Unless you want to turn on VM Sharing, VMWare Workstation does not have an easy way to start your virtual machines automatically when Windows starts.
However, you can get them to start by creating a batch file that starts the VM. Once you have the batch file working, create a shortcut to it and place the shortcut into your start menu’s Startup folder.
Example Batch file:
cd "\Program Files (x86)\VMware\VMware Workstation"
vmware -x "C:\Users\dean\Documents\Virtual Machines\Oaktrace\Oaktrace.vmx"
The first line changes the working directory to the directory you have VMWare installed in.
Since my other articles on figuring out problems that you can’t Google are popular I thought I would write about my latest mood killer. I began to get a very high ping time on my local network, even higher out to the Internet. This caused problems with ssh sessions and NVIDIA game streaming, but was not noticeable when watching Netflix.
It started simply enough, one night I left my wife to watch Netflix downstairs while I went up stairs to get some work done. My job involves using ssh to login to remote servers, any latency (high ping) is very noticeable. That was the case this night. I could type much faster than the text would display, using the arrow keys to navigate was jerky at best. I figured my ISP was being lame. I finished up as quickly as possible. The next day there was no problem.
Jump cut to a few days later. Same situation. I head upstairs to work and my ssh session is just crap. The next day its fine.
The next morning is a Saturday. I take a seat on the couch and try to play Grim Dawn over NVIDIA game streaming and it doesn’t work. The bad connection icon appears in the top right, the graphics are pixelated and jerky, not good. Having no clue what could be wrong, I give my PC and Shield TV a restart. No luck, same problem. I tried the test connection option on the Shield TV, it reported back that I have a 9mb/s connection and 200ms ping. Considering I was on a wired gigabit network with only a switch between the Shield TV and my PC this was very bad.
My wife and children, bored of me, starting watching Netflix as I furiously Googled for a hint at a solution. Immediately my phone’s connection started having problems. Sites wouldn’t load or would load slowly. I tried a speed test and while my bandwidth was ok, my ping was 500ms. I tried pinging my PC, the ping times were all over the place, 1ms, 50ms, 100ms, and everything in between. Netflix worked fine, which I chalked up to streaming not being interactive and thus not caring about latency.
I at this point I knew it was something with my local network affecting both wired and wireless, but I had no idea what.
I had several command prompts open pinging devices around my house. All showed high pings. I expected less than one millisecond and the lowest was 5ms and very jittery.
I then thought about the problems I had with UNRAID. What if another port on my router’s switch is bad? My wife stopped watching Netflix and went into another room. I unplugged everything from my router and tried wifi, all good. I started plugging in all of my devices one at a time, testing in between each one. All good again. I opened up a couple of command prompts and started continuous pings, all good. I tried the NVIDIA game streaming test, the test failed just as before. I noticed something new this time though, my continuous pings were fine until the streaming test; during the test they were high. As soon as the test stopped they went back to normal. I started a movie on Netflix, the pings went bad again. I moved the Shield TV to a different port on my switch. The game streaming test succeeded. Netflix could play without jacking up the pings. It was another bad port in the router’s switch.
Netflix was red herring. Watching Netflix would pass traffic over the bad port in the switch, jacking up the network. When I watch Netflix I’m not doing anything else on the Internet and therefor would not see the problem.
I recently decided to buy a used PlayStation 2 and try my hand at modding it to play backups. Unlike the original XBOX, which has loads of good articles on modding, the PS2 was very lacking. Not that there isn’t some good information out there, just nothing boiled down into bullet points for a country boy such as myself.
Step 1: Get a PS2
Ebay was my first choice. Premodded PlayStation 2s go for 6-7 times what an unmodded PlayStation goes for. This is a little sad as what you need to do the mod costs very little. You’re pretty much buying a PS2 with a memory card when you buy one premodded.
You need a PS2 which has a model number that does NOT start with a 9. These unmoddable PS2s are ‘slims’ and have a shiny top.
With what you purchased in steps 1 and 2, you can load games from a burned DVD or a USB hard drive. Having a ton of burned discs laying around is lame and since the PS2 only has USB 1.0 ports, a USB hard drive is going to be very slow, slower than a disc. You want to buy a SATA hard disk interface.
The SATA hard drive interface is normally part of a network adapter, though you can buy just the drive interface alone. Get a SATA interface, not IDE. With IDE you’ll be relying on old used drives, while SATA drives are modern and easy to buy new. Don’t bother with an SSD, its expensive overkill.
