Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Fischer vs. Spassky

It is kind of shocking to me that this was 48 years ago. Almost half a century ago. It was considered the match of the century. I remember it being in the news. People wrote articles and books about it for years afterward.

It was also the year that I learned how to play chess. It is probably the reason why a couple of years later our teacher got us to play chess in school, and that event changed my life.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

20 years ago 02-12-2000

Twenty years ago, 2-12-2000, we lost Charles Shulz. I remember it well. 

Sunday, February 9, 2020

The Truth About Death Stranding - An Underrated Game Review

I can't see myself spending 80 hours on this game (or any other), but the game seems really interesting.  It is the kind of thing that they would turn into a movie franchise or a television series.


Sunday, February 2, 2020

Interjections! Schoolhouse Rock

Who remembers these?  I used to love these videos.


According to the Internet Movie Database, only one person is credited for the voices:  https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1268073/?ref_=ttep_ep3

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Computer History

A brief history ...

Around 1982 to 1983 I purchased my first computer, a Timex Sinclair 1000. This small computer had 2K of RAM, which I would later upgrade at some cost to 16K using a plugin module. It only displayed in Black and White, and both the graphics and 3.5 MHZ Z80 processor are comparable to a TRS-80 from the previous decade. It was a very limited machine whose hardware was inferior in every way to other 8-bit computers at the time.
However, it was the only thing remotely affordable, costing around $100 to $150, whereas other 8-bit computers started at around $500, which is equivalent to about $1300 today. However, it did have a rather clever operating system that made the best use of its limited resources, and I liked it for this reason. The machine was popular because it allowed many people to own a computer who otherwise could not afford one.

In 1984 I upgraded to the Timex Sinclair 2068. The biggest differences were a real keyboard, sound, more memory, color graphics (although still inferior to the competitors), and a better operating system. At $200 it was a good value compared to other computers. This computer, along with the European version, were hugely popular both in the U.S. and internationally. It allowed people to have a halfway decent computer for the time at relatively low cost compared to other computers.

For a short while, I had a thriving business selling software I wrote for this computer.

In 1986 I bought my first 16-bit computer, the Atari ST. Cost was a major factor, because it had much value for the money, but the market would be dominated by much more costly computers. I tried unsuccessfully to make a living writing programs for this machine.

By 1990 my computers were out of date. I eventually sold them to collectors. I no longer had computers at home until the internet was barely starting to become a thing.

Around 1995 a few brave souls were exploring the internet using only text because graphical web pages weren't available yet. I discovered that you could play chess on the internet, with the help of a program designed for that, so I began looking into getting a computer. What I got was bare-bones to the extreme, and cost around $1200. It didn't even come with Windows, and Windows 95 wasn't a thing yet. It had a 33mhz processor, which I would later upgrade to 66mhz. I spent a fortune upgrading this machine. Things that would cost next to nothing today, like a sound card and a CD Drive, weren't standard and cost a lot of money to get. My one regret is that I spent so much money upgrading this computer instead of just waiting for better machines to come out. By the time I had $3000 invested in the computer, it was obsolete.

Around 1998 I got a 400 MHZ machine, which was a huge improvement, but it quickly became obsolete.

So around the year 2001, I got a single-core 2.2 GHz computer. This was a big step up. However, by 2005 it was looking rather limited, so I upgraded to a new dual-core computer, which was the hot new thing at the time. This machine ran at 2.4 GHz.

However, what seemed impressive in 2005 seemed rather limited by 2010. I think that the machine was also having hardware problems, so once again I was looking again for another computer.

In February 2010 I took a bonus that my company gave me and bought a $2,000 Core-i7 iMac. It was significantly better than the average computer at the time, and I justified what seemed like an extreme expense by telling myself that I would try to make this computer last ten years. I still have the computer, but by mid-2019 the display was failing, and the repair shop told me that other components are starting to fail too. The computer still runs, barely, but it is too expensive to try to repair it.

So in mid-2019, I bought a slightly used 2017 iMac for $1150. This was a compromise between performance and price. Although it is 60% faster than my last computer and it has a much better graphics card, it is not a top of the line computer by today's standards. It is more like average.


Sunday, January 5, 2020

Judit Polgár

Many years ago I had the privilege of seeing all three Polgar sisters walking together at the National Open.  Almost 20 years ago I played Susan Polgar in a blitz tournament and got creamed. 

I noticed that none of the Polgar sisters are on the top Woman players list, even though they really should be.  https://ratings.fide.com/top.phtml?list=women

"On 13 August 2014, she announced her retirement from competitive chess."

