Author Archive

YouTube on the Falcon!

February 4, 2011

A fairly simple guide to playing YouTube movie content on your Atari Falcon 030.

Well here’s another potential revolution in human affairs coming up from behind, threatening to hit you smartly on the back of the head, laugh at your prostrate unconscious form and steal your shoes. Yes, you will rue the day that you wore those smart brown loafers in these cold mean streets!

YouTube on the Falcon“, that’s a big statement making some bold claims in the teeth of doubt right there pal. So how’s it done then? You skeptically ask.

First the gentle letting down process starts. This paragraph will tell you how it is not done. There are no clever networking gizmo’s to connect in a high speed fashion to the intertubes without fuss or faff, no stunning new browser concepts allowing Flash video playback in its latest versions, and definitely no superhuman coding feats to bring a super-optimised Flash player to the Falcon in the first place.

So we’re talking about movie conversion again, are we not?

Well yes, but here’s where the building up hope again part of the article starts off. It is a fairly simple process involving a tool-chain with just three components. I’m sure you’ve already worked this one out for yourselves, but just in case you haven’t, it’s nice to share.

This handy screenshot of a typical open YouTube page shows our starting point. The subject matter is short and personally appealing. I think you’ll like it as well, featuring a better than average mid-eighties commercial for my favourite lost home computer before the Falcon 030 came along.

The original movie on YouTube.

The direct link is here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yp6wc6YJpn4

Step 1. Getting the Youtube content down from its gilded cage..

As we all know, Youtube does not feature any direct download access by itself. Fortunately there are a number of methods to get around this. There are download websites such as www.kissyoutube.com or www.downloadhelper.net where you can copy and paste the Youtube URL to download the video stream as an .FLV file.

Alternatively, you can use something like the ‘UnPlug’ Firefox extension. For Mac fans, there is a backdoor method in Safari. When the YouTube browser window is opened, find and double click on the video replay file in the activity window. This file is typically several megabytes and still growing. This then opens a new blank browser window and the download manager appears and shows a file called something like ‘videoreplay’ downloading to the desktop. Once there, it just remains for you to rename it with a filename of your choice with an .flv extension.

For Mac fans, you will still have to transfer the collected Flash video files to a Windows system for steps 2. and 3. unfortunately. Unless you have one of those dual booting Macs that gives house-room to a Windows option of course.

Step 2. Preparing for Step 3.

Right now, we have an .FLV file. This can play back nicely on current versions of the Videolan VLC player, and if that is all you want to do, then you can stop reading right here. For the rest of you who wish to see this content playing back decently on an Atari TOS system, read on.

The problem with .FLV files is that they are definitely not supported by Aniplayer for one thing. Another issue is that the other software at the end of the tool-chain, VirtualDub, is not .FLV friendly by itself. There are plugin’s available to help VirtualDub load these in, but this involves a whole world of extra libraries and poking around in old support sites and obscure parts of Microsoft itself. Yes I tried that, and gave up! This is not recommended for the headache factor alone. Also VirtualDub is quite an old program itself and I’m not sure how well installing ancient libraries would sit with a more modern Windows machine?

So clearly we need an intermediate step, the The crucial ‘bit in the middle’. As it happens I found an application that does the job nicely. In this case I’m using the Pazera FLV to AVI converter. It is a free download and it works.

The current version of the FLV to AVI/MPEG converter is 1.2. It is a Windows pc application. It offers to convert to .avi or .mpg from .flv. Both of these file types are read in by VirtualDub. I seemed to get on better with converting to MPEG. The user interface is intuitive and easy to follow and all of the options are visible and usable upfront. You can play around with the various video and audio settings, a degree of customization from here is possible, but most of the time you should leave them on their default auto settings. I’d personally wait until you’ve got to VirtualDub before making any big changes to your movie.

You may want to customize the video resolution if you encounter an odd screen format, say a very widescreen movie trailer or similar. The audio settings should be left as they are. You will need to change them back afterwards as Pazera tends to ‘remember’ the amended settings, even after quitting.

(Update:- Generally I find it best to set up and stick with the horizontal resolution best suited to your Falcy’s abilities. From there, the vertical resolution, regardless of how widescreen it is, should tuck in nicely under the horizontal rez that you asked for in the first place.

So to use a specific example from when I’ve been playing, a 640 x 480 VGA-sized movie slims down to something like 240 x 180 pixels, but I’ve encountered at least one movie trailer which went down to 240 x 80 to keep the aspect ratio looking decent. Other examples have been less extreme, say 240 x 120 pixels or similar.

As well as avoiding fugliness, it also means you should be pushing a bit less video data through Aniplayer when playing back the end result, which is helpful with a slower machine.)

The end result should be an .avi or .mpg file which is ready for the third and final stage. The site URL for the Pazera converters is here: www.pazera-software.com

Step 3. Final conversion to an Aniplayer friendly format.

This third and final step is simple, for me to write down at least. Go to Beetle’s tuition article from the last issue of Low Res Mag and proceed from there to get to an Aniplayer friendly .avi movie file. If you are taking a close interest in this article, you probably already have VirtualDub set up and are comfortable with how to use this application. If you need a reminder, here’s the link for you.

http://lowresmag.wordpress.com/2010/05/15/how-to-encode-video-for-playback-on-falcon/

And just to show that there was a satisfactory end result, here’s a screengrab of the converted movie playing in Aniplayer.

Youtube movie on the Aranym desktop!

So now you can add YouTube content to your soon to be vast libraries of Atari-friendly media material. Happy days!

CiH for Low Res Mag, Dec 2010.

Sundown 2010 Party Report.

February 4, 2011

Weeee go mad in Devon, yet again..

18.32..

We’re at Sundown, it’s the 3rd September 2010, and we’re not a bit late. In fact, we were about six days early, at least for the ‘Devon’ part of the experience. For some reason lost in the mists of last February, it was decided that the female contingent should come along in some sort of ‘holiday’ capacity or outrage as well. The Felicing one has a usefully placed relative in the northern outpost of Devon known as ‘Ilfracombe’, so we were able to spend the previous days before the party there. In some conditions of considerable comfort and enhanced viewing pleasure, I might add. Here, I’ll share some photographic evidence with you.

Felice's Aunt's place at Ilfracombe. This is the actual view from the garden!

An anguished pause follows to reflect on many days of driving, walking, driving, stumbling, drooling and stalking, all over the twisty turny up along and down along pathways and byways of Devon. All in glorious unbroken (unborked?) sunshine and blue sky-o-vision. This has been totally untypical of the damp sad summer so far. We had many adventures, all with a happy ending, perhaps worthy of a separate article on its own, but this might end up sounding something suspiciously like the “what I did on my holidays” report that we did at school on the first day back there.

“We went to the seaside and saw the sea, the sand, some seagulls, and got some icecream and candyfloss and got sick all over daddy who was very cross….”

So I won’t.

So I will say nowt about the exciting game of fuel gauge roulette that I played on the way down here to this very party place, between Ilfracombe and Barnstaple, due to a breezy overconfidence in the amount of fossilized dinosaur juice left in my fuel tank. (We got there, otherwise my start time for the realtime part of this report would be a lot lot later and the tone of it a lot less euphoric!) I won’t mention the road trip for a visit to the Eden Project last Wednesday, a major undertaking on roads seemingly designed and built by a drunk unicorn on LSD. I guess Devon and Cornwall didn’t get many Roman beating up tribespeople and highway design consultants in to sort the ‘getting from A to B in a straight line’ aspect out?

But we had a good time, saw and did a lot of stuff, but all good things have to come to an end and the Sundown Party takes over. A quick afternoon trip attempting to maintain a folllowing convoy speed at warp factor Felice gets us to our new temporary centre of operations at the Hansard House Hotel, what you mean *hotel*!? with no dossing down in the hall, hardcore, you know the score style?

The female contingent had something to do with that, needing comfortable places to sleep and all. So they have been left there, the losers. We still have the heartbreaking decision at some point late at night to come back to soft pillows, quiet rooms, hot showers and a cooked breakfast the following morning. The hotel is up a bit of a hill, which is a theme that I’ve been tediously familiar with for the previous days. I’ll no doubt have some more to say on that topic after we’ve been back tonight.

18.59.

The party is, variously, semi-dark, still fairly  quiet with around twenty to thirty guests arrived and in arriving states. Some Commodore 64 SID tunes play through the big sound system, whilst the big screen displays some functional ‘welcome to the party’ information. Ooh look, we early arrivers have been name-checked. That’s nice.

In a welcome break from recent parties, I’m typing this on a real Atari spongy keyboard as we managed to avoid the STE turned paperweight conundrum unfondly remembered from earlier this year’s Outline party. Felice fortunately remembered to bring his super Sony flatscreen this time. An initial period of doubt and concern was thrown up when my battered old scart lead refused to put a picture into it. Fortunately an appeal for help reached the ears of Heavy Stylus, who is going to provide some ‘tunage with his funky shit’ later this evening. A much better lead, made by Techy Alison of Atari Forum fame actually did the business, so I’m typing this realtime on my pimped up STE with UltraSatan. So a big thanks has to go to Felice and Heavy Stylus respectively.

My STe with UltraSatan, running with Felice's Sony screen, next to Felice's laptop.

Okay, now we’re in a euphoric and slightly tingly excited state, I’ll sign off for now and take a look around for a while.

19.37.

We’ve been Gasman spotting. He’s hoping to get something done in time for the competitions with a java flavour, but he only has it going beep thus far. Rumour has it, that the thing he’s working on isn’t even feeling up to “hello world” just yet? On a more positive note, he’s brought along the latest port to his ZX Spectrum video player, namely the entire first Star Wars movie (The sublime Episode IV, a new hope and not the atrocity with Jar Jar Binks in it!) This uses up CF-Card space at an extravagant 10 megabytes per minute, so a total movie length of around 1 gigabyte was advised. It’s showing right now! I managed to get in a counter-showing of Tobe’s STE chunky 80×50 video player, which is a fair bit more economical, and looks pretty decent from a middling distance.

Things to say:- “Is that really the Popular Demo on the ST?”

Things NOT to say:- “Where’s the good old colour attribute clash gone?!”

Other names to check include Ne7, mOd, and the nice people from Neurotypical, complete with a vintage BBC Master micro.

The real party is outside and taking a cigarette break…

21.14.

Gasman’s Speccy Starwars showing is in the Death Star garbage compactor right now. Hundreds of colour attribute clashes are getting slowly pulverised deep in the bowels of ultimate evilness! In other news the status of the notoriously paranoid chinese restaurant of old Budleigh Salterton is in some doubt. One version of events proclaims that they are
completely out of business. Another version says that they open as and when they choose to.

An incoming text warns of a double female presence nearby. Felice wanders off to answer the summons.

22.05.

The double female presence has been and expressed delight at the party so far, but has taken umbrage at the early closure (compared with any other UK population centre) of most of the hot food outlets and buggered off back to the hotel. A quick peek in the window of paranoid Chinese restaurant confirms that the wall decorations of enhanced libellousness which we enjoyed reading and taking pictures of last year have all been removed. We’re still trying to work out whether this was due to to legal or psychiatric advice?

22.52.

We’ve thrown a little bit of a showreel for Heavy Stylus and a couple of unnamed (so far) people who expressed an interest in the ST from a time long ago and were latterly interested in some of the things it was doing now. So I hit them with a couple of the Dead Hackers later releases for the STE, and the ultimate show-stopper for 2010, the TalkTalk 2 demo. Jaws were heard to hit floors in a suitably loud fashion. That is, loud enough to hear, but not loud enough to obscure the soundtrack. A few of the super high colour targa pictures got in there and I convinced Heavy Stylus of the goodness of viewing some of these for himself.

Heavy Stylus is due to play at 23.00, so we’ll get down to the big beats around then.

23.49.

We’ve been quiet for the last hour, but Heavy Stylus hasn’t.

To fit the following, we’ve been playing various games, both Pipemania and Obsession semi-successfully. The drink we’ve taken including certain things of a nightcap nature working to loosen the reflexes, but not fatally so. I’ve spotted the Neurotypical BBC Master box ‘doing’ something which may well be demo competition related?!

The overall atmosphere is quieter than I remember from last year, or more focused. The majority of screens appear to be doing something creatively orientated. There is less of the overt booziness of the first night from the last time. I’m feeling more tired than I ought to, maybe that is the ‘holiday’ part of the week catching up. I think more people have opted for off-site accommodation and may have gone away to locate that. On the other hand, Gasman is being hardcore and pretend sleeping in the hall!

00.28 of the Saturday.

The last saved version of this text file came to 6800 bytes exactly, spooky?

This will be my last despatch before I’ve had a chance to insert some sleep in the following space.

Here….

Some not at all realtime hiking notes:-

A world away, a world up a hill and up again. The Hansard House hotel is located a few minutes convenient walk away from the party, that is, going *to* the party. The struggle back up the slope feels longer, with an extra steep bit just before you get there. Maybe the secret is to get properly drunk beforehand. so you don’t feel the pain from your legs and feet, not until it is too late anyway.

After that, I slept in a civilized bed, had a long hot shower, and ate a civilized breakfast, cooked for me by someone else. We then had a civilized planning session with the female party members in the hotel lounge, decorated in a style, c.1910 Edwardian country house. This being particularly important to prevent a fresh outbreak of catering outage stuff-ups which made last night so memorable.

10.03 of the Saturday.

We and a small number of the recently awake are back at the party place. The conditions resemble half-past hangover. A few people are up and about, some of them to sample the Budleigh seaside misty coast? The weather is grey and overcast, which is the first less than perfect weather that we’ve experienced all week. Still we’re at the party so as long as it doesn’t rain indoors, me and the bouncy STE keyboard will cope just perfectly.

10.46.

Reviewing, reading and “enhancing” this text gets this nicely up to now.

12.10.

I’ve been out to sample the delights of the Budleigh Salterton street and beach scene, which resembles what other places were like around 1960 or thereabouts.

Jurassic coast with a grey and misty face on it.

The beach was a vivid picture of grey mistiness, a strong sea breeze and crashing surf on the foot-catching shingle beach. It was also very quiet, apart from the (very) odd hardcore swimmer and kayaker, the latter getting very close to the shoreline to potentially recreate an old-fashioned shipwreck of the sort that used to be very popular back in the day when such events were the main source of exotic ‘free gifts’ for the poor people on this coastline!

Fortunately, the strength in his paddling arms was more than up to the challenge posed by the surf, so he got away safely into open water.

12.21.

Nativ of Atari Forum lurkingess has introduced himself to us. He’s brought a Falcon 030 to enter some Flextracker music into the competition. Maybe when a memory upgrade permits, he’ll move onto some Ace Tracker stuff, which would be worth waiting for.

12.26.

Back on topic, the local store for local people is due to close in four minutes, so I got in there earlier. I won’t say that Budleigh Salterton is an elderly colony, but the shop windows are all bifocal! The local store features such wonderment as junk-food and a massive queue waiting for a lovely slow-moving silver haired old gentleman to pay the cashier before he dies. Anyway, I’ve now got food waiting and some lovely chilled orange juice to fit in with the chilled out party mood swing.

13.23.

Lunch has been despatched with the usual unseemly haste, I’ve spent a little time viewing demos in company with Nativ. One possibly interesting or useful factoid that we discovered was that Felice’s Sony Bravia LCD screen can provide “free” motion blur on some parts of the ancient Techno Drugs demo, no doubt due to the longer persistence of the image compared with CRT screens. I personally think that this adds nicely to the demo.

The exterior of the party hall, aka Budleigh Salterton Town Hall.

There is some scheduled party happenings starting in an hour with the quiz of Meaty, where it has been promised that a contestant WILL die!

15.43.

The weather broke down for a short time after the last log entry as we encountered drops of random rain for a short while. This came and went a short time later, so almost a perfect week there, almost.

I spent a bit of time viewing several demos running from Nativ’s floppy only Falcon. He’s been having a similar trouble getting a hard disk reliable enough to work with his Falcon as I am with my problem child CT60. This stretched his ingenuity in the right directions, for as well as viewing obvious candidates such as Sonoluminescenz and the Dream Dimension demos, we also got to see Checkpoint’s ‘Morphonic’ demo, generally thought of as a strictly ST-only production floppy, booting on Nativ’s Falcon.

There were around forty minutes devoted to the party highlight otherwise known as Meaty’s quiz. Much random picture taking and video footage of this was taken by the assembled party masses, but most of it was safely outside of the bland blanket zone known as ‘family viewing’. I’m sure a photo of some *theoretically* grown men hitting each other with rubber mallets will find a home around here.

Close but not quite, here we have the quiz participants re-enacting how family board games might have been played in the Fritzl dungeon?

(* Theoretical, not actual!)

17.00.

Mellow summer enchanted afternoon. The quiet bit before the competitions start, which is at 19.00, according to the flexible time table.

Chatted a while with Heavy Stylus who was showing some preview routines of the ‘rOx’ game sequel. Progress is slow, mainly due to the usual time lack issues, although the main game engine is near completion. This will then require finessing and finishing, which is generally the other fifty percent of the hassle, ah well, maybe next year’s Outline then?

Things to do sometime in the next hour, another look at the beach now its sunny, and a trip to the chippy for supper from there.

18.34.

Combined trip back to beach and chippy got reduced to trip to chippy as I met mOd and a food gathering party on the way. This outlet happens to be the *only* fast food place in town, apart from an Indian restaurant and of course the sadly madly defunct chinese takeaway which became so famous on our last visit to Sundown, namely for being able to combine a profound mental collapse with a first class retail operation selling hot food.

This singular lack is reflected in the queue at the chippy which goes right around the shop and out of the door again. Still, good things come to those prepared to stick around and memorise details of the assorted sea fish species poster on the wall there, as we rush back home clutching our purchases.

Demoparty fish and chips, eaten in a strange blue light in a far corner of the party hall, tastes delicious!

The first wave of competitions are getting nearer.

19.20.

And still getting nearer….

Felice is on a mission to food purchasing land so he’s not missing much. This party is being officially rickrolled with Rick Astley on the big screen! I found out that there was some alcoholic fruity substance mixed up by the Germans promoting TUM 2010. We all enjoyed a glass of it earlier but there was still some left, so I’ve been over there and refilled my glass. Felice has now returned from his food purchasing mission and added a can of coke to my stock of drinkables. This has proven very amenable to having whisky added to it, so I am ever so slowly getting in a party mood (hic!)

19.47.

This message is showing on the main screen, the original caps lock is included for no extra charge.

“DON’T TALK TO ANDY PLEASE HE’S A NICE GUY BUT EVERY TIME YOU TALK TO HIM THE COMPETITIONS RUN LATER!”

20.10.

From the mouth of rc55 himself, he says that everything is now ready for a 20.15 start. Does this mean that all the entries for all the compos are shown at once on the big screen?! This would be both confusing and memorable. Especially the bit afterwards where rc55 is dragged off the stage and sectioned.

20.17.

Oldschool music starts, memory_ZX by Nativ goes off first with a six channel Flexitracker modfile made on the Falcon. It is a mellow ambient piece.

Other entries are following, generally showing off ‘chipsound’ as defined by XM tracker but with a nice entry from Ne7 playing something with more oldschool tones.

Females have arrived for part 2 of the party. They have been smuggled in through the kitchen as the main door is shut.

20.55.

Synth music about to kick off, the oldschool compo was ended on a rather nice oldschool Amiga modfile. There is still some of the German fruity boozy brew left, which is handy as the coke has run out, but the whisky hasn’t. I’m not ready for neat scotch just yet.

A plethora of SID tunes play, what is the adjective term for these, a cacophony of SID ziks perhaps?

To follow;

Something different with two ZX Spectrum 48k’s joined together, so six channels are made from the beeper sound. It sounds crazy but workable somehow.

21.28.

Streaming music to start shortly.

Something featuring ‘Coleco talking teacher and bits of string.’

“PUSH THE BUTTON, let it awaken, in the middle of the night; NIGHTBACON!”

Thanks to mOd, who indeed indicated earlier he was on standby with supplies of this magical food if people were feeling the need for it later on!

NuColour by Nativ, Atari STe, Casio CZ1000, Akai S3000XL, Korg XSD, another one in a relaxed ambient style.

21.56.

Intermission, erm, breakdown….

22.03.

Back again. “The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one, he said, but still, they came.” – Repeat phrase until panicky and desperate tone creeps into voice as dissatisfied party audience start making gestures of intent and sharpened objects in the direction of the compo organisers pit.

“Time for a retroparty…”

Newschool streaming music, as so often the case, the competition without an end in sight. My ears are satisfied, but my eyes are starving from a complete delay in getting the screen candy they need!

Newschool streaming music compo, the best boredom filter to get rid of the uninitiated from demo parties since 1997!

Well that last sentence might be a bit harsh, but it seems to be the case that out of all the non-demo competitions, this goes on a lot longer than the rest by a big margin, even at the smaller parties.

END!!!! At last, some graphics competitions in 10-15 mins.

22.52.

ASCII compo, sad bunny by Torment to start with.

We’ve also had to repatriate a sad Nicky back to the hotel due to something which disagreed with her that she ate or more probably drank? Still she’s in a comfortable state now. Just had some more out of party moments and out of body experiences getting back up that damn hill again.

Ascii compo was a mixture of ascii logos and ansi BBS style chunky stuffs.

Oldschool pixels are coming up soon(ish).

23.06.

All timings are approximate and guesswork.

We are now lubricating with a combination of fresh orange and Whyte and Mackay whisky.

Unfinished face by Spiny of Torment.

Nice C64 picture, ‘The Tower of Pearl’. but ‘Silently floating into Darkess‘ is even better. Hokay, that is enough oldschool, so newschool graphics are to follow.

23.16.

A joke entry to start with but things settle down with a couple of good entries. Then it is suddenly all over.

“Ten sweet minutes” to the main event…. (Ha ha!)

23.37.

From the screen of a BBC Master system.

BE BORN AS RUIRI

>MISTAKE

TRY TO RUN SUNDOWN DEMO PARTY FOR 6 YEARS

>MISTAKE

RICKROLL WHOLE PARTY

>SYNTAX ERROR

(cursor blinks at about here…)

23.49.

Oldschool demo compo to start. At this point I switch off to pay total attention to the demo compos, so back later.

00.13.

Sunday and oldschool has ended. The following things were shown.

Small amiga intro which was mainly a lot of infotext.

Spiny’s music disk for the ST called ‘May Crash’ and it actually did.

"May Crash" on the big screen - before it crashed.

‘Pimp my Spectrum’ actually redone on a raw Spectrum!

BBC demo with some oldschool effects including chequerboard.

I’ll elaborate later. Newschool intros are to follow.

01.19.

What time is love?

It’s all over, all over the place and all over your face. Bed beckons and morning recollections will have to follow later on.

10.21.

Sunday bloody Sunday!

Morning, and we’ve left the hotel of comfortable beds and cooked breakfasting and arrived back at the very quiescent party place. A furiously vibrating Ne7 can be found in the kitchen area attempting to dine off a chicken tikka masala, kitchen microwave being so powerful, it is capable of providing any food placed within it with a glowing radioactive half-life.

There was a wee small hours beach party apparently, with a driftwood bonfire and night bacon cooked on it. I’ll have to hope for pictorial proof as I didn’t quite make it, hotel access being dependent on other members of the party, plus other boringly sensible considerations such as being in a fit state to drive home today. Oh, it has rained overnight, quite a lot of it through the open window of our hotel bedroom, necessitating a discreet mopping up operation with the spare towels.

I’m trying to think back to the competitions, and my brain is coming up with a state of ‘blehhh!’ I don’t think the PeeCee stuffs were that memorable, apart from a sublime 1 kilobyte sunrise. There was one entry which definitely should have been filed under “why bother?” and no, it was not the Belgian Beer Squadron entry. There was a little bit of an
intro from Gasman working in Javascript as well.

Out of the two highest ranking oldschool entries, ‘Pimp my Actual Spectrum’ seems to show the most accomplished effects, but the BBC entry works well showing things that have not been attempted before on that platform in a Mode 7 teletext style in places. So hard to decide which one is best really?

~~ Unravelling towards the end ~~~

Variously known as “Oh dear, is that it?” and “The bit of the realtime that CiH hates writing as it means the end of the party is near.”

It’s a shame that this is the last Sundown and probably the last chance to visit sleepy seaside Budleigh Salterton. The party itself picked up nicely from last year with just about all the people that made it special the last time returning here. There were one or two new faces I had the pleasure of seeing for the first time, with Heavy Stylus donating a vital
video lead to let me type this on my STe. Also it was cool to meet Nativ from the Atari Forum who had the sole Falcon 030 presence, with several classic demos and some neat tunes playing there.

Of course we reaquainted with many various people such as ne7, rc55, Meaty, MegMeg, Stavros, Gasman and many others.

As for the future direction of UK based demo parties, hopefully this is not the end. A forum to discuss this was tentatively placed in the timetable last night, but got quietly removed when the competitions started to run seriously late. One school of thought is developing the ‘Breakpoint replacement party’ idea first mooted last Easter, but in a modified form and not as the replacement Easter party. If this comes off, then a location at Nottingham was being considered. This would be seriously convenient for this writer, only being an hour away and all.

Ruairi (rc55) - After the party?

Alternatively, rc55 (Ruairi) is taking a break and may well come back with something different of his own to replace Sundown, as he figures that six editions of the same party are enough. Personally I’m pleased that we managed to catch these last two editions after a slow start when we half-planned but never got around to doing anything.

The other major difference this year, was with bringing the female elements in our lives over, and organising a more general holiday around the week before the party itself. This worked without *too* many broken bones and torn limbs (Ouch!)

Anyway, I’m sure we’ll meet again, not sure how, not quite sure when..

CiH – Sept 2010 for Low Res Mag.

Alt Party 2010 Party Report.

February 4, 2011

Space, the final front-ear etc..

Time’s not the problem, it’s money!

Or how to stop hopelessly hemorrhaging my precious and limited supplies of the greeny bluey browny pocket-candy.. Please send any suggestions on a stamped and addressed brick to the Vantaa Airport R-Kioski shoppe..

Why the discontent CiH? Will there be an explanation, oh surely, yes there will!

It’s 17.30, the 22nd October, and another Alt Party opens its doors. There are lots of live performances promised tonight, and apart from the sound of something 8-bit being tortured slowly over an open fire further down the hall, the general ambiance is right now, can we describe it thus, as restful….

Yea I think we can..

Anyway, the story so far.

The journey started off uneventfully enough, a sane o’clock start from the residence of the Felice translating into an uninterrupted journey and timely arrival at Gatwick airport with sufficient spare time to be able to set light to it and run away whilst claiming that someone else did the deed. The compulsory airport-based faff-around period was nicely filled with eating and browsing. I managed to browse both my extensive brunchtime selection and half of Felice’s thick meaty yummy leftover Spanish omelette into my stomach, so there are no complaints about the food from me. A single malt purchase of something amber-coloured and lovely for the afterparty from the World of Whisky premises nicely dealt with my remaining UKP and pence.

The first indication that the day was not going to go 100 percent to plan, comes when an airport employed vocal genius with a gift for making another completely different place name sound like ‘Helsinki’, disturbed our reverie about twenty minutes before the official gate opening time on the Gatwick announcing machine. Duly misinformed, we hied eagerly in the direction of our supposed departure gate, only to find a bunch of people wearing Mediterranean touristy facial expressions and clothing, completely contrasting with our Nordic climatic mode of being. After a little while, the pfennig dropped that we were not at all in the correct location. So cue some slightly panicked dashing back to the main terminal building, to get our re-orientation to the correct gate, and hopefully not miss the damn flight.

Anyway, we found the correct place, fortuitously, halfway back, joining the rear of the Helsinki bound throng. Squeezyjet was variously, busy, on time for departure, and I learned a whole new en-route skillset of being able to doze sitting bolt upright in an aisle seat that did not allow you to do much of anything else. Still, a painless flight, before the monetary pain taking place, once we landed,

Felice had a sensible idea to purchase tourist travel passes before we left the airport and took the airport bus to the city centre. For non-users of Helsinki, these are travel cards that are purchased pre-paid for a specified number of days and locations. In our case, we opted for a dual-zone (Helsinki and the outlying suburb where the airport is) for 36 euros. Felice duly received his and paid for it, I did the same and bundled what appeared to be the travel card enclosed in the instruction booklet. Upon closer examination after we had left the airport and were waiting at the bus stop, this turned out to be just the instruction booklet with no travel card.

Unfortunately, the option of going back to the Kioski branch to point out their error was not available, it being the most inaccessible branch of the whole R-Kioski chain in Finland, nicely screened by several layers of customs and security checks on the airside part of the airport!

So I won’t be able to get back there to register a complaint until the day we go back.

An R-Kioski store, elsewhere in Helsinki..

Subsequent inquiries with another R-Kioski branch at the central station, and the customer service office also located there didn’t really help. Which leaves a last chance to get the missing money back on the day of the return flight, or else putting up the very expensive instruction booklet up for auction on Ebay, with the sad story I’ve just described as a prominent part of the item description.

For accommodation, one of our usual options is travelling abroad exotically and expensively, so there is no stay at chez Wiztom this year. He’s taken Baggio with him. There are no other Dead Hackers, as they are on scene vacation and have no new demo this year. In fact there are very few non-Finnish faces at this early party state. (Well there’s another UK scener, Dotwaffle, a Sundown face, with a promise of Ne7 later on.) The live sound  stage has had mournful Gregorian chants and sad violins checking their vibes before some kind of performance later, so we’re feeling a bit more diminished in mood than usual right now.

Anyway, so come back to accommodation, this year,  not having Wiztom around and with no other suitable options, Felice has booked us into the very convenient and comfortable, but not exactly inexpensive Holiday Inn, nearby to the party place. This has the nice benefit of being able to ditch potential sleeping bag nightmares from our 2010 campaign travails. Also we are hoping to vastly cut down on the pointless unfocused random travelling around town in expensive taxis as well. The second financial error took place at the nicely appointed hotel reception desk, where we found out that we weren’t eligible for the special Alt Party discounted rate, so we’re paying £80-odd euro’s extra than expected for the accommodation as well.

So yeah, nearly 120 EUR down before the party even starts on the first evening, without really trying at all, like falling off a bridge, a tall bridge, falling through icy clouds, tensed up and waiting for that sudden jarring terminal impact. And just for the record, I’m not blaming anyone apart from our mutual misplaced optimism for the latter issue.

Mind you, Dotwaffle ran up a 47 eur(!) taxi bill from the airport to the very same hotel where we are. So it’s not just us that are suffering a “Not so easy to come, easy to go” financial glitch.

Well it’s 18.30 now, that’s a lot off my not inconsiderable chest in one go!

20.30.

We just won one back! We finally bloody won one, yeah!

Shortly after the last batch of text glopped from fingers to keyboard, a text message shouting “FREE FOOD IN THE VIP AREA!” arrived from the direction of Felice. No known measuring instruments were able to properly record the me-shaped blur that followed on from receiving the text, apart from a split second reappearance on state of the art recording equipment near the entrance, when I slowed to turn towards the entrance before resuming warp speed.

I’m still not sure how this happened, but Felice was in the company of heavyweight sceners Sir Garbagetruck and Nosfe. One of the party organisers bade them all come inside the VIP area for a share of the expensively appointed nosh due to spare places being available. Felice passed the good news on from there to me. A momentary issue at the security checkpoint was resolved when Truck waved an organisers pass at them, and I was thusly joining the Alternative Party 2010 Space Dinner. A menu is included below for reasons of reflection and accurate party reporting, not to mention gloating purposes with some suitable foodie comments from me reviewing the different parts of the menu.

Menu  Cosmos

Apertif – Valiformosa Cava Brut.

(Sparkling Spanish Champagne, yum!)

Starter – Gazpacho shot
Salmon ceviche bread
Serrano ham and manchego cheese
Balsamico marinaded mushrooms and olives
Potato Tortilla
Roasted Bell Pepper
Green rucola salad and vinaigrette
Garlic Bread

(The starter was the most substantial part of the meal, it was very easy to fill your plate from the selection there. At first I thought we had been invited in to partake of some of the leftovers, and that this was the one and only course. It only occurred to me that this was not the full meal once the main course was served.)

Main  – Roasted chicken breast with chorizo beanpan and polenta.

(The overall texture was very pureed, apart from the chicken, so much of the meal was a bit like a thick soup. I guess this is the current odd fashion in haute cuisine, but there was nothing wrong with the taste or combination thereof.)

Dessert – Dark chocolate mousse cake with coffee or tea.

(My favourite bit of the whole meal, it was a close thing though, chocolate cake was om-nomtastic! I had left enough room for a second edition of this one.)

A selection of liqueurs, Cognac, (Felice forgot to get his, I got it and had it for him! What a thoughtful guy he is!) amaretto and creame liqueur were also on offer.

Also a selection of red and white wines served during the meal.

So it appears the bottom of that metaphorical long long fall, from the tall bridge mentioned a few paragraphs ago, is lined with delicious food and plenty of drink, to cushion a soft landing after all.

So yes, I’m in a very happy place right now. For the first time since arriving here. At last, Major brownie points fly out to Felice for being in the right place at the right time, and remembering to invite me to the party.

A table-eye view of the VIP banquet which ruled!

