Questioning my gaming credentials

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Switching audio output between jack and HDMI on RetroPie

RetroPie is a great multi-emulator project for the Raspberry Pi, but I noticed that its auto-detect for which audio device to use seems a bit erratic. I’ve speakers plugged into the 3.5mm jack, as the HDMI cable runs to a speaker-less monitor, and usually (but not always) RetroPie defaulted to squirting sound out the HDMI port.

There’s two ways of fixing this. Firstly, you can change the audio output for the current session (i.e. until you reboot it) by issuing this command to force the output to the 3.5mm jack:

amixer cset numid=3 1

or this command to force it down the HDMI cable:

amixer cset numid=3 2

To run this command, either switch to another terminal session (e.g. Ctrl-Alt-F2), and log in as user pi, password raspberry (defaults, unless you’ve changed them), then Ctrl-Alt-F1 to switch back to the GUI.

Alternatively, from another machine, you can SSH into your Pi and run the command in the shell there.

To make this a permanent change, you need to run RetroPie-Setup. Get into a terminal using either of the above two methods (Ctrl-Alt-F2 or SSH) and enter:

cd RetroPie-Setup
sudo ./retropie_setup.sh

This will bring up the config screen. Choose option 8, “Configure audio settings”.

retropiesetup1

Then choose either Headphones (for the 3.5mm jack) or HDMI as necessary.

retropiesetup2

Choose OK, then reboot!

 

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Finally! The version of RSG you’ve been waiting for!

Many, many, many years ago, I wrote a terrible text based roleplaying game called RSG. I initially made a version for the Sinclair Spectrum, but lost the code soon afterwards. Then I wrote a version for the Acorn A4000 in BBC Basic instead of doing my A level computing project. Then a version for the Casio programmable calculator when I’d finished a physics exam. At some point I also made a version in AMOS on the Amiga, and eventually rewrote it for the Spectrum for the 1999 comp.sys.sinclair Crap Games Competition.

Since then, I’ve made a version (that didn’t work) in Flash, a version in Perl, and I even got part way through a port on the original Game Boy, until I ditched it and wrote Advanced Lawnmower Simulator for that instead.

But now! With the soon to be released Gamebuino, I’ve been learning Processing (again, I sort of learnt it a few years ago, but forgot it all again). And here is the fruit – a Processing written RSG. In a tiny, tiny little box. Why a tiny box? That’s the resolution of the Gamebuino!

Yes. Yes, that is it in that little box there. Click on it and begin the greatest of all diminutive adventures!

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Fixing “Not enough free space” error when deploying Windows image

After creating a new install of Windows 7, with all the software on I wanted, I then tried to use our Windows Deployment Services Server to capture the image. However, it failed using both methods we’d used previously.

When booting to Windows PE over the network, choosing all our usual capture options, and then triggering the capture, an error message came up – “not enough free space”. This seemed odd, as there was a good 60GB free on the local machine, and over 1TB free on the server I was going to save the captured image on.

I tried the other capture method, which is booting the machine into Windows then triggering the capture from there. Files were copied to the local machine, and it then rebooted into WinPE and started capturing. Unfortunately, this failed too with numerous errors, the main one being 80004004, but also 80070070 and 80004005.

SnapShot_140228_170604

Here’s what was happening:

When WinPE starts a capture, it copies some files to the local machine’s main system partition (usually drive C:). However, it couldn’t do this as it said the drive was full. C: wasn’t full, though.

The fault is actually that WinPE tries to copy to the first active partition on the drive, which logic suggests would be C:. But Windows 7 creates a 100MB, usually hidden, “System Reserved” partition. 100MB isn’t enough for WinPE to do its thing, so you get the error message.

Similarly, Windows 8 and 8.1 have a (larger, but still too small) System Reserved partition, and some preinstalled Windows PCs may have other backup, boot, recovery or system partitions too. WinPE can’t cope with these if they’re marked as active.

The solution then, is to mark C: as active. You can do this by booting the install of Windows, going into Disk Management, and right-clicking C:, then choosing Mark as Active.

SnapShot_140228_165407

There’s an alternative fix which may also work. It’s listed here, but as a fix for Windows 8 when using MDT 2012. We’re using Windows 7 on an older MDT, but it still applies.

This fix involves creating a Boot folder on C:, so that the capture script uses that rather than try to create a new one on the wrong partition.

