Retron 5

Now that I’ve used it for a time (a long time actually), I have grown rather fond of it. I don’t necessarily care about the HD portion (though now that I use a 24″ television as a monitor, it’s much more convenient), but the emulation is very good. I have all my retro-esque consoles hooked up now, with the exception of my PS1. It’s not that I don’t want to plug one in, it’s just that I don’t have the room on the computer desk/entertainment center. πŸ™‚

The console is quite playable with the supplied bluetooth controller, but I prefer using the actual system controllers when possible. (I have a Genesis/SNES/NES controller set plugged in at all times, and surprisingly, you can use any of them for any other emulated console, of course the # of buttons will be the deciding factor.)Β  If you wanted to play Super Mario Bros 3 with an SNES controller, it is possible (and quite usable).

On the other retro-console front, I decided to get my original XBox out of mothballs (I only have one other spare, and one with a dead DVD drive that I could possibly fix in the future) and play a few games. I am shocked how good it was for the time. I enjoy playing Gauntlet:Seven Sorrows on it the most (better than the PS2 version.)

I’ll plug in Morrowind at some point, after I play KOTOR again. (well, finish it for once.)

I guess at some point I’ll turn on my PS4 again. πŸ™‚Β  Last time I turned on my PS3 was to play Robotron:2084 on the Midway Origins collection. πŸ™‚

 

R.I.P. John Wetton (1949-2017)

I’ve been bummed when a singer or musician dies, particularly one I really enjoyed hearing (especially my teen years.)Β  When Kevin Dubrow passed away, I was sad, and in some ways still am, given the future he had with music and the revived Quiet Riot. Then Lemmy died, but he was just an icon of metal and rock to me.Β  I was sad, but Motorhead’s music wasn’t my favorite. I liked it, but I never played it over and over like Quiet Riot. Or for that matter, Twisted Sister. When A.J. Pero died, I was really, really bummed. I still have my Twisted Sister poster on my closet door. A.J. is in the center, raising a fist for metal. I still get a bit teary-eyed when I hear something from Stay Hungry. Knowing he’s gone, and he had more to do as well. I will forever point to Quiet Riot and Twisted Sister for my love of Metal.

But one singer/bassist died yesterday that ripped my heart out of my chest. He had a long career, like Lemmy, but his music is something I listened to almost every day since I first bought Asia’s self-titled debut in 1982. I still have my original LP, that I think I will frame now that John’s gone. I don’t know what else to do. I’m a bit numb. All my favorites are dying, retiring, or who knows what. I know this is how old age must feel, but I am still going to miss Mr. Wetton’s voice. It was singularly unique and always soothing to hear. I don’t know what will happen to Asia now, but I am glad they reunited. It would’ve been a crime only to have John on three records. I’m listening to “Rock of Faith” right now, and it’s hard to imagine he’s gone. He has left a great catalog of music and awesome musicianship to us, but what can I do to stop feeling blue?

If I could go back in time and tell my 12 year old self to do one thing, it’d be “enjoy every day. Stop wishing you were older.”Β  I’ll never get those days back listening to Asia on my Sears record player. And we’ll never see the likes of John Wetton again. His work opened up musical doors for me that I will be forever grateful for. I hope he knew how much we loved him.artists_johnwetton

Goodbye Mr. Wetton.Β  I always loved your music. You touched the world and your legacy will live on.Β  I, and the world, will miss you.

Retro overload

I kinda overdid the whole retro-purchasing bit. I even went so far as to (almost) buy a Japanese Dreamcast so I could play some of the shooters. (I decided against it.) I did spend a tad too much on a second (third?) Sega Saturn. It was a good price, but I had already bought so many games (many still on their way), it wasn’t a necessary expense. I did get a $25 PS1 (9001 version, which handles the overheating gear problem with the lens gears being right over the PSU), but that was the extent of my “great” deals.

