Saturday, October 29, 2016

Way to Go Nyko!

Along with aftermarket controllers Nyko is also famous, perhaps infamous, for making rechargeable battery packs. From both online reviews and personal experience these rechargeable battery sets don't seem to be the best quality. To be fair they are used when I buy them, and as for the online reviews I could use the old saying "The squeaky wheel gets the grease" could be applied here. Most reviews are negative, but if a person is happy with a product, do they necessarily have time or the desire to give said product a review? I doubt it.

A few months ago I picked up a Nyko Charge Station (87000-A50) for the Nintendo Wii. I had become ever increasingly irritated with the fact that my rechargeable Energizer AAs were slowly but surely losing their longevity, so I needed an alternative. The outlet store, once again, came through and saved the day when I found both the charger and two rechargeable batteries for the Wii motes.

With hopeful wishes and childlike wonder I put the batteries into my Wii motes and quickly realized a few things. Firstly you need a special Nyko battery cover for these battery packs, the original Nintendo battery cover will not work. Secondly, and probably most expected, the batteries were dead, but lucky for me I had the charging base. As soon as I put them into the charging base the blue light lit up and within seconds it turned green. After a short bit of internet Columbo sleuthing I found out blue means charging and green means full.

Obviously the batteries weren't full already, the Wii mote didn't even flicker with them installed. I continued my Columbo sleuthing and found a tutorial online where someone replaced the batteries with regular rechargeable batteries, which greatly appealed to me, because it meant I had a project on my hands, and I love projects!

A few months after buying the Nyko Charging Base, the outlet store also gifted me a pair of Rayovac hybrid rechargeable AAAs. After recharging them in my wall charger I noticed the Rayovac batteries seem to have held a charge for a long time. It only seemed natural that these two should go together, and so they shall!

I carefully pried the top open and removed the cells from one (the pack that seemed the worst off anyway) of the battery packs. With a small piece of aluminum foil folded and placed in the bottom, the AAAs batteries fit quite snug, yet quite well within the battery pack. After everything was all put together it seems to work just fine; the Wii mote lit up and worked as to be expected, without going dead within a few minutes.

Hopefully I'll find a way to recharge the original cells and get them back to a semi normal charging cycle, but otherwise the Rayovac hybrid rechargeable AAAs really seem to have saved the day. One thing I will say about this new pack is that there is no way I'll be using the Nyko charging base to recharge this particular pack. I feel it would be much safer to just pull them out and charge them in the normal wall charger, as I would have done anyway. Better safe than dead!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

My Adventures in Guitar Cable Repairs.

Let me say it right now, I am a cheap ass. That's right, I said it, I admit it and I'm fairly ok with that. I am a cheap ass. This means if I can find something useful at the outlet store I'll buy it, even if it needs repairs. Odds are I'll find the parts to repair it at the outlet store also, as you'll soon see.

Many many moons ago I bought a First Act guitar cable from the outlet store. It felt sturdy and I liked the ends on it, so I knew I was going to purchase it. What does a guitar cable weigh? Not much, and that was the last deciding factor I needed to make the purchase a done deal.

As things go, sometimes cables aren't quite up to scratch, especially First Act brand. What ended up happening to that cable was that one end became bent and dislodged the wires. The ends aren't the high quality, unscrew and solder style, these are molded hard rubber, so fixing this cable would be more of a problem than it would be a solution. I figured maybe in the future I would find a cable with a nice unscrew and solder style plug that I could just buy and replace it with that one.

That day came, a few months ago, when I stumbled upon a really nice, unbranded, tweed wrapped cable that was missing one of its ends. The problem became apparent immediately; I couldn't tear this cable apart to repair a cheap First Act cable. There was no way in hell I was going to ruin a better quality cable, even by an unknown brand, to repair that cable. I, instead, decided to painstakingly repair the First Act cable to its former glory, sort of.