We’ve caught up on the following since our well-fed and lubricated return to the main hall. Nerve arriving with an STE, but without his still undelivered Firebee development board. Pity, we were looking forward to having a close-up guided tour of that. Marycloud, the lovely fragrant Marycloud who was pleased to see us. She has a pregnant cat in her household and was on her way back home. Which is pretty much a semi-permanent condition there as I recall.

Oh, and the opening ceremony included the Gregorian chanters and violins combined together with some spacey trancey visuals on the main screen  These sounded a lot less mournful when combined together.

This year’s theme is ‘Space, the forgotten frontier‘. The arts and competitions are all space-age themed, and asking the question, “Why aren’t there massive rotating double-torus space stations in low Earth orbit by the year 2001?” and “Whatever happened to huge menacing big-box computers that threatened to cut off all your life-support half-way to Saturn?” On the other hand, I’m glad they aren’t asking about the unsurprising lack of popularity of food in pill form. Otherwise the VIP dinner we enjoyed earlier would have sucked mightily and been over a lot quicker if they had rigidly stuck to that part of the romantic retro-futuristic script!

Interlude(s) from Felice …..

(“What happened ? – Lainie Diamond, Dream A Little Dream”) – (“I dunno ?” – CiH, Alt Party 2010..)

The meal opportunity was all fair and above board, for a change. Basically I was in the middle of a conversation with Truck & Nosfe, during that Suvi (Beeta – head organiser) approached us and invited all 3 of us to the dinner as there were some free spaces left. I mentioned to Truck about CiH so was able to send the text which sent him towards us at warp speed, towards the VIP dinner area. What can I say about the dinner except – Yum ! :) It was a seriously lovely meal with great wines too. Turns out Nosfe also appreciates good red wine and he was doing that with this one.

Viznut is sitting close to us, he is coding what looks like an entry for the demo compo on the C64. (Erm, Vic 20 actually – Ed.)

Felice over and out for now … may be back soon …..

21,58 – CiH back, mmmkay?

Did I mention chocolate mousse cake earlier? Nom nom nom! OMM NOM NOMM! (I guess I did.)

The party hall has a selection of retro arcade machines as in previous years. This year’s star turn is the original and best Williams Defender. I had a stab at ritual lame score humiliation along with everyone else having a go. It seems to play more sedately than I remember, but on the other hand, there are definitely way too many buttons and I am easier to confuse than back in the olden days.

01.29 – Saturday, and we’ve been a long time away.

After the food related excitement reported earlier, a few new developments have occurred over the last few hours, the live acts have played their stuff, Aavikko provided a Jarresque experience but with some unique twists specific to that artist.

There have been some people awaited who have now turned up, Pahartik, the short fella from Tampere arrived and unfurled himself on a table next to us, apparently unchanged from last year, as if he had been kept in storage from then until now? We also have Sundown attendees and UK sceners Ne7 and Glittermouse who hoved in on a late flight tonight, and they are setting up an exhibit in the arts display area, as fast as they can, speed being limited only by a late arrival and nocturnal bleariness.

Oh I forgot to mention, in accordance with the ‘space’ theme for this year, there is a amateur rocket society exhibiting, with some examples of pointy things that they have launched into the Finnish wild blue yonder. Evil me stops to consider what kinds of warhead and targetting systems you can fit to those babies! Also where they can be pointed. For some reason, an R-Kioski shoppe at Vantaa airport keeps drifting back into my mind (Evil grin!)

Finnish rocket-men show off their wares.

I seem to recall from an earlier conversation that a daytime meeting with Martin of the Q-Funk might be in the offing for tomorrow, erm, later today. It is on record and signed on a legally binding written contract that no wardrobe shifting to other countries is required this year. (See my Alt 2008 report for the full and gory details, whenever that one escapes to a publication somewhere!)

I’ve also been away from this text for another reason. Apart from the above happenings and arrivals, I’ve managed to kick out a completed article for whatever publication is interested, based on the different methods and experiences of sleeping, or not, at demo parties down the ages.

Put that together with this report, and the 90% finished Sundown party report, and I’d better get something on the TalkTalk 2 demo written, then we’re well on the way to sorting some submissions for the next issue of Low Res mag. I seem to remember a suggestion that they try to get an issue out in August, but that only remained a suggestion. Never mind, if I keep things going, then I can act all virtuous and productive the next time a release date is mentioned!

So summing up the first 24 hours of this latest visit. Mixed fortunes it is then, sucky to start with, but with a drastic change of luck later on which goes a long way to cancelling out the sucky part. Plus some nice people turned up who were expected, but seemed to take a while to get here, but they’re here now. Let’s see what the new day brings.

15.52 – A lot lot lot lot later that same day..

There have been not too many new adventures, and the ones that we had were filed under the category of pleasant and easily managed.

The blackout curtains in our hotel room were certainly effective at keeping light away, perhaps too much so, as a 10.30hrs alarm call was disbelieved by our still sleepy brains as the middle of darkness was still going on. Perhaps having Pahartik come back to our hotel room for an hour’s pleasant chat, reflection on the previous day and sharing out of peppermint liqueur didn’t help with the time confusion issue. It was around 04.00 when he returned to the party and we finally hit our comfortable sacks of rest.

Still we’re better off than Ne7, who chose to party-sleep for a bare hour underneath a collapsing art installation. When we found him again this afternoon, he was shaking and drooling. Glittermouse appears to be in much better shape, so probably did something sensible about her sleeping arrangements. I’ve also taken a tour of her art installation, including her trying to trace around something I wrote on being projected onto a screen, in spite of me wobbling, swaying and moving generally with a less than millimetric precision.

We managed to meet with the Q-Funk and his ladyfriend, the same one from last year, which is progress of a considerable sort. We repaired to a Thai restaurant in the nearby Ruoholahti centre and enjoyed a session of lunchtime spicy noodles and such. A slow trip back to the bar around the corner from the party place followed, with more caffeinated refreshments to wrap up. Right now, I’m sitting here and we’re in the period before any competitions properly kick off. Felice having gone back to the hotel to collect his gear and procure some alcohol flavoured liquids for the afterparty tomorrow evening. Finnish Alko booze places tend not to want to be open on Sundays, so a degree of forward planning is necessary.

17.00.

A few random wanderings, and wonderings have grazed in the realtime graphics competition, somewhat flexibly removed from its original timescale. I guess this will set a pattern for the rest, with a start time for the main demo compo at 22.30 being optimistic to say the least.

Also there is a version of episode IV of Star Wars, Star Wars Uncut, which is a version of said famous late 20th century cultural event made up of the short clippings of hundreds of amateur versions of variable quality, but all somehow gelling together to still be able to tell the story. Yes, there is a web link, and an incentive for me to check it out properly when I’m back home.

I also take back my remarks about the Williams arcade cabinet Defender being gentle compared with how I remembered it. It isn’t super speedy for sure, but the difficulty level sure ramps up a lot after the first level. Very few people even manage to get to level 3 before it is all over in a cloud of glittery neon stardust and swarming mutants picking at the carcass of your disembowelled starfighter.

The biggest beast among classic arcade machines, Williams Defender!

I managed it, once, late last night, whilst the expensive muscle relaxants I’d consumed from the VIP dinner were still taking effect.

18.38.

Back.

I forgot to mention something else which happened from yesterday. The hotel is close to the main power station for Helsinki and we heard a continual low growling roar when we emerged into the world yesterday. At first we thought this was a jet flying very low and slowly, but a huge cloud of steam suffusing the air around the power station revealed the real reason for this racket.

We’re still not sure if this was part of their normal operations, or they were venting off steam as something had gone wrong. Still, the Alt party hasn’t been consumed in a massive boiler explosion, so I guess that one went well enough?

The reason for recalling this event, was because Nosfe was in the same locality, and decided to record the event with his mobycam, which then became the wildcompo entry ‘Power Noise’(!)

There have been a series of smaller competitions, nothing really outstanding just yet, and a talk on the origins and evolution of the demoscene from Marq of Fit who has written a thesis about it. He kindly interspersed the talking bits with a few choice demo showings to vary the presentation.

19.21.

Obscure music competition, an idea which was revived from the 2000 Alt Party, where I had an entry. This time, I don’t think the platforms were that obscure, Amiga 500 Protracker and MSX soundchip?

C’mon, that’s just oldschool music and chip music. We made horrible noises on real random crap back in the day. I was using a prototype softsynth for the Atari Falcon, which had a sort of working control panel, random things which you could easily mess up with to require a swift exit and restart, and no means of keeping any patches or sequences that you made on the day, unless you recorded the sound output directly out as you created it. So with that and some comedy samples from Jody Smith, a one-time Maggie contributor and super cool media person clearly destined for greater things, I stitched together a totally obscure track from it. Other people managed to be even more obscure with some completely ‘analogue’ creations for the competition.

So in my view here’s a clue, if you can recognise the computer it’s made on without too much of a memory fart taking place, it’s not really obscure music.

21.27.

We’ve just watched the talk from special guest Casey Pugh, It was he who was behind the Star Wars Uncut production. The great idea is to get hundreds of dedicated Star Wars fans to remake fifteen second segments of the whole movie, the resulting stitch-up being put together to create a wildly varying mish-mash of styles to make a coherent whole.

22.06.

A chat with Glittermouse and her interactive art exhibit took place in the time since the last log entry, also a quick competition using the Nokia QT moby toolkit to make a couple of odd little demos. There are beginner demos to come at 22.30, so we’re just half an hour off the official timetable. The beginner demos are supposed to lower the bar to make life easy for newbies otherwise put off by the harsh elitism and free “constructive” advice given by parts of the mainstream demo scene. I’ve got hopes for this, hopes that the entry bar hasn’t been lowered to Dildo Fatwa levels of achievement mostly!

Artwall in the exhibition area.

INSERT TOKEN TO ACTIVATE FREE COFFEE – FREE COFFEE ACTIVATED, CIH, YOU ARE CLEARED FOR CAFFEINE INTAKE…..

23.16.

Beginner demos had a long and varied selection, some of which might qualify for a celebration of Dildo Fatwa-ness, others might only be told apart from the main competition by being a little bit too oldschool in places or a little rough around the edges. More detailed impressions to follow of a morning when I can get to a keyboard which isn’t shrouded in dark shadows throwing my wobbly touch typing into sharp relief, he said, getting that last bit down almost flawlessly…

The main competitions are to start after a short setting up period, so time to go back to where I was sitting shortly, I have a horrible feeling that they may struggle if there are many oldschool entries, as the projector for the main screen provided proved to be very resistant to taking a video input from an MSX.

00.37 - Sunday

We’ve managed to finish the main competitions in a reasonable time.

There was very little that could be called ‘oldschool’ this year, although Viznut was back to form with his latest Vic 20 piece of 3.5k unexpanded chesswhackery, This provided the typical PWP storytelling element where a lonely chess piece attains self consciousness, works out what E = MC squared is and leads a mad dash to freedom from the restrictive world of the chessboard. I think it might use another more considered ‘cold light of day’ viewing to get all of the story elements down properly.

The organisers sidestepped the whole vexatious ‘trying to connect old hardware to a sulking projector issue’ by running it under emulation. Not that they didn’t have a few problems with screen modes on the way with some of the other entries. There was only one dynamic entry which ticked all the boxes for ambient and noisy, therefore challenging to tired audiences late-viewing entries and trying to keep awake. Thankfully there were far fewer of these in general this time. Farbrausch managed to keep to the ‘space’ theme and returned somewhat to form after the yawn-a-thon they released at Outline earlier this year. There were a couple of promising 4ktros, and a few other nice enough demos, one of which demonstrated various time-worn demo effect classics in several different and often non-scene languages.

I might get around to writing a bit more in the morning, but this seems a good point to stop writing about the competition. In other news, delayed from earlier this evening, Nerve appears to have misplaced his Mac laptop at a venue he went to a lot later the previous evening. Fortunately his non-portable and therefore less able to be placed in drunken peril Atari STe is still here at the party. Which is the really important thing, as we all know.

02.22. – I love symmetrical things!

I’ve spent a fair bit of the time away from this mobile outpost of the CiH writing machine. Time has been spent with Nerve, Setok and a guy who knows Wiztom quite well who put in an Atari 8-bit entry to the beginners demo compo. Also Topy and ze Germansch, Topy taking me on a tour of his EE-PC 700 and talking of things musical and coding. Nerve is definitely awaiting his Firebee most keenly, Hopefully he will be reunited with his laptop soon?

And how are you at this late juncture, CiH? Well I’m fine, considering the lateness of the hour. I’ve mostly stayed off the booze wagon, apart from some bison grass vodka and apple juice that turned up in the camp of ze Germanschzes, so yeah, pretty good thanks. At some point, the words, ‘hotel’, ‘room’, and ‘bed’ will start to feature in conversations, but not just yet?

Ah, Felice just mentioned the subject, hopefully just enough time for one more attempt at Defender. Current high score around level 3, or the 16,000 mark, but not enough to get on the high score table yet.

02.41.

We might be going back soon. Felice is powering off, and it is generally very calm around the main hall.

Still stuck on level 3 of Defender, even with the help of some apple juice flavoured special space juice. To be honest, I wasn’t really in control of that last game, just scrambling for bare survival. Anyway. See you later in the morning.

11.37.

Returned..

News? Not too much at this point, some relaxing background music, a lot of small people with their parents as this is the ‘family day’. There will be an afterparty sauna later on. In hypochondria news, the mild cold that I brought out with me is still uncertain as to which way it will go. We’re feeling slightly worse for wear about the back of the nasal passages this morning, so just a question of waiting it out.

There was a minor glitch on our return to the Holiday Inn earlier this morning, as the key-card room passes had decided to expire two days before our booking did. Issue was soon sorted out at reception though.

15.04.

Now for the closing and prize giving ceremony. Viznut was the expected and confirmed winner of the main demo competition, even beating off the epic Farbrausch production. The ‘Babel’ production managed to beat them into third place as well.

Topy (second left) with Outline shirt at the prize giving ceremony.

Afterparty details have been confirmed, so time to pack up and pick up on this in a non realtime sense later.

A non-realtime part, somewhat later on..

As with previous editions of Alt, the end descends rapidly on the party once the prize ceremony is over like a big black shadowy cloak of dodgy metaphor. Anticipating this, we have repatriated our laptops back to the hotel and collected our afterparty sauna attending gear. Well in my case it took two attempts once I remembered to pick up the whisky which had stubbornly stuck itself to the hotel bedroom the first time round.

This year, the afterparty is located fairly close to the old cable factory, about a ten minute walk away, even less when going back to our hotel, which was very handy later on. In the meantime, whilst carrying out a final check around our desk area, we end up ‘winning’ another free prize. This one being an extra Alt Party 2010 official t-shirt, which someone had purchased and left under the table. An enquiry with the info desk reveals confused faces and a negative report of loss, so I claim the missing shirt for myself.

At the time of writing, I’m hoping to locate some images of this year’s shirts. These depict the party logo, plus a picture of a planet and astrological information about that planet. Of course there are different planets, according to the size and gender of the wearer. Female shirts are Venus, naturally, I’ve got the largest one possible, Jupiter, and the spare under-desk foundling, is the next size down, the hilariously named ‘Uranus’. Which fitted nicely enough, thanks for asking.

The weather, after being relatively benign, especially compared with last year’s attempted drowning by cloud, has decided to turn damp. Rainwear has been retrieved, which was helpful later on. A smallish group of us are collected by Sir Garbagetruck and walked to the afterparty sauna location, which turns out to be a couple of blocks down from the Ruoholahti centre.

We arrive at an office block, this has a sauna on the top (9th) floor. After considering the best way for heavy duty and heavyweight sceners to make use of the limited lift, we are shuttled upstairs to a smart corporate locale. This strongly reminds me of the business class sauna that we enjoyed at the second Alt Party in 2000. There is a medium sized electric sauna which can seat ten or so people in one go, no wood-burner this time around. However, this time the organisation and catering easily overcomes any element of missing rustic authenticity.

There are generous amounts of beer, with more arriving all the time, Felice and I add our supplies to the mix. There is also, very welcome at this time, an ample sufficiency of food, as someone has carried out a subway visit and cleared out their remaining stocks of vari-flavoured sandwiches, not to mention the mountain of wonderfully exotically Finnish-branded junk food that also came along. Much of which had not been consumed by the end of the party.

More people arrive as time goes on. Mr Setok himself turns up with a welcome donation of cider. He’s only around for a short time, as he has got to get himself ready for the first round of his ‘Travelling Salesman’ fifty-day trip. This is a northern and nordic round trip, meeting and evangelizing with nothing more than a Landrover Defender. There is a link http://travellingsalesman.mobi/ which tells a lot more about this story, as we’re concentrating on telling the Alt Party 2010 history in this article.

By the time the sauna is in action and people are heading there in various states of undress, Nerve has reappeared with some good news. His missing laptop has been found and recovered, so the smiling Norwegian is properly happy and not having to put a brave face on a shitluck situation. We find out some other things in conversation (from the Sunday morning before we went to bed actually, I just remembered it now), Certain demo-ish activities are still going on with higher end Atari’s being targeted. These are properly awaiting the arrival of a brand new piece of kit mentioned earlier in this article so these can be included along with the more familiar CT-series. We will just have to keep on being patient.

Other memorable sauna guests include Nosfe, who was helpful with the whisky consumption, Topy and Ze other Germans, and an English guy whose name I don’t remember, who was connected with the party but had been living and working out in Helsinki for some time. He compared his situation out there favourably with the likely conditions to work in the UK. Pahartik had also come down with us to make sure he did not miss out on the sauna this time. There were a selection of assorted females who may have been girlfriends of people who also came into the sauna with us, which was nice.

There was one American (Brooklyn) girl in Finland called Alli who had also rocked up, and was holding a conversation with about half the people in the lounge area about her adventures since she got here. Other bodies were entering and leaving the sauna, and a few brave nicotine-enthralled souls even ventured onto the open, rain-lashed top balcony.

Sauna quote – “The only thing that the Finns are afraid of, is the alcohol running out at the sauna.”

"This season, I have been mostly drinking Balvenie!"

Certainly there was plenty of drink to lubricate the occasion, Felice had purchased a 2 litre cardboard container of wine. Much of this, and probably some white wine which also sneaked into the party had stuck to him. By the time the official after-party was winding towards a conclusion, and preliminary plans laid for an after-after-party, Felice was barely able to string two words together, and was also generating considerable sideways motion when he stood up.

Eventually, barely formed words and phrases tumbled out that he was interested in going on with the after-after-party hardcore. This final event was in the hands of Sir GarbageTruck. Confidence in any further adventure dropped away sharply with Truck’s suggestion that “You can get on the cross-town tram without paying, no-one’s looking at this time of night.” I declined to go on with the rest of the merry band, and as Felice was already in a semi-liquid state and could not be easily poured as it was, let alone a few hours later, I declined for him too. We walked back to the Holiday Inn, head down into the wild and driving rain.

We got back without mishap, Felice then proved that he had definitely had enough that evening by promptly falling asleep where he had crashed down on his bed. Which seemed to be a satisfactory point to close the narrative for Sunday.

Monday started very slowly.

Today we have to leave our hotel, the moment of reckoning being around 12.00hrs, which we are determined to wait until the last possible moment. Our departure from Finnish soil is not until some time later in the evening, so we have rather a lot of time to kill as it is.

Some people, after their exertions from the previous night, aren’t in any great hurry to leave anyway (hem!) A slow round of cleaning up, packing and final checking follows. We leave it until shortly before the room reverts back to the Holiday Inn’s control before finally dragging our bags out into the lobby. Pleasant receptionist takes payment for room, I manage to perfectly control any monetary anguish related spasms, at least until we’re out of the hotel and out of sight.

One final service which the Holiday Inn renders for us, is the provision of a left luggage area where we can leave our bags for a few hours and take an unencumbered wander into Helsinki centre.

So we do.

The Helsinki for people waiting to go home edition. As lunchtime was leaning hard on our list of things to do, one pre-planned event came to pass, namely that we met Martin Eric R. once more. He was at work, but on a generous or flexible lunch hour. We took ourselves off to an eating place made famous in previous Alt Party reports. This was the Indian restaurant combined with an opticians premises. Only the Indian restaurant part of it seems to have grown and enveloped the opticians, winning that small battle for retail dominance. The proprietor is a very happy man, and so he should be.

A boozy night really needs a curry at the end of it, and this was the case here, even if a night’s sleep had got in between the drinking and the eating. The food was excellent, and provided very quickly, living up to the ‘express’ part of their name, the Indian Express. A leisurely coffee at a smart coffee house a little further on concludes our gathering. Q-Funk returns to his workplace and we are left to kill the remaining hours until we have to leave.

A long interval for some retail therapy for people with no money follows. Exploring the central department store Stockmanns and a few other surrounding premises nicely mops up the time. I blanch at the prices being charged in the Apple store there, and conclude that customs and excise coming home won’t have any issues with duty-dodging electronic goods purchased from this part of the world!

The afternoon wears out, and just as we are at the tipping point of finding activities just for the sake of displacing unwanted time, we head back to the Holiday Inn to reunite with bags and to commence the long journey home.

The number 615 is waiting and manages to leave with us on board in a timely fashion. The journey back to the airport is straightforward. However we are a little bit early and have the sheer enjoyment of a timeless end at Vantaa airport.

Time passes in that fingernail-dragging manner which it likes to do. Eventually the checkout desk is opened, and clever online bookers like ourselves go into the smaller queue for the quick version and a bag drop, handily missing the big queue which only appears to have one check-in desk person attending it. There is a small issue at security as Felice forgot to unpack a batch of screwdrivers from his big pack before coming to Alt. Amazingly this was not picked up by the otherwise super-strict Gatwick security, but they were found and removed by their Vantaa counterparts.

The screwdrivers in question exceeded a permissible maximum length and were judged reasonable stabbing prospects by the security man. Therefore they weren’t allowed to go on in the hand luggage. Offered a choice of binning them, or getting then added to the main baggage, Felice wisely chose to bin them. He remembered the mighty struggle to get the case closed and zipped in the first place, therefore the possibility that it might decompress with explosive force if carelessly opened by the airport staff!

Once we were finally through, there was the final remaining niggle from the start of the trip, namely the expensively provided instruction booklet for the travel card with no ticket which you will recall being told earlier in this account. We approached the Kioski in question and carefully explained the sad story. To their credit, they listened and offered either a replacement card (no good now) or a refund for the 36 EUR which was gladly accepted! So a thumbs up at the end to the R-Kioski chain for first class customer service.

A final meal of weird Mexican burger (does putting nachos inside it constitute nothing more than a posh latino crisp sandwich?) and troll around the diverse and mostly closed attractions of Helsinki airport shopping, and we were on the way,

Home..

Gatwick, ho-hum. No hassles getting out and back on the road to Felice’s place in Cambridge. As our eventual arrival was at 01.30 adjusted for UK time, and I had cunningly booked an extra day off, I stopped overnight and made my leisurely way home the next morning.

And that was the end of that one.

Conclusions..

Just a small number of things to wind up this report about the 2010 Alternative party.

This was the first Alt Party without the direct involvement of Setok. He was in an executive producing position but not directly involved in day-to-day running as he is occupied elsewhere.

Personally, I experienced some variable fortunes, not so good to start, but with other things going better, and even the not so good stuff put right in the end. One fun new experience included the VIP meal on the opening night.

There were several familiar faces, we spotted Nerve, Pahartik, a number of UK sceners who we got to know better at the Sundown Party, such as Glittermouse, Ne7 and Dotwaffle, we came across Martin of Q-Funk in an out of party sense. Also other familiar figures such as Nosfe and Sir GarbageTruck were prominent too.

But some people were missing too. There was no Dead Hackers presence. They did not have a demo to bring this time, which is fair enough. We also saw nothing of Baggio and Wiztom, who are engaged on global adventures, and they are normally an established presence. Wiztom may even get around to finishing and releasing something one of these years?

The competitions were of a good standard and were running efficiently with little delay. This is even taking into account some awkward projector interactions with competition hardware. There was a fairly low oldschool presence, confirming a sadly downward trend, although Viznut managed to win the main demo competition.

The live acts were good, no better or worse than other recent parties. There was a lot less smoke machine, which was a definite improvement. The special guest Casey Pugh was enjoyable but a little bit more lightweight than some we’ve had in previous years. Front 242 in 2008 and Sophie Wilson/Jeri Ellsworth the following year were hard to beat.

The Ruoholahti Holiday Inn hotel was a new experience for us. It was not a cheap option and we missed out on the Alt party website booking discount. On the other hand, it ticked both boxes for comfortable and convenient. We also managed to cut down on the excess travelling which has been a feature of recent parties. The loss and refund of the 5 day travel ticket worked to my benefit in the end, as I only paid for the travelling I actually did.

So yes, we enjoyed the 2010 edition of the Alternative Party. We will just have to think carefully how to go about things for next year.

CiH for Low Res Mag, Oct/Nov 2010.

Outline 2010 Invitro by Checkpoint.

February 4, 2011

Picture by Havoc / Linout

 

One of our favourite pre-party traditions has been kept up in advance of the Outline 2010 edition [1] . Namely the more or less kick-arse party invitation expressed in demo coded form. We’ve had some memorable entries from people as diverse as Ephidrena, Lineout, Limp Ninja, tSCc, a nice ’060 based one from Dead Hackers Society, and even an Atari VCS invite produced last year by Trilobit. Now it is the turn of top-notch code-botherers, Checkpoint, to take the pole position for this year [2] [3].

So with an air of barely suppressed excitement, I click to run the intro. The comments are already promising a brain-blaster. But I calm down by recalling that I’m about to watch an invitro, where any awesome factor is ultimately constrained by crow-barring in a load of party info text at the end. Will this be the case today?

We skip off to a stylish start, a singing muso-text kicks off. Apart from the pain and other stuff, we are left in no doubt we will have “100 percent reason to remember the name!”

We go all wobbly and oldschool, as if we’re at the start of a Lost Boys demo, with the opening growl of a Mad Max tune. In other words, a dark screen with a classic onrushing star-field, glimpsed in parts.

This is just to keep the senses occupied whilst the title is being built. This starts slowly with a series of flat single bitplane blobs a-merging. The iconic title screen slowly materializes out from this.

Nice effects

 

The title picture is nicely done, arresting, leaving you in no doubt which party this is shouting for. The regal Outline logo takes the centre of the screen, and it looks like one of our favourite party organisers is facing a mirror image of himself!

We do have some proper music by now, and this is nicely spiked up at regular intervals by the vocal intervention of another of our favourite party organisers, who also leaves us in no doubt about the identity of the party we are being asked to visit.

The informative remit bubbles up at this point with sparse and to the point infoscreen. This is done in the form of text scrolling from left and right.

There are some more effects, as Defjam shows off some more metablobs. These are multilayered, an effect in itself rather than helping to reveal something else.

More effects

 

The credits are next. We find out the following had something to do with the demo.

Defjam – Code (of course!)
Havoc – Graphics, good with faces as always.
Excellence in Art – Music, a rather nice tune actually.
Okkie for the sampled voice.

The brainblaster is fast approaching, with a batch of group greetings. It’s not just basic text, but text wrapped and blurred in a feedback melt-o-vision style effect, with some kind of light sourcing going on as well. This is where the intro is getting its brain-blasting reputation from. It isn’t the prettiest effect, opting for a moody grey colour scheme, but it sure gets the job done.

The greetings

Before we get too excited, we are finally reminded that this is an invitro after all, as the last part in the form of a crisp smart text reader, with the Outline logo in the background, appears. You read the party facts, as if you did not remember them from last year, and something similar for the year before.

The invitation

 

So is it a brain-blaster? Well maybe. It has a nice atmosphere, there are a couple of stunning bits in there, but at heart it is ultimately still an invitro. An appetite-whetter looking forward to some cool new Atari stuff at Outline 2010.


Links:

 

  1. Outline party
  2. Outline invitro at pouet
  3. Outline invitro video

Movie porting for Aniplayer supplemental.

February 4, 2011

Additional notes on Beetle’s Tutorial for Aniplayer video encoding.

Ho there eagerly awaiting Low Res fans, it’s time for some more article reading related fun with some educational tips thrown in. In my token nod to the latter part of our mission, here’s some of my observations made after I followed Beetle’s excellent tutorial from last issue. As you may recall he was sharing his hard-won secrets about converting movie files to allow them to play without stuttering or stopping on Didier Mequignon’s Aniplayer program.

Beetle’s tutorial was written mostly for the benefit of those of us using very high-end Falcons, with some fairly specific tips about getting the best trade-off between the original movie and an end-product which would still have a reasonable quality and play back comfortably on the CT60 family.

Now I didn’t follow the exactly specified steps with his suggested example movie file. Instead for my first attempt, I broke from the tutorial in two important respects.

Firstly, the choice of film, as I decided to make the first attempt from one of my own ill-advised ‘home movies’. In this case it was the compilation of my bits recorded from the Sundown 2010 demo party. A report for which is elsewhere in this issue.

Secondly, I decided to try converting for a different level of Atari hardware.   At the end of his article, Beetle threw in some useful suggestions about converting a movie file to play on a standard unexpanded Falcon. I opted for something in between the CT60 and the bog standard machine, namely the Centurbo 2 (CT2) accelerated Falcon.

The CT2 series, just to remind you, adds a 50 Mhz 68030 CPU, up to 64 MB Fast RAM, with DSP  clocked from 32 to 50 Mhz and bus speed boosted from 16 to 25 Mhz offering an option for enhanced truecolor resolution. So it has sheer processor grunt somewhat better than the baseline machine but still quite low compared to the CT60 and it also has enhanced data bus speed. I opted for an in-between size to go with the in-between hardware, converting my original 640 x 480 resolution source file to something more suitable for my choice of target hardware.

Here are some notes about the movie file which was created from following Beetle’s tutorial. Much of this information  being taken from Aniplayer itself of course :-)

On-Screen Size 240 x 180 pixels (actually 240 x 176)
Played at 16 frames per second, frame skip enabled on Aniplayer
Key frame interval = 0
Number of frames – 9575
File size – 98825858 KB
Length of movie playback – 6 minutes, 23 seconds
Audio 16 bit mono at 16390 Hz with APCM compression

The movie played back pretty faithfully in the recommended non-GEM windowed mode with no noticeable time lag and only the occasional hint of slowdown on the audio. The windowed mode was a slightly different story with an increased playback time at 9 minutes and 58 seconds. This is quite a difference from 6 minutes 23 seconds. I didn’t really notice any major video slowdown but the audio slowed noticeably when onscreen traffic was busy and started to distort very slightly.

The intensity of CPU usage varied when running the sample movie in windowed mode. This went from 25 percent as a base, settling around the middle between 66 and 83 percent, but sometimes going up to 91 or 100 percent. And before you ask, of course the DSP was enabled! So it is possible to run this type of file windowed on a CT2 machine but still better to play back in non-GEM mode.

In non-GEM mode, the 240 x 176 resolution offered a reasonable quality playback, a little bit compromised with some degradation of video quality, but not fatally so. In fact I think that added to the overall charm when combined with what is properly a retro platform. The onscreen viewing window for non-GEM display was a reasonable size, with subtitling still legible. This confirms to me that the 240 x 180 size is an acceptable compromise for CT2 and similar specified Falcons.

Other observations and points of interest.

The size of the movie file is hefty. In this case it works out at around 12-15 megabytes per minute of onscreen footage. There is no reduction over the file size of the source material in spite of the big screen resolution drop. This suggests that a less fierce compression method is being used to give Aniplayer a fighting change of depacking it with limited CPU power. (Limited when compared with a modern machine of course.) Can someone who knows what they are talking about confirm this?

Never mind, one thing that has got abundant and cheap these days is bulk storage.

The created movie file tended to crash fatally on the Windows version of the Videolan VLC player. This really killed that program, freezing or locking up completely and needing to delve into the program manager to unblock the application. This made me very nervous in case I’d somehow missed something important from the tutorial and I’d just created a ruined and useless file. The Mac version of VLC was alright with it though, and more importantly, Aniplayer was completely happy with it!

* Further note. This issue went away once I upgraded my older version of VLC player.

I decided to go that extra unnecessary step and see how this movie managed on a 16 mhz Falcon. Beetle recommended a video mode of 160 x 80 with audio set at 16390 Hz when porting movies for the baseline machine. Well I would charitably say that a valiant attempt was made by Aniplayer. The soundtrack and video playback could be described as ‘languorous’ or on opiates, but we got there in the end, at about 10 minutes and 24 seconds. But it didn’t drop anything, played back completely and still performed a lot better than an unconverted movie would have on a CT60.

* Further note – I’m finding out new things all the time here. I converted an ultra widescreen movie trailer for Deathly Hallows to a somewhat letterboxed 240 x 80 pixel format, audio as before, and this played back just fine with no slowdown on a 16 mhz Falcon. Which is as far as you can push that one, I guess?

Hey, now we’re here and going wildly out of context, let’s see how it did on Aranym. My version of Aranym is for a Power PC Mac. That is without the super turbo native processor mode to fudge the speed issue. This offers a semi-realistic 68040 environment to play with.

I say semi-realistic as it demanded between 50 and 66 percent of the CPU. You can tell this is still a work in progress as sound quality via the emulated DSP was severely compromised. It was both slower with a fair bit of distortion and forced high pitch as if force fed helium. So I don’t fancy that one again, thanks very much.

