ChesSkelet Vs. Psion MasterChess: compact programming chess gaming on Sinclair ZX Spectrum

How about a nice chess game? (between two ZX Spectrums)?

Some vintage chess game programs are usually regarded as software masterpieces since programmers have been able to crank into very small amount of memory the full chess game logic – plus some smart tricks.
Moreover, memory was expensive – back then – so it wasn’t just a matter of the-smaller-the-better: no other choice was available with 4-or 8Kbytes of ROM as a project requirement.

As for home computers, ZX 1K Chess (running on Sinclair ZX81) is one the most renowned tiny chess program that falls in this category.

Meet ChesSkelet, by Alex Garcia, a 2019 code jewel running on the ZX Spectrum that raises up the ante (or down, if you prefer) in term of micro-programming.
Available with full explanations, commented source code, in three versions: a minimal, a middle (full features+minimum graphics) and a full featured one.
They range from 380 to 480 bytes (!): yes, slightly more that a couple of tweets…

Thrilled by this software, I managed a challenge between ChesSkelet and Psion MasterChess, from 1983, both on (virtual) ZX Spectrums.

The battlefield
I used a couple of Speccy emulators running under Windows 10, and each running its own chess program, since that made the task a lot simpler… even though chessboard placement called in for a paper (!) translation table.

Sorry, couldn’t think of a better solution about this!
So I entered manually each and every move on both programs – thus getting them to fight each other.

The challenge
Well… ChesSkelet has no ambition to threaten any Chess Champion, and I’m no chess master too, so Psion MasterChess was supposed to be winning – easily. Or not?

The battle
It took quite a lot to complete a single game.
ChesSkelet crashed several times during games, forcing me to restart/rewrite moves/type them etc.
In the end, MasterChess won (at level 0), but ChesSkelet fought 28 rounds before being defeated.
I guess this is quite a good result: after all, since Psion programmed MasterChess to win, no to teach compact programming!
Here’s the match in its full glory:

1.h4d6
2.Cc3Cd7
3.Cf3f5
4.e3h5
5.Cd4Cc5
6.f4e5
7.fxe5c6
8.Df3Dc7
9.Cxf5a6
10.Ae2a5
11.Ae7 (castling)
12.Cxd6+Dxd6
13.Df7+Rd7
14.exd6Ce6
15.dxe7Cxe7
16.Ac4Rd6
17.Ce4+Rd7
18.Dxe6+Rc7
19.Dd6+Rb6
20.Dc5+Rc7
21.Dd6+Rb6
22.Dc5+Rc7
23.De5+Rb6
24.Dxe7Ta6
25.Dc5+Rc7
26.De5+Rd7
27.Tf7+Rd8
28.Dd4+ (checkmate!)

Kudos to Alex Garcia!

Posted in Chess, Programming, Sinclair, Videogames, Vintage computer, Vintage games, Windows 10 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A secret text adventure game is hidden into Google Chrome – and it’s compelling!

Fancy a nice old-style text-adventure game?

Look no further than Google!
It’s quite simple, all you need is Google Chrome (updated).
Type in search box “Text adventure” then open the developer console with:
CTRL-SHIFT-I if you’re a PC user,
CMD-Option-I if you’re on a Mac.

(By now it’s working only on Google.com, not other local versions.)

The console is your playground and the game begins!
google text adventure in browser

By answering YES to initial question, you’re in! As usual (with text adventures) you’ll be using simple commands.

google text adventure in browser

What about some help or a map? You’re welcome: but use the map thoughfully!

google text adventure in browser

You are the big G in Google’s logo and the aim of the game is to find the missing letters, well hidden within the map.

Well done Google, this is truly awesome and brings us to the very best memories of Zork I or Ultima, to name but a few.

Zork I box art.jpg
Fair use, Link

If you’re willing to face a real challenge, here are some of the very best text games and adventures ever available online for free!

Posted in Browser, Digital life, Digital media, Google, Google Chrome, Online Gaming, Videogames, Vintage games | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Movies set in the (near) future: has the future in film delivered?

As 2018 unfolds I’ve been asking myself how this year has been represented in past movies – namely SF movies and TV shows.

It seems that most of the time, script writer were wrong – luckily, since most alternative futures were devastatingly bad…

future in sf movies

Anyway, if you’re curious, like I am about movies set in the (near) future or just to see how they catched up with reality, check this Wikipedia list.

What about Back to the Future Part II (1989)? The well-known sequel starring Michael J. Fox (and his hoverboard) has some hidden surprises in 2015!

On October 26, 1985, Dr. Emmett Brown arrives in the DeLorean time machine and persuades Marty McFly and his girlfriend, Jennifer Parker, to travel to the future with him, and help their future children. Biff Tannen witnesses their departure. They arrive on October 21, 2015, where Doc electronically knocks out Jennifer, and leaves her asleep in an alley, explaining that she should not have too much knowledge of future events. He has Marty pose as his own son and lookalike Marty Jr. to refuse an offer to participate in a robbery with Biff’s grandson Griff, thus saving both of Marty’s children from prison.

