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Nostalgic For the ZX Spectrum? Soon You Can Play With a New One

shippo Re:overheat (91 comments)

My Issue 2 Spectrum exhibited exactly the same problem when connected to one of our TV sets. The issue was due to the PAL colour signal, in particular the fact that the phase of one part of the colour signal is reversed on each alternate line. On decoding the signal the TV simply inverted the phase of the wrong lines, resulting in red and green components of the picture getting mangled. Of course these decoding errors were down to the Spectrum's signal not adhering to the PAL specifications properly. A previous TV set of ours would sometimes do something similar when handling a standard broadcast signal - switching channels was enough to reset the decoder to its correct operation.

about 7 months ago

Schiller Says Apple Is the Last PC Maker From the Mac Era, Forgets About HP

shippo A couple of others, one well known, one not so. (474 comments)

I can think of a couple of other manufacturers who are still going, and were producing machines at the the time of original Mac. One of these is a major name, another is obscure, even in it's own country. The first is of course Toshiba, who were producing CP/M systems in 1980, if not earlier. The other is the British manufacturer Research Machines, who produce exclusively for the UK educational sector. Their RM 380Z, another CP/M box, appeared in 1977. RM are still producing PCs for education today, but I believe that they will soon be moving out of hardware whilst continuing with their software and support services.

about 8 months ago

French Court Orders Google To Block Pictures of Ex-F1 Chief Mosley

shippo Re:Why is he special? (180 comments)

Find a copy of the front page of the News Of The World that made the original allegations, and look at the first three words of the sentence printed at the bottom of the page. Then look into his aunt Unity's movements during the year before he was born. More than a co-incidence?

about 10 months ago

BBC Turns Off CEEFAX Service After 38 Years

shippo Re:*Used to be* good side of the BBC (160 comments)

Telesoftware was ended in September 1989. It was mainly used to distribute educational software and utilities to BBC Micro users, although during the last year of the service they also transmitted PC software. The Telesoftware service was also used to distribute other content to schools, mainly satellite weather maps and text files containing teacher's notes covering the BBC's education programming. The Telesoftware service took up 20% of the overall bandwidth for the CEEFAX service carried on BBC2, and given that only a very small proportion of users ever used the service, it was decided to drop it. The end of the BBC schools computing scheme, the fact that the weather maps that the system distributed would no longer be made available free-of-charge, and the poor take-up of PC adaptors all contributed to making the closure inevitable.

about 2 years ago

The History of the Floppy Disk

shippo Re:Read Error (204 comments)

At work we had an installation of Windows NT Server (3.5, perhaps) that came on floppies. There was over 40 of them. We had many other OS installations on floppy too. Banyan VINES (which we resold) had about two dozen, and as Banyan were compartively late in supporting CD media for installation, and even then didn't support IDE CD-ROM drives, many servers had to be installed and upgraded this way well up to the late 1990s. We had other operating systems on floppy, too, including several versions of OS/2, Netware and SCO Unix. Then there was that floppy installation of Slackware I made for in-house installation on test PCs, as most of our test boxes lacked CD drives.

about 2 years ago

Linux Is a Lemon On the Retina MacBook Pro

shippo Odd new hardware never works. (780 comments)

Fix it yourself by hacking the drivers. I had to do that with the sound hardware fitted to an old PC of mine. The card worked fine, apart from the MIDI interface which I could never get to work. It turned out that the main sound controller chip had a slightly different model number to the ones listed in the source of the kernel driver, and the mechanism for setting the MIDI hardware base address and interrupt was somewhat different. One evening spent disassembling the hardware's DOS driver later, and I had a patch that added support. It eventually ended up in the kernel source tree (2.2 perhaps?), but the whole driver was purged from the kernel a long time ago.

more than 2 years ago

EA Defends Itself Against Thousands of Anti-Gay Letters

shippo Re:Anti-Gay? (1069 comments)

Aren't you a bit old to have an imaginary friend?

more than 2 years ago

Bill Gates Takes the Stand In WordPerfect Trial

shippo Re:WP had poor support back in the day (472 comments)

