Assorted outages

Regular visitors – all five of them since it’s apparently gone up – may have noticed that the server this website lives on has been having what I’ll charitably call a few “stability issues” of late… in fact it’s been less strong and stable than the current Tory government and that’s really saying something right now. Part of the problem has been metric bucketloads of automated brute force attacks on the admin account for at least one of my WordPress installs, hitting the login page so rapidly that Apache basically eats all of its available resources and crashes out. Since this hammering started the server had its RAM upgraded, configurations were tweaked, the login pages at least partially concealed, lots of passwords changed and Cloudflare set up to hopefully smooth out at least some of the incoming crap.

The attacks are still ongoing right now although less frequent than before, but the prolonged game of Whack A Mole with my anonymous nemesis – overselling things somewhat perhaps – means that the other outage today is, well me. I’ve not really had a decent night’s sleep for three days and forgot to eat at least once, so I’m taking this weekend off in part because I haven’t been playing any games but mostly because I need some rest. There are a couple of pluses at least; I’ve been putting off upgrading the server for ages because I loathe modifying hardware when it’s “working” so that’s done and, because the machine itself is sat in our front room, I’ve watched quite a bit of classic Doctor Who whilst on babysitting duties.

In other news, I seem to be cycling over to “demo mode” at the moment although there’s a good chance that’s just sleep deprivation or a lack of caffeine talking – more news on that one either way as it happens, as they say.

Randomly musing about NTSC

So I make a nuisance of myself on Twitter from time to time… not much because that’s not my “style” but every now and then something interesting will come up and I stick my metaphorical oar in. For example, a tweet drifted through my feed from Joseph W. which said…

It’s regrettable that the NTSC C64 demoscene never really took off. I know there are some technical reasons why, but there were still some pretty nice demos that came out of NTSC groups.

My response was that “being cordoned off from the PAL scene meant the one-upmanship that drove and indeed still drives demo dev wasn’t there” because, essentially, the coders in NTSC territories saw a small fraction of what was being churned out in industrial quantities over in PAL land and the most technically impressive pieces of code required cycle accuracy and ate all of the available processing power on each frame so wouldn’t run on American or Canadian machines. It’d be difficult to devise uses for some of the VIC-II’s “features” in a vacuum or pick through PAL code that wasn’t running correctly on their machines but, even when emulation unified things a little, the NTSC scene didn’t really seem to evolve.

I have fond memories of the NTSC demo scene in the mid to late 1990s because I was a small part of it; I spent quite a bit of time on the relevant IRC channels, joined Canadian-based Carcass for a while to contribute code and graphics to a couple of releases and, along with contributing to disk magazine Driven on a few occasions with a mixture of articles and the occasional bitmapped logo, I also entered all three of their 4Kdemo competitions and won two! But at the same time, that didn’t bode well for the NTSC scene if PAL bunnies could rock up and beat the “local talent” like that and, despite there being a couple of driving forces like Coolhand trying to keep things rolling, it still ground to a halt eventually…

In response to my tweet, Joseph W. went on to say…

I suppose it would be pointless to make a NTSC demo these days.

…but I’m not sure that’s the case any more than it could be said of other “niche markets” like demos for the C128, SuperCPU or REU-equipped machines. Making demos is primarily done for fun anyway so, if someone felt that they’d get enjoyment from focusing on doing NTSC-specific C64 releases then they should and VICE can handle pretty much anything they’ll throw at it so the rest of us get to enjoy the results. I’ve been sidetracked by demo code since the weekend myself and it’s very tempting to NTSC fix some of my prototype code and throw something together right now…

Playing Sirius 7 (Amiga)

Published on the Amiga by an arm of CRL called Actual Screenshots, Sirius 7 is a no-nonsense, horizontally scrolling shoot ’em up where the player’s small craft flies through some quite pretty backgrounds whilst turning smaller enemies into space dust and, at the end of each stage, taking on a boss which needs more of a kicking to defeat. But despite being released in 1990, there aren’t any power-ups to collect from downed nasties; instead there’s a choice from four fully armed ships at the start of each stage, with each having its own statistics for speed and firepower so figuring out which is best suited to both the player’s style and the current barrage of enemies is part of the challenge.

There are a lot of things waiting to be shot as well to the point where it might initially seem overwhelming, with the player being relentlessly peppered by attackers for the majority of the time and often having to weave through small gaps between enemies, their bullets and passing landscape features. And whilst it’s tempting to constantly strafe up and down to spray the entire playfield with bullets, there are times when it proves more sensible to stop moving almost entirely and let the guns do their job, merely nudging the controls occasionally to reposition when a stray bullet gets too close for comfort.

There are better looking shoot ’em ups than Sirius 7 on the Amiga – it isn’t ugly by any metric, but at the same time doesn’t stand out – and it certainly can’t be considered to be an innovative game by any stretch of the imagination, but there’s lots of thud and blunder to enjoy in there and, for me at least, it offers better difficulty balancing than some of the more popular Amiga shooters out there. Blair Zuppicich’s soundtrack is brilliant as well, I’ll occasionally leave a couple of Sirius 7 tunes and the titles music from Cybernetix playing in the background whilst working.

Oh, and that glitched chunk of background in the video is, I’m assuming, down to the cracked version used for the recording in some way;- I need to get WinUAE properly configured for WHDLoad again…