So… I have a few posts that I’ve sort of been working on, but they’re involved. I have others that I just haven’t been motivated to actually work on; motivation in general has been difficult lately. And there have been some things I’ve played with or thought about recently, but I just can’t figure out a way to sort of give those things the narrative structure that I hope for when I’m writing here. So, since it’s been a while, here are some things that I maybe should have written about:
The Steam Deck
I bought one of these. It’s weird! A big pile of compromises. I guess where I land on it is that it does what it’s supposed to do. It is a reasonably powerful machine in a handheld game console form factor, for a far lower price than a GDP. The outward-facing console features are horrible, in my opinion. The D-pad is unusable; I average like twenty lines lower in master mode Tetris than on my Switch or my modified DualShock 4. The button placement is too wide; I primarily play shmups and can’t reliably get from A to B for bombs. I think trackpads are the worst sort of input device – the Deck has two of them and they’re the worst of the worst. Put simply, I wouldn’t use this thing if it didn’t solve other problems.
And it does, but again this is mostly just by being the only thing that exists in this form factor and at this price. The parts that actually do the heavy lifting are software – the Proton emulation layer and the SteamOS Linux distribution. Proton does work surprisingly well – I play a lot of doujin games written in obscure languages for Windows 2000, and I’ve had very few compatibility issues. The SteamOS UI/UX is… fine. It’s always very obvious that you’re using a computer and not a purpose-built console, though. Anyway, I don’t love gaming on my laptop, so I have been getting a lot of use out of the Steam Deck. Hopefully more things start to exist in this market.
The Brother P-Touch Stickerkid
I’m probably going to write about this over on Cohost as well, where I’ve been doing more of the nerd stuff that I’ve kind of migrated from place to place over the years. But lately I’ve been kind of fixating on thermal labelmakers. They’re incredibly unsexy devices, and they’re essentially all the same. I think it’s fascinating seeing the slight differences model to model, though, like how the absolutely miserable PT-1400 is one of only like three models that has symbols for electrical polarity (and possibly the only model that does both that and barcodes).
Brother made a few models that really feel like they were trying to milk an existing product line as much as they could. One of the more interesting ones is the Stickerkid, the PT-25. The idea is just, kids like stickers, and thermal-printed labels are just… kinda crappy stickers. This line of thinking makes sense, but it also lends itself to… a really lazy product. Brother didn’t make that. The physical unit is based on an existing mid-grade model rather than the bottom of the barrel (I prefer the feel of it to the aforementioned PT-1400). The ROM is wildly different from normal models. It has a massive bank of symbols, many that can be combined in various ways for making varied faces and face/body combinations. It has a (bad, but still) typing game. It has a ‘piano mode’ which is just that every button makes a different tone (this can be disabled). It has a bank of a handful of phrases in several languages as a sort of half-hearted learning tool. It has physical ‘yes’ and ‘no’ buttons that make menu navigation much more pleasant than my typewriter-sized professional PT-9400. I won’t pretend it’s a great general-purpose labelmaker1, but I will say that Brother went way harder on the implementation of this idea than they needed to.
For a long time, I’ve exclusively used a DualShock 4 for gaming on my laptop. I have it modified with clicky switches, and it’s great for falling-block games and pretty good for shmups. I’ve finally got a working solution, albeit wired, for the Neo Geo Pad 2 PlayStation controller. I assumed that I’d be able to use my existing remapping software with it, since the adaptor I’m using (Brooks) emulates a wired PS4 controller. But the software I was using is picky, only activating a hardcoded list of approved USB devices. There are a lot of options that really feel like they fit in with the shmup lifestyle – often looking as cobbled together as the launchers for these games, and only mapping to keypresses, lacking virtual controller support.
But I didn’t want to need a second piece of software for the rare times I need virtual controller support, so I bit the bullet and bought reWASD. It takes forever to start up, presumably because the UI is all some Electron (or whatever) type bullshit. And there are some weird glitches here and there that seem to demand relaunching. But overall, I really enjoy the experience of this software over what I was using before. It’s far more customizable, the UI is just more intuitive, and it works fine with my adapted Neo Geo Pad 2. Customizability includes shift layers as well as mappings for double-taps and the like. I’m considering a shmup mapping for my Epyx 500XJ where the inner button will be shot, the outer button will be focus, and double-tapping the outer button will be bomb. Anyway, I expected the software to be a minor upgrade beyond just solving my immediate problem, but it is probably the best remapping experience I’ve had.
There really isn’t much to say about this Bluetooth speaker, and even if there were, I’m hesitant to just keep posting about Sony products. The SRS-BTM8 is an old, discontinued speaker that you can easily snag on eBay for about $20. It sounds fine. Not great, but fine. And importantly, it’s powered by 4 AA batteries. It’s pretty rare to find a Bluetooth speaker that isn’t powered by an internal lithium-ion battery, and with the infrequency that I use mine2 – this means I can basically never use it because the battery is bound to be dead. This solves that problem and is perfectly fine in every other way.
I think that’s about all I have for right now. There are still a number of posts that I’m hoping I’ll actually follow through with. But even if I can’t build up the energy for any of that, I expect to get my 2022 media recap posted early in January. We’ll see where things go from there! Happy new year!
- The plastics used might not be the greatest, but that’s just sort of a ‘90s consumer electronics problem. At any rate, I used my Stickerkid for presents this year and when I swapped out the tape afterward, I snapped off a bit of plastic that holds a spring which presses the tape up to the head via a roller. ↩︎
- I don’t mean my LSPX-S2, which gets use but pretty much stays in one place. ↩︎