Lack of Xbox light gun games

July 18, 2007

Last weekend I was at cash converters in town looking at bargins, Amazingly I saw an xbox 360 with wireless controllers, hard drive (which is required for playing older xbox games on the 360) and the dvd remote for the extremely low price of $360. Now at the time of writing, the cheapest xbox deal on trademe is well over $400 and thats for the core system only, so Im really kicking myself at the moment (I obviously didnt buy it). The only game at the moment which to me would justify spending that money on an xbox would be Guitar Hero 2 which I have been playing heavly with Jo and Blair on the xbox 360 at work. The options to upgrade to the upcomming “Rock Bands” (Which combine the guitars, some drums and singstar style singing into the one game) also helps make this a worth while investment, but allast, I missed out 😦

Anyway, the other bargin I spotted was a Xbox light gun for $12 which I thought was pretty darn good so swiped my card and went home with my new toy to search on the internet for what game titles are avaliable. To my amazement, I found very few.  The 2 that I did find were the “Silent scope” series, which reminds me of the old sega game virtua cop but with the twist of having a scope function, and “The house of the dead” series which is more of your typical shoot as many zombies as you can and as fast as you can!!!.

After a huge hunt online and around town I managed to track down a old copy of “The house of the dead 3” which United Video was selling as a resurfaced ex rental for $20. The back cover talks about it also having the 2nd of the series avaliable as a unlock (I’ll post the save game which allows for the unlock once I find one or once I’ve clocked/unlocked it myself). At the same united video (Courtney Place) they were renting out “Silent scope Complete” which is a 4 in one game containing all 3 of the arcade versions and the original console game (a grand price of $3.50 for 8 days). Short of this, I couldnt find any others.

So huge Disapointment, more so knowing that Silent scope is only a 1 player game!!!.

All is not lost however as I have read on the net in a few places that a lot of these light guns on the xbox work with MAME games so if you have a modded xbox, a MAME emulator installed and some “legal” mame games around (I dont endorse piracy on my blog 🙂 ), you should be able to hook these up.

Moral of the post (and a note to Microsoft Xbox Team), Please please please, if you plan to release peripherals for the Xbox (360), make sure there are enough people out there to support development of games using these cool toys. A great example would be Guitar hero, which has been rumored that the guitar would be reusable for the upcomming games Activision releases in this series (Rock Bands).

If anyone out there knows of any other xbox games which support the Light Gun, I would greatly appreciate if you could post a comment with their names.

List so far:

  • point.gif Silent Scope Complete (contains 4 slient scope games on the one dvd)
              1 Player Game
              tn_silentscopedvdcd98_jpg.jpg
  • point.gif The house of the dead 3 (contains The house of the dead 2 as an unlock)
              1- 2 Player Game
               house-of-the-dead3.jpg
  • point.gif Starsky & Hutch 
              1- 2 Player Game
              646521_140.jpg

Update:

A list of Light gun games has been found on wikipedia, dont know why I didnt find this before…. Anyway, confirms there are only 3 games for the xbox using light guns, totally guttered…

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Dell E172FPb LCD Monitor (Benq OEM) CCFL Backlight Repair

July 13, 2007

UPDATE – READ FIRST (3 June 2008)

K, so its been a while since I’ve added anything on this page (and in general for my blog) but theres been quite a few concerns around the use of the replacement transistor by people who I would assume know more then me (i know very little).

I’m glad to say that the 2 fixed LCD’s I use still works so that in itself is good but in saying that, based on some of the comments, I dont want to help someone burn their house down, I love my home and I think you do too :-> . Please only do this at your own risk.

One other thing to note here is that I live in New Zealand, which in general is a bit colder then the rest of the world. The LCD doesnt seem to get too hot here but I would think that cooling is would be a bigger issue elsewhere in the world.

Please read all the comments before deciding to use the replacement parts and if you can get hold of the original parts, Please do!!! I’m thinking that if my transisters go sometime soon, I will end up ordering new ones (the propper parts) from some of the places indicated on some comments.

 To everyone who has made comments, thanks, Its always great to see feedback 

E172FPb beforeBeing the second faulty Dell lcd monitor passing my desk in the last 6 months, I thought I’ll make a posting to describe the successful fix to this guy (and the first one, which is still running good).

