16
Apr
14

But I don’t like spam!

I remember a time when spam referred to a type of processed pork in a can. It was one of those things we ate because cold meat in other forms was expensive and harder to get where we lived at the time. Nowadays spam is the torrent of unwanted messages that show up in our email, social media, instant messaging, blog comments… you get the idea. WordPress blogs are no exception to this and I regularly get lots of spam comments.

I look through the spam comments every now and then to make sure that Akismet doesn’t get it wrong sometimes. I’m often struck by how bad the language and grammar is in the messages and how little meaning they have. Sometimes they are even funny because of the poor wording. Today I’ve gathered a small collection of some of the best/worst spam messages I currently have in my spam box.

spam01

Apparently Gutman’s book or slavery will enhance your immune system. I don’t want to know how.

spam02

Luckily blocking spam isn’t so tough.

spam03

James Bond needs grammar lessons and is supposedly on a mission involving Frame buffers and hard disks. This was posted on Frame buffer and Hard disk follow up.

spam04

They love to use the word fastidious, ironically very un-fastidiously.

spam05

So in order to get the best crop you need to set your hair on fire and leap as high as you can in your field? This is not good news for my Dad who has little hair and couldn’t jump high enough!

spam06

Structured water is important? Who is Clayton Nolte? Someone with a broken hot water system? What do these things have in common with a screen capture of Silent Service II?

spam07

An enthusiastic loser! Training for something indecipherable. They certainly have met defeat with the spam filter.

spam08

There seems to be a large monster beat that can take constructive criticism. Anyone wish to master the percussion tone?

spam09

This dude has a weird fetish where he finds software or websites “doable”. Only on the internet.

spam10

Posted on Medion Laptop Repair. His room mate must have either been a laptop of the Medion variety or someone who repaired such machines.

The very odd thing about most of the spam I’ve been getting is that it has mostly been posted on a few screen shots for a few old DOS games I wrote about quite a while ago. This is probably the least likely place for anyone to see any of the content they have been posting.

I’ve also noticed some common trends amongst spam. They are usually devoid of anything that really makes any sense, and frequently just try to flatter their way into getting their link into your comments section. The ones that have strange blocks of text seem to have randomly used a thesaurus to change something that was poorly written to begin with into something even more convoluted.

I once got a spam that revealed more about how they are generated. It basically showed a block of text with some sections encoded with alternative words or phrases. I’m guessing the spammer software selects alternatives at random making some of the text sound very strange. It seems in many cases a thesaurus was used to pick synonyms which often sound awkward or just plain silly. Sometimes they didn’t bother using synonyms making the text sound even weirder.

At least out of their ineptitude comes a silver lining. Spam filters easily pick up the silliness these guys are throwing around.

 

14
Apr
14

Artsoft games on NetBSD

R'n'D Menu Screen

R’n’D Menu Screen

Today I am looking at two games for Unix systems called Rocks’n’Diamonds (R’n’D for short) and Mirror Magic. Both were developed by Artsoft which seems to consist of one person, Holger Schemel. Both games are sort of clones of older games for much older platforms. Rock’n’Diamonds is a Boulder Dash like game that was first released in 1995 and last updated at the end of 2013. Mirror magic is very much like Deflektor, originally released in 1995 and updated until 2003. Whilst both games are based on older games they both add features to the old formula. Today I’ve built and played these under NetBSD on my SparcStation 20.

Text Box

Text Box

Being made by the same person, both games share some similarities, particularly in the art style. The menus and sprites are very colourful, they almost look like they belong at a carnival. Everything is well drawn, animated and items look like they should. Items brought over from the older games have been updated graphically, they don’t look identical to the originals but are also easily identifiable for players of the old games.

Green Goo

Green Goo

They run of the same graphics engine originally developed for R’n’D which supports X11 and SDL mainly. The X11 versions work quite well, even on exceptionally old hardware like my old SparcStation 20 which is quite impressive. They work moderately well over longer distances via SSH, but the latency and bandwidth can be a problem on slower links whilst LAN speeds works flawlessly. There is a SDL version, but the version I installed (from Macports on my macbook) seems to be significantly slower than even X over SSH. This is hopefully just something peculiar to the Macports version on Mac OSX.

