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"If you got a bit of a comb over and you would like to know which sports car is best, then please get in touch with us, and I'm being serious, no silly addresses: BBC Top Gear, 201 Wood Lane, London, W12 7TS. Mark your envelope 'I've got a bit of a Charlton'."

Jeremy Clarkson 
 .:[ Thoughts on retro stuff ]:.Posted: 23:05 on Monday, 01 November 2004 
State: thoughtful  Music: none 

One of the things close to my heart is "retro" gaming (don't look so shocked!) but i've always thought it was one of those love/hate things; people of roughly my age trying to relive their youth and i've always expected that, for a large proportion at least, it pretty much stopped there and they returned to the current generation of games. The more hardcore gamers continue to play the classics and recognise their value as games, but i didn't think anyone else would simply because the overall package isn't the same as modern software. So i was quite pleasantly surprised last week whilst in Kent. Y'see, a lot of my C64 (and Amiga, C16, VIC20 and so on) kit is stored in my parents' shed and when i'm down there i try to sift through a few boxes and discard anything beyond repair - keyboards with more than three keys gone, boards where i've pulled every socketed chip, you get the idea.

PictureSo i set up a C64GS to test them on the big telly in my parents' front room, slapped a Robocop 2 cart and a joystick on, fired it up and the kids wanted to play. Well, i didn't expect that for a starter because, whilst the C64's graphics are nice to me, i'd not have thought our kids would find them a draw. But they did and they kept playing the game as well as enjoying Chase HQ 2 and, even more surprisingly considering it's age, the Atarisoft Jungle Hunt cart as well. Now, the most "retro" these kids had seen previously was NES games so watching them playing Robocop on a breadbin was fascinating because they genuinely enjoyed it, the gameplay won through and that's always been something i've tried to champion in 8-bit and 16bit games.

i know they play Sonic or try the first Zelda on various compilations we've got for the Gamecube, but actually seeing the real hardware in use and being enjoyed... well, it was sort of heartwarming... =-)

On top of that it was enlightening, i've always been a bit leary of the whole "retro" thing as a mainstream idea but seeing our kids playing and enjoying those games has changed my mind somewhat; there does indeed seem to be a mass market for things like the Atari 10-in-1, Midway Classics for the PS2 or the forthcoming C64DTV 30 games in a joystick, which is incredibly encouraging considering how excited i am about the latter now i've seen some specs and information about what it has inside the stick! The DTV isn't just a pretend C64, it's a hardware clone of the original reduced to a mainboard about the size of a credit card and, more importantly, there are solder pads on the board for a PC keyboard and an IEC serial bus. i so want it now, please...! =-)

My next trick is to teach one of our kids how to code on an 8-bit.

 .:[ Down time ]:.Posted: 02:45 on Thursday, 04 November 2004 
State: tired  Music: Whale's Voyage 

It's been a bit of a busy day; after we had our IP mysteriously change whilst we were out yesterday, someone turned up from NTL to swap our cable box for one that's able to do the top broadband speed. And promptly broke our connection! i spent over 40 minutes on the phone being talked through re-provisioning like i'm a four year old, then he can only get it going through the PC's LAN card rather than the USB to LAN adapter they supplied, so i give up and work it out for myself. During the process i have to change the CDROM out on Gridrunner and i get the surround sound speakers rigged up for the DVD player we got ages ago... But all this work and the IP change yesterday means that the Workstation was offline for about 24 hours, so if anyone was actually wondering where it'd got to, that's where!

And, since i was tinkering with the server, i installed Abyss and PHP on Chronos and start moving the intranet over to a box that isn't facing the outside world... it's a little slow, but i have a test environment now rather than having to borrow space off Gridrunner - which is nice.

