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Roll Your Own Steam Cloud with Dropbox

Steam Client

Steam running on multiple PCs

The Steam gaming platform has a great feature called “Steam Cloud” for users with multiple computers that automatically synchronizes settings and saved games between your separate installs. You can save your Half-Life 2 game right before the big strider battle on your laptop and pick it up right at the same place when you fire up your desktop PC.

However, only a few games officially support this feature, meaning if you play one of the other games that isn’t supported on multiple machines, you’re officially out of luck. But by leveraging the power of Dropbox, you can synchronize your unsupported games just as easily by moving the files to your dropbox and linking to them from the old location. Here’s how I did it for the classic game Knights of the Old Republic, which isn’t supported by steam cloud.

Make sure you have Dropbox, Steam, and the game installed on both PCs. Then find your saved games folder. For KotOR, it’s located here:

C:\Program Files\Steam\steamapps\common\swkotor\saves

You’ll want to move the entire folder to your dropbox. Make sure you actually move it, not just copy it. You may want to create a new folder in your dropbox first just for game data to keep it clean. I put mine into a folder called Dropbox/Game Data/kotor. That will synchronize your save game files to all of your computers.

Next you’ll want to create a link from the original location to the dropbox folder. Open a Command Prompt (Start -> Accessories -> Command Prompt) and create the link with the mklink command:

mklink /J "C:\Program Files\Steam\steamapps\common\swkotor\saves"
"C:\Users\Eric\Documents\Dropbox\Game Data\kotor\saves"

This will create a virtual link from your steam app folder to the one you just moved into your dropbox. As far as the game is concerned, the files are right where they are supposed to be.

Repeat this process on your other machines and when you save your game on one machine it’ll be available on all of them for loading.

I’ve got Windows 7 installed on my machines so if you’re using XP, Vista, or a Mac the instructions for creating links may vary. See this article on the dropbox wiki for more details.

Find out more about Steam.

Join Dropbox and effortlessly Sync data between your devices.

Wii will teach you to pronounce

wiiviivSo Nintendo’s upcoming video game system has a new name. Initially referred to as the “Revolution” during development, it is now going to be called the “Wii”. When I saw that, the first question that popped into my mind was, “how do you pronounce that”? Apparently, Nintendo foresaw this problem, as they knew to explain it within the first few paragraphs of the unveiling announcement. From Nintendo:

Introducing… Wii.

As in “we.”
..
Wii sounds like “we,” which emphasizes the console is for everyone. Wii can easily be remembered by people around the world, no matter what language they speak. No confusion. No need to abbreviate. Just Wii.

Okay, so it’s pronounced “WE”, Not “Why”. That’s great. The one problem is that I had finally taught my brain to pronounce the name of Intel’s new Multi-media platform, “Viiv”. It’s a new brand for a computer configuration made to work well with multimedia applications, handling video, audio and pictures, similar to “Centrino” for laptops that are configured to work well with wireless. But how do you pronounce “Viiv”? From Intel’s page on the subject:

What does the word “Viiv” mean?

The Intel® Viiv™ technology brand name communicates the excitement, vibrancy, and vividness of the latest technologies that enables people to have a great entertainment experience in the home.

Viiv is pronounced “viv” and rhymes with “five.”

So, Nintendo’s “Wii” is pronounced “WE”, and Intel’s “Viiv” is pronounced “VIVE”. Not “WHY” and “VEEV”. Got that? Oh, and just to throw a spanner in the works, here’s the last sentence I just saw on the intel page:

In Japan, Viiv rhymes with “sleeve.”

What? So, in Japan, “Viiv” really is “VEEV”, but in the U.S. it’s “VIVE”? Great. That’s just great. I’m not confused at all now.

The nice thing is that we won’t have to worry about pronunciation any more after we all get the internet jacked directly into our brains and we can just instant message people directly from our thoughts.


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I'm goin' to BootCamp

BootCampApple today announced BootCamp, an Apple-created utility for dual booting your (and my) intel iMac with OS X and Windows XP. This is certainly more appealing than the OnMac method, which admirably came first.

“Boot Camp lets you install Windows XP without moving your Mac data, though you will need to bring your own copy to the table, as Apple Computer does not sell or support Microsoft Windows.(1) Boot Camp will burn a CD of all the required drivers for Windows so you don’t have to scrounge around the Internet looking for them.”

If that means native graphics drivers, bring it on. Let’s see how Battlefield 2 runs on this baby.

Update:

We’re up and running, and BF2 indeed runs smooth as silk at 1280 x 960. It’s great to have native drivers for all the hardware. Read More for some camera phone pics from the install process:

BootCamp stage oneBootCamp stage twoBurning the DriversBootCamp PartitionStarting the XP installFirst XP BootDriver InstallerMac Driver InstallerInstalling Battlefield 2

The strange thing is– I haven’t booted into XP since.

Turn Your PVR into a Dancin' Machine

Note: I wrote this article for byopvr.com a while ago, but I thought I’d get a copy up here as well. Basically, I turned my old desktop PC into a Tivo, but without a subscription fee and total control over the content. It also has the perk of being able to run PC software on the TV… including games. Which brings us to this article.

