Thursday, August 25, 2016

Circumstantially...

Due to various factors, it appears that the Quake and Bodypad rounds are just not going to work out at the present time.

I think we started Quake in March, and I still haven't played it hardly at all.

Also I don't currently have access to the bodypads nor do I know when I will (unfortunately).

Therefore I am retiring those rounds for the time being, but when life circumstances become more stable, we can always revive those rounds as necessary and even copy/paste the original posts.

For the time being, no game is active, however I think some Wardner is in order starting around September 1st    :)




:-D

That image is from the Genesis version, but there is also an Arcade version. Either is fine with me.

I'll update the site in about a week with the start of the long overdue Wardner   :)

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Wooden NES Controllers from Spitfire Labs















Absolutely beautiful! Laser engraved. They're all sold out except the Contra one. But you know what, I would have probably chosen the Contra one anyway   :)     It's only $35. I seriously might have to allocate some disposable income towards that this summer    :-D

Their website

They also did some "Cartridges", various wood carvings and skateboards. But the controllers are just so perfect, I think I have to have one   :)

Saturday, June 11, 2016

How NOT to dual boot Windows 10 and Android on an Acer Aspire Switch 10 E Laptop/Tablet hybrid

Update: Originally I was going to call this article "How to dual boot...", but after somewhere between 8-12 hours of intense research and trial and error, I still haven't reached my goal. So I post this in hopes that it will come up in a future google search for someone who has some specific questions about the Acer Aspire Switch 10 E. Later, once I actually get it working properly, I'll post a proper "how to" article.

In this article we'll be talking about configuring Phoenix OS alongside Windows 10 and how to get a bootloader working with it, which is especially challenging with this UEFI only laptop. It's a long read, but I'm hoping this will be useful to someone in the future who has similar problems. It will be faster for you to read through my woes of what didn't work for me, than to do trial and error yourself. This article assumes you have at least intermediate knowledge of computers, which would make sense if you are wanting to dual boot your PC   :)

OK, this is only partially related to the RGC as it has to do with the Acer Aspire 10 E which I just got this past week for the excellent price of only $100 on Amazon new...


This is a pretty sweet and fun little computer! The first time I took it apart from the keyboard and just held it as a tablet and browsed a website, I marveled at it for a minute and it felt great! I couldn't believe I was still using full blown x86 Windows on a tablet like device. This thing is very versatile.

So, one of the first things I did with it obviously was to upgrade it from Windows 8 to Windows 10, since that is still free at the time of this writing, until the end of July I believe.

After that, I started to speculate whether I could get some android apps running on it. But I didn't really want to go with virtualization... I've had bad luck with that in the past on my older laptop.... Virtual machines just simply refusing to start.

So I did a little digging and found out about this thing called Amiduos, made by American Megatrends, the same guys who have been making computer BIOS systems since I was 4 years old! So I thought this sounded promising... It says it is the "fastest android emulator for PC". OK, these guys must know how to code some sweet dynarecs in assembly or something, they are the BIOS guys after all   ;)  

It took a LONG time to get Amiduos configured... In fact, if I hadn't been so exhausted that night and falling asleep while it was running, I probably would have assumed it had frozen up and given up on it. But eventually it did load. And I was able to download some android games to test.

While it did run all the games I tried, they were slow. Not painfully slow, but too slow to be playable.

So I knew there had to be another way. A way to actually run android on an x86 machine?

So after a little more research, I discovered several options....

* Android x86, which is the oldest and probably now the least mature of the products

* Remix OS which has been around for a couple of years
and
* Phoenix OS... Chinese newcomer on the scene, but appears to be very competitive with Remix.

After reading their spec sheets I chose Phoenix for a couple of reasons, mainly because if you run it off a USB stick, Remix requires USB 3.0 and Phoenix can be run off 2.0. There were a couple other reasons as well, but I can't remember specifically.

Anyway...   It was time to try it out...

At the time of this writing, Phoenix is at version 1.0.8 RC (Release Candidate). You can download it from their site here:
http://www.phoenixos.com/en/download_x86

Installation is theoretically very simple. You just run their installer exe and tell it what USB stick or Hard Drive to install to, and then reboot and run it.

In practice it's much more complex, especially due to the fact that my Acer only has a UEFI system as opposed to a legacy BIOS. This is my first experience with one of these after messing with it for many hours, I'm not really thrilled about it.

Supposedly there is a firmware update for some of the Acers to give them a menu option to revert to legacy bios. Not the Switch 10e. I updated the firmware from 1.02 to 1.09 (newest) and there is no such option when you boot to the UEFI.

So the weird part is this: each operating system that you want to boot from has an .efi file which contains information about the OS, presumably where to locate it and stuff like that.

But, by default the Acer UEFI utility is set for "Secure Boot", which is supposed to add some kind of extra protection... Protection against what I'm not sure....   In my mind it's protection against being able to install your OS's and use your computer how you want to... But I digress.

