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

So I was somewhat disappointed by the latest Nintendo Direct, but two things stood out.

I particularly liked the re-releases of Pokemon Red, Blue and Yellow and the HD remake of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which just so happens to be my favourite console game ever. I was also taken in by the trailers for the new Xenoblade and Starfox games.

I was also obviously interested in the Smash Bros content that is to be released, but was slightly disappointed to see Final Fantasy becoming a part of Smash Bros. None-the-less, any new content for the game is always good (but more money that needs spent, sadly).

Age of Kings

One of my absolute favourite games in my lifetime (possibly second or third) is Age of Empires II. I have always liked strategy games and Age of Empires II is no exception to this. In fact, Age of Empires II was the first game that I had asked for, all the other games (Warcraft Orcs and Humans, Goldeneye and F1 Racing for the Nintendo 64 to name a few) were all bought for me without me having any say at all. I had the original game, The Rise of Rome, on my father's CTX Via Cyrix laptop and I occasionally played it whilst we were going away. I had been playing the trial of the game for a few months with my good friend Nick. We had our first multiplayer LAN game several weeks after owning it and that was the selling point of the game to me.

I got Age of Empires II just before my 9th birthday and it had a big cardboard box. The excitement was running through me and I could't wait to play it. I took it straight to my other really good friend Calum's house.

We played for hours and hours and I fell straight in love with it as I had expected. I went home and continued to play it.

I played it right up until about 2007, and then Windows Vista came out. Windows Vista caused a problem with LAN play as it doesn't support some of the protocols that Age of Empires II required. I tried and tried but I didn't get it to work properly - occasionally kicking me out and stopping me from playing.

I resorted to playing a game which although was beautiful and fun, lacked on the some of the LAN features in the previous. Age of Empires III was one of the best games I had played in a long time; however, it did have one serious drawback. When you create a map or scenario in Age of Empires III there is a huge problem when trying to play it over LAN as you could not choose one of your own maps without having to do many different programming extras. To me this seemed like a lot of work for nothing.

So in 2009 I remember signing some petition to have a remake of Age of Empires II for Windows 7 just as they did for Starcraft (you can download it from Battle.net or purchase the Best Seller version). Well to everyone's surprise they did release it again. On the 9th of April 2013 it is to be released (I already own it because I preordered) to Steam, where everyone can download the game. Right now my father, who has also downloaded it, is blasting the enemy with his Teutonic Cannon Galleons in the background whilst I am typing this and my brother was playing a game with me earlier. They all loved Age of Empires II as much as I did. Nick and Calum have also already purchased it. It seems as popular, if not more popular than it was before.

So now to the beefy bit...What I thought/think of Age of Empires II HD. Firstly, the game is nearly perfect in my personal opinion because it is a pure remake. That's unique in its own respect because there are so many games that are remade but with improved graphics and all the rest and it just doesn't seem to work as well as a pure remake. My original score for the game is 100, but instead of adding points I will deduct for the bad features in this case. Here are the bad points:

  • No LAN play - I liked the idea of inviting friends to my house to share my local area network.
  • Map size - there is no difference for the map size. The maximum size of a map is still 'Giant' and cannot be any larger than this. This seems a shame considering on a 1080p display like my own it feels like you get about an eighth of the map on the screen at once.
  • The trigger editor is still the same and has not had any added triggers to help make the map editing more flexible.
  • It has achievements - I dislike achievement based games. They make gaming too competitive and although I used to be a competitive gamer, I gave up on that and play games for leisure (as you'll see from a list of different games where I really play them once in a full moon).
  • You cannot change the resolution - absolute nightmare if you do want to have a 1080p monitor but run the game in say 1280 x 720 progressive which I do. To solve this, run Windows in 1280 by 720.
  • A few new confusing icons - the top left Food icon is the most prominent example. I get confused with Food and Gold and if it were not for the fact that I know the order of the resources (Wood, Food, Gold and then Stone), I would keep making the mistake that I made initially with thinking that the Food icon was meant to be Gold.
  • Still as buggy as with the previous version - one of my favourite bugs is walking down cliffs which previously had trees on them. This can be done in the Map Editor by simply placing trees and then placing cliffs under them. As soon as the tree is chopped down units can walk up and down the cliff as they please. The Map Editor also sometimes hides the cursor and does not reshow it, which is really annoying.
  • The biggest disappointment is that you can still only control 40 at once. This looks incredibly odd on the new resolution as on my 1080p display you use the first row and half of the second row and that's all that is used when you could have another 2 or 3 rows worth of units. An odd choice there.

However the new features that have been added to the game do make it worthwhile:

  • New water effects (pictured previously) - the water is nicer than it was before, but was it needed?
  • Maximum population is now 500 - an increase of 300 villagers or Longbowmen!
  • Internet capabilities again - play with a random selected person or with friends
  • Much higher resolution - much more on the screen

And some of the most important reasons for me to purchase it are as follows:

  • Support for old maps (although they are still maximally limited as before)
  • A pure remake is what I wanted, but it may not be what others wanted

As this game is still one of my favourite games of all time remade, I cannot really give it less than 9 out of 10. So if it were out of 100, I would end up giving it about 85/100.

I finally tried HDMI on a computer graphics card for the first time and I've tried DisplayPort for the very first time. Obviously there is no major difference between them and DVI and to be honest, I feel that they both have one major let down - no screws to hold the connector in. This quibble may be seen by many as an advantage, but I personally see this as a disadvantage as I move the monitor around a lot (from landscape to portrait).

I got myself an XFX Radeon 5670 graphics card. It's slimline so it doesn't block any of those important PCI slots, but it's not exactly the most powerful card in the world (although it has thermal design power of 75W which is very low for a dedicated card these days). The card features DisplayPort, DVI and HDMI.

XFX Radeon 5670

I will be using DisplayPort for my LCD monitor and HDMI with my LCD TV. 

I personally back DisplayPort over HDMI because it's royalty free, hence why I chose a monitor with DisplayPort instead of HDMI. Clearly the contrast is shown here that HDMI is for the consumer electronics market whilst DisplayPort is designed for the computing industry.

Despite the royalty free, DisplayPort seems to be slow at taking off compared with the more expensive HDMI connector.

I've also noticed that Apple (and their lovely MacBook Pro range) have started adding Mini DisplayPort connectors to their devices. These connectors can be converted to full DisplayPort, DVI, HDMI or VGA. HDMI can only really be converted to DVI but adapters do exist to convert to VGA from what I understand.

On the subject of Apple, I am hating my iPhone more and more day by day and I am thinking about a Windows Phone. Anything but Apple!

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