The symptoms: When pluged in, This guy fires up just long enough to get past the initial “logo” screen and onto the test pattern (its not plugged into the computer at this stage). After about 2 seconds of being on the test pattern, it turns off, or more specificually, the protection circuits kick in, turning off the backlight. So in this case, the monitor was still working and the LED was indicating that the monitor was on (it was green). A good way to test if it is just the back light is to grab a strong light and shine it onto the lcd, If you can see a dark picture underneath then the lcd is def still working and it should be a pretty minor fix.

So what is this protection circuit? The protection circuit on Lcd’s is generally a way of protecting the actual fluorescent tube from getting overdriven (too much current going through them). So when this protection circuit kicks off, it generally means there is either a short in the tube or a short in one of the components near / on the inverter. unless the LCD is quite old, its usually a short somewhere in the inverter circuits.

So after seeing these symptoms and having seen the excact same on the other dell lcd that I had fixed, I was feeling pretty confident of a good outcome….

Opening up the monitor:

  • Remove the screws holding the Stand in place.
  • Remove the stand
  • Flip the monitor so that the bottom is facing up.
  • Grab a flathead screw driver and use it to ply apart the bottom of the monitor.
  • Now that the bottom is released, Start working yourself u8p the sides.
  • Once the sides are sorted, you should be able to seperate the top without a screwdriver, infact, I found that using a screw driver to ply the top made no difference. I think the top is a unique case….
  • Remove the plastic backing
  • Remove the taped shield
  • Disconnect and unhook the 2 ribbon cables which connect to the lcd pannel from the processor board.
  • Disconnect the cable from the processor board to the front control panel.
  • Remove the front plastic cover (they are cliped around the side to the main panel)
  • Remove the 2 hex nuts by the VGA plug
  • Remove the Metel shield along the side of the monitor (that long glossy metel part, it slides right off).
  • Disconnect the 2 cables connecting the back light from the power/inverter board.
  • unscrew the 4 screws from the side of the panel and remove the back metel plate.
  • You should now have all the plastic parts, the main panel (keep this away from anything / anyone who migth step or damage it!!!) and a metel casing part which holds all the pcb’s, one for the Power/inverter and the other for the graphics processor.
  • Unscrew the earth cable and unclicp the plastic holding the power socket in place.
  • Remove the remaining screws which hold the pcbs in place.

You should now be able to pop out the circuit boards, be careful though, although the power baord would be quite amune to static, the processor board (with the dsp chip) is not! be careful with this board, you want to put it on an antistatic bag or newspaper and not on plastic or carpet (the whole static thing again).

Some photos:

dell_e172fpb_opening_1.jpg   dell_e172fpb_opening_2.jpg   dell_e172fpb_opening_3.jpg   dell_e172fpb_opening_4.jpg   dell_e172fpb_opening_5.jpg   dell_e172fpb_opening_6.jpg  

The Internals:

Dell E172FPb Internal 1   internal_2.jpg   Dell E172FPb Internal 4

The Fix

Faulty transistors to checkLooking only at the power/inverter board, there are a small group of 4 transistors which are used to drive the inverter, these fail easiy and when they do fail, they usually fail in pairs. The main problem with testing these is that you can not test these transistors in circuit, you have to remove them to test them. So start by unsoldering one pair and checking them using a multimeter (more info on testing NPN transistors, click here). if these are good, start unsoldering the other pair and do the same.

dell_e172fpb_fixed.jpgIn my case, I found that there was a short in one of the pairs. The origianl transistors were ‘c5707‘ NPN transistors, which are impossible to get hold of here in New Zealand (they can be found on ebay though if you live in the states), so hunting through the jaycar catalogue, I found something quite similar, the “MJE3055” Transistor. The main problem with this guy is that it has a much bigger casing (TO-220 package) and isnt going to fit nicely into the lcd monitor case….

The first dell I had, I moved the new big transistors to the left of the board and moved the original good ones down to the right, then using some insulation tape  and cardboard to isolate the heat sink part of the transistor from the metel (earthed) chassi case. This worked quite well but I’m always worried about how hot these transistors get and and that the insulation tape wont hold (should have used some better quality tape really) so I thought this time around I’ll try something abit different…

MitresawSo what I ended up doing was taking the case down to the garage and starting the Mitre saw up, Made a nice slit where the inverter circuit lives and ripped out that chunk of metel. Although It wasnt as clean as the first Dell I dealt with, It did mean i had some piece of mind around knowing it will never short circuit again the casing.

I think If I were going to do this again, I would go down the insulation tape route based on the clean finish.