I need to start playing the games now. I never seem to do so, though. It’s sad, really. I am probably just more familiar with Skyrim or Tetris, and I never try a new game. I played a round of the PS1 version of Tiger Woods PGA Golf (I believe ’99). It was great fun. I should give it a go again. I should also stop spending too much time playing football games. I’ve no idea what the plays are for (besides nickel being good for passing defense and 4/3 is for running plays?) I think I’ll play some shooters and then play a few other gems before getting back into Breath of Fire. (I might pick a different one first.)

I never spell/grammar check these things… for good reason. They’re a stream of consciousness. Editing makes them sound fake. πŸ™‚

Sega Saturn

I recently got back into Saturn (after somehow losing the hiding place I put my last Saturns, I’m sure there’s a box in the closet full of them), I went on a buying binge. I recently switched to a full-blown TV for my computer monitor, which enabled me to use composite for my PS1 and my Dreamcast. So after getting a switchbox, I decided that it’d be neat to get my Saturn out. It wasn’t the best version when I bought it, but it was in fairly good shape. Problem was, I needed my Action Replay Cart, which allowed me to play US games on my Japanese Saturn.Β  Well, that went well, and long story short, I got another console (a light gray Saturn rev 1.01) and another Action Replay.

So I’m looking online for games, since I only had Space Harrier and a couple of shooters (DonPachi and DoDonPachi, the latter not working on my current Saturn)… So I went on a binger buying up tons of games for my Dreamcast and my Saturn. So I’ve got a stack of games high enough to hide behind now. πŸ™‚Β  Couple that with my PS1 RPGs I never finished and I don’t think I’ll need another game until I die of old age. (Then I want to be buried with Radiant Silvergun… Saturn version.) πŸ™‚

I’ll review some of the games later, but for now, I’m knee deep in a $20 Japanese version of Fantasy Zone for the Saturn. It’s addictive! πŸ™‚

New Music 2016

I got some albums in this week! Of course they are really good because I have excellent taste, not to mention I know what I want. The end of the year, or the last quarter of it up to Christmas, is a great time of year for new music. The only downside is that Overkill’s new record is postponed until February. I’ll have something to look forward to in February and March! (March is when the new Nintendo Switch comes out.)Β  So let’s see what I got as far as music this past month or so (in no particular order):

  1. Hammerfall “Built to Last”Β  – Great power metal. I have it on continuous playback in my truck.
  2. Testament “Brotherhood of the Snake” – They still got it!Β  A GREAT album! Thrash masterpiece? You bet.
  3. VaderΒ  “The Empire”Β  – BRUTALLY good metal. These guys are some of the best death metal players in the field today. πŸ™‚ If you like brutal death metal that isn’t just noise…. Vader is the band for you!
  4. Dee Snider “We are the Ones” – This is surprising, given Dee’s previous solo work. It was quite different from Widowmaker and “Never let the Bastards Wear you down”, and it’s light years away from his Twisted Sister work. I didn’t care for the acoustic “We’re Not Gonna Take it” but that’s just me. It’s an amazing bit of musicianship, just not my taste because that is the song that got me hooked on Twisted Sister in the first place. πŸ™‚
  5. Opeth “Sorceress” – HOLY MOLY this is good stuff. This takes “Heritage” to new heights. It surpasses Pale Communion as my favorite “clean singing” era Opeth record. I have to say, I’m becoming an Opeth fanatic these days. I liked their death metal (of course), but I REALLY became a huge fan when they went a different direction. Weird, I know. I am not above saying that I am more of a fan now than back during the days of “Orchid” (a favorite of mine as well.)
  6. Narnia “Narnia” – I have always liked this power metal band. They have great vocal harmonies that make the songs really cook. I am glad they decided to re-form, because I missed this great guitar-oriented power metal!
  7. Hansen “Three Decades of Metal — XXX” is a POWERFULLY good solo record from the hero of Helloween, Gamma Ray, AND Iron Savior. All among my top bands. (Helloween still has co-lead with Twisted Sister in my list of all time great rock/metal bands.)

I have about 30 metric tons of mp3’s and CDs that I got in just the last 3 months. Too many to list here, but I can safely say there was not a dud among them. 2016 may have been bad in terms of taking our best musicians, but the new music coming out is more than enough salve on the wounds. Looking forward to Overkill’s new CD in February!!!!!

 

 

Things I recently found I like

  1. Rollerball pens. (They are easier to write with because they require no pressure on the writing surface.) The downside is they tend to bleed through the page. But being a lefty, I simply write on one side of the paper now. πŸ™‚
  2. Kuru Toga mechanical pencil.Β Β  Auto-fill, sharp lead, nice feel in the hand. It’s a great pencil.
  3. Glen Campbell. He really was a great singer. It’s a shame he has faded and hope his Alzheimer’s isn’t too painful for him and his family.
  4. Johnny Cash. I never appreciated him when he was alive, but now I can’t get enough of his great music. Some of it is a bit twangy, but his voice is unmistakable and better than 90% of the current crop of singers.
  5. Old game shows. (Super Password, Tattletales, Let’s Make a Deal, Double Dare with a very young Alex Trebek, Card Sharks, etc.) Thanks Buzzr TV! πŸ™‚
  6. Old Star Trek. Sure I like Wrath of Khan, but now I like the old series much better as I’ve gotten older. The new FX they tack on for external shots makes the stories even more contemporary. πŸ™‚
  7. Diet Sunkist.Β  Great soda.
  8. Diet Dr. Pepper. (Another sweet soda that is sparkly good, along with the Cherry variant!)
  9. Mozart (never was into him when I was younger.)
  10. Batman cartoons (I liked them, but now I’m more interested in them. Old age I guess.)

 

Not a bad list πŸ™‚

My newfound love of Cinnamon

Well, I had a good run with Ubuntu MATE. It was fairly robust, with only a few glitches. I did have a devil of a time with strange WM activity (and a huge .xsession-errors file), but other than that, it was a great distro.

But I’m a fan of Mint… and have been for a few versions. (Gave my semi-monthly $20 donation to the project recently.) So I installed Mint 18 last week, but I didn’t opt for the XFCE or MATE Editions. I went straight for Cinnamon.Β  My 2009-era Intel-Core2-Quad and GeForce GTX 730 should be enough to make the system sing.

I re-partitioned, which meant I lost a few things along the way (I forgot to back up my banking stuff, so I was relying on my spreadsheet/download of transactions to keep track of my money. But tomorrow’s payday, so I can start fresh.)Β  I had only 8GB for the root partition, which meant I was limited in how much junk I could install. πŸ™‚Β  You know me, I’m a stickler for trying EVERY variation of linux program to see which ones work best.Β  But I think I made this new root a bit large (100GB?) All I know is I’ll never run out of space now.

Of course my home directory’s a little smaller, but I keep that pruned nicely and it’ll be fine. I really should move my podcast folder to one of my external drives, though. Anyhow, the installation of Mint was flawless (as usual). It came up in no time and was loaded with the most important bits. I quickly removed Banshee (because it has troubles with large media collections) and installed my favorite apps (Gimp, Audacity, Audacious, etc.)

Things have been pretty good (only one hard lockup early on), and it’s fairly responsive. Cinnamon is full-featured and nicer (to me) than Gnome. I like Gnome 3, but I generally use Gnome when I am working, and everything else is Cinnamon/MATE/XFCE.Β  The fact that I don’t have an XFCE distro running right now is pretty weird, I think. But XFCE’s been getting bigger and with that, it really makes no practical sense to use it over Cinnamon now (for me. Others may disagree.)

