The ramblings of a dweeb who lives life like it's 2005

Category: Technology

Seedy’s top 6 PS2 games

Though I am a totally blind 2000s kid, I am still a 2000s kid. And, like virtually every 2000s kid, I played on the true masterpiece of a video game console that is the Sony Playstation 2.

Though the PS2 wasn’t officially mine, it was more like something shared by the whole family, I still got to play a good few games on it. These mainly consisted of driving/racing games, such as the Colin McRae Rally series (R.I.P. Colin McRae, August 5th 1968 – September 15th 2007), and Outrun 2006: Coast2Coast, a 20th anniversary reboot of the Sega arcade classic from 1986. Conceded, I was absolutely terrible at these games, being blind and all, but I still played them for hours none the less.

It wasn’t until I got into video game emulation 6 years ago that I was able to truly capitalise on the awesomeness of the PS2 and call the experience my own. In that time, I’ve been reunited with old classics, such as the aforementioned Outrun 2006, and uncovered some never-before-seen gems, delving into a video genre that has rapidly become my all time favourite, fighting games!

In this spew, I will count down my personal top 6 games for the Playstation 2, and say a few words on why I think these games are good, and why they might not be so good. This was originally going to be a top-five, but since I’ve now been in the emulation scene for 6 years, why not make it a top six, one for each year?

Disclaimer

As this is a countdown, this spew is based purely on personal views and opinions. Each person in this world is entitled to their own opinion. In other words, don’t go shouting at me or crying to your mommy because I put a game at number 3 instead of number 2, or because I said one game plays better than another. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Make your own countdown if you must.

With that out of the way, let’s get on with the countdown!

6. Outrun 2006: Coast2Coast (2006)

I can’t exactly remember if I got this game for my 6th birthday or for Christmas in 2006, but either way, Outrun 2006 was my gateway into the world of racing games. If you were boring, you could play the game with your standard PS2 controller. Or, if you were me, you could play with a proper steering wheel/peddle combo and feel like you’re in the driver’s seat of a real race car! I remember thinking the steering wheel was for a toy car at first, until I found out from my dad that it was for a Playstation 2 game called Outrun. As soon as we got the video game and accessories out of the box and fired up the PS2, I was hooked! I wasn’t a particularly good driver, and would needlessly abuse the hell out of my car for both mine and my dad’s entertainment, but I played the thing for hours anyway! If a family member wanted to watch TV or play another game, they couldn’t because I’d be playing outrun!

The main thing I enjoyed most about Outrun 2006 was the sound track. The game borrows many tracks from the original game’s OST, such as Passing Breeze and Magical Sound Shower, and includes a few new tracks, my favourite one above all being Night Flight.

I really hope to be able to relive the glory days of Outrun 2006 at some point down the line (see what I did there)? But for now, I’ll just have to accept the fact that my crappy 5th gen i5 and Intel HD 6000 graphics mean that PCSX2 will ultimately hate me for playing it.

5. Knockout Kings 2001 (2000)

While Knockout Kings 2001 isn’t a very very good game, it’s not a very very bad game either. The game definitely aims to provide the most realistic boxing experience, from Jimmy Lennon Jr’s boxer intros to pep talks in between rounds in career mode. However, the sound track is mediocre, the controls are kinda slow and clunky, and the commentary just sounds dull and flat. I do think the random boxing fact you get during fights is a nice touch, though, as well as the fact that female fighters have their place in the game. Confusingly, KOK01 seems to be the only game in the series to feature female boxers.

Knockout Kings 2001 is available for both the PS1 and PS2. Though, despite the downsides of the over-all game, if you are going to give it a try, I recommend the PS2 version, even if it is just a slight improvement over the PS1 version.

4. Street Fighter EX 3 (2000)

I’m a huge fan of the entire Street Fighter series, and the Street Fighter EX games are no exception. A launch title for the PS2, Street Fighter EX 3 is different to previous games in the series in that it is one of the few games of that time to use a tag battle system, which allows the player to switch fighters at will, unlocking more opertunities to exploit different moves and combos to use against your opponent. Other new features are the surprise blow, a way to pull off a special attack without using your super bar, and momentary combos, which allow you to chain special attacks together and deal more damage than ever before!

Along with Soulcalibur II (2003), Street Fighter EX 3 is the only fighting game I’ve managed to play through to completion (twice) on any console. Pretty sad, really. It’s exciting, fun, fast-paced, and can definitely be challenging at times! Though, the fast-paced part might be more true for me if PCSX2 didn’t slow the damn thing down to a crawl and make the music sound like something that might be played at Ryu’s funeral!

3. Soulcalibur II (2003)

Best defined, Soulcalibur is a fighting game along the lines of Tekken, but with a bit of a fantasy vibe and using melee weapons instead of your traditional punches/kicks.

Though The voice acting in Soulcalibur II is kinda meh, the game includes a driving, intense, heart-pounding sound track designed to get you pumped right up to do battle with anyone who dares to block your path! The controls are also very Tekkenlike, with the game mainly relying on the face buttons (Triangle, Cross, Circle and Square) for blocking attacks and performing moves. The right stick can also be used for more special attacks.

Ultimately, if a fantasy fighter fusion with blood-pumping battle tracks, anxiety inducing boss fights and a soul-gripping character set is what you’re looking for, welcome… to Soulcalibur II!

2. Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (2002)

Being released 10 years after the original Mortal Kombat game that turned out to be one of the reasons why the ESRB exists (thanks soccer moms), Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, the 5th game in the series, is the first game in the MK franchise to truly support 3D, with a proper 3D environment. Yeah yeah, we all know MK4 tried to be 3D, but you were ultimately stuck on a 2D field with a janky sidestep motion, so let’s just call MK4 2.5D and move on, shall we?

