Thursday, 15 November 2012

Old computers are not that junk as you might think

It happens that I have a quite different perspective about old computers. I like to stretch my feeling of what are the true capabilities of a very old computer. It's not nostalgia, it's not being fanatic, it's just a feeling that I love. That of seeing an old computer that people consider extremely slow, do really cool stuff on the screen.

And yet again, I have a much better appreciation of what old hardware can do than most people. Not just as a programmer but as a user of retro PCs too. There is that bias, where people observe what their current PCs can do and how performance consuming it is already, that makes them extrapolate that hardware from even 3-5 years ago would be extremely boring and you wouldn't be able to do much with it.

Well, the problem is that most software doesn't exactly represent well what the true power of older machines is. If you try to run the latest software in PCs of 5 years ago then yes, everything will struggle to a halt. And maybe the web is becoming more consuming with it's heavy loaded websites full of javascript and adds that it could really be a drag to try surfing the net with a Pentium 3 or 4. I don't know, I haven't tried this one. But the fact is that you can always find software written during that time when Pentium 3 was common and discover that you could really do lot's of cool stuff at that time.

An example about how extrapolating would make you think a 386 is a fucking calculator is this. So, I have my ultra new dual core PC and I bought a new graphics card. I install it and then there is the moment where I want to uninstall my old drivers and reinstall the latest ones. During that limbo time when there are no drivers install, maximizing or scrolling a single window, you see the very slow redraw of the window in realtime. Why I'd say? Many people would say it's the 2d gfx acceleration that makes it possible which are not there with no drivers. It could be. But so slow? I remember at times with my 486 and a crappy S3 Virge that redrawing was fast enough. One would say I was then with 800*600 and 16bit color while now 1920*1080 with 32bit color and he wouldn't be entirely wrong. But the message is that: A dual core AthlonXP without hardware acceleration draws windows slowly, so what would a 486 with an S3 Virge do if we extrapolated? Maybe they were still living in DOS? GUI in 486? No fucking way!!!

Or what would they think about the idea of a windows like OS running on an Amstrad CPC 8bit computer? Not even with bullets as we say in Greece :). Like maybe waiting 10 minutes for a window to redraw? Yet, those are the true stretched capabilities of what a CPC can do: SymbOS video (I know it's using CPC T-rex with Z80 at 24Mhz, but I couldn't easily find a good plain CPC SymbOS video showing enough features, though I have witnessed it myself and it's not much slower). Now, extrapolate to the opposite direction. If a CPC can do that, imagine what could a 286 do!

I know I know, a CPC has 16kb videoram while 286 has 64kb in plain VGA 13h mode and as the systems improve they add better resolutions and color depth which need faster gfx cards and CPUs, etc, etc. Maybe that's a good argument for the negative extrapolation, like yes the CPC had only a Z80 at 4Mhz but didn't need to output 8MBs of video memory during each frame as my 1920*1080*32bpp screen needs. And neither accelerated functions on the graphics card.

Sometimes I like to extrapolate in the positive way with my own projects. I have coded enough demos on Gamepark devices with ARM7 processor at 100 or 200Mhz or even the latest Caanoo at 533Mhz (my unit can overclock at 800Mhz). Of course, I know that Mhz is not everything and memory bandwidth or small cache can bring those things down a lot, but the point is that I can't help but admire those Acorn Archimedes demos I have watched again and again in an emulator (especially those from the group Xperience) where there is either an ARM2 at 8-12Mhz (old models) or later ARM3 at 33-40Mhz and yet you can see good 3d or 2d effects in resolutions similar to the Gamepark handhelds (ok, but their color depth is 8bit and not 16bit like the one I used). I know how hard it is because I tried to write some pixel per pixel effects on the GBA with ARM at 16.8Mhz where the resolution is ever lower (240*160) yet it took effort to even run a simple 2d effect in something like 25fps. I believe many GBA coders might optimize their routines with ARM assembly and I know that the XPerience group did that too. Now, my gamepark demos were pure C and I never felt like needing to optimize with assembly at the time I was writting my demos because the frame rate was already high enough at least for most of my effects, but I would love one day to try some ARM assembly (which I've heard is quite fun) and see what those beasts could do if their powers were harnessed!

