Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Acer Aspire One AO722-0473 Netbook Review

There are a lot of very low end netbooks on the market but there are a few decent models too. I purchased this cheap Acer Aspire One for a relative because it's a good compromise between size, performance and cost. It's certainly not something to do development work or serious gaming on, but for general desktop use it's more than fast enough, and certainly better than some single core Atom netbook.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Block Xbox 360 Dashboard Ads

The latest Xbox 360 dashboard update has advertising built in, but fortunately you can simply setup your DNS to block the domain the ads are served from. Following a helpful post on Reddit I assisted my cousin with blocking the ads on his 360. Doesn't fix all the problems with the new dashboard, but it's a start. There are two ways you could do this, either using OpenDNS or configuring your router to block the ad domain.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Essential Oblivion Mods For 2012

Skyrim is out but I can't justify buying it at $60 when I know it needs patches and mods to reach its full potential. And it will go on sale on Steam eventually. However, I never played any of the DLC for Oblivion and Steam had a weekend sale not too long ago and so I bought it all for $6.24. The last time I played Oblivion was in 2006 when it was released, and since I didn't enjoy it as much as Morrowind I didn't play it again. I still have the collector's case and Imperial gold coin sitting on my desk though. Now that years have passed and there are a ton of mods out that fix my issues with the game I've decided to play it again, with a lot of mods, and experience the Shivering Isles expansion for the first time as well. Here's a list of the mods I think are essential for anyone playing Oblivion in 2011 and 2012.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

XBMC4XBOX Game Console Emulators

The original Xbox makes a great platform for playing emulators. Since it's already got four controllers and is hooked up to a TV, mine is a far superior thing to play old classic console games like Sonic 2 or Streets of Rage on than a computer. There are several emulators available for modded original Xbox systems that can be used along with XBMC4XBOX.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Android Podcast Speed Changer

One thing that my HTC Inspire Android phone running CyanogenMod 7 lacks that my 5th gen iPod running Rockbox had is the ability to speed up podcasts and audiobooks so that they can be listened to in half the time. Fortunately there's an app for that. It's called xSpeedPlayer and it's a free app on the Android Market.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Open Source Brain Training Games

I've been reading a lot about brain training software and nootropics lately and have been playing around with Brain Workshop, an open source dual N-back game that is supposed to improve short term memory and fluid intelligence. There are lots of brain training games out there, like Brain Age, but Brain Workshop and other dual N-back games are based on research that shows you can improve your fluid intelligence by playing the game for 20 minutes a day for about a month. This is supposed to provide a long lasting boost to memory.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Acer Aspire 3680 Laptop CPU Upgrade

I finally got tired of the terrible performance of my Acer Aspire 3680-2682 model laptop. It was a cheap bottom end machine when it was purchased and it has not aged well. Thankfully I found out that you can do more than just the typical laptop RAM and HDD upgrades on this machine. In fact, unlike most laptops you can replace the single core Celeron CPU with a higher clocked, higher performance Core 2 Duo processor. So I decided to get myself an early present for the holidays and get a few cost-effective upgrades to speed up this old laptop and extend its useable life span for a few more years.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Desura For Linux - Stop Waiting For Steam

So Steam is probably never coming to Linux, despite whatever Phoronix said. That's ok, Desura for Linux is out and you can redeem all your Humble Bundle games (except the ones from the first bundle) on it. There's also a bunch of indie games you can purchase direct from Desura. This is probably the closest we'll ever get to a Steam-style commercial game service for Linux and while the library isn't as large as Steam's simply having most of the Humble Bundle games I bought in one place makes this worthwhile for me. I recommend you check it out, if you've already bought some of the Humble Bundles you have no reason not to.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Android XBMC Remote App

I though the Roku remote app for Android was pretty cool as a replacement for a lost Roku remote, but the Official XBMC Remote app for Android goes beyond being just a remote control app and really does a great job of tying together two of my favorite pieces of software. The XBMC Remote app is free and is made by some of the devs behind XBMC, so there's no need for any of the unofficial apps anymore.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Android Wireless Video Streaming With A Samba Server

