My friend Damien was blogging about his early experiences with computers & programming yesterday, and it reminded me of how I got started. Specifically, it reminded me of an influential magazine I read at the time called “Input”, which taught BASIC programming for the ZX Spectrum and BBC. It was a short-lived, esoteric British thing, but I was astonished to find that not only does Wikipedia have a page on it, but they also linked a TV advert of it which has been lovingly archived on YouTube:

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I hope everyone had a good Christmas, I certainly did. I received a number of new games, which was good (will blog about them individually at a later juncture), but I also encountered something I haven’t done before - Evil Red DVD Tag Syndrome. For those who, like me, haven’t encountered these before, some shops in the last couple of years have been adding red theft-prevention strips to some DVD cases.

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I really enjoyed the original Professor Layton, and was glad to get the sequel (Professor Layton and Pandora’s Box - for some cultural reason ‘Diabolical Box’ on the web site, I assume internationally some people haven’t heard of Pandora’s Box) from a friend as an early Christmas present. So far it seems like more of the same “puzzles embedded in slightly hokey but nonetheless enjoyable story, set in a whimsical Victorian era”, which is precisely what fans of the original (which includes me) wanted.

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[Edit 20th Dec] We did it! Rage Against The Machine is number 1 for Christmas, proper music fans in Britain give Simon Cowell and his manufactured karaoke bullsh*t the finger. Very, very happy!! Best Christmas number 1 that I can ever remember. I detest reality TV with a passion. I think it’s low-brow, cheap nonsense that bare-facedly celebrates the very worst elements of human nature; promoting the idea that being famous (for anything) is somehow a laudable goal in itself, and indulging the public’s cathartic desire for a feeling of superiority and power over others via venomous gossip and voting people off.

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I’m a fan of Tim Schafer. Quite apart from the fact that his Wikipedia page shows him lovingly holding a jar of Marmite (good man), he’s been a writer/designer/coder on some of the funniest, quirkiest games in history: Monkey Island 1 & 2, Day of the Tentacle, Grim Fandango and Psychonauts. How can you not love this guy? It’s a terrible tragedy that Psychonauts didn’t sell better - sure its platforming was a little ropey at times and the game was padded out in places with uninspiring sections, but buried within this game were some of the most original, funny and bizarre ideas ever to grace the medium.

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Making a living from open source is hard. Correction - making a living from writing open source software is hard - it’s incredibly easy to make a living from someone else’s open source software of course, which is why that’s what most people do 😀At one time the popular opinion was that pure-play open source companies could make a living from support services, which works to a degree but I know from both my own experience and from that of others that it doesn’t work that well.

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Gartner haven’t exactly been the sharpest tools in the box when it comes to predicting open source trends over the last few years, vastly underestimating it until about 2008, by which time it didn’t exactly take a professional analyst to tell you that it was popular. Still, now they’ve woken up to its potential, occasionally they post something useful. In particular, I liked a recent blog post about how open source is “trending towards customer obscurity” - that is to say that while open source is incredibly important to producers of software, the vast majority of consumers don’t really care how their software is made any more than they care how their car was made.

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I’ve been branching out with my hobbies particularly in the last year or so, mostly because my back problems now prevent me from spending every waking hour hunched over a PC, coding. In a way that’s a shame - I lament the sudden drop-off in coding time and hence productivity - but it’s also good to broaden my horizons a bit. I’m 36 now after all, and spent the vast majority of my spare time in the last 8 years on Ogre, so maybe I deserve a break 😉 After all, I get to work on Ogre a bit as part of my day job now anyway, if not as much as I’d like.

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I’ve basically ignored Bayonetta for the last 12 months, because it never struck me as something I’d be interested in - I was never that impressed by Devil May Cry and similar games which to me just felt like random button mashers, and Bayonetta seemed to be relying far too much on how much leg and cleavage its main protagonist could show in any given screenshot. I’d pretty much written it off as a cycnical attempt to recycle old ideas but to tap into the frustrated teenage male demographic with guns, kung-fu, the occult, blood and cleavage - clearly a winning formula in that market.

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It’s now almost a year since I decided to try using Twitter, specifically to post about Ogre development work I’m doing and other Ogre-related things (well, most of the time anyway). Seeing as I totally deride the concept that it’s a good thing to share the inconsequential, tedious minutae of your life with the internet and view it as the absolute pinnacle of sad, narcissistic behaviour, joining Twitter was a hard sell.

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