Wednesday, 28 November 2012

November 1982 - Clive Sinclair reveals plans for 1983

The November 1982 issue of Your Computer contained the usual fireworks and bonfire references, but beyond the cliches there were the usual gems.

This month featured a review of the Jupiter Ace, which was unique at that time for offering something which wasn't BASIC - it was based around the Forth programming language. This was very much a "Sinclair spin off", as it was the creation of two members of the design team on the ZX Spectrum. The review described the machine as a "brave gamble" and it proved to be relatively unsuccessful - if you have one hiding somewhere, you might find it's a collector's item these days.

There was also an interview with Clive Sinclair, where he revealed his plans for the coming year. These were centred around a briefcase computer, a desktop computer to be built for ICL, and the Microdrive, which had been mooted since April that year but with scarce details since then.

Elsewhere, the editorial wondered if home computing might be another fad, and decided that with some imagination from suppliers it might still be a fad, but one which "should be good at least until the end of the century".

Friday, 23 November 2012

Bletchley Park - Home of the Codebreakers

I visited Bletchley Park in 2003 for a BCS meeting, and last weekend I finally managed to get back there for a day trip. Obviously a lot has changed in the near-decade since my first visit. There's even more to see, too much for one day in fact, so it's just as well that your entrance fee now gives you a year-long season ticket, so you can go back as many times as you like to see all of it.

The best way to see the estate is to join one of the regular guided tours which leave from the mansion - these start with a brief talk indoors before heading out to explore. The tours take in a lot, and you should allow 2 hours if you include the optional tour extension to see Tunny and Colossus (there is a separate charge for this in addition to your admission fee).

There's also a great cafe in Hut 4 for your morning and afternoon cuppa, and a variety of lunch options as well, a great way of keeping the hunger at bay and providing some more support for Bletchley Park at the same time. Cake was extensively tested, and found to be very good.

On this trip there wasn't time for everything, so the Churchill Collection and the National Museum of Computing will have to wait for next time, along with a longer look around the Block-B Exhibition Centre.

There's a few photos here.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Your Blu-ray Player is just a PC - Treat it Like One

A few weeks ago I decided to try to fix a problem which had been bugging me for a while. The extra features on the Blu-ray version of Fringe Season 3 didn't play on my LG Blu-ray player. Having not updated the software for over a year, I reckoned that this was almost certainly the problem, and once I'd finished watching the series itself, I hooked the player up to the Internet.

Sure enough, there was a new version of the software available, so I set it off downloading. Some 40 minutes later, it completed, and started installing. At which point the device crashed and required a hard reset using the wall socket. Not really what I was hoping for, but the reboot revealed that the software hadn't updated and the thing was at least still working.

In a classic case of "I've started so I'll finish" I tried the update again, and 40 odd minutes later went through the same process of having to hard reset.

At this point, it was time to treat the player like a PC (well, it is a Linux box after all, underneath all the consumer branding) and I went off for some serious Internet searching. I found a few people were having some problems, but also that the LG web site had a version of the software which was newer than the one I had currently, but older than the one it was trying to upgrade to. Normally the web site should offer the same version, but in this case I was happy to be able to try something else.

I downloaded this (in about 90 seconds, so why the player took so long about it I don't know) and copied to a USB stick, and updated the player using that. This time, the player didn't crash, and rebooted successfully.

Alas the Fringe extras still didn't work.

However, it did mean that I could now attempt the automatic software update over the Internet, yet again, but this time from a different start point in terms of software. Keeping to the pattern, this once again took 40 minutes to download, but this time the process completed with a successful reboot.

Happily the Fringe extra features now played. So, it's always important to remember that lots of consumer devices now are basically PCs inside, so when they give you grief, treat them like PCs!