Arnold Schwarzenegger holds some of the very best SF movies positions, even with “The 6th day“, apparently set in 2015 (!).

At some point in the indeterminate near future, the cloning of animals and human organs has become routine. Cloning entire humans, however, is prohibited by what are known as “Sixth Day” laws.

You may find that “The Running Man” (1987, starring Scharzenegger) was set in 2017…

In 2017, after a worldwide economic collapse, the United States has become a totalitarian police state, censoring all cultural activity. The U.S. government pacifies the populace by broadcasting game shows where convicted criminals fight for their lives, including the gladiator-style The Running Man, hosted by the ruthless Damon Killian, where “runners” attempt to evade “stalkers”, armed mercenaries, around a large arena, and near-certain death for a chance to be pardoned by the state.

Akira (Japan, 1988) too has something interesting about history setting:

Set in a dystopian, cyberpunk-themed 2019, Akira tells the story of Shōtarō Kaneda, a leader of a local biker gang whose childhood friend, Tetsuo Shima, acquires incredible telekinetic abilities after a motorcycle accident, eventually threatening an entire military complex amidst chaos and rebellion in the sprawling futuristic metropolis of Neo-Tokyo.

My advice?
One of my all-time favorite is Things to come (1936), directed by William Cameron Menzies which depicts a 2000-or-so future that is worth watching.
It is based on H.G. Wells novel and, being just three years before WWII, was astonishingly accurate – and foreseeing.

What about Johnny Mnemonic (1995)? Keanu Reeves plays a human-USB-drive with 80-Gigabytes storage capacity (in a futuristic and gloomy 2021)!
Sorry Keanu: by today’s standard, it’s less than an iPhone 7 and, by 2021-standards, only 80-Terabytes of memory will be considered cool 🙂

Posted in Cinema, Media, Movie, Movies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ever wondered how the Internet travels across the Oceans? Check this interactive map

Travelling around the seven seas may seem too inadequate these days.
The guys at TeleGeography charted the Internet undersea cable courses with incredible detail – and depicting the whole map as an Indiana Jones journal!

submarine-cable-map-2017
Image source: TeleGeography

According to the authors, here’s a summary of features:

– 293 active and planned submarine cables that are connecting the world under the ocean
– Countries with the largest number of submarine cable connections, giving them higher resiliency
– Changes to submarine cable capacity on major global routes from 1996-2015
– The hair-like strands of fiber optic cables connecting the world
– Aerial “photos” of major submarine cable landing stations

Check for yourself this cool, interactive map (and solve the puzzle)!

Posted in Graphics, Internet, Media, Network, Open data, Report, Research, Technology, Web | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Windows 10 Fall Creators Update deletes Trashcan after 30 days (and how to change this setting)

Windows Fall Creators Update (AKA 1709) has been recently deployed to some million PCs around the world; one of the default settings about disk space and storage management may be hurting the way you think about your files: let’s take a look.

The problem and what is affected

By default, files in the recycle bin will be deleted after 30 days.

As a consultant, I see too many users using the Trashcan just like any other folder: it is commonly perceived as a “see later” folder.
Bad idea: both Windows and work logic are against it.

Moreover, the Download folder is affected by this update (and the same policy as well): files that have been downloaded and never changed in the last 30 days will be deleted.
Again, this is going to turn into a nightmare for plenty of users.

The third deletion policy is about temporary files – and you should be happy that Windows itself wipes out some clutter, every now and then…

The logic besides these storage policies is that documents should go into Documents folder, pictures into Images and so on… leaving uncluttered Recycle Bin and Download.

What you can do?

You can check the settings (and decide on your own) by getting into Settings/System/Storage, as in picture, and click on “Change how we free up space” link.

Windows 10 1709 trashcan free storage 1

As you can see in the following picture (showing a typical setting), there are three checkboxes under the “Temporary files” section:
– “Delete temporary files that my apps aren’t using“: my advice is to leave this one on, it will clear most temp files around;
– “Delete files that have been in the recycle bin for over 30 days“: uncheck this if you want to control when to empty the trashcan…;
– “Delete files in the Downloads folder that haven’t changed in 30 days“: again, you may want to uncheck this one and manage the Downloads folder on your own!

Windows 10 1709 trashcan free storage 1

As they say: “better safe than sorry”.

Posted in Microsoft, Software, Windows, Windows 10 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Cestino vuoto dopo 30 giorni grazie all’aggiornamento Fall Creators Update per Windows 10

È una delle novità di Windows 10 1709 (AKA Fall Creators Update): la gestione dello spazio su disco e le relative impostazioni di default.

