Jamie Balfour BSc

Welcome to my personal website!

Technology enthusiast

I am very interested in technology, particularly relating to computer science. I am most interested in web design and development.

My main hobby is programming. One of my most well known products from this is ZPE. I also am the sole creator of BalfBlog, BalfBar and BalfSlider.

A little bit about me

In 1997, when I was six years of age, I got my very first computer. I was always very interested in the ins and outs of it and dismantled it to see how it worked.

Years later, in 2016 I received my BSc (with honours) in Computer Science, obtaining a First class degree.

I'd like to welcome you to my website and hope you enjoy using it as much as I have enjoyed building it!

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Jamie Balfour BSc
Full stack developer

Personal Blog

I'm sure that a lot of you will remember a lot of revolutions in technology, but perhaps the biggest one was when we moved away from parallel ports, slow serial ports and eventually even PS/2 and moved to USB. Eventually, the competition started to appear such as FireWire and eSATA, whose focus was mostly on storage as opposed to general (or universal) use. Both have pretty much vanished. eSATA attempted to side with USB by forming a combo port, but unfortunately did not last, partly due to the lack of robustness in SATA and eSATA cables and partly due to the fact that SATA as a standard has all but been replaced by PCI Express.

We all knew that when PCI-X and AGP were superseded by PCI's younger sibling, PCI Express, that it had come back with a vengeance. Boasting 2.5Gbps across a single lane all the way back in 2004, PCI Express was bound for success.

A single lane PCI Express card

But it's not until now that one of the things I've dreamt of has become a reality. Back in 2011, I proposed on my blog an idea to expand PCI Express into external GPUs through the use of ExpressCard - an exceptionally clever use of both PCI Express and USB to make a single standard capable of multiple speeds (sounds familiar, right?). Of course, eGPUs did exist for ExpressCard, but they were slow and cumbersome - not something many people would want.

Behold, Thunderbolt! Thunderbolt was original only capable of 10Gbps, which is the speed of a single PCI-E version 3 lane - that's a 16th of a desktop graphics cards maximum bandwidth. So next came Thunderbolt 2, capable of twice the speed, we're now talking about 20Gbps, and eGPUs were now actually possible. The problem with Thunderbolt 2 is that there were very few eGPUs made. One possible reason for this is because the majority of computers featuring Thunderbolt 2 were Macs. Not many PCs were built with the capability to use Thunderbolt 2, and it makes little sense to make an eGPU for Mac users since the majority of us don't intend to play games on our Macs and use them more for productivity. 

Thunderbolt now uses the USB-C connector

Of course, the natural successor to Thunderbolt 2 was Thunderbolt 3. Prior to the announcement of Thunderbolt 3, Intel was working on improving the old USB standard to feature a more robust, smaller, yet more capable USB connection. Since USB Type A and USB Type B already existed, USB Type C was the name for this connection. USB Type C, or USB-C as it is often referred to, offered up to 10Gbps over the USB standard, aptly named USB 3.1. Within a few weeks of USB-C being announced, it was made clear that the new USB-C connector (remember, USB Type C is the name of the connector, not the standard) would also become the connector for Thunderbolt (Thunderbolt has always been lazy since originally it used the mini DisplayPort connector as the primary interconnect for Thunderbolt). 

USB-C as the primary Thunderbolt connector meant that this new connector offers USB 3.1 speeds of 10Gbps, DisplayPort speeds of 17Gbps, HDMI speeds of 18Gbps and Thunderbolt speeds of 40Gbps, all over the one connector. To me this is awesome. This means so much will get replaced by this connector. 

Let's take a look at what this connector is directly capable of:

  • Thunderbolt 3 - x4 PCI Express Generation 3
  • DisplayPort 1.2
  • HDMI 2.0
  • USB 3.1
  • VGA - through DisplayPort
  • DVI - through DisplayPort or HDMI
  • USB 3.0
  • Native PCI Express cards supporting so many connections such as FireWire, eSATA, RS232, LPT and much more
  • PCI through PCI Express converter
  • Thunderbolt 1 and 2 devices

Because of the ability to connect straight on to the system bus (PCI Express), the system can indeed use many different PCI Express cards directly. 

So, whilst I originally was concerned that Thunderbolt would destroy all other connectors, the Thunderbolt standard seems to have added better native connectivity to older standards than before, which is amazing. One connector for all seems to finally be true.

I pay quite a bit to host all of my websites, ranging from jamiebalfour.co.uk (the original), to jamiebalfour.me (an addon domain), jamiebalfour.com (my personal website, now with HTTPS), clickit.education and finally, zenlang.net.

Since version 1.5 will rename the syntax of ZPE, zenlang will no longer be the valid name. On top of this, the website has received much less attention from myself and has been left a bit of a mess. As a result, zenlang.net will no longer remain online from next year when it goes up for renewal. I will leave it as a subdomain (which is always available too at http://zenlang.jamiebalfour.com.) for the future and will probably work on it for a while before I relaunch it with the new name.


ZPE production has currently stopped as I have decided to focus on my other projects a bit more at the moment. These projects currently include BalfBlog and my PhD. As a result ZPE production has currently been halted. This is a decision that has been made since ZPE is currently pretty stable and is already very impressive. 

ZPE was never meant to be just another programming language, simply a little project I've been working on, and one that's given me a great insight into building a compiler and a language, as well as given me a lot of fun and something I can actually use to do some tasks.

The primary focus for me now is on the improvement of BalfBlog which is currently pretty stable too. BalfBlog needs new features added to it to make it more powerful and useful, but as I say it's pretty much done now anyway. 

As you are maybe aware, Microsoft announced Project Scorpio at E3 a few days back; a second iteration of the Xbox One with more power and capabilities of 4K video output that will also includes 4K games. However, some of us will be disappointed Microsoft is making games specifically for the new console.

My brother used to argue that the Xbox is great because all you do is press a single switch and it's on in a few seconds and because it didn't need upgrading every four or so years. In direct comparison to my 2011 and 2013 PCs, the time for the Xbox One start up is actually about 3 or 4 seconds longer than them. So this argument is now void. The argument about upgrading has also become invalid due to Scorpio

Another argument was the lack of exclusive and fresh games on PC, but I think Steam has since taken care of this. And a lot of Xbox exclusives such as Titanfall have since come to PC. Microsoft also announced that many new 'exclusives' would now come to PC too.

So really, what is the difference between the Xbox One and your gaming PC?

The Xbox One is an x86 based machine, running Windows under the hood, and games at less than 1080p. So it's the same architecture as your PC. Why would you really bother with a system that doesn't do half of what your gaming PC can do? 

The controller, right? I do admit the controller for the Xbox One is amazing (it's why I chose it over the PS4). But wait, what's that you say? You can use your controller with your PC?! Indeed. This is a crucial point to me, since there are games that I would rather play with a controller such as GTA V, but then there are other games I'd still rather have my WASD key combination for.

So now the Xbox One will be a PC you cannot upgrade yourself but will need to update by buying a new one every few years, am I right? Well this is what Scorpio makes it look like. 

So give me one argument for why an Xbox One is better than a PC. I really am having a hard time trying to figure out why I bought an Xbox One, since I've not enjoyed many of the games I own so far. 

Please note, this post is not a criticism of the Xbox One, more of it's upgrade strategy.  

Back in the day, when Netscape and Microsoft started the First Browser War, Internet Explorer and Netscape Communicator fought to become the most popular browser. 

Ultimately, to many people's dislike Internet Explorer won and Netscape disappeared. Netscape Communicator evolved into Firefox. At this time Internet Explorer's share of the browser market kept growing, largely due to the fact that it was bundled with Windows until the EU decided to make it compulsory for Microsoft to include a way for users to change to other browsers easily.

Since then, I have become a web developer, and I stopped using Internet Explorer again in favour of Firefox and eventually Safari. I'm not the only one who stopped using Internet Explorer however. Year on year the share for Internet Explorer has dropped. Here is are the statistics that shows this for November 2015 from W3 Schools:

November 67.4 % 6.8 % 19.2 % 3.9 % 1.5 %

And here is a set of statistics from 2002, 13 years ago (when I used Netscape I'll have you know!)

November 5.2 % 83.4 % 8.0 %

But why is this the case?

Microsoft just didn't care

Microsoft were very bad at developing Internet Explorer between iterations, they thought because they had a huge market share that they wouldn't loose it. I only realised this after becoming a web developer myself, since developing for Internet Explorer all the way up to IE9 is very difficult.

Even if other browsers had features for a year or two, Internet Explorer would most likely not get these features for a long time after. Prefixed support wasn't even there. Microsoft, as always, just thought it was ok to just leave it. 

Microsoft only cared when Internet Explorer started to disappear.

The future

Microsoft will have a lot of catching up to do with Microsoft Edge since Internet Explorer got them the bad name of the browsers. I personally do not see this happening in a way that will transform the share so that Microsoft has the upper edge again, but I can see them regaining some of the lost ground with it.

Edge is a fantastic browser, especially from Microsoft. Edge really does support cutting edge technologies and implements most of the web standards well.

To a lot of you this will not come as a surprise but for some it might.

I've not been actively uploading to YouTube since August last year and this comes because I make serious money from my own website. I also made a promise that by the end of 2011 I would have uploaded at least 150 videos. Alas, 2014 has come and I'm still not at 150 videos.

I'm afraid since then my interest in uploading videos to YouTube has been going down. I've also been thinking about what I would like to have in the future. To me that is my website.

With YouTube I got more and more lazy and time went on and as the videos I was editing took longer to edit and upload. I find my website more interesting and a more productive way to spend my time than reviewing stuff on YouTube.

I will leave my YouTube channel up as requested by one of my friends, and may in time upload a video or two, but no longer maintain the original scheme of uploading.

I think it is about time I started to capture some footage of some of my old games, such as Age of Empires II, and show some strategies and ways to play the game well.

This comes because I received an email from one of the sites I am subscribed to and it was describing strategies in this very old, but very good game.

This will be one of my new things that I will hopefully be bringing to YouTube over the summer. I also want to see if others would agree.

Games that I would most likely include are my three oldest PC games:

Warcraft Orcs and Humans
Command and Conquer 95
Age of Empires II: The Conquerors

I would also like to show some newer games including:

Warcraft 3
Age of Empires III

And more

I've got FRAPS, which is a brilliant piece of software.

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