Saturday, 22 September 2012

My history of computing

I could talk for hours and hours about computers, it's such a huge topic and there is so many interesting areas, but I'll try and keep it brief and stick to the specific areas I consider to be milestones as I grew up with them.

The first computer I really remember having is the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, the 128K version with build in tape deck. It was brilliant!
The ZX Specturm with built in tape deck
I was pretty young when I got it, maybe around 6 or 7 and I still remember sitting on a toy box with my uncles after they had set it up for me and my mum giving them into trouble for not giving me a shot cause they were so amazed by it as well (they were about 30 at the time). There were some great games on it, my favourites being Dynamite Dan, Fast Food (which my mum rocked at!) and Robin Hood which was really long but had great controls and just felt really smooth to play.
Dynamite Dan
For years all I could remember about the game was the giant cheese in the bath
Fast Food
My mum was so good at this she got onto the upside down levels
Robin Hood
This game was HUGE great fun though
I never really got into programming on the Specturm which had a BASIC compiler built into it but my friend did and I remember seeing a 'hello world' game he had programmed and not being very impressed.

I think it was after that that I got my Atari. No huge memories of that other than Outlaw which I loved.
Then came the Sega Master System and afterwards the Mega Drive. The Master System was ok but it was really the Mega Drive I fell in love with.
Blast Processing! The Sega Mega Drive, computer of the gods
Without a doubt my favourite game was Toejam and Earl. It was just huge! Great fun as well and a brilliant co-op game, to this day one of the best I've ever played. It was colourful and humorous and the randomized levels meant you could play it repeatedly without getting fed up. The only real problem it had was no save points so quite often I'd play for an hour or so and then get fed up and have to restart all over again on the next play through, often getting to the same point and then getting bored again.
Toejam and Earl
One of the best co-op games ever
Other greats from my childhood include Golden Axe, Sonic 2, Wiz and Liz, Skitchin, Road Rash, Rock 'n' Roll Racing, Worms... I'll leave it at that.

I enjoyed the Mega Drive so much that a once I got a job and started earning some proper money I took up collecting the games again. To date I've got about 230 games and splashed out recently on a flash cart to allow me to play homebrew and ROM hacks on the original console. I'm not one of those purists (read snob) that thinks emulators are for lamers but there is something more enjoyable about playing games on the original hardware that you just don't get from them. Still they are great to play hard-to-get games on and for development (and cheating!)

I even got into ROM hacking for a while I still do it here and there when I have the time. You can check out my site to see some of the stuff I've done.

After the Mega Drive came the usual: Playstation, N64, Dreamcast, Playstation 2, DS, XBox 360 and that's where it ends. Nothing to say about them really other than GTA 3 blew me away and was the reason I bought a PS2.
The game changer in video games
I think I got my first PC when I was about 12, maybe a little younger. It cost my mum over a grand and she was paying it off forever! That's my mum for you though, she'd never see me go without even if it meant sacrificing the stuff she wanted.

It ran Windows 95 which my mum's friend tried to downgrade to 3.1 because he thought it would be too complicated for me. This resulted in him breaking it (it wasn't 3.1 compatible) and us having to return it to the shop! Thankfully they fixed it (I can't remember if we had to pay or no) and I got a working computer again. My only real memories of it are it having this weird program called 'BASE' which was a picture of a lounge (living room) which came on at start up and you could click on things to open programs, like the TV would open Windows Media Player, the briefcase would open My Briefcase and so on. It sucked and was soon removed.

I also took my copy of Warcraft into school on the last day of term (we could take toys in to play with then) and the teacher didn't let me install it on the computer cause she said it wouldn't work (she was right as it was an Acorn computer) and when I got home I found it had slipped out of its paper case and got scratched, breaking it. What a waste, I was gutted.
Then it was what I think is the usual progression for a kid interested in computers - taking things apart, learning about upgrades, falling in love with the internet (my friend had it before me so I used to always go to his to use it, even tried once when he wasn't in but his dad said no) (I also got banned from AOL 3 times within 6 months!), getting bored during computer class cause you knew everything already or could fire through the work in 10 minutes.

Fast forward a few years and a degree in Artificial Intelligence later and here we are.

Just now I've got a real interest in computer vision and reasoning upon what the computer can 'see'. In my sister blog I talk specifically about this topic and am working on a game player that works using computer vision, it's interesting and you should check it out if you are into that sort of thing.

