Being able to create your own “stuff” is what set it aside from the 8-bit machines. My main computer of choice during my childhood was the ZX Spectrum. Sure, I could do stuff with it, like write programs and all of that, but loading and saving stuff to tape was a nightmare. It certainly wasn’t convenient, and tape, to me back then, was a commodity not to be wasted. It was precious, and in short supply, and my creations would often get overwritten with other junk, or stuff from the radio.

When my amiga arrived, it opened up a whole new world of possibility and wonderment. No longer did I have to rely on tapes. Disks were faster, (barely) more reliable, larger storage capacity and more plentiful than the much maligned cassette tape.

Of course, fast forward a year, and up pops the hard drive! even faster, definitely more reliable than floppy disks, and I could store almost 300 floppies onto the drive. The posibilities really were endless. I created quite a bit of “stuff” – pictures, music, level designs, and that’s what the below video is about…

Gravity Power was a “covergame” – a free game that came sellotaped to the 50th edition of Amiga Power. I loved playing it with my friend Wayne back in the day. Several months later, an editor got released for it, and myself and Wayne would spend many an afternoon blasting levels out for it. Due to the fact I was at college at the time and had access to the internet, I rounded all of these up and put them on Aminet. Now, thanks to modern technology, I travel back in time to play these levels…. or at least view them in the editor!

Over the coming weeks, I intend to dig a little deeper into what went through my creative mind as a teenager, and just see how embarrassing / awesome it all is. At the end, I tease about some “Worms Directors Cut” levels… that might just be my next video once I get round to filming it!

Pointy thing in my arm…

I hate to drag you away from the excitement that’s been the Amiga posts (Trust me, there’s plenty more to come!) but yesterday was the day of my first COVID jab. Nothing more than that, nothing less. Just mainly for my records, and the fact this begins the 15 week path to freedom. Maybe.

My Amiga drive! It lives!

Today is a joyous day. well, yes, technically, it was yesterday now, but quite unbelieveably, my Amiga drive survived, and I’m over the moon to confirm that it actually works.

I know, over the last few days, I’ve promised some type of fanfare, or some type of great reveal about it. I decided that it would just be the worst thing, that I spent the time setting up a live stream, getting all excited, and finding that the drive didn’t work, or not spin up, or anything like that. Obviously, I’m typing this now, so I can confirm none of this actually happened. But still, I decided it wasn’t worth the risk.

On the off-chance, anyone is here to find out how to convert an A1200 hard drive to a machine readable format, let me give you a quick run-down. Now, unfortunately, despite me slamming the “PrtScr” button for all its worth, I totally forgot that UAE and Dropbox don’t play nicely when it comes to taking screenshots, so sadly, I didn’t get any of the procedure, but it was unbelieveably painless. The one thing to remember is that you *must* run WinUAE as administrator, otherwise the drive will appear with [ACCESS DENIED] next to it.

I initially had a panic about having to set the amount of heads and cylinders, but thankfully, this never materialised. Despite the drive’s age, it still had an automatic config, and WinUAE picked it up correctly. It’s then just a case of creating the image fine, and sitting back while it chugs though.

I was almost certain there was one bad sector on the drive, so I watched with baited breath, as the bar chugged its way across the disk, and evetually to the end. Nothing reported, we were all good to go. I hoped.

I mounted the image, held my breath, and pressed “Start”…

It’s a picture of a street light. I have no idea where this streetlight was (EDIT: See the end of the post). It caused me mto let out the biggest yelp of excitement in a very, very long time. This was the image I chose to display, way back in 1996ish, while my amiga went through its “startup-sequence”. It looks low-quality now, compared to the megapixels of 2021, but back in the day, to have a full colour image showing on your TV was quite a sight to behold. The image is slightly broken, as it turned out I was using the standard non-Commodore / Cloanto ROM that comes with WinUAE. It proved, at least, the drive image worked.

A quick switch over to a better ROM, and oh-my, away we went. This is where I would have left it so many years ago.

