Like any good history lesson you need to understand where you came from to appreciate where you are and realize where you might be headed. Just about 45 minutes of your time is needed for these 5 great video clips for the history of video game graphics.
If you’re looking for an even greater in depth look I highly recommend this five episode TV mini-series Rise of the Video Game for an even more comprehensive lesson of our video game heritage and evolution.
Maybe I’m just a victim of nostalgia but I think an era with limited hardware to perform graphics, music, and input forces game development to become much more creative and players to use their imaginations more creating their own experiences from a more abstract virtual world.
In 2014 a very successful kickstarter project was released that I own on the portable Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo Wii-U called Shovel Knight with music by an amazing chiptune artist Jake Kaufman who uses such software as Famitracker to compose music for the original Nintendo Entertainment System to create great songs for tunes found in Shovel Knight (music example).
Another interesting gem for the computer platform is a modernly maintained Mega Man themed game mod running on the original Doom engine called Mega Man 8-Bit Deathmatch with great multiplayer action which introduces Mega Man to the first person shooter genre in a very nostalgic fun way.
Simple project that all you need to use is a piece of wire connected to a single pin on a Raspberry Pi. Here is a reference to download the GPL code and make it happen.
Raspberry Pi powered from USB port on router, using a roughly 23cm piece of wire as an antenna.
The range of transmission is from 1Mhz to 250Mhz, to transmit at 100Mhz for example use this format below.
sudo ./pifm sound.wav 100.0
Here is a video demonstration I put together of remotely triggering the broadcast.
At first I converted my own mp3 by and exporting to a wav file, but I had problems. After finding a solution online I basically had to decrease the sample to a a Mono track at a rate of 22,050Hz before exporting.
Lot of questions I received immediately were around any potential legal concerns of performing this unlicensed musical broadcast. Here is a FCC exert explaining the legality but basically don’t create interference with any registered FM broadcasts and keep it lower power and under 200 feet for your home use.
This lead to the next epic idea of scheduling a task every day at 6:00am and replacing the morning broadcasts on my FM receivers to something more fun while paying tribute to the movie Groundhog Day.
What if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.
On a recent camping trip I flexed my recent Amateur Radio License upgrade and used my portable Yaesu FT-817nd HF(high frequency) rig for long distance communications. This is a portable, all mode, low-power transceiver with many great functions; all of which are listed here in the manual.
Transmitting from my Lake Monroe Indiana campsite easily across the continent and beyond on just 5 watts of power, which is about the equivalent of most HT(handy talky) portable handheld transceivers in terms of power usage. Speaking of reduced power, a Raspberry Pi computer uses about 2 watts! Compare that to the next generation game consoles that were just released the Xbox One and PlayStation4 vary anywhere between 70 and 140 watts during operation.
Similar to txt’ing on modern mobile phones, ham radio also has codes that inherit a lot from the Morse Code days. There is a list of Q Codes which are predefined terms essentially creating a short hand for messaging, these are a few that I have picked up just from listening to local repeater stations.
QRP = Reduced power. (typically under 5 or even 10 watts)
QSO = Contact successful between two stations.
QSL = Can you acknowledge receipt?
QSY = Changing frequency.
QRM = Picking up man-made interference.
QRZ = Who is calling me?
QTH = My location is…
All was made possible by an end fed multi-bander so called since the feed point for the antenna is at one end of the dipole. This allows the antenna to be draped straight off a ledge or in my case strung up close to 90 degrees vertically, the ideal angle for long distance communications to other continents around the world.
Multiband 40, 20, and 10 meters, deployed with water filled plastic bottle and kite string. The 100 feet of feed line to the radio was thicker and more cumbersome then the actual antenna. Here is the manual of the antenna which goes into all of the specifications and possible configurations of antenna physical deployment. I used a kite string and a plastic bottle with a bit of water to throw over a 40 to 50 foot branch and hoist it like a sail with the feed point at the ground.
Here is a list of my contacts made during the camping trip on my end fed tribander capable of 40meters, 20meters, and 10meters at a maximum power level rating of 25 watts. Some of the contacts I had made they were using 1,000 watts compared to just 5 watts on my HF rig!
List of HF contacts, my first HF contact
There was some very rare DX(long distance) in the middle of Atlantic Island I heard, but there was too many transmissions at once created a large pile-up making it difficult to initiate contact especially with my reduced transmission power relative to others.