Friday, January 3, 2020

This Guy Eats Fruit For The First Time Ever

I think that this guy had some obsessive disorder against fruit.  People have different tastes, which is obvious because there are a handful of foods that I can't stand.  I don't like Tapioca and Rice pudding because of the texture.  If I could get over my hangup over the texture I would probably enjoy their sweetness.  I feel the same way about sauerkraut, although the taste has much to do with it.  Foods that are too acidic taste kind of gross, like hot and sour soup which I can barely tolerate.  I don't like weird breads like Rye, and I don't like blue cheese dressing because it tastes bitter to me. 

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Ringworld - Wikipedia


Just finished the audiobook for this on YouTube.  Great book.    https://youtu.be/4DMkDqIjEuI

I read the novel around 30 years ago. The YouTube version of this is a little uneven on quality.  I suspect that it was copied from audio tape. 

I already have listened to the next two books on Audible.  I may listen to them again.  I started with the 4 prequels on Audible and I'm slowly  working my way through the entire series. 

Multiple authors have contributed to the "Known Space" universe that Larry Niven created.  There may be as many as 40 books. 

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Ordered a new dishwasher

The automatic dishwasher that came with my house has had intermittent problems for months. A few months ago I had a repairman over who told me that the control board is going bad, so I would be better off just buying a new dishwasher.

Paul and I took the dishwasher apart 2 or 3 times, found loose connectors on the control board and got it working each time. I was happy with this arrangement just so long as I could keep it going. However, this time the dishwasher seemed to completely die and we couldn't fix it. I figured out that I could order a replacement control board, but I decided that enough is enough because there could be something else wrong with it and I would be just wasting my money.

So I made getting a new dishwasher my top priority. I have bought appliances from Lowes in the past, so I went there first. I took photos of their display models and prices. They had a "sale" with considerable "markdowns" that ended today, so I felt like I should make some kind of decision today.

I went home and did much research online. I looked at articles on the "best", "most quiet", and "most reliable" dishwashers. I compared prices on the same models from different stores. I could have spent quite a bit more for a Bosh model (most reliable) or even more for the "best" model at $1200. Instead, I went for what I think is a reasonably good GE model (GDT665SSNSS) priced at $550. What I found was that the "sale" price at Lowes was available as the regular price on the Best Buy website with a promotion offering free installation on the GE models, which is a really big deal and one of the reasons I decided to go with that brand.

First, I went back to Lowes because I knew that Best Buy wasn't going to have the model I wanted in the store. Lowes had already taken down their "sale" sign and marked the dishwasher I wanted back up to $900. I asked if they could match the free installation deal, and they couldn't. So then I went to Best Buy, which had a rather limited selection on display, and only one very busy stretched-thin salesman to help me, but I was able to tell him the model I wanted and he ordered it for me. It will come next week.

The Best Buy salesman was nice enough to tell me that if I signed up for their store credit card that I would get a 10% rebate as an in-store credit on my purchase. Of course, I went for that deal.


Tuesday, December 10, 2019


My $74 Rampage cabinet. Took us 2.5 hours to put together. There is nothing on here that I couldn't do on a SNES Classic. However, there is an advantage to having real joysticks. Three of them. I plan on modifying this using a Raspberry PI so that I can play Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Mr. Do with real joysticks. These games are harder to play with joypads because they require quick and accurate movements. I've done most of the work on the Raspberry PI already.

On this table it is a bit too high. I plan on buying the riser which costs $45, but it is frequently available cheaper, so I'll be looking for a sale after Christmas.

I use the Walmart app to check the prices on Arcade1up products. The prices change frequently and items tend to be heavily discounted when Walmart decides to close them out at a particular store.

Fast food apps

I have the Pizza Hut app on my iPhone, plus a few other fast food places. It is a good way to get coupons on the app. I'm signed up to get deals via email with Pizza Hut and a few other places. I got this Super Supreme at half off for barely over $9. Burger King has some of the best deals on the phone.

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Re: When I left Salt Lake City

The first time I drove to Salt Lake City, the way I80 works is that you drive through mountains for hundreds of miles. As you approach Salt Lake City you can't see much of anything, but you go around a curve as you exit the mountains and then all of a sudden you can see the whole Salt Lake Valley in front of you. It caught me by surprise the first time.

When I left Salt Lake City

I left Salt Lake City 4 years and 7 months ago today. The passage of time always amazes me, because it does not seem that long ago.

Just before I entered Parley's Canyon leaving Salt Lake City, I pulled my car over on Interstate 80, got out and surveyed what I could see of the Salt Lake valley. I was thinking to myself that this was a very important part of my life for almost 22.5 years, but now it is behind me and my future is ahead of me. After roughly 30 seconds, I got back in my car and drove on. Less than a mile down the road I was in the canyon and could no longer see Salt Lake City.


Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Atari ST Diamond Mike

Back in 1986 when I was trying to make living writing video games at home, I took a game that I wrote for the Timex Sinclair 2068 computer, which was somewhat successful, and made a better version of it for the more powerful Atari ST computer.  The gameplay was the same, but the ST had better graphics.  I got lucky in that both computers used the same sound chip, which made the conversion easier.

The game was an imitation of another game called Boulder Dash available on other computers.  My version came out on the Timex Sinclair 2068 before the official Boulder Dash was ported to the 2068 computer.  My version also ran better because their version was slow and had scrolling problems.  In those days I was pretty good at writing efficient code in assembly language on that computer.

In 1986 I showed the Atari ST version to a computer club in Columbus, Indiana, and the members gave my demonstration applause. Although I'm proud of the game, the Atari ST version never made any money for me because the publisher went out of business and never paid me anything.  It is part of the reason I had to get a real job.


Friday, November 22, 2019

Ringworld Audio book

I'm going to highly recommend this audiobook.  I read the 1970 book about 30 years ago, but now I find the audiobook to be a delight to listen to.


This is the most famous and most award-winning of about 40 books that take place in the "Known Space" Universe created by Larry Niven.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Known_Space

Other recordings of this book have been removed from youtube, most likely for copyright reasons.  This particular recording seems odd and not particularly the best quality, as if it was copied from audiotapes and maybe from more than one source.  The quality is not consistent.  You can barely hear some background interference like it is being copied from tapes.

However, I wasn't bothered by the inconsistency of the recording.  The story is so good that I really enjoyed listening to it.

There are four recent prequels to this novel in the "Fleet of Worlds" series, which are not a prerequisite, but a delight to listen to.  I paid Audible to listen to those.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Christmas Candy

These are 9.4 ounces. The ones I got last year the day after Christmas at half price were 12 ounces.

Monday, November 18, 2019

2017 iMac freezes up

A few months ago I purchased a used 2017 iMac and installed Windows 10 on it. For the most part, this has been a great machine. However, there is now a problem. The computer will appear to run slow and then eventually freeze. This usually happens while using Google Chrome.

I am normally good at dealing with any kind of software problem that comes up, but this could be something going wrong with the hardware, like the RAM, the SSD, or some controller board. Hardware is mostly outside my area of expertise, although I did buy some new RAM chips that I have not yet installed. I could try taking out the old RAM chips and put in the new RAM chips and see if the problem persists.

On the software side maybe there is a virus, which seems unlikely because I have Norton which normally takes care of these things. It is possible there is a driver issue, but that also seems unlikely. I would not expect Google Chrome to be the problem, but I would not rule it out either. I could try a different web browser.

I need to reboot the computer into McIntosh mode and see if the problem happens again. If it does, then it is a hardware problem. However, if the problem goes away, then something is wrong in the Windows 10 world and I would consider erasing the Windows 10 partition and reinstalling the operating system, which is a time-consuming task.


Sunday, October 20, 2019

Ching Li

Maybe I shouldn't dwell on the past, but I wanted to see if I could find anything online about Ching Li.  This is what I found...

This is the video her sister posted 11 years ago:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wn8Ey9gkwfw

It is impossible to find this video on a youtube search.  I found a link to it in a ten-year-old email.  I'm glad that youtube doesn't delete old videos.

I considered her to be a good friend.


Thursday, October 17, 2019

The $89 Gamestop Premium Refurbished Nintendo Wii U is a steal | Plus Gamestop Black Friday Deals.

This offer might be interesting for some gamers.  I'm don't particularly trust GameStop on their refurbished items.  They have a reputation for doing a bad job on some refurbished (repaired) items.  However, they do have a return policy.

However, in the last couple of years, Gamestop has had some killer deals on Black Friday or Gray Thursday, like a $60 XBOX 360 with a $60 rebate.  I got one of these.  (I had to wait in line for like an hour.)  However, I found out that the XBox 360 has a high failure rate, especially the ones from Gamestop, so I sold the system.  I was also not thrilled about how bulky the system was and the fan in it was a bit noisy.

I make this point because in another month we will be looking at Black Friday Gamestop deals.  I would enjoy some of the Mario games on the Wii U, so this might be a worthwhile purchase, especially if the system is heavily discounted for Black Friday.  In terms of power, The Wii U is about 50% more than the Xbox 360 and has the advantage of being able to run many Nintendo titles, which according to the video are cheap for the Wii U.  (However, the Wii U is only about 40% of the power of the Nintendo Switch, which itself is much less powerful than the current consoles from Microsoft and Sony.)

Last year Gamestop had a killer Black Friday deal on the Nintendo Switch, which is a system that I want.  Instead of charging $300 just for the console, you could get the system with a game for that price, plus a $50 or $60 credit that you could use to buy a 2nd game.   I would have taken advantage of this deal, except that I had heard rumors that Nintendo was going to come out with a new Switch this year.  Nintendo did come out with a new Switch this year, but the only difference was a doubling of battery life.  These new Switches sell in a red box.

