Cleaning N64 games

Cleaning N64 games

Cleaning N64 games is a controversial topic. It doesn’t have to be. There are some techniques floating around that can be harmful. But I also bristle when I see people say there’s one and only one right way. Here are some techniques for cleaning N64 games, based on my decades of experience fixing computers and game systems.

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Whatever happened to Dr. Thomas Pabst?

Whatever happened to Dr. Thomas Pabst?

In 1996, Dr. Thomas Pabst, a German MD then living in England, created a web page where he talked about motherboards, video cards, and a then little-known phenomenon called overclocking. Dubbed Tom’s Hardware Guide, it spawned a long list of imitators, creating a new industry: PC hardware enthusiast sites.

In 2006 he sold the site and walked away.

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History of overclocking

History of overclocking

Overclocking didn’t start in the 90s, and it wasn’t limited to PCs either. Here’s a history of overclocking from a guy who did it some, and talked to guys who did it a lot in the 80s.

I don’t recommend overclocking, and today Microsoft can prove it’s a bad idea. But overclocking has a long and colorful history. It’s less common than it used to be, perhaps. But it’s not completely extinct.

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Department 56 vs Lemax

Department 56 vs Lemax

Department 56 vs Lemax is a battle between the two biggest names in holiday villages. There are a lot of similarities between the two brands, but the differences may matter to you. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering one or the other.

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Predicting the future, circa 2003

In the heat of the moment, I searched my blog this weekend for quotes that could potentially be taken out of context and found something rather prophetic that I wrote in the heat of the moment 11 1/2 years ago:

Keeping up on Microsoft security patches is becoming a full-time job. I don’t know if we can afford a full-time employee who does nothing but read Microsoft security bulletins and regression-test patches to make sure they can be safely deployed. I also don’t know who would want that job.

Who ended up with that job? Me, about a year after I left that gig. It actually turned out I was pretty good at it, once I landed in a shop that realized it needed someone to do that job, and utilized that position as part of an overall IT governance model.

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The ultimate command-line ZIP utility

I accidentally find Ken Silverman’s utility page from time to time and can never find it again when I want it, so if you need the ultimate command-line ZIP utility (KZIP), or the ultimate PNG optimizer (PNGOUT), to squeeze just as many bytes as possible out of your recompressed archives or your images while maintaining 100% compatibility, save this link. You’ll thank me later when you need it badly, like when you’re e-mailing an archive and it’s a few dozen bytes larger than your e-mail system allows.

Also check out his clever ZIPMIX utility.

What makes his approach to ZIP archiving special is that he emphasizes file size over speed. His software is built to take a few extra seconds to save a few bytes, if it’s possible to do so. Mainstream Zip/Unzip programs will still decompress his archives just fine; they just won’t match it for compression ratio most of the time. And in the rare event that they do, his ZIPMIX utility will take advantage of that. Just zip up the same files with both programs, then run ZIPMIX on the two archives. So Ken Silverman’s utilities win even when he loses.

I first noticed this phenomenon when using Info-Zip, when I found its -9 option produced smaller archives than PKzip’s -max option. The first thing I did was make sure PKzip could uncompress the Info-Zip archive I’d created. It did, so I never used PKzip to create an archive again. And every once in a while I find another tool that does better than the last best one I found. Right now Ken Silverman’s utilities are it.

I have an unusual appreciation of smaller archives. That’s because I’m old enough to have downloaded files over a 300-baud modem (but also young enough to remember having done so). Ken Silverman practices a lost art, and maybe there aren’t a lot of people left who appreciate that, but I still do.

Another perspective on Y2K

Rob O’Hara stumbled across a stash of Y2K survivalist magazines and wrote about it. I wasn’t going to be surprised if there were some minor glitches, but I wasn’t expecting the apocalypse. I withdrew a couple hundred bucks from the bank a few days in advance and filled my bathtub with water the night before, so I would have a supply of money and water to tide me over if some glitch interrupted either of them for a day or two.

In late 1999, a lot of people said I was being reckless. Today, people think I was being excessively paranoid. It’s funny how perspectives change. Read more

Is overclocking over?

Extreme Tech (via Slashdot) asks if overclocking is over. It’s an interesting question. It has a long and colorful history. But maybe it is history.

I have a 4-core machine whose cores can all run at a top speed of over 3 GHz. And it’s a midrange PC at best, these days. The only time I ever push its CPU usage is when I’m encoding video. Web pages that bring a P4-class machine to its knees momentarily bring this PC’s CPU usage to 10%.

Not being a gamer, I haven’t had any reason to overclock in years. In fact, even back in 2000 I was recommending against it. Bad things can happen when you overclock.
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Maybe it is (or will become) legal to rip your DVDs

My oldest son met me at the door one day as I came home from work, holding two pieces of his favorite Bob the Builder DVD. “Daddy fix it?” he asked.

I can fix a lot of things, and I’ve learned a lot trying to fix his toys before, but when a DVD is snapped in two, there’s nothing I can do about that.

“What, you didn’t have it backed up?” one of my coworkers asked when I told him. “No,” I said. “And I wouldn’t admit it if I did.”
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