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RetroGaming RoundUp 27 - Ivagination (January 2011 Podcast)

Our friends over at the RetroGaming Roundup Podcast have released their January 2011 episode. Check below for the contents of their latest production:

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Issue 47 of the Commodore Free magazine - January 2011, Now Available!

The latest issue, January 2011, of the excellent Commodore Free magazine is now available in the usual .PDF, .txt, .seq, .d64, .html, EPUB, and MOBI formats. Get your copy in the format of your choice here!

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Crazy Climber - The Second Bally Astrocade Homebrew in the Modern Era!

RiffRaff, aka Mike G., sent word via the ballyalley Yahoo! Groups group that his second Bally Astrocade homebrew, Crazy Climber, is nearing completion. Mike is the author behind the limited edition, War, which turned out to be a superb Warlords clone (I still need to do a full review at some point). As you can see in Mike's video, it uses a refreshing color palette for an Astrocade game and excellent sprite detail.

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Sony's PSP2, aka NGP - Doomed from the Start? (and a quick mention of Sony Ericsson Xperia Play)

Sony officially announced their PSP successor, code-named Next Generation Portable (NGP). Details here. As you can see, its main technical features of note are a high resolution 5" inch OLED touch screen on the front, a multi-touch pad on the back, two analog sticks, and two cameras. It also has six-axis motion sensing system similar to the PS3's controller and a three-axis electronic compass. Typical for Sony, it's another "kitchen sink" handheld, with the only notable omission being 3D, a la the Nintendo 3DS. Unlike the 3DS - and even though I'm a long-time owner of the original PSP - I'm finding little to be excited about with Sony's new handheld. The PSP failed - relatively speaking, of course - because it did nothing to distinguish itself as a portable. Sony's strategy was to offer a portable console, which many people have no interest in. There appears to be a similar strategy with the NGP. The PSP was somewhere in-between the PS1 and PS2 in terms of power, the NGP is somewhere in-between a PS2 and PS3 in terms of power. If you look at the software list from the link, it's the same types of titles you get on the PS3. While there will be the usual augmented reality and sharing features (again, just like the Nintendo 3DS), the idea of a dedicated portable like this in today's world of smartphones and tablets seems a bit counter-intuitive, and it doesn't have the 3D angle Nintendo's 3DS features. As such, I'm skeptical of the NGP's success.

Rather further under the radar is the announcement of the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play, an Android phone that appears to offer PSP-like gaming and some ability to run the same type of software (albeit of the lowest common denominator variety, potentially taking some of the bloom off of owning the superior gaming platform if developers target both). This strategy makes somewhat more sense in that consumer energy is really behind smartphones these days, but to my mind Sony should have done the Xperia Play AND made the PSP2 a 7" Honeycomb tablet with the full complement of gaming controls and beefed up hardware. This way they could also sub-license to Android and Honeycomb vendors "PSP-powered" gaming technology. That to me would have made a far greater impact. As it is, I think Sony is not going to make much of a dent with the Xperia Play because Android-powered smartphones (technology-wise) are a fast moving target (and phones tend to get replaced every two years anyway), and the NGP - no matter how inherently cool - is not a distinctive enough technology to pull enough people away from the 3DS and their existing (or future) smartphones and tablets, the latter two of which already make formidable modern day gaming platforms. Sorry, Sony.

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Commodore USA Teases New Amiga Computers

I almost hesitate to post about Commodore USA yet again, but I have to give the plucky licensor of the "Commodore USA" name credit yet again. Hot on the heels of them designing a new Commodore 64 case to stuff modern day PC components inside, they've now done the same with the Amiga, creating case designs reminiscent of the Amiga 1000, 2000, and 3000, respectively. With their usual hyperbole-filled bluster, they're also describing Amiga Workbench 5.0, which from the description appears to be a fancy skinning of the Linux operating system with Commodore 8-bit and Amiga emulators (as well as of course the option to dual boot or run directly via a standard emulation layer, Windows). For those interested, they've also been doing updates on Twitter and Facebook, so if you're into that sort of thing, you can follow the somewhat scattershot goings on via those services as well. Naturally, I'll continue to check in on the company now and again, but it's with the usual caveat of not expecting much from overpriced PC components stuffed into cases that you may or may not find interesting. On the plus side, they do appear to be offering just the cases for some of the models, so that's certainly sporting of them. No word yet still on when actual products will be available for sale.

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Jack LaLanne - Videogame Fitness Pioneer

Jack LaLanne's Physical Conditioning: Source: www.gamescollection.itJack LaLanne's Physical Conditioning: Source: www.gamescollection.itAs I'm sure you've heard by now, fitness icon and all around good guy, Jack LaLanne, died yesterday at the age of 96. LaLanne had an incredible career and was one of the true fitness pioneers, establishing the first major television fitness program in the 1950s, helping to spread the word on the immense benefits a healthy, active lifestyle can bring ever since. What you may not know is that among his laundry list of accomplishments, he lent his potent brand to the first ever exer-game, Jack LaLanne's Physical Conditioning, which was created in 1980 for Mattel's Keyboard Component add-on for the Intellivision. Unfortunately for the exer-gaming cause, the Keyboard Component only saw an extremely limited release before being pulled from the market and few of the 4,000 units produced remain in collectors' hands today. As with most of the rest of the Keyboard Component-specific software, precious few of the Jack LaLanne's Physical Conditioning cassette tapes remain.

Jack LaLanne's Physical Conditioning took advantage of the Keyboard Component cassette deck's impressive ability to synchronize both data and pre-recorded voice (this underrated feature was on a few other systems of the day, including the APF Imagination Machine and Atari 8-bit). As the graphical represenation of LaLanne would demonstrate each exercise, LaLanne's own voice would give instructions. Original music and sound effects from the system would also play. This was a wonderful way to bring a more interactive version of LaLanne's long running TV show into homes, and easily predated the videotape exercise craze started by Jane Fonda's Workout in 1982, and the next major exer-game in 1984, Spinnaker's Aerobics, for the Atari 8-bit and Commodore 64, which had fewer features and lacked speech.

You can see a brief glimpse of Jack LaLanne's Physical Conditioning, at approximately 44 seconds in from this 1980 Intellivision commercial:

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Bliss-Box - Use just about any controller from any system with your favorite PC emulator over USB!

Bliss-Box Prototype (Blue)Bliss-Box Prototype (Blue)I came across this unusual homebrew offering and thought it interesting enough to share. For anywhere from $35 - $150, this gentleman will create a USB device that interfaces with from one console or computer port ($35), all the way up to 12+ ($150) console or computer ports. Bottom line, that means you can use just about any controller from just about any system (Atari 2600, Mattel Intellivision, Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, 3DO, Sony PlayStation, Microsoft Xbox, etc.) with your favorite HID-compliant PC emulator, creating more of that "real feel" experience that we're always after. The pricing is actually reasonable for a hand-made product like this, but he even offers up the plans for free so you can build your own. Check it out here. While there have been other solutions like this is in the past - some that provide a breakout box like this and others that modify the controller itself - this is the most expansive such attempt to date.

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Google Android and Honeycomb Tablets as Vaporware - Only Apple Delivers with the iPad! has a nice article by Tim Gideon, entitled, Apple Calls Android Tablets 'Vapor' - and It Isn't Just Hot Air. In it, Gideon makes the point that Apple's recent statements describing Google-based competitor tablets as essentially vaporware - meaning announced but not actually released - are not that far off from the reality. As you know, as a future tablet owner myself, I'm waiting for either the iPad 2 or any type of competing tablet with compelling enough features to lure me away, whichever comes first (or, more correctly, whichever is worth a reasonable amount of waiting time once the iPad 2 is available). The funny thing is, is that as much as the Android platform has its fans - and keep in mind this is coming from a previous iPhone 3G and now iPhone 4 owner - it is not a platform for the faint of heart. Criticize Apple all you want, but the one thing that they provide with their iOS devices (which they no doubt honed from years of similar "snobbery" on the Mac side) is a reasonable sense of cohesion and a reasonable chance that the latest updates will in fact work perfectly fine on your existing device. The downsides of a "walled garden" or not, there is nothing resembling reasonable standardization on the Android side, with some phones getting OS updates and some not, and some phones running, say, the latest games well, and others not.

Of course, the Android platform has many advantages and you would think an avowed tech geek such as myself would favor such an open and flexible platform since I've favored PC's for years over Mac's, but for me, phones, and, yes, tablets, are different beasts. I want them, like my videogame consoles, to just work, with minimal fuss. I don't think it's too much to ask that if I buy an Android device today, that I'll be guaranteed all future updates within a reasonable timeframe after they're available, and that all software will be compatible for a reasonable number of years before I upgrade again. Add to the fact that Android has not adapted well to being directly ported from phones to tablets, and there's no telling if Honeycomb (which IS far more optimized for tablets) will resolve any of the standardization issues, and you can't help but think that Apple's potshot may hold true for quite a bit longer.

Believe me, as a recent Google Chrome convert, I'd love nothing more than to get a Honeycomb tablet as a nice contrast to my iPhone 4, but I have a feeling that for better or worse, my phone will have an oversized i-buddy instead. Hope I'm wrong...

So, what are your thoughts on all of this? Sound off in the comments!

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The Great PC Software Inventory Experiment - How much crap can one computer handle?

For the purposes of my own sanity, I decided to do a software inventory of both of my active systems, one an HP TouchSmart PC that is my main computer at home, and the other a Sager laptop, that I use as my primary PC gaming system. I had previously only been keeping track of what I've been installing on the Sager laptop because I wanted to keep track of what games I had installed at any one time (since PC gaming likes to make itself difficult with putting this and that in various folders and being available via various services and what-not) so I had a fighting chance of actually remembering to play them. Anyway, I decided that that same concept should apply to my main computer, since I was burying myself under a sea of apps that I would surely forget I had over time and would therefore never get to use. The results of my inventory were rather sobering in that it's remarkable the amount of junk and redundancy that is accrued over time.

It is with the above in mind that I provide the inventory below not as something to boast about or specifically discuss, but as a sobering testament to how easy it is to overwhelm yourself with software, even on a computer that's not especially old (in fact, as of this writing, only about 14 months into my ownership). [By all means, though, use the comments to this blog post to relate your own stories, because I'd love to hear them.] The list below - along with the accompanying data - represents about 186GB of information on my hard drive:

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Interviewed on The Static Hour with Don Kurtz!

I just finished my live appearance on Don Kurtz's The Static Hour. Give the replay a listen. On his show, we talk about all sorts of things, including the Jets (they won!), videogames, computers, fitness, and family. Don has previously interviewed all sorts of other people, including porn stars, musicians, and our very own, Matt Barton. It's an honor to be included in such a diverse interview pool...

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