Friday, April 30, 2010

Blogging, Blogging

Obviously I didn't do a post Wednesday. What can I say? It's been a wild busy week. Plus the truth of the matter is that although a lot has been happening not a lot of it is particularly interesting. At the moment we are building upon the recent progress we've made. So a lot of what's going on revolves around what bids we are winning or loosing on eBay. It's very important stuff, but it doesn't make good press...

Also, everyone may have noticed that we didn't put up any new games Wednesday. Again, a general busyness was to blame. We should be back to normal next week. I'm hoping that we are also going to be able to put up some more N64 games. We've got to finish testing what we've read. Normally it doesn't take this long and I hope we can do better next month.

Sadly we are not going to be able to officially launch the TG-16 until June. Everything is working fine I'm just having trouble getting the games we want while not paying a fortune for them. Little by little we're increasing our number of titles, we just don't have enough yet. We really didn't spend the amount of time we should have on it this month. We had a few bugs to chase and what not. It slowed us down a bit.

In other news I am going to try to start doing more with this blog. As interesting as it may be to read the weekly play by play of exactly what little problems I am having doing this or that I think I'm going to do a bit more. I'm not sure how much technical information you guys will be interested in, but there are some things that I think are interesting that I want to talk about. How do emulators do what they do? How do ROM chips work? Etc.

I don't plan to flood you guys with a lot of techno babble. I just want to open up some of these mysteries in an easy to understand format. I have no idea if it will interest anyone but me. Still, you guys can feel free to cheer or boo. That way I'll know if I'm holding you spellbound or just taking up blog space.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Retrode Update

Matthias sent me another firmware update for the Retrode over the weekend. He made a few more changes to make the TG-16 adapter work even better. We are still working to refine it. It works well enough for us, but we want others to be able to make use of it as well. It was my hope that after the prototype was built we would be able to have a small batch made for sale to the public. In that way the work that we did wouldn't just help CC, but would also help the retro community a bit.

However, there was a snag I didn't see. The TG-16 edge connector is hard to come by. In fact, we pulled ours out of a TG-16. Needless to say we can't go around destroying perfectly good consoles just to make adapters. We have some ideas, but I'm not sure how they will work out. We'll probably build a prototype 2 at some point and run from there.

Before too long we plan to start working on an N64 adapter. Most of the leg work has already been done for that so it should be much easier. Once it's done we'll be able read N64 games more efficiently. That should allow us to get more games up more quickly. Time will tell.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Step By Step

I don't have a lot to post about for the wrap up of the week. To be honest I took a little time off. Things have been hectic and I felt I needed a rest. However, we have made some little baby steps. I did manage to get a hold of Neutopia, so it should be here next week. I haven't gotten much feedback on the TG-16, but I'm running with the idea that no news is good news.

I have made some progress on those two 1964 bugs. We're waiting for feedback at the moment. I'm am very hopeful that we are getting close to fixes. I am afraid we are going to have to face up to the fact that 1964 is too heavy for some of the machines out there. I was afraid of that when we we started, but I had hopped that I was over reacting. Still, the fact that most people can use it is good. It's a lot better than nothing.

In other news it looks like we are going to be taking part in the intern program at USC. Daryl has conducted a number of interviews and selected three interns. The project is going to be a redesign of the website. Depending on what happens and what interns we have available we may try and start the open source Atari emulator. It's a project we're very interested in, but we don't have the man power to get it off the ground in house. At least, not yet.

All in all things are going well even if I don't have some ground breaking thing to talk about for the week, lol.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Little More TG-16

Yesterday I put a few more games up for beta testing. They are: Bonk's Adventure, Bonk's Revenge, D&D: Order of the Griffon, Falcon and Legendary Axe. They are a nice addition if I do say so myself. I hope to get some more games in next week. Now that we can read HuCards with the Retrode getting them up and running is a piece of cake. I could wish that we had a little more investment capital at the moment. The games for TG-16 are not as cheap as they could be. The system has a very definite “collector” type status.