 .:[ $21 today... ]:.Posted: 18:59 on Saturday, 06 November 2004 
State: a bit down  Music: Cotton Original 

...well, i was $21 yesterday or 33 for the non programming peeps who may be reading.

i came to a decision quite a while ago that i seriously dislike birthdays, i believe it was around my 25th and, ever since then, i've been more than a bit spiky around this time of year - some of it may be the change in the weather, earlier nights, less sunlight but quite a bit seems to just be bloody-minded self doubt. Still, most people know what to expect and have worked out the best places to hide...

It's not the actual age that "upsets" me, just the passing of yet another landmark; no matter how well i think i'm doing in life, i always seem to feel that it's worthless as that point arrives and there's nothing like having self worth issues and then realising that your "special day" has come around again, especially when everyone else seems to want to remind you. Said people keep telling me to stop being silly (or "cheer the [email protected]*k up" depending on the person in question) but it's almost force of habit now and almost comforting; like telling myself that i must still be alive because dead people aren't whining gits.

Anyway... treating the kids to pizza and it's due to arrive soon so i'd better go and wait for it.

 .:[ Wow, what a difference! ]:.Posted: 01:38 on Tuesday, 16 November 2004 
State: well happy!  Music: Uridium 

PictureAfter a bit of a rough weekend, i decided to spend the day out of the house and went for a wander. Since the Boss had mentioned that there was a C64 in the local branch of Blockbuster (their games section is manned by Gamestation staff and has a retro subsection) i trundled over to see what else was there. And left about a quarter of an hour later with a second hand 1541-II disk drive, PSU and serial cable for a mere fifteen quid.

i'v already had a little ponder earlier this month about how mainstream "retro" is getting with titles like Midway Classics, the C64DTV or the rather fabby Retro Gamer magazine but this is a little different; i honestly never expected to walk into a Blockbuster and get my hands on a drive! If a massive chain like Blockbuster or Gamestation sees a market, there must be a major amount of interest out there... Anyway, the new arrival has been sat in front of the big telly and making itself at home (there it is, with the two joysticks i dug out sat on top of it) with one of the C64s i dragged up from Kent and, after a little hiccup because the C64's PSU is getting on a little and was dropping off a tad (it seems to have settled now), all is happy.

On top of that, i've just seen the coolest episode of Power Rangers Wild Force ever; not only do they have the fan-wank two part story "Reinforcements from the Future" where the Time Force rangers come in to do a little damage, i've just watched "Red Forever" for which all ten red rangers (including the Time Force quantum ranger) got together for a bit of a scrap, the coolest morph sequence going and an amusing bit at the end after Tommy leaves where everyone else bitches about him! i didn't know this one was in there and i utterly love the fan-wank stories - they're one of the reasons i enjoy Power Rangers actually, how many shows do what their fans dream about in poorly written internet fiction?!

 .:[ Oops ]:.Posted: 17:08 on Friday, 19 November 2004 
State: tired  Music: none 

Well... they say you learn something new every day and that's true in my case; today i learnt that i can't solder for toffee - getting solder all over the place, charring the plastic shielding around cables, swearing or burning my fingers i'm bloody brilliant at, on the other hand (the one without any burns)!

 .:[ Goodbye, Cassie... ]:.Posted: 18:18 on Thursday, 25 November 2004 
State: sad  Music: none 

PictureOur dog Cassie had to be put to sleep today; she was very old by dog standards (twelve years in human terms), had been finding it increasingly difficult to even walk over the last couple of days and we'd been sort of expecting it for a while now but it's still a shock when it happens and sad after the fact. What i'm finding saddest is the gaps; coming into the house and not having her pile down the stairs or her forlorn-looking food bowl that'll have to be emptied when one of us is a little stronger.

i've never directly lost a pet before (apart from a budgie as a young child) and it's about as difficult as i thought it would be - you don't miss someone, human or animal, until they're not there any more and it seems to be the little things that drive the point home... i'm not a religious person at all and i doubt that'll ever change, but a tiny part of me hopes i'm wrong and she's happy wherever she is now.

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