Many people look down on Deadly Alliance because each character only has one fatality, which definitely takes some of the variety and excitement out of the game. However, fighters now have three different fighting styles to choose from, consisting of two hand-to-hand combat styles and one melee style, allowing players to explore more fighting stratigies and ways to deliver abuse to their opponents. From a completely blind player’s point of view, another positive is that fatalities aren’t distance/sweep based like they are in other MK games, meaning they are much easier to pull off since you don’t have to worry about where your opponent is on the field. Another accessibility consideration is the fact that there are virtually no wrapping menus, meaning blind players have a clear indication of the first and last item in a menu, since you can’t go any further than that point and no sound will play if you try to go past it. Also, Liu Kang is absent from this game, but let’s just try to forget about that, eh?

1. Knockout Kings 2002 (2001)

Though Knockout Kings 2002 might be considered more stripped down compared to earlier releases, with the absence of boxer intros, interround pep talks and random boxing facts, Knockout Kings 2002, in my view, is a huge improvement over any prior release, including 2001. The sound track kicks ass, the commentary is a lot more exciting and lively, the input is a lot speedier and simpler, and the massively improved sound design mixed with the PS2 controller’s rumble mechanics make the game a thousand times more immersive, and, most importantly for players like me, accessible.

An awesome example of how both audio cues and haptics are used for both immersion and accessibility is when the controller starts to give a slow, gentle pulse when your boxer is starting to run low on health and is about to go down. The closer you get to being knocked down, the stronger and faster this pulse will grow. When a fighter goes down, you will hear one or two loud bangs which sound like gunshots. You may also hear other sounds as the knockdown animation plays, such as camera clicks, heartbeats and other effects, and the sound of the crowd will be noticeably louder as well, as they woop and cheer at the sight of the boxer falling to the mat. What’s more, when you are down, the pitch of the count to ten is somewhat lower than when your opponent is down, in which case it is just normal pitch.

As with Knockout Kings 2001, both Richard Steele and Mills Lane (R.I.P) star as boxing referees. I’ve never liked Richard Steele as a referee, he always sounds extremely bored. Mills Lane is my favourite ref, and always will be.

Knockout Kings 2002 is a fusion of high speed, high intensity, immersive, hard-hitting, heart-pounding boxing action, outstanding sound design and accessibility, and snappy, easy-to-learn game controls. You might call it a cheap, arcade style button masher, but I call it a work of pure genius. What’s wrong with button mashers anyway? Not every game needs to have hypercomplex inputs that need to be timed to the exact femtosecond. Can’t you just put aside your toxicity for a minute and think about the abilities and disabilities of other gamers?

Conclusion

The Playstation 2 was a truly remarkable console in its time, and to many people, including me, it still is to this very day. Nothing will ever beat those glory-filled moments of hearing that awe-inspiring startup sound and playing our favourite PS2 games for countless hours, be it alone or with friends and family. May the Playstation 2 bring excitement, joy and happiness into people’s lives, either physically or through emulation, for a very very very long time to come!

20 years in gaming: a history

You may find this hard to believe, but I, an average twenty-something blind guy from the United Kingdom, have been playing video games for almost 2 decades! I know. Unbelievable, right? It only seems like just yesterday, I was playing Turok on my dad’s first generation, Red Ring of Death prone Xbox 360, and having a blast in WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2010, showing how truly badass John Cena can really be. Joooooohn Cena!

But how have I managed to cope in the video game sphere for nearly 20 years despite being without any eyesight? In this post, I shall answer this very question, detailing the ups, the downs, the ins, the outs, the whys and the why nots of my video game journey. This is… 20 years in gaming: a history!

The early years. Introduction to computers and DIY simulation

Our story begins in the third year of the third millennium. Two zero zero three. Zweitausenddrei. The year 2003!
Ah, 2003. What a time to be alive. Facebook hadn’t been invented yet, the Nokia N-Gage was all the rage, and Junior Senior’s Move Your Feet was flying up the UK charts like a newly launched NASA space rocket. Also in 2003, little 2 and a half / 3 year old me was about to get his first glimpse of the breathtaking feat of electromechanics that is the personal computer system, otherwise known as the PC.
I’ve covered my first ever computer before in a previous post, so I won’t talk about it too much here. In a nutshell, it was a custom built PC from a friend of my dad’s. It had both a floppy disk drive and a CD-ROM drive, and when I first received it in 2003, it ran Windows 95. It was my loyal servant for 8 years, and I loved it to death. Pity I can’t remember its exact hardware specs, though. 🙁
My introduction to the PC would also turn out to be my introduction to the ever amazing world of video games. There were 2 games I’d mainly play on my 2003 custom build.

Tonka Workshop

Tonka Workshop was released in 1998 by Hasbro Interactive. Targeted at young children, Tonka Workshop is set in the… uh… Tonka Town Workshop, Where players can build various structures and complete many DIY related tasks around Tonka Town. Town tasks include mending farm fences, repairing loose bicycle bells and fixing a dangerous hole in a park bridge so that children can play in the park again, with the cheery sounding Tonka Joe guiding you every step of the way.
You can either play using the hardware workbench and tool set that comes with the game, or you can just use the mouse like an ordinary PC gamer. Of course, being blind, I mainly used the hardware tool set.
You can find out more about Tonka Workshop by checking out this Wiki Fandom article (ignore the release date, it’s 1998, not 2000). You can also find a game play video by the CD-ROM Longplays YouTube channel below.

Playskool Store

Hey, look! Another Hasbro game! Playskool Store, released in the year 2000, sees you playing as a store cashier, serving your various animated customers. For each transaction you successfully complete, a gold star is added to your score. Once you have 15 gold stars, you can print out your virtual paycheck. Of course, a printer is required for this feature to work! 🙂
Like Tonka Workshop, Playskool Store also comes with a hardware playset. Of course, it’s a cash register this time. To price up items your customers want to buy, you simply enter the associated number using the number pad on your hardware cash register. Each number on the keypad corresponds to a price in pounds. Number 1 = 1 pound, number 2 = 2 pounds, number 5 = 5 pounds, etc. I’m not sure if there were country specific versions of the game. If there was a US or Canadian version, for instance, I’d assume pounds would be replaced with dollars. What’s cool with this is that when you enter a price, a human voice speaks the price(s) you’re entering, as well as the total price of all the items. This was extremely helpful to me as a blind player. However, some tasks require a lot of scanning and on-screen symbol counting to price up items, which my dad was always happy to provide sighted assistance with.
I’ve been scouring the internet for many years, and sadly, I have been unable to find a single piece of game play footage for this game. At least, not to the same standard as Tonka Workshop. If anyone knows who is still selling the game, or where to find some decent, no-commentary game play footage of this awesome game, please, please, please let me know! Take me back to the 2000s where I belong!

Of course, as well as those games, I’d also play the timeless Windows classics like Solitaire and Mine Sweeper with sighted assistance from my dad, despite being utterly terrible at them!

2007. Wired for sound

2007 saw me enter the very fascinating world of audio games. Best defined, an audio game is a computer game that uses sound as a primary means of experiencing and interacting with the game and elements within the game. Because an audio game’s primary focus is sound, most audio games don’t come with any on-screen visual effects like a typical video game, leaving the player completely reliant on their ears.
Ironically, the very first time I played an audio game was when I was at school, using a Windows XP laptop owned by the school.
The following are the first 5 audio games I ever played.

Deekout

A simple but annoying game set on a 21×21 grid in which you have to avoid a beeping enemy for as long as possible. The longer you survive, the faster the enemy follows you around the board, making him increasingly harder to dodge. If he catches you, you die instantly and it’s game over!

Sonic Match

This game is kind of a beat matching game, but not quite. Think of PaRappa the Rapper, but you’re matching single sounds instead of rhythms. You basically have to press the correct arrow key, be it Left Arrow, Right Arrow, Up Arrow or Down Arrow, that corresponds with a specific sound. If you press the wrong arrow key, however, you will hear a long, loud, low-pitched buzzing sound and immediately lose the game.

Savage Gamut

I still haven’t mastered this game, and it’s been out for as long as I’ve been playing computer games! Think of the hardest boxing game you’ve ever seen or played, and times it by 10. The number of keystrokes you need to remember to play this game, as well as the order in which said keystrokes should be used, is migraine inducing!

Bobby’s Revenge

Have you ever wanted to fire paint balls at Santa’s slay and tase the living hell out of the fat sucker? Well, with Bobby’s Revenge by BSC Games, now you can!

Crazy Darts

This game needs no description. You’ve seen a darts game before, right?

These games, and more besides, can still be downloaded and played today via the Audio Games Archive.

Late 2007 to 2010. Family gaming, punching out, and leaving the PC Master Race

As well as being the year that got me into audio games, 2007 was also the year I started to move away from PC gaming and towards the video game console. My 2 primary consoles at the time were the Playstation 2 and the Xbox 360. I still proudly own a physical Xbox 360 to this day, however I unfortunately can’t experience the thrill of the Playstation 2 anymore, since I no longer have a physical PS2 and no computer I have right now is powerful enough to run the PCSX2 emulator. Oh, how I’d love to play the Simpsons Hit and Run and Road Rage again.
I was also introduced to handheld consoles around this period. My sister had a 2001 Nintendo Gameboy Advance and a 2004 Nintendo DS, and my dad gave me his 2005 Sony PSP 1000. We would sometimes have family/friends round the house and find ourselves in these little handheld game tournaments.

For Christmas in 2007, I got a Nintendo Wii. This was when the family gaming period really kicked off. We had many a Wii Sports tournament throughout 2008 because who didn’t? Wii Sports is, like, the best game ever! Wii Sports was ultimately what got me into the boxing and wrestling scenes, and the John Cena inside me would finally be unleashed in 2008 on both the Nintendo Wee and the Xbox 360 in the form of WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw. Of course, Cena wasn’t my only choice of WWE fighter, I was also an avid six-one-niner back then as well.
In 2009, I would get my hands on 2 new boxing games for the Nintendo Wii.

  • Punch Out! A 2009 Wii incarnation of the 1980s arcade/Nintendo Entertainment System classic of the same name.
  • Face Breaker. A much lesser-known title that was also released on the PS3 in 2008.

I loved both of them, but Punch Out was undoubtedly my favourite and the one I played most often.
We jumped into the Wii Fit craze in 2010 with a board of our very own. Only problem was that it could never seem to get our measurements right! Mine were often fine, while everyone else’s seemed to be slightly off in some way or another. My poor dad, who, by the way, had been exercising and had a perfect diet his whole life since serving in the military, was always the morbidly obese one. Never the less, we all took it as good fun, and we all had a good time playing on it for the very short period in which we had it.

2011 to 2016. Going live, trash talk and the end of my gaming life

2011 was a very big year for me as a gamer. On April 21st, my dad signed me up for Xbox Live. I’d been hearing about Xbox Live for about 2 years at this point. Seeing it pop up on TV from time to time and having spent much of 2009 and 2010 playing Kung Fu Panda on the Xbox 360 at my dad’s house, I’d always wanted to give Xbox Live a try. The idea of being able to play games with other people over the internet in real time had always deeply fascinated me as a kid. Can you guess which game I played on Xbox Live the most? If you said WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2010, you’re correct! I’d mostly be playing against random strangers, though. It wouldn’t be until months later that I’d start to build a list of actual Xbox Live friends who I knew in real life.
I soon found out that having an internet connected Xbox had unlocked a heap of new possibilities besides playing games. Watching movies and TV, engaging in instant messaging conversations, accessing social media sites like Facebook and Twitter… the opportunities were virtually endless! I remember my dad and I just sitting there for hours on end, browsing through the seemingly limitless selection of movies that could be purchased from the Xbox Live Marketplace, watching trailer after trailer after trailer.
3 new Xbox 360 titles would enter my collection in 2011.

  • Call of Duty: Black Ops, 2010
  • Crackdown 2, 2010
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, 2011

Throughout the next few months, I began to explore the vast universe of Xbox Live on my own. By the end of 2011, with help from my dad, I had virtually memorized the Xbox 360’s entire user interface, including the dashboard, guide menu and most of the settings menus. But then, that big user experience update dropped, introducing Xbox Live Beacons, adding the dreaded Bing search engine to the Xbox and changing the whole dashboard UI, which meant I basically had to relearn everything! Oh, and I also got an Xbox Kinect for Christmas in 2011. You know, that overhyped motion sensor, camera and crappy downsampled microphone combo that was popular for about 5 minutes?
Throughout 2012 and most of the 2010s, I would see myself getting into first person shooter (FPS) games more and more, thanks in large part to Call of Duty. Getting the very latest COD game every year almost became a Christmas tradition. Oh, and who can talk about Xbox games in 2012 and not mention Minecraft for Xbox? Having never played it on PC when it released 3 years prior, I was all over that crap when it arrived on Xbox Live Marketplace!

When I wasn’t playing games, I was either watching YouTube videos or receiving game related news and tips via what was known at the time as Inside Xbox. On Inside Xbox, there were 2 primary shows I’d watch.

SentUAMessage

SentUAMessage, which started in 2009, was a show in which Xbox Live users would write in and ask various questions about xbox games, the Xbox 360 console and/or Xbox Live itself and have them answered in some of the most comedic ways I’ve ever seen. The show was hosted by Dan Maher (A.K.A. Mr Pointy Head) and Andy Farrant, who’s nick name I can’t spell.
You can find a YouTube playlist of virtually all SentUAMessage episodes here. I say virtually because some episodes seem to be either missing or in the wrong order.

School of Xbox

School of Xbox was a series of videos voiced by Mr Pointy Head in which you learned about the wide range of exciting features that Xbox Live has to offer and how to go about using them. Think Video Professor, but non-fraudulent and dealing with Xboxes rather than personal computers. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find any of the School of Xbox videos anywhere online.

In 2013, I was one of the first people to get the brand new Xbox One, having received it as a Christmas present that year. However, this was when things started to go downhill. Over the next 3 or 4 years, I would start to lose interest in the Xbox platform due to many of the things I loved back when I first joined Xbox Live dying out, and being a blind gamer online would show its horrible downsides. Because I couldn’t see what was happening on screen, I didn’t really know what to do in the game, so I’d just be left standing there in the middle of the field. On the very rare occasion that someone would help me, the instructions they’d give were basically useless. I’d have people accusing me of

not actually playing the game

, and many nasty comments about me having no eyesight would be fired at me by everyone in the game.
The final blow came in mid 2016 when I permanently lost access to my Xbox Live account. At this point, I finally decided that I wasn’t gonna take this dog crap anymore and quit online gaming, and the general video game scene, completely.

2018 – present day. A gamer reborn, in retro form!

Throughout the latter part of 2017, a good friend of mine named Gary slowly began to introduce me to vintage video games. My nostalgia senses were already sky high at this point, having found out about such things as the Escargot Chat project, so I was more than excited to learn of such a prospect. I’d heard briefly about retro games and emulation before, but had never thought to give it a try.
In the early part of 2018, I received some DVDs from my friend containing a variety of arcade and retro console ROMs, and my journey back in time officially began.
I’d been shown how to use the Multi-arcade Machine Emulator (MAME) beforehand, so that was really my first experience of video game emulation. Then, I did some online research into different emulators and came across such projects as PCSX2, the best Playstation 2 emulator around, Duckstation for PS1 emulation, Dolphin for Nintendo GameCube and Wii emulation, and of course, the mother of console emulators… RetroArch!
Since RetroArch was made fully accessible to the blind in April 2019, I’ve been fully immersed in the retro game/emulation scene. The fiery passion and excitement I once had for video games is back and more powerful than ever before! I now mainly enjoy the fighting game/beat ’em up genre. This includes games such as Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Tekken, King of Fighters, Virtua Fighter etc. I also want to defeat this inferiority complex I’ve had since 2016 and get back into online games at some point. I just need a community of people who will actually help me out and accept me for who I am. Sure, I can be a bit slow and picking things up, but everyone is different. It wouldn’t be much of a community if everyone was the same, had the same skills etc, would it?

Shoutouts

I’ve encountered some really awesome people throughout my near 2 decade gaming journey, especially in the Xbox Live years. Here are just some of them.

How I will make my TTS content

As some of you may be aware, I’ve been a huge lover of text to speech (TTS) content for a long while, having first stumbled across TTS videos on YouTube in 2013. I can’t quite remember the first TTS video I watched, other than the fact that it featured Microsoft Sam. This was before I’d officially entered the world of smartphones and got a computer of my own, so I was confined to an Xbox with no screen reader for browsing YouTube.
At the very end of 2020, I decided that I’d do what I’ve been wanting to do for years and become a member of the TTS community (or TTSC for short) with the goal of eventually making my own TTS content. After all, I’m not the only blind person out there who’s into TTS. Chris Wright, formerly known as BlindGamer95, also creates TTS videos. It is worth noting, however, that because I’m without any eyesight, my content will be quite different to that of creators such as Thunderbirds101 and AT88TV, both of whom I mentioned in my 5 people I’d like to get to know in the Text to Speech community post. This post will explain exactly how my TTS content will work. That way, if I get a comment like: “Hey, why doesn’t this video have any images like a proper TTS video should?”, I can just point them to this post.
So, let’s get going!