*Further further observations, made some time later*

Thus suitably equipped, I tried my movie porting magic on a number of other short films close to my heart. I’m gratified to say that results there were generally fine but with one or two caveats.

1. When I converted the ‘Outline 2009 from above’ movie, I seemed to get reasonable video playback but very slow sound. This may have been down to me playing around with the sound settings, so I’m inclined to blame that one on user inattention.

2. A couple of movies suffered from noticeable artifacting or black speckles on screen after dropping down to a lower resolution. These were taken from a low quality source though, so this just might be a case of choosing your subject matter carefully, or going through with it anyway and to hell with the consequences.

Final words.

I hope this article adds some extra value to the already excellent work done by Beetle for the previous issue of Low Res Mag. The tutorial proved to be easy to adapt according to taste and hardware levels. I’m certainly going to go through my collection to see what else can be ported. Not to mention I might get around to doing some specifically for CT60 as well soon :-)

CiH for Low Res Mag, Nov/Dec 2010.

Silly Venture 2k10 Invitro

February 4, 2011

“A return to the magic world of pacman!”

Almost without warning last autumn, a long term Atari scene veteran from parts east, namely Grey of the Mystic Bytes pronounces that there should be another edition of the Sillyventure party in Gdansk, Poland.

The original event at Easter 2000 left a prolonged warm afterglow of affectionate memory. Quite apart from the party itself, there was the extremely evocative road-trip which took place and the post-party hospitality which was greatly enjoyed. We really felt that our stay was over far too quickly.

Unfortunately for now the announcement comes at the wrong time, a little too late for some of us. I’ve already blown my party-going budget for 2010 with three events, two of which required extra payments for hotel accommodation. Additionally, Felice is embarking on a post-Xmas round of travelling, namely a revisit to his honeymoon scene of the crime from 2007 in California, so his options for this one are limited to none as well.

Still, let us tunnel out from this paragraph of regret, as there were a couple of nice little invitro’s released. One for the Atari 800/XL series, and this one for the ST series.

This invitro needs nothing more than a plain ST to run it. It is a fairly short production in the manner of most invitro’s, but manages to pack a fair bit in.

A gorgeous handpainted sixteen colour title screen from Piesiu starts proceedings. This is really a nice piece of work from that rarest of species, the Atari graphist. Best use of the limited colours has been made to depict an evening seaside scene. You can see it here.

The title picture

This is not his only appearance in this intro, I’ll be sure to tell and show you the rest at the appropriate times. Anyway, his presence really adds value to this production.

Time for some code, with a kind of semi-transparent cross-fade or overlaying effect with a smartly recoloured digitized picture fading in and out. This effect is re-used, with variations elsewhere.

Cross fading thing in red..

Piesiu gets a further picture with shades of orange and red heavily emphasized, ‘Firehand’. The screengab below conveys more than mere words can.

"Firehand"

More smart retouched work follows soon after another repetition of the cross-fade mentioned earlier. Here this is, just to make sure the viewer is aware of the exact nature of this beast. Klocek is the member who was responsible for the ‘photo-art’ elements of this intro.

A party with a retro theme?

The third stroke of neat work in Piesiu’s mini-gallery is up next. This is ‘Classics’, and correctly points to a retro-party, but misleadingly to a gaming theme. Still, I hope we see much more of this relatively new artist in future productions.

"Classic", but I don't see any classic demos here?

Here is another iteration of the cross-fade overlaying effect I struggled to describe earlier. This one displays on a bigger screen area and features more smart converted photo based work.

Not sure what it is, but it sure looks pretty!

A boost to the coding side of things next, what appears to be graffiti textures scrolling up a concrete wall, and in a sort of 3d-ish manner as well. Taken in conjunction with the tune, which sounds to my ears, a little bit POKEY-ish in places, this intro feels like how the Polish Atari scene might like to do an Atari 8-bit demo on the ST.

"My graffiti is scrolling off up the wall?!"

Winding down to the end, and the makers of this invitro belatedly realise that the ‘invite’ remit of the intro still remains largely unfulfilled. The majority of invitro’s at this point default to a text displayer of varying degrees of dullness, with the entire party information which you’ve generally already read about. Here, they solve the problem with another effect in the top half, a folding torus thing, with some text announcing a date and website URL in the bottom half. Job nicely done!

"My torus is feeling a tad unwell but is putting a brave face on it."

All too soon, its over, with a final screen usefully displaying some creator credits. Namely the concept by Grey, music by Yerzmyey, graphics by Piesiu, with the code by Klocek.

The music is a tingly buzzy lively work from Yerzmyey. There were some concerns about this being a re-used Speccy 128 tune, but I think it fitted the intro perfectly well.

Anyway, a fine invitro for a party which I didn’t get to, but looked like they had a blast, and some nice productions were released.

CiH for Low Res Mag, December 2010.

Appendix

February 4, 2011

By DHS for the Atari STe

This demo was described as a compofiller for the Sommarhack 2010 party. It was the last in a distinguished line of Atari STe demos going back to the release of ‘More or Less Zero’ at the 2008 Alternative party. This demo was intended to announce the end of a higher activity period for the Dead Hackers, who were taking a well-deserved break for the rest of 2010.

In some respects, this demo might be seen as a sweeping-up of so far unused routines, or else trying out one or two things which weren’t quite ready. However, I would consider that there is enough here to make it a worthwhile standalone production, even with its buggy party release flaws intact.

At the very beginning, the music starts. This tune is from 505, who’s appearance in most contemporary Atari demos is almost as ubiquitous as Mad Max was, back in the olden days.

The first effect to get things going as it were, consists of some kind of blobby bloody plasma background. There is a mad whorl of dots in front of it. There are many dots forming what looks like an amazingly complex knot.

Dots and dots!

We have to know who was responsible for this, so there are creator credits drawn in a bold blue font, that turns into a swift and decisive melt-o-vision swirl to banish themselves offscreen.

Proteque is halfway through transforming?

The next part is intriguing. This feels a bit like a not-quite realised beta version of something? It looks like the top part or crown of a globe with a 3d fractal thick vector line landscape rotating with it. Looking at the relatively slow framerate, this one is definitely realtime and pushing the STe hard. It seems to sit outside of the mood of the rest of the demo, which is a super smooth oldschool effects fest.

On top of the world ma!

A return to normal service follows, with a 4 pixel RGB plasma, in a very full screen, three is just a bit of side border left.

Plasma fun

At first glimpse, this next screen looks a lot like a screen from the Sommarhack invitro. It has a piece of ‘design’ graphic to the right and what appeared to be a plasma effect midscreen. When running for a bit longer, the the ‘plasma’ is revealed to be a rotated and zoomed bitmap. So a nice variation on an old Sanity favourite.

Rotate and zoom has its eye on you!

The not completely debugged grand finale is a screen which would have pride of place in a demo from 1990 or therabouts. In the background is a Lost Boys-tastic chessboard scroller. This is fullscreen, very fullscreen. There is a little bit of glitching from time to time, which they may fix, one day. In the foreground, no, right in your face is a huge goldbrick font scrolltext screaming across the screen from right to left.

The chunkiest scroller since god was a carebear?

When the text ends, then that is more or less it.

Creator credits are, Code by Gizmo and Evil, Music by 505, and graphical input from Proteque, who is proving his worth more, day by day.

Overall, this is another nice intro, a worthy Dead Hackers production, even if it felt a little truncated and over too quickly. I hope a version 1.1 does see the day to tidy up the loose ends, but I won’t be too upset, or surprised if it does not.

CiH, for Low Res Mag, December 2010.

Coast II Coast

February 4, 2011
 ____                _     ___ ___    ____                _
/ ___|___   __ _ ___| |_  |_ _|_ _|  / ___|___   __ _ ___| |_
| |   / _ \ / _` / __| __|  | | | |  | |   / _ \ / _` / __| __|
| |__| (_) | (_| \__ \ |_   | | | |  | |__| (_) | (_| \__ \ |_
\____\___/ \__,_|___/\__| |___|___|  \____\___/ \__,_|___/\__|

–= by Sector One =–

This two handed effort by Zerkman and Dma-Sc was one of the pleasant surprises from the Sillyventure party.

This production is a 4ktro which manages to pack in quite a bit into its limited size. It can run on any ST, but needs at least 2 MB to be able to run.

A long time loading and decrunching is indicated by a progress bar at the beginning. This is not really an issue, as you will see. A tune starts up. A decent soundchip tune. You have to keep reminding yourself that this is “only” a 4k demo. A thought which will come back several times during the course of watching it.

The intro abruptly springs into life with a fractal background, topped with a smoothly rippling dot plasma in the colours of a Polish flag. The other major achievement here is a complete border-kill. That’s right, it’s in fullscreen mode. A major achievement to get this working on different members of the ST family, let alone with only 4k to play with.

Intro with Polish flag

The second part reminds me of a lot of screens that were made in the early nineties when fast fractal drawing was popular. For some reason, Sector One are channelling the Black Monolith Team in a Delta Force demo with this screen. The top and bottom borders are killed here. The screengrab below shows the fractals in mid-change. Fractals shown in this way are very oldschool, some might think a little bit too old, but I daresay there was a lot of work put into a super-optimised fractal engine to fit in the 4ktro, so major kudos and respect to the coders flies from this keyboard.

Fractals caught in mid-swap

We drop back to a repetition of the first part, with one important change. The rippling dots have changed from Polish to French colours. This adds up to an impressive intro, as we keep telling ourselves, this is only a 4k demo.

Outro with French flag

In conclusion, a pocket-sized marvel that could fit into a mouse’s pocket quite easily

CiH, for Low Res Mag, December 2010.

Sventure by Paradox

February 4, 2011

Sometimes known as ‘Pozdrawiena do Gdanska’

The Sillyventure 2010 party produced a number of pleasant surprises. This little intro from Paradox was among them.

‘Sventure’ is a fairly small but nicely executed work. A functional but smart title screen appears, and a pleasant melodic Maxymiser hybrid soundtrack from 505 starts.

The title screen

We are taken through a series of creator credits quickly, without fuss to let the demo get on with stuff quickly. The full version from the info file goes something like this.

Soundtrack:                                   505
Replay and maxYMum support:     gwEm
Graphics:                                       Dan
Graphics support:                          Zweckform
Font:                                              Dan (based on Cosmic Jam demo)
R/G TrueColour Algorithm:           RA (who also coded the converter)
Code:                                             The Paranoid

This next part has a screen capture which is not completely effective in capturing what happened next. A giant star appears, and an Exocet styled rabbit draws in over the top of it. The completely green capture does not show that the rabbit is interlaced (flickering slightly) and displaying a better colour range than just the shades of green you get here.

It's a Wabbit!

From there, we’re onto the main effect of the demo. This has echoes of part of a screen in the 20 Years Atari STE Megademo known as ‘Cubes, Ribbons and 3D Flybys’. We are talking specifically of the Gouraud cubes processing through the screen with a backdrop of Exocet’s bunny.

Attack of the cubes

There are two more variations on this effect to take you to the end of the demo. A nice little ‘extra’ is that the screen sometimes bounces around with a particularly strong drumbeat.

Dutch colours at a Polish party!

The last part has a timeless message which we’re strongly inclined to agree with.

Yes indeed!

Then it is all over rather too quickly. This feels a bit like a partyfiller, but a decent quality one. As a lifesign from Paradox, it is encouraging and we hope to see something more substantial in the future. (Subject to nappy-soiling ‘real life pressures’ on a certain group member perhaps!)

Some might say that there was a certain amount of recycling going on, making this a very ‘ecological’ demo. However, it is giving a second look at a nice effect we enjoyed a lot the first time around in the STe 20th Anniversary demo so I’ve no objection to seeing the goraud cubes again.

CiH, for Low Res Mag, December 2010.

Visualize by Checkpoint

February 4, 2011

A Tale of Twelve Screengrabs.

Checkpoint released a very untypical (for them) production at the recent Sillyventure 2010 party in Gdansk. Rather than opt for the usual approach of Defjam coding the kitchen sink to death and throwing it all into a mega-epic mega-sized megademo, he’s gone for a tightly synched and tightly designed production based around a smallish number of core effects subordinated to the overall style.

He’s also gone for a less colourful grungier style, possibly an Atari take on the controversial ‘marmite-style’ love or hate noise demo often seen on the Peecee. To be fair, there was a favourable effect to noise ratio in here, but there were other visual issues raised in the eyes of some people who cried “Please make the red flashing screen stop!” On the audio front, 505 provides a suitably dirty soundchip track. The demo as a whole only requires a 1 MB bog-standard STFM to run with.

I’ve decided on a slightly different approach to reviewing this one, to avoid a dull and derivative run-through. (“Never stopped you before CiH, why be different now?” – SHUT UP! Damn traitorous voices in my head!)

As the subtitle suggests, I’m going to look at some screengrabs, taken at different points in the demo, with a commentary on each of those.

First bite..

Crazy scroller, runs on bare metal and 68000 code!

We are first exposed to probably the craziest, maddest, twisting and turning sineous scrolltext. With shady blurring, and zooming from the background to the point of popping out of the front of your screen in three dimensions! The static screengrab simply cannot convey how slickly this one flows.

Second chomp..

Solid cube tries to upstage the rest of the screen.

A coarse and chunky background does some shifting around and transforming of its own before the cube joins in. This capture was at the moment when the cube was caught looking its best.

Third taste..

It's a lock, symbolic of something..

A series of single plane images, taken in conjunction with the flashing screen, you felt like yelling “Aciiiied!” like it was 1989 all over again.

Fourth lick..

Contrary to what this image is suggesting, this demo is NOT pants!

Another one in the series described above. I’m not sure of the theme in this case, maybe Defjam felt he needed some safety pants at this point of coding the demo?

Fifth feast..

Plasma raster plasma thing!

It’s a plasma, or rasters, or ermm dammit, I dunno! I’d vote for plasma rasters. This screengrab, like many others, fails to convey the sheer mobility of this effect.

Sixth Swallow..

Seriously, how was this one done?

I found myself staring at the margins of this effect rather than the middle somewhat overmuch. I was screwing my eyes up trying to believe what I was seeing. Is Defjam channelling a Dildo Fatwa screen, but more effectively. Is that really some kind of ascii noise jam he’s just pulled off? It fades, it blurs, it uses parts of the Atari ST character set?!

Seventh gobble..

If you see anything like this coming for you in real life, run!

Okay, I think these are rasters, with noise. It looks like he’s still doing perverted things with the Atari ST character set to get an untuned telly static noise from it? Could you make something like a Peecee textmode demo from the humble ST?

Eighth eating..

An explanation, is needed!

Ah, that explains the ‘why’ part at least. I hope Defjam feels like spilling the beans on the ‘how’ sometime?

Ninth nibble..

Consider yourself greeted!

A welcome return to the wild scroller seen in the first part. These are the greets.This screengrab is a perfect capture of the effect in mid-flight. If you look closely, there appears to be stippling of the lettering of the sort which you might see in a more avant-garde ZX Spectrum production.

Tenth chewing..

Don't go towards the light... Too late!

It’s a coarsely drawn texture tunnel, with light beams forming the ribs or structure of the tunnel. What you don’t get to see unless you run the demo is a camera position that is completely mobile in three dimensions. It is very smooth too.

Eleventh ingestion..

Tunnel wall unity starting to break apart.

At the point where the tunnel structure is starting to change to light-blobs. At this point of the demo it is still indecisive and changing back and forth. “Light-blobs? No, tunnel!”

Twelfth and final course..

A scattering of light to finish with..

A selection of light-blobs after the final transformation from tunnel-based love and mayhem.

And did I mention that this demo loops, so you can leave it on as a shop window displayer. It also comes in a file format which is handy for hard disk fans like myself. Defjam has threatened to make a boot-loading version because he is a fan of that technique and has unlimited access to the pristine condition double-sided floppy disk magic tree. Also that the creator credits are very sparse, just Defjam and 505 were involved in making this one. I don’t think they needed any more people, any graphicians would have felt very sidelined.

Anyway, I’m off for now, still scratching my brain at how Defjam did the textmode part.

I’ve been CiH, it’s been a blast, or a blasphemy, or something else beginning with a ‘B’, goodnight!

CiH, for Low Res Mag, December 2010.

TalkTalk 2 by Excellence in Art

February 4, 2011

The Church of Excellence in Art

In a generally quiescent 2010 even with some notable highlights, this demo stood head and shoulders over the rest. Per Almered, aka XIA, the one-man band known as Excellence in Art unexpectedly returned to the Atariscene last year with a cool rebirth production titled “Just then I thought I was out / They pull me back in”. Since then, heavy hints were dropped that something more spectacular was due to follow at the 2010 Sommerhack party. This demo is the offspring of a year’s coding and general effort.

Out of all the demos I’ve reviewed for this issue of Low Res, this one has given me the most agonized speculation of how to achieve a textfile that does not fall over into a dank puddle of lame dullness. The problem is that the normal ‘run-through’ style of review, which is fine with more overtly technical demos, completely misses the point for a production where the story plays the main role in keeping the demo in the air. In other words, we end up doing a worse job of retelling the tale with monochrome text, that XIA told so much more fluently onscreen in the first place with his music,  pixel-bashing and demo coding skills.

It took a little while to find a way in to review this in an alternative style, but I think I have a method now. We have the magic power of screengrabs on hand, I am motivated to fit the following suggestion with a bunch of suitable screenshots to this article and run from there.

“Every great demo should have all of these elements in it!”

“Please wait..”

1. A beginning - A swirly thing captured in the middle of a loading screen. This demo runs on an STe, it kicks the sacred “two floppy rule” into lower Earth orbit by a considerable margin. Still, some of us are pleased to have a demo which properly uses hard disk storage. In my case running this demo helped me look in the right place to ‘unlock’ a small part of my UltraSatan bulk storage system that had been giving me a few minor ‘issues’, so my eternal thanks goes out to XIA for that one.

XIA has got his demo coding feet on..

2. Some legwork - Feet stomp across the screen in the intro part. Legwork can also come to symbolize the uncounted hours of drawing, composing, coding, testing, linking together, not to mention the facepalm related damage to the front of the head when something doesn’t work as intended, yet again.

Church of the pixelled mind?

3. A properly religious sense of devotion - There is a medical reason why a priest preaches from a pulpit down to the congregation below. The congregation has to look up and it’s something in that action that affects the supply of blood and oxygen to the brain, heightening feelings of religious devotion or some such thing. Anyway, this screenshot provides a useful hint that the correct posture to watch this demo is on your knees looking up to the screen!

"Please stick these simple instructions in your ear.."

4. User-friendliness - Since the debacle with ST Format, where the reviewer failed to get away from the menu screen of a megademo they were reviewing, it has been prudent for demo coders to include some easy to follow simple instructions at the appropriate point.

Pointing the magic finger in the special place!

5. Simple to follow instructions - (Continuing from the previous paragraph.) It’s a shame that ST Format aren’t still going, as their reviewer could benefit greatly from acting on this screengrab!

"Bees, bees, bees, on my knees, knees, knees!

6. Realising that we only have the one planet - In these ecologically dangerous times, we can all do our bit to help matters. Here, you see that XIA is providing a healthy stimulus to the endangered bee population. Good work there!

"Code your funky rhythm!"

7. A ‘code-aroke’ moment - The Senior Dads (God bless their souls and quickly compost their corpses!) started this tradition of code-aroke, or displaying code onscreen as part of the effect, back at the first Alternative Party in their ‘Monomental’ demo in 1998. XIA is paying tribute to this great tradition here.

XIA touches his fan-base!

8. Acknowledgment of and praise for minorities - There is a belated recognition among the more politically correct demo coders that certain minority communities have had a raw deal from the demoscene in the past. Here, XIA is attempting to singlehandedly apologise for the excesses of the Amiga Gayscene!

Pointing the magic finger in the special place part II.

9. Slowly dawning realisation - Sometimes, really big new ideas need time to settle in. The epic running time of TalkTalk 2 allows for this, fortunately.

Maybe he's right?

10. Wise words from the author - I guess we don’t need to add anything more to this caption. Job nicely done, XIA!

Who's this chap?

11. Light.. Do you know who it is yet? He seems like a cool guy.

Oh dear, it becomes clearer!

12. And Darkness.. The same guy got up out of the wrong side of his life. People are complicated and multifaceted things, capable of great goodness and evil, often together. It is a rare demo indeed which touches on this.

A twisty bar interlude type thing.

13. A drop of the swirling stuff - When thought-provoking stuff is whirling at your brain, the wise demo coder takes the pressure off with some eye-pleasing swirly bars.

Raster bars, we are forewarned.

14. Comedy raster bars - Any demo can carry a message with serious and meaningful impact. The best of these remember to insert a lemon slice of humour into the gravitas cocktail. In this case XIA has chosen soluble sugar raster bars for his extra special ingredient.

Realtime lines awarded by Kalms.

15. A little help from your friends - Although you may be able to accomplish a lot as a one man band, any help from your scene buddies is always very useful. Kalms and Evil being two people who spring to mind right away.

XIA's balls are shiny and well-polished.

16. Balls of steel - A demo with ideas as the main engine, over the effects needs someone with balls of steel to carry it off. Thing is, I’m sure that most people stop at two?! XIA has some awkward biological questions to answer!

That's your lot for this one!

17. A clean safe ending - A great demo will glide effortlessly to an appropriate conclusion.

—————————————-

This demo was generally well received. There are flaws, such as the issue of needing the whole 4 megabytes of STe to run in. The demo appears to be entirely loaded into memory before kicking off. I’ve no issues with sizeable data files on the hard disk but ask if it is possible for a more optimised disk loader which does its thing ‘on the fly’ for those people who might not have the full fat amount of memory in future?

I would ask really nicely to see if XIA could borrow a Falcon 030 so we can have a truecolour version next time as well?

Also some people have considered the preachy bits to be, well, too preachy. I don’t have any problems with this at all. ‘Message’ demos aren’t that common, and XIA carries this one off with just the right sort of lighter touch interleaved throughout.

This skill at communication through the art of pixels was combined with a surer feel for the coding side. There were some moments of excellence such as the fake reset ending the introduction, and the whole was very well synched together. In a quieter year, but still a year maintaining high standards, this production is the stand-out of the year, and I would consider it to be the Atari demo of the year.

I am hoping that Excellence in Art have future plans for 2011 and beyond, and look forward greatly to the next time.

CiH, for Low Res Mag, December 2010.

Always in the sleeping room at parties?

February 4, 2011

It’s an inescapable fact of life, something that occupies your waking hours, in spite of your doomed attempts to sidestep, sidestraddle and otherwise confound the issue. We’re talking about the hot, or not so hot, more bleary, red-eyed and incoherent topic of sleeping at demo parties. This little article takes a closer look, with some fondly remembered accounts of  various means of avoiding, getting or enhancing this over the past sixteen years of personally hard-won party* battle scars, even harder won beerguts and ogling things on a bigscreen that made you go “Oooh!”

1. Sleepless fortitude, or trying to run and hide from it.

“Also, back then, sleeping (properly) was really not part of the party experience ;)” – Nerve, quoted from Pouet.

Back when I was younger, and the demo scene and demo parties were in their infancy, many people tried to brazen away many of their more tedious bodily requirements. Being a hardcore scener demanded a macho approach to many things, coke drinking, pizza consumption, dissing rivals for alleged lameness in executing almost identical demo effects and so on. Likewise, someone who managed to stay awake for the whole three days of a typical coding party attracted a large degree of horrified awe. At least one person per party managed this, to be dragged off as a dribbling wreck shortly after the party finished no doubt. For some inexplicable reason, the final denouement was never recorded in any party reports or realtime texts.

Apart from the deliberate attempts to macho away the onrushing trainwreck of total collapse by different people, there have been several other occasions experienced by this writer of extended periods of enforced consciousness resulting from shitty-lucked ‘issues’ or good old fashioned cockney cock-ups relating to sleeping arrangements.

Symposium 96, the party forever doomed to be name-checked by me in these kind of round robin articles, had ample experience of sleep lackedness. Apart from the generally poor sleeping area, more of which will be discussed later in the article, there were long periods of total sleep-lack, particularly with the arduous journey there and back. For that first time, for reasons of cheapness and poverty, we opted for an overnight coach journey to Hamburg that was rejected by the Spanish Inquisition as “too inhumane, Torquemada knows, we like to make them suffer, but not by THAT MUCH! What were you thinking you crazy dude?!”

I personally discovered a number of things on the way there. 1. The Eurolines coaches dwarf seats are barely adequate for shorter journeys, let alone 24 hours at a stretch. 2. The autobahn has enough vibration and bumpiness to stop you sleeping. This may be a good thing though if you are the driver. This recalls an old joke, “I’d like to die peacefully sleeping like my dear old dad, and not terrified and screaming like his passengers.” 3. Eating is a very good substitute for sleeping at that stage, where do you think the concept of midnight feasts came from? 4. Felice had a blummin’ loud voice at that time of night! I think he was very tired along with the rest of us and didn’t quite realise it at that point. On the way back, where no sleep at all was possible, not even a pathetic attempt at such. 5. So I discovered that I could hallucinate sounds and started to have waking dreams of Commodore 64 SID tunes. So it was hardly surprising when I finally got home, I crashed out straight away and it was around fifteen hours before I first came to, and promptly went back to sleep again.

The other stand-out episodes where I simply tried to stay awake regardless of the cost are both related to different editions of the Alternative Party. The first 1998-bound episode at Turku resulted from my assessment of the limited and loud sleeping area as being too much hassle to organise, so I opted to keep going. The legenday analogue realtime as-written-on-paper-handtowels faithfully recorded a desperate and slowly losing struggle to stay awake. As I recall, I eventually managed a whole hour(!) that first night, of something which wasn’t really sleep, on a too small couch in a brightly lit computer room. There were other issues with air beds which will be discussed at the right time.

The record for staying awake by me, is close on 48 consecutive hours. This was the 2005 Alt Party Inc edition, where we gained a head start the night before the party. An early flight meant an 02.00hrs pick up by Felice, so we didn’t bother with mere trifles such as going to bed. This approach worked, but was not pretty to watch. The original plan was to sort of catch up with some sleep at the party as soon as reasonably possible. Unfortunately, no-one tipped off the baggage handlers at our connecting airport that we badly needed our sleeping equipment on the same flight as us, so it wasn’t. The whole dilemma was neatly summed up at the time on a realtime text with the following comment. “Saturday? It ‘aint stopped being Thursday yet!” At that point, we’ll draw a line under that one!

2. The good old fashioned kip where you drop approach.

I’ve never done this one myself, but we have reliable sightings, both at Symposium 96, where a very young Defjam coded up to the blissful moment when sleep overtook him on the spot as he left it too late to go to bed, and he ended up using his desktop and assorted hardware as a pillow. Something similar happened to Tat of Avena, but that may have been more of a deliberate decision on his part due to the poor quality sleeping area on offer?

Unknown person at 2 Alt Party (Slengpung.)

As described previously, when fatigue comes a-calling, I’ve staggered around like a wounded stag for half an hour with enough barely remaining decision making power to choose a place to drop. I must say I’ve never kept going that relentlessly until I… ZzzzZZ!

3. There’s a flaw in this floor.

Some people have the happy(?) knack of turning up just in their day clothes and using nothing else perhaps apart from a thin strip of a foam rubbing sleeping mat, and they can sleep on this extremely limited arrangement. I have managed to sleep on a floor on a couple of occasions, once through choice at a smaller UK based gathering, the other due to small but vital and missing airbed components at the first Alt party. I have to conclude that yes, it is possible to sleep on the floor, but the process isn’t that enjoyable and the end result not what you could call deep and satisfying.

4. An automotive place of restful repose?

My coldest party was m&s 2002. went to bed totally drunk at 11pm (in my car) and woke up exactly 12hrs later – and it was still dark – i was not sure if i had only a SHORT nap and was like wtf?! because it was so fuckin freezin cold – finally i found out that my windshield and stuff got snowed in. fallingbostel. april. great :)” Pro, quoted from Pouet. And I’m glad it’s not just me who felt the full force of Mekka Symposuim 2002! (Ed)

Some people bring their own modes of transport which can be made to double up as sleeping accommodation with a little effort. This is fine if you are driving over in a camper van. A number of these might well attend with some better prepared demosceners at more rural parties. Camper vans come in a wide variety of sizes up to a rockstar touring trailer home.  Generally they come with a reasonable simulation of home luxuries such as beds, a kitchen, bathroom facilities etc.

This idea is not so clever if the vehicle is a normal car-sized car. These are not optimised for sleeping in and are notoriously tent-like with their insulation and heat retention properties, ie. not at all. It can be said that sleeping in a car is good interim training for sleeping rough as a homeless person.

5. The magic missing ingredient?

“People with problems sleeping at parties clearly are too sober.” (Punqtured, quoted from Pouet.)

I’m writing this article so far whilst oblivious to an essential truth. This will be remedied right now.

The beer-powered sleeping bag does its work! (Slengpung.)

Quite a lot of people will be helped in their quest for deep and dreamless sleep in the majorly grotty conditions described above with the help of lots of alcohol! It cannot be overstated just how much sleeping at demo parties is done with the help of multiple glass and metal containers of booze. Unfortunately, for more sober people trying to reach the state of blessed unconsciousness with some difficulty, alcohol can also result in the wrong kind of hyper wakefulness for some animated idiots shouting around them!

6. Air-bedded and embedded?

This method has been the mainstay of most of the parties I’ve been to. A good airbed combined with a decent sleeping bag can take care of most sleeping issues, as long as you don’t get one of those defective beds that slowly deflates until you awake on a cold hard floor an hour after you blissfully fell unconscious. Which has happened on a couple of occasions. These are keenly remembered for precisely the scenario I just described!

Other pratfalls, which I learned to avoid early on, include over-inflating so you are effectively sleeping on a pressurised rubber rock. To get a comfortable airbed experience, you should leave some ‘give’ in it. Also that packing in proper sheets and pillows add to the usability no end. We have to thank Havoc from many years ago for that latter tip.

You do have to factor in pumping up the airbed before you get too tired to think straight. It made sense for me to organise my sleeping accommodation almost as soon as I have arrived and unpacked at a party. This saves a job later on and gives an illusion of achievement at an early stage. Plus you’ve created a handy bolthole to deal with any daytime nap attacks should they occur, or just want to get away from the endless party racket for a quiet hour or so. I find it is an excellent idea to keep your airbed inflated for the duration of the party and kept in the designated sleeping area, so you can return to it at any point whenever the heck you feel like it.

So unless you are able to take up one of the more luxurious options discussed further on in the article, an airbed and sleeping  bag is a sensible, tried and trusted system to ensure a decent quality of sleep at demo parties. Where you may have problems still may well be problems with the sleeping space itself and the general ambience and noise levels, more of which we will discuss next.

7. Pardon me, but is the sound of my lying down in peace and quiet INTERRUPTING YOUR LOUD ONSTAGE ANTICS?!

This section describes the vexatious topic of sleeping areas which aren’t quite.

Many parties have a rich history of offering sleeping areas, which turn out to be somewhat tokenistic in nature. Generally this is a small room or random space on the floor, heavily oversubscribed and sort of hopefully distant from the main hubbub, but not really as things turn out. In this light, I take a few minutes to fondly recall the following.

1, Symposium 96, oh that one again, the sleeping room could have been fit for purpose, even with a degree of overcrowding, apart from the paraffin stove users, the casual theft and lung-cloying icy coldness mixed in with paraffin fumes.

2. Early editions of Alt Party, an unappealing toss-up between a noisy stage and stage facing area, and the slightly less noisy corridor area with stumbly-footed drunks. I fondly recall the coffin-style protective sleeping area I created from barricades of chairs at the old venue in Gloria. Didn’t stop the drunken eejit noises getting in though.

3. Error in Line had a variable track record, the junk room at the first edition was excellent due to ready provided foam mattresses, the second edition had a rather small room, the third edition a usefully sized and distant gymnasium building.

4. Mekka Symposium 2002 deserves a special write up all to itself… It was that bad, yes really.

5. Sundown 2009, didn’t really have a proper sleeping area as such. You just picked a spot where you could lie. I was sleeping backstage. Fortunately the overall noise level dropped right off at a reasonable time so I didn’t have any issues apart from the normal sleeping rough after drinking sensations.

6. On the other hand, I’ll commend the excellent provision at the 2000 Sillyventure party, which was in a school spacious enough to move the sleeping area right away from the main action. Also later ALT Parties have learned the lesson with a basement sleeping area that offers a reasonable respite as well. My favourite improvised sleeping area was the ‘borrowed’ lecture theatre at the 2000 Alt party which kept the noise out with the help of some wickedly thick ex-nuclear bunker soundtight doors. There were also handy airbed alternatives in the form of the padded lecture hall seating as well.

Some other more recent parties have been able to offer a better alternative to sleeping rough, due to the specific nature of their chosen venue. But I’ll get around to those now.

8. Camping up….

“For me TG94 (The Gathering) was the coldest (and generally most shitty) party . Not being allowed to sleep inside the hall (because of some electricity problems) so they managed to get a tent which they put up outside for people to sleep in. I ended up just rolling out the sleeping bag on a snowy plain.” – Mel, quoted from Pouet.

This refers to a couple of new scenarios. Some people at certain Dutch rural demo parties have taken the option of using the campsite location to set up their own canvas and cloth home away from home in the handily provided field. This is fine for naturally hardy people who like camping and care not for the vagaries of typical European weather. It is probably idyllic for those rare occasions when blissfully nice weather can be guaranteed. Otherwise for most other people, this idea sort of sucks and I wouldn’t do it voluntarily. Oh how I inwardly chuckled when Cal had to return to his dark and cold tent in a midnight thunderstorm blasted field earlier this year.

The graffiti paint is another insulating layer, like double glazing, for sure!

However, I do unfondly recall a previous Outline party where a teepee-shaped surprise was sprung on us without prior warning. But that was not the suckiest camping experience at a demo party, not by a long way.

Which brings me nicely to the second scenario. This is when a very large and important easter demo party in 2002 makes a really determined effort to provide sleeping accommodation which tries to tick all the habitability boxes including space and warmth. However this was let down badly by the execution of the thing.

The Mekka Symposium 2002 party provided a large marquee tent with hot air heating blowing in constantly, no doubt arranged at huge expense. But if I were the organisers, I hope they asked for their money back as due to a design issue with the properties of hot air rising, none of the heating actually reached the floor area where the sleepers lay. Combine this with a constant stream of coming and going, an imperfectly sealed tent and doors left open by unblinking idiots, the ground level area of the tent enjoyed the same low ambient temperature that could be found immediately outdoors.

And this picture perfectly shows just how effective the MS 2002 sleeping tent wasn't! (Slengpung.)

Now that SUCKED properly! Taking refuge in the warm main hall exposed you to an even more frenetic noise level than usual. The 2002 party was probably the party where I felt the worst during and after-effects of any party.

9. Dorm blimey, you’re gonna need the room with hardcore snoring!

We’re just about up to the present state of the art for the Outline series of parties. They opted to use campsites which have their own hostel or dormitory style sleeping arrangements in the main building. Generally these have been up to the task of providing a restful night and as good as you can get for most demo parties. A proper mattress even on a basic bed taken in conjunction with your own choice of sleeping bag is still better than an airbed. It is even possible to get dormitories according to sleeping habits at very recent parties. The ‘no snoring’ rooms are probably populated with delusional people who don’t realise they have a problem with nocturnal noises until it is too late, leaving us heavy snorers in (relative) peace!

No further comment needed here really..

For sheer entertainment value, and just to show that things can go wrong even here, there was the fateful year at an Outline party where the campsite had managed to procure beds with a structure seemingly made of matchwood and freshly mown grass. So they tended to violently collapse when slept on by pizza eating sceners, or indeed anyone of normal weight who couldn’t flutter onto the bed in the featherweight and carelessly rotational manner of a sycamore seed.

But otherwise this is the best option available, unless you go one step further, which I’ll talk about next.

10. Okay I give in, and I’m made of money, or desperately hoping the bank won’t notice that I’m not!

Finally, it is possible to opt out of the whole urban camping farrago and do the sensible, if expensive thing, and book into a hotel. For those people with money-shaped burn holes in their pockets, a selection of hotel and other paid for accommodation at a range of different prices is available. We have actually gone down this road on two recent occasions.

The Sundown 2010 party necessitated a hotel booking, due to the female contingent who would have naturally and sensibly objected to sleeping any other way. Oh did I mention that everything written about up to now is almost exclusively a male pursuit? Apart from scener girls and ladies, which there are quite a few of by now, but demo party sleeping is not something to be undertaken lightly by unprepared non-scener ‘civilians’ of a female nature. Or even, at all, if you wish to keep the relationship intact. We sort of wrapped a more general holiday around the Sundown party weekend, so booking into a seaside hotel in the seaside town we were partying at was not an unsensible idea and fitted in totally with what we were doing anyway. And it had breakfast too, a nice cooked traditional english style heart attack on a plate.

The Hansard House Hotel at Budleigh Salterton. Our sleeping room away from Sundown 2010. Quite a nice little hotel too.

People of a Swedish Atarian disposition have opted for something ritzy and upmarket when they came to Helsinki town for various recent Alt parties. They chose to stay at a nearby Holiday Inn, around five minutes walk away, and avoiding all of the issues described above at a cost. Due to a lot of people who might have provided off-party accommodation  not being available this time around, we’re trying that one this year ourselves. I will say that it scores very highly on the comfort levels, providing a fluffy haven of warm softness to provide welcome relief from the party buzz. I guess it might well feature again in a return visit to a future Alt party. In fact this may be the future in varying forms as increasing maturity overcomes youthful resilience to discomfort. However I’m still struggling to get past the feeling that I’m indulging in an expense account lifestyle when I don’t actually have an expense account and I will have to run and hide when the credit card bill comes in!

CiH – 22/23.10.10 for Low Res Mag, written in-party at Alt Party 2010. Some additions during 11.10 period.

For New Readers – What are these things called “Atari ST’s”?

May 15, 2010

This is the third issue of Low Res and we haven’t even come up with a newbie guide to all the different things we’re talking about with gay abandon. We might know of the subtle distinctions between an STFM and a Falcon 030, but they might not be able to spot the difference from an Oric and a CT60, even if their life depended on answering questions in a tough quiz based on the articles in Low Res.

So to try to make good some of that knowledge deficit and save the endangered newbie tangled up in an unlikely hostage situation, here’s a few notes for the benefit of the one new reader who might have stumbled across Low Res by accident. They may not be familiar with the different generations of Atari hardware and the model numbers we throw around in our articles. This is a very incomplete guide and it tends to stick to the 16 bit ST family of hardware.

Most of them sort of look like this.

‘ST’ is generally accepted to stand for ‘Sixteen thirty-two.’ as in the 32 bit nature of the 68000, with the 16-bit access path.

Atari ST, STF or STFM1985-87, 8 MHZ Motorola 68000, up to 4 MB RAM, 512 colour palette, of which 16 on screen at any one time officially, software hacks to get that up to all 512 then 4096 colours. No hardware scrolling, no blitter, a YM2149 basic sound chip with 3 sound channels, plus one noise channel. Seen generally in a single case design plugged into separate monitor, integral 3.5 inch floppy disk drive, Hard drive is separate external extra ‘ASCI’ non-standard add-on. Is the most common variant around and has the most support with the majority of games and applications written for it.

Atari STE1989, 8 MHZ Motorola 68000, up to 4 MB RAM, 4096 colour palette, of which 16 on screen at any one time officially, software hacks get up to 19200 out of 32768 (12-bit mode). Hardware scrolling supported, graphic co-processor ‘blitter’ on board, DMA 8-bit stereo sound with maximum 50 KHZ digisound replay. This is in addition to the YM2149 and both can be mixed together. Form factor as for STFM. Has stereo sound output and enhanced joypad  ports on the left hand of the machine too. Identical in appearance to the STFM apart from the badge on the case. Is pretty common, does not have so many games or applications written for it. Most developers ignored most of the extra features. A few games and rather more demos were (are still) being written for it in its later life which do take full advantage of the enhanced hardware.

This is a bare description which does not go into detail, but even this cursory view shows that the ‘E’ in STE stands for ‘enhanced’.

Atari TT - 1989, 32 MHZ Motorola 68030, Expandable fast-RAM, 4096 colour palette, several more screen modes than base ST including 16 colour VGA and a very high resolution mono mode. More hacks possible and being explored. Sound hardware identical to STE, no blitter. Internal expansion port and generally with a hard drive fitted. Is high-end member of ST family. Is found as separate low profile case and detachable better quality keyboard. A nice machine, rarer than the rather common ST and higher priced accordingly. Tends to be under-explored because of this.

Atari TT - A very tasty looking beast.

Mega-STE - 1991, an improved STE in TT-style case, also 16 MHZ 68000. Internal expansion port included, generally comes with a hard drive. Improved operating system TOS v2.05 or 2.06. Otherwise as for STE.

Falcon 030 - 1993, the final official production machine from Atari. 16 MHZ Motorola 68030, up to 14 MB RAM, 65536 ‘Truecolor’ mode, also includes 256 colour VGA support from 262144 colour palette. Many hacks to increase this. Blitter included, considered to be marginal to system as a whole. Massively improved sound with 16-bit 8 channel audio supported. This has been stretched. Still retains YM2149 for backward compatibility. Notable for versatile Motorola 56001 DSP (digital signal processing) chip. Usefully has internal 2.5 inch IDE hard drive connector, comes with hard drive. Also industry standard SCSI 2 external drive port. Has internal non-standard expansion port. Should have had TT or Mega STE form factor but crammed back into ST/STE style single case (with different coloured keys to tell it apart) as Atari in a hurry and dropping the ball fast at that stage.

Falcon 030 - A wolf in an old sheep's clothing.

There are a fair number of applications of all kinds to make use of the Falcon’s unique features, but not as many as we would have liked due to the early failure of official support and most development being of a spare time nature from then on. Falcon’s were not manufactured for a long time and are quite rare and tend to attract high prices on certain auction sites.

Falcon also tends to attract a lot of hardware upgrades due to perceived omissions on Atari’s part. Ultimate boost comes in the form of CT60 or CT63 which adds a massive Motorola 68060 cpu on a daughterboard with up to 512 MB of modern RAM. Other graphics enhancements are in the pipeline for this system.

Okay, that is a very bare and basic guide which does not go into all the details, and does not cover any of the Atari clones like Medusa or Milan. You will find the majority of articles do concern the machines described above, so there is enough to go on for now. (If someone else wants to go into more detail on the many Atari consoles and their 8-bit computers, then please go ahead!)


Links:
Atari Historical Society

Outline 2010, the misadventure continues..

May 15, 2010

Usual disclaimer: Large parts of the following will be done under the influence of some sort of alcohol and will be incorrect, both factually and morally speaking. Also parts of the allegedly ‘realtime’ report may be altered later on at the discretion of the editor, who might feel that some parts are too lame to stand up to later scrutiny. This is nothing at all new. Even parts of this first paragraph have been changed as more alcohol has been piled on.

18.33hrs, Central beer consuming time.

We’re at the Eersel planet typing away furiously on my pimped out Atari STE proudly sporting its UltraSatan.. Erm not quite actually, well the STE is at large, as is the UltraSatan. There was also going to be a borrowed screen in this appealing mixture as I have nothing which isn’t whale sized and CRT based for the  ST. A spare screen donated by the Felicing one was discussed prior to the party. An offer of a nice flatscreen telly was made and enthusiastically accepted by me. So I set off to Cambridge confidently on the Wednesday evening, the night before our departure. A relaxing evening was enjoyed with the usual hospitality and the additional company of Matthew ‘Gasman’ Westcott, a notorious UK demoscene 8-bitter (ZX Spectrum) musician and coder.

We went to bed quietly confident all was in hand. The following morning revealed an apparently flawless transfer of party related goods, chattels and personal effects to Felice’s car. We set off in a happy joyful party mood in the bright and sunlit morning. However, about fifteen miles or so down the road from Felice’s lair, we remember that we forgot to load the screen into the car. So I’m actually typing this on an imitation ST (Hatari, as you asked) on my ex-Perkins Diesel scrapyard escapee Dell Laptop instead! Hah well…

So the STE is sitting forlornly in the boot of the Felice Mobile, and I don’t
think that a spare screen is going to randomly ‘happen’ into the space in front of me somehow?

That small niggle out in the open, we will press on with the tools at hand. At least it keeps the issue of desktop clutter to an acceptable minimum. Right now, the Gasman is satisfying the retro hardware pimped to new heights of awesomeness requirement, with his Spectrum 128 attached to some compact flash reader. Lots of tape images with tasty demos lurk on there, and we have had some viewings, including one or two which ought not to be really on a Speccy at all. The name ‘Mescaline‘ lurks for later recall and screengrab nicking to post in this article.

Mescaline Demo, is that really a ZX Spectrum demo?

We have arrived, unloaded and met with a number of peoples already. Grazey, Calsoft and SH3 were sitting in the late afternoon humid overcastness when we arrived. We have met with GGN, Haomaru, and a plethora of Frenchies including Chuck, who was very interested in what Gasman was showing off. Baggio, Deez, the Nature brothers and PeP provide a Swedish focus, and Wiztom lurks close by too. There was even a surprise (within the last 10 days) appearance by one-time Alive Mag editor Cyclone, who had fallen off the planet in the last year. It looks like we will inherit the final version of the Alive 15 material, so it may get some sort of retrospective release.

But we’re getting too serious. At this point, there ought to be a picture of the new ‘OL Cat‘, who was anxious to meet everyone again. There is Grolsch and pizzas and other stuff available at reasonable prices. And I’ve managed to keep drinking since we arrived.

Baggy floppy OLCat!

I’m going to write a bit about the journey shortly, which was generally smooth, apart from one or two worrying at the time but retrospectively amusing incidents on the way over. But I think it is time to stop, recall what fresh air feels like, before I keel over.

20.08

Settling in now, more people here, pizza’s ordered.

About the journey over…

This was a repeat of the successful Channel Tunnel car based concept which has been used over the last couple of years. Apart from one difference, where we had the company of the previously mentioned Matthew ‘Gasman’ Westcott in the back seat of Felice’s car, in the space where a couple of anonymous plastic bags of chocolate chip cookies would have sat before. Not that the storage space was needed. We managed to fit everything in, apart from the #forgotten# screen. (Not going to let that one drop for a little while just yet!) We may manage to rehome the Commodore C16 which has been faithfully occupying boot space in Felice’s car for the last year or more, and which managed to make the journey out here with us, yet again. Assuming that Oliver ‘Paranoid’ Heun arrives here. He is down as attending this year.

Anyway, after the bombshell disclosure about the missing screen was made, I spent the next twenty or so miles imagining infinite torments for imaginary foes, which is quite a fun way of dealing with the stress of unwanted news for a bit. After that I figured that it wasn’t really going to matter and settled down to enjoy the rest of the journey.

Approaching a rush-hour morning at the Dartford Crossing.

The weather rose to the occasion, with an early summer promise. The Channel tunnel was open for business and able to accommodate our early arrival. After a leisurely stop in the terminal building to stock up on the new issue of ‘Viz’ comic and other essential equipment, we drifted languidly onto the shuttle train and settled down for an impromptu picnic from our pre-hoarded snackfood supplies. We looked ahead at the the car in front. This contained what appeared to be an escaped cat perched on the passenger front seat headrest.

We stared harder through a sausage roll overdose induced haze. It appears there wasn’t any attitude of undue alarm from the car’s human occupants. It may be the case that the cat was a very rare example of an easily travelled feline. My prior experience of cats in cars recalls something which should be treated with as much respect and careful handling as a stick of dynamite, wrapped in a fur coat. (They did coax it back into a cat carrier before the journey’s end.)

The train moves off and tunnel blackness ensued, thirty minutes later, we re-emerge into sparkling sunlight and disembark. We pressed on into La Belle Francais, where we encountered our memorable highlight of the journey.

A TomTom called Chucky, or the ghost of Fred West in the machine, or Captain Scumlord traveller murderer.

Felice has a TomTom navigator. This has done sterling service over recent trips to demo parties in European locations. This year proved to be no exception, apart from a period at the start where it felt unsure of its role in life, and more especially where it was at. We realised there was a problem when we were on the motorway and it started bellowing instructions for non-existent left turns and demanding that we reverse direction as soon as possible. Which would have been sort of fatal on the motorway. It seemed that an evil puppet with our fiery demise wrapped around the front bumper of a French bulk products tanker as its mission had taken over the TomTom.

“You’re driving through a field, turn around! TURN AROUND!!!”

A closer examination revealed a machine thoroughly confused about its location, as the screen showed we were in a field running alongside the motorway! Several reset attempts later put it back briefly on the right track before it got confused again. At one point, a road atlas was retrieved from the floor litter in the rear seat well, in case we had to hand-navigate the trip oldschool style.

Fortunately, just as I was trying to get my head around the mind-melting concept of the Antwerp ring road, a more considered stop and reboot appeared to finally do the trick. The psycho satnav ‘found’ itself, finally decided to settle down, get a short haircut and a proper job and stop messing us around.

We’re still unsure what happened at time of writing. Whether it was Russian hackers jamming the GPS signal, or we had fallen victim to a French ‘Secam’ style not-quite-standard version of GPS which was 0.025 of a degree out, we don’t know. It is significant that the service rapidly improved once we passed into Belgium.

(Fungle Beats is on the bigscreen. This is notable as the demo which I showed the fair Nicky to introduce her to the concept of ‘demoscene’ and she smiled sweetly, and looked blankly back at me. So that was a non starter.)

The rest of the journey was muggily warm but otherwise trouble free. Even the suspension taxing road surface at Antwerp appeared to have had some sort of upgrade since last year. So we arrived shortly after 16.00hrs on a different route from the small back lane we took last year, but easily recognising the landmarks and arriving without any trouble in the last mile.

21.00 – Pizza’s have arrived, ON TIME!! So we’ll break off for a bit.

21.37 - Food needs have been satisfied and in one case (guilty glance up to camera.) greed indulged. The pizza’s are the same as for any party. Averagely so so by any objective unit of taste measurement, eaten outdoors in twilight at a demo party with a choice of wine or beer close to hand, absolutely delicious! So good I had them twice!

The hall is settling down to a quiet first night routine. I’m throwing text into this journal, Felice appears to be working on something textual as well, and Matt is also working on an item of his own which looks a bit ‘codey’ in nature. There is a demo showreel on the big screen, all is tranquil at Outline, indicating a lull of some kind.

The Gasman, quite possibly doing something useful.

And I am definitely touch typing in demi-darkness. (Original typo ‘d’ instead of ‘s’ kept in, as it is sort of correct!) Delete key is a sod to source correctly in the low light conditions though.

22.20 – Delayed opening ceremony. Also Sqward has arrived and introduced himself. He looks very different from ten years ago. (Less hair than I remember from Error in Line.)

23.23 – A nicely symmetrical timestamp!

I’ve had a successful wandering around session, firstly locating Beetle of CT63 and CTPCI testing fame. There was the little matter of a mousemat that I had preordered and he had brought to Outline. A screenshot will feature below.

I've now got one of these! They rock!

At the same time he is one of the beta testers for the  CTPCI graphics card extension for the CT60 series. Development has moved on to the point where it appears to be functional. The CTPCI, Radeon and CT63 combo boots up on a 1600 x 1200 screen mode and looks blummin’ gorgeous with the right sort of alternative desktop. I took a selection of pictures, and I’ll sort out the best one for here. It seems to be able to breeze Aniplayer and zView, which are two of the main showcase apps for an expanded Atari 060 system. I’m sure there is still a lot to do, but it looks like real progress is being made to my untutored eye. 

Beetle's CTPCI expanded screen in plain TOS.

(Actually, having the chance to pretend sleep on the matter overnight, I recall that there seems to be issues with different versions of the CTPCI Flash ROM’s only working with some of the applications and rejecting others. A natural goal is to get one which is happy with everything that you might reasonably expect to throw at an ’060 system.)

CTPCI displaying an enhanced desktop!

At the same time, Nature Brothers have brought their SuperVidel which is being worked upon, so it will be interesting to see how that is progressing over the weekend as well. I picked up and talked to a few people on the way such as Nerve and a substantially bulked-up Havoc as well as some random other sceners such as Kusma and some of the Amiga members of Ephidrena.

00.01 – Which makes it day 2!!!

I’ve been to visit the DBug/Reboot farthermost corner in the hall. They were busily showing off a completely parallax crazy revamp of the Reservoir Gods fly-em-through ‘Superfly‘. This is intended for the games competition. There is also another Jaguar game to come from some French guys and a suggestion that ‘Superfly DX‘, as the new version is known, might make its way to the Falcon at some point

Of demo rumours, we’re not really sure. Defjam and the rest of team Dresden aren’t coming over after all, which was the best chance of a super smasher. There are whispers and suggestions of more ‘stuff’ in the pipeline from various people, but nothing so far to be released here? I’ll update as I get anything.

00.57 - The question is ‘weather’ or not the outdoors part of the party takes a turn for the wet and stormy. There have been large threatening splatters of rain and rumblings in the distance, with an intermittent lightshow in the suddenly very dark even for night time sky. The weekend weather fortunes are expected to be mixed at best, which means that there might be people forced to spend more time indoors and coding, rather than indulging in their great love for the chilled-out outdoors?

01.26 – The question asked earlier with the weather is increasingly being answered. Storm chasers can become storm armchair watchers as the wind is bringing rain and the threat of storms in our direction! The real party is rain-drenched! Small whimpering cries of dismay issue from the lips of those people who opted to sleep under temporary accommodation of the canvas kind in the adjoining field!

Meanwhile, I chant “I’ve got a bed, I’ve got a bed!”

01.45 - Felice is leaving the building, at least this part of it for the sleeping quarters. He has been enjoying the wine, or it has been enjoying him? The storm went as suddenly as it came, lighting plays in the distance but is going away so the tent inhabitants can get some rest unmolested by rain. There has been a Commodore 64 demoreel being shown on the big screen. Some seminal productions were shown, and at least one demo which looks like a C64 version of an Excellence in Art production for the STE, all fonts, scene poetry, slogans, tasteful design and minimal code.

About to put an end to any serious activity for today, so will update in the morning.

<—— Sleeping quarters preoccupy me here —–>

08.18 - Morning, no try again and… MORNING!!

We’re up and back after a sleep-light night in the ‘hardcore snoring room’. Not just any ordinary snoring room, but hardcore! Still, it’s better than being in the ‘lame’ snoring room. What is it with this endless drive to ever more finely categorise stuff? Life was much simpler in the old days, like last year.

Felice is up and about too. He claims to be fine, but looks every inch like the morning after the night before has hit hard. The bombed out expression and copious red wine stains on his person are a major giveaway here.

Quote – “It must have been just after midnight when I went to bed?” – Erm, nope, at that point the recording of time was in a particularly fluid state in the brain of Felice, like everything else in fact! (The fluid in question being red in colour and around 13.5% alcohol by volume!)

Anyways, I’ve been in the magic rejuvenating shower and feel like a young god (Ref Moondog), albeit one with a teeny tiny hint of tiredness scratching away at the back of my eyeballs and set to strike back harder later on. There is plenty of cool fresh air moving around outside so that might help. I’ve had a preliminary breakfast of slightly above body temperature coffee, some kind of edible styrofoam bar snack and a banana which was being handed around last night when I was admiring the pimped up CTPCI CT63 of Beetle. This will hold off starvation until the official brunch is ready to serve.

A Baggio contemplates his first coffee of the morning..

A small number of people are up, but only a small number so far, there might be time for another sleep attempt before the official brunch is introduced to the starving masses.

10.01 – More people but not a lot else happening right now. I’ve just taken a picture which depicts the UK election which I’m busily ignoring, and the demo party which I’m heavily enjoying. So some faked but scarily revealing headlines in ‘Private Eye’ alongside Gasman’s Speccy 128.

These sort of headlines aren't that far from the tabloid version of the truth!

It looks like there is a bit of a CT60 theme to the current demo showreel, as we’ve just had ‘Derealisation’, and are currently running ‘Silkcut’. We’ll find out if it is the CT60 port or the Amiga original when it hits the greetings part.

10.05 – Falcy version after all, question above is answered. The greets are greyscaled. That’s how you can easily tell them apart.

The big screen has now switched to an extreme oldie, 2nd Reality on da Peecee from those crazy mid-nineties days, acid swirls in the park, 486 DX’s for goalposts, young people today etc. But no sound and no iconic Purple Motion soundtrack, which is a major omission. So I’m listening to some Tao SID tunes instead.

Calsoft arrived in the building from his outdoor canvas refuge providing a wild night’s uneasy repose in the teeth of the storm so memorably enjoyed last night. His wild and hairy appearance testified to this.

Of additional interest, and widely trailed on the party website before we got here, today is ‘Queen’s day’, a public holiday in the Netherlands. People celebrate and dress up in orange, the royal house colours a lot. We were prepared and had our Outline t-shirts from a few years ago in that colour. The winner of the special prize for “Foreign person really trying way too hard to fit in” goes to SH3 for an entirely orange outfit from head to foot. The overall effect is something like an escaped Dutch convict in official chain gang clothing. (This was nothing compared with some other local dudes wearing giant inflatable crowns who turned up later on.)

Kev, the Tango cult called, it wants it's costume back!

Happy Queens day to you. And Gasman has returned.

10.52 – Bonus is in the building, with his oldschool Dutch scene vibe. This is cool.

Time to take stock for the party so far…

Good stuff:

Well we’re here, in spite of the killer satnav’s ill intentions.
Most of the other people that are supposed to come over have made it.
We’ve had lots of nice chats with those people.
Beetle’s CTPCI powered CT63 is seriously good, even at this alpha stage.
I have a new ’060 Power’ mousemat.
I’ve seen a wicked Jaguar version of the game ‘Superfly’.
The ‘OLCat’ tradition continues.
Mmmm! Pizza!

Judgement still pending type stuff:

Some people didn’t make it, Defjam and the Dresden team, Simon Sunnyboy, the rest of the Reservoir Gods for different reasons.
Still waiting for some others, Paradox team, Lotek Style.
Not really sure if anything happening demo-wise on the Atari or not?
Weather less hospitable than usual, chilly and overcast. (But storm late last night provided some awesome visuals.) It will be interesting to see how a more indoor focused Outline party might turn out?

Okay, that will be fine for now.

11.08 – Breakfast is SERVED! OMG, CiH got to the front of the queue, so you’re all doomed to starvation related stomach pains suckers! And this is nearly an hour early, so there is going to be someone misled by the ‘official’ time of 12.00 and they will miss out as the food will be all gone.

12.51‘Random Images’, my CD-ROM project, has been handed into the ever willing Earx. At last the ‘thing’ which has been hanging around for months is gone rom my things to do list! If you haven’t already found it, leach and enjoy! (Well a few days later anyway – Post party note.)

I also found out there are some demo stuffs at last. A Dead Hackers demo compo entry for the STE, along with something from Baah of Arms Tech/Positivity.

As the latter was a rather good Archie/RISC coder who started on the ST and appears to be returning to it, we look forward to seeing this. Also there is the inevitable BITS entry. How our hearts thrill to that news!

‘Pimp my Spectrum‘ is on the big screen. I spoke to Gasman about this. We knew the demo ran on a Peecee within a Speccy emulator. There were some differences, namely allowing for the full speed of the native hardware, some changes to the screen layout from Sinclair weirdness to something relatively sensible, and also for some of the 3D stuff, the native intel instruction set was used in place of the emulated z80. So nice to get an inside view.

13.28 – The Karsmakers, former diskmag editor for ST News, oh, eons ago, has entered the building on a cheese supplying mission, but not for too long.

14.20 – The Karsmakers has left, and gwEm has arrived. There will be a live set this year, and possibly a hasty search for a new venue for next year after the managers goodwill has been killed off by said live set? But hopefully not. I’m fervently hoping that we have got a campsite manager who does not read the Dutch equivalent of the Daily Mail Heil and goes into a frenzy of manufactured outrage against our machines. What would a Dutch edition of the Daily Wail read like? Headlines such as “Immigrants are causing Dutch elm disease and clog rot!”

"Now don't go upsetting any campsite managers this year gWEm!"

We had a nice in depth chat with Grazy, Cal and the orange convict Sh3, plus Topy44. We are informed that Karsmakers has not even touched anything with an Atari TOS for several years. His last point of reference for emulators was PacifiST and Hatari took him by surprise. He does still listen to soundchip music though. An ‘app’ that plays C64 SID music through an iPhone. I guess you have to make do somehow. The real party has been outside, as the sun has made a partial recovery against a stiff cool breeze. There have been some exciting marquee erecting adventures, as some basic cloth-based protection against the more excitingly damp weather possibilities has been put up over some of the benches outside.

From the back of the jacket of the person in front of me. “From my black throne, I will lash together a machine of bones and blood, and fuelled by my hatred for you. This fear engine will burst a hole between this world and that one.”

I still prefer “Gordon is a moron” as the ultimate way to diss someone off. Guess that’s my age and those deeply buried late seventies New Wave post-punk recollections?

16.18 – Things were getting desperate in that last extract, so I rested my brain for a bit, well it’s the afternoon of the second day and we’re not yet into any of the organised activities or competitions. Apart from the graphics and music compo’s, these have all been piled into Saturday. Going to look around in a minute to see if there are any changes or new arrivals.

18.09 – As expected, we’re in the lull before the evening period. A time for quiet contemplation, reflection and lighting of barbeques for those people who are undertaking a self-cooking option. This included Cyclone who was doing a fair impersonation of a bellows operated blast furnace in getting his reluctant charcoal to light. This was successful and a number of alarmingly coloured pieces of chicken were pressed onto the grille. Baggio joined in with his horses willy sausages, and ex-editor of Alive mag had generously over specified on his own portions, so the writer of this text got to share in the food largesse. Which was very good, just before the magically amazingly on time food delivery arrived.

Team Baggio and Cyclone set up their improvised cookhouse.

Tonight’s repast was hamburger and fries, with some kind of sauce from a usual looking range. Mine was the thousand islands lookalike.

In more lame commercial sounding news, the new range of Outline 2010 T-shirts and long sleeved shirts are now available, with prices starting at 13 EUR, get yours today! Well I did.

On stage there is a happening, as Numtek is doing a deejay set against a backdrop of demos playing on the big screen.

I’ve also found the party network, which is the place which will allow you to vote a lot later on. In another lame informercial sounding piece, I found I can use my new moby handset to access this, as it has WLAN capability and a minature version of a full querty keyboard. I won’t topple all the way into the lameness chasm, apart from mentioning the manufacturer is based in a northerly location where we often go to a demo party in October!

Lotek and ThorN appear, Paradox/tSCc put in a belated appearance. Closely followed by Paranoid and RA. Goody. that sorts out the C16 issue finally then.

19.21 - The missing Germans are setting up. They appear to be founder members of the bulky CRT preservation society. Suddenly deskspace availability is getting very ‘cosy’.

19.30 - ThorN updates us on a number of issues relating to the Low Res Mag and what is happening in the near future. This has been sensibly held back a couple of weeks to allow anything from the Outline Party to filter in. Such as this report. And reviews of any demos which do show up at the party. ThorN was hoping for some kind of internet access, but we had to gently point out that there wasn’t any, apart from the little bit that will allow you to vote on the competitions later on.

19.53 – An attack of bleeps announces Stu‘s presence on the stage area, and a hefty dose of YM stuffs made and mixed in Stu’s own special way. This is a warm up to gWEm’s appearance tomorrow.

21.00 – Stu played a blinder, lots of familiar stuff live, songs playing, people dancing, as a certain Spanish scener might put it..

The newschool music compo is about to start. Streaming music, or “Screaming Lizard”, according to Skrebbel‘s accent.

Well maybe screaming lizard attempting to make a distress call and drowned out by static and 180 BPM thumping, according to the first couple of entries.

It settles down from there. A bit.

21.30 – Gasman has opted for the two pizza “greedy bastard Special” that I enjoyed yesterday on the final pizza run. A fly attempts to add itself as an extra unwanted flavouring, but it is batted away quickly. So ‘secret sauce’ with chunky unmentionables is averted, just.

21.56 - Applause tinged with relief when the newschool music compo ends? There was nothing that memorable in there, although there were a lot of entries.

Next compo is the oldschool music. More familiar faces here no doubt.

The first Atari interest is from Stu, a tune made in Musicmon and with all Stu characteristics, heavy buzzy sound and low res sampled drums for a gritty sound.

Also a song from Timbral with some STe DMA sound as well. Mainly for samples to add something extra.

Now DMA is up with another STe compatible tune. This seems to be using some different tones from the other two tunes preceding it. Softer and melodic with some heavy bassy sounds in the background.

A YM tune from ‘Bioscillator’, with very little zik and a lot of ‘Tinkercore’ which is the audio counterpart to a ‘Dutch colour scheme’ or coder colours in a demo.

gWEm is up with an executable tune next. Some more agile sound stretching to disguise the crude nature of the soundchip it was born on.

And that is the end of the oldschool music competition. I guess a graphics competition or two should be on the way soon?

23.40 - A slew of underpopulated graphics competitions are ushered in and quickly begone. Highlights were mostly within the pixelled graphics (all four entries of it.) A nice refinement is to show the various stages of progress on the picture, to prove its origin as a freshly pixelled work of art.

In between times, we were sitting in the Reboot/Dbug corner watching a selection of old fake demos, including one which namechecked Felice in a rather embarrassing fashion from 1998, whilst he was watching it! (A Reservoir Frogs faketro.) Anyway, the anticipation is mounting for the main competitions tomorrow night.

In contrast to last night, there is plenty of outside party going on in the darkness, and no funny business with the weather to threaten it. Most of everyone due here appears to have arrived and the ambience is a lot more ‘busy’ than the relaxed atmosphere from last night. Okay, it is relaxed in a busy way then!

00.05 – Nothing to report apart from a new day, which is Saturday 1.5.2010.

Oh, and the EKO System demo is on the big screen.

01.20 – This will be the last official entry before sleepytime, whatever form that takes. We’ve been watching Falcon classic demos on the big screen. GGN had taken over the organisers machine and we managed to get to the point of requesting some particular favourites. Mine was Sonoluminescenz. At the moment the perennial show favourite of Felice, the Obnoxious demo, is running. Alas, Felice has gone to bed since, he may be having uneasy dreams as the familiar music penetrates the sleeping rooms?

I’ve been pondering another minor mystery. To what extent are people coding stuff successful from hiding their work in progress from a casual or not so casual gaze. A diskmag (now online journal) writer like myself will tend to own a pair of paparazzi eyes, always on the look out for that glimpse of something that should not have been shown semi-publicly for that precious exclusive.

