I Broke My Own Rules

Its Mothering Sunday and the family decided to meet up at the Taplow Car Boot Sale. It was a chilly start and the boot sale has only for going for the second week since finishing for the winter last year.

The boot sale is only in the small field at the moment but was very busy today and as usual I found myself competing with the “traders” who just go straight up to the cars as they are trying to park and ask them if they have any items of interest of my personal favourite, just start looking through someone’s boot as they are trying to set up their stalls.

After walking around twice, I came across a mother and daughter selling some computer related items. They are business sellers rather than someone just clearing out their loft. I often worry about these types of sellers as they treat the items badly often throwing them on the floor and this is how I came across an Amstrad PPC640 just as she laid it onto the grass. I immediately asked her much and she said £30. I tried negotiating but she did now want to move on the price. This is £10 more than my limit for “punts”. I inspected it and without powering it on, it appeared complete (rare) and nothing obvious was missing/broken. The seller told me it was working but when I asked for a little more information she obviously knew very little about its working condition. Alarm bells were faintly ringing!

In the end I decided to break my own rules and still purchase it, banking on the case and accessories to be worth something even if it didn’t work.

At a nearby stall, we picked up a Nintendo  64 GameBooster cartridge for playing Gameboy games on a Ninendo 64 for £1 (currently on ebay for nearly £40), a Bratz boxed Gameboy Advance game £1, a mini display port to VGA adapter £1, Synthesizer LP Album £3 and The Best Air Guitar Album in The World Ever! Volume 1 for £2.



Amstrad PPC640 Computer £30-70 if working

GameBooster Cartridge £40

Bratz Rock Angelz boxed game £5-10

Mini DisplayPort to VGA Cable £1

Synthesize LP £5

Air Guitar CD £2.75

Total cost £38

Total resale value £83.75 – 128.75

When I got home, I excitedly plugged in the mains adapter and straight away saw a red light. This was a good start. These computers have a mono green screen which is not very clear but I saw some writing appear and could see a message about the internal battery and the date/time needing to be reset. Again, a good sign that it was functioning. I delved into the case it came in and found all the original manuals/price guides, car adapter and eventually some discs including the DOS. I put one of these into the first of two 3.5″ drives and heard some faint motor sounds and after a short while, DOS appeared on the screen. I haven’t tried all the keys yet or the car adapter but this seems to be a fully working Amstrad PPC640 which is a good deal for £30 with the original accessories in good condition.

Now I just need to try the music , find my N64 for testing the cartridge and take the Amstrad to work to try an external CGA monitor.


Commodore 64 Repair & Test

My partners beloved Commodore 64 switched on and managed to load games via a multicart but I couldn’t get any sound output.

After a short Internet search, I found many articles suggesting the SID chip would probably be faulty. This chip is the sound synthesizer for the C64. The diagnostic cart test showed some errors and when it got to the sound test, again there was no sound output.



The case opens after removing three screws along the bottom of the case.


This is the faulty SID chip on the motherboard.



This is the new 6581 SID chip that I ordered from Etsy for just under £38.




The diagnostic cart still shows errors but the sound now works.


This is the multicart with a selection of games to play.

Looking at the list of games on the multicart:

Playing Astroblitz from the multicart:



iPhone, Android Charging Keyring

Bought this little gadget from Robert Dyas at the weekend for £3.43. Such a simple device but really useful. It can be used as a charge cable for android and iPhone’s in one cable. It attaches to a keyring and is so small you can forget about it being there. The USB end and the charger end connect together with a little magnetic clasp. The cable is short but that’s why its so unobtrusive when connected to your keyring.

I’m always running out of phone charge at work and don’t have a charging cable. This means I will always have a charge cable with me.

