bavaweekly: 12-6-2021

Well, as mentioned yesterday, I’m going to be trying to capture various things that happened from week-to-week in these, hopefully, quick weekly summaries. The reason is it takes me some time to right a blog post, and hopefully these weekly posts will help be condense the happenings so they are documented because if everything requires its own, potentially-lengthy post nothing will captured. Anyway, it’s a work-in-progress, so we’ll see what happens.

Reclaim Hosting

  • Big new son this front, after seven years at St. Norbert College Taylor Jadin has joined Reclaim as a Community Instructional Technologist. The fact that we have hired an instructional technologist is pretty magical on many fronts, and hopefully I can parse some of the reasons in a future post, and Taylor has been an amazing member of the Domains community for years, so having him onboard is an honor and a pleasure—looking forward to working closely with him for the foreseeable future!
  • Last week also so the official announcement that we will be retiring Rockaway Hosting and moving all existing account back into the Reclaim Hosting fold. This was a long time coming, and 2021 has been about growing, consolidating, and focusing on what’s next.
  • The end of last week also featured a meeting wherein talks around a Domains API were re-started, and a project for 2022 initiated. This is something we’ve been talking about on and off for years, so here’s to hoping 2022 marks a big leap forward in this possibility.
  • Chris Blankenship and Lauren Hanks definitely earned their Reclaim wings last week dealing with a server issue that required extensive recovery work and communication simultaneously (never easy), but the fact that Tim and I were not on the frontline marks a big turning point.

bavacade

Exidy 440 Dev Kit Game Menu

  • Installed dev kit on Atari Millipede that not only adds free play and high score save capabilities, but also several other games like Centipede, Super Breakout, and Warlords. You can read the post about it here with all the gory details: “Multipede: 4-in-1 Cabinet Fun!”
  • Installed dev kit on Cheyenne that adds nine more Exidy shooting gallery games, including CrossbowCombatChillerClay PigeonCatch-22Crackshot, Hit ‘n MissCombatWhoDunit, and Showdown. I posted about this as well just this morning, so you can read more here: “Exidy 440 Dev Kit on Cheyenne.”
  • A failed project was trying to get the marquee light for Astro Invaders working. Looks like there is a short in that circuit somewhere, so that project is on the docket for this week, as well as installing the multi-game kit for Gyruss, which fills me with dread given the need for desoldering CPU chips 😐

Streaming

  • I spent a bunch of time last week re-visiting my streaming setup and playing with Peertube and Owncast as possible options for the OERcamp Global’s Friday Night Karaoke session I’ll be co-hosting with Chahira Nouira. Not gonna lie, I totally love the karaoke stuff, and not only because I have an awesome voice, but also because I love to play with streaming stuff. I wrote two posts on the setup, one focusing on my test with Peertube and another on Owncast. For the OERCamp Global session on Friday night October 10th at 9 PM CET we’ll be using an instance of Owncast mapped on karaoke.oercamp.global.  This is doubly cool because it will allow me to introduce the session with a quick nod to what’s possible on Reclaim Cloud—always be branding!
  • I also cross-cast all the video streaming experiments to ds106radio, so there’s that.

Reading/Watching/Listening

Creepshow Soundtrack by Waxworks

  • Tom Woodward presenting “It Could be Beautiful-Aspirational Learning Technology”– is well-worth your time. Tom talk about what pursuing the mind-blowing experiences when integrating tech into teaching and learning, and I can dig it!
  • Miles and I are on a Better Call Saul kick while re-watching Breaking Bad —it’s wholesome fun:)
  • I got my Criterion streaming fix with The Swimmer —it’s all about aging not so gracefully. What an awesome film.
  • George Romero’s The Crazies – I picked up the VHS tape and an original movie poster when I was back in the States, so I had to watch this pandemic classic again. Gas masks were a theme this week given the role they play in Breaking Bad and the the fact we will soon be required to mask outdoors in Trento …. ugggh!
  • Creepshow soundtrack from Waxworks —the cover art says it all, and it’s fun music to work to for sure

Personal

Parco Gocciadoro

  • Mostly day walks with Duke and Anto to parco Gocciadoro as it starts to get colder here, looks like our first ski/snowboard outing will be next weekend.

Say Cheese!

  • Pretty quiet week all round. Feeling the work groove while preparing for Christmas with some initial shopping and house prep.
  • Starting uploading a few thousand photos to Flickr in hopes of vetting and publishing photos I took in 2021 before year’s end.
  • Duke and Daphne got hair cuts and look so good!

