Category Archives: General

General posts.

New Year and All That Jazz

Happy 2010! Except there hasn’t been any 2010 yet…so I guess, Happy 2009! Hope it was a good year.

What will I be doing in 2010…always nice to plan a bit.

Well, first I need to fix my watch, which stopped on the 2nd of January, must be the battery dying. I did almost lose it on the last day of work before Christmas too, so I don’t want it to break properly now πŸ™‚ had it for years.

Properly though, I have enjoyed most of my work in the University of Nottingham’s IS Customer Services (in the Computer Suite Support Group). However, I need to look around for a new job. Pending the end of January, I hope to have at least found some possibilities, that involve coding/programming or at least more highly paid IT work πŸ™‚ I also want to work out of Nottingham – one thing I’d love to do is get a cat which I can’t do at home (Mum’s allergic). A little thing, but a pet beyond a goldfish, well, specifically a cat, is something that I’d love to have.

I’m going to try and swear less when I’m flustered. Mainly this is at work when dealing with very minor and silly things, and Windows, lots of nice pretty Microsoft Windows. I mean, it’s silly, but if you swear for little things, nothing can really nail big things.

I’ve got a whole new set of books to read (filling out my Iain M. Banks collection) and films to watch now (Studio Ghibli films mainly πŸ˜€ ), so that is covered. There are lots of games I’ve still got to even start playing (Super Mario Galaxy, Farcry 2, Grand Theft Auto 4, Icewind Dale, Planescape Torment and others…the list is growing, stupid Steam sales included…), and I’ve started actually planning some other things, like going to a few classical concerts at Nottingham’s Royal Concert Centre. Not really much to say “I’ll do things differently this year”, but having a long list is a good thing (still need to get to posting what I think are really good things to read/watch/do/verb here).

I should write up more critiques, thoughts and mini-review pieces on things worth posting about though. Need to get into a rhythm for that, and not let this site slip into “ahhh, can’t be bothered this week” territory.

I really need to do more programming. Much more. I’ve been really lax at this (I’d say avoiding it, but it’s more like I don’t have anything I need to code, so I’ve not done much!), mainly since I’ve done other things here and there that keep me from it. Now I’ve got a nice fast PC, a server, (soon to be) automated backups, none of which are needed but do help keep my mind at peace, I plan to do some code writing and some other projects when I have time. Will help my job hunting too πŸ™‚

Lots more to do archive-wise, with a server I can now more regularly upload to the Internet Archive, and who knows what else I can get up to with the IGDA Preservation SIG (website teething problems notwithstanding).

Hmm, well, that’s pretty much it. Nothing else exciting planned. Maybe I should plan something more exciting? Wait, why do that if I’m finding all this enjoyable? Why am I even writing this paragraph in the first place? Hah! my own self indulgent new years rubbish to add to the web, and why not! πŸ˜‰

Finding That Damn Game

Wow, how hard is it to find an item on the internet you don’t know the name of? Especially something reasonably obscure? In this case, it’s my partial area of expertise; videogames. Let’s see, and also handily (for me in the future) I’ll list all the resources I used.

This is a bit odd, I wanted to find an awesome set of animations – pixel art videos – and the only single thing I could remember (after vaguely trying some search terms) was that the artist in question mentioned a game…the game, I recall, was something based on mechanics or something. Might have involved strategy. Turn based? Mmm…DS game, yes!

Had the name of the lead in the title. So I did some searching – Wikipedia is de-facto useless for this kind of thing, consisting of non-cross referenced categories or long lists. No joy there. Mobygames is much better – but in this case, I wasn’t sure what year it was released in – I checked the DS games for 2009 (not there for certain, very limited list) then 2008 (huge list!). No pictures doesn’t help, since I remembered the distinctive art style. Giantbomb was another offering – after some URL mangling, I managed to get DS games only, by release date. Sadly, a few pages in and still no luck – and the search functions didn’t work too well on either site – “mechanic” (all I could really remember at that point) didn’t come up with anything.

Stuck! Darn it, that damn game, you know, on the DS, which I’ve not actually played…

Mmm…strategy…mmm, not in those categories on Mobygames, so coming again at it, defence was involved…towers…tower defence! To the Google machine! Google helped out – my final ridiculous search string found a reference – 3rd one, “Lock’s Quest”! Yes, matches with what I thought it was!

Finally, I found it! Now…credits…credits! Come to daddy! No credits! No credits!…wait…try agian… yes! Credits! (Via Google). GameFAQ’s is a merge between Gamespot’s DB and it’s own (now it’s just the same thing, long ago it wasn’t, but GameFAQ’s is easier and faster to search at least).

