Atari Nostalgia

atari nostalgia

I grew up with the surge of arcade games in late 70’s/early 80’s. I also found a decent emulator that could be run on a website. And it happens to be Atari – I don’t remember caring what the console was in those days, as I preferred arcades to home-gaming. But Atari was prolific, and a lot of helpful info out there on fan sites to help you avoid the absolutely dire games (and there are plenty of course).

stella emulatorWhy bother, you may say, given how many flash versions of every game imaginable there are out there. The answer is: for a little more authenticity – this is what the ROM game versions unusually have. Stella was one of the few emulators that could be used from a website, and practically the only one supporting sound. After playing a few of the games, I figured the sound was pretty monotonous and sometimes jarring. But for authenticity, you need that insane music and effects. Though getting ROMs to work with the emulator can be hit and miss, generally the games run well.

RedFishBlueFish is collection of these efforts. Primarily Atari 2600 games, but as I discovered, Stella also supports Atari 5200 ROMs. Below is example game from the site – one of the less well know, but radical gameplay at the time. Also notable as being designed by a woman – very unusual 30 years, but it was firmly a boys club in those days (and probably still suffers from that).

Vanguard (Atari 1983)

You must pilot the ship through a bunch of different caverns, shooting aliens.. The memorable aspect of Vanguard is the ship, which can shoot in all 4 directions. If you fly through an energy pod, you become invincible and can simply crash into the enemy ships while the song plays. When you reach the end of the cavern, you must shoot the Gond, which is just a big face. Unfortunately, it is way too easy to kill the Gond in this version, which was not the case in the arcade.




Facebook – the last bastion of web 2.0, with its heavy dependence on user-generated content, and widescale abuse of users’ data.  I signed up in 2006, and vaguely prodded it from time to time. When my daughter was born I found a new use for it, sharing photos/videos with friends and family. Which I believe was the original inspiration for the Facebook creators. But after 6 years, I still don’t get it. And now I know why – it took user-generated content to a new level.  And why should I be putting so much effort into a social networking site? What is the point?  There is no point. We all have mobiles, and people make more calls than ever at all times.  But overhear most mobile conversations (and not by choice, believe me), and they are utterly inane.  We have created a need, by using the technology available regardless of thought for how useful it actually is.

Listen to any Apple fiend, and aside from being bored to tears, and slightly concern over the strange looks they give their devices, sometimes with accompanying stroke – you realise how shallow we can look, and actually how dumb.  Apple or Samsung bring out the latest upgraded tablet – souped-up processor, a sprinkling of RAM, leaner meaner case, and it becomes a thing of desire. It’s hardware in a pretty package.  And Facebook. It’s web 2.0 – with a pretty package.

My online social networking activity kicked off in different direction.  The professional networking focus of LinkedIn, and the easy to use and flexible twitter.  I can see that online, my professional life is far more prolific – that’s my unconscious choice.  I see no benefit “revealing” myself online, because as a communication medium, it is very susceptible to misunderstanding and misinterpretation.  And a very ready bigotry and hysteria.  The web is still young and so are we.  Asides from ecommerce, and email – the web has remained largely uneventful of true innovation, only marketing/sales pitches.

True innovation has come from ideas to utilise the basic web principles, and provide some kind of service. Fantastically simple ideas like took an already tried and tested idea of selling home and office type services.  Yo Butler simply took exactly the same concept (and site template!) and focused on household services.  Simple effective uses of the web. The web increases your reach, it doesn’t provide magic solutions. As much as Facebook want you to think they are important, it’s only important if relevant for you.

WARNING: Does contain some offensive material … and I know you are now more likely to watch

The Agile Test Contractor

I have been in many companies, and if there is a cohesive experienced Agile project team, things can happen, with or without formal process.  And majority of the time, it’s contractors providing this level of skill.   If all know their roles, observe good Agile development practice, and happy to extend beyond their remit when necessary, that is a good start in any Agile methodology.  Agile testing … is it different?  The fundamentals should remain – strategise, plan and script. But there are other focus areas such as test automation and exploratory testing* which are essentials.

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I hear and use the phrase “keep it simple” a lot. Yet struggle to follow my own advice. In dissecting Agile, I get lost quickly in various (relevant) tangents, but ultimately the same problems in testing remain. Agile fails to properly specify the role and benefit of a tester, demoted to a developer add-on. And as a lot of developers fail to properly unti test, the tester can quickly become a unit tester. Since when did a developer need a PA? Unit testing is a given, regardless of methodology.

My first instruction in testing 16 ago, was to:-

1. Using requirements document, outline test cases from it.
2. Cross-reference requirement to test case
3. Expand test cases in test script(s)
3. Review test cases every release (for amendments or additions)
5. Always regression test with every release (remember this was waterfall era!).
6. Document every issue
7. Document every release test.

Fast forward 16 years and this approach is still very valid, and adaptable for Agile or any methodology you care to mention. Testers are within the SDLC, but also tracking progress at requirements level. That requires a degree of distance from the daily world of development. The UK is sorely lagging behind in Agile evolvement, caught up in the same mess that started a decade ago.

Bug vs Feature

It is impossible for clients to work out all the features they need from an application prior to development. This is the strengths of Agile and the ongoing review process. Bugs come in all forms, and developers take great joy from rejecting bugs as “as specified” or simply “won’t fix” due to development complications. This is not an approach to take overall – bugs can lead to very useful feature improvements, and the benefit is that your client will appreciate what they see as free consultancy. Rather than just stick your head in requirements sand, be Agile and always be ready to incorporate new ideas into the development stream. Continue reading

Convert Cobol to Visual Basic or C++ WHY???

cobolThis is just a funny idea – I love COBOL as a language, but so bizarre to see a need to convert it to the heap-of-crap that is Visual Basic – the equivalent of using a wheelchair whilst on crutches.  No slur on lordcobol intended!  You might find a use for it yourself, I guess 🙂 – Convert Cobol to Visual Basic or C++