Trains, Amigas, Japan and Czechia

Well, first up, my apologies for such a late first blog post for 2023. To say this year has been crazy busy has been an understatement. 

I have been travelling overseas since after Christmas 2022 in Japan and Czech Republic, and only really came back to some normality around 2 weeks ago when I finally returned home.

I hope you and your family are well and having a great 2023 so far.

For the last two weeks since I returned home, (when not working) I have been busy working on beta testing the upcoming AmiKit 12 release, across Windows, MacOS, Linux and Raspberry Pi 4B/Pi400 platforms. I will hopefully be able to reveal more about the new version on this blog once it is released. 

This AmiKit 12 testing work is very interesting, but has sadly left me very little time to blog!

I realised so much has happened in 2023, the year is slipping away being March already, and I have so little time at the moment to make many blog posts I had planned to do to cover it all. 
So I hope you understand I plan to cover everything so far this year in this blog post, covering a few different areas - Amiga, C64, Japan, Czech republic and trains!
Let's talk computers first. 
I saw this week the release of AmigaOS 3.2 Update 2, which also comes with a new kickstart rom. 
It is great to see AmigaOS is still being updated in 2023! 
I haven't had time to do it yet, but I hope to take a closer look at this on my blog very soon, as I want to upgrade my Amiga 2000 and Amiga 600, which both run AmigaOS 3.2 to the latest version.

I tried out a new Amiga game called Connect from LogicalByte, which I first read about in the K&A plus magazine I got last year. I was surprised I didn't see it before. It is an interesting challenging puzzle game:

Sadly I couldn't buy the physical box version they sell on their website, as they don't ship to Australia. 

So I bought the digital download version instead which runs on a standard Amiga 500. I wrote out the ADF file to a real floppy disk as I have recently been a kick to use real floppy disks rather than ADF files and goteks on my Amigas.

I realise that eventually the disks or drives will fail, which makes me more determined to use them while they still work. Gotek can be used when I need to use it. For now, it is floppy disks all the way.

The instructions are included in the game itself and simply enough to understand.

There are a certain number of connections between chips and you have to create the connections, without exceeding the allow number of connections for each chip.

This supports multi player, but I couldn't try that out.

I have to admit, I really enjoyed this, and the game presents quite a challenge to solve each board presented.

I also played around with the new version of Hippoplayer (available on Aminet), that now supports playback of MP3 audio as well as mods! I can use the MHI driver from my ZZ9000AV card on my Amiga 2000 to have perfect Mp3 playback via hippo player with no cpu load to decode the mp3's. Fantastic!

In the process of testing this version for AmiKit 12, I also found an issue with the vertical blank screen refresh that Hippoplayer uses, and this causes window slowdowns on AmigaOS 3.2 when using a newer ZZ9000 RTG screenmode and the original Picasso96 drivers. 

I found once I upgraded the free Picasso96 drivers on the Amiga 2000 to the latest commercial P96 drivers from Individual computers, this fixed the issue.

I was lucky enough last weekend to pickup some old Amiga software from a local seller, which I will need to find some time to try out:

I was particularly happy to get another x-copy hardware device, as I only have one. Now I can use it on another Amiga to copy disks.

I quickly tried out Super Space invaders on the Amiga 500, and it runs well and is a lot of fun - and oldie but a goody:

I also got to work installing some of the other applications I bought but haven't installed as yet, like Scribble, here being installed on the Workbench 1.3 side of my Amiga 3000 system (it can dual boot into Workbench 1.3 or Workbench 3.1.4.

While I was in Japan in January, naturally I stopped by Beep, a retro computer store in Akihabara in Tokyo. They had some Amiga games available too which is rare in Japan (bottom shelf in the photo below).

I decided to pick up Arkanoid for Amiga from Beep, which I have never owned before, and comes in this beautiful fold up case that opens out with beautiful game instructions printed inside:

I tested the Arkanoid Amiga game disk when I finally got home and I am pleased to say it worked!
On the C64 front, I got the new release Muddy Racers game on cartridge, and it looks like a very exciting new racing game for the commodore 64. You can buy it here from Protovision.