My favourite historical coup was being put in a room with Stax, at the first Error in Line party, where I got a whole preview of their ‘Rumplekammer‘ demo before anyone realised that they were showing their secret production to someone who should not have been there.

For the purposes of making this query relevant, I’ve considered the behaviour of those people who brought Atari goodies to Outline of some description which they were coding on. The most badly failed attempt to keep non-disclosure comes from the DBug/Reboot team who set up in the far corner, but were not at all able to keep their brand new Jaguar game secret. On the other hand, just over their shoulders are Chuck and Zerkman who are constantly working on code and never seem to need to compile and test run anything, making them very successful at keeping premature disclosure away. Deez and Baggio of Evolution have managed to set up  in a corner which is not easily accessible and Deez turned his screen ever so slightly towards the blind corner of the room. Paradox don’t seem to be worried either way.

Of course the most successful way of protecting a new production from premature viewing before its proper order in the competitions would be to remain off site and send it in remotely. So the secrecy winning prize will be shared between Evil of DHS and Solo of BITS! Now share nicely, and no fighting guys!

Sleepyroom, never got that busy, only a few people in it, some proper sleep was obtained this time.

09.00 – Saturday morning.

It looks brighter and sunnier today, not a lot else to add so far.

Oh noez! Random people are adding random lines to my report.

Where is the realtimearticlecomputer? Is this it? //Baggio (hijacking cihs computer)

Realtime? There isn’t one! – You can remove your half-eaten sandwich from this workstation as well!

I’ve reunited the half-eaten sandwich with its careless owner, Baggio.

10.16 - We’ve spent the last hour in the DBug/Reboot corner. SH3 treated us to a showing of Doom 2 levels pasted into the Jaguar version of Doom. This is not intended for release due to the usual intellectual property issues. However it can be considered as a step on the road to something else even more interesting in the future. Matt Smith (Neo) is the person responsible for this. My memory of Doom 2 goes back to the Wellingborough computer club days, where multiplayer games were attempted through connected serial cables, none of that wifi stuff! We found that the levels were too huge in Doom 2 and the network tended to freeze up at times. Usually very inconvenient times in the middle of a bit where potential player death was being converted to actual player death.

10.59 - (Singsong voice) “DULL SENTENCE OF THE WEEK!” – Hanging on for breakfast, a trip into Eersel centre is on the cards afterwards. Gasman has re-emerged, these two things are not connected.

11.12 - Breakfast hovers around.. (Please amend this incorrect assumption, breakfast does not “levitate” unsupported in thin air, it does have a trolley underneath it! – Low Res Pedantry editor.)

12.03 – Breakfast is a fond memory in  the recesses of my stomach now. Felice has finally managed to offload the Commodore C16 that has been sitting in his car boot for over a year (correction, two years – ED) onto Oliver ‘Paranoid’ Heun at last. Here’s a picture of an ecstatic Paranoid receiving his gift.

Paranoid celebrates his newly adopted hardware family member!

12.46 – Lots of appearances from ‘Lethal Xcess‘ on various screens around the hall. This is going to be the game tournament game. I guess Cyclone is the sponsor?

13.36 – A small diversion into town with SH3 and Felice.. People back at home placating souvenirs were purchased in the local supermarket. SH3 purchased a real imitation plastic ‘fussball’ from some evil retailer for 9 EUR. This trip was quicker than expected so we’re back.

15.21 – We’ve had a little bit of afternoon japery. One which fell into the “Too slow to record this” category were the organisers sitting in the orga’s enclosure and “singing” along in a cat’s chorus to the ‘Stardust Memories’ tune in the Sanity Amiga demo.

“Meowww, meowmeowmeowmeow, me-owwww, mewmeowmeowmeow!”

Of more interesting interest was a DS look-alike with a Chinese copy of stuff, including emulators for Atari ST, MAME, SNES, Megadrive, and no doubt others. It also plays a nice game of Doom, so some kind of DOS Peecee emulation may be in there too? If you get it from the right sort of places, the cost is mere buttons, or around 20 dollars as I heard it. This was being shown off around the Reboot camp.

Not really a DS clone, more of a Gamepark style knock-off.

Oh, and it rained for a bit too. (Outside of course, not in the hall as that would have been seriously odd!)

15.34 – Animation compo is about to start.

A couple of ‘party’ collections were shown, one of which a frame by frame retrospective of Breakpoint, but the latter was taken from non-video sources. IE, someone with a normal camera, a busy shutter finger, and a camera memory card that can hold the whole of Bingen within it. The resulting pile of images being stitched together to make a video.

There were a couple of good funny animations as well. This competition has also given some of us a useful wake-up call as the crowding closer to the screen is getting to the point of not being able to see much from the back of the hall, even from our seats facing the screen. So we might need to get some seating near the front sorted before the main compo’s are running.

In some kind of recursive infinite loop of analness (anality?), I’m spending some of my precious and limited time at a demo party reading through the 1992 realtime article for another demo party in the distant past, namely “The Great British International ST Party”, otherwise known as the Bradford Party, a once and never to be repeated experience. This archivists treasure was originally sponsored by ‘Runrig’ of the late ‘HP-Source’ disk mag who became rather better known under a different pseudonym slightly later on. Well they only managed two issues, and the third is still forever waiting in a recursive infinity loop of its own, so yes, late it is!

And why only the one Bradford party? I guess, youth, inexperience, sheer blind luck, then university and finally work, work, work crowding in too quickly afterwards. Well at least we’ve now got Sundown in the UK, but that is a very different sort of party from the Bradford event. I’m planning on going back to Sundown this year, we’ve sort of booked a whole week in Devon around the dates. (CiH exclusive!)

16,25 – Game compo starts!

‘Iridium’ which is a re-imagined Defender games direct from the hands of the Calsoft people. In light of the other two entries, this is the ‘weakest’ of the three. Well it is still rather good, the platform chosen might let it down in some people’s eyes, the poor, obscure and undersupported Wintel Peecee! Who uses those things these days?!

Reboot proudly presents ‘Superfly DX‘ for the Jag which finally gets its moment of bigscreen glory! GGN may be sacked shortly for his pisspoor testing performance as the demonstration keeps getting cut short just as we get used to the soothingly smooth layers of multiple parallax on the screen. As seen from the preview, the showing looks smart and high end, worthy of a cool Reboot release. I hope GGN does get down to porting it to the Falcon. (No pressure from here mate! Well not much.)

‘Ladybugged’ is another Jag game from Cerebral Vortex Software Design, aka Jaguar Connexion, the French arm of retro-console adoration. This is a conversion of the arcade game Ladybug. This has a certain resemblance to Pacman with a major gameplay revamp. It scores well on presentation and design, as you might expect from the Frenchies. I still think that Superfly will steal first place by a whisker though.

So we have seen a small but high quality selection dominated by Reboot.

End of the game compo.

16.43 – The catering tonight is represented by a Dutch version of a fish and chip van called a ‘Hapkar‘ or frijtes wagon. Ordering is done with some pseudo-monetary system involving some old-style ration coupons, like in the war and stuff. So we’re having to eat fried foods to the sound of bombing raids, possibly? The good news is the relative cheapness compared to the pizza attack prices. It remains to be seen if 6 EUR’s worth will cover even the piggiest of greedy folk’s food desires here. I’ll let you know when I get my food critic on!

The Hapkar has a long queue.

I’ve also now got a votekey, the number is lost to all time but it is too late to use it now, I got there first. A preliminary check indicated that yes, the site was moby-friendly as well.

17.25 – The currywurst, erm, Dutch frijtes van rocked! I’m going to go back for some more in a bit when the queue dies down. That’ll be all my nasty but fun food requirements sorted for this evening!

19.03 - UUUURP! I definitely will not want another pizza now. I’m all stuffed with Dutch junkfood, not for the first time this trip. There were burgers, sausages, lots of special sauce with onions and mayonnaise, and lots of fries, lots and lots of them! So the Hapkar is a success.

At the time of writing, there is the live set from gwEm and 303F to go, then the demo competitions.

19.32 – gWem set rolling in, he has some issues with the inland revenue, in song!

20.09 A storming set all round, gwEm seems to be a lot more comfortable and in command of the live performance than he was when I last saw him two years ago. I enjoyed the whole set, there was a wicked twisting of the ‘Das Boot‘ theme, and a song, above, which expressed some unhappiness with HM Government’s revenue gathering processes.

Main compos coming up next…..

22.21 – Demo competitions have been and gone.

We’re looking at a smaller field than for some previous parties. Specific people staying away this year might have had an adverse downward count for the Atari demos, two of the three entries were remote entries from off-site.

For that all important ‘how did the Atari scene do?‘ question, there were a handful of bootsector entries from Paradox, and three main competition entries. A really seen it all before and by the numbers entry from BITS, a nice little single screen intro with monkeys in it by Baah of Arms Tech. The clear winner is going to be the Dead Hackers Sommerhack invitro, which bashes the STE’s ‘open borders’ to a new level with some nice set piece screens. I spoke to Nerve immediately after the compo who indicated their next priority was a new CT60 demo. Hurrah!

So we didn’t get anything from Checkpoint as they did not attend the party. They were a strong favourite to do something amazing. I’m sure that Defjam has code in hand and it will not go to waste. We await future developments with great interest. We didn’t get anything from the Frenchies although they did a PS3 retro tribute. They did appear to be working on a bunch of Atari code, so there may well be something for later in the year.

We didn’t see anything from Paradox apart from the bootsector stuff, nor Mikro/Mystic Bytes. To be fair, his focus is probably on helping test some of the new hardware for the  CT60. What we would term ‘Reservoir Gods’, namely PHF/DBug/Reboot were doing nicely with the Jaguar, with some anticipation of later Falcon conversion.

Evolution were here, but nothing to be released. It appears their current project is intended for a CT60 equipped with Supervidel, when that gets here. This is going to be a game. (Following on from the earlier topic about coders hiding their work from the public gaze, I did get a glimpse of a Devpac screen which told me what they were doing!)

The Peecee competitions were more manageable, including a demo competition with a very famous name in it. Said famous name produced a very slow ambient entry which will fiercely divide opinions. It already did with the two people I spoke to about it. SH3 is taking the Skeletor Negator line, whilst Nerve is more positive about it.

(Did someone say Farbrausch at this point, I think they did!?)

303F were delayed but we are getting the live performance from them shortly. The afterparty has started.

00.00 – Symmetry still rocks!

The last day, it’s nearly all over, apart from 303F who still think there is a party on. I’ve been on a nostalgia tour of a previous decade, well a couple of months in 1995 to be precise.That is the Maggie Party realtime from a long lost diskmag called Skynet, from an equally long lost John ‘Vogue’ Nott. There was even something of a short realtime article from when I went to Visit Rich Davey ‘Requiem’ at his parents maison in Portishead about a month before the Maggie 5th birthday bash. That really was a long hot summer then!

We were all a lot younger back then, well I probably wasn’t.

A few people have left, Lotek and ThorN have had to go. I will be in touch with him over the next few days about uploading a copy of this report to the Low Res WordPress site. The rest of us are awaiting a prize ceremony. There is a fair number of people outside where the ‘real party’ is. Well the real party is everywhere tonight.

01.55 – Results are in, here is the retrospectively added. We’ve culled the non-Atari stuff from the rather appealing original textfile with the full results. The competitions below are just the ones where “our” people were involved in some way.

——————————————————————————-
OUTLINE 2010 – Combined Atari ST Intro/Demo
——————————————————————————-
1    Dead Hackers Sociey – “Sommarhack10 Invite”
2    Baah / Arm’s Tech – “Frankiki”
3    BITS – “BITS 52 – MULTI SCROLL WITH WAVE”

——————————————————————————-
Atari Bootsector
——————————————————————————-
1    RA/paradox – “BiNARY”
2    Baah / Arm’s Tech – “Quad”
3    RA & Paranoid / PDX – “Boot Dis!”
4    paranoid + RA/paradox – “BLUEBOOT”

——————————————————————————-
Realtime Wild Demo
——————————————————————————-
1    Gasman / Hooy-Program – “DivIDEo:
2    Timbral / YMR / DHS – “Untitled”
3    Sector One / Dune – “retrostation”
4    Desire – “In Monaco”
5    Royal Belgian Beer Squadron – “Rewired 2010 invitation”

——————————————————————————-
Newschool / Streaming Music
——————————————————————————-
1    Stu – “Earth (Original Version Stereo Mix)”
2    Response/Darklite  – “Retrocession”
3    m0d – “Shooter Boss Reloaded”
4    Spexzter/Darklite – “I’m going to be”
5    Cosmiq / Inque – “Club Epoch”
6    EatMe – “Meow”
7    The Danish Musician – “Abfarth”
8    Cosmiq / Inque – “The last breakpoint”
9    Bassie / RBi – “Allnighter’s Child”
10   Dipswitch – “12.00 Dread”
11   Quantum of Arse – “Kabouter Bond”
12   discomeats – “Dr Bob and the Casiotones”
13   A-Flash – “Step Into A Rotten Spaceship”
14   Haohmaru – “Pizza Calzone”
15   Haohmaru feat. discomeats – “F_11″

——————————————————————————-
Oldschool Tracked/Executable Music
——————————————————————————-
1    Timbral / YM Rockerz ^ DHS – “So alone… (Live ver.)”
2    Stu – “Bombabazooka”
3    DMA-Sc / Sector One – “Troubled Memories”
4    gwEm/Psycho Hacking Force – “Afterburner”
5    Response/Darklite  – “”Exanthema” (c64)”
6    Loaderror/Ephidrena – “I like this Stu concert playing right now”
7    Fby Fabio Barzagli – “Virtuosismi Italiani :)”
8    syphus – “Jazzsniffer”
9    Bioscillator – “Rotterdam Atari Acid”

——————————————————————————-
Pixel Graphics
——————————————————————————-
1    Ukko – “Mister”
2    bracket / accession  – “Mr. Marvin is here to kill you “
3    illm / Apan Bepan – “Secret Admirer”
4    farfar/loonies – “look man, i just want some chips, see, some chips,
that’s all, just some chips. Turn that over man, it’s burning, turn
it over!”

——————————————————————————-
Game compo
——————————————————————————-
1    Reboot – “Superfly DX”
2    CVSD – “Ladybugged “
3    Calsoft (code)/Gasman (muzak) – “xnaIridium”
4    nUn / Next Empire – “ParaCunt”

——————————————————————————-

——————————————————————————-

There are some non-surprises here, DHS won the Atari demo competition, with Baah! and Solo falling into line in second and third place respectively. Reboot had a good night winning the games competition. We are also conveying a prize winner home, as Gasman managed to win the wild competition with his ZX Spectrum video streaming system off his CF-card, when it feels like working, as it had a particularly vivid five minutes of non-cooperation at the start of the competition. The symptoms are startlingly similar to the ancient malady of ZX81 ram pack wobble,

A sleepy Felice is retiring. It is rather chilly with no trace of any barbecue fires, so I think I’ll pause this until we’re back in daylight again.

10.07 (A startlingly rapidly arriving Morning) – This is going to be a rather swift termination of the realtime section of this report, followed by a retrospective later part. The mains power has been removed so we’re running on a limited battery. Also the very table this laptop is resting on is due to go back to its rental place asap. I got to bed some time after 05.00hrs, and encountered a lot of alcohol on the way! Some of us were very silly indeed but we managed to prolong the party feeling for a few precious hours more.

In case you’re wondering, I’m in surprisingly good shape but I’m sure I’ll pay for that later on!

Okay, time to log off before this table disappears.

———– Some non-realtime recollections ———–

(A videoclip from my moby stirs into life, flickering firelight half reveals a handful of faces sitting around it, there is a soundtrack, which is the tune ‘Legend of Middle Earth’ by Jess. (Which turned out to be the non-sidvoice version, to people’s mild disappointment.) This is playing off some small portable box with the appropriate software. Wiztom is one of the figures in the dim firelight, he speaks about the rain, which is very light, but imposing more of a presence as the morning goes on “Random drops but no proper rain”. The timestamp on the clip reveals it was taken at 03.35 on the 2.5.10.)

How did we get here?

Another videoclip now, this one was taken at 03.08 that morning. Grazey is confessing to the accidental theft of a shopping trolley from a ‘lovely old dutch lady’ in the local supermarket, where “They were all lovely, it was like desperate housewives, Teri Hatcher and stuff, wearing their leg warmers, walking about like this, and I stole her trolley!” SH3 is acting in the role of drunk father confessor and urging Grazey to repent, hysterics are overcoming the rest of the party, the writer being no exception to this whatsoever.

There were other conversations stirring in the alcoholic darkness, vague memories of long-forgotten but vividly recalled cricket matches in the Welsh hills, the useful role of the Pennines in keeping Lancashire and Yorkshire apart is discussed. A few things talked of which were filed away very deeply out of harms way. There was gWEm who really wasn’t going to stick around but got sucked into the inevitable white rum black hole with the rest of us.

Did I mention that some of the competition prizes were alcoholically based? Grazey, Cal, GGN and SH3 used their mind-powers to thwart the other prize winners from picking up these precious bottles. As the game competition was well down the running order, they had the pick of the remaining prizes, which were magically and mysteriously white rum based. It appears that two bottles made their way back to the Reboot/PHF corner. These were opened and shared out, some people taking theirs with coke, hardened idiots like me drinking the stuff neat.

At some point of time with a ’3′ in it, the party eventually staggered its way to bed, apart from gWEm and myself who were finishing off a couple of beers that SH3 had purchased and forgot about. I recall gWEm being concerned about the relative lack of Atari releases, and myself playing an optimistic devil’s advocate that things weren’t that bad really. Havoc was on night-shift duty at the bar and listening very patiently like all good bar staff do.

After which, we get back to the point where I went to join in with the remnants of the ‘party outside’, and the first mentioned video clip was recorded.

So I’m not sure when I went to bed, but I do remember Felice quietly pacing into the sleeping room at 09.30 to deliver a bedside bulletin about the disappearing table situation, which caused a rapid bed exit, showering and breakfast, intended to shock any waiting hangover into submission. This appeared to have worked.

There is not a lot more to tell, but I’ll do my best to pad it out anyway. Various people showed up, many of them bearing the scars and gravy stains from the night before. Wiztom was doing a particularly good animated corpse impersonation.

BlurryMaali! If Havoc wants the full-sized original, he can email me ;-)

We repacked the car, it had been raining again and the day started to rain some more. An extended round of farewells preceded our departure around midday. The PHF mobile, an appealing but small Toyota had the extra challenge of getting gWEm to an airport. This was a car which was seriously challenging the 1998 Helsinki-Turku Saab super-stuffem contest for load compression and people carrying as it was. I guess they made it back okay, there were no news reports of death and carnage with excessive amounts of debris and broken tents on the Dutch road system?

A picture of an already broken tent.

An overcast but uneventful journey home follows, apart from one or two cloudbursts encountered, driven through and out the other side of. The Satnav behaves itself and gets us back to the Eurotunnel terminal, in time for some shopping by Felice and a quick grabbing of some French style burger fodder with frites. The boarding process consists of queue-filled endlessness, with some probing questions from the UK customs bunker before we are allowed on to the train.

We reveal we come from the Netherlands, a red warning light flashes on in the control room and the people inside show the first stirrings of interest, the occupants of our car are young(ish) male and from a country hosting planet druggie, so not at all suspicious really. We are asked where we stayed, when this turned out not to be one of the big cities, the boredom starts to return. When we were asked what we were doing, Felice exhibited some rare quick-wittedness in describing the difficult to describe to outsiders “demo party” as a “computer arts festival”. At this point, the law enforcers go limp dick and lose all interest in us, the bottom-searching room is regretfully stood down and we are waved on our way.

Useful one to remember if a potentially hostile uniformed outsider is asking what the heck you were doing that weekend, say “Computer arts festival“, not “Demo party”. Now put that in your quick response brain-bank for when you are asked those awkward questions!

More wet cross-country dashing around takes place at the UK end. Gasman is able to make the rest of his journey home that evening, so we end up dropping him off in the centre of Cambridge next to a lonely bus stop. I guess he wasn’t abducted as his blog has been updated since. Felice and I return to the residence of the Felice, where his spouse Paula had been joined by an acquaintance of mine, Nicola.

Another great post-party tradition of a promised evening meal still sitting around as a pile of uncooked ingredients and expecting me to thrash it into an edible shape is upheld. I tend to think I did a good job, even in a post-party befuddled state where lack of proper sleep was catching up and a lot of stuff got dropped on the kitchen floor on the way.

We’re not at all late to bed really, and the bulk of the following day is spent in a low-energy drowsy state until we go our separate ways back home later on. A little bit of a belated Felician birthday celebration got in there as well.

Wrapping up with some final thoughts.

Every Outline party seems to fall into a number of recognisable patterns, but each one has its own distinguishing remarks and features. This one was no exception.

Outline 2010 for me, was most successful with the “Party” part of the party. I managed to step up the socializing a gear and try to speak to more people, more often, Newer faces to me including Beetle with the Awesome CTPCI being shown off to great effect. Also more time was spent with Grazey, Cal, Kev, and George, which was capped off by that rather spontaneously occurring final morning, so maybe a bit too successful there! The usual suspects were remet of course. We rediscovered Cyclone, it was nice to see Chuck and GGN back this year, we missed the  Dresden Atarians. It was good to see Baggio and Deez back in town, with PeP and the Nature Brothers. Ze Germans turned up en masse on Friday, apologies to anyone we didn’t namecheck here.

Meeting and greeting Chuck eating!

The live acts were presented in a better than ever fashion, even allowing for the weather restricted indoors-only nature of these. There were some great sets from Stu and gWEm, with 303F to wind down nicely after the competitions and prize-giving were all done. Songs, people dancing, indeed!

On the subject of demo releases, the Atari content was a bit down, but not so much from the last year. We were really missing a killer release, Checkpoint were in the frame to do this but they did not arrive at the party. However Dead Hackers Society excelled with  a good dentro-sized production which continued the theme of stretching the STE’s boundaries. To put into a wider context and attempt to reassure people called gWEm, we have had a good last 12 months. There is more stuff ‘in the pipeline’ but none of it was ready to spurt out here. For future reference, it would be really nice if a couple of major releases could head this way next year?

Other releases were a mixed bag as usual. There was a nice animation compo, the Peecee demo’s were okay generally. One nice thing here is the manageable size of the competitions, so you don’t get fifty demos doing slight variations on the same thing. There was a nice Amiga wild demo which paid tribute to the Atari and stuck up for MC68k solidarity brother!

The games compo was of a higher quality than ever, even from a smaller entry field. The Jaguar console was very well supported. I hope we do get a Falcon conversion of Superfly DX.

On a personal level, we were better organised and prepared for the trip, apart from one major omission at start of trip! Oh, and the issue with the Satnav not being psychiatrically screened for major personality disorders before we set off either!

Gasman was good company for the trip. We appreciate the fact that he did not scream and demand to be let out of the car at any time!

Eersel appears to be a classic established venue. We hope we can come back next year. The only duff note for Outline 2010 was struck with the weather being poorer than usual, but then again, the party has been earlier this year. One external issue which we all gratefully avoided, was the dreaded volcano ash from Mount Unpronounceable Bjork lyric in Iceland!

Outline 2010, good to the squeezed out last drop!

Save the Earth by Defence Force

May 15, 2010

This witty and inspiring work for the STE came to us at the end of last year, courtesy of Dbug of Defence Force. People with very oldschool memories may feel the group name ‘Next‘ rising to attention right now. People with slightly shorter powers of recall may remember some of his feats of epic Oric-bothering at demo parties as diverse as STNICCC 2000, and the Alternative Party 2003, I certainly do!

After a longish Atari absence, broken by the odd Creators interlude, Dbug returns in full strength to commemorate, in his own way, the 20th Anniversary of the STE.

There is quite a major back-story contained within the info file given out with the demo. This was originally intended to be a screen for the 20th Anniversary STE Megademo. (Un)fortunately, this soon outgrew the specified 160 KB size limit, and Dbug made the decision to take it up to a full independent release which came forth (and indeed in 4th place) at the Kindergarten 2009 party.

As Dbug is sometimes as talkative as a diskmag editor given performance-enhancing drugs in his readme file, we also find out that a lot of the initial design and code was going to be very different from what we got. There was going to be some kind of time travel story where Atari became Microsoft, Apple, and a whole lot of other stuff in one. This would be due to a kindly Marty McFly type sending a cunningly pre-loaded EE-PC back to 1989 with a bunch of “racing tips” from the future. Oh, that and the bulk of this demo does not smash the STE’s limits, there is still plenty left in the old beast yet.

Another thing worthy of noting is that this demo is mostly the work of Dbug himself. The music comes from Excellence in Art, who appears to be getting around a lot of places with his stuff lately, but the code and most of the graphics are from Dbug’s own hand. He says that he hates ‘design by committee.’ With a singular work like this, he may have a point, as it really needs to flow properly from start to finish, rather than fail to convince as a series of disjointed and unrelated screens included to satisfy some petty group politics.

Well we’ve waffled around the edges long enough of actually describing what this demo does, time to take a closer look.

Starting with a quick fake static blast from your teevee screen, we kick off with a sharp and lemon-fresh parody of that horrible whiny anti-piracy advert “Would you steal a car?” that spawns itself onto the front of legally sold DVD’s. The original is actually an argument for piracy, if said pirates are considerate enough to remove those unwanted “features and benefits” from the illegitimate copy.

Random female, hardware, fine with me.

One of our favourite websites is referenced in the first part, as we are asked of the first picture “Does she count as a random girl with hardware?” The viewer is also asked if they would copy a car, to which Dbug responds in an environmentally friendly manner, “Yes, but only if it is energy efficient, not like that old one there.”

You wouldn't copy this car?

There is more in this vein, by the time we get to bag-touching appeals, then Dbug unveils a rather wicked STE-centric series of effects where he splits, wobbles and merges different sections of the movie in and out with each other. Rather hard to describe and doing something clever with STE hardware, but fortunately possible to show as a screen grab. This section is fast-paced, the music has been preselected, and this would represent the ‘modern’ part of this rather bi-polar production.

This is wicked, as in cool!

There is a little info screen with a page of links for those people inclined to follow up on the ‘message’ part of the demo.

Suddenly the music changes to some very old YM-tastic sound indeed. We are into the second main part of the demo now.

It’s cheese on toast and on your screen, with a very old and wobbly Cinemascope logo, and a revamped Defence Force logo up first.

Not seen this on Atari in a while, good to have you back.

It suddenly turns dark with the moon hanging in the night sky. We are in 1989, just another warm summer night in California.

Relaxing with hard drugs and wobbly rasters?

However, people at Sunnyvale are hard at work on their latest genius creation in grey plastic, the Atari STE!

They are quick workers as the scene rapidly switches to the assembly plant and the music takes a more ‘industrial’ beat where the STE’s are assembled, in an ‘ultra-modern factory’. There is some nice code on display with a multi-directionally moving large virtual screen and the bottom half is busy scrolling a production line of completed STE’s, from right to left. This appears to be a hardware scrolling and blitter-friendly screen.

Hurrah! We're in the ultramodern factory!

The scene evolves, we also move to the loading bay, whilst keeping the rest. We end up with about four or five different layers, or as the rabbits in Watership Down would term it, “Hrair” – meaning ‘many’, meaning they lost count after four.

This is just showing three of the layers, after that it gets fugly!

The scene changes as we leave the factory. There is a tribute to many racing games using rasters for skyline and perpective depth, a touch of Outrun as the truck speeds to the shops.

All together now, 'Da-da, dadada, dadadada!'

Okay, you’ve gone and bought one of these fancy STE’s. The scene now cuts to a close-up of the floppy disk, we hear the distinctive ‘ticking’ sound of a disk loading which plays over the tune and a wistful caption comment made “I wish I had a hard drive.” This demo does run off floppy or hard disk by the way.

Whirrr.. Tick-ticktickticktick...

The view pans out and switches to a camera looking behind the viewer at the screen. The music switches to the loader from the Union Demo and a miniature replica STE screen plays with all its oldschool rasters and scrollies in many many colours.

Impressive, yeah!

Then the camera shifts to the right, one of the most wry and funny moments of the demo where things are revealed not to be so colourful anymore.

Oh dear god no! - Moment number 1.

A close  up on the modern flat screen follows, where you are welcomed to the modern demoscene. An IRC session is in progress. This is an eerily accurate reproduction of an actual Channel Atariscne session. I wonder if Dbug can produce the original  log file it was taken from?

The IRC screen grab shown below sums it all up too well :(

Oh dear god no! - Moment number 2.

Finally there are some functional end credits.

Dbug - Code and graphics
Excellence in Art
- Music
C-Rem
- Revamped logo

The music completes its final medley-tastic transformation to the Outrun tune.

Also there are some additional credits for the following.

Mircha – Moral support
Dad – 1040 STE
GGN – SIMMS
Gloky – New Keyboard
Jookie and Mikro – UltraSatan
Nerve – Transportation
Evl – Many small things
gwEm – MaxYMiser
Elitar – Pixel art trucks

And we even see some cheekily captioned ‘borrowed material credits’ from The Industry Trust for Intellectual Property Awareness,”

One final observation to wrap this review, I will copy and paste directly from the info file, in Dbug’s own words. I’m sure he won’t mind me using this bit.

“One last thing, the title, it of course (ok, possibly not obvious)
refers to the fact that we can still use these old machines 20 years
after they were made, a testament about the build quality of reliability.
Modern PC’s on the other hand have parts breaking all the time,
dying batteries, graphic cards got thrown out and replaced, not very
good from an ecological point of view to see all this perfectly usable
hardware just thrown in the junk hopping that some third world country
will have children desolder components in a mist of toxic fumes.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself mate, thank you.

And here is a final screengrab to remind us all of the reason why we’re here today.

Nothing more to say

And that is really the end now!


Links:

  1. Save the Earth at pouet.net
  2. Save the Earth video

20 Years Atari STE Megademo by Paradox and others

May 15, 2010

Once upon a while ago, the Atari demo scene pulled off a heartwarming display of rallying around and joyful celebration with an old style menu-driven megademo commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Atari ST.

In traditional oldschool megademo style, it pulled together a range of screens from many different groups, ranging from the inspiring to the toe-curling in quality. The end result was received very favourably and attracted surprised comments from other sceners on other machines who didn’t realise that the humble Atari ST was still so well regarded amongst its supporters.

Moving forward a few years, and another 20th anniversary for cherished old hardware is looming. Atari STE fans in the form of the demo group ‘Paradox’ decide that a revival of the 20 year megademo would be a very neat idea, and issue an invitation for all and sundry to join in.

There was a decent response. Some names from the ST 20th anniversary were missing, and would have been appreciated here. Reservoir Gods would have surely contributed something brain-blasting but are in the middle of a prolonged downtime. Defence Force started out making a screen, but this grew and grew until it became its own demo, “Save the Earth” which is reviewed elsewhere in this issue.

Still, let’s now see what we’ve got. There’s quite a bit still, so hang on..

Real hardware is recommended, some of the screens not being especially emulator friendly. There are separate hard and floppy drive versions of the demo, we click and go.

After a brief check on loading to make sure that you are running the correct hardware, we start with a festive intro screen. This consists of a Spectrum 512 picture, a digitized photo of a carnival or parade, so 512 colours on screen, with sprites over the top, and a sampled “happy birthday” song plays. This screen is removed in a chunky fashion for the next part.

The STE is Jarig!

The music changes, a big colourful bottom scroller does its thing, there is another multicoloured space-themed picture. It is bigger than a stock ST resolution, a virtual screen which rolls up and down. This is topped off by a distorting ‘megademo’ logo in midscreen. The intro and the follow-on are showcasing the possibility of combining highcolour (512 colours onscreen and up) with at least some demo effects.

Lots of colours for the intro.

The main menu is definitely something special and worthy of being the front-end of a megademo of the oldschool kind. The look and feel is of a fancy control panel on starship made in an alternative 16-bit steampunk Bitmap Brothers futuristic style. You control the crosshairs over the ‘starchart’ and press space when directly over the twinkling stars to get into the individual demoscreens. There is an awesome soundchip cover by gwEm of ‘Stardust memories’, or that tune which was on the ‘Terminal F*ck-up’ very early landmark Falcon 030 demo.

At the steampunk starship control panel!

So we go in, more or less at random, although careful readers may well note that this apparent ‘randomness’ is in the same order as Evil recording his video capture of the demo! Ah well…

Starting with the ‘Saluts’ Atari STe screen by Atari Legend & MJJ Prod. This is a very simple screen. A nicely done many-coloured picture of a large beer mug which is wobbled, with some sprites trailing around. An ‘Atari Legend’ logo sits at the base of the screen. I liked the bright and cheery pro-alcohol message!

The beer's are on these guys.

Next up is a ‘Tribute to Blitter and DMA‘ from Paradize. This is another “Hey we’re here” diskfiller. A basic GFA screen with some nice music, a couple of digitised screens, but not much action. Don’t worry, because Paradize pull a nicer screen out of the bag a bit later on.