Logging my QSO’s on paper was old school and fun but there is also a nice iOS application that I used on my tablet that links contacts directly to www.QRZ.com. Pulling up user’s profiles shows the QTH of the contacts you make and logs them. I’ve even seen some people that link to a live webcam stream of their shack showcasing their rig and equipment while transmitting on the air.
Callsign Search iOS app
Digital modes of operation such as the popular PSK-31(Phase Shift Keying, 31 Baud) mode can be used to transmit messages even further since they take up less bandwidth even compared to SSB(Single Side Band)communication. It’s so thin and narrow you can fit about 20 simultaneous PSK-31 transmissions in the same amount of bandwidth that would occupy one voice SSB transmission of roughly 2.5Khz wide. This method of operation requires a computer to decode the audible tones that cannot be deciphered by human ear alone. With the useful Android app DroidPSK I was able to simply reach into my pocket and use my phone to decode the signals I was hearing.
Locking on to the signal.
Tuning around to decode analog messages with the use of the mobile phone’s microphone input.
To here what these signals sound like you can click below to hear the variations in the signal.
Ponta Delgada in terms of “rare DX” they have an advantage being surrounded by salt water which electrically speaking works as a great ground plane for your signal reflecting off its flat surface compared to any other terrain.
Here is more on the atmosphere explained in great detail for sky wave propagation which signals have MUF(maximum usable frequency) that will bounce off the ionosphere going even further at night since the D-Layer aka day time layer are gone at night exposing the F-Layer for longer distances.
One of the reasons why I love everything I’m involved in is seeing a large world become smaller through our inter-connectivity. Communications have always interested me especially after reading about The Victorian Internet which viewed some early forms of communication such as the telegraph’s similarities relative to modern communication mediums.
Have they tried turning it off and on again?
As we become more aware to foreign countries our perceptions of each other shift towards that of neighbors and we begin to notice a heightened sense of interaction. As the commoditization of technology continues It is interesting to see the reaction when recent events like the country of Syria getting disconnected from the World Wide Web.
Now I’m not a Doom’s Day Prepper but I am a fan of having a backup-plan or alternate method for solving issues that arise. So along with a desire to understand radio communications better and finding alternate forms of communication I am pursuing my Amateur Radio License. With that goal I have purchased an affordable dual band transceiver to aid in the learning the Baofeng UV-5R as it is a great entry level radio and been studying Gordon West‘s book Technician Class.
Baofeng UV-5R, a $40 usd dualband transceiver.
Studying for the exam and getting ready to take the test at Hamvention 2013 for my FCC Element 2 Technician Class Amateur Radio license. Here are some apps, links, and other general resources.
Whenever I’ve met a famous person like comedian Dave Chappelle or actor Sir Patrick Stewart its hard for me to form up words to carry on a casual conversation. When you meet someone that is famous for their knowledge of history of technology such as John “maddog” Hall the amount of questions about the past, present, and future are endless. When you have the chance to take off work and attend two presentations by a man that has been making a difference in the industry longer than I’ve been alive its beyond inspirational and totally surreal.
Richard Stallman presents on Free Software
Richard Stallman has done more than simply inventing or created something, he has inspired a moral concept and belief directly writing the book to preserve freedom of how society as a whole perform computing. All free software must meet these 4 requirements to be considered Free Software, meaning free as in libre not gratis.
Freedom 0: The freedom to run the program for any purpose.
Freedom 1: The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish.
Freedom 2: The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.
Freedom 3: The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements (and modified versions in general) to the public, so that the whole community benefits.
gNewSense Richard Stallman’s current GNU/Linux Distro that he is currently rocking. Trying it out in a VM, very ubuntu gnome feel to it.
Richard Stallman is very strong in his beliefs and his reasons for the free software movement are very clear and make clear sense of how society as a whole has benefited and hopefully accelerate us further into the future changing society as a whole for the better.
Free Software Free Society: Selected Essays of Richard M. Stallman, 2nd Edition
Ultimately I’ve realized how many freedoms many of us tend to give up and typically in the name of convenience. It has forever changed the way I view software, service providers, copy protection, DRM, and just software in general. There is a lot of these conveniences that Richard Stallman gives up such as only doing anonymous payments, using a laptop that even the BIOS code is available, or refusal to use a cell phone. Some of these conveniences I am not willing to give up but I am much more aware and sensitive to instances where I or those around me are freely giving up freedoms in the name of convenience.
