February has been and gone, bringing with it my now customary jaunt into the world of February Album Writing Month. I fell some way short of the 14 song target this time, which I’ll blame on considerably increasing my production values this year, and not at all on being a lazy git.
I’m holding back a few of the songs from general release, because they’ll be going towards this month’s exciting musical happening: the Geek Pop virtual festival! Yes, all the greatest musical minds from the worlds of science and technology will be gathered in one place on the internet – and somehow I’ve ended up being one of them, performing on the Comical Flask stage alongside such luminaries as MJ “Hey Hey 16K” Hibbett. And because it’s a virtual festival, you don’t even need to drink beer out of a nasty plastic beaker or walk two miles to the nearest shower. Hurrah! Keep your browsers peeled (or something) at the Geek Pop website for the big unveiling on March 11th, or mosey on down to Wilton’s Music Hall, London on the 10th for the live launch gig.
In the meantime, here’s some almost-as-good-or-equally-good-but-not-as-geeky music I also wrote last month…
2011-03-10: Have had a report that Syd is no longer able to send boards outside the Ukraine due to a change in the law which came in this week. Trying to confirm the details right now, but clearly this is a major downer if it is indeed true :-( Obviously, Syd is the best person to advise on the current state of orders. (And if you have any more news on the situation, please pass it on to me via comments or email)
2011-03-11: A later report from gringo128 (comment below) suggests that this only affects the EMS delivery service – Syd is now sending boards by standard mail, which is a bit slower (two weeks rather than 5-10 days) but still offers online tracking (and is hopefully adequately insured too, but please check before ordering). Hoping I can bring you news of their successful arrival some time soon…
2011-03-16: The good news: Another Speccy2010 board has safely arrived in the UK by DHL, and Craig, the lucky recipient, has made a follow-up video of unboxing number two. The bad news: The current batch has now sold out, and Syd has stated that he’s decided not to send boards abroad in future, due to the complications this time round. For now all we can do is wait for the situation to change, or someone to step in to take on the role of international distributor (could that be you, dear reader…?). In the meantime, keep an eye on zx.pk.ru and here for news of any new developments.
Updated 2011-03-05: Added info about troubleshooting over the serial port.
This is the story of how I got hold of a Speccy2010 board, one of the most exciting developments to hit the Spectrum world in recent times. It’s a Spectrum clone developed in the Ukraine, which replicates the original 48 and 128K Spectrums, along with the Pentagon and Scorpion models popular across Russia. It connects to a TV or monitor by composite video, S-Video or VGA, and lets you load emulator images (tape, snapshot, or TR-DOS disk) from an SD card. The whole thing is the size of a packet of crisps, and is built around an FPGA programmable logic chip which can be reflashed with new firmware versions (again via the SD card) to gain new capabilities as and when they are developed. In short, it’s exactly what people are asking for whenever they post to a Spectrum web forum asking “Why doesn’t someone build a next-generation Spectrum?” And you can buy one, today.
Tempted? Well, here’s the deal. This isn’t mass-produced commodity hardware – Syd, the developer, is building these by hand in small runs – so don’t expect any formal commercial support or handy “enter your credit card details here” online order forms. (Don’t worry – ordering isn’t difficult, just… different.) The boards are fully tested before despatch, and Syd will try to help with any issues you have with it (as will I), but beyond that, it’s sold “as is” – there’ll be no refund if it turns out to be incompatible with your monitor, or doesn’t run your favourite game or whatever. The whole thing cost me £150 (175 EUR, 240 USD) including all delivery / transaction fees, and on top of that you might pay something like £20-30 for the power supply, keyboard, cables, SD cards and other accessories, depending on what you have lying around already. So, it’s somewhere above the “geeky impulse purchase from Firebox” price range you may have been hoping for, but still a very decent price for a piece of kit for a hobby you’re half-way serious about. If your sense of adventure doesn’t stretch this far, stop reading now. For the rest of us, here’s what you have to do…
It’s time once again for the denizens of comp.sys.sinclair and World Of Spectrum (along with anyone else with an unhealthy obsession with Sinclair ZX Spectrums) to meet up to discuss new developments, old games, nostalgia, crisps, beer and everything else in the world of retro-computing.
Read on for the complete notes/transcript of the talk (in hopefully more coherent form than the talk itself – next time I promise to spend less time on the flashy demo and more time figuring out exactly what I’m going to say…) Read the rest of this entry »
Still, even if the execution this time didn’t work out, I think it’s been a worthwhile exercise in bringing pieces together. Jacob Seidelin’s PNG compression hack (where JS code is stored in a PNG image to take advantage of the compression, then unpacked on a canvas using getImageData) has created a bit of a buzz in the JS development world, but this is the first time it’s been used in an actual demoscene production (which is surprising, given how the demoscene is the spiritual home of size-coding hacks). Ben Firshman’s JSNES has been dynamically generating audio for some time now, ardently chasing the moving target that is Mozilla’s Audio Data API (with a trusty Flash snippet as a fallback), and Mathieu ‘p01′ Henri was experimenting with softsynths long before then. Not even my own code is safe from this cherry-picking exercise of doom – the 3D routines are a mishmash of Gallions Reach / Canvastastic (for the lighting model) and Antisocial (for the full scene / movable camera handling). Finally, node.js makes a cameo appearance, because having an actual web server on hand makes development go a lot smoother.
Put them all together and you have the ingredients for a delicious 64K Intro cake. This time it came out a bit half-baked, but I’m passing on the recipe in the hope that someone else can make it work:
Migrating Twitter API apps from basic authentication to OAuth is up there with hoovering the bathroom and taking out the recycling in the “irritating chores to put off for another day” stakes. However, Twitter’s announcement that they’re dropping basic authentication support at the end of this month has made this task altogether more urgent, like an unexpected visit from the mother-in-law.
If you’re using the Ruby Twitter gem by John Nunemaker, you’ll be happy to learn that it supports OAuth. You’ll be less happy to see that the example code on the homepage merrily omits the difficult part:
# NOT SHOWN: granting access to twitter on website
# and using request token to generate access token
If your Twitter app is of the simple ‘bot’ variety, with a single dedicated account where everything happens, and no need for end users to authenticate against it, then most of the example code and documentation floating around the internet is overkill, sending you down the path of sessions and callback URLs, when all you really want to know is: what do I put in the ‘register an application’ form? How do I get hold of these tokens? And what do I do with this PIN code it’s just given me?
We offer instructions for upgrading your 2.x WordPress install via Subversion, so we certainly wouldn’t do anything silly between versions like deleting the entire directory that contains the ‘default’ theme, leaving your blog as a blank page with no indication of what’s gone wrong.
Oh, you found the ‘appearance’ tab in the admin backend? Ah, that’s my cue to notice that your website is broken, and instantly replace it with a nice picture of some trees. You like trees, don’t you? They’re very pretty, and I think sometimes you’ve got to put that above more practical concerns like not suddenly breakingeveryone’s website.
What, you want your old theme back? Aww. OK, here it is in our themes repository. Oh, sure, I could just tell you where you can download it, but I have a better idea. Let me install it automatically for you instead! Just give me your FTP password, and everything will be juuuuust fine.
No, I don’t think there’s a plugin that will let you punch programmers in the face. Why do you ask?
A quick heads-up that I’ll be playing my first ever proper not-just-an-open-mic gig this Thursday night as part of the Date Horse comedy and music night at the Vauxhall Griffin, London. Come along for some silly songs about Paris Hilton’s pet monkey and much more (and RSVP on the Facebook event)…
Update 2010-06-08: Oops. In the process of testing how Safari 5 shapes up, I discovered a rather silly oversight: the audio buffering routine was set up to never use more than 10% of CPU. Now that I’ve fixed it, it turns out that Chrome and Safari (at least) have no trouble at all playing Jugi’s Dope theme in its 28-channel glory. (However, taking the brakes off the buffering does mean that we can’t reliably pause the audio any more. A small price to pay, I think you’ll agree.)