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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.

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Seedy Reviews: Nathan Tech

Navigation

Introduction

I can’t exactly remember when I first encountered Nathan Tech, but I know it was a while ago; long before this site, and the Fireseed Network in general, was a thing. I found out about a MUD (Multi-User Dungeon) called Cosmic Rage. I was actively searching for MUDs to get into at the time, so I thought I’d try it out. Unfortunately, it turned out that me and MUDs don’t exactly mix. However, when I landed on the website where the MUD was, I did some deep diving and found that there was a whole lot more to this content generating entity than just Cosmic Rage. An RSS feed reader? A media player? A website builder? What the hell was going on here?
I eventually found out that the creator of these projects was a blind UK-based software developer by the handle of Nathan Tech. Having tried some of his products over the years, and having had the honour of actually meeting the man himself at the beginning of this year, I thought to myself: why not write a review about this guy? However, this thought would soon recede into the back of my mind and fade to dust. The event that really inspired me to write this article was a March Pat Price Tek Talk podcast in which Nathan discusses the history of Nathan Tech and the software and other projects he’s developed over the years.

Who, or what, is Nathan Tech?

First, let me start by saying that Nathan Tech is not this guy’s real name. It is simply the handle that all his projects fall under. His real name is actually Nathan Smith, which he shares publically.
As I mentioned above, Nathan Tech is a blind software developer from the United Kingdom. I say software developer, but he’s done a lot more than just develop software since he started in early 2013. Some of his most notable works include audio tutorials covering writing websites in HTML5, programming in Python and using Apple’s VoiceOver screen reader on iOS. He has also made some audio games over the years. The following is a list of some of his software projects.

  • Calliope, a powerful media player that has support for many different file types. It’ll basically play any audio or video file you throw at it.
  • Luna RSS, a fully featured RSS feed reader, podcatcher and feed builder
  • .

  • Sunrise Waterfall, a feature-packed utility that allows you to make awesome websites and documentation files without any coding skills whatsoever
  • .

All Nathan Tech’s software is 100% accessible to the blind/visually impaired. It is also written for Windows, which kind of makes sense when you think about it. Nathan Tech, NT, Windows NT!

How this review works

This review is divided into 3 sections: upsides, downsides, and over all rating out of 10. The magnitude of the upsides and downsides will decide the over all rating, so future review subjects… beware! Each upside and downside will be titled with a level 3 heading, then a brief explanation will follow. Don’t fly in expecting a perfect 10, however, as there’s a downside to all things in this world, and not everyone is perfect.

Upsides

1. Nathan Tech gives all and expects nothing back

Every single project of Nathan Tech’s is usable by everyone free of charge, and nothing is expected of anyone in return. Basically, Nathan’s view on donations is that if you’re going to ask for donations, you might as well charge. While I kind of agree with him, I have to ask: is he sort of saying that projects like NVDA should be paid? Never the less, this is definitely worth a million altruism points.

2. No annoying nags

Before I continue with the video, let me remind you to please subscribe to my channel and purchase my merch.

Or

Today’s Top Deal! (insert product here) is now 75% off for one week only!

We’ve all been there before. Don’t you just find yourself pressing the skip button? I do. However, Nathan Tech doesn’t do any of that stuff. What you get with Nathan Tech is free of charge and free of hassle! Like a radio station that lets you enjoy your favourite music hits constantly without cutting to a 10+ minute ad break every 5 god damn minutes, or ending a song after the first verse so the DJ can chat a load of useless hot garbage about “the latest trend that’s sweeping the internet!”.

3. Always willing to improve

No project is free of errors, and Nathan Tech’s projects are no exception. However, he’s always reaching out to people for ways he can make his work better for everyone, be it fixing software bugs, correcting errors in a tutorial or improving the accessibility and user experience of his products. Most companies will just give you a canned reply, telling you that they value your feedback and they’ll pass it on to their teams so they can look into it. The next thing you know, it’s 5 months later and the company hasn’t done a god damn thing to resolve the issue you reported. Either that, or they started working on your issue 3 months prior, but have been too busy sitting on their backsides all day drinking tea to finish the job. Give Nathan a problem to solve, and it’ll most likely be solved in a matter of days or weeks!

4. He knows how to deal with tech illiterates

If there’s one thing Nathan is a lot better at than me, it’s dumbing stuff down so that the computer illiterate crowd can understand the points he’s putting across. Not only that, but he breaks things down into little pieces, assisting those who struggle to process very large amounts of information so they can take each bit of information in and process it in their own time. This is especially good for people like me who have a hell of a hard time dealing with huge user manuals with thousands of pages and subpages that are divided into a hundred different sections and subsections.

5. Accessible to all

I mentioned at the start of this article that Nathan Tech’s products are 100% accessible to the blind/visually impaired. However, they are really built with everyone in mind, no matter what kind of disability you have, or if you’re not disabled at all. Nathan’s tag line is

It’s not disability, it’s ability

. I don’t agree with this all the way from a realistic, scientific prospective, but the work he produces for the community at large really lives up to it.

Downsides

Honestly, the upsides mostly outweigh the downsides. However, as I stated at the start of this article, everything in this world has a downside.

1. OS Limiting

OK, I’ll be reasonable with this one, as not everyone has the same mind set as me. If you know me well, you’ll know that I absolutely hate OS limiting software. That is, software that has very strict operating system requirements, such as only running on 64-bit versions of an operating system or requiring the latest and greatest operating system in order to run; I’m looking right at you, AltStore! Being a part of the vintage/retro tech community, I believe software developers should strive to make their software available on as wide a range of operating systems as possible, both new and old. Why can’t we have more RetroArch’s in this world?
A large amount of Nathan Tech’s software, including Calliope and Sunrise, suffers from OS limiting, requiring at least Windows 7 with a bunch of updates in order to run. However, they do support Windows 7, and they do run under 32-bit versions of Windows. Also, Luna RSS has Windows XP support. Hell, I even managed to get the thing to run under Windows 2000!

2. He was here, now he’s not

Again, I won’t be too harsh with this one, as I believe Nathan is doing a university degree at time of writing. I know how stressful education can be, I’ve been there many a time. However, it can be quite frustrating at times. Nathan can be very active online, chatting, developing, releasing… and then he’ll just fly off the face of the earth, taking days or even weeks to return.

Over all rating

Over all, Nathan Tech gets an excellent 8.75 out of 10. His altruistic nature, fiery passion for his work and willingness to help and support others no matter what earns him my highest honour. Let’s all take our hats off to this guy and what he brings to our world! Keep up the awesome work!

Conclusion

If you’d like to experience Nathan Tech’s work and show him some love yourself, you can check out his website and follow him on Twitter. The more people who know about this guy, the better. So go on, spread the awesomeness!

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 forgotten to format the drive before installing Windows, ultimately frying the boot loader and 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.

5 people I’d like to get to know in the Text to Speech community

At the back end of last year, I officially entered the Text to Speech (TTS) community, often abbreviated as

TTSC

. However, I entered the community with one major downside. Due to my lack of eyesight, and the TTSC’s content standards and conventions, there is a very limited amount of TTS content I can create. But being in a community isn’t just about contribution, it’s also about socialization, that’s why it’s called a community. With this in mind, there are 5 people that I’d really like to get to know and establish a personal friendship with, since these people, be it through guest appearances, direct or indirect references by other content creators etc, inspired me to get into TTS in the first place.

5: TheROFL98

TheROFL98 is the creator of the TTSCpedia as well as various Discord bots. I haven’t watched a lot of his videos, but I’ve heard a lot of him via other creators like Thunderbirds101 and CoolDude503. I will definitely start watching more of this guy’s videos. You can do the same by Checking him out on YouTube!

4: NKRS200

NKRS200 has been on the TTS scene for a while now, with content spanning about a decade. He was one of those who helped get the TTS community off the ground. He didn’t originally make TTS content when his channel first started, but it was Microsoft Sam and friends that really sent the views flying in with stuff like the Funny News Bulletins series. If full names are your style, NKRS200 is short for

NKRS200 TV Studios

.

3: FairPlay137

While not very active in terms of content creation, FairPlay137 has still put out some funny stuff, and he has many cool projects in the works, including stuff inspired by popular TTS blooper creator Dave Madson. FairPlay even has an error generator planned, however I won’t share it here since it’s a work in progress and I’m not sure how many people he wants to see it.

2: AT88TV

Arron T (AT88TV) was one of the first TTS creators I’d heard of, way before all the others mentioned in this countdown, when I stumbled upon Microsoft Sam videos purely by accident back in 2012/2013. Not surprising really, since he helped pioneer the whole thing! Oh, what we’d do to hear those ear-splitting EAS tones and Scotish bagpipes. It makes me wonder why Microsoft Sam keeps trying to subject the entirety of Scotland to his nuclear hellfire. AT88TV always has been, and will forever be, our favourite Scotsman!

1: Thunderbirds101

Seriously, where would the TTSC be without this wonderful Canadian? How can anyone not think of TTS and not have this guy immediately spring to mind! For about 13 years now, TB101 has been brightening up our lives with funny Windows errors, funny signs, off-the-wall Christmas specials, IWAY Cookie and Bologna Sandwich drama, and a hell of a lot more besides! I’d even go so far as to say that he’s the reason this awesome community exists! May Microsoft Sam continue to unleash nuclear hellfire hound us to death with the rules for the toilet and try to kill everyone with his diarrhoea dumps for many years to come!

Seedy’s MVPs of 2020

Well, here we are at the backside of another year. To say this year has been a tough one would be the understatement to end all understatements. 2020 has been a year of outsized devastation, loss, pain and suffering for all. We’ve all had to play a supportive role in each-other’s lives more than ever this year, and I feel it is vitally important that we recognize those who took the time out of their lives to keep us living ours as happily and freely as possible. Hence why this year, I’ve decided to try something new in the form of a countdown of 15 people who have been the most awesome to me over the past 12 months. Not all of these 15 people have necessarily played a supportive role in my life, but they have just been cool people in general with the content they’ve provided, the things they’ve said or done etc.
It was very hard to squeeze this list down to just 15 people. So many more people deserve to be on this list. However, TLDR is not what I aim for here. Also, perhaps inevitably, not everyone took just 1 position on the list; there were ties.

Privacy Notice

Because this list features people in my personal life, not just those I know online, I’ve taken a number of steps to ensure that everyone’s privacy is protected as much as possible.

  • First, I requested the prior permission of all offline (real life) friends featured in this list before featuring them, which they all granted.
  • In the case of real names, only the first letter of a person’s surname will be shown. If someone has a common online handle or nick name, that will be used instead. Only if a feature uses their real name in public will it be mentioned here.
  • No references to places of work or residence will be mentioned.

Final Notice

I honestly don’t care about your feelings towards the people featured on this list. If you personally dislike someone mentioned on this countdown, don’t go spouting off in here. Remember, WordPress uses an approval system for comments, meaning comments haved to be accepted by the site owner (me in this case) before they can show up on posts. Any negative or hurtful comments towards anyone mentioned here will be rejected without a second thought. Now, without any further ado, let’s proceed!

The bottom of the pile

15: MichaelMJD

Why so many people haven’t heard of this guy, I’ll never know. If you like crazy tech experiments, retrospectives, hardware and software overviews and demos, history lessons… basically anything tech related, MJD’s your guy! The downside, however, is that he only seems to accept business related communication one-to-one. If this wasn’t the case, I would have placed him considerably higher. He still qualifies for this list none the less. To experience this technological craziness for yourself, check out his YouTube channel.

14: The Nostalgia Mall and the Flying Scotsman

The Nostalgia Mall and the Flying Scotsman, otherwise known as Billy Core and Jay Wakefield respectively, are 2 YouTubers with a target audience of retro hardware and software lovers and nostalgia freaks. Those who know me well will know that I’m a sucker for the old school stuff. Billy and Jay are both retro tech collectors and have been on the scene for a good while. Long time viewers might remember Billy as “Road Geek” and Jay as “VideosSansFrontier”, which is french for “Videos Without Boarders”.
Like MJD, however, they are kind of hard to communicate with outside of their main platforms, which knocks them down a place or 2. In my view, any kind of communication is key, regardless of how it’s done or what it’s for. Billy and Jay’s YouTube accounts are listed below.

13: Brandon Cole

Brandon Cole, also known as Super Blindman, is the closest to an activist you can get, especially when it comes to accessibility in video games. He has expressed excitement for many video game titles that were made accessible this year, with one notable example being The Last of Us: Part 2. He even copilots the Break Down Walls movement with his wife Misty Rayburn. After you’re finished reading this, why not check out Brandon’s website and his Twitch channel.

12: Andre Louis

Andre is another one of those guys who is more unheard of than he really should be. He is a blind musician from the UK and has been highlighted many times in the media, including the BBC’s The world wide web’s a stage article. He even has his own YouTube channel. Oh, and he’s also a Friday Night Dinner fan. Can’t beat the classics, eh?

11: The King Cobra (AKA Angel)

If you need someone to talk to when you’re feeling low, or someone to brighten up your day when you lose your smile, Angel is the one to turn to. I’ve had many a conversation with him during the lockdown period and have always felt better as a result. He knows how you’re feeling and understands what you’re going through.

The Top Ten

10: Destructatron and Supremekiller

Despite the latter’s handle, these people are both really nice in their own way. Like Angel, SK is nothing but an empath who is always willing to help you out no matter what. Destructatron, meanwhile, is your funny, quick-witted tech support guy. He also knows how the community feels when some tech illiterate newbie doesn’t know what the hell’s going on and freaks the hell out at the sight of a terminal when they fly over to Linux. Remember guys, Linux is for code crackers and server admins, not people who don’t know what a god damn power button is!

9: Braille0109

I’ve known this guy for a couple years now. He’s the one for you if you want someone in your life who is strong willed and doesn’t take any crap from anyone. He’s also a good online gamer. I’ve been severely beaten in pretty much every game I’ve played with him. I predict many more years of severe in-game beatings.

8: Leanne E

Leanne has helped me a great deal during the dark and depressing lockdown months. She was always an email away, and always ready to dish up some witty reply to brighten the mood. I get along more with people who have a dry sense of humour than those who take things to heart and are angry all the time. Why so damn serious, dude! Hypersensitivity gets you nowhere in life.

7: Jade H

How could anyone possibly say anything negative about this person? Her sense of humour is better than mine, and that’s saying something. I’ve only known her for 5 minutes and she’s already in the top 10 of my MVP list? Wow, she must be good! She’s the type of person that makes you see that you’re not alone in your stresses in life. She sees more good in you than you think you have.

6: Lauren H

While not as technically minded as me, Lauren is quite the retro game console fan. She was also there for me a lot during the lockdown. Her sense of humour is also second to none.
<2>High Fives

5: Helen T

I always feel at home when she’s around. During the early part of lockdown when COVID19 was all over the news and my stress levels were through the ceiling, she was the one who pulled me back from the edge, replying pretty much instantly to any cyberspace message that came her way. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without this woman in my life. This year probably would have ended up like 2013 if it wasn’t for her.

4: Aly T

The fact that Aly is a huge fan of both the IT Crowd and Friday Night dinner because of me is not why she’s number 4 on this list. The real reason is that she was one of my first points of contact during those times of social isolation and quarantine, when the situation was starting to affect my physical health as well as my mental. She made me see that it’s perfectly OK to breathe easy and that health is much more important than work.

3: Richie W

You can’t get any more geeky and off-the-wall than this guy. He literally ticks all my boxes. Nerdy? Check. Loves the Simpsons and Futurama? Check. Loves sci-fi? Check. Wants every PC in the world to run Windows XP? Check. Would sooner consume content on CD or DVD than wait 6 weeks for a digital download? Check, check and check!

2: Gary W

There are a number of reasons why this man is the runner up at number 2.

      He has supported me and held my hand through every major breakdown I’ve had over the last 3 years, including before my PTSD started in 2018.
    1. He was the one who sinngle-handedly ignited my passion for retro gaming and emulation.
    2. He inspired me to fight for digital accessibility for everyone, playing a part in the events that lead to the launch of the House of Fireseed.
    3. He is receptive to everyone’s thoughts, opinions and feelings and is willing to go out of his way to fight your corner.

Number One!

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! Drum roll, please!

1: Jonathan Kay

Seizing the top spot this year is the guy who has ultimately become one of my all time favourite people in the short time I’m known him. It’s the Messenger Geek himself, Jonathan Kay! An ex Microsoft MVP, Kay provided support for MSN and Windows Live messenger for many years. Of course, that was up until Microsoft decided to purchase Skype and turn it into a clunky, laggy, inaccessible mess that’s more bloated than Homer Simpson after his obesity mission back in season 7. Thank you for feeding my nostalgic fires and bringing me back to my childhood roots before everything went to hell in a handbasket. We need more Trekies in the world, just like we need pre-2010 Microsoft back. Check out Jonathan’s website and blog.

Conclusion

And there it is, my top 15 most awesome people of 2020. Once again, well done to Jonathan Kay for bagging the top spot and becoming my official MVP of 2020. Apologies to everyone I had in mind who didn’t make this list. Who knows, you could be in the list next year. Here’s hoping 2021 is a better year for all of us!

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

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 Fireseed 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!

Apologies From Deep Down: A Message From the Heart

I’ve been wanting to do this for quite a while, but now I feel it is the right time to do it. I feel that there are some things I should apologize for. Certain things I’ve done in the past, or little quirks of mine, that might have caused harm or offence to one or more people in my life.

Broken promises

There are many things I said I would do and havent. Wild Windows Errors episodes, website articles, various other types of audio and text to speech stuff, etc. For that, I am truly sorry. I feel I have broken many promises to people. The fact is, I’ve just been too mentally tired and exhausted. Having to juggle college work, a stressful home life and the impacts of COVID19 is really weighing me down. TTS is something I love doing, and as soon as I find the mental and physical energy, I will continue doing it.

Spam, spam, spam, spam…

Whenever I see people online on any IM site or social media platform I’m on, I will often try to engage in conversation with them. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, if a person I’m talking with goes silent for a very long time (hours, days, weeks, etc) I get very upset and worried. I may send multiple messages to see if the person is OK, if our friendship is still good etc. If I appear as overly spammy, clingy or annoying, I sincerely apologize. It’s just the way my mind is wired. I can’t make any promises that this will improve quickly, but all one can do is try.

Me and my sharp tongue

I’d like to formally apologize to anyone I have spoken to in a way that has come off as overly snappy or harsh. When I’m stressed, upset, anxious or angry, I will often snap at people. When people find it hard to express their feelings, those feelings get bottled up inside, and it causes people to take their frustration out on others. I am no exception to this rule. After all, a balloon can only take so much in before it bursts with a loud bang! Please don’t take it personally if I say something to you that sounds hurtful or harsh, because I don’t mean it in any way, shape or form.

What’s all the hype

When someone does something nice for me, I will often give them credit and thank them for it. However, I sometimes give people too much credit, and it can end up coming across the wrong way. I won’t give any details, but this just happened recently. I felt so bad because I thought I’d caused great offence to that person, and I had to change my wording. If you have been affected by this, please know that I am deeply sorry and that I will try my darnedest to not let it happen again.

Conclusion

I hope you can understand the points I’ve made here and can accept my apologies. Nobody is perfect, and we all make mistakes in our lives. The important thing is that we learn from these mistakes and become better people for learning from them.

How anxiety impacts me socially

If you know me well, you’ll know that I love hanging out and talking to people. However, with my anxiety comes a whole lot of things that make something as enjoyable as socialising with people very difficult. In this blog post, I will describe some of the things that fire off bad feelings when I’m hanging out and socialising. The below points apply mainly to online communication, though some of them can apply to communication in the physical world also. Call me petty and weak if you want, but my mind is wired differently to yours, and you can’t judge me or think any less of me for it.

The sound of silence

When I’m in a voice chat with someone, or physically talking to someone who I don’t know very well, I will often sound quiet or not speak at all for a while. I often think that people will make fun of the way I talk, my accent, the way my voice sounds etc, or that they will simply not be able to understand what I’m trying to say. This makes me very sad, as it means that I may have lost a potential good friend. We all need friends in our lives, and feeling like you’re losing someone new who you have the potential to form a really close bond with is the worst feeling in the world.

Was it something I said?

I could be having a conversation with someone, and the person I’m chatting with could just stop replying out of the blue. It’s a two-stage process at that point. First, the anxiety kicks in. Many thoughts run through my mind, such as:

  • Did I say something wrong? Did a reference I make, a question I ask or a view I put across cause offence or anger towards me?
  • Am I being too annoying by asking too many questions, talking too much etc or does the person think I’m generally just a pain in the rear?
  • Does the person simply hate me and not want to talk to me?

Then, the depression starts. I get very sad and begin to feel isolated and alone, I feel guilty because I feel I’ve done wrong by that person, and I start to hate myself more and more.

Out of the loop

I could be with a group of people, and they could be discussing a topic that is completely alien to me. As a result, I will often feel as though I’m completely out of the loop, and not really a part of the group at all because I have nothing useful or understandable to contribute to the conversation with. I often find it hard to express my feelings to others, and as a direct result, they all get bottled up and I start to feel sad, lonely and left out.

Somebody help me, now!

I am often too afraid to ask people for help and support with things, especially tech support, because in the past, people have snapped at me for asking too many questions and I was once accused of “harassing” someone via email. While I do look things up online, often the articles I read will contain terrible grammar which annoys and frustrates me to no end. Also, you can’t always believe what you hear or see online. I just think that talking to someone about your problem is the best support method. I often get very anxious when asking a question or asking for help in general because I feel I have to word it perfectly so as to not sound stupid or anything else. This anxiety ultimately stops me from doing it, and I’m just left alone to figure things out. It’s an awful feeling when you’ve tried every possible solution you can think of and nothing has worked, or you just don’t know how to solve a problem and you feel you have nobody to turn to because you’re so anxious and scared that someone will react badly to your request for help.

Conclusion

I hope this post has taught you some things and help shed some light on the thoughts and feelings that I often experience when I communicate with people both in cyberspace and in the physical world of planet Earth. I bet I’m not the only one who experiences these feelings. Be sure to let me know down in the comments if you have any similar experiences to me and how certain social situations make you feel inside.

How the Corona Virus pandemic is affecting my mental health

I’m sure we all agree that the many impacts of the outbreak of COVID19, such as having to stay at home, having to remain 6 feet apart from one another, having to work and communicate virtually etc, is causing people to go insane. I am no exception to this rule. I already have a myriad of mental health complications, but all this stuff that’s going on right now is magnifying and amplifying these complications to no end. Here are just some examples of how the Corona Virus outbreak is impacting me mentally.

Working Remotely

 

 

I have an amazing support network at my college. They listen to my problems, they keep me calm, they are a shoulder to cry on, and they always know how to lift me up when I’m feeling down. Because I am having to work remotely, I feel I have lost this support network. Working remotely is the thing that is affecting me the most. Ever since the college closed, my depression has got a lot worse, my stress and anxiety levels are much higher, I’ve started losing more sleep, I want to cry all the time, I’m mentally and emotionally drained, work is constantly stressing me out, and I’m even too scared to check my emails in case teachers start asking for work that I either haven’t completed or made a complete mess of. I already feel like a failure, failing a college course will only make things a whole lot worse and people will think of me more as a disappointment and a letdown than they clearly already do. What do I do? Do I stress myself out and force myself to complete work to a perfect standard, bringing myself back to the same crisis point I was at in 2013, or do I take the risk of failing the course and having everybody I know and love openly despise me, probably also bringing me back to that 2013 crisis point? It’s a catch 22 scenario!

 

Television News Channels and the Internet

 

The television is constantly on during the day at my house and tuned into a news channel. I may be in my bedroom upstairs with the door closed, but sound travels and I can still hear it from downstairs. All these news channels are talking about is the damn Corona Virus! Nothing positive is happening in the news these days it seems! It’s gotten to a point now where my mind can’t tune it out anymore. The internet and social media doesn’t help either, but I can’t just stop using social media; it’s my primary method of contacting people. I’d just feel even more isolated than I feel now if I withdrew from the internet. The more I hear about CV, the less hope I have of this whole thing ever coming to an end.

 

Concerns about Family Members

 

I have external family members, both very young and very old, that I worry about on a daily basis because of Corona Virus. Keep in mind that I haven’t been allowed to see these family members for almost a decade, and a lot of things have probably changed since the last time I saw them. For all I know, half my family could be dead now. I made a lot of happy memories with these people; it’d be devastating if it turned out that some of them had left this world. It’s a constant fear that is pushing my depression and anxiety ever higher.

 

Those are 3 things that are really messing me up at the moment because of the whole COVID19 thing. Hopefully this madness will end soon! Stay safe and stay alive!

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