28th August 2014 

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Homemade Wii sensor bar update...
First Impressions of Nintendo Wii and Wii Sports
PS3 impressions...
We have a 'model' among the editors
A visit to Skyline...
Flashing your Maxtor hard drives..
Dopod 838 Pro: 3G WM5, Here I Come!

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 Tuesday November 28, 2006

Homemade Wii sensor bar update...
21:48 PM - bktoh
In my initial set up of the Wii, you may recall I was a little miffed I couldn't set up the Wii in the roomier living room because the cable for the Wii sensor bar wasn't long enough to reach frin my hifi rack to the projector screen.

Some reader pointed me to this link

Interesting that the Wii sensor bar wasn't really a sensor after all. It was just a set of IR transmitters arranged 7.5 inches apart which provides a signal that the Wii nunchuk controller received and used to triangulate the position.

I showed the design to a colleague who then reworked this design for a more elegant one. He arranged the IR LEDs in parallel (with 4 on each side), rather than in series. That way if an IR LED were to blow, the other LEDs would still function. And he added a resistor for a more consistent voltage drop. And he added a AC-DC voltage power brick. (ps Thanks Siggy!)

I brought it back and tested it just now! It works great. Amazingly, I think it is even more sensitive than the original one.


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 Saturday November 25, 2006

First Impressions of Nintendo Wii and Wii Sports
12:57 PM - bktoh
A friend of mine happened to be in Hong Kong and chanced upon some shops stocking the Nintendo Wii (US bundle), and he asked me if I was interested.

The mark up was a lot, but considering Wii Sports was bundled, along with Zelda, I figured it was worth a chance.

What's in the box

You get

  • the Wii,
  • the nunchuk controller with handstrap
  • the side attachment to the controller
  • Wii Sports
  • AV (composite video + stereo) cable
  • motion sensor detector strip
  • Power brick

Setting up the Wii.

I was planning originally to set it up in the living room since I have a much bigger space to stretch out and really give the motion sensor nunchuk controllers some room to manouevre in.

Unfortunately, I hit a snag.

To get the Wii controller motion sensor to work, you need to install the Wii motion sensor strip either on top of your display or below the display. On most TV sets, this should be pretty simple. The Wii should be on a TV console. But with my projector setup, the equipment rack is pretty far away, and there was no way to stretch the cable to the screen.

So I had to move the Wii to the den where space is a lot more constrained.

But in the smaller room, it was a lot easier to put the motion sensor strip on top of the LCDTV.

Once that was settled, the rest of the hook up was pretty easy.

First Impressions

My friends and I were just playing Formula One demo, then Ridge Racer 7 on the PS3, NFS Carbon on the XBox 360, all on 1080p and 720p so when the Wii first booted up, in blurry composite NTSC. it was a tad disconcerting. One of my friends went back to playing Canyon downhill run on Carbon.

We placed Wii Sports in the console and then got it running pretty quickly (without creating the Mii aka player profile/avatar, which I will cover later).

And then we proceeded to have a real blast.

We played tennis first.

Let me get one thing straight. This motion sensor (with the sensor strip) is amazing. At no time did the controller feel out of place. The mapping of the controller to the onscreen avatar was almost always spot on.

This is very very very VERY UNLIKE the sixaxis controller on the PS3 which felt just like the old Microsoft FreeStyle Pro (motion sensing) gamepad for the PC which came out a gazillion years ago! When using the SixAxis motion sensor in the MotoStorm demo on the PS3, the controller always felt disjointed, not connected to you. It was a novelty, a neat novelty years ago with the Freestyle, but you got tired of it pretty quickly and went back to the gamepad for more precise controls. In many ways, the regular DS2-derived gamepad provided far more immersion into the game.

But on the Wii, within seconds, your body gets used to the nunchuk controller and it adds a level of seamlessness and ergonomics that is hard to match. I believe in part this is due to the increased sensitivity. There is hardly any lag at all. Every thing happens when you swing.

When playing tennis, there was a short transition period in timing the swings. This IMHO is no different from identifying when to press A in Top Spin or Virtua Tennis, or swinging a tennis racket in real life.

Once you identify the timings correctly, it becomes pretty much second nature.

