Not for the first time – and probably not for the last – I’ve allowed my personal blog to gather dust for a while. It’s been a little over a year since my last post, on 21st December 2022, the second post in which I talk about what I’m doing with Drop Rock, one of my old games.
I did start to write the next instalment a month or so after that post, and I also got sidetracked into writing something about Escape from Exeria, another of my old games – as well as a more general one about all of those games. I didn’t finish any of those, though, let along post them, as the lack of new posts since the one above demonstrates!
What happened? Well, quite simply, I became busier – which is actually a good thing, because I had been suffering a notable lack of work for a while (something else I could and probably should write about).
Why now? Well, it’s the 1st January, 2024 – the start of a new year – so why not write something? Okay, but what? A few highlights of the year that’s just gone seems reasonable, so here goes – broken down based on the title of a classic Clint Eastwood movie, because why not?
As noted above, I gained some work – some of it initially on a temporary basis (and on that basis it should end in a few months) but there has been talk of making it more permanent. So that’s obviously good.
Progress on Drop Rock has been slow (partly for the same reason – more work). What I have done (and intend to write about separately) is decide on new map and graphics sizes, decide that the new version will actually be a sequel to the original(s) – and to that end I’ve even come up with a loose (to be tidied) story line. I’ve made something of a fudged change to the way the game is displayed to accommodate the new map size but using the existing graphics, and with that knocked together some test level designs. And I’ve also made a start on designing the new graphics – so there are a few things to write about there, as well as those other posts about Exeria and the games in general.
Having already managed to get myself an Acorn Electron, I decided I wanted to acquire a BBC Micro of one form or other, and arbitrarily told myself I wanted one by the end of 2023. Throughout the year, therefore, I’ve been watching eBay, and occasionally even bidding, but never succeeding. In September, however, I managed to get my hands on a BBC Master, along with a monitor and a whole selection of books – and all for free (well, the price of a round trip to collect it, which I combined with a walk in the Cotswolds). And, pleasingly, it is a working model. Thanks Steve!
Something I’ve ‘sort of loosely whenever I can be bothered‘ been doing over the last year is playing around with some of my old music. Over thirty years ago I began writing simple ‘tracker’ style music, using a piece of RISC OS software called Coconizer, initially for use in my games and later just for fun. Even after no longer using a computer on which that software runs, I’ve continued to dabble in other tracker-style software, though much more infrequently.
Relatively recently, though – before 2023, to be honest – I decided to gather it all up, get it on my current system, and get it all converted to a format that I can use to edit/update it further.
Again, more work and limited time has slowed me down, but I do now have almost all of my old music in one place, and have made a small amount of progress in converting it – there is much more to do, though, and things I want to do beyond that; but that’s something I may or may not talk about again, separately.
My right hand is slightly damaged. The amount of pain varies (from none to bloody annoying), but it’s been a problem since September. That month I had a blocked sink in my bathroom, and in my own attempts to sort it out I hurt the hand when I was undoing the U-bend – it was tight, so I had to exert a lot of pressure, and when it loosened, I hit my hand on another part of the underside of the sink. Since then, there’s been a bit of swelling between two knuckles and, as I said, it’s sometimes quite painful. I should probably get it looked at. *shrugs*
Disaster also struck in that my Network Attached Storage drive failed. When I first bought this it was primarily used for taking backups (being accessible from all the computers on the network). However, over time its use changed, and it became nothing more than a media server, with backups done another way. The media in question was mainly my ripped CDs and DVDs – and because I still have the ‘source’ material for both of those (the physical media), I wasn’t too worried about taking backups of what the drive contained.
Except that it was also home to one other form of media – my photographs. This occurred to me several months ago, and I made a point of sorting out enough space to make a backup of the entire NAS (including the movies and music)… but didn’t get around to taking that backup before the drive seemingly died a month or so later.
It’s possible that the drive itself is still readable – sometimes, simply replacing the control/circuit board on the hard drive with a matching one will do the trick – but because I cheaped out when I bought it I opted for a sealed unit, that’s a slightly more difficult task. It probably can be taken apart somehow, but as yet I haven’t taken a proper look – partly because I may have the photographs (up to a point) elsewhere; they were generally on the hard drive of whatever my current computer was until Google decided to drop Picassa (which was an excellent piece of software), and therefore probably in a backup somewhere.
I’ve yet to investigate/check, though.
Back in May I engaged in my (now traditional) Twitter silliness on the night of Eurovision, by drinking and tweeting my way through the evening. I did grab the tweets – I’m can see the file even now, as I write this – but never got around to turning them into a blog post. Adding screen grabs, etc, so they make sense takes a little time and effort, and as noted above: an increase in work. So, *shrug*.
