Monday, August 21, 2006

If the shoe fits...

... then you'll wear them a lot, and they'll eventually start falling off your feet.

Just before I got married, I bought a new pair of shoes. The dress shoes I had fit, but tended to give me sore feet after only a couple of hours--they had very poor arch support, and I've got freakishly high arches. As I was going to be wearing these from morning to night on the day of my wedding, I wanted something comfortable.

On the advice of my best man, I picked up some Rockports, as he declared them to be the most comfortable shoes he'd ever owned. Astoundingly, right next to Scerbo Formals at St. Vital Shopping Centre, where we had gone to get fitted for tuxedos, was West Point Shoes, which sold Rockports.

They weren't cheap: $220, at a time when I was trying to save money for the wedding, and the anticipated expensive bliss of marriage. The soles were also a bit overkill for dress shoes, as these were sturdy, waterproof outdoor shoes, but I figured the state of my soles wasn't likely to interest anyone at the church (duck).

So fast-forward through 4.5 years of said married bliss, and I have worn my Rockports every single day. I have not cared for them particularly well, with only a few scattered polishings here and there, but they've stood up admirably to the test of time. And they're comfortable too---in fact, I've never had a more comfortable pair of shoes.

But they were finally breaking down. The stitching on the heel was starting to come loose, there were cracks in the leather at the balls of the feet.

I loved my old Rockports. I haven't been wearing them long (2.5 hours now), but I think I love my new Rockports too.

And no, I'm not affiliated with Rockport in any way. Except as a rabidly loyal customer, of course.

Friday, August 18, 2006

MAME cabinet: slow but steady march of progress

In the midst of enjoying the summer, I have managed to get a bit of work in on the game cabinet.

For the coin door, I opted to get a brand-new one from Happ Controls, rather than dig around for a used one in questionable condition that might not be exactly what I wanted. I ended up getting the Over/Under Door Mini System, as it seemed the most cost- and space-effective double door I could find. Rather than dealing with Happ directly, I ordered through Starburst Coin in Toronto. That eased any unexpected customs woes. I was able to order it without the default USA coin mechs, and with some Happ Ultimech coin mechs instead, configured for .984" tokens instead. I also got 10' worth of video game marquee retainer, seeing I was placing the order. It looked to be the easiest way to attach the marquee to the cabinet.

I was going to order some of the .984" Happ tokens, but Starburst Coin doesn't carry them, instead offering custom tokens from the Royal Canadian Mint. The price was excellent at $0.12 each, but I would have had to purchase 1000. Instead, I opted to purchase some MAME tokens from Arcade Tokens (now Arcade Replay). Sadly, the nickel ones are not available, so I had to settle for brass. Going with the MAME tokens was more expensive, but I love having something unique.

All these things arrived quite some time ago, and I'm pleased to report that it all works. The only problem is that the slot on the coin door is large enough to accept a loonie, but the coin mech is not. So inserting loonies into this is currently a no-no.

I've now built both the front door and the drawer, and both are installed. I still have to install the key on the front door. I'll install it just to get the holes cut, and then remove it until after the cabinet's painted.

Next up is the back door, and then all the internals--intake fan for the back door, internal wiring, marquee lamp, outlet fans, TV shelf and all that. It's slowly starting to come together.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Not all routery flashes result in goodness...

As we found out on last week; zar' updated his WRT54G v5 router much as I did. It went off without a hitch.

He has a WRT54G v1 as well, and gave that a try. Did it succeed? Well, I'll just say that I received an email the next morning with the subject "Bricked my router..." and leave you to draw your own conclusions.

We looked at it a bit over lunch, and discovered it wasn't entirely bricked. On power-up, it would respond to pings for a short space of time, about five seconds or so. This is when the bootloader runs, just before it loads and jumps to the firmware image. During this short space of time, the router's TFTP server runs, waiting for a firmware download.

We ran a repeating ping in one command prompt window, and had the tftp client all ready to download a firmware image in another. We powered up the router, and when we saw the ping succeed, quickly hit Enter in the tftp window.

This allowed us to get back to the original Linksys firmware... we had to use an early version though, as the latest wouldn't take--we also had to switch his NIC to half-duplex and 10Mbps. After the upgrade, we used the web client to upgrade it to the latest Linksys firmware, and we were back to a safe place. Phew.

We tried a number of times after that to upgrade it to the DD-WRT firmware, without success, both from the web client and the tftp client. We just kept bricking it, even when we left it for five minutes after the download. Strange.

On the weekend, zar' did a little bit of investigation, and found out that the v1's CPU runs at only 125MHz, which means it's significantly slower than later versions, which run at 200Mhz. He speculated, and I agree, that this lower CPU speed almost certainly means a lower external bus speed. So he reflashed again with DD-WRT, and left the router sitting there for half an hour. And guess what? He now has a working WRT54G v1 running the DD-WRT firmware.

The moral of the story? I'm not sure there is one, but I guess it would be to check your hardware before upgrading, and make sure you understand what you've got.

And before you ask, yes, a computer engineer and a computer scientist should have known better.