Geekery

This category includes posts about geeky stuff like video games, computers, hardware hacks, etc.

Getting Into Trackers

Posted April 12, 2012 @ 9:15 am | Filed under: Geekery,Soundblogs

I’ve been wanting to get back into writing music more regularly, and to that end I’m exploring a particular type of music composition tool called a tracker. It’s about as close as you can get to writing music by editing a text file. Actually come to think of it, you can do that… maybe I’ll try that someday.

Anyway, trackers got their start on 8-bit computers, and as a result they’re a great way to really extract all the capabilities of the classic sound chips. They accomplish this by letting you create your own collection of instrument patches which can each combine all the available waveforms, envelopes, and filters. On the C64, for example, this means you can create your own bass drum sound by combining a white noise sound with a low triangle wave, or perhaps a sawtooth note with an intense volume envelope. Then, you take those instruments and arrange them in a pattern editor, which to the untrained eye looks like a nonsensical grid of letters and numbers. There are several C64 trackers out there, but there’s one I like in particular which is both powerful and relatively easy to use, called Cybertracker.

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The Maze

Posted December 8, 2011 @ 1:00 pm | Filed under: Geekery,The Workbench

Reading a recent article on Kotaku about the amazing programmer Tim Sweeny made me start reminiscing about some of the games I wrote on the Commodore 64 in my younger days. It would be a huge understatement to say that it’s regretful that all of those floppy disks containing thousands of boy-hours of programming work were lost many years ago — actually, think “boy losing his teddy bear”. One of those disks contained (and may still contain, probably in a landfill) a game written entirely in BASIC called The Maze. The original Maze may be lost, but watching the video of Sweeny’s ZZT — which I really want to play now — reminded me that there is one game that is still around: a QuickBasic port of The Maze that I wrote in college in an attempt to relive my childhood programming days. The Maze for QB retained a lot of the same features like a level editor, enemies that chased you, sound effects, save points, and a 30-room-based layout. I don’t think I’ve shared this game with anyone before, so I thought it might be fun to put out there for someone to try. (Eh, who am I kidding?) To this day, writing a decent video game, big or small, is still one of my life goals. This is not that game. :)

So here it is:

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Streaming Music to an Android Phone

Posted August 22, 2011 @ 3:08 pm | Filed under: Geekery

I finally got around to setting up a streaming audio server at home so I could listen to my music collection on my phone from anywhere. Here’s the basic gist of how to do it.

1. Get an MPD server going.

If you don’t use MPD yet, you’re missing out. MPD is the Music Player Daemon, which basically means it’s a music player designed to run as an invisible system service and be managed by one of literally hundreds of different clients, depending on your use case.

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Modern(ish) Game Highlight: Cave Story

Posted July 28, 2011 @ 1:36 pm | Filed under: Geekery

This is super old news, but you know, that’s what I’m into. A while ago as I was looking for games that run on Linux, and I came across Cave Story, a sidescrolling action-adventure game with a great retro vibe to it. Created by a single person who calls himself Pixel over the course of 5 years, it has all the depth, challenge, and atmosphere you’d expect from a commercial offering… and it’s free! This is one of the first games I played on the suitcase PC, and I loved every second of it. I found there’s a buildscript for it in the Arch Linux user repository, so if you use yaourt it’s only one command away from being installed on your computer:

$ yaourt doukutsu

It works great with a USB gamepad — I prefer using a SNES pad myself. The game is also available on the Wii via the shop channel, with updated graphics and sound (though I prefer the more pixely look).

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Retro Game Highlight: Time Tunnel

Posted July 1, 2011 @ 11:05 am | Filed under: Geekery

I need to write more about old games that I love. So here’s an attempt to that end.

As I’ve mentioned before, when I was young I had I have a collection of Commodore 64s, and one of the games I remember playing a lot in my younger days is Time Tunnel. Time Tunnel is a strange game that places the main character, a nameless gnome, in a mysterious mansion (with four rooms) containing a broken time machine. The goal of the game is to find all the pieces of the fabled Gnome Treasure Map, store them all in a black hole in the year 9999, and thus reveal the location of the also-fabled Gnome Treasure. The pieces of the map are hidden — you guessed it — at different times throughout history.

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