Audio only

There is next to nothing in the way of a screen reader accessible video editor out there. Not within my price range, anyway; money is basically nothing right now. That’s why, unfortunately, my text to speech content will contain no images or other visual effects. Normally, in something like an error video, the audio of a TTS voice reading the error will be synced with an image of the error, generated by a tool such as Atom Smasher’s Error Message Generator. The same goes for funny/weird sign videos. However, due to the reason I cited above, none of that is possible for me. Instead, you will only hear the voice reading the error or sign.

Sounds before errors

Normally, sounds aren’t cued unless a TTS voice malfunctions after raging at an error or there’s an OS switch, such as upgrading from Windows 95 to Windows 98 or downgrading from Windows XP to Windows 2000. In case of the former, the respective error sound of the operating system related to the error, such as Windows 95’s chord sound, will be cued. In case of the latter, the shutdown sound of the current operating system, followed by the startup sound of the new operating system, and its login sound if applicable, will be cued. However, I’ll have to make up for my lack of visuals with extra audio. Therefore, if I’m doing an error video, a single OS-related sound will be played before the error is read. For instance, if the current operating system in use is Windows XP, the critical stop sound will play. If it’s Windows 2000, 98 or 95, the chord sound will play. If Microsoft Sam should rage so hard that he flies off the face of the planet, either a small section of a sound will be looped to create a glitch/computer crash effect, or a massive explosion sound will play. It all depends on what best fits the mood.
I haven’t yet figured out what I’m going to do for stuff like sign videos, Christmas specials etc, so if you have any ideas, feel free to let me know in the comment section down below this post.

Conclusion

I hope this post helps you understand how, and why, my text to speech content will be different to that of other creaters in the TTSC. The reason I’ve been putting off doing TTS content for so long, besides not having the knowledge or tools to do so years ago, is because I’ve always been afraid that the TTSC would simply cast me out or think nothing of me for not being able to meet their standards and expectations.
If you want to know when I start making TTS content, which will hopefully be very soon, you can subscribe to my YouTube channel and follow me on Twitter.

Data Wipe 2019: How I Lost 500GB in One Fell Swoop

Last month saw the 2 year anniversary of what was quite possibly the most devastating event of my cyber life. I’m still feeling the pain and recovering to this very day. In this blog post, I’ll explain everything that happened, as well as the act of sheer stupidity on my part that caused it. Be warned, however, this post contains a hell of a lot of tech language. Therefore, you may want to
have the Tech Terms Computer Dictionary open in a separate tab for reference to save your brain from exploding. I’d rather not spend all day cleaning up pieces of your grey matter, thank you very much.

Backstory

At this particular time, my 2016 Stone Group laptop, which has a 2.3GHz Intel Pentium 3550M and a 500GB Western Digital HDD, was running Windows 10. I really wasn’t happy with this. The system would run slow as hell at times, the fans were always on full power for no reason, and… well… it ran the giant piece of spyware, adware and bloatware we all know as Windows 10! I wanted to restore the laptop to its former glory by downgrading it to its home operating system, Windows 8.1. However, there was one problem, I didn’t have a clue how to access the PC’s BIOS or boot menu screen. As any competent PC user knows, installing a different operating system requires that you boot into external media, be it a CD, DVD or USB drive. Because Windows 8.1’s boot image doesn’t come with Narrator, I’d have to boot into a special preinstallation environment (PE) with the NVDA screen reader installed, then launch the Windows setup program from another resource, such as an ISO file or other storage location.
After turning the web upside down, I eventually found what seemed like the perfect solution to my problem. EasyBCD by NeoSmart Technologies is a tool that allows you to modify the Windows boot configuration database (BCD) so you can get a dual boot configuration going. Since it modifies the Windows boot loader, it doesn’t require any form of BIOS access. Many minutes of fighting with not so EasyBCD were spent before I finally had a boot entry configured for my talking PE. Then, it was time for the downgrade party to begin!

Where it all went awry

Here’s where things start to go sideways. I’m booted into the preinstallation environment, proceeding through the standard Windows 8.1 setup steps. I selected my region, language and keyboard layout, chose a partition on which to install Windows and waited a while for the setup program to copy files and do whatever else it needed to do.
I noticed something was wrong seconds after the laptop restarted. There was no activity from the 500GB Western Digital drive. Usually, with mechanical hard drives, you can hear quiet clicking sounds as the drive head reads and writes data to the drive. In this case, however, there was nothing. Complete silence. I waited about half an hour, then pressed Windows + Enter to see if Narrator would start. The initial installation stage was complete at this point, so Narrator would have indeed been available for the rest of the setup process. However, nothing happened when I used the Win + Enter shortcut. I waited 10 to 15 minutes and tried the shortcut again, but still nothing happened.
After many restarts and a call to the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk through the free Be My Eyes service, I eventually found out what the problem was. In a fit of utter idiocy that Homer Simpson would be proud of, I’d somehow managed to fry the Windows boot loader, making the system completely unusable! And things were about to get a whole lot worse!

