What about Consoles? – My Brief History #4

When I started writing this series of posts about my life as gamer I didn’t expect to do a post on console gaming. Why not? Because so far it has been a significant part of my gamer experience. I expected to give it honorable mention in a wrap comment, along with mobile gaming. Yet here we are and I am writing this. What happened? The short answer is that I got myself an Xbox One for Christmas, so one way of the other, a console will be part of my life for a while coming, and before that happens it makes sense to take a status on my console experience so far.

The longer answer to the ‘why get a console now?’ involves retrogaming, media centers and surveillance cameras and the Raspberry Pi. Here is how: As mentioned in a previous post I am the generally happy owner of 3 Pis. Two are media centers, the third is used for various experiments.

Now, we have a spot in the house that we want to be able to check occasionally when we are away from the house. A quick solution for the budget aware person is to grab a Raspberry Pi, connect a camera and DIY. That’s what I am gonna do and that’s gonna set me back one Pi.

Then, regarding media centers: I have two Rasperry Pis running Kodi (one per TV) and that is a fine solution, except that one of the pies is not performing well and I want at the very least to have a backup. That could be another Pi, but trying out heavier hardware could be interesting.

Finally, as my first post in this series indicates, my heart still beats for old arcade and early computer games. Fortunately emulators are available that provide the opportunity to reply these games, either on a PC or *something* else. Again, the quick solution for the budget aware person involves a Raspberry Pi and, for example, an installation of RetroPie – a Linux package specifically build to run RetroArch on a Raspberry Pi. A great idea in principle, but I never was happy with the result, with the main gripe being controller setup. I just can’t get a stable setup with a wireless BlueTooth controller. So next step for me is to try building on hardware with native wireless controller support. I was already starting to look into options for building a NUC-based solution for this, when it occurred to me to check current costs of a gaming console. Turns out that both the PS4 and the Xbox One are now reasonably priced. Then, while I am not a fan of the Black Friday concept, I still checked if an Xbox could be bought at a reasonable price. Turns out it could. Directly from Microsoft even. No doubt to lock people into their games eco system before they get a Stadia or switch to Play Station 5 instead of getting the Xbox Series X when it arrives in 2020. And apparently also to keep people from buying more Raspberry Pis. In any case, soon I will unwrap my new Xbox and grow much wiser in the way of consoles. Time will tell if I succeed with my projects and whether gaming catches on – at least for the kids.

My brief history of gaming #4 – The Consoles in my Life

I am pretty sure that my earliest gaming experience was on a neighbor’s Atari 2600, some sort of tennis game and since then console gaming has always on the edge of my gaming universe, with a few trips inside. We shall see what my Xbox will do about that, but That may be a out to change, but I’ll start at the beginning.now I start at the beginning.

After the Atari next experience was the small handhelds with LCD screen. Nintendo’sGame & Watch: Octopus and Trojan Horse and Towering Rescue from Gakken. Very simple games by today’s standard, but quite exciting for a kid in the early 1980s and more than enough to make you want more.

I then took the Commodore path of 64 and the Amiga path and didn’t pay much attention to the console alternatives. I suspect that many consoles weren’t marketed very well in Denmark either – probably the market is too small.

What finally brought me to consoles was SSX Tricky and Dancing Stage Megamix, (played on floor pads) on the PlayStation 2. To me the biggest thing on PS2 was Final Fantasy X, my first experience with a JRPG and that way of telling stories, I also tried out Final Fantasy X-2 and Final Fantasy XII. However, I only went fully into FFX, possibly because of an unfavorable relation between the sofa-tv distance and the screen size, or perhaps the risk of tripping over the controller cable or the noisiness of the console. in any case, my PS2 experience topped with FFX and I haven’t played console game since. So on the eve of unpacking my Xbox One, this is the time to make status.

Memorable Games (that I played)

  • Half-Life – this is the only time I have played this classic game. Something missing in my education, I know.
  • SSX Tricky
  • Dancing Stage Megamix
  • Final Fantasy X

Memorable Games (that I would have liked to play but didn’t for various reasons that won’t fit in this headline)

Looking back, it would have been great to play some Mario games and meet Sonic the Hedgehog.

