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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Me
Jamie Balfour BSc
Full stack developer

Personal Blog

After a long thought process, I am very happy to finally be bringing the index accessor to ZPE A lot of languages that ZPE aspires to transpile to also have this, so it's fairly important.

It looks like this:

$v[3]

Currently assignment to this is not possible, but it will be soon. I am going to deprecate the list_get_at_index and the equivalent for associative arrays. 

Also in the latest vesion of ZPE is the early stages of Typo - ZPEs runtime type checker (it will also be in compile time too) and the new feature which will allow you to produce web pages utilising ZPE. 

The latter feature is more of a side project than a major one.

Also, I'm glad to say in the next few hours I will continue the ZPE refactor that takes a lot of ZPE 1.3 out of the code. The big refactor has minimised code from 15,000 lines to just under 9,000 overall, but the structure is miles better.

I also hate to say it, but ZPE is running low on byte codes, with only 160 left at the present point in time (meaning that 96 have been used). 20 more of these are reserved for special purposes.

Whilst I only suffer moderate depression compared to what I had at first, I do still suffer. Occasionally I get very 'down'. When you get like this the anger starts to build, you get very angry with myself over nothing, overreact to situations and you contemplate why you're in the situation you're in. All of these are pretty normal side effects of depression.

People blame you for your way of reacting - they never quite fully understanding what happens inside your head. This is because they don't understand what depression actually means. When I get down without knowing why and ask "why are you angry?" or "why are you sad?", the truth is, there's no reason. And more importantly, I cannot figure out how to stop or prevent it.

But I've figured out why this is. It's down to the fact that we are not trained on what depression is and how to deal with it. At no point in our lives are we ever told what depression is and how to cope and more crucially, deal with it. 

There's a lack of information available on depression1, and a lot of it is highly specific. When you go and see your GP for instance, they will give you a pill, or in my case send you to a professional (all that the professional did was diagnose me as clinically depressed and ran some tests on my congnition and so on) or send you to a counsellor who will talk with you. All of these are good in the short term, but knowing things for the long term is far more important - and even with the support I've had at home and so on, depression still manages to creep back in. 

Explaining the problems caused by being depressed to friends and family is difficult since in most cases they've never had a problem like depression themselves. I'm telling this from experience because I knew someone who was depressed before I was, and I did not understand or see what depression actually was at the time. There's a lack of information for them too.

I also find that depression drugs and treatment do not work, and more importantly leave you with more problems than you had at first (at least some of them). There is evidence also that describes what I am describing - the side effects of depression drugs can actually be pretty severe2. There are medications out there will do the job, and some of these are herbal, but a lot of these drugs are risky to say the least.

So what's next? For a start, more information on what depression means and what the patient may be suffering from. Knowing when someone is depressed is pretty important, and it can be preventive of something more serious. Also, there needs to more information on keeping people with depression safe, because when you go into these downward spirals it can be very difficult to get back out. If there was information on methods to prevent this that you could use yourself (I occasionally get these and choose to watch a film or go on a walk on my own) it could prevent the downward spiral from even really starting. Finally, and perhaps most crucially, there needs to be far more information on the effects of the drugs that can be taken for people with depression since so of these drugs may have adverse side effects such as becoming further depressed or anxious. I took on some of these drugs myself when I was really bad, and I found that although they helped with my depression they made me far more anxious.

As many of you know, I'm a huge fan of the Warcraft game series and since the very first game I ever played was a Warcraft game, I've always been not only entertained by the series but fascinated by it's lore. 

Once about 10 years ago, slightly after the release of World of Warcraft, I declared that I could not play the game because of two reasons. The first of those was the price of £8+/month and the second was that I believed it would ruin the Warcraft story lines. 

Well today, I tried out WoW for the first time (and I've been wanting to do this for a long time, but I really do not like the idea of playing it on my own). My opinion has changed. I learned so much about the mechanics of the game today (I thought at first that players battled each other constantly, it seems I was wrong!).

Today I even got the pleasure of experiencing a moment I remember from 14 years ago when I played Warcraft III (my favourite game of all time) for the first time when I saw King Terenas' throne room.

King Terenas' throne

An amazing sight - King Terenas' throne

All of this is enough to convince me that this game is for me. 

I obviously thank my good friend Calum for finally making me see sense and getting into WoW!

Blizzard's Warcraft III may be over 14 years old, but I still consider this to be the best game of all-time and I still put a lot of time into developing for it.

Many years ago, in the high time of Warcraft III's lifetime, a scenario (or a mod as some may know it) was released called Spellcraft. For years, new versions have been scarce and it's not possible to edit the map file with the World Editor since the original owners locked it. 

As a result of all of the lack of openess, modular design and modern features, I am bringing a new scenario known as Heroes of Dalaran. This scenario is in many ways similar to Spellcraft in that uses the same system to generate the spells. I have a working prototype of this map and it currently features Gladiator Mode from Spellcraft and a new Research Mode (users can investigate spell combinations here) and Strife Mode is well underway.

