Thrift Log: Microsoft 1381 Webcam (LifeCam VX-2000)

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Hey!

I’ve been trying to figure out what to do for pictures in these thrift store posts. I’m one of those weirdos who doesn’t have a smartphone — nothing wrong with them, but I’ve never been able to get over the initial hurdle of cost, combined with their throwaway nature. I didn’t have a cellphone of any kind, period, until my old job put me on a weekend on-call rotation. And though my flip-phone (which is basically just a big pocket-watch that I have to charge, considering how often I use it) does indeed have a built-in camera, there appears to be no way for me to transfer those photos to another device.

The 1381 webcam is frankly pretty obsolete, but it works with Windows 10, and will suffice for the purposes of this blog. Not too bad for three bucks.

Edit 28/Nov/2016: I caved, and ordered an Android smartphone to help with my current job. It was not three bucks 🙂

Thrift Log: Intellivision TV Play Power

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Paid six bucks. Disappointing unit for a variety of reasons.

 

Controller

The Intellivision had a crazy dial-and-keypad controller with side buttons. It supported plastic overlays for game-specific control instructions, and the dial could detect 16 directions of movement. Some would argue that the Intellivision controller was overly complicated and a pain to use, but it’s a huge part of the system’s character.

This Plug-and-Play unit uses a pretty standard layout with a d-pad, thumbstick and some face buttons. However, the directional controls are very stiff and unresponsive, and the thumbstick above the d-pad also behaves like a d-pad — not capable of detecting more than 8 directions.

So while it’s a concern that the unit doesn’t actually resemble an Intellivision controller, it’s overshadowed by not even being a competent controller.

 

Accuracy

The underlying architecture isn’t Intellivision: the games featured are reprogrammed for clone NES hardware, and if you look closely at the games, you can spot NES graphical artifacts like map palette corruption at the edge of the screen during 8-way scrolling (Hover Force).

 

Turn off your high-beams

Lastly, the unit has a red LED power indicator that beams in your eyes while you play.

 

Included games

I see there is a 10-game version that looks more like a Sega Genesis controller. The one I picked up has 25 games. Some of them are pretty cool, but the shoddy controls and inaccurate representations of the included games are a problem.

ASTROSMASH
BASEBALL
BASKETBALL
BUZZ BOMBERS
FOOTBALL
GOLF
HOCKEY
HOVER FORCE
MOTOCROSS
NIGHT STALKER
PINBALL
SHARK SHARK
SKIING
SNAFU
SPACE ARMADA
SPACE BATTLE
SPACE HAWK
STAR STRIKE
SUB HUNT
THIN ICE
THUNDER CASTLE (missing its soundtrack!)
TOWER OF DOOM
VECTRON
VOLLEYBALL
WRESTLING

 

Not recommended.

Thrift Log – Microsoft SideWinder Plug & Play Game Pad (X04-97702)

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This USB controller works out of the box with Windows 10, which is nice, considering that the box says “Designed for Windows 98”. Wikipedia says the release year was 2000.

The grip feels pretty decent, but I don’t know what to think of its directional pad. It’s a weird, smooth, inverted bump that can be pushed down in addition to being nudged in the cardinal and diagonal directions. The travel downwards is not a control or button. Honestly, I’m not sure why it does that.

Uses

I had to grab one of these just for the camp factor. Have you seen those SideWinder marketing videos?

SideWinder FreeStyle Pro

SideWinder Dual Strike

SideWinder Strategic Commander

SideWinder Force Feedback Wheel

Granted, this Plug-and-Play unit is pretty spartan and ordinary in comparison. I probably dropped too much on it ($8, which is approaching the cost of an iBuffalo USB SNES pad clone), but I’ll keep it plugged in for a week and try some games with it and report back on whether it’s any good.

Update: So I played some Shovel Knight and Umihara Kawase with this controller. The right-side action buttons are A-OK, as are the left and right shoulder buttons. As for the directional pad, my left thumb feels like it’s been through a workout. Since the d-pad has a concave indentation (maybe better described as a crater), the edges of your thumb are constantly being squeezed against a circular ridge of plastic. The dpad is also rotated slightly clockwise, and it’s not always clear where straight down or straight up are by feeling alone. The controller has transparent plastic, and you can see that the d-pad component is mounted to a larger PCB disc which is responsible for pushing down on the contacts. It’s almost like a short joystick that’s been recessed into the controller. Weird.

Unfortunately, the dpad really sabotages this controller.

Thrift Log – Microsoft Sidewinder X6 Keyboard

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Found for about $6 CAD. I ended up grabbing it out of curiosity for the weird dials, numerous macro keys, and the Microsoft Sidewinder branding.

Sidewinder was Microsoft’s pre-XBox, “extreme” gaming-oriented peripheral brand, and they slapped the name onto various input devices. The Wikipedia article on Sidewinder goes into some detail on the history, cancellation, resurrection and re-cancellation of the brand. Some of the controller designs are pretty out-there. This keyboard hails from around 2008.

The Sidewinder X6 has a column of macro keys along the left side, a bunch of macro keys above the Funtion Key row, and two curious dials on the top-right. The underlying mechanism is a rubber dome membrane. To use the macro keys, you need to install Microsoft’s Mouse and Keyboard Center software.

So, why two dials? One is for volume, and the other… drum roll … dims the red and amber lighting beneath the keys.

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(Re: the brighter light coming from the ‘S’ key: somebody scraped away the paint on that key for whatever reason.)

Where’s the number pad? The number pad is a separate component that can be connected to either the left or right side of the keyboard. I like the idea of a modular keyboard, but the downside is that the components can be lost: the unit I found didn’t come with this proprietary attachment.

Uses

I don’t really have a use for the macro keys, but gimmicks aside, it’s a decent backup USB keyboard. One person on Amazon really didn’t like the placement of the Esc key (on standard layouts it appears above tilde (~), but on the X6 it’s over further to the left).

Thrift Log – Cicero Pentium 4 PC

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(This is too big for me to photograph in a convenient manner, but here is the Cicero badge on the front for posterity.)

Cicero is an old Future Shop / Best Buy brand, used to sell PCs from other manufacturers. I picked this up yesterday because I have a thrift store addiction the motherboard has an AGP video slot (I’ve got an AGP card lying around with an S-Video port that I want to try sometime), and the case seems to be standard ATX with decent build quality. It cost about $10 CAD.

 

Stats upon acquiring:

Core Components

  • Case: F-IWF2-03
    • I couldn’t find any relevant webpages on this part number, but it seems to be a standard ATX mid-tower. Build date 9/28/2001.
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-8IDML REV 2.0
  • CPU: Intel Pentium 4 @ 1.5 GHz
  • Memory: 1 x Spectek 256MB PC133 SDRAM
  • PSU: TurboLink ATX-CW420W (Standard ATX)

Drives

  • Hard Disk: Maxtor D540X-4K (PATA, 3.5″, 40 GB)
  • 3.5″ floppy disk drive: Alps Electric DF354H090F
  • CD-R/RW: LG CED-8120B (PATA)

AGP

  • Video Card: NVidia NVTNT2MA

PCI

  • Wi-Fi: D-Link AirPlus G CDWLG510..B1 [sic]
    • Detachable antenna is cracked
  • Modem: AMKO MDP3900V-U(B)

Software

  • OS: Windows XP Professional Edition
    • Whoever previously had this system wiped the hard disk and performed a fresh install of Windows XP, but didn’t activate it, and didn’t install the correct version for the serial key sticker on the box. Wiped and reinstalled.

Uses

With only 256 MB of RAM, using Windows XP on this machine is not too pleasant. Gigabyte lists Windows 98 drivers for this motherboard, so maybe Win98SE would be a good fit. The case is a good candidate for gutting, maybe for a low-end server, though ventilation could be an issue for anything producing a lot of heat.

 

Edit 19/Sept/2016: 3.5″ Floppy Drive, not 3.25″