I wanted to wirelessly share content from my Android phone to XBMC on my modded original Xbox as well as my laptop so I could easily show pictures or videos I took on my phone on a bigger screen without needing to copy the files over. There are web servers for Android that let you download files off your phone, and you could of course use something like Dropbox to get files onto your laptop, but I wanted something that lets you stream content easily to XBMC so I wouldn't have to wait for a download to complete. The Samba Filesharing app by funkyFresh lets you run a Samba/Windows fileshare server on your rooted Android phone, and this does exactly what I wanted.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Roku Remote App For Android

I'm writing this while watching Tekzilla at my sister's house using a Roku box hooked up to her TV. The Roku remote has been missing for a while, but it turns out there are apps for Android and iPhone that let you use your phone as a remote. Awesome. The Roku remote app I'm using is called Roku Wi-Fi Remote and was the first thing to show up in the Android Market when I searched for "Roku".

Setup was instantaneous, basically I hit a button and it found the Roku box on the network by itself, though there is an option for manual setup. The interface is simple and using the touchscreen is definitely not as nice as real buttons, but this is a great way to reduce the number of remotes you've got on your living room table, or if you lose your Roku remote and need a quick solution.

Not a lot more to say about this, I know there are other apps for Android that do this but I see no need to bother trying them. I haven't used any iPhone Roku remote apps yet, but there are some in the App Store.

Here's an Android Market link to the remote app I used.
The official Roku blog lists a few more apps too, but I like the one I linked to.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Convert Geovision Security Videos In Linux

   A local small business was robbed recently. The owner asked me to get the security camera footage off their system, which is running some ancient version of Geovision on obsolete hardware, and convert it into a format the police could view on their systems. I don't know about more recent versions of Geovision, but this install saved the videos in some wacky format like Indeo or something which not even VLC could play. After some searching I found a quick one-liner to batch convert the Geovision videos to a more common format using Mencoder, the video encoding part of Mplayer.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Run 32bit Java Apps on 64bit Linux With a Second JVM

So yesterday I ran into an application I wanted to run that required a 32bit JVM to operate without errors. Since I'm running 64bit Ubuntu Linux and I've (obviously) got a 64bit JVM installed, that meant getting a second JVM installed and running the app with that JVM instead of the system default one. Bit of a problem when you don't want to switch the system default JVM just to run one app, but there's a way around that.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

DIY WiFi Signal Booster

Building my own HDTV antenna out of aluminum foil reminded me of a few years back when I needed to improve my WiFi signal, and I built foil reflectors to do that as cheaply as possible. There are a bunch of designs out there, but I like the EZ-12 parabolic reflector from since it's quick, cheap and easy to make. It's an aluminum, paper and tape solution to weak WiFi signal strength.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Convert Scanned PDF Files To Text In Linux With OCR

   Recently I needed to get a scanned PDF document onto my Kindle. Anyone who has tried this knows it's a problem, since the Kindle doesn't really handle regular PDF files as well as a computer can, and scanned PDFs are even worse. The fonts are too small and you have to zoom in manually and constantly readjust things to be able to read the entire document. It's a pain. Calibre is pretty good at converting text PDFs into more Kindle compatible formats, but for scanned PDFs that have the text stored in unsearchable images Calibre can't do much of anything. You'll need to use OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software to create a text copy of the image-based PDF and give that over to Calibre to convert to mobi or whatever your ereader takes.

   Normally I don't even bother trying to read scanned PDFs on my Kindle, I just read them on my computer, but for this occasion I needed to go over some longer documents and didn't want to strain my eyes looking at an LCD for hours. Text pdfs are different, I read those on my Kindle all the time, I just have Calibre mangle them into mobi format first.

