Monday Blues

It was the first day back to work after a six week holiday. Fantastic break, lots of DIY work kept me busy but definitely got the Monday morning blues going back to work for the first day of the new term.

Looking forward to some Bowling on Thursday after work, Henley show at the weekend, and in a couple of weeks, the Brighton Chilli Festival and the Retro Computing Show in Cambridge.

Also did a bit of retail therapy by ordering the rather pricey (£449) Xbox Project Scorpio due for release on the 7th November from Amazon.

Denham Car Boot Sale

We did a 7.00am start at Denham Car Boot today with the dogs. My retro technology purchase today was a Sharp Elismate EL-1101 calculator.

Bought it from a house clearance van. He had no idea what it was but asked for a £5. This seems to be the standard price they all quote for small unknown items. I said £3 as it had batteries but would not switch on I would be taking a gamble. The battery cover was missing but I found it inside its case. The seller said £4 and so I started walking away when he stopped me and accepted the £3. Git home, shoved some batteries in and it worked fine. They seem to be selling on Ebsy for about £35 so Gael deal.

Bowling at Maidenhead Superbowl

Had a great family night out on Thursday bowling although none of us are any good. I have however discovered a strategy that works. I take my advice from Zaphod Beeblebrox and his pan-galactic gargleblasters.

In the first of two games I was losing to my partner Debbie. I know I play Pool, Darts and bowling much better when I’ve had some alcohol. So I had a pint of Lager. This had little effect so I had another to see what happened to the first. Again no answers and no real effect. After the 5th pint I was playing at my best, getting some strikes and won the 2nd game and overall.

A great night out before starting the new term next week. Bowling, a sharing platter, some beers, air hockey and arcade games to finish.

Lego Raspberry Pi Arcade

This is my table top arcade machine based on a Raspberry Pi and built from Lego bricks and some Lego compatible Blox from Wilkinsons (cheaper).

I’m not sure how many bricks there are but its a few hundred.

The computer I used was a Raspberry Pi 3 with a 64GB SD card. I installed a pre-configured image with Retropie, Kodi and added some games..

The Pi has a Picade Hat fitted to deal with the input from the standard arcade controls. This lovely little device also has an amplifier built in for some retro sounds. It also allows you to connect a button and use it as soft power switch.

You can but a picade kit with controls and speaker here for about £45 plus postage.

The screen was a 17″ open frame LCD touchscreen monitor I bought used on Ebay for about £45.

The beauty of using Lego is that I could easily make any shaped cabinet I liked and through trial and error get it to fit all the necessary components and still look cool. There is a MAME marquee at the top with a little 5V blue LED backlight (just search ebay for 5V USB LED strips – they are about £4-5). I’m also using a wireless keyboard that can be bought from Ebay for a few pounds so it can still be used as a normal computer without having to open up the case to access the USB ports.

Because the RetroPie image came with everything installed this was an easy project. It took some trial and error to get the Lego frame the way I wanted it but this was like being a kid again and playing with Lego. I did have one or two initial problems with the Picade software setup but their forum was fantastic and quickly helped me here. Finally I added a Lego minifigure and a Lego Head on top. They obviously serve no purpose but I like Lego Star Wars!

Its dimensions are 40cm wide x 29cm depth x 51cm height (60cm with the optional Batman Head). It weighs about 10.5 Kg and I have only glued one of the Lego plates that holds the joystick in place as this often came loose when people got energetic with it. Everything else can be dismantled brick by brick.

I would image the final costs was around £300 including the Lego bricks.

Atomic Blond

Went and saw this movie at Slough’s cinema on Tuesday evening as two tickets is only £8.50 so its cheap compared with other cinemas. However once again you get what you pay for. Great film and loved the music as well. Must look out for the soundtrack. Some great fight and x-rated scenes with our blond haired lead. We look forward to its 4K release later in the year.

Slough cinema continues to decline though. There were just a handful of staff present in the cinema. Screen no 8 was about 28 degrees. They are obviously trying to save money but not switching on the air conditioning. There were only about a dozen people in our viewing. There was a group of teenage lads came in 40 minutes into the film. Sat down and proceeded to pull out the phones and record the juicy bits of the film on their mobiles. After a bit of filming they left again. We went and told one of the staff downstairs in their reception area but their security turned up 15 minutes later by which time they had simply left again. There were also a group of girls at the back who could not have been more than 12 giggling away. The film is classified as 15 but with no staff you could easily walk out of one film and straight into another and not be challenged.

I’m sure any locals of a certain age will remember the original Slough cinema near the police station. With torch enabled staff leading you to your seats, Saturday morning matinee’s, interludes with ice cream and popcorn to buy. Damn I must be getting old!

Most people now probably have a smart TV, at least one computer, mobile devices etc that are all capable of streaming film and TV programs. I’m sure a lot of people know how to download/stream content that isn’t even officially released. Its not difficult to find whatever you want to watch online and often not pay for this. With this in mind, people are going to cinemas less. Its not the social event it used be in the 20th Century. If I go the cinema now its generally because I want to see a particular film on a very large screen with a THX sound system that flaps my trouser legs and not have to worry about keeping the neighbours awake with my cinema surround system at home. I’m sure with all this in mind that the only cinemas that will be doing business in the next 10 years will be the ones offering a great customer experience, not just the cheap ones. Hope you’re listening Empire Cinemas!

Armada vs Gita

I enjoyed reading Ready Player One and it reminded me that despite all the technology I use, I still enjoy a good old fashioned book, thumbing through its pages with no LCD screens or batteries in sight.

Just bought Clines newest book, Armada on Amazons same day delivery so can look forward to reading this later. Seems to have some very mixed reviews though?

I also read an excellent book recently called Shockwave about the The Manhattan Project, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the whole development of the first atomic weapon. Lots of interesting facts and stories but also told from the perspective of the people involved on both sides.  

What I found strange was Oppenheimer’s interest in the Bhagavad Gita. How does a man who helped develop Atomic Weapons get interested in an ancient Hindu spiritual text? So I bought the book and have just started reading this.

Burnham Beeches Dog Walk

Had a quick walk this morning at Burnham Beeches with the dogs. Its always a pleasant walk but its such a shame that the dog control orders mean that for much of the walk I need to keep my dogs on the leads. This kinda spoils it for me and the dogs. They don’t understand why they have to be kept on their leads for the walk they’ve done for years.

I’ve been coming here all my life. It hasn’t changed that much in all that time because it is protected. The Café was rebuilt a few years ago and some of the local pubs have gone, they have some speed bumps and dog control orders but its still a great walk.

I used to play pool and have a quiet drink in a pub called The Stag which was closed a while ago. Noticed this morning it has been replaced by houses. What a shame.

Before & after…