Monday, November 21, 2011

Retrobrighting a Dreamcast

ABS plastic was commonly used in the 90's as a cost-effective way to house electronics, like computers and video game consoles. It had one major drawback that was not immediately apparent: it yellowed badly over time and more so in direct sunlight. My Sega Dreamcast that I bought second hand suffered this very affliction. I thought I was just going to have to deal with it until I found out about Retrobright. This a paste that you can make at home out of semi-common products that is supposed to remove the yellow from ABS. I thought it's worth a try, since I'm planning on playing my DC more in the near future. You basically take the highest concentration Peroxide you can find (in my case 12% from Sally Beauty Supply), mix it in a blender with Glycerin gel and Xantham Gum to form a paste. The last setup before application is to mix in a small amount of Oxy laundry powder. Blend it up and put on some rubber gloves to spread it on the plastic in question. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and put it under a UV lamp (blacklight) for 24 hours, and you'll be amazed at the results. Granted, I did not get perfect results. My DC still had small amounts of faded yellow hues here and there. Overall, however, it looks way better than it did before. Some parts look perfect. The proof is in the pictures (see above). If I had used a higher concentration Peroxide, like 15%, or if I had spread the paste a little thicker, I think it may have worked better. A word of advice: Unless your Retrobrighting 10 devices, do not make the amount listed on the website. Make 1/6 to 1/8 of the amount for a batch capable of coating one device. I'll conclude by saying that if you have a yellowed SNES or Dreamcast, or an old Apple computer, then Retrobright is your friend. I'm very happy with the results.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Review: HTC Rezound (Verizon)

I've had a cell phone since 2003, but didn't own a smartphone until this past Monday. Until that point I had owned only 2 phones, both of which were Verizon LG phones that served me very well. My last phone was an enV2 that I had modded so that I could tether it, wired or wireless via bluetooth, to a laptop and use as a modem. The time spent on the blazingly-slow EVDO-based Internet connection merely counted against my voice minutes. Very handy on vacation. I also loved the full QWERTY keyboard for texting. I basically used the phone until it literally fell apart in my hands. Whatever replaces it, I told myself, had better be an upgrade. Well, the HTC Rezound is just such an upgrade.

I first read about the Rezound (then Vigor) over the summer, I believe. I heard about it having a 720p screen and a 1.5Ghz dual core processor, and said, "That's my next phone." I read all the pre-launch hype, and post-launch reviews, still unwavering in my attraction to this handset, at least on paper. I went to my local Verizon Wireless store at lunch time on launch day, and bought it for $250 ($300 minus $50 loyalty discount). I also bought two years of insurance for $100, which I sort of regret. Total was $365. I had already budgeted for this, so no real issue there. They gave me the "4GB-for-the-price-of-2GB" promo, which is nice, especially since I'm a light data user (more on this later). I walked out of the store a happy guy.

I've been using the phone for 4 days now. The battery life was an issue at first. I was lucky if I could get a day of use on one charge for the first two days, then I wised up. I noticed that the phone has an on/off switch (soft) for 4G and GPS. I turned them off. The real culprit, though, is the Wifi radio. I downloaded a widget that acts as a switch for that as well, and turned it off. Some of you may be thinking, "But don't you want always-on notifications, etc.?" No, I don't. I find them annoying. If I want email, eBay, etc., I'll ask for it. No reason at all to have Wifi running all the time. This is not for all users, I realize. But if you want to get decent battery life out of this phone, or most smartphones for that matter, you'll do as I have. Also, "Task Manager > Kill All" is your battery's friend.

I don't use the phone to listen to music, so no info on Beats Audio, sorry. Unless 64GB microSDHC cards come down in cost, I'll keep using my iPod for music. The phone just won't hold enough music for my liking as is. Anyway, on to the goods. The screen is awesome. I can't really say anything bad about it. 720p. Angry Birds has never looked so good. Videos look amazing. The OS is Gingerbread w/ Sense 3.5 on top. I've customized it significantly, and I like it. Others hate on it. Whatever. I find it to be snappy and responsive. I added the slideIT keyboard so I can swype instead of type. Still getting used to it, but very cool. Haven't used GPS yet as such. I'd like to get a car dash mount first. There is some unremovable crapware like "Let's Golf 2," but that's only a minor annoyance. The phone itself has a beautiful black and red motif with nice rounded corners and a sturdy plastic shell. It's a little heavy (~6 oz.), but not bothersome. Call quality and reliability have been great. Internet browsing is cable modem-fast. People bitch about the volume and power buttons being flush with the unit. I don't really feel it do be an issue. If they were a little more raised, it would be nice, but no biggie.

Overall, I'd say that I made a damn fine choice for my first smartphone. I like just about everything about this phone. Once Ice Cream Sandwich is available for it (Jan.?), it'll be the phone to have. It does everything I want it to do and, once customized, nothing I don't. If you want a fast, beautiful phone, and have some money saved, get a Rezound.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Dreamcast Battery Swap

If you own a Sega Dreamcast, chances are, every time you turn it on, you get prompted to enter the current date/time. This is because your internal battery that powers the chip that stores this data is dead. I grew tired of doing this and decided to do something about it. A Google search for a solution brought me here. I bought a new OEM battery and followed the installation instructions on the site. I learned how to desolder using a "solder-sucker" from one of my co-workers. The whole thing took 10 minutes. I'm very pleased with the outcome. Hopefully I won't have to enter another date for 8-10 years.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Game Room Update

I made a few tweaks to the game room that I thought I'd share. I added a Sega Genesis to the mix. I gave away the Sony TV I had because I was never thrilled with its performance. In its place is a Sony PVM-3230 pro monitor. It's a 185lb. beast of a display, and difficult to calibrate, but the picture is damn nice. It's capable of running games at 15KHz low resolution RGB, which is basically the best picture quality for any video game system. I have several of these Sony PVM's in various sizes, and they're the best thing to ever happen to retrogaming. The consoles are attached to the monitor via SCART cables, which is a European standard not available in the US. The SCART cables attach to a special adapter that is used with the Analog RGB input of the monitor. I have SCART cables for the Xbox, Genesis, Dreamcast and PS2. They all look magnificent on this set. The NES runs composite and N64 runs S-Video, both same as before, because RGB is not an option for these. I also got rid of the receiver because the monitor has speaker hookups. The cable box is gone because I didn't ever watch TV in here.

Next post will be about my attempt to Retrobright my Dreamcast to remove the yellow, and to change its battery.