Maltese Language Kindle Books.

So this morning I purchased two ebooks from Merlin Publishers, just as an experiment, and while I laud their excellent drive to make books more accessible, I find it irritating that Maltese books are not available on the Kindle Store… a kindle is better to read on than a tablet… it’s the whole point actually.

When you think that languages included on the Amazon Store include something written in Alsatian (which, in all honesty, seems like a doggy to me), then why is Maltese left out?

Manx is spoken in the Isle of Man with only 53 first language users… and 1800 second language…

Alsatian is a minority language spoken in France… with perhaps 500,000 of the population….

So perhaps Maltese should be on that list!

The following ‘minor’ languages are available…

Tamil / Hindi / Dutch / Afrikaans / Catalan Swedish / Danish / Marathi / Icelandic / NorwegianMalayalam / Welsh / Luxembourgish / IrishGalician / Basque / Gujarati / Scottish GaelicScots / Swahili / Alsatian / Polish / ProvençalManx / Latin / Greek / Hungarian / Vietnamese

A solution is very easy though. Let’s see. How many Maltese readers buy kindle books in Maltese? I’d wager that it isn’t a huge number. So?

Get the finished manuscript, sign it digitally, or indeed, with a front-liner, “This book has been purchased by John Doe. If you are not John Doe, then you have an illegally obtained book.” Then send it directly to the registered owner.

I am pretty sure that I would not splash out eight or ten euros to then give the book away. Of course, there will always be a way to get the text out, just as there is a simple way with the Glassboxx app… for someone like me, there is always a way.

There are times when one has to go on trust…

37th Computer Anniversay.

I had to re-hash and re-publish this article, originally written in 2014. Too many reasons to explain why.

As the years have passed, it is easy to overlook something as commonplace as the computer in our homes. But a very few short years ago, there were no such things in our rooms.

Yeah, we actually had to get out of the house to entertain ourselves… also known as playing with friends.

But I digress… anyway.. computers… it is 2021 and this year marks the 37th anniversary of my first properly owning one of these marvelous machines.

The first computers to gain popularity in the homes were actually microcomputers, and they all had their different versions of ‘operating system’, so to speak. Most were very basic affairs with the most horribly complicated programming Basic languages.

But inversely, my first (actually second, but that is a story for another day) computer was a great little number, the Texas Instruments TI-99/4a. This computer had 16k of VRAM (but in reality only 256 bytes scratch RAM), no storage space to speak of, and around 8k of ROM. One had to load and save programs using a cassette tape, and the screeches of the different baud rate signals were enough to wake the dead during the night.

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Most of my friends bought Spectrums, commodore64s or Ataris, but the price of the TI-99/4a, at 55 Maltese liri of the time was too low to ignore. And as a family of four with modest income, the price seemed to be about just right for my parents.

Apart from this not inconsiderable fact, the Texas (as it was known), had the first 16-bit microprocessor, 16 colours, a REAL keyboard (Spectrum users take note), a three-channel
sound chip with real music, and space for a number of expansion packs, notably extended basic with its’ extended commands, including ‘sprites’.

If there was anything to lament on the Texas, it was the lack of machine code on the system, so one had to write all the programs in TI-Basic.This meant that to squeeze every bit of speed from the machine, we programmers had to be thrifty and wise.

It was, indeed… slow… but I tell you what… I loved that machine to bits. I learnt programming in a few days, wondering what all the fuss was about.

Together with a mate of mine, we created games like there was no tomorrow… After purchasing the extended basic cartridge, I expanded even more into programming complicated stuff, and sold some games on the official market. I can never thank my parents enough for buying me this machine!

After the Texas, I purchased a Goldstar MSX computer, surmised to be the next big thing across the world. It even utilized Microsoft Basic 1.0… the premise was that all MSX branded machines would need to conform to a minimum standard.. so we had computers from Sony, LG, Goldstar, Fujitsu, Funai… all different but the same.

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The thing was a real doddle to use… the Z80 CPU made programming machine language and assembly so so easy. I cut my teeth on assembly using this MSX, and it got me a long way. I loved this machine too, and I am so sorry that I sold it…

And the reason I sold it is that my mate Mark (who recently passed away), and with whom I spent many happy hours with, had upgraded straight to a Commodore64… Ah… Now THAT was a machine to be reckoned with… 64k RAM (38911 available), easily accessible machine language commands, super sound chip, incredible keyboard, easy interfacing… and the games… my god the games…

I wanted one… and I wanted it immediately. I sold my MSX to buy the C64, and after a short time, also the 1571 disk drive for it… remember that this was a time when a game would take all of twenty minutes to load… and the disk drive, supposedly enabling faster times, was a ‘serial’ disk-drive… then Turbo Loaders came along, and all 64k of RAM was squished into 5 seconds of controlled high-pitched gibberish… Magic!

