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Random stuff


British decimal coinage was historically little-endian. With the introduction in 2008 of the first redesign of the definitive coinage since decimalisation, the new 50 p was unexpectedly changed to big-endian. Here is the old, little-endian 50 p on the left, and the new big-endian 50 p on the right:

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The 20 p remains resolutely little-endian.

Measuring happiness

Just a brief proposal: the new unit of happiness should be the Larry, or L.

Thus we introduce a new question: just exactly how happy was Larry, anyway?

(Whether this will be a base or derived SI unit is another.)

Online gaming, retro style

I like playing Battleships. But to play this online? With an old Macintosh? Now that is a bit tricky. How about, we call the shots over Instant Messenger or IRC? Cunning plan.

We had a Battleships set once. Only no-one played it so it got given away. (With my consent, apparently, which is a shame) So in which case, how do I play? With pen and paper of course. Old piece of squared paper from maths class with fleet grids drawn on it. Cue a red pen for hits and correction fluid for every time I screw something up. And it looks something like this:

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My first two games were against PhAtfiSh, it seems, and we seem evenly matched. But why use tatty paper when I have a whole book of squared paper! That became the Online Gaming Book:

This time, I was playing against version_lili and I got my butt whipped. I think she cheats using some sort of mind-reading powers. There is no way you can otherwise know exactly where all my ships are!

Descent evil

Horrible nasty (MP3, 183 kB) — play it loud and scare the neighbours. (For the nerd kind, this was extracted from DESCENT.PIG with, I think, Goldwave?)

Hacking It Utilities

Back in the Windows 3 days, It Utilities was a floating tool palette for File Manager that gave you drag-and-drop target icons for various filing commands. The default three were Zip It! (Zip compression and decompression), View It! (file view) and Trash It!, a recycle bin implementation, and you could add further icons for programs of your choice.

It Utilities offered basic animation and sound: when you dropped files over one of the three built-in icons, it would flash a different icon and play a sound. There was one default icon set each for Zip It and View It, but three different icon sets for Trash It: a dustbin, a kitchen bin and a toilet! One day I decided to replace the default of the dustbin with a Dalek; the animated icon would have its eyes light up and its raygun fire, and it would use a real Dalek sound clip as it exterminates – uh, safely stores – your files. I thought that these icons were long since lost, but I realised that in fact, I had to open the IT.EXE executable and replace the original icons inside. So I managed to find them:

This was IT_WDLK.EXE (yes, an “A” would have fitted); at this point I’d forgotten about how you had three different Trash It icon sets. Looking around in the folder, I wondered what icon set was in the current copy of IT.EXE and discovered that it was all my icon sets:

I knew about the airlock set (based on the Lemmings 2: The Tribes airlock and using a Star Trek door sound effect), but I had completely forgotten about the little spider! The Dalek is also sligtly improved at this stage with a better looking raygun effect. There are four icons of each, “open” and “closed” each for when trash already contains files and for when it does not.

It Utilities would actually play two sounds for the trash process, I believe: a start sound and a stop sound. The first was played when you first dropped files onto its icon, and the second was played when it was done moving all the files. The second usually interrupted the first but if the process took long enough to hear both, you could have some fun with the two sounds. Compare the start and end sounds I chose for the Dalek and the spider (in Windows Wave format):

The original sound effects of course included lifting the toilet lid, and then flushing it, and lifting the dustbin lid, and then replacing it with a clang. The spider sounds are taken from a speech clip from the game Terminal Velocity, and one of my all-time favourite clips: “Mmmmm, looks like lunch!” (38 kB, Windows Wave format).

I used to have some screenshots of my Windows 3.11 desktop but they’re all lost now. If I ever set up my 486 again I shall be sure to take some pictures of the desktop and programs like Wayfarer and It Utilities in action.