Yes, I think of these devices as beasts. I think that even the old GP32 with ARM at 100Mhz (which I overclocked at 156Mhz most) could easilly be like a very fast 486 or early Pentium, excluding the FPU of course. Those monsters have a higher ratio of cycles per opcode (they said the ARM2 at 8Mhz is has 4 times more MIPS than 68000 at the same Mhz and I have witnessed it in some videos) than older x86 revisions or Z80 for example. Yet check the other fact: My smartphone is a slow one. Yet it has an ARM7 at 600Mhz similar to my Caanoo. But Android is a crawl (cause it's based on Java?) and unresponsive here. I have seen faster phones that can handle it, some with dual core processors. But it's a beast, I know that an ARM7 at 600Mhz is a beast because I consider even the GP32 with the 100Mhz ARM as a beast. And I've watched plenty of archimedes demos and tried RiscOS on a 33Mhz (emulated) computer. If I would extropolate from my latest smartphone running Android backwards I would feel like my current phone is a big piece of junk (which I do feel, judging by the unresponsiveness) but I know it isn't. I can appreciate what is in there and what would be really possible.

And then I'd like to just add to this conversation the counter-effect of false retro memories. Sometimes we remember our old computers as faster than they really are. Maybe because we were used to those speeds then and after coming back from the future it feels different. I was transferring some ZIP or ARJ archives of old games to my 386 (disc by disc, ugh) and then I decided to decrunch some of them. My initial reaction was: "What? I never remember decrunching being so long on my old PC! Was it really that slow?". Either I had false memories or being used today to instant decrunching times (even with larger archives) it felt so odd.

But it doesn't change how I feel with old computers. I don't look at them like pieces of junk that are as fast as pocket calculators. My friends look at me coding for old computers and wonder "A 386? What can you do with it? If I had only this I would be bored to death.". Hell, they even feel like this about a Pentium 4. But few years ago we used to work on these machines and we thought a Pentium 4 was like paradise, you could run the latest games, surf the web, watch movies, etc. The other thing here is that I don't see computers as media devices. I see them as things to experiment with, to program, to make them do whatever I like them to do. I feel the essence of code and creativity. Slow processors and primitive graphics don't bother me. I am so much happy even with the oldest thing I can program.

Some people might see random ugly pixels on a CPC and miss their HD media players and modern 3D, but I get enjoyment from deciding how to makes those pixels blink on the little CPC screen. And I discover that with some clever optimization those little 4Mhz can do a lot lot cool stuff! And If I am already so positively pleased with the feeling I have about the performance and creative possibilities I can harness from CPC, imagine how much more this is extrapolated for my 386 or the beasts we carry with us today. It feels so great, like I would never get bored of computers in the way I see them even if production of better computers would get into a halt. There are still a lot to explore even in computer communities where you think they have done everything and there is nothing more to see (just check the C64 scene, every year you see something that makes you think that this is the end, they have exploited the machine to it's full potential and yet you see new more impossible things few months later).

Creative use of computers makes this feeling possible. I could never enjoy a computer so much just from the mindset of a consumer.

p.s. I got into writing this post after being inspired by a twitter message about how angry the author was with people underutilising the CPU and then saying "let's do it in GPU, CPU is crap". Come on people, CPUs are huge beasts already! (well, I know GPUs are much greater beasts, though not as multi-purpose)

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Bitness of a CPU

For yet another time, I've started asking questions to some local geeks about what defines the number of bits of a CPU. I was puzzled again because I have read different answers about the definition and unexpected values for specific CPUs. Then I decided to investigate this matter more, aka doing my homework (I won't sleep tonight :P).

