Sunday, August 31, 2014

Diary of a stressed Network Manager.... Part 2

It's been one hell of a stressful and busy six weeks, but the school summer holiday will shortly be over and the start of a new academic year will be upon us once more.

A few weeks ago I was stressing, worrying and having sleepiness nights about getting both Evesham High School's and Simon de Montfort Middle School's networks merged in time ready for September when the school becomes an entirely new school called The De Montfort School.

I'm relieved to say we did it!  Ok, I managed one day off during the whole time, I'm knackered and exhausted, but both schools are now on one network and I can once again sleep at night....  For the time being at least.  Of course, that's not all we've done.

  • New Aruba Networks wireless system comprising of 65 access points (to replace an aging Netgear managed system) installed at the High School to cope with a larger number of mobile devices connecting to the network.  These allow increased wireless speed AND better coverage across the site.
  • Upgrade from Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 to Microsoft Exchange 2013 on an entirely new HP Proliant ML350p Gen 8 server with 2 x Intel Xeon 2.30Ghz (12 Cores), 80GB Ram and 5x 600GB drives (Raid 5 configuration so it gives us about 2TB of usable space).
  • Nice new intel i5 computers set up in one classroom to replace some god-awful Apple iMacs.

Plus lots of little upgrades here and there to computers and user profiles. 

My newly decorated office - Still a mess!

Of course, I suspect they'll be a few issues to begin with (it wouldn't be the start of a new year without them) and it's going to take some time getting use to not having some of the old IT teachers there now that they have moved on to other schools, but I look forward to working with a new team of teachers and a new technician.  I imagine some people will be quick to criticise certain things but hey ho....  That's just an average day working at EHS... ahem, sorry... TDMS.  Quick to criticise but slow to praise.

Nope - I didn't do anything with this room this year - I just like it hence why I have a picture of it here!

Am I still looking at other jobs or a career change?  YES and YES, but I'll wait and see how this year pans out first.  Things may be different now that we have a new Headteacher joining us...  or perhaps maybe not?

Additionally - the Summer season is nearly over and my favourite time of the year is about to begin. The temperatures are dropping and the nights are getting darker and cooler.  I'm actually feeling quite good - I don't expect it to last, but I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts.

New PC's in newly upgraded DU5 classroom

New PC's in newly upgraded DU5 classroom

New PC's in newly upgraded DU5 classroom

New PC's in newly upgraded DU5 classroom

Games that remind me of my childhood Number 26 : Skate Rock (Commodore 64)

Lately I've been going through several boxes of my old games in storage and have selected a few to keep me going for quite a few future "GTRMOMC" posts, but for this one I'm going to talk about a nice little game I purchased as a re-release for £1.99 - Skate Rock. 

Originally released at full price by Bubble Bus software, it was later re-released by Mastertronic on their "Ricochet" label and this is the version I have.  The game featured the player riding their skateboard across 10 courses, avoiding the numerous obstacles that appeared on the way.  There were 8 flags that needed to be collected along each course - if you missed one, you would need to go back and get it because you couldn't complete the course without them all.  You also had a limited amount of time to compete the courses.

Doing a little spin at the end of course 1

Don't forget to collect all the flags, or you won't be able to finish the course

The courses were made up from several areas including a rural street, a town and a bridge/construction area.  Obstacles to avoid usually consisted of walking pedestrians, dogs, cars/lorries, workmen, cones and other skateboarders.  Occasionally you would need to use a ramp to jump over an obstacle to get further along the course.

"Get outta way!"

Sometimes you need to use ramps to progress further.

Don't fall of the bridge!

The game played horizontally and you used the joystick to control your skateboard.  Up made you accelerate, down to slow down, and left and right rotated your board.  If you held the fire button and pushed left and right you could also do kick turns that rotated your board quickly for sharp turns.

Those patches slow you down, and makes it harder to move.

Each course got progressively harder to the point where I think it became impossible to complete without cheating but I had great fun trying to get further.  The only thing that really got me about this game were the naff, blocky sprites (especially the cars).  Come on, the Commodore 64 was capable of so much better.  Other than that, it was a great game that came out in the late 80s during a skateboarding craze and when other skateboard games such as 720° and Skate or Die were populating the games charts.  Skate Rock also had a nice soundtrack by C64 music legend Ben Daglish. 
And this is what you get when you finish all 10 courses. "You've completed all then courses....."

"...  You're now a member of the Slime Rat Skaters".  Aren't you glad you finished the game for that monumental ending?

The cover.  Spot the cock up in the instructions!

The back of the cover.  A great space for writing some POKES for cheating perhaps?

The tape!