The reason I’ve listed this as annoying is because of Twitter, which is much less enjoyable to use than it once was – and obviously, Eurovision 2024 is edging ever closer. I may therefore adopt a different approach this time around – so watch this space.
More recently, a couple of weeks before Christmas I finally – finally – had a call from a scammer. I’ve always had ideas about what I could do to ‘play’ with one if they ever called me, in order to waste their time, but until one does I can never put those ideas into practice.
Unfortunately, it was at exactly the wrong time – I was at work, so someone else was paying me to do just that; work. In an ideal world, I’d get a call like that while at home, when I can set up something to record the call (no longer possible from within an app on my Android phone), and use a ‘wrong computer’ to string them along.
However, despite not being best placed to play in a properly ‘waste their time’ way, I did let the call progress for a few minutes – so a brief rundown:
The call came in from an unrecognised number, and I was played a recorded message that claimed to be from ‘Visa’ and asking me to verify if a charge of (if memory serves) £699 to Amazon was valid. (It was obvious right from the get go that this wasn’t genuine – if the call was from an actual card provider, it would have shown as being from that provider, rather than just the number, and the recorded message would have claimed to be from that provider, not ‘Visa’.)
I definitely didn’t recognise that charge, though, obviously – shock, horror – so I let the human take over to deal with it.
He asked for my name (which, again, if it was genuine, they would have had) and didn’t bother with any security questions to ensure they were talking to the card holder… all without specifying the card. (How many red flags so far?)
Once he’d told me the call was about a charge from Amazon to my card for an iPhone, I interrupted him intending to ask which of my cards had been charged – because I have a few – but I didn’t finish the question because he (quite angrily) told me that he couldn’t explain what’s happened if I interrupted him.
Around this point in the conversation the battery warning on my computer came up, so I interrupted him again to ask him to bear with me while I sorted out my power supply, so I put the phone on the desk at this point. I’m not sure he even took in what I said, because I’m pretty sure he was still speaking while the phone was down, so I missed anything he said at this point.
Once I’d plugged in and picked the phone back up, I said that I could log-in to Amazon and double check my account – but he very firmly insisted I don’t do that because ‘my IP address had been hacked’ and the hackers could show me whatever they want me to see on my screen.
Oh dear! I wonder which IP address he meant? The one for my computer on my own network at home – or the one for where I was, at work? The IP address for my router at home connecting to the internet, or the one I was using at work? What about the IP address of my phone if I use that? I could also connect the computer to the phone… I didn’t say any of that, though, because after all, he told me off before when I interrupted him! 😉
He next asked me if I had a pen and paper handy, so he could give me the details of some software to download and install – but hang on, what about my hacked IP address? Isn’t that going to be a problem doing this? Again, I didn’t ask.
At this point, if I’d proceeded it would have turned into a long session rather than just a few minutes. What he obviously was going to ask me to do here was install some software on my computer to allow him to ‘show me’ some of the problems that have allowed the hack to happen – he’d have called up the task manager and showed me things that I know are fine, but the average Joe might not; he would have gone to the command line and executed various commands to show me what might look to Avg. Joe like gibberish, and claim they meant nefarious things had been happening on my computer (even though, previously, it was my IP address).
And then, for a fee (credit card details, please) he would have ‘cleaned’ my computer.
But, as I said, I was at work, on someone else’s time, so rather than go any further I interrupted him very firmly, and insisted he answer one question first. “Which of my cards has been compromised?”
Strangely enough, he couldn’t answer that and chose to hang up.
I consider that call annoying for two reasons. Firstly, obviously, scammer (grr!) – but also because I wasn’t in a position to properly string them along and waste their time.
So that’s a few examples of The Good, the Bad, and the
Ugly Annoying from 2023. There’s probably loads more I could have also mentioned if I could think of it while writing this, but it’s plenty long enough anyway, I think.
So it’s now 2024. Resolutions? Well, in previous years if you (can) check my old tweets, you’ll see I’ve made resolutions not to kill anyone, then to build on that and be more ambitious by not destroying entire towns. The year before last I resolved not to make a resolution a year later – but broke that a year later (last year) when I resolved not to kill three people (not specific people, just three in total).
So this year, my tweeted resolution is to not take on any contracts to torture anyone to get information out of them.
More seriously, I don’t make resolutions – I think it makes more sense and is more reasonable to say I want to do something, rather than resolve to do so. So one thing I want to do is not neglect this blog so much this year! Perhaps if I don’t have anything specific to write about I’ll try posting something a little rambly once in a while, just so there’s something here? Taking this post as inspiration, what about a potted list of events in my life since the last post? Maybe – who knows? We’ll see.