Robert Hampton

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March 2008

2nd March 2008


I felt quite smug when our Sky box conked out a couple of months back. I was able to easily swap it with my sister’s old digibox (no longer used by her since she switched to Virgin Media) and get our TV back. Unfortunately my smugness, as so often happens, was misplaced, and this box has now also failed. The usual tricks (power off, then on; switch on while holding down “back up” to force a software download) didn’t work. Cue call to Sky’s expensive 0870 technical helpdesk.

I hate phoning technical support for anything. I’m a fairly smart, intelligent guy (stop laughing, you) but for some reason I always turn into a gibbering idiot when speaking on the phone to someone in a call centre, and find myself mumbling “OK… OK… I’ll try that” like a simpleton to every suggestion offered by the operator from their script.

Read the rest of this post »

9th March 2008

Well done Ellen DeGeneres…

…for speaking out about a truly appalling hate crime.

For Ellen to speak out like this was a big step. The American public may just about tolerate gay celebrities, but generally only when they are offering fashion advice to clueless men or playing the celibate best friend of the female protagonist in a hackneyed rom-com.

10th March 2008

Vista Beef Curry

This time last year (more or less), I was eagerly anticipating the arrival of my new PC with Windows Vista preloaded. This excitement soon evaporated when it became clear that Vista is actually a bit poo.

This New York Times article reveals some interesting internal wrangles at Microsoft over the development and marketing of Vista. To be honest, it makes for quite depressing reading.

I’m starting to think I should have gone with my first instinct, waited a few months longer and spent a bit of extra cash to get a Mac with OS X Leopard and the ability to dual boot MacOS and XP.

The real problem, of course, is that the best solution failed. 🙁

12th March 2008

SYS “Wimp_Initialise”

RISC OS Desktop

Oh, RISC OS, I’m sorry I got angry at you. I will admit, most of the shortcomings outlined in that blog post still apply, but maybe I was a bit hasty in declaring that I was abandoning things entirely.

The truth is, since I stopped using RISC OS daily, I realised there’s lots of things I took for granted. Things like being able to start up Draw whenever I needed a quick graphic for a web site; typing a letter quickly and easily in EasiWriter without having to start up huge, clunking Microsoft Word; knocking up a quick app in BBC BASIC to get something done. I know that all this and more is possible on Windows, but it’s just so effortless on RISC OS.

In short, I’ve found myself switching on the Iyonix more and more over the last couple of months, and have just ordered an upgrade for the aforementioned EasiWriter to replace my 8 year old copy with the latest version.

Sadly it’s not feasible for me to use the Iyonix as my primary internet machine thanks to the lack of web browsing facilities. There’s a decent web browser, and a port of Firefox, but no Flash or multimedia plugins. So the PC will have to remain in use.

Now if only I could get LanManFS to play nicely with my Vista PC (the networking is “not working” — ho ho!).

14th March 2008

I learned something today
Posted by at 12.03pm | Liverpool | No responses

I’ve been on holiday from work this week, and you know something? I like not going to work. Not going to work definitely suits me more than going to work. Yes.

Yesterday morning I went to the Merseyside Maritime Museum and saw the Magical History Tour exhibition, which promises to tell the story of Liverpool from ancient times to today. I’m ashamed to say that I’m ignorant of much of Liverpool’s history before the 19th century, but I’m glad I made the attempt to rectify that.

After dodging several school parties, I settled in to watch a film showcasing Liverpool’s highs and lows. From pictures of sailing ships, the slave trade and 19th century slums we quickly moved on to the two World Wars. Soon we were in the Cavern Club watching the Beatles perform, but the sense of optimism was rapidly dispelled by footage of the Toxteth riots, photos of a derelict Albert Dock and newspaper reports of strikes and the antics of Militant Labour. We then continued on through the 1980s and 90s as redevelopment slowly started to happen, leading up to, of course, the Capital of Culture announcement in 2003.

I left the exhibition feeling inspired. The recurring theme was that Liverpool has suffered from some terrible low points, but always bounces back, and is doing so again. There is still much to be done, but Liverpool is definitely on the up. Ignore the jokes and the lazy stereotyping — it really is a great place to be at.

“Liverpool is one of the wonders of Britain … What it may grow to in time, I know not.”

Daniel Defoe, writing in 1727

16th March 2008

That’s what the REM keyword is for

On impulse, I purchased BBC BASIC for Windows, for one reason and one reason only: to port my magnum opus, MadMaze, over to the dark side.

One problem I’ve encountered is that BB4W is based on a BBC Micro-type environment, whereas MadMaze is of course written for the 32-bit Acorn machines. So I’m going to have to change all the RISC OS system calls to BBC Micro-type calls. And where is no BBC Micro equivalent, I’m going to have to find the Windows equivalent and use that. Oh, and the sound system is different. Oh, and I wish I’d commented my atrocious code better.

But it works… after a fashion:-

MadMaze for Windows

17th March 2008

Not being judgmental, or anything
Posted by at 7.39pm | It's My Life | No responses

It is St Patrick’s Day, the one day of the year when the nation lets its collective hair down and indulges in excessive binge-drinking.

I am starting to fear for the health of our society, since I arrived at work at 8.45am this morning to find that the Irish pub across the street already had a queue forming outside. Is it me, or is there something seriously wrong with that?

21st March 2008


Hurray for the BBC Micro! Sadly I never owned one, so I had to settle for occasional goes on the one at my primary school. Then I would go home to my Commodore 64 which, while technically superior in some respects, was cursed by a primitive BASIC interpreter that couldn’t do anything remotely interesting without a long chain of POKE commands.

I salute you, BBC Model B, for encouraging a generation of geeky youngsters to use their bedrooms for programming instead of any less pure activities. May your cheery red function keys and chunky MODE 2 graphics earn you a place in the highest echelons of Silicon Heaven.

27th March 2008

Posted by at 10.45pm | It's My Life, Meta | No responses

I missed the fifth anniversary of my first blog post. I was going to do something to commemorate, but then… forgot. Ahem.

Oh well. No April Fool joke this year, either 🙁

Can you tell I’ve lost interest? Never mind; have a look at this slightly disturbing BBC news story instead.

28th March 2008

Good Charlotte
Posted by at 6.08pm | Radio | No responses

I’m glad I hit the Snooze button on my alarm clock this morning, because as a result I was still next to the radio when this happened live on Radio 4 this morning.

Poor Charlotte Green – when I listened to the News Quiz (before it became insufferably smug) the best part was usually her reading out the press cuttings, often struggling to get through them without laughing.

30th March 2008

What I did instead of talking to people
Posted by at 2.03am | It's My Life, Meta | No responses

Not a good idea to upgrade WordPress at half past midnight when you’re tired and already fed up. I kept getting errors about unexpected T_ENDIFs, whatever they are. For some reason, it only worked when I switched to the Iyonix and uploaded the files again using FTPc. Score 1 for RISC OS!

And the clocks have just gone forward, so it’s now 2am, not 1am! I’m going to get even less sleep than I normally do.