Also, I might have played more of the Final Fantasy games as they came out. I have tried the ports of Final Fantasy VI and VII (not the upcoming 2020 remake)

Little Big Planet also looks fun – maybe next time.

I also missed the Nintendo Wii – it looked fun as a party game, but I was never convinced how it worked in other situations – perhaps I should take a look at the Switch. but first things first, I’ll go unpack my Xbox One.

Featured Image

The featured image shows the fruit bodies of a annosus root rot fungus colony I found during recent walk in a nearby forest. It was a great trip and I really enjoyed the fall forest with my kids. They helped my find lots of different fungi – the best of which are shared in my Instagram feed.

Related posts

Thoughts of Games – My Brief History #1

Becoming a Gamer – My Brief History #2

IBM Compatible Gaming – My Brief History #3

Garden wrap-up 2019 (final)

Update Dec 23: Now that it is all over for this year and the cycle ready to repeat it self. Final notes are:

  • Nov 13: Final mowing of the lawn
  • Oct 16: picks the last chilies and wraps the garden up for winter

Update Sep 15: I emptied the greenhouse today, except for the Chocolate habanero, which isn’t ripe yet and may as well get some extra time to see if it ripens.

After a good long working day in the garden I see in the green house that fall is approaching, with several plans being cut down already now, either because there is no fruit left to ripen or because of beginning gray mold infection. Such is the cycle of the year, and so it is time to start capturing what went well, what can be done better and what we might not do at all next year.

Greenhouse

All in all chilies have worked well, herbs were more than great (next year do more chive and parsley, less basil). Tomatoes a bit disappointing. I know I didn’t care as well for the plants this year as I usually do, but also I didn’t have the best varieties this year. The plants I bought from Gartneri Toftegaard did well as always.

  • Toftegaards Sweet Crunch was a fine red cherry – too bad I accidentally broke the top and stopped growth.
  • Toftegaards Gule cherry – one of the best performers this year
  • Tomato Cavendish: Ripens too late (same as last year)
  • Green grape: Bad growth, low yield (same as last year)
  • Cucamelon: fun, but that’s it
  • Cucumber – 1 plant is enough, since I get all the fruits at one time which is too many, but after that there is none.
  • Rocoto chili: Probably placed badly, just one half rotten fruit
  • Chili Lemon Drop: Fine yield
  • Chili Habanero: Fine yield too
  • Chili Cayenne Long Slim: Not a good year, probably the plant suffered from being squeezed between other, larger plants. Lesson noted.
  • Chili Jalapeno: Fine yield
  • Chili Lombardo: OK yield, but at the end of day we are terrible at using these mild chilies.
  • Chili Habanero chocolate: Finally picked. Oct 16. OK ripe, but I never use them before they go bad.

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Tilbageblik på haveåret 2017

IBM Compatible Gaming – My Brief History #3

This post links to quite a few computer game store pages where the game in question is sold. Please be aware that I am in no way affiliated with the stores, the publishers or the developers, and I receive no commission from any sales. Should anyone reading this post go on to buy any of these classic, old games, then I am just happy that the people who enjoyable gaming moments back then get extra recognition.

On my list of must-play-games I recently made it to The Witcher 3, which I found very enjoyable after playing the tutorial a couple of times (I tested out playing via Steam Link, but didn’t quite like the experience, so my PC after a couple of attempts). In fact I enjoyed it enough to consider playing the first two games in the series first – also in order to understand who is who. And read the books. I’ll probably watch the Netflix series too : )

My brief history of gaming #3 – Playing the PC

I got my first PC in the summer of 1993. Like most of the PCs at the time it was a beige box and built around a 386 CPU, and it was intended for schoolwork as I had just finished high-school and would enroll in university soon after.

