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

Windows 10 was an amazing operating system for a few days when I first installed it on to my gaming PC. My gaming PC, The Zebra X2, is a beast of a machine which can run most games that I play like Starcraft II and GTA V in the highest available settings (Core i7 4770K, 256GB SSD, 8GB DDR3 RAM and an AMD 7950) but latterly it struggled with simple things like starting up.

After I installed Windows 10 the machine ran fine. However, one day when I was playing a favourite game of mine, Command and Conquer 3, I noticed a slight drop in framerate from playing it the time before. I didn't think too much of it at the time but gradually I noticed that each time I played this game it was getting worse. At the very end before I ridded myself of Windows 10 it was running so slow that when I used the graphics intensive Ion Cannon superweapon the game would just freeze and the animation for the superweapon would not be shown. The game would resume after the Ion Cannon blast was finished. So what the heck was going on?

My initial thoughts were that the hard disk drives that I stored my games on were starting to fail. I tested them all with SMART tools and none of them showed any signs of failure. I then assumed that it was my SSD so decided to install an old SATA III HDD into the system and installed Windows 7 on to it. It ran fine. I upgraded it to Windows 10 and again, it ran fine. So I assumed it was the SSD. I left the SSD in the system just disconnected. 

After time, the same weird thing happened to my system - it began slowing and the graphics were getting messed up in games. So now I assumed it was the graphics card or the PCI controller that had failed on me. I took the GPU out of the system and used the dedicated graphics built in to the CPU. The system ran just the same so I now knew it wasn't the graphics card that had failed, but wasn't sure if it was a motherboard fault such as the PCI controller or the memory controller.

I decided to reinstall the SSD and flash my BIOS. Clearing the BIOS meant that I could set it back to the factory defaults and test it with them (I had tried this several times before but to no avail). Nothing changed. 

My next choice was to clear the SSD and install Windows 7 on it. After reinstalling I panicked slightly as it wasn't working well at all with the Desktop Window Manager crashing on startup. After installing Service Pack 1 everything seemed to work perfectly. I would like to say that Windows 7 was the solution but I can't be sure. 

I would probably put the problem down to several things: Windows 10 was clogging up the system (don't know why), the original BIOS was not designed for Windows 10 and would have required an update (I have since updated again and may try it again in the future with Windows 10) and that Windows just needed that little reformat that us Windows users need to do on a regular basis.

My fix appeared to have come from the reinstall of Windows 7 and the BIOS reset. I will keep everyone up to date with my progress with Windows 10 again in the future.

The Windows 10 upgrade tool can be a pain!

08.06.2016

Due to the upgrade tool in Windows 7, I have been upgraded to Windows 10. This time the system appears to be running well - that is at least in comparison to how it was before. I will keep you posted when it begins to slow down again (if it does).

Macs are now saving IBM money, according to Mac Rumours.

Also, Apple are releasing a new range of input devices, according to The Verge.

Also updated are the Retina iMacs with both models receiving updates.

Mac OS X has featured a dashboard for a long time. It was introduced in Mac OS X 'Tiger' (version 10.4) and since Mac OS X Lion (10.7) it has received barely any attention from the developers.

OS X Dashboard

Dashboard still has yet to change

But now since Lion it has had absolutely no updates. It still looks like something from pre-Yosemite with it's skeuomorphic icons and it just doesn't fit into OS X. I love the dashboard in OS X, but it looks close to it's end.

Apple Event

Just a quick reminder that Apple's September event takes place today at 18.00 UK time. 

You can find out more on Apple's website.

Possible releases could be a new Apple TV, a bigger iPad, the iPhone 6s, new Macs and more information about the new OSes.

I would love to make a liveblog on this, but unfortunately my host runs an Apache server and not an nginx server therefore every livepost I make ends up overloading the server so I will do a summary post at the end.

Finally, I have managed to get Windows 10. And the good news is it was so easy to install on my Mac (not like my PCs). 

Windows 10 scaling features work well, unlike Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 so I can finally use the high DPI of my Mac's display with Windows. I've been waiting for some time (since August 2014) to use Windows on my Mac (I had Windows until April of that year on my older MacBook and I've always had it on my Mac mini as well) and it's nice to finally have it again!

My tablet has just finished upgrading to Windows 10 as well due to the fact that unlike the installer Microsoft has been giving out, 'burning' a plain old ISO to a USB drive on my Mac works.

I will finally get round to doing my review. In general, I'm positive about the experience I'm going to have with this OS, considering Microsoft's tick-tock cycle of good OS (ME, XP, 7, 10) then bad OS (2000, Vista, 8).

When I first started to use Mac OS X, Finder's Spotlight was quite a simple piece of technology - search your system for what you need when you need it. I used to also very much dislike the iOS Spotlight until iOS 7 which made it easy to use and now I use it to run any app on my iPhone or iPad.

I got very used to the idea of using Spotlight for starting apps and now I do it to open anything on my system because it's just so fast. There's even a shortcut that will let you open it and type in what you need in a flash (which is ⌘ + SPACE).

But there is so much more to Spotlight now. 

Here I've demonstrated my favourite use - a calculator:

Using it as a calculator means you can write out the expression very quickly and it supports a range of different mathematical features including the following keywords:

  • sin, cos, tan, sqrt
  • ^ - power
  • % - modulo
  • Brackets

This is just a few of the useful calculator operations you can do from your Spotlight search on your Mac.

On Mac OS X, you have many different ways to take screenshots:

  • Command + Shift + 3 - takes a fullscreen screen shot of the system and saves it to the Desktop
  • Command + Shift + 4 - takes a screen shot of an area that you select using the selection rectangle that appears after then stores it on the Desktop
  • Command + Shift + 4 then SPACE - takes a screen shot of a selected window on the display and stores it on the Desktop
  • Command + Ctrl + Shift + 3 - takes a fullscreen screen shot and stores it on the clipboard
  • Command + Ctrl + Shift + 4 - takes a screen shot of an area that you select using the selection rectangle that appears after then stores it on the clipboard
  • Command + Ctrl + Shift + 4 then SPACE - takes a screen shot of a selected window on the display and stores it on the clipboard

I use the second one the most, because I find it more useful to have a copy of the screen shot on my system. But the problem is, I end up with too many images on my desktop.

I'd really like to fix this by making the screen shots go to my Pictures/Screenshots/ directory. So a bit of looking around the web and I found the solution using Bash:

To start with open up a new Terminal window. This can be found in Applications/Utilities/Terminal.app.

Write/copy the following on a single line:

Bash
defaults write com.apple.screencapture location ~/Pictures/; killall SystemUIServer

And you are done!

I have noticed this time and time again, but for all you people who have never experienced the Mac experience, this is how your PC looks from a Mac's Finder:

This is how Macs see PCs

It's been speculated for sometime that a new Mac Mini is next on the line up for Apple. Well, once again, the Belgian store computerstore.com has placed on their site a new Mac Mini, featuring Iris graphics.

The picture below shows that the CPU and RAM have yet to be placed here but the Iris graphics definitely sounds like a new feature. From this, we can assume it to be Haswell powered and not a future generation of Intel CPU that is going to take us by surprise in April.

Mac Minis on display

The lack of a new Mac Mini is frustrating

If you are not familiar with Mac OS X Terminal commands, then you may be unaware of the flexibility it gives you.

For a start, one of my favourite things to do is to change the way the Dock works. I'm going to show you two different yet really cool things you can do with the Mac Dock.

Add a separator to the Dock

This is a real nifty trick that helps separate icons on the Dock so that there is a better structure. I'm still surprised that Apple does not include an easy way to use this feature in the Apple Menu.

So here are the Terminal commands:

Bash
defaults write com.apple.dock persistent-apps -array-add '{tile-data={}; tile-type="spacer-tile";}'
killall Dock

Lock the Dock

To me locking the Dock on Mac OS is a necessary feature. This again is completed via the Terminal. This can be achieved using the following commands:

Bash
defaults write com.apple.Dock contents-immutable -bool yes
killall Dock

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