The Nostalgia Box Museum

Cross posted from The Discerning Omnivore

The Nostalgia Box Museum
Shop 3, 16 Aberdeen Street
Telephone 08 9227 7377

For those of us who grew up in the Seventies and Early Eighties, the video games of the day hold a special place in our hearts. When Nekohime and I learned that a video game museum had opened up in Northbridge showcasing a range of first to sixth generation game consoles, we had to go along. So as an anniversary treat, we took ourselves off to the city to investigate and partake of a night on the town.

The Nostalgia Box is located next to the Central Institute of TAFE on Aberdeen Street, accessible between stops 6 and 7 on the Blue CAT line. Entry is $14 per adult or $10 per child although family and student discounts are available. The venue can be hired for special events and parties as well.

As you enter, the main museum is to your left with two long hallways lined with both consoles and packages sorted by age on display, with cards to explain some of the history behind the unit. Not all the information is absolute, some based on popular myth, but not all inaccuracies are widely known or understood.

Once you have meandered your way through the displays, an open area behind the main reception area has a number of classic consoles set up for play with the games of the day listed on a board. Older consoles don’t always work well with modern flat panel televisions, often highlighting the design limitations of the area – others whilst hooked up to older CRT televisions demonstrate that even the most carefully preserved console will still eventually expire. Some of the gaming museums in the UK have taken their original consoles off display and replaced them with emulated games hosted on a Raspberry Pi – though the games play well and display fine on a modern monitor, it feels like some of the rationale behind the museum has been lost.

On a Saturday afternoon, the the museum wasn’t packed but enough people were present that few of the demonstration consoles were accessible – a number of children and their parents made it clear that they had no intention of moving. The first system we tried was a ColecoVision running Donkey Kong. Nekohime recognised the game though she wasn’t familiar with the console. The console itself was quite advanced for its day and home computers with similar specifications continued to be made up until the Early Nineties. An upgrade cartridge known as Adam allowed owners to add Atari VCS (aka Atari 2600) compatibility to their system and expand their games library – Atari tried to sue Coleco Industries over this but lost their case since the VCS was largely assembled from off the shelf parts.

Whilst she courted Mario and his dungarees across the scaffolding in an attempt to bop Donky Kong with a hammer, in investigated a few more systems – a Vectrex, which I had not seen since primary school and was startled by the clarity and smoothness of its vector graphics, an original Telstar pong clone (with which I soundly defeated Nekohime 2 – 15 and then 0 – 15 but I’m not permitted to show that photo) and a number of third, fourth and fifth generation systems including the Sega Master System and Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo 64 and an Atari Lynx amongst many, many more.

If you or a member of your family have an interest in classic gaming, The Nostalia Box is well worth a visit. Classic consoles can also be purchased here, though they don’t buy or trade in consoles, games or accessories themselves. However, outside of eBay and Gumtree, systems and accessories can be purchased from stores at Malaga Markets and Wanneroo Markets as well as trading fairs as hosted by Collector Zone Toy and Hobby Fair.

Nekohime and Erky at the beginning of our generation
Nekohime and Erky at the beginning of our generation
No Commodore Amiga on display but they did have the Amiga CD32, the A1200's evil twin
No Commodore Amiga on display but they did have the Amiga CD32, the A1200’s evil twin
It appears they have raided my home
It appears they have raided my home
Donkey Kong on the ColecoVision
Donkey Kong on the ColecoVision
2 to 15 - The other photo I'm not permitted to show
2 to 15 – The other photo I’m not permitted to show

One thousand forms of fear, or at least a dozen or so

Fear can drive us, or freeze us in our tracks. Push us onwards past our endurance or stop us making a tough but necessary decision. The fear of failure can be the most crippling of all.

After I took a break from composing on the computer to go acoustic for a while, I never returned to my editors even though I wanted to and had been receiving requests and commissions. I had forgotten how to use the editors and remembering how long it took me to learn them in the first place was extremely unappealing.

I reached a point where it was too much to be bothered with in case I could never get as good as I was before.

I used to cartoon all the time throughout high school – I had been developing two books collecting the better efforts; admittedly the first was too crude to pursure and has been hidden from view ever since, the second eventually developing a style of humour too obscure and abstract to likely appeal to anyone outside of our group. I kept developing it until the early Ninties before also putting it aside.

A few years later I developed an interest in anime and manga, and started drawing again, though it wasn’t until the launch of a local fanzine named Xuan Xuan that I began drawing in earnest. Inspired by the chance to have my work published, one story after another developed until I had fourteen plots on the go, ten of which were interlinked. But it turned out that my skill was too low to be considered. Some shorter cartoons were published in JAMWAF and on the JAFWA website before falling again into obscurity.

Ten years on, I feel the need to start drawing again but lack the focus I once had – since I’ve barely drawn anything beyond practice scribbles during this time, its likely that my drawing style would have changed again.

