Original Hardware

I’ve owned every revision of Game Boy over the years. Original Game Boy, Pocket, Color, Advance, and Advance SP. I still own my original Game Boy (although it’s lost in storage some place) and Advance SP, but my Pocket, Color, and Advance were all traded in on their new models at some point. Out of the 3 models I traded in, the Pocket, Color, and Advance, I missed my Game Boy Pocket the most.  The Color was never a great device IMO due to the absence of a backlight, and the Advance was only improved upon by the Advance SP.  And while the Advance SP is probably the pinnacle of Game Boys, it also changed up the form factor significantly. It lacks that old-school feel with its foldable design and bright backlit display.

Something about the old-style rectangular top-loading format of the Game Boy speaks to my past childhood.  I have missed the Pocket since I got rid of it because of its compact form factor and its vastly improved LCD display over the original Game Boy.  It was basically the Game Boy revised and fixed the biggest issue with the original Game Boy by using a crystal-clear and much more responsive LCD panel.

I ended up coming across one on eBay that was in really really good condition that didn’t break the wallet (increasingly difficult these days), and decided to jump on it.  I gotta say, I am very pleased with this beauty.  Just look at it!

I think the membranes are a little worn out on it, so I am planning on replacing those soon, but the over all condition is incredible. A nearly scratch-free lens, and fully intact and functioning pocket is back in my collection, this time permanently.  The display is just as beautiful as I recall too. While I really do enjoy my emulation devices, there are just some things that don’t translate well to emulation, or can’t even be emulated at all. Now, if I could just find wherever the hell my Game Boy Printer went to, and hope I didn’t leave batteries in it, I would be really happy… Digging through boxes is a task for another day though.  Time for some old school gaming!

Free Lumens (Kind of)

I recently flashed a modern OS on to my soda-can quad light, the BLF Q8. The refreshed interface on the light brought my interests back to it and had me wondering… what else could I do with this light? After doing some reading around on various forums, I found out that the Q8’s output could receive a significant increase in output with a few fairly simple mods! One mod is what is call a “spring bypass”. The Q8 uses gold plated steel springs, and while they’re okay, they’re not the best springs you can use, as they create some resistance between the batteries and the light. A spring bypass is basically soldering in a better conductor between the top and bottom of the spring so that is exactly what I decided to do. I already had everything I needed for this one, a soldering iron, solder, and some wire.  I used 18 gauge copper wire and made the connections. It wasn’t difficult, but my soldering iron is really showing its age and I need to upgrade to a better one sometime soon.  Here’s what my tail PCB looked like after modding:

Read More

Country Financial Ripped Me Off

On December 1st 2018 a freak warm front swept through the area bringing with it 29 Tornados. One of those Tornados was a devastating EF3 Tornado that completely destroyed many houses in my town. Over 400 homes were damaged by this Tornado which had wind speeds estimated at 155mph and was a 1/2 mile wide. Our house was in this Tornado’s direct path. We were fortunate enough that when the Tornado reached us it had lifted off the ground but the official storm track still put it coming right over our backyard. As a result we had extensive shingle and siding damage done. No face of the house was spared and we took damage from the extreme winds and flying debris on literally every side. My daughter and I were home at the time and ran to the basement as soon as we realized there was a Tornado nearby. We both suffer from PTSD from it to this day, with Tornado sirens setting off a near panic-state in her, and having adverse effects on me as well.

I had been a client of Country Financial since the day I turned 16 and got my license, only because that was who my Dad used at the time. As I grew, I continued to use them for multiple vehicles, multiple life policies, and our home policy. I had made some small auto claims in the past, none my fault, and had always been satisfied with how it was handled. I wish I could say the same for the Tornado damaged to my house, but my experience was the exact opposite. Country Financial weaseled out of tens of thousands of dollars in necessary repairs and stuck me with the bill.

Read More

Light Throw

I decided to pick up a “thrower” style flashlight, or a spotlight as some may call them. All of my previous flashlights were general or flood-style lights. Sure, they could throw some light a decent distance, but they were mostly just general use.  This is one of my first real “special” use case lights, and I mostly got it just for fun, not necessarily because I had a real use case for it.  I picked up the Noctigon K1, also from Intl-Outdoor, the same guy who makes my venerable D4v2. This light’s one purpose is to throw light as far as it possibly can. It does this by using a very small flat LED, and a very deep and polished smooth reflector. This focuses the emitted light in to a very narrow beam.

 

It isn’t super high lumen, peaking at about 1000 lumens, but it focuses 90% of that 1000 lumens on a very concentrated spot.  This means that the light can travel very far, nearly a mile in the case of this light. At the K1’s price point, this is very impressive. I have been playing around with it for a couple weeks now and it’s got a certain giggle-factor to it when you realize how far away you can light stuff up.  Just remember to not point it at any neighbor’s houses, you don’t want to annoy anyone when you’re playing around. Light responsibly 🙂

Brighter Isn’t Always Better

I’ve got some big lumen flashlights, 5000 lumens in a soda-can sized light, and 4300 lumens in a pocket sized light. The massive lumens are just awesome outside. I can light stuff up 2 football fields length away with ease, and that is a lot of fun. Something I didn’t really anticipate though is the utility sub-lumen modes provide.  I’m talking modes that are under 1 lumen, very dim light.

My Emisar D4v2 from Intl-Outdoor is my currently favorite daily-carry light due to its wide versatility and brightness ramping ability, going anywhere from sub-lumens up to 4300+ lumens. This pocket-able light has quick shortcuts to the lowest possible lumen output it can do, less than a lumen, and I’ve found just as many uses for just a tiny amount of light as I have a blast of turbo mode. Need to get up or check something in the middle of the night? Sub-lumens provide the perfect amount of light to see where you’re going with out blowing out your eyes. Need just a bit of light on the back of a TV to find a reset button a few inches from where you’re looking, again, perfect amount of light. The versatility of a light that can do sub-lumens to thousands, and any brightness in between should really not be underestimated. I have carried various flashlights for many years, but this one’s ease of hitting a sub-lumen level with one press of the button makes it a mode I’ve found more use for lately than I ever had before.

 

Keeping Sane in 2020

Seriously, what a mess of a year. So many fun summer activities my wife and I look forward to every year, just GONE. Car shows, concerts, musicals, dinners out with friends, pool parties, family get-togethers, birthday parties, just all gone. We usually try and hit at least 1 or 2 summer shows, whether it is a Breaking Benjamin concert, or Phantom of the Opera at the Fabulous Fox Theater in St. Louis. We’ve basically lost what feels like a year to the Covid-19 pandemic.  The scary part is that it has only been 6 months, and there is no realistic end really in sight. I don’t know how things return to normal with out a vaccine, which as of right now doesn’t exist. It just plain old sucks. You have to at least try and retain some forms of normalcy. My wife and I even went out to eat a meal for the first time since March. We’re only dining outdoors, but it was a nice change of pace, even if it’s still not normal. We also are fortunate enough to have family access to a condo down in the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri, so we took the kids down there for a long weekend before school started back up (all remote learning for now).  That was definitely a nice break from the mundane routine of sitting at home. Also, never underestimate what some online retail therapy can do for yah (also the reason you’re going to see some more flashlight posts from me, my hobby got a little carried away during lockdown). It gives you something to look forward to, and something to enjoy when it arrives.

I guess I’m just saying to try and enjoy the smaller things that break up the routine that you’d normally take for granted. There aren’t many upsides at all to this situation, but maybe that could be one of them; appreciating the smaller things that would have just been another day before.

I hope everyone is staying safe, and I look forward to returning to normalcy as much as you. Hopefully that can be soon?

Retro Gaming on Odroid Handhelds

Having spent my childhood in the late 80’s through the 90’s, a large part of me and my friends past time was playing video games. My family was all-in on Nintendo, starting with getting the NES for Christmas. I have fond memories of staying up with my Dad, watching him play The Legend of Zelda. Watching him bomb walls and burn bushes looking for secret shops and rewards, figuring out the dungeon puzzles, and just enjoying the game in general. My Dad wouldn’t really go on to be a gamer, aside from a handful of NES games like Mario, Adventures of Lolo, and a few others. However, I would carry the torch through the Game Boy, SNES, GBC, N64, GBA, and so on to this day really. I’m still a big Nintendo fan and have a 3DS XL and a Switch, both with a decent library of games.  However, the games from my childhood, now deemed “retro” (as much as that makes me feel old), will always have a certain nostalgic aspect to them that I will always enjoy.

One of the best ways I have found in recent years to enjoy my retro gaming has been small open-source handhelds that can play large libraries of games.  I have gone through a few different models, but I always seem to come back to the Odroid line, produced by a South Korean company called Hard Kernel. They seem to strike a great balance of affordability, functionality, and quality hardware. They are also a bit DIY in that they don’t come assembled. You purchase the kit, then build it your self. I found this to be a rather enjoyable experience.

Read More