Sunday, April 28, 2013

Be diligent and know what you're looking at!

I haven't showcased it here, I did at TVG, but one of the most important skills for shopping at the Goodwill Outlet store is knowing what you're looking for/at and being extremely diligent, yet doing it all quickly. I have yet to become masterful at all these, but I do however know what I'm looking for and if it is video game related, more often than not I know what I'm looking at. And trust me, this comes in handy quite often.

One such case happened to me just the other day, while I was standing shoulder to shoulder with one of my nemeses. We were digging through the exact same bin when I saw his arm shoot through a pile of wires and miscellaneous toys and pulled out a Nintendo 64 expansion pak, as if he had X-ray vision or something. He looked at it, read the front and passed it from one hand to the other, quizzically, before continuing to dig through the pile.

I was kind of confused as to why he looked at it and wondered what exactly it was, after all this group consistently pick up video game items and turn around and sell them for what I can only imagine are insane prices in a flea market. Soon he went back to his cart with a handful of Playstation AV cables, the N64 expansion pak and a few other things, but my mind was still pondering why he seemed so confused about the N64 expansion pak. After a short while of watching him like a hawk he walked back up to a bin he had rummaged through before and tossed the N64 expansion pak right back into the bin.

I could feel my legs dart out from under me, as if they were more excited to get the expansion pak than I was! I had to dig a little before I found it, luckily nobody but myself saw him toss it back in, or maybe nobody but me knew exactly what it was. After snagging the N64 expansion pak I quickly ran to the checkout, since this was all I had to purchase it cost me a total of 4 cents.

I have no intentions of selling this, although I could easily make a damn fine profit from it, I don't need to sell it nor do I want to. I do admit that I will pick up the random electronic Yahtzee or something I already have but know will sell to keep myself from going broke, but I don't purposely act like a dick to get these items the way most people do at the outlet store. But its most rewarding knowing that my knowledge of video gaming items far exceeds their's and I can outsmart them to keep the items I actually want to own from being overpriced and slapped on a shelf, to sit until someone overpays for it.

Bunch of SAVAGES!

It is fair to say I enjoy collecting and playing retro game themed plug n play systems, and with the outlet store I've found tons of them. But given the conditions some of the items I find in the outlet store, some of them need a bit of work before they actually work. And today's example needed me to transplant a vital component that I've never had to do before.

This is an Activision TV Games system. Packed inside are 10 classic Activision games from the good old days of video gaming. But you may notice something missing already.

Yes for whatever reason, someone decided it would be a great idea to not only abandon this thing, but snip off the AV cables as well! A pretty vital item for anything that is a "plug n play" system. Being the ever nerdy, adventurous type of guy who never says no to a repair job, I undertook the project.

As you can see above all there was standing between me and repairing this were 6 simple philips head screws. Once inside I desoldered the remnants of wire hanging from the -lucky for me- labeled board. Another lucky thing was that the solder came right off the wires and stuck in the places the new wires needed to go.

After painstakingly removing the leftover wires from the wire guide, I prepared the cheap AV cable set that I happened to find at the outlet store. After all, if I make a mistake I'd much rather screw up a pair of super cheap cables rather than buy a good pair and fucking them all up. But with the wires all prepped and ready to be soldered into place, all I had to do was twist the wires, melt the solder, put the wires in the right place and wait for the solder to dry, how hard could it be?

Well I did make a bit of a mistake on my first attempt, but after a quick rethink and resolder of a couple wires I had everything in correct order. Sure the solder joints are dull, but it matches the rest of the cold solder joints some Chinese kid got paid 100th of a penny per hour to make. So after all my work and toil does it work?


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Project Outlet Wii: Complete!

Well I still need (want) an official Wii sensor bar to flesh out the whole rig, but I found something that will work pretty damn well in its place. Before I borrowed the sensor bar from a friend, to make sure my system even worked, I had toyed with the idea of buying a wireless sensor bar, but the idea of constantly changing out batteries quickly detoured me to searching for an official one. But what could I say when I found an extremely cheap and -possibly- reliable alternative at the Goodwill Outlet?

I've seen these games all over the place, Goodwill stores and TONS of them have made it to the outlet bins, so its obvious they're not a very fun game, at least its not something I would have paid retail for. So when I saw the sensor bar sitting in the bin, it quickly dawned on me that this could be a great alternative for the Wii sensor bar. It has 3 infrared LEDs on each side, its wireless -only requiring 3 AAA batteries- and when I got it home it actually seems to work flawlessly as a wireless Wii sensor bar!

