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Excuse me if you feel this is in the wrong place, it has some graphics elements so DA is not entirely the wrong location.

I use Rocketdock on all my Windows machines as I find the convenience of the MAC-style dock and the ability to customise the icons is a real boon. Rocketdock was written by Punk Labs (skunkie et al) and was originally written for XP but was never overhauled for NT6 usage. It is no longer supported but it is still probably the best in its class. Rocketdock still functions as it should on Win7/10 but as time went on a few minor bugs crept in that decreased its usability. Nevertheless it is still an enhancement for Win 10 &c as that o/s has a fairly awful GUI and start menu IMHO.

One of the bugs is the time that Rocketdock takes to respond to an icon right-click. This is vital functionality as it is how you change the appearance or the functionality of any Rocketdock icon. It appears that the program has to trawl through each of the dock entries and parse all the data before it can display the settings screen. I believe it is also reading its stored library of .ICO or.PNG files so it can display a graphical selection of thumbnail icons for the user to choose. The larger the ICO folder the longer it takes.

As a result a right click can take 20-30 secs on a typical core2duo with a 2.5ghz CPU and SSD but even on newer, faster systems there is a many-second delay. As there do exist steampunk libraries of over 3,000 icons this is a serious bug that affects Rocketdock's usability.

So, I decided to write a VB6 replacement for this one bit of buggy functionality. Firstly, it is the only language where I stand a hope in hell's chance of doing it and secondly, because I am increasingly realising there is a mass of amazing code that support anything I wish to do using VB6.

This is the original settings screen from RocketDock

- and this is my current replacement

DA made the image a bit blurry, right click and Select "view image" to see it without blur.

It has been enhanced so that it loads the portable settings.ini file quickly, it also reads the registry if that is where the user has chosen to store the dock data.

It improves upon the original in certain areas:

o It indicates by number which Rocketdock item is currently selected
o The user can delete unwanted icons directly from the file display
o The ICO file previewed can be resized
o You can flip to the next Rocketdock item without having to leave the settings screen
o The start path is now selectable using a common dialog box
o There are tooltips for all controls (before there were none)
o There is a help facility
o The "get more" button takes you to a useful location where there are a lot more icons for the user to download
o The whole thing runs faster.

The only notable difference so far is that the file viewer top right, only displays the icon names and is not fully yet capable of displaying as thumbnails. The file list view is many times faster to populate and makes the initialising of the tool much faster  than the Rocketdock version (and in any case I don't know how to do that yet), I am thinking of creating an array of objects that will use LaVolpe's (VB6 guru) graphical code to simulate a file viewer in thumbnail mode. If you have any suggestions on how to achieve this in VB6 I'd willingly take any suggestion.

I used LaVolpe's code to generate the preview images as it was the easiest to integrate into my design. It can display all the icon types that Rocketdock might possibly encounter.

So far the new settings screen is very quick to open and do its stuff, certainly much faster than Rocketdock's settings screen.

I don't intend to replace Rocketdock altogether, it just bothered me that I'd have to wait 30 seconds to change a simple icon. When I have this covered I'll think about the next thing I can improve. I realise it might make no sense whatsoever to recreate the whole of Rocketdock using VB6 but we do now have an alternative to one component of Rocketdock.

Your comments please!



Making good progress:

I've managed to simulate a thumbnail view of just 12 of the icons, each downward click on the vertical scrollbar loads another twelve images onto the picturebox array. The loading of just 12 images takes no time at all, much more efficient than loading the whole 836 icons as did the old Rocketdock screen (836 being just one library of steampunk icons from one source), there do exist steampunk libraries of over 3,000 icons.

I haven't yet figure out how to rescale PNGs loaded with lavolpe's VB6 loadpicture method but other than that everything else seems to work. I haven't fully implemented the reading and writing of the registry locations but that is close to working. I have the code. Saving does the job just as it should if a settings.ini is specified as the output.

This tool is not yet complete but when it is done it will be a useful tool for Rocketdock and could form part of a Rocketdock replacement given time.



Reading and writing the registry works fine now.

Created a help screen called by button and right-click menu.
Retro gaming, program design and retro graphic development is entirely practical!

The bad thing about not throwing away old stuff is that your house can soon become full of clutter. The good thing about not throwing things away is that there is always something to dig into and there is always a useful gem hidden in amongst all that stuff. We have a family of eight or nine members living in this house (dependent upon how well we treat the daughter's latest boyfriend) and so there is enough stuff here to fill a large-sized house. It is my boy's birthday so I thought I'd build him a test rig, a machine to test and build new hardware and install new/old software and also a machine that is retro enough to gain access to a library of old 16bit software that modern windows just cannot run. It would also act as a test bed for installing ReactOS and Kubuntu, our intended o/ses in the near or far future.

