Monthly Archives: February 2004

When I was a kid… (Part 2)

Now the Sinclair ZX Spectrum exposed me to the glories of colour and sound. I had a massive 16K to play with and the sounds produced could put a doorbell to shame, but to me it was seventh heaven. The more I played games on the Spectrum, or Speccy as we called them back then, the more I loved it. When Manic Miner was released, I was forced to get a 32K upgrade to my Speccy just to play the game. Now I had a massive 48K of memory to play with, the world was my lobster. I can remember my Dad poking his head round the door, or more than one occasion and ask me when I was going to stop playing games and do something serious. After having my Speccy for a year, I was indeed beginning to get bored. I began wondering how these great pieces of software worked.

I remember printing out all the code to a game based around the arcade classic Joust which was by Rabbit Software. Now let me tell you this was thousands of lines of code which I printed on my Alphacom printer. This printer was thermal based (very similar to the old fax machines) and burnt the text on special paper. The printer probably printed around 4 or 5 lines per minute. As you can imagine it took a while. So here I was with many feet of source code which I didn’t understand. I finally managed to make some sense of the code, but it didn’t really do me any good, I don’t think I was destined to program in Assembler. I was very adept at programming in Sinclair Basic and managed to write a game called Dyke. A friend of mine transposed Rains Drops Keep Falling on your Head in to Basic for inclusion in the program. This was my first taste of completing a project and I loved it.

This was an exciting time for computer users. Computers were being released all the time for the home market. I managed to get many computers and learned tons of stuff that would stand me in good stead later on. From memory, the computers I had during this time were; Sinclair ZX81, Sinclair ZX Spectrum, Texas TI-99/4A, Mattel Aquarius; Sord M5; Commodore Vic20; Atari ST520FM and probably a few more. Using all these different computers gave me a grounding in picking up technology and getting it to work very quickly, which is something I still do to this day.

That about wraps it up for this era. Probably the next big thing was buying my first PC computer and what lead up to it. But that’s more for a different time. To be continued…

Rock the Casbah!

Now I was never a really big Clash fan. I liked the majority of their hits and when I listen to them now, I still get that nostalgic wave of euphoria. Things were just so raw and simple back then. I admittedly had a pang of sorrow when I heard Joe Strummer, the former lead singer died (now I was thinking this only happened a few months ago, but it was December 2002) at the early age of 50. I recently acquired two of the CDs he did with the Mescalero, Global a Go-Go and Rock Art and the X-Ray Style. I have to say these are absolutely excellent CDs and thoroughly deserve adding to your collection. I see there is also another one to add to my collection, Streetcore, which was released after Joe’s passing. Definitely one for me to pick up to complete the collection. Both the CDs I have contain an eclectic collection of tracks with many different musical influences.

It’s sad that he’s no longer with us, but he leaves a legacy of music that will not be forgotten.

The only certain thing in life… Taxes.

Tax season is upon us and once again it looks like we’ll be going to H&R Block to have them done. Every year I say I’m going to do our own tax returns and every year off we trot to H&R Block. I’m fed up with people saying how easy they are to do, especially the TV commercials that show a man clicking a few buttons on the computer and hey presto, all done. It’s just not like that. I bought a piece of software that was meant to make tax returns as easy as 1,2,3…. I sat down with the pile of pre-requisite paperwork to punch all the figures into the empty boxes on the computer screen, but by the time I got to 5,6 and 7… I had so many unanswerable questions, that I finally admitted defeat around 11pm. My other worry is that I’ll not claim a deduction I’m entitle to, or even worse claim something by mistake and have Messieurs Tax People come after me for the mis-filed amount.

I’m touching large chunks of wood that we’ll actually get a refund this year. Just enough to pay for the stupid software I bought, would be a start :-)

"I have nothing to declare but my genius"

Now I won’t lay claim to that particular witisism, that would be the work of Oscar Wilde, but it did get me thinking. Over the last 100 years we’ve had many writers who have written what we consider today as classics. Charles Dickens, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde and even J.R.R. Tolkein, but who are we going to consider as the classics authors in a 100 years from now. I suppose you could consider J K Rowling, for her Harry Potter series, but I think that’s pushing it a bit. Now I must admit, I’ve only ever read a few books that you could think of as classics, but I can’t think of a single book by a contemporary author that I would even put forward as a classic of tomorrow.

Now I know it’s hard to envisage things 100 years from now, but lets just hope we have something more to promote our generation than Harry Potter.

It’s snow joke.

