The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

Today’s events:

The Good.

My new bike has arrived at the shop so I’ll be collecting it tomorrow morning.
My “spare” Atari ST arrived, it works and I’ve proved that the old disk drive I have is faulty and not my old ST.
The Tornado flight sim for the Amiga’s arrived.

The Bad.

As I was reversing out of my drive to go and collect the ST from work I bumped into the door of a car parked the opposite side of the road. I was doing about 1-2 mph att he time as I was carefully reversing out looking for traffic and cars behind me.. However, I didn’t see the dark green Micra. Even after I’d bumped the car I couldn’t see it in any of the windows and it wasn’t until I drove forward into the driveway and got out did I see what I’d hit. It took a number of knocks on doors until I found the owner, an estate agent who was valuing my next door neighbour’s house. I gave her my details. No damage to my car but a pushed in dent on the door of her car.

The Ugly.

It looks like I’ll not be able to leave Oxford over Easter as my colleague is going on a 3 week holiday to China. I *MAY* be able to drive down to Cornwall for a weekend over Easter, as in drive down on Good Friday and drive back on Easter Monday. Not exactly the break I usually need before the beginning of the summer term. Oh well.

Life and other things.

The last few weeks for me have been relatively quiet. I’ve mostly reverted to my sort of teenage geek mode of playing with old computers, soldering and generally messing about with hardware. It’s been sort of fun revisiting this sort of thing. It is a pity that I don’t have the room in my house for all the old computers, a model railway and a whole host of other distractions to keep me entertained.

However, I did manage at least one social occasion. Last Monday reverendgrim, h0llym0nst3r, sleipnir_ and xencat decided to go see “Ocean’s 12” at the MyVue cinema in Reading. Because I hated the first film and had heard that the new one was actually worse I decided to skip the film but did turn up for the meal beforehand. It was nice seeing the group again and we all had a very pleasant time in Wagamama’s though I must admit that I wasn’t in one of my more talkative moods that day. After the meal I did get a little confused when picking up my change and accidently took the (larger) tip instead. Oops! I was obviously not at all on top form that day.

As for other things. My Mum went into hospital in Plymouth last Thursday to have a sore on her leg treated and a skin graft put onto it. Apparently the operation on Friday went well and she’s been ordering the staff about a bit since. My Dad’s been doing a daily trek up to Plymouth from Mullion, a 170 mile round trip, for the visiting hours. It sounds very tiring.

I’m still waiting for my new bike to arrive. I was hoping that it would arrive before the weather turned snowy as my old bike has great problems with the gears and brakes icing up and seizing. Neither of these things is pleasant. The former makes it tiring to cycle and the latter makes the cycling “interesting.” The new bike has all the cables and mechanisms either covered or internal, out of the weather, and hence would be far more suitable for the cold weather. It’s now two and a half weeks since I refused the women’s version of the bike that Trek first tried to foist onto me. If I’m paying £850 for a bike I definitely want the one I ordered!

Anyway, it’s time to get some lunch.

Retro gaming update.

Hmm.. Maybe opening an account at eBay wasn’t such a good idea in the first place. It’s *FAR* too easy to spend lots of money on postage (but not a huge amount on the goods).

As far as the Amiga goes, I shouldn’t have listened to the advice I was given about getting an A1200 and should have stuck with picking up an A500 as I had first thought. Why do I say this? Well, although the A1200 is faster and more expandable than the A500, and is usually cheaper on eBay, it doesn’t run a lot of the old software. The newer software from the mid-90’s meant to run on the A1200 don’t actually work on the stock machine but require massive upgrades to the memory and/or processor. :-/

This has meant that the two items of software that I’ve so far bought from eBay, F-16 Combat Pilot and SimCity 2000, won’t run on my machine. The former ‘cos the machine’s too new and the second because the machine hasn’t been upgraded enough. At least if I’d have had an A500 I would have known not to buy the second one and the first one would have worked.

There is some light on the horizon, but it means spending more money.. £4 for Relokick software which often will help old games run on the later machines and an upgrade from eBay (which will probably cost more than the machine and the software to begin with). I’m going to see if I can use a last minute of the auction bidding technique to get a 40MHz 68030+memory upgrade card for less than £20 this afternoon.

On the Atari ST front, I’ve managed to get the memory upgrade working and have diagnosed the floppy problem to the machine not being able to read the second side of the floppy disk. The main problem now is that I can’t test whether the problem is at the ST end or the floppy disk end as to do that I’d either need a seconf floppy drive or a second ST. So, it was back to eBay… where I bought an upgrades 520STFM plus games for £6.50 (plus £15 postage… See, the postage is more than the item again!). That should arrive sometime next week. Still, I would have prefered a second floppy drive as a test item (for a start the postage would have been less) but they seem to be rarer than hen’s teeth.

On a positive front, I’ve got my olf Ferguson TV/Monitor out, made up a cable to go between it and the ST and that’s working fine. So I can play Bubble Bobble and PacMania (as they’re both single sided disk games) and Starglider 2 runs nicely on both the St and the Amiga. All is not lost.

So, what have I been doing this weekend?…

Well, Friday evening, after returning from work and Happy Hour I had a quiet evening in, just me and my Amiga, playing with the Workbench 3.1 disks and seeing what programs on the ST/Amiga Format cover disks either still worked or worked with the A1200. I also did a little bidding on eBay for a monitor which should work with all my older computers, unlike the Microvitec CUB which can’t handle separate sync video.

