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Alive 14
                    The Inevitable Jagfest 2006 report.

It's the northern edition, by 'eck!

The dateline is the 28th of October,  about three days before Halloween, and
MUG  UK looks like he is already dressed for this festival,  er,  hang  on,
perhaps  that  is  his everyday normal look?  Or are the  vacant  dribbling,
clouded  over  and milky eyes,  and faint hint of decomposing flesh down  to
something entirely different?

So  it  is that we find ourselves well north of the Watford Gap,  in a  land
where flat caps,  chips and gravy,  and arctic tundra reigns.  Well we're at
the  Rhinewood Hotel near Warrington,  and I'm getting my northerner-baiting
cliches in early, just before someone grabs the front of my shirt and raises
their  other  hand in a fist to tell me how much friendlier  they  are  than
those buggers down south!

Ok, all of that fanciful invention and exaggeration, sorry about that, let's
get back to a more straightforward narrative.

.....Where I am right now.....

I'm  in a world of total chillout and no pain,  my CT60 falcy is set up  and
running,  with  Aniplayer  on  slideshow mode playing  Jean  Michel  Jarre's
'Equinoxe' (in MP3 form).  This album is an 'oldie but goodie',  indeed, was
the  first  album  I bought with my own money,  back when it was  all  still
vinyl, and CD's were still at the prototype stage. Oh yes, I am typing these
words as I listen, of course. Next to me, Nick Harlow is playing a PS2 remix
of Gauntlet, and Felice is prodding away in a gamelike fashion on his PSP.

This latest venue seems to be a bit more upscale and slightly less worn  and
tired than the location of the previous Rochester based Jagfests. We've been
given  the use of two rooms,  the larger main room where just about everyone
so  far arrived has set up,  and a "Billy no-mates" ante-room where the tea,
coffee  and biscuits are kept.  There is a reasonable presence,  but quite a
few  people are missing too,  the distinctive presence of Tyrant and quite a
lot of the southern Jagfesters aren't here,  and the Cheshunt contingent are
at a bare survival minimum,  with just Mark Branson representing them,  mind
you,  that  is  with both his Czuba-boosted machines in attendance as  well.
With mine set up next door, we've formed a distinctive computer-only corner,
an island amongst the console jungle.

Of  course Nick the Harlow is here,  and nicely recovered from his  enforced
hospital-themed downtime,  and he has brought as much of the remaining 16/32
stock that he can fit into one car or van, or tardis?

Felice has forsaken any kind of computer,  and gone overboard with a gaming
theme,  with  a  range  of consoles from modern (PS2 and PSP),  through  the
Dreamcast,  and  rounding up with his Vectrex.  Oh it was fun getting all of
that into Felice's car,  even his new car with the extra boot space. Lucky I
only brought this Falcy, my TFT flatscreen, and an Amiga A1200.

Woss this,  an Amiga? I hear you cry. Well I've developed a little bit of an
Ebay  habit lately,  which I must curb before I run completely out of  room.
But an A1200 got in there.  It was one of the cheaper ones, but with Fastram
and  a 68881 co-processor board in there,  and a hard drive.  When I got it,
the  machine didn't want to work right away.  That turns out to be due to  a
power  connector  which has got worn and shifted,  probably the classic  dry
solder joint problem,  as you have to get the connector 'just so' to get the
Amy to fire up.

The fun continued,  as there seemed to be no keyboard function, although the
mouse worked.  Interesting Amiga fact folks, the mouse/joystick and keyboard
are  independent  from  each other on that machine.  So I took  the  machine
apart,  and boggled in amazement at the cardboard bodge that was the upgrade

The  hard disk was not secured to a cradle of any description,  but has  got
cardboard  taped  underneath,  to  stop  it making contact  with  the  metal
shielding,  and it was also wedged in place with more chunks of cardboard. I
guess  this  was  not  a factory upgrade!  The general  theme  of  cheapness
continued,  as the keyboard connector had pulled right out,  and didn't seem
to be solidly secured in general.  I found out you just put it back into its
connector to the motherboard,  and seemingly hope for the best!  I mean, the
Falcon,  internally speaking,  is a bit of a dog's breakfast as well, but at
least it is a bit more solidly constructed than the flimsy looking Amiga.