The process was filled with blood, sweat and frustration, literally. I removed the plug from the cable, hollowed out the hardened rubber to allow for the wire to come through, better than it was when it was molded, soldered everything back together and finished by sitting the plug back into the socket. These are not quality parts, the repair is not a quality repair, but the results are exactly what I wanted. The cable now works, and sounds as good as can be expected from a cheap cable, and everything is right with the world again, plus I have a spare guitar cable to use.

June 2020 Update:

Many months went by while using the haphazardly repaired cable and it ended up breaking down from use, again because the ends aren't the unscrew and repair style. What I did end up doing was snipping the end off entirely and soldering on a 90 degree pancake jack end. The quality of the 90 degree jack makes the cable a bit darker, but in works and in the end that's all that matters to me.

So what was I to do with the tweed cable? Repair it too, of course! At first I was going to buy a Switch Craft brand cable end from Amazon. I wanted to do it right since this is such a nice looking cable. Amazon being the Mega-Douches they can sometimes be won't sell you a $2 (at the time writing this) part without you buying an additional $48 worth of stuff. I would gladly pay the $2 it would cost to ship the damn thing, but nooooooooooooo! So what's a crafty nerd to do? Outlet store, baby!

That's right! While at the outlet store I found a weird cable hobbled together with the 6.3mm end I needed connected to two RCA jacks on the other end. I could tell it was homemade because 90% of the project was electrical tape and it took quite some time to tear apart. Once the part I needed was free I put it in my bag and kept shopping. Once I got the item home the project started to come together.

The tweed cable needed to be stripped, wires tinned and the jack needed to be cleaned and prepped for surgery too. The thick, lead solder was a bit rough, but the wires still attached to the jack came free just fine. I'm not sure what brand this jack is but while moving solder around I saw Japan stamped into the metal, so I'm feeling pretty good about the whim on which I decided to pick this jack up.

The original tan shrink wrap had been ripped off with the original jack, and since this jack didn't come with the metal sleeve that screws on and protects everything within, I just decided to solder everything up and wiggle what was left up and over the exposed wires. This is nowhere near ideal, but I'm fine with it, plus I can always repair it later, if the need arises.

Cheap outlet guitar cable plus cheap outlet parts equals a fun time repairing stuff. Yes, it works just fine, and again I know it's not a perfect repair, but it is a repair. I always feel it's worth the time and effort to repair things I find from the outlet store, especially items I want to have that just need a little extra time and care. I'm hoping to find a proper end sometime in the near future, but then again the tan shrink wrap would still be missing. Either way I'm glad to have two spare guitar cables.

June 2020 Update:

While dealing with the 2020 pandemic I decided to fix up some projects I had left incomplete, the tweed cable being one of many I decided to rectify. I had purchased a smaller cable a few years ago from the Goodwill Outlet store and after a few uses the 6.35mm end started to come loose. It only recently dawned on me that cable would be perfect for parts to make patch cables, as well as using the one piece to fix my tweed cable. As you can see below I used the metal sleeve that screws onto the jack from the other cable to complete this one. I think it turned out pretty nice, covering my horrible soldering work.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Goodwill Disappointment.

Let me preface this with the fact that I have a Love/Hate relationship with Goodwill. Sometimes I'll find a good deal, sometimes I walk away in disgust at their lazy ebay researching when they slap an extremely insane price on an item and expect it to sell. This is just one shining example of what is wrong with the Goodwill pricing system.

Every so often my local Goodwill stores have a sale day, and the outlet stores drop their prices a little bit as well. The day started out quite interesting as the very first bin I found was a bin filled with media. CDs, DVDs (that were actually in their cases), video games and much more! Needless to say it was crowded, but I managed to nose my way in and I picked up a few PS3 games, a pair of PS1 games and some PC software I thought sounded interesting. It wasn't until the final round that I found something that blew my mind, not only for the fact that everyone else passed it up, but because it had a Goodwill store sticker on it.