I also picked up the new A Pig Quest game digitally, which I need to find some time to try out soon, as from the reviews it appears to be an amazing game. I have also pre-ordered Lykia on floppy disk which is on its way to me, another exciting new game for the Commodore 64. You can download digitally for free here.

It seems new games are arriving for the C64 very regularly these days, and that is really exciting.
I also picked up the latest Zzap magazine 2023 annuals for Amiga and C64, and the latest magazine issues of both, which were great to read on my long flights to Czech republic. 
A freebie Audio CD of remixed David Whittaker songs was also included, and I look forward to listening to that on my Amiga 3000 very soon!
So now, let's move onto travel. Something I have been doing a lot of recently.
Back in late December I travelled to Japan, which was so my wife could see her family in Japan, after  years of the borders in Japan being closed. It has been 3 years since we could see the family. Japan only opened up to foreigners properly in October 2022, so this was the first opportunity for us to take leave to go there and spend some time with them. 
It also allowed us to have some well deserved time off from work. Tokyo as ever, is busy and crazy as always. 
Japan is a beautiful country to visit and enjoy as a tourist - I can't recommend it enough. Living there is not the same experience, but visiting is awesome fun.

Picture we took above is from the Tokyo Skytree, showing the dense Tokyo city, looking towards Mt Fuji at sunset. There are over 35 million people living in Tokyo, making it one of the largest cities in the world.

We stayed in Shibuya while in Tokyo, and could enjoy the view of the famous Shibuya scramble crossing each night from our hotel room.

You can see and try new cool things in Tokyo every time you come here, and this time I wanted to try out the gourmet Strawberry shortcake in a can, which you can buy in local vending machines! It was delicious - sweets and desserts in Japan are next level delicious and beautiful.

I also went to Shinjuku to see the well publicised 3D advertising billboards there. They have this giant 3D cat looking out over the Shinjuku area and it looks amazing and lifelike when moving around.

Closer look at the 3D cat:

I always visit Yodabashi Camera's massive 12 storey shop in Akihabara every time I come to Tokyo, and fitting the popular retro movement happening across the world, I noticed they are now selling new release boom boxes. Yep, the 1980's boom box is back in 2023.

Being 2023 though, you also have a usb slot to connect your favourite songs to play through it.

Akihabara is busy as always - they open the main street on sundays as the number of people there is just too much otherwise. 
Walking down the main street, I could take this photo showing the Akihabara district and Chuo train coming into Akihabara station in the distance. Very happy to spend time here - as an IT geek, Akihabara is as close to geeky nirvana as it is possible to get.

I enjoyed watching Twitch streamers playing Among Us in 2022, a game for Windows. Primarily subscribed and following CDawgVA streams as he is based in Tokyo and I enjoy a lot of his content which he also uploads in full to YouTube later if you don't use Twitch. 

I mention this because while shopping in Akihabara, I discovered you can buy these Among Us keychains!

On the "only in Japan" vibe, you can buy these dubiously named web cameras called "Wanc". Errr, ok...

I can't imagine the sales meeting in Tokyo where the marketing guys announced to the sales team that their latest new product would be called "Wanc". I would be rolling on the floor laughing.

I also visited the Team Labs Planets event in Tokyo, an amazing experience I recommend everyone to see if you can get to Tokyo in 2023. They extended the event through the rest of this year. 

The Team labs area I am in the photo below has real flowers moving up and down, and is so calming and so beautiful to stand or sit and admire the beauty. It is impossible not to smile in here. Video is here if you want to see a sample of what to expect at Team Labs Planets Tokyo.

Japan has been busy during Covid lockouts for foreigners, and alongside multiple new skyscrapers all over the city, has also built some more stunning new trains for me to try out, including this one called Saphir Odoriko:

It goes from Shibuya to Atami (seaside town) and beyond, and is a stunning train inside.

The seats are amazingly comfortable, and the view from the train itself is great, thanks to the extra viewing windows at the top.

There is also a restaurant car where you can have a freshly prepared meal cooked on the train to enjoy on trip down. It was delicious.

We also spent some time in Kyoto, which meant we travelled on the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Kyoto. I get a buzz every time I ride this train.