The most common two opposing metrics are:

  • The size of the registers define the bits of a CPU
  • No, not only the size, but also the data bus width

Some considerations:

  • Is a Z80 a 16bit processor then? It has 16bit registers! No,. those are "fake" regs created by the 8bit pairs. Ok,. so it's the size of "true" registers. Question: How to realize that they are not real regs? More cycles needed? Very few arithmetic operations on the pseudo 16bit regs? 8bit internal bus?
  • When we say data bus what do we mean? In the second metric above, most people mean the external data bus which means communication between CPU and memory. When that argument arises they mean that one.

The chaos of terminology:

  • I tried to research into this by reading what are the definitions of terms like data bus, internal/external data bus, etc in wikipedia. I need to know the terminology so that I can understand the different arguments better.
  • In wikipedia article about data bus in the definition of internal and external bus I read this:  "Internal bus, also known as Internal data bus, memory bus or system bus or front-Side-Bus, connects all the internal components of a computer, such as CPU and memory, to the motherboard"  and  "The external bus, also known as expansion bus, is made up of the electronic pathways that connect the different external devices, such as monitor, printer etc, to the computer.".  Might be correct (what do you say?) but totally inconsistent with the way this terminology is used on the bitness arguments.
  • Although in the usual CPU arguments about bitness, people always mean by the external data bus, the CPU<=>Memory communication and the internal data bus probably the internal communication inside the CPU (between regs and ALU and who knows what other stuff). Also the same meaning is used in wikipedia articles describing every CPU. But in the data bus article, internal bus is all those stuff together and external bus is something probably irrelevant with the bitness of the CPU.
  • To make things more confusing, sometimes when arguments arise the don't even specify whether it's internal or external, for example "You are not right, this CPU is not a 32bit but it is a 16bit because the data bus is 16bit only". Which one? (I can only deduce that most of the time they mean the CPU<=>memory one, because in the vast majority of CPUs it happens that Regs size ==  internal data bus)

Other less common metrics I have heard:

  • ALU bits. It can mean many things (I haven't understood entirely yet)
    • Internal communication speed between CPU and ALU. In few words, our classic internal data bus definition (by people on the argument, not the wikipedia article I linked). Usually it occurs to be at the same bits as your CPU regs.
    • Do most standard arithmetic operations exist for those bits too? Example: Z80 with it's pseudo 16bit regs can just do ADD HL,DE/BC but not most of the other logical or other operations, so it's not 16bit.
    • Calculation bits per cycle! Is Z80 spending one cycle in ALU to do 8bit arithmetic calculations? I just found from two different random sources (just forum discussions though but nothing more official yet :P) that the ALU of Z80 worked at 4bits, that means 2 cycles are spent for a single 8bit add. Someone joked that if taken this metric in account, Z80 would be a 4bit processor and that made me wonder WTF?
  • Address bus width. Of course this is absurd and nobody brings it into argument. Yes, the Z80 and 6502 have 16bit address because they need to address 65536 bytes of memory but are they 16bit? Of course not! The classic PC segment/offset style was 20bit, does it make the 8086 an 20bit processor? Nope! Though, classic wikipedia articles on bits, like for example the 32 bit article say this:  "Also, 32-bit CPU and ALU architectures are those that are based on registers, address buses, or data buses of that size."  Of course you could say that it says that they could be based, not should be based, though it could be misleading for someone. Anyway, I am just mentioning this term too to exclude it from the bitness argument.
  • Another confusing thing is the bitness of the machine. Of course this doesn't make sense today and it was a marketing gimmick sometimes. For example Atari Jaguar. They said that it was 64bit and yet I know it had an 68000 as main CPU. Though I recently read in the Jaguar wiki page that among the 68000 it also houses several programmable graphics chips with 64bit architecture (does not define which CPUs) and the 68000 is just the chip that manages all these. Even the external databus between  those chips is 64bit I read now. Pretty strange architecture I'd say. But anyway, the bitness of a machine is a different and more subjective and not our current subject which is bitness of CPU.