The first attempt at a ‘proper’ screen comes with ‘Extravagance’ by No Extra. This scores strongly on the design, perhaps a bit less on using the STE’s features. We have a demo of many parts, a twinkling soundchip tune, small screens with 3-D filled vectors, some nice graphics, a rotozoomer. Some nice plasma gets in there too and some designy credits and greets. This would make a nice intro on its own, so it managed to pack a lot into 160 KB.

Twisted words and images.

The first seriously hardcore attempt to get to grips with the STE’s hardware comes with the cunningly redeployed ‘Ex-Reset Screen’ from our megademo sponsors Paradox. The grab from which the recording was taken is imperfect due to use of a funky 60 Hz screen mode. There is some major zooming and rotating stuff on top of a big scroller. A hard pounding chiptune sets the mood perfectly. It worked for me.

A partially grabbed very hardcore screen.

Paradize come back next with their more serious effort ‘Visual Unity’. This is stronger on design than hardcore stuff, but no worse off for this. A smooth virtual introduction screen debuts the demo with a light tune, The title is ‘handwritten’ in an etch-a-sketch style. The next part is a major raster attack with a 3D solid cube and an island sitting moodily in the background. There is a little interlude with some trailing patterns and a Paradize logo on the left. The music builds nicely and the next part moves into some funky wireframe greetings. A graphically pleasing set of stars moves around in a crystal ball takes place next, which is sort of the end of that part.

Cube in desert island space!

‘Mr Fourtyseven’ is BiTS contribution to this epic work. As usual there is minimal design and a huge division and conflict over the merits of this group. (Well not that much of a division, more a massive bloc of turned down thumbs.) To be fair, there does appear to be ample use of the STE’s hardware features, with smooth hardscroll, STE Palette and STE DMA sound. Whatever SoLo’s state of mind, his love of Atari did come across, so I’ll be kind on this occasion.

Another scene personality dear to my heart, GGN, gets busy with ‘Zero to Twenty: Sixty Seconds’. This has a certain lightness of touch with a mad birthday tribute picture at the start, and a mad version of the 1812 overture covered by that prolific remixer Yamaha. There is an Ascii swirling scroller which builds a scroller at the top of the screen and loads of oldschool graphics strutting around in the background. This gets in and out, not a heavyweight, but cheekily manages to win a place in the viewers affections. Nice work George!

George has spirals within spinny things!

An expected highlight looms large, with ‘Tuttugandi’ from DHS. To some extent we’re picking up themes explored in other recent DHS releases. So you will expect lots of good design, use of overscan and some great music to top this off. We are not disappointed, as the screenshot below shows. This part is complete for an intro but relatively short by DHS’s own admission, Well they had a ‘Cernit Trandafir’ to release as well and they apologise for using some leftovers from that demo.

Dead Hackers and the city..

Another major screen or mini-demo comes from the second Paradox contribution ‘Cubes, Ribbons and 3D Flybys.’ This is intended as a tribute or parody of the Peecee fashion for the effects named in the title. ‘Cubes’ is an amazing hardcore STE take with a virtual screen and several 3D gouraud shaded cubes at once. ‘Ribbons’ is a more lighthearted greetings and skywriting midsection, again with an unconfined virtual screen.

Cubes, but no ribbons or 3D flybys...

The ‘3D Flybys’ part takes further some of the work Paradox put into their 3D scaling sprites on their Outline 2008 demo ‘Again’. These are with perspective and set against a lovely background. All in all another strong part. And worthy of another screengrab.

3D Flybys without the cubes or ribbons.

‘Roxotro’ by RGCD is more of an advertisement by the makers of ‘rOx’ showing off some old graphics originally intended for their follow-up to rOx. This was supposed to be shown at Outline but appears that it may be delayed until later in the year. This had a very oldschool shades of 1990 feeling tile-based effects, but made me go “Yaay!” because of the promise of a sequel to rOx, preferably one which allows you to shoot back! Some glowing vector bobs at the end.

Could have been a game, might still be a game someday?

‘Zickdisk 2.5′ is made by Paradize & Elite. There are some cool tunes and minimal effects on a reasonably nice looking front end, which is sort of reminiscent of what Marcer did in the ST 20th Anniversary demo. Still, you can select the tunes, have a nice listen, and linger awhile. There is an end-part in a moody grey too.

Excellence in Art celebrates his return to the Atari scene and the STE in his own characteristic style. A screen called ‘$14′ has all the hallmarks of Excellence in Art style including some excellent music and synching to the minimal but smoothly done vector line effects. We are promised more to come at the Sommerhack 2010, so we’re looking out for this. Music is digisound with a mellow sound loop playing throughout.

Don't run this on emulators, we are told.

We’re on the final contribution from Paradox, the ‘Direct Color Zoomer‘. This is a full-on STE hardware attack, bottom scroller, music indicators, a zooming background picture and a single bitplane dot morpher. With digisound. So this feels fairly oldschool in some ways.

STE hardware attacked!

The Hidden screens appear to be using some forgotten early efforts from an early crew that a current Atari scene member was involved in. These are ‘do as they say on the tin’ screens. They are not advertised by twinkly stars on the main menu. You have to click around until you chance on one or other of these. Prepare for 1991 aesthetic sensibilities, sensual overload with coder colours and Mad Max chiptunes. Apart from the third one which ventures into digisound.

Hidden screen 1 – Cykelpump and Flensost (The X’Press Crew (1991))
Hidden screen 2 – Megalurk (The X’Press Crew (1991))
Hidden screen 3 – Circleblast (The X’Press Crew (1991))

Oldschool craziness part one.

And finally, yes really, the Reset screen from Paradox to conclude things. A very simple one-note screen at the end with an always relevant message. Thanks guys!

The last thing you will see...

So, was this a successful tribute to the twenty years of the STE? At least one external commentator annoying troll who specialises in personal abuse considered this as mainly a Paradox Show with some guest screens, and not really a full tribute. I would not be inclined to agree. Apart from the undoubtedly excellent Paradox screens, there were strong efforts from several of the other contributors. Apart from a couple of screens, I don’t feel there was an excessive baggage of making up the numbers minor screens, which were always an occupational hazard of any multi-crew menu style megademo, back in the olden days.

The only area where I might have wished for more perhaps, is with some of the screens featuring good effects and design, but not a lot to really tell it could only be done with the extra capabilities of the STE. This is the sort of area where the likes of Paradox and DHS pulled ahead of the rest.

Anyway, we are quietly content with what has been given to us. So when is the Falcon 030 twentieth birthday, 2012, or 2013? And what are we doing to celebrate that one?

Final thoughts. I spent long enough on this review and pulling the screenshots out of the movie footage, I’m not sure this makes sense even the third time of reading this review back, so apologies in advance for any incoherent remarks that crept in and stayed in!


Links:

  1. 20 Years Atari STE Megademo at pouet.net
  2. 20 Years Atari STE Megademo video

Sommarhack 2010 invitro by DHS

May 15, 2010

This was an invitro for the Sommarhack 2010 party in July. It was released at the Outline 2010 party. It was waving the Atari banner in a lonely fashion there, and was really the only release of significance on the Atari there. I don’t think we really want to count the BITS entry, and Baah’s short intro was too lightweight to stand up to scrutiny.

The good news is that although this is an invitro, it does weigh in with a decent amount of different screens, about a dentro’s worth, in oldschool money.

The other good news is, that it carries on with the mission to extend the possibilities of the extra hardware of the STE series. Indeed, the program file comes with some disturbingly specific caveats, 2 MB of memory or better is required. There is also a current problem with the Mega STE as it does not like the latter machine at all. (Which may be hopefully fixed soon.)

An attempt with Hatari revealed it is only partially happy with emulators as well. Emulator related dismay is most noticeable when the fullscreen effects are deployed. However, my original STE is happy with it, therefore so am I.

There are a fair number of creator credits, with code from Evil, Nerve, and Gizmo. Proteque donates a classic picture, and 505 appears to be channelling Jess of OVR in his soundalike soundchip tune.

We take the various screens as we find them, namely the effects that were shown. There are some info screens in there as well, but nothing that takes over this demo, which is nice.

The title screen comes first. We see a fancy font up top, some metallic effect text below. The latter is used for various info screens in the demo.

The very beginning part.

Followed swiftly by a fullscreen swirling vortex. Across the surface of this scary whirlpool effect, some little creator credit sprites scuttle across the screen. These are slightly transparent as you can still see the swirlyness underneath.

Who did this? Now revealed.

There is another full screen following on, with a classic oldschool bouncing dot hillocks filling the void, a greetings scroller runs up and down the screen with manic energy.

A bouncing dot-vector booby titty thing!

This next screen falls into the ‘not sure how this is done‘ category. A trail of what appear to be elaborate golden 3D shaded or mapped objects display themselves lazily in a spiral pattern around the screen, or they could be very well done sprites? They morph and change shape as they go around. Still it looks rather good.

Morph-o-blobs strike fast!

This upcoming part is definitely and uncompromisingly 3D though. A brown landscape against a blue sky (with a suggestion of cloud?) with a series of monolithic structures in flat shades, with at least one spinning cube in there. Sort of like trying to do a CT60 on an STE budget. It just about hangs in there, well done guys.

A brown man, in a blue world..

The static picture, a moment of art to cool the brain. A bleak blue filling the whole screen study by Proteque, almost like a watercolour, not the usual computer art at all. Very very good.

A blue man, in a bleak world..

Another favourite bit of mine comes up now, an exquisitely drawn DHS logo on the right, with a swirling plasma in a series of warm and well chosen colours. There is no cheap ‘colourshock’ in kindergarten colours here. This is a design perfect screen. I guess the STE enhanced palette was used here.

Design, or what!

The best does appear to have been saved to last. The end part was a fullscreen killer, and a suitable high note to end on. All borders are removed, cast away to a dark place never to return. We see a huge rippling distorting logo, tastefully coloured ginormous raster bars and an info scroller about the party heading  languidly up the page. This was an authentic trouser-exploding moment even for the harshest critic of DHS.

So fullscreen, it seems to bulge out the screen and come after you!

This was another superior DHS contribution to the Atari demo scene. Certainly without this, the Outline 2010 demo competitions would have been in a very poor state indeed.

I still like to think that we haven’t seen the STE demo to end all other STE demos, but this is a solid contribution to an impressive portfolio on that machine,

The next ‘thing’ from DHS? Apparently a CT60 demo, we hope so!


Links:

  1. Sommarhack 2010 invitro at pouet.net

The Snowman 2009 by Checkpoint

May 15, 2010

The beginning

Merry Christmas 2009, tickle those synapses into life and take yourself back to a time which had more than the average Atari demo gift bundle for that season. Apart from the 20 years Atari STE megademo, and the ‘sort of outgrew the original screen for the above’ ‘Save the Earth’ demo from Defence Force, we got this gorgeous little reworking  of The Snowman slideshow demo (1987).  It is a nicely wrapped little package nestling on top of the big presents under the tree. The one with the very shiny paper, tied up with a golden bow, silently pleading with you to open it first.

So you do…

Checkpoint have set about a major reworking of the iconic 1987 original demo ‘The Snowman’ from Modnoc. That consisted of a few pictures in a slideshow captured from the 1982 cartoon, and the soundtrack from the original ‘Walking in the Air’ tune. For those of you unenlightened beings who haven’t come across the original book by Raymond Briggs, or the 1982 animated movie, then a really obvious and limp-wristed search with your preferred search engine should fill those gaps in nicely.

A happy child

From such a bare and unpromising premise, this little slideshow was extremely well received and highly regarded for a long time. There have been PeeCee and more lately, Atari 8-bit reworkings of the original, so the time may have been ripe for a retrospective perhaps? So Checkpoint declared an interest and got stuck in to make a thoroughly nicely revamped update for this classic.

Unlike the bulk of 2009, which was an STE release orgy, The Snowman 2009 does run on just about anything, from a plain and very vanilla 1040 STFM upwards. You can run it on a Falcon if you desire.

Familiar faces such as Defjam and lsl for coding honours, along with 505 for the music are prominent. (Yes there is a nice original loader tune.) We also get a contribution from C-Rem for the font graphics in the lower scrolltext.

The snowman grows

To kick off then, there is a brief loading screen with a nice tune by 505 which might make you want to stay a bit longer. You can resist for only so long, and the ‘press space’ tempts you in eventually.

The slideshow element of the original is essentially intact. It is based on the ‘short’ version of the original movie, which does mean the essential elements are intact. The difference lies in the flat screenshots being brought to life with a progression of animated scenes. These are usually slow and blurry and perfectly in keeping with the original work.

The screens are slightly coarsely pixelled but this works to the viewers advantage where blurring is used. The languid dream-like quality of the original work has been enhanced by this remake.

The ‘Walking in the Air’ sampling is taken from the movie of course. This does not appear to end and like the demo, loops indefinitely.

He's so cute

You may end up running through the demo several times in order to read the scrolltext at the bottom anyway. This contains a lot of thoughts and reflections from the creators, especially about the high number and quality of releases for the ST and especially the STE during 2009.

This Xmas treat was just right for the season, it will be got out and played again and again, like the original movie.


Links:

  1. Snowman 2009 at pouet
  2. Snowman original from 87 at pouet

Another Kid Story – MJJ Productions

May 15, 2010

Released at the VIP Party 2009.

Design and code by Tobe.
Code by HerrV.
Graphics by C-Rem.
Music by TomChi.

This was one of the more surprising and influential ‘small’ demos made last year for the Atari STE. It is a tribute demo to the ‘Kid’s Story‘ episode of the Animatrix series, a body of work to which I confess having no familiarity with whatsoever. So I’m taking the demo at its face value. Yes I know I’m an anime-avoiding dinosaur, so you’ll just have to put up with it. Or write your own better informed review taken from that wider perspective perhaps?

The demo is short and sweet, starting with a functional intro screen styled white font on a black screen. This leads to a moody blue-themed still screen to further introduce the demo.

The title screen.

I could go the Herman Samso route and give some very brief descriptions to wrap this article up, or else I could try to write a bit more. Which is it to be?

We meet our protagonist by zooming close in to a picture of a lonely hacker, hunched over a computer screen in a dark room. I guess this is the ‘Kid’ of the demo and the movie.

Zooming in, part one.

We move even closer to the action, about two inches away from a green cursor spewing words of concern and questioning. In conventional demo describing terms, this is a reinterpretation of a classic scrolltext, flowing incredibly smoothly and a complete subversion of an oldschool warhorse effect. There are key-clicks mixed in with the main soundtrack at this point. I guess these are sampled and using the ‘STE’ part of generating sound?

Tap-tappity-tap-tap scrolltext!

There are only a handful of core effects deployed and the pixel zoomer, seen introducing the hacker is redeployed by closing up into an intense eyeball view.

Another green scroller, not a harsh computer font, but more of a smoothly flowing sineous series of green dots tells you to “Believe in your dreams.”

More green textual madness!

The zoomer returns to give you a faceful, then the final ‘real’ effect is shown. A texture mapped spiral vortex or flat tunnel effect.

Spinny stuff, tunnel or seashell?

“Escape from their truth”. “The choice is yours.” More good advice is given, so our hero decides to end the demo by zooming to the light at the end of the tunnel. And it is really the end.

Zooming in, part two, don't go towards the light!

This demo is small and perfectly formed. A brief poem or haiku to set against the messy sprawl of bigger works, a compelling guitar solo to set against a whole Ring Cycle performance, you get the idea?

I ought to credit the efforts of C-Rem for providing perfectly moody and scene-setting graphics for this demo. And to TomChi for providing a soundtrack which was musically all his own style and again fitting in perfectly with the darker mood of the demo.

The advice is given not to bother with emulators, but I found this was perfectly fine running under Hatari. Of course it made the UltraSatan trip to my real STE as soon as possible.

If you haven’t already tried this one, then enjoy, but I don’t think that will be many people left out there now?


Links:

  1. Another Kid Story at pouet

Random Images – A spamfomercial!

May 15, 2010

The title picture.

Ok, I’m going to use these hallowed pages, (Hallowing concept (C) Richard Karsmakers 1989-ish,) for some self-promotion of ‘product’.

At least the product in question is new, intended to be Atari related and meant to be enjoyed on any TOS-based computer close to hand.

Whirly shiny bubbles.

Quite simply, if everything has gone to plan for Outline 2010, then the ‘Random Images’ CD-ROM image file [1] will be available for downloading. In nerdy numbers, that means around 500 MB of stuff to play with, including 675 painstakingly converted Targa pictures. Also there are 399 animated GIF’s in the image too. Finally there is a smallish selection of handy tools to view these goodies too.

When I say ‘CD-ROM’, this was the most convenient method of gathering up the collection. It would be easy enough to transfer this to one of the new generation of SD-card based storage devices. Did I say UltraSatan, oops, guess I did!

As to the point of the whole exercise, you might be aware that the STE can fake a lot more colours onscreen than the official and rather measly sixteen that Atari were content with. How about 19200 colours onscreen from 32768 available? Well Photochrome can do it, and here are the pictures to show this to the world! Even the veteran STFM can manage 4096 colours onscreen, which is still pretty damn respectable.

Felice and Earx are coke addicts!

The animated GIF’s are sorted by size category. To be honest if you get anything much bigger than ‘titchy’, then you will start to need more powerful hardware than a base model ST. A Falcon can reach across some of the gap. An accelerated Falcon or emulated super-clone even more so. Again take the time to check these out.

There’s more to say within the collection itself. Each individual image has been catalogued and listed, and there are some nice documentation files to read as well.

So don’t delay, grab today!


Links:

  1. Download CiH’s random images CD

“Realtime” – Movie player by MJJ Productions

May 15, 2010

This fascinating scrap of an intro is based on a chunky pixel STE-based video player being developed by Tobe of MJJ Productions. We have been treated to some amusing previews of the player, with movie clips grabbed from one of the most cultish of cult movies of all-time, The Big Lebowski. Well there is *one* movie clip in particular that Tobe keeps on returning to, namely the bowling alley scene where we find out that “Nobody fucks with the Jesus!”

This player has gone through several version upgrades and now has the capability of streaming a movie file directly from disk. Therefore upper memory limits on hardware do not feature anymore. There have been some requests made for this chunky video goodness to be made available to anyone who might want to do their own low-tech STE versions of popular movies. One day, we might get our wishes answered. I think it needs something at the other end, IE, a PeeCee to compress and convert the movie first though.

At a slightly earlier stage of development, a production using this system was  released at the Alchimie 2009 demo party. This demo, or more accurately, a fake demo movie-show is called (ironically) ‘Realtime‘.

For its ‘inspiration’, sections of a couple of famous Falcon demos, and one more obscure CT60 intro are taken. The demos and authors are credited in the info file, so there would no hard feelings at all. It was apparently good enough to fool a lot of people for a time, when it was first shown at the Alchimie party last year.

The effects are taken from the following Falcon and CT6xx demos.

For a suitable opener, we get the famous flying bumblebee from the Underscore demo by Escape.

Original and demo versions of the bumblebee.

Next up are a couple of brightly coloured objects including the famous Spiny Phong shaded ball from the Entracte demo. A nice drop of mid-nineties goodness here.

Same again, original screenshot on the left, demo on the right.

Finally to round things off, there is a flyby of some 3D objects from the Deeztort intro by Evolution. As I recall this was one of the goodies handed out with the Chosneck diskmag.

Deeztort flyby, you know the drill by now!

The material has been chosen well, the idea of ‘object show against a dark background’ is probably the best way to use a limited resolution and number of colours. If you are using this system for playing back more conventional movies, then choose your material very carefully to avoid possible disappointment with the end result.

The demo is set off nicely by some moody and cool music from 505, which complements the show nicely. It is replayed via the STE’s DMA sound which is the other cool feature of the video player.

This little demo ends abruptly. That sort of suggests “in-party production, ran out of time, sorry!” One comment in a forum near you suggested that with a little bit more thought, this could have been a good serious demo, rather than just a quick fun experiment.

I certainly hope that this video system is seen again in a bigger production. Not necessarily a whole demo made this way, but certainly it can be used in places where careful use and pre-selection of material would enhance or cut neatly between more traditionally coded effects perhaps?

—————————————————————————————————–

Link:

1.  Realtime at Pouet

The Lunatic is in the NES?

May 15, 2010

What if Pink Floyd wrote music for the NES?

This topic isn’t strictly Atari, but on the other hand it does nicely fit in under the ‘Low Res’ part of our remit, so what’s going on here? It seems that some mad soundchip botherer has only gone and done the big one. He’s made Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ album into a NES soundtrack!

It was that great natural philosopher of our age, Homer Simpson, who once said that “Everyone knows rock attained perfection in 1974. It’s a scientific fact. “ He may have been listening to this 1973 released album, widely feted as one of the all-time best, to come to that rather startling conclusion.

The whole topic of ‘best of’, especially in music is an area where everyone’s mileage varies. I accept that, there will be no enforced missionary missives from me as to who is best. My views are as subjective as the rest of you. That said, Dark Side of the Moon (DSOM) would be smugly sitting in a safe spot in the memory of my hopefully remaining hypothetical ‘Desert Island iPod’ as one of the best of all time.

In a vain attempt to forcefeed some Atari perspective into an otherwise non-specific article, I did use parts of DSOM in direct-to-disk recording experiments in my very early Falcon 030 owning days. These were the days when there really wasn’t anything else around to use as a showreel at the local computer club, so WinRec and a decently loud stereo output with ‘Eclipse‘, the rousing endpart blaring out did the job back then.

DSOM is possibly my most perfect formative exposure to serious musical appreciation, after Jean Michel Jarre’s ‘Equinoxe’. Like that album, DSOM is best appreciated as a complete work. It seems that for this reworking, the author has appreciated this fully, avoiding chopping the perfect whole up into individual tracks, and presented two MP3′s as side 1 and side 2, to listen to as you would have listened to the original vinyl.

To cut to whodunnit, a warped or inspired individual called Brad Smith presented a re-imagining of the whole album. This is a courageous decision on his part. It would be easy enough to take some easy to do instrumental only parts, like ‘On the run’ and be happy with the end result, but he goes through the whole damn lot.

I listened to this as intently as I would have listened to the original album. Brad used ‘Famitracker’ to create the work and everything was done within the limits of the standard NES soundchip. There was no extra hardware used.

It is fair to say that although the whole entity is awesome, some parts do come across slightly better than others. The opening part of side one,  ‘Speak to Me’ felt like the intro to ‘Money’ and did not immediately trigger any recall of the album. Other parts such as ‘Breathe’ managed to keep the essence of the original rather well.

By the time we get to ‘On the run’, we have hit the pace. This part was nicely carried off. The original was instrumental and synth and effect heavy so perhaps there was no surprise there.  ‘Time‘ was a definite re-interpretion tailored to the soundchip’s strengths and limitations, especially the opening part. I liked it.

The rest of side one manages to carry the essentials of the tune well. There are some worthy attempts to get some real ‘soul’ in the sound.

The opener to side two, ‘Money’ reminded me of Sonic the Hedgehog at first, but settled down nicely. (It was the almost identical sounding ‘ker-ching’ when tokens are picked up!) ‘Us And Them’ was a lovely track and really captured the essence of the album.

The mid-section is held up by ‘Any Colour You Like’, with the Floydian sonic swirls decently interpreted. The last two tracks hold up the high standard, although on both ‘Brain Damage’ and ‘Eclipse’, they really needed the vocals, especially on the latter track as the lyrics are a major feature. Apart from that, as I said, still a major piece of awesome to take the project on in the first place.

It had after-effects too. Listening to this version of DSOM stirred the dusty forgotten corners of the ‘iPod in my brain’. I’ve been remembering odd parts of the original in unguarded quiet moments. At some point I’m going to have to dig out my original and listen to it properly to compare it with this version.

But I’m going to be busy, it’s only two weeks to Outline and hardly anything has been done yet! Must get on!

For those of you inclined to investigate further. This and a bunch of other Brad-created work can be found on [1]

There are downloadable MP3′s for this, and links to YouTube versions as well. Enjoy!


Links:

  1. Brad Smith site and “dark side of the moon” upload

Where are they now? Missing Demos.

December 28, 2009

Ok, it’s time to get a bit of ‘demoscene’ content in this publication. The focus ought to be on the Atari scene as well. It would be too easy to toss off a review of the great triumphs of the year, such as the epic Suretrip 2 demo, the keenly awaited port of ‘Starstruck’ for the CT60 Falcon, Dead Hackers unexpected and welcome Sommerhack invitro, MJJ Productions spanking the STe with ‘Another Kid Story’, or even Excellence in Art’s welcome return.

There is the little matter of some forthcoming goodies such as the 20th Anniversary STe demo and others, but we seem to have left a few things on the road through 2009. Specifically, I’d like to ask what is happening to two previewed demos which were seen earlier this year but not (as yet) released.

I’m talking about the ‘Hidden Agenda’ demo from the Gathering party in Easter and Dune and Sector One’s Numerica party demo which was first shown in March, shown off again at the Outline party, and not heard from since.

Hidden agenda was the more unfinished preview. It should not have actually been shown in the state it was shown. It had the distinction of requiring a 14MB STe, such a machine could exist, but needed some soldering first! Proteque advised that they had ‘top men’ working on it back in April, although we were warned that it would take some time.

"Our top Brains are working on finishing this!"

"Our top Brains are working on finishing this!"

To be fair, I had the good fortune to sit next to Nerve at the recent Alt Party, who was able to update me further. There had been more work done, so what was there now was substantially different from the shown version at The Gathering. There was more to do and he offered to donate the source code if it helped, but as my coding skills add up to something less than zero, it would not have been any use.

Out of this missing pair, the demo from Dune and Sector One appeared to be the most polished and almost ready to go for release. We felt it would only be a matter of weeks before it was out in the wild. It turned up again at Outline in a teasing manner. The last mention of it was relating to a coding weekend with Dune on the 22nd to 23rd August. That date came and went, ominously quietly, and nothing has been heard since.

So, can anyone tell me where these cool demos are? The nice thing about this magazine is the blog format which allows people to post comments after the article, so if anyone feels like sharing any knowledge, feel free!

And before anyone asks in a retaliatory fashion about the extremely delayed issue of Alive Mag, Sorry, ask the missing German person as I’ve no idea what’s happening there..

CiH, October 2009 for Low Res Magazine.

Whilst we are awaiting the final appearance of this issue of Low Res Mag, Chuck of Dune only goes and answers the question about UFO. It seems it will remain ‘missing in action’ for a while yet, but something else is coming up shortly in the meantime.

Chuck / Dune:

Hi,

Life happens ;-)

We are working on something different now, will be available in the end of this year ;-)

For the UFO i don’t know exactly when it will be finished sorry because our code time isn’t elastic…

Hopefully our Mic alarms system is working in full mode and He will kick our ass to finish this in the next month … Believe him ;-)

Thanks for your text ;-) it is really a good news for us to see that some of you are looking for our prods ;-) But you will be happy in december ;-)

Sodium by Rave Noise Overscan.

December 28, 2009

An intro for the ST..

The 2009 edition of the Alternative party had quite a healthy presence of Atarian life-forms there. Apart from the usual UK visiting team, we were graced by the arrival of some hackers of a deceased persuasion, but I will tell more of what they got up to in another textfile. We also saw another ST set up nearby, with a  brand new UltraSatan hanging off it in an umbilical fashion. This machine belonged to Britelite, the coder working for long time Commodore botherers, Rave Noise Overscan, or RNO for short.

It turned out that they had written a short production for it, with the intention of showing it off at the Alternative party, good for them!

It is a tightly packed proggy, hovering nervously around the 26 kilobyte mark. So you expect a quick no-frills blast into the main action. The viewer is not disappointed as a harsh buzzy soundchip tune blasts in with a stark ‘porno’ logo in a barren font distorting up and down the screen.

A battering of snare-drums announces the first halfway designed effect part, the left hand side of the screen being occupied by a grey ‘RNO’ logo, complete with staring eye. The right hand side of the screen has a pink wavy distorting pattern, upon which some information about the demo appears.

So far, so average, but the next part, where the music picks up a warbling treble voice is much better. The pink thing on the right hand side is replaced by a huge texture-mapped greenish-hued cube. This only rotates on one axis, so may not be a full cube, however, there is some suggestion of depth given by a misty fading at the more distant end of things.

The pink thing seen earlier reappears, it is taking the everyman role of an info-screen, we are updated with some credits to describe Britelite as the coder, Xia making the music, and Zeroic and Fragment creating the graphics.

But this is not the end, the moneyshot effect is waiting impatiently to do its thing. This turns out to be a absolutely awesome solid twister, probably the best of its kind seen on an ST, and even rivalling some Falcon 030 versions of that effect for sure. If there are only sixteen colours on that screen, then there is some damn effective shading or anti-aliasing going on here!

But the end is following hard on its heels, as the pink distorter returns with the dismal news that this is pretty much all they have to show you this time. A final return of the stark distorting ‘porno’ logo, seen at the start is the only thing left before the demo abruptly ends.

Well, this was a compact effort, an interesting showcase for what we can hope to see in a bigger demo. Indeed there was some talk of a bigger RNO production for the ST at a future summer, quite large Helsinki-based demo party, but let’s not get carried away just yet, eh!

As it is, a nice little intro with a couple of truly stand-out moments. May all their future productions have more of these.

CiH, for Low-Res Mag, November 2009.

Cernit Trandafir by Dead Hackers Society.

December 28, 2009

A demo by Dead Hackers Society for the Atari STe...

I was aware that a demo was going to be released at the 2009 Alternative Party by the Dead Hackers Society (DHS) before we arrived at the event. They turned up in strength, and I had the pleasure of many a fireside(*) chat with Nerve, who had set up his STe next door to my laptop. He had a fully completed and ready to run demo on his STe, but he just about manfully restrained himself from clicking on the fateful .prg file before the competitions had been run. He was twitching quite a bit towards the end, and was visibly relieved when he was finally able to treat me to the first small screen showing of this demo.

(*) Apart from the stage-area pyrotechnics, an open roaring flame wasn’t really encouraged as a concept anywhere within the party due to it being 1. Illegal, and 2. Dangerous. My lungs do however still recoil at the recollection of the sheer amount of artificial smoke that was generated from the live-act performances!

But the wait was worth it, as DHS’s new demo, ‘Cernit Trafadir’ was presented without the bothersome “issues” that plagued last year’s competitions on the big screen. It was rated highly enough to get the third prize. The story of the demo follows in the rest of this text.

This time around, memory restrictions have been given the finger, as the demo comes in two versions, firstly a 2 MB version for oldskool hardcore, party like it’s 1991 styled sceners using floppy disks (or emulators). For less memory and storage challenged sceners like me, there is the fulsome luxury of a version needing the full 4 MB of STe RAM, but giving hard drive loading, and a deeply intimate massage with aromatic oils from a scarcely dressed but devastatingly gorgeous lady. Actually, I’m lying about the massage bit but I’ll do anything to keep your attention on this textfile, eh! A look at the folder containing the demo reveals a humongous chunk of soundtrack. The other advantage of hard disk loading allows  a 25 khz version of the soundtrack, rather than the 12 khz for the floppy drive version.

I’ll get the credits out of the way now. The coding is a three-way partnership of Gizmo, Evil, and Nerve. The graphics honours are shared between Evil and Proteque, an Amiga scene veteran who got fed up with the endless talk and inaction there, so he joined forces with DHS to do some new work. Musically, 505 has been asked to contribute an excellent soundtrack, no doubt he is celebrating the easing of memory restrictions as he heard the news.

Time to go and see the demo, there is lots to do, so pay attention!

A loading logo briefly appears on screen and gives way to a moody blue rolling background. A closer look appears to reveal different layers and a semi-transparent effect going on. Over the top, some credits in a very fancy font go over. The other impression on your eyes is the fact that this is fullscreen, occupying every last centimetre of the STe’s display. There are no clunky chunky boarders, and that remains the case for around 75 percent of the rest of the demo too.

The soundtrack builds into the next section of the demo, a pair of pulsing rastered distorting ‘things’ vibrate up the screen. This effect is pure oldskool and will get Amiga copper fans falling off their chairs faintly applauding (one hopes..)

Then bang! We’re into one of the talking point screens, an evening-toned rastered skyline taking up most of the screen, apart from the distant horizon,  and there’s these huge dark spinning skyscrapers getting in the way! They are spinning so freely, that the edges have all gone purple and blurry! This is one of the stand out moments of this demo for sure.

A pause and moments dark reflection, then we are into the next part. This starts deceptively quietly, an ornately bent and twisted wire frame cube, but with more solid lines than normal. It could be a 3-D effect, or it could be a very cunningly drawn sprite. This expands to fill the whole screen, in a Defjam-friendly blocky pixel chunk-o-vision mode. Then the full-screened glory is finally revealed as a whole differently coloured host of the original small version swamps the screen. You can’t see it in this screengrab, but there are some dark raster bars which squeeze in behind as well.

A ‘designy’ bit is next, almost lyrical in content, as a half-drawn standing figure stands to the left of the screen, whilst a flurry of rose flower sprites swirl on screen. Presumably this is an overt reference to the demo title which translates to ‘dark rose’ in Romanian.

There is a bit more STe hardware bashing next, as Proteque intervenes with a gorgeous high color picture, an anorexic blindfolded angel is the centrepiece of a metal-bending video mode, with something like 29,000 colours involved in its construction. I’m not sure what resolution that is, at least a fullscreen mode going over the standard issue 320 x 200 screen, I guess? Maybe Evil can get around to writing up some of the tricks and cunning code he used in this demo sometime?