I have this cool wallet my wife bought me for putting my travel suica card in (used to travel in Tokyo), and my Shinkansen Nozomi train ticket to Kyoto. The wallet is designed to make the suica penguin look like it is riding the train - I think it is cool :-)

You can also enjoy some amazing Ekiben (Bento boxes) on the train too - we bought these in the train station and brought them on the train:

Close ups of the food in the Bento boxes - beef and Sashimi:

If you look out the right side window on the Shinkansen on the way down to Kyoto, on a clear day, you can see Mount Fuji. On this day, the weather was perfect and the views of Mount Fuji from the train were simply spectacular:

Seeing this beautiful sight whizz by at 320km/h plus on a train is amazing.

Soon enough we arrived in Kyoto:

We decided to stay in a traditional Kyoto Machiya accomodation:

Given it is winter in Japan, we can get a lot of use from these under table heated tables at night - so comfortable!

Being Japan, you get this standard bath.

For those unfamiliar with Japan bathrooms in houses or apartments, there are no taps or plugs for the bath. Instead you get this electronic controller to do everything - it automatically fills the bath to preset temperature, and keeps it warm also. Knowing Japanese is kinda essential unless you want to go without...

Exploring Kyoto is always fun - we went to Kiyomizudera temple first, a world heritage site, which is on top of a mountain and looks spectacular at the top.


We also went to Kinkakuji, the Golden temple - another world heritage site in Kyoto.
Kyoto is full of amazing experiences - you can experience traditional Japan here. Grab some of the delicious street food from the vendors outside the temples if you can - it is always good.

Definitely explore Nishiki market during the morning if you are in Kyoto like we did - there is so much to eat, see and do there, and all undercover.

I also tried another new train I wanted to experience while in Kyoto, called Aoniyoshi

The Aoniyoshi train has amazing colour and decorations, inside and out.

Outside view of the room seats - the windows are huge!

The regular seat carriage - which is still very cool inside.

Very pretty artwork on the train itself:

The on train cafe car:

Here I am enjoying the train trip in our room seating!

These rooms seat 4 people, and have huge windows:

You can also choose these funky green seating carriages too, which looks pretty cool also:

Each seat on one side is angled to enjoy the view outside.

Japan detail on their trains never ceases to amaze and delight me. 

They straight up don't need to do it at all, but it looks so amazing and speaks to their wonderful attention to detail and pride in their trains.

On the train back to Kyoto we got off, took a local line and enjoyed Fushimi Inari - another world heritage site in Kyoto, which countless tourists have photographed themselves in the long passageway made up of Tori gates.

Back in Tokyo again, as a treat we went to New York grill, famous as the location that the film "Lost in Translation" was filmed in Tokyo. Suntory time :-)

The views of Shinjuku from the restaurant are spectacular, and the food is amazing as well, even if quite pricey.

 More normal but still delicious food can be got from salaryman district Yakitori bars, where I went with some former work colleagues one night after their work finished.

For the final day we enjoyed some Sumo in Tokyo, and it was a great day out:

Atmosphere was incredible and the sumo really enjoyable to watch.

It was a wonderful trip, filled with some great memories.
I came back home for just under one week, and then had to travel again, this time for work!
For people who live in Europe, you have no idea how long Australian people who travel for business need to travel to get to you! 
It is a minimum of 30 hours for me to get to my employer's Czech Republic offices in Prague from Adelaide. I lose two days going there, and two days going back every time.

I am jealous that people living in Europe can travel from one side of Europe to the other in two hours by plane! But I love living in Australia so, it is what it is.

Doha airport in Qatar (I had to transfer to another flight to Prague here) has this odd looking teddy bear art installation that apparently cost some crazy amount of money to buy in America and bring here.
It was quite a change in temperature when I got to Prague. In Adelaide it was 40C and very hot when I left, and was -5C and snow when I arrived in Prague. Yikes!

During the work week, I was lucky enough to try out some Curling while in Prague as part of a team building event one evening. It was a lot of fun.

It is the first time in my life to be on ice, and I was nervous as hell naturally. But I got the hang of it eventually and had a great time curling. 

