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EricBall

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Everything posted by EricBall

  1. Yep, but while there's a bunch of stuff you can figure out with nothing more than a basic multimeter it doesn't cut it for signalling issues. Admittedly these days there's USB dongles with software which are a decent alternative to a DSO depending upon what you're debugging. However, the lesson I learned is to at least consider what might be necessary to troubleshoot issues before diving in and spending $$. Admittedly software is a lot easier, although there an still be challenges.
  2. In my life I've undertaken many personal projects and there are a few I would qualify as failures. After working on my latest MAME cabinet project I realized I had learned some important lessons from those projects. In the hope that maybe others can learn from my mistakes... Decades ago I had an idea for a circuit which would remove Macrovision copy protection from an analog video signal. IIRC it was based around a sync separator and I was positive it would work. So I ordered the parts from Mouser, wired everything up on perfboard, connected to my DVD player and... nothing. It was at that point that I realized I did not have the equipment necessary (e.g. a digital storage oscilloscope) to determine why it was failing. The lesson was to plan for failure and before starting the project make sure you have the tools necessary to debug any issues. (In particular any hardware project.) For example, I considered trying to build a portable Wii (Wiiboy). However, I could easily wind up with the same problem - something doesn't work and I don't have the tools to debug the problem. (Especially since a big part of the project is to physically cut the Wii PCB, so there's a very real risk of something going wrong.)
  3. Thanks for the info, I wasn't aware there was a 4:3 remaster available. I think I might be getting an early Christmas present. The crime was the decision to go ahead with widescreen versions when it wasn't possible to re-do the VFX. Unfortunately, there was a huge push to avoid black bars when HDTV was new.
  4. I watched Babylon 5 when it was first on TV and I have every episode recorded on VHS. One of these days I'll digitize them so I can enjoy them rather than the "widescreen" versions. Babylon 5 was great TV - each episode and season told a story which was then part of the story told by the entire series. But a reboot doesn't compute IMHO. Part of the reason B5 was great TV was JMS. He had the vision for the entire series, the backstory, and the ability to change plans when required due to cast, production company and whether there would be a next season. JMS also had the experience to know how important it is to come in under budget (something which doomed Firefly). So JMS is being given the green light to do a reboot of B5. But a big part of B5 was the knowing that each episode was part of the larger whole - even if you couldn't see it yet. Simply retelling the same story with new actors and better SFX would remove much of the enjoyment as you'd know how the story is going to end before it even started. But if JMS's plan is to tell a different story, then it's not really Babylon 5.
  5. An arsTechnica staffer apparently overheard someone saying, "I'm working on the thing after the Switch." and wrote a whole article about it (which I read, although it's a lot of empty musings). Of course, it's no surprise that Nintendo would be working on a successor to the Switch. For home consoles they have a pretty regular 5-6 year cycle. The Switch was released back in 2017 (how time flies) so I'd expect a successor in the next 18 months.!? But it got me to thinking - if I were coming up with a successor to the Switch, what would I build? Nintendo has sold over 73 million Switch but also almost 16 million Switch Lite. To me that says there's a real demand for a portable system, so I'd stick with the same form factor as the Switch Lite. But have a dock just like the Switch which would allow the system to be connected to a TV. In addition, single player offline long-form games are one place where the traditional sale model (versus the "free to play" model) work; and theses games also lend themselves to portable play. This also means Nintendo wouldn't be directly competing with Sony & Microsoft as the system would be advertised as a portable system you can connect to your TV versus a home console which is also portable. However, the successor to the Switch will be somewhat competing with the Steam Deck. One big question is whether the successor to the Switch will be backwards compatible with the Switch. Nintendo has a history of maintaining backwards compatibility to the previous generation with three exceptions: the Super NES, the GameCube (N64 was cartridge based and Nintendo finally made the transition to disc based media), and the Switch (single screen vs Wii U / 3DS). So I think there is very good chance the successor will be backwards compatible. However, this also means Nintendo is somewhat tied to NVidia (versus AMD). On the plus side, Nvidia already has successors to the Tegra X1 used in the Switch. The most modern one which is currently being manufactured is the Xavier - which looks like a decent upgrade from the X1 - double the number of CPU cores and GPU units and both running at double the clock speed - which would make it about 4 times as powerful. So if I were Nintendo, here's what I would do for the "Super Switch" - NVidia Tegra Xavier based, with Switch compatibility - same physical design as the Switch Lite - same OLED screen as the new Switch (for better visibility outdoors) - dockable (via USB-C, also used for charging), which adds HDMI, LAN & USB ports - compatible with Switch, Wii, and other Bluetooth and USB controllers Note: I'd stick with the same 1280x720 resolution for the built-in display with 1920x1080p60 for the HDMI output rather than 4K. Why? Because Nintendo understands gameplay trumps graphics. If the Super Switch had a 1920x1080 display and output 4K UHDTV that would use up much of the performance improvement of Xavier over X1. Note 2: It will be important for Nintendo to provide a "system seller" on launch & encourage second & third party developers to create games which take advantage of the Super Switch. Both the DSi and New 3DS had a very small number of exclusive titles. Note 3: Yes, I know many of these ideas are the same as the "Switch Pro" rumors - however I actually wasn't aware of them before I did this, so I might actually be more right than I thought.