It was not a fancy machine in any way. At the time the only thing that distinguished PCs were the CPUs, which at the time ranged from i386 running up to 40MHz, and i486 at 25, 50 and 66MHz. I know I started at the less ambitious end of the scale, but I generally believe that if you don’t know why you need the more expensive model, you shouldn’t get it (I know that to some people just having the most expensive is reason enough, but I am not like that).

I soon found good reason to buy more powerful equipment though. Not just games, but also more serious stuff like exploring the world of fractals  during my early mathematics studies and then programming too, including simulation of chaotic driven/damped double-pendulums. I picked up an i387 mathematical co-processor quite early, which did wonders for my fractals, but other than that upgrades were mostly about increasing raw CPU power. The videocard rush had not taken off yet and to confirm that state of PC gaming it should be noted that sound card were not yet standard equipment yet (this was long before sound cards became integrated on motherboards).

While I might have shot too low in my initial purchase I got plenty of opportunity to upgrade and I had these:

I had that box until 2002. In the same period RAM went from 4 MB to 256 MB and disk storage from 160 MB to 12 GB. My primary OS was from Microsoft (DOS, Windows 3.1, Windows 95 and 98), but I also tried out OS/2 Warp and started running dual-boot setups with Linux. By 2002 though, much of the box had become obsolete and I moved on to a full replacement.

Gaming-wise, I was happily surprised. The first game I played on that machine was Prince of Persia (the original one). I was soon introduced to Wolfenstein 3D and X-Wing had launched in spring 1993 and I realized I might have aimed too low on the specs. Other early games from the period were Warlords 2 and The Lost Vikings. Then Doom came out in December 1993 and changed everything, but I also got to play Star Control 2 early on – a game with such unique dialogue and humor, which still gets headlines in the gaming news.

Memorable Games

In my early PC years I got to play a bunch of games that are still considered classics and which all demonstrated how the more powerful hardware allowed a wider range of games and ideas. Also, over the 9 years I build on that box, the games industry moved very far.

Many of these games from the time have become available again on GOG and Steam at very reasonable prices and packaged with DOSBox so that they can run on modern OS and hardware. No need to dig out the old installation discs.

I also played Diablo which is considered a classic with its own franchise, but even though I have completed it twice, I somehow never felt compelled to explore the franchise further. Maybe I should : )

Featured image

This image is a detail from the Mandelbrot set, generated on my first PC in 1993 using Fractint.

Related posts

Thoughts of Games – My Brief History #1

Becoming a Gamer – My Brief History #2

 

 

How to Install Plex Media Server on a Raspberry Pi 2019

Here is how

  1. Setup Raspberry Pi with OS of choice, e.g. install Raspbian using NOOBS
  2. Download Plex Media Server package for Debian/ARMv7 -> here and install as pi user
  3. Setup server etc. (extra attention needed for NAS media)

Done.

This maybe a shorter instruction than elsewhere on the net and on usual tech sites. However, if you follow those guides, you will be be stuck at the

wget -O - https://dev2day.de/pms/dev2day-pms.gpg.key | apt-key add -

step, failing with the message

gpg: no valid OpenPGP data found.

That is all the older guides meeting obsolescence and no longer being maintained. Supposedly Plex changed their build and dev2day is not offering the key anymore. Which is fine, as long as the documentation is updated as well. So while waiting for the major techs sites to catch up, I hope the above is useful.

Now speaking of Plex, Raspberry Pi and the combination of the two… Is it useful? Well, keep reading.

What is Plex?

Plex is a media server platform that will stream all sorts of media to all sorts of devices, both at home and elsewhere. It is derived from the Xbox media center (like KODI) but has evolved far since then. It supports many types of media and integrates with Tidal. To run all this at home you need a server – a computer that can connect to all data sources and provide the content to other devices. Depending on the content, a fairly powerful device is needed – especially when video must be transcoded between formats and resolutions.

What is Rasberry Pi?

The Raspberry Pi is a small single-board computer which is designed to be affordable (and it is). It can in principle be used as a desktop computer, but has also found uses in many DIY projects where some computer power is required, but smallness and affordability is preferred.

