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About this blog

Geeky things I'm up to

Entries in this blog

 

I'm an iPod mechanic!

Last night I replaced the hard drive (which had died) & battery in my wife's iPod color. So now she's happy again. Plus I upgraded the drive from 20GB to 30GB and replaced the faceplate with a brand new glossy black one (from the U2 model).   The only difficulties were finding a Torx T6 screwdriver (well, not that hard, but I think only one multibit at Home Depot had it) and prying open the case. (It looked much easier in the how-to video.)   Oh, and I did manage to install Win2K onto

EricBall

EricBall

 

TiVo happiness

I love eBay. Where else can you easily buy something like a 25' headphone extension cord dirt cheap? Yeah, there might be a local supplier but I have no idea how to find them. And places like Radio Shack will charge you the item's weight in gold. It's the long tail idea.   And why did I want a 25' headphone extension cord? To connect my old TiVo on the first floor to a computer in the basement via it's serial port to retrieve guide data. So now I can use the TiVo's far superior search &a

EricBall

EricBall

 

Why yes, I am a geek

After much procrastination, I now have potatohead's Propeller Demo Board working. Of course my super-duper display driver doesn't work yet, but now I can do my own debugging.   I am now the proud owner of a Dell 1320c color laser printer. I got tired of the ink drying out in my inkjet ('cause I don't do that much printing at home) and the Dell had the lowest consumable cost. So although I could have gotten the HP 1600 for $100 less, I save that much on the first set of toner cartridges.  

EricBall

EricBall

 

Love / Hate

I have a love / hate relationship with some games. I love playing them, but I hate how much time I spend on them. Time which I could be spending working on other projects or, in some cases, sleeping.   This summer I played HalfLife into the wee hours of the morning the night before I needed to leave for the airport at 4 AM.   This past Friday I played Civ3 past midnight even though I started the day at 4:30 AM and had a 9 AM meeting the next day. Last night it was only through a great f

EricBall

EricBall

 

new review of an old game

I played Wolf3D when it first came out. I played DOOM and DOOM II when they first came out. But when Quake came out my home PC no longer had the necessary horsepower. Thus I was pushed off the FPS bandwagon (except for Goldeneye). I also no longer had the time and desire to dedicate to playing games. And online has little appeal to me. But then I saw Half Life athology in the bargain bin at the grocery store. I resisted for a long while, but I finally couldn't say no to $10. At one time I played

EricBall

EricBall

 

N64 acquisitions

If I'm not careful, my wife is going to kill me. My original idea was to create some favorite eBay searches for the top-rated kid-friendly N64 & GCN games which I didn't already have. My price point is C$10, including shipping (which typically doesn't leave much for the game). I've picked up: Blast Corps, Rayman 2, Rocket: Robot on Wheels, and Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (not kid friendly, but one I've wanted since I rented it a long, long time ago).   Unfortunately, it looks lik

EricBall

EricBall

 

saving for Wii

Monday my wife declared my son's piggybank to be finally full and started sorting and rolling. In all, it was over 40lbs and C$800 (those $1 & $2 coins add up quick) which will be added to his university account. But there was also over C$200 in paper money, which he has earmarked for buying a Wii. Unfortunately, the cost of the system plus one game (and tax) will cost C$400. So I guess he still has some saving to do. (Which he will probably accomplish in a year or so as he rarely spend

EricBall

EricBall

 

sensible guide to safe computing?

One of the things I did while visiting my in-laws was to do some cleanup of their computer. In spite of having the McAfee suite, they'd managed to pick up a bunch of malware. I suspect it started with some kind of "free" download which installed a toolbar or taskbar tool, which then installed something else . . . and next thing you know they're getting random pop-ups and error messages.   Anyway, I'm wondering if anyone has ever found a sensible guide to safe computing? Not just "install an

EricBall

EricBall

 

GCN Super Monkey Ball 2

Have you ever played a game and wondered whether you bought the same game as reviewers? Super Monkey Ball 2 is like that for me.   Another one of my cheap bastard eBay purchases. I don't have Super Monkey Ball 1 yet, so I can't compare the two. But I'm glad I only paid $10 for it.   Maybe it's because I'm playing the single player story mode instead of the multiplayer games. Or maybe the reviewers only played the first ten maps and cribbed the rest from Super Monkey Ball 1. Who knows?