Playing Via SSH

Playing Via SSH

Both also have the same sort of sound engine and from what I can experience on the Macports version they are good for what they are. I only got to test sound in R’n’D and unfortunately during game play you can get swamped with the same sounds playing repetitively. So you might enjoy your playing experience more with the sound off. Playing on NetBSD on the old Sparc machine this wasn’t an issue as sound doesn’t work there.

Mirror Magic Menu Screen

Mirror Magic Menu Screen

The game play for R’n’D is interesting in that it combines elements from games such as Boulder Dash and Sokoban, and includes most of the elements added by Supaplex and Emerald Mines to Boulder Dash. The game has three game engines that any level can use. Rocks’n’Diamonds, Supaplex and Emerald Mines. The later allowing levels from those games to be played and solved as they are in the original. I haven’t played enough of the levels to give a good impression of what they are like as a whole, but those that I have played have been fun. I did try levels from the older games and they seemed to work quite well.

Holy balls of steel!

Holy balls of steel!

Mirror Magic similarly has its roots in older games, specifically Deflektor and Mindbender. Basically there is a Laser, a bunch of mirrors, obstacles, and stuff to destroy in the levels. You need to direct the laser with the mirrors to destroy objects in the way and get the beam to the target. Usually this requires destroying all of the metal spheres in the level. You have a limited amount of fuel, and the laser can over heat if the beam hits the wrong type of object. It’s important to keep an eye on both the fuel and heat gauges as running out of fuel or over heating can sneak up on you. What I’ve played so far has been quite fun, although I was disappointed that only levels from the old games were included.

Balls busted

Balls busted

Both games have a level editor which is easy to use. The editor in R’n’Ds is quite flexible and allows users to create their own custom objects that behave differently to the stock ones. This allows people to make all sorts of different creations, one even claiming to have recreated Zelda! There are lots of different level packs available on the Artsoft website for R’n’Ds, but not really any for Mirror Magic. In either case, if you do happen to beat all the levels there is still lots of gameplay in the user created levels and building some of your own.

What Mc Duffin?

What Mc Duffin?

Despite being based on older games that are well known, I think both of these games bring something new to the table. R’n’Ds brings many more levels including user created ones and variety in game play that the original games didn’t have. Mirror Magic is a decent remake of the originals with the addition of a level editor. Both run on Windows, Mac OSX, Linux, and BSD. There is even a DOS port of both although the port of R’n’Ds is a little out of date. If you like any of the old games on which these are based you might wanna give them a try.

07
Apr
14

Storage Photo Tour 3

This weekend I was having a tidy up, between doing more domestic style cleaning I got out another one of my storage boxes to document its contents. I’ve done this twice before, once here at my place and once at my parents place. You can find the posts here and here.

This time around I found less older hardware and some more modern stuff, in particular a cache of AGP graphics cards of various types.

Continue reading ‘Storage Photo Tour 3′

31
Mar
14

Skunny: Back to the Forest for DOS

Skunny and Rosie

Skunny and Rosie

Skunny: Back to the Forest is a platform game released by Copysoft back in 1993. It was their attempt at making a Sonic like game for the PC. The main character is of course Skunny Hardnut, who is basically the mascot for the company and appears in all the titles made by Copysoft. This game also includes his “supermodel girlfriend” Rosie. Whilst doing research I found that many of their games are famously bad. I have played one of the Skunny games before and have vague memories of them as I didn’t play them very much.

Yummy items!

Yummy items!

The game boasts 256 colour VGA graphics with parallax scrolling backgrounds, but the artwork is sort of middle of the road. It’s not bad by any sense, but there could have been more frames for animations. Whilst the game boasts speedy parallax scrolling you need quite a powerful DOS machine to get the game to run smoothly. It certainly wouldn’t run well on a 386sx like we had back in the day. Other games such as Hocus Pocus managed faster scrolling on older systems like that.

Spiders!

Spiders!

The sound support basically supports only the Sound Blaster or PC speaker for sound effects, and Adlib/Sound Blaster for music. Sound effects consist of Skunny making noises such as screaming when hurt or saying “oh d-d-d-dear” when on a ledge. The effects sound fine, but you’ll likely find them annoying after a while as there is little variation and they are played frequently in a game session. There is such little variation that Rosie sounds exactly the same as Skunny does. Music wise I only heard one tune play during my brief play session, and well it was kind of annoying as it is short and always looping.

