Puppy Arcade 10 released! – The emulation distro!

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The amount of software Puppy Arcade opens up to you is as staggering as the amount of systems it covers! Well done Scott!

Hot off the press for Saturday 4th December is Puppy Arcade 10, which was kindly announced to me by Scott Jarvis its creator.  Openbytes and Puppy Arcade have a history.  It’s a distro that I have been following and reporting on for a long while and during that time I have watched it mature into a solid, stable, unique distro which still manages to improve and build upon every release.

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of interviewing Scott and its hoped that sometime in the future he will be appearing on the TechBytes audiocast as a guest.

So on to Puppy Arcade 10.  For those that are interested in looking at the progression this distro has made, you should check back on the previous reviews/features.

For version 10, emulation includes (from the site):

Plays Amiga (500, 1000, 2000), Apple (68k, 128k, 512k, SE, MacOS, Plus), Atari (ST, 800, 800XL, 130XE, 5200), Amstrad (CPC, Plus, VEB), Arcades, Colecovision, Commodore (64, 128, VIC20, PET), Doom, GameBoys (GB, GBC, GBA), GameGear, Genesis/MegaDrive, MasterSystem, MS DOS, MSX, N64, NDS, NeoGeo, NeoGeo CD, NES/Famicom, PC Engine/TurboGrafix, PSX, ScummVM, SNES and ZX Spectrum (16k, 48k, 128k, +2, +2A, +3) and more!

And if that isn’t enough, theres new features added to version 10.  Probably the one that I think most notable is support for joystick/pad support for the ROM loader.  The potential of this could be exploited by those who are considering making their own cabinet to hold this emulating distro.  Its a welcome new feature.

PSX emulation on Puppy Arcade. (Screen shot from Puppy Arcade homepage)

From looking at the improvements/updates from version 9 (which can be seen here) it appears Scott has been very busy, as I’ve said countless times before Puppy Arcade appears to be a labour of love for Scott and that shows in the results.

The wealth of software that Puppy Arcade opens up to you is staggering.  There are thousands of titles that you will be able to run on the multiple platforms, many of which will not only bring back fond memories but are damn fine titles in their own right.  For many younger users, the idea of an 8bit CPU running on 48k will seem as alien as the tape recorder required to load the software and in this respect Puppy Arcade acts like a history lesson with the included software emulating the systems/software that were the pioneers for today’s software/hardware.  Credit also needs to be given to the hundreds of developers who created the emulators that are packaged with this distro.

Puppy Arcade is derived from Puppy Linux, which deservedly has a strong following due to it being a great solid distro.  Although designed to run quite happily as a LiveCD, Puppy Arcade can also be installed to your harddisk or USB stick and coming in at just over 100mb download, it’s not going to take you long to be emulating systems of yesteryear!

Whether you are after bringing life/purpose to an old rig, or merely just keen on emulation, Puppy Arcade 10 comes highly recommended! and you should also keep in mind (since its derived from Puppy) that Puppy Arcade can quite happily sit as a distro in its own right (not just as an emulation platform).   I hope people will support Scott and his project.

Visit: http://scottjarvis.com/page105.htm and download your copy.

Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com / TwitterIdenti.ca

You can also contact me on Skype: tim.openbytes

If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.

Puppy Arcade 9 – New release!

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Gaming not what it used to be?  Bored by the plethora of 3rd person shooters which seem to dominate the games market?

Well there has been no reason to say that ever since Puppy Arcade had it’s first release –  Puppy Arcade caters for probably every platform of yesteryear you could want and then some more.

Puppy Arcade is a distro I have covered numerous times in the past, in fact it is one of the few which I try keeping up to date with.  An excellent distro which is a testament to not only the hard work of its creator (Scott Jarvis) but also his genuine love of the emulation scene.  Redundant hardware in need of a new life?  Use Puppy Arcade to turn it into a retro console!

Previous Openbytes reviews of Puppy Arcade  here: v8,  v7 , v6 and I also had the pleasure of a Q&A with Scott Jarvis which can be found here with the review of v5.

The new version of Puppy Arcade, like those before it, is further improvement on a distro that even in its early days impressed with its platform diversity and rock solid stability whilst at the same time requiring very modest specs and I think you will find that even the most dated of your rigs will be able to find life again with this distro.

Puppy arcade clocks in at a 105mb download, which is amazing in itself when you consider how much is packed into it.

Changes to version 9 include (taken from homepage):

upgraded emulators, improved system setup, more help, improved quick start dialog, BIOS installer and frontend downloaders with even more optons in all the default emulator choosers and a better all-in-one, cabinet-friendly, multi-emulator rom-loader……Various networking and system scripts have been updated, adding fixes found on the Puppy Forum, while keeping the changes that make ‘TurboPup’ such an ideal, fast, base distro. Many apps have also been added or updated, and it has a nicer desktop taskbar, with easier system setup, thanks to some updated and customised JWM tray tools.

Again taken from the site, Puppy Arcade emulates the following platforms:

Amiga (500, 1000, 2000), Apple (68k, 128k, 512k, SE, MacOS, Plus), Atari (ST, 800, 800XL, 130XE, 5200), Amstrad (CPC, Plus, VEB), Arcades, Colecovision, Commodore (64, 128, VIC20, PET), GameBoys (GB, GBC, GBA), GameGear, Genesis/MegaDrive, MasterSystem, MS DOS, MSX, N64, NeoGeo, NeoGeo CD, NES/Famicom, PC Engine/TurboGrafix, PSX, ScummVM, SNES and ZX Spectrum (16k, 48k, 128k, +2, +2A, +3) and more!

So download your copy of Puppy Arcade today.  I’ve been impressed with all the releases to date with Puppy Arcade 9 being no exception.

You can visit the homepage of Puppy Arcade here: http://scottjarvis.com/page105.htm

Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com

If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.

DCC, Bittorrent and Usenet – Is Bittorrent so great?

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The days of Micronet are long gone.....were you one of its members?

I’ve written many articles touching on this subject, but I wanted to look at it with a little more detail as whilst we see a massive surge in Net traffic in regards to file sharing ; as is often the case, has the best tech “won”?  Since the vast magority of file-sharing on a p2p network is infringing copyright, it seems relevant that this article covers this topic encompassing all file sharers, lawful or not.

I don’t want this article to be one of debating the rights and wrongs of copyright law, nor if  “all data should be free” , I’ve made my stance on copyright infringement very clear and whilst I think there are massive flaws in copyright law (and the means in which its enforced) I cannot condone nor support infringing of copyright.  If the law changes, great.  If it doesn’t, people shouldn’t intentionally infringe on copyright just because they don’t happen to agree with the law that governs it.  This article hopes to look at the tech from both sides of the argument.

Regardless of what you download though, I want to look at if the praise millions give to BitTorrent is actually deserved.

Before the days of the Internet when computers with 48k were deemed sufficient, I was one of a few who were accessing Micronet.  Little did I know at the time (when I was downloading lawfully free software onto tape) was that I was taking the first steps into what would be a global phenomena and eventually something which would become so large, even the best of ISP’s could buckle under the demand to feed their end users hunger for data.

Whilst the web has become a multi-media experience and moved on from it’s “Ceefax” looking roots, this article is to focus more on some of the file-sharing technologies and ask the question; Is BitTorrent so great?

In the early days of BitTorrent, trackers were fewer in number and the technology was a rather unknown entity to anyone who didn’t have a computing hobby everything was going along very nicely……

Things changed though, when the average Joe got into the action and went quickly downhill from then on.   Law firms such as ACS:Law can cast their proverbial nets out into a swarm, collecting the copyright infringing fish who really don’t have much of a clue as to the implications of their actions – too busy in a gorging frenzy of a media rich diet containing movies, music and games….

Happy times for those that seek to generate revenue from these infringing fish, bad news for everyone else whose connection strains under the weight and whose experience of most trackers is a mass copyright infringing files.

Whats great about BitTorrent?

I would suppose that the one “advantage” of BitTorrent is that there are no costs for “hosting” files or bandwidth, but this is does make you very reliant on there being seeders within the swarm.  How often have you entered a swarm, only to have the seeders make an exit and leave everyone else with a partially completed file?

In the days of the Amiga, sharing was in the main achieved by post. Could we see a return since BitTorrent is so open for many?

It’s often touted as a way to “speed up your downloads, make them fly!” which to me who has used the tech over a number of years and  was one of the “first of the few” when it came to adopting it onto my desktop has never seen evidence of.   I still regularly use Linuxtracker, but over all the years of using BitTorrent, Ive yet to see this blisteringly fast speed (or at least speeds which outdo anything that I get from Usenet or even DCC)

We have to also consider that BitTorrent provides a rather simple means (for those who download copyrighted works) for companies such as ACS:Law to make money.  Would we have these cases at all if average Jo had stayed away from the tech? and if there is to be a clampdown with legislation on the technology itself, can we not blame the millions who use it download copyright infringing material?

