3.5 million accounts

That’s the estimate for how many “ghost accounts” were created by banking giant Wells Fargo.

That’s about 1% of the total USA population. Here’s the gist…

Wells Fargo created millions of fake accounts for its customers to charge them fees for services that they never requested. It was later discovered that Wells Fargo was signing customers up for unwanted insurance policies as well – again, to charge customers for services that they never requested.

This is outright fraud.

It’s for reasons like this that a new type of technology has burst onto the scene. It enables secure, reliable, and transparent transactions, without the potential for manipulation by big financial institutions.

Historically, companies, governments, and individuals all keep their records in one centralized database. Imagine a room with racks of computers that store information.
But centralized databases can be manipulated. In the world of blockchains and distributed ledger technology, the exact opposite is true. The transactions recorded on the ledger represent a transaction that takes place between the parties involved and is confirmed by the blockchain network via a consensus.

Once a transaction is written to the ledger, it is immutable. The value and utility that a well-designed blockchain provides is remarkable. Immutability, secure transactions, privacy, transparency, the reduction or elimination of fraud.

In a centralized system, we depend on “trusted” intermediaries (banks and other financial institutions) to conduct transactions. But as we’ve learned time and time again, these “trusted” intermediaries are not at all trustworthy.

It wasn’t long ago when the LIBOR scandal uncovered that many of the most “trusted” financial institutions in the world were manipulating interest rates for their own benefit, and of course at the expense of others.

Banks like Barclays, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, UBS, Citigroup, Bank of America, and the Royal Bank of Scotland were found to be right in the middle of these manipulations.

The corruption is seemingly endless.

By design, blockchain technology removes the potential for manipulation to take place.

Source: http://bonnerandpartners.com/the-one-reason-why-the-crypto-crash-is-temporary/

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The strange case of “Axe of Rage”

For those not familiar with it, “Axe of Rage” is the title with which Epyx released “Barbarian II” in the USA back in the day.

To say that Epyx botched “Barbarian II” is an understatement. I’d say the Epyx guys that were involved tried to get away with as little work as possible during their adaptation for NTSC. They ended up changing things that were not necessary (such as certain colours and the characters in the initial load picture) but avoided doing a proper NTSC adaptation for what concerns the load tune playback (absent), level-end transitions (absent) and inter-level load pictures (absent)!

Together with Flavioweb we worked at an enhanced release. Part of the work involved restoring the original feeling of the game, essentially filling in the gaps the Epyx guys left in their questionable release.

One practical example of the extra work I personally did was to re-instantiate the inter-level load pictures that the Epyx guys removed, as they released under a different title. In fact, the original pictures show the game’s title, “Barbarian II”, which they could not use:

One of Barbarian II inter-level load pictures by Luigi Di Fraia

One of Barbarian II inter-level load pictures

Therefore I adapted these load pictures, as per example below:

One of Axe of Rage inter-level load pictures by Luigi Di Fraia

One of Axe of Rage inter-level load pictures

As it happens in the original version of “Barbarian II”, mine are char-mode pictures too. However, unlike the original game, where each picture is a different file with just a different level number in the font-set, I created a single font-set with all three level numbers in it and some code to just put the relevant number in the “LEVEL x LOADING” message.

The way I went from the picture to a font-set involves using my own tool, “C64 Hires2Charmode”. I know: I shall change its name at some point as “hires” is used with a different meaning in the C64 graphics community, but bear with me on this one for now.

The first operation I had to do was decide which colours were going to be represented by each of the four two-bit combinations %00, %01, %10, %11. I picked these according to the original pictures, of course. Therefore I produced a grey-scale version of the picture, using the C64 palette, leaving level numbers as the last elements so that they would all end up at the very end of the font-set:

One of Axe of Rage inter-level load pictures, prepared for conversion by Luigi Di Fraia

One of Axe of Rage inter-level load pictures, prepared for conversion

Running the picture through my tool, I got the following:

Same picture open in C64 Hires2Charmode by Luigi Di Fraia

Same picture open in C64 Hires2Charmode

And the output was:

Fontset produced by C64 Hires2Charmode by Luigi Di Fraia

Fontset produced by C64 Hires2Charmode

As you can appreciate, “C64 Hires2Charmode” left level numbers where instructed, i.e. where they can be accessed in a predictable way. Not only that, my tool also produced the video map for Subchrist’s CharPad 1.8.3, with which I was then able to fill in the map’s colour data, do a few tiny adjustments, and finally export font-set, video RAM and color RAM data to separate files.

Here’s the final product for loading level 2:

Axe of Rage Level 2 Loading Picture by Luigi Di Fraia

Axe of Rage Level 2 Loading Picture

You can download the CharPad project from here.

Finally, the code that puts the level number in place is as per below:

	lda $39		; Current level
	clc
	adc #$93	; Index of the char '2'
	sta $ee43

Another contribution I made to this release is the maps for all levels! Yes, if you have ever played the game back in the day you know how frustrating it is to navigate each level without maps! I am putting a copy of the maps here for future Web searches.

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That’s all for now, enjoy this release 🙂

Posted in Pixel Design, Retrocomputing, Technical | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

IECHost: more development

I have just re-instated my IECHost setup and made a couple of changes in the client application in order to align it to the latest code I wrote for the DC2N4-LC GUI client.

This is the prototype actually showing up on my workbench 🙂

One of my IECHost prototypes by Luigi Di Fraia

One of my IECHost prototypes

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Analysis tool preview

A preview of my web-based tape analysis tool is now available here.

Don’t forget that the web page itself can be downloaded to your PC/device and used while offline too. Furthermore, the current view can be saved as a PNG file.

Although I have only tested it with Opera and Chrome, I don’t expect major issues with other browsers. If you do experience issues, just let me know and I will assess them.

Once I am done with it, the tool and its source code will be available on my GitHub pages.

Stay tuned!

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Web based tape analysis tool preview

Here’s a preview video of my web based tape analysis tool:

Stay tuned!

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Web based tape analysis tool

Following a report I recently received from Zoë, who is running OSX, I decided to implement a Web version of my tape analysis widget, the one used in TAPClean, and TAPStudio.

It’s early stages still, but I am getting through a number of tasks rather quickly so here’s a preview of the tool (along with the console window of Chrome).

Web based tape analysis: current look by Luigi Di Fraia

Web based tape analysis: current look

The tool does not upload tape images to a remote server; it just reads data in locally and displays it in the usual “recorder justage” fashion.

Stay tuned!

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Missed out on a DC2N device? Here’s a poll you might want to check out

Alright, as I keep receiving requests for additional DC2N devices, here’s a poll with shared public results. If you are interested in acquiring a DC2N device, here’s your chance to let me know and my chance to push back due to low demand or go through a manufacturing process again.

The poll will run for 1 week exactly, starting from the date this post is published. Comments are welcome, although moderated.

Posted in Retrocomputing | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments