Retro Setup Update

20. September 2019 13:15 by Cameron in   //  Tags: , , ,   //   Comments

I had been seeing various posts about JVC D-Series consumer CRTs and recently picked up a couple for my collection. My primary driver for retro gaming is a JVC AV-32D303 which is a great size for seeing scanlines from a reasonable viewing distance. I also found a JVC AV-20D303 locally which is a good option for more shorter gaming sessions. The JVC D-Series sets are quickly becoming my preferred way of retro gaming due to their curved screens and near flawless geometry. While I do like Trinitrons, if the set is a flat panel, the geometry looks weird on the edges. Now, if I did happen to see an FV310 become available in my area, I would definitely pick it up. That said, JVC's D-Series is a good competitor to the consumer Trinitron. The colors, geometry, and sharpness are simply stunning. If you happen to find one locally, definitely pick it up!

Since I recently purchased the 3rd party GameCube component cables from Insurrection Industries, I decided it was time to increase my component inputs. I didn't want to pay upwards of $200 for a gcompsw right now so I bought two Philips PH61150 4 way automatic switchers. I got each one for about $25. The nice thing here is that they can be daisy chained or combined with an existing switching setup. I already had a 3-way manual component switcher so I plan to make two of the inputs on that switch go to the automatic switchers.

The Philips switches provide the ability to switch between component, composite or S-video sources. The inputs don't transcode from one to another though. As most of my devices are component, I am primarily interested in the component switching abilities anyway. Since my GameCube will be getting an upgrade from S-video to component, I no longer need a switch for S-video. My Sony Handycam can output to S-video and I can leave the S-video input on my JVC D-Series available. My only composite device is my VCR. I had thought about an S-VHS VCR, but those are unfortunately quite old by this point. My VCR was manufactured in 2016 which is the last year that VCRs were manufactured. I hope that it will remain in functioning condition for years to come.

eMac Restoration

20. September 2019 09:35 by Cameron in Mac  //  Tags: , , , , ,   //   Comments

Continuing retro Mac collecting, I picked up an eMac! Upon receiving the eMac, it was packed very well and the shell was mostly undamaged. There are a few small cracks on the front bezel, but mostly cosmetic. When I tried to boot up the eMac, it failed to load any operating system. I booted up the Mac OS X Tiger installer and tried to format the hard drive, but kept getting errors during formatting. Ultimately, I had to replace the original 60GB HDD with a spare 250GB HDD I had. The replacement wasn't too bad, but it is more involved than servicing an iMac G3. I also replaced the DVD drive since it is a standard 5.25" IDE DVD drive.

In the process of putting the case back on, I accidentally snapped the wires to the power button because I forgot to disconnect it until the case was properly aligned. This is a common problem with eMacs. Thankfully, I was able to find some replacement power button assemblies from a computer recycling company. While I waited for this to arrive, I fashioned a makeshift power button. My plan is to desolder the original power button connector and solder on a JST connector in its place. While I have the case open, I will be replacing the PRAM battery too since it seems to have gone bad.

Once I have everything reinstalled, I hope to not need to open the case again for a while since it's a bit of a hassle to service an eMac. The screen is a beauty though. Apple used Trinitron CRTs in their vintage iMac, eMac and studio displays. It will be nice to keep these in working order as long as I can. Next, I would like to find a classic 68k Mac. I haven't decided on which model yet, but I will keep my eyes open for a good deal.

Why Plex? - Part 2

17. September 2019 13:09 by Cameron in   //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments

The online TV streaming market is becoming more fragmented as each company introduces their own service and gets exclusivity to several of our favorite TV shows that we used to watch on cable TV. I fully expect traditional cable to TV to be replaced by streaming in the next 5 to 10 years. The idea with streaming services was to "cut" the cord from the big cable companies. However, the reality is, the amount of money we pay hasn't really changed; It's just a matter of who we pay now.

With all of the new streaming services popping up to grab a piece of what used to be dominated by cable TV, I am glad to have my own Plex library which I have been slowly adding box sets of my favorite TV shows. It has become a bidding war of who gets to stream which show and it becomes too much to manage if you only subscribe to a couple of services. If it weren't for Netflix original content, I would probably drop them completely and continue building up my own TV library.

One of my favorite TV shows, The Big Bang Theory, is available on Netflix, but only in the UK. I have watched some of the show while visiting the UK, but while back in the US I've been using a VPN to get access to the show. Now that The Big Bang Theory is finished airing on live TV, I can purchase the box set for $200 on Amazon and not worry about who has the streaming rights to a particular show. If you usually pay $12-$15/month for Netflix, this works out to be about $144-$180 for the year. Yes, $200 for one show might seem like a lot, but it will save you the decision making of whether to keep a service or add a new service should the show you like switch streaming providers. Beginning next year, The Big Bang Theory is leaving Netflix to go to HBO Max streaming service. You will also be able to see it on TBS. However, I am just glad I won't have to worry about where I can watch going forward.

In the end, it's all about how you consume media. If you still have cable, then you can probably find the shows you like on your favorite networks. If you subscribe to streaming services, you can pick and choose which ones work for you for a given time frame. For me though, I mostly like to just subscribe and forget and not have to actively manage which ones to stay.

iMac G3 Update

1. September 2019 16:06 by Cameron in   //  Tags: , , , , , ,   //   Comments

It would appear that I was wrong about the flyback dying on my original Graphite iMac G3. I had installed the PRAM battery in the wrong direction so it was not saving any of the PMU data, preventing the CRT screen from turning on. After reseating the battery in the correct polarity and resetting the PMU a few times, I was able to get the CRT working again.

I received that second iMac G3, but it arrived in poor physical condition. The seller did not pack the iMac appropriately and the front bezel had shattered into dozens of pieces. I was able to get a refund for this iMac since it was in bad condition and shipping it back would have made the condition worse. Luckily, the CRT seems to still be intact on this iMac so I will be keeping it around for spare parts for a later date.

My original thought was to try and install the 250GB IDE HDD I had in the Graphite iMac, but there are no boot disks for the Intech Hard Disk Speedtools to properly format the larger disk. The installer for Mac OS 9 and OS X only saw the first 128GB of the drive. I played with the idea of using a second G3 Mac to format the iMac's internal HDD over FireWire, but ultimately decided to install my 128GB class 10 SD card instead. I now have Mac OS 9 and OS X installed on the same partition and can boot into either by switching the startup disk from within the OS. I haven't figured out how to get both OS 9 and OS X to list in the boot menu when holding down options on startup though. I read somewhere that you can press 9 or X at startup to boot the respective OS, but I have yet to try that.

My next goal for this iMac will be to get some more retro Mac PPC software and install a few games on the SD card. As the internal DVD drive doesn't eject disks correctly anymore, I will use an external FireWire drive or a second Mac in Target Disk Mode to install disk based games. Some of the games I will be installing include Sim Tower, Sim City 2000, and Fable The Lost Chapters.

In the spirit of vintage Macs, I recently purchased an eMac G4 1.25GHz. Upgrades on that one will be more of a hassle since Apple put access to the HDD and DVD drive on the bottom side of the logic board. I will probably tackle those, but only when absolutely necessary. I will be posting more about eMac soon.

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