So suddenly I read strange things about CPUs:

  • The 68000. I always thought of this as an 16bit CPU (maybe because people associated the Amiga or the Mega Drive as 16bit, you know the next generation/marketing confusion (counter argument: but why not market them as 32bit and be more impressive then?)) but some people refer it as 32bit. I read that it certainly has 32bit registers and possibly(?) 32bit ALU but surely the external data bus (CPU<=>memory) is 16bit and in one wikipedia source I've read that even it's internal data bus was 16bit. Most sources I've found distinguish it as a 16bit/32bit processor because of that (the 68000 wiki article cites this to the Motorola MC68000 Family Programmer's Reference Manual).
  • In contrast, the 386SX  is fully 32bit internally and with 16bit external data bus  (which is the crippled down version of the 386DX that was 32bit in that aspect too) yet I haven't heard anyone consider it a 16bit. In that sense we have another metric which says: Bitness of a CPU = Regs size & Internal Data Bus (and external data bus doesn't count).
  • Same happens with the 8088, which is a crippled down version of 8086. All is 16bit except the external data bus again which is 8bit. At most places I have heard it's a 16bit CPU except from few where I see the 8bit/16bit distinction.
And to finish my little big post, I'd like to say that I just wanted to put things in perspective, so that I can collect all these conflicting thoughts together in this post for a better overall view and maybe also read what other people have to say (if anyone ever reads this and decides to post anyway). I am not a maniac about the number of bits, I don't want to defend my favorite CPUs or something, it's only that sometimes I get too obsessive about discovering whether I can extract few certain facts from tons of conflicting opinions on the internet. If you go and read a single forum where they discuss bitness, you are never sure about the right definition, but if you search more sources and more discussion forums you start creating a more spherical view which might still be conflicting but at least you can collect these things together and try to make sense of them. I am just obsessing about making sense.

Anyway, even the CPU metric is sometimes subjective and as someone said, who cares about bits? Just program the damn thing! Z80 with it's fake 16bit regs is still an 8bit CPU (I never doubted it) yet you can do miracles with those additional opcodes (8-8 fixed point additions with quite less effort and cycles than on 6502) so it's still an advantage. And maybe instead of labeling a CPU with single bits, describing that it has 32bit regs, 32bit ALU, 32bit internal bus and 16bit external bus is a better way to decide for yourself. Or the more complete 16/32bit labeling would suffice. Or in words say: This CPU is 32bit internally but 16bit externally. Makes more sense.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Random Game Thought Metrics

Just some funny/strange/interesting thoughts. I was walking back home from the city center, all alone at night, thinking about random things. We had a Wii gaming session with a friend at his home previously, so I was thinking about games among other things. I remembered petermolydeux twitter which I wasn't sure at first if it was the real Peter Molyneux or a mock up, with his funny/weird/extreme game ideas and I decided to laugh about by speaking of ideas in the same style of games that actually exist. Imagine a mock up of the mock up for example stating things like these:

- Imagine a game where there is a princess in a castle and two italian plumbers trying to save her by entering in green tubes, collecting coins and eating mushrooms. At the end, they discover in great demise that the princess is in another castle.

- Imagine a game where you are a yellow ball with mouth and eyes, eating pills and being chased by ghosts. If you eat the big pill then you can chase the ghost yourself and kill them.

- Game where some blocks are falling and you are controlling them. Purpose of this game is to fill full lines with blocks. If you fill four lines then you gain the most score. At the end you might see a finale with a rocket flying into space.

- You control two baby dinosaurs that materialize bubbles from their mouth. These bubbles can capture enemies and you must then hit the bubbles to convert the enemies into fruits and other bonuses that you eat. If you miss enough time then a skeleton bubble appears and chases you to death.