The Real Devastation

Many days have passed. My PC is still in an unusable state, even more so than before. The BIOS is now all kinds of messed up, and my talking Windows preinstallation environment, my one and only lifeline, was no more. Don’t ask me how this happened; I have absolutely no clue! The PE, along with all my other data, was stored on a 1TB Toshiba HDD, since that was the only means of external data storage I had at the time. I knew I only had one option, which I was not going to like one bit! I was gonna have to use my mum’s crappy Lenovo laptop to download another copy of the talking PE and write it to the Toshiba drive. This, of course, requires that the drive be reformatted… destroying all the data on the drive! Oh, and I also needed another Windows 8.1 ISO. After what felt like forever and a week, I finally had a new, fresh, clean PE drive to boot from. But I knew I couldn’t even attempt to boot from the thing, knowing the way my computer’s BIOS was. Luckily, I was able to find the manual on the manufacturer’s website and use it to help me reset the BIOS back to default. It took another call to the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk to get me around the BIOS and into the PE where I could independently install Windows. Soon, I had a clean install of Windows running and my PC was alive once more! However, all that rewriting of PE images and reformatting of drives had resulted in a combined total of over 500GB (half a terabyte) of valuable data being permanently lost. I’d experienced the digital equivalent of a house fire, losing all my personal belongings and everything I held dear in the blink of an eye.

2 Years On

Here we are, 2 years on from that fateful period. The Stone laptop is still alive and well, now quite happily running Windows 7. Yes, I know Microsoft doesn’t support Windows 7 anymore, but quite frankly, I couldn’t give 3 craps! I like Windows 7 and it works well for me. There is an enthusiastic community of retro tech lovers out there who are doing all they can to keep it and other icons of the past alive. I’m proud to be a part of said community and won’t be leaving any time soon! I’m also much more cautious about backing up my data now. I still have my 1TB Toshiba drive, but now I’m making use of cloud storage services like pCloud and OneDrive, so I always know where my data is. I also make more of a deal out of saving my work often. If I’m not sure if I’ve saved a piece of work yet, I save it anyway, even if I did actually save it earlier on. Better to save twice than to not save at all.
I’d also like to thank Be My Eyes and the awesome Microsoft Disability Answer Desk staff for helping me get back on my feet. I really don’t know what I’d have done without them.

The Seedy FAQ: 20 Wacky and Wild Questions about Seedy!

I’ve been wanting to do this for a short while now. The idea actually came to my mind after someone on a Discord server I’m on suggested it.
Do you want to know me, but you’re too afraid to ask questions or just don’t have the time? Well, here’s a little quick fire Q-n-A post that will hopefully answer some of those burning questions you might have.

1: Who are you?

I am known as SeedyThreeSixty or Seedy. You can just call me Seedy; it’s easier.
I am without any eyesight. I see nothing. No colour, no light, no shadows… nothing! Pure blackness!
I am a hobbyist software programmer, web developer and, of course, blogger. I love anything to do with computers, especially old school tech. Video games are my life! I love fighting games like Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Tekken, Virtua Fighter etc.

2: Were you born blind?

Yes. I have been blind since the day I was born, though it hasn’t affected my life in any way. I can do exactly the same things as a sighted person, just in a slightly different way.

3: What’s your favourite fighting game?

Street Fighter! All the way! Even though I suck hard at the games, I love pretty much every Street Fighter game in the series. The Alpha series, the EX line of titles from 1996, 1998 and 2000, even the original Street Fighter from 1987!

4: What’s your favourite video game console?

The Playstation 2 and Xbox 360 will always be my favourites! Always! I played the hell out of those consoles as a child. I still play the hell out of them now thanks to the power of emulation! I still play on my physical Xbox 360, but I use the awesome PCSX2 emulator to get my Playstation 2 fix.

5: What’s your favourite operating system?

My 5 favourite operating systems are Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows 7. I used those systems a lot as a child, and I still do today thanks to virtualization. I’d die to be reunited with my old house-built PC again so I can experience that selfsame childhood joy with real hardware and not have to put up with laggy virtual machines!

6: Why are you stuck in the past?

OK, forgive me for being a little harsh with this one, but it’s the only way I can get this point across.
The 2000s were full of happy moments. From visiting theme parks with my family, to playing games on my custom-built Windows XP desktop, to sitting around the dinner table with the family and watching The Simpsons and/or Futurama on Sky 1 every night at 6. As soon as the 2000s went, everything else went with it. My family, my PC, the games I played, a lot of close friends from school and the like, the Sky package, the happiness and love for life I once had… everything!
The nostalgia I have is down to my burning passion and desire to keep those memories alive. At the end of the day, memories are all I have now! I’m proud to be a 2000s kid. I’m proud to be nostalgic. I’m proud to be a part of the retro community. My nostalgia will only grow more powerful. If you don’t like it, get out of my life! You can’t criticize me for being me!

7: What’s your soul purpose in life?

My reason for living, if I’m completely honest, is making people smile. Helping others out and making them feel happy makes me feel happy. I hate to see people struggling and feeling sad. A friend in need is a friend indeed. If I end up flat broke and on the streets, at least I can say I took some time out of my life to help someone out with their problems.

8: How do you play video games when you’re blind?

See A Guide to playing Video Games Without Sight.

9: How do you use a computer when you’re blind?

See A Guide to Using Computers Without Sight.

10: Would you say you had OCD?

Definitely! Especially when it comes to dates, numbers etc. It angers me to no end, and can make me feel uneasy. I hate it when people get dates wrong, such as the release date of a song or the date of a historic event. I also hate it when people abbreviate years. It’s not twenty twenty, it’s two thousand twenty! You wouldn’t say “I have twenty ten pounds in the bank”, would you? I get that one thousand nine hundred forty-five is harder to say than nineteen forty-five, but if the second digit in a 4 digit number is a 0, like in 2010 or 1066, don’t abbreviate it! That’s what twenty-four hour time is for!

11: What’s your favourite day of the year?

At time of writing, one of my favourite days of the year is only 12 days away! I call it Windows 95 day. It falls on 24th August, the date of Windows 95’s release. Windows 95 brought many awesome features to Windows, such as the start menu, 32-bit app support, the ability for devices to be instantly recognized by the OS through the power of plug-n-play, and so much more! It’s a bloody good operating system, so why not celebrate it? That’s my opinion anyway. I also see Windows 95 day as a day to celebrate the simpler times and to remember the many, many happy days of yesteryear.
My other favourite day, and I think this one applies to all mathematics/science nerds out there, is 14th March, also known as… Pi Day! I won’t get too geeky here, but you can find out more about Pi Day, and Pi itself, on the Pi Day website.

