Sunday, January 26, 2014

Fallout 3 Lets Play Pt 3

Here is Part 3 of my Let's Play Fallout 3 GOTY!!

Fallout 3 Lets Play Pt 2

Here is Part 2 of my Let's Play Fallout 3 GOTY for the 360!!

Friday, January 24, 2014

The first in a list of exclusives for my readers!

    So I am now producing videos on a (hopefully) daily basis on Youtube  (links to some of my videos, on the right, along with my Google+). I am awaiting final approval on signing with a network that works well for me . I am what you would call a 'smaller' channel, but hopefully this will help me reach a wider audience. I will also be continuing and increasing production of this blog, as well as my articles on Instructables.com. I will link the videos as they go up, and one is currently uploading as we speak (i have a slow connection right now, FiberOp will be installed within a couple of weeks, and uploads will be faster, but for now, it will be a video a day). The advanced link (for those who read the blog) is:


Here is a clue as to what the video will be about!!

Enjoy!!! And thanks for all of the support!!!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Like Grains Of Sand.....

    So a couple of days pass, a new post goes up. What to talk about today?  Well nothing overly interesting really happened of any noteworthy merit.  I did, however, discover that although tedious, a trained monkey on narcotics could easily swap out the digitizer (glass screen) and backplate on an iPhone 4/4S... its literally 3 screwdrivers and a spludger/case opener. I did this tonight for my cousin who had broken the glass on her iPhone 4, front and back.  While she was driving here (about 15 minutes), I watched a video that showed me the entire process, screw by frigging screw... and with Youtube videos showing in 720p being the norm now, there is not that much room for error in these videos. She gave me the phone and replacement kit, I sat to my table in my room, which has a perfect space to view either by a tablet on a stand, or my desktop (Xubuntu running on an HP Pavillion dv6700 series, but I will be getting to that one later...). I have a simple but efficient rule for disassembly of anything: proper layout with simple but suitable tools are a must. no more than a coffee cups worth of space should be from non-necessary things! My table i have in my room is a double folding wooden breakfast-style table with a brass legged center column stand - very space efficient without much sacrifice. In doing this task all i had were the following:

  • The kit - two guitar picks (they literally are guitar picks, i sh!t you not!), a suction cup with a keyring for a pull (not needed), two case opener/spludgers (very needed), the 3 screwdrivers necessary (a flathead for a pry tool, a Philips for most of the screws, and a Pentalobe - Apple's attempt at a tamper-resistant proprietary screw, needed for 3 screws).
  • A round magnet, and a magnet tray - I put the screw removed from the phone in order on the round magnet so i can then reassemble the phone with ease, reversing the screw order. The Tray is more or less handier for any shield pieces, water sensor, vibration motor, and other components.
  • The replacement screens
  • The iPhone itself
    I did all of this while rewatching the video, pausing when needed.  Please understand that this was pretty much me completely disassembling the iPhone to it's metal frame. When all was said and done, it took me around an hour, and minimal issues, except dealing with screws so small they are like grains of sand... very frustrating at times but no large issues. But previously that day, I had successfully replaced the cooling fan in my HP laptop in around the same time with the same set up, but instead simply using the tray for screws and piling the parts on the table, as this time the laptop was stripped down to its bottom bezel, another complete disassembly to replace one part - the brand new cooling fan that arrived this morning in the post. I was able to do this again with a screwdriver set, with hex bolt bits for a couple of mounts holding in the motherboard. When all was said and done, I had spent an hour completely breaking down and reassembling my laptop to replace the cooling fan. 
    In doing these two tasks today, I had came to two realizations: one - you swear less at a complicated and tedious job with the proper tools and preparation, and two - companies make it really hard for you to do repairs like this blind, but thankfully, Youtube comes to the rescue.  I, myself, have a Youtube video where I show how to convert a controller from the first generation Xbox  controller to be used via USB with a PC. When all was said and done, I had a much quieter computer, by not using a 110 volt desk fan to keep it cool, and I had help from Youtube!

 Disassembly of the iPhone!
The iPhone with it's new purple glass, front and back!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Hi, my name is Sean and I am a Dollarama Addict...

