Temp offline due to more extensive testing.
Gonna try firmware update, own network reboot, etc.

Srry AC Ryan for giving this product the finger, without having used my other fingers first…

Defining Digital EntertainmentWe got approached at work to become a distributor for this brand which I never heard of : A.C.Ryan.
Apparently they make Media Centers and so-called Media Hubs. My boss knew I’m kindof a sucker for these things and I got two things with me for testing purposes at home.

A.C.Ryan Veolo Smart Android Hub

What a mouth-full for something this tiny!

After unboxing, it seemed even smaller, but hey, it’s not the size that matters. A Samsung Galaxy S2 can easily handle HDMI output and play tons of 3D games, so onward…

Tiny as hell

The  tiny machine : unpacked

Rear connectors

Back side of the Android Hub : comes with power connector, L+R Stereo jacks, HDMI out, LAN, USB host connector (for a USB stick or portablehard disk) and an optical out. Nifty!
On the side there’s another USB host connector and an SD card reader.

Extra stuff in the box

Extra contents : power connector (du-uh) , manual, HDMI cable, manuals aaaaaaaand a very sweet-looking remote control.

Veolo remote control - frontside

Veolo remote control : front side. Comes with power button, slow+normal grab function button, back button, D-pad with Enter-key, Menu-button, Home icon and a plus- and minus-key for volume stuff.

Veolo Remote Control - rear side

Flip this little one up-side-down and *surprise* a cool looking QWERTY keyboard (yeah Belgians, live with it, it’s not AZERTY…)

First glimpse : everything looks shiny, crisp and very high-tech. Can’t wait to power-on this baby and see what Android can do for me in the world of Media Centers…

First boot

After first boot we are greeted with this window. As I’m Dutch speaking I think “hey let’s go for Dutch as a language” and I grab the remote, which does not work out-of-the-box. No problemo, check the manual, press some buttons and to my surprise the remote control works like a Wii-Mote! With one advantage to the Wii : I don’t need to aim exactly where I want the arrow to be; just a movement in a general direction will do. Happiness!!

Next step when using an Android device: get it online.
As an Android veteran, I know where to look, but the manual says nothing on this. In a sidenote : the only thing the manual does say is how to unbox your product, and how to hook up the cables. If you haven’t used any Android product before, and you have enough brainpower to handle only one button *cough* Apple users *cough* juggling around in the menus can be pretty confusing, but eventually you’ll press the right buttons, and go to Menu > Settings > Wireless.

wifi

On the contrary to my Nintendo hardware, this one connects to WEP- and WPA-security-based networks. No 5GHz band in sight though, although I have both of my bands activated on my router, and my cellphone and laptops can see them. A bit of an issue? Maybe, but nothing big.

On to the software : next to all the default stuff in an Android Device, we find the following things preinstalled :Adobe Flash Player

  • Adobe Flash Player
  • App Center (an alternative Android Market app)
  • ES File Explorer (that’s right folks, you can’t browse files in an Android device without an app for it)
  • Pulse. Now this I like, ’cause it’s an awesomely mutifunctional RSS reader

On to the file browsing thingy, cause I wanted to see what stuff I could browse. Out of experience I know that most file browsers can handle network, and so can ES File Explorer.
I got to search Network (after turning on file sharing on my Windows PC), and after logging in, I could see the shared folders in an overview, and could play MP3′s AVI’s, MPG’S  etc.

Local files brought me to see that the local storage capacity in this device is as good as zero. But seeing as this is just a Hub and not an actual Media Center, I’m cool with that.
I plug in my USB disk and quite instantly get to see it appear in the ‘Local Storage’ screen.
*click*, let’s browse!

Let’s see… Doctor Who episodes seem like a good test subject. I click one and instantly get another option.
Again, my Android (or Linux for that matter) experience tells me that this is by design, but an end-user not familiar with Android could be panicking right now.
Android, like any other Linux-based operating system, comes with many flavors of software packages that all do the same (more or less). Pick your flavor (I chose the first option) and the film starts to play.

Weird fact : the image ratio is somewhat screwed. Try another one?

K, this works. Probably a codec issue which can be resolved by using another media player or recoding my Dr Who episodes.

