Quickies. Videos, games, treo, and laptops.

Ah, why not a quick bunch of updates and other tidbits.
The other night I finally sat down and updated the inventory of all my DVD’s and Laserdiscs. Having picked up a crateful of discs from someone on GB-Reuse, I figured it was time to update the listing. It’s just a flat text file – yeah, so retro, huh? Anyway, here it is. I thought I actually had more than that, but it’s a little over 200 laserdiscs, and about 110 DVD’s. One of these days I’d like to integrate my MythTV server and an installation of ReaderWare, the awesome book / video / music database tool.
My Treo has been replaced and I’m up and functioning again after the unfortunate incident. I had insurance on the phone, Verizon’s agent did a replacement / swapout for $50 (since it wasn’t actually a ‘failure’ on the device. I basically abused it. Edgy definition there). Thanks to the wonderful Lisa, I’ll have a new belt case to work with. I’m disappointed in the Seidio shield holster. The treo can pop out of it too easily, and I’m constantly checking on it. Stay tuned for more updates on what I end up with.
Mom is doing much better – she’s home and recovering at her friend Cindy’s house. The recovery in the hospital was longer than we expected, but we figured it was time for her to go home when she had convinced Cindy to bring in “decent food” because the hospital food was so bad. 🙂
The laptop is still out of action, but I’ve done the external 2 1/2″ drive mount thing, and there was no data loss. ‘yawl’ is doing just fine as my desktop machine, and the laptop is basically turned off and tucked away. It’s a little odd not having a mobile machine to work with – I can’t just pack up and go to the local restaurant to work. I’ll need to get the laptop going again soon.
In the funland department, Zach and I dug up some old hardware in the basement and got the DDR setup going on the Playstation again. We last played a lot over a year ago, and he’s improved a bunch since then. I think we’re hitting the sweet spot for rhythm and organization for him, and he’s close to giving me a run for the money. And I’m certainly not going to argue with the exercise. I’m thinking it’s probably time to replace the playstation though. The PS1 is almost 12 years old now, and the Playstation2 can be gotten for $75-ish, it just doesn’t make sense to stick on the old platform, particularly when we’re starting to see some minor twitches. And judging by the games I saw at Ubercon (like Shadow of the Colossus, the PS2 is not only a quantum leap in performance over the PS1, but despite it being 6 years old, the PS2 is still an awesome gaming platform.
Hopefully tonight I’ll be doing some more work on the Myth box to get some of the gaming working again (my Mame emulator stopped working for some reason. Meh!)

MythTV Update – Of joysticks, remotes, and keyboards.

I’ve been struggling with the concept of a ‘controller’ for the whole project. It’s easy to think of the Myth box is just like another audio/video component – something that sits in the rack, and you switch / control it via a remote to do, well, audio/video stuff. Watch TV, listen to music, record things.
But really, the machine is an entertainment center. A conglomeration of all that is ‘fun’ on a modern computer. It plays music from a library I configure and update. It is infinately expandable with low-cost off the shelf hardware. It plays games. It integrates with television and cable. It runs Linux. In it’s spare time, it processes Seti@Home data (NB: Not a function of MythTV :).
So given the system’s sort of multifaceted position in the ‘home entertainment’ circle, what’s really the best way to interract with it? It’s not a ‘computer’ in the sense that you’d sit in front of it and type all the time, so a traditional keyboard isn’t really appropriate. On the other hand, there are times when you do need to interract with the system in more detail… searching for music, updating configurations, even websurfing… where a keyboard is really needed. But for the most part, just something that does up/down/left/right, go, and cancel is sufficient.
I also use my Myth box for gaming via XMame and snes9x, two outstanding ‘classic’ emulators (I know of several folks who have a dozen or more emulators configured into their system(s)). This necessitates having a joystick or two connected up pretty much full time. At the moment I’m using a pair of ‘Thrustmaster‘ gamepads (CompUSA, $9 each) hooked up via USB. They work like a champ, and we can play multiplayer games without a problem (aside from jostling the USB hub, which tends to force the USB bus to reset, which may renumber the joystick devices when it re-inits a second or so later – oops, /dev/js0 and /dev/js1 are no longer your joysticks. They’re not /dev/js2 and /dev/js3. Eee!). My problem has been that the various emulators require interaction with MythTV to start or select games, currently handled by my keyboard, then we jump back to the joystick to play the game.
MythTV has already addressed this problem. The MythTV distribution comes with a joystick configuration file called “joystickmenurc.example”. Copying this file into ~mythtv/.mythtv/ (or wherever your root is for your myth user) and restarting the myth front end enables joystick navigation in the Myth menu system. After setting this up last night, I can tell you it changes the whole tv viewing experience. There’s something about controlling your television via a game controller that just tickles me. I can pause viewing (which starts Myth spooling up the current show into the ring buffer), skip forward or back, change channels, as well as navigate the myth menus. I’d like to add some other button triggers to the joystick definition file, but for now, this is a major win.
I think in the end, for my particular setup, I’ll end up with a wireless ‘gamepad’ controller with a bit more functionality than the Thrustmaster simple gamepads. That will fill the need for a ‘remote’ for controlling the tv, a game controller for playing games, and remove some of the need for a wireless keyboard.