"Hi Sean"
"It's been an hour since my last bout of addiction..."
Yes, I have been home for about a half hour and realized that I had not done a new blog entry in a couple of days, so I figured I would talk about what I have been up to. In the last couple of days, I have made a small biomass stove out of two tin cans of slightly differing size, and did a spot of shopping at Dollarama. Truth be told, i have probably spent nearly $100 there this week, between grocery items (lots of canned and bulk items there, mainly brandname or their own store-brands, which are actually not bad at all), and as well, a few house items and bric-a-brac.  I even discovered that in their electronics section, they now sell Minty Boosts, although they are under a different name (their store electronic brand, with a nice little plastic casing, and sleek design). A Minty Boost (for those of you that do not know) is a small circuit that is a mix of capacitors, resistors, an inductor, diode and 3 volt to 5 volt booster, soldered to a silicon board, and then a USB female port is added. The kits were usually installed in Altoids tins, the frequent 'go-to' for many hobbyists.  It was only a matter of time that one was made on an industrial scale for cheap with the same scheme, more for people who are 'on-the-go' and do not have time for soldering and the like.

The $3 Charger, complete with Sunbeam rechargeable Ni-Mh
batteries ($2 in Dollarama for two plus separate charger, which i have).

The charger is simple enough, with a small slide cover for the batteries, a 3 position switch: off, a useless flashlight function, and USB, meaning it isn't a passive switching system, so you would need to switch it on to use it. The batteries they sell in-house are a 2xAA rechargeable Ni-Mh (Nickel-Metal hydride) for $2 a pack, as well as a $3 2xAA 110v charging unit of the same price (I didn't buy the charger, as i already have a Ray-o-vac Platinum charger, that does the same thing). So you can easily make a cheap rechargeable USB kit on the cheap ($3 for the USB charger, $3 for the AA charger, and around $4 for two packs of batteries, around $10 for a 4 x AA kit with all you need). This kind of thing is a lifesaver (literally, in some cases) when you are either suddenly without power, on a road trip and have no USB inverter to charge lil Timmy's handheld video game, camping, or work in a job that has you away from the ability to charge your phone for hours at a time. 

So, what can it charge? Well it has a power conversion of two AA batteries (1.2 volts a piece for my rechargeable Sunbeams, but a stock alkaline battery is 1.5 volts) so it steps it up from roughly 2.4 - 3 volts to a full 5 volts @ 500 mA (milliamperes, about a half of a full Amp), so a lot of your gear. I tested this with my iPhone 3GS (with it's Mophie Juice Pack Air charger, which gives the iPhone a standard Micro A USB socket to charge and sync with), my Acer Iconica B1 tablet, PSP, PS3 controller, and pretty much anything i had that is USB. It works. Now this thing is not the quality of kits you would buy online in some respects, but really it is a no-brainer when it comes to this thing. Whether it is being stuck in a dead car with a storm incoming and you need to call a tow truck, or you are camping and want more time with your video games before bed, this would be what you want!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sometimes, polishing a turd can reveal gold underneath....