I don't know what is going to happen for sure, but there could be some interesting Black Friday deals.

For anyone wondering, both Sony and Microsoft are coming out with killer game systems 3rd quarter next year using AMD chips that aren't even released yet.  These have been described as extremely powerful game systems rivaling the best gamer PC's.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Unboxing a SEALED iMac G3 with MKBHD!

I think that some people will assume that older machines have more value than they have.  They might have some value as a collector's item, but as a computer, my out of date Raspberry PI 3 exceeds it in every way.

With a speed of 350 MHZ, 64 megabytes of RAM and 6 gigs of storage, the iMac G3 would be capable of only the most basic web browsing.  Many, if not most, websites would not work.  If it comes with some useful software, like word processing, then it would have some value.

Twenty years ago I remember trying to get some value out of an old 400 MHZ PC.  It was useful for playing old games, but I seriously needed an upgrade, which I did.  I went through about a five-year upgrade cycle, first getting a 2.4 GHz computer, which at the time seemed very impressive, and then a dual-core 2.4 GHz computer, and then a quad-core 2.8 GHz iMac.  I still have the iMac, and I got a whopping 9 years of use out of it, but this year I have upgraded to a better iMac.

I have learned through experience that older computers have a high failure rate.  Stuff just breaks, and the old machines aren't just worth fixing.

John Coffey

Friday, October 11, 2019

WrestleMania video game from 1995.


What I want you to see from this video has nothing to do with Freddie Prinze Jr. nor Star Wars, nor does it have anything to do with Matt Jarbo's opinion of Star Wars, nor his opinion of Freddie Prinze Jr.

In the video, behind Freddie Prinze Jr., the video game WrestleMania is on display. This is not the original 1995 arcade video game, but a recent home version of the arcade game.  There have been many home imitation-arcade systems for sale that feature original arcade games.  Usually, these systems come with multiple games.  I own an imitation arcade system with classic Atari games. (https://www.target.com/p/arcade1up-deluxe-edition-at-home-arcade-game/-/A-54281465)

I worked on the game WrestleMania.  Sort of.  I worked on the home versions along with about 23 other computer programmers.  We ported Wrestlemania to the Sony Playstation, Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, and many other home systems.  It was a major endeavor involving a great many people besides programmers, such as artists.

Since the arcade version of Wrestlemania was written for a RISC processor, and the Sony Playstation used a different RISC processor, I was part of a small team that wrote an elaborate program that would covert the computer code of one RISC processor to a different RISC processor.  This made porting the game easier.

We were working on the home versions of the game while the arcade machine was still being developed.  This led to a weird coincidence.  Around 1995, I was playing on the Internet Chess Club with a guy named Jason Skiles.  (https://www.mobygames.com/developer/sheet/view/developerId,66528/)  He noticed that my notes said that I was a video game programmer.  He said that he was one too.  He asked what game I was working on.  I said, "WrestleMania."  There was a long pause because he was one of the programmers concurrently working on the arcade version.  He was in Chicago and I was in Salt Lake City.

The reason we didn't know about each other is that arcade developer, Midway, had licensed us to develop the home versions with the condition that weren't allowed to bother or ask questions of the people who were working on the arcade game.

The Moby Games website also has a listing for me, but it does not have listed every game that I have worked on:  https://www.mobygames.com/developer/sheet/view/developerId,133588/
John Coffey

Sunday, October 6, 2019

DVD-RAM: The Disc that Behaved like a Flash Drive - YouTube

I remember around 2001-2002 my company gave me a 1 GB flash drive and I felt privileged.  In the stores, these were around $100, which seemed like a lot of money at the time.

Today you would have a hard time buying a 1 GB drive.  It is the kind of thing they would give away in promotional offers, assuming you could find any.  I would like to see them in cereal boxes, say for videogame promotions.

I was working for a company in 1992 when one of the programmers wanted to purchase a 2 GB HD for $2,000.  Our reaction was like, "A dollar per megabyte!  That's amazing!."


Thursday, October 3, 2019

Ringworld - Larry Niven


Written in 1970, this award winning book is considered a classic. I read the book decades ago, but now I'm listening to the audiobook for free at the link above. It spawned a few sequels, and there is a body of literature by multiple authors that take place in this "Known Space" universe created by Larry Niven. I recently finished the four audiobooks for the "Fleet of Worlds" series which are prequels to Ringworld, and I highly recommend them. I think that they are at least as good as Ringworld.

I very much like listening to audiobooks before going to sleep at night. It relaxes me.

Best wishes,

John Coffey