Living in the Now!

Learning to enjoy my life more!

A Raspberry Pi Update

To Start With

A macro shot of the Raspberry Pi’s logo printed on the circuit board.

At the moment it’s still in development, and its very much a learning tool to teach technical concepts. But that doesn’t mean that this is not suitable for kids, they will be fine. The whole thing will be a learning experience just like it was for me when I was 8-9 years old with my Commodore 64. But unlike then there is so much help available on the internet that anything can be over come with a little time searching around.

From what I’ve heared of Eben Upton (the guy behind the Raspberry Pi) it sounds like he wants to bring back this raw basic form of comuting to children so that they learn that a computer is more than just how you use the mouse and how you use word. its about how you properly formulate a IF statement. Yes its a complicated subject to grasp but just because most adults struggle to open a word document doesn’t mean that a kid can’t program.

And yes its a confusing and complicated subject but that’s because computers are complicated, it doesn’t matter how much companies make using a computer as easy and friendly as possible because all they are really doing is making it harder and harder for people to actually know what’s happening behind the interface and develop these things.

For those that may have problems with the terminology used in the rest of this article or want to know more about a specific thing I have provided links to more information. If I’ve missed something then please comment or send me a message on Twitter @dfragglet, thanks.

First Experience

Using the Pi and my net book late at night just like when I was a kid hacking away on my Commodore 64

An example is when you first get it you have to download the OS (Operating System) image to your computer and then unpack the image on to the SD card. First time I did this I did it in Windows and used the tool suggested, work flawlessly. After a few weeks there was a new version that they were asking people to beta test, I downloaded it and used a tutorial I found in Linux Format magazine to help me write the image to the SD card using the command line. This worked fine for the original image but when I tried it with the new updated image it messed the SD card up and made it unrecognisable to any OS I plugged it into. Eventually I found that despite my computers not recognizing it my camera would read it and say it had an error but allow me to format it and that fixed the issue of it not being read in any OS.

Eventually I found that the tutorial in the Magazine had a few steps missing so I followed the official tutorial on doing it through the Ubuntu terminal and it worked fine. Now in Windows you can do it through the command line or there’s a special tool, same for Linux and Mac.

When Ubuntu Terminal sessions go bad.

some unusual output from a terminal session on Ubuntu.

Once the SD card is prepared, pop it into the Raspberry Pi and power it. Now if the image is written correctly it’ll boot (first boot will take a little longer as its setting it’s self up to the hardware) after that it will just stop at a Linux command line asking you to log in. Default log in is username: pi and the password: raspberry.

Once logged in your still at the command line and to start a graphical desktop to do some work you need to type “startx”. then it loads a GUI called LXDE. its a Debian based Linux distribution but unlike alot of the other distribution for desktops this comes with tools to get started but nothing else.

The next step was finding a WiFi dongle that works, really long and technical process or trawling through the Raspberry Pi wiki finding the dongle that people have got to work and then following the steps that are there to make it work. Took 8 hours with the help of Phill at first to research and refine the process for using one of the WiFi dongles but after that we managed to refine that process down to 6 steps that took 5 mins to complete.

Expectations

It will not give you an easy ride but you will learn a lot from just using it. I know more about Linux from using my Pi for a month than I did from running Ubuntu for the past 2 years. mostly because Ubuntu is refined and well developed OS. The raspberry pi, not yet, there’s still a lot of performance to be unlocked from it as there’s no driver yet to use the GPU, no login manager (Note: the link to the left take you to a page for a login manager, it has a very good definition of what a login manager is but I am unsure if this particular Manager will work on the Pi) to make starting it up easier or package manager to make installing software easier by default, but there is a way of adding these things later.

If you want a little computer to view web pages, word process and play games or to just generally use out of the box then this is not for you. If you want to get dirty and learn how it works and get involved in then yes its for you. Its basically the same with a car, you want to own and use a car but don’t care or want to know how it works then stick to the well know manufacturers. You want a car that’s going to force you to learn how to keep it on the road then you get and MGB GT or any other classic car.

Other Impressions

The guys over at Jupiter Broadcasting have done a review of the Raspberry Pi and if you want to hear what they thought you can either got to the site Jupiter broadcasting or watch the embedded video right here. 

3 Comments »

My take on Valves latest endeavours.

First

This is just an idea I had while driving down the motorway with my wife and talking about things. So this is pure speculation, I’m just connecting dots in my head to see if I can figure stuff out.

Recently there has been news that Valve are working on a Linux port of Steam, this has been a bit of an on again off again piece of news with no real substance other than little bits here and there. They have advertised and hired Linux developers to work on porting Valves Source engine to Linux, screen shots of Steam running in Ubuntu have circulated. (but the Windows version of steam runs fine under Wine for Linux.)

Then I remembered some roumors about a Steam console and it suddenly struck me, Valve might be thinking about running a custom Linux install as the base for the OS on the new console.

Think about this

Any modern console has a nice flashy interface to access the consoles different features, Steam is a PC based client for buying and playing games so the logical step for it to move onto consoles would be a PC OS with PC hardware. That would allow for easy development of titles across platforms, but companies like to brand the whole user experience. Windows isn’t customizable enough for a company to change it significantly, that’s without mentioning the security flaws and other issues and same goes for OSX.

So what’s left, no point in developing your own OS from the ground up when Linux and BSD and a plethora of other PC OS’s exist. Also its free of licence fees, the core of the OS is being developed by developers all over the world so Valve don’t need to worry too much about that. They can put their own completely custom UI over the top of it and make it the way they want. Control what software is installed and running on the console and what updates are rolled out, and if Valve are so inclined could release the OS as it’s own Linux distribution so people can make they’er own Steam console.

What this means for Valve

Valve wont have to spend huge piles of money on R&D to make custom hardware and develop software and elaborate programming languages to run their system. they get to hit a new platform with new titles and by hitting that new platform they will also be hitting their own console too.

Using standard PC components will mean that they wont have to develop their own customer GPU’s, CPU’s etc so that will keep costs down not just from a R&D point of view but from a manufacturing point. Ultimately this could filter down to the actual sale of the console and it could be sold competitively.

Because of the nature of PC hardware they could also make it modular so that it can be easily upgraded on a regular basis so that it can always be more powerful than its competition.

What this means for Linux

Valve developing games and running its own platform on Linux will mean massive positives for Linux. There will be quality games being available on Linux, and hopefully Valve will get involved with helping Linux develop and grow by contributing to Linux projects. More people to start paying more attention to Linux as a platform for the home and with the disaster that will be Windows 8 this could be the time to take the fight to Microsoft and Apple. But I’m getting a little carried away now.

But when even Richard Stallman is saying nice things (in his own unique way) about Valve coming to Linux (sorry GNU/Linux) then could this be something to celebrate and look forward to.

My Opinion

This is just what I predict and I know I may be shy of the mark on some points and I may be in a whole other dimention on others but overall I genuinly think there could be a link between Valve coming to Linux and making thier own console.

What do you think? let me know in the comments.

EDIT: Ok so after writing this post I watched the Linux Action Show, they very briefly touch on this. So I decided to do a Google search, wow, have I been living under a rock!

Well I’ll leave this post here as it gives some reasons why this could be good.

Leave a comment »

Helping hand

What I do.

I like to give people help where I can and in a way that I can, usually this takes the form of my time and knowledge. Some times its just being there and helping set up and clean up, I often help a charity called Bobath with fate’s and fairs and the like. I go with Vicky and sometimes my mum and we’ll help set up stalls and my mum and vicky run what ever stall we are on and I go around doing odd bits here and there and keeping Vicky and mum in drinks and food and covering for a few minuite while they go the loo.

I also help friends with problems they might be having with they’re computer’s, and will often give away parts that I can spare. And in return I get parts and PC’s donated to me, I then recycle what I can’t use and repurpose what I can. This has always worked well as it gives me experience and a stock of spare parts and my friends get a service that they might have to pay a lot of money for. I, Vicky, Lynne (mum) and a few other family members also give a lot to the Bobath charity shop.

Why do I do it?

I like being helpful, if I can do somthing to help then I will. I also like to see people do well and if I help then I get a feeling of having been a part, large or small in they’re success.

A stranger is just someone you haven’t talked to yet.

When I help people I don’t just help friends, it could be anyone. I don’t pick and choose, some times It’s just some person I come across in the street.

How to help

As already mentioned Bobath, they could always do with help, check the Far Lands or Bust YouTube page to help raise money for Childs Play. Hob Nob’s and Murder is a friendly gaming comunity that need money to run the servers and eventually we would like to have charity fund raising events.

Then here’s someone who is trying to open source the software he makes and put it out there free for all to use. But to do this he needs help, he has a baby, a wife and some goats to support, so to help him go to lunduke.com and read about the support you can give. Bryan Lunduke makes awesome and is trying to change how open source apps are funded and you can find out more about him on his blog and on the Linux Action Show on Jupiter Broadcasting. Also if you feel extra helpful go to Jupiter Broadcasting and see how to help them, but just giving the shows a view and spreading the word if you like it or know some one who would is a big help.

Also if you have the time and are interested in gaming and the point of view of a gaming consumer, pay this blog a visit and give him a read, he does also write about other things.

2 Comments »

Waiting for my PI

Never stop learning

In the last year at college I was taught Java, nothing against my tutors who are quite good but I don’t feel as though I’ve learned much. I know syntax and commands and structure of statements but I cannot think or problem solve using Java or any other language except HTML and CSS (although more a presentation language rather than a programming language). So while I’m taking my little sabbatical from college I plan on changing this. I am wondering would it be better if I started from the beginning using another language to try and approach it all from a different angle or stick with what I know and cut out some of the learning curve with Java.

Raspberry Pi Logo

The Raspberry Pi Logo

One of the things that is driving this little push toward learning programming aside from always wanting to learn is the recent article titled coding for success by Andy Young @ The Kernal.org. this opened my eyes to what I may need to do in order to succeed at learning to program. But another thing that’s peaked my interest is a wonderful little product called the Raspberry Pi, its a ultra cheap, very small, ARM based computer running Linux and potentially any ARM based OS that can run on 256 or 512mb RAM. it might be low power and the lower end of the specifications spectrum but it is also only $25 to $35 or there about.

Time away

I am also going to watch Kevin Smith and Jason Mews do Jay and Silent Bob get old in Hammersmith this month, hopefully I will also be stopping at Bletchly Park on the way home and I’m going to try and convince Vicky my wonderful wife to stop in Brooklands museum either on the way there or if we got time on the way home. Also at some point I plan on writing a story I’m planning on turning into a comic book that I might also illustrate.

In closing

There are a lot of other things I have in the works like spending more time with Project C.A.R.S and uploading more videos to my YouTube channel. Running events on the Hob Nob’s and Murder gaming communities Minecraft server. Although Project CARS is still looking for funding and anyone who gives money to the project will share in its profits and get access to builds of the game as it’s being developed. Also Hob Nobs & Murder have a new YouTube channel and we are always open for new members, if your interested join our Facebook page, Google+ page, Desura, Steam, YouTube or our blog and post some information about your self.

Because its Valentines day approaching here is a little Google love for everyone. Paste this into Google sqrt(cos(x))cos(300x)+sqrt(abs(x))-0.7)(4-x*x)^0.01, sqrt(6-x^2), -sqrt(6-x^2) from -4.5 to 4.5 and smile. ❤

Leave a comment »

What I Think is Wrong with the Computer Games Industry – Part 1

What I Think is Wrong with the Computer Games Industry

Origin

The other day I was invited to take part in the Battlefield 3 beta, so I signed up, filled out all the information got to the part where I download the program. At this point I was prompted to download “Origin”, Origin is EA’s game/content distribution service, basically EA’s version of Valve’s “Steam” service or Microsoft’s “Games For Windows Live” service. Anyway at this point I said to my self “No, no no” (a little like Amy Winehouse when people tried to make her go to rehab, but a lot more coherent) I refuse to install another online game store.

Years ago when Valve started “Steam” I was sceptical, but over the years I came to like it. One of the biggest things that persuaded me was when they added other publishers to the store. Over the years I have purchased quite a lot of the games through steam. But now EA want to try the same distribution method for they’re own software. I don’t have a big problem with that. I do have a problem with being forced to have Origin installed just to use their software. I know before everyone says it that Valve run Steam the same way but at least with Steam I have access to software that was published by other publishers.

Steam and EA Logo

I have already committed to one content distribution system, I don’t then want to have to install another for EA and then if Activision and Atari all come out with they’re own distribution system a few moths later, where will it stop? As gamers we are losing some basic rights. We are losing the freedom to choose where we purchase our software from and are being forced into accepting this corporate bloatware. We are losing the right to sell/give away old games, we are losing the ability to allow family members to share a game on the same computer.

Also if they run Origin anything like they have run the way they make games available on android then they will pull games from availability and change prices quite inconsistently. I feel that they are just constantly polishing up older titles to make them appeal to the hungry little monster that is the younger gamer market, but more about that in a moment.

Let me expand on the last point. If I purchased a game CD/DVD and install it under my account and then install it under my account and then my wife can log on using her user account on the same PC and play the same game. But if i paid for and downloaded the same software through Steam or Origin, I would be the only one who could play it unless I let her use my account, but unless the game supports multiple saves she wouldn’t be able to play her own game without messing up my game saves.

This also plays into EA’s strategy of eliminating the second hand games market. As a user of Steam I can’t lend games to friends or sell them, but it does mean that if the worst happens and my computer and/or all my games are lost in a fire or stolen I can still access them and all is not lost.

Although I must point out that all these observations about Origin are based on using Steam and Games for Windows Live and information from others who have used Origin.

Poor Quality of Games

I am going to try my hardest to not sound like Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw from Zero Punctuation but I feel his pain, and even though I don’t always agree with his review of a game I usually agree with several points he makes on every title. but my focus here is going to be more on the fact that companies like EA, Activision and Atari are now pumping out a new update for they’re most popular IP’s (Intellectual Property, eg the Sim’s and Need for Speed are two IP’s) every year.

Call of Duty

The problem with this is that in order for them to reach an acceptable level of quality for each release they have to employ multiple software houses to handle the development of each title. When the Call of Duty series got popular Activision looked for another software house to help Infinity Ward by developing every other release. Activision called upon Treyarch to help with development. The first title they had to work on was Call of Duty 3. Now before I get into this I must say I’m a PC gamer and Call of Duty 1 & 2 were available on the PC. However Call of Duty 3 was only available on consoles (although the response from the PC community resulted in Treyarch being told by Activision that they have to develop a PC version in future.)

But by the time they got to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare I felt that they had lost everything that had appealed to me. I played Call of Duty 1 & 2 through multiple times purely on the strength of the story, after Modern Warfare the quality of the game in terms of graphics and game play mechanics it changed VERY little, in terms of story it became predictable and cliched. At this point I lost interest but one of the things that I did notice was the better quality releases were coming from the Infinity Ward development and the Treyarch releases were a very poor relation. But I also got further pissed off when Activision were trying to screw Infinity Ward over royalties, this resulted in my boycotting Activision’s games. (I am passionate about computer games!)

Need for Speed

This is probably one of the more diverse and constantly changing titles of all the IP’s I will mention here. I will pick this up at the point where to title tried to cash in on the popularity of the film Fast and the Furious, and they released a complete re-invention of the Need for Speed IP. This had features that hadn’t been seen in many racing titles and combined them with a nice simple arcade game, but this title had been quite rapidly developed since its start in 1994.

There have been 7 different developers working on this title but since Underground’s release this has become more “Street Racer” focused aside from the 2 Shift titles and Prostreet that are more professional racer focused. With the other titles being so story focused the quality of the story has been poor. I felt that a child that hasn’t learned to form words would be better at writing this crap. And the acting is awful and patronising, here’s a clip  from Need for Speed Most Wanted. Here’s another with a nice continuity error the PDA she holds up when she gets in the car gets rotated 180 degrees when the camera zooms out after the explanation of a completely redundant game mechanic.

But as time goes on this only seems to get worse, but that isn’t the only thing that has made Need for Speed one of the MANY IP’s that are making the games industry bad. Game play has only got worse over time. It’s patronising and insulting especially when some of the developers have been bad mouthing titles like Forza and Grand Turismo and saying they can create a more real experience with Need for Speed and completely failing. As a sim racer I have a huge collection of racing software, some sims, some games and the most arcadie and patronising of them all are almost always Need for Speed, Test Drive and Midnight Club. Conversely some of the most realistic racing games have been Forza, Grand Turismo, Race 07/On, but even these feel arcade-like when compared with the hardcore sims of Live for Speed, rFactor, iRacing.com.

So when a dev working on Need for Speed exclaims that he thinks his latest version of the most over polished turd in the history of racing games is better than some of the best examples of racing games, then that franchise loses credibility in my eyes.

This is the first part of why I think the Games industry is going to hell in a hand basket, I am working on part two but it may be some time before that one is released so if you have an opinion for or against me and anything I’ve said then comment, e-mail what ever you need to do to get your opinion to me (Just don’t call me at 4 in the morning or I’ll be very irate.).

12 Comments »

Fat man with blue hair: A new hope.

Recently I turned 30 and aside from feeling just as child like as ever I decided to do more to loose weight. Well I thought I’d do what any geek would do, enlist the help of my smart phone! Back in June I got an upgrade from my ageing HTC Hero to a new HTC Desire HD.

Profile shots of a Desire HD

Not the newest phone on the market so I felt I could get a deal, but I got it because it has the largest screen out of the HTC Android range. In some cases size does not matter but in this case it very much does!  It’s what I quite often refer to as a “man size” phone, having large hands and fingers I feel this is just the right form factor, and the on screen key board is perfect for blogging on the go.

Anyway back to the topic, I looked around the Android market place and downloaded a few apps and found one called Noom. And its brilliant, it allows me to log my exercise and count the calories of each meal and suggest a daily allotment. Although I have only been using it for a 3 weeks and I’ve yo yo’d a little in my weight but I am much more aware of my diet.

I also found a good pod cast down loader and player for Android called DoggCatcher, there is no free version that I could find but I took a chance and paid the £4 something and gave it a go. and after using it for 2 days I’ve been impressed by it, but also I haven’t once been frustrated or felt as though I was limited by it. This is I feel a good indication of a quality app. So if your looking to get an app to manage your pod casts directly on your phone without having to download them to your computer first and copy them across, check out DoggCatcher.

Currently I’m enjoying the summer holidays from college but the truth is I’m running out of things to keep me occupied so I’m looking forward to going back for the last year of my HND.

Leave a comment »