So if you have attempted to try any 'serious' video capture in the past, but wanted to do things on a limited budget, chances are, you bought an EasyCap USB Capture device off of eBay (probably came direct from Hong Kong with free shipping, costing you a whopping $10 at the time (by contrast, a local 'mom & pop' computer supply and repair/cellphone vender had the balls to sell the identical set up for $60 (!!!!) in store, probably bought from the same vendor (businesses back home like to do insane mark-up on items, claiming the cost was 'too high' as they weren't a chain, yet they own their own wholesaler and warehousing businesses). So anyways, i got mine in 2009/2010 (cannot remember the correct time) for $7 with shipping. First offhand, my Linux PC at the time was too underpowered to run it, but the included disk with the Windows software asked for a key that wasnt provided, so i ended up using VirtualDub, but ending up getting that delay that was so characteristic of the EasyCap (DC60), along with a really crappy audio input (mixed mono @ 8000 kHz), so i had to use the line-in on the computer, record it separately, and then splice it together in post. Honestly an unwieldly mess that leaves much to be desired in the category of fluidic function. Fastforward about 5 years later and i dug it out of a pile when i was making a portable kit for capture with my HP DV6700 running Xubuntu 13.10. i sat down and plugged the EasyCap into the computer, opened terminal and entered 'lsusb' (this lists any/all USB devices interfacing with the computer at the moment). It said that my Easycap was a "Syntek Semiconductor Co., Ltd STK1160 Video Capture Device", and further searching online revealed that the DC60 was supported natively in the kernal version i was using, so no need for screwing around with drivers (in fact, most all of my gear, including my HP Printer, IDE/SATA/Floppy to USB adapter, and my Xbox 360 controller are all identified by brand name and chipset, with only the 360 controller needed a driver installed - sudo apt-get install xboxdrv).i then sat down and researched some Linux alternative, first using scripts in terminal with MPlayer and VLC, and then outdated programs like TV Time giving me green screens, and Cheese only recording videos. I watched videos by kids young enough to be my offspring tell me how they did theirs on Youtube, but my results not seeing any fruition. i was in the right area, but ran offtrack when trying different programs, and instead went back to VLC when i discovered a video: For the most part he is on the money, but he is still having two issues: no true 16:9 (appears to be letterboxed), and still has a delay (to which he admits). So now i was on the right track, so i started fine tuning things. For starters, i had to swap the audio inputs, making VLC ignore the onboard audio capture, and going instead with the mic input (and only audio input device on my computer) by changing the audio device to 'pulse' (i honestly clipped the useless f*cking audio inputs off that were on the EasyCap, as they were a pain in the ass to navigate around when I am hooking something up, so they wre lopped off at the root). After this, i went through the list of things to select, like NTSC mode, then selected option 0 for my composite, til i had gotten SVideo cables for my 360, and had to do a hunt and peck for my DC60's list number, as it was 4, and not 5 like in the above-shown tutorial. After this, a forum entry i found showed me the secret to eliminating the lag experienced between the audio and video in the EasyCap. You have to go to the additional settings area below on the Capture Device settings dialog window, and tick the box for additional options. When this is done, a box appears in the dialog box giving all of the video settings listed in sequence. simply scroll to the back of the list, and where it says 'live-caching=300', change it to 'dshow-caching=10', which allows the EasyCap to have DirectShow access, bypassing a need for a cache/buffer. after all of this, i hit play, and i was FINALLY capturing signals from the EasyCap with no lag, SVideo, and live audio. One caveat is that when i was viewing through VLC, there would be a delay of a half a second, a fault more so of the recording process, but there was no delay in the recordings themselves, so all i did was use the Composite feed from the 360 cable, routed it to the Composite input of the Sanyo flatpanel that i was using as my second monitor for my Xubuntu PC, so when i recorded i can watch a feed with no lag as i record my footage from games like Fallout New Vegas and GTA IV. All i did to the footage was add a deinterlace process in VLC, and then deinterlate and compress the raw footage from VLC, which records in 3:2 and nearly a gig a minute, so i use Handbrake as the general compression/processing program, which i also use to make the footage nicer to look at as well as in the proper 16:9 ratio. This finished footage is devoid of any interlacing between frames (EasyCaps were notorious for horizontal lines on much of the moving objects in the video it would record), and because of this, was technically a full 480p via SVideo. The finished product below: Now another thing to mention is that VLC is able to run on most any Operating System, so i am sure you can run it in a similar manner on your Windows PC or Mac. I hope this makes it easier for some people who may want to use this device, but have heard too many horror stories.

Monday, January 13, 2014

nostalgic about computing in my youth..pic related!