So, the weird dichotomy with the "Secure Boot" feature is that in order to use a different .efi file, you have to manually add it to a kind of whitelist. To do this, you go into the UEFI menu, into the "Security" tab, and then under "Select an UEFI file as trusted for executing". After you've done this, you have to save and exit the UEFI, and then next time you load the UEFI up, it will show in the list of boot options along with Windows Boot Manager, USB HDD, etc.

What makes it weird is that most places recommend you disable the "secure boot" feature in order to make things "easier". The problem on the Acer UEFI is when you disable secure boot, it also disables the option to go in and add an .efi file as trusted, and therefore disables the method of adding them to the boot list. I guess you can leave secure boot on first, add the efi files, and then disable secure boot afterwards... I haven't messed with it enough to confirm this with 100% certainty.   [ I will try to update this later once I confirm ]

Anyway, back to PhoenixOS....   I got it up and running just fine, and as of 1.0.8 RC it has Google Play services, which is awesome. It doesn't come rooted by default, but, this post on the Phoenix OS forums has a link to a system.img which you just replace in your PhoenixOS directory, and then it will be rooted.

So I liked this PhoenixOS! It runs very fast, and the same games that I attempted in Amiduos ran almost flawlessly in Phoenix. Full speed. Very nice.

The problem came when I was testing Phoenix OS, every time I tried to boot back into Windows 10, it seemed to have corrupted Windows 10's startup files (I'm not exactly sure what), I just know that I had to sit there and wait 10 or 15 minutes for Windows 10 repair itself every time.

So I knew it was necessary to get a bootloader going if I was going to take this thing seriously.

Initially I was going to use rEFInd. However I noticed in its instructions for manually installing inside Windows 10, it says that the instructions are based on Windows 8 and don't work for Windows 10. Great.... Google searches didn't reveal anything about how to get it to work in Windows 10.
But, it said the best way to do it was inside Linux. OK, no problem.... Let's set up a Linux bootable USB stick real quick and get this thing done...

So I tried several flavors of Linux, and I couldn't get any of them to boot! ubuntu mini remix, trisquel, I was about to try vanilla Ubuntu, when I realized it's probably not the Linux's, it's probably my computer. I found a thread where someone was having a similar problem of not being able to boot from USB. One guy's suggestion was to upgrade the firmware to one that supports legacy Bios. As I said, that is not available. The other suggestion was to use a USB OTG adapter instead of using the regular USB type A port. OK, whatever I thought, I've got a USB OTG adapter that I know works, so I'll give it a shot. I even formatted it with the RUFUS utility like he said, GPT, Fat32, everything. I tested it inside windows to make sure the files were showing up... Yeah, I could see my Linux installs. But try to boot from it... No go. Eventually I got some kind of error message, I forget exactly what it said but it basically said that USB Booting was not supported on this computer.

Wow. Just wow. Then why is it even an option in the UEFI? Seriously. Bad Acer, bad. But I'm willing to overlook it because it's still an awesome computer at a great price.

So anyway..... Frustrated with not being able to install rEFInd, I looked for an alternative to rEFInd. I came across the utility "Grub2win" which is supposed to be able to easily install Grub2. Tried it out, and while it did install Grub 2, I couldn't figure out how to point it to PhoenixOS. It also threw some error about the fact that it was UEFI only and it couldn't support as many features.

Giving up in frustration on that one, then I tried EasyBCD, which is supposed to easily install "neogrub". Following the tutorial here:  http://www.quickfever.com/2016/02/dual-boot-phoenix-os.html
But again, EasyBCD throws an error about my system being UEFI only and it won't have as many features. Then indeed when I get in and try to add a new entry, the options for Neogrub are grayed out. Perfect.

So I'm back to maybe figuring out how to manually install rEFInd.

I was getting intense at this point. Not desperate, just determined. (I had already been working on the issue for many hours, probably 6+ hours straight).

So I figure if I just manually move the rEFInd .efi file onto the EFI partition, I should be able to select it in the UEFI and it will work, right?

Remembering a post I read earlier in the night, I referred back to it...
http://superuser.com/questions/965751/how-to-access-efi-partition-on-windows-10

It highlights some peculiarities about manually accessing your UEFI partition on Windows 10. Even after you taskkill explorer.exe, it still gives an error about accessing the partition.

Someone suggested that you just type the drive letter straight out of task manager, it would work.
 I couldn't get that to work, but fortunately the command line worked.

To make it simpler for this blog, here is what I had to do to access the EFI partition:

open cmd as admin...
diskpart
sel disk 0
sel part 1
assign letter=b
exit
taskkill /im explorer.exe /f
explorer.exe

Then, just open a cmd window as administrator and type the following commands:
b:
cd EFI
mkdir rEFInd
 

After that, you need to go to the location where you have the rEFInd .efi file. For me it was like this:
c:
cd \
cd 0_home\refind-bin-0.10.3\refind
 

Yours will of course be different. Then copy the .efi file. I'm using the 32 bit version, but you would need to copy the x64 file if that's what you're using. So the next command would be:
copy refind_ia32.efi b:\EFI\rEFInd\

That just simply copies the file, like we used to do in the DOS days   :) 

The next step is simply to go back to the UEFI and add the rEFInd efi, and hopefully everything boots up and it sees both Windows and PhoenixOS and all is good   :) 

So... Fingers crossed, I added the rEFInd, restarted, and YES, it loaded rEFInd! And it shows Windows 10 and Phoenix OS! Now time to test.

