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Site glitch

Earlier today this site keeled over dead. Rob got it all sorted pretty quickly, so many thanks to him.


SimpleSeq v0.16

Here it is! The one that supports loading files with types. Along the way I've also fixed that dumb bug where note boxes would be drawn with a black background, which wasn't quite right when in light mode... and also fixed an issue regarding the keyboard use of selection choice objects (those are the icons with the up/down arrows).

Here's the update for you:

Download (123.52K)
For RISC OS 5 machines with MIDI


SimpleSeq user guide

Finally, I have written a user guide for SimpleSeq. It's a 24 page PDF, with lots of diagrams and explanations of how to use SimpleSeq. No more reading through random blog posts where later ones contradict earlier ones because "stuff changed". ☺

If you wish to download a single file, then this is the one you'll need:

This file has larger than expected print (14pt) because it is intended to be printed as a pamphlet, that is to say, as two pages across a piece of A4.
Alternatively, you may read it on a mobile phone or tablet, where the larger type size helps readability on smaller screens.


If you wish to make a pamphlet "booklet" but you don't have access to something like Adobe Reader that can do this, or only have a RISC OS machine, don't worry. I have a solution for you too.
Download these files:

Print the "fronts" to your printer. The margins should be good for most decent laser and inkjet printers.
There are six pages.

Now observe what way around the pages passed through the printer. For mine, the "bottom" of the text was on the right hand side.

Simply turn the six pages over and pop them back into the paper tray. Do not alter the order of the pages or specify reverse order print, I have already reversed them in the PDF for you.

Now print the "backs". You should find that the backs match up with the appropriate fronts.

Which means, all that remains to do is to fold each piece of A4 in half to make a little pamphlet, and then arrange the six folded pages into a booklet.

A printed user guide
Fresh off the press top of the laser printer!


Cut-price crap?

There have been reports in the red-tops (that pop up in my news app) and mentions on the radio (often as adverts) about how "the nations favourite supermarket" (one of the cheap four-letter ones) offers such better value for customers compared to brand goods at a regular supermarket.

Can we just, please, stop for a moment and acknowledge that this is rather disingenuous as you're not comparing like for like?

If you look at the more expensive branded products, you might find it uses "whole eggs" and "butter" (maybe even a special sort of butter). The chocolate might be some classy Belgian type. Milk from Switzerland. Chicken breast fillet. You know, that sort of jazz.
If French, expect to see "AOC", "Beurre d'Insigny" and so on.

The low price so-called "equivalents" (note the scare quotes)? Well, we can start with powdered eggs, powdered milk, vegetable oils instead of butter (god help us, maybe even palm oil), a definite lower grade of flour. The meat, also, will not be a piece of breast. You're more likely to be looking at "mechanically separated" meat which is the residue left on the bones after everybody else took the good parts, blasted off with high pressure water, made into a slurry, potentially bleached to whiten them, then pressed into shapes that try to pass themselves off as more expensive pieces of meat. If your meat "breaks" rather than tearing along the muscle line and all of the pieces have a uniform shape and size, that's probably what you're eating. The detritus that anybody else would have thrown in the bin.

So, no. They aren't equivalent. Sure, you can get protein from the low price food, and given the economy for some people that's pretty much their only option. But please don't be deluded into thinking it's as good as the real thing it's pretending to be.

Here are the ingredients from a double beef burger (that, oddly, comes in a translucent plastic bag).

What's in a burger
It doesn't bear looking at in any detail, does it? I would imagine the former-clown-place doesn't even have this much crap in its burgers (though, on the other hand this one does try to claim it's 34% beef). Note the skimmed milk powder, xanthane gum, "natural flavouring", and some things that I wouldn't want to attempt to say the names of.

Just a quick side note - "natural flavouring" means nothing. You see, a long time ago some marketing arse realised that "natural" could be interpreted to mean that it exists in nature. Well, everything that exists does so "in nature", even synthetic stuff. So while you might equate this to mean "it's from happy sunflowers in a field and not a byproduct of petroleum refining" or whatever, in reality the word "natural" in a list of ingredients is about as useful as the red tractor symbol, or something having "farm" in the brand name.

Here's the Mac&Cheese (yes, Lidl are having a "America! F**k yeah!" promotion ☺).

What's in a mac&cheese
This is less awful.
Compared to the burger, this is positively wholesome, isn't it? But note that it's "cheese" which could mean anything. The cheese sauce is made using powdered milk. There is some butter, but there is also colza (rapeseed) oil so less butter is necessary.
And, while this isn't bad (I've had it before), it is utterly insipid compared to the one that sometimes turns up in Picard that's actually shipped over from some place in Wisconsin (if I remember correctly), has a solid non-sloppy sauce, proper cheese that kicks you in the front teeth (think aged cheddar) and a dusting of something odd (cinnamon?) on top just to make it an all-round bloody lovely meal.
It is also damned near impossible to get (it seems Picard does this very infrequently and they sell out fast) and it's something like four or five times the price. But, dammit, the difference is worth it. ☺
Point is though, putting the two side by side, it's like comparising a Porsche with a Twingo. Both are cars, but that's about where any meaningful comparison ceases.


Spooky stuff from Lidl

In case you hadn't noticed, I went to Lidl. Oh dear.

Actually, I went into town to get sixteen metres of 2.5mm2 cable, some sockets, and... bloody place was closed. From 12pm to 2pm. Like one of the few larger shops around that still closes for lunch.
Oh well, I've put up with an extension lead for nearly twenty two years, a bit longer won't change anything.

So I patronised Lidl (your 'i' is sideways, nerr!) and found their America promotion (well, mom was American so...) and part of that was going in big on Samhain (or Halloween as they call it). And, well, ghosts and crap, count me in.



Your comments:

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Rob, 19th October 2023, 17:33
Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3. 
Rick, 19th October 2023, 17:59
Rick, 19th October 2023, 18:39
Looks like it's all fixed now. 
Great work by Rob in sorting out the problem (oh look, a PHP change broke stuff, there's a surprise...). 
It would be great if one of two of you could show your appreciation for this stuff being here by buying Rob a cuppa. The donation link is on the right just above that QR code. <hint!><hint!>
Rob, 19th October 2023, 22:08
Or at the bottom, in mobile view ;-) 
(my daughter teases me every time I use smilies rather than emoji..) 
But it was me that broke it after all, sorry! Ironically, it was from trying to do an update after getting notice of an apache DoS vulnerability..
Rick, 19th October 2023, 22:31
Not your fault. Updating for security issues is a worthy thing to do. If the people creating stuff like PHP gave a 💩 about backwards compatibility... I mean, in all my time on all the servers I've been on or involved with, there's not been one single major PHP release that hasn't busted something "because". 
Your daughter, I fear, lives in a world with a blissful ignorance of mojibake. It's maybe not such an issue in the UK, but over here if your address has an accent (which mine does, it's quite common), there's a pretty good chance Amazon's UTF-8 will end up being sent to an eight bit label printer verbatim, which means the middle of the house name ends up with symbols and stuff in it. Thank god my name doesn't have accents... 
[there's an Amélie at work and when she clocks in the machine says "Am?lie". In France. In 2023. Shocking!] 
She undoubtedly knows what 😀 means. How about ð followed by three blank spaces? (specifically 240, 159, 152, and 128) It's the same thing! 
At least with :) there's no ambiguity and no need for special rendering support (like try having emoji on RISC OS if you aren't called nemo...). Can't go wrong with a text based smiley. 
Oh, and what's the difference between 😧 and 😦 and 😮 and 😯 and 😲? It's like the five stages of trauma you get from watching the news coming out of the Middle East... 
So many emoji, so many that look like the one next to it. 
David Pilling, 20th October 2023, 13:10
I am currently working on fixing things for PHP8 - yes it is a bad way of doing things - any website which does not have people to look after it will vanish in due course - between the hackers and the upgrades. 
Good comments about price comparison. On the one hand you get supermarkets who will price match - always been a mystery exactly how this works but I doubt they look at the ingredients. On the other you do sometimes get identical products (yes I look at the contents) at the cheap places. 
ALDI have made a business out of 'passing off' making products that look like the competition. Mostly they seem to have got away with it - apart from Percy pig, where they came over all hard done by when M&S pursued them. 
There's a TV show which endlessly demonstrates people can't taste the difference between the cheap and expensive ones. 
Rick, 20th October 2023, 13:29
I think it depends on what you're tasting. Plus, taste alone isn't everything. I've already mentioned that texture is an important part of my culinary "experience" (fx: shudders at using that word). 
There is absolutely a difference between pasta by the likes of Barilla and Panzani compared to supermarket own brand. My preferred is Barilla as it has a pleasant taste. As somebody who eats pasta tossed in butter and lightly peppered (*no* sauce), the taste and texture is important. 
Also, in my own experience, it seems things made with cheap vegetable oils and bulking agents (etc etc) have a habit of sticking to the roof of my mouth in a way that is rather offputting, plus leaving the mouth feeling slimy inside. Again, not taste but behaviour. 
It was also extremely apparent to me when I used to get fountain Coke when they cut back on the sugar. It went from being cold sweetness to tasting like a failed chemistry experiment. It was so revolting that I switched to Fanta or whatever that bright orange stuff they serve in McDo was supposed to be. I still, from time to time, drink Coke from a glass bottle. I believe it affects the taste but while mom and I had planned to test this with can/plastic/bottle, she inconveniently carked it before we were able to perform that experiment; and I haven't done it myself as there is only me and I'm not sure how I would manage to be completely impartial and not in any way biased (the idea was mom would half fill three cups and write A, B, and C on them and only she'd know which was which). 
Anon, 20th October 2023, 21:36
There's a Lidl near us. I've been in there a couple of times. There's a couple of nasty little 'tricks' they use. 
Firstly the price label is on the edge of the shelf ABOVE the items to which it relates, so you glance at the shelf, think "oh, that item's only £1" and chuck it in the trolley without noticing that the £1 price actually refers to the item underneath, at floor level, not the items stacked up above the "£1" label. It's not until you get out and check the receipt that you realise that item actually cost £3. 
The other trick that Lidl do is to make their packaging rather too close for comfort to the "big name" brand. For example, a cereal with a generic name like Bran Flakes (which can't be trademarked) is packaged in a mid-blue box, with a made-up Lidl in-house brand name in a cursive script, in red. Sound familiar? 
At one point they were even printing a cartoon cheetah on their "Frosted Flakes". (I suspect a cartoon tiger would have got them sued into bankrupcy.) 
Lidl chocolate digestives? Dark brown package, with another made-up name in white text, dark blue background and yellow border. As I recall, at one point they actually called them "McSomething", however I suspect Big Name Biscuit Manufacturer probably sent them a strongly worded cease-and-desist letter. 
If you buy branded products in Aldi or Lidl, they're actually no cheaper than Sainsburys or Tesco. If you have a Nectar card or Tesco Clubcard (both of which are free) then Sainsburys or Tesco can often work out cheaper. (Both supermarkets have now stopped doing Nectar / Clubcard points, and instead give some fairly hefty discounts if you have the relevant card. Which is more sensible.) 
Now... PHP. Where do I start? 
Ok, turning off register_globals by default was actually a very good idea. Although it was convenient, it was a huge security hole. So starting with a certain version (4.5?) it was turned off by default. Then in a later version, possibly PHP 5, it was removed completely. 
The more annoying change is the complete removal of mod_mysql. Obviously there's still support for MySQL in PHP, it's just that now you have to use mod_mysqli. 
I created a set of wrappers for the new mysqli calls that can be pasted into your file (if you have one) that allow older code to run until such time as it can be refactored to use the new MySQL API. But it's still an absolute pain in the arse. Especially when you have around 4,000 lines of code to go through. The search function on a decent editor (I use UltraEdit on Windows, but Notepad++ is pretty good too) is invaluable, just search for "mysql_" then re-code to use the new mysqli_ calls. Simple enough, but time consuming.
Rick, 20th October 2023, 23:38
I noticed the unusual price placement. At least they're consistently like that. 
As for PHP, I recall a while back that they removed various string functions (like strstr and such) and replaced them with ones that were the same but had different names. WTF?! 
Had to fix the blog code but luckily it was a simple job as the blog code isn't complicated. The hardest part was finding a reliable source of what to change the old calls into.
jgh, 21st October 2023, 03:26
I just wish PHP was *consistant*. 
Ok, so there's strtoupper(), so string functions start with str. Oh wait, str_replace(). Oooo kaaay. And then substr(). Argh. and then substr_count(). WTactualF???? 
And there's something that's blahR which does something from the right end of a string. Ok, so blahL does from the left end? Nope. It's plain blah. Argh!!!!! (s/blah/whatever it is I can't remember/).
Rob, 21st October 2023, 14:38
And when similar functions have the parameters in the opposite order.. 
Big project I have a hand in put all the database related activities in a single class file, and calls that from all over. Makes changes, like when I change a database field, far less troublesome. I try and do similar in any new projects, as I've also been through the mysql>mysqli trauma. 
I've been using Aldi a lot lately. But I still go to Sainsburys, as some things are actually still cheaper there, and some things I'd rather pay the few pennies difference for better quality. 
Oh, and the "Aldi price match" promotion Sainsburys and Tesco run? I've seen them put prices UP to match Aldi! (cheap cola, 36p > 49p. Then promotion ended and it jumped to 65p. Chocolate, 33p > 45p, where it stayed.)

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