I guess this is one area where Nintendo shines. Where PSP was just a PS1.5 shrunk into a portable design with no enhancements to gameplay, the NDS and the NDS Lite with voice and touch inputs made a whole different level of immersion never thought possible in handheld games. Looks like they have made the same quantum leap for home games as well.

Next on, we went bowling. Again, the same dynamics applied. We were initially curving/spinning the ball inadvertantly.. again not unlike in a real bowling game, though it was easier to correct those mistakes in the game than in real life.

Next was Baseball. I gotta admit by now, we were pretty hooked.

Yes, the graphics look pretty dismal (OK call it simplistic). Even a Dreamcast was capable of that level of graphics but once you are playing the games, it isn't a concern.

Boxing was the one that was the most fun and gave us the biggest workout. We were floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee. I think my deltoids never got such a workout in a pretty long time.

Yes, Fight Night Round 3 on the XBox 360 might be a photo realistic experience (probably more so on the PS3 when that version arrives), but it was never this much fun. Somehow there is a much more guttural experience using your hands to punch and knock out someone, even if it is "vicariously" in a computer game.

After my friends left, I restarted the console and got around to creating a Mii avatar. This is similar to the way you create your user profile in NDS but it provides you a way of creating a 3D SD cartoonish representation of yourself. It looks like you can actually go online to register this avatar (much like the way you would do it in PS3/XBox360) but I haven't gotten the online hooked up yet.

With the Mii profile created, Wii sports now tracks your progress. As you play each game, your experience level in each game increases.

There is also a training mode which assesses your "Physical Age" using a series of dexterity/physical tests (constructed from the various Wii sports) not unlike how Brain Age uses mental exercises to determine your Mental Age.

OK I am beat.. hope this helps someone evaluating the Wii.

It is a pretty neat system, but if you are using it on a projector, make sure you place the Wii console close enough to the screen.

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 Monday November 13, 2006

PS3 impressions...
21:38 PM - bktoh
Was invited for a sneak preview of an import Playstation 3 unit.

It was a revelation seeing the PS3 in 1080p glory (courtesy of a Marantz 1080p DLP projector), projected onto 100+ inches of the awesome Stewart Firehawk screen. Have to admit the Ridge Racer 7 (RR7) for the PS3 in 1080p looks pretty damn good.

So I came back to test out Ridge Racer 6 (RR6) on my XBox360 in 1080p and 720p

Here's my take..I am not sure if it is my display but I found that VGA seems to provide significantly sharper picture than component for the XBox 360. In terms of definition, I found VGA comparable to the PS3's HDMI connection. Component looked blurrier to me.

Once it comes to technical superiority of the rendered images on screen, though, there are nuances in RR7 that are significantly superior.

The texture detail feels sharper in RR7. With RR6, some of the decal textures used look a tad lower res, and have been rescaled/smoothed to fit on the car. Winner RR7.

The cars' reflectivity seem more detailed. When you are overtaking cars, the reflection on the main car changed a little. It happened so fast, it was hard to tell if it was a "simulated" reflection, or if it was really a "computer generated" reflection of the cars being overtaken. Suffice to say, I was quite impressed. Winner RR7.

I really liked the "wet slightly reflective" road effect on RR7 too. It added a newer, more interesting road texture that I never saw in RR6. Winner RR7.

Also loved the nitro effect (slight heat-wave distortion around the exhausts) when they first fire up. Not found in RR6. Winner RR7.

And overall the 3D car models/meshes in RR7 also seem significantly more detailed (to me) than in RR6. I could even make out the detail in the rims, the tyres and even things like exhaust pipes attached to mufflers!!! Winner RR7.

Of course, when you are playing it, you probably wouldn't notice all this stuff But it was nice to sit back and appreciate these effects when someone else was playing.

Assuming the Ridge Racer teams working on RR6 and RR7 had as much time developing the 2 games, it does suggest some technological advantage on the PS3 (as you would expect after a year). I have seen comparable detail in PGR3, Burnout Revenge (both first generation titles) albeit in 30fps.

Of course, with a year of development under their belts now, developers of XBox 360's 2nd generation titles don't lose out too much. In fact, Gears of War looks pretty impressive, and IMHO looks better than Resistance on the PS3, with both running at 720p (Resistance does not support 1080p).

In terms of hooking up the connection, it seems a tad more complicated to configure the PS3 to run off HDMI. You would need to boot with component or composite cables first, configure the system settings to run on HDMI, then switch over in 30 seconds. Seems kinda convoluted to me.

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 Tuesday October 17, 2006

We have a 'model' among the editors
18:44 PM - kan
I was eating my apple when I nearly fell off my chair after seeing this magazine cover which looks suspiciously like our dear editor Wymun! A few quick blown-ups of the PDF file confirmed the fact that it is indeed him - squeezed into a huge suitcase and happily playing with his Dopod 838 Pro.

Oh well, if you are interested to read about the newly setup Singapore Cooperation Enterprise (SCE), you can read the story here or download the PDF from here or here (mirrored).

TODO: Get myself featured in some magazine some day.

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 Friday September 22, 2006

A visit to Skyline...
21:46 PM - kan
As you probably know, the page you are seeing right now is powered by our rather old web server called ‘Skyline’, named after the infamous Nissan Skyline car which achieved cult status back in the 1990s.

Skyline has served us rather well over the past 3 or 4 (?) years running 24/7, 365 days a year. Today I had a fright when I noticed abnormally large number of phantom processes running on the system. A quick check shows that one of the RAID drives failed and was causing considerable problems to the operating system’s filesystem. A remote reboot did not bring up the server and I managed to pop by to the data centre for a quick investigation.

I spent the next 45 minutes trying to fix all sorts of weird filesystem errors ranging from corrupted indexes to cross-linked filesystem blocks to missing inodes. Ha! So much for RAID….

Anyway, a few reboots later I managed to nurse her back to health. But I have a deep suspicion some of the files on her are permanently corrupted – and I have no idea what these files are.

Perhaps it is time for a hardware upgrade again? Below is a shot of our beloved Skyline.

Also, I was also poking around the security log messages and noticed the usual ‘suspects’ trying to gain unauthorized access to our server. I can only say:


Sep 22 18:58:42 skyline sshd[11489]: error: Could not get shadow information for NOUSER
Sep 22 18:58:42 skyline sshd[11489]: Failed password for invalid user root from xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx port 60557 ssh2
Sep 22 18:58:44 skyline sshd[11491]: Invalid user test from xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx
Sep 22 18:58:44 skyline sshd[11491]: error: Could not get shadow information for NOUSER
Sep 22 18:58:44 skyline sshd[11491]: Failed password for invalid user test from xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx port 60823 ssh2
Sep 22 18:58:46 skyline sshd[11493]: Invalid user test from xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx
Sep 22 18:58:46 skyline sshd[11493]: error: Could not get shadow information for NOUSER
Sep 22 19:28:46 skyline sshd[11493]: Failed password for invalid user test from xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx port 32883 ssh2
Sep 22 19:28:46 skyline sshd[11495]: Invalid user webmaster from xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx
Sep 22 19:28:46 skyline sshd[11495]: error: Could not get shadow information for NOUSER
Sep 22 19:28:46 skyline sshd[11495]: Failed password for invalid user webmaster from xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx port 33631 ssh2

Back at the data center, my friend was showing me his medium format Rolleiflex camera. Looks really cool but hey, I still prefer to get the Nikon D200 anytime.

A shot of his Rolleiflex camera:

Till then, later.

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 Wednesday September 13, 2006

Flashing your Maxtor hard drives..
13:35 PM - kan
Wow, it has been a long time since there were any updates. I guess most of us were really busy with big and secret projects - designing new micro-kernel architecture for AMD, overclocking our cars’ ECUs, figuring out which are the tablespaces that store our money in the bank's database and having fun with other things in life. I met up with Wymun and Wilfred last night and were discussing the things we used to do on this site. Honestly, we cherish readers like you who are still clicking to Hardware One every now and then.

Recently Wymun passed me his new Maxtor 320GB SATA-2 hard drive to backup some of my files. Strangely, the hard drive failed to work on my MSI Neo2 Platinum nForce3 motherboard, even after performing a somewhat delicate 'surgery' to move the tiny jumper to SATA 1 (1.5 Gb/s) mode. My operating system would hang if I try to format the hard drive and Event Viewer will spew out something like this:

After much probing and googling, it seems like there were indeed some compatibility problems in the drive’s firmware with nForce3 and nForce4 motherboards.

A quick mail to Maxtor confirmed this fact and they were quick to send me a new firmware to upgrade the hard drive. But their usual warning says:

Applying firmware to a drive that is not authorized by Maxtor will void the warranty on the drive as this would be considered an unauthorized modification. Please see Maxtor's Limited Warranty Statement for more information.

Will try the firmware upgrade tonight and see if it works.

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 Wednesday August 16, 2006

Dopod 838 Pro: 3G WM5, Here I Come!
22:38 PM - wymun
My Dopod 818 Pro's speaker died on me recently, only after 6 mere months of usage. I was all set to get it repaired at SIS, until I uncovered the horror stories and unreasonable turn-around times that customers had to endure - 1 to 3 weeks of waiting! In my view, this was something I couldn't afford, as I did not own a second phone and relied heavily on my mobile for office use....

So it was timely, when Dopod launched its next WM5 Pocket PC phone variant - the 838 Pro, which of course gave me the perfect upgrade excuse. Furthermore, I was looking for a new contract in any case, and had some handphone subsidy to use up for the year...

The Dopod 838 Pro's key attractions (IMO) lies in its 3G functionality (i.e. about 40% cheaper data access for me, c.f. GPRS), packaged in an acceptable form factor (i.e. only slightly longer and thicker than the Dopod 818 Pro), which concurrently adopts the widespread and growing WM5 OS. Guess this can be classified as one of the most compact 3G WM5 phones around to-date

So I popped down to Bugis Junction Hello! shop, just prior to National Day weekend, and picked one up at just over S$900 (with 2 yr plan). Heh...So what are my impressions, thus far?

The 838 Pro certainly sports a faster 400MHz Samsung processor (c.f. Dopod 818 Pro), which is evident as one can maneuver quickly about the OS, with much less lag than before. The slide-out keyboard is also easy to use, which comes in handy especially for typing long messages. There is also a light sensor embedded on the casing, which lights up the keyboard (in blue) automatically in dark areas - a thoughtful addition.

But what's a real godsend is the packaged Worldcard mobile software (Penpower). This allows one to scan in namecards (via the inbuilt camera) and via its OCR algorithms, extract out the necessary fields into your contacts autonomously! Accuracy is pretty amazing (prob >85%), requiring little corrections after each scan!

The inbuilt camera offers similar picture quality to the Dopod 818 Pro, but seems to have a slightly quicker refresh rate in dark areas, probably due to the faster onboard processor. The camera also comes with an accompanying flash, but is probably only effective for close-range subjects. The camera software is improved though, offering EV adjustments (or at least, fictitious adaptations of it)...

Bluetooth seems decent enough. Well, at least it pairs and works well with my Motorola HS850 handsfree headset, and syncs properly with my Samsung office notebook, without a hitch.

Wifi also works well. One can choose between 3 different levels of signal strength for Wi-Fi, to suit one's location and conserve power.

3G is indeed faster for internet surfing (c.f. GPRS). However, I have yet to try out a 3G video-call, nor attempted to stream video data, so I can't really comment too much on it's viability in those aspects.

Voice-call quality is generally good, and if I'm not mistaken, clearer than the 818 Pro ever was. Skype 2.0 Pocket PC also works well on the 838 Pro, which I believe the 818 Pro lacked, owing to its slower processor, which failed to meet minimum requirements previously...

Battery life thus far, seems to be as good, or even better than the 818 Pro, surprisingly!

Presently, casings for the 838 Pro are rare and few. In fact, I had to make a special trip to DOML in New Bridge Center to get one that fits properly, which also accommodates the sliding nature of the keyboard. :|

A major qualm is the missing Phonepad application that had been included in the 818 Pro. Whilst the 838 Pro's sliding keyboard does offer a faster means for input, the Phonepad application is inevitably useful for short text-messages and more importantly, offers an option for one-handed input. Hope Dopod will include this back in the next ROM upgrade...

More impressions to follow, as I'm still exploring the phone. But thus far, I'm pretty satisfied with the upgrade. Now, just keeping my fingers crossed that the speaker doesn't die again...

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