   First I searched for graphical tools to do this under Linux, and found gscan2pdf. I tried messing around with gscan2pdf for a longer period of time than I should have bothered. At this point I don't know if it can actually do what I wanted, I couldn't figure out how to make it work and at this point I no longer care to mess with it. Apparently the OCR functionality in gscan2pdf is meant for appending the existing scanned PDF with text that can be searched or indexed by a desktop search program like Beagle/Tracker/Spotlight/Google Desktop/Whatever. Just use the command line for OCR'ing your image-based PDF files into text files, it's quicker and not hard once you find the right commands, which I've already gone and Google'd for you.

   All you need to do is use Ghostscript to extract the pages of the scanned PDF into one large TIFF file, and then run Tesseract to OCR those pages into a (hopefully) coherent text file that can then be passed to Calibre or direct to your ereader.

   First install ghostscript and tesseract if you don't already have them.

   In Debian/Ubuntu-based distros:

      sudo apt-get install ghostscript tesseract-ocr tesseract-ocr-eng (though you should really be using aptitude in place of apt-get, IMO)

   Then for each scanned PDF you want to convert to text, run the following:

      gs -dNOPAUSE -sDEVICE=tiffg4 -r600x600 -dBATCH -sPAPERSIZE=a4 -sOutputFile=OUTPUT.tif PDFNAME.pdf

   and then:

      tesseract OUTPUT.tif TEXTNAME -l eng

   Obviously change PDFNAME.pdf to the name of your scanned PDF file and TEXTNAME to the desired name of your end result text file. Duh. :)

   This worked well for one of my work documents, but it spat out gibberish text for another two. Your mileage will definitely vary from file to file. It's too bad some scanned documents are so difficult for this software to read. OCR clearly isn't perfect at this point, but recognizing text in images is a hard problem to solve. At least we've got a workable free software OCR option in things like Tesseract.

   Another problem is that it also took forever to run Tesseract on long documents on my slow laptop. It took around 12 hours for one particularly long PDF file to get OCR'd. You'll want to run Tesseract on the fastest machine you've got, not your junk netbook.

   Despite the problems and utter failure with two documents I at least got one readable document out of this effort, and the knowledge to at least have a chance of converting any scanned PDFs I come across in the future. I guess that's something.

   If anyone reading this has a better free solution I'd love to hear it, because rescanning the original paper documents and doing a better job scanning them this time isn't an option for me.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Android Game Console Emulators

   I've been playing around with game console emulators for Android on my HTC Inspire a lot lately. Spending more time gaming than I should be, but whatever. There will be time to do work and improve my programming later. Anyways, there's a bunch of different open source game console emulators that have been ported to Android and packaged into paid apps, but many of those have been kicked off the Android Market and you can get them for free, for now.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Low Power Gaming Graphics Card

   If you want to upgrade a cheap mass market desktop computer like a Dell Inspiron to play modern games at 1080p with details set to reasonable levels you'll need to find a graphics card that will work with the weak power supplies such systems come with. That, or replace the power supply in addition to getting a new video card. Many pre-built systems, like the Inspiron 546 model my cousin is using, come with 300 watt PSUs that won't support a high-end gaming graphics card. Fortunately there is a low-power option that doesn't need an additional 6pin power cable and will run off just the power supplied by the PCI-E port, while still running new games at good graphics settings.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

DIY Homemade HDTV Antenna

   Saw this homemade TV antenna design linked on Lifehacker, decided to try it out since it's simpler than any other DIY HDTV antenna I've seen so far, and I had the balun (the thing needed to hook up the wires to a TV or receiver) sitting around in my parts bin. It works suprisingly well and it's simple and quick to make using just aluminum foil, cardboard, a couple of wires and a balun.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Best Open Source Android Games

   There's a lot of open source games available for Android. Some are ports of open source computer games, others are just engines that let you play proprietary games from other systems on your smartphone, and of course there are games made specifically for Android that just happen to be open source. I thought I'd list the most interesting and fun ones I've been able to find.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Kindle 3 Games

