Dear Diary...

This is my diary. How things are. Or something. Please note that the diary is archived month by month, so feel free to click the links for the archives:

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Wednesday 5th August - In The Office

It was back to the office today, as it's been quite productive normally when I am in there - and I am also able to do some testing of various things physically that you can't really do when you are working from home. It was a different route today because the trains to Victoria weren't as often as I thought: so it was Thameslink to Blackfriars and then District to Embankment followed by Bakerloo to Piccadilly Circus. Interestingly, because Temple and Charing Cross tube stations are closed, it was only one stop on each line to go. The Bakerloo train was lovely and empty and had the whole carriage to myself.

It was nice to be in anyway as four of the IT folks were in and we had been allocated desks on a bank, correctly socially distanced but at least it meant we could talk to each other and get on during the day, which was actually very nice it has to be said. I also amended the Windows 10 build task sequence as per a planned change to include the new versions of Chrome and Firefox that I had tested and all was well there. In fact there was a laptop which needed a rebuild anyway, so set to work on that and it was done before our Service Team colleagues arrived, so all good.

It was a productive day - spent some time checking over some stats of machines with Bitlocker and reasons why, thankfully this was relatively easy to put together if you know what you are looking for of course, and it was useful to put together and sort. The good thing is that it shows that our build processes are solid, becuase we could clearly see that the number was very high (as it should be!) and that indeed it was all working as we wanted, so felt positive about that too.

I did head out to lunch and to Tesco, which was fine, and in the afternoon went out to get a coffee with one of my colleagues to take back to the office, primarily as we at the moment don't have any tea and coffee facilities on site, to comply with safety regulations and so on. It was all good though and a couple of more good meetings meant that the day ended on a high - and with a nice air conditioned office it did feel positive on the whole, it has to be said.

I took the train home later which was relatively quiet, and it was then home and on with the snooker from the Crucible. The start of the second round match between Mark Williams and Stuart Bingham was fascinating stuff, but on the other table another surprise result as Stephen Maguire again suffered in the first round, losing heavily to Martin Gould. Maguire has a habit of first round losses, including, infamously, to Dechawat Poomjaeng as well, if you remember him. Still, Martin does walk out to some Motorhead, namely The Game. Class that, and tune of the day.

Tuesday 4th August - Capturing Part II

I did another capture of a game from the Commodore Plus/4 tonight, and that was Tutti Frutti by Mastertronic. This still is one of my favourite games on the C16 and Plus/4 series, coded by the brilliant Shaun Southern and it is immensely playable. It has nods to both Mr. Do and Pengo while having its own unique style, and indeed plenty of really nice graphics using the colour palette well. It also has a title tune which although maybe simplistic is indeed addictive - and tune of the day because of that.

I did some tweaks in OBS to do the capture so added some text based graphics at the top and the bottom of the screen, indicating the game being played, and indeed also managed to get the audio settings mixed nicely so I could have the game play with any headset mic commentary as needed - well that was the theory. In fact once I'd worked a plan of action it wasn't too bad, although doing a capture straight from composite input and having a bit of scaling up slightly might not work. I thought about it a bit.

And then decided to do a little experiment, sort of on a budget. Ideally, get myself a composite input to HDMI upscaler and then from there get a little HDMI capture stick that comes in via USB, the idea being that I would then be able to effectively have the upscaling do its work (and hopefully do so at the resolution needed) and then capture that way, hopefully seeing more of the original style of the graphics come through nicely. Must admit though having my nVidia Quadro card do some of the hardware encoding proved pretty useful, not least because it took the load off the CPU. Nice.

I also did watch the World Snooker Championship today and it was a series of shocks, one after the other. First of all, Noppon Saengkham didn't waste any time this morning finishing off his match with Shaun Murphy, beating him 10-4. I had an outside chance of thinking Noppon might win, but definitely not by that scoreline. Granted Shaun didn't play that well but you still have to beat what's in front of you and be able to do the business, and Noppon did that in spades.