Modding the PS2 is simple enough, insert your Free McBoot memory card. That’s it. You’ll see a Free McBoot splash screen on boot and the main menu will have some more options, one of which will be Open PS2 Loader. This is the program you’ll use to launch backup ISOs from your hard drive.
You’ll need to get some backups of your games. The easiest way is to make a copy using ImgBurn. This is identical to the process you would use to make an ISO of any CD/DVD you have laying around.
Next up you’ll format your hard drive and load some ISOs onto it. For this you’ll need Winhiip and some way to connect the drive to your PC. I used a SATA to USB adapter.
Get your drive connected and run Winhiip. The first thing is you’ll need to do is to format the drive for 48 bits. After that load your ISOs.
Now plug the drive into the PS2, start Open PS2 Loader, hit O, and you should see your games.
Tip: R1+R2+L1+L2+Start+Select restarts the PS2. No need to get up to change games.
I replaced the cooling fan with a Noctua 60x25mm fan. I followed this guide. I deviated from it some and connected the fan to the power supply to motherboard connector. This causes the fan to run whenever the rear power switch is on, but the fan does get the full 12v… sort of. Directly connecting the fan to the 12v made it run louder than I liked. I ended up using one of the noise suppressors that came with the fan. This made it silent. I probably could have saved some effort and connected it to the original fan’s leads.
The fan’s connection to the power supply connector.
All said I spent less than $75 and took about three hours start to finish. Not too shabby.
I recently built an UNRAID server for use as backup storage. The plan was to build a computer and then shuck and use the many USB drives I already had for storage. This mostly went to plan.
TLDR: Network equipment lies about connection speed.
I went with UNRAID because it boots off of a USB drive; saving a SATA port, works well with mixed drive types and sizes, and you can take a drive out of the array and read/write to it from any other PC.
I had five 4TB Western Digital drives in USB enclosures that I planned on using in UNRAID. I bought a 4TB SATA drive, getting me a total of six drives. All of the USB drives appeared to work fine in their enclosures, no SMART errors, no problems reading and writing to them. After taking the drives out of their enclosures and putting them into the new server, three of them started reporting SMART errors. I wasn’t happy about this, but figured I would load them up and see what happens, only buying new drives if they actually failed.
Right off my transfer speeds were limited to 10-12MB/s. I was expecting more like 100MB/s, being on a gigabit network. After fiddling around for a bit I did a restart, UNRAID refused to boot. I got a monitor on it and saw in the message buffer that one of the drives was freaking out. I removed the drive and UNRAID booted up. I still had the slow transfer speeds though.
I disconnected the other two SMART error reporting drives. It was still slow. I logged in via the command line and did an rsync between one of the formerly USB drives and the new drive, still slow, albeit I was getting 15MB/s now. I put the two SMART error reporting drives back in.
I was a little lost at this point. If rsync between two sata drives was only getting me 15MB/s, something was seriously up. I figured the former USB drives were crappy and bought another new 4TB SATA drive. A day later I tried another rsync between the new drives. Same problem.
Now I started down the horrible path of googling ‘UNRAID slow.’ There wasn’t much to see here. Lots of posts about parity drives causing slow downs; I wasn’t using a parity drive. Lots of posts about using a cache drive; also not relevant since I’m not using parity.
I kept pounding my head trying everything and anything I could think of until I stumbled onto a problem with rsync. I was using the -z option, this compresses the files before they are copied. This is all good when sending files over the Internet like I normally would, but when going disk to disk the overhead kills the transfer speed. I ditched the -z option from my rsync command and I was getting full speed between all of my disks. 140MB/s+
Then I tried to do a copy from my Windows desktop to UNRAID’s windows share. Slow again. 10-12MB/s. I tried FTP, same deal. I tried rsync (no -z), same deal. Now I had a network problem.
My desktop, the unraid server, and my router all had gigabit ports. My desktop could do 100MB/s (Gigabit speeds, bit vs byte) to other devices in my house. Nothing could do better than 12MB/s to UNRAID though. UNRAID and my router both showed that UNRAID was connected at 1Gbp/s. Something was a liar.
I tried my laptop on the same ethernet cable and wall jack that UNRAID was using. The speed was bad. I tried UNRAID on a different cable and wall jack. The speed was great. Something was wrong with my cabling.
I swapped cables, redid did the wall jacks, no luck. I then tried making a simple network between my desktop and UNRAID, just a switch and two ethernet cables. The speed was great. There was only one thing left that could be the problem, the switch built into my router.
In the end, it ended up being a dodgy port in the router’s switch. Even though it says devices are connected at gigabit speeds, they are not. It works fine as a 100mbp/s port. No latency or dropped packet problems. I plugged the UNRAID server into a different port on the router, problem solved.
That’s my UNRAID saga. Hopefully my experience will help someone else.
Almost as a side note, I’ve been very happy with UNRAID. I have a 24TB array about 1/3 full. I have this 24TB array split into two 12TB user shares. I sync up the shares with rsync now and again as a backup. I’m not using parity. If a drive fails in the array I’ll either replace it with live data or use the backup in the other share to replace it. I still have a good collection of USB drives and I plug those in and rsync to them too, making for a nice third backup.
Here are some of the scripts I use to keep everything synced.
I managed to mess up the files in my original XBOX’s C: drive. The XBOX would boot to this error:
According to the Internet there should have been an error code in the top corner to tell me what was going on. I did a good enough job on it I wasn’t getting any error at all.
I had a backup of my XBOX’s drive and eeprom. What I needed to do was get access to the C: drive so I could copy over the backed up files. My first thought was to boot off of a DVD and FTP the files over. I tried Slayers and Hexen, neither would boot. Seems the XBOX needs something on the C: drive to be able to boot a DVD.
My next plan was to plug the drive into a PC. There were a few problems with that. I didn’t have anything with an IDE interface like the XBOX’s drive uses. The drive is locked to the XBOX, meaning I would have to unlock it to use it on another computer. The XBOX’s drive uses the FATX file system and I didn’t think anything supported that.
The first problem was solved by a USB to IDE adapter. I ordered a Vantec CB-ISATAU2 SATA/IDE. It also supports SATA drives. It’s pretty nice.
The second problem is solved by xboxhdm23usb. Among many other useful things, it will lock and unlock drives.
The third problem was solved by Xplorer360. It will allow you to copy to/from the FATX file system.
Changed jumper on the drive from master with slave to single/master.
Plugged the drive into the USB adapter and plugged it into my PC.
Placed my eeprom backup in the same folder as xboxhdm23usb.
Used xboxhdm23usb to unlock the drive.
Opened Xplorer360 and use it to copy in your backup.
Locked the drive
Put the jumper on the drive back to master with slave.
Put the XBOX back together.
Some gotchas that I ran into:
The USB adapter was very flaky when connected to the front USB ports on my computer. It would only get recognized half the time and when recognized would sometimes just drop out. It worked fine when connected to the rear USB ports. This is the only device I’ve ever hard problems with on my front ports. The front ports are USB 2.0 while the rear ports are 3.0, maybe the problem, maybe not.
Don’t forget to lock the drive when you are done. I had it my head the drive starts locked and you have to unlock it to use it, that is not right. The drive is unlocked until locked and then locked until unlocked.
In the end it worked out for me and my XBOX is working properly again.
What follows are some very brief thoughts that are not worthy of an entire article.
I have owned a GPD XD for about a year now. It is by far the best handheld emulation device I’ve used. It plays the fifth generation consoles (PlayStation, N64) very well. Since it has a built in stand via the controller it also makes for an excellent device for watching movies during flights or lying in bed.
Hipsters have the market for buying old consoles all messed up. Everything is much more expensive than it should be. If you’re dead set on collecting you are going to spend some money, if you just want to play some games:
A Raspberry Pi 3 plays everything up to the fifth generations of consoles well. PlayStation support is excellent, N64 support is very bad. A Pi 3 and a PS4 controller makes for a very nice couch experience. Run RetroPie, its the easiest way to go.
A Nintendo DS will play GBA games. A Nintendo DS also costs a lot less than a GBA.
A 3DS can play DS games. A modded New 3DS can play GBA, SNES, GEN, Gameboy, NES, and more very well.
Nothing can emulate an original XBOX. Spend some money and get one that is pre-modded. TSOP is preferred since it makes it easy to change the hard drive.
A modded PS3 will play PSX, PS2, PSP, and PS3 games.
A modded Wii-U will play Wii-U and Wii.
A modded Wii will play Wii and GameCube.
You can buy pre-modded consoles on Ebay for not much more than a non-modded one.
If your PC is within 50 feet of your TV, a long HDMI cable and a PS4 or XBOX One controller will turn it into a great couch gaming ‘console’. If you also have a wireless keyboard and a mouse you’re in for good times.
A PSP is a fun handheld. Compared to it’s rival the Nintendo DS, its more powerful, the games look better, and they are arguably more adult orientated.
As a long time PSP owner here is my impression of its emulation quality.
NES: Great Gameboy: Great Gameboy Advance: Good Genesis: Poor. Lots of slowdowns. Sound is laggy or doesn’t sound right. SNES: Poor. Lots of slowdowns. Sound is laggy or doesn’t sound right. N64: Nope Playstation/PSX: Great, if not close to perfect. The PSX emulator on the PSP was written by Sony. The quality is outstanding. NDS: Nope GameCube and above: Nope
I see a lot of recommendations online to use a PSP as a cheap SNES emulator handheld. Don’t fall for that. The SNES emulation is bad. It’s so bad I don’t even keep the emulators or ROMs on my PSP. I have never played through a game. I couldn’t even make it through the first level of Contra 3 because the sound of my gun was so high pitched it was annoying me.
If you want to play some PSP or PSX games, definitely get it. You’ll never go wrong playing a game on the original hardware it was designed for. PSX emulation is great, in my opinion it’s better than the PC emulators.
The biggest downside to a PSP is the battery. Batteries don’t age well and the PSP is getting old. Official replacement batteries from Sony don’t exist. Aftermarket batteries are horror stories (check out some Amazon reviews). Most people either stay plugged in all of the time or use an external battery like you would use to charge your phone in an emergency. I read an article of one guy who removed the UMD drive and soldered in two NDS batteries in their place. I’m lucky enough that my battery is in good shape, but when the time comes for a new one I’m a bit worried.
The RS-1 Game Prince is a handheld NES on a chip console with a 2.5 inch back lit LCD.
The Game Prince feels pretty sturdy. I was expecting it to be made of cheap plastic, but not so much. The console’s case is contoured so that it sits in your hand well. It runs on three AAA batteries. There is a headphone jack and volume slider. There is no cartridge slot for games as they are all built in.
The buttons and their layout get interesting. It has a PlayStation style D-PAD. There is no Select button. The A and B buttons are reversed. There is a turbo button you can use to assign a turbo function to A or B. There is a Reset button that allows you to reboot the device, essentially exiting a game and getting back to the game selection menu.
The lack of the select button isn’t a big deal. None of the included games rely on it.
The A and B buttons reversed is an odd thing. It really tripped me up at first, but then I got used to it. It’s not ideal, but it is workable.
The batteries last a long time. I’ve owned my Game Prince (or is it an RS-1?) for about three months now. After about 15 hours of play time I’ve went through one set of batteries and I’m working through the second. There is no battery meter. The use of AAA batteries isn’t a big deal for me as I use rechargeable Ni-MH batteries.
The Game Prince is advertised as having 152 games built in. Like most NES on a chip systems, this is a stretch. The majority of the games are copies of each other with different names or a single level only. For instance, Hudson’s Adventure Island exists as a full game. Each of the levels for the Adventure Island are also playable as if they are complete games.
The games that are included are a decent mix of early NES titles. Super Mario Bros, Mario Bros, Contra, Mappy, Galaga, Gradius, and the like are well represented. There are no games present that use a battery save feature like the Legend of Zelda, again something typical of a NES on a chip system. There are about 25 actual games.
There are some neat variations of the games though, fast Super Mario Bros. is fun.
The games play very well. No emulation glitches as they games are running on essentially the original hardware they were written for. The sound out of the Game Prince’s speaker is good for what it is. The buttons are responsive.
I purchased my RS-1 Game Prince from AliExpress for $19. For that price it’s definitely worth it just as a bathroom diversion.
The Woodi GBA and the Woodi GBA Micro are portable game consoles that do a fair job of replicating their Nintendo big brothers.
If you want to skip the reading, here is a video showing off both systems:
The Woodi GBA looks almost identical to a Nintendo Gameboy Advance. The biggest differences are a reset button above the B and A buttons and a micro USB port on the bottom right edge of the case. When you turn it on you’ll see that is has a back lit LED screen, much like a GBA SP or NDS. The screen is bright and looks really good. It has a rechargeable battery. The battery lasts about five hours.