12: How do you dream if you’re blind?

My dreams are almost entirely auditory, meaning they are mostly filled with sound. On the occasion that I do see in the subconscious world, my sight is generated from descriptions that other people have given me in the conscious world, such as those of forests, mountains, famous buildings etc. Isn’t the brain a wonderful thing?

13: What’s your favourite alcoholic drink?

I am a cider drinker. I drinks it all of the day. I am a cider drinker. It soothes all me troubles away.

14: What programming languages do you know?

I know Python a lot more than any other programming language. The only other languages I know are just markup languages like HTML and Markdown. I don’t know C/C Plus Plus, PHP, Java, JavaScript, or any other real programming or scripting language.

15: What type of music do you listen to?

I like to listen to a lot of rock music. I like songs from the likes of Five Finger Death Punch, System of a Down, Divide the Day, Papa Roach etc. I also like a bit of pop, hip hop and EDM. After all, house time is any time, and any time is house time!

16: What food do you like?

Pizza, pizza, pizza, and more pizza! I also like anything that’s super hot and spicy. Gimme dat supa hot fiyya!

17: Your favourite TV show is?

I am a hard core Simpsons and Futurama fan. If you don’t like it, you can bite my shiny metal ass!
There is a lot of stuff I can’t watch, such as TV episodes or films with explosions, loud bangs, jump scares etc due to my PTSD and misophonia. You can find out more about these here.

18: What’s the best prank you’ve ever pulled?

This one time, someone (I won’t say who) tried to get access to my computer. Unbeknownst to them, however, I had a permanent lockout policy set up on my user account. By typing in the wrong password 3 times, this person had triggered the lockout. Of course, with the person being computer illiterate, they didn’t have a clue what the error message on screen meant or why they couldn’t log into the system. They called me and told me what was wrong. I convinced them that the computer was broken and that the only way to fix it was to reset the entire operating system! However, I had a secret weapon in my pocket. I booted into a talking Windows Preinstallation Environment (PE) and fired up a little tool called NTPW Edit. This allowed me to break into the security account manager (SAM) and restore access to my local user account. No system reinstall needed! Even after I’d fixed the problem, the person still thought my entire computer was broken and was none the wiser. Tee hee!

19: What’s your favourite number?

I have a few lucky numbers. One of them is 4,294,967,296, or 2 to the 32nd power. Of course, I’m a computer nerd, so this really is no surprise. Other ones include 5, 9, 50, 60, 95, 98, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and all the powers of 2.

20: What’s your computer related pet peeve?

I absolutely cannot stand the term 4k. Read my lips: 4k. does not. exist! A 4k display has a resolution of 3840×2160, twice that of a HD display, 1920×1080. 3840 / 1000 is 3.84. Therefore it’s 3.84k, not god damn 4k! 4k is just a marketing ploy to make the display tech sound better than it really is. Don’t fall for it! At least the term 1080P is correct, though.
You can find 7 more computer related things I absolutely despise here.

Conclusion

There you have it. 20 weird, crazy questions and answers about me! I hope I was able to bring you a step closer to solving the highly complex enigma that is… me.

7 computer related things I absolutely despise

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an expert when it comes to computers and technology. Conceded, I don’t know every single nitty gritty detail, but then again, who does? The field is so wide and it’s getting wider and wider by the day; it’s virtually impossible to know every single thing about the cyber world. In my many years of experience with computers, I have grown to really detest certain things people might say or do. If you want to get along with me in any computer related conversation, these are the things you need to watch out for and avoid at all costs!

1: Browsing the internet

Think about what you’re saying when you say “Browsing the internet”. The internet is a network of networks. Computers, routers, printers, smartphones, tablets, smart home appliances, all interlinked together. Are you saying that you have access to every single device connected to the internet and you’re browsing through their files right now? You must be the best hacker in the world! No, what you mean to say is: “Browsing the web”. The web is a large collection of HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) files that reside on millions of high-powered computers located across the world known as web servers. The web, or the World Wide Web, is a feature of the internet; it is not the internet! Why do you think web browsers, web servers and websites have the word “Web” in their name?

2: My (insert here) is not working

“My Facebook isn’t working”. “My Google won’t load”. These are phrases I really hate! You don’t own Google. You don’t own Facebook. They’re not yours. You’re really talking about the products, not the company itself. Say things like: “The Facebook app on my phone won’t load” or “I can’t seem to access Apple’s website”. It will make life a whole lot easier for me when trying to diagnose what the problem might be and it’ll also save you from getting an apple pie in the face.

3: It’s a virus!

Computer is running extremely slowly: virus. A program crashes while you’re working: virus. You get popup messages in your web browser: virus. Seriously, there are more than just viruses you know! There are many different types of malware including spyware, viruses, worms, trojans, keyloggers, adware etc. Yes, they can be extremely harmful to your machine, but they’re not all viruses! For god’s sake, get it right! Refer to the Tech Terms Computer Dictionary for information about the different types of malware your machine can pick up.

4: A tower drive?

No, that large box thing is not the hard drive! That’s called the tower unit or system unit. All your computer’s components, including the hard drive, Central Processing Unit (CPU), RAM and ROM chips, NICs (Network Interface Cards) etc, are all housed inside the tower unit. They are all connected together by slots and wires on the motherboard. Please, never again refer to the tower as the hard drive, CPU or anything else like that!

