Archive for the ‘Spectrum’ Category

DivIDEo v0.2.0 – video converters for the masses

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

I’ve rewritten the DivIDEo converter app in pure C, and as a result it’s now available in friendly standalone Windows and Mac OS X command line executables (and slightly less crazy and Ruby-ish to compile for other platforms). All the necessary libraries (including a major chunk of ffmpeg) are compiled in, so now there’s nothing standing between you and full-on ZX Spectrum video converting action. Head over to the DivIDEo website for the downloads.

Incidentally, a couple of people have asked about the identity of the singer in the Outline presentation. Apparently, while that clip is what we sneeringly refer to as an “internet phenomenon”, it’s not quite reached 100% saturation, so: it is Edward Anatolevich Hill, with a Russian TV performance of the song “I am very glad, because I’m finally back home”, or as it’s becoming increasingly better known, Trololololo.

DivIDEo – Spectrum streaming video

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Six years after my first tentative attempts at streaming video from the DivIDE interface were presented at Notcon 2004, I’ve finally come up with a system that I’m happy with. It boasts 25fps playback with audio somewhere above the ‘nails in a vacuum cleaner’ quality of previous attempts (through the use of delta compression on the video data and variable bitrate audio to use up whatever processor time is left), a one-shot conversion utility that handles all the video decoding, rendering and re-packing, and a player routine that more or less respects the ATA spec (so won’t fall apart as soon as someone else tries it on a different CompactFlash card. Hopefully). Here’s how I presented it at the Outline demo party:

The full description, and a whole bunch of downloads, is on the DivIDEo project website.

Micro Men subtitles

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

The BBC Micro Men comedy/drama shown last October starring Alexander Armstrong and Martin Freeman as Clive Sinclair and Chris Curry has, unsurprisingly, gone down a storm in 8-bit enthusiast circles.

There’s been a lot of demand from the international Speccy community for subtitles, since it’s apparently rather heavy on colloquial English – and so as a contribution to this weekend’s Forever party, I spent several highly pleasurable hours in front of the rather spiffy Miyu subtitling package to put these together. It’s definitely a show that rewards repeated viewing – for instance, take a close look at what’s on the whiteboard behind Hermann as he says of the newly laid-off engineers: “They are clever people. They’ll think of something. Maybe they already have”…

Download Micro Men subtitles (79K, .srt format)

(This is just the subtitle file – you will, of course, have to *cough* acquire the actual video from somewhere else.)

JSSpeccy v20091121

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

Yesterday’s Full Frontal javascript conference turned out to be the ideal setting to compare notes with Ben Firshman of JSNES fame on the finer points of implementing emulators in Javascript – so this new release of JSSpeccy is the natural consequence of that. I’ve put in an optimisation which might possibly be a speed boost on Chrome (only writing bytes to ImageData when absolutely absolutely necessary), and the much-needed ability to load your own snapshot files, using the little-known getAsBinary method on file upload objects. (Unfortunately Firefox 3.5 is the only browser which supports it right now, but it looks like it may be in the process of getting the official W3C blessing right now.) And since I was on a roll, on the train back I implemented tape loading traps and the ability to load .TAP files (again, only on Firefox 3.5). Wahey!

@speccynews – ZX Spectrum news on Twitter

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

Recognising that there was a gap to be filled in news reporting for the ZX Spectrum community (since other commitments have pulled icabod away from regularly updating, and other contributors – myself included – have not exactly rushed in with the same fervour), I’ve set up the Speccynews Twitter account.

The idea is that it’s a lower-maintenance way of keeping on top of developments in the Speccy world, as something that can be updated on the spot as and when you encounter a story, with no obligation (indeed, no way at all) to write a long erudite commentary on every news story. Following an encouraging call for volunteers on WOS forums, I set the service up through CoTweet, and it’s been running successfully for a couple of weeks now. More contributors would be very welcome, especially non-UK people who can share their perspective of those wonderful developments in Spain, Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic and elsewhere which are being overlooked by the English-speaking crowd. Drop me an email / tweet with your email address if you’re interested, and I’ll send a CoTweet invite in your direction. No previous Twitter experience necessary!

(And, of course, all feedback and story submissions will be gratefully received via Twitter itself – tweet them to @speccynews.)


Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Last week I posted possibly the most tedious Basic type-in listing ever to World Of Spectrum:

5 BEEP 0.212765, 20; 10 BEEP 0.106383,19...
(continues for approx 1500 more lines)

Anyone typing it in in its entirety would be rewarded with this:

Download midibeep_minute_waltz.mp3

Not bad for an evening’s work. Mind you, I did take an ever so teeny shortcut, by writing a Ruby program to convert a MIDI file to BEEP format. (Any .mid file will do, although ones with a single instrument will survive the rather primitive selective-note-butchering process better. Oh, and anything much longer than this one will exceed the 48K Spectrum memory…) And now you can try it out too:

Update 2010-05-26: Karl McNeil has adapted Midibeep into a variant called Mid2ASM, which outputs an assembler listing rather than Basic – this enables the data to be packed much more efficiently, paving the way for altogether longer pieces of music. Download Mid2ASM (453K, Windows EXE included)

Update 2010-06-02: Another update from Karl, featuring a Windows GUI, more space-saving tweaks, and embedding the output in a Basic REM statement. Download Mid2ASM v2 (3.4Mb)

Update 2011-04-09: Karl McNeil has released the last version of Mid2ASM for a while, version 3.2 – featuring primitive importing from .sid .psg and .wav, and the choice of Basic or assembly output. The source archive also contains the command-line version, midibeep2.

JSSpeccy v20090929 (Don’t-Mess-With-Geeks Edition)

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

I wasn’t really planning on developing JSSpeccy further, because I didn’t consider it a serious project with a future. However, it turns out that someone else did. Enough to rip it off wholesale and pass it off as their own work on the iPhone app store for £1.29 a pop, no less. Yes, thanks to the detective work of Phil Kendall we now know that ZXGamer, the much heralded Spectrum emulator for the iPhone, was nothing more than JSSpeccy with a fancy title screen tacked on. (Which of course is a blatant violation of the GPL, and being pure Javascript, would explain why it ran at less than the speed of a real Spectrum on a 600 MHz device, and why it was overwhelmingly rated at one out of five stars. Epic fail.) It’s been pulled from the app store now – so while ZXGamer is gradually disappearing from the internet, it’s time to redress the balance a bit.

A new version of JSSpeccy is out. It doesn’t run at full speed on an iPhone either (although it positively speeds along on recent versions of Safari on real computers), but it does boast the following changes:

  • GPL v3 licenced, with prominent notices to make it clear that playing silly buggers like the above will not be tolerated (even if they do include source…)
  • A bit of speed optimisation (about 15% faster maybe)
  • A pimped-up user interface with shiny icons
  • And most relevantly, entirely controllable via iPhone / iPod Touch touchscreen. In principle. (If you’re expecting an immersive gaming experience, you’ll be disappointed.)

So there you go – probably the best Spectrum emulator for the iPhone ever. And it’s free.


Monday, September 14th, 2009

This 1K intro for the Spectrum (which received 3rd place in the oldskool demo competition at Sundown 2009) was inspired by Bill Bailey. No, really. His current live show features a spot on the Yamaha Tenori-on, which through the medium of “getting someone in the audience to splurge their hand on it”, he demonstrates that it can’t fail to play something nice.

This makes it a good excuse for some experimentation with generative music. The secret is in the scale – it’s equivalent to playing only the black notes on a piano, and presumably has roots in oriental music (I previously rediscovered it while working on Haiku). To make it into something like a proper demo, rather than just a throwaway routine, I added a bit of subtle progression Cyberpunks Unity style, so it drifts in and out of randomness as the graphical effects change. It even has a proper ending…

In recent months Yerzmyey has been pushing for the revival of the 16K Speccy as a platform, so I’m pleased to announce that this demo is – so we believe – the third ever demo to run on it.

Ode To Claire / Snakebite

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

A couple of fast-made Spectrum releases for last month’s most excellent Outline demo party. Ode To Claire is a curious little 128 byte intro, using a trick I’ve been wanting to try out for ages. It’s not exactly a fast-paced action extravaganza, but it does fit 150-odd characters of avant-garde poetry, the printing routine, and a demo effect into 128 bytes of code. Working out how is an exercise for the reader (and I’m quite interested to know whether the secret is immediately obvious to anyone who’s at all familiar with the Spectrum…)

On the musical front, Snakebite is a chiptune with a middle-eastern vibe, modelled after every Turkish Eurovision entry ever. It got third place in the competition, and originally they weren’t going to give out a third prize, but they had some spare food left over on the Saturday night, so I won a jar of sausages. Best. Prize. Ever.

Download gasman_-_snakebite.mp3

Goldfinch: an open software stack for mass storage on the Spectrum

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Yep, another pet project of mine to compete with all the others I’ve started. But hey, if I didn’t get distracted by things like this I’d just get distracted by Youtube and sudoku instead…

Goldfinch1 is an attempt at remedying the “walled garden” syndrome in the world of ZX Spectrum mass storage – there are plenty of software projects doing exciting things with IDE and CompactFlash and ethernet on the Speccy, on top of multiple competing hardware interfaces, and for one reason or another they end up having ‘baggage’ that prevents the casual tinkerer from properly harnessing that existing work for their own stuff – so writing a program that reads ‘some file’ off ‘some disk’ is a bigger deal than it ought to be. The reasons for this might be technical (the disk access code is too tightly coupled to a Basic extension, or an emulation layer, or something else, and only one person in the world understands the whole package), legal (licencing problems prevent the source code from being released), or the entire project being locked away in perpetual vapourware hell (ahem).