What you need to do is find the LTIApply.wsf file in the Scripts folder on your deployment server’s deployment share. About a fifth of the way down there’s this section:

' Copy bootmgr
If not oFSO.FileExists(oEnvironment.Item("DestinationLogicalDrive") & "\Bootmgr") then
oLogging.CreateEntry "Copying " & oEnvironment.Item("DeployRoot") & "\Boot\" & sArchitecture & "\bootmgr to " & oEnvironment.Item("DestinationLogicalDrive") & "\bootmgr", LogTypeInfo
oFSO.CopyFile oEnvironment.Item("DeployRoot") & "\Boot\" & sArchitecture & "\bootmgr", oEnvironment.Item("DestinationLogicalDrive") & "\", true
End if

Immediately after this, but before the “Copy the PE boot image” line, enter this code:

If not oFSO.FolderExists(sBootDrive & "\Boot") then
oFSO.CreateFolder(sBootDrive & "\Boot")
End if

Everything now works for us, so one, or both, of these fixes should be applied in the same situation.

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Next gen gaming is nearly here!

Well, it’s the next console I’ll be buying, anyway. I’ve literally zero interest in the PS4 and Xbox One. I’m slightly surprised at myself actually, as I secretly thought I might be by now.

Anyway, the Retron 5 is coming Real Soon Now, with the current release date set as April. Sadly, there have already been a few delays (it was originally supposed to be last October), but lets hope it meets this one, yes?

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The 2013 Gaming Expenditure Horror

It’s that time again, where I perform an autopsy on my games spending over the last 12 months. Some real changes this year as well. Let’s have a look at how the total compares:

2010 – £590.32
2011 – £888.22
2012 – £834.48
2013 – £342.82

So, a massive 58.9% decrease in spending. That’s a lot. However, there’s a reason for much, but not all, of that – in 2011 I bought a 3DS (and a PS3), and in 2012 I bought a Wii U. In 2013, I bought no hardware at all. None. See:

bytype2013

 

What about spending by platform?

byplatform2013

 

Firstly, you’ll notice something. No, not that the Wii U accounts for more than 70% of all my spending, and no, not that between my Nintendo consoles, more than 97% of the total expense is accounted for. No – the thing is that the 360 has gone. So has the Wii, the DS and iOS. Even PC/Mac, which was tiny anyway, has almost vanished. Have these platforms become dead to me? And somehow the PS3 hasn’t?

Not exactly. It just shows up a problem with this analysis I’d not noticed before. If games are free, they don’t show up. Indeed, I’ve had some 360 (and one DS, and a handful of iOS) games this year, but they’ve all been free. Either free as in no cost, or free as in gifts. In fact, some of the 360 games I’ve bought this year (Retro City Mayhem, Bastion, Brothers) have been as a result of free Microsoft Points. Some from the XBL Rewards program (RIP that), some from a NowTV trial, and some more from a trial for some other on demand video thing but I forget what. In fact, a fair number of 3DS and Wii U games have been free for various reasons too.

The final shock was in the Spending by Medium analysis:

bymedium2013

 

According to this, the Digital Download Future trend of previous years has been bucked. 2010 it was 25%, 2011 was 34.9 and 2012 was 42.5. This has dropped back to 39.3% this year, even though I’m sure I’ve downloaded a lot more. Haven’t I?

Sort of, yes. Again, it’s the free things skewing the results. All them free Xbox Live Arcade games. I managed to make use of the Nintendo So Many Games promotion more than once, combining it with the Monster Hunter promo, to get three downloaded titles for free. I’ve had £25 cashback on the Wii U Premium Account thing which I then spent in the eShop – more free games. Even those games I’ve paid for as downloads have been in sales or, in the case of PC and Mac titles, have been stupidly cheap (almost free, in fact) from Humble Bundle.

In terms of the number of downloaded games vs physical media games, it’s 72.4% download, 27.6% physical – a real shift to the disc/cartless game format.

In 2013 I bought 87 games. That’s a few more than 2012′s 80, but as you can see – I’ve spent a lot less. I also completed 39 games – the same as last year. Spooky. I should add, however, that in 2012 I did also spend over 300 hours playing Animal Crossing New Leaf, and 70+ hours playing Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate – neither of which I’ve completed.

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Thursday – Brought to you by Radio PARALAX

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EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard

When choosing a data recovery program, the most important thing is whether it will actually recover your data or not. In my job I’m often asked to restore files that have been deleted or “lost”, and if there’s no backup (which, invariably on a removable disk, there isn’t), data recovery is the only way to go.