So I’ve been having having way to much fun lately working on my Command Line Fu. I remote into always on power efficient ARM cpu based servers such as a PogoPlug or RaspberryPi typically running Arch Linux. I’ve set some up at friends & families network locations to have a leg into their network(s) so I can quickly diagnose and help from a dedicated system on their LAN. Its kind of like having a hosted Virtual Private Server(VPS) like Linode.com offers except cheaper than their already great prices.
Multi tasking on a system with no gui may seem somewhat non-existent at first but thanks to screen and its more steroid induced relative tmux (terminal multiplexer) making your command line interface feel more like a typical desktop is doable. I must say from the moment I’ve started using tmux I’ve been in love, and I only know the most basic of key bindings so far. There are plenty of tmux video tutorials out there to get up to speed pretty quickly on its use and navigation. Here is a list of commands that I’ve been using to get started with my new best friend tmux.
Ctrl-b ? List all key bindings
Ctrl-b % Split the current window into two panes vertically
Ctrl-b ” “split-window” (horizontally)
Ctrl-b directionalArrow change to the window in that direction act fast enough and change multiples
(Hold Ctrl press & release b) Ctrl-b directionalArrowresize window
tmux(Terminal Multiplexer) running screen sessions as well for doing things such as; web browser, watching local storage space, time, key binding list, scratch area, top monitoring, irssi irc chat session, and Star Wars movie via telnet.
Above is a view of my ongoing session on the PogoPlug server at my friends house but within a 1080p view from a CentOS gust machine running on my laptop. I had a real OH WOW moment when I realized I can login to my server(s) from about any device and have the same user experience across many different platforms.
The Logitech K810 Bluetooth Keyboard was a great investment. Logitech has always had great peripherals and this is no exception. You can pair between three different devices such as how I have to one of my tablets, smart phone, and desktop. Switching between 1 of 3 paired devices is a breeze and the unit recharges off of micro usb making it equally as convenient. The backlight is extremely useful and the fact that its proximity sensing from when your hand comes near to type it helps save battery life while you are not typing and just as quickly turns it on when you are about to input. I also greatly really like its portability considering its thinness, and feel of the chiclet style keys.
My biggest gripe about it unfortunately is the lack of PageUp & PageDown buttons, not even with an additional function button. Either way here is the well polished marketing advert of the ~$75usd peripheral that I recommend.
So a friend of mine asked if I was good with soldering. Knowing that they wanted to install a roll bar in there car for racing that weekend jokingly I asked if they wanted me to solder the roll bar to his car. He explained that a friend of his was a lady who owned a bar and one of the patrons had knocked over her laptop while the SanDisk 32GB Cruzer flash drive was still plugged in landing on the inserted flash drive. This had broken the printed circuit board as well as the male connector off. The interesting part was she had financial data from the past SEVEN YEARS that she wanted recovered from the drive.
Finished soldering, ground pin to connector post on pcb
Looking at the drive there was an issue where pin 4, the ground pin had snapped off inside the connector where the printed circuit board(pcb) had also broken off. Examining above where the 4th pin should have been there was no visible signs of anything conductive to make connection with. On the other side of the pcb was a super tiny diode that I wasn’t exactly sure which side to solder too directly if at all for that matter with a multi-layer circuit board.
I decided to connect the small piece of spare black wire to the metal contact where the male USB-A connector normally mounts to the pcb. Was kind of fortunate it was just the ground pin damaged instead of the power or data lines. Which of course makes me think of Moss from The IT Crowd in the video below.
Got it right on the first attempt plugged it in carefully and was recognized right away. All the data was fully recovered from the single Fat32GB partition on to a SanDisk 32GB Fit which is a flash drive with a much lower profile yet still the same capacity. It is usually catastrophic events like this that individuals realize the importance of having some kind of backup strategy.
iOS6.x Jailbreak Installer by evasi0n download for your appropriate operating system, in my case I chose the Linux installer for my ubuntu 12.04 64 bit laptop. Install worked fine with USB 3.0 ports, in my video I even had quite a few dialogue pop-ups interrupt the process, but ultimately when canceled them out did not interfere with the process. Make sure you backup first I chose the iCloud method since I do not use iTunes, and also disable any on screen lock password before you begin.
patching kernel after update, takes a while to finalize
I have really cutback on PC gaming over the last few years but ever since putting Diablo III on my ubuntu work laptop at my last job I have been playing and researching more games for PC. I’ve built water cooling rigs in the past with dual video cards back in my Half Life 2 and LAN party days where playing these beautiful games running on Valve’s amazing source engine. Playing the latest and greatest visually stunning games is fun but can be a very expensive hobby. So I set out to find a decent laptop to run Linux, had full HD resolution, and comfort for extended use.
