Category: games


For months now Vapor Trx has been driving me crazy.  Every time I looked at it I wanted to sort out the issue.  The problem is that sometimes all of the colors were there and it would work great.  Then usually red would flake out and sometimes green.

I had pulled this board out and reworked it over a good bit.  It had a lot of lifted traces from heat issues and other solder issues along with needing a few caps.  I had done all of this, shoved it back in and it worked great for about a day.   I finally got the chance to dig into it a bit more.

I started by re-reworking the neck board since this is the most likely place for a failure with a color channel to occur.  I popped it back in and it was once again fine for a bit and then it died.  I popped it out and felt that there are 3 color driver transistors that looked very suspicious.  Those were the main spots where the traces had lifted due to heat and they all have crappy clip-on heatsinks that were kind of loose.  I decide to see if the part was bad or if I was having connection issues on the PCB.  I decided to swap the red drive transistor with the green one.

When I tossed it back in the machine, it worked perfectly until I came back the next day.  Luckily it was once again missing a color, but this time green.  So now I could be certain that the transistor itself was failing under load.  I stopped by Vecto, grabbed 3 NTE198’s and popped them in.  I tightened up all the heatsinks and fired it off.

I don’t want to jinx it but I’m now pretty certain that this one is fixed.  Hopefully people start playing it now that the screen actually looks good…


Well it’s my fault.  I should have known better and checked this but I had tossed in the incorrect horizontal output transistor.  I had purchased a box of 5 replacements off of eBay for a Wells Gardener 25K7401.  That monitor however had a silicon insulator pad that kept the back of the HOT insulated from the heatsink.  The SI-727 however, does not.  When I stupidly installed that part in the unit, it was shorting out and giving me tick-tick-tick noises because the switching power supply was trying to fire up but went into protective shutdown.

Once I fired the monitor up, the picture looked terrible.  Looking into the cabinet though you could tell an amateur did the harness hack.  He twisted wires together and poorly electrical taped them.  This was not the problem but I fixed it.  Ultimately the problem was that the signal ground came detached in the process of fixing the monitor.  For the life of me, I could not find the proper place to attach this wire but ultimately I found one suitable at least.

The monitor still isn’t quite right.  The picture grows and shrinks slightly when going from light to dark scenes(monitor bloom) and the image does not quite fit the screen.  As annoying as this is though, the game is at least playable now.Lessons learned?

Always make sure none of the legs of the HOT have continuity with the heatsink unless of course it’s designed to do so and if you picture every looks inexplicably bad, check your grounds.

Asteroids Free Play part 2



If you recall from part 1 of this adventure, I have been working on the Asteroids game over at The Airlock.  Back in the heyday of arcade games, there was only ONE main purpose of an arcade game.  That purpose is to collect money.  As long as it can sit there with two coin slots and accept quarters, some arcade owners didn’t care if it looked or played good.

Of course we all know that people are much more likely to play a game if it LOOKS like it works.  Oddly though, Asteroids actually has a lockout where if the game is not turned on, your quarters/tokens will simply fall right into the coin return.  WHY the designers of Asteroids thought it to be necessary to protect people from their stupidity of inserting quarters into a game with no signs of life is far beyond me.

Other things will prevent people from playing a game as well or at least paying for it.  In the case of this asteroids, it was dealing credits every time the trust button was pressed.  Well today I discovered something else…  Every time you insert a coin into the right hand coin slot, it would hit the rocket thrusts.  BINGO!  This made it perfectly clear to us that those lines were crossed.

I started by checking the wiring harness to see if those two lines were crossed but they were not.  Moving on from that, I checked the board.  Found it!  There was a small solder bridge on the shift register that handled the coin and thrust signals.  Apparently when I was sprucing up the board to get it working again, I got a little overzealous in places and in this particular spot, I bridged it.

Now we still have an odd problem with it.  The jumpers are set for “1 coin, 1 play” and it says that on the screen but for some reason, one coin actually will buy you two plays.  Why?  Not sure.  Maybe we’ll sort that out in part 3…

Asteroids Free Play part 1


I knew it wouldn’t be long until another weird arcade issue surfaced.  This is one that has been troubling me since I worked on this machine.  The Airlock picked up a non-functioning Asteroids for fairly cheap a short while back.  Round one of fixing led James (with not much help from me) to bad ram chips.  Once he popped those in, the machine seemed to work until a week later when it didn’t.

During that entire week, the machine was left on freeplay as are most of the newest games when they first come into The Airlock while they are still in the functional testing phase.  The game died and so I took the board home and laid a mile of solder on it to fix all the questionable joints.  I also cleaned up and reseated a bunch of shaky looking roms in nasty wiper sockets.

When I popped the board back it, after a little bit of finagling, it fired right up… in German.  Not a problem, we tweaked up the dip switches and it was good to go.  We didn’t notice the latest problem until we tried to switch it off of freeplay mode.  Flipping the switch made the screen change to “1 coin, 1 play”.  Problem is that when you put in a coin, then play a game, after the game is over, both start lights are flashing as if there are credits on the machine.  Because there are.

We’ve had other bigger priorities to deal with so this was back burnered but I was out there tonight and by pure fluke, my dad called me.  I tend to pace around when I talk on the phone so I paced and walked by Asteroids and hit several of the buttons.  No one had played the game today because The Airlock was closed for a private party who was there only for Battletech.  After I hit the buttons, I noticed that the credit lights were now flashing.  Very curious.

I expect that the problem is that something is cross-wired in the coin door/control harness.  For instance, something may not be grounded properly or what someone thought was a ground is actually another control line and they have tied it together.  Kelly suspects that there is probably a short circuit on the logic board itself.  Maybe I got too carried away with fixing those solder joints?  Who knows.  When we figure it out, I’ll post our discoveries.

Craigslist Psychology


I hate Craigslist.

I hate having my time repeatedly wasted by flaky people and “professional” negotiators.  People who say they are on their way to pick something up, but they’re not.  People who email you interested in an item and then flake when you say “let’s meet” and my favorite…  people who say “Sure, I’ll sell it to you, let’s meet in the morning” and then when you go to follow up they say “ah, sorry dude, someone came by last night and bought it”.

Maybe I’m being too harsh on Craigslist.  I’ve gotten some great deals on there.  I’ve often purchased pro audio equipment on Craigslist and ended up selling it for double or triple the amount I paid months or years later.  If I tried to make a career of that, I would surely drive myself crazy but for recouping hobby money to spend on other hobbies, it’s been great.

None of this is really what I’ve chosen to zero on at the moment though.

Lately I’ve been looking on Craigslist for arcade games.  As much as I would love to find an environment Discs of Tron for $500 in Kirkland, it hasn’t happened yet.  That being said, I have seen other interesting things.  There is an odd phenomenon that I have noticed and the easiest way to explain it is via example.

There is a mint looking 4 player Simpsons arcade machine on Craigslist right now.  The seller wants $650 for it and it’s in Bellevue.  There is no point in me linking you to the ad because it will be long gone by the time you read this.  Whatever the case, a friend of mine offered the guy $550 via email and got no response at all.

There is also a wanted ad on Craigslist “looking to buy a 4 player Simpson’s arcade cabinet. Must be in good condition. Reasonable price. Thank you.”  That person is in Redmond which is geographically next to Bellevue.

These guys sound like a perfect match up but there are so many things that could be at play here…

Simpsons arcade machine seller:

  • Maybe he’s firm on the price an isn’t responding to “lowball” offers.
  • Maybe the ad is fake and is designed to screw with hungry and pathetic arcade collectors.
  • The wanted ad may have been there before the seller posted the game for sale and he may not have looked.
  • Perhaps he listed the machine on Craigslist and left town or hasn’t checked his email since he listed it.

Guy who placed the wanted ad:

  • Maybe this guy isn’t willing to pay $1 over $300 (unrealistic expectations)
  • Maybe he didn’t look on Craigslist before posting his wanted ad although this is extremely unlikely.
  • Maybe the game listed for sale was not listed at the time this wanted ad was placed.
  • Perhaps this guy saw the game when it was first listed on Craigslist for a higher price and felt it wasn’t even worth attempting to negotiate the price since it was so far from what he was willing to pay.
  • Perhaps he’s a flake and tried to buy the machine listed on Craigslist currently without following through.
  • Perhaps the wanted ad guy does not like the for sale ad guy and is just trying to screw with him for some form of revenge.
  • Maybe this is just part of an odd social experiment.

On Craigslist, sometimes it’s easy to lose perspective.  For instance, you can look on there and find “the deal of the century” and all of the sudden you decide that you are only willing to pay THAT price for another copy of the same thing.  This can skew your view of value drastically.  Remember that even though it’s on the Internet with a price tag on it, it’s not necessarily for sale or obtainable by you (or maybe anyone).

As far as the two gentlemen with ads on Craigslist…  I’ll leave you with a simple question, would the wanted ad exist on Craigslist at all if the for sale ad wasn’t already posted on there?  I have seen this situation many, many times before on things like cars, bicycles, houses, etc, etc.  My thought is that the person who suddenly covets this item didn’t know they wanted or needed the item before seeing the “for sale” listing on Craigslist.  Once the seed is planted though and they decide that the original item that sparked their interest does not meet their needs, then they set out on a quest to obtain this item.

What does the guy who placed the wanted ad expect though?!?  Is someone susposed to come out of the woodwork with a NICER copy for LESS money and deliver it to him?

Seattle retro gaming scene

I recently found out that we are getting our very own Seattle Retro Gaming Expo in Seattle.  This is great news since the Portland one is alright but is kind of a long drive for my personal level of interest and commitment.  In the process of spreading the word about this new expo, I was made aware of many other pockets of retro nerd-dom around the city.

Of course there is the Pink Gorilla in two separate locations if you want to purchase home games but digging further into the scene, I now heard of several other actual arcades that I intend to check out at some point:

Shorty’s is a bar in Belltown that has about 16 pinball tables and 13 arcade games currently including pac-man, robotron, guitar hero and many more.

Full Tilt Ice Cream in White Centre or Columbia City apparently has some 80’s arcade games but they don’t specify which ones or how many on their site.

Red Star pizza in West Seattle looks darned tasty and apparently has few arcade games as well.

The Seattle Pinball Museum Project in the International District is good if you like, pinball.  Last I heard was that it was $5-7 for unlimited play.

There’s the NW Pinball and Gameroom show which is an event, not a place.  They have unlimited play with admission, tournaments, sales, and more(pinball as well as classic arcade).

For an extra drive, if you are in Tacoma there is the B & I which has a HUGE arcade with lots of retro games although it is not particularly well maintained.  It’s really huge though, I’m not kidding.  I haven’t counted the games there but I would estimate that they have at least 75 of them.  I rarely have seen a crowd there either.

Last but not least, in a category all it’s own, there is The Airlock in Kirkland where you can place battletech in full sized Tesla gaming pods for a rock bottom price.

Worms on the iPod/iPhone

Worms is one of the most original console games around.  If you haven’t played it before, skip the 3D versions and try out any of the large number of other 2D Worms ports from the Commodore 64 version all the way to the Sega Dreamcast, Nintendo DS and beyond.

Anyhow, I was surfing in the app store not finding Worms.  Then I looked around a bit on the web wondering if Worms would be ported soon.  I found a few shreds of hope.  Unfortunately one of the “shreds” of hope is over 2 years old already.  It’s a post here stating iPhone gaming – Worms on the way.  I’m not sure if that video up above is a fake or not but it sure looks like fun.  I’d love to see any updates on this subject.  Post some comments if you know anything or if you would also like to see Worms on the iPod/iPhone/iPad/iDevice.

My favorite iPod apps

I’ve owned an iPod touch for about four months now.  Already it is an indispensable piece of equipment that I use many, many times every day.  For years I resisted the lure of an iPod because I thought of it as a glorified mp3 player.  100% not true.  In fact I don’t have any mp3’s on mine at all.  Just some podcasts and a few awesome apps.  I have not bothered to jailbreak my device because I don’t think it is necessary.  I plan to get an Android phone this summer when the Supersonic comes out and I plan to root that for my extra-functional fix.  Here are a few of the apps that I use all the time and couldn’t live without now:

Logmein Ignition – The ultimate app for the iPhone/iPod.  This allows you to remotely log in to your desktop or laptop computer and control anything on the screen possible.  If you have multiple monitors, shake it to switch screens.  Your mouse pointer stays in the middle of the screen and you move your desktop behind it.  Use gestures to zoom in, zoom out, scroll and more.  Best part is that it caches your login and password so you can jump right into your desktop quickly.  Control your Mac or Windows machine with this app.  It’s $30 but worth every penny and it works with the free version of logmein.

WordPress – This app allows you to blog right from your iPhone or iPod.  It ties straight into your admin panel and lets you skip the login if you like.  Great for when an idea strikes you and you are nowhere near your computer.  You have to toggle a setting in the admin panel to set it up but that’s easy.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars –  This game is a surprisingly good milepost in the series.  For a long time I judged it by the screen shots but it actually plays much better than you would think.  It has a good story and is well tweaked for the mobile platform.  Autosaves occur after every mission and you can put your iDevice to sleep in the middle of anything and when you come back, things will be as you left them.  It’s not nearly as involved as a ps2 or ps3 version but it’s a good little time killer when you have a few minutes.

Katamari Damacy – This game seems like a natural for this platform.  If you haven’t played it before, I strongly urge you to try it out.  If you have a ps2, do yourself a favor and grab the very first version of Katamari Damacy.  This game is simple in concept.  You roll a ball around an area and it gets larger as you roll over things.  The cubist art style makes the game more interesting and amusing.  I do wish you could switch between tilt controls and on-screen but other than that, this is one of my favorite console games so it’s nice to have it on the go.

O’Reilly books – The same O’Reilly books that are down at the bookstore for $20-$60/ea are available from the app store for $3-$5/ea.  I think that’s fair.  I’ve bought 3 of them so far and they are great.  For something like a programming language reference book these are especially nice since they are searchable and bookmarkable.  My only complaint is that in some of the books, the comments in the code samples get cut off for some reason.  Still, for $5 I’m not complaining at all.  It’s also nice to be able to fit a respectable O’Reilly library right in your pocket and always have it at your fingertips.

Speed Test – I use this app all the time.  It allows you to see how good (or bad) your internet connection is.  It also logs it along with a GPS coordinate.

FlowChat – IRC in my pocket.  If you thought IRC was dead and that twitter has taken it’s place, think again.  It’s live and kicking.  Most of the IRC networks I used to use in the 90’s are still there but irrelevant now in my opinion.  The server that seems to have the topics most interesting to me is Freenode.  If you jump on there, you’ll probably find me in #zipit.  I have not tried the competitor to Flowchat, Colloquy but I use Colloquy on my MacBook Pro and it works well on there so that might also be worth a look.

This list is by no means exhaustive but those are my top choices.  Honorable mentions go out to Twitteriffic, Kindle, Amazon, RingCentral, pTerm & Skype.  Please post in the comments if you have any cool apps that you can’t live without.

Powered by WordPress. Theme: Motion by 85ideas.