So, looking around the garage, loft and the spare parts bin I realised I easily have enough computer parts to build a reasonable spec. desktop PC. A pile of PSUs soon disclosed a reasonably capable 400watt PSU with a mixture of molex and modern type power connectors and some adapter cables. The PSU is probably the most critical part of a new or old build as the amount of power consumed by a decent GPU and a power-hungry older CPU is likely to be quite considerable. A quick check of the PSU's internals revealed decent caps, none blown nor affected by capacitor plague, all dust was removed (the bane of all PSUs) and a test on an old and worthless motherboard showed it to be working. These PSUs need an electrical load to test them so an old motherboard and an ancient half height drive does the job adequately.

A few motherboards were also lying about disconnected and ready to grab, an old Foxconn motherboard with a 775 socket CPU and all the correct i/o ports plus PS2 connectors was selected as being suitable whilst another more recent motherboard was found buried inside an old grey box all connected up and ready to go. I decided to plump for the older motherboard as it was the correct period for a ReactOS build as all the drivers would likely still be available for that device. It wasn't a perfect selection as it only had slots for 2 x memory sticks and as I found later each supported only a maximum of 1gb of memory. Do you remember the days when 1 or 2gb was a very respectable amount of memory for your system to have? The days when a gigabyte of memory was also a lot of cash. One of the reasons for choosing this particular motherboard was that it came complete with the 2gb Ram still plugged in and a CPU already installed.

The CPU was an interesting model, one of the early dual-core CPUs that existed before the core2duos and i3, i5 and i7s came out. That shows how old it is. They used an architecture called Netburst where each chip would contain separate and distinct processor cores within one package rather than having one die with the cores integrated as per the later CORE architecture. In the older design each CPU would share the memory bus causing a bottleneck, a design fault that was dispensed with in later CORE designs where each core would have its own dedicated path to memory. Other than that, the CPUs were still reasonably quick and capable of being over-clocked. This one was a dual-core 3.0ghz device and it is a capable bit of kit running surprisingly fast even compared to modern i3/i5 PCs. One thing these older CPUs have in common is high power consumption and as a result running rather hot. They need active cooling from a big heatsink and a fast-running fan giving a continuous uninterrupted airflow. Dust is a killer for these devices, they have to be kept clean or they will overheat, dry up the thermal paste and eventually just go 'phut'. This CPU had been kept cool all its life, I knew that for certain as it had been my own personal processor ten or so years ago until that system finally died from emotional if not physical neglect (I transferred entirely to laptop devices). I keep all my old heat-sinks and fans as they are all incredibly useful elsewhere in electronic projects. A suitable item was selected, all that is then required is the essential thermal paste and the cpu/heatsink can be mated together for life.

The box. The box was selected from another pile. This time an old Lian-Li, a high quality box made of solid 3mm aluminium sheet throughout with plenty of room for any size of motherboard and any number of drives. I was lucky to have a Lian-Li lying about but any biggish desktop PC box would be equally suitable.

The final components are the drives. A DVD drive and a couple of SATA/IDE devices were found and installed. I always maintain separate system and data drives on all my computers, even my laptops. I regularly back-up everything, cloning and replacing each drive in turn and then removing it for long term storage. As time goes by drives become available from this process as the older backups are for systems that might no longer even exist. This is especially the case for the system disc backups, the data backups are retained for years but the system drives can be used for anything once the target system has died. In this case I was lucky in finding a 320gb Seagate SATA hybrid drive with an 8gb SSD built-in. The earlier Seagate hybrid drives were superior to their later replacements having 7200rpm motors compared to only 5400rpm in later models, they were also more reliable. The result was a very fast access hard drive at all times. This device was to be the system drive whilst  a chunky old 500gb SATA 1 drive was selected for the data storage, not as fast but it didn't matter.

A kettle lead for the PSU, some screws, some SATA cabling and the whole thing was bashed together in the twinkling of an eye... we are ready to go.

No, we are not.  Some essentials are still missing. A screen and keyboard in addition, to make this system usable, a decent GPU and of course, last but not least, the operating system!