  6. https://www.youtube.com/c/Techmoan occasionally does repair videos. He has similar issues replacing belts.
  7. EricBall

    Later Facebook

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_neural_network#Training IMHO it's a huge problem with neural networks. One other item which isn't mentioned is the raw input data is often "pre-processed" to make it more compatible with the neural network. Of course, this pre-processing might introduce or amplify biases.
  8. EricBall

    Later Facebook

    The reason they won't tell you why is they don't know why themselves. They have a neural network they've "trained" by feeding it a bunch of posts marked "bad" (and hopefully some marked "good") until it correctly marks another bunch of posts. The more similar your post is to the "good" training & testing posts, the more likely the AI will mark it correctly. But if your post is more like the "bad" training & testing posts, then the AI is going to mark it incorrectly. And there's no way to ask the AI "why is this post "bad"". Modern AI is a big black box - garbage in - gospel out.
  9. After 135 hours of playing Breath of the Wild I have defeated Ganon and finished (but not completed*) the game. It was a lot of fun, but I'm not planning on replaying it in the near future and I certainly have no desire to buy the DLC and play through a modified version of the game. One of the parts of BOTW I loved is Zelda's story revealed through the memories and her and her Father's diaries. Unlike the Champions who chose to be warriors and then accepted the role of Champion, Zelda is instead told that she has a destiny she must fulfill - except everything she tries denies instead of confirming that destiny. It's only after Ganon defeats the Champions and Link that she her power reveals itself. It's a tragic tale - but one with ultimately with a happy ending. * I haven't completed every quest, found & completed every shrine, found all 900 Koroks, or the many other tasks which would be necessary for me to claim I've completed the game.
  10. If you're referring to the Hateno house quest - that just gives you space for three more weapons (plus three shields and three bows). I'm using those for the Champion's weapons (plus a couple of nice to look at shields & bows).
  11. Earlier this summer I heard an orchestral medley of Zelda themes and it reminded me that I hadn't bought Breath of the Wild. When it first came out I didn't have a Switch and couldn't justify buying one just to play Zelda. However, my son got one a few years back for Christmas so now I just needed to spend the $$ to get the game. So I picked it up and I've been playing it since July 1st. I haven't finished it yet, I still need to grind a while to get Ancient Armor and upgrade it before taking on the castle and Ganon (although I suspect this isn't required). I can understand why many people love this game. However, it's not without its flaws. One of the big complaints from many players is weapon durability. I will admit in the early game there's a significant risk to having your only weapon break mid-way through a battle. But later in the game it's more of an annoyance. My bigger issue is not being able to keep all of the weapons I want to. I'd like to be able to store weapons I'm not planning on using but might want to use later. Right now I've got a lot of elemental weapons filling up my inventory. They're cool to use and great in certain situations (e.g. fire weapons vs ice monsters). However, their durability isn't great and they have limited world spawns. So they sit in my inventory. Maybe I should just embrace the temporary and use them (and figure out how to use the elemental rods effectively). Related to weapon durability is the blood moon. I think the design decision behind the blood moon was to ensure players had a way to accumulate weapons and materials in the late game. I'm kinda doing this now as I need to kill Guardians to obtain 90 ancient gears to buy and then upgrade Ancient Armor. However, the blood moon takes away my incentive to try to clear out the various monster encampments. In fact, during the early game it's often better to avoid conflict to preserve weapon durability & arrows. The game sometimes takes "let the player figure it out" too far IMHO. Would it have been so bad for the old man to tell Link to avoid the disabled Guardians? "You've seen the Guardian carcasses? Well some aren't completely inactive, it's best to run away if you find one - you won't be able to damage it." OTOH one advantage of picking up this game years after release is other players have done the investigation and datamining to figure out almost everything about the game. So this means I don't have to stumble around trying to figure out the cooking mechanic, what weapons are the most durable, or where a particular memory is located. But back to the grinding. Grinding is almost unavoidable in an open-world game and BOTW is no different. For completists finding all 120 shrines, all of the Koroks, all of the treasure chest, and obtaining & upgrading all of the armor can be quite the grind. In BOTW upgraded armor provides bonuses in addition to simple damage protection. So having armor which makes you unfreezable, unshockable or immune to fire can be a great benefit. And for those upgrades the required items aren't difficult to obtain. However this isn't the case for Ancient Armor, which provides additional defence against Guardians (which are one of the strongest enemies) and when upgraded provides a bonus when using ancient weapons (which are particularly effective against Guardians). So if you're going to be taking on Guardians you're going to want to have upgraded Ancient Armor. But to obtain and upgrade Ancient Armor you need ancient materials (ancient gears in particular - 60 to obtain, 30 to upgrade) and you need to defeat Guardians to obtain ancient materials. (Yes, it is possible to loot dead Guardians to get ancient materials, but not enough to obtain 60 ancient gears.) So you need to attack & defeat Guardians without Ancient Armor in order to get Ancient Armor to make it easier to defeat Guardians. Ugh! None the less, I'm really enjoying the game. OTOH I don't think I'm enjoying it enough to buy the DLC.
  12. My personal test track is G Major Toccata by Mannheim Steamroller (off Fresh Aire IV), specifically the first ~45 seconds. Top hat hits & rolls to test out the treble, pipe organ & kettledrums for bass, and a Hammond organ for everything in between. Plus some decent stereo separation. When I was shopping for a new stereo I stopped in to a Hi-Fi store and used this track to test out a bunch of amps and speakers. I concluded the amp didn't make much difference (at the price point I was shopping at), while the speakers were much more important. Of course, the one thing I couldn't easily change was the room.
  13. First, I am not planning on buying one - I've got too many other ways to spend my discretionary time and $$ on. But I do wonder who the target market is. While it is an impressive portable PC at the price point almost everything seems to be a little bit of a compromise. The CPU is decent, although will likely struggle with modern AAA titles. The GPU is probably equivalent to a high-end laptop APU - but nowhere near as powerful as a traditional desktop dedicated GPU. Again, fine if you're playing "casual" or "indie" games rather than Crysis X. Only 16GB of RAM (I'm assuming shared with the GPU) might be a limitation, but probably not as much as the 64GB of slow storage in the base model. And as others have pointed out, the low resolution of the display may be an issue as well. (OTOH, lower resolution typically means higher framerates.) There's also the issue of what games will be playable. While Linux versions do exist for many titles, they often aren't quite as good as the Windows versions. Nor will many games be playable via Proton. (See https://www.protondb.com/ for lots more info.) However, one place Valve hasn't skimped is on the controls - although I do wonder how well most games will work "out of the box". But back to "who is the target market" ? Probably not the people playing competitive online multiplayer games which dominate the Steam top 10. And post-COVID will as many people be commuting via public transportation?
  14. After more research it looks like I should be able to get most of what I want by jailbreaking my 3DS XL. But before I do that, I have some other projects I should be working on...
  15. A few weeks ago a YouTube video about the G-Boy kit caught my interest. This isn't a portable cobbled together from old smartphone components, but an actual Wii PCB, cut down to remove unnecessary components & to make in smaller, then wired up to custom PCB to provide battery power, controls, LCD interface and replace the DVD drive with an SD card, and finally put in a custom case with the LCD etc. Of course, many Wii titles would be problematic without the Wii remote, but the Wii can play GameCube games natively not to mention emulators and other homebrew. However, this is definitely not an easy project and the more I thought about it the more negatives I saw. First the actual build would require several tools I don't have, increasing the cost. New tools also means new skills, which increases the risk of failure. The possibility of catastrophic failure (or at least failure beyond my ability to troubleshoot & repair) is also very high. So there's a high risk of failure and the end result, while cool, doesn't provide me with anything I don't have already except for portability. Finally, the hobbyists who created the kit didn't seem to be selling them anymore, so I'd need to do a lot more DIY as well. But it got me to thinking. What I kinda / sorta want is something like a GBA with a big screen which could emulate GB/GBC/GBA/NES/SNES and other classic 8 & 16 bit consoles. I knew these devices existed, but I needed to do some research to see which ones would satisfy my requirements and how much they would cost. Fortunately there's some YouTube channels which focus on these devices and do a great job comparing them. The challenge is there are new devices being offered all the time so what was top of the heap a few months ago may now be an also ran (or now that more people have them, the flaws have been discovered). However, for me there is a clear winner - the PowKiddy RGB10 Max. One of the big advantages it has over similar devices is the 5 inch screen. While the 16:9 aspect ratio isn't required for classic consoles, it's the same as a 4 inch 4:3 screen (or a 4.4 inch 3:2 screen) - which is still larger than the majority of other devices. The processor seems to be powerful enough for my requirements and the reviews are fairly positive about the controls. The two negatives are the single off-center speaker and the screen not being particularly bright. It also seems like the internals and software were cloned from the Odroid Go Super (but given the purpose of the device is to play copied games I'm not going to feel guilty). And it's only C$150 shipped from China. However, while I want it and can afford it . . . I'm having trouble justifying it. I have multiple other options to run emulators on devices I already own. (I just need to take the time & effort to get everything installed & configured.) So I don't need it to play the games. While portability is nice, I don't actually regularly need something portable in order to play games (e.g. commuting by public transit). Plus I already have several portable devices which I could play games with. Finally, my main constraint is free time, not ways to spend that free time.
  16. The base software install and configuration has been completed! Now I just need to build the final cabinet (current roadblock is persuading my son to work on the control panel artwork). For those who might be interested, here is the "top 40 classic vertical arcade games" which are playable: I'm hoping I will be able to track the number of plays for each game. I suspect there will be few which get played a lot and a few which aren't played.
  17. @spaceInvader89 Which email address did you use for me? (The old atariage one stopped working years ago.) But I have no issues with you using the game itself as part of your research. (That would fall under fair use anyway, but I appreciate you asking first.) Send me a DM if there's anything in particular you'd like to know about the game which would help you out. I'm also curious about what particular properties Skeleton+ has which caught your interest. Just don't use it as AI training for killer robots.
  18. https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2021/05/exclusive-valve-is-making-a-switch-like-portable-gaming-pc/ Not to be a wet blanket, but I predict failure (based upon the info in the article). IMHO the main problem going to be processing power. A decent gaming PC has a CPU & GPU far more powerful than the Switch and if Valve tried to squeeze that into a portable system the battery life would be very short. But downgrading the CPU & GPU to a level where battery life if reasonable would make the system underpowered for anything more than casual 2D games. Consoles like the Switch can get away with a lower powered CPU & GPU because developers learn how to do more with less or rework their game to fit within the system limitations. Other problems: Basing the SteamPal on Linux because While Steam supports Linux (and MacOS) this isn't true of the majority of games available through Steam. Graphics performance on Linux still lags Windows. Fewer PC games support controllers effectively vs keyboard & mouse Price - although not stated, I don't think this is going to be a cheap device
  19. I got the Raspberry Pi 3A+ last week and the HDMI to DVI adapter finally showed up on Friday. So I immediately hooked everything up and started to redo the setup (fortunately I'd tried to keep notes for most of the config changes). I had powered the Zero off the USB hub built into the monitor which meant I could turn both on and off with the monitor's power button. At first I did the same with the 3A+, but I got occasional "under voltage detected" errors. At first I ignored it as it didn't seem to have any impact, but then RetroArch mis-recognized the Xinmo controller and I knew a change was necessary. So I switch to using a standard wall wart and started over. But I really wanted to be able to turn both the monitor & Pi on and off with one switch - ideally with the monitor's power button. If I couldn't use the built-in USB hub, maybe I could use the 12V jack used to power a speaker. In fact, before I bought the USB powered speakers I'd looked into some 12V audio boards for the RPi, hoping there would be a reasonably priced option (ha!) which would also power the Pi. What I wanted was something cheap which would convert 12V to USB power. Then it hit me - cars are "12V" (not really), but I bet I could crack open a cheap (dollar store cheap) car lighter USB adapter, solder on a cable with the correct barrel connector and have a probable solution. A couple of hours later I had done just that - and it worked perfectly! Moving up to the 3A+ has also increased the number of potentially playable games - although this time I'm starting out with just 44 from a combination of "best of" lists. So I need to go through those, make sure they work (near) perfectly, then make up the media for the front end. I also need to finalize the control panel artwork (I've decided to just use heavy-duty vinyl, so no need to try to cut & bend plastic) and then I can build the final cabinet!
  20. The other day I learned lr-mame2000 doesn't save high scores. Part of me thinks I should just accept it. But the more I play the more I want to have the high scores saved over time. Being on or first on the high score table is part of the arcade experience. (Ideally I'd love it if Libretro saved the entire system state on exit so it wouldn't have to go through the initialization sequence.) And while lr-mame2003 does support high scores, it needs more CPU. So either I'd end up cutting my list of playable games even more or I need to get another RPi - and I'd rather not spend even more $$ on this project. OTOH, prior to making my barcade I was using the Raspberry Pi Zero to play back DVD rips (no problem with the MPEG-2 decoder licensed/enabled); so in the long term I'd want to buy a second RPi anyway. (Heck, I suspect eventually I'll get a third to hook up as a retro console.) So two good reasons won over my frugal nature and I bought a Raspberry Pi 3 A+, which fits my requirements perfectly. I've ordered Of course now I will need to go back through the list of games and see if there's any other "best of the best" which are now playable. For the actual build the current bottleneck is creating artwork for the control panel. Much to my relief others have confirmed vinyl is durable enough for the control panel and it's not necessary to cover it with plexiglass or lexan. This great because I suspected it would take me several tries to successfully bend & cut holes in the plastic (plus I'd need to buy a bit for my router). My plan was to use macro photos of quarters as a background. However, it's amazing how scratched a quarter can be even if it looks "mint" under a magnifying glass.
  21. My technique was to loop through the objects then append the entry to the relevant display list(s). Just need to store an offset for the end of each list. But whatever the method you have to transform the Y position to select the correct display list and then the graphics page offset.
  22. IMHO one of the big challenges of programming the 7800 is the amount of data required to get anything to appear on screen - you need to generate the display lists and the display list list. And once you get that done you realize it's non-trivial to dynamically generate those display lists efficiently.
  23. You can use https://youtube-dl.org/ to download the audio tracks directly from YT.
  24. Focusing on the "best of the best" games was a very good idea. It meant I only had to do marquees, attract videos and control panel diagrams for 19 games rather than over 100. This is a screenshot of my Attract Mode theme. The marquees are instead of the more typical text game list. And when the game is selected it shows a video of the game's attract mode. The bottom is a basic diagram of the cabinet control panel to show which controls are used for what in the game. From a software perspective the system is at the 90% finished stage: Go back through the games list and maybe add a few more games. Due to MAME romset differences I only have screenshots rather than videos for a few games. See what tweaking can be done to the boot-up & game start sequences to make them quicker & avoid text displays. However making the final cabinet is almost more important. But I'm really struggling with anxiety about having everything go right. At least it's playable - so I'm going to go play some games.
  25. The living room is approx 10 feet by 15 feet with the TV & speakers at one short end. The problem is one long wall is windows with a sofa in front while the opposite opens onto the rest of the house & the stairway.
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