Archive for January, 2014

31
Jan
14

Megapede for DOS

Megapede

Megapede

This week my family and I have been sick, so I’ve been fairly busy taking care of little kids and my sick partner. I have however managed to find some time this week to play a small shareware game we had back in the day. The game is called Megapede, it’s a small text based clone of Centipede and was created by Dom. Early back in 1992.

Playing

Playing

The game uses ASCII and text characters for the graphics on screen, which actually looks fine for what they are. Sound comes from the PC speaker, and has some pretty impressive noises for the device, although I have noted it sounds different depending on the CPU you have. I’ve found playing this under Dosbox, a cycle count of 500-3000 plays ok. On actual hardware it would likely work quite well even on the original IBM PC and not be too fast as long as your machine is slower than a 386sx 20Mhz.

Dead

Dead

This is the only Centipede clone I’ve played, and I haven’t played Centipede, so I can’t really compare game play between this and other implementations of the game. I did find this game relatively difficult, partly because it is frequently difficult to hit short centipedes, partly because of the weird controls. The game uses A and Z for vertical movement and O and P for horizontal, with the space bar shooting. This isn’t as intuitive as I’d like, especially when learning to play. Slowing the cycles on Dosbox did help in making it more playable.

All in all, I had a nice bit of fun with this game. It’s a quick distraction, you won’t be playing it for hours, but that’s not the point of a game like this.

Advertisements
24
Jan
14

SIP and H323 Voip Telephony Clients

This is quite the departure from what I normally write about, but I thought it interesting. At work recently I’ve had to connect to a meeting using SIP, and the system we used to do this at the time was not ideal. The video for the presentation unfortunately appeared to stop working properly so it made the whole exercise less useful than it really should have been. This motivated me to look at some free alternatives to see if I could find some technology that was more suitable, I’ve gathered some free and open source clients for testing. For reference I was using windows 7 for testing all the software found here, if you use something else your results will likely be different. Here is what I’ve found so far.

Linphone

linphone

linphone

One of the first programs I tested was called Linphone, designed for SIP with voice, video and basic chatting. The website also offers a free SIP account for making and receiving calls for free to other SIP accounts. This sounded quite interesting, but for the most part I need a stand alone client for making outgoing connections via IP only, so I didn’t bother trying out this service. I installed the program and checked everything out. The program supports SIP with a number of codecs for both video and audio. You can set it up as a stand-alone SIP phone program that people can call directly without a registrar service, but this is also useful if you want to only make outgoing call.

So I connected the program to the client I’ve been using so far, Seevogh. It’s not really a SIP system, but something more akin to Skype with everything integrated. It’s something provided by an organisation here in Australia called QCIF (only temporarily). To cut a long story short, it’s a great program that I’ve used many times here at the University, but connecting to a SIP client has had its problems for us recently. Specifically desktop sharing a presentation stopped updating for an unknown reason.

So I connected Linphone to the Seevogh SIP address and audio worked great pretty much straight away. Unfortunately I couldn’t get any video working with the Seevogh SIP bridge, although I had some success with another SIP soft-phone. Given I need the ability to use the program on windows, and I may need to connect it to Seevogh in the future, it’s not suitable for my needs, but with them offering a free SIP account on their website it’s worth a look.

MicroSIP

MicroSIP runs only on windows, so those looking for something to run under Linux can skip this one. It’s an extremely small and slim SIP client with minimal extra features, so not a whole bunch to talk about really. It was appealing on first glance on the basis of it being small and not requiring sign-up to an account. Unfortunately it didn’t work very well with the Seevogh SIP gateway so it wasn’t a great choice for me. I couldn’t get any video working, and it wasn’t obvious how to get it working. If all you need is audio, will be only using it with other SIP devices, and want something small you should see if this one will work for you.

Yate Client

yate client

yate client

The yate client is based on a package called yet another telephony engine that is really targeted at being a server rather than a client. Never-the-less the client has a nice feature set integrating the jabber chat protocol as well as SIP, IAX and H323. It will connect to Facebook chat and GTalk, which interestingly both seem to use the Jabber protocol. What made it appealing to me was the support for other protocols such as H323 and IAX, I’m trying to support as many different ones I can on the same hardware. The sound seemed to work, but I had missed a specific feature when looking at this software. It doesn’t seem to have video capability. So again this one isn’t suitable for me, but it integrates chat services such as Facebook and GTalk with a soft-phone, so this makes it a nice option for Facebook/Google+ addicts, well if it weren’t for the next client that is.

Jitsi

Jitsi

Jitsi

Jitsi is a Java based client that has more features than you can poke a stick at. It supports every chat/instant messaging protocol I can think of, including old ones, with the exception of IRC. It only supports SIP out of the voip technologies however, making it of less utility than I’d hoped for what I’d use it for. It does support video over SIP and it actually worked quite well with the Seevogh SIP gateway. The user interface is a bit easier to navigate than the other programs, in particular the options/settings dialog which makes it easy to set up the camera or audio.

It is best to have the devices you plan on using connected before you start the program as there is no detect devices button, and a few windows don’t show up on top when they first appear, so it’s not all roses unfortunately. I also noticed that it didn’t have a separate contacts list for each type of account you have, potentially making things confusing, but it seems you can merge contacts from different services. This means you can have a persons facebook, messenger, SIP and any other types of contacts all under one name so you can find them easily. Unfortunately features of some chat systems such as temporarily blocking someone aren’t implemented. I also noticed that recording voip/video conferencing is limited to audio only.

I am primarily interested in using SIP for video conferencing, so Jitsi will be the one I plan on using, after doing some more acceptance testing.

18
Jan
14

EGATrek for DOS

Title Screen

Title Screen

Some of the earliest games were written for time sharing systems, main-frames and minicomputers as they were the first computers that many people came into contact with before personal computers became popular. The games were frequently written in basic, usually fairly simple and include such classics as hunt the wumpus.

Your Ship

Your Ship

As the personal machines like the Apple II and others became more popular many of these old basic games were ported and sometimes updated with the addition of graphics and sound, something not possible on the original machines. One of the most ported and played games was called Star Trek. Named after the original series of Star Trek, which was very popular at the time.

Signing up

Signing up

The game basically puts you in a small galaxy filled with stars, planets, bases, and Klingons! Basically it’s your job to rid the area of the Klingons. You have torpedoes and Phasers to work with, and can use shields to defend yourself.

Mission Beginning

Mission Beginning

Today I played EGATrek, a port from 1988 for the IBM PC, although the version I played was released in 1992. The author is Nels Anderson who wrote a few other games I played on the school computers as a kid. This particular version is greatly upgraded from the original, the biggest upgrade being the graphics. He also changed the names in the game, I assume to avoid copyright issues.

Navigation

Navigation

The game has EGA graphics, which are actually pretty nice. There are sprites for objects on the map such as ships, bases and planets. There are a few gauges to show the energy and shield levels that you should keep a close eye on. The screen is nice and colourful, and all the information you need is relatively easy to find. There isn’t really much sound to speak of.

Shooting at Mongols

Shooting at Mongols

The controls are very much like the original game, which isn’t always a good thing, but they work out alright. You enter your command in text form, and can usually abbreviate it to one letter. I found the text box to enter commands too short for commands and their parameters sometimes, fortunately a popup allows you to enter the rest of the command in full.

Docking

Docking

This game is one of the many from the time with something called a “boss” key. For those who don’t know, the “boss” key would usually hide the game and display something that looked like work, often a spreadsheet. This game instead goes opens a DOS command shell whilst still in graphics mode! Be sure not to run anything that changes the graphics mode before returning to the game. This is because many more PC’s were business owned rather than owned by an individual.

They're all dead!

They’re all dead!

The learning curve for the game is nice, lower levels are easy, whilst the higher levels are challenging. Whilst there is a time limit, it only applies to how long the orders you issue take to complete, so there is no pressure to decide quickly. There is some online help for commands and how they work, so you won’t need to go back to the instructions if you have trouble.

Score

Score

I had fun with EGATrek, but it’s not a spectacular game in any sense. It is a little repetitive, so you’ll not want to play for extended periods of time. I feel the original has this problem as well, so that’s not surprising. Unlike many other games from this era, the author has a website, and he still has his games for sale. You can find his website here.

12
Jan
14

F19 Stealth Fighter for DOS

F19 Stealth Fighter

F19 Stealth Fighter

F19 Stealth fighter was released by Microprose in 1988 for the PC and for other platforms over the following years. The game is the predecessor to a family favourite F117a also released by Microprose. It is a combat flight simulator based around a fictional aircraft called the F19. There was much speculation about the presence of stealth fighters during the development of this game, partly because of some aircraft designations that were not used. As a stroke of good luck Mircoprose happened to release F19 stealth fighter the same day that the US military admitted the existence of the F117a Nighthawk.

Mission briefing

Mission briefing

Being an older game it has support for a much wider array of graphics hardware than its successor. CGA, Tandy, Hercules, and EGA are all available. The game has a VGA mode, but this simply seem to be mostly the same as EGA, most objects are rendered in EGA colours with the exception of some parts of the cockpit. Perhaps VGA support was incomplete.