   I like messing with modded firmware and other ways of increasing the functionality of the gadgets I own, but the Kindle is one I haven't done much with. Since it's a basically a single-purpose device and it performs that one function so well, I haven't had any reason to mess with it, beyond wanting my own screensavers. I have Calibre on my computer to make getting free content onto my Kindle easier, and I've setup services like Instapaper to use along with it, but none of the more technical hacks interest me. It's not as if I really need more fonts. I did want to see what developers with the official Kindle Dev Kit are able to do, so I checked out some of the free games available for it.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Install Ubuntu Linux on the HTC Inspire 4G

   Way before I got my first Android phone I would read about people running Debian and Ubuntu on their G1s and Nexus One phones. This can be done on the Inspire 4G as well, if you have a rooted phone and a kernel that supports mounting loopback devices, which CyanogenMod does. You can run a chrooted copy of Ubuntu Linux on top of Android. You could use this just to run command-line programs that haven't been ported from Linux to Android, but using VNC you can access the Gnome GUI and run desktop Linux apps.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Electronics Crash Course Resources

   I've been wanting to get back into electronics and microcrontroller programming lately, along with some of my other hobbies. It's been months since I got my TI Launchpad and did a few very small projects on it, like my LED chaser. I bought the TI FRAM Experimenter's Board and haven't done anything interesting using it yet, but I think I'll need an electronics refresher course before I try. I thought I'd share a collection of links to sites and books I found helpful when I first started messing with the Launchpad and electronics last year.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

MSPGCC For TI FRAM Experimenter's Board

   I was able to use my TI Launchpad in Linux thanks to google-ing a scattered bunch of how-to's that detailed how to install a then-current version of mspgcc4. The TI FRAM Experimenter's board that I got recently because of the 50% off coupon won't work with that install of mspdebug and mspgcc4, but there are new developments with mspgcc. Among those are precompiled packages for Ubuntu and support for the MSP430FR5739, which is used in the FRAM Experimenter's board.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Using Blogger to Host a Business Site

   I've been trying to help out some of my relatives by setting up web sites for a couple of their small businesses, using Blogger for hosting. There's some work you have to do to make a Blogger blog appropriate for a business site which includes: removing the Navbar, configuring a custom domain and setting up Google Apps accounts.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

TI MSP430 FRAM Experimenters Board

   I saw the TI MSP-EXP430FR5739 Experimenters Board on HackaDay and ordered it minutes later using the coupon code MSP430_FRAM to cut the price in half to $14.50. I got free shipping and wasn't charged any taxes, and I also ordered a couple of 20pin MSP430G2452IN20 free sample chips to use with my Launchpad.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Nvidia VDPAU and HD Video in Linux

   If you're using Linux and want to playback high definition video your best bet for decoding high bitrate H264 video has long been to use an Nvidia video card with VDPAU. A few months back I upgraded my desktop with a new hard drive and a clean 64 bit install of Ubuntu, but VDPAU was broken on my system and because of my 5 year old CPU I had difficulty playing back H264 videos without slowdowns. I finally got around to installing up to date packages for the Nvidia driver, VDPAU libs and SMplayer, which fixed the problem. Here's a quick overview of how to do that.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

XBMC4XBOX - XBMC for the Original Xbox

   I've been running XBMC on my modded original Xbox for around 5 years now, and I've used it nearly every day to watch shows like Hak5, as well as my ripped DVD backups. The XBMC project stopped supporting the old Xbox to focus on improving their media center software for desktop OS's. I understand why they ended support for the nearly decade old Xbox, but I use mine so often that I was glad to hear the XBMC4XBOX project released an updated version of the media center software.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Flash Physics Game for Android Prototype

   Recently I abandoned a project I had been working on because I simply got tired of it. I wanted to make a physics-based puzzle game for my Inspire using Adobe Air for Android and while I've managed to build a prototype of sorts I've given up on doing anything more with it for now. I might come back to it later, but I just got so sick of working on it I decided to throw it out onto the net as it is.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Libgdx Android Example Game and Source Code

   I've written a bunch of small projects in Python and Actionscript 3 for desktop computers, but only created one small game in Java for smartphones. I've been itching to learn more Java and build a small Android app for my HTC Inspire that would improve on my simple J2ME avoider game. In a coffee-fueled frenzy late at night I quickly created this basic game using libgdx. It's not much, but I hope the source code is a useful example to another newbie.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Selling Phones and Used Tech on eBay

