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Geeky things I'm up to

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Pack Rat Penance part 2

Yesterday I attacked the pile, or should I say mountain, of software I have managed to accumulate over the years. When you don't throw stuff out you never have to ask yourself, "why am I keeping this?" But now I am asking myself that question.   Of course, the first problem is anything written for Windows 3.1 is not going to run on Windows 7. Goodbye Gadget, at least you were better than The Journeyman Project and Quantum Gate. However, DOS programs will probably run in DOSBox (yea Doom!)

EricBall

EricBall

 

Pack Rat Penance

Like a lot of geeks, I have a collection of old and obsolete PCs in the basement. A few were my primary PCs, but many I rescued. And like any pack rat, I had plans for them - like being used in a MAME cabinet. Some of the plans have even panned out - like a MythTV backend or a TiVo guide server.   But the basement cleanup & purge brought to light the number of PCs which were lurking in the corner. The two 486s were declared surplus after removing the hard drives (for a final backup &am

EricBall

EricBall

 

Cray-1 fantasies

Something about the Cray-1 keeps dragging my attention back to it - mainly wondering whether it would be possible to create one using modern chips etc. Of course some one has already done it: http://chrisfenton.com/homebrew-cray-1a/ but that doesn't stop me from thinking about how I would do it.   From a hardware perspective, there's a certain elegance about the design methodology Seymour Cray used building all of the logic from a single chip which contained a 4 input AND and a 5 input AND wi

EricBall

EricBall

 

Adventures in Python

Earlier this year I managed to complain enough to my cableco about their move from analog to digital for SD stations (and the impact on my dual tuner TiVo) to get a free rental HD PVR. Last week I realized there's a whole whack of movies which get shown on the HD channels (i.e. my wife taped Inglorious Bastards, and I watched one of the Transformers movies), but there's no consolidated listing which would make it easy to find the ones which I might want to watch.   But then I got to thinking

EricBall

EricBall

 

Linksys WRT54G v4 firmware confusion

A while back the wall wart for my Netgear wifi router died. I borrowed the one for my external drive as a temporary replacement, but I wanted a more permanent solution. This weekend was the community garage sale and I scored a Linksys WRT54G v4 for $5. This is the router which started the open firmware revolution, but I'm not sure I want to join the revolution.   The problem is I'm more into stability and easy to use than features beyond what the stock firmware provides. Well, there are tw

EricBall

EricBall

 

slinking down the path to the dark side

The other day my wife casually said "my DS". Now, I have to admit that we may have discussed that my son's Nintendo DS was hers since he now has a 3DS, but I hadn't really considered it. The problem is my wife's interest in games doesn't match mine or my son's. And although she has more free time to play, her interest in a particular game can disappear quite quickly. In other words, she's the typical Facebook gamer.   So how to possibly satisfy her needs? Hmm.... I've always wanted a flas

EricBall

EricBall

 

illogical eBay economics

A few months ago my wife's Macbook stopped recognizing the MagSafe power cord. After some Google searches and a check by a repair shop we concluded it would require a motherboard replacement to correct. Since a replacement motherboard would cost $400+ and I'd already bought an Apple refurb replacement, I sold it "for parts" on eBay.   Based upon the items the buyer is selling on eBay, he will part it out - selling various components separately. Now, I could have done the same thing and mayb

EricBall

EricBall

 

Google Gadgets and Javascript

I have been making updates to my Panoramic Photo Gallery: https://sites.google.com/site/ericballpanorama/ both adding newly stitched panoramas and revising older ones adding metadata and a watermark. Now I've reworked my main page to list the panoramas by location rather than in a simple ToC. At the bottom I've linked one of the panoramas, but what I'd really like to do is make that a slide show or a random panorama. With a normal site this would all be done in Javascript, but as this is Goog

EricBall

EricBall

 