The Result

 Putting the whole thing together and having a working product, Priceless 🙂

final_dell_e172fpb_lcd_2.jpg

Dell E172FPb

MCMS 2001 to 2002 Upgrade

July 2, 2007

For the last few months I have been involved with an MCMS 2001 upgrade to 2002 which involved 10 websites and over 70 templates. This was a huge technology upgrade as the 2001 stuff was based off old school asp and vb code and was being upgraded to .net2 / Mcms 2002 with sp2 (adds some basic .net2 support such as sitemaps and master pages).

This is actually a momoth task and should not really be called an upgrade as it is, to a large degree, a rewrite, only keeping the logic and assuming there will be no reusable code (you are converting from procedure based code to OO right?)

Tasks involved with upgarde:

Setting up the dev Enviroment: 

I found that with such a major setup such as CMS, its best doing dev work in a vm, In mycase, I used the free microsoft virtual PC 2007, windows 2003 (for its ability to host multiple websites) and sql 2000 as a base setup. Installing mcms 2002 and its service packs (SP1a and SP2) will take a good day. The other thing to note is I was never actually successful in getting the MCMS project templates integrated correctly within visual studio 2005 (maybe to do with order of install?)but then as it turns out, we didnt need it so chances are you prob wouldnt either. We used the standalone template manager by Steve Walker to do all the linking between the mcms template and the aspx templates files. There are also afew tricks to installing sp2 such that it takes less time to install (it will take atleast an hour, and if memory serves me right, it took me more like 2 or so hours).

Migrating the database:

The real good thing that saved me lots of time was that there was no need to have MCMS 2001 installed, all we needed was a copy of the old mcms 2001 database from the client (a whole 3.5 gigs worth). Once I restored this as a local database, I had to clean up the database users (removing all those that the client had and giving myself permissions of DB_Owner. All this done, next was to point the MCMS Database configuration tool (DCA) at the old 2001 database and let it work some magic. It will eventually say it found an old mcms database and ask if you want to convert it.

The conversion process for this has taken me over 30 hours when running from within a vm and hitting a database over the network, lesson learnt, do not use a networked database, it could had be the fact that the vm is slow, the network adaptor was doing natting for the vm, the database might have been under heavey load or just very chatty connection but yes, it took over 30 hours to do migrate 3.5 gigs or so. Much easier to have a local db inside the vm (which the 2nd time round, ended taking 2 hours max while running the vm off usb2 portable hard drives), serious lessons learnt!.

You will be prompted to add a admin user account, make sure you remember this as you will need this to get into mcms using site manager (and in order to add more users in mcms).

The mcms2001 Templates which used to be stored as part of the database will be slightly altered and spit out onto the file system (<Path>). At this stage, its prob a good idea to take backups of your migrated database and your exported dumaped out templates!

Coding up new .net 2 templates

The easiest and quickest way to do this in my case was to find a nice general page from the current live site, view the html (client browser end) and throw that whole chunk into a ‘Sample’ html file in the soloution. Next step was to clean out the non-template data from the html such as the placeholder’s body data. Now throw the cleaned up html into a master page and start moving out functionality into user controls (for now, they will contain only static data in order to get the site compiling and working quickly), so for example, some controls might be “breadCrumb”, “LeftNav”, “MainMenu” etc.

Once all the basic controls are taken out of the master page, you can start looking at creating your first template. I would pick off teh most commonly used template for this as it helps sorts out say 80% of the site with very little effort, so in my case it was a basic “general” template. Code this template up using either the standard mcms placeholders or you can (in my case I did) use some extended custom user controls which encapslated an “edit” guide text caption for authoring mode and the basic cms placeholder control all in one.

 Some useful “extended” controls to have:

A Placeholder control that holds both the standard MCMS control with a settable “edit caption”

A Panel Control which hides the content of the panel if the CMS placeholder is Empty / Black (<p>&nbsp;</p>, etc)

ImagePlaceholder control that allows setting propotional height/width properties (Feature of MCMS 2001 which is no longer supported in 2002).

Importance of knowing and talking Design patterns

June 16, 2007

As part of a push from a mate at work (and hopefully myself), I have started reading the book Head first design patterns by O’Reilly publishers (intro pdf avaliable on the site). By first looks, It’s a very childish book but once you get past the logic for it being so (well explained in the first few pages of the book/ pdf), it’s actually a really informative and invaluable book.

