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!

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…

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.

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!