Horizon detection for creating panoramas

One big challenge creating panoramas (see my gallery at http://sites.google.com/site/ericballpanorama) is getting the horizon right. This is particularly true for panoramas looking out at the ocean which spans multiple photos. This is because you have to get 2 things absolutely correct: The horizon must be straight level. Even if the photos were taken with a tripod, it doesn't take much for the horizon to be at a slight angle. Additionally, if the photo was taken looking slightly up or dow

EricBall

EricBall

 

Raspberry Pi

http://raspberrypi.org   The Raspberry Pi is a credit card sized US$35 Single Board Computer with the following features: 700 MHz ARM11, 1080p OpenGL ES 2.0 GPU with hardware H2.64 decode, 256MB RAM, SDHC slot, HMDI out, 2.0 USB jacks & RJ45 Ethernet port.   From my perspective the biggest attractions are the low price and the HDMI output. I was seriously considering getting one and setting it up to play MAME, but now I have an even better idea: a DVD library.   I jumped on the DVD b

EricBall

EricBall

 

I want to program dead consoles

In addition to the 2600 & 7800, I have the desire to program the Vectrex. I grew up in the golden age of video games and vector games were part of the magic. The Vectrex also uses a 6809 - the processor I first programming in ASM.   In brief, the way the Vectrex draws vectors is: 1. Set the Y velocity 2. Set the X velocity 3. Turn on the beam 4. Turn on the integrators which change the X/Y velocity into X/Y position 5. Wait for timer to expire 6. Turn the integrators & beam off

EricBall

EricBall

 

Skyward Sword

For Christmas I got Skyward Sword. Unfortunately, my wife didn't get my email about the game+controller bundle, so I had to pick up a Motion Pus controller before I could play it.   I've played about 4 hours so far, so consider this a very early review.   I will say there's been an awful lot of dialog in the game so far, on top of the intro backstory movie. I just hope they do something with Groose, or that was a whole whack of dialog which wasn't that necessary.   The game - it's Zelda

EricBall

EricBall

 

Glitch - a free MMO

Warning: if you have addictive game tendencies - don't start playing Glitch (more on why later).   Glitch is an odd game - and not just because you squeeze chickens to obtain grain. It's a free-to-play game which you can play without paying. Unlike a typical FTP games, you can't use real money to buy in game resources, reduce action times, or additional actions. Real money may only be used to buy cosmetic items like clothing and furniture. (Well, it can be used to buy teleport tokens, whic

EricBall

EricBall

 

Dragon Age Legends

When I signed up for Google+ I was happy to see that the games (and their notifications) were segregated from the main feed page. Although I didn't join Facebook, my wife did, and her feed was clogged with games related posts. She spent a lot of time on Facebook playing games until she quit cold turkey. I told myself to avoid the games on Google+, and I managed to do it for a month.   It's all her fault . . . she joined Google+ and started playing Zombie Lane, so I figured I would play too,

EricBall

EricBall

 

Good tactics or just lucky?

As part of the "Welcome back" program Sony has given every PSN user a free month of PlayStation Plus - which gives discounts on downloadable content and some exclusive content. Well, I activated my free month and proceeded to download as much free stuff as I could, including several full games (including Oddworld Exodus). They might only last the month but they're free.   Then last week Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers was added as a free download for Plus. I played Magic over a

EricBall

EricBall

 

Angry Birds

There's a free Angry Birds beta available via the Chrome App Store. I've played through the first 21 screens and I can't understand why it's so popular.   This isn't to say that I don't enjoy it. I certainly had fun with this physics/puzzle game. But I also found the gameplay somewhat frustrating, and my tolerance and patience for failure is reasonably high. Thus, I imagine that most people would find the game very frustrating (confirmed by my wife), thus I am puzzled by why it's popular.

EricBall

EricBall

 

Why bother . . .