I recently was introduced to the video game Dance Dance Revolution and suggested it to The Wife(tm). The game play is deceptively simple– step on a game pad containing 4 arrows in time to arrows displayed on the screen in time to modern dance music. She isn’t really a gamer, but the idea of getting some exercise made her interested. And not just for her, but it was a game that she could feel comfortable recommending to kids. I thought this might be the opening to get a console into the house… but the total cost of a new system, plus pads, plus the game itself just to play one game wasn’t really feasible.

So she asked, "Can’t you find a program for the PVR?"… which made a lot of sense (as usual). I had recently completed a project turning my old Desktop PC into a PVR which is connected 24/7 to the TV in our family room. It’s a modest computer in today’s PC market– 1 GHz Celeron, 512MB of PC100 RAM and a GeForce 5200. But it should be powerful enough to play a relatively low demanding game such as DDR. So after a bit of investigation I found the answer to my quest: StepMania.

http://www.stepmania.com/stepmania/


It’s an open-source DDR clone that runs on windows. There’s a strong community and a lot of the familiar songs and steps have been ported over. Plus the program is FREE (you have to find your own song packs).

Here’s a quick checklist of steps for turning your PVR into a dancing machine:

Download and install StepMania

http://www.stepmania.com/stepmania/mediawiki.php?title=Downloads

This is just the program itself. You can download some extra items from the site as well, such as Background Animations and Announcer sound packs.

Download and install Songpacks

This is where copyright gets a little sticky. I can’t tell you where to download song packs, but I can tell you that they are distributed as files with a “smzip” extension. Perhaps you might be able to figure out a method to search for files that contain that text, maybe even in a way that a peer would connect to a peer. “smzip” files are just plain “zip” files, but they are extracted and installed automatically by the StepMania program.

You should now be able to fire up StepMania and play… with your keyboard. But that’s no fun, and hardly can be called exercise (plus, that’s no way to impress the ladies). You need some dance pads to get your groove on.

Purchase Dance Pads

There are some pads that are made specifically for a PC USB connection, but they are expensive. A much better way to go is to buy PS2 pads and a PS2 to USB connector. It’s cheaper, and you have a much wider selection to choose from. The most expensive pads are arcade quality metal and high-impact plastic, and will run you about $300 each. Personally, I took the opposite route and bought a couple of PS2 Dance Pads from Computer Geeks for $8 each (not only cheap but they have stylish flaming feet on them!).

http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?invtid=DMATT-FF-NB&cpc=SCH&srm=0

I bought two so my wife and I can both play at the same time. It’s much more fun to play with two people at the same time than having to take turns. The pads have a certain “new-diaper” smell when you first open the box, but they fold up easily for stashing behind the couch when not in use. They’ve held up for months now without any problems. I have heard stories of people buying pads on Ebay, but they have had very mixed results on quality and reliability. I know that the “budget”-line pads have a limited lifetime, so I wanted to be sure I wasn’t getting one that was 75% worn out already.

Purchase a PlayStation2 to USB converter

You need to be careful with this one, as some converters don’t work with dance pads. Check out this page on the StepMania page for details on the right model to get.

http://www.stepmania.com/stepmania/mediawiki.php?title=USBAdapters

I ended up finding the best deal from Ebay (I wasn’t concerned about wear-and-tear on a box of wires and no moving parts). I ended up getting the “Super Dual Box”, which can handle both pads through a single USB connection.

Final Setup and Config

I connected the pads to the converter, then plugged the converter into one of the USB ports on the front of my Aria, which was recognized and installed as plug-and-play in XP. I then started StepMania, but there were a couple of tweaks necessary to use the pads—First, I had to get the converter out of analog mode by holding the UP arrow, SELECT and START on the pads for five seconds on each pad. I have to repeat the process every time I reconnect the pads, but it’s easy enough to do. Second, I had to go into the Stepmania configuration and remap the arrows to the right controls. Before I did so, there was no way to get two simultaneous arrow hits. This key remapping was only required once, and now works flawlessly. I even added a custom button in my PVR interface to launch the StepMania executable, and return to the PVR interface when I quit StepMania.

So for about $35 total I was playing DDR on my TV. On multiple occasions we have ended up playing for over an hour, getting a good work out and working our way up the difficultly settings. It’s a lot of fun and you feel good about it when you’re done. I had no plans for this when I built my own PVR, but the freedom to do this kind of project is yet another reason why I’m glad I did.

Links

StepMania:http://www.stepmania.com/stepmania/
DDR: http://www.ddrfreak.com/
Computer Geeks: http://www.compgeeks.com/

Get your Groove On


Get your Groove On
Originally uploaded by *ejk*.

I’ve gotten back into DDR (StepMania) in the last week or two, and we pulled out the pads last night with the boys after dinner. I created a couple of new profiles for them and let them go at it. They had a lot of fun.

Even though they aren’t going to win any competitions any time soon, we are already well along the path of training the next generation to seize control.

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