I'm also fascinated by Infinite Mario and Automated Driving (i.e. Darpa Grand Challange) although I haven't looked into them although that much. Still great concepts though.
Infinite Mario
Darpa rand Challange
I think that about sums everything up, any other details I think of I'll give in later posts. Now just my history of zombies to discuss...

Monday, 17 September 2012

Overdue Update

Well it's been a busy summer, not that you guys would know due to my lack of updates! In my defence though I did get married in August!

Me and my beautiful girlfriend of 9 years tied the knot on the 18th of August 2012, it seems like a lifetime away now!
Me and Gemma on The Big Day
But you're not here to read about that! On with the gardening!!!

The garden has been really sorely neglected this year. Well maybe I'm being too hard on myself there, I have done a lot of 'layout' work, moving earth from one place to another, putting in a border, putting in a bird bath and adding a couple of other things I'll talk about shortly. But planting and maintenance have definitely taken a back seat.

The main reason for this is having propagators all over the house last year left a lot of mess so I didn't do it this year which meant planting straight from seed which yielded little results. Eventually I gave in and set up one propagator quite late into the summer and managed to plant out a couple of the 'Tall Mix' that I planted and grew successfully last year.
'Tall Mix' and a bit of moss
You can see in the picture some of the 'Tall Mix' growing around the corner of the slabs and some more up the top corner, they aren't as big as last year but they've came through again which is nice.
'Tall Mix' growing up the drain pipe
 Also growing is this beauty which I at first though was just a blade of tall grass but kept out of curiosity! Sadly though after nothing grew from my straight planting into the border I threw out all the packets for the seeds so I'm not sure what it is. One of the things I learnt this year is to always keep a note of what you've planted!
Mystery plant
 These are some plants my neighbour gave me which should flower next year. They looked quite strong so I've planted them under the bird house since that area tends to get a bit trampled by pigeons so whatever is there needs to be quite hardy.
Plants under the bird house
The veg patch hasn't evolved at all. I ended up dumping all the grass I had moved into the corner back on top of the same section after I found out that granite (the rock my house is made of) actually seeps water so having a pile of earth against it can cause problems with damp. Took ages to move it all back as well since I couldn't get the shovel under it properly due to the branches I'd put underneath! All that I covered was a patch of weeds so it actually looks better here than it did.
Veg patch still looking empty
 This is the first year I've planted bedding plants as well. I thought it was cheating really to plant things someone else has grown but with the lack of space for growing I'm actually thinking it might be my preferred method for now (until I get a bigger house). Here is an example of the bedding plants round my bird path:
Bedding plants round the bird bath. Grass has been cut!
 Looking ok considering they were looking like this at one stage:
In addition to the plants at the base of the bird house my neighbour also made this out of some bamboo polls and string. Looks good! Hopefully it'll grow nicely.

Home made trellis out of string and bamboo
Also new in the garden, which I hinted to earlier, are these:
New toys and some bedding plants
That is a 220 ltr rain butt and an equally sized compostor! Beautiful! Ok, I know, we are in Aberdeen so we don't really need rain butts but you never know when there might be a need to be able to collect a large amount of water (remember this blog is about zombies as well yeah!) so I've always wanted one cause there is something cool about collecting a large amount of water.

The compostor is just another trial. I have a brown bin for putting my garden waste to be collected by the council but I'll put the odd bit and piece into my own one as well.

Other than that there isn't much going on. Here is a couple of plants I have in the house that are doing quite well. Except the top one that is, it was left in the cold frame whilst I was away on honeymoon and looked a bit worse for wear when I returned but I'm hopefully that it'll bounce back now that it is in doors under my watchful eye.

In for recovery
Potted plant (again, must keep names!)

Wife's Orchid, still looking well
Well that's about it. I also had my first accident in the garden this period but I don't think it's noticeable, is it?
Perfectly good plant pot
Oh and I add this to my little spot in the back garden:
Little hide away in the back garden heated by a chimenea
A little chimenea! It's really a one man one and just tucks away nicely there. I got it in a sale at Homebase after buying one it BnQ that was way too big for the space (I've kept it as well though, still planning on that new house so I can fit in propagators remember!) but this one is perfect. I love the great deals you can get on gardening stuff as the summer rolls to an end!

Well that's it, sorry for the delay but I hope you've enjoyed the latest. Not sure when the next post will be as I don't have any more plans for the moment. I do have quite a few pots of plants out back that I'm hoping to keep all winter so I'll keep you posted on how they are getting on.

Till then.