So  to join this vast circle of digression together and conclude  the  tale,
yes  the machine is essentially healthy,  but I brought it to Jagfest to see
if  there is a kindly soldering iron jockey who is able to wave their  magic
healing fingers over the power connector.

I've  also  attempted a little bit of DIY bodgery on the  Falcy,  as  Felice
kindly  got  hold  of some Mega ST keyboard,  with adaptors to plug  into  a
standard  Falcon  or  ST.  I tested one for the first time  today,  and  the
results are very satisfactory indeed. This gives rise to new and interesting
possibilities  regarding  the future upgrade path for the CT60.  Apart  from
this being useful for any recasing project,  there is an immediate gain from
freeing up the space taken by the normal keyboard,  which may well allow for
a  plug-in-and-go style upgrade even with the normal casing.  The CT60 board
has a lot more free space over it than before.  Not to mention the fact that
I've now killed off two Falcon keyboards. (The down-arrow goes dead first in
my case, which is frigging annoying.) I've reverted to the standard keyboard
for now, as there isn't a hell of a lot of space to be comfortable, but this
is one to follow up on when I get back home.

        Kind of looks like it is awaiting a rackmount case?

And  this brings us to a point where we are getting close to lunchtime.  And
I've switched soundtracks to some of my Ultrafex favourites.

....What we did last night and this morning....

There's not a lot to recount here. Routines are smooth and well-established.
Me and Felice head up north,  people are friendlier, pints taste better etc,
and  the  girls do their own thing using Nicky's place as a  base.  I  think
something IKEA-related is going to get in there.  So a pleasant and sociable
evening,  followed by me returning home, searching out suitable bags to load
my diverse hardware and cables,  scratching my head to figure out how to get
it all packed in at 12.30am, finally managing to do so, then getting my head
down for the rest of the night.

It's  not  too  unreasonable a kick-off,  as I'm back at Nicky's  place  for
08.00hrs,  as  she  in  the  kitchen and blearily attempting  to  clear  the
washing-up left from last night, and Felice is trying to make some breakfast
around  her.  That  mission  is  accomplished,  and in spite of  my  initial
misgivings  about Felice's space-cancer tendencies,  I manage to get my  two
bags worth of gear in his car, then we are off.

The journey is enlivened by his latest in-car novelty, the electronic navaid
known as "Tom-tom". Tom-tom has not got much of a singing voice to speak of,
but  it is strangely amusing to watch the roadscape scrolling by.  We arrive
at  the  Rhinewood in a shade over two hours,  even allowing for  Birmingham
being converted into one big set of traffic-slowing roadworks.

It is not too difficult to find the hotel,  unload and set-up, and that sort
of brings us up to date for now.

And Nickis still playing Gauntlet...


A little interlude from Felice ...

CiH  has summarised well what has happened this weekend,  which has not been
anything out of the ordinary. Getting here without getting lost proved to be
a  help  both on our time,  tempers and the cost of fuel,  thanks to my  new
TomTom  satnav system.  It's quite a noisy but not too chaotic affair at the
moment  (4pm),  Linkovitch is doing some rather interesting involving one of
the original 3D helmets developed originally by Atari and he's trying to get
that  working.  At  the time of writing he was having some troubles,  but he
seems  to have everything under control,  perhaps not from the latest update
but  we  wait  in  hope.  Link's a dab hand also with the  delicate  art  of
soldering.  He's  happy  with  the way things are going up here,  while  the
numbers  may  be  slightly down compared to the last 2 years  it  is  fairly
intimate here, with lots of gaming going on.

Nick  has finished his game of Gauntlet on my PS2 for the time being and  is
now engrossed with a mystery girl,  playing Worms:  Armageddon.  Never fear,
Nick is happily married,  so no worries there for him ! :) Seriously though,
he's  looking and sounding great after his recent health problems.  He's due
back  at work for the first time in 7 months this coming week,  so good luck
to him for that.

There  are one or two new faces here,  which is good.  First up is Daeghnao,
from  the Atari-Forum site.  She's quite friendly and is knowledgeable  also
about  Ataris,  sounds  as though she's a veteran which is good to see.  The
other  guy who I've also had the chance to 'put a name to a presence' to  is
RetrogamerUK,  another regular from Atari-Forum. Hopefully we'll see both of
them at future events from now on, whether they be Jagfest or otherwise.