(In addition, IGN was a bit useless, and there are not many other game DB’s that either game up in Google, or in fact I know of. I need to search any more reputable ones out for this kind of work).

So, finally found the game – a victory for my memory!

However, the person isn’t on the credits list! How did I find this out? Yep, for starters, there appears to be no artists listed – I vaguely recalled the person referencing it as freelance work – but I couldn’t be sure, so I checked the people on the list. No go!

So, down to Google again – I had the game (Lock’s Quest), the item (pixel art video) and the person (artist). Some massive amounts of variations later…I had it! The 3rd link down, a name I recognised – Paul Robertson!

How can I be sure it is him? Well, his site is down (as of posting this) so no luck there, but it was a blog post. I took a site: Google search and found it, a post about what games he’s worked on – as an animator (a type of artist, so I was close). Lock’s Quest stuck out mainly because it was the one place I saw it to investigate “What on earth it was” – at the time I had no idea it existed πŸ™‚

I’ve now got his site in my RSS feed (he has some really, really great pixel animations – a lot are bizarre, most are plain amazing, many are bizarre and amazing). The films I wanted to re-watch after losing them (heaven knows where they’ve gone on in my files) were Kings of Power 4 Billion %, and the earlier, and I think actually much cooler one Pirate Baby’s Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006. Best to download them (the pixel art otherwise suffers), there are valid links on both – or check Google for the titles. Amazing works of art.

So, now, whew, finally finished – all told, took about 1.5hours including writing this mainly as I went. Internet detective work can be done frankly really quickly, although finding something without knowing it’s name is still damn hard – a person or a game!

I’ve still got a game I need to find actually – one from my days playing DOS games, it was a demo at least I played – I am sure it’s a point and click, “sci-fi” game, with the one thing I remember there being is a chain-mail-like shirt made out of credits/coins. It was the most utterly bizarre thing about it, everything else is pretty much just “it was sci-fi with gangs perhaps”. Man, that game annoys the hell out of me for not being able to find it. Older games like this can be really difficult to find if they don’t hold some kind of cult or mass status! Yes, I have asked around, and my damn post now comes top of the Google search for related terms. Hah! Thanks me! πŸ™ Sadly, after trying for a few minute on Mobygames and remembering I’d only notice it by picture (who knows if anyone has any of it), and that I don’t know the platform specifically, the game maker, name, or year of release (even an estimate) it’s a bit futile. No where seems to have “point and click” as a mechanics genre either, odd that, or I missed where it was listed.

Edit: Actually, after checking, there are no such things as “point and click” it appears in any game DB, heh. They’re “Adventure” in most places, “Puzzle Solving” on Mobygames too. Still not worth checking everything in this list for it though. At least not yet!

New Business Cards


So I’ve been using, wrongly, cards for the last half a year which stated I was still a student, oops! I am doing this kind of last minute – I was recommended – so I thought why not. I can think of some interesting card backs to use right? πŸ™‚

I decided on the front, the easy part, I’d do the two logos on the right – my own very simple AA one, and the IGDA Game Preservation SIG logo. This coupled with my contact information (ie; this website). Here is the front in all it’s glory:


As for the backs, that was the harder decision. There are a few things I decided to do:

  • Raid my photos for some interesting videogame (especially game preservation) related ones
  • Check what pictures I have downloaded that inspired me to save them in the first place – there were more then I thought (but 50 is a rather large number)
  • Add some other random ones in the mix (not specifically videogame related pictures or photos in the first place)

I added a simple text caption of my thoughts onto the pictures – I did try and do the full 50, but I forgot a few important things (which I didn’t want to go back and fix):

  • Cropping will occur – make sure there is whitespace around the edge of the image (which I just couldn’t be bothered to redo for many images – some were much too long or simply not big enough to work) or make sure you are using a large picture
  • Fitting text into some pictures is not possible, aesthetically – and some I did use eventually fails at this a bit
  • Having a second chance to look at what you are going to put on cards you’ll give to people is important πŸ™‚ There are some I cut from this

A mix of these reasons made me cut it down to around 37 designs, mainly the cropping and size issues (it was late when I eventually finished, ouch what an evening). I did end up with a few more unreadable ones (or perhaps just cleverly hidden πŸ˜‰ ). They’re all in this gallery, including the lot I didn’t use:


And the final result (Moo do sure like to make it all pretty):


I think next time I get some printed (I got 200 from Moo) I will see what people think of these. Since I am no artist, and not a very good photographer (I need to get a better camera for starters that can deal with low light and taking pictures of screens), I did source most of them from the web in one form or another. Too clichΓ©? too derivative? too copyright infringing? too self-indulgent? not witty enough? Who knows what people will think, to be honest! At least they’re much more exciting then my last batch which was entirely black. Next time I might also have some more interesting game development screenshots to use. πŸ™‚

Also one last final point:

  • Business card printing prints much, much much darker then what you see on any screen.