I got myself a “mini” 68 key keyboard from (I suppose) China called the “MagicForce”.Β  It’s got a champagne color (metal, no less) and some knock-off cherry-mx compatible keys. It’s a nice compact keyboard (which is handy because I don’t have much room in my pull-out keyboard drawer.) It’s a great little keyboard.Β  Of late, I’ve been having difficulty using the black keyswitches. It has been a bit more travel than I am used to, and it caused fatigue lots of the time. So I’ll have to retire my Filco Ninja Tenkeyless. It was a great keyboard (still is, I just don’t have the finger-strength anymore.)Β  That’s kinda sad, really. For someone who used an Atari 800 with it’s MASSIVELY heavy keys… this is a bit of a letdown. Thankfully this MagicForce keyboard is fun to use. (and cute too!)

 

magicforce

Ain’t it cute? πŸ™‚

“Computer” glasses and seeing clearly

I got myself some “computer” glasses the other day (made from my prescription), and I have to say it’s so much more fun not to have to look down my nose at my monitor. I use an old 4×3 19″ monitor because it’s the best picture I can get (and getting a 4×3 is hard to do anymore anyway.) When this monitor dies, I’ll have to bite the bullet and get a widescreen, I guess. It’ll suck, because I love this aspect ratio (and 1280×1024 is fine for my eyes.)

What I really want to do is buy up any good-condition used 19″ monitors so that I won’t have to use those silly widescreen junk. I don’t disparage widescreen for any reason other than I’m an old-school computer guy who used a TV as his first monitor. So I’ve been on the 4×3 aspect ratio since I was 12. And you know, the 12″ TV I had for my monitor back in the day is STILL working. Granted it doesn’t get any broadcast now, but I plugged a VCR into the RF and could STILL see the movie. How’s THAT for good engineering?

It’s not a great picture, mind you. But it’s still functional. I’ve got two LCD TV’s that are no longer working (though they did last a paltry 10 years.) Still, that’s a pretty good track record for televisions.

I guess I’ll clean my computer glasses and give my monitor a dusting… so it’ll last longer (I’ve had this LCD for 12 years…. it was expensive back in the day…. but WORTH it.)

 

Gremlins ate my mp3’s

I don’t know if it’s coincidence or just plain spooky Scooby-Doo type stuff, but every once in a while, I’ll look at an album I’ve ripped and see that it’s missing a file. It’s only missing one song, but usually it’s a song I’ve listened to before. The reason this came up recently is I was listening to my rip of Queen’s “The Game” and “Another One Bites the Dust” is missing from the tracklist.

I need to get a backup for my backup. πŸ™‚

Bluetooth Speakers

I don’t remember if I touched on this before, but there are some really good Bluetooth speakers on the cheap these days. I found a $20 Polaroid Bluetooth speaker at Big Lots, and it sounds great. It’s not stereo, but then again for $20, I wouldn’t expect it to be. I picked up the blue one, because it was a nice shade of blue. The pink one was quite garish, to be honest. (They didn’t have any black ones or white ones in stock at the time, but they are apparently color choices for the speaker.) I wasn’t keen on the battery life, though it does take AA batteries (or a rechargeable one). It’s a bit bulky for portability, but it has a nice slot where you can set your tablet upright while listening. That’s a nice feature. The sound isn’t hollow (I expected it to be a bit muffled or a bit tinny) but the size and shape (a brick-like rectangle) make the music sound quite good. I am no audiophile, so more discerning tastes might hate the sound, but I found it very high quality for the price.

So I was roaming around the local Big Lots again (they have quite the assortment of knock-off batteries), and I ran across the Polaroid Bluetooth “corner” of the shelves over in electronics. I saw some new, smaller speakers (much like the larger one) for $10. I figured, it might be worse sounding, but for $10 I’ll take the chance. I was again, pleasantly surprised. It is a great speaker. It sounds better and more solid than the larger one. (I imagine there’s more empty space for resonance in the larger speaker.) My only complaint is that it won’t run on AC only power, and it doesn’t charge while it’s on. That’s not a big deal, but it’s still a bit annoying to not run on AC only. (The larger speaker ran without a battery in it if I plugged it in.)

It’s amazing what you can get for $10 these days.