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I learnt 6502 machine code on the C64, and it seemed so easy… All I needed was an Assembler, and there we went…I really enjoyed programming in Assembly, back then thought of as very difficult… again, I took to it like a duck to water, and I was swapping registers and creating games in hours.

Perhaps the greatest software on my C64 was undoubtedly ‘Graphic Adventure Creator’. My brother was a keen adventure fan…make that an adventure nut, and after playing many games from the Level9 stable, decided to start creating our own…

The coding was easy enough, but creating the images was difficult… well they had to be. the C64 had no basic to speak of…. no circle, no line, no paint, or fill…. that meant that everything had to be hardcoded, and that was our undoing.

Again, I totally loved this machine, and even now, own 2 Commodore 64s…

Cue a couple of years playing with the 64, and I upgraded to an Amiga500, expanded to 1Mb and an extra floppy drive. The Amiga was a beautiful machine, doted with an incredible OS, Workbench, and the games were simply more than arcade standard.

(At work, PCs were just coming into vogue, and the first PC I saw was a Victor 286, with a mono screen… hardly impressive. These did not inspire me, even when I saw the first HP 286, with a CGA colour card costing hundreds of pounds for the 4 colors alone. I once took my Amiga to work for the engineer to see. He was absolutely gob-smacked at how far ahead the Amiga was.

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Unfortunately, like the rest of the adult world, he saw it as a machine for games…)

Again, after a few weeks in acclimitising myself with the splendor of titles such as Defender of the Crown, or Ferrari challenge, I decided to pursue programming once again. A new basic/c language was just coming out at that time, called AMOS. I bought the package by mail order and happily spent years and years using the Amiga as a programming tool.

Then after four years, and just when I married, I purchased my first pc…. a non-descript 386sx. I often remarked that it did not hold a candle to the Amiga.

The 386sx had a math-co-processor added to it, making it a dx, then I upgraded to a 486sx-25, then a 486sx-40, then a 486dx4-100, my first Pentium100, 120, 166mmx, PII-333, then a PIII-600, and on to a succession of Pentium IVs… I never got quite beyond the single-core pentiums, because I then wisely upgraded to the AMD Athlons, and finally to a Dual-Core Dell notebook, which is still going strong, and used daily (and nightly!) as a kitchen computer.

I have turned to the MAC as an alternative way, and the computing experience is so much better.

But looking back at all my years using computers, never has been the light so bright as when I started off back in the early 80’s. I have forgotten how many nights I have burnt the midnight oil playing a succession of games that thrilled me and drove me to tears with frustration.

I rest easy in the knowledge that I created many games myself, including the first PC Football manager… 4 divisions of 16 teams each, modelled on the Serie A at that time. I sold many copies of that game on the PC, admittedly very cheaply, but it was money just the same…

These days, the magic of programming games is just about gone. The splendour of modern titles such as Tomb Raider or Call of Duty, churned out by a team of a hundred or more designers and artists crush our little efforts… but we were the bedroom coder pioneers, striving to put the computers out of science fiction into the hands of many millions.

I have owned my own computer shop, selling mainstream PCs, until the market dropped and it no longer was profitable. I still miss the old times and still spend innumerable hours designing games on my MAC. Just for me to play with, trying to relive the glory days. That, for me, is more than enough reward.

So …. yeah… happy 30th birthday to all my computers.

Addendum : Favourite Games.

1. TI-99/4a – Favourite game was Blasto, which I even recreated using a PC and Blitz Basic, taking part in a worlwide retro-gaming competition, finishing in the top 100 amidst some 5000 entries.

2. On the MSX, I still look misty-eyed at the mention of Konami Ping-Pong… what a game… how many hours have I spent honing my reflexes?

3. On the C64, my favourite game was Killer Watt. Again, I recreated this game faithfully to the last byte, gaining an accolade when I re-entered a competition with it. Supreme.

4. Too many games on the Amiga to select a favourite, but most probably it had to be Ferrari Formula 1… my god what a game.

5. There are too many gems on the PC to mention, but the Championship Manager games, and the Tomb Raider series spring to mind.

The time for EBikes.

The revolution has started

Interesting post on the Times this morning by ADPD about reducing cars from the road. Some fine thoughts indeed. With one GLARING omission.

In the past two years, as technology has improved in leaps and bounds even in the wake of coronavirus, a silent but imnportant revolution has been unfolding.

