Category Archives: The Brighter Side

As an Aspie odd, quirky and unusual things often make me happy, I thought I would share some.

zx spectrum

Take it apart.

Since I was a very small child I have always loved understanding how things work. I could often be found taking apart random pieces of technology that I came across. I have been told this is an Aspergers trait, I don’t know. What I do know is that I was a little sod and by the age of ten I had taken apart and reassembled (successfully for the most part), pretty much everything electrical in the house and some stuff that wasn’t in the house, or even my property.

At this point I should apologise to my childhood friend and neighbour Mark, whose 48k ZX spectrum taught me about soldering. Happily I like to think it worked a little better when he eventually got it back as I had replaced the internal speaker and the modulator with a better model. I thought it would be a nice suprise, but now I come to think about it, he didn’t talk to me a lot after that and I don’t think he noticed the improvements, so maybe this is an Aspergers Issue after all.

Sure there were arguements, disagreements, punishments and a few electric shocks along the way (a halogen lamp comes to mind and so does a very painful incident with a microwave magnetron), but you live and learn and a few electrical burns are all part of life’s rich tapestry are they not?

I didn’t often actually break things and in some cases I improved them. I had the fastest Commodore 64 on the block and the datasette (tape recorder) could read audio cassettes , so it could play audio tapes through the television too!

I don’t often feel the need to take bits of technology apart as often these days. I can usually guess pretty much how things work thanks to many happy years of tinkering. However a few years ago I came across a wonderful website that brought all those wonderful childhood experiences flooding back and but also served to reduced the urge to disassemble expensive electrical items, which I have also discovered isn’t a great hobby if you want to keep the peace in a loving adult relationship.

Started by two like minded chaps called Christopher Tomkins-Titch and his good friend Brandon Kimball, TakeItApart.net consists of videos, slideshows and descriptions which show you what is inside your favourite tech and how it all works without you needing to go out, buy and then attack with a screwdriver. Hopefully it will save some of you guys invalidating your warrantees’.

Chris & Brandon justify taking these things apart by claiming they are dusty or some such nonsense, but the truth is, sometimes you just have to know what makes something work.

Anyway, they (and I) deny any responsibility for you destroying your tech by taking it apart, so have fun doing it, but it is your fault if it doesn’t work afterwards.

P.S. I apologise for the lack of posts this month, it’s just been a bit of a hectic and wierd couple of weeks.

Remember, If curious about your tech dismantle it. If it still works afterwards it is yours. If it doesn’t it was never yours to begin with.

ZenEmu X

http://www.takeitapart.net/

rainy mood

Rainy Mood

Rainy Mood is another one of those really bizarre websites that I think is great.

Rainy mood plays a thirty minute audio loop of a raging thunder storm, which is actually surprisingly relaxing. It’s creators claim that it can help you get a better nights sleep a bit like a white noise generator, but to be honest I have my doubts about that, but next time I get Insomnia I may give it a shot, although I daresay Avaloncariad will solve my insomnia by killing me if I play this at 3am :)

I will add that laptop speakers don’t really do it justice, or at least mine don’t. It’s very popular, with over 40,000 fans on facebook and over 15,000 retweets, so give it a go and see what you think.

http://www.rainymood.com/

Remember there is no such thing as bad weather, there is just a poor choice of clothing and a lack of preparation.

ZenEmu X

Guerilla Gardening

Guerrilla Gardening

Guerilla Gardening

I’ve been in denial about something for some time now, but recently I found myself doing something and the denial vanished, it struck home; I am getting old!  There is no use in denying it anymore. When I was young I used to hate gardening. It was something I was forced to do. As a child I suffered year after year of cutting grass, weeding, sowing and planting, frankly it was a chore. Recently though I have started to enjoy gardening. It is peaceful, relaxing and theraputic. I find myself planning herb gardens, planting shrubs and flowers. I even care about the state of my lawn. Good Grief!

