This is a mostly useless blathering but since I got a good laugh out of it, I wanted to index this bit of fun and share it because that is what you do, right? Share nonsense on the Internet? Isn’t that why they invented the thing?
I was watching “Adrian’s Digital Basement” on YouTube and caught site of a device that had a repeating Rickroll animation. At first, I couldn’t remember what it was called and nearly hurt my thinking muscle in trying to remember it. After a bit of searching, I found a YouTube video of the actual music video of the “RickRoll”. So then I thought, I wonder if someone made this to run in the terminal. Sure enough, that is a thing.
Here is my warning and disclaimer, don’t ever copy some random text from the internet into a terminal and just run it. That is not in any way a good idea. Since I do lots of things that aren’t good ideas, I have done this and from what I can tell, it hasn’t destroyed my system.
To view a pixelated Rickroll in the terminal run this command:
The obfuscation of the URL will aid in the process of “Rickrolling” your buddy… in the terminal.
As the GitHub site suggests, you could turn it into a script and further hide your true intentions when helping someone else out. Oh the fun that could be hand by wearing out a joke that was never that funny to begin with.
I totally realize that the “funny” of the Rickroll has long since passed on but this still gives me a chuckle and someday, someday, you can use it again on an unsuspecting technological enthusiast. I can think of all kinds of ways to shoe horn it in to the next time I give someone some advice.
In the spirit of using this site as my public facing notebook. I sharing with you and future me, what might be, the most beautiful terminal based weather forecast application wttr.in. Rather than babble endlessly about all my reasons for my love for the terminal, I am going to link you here to my Tmux blathering.
There is nothing to install, unless you don’t have curl but that is pretty standard fare on a modern Linux distribution. If you do not have curl, please consult your distribution instructions on getting it installed as with openSUSE it is there automatically.
I also want to note, most people, normal people, will just glance at their phone and be done with it. I, however, am not most normal people as the mobile form factor is not my favorite place to do anything.
The easiest way to view this weather information can be done just by navigating to the the website which will display the information in your browser. This is not personally interesting to me but possibly the best options available for viewing the weather.
The more fun way to view the weather is right there in the terminal. Open you favorite terminal emulator or drop down into a TTY and it works.
This is all you have to do and it will just give you weather information.
It will use your IP to get the weather near you. For most people, this will probably be good enough.
For those that use a VPN may find that this doesn’t work for them. In this case you will have to specify the specific location where you want the weather forecast. Spectacularly, you can use the city name or the postal code. For example
works just as well as
Something of note, cities in the USA or across the world are not exactly unique. If I wanted the weather of Portage, MI and just typed
I would get Portage, Indiana, presumably because it may be geographically closer to my location than Portage, Michigan. To be more specific, the appropriate syntax is this:
WTTR.in is set to default to your regional unit format but this can be over ridden. This can be done with adding ?u for USCS used in the United States or ?m for the rest of the world. An example of how that would be used to get metric in the United States.
What is very cool about this, up to date weather information is readily available to any computer with a terminal, internet connection and curl which is what makes this very interesting and useful to me. It is a service that does not limit or wall off anything. It is there to be used.
I am only scratching the very surface of this incredibly versatile terminal weather application. It should be noted that because it is a terminal application and is extensible, you can very much make it more than just a basic text-based output. For my purposes, today, this is all I want but with a little imagination, marvelous things can be done with it.
This small blathering is very much for me, as I do recall this application from years back but have since forgotten the details about it. In my not so recent searching for terminal weather applications didn’t present this information so this is my gift to you and future me.
The 20th cookie sized podcast, but not one of those oatmeal raisin type of cookies, more like something with chocolate chips.
Chinese food containers are a feat of clever engineering. Most people just toss them in the bin once they are done with them but if you stop to look at how they are folded together from wax coated paper, you have to smile and marvel at the ingenuity of this clever, nesting box.
The Element client makes using Matrix quite enjoyable. Previously, using Matrix was a bit of a lack-luster, almost a science experiment kind of feel to it. Sure, it worked but it didn’t have the polish and great user experience I have using Telegram. I can say, with much confidence, using Element feels like a real product. It feels just as good as any other messaging client. It is still early days for me so it’s still all new and exciting.
A component of the Linux kernel for the Amiga Fast File system had been broken that deals with the basic permission bits, protection bits in Amiga OS. The Linux Kernel would only set bits but never delete them.
Max Staudt is the developer that noted this issue and submitted a fix “for good” such that this won’t be an issue in the Linux Kernel any more. He said, “…Linux a nd classic AmigaOS can coexist in the most peaceful manner.”
Linus Torvalds appears to have agreed and the code made it into rc4 of version 5.9 which is slated to be release this month, October 2020.
This is great news for those of us that are vintage tech enthusiasts.
I was in a situation where I was away from home for an extended period of time. As a result I was separated from my old tech which means authentic hardware to do the more retro style of gaming that I enjoy. While away, I had a hankering for some GameBoy fun to unwind at the end of the day. The application I found, which I ultimately installed from the Snap Store was VisualBoy Advance. The big take away on why this is a great application for playing GameBoy and GameBoy Advance games is the ease of use and how highly configurable it is.
Power outage left me with a computer where the LED on the side would show activity but there wasn’t even a flicker on the screen itself. It was out, completely black, no light whatsoever.
Ultimately the issue came to a faulty power supply which tells me that I need to take the time to put in some sort of UPS to protect it in the future. This isn’t the first time I have had issues with this computer as a result of power fluctuations.
No Linux for 10 Days
In my time away from my normal life, I was in a situation where I was without Linux for almost two weeks. I hear of people that consider time away from tech as being “refreshing”. I wouldn’t consider that the case at all but it was enlightening. Using “analog” methods for recording information is super inefficient but it did force me to work on my hand writing as it is atrocious.
Secondly, having to use Windows 10 to do “digital work” was so frustrating, I will say, the points of frustration were not all the fault of Windows 10 but it did make me greatly despise using tech. It confirmed that if Linux went away and I was forced to use Windows 10, I just wouldn’t.
There was a discussion about the perfect distribution that dominated the majority of the the conversation. I can easily say that openSUSE fits as the perfect distribution. There isn’t much I would change about it. The only thing I can think is a little polish in Tumbleweed as such that it becomes real easy to do distribution updates, preferably, using Zypper.
openSUSE + LibreOffice Conference
Going on now is the openSUSE + LibreOffice virtual conference. There is one day left but you have to register before participating as to keep out spammers. There are two virtual rooms where talks are given and a workshop room to hack on LibreOffice. Thinking about this, there is an element missing from the event. There isn’t a virtual hall way to get lost in and have random conversations about of topic subjects. Maybe Next time?
It’s nice to see that virtual conferences are still happening. Just because the world has hit a rather large bump, not all the wheels have fallen of of the wagon.
openSUSE is a project that has many parts to it and with the very lively and thriving community, some things can become untidy. The project has multiple distributions, although Leap and Tumbleweed get more of the mind share, things can become a bit overwhelming for someone new to start poking around the openSUSE spaces.
This is why a group of volunteers have taken up the task of improving the learning experience for users regardless of their experience level. We want to make sure that new users can best identify solutions for their requirements and experienced users have the detailed documentation that is easy to access and update.
Any help is welcome for writing, editing, peer-reviewing, video production and testing.
Massive Parallel architectures was the key feature of these massive super computers. It is interesting to see that the super computer technology of this time is essentially the architecture that would later be adopted by the average home computer, to include your mobile device.
These computers were rated at over 100 million calculations per second. I wanted to get some kind of a baseline comparison to a modern Threadripper but getting actual “calculations per second” isn’t a thing with modern benchmarks. I would be interested in see how one of the old Cray super computers of the mid-1980s would compare to the average gaming desktop computer of today. It’s worth a wonder.
Parallel processing was a big thing with these super computers but the rate of improvement had slowed down and the discussion boiled down to the next breakthrough coming in changing the way things are done and different algorithms to take advantage of greater speed increases.
It was initially by government grants that breakthroughs in super computers came about and once better understanding and more applications were developed for the super computer did the commercial applications jump on board to better simulate a 3D world for testing such as the automotive and oil industry. Ultimately, making the process of being profitable much quicker.
Barriers at the time is building better algorithms to map on a computer’s architecture while at the same time, modifying the architectures to work with the algorithms. There was such a massive number of changes and experimentation in this time. The US and Japanese manufacturers were competing against each other at the super computer level. Both governments investing in the private sector to help with R&D costs. Really a spectacular time in the history of computing.
Take some time to appreciate some of the marvels around you. Even something as ubiquitous as a to-go container has an incredible story behind it. Someone or many someones spent many hours engineering the shape and the design of the thing as well as the many hours or perhaps years it took to perfect the manufacturing process. We often take for granted the wonderful luxuries we have.
The Commodore 64 was my first computer and there is something about the classic, beige bread-bin shape that brings a kind of retro-excitement. I have many fond childhood memories of flicking the switch on the side of the case where I was greeted with that “Ready” prompt and the blinking cursor on the light gray field… You see, I had a 13 inch, wood grain black and white TV that I mostly used with this fine machine. Only on special occasions did I get to enjoy it full color on the family TV in the living room. When I did though, that blue screen would fill the room with near endless possibilities of electric joy and hours of entertainment. There hasn’t ever really been an experience quite as exhilarating, as a child then when I learned how to input those load commands and hear the 1541 disk drive come to life with the warm sound of heads seeking over the spinning disk. To this day, when I use that disk drive, it takes me back to those bleak winder days where I would cozy up to hot cocoa and Commodore 64 delight.
Although, today, I do keep a real Commodore 64 running and use it from time to time, often wish there was a modernized version of that bread-bin shell so that I could enjoy a flavor of computer goodness performing “modern” computational work loads. It almost came to pass, some years back as there was a project from Commodore USA where you could buy a computer that ran a modified version of Linux to look and feel a bit like the Commodore 64. I searched far and wide to get one of these cases to build myself a modern computer in the style of the Commodore 64. Why? Mostly… just because of the smiles that the computer brought me and the smiles I would like to continue to have, day in and day out.
As it goes, a few days ago Matt, one of my co-hosts on DLN Xtend send me this link where I was greeted with what what I assumed would remain unobtainable and I nearly fell out of my chair in excitement. It appears that an industrious entrepreneur from the UK managed to acquire the website, molds and some stock from the now defunct CommodoreUSA and is offering the sale of Commodore 64 styled enclosures.
The long term plan for My Retro Computer is to sell complete systems but the short term is to sell cases, presumably to build up some capital and take the next step. The Commodore OS that was developed by CommodoreUSA is available for download. I am not really interested in this as my it is now pretty far out of date and I much prefer to shoe-horn openSUSE on all my computer things.
I am not going to make this an exhaustive list of every feature of this retro case. I want to keep this short and not an endless blathering of my excitement. There are three key features of this machine, as I see it:
The retro styled case. I can see this as being the natural progression of the original Commodore 64 bread-bin case. The same basic shape but taking into account modern hardware and in this case, taking a mini-ITX motherboard, a slot for optical media on the left side and the right side having a multi-format SD card reader.
It comes with the keyboard that is a low noise, USB, mechanical, Cherry Switch keyboard. Just based on the description, this isn’t an inexpensive keyboard. Cherry Switches are well known by the keyboard enthusiasts and although I am not a keyboard snob, I do like a quality, modern keyboard and mechanical switches are known to last longer than many other variants. The fact that they took modern components and arranged them in such a fashion that removes the annoyance of the cursor keys and gives you a full 12 Function keys along the top is very welcoming.
