I managed to mess up the files in my original XBOX’s C: drive. The XBOX would boot to this error:

According to the Internet there should have been an error code in the top corner to tell me what was going on.  I did a good enough job on it I wasn’t getting any error at all.

I had a backup of my XBOX’s drive and eeprom. What I needed to do was get access to the C: drive so I could copy over the backed up files. My first thought was to boot off of a DVD and FTP the files over. I tried Slayers and Hexen, neither would boot. Seems the XBOX needs something on the C: drive to be able to boot a DVD.

My next plan was to plug the drive into a PC. There were a few problems with that. I didn’t have anything with an IDE interface like the XBOX’s drive uses. The drive is locked to the XBOX, meaning I would have to unlock it to use it on another computer. The XBOX’s drive uses the FATX file system and I didn’t think anything supported that.

The first problem was solved by a USB to IDE adapter. I ordered a Vantec CB-ISATAU2 SATA/IDE. It also supports SATA drives. It’s pretty nice.

The second problem is solved by xboxhdm23usb. Among many other useful things, it will lock and unlock drives.

The third problem was solved by Xplorer360. It will allow you to copy to/from the FATX file system.

Here is what I did:

  1. Removed the hard drive from the XBOX.
  2. Changed jumper on the drive from master with slave to single/master.
  3. Plugged the drive into the USB adapter and plugged it into my PC.
  4. Placed my eeprom backup in the same folder as xboxhdm23usb.
  5. Used xboxhdm23usb to unlock the drive.
  6. Opened Xplorer360 and use it to copy in your backup.
  7. Locked the drive
  8. Put the jumper on the drive back to master with slave.
  9. Put the XBOX back together.

Some gotchas that I ran into:

The USB adapter was very flaky when connected to the front USB ports on my computer. It would only get recognized half the time and when recognized would sometimes just drop out. It worked fine when connected to the rear USB ports. This is the only device I’ve ever hard problems with on my front ports. The front ports are USB 2.0 while the rear ports are 3.0, maybe the problem, maybe not.

Don’t forget to lock the drive when you are done. I had it my head the drive starts locked and you have to unlock it to use  it, that is not right. The drive is unlocked until locked and then locked until unlocked.

In the end it worked out for me and my XBOX is working properly again.

 

What follows are some very brief thoughts that are not worthy of an entire article.

I have owned a GPD XD for about a year now. It is by far the best handheld emulation device I’ve used. It plays the fifth generation consoles (PlayStation, N64) very well. Since it has a built in stand via the controller it also makes for an excellent device for watching movies during flights or lying in bed.

Hipsters have the market for buying old consoles all messed up. Everything is much more expensive than it should be. If you’re dead set on collecting you are going to spend some money, if you just want to play some games:

  • A Raspberry Pi 3 plays everything up to the fifth generations of consoles well. PlayStation support is excellent, N64 support is very bad. A Pi 3 and a PS4 controller makes for a very nice couch experience. Run RetroPie, its the easiest way to go.
  • A Nintendo DS will play GBA games. A Nintendo DS also costs a lot less than a GBA.
  • A 3DS can play DS games. A modded New 3DS can play GBA, SNES, GEN, Gameboy, NES, and more very well.
  • Nothing can emulate an original XBOX. Spend some money and get one that is pre-modded. TSOP is preferred since it makes it easy to change the hard drive.
  • A modded PS3 will play PSX, PS2, PSP, and PS3 games.
  • A modded Wii-U will play Wii-U and Wii.
  • A modded Wii will play Wii and GameCube.
  • You can buy pre-modded consoles on Ebay for not much more than a non-modded one.
  • If your PC is within 50 feet of your TV, a long HDMI cable and a PS4 or XBOX One controller will turn it into a great couch gaming ‘console’. If you also have a wireless keyboard and a mouse you’re in for good times.

A PSP is a fun handheld. Compared to it’s rival the Nintendo DS, its more powerful, the games look better, and they are arguably more adult orientated.

As a long time PSP owner here is my impression of its emulation quality.

NES: Great
Gameboy: Great
Gameboy Advance: Good
Genesis: Poor. Lots of slowdowns. Sound is laggy or doesn’t sound right.
SNES: Poor. Lots of slowdowns. Sound is laggy or doesn’t sound right.
N64: Nope
Playstation/PSX: Great, if not close to perfect. The PSX emulator on the PSP was written by Sony. The quality is outstanding.
NDS: Nope
GameCube and above: Nope

I see a lot of recommendations online to use a PSP as a cheap SNES emulator handheld. Don’t fall for that. The SNES emulation is bad. It’s so bad I don’t even keep the emulators or ROMs on my PSP. I have never played through a game. I couldn’t even make it through the first level of Contra 3 because the sound of my gun was so high pitched it was annoying me.

If you want to play some PSP or PSX games, definitely get it. You’ll never go wrong playing a game on the original hardware it was designed for. PSX emulation is great, in my opinion it’s better than the PC emulators.

The biggest downside to a PSP is the battery. Batteries don’t age well and the PSP is getting old. Official replacement batteries from Sony don’t exist. Aftermarket batteries are horror stories (check out some Amazon reviews). Most people either stay plugged in all of the time or use an external battery like you would use to charge your phone in an emergency. I read an article of one guy who removed the UMD drive and soldered in two NDS batteries in their place. I’m lucky enough that my battery is in good shape, but when the time comes for a new one I’m a bit worried.

 

gameprince

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The RS-1 Game Prince is a handheld NES on a chip console with a 2.5 inch back lit LCD.

The Hardware

The Game Prince feels pretty sturdy. I was expecting it to be made of cheap plastic, but not so much. The console’s case is contoured so that it sits in your hand well. It runs on three AAA batteries. There is a headphone jack and volume slider. There is no cartridge slot for games as they are all built in.

The buttons and their layout get interesting. It has a PlayStation style D-PAD. There is no Select button. The A and B buttons are reversed. There is a turbo button you can use to assign a turbo function to A or B. There is a Reset button that allows you to reboot the device, essentially exiting a game and getting back to the game selection menu.

The lack of the select button isn’t a big deal. None of the included games rely on it.

The A and B buttons reversed is an odd thing. It really tripped me up at first, but then I got used to it. It’s not ideal, but it is workable.

The batteries last a long time. I’ve owned my Game Prince (or is it an RS-1?) for about three months now. After about 15 hours of play time I’ve went through one set of batteries and I’m working through the second. There is no battery meter. The use of AAA batteries isn’t a big deal for me as I use rechargeable Ni-MH batteries.

The Games

The Game Prince is advertised as having 152 games built in. Like most NES on a chip systems, this is a stretch. The majority of the games are copies of each other with different names or a single level only. For instance, Hudson’s Adventure Island exists as a full game. Each of the levels for the Adventure Island are also playable as if they are complete games.

The games that are included are a decent mix of early NES titles. Super Mario Bros, Mario Bros, Contra, Mappy, Galaga, Gradius, and the like are well represented. There are no games present that use a battery save feature like the Legend of Zelda, again something typical of a NES on a chip system. There are about 25 actual games.

There are some neat variations of the games though, fast Super Mario Bros. is fun.

The games play very well. No emulation glitches as they games are running on essentially the original hardware they were written for. The sound out of the Game Prince’s speaker is good for what it is. The buttons are responsive.

I purchased my RS-1 Game Prince from AliExpress for $19. For that price it’s definitely worth it just as a bathroom diversion.

Other Thoughts

I’ve been fascinated with NES on a chip systems since the first ones shaped like a N64 controller started appearing around 2004.  Ben Heck turned one into a portable way back when.

The A and B buttons being reversed really seems like an unforgivable sin at first, but I got over it within a few minutes of playing.

Being cheap Chinese crap, the menus on the Game Prince are littered with grammar and translation issues. Prassing start to begin or playing Dongkey Kong always makes me smile.