Bicycles are not only coming back, but returning en-masse, with a vengeance, as it were. EBikes are taking the world by storm, however the leader of ADPD has neglected to mention this noble but extremely effective form of transport which would be just right not only for longer more arduous trips, but also for shorter distances.

The government has issued €4 million to private (RICH!) companies to upgrade their money-making vehicles. (What the hell?)

At an average of €2000 (per ebike) each, those millions could ostensibly take 2000 cars off the road.

Yet we continue to cling obstinately to the hopes that the bus service will come good. Here’s a heads-up. It won’t. It is just too clunky, irregular, and slow. That is why people still prefer a car. (As do I when a bike ride is not possible.)

Taking that many cars off the road will result in a quicker, safer commute to practically anyone, and of course, biking contributes to a healthier population.

Many European countries are seeing yearly ebike growth in the 30% to 40% range, compared to the low single-digit growth of car sales. That means e-bike sales could easily overtake car sales later this decade in Europe.

120 million bikes were sold world-wide last year.

Twelve months ago I submitted a proposal to TM about an idea I had, and for which I met with ministerial official secretaries. Alas, nothing came out if it.

Make no mistake though. It is a golden age for ebikes and micro-transport vehicles, and the movement will gather pace, strength, energy, and finally, logical acceptance. This is the way.

Pajjiż irrimedjalment marid!

Din l-ahbar u sussegwetament l-ammont inkredibli ta ‘smileys’ li gabar, hija l-emblema ta pajjiz marid.

Li jinqatalghek id-dawl ghal fuq minn hmistax il siegha, f’din il bolgja ta shana nfernali mhux tac-cajt.Lanqas li tarmi ammont ta iekel li min jaf kemm sewa flus mil-freezers…

Ma ninsewx l-antipatija tas-shana li taqtalek nifsek, jew li ghandek genituri anzjani li ma jifilhux is shana…

Minkejja dawn il problemi, u li nghixu f’pajjiz li suppost nisrani u nifhmu l-xulxin, inharsu ftit lejn din l-istampa hawn taht…

May be an image of 3 people, including Mark Anthony Sammut and text that says "Television Malta 14h 14h II-Partit Nazzjonalista qieghed jipproponi I-gvern jaghti kumpens lill-persuni milquta mill-qtugh tad-dawl. II-proposta saret waqt konferenza tal-ahbarijiet indirizzata mill-kelliem tal-oppozizzjoni ghall-energija. id-deputat Ryan Callus, I-kandidati Mark Anthony Sammut u Rebekah Cilia. TVM.COM.MT II-PN jghid li I-Gvern ghandu jaghti kumpens lil dawk milquta mill-qtugh tad- tad-dawl -TVM nd 465 others Like Comment 670 comments 7 shares Share"

U naraw li kwazi 270 persuna, DAHKU ghal din l-ahbar li qed jipproponu il partit ta l-oppozizzjoni.

Ghaliex iz-zobb qed tidhku?

Ghax GAHAN?

Ghax bilfors gahan tid tkun, biex tirrifjuta ghajnuna!!! Xieraq marritilkhom fridge… jew xi air-conditioner bhal m’ghamel tieghi!

U zgur li rridu kumpens!!! Ghandna d-dawl jilghab il-hin kollu.

Din ma hemmx politika fiha! Hemm biss genn ta nies morda! Nies li dahku wkoll meta l-PN ippropona vouchers. Kemm dhaqtu hux? Imma kullhadd hadhom u qed jaghmel b’rixu bihom.

Ejja nixeghlu mohhna please. Dawn l-affarijiet jolqtu kemm lejburisti, u kemm nazz (it tnejn ma niflahkomx!!!), u idejat tajbin, jintlaqghu, mhux jigu mzebilha ghax tal-partit l-iehor.

PS. Min ghafas smiley, ghamilli pjacir, ghamilni unfriend! M’intix denju tal hbiberija tieghi!

((Mhux ha nsemmi l-bluha tal-billboards. Ikbru qaddisa madonna… ikbru, qiskhom trabi!))

Daqshekk ghal-llum. Qalbi maqtuha.

A journey of recovery.

Six am. Still blurry eyed, wiping the blood off my finger. The five seconds seem like hours.

The little unit beeps and I look at the readout in utter surprise and satisfaction.

5.5

5.5!!! I do a little jig of happiness around the kitchen table. Our cats and bunny look on uncomprehendingly.

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I have waited for many weeks to see this number!

A three month battle has ended to bring back my sugar levels down to normal after an unexpectedly high reading in early May.