Ready for take-off

Ready for take-off

The EGA/VGA graphics are quite nice, making effective use of dithering. The 3d rendered terrain whilst not as nicely coloured as F117a, is still quite detailed and includes clouds, buildings, terrain and oceans. I did briefly try out CGA graphics, and whilst it was playable, it certainly doesn’t look anywhere near as nice. There was too much dithering to make things very visible in the simulation.

Dead missile boat

Dead missile boat

Sound is PC speaker only, mostly because when the game was being developed there were little to no sound cards available. Adlib cards were only released the year before. The sound that is there is pretty much the same as F117a in many ways. The engine sound is annoying, but fortunately can be turned off. The other sounds aren’t amazing but aren’t bad either.

Mission summary

Mission summary

The game plays much like F117a as you would expect, it has basically the same controls for instance. However there are some subtle differences between the two. I found F19 to be easier in some respects, particularly landing. I was able to land on a carrier with much less trouble than I’ve had on F117a. It seems that you are a bit more stealthy as well, but that could just be the difficulty settings I had. It also seemed to be more agile than the F117 version, being a bit easier to dogfight with.

The bar

The bar

I very much enjoyed playing F19 which shouldn’t be surprising given that F117a is one of my favourites. Sure the technology isn’t as good, but it did come out 3 years earlier. The main difference between the two is the aircraft itself, each having their own interesting facets. Looking at the design for the F19 itself, I find it remarkable how much like the later stealth bombers it is in appearance, perhaps the designer didn’t find his true calling!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

06
Jan
14

Floppy backup and some GwBasic programs

This week my brother brought back all the remaining floppies we had at home for the purposes of backing them up. So I’ve been quite busy this weekend imaging disks and copying data. I have in the process discovered some interesting software that I forgot we had, and some I didn’t know we had. I found quite a bit of GwBasic software created by myself and my older brother. I had something like 200 odd disks to copy so it will take some time to sort the data out.

That’s not all I did fortunately, otherwise this would have been quite the short post! Before the disks came I had time to re-write a few GWBasic games that I remembered from books I read in the school library as a child. BASIC used to be a very prolific language with a interpreter on pretty much every platform, quite often in ROM. Much software was written with it including a lot of commercial software and corporate databases. There were also books and magazines abound filled with source code for various platforms.

It was a common thing for people to acquire BASIC programs from magazines or books during the 80’s. The only way to get these programs into your machine was commonly typing them in, which could end up error prone and was time consuming. Still it was quite enjoyable once you got your program running. My problem was that there was little to no source code available specifically for GwBasic where I lived.

Fortunately there were a couple of programs generic enough that did work. The ones I re-made recently were called Ghost Guzzler and Down-hill Skiing.

Ghost Guzzler

Ghost Guzzler

Ghost Guzzler is a simple game in which you have a number (a ghost) travelling across the screen towards your number. Your job is to “guzzle” the ghost before it reaches you by changing your number to match the ghost and pressing the guzzle key. I made some changes to the original. I added some proper timing code so the game is not too fast, and speed up the game as you play.

Down-hill Skiing

Down-hill Skiing

Down-hill Skiing is another pretty simple game. You’re simply skiing down a slope and need to stay on the ski run. The run will skift left and right randomly as in the original, but I added varying width to it as well. Like Ghost Guzzler it needed to have proper timing code added. This program is interesting as it uses the text scrolling features of the machine to give the illusion of movement down the hill.

Both of these programs were quite enjoyable to code, and only took about an hour to code each. It was quite a nostalgic process for me as I often spent many afternoons experimenting and coding. Now having a backup of all my old floppies in a new and better form I will revisit a few more programs.

Space Escape

Space Escape

I did this in part because of finding a website dedicated to GwBasic. The author had similarily looked on the net as I have in the past and not found much in the way of programs or information specific to this interpreter. He has posted some nifty information about his history with GwBasic, but most notably has written a new game for it called Space Escape. It shows what could be accomplished with the interpreter with relatively simple code. You can find his site here.




Blogs I Follow

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


Mister G Kids

A daily comic about real stuff little kids say in school. By Matt Gajdoš

Random Battles: my life long level grind

completing every RPG, ever.

Gough's Tech Zone

Reversing the mindless enslavement of humans by technology.

Retrocosm's Vintage Computing, Tech & Scale RC Blog

Random mutterings on retro computing, old technology, some new, plus radio controlled scale modelling.

ancientelectronics

retro computing and gaming plus a little more

Retrocomputing with 90's SPARC

21st-Century computing, the hard way

lazygamereviews

MS-DOS game reviews, retro ramblings and more...