Prominently displayed on the key features section on the MyRetroComputer.com site, it boasts Linux compatibility (with other things that are far less cool). Although this goes without saying, since it is nothing more than a case with accommodations for standard components, what it does mean is that this computer is “future proof.” That means, I can build it, and rebuilt it again as the component standards are essentially used in perpetuity. Standards may not be fun on the surface, but they can make for so much fun in other aspects in the sense of unleashing creativity.
What I would Do With It
I have thought a lot about setting up a workstation that would generally stay put in my “SuperCubicle.” separate from my AMD system I recently assembled. This would be a fairly low cost build and I would use the monitor I already have in place. I envision this machine to be more of a production machine that would be set up for recording, graphic design, etc. That would free up my laptop to do more mobile tasks. I would call it my “anchor system” as it were and it would fit my enthusiasm for vintage tech and my almost unhealthy obsession with openSUSE Linux all in the same package.
Pricing It Out
Obviously, there are cheaper ways to accomplish this that are probably more pragmatic but the joys in life are not all pragmatic at all. For instance, my Linux powered festive lights is not really practical at all from a certain perspective but it brings me a lot of joy, all year. In a similar fashion, this would bring daily fun to my desktop experience. It wouldn’t be the exact childhood experience with all the same warm sounds but it would be some of the feel along with the modern conveniences. I decided to do some digging and estimate what it would cost me to build my ultimate retro-modern computer.
The case is about $250. On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a good deal but when put into perspective, it’s not so bad. A Cherry switch keyboard can range from $40 to $200 depending on the grade of switches. This is also a very custom layout with only the switches themselves being off the shelf. The rest of this is very custom. Even if we are going mid-grade here, but taking into account the very custom nature of this layout, lets say this is an $100 keyboard. Maybe it is a little on the low side, I don’t really know for sure. Take that into account that would make the case about $150 and that, to me, is reasonable, considering the niche nature of it.
Doing some searching, and I haven’t actually decided on a board yet. Just some quick searching, there are some gaming mother boards that are not so expensive, even some kits out there but I don’t see how I would be able to add a graphics card to this setup, so I would certainly get an AMD motherboard to take advantage of the power of the Ryzen processors with . between $60 and $80 that would fit the bill quite nicely and give me a lot of use out of it.
Since I am going with an AMD based system, so long as there is the room for a decent cooler, I am currently interested in a Ryzen 5 3400G with the RX Vega 11 integrated graphics. It should be at least 50% faster than my Dell Latitude E6440 with the i7-4900MQ. Practically speaking even better considering the cooling limitations of the laptop form factor. I am looking at about a $160 price point here.
I wouldn’t go with, at a minimum 32 GiB of RAM and I am estimating about $120 for two 16 GiB sticks of SDRAM. I would probably just get 2 sticks and leave the other two open to double the memory down the road.
I would get a 40mm case fan and some kind which would cost around $6. The CPU cooler would have to be low profile enough to fit in this case and the options I have seen are in the price range of about $50, depending on the design.
Here is where I am uncertain the implementation of the power supply. Looking at the case, it almost appears that the power supply is expected to be external. The cost for internal power supplies are around $50 but here I need to do a little more research.
This is kind of a no-brainer as I will of course use openSUSE Tumbleweed running the Plasma Desktop. There really isn’t another choice. I would have access to all my retro system emulators and productivity software so it would just, frankly be perfect for my use case. The reality is, just about any Linux distribution would be great
This Commodore 64 retro computer case plus openSUSE Linux with a little mix of DIY is a perfect mixture of Linux and vintage tech enthusiasm with a dash of my almost unhealthy obsession of openSUSE Linux. It just all comes together here.
I have often heard from some people that standards aren’t fun or standards restrict too much. I think this idea is rather absurd as it is the “restriction” of standards that give us the framework to support the freedom to create new and interesting things. Everything from this “Modern” Commodore 64 case to house standard components is cost effective because of the standard interfaces. I think we can see evidence of this everywhere. This can be everything from programming languages to graphical widget toolkits. Not to say that standards need to be static but having a solid foundation from which to build allows for wonderful and interesting creations. The Commodore 64 Retro Case is just one example of it.