Game Prince's poorly translated menu

The Woodi GBA and the Woodi GBA Micro are portable game consoles that do a fair job of replicating their Nintendo big brothers.

If you want to skip the reading, here is a video showing off both systems:

 

Woodi GBA
Woodi GBA

The Woodi GBA looks almost identical to a Nintendo Gameboy Advance. The biggest differences are a reset button above the B and A buttons and a micro USB port on the bottom right edge of the case. When you turn it on you’ll see that is has a back lit LED screen, much like a GBA SP or NDS. The screen is bright and looks really good. It has a rechargeable battery.  The battery lasts about five hours.

The Woodi GBA has 26 games built in. These games vary slightly based on the color of the Woodi GBA you buy. It has a cartridge slot for accepting other games. As near as I can tell the only game available is the Woodi 28-in-1 cartridge that came with it. Keeping count that is 26 games built in and 28 on the cartridge, a total of 54. The games are all from the Nintendo GBA. The cartridges and slot are very similar to the Nintendo GBA’s, but are not identical. Nintendo carts will not fit.

When I originally bought the Woodi GBA I was hoping it utilized a GBA on a chip. After playing the games I’m sure that it is actually emulating them. While the games normally play at full speed there are times when there are slow downs. The sound quality is what really makes me think the Woodi is emulating. The sound quality is bad, really bad. The sound plays slightly slower than it should.

I purchased my Woodi GBA for $32 on AliExpress. For that price it was worth it. It’s a nice system to keep in the can.

Woodi GBA Micro
Woodi GBA Micro

Pretty much everything I said about the Woodi GBA applies to the Woodi GBA Micro. There are a couple of exceptions to that: the micro uses three AAA batteries and it has no cartridge slot. The batteries last a seven hours or so. Opening up both systems, they have the same circuit board, just the screen, case, odds and ends are different.

The micro USB port is just for show. It doesn’t charge the system. Plugging it into a PC does nothing. Looking at the circuit board, it is not connected to anything.

The Woodi GBA Micro has 25 built in games. These games are all from the Nintendo GBA and the Nintendo NES. The NES games are definetly emulated. You can push the shoulder buttons at the same time to bring up a PocketNES menu while playing.

I purchased my Woodi GBA Micro from AliExpress for $30.

I like to travel with the Micro. It’s cheap enough that I’m not worried about losing or breaking it.

How do they play?

For being cheap Chinese crap, both systems feel reasonably well built. I’ve dropped my Micro a few times and it looks as good as new. The buttons on the Woodi GBA feel good, the buttons on the Micro feel oddly springy, but work well. Both systems are near identical to their Nintendo made counterparts so they both feel good in hand.

The game selection on both systems is very good. You really can’t go wrong with classic GBA games. The games play OK. I touched on the sound problems earlier. Both systems remind me of PC emulators from 7-8 years ago… the emulation isn’t quite accurate. You notice things like colors being off or the tone of a sound being just slightly weird. I know some people who would be driven nuts by this, for me though it isn’t a big deal.  The games are fun and the system plays them well enough that I’m able to enjoy it all. Normal game saves work, after three months of ownership it hasn’t lost one of my saves. There are no save states like you would find in emulators.

Would I choose the Woodi versions over the Nintendo originals? That’s a hard question to answer… on a purely price and utility standpoint, yes I would choose the Woodi systems. $30 gets you a backlit, rechargable, GBA Advance with 54 games (builtin even,  no carts to carry). I can overlook some wonky sound for that. As someone who grew up with Nintendo and could be considered a fan, no. These systems are bad and morally wrong.

Other Comments

AliExpress isn’t for the faint of heart. It took twenty-seven days from the time I ordered until I received my systems. The first time out both systems were broken, the seller promptly sent me another set, letting me keep the broken ones. The new systems arrived twenty-three days later in good shape. The whole process was just under two months.

The Woodi Micro using AAA batteries isn’t all that bad. I use rechargeable Ni-MH batteries.  They last a long time.

I was really curious whether the systems were emulated or GBAs on a chip. All of the chips on both systems are either covered in resin or have the identifiers scratched out.