Hehe, you get the concept? It's just a bit funny mockery taking existing well known games and converting them into petermolydeux style. Someone should do this twitter :)

But another thing I have discovered is that this is a good metric to understand how original an existing game concept is. Just take your favorite games and describe them in few words into petermolydeux style! Do they sound too common or too crazy then?

More examples of games that could be original for their time but the character/world/gameplay concept sounds too common:

- Game where you are a hero with a sword, you are trying to save a princess and when you hit the enemies or bushes diamonds appear with which you can buy a bow, bombs, a shovel, etc. You have to progress in different dungeons and fight final bosses till the end.

- Game where your girlfriend is abducted by a street gang and you have to beat the crap out of all the bad guys in the city and finally get her back. In your way you can find weapons in the streets like a baseball bat, a knife, a dynamite, etc. Sometimes you can also pick up metal barrels or huge rocks and throw them into enemies.

First example, it's Zelda of course. Doesn't it sound very typical? Classic medieval hero story. Everybody wants to save the princess or the kingdom or both. There are swords and dragons and beasts and evil mages. You get money as you loot your defeated enemies. You can buy weapons. Was it a bad game? Of course not. It defined it's own style of gameplay copied by several others. Maybe the concept wasn't crazy but the gameplay had it's own style (something like a mix of action with adventure and maybe little rpg elements (some people do not consider it an rpg)).

Second example could be any beat em'up. I had double dragon in mind. When the first beat em'up of this style was out (was it double dragon the first? I don't know. It's just the first I had seen) there was nothing like this before, even though the concept is common (something everyone might have easily thought).

So, it doesn't mean that if some ideas are too common ala molydeux style then it's not worth it. It's only a metric to realize how extreme or common the basic concept of an existing game sounds. How many other games do you remember where the main protagonists are baby dinosaurs? Is there any other single game where you capture enemies into bubbles and hit them to convert them to fruits? Bubble Bobble seems to be a game where the designers where taking LSD =)

Snow bros. A game which has copied bubble bobble but it's still original in it's own form. You capture enemies into snowballs and now you don't just break the snowballs, you hurl them into other enemies and the snowball might grow bigger until it hits a wall and kills the enemies. Even if it seems a copy, it keeps an originality because the concept sounds quite a lot different, so different that I might have not realized that it's just a copy of bubble bobble if I read a sort description. Now I could compare the sort description from Bubble Bobble and the one from Snowbros see it from a different view than just a lame copy (it was actually very good and successful even if it wasn't the first).

And now for something completely different (to close this blog post). I continued playing this game with one of my favorites on CPC. Fruity Frank. And then I realized something else I didn't thought about before.

- Game where you are a little man digging into some pudding and eating the fruits. Only the apples are heavy like rocks and can crash you so don't eat these. You also throw something like a little ball (actually two pixels :) that goes like ping pong in the walls and can hit the enemies. Funny thing is that the enemies are also fruits... wait!

..wait. Not fruits. I just realized, the enemies must be.... vegetables?

I am not sure about the little guys with the big noses (we thought those noses were bananas which we know them as fruits but I will come into this) but the purple guy somehow reminded me of eggplants. Now the green guy could be another vegetable. And how about the strawberry enemy. We all consider it a fruit but then I quote Sheldon Cooper: Not technically a fruit, but okay. :)

So, I realized that the concept is Fruits vs Vegatables. Even in the case of the strawberry that is secretly not a fruit (and the hardest and rarest enemy of the game). Wow! Did they really have thought this concept or was it random? We can't know. But definitelly fruity frank has it's unique identity, because as a character/world concept is unique enough, something that a petermolydeux description would show.

Oh yes! Fruity Frank could be thought as a war between Fruits and Vegetables. And strawberry is technically not a fruit (banana might not be a fruit too, or is it?). Hidden in the concept too. Wow! MIND BLOWN.

And other funny/weird/stupid thoughts on games..

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Bring up the homebrew appstore!