Enough fiddling around with the movies and music. On to some other Android functions…
The webbrowser :

Obviously the start page is http://www.acryan.com and surprisingly enough (keep in mind that this is a very cheap device), the Flash animation runs somewhat smoothly.
Duty-heavy websites however turn out to be a pain to load. Youtube takes forever, and HD movies (either on Youtube or locally) are making our Smart Hub cry tears of pain.
A pity, but the fun controls with the better-than-Wii-mote still make up for this loss.

What else?

The Android Market : as usual, you need to create a Google Account in order to be able to use this.
I’ve seen some other devices that simply couldn’t access the official Market (especially after having seen the ‘App Center’ icon), such as the humbug tablets from Archos, or the old Android 1.6 devices from days of old.
Logged in with my Gmail account while keeping fingers crossed …

Victory! A working Android Market.
One thing needs to be said though : while holding the remote control to type the letters on the QWERTY keyboard in order to fill in my password, half of the time they wouldn’t register, until I held the  remote in the direction of the Hub. This basically means that typing is still somewhat of a pain.
I quickly installed some Facebook  app and that seemd to work OK (except for the speed).
I was disappointed that I did not have anough room for all Angry Birds  games anymore…

On to that scary App Center…

I’ve seen a couple of these before, and basically they make you download an .APK file (comparable to a .msi or .exe installer file in Windows) through an other location. For this to work, however, you need to activate a certain function ‘allow unknown sources’ or something similar in your Android device.
Good for ACRyan that they took notes in Android class, because this option was checked indeed.

I installed Parallel Kingdom from this App Center. It worked nicely. The apps that actually cost money, require you to log on and fill in some financial data.

Final verdict :

All things considered, the A.C.Ryan Smart Android Hub is a fun thing to play around with.
Android itself, however is not the most obvious choice for a media center type-thing, and the default Android interface might be a bit too sloppy for the random user-down-the-street.
Of you’re a tech-geek like myself, you’ll find some amusement in this hard-drive-less  trinket, but for the average market value of €199 (end-user advised price in The Netherlands), I think you can get better value for money (I’m even thinking XBOX360 here…)

While I was away on this site, the following stuff happened (not necessarily in that order) :

  • Wife was expecting a baby
  • Completed a LEGO PC (http://www.zupertails.be/lego/v3/)
  • Seen 3 colleagues leave work. Some of which I’d rather not have seen leave.
  • My white Xbox360 crashed and I had to buy the new black one. Huzzah, finally disk space!
  • Got a big-ass TV, so I could play my games on this Xbox360, as it didn’t have SCART anymore
  • I finally understood how train signals work in the free game OpenTTD (http://www.openttd.org)
  • Ran Android 3.2 on a x86 notebook (MSI U135 with Intel wifi in it, as the Realtek combo crap cards are not supported)
  • Convinced a colleague in dubio on buying an Android phone instead of a iPhone (Samsung Galaxy S II – black)
  • Was satisfied with the recent Final Fantasy XIII-2 demo for Xbox 360
  • Wife and I had a baby (http://www.runestuer.be)
  • Bought an awesome scarf (http://www.louiesloops.com/2011/12/stupidfox-hat.html?spref=fb)
  • Am into DeviantArt again, thanks to a new drawing pad
  • Started to appreciate The Lonely Island after way to long
  • Am writing a book (in Dutch) – Sterreloos. I’m only at 15 pages in A5 format, though
  • Started playing basically everything ‘free-to-play’ on Steam
  • Still considering doing more sporty activities (every over zero is more)

There. Now you’re up to speed :)
Z.

PEW PEW LASER!
Ever thought “that is one difficult top view shooter”? Well, think again…

Radiant Silvergun is a vertical scrolling shooter, made by the awesome people known as “Treasure” .
Having made a lot of awesome stuff in the past (see Wiki link by clicking the word “treasure” above), Radiant Silvergun was one of their later games first released in 1998 in the arcades, on a 3-button+joystick cabinet which held the Sega Titan mainboard, which is known for being an almost exact copy of the Sega Saturn home console, with the exception of the arcade cabinet using ROM cartridges, while the Saturn used CD’s.

Unlike the classical topview shooter games we used to play (e.g. 1942 , Dodonpachi, ), Radiant Silvergun does not provide you with the classical power-ups you get from killing enemies or cracking open containers. No, this game levels up your 3 main weapons (and thus the combination of those 3 you have to press in order to use the special weapons) by means of you as a player having to use them in the most optimal way. Some enemies are killed faster with homing missiles, other die more easily with a vulcan shot, etc.
You get bonus points for this, as well as a level-up (max level 33) for the specific weapons you used during a stage when you defeat a boss character at the end of that stage.

There’s also a form of “chain bonus” in which you get an exponentially rising amount of points depending on how long you combo-killed enemies of one specific color. Say you were to kill only the red enemies in one stage, while leaving all the blue, yellow and neautral-colored ones alive, this would give more points in the end of the stage than it would killing all the enemies alltogether.

I’m not gonna go much into the storyline, although the random anime-esque parts inbetween stages, that appear in Story Mode, give the game a bit more appeal (ending movie holds partial nudity, lol). Basically the Earth gets destroyed by some giant octahedron-shaped stone, that expldes in one of the main character’s father’s face. You are the last surviving humans, being lucky enough to hang just outside of the blast radius. You mission is to survive and avenge !

Now what’s all the fuss about a game from 1998?
Microsoft FINALLY re-released this game for Xbox Live Arcade (14 sep 2011), and it’s downloadable for 1200 Microsoft Points, and all worth it.
Even if you’re not a fan of these types of games, I suggest giving the relatively easy demo a try. I remember hating “shmups” 15 years ago, while Ali Hasan Almaci, previous co-shop-owner of that little freaking awesome shop called Game Nation in Sint-Niklaas (no money was received quoting Game Nation) pushed me to actually buy it.
Having played for a couple of hours of dying before even meeting the first boss (it’s one of those games) the appeal for this game grew upon me and finally I was sold to Radiant Silvergun.
Nowadays, still no fan of these shooters, I still appreciate the difficulty of this game and own the XBLA version, as well as the SEGA Saturn version of the game.

As to give you an example of the popularity of this game, try searching Ebay for a SEGA Saturn copy of it :)

Oh, and if you like Radiant Silvergun, you should absolutely give Ikaruga a try. It goes for the same huge amounts of money on ebay (it’s a SEGA Dreamcast game) and is considered the spiritual follow-up for Radiant Silvergun. Also available on XBLA.

And now we wait for Guardian Heroes… (while playing Disgaea 4 on one screen, and R.S. on another)

Currently, as we speak type, the official start is being held of my very own LAN party. YEAY :)

Zuperlan II (the first one was more of a get-together, but still lots of fun) will not host a kitchen service though. That’s reserved for Zuperlan 3 : “Bigger and Better”, but people can still buy beers at an affordable price (aka non-profit).

Apparently, a visit from a good friend who lives in Norway is being planned (good to see you again, Dax) and it’ll be a fun time for us to play Team Fortress together.
For the record, Team Fortress is a very popular first-person-shooter which used to be a paying game. Recently the Steam community got it released as a free download on their platform. I suggest you give the game a try. It’s surprisingly addictive. Create an account on http://www.steampowered.com and download the Steam client. Next, install the free Team Fortress game, by downloading it form within the client.

Anyway, gotta go. Still a lot to do, such as cleaning up the tables and testing the Level1 gigabit switch I bought a long time ago.

Finally, the building has started…

Check pics below for the first draft of the power supply-hut

Quite self-explanatory, I guess. Building took about 2 hours (including searching through a bucketload of bricks)

Next : the mainboard !

As promised yesterday, some pictures included of the stuff going to be thrown in the big LEGO blender.

If for whatever reason the ‘full’ pics when clicking on the thumbnails, aren’t big enough : http://www.zupertails.be/lego/v3/

HUZZAH !

After a small amount of time waiting for my new tiny Intel mainboard to arrive, I got started on the first steps of building a brand new LEGO case. If you don’t know what LEGO is, stop reading, and take your time machine (preferably a DeLorean powered by a blender of some sort) 20 years into the past. If you don’t know what a DeLorean is, you should go and see the movies series “Back to the Future”.

The hardware gathered round so far :

  • Intel DQ67EP : this Mini-ITX mainboard (17x17cm) has it all. It support Core i7 processors, a shitload of RAM (64GB if I’m not mistaken), has tons of connectors amongst which are USB3, eSata, mini PCIE (for a laptop wifi card), HDMI, DVI and a lot more.
  • Intel Core i5 2500 CPU (not the 2500K).  Although the original mainboard specs did not mention being compatible with this CPU, it runs smoothly and is more than enough to support my current gaming needs (my current CPU is a Core2Duo E6600 if you catch my drift…)
  • A Corsair 4GB DDR3 kit. For the time being, this’ll have to do as this is just a test-setup to see how far I can go. it’s enough for a Windows 7 64bit that can run all my games.
  • A recycled laptop hard disk from an older Acer laptop I had dangling about. Just to have a hard disk.
  • A Xilence 750Watt power supply. Not cause I need 750 watt, but cause I needed a cheap modular PSU. We’ll see how well this goes, and replace it with a Corsais 650W if necessary. A small piece of background info :  the first Xilence 750 Modular I got, stopped working after 5 minutes. Hence my scepticism…
  • Some PCIe graphics card I had lying about. This card appears to be bigger than the mainboard itself, by the way. This will prove to be quite the difficult task   :)
  • A bunch of LEGO bricks from a long time ago. Some of you might remember my earlier works in the art of LEGO-building

My wild estimate to actually start building and give you pictures to drool at, will be this week-end. That’ll also be the start of a locally hosted LAN party at my place, so don’t expect much building to be done yet.

The new idea, on the contrary to the older LEGO case I made, is to have modular pieces of hardware this time.
I can’t show you a finished plan yet, but the style will be based on the rental lodges at Center Parks.
The mainboard will have a fishing/swimming pond on top. Power supply will be built inside a  lodge, as well as all the hard disk bays.
A minimum of cables shall be used, hence the need for a modular PSU. This’ll also highly increase the ability to carry around this PC to  LAN parties, in order to show off :p

That’s all for now. Keep your eye on this blog for more info and pics to come soon !

LAN parties….

You might have heard of them before, and maybe want to attend one (or preferably more) in your lifetime.

In case you don’t know what a LAN party is, I’ll give you a brief rundown :
First of all, the abbreviation “LAN” stands for “Local Area Network“.
LAN parties basically consist of a gathering of people, bringing their own home-computer setups with them, in order to connect them all into one big network.
Mostly with the common goal to play computer games together and hang out in an alternative social environment.

With the coming of high-speed internet, the “social” part has become a larger part of the LAN-life. The reason behind this, is that “in days of olde”, people could not achieve the data transfer speeds needed for fast network gaming of fast data tranfer altogether, over a simple phone line through a dial-up internet connection.

Plus, it’s way more fun to be able to punch someone in real life, who just shot you down in a video game, instead of scolding him over the internet.

In any way, the following list will provide you with sort of a ultimate LAN party checklist as a preparation for your visit to a LAN.

Very important :

- A computer + its power cable (I can’t state this enough, and yes I’ve seen people arrive without their PC…)
Some LAN parties provide you with a rental PC, but very few do this. Check your LAN website when in doubt.
- A screen + its power cable + its connector cable
Unless you’re carrying a laptop with you, a screen is as important as your actual PC
- Input devices, such as keyboard and mouse
Or a braille input device as I once saw :)
- Network cable of sufficient length (preferably UTP CAT5 straight cable or anything of higher quality)
In few cases, the organisation itself provides you with network cable. Sufficient length mostly means 10 meters or more.
- Power Strip with more than enough connectors for all your PC hardware (for you Dutch speaking who don’t know what a power strip is : “ne priezenblok”)
Most LANs provide one group of tables with only one power strip onto which you can branch your own one.
Relatively important :

- Sleeping gear
Unless you want to sleep on a hard concrete floor, or in a chair with your head on your keyboard, some sleeping gear is handy.
You can also be a “tough nut” and stay awake all night, cause that’s what tough guys do. However, I strongly suggest getting a little sleep in order to improve your concentration level when you play games on a need-to-win basis.
My suggestion is to use a camping bed, a sleeping bag and a pillow to a default LAN party

- Food
Most LANs provide food at an affordable price. It is however recommended to bring along some snacks for yourself so you don’t have to rely on otherwise mostly fast-food.
Healthy mind, healthy body, that sorta thing.

- Software
Bring all your necessary software with you. This includes, but is not limited to :
… your Windows (or other Operating System) CD or install medium (a USB stick for instance)
drivers for your hardware, in case you need to reinstall your PC
games (although nowadays with platforms such as Steam, you can download your games after you formatted your PC, just by logging into the game client
… anything you can think of, basically
Trust me when I say that if ever you are in need of a piece of software when you’re hours away from home, you’ll think back to the day you have read this article :)

- Personal hygiene stuff
Basically you bring this along, so you don’t bother your fellow gamer with bodily odors.

- Sound
Although most bigger LAN parties have a headset-only policy, in some cases it’s always nice to have someone bring along his speaker/woofer combo for all of us to enjoy his weird choice of music.
Seriously, if it doesn’t say ‘speakers allowed’ on the LAN website or in their invitations, DON’T BRING SPEAKERS

Optional :

I can think of a lot of stuff that would be optional for you to bring to a LAN. It depends on what transportation you’ll be taking and how much room is in/on your car, bike, bus, …

Your own chair from behind your desk is nice to have, for instance. So are extra blankets or pillows.
Extra clothing is not considered as must-have, but it tends to improve your social life if you attend a +3day LAN
Money is another thing. If you brought enough food with you to survive the entire LAN, and you’re absolutely sure you will not need to buy anything locally, then be my guest and show up as a bum. However, as Murphy’s Law lurks around every corner, I wouldn’t be surprised you’ll need some extra cash.

With that in mind, you’re somewhat prepared for your first LAN event.
Another handy tip : if you’re new to LANs, don’t go taunting the locals and brag about how awesome you are at some game. Even if you were good at a game, and even if (very slim chance) you’re as good as the LAN visitors who played for ages, you’ll be socially excluded within the minute. The ones I met in real life will know who I’m talking about.

“OK, Zupertails, you got me all worked up now. Where do I go from here with all this info?”

Basically, if you’re from Belgium, like I am, you stay on the lookout on various LAN websites.
Some of them are :

  • Lanparty.be (basically a calendar where you can see all other LANs in Belgium)
  • Frag-o-Matic (the biggest commercial one in Belgium we have atm)
  • 9 Lives (one of the bigger gaming communities in Belgium)
  • The Gathering (the Mothership of all LANs, located in Norway, visited form all over the world)

I hope you enjoy this helpful little guide on the world of LAN parties.
Should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to mail me, or post a comment (comments are moderated, so it takes a while before they appear).
Facebook is also a popular place where you’ll see me hanging around.

GAME ON!
(continued on http://zupertails.be/blog/?p=486)

Android LogoDue to certain limitations in an android phone, combined with my limited knowledge of a Linux operating system, I decided to change the look, feel, startup speed, file access,… of my HTC Desire (first gen).

This troublesome task was a true pain in the ass for the unexperienced Android Flasher that I was/am.

If ever you’re going to try something fun like this, and don’t know the least about this procedure, let me be your tiny guiding light in the horrific world of jailbreaking and custom ROMs.
If also some of the parts are unclear to you, or you have no idea WHY you should actually give root access to your phone (i.e. you’re happy with your Android machine as it is), please DON’T perform these acts.
Also good to mention : BACKUP EVERYTHING BEFORE YOU DO THIS!!!!
Frankly I couldn’t care less about my text messages not being backed up, but some of us have emotional ties to their phone, so be very cautious. There are tons of backup programs on the Android Market, so choose whichever flavour suits you.

First try : the “unrevoked” method

http://www.unrevoked.com provides a handy tool for “easy root access”.

TheUnlockr explains all in a nice video tutorial : http://theunlockr.com/2010/09/20/how-to-root-the-htc-desire-unrevoked-method/

He only forgot one tiny bit somewhere around the part where he mentions HTC Sync which may not be installed -> You should not have Dropbox installed on the PC you’re running UnrEVOked3 on either. Found that in a dark damp corner of the internet, nicely tucked away on a forum you had to register for, so I’ll spare you the hassle there…

After correcty installing and running UnrEVOked3, your phone should still look exactly the same. With one minor change : whenever you try to do something which was otherwise impossible (e.g. open a system folder through any file browser,…) you’ll now get the notification that you’re trying to do something that requires “superuser” access, followed by a YES/NO option.

