General

Modding an NES – PAL-E console controller support hack

Posted by admin on June 05, 2021
DIY, General / No Comments

A little known fact about the NES is that there are versions of the console that do not support all the controllers out there. The PAL version that came with controllers that have the NES-004E engraved on the back ONLY support controllers with this engraving and nothing else. Controllers from the NTSC version will not work and nor will any knock-off controllers from China.

I recently replaced my controller’s insides with the excellent DIY kit from 8BitDo that turns the original controller into a wireless version that works just as well.

I am using this with the also excellent NES retro receiver and works flawlessly. Since I am using the original chassis and buttons, the feeling is almost identical to the original controller sans the cable. The system worked fine on my PAL NES-E console as well.

But all that changed when I bought a couple of (admittedly very nicely built) knock-off controllers from China. I plugged both on either port on my NES and nothing seemed to work. It would be a huge coincidence for both the controllers to be faulty (I knew the console and both ports worked) so I investigated further.

It turns out that my console only supported NES-004E controllers (the 8bitdo receiver obviously is handling the issue fine). By disassembling the console, I noticed that each controller port was connected to some kind of board which in turn was connected to the main board. These boards had several diodes that obviously prevented other versions of the NES controller to work.

The solution turned out to be surprisingly easy. All one needs to do is bridge all the diodes (essentially bypassing them). You could also remove the whole board and connect the cables directly on the port but I felt this solution was easier to do and more elegant.

This modification is only useful if your NES has this board between each controller port and the main board and you have controllers you want to use that are not recognized. It can also be done in the same way on both ports. Doing this mod does not have any drawbacks, the original controller work just fine. But now, your NES is controller-region-free!

Modding an NES – blue LED

Posted by admin on June 04, 2021
DIY, General / No Comments

This is the first of a series of old consoles modding posts, some to add functionality and some purely cosmetic. I will start with the simplest of them all, changing the power LED of a Nintendo Entertainment System.

When the NES came out in 1985, electronic power LEDs used colors that were available at the time, red or green ones. Blue LEDs were not around at the time. They were invented relatively recent and they gave their inventors Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura, the Nobel prize in 2014.

Changing the NES power LED to blue, in my opinion gives the 80s device a more 21st century feel and it’s super easy to do. All you have to do is unscrew the NES, remove the mainboard and get to the POWER and RESET board on the left. Use a soldering iron to remove the existing LED, while bending it a bit to the back to remove it from the plastic clear channel.

At this point you are ready to put the new LED in. Just be careful with polarity. LEDs, as the D in their name suggests are diodes, which means there is a correct way and a wrong way to put them in the circuit.

What Is LED? - Definition, Working Principle, Types, Uses

The LED symbol shows you the way. The Anode is where you need to use the long leg of the LED (positive) and the Cathode where you use the short one (negative). If you mess it up, it doesn’t hurt anything, but it will not light up, which is the whole point of a LED.

Solder the two legs at the bottom and bend the LED back in the clear channel like in the picture below.

If you get everything correctly and try to power up the NES, you will be greeted with a beautiful LED light. Put back everything and you should be done. Enjoy the 21st century light show!

A small holiday wish from Karios Games and me!

Posted by admin on December 23, 2013
General / No Comments

New Surface tablets

Posted by admin on September 24, 2013
General / No Comments

So the new Surface tablets, Surface 2 replacing Surface RT (well, actually the original RT will stick around) and Surface Pro 2 replacing Surface Pro (duh). The Pro version looks like a powerhouse, awesome hardware with a few flaws (I would love to see a Retina like display on that thing and the price is REALLY high – get a high-end Pro 2, a battery cover and a dock and you are looking at $2,200 ffs) but at least batter life looks solid, which was my main complain with the original Pro.

The new Surface 2 though is interesting, since my previous post was all about my thoughts about that. Most of them were unfortunately not taken into consideration. The obvious ones that were actually done were the CPU power (the mention 3-4 times faster CPU but I have to use one to really see if that is the case) and mostly the don’t-throw-the-user-on-the-desktop-if-they-didn’t-specifically-ask-for-it with the 8.1 update since most of the settings are now on the metro environment. LTE is also supposingly coming early 2014.

