Robert Hampton

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This is my little corner of the world wide web. If you're visiting for the first time, you might want to start by reading a bit more about me. I blog here about anything that interests me: mainly culture, Liverpool, politics, trains and a whole lot more besides. The latest posts are below and there's more in the archives. For other sections of the site, follow the links in the navigation bar above.

27th February 2015

He Lived Long and Prospered

A lot of love on my Twitter feed at the moment for Star Trek‘s Leonard Nimoy, who has died today at the age of 83.

He had a long career, but let’s be honest, he will be remembered above all else for his role as Spock, across three seasons of Star Trek, eight films, and one of the best episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation:-

After the Original Series ended, Nimoy was reportedly upset at being typecast as Spock. He got over that in later years though, going on to poke fun at his image in my all-time favourite episode of The Simpsons: “Marge vs The Monorail”.

He also launched an ill-advised singing career. The best you can say about The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins is that it’s not William Shatner’s Rocket Man.

It’s unlikely that Captain Kirk will steal the Enterprise to launch a rescue mission to the Genesis planet, largely because none of those things are real. So instead let’s just remember Nimoy’s final tweet from a few days ago:-

22nd February 2015

Standing out from the crowd
Posted by at 12.23pm | In the News, Politics | No responses

Not a big fan of crowdfunding-type things, but this one caught my eye:-

‘I am an immigrant’ poster campaign is a response to the increased anti-immigration rhetoric occurring in politics and the need to shed positive light on immigrants and the social, economic and cultural prosperity they bring to the nation.

The poster campaign emerged out of the Movement Against Xenophobia (MAX) which aims to rid the dialogue on immigration policy of racism and discrimination. With the 2015 General Election, the language and the rhetoric will only get worse.

The deadline to pledge is 24th February (i.e. this Tuesday). They have exceeded their original target already, but extra funding will allow them to run an even bigger campaign. In the run-up to the general election, a counterpoint to widespread anti-immigrant rhetoric is desperately needed. Head on over to crowdfunder.co.uk/i-am-an-immigrant-poster-campaign to pledge.

12th February 2015

Gone Stewart
Posted by at 10.50pm | Television | No responses

The latest US late night host to quit is Jon Stewart of The Daily Show. He surprised his audience with the announcement:-

I haven’t watched The Daily Show regularly since More4 axed it, but I’m well aware that this is a massive moment in pop culture: equivalent to the Beatles breaking up or Wesley Crusher leaving Star Trek: The Next Generation. OK, maybe not that last one.

Stewart’s high point was probably during the Bush years, when he was a rare voice of sanity and reason in the media. For troubled liberals all over America (and the world) it was reassuring to tune in at 11pm four nights a week and have that frustration with the state of things articulated so well.

Few have had such a massive impact on both pop culture and the political zeitgeist as Stewart. Whatever he does next, his legacy in TV history is assured.

Much speculation over who the Daily Show will turn to for its next host. Is it too much to hope for long-time TDS correspondent (and very funny person) Samantha Bee to take over?

10th February 2015

A3010

The first Acorn computer I ever owned (and the third computer overall, after a Commodore VIC-20 and C64) was an A3010. It was bought for me in May 1993, purchased from Rapid Computers on Childwall Fiveways. It was a reward from my parents to celebrate my passing the entrance exam for Merchant Taylors School; had I known how that was going to turn out, I would probably have stuck with my Commodore 64 for another year or so.

Acorn A3010

The A3010 was the “budget” Acorn computer, an attempt by Acorn to escape from the classrooms and science labs where their computers were usually found and get into teenagers’ bedrooms with a games machine. There was no monitor supplied, but you could plug it into a TV for glorious 640×512 resolution. Only 1 megabyte of RAM, an ARM250 processor running at a blistering 12 Mhz, and no hard disc – why would you need one when an ADFS floppy could hold 1.6 megabytes?