MythTV Project update – Yay real screens!

MythTV Screenshot

Originally uploaded by eidolon.

Well, this weekend saw a bunch of advances on the project. The biggest was figuring out, much to my chagrine, that my Toshiba television did in fact have an S-Video input on it. Doh! I patched that puppy in tout de suite, and got an immediate full color image up on the screen. Hooray!

With that cable patch, we were pretty much set. Movies, live tv, dvd’s, music, etc – all were working properly. We even stopped having the lockup problem on MythMusic when going to full screen visualization.

We’re not 100% there yet. XMame is acting unusually twitchy when it comes to screen resolution. Some resolutions work okay on the external monitor, some do not. I can tweak the xmamerc and get SOME of the games working, but others will stop functioning all together and bomb out on startup.

I think I’m getting closer and closer to the time where I’ll need to do a Myth build from scratch on the box, building the code from source (rather than use Knoppmyth). There’s too many problems with the Knoppmyth distribution that I cannot repair without an upgrade (like broken MythGame sorting, MythWeb upgrades, etc).

But for now, I have a stable, useable box.

MythTV Project update – Bad card, Good games!

I had chalked this weekend to put in some work on the MythTV Project. As of mid-day Saturday, it’s been a mixed bag of results.
I received my replacement MX4000 AGP card from Newegg right as scheduled, and proceeded to install it into my system. The problem happened when I tried to remove the old card which had gotten pretty badly wedged into the slot. I believe I ended up cracking the slot (an AGP card is a ‘double-depth’ card, which means it goes pretty far into the motherboard). I installed the new MX4000 card, and apparently didn’t quite get it in place properly, because after 5 minutes of use, I was getting noise on the screen and corrupted video. No amount of swapping, reseating, fiddling, or whatever has solved the problem, so I’m RMAing the card back to Newegg, and trying a new one. Alas, I’ve had to go back to my old nVidia card in the meantime.
On the good side, I did some more work with MythGame the plugin for MythTV that acts as a front end to XMame, a wonderful arcade emulator. After populating the machine with the ROMS I had (all legally, natch), it took some noodling to get MythGame and XMame to configure properly. I’ve narrowed down a lot of the problems to the fact that the KnoppMyth folks rolled a ‘mid-development’ version of Myth out with their last ISO image, so many things are only half completed. I won’t be able to use the new ROM SQL database stuff yet, but ‘big browsing’ (using just filenames) -is- working.
I also picked up a pair of Thrustmaster (yes, thats really the name) USB joysticks from CompUSA ($9 each. Cmon), and Debian Linux picked them up automatically. I had to tell XMame to use the joystick (putting ‘joytype 1’ in /etc/xmame/xmamerc), as well as some other minor tunings (always run fullscreen, here’s where the rom dir is, etc etc), but after that it’s been working great. I have to decide whether the handheld controllers would be best, or if something like an X-Gaming controller is needed. However, in the time it’s taken to write this article, my friend and my wife and my son are now gathered around said system playing Gauntlet II on the handheld controllers. That may have answered my question for me.
Minor update – Something is amiss in my USB setup. The joysticks have a tendency to disappear off the bus and not reinitialize. A hard reboot seems to fix it, but not exactly an optimal situation. Stay tuned.
“Wizard is about to die!”. Ahhh.

My Wishlist

So now that I’m done with “The convention I was stressing about” (I’ll be heading back to Boston tomorrow), it’s back into the long term contract I picked up a few months ago. A lot of very cool Java coding that’s abstract, fascinating, intense, and occasionally screamingly frustrating.

But it also means I get to think about other things, all of which will cost money, which is workable, but it’s not like we have bottomless pockets just waiting to be plumbed.

So, my wishlist… projects, ideas, things I want to to, stuff in the works, etc.

Continue reading “My Wishlist”

Hanging out up in Maine.

Having a nice relaxing weekend up in Maine, which is always good for the soul. Course, would’nt be escape time unless I had some toys to play with. This weekend it’s games on the laptop.
Course, I’m running Linux, so that really cuts daown what’s available. One of the things I’ve been noodling with for a while is getting all the components together to build a MAME cabinet. (MAME is Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator – a way of playing virtually every video game every made on a single machine – what games do _YOU_ miss playing? :.) Course trying to do this on a non-existent budget has meant it’s taking a while. But I’m to the point of having the monitor, a motherboard, the games, and some real motivation, so things are starting to come together. Next step is the trickiest, and that’s designing / building a controller panel that has all the controls necessary for all the games I play.
Course, while working / thinking about this, I really get into playing games. I’ve been playing Robotron 2084 on the laptop a LOT, which is tricky with just keyboard controls, but it’s really making me jones for the cabinet.
Along these lines, Ben the fiend that he is, has turned me on to Kobo Deluxe, a thoroughly addicting space blast-em-up for Linux. The bum.