The things they didn’t do from my suggestion list were kind of important too. Price seems in line with the previous Surface RT and no kind of keyboard is still bundled. Too bad, that would make the sale so much easier.

Another thing that I think should NOT happen is the availablity of the accessories which is all over the place. While the Surface themseves will be available on launch day, the docking station, car charger and power keyboard will not. Rather they will be available “early 2014”. Not cool.

In any case, the “blades” concept seems an awesome idea overall, with interchangable snap-on keyboard replacements for various functionalities, such as the music mix “blade” that was demonstrated. I hope they decide to open up the system for third parties to be able to develop “blades” for the Surface family.

463113f3-d499-49fa-a805-53c5c8e40b6d

This of course gave me an idea, for the ultimate “blade” that will end all “blades”. Please make it happen (click for larger):

bestbladeeverPretty please?

 

How to fix Surface RT

Posted by admin on July 20, 2013
General, Windows 8 / No Comments

After the latest results, clearly showing that the beginning of Windows RT was not as good as expected, one has to think what could be done to fix the whole situation. I hope Microsoft people are taking notes (and I am also available for consulting :-p), so here we go, let’s design Surface RT2 together:

-It’s NOT (only) about apps. Hunting developers down to write apps for the platform is not the way to go, if your platform lacks other stuff (see below). The apps will come if your platform and hardware are interesting enough.

-Put LTE in there. When I got my first iPad, I got a 3G version but never really used it. But talking with people, I discovered that mobile data is REALLY important, so make sure Surface 2 has LTE functionality. I know people can use a 4G USB modem, but they don’t. Of course, make it optional, not everybody really needs it.

-Never, ever release under-powered machines. Surface RT is nice and all, but even my Samsung ATIV Tab feels snappier. I know that Windows RT are optimized, fast and fluid and all, but if the hardware lacks behind, it reflects bad on the whole thing. Many people don’t care why this is true, they just don’t want it to be there. Find ARM chips that make Windows RT REALLY fast and if you can’t, build them. We know you got the resources.

-Bundle the keyboard (touch or type) with the tablet. Every commercial I’ve seen focuses on the keyboard only for people to decide that it’s a rather expensive add-on.

-Keep the price low. After recent price cuts, it’s more reasonable, but the initial pricing was just ridiculous. It was almost priced as high as the iPad without offering as much. I don’t know how you will do it, sell more XBoxes to cover the losses, but when you create a new platform, and this is what RT is, you HAVE to lure people in. Even if you take a loss at the beginning. It’s like letting people pirate the first versions of DOS, remember?

– I personally love the idea of a desktop-as-an-app where one can actually run full versions of Office 2013 when they need to. But when people pick up a tablet, they should NEVER EVER be dropped on a desktop environment unless they specifically request that (by tapping the Desktop tile for example). In that capacity, make ALL Office apps available in RT form, with limited functionality of course (at least as feature enabled as Pages and Keynote on the iPad if not more), but usable completely without a keyboard and mouse. The desktop Office and IE should be there as the “one more thing” the Surface RT can provide. The same goes for ANY form of Control Panel settings page. EVERYTHING should be on a familiar and consistent metro touch friendly environment. Right now, it REALLY shows that the product is half baked. You even left Windows Defender running for some reason, even though users cannot run ANYTHING that doesn’t come from the Store.

In conclusion, people just don’t get it. Naming the new platforms Windows anything is a classic mistake. You made the same mistake with Windows Phone. I know how much you love Windows, but the Xbox is successful partly exactly because it is not called Windows anything. When someone buys something that runs Windows something and resembles a computer, they expect it to be a Windows computer. Which Surface RT is not. When they buy a phone that is called Windows something, they might expect blue screens of death and drivers installations, even though that is not the case with the excellent platform that Windows Phone is. But me knowing that is not nearly good enough. In branding and communication, I would give you a low mark for the past 2 years, when it comes to the new platforms (Windows Phone and Windows RT). And if you don’t believe me, go outside and ask non-technical people what is the first thing that comes to their mind when they see a tablet-thingy that runs Windows something. Or a phone.

Surface RT can still succeed (and I am not the only one that says so). Just make sure you fix the important stuff first and fast so that you can save it on round 2. Because otherwise, I don’t see a round 3.