Thinking Points – 6/12

1. Quote of the week

…if you try to follow all the various paths you will not get anywhere. — Dalai Lama

Focus. Do one big thing at a time.

2. What I’m reading

I finished Sir John Harvey-Jones’s second book from the Troubleshooter series. I preferred the first book, probably because I remember the episode on Apricot Computers. Apricot used to sell 8086-based computers based on the Sirius architecture. The general view at the time was that it was superior to the IBM PC architecture. There was not the 640k memory limitation and was one of the first to use 3.5″ discs. Despite running MS-DOS, CPM/86 and so on, it was not hardware compatible with the IBM PC, so PC applications would not always run.

Back to the book, John visited an NHS trust, a police force and a handful of companies. He had a knack for understanding the business at a high level, wading through the numbers and being able to deep-dive when needed to get detail. He would be 96 this year if he were still alive. Books really are a way to get wisdom from the dead.

Then I read and finished Kyle Macdonald’s Red Paper Clip, which is the story of how Kyle traded up a Red Paper Clip for a house. There is a TEDx talk too. It’s an interesting story but I doubt it is likely to be a repeatable process for everyone. He made just over a dozen trades to get a house. He got a lot of publicity on the way.

I read two short books: Peter Taylor’s The Art of Laziness and Alex Foster’s Writing a Book a Week. Peter is a renowned Project Manager, IT Leader and Author. This short book introduces the reader to two of his other books, but the principles in there are complete and sound. The second book tells the reader how to write a book in a week. It is possible, but I fear the output is causing a glut of online books that we don’t really need.

I have plenty of books queued up to read, however, I have treated myself to some cheap Kindle books. The book I am reading at the moment is Rod Liddle’s Selfish Whining Monkeys. No doubt, I will write about that next week.

3.What I’m watching

I’ve watched very little television this week, due to being very busy. I managed an episode of Star Trek Discovery. At least in this season, they are well into the future where the crew can’t mess anything up in the timeline of the original series. Oh and a couple of episodes of Toast.

4. What I’m doing in my free time

As you will see from this blog, I have been cooking pasta dishes to the point that I’m happy with my own fresh pasta. I can make it reliably. Additionally, I have two IPAs on the go. They are about to be racked into barrels so that they will be ready for Christmas. And that’s it for brewing this year. The equipment has been cleaned and put away for the year. Next year, I plan to tackle lager.

5. What I’m learning more about

Given the Black Friday discounts, I  bought some Udemy courses. The first is Learn Assembly Language by Making Games for the Atari 2600. Why on earth do that? Well, I still remember 6502 assembly language from the 80s. I wrote a bunch of tools to manipulate sideways RAM on the BBC Computer and generally fiddled around with it. I’m surprised by how much I can remember. I learned ARM32 more recently and can’t remember a thing… Anyway, the bit I was missing back in the 80s was interfacing with hardware and games programming. This course is incredibly interesting because it is using 6502 assembly language to control a simple chipset to output things on a television set. You need to think about scan lines and the difference between NTSC (US standard) and PAL (UK/other) standards. 

The Atari 2600 uses a 6507 processor – the key differences from the 6502 is the amount of address space and the interrupt handling. The Atari had 128 bytes of RAM and the standard ROM cartridges were 4kB. You really have to think about coding for this machine.

I’m halfway through the course and I probably won’t use the techniques directly – however, it has satisfied a curiosity.

Kindly proofread by Matt at Isthmus Consulting.

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