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August 29, 2003

Hardware, Additions & Scientific American

It seems the first real chance I've had to focus on a few site updates is during a power outage. The house is dark with the exception of candles and my TiBook... so this is a perfect time to do a few updates without all of the competing distractions of the last few months. We've had chronic thunderstorms all summer and some real whoppers these last two days... so keeping my digital, electron-driven life running smoothly has been a real challenge.

Hardware Issues...

A little over a month ago I encountered some really bizarre things with the motherboard of the system that has been driving my MAME box. All of the sudden, certain games that used especially low refresh rates would lock up the hardware. A handful of titles could be used in my testing to lock it up on demand. In the months prior to this development the same titles were perfectly stable and absolutely nothing was causing a crash or a lockup of any kind.

I tore my configuration to pieces looking for some minor software change I had possibly made and finally, after laboriously testing the heck out of everything, decided it had to be hardware. I had another identical system on hand and did a swapout. Problem solved. I even switched back and forth between the motherboards, swapped RAM, processors to try to zero in on a specific piece. Something in the motherboard of the original machine changed in a subtle way that introduced this problem while not changing the behavior of any other part of the system. If anybody has any insight on what to cause such a localized malfunction, I'd love to hear it.

Additions to the System & Site...

I also took some time to remove the primary guts of the computer from its case and mount them inside the Millipede cabinet. I've added the pictures and general description of the process to the Computer page.

Miscellaneous News...

W. Wayt Gibbs, Senior Writer for Scientific American magazine, contacted me in late June to see if I would be willing to do an interview about the process of building my MAME box for use in an upcoming column. He flew down on July 2nd and we had a fun few hours talking, disecting the machine and playing some great games. He did a side-by-side comparison with my real Pac-Mac machine to sample the authenticity and achieved a very respectable (and nearly identical score) on each machine. The article will be out in the October issue which, I believe, hits the newstands around the first week of September.