This is probably only of interest to potatohead, but I don't want to depress the Propeller crowd.   The Parallax Propeller is a pretty cool chip. Eight 32 bit cores running at 80+MHz with video output capabilities. A lot of people have said, that's cool let's make an emulator or videogames!   Except that ain't easy. Yes, the Prop has enough processing power to emulate an 8 bit CPU at a reasonable speed except... There's no external memory bus, so you only have 32K of RAM for everythin

EricBall

EricBall

 

If I were a rich man...

Stern has announced that their next pinball will be TRON Legacy. I'd really like to get one, but spending $5K (+tax) on a game is a little more than I can justify.  

EricBall

EricBall

 

Portal 2

I think the first game I bought for my PS3 was the Orange Box - basically to get Portal (although I've played a good chunk of Half Life 2 while my wife wasn't around). So while I'm not a major fanboy, the game is definitely one of my favorites.   Anyway, I knew P2 was coming out, had watched some of the videos, but hadn't really thought about getting it until today when ars reminded me that P2 has a co-op mode. Then something clicked - P2 co-op & long weekend. What a better way to spend

EricBall

EricBall

 

Pinhole Panorama camera idea

Roughly based on: http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2010/03/weekend-project-pinhole-panoramic-c.html   The design point is to make a 120 roll film cyclindrical panorama camera. My original idea was to make one with a 90 degree vertical field of view & 135 degree horizontal FoV, with the idea that a full 360 degrees would be covered in 3 shots. But then I got to thinking about adding a zenith shot (which would be easy if the depth of the camera was half the height), so up'd it to 105 degre

EricBall

EricBall

 

Collateral Obsolescence

About a dozen years ago I (with the bank's assistance) bought a house. The bank was so gracious for my business they gave me a computer, or rather a gift certificate for the IBM PC Store for an amount equal to their bargain basement Aptiva Isparati. The computer was a dog (Citrix MediaGX processor) but it was marginally better than the 486DX2-66 I had. (And I knew the computer was a dog when I bought it, but as it was effectively free I didn't complain. However, I didn't throw good money aft

EricBall

EricBall

 

Insignia (Chumby) Infocast

While on a 2 week vacation to watch the Daytona 500 (my wife is the NASCAR fan), I picked up the Chumby powered Insignia Infocast (in spite of none of the Best Buy drones knowing what one was). Now that I have it, I'm wondering what I'm going to use it for.   It certainly will function as an 8" 800x600 digital picture frame, just stick in an SD card. Ideally I'd like to pull stuff from iPhoto or Picassa (since that's where I store photos now). It can also play back videos, although the chal

EricBall

EricBall

 

Dealing with duplicate backups

I love making backups onto external drives. Plug it in and use EZBack-it-up (now I'm using robocopy) to do a simple copy of every file and every subdirectory onto the external drive. Then put that drive on the shelf until it's time to restore a file or do another backup. Not good for a bare-metal reinstall, but great for a basic file recovery solution. (Also useful when the internal drive gets full and you need to delete some large media files.) And when the drive gets full, buy another driv

EricBall

EricBall

 

next gen copy protection

Since the PS3's security structure has fallen, I'm left to wonder whether it's even possible to create a secure console. Secure in the sense that it prevents piracy. And if I was Sony/Nintendo/Microsoft I'd be talking to fail0verflow to contract them to help design it.   Copy protection basically comes down to making something which can be read (by the console) but not written (by anyone other than the creator). The PS1 used some sectors with zero'd ECC. So the PS1 drive could read the dat

EricBall

EricBall

 

Playing GT5

This past weekend my step-brother-in-law gave me GT5 and a steering wheel and I've been playing it every evening. And although I'm not a hardcore racing sim driver (Mario Kart is more my style - foot to the floor) but I am having fun along with some frustration.   I'm currently up to level 8 and my current effort is trying to get around the Nuerburgring in less than 11 minutes. I'm within 10 seconds and that's with a few bounces off the Armco barriers. So I'm confident I'll get there with p

EricBall

EricBall

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