Now that I have accepted that I am old, I can finally admit a grudging respect for Guerrilla Gardeners. For those of you who haven’t heard of this phenomenon before, it involves like minded individuals getting together and “pimping” a bit of scrub land or some other unsightly place. These people come along in the middle of the night with plants and tools and they get stuck in. This revolution is apparently quite illegal, but well who cares. Lets face it, people complain when graffiti artists show us their hobby, why would anyone mind someone planting some ‘ForgetMeNots’?

Guerrilla Gardeners started out as people who squatted on land and converted it to there own use by growing food on it, but now it is mostly just normal average everyday people who are a bit sick of looking at ugly bits of land which the government should be doing something nice with, but have completely neglected.

If you fancy pimping your neighbourhood have a look here:

http://www.guerrillagardening.org/ Is a place where you can arrange a local “Dig” and find other like minded tree lovers. There are some very clever and sneaky ideas there, give it a look, maybe you will be inspired.

Of course it is also a good way to get “Hassled by the Man”:

And now this post is written, I am going back into denial, I may be old, but I am not THAT old. I’m bearly middle aged.

Remember, if you are still tending your garden when you are 110 years old, you have got it made. Very few people die at that age.

Zen

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win7 tablet

Gizmondo

I am a bit of a nerd, a lazy one at that. I can’t be bothered to hide the fact. I love techie things, always have always will. Sadly I am getting old. Recently for example, I was completely defeated by the analogue timer I bought to control the lights on my tropical fish tank. I have a DVD recorder under the TV, which has never been used, and it is now unplugged, mainly because the timer on that defeated me too and the flashing display on the front of it was mocking me. Happily I have Sky HD, which has a built in hard drive for recording things I want to watch and I sometimes remember to tell it to record things I like too.

Being a lazy geek or nerd is a little counter intuitive. To be a good geek you do need to keep up with the latest technology and more importantly you need to know which bits of tech you  can reasonably disapprove of. Thankfully, one of my favourite websites is dedicated to helping me with this chore. Have a look at Gizmondo, which is a fantastic Tech Blog.  Not only does it review new Tech, but it is also full of techie gossip too. Gizmondo is like that friend that most people have, who feels that he/she needs help with the weighty responsibility of keeping your secrets, so they share the burden  with everyone they know.

Gizmondo is full of fantastic opinions, facts, rumours and strange imaginings. Such and such is releasing a new gadget? Well this is what we thing it will look like, and if it doesn’t they are small minded minions of orthodoxy. I like that kind of thinking, it is imaginative and uncompromising.

Let me give you a couple of examples. Barry Altman, who is the CEO of Commodore USA (yes it still exists!) announced recently that he would like to do something with the Commodore 64 brand as a tribute. Gizmondo got excited and had THIS to say.

Or how about this; LG Samsung and Asus are all looking at building Windows 7 mobile phones. Stuff mobile phones say Gizmondo, build this Windows 7 tablet in response to the ipad, look we have designed it for you and everything. All you have to do is make it work!

There are quite a few staff over at Gizmondo, to many to list, and I don’t really know or care how the website came about. All I know is it saves me having to come up with an opinion about new tech. Opinions often get challenged, and that means coming up with a cogent argument, which in turn requires research, and frankly I just can’t be bothered with all that.

So if like me, you just can’t be bothered to waste time, and money you don’t have coming up with an opinion, just go to Gizmondo and let someone else come up with an opinion for you, it is usually the right one.

Apologies for the fact that the above post is boring and the first one in days. I have done nearly 50 hours “Work” in just under four days. Unfortunately I can’t go into what my day job is exactly on here, but it was all very stressful, a little sad, very draining, but probably worked out as it should. Sorry rambling.

Remember, there is no such thing as Anti-Social behaviour, some people just aren’t user friendly.

Zen Emu

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Press play on tape

Press Play on Tape

OK, I just found the new “My favourite thing on line”, which is a new band called Press Play On Tape – The Commodore 64 Revival Band!

PRESS PLAY ON TAPE is a band from Copenhagen,that (almost) exclusively play tunes from the very best 1980′s home computer, the Commodore 64. Holy cow! Some of these songs are timeless! Forget for a minute that they were written for an 8 bit home computer by a spotty twenty something year old in his bedroom in his parents house between visits to the job centre. These were some pretty immense tunes!

These guys have written some very clever lyrics too. I am very impressed!

Have a look at their website and get your wallet out – CD’s on sale ect!

http://www.pressplayontape.com/

Speaking of their website, have a loot at their about us page, tis a classic tribute to the infamous magazine, ZZAP 64!

Good grief I’m a geek!

ZenEmu

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Red Vs Blue

Red Vs Blue

Red Vs Blue

Red Vs Blue is a slightly wierd but very funny webtoon, which is based largely on the Microsoft game: Halo:Combat Evolved and various sequels on the xbox.  There is no point in doing a full review on it or anything, the series speaks for itself, and you will soon get hooked.  The premise is simple, it’s a more personal look at the war between Red Team, and those Damn Blue scumbags, and all that this terrible conflict entails. One crucial fact that escapes both teams is that their isn’t actually a war and that they have both been placed there by the same command. Yes that’s right, they are both on the same side, it’s just nobody told them that. Happily, being almost sane, neither side in in a particular hurry to attack the other.

The series has won lots of awards, and those strange critic types seem to like it too.  I love things like this. It really is a very clever and funny idea. The series was created by a team at Rooster Teeth Productions and inspired by the voice over work of Burnie Burns.

Red vs Blue is quite old now really I suppose. It started in 2003 and finished in 2007, and has over 100 episodes and a collection has even been released on DVD.

I posted the first episode above, the series evolves very quickly and becomes funnier and funnier as it progresses. It is top-notch entertainment in my opinion.

To see the full archive or to buy lost of Red Vs Blue Merchandise, including the DVD’s not to mention T-Shirts, Coffee cups and other cheesy crap, have a look at the official website:

http://redvsblue.com

Remember folks, The tragedy of modern war is that the young people die fighting each other – instead of their real enemies back home in their Capital cities.

Zen Emu X

Caitlin Hill

Caitlin Hill – TheHill88

OK, so I have mentioned Katers17 and Natalie Tran before, who are both amazingly talented stars on YouTube. It was pointed out recently, that I have neglected another member of YouTube Royalty: Caitlin Hill.

Caitlin Hill

Catlin is an Australian, who for reasons best known to herself is currently living in New York. She has been posting YouTube video’s for a little over four years. Her video’s have had tens of millions of views, and she is slowly but surely making the move to mainstream cinema, having appeared in a few independent films. Caitlin is considered a leading authority on video blogging and has been one of the true pioneers of the media.

Caitlin, like most Australians also claims to like Vegemite, which is obviously impossible. If you have ever tasted Vegemite yourself, you will know that it tastes like something that Satan trod in then wiped off his shoe.

Caitlin is also the Chief Creative Officer at hitviews.com, which is a company designed to promote online talent.

Anyway, here is Caitlin’s take on the Apple Ipad, Enjoy!

If  that hasn’t grossed you out completely,  and you wish to follow Caitlin on Youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/user/TheHill88

Her official fansite is here:

http://www.thehill88.com/

Her own Blog is Here:

http://thatgirlonline.blogspot.com/

And you can follow her on Twitter is you wish too:

http://twitter.com/thatgirlonline

She also has a fan group on Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Caitlin-Hill/61528328926

And lastly a MySpace Page:

http://www.myspace.com/thecaitlinhill

Phew! That is a long and somewhat creepy list  with a stalker kind of vibe. Anywho…

Have fun, and remember, if you play Jaws backwards, it is a sad tale of a shark with an eating disorder and set around a fairly average looking beach, full of  kids with very freaky hair do’s.

ZenEmu

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Commodore 64

Commodore 64

Commodore 64I’ve been meaning to write a post about the Commodore 64 for a while now. The problem is… where do you begin? How do you do something so important justice? I’m not sure, so lets just jump in and see where we go.

I owned computers before I had my Commodore 64. I had a Spectrum for a while, a BBC Acorn, and I had a Commodore Vic 20 too. All of these machines had their charms, but they pale into insignificance compared to the iconic truly C64.

The Commodore 64 was without doubt the best home computer I have ever owned. My friends thought so too, they all had one, well apart from one, he had a Spectrum and the only reason people liked him was that he owned a massive Scalextric set and a very good looking older sister.

For those of you too young  to remember or those not fortunate enough to own a C64 in its glory days, it will be difficult to understand just how good this machine actually was.  This was a 8 bit personal computer that was sold between 1982  – 1994.  Thats 12 years of sales! It sold 17 million units! Over 9,000 games and software titles where officially released for it, not to mention huge amounts of freeware! This was a serious machine for a very early generation of gamers. I bet Steve Jobs never owned one! That’s how good they were!

SX-64 The Portable Solution

The C64 had it’s problems. It had a terrible basic programming language written by Mr. B. Gates, which didn’t work very well. It didn’t work very well if you lived above the third storey in a building either because of “Interference”. It didn’t like to get too hot, and cold weather didn’t do it many favours either.  The floppy drive, although not essential, was quite expensive; costing as much as the machine did, whereas the hard drive cost twice as much again! Tape access, as with all machines at the time was slooooowwww. Cartridge games where rare and expensive, as well as difficult to slot in and out, often breaking the machine in the process. Also the power leads were often badly soldered and broke after a while.

When the portable verison of the c64 was released – the SX64 (weighing in at 23 pounds), it failed badly – nobody bought one! (they are worth a fortune to collectors now). The small 5″ CRT screen next to the floppy drive, had magnets in it, as do all CRT screens. Floppy discs and magnetic fields do not mix well.

Compunet

Still, if you were willing to over look these minor flaws (and we were as we know no better), the c64 had it’s own brand of magic. Long  before the interweb existed in its current form, you could buy a  modem for your C64. The only real reason to do this in the UK was to access something called Compunet! Many countries had there own version; in the US they had Quantum Computer Services – which later became America Online (AOL). Compunet was a magical bulletin board (a very basic forum) where people could post demos’ and you could download and save them. You could chat to people too and email them! It even had a WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) Text Editor. In 1985! Honestly! I was 12 years old, and this was arguably the first online community! Jaws, mine included, dropped!

The lack of a decent, easy to use BASIC language on the C64 meant that in order to write games or anything else with any form of complexity, you had to learn to program in assembly language. Some people saw this as a problem; Why build a machine with amazing hardware and not give it an easily accessible programming language? Simple really, they got it cheap. They paid Microsoft a one time fee of $25,000 for Microsoft Basic for the Commodore PET, and they used slightly updated versions of it on all there machines, never paying Microsoft or anyone else a penny more.

For many, Commodore’s decision to lumber its machines with the worst BASIC language you will ever come across was a blessing in disguise. You see if you learn to program in Assembly Language on one machine, it is very easy to do it for a different machine, you just need a memory map, which shows which bits of memory are used for which function for example sound of graphics, but the underlying code is very similar. As a result, a whole generation of Playstation, Xbox, Wii and Windows programmers were born, because Commodore was stubborn and cheap!

Some of the more spectacle wearing among you may remember GEOS too. GEOS (Graphic Environment Operating System), which was a bit like Windows for the C64,  in that it didn’t work very well. It was impressive never the less. It had paint programs, calculators, word-processors, spreadsheets  and databases, all written and designed by a small community supporting and sharing software and ideas with each other! It was all very Utopian and lovely.

With Compunet in place, at the hefty price of £0.80 per hour (in the UK at least) and GEOS making tape and disc management easier, fantastic people like Ashley Routledge & Dave Saunders (Ash & Dave) where creating remarkable demo’s and games. They pushed the c64 to its design limits, and then way beyond. They exploited bugs in the actual hardware to create astonishing effects. A new and original generation of programmers came along and designed all of the games genres we take for granted today, and this little machine was the first tool that really allowed them to do that. People like Ash & Dave have since gone on to shape the gaming industry.

Wizball music by Martin GalwayAnother fantastic piece of hardware the c64 had on-board, was the SID (Sound Interface Device) Chip, which provided three sound channels, allowing programmers and musicians to generate quality sound for the first time on a computer inexpensively. This lead to some truly awesome in-game soundtracks – Wizball’s theme music by Martin Galway is a prime example.

Games for the Commodore 64 were by and large rubbish if  you take off the rose coloured glasses, but almost all of them were original, thought up by single programmers or a couple of friends coding over a cup of tea, in a flat somewhere. This is where modern gaming was defined and shaped, because this is where the original console programmers came from – my generation – the 8-bit generation.

Of course you may be lucky enough to have a Commodore 64 that still works. It may be in your loft, or in the bottom of a wardrobe somewhere. If so, get it out, dust it off, and load your favourite game while you make yourself a cup of tea or coffee. You might be suprised at how good some of them are.

If you don’t own a C64, may I suggest having a look at WinVICE, which emulates not only the Commodore 64, but most of the Commodore family, (Amiga excluded). Have a look at http://www.c64.com, where you can download most C64 games for the emulator. There are even some people out there now, who are developing games and demos for c64 emulators, all these years later. Astonishing isn’t it? Have a look at the Forums on Lemon64 for more information.

Of course you can always look on ebay for a second hand C64, there are still quite a few floating around out there, and they aren’t particularly expensive either. I just picked one up while writing this for£50 with 200 games! If you do buy a C64, bear in mind that there is still a huge “Modding” scene out there.

C64 Laptop

Have a look at http://www.64hdd.com which will show you everything from adding a huge hard drive to creating your own portable c64. Or how about an incredibly sexy c64 laptop? I have plans on building my own version of this at some point in the next 12 months when I am a little less busy than I am now.

I miss the glory days of the Commodore 64 when everything was new and exciting. Still it is good to know that I am not the only one, and that their are others out there keeping the Commodore spirit alive.

Enjoy, reminisce, be nostalgic and enjoy the magic that is and was the Commodore 64.

ZenEmu X

Ross Bollinger

Pencilmation – by Ross Bolinger

Ross Bollinger

I got lots of great feedback about the Ill Will Press post I did recently, and some of you were kind enough to point me in the direction of Pencilmation, which is another fantastic little webtoon, by the incredibly talented  Ross Bolinger.

Ross seems to release another episode every couple of weeks, and having wasted half a day watching them, I promise, they are all very good. The best thing about these webtoons is their hand finished look. All the episodes are released on youtube, itunes and can be viewed on pretty much any mobile device you care to mention.

Ross is always on the look out for animators who can donate a bit of free time too; if you feel you can help, contact Ross and offer your services. You won’t regret it and many of us will love you for always. Good Karma!

You can also follow Ross on TwitterPencilmation also welcomes ideas for new episodes, so get in touch with Ross if you have any suggestions.

Sorry this post is so brief, having a very busy day.

Have fun, hug your favourite pet and don’t chew on your pencil, that is just wrong.

ZenEmu

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Foamy the Squirrel

Ill Will Press – Neurotically Yours, by Jonathan Ian Mathers.

Foamy the SquirrelOK, in an attempt to keep this blog reasonably random, I am going to point you in the direction of something a bit different; one of my favourite websites: Ill Will Press. This website has been around for six years or so, but I didn’t come across it a couple of years ago when a friend pointed me in the right direction.

Ill Will Press hosts a webtoon called Neurotically Yours, created by a chap called Jonathan Ian Mathers. Neurotically yours charts the exploits and opinions of Foamy the Squirrel. There is usually a new episode every two weeks or so. In my humble opinion it is one of the funniest things out there in interweb land.

I became a realy big fan when The Neurotically Yours team used Foamy the Squirrel to ask People to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, while giving the US press some much needed home truths.

I have posted an old episode of Neurotically Yours below mainly because I think it is one that any PC owner can relate to quite easily. GO check out the site, you won’t regret it. There are over 200 episodes, so it will keep you going for a little while.

*This is not one for the kids folks, so keep them clear.

Have fun, watch family guy and smile.

ZenEmu X

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