   I've been on a personal finance kick over the last few months. I've saved up money, invested in my Roth IRA and read a ton of blogs and books. That's all non-tech stuff and I want to keep it off this blog, but the tech angle on it is that I managed to sell my old Blackberry Bold 9000 and my sister's broken iPhones on eBay for a nice sum. This certainly beats just leaving them sitting around collecting dust like so many of my other possessions. I considered other sites to sell on but went with eBay in the end, mainly for the chance to earn more.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Otterbox Commuter Case For The Inspire 4G Quick Review

   I can't use an expensive smartphone without having a decent case. It just worries me too much. For my Blackberry Bold I bought an Otterbox Impact case and loved it, so when I got my Inspire 4G I wanted something made by Otterbox, but tougher than the Impact series because I was afraid the giant glass screen would be easy to break if I dropped it. So, that meant buying the Otterbox Commuter case for the Desire HD, which is compatible with the Inspire.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Linux Server Out of Space?

   Recently my Debian print server, which has happily run on an ancient Pentium 133 MHz box with 32 megs of RAM and dual 1.2 gig hard drives, suddenly stopped printing. Examining it showed that it had run out of free space and so couldn't spool print jobs anymore. A quick Google search showed several sites listing commands that would find large files on the system, but since there were no files on the disk larger than ~10 megs this was of limited help.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My 3 Favorite Pygame Tutorials

   I read a lot of Pygame tutorials when I first started making small games and wanted to move up from text-only programs. I think the only reason I managed to figure out object-orientation after a ton of time reading tutorials focused on that subject was by writing a game that made use of the Pygame sprite object system and seeing how objects worked in my own real-life example. If it hadn't been for Python and Pygame and how simple and easy they are I don't think I ever would have progressed beyond editing *nix shell scripts. Having played with the Pygame Subset for Android got me to think about those days, and the tutorials and books I learned the most from. Here are some of the resources that I found most useful for learning Pygame:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Using Samba File Shares on Android with CifsManager

   I've been writing a lot of phone related posts lately because I'm still in the honeymoon phase with my new Android phone, the HTC Inspire 4G. I'm always researching tech and when I get a toy as powerful as a modern smartphone I'm definitely going to see what I can do with it. One of the issues I ran into after installing CyanogenMod 7 on my phone is that the video player, unlike the stock HTC one, won't play files off a Samba file server. While I can use ES File Explorer, my preferred file manager, to stream some video formats it requires copying them to the SD card first. The best way to solve this problem is to make the video player think the remote server is a local folder on the SD card, using the CifsManager app.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Python and Pygame For Android!

   I love Pygame. Python was the first real programming language I was able to grok and Pygame and its sprite system were a big motivator to finally figure out object-orientation. I made a bunch of different small games using Pygame before I decided to try and learn Actionscript 3, and I'll always have a use for Pygame in quick prototyping. So when I found the Pygame Subset for Android, I thought it was pretty darn spiffy.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Setting up a Bluetooth Keyboard with the HTC Inspire 4G

   One of the things I miss most from my Blackberry Bold 9000 is the hardware keyboard. The touchscreen keyboard in CyanogenMod 7 is nicer to use than the stock HTC keyboard on the Inspire and Swype is even better for texting than that, but nothing compares with a hardware keyboard when you want to mess with the terminal or play with emulators. I really wanted a phone like the Desire Z, but since the Inspire was only a $70 upgrade I decided not to wait longer for a decent Android with a keyboard to be subsidized by AT&T. Instead I've bought a Bluetooth mini keyboard to use with my phone. The stock Sense ROM the Inspire ships with won't support Bluetooth HID devices, but CyanogenMod will! That's one of the reasons I decided to root my Inspire and install CyanogenMod 7.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Rooting my HTC Inspire 4G and Installing CyanogenMod 7

