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About this blog

Geeky things I'm up to

Entries in this blog

 

Looking for game ideas

Many moons ago I bought Civilization Revolution for the PS3 and have been playing it quite a bit ever since. But always single player, i.e. versus the AI. I've gotten fairly good, where I win the majority of the time against the highest difficulty level. But I've avoided the online multiplayer for a couple of reasons - can't save (so have to dedicate time), and there are quite a few very good players out there.   Well, this weekend I played my first online game and got spanked. Yes, at the

EricBall

EricBall

 

E3 musings

At E3 each of the big three consoles hit the stage to excite the press and public with their latest gadgets.   Microsoft was first up and they showed off Kinect (nee Natal), where the 360 uses a camera to turn your body into the controller, along with various games (mostly sports stuff) and a staged Star Wars lightsabre battle. The other big announcement was a smaller, quieter, lower cost, Xbox 360 with built in WiFi.   Nintendo went second with Shiguru Miyamoto showing off the new Zelda fo

EricBall

EricBall

 

Cray-1

Even though I didn't get into computers until several years after the Cray-1 first came to market, it was still a legendary computer.   Just the look and shape of it was awe inspiring; looking like something from 2001: A Space Odyssey (or any other SF film). No simple box, but a C shaped tower with a "love seat". Then you learned that "love seat" was the refrigeration system - it was cooled with Freon - how cool was that? A computer that got so hot it needed a cooling system. (Which actual

EricBall

EricBall

 

which iPod shuffle?

My wife has suggested getting my son an iPod Shuffle (or similar) to replace the kiddie cassette player he has. A bid advantage of going with an iPod is my son can therefore get stuff from my wife's iTunes library. However...   Reasons I don't like the current 3rd generation iPod shuffle: 1. C$70+tax 2. Controls on the headphones. However, C does think K's iPod headphones are comfy. 3. It's dang tiny, just looking to get lost. 4. Requires a special USB cable for charging & sync. (Some

EricBall

EricBall

 

PS3 Linux musings part 2

Both potatohead and I agree that GeoHot's exploit represented a potential piracy risk to Sony. The question I have is whether Sony could have done something other than disable OtherOS in response.   Well, they could have ignored it. The attack required a hardware mod and a little bit of luck to break out of the Hypervisor walled garden. But even after that was accomplished getting to piracy (either game or media) may not have been possible, at least in the short term. Unfortunately, histor

EricBall

EricBall

 

PS3 Linux RIP (for now)

For those of you with PS3s, be aware that the April 1 update disables OtherOS. So after installing the update you will no longer be able to install OtherOS or boot into OtherOS - so no more PS3 Linux. (Of course, the PS3 slim didn't have this ability.) Not upgrading means you will no longer be able to access the Playstation Network.   There has been much discussion on whether this is legal. IANAL, but I suspect it is not and Sony will be forced to either provide compensation (e.g. Playstat

EricBall

EricBall

 

Bloombox is not green!

I was listening to the 60 Minutes podcast and they were doing a segment on the Bloombox, which is based on a fuel cell. The thing which annoys me is they call this "green energy". Umm, folks . . . you're generating electricity by consuming gaseous hydrocarbons (typically natural gas), which isn't green IMHO unless you are capturing bio-methane. And even then you're replacing the power grid with some sort of hydrocarbon delivery system. They also talk about avoiding grid losses, but half of m

EricBall

EricBall

 

Home network monitoring

My wife plays Cafe World and other games on Facebook. She's noticed that her MacBook gets hot while she's playing. I suspect it's just because Flash is a hog, but it occurs to me that I really have no idea what it's doing. And although my home network is safely hidden behind a NAT router, that doesn't protect me if something which is running from inside Flash (which has security holes) or other "trusted" environments.   What I'd like to do is put a sniffer on a hub connected between my cabl

EricBall

EricBall

 

mythbuntu woes

Both my new Dell (very fast and near silent) and the two ATI HDTV Wonder cards arrived this week. So after backing up the old system last night I tried to install Mythbuntu today.   The install itself went okay. I think most of the problems I had were self-inflicted. Unfortunately, my capture cards weren't automatically recognized, but I expected that because I had the digital-only VE version. However, even if I had the normal cards, I would have had to jump through hoops to get the cards