We are not flush for keyboards, they are bulky and always in demand, so no spares. A trip to the local charity shop found a keyboard for £2.50 and a mouse for a mere £1. The same with screens, we don't have any hanging around doing nothing. So what did I do? Well, the screen was a neighbour's cast off. A high-quality 23" Acer LCD that they had thrown away and left outside in the rain for two weeks. Rescued, I disassembled it and removed any obvious internal water. Left in the airing cupboard (unbeknownst to my wife) it was thoroughly dried but still some water was likely to remain in the layers of the screen and in the LCD itself... Tested in the garage on a RCD it was found to be working but to have some residual water on about 15% of the display area but the underlying image was still very clear, I just had to hope that most of the water was in the layers of plastic and not in the LCD crystal itself. So, I plugged it into the motherboard's on-board GPU socket and the screen worked amazingly well, the water damage only being visible when looking at the screen from one side. Sitting next to the warm PC box blowing warm air in a dry and warm kitchen, the screen has slowly dried out so that there is next-to-no-water in it after three days of usage. The water damaged area eventually reduced to 3-4%. As the days go on it is reducing even further until it is no longer perceptible. This shows you how resilient an electronic device can be when exposed to wind, rain and even ice for weeks at a time - I love recovering dead equipment!

We have a stock of GPUs. The stock consists of Nvidia 7300, 8400, 9500 and a 9600GT. We also had a Nvidia GTX460 but that went into my boy's main desktop PC. He was too quick for me! So, the 9600GT was chosen, it had been previously bought as a project item for £5 from fleabay but was untested and unknown. However, all the older GPUs were supposedly tested as good, I had even recently replaced the bulging capacitors of the 9500 so if the 9600GT failed I could still revert to a slightly older model. The 9600GT card require additional power, it has a six pin connector that takes power from two molex-style connectors giving it the doubled-up voltage it needs. This is essential for this GPU to operate. A quick search in the cable bin found such a cable and so the GPU was installed.

All this work and the next task was to choose the o/s. What did I want to use this system for? Well, retro-gaming was the initial idea, then the access to a big screen implied I could do some graphics work here. As a test bed for ReactOS I needed to have my development environments too so I can code and test coding. The o/s had to be easy to use, a pleasure to use, slimline, efficient and one designed for the job. So, there was only one choice for the operating system. It had to be Windows 10.

No, not really... My arse it was going to be Windows 10. Not in a million years. No drivers for older kit, no support for the software I would be running, a laughingly appalling and unfinished user interface and coercion from Microsoft into using the Windows store, barrier after barrier to efficiency and in the hands of an idiot-led corporation? Not likely. So, what are alternatives? Windows 8? A laughable idea that we will not entertain. Vista? Does Microsoft or anyone think I am truly mad? Windows 7? - Actually a possible candidate but still no good for retro-gaming and testing retro software, there is so much that prevents us from running the specific software title we want to test/run on Windows 7, even though Windows 7 is a decent enough o/s for daily use.

So that leaves Linux? - a good candidate but not for now. I don't want the pain of running Wine to get access to only a partial suite of Windows software, driver installation is an arcane and potentially undefined process for the hardware I have to hand. I am not ready for it and Linux is not ready for me.  Nope, it leaves Windows 2000 or its more advanced sibling XP and in particular the 32bit version of XP. I have full licences for XP 32bit Pro and it will run everything I require. Almost all the most software tools will run under XP and even if the latest version does not support XP then there will be a version that does. I will not be browsing the web on this device, although I will need a browser for occasional driver and o/s downloads. I will run a decent firewall (Sygate) that will switch the incoming network access to OFF for the majority of the time. No new software will be installed on the device and I will only be installing tried and tested software from my existing library. Anti-malware tools will be used.

For a while I did even think about using Windows 2000 with Blackwing's kernel patches to bring it up to date but that might be step too retro even for me. So, Windows XP it is. The trouble is, you can't just build a system with an XP early version and expect it to just work. You have to take every hardware component out and then add each component piece by piece, loading drivers as you go, otherwise you land yourself in a heap of troubles as driver after driver fails to be found eventually ending up in BSOD hell. You have to find all the drivers in advance for each bit of kit you are going to be dropping into your box. You can't just expect Windows to boot and find the drivers for you. It just won't. For a start, XP Service Pack 2 uses IE to update itself. XP SP2 comes with a version of internet explorer that can't even access Microsoft's own update site, so you need to obtain service pack 3 some other way. The motherboard drivers for your ethernet and wireless cards won't be found so you won't even have a network. Some prior preparation and planning is absolutely required.

