Jamie Balfour

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Jamie Balfour'sPersonal blog

Jamie Balfour'sPersonal blog

A few days ago, I spoke to a friend who showed me his CV and what he had done. It was stunning in its design, something I had done a few years ago when I used Microsoft Publisher to make my CV. I moved away from Publisher due to the incompatibility with macOS and because I like to make my things using code rather than rely on software like that. I also wanted to host a native version of my website and add some of the themes from my website to it.

I eventually caved in and came up with the idea of making it with HTML and CSS and hosting it on my website. It worked well, and over the years, significant changes have been applied, such as making it more interactive and powered by a database. 

Over the last few days, I have made even more extensive (and beautiful) changes. These changes are especially prominent when printed to either a PDF or paper. 

Take a look by going to the About section on my website.

Finally, ZPE 1.12.3 has been released!

ZPE 1.12.3 is a significant update because it dramatically changes how LAME evaluation is carried out on mathematical expressions. It switches to a new method of parsing mathematical expressions, making them up to 4 times more memory efficient. To explain this, I have bulleted the different areas of improvement:

  1. It no longer modifies IASTs
  2. As a result of the previous change, it now no longer copies IASTs before attempting to parse them, making it both faster and memory-efficient
  3. It parses BODMAS statements in one single pass rather than performing four passes on a statement.
  4. It separates logical expressions and mathematical expressions further, making both faster.

As I have said, this is a significant update for ZPE that flushes out some of the bad things about the first LAME.

LAME X2 closes the bridge even further between ZPE Native and ZPE Java, as it brings in further optimisations that improve performance to a native level.

I am very proud to say there's a company whose products I believe are the best in the field.

That company is Reolink. Reolink is a new company to me and one that I only discovered about one year ago. I have invested heavily in Ring products but have encountered issues here, there and everywhere. This started at my parents' house when I bought them a Ring doorbell. From then on, I always stuck by Ring products, even when Amazon bought them.

I like Amazon, so don't get me wrong; they are a very reliable company. But their tech products scare me to some degree. And I say this because they could pull the plug or increase their prices at any time. I also feel that the Ring products haven't ever really fitted into my smart home ecosystem. 

I have spent over £600 on Ring products over the last year alone. This is a considerable investment, considering this is only a security system. This mirrors my original, somewhat poor investment in WiFi-based products for my smart home, which was quickly reversed with Zigbee and Zwave products. 

I've been trialling out my newish Reolink cameras today, and I've got to say I'm hugely impressed with them compared with the Ring cameras they are about to replace. For starters, the night vision is streaks ahead and very clear. The daytime camera is also miles better, with a much clearer picture than the Ring. The customisation in the app is also great too. But let's not forget, the main reason for getting these is that they are local. Yeah, that's right, everything they are doing right now is local. I plan to connect mine via FTPS to my local home server to make recordings and store them there. 

After seeing someone else create a tier list for Pokémon games, I decided to do one myself.

I have my justifications below:

  • Pokémon Red and Blue being the first games, deserved not to be down at the bottom of the list, but were so broken and full of bugs (like Focus Energy not working as it was meant to) that they couldn't go higher than D.
  • Pokémon Yellow: a more refined version of Red and Blue, yet still full of bugs and the fact you couldn't evolve .
  • Pokémon Gold and Silver These were some of the most important games in my childhood. These refined the games to be games that I felt were worthy of getting into trouble in school to play! The improvement in the quality of the games, the introduction of breeding and egg moves, the introduction of more Dragon moves and the Dark type (as well as the Steel Type) and the improvement in the graphics made these games some of the more important games.
  • Pokémon Crystal I couldn't initially play Pokémon Crystal due to having a Gameboy Pocket when the game required a Gameboy Color. But when I got a Gameboy Advance, I could enjoy it and found it a really good game. Several minor improvements to Gold and Silver were brought in that made a difference. 
  • Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire these games are easily the most important games personally, but generally, they made some of the biggest changes and improvements to Pokémon as a whole. The introduction of the amazing double battle mechanic, abilities, natures, and Flygon (and many other Dragon-type Pokémon) was instrumental in my love of the games. 
  • Pokémon Colosseum this was an absolutely brilliant game that I still go back to over and over again because it's so replayable. The game had by far the best soundtrack of any Pokémon game at the time when it was released. 
  • Pokémon LeafGreen and FireRed these games were some of my favourites when they came out. They introduced many Pokémon from previous games that had been omitted from Ruby and Sapphire (and they allowed you to trade them back). These became my main games for a good two or three years. I first bought FireRed from Japan as I urgently wanted to play it. I still have some of my Japanese Pokémon on my Pokémon Home, too! These games also brought about wireless communication in Pokémon for the first time. There were just so many things these games did correctly.
  • Pokémon Emerald while a minor refinement that mirrors how Crystal changed Gold and Silver, Emerald was a very enjoyable game, focused more on Rayquaza from the Weather Trio. I completed the game once, but sadly, my cartridge developed a fault and unfortunately got stuck after catching Rayquaza and then corrupting the save file. 
  • Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness was one of the games I didn't acquire until way after. I got XD in 2015 when my brother and I decided to trade GameCube games. I haven't played through the whole thing, unfortunately, but it feels like Pokémon Colosseum with a new story, and that isn't a bad thing. It is an enjoyable game.
  • Pokémon Diamond and Pearl by the release of Diamond and Pearl, I had, unfortunately, lost interest in Pokémon. I attempted to rekindle an interest in the series in 2010 with two of my friends, picking up Ruby and Sapphire again for the first time in 6 years, but sadly, I could not get myself back into it. As a result of this break, I missed out on Diamond and Pearl's release despite being hugely interested in them (I remember reading a copy of Games Master magazine about the new games and was hugely interested). I got the games in 2011 as a result of this.
  • Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver I liked Pokémon Gold when I got it in 1998 because it was what was available at the time, but returning to the re-releases in 2011 (I didn't get the games when they were released due to being out of Pokémon) was difficult, and I don't really know why. There were tons of things I liked about these games, but it was a game that was insignificant to me as I was really just getting back into Pokémon. I never found the story hugely interesting in those games, and it felt like the story was still very limited in this game, too.
  • Pokémon Black and White These two games got me back into the series after not playing Pokémon properly for almost seven years. It was a time that was particularly difficult for my health, and I was suffering from severe depression as a result of it. Black and White bring back lots of bad memories for me, but they also were there for me when I got down and did actually help me get through a lot of that stuff. I think Black and White deserves a D rank because it made significant steps up on the game's storyline compared with previous games. Also, several of my favourite Pokémon were introduced in this game. I got Pokémon Black at the end of 2010. I rate the game badly, however, mainly due to the introduction of things that ultimately felt shoehorned in - for example, triple battles and rotational battles. 
  • Pokémon Black and White 2 I owned both games and really enjoyed them, too. However, the games were fairly insignificant, and I felt they were just remakes, or rather, how Black and White could have been if DLC existed. 
  • Pokémon X and Y while these games received a lot of criticism, they were hugely significant, in my opinion. This was Pokémon's first appearance in a proper 3D environment. They were the first games in what I like to refer to as the gimmick line, adding a feature and then removing it one generation later. In X & Y, the gimmick that was added was Mega Evolution. It was also the best gimmick feature that was added. 
  • Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire were the best re-releases of any game in the group. I still have them as my favourite Pokémon games because they were remakes of my favourite games.
  • Pokémon Sun and Moon were two of my least favourite games in the series. These games nearly put me off Pokémon again. The things I didn't like about the games were big as well. Firstly, the lack of gym battles was really upsetting, and the new system wasn't great. The other reason was that the new Pokémon introduced was really boring. Whilst the previous generation, generation 6, introduced several of my favourite Pokémon, including Dragalge and Skrelp and Noibat and Noivern, this generation only gave me Kommo-o. It also gives me Drampa, but I don't like him (my friend originally pointed out Drampa to me, saying I wouldn't like him. How right he was).
  • Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon were just the same, and whilst they did improve a lot, I got sick of these games quickly due to the original games.
  • Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu! and Let's Go Eevee were again very significant in the history of Pokémon. I went for Eevee this time. I really enjoyed playing through these games as they were the first home games console releases since Pokémon XD. These games were significant as a step toward moving Pokémon games away from the small screen to the big.
  • Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield were two of my favourites. These games were the first real Nintendo Switch games, and although they were plagued with the problem of Dexit (the lack of Pokémon from previous generations appearing in the Pokédex), they were a fantastic release, despite all the concerns people had for their release.
  • Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shiny Pearl were again two of my favourite releases. Since I didn't play the original games back when they were released and played them after their release, these games worried me slightly. They worried me because I hadn't played the original games, and they might not have the nostalgic feel that games like Omega Ruby had for me. Needless to say, these were some of the best games due to their excellent story and classic feel. I'm so glad I got Pearl since Palkia is one of my favourite Pokémon now as well.
  • Pokémon Legends: Arceus is a game I never got around to even opening, unfortunately.
  • Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are the current games when I wrote this. Unfortunately, they are very buggy games, and their story isn't great either. While the developers continued to bring more and more Pokémon to these games, they still lacked many of my favourites. There's not much more I can say about these games. They were enjoyable enough to play through, but the glitches and bugs seriously impacted how I felt about the game.

And that's it! 

Pokemon icons created by Those Icons - Flaticon

USB-C was supposed to be the one connector for all. It's definitely not lived up to that purpose well. USB-A is still by far the more popular connector for most devices and the wall chargers where USB-C aimed to take over. USB-C was delivered to us in 2015 by none other than Apple with their MacBook, which featured it (and only it), showcasing the port for the first time as a connector that does it all.

DisplayPort and HDMI are still outpacing USB-C on the A/V side of things. Sure, USB-C can carry DisplayPort and is much smaller than the big DisplayPort connectors. Not only that, but it can also carry data at the same time

Not many companies are pushing USB-C as Apple has been on their Macs and iPads, phone chargers and Watch chargers over the last few years, and they don't seem to care that the world hasn't caught up with them. However, Apple did continue to use their rubbish Lightning connector up until October of last year when the iPhone 15 was released. 

USB-C hasn't delivered. And I say that because of the inconveniences it now causes. For Mac users and many Windows Ultrabook users (which I have been), devices such as mice, keyboards, USB drives, webcams or printers all become a pain to use because of their USB-A connectors. I normally use my Windows machine to do anything with hard drives or USB drives simply because of its USB-A ports. 

My new MacBook Pro that I got in December is a fantastic little machine. It's a wee bit chubby, and that's what I like about it. It's not a chunky machine by any standard, but it's thick enough that Apple could have included some USB-A ports on it - even if just one. Though, as I have said in the past, Apple was the first company to ditch parallel and serial ports from their computers when they were the standard, they were the first to ditch floppy disks when they were the standard, they were the first to ditch the headphone jack and now the USB-A port.

To conclude, I do not think USB-C has made massive changes to everything it promised. It's lacklustre in some areas and has made things more inconvenient in other areas. I love the connector, and back in 2015, when I was invited to try out a USB-C product for a company, I was so very excited at the prospect of it.

Happy New Year for 2024 everyone! I thank you for following or using website! 

Let’s hope 2024 is another amazing year!

New Zealand has just celebrated New Year for 2024! 

I just wanted to say Happy New Year to all my friends in New Zealand!

ZPE 1.11.12 is available to download as of today. The last release of 2023 brings a few improvements and features, a fix and one new and very useful function. 

The features and improvements that come to ZPE are the new -h changes feature which will display the ZPE changelog, and the array_get_data_type function is now the list_get_data_type function and works on lists as well as arrays. 

The new function added to ZPE is the string_compare function, which can be used to compare strings and see which comes first or last alphabetically. 

2023 has been a pretty decent year for me, albeit there have been a few bumps. 

Firstly, it was the start of my second year working at my school, somewhere I enjoy working. There have been one or two times when I have wondered what I am doing working here but generally, I enjoy my job and want to continue to work here.

My mental health has been great this year again, leading to my fourth year in a row where I haven't struggled with any form of depression! 

Let's talk about ZPE. ZPE 1.11 has been another incredible release of ZPE with inline iteration, type casting, and compiler directives, the build version has finally returned to ZPE, and improvements to the editor; particularly the editor area now being public, YASS Unfold, powerful new list reference functions, the new string_compare function, which is very useful for sorting lists of strings and finally, more public features through ZPEKit.

ZPE 1.11.12 was released today. You can download it from my Download Center or run the update command on current ZPE installations.

Next, let's talk about what I have managed to do with teaching. Further to what I said last year, I have made major improvements to my slideshow engine and DragonDocs Engine. My slides are now all in 16:9 format which took an absolute age to do, but I have finally done it. My slides underwent another style transformation and look even better than before. I cannot forget to mention my new Apple Watch app that I developed for this too! The app allows me to control the slides using my Watch - pretty cool!

I cannot forget that I also got my car in June after a six-month delay and I've loved every moment with it! I'm planning on doing a review of it when it gets to 9 months with it, so keep an eye on my reviews for that.

I also started my Master's Degree which is going well. I'm excited about the next part of my degree! 

To finish the year off, I got myself an iPhone 15 Pro (which is great and the phone I've been waiting for for a long time), an Apple Watch Ultra 2 (which is an amazing Watch) and a new MacBook Pro 14" with an M3 Pro (which has replaced my M1 MacBook Pro, which itself was a very capable machine).

2023 has been a fantastic year for me and I'm hoping that 2024 is just as good if not better!

I just wanted to say, Merry Christmas for 2023! Have a great day!

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