Either way, I'm working on acquiring a few more titles at the moment. We are currently trying to get our hands on: Galaga 90, Neutopia, Neutopia II, Ninja Spirit and Vigilante. This certainly isn't all we hope to get before launch, but it's what I am trying to get right now. Our resources are a bit stretched by trying to launch two systems so closely together, but I think it's going to be worth it. Both of them have so many good games to offer. We are trying to get kind of a “best-of” up and then build on top of that.

If any of you run into any problems with the games I just added please let me know. The Beta period is for seeking and destroying bugs. That's all for the moment!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Running Behind

Again, here I am a day behind. Unlike last time this time I don't have a good excuse. I got a bit done over the weekend and I had to make a games run first thing yesterday morning. I got home around noon and thought I had gotten enough done for a bit of a break. I started gaming, got sucked in and forgot to blog. Still, what do you expect from the president of a gaming company? I'll try to do better in the future... lol.

In any event, I have good news. Matthias got back with me over the weekend. He built a firmware version that works with our TG-16 adapter. I read all but one of the games we had to read in roughly ten minutes. You may be asking yourself why they aren't up for beta testing yet. It's like I said, I got sucked it. They should be up later today.

We hope to take the prototype and build a more permanent adapter in the next few weeks. For now the prototype will allow us to read most of the games we might run into. Because of that I plan to purchase a number of new games this week. I may do a post tomorrow to let you guys know what's on the way.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Stomping on Bugs

For those of you who are good enough to keep up with this blog you will no doubt have noticed that I didn't post yesterday. Well, it's been an odd week. Crazy hours, sickness, insomnia and tax deadlines. Still, I did get a bit done even considering all that. (The TG-16 adapter still isn't done, but you can't have everything.)

The end of the week was occupied by two tenacious and annoying bugs. Both are problems with the N64. The first turned out to be a matter of video hardware. At least, I think that's what it is. We haven't exactly fixed it yet, but we're at the point where upgrading hardware seems to be the next logical step. If we can prove that the issue was indeed hardware we may have to put minimum video requirements up. At least it's mainly a self fixing issue in the long run. Everyday the base video hardware gets better and better. In a year or so the most cost effective PC will come with video hardware that works fine with 1964.

The other bug is with 1964's input plugin. For some reason it won't load for some users. The really crazy thing is that I haven't been able to get any meaningful error messages out of the thing. It won't load, but the reason is a mystery. We are going to have to get more feedback before we can crush this one. If any of you guys have run into it please let me know. The more info we get the faster we can fix it.

Either way, have a great weekend guys! I plan to myself.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Getting Closer

It's been long week up to this point, but it's been worth it. The TG-16 adapter for the Retrode is coming along well. Matthias has begun working on the firmware update for it. I am hoping that we'll have it done before the end of the week. We've gotten a couple mores game in and we plan to order more before the end of the week. If I can find the time anyway.

We have also been fighting a short list of small problems with the N64. It seems that for the most part it is working well, it's just that a few users have run into a few problems. Unlike most of the emulators we offer the N64 uses a number of plugins to process the sound, video and input. In a lot of ways this is good because users can use different plugins to get better output for different games. However, one of the shortcomings is that not all the plugins we include in our install seem to work for everyone.

Obviously, we only included open-source plugins with the install. That did limit the number we could offer, but they do seem to work well for most people. The difficulty has been in finding bugs that only a few users have run into. Still, we'll keep working at it and, lord willing, we'll get the bugs crushed before too long. Again, this is another reason we need to begin our own emulation development.

There never seems to be enough time. I guess that's the same for everyone.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Working Weekend

Yea... It was a long weekend, but it ended with some good news. I decided Friday that I needed to start on the new TG-16 reader. I've got some games on the way and we have a few that were too big for the old rig. We need to get the new one up as fast as possible, so we got started. We had made enough progress that I decided to work on it Saturday for a couple of hours. Those hours stretched out into a full working day and we still didn't have it up and running.

In the past we have been able to throw these things together really quickly. This time it's been different. After Saturday's failure I decided to give it a go Sunday. I got closer, but still no cigar as the saying goes. It also turned into a full working day and since I didn't get started until after church service I didn't finish until almost bedtime.

Why has it been this difficult? I have no idea. We had the thing pinned out within a few minutes Friday. The rest of this battle has been against electrical noise. At least I think that's what's causing it. The data gets random errors in it. Given time I can pull good data off the hucards, but it's very time consuming. I think we're close. That's good news. I hope to have even better news later this week.

Friday, April 9, 2010

TG-16 Beta

Well, I'm glad to say we have the TG-16 up for beta testing. We only have a few games, but it's enough to start with. I have more games on order and we are working on a new cart reader for the system. We hope to make an adapter for the Retrode. This should speed up the process and make things a bit smoother. I have four games right now that our current setup won't read. Lord willing, we'll get it worked out next week.

That's all for now. If you want to be a beta tester and aren't at the moment e-mail here:

Put “Beta Tester” in the subject line. Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Incremental Updates

Last week I mentioned that we had to make some changes to our update system in order to roll out the N64. I decided to explain what we changed. Why? Well, I think it's cool. I guess that will have to be a good enough reason.

Our first auto-update system was actually put together by another company. When a new version came out it would download the new setup executable and run it. This did have some advantages, but the install had to be rerun each time a change was made. The user was also downloading much more data than they needed to. Admittedly with all the bandwidth we have at our disposal it may not seem like it was worth troubling with. Still, I don't like the idea of having to download a 5meg setup in order to update a 5k file.

With our first attempt we decided to have the updater only download and install the files it needed. We wanted the changes to be automatically put in place and the browser to restart itself. We got all that in the first pass. However, we did overlook a few things. First, the auto-updater can't update itself. That was a bad oversight on my part. It a simple little program, but if it needs to be changed it's not easy to roll out those changes.

Another shortcoming is the fact that we had one update location. So if we updated one file and then decided to update another we had to give the first one time to get pushed out or put both in the current update. The problem with this is obvious. If we just keep putting in files before long it would be so big that we might as well have kept the setup download system. If we only put in the latest files someone who hasn't logged in for months might get a half-updated version.

What was the solution? Incremental updates! With the system we rolled out last Friday the updates go in order. You start from whatever version you currently have and then update one after the other until you are current. This will allow us to make minor changes in very small steps. Because of this we can roll little changes out more quickly instead of waiting for group of changes to pile up. If we only have to change one file that's fine. We change it and go on to the next version.

This is a good step for our updating process, but I'm not done. We still need the ability to append files, update the updater itself and possibly make small changes to Console Classix registry settings. A good example of this is with the n64 ini file. We are going to have to makes changes to it, but we don't want our changes to overwrite any custom settings our users have put in place.

All in all it's progress, but we still need to do more.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Another Month Another Beta

Things went well enough with the N64 Beta that we have decided that we are going to try to do the same thing for the TG-16. We will only have a limited selection of games to start with, but it should be enough to get the ball rolling. I really want to thank all the beta testers that helped out with the last test. We intend to offer them the opportunity of helping us test again.

The entire process really gives everyone a little extra. We get to see how the new system is going to preform on a much larger range of PCs than we normally could. Our testers get first crack at the new games. All the way around it's a win win situation. Now that we've started doing it I wish we had done something of the kind long ago.

In the long run I need to develop some kind of beta web page. A place where users can see known issues and fixes and give us a little more live feedback on what is or isn't working. The better the tools we can provide to the testers, the better the feedback we can get. For this next test I probably won't have time, but it's another little thing to add to the list.

Little by little we are producing a more refined product. I really appreciate the feedback and interaction we get from our fans. Lord willing, as time progresses we will get better and better systems in place to accept, process and act on this feedback.

So, the long and the short of it is this: Be expecting a TG-16 beta launch soon.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Up and running

Well, it's been a long morning, but it's finally done. The N64 is now available to the public. I had to make a few changes to our updating software. I also had to rebuild the install several time because of minor mistakes. Still, all's well that ends well I guess.

This may set a record for my shortest post ever, but it's been a rough day so far. I was sick with a stomach bug all day yesterday so things have piled up on me a bit. I have a bit more news, but it will wait until Monday. You guys have a great weekend!