i have been reflecting a lot on the computing i had done as a young boy back in the 80s and 90s. i remember that our first computer in the house was a Commodore Vic 20, the precursor the the 64, THE non-DOS computer of the 80s. i make the distinction of non-DOS because for me, the computer of the 80s and even the early 90s for me, was the Tandy 1000 series of computers. For those unfamiliar, the Tandy 1000 was an IBM PCJr clone from Radio Shack, but eschewing the consolized concept that the Jr uses, instead giving it a regular desktop computer form factor, no cartridge slots, and using pre-existing TRS-80 peripherals, like joysticks and even the monitor. The PCJr bombed but the Tandy succeeded, with its no-nonsense approach to computing. They would continue to release the 1000 after it's initial success, making the EX and then HX model, using the compact design that Commodore, but more similar to the Amiga, with an integrated disk drive, and onboard components, much like computers of modern times use, not needing to have expansion slots taken up, reserving them for other things the owner may want to install, including 3rd party cards that allowed for VGA, FM sound, more ram (making the 1000 go from 640k all the way to 4 megs!!), and a hard drive. Later models after this would come with Intel 8086 and 80286 (and later on 80386SX) processors from the Tandy's initial 8088. Along with these upgrades, the Tandy received a new onboard component, a DAC similar to the Covox Speech Thing and Disney Sound Source. The 1000's original sound chip, a variant of the Texas Instruments SN76489, a chip that has been used in things like the BBC Micro, Sega's Master System and MegaDrive/Genesis, and other great pieces of kit, had 3 voices and a square wave. This gave it a sound comparable to these systems, and augmented by the new DAC, it really had an amazing sound, although not many developers took advantage of this, simply supporting the onboard 3 voice chip. This is a shame, as coders in recent times have compiled programs that allow for things like playback of music ripped directly from NES/Famicom ROMs. as well, the Tandy Graphics Mode gave games a really nice look, able to give a bit of an edge against the IBM-made computers, only using CGA, which was 4 colors at once (although Tandy graphics is simply CGA with access to all 16 colors). Some great games came out for DOS, but running them on the Tandy made them fly! I have seen games like Wasteland (the spiritual ancestor to Fallout), Zeliard (form GameArts in Japan, ported by Sierra), LHX Attack Chopper (i used to play with the Osprey on this game for hours), Leisure Suit Larry (Al Lowe was a gaming god back in the day), Tunnels (think of it like a tunnel racer in FPS mode that is also a shooter), and a butt load more! I spent more time on my 1000 RL growing up than my NES, not only playing games, but doing up book reports and essays (even had the Tandy 4-color dot matrix printer!) in Jr High and High School with Deskmate (i even used the Music composition program to enter and play music when i would practice my trombone for the music class i took in grade 11). This computer was a hell of a device. looking back, i think that if if i could have afforded it, a 120 meg hard card (think hard drive and controller card on one card) plugged into the single ISA slot my RL had, along with another floppy drive would have been the best. i also have to say it's layout was nice, with its integrated controls in the back like Volume, the joystick ports, audio input, etc. i had my Tandy outputted via either headphones or a stereo, which was pretty slick, considering the games had some great music and sound effects, and i could record and manipulate audio as well with it, usually recording CDS via analog, mostly to recut them. i wasn't overly fond of the mouse (most mice do not thrill me), but the keyboard was rather nice, comparable to an IBM Model M (i am using a french Model M now, and i love the feel of it). I would have loved to have seen if the 1000 line could have been kept going longer, as the RLX and RSX seemed like logical progressions (VGA/SVGA, but still using the Tandy sound chip and onboard DAC, which could emulate a Speech Thing at this point). A simple update of the look and small tweaks to its interface, Deskmate could have been an alternative to Windows and DOS, and geared more towards people who liked the concept of a compact computer, like the Amiga/C64/AtariST/etc, but wanted to use DOS instead of other operating systems, making it more open to use, with a lot of software already available. Tandy stopped the 1000 line in 1993, selling their computer division to AST computers, and started selling brand name 3rd party computers like Compaq, IBM etc. I look back with a lot of nostalgia at my RL, which i no longer own (My aunt bought it from my mother for her daughter to use, and then it was lost to the abyss... sigh.. oh well, time to play a game in DOSBox i guess!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Mooseburgers and Moving.