But I’m wary of doing so; I’d have to relearn how to draw and practice – requiring time and patience that I no longer have in abundance.

But therein lies the challenge – the put to use my multitasking and time management skills and group activities together. I’ve started carrying a notepad with me again like I used to do so many years ago because like music, poetry or photography, you never know when inspiration or an opportunity will arrive. I always like to have a camera with me as well.

Writing has been one of those tasks that have come and gone – I’ve been keeping a variety of online journals for many years trying at least to update monthly (though often a year goes by without so much as a spelling correction). Inspiration strikes at the most inconvenient moment so, again, I keep a notepad with me to at least summarise the ideas for later reference.

When I’ve found myself unable to draw a story concept, I’ve often taken to writing it out in story form but frequently been embarrassed at how immature my writing seems but would give up early. It leads to a chicken and egg scenario – do I still write like a 12 year old because I’m too uncomfortable to make an effort to develop it, or do I give up because I will always write like a 12 year old? Like my music, poetry and art, it will take time and practice for it to grow – but there is always the chance of getting a decent ghost writer to turn it into something legible.

As always, I shall put this aside for a few days to come back and reread it before publishing, usually resulting in multiple rewrites.

Vocation, relocation, aspiration and faith…

A great deal has happened in my life since I last posted here three years ago.

Since August 2010, I have moved house, changed my daytime employment, gained a new girlfriend (subsequently fiancee and now wife and life partner) and bought a house of my own.

You could say that my viewpoint on the world has changed quite a bit. I’ve gone from being burnt out and depressed, actively (though unenthusiastically) seeking my own self destruction to finding new life in Jesus and beginning all over again.

Recently married, and more recently turned 40 years of age, I find my life settling into a comfortable rhythm where I can learn to be myself again and renew my interests and hobbies. Five years ago, I was actively involved in photography and the local cosplay scene. Ten years ago, I used to draw comics and sketch frequently. Twenty years ago, I would skip classes in college to stay home and compose music (often staying up to four or five AM to work on an idea). I used to write poetry and short stories. I used to blog and journal regularly.

The time has come to start all these activities again.

The difference with the approach I am taking now though, is that rather than trying to squeeze the inspiration into prescribed moulds and follow convention, I would to give inspiration a free reign and let it come forth as it will.

The challenge of rejecting convention is that you will invariably frustrate, irritate or offend people, including those dear to you.

Since I’m contemplating writing on topics more than just music, art and photography – delving into politics, philosophy and theology, I’ve thought it best to move the majority of my musings to this site. Even if you don’t agree with what I write, I hope it will inspire you to think more intently about what you do believe.

Thank you for your time.

You can’t be a Linux user, you haven’t got a beard!

I have taken a step along the road to enlightenment. That is to say I have started experimenting with Linux. Again.

Not that one is obligated to look like Richard Stallman in order to use Linux or open source software but it appears to help – if most of the Linux users I’ve met are anything to go by. I grant you that the rebellious part of my nature has sprouted a goatee beard and a beret and has taken to carrying a placard and waving its philosophical fist in the air.

I’ve been using Windows as my primary operating system since May 1997 though I have trialled various alternatives over the years – FreeDOS, BeOS, early incarnations of Linux and OS/2, all with mixed success. Outside of SCO or BSD Unix at TAFE, my first proper taste of a Linux-like operating system was playing with Red Hat 5.0 way back in 1999. Though it looked impressive, getting anything useful done required much delving around in the Land of the Big Scary Command Line and editing scripts. It all seemed like too much hard work. More recent attempts tried to make use of some older hardware that I had lying around – mainly my Celeron 600 – and conservative installations such as Xubuntu. The software would install nicely but refuse to talk to my internet connection. I could use the operating system but couldn’t update or hunt for new software.

On my current system, I use Vista Home Premium on my notebook (and primary workstation) and XP Pro on my file and print server – Home Server being far from suitable for my requirements due to the strange “may corrupt your really important information without warning or apology” bug that I believe still hasn’t been fixed as I write this (at least, when I started writing back in July 2008).

Microsoft has received a great deal of criticism regarding their rather restrictive licensing schemes, questionable security and debatable stability – I’ve always seen it as “You don’t have to buy it, you know – you can always use an alternative system.” Other people have taken the attitude of “We want to use it, we just don’t want to have to pay for it. Repeatedly.” What really irritated me recently was Service Pack 1 for Vista was released earlier this year and the update manager has been nagging me for weeks to install it. I’d heard whispers that the upgrade often failed and ended up corrupting people’s installations so I made a point of doing a complete backup first. This was a very wise move as two thirds of the way through the upgrade, the system balked and refused to boot again. Six hours of frustration and restoration later and I’m back to where I was previously. And the update manager is still bugging me to upgrade.

So out of sheer irritation, I thought I’d have another go at Linux – this time on reasonably up to date hardware. I’d recently built myself a new server and so I had a spare system lying around looking for something useful to do. I’d been getting regular copies of Kubuntu since June 2006 and version 8.04 seemed to be mature enough to warrant a second look. Friend Style has been using Linux in various forms for as long as I can recall, dedicated enough to even have had Tux the Penguin tattooed on his arm, and has been an advocate for Ubuntu for some time.

Kubuntu seemed the logical choice since it came with a comprehensive install base (the only distribution of the primary three that came on DVD) and a familiar user environment. So where to start? I took the install DVD, started up my decommissioned server and waited for the system to start installing.

Since I started investigating Linux again, one thing has come to cause me a great detail of annoyance – the Linux Evangelist. Such people will talk endlessly about how much better Linux is than Windows at absolutely everything, often with such fanaticism that even seasoned Linux enthusiasts shudder at the mention of their name. Most people just walk away – this doesn’t seem to bother the Evangelist as they will quite happily continue talking, with or without an audience. If you can bring yourself to endure their incessant waffling, you will note that they often contradict themselves several times and bring their knowledge of their subject matter into doubt.

So after several practice installations and configuration sessions, I started to become familiar with the quirks and idiosyncrasies of Gnome and KDE, and their associated foundations – to the point of migrating a number of my daily tasks over the Linux system, and even to the point of installing Windows versions of some of the applications on my Vista notebook (notably OpenOffice, Firefox and Thunderbird since I had being using Lotus Smart Suite for over ten years and Opera web browser for the last eight).

Out of the box or – more accurately – from the base installation, Ubuntu does around 80% of the tasks I need. With around an hour’s tweaking, downloading and configuring, it can do about 95%. I figure that the remaining 5% has mostly to do with my inexperience or simply not having found an application that will do the task I require.

The environment reminds me rather a lot of the days spent working on my Amiga 500 and later the A1200. Much of the software is a little unpolished, a little rough around the edges, but include most of the features needed. As I continue to become familiarised with Gnome, I’ll likely find better programs, or new ones that do old things in a better way.

So where to from here? Whilst it nice to not have to spend money buying applications to perform the tasks I require, I now find myself pondering upgrading my hardware again. Having wasted yet another morning attempting to configure my Vista notebook for dual booting with Ubuntu – and failing miserably – I ponder upgrading my spare notebook with additional memory to improve performance. For some odd reason, 512MB doesn’t quite seem to be enough and the older video controller doesn’t want to recognise an external monitor (which may or may not be related to the limited memory). And you can understand my reluctance to spend $135 on upgrade parts for a six year old notebook that might die tomorrow.

Playing with Fedora Core 10 on another system implies that that would be a better solution, up until the point of not being able to access my Windows network. Does everything nicely until that point – though I have yet to test it accessing another Linux system on the same network.

As I write, I’m testing an installation of Xubuntu 8.10 downloaded this morning (Xubuntu tends to be a later release than Ubuntu or Kubuntu) – I’ll let you know how that goes.

It would be nice to be free of Windows though – maybe I ought to upgrade the hard disk of the Vista notebook just for a test…

What a waste of an afternoon

I finally made time to try and install Vista Service Pack 1 on my notebook. Not because there was something specific in there that I wanted but because I got fed up with the update manager prompting me to install it everytime I turned on the system.

I’d read a lot of reports that people had been having problems with the upgrade, usually managing to corrupt their installation instead. I’m not one for taking unnecessary risks so I made a backup of all my data first (I work in IT so I have to lead by example). After an hour of backing up, I shut down the virus scanner and let the update manager do its work – expecting it to take an hour, I wandered off to watch some videos that had been piling up on the media centre.

An hour later, I come back to find that the notebook had reset itself two thirds of the way through the upgrade and that Windows could no longer boot. An attempt by Windows to fix itself was unsuccessful. In the end, I gave up and booted the backup CD to start the restoration process – not realising that the restoration is all done in legacy mode and as a consequence would take about three hours.

So finally 6pm comes and the restoration is complete – I restart and Windows goes all sulky again because some of the boot information is different (I backed up using Acronis TrueImage 10 but could only find my boot CD for version 9, released about 9 months before Vista came out). A diagnostic screen and attempted repair later, and I’m back up and running again – albeit without the Service Pack, accordingly the update manager is prompting me to install it again.

I’m going to have to look into this again at a later date but for now, I’ll wait until I absolutely have to upgrade.

In the meantime, I’m going to spend a little more time in the company of my newly assembled Linux box, trying out Kubuntu 8.04 for size and waiting for ReactOS to reach a usuable state.

Well done Microsoft, you’re the only corporation I know of that uses a sniper scope to shoot yourself in the foot.