One good concept that the Apple App store brought is the probability of small developers making out a profit without falling in the scope of being a big commercial project. Everyone could live the dream with just a little investment (Hmm,. almost. Apart from the 100$ fee per year, those iphones are expensive plus that you might need a mac mini for developing) and some ammounts of motivation. The dream ensued by stories of people making so ridiculously simple apps like a farting simulator and other such gimmick and making a lot of profit from such simple projects.

My brother have bought an ipad and a mac mini because we were seriously thinking about getting into the market. Although, because some of us at Codeverse are busy with their jobs and doing other part time jobs (web sites, databases and the usual boring stuff) we haven't started with this one yet. I doubt we will any time soon, yet when I finish with another project for the iphone I am working on for a customer, I will try to motivate me about starting as a hobby programming a game concept which is much simplier than what we were planning with the team, yet still interesting and well fitted for the touch controls.

My thought on this is that it would be interesting to try something to see how it goes, and I would prefer to not do something very very simple and catchy for the mass like the fart simulators or press your screen to break and such gimmick just for the sake of profit, but something more interesting I would like to play. The problem is, I don't like the majority of gaming in touchpads and smartphones (I also have an Android phone). Since I can't get used to the games showing virtual keypads on the screen that I cannot absolute control properly with a touch screen, the remaining rest is simple games like Angry Birds, Shoot the Apple (in my opinion more interesting than Angry Birds), connect some dots, puzzle games, funny stuff that look like Flash or Casual Games and not something I would enjoy that much. I am not much in favor of smartphones, touchpads, apple in general and the whole gimmicky factor of people walking around the city with flashy gadgets showcasing how hip they are. You will excuse me, maybe I am a bit of a snob of the whole new trend :P

My dream is the homebrew. The community I grew up with the last 8 years. In a sense, homebrew existed since the first time someone hacked a console so that he can programm and run his own creations on it. What I have in mind is the modern homebrew handheld community starting from the maybe first console that was made for that purpose of selling you the hardware and let the community openly develop and port software for it. I am talking about the GP32 and this is where my personal affiction with this hobby of owning, programming and gaming on homebrew handheld consoles started for me. I went through every Gamepark product since then, the Dingoo A320 console too and hopefully the Pandora oneday too (that price, ugh!).

Meanwhile a lot of chinese companies copied the concept that Gamepark originally introduced and nowadays we are obscured by tens of strange handhelds that are lacking of a real community, a real feeling of id, that this is the single unique handheld where a creative spirit has formed around. That's because different pairs of similar handhelds that are mocking the look of commercial handhelds are released and you can't decide where to go next. The single indication for me is community. I have seen some recent impressive handhelds, like the YinLips or newest JXD (some_number) that can play Android and are much more powerful than what I ever had (one JXD could play Super Mario 64 in a N64 emulator port smoothly in the video, something that the latest Caanoo wouldn't even achieve at 2fps) yet where is the community? They will be forgotten, no support, no interest, because I see now 4 different JXD models running android in a store. What?

So, the community has not moved to a new handheld, we have Gamepark GP2X and Wiz/Caanoo, we have Dingoo A320, Pandora for the rich and new things ahead. This is where I stop at the moment. I have already made some of these rants in a previous big post, so I think like I am repeating myself here (hopefully with fewer words) but the main reason for this post is what the title says, would there be a possibility that a new homebrew handheld with good quality/prize really gets popular to more people than ever before and gives an opportunity for a real app-like store in the similar sense as apple appstore?

If app store was the real dream for the single developer, I'd love to see something like this being realized for homebrew handheld game development. Because I love gaming in my homebrew handhelds as much as developing and at the same time I am not fond at all of gaming in touchscreen based devices, so I would prefer this thing existed for the homebrew handheld console devs.