Huge ass Toad

Huge ass Toad

The idea for the gameplay is an interesting one that could be good, but the implementation unfortunately lets it down. The controls feel awkward somehow, making it difficult to make precision jumps. Skunny and Rosie are quick and have momentum, so it’s very easy to overshoot many of the small platforms and fall off spiders or insects that carry you around. The levels seem to be designed with a slower and more precise Skunny in mind making things worse than they really should be. I was so frustrated with the controls and movement that I stopped playing after having difficulty with the second level.

Super Skunny

Super Skunny

This is one of the earlier Skunny games in the series, so it’s not surprising the game is lacking polish. It also seems to me that the developers were pushed to meet a list of features regardless of their effect on game play. Perhaps the game was quite different in an earlier development version and then ‘spiced up’ for marketing purposes. Whatever the case, this could have been a good game had the controls been a little better and the levels designed to better suite the mechanics.

 

25
Mar
14

Fixing a NEC FD1157C floppy drive

NEC FD1157C

NEC FD1157C

Last time I went to see my family out in the bush I had a look at some of the hardware I had in storage there. I found I had a NEC FD1157C 5.25″ floppy disk drive made in 1989 that had come from an Epson machine one of my uncles had given my father. The drive, whilst badly yellowed looked like it was in good shape mechanically, but upon testing with hardware I had on hand at my parents place it didn’t work. It didn’t even seem to seek properly.

This drive has a number of jumpers on the main circuit board, so I checked online to find out the settings. After trying for a while I still couldn’t get it to work. I decided I’d bring it back with me to try to work out what was wrong. I have better diagnostic equipment here.

The head rails

The head rails

Having been doing other things I hadn’t had a chance to look at it until just this weekend gone. I rechecked the mechanism to see that it moved freely. This type of head travel mechanism is nice in the sense that it doesn’t have a screw to lubricate, so it’s a bit cleaner, easier to adjust, and reliable.  Fortunately it didn’t require service as the heads moved backwards and forwards freely. The spindle motor similarly was in good condition.

It seemed likely a problem on the circuit board, perhaps a bad jumper setting. So I rigged the drive up in my MS-DOS machine and in the process of setting up the BIOS for testing the drive it performed the drive seek test and seemed to work. I was quite surprised by this as I couldn’t get it to do that at all at my folks place. I found the website with jumper settings for some NEC drives.

Circuit board

Circuit board

After setting the jumpers the drive appeared to work but the drive light didn’t ignite when the drive was in use. I tried a few things and found that the LM1 setting on the drive needs to be 1 rather than 0 for the light to work. I was a little disappointed to not get to use my oscilloscope to check the test points.

I’ve done some minimal testing and everything appears fine, but I will test it against my reference working drive to make sure the alignment is right. I want to make sure it reads and writes to disks reliably without damaging them. I might even probe some of the test points just for fun! This drive is a good one to have as it appears more serviceable than others I have. Although I have to wonder why it didn’t work when I tested it at my folks place. Perhaps a bad cable?

22
Mar
14

Electronic Shareware Catalogs

Because of where I grew up we had very limited capacity to find information about games. The internet didn’t exist and we were too far from Australian BBS to make use of them. Consequently we had to get most of our information from magazines and the cover disks that came with them. The cover disks had game demos commonly from shareware companies such as Apogee and Epic Megagames. Often the demos would have an electronic catalog of games along with the ordering information. After having played the demo, and not having much else to do I would look at the catalogs and dream of playing the games therein.

Apogee were one of the larger shareware publishers of the time, and many of my favourite games were distributed by them. I liked reading their catalogs because they were always very detailed and included system requirements, but unfortunately they lack the colour that many others had.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Epic Megagames were the main rival for Apogee at the time, they had very colourful catalogs that were very nice to look at. They often included some very basic text/ansi style graphics, although the picture of Jill from Jill of the Jungle doesn’t look much like her. The game descriptions aren’t as detailed as those from Apogee, but they got the important information across and let you know if the game had special hardware requirements.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The bigger players weren’t the only ones to have an electronic catalog. Arcanum computing was basically one guy, Nels Anderson. I posted recently about some of his games, EGATrek and Shooting Gallery. He made a nice colour catalog program to advertise his other games, probably because it was hard to get information about them out there.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I couldn’t find any other catalog programs in my archive and unfortunately I couldn’t find any information or examples of them on the internet. If you happened to have a software catalog I’d be interested in hearing about it.