   I decided to install CyanogenMod 7 on my HTC Inspire 4G and use it in place of the stock HTC Sense ROM. I miss the Sense interface a little but the advantages of running a ROM based on the AOSP outweigh the loss of HTC's eye candy and stock apps. The process I learned from the xda forums on making a goldcard and then using the Simple One-Click Root and S-OFF tool in Windows to get the Inspire in a state where CyanogenMod can be installed was fairly simple. You can also follow the CyanogenMod wiki if you want to do this via the command line in Linux.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Flash Game Development on Linux

   I've done all my Flash game dev in Linux, on my old underpowered laptop. The expensive Adobe CS doesn't have any Linux support, but this doesn't matter since I'd rather write ActionScript 3 code directly anyway. The bigger problem is that the free and open source FlashDevelop IDE is only available on Windows, and most of the documentation for making Flash games outside the Adobe Creative Suite revolves around FlashDevelop. Fortunately you can just use the command line to compile your code with the Flex SDK and bypass all those big bloated programs entirely. This gets you a workflow that not only runs well on older computers (like my cruddy laptop) but is also cross-platform. I used this tutorial from HobbyGameDev to get started:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Useful FlashPunk Tutorials and Code

   I used FlashPunk to make Admiral Gobi and Stellarnaut, and it was definitely nicer than messing with the Flash API directly. I read a lot of tutorials on the official forums and made heavy use of some classes that were posted as well. The tutorials I found most useful were these:

Monday, March 7, 2011

The HTC Inspire 4G Battery Cover Is Trying to Kill Me

   I decided it was time to upgrade from my Blackberry Bold 9000, which has served me well for 2 years now, to a decent Android phone. I played around with writing a MIDP app, but I really want to try and learn Java in the Android environment. I've been messing around with the Android SDK and emulator for months now, and have written small AIR apps and tested them on friends phones. I played around with my sisters broken old iPhone running iDroid and I wanted a real Android phone for myself. I badly wanted one with a keyboard, but since I'm stuck on AT&T thanks to a family plan contract and they don't have any high-end Android phones with keyboards I had to compromise on that requirement.  Of course, now that I've bought a touchscreen-only phone I expect a high-end Android with a slide-out qwerty keyboard for AT&T to be announced any day now.

   Anyways, I now have an HTC Inspire 4G, which I got for $70 off Amazon. I figure the low price compensates for the lack of a hardware keyboard and the phone is pretty spiffy overall, with one really serious flaw: the battery cover is impossible to open.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Top 5 TI Launchpad MSP430 Resources and Sites

   I've got a motor controller chip from the ST Micro free sample program sitting on a mini-breadboard next to a msp430g2231. It's just waiting for me to sit down and take the time to make it talk to the small motors I've got lying around. My LED chaser sits on a shelf, taunting my poor dog, when what I'd like to do is build a Launchpad-powered photovore robot and mount the chaser somewhere on it. I've got lots of projects to work on (like trying to make games) and not enough time to do everything I'd like, so I've decided to put learning electronics and microcontrollers on the back burner.
   Anyways, since there have been a few incoming searches looking for msp430 info I thought I'd share the best web sites and resources I've found for the Launchpad so far. These were a huge help to me as I learned the basics of programming and wiring up the msp430 and I intend to make good use of them later on when I get back into electronics.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Stellarnaut: My Second Flash Game

   I'm playing around with making a physics-based game using QuickBox2D (which BTW sadly seems to be a dead project) but that's going to take a while to complete, so I decided to make a quick game using FlashPunk. It's called Stellarnaut, and while it's only my second Flash game I feel like it's a nice step up in quality from Admiral Gobi, a game that wasn't really made for the whole world. Admiral Gobi was really for two people: myself to learn FlashPunk as quick as possible, and my cousin who has his face in the game. Stellarnaut is different. It's more polished, very quick to play and ready for mass consumption. It's also not terribly original, but I still feel it's a fun and quick distraction for people bored at work or school.

