The trade

I use this site to post about things not directly related to woodworking or my shop. That has been tech and games, but sports is a huge part of my personality as well. Those two meet today.

I’ve been playing a lot of MLB the Show 15, and just finished up my third season on their Road to the Show career mode. I love the Braves, and as such that is the only team I ever create a player for. Well, the Braves have gone in tank mode in real life, so it’s been a hard season. For the last two virtual seasons, so have the digital counterparts. 22 and 29 games back after making the playoffs my rookie year (I advanced from AA to MLB in a couple months). Even as I was putting up ridiculous numbers (easy settings, I love offense), I just got traded after the 2017 season. To the Angels. My usual reaction in past years would be to start another profile, but this time was different. Once the shock wore off, I decided it would be a nice change of pace. See different stadiums, set different milestones (I’m a nerd and keep track of stats and stadiums I’ve homered in. I don’t know why). I’m only on a one year contract, so I’ll play the 2018 season and decide what I want to do. For the first time, I may choose not to play for the Braves. I may play Harvey Wallbanger up in Boston. I know there are teams I would choose not to go to. I do know I want to try and hit a home run in every single stadium. Because that sort of thing is fun. All the NL parks are taken care of, but most of the AL needs to be conquered outside the East. I’m a bit neutral on the Angels. Not a team I actively hate, so that’s nice. At least it wasn’t an NL rival or the Yankees.

To sorta bring it back to real life, I’m not wavering on my support of the Braves. It may be a tough season, but this is my team. This year is lost, so I hope a long-suffering team like the Cubs finally break through. Boston in 2004 was a fantastic story, even though they’ve since become insufferable. I just don’t want one of the big rivals to succeed. Sue me.

I’m looking forward to the 2017 edition of the game, since it will include our new stadium. Unless the 2016 edition adds something amazing, I may just ride out this version and see if I can make the Hall of Fame.

New Nintendo 3DS XL

You never want something until you do. Seems like a stupid statement, but if you think on it, it does hold some truth. I was pretty happy with my 3DS XL, even though I didn’t play it that much. It was a Mario & Luigi (Year of Luigi) special edition model, and I put it in one of the best cases I’ve ever seen – a Rocketfish Slim Case. There was no reason for me to upgrade, until I started reading about the improvements. With a trade-in deal at Gamestop, I started to waiver.

While I was on vacation, I made my decision – to upgrade. With the promotion and credit I had, it was only around $50. I must say, it was a fantastic decision. The 3D is massively improved. I’d always play with it off on the old model, because it would go in and out of focus. With the new model, it incorporates eye-tracking technology, so you get a lot less of the out of focus picture. It has NFC, for Amiibo use (I still don’t get the lure, however), improved button placement for the start, select and home (although the power button relocation is a negative). It adds an additional nub and two shoulder buttons. Mine came with an IPS top screen, which is improved over the TN panels. The four action buttons are now slightly colored, which gives it a nice touch.

It does have slightly different dimensions, for some reason. So those clip-on cases you use are now obsolete. It’s close enough to the old size that pouches should still work, however. There’s also a massively improved regular 3DS model, which America is not getting, due to the fact that almost everyone bought the XL size. Which means we don’t get the removable faceplates either, nor the completely colored action buttons. Shame. I blame Nintendo for pricing them so similarly the first time out. For some reason as well, we aren’t officially getting the slick new charging dock. Amazon however is selling the imported Japan version, which works as you would think it should. I like that it holds the handheld upright, as opposed to the old model of being flat.

The stylus location has been moved, to accommodate the new microSD (yes, that’s accurate) location, under the back plate. You will need a #0 screwdriver to access it, but if you put a larger card in that isn’t too big of a deal. The charging port has moved to the middle rear, and the card slot is now up front. I can’t say moving it there makes it easier to remove cards, rather the opposite. The Wifi switch is gone, having been replaced by software control. The new model is fully backwards compatible with all 3DS and 2DS titles, however there might be some trickling of titles down the line that are only usable for the new model. We’ll see how that fragmentation plays out in public opinion.

I’ll echo what other reviewers said when this came out: if you don’t own a 3DS, this is the one to get. If you already have a 3DS, particularly the XL model, it’s not that big of an update. Do it if you can snag a deal like I did, though.