The Woodi GBA has 26 games built in. These games vary slightly based on the color of the Woodi GBA you buy. It has a cartridge slot for accepting other games. As near as I can tell the only game available is the Woodi 28-in-1 cartridge that came with it. Keeping count that is 26 games built in and 28 on the cartridge, a total of 54. The games are all from the Nintendo GBA. The cartridges and slot are very similar to the Nintendo GBA’s, but are not identical. Nintendo carts will not fit.
When I originally bought the Woodi GBA I was hoping it utilized a GBA on a chip. After playing the games I’m sure that it is actually emulating them. While the games normally play at full speed there are times when there are slow downs. The sound quality is what really makes me think the Woodi is emulating. The sound quality is bad, really bad. The sound plays slightly slower than it should.
I purchased my Woodi GBA for $32 on AliExpress. For that price it was worth it. It’s a nice system to keep in the can.
Woodi GBA Micro
Pretty much everything I said about the Woodi GBA applies to the Woodi GBA Micro. There are a couple of exceptions to that: the micro uses three AAA batteries and it has no cartridge slot. The batteries last a seven hours or so. Opening up both systems, they have the same circuit board, just the screen, case, odds and ends are different.
The micro USB port is just for show. It doesn’t charge the system. Plugging it into a PC does nothing. Looking at the circuit board, it is not connected to anything.
The Woodi GBA Micro has 25 built in games. These games are all from the Nintendo GBA and the Nintendo NES. The NES games are definetly emulated. You can push the shoulder buttons at the same time to bring up a PocketNES menu while playing.
I purchased my Woodi GBA Micro from AliExpress for $30.
I like to travel with the Micro. It’s cheap enough that I’m not worried about losing or breaking it.
How do they play?
For being cheap Chinese crap, both systems feel reasonably well built. I’ve dropped my Micro a few times and it looks as good as new. The buttons on the Woodi GBA feel good, the buttons on the Micro feel oddly springy, but work well. Both systems are near identical to their Nintendo made counterparts so they both feel good in hand.
The game selection on both systems is very good. You really can’t go wrong with classic GBA games. The games play OK. I touched on the sound problems earlier. Both systems remind me of PC emulators from 7-8 years ago… the emulation isn’t quite accurate. You notice things like colors being off or the tone of a sound being just slightly weird. I know some people who would be driven nuts by this, for me though it isn’t a big deal. The games are fun and the system plays them well enough that I’m able to enjoy it all. Normal game saves work, after three months of ownership it hasn’t lost one of my saves. There are no save states like you would find in emulators.
Would I choose the Woodi versions over the Nintendo originals? That’s a hard question to answer… on a purely price and utility standpoint, yes I would choose the Woodi systems. $30 gets you a backlit, rechargable, GBA Advance with 54 games (builtin even, no carts to carry). I can overlook some wonky sound for that. As someone who grew up with Nintendo and could be considered a fan, no. These systems are bad and morally wrong.
AliExpress isn’t for the faint of heart. It took twenty-seven days from the time I ordered until I received my systems. The first time out both systems were broken, the seller promptly sent me another set, letting me keep the broken ones. The new systems arrived twenty-three days later in good shape. The whole process was just under two months.
The Woodi Micro using AAA batteries isn’t all that bad. I use rechargeable Ni-MH batteries. They last a long time.
I was really curious whether the systems were emulated or GBAs on a chip. All of the chips on both systems are either covered in resin or have the identifiers scratched out.
On being cheap Chinese crap… the game lists are poorly translated. I get a kick out of Castle Asia of Sorrow every time I start it up. The USB charger the Woodi GBA comes with is identical to an iPhone charger. Short of missing the Apple branding there is no difference in the look.
All of the problems mentioned in the review above started to get to me. What really put me over the edge was the video/audio/controller lag in some games. The fifth world in Kirby’s Nightmare in Dreamland is all but unplayable between the wonky sound and control lag.
I purchased these systems because I thought the hardware would be interesting to play around with, the games were inconsequential. I found that I liked the games and played them a lot though, go figure. I ended up buying a Nintendo DS Lite. It’s backwards compatible with the GBA and of course plays NDS games too. The difference in quality between it and either of the Woodi systems in night and day. There is no aspect done better by the Woodi systems than the Nintendo DS.
Would I still recommend the Woodi systems? If you’ve got $30 to blow, yes. If nothing else they’re neat conversation pieces. If you’re interested in playing games start to finish, go with an actual GBA or a DS. My vote is for a DS since they are half the cost used as a GBA and can play DS games too. The hipsters have the GBA market messed up in my opinion, it is overpriced.