CiH is currently (no,  not that!) sorting out Mike Mee Mug UK)'s TT. This is
the  first  time it was powered up I think,  and it seems to be ok  although
it's a voyage of discovery.  Firstly,  it was found that the machine doesn't
have a high density drive,  fortunately some DD discs have been found by CiH
and were put into use.


Felice bit over with, it is safe to come out again..

Okay,  we've been out for a little while. The quasi-industrial landscape was
a  tad  daunting,  as the hotel seems to be a spit away and downwind from  a
chemical  works  in a state of rusting dilapidation that resembles  a  mini-
Bhopal in the making.  The environs of Irlam, the nearest town to us, aren't
overwhelming,  as  most of the shops are closed and shuttered in a 'can't be
arsed  to open' sort of way.  The few places that seem to be doing a roaring
trade, are pubs, the bookmakers, and a funeral parlour, hmmm?

There  is  also  the incongruous sight of a massive  Tesco  supermarket,  an
island of prosperity and newness in a sea of fatigued apathy, which seems to
have been built to a single master plan, or else we've stepped into a retail
teleport and out into the absolutely identical Tesco superstore at Bar  Hill
in Cambridge?!  Well at least that took care of lunch. Heading back, we took
in  the sight of a massive and partially collapsed railway bridge which  no-
one  has got around to knocking down.  Maybe people are hoping the ruin will
go away by itself?

We got back,  and I encountered Thorsten,  aka kRadD,  who arrived whilst we
had gone out.  Also I spent a little bit of quality time with MUG UK, and we
compared movie footage that we took at the Outline '06 party. MUG admired my
slickly edited effort,  but may have had the trump card, as he had exclusive
access and a press pass to BeerTBP's car boot,  which was stocked with three
weeks supply of Doritos, and a double layer of Guinness cans. Surely all the
food a demoscener needs for a long party weekend!

MUG  UK has also got a TT which he was trying to figure out.  Eventually  we
talked  it out of being a German language MagiC 3 machine,  into something a
bit  more English language speaking,  and a bit later still,  sorted it with
HD-driver.  He  also brought a wooden cased "thing",  which didn't decide to
work, so the precise nature of that beast remains a mystery.

I've witnessed an ultra-rare (yes,  properly rare, not EBay rare!) prototype
in action,  the Jaguar VR helmet, with its specially written for it Missile
Command 2000 game. Looking more closely, it isn't too hard to figure out why
Atari  canned  this project,  and generally,  why the mid-nineties hype  for
virtual reality amounted to nothing much. The helmet itself is quite a bulky
unit,  and  comments  about  "sweaty helmets" spring unbidden  to  my  lips,
followed  by an MSG-style laugh.  Also there is no allowance for any sort of
eye-wear,  so  people with seriously wonky uncorrected vision will lose out.
Finally,  watching  someone  attempting to play the Missile Command game  on
virtual  mode on the monitor showed some seriously choppy movements,  so you
might have to go and lie down for a while after,  until the seasickness vibe
goes away!

I  think  there is a Nintendo Virtual Boy somewhere in this  room  as  well,
which was one of their rare cock-ups on that very same theme.

... 22.40hrs, and a round-up from the last time 'til now ....

Talking  of cock-ups,  we managed a proper "Ahhh shit!" moment with 
MUG UK's hard drive in the early evening period.

This was connected to his newly acquired TT,  and he copied the data off its
internal drive onto his external Mega STe based unit. Then the same internal
drive was supposed to be cleansed and formatted to a pristine date.

Well  one of the hard drives was dealt with in this fashion,  want to  guess
which one!?  Yeah, quick to catch on, aren't you! Well I'm sharing the blame
around,  as there was more than one person involved,  especially Nick Harlow
and Mark Branson!

I  don't think he lost too much that can't be recreated from other  sources,
and he's still got all the TT's data at least ;-)

After that breathless excitement,  we were off to Warrington town centre for
a  bout  of overeating at a Chinese venue.  I am pleased to report  that  it
managed  to  maintain the all-you-can-eat enjoyment factor of  our  previous
venue at Rochester, and there was even time for a post-match drink or two.

"Pint 'n a Fight!"