We appear to return to some oldskool roots as the music changes mood into something more cosmic sounding. A starfield is met smartly by patterns of deep blue 3D bobs. This is one screen which is conspicuously not fullscreen, it is as smartly presented as the rest of the demo, but it could have been completely at home in a production two decades ago. In the mid-part, the obligatory greets are led onscreen. Always nice to get a mention of course :-)

There follows a return to moody newschool, with a pair of spinning light-shaded blocks. My brain fails me in describing the precise technique, or mixture of techniques used. Yet another screen pleading piteously for some words of enlightenment from its creators.

Things are building towards a finale, as Gizmo gets to show off his superior 3-D object making skills. A grey-washed female nasally enjoys a black rose to the left of the screen, whilst a spinning enviro-mapped spiny thing, does its uncanny best to represent an open rose flower. Are we spotting a central theme yet?

Finally, the end is breathing hard down our tense and sweaty necks, as a series of fullscreen ripples, waves and good old tunnels lounge languidly in a semi-transparent fashion across a picture of a rose.  Then, the last effect is concluded, the music fades and dies and the screen turns to darkness for the last time.

So what do we think then?

‘Cernit Trandafir’ is most definitely a sequel to last year’s hit ‘More or Less Zero’. It continues the Dead Hackers progression with abusing the Atari STe’s hardware to give a production look and feel which would resemble the Amiga ECS at its peak, rather than the majority of Atari ST demos. (Not that I’m writing off a whole twenty years worth of Atari demo heritage of course, but these two demos are making fullscreen overscan almost look routine now. I guess the coding side would not be necessarily so taken for granted though!)

I like the continued hard disk support. The UltraSatan was conspicuously seen in some numbers at the Alt Party, so more demos that support this are always appreciated. Needless to say, I am looking forward strongly to the 20th Anniversary STe demo, hopefully with a contribution from DHS there too.

It is with absolutely no sense of regret that I can say that Cernit Tranfadir is another magnificent addition to the DHS portfolio of totally cool stuff. I sort of got some inside information they are shifting platform focus for their next production, so I’m looking forward to that sometime in the future.

I have one other observation of a personal and inward looking kind to garnish the end of this text with. I have enjoyed writing for this new magazine format, I am able to supply a comprehensive set of screen grabs for the first time on a demo review, which is liberating somehow!

See you next time.

CiH, for Low-Res Magazine, November 2009.

Alt Party 2009 – Man versus Machine versus rain!

December 28, 2009

17.39 – 23.10.09 – Start right here!

It’s that time for a party report as we’re at Ye Olde Nokiam Cable Factori once again, sitting more or less where we sat last year. That must be something to do with the homing pigeon styled magnetic core lurking deep within the brain which can place people to 0.00001 degrees latitude in a familiar but barely remembered place from 365 days ago. The main stage has someone sound checking by destroying various items of equipment on the stage, or maybe it’s something to do with oil exploration? It could even be one of the live acts tuning up, actually that last possibility is very likely.

A strangely struggling to come to the boil CiH is at the realtime keys once more. The crazy fools went and did it again, with the usual share of lukewarm travelling stories, and hopefully less in the way of crazy after-party adventures, apart from the fondly pre-planned ones involving sauna’s and alcohol of course.

There has been one major change from previous Alt parties, which should guarantee an easier time all round. This year, we arranged ALT accommodation with Wiztom, taking the strain off Q-Funk’s physical resources, not to mention our fragile mental states. Wiztom has a place with some nice upsides, but it is in a part of Helsinki so high that if you go up a floor too far from his apartment you risk an altitude-related nosebleed. Also there is a persistent burst lung hazard if you foolishly miscalculate bus stops too early and have to walk any distance back there, like we did last night..

Anyway, we’ve set up with a small band of fellow travellers, Wiztom, and the most unexpectedly arriving Nerve from Norway. A party of attacking Swedes are expected but are not yet sighted. The sound checking has moved on to some less kinetic but equally loud noises.

Some travelling notes are to go into this bit of the report. It’s been an epic journey which stretched to two days, so impressions and memories are a bit of a hazy blur, not helped with a relative lack of proper sleep.

We’re going back to the 21st of October and we’re still in the UK, a Wednesday dawned bright with expectation and rainclouds. The journey was to be carried out in two stages, as with the luxury of spare time off we decided to break our journey down with an overnight stop at the parent’s-in-law of the Felicing one, who happened to be just a hop and a spit away from Gatwick Airport. This is the departure point for our Squeezyjet direct flight to Helsinki on Thursday morning. That part of the trip was completely painless, parents-in-law are great hosts, and we went to bed early borne on a benevolent drowsy wave of good food and enjoyable wine.

22nd October, 03.30! – The horrible truth!

It is dark and we are smashed into forced wakefulness by the looming black granite menace of our departure time. An 08.15 flight has to translate into a much earlier bout of preparation, all the better to negotiate the carefully structured airport security dance-around. A dazed zombie sensation settles around my neck, never to really properly lift all that day, and only temporarily staved off by timely doses of caffeine. The journey over to the airport is darkened, damp and uneventful. People having better things to do with their time such as lovely warm recuperative sleeping rather than get in our way. Gatwick proves to be painless, even after we’ve managed to confuse the security people with our Alt Party tickets. Nothing really significant has to be left behind, apart from some Felician toiletries that didn’t fit themselves into a plastic bag earlier. Once that hurdle has been leapt, there are a couple of hours to kill, so the next thing to inflict on our dazed and confused body-clocks is a larger than usual breakfast. The jury is still out on whether a full cooked breakfast was the wisest thing to do at 05.45 hrs, I’m sure a guilty verdict is in the post. But that seemed to be a good thing to do back then.

(Squ)EasyJet turns out to be a fairly decent flight on this route. There is a controlled free-for-all to get to a seat at the start, but nothing fell off the aircraft on the way over and I managed to complete the red-eyed flight ritual of resting my head and tuning out the world in an unsteady half-doze for a while. So we’d judge it a good trip. In due course, we arrive at Vantaa Airport and smartly make our way to the 615 bus service, the no-frills but loyal and faithful vehicle which carried us to the Helsinki centre on many a previous occasion. We have carefully made sure that our communication routes to Wiztom are open and working previously and contact him now. The lines are open and he will meet us there shortly. Apart from the small matter of a defective laptop he is repairing. The name of ‘Marycloud’, aka warp factor 9 on the va-va-voom index is mentioned, the offending machine belongs to that fragrant lady.

Anyone with even the slightest experience of upgrading or repairing computers can guess what happened next.

The promised half-hour stretched away into a vast distance. The updates were discouraging and indicating new obstacles busily queuing up behind the current ones to take their place. One of the compulsory visiting rituals was carried out to everyone’s satisfaction when a Hesburger restaurant was located in the Central Station Metro arcade and Suomi style junk food reminiscent of our first 1998 visit was consumed.

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We is eating the Hesburger!

After that, we were passing the time in Central Station sploshing around in a puddle of apathetic tiredness, the fuddled state from our early start forcibly knocking on the doors of disinterest and loudly demanding to be let in. Fortunately in the nick of time reassuring phone calls came, firstly from the Knightly Truck of garbage (Sir GarbageTruck!) with a follow-up from the Martin of Q-Funk, whose physical presence entered closely following the phone call. At that point, a final text from Wiztom confirms that he has escaped the python-grasp of his never-ending computer errand and was finally on his way. The mood lightens a lot, and a lively conversation is in full flow by the time Wiztom arrives. A party of four then undertakes the epic and rain-lashed journey back to Wiztom’s premises across the wilds of Helsinki. We get off in a building site, and stagger up a series of hills, each of them with its own running stream of rainwater. Eventually we get to Wiztom’s apartment, which is a rather nice place dominated by a huge Sony flatscreen in the lounge.

A period of relieved collapse, including eagerly demoed excerpts from Housemarque’s  ‘Super Stardust’ on Wiztom’s PS3, crazy amounts of exploding stuff on screen and all follows. This is bringing your work home but not in any normal manner! We manage to make a further trip out into the ever-present lashing rain for essential supplies including a welcome pizza near-death experience and something for breakfast on the following day.

After we’ve eaten, there is a further mission which will take us out into the bleak sodden wilds of downtown Helsinki, as there is a pre-party event described as a ‘warm-up club’. This turns out to be another catch a lot of public transport episode, followed by more roaming in dark wetness to the Cable Factori site to locate this event. Wiztom wisely declines that chance so it is just Felice and I going. We manage to find it running in a fairly quiet state, although one or two people known to us turn up later on, such as the large towel-wearing American with a distinctive pseudonym discussed slightly earlier. He has acquired a lush beard and looks more than ever like Jeff Minter’s father. (A mischievous flash of thought places the young Jeff Minter fighting like a Jedi in the Empire Strikes Back cloud city where Truck takes on the Vader role and the deadly revelation is made!)

friday_21_AltParty_vesa_harkonen_08

Truck, on the right, giving the bad news to Jeff Minter. "I am your fatherrr!!"

The general atmosphere is relaxing, it is not too late but we are tired and decide to head back. This goes straightforwardly until a moments lapse of concentration, or over-optimism of journey’s end puts us off the bus several stops from where we should be. This is a lapse entirely on my part, I cannot use my usually successful strategy of finding an element of cock-up to blame on Felice! Unfortunately, the rest of this journey is completely uphill and on foot. We get back some fifteen minutes later than planned, soaked and with busted lungs, a long session of unwinding, hot and cold drinks, and essential web couch potato behaviour is needed before we can even contemplate going to our inflatable beds.

But as we do this, never has a night’s sleep been sweeter etc.

19.00 and we’re back in party space.

The Swedes have arrived, Baggio, Evil, and the less commonly seen coding megabrain Gizmo are setting up, as is the slight but welcome figure of Pahartik. He has found a new travelling companion and also sensibly opted to stay elsewhere, possibly to get out of any possible repeat of last year’s wardrobe lifting hassles with Q-Funk?

Back to the story so far….

The bulk of today was spent slowly restoring normal functions and energy levels to a sleepy body. Our long morning of leisure chez Wiztom’s took in several pursuits. These included watching a Japanese crime thriller in Japanese, with Finnish subtitles, with Wiztom to explain what was going on, which helped. We also discovered that his Atari STe could be connected to the hugeness of the Sony flatscreen. There was a certain amount of internal hardware tinkering pre-done to allow an S-Video connection as RGB was not supported to that screen. Several ST and STe full-screen demos were shown, including Unlimited Matricks representing the oldschool, and of course Dead Hackers ‘More or Less Zero’ from the class of 2008. With a screen of that size, the ST’s floppy drive ‘filing cabinet’ icons were nearly as big as actual filing cabinets!

By the time the Ultimate Music Demo’s 21 minute intro fades to a stop, it is almost time to leave, various computers are stuffed into various bags, and we set forth for another public transport adventure. There is thankfully no rain and the mission to get to the party place goes flawlessly. It appears that the party is not quite ready for the attending masses, as we present our ticket hopefully, but are politely told to go away until the official doors open time of 17.00hrs. We repair to the bar area where the warm-up club from the previous evening was held, and rapidly encounter Truck and a completely unexpected Nerve in quick succession. An improvised late lunch quickly follows from there. Whilst we are deep in scenish anecdoting, the lithe rollerskating figure of one of the special guests glides through the bar. This is Jeri Ellsworth, the maker of the Commodore ‘Direct to TV’ (DTV). She is completely approachable and joins in with the conversation. She looks like just about every geek’s fantasy girlfriend.

Eventually Truck is called to some organisers duty or other, the happy little gathering breaks up, so we figure that it is time to look for the proper party, which is now in a more welcoming doors open state.

Which takes us up to this point where we’re watching the party slowly unfolding.

19.22

One experiment which takes us out of normal party operating procedures is worth mentioning here. As Wiztom has a spare key, which has been loaned to Felice for the duration and we have pre-purchased five-day travel cards which enables us to blitz the public transport facilities without worrying about the cost. We have decided to leave our sleeping equipment at Wiztom’s place. The plan is to return there when the partying palls, to enjoy a comfortable night’s sleep without the suspense factor of sleeping near alcoholically challenged midnight strangers in the sleeping areas in darkness. The fun part is going to be when the public transport stops. The subway component quits disappointingly early, so we’ve agreed to party like animals through the nights, until around 05.00hrs when going home becomes a possibility once more. The dead morning period can be slept through and we return in the afternoon when the party starts to wind up again. We’ll be dead and buried by the end of it, but hey, I’ve got two days after I get back home to recover in!

19.54

There are a surprising number of original ST’s at this party. Apart from Wiztom bringing his machine, Nerve brought his along, and there is another one set up nearby, not connected to our little party. There is also a silent machine at the infodesk. (Not to mention the ST that Britelite set up near to us, also with an UltraSatan.) Nearly all of these machines are sporting some form of SD-card storage. Wiztom has one of the original Satandisks, (a free donation from Evil) which was being used to good effect this afternoon. Nerve and the third party ST have both got brand new UltraSatans, Nerve opting for a 4GB SDHC card. If there was not the little matter of a flight limiting what could be carried over, I might have been tempted to bring my STe with its UltraSatan as it would fit inside my flight bag, but there is also the little matter of borrowing a suitable screen, which is why I’m writing this report on the laptop, ho hum..

friday_1800_AltParty_vesa_harkonen_04

Not an ST! The Baby Cray used for the Cray demo competition.

20.12

The Setok opening speech kicks off. I guess the party is officially ‘open’ now.

Ravel takes over, he expands on the man-machine theme a bit. I don’t see any birthday cake this time?

Fireworks at the end of the speech which was short and sweet. We’re definitely over the 10th anniversary portentousness.

21.49

First night food! – A loose gathering of the great and good of the Nordic and UK Atariscene’s set off in the direction of a food finding mission. This party included myself, Felice, Wiztom, Nerve, Partycle, and  Gizmo. A preliminary approach to the local Subway was met with a sad expression of scarcity, or we would have been sharing two bread rolls between a party of six! A small place around the corner met our cheapness criteria and offered a range of pizza and Indian food. (Thankfully not on the same plate together, that would have been too awful to contemplate!) This is where we have been for the past hour or so.

The rather snazzy glossy information booklet informs that an act called Byproduct is shaking the hall right now. Pahartik is in dancey dancey mode. He’s at his desk, possibly still to grasp that there is a front of stage area which could easily be used for those sort of pursuits?

Saturday 24th October.

00.58

It’s been a while since we’ve been here. Various distractions have played their part. The loud live act taking centre stage, thrusting it in the air, and shaking the building with a caterwaul of sound was the rock band (written initially as ‘Rock Bank, why?!) with cyberpunk sensibilities, ‘Dope Stars Inc’. As well as loud noises, androgyny was strongly themed. The kind of girls that these guys would get off with would most likely be easily confused lesbians who would want to look good next to the rough girls, but not realize what they had got into bed with until too late! Considering that act, I got a definite ‘Rock’ vibe from them, but not too much cyberpunk?

A lot of people were wearing ear defenders of some kind, possibly lung defenders were needed against the overworked fog machine too. At this time of writing there is still a thick pall of artificial mist in the party hall. I staggered over to the bar area which was completely packed out in contrast to the quietness last night. Another door with speeded-up chiptune mixes blaring out of it led to the Nebula Club, which is the grown-up equivalent to the second stage annex at the old party venue Gloria. Pahartik was found dancing over his MacBook with Linux installed. To get away from the ever present fog, I even went outside for five minutes, sans coat, as if I had Geordie antifreeze running through my veins.

I can still taste the damn smoke now!

01.22

I’ve been putting this off, but I guess its time to get some words on this screen about the party place and what is going on here.

There are lots of similarities but some important differences,with how Alt ’08 was set up. The same huge main hall is being used, with the stage being of central focus as it was last year. The tables for ‘Edgerunners’, the people that paid the extra to set up their computers were in the same place as before. The Finnish retro hobbyists with their flavours of old Mac, MSX and Commodore machines claimed an identical spot to before as well. There are some major differences, as a lot of the focus has been pulled further back down the hall and into the adjacent bar area. The space near the front of the stage, occupied by an ambitious attempt at catering was left totally bare and abandoned. Rollerskating Jeri babe is covering the hall with great ease and came over to see what we were doing. She is one of the most impressive guests in a decent line-up down the years, acing out even the mighty Jeff Minter with a massive babe-factor. I’ll get over this caffeine buzz in the later morning and promise to be embarrassed by these comments then, m’kay?

Hem! Back on topic. The cafe-bar run by students at the back of the hall has returned. It is the collection point for the free coffee and tea, which is somewhat needed right now. The exhibition spaces have a selection of artiness, perhaps not quite having the same impact as last year. Visiting groups include the anti-copyright ‘Pirate Party’. There is a fairly sophisticated attempt at a home-brew electric car here. There is also a Cray supercomputer which has its own competition category, Entries for which will be viewed with interest tomorrow. The free play arcade machine is Puzzle Bobble, aka Bust a Move, and I’ve been tempted to have a go or two on it. the party goes into a whole new area which last year’s party did not venture into, namely the Nebula Club at the back of the hall. (Or maybe it is the seawards facing front entrance?) This promises several events running in parallel with the main party hall, so it will be take a lot of effort if someone was trying to fit it all in?

There is also a very strange and terrifying looking bouncy castle concept, the best(?) way of describing it would be as a “Pedo-house” concept! I’m not sure if it is really suitable for the children that are supposed to turn up on the family day.

friday_1745_Jussi_Mononen_preparations-3

Pedo-House! If you go anywhere near it, you'll shit bricks!

I have been working on a couple more articles for the Low Res blog-mag, one of which was ready to be uploaded into the WordPress site. The other is a crudely stitched together piece of shite and needs a lot of work to get it presentable. So that’s where I might go for a bit. Seeyawll later!

02.46

The grim night pounds on!

Felice has been away from his station for a while but has recently returned. Nerve is working on a little coding fancy which is still in the very early stages. There is going to be an official entry which has already been completed. Amazingly this has been completed before the party so no last minute sleepless party-coding is needed. (This was the combined demo with the Dead Hackers Society.) What he is doing now is just something random that may or may not turn into something more substantial. Wiztom is proposing a taxi-based return home soonish, which might be acceptable if shared between the threesome of us. The night bus would not really be an option, costing nearly as much with the added hassle factor of having to walk to the central station to catch it in the first place.

13.47hrs!

A big gap!

Wiztom made good on his taxi-booking threat a short time after the last entry, which turned up scant minutes after he asked. A swift nocturnal ride home followed. A bedwards collapse came almost immediately, where we slept the sleep of temporarily homeless gods. A slow rising process followed, which included breakfast (fresh baked savoury croissants, mmmm!) and a swift transit to the party place, where we encountered…

17.28

Another big gap!

A meal got into this one. Baggio, myself, Felice, Wiztom, Pahartik and a UK demoscener called ‘Ne7′ came with us to a Nepalese/Indian restaurant in town. Baggio and others were outfaced by the huge mounds of food placed in front of them but I managed to eat mine, and part of theirs. (He he!)

Actually, should I be so gleefully reporting the boundlessness of the CiH appetite?! Makes me look like a greedy bastard, ah well, too late!

There was some stuff that got in beforehand. The Demoscene TV people were running a seminar in the Nebula Club, and for some reason I was considered influential, interesting or just been around too damn long to ignore, as I was asked to show up. There were several familiar and semi-familiar scene names such as Britelite and Little Bitchard. A film crew from DTV were there also. There was a long round of introductions and free beer. A workshop of some sort was about to start when we realised that Felice’s video made from excerpts of old Alt Party footage was due on the big-screen. This had quite a good job done on it, going beyond what you would class as normal home movie. After a few more entries that competition was over so I returned to pick up on the seminar, but at that point, the ring-tone-sounding dinner-bell called as we were due to go off to eat at that time.

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*Me* speaking into a pretend microphone at the demoscene workshop.

18.12

The newschool music compo is now running, and a surprisingly mellow set of sounds issues forth from the main stage speakers.

There is a strong Atari presence here. We were expecting something from the Dead Hackers Society, which will be another full-screen STe demo. Apart from that there looks to be a release from Britelite/RNO as well!  Nerve was showing something that was in a ready to run condition and this had been for a week, but he did not dare to run it yet. I assume this is the DHS release. Apart from that, Wiztom was prodding some spare source code around with sort of proof of concept results. Nerve was playing around with a little random fancy when we left him last night, but I haven’t seen him yet to get an update if anything happened with it or not? (UPDATE – It was just a random fancy after all.)

18.42

There will be a lot of competitions and the two special guests, so we’re going to be sitting tight until well after midnight. Off to get some spare energy from somewhere.

20.26

The first of the guest speakers has completed her piece. This is Sophie Wilson, one of the very clever people who worked at Acorn on things like the Acorn Atom and ARM chip, and she still has an active career designing a follow-on called Firepath. One of the things which became very clear was just how far Acorn were ahead of their competitors in designing their hardware. It also became clear just how badly Acorn got their long-term survival strategy wrong, albeit indirectly, as Sophie was not involved on their sales and marketing, One of the audience questions relating specifically to the 16-bit Amiga/Atari ST era revealed just how much Acorn appeared to take their eye off the ball at that point, not bothering to look beyond the press releases or take any detailed note of what the competition was doing. As we all know, by the time Acorn bothered to look into the matter and away from servicing their captive educational market, it was really too little and too late.

saturday_1900_sophie_wilson_jussi_mononen_4

Sophie Wilson says her stuff.

There was an interesting ‘demo’ session at the end with some original code which was written in the mid-nineties, which would not disgrace a showing now. One of these useful gadgets was Acorn’s attempt at movie multimedia replay which appeared to be comfortable replaying several film clips at once and within a variety of special effects. This was being done on a virtual RISC PC emulation via an Intel Atom powered machine, which in its native state is not really that good with this multimedia lark! (Usual questions apply about the quality of the movies concerned. I’m guessing a maximum 256 colours here, but still, a good effort.)

Apart from ARM products being widely adopted by mobile phones, the even more potentially awesome Firepath chips are being hidden away in ADSL modems, no doubt doing a great job at great profit to all concerned, but I guess the business environment does not allow any large scale manufacture of a killer general computer based on this chipset? Which is a shame.

I’m looking forward to Jeri’s talk. Hopefully she’s taken the roller skates off by the time she goes up onto the stage?

21.57

Jeri Ellsworth lived up to her lively attractive pre-show personality on the stage. She may not have realized how many people she was speaking to until they undimmed the lighting a bit more! Her talk was even more packed out with interested geeks than Sophie’s was. Jeri is a small-town American girl from Portland, Oregon, with big dreams and the sheer persistence of the Phoenix, as these dreams were raised and dashed several times. Still it all seems to have come good at last. She has lots of interests and a very fulfilled life including various ways and means of getting rid of latent violence and pyromaniac urges! This did not stop the obvious question being asked at the end of the session, “Are you free tonight?” She did tell a grisly tale of travelling overland on Greyhound buses where shadowy people with even fewer social graces and more convictions than most demo freaks asked the same sort of question in their own special ways ;-) Sounds like the Euro Lines sleep deprivation overnight torture special to Hamburg back in 1996, but without the attempted sexual contact.

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The lovely Jeri Ellsworth, not on roller-skates at that moment!

She is also fond of setting things on fire, including herself…

Amazingly, the competitions appear to be running to time at the minute. Still, plenty of time to put a stop to that! I believe original hardware is going to be used for the ST entries, so it all falls apart from there!

Okay, Supercomputer demos coming up in half an hour or so.

22.52

The compo entry viewing machine (Cray) is being wheeled to the stage. Time to book a chair as I don’t fancy standing for the next couple of hours.

Sunday I’ll get back to you with the date later! Alright, it’s the 25th.

01.39

We’ve had a run-through of all the competitions. For an Alt Party these went fairly smoothly. Firstly some trends to note,

Cray Supercomputer demos, still a rather young category, shall we say.

Dynamic demo. There were actually a couple of good ones this year.

Alternative demo competition, The alternative platforms tended to be down a bit, the ST/STe represented fifty percent of the oldschool hardware. The other entries for MSX and C64 did fulfill a certain amount of crowd-pleasing from the home crowd. The entry from Britelite/RNO is a brilliant taster for a full demo. Apparently something bigger is planned for next year, well we live in hope.

There were an awful lot of PeeCee demos which went overboard for an ambient feel both with sound and vision. It was as if the coders were all looking over each others shoulders and coming to the same conclusion and techniques. Or did they just all have similar ideas independently of each other?

The competitions actually ran relatively smoothly for an Alt Party. There were none of the really horrendous issues and entry losses from last year. Any video beamer hassles with non-standard hardware were sorted out well within my tolerance level. So a big thanks goes to the competition screening team for getting that right this year.

There is a little matter of some voting to do shortly.

01.58

I have activated my second free coffee! We didn’t use the sleeping area, but we made sure we got our free coffee!

02.31

Lovely Jeri has been giving out skate-by neck massages!  Roller skating yank babes with top notch chip design skills rule!

Okay, here are some random impressions for the entries which stood out for me. The usual oldschool bias applies, but there were some goodies in among the newschool stuff too.

Bold by dvik&joyrex – MSX – This was an MSX hardcore reminder of Alt ’98 glories. Over the ST stuff, it was the other oldschool standout entry.

Cernit Trandafir by Dead Hackers Society – A sultry and sophisticated elder sister to More or Less Zero.

Sodium by RNO – A taster for something amazing to come in the future? Let it be so!

sodium

Sodium by RNO, this is almost Falcon-worthy!

KATANA by JUMALAUTA – Themed around ancient Japan, a PeeCee demo which hit the spot.

Bad News by Kooma – A hilarious joke demo that actually worked as a dynamic demo too.

Mandelbrot by Static – Awesome Cray fractal flight, took a lot of hitting various boxes to get it to run correctly but the effort was worth it.

Fraktaalikaali by Lasi Interactive – Nice runner up on the Cray which did not take itself too seriously.

Unsigned by Byterapers, Inc.- Nothing really new for the C64 but presented with an upbeat crowd-pleasing panache.

I am reminded that we get an extra hour of party/sleepytime as the clocks go back today.

02.51

Wiztom is getting around to packing up, looks like another taxi session to get back is on the cards. Still better sleep whilst we can.

A lot lot later, not at all real-time anymore, no really. Time is adjusted for a long period where I really didn’t feel like picking up any text at all, but we’re back now, alright?

We actually got back to Wiztom’s high tower at around 04 of the hundred hours (adjusted for winter time going back) and were feeling every minute of it by then.

Somehow we managed to claw ourselves awake just a few short scant hours later with a determined plan to arrive back at the party before the competition results and prize giving ceremony. There is a traditional after-party sauna taking place, in a different location from before, and the plan is to take ourselves off to it fairly soon after the party, as there is an earlier start and finish for the new place. Which is what more or less happened, as events will later unfold.

We actually got back to Kappeli, the old cable factori, around eleven, which gives a generous slice of time to take in the end of the party, even before the closing ceremonies were delayed until 15.00. Oh well! It’s a mellow lazy Sunday morning vibe which suits me just fine.

A fair bit of the spare time is utilized in making oneself as comfortable as possible, namely grabbing a couple of chairs near the stage area, using one of these seats as a footrest, and half-watching and half-dozing through the Demoscene TV showreels that were being played on the main projector screen. The Swedes are still more or less where they were before and have yet to leave. Unfortunately, we do not have their company for tonight’s sauna party, not even the party animal Baggio will be present due to work commitments.

The competition results are given with the prizes. Comments by me are in bold.

Striptease competition

Competition prize sponsored by Bemine.

1   Maija (the redhead)
2    ?
3    ?

This took place in the Nebula Club at some obscure time in the morning. Dreading an influx of sub-optimally body-formed drunk male sceners, we stayed away. There were some women of the female persuasion who joined in apparently.

Cyberpunk Costume competition results
Competition prizes sponsored by IRC-Galleria.

1    826    Weller-Taguchi-Fujiwara Model 5050 by Basscadet
2    453    Anarkomekaanikot by temmi hoo & saini
3    393    Guns > Luck by Kapteeni Kronos

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Basscadet was the real man-machine!

We were out at the time this was shown, but Basscadet did stay in costume for pretty much the whole party.

Themed Video competition results
Competition prizes sponsored by Wreck-a-movie.

1    417    Apocalypse by Mikko L?pp?nen
2    284    Taistelukoodaajan seikkailut by Paskuuden standardik?site
3    252    future is a machine by nosfe
4    225    Alternative Party – From the Beginning by Felice/Alive Team & Lotek Style/tSCc

Felice only just missed out on this one. Some opinion reckoned the second placed entry should not have been placed where it was, being a quick cheap jokey in-party knock-off.

Oldskool Music competition results
Competition prizes sponsored by Assembly and Scenesat.

1    292    Mountain Gate 2: Rise The Mountain Gate by T-101 of Accession
2    244    Does boot NYYRIKKI remix by NYYRIKKI
3    232    Full Moon Flow by King Thrill / Tekotuotanto
4    229    Jedi-mestaaja by shroomi & pahamoka
5    201    The Land of Shadows by Petrified/Accession
6    151    Few bytes left by Lagers

Retro Graphics competition results
Competition prizes sponsored by Nebula.

1    387    Totally Accurate Controller 2050 by bracket
2    334    Status check by ilesj
3    328    one-eyed robot with tits and a sword by h7 / Accession & HiRMU
4    216    edge tek by dep
5    188    Chilling out by DiamonDie
6    162    The most immersive pinball of year 2027 by wAMMA + naemok

More realtime drawings and stuff.

Nuskool Music competition results
Competition prizes sponsored by Assembly and Scenesat.

1    220    To The Unknown by T-101 / Accession
2    165    Helsinki (instrumental mix) by Kitkaliitto
3    148    Epica, pars I: Provocator by King Thrill / Tekotuotanto
3    148    Kill Kill Kill (Wobble Mix) by LB vs DJ Vadim
5    110    Tonight by E621
6    96    Farewell, my Jamaican friend… by ferrara / phObos team
7    84    Symmetry in Love by Tappio
8    78    Hustler by F.A.B.I.O
8    78    Jump in the acid street remix 2 by Olo
10    55    Aquarium by Foldplop
11    43    Spoiled Pancakes by V?s?n S? Lens
12    30    alternity by eimink
13    18    Ulp by mrp

Helsinki instrumental sounded like someone’s attempt to do classical with a modern twist.

Realtime Graphics competition results
Competition prizes sponsored by Epson.

1    275    Cyberpunk Tomorrow by Basscadet
2    126    Giraffi by Niko “kiirala” Kiirala
3    115    My little nuclear pony by DiamonDie
4    105    Spying for Ilya by Laura “Vield” Koponen
5    75    Exosceleton by Saini
6    52    My dwarven fortress by Kapteeni Kronos
7    48    Left overs by Hippi-Erkki
8    47    Drawing for the realtime graphics by Pirre
9    46    Zero by Aleksi “c8h11no2″ Palen
10    41    Hi-Towers of M’Clabaku by stRana
11    39    Tisias by nosfe/iSO
12    31    Alternate reality snake by Sakari
13    29    Psykoosi by Siiri ja Anna
14    21    Keltainen volvo by Paparazzi / tAAt
14    21    RoboValve by spiikki ^ Nalleperhe
16    12    Game Over by Kryptos

Wildest Wild competition results
Competition prizes sponsored by Puputsin Puoti.

1    345    Compofiller 50000+ by iSO
2    311    Demoscene in 2 Minutes by Duncan^DMS & T-101^ACC
3    237    Altkohinat by Manmeet’s Machine

Supercomputer Demo competition results
Competition prize sponsored by CSC – IT Center for Science.

1    785    Mandelbrot by Static
2    630    Fraktaalikaali by Lasi Interactive
3    428    Supa by mrp

The Cray was a ‘baby Cray’, not one of the monoliths!

Dynamic Demo competition results
Competition prizes sponsored by Damicon Kraa and Nokia.

1    802    Bad News by Kooma
2    464    DATASPHERE by HACKERS
3    406    PREMORSE by jumalauta

The first placed entry deserved its first prize.

Alternative Demo competition results
Competition prizes sponsored by Live 2011 and Nokia.

1    393    Bold by dvik&joyrex
2    321    Unsigned by Byterapers, Inc.
3    171    Cernit Trandafir by Dead Hackers Society
4    151    Sodium by RNO
5    110    Namesia B by Komplex
6    98    Lateral Surface of Discord by Matt Current
7    85    Catharsis by mfx
8    78    Bad News by Kooma
9    77    18th anniversary by Damones
10    76    Coffee by rustbloom
11    65    KATANA by JUMALAUTA
12    26    DATASPHERE by HACKERS
13    22    The repeating life of Miss Time by Cenon
14    15    Kippis by Solarius & Oasiz
14    15    Recycle by Pants^2
16    13    Koivukyl? by ?lykuvioK
16    13    Fraktaalikaali by Lasi Interactive
18    10    Mandelbrot by Static
19    6    Dunkelheit by mrp
20    3    PREMORSE by jumalauta

No issues with the first place, but perhaps the second place demo was name-voted a tad much? Methinks the Dead Hackers demo was the true second placed production.

YLE competition results
Competition prize sponsored by the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE.

1    Bad news by Kooma

The Most Obscure Computer Competition
Competition prize sponsored by Damicon Kraa.