Finding items at the outlet store with store stickers isn't an uncommon occurrence, in fact years ago I found a whole roll of store price tags; had I been a less honest person I would have paid the per weight price for the tags and went shopping at the store and got everything for that price. Needless to say, I'm not a prick, well at least not that much of a prick. The outlet store is comprised mostly of items that sat on shelves for months on end and just weren't sold, thus many items do have price tags on them, and most of those prices are also quite laughable.

The item in question is a rather roughed up Nintendo DS Lite. Again, not only was I quite shocked that everyone passed it up, I was also shocked at the $34.99 price tag that adorns the top screen when I opened it up. $34.99 isn't a bad price for a used DS Lite in good shape, perhaps if it came with a few games, the charger, the stylus, and maybe even a case. However, that price is bad for a roughed up DS Lite with the bottom screen being smashed!

Clearly Goodwill didn't bother to check if the item worked and just checked ebay, found one for sale and priced it as such. If the item was broken by a customer they would most likely be forced to buy it, as you would at any retail establishment, or it would have been thrown in the trash, which I've seen them do with countless other broken items. The only thing I can conclude is that the item came in broken, was never tested, was priced lazily off ebay and was put in a glass case for many people to pass by and either not buy it because they don't want one, or because the bottom screen is smashed.

At the outlet store price I knew I was taking this home, in fact I didn't even know the bottom screen was broken until I got out to the car when I was leaving. It doesn't matter to me if the bottom screen is broken, as I'll use it to fix up my broken DS Lite. I have some spare parts from a broken DS Lite I found from the outlet store years ago, so I'm sure I could possibly have two working DS Lites.

The only problem I have with it is that $34.99 price tag that some store employee lazily slapped on their. Goodwill received this item for free and was hoping for glory. It's sadly not the first, nor the last case of Goodwill taking in items for free and wanting a premium price for them. If you're going to charge a premium price for something, Goodwill, make sure the item is worth what you're asking.

Friday, October 14, 2016

I Guess it's the Small Victories.

After watching some videos online of how to make NES homebrews using donor cartridges and PCBs, I decided to try my hand at taking apart an old Gyromite PCB I had laying around. A while back I bought quite a few games with NES to Famicom converters inside to make into actual converters, which left me with quite a few Famicom and NES game PCBs with nothing better to do with. So I figured I would start by trying to remove the chips.

After painstakingly removing the solder from each leg of each chip, I decided to try and pry the chip out. As I was applying moderate force I heard a crack and quickly panicked. Did I just fuck this up? Even though I have a few more I still didn't want to ruin one, because I would still like to use them all, if possible.

After I heard the crack I decided it would probably be best to test my skills at soldering the chip back into place. After a few more minutes of making sure each chip leg was bathed in solder and comfortably seated to the contacts on the PCB I popped the board into a Famiclone and fired it up.

Oh boy! It's glitchy! I'm pretty sure I just fucked this thing up. Again, this isn't a huge deal, but I would like to have used them all and been able to make a few NES homebrew games I could be proud of. If nothing more than just a confidence booster, I needed to check over my work and make sure everything was done right. I had to make this work!

It was only then that I realized I hadn't resoldered the alignment pad. On some NES games there is a vertical and horizontal alignment pad that needs to be soldered. After putting a nice glassy blob of solder on the correct pad I popped the PCB back into the Famiclone and fired it back up. Would it work this time?

Yep. It worked this time, but quickly the realization that I had just set out to remove the chip, panicked and completely resoldered the chip made me feel confused. After the feeling of confusion wore off I decided to chalk this little experiment up as a confidence boosting skill. Hey, I had desoldered most of the legs and once I panicked I proved to myself that I could resolder a chip right back into place. All I need now is a proper solder remover, a chip programmer, chips to program and games to put on the chips.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

100 Action Arcade Games Volume 4: Burned Again?

100 Action Arcade Games Volume 4 is yet another one of those many promises left unfulfilled CDs that I decided to buy at the outlet store. The main thing that caught my attention were the words Grand, Theft, Auto and the number 2. I know the first two GTA games are now freeware from the Rockstar website, but you have to go through some sort of lottery situation, from which I've never been able to obtain the download links. Regardless I figured with all the games packed on to this disc I couldn't go wrong, especially with a full dose of good old GTA 2.

I was wrong, yet again. What the case fails to fully disclose is that most of these games are merely demos. Only once you take the time to unfold the instructions does it tell you that this disc is comprised of demos and trial software. On the back of the case it explains what demoware and trialware are, but doesn't really state as fact that this disc has any on it, just a simple explanation that seems out of place.

Despite my displeasure with their ruse I gave a few of the demos a good old fashion trying. Some of the demos are actually pretty good. Most of the games are junk thrown in to pad the 100 number, but some of the actual games were surprisingly good, in the sense that I'm not sure why I've never heard of them before.

Some of these games, pending their retail version quality, probably should have been bigger names than they are. The disc has its mix of good games, freeware junk and games that are as good or as bad as I would expect them to be. Was this worth picking up from the outlet store? Sure! It's opened my collecting eyes to a handful of games I've never heard of before, and now if I find them at the outlet store I'll know to pick them up too.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Oh, so close! Try again!

There always seem to be video games that are highly sought after that I've never heard of before. After missing the boat on many generations before, I started paying particular attention to, and collecting, Xbox games during the end of its generation. I was trying to do my best to keep myself aware of what was rare, hard to find or highly sought after before they became high dollar items. Even so, quite a few games managed to sneak under my radar that I never heard even a peep about and are now considered collector's gold.

It wasn't until a few years ago that I actually started trying to pickup PS2 games, in much the same way I did with the Xbox games. This only proved that I hit the Xbox games at the right time and completely missed the boat on PS2 games. I've seen some PS2 games that are worth quite a bit now, but, at the time, I wasn't really looking for them. Many .hack games for a few dollars at flea markets slipped through my hands, a chance I may never have again.

More recently I've been trying harder to keep tabs on what games for the Xbox and PS2 era are worth something. Some of the games that were rare or highly sought after years ago have stabilized and just sit idle in their value, while many newcomers have surpassed games that were worth far more than they were only a handful of years ago. All in all I can say that I've managed to pickup some good deals on hard to find games for both the Xbox and PS2, but nothing all that life altering.

So as my outlet store hunting goes, I will say that I picked up Nascar Racing 2003 Season, which is a fairly desired PC game. I found a Nintendo Game & Watch Octopus in really good shape, yet another item that many collectors would love to have. I also came across a copy of  Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis for the PS2, but this is where things get weird.

What looks like a normal, genericly bland Gamestop case for a fairly desirable PS2 game is actually hiding a secret within it's clutches. Oh no, it's not another game, it is in fact a 100% real copy of what it claims to be. I finally own a copy of Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis! Yet, it's PAL.

What makes me wonder is how this came across the pond in the first place. I mean, it's not unheard of for people to buy imports online these days, with the internet and collection interactions being so easy to do nowadays, but it is odd to get a PAL region version of a game that was released here locally anyway. Secondly I would like to know why it was in a, assumably, US Gamestop. We all know now that Gamestop isn't too keen on making sure the merchandise they take in is really what they're taking in, so I'm pretty sure that this isn't just a bait and switch by somebody trying to play a trick, if so it failed because I paid a nickle for it at the outlet store and I consider myself the winner in that deal.

It's a little bit of an oddity, for sure, but it's also a bit of a sad case, because I don't have a PS2 that will play PAL region games. It's not a huge deal for me, I mean I do love oddities and odd stories, so this is just another one of them that I can write a blog about. I'm not sure whether the PAL version is more or less desirable than the NTSC version, but either way I can say I officially own it.