Windows 10 loaded fine. So I came back to rEFInd, and launched Phoenix OS....

Instead of showing a PhoenixOS splash screen like it had been doing, now it was showing some Linux kernel stuff like you'd expect if you were booting up Ubuntu with verbose messages. Then it gets stuck on "Detecting Phoenix OS". I let it run for at least 20 minutes and it didn't seem to do anything.

So next... It's time to read the rEFInd manual. Maybe I'm doing something wrong in pointing it to Phoenix? OK.... It's got a whole section about how secure boot causes problems for bootloaders, and several proposed solutions to fix it. I'm going to try the easier method which involves "preloader".

It involved renaming the rEFInd efi to "loader.efi", and then downloading a "preloader.efi" and "hashtool.efi". I manually loaded them to my EFI partition through the command prompt again, and then I got to this cryptic statement in the tutorial:

register PreLoader.efi with the EFI by using efibootmgr in Linux or bcdedit in Windows.  

OK? So I figured it would be self explanatory. Turns out bcdedit is a command line utility, which I'm usually not scared of, but when I ran bcdedit /?, none of the options had any verbage at all about "register" or "registration". So I thought it must be officially called something else. Google search turned up very little. So I decided to do what I sometimes do in weak spots like this....  Find a GUI version of the utility   :)    So I found "Visual BCD Editor".... The website says it needs some .net framework dependencies, but fortunately it ran for me without adding any .net stuff. 
So I stare at Visual BCD editor for a few minutes, and it becomes apparent that "registering" it means the same thing as "adding a new OS loader" for the preloader.efi. So I did that, everything looks good to go. 

Rebootion time.... I'm feeling pretty good about it all at this point. Certainly something is going to work this time, right? So I add the preloader.efi to the "whitelist", restart, and....  Preloader loads... But...

"This 64-bit application couldn't load because your PC doesn't have a 64-bit processor... etc blah blah"...

Oops, right, I forgot to check whether I got the 64 bit or 32 bit version of the preloader/hashtool, right?

Not quite. I can't find anything at all about a 32 bit version of it. It appears there's just the one release. 

..... Now I'm FINALLY starting to get frustrated, after something like 8 to 12 hours of work. Up until that point, the whole journey has actually been pretty fun. It's like a puzzle to solve.

But no... Now it's just like.........   I gotta take a step back and re-evaluate how I'm going to approach the puzzle and hopefully figure out the most efficient solution   :)

So this is where our story ends for now... Of how ABSOLUTELY NOT to dual boot Windows 10 and Android on an Acer Aspire Switch 10 E.

To be continued, the right way     :) 

Friday, May 27, 2016

D-Cat 16 Portable Handheld Console Review -- The cheapest budget gaming device that can play ROMs!

You know I'm all about finding a good deal and getting some ridiculously inexpensive stuff   :)

So a few weeks ago I found this thing on Amazon, the D-Cat 16. It can actually play Genesis Roms.

It was only $12.

Here's a review:


As long as you don't go in expecting perfection, the thing is really not too bad!!!

The price actually went up this past week and is now $13. But still not bad. Link here:

http://www.amazon.com/D-CAT-16-Bit-Portable-Handheld-Console-Build/dp/B01F59GY3C?ie=UTF8&redirect=true&ref_=cm_cr_ryp_prd_ttl_sol_7

Highly recommended!!!   :-D

Thursday, May 12, 2016

GPD XD Showcase

I made a video showcasing this device and some of the excellent android games and emulators.

Sorry for the kinda grainy video quality, I don't have a device with a very nice camera.



Soon I'll get the bodypad set up and report back on how that is   :)    And of course I still need to play some Quake!!!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Round 10 - Bodypad Gang Wars & P.O.W

In parallel to the Anaglyph Quake round we are going to have an
exergaming round!

The controller is gonna be the mighty Bodypad!



We'll play two games:

1. Gang Wars



2. Prisoners of War


 
below I'll explain how to configure the bodypad for them. Both games
will be identically configured. But let me rapidly explain the
principles of the Bodypad, the Bodypad façon de vivre. ;-)

In short you have 4 pads, 2 above the knees, 2 above the elbows. The
pads above the knees send a button on signal when they are
pressed. However the pads above the elbows do the opposite, they send
a button on when they are released! On top of that you've got a D-pad
in the left hand + a trigger, and a 4 more buttons on the right hand +
a trigger.

The Bodypad allows you to:

1. trigger the legs' pads by basically kicking as to press the "kick
pads"

2. trigger the arms' pads by stretching you arms out to release the
"punching pads"

3. control the D-pad and the trigger with your left hand

4. control 4 extra buttons and the trigger with you right hand

The 4 pads (left kick, right kick, left punch, right punch) + the 2
triggers (left and right triggers) are assignable. The other remaining
buttons on the right hand controller are not, but of course we will
assign them to the controls of our choice directly in the games.

