Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Halo 2600 -- A revolution in Vintage Computing Games

By Bill Martens

The Year is 2010, July to be specific. The world has seen some of the best games come and go. Halo is one such game. Many played it, many buy it, and many more have gone on to even more advanced games in the first person shooter genre.

But now imaging if the year was 1977 and you knew all the programming ideas you know now. Atari 2600 is brand new this year and being limited, you have to write the game in 4K. This would be daunting for most people to accomplish.

Ed "Eddy" Fries is not most people. He was one of the key people in Microsoft Game Studios, the game division of Microsoft for many years. While many of the games available for the Atari 2600 are quite simplistic with the usual video games including Pac-Man, Frogger, and Space Invaders being among the most popular titles, even the Adventure made on the Atari is no match for what Ed has accomplished in Halo 2600

Halo 2600 was created as a hobby project which allowed Ed to see firstly what he could do on the old platform with his knowledge and secondly to create something that would showcase a platform that has long been forgotten and thrown away by most folks.

Not only did he nail a winner with Halo 2600, but now many people around the country including the mass media are knocking at his door wondering how he could get away with producing this game while Microsoft is right on the door step of releasing "Halo Reach". However, Microsoft doesn't seem much interested in it, and according to a report in the Seattle Time, the MGS president laughed it off as some kind of joke.

The game play is controlled by the arrows for Up / Down / Left / Right and the spacebar controls the firing. You can only fire left or right which makes the game more challenging but once you put together the movements and the firing restrictions, then you will find that they fit right into the ideas of retro gaming.

While you , Master Chief, the super enhanced cybernetically enhanced soldier of the the future, go through the task of shooting the aliens, getting weapons upgrades, picking up keys to unlock passage ways, you will find the pay amazingingly familiar. But while it is not the simplistic pick up the spear and kill the dragon like adventure, many of the same concepts that appeared in Adventure for Atari 2600 also appear here.

If you are looking for the fancy graphics of the commercially released Halo games, then Halo 2600 is not the game for you. But if you are looking to enjoy 64 levels of tough, challenging, retro graphics fun, then you definitely need to check out the program.

The game has been offered as a free download from Atari Age at:

You can also join the Halo 2600 Facebook page at:

A flash based browser playable version of the game is available at:

If you dont have flash, then we have it up for users with Java at:

If you like Halo 2600 and think it is the best thing since sliced bread as we do, then be sure to leave a comment on Ed's Halo 2600 Facebook page.

(c) 2010 Virtual Atari (http://www.virtualatari.org). All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

iOS 4.0 First Looks

I had the unfortunate experience of actually falling for the iOS 4.0 update this morning. Released to great fanfare by Apple and supposedly compatible with my lowly iPhone 3Gs, the update has a number of glitches that I am extremely annoyed with.

Starting off, the update download took forever. Or it seemed like it did. Maybe that is because Apple just shoved it out to everyone at the same time, totally slamming their own servers. This seems like a plan of idiocy. Apple had advertised that the update was going to be on the 21st. For us here in Japan, the 21st came and went.

While the total update of my iPhone including download took about an hour, it seemed to take an extraordinary amount of time just to do the initial copy of the iOS 4.0 to the iPhone unit.

Now that the machine is updated, I am still not seeing what all the hoopla about new features is. I found myself playing one of my favorite time passing games and suddenly the browser started up and my game kept going in the back ground. It seems that the browser starts up without the usual tapping of browser link or an ad which would normally open it. I have had this happen on several occasions today and have been less than pleased.

Also, there seems to be a glitch that makes applications skip a beat. I only noticed it because it happened in the middle of a continuous screen game. Whether this is related to the new multitasking features of the phone or not, I am not sure but it would seem like the most likely culprit.