I’ve been testing EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard 7.0, to see how well it performs.

Recovery Wizard Home Screen

Recovery Wizard Home Screen

EaseUS’ product does two things I’ve not seen in other recovery programs. Firstly, it claims it can recover data from deleted, or reformated as a different filesystem, partitions. Secondly, when it searches for lost files, it can do so by type.

File types

File types

This is useful if you can remember it was a Word document but you’re not interested in anything else.

My main test was with a 16GB external USB flash drive. I’d previously used it on a Mac, and it had contained an installer for OS X Mavericks. I’d since formatted it as FAT32. I set about searching the drive with Data Recovery Wizard, looking for all types of deleted files.

Seaching for files

Seaching for files

After quite some time (which I expected, considering the job), the software came up with a list of found files. I chose to recover them all, and after an hour or so I had a folder on my PC, containing subfolders named by type of file:

recovereddatafolders

 

Each of these folders contained numerically sequenced files, all from the installer for Mavericks. I was a little confused that it didn’t name the files as they were originally, nor did it replicate the original file structure, but I reasoned that this information was probably lost since the partition table of the USB drive had been wiped and it was recovering Mac files from a Mac filesystem. The important thing was that the files were intact.

Recovered files

Recovered files

As a further test, I reformatted the drive again, this time as NTFS, and Data Recovery Wizard was again able to find, and restore, the deleted files. I don’t know if it restored all of them (as I don’t know what was there before), but certainly data was recovered.

Then I decided to try it out on a folder on a local hard drive. This drive is used as a temporary dumping ground for file transfers, downloads, temporary backups of things, etc. with files being added and deleted all the time. As before, I searched for all deleted files, and again it found lots of stuff – some of which I’d deleted months ago. I organise download folders by year and month, which is why the folders are named like this:

foundfiles

List of found files

I opted to recover some files at random, and this time the folder they were recovered to did recreate the original filenames and folder paths. Presumably it was able to recover this information as well in this case.

In summary then, Data Recovery Wizard 7 does what it sets out to do. I can’t say for certain under all conditions it would be able to recover all files (no software can recover all files 100% of the time), but it is easy to use and in my tests it was successful, so should be an option when you’re looking for a data recovery tool.

Disclaimer: EaseUS contacted me and offered a copy of their data recovery software in return for a review. I’ve no connection with the company and this is an honest opinion.

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Making MacPorts work again after upgrading to Mavericks

Although pretty much everything “just works” after upgrading from Lion/Mountain Lion to Mavericks, one thing that doesn’t is MacPorts. Well, it still works, or at least it did for me, but you’re unable to upgrade it or install more ports, as they all fail with various error messages (including “Error: org.macports.extract for port gperf returned: command execution failed”), and the usual

sudo port selfupdate

just gives the message

MacPorts base version 2.2.1 downloaded.
—> Updating the ports tree
—> MacPorts base is outdated, installing new version 2.2.1
Installing new MacPorts release in /opt/local as root:admin; permissions 0755; Tcl-Package in /Library/Tcl

Error: /opt/local/bin/port: port selfupdate failed: Error installing new MacPorts base: command execution failed

Fixing this involves several steps. Firstly, go away and download the latest installer for MacPorts. At the time of writing, it’s here, but if it’s moved there should be a link on this page. Install that, and come back.

Back? Hello again!

Next, you’re going to need to make sure you have the latest version of Xcode installed. You may have done this as part of the “install ALL the updates” routine after installing Mavericks, but if not, check the App Store updates tab and install the latest version. At the time of writing it’s v5.0.1 so you’ll need at least that.

In addition to Xcode, you also need to install the Xcode command line tools. You can do this in the terminal, with the command:

sudo xcode-select --install

Once installed, open Xcode and accept the licence agreement.

Now ports should be able to compile, so you’ll need to do the following (again, in a terminal):

sudo port selfupdate
sudo port upgrade outdated

and then wait while it does its thing. Depending on how many ports you have, this may take some time. As well as other things, I had Imagemagick and the ten billion depends associated with it, so it took well over an hour. Once it’s finished, MacPorts and all the ports for it should be updated and ready to go.

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How Movie Maker projects work – with Lego analogy

Struggle to explain to students (or staff!) why their Movie Maker project doesn’t work when they move to another computer without taking the video elements with them? Resolve this with a Lego analogy!

I created this for work, but thought it may be of use to others. Maybe.

Download file.

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