A#1

  • Postponing Christmas trip to NYC -my dad’s not getting any younger and my kids miss all the aunts, uncles, cousins, so this year was gonna be the one we made it home. But not gonna happen for a few reasons, so punting until Easter. A bit sad, but relieved not to be traveling at Christmas for sure.
Posted in bavaweekly | Tagged | Leave a comment

Exidy 440 Dev Kit on Cheyenne

Cheyenne 440 Dev Kit

On Saturday I spent much of the afternoon installing the Exidy 440 Dev Kit that adds another 9 games to an existing game board, so basically all the Exidy shooting gallery games can be played on my Cheyenne cabinet, such as Crossbow, Combat, Chiller, Clay Pigeon, Catch-22, Crackshot, Hit ‘n Miss, Combat, WhoDunit, and Showdown.
That is pretty awesome, and as. with the Millipede multi-game installation, this one went pretty smoothly, although quite time consuming given the total number of chips I needed to remove was over 50!

EPROMS to be Removed from main Game Board

I documented the process fairly heavily and uploaded the photos to Flickr as an album because I want to remember everything I did should I ever need to revert the board back to a stand alone Cheyenne. This is the second of four multi-game mod kits I’ve installed, the other two are for Gyruss (happening later this week) and Pac-man, which will have to wait until next year given that game is still in Virginia—in fact there are quite a few that need to make the jump over the pond 🙂

I will spare you a play-by-play here of this project given HighScoreSaves has documented it well in their Exidy 440 Dev Kit Installation Guide. That said, the project reinforced a few things:

  • The value of taking a lot of pictures of edge connectors and chip placement given I was continually come back to what chip was placed how when adding the daughter cards.
  • How awesome socketed chips are because the do not require any soldering—learned this lesson the hard way with desoldering the Phoenix CPU.
  • Patience is always a virtue when removing chips, and I spent well over an hour listening to music and slowly and methodically removing dozens of them
  • Preserve anything removed given originals are always valuable—a saved all the EPROM chips I removed and organized them accordingly so I can replace them if need be

Main Board EPROMS all Removed

I also think the game board in Cheyenne is a Crossbow board, at least the date 1983 suggests as much, and I imagine Crossbow was the earliest of this group and then the various variations were just modifications. But I have heard that swapping boards between these Exidy games can create serious issues with the power supply, which concerned me after buying a Crossbow back-up board for this game. But now I know it is a Crossbow board I think I might be in good stead.

Cheyenne/Crossbow Main Game Board

Above is the orginal board before removing EPROMS and chips and adding daughter boards, and here is the Crossbow label on the sound board:

Crossbow Soundboard Labelled

That 1983 copyright makes me think it is a Crossbow board with Cheyenne chips given Cheyenne was not released until 1984. The main board also has a date of 1983, but I’ll have to do a bit more digging to confirm this.

Cheyenne/Crossbow Main PCB Complete

Above is a look at the main game board will all EPROMs removed and the daughter card inserted in the 6809 CPU as well as the PROMs K7 and H9.

Bird's Eye View of Sound Board on top of Game Board and 440 Dev Kit Installed

And the picture above has a visual of both the main board as well as the sound boord installed above it with the two daughter boards over the EPROMs and the 6809 CPU with a ribbon cable connecting the two.

View of both Game Board and Sound Board Mods Installed

I did run into one issue on the first attempt at installing the board, the ROMs read cleanly but never booted beyond a check. Turns out I did not turn off the dip switches on the main board, but after doing that it loaded cleanly to the boot-up menu and allowed me to change cabinet, high score save kit, and game settings. You can pretty much do everything from that menu, include adjusting sound, deciding which game you want to be the default at boot-up, custom sound settings (stereo versus mono), turn on/off attract sounds, save all high scores, and much more. I really love the culture around modding these old 1980s video games to both keep the original experience while at the same time providing you a bit more convenience along with a few more games to play. It is a perfect balance between the absolute purism of all original serial numbers and the undignified generic LCD cabinet with MAME games galore.

Exidy 440 Dev Kit Game Menu

Exidy 440 Dev Kit Game Menu

And I now get to play my favorite of the Exidy shooting gallery games: Crossbow!

Crossbow on Cheyenne (Exidy 440 Dev Kit)

Projects like this that keep on giving after they’re finished really do make this hobby quite rewarding!