16
Mar
14

Shooting Gallery for DOS

Shooting gallery is another game made by Nels Anderson in the early 1990′s. This is another of the many shareware games that was installed on the machines in our computer lab at high school. It has a number of mini-games based on many of the games you used to find at fair grounds and amusement parks.

It runs in the usual 256 colour VGA mode, although it would also work on MCGA. The game was written with Turbo Pascal 5.5, a common language at the time. It also uses the Borland Graphics Interface (BGI) much like I have for my platform game. In fact it has the same VGA256.BGI file that I’ve used for normal VGA graphics. This didn’t come with that version of Pascal (or 6.0 for that matter) so the author would have downloaded it from a BBS or Borland.

The quality of the graphics is quite good, sprites are colourful and animate nicely. We used to only have PC speaker at school for sound, so we only ever heard bleeps and bloops from that, but sound blaster support is also available, and has some ok digitised sound. There is some music on the title screen, but it sounds like it’s coming from the PC speaker even when the sound blaster is enabled. It’s not bad by any stretch, but would have been improved substantially using OPL FM synthesis.

Birds and Bottles

Birds and Bottles

The first mini-game is Birds and bottles, it is a simple shooting game much the same as the fair ground game where people shoot ducks in a row. There is a good variety of targets each with different point values based on how hard they are to hit, the candles in particular being very hard to hit. You shoot until you either run out of ammo or time. You can get extra ammo by shooting boxes containing it. This is good as you can go through a lot of ammo fast.

Are pigeons called Skeet?

Are pigeons called Skeet?

The second game is a computerised version of skeet shooting. It’s fairly simple, you simply have to shoot the clay pigeons as they fly. Ammunition isn’t an issue as you can only shoot once per clay pigeon and enough ammo is provided. It can be quite difficult to hit the targets here as they have don’t move the same way each time and they are fast!

Quick Draw

Quick Draw

The third game is quick draw. Basically there is a target in the middle of the screen, and you are scored based on how quickly you can hit the target from a predefined starting place for the mouse. It’s one of the simpler games as there are no moving targets.

These 3 games are repeated a second time with a few variations to make them harder. For instance the skeet shooting has two pigeons and the quick draw has two targets. They are slightly harder, but are not really all that different to the originals.

Do you feel lucky?

Do you feel lucky?

The final mini-game is probably the most memorable and is called shoot out. You’re in a wild west setting with a few buildings from which people pop out. Your job is to shoot only the bad guys before they shoot you! Like the first game you have an ammunition and time limit so you can’t waste your shots or take a long time. You lose 2 seconds from your remaining time each time a bad guy shoots at you and you lose points for shooting citizens or children.

After all 7 rounds you’re given a score and a high score if you managed to get one. Your score is an indication of how well you can use your mouse. The game could be used as a trainer for precision mouse usage. Most people are fairly proficient with a mouse these days, but this game would certainly challenge your clicking skills.

Double quick draw

Double quick draw

It only takes about 10 minutes to get through all the mini-games so it’s good for a small distraction as a break. If you don’t like some rounds you can opt to skip them or simply just practise the one you like the most. We used to play this game in the computer studies classes partly because of its simple and quick gameplay, you didn’t need much time to get through an entire game and had a score to compete with friends. It could fill a similar hole in your day today, but it’s not something I’d sit down and play given enough time for a more full game. Like EGA Trek before it, Shooting Gallery is still available from Nels Anderson’s website.




Blogs I Follow

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


Random Battles: my life long level grind

completing every RPG, ever.

Gough's Tech Zone

Reversing the mindless enslavement of humans by technology.

Retrocosm - Vintage & Retro Computing Blog

Random mutterings on retro computing, old technology, some new, plus any other stuff that interests me

ancientelectronics

retro computing and gaming plus a little more

Retrocomputing with 90's SPARC

21st-Century computing, the hard way

lazygamereviews

MS-DOS game reviews, retro ramblings and more...

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.