1    Sophie Wilson (Acorn Risc Machine (ARM))

sunday_1500_prize_giving_ceremony_vesa_harkonen_22

"Look mum, we won a prize!" - Nerve on stage.

With the results concluded, the doors closing time loomed rather suddenly out of the mid-afternoon gloom. It got to the point where we were chased out of the hall by the team deconstructing the chairs and tables. ST’s were hastily stuffed into bags and coats retrieved from the piles of stuff left under the tables. There was a plan to take ourselves directly to the afterparty Sauna, having smugly removed all computery stuff earlier that morning and returning to the party with pre-packed towels and party alcohol supplies for the sauna. We uneasily huddled around, teasing the new sauna location out of Setok, and deciding on an interim mealtime plan.

This took the form of a wet walk to the local McD’s with team Atari Sweden and Norway where more junk food was gratefully found and  consumed. At this point it was time to bid multiple farewells to the Swedes and Nerve.

There was a world of more wetness as we located the bus stop to take us to the new sauna place. We did not have to wait for too long and at least we were under cover.

Wiztom was confident about where we had to get off for the new sauna place. The subsequent hunt on foot for that location took us to some strange dark and creepy woods. At one point we managed to smell the distinctive aroma of wood smoke. Perhaps if we followed our noses in, we would have found it sooner? We also found that we weren’t the only ones who were lost, as we encountered Setok and Jeri who were also having locating difficulties with the Sauna.

Fortunately, we found the sauna on the edge of the coast. A lonely jetty goes into the water, waves break on a small beach, a brazier burns at the entrance of a wooden hut. The new sauna is a smaller place than the one we are accustomed to. There is a cozy sitting area and a good supply of drink, which is added to, and a bit of food. The sauna is already in action as several towelled figures testify.

There is no electric option here, but there is a double wood burner, the second one not being used. We manage to get there in the period where the sauna is just about to reach full operating temperature, and fulfill the ritual of steamy heat in the usual manner.

There is a fair choice of drink. My Edinburgh Whisky Tour purchased sacrificial small bottle of Dalwhinnie 15 year old single malt scotch survived the arduous journey out, but did not survive the consumption that took place here! This was deliberate and intentional. Even Nosfe commented favourably on the palatable qualities of this fine drink. The whisky exchange website describes it thus.

“A good introduction to the delights of single malt whisky – elegant, smooth and medium-bodied with a light, fruity palate and a whiff of heather on the finish.”

ProductImage-1

Dalwhinnie 15 year old single malt scotch, the drinky nectar of the gods!

I’d have to agree with it, I liked one of the users comments where it was judged smoother than Glenfyddich.

Fortunately, this time around and restraining consumption of his booze perhaps, Felice did not feel the need to let everyone know how he felt, constantly.

Pahartik turned up late and rather lost when the sauna component of the party was almost over. A philosophical shrug later, and he opened a bottle of Koskenkorva which handily took over as the Dalwhinnie had run dry by then. Jeri was at the party but did not go into the sauna, although a promise was extracted from her to do this next time she came here. There was a UK scene presence which also didn’t go in, we got talking to an individual called ‘Ne7′ whom we saw more of on the final journey back home.

The sauna wrapped up fairly quickly by afterparty standards. It finished not so long after 21.30. We witnessed Setok folding himself into his Caterham Super 7, origami-fashion, for his drive home. We got back to Wiztom’s by 22.30 and were able to relax, grab a final bite to eat and get a reasonably early night.

Monday..

This leads us nicely to our final day. Wiztom sets off for work, fortunately at not too unreasonable an hour. We are left to our own devices with the spare key to the apartment. This would have been a quiet day apart from a cunning plan from Truck requesting a lunchtime meeting of the scene faithful still remaining in Helsinki.

We had enough time to get up in leisurely fashion, pack etc. The bags stand by awaiting our later return, so we set off once more. Cloudy and wet again? Yup!

There was no clear plan at the start, so gathering the assorted sceners together was something like trying to herd cats. Especially when some kitties like Felice had their own idea of meeting at Molly Malone’s bar in the centre of town with some of the people. We managed to collect Pahartik and his longtime American IRC buddy ‘Telephone’, a widely built Texan, but Q-Funk was fashionably late. A final phone call confirming location blasts away any complacency, so we had to hurry to the Kaampi interchange where the restaurant was located. This turned out to be a Chinese restaurant we had visited before. (Last year, when it served mouth-blistering cuisine to Q-Funk as I recall!)

There are an awful lot of people crammed into a fairly small space, I’m perched in the far corner wobbling on the seat edge which is not so hot. However, the food is plentiful and reasonably priced which fits in with last year’s recollections as well.

Eventually, and after a short digression back at the famous Molly Malone’s with Q-Funk’s latest femme and her friends, it is time to start on the long journey back. We have absolutely no problem with getting off at the right bus stop this time. A short pause later back at Wiztom’s place and we are off once more, heavy suitcase clonking along the broken pavement.

The return journey is straightforward and we have a couple of hours worth of time to crash at Vantaa airport after completing the checking in rituals. After completing the long and leisurely sweep of what the airport has to offer, we  discovered that Ne7 had got his flight time wrong and had been waiting at the airport for several hours previously. We recall that he left the Chinese restaurant under some time pressure, but he had got his checking-in time confused with his flight time. He was actually on the same flight as ourselves.

This helped to pass the time going back rather handily as we talked about anything and everything, having made sure we got seated together in an aisle surrounded by sullen Daily Mail reading elderlies. Actually the bulk of the conversation was between Felice and Ne7 as I was offering a minimal contribution, feeling very tired by then, also quite possibly a little bit unwell. Whether this was a lurgy which was picked up in Helsinki, or had been waiting for me since the UK to stupidly burn the candle at both ends is debatable. It was something that hung around for a week afterwards, it didn’t develop into a full blown cold or flu but left me feeling flat and drained for a while.

Anyway, back on topic and away from hypochondria, the arrival in the UK was around a  GMT-adjusted 22.00hrs as previously expected. Having parted from Ne7, some more journeying eventually got us back at Felice’s place at 01.00 of a Tuesday morning. A night’s uneasy rest, under the influence of the ‘thing’ described just now saw me just fit enough to make the last stage of the journey back home under my own power.

Final thoughts?

The second party in the ‘new’ format went off well at the old cable factory. There was a small drop in some areas from last year. Front 242 was a very hard live act to follow. The Dope Stars made a valiant effort but the gap to bridge was huge.

The party was still well-run and very professionally done. The drop in the main hall activities was made up for by the use of Nebula Club and cafe bar area, which at times attracted almost as many people as the main hall itself.

A niggling issue from last year, the competitions were much better run this year. This was the number one area for improvement identified from last time and I think the organizers were painfully aware of this. There were a high number of entries in all the categories. The oldschool demos tended towards the sparse, but high quality end of things.

There was a strong Atarian presence in the competitions, not just Dead Hackers and company, but Britelite finally doing the decent thing and coding an ST entry. We missed the return of the central European sceners from last year, (Earx, 505 etc) but they were pulled in by the attraction of Front 242 so I guess this is not a regular party for them?

It is nice to remeet the usual people, even Q-Funk, without a domestic crisis. Their names have been mentioned in many party reports before so I won’t repeat myself here. There were also some new(ish) people like Ne7, a face from Sundown who became better known to us.

Whilst on ‘people’, we’d like to thank Wiztom for the use of his apartment whilst we were in Helsinki. You’ve got a really nice place, even if it is on the top of a hill!

The special guests were good value, especially Jeri Ellsworth. She joined in and interacted with the party to a much greater degree than is usual for special guests. Jeri is one of my favourite memories from this Alt Party. Sophie Wilson gave a very interesting talk on her role at Acorn and ARM but was much more of a conventional special guest and probably not so much of a ‘people’ person.

So the end result is being left skint, with an unknown chest disease and knackered, fantastic party, see you next year!

Picture credits – All most pictures enthusiastically ‘borrowed’ from the Alt Party website gallery which is okay under the local creative commons licence, all copyrights belong to the original owners of course.

CiH – Writings realtime at the party and non-realtime later on, (c) Oct/Nov 2009.

Sundown 2009 Party Report

December 28, 2009

Which keeps trying to write itself as Syndown 2009 for some bizarre finger interaction incompetence reason?

22:20hrs. - I-It’s the 11th September 2009, happy twin towers day to you!!

It’s the sort of realtime party report, in a sort of conjuring words from a darkened laptop keyboard sense, which might account for the various myriad misspellings and text malfunctions, multiple restartings etc that I’ve incurred even at this early stage. Anyway, we’re here, after an epic journey of, ooh, hours across the broken and be-buggered patchwork of UK motorway network linking Budleigh Salterton and Devon with the rest of the planet. But more of that slightly later, as they say.

First impressions are favourable, of a mellow and peaceful place apart from various bigscreen happenings. The party hall, actually the town hall or community centre, is a gentle, suitably mood-lit  and spacious place, there is a hefty generosity of table space to spread out with Mr Dell. This time around I’m opting for a low-key presence, this being the first time at this particular party, so no Atarian gear, apart  from the emulated  versions contained within the laptop, of course. (It might have been a different story, had the soon-arriving ‘UltraSatan’ SD-card storage device had turned up before the party, in which case my STe would have made the trip down too, to take its rightful place in the retro-computer exotic storage device dickswinging contest with the Speccies and Commodorian silicon life-forms present there!)
ourheroes

This is how the interior of the party hall looked. It had a generally ‘pink’ feel to it, as if we were attending a demo party inside a giant’s mouth!

Drinkies have been served by Felice in extremely large plastic pint safety glasses, but no-one is complaining. The contents are what matters, after all. We’re consuming, ermm, tastes like red vino, what a pleasant surprise.

As the hall is in late night chill-down mode, I’ve not checked too closely on what else is in there. A BBC Master from the olden days of 8-bit mightyness has been set up nearby. It may have been stolen from an unsuspecting school’s stock cupboard? The cupboard which was sealed off as a time capsule from the 1980′s!

23.26.

We’ve been up and around the hall and spoken to lots of people, especially Evil Paul for a long time. He was getting fed up with his blood level peaking over the booze level and was taking urgent steps to remedy this. I’ve spotted a tablefull of Commodore hardware, Gasman’s Speccy, and a lone ST (Yaay!) running Neochrome master on it. This belongs to a visiting party from occasional Atari botherers ‘Torment’. There are a few EE-Peecees spotted too among the more normal hardware. In fact, I’ve got the most ‘corporate’ looking laptop in here due to sheer customizing laziness on my part. My Microsoft approved ‘XP-Bleu’ desktop sticks out like a semi-drunk besuited salary-man desperately trying to pull one of the demo group femmes attending the party, and falling flat miserably.

Saturday 12.9,09.

99L31 or 00:41 0′ Damn this semi-darkness! It kills typing!

We’ve been quietly studying ST emulation in its latest Hatari 1.3 guise for a while, including the rather nifty Falcon 030 emulation which is now included, This is now mostly good but still a bit broken in places, especially with the sound, Notable successes include the 2007 Outline invitro from Earx and co. Notable failures include the Avena/Digital Chaos Fried Bits 3 demo ‘Enrage’, which suffered as it could not settle on a screen mode so ended up showing none in the end. The other nice thing is that this laptop is not horribly underpowered for Falcy emulation, which is where my now aged Mini Mac G4 falls down at home.

At the end of the day, good old STEEM was still the best option to run through Checkpoint’s Suretrip 2 demo. Which I did. This is the first time of viewing since the Outline party. it still rules! Now wouldn’t it be nice if someone made a hard disk friendly version for my soon to be arriving UltraSatan?

I’ve not taken a lot of notice of the surrounding party over the last hour. Lots of people seem to be actually working on stuff although there is a high loud drink-assisted chat ratio too.

03.08 hrs

The shouty kitchen rules at parties! (I thought I was giving my tired throat a rest coming here!?)

This was posted on the DHS BBS just now by me, in a more tired than ‘emotional’ state.

“Me and Felice are at Sundown. It is 03.00hrs. Typing in near darkness after too much mellowing out juice sucks.”

“You’ve no idea how many wrong attempts have actually preceded this final post ;-)”

“It’s a really nice party, I hope I can start to make more sense of it tomorrow in the cold light of day.”

Somehow I don’ t think this will be a long report? (Nonsense, it just needs a bit of finessing!)

10.15 – The real morning, none of that pretend stuff!

Gawd, we did drink a bit last night, did we not? There was a hint of hangover which was swiftly banished with the help of some effective breakfasting.

I’ve slept a thespian sleep, in a tangled forest of stage curtains, behind the stage. There is no set-aside sleeping area, just grab where you can. I managed to get a private alcove surrounded by these curtains which is probably the most intimate space available here. The good news is that the party noise activity had totally tailed off by the time my head hit the inflatable sack at 04.00hrs, so apart from the “usual” rhythmic sleeping noises, there were no disturbances as such. There is a party house rule which limits the volume at a very late hour, out of deference to the local population of Budleigh Salterton, many of whom have had to be carbon-dated to establish their age.

There is a not totally scurrilous rumour going around here that the massed gathering at Sundown 09 has pulled the average age profile in Budleigh down to the point where they needing a bus pass, but they are not yet needing help to get up and have a wee.

We have also breakfasted on our pre-bought supplies in the surprisingly well-equipped kitchen. The selection, made by myself earlier yesterday, is intended to resemble the staple items of the Outline party style of breakfast. This happily includes a supply of constantly on tap hot hot beverage friendly water, and a microwave oven so strong, it is used in classified defence experiments, maybe? In addition to all of that, there is the sultry promise of a second breakfast of bacon rolls sometime in the next hour.

People are returning to life slowly, but the ambience is still more sleepy than anything, some people are outside eagerly grabbing the last traces of summer as it is a glorious day. I’ll join them in a bit.

# Journey Down! # - Time to say a few words about our travel travails.

Around 16,00hrs yesterday, Northampton, a world away – An automotively equipped Felice putters down our street with a car loaded with me, and stuff, We’re trying for the rather unique sensation of sampling the whole demo party experience without having to leave these shores. This has the advantage of cutting the overall journey time and leaving out the expensive ‘getting across the wet bit in the middle’ part. The downside is that the hours that we do travel included some tedious motorway episodes.

Felice utilised the TomTom in his head to route us close to a Friday rush-hour choked Birmingham. As subsequent radio traffic reports showed, this was actually the least worst option available, any alternate route had an accident and closures on it. The most enduring motorway-based ennui came when passing through Avonmouth/Bristol with a roadworks cunningly designed to make the worst of the situation. This was a tedious travellers tale that just about all the partygoers had in common. Unless some people managed a beach landing directly on the shingly sea front at Budleigh Salterton? Arrival, allowing for a couple of deliberate stops, the abovementioned delays and a little searching around Budleigh Salterton itself from where the unspecific directions ran out, was around 21.30 hrs. We clearly  managed to avoid going too far as there was no loud splash at the end.

And that was the journey down. As the first notes from last night hinted, the party was already in a late night lockdown with a fair amount of alcoholic consumings going on, which we felt compelled to quickly join in with.

11:44

Confounding my expectation of no catering being provided in the party, we have just consumed the free bacon roll, cooked by the hand of rc55, the party organiser head person. We’ve also found Topy of Trabant owning fame who is also wearing an Outline 2009 T-shirt, the top garment of choice if you happened to have been to that memorable party. What are the chances of that happening? He asks. Rather good, I reply! An automotive conversation follows in the late morning sunshine, just outside the party hall. Apart from one or two nasty details, he thinks it would be possible to convert a Trabant to right hand (UK) drive. But you have to like hardware hacking to some degree to do it properly. (The most intractable part of this changeover would be relocating the gear shift, which is mounted on the dashboard on the left hand side and connected directly to the transmission which can’t be moved itself, which means that driving a right hand Trabi would then become a two person operation!)

13.09

I’ve been down the beach with mOd and friend. I managed to stay compliant with local by-laws and avoided dog-fouling. I also did not go any faster than 8 knots either. I guess not being shaped like a boat might have helped in the latter case. The beach is shingly with lots of pebbles underfoot, There was enough swooshy wave action for mOd to be caught unawares and fall whilst trying to run backwards away from an unexpectedly far travelling wave. We spent a lot of the time there trying to throw as many pebbles as possible back into the sea, which kept bringing them all back. We eventually tired of this canute-like endeavour and headed back into town. The rest of Budleigh high street is the (un)usual small town mix of the mundane and eye-poppingly weird. The latter category including a shop that reflects the twin obsessions of the owner, selling scale models of cars, buses and trains alongside born-again christian literature in the same shop window. Budleigh also has the distinction of hosting the most paranoid chinese restaurant in Britain, but more of that later!
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No further comment or elaboration needed, this was a real distraction from the party at hand.

It almost feels like a disincentive to force oneself to stop at the party with such a pristine piece of showmanship for late summer on the beach as a rival attraction? Note for next time, if the weather is going to be lovely in a mid-September fashion next year, maybe we try to get down here as early as possible and enjoy a day chilling out at the seaside whilst the rest of the party is still arriving and setting up.

14.25

We are eating the lunchtime stuffs which were purchased from a busy Co-op mini-mart place in town. There is a timetable which kicks off at 15.00 and looks pretty busy thereafter.. I guess we’ll duck out from one of the music compo’s for the evening meal.

One of the party orga’s is an Orb fan, judging by the choice of music from the main speakers.

16:13

The preceding hour has been filled with sillyness, faux-quizzes, bad musical impersonations and total randomness, including forced eatings of chilli-sauce flavoured pringles, in the ritual known as Meaty’s quiz. Fortunately, none of this demands much audience participation apart from ironic applause and sarcastic remarks. All of the above works really well, in a way which is hard to explain if you are not already there. Me bombarding an uncomprehending readership with in-jokes rarely works, so I won’t on this occasion. There will be some real competitions later on. This is also the point at which you realise that you did not sleep nearly enough last night.

So went off for a bit to sort that out. Clunk, ZzzZZ! (Well more of a doze really.)

17:05 and back with caffeine, and awaiting the first (graphics) competitions. Which will not be until around 6.pm. Ho hum.

17.35 – Wine opened, Felice brought in fresh supplies, hurrah to him! So tonight’s slow spiral of decline starts here….

18.25 – Still no competition but we have spoken to Alex Holland, keeper of the Thalion Shrine who turned out without much pre-warning, which was nice. He was interested to see we were running emulated Atari’s but was here with a mini-mig Amiga thing, so he was thusly embracing the dark side today!

19.39

My fingers are sticky with the residue of chinese food and my mind is gummed with the comprehension of STILL NO COMPETITIONS! – Have they brought in last year’s Alt Party team to run the compo’s or what?!

We went out for our evening meal to an interesting local chinese takeaway. We had heard reports in-party from various people that it was a place with an agenda going beyond the mere serving of food. Our walking tour soon located these premises and we headed in. The food ordering was normal enough. What was very strange were the numerous pasted submissions, collages, comments, notices and handwritten pleas to be delivered from the forces of evil, whether they be the illuminati, the antichrist, or the income tax office and bankruptcy courts. There were clearly “issues” going on here, and the owners of the restaurant either had a lot of problems, or a massive persecution complex. Still, I took a picture of ‘Peace Chicken’ when it was quiet and no-one looking. I guess he’ll come to the rescue?

Unfortunately, I ordered him to be served enclosed within batter balls and with a sweet and sour sauce, so that won’t happen then!

DSC02721

So what’s a legal wrong then?

Felice has over-ordered, managing to add special fried rice to the order as a ‘meal within a meal’ before he realised what he had done, so after eating my own substantial meal, I’ve been lending a hand, or fork with his. (Buuurp!)

Sunday – 00.13

Some considerable time after the last log entry.

We’ve had some nightmare live competition moments, where the organisers opted to do everything on the spur of the moment, and seemed to be constantly surprised by the many potholes of error and confusion that they fell down on the way. The music competitions suffered particularly, with one entry seeming to wreck swathes of equipment. There were a lot of agonised pauses by the time we got the oldschool demos underway. To make up for that, there were a decent number of entries, including a reasonable life-sign intro from Torment on the ST, and a couple of smashers on some decently obscure platforms, namely a full on megademo on the BBC Master mentioned earlier in the text. This was running entirely in mode 7 ‘teletext’ graphics, which is great for memory conservation and not a lot else. There was a lot of videoclip or effects, so some kind of video streaming or intensive data packing took place here?

Barely a step behind was a pretty nifty ZX81 (16k) demo from Noice which even included a hi-res fullscreen effect using some dirty hack which would set Sir Clive Sinclair’s beard on fire, A ZX Speccy demo from Ate Bit was notable for using the tape loading process to deliver parts of a demo on the way to loading its end product. Not to mention the 1 kilobyte music demo on the Speccy which was also an audience favourite.

There is a little matter of some newschool stuff to come shortly, whatever  that  might mean?! I’ll whinge about competition running later!

01.25

A shortish newschool competition concludes proceedings. Some good intros, some less convincing demos and only a handful of the latter. A party of the hardened partygoers have apparently made good their promise to go down to the stumbly uneven beach, in the dark. Several people with shovels have been sent after to dig a mass grave for them.

I’ll close down here for tonight, finish up in the morning.

09.27

Well a party of the hardened partygoers went down the beach and I took myself along with a follow-up team to join in. There were about twenty or thirty Sundowners who were reveling in the flickering light of a bonfire made from driftwood and random burny stuff. I declined the ankle-breaking opportunities inherent in the beach’s shinglescape and made it intact with the illuminating assistance of an LED pen-torch. Most other lighting was with the background of countless glowsticks, including some intrepid people who started to melt these in the fire and ‘paint’ random pebbles with their luminous droplets.

There was one serious and several silly attempts at slow capture photography and light graffiti with said glowsticks. It was a clear night, the moon was out and the stars were clearly visible overhead. In short, the perfect ending to the party. I decided to call it a night and shuffled back through a completely deserted town centre and back to the partyplace for bed shortly before 03.00 which is when the timer clock on my bladder would have expired.

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The real party is on the beach!

So now we’re on the second morning after, no hangover symptoms. The drinking did not get going for me in the same way as the previous night which may not have been a bad thing, and it’s time to round up this party report.

Sundown, the summing up…

The party considered – Sundown fits nicely into my mental map for pleasant experiences with the smaller to medium sized parties I’ve been to before. It is about the size of one of the earlier editions of Outline. Maybe less than a hundred people, but not that far off. The atmosphere is intentionally relaxed and laid back, a number of factors to be discussed shortly contribute to this feeling.

The location – (Hall) Budleigh Salterton Town Hall makes a rather good location for a party of this scale. It manages to be roomy and accommodate everyone without feeling squashed. The table space (two people per table) was generous, especially on a first visit with a minimal hardware presence (laptops only.) The partygoer does not feel cramped or crammed in. The hall is not completely ideal, it does have some superior facilities, such as a very good kitchen, which allows plenty of space and equipment for food preparation and consumption. On the other hand, there is no proper bathroom, as in showers, so perhaps two to three days is the longest a party can be sustained here? Sleeping arrangements tend to fall towards the ad-hoc, but there is plenty of spare space where you can remove yourself from the party hall. The other helpful aspect is there is a policy of keeping things quiet later on, partly out of consideration for the local elderlys, but also with a growing realisation that the majority of people attending Sundown are now after their first flush of wild and drunken youth.

The location – (Budleigh Salterton) – A seaside town, when September chooses to smile on you is a serious distraction from the business of partying, especially in Devon, in an area of outstanding natural beauty. I managed to get some beach time, which was described earlier in the report, not to mention the “real party is outside” themed episode late last night. Budleigh is an endearingly strange place, the average citizen is of a rather senior age. However, letting this party happen at all is a big plus in their favour. I learned at some point that this hall is used for Gaming LAN parties, so the idea of loads of youngish people with computers taking up residence in their community hall is not so alien as it might first appear to the overage Budleigh Saltertonians. Usefully, the LAN party is acting as a gateway drug for the demo party to take place!

Competitions - Is it me, or are competition organizers in general regressing, going senile and losing life skills as I get older? I remember going to the Error in Line parties back in 1999 to 2003 which generally ran smoothly in this area. They pre-recorded entries and these got shown more or less at the appointed times without any, lets say, unexpected delays or hold-ups in the actual entry showing process. This seems to be the gold standard benchmark to judge the rest by. Most other parties that I’ve since been to, including the rather expanded Alt Party last year seem to have taken a balls-out high risk live showing policy, which then goes horribly wrong. Sundown ’09 adds another chapter to this. It’s getting to the point where I’m getting nervous about sitting out a competition showing, as these appear to consist of a string of errors and embarrassments without a tangible end in sight? However, to make up for this, the entries were of high quality, particularly a well stocked oldschool demo competition.

People – I’ve got a small confession to make, I’m piss-poor at putting names to faces until I’ve got to know the people in question a bit more. I’ve spoken to a lot of friendly people without really remembering who they are. One or two of them were female and rather appealing in an uber geek chick kind of way. I had a nice chat with MegMeg, the more attractively female half of the Beeb-bothering crew Neurotypical. rcC55 was a fine host, even if he did sound like the head steward on a holiday airways flight camply apologizing for said flight encountering turbulence on a flight to Spain, especially when the competitions weren’t going to plan. It was nice to remeet an old Outline face, Topy, keeper of the Trabi, but he had left it wisely at home, figuring that it might be euthanised by an overkeen ‘Elf and safety” inspector over here, whose prime mission is to condemn and destroy that which does not conform to their narrow world view. We got talking to Gasman a lot of the time, another face from past parties elsewhere. There was a long and lubricated chat with EvilPaul.

megmeg

MegMeg is very easy on the eyes :-)

We had a lot of chatting with Steve, aka Stavros, aka ‘Stav’ who we had a fair bit in common with. Rather late in the day we got talking to Spiny of Torment. We managed to bump into Alex Holland, who remembered us from the very memorable STNICCC 2000 party in Karsmakers-land.

Of almost no interest to anyone, the journey back was a weary reverse-run of the journey over, without the darkness, more hold-ups around Bristol but fewer delays around Birmingham. Which just about concludes this part of the report.

So the crucial question the end of this report has been waiting for. Is this a party which has that all-important “must come back factor”? Hell yes it does!

CiH, for Low Res Mag, Sept/Oct 2009.

An old trick re-used?

December 28, 2009

Cunning copyright catches crooks according to the BBC?  This has been done before as we reveal how!

This excerpt was taken from the BBC Website dated the 13.9.09.

“Video games developer Eidos have come up with a novel way of catching users playing pirated copies of their game.

Players using illegal copies of Batman: Arkham Asylum have found that essential control functions in the game have been disabled, rendering it unplayable.

Players attempting to use the glide function within the game will find it disabled in pirated versions, resulting in the Batman character coming to an untimely end.

The protection system came to light when a user complained on the Eidos support forum saying:

“When I…jump from one platform to another, Batman tries to open his wings again and again instead of gliding.”

An Eidos community manager replied, saying the user had encountered “a hook” in the copy protection system, designed to “catch out people who try and download cracked versions of the game for free”.

“It’s not a bug in the game’s code, it’s a bug in your moral code,” he added.”

Now let’s look past the triumphalist boasting, as I think we’ve been here before.

Back in 1993, a well-known figure on the Atari scene has a copy of ‘Oids’ by FTL Software and decides to crack it for (hem!) educational purposes (actually to render it Falcon 030 compatible.) I won’t name this person as he is now established in the ‘industry’. However, what was supposed to be a quick ten minute job to strip out the disk protection took most of the afternoon. This was once I had discovered by playing it that the initial attempt had only succeeded in removing a false layer of protection and some critical game features were disabled. It turned out that FTL had put in a much deeper and hard to root out second layer which directly affected the gameplay (if the first protection was removed? I’m hazy on the details.) This is quite a cunning ploy for a game written in 1985 or thereabouts.

Then as now, the protection system coders were relying on the tendency of crackers not to playtest their end result too intensively. It would need someone with prior experience of the gameplay from an untainted disk to point out that something was badly wrong. In the case of Oids, the rescued prisoners would not mill about once they were freed, but stood still on the spot, passively waiting to be fried by your landing thrusters. Also the alien bases were not generating enemies properly. I think there are still some ‘cracked’ versions out there that are incompletely de-protected and only work in this partial fashion?

Putting in dummy protection and nobbling the gameplay will work to some extent, as cracking a game using that system will involve more effort and slow down the crackers. They will need to check more intensively that what they have done works. However it isn’t going to take anyone with half a brain too long to work out what is up and it’s more or less business as usual, once the initial surprise element has been overcome.

So, Eidos, how does it feel to revisit a technique used a quarter of a century ago?

Any thoughts on this?

CiH
for Low Res Mag – 16/9/09

UltraSatan in use, some quirks and workarounds.

December 28, 2009

Many of you lucky readers will have recently taken delivery of a brand new UltraSatan SD-card drive for your ST. Quite a lot of people will have also had the pleasure of owning the predecessor SatanDisk for some time before. Both of these devices were the modern answer to a lot of people’s ST bulk storage prayers. Of course the path to storage heaven was not a completely smooth one. It’s not really debris-strewn but there might be the odd pebble of discontent that you may stub your toe on. Here are a few of mine, but fortunately there are workarounds for these as I’ll explain.

It is worth noting at this point that I am using a very specific configuration for my UltraSatan enjoyment. This is an early series STe, Tos 1.06 (the version with the low res booting bug), I also have Tos 2.06 and MagiC as bootable options to give me enhanced functionality on the desktop too. It is expanded to the full amount of 4mb RAM. There are no other modifications that have been done to the machine. The experiences I’m describing may be unique to my set-up. Other people’s mileage may well vary. A preliminary run with Felice’s Mega STe with his UltraSatan didn’t generate these issues at all, for example.

Okay, so let’s tell you a bit more about these sinners!

For utility software in general,  where there were hassles, these tended to be with programs with some kind of custom  non-GEM  file selector. The elderly TCB Tracker comes to mind as being a  pig, sometimes  co-operating,   sometimes  not. Most people won’t care too much but I did actually (de)compose some stuff with it, so it’s of interest to me to listen to some very old tunes occasionally.  MusicMon,  in  its  early  1.0 incarnation  did  not want to talk to the SatanDisk or UltraSatan at all. Again this is not the first choice of a lot of people, but this old version has served some very specific purposes for me and has been used as a composing tool (or should that read “composting tool”?)

I also fancied  some real C64 SID-sounds on my STe, so Cream’s Playsid V2 was the logical choice. This  worked up to the point where it locked up on the file selector after the first tune was played, sometimes even before that.  There is an easy workaround for this though,  where you can install .PSD files to the application and run it just fine by clicking on the soundfile. But what about the rest of these things that are bugging me? Patience, all will be revealed soon enough.

For something different, I ventured into the world of using cunning programming tricks to display high-colour pictures in a fair resemblance of their  high-coloured glory.  For this, we have Douglas Little to thank. My first attempt was with the  Targa (TGA) viewer provided with Apex Media,  which has been shown to work just fine  on  an STe/floppy combination before.  With both the SatanDisk and UltraSatan, it appeared to hang without trying to convert and display a targeted picture. There was no difference between using drag and drop Tos 2.06, and the more laborious command-line to .ttp for Tos 1.06.  This is possibly another casualty  of  the  non-gem file  handling?   However,   my  second  attempt  with  the  more specifically written for the ST family picture viewer ‘Photochrome’ worked fine, but then  again, this program  did  revert  to a recognizable GEM  menu  when  loading  in something.

There was a conclusive workaround which sorted out all the issues described above. Very simply, having the full 4mb allows you to indulge in setting up a ramdisk. The Hybris reset-proof version did the job for me. Once this is installed on the desktop, you copy the difficult program or picture files into the ramdisk and run as normal, job done! Remembering of course if you are doing any work you would like to keep, to copy the files across to the more permanent storage before you switch the machine off!

We’re moving onto games and demos now. There were some issues raised which I’ll go into now. For example, some  of the D-Bug conversations tended to be happier and not produce a row of bombs if  a large chunk of memory was not occupied with a Tos  2.06  image file  to  start  with.  So  I tended to run these under the  plain  Tos  1.06 environment.  From reading around,  I discovered this may be a bigger memory issue,  as the Falcon 030 aimed portovers apparently need as much of the 4mb they  can get their hands on?  I hadn’t got around to tweaking the HD-Driver memory useage to minimum as yet as that hasn’t come up as a major problem so far.

I did have issues with a handful of demos. The most prominent was with ‘Breath’, the Mystic  Bytes Error in Line 1999 entry. this freezes or stops after the first static picture, although the music plays on. The other demo which behaved in an inconclusive manner was ‘Hallucination’ by the Reservoir Gods. This drifted to a stop prematurely. Once again, Hybris ramdisk came to the rescue, enabling both of these demos to run through perfectly once they were copied there.

Having a Tos 2.06 Rom image in memory can cause problems of its own. The Pacemaker demo by Paradox was found to really   need to run in Tos 1.06 mode,  otherwise it lost the blue part of the palette!

Most other things that I tried seem to be just fine with SatanDisk and UltraSatan. Having a SDHC card in the latter case seems to make no difference. I was unable to reproduce these issues on the sole other machine that I’ve tried so far, which was Felice’s Mega STe.

As always, this is an open format publication with comments enabled, so let’s hear about any experiences you might have had with the UltraSatan and your solutions to any issues.

CiH, for Low Res Mag, October 2009, written live from the Alt Party!


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