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Posts Tagged Wii

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword: First impressions and compared to Twilight Princess

I had a lot of fun with Zelda: Twilight Princess on the Wii and decided to try Skyward Sword when it came out. The biggest change between the two is the use of the Wii MotionPlus for control of Link’s sword: The motion of the sword follows the way you swing — or even hold — the remote. This creates some new and interesting gameplay mechanics, but this wasn’t the only gameplay change between the same. I’ll elaborate on a few others:

The other major change that I notice immediately is that it doesn’t use the wiimote IR for “pointing” (I covered the sensor to be sure). It uses the accel/gyroscope in the motionplus, relative to its starting “center” position. Unfortunately the “center” can go out quite easily depending on the way you handle the controls, but fortunately re-centering is done quite easily: Every time you are able to “aim”, simply pointing your remote at the center of the screen and pressing DOWN on the Wii remotes D-pad re-centers the aim. Though it’s quick and easy, I find myself having to do it a LOT. I wish there was some sort of auto-centering, perhaps making use of the sensor bar. Though if you get into the habit of pointing “center” when you select an item or open a menu, the cursor is already there and there is less need to center as often.

There’s also an overlay which shows you the controls, which can be disabled from the ‘gear’ menu (button 1).

If you played Twilight Princess, you may recall your NPC companion. Link’s companion is in his sword this time, instead of his shadow. As before, the townsfolk are willing to help you learn the controls (which, except for sword swinging, are quite similiar to TP so that you don’t can skip the tutorials). An on-screen overlay — enabled by default but which can be disabled — reminds you of the controls and item use.

This time however, there’s an emphasis on HOW you attack enemies. Some are vulnerable to attacks only from certain directions or at certain times, and since Link’s sword follows the wiimote almost exactly, how you swing the wiimote is important. That’s a sharp contrast from the TP, where any “swinging” motion would cause Link to swing in a pre-configured pattern of strikes.

There’s also two new motion-based environmental challenges: Ropes and vines. Ropes, which Link has to walk across and keep his balance (by swinging the wiimote left and right to correct his balance); and vines which Link has to swing across. With the vines, you can swing the wiimote backwards or forwards to gain momentum, and hold the B button to slow the vines momentum. Some areas have vines which you have to stop and vine and change the direction of its swing in order to jump to the next one. Timing can be critical.

Overall Skyward Sword is a fun game, and the changes in the play control make it fun, but could have been improved slightly. This is just gameplay mechanics, and there’s some interesting story to go with, but these are a few first impressions.

What are your thoughts on Skyward Sword? Have you played Twilight Princess? If so, how do you feel about the changes? Please feel free to comment below. Thank you!

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Cooling the Linksys E3000 – Part 2 – Inside the box

After much discussion and feedback regarding my original post “Cooling the Linksys E3000“, and my own curiosity as to why this router got so hot, I decided to press on and look further into it.

I’ve heard rumors that speculate that one of the reasons this router gets so hot is because of an underpowered AC/DC adapter. I generally don’t agree with that and here’s why: The device is hot but the adapter isn’t. In my experience AC/DC adapters which are under-powered will run the adapter hot — as it’s overloaded — and the device won’t function under load, as there’s not enough power to all of the components. In this case, the AC/DC adapter isn’t hardly warm (I just checked mine) and appears to meet the device requirements (12VDC 2A). So I don’t believe the heat issues are related to the adapter. So if the problem isn’t related to the AC/DC adapter, it must be due to lack of adequate cooling. I removed my cooling fan and opened the case. The screws are T10 torx security screws, labeled CR-VT10 in my kit, for the interested. The first thing I noticed after opening the router was that there was plenty of RF shielding and actually a heatsink mounted on one chipset. I decided against removing it as I didn’t have anything to replace it with if the adhesive didn’t re-stick. I then set up a moderate test to keep the router busy while I probed the uncovered chips with an infrared thermometer.
Here is my setup:

Wired:

  • Port 1: Wii streaming Netflix
  • Port 2: Gigabit NAS

Wireless:

  • 5Ghz Wireless-N device (300Mb/s) copying a large amount of data from the NAS

As you can see I’m far from pushing the router to it’s limits but I am certainly keeping it moderately busy. I ran this level of network activity for about 5 minutes then started taking temps. I found two chips that had operational temperatures above 45C:

The first was the Broadcom BCM4322KFBG controller at 62.8C

bcm4322kfbg

This is a product of the Broadcom BCM4322 family of 802.11n controllers. Here’s the datasheet.

The second was the Winbond W9751G6JB-3 DRAM chip at 47.6C. This is a 512Mb DDR2 SDRAM chip.

w9751g6jb-3

It seems to me now that the Broadcom chips are almost solely responsible for much of the overheating issues in this router family, with the DRAM chip potentially taking some of the blame as well. I’m planning on ordering a set of Zalman VGA heatsinks and put one of them on each of these chips. It should help a lot, especially with the fan on the bottom to keep the air moving.

As the nature of heatsinks is to transfer the heat from the chipset to the air, I’m sure that I’ll notice a slight increase in the temperature of the router’s case itself, but the resulting heat transfer should be improved with the aid of the fan, and I’m sure I’ll be able to expect my router to live a much longer life.

If anyone has any thoughts to share on this please do so in the comments below. Thank you!

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My first thoughts on the Wii 2 (The Wii HD?)

A BBC News article passed to me by my friend NMI contains the first announcement I’ve heard about the Nintendo Wii 2. However, from the limited information in the article, I honestly can’t say for sure whether or not I’m excited by it.

Let’s review:

No technical details about the machine have been revealed, but gamers will get an early preview at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles in June. … However, sales have been gradually declining in the face of tough competition from PlayStation, XBox 360 and mobile gaming platforms. … Wii was the first console of the current generation to offer motion controlled gameplay.

This was (and still is, in my opinion) one of the Wii’s strongest selling points: Motion-based gameplay out-of-the-box. With the Wii, motion control is accomplished with the Wii remote (“Wiimote”) and optionally the nunchuck. With the PlayStation Move and XBox 360 Kinect, the motion-based controls are sold as add-ons to the console, and not all games support them.

Some observers had speculated that the Wii 2 would simply update the existing machine, adding a handful of features such as high definition graphics. … “The talk was about Wii HD, but I do not see Nintendo doing that. It will do something more innovative,” he told BBC News.

The Wii fell short when it was launched with only support for 720px graphics; not the 1080px of the PS3 or the XBox 360. I believe this is something that ultimately hurt Nintendo and helped Microsoft and Sony.

Mr Minkley noted that Nintendo marketed the original Wii around its motion-sensing handset, rather than technical specifications – something he expects to see repeated. … “Nintendo would never launch a console based on the strength of hardware. Theirs has to have a gameplay point to it,” he said.

No kidding. The Wii is considered by many to have the weakest graphics and hardware of its console generation. In fact, the Wii is the only console that doesn’t support any type of native CD/DVD playback. The earlier generation Wiis had the hardware (and homebrew software could take advantage of it), but Nintendo quietly fixed that in the newer white, red, blue, and black Wiis.

A combination of its relatively low price and its appeal to non-traditional gamers – including women and older players – helped the company sell 20m units in the first year.

Nintendo did something really great with the Wii — they didn’t just make it family friendly, they made it player friendly. In most cases, it doesn’t take much to pick up a Wii and start playing — games typically have very intuitive controls and a very gentle learning curve. The uniqueness of the Wii motion controls made it the first gaming console to be adopted for physical therapy use.

So what’s new on the horizon for Nintendo? What do you think, what have you heard, and what would you like to see? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Cooling the Linksys E3000

A short time back I was shopping around for a new router. After some comparison shopping I decided on the Linksys E3000. (UPDATE: Read more on this at Cooling the Linksys E3000 – Part 2 – Inside the box)

However, I was having issues with my Wii randomly dropping off the wireless network. I started troubleshooting and accidentally happened on something that bothered me: This router got HOT. By hot I mean I checked it with my infrared thermometer and I got a reading of 61C from the bottom of the router. That’s well above it’s operational temperature rating of 40C.

First, a note on my configuration:

  • DD-WRT v24-sp2 (12/19/10) big (e2k-e3k)
  • 2.4ghz  and 5ghz access points, both in use
  • A single gigabit device on the wired lan.

I had a good deal of network activity going at the time, so I took most of the devices off the network, powered off the router for about 5 minutes, turned it back in and checked again. No measurable difference in temperature after about a  minute of operation.

My concern was that the router was simply too hot to continue operating like this. I was afraid of chipset failure.

I started in on a mod idea, with a couple of points:

  • The router needed to be cooled quietly
  • The router needed to be cooled in a way that wouldn’t void the warranty in case I ended up RMAing it.

I initially thought of driving a fan from the DC-in connector, but the barrel shape made it difficult to come up with a clean mod, and at 12 volts, it could get a little noisier than I wanted it to be. I wasn’t using the USB port, and that’s an easy 5v supply to a fan, clean and easy.

So I started with a simple USB-to-fan cable. Pulling the 5v supply off the USB port and to a fan connector was easy, and after a quick check with the multimeter said it was good to go. It worked great, but I found out that unfortunately none of the fans I had lying around ran at 5v; they were all 12v fans. I would have to buy a fan for this.

I figured a 120mm fan would give me good air flow at a low noise rate, along with covering most of the bottom of the router. A quick search turned up a Coolerguys 120mm USB fan. A 5v fan with a USB connector to boot. Oh well, I still get to keep my cable for another project :)

So I ordered the fan. It arrived quickly (not quickly enough, I was impatient! ;) ), and I started in on making it look nice.

Removing the grill from the fan was the first step, and it came off easily with a #2 Philips screwdriver.

I had some adhesive foam feet lying around from something else, and cutting them in half and stacking three gave me a nice fit with the finished feet measuring 25x20x28mm.

I added some 4mm rubber feet to the bottom of the fan to give it intake room, and test fitted it. It couldn’t have worked out better. The fan fit neatly under the router and ran quietly — I could barely hear it even when the room was completely quiet. The 4mm rubber feet allowed enough intake room under the fan, even though the fan could have easily moved more air with more of an intake space.

The result? A reading of 30CThat’s a 31C drop in surface temperature! Of course, if you do this, make sure the fan is blowing up into the bottom of the router; not down.

The Wii? As it turns out, it was in a spot where it got terrible signal to begin with. A wired adapter fixed it’s issue.

My thought at the end of this was “Why didn’t Linksys consider something like this from the beginning?” followed by “How soon until our home networking equipment has to be fan cooled?

Here’s all the photos from the mod project:

Have a Linksys E3000? Have your own cooling mod idea to share? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Nyko Intercooler for the Nintendo Wii

Knowing that heat is one of the biggest enemies of electronics makes me a bit of a cooling junkie. I say a bit because I still won’t dare any exotic PC cooling solutions, like water cooling (water + electricity?) but I will mod heatsinks and fans onto things like routers, modems, etc.

So, now I have a Wii.

I noticed while playing even graphics-intensive games that the fan in the rear of the unit doesn’t spin up at all, and the graphics will occasionally lag. Now, this could either be a good thing (the hardware isn’t hot enough to need it) or a bad thing (the hardware is hot and needs it, but it’s not kicking on).  So, I was thinking of tearing it apart and doing something along the lines of hooking the fan directly to a v+ line.

I started searching for some pre-manufactured solutions, and I found the Nyko Intercooler. $6 isn’t bad, and since it doesn’t use the USB ports for power (a lot of solutions did and I didn’t like that) I figured “why not?”

I got the Intercooler today and hooked it on. It installs by snapping over the rear fan exhaust and features a pass-through from the ac adapter for power.

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Intercooler, installed (click for larger image)

So here’s the quick review on this unit.

The Good:

  • Powers on and off with the unit
  • Clean design
  • Good airflow
  • Easy installation
  • Inexpensive
  • Doesn’t block any ports

The Bad:

  • Loud. (It reminds me of an old desktop CD-ROM drive spinning at full speed)
  • Doesn’t come in black ;)

All in all, its a decent little gadget, and at $6 delivered, I can’t complain. The “feet” you see at the bottom of the ac adapter pass-through are designed to keep the pass-through supported, so it doesn’t damage the ports connection to the Wii mainboard. They are removable and support a horizontal configuration. The unit does have good air-flow and makes me think I’m going to have to spray out the intake filter on the bottom of the Wii occasionally with compressed air.

Not a bad bit. Though I haven’t done enough gaming since I installed it to see if it makes a difference in the areas where I noticed lag.

Do you have one of these devices (or something similar) for your console? What are your thoughts? Please share in the comments below.

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