We  regrouped  in  a pub in Warrington,  in the heart of the  fat  girls  in
strapless  dresses  and  tottering high heels district.  It  was  the  least
crowded,  that  is  to say "very crowded".  Also the high noise levels  came
solely  from people's voices and no artificially boosted musical help.  Also
we  managed  to find enough space to stand comfortably,  without a clash  of
elbows,  after  a  thrilling flight through the underneath part of a  spiral

Felice's initial  request  for a Chardonnay spritzer was  rebuffed  by  the
helpful bar staff, who looked at him in a "are you taking the piss or what?"
fashion.  This  disappointed  MUG UK,  who was looking forward to ordering a
glass of claret,  in a lead crystal glass,  being the keen wine buff that he
is!  So we made do with a bunch of halloween-themed pints of beer,  although
Felice did manage to charm a glass of house red for himself.

There  was a fair amount of chat,  and a certain degree of people  watching,
especially those Warringtonian females, who were well past their first flush
of  youth,  but happy to dress as though that didn't matter,  and there were
some females whose oversized decollatage maintained a jelly-like motion just
in front of their bodies, as if somehow independent from them....

A  bit  later,  one of the tables with sofa's by it emptied,  so our  little
group  moved  in quickly.  We had the benefit of a very  comfortable  twenty
minutes,  and might well have fallen asleep and still been there now,  apart
from  the  fact that the minibus appeared to take us back to  the  Rhinewood

Well  that  was the pint,  where was the fight?  Unfortunately,  we left too
early  to  witness  that,  and any aftermath with the  dayglo  vest  wearing
security staff,  I guess that is kicking off now (23.00hrs) but we're safely
back and I'm writing this report.

There  was a small degree of enjoyment,  with two kiddie moped drivers,  who
decided to block up both lanes of a dual carriageway with their underpowered
sewing machines. But we got past them before it got to needing baseball bats
and overwhelming weight of numbers.

On  a final note for now,  just lately we have been getting lots of sms text
messages  from  the  girls,  which sort of suggests they have had a  lot  to
drink. Guess we'll get that full story tomorrow evening.


Ok, we are back again, and everything is as easy as it should be.

We got back last night,  and activity levels tailed off quite quickly.  Many
of  the  more  local  attendees  made  their  way  straight  home  from  the
alcoholically excited town centre,  Nick Harlow loaded up his car to prepare
for an early departure in the morning, so there wasn't a lot else going on.

I  managed  to  get Duke Nukem,  the Mikro port to the Falcon  '060  running
first  time  of  asking it though,  which was very pleasing,  and I  got  to
witness some arcade boards being played.  In this fashion, we got to see the
ending  sequence of the arcade original 'Altered Beast' where the girl  gets
rescued,  they  show off all their holiday photo's of the preceding battles,
and she marries a dog! But that seems to be ok, so they all drink to that!

My evening finally came to a stop around 12.40,  which was 11.40 really,  as
the  end of British summertime was close to hand,  and the clocks jumped one
hour  back,  which  gave  Jagfest an extra hours sleeping,  or gaming  time,
depending on how fresh you were feeling.

Night led to morning,  which lead to breakfast, which led to us returning to
the  Jagfest  room.  I spent most of the previous hour talking  with  kRadD,
managing  to  cover  most local and international politics,  and  even  some
Atariscene  chat  as well.  We're up to date as MUG UK and the rest  of  the
local folk have just arrived back at the venue to start a new day, or in the
case of MUG UK, rescue what we did to his system yesterday!

Now  the only other task to complete is to get Linkovitch to carry  out  the
promised  repair  work on the Amiga 1200,  and he is distracted  with  vital
gaming duties, of course!

Daeghnao and  MUG  UK came over to a dark corner of the  Jagfest  room,  to
ponder the problem of the non-working wooden ST.  Briefly,  this was a donor
machine given to MUG,  which worked before, but reached him in a non-working
condition.  It  resembles an early issue STFM,  but opening up the chipboard
casing  reveals at least a few extras,  including a very fat looking Quantum
hard drive,  and a Marpet Xtra-ram board. It also reveals a general standard
of workmanship which can kindly be described as 'bodge city'. Several wires,
some  of them to do with the power supply have come out,  or weren't  really
attached with anything in the first place? Daegno considers that it probably
could be fixed, but there would be no point really. Shortly, the decision is
taken  to  strip out anything of value,  and skip the rest,  especially  the
wooden  parts!   I  think that the quality keyboard,  which was the original
STFM  front  end,  with the rest sawn off,  would the the first thing to get
thrown away.

It was as badly bodged as it looks in the picture, what were they thinking?

At  the same time,  Linkovitch is giving his full attention to my Amiga 1200
problem.   When  stripped  down  to  the  motherboard,  it  looks  neat  and
inoffensive.  A  quick  examination  of the problem area reveals,  well,  no
problem  at all.  Attention switches to a possible worn or dirty socket,  or
connectors.  As it is, when the machine is put back together and plugged in,
it works first time off.

MUG  UK is sorting out a load of random disks which have come out  of  Nick
Harlow's  deep  storage  facility.  These are originals  which  have  become
orphaned  from their packaging and manuals.  In the case of Obsession Amiga,
irritatingly  so,  as this would have been an excellent choice of  take-home
present for the A1200.

As for other forms of take-away present,  the wooden ST has been stripped of
the  good bits,  and whoever wants those is free to take them away.  I think
half the Xtra-ram might have stayed put and got thrown out with the rest.  I
even get to film MUG UK throwing away the sad remains of the wooden ST  into
a nearby large bin. Away it goes with a mighty crash!

In the early afternoon period,  people are starting to leave.  Soon there is
just  a  small  hardcore of us remaining,  MUG UK,  Link,  Mark Branson,and
kRadD, who is looking at his watch anxiously, as he is due back at Stanstead
airport for an evening flight back home. Mark Branson is supplying the first
instalment  of his journey from Warrington to Stanstead,  but he seems to be
delayed  by  his  CT60 fancy towered gizmo's and all,  which  is  stubbornly
failing in its last minute copying task for MUG UK.  We all decide that this
machine  can sense when time is getting short,  and refuse to complete  that
which it would have happily done on Saturday afternoon!

We  all leave at the same time,  Felice and I getting out slightly ahead  of
the other two. The journey back teetered on the edge of heavy suckiness, and
I'm  still  not  sure if the Mark Branson mobile managed  to  get  kRadD to
Stanstead  on time,  as they encountered the same hold-ups and slowdowns  on
the  M6  as us,  and a large queue on the way to the A14 as well,  which  we
missed.  Our journey back was enlivened by a loud screech of tyres,  just as
we had stopped for another queue just before Birmingham,  followed by a loud
tearing bang.  In the absence of a neck-bending jolt, I looked around to see
a  black BMW extricating itself from the side of a lorry,  and  half-tearing
off  his  front grille in the process.  Lorry bloke limps off onto the  exit
slipway  nearby to ponder his situation,  whilst the black BMW buggers  off,
never to be seen again?

After we reach Birmingham,  the journey gets a bit easier,  and around three
and  a  half hours after we first set off from Warrington,  we stumble  back
through the door at Nicky's place.

Our promised evening meal is *almost* ready, well about 10 percent ready! So
I take over, and we have some food approximately half an hour later. This is
not  a  moment  too soon,  as this is the first bite to eat I've  had  since
breakfast, which was a faint and distant memory by now!

And  with  the  clatter of cutlery on plates,  that sort of  concludes  this
Jagfest report. How did this event rank in the overall hit parade?

Overall,  the move north did Jagfest no harm. The new venue at the Rhinewood
was  a  worthy replacement and a good time was had by those  that  made  the

We lost an awful lot of people though, Tyrant and others in his group didn't
make  it  for various reasons,  including other events going on at the  same
time.  We missed the rest of the Cheshunt contingent,  and I get the feeling
that they don't like travelling north,  expecting their cars to be raided by
blue woad-painted warriors once they got onto the M6 off the M1?  There were
about  twenty-odd  people there in the end,  which was quite enough,  and we
managed to see one or two new faces, such as Daeghnao, previously just known
as  a  face on the Atari forum,  but interested enought to come  along,  and
offering a useful future contribution to the general Atari scene.  Of course
if  was  good  to see MUG UK come along for us to practice  our  best  data-
wrecking techniques on his hard drive!

Jagfest  2006 was a very relaxing event,  with just enough surprises to keep
it  from  going  stale and over-familiar.  I don't see why it  shouldn't  be
possible  to  go back to Warrington again,  but the organisers will have  to
publicise  the  event  better,  and whip some of the  southern  participants
harder to come along next time!

                                                     CiH,for Alive Mag,Nov 2006.
Alive 14