Turns out I was slightly wrong in my years, about the last time it booted up. Turns out the last time it was properly used was December 2000 – in one of the first posts I ever did on this site, I slapped this image up… (EDIT: Hopefully I’ll remember to fix this at some point, oops)

I’d forgotten about this, and was surprised to see a webcam image (oddly not mine, an image I saved of a mate and his ex from back in the day), with a timestamp of 2000, then yes, I had flashbacks of connecting a modem to my Amiga’s serial port, then transferring data using the two landline numbers we had back in the day. While this allowed SOME data to come off, the speed, and technical issues meant that I was only able to pull off a few megs of info, nothing close to the funn contents of the drive.

There was also a brief connect of the computer back in the mid 2000s, but this was only for a few minutes, as I’d discovered the graphics failure my Amiga had suffered had got considerably worse. From what I’ve seen, this could be leaky capacitors, but to me, at least, at the time of typing, the value of keeping my Amiga, all lived in the data stored on this drive. My worry about never being able to power it on again, all came from the worry about not seeing what was on here.

Amiga emulaton has came on leaps and bounds since I first heard about UAE – back when its name stood for “Unusable Amiga Emulator” because all it would display is a black screen. It’s 2021 and it’ll play everything I’ve thrown at it, but most importaly, I’ve got my hard drive. I can access everything that was on it. I’ve already got several security copies of the image on servers all around the world (y’know, just in case I was to listen to some .mods during the apocalypse), and the whole thing just feels like the end of a 25-year chapter.

Saying that, it also opens a new one. Granted, now, 240Mb is barely any information at all, but it’s not the size, it’s what you do with it that counts. The next few days will be just exploring the drive, and seeing just exactly what has survived over the years

EDIT: Naaaah. You won’t have believe that I’ve just found, because I can’t believe it either. That image above…. STILL EXISTS on the internet. Now, all I have to go ff was the name, SUNSET.JPG. Not really very descriptive. Tonight, for some unknown reason that’s not even coming to mind, I started doing a Google Maps wander around Los Angeles. I noticed, concidentally, that the lighting columns looked very similar to what was on my Amiga’s startup screen. Just for giggles, I typed into Google Image search “Los Angeles Sunset 1996”. I incremented down the years, and sure enough, when I reached 1992, up came the original image…

So, I feel I absolutely must give credit to the fine folks at the City of Los Angeles Public Works – Bereau of Street Lighting for this almost 30-year-old image, and I hope you don’t mind me using this image for what is, essentially, one man’s lonely deep-dive into his own braincells during a desparately lonely lockdown period. Thank you for keeping it alive.

Cable’s arrived…

Not much of an update on my previous post, but just to say I now have the cable, Mr Amazons dropped it off at my door this morning….

I was going to do the big plugin tonight, but I’d slept like cack last night (can’t deny that part of it was excitement about this bloody cable arriving), so I went to bed straight after work, and went on my weekly lockdown Teams call with The Winnits (my only social interaction this week – I even considered asking Mr Amazons if he wants to talk for a bit, but he’d left the package outside, and he was already halfway down the gravel driveway of Mercuryvapour Towers by the time I got to the massive oak front door).

Therefore, I’ll likely get this all sorted tomorrow (Saturday). Don’t know how I’m going to go about this, whether it’s worthwhile doing any type of livstream for it, after all, the only person that’s going to have any interest on what’s on this bloody drive is me. I don’t know. Naturally, I’ll post my findings on here….

Bricking it, in case I brick it….

Right, let’s start with a post I wrote a couple of nights ago….

Here’s something I never thought would be possible. A blog entry entirely typed on an Amiga. Well, sort of. As you know, I’m a massive fan of the humble Amiga. A love that has never died, despite Amiga being locked away in a cupboard for the past 20 years, and only seeing the light of day several years ago to stop the battery from leaking. It’s always been at the back of my mind that I should do something with it, and I’m so much more closer it’s untrue.