The other one was argubaly an even bigger shock to be honest, as the world number 89 Jamie Clarke took on number 4 seed Mark Allen. It was 5-4 to Allen at the start of the evening session, but at the mid session interval Clarke had pulled off some excellent snooker to go 7-6 ahead. He missed a chance for 9-6 that could have been a turning point, but it was frames shared from there and so that meant a 10-8 win for him. He played really well and had Mark Allen in all sorts of problems. I'm trying to think of a lower ranked player getting through the first round (possibly James Cahill last year!) but definitely, a huge shock result.

Monday 3rd August - Capturing

So I had a nice delivery of two things in the post today: the first of which were a series of small samplers via feelunique.com which The Love In My Heart had recommended - this way you get to try some things, in my case such as some aftershave or skincare products, see if you like them, and then you can always try before you buy - only had to pay postage. The Love found it quite useful when she had ordered, so thought I'd give it a go. Not too bad as it happens, has to be said.

The other delivery I got was courtesy of Retro Computer Shack via their eBay store - some audio and video cables for the Commodore series of computers. I ordered the video port to SCART lead to replace my current one, and you could tell the difference, the quality seemed much happier and a better picture overall, so definitely that alone was well worth the purchase. The other thing I was after was a lead to connect the Commodore 64 and Plus/4 via their video socket to either composite or S-Video, to connect up to a USB grabber device I'd acquired recently (albeit a bit old.)

So the combo lead did the job, and it looked impressively well built, and connected that the connectors, and then plugged it in. My C64 and Plus/4 do have the 8-pin socket, needed for this lead, so all connected snugly and then connected the Plus/4 to it. I had already managed to find a Windows 10 compatible driver, although as it turns out it didn't support S-Video, only composite, and so connected up the cables needed. Fired up OBS Studio and it detected the Plus/4 as a suitable source. Nice. Tweaked the settings a bit, did a bit of gameplay, and seemed to be okay but not great.

I think realistically if I wanted to do things more professionally, the Retrotink 2x series would have to be considered (although the Mini might be better when released if I wasn't bothered about capturing from the Wii) - as that can upscale to HDMI and output at say 480p, then I've got a decent original source to capture via a HDMI card. I probably need to experiment a bit first and see how I do with say a couple of C64 capture tests as well as the Plus/4, but still it's nice to see things work when they're connected correctly.

I did have a play of Vegas Jackpot on the Plus/4 to test, as it's the first Mastertronic release on that format. It was good to see that the old school Who Wants To Be A Millionaire plays as the title theme so that's tune of the day (not to be confused with the game show of course) - and that indeed all the sounds etc were there as intended. I did manage to work out how to also mix in my USB headset microphone too, so pretty good all round to work out that it could all be done.

Sunday 2nd August - Back On The London Loop

So today was back on the London Loop to take the next section on, section 10, which would start at Hatton Cross and head up Northwards to Hayes and Harlington. Of course, as the Loop heads further to the north and west of the city, this does mean increased travelling time to get to the start of the section and indeed back home from the end. However, it does allow me to also explore new outer suburbs of the capital city that I have never seen before, so there is that as well to consider. I think it's been surprising me so far with plenty of nice moments, and hoped for more today.

It was therefore on the X26 bus from Croydon all the way via Sutton and Kingston to Hatton Cross, even with it being an express bus that's an hour and half worth of journey with face covering on, but only right that I do so of course. Once at Hatton Cross it was heading along the A30 and via the outer perimeter road, seeing the road curve to allow the tube tunnel to come up from Hatton Cross station (and I did see a Piccadilly Line tube surface from there also) - so that was interesting to see. It was then down to Cranebank and to follow the River Crane as it snaked its way onwards.

Once through the initial park, it was then through a few streets and along the A4 to Cranford Bridge, crossing over the Crane and then after a brief walk through Berkeley Meadows, it was through some woodland to Cranford Park, eventually giving way to an expanse of open space that really did seem lovely, with the long grass and the trees being a perfect place to relax and have a picnic (as some families were doing safely too). It then took you via the left of the play area and car park onwards to St Dunstan's Church, which apparently is the burial place of Tony Hancock (he of Hancock's Half Hour fame). I couldn't locate the stone, but maybe I'll have to go back at some point.

