Workprint – May 2018

Yes, I’m a little late with the workprint this month but in my defence there have been things going on; I spent a significant chunk of the weekend in an unexpectedly large van with my stepson Matthew and stepson-in-law Josh, heading to Kent for an overnight stay in order to relocate boxes of old computers and software which have been sat in my dad’s garage for… oh, about sixteen years. Here’s what it looked like after we put everything into the van…

…and no, the large Rupert having a lie down on top of everything wasn’t originally mine but has been adopted anyway. I’ve found myself left with a lot to process – both in the literal sense and emotionally, the latter probably being the harder to deal with – but it’s done and everything is in one place now, although I haven’t had a chance to do any serious ferreting around just yet. I did get a family photo before we left for home by the way, so it wasn’t just pictures of storage boxes!

In programming news there hasn’t been much time of late (or more accurately, the problems I’m having with my shoulder means that sitting in front of a computer for extended periods is at best uncomfortable) but the previously mentioned C64CD project is pretty much done with just little extra polish and some “how it works” style articles required before release – there’s an all-formats retro game development competition I like the look of which might serve as a place to put it out, although I’ll need to check their rules properly beforehand since it’s using some wired graphics – and I’ve been doodling a little here and there when spare moments present themselves.

I died in a book once

Before we start, a little back story for those who aren’t fans; the BBC took Doctor Who off the air in 1989, having all but strangled it with ridiculously small budgets and, according to some, deliberately poor scheduling. A few of these wilderness years passed before Virgin Books licensed the Doctor Who universe and started producing a range of books called the Doctor Who New Adventures which continued where Sylvester McCoy’s third season left off at Survival. They also took a few cues from the Cartmel Masterplan – the nickname for the road map laid out for the show had it continued with Andrew Cartmel as script editor – which included drafting in new companions.

One of these new characters was archaeologist Bernice Summerfield who was created by writer Paul Cornell and, when the BBC didn’t renew the license in 1997, Virgin dropped the “Doctor Who” from the name and continued the series with Benny front and centre. The fourth Benny NA as they were sometimes known was Ship Of Fools, a murder mystery set aboard a space-bound cruise liner called the Titanium Queen with Bernice contracted to retrieve a stolen artefact. And during said book is this scene…

‘I vonder if you can help me,’ said the woman. My name is Heidi von Lindt. I have thus far spent this delightful cruise visiting with certain gentlemen of my acquaintance, offering them companionship and, I must confess, a certain degree of succour. I have been, if you will, a kind of random companion…’

Benny wondered vaguely if this scenario was going to lead anywhere. ‘I’m really not in much of a state to help any -‘ she began.

Heidi von Lindt held a finger to her glossed lips in a small shushing gesture. ‘Vun of my gentleman friends,’ she said, ‘seems to haff had a small mishap. I left him under firm restraint, momentarily, while I went to find a pair off nipple-clamps, a bullwhip, a set of electrodes and a pint of clarified ghee, and I haff come back to find him horribly murdered. ‘ She presser her hand to her forehead in a display of abject sorrow. ‘Ach! Poor Jason is no more! Vot am I to do? I can’t help it!’

And yes, the Jason who “had not died, as was first thought, from the constriction of the ropes tying him to Frau von Lindt’s chaise longue, but by an injection of strychnine to his upper left ventricle” was indeed yours truly, with the part of Heidi von Lindt being played by my then girlfriend who went by the pseudonym Random Companion to the point where even I called her that. The book’s author Dave Stone – that’s him in the picture below circa 1997 if memory serves, standing next to a grinning idiot – had put a call out via the USENet newsgroup Rec.Arts.DrWho (which was visited by quite a few of the New Adventures writers) for people to lay down their lives in the service of literature, so there’s several R.A.DW names, pseudonyms, in-jokes and references throughout.

The book was the first in a trilogy which have recently been retooled to add a new lead character of Dave’s own creation, Pandora Delbane, and made available for Kindle owners at very reasonable rates, although my cameo and most of the R.A.DW references are gone in this new version – that makes sense since jokes like the Bekkar boys and their industrial flame won’t thrower mean anything to people who “weren’t there” and may have completely slipped the minds of many who were after two decades. I’ve got all three on my Kindle but ended up buying a second hand copy of Ship Of Fools as well to transcribe the scene above – I still have a WAV file of Random reading Heidi von Lindt’s part – and to scan the cover, because even if I could find my original copy it’s “well read” almost to the point of destruction.

Those were the Doctor Who “wilderness years” when the show wasn’t on the air, but it’s also a time I mostly remember fondly for the sense of community around the show, even if being “persuaded” to attend parties, conventions – three in the space of a month at one point – and other events wasn’t and indeed still isn’t for want of a better phrase, really my “style”. I don’t entirely know how I ended up in some of those situations, but there’s a couple of anecdotes from that time I’ve been telling for years that could stand to be written down…?

Some upgrades and catching up

I was going to post on Friday, honest… but the last couple of days have been spent rebuilding my Beloved’s old HP DC7700 as a workstation for myself and then experimenting to find out if it’s powerful enough to grab better quality videos for YouTube than I was managing previously. With that in mind, here’s a recent test where I played Warhawk badly to the point where my arse was handed to me on level 7:

This was recorded straight from WinVICE 3.0 using OBS Studio at what I think should be 480P and, although it’s better than my previous uploads which were dumped straight from the emulator, there’s still some tweaking to do. The next trial will probably be without VICE‘s scanline generation enabled to see if that makes a difference and I’m open to suggestions on what else might help!

The machine itself isn’t done yet; most of my regular software is installed but not fully configured and it’ll be getting more RAM and a second hard disk – shown above and labeled as a “surveilance hard drive” which is slightly concerning, I don’t want Amber Rudd rifling through my source code – as well. I’m hoping those upgrades will improve things on the video grabbing front, but failing that a dive into eBay for a better GeForce card than the one already in there will possibly be in order…