It is a wireless sensor for a plug n play game called "Big Buck Hunter Pro", again these things have flooded the Goodwill store shelves and around here are in absolutely no short supply! It looks pretty Redneck, but it works flawlessly and function is way more important to me than the form in which it works. I'm pretty glad it has an LED to tell me its on, so I don't need to change out the batteries as often as the real wireless sensor bars.

I still really want to get the official one, but for anyone looking for a wireless Wii Sensor bar I would highly suggest you check your local Goodwill and snag one of these, with or without the gun. As far as I saw it works just the same as the official, but its wireless. And how could I go wrong at the Goodwill outlet store price?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Nintendo DS Projects UPDATE!

Its been a while since I've made any progress at all with my 2 Nintendo DS handhelds I picked up at the outlet store, and there is good reason! Firstly I refuse to undertake a project I know I can't finish -knowledge acquired from past experiences-, so I tend to over research a project until I completely understand it, at least until its actually time to do the work! Secondly, it takes time to get parts from China!

I ordered a BUS cable for the original DS, removed and bridged the fuses and put it all back together in the broken case. The verdict is: it works! I admit that it isn't the best way to fix the DS, but its for personal usage and all together it probably cost me a total of $4!

The DS Lite is a bit more on the broken side, fixing the top screen isn't nearly as easy as it was on the original DS. But this may give me a chance to swap out the touch screen on my working black DS Lite, another outlet store find. But even so the touch screen in the black DS Lite would go right back into the white one because it still works, but it will only calibrate to about 90% correct.

In time if I feel that the original DS needs a case, and the thing is still working, I'll order one. Right now I'm not willing to invest the extra cash in a system not knowing if it will work tomorrow. But overall I'm pretty excited to have 2 fully functional, yet still beaten up, Nintendo DS handhelds.

Maybe someday I'll get all 3 new cases, completely new parts and get them back on their feet 100%. Right now I'm going to find an external hinge system for the original DS, because I prefer the way it holds GBA games, to keep the new BUS cable in tact and make it usable. But the boost in confidence that I can repair these things was indeed the best part of the project!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Meet Rosetta.

Meet Rosetta, my Washburn A-20. I purchased her from a pawn store in Pontiac, Michigan, but it wasn't love at first sight, it took a few times to finally go in and put her on lay-away. After finally sitting down with her and giving her a test play, we kicked off a bond that has only grown stronger since that day, for many reasons.

I frequented a hobby store just down the road from this pawn store so I always wandered in to see what was new, never really buying anything but I did want quite a few things. It was just your normal, everyday "Mom and Pop" pawn store, and guitars were never in short supply, but rarely did they have one worth the price they were asking. Although decently priced, I had passed this Krylon green granite veiled guitar a few times before, but finally the intrigue of the explorer-ish body shape took a firm hold of me and forced me to plunk down $20 to hold her and eventually pay her off and take her home.

By the time I got her home I had forgotten what she sounded like during my test drive, but I plugged her in and expected a rage of tone and sustain from the lone EMG 85 she had installed. My expectations were quickly dashed, turned into "Why is there a dying cat in my amp?". Since the guitar had absolutely no tone, for a yet unknown reason, I quickly set her aside for my other guitars, but months later I wanted to know exactly what guitar she was.

The headstock was covered with the same paint that covered the rest of the body so I had no clue as to what company made her; I never thought to start removing the paint, something I would later find out wouldn't do me any good anyway. I went online to see if I could find guitars that looked like this one, but running on a body shape alone is damn near impossible. After a lot of searching online I found very few sources of information on the Washburn A-20, but what images I did find assured me that was exactly what I had just bought, but things were extremely, EXTREMELY wrong.

The information shown above proves, without a shadow of a doubt, Rosetta is a Washburn A series, not only that but from the features list I can deduce that she is specifically an A-20. With all the evidence I had collected online, what little there was, I knew that this guitar was missing some holes; I knew it couldn't be a custom order, who in their right mind would order a custom guitar and cover it in Krylon green granite paint? Stupider things have happened, trust me, keep reading to see them!

As you can see in the initial picture I started to slowly strip away the paint and see what was truly underneath, which turned out to be a bondo nightmare! I first removed the control plates and easily popped out the bondo plugging the holes for the pickup selector switch and the additional tone/volume pots in the main cavity. Then I uncovered the neck pickup route, but once I thought I had everything uncovered, I quickly learned I wasn't done just yet, the previous owner redefined stupidity and took it to a whole new level.

