Below are the five most recent posts in my weblog. You can also see a chronological list of all posts, dating back to 1999.

After months of trying, I've finally got my hands on a Nintendo NES Classic Mini. It's everything I wish retropie was: simple, reliable, plug-and-play gaming. I didn't have a NES at the time, so the games are all mostly new to me (although I'm familiar with things like Super Mario Brothers).

NES classic and 8bitdo peripherals

NES classic and 8bitdo peripherals

The two main complaints about the NES classic are the very short controller cable and the need to press the "reset" button on the main unit to dip in and out of games. Both are addressed by the excellent 8bitdo Retro Receiver for NES Classic bundle. You get a bluetooth dongle that plugs into the classic and a separate wireless controller. The controller is a replica of the original NES controller. However, they've added another two buttons on the right-hand side alongside the original "A" and "B", and two discrete shoulder buttons which serve as turbo-repeat versions of "A" and "B". The extra red buttons make it look less authentic which is a bit of a shame, and are not immediately useful on the NES classic (but more on that in a minute).

With the 8bitdo controller, you can remotely activate the Reset button by pressing "Down" and "Select" at the same time. Therefore the whole thing can be played from the comfort of my sofa.

That's basically enough for me, for now, but in the future if I want to expand the functionality of the classic, it's possible to mod it. A hack called "Hakchi2" lets you install additional NES ROMs; install retroarch-based emulator cores and thus play SNES, Megadrive, N64 (etc. etc.) games; as well as other hacks like adding "down+select" Reset support to the wired controller. If you were playing non-NES games on the classic, then the extra buttons on the 8bitdo become useful.

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One of the products I have done some work on at Red Hat has recently been released to customers and there have been a few things written about it:

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I've begun to listen to BBC4's "More Or Less" Podcast. They recently had an episode covering the life and work of Hans Rosling, the inspirational swedish statistician, who has sadly died of pancreatic cancer. It was very moving. Some of Professor Rosling's videos are available to view online. I've heard that they are very much worth watching.

Over the last few months I have also been listening to regular updates by BBC broadcaster Steve Hewlett on his own journey as a cancer sufferer. These were remarkably frank discussions of the ins and outs of his diagnosis, treatment, and the practical consequences on his everyday life. I was very sad to tune in on Monday evening and hear a series of repeated clips from his previous appearances on the PM show, as the implications were clear. And indeed, Steve Hewlett died from oesophagal cancer on Monday. Here's an obituary in the Guardian.

I recently implemented VGA "porch" flashing support in Chocolate Doom.

Since I'd spent some time playing with a blinkstick on my NAS, I couldn't resist trying it out with Chocolate Doom too. The result:

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red blinkenlights!

red blinkenlights!

Part three of a series. part 1, part 2.

One morning last week I woke up to find the LED on my NAS a solid red. I've never been happier to have something fail.

I'd set up my backup jobs to fire off a systemd unit on failure

OnFailure=status-email-user@%n.service

This is a generator-service, which is used to fire off an email to me when something goes wrong. I followed these instructions on the Arch wiki to set it up). Once I got the blinkstick, I added an additional command to that service to light up the LED:

ExecStart=-/usr/local/bin/blinkstick --index 1 --limit 50 --set-color red

The actual failure was a simple thing to fix. But I never did get the email.

On further investigation, there are problems with using exim and systemd in Debian at the moment: it's possible for the exim4 daemon to exit and for systemd not to know that this is a failure, thus, the mail spool never gets processed. This should probably be fixed by the exim4 package providing a proper systemd service unit.

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