I only had an original XP service pack 2 DVD and so I had to take SP3 from a trusted online source. I did all the browsing, searching and downloading of drivers on my trusty Windows 7 Dell laptop and transferred each to a USB stick ready for the installation. Each piece of hardware was updated separately using the correct driver, the system was rebooted and tested for each component in turn. Prior to this the very first stage was installing service pack 3. This made subsequent work so much easier as SP3 has a lot of what you need already built-in.

I found a MIMO wireless card and long lengths of aerials but during the installation, rather than wireless, I used ethernet connected directly to the router as I knew that getting a wireless connection to work on XP can sometimes be a frustrating failure, especially if your drivers or BIOS has a problem as did mine...

Once completed and the system was up and running it was time to install the software. My installation list comprised a lot of older and current software titles, only a few of which are shown below:

Malwarebytes - anti malware
Clamwin - virus scanner
Virustotal -virus scanner
Sygate -very good XP firewall
VB6 - my development environment
Photoshop CS2 -my graphics environment
Audacity - the tool to adapt sounds for my code
Yahoo widget engine -the runtime for javascript on the desktop
RJTextEd -my preferred advanced editor and programming environment for .js
Context -my quick and dirty editor, notepad replacement
Everything -Windows NTFS search replacement
K-Meleon - a supported browser for XP
Firefox - an older version of firefox for downloading drivers &c
Open Office - the version from apache that supports XP

A plethora of games from Quake I to Medieval total war were also installed. Most of the reputable developers still provide XP versions of their tools though some are moving to development environments that specifically exclude NT5 (a big mistake in my mind as there is a future in NT5/ReactOS).

Any problems? Yes, one and rather a biggie too. The BIOS on the motherboard kept corrupting and it soon became clear that the motherboard had seen better days. Some regular BSODs and some PCI hardware not functioning as it ought, made it apparent that the motherboard was the problem. A simple fix was to take that other motherboard, remember the later one buried in the box? It was only a generation or so later, it had four ram slots for 4gb of memory and it was in hindsight the better choice. Swapping in that motherboard and moving my CPU into it was the only task to get it up and running. It came with an even bigger heatsink and fan too, so some significant benefits from the change.

How does the system run? It runs like bleedin' hot cakes. The current CPUs are not bottlenecks for any of the software I am running, the two 3.0ghz processors seem to cope with anything I throw at them. All the games run on the highest settings but obviously I am not running 'current' software so I would expect the CPUs to be capable enough. I did notice a perceptible 0.5 second lag on some window-drawing tasks when running Malwarebytes in continuous overwatch mode but as I am not browsing the web there is no need for Malwarebytes to monitor the system all the time. When it is turned off and Sygate is set to disable all incoming firewall access, the system flies with no lag whatsoever. To cater for this lack of security I run a full Malwarebytes scan weekly and Clamwin daily.

If more CPU is needed to run something like Malwarebytes in overwatch mode then there is an answer. The motherboard's socket 775 processor can be upgraded very easily and there are suitable candidates that will just drop straight in. A viable update which I am just about to perform is an upgrade to a Xeon processor. The Xeon CPUs are identical but they lack two little mounting lugs on the side of the package. Anyone capable of wielding a file can easily file two such lugs in the veroboard-type material that mounts the CPU but as few are willing to carry out such a modification they can be easily obtained for under £20, especially as the corporate servers they come from are now being scrapped in the hundreds. The good thing is that these processors are quad core 3.2ghz capable of being over-clocked to 4.2ghz and are completely plug-in compatible.

With this update it will be the icing on the cake for a quad core 3.2ghz system with a fairly decent GPU and approx. 768gb of storage in a rather natty box for the total cost of £28.50. That's quite good! OK, we had a lot of bits in storage but to build this yourself from scratch on fleabay, the quad core cpus cost £20, an appropriate socket 775 motherboard is approximately the same, 4gb memory is a mere £1 per gb, and replacement hard drives (380gb) can be had on fleabay for about £10. The only other item likely to fail is the PSU and they are typically £35-£40 for a brand new and decent unit, probably just a tenner for a secondhand PSU. Throw in a box for another tenner, all you need is a screen and a keyboard with mouse, probably £15 for the lot on Gumtree. A decent GPU can be more expensive but bargains can be found and in any case you can simply  upgrade each component as you find a better one. A hundred quid or thereabouts can buy you a surprisingly capable system. I still have my mind set on that Nvidia GTX460 GPU from my boy's PC, he may wake up one day soon and find his GPU has been replaced...

Usable? Yes, certainly. I am running 16bit Windows software that will not run on any later version of Windows, Battleground Ardennes is my favourite title at the moment. I can install all of my XP games, Rome, Shogun, Medieval Total War &c, straight from DVD, none of which will even attempt an install on Win 7 due to missing DRM essentials. Photoshop runs beautifully and oh-so fast. VB6 is blisteringly quick and I haven't even upgraded my CPU yet. OK, I cannot browse the web on this system as it is unsafe to do so (Spectre, Meltdown et al) but instead I use for it for offline-gaming and anything else I choose. It is surprisingly capable. My next test is the Live ReactOS CD and then perhaps a ReactOS installation on a small 160gb SATA drive I have spare.

Photos to come. I will be creating my next graphic composition on this machine, that's my excuse for posting this here. Finally, something to note. Windows XP and all my tools take 262mb of RAM when idle, let that sink in. XP is slimline. Think of that you fat, bloated Windows 10 users sitting there consuming over a gigabyte of memory to do absolutely nothing at all...

The current XP desktop with just some of my widgets loaded.


o I've replaced the thermal paste on the GPU and it runs with a lot more stability than before.

o One improvement this machine has over later models - there is no embedded IME. The Intel Management Engine is an embedded operating system (Minix) on a chip that was included to allow remote management on all recent Intel motherboards. It has been discovered to be an exploitable vulnerability meaning that ALL recent PCs using Intel equipment are potentially hackable by malware writers. The motherboard that supports this core 2 quad does not have an embedded IME chip so is less vulnerable than all your more modern PCs - think on that...

This tune has something very positive at the very heart of it.

This catchy little Goth tune will have you bopping to the darkness! Are they singing in Transylvanian? I do hope so.
I just visited Trivago, the hotel booking service and found there is a place in hell available for Donald Tusk.

In fact I've booked him a cab.

It is true, it all began with you... and it all ended the day you left.

Old love remembered still causes pain.

As it says, once upon a timeline there was Iron Sky...

and now there is Iron Sky!

Nazi game reviews are often better in German.
Fecking H3ll I hate Microsoft.

Trying to create an administrator account on my son's Windows 10 PC. 25 minutes later and I'm still trying to log in, how can that be? I've written this whole piece whilst trying to create ONE account.

First of all I log into my son's account after a battle where I have to tear his secret password from his very grip and I sit in front of Windows 10 and try to add myself as a privileged user. Do remember I am a systems administrator for VMS and unix systems so this should be quick and easy... I have a lot on my plate this evening so I can just bang this out - or so I think.

I look at the start menu and I see that I can't access control panel from Windows 10 start (I forgot that), so I go into that awful "I'm windows for tele-tubbies with big fat fingers" settings in full screen default mode (after the obligatory three-second-white-cog screen) and I can't see user accounts anywhere as I am so unfamiliar with the new settings screens. I type "create new account" into the search box at the top  - but no it can't find that, likewise with "create account". Nothing.

I type the word "control panel" and there is a result, I click on it - it takes me straight back to the main settings page taking up the whole screen - what? Then I see that the control panel has been fired up as a separate window underneath the settings screen. It is there in the task bar. Thank goodness for that.

I click on the icon on the taskbar and oh, how lovely, it is the old familiar control panel and there it is "user accounts" - I click on that. It doesn't open as it should into user accounts but instead opens my son's account details - that's normal for Windows I suppose. Then I click on the "Manage another account" - how many clicks to do I have to perform to open a new account?  - and instead of finding the familiar "add a new account" link I see...

"add a new user in PC settings". The answer in my head is clearly "no, I want to do it ANY method other than the one you suggest" but instead, I meekly click on the link and it re-opens the settings page for user accounts - Feck, almost back where I started.

FAMILY & Other people  - What is this? I don't give a sh1T about family and other people, where is the add a new account screen?

I scroll down...
Add a family member - NO!
Other People - NO!

I scroll off the bottom of the visible page and there it is
"Add someone else to this PC" -  OBVIOUSLY! Why doesn't just state "add new user" or "create an account"? Why didn't do it earlier? Why doesn't the initial search take me straight to here? WHY?

Oh look, "Microsoft Account" is the name of the new box that comes up - but no I really, really don't want to create a Microsoft account - but it seems there is no other choice! Instead, at the bottom is the cryptic "I don't have this person's sign-in information" - What sort of cryptic bollox is that? I DO have that person's sign in information - it is ME! That, however, is the link I am looking for, as the internet told me so.  Really? I have to click that cryptic text to create a standard account to access this machine? What was Microsoft thinking?

Five or six minutes later of "just a moment" with a pointless rotating graphic, another page pops up with fields that I am still expected to fill out to create a Microsoft account - and NO! I DO NOT WANT TO CREATE A FECKIN MICROSOFT ACCOUNT!

At the bottom is the text: "add a user without a Microsoft Account" it might as well add "beware of tigers" - as they seem to be trying ever-so-hard to prevent me from adding a new user. I click that. Another 30 secs of "just a moment" and I can enter the user details at last. At fecking LAST!

I think I've done it but then it insists that I have to set up three forgotten password reminders, INSISTS! So, I select random questions and my answer to each is: "feck you ALL microsoft - I hate you".

Then in big fat letters for kiddies all across the screen it announces:

"We're getting things ready for you..."

- and I think "feck you, you condescending bastard" in big fat letters all over my brain.

Five to six long minutes later it states:

"its taking a bit longer then expected but we'll get there as fast as we can"

- and I think "feck you, you slow and poorly written piece of sh1T (and condescending bastard of course)".

- and after another 3-5 minutes it comes up with the following appalling piece of text:

                                         "Welcome to the Best Windows Ever"

- and all I want to do is to punch its stupid laptop face.

By the way, it says that using Microsoft's Edge Browser, that defunct bit of rubbish software that Microsoft have just abandoned, best Windows ever with Microsoft Edge - my aAAArse it is.

"Discover the features below to see what makes it great." say Microsoft twisting that knife into my guts.

I'll tell you what really happened here - I created an account on Windows 10 and in the process I learnt to hate Windows 10 with all my soul.

That's it - I can stand no more.

It is the dawn of the 20th century, and the British Empire has taken to the stars! As the captain of a spacefaring locomotive you’ll behold wonders and battle cosmic abominations in the heavens.…

My steampunk designs, I've been creating them for years and it is the combination of Victorian technology and modern computing capability that intrigues me enough to want to create. There is no reason for me to create them, they make me no cash, they take a lot of time, they are appreciated by few but those that do like them, really do like them. So, what is the point? Well I had a revelation based upon a watching a silly television programme to do with the recreation of arts and crafts skills to reproduce beautiful items. The Arts and Crafts movement was all about the creation of the item, the hard work of the individual craftsman justifying the existence of the item. The work involved was unnecessary given the availability of cheaper mass-produced items. The work often required the use of obsolete and archaic tools and the reinvention of methods long dispensed with. The end result was unique, individual, special but full of character. A craft raised several levels to the point of becoming art.

I'd like to say that chimes very well with my mindset and what I like to create. Whether I manage to achieve it or not is debatable and up to the eye of the user but this little revelation has helped me place my creations with a mental perspective that I previously lacked. I now like to think that my designs and creations, pathetic that they are, as being created with the same mindset of those original creators of the Arts and Crafts movement all those years ago. The medium is utterly different, the time sets us apart by more than a hundred years but the essence of creation is the same.

Well, that is how it feels to me. I may be hoping for too much of a connection but the thought generates a contented feeling in my whole frame having found such a link, if only a tenuous one and if only in my own mind.

If YOU feel the same, if you have a feeling that you are a part of that same Arts & Crafts movement then contact me, perhaps there is enough of a reason to form a new Arts & Crafts group.
A quick review on a crap laptop. I have a 10 year old Dell that runs like a dream. It has an old core2duo 2.7ghz and a hybrid SSD/HD running Windows 7 ultimate 64bit. It has an integrated GPU that should be rubbish, 4gb RAM, a 15" screen and a full travel keyboard. This is an old and out of date laptop. Surprisingly, it is amazingly capable. The HD is very quick and as a result it releases the power of the laptop to respond to its users wishes (me). I merely run Photoshop, Palemoon, code in RJTextEd, run some widget engines in parallel, take notes using Cintanotes, run a dock, do some instant messaging and run some media players. The usual a/v tools are running on both machines, Malwarebytes and Avast. It starts Photoshop in 8 seconds and can handle the Palemoon browser dishing out the BBC whilst I play a game of world domination using Coconet. No delays, instant response. Generally impressed by the Dell Latitude e5400.

Unfortunately, it has broken. The screen bezel has suffered some damage in the hands of the previous owner (my sister-in-law) and the hinge has obviously been weakened. Now it has snapped at the metal part of the hinge and dismantling shows it won't be an easy job to repair, some metal bashing and drilling required.

So, I have transferred my Palemoon profile to a new laptop, copied over my main working folder, I've been installing all my applications over the last week or so and it was read to roll, or so I thought.