Cheyenne Cabinet Playing Crossbow

Posted in bavacade, bavarcade, video games | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

bava weekly

Just as D’Arcy Norman pauses his weekly reflections I’m contemplating starting mine. While browsing D’Arcy’s site a while ago I really dug his quick, snapshot summries of what he was up to the previous week. He’s been doing these weekly reflections for awhile, and it should come as no surprise he should lead the charge and burn out before I even become fully aware of the power of what he’s done—that’s often the case with D’Arcy. He quietly and consistently does great work in edtech, and it sounds like he’ll soon have a Ph.D. to augment his already formative super powers … avanti!

I have a few things happening across various contexts any given week, and I appreciate the way D’Arcy categorizes his reflections: work, Ph.D., reading, personal, etc. I’m thinking of categorizing things along the following lines:

Reclaim Hosting: much of my time is still spent working and thinking about Reclaim Hosting, and a weekly synopsis would definitely be useful for me to reflect on for posterity. Plus, catching all the ideas we chat about any given week would be a way to start collecting material for the Reclaim Hosting newsletter we are architecting for 2022.

bavacade: Reclaim Arcade is increasingly Tim’s domain, and what an awesome one it is!  Given my geographic isolation from that arcade nirvana, I’ve started acquiring games for the Italian outpost. Collecting and working on arcade cabinets has become a total blast for me, and the process of building out a home arcade here in Italy keeps me busy and happy.

Reading/Watching/Listening: I probably watch more movies/series than I read these days—a casualty of not teaching 🙁 That said, I’ve returned to reading more literature the last few months, and this might be a good way to take stock of my media consumption with lists, short reflections, etc.* Also, I’m listening to a fair amount of music during any given work day, and incorporating that into more streaming (see below) is a goal for 2022.

Broadcasting (Radio/Video Streaming): As part of all the above interests I have streamed a fair bit over the last two years on ds106radio, karaoke video ds106.tv sessions, bava.tv, Reclaim Today, Reclaim Arcade stuff, etc. It was my favorite lockdown activity that has since become another fun past time to play around with. At the same time I rarely blog that stuff and it can quickly get buried in the black hole that is my hard drive, so this is a good way to take stock, even if it’s just lists and links: the primordial ooze of any great blog 🙂

Personal: Duke updates? I have heard on good authority that my dog needs more airtime across all my mediaz. Not only will it help me document some of the hikes, trips, highlights, etc., but also have a reason to upload and vet the photos I have taken any given week given l haven’t really found a place/workflow beyond Twitter to share them—having abandoned Instagram earlier this year.  That said, I have started uploading several thousand photos I took this year to Flickr again, so we’ll see if I can get back into that habit. I love to document all the stuff I do here in Italy, but I find time is moving a bit faster than my fingers these days, so an attempt to try and capture a bit of this without a separate post for everything may help in that regard. But then again, mapping it out here in a blog post filled with hope and possibility is a bit easier than actually doing it on the regular for 52 weeks, but it would be great if I did because archives of thought and reflection like that have been the greatest joy of playing the long web on this blog for the last 16 years.

Ok, so now that I built it up, I’m gonna try it on for the remaining weeks of December. I intend to post them Monday mornings as a way to jump start the week, but if you never hear mention of the “bava weekly” again, you know what happened 🙂

______________________________

*I would like to link to blog posts, sites, projects, etc. I mean folks like Stephen Downes, Audrey Watters and Chris Lott have been doing awesome newsletters for a long while (OL Daily, Hack Education, and/or Katexic anyone?), but I’m afraid these weekly reflections will be far more self-indulgent and idiosyncratic than anything resembling a newsletter—it’s a “b” blog after all. It’s not lost on me how much work goes into a well curated newsletter, and between family, job, arcade games, hikes, and dogs I just don’t have that kinda time. Truth be told, it’s really just a weekly blog post, so even comparing it to anything resembling a newsletter is already wishful thinking and false advertising.

Posted in bavaweekly | Tagged | 4 Comments

Friday Night Karaoke at OERcamp.global

So, it’s officially scheduled, next Friday, December 10th, Chahira and I will be running Friday Night Karaoke at 8 PM UTC for the OERcamp.global Unconference. You can find the following description on the unconference programme site as well:

Join Chahira Nouira and Jim Groom for a Friday Night Karaoke session as a welcome respite from all the serious open educational technology. I mean you can only take so much textbook liberation, amirite? Use this time as a welcome respite to sing your favorite Eagles song for all the open web to hear.

More seriously, just show up, prepare to laugh and have some fun via chat in the soon to be announced Karaoke room (http://karaoke.oercamp.global), and, ideally, muster up the courage to join in the fun and sing your favorite tune.