It was then following the subway underneath the M4 motorway, through the lovely named Dog Kennel Covert and then to another piece of parkland, which was quite nice as it opened out with some more walking by the River Crane. I then followed the road to the A312 and up to the bridge over the Grand Union Canal. However, taking the spiral walkway down revealed the towpath was closed, so had to retrace my steps back a bit and then to the junction where there used to be a pub, and follow the road over the canal there and then down to the towpath. It was then I noted where the former Nestlé coffee factory should be, and was demolished apart from the art deco frontage, as that's to be a central piece of a new development.

I followed the Grand Union Canal to a pub and headed off there for Hayes and Harlington station. There was a Tesco Express there so time to grab lunch and get a nice seat overlooking the canal in a public square before then heading to the station - and this would mean my first ever journey on the Purple Train (aka TfL Rail or Crossrail). Obvioiusly a Prince classic was in my head at this point, so Purple Rain is tune of the day. It was all very nice actually, working wi-fi, proper air conditioning and even got the seats actually facing forwards and not sideways, so that was lovely.

The journey back home, and to avoid Zone 1 and paying more (Hayes and Harlington is Zone 5, same as East Croydon) was actually in four legs but four different transport modes in London - so started off with TfL Rail to Ealing Broadway, changed there for the Central Line underground service to Shepherds Bush, did an out of station interchange to the London Overground station and took that service to Clapham Junction, followed then by a Southern rail service to East Croydon. This however did mean it cost me £2.90 (as Shepherds Bush and Clapham Junction are Zone 2, so zones 2-5 travelled through) instead of going via Paddington then Victoria (Zone 1) which would have been £5.10. Always good to do that if you can save!

Saturday 1st August - Kernow and Chat

I did have the work laptop today and was keeping in touch with both my manager and one of my colleagues, who were down in the Kernow (that's Cornwall) looking at migrating over one of our recent acquisitions, who are based in a place not far from Redruth. Of course, it was interesting yesterday when the manager had joined us on our daily call and I could see the wind and the tin mines around, but it was down to getting the migration of kit sorted along with some of the software that was needed. I had set up a fair bit of stuff beforehand for them but did say I'd be on hand if I was needed.

That of course gave me the perfect excuse to watch the snooker on BBC Two, especially as I couldn't be there to see it later in the week myself. I did watch most of the game between Stuart Bingham and Ashley Carty, turning it over to the red button coverage once the main programme had finished, and Bingham had gone 9-4 up before Carty pulled off three in a row to get some respectability before Bingham closed it out to win 10-7, a good match really and one that Ashley Carty in my view should take a lot of pride from.

The afternoon was spent sorting out some machines' configuration for my colleagues, seeing the F1 qualifying and that meant Lewis Hamilton nailing a superb pole position and promising stuff for Lando Norris too in the Mclaren, and that was entertaining - not least Jenson Button doing the top three interviews as well. I did flick over then to the snooker too and saw a bit of an epic match between Ding Junhui and Mark King go eventually to a final frame decider, again over on BBC Sport app on the telly as even with some extensions, BBC Two coverage went off on the closing stages of the second to last frame!

Later on after a good chat with The Love In My Heart and that was nice (by all accounts Brian the cat had had his tea so was all good) and later on it was then time to meet up with my friends online and have a good evening of chatting all things retro gaming, the current situation and also how things were generally with everyone. It was really nice all told and was just good to be able to have a few drinks (the Cronx Entire Porter I got the other day just had to be consumed during this time!) and to effectively have a good time with everyone, which really helped.

There was even a discussion about the old Now Music records and how it's like something daft like Now 105 or something, and showed them my original copy of the first Now That's What I Call Music, with three appearances for Limahl (one solo, two with Kajagoogoo) and two for Culture Club as well. It did though have some superlative tracks on there such as Temptation by Heaven 17 and Is There Something I Should Know by Duran Duran (make that tune of the day) as well as other classics - Safety Dance by Men Without Hats, Down Under by Men At Work and Fascination by Human League. A proper classic compilation.