5: Big B, little b

Nothing makes me want to angrily smash every window in my house more than when bits and bytes get mixed up. Get this straight: a bit is a single binary digit (a zero or a one). A byte is a group of 8 bits. Bits are indicated by a little b while bytes are indicated by a big B. Bytes are commonly used to measure file sizes and drive storage capacities. Byte measurements include kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes and terabytes. Bits, however, are commonly used to measure data transfer speeds (bits per second). See this paragraph.
The file I am downloading is 500MB in size. My download speed is 60Mbps.
Can you tell the difference? Just remember: a byte is bigger than a bit, so you use a big B.

6: I just got hacked

This is kind of similar to number 3. People sometimes think that just because their PC is displaying weird pop-up messages or running slow as hell, the PC has been hacked. If someone somehow managed to decrypt the password of your user account and use a remote access tool to log into your PC over the internet, then yes, your computer has been hacked. Getting pop-up messages and being redirected to dodgy websites is just a result of you clicking links you shouldn’t have clicked in the first place. Also, leaving your PC unlocked and coming back to find a casino site on your screen doesn’t count as getting hacked. That’s just your own stupid fault for not logging out or pressing Windows + L to lock your account before stepping away from the PC! The access is already there, so no hacking is needed.

7: Just google it!

Admit it! You say it too! In fact, pretty much everybody says this. The problem with this is that it assumes Google is the only search engine out there. What about Yahoo, Bing and Duck Duck Go? Yes, I know Google has enslaved half the population of planet Earth and you might not get the same results from other search engines, but other search engines do exist! Instead of saying “Google it”, say “Look it up online” or “do a web search”.

Outro

So, there you have it! 7 extremely annoying tech related things I absolutely cannot stand. I will definitely make a part 2 if I think of any more. Remember guys, if I catch you doing or saying any one of these 7 things, there will be hell to pay!

My cyber life story: why I love the hell out of computers

Those who know me well will know I am an expert when it comes to computers. Whenever someone in my family has an IT problem, I’m always the first to know about it. The question is, just why do I love computers so much? In this post, I will try to answer that question in the best way I can. Also think of this as my computing life story.
I’ve always been very much into how stuff works since I was a really small child. I did everything from messing around with light switches to randomly pushing buttons on TV remotes to taking the batteries out of stuff and trying to figure out which way they went back in.
It was the early 2000s; I wanna say around 2002/2003. My dad, who was in the army at the time, had a friend who worked for Microsoft. This was when my cyber life started. I was given a house-built desktop PC made by this friend of my dad’s and I loved it to death. I can’t quite remember the exact hardware specs, but it ran Windows 95 and came with a CD-ROM drive and a 3.5in floppy drive. I never got to use the floppy drive though as we had no floppy disks. I loved Windows 95 back then and still love it to this very day. I played many games on that PC. These included

  • Tonka Workshop, a game where you build and mend things such as houses, cars, computers etc and take part in fun games and contests.
  • Playskool Store, a casheer simulator type game where you had to price up items that customers wanted to buy, scan items and so on. You got gold stars for every successful transaction. If you got 15 gold stars, you got a virtual paycheck that you could print out.
  • The first time I used a computer in an educational environment was in my first years of primary school. It was a Packard Bell laptop that ran what would become my second favourite and still used operating system, Windows 98. This was also the time when I was learning how to touch type and how to use a screen reader. The reader I used at the time was the much loved and despised JAWS screen reader. I also had a laptop of my own around that time. It ran Windows 2000 and had the 40 minute trial version of JAWS because no way were my parents gonna pay a thousand quid for the thing! Unfortunately that glory was short-lived as my computer illiterate mother loaded the laptop with malware and it never saw the light of day again!
    2007 was the year I got introduced to audio games. My school laptop, which ran Windows XP, had a selection of audio games including Crazy Darts, Sonic Match and Savage Gamut. Sonic match is a game where you have to press the arrow key(left, right, up or down) that corresponds to a specific sound. Savage Gamut is a hard-as-hell boxing game I still have yet to master.
    Fast forward to 2009. I’m in a new house and a new school. My old custom-built desktop is still alive and well, now running my most favourite OS, Windows XP. I got myself introduced to one of the worst laptops I ever used. Well, the laptop wasn’t bad, but the screen reader was. Enter Supernova, one of theeeeee worst readers I’ve ever encountered! Seriously, why is that thing still around? It ran Windows XP and had Microsoft Office 2007 installed, so that was an upside I guess. More downsides were to come though, as 2011 was the year I said goodbye to my house-built desktop beast. I still miss the thing now. I hope to find it one day and see that it still works.
    The period from 2012 to 2017 was when my love for technology would start to turn into frustration. Enter the crappy Windows 7 HP laptops from my secondary/high school days. That thing was the slowest slow thing to ever exist in the very slow world of slow things. It should take a few seconds to log into Windows, not 5 minutes! I also had to use Microsoft Narrator… I’ll leave you to figure out how that went. 2013 was the year I entered the world of note takers. My school’s sensory support team decided to purchase the Braillenote Apex… big mistake! Seriously, Uranium-235 is more stable than that thing! It froze, crashed, died and errored out like there was no tomorrow. In early 2014 I started to teach myself HTML because I wanted to create a website. At the time, I was confined to an iPhone and had no idea what a web host was. I launched many different websites on many different hosting platforms throughout 2014, all of which have since died out. 2015/2016 was the Python/MySQL period. Let me tell you, if I ever have to use MySQL ever again, I’ll rip my hair out!
    This takes us up to right now. I’m currently studying Media at college after just finishing an IT course. The last year or 2 has seen me dig deeper into different operating systems such as GNU/Linux and MacOS. I now have an iPhone, an iPad, a Windows 7 laptop which I’m using to write this blog post and 2 Xbox consoles, an Xbox One and an Xbox 360. Also, my obsession with computers and technology is now stronger than ever. Who knows where the next 17 years will take me. We’ll just have to wait and C++.

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