Denki News

June 25, 2006

The ethics of emulation

Filed under: Video Games — icruise @ 12:13 am

I am a big fan of emulation, because it allows me to play a lot of games that I used to love. Even when I own the game in question, I usually prefer to play it via emulation because it's a lot more convenient. So while I do have a copy of Devil's Crush for the TurboGrafx-16 in my basement, when I want a dose of satanic pinball I'll fire up an emulator and play it. I still have my TurboGrafx-16 (complete with CD-ROM attachment) but I don't have the room to keep it hooked up to a TV, and I don't particularly want to have to sit in front of the old console to play the game when I could be playing it on my computer or my PSP.

But I'll have to admit that I don't own a lot of the games that I play in emulation. It is true that most of these games are still under copyright and it is probably against the law to play them this way. However, I've always rationalized it by saying that these games are long out of date and can no longer be purchased in any way that benefits the holder of the copyright. In other words, even if I went out and bought each and every one of the games I play in emulation, the companies that produced the games wouldn't see a cent of that money, because they can only be purchased on the secondary market.

However, Nintendo has announced that the Wii will allow you to download and play older games from the NES, SNES, TG16, Genesis, and Nintendo 64 for a fee. Only a selection of games from these systems will be available and the exact prices haven't been released yet, but it looks like it will be around $5 to $10 for each game. This puts playing these games in emulation in a bit of a different light, since presumably Nintendo has arranged licensing agreements with the copyright holders of these games. Of course, you still won't be able to play them on your PSP, PDA, or computer, so they aren't nearly as convenient, but at least they are available.

What do you think? Is playing games in emulation stealing, even though the games can't be bought anymore? What about the games that Nintendo makes available for the Wii?

June 24, 2006

Does buying UMD movies make sense?

Filed under: Video Games — icruise @ 4:49 pm

I'd like to examine some of the same issues I brought up in "Does buying videos from the iTunes Music Store make sense?" as they apply to UMD movies. Sony introduced the UMD ("Universal Media Disc") format along with the PSP, with the idea that they could be used for both games and prerecorded videos (and I wouldn't be surprised if they thought about using it to sell prerecorded music as well). The UMD format works reasonably well for games (its main problem is access time, which leads to long loading times in some games) and the prerecorded UMD movies look surprisingly good on the PSP's screen. But does it make sense to buy movies in the UMD format? (More after the jump.)

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Mysterious stains on white MacBooks

Filed under: Macintosh, Portables — icruise @ 5:00 am

Hot on the heels of the news of flaking black MacBooks are reports that white MacBooks are exhibiting strange discolorations on the palmrest area. A user has even set up a website documenting the problem and claiming that 38 users have contacted them with similar complaints. It should be obvious that the problem doesn’t affect all MacBooks (my sister has a white MacBook that has no problems, for example) but it is possible that the materials used in the case somehow react with certain people’s body chemistry. There were scattered reports of the aluminum PowerBooks having problems with their palm rests actually getting tiny holes in them, apparently because of some kind of reaction with the sweat in the user’s hands. It will be interesting to see how this story plays out.

[Edit: Apple is apparently providing service for people affected by this problem.]

June 23, 2006

Denki News moves to WordPress.com

Filed under: Announcements — icruise @ 6:34 pm

I tried a number of options when I started my blog (including some hosted options and programs like iBlog and iWeb). I eventually settled on iBlog because it seemed to offer the features and customizability that I wanted. But recently I've been kind of fed up with using iBlog, partially because it's rather buggy, and partially because it's really not convenient to have my blog accessible from only one computer. I had some trouble finding a hosted blogging service that seemed to fit my needs, but WordPress came the closest. I don't like the fact that you can't do much to customize the look of your blog, but aside from that it works quite well and I now have all the articles that I wrote with iBlog transferred to the new site. The only hiccup is that you have to use Firefox to make use of all of the fancy in-browser editing features — Safari doesn't cut it. But that's also true of Blogger.com, so I can't hold it against WordPress completely. In any case, I hope that this will work out better.

June 20, 2006

Mark/Space introduces The Missing Sync for PSP

Filed under: Video Games — icruise @ 4:59 am

Mark/Space, maker of software that allows products like Windows Mobile, Sony Clie, and HipTop PDAs to sync with OS X, has released The Missing Sync of the PSP. It provides conversion and syncing of video files, syncing of iTunes music, iPhoto photos, iCal calendars, Address Book contacts, and Safari bookmarks, as well as providing an off-line web browsing feature and a file syncing feature. It apparently uses the PSP's built-in web browser for much of this functionality (converting your calendars into HTML which the browser displays, for example). This means that it requires a PSP with 2.71 firmware or above. It costs $29.99, but unfortunately there's no demo version of the software. Still, it looks like it adds significantly to the PSP's usefulness, especially for people who don't already carry around iPods or PDAs. Without any means of data entry, the PSP and the iPod are a little limited as PDAs, but I've often thought that there was a lot of untapped potential there, and this sounds like a good start.

http://www.markspace.com/missingsync_psp.php

June 12, 2006

The DS Lite has landed

Filed under: Video Games — icruise @ 1:06 am



I was out by the mall a couple of days ago and decided that I would go to a few places to see if I could find a DS Lite that had been put out before the official launch date (June 11th). Some other people had been able to find them out on the shelves. I didn't find any, but Toys R Us had a sign up saying that they were reserving them for people on the two days prior to the launch with a $50 deposit. So I went ahead and reserved one. I didn't know if there would be any problem getting one, but considering that all of the online retailers I checked were only selling them in lame bundles with accessory packs that you don't really want, I figured it was worth it to ensure that I got one. There was a couple in line right ahead of me who reserved two of them. (More after the jump.)

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June 5, 2006

PSP vs. PSP

Filed under: Japan, Video Games — icruise @ 2:52 pm

I am a freelance Japanese translator specializing in video games. Unfortunately, I don’t always get to see the games I am translating before I do the translation. Sometimes the game isn’t finished yet and the developer can’t be bothered to give us in-progress builds, and sometimes (like with the portable systems) it isn’t really possible to play non-final versions without some kind of development hardware, and translators like me don’t usually have that. But when I am given the game to play, I have to have a system to play it on, so I have at least one of all of the current video game consoles.

Up until recently, my PSP had been used mostly for homebrew software such as emulators. I absolutely love being able to play all the old 8-bit and 16-bit games that I played years ago on a portable device (what I wouldn’t have given for something like that when I was a teenager!). And frankly, there weren’t all that many PSP games that appealed to me. Now, those of you familiar with the state of homebrew software on the PSP know that Sony has been doing everything it possibly can to prevent its users from running homebrew software. Each firmware update they put out adds some new features, but often the main reason is to close off a loophole that someone has found that lets them run homebrew software again. I think the main thing they are worried about is piracy of UMD games, and in fact some people have been successful at running copies of games from a memory stick. It’s unfortunate that in their crusade to kill off piracy that they’re also making it impossible to use a lot of cool software that users have made.

For this reason, my original PSP’s firmware is 1.5 and it’s going to stay there. While there has been some progress in getting homebrew software to run on later versions, it’s a never-ending struggle, with every firmware update from Sony disabling whatever hacks that people came up with. My PSP was able to stay at 1.5 for quite a while, but recently I started the translation of a new PSP game that forces you to upgrade to 2.6 or later in order to play. Although I hate Sony for making me buy two PSPs, I decided that being able to play my emulators was probably worth a couple of hundred bucks, so I plunked down the money for a second PSP.

Of course, as long as I had to buy a second PSP, I couldn’t just buy another black one. Not when there are Ceramic White models available in Japan. So I ordered one from Lik-Sang.com who got it to me very quickly. It’s quite nice looking, and certainly reminiscent of the iPod. I think I prefer the black model overall, but the white certainly has its appeal, and I think its screen is somewhat brighter as well. So now I have a “good” PSP (the angelic white one that will always been updated to the latest firmware version) and the “bad” PSP (the devilish black one that can run all of my emulators and other software). I suppose now I’ll have to look into getting a DS Lite…

June 4, 2006

I can have both: The desktop + laptop solution

Filed under: Macintosh — icruise @ 8:10 am


In the days before laptops became so powerful, most people used them as secondary systems. They would have a desktop for "real" work and use the laptop only when they had to, but I have been using a laptop as my main computer for years. My first was a giant black and white screened behemoth with a 286 processor, and since then I've gone through 7 or 8 other laptops (mostly Macs). I never liked desktop computers. I didn't like being tied down to one place (even if I didn't use the computer outside much, being able to move to another room in the house was nice) and somehow laptops seemed more personal than desktops to me. That's why I ordered a MacBook Pro the day after they were announced. My 12" PowerBook had worked well as my main computer, but it was starting to feel a tad slow for a few things, and I also wanted a bigger screen. However, I decided to cancel my order and get an iMac instead. I had decided to go back to the traditional "laptop + desktop" setup, but not for the reasons that you might think. (More after the jump.)

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