The new laptop is a HP Pavilion 15 with an 2.0hgz AMD quad core A8-6410 CPU that can overclock to 2.8ghz with an integrated AMD Radeon R5 GPU, a 1TB HD and 8gb of RAM, running Windows 10 Home 64bit. It has a wide letterbox type screen, a stylish low-travel keyboard and a trackpad.

CPU tests show this new machine to be no slouch. It has gaming capabilities, multi-threading and should run rings round the old laptop. It should scale to running twice as many applications that are 50-100% more demanding with regard to CPU and GPU requirements. Unfortunately, this isn't the case. It runs on-line games very well at medium resolution (which is something the old laptop just could NOT do) but in all other tasks it seems to lag significantly behind the 10 year old laptop which is something I didn't expect.

Watching the BBC IPlayer in HD using Palemoon causes lags and I have to reduce the quality in order to get the flowing experience I require. If I run any other application then I expect the laptop to go into "go-slow" mode where any typing does not show for seconds after the key has been typed. Applications such as Photoshop will take 20 or more seconds to get to a usable state and during that initialisation any browser video will hang for anything up to 15 seconds.This is appalling for a modern laptop. It is hanging now as I write and save this review. The whole browser is lagging.

The laptop's hard drive is a cheap 5400rpm component and I suspect a SSD/HD upgrade will solve some of the application startup delays but still, in CPU and GPU terms the device is not as quick as the older laptop. When I run Coconet a game that runs within a virtual machine there is is a delay for every mouse-press that is not present on the older machine. It seems to struggle with multi-tasking using graphics. I think there is a bottleneck in the mainboard somewhere, possibly the memory channels or perhaps the AMD CPU is just not up to the job in comparison to a ten year old Intel device. Wow!

Boot time is very, very slow on the HP Pavilion, it takes two and a half minutes to start and frankly you could easily leave it for five minutes to be absolutely sure all the processes have had time to initialise and complete. Boot time on the Dell is not super quick but one and a half minutes is about normal.

On the newer system the BIOS has been updated to cope with any potential Spectre/Meltdown attacks that could slow the CPU somewhat, the same BIOS updates will never be available for the Dell as Dell/Intel simply can't be bothered to create updates for older machines - so it isn't as encumbered perhaps and as a result is quicker? That is just a wild guess.

Or, it could just be Windows 10 slowing it all down.

The keyboard on the new laptop takes a lot of getting used to. it doesn't suffer any typing mistakes, putting your fingers in the wrong place results in another key pressed, you can't 'feel' the key being pressed under your finger. The older Dell keyboard wins hands down. I'm typing this on the new keyboard so it works, it is just not a pleasant experience. Your fingers have to 'dance' on these low-travel, low-feedback keyboards.

The screen on the newer machine is wider and you can fit more on the display, I am typing this into the Deviantart editor text window whilst still watching the BBC IPlayer in the remaining 50% of the screen. I could not do this on the older 15" laptop. However, the Pavilion's screen is nowhere near as bright, the colours seem washed out and muted. Not good for an aspiring artist. The old machine's screen is smaller but the ratios are more pleasing and the image is much more 'alive'. Reverting back to the old Dell I find I do miss the wider screen.

The sound is good on the HP Pavilion, it pumps the volume out. The old Dell had very worn-out speakers and so there is no comparison - the newer machine wins hands down. The speakers are aligned with the screen and so any music/sound is not obscured by the user's hands, as occurred on the old Dell.

The new laptop is much lighter, the batteries are half the size with the same capacity so the new technology has some benefits over the old Dell paperweight.

Windows 10 on this HP Pavilion is an awful experience, delays, lags, slow startup, hangs. Any press on a Windows 10 settings screen encounters that massive white cog for 5 seconds whereas the old Dell system would open the relevant screen more or less instantly. Trying to set default file types to associate with applications, the system just sat there for twenty seconds whilst it thought about what to do. Windows 10 settings screens are SO effing SLOW!

I am not impressed by the user experience, I'd expect a newish machine, even if it is a budget model, to beat a ten year old device hands-down.  Bloody Hell. For an artist I could not recommend the lack of processing power that this machine has. For anyone wanting a general use machine I could not in all conscience recommend this under-performing hardware in combination with this under-performing o/s. It could all be caused by Windows 10 or it could be the naff hardware. Some time in the future I will see if it is possible to downgrade to Windows 7 but not now!

PS. I've done some tweaking and the machine is running better. As supplied, the system was set to optimise background services and I've set that to optimise running programs. As long as I only ask it to do one thing at a time then it seems to be bearable though none of the core problems have been addressed. The system is still slow for general use.

