Letters from Somnolescent

 

Tag: technology

General posts and rants about technology, usually hardware.


May 27, 2022

Welcoming the eMachines Netbook

mariteaux

eMachines EM250

For approaching two years now, I’ve had a big ol’ XP tower sitting under my desk. I call it the eMachines Box, a low-end eMachines W3507 from at least 2006, if not 2007. It needs a good cleaning and a ton of upgrades (RAM and a dedicated GPU being the big two), but even if it’s not ideal right now, it’s still a lot of fun to use on the occasion I bust it out.

Of course, you can’t just stop at one XP computer, can you? Suddenly having a job and seeing some numbers pile up in my bank account made me want to indulge a little. Through the lockdowns, I bought nearly nothing and asked for nearly nothing. I’m allowed a cool purchase or two, and a bit of longing got me thinking back to the netbooks of my (younger) youth.

I’ve now acquired one of them. Here’s my deep dive into the eMachines Netbook.

Tags: technology,

April 17, 2022

Cool folder organization stuff

dcb

Traditionally, my files for school have been stored in OneDrive by (academic year)\(class)\(semester, if applicable). Whenever I made a new document, I would file it in that format immediately. This worked okay, but there was a bit of extra time spent finding the file I needed when I set to work. I also wanted to […]

Tags: technology,

April 4, 2022

Winter 2022 – The Final Recap

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What’s this? What’s going on? Why the sudden change? Is Somnolescent falling apart? I bet it is–look, people’s sites are disappearing! Something big is happening. We said it wouldn’t last four months, and hey, three years isn’t too far off–

Grab some wood there, bub. The blog is not going anywhere, nor is the group. This is the final recap in its current form. There’s a very good reason for it, and I think the new arrangement will make my friends in the group, as well as myself (having to write all this…), happier as a result. It’s a good recap though! Lots good happening. Let’s revisit the last three months one last time.


February 23, 2022

2600 Pac-Man: Was it That Bad?

mariteaux

VCS Pac-Man's attract screen

I’ve recently been really enjoying RetroAchievements. It’s a site where you can unlock Xbox Live-like achievements for older games, provided you’re using a hacked emulator logged into the site. It’s a novel concept, and it’s a nice excuse to dig back into some of my favorite Atari games and try “mastering” (getting all the achievements in) them.

When I covered Racing the Beam on this blog back in 2020, I mentioned one of the games covered in that book being Atari’s Pac-Man. It’s a great tale of disappointment, one of Atari’s programmers given a mere 4K of ROM to produce the flagship game of the 1981 Christmas season. The results were not pretty, and along with E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, became the poster children of the glut of low-quality games being produced at the time and later symbolized the “game burial” in the Sunnyvale desert where Atari famously dumped their excess stock.

Game reviews of VCS Pac-Man often don’t dissect it any further than “it’s ugly and plays like crap and you already knew that”. But how does it play like crap? What are the little details that make it such a below-average port? Is it playable on its own merits, despite how alien it is to the arcade version? That’s what I’m here to discuss. You might want to wear ear protection.


June 24, 2021

The Absurd Netherworld of Internet Archive Tape Transfers

mariteaux

A sampling of the Internet Archive's batch of cassette transfers

For a period of time after Sound of Dentage’s release, I was pretty keen on digging through archive.org’s Cassette Audio section to see what strange, forgotten things I can find. It’s ostensibly only non-copyrighted audio, but that’s a crock of shit. The flood of content makes policing it with anything other than automated bots a non-starter. And even then, I think the Internet Archive is too busy with me wgetting Somnolescent’s old sites to run them.

In any event, I found something rather fascinating, and the kind of collection that no one but me would be interested in: over 1,300 amateur-recorded cassette tapes, transferred and stored in lossless. We’re not simply talking releases (though there’s tons in there). We’re not just talking demos (though they’re in there too–everyone from Dave Grohl to Coheed and Cambria to Juicy J). In a lot of cases, we’re talking mixtapes. Often recorded off the radio mixtapes! (And nature sounds. That’s what 90s kids did for their ASMR.)

Now, invariably, a lot of this is probably just noise and ambient stuff, same sorta thing that has always flooded the avant-garde experimental underground scene, same stuff the netlabels put out now, and the same stuff I’m not really interested in. However, the hand-dubbed tapes? Are where, well, strangeness lies. I’ve picked out three amateur ones for us to go through, recorded from various sources by regular people on cheap equipment. Download links are provided for each.

Tags: 70s, music, technology,

June 10, 2021

How Do the Somnolians Organize Their Desktops?

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We at Somnolescent love old desktops. Not the fresh, factory Windows installs all the retrocomputing channels show off, but lived-in little portraits of someone else’s workspace from long, long ago. Whether it be DeviantART submissions showing off someone’s new, custom wallpaper or classic speedpaints with desktops and MSN Messenger windows incidentally in the background, we love seeing them and we post them in our Discords all the time.

The gradual move back to our chunky old PCs got us thinking about our own desktops and how they stack up to the workspaces of old, and honestly, to each other’s. As such, have a compilation of screenshots and a whole bunch of rambles about how we get around our machines and how we keep things organized (or not). Click the images for full-sized, lossless screenshots if you wanna peek at all our icons.

Tags: anime, art, technology,

May 31, 2021

Zip Drives!

mon

It’s time for a pretty short blog post from me, mon! Made from an outline that I’ve had sitting around since almost a YEAR ago.

It’s well-known that I own a good bit of old Apple computers at this point. But along with the large-ish collection that I own, I also own a small collection of peripherals and accessories. I think the most notable out of these would be my two Zip Drives…


October 31, 2020

10/31 – The Somnolescent Incident

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As of writing this (at 11PM at night), another Halloween around here has come and gone. Indeed, we’re getting into that part of the year where the Somnolians want nothing more than to vibe. We’re well into holiday season, man! After this one, we’ve only got one more (likely beefy, just on my end, let alone everyone else’s…) recap before the big yearly one and a bit of a rest from us as a group. Gonna be lovely.

Still! Things happened this month, and that? Is what a recap is made of.


October 27, 2020

The Clever Feat of PNG Optimization

mariteaux

A neat old PNG logo I found on the official PNG site

I’ve become mildly obsessed with how compression algorithms of various stripes work over the past year. They really do make every bit of our modern computing existence work so smoothly, from gzipping packet data to speed up slow connections to storing vast archives of high quality music on flash drives the size of a ChapStick. Some simply rearrange the data in clever ways, and others take advantage of our weak eyes and ears to throw out 90% of what was once there–and we hardly notice.

Of the lot, the humble PNG is so ubiquitous, it might not even warrant mentioning. Every format has some magic up its sleeve, however, and in the case of PNG, the way they’re encoded usually makes it possible to shrink them after the fact to the tune of up to a few megabytes with no loss in quality. If you make sites, you might wanna take notes.

I recently decided to run a battery of tests to determine just how well PNG works, on what, and what optimizes the best. I’ll give you the rundown on how it works (in-depth but no math, no worries), and then I’ll give you some hard data and lovely charts to peek at, and finally, show you how to get smaller, lighter PNGs at home, no tricks, no catches.

Tags: art, technology,

September 6, 2020

The Raven LTE flies again

dcb

A couple of years ago, I used an Alcatel Raven LTE as my main phone. It was a very cheap phone ($30 new, albeit locked to my carrier TracFone), ran Android 7 Nougat, and had an impressive 16 gigabytes of storage and 2 gigabytes of RAM; it was no slouch for the price. One day, the hard classroom floor almost got the best of it.

Even after the screen got cracked, it still worked, even touch; the trouble only came from what in the world to do with a cracked $30 Android phone. It was way too cheap for a trade-in, and I don’t think many charities or repair shops would bother with it either. And so, it sat on my shelf for several months gathering dust, because I didn’t know what to do with it. Surely, it wasn’t destined for a landfill?

Tags: technology,

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