Personal

Stuff about me and what I’m doing with my family and friends.

Why Microsoft Edge sucks

For the last few months I have been seeing a lot of articles in the technical and computer websites about using Microsofts new browser “Edge”. I have been resisting as I happen to like Googles Chrome browser, mainly due to the integration with all things Google (Gmail, Drive, Docs etc. all work nicely in Chrome as you would expect) and I am a big fan of all the Google services and use them extensively. Today I have had the need to use two different Google accounts but don’t want to link them, and both had to be open. I decided now was a good time to try Microsoft Edge.

I searched for it in the menus as I had long ago unpinned it from the taskbar, at about the same time I disabled the privacy destroying Cortana bar. I clicked its icon and waited for this supposedly super fast experience to start. And I waited. And I waited. Eventually Edge appeared, and the search / address bar appeared so I started typing. The address bar disappeared and that other piece of Microsoft crap AKA BING appeared. I have tried Bing, Microsoft once urged me to let them do comparison searches on my behalf (yep I was sure they would be fair and unbiased comparisons, right??) they assured me I would be surprised by which search engine gave me better results. I was surprised because in spite of Microsoft intercepting search terms on the way to both engines Google returned better, more pertinent results, in one case Bing was so far off it was on another planet.

I digress, a little anyway as we shall return to Bing. The browser had disregarded my input and taken me where it had been programmed to go. I tried again and by this time 3 tabs were opened to Microsoft pages, Bing, MSN whatever and something else. I tried getting to Google but the browser crashed. I reopened Edge and expected a much faster loading time now it had opened once, but again I waited and waited until it was ready to go. I finally managed to enter Google and do what I needed to. At this point I also decided that I would change the default search engine away from Bing, another mistake.

After several frustrated attempts I gave up trying on my own, as what seemed like an easy change was not happening so I Googled for the answer of how to change the default search engine in Edge. Microsoft support pages tell you to simply go to the desired search engine, click a few menu buttons and then select your new default. Still stuck on Bing. I looked elsewhere, all roads led to the same steps which resulted in the same frustration of Bing not shifting out of the default slot. So I left it there.

This then is the story of my fight with The Edge browser, and my defeat at its hands. It just doesn’t do what is claimed. i.e.

  1. faster opening, nope, it took much longer every time I tried
  2. faster browsing, nope it took longer to render a page than Chrome
  3. easy to use, nope several attempts to change the default browser says otherwise as well as pages appearing and losing your typed in requests.

Sorry but I want things to just work, not get in the way, not force me into using Microsofts inferior offerings. The only thing left to say is that this is my opinion and my findings, your experience may be different, please comment below if you have anything to add or any point to make.

New Retro Style Game XyXeXXian Attack quick review

I was just given the heads up on a newly released game from Sunteam called XyXeXXian Attack for Windows PC’s. It is a retro styled shootemup with Sinclair Spectrum style graphics. Gameplay has you defending a ship from the attacking swarm of baddies using your gun as a shield and targetting the alien invaders.

It’s a fast paced shooter with a great old style feel to it and a tough no compromises level of difficulty. It works with keyboard or, as in my case, the Xbox 360 wired controller and is extremely good fun to pick up and play.

Here is a quick video of how not to play Xyxexxian Attack!

More info and download instructions at Sunteams website

Small Acorn Electron Upgrade Mod

After a quick mess around with the Electron I noticed what looked like composite out for a video output, but when it was plugged in to my tv only output black and white. At the same time on Mark Fixes Stuff Facebook group there was a post by someone else who was repairing his Electron and then modding the composite out for colour. As it turned out, Mark Fixes Stuff also has a video of the mod which I will link at the end of this post.

The mod involves linking across two pads on the board which are already there but not linked at LK4 as in this picture.

image

I cleaned out the holes and soldered in a wire link as below

image

Refitted the board and assembled the case and now have full colour composite video output on the Electron. And here’s the video how to from Mark https://youtu.be/oCUzgJPbUBI

New diagnostic rom for the Retroleum fixes Spectrum

After the Retroleum test rom diagnosed the newly fitted ic15 as still the fault on the Spectrum practice board, I took it back to the Spectrum4Ever Facebook group and Mark Fixes stuff. Brendan Alford offered up his test rom available at https://github.com/brendanalford/zx-diagnostics to try in the Retroleum which looked like this when testing.

Retroleum test with Brendan Alford test rom:

So IC22 looks like the culprit now. Soldering iron warmed, ic removed, socket fitted and new IC fitted, powered on and got weird patterns, not good. A quick check found some solder splash bridging pins on the board, cleaned off andcthe test rom now did this

It even played a game now 😀

Watch “Retroleum Spectrum interface in diagnostic mode” on YouTube

Retroleum Spectrum interface in diagnostic mode: https://youtu.be/UVoQ1t9Tu7I

Commodore 64 Woes And More Sinclair ZX Spectrum Repairs.

Again a huge gap between posts, but once more here is an update for you on what I have done in that period when I wasn’t writing here.

To start at the beginning, I recently retrieved my Commodore 64 from the cold dark and damp garage, before I realised I didn’t have a power supply for it. I bought a power supply from Ebay, but it was the wrong one (seller had listed incorrectly as a C64 one) when I got the right power pack, and once the Commodore 64 had warmed and dried I plugged it in, and lo, it still worked. I bought a Datassette drive from Ebay, and started looking forward to some more retro gaming goodness.

While I was waiting for the cassette drive, I stripped the C64 and cleaned the insides Commodore C64

and the outsides and cleaned the connector strips for the cassette interface.

Cleaned Commodore 64

Once the Datassette had arrived I plugged it in, and nothing. It wouldn’t turn a tape, and so nothing loaded. After much head scratching and talking to knowledgeable people in the Mark Fixes Stuff Facebook page we stripped open the Datasette and spent ages trying to find out where a loose wire had come off from. As I was messing with a Spectrum too, using a phone and a cassette adapter I tried that in the C64 with Tap Dancer, and something started loading, and then the tape wheels started moving too. I still got nothing to load though, so I sent away for a Cassette adapter card which takes the place of the Datassette and loads from any phone etc (allegedly) then I found there was intermittent power to the motor supply lines for the cassette deck as the power light sometimes lit and sometimes didn’t on the interface.

Tracing the 9V supply, I found we had a dodgy power switch, making a good 5V connection, but a very poor one for the 9V side of things. I ordered a switch, and soldered it in place (the poor C64 has been apart more times than a travelling fairground ride). Now the tape spins, the interface lights, but still nothing loads up. Is it time to give up on the Commodore 64?

In other news, I tested a second one of the ZX Spectrums I got in the big box of stuff, and although nothing showed on the screen, it did click when a button was pressed.I opened it up and twiddled with the screw in the RF modulator unit (which you should never ever do) and suddenly I had a picture on the TV. Checking the buttons, a few are not working, so it’s another membrane required. I have decided to composite mod this one using Mark Fixes Stuff Youtube video, results to be announced here later.

Finally I got to opening up the box and plugging in the ZX Specrum +2 128K machine I’ve had for a while, another tape loading problem here though. It would start loading then a buzzing would start on the TV speakers, and I suspect it was interfering with the tape sound into the Speccy too. I picked it up a few inches and dropped it, and then it loaded stuff from tape as it should, another fix I don’t think is recommended by people who know anything though.

That’s it for now then. Bye

Retro review of T2: the Arcade Game on Sega Megadrive

T2: The Arcade Game on Sega MegadriveT2 The Arcade game is one of the few games out there which works with the Sega Menacer light gun, and at the start screen, you are given the option to play with the joypad or the Menacer. Firstly, playing any kind of shooter which uses crosshairs (or in this case a box) to aim is a no no with a joypad, it’s like repeatedly bashing your haid against a solid object i.e. some others around you may be amused by it, but you won’t. So I plugged in my Menacer to test this game out. The Menacer was Segas light gun for the Megadrive (Genesis) and uses a small box on top of the TV to trace the Menacers aim and works OK considering it predated the Wii by a long time.

I digress, the game here is T2, and it’s set in the future with you cast as the good terminator trying to save Sarah Connors son from the robot army yada yada, you know the story of Terminator and all that so that’s all the introduction you should need. In the future the skies are tainted red and humans and robots are battling for control of the Earth, you come along to help the human resistance. At first you are firing on the legions of silver terminators to assist two human soldiers resist the onslaught, dug in behind the wall aim, fire, kill, repeat. Every now and then a rocket or an extra close terminator comes at you and you need to react quickly to shoot them down too.

As the game progresses you will have big bad bosses to defeat, firing salvos of rockets and grenades at you, you will be required to protect John Connor as he attempts to get away in a pickup truck, which is a scrolling shooting section where you have some fast running bots to dispense as well as the incoming rockets from the skynet sky patrols. Various sections adding new chalenges keep on coming along to test your speed, aim and accuracy. The game is made more difficult by the fact you have limited ammo which has to be kept topped up by shooting cases at the bottom of the screen, then shooting the contents to get them added to your armoury. It’s a tricky balance to keep the ammo up, but not lose your life doing so as the onslaught never seems to slow down to let you have chance to restock.

Graphically, the dark backgrounds work well, and the terminators look scary in the flesh (and out of it as you shoot it away from the more advanced models) with some brilliant looking antagonists. The explosions are great too as bits of terminator fly away from the fiery death you just dealt out, although the bosses can be a little poor in a single colour with little to really flesh them out. The Soundtrack is suitably fast to keep the adrenaline flowing too, explosions are very satisfying with a great sound effect accompanying the flash as another Terminator is wiped out. The addition of Arnie telling you you got terminated is nice even if the digitised speech is a little lacklustre.

As a Menacer title, T2 The Arcade Game is a good addition to your collection if you have the hardware, if you don’t have a Menacer it may be a little annoying (it may be just me though who can’t aim with a joypad), but graphics and sound are all above the average so it isn’t just relying on the Menacer to make it work. All in all, a fun shooting game with a nice movie tie in, and in this case I will be back to play again.

Score 7/10

Making chocolates with Phoebe

Following on from our recent chocolate mould shennanigans we ordered all the moulds and today had another session of being choclatiers (well pouring chocolate in moulds), here is my step to step guide of chocolate moulding with a ten year old daughter.

Step 1 order moulds from Amazon. Change card details when Amazon uses an expired card for anything from an Amazon shop even though they manage to charge everything they sell to the right card.

Step 2 After a few days have passed explain to 10 year old daughter why all your moulds are here already but their Doctor Who one hasn’t arrived yet.

Step 3 When the wife asks if there’s anything you need at the shop, tell her to pick up lots of chocolate bars.

Step 4 get a microwave safe bowl and break up a chocolate bar into the bowl. Remove ten year old daughters fingers from bowl while some choclate remains.

Step 5 place bowl in microwave and nuke at full power for 30 seconds and check to see if the chocolate is melted and runny, repeat until chocolate is melted and runny..

Step 6 open Microwave and check bowl to ensure fingers don’t get burnt (or use an oven glove). Use feet to keep ten year old away from you and to ensure fingers are kept out of bowl of melted chocolate.

Step 7 give spoon to ten year old and tell her to use it to put the melted chocolate in the mould. Remove spoon from ten year olds mouth and explain again that the chocolate has to go in the moulds, not the mouth.

Step 8 give ten year old the job of breaking up more chocolate while you try to get melted chocolate off the worktop, moulds, cutting boards, drawer handles, fridge, microwave. Then spoon what is left of the almost set chocolate into the moulds.

Step 9 check on ten year olds progress with breaking up chocolate as the laughter has the air of a warning to it.

Step 10 get a dustpan and brush and pick up 3/4 of a bar of bits of chocolate from the floor before the ten year old picks them up and uses them anyway, and before the dog eats enough of it to get really ill.

Step 11 break up more chocolate into the bowl and write mental note to get extra chocolate next time.

Step 12 melt chocolate in the microwave and finish filling the moulds (or as many as possible with the leftover chocoalte which hasn’t been eaten, dropped or smothered over every surface in the house).

Step 12 walk chocolate filled (semi filled) moulds to the fridge, with help from a ten year old to carry one across.

Step 13 pick up mould from the floor and wipe up gooey chocolate from the floor tiles.

Step 14 wait 2 minutes until Ten year old asks if the chocolate shapes are ready yet, tell them no and they must waiti about half an hour at least.

Step 15 repeat step 14 every 1-2 minutes for as long as you can stand to do it. I lasted nearly the full 30 minutes but finally cracked.

Step 16 remove moulds from fridge and try to remove chocolate shapes while fighting off multi armed chocolate dependant ten year old.

17 just let the ten year old at it, and tell them to wash their hands, face, and change clothes when they’re finished.

It was a lot of fun though and we made these

Choclate filled moulds Doctor who, pacman and spaceinvaders

Doctor Who Dalek ChocolatesDoctor Who chocolate shapes K9 Tardis

Space Invader, Pacman, Doctor Who Tardis, K9, Angels and Cyberman

For links to the moulds to make these just go to this blog post