So when taken like this, what is so great about BitTorrent?  I think it comes down to simplicity of accessing /finding materials and it happens to be the tech that the mainstream has jumped on, since it is rather simple to understand.

But Private trackers are safe!

No they are not (in respect of private trackers and “warez”)  For the most part “private” trackers are simply public trackers which require login and have a ratio.  Are people really believing that the same companies who harvest IP’s on public trackers can’t join the private ones?  after all, you have.  One could even argue that private trackers are more “damning” as it would be simpler to build up a portfolio of evidence on an individual with often less peers in the swarm and more of a community in them.  I won’t dwell on this point though, because my argument is that BitTorrent is not such a great tech as some like to promote.

Looking at Usenet/DCC

So now we look at alternatives to BitTorrent.  Usenet, the home to many offers far greater speeds than anything I have achieved with the BitTorrent protocol.  Recently I downloaded a collection of Amiga demo scene tracks which was approximately 250mb in size.  Grabbing the file from Usenet binaries, I saw speeds of approximately 500k per second on my connection.  Comparing it like for like on the identical file on a public BitTorrent tracker, I maxed out at around 130k per second –  This wasn’t helped by the fact that there were only 2 seeders in the swarm, but even so, it highlights my point of the peer being dependent on the seeder (and other sharing peers) in order for the transfer to be effective.  Usenet has no such issues – providing the file hasn’t dropped out of the retention period (and with most providers that’s around a couple of years) then I can guarantee a fast transfer.

Usenet is also different to BitTorrent in that you are not sharing anything.  Regardless of if the file infringes copyright or not, you are merely downloading from your Usenet provider.  Ever seen a file sharing civil action that involves someone merely downloading?  – I wouldn’t think so.  ACS:Law et al cannot operate within this environment.  There are plenty of .NZB trackers out there (and you can see NZB creeping into some of the more “traditional” BitTorrent indexers) – I would argue with anyone that says Usenet is not as simple as Bittorrent providing you are using the right client.

Luckily, average Jo either hasn’t yet discovered or can’t comprehend Usenet.  As I’ve said before in previous articles, I think that will change and the blame will lie squarely on the shoulders of companies like ACS:Law who have been involved with pursuing allegations.   If companies had realized ways to work with this emerging technology then they may not have been having such an issue today.  If users migrate to Usenet (or even jiffy bag trading), the game is completely over.

I think the level of legal aggression being shown by some who seek to stop (or more importantly) generate revenue from copyright infringing file transfers will force users to look for alternative means to share these files.  In the days of the Amiga it was done by post, hooking up with a contact and then sending numerous disks in exchange.  Arguably for most people the 2 day delivery of the postal service and the amount of material you can stuff into a jiffy bag, makes the postal service a far more efficient (and speedier) option if people sat down and thought about it.  20 x DVDr or 94.2 gig….2 days to arrive to target.  How long would it take you to transfer 94 gigabytes of data via BitTorrent?

All file sharing is piracy! - That's what some would like you to believe and the mere mention of BitTorrent or Usenet has you labeled instantly. The truth is that not all users are. Its a shame that in an effort to curb "piracy" the result is merely possible migration to other techs.

So now we turn to IRC and in particular DCC.  For many this was the defacto way to get files.  People who liked to think they belonged to the “scene” would loiter in the relevant channels waiting for an announce to display a file they wanted.  DCC offers a direct connection to the sharer, so there are no swarms and the downloader does not even go through the IRC server they are connected to when they handshake.  Whilst in theory this is great, the problem encountered is that once a sharer hit’s their maximum, you will be queued.  This could mean a long wait.  DCC has been made more “userfriendly” by having “trackers” of sorts which index the channel & user serving material.

Issues of IRC aside, just like Usenet, there is no sharing issue for the downloader, there is no public swarm and except for the person sharing the file, there’s nothing that a law firm could harvest.  IRC for “warez” has mainly been left alone, firstly because of it’s relatively small user base and secondly because if anyone is sharing copyrighted material, they are clever enough to hide their identity through a proxy or other means.  The same cannot be said for BitTorrent when the average user is sharing the latest movie whilst broadcasting their IP to anyone who enters the swarm.


Regardless if your file sharing need allegedly infringes copyright or not, I don’t believe there is any compelling evidence to show BitTorrent being either the be all and end all or the “best” method.  Sure, Usenet will see you probably having to pay a subscription fee to a provider and DCC will probably see you queued for a period of time whilst you await your file, but with the speeds one can expect from Usenet and usually decent speeds achieved with DCC,  is BitTorrent so much better or even better at all?

The only advantage that I see is the ability to distribute a file without having to worry about hosting costs and with the way BitTorrent has won the hearts and mind of the average Jo, it would not surprise me if tougher legislation directed at the tech is not in the near future.

Speaking as someone who spends much time following the topic of “piracy” and fascinated with the justifications on both sides to support their views, I can say that my experience over recent times supports my opinions.  Over the last year, I’ve seen a rise in .nzb trackers.  In newsgroups which traditionally had copyright free or freeware material I am seeing a rise in the infringing material being published and certain newsgroups having tb’s of the latest movies/games/music are being talked about in more mainstream forums.

I’ll let you decide on the best tech, but maybe at least consider my point.  BitTorrent is hardly the second coming of file sharing mechanisms.  I would like to hear from a person that can argue otherwise.  Lets remember how long Usenet has been with us and how many p2p services it’s seen come and go during its life.

Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com

If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.

Marvin v1.3.0 – Android app of the week!

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Marvin on the HTC Desire, a spectrum in your pocket. Oh the memories! Best of all the app is free!

Driving home from London on Friday at 8pm is not a chore for me.  It’s at this time the tech hour is broadcast on LBC 97.3 and no matter how bad the traffic, it’s always a great journey home hearing the producers mostly concentrate on proprietary software whilst trying to avoid any questions from the phone-in that involve copyright issues, lest they find themselves in hot water.  Its a hoot.

I have to give LBC some credit here, since they have an app of the week feature, which I thought would be a good for Openbytes.  Unlike LBC though, I don’t have an iPhone, so it will only be Android apps covered.

Those readers whose beards are showing the first signs of greying (or indeed have completely succumbed) will remember the ZX Spectrum 48/128 range of computers, the glory days of loading software from tape, loading screens, multi-load and unexplained crashes….good times.  It seems a little ironic then that for many users who eventually found themselves on a PC, they would still be experiencing unexplained crashes for some time to come (until they discovered Linux) as Windows users get their fair share.

Marvin is a free ZX Spectrum emulator for phones running Android.  Currently in v1.3, the package can be found in the market place and better still, its free!  Marvin offers emulation of both the 48k and the 128k Spectrum, so lets look at how well it performs that task.

For the purposes of this review I am running Android on an HTC Desire which is a phone I have a great love for.  My affair with HTC started with the Hero and saw me upgrading to the Desire well before I was entitled to a free upgrade from my service provider – a cost I consider to be more than fair for such a great phone.  I wont elaborate on my praise of the HTC since this review is about Marvin.

The download is small and within seconds I was booting into that all too familiar “Sinclair Research LTD”.  Marvin offers itself for operation in both horizontal and vertical positions on the Desire.  The former displaying the Spectrum keyboard (yes, the beloved rubber keyed delight) and the later in joystick mode where you can use the touch screen to control movement via an emulation of the Kempston Interface (or a selection of other joystick options such as Cursor or Sinclair)

The menu system (accessed by the “menu” button on the Desire) is really self-explanatory and gives the option to reset into the 48k mode or the 128k.

Marvin handles the following file formats for spectrum files: .z80, .sna, .tap, .tzx and also allows them to be played within a .zip.  For those looking for the true Spectrum experience, .tap files can be loaded at a variety of speeds depending on how patient you are.  Whilst all these features alone would be great, Marvin manages to bring another surprise out of the bag…

Marvin’s killer feature, is the ability (from within the package) to connect to the World of Spectrum website, opening up a massive catalogue of software, which except for titles where there is a copyright issue or no permission, are able to be accessed/downloaded from within Marvin.  Should you be interested in Spectrum emulation on the desktop, you can visit the World of Spectrum here.  It’s a great site and a fantastic resource for your Spectrum needs!

Outrun - At the time these Spectrum graphics blew me away! Now my Spectrum fits in my pocket thanks to Marvin and Android!

Since Marvin has been awarded “app of the week” I think it goes without saying that its a great app.  Emulation is accurate in both speed and sound emulation.  For me Marvin brings back happy computing memories of years gone by with the World of Spectrum integration meaning that I have a massive library of software at my fingertips.

Today’s game player may never remember a time where the “save game” feature was rare and Marvin provides a very handy “save snapshot” option which will effectively dump the spectrum memory to a file, allowing you to continue your game where you left it.

Kempston emulation worked well, although I am not keen on the touch screen of modern smart  phones.