It was cheap’n’cheerful and, to me, it was computer heaven. For a year or so before, I had gazed longingly at the BBC A3000 in the corner of my primary school classroom, enviously looking on as my fellow pupils typed away in the Phases 2 word processor, printing off their rubbish poems on the noisy Epson FX80 printer. Now, finally, I had a RISC OS machine to call my own.

A few years later I got a big power increase when I upgraded to a RiscPC, and the A3010 was relegated to a secondary machine. But it will always hold a special place for me. It was on this machine that I bashed out my first BBC BASIC programs. It was on this machine that I stayed up until 1am doing a project for History that I’d put off until the last minute. It was here that I wasted more than a few hours playing Sim City, and Lemmings, and probably my favourite of all, Fervour:-

When we moved to our current home there was no space to have my Aladdin’s Cave of computers on display, so the A3010 got put away in a cupboard. But it gained a new lease of life for a few years, as I wrote a program to run a game of Family Fortunes. Being able to code the game directly in BBC BASIC and then plug the computer straight into the TV to run it gave it a big advantage over the newer computers which we were using by now. It got dragged out regularly at Christmas get-togethers, with me playing the role of Les Dennis.

I thought long and hard about getting rid of this machine. Sentimentality can’t always win out, though: it’s been sitting in a cupboard for nearly three years. It needed to go, so tonight a nice man came and took it off my hands. I hope he loves and appreciates it as much as I did. Or uses it for parts. Whatever.

With the advent of the Raspberry Pi, I’m still using a distant relative of the A3010 every day, so I haven’t cut ties with that world completely. Even so… the feels.

2nd February 2015

Nerdgasm

The tech world is abuzz today – Raspberry Pi is back with a new, sexier upgrade:-

A new more powerful Raspberry Pi 2 that is six times faster than the original from 2012, has been launched by the Cambridge-based startup costing £23.30.

Good luck getting one. They’ve been selling fast, and servers at some of the online retailers are buckling under the demand.

The Pi, if you’re unfamiliar with it, is a £25 computer. Small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, but easily capable of running a variety of software. The Pi is leading the charge to get people (especially kids) interested in programming. Find a spare USB keyboard and mouse, then plug the Pi straight into the TV, just like the ZX Spectrums of old (although the Pi’s HDMI output is at a slightly higher-resolution). The idea is to have a cheap computer that can be tinkered with at will, without worries about breaking it. If something goes disastrously wrong, simply reformat the SD card and start again.

Although the target audience is kids, plenty of older geeks (ahem) have bought a Pi for their own pet projects. Pi has been used to run a home security system, create a retro game console, and even to create a DIY Ceefax service.

RISC OS Pi Desktop

I got an original Model B a couple of years ago. Everyone else put a flavour of Linux on it, but I went and whacked RISC OS on mine. That’s the OS I grew up with – first on an Acorn A3010, then a RiscPC which lasted nearly eight years (towards the end of its life it was held together by bits of superglue and gaffer tape). Apart from the odd game of Fervour, I was the archetypal teenage bedroom coder, churning out semi-functional BBC BASIC files week-in, week-out. My proudest moment was getting one of my apps onto the Acorn User cover disc.

Zap displaying BBC BASIC code on RISC OS Pi

I haven’t had much time recently to play with the Pi, but I’ve tried to set aside an hour or two each week to sit and do some coding. After the stress of dealing with our barely functional LAN at work, and the slog of studying three (3!) Open University computing modules, it’s nice to have a reminder that computers can be fun.

18th January 2015

You can’t spell YouTube without O-U-T
Posted by at 1.12pm | Gay | No responses

Twin brothers Austin and Aaron Rhodes phoned their dad with some news (spoiler alert: they’re both gay).

There’s a lot of cynical comment over their decision to film this moment and put it on YouTube. I, for one, am glad they did, as it highlights the immense difficulty that gay in coming out to their loved ones. I doubt there’s a gay person alive who doesn’t remember a moment like this. The tears. The anxiety. The sentence started but not finished: “I am…”

It shouldn’t be that hard. If we want to make life easier for LGBT youth, let’s start here. Educate parents. Educate teens. Stop making gay kids feel like they have some strange “otherness” to them that people won’t accept.

