Why this latest attempt to resurrect the Commodore brand will probably flop

The Commodore brand is back again, this time on an Android smartphone. For a premium price, you get an Android 5.0 phone with the Commodore logo on it, preloaded with VICE and an Amiga emulator, which, between the two of them, emulate just about everything Commodore ever made, except, perhaps, the products that can be emulated with the Android calculator app.

But I don’t expect this attempt to be any more successful than earlier efforts to resurrect the brand.

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DoSing your cubicle neighbor

My baby at work is a centralized logging tool. That means my system has to touch every other system in this large company’s large network, which is kind of cool. Not many projects deal with that many different things, and I’m seeing some things I haven’t seen since college–and never expected to see in the real world, actually.

A week or two ago, we had some trouble pulling the logs in from a highly specialized system. That happens. Unix is easy, Windows is almost as easy–yes, the world of logging is a little bit upside down–but the one-off systems that don’t fit into neat categories take a lot longer to bring into the fold.

The problem was that the user account my tool uses kept getting locked out. Read more

Are video games a good investment?

An article on Slashdot asked this weekend whether video games were a good investment. So are video games a good investment? Will they appreciate over time?

The answer is generally no. Collectibles in general are not–they follow a boom and bust cycle. I’ve seen it happen in my own lifetime.

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Happy 35th birthday, Atari 2600

The venerable Atari 2600 turned 35 this past weekend. People of a certain age remember it as the device that ushered in home video games. I know I spent a lot of afternoons after school playing blocky, chirpy video games on them in the early 1980s.

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Review: GT Max Playstation-USB converter

After my disappointing experience with an inexpensive–perhaps I should just say cheapX-Kim USB gamepad, I decided to give the GT Max Playstation-USB converter a try. This inexpensive (under $5) adapter lets you use Playstation and Playstation 2 (PS2) controllers with a PC.

I’m just interested in being able to use it with emulators for older systems, so I can’t comment on its suitability for using Playstation dance pads with PC games, or using inexpensive PS2 controllers with PS3s. Other users report some degree of success for that.

I’m happy to report that I can now play five or six levels of Jumpman or 9 innings of Baseball Stars without my hands hurting.

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Review: X-Kim GPTL-00A

I think the last time I saw a halfway original idea for a game was around 1992. Everything I’ve seen since then has just been a re-hash of something old, with incrementally better graphics to make it prettier to look at, better AI to make the game harder to beat, and perhaps a new setting.

So I don’t play a lot of games. And when I do, I’d rather play an old game for an old system, which of convenience’s sake usually means running an emulator. But video games on a keyboard–even a really good keyboard–isn’t much fun, so I bought myself a cheap USB game controller.

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Compress Commodore programs with Exomizer

Exomizer is a compression program for Commodore and other 8-bit computers. The compressed program still runs, but it takes up less space on disk. Decompressing takes some time, but usually less time than reading more data off a 1541 disk. And unlike native compression tools which sometimes take all night to run, Exomizer runs on modern PCs, so it runs extremely quickly.

The space savings isn’t as much of a consideration now as it was in 1986, but being able to cram as many programs as possible on a single disk image makes access more convenient.

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Reactions to Allen’s memoir. And my reactions to them.

I hate April Fool’s Day. So nobody thinks this is an April Fool’s joke, I’ll just write more about what I wrote about yesterday, concentrating on media reactions to Paul Allen’s memoir. Then, tomorrow, I’ll revisit a very serious, important topic. Read more

Paul Allen’s tearing into Gates seems familiar

You’ve probably heard by now about Vanity Fair publishing an excerpt from Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen’s autobiography,  which doesn’t give the most flattering portrayal of Bill Gates, his former business partner.

I’ve heard most of these stories before, though I’m trying to figure out where. What surprises me is the people who are acting like this stuff came out of the blue. If I’ve heard most of this stuff before, then so have a lot of people.
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Commodore\’s back!

Long, long ago, I owned a computer that was so reliable that it only ever crashed on me and caused me to lose work once. I remember it well, and I was livid about it. So much so that I never used that word processor again. And the computer never crashed on me or caused me to lose work again.

That computer was a Commodore 128.It was slow, it didn’t multitask, and I could barely type on its awful keyboard, and it irritated me that MicroLeague Baseball took 15 minutes to load if I wanted to use its General Manager and its Stat Compiler add-ons (of course I did), but from a pure reliability standpoint, that simple machine was the best computer I’ve ever owned.

Of course, Commodore’s naysayers–there always were a lot of them and probably still are–would argue that a tricycle is more reliable than a Chevrolet Corvette. Which is true. But let’s get something else perfectly clear. A tricycle and a Corvette are both toys. And so are the majority of computers built today. It’s a matter of whether you want a $200 game system (a C64 plus disk drive) or a $2,000 game system (a Pentium 4).

And yes, I know there are a lot of things a Commodore won’t do that the new stuff does. I work with the new stuff every day. But sometimes I long for simpler times. I’d have that C128 set up, except it’s developed a problem in the last decade and doesn’t work reliably anymore. I know how to make an X1541 cable and I know where to get the software so I can use an obsolete PC as a Commodore hard drive. So there is a good use for a 386 with a 200-meg hard drive. But without the computer… And yes, I know I could use an emulator, but something about it just isn’t the same.

So, yes, I got excited when Tulip Computers, the Dutch computer company that bought the intellectual property of the old Commodore International back in 1997 and then sat on it for 7 years, announced this week that it’s going to release a C64-based mini-console this year. If you’re not familiar with these, imagine the internals of a classic game system shrunk down and crammed into a joystick with video outs to plug into your TV, with a couple dozen game titles built into ROM. At least one Atari 2600 mini-console exists, and there’s another one I see in shopping malls that seems to be based on the Nintendo NES.

Well, the C64 mini-console is going to have the Epyx Summer/Winter/California Games series among the 30 titles it has built in. It had better have Pitstop II also. Pitstop II gets my vote for the best C64 game ever.

Yeah, I’m gonna buy one.