So, let's do it! First of all plug the Bodypad receiver to the USB
port (you need a XBox to USB adapter). Configure it as follows (some
red dots have been added to make it up for the bad shot)




Then place all the pads on your body, follow the provided manual for
that. My advice is to start with the legs, then the elbows, then the
hands. It might well take you 10 minutes the first time but don't
despair, as time goes it will take you less and less time (it takes
me no more than 30 seconds).

Note: use long trousers and long sleeve shirt for maximum comfort.

OK, now that you are wearing the Bodypad, turn it on (the power switch
is on the left hand controller, don't forget to add the 3 AAA
batteries in there). So far a blinking green light should have been
observed on the receiver, once switched on, the green light should
stop blinking and stay on.

We are ready to fire mame! But first you might want to use a joystick
monitoring software to check that everything is in order (I use
jstest-gtk for Linux). This is also convenient to get a feel of how to
control the kick and punch pads.

Now we're going to launch and configure Gang Wars, you want to
configure Gang Wars, the following screenshot shows how the
configuration looks like on my version of mame

 Gang Wars input configuration

that is:

- L button on the right hand controller is mapped to insert credits

- R button on the right hand controller is mapped to start

- D-pad is mapped as expected

- L and R kicks are mapped to button 1

- L and R punched are mapped to button 2

- White button on the right hand controller (see picture below) is
  mapped to button 3 (jump in the game)

- L and R triggers are mapped to button 1 as well

The reason L and R triggers are mapped to button 1 is so that in case
you are too tired of body kicking (which is by far the most
exhausting) you can use the trigger instead. Of course I highly
encourage you to body kick!

Try to follow as closely as possible what the character is doing to
feel as embodied as possible. So for instance if the character is
facing to the right he is gonna punch with the left arm, so punch with
the left arm as well. When he faces left, then punch with the right
arm. If he's hold a bottle with the left arm then do the same bottle
knocking movement with your left arm, etc.

Please note that it's probably gonna be very frustrating at first, you
have to persevere, rapidly you're gonna be at ease and start enjoying
it. I guess the first challenge is gonna be to complete the first
stage, I'm limiting myself to 3 credits but frankly you can use as
many credit as you want!

For Prisoners of War, the setting are almost identical, the only
difference is that button 2 and button 3 are swapped, that is

- White button on the right hand controller is mapped to button 2
  (jump in the game)

- L and R punched are mapped to button 3

See a snapshot of my configuration for P.O.W.

P.O.W input configuration

Same thing for P.O.W. Try to complete stage 1, using as many credits as
you want if you like. Note that once you take the rifle you can use
the trigger to shot.

If you're serious about it you're gonna break a hell of a sweat. I'm
impatient to know how it goes!

Last remark, this round will not be counted in the overall scores.

So, 1, 2, 3... kick, kick, kick, punch, punch, punch, go, go, go! :-)

Friday, March 25, 2016

Android Gaming :)

Xperia Play...

 It was a great device for a while, but I kept having problems with it... Usually with the screen. I would either accidentally get cleaning alcohol under the glass and ruin the screen, or accidentally break the connector to the ribbon cable for the digitizer when I opened it up, or once I dropped it from a very short distance and the screen cracked. Over all I went through about 3 or 4 used devices in a 2 year span, each one being a frankenstein hackup of spare parts. 

I just couldn't maintain one that worked, it seemed. Also the D-Pad was a bit weird, you could technically press all 4 directions at the same time which was weird for shmups. So I pretty much only used it for platformers. 

It's also aging now and the CPU is a bit slow. 

So I was on the hunt for a new Android device. A chinese company called JXD made tons of cheap portables, many of them looking like PSP knockoffs...  Stuff like this:


Looks fine actually, except they are incredibly difficult to get hold of! It's almost like the company makes small production runs of them and then once they sell them all, you can't get them anymore. So even though sites like Willgoo would show them in the list, they would always be "out of stock".

Then I came across something really interesting... The GPD XD...


Clearly inspired by the Nintendo 3DS design. 

Specs:
CPU Quad Core Rockchip RK3288 which I think can hit about 1.8ghz
2GB RAM
5" IPS capacitive touch screen, 1280x720
6000mah battery which gives about 8 hours game time (Nice!) 

Looking good, and also the clamshell design is great because the screen is less likely to get scratched in storage. 

My primary concern is how the D-Pad feels. But, I read a forum thread where people modified theirs with a rubber membrane from a Wii remote. Sounds exactly like the kind of crazy thing I'd do   :)    (One of the first things I did with my PSP when I got it 10 years ago was modify the D-Pad) 

So I ordered one the other day. It should be here in a few weeks. 

Then I'll be able to get back to some of my favorite android games...

Rico

MOS Speedrun

Gnarbike Trials

And of course, I'm going to try some crazy Twin Stick shooters like this (Ballistic SE):

And other Geometry Wars style games. Very exciting  :) 


And finally, in slightly different news, GPD also has another console in the works... The GPD WIN...