"So what's with the title, Sean? rather odd for a techie blog..." "Go jump off a pier, I own it, i can do what i want with it, Other Sean!" Whew... where's my meds?? So anyways, it's a saturday night.. i am bored, and out of beer, and a little awake now that i have had to resort to Lambs rum and Pepsi (most here call it Mutton). So what do i want to talk about? i guess about my trip i had to take back to Grand Falls-Windsor, a couple of hours east from me on the TransCanada Highway here in Newfoundland. I needed to make the trip as i had stored much of my belongings there at a friends place in the basement back last May when i moved out of a crap-hole 2 bedroom ground floor apartment with a rotten floor, bursting pipes, and the worst handyman fixes ever. So it's January, and i made the New year's resolution to get in shape and hike more etc like i did in my younger days.. the thing is that i didn't have any of my winter gear with me as it was in storage as well. a LOT of my stuff was in storage to tell the truth. Up until the point that i had gotten to get this stuff in storage, I had moved to Corner Brook in July with my dog and a little over a car trunk's worth of belongings (clothing, my small flatpanel tv, two laptops, my Xbox 360, etc). My room i am living in started out with a table, an entertainment center, a folding chair, and a $30 air mattress from Wal-Mart, with a sleeping bag and a single pillow. In the interim, i had bought a double bed (mattress and boxspring) which i have atop two shipping skids covered with a boxspring sheet thing.. i don't know the name of it, along with an entertainment centre that was meant for square-shaped CRT televisions, but i had altered to have a platform coming out of it to facilitate my 32" Samsung HDTV i had bought from a roommate, and a computer desk i had made from the surface board of a broken piece of crap computer desk and 4 milk crates all screwed together, allowing me to have my Linux computer (laptop) and my smaller Sanyo HDTV (19") in a dual monitor set up, with my IBM Model M keyboard and a mouse, as i wanted a very nice set up for productivity. My Windows 7 Laptop iss hooked up to the Samsung, along with my 360, PSP-2000, and the TV outputs to a vintage Zenith Allegro phono/tape/aux/radio stereo system (the speakers have 10" woofers along with 3.5" horn tweeters; sound sooooo good!!). I had planned the room design and layout ahead of time with rough concessions for the additional gear in storage. And so, last tuesday, i rented a UHaul trailer and contracted someone with a pickup to be my driver and helper, and i proceeded to reclaim my gear, and finally settle in! The trip was quick and uneventful, without a single moose spotted, road conditions were good, considering we were in a cold snap below -20 and snowed every day, was in progress of having a hurricane interrupt it for a few hours, making temperatures climb to above zero, and didn't have rain everywhere, thankfully. I think the biggest event on the trip was stopping in for lunch at a local family restaurant named Gibson's, where their daily special on that day was for 25 cents more, you could upgrade your burger choice to a moose burger. i have to say, a bacon double cheese moose burger is rather good! all being said, i had left my house at 9 am and returned home before 6 pm. after a short rest, i proceeded to unpack, organize, wash a LOT of my clothes (the basement had been a previous site for cats to use as a toilet, so it still had that 'musk' even in small amounts of cat poop and wizz. Thankfully besides a slight fragrance that was on only exposed items and was easily chased away with a wash or Febreeze, depending upon the material. The real work was in organizing things in a efficient manner, as i had packed my stuff in quite a haste. i had about two bags of garbage when all was said and done and 5 boxes in my closet of just cords, cables, adapters, and 'archival' items (old CD-Rs of data, such as family pics, programs, MP3s, etc and paperwork and artwork). I had ran about 5 loads through the washer and dryer, including pillows, jackets, pants, bed clothes, etc, and ran two loads of dishes through the dishwasher, helping to greatly bolster the dishes that we had, which were lacking due to only one roommate really contributing dishes before i had moved in. i had much of my belongings in milk crates as it made them more portable and able to be stored in a more efficient manner (seems that word is my theme). I was able to use the milk crates as both the foundation for converting my large closet into a full wardrobe, storing things like shirts, pants, underwear, etc in the crates, arranged in a 2X5 fashion on the floor, with a single screw joining each crate from top to bottom, and other items hung above them, along with my hanging hamper, an old 5 basketball carry bag. The Entertainment unit underwent a slight modification, having a 2X5 (vertical) shelf of milk crates tied into it, as well as more items reoriented inside of it, and a second Xbox 360 added to it, allowing me to have separate 360s for video capture and day to day use. i also put up posters, as my walls were virtually bare, and also hung some small wall boxes that allowed me to have some personally meaningful items on display in the room. when all was said and done, i had spent 18 hours straight unpacking and cleaning/reorganizing/reorienting my room, which was around Noon the next day. I thankfully had the foresight to make sure i had washed my drapes and put them up so i could block out most all light from the window, and had a 5 hour power nap. when i had awoken, i found it odd but comforting to wake up in my room, set up as if it was always that way. it was a long time coming, but i finally felt.. settled.. The finished product: