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 tomorrow, or whenever I can be bothered. Bet you can’t bloody wait.

EDIT 7TH aUGUST 2019: Today was the day that this trusty keyboard was finally put out of commission. There were certain thigs that were going wrong with it, such as the keys doubling up, so certain words ended up looking likke tthis. While I could have went withanother Cherry MX board, I decided to go with the Logitech… something or other. The box is downstairs so I can’t see the model. The QPAD, was however, the nicest keyboard I’ve ever owned.

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: If, by some chance, you’ve picked one of these up in 2018, Rockbox is available which is a firmware replacement for the Clip Zip. You can pick it up here as long as you don’t mind a bit of tinkering and/or potential bricking.

Hard drive woes, 2012, part 3

I’m returning back to the ‘old’ subject of my Lacie “Network Space 2” drive, which committed suicide a few months back, thanks to a couple of email questions. You may have followed the previous posts where I mention getting the data off the drive. this was, in all, a 90% success, but even running Linux, I ran into a similar problem as pointed out in the email. Some of the files couldn’t be accessed. I knew it was one I could easily overcome, but putting the time, and the little bit of effort in to do it, was a bit of a bore, so I left it.

That is, until my health problems re-arose. Well, not quite. I just had to go to the hospital so they could stick things all over my chest, and take yet more of my blood. Are they panning that shit for gold, or something? They might find amber nectar in there, but certainly no gold.

I digress. I decided to fire the drive up again, and rescue the last data on there. The problem was, that although I moved the majority of the data off the drive, I couldn’t access certain files, as they were owned by “root”, basically, the superuser of any Linux system. If you boot from a live Linux CD as I suggested in the past, you’re only a standard user. You’ll need to access the files owned by this root user.

Since my last update, I managed to find my 4Gb USB stick, so I changed my plans from using a live CD, to using a similar live CD, but mounted on a USB stick. To do this, you download the ISO you require as normal, download and run a program called Unetbootin, and allow it to work its magic. This allows you to have a USB stick with a bootable version of your favourite non-standard operating system. This was, as you can imagine, a lot quicker, smoother and quieter than having the DVD drive access something every time I move the mouse. This time, I ditched Ubuntu, and used the Ubuntu-based Linux Mint. It’s just that little more user-friendly. A couple more useful utilities , and because it’s on the USB drive, I can happily use stuff like Firefox without the whole system freezing while it uses the DVD drive.

Of course, you’ll run into the same problem you had with the original Ubuntu. You’re still a standard user. This is how you log-in as root…

Open “terminal”
Type…

sudo passwd root

It’ll then prompt you to enter a new password. Twice. It’s thorough like that.

Click on the “Start” button equivalent (forget what it’s called) and click “Leave”

There’ll be an option in there for a new session. Select that, and enter the user “root” and your new root password. Hurrah, you’ll now have a GUI with root access, and should be able to move those stubborn files as you would normally. I assume these instructions will work good with many, if not all Linux distros.

Thanks to the root access, I was able to have a poke around the drive’s “hidden” sections, and examine the “messages” file to see if I can decipher exactly what went wrong with it. Basically, I can’t.

Sep 18 02:04:44 NetworkSpace2 kernel: [  180.820000] ata1.00: status: { Busy }
Sep 18 02:04:44 NetworkSpace2 kernel: [  180.820000] ata1: hard resetting link
Sep 18 02:04:44 NetworkSpace2 kernel: [  181.330000] ata1: SATA link up 1.5 Gbps (SStatus 113 SControl F310)
Sep 18 02:04:44 NetworkSpace2 kernel: [  181.390000] ata1.00: configured for UDMA/33
Sep 18 02:04:44 NetworkSpace2 kernel: [  181.390000] ata1: EH complete
Sep 18 02:04:44 NetworkSpace2 kernel: [  181.410000] ata1: exception Emask 0x10 SAct 0x0 SErr 0x180000 action 0x6 frozen
Sep 18 02:04:44 NetworkSpace2 kernel: [  181.410000] ata1: edma_err_cause=00000020 pp_flags=00000001, SError=00180000
Sep 18 02:04:44 NetworkSpace2 kernel: [  181.410000] ata1: SError: { 10B8B Dispar }
Sep 18 02:04:44 NetworkSpace2 kernel: [  181.410000] ata1: hard resetting link
Sep 18 02:04:45 NetworkSpace2 kernel: [  181.920000] ata1: SATA link up 1.5 Gbps (SStatus 113 SControl F310)
Sep 18 02:04:45 NetworkSpace2 kernel: [  181.980000] ata1.00: configured for UDMA/33
Sep 18 02:04:45 NetworkSpace2 kernel: [  181.980000] ata1: EH complete
Sep 18 02:04:45 NetworkSpace2 kernel: [  181.990000] ata1.00: exception Emask 0x0 SAct 0x0 SErr 0x180000 action 0x6 frozen
Sep 18 02:04:45 NetworkSpace2 kernel: [  181.990000] ata1.00: edma_err_cause=00000020 pp_flags=00000001, SError=00180000
Sep 18 02:04:45 NetworkSpace2 kernel: [  181.990000] ata1: SError: { 10B8B Dispar }
Sep 18 02:04:45 NetworkSpace2 kernel: [  181.990000] ata1.00: cmd c8/00:20:e0:f2:38/00:00:00:00:00/e0 tag 0 dma 16384 in
Sep 18 02:04:45 NetworkSpace2 kernel: [  181.990000]          res d0/00:20:e0:f2:38/00:03:00:00:00/e0 Emask 0x12 (ATA bus error)
Sep 18 02:04:45 NetworkSpace2 kernel: [  181.990000] ata1.00: status: { Busy }
Sep 18 02:04:45 NetworkSpace2 kernel: [  181.990000] ata1: hard resetting link
Sep 18 02:04:45 NetworkSpace2 kernel: [  182.500000] ata1: SATA link up 1.5 Gbps (SStatus 113 SControl F310)
Sep 18 02:04:45 NetworkSpace2 kernel: [  182.560000] ata1.00: configured for UDMA/33
Sep 18 02:04:45 NetworkSpace2 kernel: [  182.560000] ata1: EH complete
Sep 18 02:e.vendor

After the e.vendor in that above logfile, which really shouldn’t be there, is a load of corrupt looking garbage, and I’m sure those “ATA bus error”, means that there’s something wrong with the drive, or the system can’t read from it. I remember those before the HDD died in my old firewall / server machine many years ago.

I’m not sure if that info above will help anyone else out, but drop me an email if it doesn’t, I’ll see what I can do.

UPDATE 4TH NOVEMBER 2012

In what is honestly going to be my final word on the subject, I thought I’d have one last little play with the dreaded Lacie Network Space 2, and my own personal findings. I powered it on again today, for one last “hurrah”. It, once again did either of the slow flashing, or rhythmic red/blue flashing. For funsies, I threw in a generic 500Gb drive, which it won’t have been expecting. The method behind my madness was that it may have had a failsafe copy of its operating system in ROM, and if it detects the “new” HDD, it might kick into some factory restore mode and initialize the drive. This wouldn’t appear to be the case, as I instantly got the flashing red/blue light, as soon as the drive began to boot. A factory reset didn’t help either.
Therefore, I consider the drive now to be scrapped.

I’ll keep the drive out of it, naturally. 2Tb could certainly come in useful (On Dec 8th 2012, I did indeed do this, via a cheap SATA caddy from C World). I don’t believe there’s a physical fault with the drive, but I do think there was some sort of root file system corruption. A decent NAS drive would be able to at least do something failsafe-y, perhaps a backup / disagnostic copy of the OS kept in flash ROM to allow some type of automatic restore / file system rebuild… the cost of flash memory these days is ridiculously low. It can’t be too difficult / much more expensive to do?

So, it’s all over. It was a short, bittersweet relationship. It had its uses. It turned out to be very limited, slow, and ultimately risked 2 terabytes of my precious porn torrentz photos of fluffy kittens and whalesong. As a plus-side (I can think of two), the drive was easy to open, and the OS was Linux based, so the data was easily rescued.

It’s not the end of my NAS drive experience though. I enjoyed it while it lasted, and I’m feeling the need to spend some money on something bigger and better…

UPDATE 4/2/17 It took me a good few years before I relied on NAS storage again, but these days I’m running a Synology DS216j. I never went back to this Lacie heap of shit. The drive itself still survives.

UPDATE THE 3rd 28/3/21 I still swear by the Synology NAS enclosures. Really happy with them. I’m guessing that all of the LaCie drives of this type have either failed, or have been superceded by other drives by this point, so I won’t be keeping this series of posts around for much longer, but I hope it proved useful for someone. The loose 2Tb drive STILL surprives. I think. No idea where it is now.

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…

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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…

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!