Play it and let me know if it's any good: Stellarnaut

Monday, February 14, 2011

Install Android on an Original iPhone 2G

   I had a more difficult time figuring out how to get Android installed on my original iPhone 2G than I had expected. Beyond getting the Spirit jailbreak and Cydia installed I wasn't current on the whole jailbreak and iPhone dev scene, so I had to learn a lot. It only took one night to get iDroid installed though, and most of that time was spent doing things wrong and restoring the iPhone to factory settings after I (or Cydia!) screwed up. Here's the process I went through to get a working copy of Android running.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Jailbreak an iPhone 2G in Linux with Spirit

   I got my hands on an old original iPhone and wanted to jailbreak it to play around with Cydia. At some point I'd also like to try using Haxe to write apps for it, just to see if I can get my "Hello World" game running on iOS. I decided to look around for ways to jailbreak it in Ubuntu Linux so I wouldn't have to reboot into Windows, because I'm lazy like that. While an older version of redsn0w is cross-platform, it wouldn't recognize the iPhone ipsw firmware file and refused to proceed past that step. So I used the easy Spirit jailbreak instead.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

J2ME MIDP2 Example Game with Sample Code

   My cousin recently got a decent feature-phone with a full qwerty keyboard. It's not a smartphone but it can run J2ME apps and since my Blackberry can as well, I decided to try and port my simplest example game to a Java midlet. The game isn't much beyond a few sprites, one of which the player moves up and down, but it's my game equivalent of "Hello World". I always port it to whatever new language or framework I'm learning because it contains the most basic things all games have.

   I had trouble finding resources that showed how the J2ME Canvas worked with a simple example game that would compile without errors on my system, that's what compelled me to post this. This is a simple and small working example for anyone new to J2ME who wants to see a basic game and build off it. Just be warned that I'm a Java newbie myself, this is the first thing I've ported to J2ME.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Playing Through My "Pile of Shame"

   I've spent way too much over the past year on games, thanks to Steam sales and things like the Humble Indie Bundle. It's hard to make an argument that I'm somehow saving money when I'm spending more than I would have had the sale not enticed me into making a purchase! Oh, well. I've built up enough of a game backlog to last me a couple of years, given the diminished rate at which I play these days. It's too bad that there's only so much time in a day, having too many different hobbies can lead to not doing much in any one of them. I still haven't made any progress reading through Essential Actionscript 3 and doing more Flash programming, like I mean to.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Masters of Doom Mini Review

   I finished reading Consider Phlebas on my Kindle 3 and then went straight for Masters of Doom, another book that's been on my not-yet-read list for way too long. While all the reading and traveling I've been doing lately is keeping me from my other hobbies and getting through Essential Actionscript, this book ties in with my interest in game development and the history of modern tech. It's a pretty quick read and is definitely worthwhile for anyone who ever played any games from id software, makers of Doom and Quake.
   The personality clashes between the founders of id and the growth of the game industry in the '90s get a lot of coverage by the author, but the tech that John Carmack worked on like dirty rectangle rendering for Wolfenstein 3D and true 3D graphics for Quake get mentioned as well. I found those tidbits interesting, especially since I've used dirty rect rendering in my pygame projects.
   I hope the book is updated at some point to cover more recent developments, like the launch and mixed reviews of Doom 3. Some coverage of id software's open source releases would have been interesting as well, but I suppose that would have moved the book away from its target audience. Overall I enjoyed the book a lot. I made for a quick and interesting walk down memory lane and told me some things I didn't know about the story of id.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Kindle 3 Tips

   My sister bought me a Kindle 3 with 3G just after I had donated my library to charity during the holidays, and I've been using it every day since. It's a great device for reading books on. I'm already half-way through Iain M. Banks first book in the Culture series:   Consider Phlebas. The screen is a bit more reflective than I had thought it would be, given that it's not backlit and is using e-ink, but it's not a huge annoyance and is certainly much more comfortable to read on than a laptop screen.
   Every time I get a new gadget I look up tips and tricks other people have found and adopt whatever I find useful. For my Kindle the 4 most useful things I've found are: