Friday, April 18, 2008

Earthquake in the Midwest!

By now, I'm sure you've heard (or experienced) the 5.6 earthquake in the Midwest. When it came on my news this morning, the reporters indicated it was centered near "West Salem, IL".

I had never heard of "West Salem", but for most of my life my grandparents (my mother's parents) lived in Salem, IL. I found myself wondering if there was a town right next to Salem... or if perhaps "West Salem, IL"... was really "West" of Salem, IL.

I called my mom as I was driving to work. She had felt the quake (it was strong enough to wake her in the middle of the night). She had heard that it was "near" the Indiana/Illinois border.

So I decided to make a map. Here it is:

View Larger Map

Click on the Blue markers for descriptions. You can zoom in and out and scroll the map by click-and dragging.

It turns out that "West Salem, IL"... is EAST of Salem, IL! huh? It also doesn't appear to be anywhere near another Salem, I'm familiar with... Salem, Indiana. So why the heck is the town named "West Salem"?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

DTSMA Coming to PS3 RSN!

Two posts in two days? Who'd a thunk it?

Sony has finally announced decoding of DTS Master Audio for the Playstation3!!!

I literally jumped out of my chair when I read this!

This has been my single biggest issue with the PS3 since purchasing it! Fox has been pumping out DTS-MA tracks for quite some time now. X-Men III, for example, features a 6-channel DTS-MA track and that was one of the earliest discs I purchased last fall. However, it's been impossible for me to listen to the 6-channel goodness, but the PS3 cannot bistream DTS-MA to my receiver.. nor could it decode the audio and transmit it as a 6-channel PCM stream to the receiver.

In my experience... when Sony announces a firmware update... it goes live within a couple of days... so there's a very good chance I'll finally get to hear the high definition soundtrack this weekend.

The recent updates to Blu-Ray Profile 2.0 and now this... this PS3 is without a doubt the single best Blu-Ray player on the market and arguably the cheapest... never mind it's other capabilities like Media streaming, or the fact that... oh yeah.... it plays games too!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Latest fun with Consoles

I wanted to let the last post sit on top for a while for people to get a chance to see it... yeah... that's a good excuse. :)

Anyway... I have some interesting game console stories to share so I thought I would share them.

First the PS3....

After reading how "easy" it is to install Linux on the PS3 I thought I would give it a whirl. I picked up a Logitech Mediaboard Pro at Best Buy and headed home to try it out. First things first, I attempted to back up my game data to a USB memory key I had sitting around. When I went to plug the USB key in.... the system froze and my TV looked like it was displaying a Jackson Pollock painting. I don't exactly know what happened, but I'm suspecting some kind of static electricity problem. For what its worth, the memory key still works.

Fortunately, my system was still within the warranty period. So I called Sony. We could occasionally get the system to boot up, but it wouldn't stay stable for very long before freezing again. I was able to get it to stay up long enough to eventually get that game data backup (whew...).

The exchange process was interesting. It cost me nothing which is definitely a plus. However, Sony actually ships you an empty box and instructs you to put ship it back with the PS3, composite video cable, SIXAXIS, power cord, USB cable, and network cable in it. After Sony receives it, they have 10-14 business days to ship a working system back to you. I received my box on a Tuesday afternoon and I had my system dropped off at a UPS store by 5:30PM the same day. My particular system was going to Laredo, TX... so despite the ground shipping Sony had it by lunch time the next day!

Sure enough about a week-and-a-half later I got an e-mail from Sony that my replacement system was shipping back to me... again from Laredo. I was excited to see that it was coming "Next day air". Unfortunately, it shipped on a Friday so I wasn't going to get it until Monday. I even got a confirmation e-mail from UPS and a phone call from an automated system on Sunday indicating that we had a next-day-air package coming the next day that required an adult signature.

Well, on Saturday we had our first really warm day of the season so we turned on the air-conditioner to discover that... it was blowing warm air! I made a post on and within thirty minutes I had an AC repairman on the phone who was willing to come out that night. Turns out the compressor coils had a leak. Which is an expensive enough repair that its often advisable to just replace the whole compressor. Technically, our compressor was more than five years older than its manufacturing date... but just barely. That had elapsed in January. However, since my home was new construction and I didn't close until April the manufacturer agreed to use my closing date for the warranty period. SO... I was only going to be out $450 for the labor to replace the part and recharge the freon.

So how does the AC story figure into these game console stories? Well, the actual replacement was going to happen on Monday. The very same Monday that the PS3 was coming! So, I ended up leaving work early with my laptop and working from home that afternoon while the compressor coils were replaced and eagerly awaited my PS3!

I really missed it while it was gone. Literally the day after my system died was when Sony announced the release of firmware 2.20 with its support for Blu-Ray Profile 2.0. I also had missed playing Guitar Hero III.

But it didn't come.

So I got online and tracked my package. Turns out the PS3 was in San Antonio on Sunday evening... but instead of putting it on a truck to Houston for the 4-hour drive. However, UPS proceed to ship to their air hub in.... Louisville! And it sat there all day Monday and didn't actually get shipped to Houston until Monday evening. I tried to call and see if they would let me pick it up as the package was officially late at that point, but no dice. And, of course, the driver came early on Tuesday... but not so early as to catch Shannon before she went to work! So I was now facing a Wednesday delivery!

So lets give pause for a minute and point out that my broken PS3 took less than 24-hours to go "ground" from Humble to Laredo, "Next-Day Air" was looking at 5 calendar days!

However, I called UPS and it turns out the driver was able to redeliver on Tuesday so I finally had my PS3 back! I will give UPS kudos on the redelivery, but I really don't understand why it took 4 calendar days to get my pacakge.

I did finally, get Linux installed on the PS3, but I returned the keyboard (still within 30 days from the original purchase date). I think I'm going to wait for a deal on Logitech's diNovo Mini.

Now the Wii...

When I purchased the Wii, I unhooked the Gamecube from my home theater with the intention of using the Wii to play my Gamecube games. However, I hadn't played one (for more than a few minutes yet). One of my issues was that I never had picked up a Wavebird and I've really gotten used to wireless controllers. The idea of being tethered to my Wii was less than desirable. I had been looking to get a Wavebird, but for those in the know... they are hard to come buy and often quite expensive. So I was open to picking up a 3rd party wireless gamecube controller. However, most of the controllers on the market today are proudly advertising that they are "mini" controllers. While I certainly preferred the Smaller Xbox Controller-S to the original Xbox Controller... I wouldn't claim that my hands are "mini". I really just wanted something close to the size of a standard Gamecube controller!

Finally, one evening I was in a Wal-Mart and I ran across a Pelican controller that fit the bill! Now with controller-in-hand (and no PS3 to speak of) I decided it was time to play a Gamecube came on the Wii. So I plugged in my Gamecube memory cards and my new controller and enjoyed the heck out of some Chibi-Robo!

After finishing Chibi-Robo, and with Shannon in Louisiville visiting family I felt like I really had the time to sink my teeth into Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. I'm happy to report that I've finished it on Veteran and its an excellent, excellent game!

However, these two systems' stories are connected. On the day that I received my PS3, Shannon had taken the laptop to work and I wanted to get online and get some information about installing Linux on the PS3 again.. and I needed a web browser. I thought I would use Opera. Low-and-behold the Wii couldn't connect to the Internet! Or anything on my network for that matter!

I couldn't believe both of my consoles could go bad so close together! I spent two days trying adjusting my wireless network. I tried turning off encryption. I tried running my network in mixed-mode and g-only. I played with different wireless channels. Nothing.

Finally, I was reading through posts on the forum on (dd-wrt is the firmware I run on my wireless router).. and I stumbled across a post with someone experiencing the same problem as me... but in his case it wasn't really a network problem.

It was a memory card problem.

More specifically, the Interact 16Mb Gamecube memory card which I've been using for about 6 years without issue apparantly can "block" the Wii's network capabilities when its plugged into one of the Gamecube card slots. My system was on and already at the "Test Connection" screen. So I pulled the card and clicked the button.

It connected just fine.

Didn't even have to reboot the Wii or anything.

It should be noted that my 1st party card stayed plugged in the whole time.

As a software developer (and one that took quite a few Electrical Engineering courses in College) I can not possibly conceive of what design software or hardware that could possibly cause this to happen.

I did report the solution to Nintendo and a got a response from the representative that indicated they would pass it along. Perhaps at some point we'll see a suggestion on for network problems that suggest trying to unplug all 3rd party memory cards!