Now you notice above, that although I said that I typed this on an Amiga? Well, it’s a half-truth. I’m typing it on an emulator, but still, everything is there. This is genuine Amigta software, being saved onto a floppy disk (image), which, if this works, will be copied over to a network drive and uploaded to MV. If you’re reading this, I managed to do it. If not, then… erm. wasn’t this a waste of a Tuesday night?

So, anyway, I bet you’re wondering why the sudden interest in the Amiga again after all of these years? I’m sure I’ve mentioned along the years that one of my favourite games was “Arcade Pool” by Team 17. A cracking little top-down pool game, and definitely one of my most played games, especially seeing as it was one of the few games I actually bought from a shop.

Anyway, I was bored on Sunday afternoon. The “Snooker Shootout” had finished, and I fancied something to eat. I popped downstairs, and Daddykins happened to be watching a train video. The background music just happened to be that exact same music used in Arcade Pool! I always thought it was an original composition used especially for the game, but apparently not! It turns out the music used is the “Fig Leaf Rag” by Scott Joplin. Huh!

Well, all of those memories just came flooding back. I just had to play it again. Off I pop to download UAE, I dig out my A1200’s ROM dump which I created back in 1996, and also a disc image of Arcade pool, and I was in AGA enhanced, ball clacking heaven once again.

The fun didn’t stop there, however, as one thing I remembered, was that a while ago, I’d downloaded some disk images, from some old machines that, coincidentally, Team 17 had left over from their Worms development days. If I remember, I’ll insert a link here to where you can find them – there’s a whole video on YouTube. I was surprised to find that the one I tried (an image from an A1200’s hard drive) actually worked! It loaded up, booted, and I could use the machine just like it had been, when it was switched off for the last time some time in the 1990s. In fact, one of the pieces of software stated that it was something like 8,000 days over its 30 day trial period. Ooops.

I played with it for a bit, got bored, and seeing that it was only a copy of the image, I decided to just “wipe” it, and install Workbench 3.1 on it. Something I hadn’t done since I got my Amiga hard drive some time around 1994, early 1995.

You know, this has got me in one of those memory rabbit holes. It must have been after Christmas 1994, but can’t have been much after. Daddykins and I had been down to a shop in Leeds to get the drive. I’ve got conflicting memories of having my CB radio in the car with me, something I got for Xmas 1994, but I also remember getting this HDD for my birthday that year, which is before Xmas. It was also the first time I heard “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman” by Bryan Adams. I remember it being months before I’d heard it again, and apparently it was on general release in April of 1995, so it must have been before then. Dunno. If only Google was tracking my every move back then. I might have still had a record of it!

Anyhoo, that was almost a post on its own. Back to my experimenting. It turns out that I couldn’t properly format this disk image. Amusingly, the disk image was damaged, so it wouldn’t format properly. It’s the first time I’ve had a physically damaged disk image that couldn’t be fixed by a format!

Yeeeeah, well it went on for a couple of more paragraphs without not really saying anything else, and I’m back typing this into lowly old WordPress. Such a come-down. I’m happy it worked though. There were a couple of keymap challenges on the way – despite installing the GB keymaps, it still gave me all of the settings for the US, and I had to change them manually. I forgot that was a thing. Also, the # key seems to have vanished. Anyway, onto the main part of the post…. the HARD DRIVE!

Yes, I mentioned that my Amiga’s been sat in a dusty cupboard for many years now. Tonight, I pulled it out of its cupboard, and ripped the plattery goodness from its deep underbelly.

There’s a date code of April 94 which would coincide with what I thought. The next step is wiring it up The drive is a Conner CFN250A, though I’m sure you can work that out from the pic above. Apparently it’s just IDE, so I’ve literally just ordered a cable set from Amazon. Could it be money down the kermit, or am I going to spend the weekend wallowing in so much nostalgia, the grey hairs in my beard will retract? You’ll have to wait and see…