Today’s GeekSquee

20 09 2007

I have much geek-joy this morning. Yesterday was a banner day in playing with all the little toys I have, and building up some new ones. Without boring you all to smithereens going on about details in my Java / XML project, lets go with a few things that are slightly more tactile. Gaming, Cons, CD’s, and wafts of fresh air.

On the gaming front
This is a two-fer. In a few weeks I’ll be going down to Ubercon to help them run registration, but naturally as part of that, I get in some good tasty gaming while I’m at it. Last year I hauled my MythTV box along with me, and there was much enjoyment to be had, sitting around playing old MAME games using USB Joypads.

Alas, I’ve become quite disenchanted with the Myth project lately. With Comcast blocking tuning control, really all I use the Myth box for is playing MAME games and occasionally acting as a Radioparadise tuner. The Myth game interface is not very good, and dealing with my large collection of games can be very painful. I even tried pulling the latest copy of KnoppMyth and seeing if the many UI bugs were fixed, but no, it’s still too painful to work with. (Here’s a simple example. The Myth interface allows you to select and stream online radio. Awesome! But it can ONLY do this one thing. You cannot select a radio station, then go off and play games, or update your channel listings, or leave CNN on with the sound muted and music playing. I’ve just turned an $600 computer and an $800 television into a transistor radio. Feh).

At any rate, I’ve been searching for a better gaming system. With all my mad geek love for all things KDE, I checked to see if the Kubuntu distros had any good mame front ends, and lo, I’ve found KXMame! A native KDE application for running Mame games. Outstanding! A little fiddling, a little tinkering, and the games were up and running. Hooray! I have a native desktop interface to my games now.

The only thing missing was a decent controller. I had been using very cheap USB gamepads I picked up at CompUSA for something like $7 each. They were ‘okay’, but I wanted better. Then I remembered somewhere in a woot I nabbed a Logitech Dual Action USB game controller. These controllers are basically copies of Playstation “dual shock” controllers, with a pair of analog joysticks, a direction pad, 4 controller buttons, and four ‘fingertip’ buttons. The form factor and heft was right, and they were USB. So, naturally (everyone say it with me) “they should work fine under Linux!!!”

Bet you thought I was going to go into a yak-shaving description of getting the controller working, eh? I’m happy to report, that wasn’t the case at all. The controller plugged into yawl, was recognized immediately, and I simply had to tell KXmame that the joystick was attached. Voila! I had a decent handheld controller. The dual joysticks are a DREAM to use in games like Robotron 2084 and SmashTV. Now I’m considering how to reconfigure one of my PCs into a dedicated Mame machine, using KXmame as the front end (which can be controlled via the joystick).

But what about the CD’s?
Right, I did mention CD’s. I have to give huge happy props to the wonder that is K3B. This is a KDE CD / DVD burning tool that is one of the most polished apps in KDE. That is not to say it’s not without it’s flaws. It can occasionally be infuriating to work with it and external DVD drives that do not notify properly when they’ve been opened. “Use that disc” “There’s no disc in there” “Yes there is, I just put it in.” “Well then close the tray on the door” “IT IS CLOSED!” “…” “Fine, open the tray and we’ll reload it.” “The tray is already open.” “AARGH!”) – but beyond these trivial exchanges, being able to clicky-click “Burn that ISO to a CD please” and have it even show a little status popup window while I’m working in other windows… ahh, magic.”

Oh, and about that wind…
I have to admit, before all n sundry, I… have performance problems. *sniff*

Okay, not THAT sort of performance. This performance is by clipper, in particular while playing Eve. Apparently the laptop just can’t handle when my room here at geek manor gets up to 85 degrees. It starts getting more and more sluggish, eventually stopping running altogether. I’ve written about this before, and I think I’ve tracked it down to being purely heat related. On cool, dry days, I have no issues. On hot sticky days, whoah nellie. So last night I set up some Extra Cooling in the form of a 17″ fan in the door of my room, blowing roughly in the direction of the laptop. I was happily able to keep Eve up and running for several hours without a single performance glitch. It helped that we’re out of the dog days of summer, but the house we’re in has… shall we say… poor thermodynamics. It still gets uncomfortably hot in the afternoon, even when it’s 65 degrees outside.

Enough geeking for now! A work day is ahead, and the not-very-interesting-for-blogging-but-still-fun work needs to be done.

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