I enjoyed watching Curling at the winter olympics last year, especially following the always bubbly and hard working Japanese women's curling team. I was keen to try it out.
In Australia there is no curling facilities to try out this sport unfortunately.

On my one day off during my work trip to Prague, I decided to take another new train I hadn't been on, this time from Prague to Cesky Krumlov, a well known tourist attraction in the Czech Republic.

I rode the Prague trams and subway train to get to the main Prague train station.

In Prague they use an local phone App you purchase tickets on, and a timer to activate them when you need to use it. The timer has a purposely implemented 2 minute delay so you can't just board for free and activate only when a ticket inspector comes along to check you activated it...

The subways are clean and easy to navigate, even for me with no Czech language skills.

Once at the main train station in Prague, you can see the timetables for the trains - there are plenty of platforms here, with trains travelling in Czechia and all over Europe.

Today we are staying in Czech Republic, travelling to Cesky Krumlov, a world heritage listed site in the Czech republic.

If you go upstairs you can see the original domed architecture of this beautiful station:

Walking onto the platforms I can see the various trains waiting and arriving into Prague.

Ceske drahy is the national rail company here in the Czech republic.

The trains used for the longer train journeys are modern inside, and I love the blue colours.

The platforms are mostly covered and look spectacular:

Some end of the line stopper detail:

There is a variety of rolling stock at the station, all looking clean and well maintained:

I moved to Platform 5 for my train to Cesky Krumlov. 

There is one train per day that goes to Cesky Krumlov and return to Prague direct, using the trains normally used for inter country train services to Austria and Germany, etc. 

I was keen to experience this train, but on a shorter rail journey I could do in a one day trip - so the Jizni Express train trip to Cesky Krumlov was the logical choice!

My train is waiting on the right side of the platform:

The carriages have plenty of information to help locate which carriage you should be on.

Close up of the locomotive on the train:

Inside the carriage - I chose the first class carriage as the price difference is negligible, and allows you to get food served to your seat with nicer seating.

There is free wifi on the train too, and power at every seat to keep my phone and iPad charged up for the 3 hour trip to Cesky Krumlov.

I looked through the menu provided, which was in English and Czech.

Traditional Czech food is here, Svickova is recommended - I love it.

Interesting we soon arrived at a station called Tabor - which is also the name of the AmigaOne A1222 motherboard! Any relation?

The snow increased as the trip went on, the temperature expected in Cesky Krumlov that day was -15C so I expected it to be very cold indeed!

I thought the train themed sweets looked cool and grabbed some of those, and the Svickova of course.

The meal was surprisingly good.
You can order from the restaurant car directly too, if you are seated in a different class - you can eat at some tables there and then return to your normal seat.
The view from the back of the train was nice - there is a window you can see out the back:

Seeing some of the local rolling stock in some railway storage yard along the way was pretty cool to see:

Eventually we arrived at Cesky Krumlov.

It was cold - really cold.

The train looked great on the platform though:

Česky Krumlov is a beautiful town, and well worth seeing if you are in the Czech republic - it was very quiet when I was there, since it is winter and it was freezing.

Definitely come here in Spring/summer though - I think it would be a very different feeling and filled with people. This walkway entrance is part of the castle, with the high level overpass walkway offering stunning views.

As it was, I enjoyed walking around and seeing the sights:

The Cesky Krumlov town looks amazing from the Castle walkway.

There is a viewpoint just after the walkway that offers the best view of all though:

Back in Prague I saw this plate on the ground in the Old town main square, and thought it looked like a demoscene tunnel effect - I guess I was really missing my Amigas at this point!

Prague gaming shops are similar to the ones we have in Australia - this one is in a shopping mall called Palladium:

But in Prague you can also visit the local Destroy shop for something a bit more unique. Heh.

Anyway, it was a productive business trip to Czechia, but I am really glad to be home again. 
Sorry this blog post is jumping from computers to Japan to Czech republic and trains too, but I lack the time to create multiple entries for each, and time is moving on, so I put it all together this time. I hope it was interesting to read!
Hopefully now I can have some more time to play with my favourite computer systems and do some more blog entries!