EricBall

EricBall

 

GCN Star Fox Adventures

Although it's no Zelda OoT, I'm quite enjoying ripping through Star Fox Adventures.   the bads: #1 Exit doesn't save, or give the option to save! (I lost an entire stage discovering this.) #2 Very linear. There's one path through the game and very few (and very short) side stories. In most cases it's pretty obvious where to go & what to do. #3 Although the manual seems to suggest a complex attack system, it really comes down to A-button mashing while wiggling the control stick. (Al

EricBall

EricBall

 

self-modifying code HELP!

My Propeller video driver is almost done, but I've run into a snag. The following is a snippet from the pixel byte to long lookup routine.   SHR sprgfx1, #8 ' shift byte into position MOV sprbyte, sprgfx1 AND sprbyte, #$0FF wz MOVS :byte6, sprbyte ' update source pointer MOVD :byte6, sprdata ' update destination pointer ADD sprdata, #1 :byte6 IF_NZ MOV sprdata, sprbyte ' copy color lookup table entry to lineRAM SHR sprgfx1, #8 wz MOVS :byte7,

EricBall

EricBall

 

cog coding

I've been doing a bunch of think-coding over on potatohead's Blog trying to work though making Propeller code capable of generating a 240x240 resolution sprite display.   For those not familiar with the Propeller, it's an 8-way SMP processor in a very low cost ($13 each) package. Each processor (or cog) has 496x32 bits of RAM which functions as registers and code & data storage (self modifying code is almost required), with 32K of shared RAM accessed in round-robin fashion (very determini

EricBall

EricBall

 

TIA percussion question

I've been toying with an idea for a 2600/7800 TIA music player for a while. The design point is to minimize the space required, near 1 byte per note. A single byte would contain both frequency and period (4 possible). Plus, there's 34 codes for notes which would be played for a single frame for percussion sounds.   Anyway, I'm wondering if anyone has a suggestion for AUDC/AUDF values for the single frame codes. e.g. AUDC = 8 AUDF = 0 high hat AUDC = 8 AUDF = 8 snare AUDC = 15 AUDF =6 s

EricBall

EricBall

 

7800 music app idea

One of the classic complaints against the 7800 is it uses the 2600's TIA for sound. Maybe that could be used as an advantage.   Imagine a TIA music editor which uses the 7800's graphical capabilities to display notes on a scale and to scroll in realtime during playback.   My only question is how to get compositions out of the 7800 and back to a PC so the creations could be added to 2600/7800 homebrews. Maybe via a SaveKey <-> serial interface?

EricBall

EricBall

 

7800 cycle counting

I've done some cycle counting of the display list builder for SpaceWar! 7800 and the results aren't pretty:   103 cycles per display list (25 NTSC, 30 PAL) 403 cycles per player sprite, +191 for horizontal wrap around 248 cycles per non-player sprite, +82 for horizontal wrap around 50 cycles per sprite header vertical wrap around 200+ cycles of overhead   At 114 cycles per raster, just the display list builder is going to chew through all 62 lines of VBLANK.   So, what to do? 1. Optim

EricBall

EricBall

 

Houston, we have lift off

I did a quick merge of the rest of the 4K SpaceWar! 7800 code so now the ships move & fire again. Of course there were problems - the main one being top-to-bottom wrap around. Turns out there was a bug in the 4K version, it didn't handle it properly either. Although the code wrapped around the display list pointers correctly, it didn't handle the end of display list index correctly. Thus, it tried to add the sprite to display list 0 using index 25, wiping out the display list. Ick!  

EricBall

EricBall

 

stationary sprites, scrolling background

I've merged in the initialization and display list builder code from 4K SpaceWar! 7800 and made the necessary tweaks to handle the moving zones. Fun! My main problem with this code was I kept running out of ZP RAM, which would push a (ZP),Y pointer variable to $FF, which doesn't work at all.   I first ran into the problem when I put in the initialization code and tweaked the display list initialization (so the constant parts of the tile headers only get written once). Kaboom! So I dragge

EricBall

EricBall

 

vertical scrolling

After much banging my head against the wall, I finally got the background scrolling smoothly. A lot of the problem was I couldn't keep straight which way was up. The next challenge is to integrate the code from 4K SpaceWar! 7800 and revising the display list builder to compensate for the moving background.

EricBall

EricBall

 

vertical motion

The starfield now move up and down, following the sine wave, though in 8 line jumps. Smooth scrolling is next, but that requires some display list & display list list magic.   I've also started using a 6502 simulator for general debugging. Since a lot of 7800 code is data movement, it's reasonable to use a general 6502 simulator. I caught a couple of bugs this way. The biggest problem is the built-in assembler isn't DASM compatible and isn't as capable.   I've also made some major im

EricBall

EricBall

 

side scrolling star field

That was both easier & harder than I expected. The hard part was the usual lack of debugging tools on the 7800. The easy was more a reflection of how my 6502 coding skills have improved over time.   Next challenge is to put in the Y & SINE routines. I also need to do some cycle counting and figure out how much CPU time the background starfield will eat. I'd really like to be able to recalculate everything every frame, but I have a sneaking suspicion I might need to interleave backg

EricBall

EricBall

 

32K SpaceWar! 7800

Current status - static starfield complete (NTSC version)   The next big step is turning the Star X,Y into DLL & DL entries and going to a dynamically built DLLs (one for on grid i.e. StarY&7=0) instead of the static DLL & DLs. Once that's done, I'll need to integrate the 4K SpaceWar! 7800 sprite to DL routine.   Sorry if this is a little dense and cryptic. It's mostly for me to remind me of the design decisions which I've made (or remade).   Reviewed old blog entries, found

EricBall

EricBall

 

Flee the flea

Saturday my wife declared she had suffered enough cabin fever and declared we were heading out, preferably to a flea market in the area. She was looking for Premier League jerseys (ideally an authentic Joe Cole Chelsea blue), but I was keeping my eyes peeled for stuff to add to my Nintendo collection (although I've given it up for Lent, 'cause she convinced my son to do the same). I think I saw two booths with used games and premium prices. My target price these days is C$10 so seeing stuff t

EricBall

EricBall

 

6502 sinewave

Since I can't find my Leprechaun round tuit, I've told myself I have to work on SpaceWar! 7800 some more. One of the features I really want to add to SW78 is the starfield background (Expensive Planetarium). But the tile map is much larger than the screen, thus it needs to move in some way to show the whole thing. My original idea was to make the movement based on the spaceships wrapping around; they'd kinda drag the starfield with them. The disadvantage with this idea is there are two ships

EricBall

EricBall

 

GCN Wind Waker - second impressions

Okay, I'm part way through Wind Waker; the pirate has become Zelda and I need to ride the waterspout to get my fire & ice arrows. Of course, I don't know how many side plots I need to follow up on, so there's probably a bunch of random sailing left.   Which brings up two points. First, a lot of the reviews really focused on how tedious they found the sailing & wind changing. I disagree. Yes, you're going to spend a lot of time sailing around (often criss-crossing the entire map), b

EricBall

EricBall

 

GCN First Impressions of Zelda: Wind Waker

One of the things my mother-in-law brought with her was her copy of Wind Waker. Last night I sat down for an hour or so and played through the intro island. I really enjoyed playing both N64 Zeldas (though I prefer Occarina to Majora) and my hands instantly "remembered" the controls; pressing R to shift the camera and still pressing A to jump :-).   The big change from the N64 Zeldas is, of course, the cell-shaded style graphics. My first thoughts were "ick, ugh, how annoying and distractin

EricBall

EricBall

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