Snow sucks the big one. Now I used to love snow. I loved the crunchy sounds under foot. The clean, bright whiteness of it all. The way it makes even an ugly place (not that Ottawa needs it) look good. However I am now a home owner with a driveway and if I have to shovel it one more time, I think I am going to crawl up into a fetal ball and go back to the egg. It wasn’t too bad until yesterday when we had about 25cm of the white peril. Now this wasn’t your common or garden snow, this was heavy bad ass stuff. Now I’m not that much of an old fart that I can’t shovel a bit of snow, but this is beginning to really get on my…… (insert suitable word here).

The only thing getting me though this all is the though of spring in a few short months and then summer….. Ah the thrill of the four seasons. See ya when I’m whining about the heat :-)

I am middle aged!

It’s official, I am middle aged! Yes, I know I’m only 35 and still got all my faculties, well apart from the white stuff on me bonce, but we’ve gone and done, something my wife said would never do…… We’ve bought a minivan. I can hear the collective jaws of single men all over the world dropping to the floor, and hear the weeping cries of the boy racers in their hot wheels, but sometimes a man has to do, what a man has to do. It’s a sad day, when you choose practicality over looks and fortunately where the wife is concern I got both, but that’s a different story. Mmmm choosing a wife, practical? Whatever does that mean? Anyway I digress. So now the Canadian Family Meeks are in a nice house, with a nice car…………mmmm whatever next :-)

The Grey Album

Music is a funny thing. It’s hard to believe you can get 2 such diverse music talents onto one album, but DJ DangerMouse has managed to do it with rapper Jay-Z and the Beatles. He’s also managed to get himself into hot water, as the Beatles were not impressed and forced him to desist distribution. Although only intended as a promo release, with a 3,000 copy pressing, I would imagine many more people now have a copy thanks to Illegal Art amongst other sources.

What this DJ has done is sample to bits the Beatles White Album and fused these samples together with Jay-Zs Black Album, creating a very interesting album in the process. Now I’m in no way a hip-hop fan, but I find this album very interesting and also strangely familiar. Don’t think for one minute you are going to hear a complete Beatles song mixed with a Jay-Z one, is much more subtle than that, but it’s a very pleasurable experience and has certainly opened my eyes to hip-hop, or rather means I’ll not discount hip-hop as I’d done before when searching for new music.

It’s was 20 years ago…

Endle the Wook was often mistook,

for Bydle who was the King.

But the one way you could tell them apart,

Was Bydle was able to sing.

Basic at it’s purest

I spend a good deal of my time either trawling the web, programming or designing websites. Sometimes I find a tool that bowls me over and makes me wish I’d found it a lot sooner. This tool is PureBasic. Basically (no pun intended), PureBasic is a basic compiler, but with a huge difference. It compiles code down to fraction of other mainstay development languages like Delphi or other non runtime dependent languages.

I took a non visual program I’d written in Delphi that compiled down to 700K and rewrote it in PureBasic. The result was a 7K executable. Yes 100th the size of my Delphi app. Now I’m sure this isn’t going to be the norm, but hey it’s a helluva saving. Now I know, with machines as powerful as they are, this isn’t really a major benefit, but I’m of the old school, someone who still likes to optimize code as much as I can before releasing. PureBasic does this magic feat by producing assembly language from the basic code you write and then compile this to a final executable. Another example that comes with PureBasic is a web server that compiles down to 17K. Now admittedly this isn’t a fully function web server, but it serves HTML and graphics all the same.

I’m gonna be spending quite a bit of time playing with PureBasic over the next few months and hope to develop some kind of fully fledged product to really put it through it’s paces. It’s sure nice to get excited about a programming language again. I haven’t felt this excited since discovering Python.

Anyway PureBasic is on 59 Euros or around CAN $100. I played with the demo for a while and also hung around on the support forum to get a feel of the languages popularity. The forums are heavily populated and there’s many willing users ready to help. I gave it my ultimate approval… I bought it.

Valentines Day Sucks………….. sort of!

Millions of women are going to hate me, but Valentines day sucks. But lads, if you think it sucks in the UK, it really sucks here in Canada. At least in the UK, it’s a sometimes needed push to tell the one you’re with that you love them. Here in Canada it’s an enormous marketing exercise. Not only do you buy cards for your significant other, but you buy cards, candies and gifts for your children and your children buy cards, candies and gifts for their friends and in some cases for their teachers. Now don’t get me wrong, I love my wife and kids and wouldn’t deny them anything. It’s just I think we should be using Valentines day to remind our significant other that we love them and not be bludgeoned into spending money that sometimes we don’t have. Anyway I’m off my soapbox now and am going to see if there’s any money hidden in the sofa. Have a loving Valentines Day.