On being cheap Chinese crap… the game lists are poorly translated. I get a kick out of Castle Asia of Sorrow every time I start it up. The USB charger the Woodi GBA comes with is identical to an iPhone charger. Short of missing the Apple branding there is no difference in the look.

Castle Asia of Sorrow

Update 1/21/2016

All of the problems mentioned in the review above started to get to me. What really put me over the edge was the video/audio/controller lag in some games. The fifth world in Kirby’s  Nightmare in Dreamland is all but unplayable between the wonky sound and control lag.

I purchased these systems because I thought the hardware would be interesting to play around with, the games were inconsequential. I found that I liked the games and played them a lot though, go figure. I ended up buying a Nintendo DS Lite. It’s backwards compatible with the GBA and of course plays NDS games too. The difference in quality between it and either of the Woodi systems in night and day. There is no aspect done better by the Woodi systems than the Nintendo DS.

Would I still recommend the Woodi systems? If you’ve got $30 to blow, yes. If nothing else they’re neat conversation pieces. If you’re interested in playing games start to finish, go with an actual GBA or a DS. My vote is for a DS since they are half the cost used as a GBA and can play DS games too. The hipsters have the GBA market messed up in my opinion,  it is overpriced.

Four months ago I leased a 2014 BMW i3 with a range extender. I currently have 2100 miles on the car.

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It’s an electric car, that’s just how it works

The car’s range will vary greatly depending on how you drive, what electronics you have on in the car, and the weather. It’s summer now and with the AC running I can go about 70 miles on the battery. Last month I didn’t have to run the AC so hard and I could do 85-90. I understand from other drivers that winter weather will decrease the range to 50-60 miles depending on how cold it is. At highway speeds (70+) range is about 60 miles. With a gas car, steady speed on the highway is your best fuel economy. With an electric with heavy regen braking like the i3, in the city hitting some stop lights is the best for battery economy.

Range anxiety… I was so worried about getting stranded that I paid $5K for the range extender; a motorcycle engine in the back of the car that will charge the battery giving an extra 50 or so miles of range. I’ve used it once. In a gas car having 30 miles of range left warrants an immediate stop at a gas station, in the i3 it’s all good. It’s a weird attitude to have.

You’ll need to install a 220V L2 charger in your garage. The L1 charger that comes with the car will charge it from empty in 18 hours. An L2 charger will charge from empty in four hours. Between the charger and the electrician this was an extra $500 expense.

The i3 is an around the town car. It’s not the best choice for a weekend trip to grandma’s house.

What I don’t like

In the four months I’ve owned the car it’s spent 18 days at the dealer being worked on. I’ve had trim pieces come loose, BMW Assist stopped working, the rear seat came loose,  a drive train malfunction warning/vehicle stall, and awful tire noise. BMW of Northwest Arkansas has been good about getting everything handled under warranty and keeping me in a loaner car. Even so, wondering if my car is a lemon tickled the back of my brain often.

The i3 has very aggressive regenerative braking, so much so that’s its not often the brakes are used. This means that when you do use the brakes it sounds like you’re braking in a car that hasn’t been driven in a year. Lots of grinding and some squeaks.

The car forgets settings. Every time you start the car the radio volume defaults back to just slightly too quiet. The zoom on the nav will sometimes default out. The driving mode always defaults to comfort.

With blue tooth audio playback there is no way to play/pause from the steering wheel or iDrive. This is a thing with every BMW I’ve driven. Edit 8/21/15: An anonymous person was kind enough to point out that pushing the ‘power’ button on the radio will pause Bluetooth. The left and right rocker switch on the far right of the shortcut buttons is a previous/next track button.

The trunk is pretty small. It doesn’t look that way but you’ll have a hard time fitting an entire cart of groceries into it. The rear seats fold down though, giving you a ton of room to work with. You get more road noise with the seats down so you can’t keep them that way all the time.