Cosa succede

Mi capita molto (troppo) spesso di vedere sui PC di clienti ed amici una gestione del Cestino di Windows molto bizzarra.
Spesso, il Cestino viene usato come cartella temporanea con giustificazioni del tipo: “… non sono file cancellati veramente, so che sono sempre lì…”.
A parte essere una pessima idea, grazie al nuovo aggiornamento di Windows 10, è probabile che ciò diventi un incubo dato che molti utenti si ritroveranno un Cestino disperatamente vuoto.

Le impostazioni di default per la gestione dello spazio su disco, svuotano il Cestino per default dopo 30 giorni.
Addio, dunque, all’archivio degli sbadati/e, ma non è finita qui…
Anche la cartella Download è oggetto di questa pulizia forzata: dopo 30 giorni dall’ultima modifica, ogni file (anche se particolarmente importante) viene rimosso

L’idea è semplice: forzare gli utenti ad un uso più virtuoso della cartella Documenti (o Immagini, Filmati etc) dove dovrebbe risiedere il grosso dei nostri file.
Nel mondo reale, la maggior parte degli utente vuole avere il controllo di ciò che viene rimosso…

Cosa fare

Giusto per sapere come comportarsi, andate su Impostazioni/Sistema/Archiviazione (come nell’immagine sottostante), cliccate su “Cambia il modo in cui viene liberato spazio” e controllate quali siano i settaggi.

Quali impostazioni?

Partiamo dall’immagine sottostante, in cui sono impostati tutti e tre i settaggi per i “File Temporanei” e che probabilmente NON rappresenta ciò che vogliamo.

Windows 10 1709 gestione cestino 1

Consiglio di verificare il secondo ed il terzo settaggio come segue:
– “Elimina i file che sono stati nel Cestino per più di 30 giorni“: come sopra, potrebbe NON essere quello che volete (e lo vorrete disabilitare),
– “Elimina dalla cartella Download i file che non sono stati modificati per 30 giorni“; come sopra, è molto probabilmente quello che non volete per cui vorrete disabilitarlo…

Il primo settaggio (“Elimina i file temporanei non usati dalle app”) è invece molto utile: ripulisce il nostro PC dai file temporanei, il consiglio è di lasciarlo abilitato.

Settaggio controllato, file salvato.

Posted in ITA, Microsoft, Windows | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

October 4th 1957: Sputnik launched, Space Age began

Sputnik 1 launched on October 4, 1957.

Besides cold war speculation, this was one of the greatest events in space race that sparkled competition, scientific/technical achievements and – eventually, led to 1969 Moon Landing.

The satellite was 58 cm (about 23 in) in diameter and weighed approximately 83.6 kg (about 183 lb). Each of its elliptical orbits around the Earth took about 96 minutes. Monitoring of the satellite was done by many amateur radio operators and the Jodrell Bank Observatory. Sputnik’s R-7 booster had previously proven itself more than one month earlier as the world’s first ICBM in the successful long-range test flight of August 21 (with the accomplishment published in Aviation Week). Sputnik 1 was not visible from Earth but the casing of the R-7 booster, traveling behind it, was.

You can check some very detailed technical informations about the Sputnik satellite here:

sputnik satellite

sputnik satellite

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Timex Sinclair 1000 (AKA ZX81) TV Commercial

“The power is within your reach” says this 1982 TV Commercial introducing the Timex Sinclair 1000, that is Sinclair ZX81, to US computer users.

Actually, the TS1000 was the US-version of the well-known ZX81, which was selling hot in Europe.
Few changes were made to the ZX81 architecture: 2Kbytes of RAM instead of the standard 1K, NTSC video output instead of PAL and a below-the-case switch for TV-channel.
Besides these features, the two computers were almost identical and ran the very same software.

The $99 price tag was crucial to most users: the TS1000 was actually the very first fully working home computer to sell under $100.

This ignited a price war for US companies like Commodore – its VIC20 street price fell almost immediately, even though somehow related to the Commodore 64 introduction.
According to Timex, some 600,000 TS1000 units were sold in USA: quite a good achievement considering the minimal hardware (compared to other US computers) and the dreaded keyboard.

These are mine, just for comparison: as you can see, it’s almost the same unit.

Sinclair ZX81 + Timex Sinclair TS1000

Fancy a ZX81 online emulator?
Here we are, just click this great Jtyone Online ZX81 Emulator and enjoy full browser-based ZX81 features – along with some games too.

Posted in Advertising, Computer History, Computing history, Retrocomputer, Sinclair, TV ads, Video, Vintage computer, Youtube | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One small step for man… but no escape from customs

On their way back to home on Earth on July 24, 1969, Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins could not escape customs.
It’s for real, even though it was a joke back then.

This is the customs form signed by all three Apollo 11 astronauts (including the “Cargo” section stating “Moon rocks“)

apollo 11 customs

Credit: NASA/U.S. Customs and Border Patrol

Posted in Fun, History, Space | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment