Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Trees and the Eee PC Project

After the mixed bag of events from last month, mostly with the feeling of 'Meh', I've started to feel a bit better and have managed to get back on with my interests and hobbies alike. I had my Thyroid levels checked and they are normal. So, I have tried to get more rest whenever possible. Sleep is always a bit random when I sometimes only get four to five hours a night, mostly during a working week. Alhough, the feeling of slight Jet lag is always with me, being one of the conditions of an under active Thyroid. 😖

Lego :: ( MOCs | Tree )
I feel as if I'm back on track with the speed builds and for this month I present a couple of trees. These could quite easily be used for a Minecraft or similar rustic project using classic bricks. I think it has been good to have a short break, even though I have an abundance of ideas, not having to worry about getting a certain amount of videos edited per month is kind of a good thing. I want to enjoy the building design and process. I hope to get the speed build for the house done for June if I can with any other builds that become available. 😉
Eee PC Project ::
Over the last few months I have been trying to bring an Asus Eee 4G 701 PC back to life, in the form of getting an operating system fully working on it. Ideally, I wanted to get any version of Linux or Ubuntu running.

Alas, the only working OS I managed to install was Lubuntu with a minimal installation. You can run Live CD or USB builds without installation and that works to a degree. The original OS was Windows XP, but is long gone. I was curious to read that several people had got early versions of Android working, if a bit slow running for some. However, my attempt, even a brave one, wasn't enough to get everything up and running. It would have proved very interesting to get Android working and also fun at the same time. So, for now, Lubuntu it is! 😐

GameDev :: ( PC | Shooter )
Well, I've made a small start in the sense of getting a few variables set out for the next game. The rules will be set out by temperature, power ups of some kind and shooting mostly everything in order to gain that high score.
I am hoping to vary the backdrops / background. A space theme with stars and planets is always good, but I think this time I'll add some land. Probably on the same vain as Phantom - The Mission / Millennium.
I really liked my gamedev from a few years ago, I used to design about two or three a year. Even though I have slowed down a bit, I am proud of what I have achieved since 1988. 😃

And finally ...

Saturday, April 29, 2017

April Showers

This month has been strange and unusual in places, plus I think my under active Thyroid has been acting a bit on the random side, if that makes any sense. During my week off over Easter I spent a couple of days in bed with exhaustion and didn't really feel motivated to do much else. 😖

I think the weather has been quite a surprise, we've had typical April showers, but also a drop in temperature. I had put my winter coat away and switched to wearing a fleece. Only ending up to wearing my coat again because of a few frosts and 10c or less temperatures. 😨

Hopefully, May and June will pick up pace with projects. I must admit, I have been listening to a lot of music this month. Mostly, Electronica and a lot of 1980's pop and my radio station 📻 of choice is Classic FM, which celebrates being 25 this year. 🎶

Lego :: ( MOCs | House and Tree )
Probably for the first time, there isn't a speed build this month. Only a MOC consisting of a House and Tree on an 8 x 16 green baseplate. As usual, it's back to basics with the design, only using regular bricks. I think at some point in the future, I will do a revised version with roof tiles, windows and doors, there might even be a different tree as well. 😃
I could well of done a grand, larger house, but keeping it humble and simple made the point of the design. Perhaps a side garage with car could have been an option too! 😉

And finally ...

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Emoticons and the Aldi experience !

In some respects, I am happy to wave goodbye to March. Although, Mrs. A and I celebrated our birthdays, which were nice days for us both. 😃 The weather is changing with warmer temperatures, which is most welcome. Also, now that Spring is with us, the clocks go forward one hour for daylight savings. So, it will be lighter in the mornings and evenings as well! 😄

Next month with a time off over the Easter period, I hope to continue with my game engine in GameMaker Studio 2. This will include a bit of basic ground work on another shoot'em up game, which as it stands may take some time to produce, as it will only be a part-time project with whatever time I have to work on it. I also want to design some more with Simbrix and Qixels, they are fun to use. I quite like designing retro game characters with them. 😉

Lego :: ( MOCs | speed builds )
Everyday without realising it, we use Emoticons to express ourselves through Social Media and via Text messages. I just had to have a go at designing some myself and even though there maybe a tongue-in-cheek element to one of them, I thought they came out okay. The Smiley can easily be modified into other expressions, leaving anything up to the imagination. 😉

The Aldi Experience ::
I had known about Aldi moving into the area near Aris HQ since late 2016. My direct thoughts were, that this could only be a good thing. Upon my first shop a few weeks ago, when they opened in early March, was, WOW! 😊 Their stock not only carrries the essential everyday items, but more and at a much more affordable prices. I would also, personally say, that the quality is far greater without even thinking about it. Our regular weekly shops are now at Aldi with noticeable savings.
You also can't help notice prices going up at other Supermarkets on everyday items, by a few pence is to be expected. But in some cases putting an extra 25 pence is a bit unfair! To be honest, companies may rely on how they source certain products and don't really have any choice to raise prices. I have a fear that businesses and companies may well take advantage of the current decision of the U.K. leaving the E.U. ( Brexit ). I am happy to go with the flow of the process, however I wouldn't be too pleased if everything backfires and through panic, the cost of everything rockets! 😡

Stock Markets and the value of currencies can be so delicate at times, but it's the reaction to this that causes uncertainty. For several years Mrs. A and I have rented an apartment. To own a house is more of a distant dream with prices being far from affordable. Even though thousands of homes are being built throughout the U.K., it's a little too late. Whilst some landlords and larger housing associations with an ample portfolio of properties are arrogant enough to keep increasing the rent year by year squeezing out the last pennies from the poor tenant. Living in the south of England is known to be expensive! But I think since lack of affordable homes have been made available, renting has been the only solution. I do believe though, that sometime in the future, however near it maybe, there will be crash in the rental market. When this happens, it will be because no one will able to afford to rent at all! The only way this could be resolved, is where private or market rent landlords would be capped at what they can charge a tenant per month for an apartment, house or even room. The cost of renting per month is in some cases, the same as a mortgage payment. Even though there is a roof over our heads, renting SUCKS! 😒

And finally ...

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Bruce Lee and Hearts

It's been a relatively quiet month with not much going on. I had planned on doing a lot more creative projects, but decided to stretch out a few for April ( Easter ). This also includes starting another gamedev project which will inevitably be released and added to the game engine I am working on. Mrs. A and I did design a couple of hearts with Qixels for Valentine's day, these ended up as Badges and resembled retro life hearts. 😍
Lego :: ( MOCs | speed builds )
Bruce Lee was one of only a few games I ever completed on my Commodore 64 back in the 1980's, second to Commando. I think this build is pretty faithful to the original Sprite and the added depth with slight articulation makes it look great! 😊
There is one more arcade mini build with flat plates to come for March and then I may switch to using both, flat and regular bricks. Again, in keeping to a mini build state. Using a mix of bricks will help bulk up the design and would help if I don't have enough flat pieces.

Crowdfunding ::
Over the next few months, there should be the hopeful completion of some Kickstarter projects I funded. As an estimated delivery date approaches each project, there is always the wonder if it will exceed that date. Understandably, in some cases it will, as a lot of projects require time in and around the person or teams life. Currently waiting patiently for : The Mastertronic Archives, Project Sidologie and Reformation.

And finally ...

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Watch out for the Fog and also Dinosaurs !

If you have ever seen the original film, " The Fog " by John Carpenter, you will know it was an erry, creepy and somewhat scary horror movie. Oxfordshire has been experiencing some pretty dense Fog during this month and despite there not being Pirates with Cutlesses, driving in these conditions has been quite an experience. 😆
Lego :: ( MOCs | speed builds )
I have decided to start a series of mini builds based on video game arcade favourites, Arcade Mini's. This will of course be semi-regular with how to build videos made available whenever possible. You will notice that the format and style has changed a bit with more editing and a normal paced building stance. I do plan to continue doing speed builds, so keep a look out via this blog or my YouTube channel.
Space Invader is the first Arcade Mini and although it hasn't any articulation, it looks pretty cute and looks smart on it's stand. You will also notice that it mainly contains flat bricks with a layered build. I think it is easier to understand this way. 😉
Pac-Man following up as a second to the start of the Arcade Mini series, is a faithful build to the earlier design from 2015 using only flat bricks again. You might notice a pattern of brick types! 😊

Lego :: ( Creator 31058 Mighty Dinosaurs )
When I first saw the preview photos of this set, I was really impressed and couldn't wait for it's release. The T-Rex, Stegosaurus and Pterodactyl are good representations of the Dinosaurs. At the moment, I prefer the T-Rex and found the build very interesting. With the right coloured bricks you could make an interesting build of Godzilla, even with a few modifications. 😊
Mobile Phone :: ( Huwaei P9 Lite )
Although, I did like my Doogee X6 Pro, I began for find it a bit clunky in places. For around £65 GBP back in June 2016, it served me well. The main one thing that I couldn't get along with was the delay whilst using the touchscreen. Sometimes, I had to tap or use the required gestures repeatedly. At first I thought it might have been the screen protector. So, I removed this. For a while this was okay, but then the responsiveness lessened again. I am guessing that the screen calibration might have been slightly off! 😖 The device was never overloaded with Apps and I ran a good Battery Doctor and Memory Saver ( Clean Master ).
After using the P9 Lite for only a few days, the feel and use of the mobile phone is miles better. A worthy choice from Vodafone. Very happy! 😀

And finally ...

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Hello Alexa, Qixels, Simbrix and Sleep

As I type this, it's cold and frosty outside, but warm inside at Aris HQ. I had to take a lot of cardboard boxes to the recycle area, thankfully, it's within the surrounding car park area. I think I was lucky, as there appeared to be enough space to put everything in one bin and spread it out over several. I hurriedly returned back inside to the warmth where a Suchard Hot Chocolate could be made in record time via our Bosch Tassimo! 😁

Christmas Present Haul 2016 ::
This years Christmas Present haul was a small, but bountiful one with a wonderful surprise of the Amazon Echo present from Mrs. A's brother, John. 😊
Alexa, the host speaker for Amazon Echo, can be instructed to do a variety of things, like play your favourite music and radio stations, tell the time, play a news broadcast and she can answer many questions. However, you must try and phrase some questions correctly otherwise she won't understand. There are also commands to control lighting and various other things, but this would depend on compatibility the products and what your home network is. Overall, a very pleasing array of presents my family! Thank you! 😁

Lego :: ( MOC | speed build )
I managed to design two models for December, again using basic Lego bricks. Still my favourite to this day! 😃 One has a surprise addition, even though it's not technically Lego.
If those can remember my Christmas Tree and Santa builds from December 2015, this Tree is quite different, I particulary like the added orange transparent 1x1 flat bricks. It would have been nice to have multicoloured ones, but all the same, it adds a little bit of depth to the design.
I really like this Snowman and simply adore the additional Crocheted Scarf that Mrs. A did for me. It certainly adds an element of cuteness to it. I am wondering now if we will be getting any Snow around Oxfordshire in the latter 2016 or early 2017?

Lego :: ( #015 Lego Ideas / 21306 - Yellow Submarine )
Each year, I try and purchase some Lego for a Christmas Day build. For 2016, I bought the Beatles - Yellow Submarine set.

I really enjoyed the build, which had some interesting techniques and wonderful array of coloured bricks. I also managed to get hold of the Blu-Ray version of the Beatles - Yellow Submarine which is an awesome pairing with this Lego set. Love it! 😊

Amazon Echo ( Alexa ) ::
I briefly mentioned the Amazon Echo earlier and asked her an interesting question, of which the answer was correct and to the point.

Firstly, mentioning her name, Alexa and then the question or instruction will deliver the answer or act on the command. Of course, asking trivial questions could be done using Google, but by simply calling her name in a normal tone to get an answer without the need of being near a computer is pure genius!

GameDev :: ( GameMaker Studio 2 )
Well, I started to code / design a game engine. It is being grouped into Sprites, Objects and Rooms. Plus, any other elements like generic sound effects. The process is really interesting and will also prove to be a time saver in the end.
I have an idea and plan to code a shoot-em up during 2017. It will use elements of the game engine until near the end. Hopefully, time will permit and I will have something for show and tell, even if it is an early build or beta. For the time being, it will be PC based only and maybe at a later date it will be ported to Android.

Puzzle Design Kits :: ( Simbrix and Qixels )
Towards the week up to Christmas, I purchased two art / puzzle design kits. Here is a little insight into each kit and I what designed with them.
Simbrix ::
First up, I tested Simbrix. This has a slight puzzle element in which the way you link and place each Simbrix. Now heat, glue or water is required. You can still be creative as every design, definitely promotes imagination.
I puchased Simbrix from Amazon, which was at the time £15 GBP. You can get different sized sets, each one will have a greater amount of Simbrix. In no time at all, you'll be designing straight from imagination or inspired from a character or object around you.
Apart from the initial test models, of : 1-UP, Manic Miner, Pac-Man and an extra life Heart. I thought I'd have a go at designing Thing on a Spring from the 1985 Commodore 64 video game of the same name by Gremlin Graphics ( Gremlin ). You can't help but adore the cuteness of it! 💖

Qixels ::
The approach to Qixels is somewhat similar to Hama Beads. However, you use water to fuse them together rather than heat from an Iron. I purchased Qixels from Argos in the UK for £14.99 GBP, they were out of stock from Amazon with only resellers stocking them for somewhat higher prices.
Again, as a test character design, I used Thing on a Spring. With the little spray bottle provided, you spray your design whilst on the board with plastic template 25 times at approx (1.5 inches / 4 cm) away from the top and leave to dry for 30 minutes or longer, ensuring all Qixel cubes are covered in water. Afterwards, the instructions advise to gently shake excess water and leave on a flat surface. Leaving it to dry for longer and spraying the back of the design if breaks away, would probably be better.
The end result, even after leaving the design to dry over night wasn't too bad. However, when I literally gently peeled poor Thing on a Spring off the plastic template, it was somewhat curved with the texture of rubber. So, I had to leave it under a heavy weight, like a book, to flatten it out. There also appears to be scent of Vinegar given off, this is apparent when handling and even after a final design is finished. The instructions clearly state to wash your hands after handling the Qixels. The design appears to be fairly clean, leaving some slight mess over surface. So, as an experiment, I used an anti-bacterial wipe and this cleaned everything up. It is then better to leave your design to further dry. This may increase the dry time, but it's worth it to give a cleaner surface. Overall, quite a pleasing product. After a bit of practise each and ever process of design will get better and better! 😃

Sleep ::
One of the things I most look forward to when having time off, is to catch up with or maintain a better sleep pattern. During a typical working week, I usually try and have a short sleep after work, only to sleep in at the weekends. Also, having a nap ( sleep ) at the weekend for an hour or two helps recharge during the day, typically in the afternoon. Even though a human isn't some sort of Android-Robot-Humanoid-Synthetic that requires next to no sleep, it really does help. 💤

And finally ...

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Another Studio, Tassimo and let's go Turkey !

I have appreciated the last few weeks of November by looking forward to some vacation time, usually to help, be with Mrs. A more and celebrate Thanksgiving, but to also get into the pre-festive mood. So, to start, up went the tree and mutter amongst yourselves as December hasn't even arrived yet! :)
We also went food shopping and got some of our food and drink for the holiday period and into the new year. The Nectar points awarded by Sainsbury's on every food shop and petrol purchase helped over the last few months. So, all we need to do is just get the everyday essentials now and we're set.

Lego :: ( MOC | speed build )
Just the one speed build this month, but I should have two suitably themed and ready for December. I thought I would go with the Turkey theme and even though the colour of bricks shows a more well cooked design, it's what I had amongst my existing collection. So, enjoy! :) 

GameDev :: ( GameMaker Studio 2 )
It has been quite a fun and overwhelming month with regards gamedev. I managed to get a beta testing slot for GameMaker Studio 2, which at first, limited slots were only made available, until finally it was open to all. Shortly after this, there was an offer to purchase via an upgrade from GameMaker Studio 1.4 at a introductory price, this worked out to be just under £58 GBP ( inc. VAT ).  The added beauty, is that you will still be able to use 1.4 and 2.0 together. So far, I have been able to import 1.4 projects that have worked 100%. Compatibility scripts are created to make the conversion process even smoother and are easily accessible. I tried UP, a more simpler and Bugsy Reloaded, a more complex project, both worked without a hitch.
The remainder of my current projects in GameMaker Studio 1.4 for Android have been updated with a LibPNG patch which fixed vulnerability issue, even though the apps available on the Google Play Store sat there for around two years without any issues or reports.

I started to do a game engine for GameMaker Studio 2 and this will contain all the elements for shoot'em ups, platformers, puzzle games and other genres. Sprites, Objects and Rooms will be grouped into a specific genre, so when it comes to developing another game or project, I can just copy and paste code. Over the past few years, I have gradually used drag and drop commands less with GameMaker. It is far simplier and quicker to use GML code, but also easier to tweak. The productivity rate is increased using programs like GameMaker and the likes of Unity, Construct and Clickteam Fusion. Infact, coding in any lauguage is good and no matter what you code, bugs will always deliver problems and solutions! :)

App Development :: ( JMBSoft )
A fellow developer and retro gaming friend, Jason has just released a couple of Android apps via the Google Play Store. Bouncing Balls and Very Simple Notes are great first time apps. They are well worth an install and look at. See if you can work up to 300 bouncing balls or assist yourselves with very simple notes.
Bosch Tassimo Vivy ::
Even before the Black Friday, but let's start Thursday or even before deals started. I decided to buy a Tassimo Vivy from Amazon UK for only £33 GBP. Of course, some beverage pods were purchased as I well and the only downside is, that you don't get any free samples to get started with. That aside, it is quicker than boiling a Kettle at only 1300 watt, against some using upto 2000 watt.
 And finally ...