I personally got three Raspberries in the house.  Two are running KODI media center for our TVs an the third is used for various projects – like retrogaming and this Plex experiment.

Can the Plex Media Server run on a Raspberry Pi?

Well, “Yes” and “No”, it depends on the media you want it to serve. So technically it definitely can be launched and the UI be accessed and the server configured to server media to connected clients.

  • Music works – it taskes a while for the Pi-based server to load and update the library, but once done it works. The experience on the client is not the fastest, but music is played.
  • SD video works, sort of – it depends on the movie and how complex the images is. The lower end with cartoons and older animated movies works fine, but watching live action movies are underwhelming
  • HD video doesn’t work.

I suppose one could scale down videos to an even lower resolution and make it work though.

Featured image

This image shows our climbing hydrangea in fall colors.

Becoming a Gamer – My Brief History #2

I believe the term “gamer” is relatively new and while playing computer games has been part of my life since the mid-eighties, I have never thought of myself as a “gamer”. First, I am sure the term has not been widely used until recently (checking Wikipedia, the term is known since 1422 so I may be wrong, but perhaps it is only with the recent mainstream focus on eSports (outside Korea) that usage has spread), second, I have suffered from a misconception that being a “gamer” is mostly a young man’s game, mainly for those a strongly focused enthusiasm…

Actually, one reason for starting this series of posts is that I finally realized (accepted) that the label applies to me as well, just as much as I am a gardener because I tend a garden and I am an aquarist because I keep an aquarium. I play, ergo gamer.

My brief history of gaming #2 – Next was Amiga

In 1990 I upgraded and replaced my Commodore 64 with an Amiga 500. The natural upgrade path at the time if you were on the Commodore track, at least if you hadn’t passed by the Commodore 128 along the way. I didn’t and I know very few who did and they all booted directly to C64 mode anyway.

So I got the Amiga and wasn’t really blown away. “of course”, you might say with the eyes of today – switching to a 3 year old model must be underwhelming, but coming from an 8 year old model, by today’s standard you would expect more? It would be like upgrading from an iPhone 5 to iPhone 8. Or, if you into Android, from a Galaxy S3 to S8 or A5 (2017). I never had an iPhone, but I tried both Galaxies, only recently having had to replace the absolutely adequate if unspectacular A5. “absolutely adequate if unspectacular” probably describes my A500 experience pretty well.

I had the A500 for 3 years and what I primarily remember or for is my first run at serious computing, doing both text processing for school (Kind Words” on a CRT screen) and my first database to keep track of Ultima V npc conversations. The Amiga was actually the place where I finished Ultima V (yes!) and a couple of SSI gold box games.

This may be unfair statement, but I don’t recall the Amiga as revolutionizing gaming (and my viewpoint is certainly based far from the main industry and press). Of course graphics improved, but I don’t think gameplay changed notably. To me the A500 is more memorable as a transitional platform at the time: if you needed powerful machine in 1990 and the budget was tight, then it was a viable solution. Also, who had foreseen Commodore crashing and the boring PC being Doom-ed suddenly to become much more soon after. I’ll get back to that in future posts.

Memorable games

My list of memorable Amiga games is surprisingly short. It is not that I kept playing on the C64 because I sold that one, instead it must be that I simply played less. My Amiga years cover my age between 15 and 19 years old and I am happy to have made that discovery! As a teenager I must, after all, have been into school and friends.

  • Ultima V: I finally completed this excellent game
  • SSI Gold Box Games: Curse of Azure Bonds and Champions of Krynn (maybe Deathknights too): Some fine Dungeons and Dragons Games
  • Sidewinder: My favorite Amiga shoot’m’up
  • Millennium 2.2 and Deuteros: Two resource management and exploration games, the later a sequel of the former. Actually, this type of game may have something new on the Amiga and they were great to play.
  • Logical: A fine puzzle game and something I hadn’t seen before either (there is a C64 vrsion, but I nver played it). Googling around I am happy to see several remakes/clones around for PC : )

Featured image

The sun setting over Riga Airport.

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Thoughts of Games – My Brief History #1