The core focus of Heroes of Dalaran is the modularity of the triggers - something that many maps out there do not consider. I am also trying to make it open to development, and while I know Warcraft III has less users than ever since Starcraft II's success took many of us away, I do believe that it could be a fantastic scenario that everyone can enjoy. 

There is a page dedicated to this now on my website here.

I just wanted to share this article because I was never a fan of Flash on YouTube:

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/jan/30/flash-youtube-nostalgia?CMP=share_btn_tw

I am glad that Flash has finally been ditched in favour of the newer HTML5 standard. My website only uses HTML5 video, there are no Flash videos to be found on my site.

I will say however, this article does remind me of some of my favourite early YouTube videos that I saw all the way back before YouTube even became the monster it is now (in fact before Google owned it). I particularly loved the 'End of the World' video back in the day (although I think I saw it before YouTube existed on StupidVideos.com).

So 2014 has almost come to an end, and with that I've just done another of my summaries of the last things I did in the year.

Last meal I ate: Baked potato with cheese

Last thing I had to drink with a meal: Coke Life

Last place I went out to eat or drink: Goblin Ha'

Last film I watched: James Bond - Goldfinger

Last game I played: Pokemon Omega Ruby

Last song I listened to: In Dulce Jubilo - Mike Oldfield

Last person I have sent a text to: Daniel Graham

Last friend I have spoken to in person: Daniel Graham

Last TV programme I have watched: EastEnders

Last major purchase for myself: Mac mini 2012

2014 to me was not a very good year, university has been tougher than ever and my depression has managed to seep back into my life. As well as this, I lost the wonderful little Petro, who I still miss dearly. On the brighter side, we now have another rabbit - Sweep, who is turning out to be a lovely rabbit too. We also now have a hamster - Henry, who is also a lovely little fella. 

On the website front, this site has been finished for months and was officially released as version 3.5 in May this year - the finalised design of the site. Since then only minor tweaks have been applied to the site.

Since I started my website, I've been putting in loads of little things that make my site more attractive.

In my eyes, CSS is one of the best things to come to the world, because with it your creativity can flow wildly and you can build sexy sites.

Anyway, enough about that and enjoy some of my favourite styles and features of my site. Each of these elements is entirely my own work - none of the styles are taken from others. This post will not be focusing on my blog although I created it.

Note

My note is used to represent something of importance that should be noted.

Code sample

My code sample is used to hold a piece of code in it.

Data table

My data table is used as a table designed for holding data, rather than being used for any form of layout. The black style was inspired by the dark mode on my site.

The inline code sample

My inline code sample is used to put code in the middle of a paragraph of text.

The tooltip

My tooltip is used within an article or page to represent information that should likely be already known and is left out of the main body of the article. Hovering the text will make the tooltip bubble visible.

The image frame

My image frame is designed to hold an image. It also has space for a caption below.

The block image frame

My block image frame is different to my standard image frame in that it will take precisely 50% of the content space (minus padding and margins) and if another image goes to the side will begin floating to one side.

The photo gallery album container

The album container is a feature of my photo gallery that many find particularly nice. This is used to hold a front photo of a collection of photos.

Colourful lists

In Novemeber, one of the features I decided to build was a collection of different colourful lists. A few have said they are very full of character and bring some nice new design features to my site.

The floating logo

I've had loads of comments from people who like my logo, but also people liking the fact it floats over the page.

The lined document

This document style that looks like a lined piece of paper was designed for keeping notes on my site. I use it in the University section.

A lot of this has now changed since this went mostly on a skeumorphic design pattern.

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.

What a year 2012 has been! We have had loads of brilliant things like the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics, as well as the 50th anniversary of James Bond all in the space of one year! What a year indeed!

With a variety of different things being shown on TV this year as always, I felt I had like to remember 2012 my way. So what I have done here is compile a list of the last things I did in 2012, so that I have a memory forever.

Last meal I ate: Battered fish with chips and mushy peas

Last thing I had to drink with a meal: Coca Cola

Last place I went out to eat: The Marine Hotel

Last film I watched: James Bond Octopussy

Last game I played: Batman Arkham Asylum

Last song I listened to: Brinstar of Old (from Super Smash Bros Brawl soundtrack)

Last person I have sent a text to: Murray Szymanski

Last friend I have spoken to in person: Calum Cormack

Last TV programme I have watched: Scotland's Hogmanay Live

Last major purchase for myself: Hauppauge HD PVR2

So that is the end of 2012 almost, and it has been one heck of a good year. Now all we have to do really is say goodbye to it and say hello to 2013. That will be in a good few hours, and the list may have changed then! But until then, let us enjoy what is left of the year!

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