PPS. I have fixed the hinge, I drilled through the old hinge, through the screen mounting plate and through the frame, refastening the whole mechanism with some underlying epoxy glue and brass screws, nuts and washers to tighten the whole thing together. Some new brass strip screwed to the broken items completed the repair. I have migrated my recent data back again to the older machine and I am working again on my ten year old Win 7 laptop. It feels like an upgrade! It is snappy, instantly responsive with no lags at all. I always seem to be downgrading to get the best of things, what is going on?
I'm posting this in tribute to the rat that I just killed. He was 8-9" long and over a foot if you count the tail. Living outside our house under the wood pile near the porch he has been causing the dog to go mad, the cat couldn't care less. Blocked up all the holes and flooded his home so he was forced out and tried to get away. I bashed him with a stick and took him into the garden for deep burial (no honours). After digging his hole out for an hour I feel dirty and tainted but the rat died so he needs some commemoration at least - he's lived with us now for over a year, so it's a RAT Trap...

and you've been CAUGHT!
Xwidget has recently received a new lease of life through the packaging of a new version for sale through Steam.…

Xwidget has been on sale for a couple of months now and looks to be doing well. It has 55 fairly positive reviews and that is a good thing for its author as it means that it must be receiving a substantial number of new users, each of which is paying two or three pounds (£) towards the developer's coffers. The number of reviewers is always a mere fraction of the numbers downloading (1-3%) so it means there must be many more downloaders (5,000+) - meaning a good cash injection to the developer of approximately £10,000 (with Steam taking 30%). As a result of the sales generated, he has updated the engine to - although the version on the old Xwidget site is still only offering the old version for download. The recent changes are trivial for desktop developers, being related to ensuring the engine is compatible with Steam, bundling a few more 'themes', fixing a couple of bugs re: high DPI monitors and language settings. Regardless of the changes it is good to see the old engine is getting a bit of attention even if it is only the Steam version that is receiving it.

Hopefully, Tony will come round to see that there is life in the old engine yet. Over the years I have lobbied Tony very hard to get him to start fixing the bugs and enhance the IDE to make it more usable but with no luck whatsoever. Tony was previously intent on putting Xwidgets into its grave, he said as much saying he wanted to work on new things - RainWidgets being the result -  but perhaps this injection of cash will make him see that there is life in the old dog after all.

I would like to see Tony pick up the Xwidget code and address the buglist he already has, see it here:… - That buglist has been around since the middle of 2017 and the bugs have been around and identified for a lot longer than that. Tony a message for you - fix some of those bugs! If Xwidget really is NOT dead then you need to prove it! We (the community) offered help to fix those bugs but the help was rejected, so it is down to you and it is about time you fixed something, anything to prove it is still alive!

A positive side-effect is that Tony is actually present on Xwidget's Steam page responding to negative user comments. He has responded to the most negative of reviews but we still don't see Tony answering technical questions on Steam nor on the product forum. That's normal for Xwidgets.

Pleased to see that Tony is still involved. I understand that it must be very difficult to keep enthusiasm on a product that has been slowly dying for years especially when it fails to make you any money. The closure of the Xwidget gallery to non-paying users was initially a mistake that prevented possible users from seeing the potential of the software without actually paying for it, however, coupled with selling the engine on Steam, it might actually turn out to be a good decision as Xwidgets is now a fully commercial proposition and can no longer be downloaded in its full and current form for free, anywhere else. Steam may become the main download location for Xwidgets and it may receive a new lease of life in conjunction with that cash injection.

There is a problem with the new download method, the newest version of Xwidget is dependant on Steam, ie. it runs from Steam and only continues whilst Steam is operating. If you close Steam the Xwidget engine closes too. Not a desirable aspect when you aren't online or when you close Steam to save resources. You don't want your widgets to suddenly close... You can download and run the version of Xwidget from the original download site instead but that means you have two versions of Xwidget installed and two independent libraries of widgets as they don't source from the same location. Doh! Typical Tony.

So, like Frankenstein's monster, Xwidget raises its battered head, an incomplete and unfinished piece of software and lurches back into life ready to plunge into new horrors? Hopefully not, let us hope Tony sorts out the horror stories and we'll have something akin to a usable IDE that works and is useful.

This is my favourite BREXIT song - listen to the words...

We've been living through some hard times,
We've been seeing through some dark times,
Now I know the sun will shine,
You don't understand my point of view,
How I must get away from you,
Now I know I must be free,
I always knew that it would be this way,
Everybody used to say,
Everybody seems to know,
Don't say I told you so,
Don't say I told you so,
Told you so, told you so.