Image result for keyring usb apple android magnet

Gakken World Eye & Raspberry Pi

Gakken WorldEye connected to a Raspberry Pi running a program to display a huge blinking eye.
Adafruit provide a nice tutorial on connecting the Gakken to a raspberry pi running their eyes script.
I took a brand new Raspberry Pi 3 and went here  to download the latest copy of Raspbian Stretch Lite operating system.
I then flashed the image onto a new 64GB Micro SD card
 using etcher.io.
This version of Raspbian is command line only so once the initial boot up takes place, you need to configure the wireless network access:
Once the file opens, you need to edit the contents to match the screenprint below:
Press CTRL-X and then Y to save and and exit. Then run the following command to have the file read and try to connect to your Wifi.
Now we have Internet access we can download the software to make the eye work:
At the command prompt, type the following:
  1. cd
  2. curl https://raw.githubusercontent.com/adafruit/Raspberry-Pi-Installer-Scripts/master/pi-eyes.sh >pi-eyes.sh
  3. sudo bash pieyes.sh

Finally, connect the Raspberry Pi HDMI output to the input on the Gakken Worldeye and run the setup. This took about 10 minutes to complete.



Back in 2015, we came across the Bloodhound world speed record project on Indiegogo

The ambitious British engineering project hoped to set a new world speed record of 1000 Mph. We along with nearly 4000 other backers supported the project with monetary donations. We opted to have our names on the fin (along with a lot of other supporters names) in the final version of the car for about £30 as I remember.

There have been many project updates but sadly after failing to secure enough funding, they recently went into receivership and the project now looks like it won’t proceed. I’m disappointed the car will never get a chance to beat the world record and that my donation has gone but I came across the following article this weekend from an Eagle comic dated 7th August 1982. Richard Noble went on set the world record in 1983 and beat it again with ThrustSSC in 1997 at 763 Mph.


Ouya console test

I bought my OUYA console from Game shorty after it was launched successfully on Kickstarter back in 2012 I think. Its an android powered console that allows users to sideload apps. This means you can purchase apps from the OUYA store or other android app providers.

Some apps are free but most require payment straight away or after playing one level of a game. Commercially this console was a failure and I used it for 10 minutes after buying it and its stayed in its box ever since.

The apps and games are ok but I came across a site with guides on how to get apps like XBMC and various emulators onto it. This makes the console more interesting as I can now play games from other retro console like the Sega Megadrive, Commodore 64, Nintendo consoles etc.

Using the Ouya controller can make it difficult to use all the emulators. I found the C64.emu a little difficult at first but after mapping some of the Commodore 64 keys to the Ouya controller buttons helped.

So, step 1, was connecting the OUYA to my TV using the HDMI cable, connect the power adapter and turn on by pushing the small round button. After a few seconds the main menu appeared but the controller did not work. I pushed the small button between the two thumb pads/joysticks on the controller and some LEDS began blinking and shortly after this the controller worked and allowed me to start navigating menus.

Step 2 was configuring the wifi on the OUYA so I can get on the Internet and browse the OUYA store for available apps. The date/time updated soon after this so all good. I already had some apps/games loaded. I checked for available updates but apparently there were none.

Step 3. I came across a site with suggestions on how to make the OUYA more useful. I decided to download and install some retro emulators. This was easy enough.

After this, you need to get some ROM images onto the OUYA and into the right locations for the emulators to pick them up. I had most problems with the C64.emu. I decided to use a USB flash drive which once inserted into OUYA is picked up straight away. You then need to go to http://www.explusalpha.com/home/c64-emu.

Download the BIOS file and put into the root directory of the flash drive and within this folder you need to download the ROM files (as long as you own the original or they are copyright free). I went to https://wowroms.com/en/roms/commodore-64/daley-thompsons-decathlon/127202.html

OUYA c64.emu bios file

Once this is done, you can run the C64.emu emulator, use LOAD GAME and browse to this location on the flash drive and the game will start to run. At first I couldn’t get much to happen but I soon  realised that I would need to set up the Commodore 64 button to OUYA controller key mapping. You can see me doing this in the video:

I’ll do an update to the post when I get some more emulators and games running as well as XBMC.