A nice addition to any C64 gamers collection.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Games that remind me of my childhood Number 25 : Dorks Dilemma (Commodore Plus 4)

Dorks Dilemma is a fun one player game that was released by Gremlin Graphics in 1985.  You control "Dork", an alien who awakens after crashing his space ship on an alien planet inhabited by Zobwats.  The Zobwats have dismantled your ship and have scattered the parts across 25 different rooms.  As Dork, you must explore each room, destroying the Zobwats with your bombs and reconstruct your ship so that you can escape.

Each room is a small maze consisting of various walls, with a spaceship part located in the middle.  In order to collect the ship part, you must destroy a set number of Zobwats using an infinite supply of bombs.  It sounds simple, but when you drop a bomb you only have a few seconds to get as far from it as possible.  If you're too close, you'll be killed too.  Once the Zobwats have been destroyed, move on to the next room, and the spaceship part appears in a jigsaw on the right of the screen.

Once you have collected all 25 pieces, you have to rearrange the jigsaw pieces to properly display a picture of your ship taking off from the planet.

The finished jigsaw

You're free to enter/exit the rooms as you please and although the 25 rooms are always the same, they are re-arranged in to a different order with each game, adding a bit of variety.  However, if you destroy some Zobwats and leave the room before destroying the required amount, you have to do it all over again when you re-enter the room.

One good way to kill the Zobwats is to let them come to you, then drop a bomb and run! (or roll)

Just let a bomb go off.

Each room has four respawning Zobwats that appear in each corner of the screen.  They gradually follow you, moving closer and although they can touch you, you must be careful not to move in to them.  It is possible for them to trap you in a corner or surround you, so be very careful, especially when planting a bomb.  Once you drop a bomb,  you have a few seconds to get away before it goes off.  You then have to wait several seconds for another bomb to regenerate

Don't get trapped.

If you enter a room where the ship part has already been collected, you get this.

AND should you finish the game and escape the planet...  You get to do it all over again from the beginning!  The only difference is you have more Zobwats to destroy in each room, and they move faster too.
All that hard work, and all you get is this message when you finish the game.

The box - part of a double tape compilation.


The tape
The full box cover, featuring all four games - Dorks Dilemma, Petals of Doom, Xargon Wars and Tycoon Tex

What's frightening about this game is that it's nearly 30 years old - Talk about making me feel old.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Games that remind me of my childhood Number 24 : Treasure Island Dizzy (Commodore 64)

Treasure Island Dizzy is a flip screen, platform, puzzle and adventure game written by Philip and Andrew Oliver (aka The Oliver Twins) and was published by Codemasters in 1988 for a bargain price of £2.99.  As with all Dizzy games, it was pretty much ported to every available system of the time.  It was the second game in the famous Dizzy series and is my personal favourite - simply because it was the only Dizzy game I ever completed!

Strange that this game has often been called the worst of the series because of the high difficulty level - you only have one life whereas the other games in the series give you multiple lives.  This means that you could potentially be almost at the end of the game, and if you make one simple mistake like dropping the snorkel (required so that you can breathe under water) whilst under water, you'll die and will have to start the game from the beginning.  There's no save game option!

...and so the adventure begins!

The aim of the game is to simply escape the island.  This involves you playing the titular character Dizzy (who is essentially an egg with feet and hands), picking up various objects scattered around and using them in the correct places.  You're ultimate goal is to get a boat, an engine, petrol and an ignition key that will enable you to leave the island and head off for freedom.  Sounds simple enough, but to do this you will also need to collect 30 gold coins.  Some coins are easy to find, others are hidden behind various background objects like plants, boulders, windows etc.  Collecting the coins is a bit like a side quest to the main adventure, but ultimately even though you can build the boat and leave, you still need to have the 30 coins to actually complete the game.

The game is a classic example of the excellent quality of some of the 'cheapo' games available to computer users in the late 1980's.  It's fair to say I got more enjoyment out of this game than a lot of the full priced releases of the time by some of the larger software houses like US Gold and Ocean.  Despite the poor graphics that were obviously ported directly from a Spectrum (complete with monochrome hi-res graphics with colour clash), the game is wonderful, and I still think the Commodore 64 version has one of the best theme tunes ever to grace a computer game.

You'll be needing a Woodcutters Axe to drop under the bridge
 A snorkel...  Possibly the most important item in the game.  Just don't drop it when you're in water.
 To get the gold, you'll need the Infrared Detonator and some dynamite
 Exploring a ship wreck!
 An underwater cavern....
 A pirates secret cavern.
 This guy will sell you the boat and parts you need to escape.
 The boat.  Still need an engine, and petrol to escape.

Maybe one day I'll get to actually finish the other Dizzy games!  What's scary is that I was 11 years old when this game came out....  I'm now 37!

For now, have a listen to one of the jolliest pieces of music that has ever come out of the SID chip in a Commodore 64.