I suppose this highlighted the only flaw in Marvin and is the fault of HTC itself, not Marvin. It can sometimes challenging to play a game with a touch screen virtual keyboard and I would prefer a “solid keyboard” to the touch screen affair that HTC provides.  If only the HTC released a phone with the same size screen as the Desire and a pull out mini-keyboard……

Marvin comes highly recommended to any ex-Spectrum user and whilst the younger generation may not appreciate the gfx of an old 8bit machine, oldies will be in tears as they remember happy computing times with a “Spectrum in your pocket” – thanks to Marvin!

If you are interested in Spectrum emulation on the desktop (and emulation in general) you should check out the Openbytes feature on Puppy Arcade 8.

The homepage/blog for Marvin can be found here and of course you can get Marvin from the marketplace.

Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com

If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the Openbytes statement, here.

7 reasons to play retro titles – Puppy Arcade 7 is released!

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Another rapid update of Puppy Arcade shows the commitment Scott Jarvis has to the product. Picture source: Puppy Arcade home page

Look to the end of this article for the 7 reasons to use Puppy Arcade, but before you do that lets consider this distro which is much loved here at Openbytes.  Previously I have spoken with the creator (Scott Jarvis) and one of the most impressive things about this distro (other than its excellent) is the enthusiasm and genuine love Scott has for emulation and people enjoying old classics on hardware that may have been otherwise written off as an “old PC”.

I would suggest that anyone who didn’t read the article I wrote on Puppy Arcade (shame on you!) visits the link here as what was true there is as true now, except further improvements have been made.  I had the pleasure of putting questions to Scott Jarvis and you can read that article here. Here is Scott’s forum posting briefly outlining Puppy Arcade 7:

Puppy Arcade 7 is now much better in terms of gaming playability – it now supports full-screen in nearly all emulators, while gamepads are supported in all emulators, usingRejoystick and has had a few more emulator additions and replacements.

More Atari emulation has been added, and Spectrum support has also increased. NES and MasterSystem emulation is also now much improved. The ‘pup’ emulator frontends have been updated where possible to include the extra benefits of the emulator changes.

Wbarcc has been added to more easily manage the emulator bar and there are now no issues with 800×600 desktop setups- users can choose a wbar profile that suits their screen resolution. (thanks to trio)

A lot of people said they would like Puppy to connect to the internet automatically, so Puppy Arcade 7 SHOULD also connect to the internet (via LAN/eth0) automatically… It worked for me.

So here are my 7 reasons why you should use Puppy Arcade:

1. There is a wealth of games/systems that you are able to relive your childhood/youth with.

2. Scott Jarvis is dedicated to this distro and updates are regular.

3. Spec requirements are low.

4. It puts the best of the emulation scene in one distro.

5. Puppy Arcade runs from a modified Puppy Linux which is as fast as hell

6. It has a really groovy backdrop!

7. It really is that damn good.

You can visit the Puppy Arcade homepage here: http://scottjarvis.com/page105.htm and the changelog.txt here.

Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com

EMULATION: XSpect – ZX 48K Spectrum Emulation!

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I love my emulators, none more so than the ones from my childhood days.

Due to my uncle working at Sinclair at the time, I got a ZX Spectrum 48K (the one with the rubber keys) as a present.  I loved that trusty computer, and over the years had 100’s of games for it, until it disapeared from the shelves, replaced by bigger and better things, and its “soul” was put onto the world wide web, albiet via emulation and rom images.

As readers of this site know, I run Ubuntu 8.04 at the present time, and whilst I was told there was a spectrum emulator located in the repository called Xspect, I couldnt find it.  A quick search of the net located the Ubuntu .DEB package, and it can be found at the end of this review.

Installation/download took seconds, and although there is no pre-installed front end for it, a simple terminal command of XSPECT <game rom> in the directory where your games are located will bring up the emulator (or alternatively XSPECT will just boot the Spectrum) One of the nice features allongside being able to run the majority of file formats for Spectrum files, is the ability to load tape images, yes! you can hear it load and appreciate how long it took in those days to load 48k of data.

The emulator works perfectly, same Spectrum sounds, same Spectrum speed and because the hardware being emulated is decades old, no matter what system you have it should run perfectly.

XSPECT is available for all Linux flavours and a quick search on google will locate your desired one.

My only wish is that there would have been support for the 128k spectrum as well.

XSPECT for Ubuntu

85% – An excellent emulator that misses the mark of being perfect due to only emulating the 48k.