2
Sep
'14

September marks the start of spring in South Africa. While we sometimes have rain, this year September 1st was an absolutely gorgeous day.

Also, in the other hemisphere, students go to school after summer holidays. Back in the late eighties and early nineties, new students getting access to the university computer networks caused all kinds of chaos on usenet (what we had instead of the world wide web back then) until they acquired some clue.

This changed in September 1993, when AOL came online and flooded the network with clueless lusers. Some nerd types adopted a new calendar — today being September 7672, 1993.

On September 1st 2014, the lusers got to Tam.

The ‘net is just a little bit poorer today.

 





20
Aug
'14

One of the disks that came with my Apple ][ clone contained a little game called Nightmare #6. At the time it completely stumped me, there seemed to be no way to beat the game. I’d worked out that a move consisted of two letters, no more, no less, and that it was possible to lose points quite quickly, and also possible to not lose points, but I never worked out how to actually gain points.

For some reason I thought of this game again the other day, tried to find it. This was not easy, but plenty google later I found it in the Apple Software Bank Volume 1.

Of course my BASIC is better than it was in 1980. I learned that:

  • You get eleven moves
  • Each move consists of two letters
  • Using the same letter twice gives you a “nightmare #6″, which doubles the amount of points you lose on the next wrong move
  • Re-using the first letter of a previous move gives you “super zonk”, which quadruples the amount of points you lose on the next wrong move
  • Any other move gives you no points, except when the value of the two letters (A = 1, Z = 26) add up to a multiple of ten.
  • If the letters add up to a multiple of ten, you score that value, and the score associated with the second letter is set to this same value.

So, NZ (14 + 26 = 40) is a valid move. So is OY, PX, QW, RV and SU. After playing these, you can’t re-use N, O, P, Q, R or S, but U, V, W, X, Y and Z are all set to 40, so UV, WX and YZ are legal moves for 80 points each, and leaves V, X and Z set to 80.  VZ and XZ give you 160 points each, finishing the game with 1880 points out of a (claimed) possible 2080 points.

So I thought about it some more. Realised that while NZ is a good place to start, XZ (24 + 26 = 50) is better. Of course this means that PX is no longer a legal move, you can’t play the first letter again. OY, QW, RV and SU are still good for 40 points each, and YZ, WZ, VZ and UZ give 90, 130, 170 and 210 points (because the point value of Z increases every time). But this is only nine turns, and we need eleven. Fortunately we still have J (= 10) and T (= 20) to play TZ and JZ, for a total score of 2280 points.

I still don’t know how the author got to the “possible 2080″ points.

Screen capture of end of Nightmare #6, with 2280 out of a possible 2080 points.

 

Oh yes, and this is why I’m with Jason Scott — we’re not huge Wikipedia fans because they delete perfectly good information.  Someone took the trouble to write something about Nightmare #6, and noted that it is possible to get more than 2080 points, but the editors decided that “WP is not a videogame guide“.

 

 

 

 





6
Aug
'14

There’s a hoary old bit of Internet folklore, that in the mists of time when dinosaurs roamed the computer rooms, there existed a machine which could be upgraded by cutting a single wire.

In other words, the machine shipped with more power than you paid for, with some kind of a silicon handbrake to cripple the hardware until such time as you could afford to pay for an upgrade.

But that’s long ago and we do things differently now some people don’t learn from history.

Because apparently Tektronix sells equipment with built-in capabilities that costs money to enable, except if you can program an EEPROM. And not with some encrypted password or string, no, apparently plain text available straight off of Tektronix’ website will do the trick.

So after Hackaday linked to Oontz’ website, Tektronix got all butthurt and issued a DMCA takedown notice.

Notes to Tektronix:

1. Streisand Effect. I wouldn’t have written this post if you had not got all upset.

2. Wayback Machine. Jason saved it all for us. Including the original post.

3. Once the cat is out of the bag, it becomes trivial to replicate. Even if you DMCA the Wayback Machine, and me, and everyone else… you still lose. See Note 1.

So, learn from this and design better security next time.

 





31
Jul
'14

I remember when this album hit the shops. We loved it. I drove from Cape Town to Johannesburg, via St. Francis Bay, with one tape in the car. It was amazing.

 

 





16
Jul
'14

 

 





Someone who looks at a picture like this one

and comments

Finger off the trigger tsk tsk :)

shall henceforth be known as a gunorak.





30
Jun
'14

If you wear camo and sit very quietly in the shade of a bush you can get to see interesting things.

See it? Lemme zoom in a bit for you.

I sat watching this fellow as he was making a beeline pretty much straight for me.

This is a split second after he saw me (the camo in the foreground is me). Changed his mind pretty quickly and made for the hills.

And the evening I had to eat a gemmerkoekie* as punishment for not shooting the blighter. Because there are two problem animals that get shot on sight on farms, jackal** and caracal***.

Why didn’t I shoot? The gemsbok were just behind that ridge ahead of me, and I was seriously considering changing my priority from kudu to gemsbok. That ended up not happening and I walked-and-surprised**** a nice young kudu bull the next day. So all turned out well.

* “gemmerkoekie” = ginger biscuit. But laced with Stroh rum. I like Stroh rum. This is a game I play to lose.

** Black-backed jackal, known as “rooijakkals” or red jackal in Afrikaans. The little bat-eared foxes and silver foxes are also “jakkals” in Afrikaans but you don’t shoot those.

*** I don’t think I’ll ever be able to shoot a caracal. And of course the african wild cat is rightly so a no-shoot.

**** You don’t walk-and-stalk a kudu. You walk-and-surprise it. It will see you before you see it, if you’re moving, and it won’t stay around for too long. And once they’re gone, they are gone. Over the mountain, down the other side, over the next mountain, and still going strong, while you’re still trying to find your second wind.





… I still think it’s a bloody good movie.

Here’s an interview for you.

The final act of ‘Top Secret!’ spoofs ‘The Blue Lagoon,’ a 1980 film starring Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins — a film that was the ninth highest grossing film of 1980, but hasn’t retained a strong presence in popular culture today. Despite the disparity of their original box office totals, today ‘Top Secret!’ is a more popular film than “The Blue Lagoon.’





26
Apr
'14

A stealthie is a selfie…

… taken while wearing camo. So sayeth Tamsyn.

Note to self. If your pants are too short, and you don’t put suntan lotion on your shins, you will regret it later.

Father and Child Hunt, Richmond, April 2014.

As always, it was fun.

 

 





13
Mar
'14

They’re making a TV version of Fred Pohl’s Gateway, otherwise known as the Heechee Saga.

I grew up on this stuff.

I sure hope they don’t stuff it up.

(H/T Scott)





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