The front trunk, the frunk, is a joke. It’s smaller than a case of beer and not water proof. I put the L1 charger that came with the car in a ziploc back inside of the frunk. I opened it up the other day and there were some old leaves inside. This is a $50,000 car.

The beep when you lock the car via the key fob is ear piercing. It is really loud.

Things I didn’t like that I fixed

You’re able to change a lot of settings on BMWs by ‘coding’ them. You connect to the car’s on board computer and change some settings. I’ve increased the size of the fuel tank (yes really), enabled turning on the gas engine at will, and changed the keyfob to open the trunk instead of the frunk.

The car came with white carpet floor mats. They looked great until the first day it rained. I replaced them with some all weather mats.

What I like

It’s fast. I always win the zero to the speed limit stop light race. The throttle response is instant. Acceleration is smooth, no gears to change.

One pedal driving. With the regen braking all I do to stop is let off of the accelerator.

The i3 drives like a proper car. It’s hard for me to put into words exactly what that means. If you’ve driven a proper car before you know what I getting on about.

I like the design of the car inside and out. Some people say the outside looks dorky or that the inside looks like it was made by Ikea. I would agree with those people. I like the way it looks. There is a lot of room on the inside.

I like that I don’t have to stop at a gas station once a week. I don’t care about the environment so much as I care about not wasting the time to stop and gas up.

You can fit two rear facing car seats in the back without the driver and passenger having their knees touch the dash. You would be surprised at the cars you can’t do this in; pretty much anything that isn’t a mini-van or full size SUV.

TL;DR

I like my i3. It’s not perfect, but then again I’ve never seen a car that is. I’m happy with the purchase and I have a lot of fun driving it.

I’m a big fan of Limelight game streaming. It works remarkable well on my Galaxy Tab S and Amazon FireTV with a PS4 controller.

I had something of a revelation the last week. If you add an emulator as a Non-Steam Game to your Steam library, you can then stream the emulator over Limelight. I’ve tried Dolphin and PCSX2, and they both work well. At this point I’ve played through all of the cups at 100cc in Mario Kart Double Dash on my Tab S and I couldn’t be happier.

The prerequisites for the setup are out there, you need:

  • A PC capable of running the emulator(s).
  • That PC needs to be GFE compatible. (Basically a GeForce GTX 650 or higher graphics card. I use a GTX 760)
  • An Android device
  • A controller for the Android device. (My Tab S is rooted and I use a PS4 controller over Bluetooth)
  • A network connection between the Android device and PC of at least 30mbp/s. (My PC and Amazon FireTV is on a gig wired connection to the same AP/router my Tab S connects to via 5GHZ wifi)
  • The Limelight software installed on the Android device. (this part is free)
  • Steam installed on the PC with the emulator(s) added as Non-Steam Games.

At the time of this writing that’s about $700 worth of PC, a $50 controller, a $80 router/AP, and then whatever your Android device costs. Anywhere between ‘free’ for a phone and $500 for a nice tablet.

As an aside, you can also stream PC games. I play a lot of Borderlands 2 over Limelight, its great playing it on my big TV with surround sound in the living room or even playing in bed.

I’ve played a lot on my Tab S and an Amazon Fire TV. I also have the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Samsung Note 4 phones, I’ve loaded Limelight and played around for a few minutes, as far as that goes it works on those devices.

 Edit: For giggles I decide to give my Galaxy S3 a go and see how well it works. I played Left 4 Dead 2 for about an hour and a half. It was playable. The only issue I ever saw was that sometimes when there was a lot of things going on on screen the game would briefly stutter, losing maybe 1/4 second worth of frames. It mostly happened when a propane tank exploded. A bit annoying but nothing to make me stop playing.

ipega9023

 

The IPEGA 9023 is a bluetooth controller that allows you to mount a phone or tablet into it. The sides of the controller telescope out and then spring back in to grip what ever is in the center.

I bought my IPEGA 9023 for use with my Samsung Tab 10.5 tablet. I mentioned in my emulator review for it that I didn’t like the IPEGA because of button placement; turns out I was wrong about  that. It’s not the button placement I dislike, when you use the IPEGA 9023 with a device that’s heavy you (or at least I do) hold it in such a way that makes it uncomfortable. I figured this out while trying the IPEGA with a Samsung Galaxy S3. When using the smaller device the IPEGA works very well and I was happy with it.

Since then I’ve tried the IPEGA with an iPad Air and a LG G Tab 8.3. Both tablets fit into the IPEGA and are able to use it as a controller. Both tablets are heavy enough that I hold the IPEGA awkwardly and end up uncomfortable in a short period of time.

I’ve also tried the IPEGA with an iPhone 5s, Samsung Galaxy S3, and a Samsung Note 4. All three of those phones work really well with the IPEGA. I’m able to hold it comfortably for long periods of time.

Having your screen in the center of the controller does take a little getting use to though.

As a controller the IPEGA 9023 works well. Its definetly not on par with a PS3 or NVIDIA Shield controller, but it gets the job done. I’ve read some reviews online speaking about dead zones in the analog sticks, my controller either doesn’t suffer from this, or I’m not one to notice it.

All in all the IPEGA 9023 is a good solution to the problem of holding your phone and controller at the same time while playing games. Its not good for holding a tablet. Considering I bought it just for use with a tablet I’m a bit let down.

 

Samsung Tab S 10.5

NES: Great
Gameboy: Great
SNES: Great
Genesis: Great
Gameboy Advance: Great
N64: Good – the hardware is more than enough to run the games, the emulators available are the problem.
Playstation/PSX: Great
NDS: Great
GameCube and above: Poor – games are unplayable. (Emulator problem as much as a hardware problem)

I’ve had my Tab S 10.5 for about three weeks now. I bought it as a replacement for an iPad 3. It’s been rooted and all of the Samsung junk turned off. I use a PS3 controller via the Sixaxis app.

I’m very happy with the tablet as a tablet. As an emulator machine its really good. My only complaint is the same complaint I have with emulation on any tablet; how do you hold the tablet and the controller at the same time? I tried an Ipega 9023 telescopic controller, the mount was good, but the controller had poor button placement for my hands. That made the controller difficult to use. Next I tried to DIY solution using a Gameklip and a car tablet mount. The Tab S was too heavy for the Gameklip. I end up propping the Tab S up via its case and setting it on a lap desk. This works, but I would much rather to have it mounted on the controller.

Having such a large screen makes emulating Nintendo DS games much more enjoyable than on a Shield Portable or phone. You have plenty of room to see both screens at the same time. The downside of the big screen is that games will look bad unless you apply a filter. Once you apply some HQ filters though, the games look amazing.

My favorite emulation device is still the NVIDIA Shield Portable, if for no other reason than the screen is mounted over the controller. The Shield is pretty dedicated to one task though.The Tab S is a great choice when you need a tablet but you also want to play some games. The screen on the Tab S is amazing and when you use emulators that support filters, your old games never looked better.

Since the Tab S 8.4 has the same hardware as the Tab S 10.5, all of the above should equally apply to it.

NES: Great
Gameboy: Great
SNES: Great
Genesis: Great
Gameboy Advance: Great
N64: Good – the Shield hardware is more than enough to run the games, the emulators available are the problem.
Playstation/PSX: Great
NDS: Great
GameCube and above: Poor – games are unplayable. (Emulator problem as much as a hardware problem)

There is one problem with the Shield Tablet that makes it a poor choice as a hand held emulator console, the battery life. I was lucky to get four hours of battery browsing the web and playing videos. Using it to play Chrono Trigger for the SNES got me about three hours of battery. The advertised battery life is 6-8 hours. Even more disappointing was that I could plug the charger in and the battery would still drain just from browsing the web/playing YouTube. I thought that my device had a hardware defect and sent it back, the new device had the same problem. If you read the NVIDIA forums, this is apparently a ‘thing’ with the Shield Tablets.

Considering how great the Shield Portable is its such a shame the tablet has these power problems. This one problem ruined an otherwise perfect tablet for me. Very disappointing.