<ShamelessPromotionOfBook>

I have always thought that for me to pick up a good understanding of design patterns, I really have to be reading about them and implementing them as I go through the examples (prob the typical approach to learning). The way this book is written seems to remove this need by (according to the author) making use of different learning styles and ultimately making itself standout by use of images, with text and arrows inside the image rather then captions, images to stimulate emotion and attachment, lots of activities to practice and quiz yourself on your understanding, the use of stories which is a lot easier to remember then just raw information and facts and a lot more. End result is a much more interesting book that helps your brain persist, recall and hopefully apply the use of patterns in real life situations (the book gives heaps of good situations which relate somewhat to real world). So far the book is looking real good and I’ll highly recommend it to anyone who thinks they just wont be able to read a thick book on design patterns.

</ShamelessPromotionOfBook>

Anyway, back to my post, At the end of the first chapter, it talks about the huge importance and benefits of using a shared vocabulary when talking about software architecture, the vocabulary being mainly expressing  things in design patterns.
So fully supporting this comment, the key points and benefits of doing so (slightly grouped together and in 1 (longish) paragraph).

Saying more with less / Turbo charging the team / Stay in the design longer:
By using patterns to describe architecture, you are really describing and grouping together a whole pile of ideas which another developer should be able to understand without having to expand on the little details such as ‘this has a collection of animals which….”. By not getting into the details of how things are going to be implemented, you can easily form a stronger overview of the system and deal with the high level issues such as potential architecture floors. This also changes efficiency of the team (the whole turbo charge thing) by spending less time on actually explaining the individual components of a pattern (outside of the context of the pattern) and by minimising mistakes caused by misunderstanding and interpretation.

<ShamelessPromotionOfBook>
Once again, highly recommended book, easy to digest, Buy or Borrow this book!
</ShamelessPromotionOfBook>

Bad caps on a compaq Machine (motherboard)

June 2, 2007

Afew days ago I had a call from some friends of mine, it appears that their fathers old compaq (amd athlon 1100mhz) had given up on them and they had alot of good stuff on it, including alot of the photos from their recent wedding. To say the least, it was vital to recover what i could from the machine. I was told that the sympton was that it would nolonger turn on and that for payment, my partner and I would be shouted to their delecious home cooked mussles, who would be the fool to give up an offer like that?!

Anyway, after having dinner at their place and a good catchup, I had a chance to test out the machine for myself. There was definitely power and it would turn on but only showed a black screen, it wouldnt post, no beep codes or anything 😦

Bad CapsAfter opening up the machine, I quickly spotted a good handful of bad Capactors lingering around the cpu (tell tale signs are when theres brown oze appearing from the top and when the top looks like its under alot of presure / not flat). Theses were common faults awhile back, affecting alot of motherboards of verious brands and there is a whole conspericy theory around why this happened (checkout www.BadCaps.net for more info), but these are realitively easy and dirt cheap to fix if you have the time, the tools (tools being a 25W to 40W soldering iron) and a steady hand.

When looking for replacement caps, theres heaps of places online these days that will sell you a cap kit for specific motherboards but as living in new zealand, postage would cost more then its worth, however, www.Jaycar.co.nz sells low esr caps thet may fit into some of the older motehrboards, else you can always find a cheap doner/faulty motherboard (this being the case with me) from your junk pile, a friend, ebay, trademe etc. The one thing to be aware of is that when replacing caps, usually only the higher value caps need replacing (look for anything 1000uf or higher as potentially being faulty), this doesnt mean lower value caps go bad but its alot less likely. The otherthing is although value isnt entirely all that important (I have replaced afew 1500uf and 22oouf  caps with 1200uf before and will in this case), Voltage is everything, When a cap says its 6.3V, do not use anything less, you could do more damage and potentually damage other parts such as the precious CPU and less precious Power supply!.

It is also very important that you use low ESR capactors as when passing power through the caps, they generate a resistance which is dependent on the frequency being passed through it (and dont say you are passing DC, cos you wont be, well not clean DC as its a switching power supply and also, the motherboard is using switching to get the different voltages it needs). The greater the resistance, the hotter the cap gets and the shorter they last (very short lifespan). The Low ESR caps cope better with the high frequency going through them.

bad caps on motherboardIn my case, the original caps were Nkcon 2200UF (6.3v). Luckly I had a old motherboard around which although wasnt useful, it had some good caps onbaord, so off they went. The best way I have found for removing caps of the board is by heating up one of the legs from the bottom of the board while applying presure from the top side of the cap (same side as the led you are ehating up). As it lifes out abit, repeat on the other leg and keep repeating the process untill out. This method also works well when removing the bad caps from the board you are trying to fix (however you really do need to be careful on this as the pcbs have heaps of layers and can be damaged very easily).

When applying the good caps to the board, fistly, make sure the legs are clean, straight and spaced such taht they should slide into teh board easely. Apply some solder to the upper side and lower side of the board wher the cap is going to sit. Position the cap into its final position (ensuring that the positive and negitive pins are in their correct orentation).

Apply heat on the bottom of the board (board should be rested verticually if possible) while applying presure on one side of the cap. repeat process for the 2nd leg and keep repeating to wiggle the cap onto the board. The cap should soon be sitting on the baord (doesnt need to be a tight fit as that may over time and the heat cycles, damage the cap).

Repeat process for all the caps (11 in this case).

As a final step, make sure you clean up after yourself, remove any splatters of solder that may have jumped as you heated it, resolder any of your work that looks unclean etc.

Finally, test your board and pray for success (I would recommend you test your board using old parts if you have them just incase, else use only 1 memory stick, no hard drives, no unnessery addon cards etc). once you are happy with a job well done, connect everything else up.

In this case, the hard drive was still good and the motherboard was the only fatal fault. What was better was that when they came to pick the machine back up, they droped off some dim sims that Serahs father had made!, yum!!!!

If you plan on trying this fix then afew words of advice:

  •  When replacing the caps, Make sure the voltage of the new caps is atleast the same
  •  The new caps should be the Low ESR type and rated for 105 degrees
  •  Be extremely careful when removing the damaged caps, if you are not, you can easily damage the board.
  •  Tint the leads of the new caps first before putting them onto the motherboard
  •  Make sure you have the caps positioned correctly (the ‘-‘ should be marked on the cap and the ‘+’ should be marked on most boards)
  •  Make sure you do a good job on cleaning up before putting the baord back into teh case, old solder bits could get traped and short circuit things (really bad, best to tidy up well)
  •  Before turning the board on for the first time, make sure you install only the minimum parts to get the machine started (pick the smallest ram chip, dont install hard drive, if you have onboard graphics, use that instead of the standalone one, dont install any unneeded addon cards such as modems, unplug usb ports and even the monitor if its an lcd etc), that way, you will cause the lest damage if somethign went wrong (you should know if somethings not right within seconds of turning it on).
  •  Finally, have some faith in yourself, it isnt a hard job to do.

 Good luck!

AOC LM722 LCD repairs

January 27, 2007

100_1343.jpgOne of my real bad habbits is picking up faulty junk off trademe in hopes of me repairing them and making use of them, I just cant stand how people end up throwing away good stuff which only costs $1 to fix (no really, only $1 or even less!!!). Luckly for me, someone elses loss is my gain and also luckly for me, Ive had some good luck in this area, in this case, picking up this faulty AOC LCD Monitor for the cheap cheap price of only $45, Ofcourse, it did have this minor problem of actually being faulty.

The auction described the monitor as  “*****POWER PROBLEM WITH MONITOR, IT DOES NOT STAY ON! COULD BE AN EASY FIX FOR SOMEONE WHO KNOWS WHAT THEY ARE DOING.************”
After having it arrived at work in its original packaging (really must stress the packaging, once the screens cracked, or have dead spots, nothing left to do but dump the poor thing), I pluged it in and sure enough, the monitor would turn on for about 2 seconds and then nothing.

Suspecting the backlight as bing the issue, I grabbed a tourch and tried to see if there was a dark faint image on the screen, no luck, the monitor had actually gone on standby mode (indicated by the orange led). Further diognostics required taking the unit apart…. heres some quick notes on how to do this (without putting too much stress on the plastic and the actual lcd).
You will need only 2 screw drivers (one philips for the screws and one flat head, for best results and to avoid damaging the plastic, go for the widest flathead you can find) and a small spanner.

Ok, some pictures on removing the plastic casing.

100_1358.jpg   100_1356.jpg   100_1355.jpg  100_1354.jpg   100_1353.jpg   100_1348.jpg

The insides (click for high res)

 100_1099.jpg   100_1350.jpg   100_1349.jpg  

The problem!

 100_1100.jpg   100_1101.jpg
A visual inspection quickly showed the croperit, the pluge of the bad capactors strikes again.
After a quick replacement of the cap, I quickly put the sheild back on and gave it a quick wheirl. Fixed!!!
Reassembled the casing and left the lcd running over night with a  screensaver. By morning, still running and has

been for over 3 weeks now.

Net Result? Dual Monitors!!!

100_1239.jpg
So, whos up for a cheap LCD? 🙂

Brand: AOC
Product name: LM722
Model Number: TFT1780ps+