Controllers through the years

I didn’t really get into gaming until the Saturn came along. However, I was pretty familiar with almost every console controller before that and since. The joysticks of the Atari, the cramp-inducing pad of the NES (although if you were young, it was a much better fit). The much more ergonomic pad of the Genesis. The Saturn controller was pretty good, but it felt so lightweight.

I thought it would be fun to share my favorite controllers through the years. I’ll be sourcing pictures off the internet, so if you’ve followed your image here and don’t want me using it, please just say so and accept my apologies. I will have sources for it, but I won’t be hotlinking and using your bandwidth.

Playstation. Sony’s entrance in 1995 took everyone by real surprise how successful it was, most of all Sega. The controller hasn’t changed much over the years, being more of an evolution (Xbox changed a bit more to me). There’s a really cool gif of both at Mashable. What really changed the game for me was when Logitech came out with their cordless PS2 controller. Cordless wasn’t a thing yet, and the design was so much more comfortable than what Sony had done, and would do for years. It was comfortable, it was cool (blue!), it was cordless. It was a winner, and I still have one.

The Xbox version was almost as cool, except it had that ridiculous dongle.

This was when Logitech made great products, which in my opinion, they don’t do quite as well outside of keyboards and mice. But I digress. For the first time I could game without being physically connected to the console. There might have been some before that, but I didn’t own them. The Logitech Xbox controller was light years ahead of the Duke (never used) and the S controller, in my opinion. Best controllers of that generation, as the GameCube was awful, and the Dreamcast was decent, but not great.

When you look at the seventh gen consoles (PS3/360/Wii), only the Wii sucks. The only thing I liked about those controllers was playing the classic games on them sideways. Only way those really spoke to me. Otherwise, I had to strap on a classic controller to the Wiimote to be satisfied. The DualShock3 was pretty good, but nowhere near as comfortable as the 360 controller. To me, it looks like they took the best parts of the Logitech controller above and built theirs around it. The comfort is absolutely great. The only thing that kills it is the proprietary charge port.

Now, the eight generation is where it seems to all come together. The Xbox One took the 360 controller and had it slightly evolve. The battery is no longer a bomb sitting under a Dauntless, but is now tucked into the controller itself without making the controller any bigger. It also now uses microUSB to charge and connect, which is very nice. I don’t like how they removed the standard port for mics and headphones, but they are about to come out with a new version that brings that back. The dongle you need now isn’t too bad though, at least I can change volume with it easily. The DS4 is a bit different than the DS3 in that the handles have been elongated and there is a touch area at the front top of the controller. Handles are better, touch area isn’t thoroughly evaluated yet. The controller also lights up, for reasons I’m aware of but don’t really understand. The charge port also evolved from mini to microUSB – yes, you can use the same cord for both Xbox and PS4 now. Yay!

The Wii U is really where you see a lot of change. The Wiimotes are still used somewhat, but the big deal is the tablet-esque controller now included. Unfortunately, there’s only ever one paired to the system, but it’s pretty neat. I thought it was a real gimmick at first, but I love being able to play games (or have the kids play games) solely on the tablet while I watch something on the TV. It’s really rather well done. The controls are pretty good as well. There’s some games that also take a unique take on immersion with having to look at the smaller screen, like ZombiU. A recent addition to my personal stable is the Wii U Pro Controller. This controller is extremely similar to the 360 controller, has a super long battery life and charges via miniUSB. I can’t wait to give this a go, but I can already tell I will love it. Very ergonomic.

Soon, Valve will release it’s own controller for the PC, and it looks very intriguing. I might have to get that as well, even though I really don’t game on the PC. When I do, I use one of the 360 controllers and a dongle. Other than that, I drive. I’ve had several wheels – Wii ‘wheels’ (just controller holders, really), the Xbox 360 wheel, and a couple of Logitech wheels. The Driving Force Pro wheel was good, but I am absolutely in love with the G27 wheel. Three pedals, six speed H-gated shifter, good grip on the wheel…it’s awesome. Unfortunately not yet compatible with the PS4, and not compatible with anything Microsoft has done. I wish I could use this wheel on every single driving game. It’s fantastic when playing Euro Truck Simulator 2 on the PC. Yes, I own that game and it’s actually really good.

It’s hard writing things that aren’t woodworking or shop-related for some reason. I’m just as passionate, however the thoughts and ideas don’t seem to flow so smoothly. Hopefully I can develop a better gameplan about my topics soon.