Crazy right? It actually runs an x86 CPU and Windows 10 home. Kinda similar to Pandora, but hopefully this one won't be vaporware. They've already met their fundraising goal and so now it's just a matter of waiting until October until it comes to the market. 

It's $300 if you pre-order one, and the retail price is supposed to be $500. Hoping it will come down after a while though. I really can't justify $300 on a device that I won't be receiving for 7 months. 

Think of the gaming you could do on a Windows device though.... Tons of homebrew shmups   :) 

And not only that, but:

 
 
Writing music on it. Oh yeah   :)   It might not be great for Renoise due to CPU and screen size, but I think it would be great for Klystrack and even Sunvox     :) 

Well, in conclusion, this is an exciting time for technology   :) 
 
 


Saturday, March 12, 2016

The state of NES emulation in Windows in 2016

So I've tried some NES emulation lately, and just really haven't been impressed with the performance of emulators in Windows lately.

Usually it's either a tradeoff of good control performance, but screen tearing, or when you enable vsync then the video looks good but there is input lag.

I'm not the only one:

http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=773351
http://nintendoage.com/forum/messageview.cfm?catid=31&threadid=135619

I actually tried: Virtuanes, FCEUX, Nestopia, Jnes, puNES, nemulator, and wasn't pleased with any of them.

Really really strange and sorry, considering that NESticle had it right about 20 years ago in DOS, and NesterJ never gave me any problems on my PSP for the last 10 years.

So I even tried "It might be NES" which is a NES emulator for PSX, but I couldn't get it to load in PCSX or EPSXE.

So I did the unthinkable: I tried to use Retroarch, as the instructions in that nintendoage thread say he was able to get perfect NES emulation working on it.

(I have had an awful experience with Retroarch before, personally I think the thing is a total disaster of a program)... But I thought, for perfect NES it is worth a try.

Retroarch did NOT come through for me, it was as sorry as I expected it, popping a "Retroarch.exe has stopped working" as soon as I tried to launch it, for the 64 and 32 bit versions. Whatever.

So I figured I would give MESS a try.

It's a bit weird, being closely linked to MAME, but for consoles. Not a lot of people seem to mention using it for consoles. But it was worth a try.

So I installed it, it ran, and I gotta say it's pretty good. It defaulted to vsync off, and so I tested it and there is no noticeable input lag. But interestingly enough, there is also no screen tearing even with vsync off. So I left it off, because I don't want to risk adding input lag with it on.

The interface is a bit strange, you actually have to hit tab and go to a file select menu to load each rom as a "virtual cartridge" and then it resets the emulation. A bit strange, but it does work.

And my only real complaint is the color palette is a little bit pale compared to what I'm used to or even what I remember from NES, for example I played a bit of Contra tonight:



See what I mean? Grass is just a little bit too "pea green" instead of jungle green. But hey, it's an issue I can live with when the action is perfect   :)

I played a bit of Vice: Project Doom as well... One of my favorite platformers for NES. I was gonna do an entire Retro Lookback on it, but I got too frustrated, but I took a couple screenshots anyway...

If you didn't play past the first level, you might think it's some kind of Spy Hunter clone...

But it's actually a sweet platformer...
 First boss...
 Level 3-1, kind of a Chinatown theme...



Well, that's about it..... 

Summary: Most NES emulators for Windows still suck for whatever reason, but MESS is actually decent. Contra rules forever, and Vice Project Doom is a classic, if a bit frustrating for my current self   :)

Peace!!!

Off topic ramble: Ridiculously cheap Android devices

So, the other day I was thinking about how cool it would be to have a dedicated player for mod/s3m/xm/it music. I have had this dream many times over the years. I'm sure you could do it with raspberry pi (This guy did with some old cassette player as the case). Cute, but a little bit ghetto, and requires work, plus Raspberry pi still costs $25, or if you get the hard to come by $5 pi, it is still going to cost more than that because you need the i/o expansions and stuff.

But then an idea came to my head: android devices are ubiquitous, can do virtually anything, and have also come down in price a lot lately. In fact about a month ago I bought an android for $20, an LG Sunrise, pretty much exclusively to use as an mp3 player. But I also got a 32GB micro SD card for it which cost $15, so it was really more like $35.

But I thought, maybe there are some even cheaper androids out there?

So I did a google search for cheapest android. And I found something deliciously enticing...

http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2016/02/worlds-cheapest-android-smartphone-goes-on-sale-yours-for-just-2-50-no-really/

An Indian company claims to be releasing an android phone for 251 rupees which is the equivalent of $3.67!!!  What! That doesn't even make sense, a mobile computer for the cost of a cheeseburger?

But alas, after a little more reading it turns out the company in question is pretty sketchy and it's unsure whether people will actually be getting their orders.

Regardless, I'm in the U.S. so even if I bought it I would have to pay for shipping, which would be much more than $3.67.

So I decided to go on ebay and see what I could see... I went to electronics ---> Cell phones and refined my search by new phones only and buy it now. Then I sorted by price. I was surprised to find a seller offering new android phones for only $10 with free shipping.

The device in question is called the ZTE Whirl...


Specs:

OS; Android 4.1
Processor: 1ghz Snapdragon
Memory: 512MB RAM
Storage: 4GB micro SD card included
Screen: 3.5" 320x480
Camera: 3MP
Wifi: Yes
Bluetooth: Yes
GPS: Yes

------------------------------

Very very interesting. Of course it's not top of the line by any means, but it is indeed an android device and it's only $10!!! It even has bluetooth and GPS which I wouldn't expect from a device this cheap.

So last night I ordered one. I mean, why not? You can't go wrong. It'll be a fun little experiment.

Here's the crazy part: I was at a local Dollar General store today, and I saw the exact same phone on the shelf. Price: $9!!!   $9
What!
So of course I bought one there too, lol. Now I'll have two to mess with and run experiments on and use for whatever and it won't even matter if they get broken or lost or whatever.

What I don't even understand is how this is even possible. 

I mean seriously, when I was at Walmart last night, I was looking at audio cables, you know the kind with 3.5mm male ends to use as patch cables between devices, and I wanted one that was colored like blue or green or something... And they were all $10, so I passed up on them because I thought that was too much to pay for a 3ft audio cable. 

So, somehow it is possible to get an entire mobile computer for the same price as an audio cable? And the phone also comes with a micro USB cable, AC adapter, and of course that 4GB micro SD card. All those things if sold separately would easily cost more than $10.

It just doesn't even make sense.

So the only thing I can figure out is that these things are being sold at a loss. There is no way they can make money from them, I don't care how cheap of a Chinese factory you use. The economics of it must be: They are expecting to make money from you in the future when you pay for minutes on the phone, so they are selling the phone itself to you at a loss. 

Really funny for budget hardware enthusiasts like myself who just want little gadgets to play with and have no intentions of ever using it as a mobile phone. 

I mean seriously... wifi, camera, GPS, music player (of course!!!), ebook reader, personal digital organizer, even games if you wanted to, and a million other things could be done with this thing...   For the cost of a nice chicken salad at a restaurant.  

Does not compute   :) 

Craziness...

Sorry for the ramble, just wanted to share this modern marvel of technology    :)

Thursday, March 10, 2016

3D NES emulation

This is pretty wild...


That's not a mock-up or an artists rendering, but an actual in-game screenshot of a new NES emulator that actually translates the games into 3D in realtime. 


Also this crazy crazy video:

 

Check out Contra on there, it has shadows and everything!

Apparently it's still in beta and doesn't have a downloadable yet, but when it's officially released I'm highly interested in trying this!!!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Retro Lookback - Shadowgate (NES)

As I sit here, sick, getting over food poisoning or a stomach bug... I haven't eaten in 24 hours and I'm starting to finally take down some water and animal crackers.

I thought I'd do a retro lookback of one of my favorite NES games, Shadowgate. (I don't think my stomach can quite handle Quake right now)

It's a point and click adventure where you have to figure out how to get through a castle. Really cool and classic game. Other similar games for NES were The Uninvited, and Deja Vu... But Shadowgate was my favorite.

It features some really sweet and mysterious music. For example the main theme:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94Tsezcm8yA

Screenshots time!!!

 Entrance to the castle...

 Make sure to take as many torches from the walls as you can, you will need them!

 
 Get used to this screen, because you will be seeing it a lot! Fortunately the game lets you continue.




 Dead, again.....


Well, I didn't last very long tonight before I gave up, I've gotten a lot further but I just couldn't remember all the secrets. It's very much a game of trying different solutions to different problems. Back when I was a kid, I would learn how to get further by watching my friends play. These days I guess you could consult a walkthrough, though that might make it too easy. 

Overall, a satisfying classic, but maybe it should remain in classic land... Sometimes the puzzles can be frustratingly difficult, and I just don't have the patience anymore   :) 



Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Round 9 - Anaglyph Quake!

Quake




A game that is very familiar to we who have a history rooted in PC gaming.

It was nothing short of revolutionary at the time.. Being one of the first FPS games with mouselook, and one of the first with fully 3D levels. It seems like not a big deal now, but the fact that you could actually go into a room that is above another room was pretty unique at the time!

For this round, we're going to throw a little something extra in there and play Quake in Anaglyph mode, which means with Red/Cyan 3D glasses. Something similar to this:



The game will look like this without glasses,



but of course it will look ALIVE with them  :)


Here's a little info on Anaglyph configuration settings.

From Quakeone.com forums:

You can play Quake in 3D

All you need are anaglyph stereo glasses. It even doesnt matter wich one. All those work:
- red/blue
- red/cyan
- red/green


Use the according cvar to activate the effect.
Then you can finetune the effect to match your eyes.

These are the cvars:

r_stereo_angle is "0" ["0"] separation angle of eyes (makes the views look different directions, as an example, 90 gives a 90 degree separation where the views are 45 degrees left and 45 degrees right)
r_stereo_redblue is "0" ["0"] red/blue anaglyph stereo glasses (note: most of these glasses are actually red/cyan, try that one too)
r_stereo_redcyan is "0" ["0"] red/cyan anaglyph stereo glasses, the kind given away at drive-in movies like Creature From The Black Lagoon In 3D
r_stereo_redgreen is "0" ["0"] red/green anaglyph stereo glasses (for those who don't mind yellow)
r_stereo_separation is "4" ["4"] separation distance of eyes in the world (negative values are only useful for cross-eyed viewing)
r_stereo_sidebyside is "0" ["0"] side by side views for those who can't afford glasses but can afford eye strain (note: use a negative r_stereo_separation if you want cross-eyed viewing)

And a little more useful configuration details from A-Lin:

You need to type
1. r_stereo 1
2. r_stereodepth DEPTH
The right DEPTH depends on your screen size and your distance from it. What you do is, remove your red-cyan glasses, start with 5, get close to a wall and find the point where 2 images matches perfectly (no redish-cyanish divergence), if the distance from the wall in the game matches the distance from your screen, then you're good! If not increase the value by 5.
What works for me is 30.
You also probably want to put more brightness (in Quake's video menu), for me 50% seems to work.
The round will go probably close to 2 months, to give us plenty of time to attack this deep game. We will be playing Quake 1 Episode 1, for nostalgia purposes, and then we will be playing the user level Honey, by czg. It is a level with cavernous indoor areas, much bigger than were ever possible on the original Quake 1 engine.

Honey by czg


These days, many of the newer source ports allow for much larger levels.

As for source ports, it appears that A-Lin will be using Quakespasm, and organic io will be using Dark Places.

Round starts as of this post, although if our desks and keyboard/mouse configurations aren't finalized yet that's OK. At least the round will be ready once we get everything set up!

As far as determining who won... If both players complete a challenge, then tiebreaker information would be needed. I think it would be good to just use the stats at the end of levels (number of kills, secrets, etc). So be ready to take screenshots of your end-level stats!

Also we'll be playing everything on "Hard" difficulty.

I think that's everything. Let's go go go!!!

P.S.. I forgot to add that there's a nice cross platform level launcher utility called Quake Injector:

https://www.quaddicted.com/tools/quake_injector

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Out Zone - Post Mortem and Screenshots!

Out Zone, Out Zone...

What a SUPERB game!!! When I suggested it I was really just throwing a random challenge out there. I had no idea I would enjoy the game this much.

It's just an outstanding challenge. Though incredibly difficult, making progress in the game seems constant. Getting a little bit further every time is so rewarding, especially when you get that adrenaline kick of "I've never gotten this far before!!!".

The game never feels frustrating or cheap. Whenever you die, you always feel like it was your own fault and that you could have done better... Not that the game threw you a curve ball.

The game definitely goes into the "Methodical" category of shmups, where memorization plays a bigger role than improvisation. Generally I'm not a big fan of this type of game, but Out Zone is an exception!

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Screenshot time....

 Level 1. It looks like a lot of enemies, but if you shoot fast enough, they just stand there and let you kill them   :)

 Level 1 boss, actually pretty difficult as far as 1st bosses go. It's at this point that you know you're in for a challenging treat!

Level 2 -- Lots of places to die for sure...

Level 2 boss... I never learned how to beat it without panic bombing it. Oh well, it only takes 2 bombs   :)


Level 3... Lots of switching between weapon modes here. 


Level 3 boss... Was incredibly frustrating about the 1st 10 times I tried it. A laser cuts off the floor behind you, and if you don't shoot them fast enough these guys come out and get behind you and shoot bullets from behind. Really difficult and requires skill as well as a bit of luck.


 Level 4 - Overall really challenging level with lots of variety.


 Sorry I didn't take more screenshots of 4 and 5, but again I took the screenshots early on before I knew the game very well. Next time I'll wait until closer to the end of the round.

As usual, the screenshots were taken with the excellent Greenshot utility.

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Next, we're going to do a little something different... The music in this game is so good, I actually wanted to record some of the tracks to listen to later.

There is a command line program called M1 which can play back the music from MAME roms. Really cool. But someone also made a GUI for it called BridgeM1. Both can record wav output, although I had trouble with the newest version of M1 and instead paired BridgeM1 with M1 0.7.8a1.

Here's a couple songs from the game. They even have song titles!
Level 2: Pump them with Bullets - Just a really infectious and energetic track with a memorable chord progression

Level 5: Secret of Ogiwara - Has kind of an Asian motif, which matches the dragons in the level. The section from :18 to :38 has a really cool alternate time signature kind of feel. I counted it out though and it appears to still be in 4/4 time. Do you agree A-Lin? Neat how they accomplished that.

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Replay time!

A-Lin:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/8e0imch1x2z6ojs/Outzone_A-Lin_final.ogv?dl=0

oio's comments on A-Lin's playthrough: Wow dude!! We have vastly different playing styles. You got those airplanes to help you! I did that a few times, but couldn't figure out what makes them come out.

I see you highly prefer the fixed shot weapon. Almost to a fault... You made the corridor section in level 3 harder for yourself because you weren't able to aim sideways and behind. But, you didn't panic bomb the 2nd and 3rd boss like me, and those extra bombs you are keeping really helped your score!

Never seen this spaceship come out and help on level 4, how did you do that? I'm not sure, but I don't think you meant to pick up the weapon change during the train fight on level 4? Incredible, I didn't know you could shoot those missiles on the level 4 boss before it fires them! Ouch, you lost a lot of momentum here...  All the way to level 4 boss without dying and then dying several times in a row. I hate it when that happens   :(

Level 5, lol, NOW you're using some bombs   :)   Glad to see I'm not the only one, when those dragons come out it gets really difficult. But, at least they give you a ton of bombs. TOO many once you get to those platforms!

I see you panic bombed the dragonflies too. I think if we could figure out the bullet patterns here it would give us a better chance at the boss because we would still have the bombs for it.

You got to the level 5 boss on your first credit! Really impressive. Oh no, you picked up the weapon change by accident just like me!! It started you all the way back there!?!?! That's rough.

On your second and third credit it looks like you're trying to save bombs on the dragonflies and it just didn't work out  :(   Good try though! It's probably what's needed to get through the boss. Shame you didn't get to it again, I wanted to see you trash it with your fixed shot!

organic io (in parts again... Maybe I'll purchase this Bandicam at some point):
https://www.dropbox.com/s/zzd9ht1z9q7m5sp/Out_Zone_organic_io_Levels_1-3.mp4.mp4?dl=0
https://www.dropbox.com/s/d8grcukdo8x7eey/Out_Zone_organic_io_Levels_4-5.mp4.mp4?dl=0
https://www.dropbox.com/s/lio4nypylzmbnn3/Out_Zone_organic_io_Level_5_boss.mp4.mp4?dl=0

oio's comments on his own playthrough: In contrast I prefer more balance between the fixed shot and the free aiming shot. I like the precision of the free aiming shot when it's practical, although there are many sections where it's simply better to used the fixed shot.

Around 3:39 on the levels 1-3 video, you can see where I start to panic bomb. I never really stop throughout the whole playthrough. I got tired of losing my 1st life early on in levels 2 and 3 and still having 6 or 7 bombs left and wasted, so I thought it was better to use them and survive!

I got really lucky and got super ball during the corridor section on level 3... This is when it started turning into a better than average run for me. Super ball was awesome for level 3 boss, and I was thrilled because this is the first time I had ever gotten to level 4 on my first life!

I continued to do well through the first half of level 4 with the super ball. Maybe those years of playing Rune (PC melée weapon game) paid off   :)

There's one moment at :47 on the level 4-5 video, I don't know how that bullet didn't kill me. I finally died on that catwalk because I didn't have any bombs, lol. That train is a pain,  you gotta make sure you kill it before you run out of energy. The corridor section at the end of level 4 is usually frustrating for me. I died, but I decided to panic bomb through it this time (usually I try to save those bombs for the level 4 boss)... After beating the level 4 boss without dying, I was feeling pretty heroic at this point! It was also the first time I've ever gotten to level 5 on my first credit...

The adrenaline was pumping now! Another extra life at 600,000!! I think that's the first time I'd ever done that too. Once the dragons started coming, it was time to panic bomb just like you!

The platforms!! I had only gotten to them a couple of times ever, and here I was getting to them on my first credit! At 5:42 on the level 4-5 video, you can see I wanted to avoid the flamethrower so bad that I actually walked off the edge. LOL & OOPS!

Fell off again quickly, but at this point I knew it was ON! Maybe I could even compete with you!!!
Dang flamethrower again. Unlike you my button 1 is only turbo at this time so I wasn't able to use the flamethrower properly. Hey game, thanks for the bombs! Don't mind if I use them!

OK, the mine cart / dragonfly ride. This is only the second time I had gotten to this point. I had no idea what to expect. Lots of bombs were in order because I wasn't trained on the bullet patterns here.

Boss!!! What!!!  It's so weird that the music doesn't change. I wasn't expecting those homing missiles and I walked myself off the edge! Haha.

It's pretty mean of them to make you go through the dragonflies before you fight the boss. OK, boss try #2! I was doing pretty well until I accidentally picked up the weapon change and then of course I had to stop and aim which is NOT a good thing on bosses in this game.

After that I just couldn't handle it and died quickly. But it was an incredible round for me! Highlighting the adrenaline rush you get on this game when you get further than you ever have.

Really really really cool.

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Final scores!!!!






A-Lin - To the 5th boss, score on 1st credit: 848200

organic io - To the 5th boss, score on 1st credit: 677760

Wow!!! Close game! I actually kinda got further against the boss than you, but I'm gonna hand it to you since you got the better score. You kept your cool in the earlier levels and saving those bombs really helped out your score.

Well done!

Winner: A-Lin.

Awesome, just awesome.

I love Out Zone. I'm not done with this game yet, for sure.