Classic Dishes...



Stupidity Knows No Spectrum

Okay, here’s another one for the geeks in the house.

(“All the ladies in the place say HOOOOO!” “Hooooooooo!” “All the geeks in the place recite pi to 127 places!” “3.141592653….”)

First, a little background: I have this spiffy universal remote that I picked up a while back. It does everything, and because I’m a geek, I made it do a little more; I hacked a JP1 connector into it and soldered a TEENY TINY EEPROM chip to the circuit board so I can program it through my computer. (To this day I don’t know how I pulled off the solder job.)

Well, last week, I took the plunge and bought myself an early birthday present (May 4th, kids, mark your calendars), an Xbox 360. And it occurred to me, as I saw the $30 remote they wanted to sell me so I could have full DVD remote functionality instead of controlling it with the wireless gamepad, that perhaps someone has posted the JP1 codes and I can just program my spiffy hax0red remote to do it and save a few bucks.

So I do some Googling and subsequent checking of the relevant forums, and lo and behold, the 360 Remote Master codes are indeed out there. So I download the file, build the upgrade, and upload it into the remote.

And it works fine…until I try to open the DVD tray, at which point it does nothing until I close the tray manually or use the gamepad to close the tray using the Xbox dashboard. And I’m stymied. I’m absolutely convinced that I’ve done something wrong putting together the remote upgrade, and I post in a panic to the aforementioned relevant forums.

Tonight, I’m playing with it some more (I found a new upgrade with some more functionality, so I figure maybe it has a different open/close tray code), and having the same problem. And folks have since replied to my panicked posts, swearing up and down, to a man, that it’s worked for every one of them and that I’m doing it just right. Well, apparently NOT, since the damn tray won’t close, right?

Oh. Wait.

The vantage point I’m doing these experiments from is above the unit and to the right, as it is located in the storage cubes that flank my television, and I’m sitting at my computer desk.

Go back and look at the picture of the unit again. See that little dark oval on the lower left? That’s the infrared sensor for the remote. The DVD drive tray is the long chrome slot above that.

Guess what gets completely obstructed from an angle of above and to the right when the DVD tray is open?

DD-R U Kidding Me?

In a bout of semi-random Web surfing, I came across this thread about DDR (Dance Dance Revolution), which if you’ve been under a rock for the last seven years or so is a video game where you are challenged to step on pads in time to music. It requires fast feet and a damned lot of memory and dexterity, and good DDR players are truly a sight to see.

Anyhow, this is one of your standard bitch threads about what annoys you when playing the game. And a lot of it is typical elitism (“OMG! I can’t stand it when someone plays Song X on EASY! Like, they’re wasting time I could be using to get an AAA rating on Song X+42!!!!111!!! LOL!!”), but some of them were generic arcade complaints that surprised the hell out of me, because it was stuff that simply WOULD NOT HAPPEN when I was an arcade rat in my teens. To wit:

  • Stealing tokens: A common bit of video game etiquette is to (ideally unobtrusively) place a quarter/token/whatever up on the lip of the marquee of the machine to indicate that you would like to play the next game. If several people are waiting their turn, you place your token in the line, and when your token is at the front of the line, you get to go. Apparently there are idiots now who think they can get away with attempting to pocket someone else’s token. Unbelievable.
  • Messing with the controls: There were more than a few complaints of people standing around and then stepping on the pads while you are playing to intentionally screw up your game. I would never DREAM of pushing a button on a machine someone else was playing. Ever.
  • Generally getting underfoot: There is a practice known as “shadowing”, which is when someone jumps up on the other unused pad (a DDR machine has two pads side by side, one for each player) while someone who is playing solo, and doing the steps for the song alongside. I would find this TERRIBLY distracting. There were also several complaints about parents with their rugrats letting said rugrats stumble around the feet of the active player instead of keeping them the hell out of the way, and then yelling at the player when the kid inevitably gets themselves hurt.

There were quite a few other complaints, some reasonable, some asinine, but these were the ones that jumped out at me. And all I can say is: What. The. HELL. When I play arcade games, anyone who gets so close to the screen that I can see their nostrils better than what I’m playing quickly receives repeated elbows to the ribs until they get the picture. Working the controls causes arms to flail, you know. Terribly sorry there. And, yeah, we had quarter-moochers, but anyone who tried to outright STEAL quarters in the coin line would be dealt with quickly, harshly, and often physically. And DO NOT TOUCH my control panel. You shouldn’t even be that close to me anyhow, but I’m paying for this game, and if I come up a smart bomb short because you thought you were being cute, I know who I’m taking out my frustration on.

Bottom line, if anyone pulled crap like this back in the day, they would be on the receiving end of a Grade-A asskicking. It didn’t happen. These were the biggest faux pas you could make in the scene. In 25 years of gaming, someone has touched my controls uninvited ONCE (costing me a man in a game of Tapper, by the way), and the only reason that guy didn’t get thrashed is because he was known for being mentally unstable anyhow, and I frankly didn’t wanna be entwined with him anymore than I already was by virtue of being regulars at the same arcade.

So the following question occurred to me: Have people just gotten ruder over the last ten-fifteen years or so? It’s not like the stuff above is some super-secret behavior that only arcaders know, it’s COMMON SENSE. Don’t steal. Don’t get in someone’s way if you can help it. Don’t screw someone else up if they’re doing something. Do you reach over and punch buttons on the checker’s cash register at the grocery store?

I’ve said many times: People Are (Freakin’) Stupid. Are they really THIS stupid? Even OUTSIDE of the red states?

Control Freak

So I dunno if I’ve really mentioned it in the blog itself, but I’m a classic arcade game nut. MAME and a full set of ROMs occupy a prominent place on my game drive.

Well, being able to play all of these old games arcade-perfect is one thing, but it loses something when you have to do it with a keyboard, mouse, or a gamepad. Nothing feels like a real arcade joystick and buttons, and few computers are equipped with a spinner to play Tempest with.

As a result, a niche hobby-within-the-hobby revolves around building control panels (and often, entire cabinets) to complete the overall effect. John St. Clair runs the Build Your Own Arcade Controls website, which should absolutely be your first stop if you find any of this the least bit interesting. He’s also taken what he’s learned and written a book, Project Arcade, which includes step-by-step instructions and plans and other information about how to do it. Go buy six copies.

Anyhow, here’s what I did. Eventually, it will be part of a full cabinet when I have more room:

…and it is AWESOME. I can play Tempest with a spinner, and Marble Madness with a trackball. Games take on a new dimension. Not only that, but I have a flatscreen monitor that rotates now, so I can play games that usually run in portrait orientation the way they were intended to be displayed. It wasn’t cheap, but as far as I’m concerned, it was absolutely money well spent.