Vita 2000 charging stand

I love my Vita 2000, but I didn’t like the charging dock/stand that Sony put out for it. It looked entirely too lightweight for my needs. As I was searching for a different solution, the idea came to me to try the stand I modified for my phone.

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It’s a perfect solution for me, even better than charging my phone. I got the idea (I think) from an XDA topic on docks for the 2014 Moto X, but I sure can’t seem to find it again. So I disassembled mine again and took some pictures for this quasi-tutorial.

What you’ll need:

  • A Moto HD Dock. The model number for mine is CSD-8109. You can find it at Amazon, eBay and I’m sure elsewhere. Pick your poison at the price level you want, but mine was $10.
  • A small Phillips screwdriver. – Computer/jeweler preferred. If you want to be really specific, I used a #0 Phillips screwdriver with a decently long shank. Bit driver not recommended.
  • About ten minutes

The dock is made for a couple of Motorola smartphones with HDMI-out capability. That means that we’ll have to remove that port in order for your Vita to sit properly and charge. It’s a very simple process. Don’t worry that all the pictures have the ports offset to the right – the big knob on top loosens the port mechanism and it can slide over to the very middle.

On the bottom of the stand there are four rubber pads. If you want to retain the pads, you’ll need to carefully peel back the corners that are oriented to the front, and outside of the stand. There is some black plastic that the rubber adheres to very well, so we’re only going to peel the rubber back just enough to try and guess where the Phillips screws are under the plastic. If I had to guess, they are a couple of mm inset from the front and outside. You can probably use your Phillips screwdriver to poke holes as I did to have the rubber still adhere well.

Front hole: 18492443962_53f59d58dd_z.jpg

Rear hole: 18310603219_5388d11ee7_z.jpg

Best part about leaving the black plastic under the rubber on is that you don’t have to remove the screws, just undo them. They’ll be ready to go back on when you are done.

When you remove the bottom of the stand, you’ll be looking like this. Note how a majority of the weight is in the bottom base.

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You’ll now remove the screw you see in the dead center of the upper portion of the base there, and pry up the retention clips around that piece.

This is what the interior looks like AFTER you have taken out the HDMI board. Since I couldn’t find the original tutorial, and I did this months ago, this is as best I can do.

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Going by memory, there is a board to the right of the remaining board, that has a cutout for the plastic housing. That’s the one you need to remove, as the HDMI ports for front and back are connected to it. There is a screw at the front you’ll need to undo, just to the right of where you see the black cable in the picture. Other than that, you just pry out the board and the front and rear HDMI ports, snug that last screw you took out back in, and reverse the procedure. The male HDMI (pretty sure it is micro, but you get the idea) may take a bit of fiddling to remove, but it isn’t too hard. Once you’re done you should be looking like this:

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The end result is as you see up top. The big silver knob adjusts both the lateral movement of the remaining microUSB port and the back support. The microUSB port is oriented correctly for the Vita 2000 and many other devices like the 2014 Moto X. The red line does not light up, at least after this modification. As you can barely see in this pic, it does indeed charge because we’ve not modified the microUSB portion at all.

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Hope you enjoy your new Vita 2000 stand.

Back to gaming

With the awful prospect of mostly being chained to my desk for this summer and fall, I decided to get back into gaming a bit to help break up what my mind was having to do. Namely, I started really playing the Vita I bought two years ago and barely touched. It’s a really good system stymied by some really stupid decisions by Sony. The memory card is exhibit A. My 8GB card is maxed out, and 64GB (the highest available) is $90. Yes, $90. In a world where a 64GB SD card is a third of that. That’s one big area where Nintendo got it right, and DS/3DS games don’t take near as much room either. I actually have a Vita project that I’ll post about soon.

I took some money from the new shop build to buy an Xbox One, and joint the next generation (aside from the Wii U). Unfortunately, it doesn’t have analog out for audio, so using it at my desk is tricky. I’ve picked up quite a few games as well, and I might be talking about those at some later date. I don’t know, I usually try to go for really, really good sales.

The other thing is, I really don’t know how to end blog entr

Gaming through the years

My first introduction to video games was through an Apple IIc in the early 80s. You might remember Lemonade Stand and programming in Apple Basic. Around that time I also remember us having a TI-99/4A. The only concrete thing I remember from that was playing Chisholm Trail, and perhaps Choplifter! (but maybe I’m confusing a different platform). Car Wars, Tombstone City, Blasto also were games I must have played, as their artwork immediately springs to mind.

Besides the Apple, there really weren’t any gaming items in our house until the early 90s arrived and I finally got something of my own – a Game Boy. I remember having the usual mainstream games, and a ton of accessories – a light and battery pack come to mind. In 1995 or so my dad bought our first true gaming console, the Sega Saturn. This is old school gaming to me. I held onto it for a very long time and think I still have it today. The confusion stems from it breaking about ten years ago and attempting to fix it – I can’t remember if I swapped a part in or replaced the entire console. I seem to recall buying a round button (version two) unit but then figuring out I could fix the first one. My memory is fuzzy. A couple of years later I got in short succession a Playstation and then a PS2 for my room. That’s probably about when my grades started slipping in school. I wrote previously that I still have the PS2, I sold the PS1 because it was superfluous.

The PS2 was a fixture for me for several years more for it’s DVD capability than gameplay. Once I moved to North Carolina and started working for Blockbuster I was turned onto several series and other consoles by a coworker named Henry. I started playing the Ratchet series, Final Fantasy XI and a few others. Namely, though, he convinced me to buy an Xbox. I wasn’t sold on it at the time, but quickly it became my go-to console. Buying it for a discount at work helped. This was in 2004, and I quickly started buying up older consoles as well like the NES, SNES, N64, Gamecube and a Dreamcast. In 2008 or so I sold off all the Nintendo consoles to buy a Wii and use their Virtual Console. I probably could have done better holding onto the older systems, but with small children space was becoming an issue. The motion gaming has never really appealed to me, but you can’t deny Nintendo’s title selection.

I received a 360 for Christmas one year, and went through the usual RROD scenarios. A 60GB PS3 came around 2008 or 2009, right before they were slated to be returned to Sony. I bought this particular one because of the backward compatibility. It sounds like a jet, but still works great and has been our primary Blu-Ray player ever since. The console front has been quiet until recently when I bought a Wii U to partially replace the Wii (it went downstairs).

As far as handhelds go, I mentioned the Game Boy. I received a PSP in 2005 or so, and bought a DS shortly after but returned it. I still have the PSP and breathed new life into it. When the kids got their DSis, I got interested again and bought a 3DSXL earlier this year. I also game heavily on my iPad Mini, but not really on my Android phone.

That’s my story to this point.

A friend returns

My dad mentioned the other day that I could have his PS2 for use down in the play room. Little did I remember that the one he had was the one I gave him when I bought my PS3. It was fairly easy to tell because of a certain peripheral attached to it: the network adapter.

Well, I suppose it is impossible to tell with absolute certainty without remembering what the serial number was, but the network adapter is a pretty good giveaway. My dad doesn’t play online, and the one game I would have played online was Final Fantasy XI, which came with a hard drive. On board storage is a given these days, but back then it was such a novel concept. And 40GB to boot! The Xbox came with an 8GB drive, and was buried in the hulking mass. The PS2 didn’t come back with the HDD, probably because at some point I sold the game with the drive and my character. I don’t remember how far along I got, but I remember playing a bit. Dial-up. Takes me back.

Now the PS2 will serve kid duties playing what little I have in terms of appropriate content, since my BC PS3 is still working. It coming back has inspired me to go through my gaming history and post it up. Look for that soon.

Controlling the controllers

Part of my Living Room redo is finding storage and power supply for all the gaming peripherals. I have multiple controllers for every console, with the Wii U and Wii clocking in at over fifteen combined accessories. A Wii U Gamepad, four Wiimotes, four nunchucks, two charging stations, two ‘guns’, three wheels…I think that covers it. Thankfully I didn’t get into the crap accessories category.

All this stuff has to go somewhere, and preferably somewhere hidden so my wife doesn’t decide she’s had enough and start chucking things. Also preferable would be somewhere centralized to charge all the portable gaming systems, but that doesn’t have to be the same place the controllers get charged.

As far as charging goes, I need one outlet or strip to do the following:

  • Xbox 360 charger stand (one plug, two controllers)
  • PS3 charger stand (one plug, two controllers)
  • Wii U/Wii charger stands (two plugs, five controllers)
  • Universal remote charger (microUSB cord)
  • Expansion room (PS4 stand, Xbox one stand)
  • Portable charging? (DS, PSP, Apple, etc)

I have a Belkin 6-port outlet in my bedroom that I like, and it has two dedicated USB ports that I believe can do a combined 5A. If I can find another one cheap, that should be just about enough. A standard 8-port strip would do the job as well. The PS3 charger has two USB ports built-in, but I’m not sure what kind of power they are putting out.

Ideally, I’d like to replace the chargers I have for the 360 and PS3. They are like mini towers, and the space could be better utilized. There is a Nyko solution for the 360 I may pick up, but unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be one for the PS3 that’s currently available. Sony made one but it is discontinued. There are some variations on the tower one I have, but I’m again looking for something that takes up less space.

New life for the PSP

Quite a long time ago, close to when we decided I would stay home, my wife gifted me a PSP. Sony’s first mainstream handheld, it was a technological marvel. It had a screen larger than some current smartphones, a disc-loader reminiscent of a minidisc and all the goodness of the Playstation brand. Eight years later or so I still find it to be a wonderful piece of technology, but the gaming world has left it behind for the most part. Two revisions would follow, and the platform replaced with Vita in 2012.

There is still a massive library of UMD-based PSP games to choose from though, and I was trying to figure out how to best play them. You see, my first model PSP didn’t get the improvements of the 2000 and 3000 series, such as a thinner body and most importantly more memory. More RAM leads to faster loading times, and less time spinning that disc. I can certainly buy digital versions from the Playstation Store, however not all games are there and they are generally more expensive. I was faced with possibly upgrading to a newer model and losing what made my PSP special – it’s status as a gift.

I was re-introduced to the idea of custom firmware the other day. I know all about hacking and modding consoles, and had heard about the concept on the PSP as well. CFW is often associated with pirating games, unfortunately, and carries a bit of a stigma. In my case though, I could use it to my advantage – bypassing the disc drive. By loading the games on a memory stick, I reduce noise and battery use while speeding load times by using flash memory instead of the optical drive. In my case, I am using the games I own instead of trying to download them illegally. The process was extremely easy, something you can find online with a search. I loaded the CFW, and then hooked the PSP up to my computer to copy the disc images. Once a large memory card comes in, I can then load all those games onto one memory stick: an added bonus of not having to keep up with the discs. As I add additional games that aren’t available digitally or are cheaper on disc, I’ll rip them to my computer as well. The UMD file sizes are at most around 1GB or so, that’s at least 30 games I can fit on this memory I have ordered – more than I currently have. My PSP should be very useful well into the second decade of ownership, and much more used than it has been previously. Something I was considering selling has now been seriously upgraded for free, thanks to custom firmware.

Long live the PSP!

Wii U – The U stands for Underrated

I bought a Wii a few years ago (2007?) and while it had some initial appeal it was quickly relegated to third-tier status behind my PS3 and the workhorse, the Xbox 360. All of my multi-platform games went on the 360 and exclusives went to the other two. The Wii though was hardly played. That started changing a bit when my kids learned how to play, and now it gets regular use.

I had only paid lip service to the next generation of consoles, mostly because I have a huge backlog of games still to get through. The Xbox One and PS4 as of this time do not offer backward compatibility, so there is no point in buying them right now. Perhaps at time of the first price cut or a really good sale. The Wii U didn’t really interest me due to the lack of playing time I gave the Wii. However with the way my kids and I have been enjoying Mario Kart Wii, and Mario Kart 8 coming out, I was starting to get interested. A good price presented itself one day and I picked up a Deluxe version (black, more memory, game included).

What pushed me initially to the Wii U was the backward compatibility along with MK8. After I got it home I discovered some pretty cool things about it. I thought the tablet controller was a dumb idea until I realized I could play certain games solely on it and not the TV screen. I utilized this yesterday playing Super Mario while the kids played Kinect on the TV. I like that all the Wii accessories I have work with it.

I’m a bit disappointed that really one one pad works with the console. It would have been cool to have a couple. Very disappointed that the Wii games, particularly the Virtual Console older games won’t work without paying an upgrade fee. Really? Also disappointed that MK8 apparently won’t work with five players. You’ve got that second screen, why not? I wish there was an attachment to play 3DS/DS games like the Gamecube had. They’ve missed a nice tie-in and install base with their strong handhelds.

You’d want this for what Nintendo does best – Nintendo IPs. Mario. Kirby. Yoshi. For those, this console has it’s place. It’s not going to be a strong contender for multi-platform titles. It’s still going to be a bit gimmicky, but at least some of the motion controls are being put to the background.