Diablo3 my Witch Doctor
Checking MicroCenter & Bestbuy to get a feel for a system’s physical dimensions the Republic of Gamer’s latest revision laptop really caught my attention the Asus G75VW series. Chiclet style keyboard with number pad, light up keys, tiny subwoofer, 17″ full HD screen, and great cooling that keeps the system cool and silent while under heavy load. Even the “W” key game with a notch for finger placement which appealed to me since I have always grown up playing first person shooters with the arrow keys so I’ve been wanting to retrain my fingers for the “proper” wasd usage. What was also appealing about this model was 2 drive bays and RAID support.
Rather than doing my own video of the G75VW-BBK5 you can just look at the many already online for a general hardware tour. Republic of Gamers did a nice job on the fancy marketing video too.
There are many variations of the G75VW model, some with different drive configurations including SSD and HDD, more memory, Blu-ray burner, plus even 3D capable display. If you get one of the top models decked out straight from the factory you can easily rack up a bill over $3,000 on the system! I personally prefer a diy approach and paying for only the specific components I want in my rig. My choice of storage disks and memory for example where I can pay for the exact parts I want and in fact get a much better price in the process. This is why I decided on the G75VW-BBK5 model specifically, that and I found an open box model on Amazon for only $850 which is amazing considering this model can go for nearly $1,400 three months ago when I first purchased it. I made sure to leave a Review on Amazon since I was so happy with this purchase especially when you compare the quality to other similarly spec’ed systems.
Bought 2 sets of G.SKILL 16GB (2 x 8G) 204-Pin DDR3 SO-DIMM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Laptop Memory Model F3-1600C10D-16GSQ
The system says comes with 8GB of memory and says it supports up to 16GB. Do not be fooled though, this is only because of the Windows 7 Home Premium memory limitations that the system comes pre-bundled with. It is really relatively easy to get to all 4 memory slots to perform the upgrade to 32GB of memory! Considering the price of memory this was the first upgrade I did. Running virtual many virtual machines off my laptop is a breeze, no need for swap space at all.
Installing dual OCZ’s for RAID 0
As far as hard drives I bought an OCZ 256GB Vertex 4 drive during a crazy cheap sale during the Christmas shopping season. Deciding to take advantage of RAID 0 performance I bought an additional Vertex 4 drive from MicroCenter. Half a terabyte of super fast storage for a Linux operating system seems a bit excessive I know, but installing a collection of games with PlayOnLinux I benefit from extremely fast load times for all my games including my collection of Valve games on Steam.
12.7mm Universal HDD Caddy.
Having a lot of virtual machines the disks can take up a lot of space even with thin provisioning. The system came with a 1TB 5,400 RPM drive and instead of buying an external enclosure I opted to have a third internal drive for the sake of added space for larger files. This 12.7mm bay replaces the optical drive and uses the existing DVD drive cover so aesthetically you can’t tell the difference.
Drive bay with the optical drives cover installed.
Getting Raid setup
Go into Bios by pressing “Esc”, change mode to “RAID”
After POST logo, press “Ctrl + I “to get into intel RAID managment
From there setup Raid 0 striped array
For bench-marking purposes I performed a write test since this is destructive in nature I tests were performed before installing an operating system. With Raid 0 two drives are better than one, about twice as nice.
Finding what device to install the bootloader to was a bit tricky at first.
For a while I had trouble getting video working properly, no matter what Nvidia video drivers I tried it seems like X would never start properly or if I ran without drivers I was limited to 640 x 480 resolution(Fischer Price mode). Ultimately the proprietary experimental Nvidia drivers version 310.14 is what worked for me. For a nearly a month though I was using my system via command line terminals only and was rather enjoyable, downloading XBMC images for Raspberry Pi flashing via links command line browser.
Virtual machine running and 30 something tabs open in web browser Chromium and there is still plenty of memory to spare.
Gordan Freeman’s original iconic weapon of choice, the crowbar.
One game that I have been playing heavily with my new laptop is a PC classic favorite of mine from 1998 redone by fans in tribute to the original Half Life. This game is called Black Mesa and it is the original game redone and fully updated properly on the source engine. If you remember this great game or have never played it, at the price of FREE there is no reason not to skip this tastefully updated tribute game. Here is a link to a resource I used to figure out how to get the game loaded on my Linux installation as well.