So, based on this requirement is there a hope in the future? Some people have thought about it:

The nD - I love the idea of a very cheap device (I don't care at all if it will be only as fast as a GP2X with half RAM and no hardware acceleration, I even love the idea of working under such restrictions) that could become popular to the masses, even given away in small ammounts as a bonus for watching a movie to the cinema or such marketing stuff as explained in the site. I'd wish such a thing would work out, because I could maybe go to the local store one day and buy 2-3 of these and we would develop retro stuff and maybe combine our hobby with something that can pay the rent. I'd love to. I am just skeptical, the presentation doesn't inspire me (it's not a 16bit console!), the guy doesn't inspire me (well, his craziness was semi-inspirational (see also Bob's Game) but will he keep to the promise?), I am doubtful about this project moving on but I wish it would.

Game Gadget - And then I heard about this. It looks like a more serious attempt made by the company Blaze already known for it's Mega Drive handhelds (yep, two friends of mine came with a handheld they bought at a local store at 50euros (outside it must be cheaper) finding it very cool that this thing can play the limited number of 20 Mega Drive games (yep, no storage to load ROMs, except from the latest model that I haven't seen here) can fit in this size and also play in a TV like a real Mega Drive console with the TV-Out cable. Yet they didn't know about Dingoo that costs something like 57euros from that you can use the default emulators for much more consoles than Mega Drive and upload in the mini-sd as many roms as you wish (plus homebrew games, apps, plus it plays mp3s, videos, views images, just like any typical homebrew handheld) and comes with a tv cable too. So, you had from one side Dingoo A320 with almost the same price that can play anything and then a fixed megadrive handheld limited to 20 titles that you haven't even chosen (where is Streets of Rage 2?). But the second one was found in local stores here in Greece, people bought it without ever knowing about the handheld homebrew craze. That's marketing for ya! Same thing happens with their gamegadget, so many coverage on the press and they are already having some working units and planning a release at 30 March. The device is very similar to a Dingoo A320, both in looks, processor (an Ingenic 4750 at 433Mhz which is in the MIPS family), graphics capabilities (320*240*16bpp, no hardware acceleration) and their major plans for this is to create an App-like store where you could upload and sell your games. I am much more confident about this than the nD (even though I loved the theoritical idea of an extremelly cheap homebrew handheld that spreads like the plague) and oh, they are British. It's nice for a chance to see a company getting into the game, other than China or Korea. It's time for some serious homebrew handheld industry from this side of the globe. I will be watching patiently.

A thought for the future: Raspberry Pi. Although not a handheld console and not oriented towards the idea of having an app-like store, rather than a cheap computer for the masses or the poor or the hobbyists, this is a device that seems to have the effect that any homebrew console adapting the app-store model would need. Exposure! It has gained popularity as a hobbyist dream even before being released, both because of price and good exposure to the public and impressive presentations and everyone is really awaiting to get one or two on his hands. Now, it would be great if it could really create such a big community and then even the thought of an app-like store could be promising for single developers, yet maybe the reason for it's creation is not commercial and nothing like this has been planned last time I heard. Just a honnorable mention of a device that could do it for me.

So, our best hero is Game Gadget for me. Hmm,. the price is 99 pounds, that being something like 112 euros, more than a Dingoo A320 (57 euro here, sometimes more (75 euros) in other places) and less than a GPH Caanoo (got mine at 144 euros, kinda expensive but worth it). I am really happy about Game Gadget, glad they are British and I hope it works out. If a good app-store for homebrew dev starts up then I am seriously thinking to spend less time on demomaking and more on game developing (something that I have little affiliation with, but during the later years I have wished but always abandoned because of that deadline to finish that demo for this democompo :P)

