News/"Socket the Hedgeduck" project

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News/"Socket the Hedgeduck" project!

    Although last year was a very productive year for EagleSoft Ltd, to the casual passerby to EagleSoft social media, it would appear that our development on software is going slow this beginning of the new 2016 year. However, nothing could be further from the truth; there is usually something going on behind the scenes at the software engineering laboratory!

Colonial Combat progress:

     Although I graduated from the university in December, work on Colonial Combat is still ongoing. The fighting engine is mostly finalized and coded, and I'm patiently waiting on the pixel artist to finish drawing up the remaining levels and more character art so that I can import the level art, design the levels, rig the other characters, and code in other level objects and gimmicks as necessary for the object handler script. (Drawing both art pieces for the artist are very time consuming, due to the art being original pixel art. Fun fact: each character has 115 sprite frames. 115 sprite frames * 13 characters = 1,495 total sprite frames for all characters. That's a lot of sprites for our artist to draw!)

NEW Project "Socket the Hedgeduck":
    In the meantime while waiting for the art to be created for Colonial Combat, I privately began work in December 2015 on a new side-project for fun and as a programming challenge: "Socket the Hedgeduck"! It's a modification (or in technical terms for the retro-technically inclined, a "ROM hack") of Sonic the Hedgehog (16-bit), which is an advanced hack which serves to be an unofficial port of Socket/Time Dominator assets (music, level layouts, art, objects, and more) to the Sonic the Hedgehog Engine. It's my first Genesis game modification since 2012, when I went on hiatus from game modification in order to focus on my university studies. It feels great again to be tinkering around with Genesis hardware, the Sonic the Hedgehog engine, and with Motorola 68k assembly programming, especially now having more formal knowledge on computer internals via a Computer Architecture class. Full details about the hack (including pictures and videos) available at the project page. Development is going full-steam ahead on this side project, and I hope to have a demo build sometime soon in Spring (released via a patch file, no concrete date on this).


The Equator: End of Support

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The Equator: End of Support

   As mentioned in a previous post last year, we created a new mobile app called "The Equator" which was a PoC app project for a graded Distributed Systems university project. The app fetched engineering equations, their names, and picture links of the equations from an online database. It was a very difficult to develop app, due to the original source code (an unfinished project from a another team) originally being written within the restrictions of MIT App Inventor 2. Although the project was completed for the DS Class, it was quite hackly-built, having to cache the online database via an ugly, offline pseudo-database of key-value pairs in order to store the database.

   Unfortunately, the online "database" (which was actually a list of TinyWebDB list of tag-value pairs online) was hosted by Google Cloud Compute. This service is free to new users for a certain trial period, and then requires a subscription fee to use afterwards. Due to this app just being a PoC (and not being a very well written app, due to the restrictions of MIT App Inventor), and having to require a subscription fee to continue hosting the database, we are choosing not to continue this project further. Google deletes databases for those who wish not to pursue hosting a database after the trial period. The source code archive (which is meant for educational purposes) on The Equator page will be updated within the next few days with instructions and the software to replicate the server elsewhere, as well as the database contents.


The Great Hardware Upgrade

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The Great Hardware Upgrade

   As mentioned in the 2015 end-of-year post, my/EagleSoft Ltd's main development laptop, the HP ProBook 4540s, sadly died, due to boot issues. I tried everything to fix the boot issues, but was unable to find a solution. This was saddening, because I purchased that laptop in Fall 2012 essentially for free, by using half of a one-time $1000 scholarship I earned at the community college, and because I loved the hardware dearly. Not only that, but also it died during September 2015, in the middle of my final semester at Robert Morris University and while working on a major, graded video game project, Colonial Combat. Luckily, the project was not lost (it was backed up elsewhere), and a professor was kind enough to loan me out a university laptop for the project. He extended the rental until the end of March 2016, until I could afford a new, permanent laptop, and another friend loaned me out a SATA2USB device to restore the data from the old HDD to the new laptop.


   During mid-February 2016, with time running out on the rental period and finally earning enough money, I finally decided to purchase a laptop. What did I purchase, why, where, and how much? Introducing EagleSoft Ltd's new dev/gaming machine... the Elitebook 8570w!

    Although the HP Elitebook 8570w is a slightly older, 2011 model of laptop, don't be fooled; it is a very powerful machine. Technically, it is a classified as a "mobile workstation" type of laptop, meaning it has the specs of a dedicated desktop workstation computer, but in a slightly bulkier laptop form. This product line of HP laptop is a corporate product line of laptops meant for computationally and graphically intensive work for power users, especially for digital content creation and for CAD work. My particular model has the following specs. Items marked with "*" I recently upgraded, while items in bold are hot features:

  • Intel Core i7-3720QM Processor (Quad-core, 2.60GHz up to 3.4 GHz with Intel Turbo Boost)
    • Intel VT-x and VT-d (for HAV)
  • Windows 7 x64 Pro (because Windows 8 and 10 suck)
  • x4 RAM DIMM Slots, up to 32GB
    • *Came with 8GB installed, I upgraded it to 16GB of RAM
  • 320 GB HDD
  • Military-strength aluminum laptop chasis
  • Graphics
    • 15.6" LED Backlit monitor, with max resolution up to 1920x1080, with lit HP logo on back
    • VGA Out
    • DisplayPort Out
    • Has a NVidia Quadro K2000M dedicated graphics card
  • Full-size backlit keyboard
    • Normal keyboard layout
    • Numpad
    • Has drain hole, for spill/dust resistance
    • x4 actions buttons
      • WiFi
      • Mute
      • Internet browser
      • Calculator
  • Mouse
    • Large trackpad
    • Pointing stick
    • x2 sets of 3 mouse buttons (left, right, middle for mouse wheel/special, for both trackpad and pointing stick)
  • Fingerprint Scanner
  • x5 USB Ports
    • x2 USB 3.0 Ports
    • x2 USB 2.0 Ports
    • x1 USB 2.0/SATA combo port
  • x1 1394a Firewire port
  • Audio
    • Headphone jack
    • Microphone jack
    • Built-in speakers 
    • Has Stereo Mix
  • SD/MMC slot
  • Connectivity
    • Gigabit Ethernet port
    • 56k Modem port
    • WiFi
    • Built-in Bluetooth 4.0
  • Upgrade Bay in Optical Disk Drive Slot
    • Came with SATA Caddy to utilize a 2nd HDD
    • *I installed a BD-ROM/DVD Super Multi drive instead
  • SmartCard Slot
  • ExpressCard/54 slot
    • *Bought an HP Analog TV Tuner card, for capturing RCA AV 
  • Docking Bay slot
    • Can connect legacy serial/parallel ports through a dock, other peripherals
  •  BIOS
    • Has settings to toggle the port settings for serial/parallel ports for compatibility

     The new laptop runs very smoothly, has awesome graphics, and has specs even better than the old HP ProBook 4540s. Specifically, I bought this laptop for gaming, video game development (especially CAD and programming), and digital content creation, due to the very fast processor speed, high amount of RAM, BD-ROM upgrade drive; CAD-certified, powerful dedicated graphics card; and legacy hardware support (serial/parallel port support, ExpressCard/54, and 56k modem port). The legacy hardware will be used in the future for embedded development for programming some older Microcontrollers and Microprocessors, while the ExpressCard port will be used for the analog TV Tuner card, for capturing play-throughs of video games on my older consoles (for the upcoming Nerdology YouTube channel). Back in 2011, this laptop sold for ~$1000 MSRP, but I found it on eBay refurbished for $300. Overall it has been a great deal of a purchase so far!

Pics/vids of the laptop:

Test capture of RCA video via
the HP Analog TV Tuner ExpressCard
(Super Mario Bros. from a Famiclone console)

Video review of HP Elitebook 8570w
(Please excuse AV quality)

Stay tuned for more EagleSoft Ltd developments (with the new hardware)!

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