The DOS version was somewhat quirky, too. I recall one of our customers having problems with WordPerfect 5.1 (or was it 6.0?) creating huge temporary files on network file volumes. Another had problems with print queue parameters getting mangled, as if WordPerfect was writing directly to the print buffer, bypassing the standard API calls.

more than 2 years ago

The Beatles On iTunes

shippo Re:Who cares? (551 comments)

In the Beatles case it was not a reluctance to release their catalogue in a downloadable format, but down to an exceeding complex set to legal issues over the rights to their catalogue. The group sued EMI over several issues, such as the low royalties paid during the beginning of their contract and the assortment of badly complied albums that appeared after the groups' EMI contract expired in 1976. When these cases were finally settled it granted the group full control as to what can and can't be issued worldwide, although EMI still owned the actual masters. Of course this settlement didn't anticipate downloadable content, and it was re-negotiation that significantly held things up.

more than 3 years ago

How Allies Used Math Against German Tanks

shippo WWII UK Aircraft serial numbers. (330 comments)

During and prior to World War Two, all military aircraft were assigned serial numbers by the Air Ministry. These comprised of one letter followed by four digits unit that sequence was exhausted in 1940, afterwards the code changed to two letters followed by three numbers. These numbers were painted on the sides of aircraft on a vertical surface, usually the rear of the fuselage. Different groups of letters were assigned to each service (RAF, Royal Navy, and from 1942 the Army Air Corps), often prior to production. However to make production numbers seem higher than they actually were, ranges of serial numbers assigned to particular projects often contained gaps which remained unused. These were known as Blackout Blocks. For example serial numbers for one batch of Spitfires produced in 1939 had serial numbers that went P8640-P8679, P8690-P8729, P8740-P8759 and P8780-P8799 with the rest unissued.

more than 3 years ago

The Secret of Monkey Island Shows Evolution of PC Audio

shippo I owned a lot of sound cards back then. (348 comments)

I bought a good number of sound cards over that period.

I started with a cheap Soundblaster clone called the Thunderboard. It offered Adlib compatibility, which was enough for games music. The card was somewhat noisy when playing audio and not always compatible. It did, however, have native drivers with Windows 3.1 when that finally appeared.

The next card was an early wavetable card from Orchid. I wanted a Roland but couldn't afford one, so went for this thing instead. The card supported the GM sound set, but also roughly emulated a Roland device. It also emulated Adlib playback, but had severe compatibility issues when it came to playing back wave audio.

A few months later I acquired a Soundblaster PRO. Finally I had stereo PCM, but also updated the FM synthesis to OPL3. Finding games that supported OPL3 was tricky, but when they did appear the sound was phenomenal, with big 'farty' bass sounds.

Eventually my old PC became obsolete so I upgraded to something new. That came fitted with it's own adequate Soundblaster 16 clone from Opti, but went back to OPL2 for FM. It lacked any wavetable facilities onboard, but had a slot for a daughter-board that offered the feature. Unfortunately I could never find anything to fit that slot.

Then I picked up a Yamaha XG wavetable board that was probably the last in wavetable technology. The XG soundset added many more instruments to GM, together with a whole other set of parameters that could be tweaked. By then, of course, most games were abandoning external music sources, so it was only really used for other projects. I've still got this card at home, but lack anything with an ISA slot to fit it to.

I'm pretty sure I also picked up another cheap Soundblaster clone around this time too, as the card originally fitted into the PC wasn't compatible with the latest version of DirectX requited by one game. Again

more than 3 years ago

The Mystery of the Mega-Selling Floppy Disk

shippo Accountancy software. (558 comments)

One of the commercial accountancy software packages found in the UK prompts its user to make regular backups of the data to floppies for archiving purposes.

more than 4 years ago

After 27 Years, a New High Score For Asteroids

shippo Strategy. (193 comments)

The strategy behind the game is to clear the playfield of all bar a handful of small asteroids, and then wait for the flying saucers to appear. If you're moving fairly quickly up or down the screen you can avoid the saucers with practice. As the game awards 1000 for the small saucers and a bonus life every 10,000 points it's a somewhat easy task to rack up many extra lives. Once the last asteroid was eliminated, the game would restart, increasing the number of large asteroids at the start up to a limit of around 12.

Early versions of the game were even easier as broken game logic resulted in an area of the screen that rendered the player immune to attacks. There wasn't even any means for making the game harder by setting the game's dip-switches - these only controlled the initial number of lives and other sundry settings such as language and coin count. Suffice to say experienced players could easily play the games for hours at a time.

Atari later released Asteroids Deluxe which was somewhat harder. This included a second type of saucer that split into components which homed in on the player, as well as amendments to other parts of the game logic.

more than 4 years ago

After 27 Years, a New High Score For Asteroids

shippo Re:Score (193 comments)

There's no maximum as the score counter rolls over at 100,000. You need to have someone to manually keep track of the number of roll overs.

I remember being in an amusement arcade in Redcar, UK in the early 1980s, when someone was attempting an Asteroids record. He had an assistant with a clipboard to verify the roll-over count.

more than 4 years ago

Remote Malware Injection Via Flaw In Network Card

shippo Re:Not a big surprise (49 comments)

Intelligent LAN cards are nothing new. Back when 80386 processors were being used in servers, several manufacturers produced NICs with their own processor. The LAN protocol stack would be run partially on the NIC itself to reduce the load on main server. We had a Xenix server at work that used such a NIC.

As a matter-of-fact I've still got a similar designed serial card in my cupboard of spares. This used an 80186 to control 6 serial lines, leaving the main processor free to get on with other things.

more than 4 years ago

Need Help Salvaging Data From an Old Xenix System

shippo Re:Another interesting way to skin this cat.. (325 comments)

I seriously doubt that there will be a VM capable of running this OS. The Altos 586 used an Intel 80186 processor, which was an 8086 with several external components (clock generator, interrupt controller, DMA controller etc.) integrated into the chip. Therefore the machine is not PC compatible as these bits of hardware will be accessed in a different mechanism compared to a standard PC.

The 80186 was typically used in embedded devices. A few non-PC compatible or semi-PC compatible machines did use it, most notably the Tandy 2000.

more than 4 years ago

Need Help Salvaging Data From an Old Xenix System

shippo Reading the disk will be tricky. (325 comments)

This takes me back....

Firstly, I'm sure that there were never 10MB IDE drives. The drive will either be ST506, ESDI or possibly even SCSI.

Secondly Xenix would create several filesystems within the Xenix partition, using its own separate partition table. As far as I'm aware no mechanism to read these tables was ever added to the Linux kernel.

more than 4 years ago

Dot-Com Craze Peaked 10 Years Ago This Week

shippo I think the boom hit the UK a little later. (192 comments)

I remember being in London in 2000 attending a training course. It must have been late in the year, as it was after we'd moved offices that August.

Anyway whilst down in London I read a few of those free newspapers to pass the time, and couldn't believe how they were hyping stocks in all kinds of daft websites. Then there were the equally stupid adverts splashed all over the underground. One company in particular had bombarded the whole of the network whilst lavish adverts of for their service, whose entire mode of operation involved serious personal privacy breaches. It was obvious that a crash was looming.

more than 4 years ago

The Long Shadow of Y2K

shippo My experience. (257 comments)

I worked for a systems reseller/support provider back then. We had 50 to 100 customers out in the field running a particular OS and associated software products.

Our major vendor was extremely slow at getting updates out. The OS definitely had a problem, as account expiry dates were stored using two digit years, so ever user on every system would get locked out come 2000. They managed to devise a fix to the account security system, but it was well into 1999 before this update appeared. Even then the update was in the form of a complete new release of the latest version of the OS which had some terrible inherent problems not seen in the earlier releases many customers chose to still run.

More annoying with this new update is at the same time many long lasting OS features were discontinued, features which the majority of our customers used. It was as if they simply couldn't be bothered to audit the code, so they simply junked it. These features included WAN connections via serial and leased lines and integration with IBM mainframe architecture - with these features no longer available the OS no longer had an advantage over the then competition.

The knock-on effect was that the majority of our customers simply decided to abandon the OS altogether and migrate to something else, such as NT.

more than 4 years ago

Replacements For Adobe Creative Suite 3 Apps?

shippo Re:I don't get it (270 comments)

Some really old and depreciated API calls could get dropped in the transition between OS versions. When depreciated these calls will log error messages in the various log files.

about 5 years ago


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