Actually, I did do other things on Friday night, such as talking to Leila on MSN. OK, still geeky/spoddy, but hey!

Saturday I had planned to go to Witney and get my hair cut. However, due to not sleeping well overnight I decided to give it a miss and have a lay in. So, I got up at about 10ish, had a lazy breakfast before popping into Sainsbury’s for the weekly shop reurning in time for “The Sky at Night” on BBC 2. Following lunch I wandered into town via a local garage where I got my car washed. OK, it was a car wash but I don’t see the weather being good enough for a proper hand wash for a while yet so it’s better than nothing. The only real reason for going into the city centre was a desparate need for paracetamol tablets as I failed to get any a fornight ago in Reading. However, even Oxford’s Superdrug only had a couple of packets left. It must be something to do with the epidemic of colds going around at the moment or something.

The evening was again spent playing with the Amiga, finding out about the ways to get old games to run on the newer hardware and hence discovering how to get Starglider 2 to run. (Starglider 2 was one of the few games which came out which had both Atari ST and Amiga versions on the same disk.) There was nothing on the telly so i didn’t bother turning it on all evening.

Today’s been quite productive, really. After listening to Broadcasting House and then talking to my parents on the phone I got up at about a quarter to eleven. I immediately got to work pulling apart the Amiga so as to give it a good clean and also so that I could prepare it for the hard disk and new Kickstart ROMs which I should find in my pigeonhole at work in the morning. The hard drive mounting bracket needed modification because, for some reason, 2.5″ hard disk drives have changed their mounting screw positions. So, it was out with the workmate, drill and so on. While this was happening, the case was sitting in a nice bubble bath, soaking away the years of grime. With some good scrubbling with a nail brush the dirt of the years fell away. It was obvious that this particular A1200 had had a hard life. Its internal sheilding was mottled with rust and the sides of the keys of the keyboard were spattered with water colour paints. In all it looks as though whoever had it had abused it in their bedroom and afterward left it to rot in a shed. Amazingly, however, it survived and is now recieving some well deserved TLC. I even managed to get the floppy disk light to work which it hadn’t before I started. (Though I don’t know why it didn’t work in the first place.)

Subsiquently, I packed up the QL and other stuff and put it up in the loft, ready for setting up the Amiga up stairs and done various housework. That’s about it, really, so far.

eBaying update.

Well, the machine arrived today. So, it’s definitely a positive first experience of eBay.

Now all I need for the machine are a set of Workbench 3.1 disks (which I’ve put an order in for at AmigaDeals (£16 inc. delivery)) and a monitor cable to connect to the back of my old Ferguson TV/RGB-monitor. (But I’ll need a trip to Maplins to get the DIN and D-shell plugs for that.)

My first eBay experience

Just before the weekend I decided that I needed to fill a hole in my computer museum/junk pile, namely a Commodore Amiga of some kind. I’d looked on eBay to see what was available before asking on the Junk mailing list what people thought was the best sort of machine to get.

The general reaction from Junk was that the A1200 was super-dooper, but I also got an offer of a free A500 with lots of disks. Unfortunately, Jane hadn’t realised that Bob had taken the machine (and left the boxes) previously. Oh well.

The upshot was that this morning I had a look at what was available on eBay and found an A1200 on sale with about 10 hours to go until the end of the auction and the current bid was £14.00. Hence, I bid £14.50. It wasn’t long until my bid was overwhelmed. I had a further think and bumped up my bid and added a maximum bid of £20.00.

All was fine, with no other bids ’til about 5pm when another person pushed the price right up to my previous limit. Now, I wasn’t going to spend more than £40 including postage for any old machine, so I upped my max bid to £25. With less than 2 hours to go the bids bounced up to £24.01… where it stayed. I won!

Paying with PayPal wasn’t too much of a headache other than the unexpected delay between the e-mails confirming operations and the display on eBay changing. It make you think that you may have made a mistake.

Of course, now I need to wait to see if the machine turns up.

So far, then, it seems a relatively painless process.

Rotting data

When my parents came down to visit on Thursday they brought with them all my old Atari ST and Sinclair QL floppy disks and microdrives.

This morning I had a look through the disks. Oh dear, it wasn’t a good sight. Cornish mildew had eaten into every one of the floppy disks. Some disks were worse than others, varying from one or two spidery patches on the surface of the disc to complete coverage of large areas. This means that ALL of my old Atari and QL software held on those disks is lost.

Thankfully, all was not lost. The microdrive cartridges have a far better design which keeps them air-tight plastic containers and hence free from atmospheric problems such as damp and biological interference. So, I powered up the QL and tried all the cartridges, loaded programs etc. No problem at all. I can remember when the QL came out that everyone berated Sinclair for fitting microdrives saying that they were far too slow and unreliable. Now, 20 years later, the only data source I have which has proved 100% reliable are.. the microdrives! Yes, they’re slow and they only hold 100K (as opposed to 720K for the floppies) but at least they last.

Still, it does mean that there’s very little point in setting up the ST again as most of the stuff I would have used it with no-longer exist. The Cornish environment is one of the worst you can have (other than Caribbean hot and damp) for magnetic media and computers in general. I just hope that when I test the Atari TT when I get back down to my parents’ at Easter I’ll find that it still works and the hard disk will run.