Overdue Update

What a slacker I've been with this blog. I've gotta learn to post more often. A lot has been going on over the last week. I've been named project manager for a new project at work, which is exciting and stressful at the same time. I'm sure I can handle it, but my guts are churning a little bit anyway. To add flames to the fire, I have a final exam tomorrow night in Econ, as well as a final group paper and group presentation to do. The paper is ready, and our group met today to put the final touches on our presentation. Just before the meeting Jenn and I dropped into H.H. Gregg to get a new dishwasher. We found a fairly inexpensive Maytag model that was in stock and will be installed tomorrow. We're leaving all of the dishes on the counter to make a big test for the new washer :-)

Probably the most exciting part of the week was Corbin's birthday party. We had a bunch of our family in for a day to celebrate Corbin being a one-year-old. Time has really flown by, I can't believe our little boy is already one! He is so amazing. He can walk, babble, figure out things, and he is a pro at copy-catting anything I do. If I turn on the TV, he practices hitting that button to turn the TV on and off. If I use the remote or the keyboard, he is right there too. If I dunk a cookie in milk, he tries to push his food through the lid of the sippy cup. It is really fascinating the way he watches what we do, and then immediately tries to mimic it. His birthday party was a lot of fun, and we got to see a bunch of our family that we haven't had a chance to see over the last year. Corbin was on very good behavior, even without a nap! He did a great job of scarfing up some of his cake, and he tore through his presents. He got some pretty cool stuff too! A moose sleeping bag, a Weebles firetruck, a cool growth chart with his name on it, and a lot more. Thanks to everyone who came and celebrated with us!

I've also been playing throughout the week with reworking the PC that runs the arcade. As I mentioned in previous posts, I was dabbling with Suse Linux for a while in a virtual machine session. I decided to go ahead and take the plunge and reformatted the hard drive on the Arcade PC. I reinstalled the CD-ROM drive, installed the second video card, and installed the USB card. I also moved the case out of the cabinet so I could work with it more easily, as well as to hook it up to the KVM and new network router. The first time I loaded a new OS on the machine, I tried Mandrake Linux. It is currently the most popular distribution of Linux for its ease of use and nice features. It worked really well, but the Arcade PC is so old and crusty that it just couldn't handle all of the nice extra features of that distribution. So I started digging some more. I was going to load Beatrix Linux on there, but the PC BIOS does not support booting from the CD-ROM, and getting a boot floppy ready for Beatrix was going to be a real pain. Then I found Damn Small Linux. This version of linux is intended for business card CDs, which are really tiny CDs that look like business cards and can hold about 100MB of data. The whole distribution is less than 50MB, which means you can load it on most USB drives and boot from that. Not only is it small, but it doesn't need much memory or CPU speed either. That was perfect for the arcade PC, which is going on 10 years of age now. Over the years I had upgraded it to 96MB of memory, a 400MHz AMD-K6 CPU, and 4GB of hard drive space. Still, the front side bus on the PC is incredibly slow, and the whole thing just barely cranks along. Damn Small Linux was perfect for running such an tired old machine.

Even though Damn Small Linux (DSL) is intended to run from a bootable CD, the website described how to boot and install from a floppy disk as well. I got the install done (very quickly to my surprise) and was rolling within an hour. After getting DSL installed to the hard drive, I used the software install tool to find a version of MAME (the software used to run the Arcade games) and ZSNES (the super nintendo emulator). Now the arcade is back up and running and better than ever. I still need to tweak it so MAME can run full screen, but the ZSNES emulator works very well, and full screen too. An added bonus is the XMMS music system, which allows me to play streaming music from web radio stations. I'm sure I could have done that with the old Windows 98 install that the Arcade PC ran before, but XMMS came preinstalled on the DSL distribution.

So it's been a pretty busy week. Tomorrow we will get our new dishwasher and enjoy the wonders of modern technology again. I think my twiddling with the arcade PC is done for a while, except maybe to get MAME to run full-screen. I think that all that I can do now for that machine is to simply chuck it and get a faster PC to run the arcade. That will have to wait though, as there are other, higher priority items on our budget list right now. So I apologize for the long wait on this update. For now, I will retire to my La-Z-boy recliner with my bottle of Sam Adams Light in hand to play some Metroid Prime 2. Have a good night!


Jade Mason