EricBall

EricBall

 

MythTV plotting

Well, I just bought two ATI HDTV Wonders on eBay, so I guess it's gone beyond plotting.   I've read as much as I can without taking the plunge. In theory it should be fairly simple. 1. Acquire PC to use as a back-end server. This server contains the capture cards and the hard drives to store the recordings. Since I'm dealing with ATSC the CPU specs don't matter. 2. Acquire compatible capture card(s). Sure, there may be cheaper cards out there which you might be able to get working, but i

EricBall

EricBall

 

new project curse

I have too many unfinished projects. I think of a project and I can think of nothing else. It rattles inside my head, making it difficult to think of anything else. But as I actually start the project the noise quiets down and life returns to normal. But then I get another idea and I can never quite get back to finishing off the project.   Currently rattling around in my head is an idea for an MPEG Transport Stream separator. This relates back to my idea of using my PS3 as a MythTV front

EricBall

EricBall

 

PS3 as ATSC PVR?

Of course, now that I've ordered a new computer the "dead" one stops crashing and actually transcodes overnight. So now I have a spare computer to find a use for.   I have two SD TiVos - a dual tuner connected to the HDTV for analog and digital cable, and an old Sony S1 in the bedroom for analog cable. I also have an antenna connected to the HDTV for getting OTA (over the air) channels in HD. I'd love to add an HD TiVo but I can't quite justify it for recording network television; and I can

EricBall

EricBall

 

just buy a Dell?

My home computer is close to dead - random reboots and errors which point to a hardware failure. It's at least 7 years old, so I guess it's time for an upgrade. Sigh.   I've spec'd out a Dell replacement for C$878+tax etc. My question is whether there's any real point in looking at other makes etc. Unlike the old machine, I'm not interested in researching each component and assembling it myself. I have consoles for playing games so I don't need the ultimate in performance. I just want g

EricBall

EricBall

 

Beatles Rock Band

Two years ago when Rock Band was released, we gave it some serious consideration for a family Christmas gift. But we ended up giving the whole plastic instrument craze a pass until this year where we used some gift money and took advantage of the post-Christmas sales to buy Beatles Rock Band. The big advantage is we "know" most of the songs.   And we're having a blast. C is getting better banging on the skins, and I play bass while K handles the vocals (although we might swap). We've worke

EricBall

EricBall

 

FAST! DHT

I've finally finished (and debugged) my Fast Discrete Hartley Transform for the Propeller. It takes 2^N signed 32 bit input samples and produces the output in the same array. I've measured the following: 16 samples in 12,496 clock cycles 64 samples in 87,648 clock cycles 256 samples in 534,656 clock cycles 1024 samples in 2,899,504 clock cycles 4096 samples in 14,668,112 clock cycles   At 80MHz that's 27.5 1024 sample DHTs per second!

EricBall

EricBall

 

Hartley Transform

Sample code (unoptimized). Comment if you want more details. L = log2(N)for i = 0 to N-1 j = bitreverse( i, L ) if j > i then t = x[i] x[i] = x[j] x[j] = t endifnext ifor i = 0 to N-1 step 4 t0 = x[i] t2 = x[i+1] t1 = x[i+2] t3 = x[i+3] x[i+0]=(t0+t1+t2+t3)/2 x[i+1]=(t0+t1-t2-t3)/2 x[i+2]=(t0-t1+t2-t3)/2 x[i+3]=(t0-t1-t2+t3)/2next ifor o = 3 to L s = 1 << o h = s / 2 q = s / 4 for i = 0 to N-1 step s t0 = x[i] t1 = x[i+q] t2 = x[i+h] t2 = x[i+h+q]

EricBall

EricBall

 

'nother review of an old(er) game

This weekend while my wife was in Miami and my son was at school or asleep I played far too much Half Life 2. I got the game as part of the Orange Box for the PS3, which I bought to play Portal. But HL2 is an FPS and thus is verbotten in my wife's opinion. But what she doesn't know. . . Based on the walkthrough, I've played through over half of the game (maybe even two thirds). And although I had fun, it wasn't quite as satisfying as the original. I will say that I thought many of the envir