The cool screen updates, really are quite atrocious at best. Yes, you can change the background shot but I am not feeling it. The new default makes everything hard to see. Who ever created the color scheme should be fired for being the most annoying graphic artist in the world. (and for being color blind)

I still have yet to have figured out how to create the so called folders which Apple has hyped to no ends. It is not readily obvious in either iTunes or on the unit so i have basically given up on that feature until I find the instructions. (So much for the adage that we all ready know how to use the iPhone.)

One of the most inexplicable features of the new OS is the so called exact location services. I noticed that my navigation software which before the update was off by 1/4 mile is now off by almost a mile of my location. I am sure Apple will try to say it is the software developers fault, however, it is interesting that it mostly worked before the update and now is so bloody slow that I cant even use the navigation software for any actual navigation. The maps now take about 10 times as long to load. One other not so cool feature is the fact that on the navigation software, my location changes by almost 2 miles with me sitting at my desk writing this review!

Funniest of all was the fact that Google maps asked to use my location and then couldn't even activate the maps within the app. So much for the usefulness of the Google maps application.

Initially, I figured I must have done something wrong with the setup of my iPhone or that I had missed something. Then I started reading online and found that it was no phenomena, but instead seems more like a firestorm of criticism that is not limited to any particular section of the world.

For the amount of hype that went into this update, perhaps Apple should have put far more effort into solving the issues with the OS before they shoved it out to the world. Sadly, this is the first real OS issues I have had with Apple related products and it does not make me happy to write this. But alas, it must be said quite frankly this time around. "Fix the darned iOS Apple!!!" And yes, you can print that I said that!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Building iPhone Apps for Free (Or nearly Free)

Over the past several months, I have seen one post after another proclaiming that a particular site or app would allow you to build an iPhone App for free. What I found instead was a bunch of B.S. artists who allowed users to build the apps for free and then charged an arm and a leg or a monthly fee for the actual production and sales. Many others too more than 40 percent of the profits of the app.

I have a list here of the only Apps or frameworks that are truly free for use. While Apple charges $99.00 for the iPhone Developers license, every thing else on this list is free for use or open source.

1. iWebkit

This framework is one of the only truly iPhone compliant frameworks that allows you to build an iPhone website in minutes instead of hours. Featuring all of the snazzy menus in their sample website, the sample can be modified to produce a website that is totally specific to you with only HTML.

Our magazine which takes 3-5 days to layout was completely produced in a matter of 3 hours from start to finish. You can check it out here:

The iWebkit framework is downloadable from the iWebkit website at:

If you like their work, be sure and support their fund raising efforts by sending them a donation.

2. Phonegap

This is the framework which makes the entire App creation process a matter of building a website, copying the code into the XTools www directory of the Phonegap framework and then compiling. The resulting App works on the iPhone and is ready for sending to the Apple store. If you are seriously short of time in the development realm, we highly recommend this application framework.

The other absolutely cool part of this Framework is that iWebkit fits right into the Phonegap Framework allowing you to create a really nice looking app and get it ready for the Apple Store without killing yourself on the development portion.

Phonegap is available from the Phonegap webite at:

There are also a ton of tutorials and information for iPhone development on the Phonegap wiki as well. Also, you are not limited to just the iPhone but since we are writing about iPhone development, we chose to focus on that aspect of Phonegap.

3. iPhone RSS Reader App

At first glance, it looks like we are promoting an App here. However, this is an app with a serious twist for those wanting to create their own apps on the fly. This App comes with the full source code, making it easy for you to modify it and produce your own app.

While the iPhone RSS Reader App is a one shot pony, for those of you with your own blog or news site that you want to have an app for, using your RSS feed with this App is a breeze. Change the code and the items in the App you want to change, color scheme, etc., and then re-compile in X-Tools.

Luckily, this is the one App that is free to build. Just add your Apple Dev code to it and go!.

You can download the program and full source code at

While there are a ton of other development platforms, frameworks and examples out there, so far the only ones that we have found were worth the time and remained free are the ones we have listed. Short list but then they should be all you should need other than a good graphic designer.