System failures are not always what you think they might be and had I known what the failure was, I would have saved a lot of time of fiddling around. This is a memo to future me and perhaps a cautionary tale for your future technology adventures. In short, I could have saved a lot of time had I known that my black screen failure was caused by a faulty power supply.
The Rest of the Story
Computer problems are rather rare for me these days. Sure, things go out like Hard Drives but I use monitoring tools catch that before it happens. I am not a fan of reactive fixes. Waking up one morning observing clocks reset and a computer not turning on, I thought this was going to be a tedious process where I ultimately will end up replacing the whole computer because that is how it generally goes.
Doing some research online informed me that possible causes were bad RAM, Corrupted BIOS where the fix would be removal of CMOS battery and a failed hard drive. That meant, it was time to take the computer off of the VESA mount, which is always a chore because it should be a two person job and there isn’t another person in my house to help me with such things. Using my trusty DeWalt drill driver and supporting the bottom of the computer with my shoulder, I removed the four screws, managing to not drop any down the drain.
I placed the computer, screen down, on a towel and carefully pried the back panel off, which is held on with several clips. Once the back cover was removed removed the metal door that hid away the memory and one of the modules. Historically, computer failures have been as a result of bad RAM so this is typically an easy, albeit a bit on the expensive side, fix.
I removed the first SODIMM module and since I was too lazy to climb up and retrieve the power supply, I used one of my 120 Watt power supplies that isn’t often used, generally on some kind of reserve duty. Upon plugging it in, to my surprise, the computer came to life. Screen and everything. I was given a warning about the change in RAM so I shut it down, and thought I would try replacing the module. Sure enough, it came right back to life.
As it turned out, it looks like the power supply was the culprit of the black screen. I find it somewhat puzzling as the indicator and fans spun up with the bad power supply, just no monitor. It was a serendipitous accident that I discovered the power supply to be at fault. There is probably a lesson in there someplace.
I put everything back together and performed the necessary acrobatics to get the computer back on the VESA mount. I am grateful, in my moment of triumph, that I didn’t drop the computer in the sink fastening the mount to the back of the computer. It is unfortunate that VESA capable All-in-one computers are not very common. I see a lot of utility in such things but perhaps that application is less common and therefore the current designs reflect that fact.
After about an or so of dorking around with this machine. I was able to enjoy my openSUSE creature comfort in my kitchen once again. Linux belongs in the kitchen and openSUSE makes Linux a great experience.
Something that I often don’t think about and I don’t know the reason why, is that power supplies fail. The results of their failures can manifest in different ways. I have had laptop power supplies start whining but still work for a period of time, some power supplies stop reporting to the computer how much power can be drawn and the computer will stop using it (annoying). This time, the computer turned partially on, omitting the activation of the screen. I now wonder if this failure is the typical failure these types of power supplies have as this All-In-One uses the same power supply as many Dell Laptops to include my E6440. I now want to investigate this failure mode…
It is quite possible that there was just enough of a power surge in the power outage that killed an already compromised power supply. There is no way to know for sure. Ultimately, it would be nice to have a UPS or perhaps a battery back up on that circuit. Neither options are inexpensive. One step further, I do see utility, more and more, in whole home power backup solutions.
I came upon a situation where I was not able to play any of my Gameboy games when away from home. I stumbled upon a rather fantastic solution that really needs to be shared with the Linux world. An emulator called VisualBoy Advanced.
Since I lean towards my Linux distribution preference of openSUSE, I will give you the best option that I discovered for me on this. You can clone the git repository to run it all from your user account quite easily. That works but little things like menu entry and theme integration doesn’t happen. What works better is to install the Snap Package from the Snap Store.
The next step will be to install it, which can be done quite easily using the terminal. One caveat, it looks like application is still in the beta and edge channels only at the time of writing. Should you come upon this article months down the road, try this first.
sudo snap install visualboyadvance-m
If you would prefer to “live on the edge” give this a spin to use the “edge channel”
sudo snap install --edge visualboyadvance-m
After a few moments, the installation is complete and there is a brand new entry in your menu and you are off to the races. The one unfortunate bit of the application is that there isn’t a splash screen or background element showing off the retro goodness of this application.
Perhaps that is coming later. Regardless, it is not like you are going to stare at the black screen in disappointment as you didn’t install this application for the splash screen, you installed this to play your games on Linux.
My immediate reaction is, this application is well laid out, intuitive and straight forward to use. It required almost no configuration for me to use this and that makes me incredibly happy. Aside from setting my input and one other preference, I was ready to play some nearly 30 year old games.
Since my situation was that I didn’t have access to any game pads, I had to set this up for my keyboard. It took a bit of thinking as to how I wanted to make this work so that my hands could rest in a natural location so I thought about it and decided I wanted to use the arrow keys for direction and my left hand on the home row for the button input. Since the game I chose to play is Start and Select Heavy, I put those on the home row too. To set up the input, it is as easy as navigating to…
Options > Input > Configure…
I haven’t played with any of the multiple player inputs and will likely explore and review those functions as well as I can see some interesting game play, perhaps. I did no other configuration modifications as the defaults worked perfectly for my system.
The only other tweak I made was to not pause the game when the window was inactive. I see the utility in that being the default but I didn’t want to roll that way. To make the change, I selected the radio button here:
Emulation > Pause When Inactive
The main reason for this is that it annoyed me when it would pause as I responded to a Telegram message or browse a “hint” site for what to do next… some might call that cheating.
I haven’t played a whole lot of games. There were just a few that I played with my kids and since Pokémon is the popular thing in my house, Pokémon Red was the game played the most. There is quite literally no glitching.
What is quite neat about this emulator is the options for how you consume your Gameboy content. My preference is the Super Game Boy that has the boarder decoration you would enjoy when playing the game on your Super Nintendo.
What is real nice is that the display will scale up to whatever size you make the window. It probably makes more sense to get rid of the boarder so you can really see the giant pixels in full HD on your modern screen.
This can be done by going into Options > Game Boy > Configure…
Select the Drop down next to Display borders and select Never to make them disappear.
Some games that I did enjoy playing in my short time was “Super Mario Land” and “Legend of Zelda – Links Awakening.”
The issue I did have with VisualBoyAdvance was using game pads. I would think that it should work without issue but that doesn’t seem to be the case. My work around was to set up AntiMicro to send keyboard commands to it which was a fine work around. I also want to note that the issue with the game pad issue doesn’t work if you build it yourself.
Something that is fun, mostly just for novelty sake, is playing with the colors. I am going to go ahead and say, this is to tickle your particular flavor of nostalgia. My preference is the Real ‘GB on GBASP’ Colors. I think this is the most enjoyable color pallet.
If you prefer the Original green LCD look. That is an option as well.
And if you would like to choose your personal pallet, that is an option as well.
I didn’t fuss much with these color options much as I prefer the Super Game Boy look and feel. That tends to tickle my nostalgia the most.
What I Like
This is a straight forward emulator for playing Game Boy games. There are really only a hand full of games that I truly enjoyed and I mostly play them on actual hardware but there are times when it just isn’t practical.
The display scaling with the window makes playing the games quite nice. There have been some emulators in my years past that do not scale the display and makes for a lack-luster experience.
Installing via Snap is rather nice. A quick command or click if you prefer that, and you are off to the races. It just feels like a solid experience from top to bottom.
What I Don’t Like
Nothing, there is absolutely nothing I don’t like about it. It is, quite literally a perfect emulator to play the old classics on a modern day Linux machine.
I would suggest some improvements to decrease the angle of that learning curve. Not a huge deal for those that have been playing around with emulators, but a start screen that guides you would be nice.
VisualBoy Advance is a pretty fantastic emulator. If you have an itch for some Gameboy fun and need to scratch it, this is absolutely my preference. Though, I must say, using actual hardware is probably more fun it can be less pragmatic. VisualBoy Advance is a next best method for playing these games and, bonus, on a larger screen!