Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Paul's "Twisted Thought Of The Day®" (inaugural edition)

(from the Snowball's chance in Heck department)

Hi everyone,

I just had one of those weird thoughts that sometimes occur to me.... I think I'm going to start keeping track of these here: My "Twisted Thought Of The Day®" (or TTOTD® for short).

So - follow my logic here....

  1. The original Xbox used an Intel processor with nVidia graphics and USB peripherals.
  2. The Xbox 360 uses a PowerPC processor with ATi graphics and USB peripherals.
  3. The Xbox 360 offers backwards compatibility by software emulation. This is tricky because the CPU and the GPU both have to have an emulation layer.
  4. The PlayStation 3 has a PowerPC processor with nVidia graphics and USB peripherals.

Therefore, to my way of thinking, you should be able to create an Xbox emulator for the PS3 with decent performance. In addition - you wouldn't have to translate the GPU commands with as much effort - the architecture between the Xbox and PS3 GPUs should be similar. (Not identical, but similar). And the Cell should do a great job emulating an Intel microprocessor.

Wouldn't that be a scream? Playing my Xbox games on my PS3?

Unfortunately, we'll have to file this in the "never gonna happen" department, I'm afraid. Still - Halo on the PS3 would be something.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Running Fedora 7 on Virtual PC 2007

(from the Hardware vs. Software 2 - this time it's personal! department)

Hi everyone,

Here's a (very) quick guide as to how I got Fedora 7 running on Virtual PC 2007. These are necessarily terse notes to myself - experienced Linux users (and Virtual PC users) will dig 'em. If there's interest in a step-by-step guide for normal (?) Linux users, I'd consider writing that as a separate blog entry.

Quick Guide/Notes:

  1. I decided to perform an FTP install of Fedora, so I only downloaded ISOs for the Live CD (Fedora-7-Live-i686.iso) and the Rescue CD (F-7-i386-rescuecd.iso).
  2. Virtual PC was set to use shared networking. (I'm not sure if this is a requirement or not - that's just how I did it.)
  3. Booted from the Live CD and followed the instructions for an FTP install of Fedora 7.
  4. You must perform a text based install. The graphics won't work by default since Virtual PC uses a 16-bit display and the installer defaults to 24-bit.
  5. When you reboot after the install, use a recovery disc and get to a command prompt. You'll want to change /etc/X11/xorg.conf and switch it to 16 bit graphics:
    Section "Screen"
    Identifier "Screen0"
    Device "Videocard0"
    DefaultDepth 16
    SubSection "Display"
    Viewport 0 0
    Depth 16
  6. You'll also want to comment out the S3 driver (with a "#") and add the framebuffer driver:
    Section "Device"
    Identifier "Videocard0"
    # Driver "s3"
    Driver "fbdev"
  7. Next, we need to start the kernel with extra parameters. This starts the kernel in framebuffer mode, fixes mouse support, adds mouse wheel and fixes a clock issue. I did this by editing the kernel entry in /boot/grub/grub.conf as follows (split into three lines for browser compatibility on the main blog page):
    kernel /vmlinuz-2.6.21-1.3194.fc7 ro
    root=/dev/VolGroup00/LogVol00 rhgb quiet vga=791
    i8042.noloop psmouse.proto=imps clock=pit
    1. The vga=791 selects 1024x768 screen and 16 bpp. You can set the pixel resolution to whatever you like by putting in the appropriate VESA value, however, for Virtual PC 2007, you must pick a 16 bpp mode. There's a handy list of them here at Wikipedia.
    2. The i8042.noloop fixes the mouse issue (i.e. PS2 mice that the emulator creates don't work with some kernels)
    3. The psmouse.proto=imps gets the mouse wheel working.
    4. The clock=pit fixes a clock issue

  8. Finally, I had to edit /etc/inittab to switch to X11 graphical boot instead of a text boot. Look for this line, and change the "3" to a "5" as follows:
  9. That's it!
Regular Virtual PC 2007 and Fedora 7 usage I leave as an exercise for the reader. *grin*

Update: Here are a few more notes that might prove useful.
  1. When you set time zone, be sure to indicate that the System Clock does *not* use UTC. Otherwise, you will find that your Fedora clock is off by a number of hours, depending on how many time zones you are away from UTC. If you set this by mistake, you can change it later in the GUI by selecting System-->Preferences-->System-->Date & Time.
  2. You may be able to use the graphic installer after all. When you boot the installer, use "Tab" to edit the command line, and try adding "vesa i8042.noloop psmouse.proto=imps clock=pit" after the "vmlinuz initrd=initrd.img". I'm testing this now, and will update my blog notes accordingly.


Creepy Robot Cat!

(from the Meowwww...eeeewwww... department)

Hi everyone,

I pass this along without much comment... (except maybe....eww!)

Yume Neko Smile, Creepy Robot Cat from Segatoys is now on sale!

(from Akihabara News)

I guess this is a perfect example of "Uncanny Valley".


Monday, September 10, 2007

PS3: 60 gig or 80 gig?

(from the Hardware vs. Software department)

Hi everyone,

I'm posting this information in my blog because there's been a lot of churn on these facts, and I need to document all of this information with as much real data as possible, before it gets lost. Most people will find this pretty esoteric, but if you want to see how global companies operate, read on!


The Sony Playstation 3 (PS3) is backwards compatible with the PlayStation 2 (PS2) and PlayStation (PS1). However, Sony has developed two different ways of doing backwards compatibility using either a hardware or a software solution.

Originally, the PS3 was to use pure software emulation via its powerful Cell microprocessor for PS2 and PS1 backwards compatibility. It is theorized that PS1 titles still may only utilize software emulation, based on this original development decision. However, sometime during the development process, this plan was partially abandoned in favor of a hardware solution for PS2 compatibility.

Therefore, at their November 2006 launch, the original North American and Japanese 20 gig and 60 gig PS3s had a custom PS2 Emotion Engine (EE) + Graphics Synthesizer (GS) chip on their motherboards for backwards compatibility. This custom EE+GS chip was later replaced on the European and Korean models with a single PS2 GS chip in a motherboard revision before their respective product launches, due to the increased performance of the EE software emulator, and to save money on the manufacturing costs. Interestingly, the two different motherboard revisions are apparently not interchangeable - the hardware units can't be "switched off" to become software units.

Since these models relied on software EE emulation, and this type of emulation is quite complex, the percentage of compatible PS2 games were lower for these machines at launch. Each successive System Software revision, however, has seen continual improvement in PS2 backwards compatibility percentages for these hybrid software emulation PS3s. Direct comparisons between the two different designs were initially hard to quantify, since there was only one motherboard design released in a region, and games differ too much between these regions.

The software emulator's difficulties with PS2 backwards compatibility was not a big issue for North American users since all models sold since launch, including the almost immediately discontinued 20 gig model, had the EE in hardware on the motherboard. This situation would soon change when Sony dropped the price of the 60 gig PS3 to $499 in North America and introduced a new 80 gig model at $599. Early press reports revealed that the 80 gig model would be using the EE-less motherboard, and therefore would rely on software emulation for PS2 compatibility. It also was quickly revealed that the 60 gig model was being price reduced because it was being phased out. Sony stated that they would only offer the 60 gig model until stocks ran out.

Sony recently started offering an on-line service for checking compatibility between the North American EE 60 gig models (including the discontinued 20 gig) and the non-EE 80 gig models. Curmudgeon Gamer has recently gone through their game library with this web service, and posted some interesting results. In their findings, the PS1 compatibility results are identical, lending some credence to the theory that the PS3 uses pure software emulation for PS1 titles. However, the PS2 compatibility results are quite different, with the hardware EE 60 gig model seemingly much more backwards compatible.

In summary, if backwards compatibility is important, it might be a good idea to pick up one of the 60 gig PS3s before stocks run out. PS1 compatibility appears identical between the two revisions, but PS2 compatibility seems to benefit from having the EE present, as in the 60 gig model.

UPDATE: added additional hardware GS information, per recent Sony documentation.

Jobs Offers Apple Lisa Early Adopters Store Credit

(from the If it's too good to be true...it probably is department)

Hi everyone,

A friend sent me this tongue-in-cheek post this morning. Made me laugh:

Jobs Offers Apple Lisa Early Adopters Store Credit


P.S. If you don't know what I'm talking about:
Steve Jobs gives all iPhone owners $100 back

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


(from the Paul's Smarter Brother department)

Hi everyone,

It's a little known fact, but my brother David is a silicon chip designer. At one point in his career, he worked for Sony and designed an RGB-to-Video (NTSC/PAL) chip for the PlayStation called the CXA2075.

Well, yesterday, I was poking around on the web, and found the data sheet for it (PDF). Very impressive Dave!

There's still a number of people who use it, too.

Dave's own recollections can be found here.