The images above are old and I apologize for their lack of quality, but you can clearly see where there once was a hunk of neck-thru wood and a top veneer, there is now a DRILLED route for what I can only assume to be a Kahler the size of the Titanic, strike 1! You can also see that this too was filled with bondo, strike 2! Not only that but you may also be able to see the original, beautiful, top peaking out from under the death shroud it was given, strike 3, you're certifiably a fucking moron, previous owner of this guitar!

To be quite honest I put the guitar away and left it alone for a few years before I even got the desire to look at it again. Its not Rosetta's fault her previous owner's IQ couldn't be any higher than double digits, in the low range I'm sure. I simply couldn't look at what was once such a beautiful guitar now sit in a horrifyingly mangled, perhaps decaying, state as this.

Throughout the few years after I finally decided to pull her out and finish stripping her, yes it took a few years, I finally uncovered the full beauty that was underneath. It was stunning, it was breath taking, it was pitiful that someone gave this guitar to that idiot in good faith that they wouldn't fuck it up, and they failed in every way possible. You want to see how beautiful she once was? Take a look!

As the spec sheet shows she has brass inlay, ebony fretboard, ash body and a 3 piece neck-thru design. The back had some slight overspray on it, but it wasn't too hard to clean up. My only real issue with the back is the dozens upon dozens of dents and dings that she has sustained, but look at that sexy neck and back!

I'm unsure of who, myself or the previous owner, scraped off the headstock logo, but from the way the paint is caked to the side of the missing clear coat I can safely assume it wasn't me. Sadly I can't get a replacement, Washburn won't issue me one because they no longer make this headstock design. Of all the features I wish this guitar had back, the headstock logo is the most important to me.

(Rosetta's headstock, followed by what the original logo looks like.)

I remember calling Washburn one summer and asking them if they could date the production of a Washburn through its serial number, which turned out to be 1980. But when I specifically asked about the Washburn A-20 the guy on the other end of the phone gave me stunned silence for a few seconds before telling me he was pretty sure they never made anything remotely like what I was talking about. Funny story, considering about 2 years later they reissued the A-20 in a beautiful orange-burst flame top!

Time has come and time has gone and the only real change has been a set of after market pickup rings I bought her to make he feel more beautiful about herself, which don't really fit, but I love her so I had to do something. I'm not skilled enough to repair this kind of wound, so I won't even dare try, out of fear I'll only make it worse. But for the past 4 years Rosetta has sat in her box, quietly, while in a perfect world she should be singing her heart out through my amp.

I don't know why the previous owner decided to make such a mess of this guitar, or make such a fool of themselves. I truly wish I could restore her to her former glory, with the orange-burst of the reissue. Sadly, all I can do is leave her to herself and feel helpless to bring her back to life.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Madden Madness!

Since Madden 09 All-Play was included inside my Nintendo Wii it has been getting a lot of play, being that its the most interesting of the two games I currently own for the system. Even though this is supposedly the 09 Madden, it really hasn't changed from the Madden 2002 I used, -just yesterday- to test how well the Wii emulates the Gamecube. That is seven years of advancement in technology but zero progress forward, short of throwing in some feature geared strictly toward this game being on the Nintendo Wii.

I can't remember which, but it all started on the Sega Genesis; I had bought myself a Madden game because it was super cheap and I had never played a Madden in my life, at that point. So I popped the game in and was blown away by how it was more complex than Tecmo's Bowl series, but it wasn't hard to grasp the concept and play easily. I remember all the times I would pit the best team against the worst and see how many times I could score before they could, which usually ended up with me scoring ten touchdowns to their one the whole game.

When it came to handheld versions of Madden it was just an updated roster plastered on a 16-bit version of the game, ported to the Gameboy Advance, nothing more. When I got my first Xbox I quickly grew intrigued as to what Madden looked like on the new generation consoles. Luckily for me with EA's penchant to simply change the rosters from year to year and introduce something minuscule and meaningless the outdated versions were readily available and super cheap!

The graphics were nice, it was good to see fully rendered, 3 dimensional figures, each with their own physique and correct race, although all the faces looked the same. It was this new generation of Madden games that brought in a completely new aspect to the game that distanced my interest in the game. And from what I can tell, hasn't changed from it's implement until at least the Madden 09 All-Play.

Almost anyone who has played at least one Madden game will know John Madden, quite often, states the obvious and sometime even a flat out lie about the game. For example: I was playing a game where the CPU hadn't scored at all the entire first half, upon making a miraculous Hail Mary to the end zone Madden chimed in with something about how this quarterback could make any pass anywhere. Clearly this wasn't true, because this was the same quarterback who had a scored of zero, up until the game decided to cheat.

Which is another issue I have with the new Madden game play, the game will rectify itself with some of the most blatantly asinine calls and plays. As I stated before, on the Sega Genesis, I would overpower a team and see how many times I could scored prior to them scoring, if they did at all, I've rarely found this possible in the new Maddens. When I dominate the first half, if the CPU hasn't scored at all by half time, in the second half I can't make a single catch, my team that was once at its height of discipline now jump offsides, snag face masks like kids in a candy store and can't hold on to the ball if it were super glued to their hands! -STICK EM!-

Perhaps thats all well and good for someone looking for a challenge, but its extremely unrealistic. Much like John's dialog, it hasn't changed from 2002 to 2009 either! Its still the same old insert number/name here has run insert number here for how many yards today here.

I don't hate the new Madden games, but I'm not buying them up each year either, if I see one at the outlet store I'll pick it up and usually don't play it, but I must confess I do own quite a few. They did add some cool features to Madden 09 All-Play based purely on the fact that this is the Nintendo Wii, but much like the console these features get boring really fast! The issue isn't with the console, or Madden 09 All-Play, its the fact that I think Nintendo told everyone developing for the Nintendo Wii they had to toss in something to their game that made full use of the Wii controller and nunchuck, which really just messes up a really good game!

I'm not new to the Nintendo Wii, I've played one before, quite often. But each game seems to be plagued by the same thing, what feels to me like a looming Nintendo, shadowing game developers and forcing them to change up a perfectly good game to work in a silly gimmick. Sure the controllers were interesting, innovative and work really well, but they get old really quick as many people who want to play a game only want to do that, not waggle their arms about like a ninny to make something happen that on every other console is simply up and the right shoulder button.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Project: Outlet Wii (13/4/2013)

Project Outlet Wii has been a success! Friday I went to a flea market to pick up some controllers and instead picked up a (official) Wii Power supply for $2! All I needed was to borrow the sensor bar from a friend, but I'm sure I will have my own in no time!

As for now the system works perfectly, I formatted the system right away to give it more of a personal feel to myself. The game that was inside is Madden '09 All-Play, nothing special but it was free! So from here on I will be keeping an eye out for a sensor bar and games to play.


Its been over a year since I've been frequenting the Goodwill Outlet store, through good times and bad. Whenever I have the chance to pick up even a small part of a system I may have a chance of running across somewhere in the distant future, I sometimes pick it up. I say sometimes because often times I think I'll never find this or that and pass up on things that I, usually within a few bin change outs, find the rest of and wish I had originally picked up that other part.

Well today starts the documentation of Project: Outlet Wii, a project I've decided to document after one extremely sad trip to the Goodwill Outlet store. I had scoured the bins as well as I could only to have a couple, who came in while I was waiting for a change out, to find a mint condition black Nintendo Wii with matching controller, somewhere along the items I had clearly overlooked, somehow! I'm still not sure how this slipped my grasp, but rest assured I left defeated that day.

Although I didn't manage to score the black Wii, I have seen a few other people score Nintendo Wii systems there before, so this was something I had always hoped I could piece together. I will be running through some of the items I've managed to find thus far, as well as what is left that I currently need. As I find the items I will also be keeping an updated version of this article (reposted).

It all begins when I found the stand, a simple, silver plastic piece with the round clear bottom that I knew once had a system inside it, it wasn't much but it was part of the overall plan. I'm still unsure of which way I may position my potential Wii, once found, because I've found my PS2 doesn't read games as well when it is up on its side, an issue I'm unsure of whether or not the Wii is plagued with. Either way it was still something I wanted to pick up.

I've picked up countless amounts of the silicone Wii condoms, as I like to call them, but for the purpose of this article I'm going to forego them and move into what I call the Wiils, see what I did there? I found 2, one of which is the official Nintendo Wii Wheel; while playing racing games on a Wii before I never found these attachments necessary, but having them doesn't hurt. The third party wheel is small and less comfortable, but since I've never used them I can't be sure how they will feel until I actually use them during game play.

Next I happened to find something the Nintendo Wii just couldn't work without! Sadly, no, it wasn't the power cable, although I swear I did find one but I was either dreaming or its really good a hiding from me. But I did happen to find the AV cables, official and dirty as hell! It took a long time to clean them, so I hope they work!

Well what is a gaming system without a controller? Sadly the Wii won't allow for Gamecube controllers to work its unique dashboard, so I had to find a Nintendo Wii remote, well I sort of did! This is a Nyko Wand, its supposedly compatible, but it is missing the battery cover and I have no Wii to test it on.

Not only does the Nintendo Wii demand you use a Wiimote or something compatible, often times you need the nunchuck to play some games, and that is exactly what I found next! I had already found a black silicone slip for the nunchuck so I put it on there. It doesn't look bad, but as with everything I seriously hope it even works!

Even if I had a complete Nintendo Wii, what would I need to use its full potential? A game, obviously! So when I came across a soaking wet, but complete, copy of Wii Sports I picked it up. Sure it was soaking wet, the disc looks like it needs resurfaced and the manual is wavy, but it was a Wii game I knew I could play, if I happened to run across the system.

And finally we've reached the end of this article, with great news! I found a Nintendo Wii, although the system looks to be in good shape, the fans don't look dirty, the system was banged around in the bins to the point the face was ripped off. I happened to find the system, with a mystery game inside, and later I found the face in a completely different bin, but they went back together pretty well, but not perfectly.

So at the time I'm originally posting this article (7/April/2013) I need the sensor bar and the AC adapter to even see if the system works. I sincerely hope it does, but if not it won't be the end of the world, because I picked it all up for $.79 a pound. I just never know what I may run across next, hopefully those two last things I just mentioned!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Oh Canada, I love you!

I believe it all started in 2001, after September 11. While everyone was feeling patriotic and wanting to defend our country, and destroy the enemy, I felt like we were all lied to. Since I can remember the United States has had a conflict with someone or another and our fears were always quelled with a boisterous, pride filled speech about how our country was the safest on this planet and how no one could ever invade us and take our freedom, we would crush them before the invasion hit the news. Well, did we?

Shortly after September 11 I moved to Michigan, a stones throw from the fabled land I wish to be, yet my adoration for Canada didn't start until a few months later. Living in Michigan afforded me not only cable access, which I never had in Indiana, but that cable access afforded me CBC, an obviously Canadian channel. Although I didn't see many shows that I attached to, CBC did give me a daily dose of one of my favorite Canadian shows, The Red Green Show.

I only knew about The Red Green Show from the American PBS networks, which will show good shows and then months later take them off and replace them with a beg-a-thon so you can continue to enjoy the show they were previously showing without issue. But with CBC giving me a daily, instead of bi-monthly, dose of Red Green, I was happy. Not only that but thankfully Comedy Central -back when it was FUNNY- introduced me to five canucks that opened an even deeper love for their country.

Even today I watch Kids in the Hall and admire its gritty, 1990s feel. As decades pass things usually don't shine as brightly as they once did, but in my personal opinion thats not true with Kids in the Hall. The jokes are still as sharp as a tack, the gritty SD presentation of the show transports me to Canada circa 1995, where I probably should have been, and even with Death Comes to Town I still feel that deep, genuine KITH experience.

In February 2004 I moved back to Indiana and lost my privileges of CBC and was once again reduced to PBS for my sometimes -whenever we feel like it- Red Green fix. Long ago Comedy Central had removed anything funny from their schedules and Kids in the Hall was probably first to have been axed. But this gave way to having BBC, which introduced me to Monty Python, another comedy troupe I adore, yet their humor doesn't quite last as long as Kids in the Hall, at least not for me.

I was completely lost without Canadian humor, in fact, living strictly with PBS, I saw the last episode of The Red Green Show 4 years!!!!!! after it originally aired! But in the complete bemusement that was the year 2009 for me, I would be awarded a companion to accompany me through the haze and come out the other side much, much stronger. Like a light from pitch blackness came Trailer Park Boys, again a series that had ended well before I even knew about it, and from episode one I was hooked!

Now I've spoken my piece on Trailer Park Boys here before and I don't need to speak much about how I feel again, I'm merely mentioning it here to cover the fact that it is ingrained deeply within my life as a part of who I am, as are the other two shows I mentioned above. I simply can't explain it, but there is definitely something different about Canada that draws me in, deeper than staying where I am. I wish I could elaborate on it, but it eludes even myself.

I don't even have a TV, apart from using it strictly for video games, so I can't watch anything in particular. When I do I have to watch it online, which are either one of the three shows I mentioned before, or Adult Swim cartoons. There is simply nothing on American Television, cable or otherwise, that interests me in the least.

Without a doubt The Red Green Show, Kids in the Hall and Trailer Park Boys have shaped my sense of humor, my wit and me as a person. I feel as though in a sense I am part Canadian, as I was raised by those shows. Maybe someday I will truly be Canadian, but for now I'm just fine on the outside looking in.