16th January 2015

Encryptonite

Cameron on the Phone

If anyone thought 2015 was going to be a better year than 2014, the attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo and elsewhere in France have surely put paid to that misplaced optimism.

World leaders gathered together in Paris in an impressive show of solidarity … then shortly afterwards started concocting new ways to impinge on our freedoms.

Cameron’s latest wheeze is to attempt to restrict the use of encrypted communications. “In our country,” he said, “do we want to allow a means of communication between people which we cannot read?”

Erm… yes? Cameron wants services such as iMessage and WhatsApp to give up their messages to the security services, but there’s a bigger picture here. Encryption, and the privacy it provides, underpins commerce on the internet. Put your credit card details into Amazon, or do some online banking, and your personal details are encrypted using an algorithm which is very difficult to break. Even social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter default to HTTPS connections these days.

As James Ball points out in the Guardian, weakening that encryption risks damaging the digital economy. If the spooks can listen in, potentially anyone can.

It’s frankly terrifying that someone tasked with keeping the country safe is that ignorant of the way the internet works.

2nd January 2015

I bought a diary from a pound shop
Posted by at 5.32pm | It's My Life | No responses

2015 Diary

I’ve tried to keep a diary for several years, to record hopes, dreams, idle fantasies about chaps I fancy, that sort of thing. Usually my efforts have been inconsistent. I forget to fill in one day and before I know it I’ve slipped out of the habit and there are months of blank pages.

I might do better this year, because this diary is AMAZING. It’s chock full of useful info! Too good not to share, in fact.

According to this diary, France still uses the Franc, Greece still uses the Drachma and Germany is clinging on to the Deutsche Mark. And Deutsche Mark is spelled incorrectly.

diary-2015-3

It thinks Berlin is still split into West and East, giving separate dialling codes for them (even though the codes are identical).

2015 Diary

Best of all, though, is the First Aid advice. Here’s what to do if someone is choking:

Diary

“A small child can be held upside down and thumped. If this does not work tickle the back of the throat with the finger-tips in an attemt to make patiens cough or vomit.”

Hm… hold a child upside down, thump him and then stick your fingers into his throat. Seems like a guaranteed way to get yourself arrested.

1st January 2015

Travels with Hampo

Happy New Year to all three of my readers!

On a personal level, I think what I’ll remember most about 2014 is the travelling I did. The start of the year set the tone, as I headed down to that London to say goodbye to 2014 in the company of Ian Jones. We checked out some interesting theatrical stuff and I also saw one of the most precious artefacts known to man:-

Tom Daley's trunks

I suspect a gay man is curator at the Museum of London, but I can’t be certain of that.

Ian was also around in March when I headed out to Amsterdam. We eschewed the budget airlines in favour of the rail-based option, travelling to the Dutch capital via Eurostar and Thalys. That was a fun trip, but I feel that what happens in Amsterdam should stay in Amsterdam (actually, we checked out some museums, rode the Metro a bit and we looked but didn’t touch in the Red Light District).

Read the rest of this post »

25th December 2014

Home for Christmas
Posted by at 12.32pm | Liverpool | No responses

Christmas Day this year comes after a fortnight of grim news, what with the Sydney siege, the Pakistan school massacre and the lorry accident in Glasgow.

Amidst all the sad news, it’s worth remembering that human beings, as a species, are generally good. There are many people out and about this Christmas helping those less fortunate. The Whitechapel Centre, for one, are out and about on the streets of Liverpool this Christmas. They will be giving support and advice to the homeless and, today, serving Christmas dinner to rough sleepers.

It’s definitely an organisation worth supporting. I can’t think of many things worse than spending this time of year on the streets – surrounded by festive cheer, yet strangely apart from it all. For those who are taking time out of their Christmas Day to help others, I salute you.

Merry Christmas everybody!