Other than this stupid bad written blog post, my relative news are: I just got a new Dingoo A320 Black edition. My old one had a dead LCD (it could still be used through the TV-Out by navigating blindly to enable it though) and so I decided I'd get a new one because my friends were playing Mega Drive in their TV with the Blaze consoles and I thought I should do that too because it's a joke and I can have much more in a single package for 7 euros higher. Though, the Mega Drive emulator on Dingoo native OS is not good (very slow, bad artifacts, hell.. even in the old GP32 overclocked at 133Mhz it was better) so one has to install Dingux on it, which is Linux from the homebrew community, where the majority of emulators, homebrew games, apps, etc are released anyway and there is PicoDrive for Mega Drive which is perfect. The problem is, ironically I cannot win this bet yet (to really feel with few euros more than Blaze consoles, I can have Mega Drive playing fine with all roms) because now Dingux has some Tv-Out util that simply fails to work here. Another solution was to install OpenDingux which is the continuation of Dingux from the community (the original author of Dingux was BooBoo and now more people are into this new release) that might possibly have proper Tv-Out support so that I can finally live the feeling of having a virtual multi-console plugged on my TV monitor. And it is a pain in the ass to create new icons in the provided G-menu for Dingux and while I have downloaded a pack with all things ready, OpenDingux changed things and you have to manually setup the all the emuls icons and everything manually. Of course I could just browse with the explorer and hopefully things will run. Do I loose points from my bet for Dingoo A320 being so annoying at usability especially with Dingux? (the native gave you the emuls installed, that was a pro in eas/usability, but I hope some of them were better). Yet, I am happy to have purchased Dingoo A320 again, because I always have to own one of these things, the community is very good and very strong for a handheld that is less known than the gamepark posse.

Irrelevant news for the finale: I am living one of my best coding periods. Having so much motivation, working with my Wolfenstein CPC engine and my possible Forever CPC demo release (if everything goes fine with time) every day without striving away from the path. It was so strong that I decided oneday to go to the nearest PC to start a new session of Skyrim, yet I abandoned the idea (twice) because I really had to try that new feature/optimization in my wolfenstein engine. When coding wins over gaming, wow!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Computer Paranormality Afterthought

Say that I present to you a bunch of tiny intros but I don't show you the code or file size and claim them to be 256 bytes or less. An expert who doesn't know the demoscene but his field has to do with computer graphics or image compression comes and shares his skeptic opinion that it's quite improbable that such detail of imagery and animation could be fit in such tiny space and this would even break the mathematical rules of what is the possible limit in loseless compression (just an example, I am not familiar with compression laws or limits). But think about it, if you were an expert in compression and didn't have an idea about procedural graphics, then based on your frame of reference you would conclude that the 256b intros hypothesis is a scum.

I want with this example to make a parallel to similar cases in real life where experts come out and sound so credible when they conclude that a particular case is a conspiracy or a hoax alternatively. Who am I to deny what they say? I'd wish to but I lack the expertise to truly make a definite conclusion. I could search for other sources on the internet but still I wouldn't know on my own. One says we didn't go to the moon because the Van Halen radiation belt would fry the astronauts and he says he is a physicist and doctor so that he knows what he is talking about. Other experts say it's possible because the speed of the space shuttle through the radioactive zone didn't left for enough time of exposure to be lethal. Both are experts. I don't even know about the Van Halen zone and how much is a lethal dose of radiation. All I can read is opinions of believers and also opinions of skeptics. Same with 9/11. The buildings really look like they had a rapid fall. It's strange. Conspiracists present it in such a way that make you believe. But there are also logical arguments that discard the conspiracy hypothesis and make the impossible seem possible. I don't have the knowledge in these matters to conclude myself. Most people just read either the believers or skeptics opinions and choose side. I can't. I don't know.

That's one important problem in conspiracy theories I think. Lack of expertise and time to properly verify the validity of them and be personally satisfied that you finally have a good explanation that you understand. Of course I could "verify" them by listening to a preferred side, the believers or skeptics. Though this is not truly knowing. This is belonging. I am really keen to learn and understand the whole truth behing things even if it doesn't proove to be extraordinary but trivial.

That's why I asked for computer paranormality in one of the previous posts. Because then I would be in the position of analyzing the claims with a higher feeling that I am actually the one who is concluding about reality, not the sources I read.