Basically, you ‘re now superuser on your phone.
Alas, the real Linux geek will already know what the issue is here. We’re not a “root” user and cannot do really everything.

The reason I didn’t stop here was that I was looking for a way to easily make my SD Card into a fixed system partition in which my applications could be installed. As mentioned above, some Android phones have their limitations. My Desire’s limitation is basically not having enough storage in the main memory for system-reserved software (which could not be moved otherwise to the SD Card – using the default Froyo App2SD program that allows you to move parts of your software to the SD)

So after a couple of hours of getting pissed at my phone, and cursing my un-knowledge of Linux related stuff, I chose the hard way :

Second try : just ROM it

Although I wouldv’e gotten go a point in method one, where everything would work as I wanted it to, the time needed to reach that goal would be way too long.
So, all considered, I turned away from HTC defaults and looked into the wonderful world of custom ROMs.

First thing’s first : “Flash and wipe phone”. In the already installed Clockwise Recovery software (see Unlockr’s guide above), choose this option before installing anything custom. It’ll just fail otherwise. If you’re a wuss : this will NOT empty your SD card :)

Next : picking the right flavour of ROM.
Again, TheUnlockr has a nice overview of what and where : http://theunlockr.com/downloads/android-downloads/android-roms/

I picked “CyanogenMOD”, as it is extremely light-weight, and almost good-to-go after having installed it.
Downloaded through : http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=736333

Download the zip image onto  the root of your SD card, and boot your phone in recovery mode (hold Power + Volume-down while booting – but you’d already be knowing that if you followed UnLockr’s guide).
One little tip in between, to save you from turning off and on power a few times : you should also be downloading the most recent “Radio” for you phone (see XDA link above), as well as download Google Apps for your type of CyanogenMOD on http://wiki.cyanogenmod.com/index.php?title=Latest_Version (bottom of the page)

Pick “upgrade from a zip file” in the ClockWork menu and browse to you SD card, picking the ROM file you want.
Let the magic work and after a successful run, you should see the almost empty desktop of your modded phone.

Now for the Android Marketplace :
Just a few lines above, I explained you should also download Google Apps, which basically contains Maps, Gmail and the Marketplace (and some other stuff not worth mentioning now).
“Install” it as well, using the same method you used to install the ROM (recovery mode -> browse for zip file -> …)

If your phone can call, be called, text, go on wifi and surf over the internet using 3G, Edge or anything similar, you’re settled and you can start customizing your heart out.
Otherwise, just install the latest Radio pack in the same way you installed the new ROM.

If you though all was over, I already stumbled on a minor flaw (maybe not for you, but I sure hated not having a certain option anymore) : I couldn’t connect to the Exchange Server 2010 at work anymore.  All I got was “authentication error” on my phone. The server itself had a lot of bullshit messages in the IIS 7 log.
Apparantly Cyanogen 6 used a slightly older Exchange mail program, from the Android 2.1 version, and unfortunately it doesn’t cooperate well with Exchange 2010. Exchange 2003 worked perfect though.
Yet again, thank God, praise Allah,  and hail to Vishnu for  THE INTERNET, because some friendly people already encountered AND solved this issue for me.
The basic thought behind the “solution” was to swap the email software in CyanogenMOD with one in the original HTC versions.
Copy/Paste? I don’t think so…
Laurie explains : http://laur.ie/blog/2010/09/exchange-2010-sp1-sync-with-android-froyo/

The Laur.ie site talks about opening your local terminal application on the phone itself. I advise otherwise : Use Android SDK, downloadable through a normal Google search, and use its built-in “adb shell” to type the actual commands on the keyboard of your own PC. Also do this in your phone’s recovery mode, because the Email.apk file might be in use somewhere on the normal running operating system.

That’s all for now.
Like I said, if any of this looks like Chinese, then you should have stopped reading a long time ago. Chances are that your phone has turned into a nice useless flat brick, or coaster (depending on how flat it is). Go whine on some forum, in that case.

Signing off :)