EricBall

EricBall

 

Propeller breaks the space time continuum

Most developers understand it is possible to trade off space for speed, e.g. unrolling loops or using table lookups instead of complex calculations. This is particularly true for low level programming where you are often trying to squeeze out the maximum speed in the minimum space. But I've recently discovered Propeller Assembly (PASM) it's possible to maximize speed and minimize space simultaneously.The Propeller is different from most processors in there are no dedicated ALU registers. Inst

EricBall

EricBall

 

Hartley Transform

If you do any kind of signal processing, you've probably heard of an "FFT" or Fast Fourier Transform. An FFT is an algorithm (and there are several) which calculates a Discrete Fourier Transform in less operations, typically O(N*log2(N)), where N is the number of samples. The Fourier Transform changes a time based function into a frequency based function. (The reverse is also possible.) The Discrete Fourier Transform is the same thing except it handles time and frequency samples rather than

EricBall

EricBall

 

Video is BIG part 2

I've enhanced my workflow, so I'll share it for others who may want to do something similar.Step 1 - using a simple video capture program and an analog capture card, I capture the video at 720x480 (YUV2 compressed with HuffYUV), and 48KHz 16bit audio to NTFS formated disk.Step 2 - use AVCutty to detect scene changes. I created a custom scene index to simplify the next step.Step 3 - compress the scenes to DV format using ffmpeg -ss hh:mm:ss.00 -t hh:mm:ss.00 -i capture.avi -target ntsc-dv "clip-

EricBall

EricBall

 

Propeller 6502 emulator

Why is it people think that because the 2600 is "simple" (at least in terms of what level of graphics it can produce) that it will be easy to emulate?   The reason it isn't is because the 6507 and the TIA are "tightly coupled" - each can do things which have an immediate impact on the other. The 7800 and NES are loosely coupled unless interrupts are used. But In the 2600 the 6507 & TIA could almost be regarded as a single entity.   Anyway, occasionally people suggest creating a 2600 em

EricBall

EricBall

 

Scribblenauts

Last friday was my son's 9th birthday, so I got him Scribblenauts for the DS. After playing through the first world (11 "puzzle" levels and 11 "action" levels), I have to say I'm fairly impressed. The game manages to squeeze a mind boggling number of items onto the cartridge. And there's another nine worlds to be played through (each with 11 puzzle & 11 action levels). I also like how it makes you think - and the spelling is a good "edutainment" angle.And yet, I have a few complaints:

EricBall

EricBall

 

Video is BIG

A decade or so ago I bought a Hi8 camcorder. With it my wife and I have shot the usual assortment of home movies. Now my wife wants to use iMovie to change those tapes into DVDs. (Probably not a bad idea - before those tapes start dying.). These days we use the movie capability of my wife's Canon S3 instead of the camcorder. Of course, getting from point A to B isn't a simple process. The first step is to use the capture card in my old PC to make an AVI using HuffYUV lossless compression. This g

EricBall

EricBall

 

You can't always get what you want...

My wife saw Beatles Rock Band in the store the other day and made some "wanna have it" noises. Now, although when RB2 & GHWT we talked about buying one of them, we never did. My main problem with them (and B:RB) is they are, at heart, rhythm games. You aren't just rockin' along to some tunes you know. Nope, the game want you to do the right thing at the right time, or no cookie for you. I downloaded an Aerosmith demo and played through it using my controller. (Yes, not ideal, but enoug

EricBall

EricBall

 

iPod Nano 5G

Today Apple announced the 5th generation Nano, including features not available on any other iPod models: video camera & microphone, speaker, and FM receiver. (I think the other features are 90% software, i.e. the pedometer uses the existing accelerometer.) Okay, so the iPhone has the camera and microphone, but the iPod Touch and Classic don't. (And both the Touch & iPhone have a speaker)My question is why the Nano got the goodies instead of the Touch. Maybe it's the price point. Ap

EricBall

EricBall

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