Nine of us got together for a mini-workshop at Urmston, near Manchester on 7th February. The actual occasion was a Quanta committee meeting, but that only took one out of the 7 hours!
Held at a committee member’s house, each and every power point in the room was pressed into service to run as many computers as the house could hold. At one stage we joked about the electricity bill and wondered if a small power station in the back garden might be a viable option.
Chris Grogan brought along a Windows 10 tablet, on which he had installed a copy of QPC2. As he had not brought a mouse and keyboard along, it was interesting to see QPC2 being used with an on-screen keyboard which tended to float above QPC2 and hide the display, so it became a bit hard to see what we were inputting. Then, we realised that by using the tablet in portrait orientation and reducing the size of the QPC2 display a little, then parking the on-screen keyboard beneath it, suddenly we were able to use it properly. Attempting to control the on-screen pointer with finger swipes on the screen was a bit of a challenge, then someone rustled up a small mouse which worked with the tablet which resolved that. So now we have an emulator running on a portable tablet which is usable.
We downloaded a copy of Barcos (Boats) from Marcos Cruz’s website. This is a program written in QL BASIC which plays a game similar to Battleships over a network and exists in two versions, one to be played over the QL network, the other to be played between a QL and Spectrum connected together. We spent a bit of time adapting the program to work over Sernet between two two QL emulators. At this point we were working blind and creating code we couldn’t test because none of us had a sernet lead with us… the joys of workshops! The testing will have to be done later…
David Buckley had brought along a ZX Spectrum built into a custom case complete with interface 1, ZX Microdrive, ZX printer and a custom mechanical keyboard. A QL was found, only to discover it was one from which the 68008 processor had been removed for previous use with a Gold Card, so that was no good. We eventually managed to find another suitable QL. At that point we realised none of us could remember the filing system commands for network and microdrives on Spectrums and another learning session ensued. We did eventually work out how to get the ‘E’ extended keyword entry mode on a Spectrum. Makes a change from just QLs, I suppose.
An interesting programming session ensued where we coded a messaging system between two QLs without the use of the Toolkit 2 network. On a BBQL (bare bones QL) we have to rely on the use of simple NETI and NETO devices, with the need to ensure a half duplex style of connection, where you can send something but can’t receive at the same time. As we learned more and more about what we could and couldn’t do, the programming got ever more ambitious. Nigel Herring and David Buckley attempted to code ever more ambitious programs, with Keith Dunbar making suggestions based on his knowledge of networks, and John Southern and Dilwyn Jones contributing to the BASIC coding.
At some point an outbreak of QL games occurs and suddenly the workshop descends into a hive of friendly competition. From QJewel to Crazy Cards, Qword to Brain Smasher, we had some fun catching up on all the well tried QL games plus one or two we weren’t familiar with.
Some programming exchanges followed, including discussion of writing a database in BASIC, vCard file formats and some genealogy. Alison and Sarah spent some time swapping notes on family history. By now the odd Raspberry Pi was encroaching on the QLs. John Southern reported success in getting the newly released Q-Bar program running on uQLx with pointer environment, much to the author’s surprise.
This was the first in a trial run of local workshops organised by NEMQLUG (North East Manchester QL User Group) for Quanta, held at members’ homes over the coming year. This makes it less formal than the traditional workshops format and of course less expensive, and allows QL users locally to keep in touch, a bit more like the old local group format. How many QL users does it take to constitute a ‘workshop’ or a ‘meeting’? With nine of us present by the end, it was deemed an enjoyable success, the right number of people to meet in a good sized home room, with the option to split across two rooms and socialise into smaller groups, drifting from one to the other as required to break up the day. Certainly, we came into this meeting without any formal plans to see how it would pan out. We had aimed to finish by 7pm, but 7pm came and went without anyone noticing – that’s how much we enjoyed it, so it looks like this format of mini-workshop will happen again. You don’t have to be a Quanta or NEMQLUG member to come along, just contact Sarah Gilpin or Alison Southern to check on venue, dates and times beforehand.
For 2016, the dates set so far include April 24th, June 26th and October 30th, all Sundays, from 1pm to 7pm.