I’m not going through the whole story as it is a convoluted mess of bad starts, fit and misrepresentation.

Be that as it may, a simple urine test showed that while everything seemed ok, my glucose levels were marked as over 50. I was pretty sure it was an error, but a subsequent test revealed the same high glucose levels.

A simple ear-blood test was done and it revealed I was at 18mmo/l (normal is 5.5). Absolutely way too high.

The following day I had a full blood test with fasting, and it was confirmed that my blood glucose was extraordinarily high.

This would go a long way towards explaining the incredible thirst I was suffering during the nights.

The doctor was adamant. “No carbs at all. No bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, beer and wine. Too much sugar in them. Welcome to diabetes.”

I stared him aghast.

“What am I going to eat?” I asked “especially breakfast.”

It seems that anything goes, except carbs. So started a strange sort-of-keto diet.

The weight slid off me like water from a duck’s back. Since the end of November, when the thirst and initial sugar spike began, I have lost now a total of 25 kilograms. Unbelievable.

That journey has started out well as not only has the weight gone off, but also the sugar has been brought down to normal levels.

I have increased exercise,although with this summer heat it is absolutely madness to get out of air conditioned comfort.

This journey cannot here and now. This is a lifestyle change and lucky enough to survive this spike.

I must continue.

Covid effects on an athlete..

After an extraordinary Formula One race, and a brilliant comeback, the podium at the Hungaroring was somewhat different.

Esteban Ocon took top spot on the rostrum, Sebastian Vettel a close second, and Lewis Hamilton within touching distance. Eventually irregularities in Vettel’s vehicle (less than 300cl of fuel left in the tank), meant that the Aston Martin driver lost his position in favour of Hamilton, with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz promoted to third.

But for me, the most important happening was not only Ocon’s merited maiden win, but the abolutely horrendous state, Hamilton was in.

The driver was absolutely shattered, and just could barely stay on his feet. It was indeed harrowing to see how this superb athlete was reduced to. Granted, driving a Formula1 car is anything but easy. It requires great skill, judgment, and a cool head apart from huge physical resources.

So it was surprising for me to see how Hamilton had been so affected.

If a superb athlete like Lewis Hamilton is still suffering last year’s Covid infection, just imagine what it can do to a normal person, or an autoimmunity compromised one, like I am.

I sincerely hope he recovers soon. I am a Ferrari fan, but I see Lewis as a worthy opponent and a hard worker. I cannot fault that.

May be an image of 1 person and text that says "FUREE LEX INEOS RO PETR ONAS ባ NEWS Hamilton says he's still suffering effects of Covid as he's treated for 'fatigue and dizziness' after gruelling run to third in Hungary"

Thirteen thousand.

Well over thirteen thousand individual hits on my blog, and this is an absolutely amazing number.

For those who like to read about bikes, computers, sports, and of course, some of my amateur scribblings, I am sure you will find something to interest you.

I have been writing here for man years now, and I hope I continue to have a blast for more to come in the future.

Thank you for trying me out! Chris.

Third Quarantine done and dusted!

Phew! finally glad that THAT’S over. Once again, locked in because of some dumb anti-vaxxer. Please spare me your grumbling!

This is a point where the greater good of the many outweigh those of the dumb.

Anyway, after twelve days, I was raring to go, and since just before lock-up I bought a new bike (what’s new?) I thought it would be a great idea to wake up early and sample its delights.

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Back at the garage, wasted by the heat!

As usually happens on a Saturday, one just lingers a little bit more in bed and lets his thoughts wander freely before getting up!

And yes, I overslept. My six am bike ride started at nine, when really, it was already too hot.

I wasn’t about to lose the opportunity though, so I shouldered my new Fuji, went down the stairs and rode off. Sadly it did not take me too long to pull up. The gear ratios on this machine are simply too steep.

My gorgeous single-gear Fuji Declaration!

So I returned to the garage, and swapped the rear Vera Corsa wheel (single speed 17T sprocket), to an old, old Raleigh Europa 10 speed. I just hooked the chain to the next highest cog on the wheel, a 24, and it was just perfect.

Yeah yeah, I remembered to fill the correct water bottle, charge my phone and slip a few euros into my pocket.

Took the road down to Santa Lucia, then offroad to Gudja, where I then returned via the newly dug up new road (this country is massively dumb!) up the new Santa Lucia bypass, and then back home. Not too much, I doubt I did 10kilometres, but seeing that it is a new bike, coming back from twelve days of incativity, and where I was last year, this is nothing short of a miracle.

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Short ride today. Just too hot!

HEAT UP!

It’s starting to heat up again, and after a couple of weeks of lower temperatures, it seems that the mercury will be rising once again.

One of the problems we have here with regards to Remote Working is simply that you just cannot work in the heat, so you reach for that AC Remote. Totally aware that you are paying for it out of your own pocket!

August of course, it’s bound to be hot…

Still sucks on so many levels. Take that vaccine will you? Perhaps I won’t be locked up again.

Three Swiss riders on the Olympic MTB podium!

The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 women’s mountain bike race saw a historic 1, 2, 3 for the Swiss team, with Jolanda Neff claiming her country’s first women’s Olympic mountain bike gold medal and leading the way for a historic podium clean sweep.

In 28 degrees heat with high humidity, the race started with 38 riders on time at 15:00 local time at Izu Mountain Bike Park, 150km south-east of Tokyo. The course had been drenched in rain earlier in the day, bringing new challenges for traction, and a different character to that on which the men raced on the previous day. Due to the terrain the race was shortened by one lap.

On the 1.3km start loop there were good getaways for many of the fancied competitors including Sina Frei, Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (FRA), Jolanda Neff, Laura Stigger (AUT), Loana Lecomte (FRA) and Linda Indergand. 

Rebecca McConnell (AUS) and Kate Courtney (USA) were amongst those with slower starts and were hampered by the bottlenecks at the two-lane Amagi Pass, before the American pushed towards the top 10 at the start of the first full lap and the Australian slipped back. Great Britain’s Evie Richards got off well, vying with Kata Blanka Vas of Hungary, the youngest rider in the race aged 19, who blasted forward from her back-row start and was one of many riders taking an early small slip as they got to grips with what the surface offered.

Big names battle early

Neff and Ferrand-Prévot pushed ahead on the first of five 3.85km laps before the French UCI World Champion slipped into the ropes while chasing for the short line up a rock garden and dropped back as she remounted.

The 2017 UCI World Champion Neff broke away solo and it was Richards – perhaps inspired by fellow British Tom Pidcock’s ride to victory the previous day – who emerged to initially lead the chase.

By the end of lap 1, Neff – who recovered from breaking her hand at the Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup at Leogang in June – led by 19 seconds from the 24-year-old Briton with Lecomte and Frei together at 23’ and Indergand making it three Swiss riders in the top five as they sped down the tarmac start/finish straight. 

On the second lap the Swiss took the first three positions, with 28-year-old Neff’s advantage steadily growing out to more than 40 seconds. Ferrand-Prévot was powering herself back into contention in second position, moving away from former double Under 23 UCI World Champion Frei. It was not such good fortune for her compatriot Lecomte, the winner of all four UCI World Cup rounds so far in 2021, who had a mechanical problem, dropping her chain and dropping positions. Richards was drifting back towards the Dutch duo of Anne Terpstra and Anne Tauber working as a unit.

Formation of a Swiss 1-2-3 

By mid-distance Neff, who won the test event on the 4,100m Izu mountain bike course in October 2019, was maintaining a metronomic pace and stretched her advantage to just over 1 minute, finding the grassy edges of the course for every bit of traction and degree of efficiency. As Stigger and Japan’s Miho Imai withdrew, by the end of lap 3 the Swiss 1-2-3 had formed, with Frei (2nd in the 2019 test event) in silver medal position.

Richards, Lecomte, Tauber, Terpstra and Ferrand-Prévot had formed a talent-packed chase group almost 2 minutes back, before the French multi-discipline former UCI World Champion (for road, mountain bike cross-country, mountain bike marathon, cyclo-cross) suffered and pushed to hold on to a top-10 spot.

As the bell sounded at the end of lap 4 the two Swiss riders continued to work together, 1:27 behind their national champion to ensure that they could maintain all the podium positions. Lecomte headed Terpstra at 2’15”, with the Hungarian Vas holding an impressive 6th and looking strong after her 33rd-place start. The attrition continued to take its toll, with the adrenaline helping the riders through the final strength-sapping 3.85km. Neff’s victory never looked in doubt, and the podium sweep was confirmed.

Vas finished an amazing 4th , with Terpstra 5th, Lecomte 6th and Ferrand-Prévot 10th. The 2016 Olympic Champion Jenny Rissveds (SWE) came in 14th just ahead of 2018 UCI World Champion Kate Courtney and Catharine Pendrel (CAN), bronze medalist in Rio 2016, finishing her fourth Olympics in 18th place.

But the day belonged to the Swiss riders, with Neff proving the best, by some distance, in Japan. She went into this race with 74 wins, but the 75th will surely taste the sweetest. 

What an amazing race.