Luckily only one of mine was really affected, but it does show using just black or white text helps πŸ™‚

Playing Videogames Late

I don’t usually get games on their release date, or pre-order them. This means I’m always behind the times when it comes to actually making a comment on them (to friends or here). I do play some demo’s, and sometimes get to play games at other times, but all in all I keep away from release date things. The last major one I did get was the Orange Box on Steam, because that came with the Team Fortress 2 beta, and I wanted the game anyway! (I still have Half Life 2 and Episode 1 to “give away” too, heh).

Is this really a problem though? For me, not really. I get to delay a purchase (while I still replay older games if I haven’t got anything new to play), and more importantly get to see the release fiascos. Yes, I’m talking about unworkable DRM in Spore and Mass Effect (both still not purchased), the unpatched and dodgy issues of Grand Theft Auto 4, and whether games are even worth getting – Left 4 Dead did appear too short in the demo, and I’ve still not got it yet – it still seems “not enough” for the (still full price) cost. I can wait for patches to come out (DRM and other issues) player made workarounds to appear (for unpatched things, and possibly even replacement EXE files if necessary), and communities to come up with walkthroughs (which will be good for Fallout 3 once I get it), forums and Q&A’s for the game I want to play. There is also a small chance the game will get cheaper on or Amazon, although this would only ever be a few quid at most.

So, staying behind the times, since I currently lack the money to go out and pre-order everything, means I get to enjoy the things I get much more. I know not everyone pre-orders, but there seems to be a lot more hype and promises then actual delivery from videogames, and many fall below expectations once they’re actually played. I much prefer reading about this before I get the games πŸ™‚

Hopefully, my small amount of late purchases will also mean these games might be available further in the future. Trying to find some games a year or more after release is pretty hard, it’s lucky I don’t have the money to be a PC game collector since I’d be hard pressed finding many of the games I’d want to get. Back catalogues available from anywhere (publisher, developer, distributor) are non existent, which is a real shame.

Then again, my purchase might just make publishers think the game isn’t selling well. So much pressure from all angles is put on good first week sales, it’s bizarre. Nevermind it when a games success sometimes rides on the amount of pre-orders, which translates to how many are printed and thus ultimately available to sell.

I’m sure I’m not alone purchasing many games late, I think it’s worth trying for a while though for all your games, to see how it feels after being able to read the critical acclaim or lambasting of a title before you buy πŸ™‚

I Used To Play Videogames on WHAT?

Wow, I’m sorting my documents folder (in prep for my big hefty reinstall) and I come across this from years ago (the earliest date is 4th Feb 2004, which seems about right):

OS=Windows 2000 v5.0 build 2195 Service Pack 4
Type=Intel Pentium IIIXC
[Video Card]
Type=NVIDIA GeForce2 GTS/GeForce2 Pro                                                            
Desktop Resolution=1024x768
Desktop Color Depth=32
[Open GL]
OpenGL Installed=1
OpenGL Version=1.3.1
[Direct X]
DirectX Installed=1
DirectX Version=DirectX (8+) (
DirectX Build=

It was, since the box still exists, a 1Ghz Pentium 3, and yes, 256MB RAM. I think Half-Life played okay at 1024×768 and, as you can see Neverwinter Nights (where this is from) did okay too, despite the pathetic 32MB of GeForce2 VRAM (I certainly couldn’t enable the 64MB texture option, thank goodness the game catered to 16 and 32 meg cards!), and the support for only OpenGL v1.3!

After this family PC I moved to University and had my own PC made from scratch, which was nice. The specs of that machine are much more game-friendly. I must admit, thinking about it, how many Dell/HP/Whatever white boxed PC’s are used to run games, it must hurt supporting lower-then-expected specs.

Planning My OS Reinstall

So, it’s time to reinstall my PC I think. There’s a few reasons for me to do this massive task:

  • I currently run 3 sets of 2 drives in RAID-0. *wince* (yes, it gave me around 1.5TB of workable space, but man, if one drive goes, all 600GB in that set goes)
  • I have got my Academic MSDN copies of Vista and XP to use, which yes, I meant to do before I strictly left university.
  • My start menu is useless. I’ve almost run out of space for games on the 600GB I’ve dedicated to them :/

Hopefully, it’ll be pretty painless, because I’m preparing it. Firstly, I’ve finished today downloading all of my software I’ll need, with the latest versions. I’ll do another post sometime about what things I’ve got and why, I guess, mainly so I can keep track of it myself somewhere, and why not here? πŸ™‚

I’ve also downloaded all my drivers afresh, to basically make sure I had a Vista x64 copy of everything – I’m going to dive in with the x64 version to get the maximum performance. As the rumours go, I’ll need every bit I can squeeze if I keep the installation as default.

Secondly, I’ll be using nLite and vLite to configure my OS images before installing. For XP, this means I can remove a lot of components I never use (components are things like Zipfiles, the “Teletubbies” themes, the old drives included in the system files, and many other bits and pieces). This cuts down a lot of the space and time needed to install. For Vista, for the service pack to work this seems to be not allowed, since the service pack requires everything. I can live with that, since it’s my first Vista install and I’d rather have everything available anyway. Both can include service packs and hotfixes, which really really cuts down update time.

I’ll alter my RAID setup and go with a slightly different way:

  • Disks 1 – 4 will be put in RAID-1, mirrored so if one drive fails I can insert another one. This is a total of 596GB available space.
    • Partition for primary drive (C):
      • 60GB for XP (NB: Current install uses only 35GB. That is, 35GB out of 600GB I had for “OS’s” I never used)
      • 80GB for Vista (a tad more, for various reasons, the main thing is 10GB or more alone…)
      • ~56GB for Linux (This includes the swap partition). Linux will come later, last time I tried Kubuntu, it didn’t even detect my RAID setup :/
    • Partition for Data drive (E):
      • 400 GB for data (was 600GB before, I’ll live since now it’ll be redundant!)
  • Disks 5 – 6 will be RAID-0 for speed and space, so again 596GB total, but I won’t put anything I don’t want to seriously lose (and don’t have backed up) on this drive.
    • All one partition Games drive (D):
      • 596GB for games, patches, and things that need hard drive speed (generally games, but also video editing work).

So, now I have a few final steps to do:

  • Backup everything. Twice. I’ve only reinstalled XP on the same system once, and that was when I had a few gigabytes of data, not a few hundred.
  • Save my game saves, profiles, and whatnot.
  • Run vLite and nLite to sort my install disks.

It’s a great opportunity to sort my hard drive files too, a lot of them I should have backed up or moved ages ago. It’s a time sink, but well worth it. I’ve not got many games I’m currently playing (probably number less then 6 or so, and Steam makes reinstalling a few of those a bit easier). I can reinstall them as they come – if I want them to work from one install directory, I hope it won’t “go wrong” with Vista and XP sharing the same data location and My Documents folder – I can always work around this of course, and will probably keep a handy “Games Vista” folder around for the purpose – but it’s one thing I want to see if I can get working.

I’ll be sticking to XP for the major amount of time, although almost all my programs are guaranteed to work in Vista, I need to find a good theme and work out all it’s kinks before I get used to it.

Well, there we go. I’ll see how it goes over the next few weeks, it’ll take a while to backup things. The sharing-game-directory part will be interesting though πŸ™‚ Might have to make up an app to move/rename config and folders so the games that have different settings for each OS alter themselves. Any tips for Vista are appreciated too, especially ones to do with games – hopefully Vista 64 won’t be too much trouble.

The National Museum of Computing

The Museum

On Saturday 26th, I made it along to The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park, in Block H to be precise. I’m aiming to volunteer some time before I apply to jobs, and also have an aim to sort some IGDA Preservation SIG work too.

The museum itself is in a pretty functional state when I had a tour – they still are tirelessly working on maintenance and fixing old machines and sorting new donations but there are around 6 or 7 rooms of material to look through, two of which are on the Bletchley Park tour. It also is currently free to get into, although I think a pass to the park is required. So, from the outset well worth a visit if you want to know of the beginnings of digital computing from the Colossus onwards – as long as it is a Saturday visit πŸ™‚

See my gallery for the full picture set, including some of the back room stuff πŸ™‚


This seems to also be the major location now of any computing museum work. Sadly the Swindon museum has been put in storage, before I got to visit, and National Science Museum has a rather smaller display then I’d like, but against the more natural science Computer Science doesn’t have much space it’s fair to say.

If there is anything interesting I help with while there, I’ll report on it. The work is fascinating and the plans to finish the expansion of the museum for a potential September 2008 opening to the general public looks awesome. On the game side, there are of course some stored games machines, game software and so forth although it is no special aim of course, and hopefully will become fleshed out once the museum expands.