Nerding in parallel

Did I promise to give an update if and when I worked on the portable Steambox project again? I did? Well, here you go! We worked on it! And ALSO on something else.

Again, things came down to power. This project needs a battery pack that can power both the screen AND the motherboard, and at different voltages and amperage. We’ve got some bits and bobs that should have done the job, but none quite did All The Things. So, I went back to my thinking at the start of this project, and looked for a consumer battery pack that would do what was needed. And, after an email chat with a representative, I found the Anker PowerCore AC. I picked it up and… didn’t test it. I’d given the power cords to my partner in crime, so to speak, and he was out of the country for work. Well, last week, he came back.

Whatever tells the Anker power pack to increase the amperage to support faster charging isn’t happening with the screen. It’s getting the 5 volts and 100 milliamps, but isn’t getting the quick charge IQ goodness. So, the screen tries to turn on, fails to get enough, and turns off. So, we needed to find a way to check if the battery pack could put out what was advertised.

Tech mess

My friend set up the following power chain: Anker A/C port, router plug, power-over-ethernet injector, RJ45 cable, step-down converter, D/C cord into screen. And it worked! The screen turned on and stayed on! So we know for a fact that the power supply can do the needful, at least out of the A/C port. Now we need to figure out a way to either trigger the battery pack to engage its fast charging, or combine the power from two USB ports to support the screen. We’ll see which way it goes.

Tech mess

The other project is re-purposing an old Dell PowerEdge server into a moderately useful gaming box. It’s currently got one Xeon quad core processor running at about 2.5 GHz, and has a slot for another. It’s got 8 gigs of RAM, and can go up to a whole lot more. My friend had thrown in a 5 year old video card with 1 gig of VRAM, that had sat in its box since he picked it up. It’s got a 500 gig hard drive, but it’s one that came with the server and is a bit slow. Windows 10 runs on it, and runs pretty well, which wasn’t a surprise. It’s done a really good job of scaling down to old hardware since its release, and hasn’t reversed that trend, which I’m thankful for.

Our first test was Minecraft, cranked to full everything, and it ran smooth as butter. Next, we installed Everquest II, a game that the end user (my friend’s wife) plays, and I hadn’t played in about seven years. My login still worked! My characters were still there! I had a succession of “what the crap” moments, and tooled around the winter area in which I spawned, and figured out that anything over “Balanced” graphics quality wasn’t going to be smooth. But! The game worked! For old time’s sake, I let off a PENITENT KICK! and took a photo.

EQ2

Filled a Gifted Journal

Decepticon journal

I have this thing with gifts. If I’m given something, I keep it. I use it. Or, in rare cases, I gift it again so that it can find a better home. This applies to all sorts of things, from feathered boas to stuffed animals… to journals from Wal-Mart. Like the one I talk about in Craft and Links.

It’s a cheap journal bought from a place that makes me feel dirty just thinking about it. BUT! It was a gift from a good friend, at the time, so I wrote in it. And I wrote in it. And I wrote some more. The dates between first and last post span about four and a half years, and the blog post about finishing the last journal was posted at about the same time.

The journal is quite thick, and its pages are as thin as newsprint. I never had the time (nor inclination) to count them, but there were a lot. I’m proud of filling this one up, and I’m grateful that the binding didn’t come apart until the very end. It took a hell of a beating, a lot of words, and a lot of coffee stains. Four and a half years of ticket stubs, convention badges, wedding place setting tags, diner grease, couples therapy homework, journaling, and of course, fiction. I’m moving to this one, and am looking forward to filling it with more of the same.

TwitchCon 2018, the end

Exit banner, Good Luck Have Fun

What did TwitchCon do right? Plenty.

The panels/break-out sessions, while sometimes questionably staffed, were varied and targeted to all levels of streamer, from hobbyist to full-timer.

The swag is high quality and looks like it’s going to last for a while. Last year’s leftover swag being in discount bin “loot boxes” was a nice touch.

Entertainment was provided for the swag line, since they knew it’d be long. Live music entertained us while we waited, but wasn’t so loud that we couldn’t hold conversations.

The Twitch Prime lounge was nice, provided a lot of seating, and both sunlight and shade. The free refreshments and breather from the greater convention were worth getting that sticker on my badge.

The con provided accommodations for those medically unable to stand in lines. At every line, there was an express lane labeled “medical” for those who needed it. I heard zero griping from the people in lines around me, and was really happy that if I choose to come back later in life, when my knees are even worse, I will still have the option to participate.

The streamer roast was both hilarious and offensive to all up on stage. Which means it was perfect.

Kevin Smith. Kevin freaking Smith. KEVIN SMITH.

Do I regret going to TwitchCon 2018? Not for a second. Would I go again? Well… probably not. There would have to be a lot of changes for me to spring for the ticket, hotel, and airfare again. It’s not impossible, but it is unlikely.

TwitchCon 2018, pt 4

The expo floor was more of the same. Or, rather, it seemed to magnify the frenetic energy, the need to push to the front to be noticed, and the stratification between community, affiliates, and partners.

Areas for booths did not provide for lines or crowds, so any booths that were popular or had timed events would inevitably block foot traffic in the pathways that surrounded them. While the entire space looked impressive and awesome from the entrance doors, no consideration seemed to be given to how one was supposed to get through from one booth to the next, how one was supposed to interact with vendors once there, if demand was anything more than abysmal. It was mostly pushing, shoving, waiting, being pushed, and being shoved.

Plenty of hype, plenty of shiny, abysmal user experience.

Let’s talk about streaming booths. TwitchCon is a convention that hosts thousands of streamers, most of which stream video games. How many of those are hoping to be able to hop online and tell their audiences, “Streaming live to you from TwitchCon 2018!”

I can tell you that I was hoping to do that. Originally, I was planning on reserving spaces for some or all of the Powerless Gaming crew at AFK GG Gamer Lounge in downtown San Jose. Our hotel was less than a block away, and I’d streamed from there multiple times. My plans were dashed when they closed their doors a few months before TwitchCon.

That should’ve been fine, right? There’s no way that a streaming convention would drop the ball on providing a way to stream, right?

There were a few long tables set up in the hallway outside the expo hall, with ten to fifteen open-air streaming stations. Each station had nearly the same list of four to five games that could be played, none of which was up my alley or my viewers’. Despite that, I checked availability. Of course, they were booked, there were thousands of streamers there!

Wandering the expo floor, I stumbled upon a couple of pods of glass-enclosed cubicles that looked designed for streaming. What luck! I found the person managing them, only to discover that these were only provided for partners, and were all booked beforehand. Did it matter that three out of four of them were sitting empty? Nope.

In the end, I was completely unable to stream from TwitchCon, and avoided the expo floor far more than I would have preferred.

TwitchCon 2018, pt 3

Waiting in line with new friends

LineCon 2018.

After the shooting in Florida, I was neither surprised nor upset when I got the emails from TwitchCon about the heightened security that we could expect once we reached the conference. The bag policy was a little onerous, but I have pockets, so whatever.

I payed hundreds of dollars for my weekend pass. Yes, I expected the turnout to be huge. I also expected, for my money, that security and lines would be handled efficiently and professionally. I was greatly disappointed.

I waited an hour and a half to get my badge the day before con. On the first day of con, the average wait time to pick up your badge was six hours. Soak in that for a moment.

Firstly, the lines were split between community, affiliates (streamers who had achieved enough stability for Twitch to offer monetization), and partners (big viewership and community). Everybody paid the same to get in, so the pecking order being established by Twitch was clear, and irritating. And they didn’t even pull that off properly! The lines to enter the convention were supposed to be spit into their respective badge types, but the crowd handlers were either incredibly understaffed, or just inept. I stood in two “affiliate” lines for about thirty minutes, before I found the -actual- affiliate line. Signage was spotty and unclear.

Once inside, the line to get in to the swag shop was about an hour wait. Let me say that again. After standing in line to use the badge I’d paid hundreds of dollars for, I was made to wait in line for another hour simply to give them more money in exchange for swag. Twitch, you’re owned by Amazon now, you really should get this efficient shopping experience thing handled.

To their benefit, the conference managers fixed the entrance line nonsense by day two. I’m unsure about the badge line. The swag store line, if anything, was longer on the second day.