It is worth noting that the open source streaming software driving this session, Owncast, will be run through Reclaim Cloud which is this session’s subtle nod to the power of open infrastructure to re-imagine how we work and play online.

In fact, most of this presentation is arguably in the setup leading up to the singing. This is not our first karaoke rodeo, we’ve done this before on Zoom and streamed to ds106.tv. But this time is a bit different in that we have spun up a dedicated app, Owncast, on Reclaim Cloud to stream the session to in order to enable viewing and chatting outside of Zoom. For all intents and purposes Zoom will only be for folks who want to sing whereras the karaoke stream and chat will be a social event for folks to have fun around the proceedings. What’s more. we’re working with the good folks at OERcamp.global to point the subdomain karaoke.oercamp.global to this environment on the cloud so that there is a sense of branding/cohesion to the experience as a way to demonstrate the power of quickly spinning up and down a an open source streaming app with a built-in chat tool. The medium is the massage, and I can’t think of a more compelling way to highlight the power of Reclaim Cloud than to lead with a concrete demonstration of what’s possible while at the same time keeping it loose and fun. So, it turns out this session is kinda about open infrastructure and Reclaim Cloud after all, we’re just delivering it slant.

Playing around a bit more I was able to add a basic info slide to the streaming site

Posted in karaoke | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Karaoke coming to the #OERCamp Global Online Conference

It felt good yesterday to jump on the bava.tv for some homegrown karaoke streaming, and this session was even done with something of a purpose. The folks at #OERCamp asked the great Tim Owens to present on Reclaim Cloud, which he forwarded to me cause he is knee-deep in Reclaim Arcade magic. I responded with interest, but that quickly became a conversation about running a Karaoke session—which is a good indicator of my status as washed-up edtech. But unlike most folks with an ego, I embrace my waning relevance. I would sign-up as a recurring celebrity on the edtech Hollywood Squares without hesitation. Oh how cheerfully we consign ourselves to perdition.

All kidding aside, I’m loving this new found niche. In fact, I got another email this morning asking if we might run another karaoke session in mid-December, so I’ll have to reach out to my partner in crime, the great Chahira Nouira, to see if she can do both events. That said, I can confirm she is a lock for #OERCamp, which will be happening next Friday night, December 10th at 9 PM CET.

I have to admit there is some regret over not doing the OpenEd21 Karaoke session they reached out about, but Fall was a blur of work this year—so we do what we can. Anyway, for this karaoke test I used the PeerTube live streaming option I have on bava.tv. The live stream video can be embedded elsewhere, so I can have #OERCamp create a page and embed the streaming video so folks who want to watch can head there, keeping Zoom just for folks who are singing. That simplifies the Zoom overhead a bit, and also enables folks to watch, laugh, and hopefully comment on the live steam. Unfortunately, that is where PeerTube falls down a bit, there is no native chat for live streams in that platform.

Installing Owncast on Reclaim Cloud

Another open source streaming application I have been playing with this Fall, Owncast, might actually be a good alternative given it has chat built-in. Also, given I can run it on Reclaim Cloud I could spin a custom app up for each event that could be run on a subdomain of their site, like karaoke.oercamp.de. That would enable some domain/brand cohesiveness and also provide a space for folks to link into the Zoom room if they want to actually sing. It would be a pretty good use of the waiting room feature on Zoom too, enabling us to have one or two folks on deck, but minimize interference in the studio 🙂

Summer Summit 2020 KaraOERke Setup Update

I think next up is testing Owncast and then playing in Zoom to see if I remember how all that works, but it is high-time to put together a slick Karaoke solution for folks if they want to do this at their own events (edtech or otherwise). I blogged my 2020 Summer Summit setup which is a good reminder that Zoom wins the day for karaoke, but wondering if Streamyard is an option as well? At the end of the day Chahira and I are doing it because it’s a lot of fun and we love singing into the void, but it would be nice for folks to do it themselves because it could help cutout the Eagles and Billy Joel middlemen that come with our hosted events 🙂 Anyway, much more on this in the next week or two, until then I’ll be singing myself silly on the internet!

Posted in karaoke, Streaming | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Multipede: 4-in-1 Cabinet fun!

I’m not sure I wrote about it here yet, but back in October I picked up another arcade cabinet here in Italy, namely Millipede (1982). It was a bit ironic because I was not necessarily a fan of this game. I remember telling Tim that it ‘s one that I would sell from Reclaim Arcade, but those were famous last words I guess. It could also have something to do with the fact that the Centipede cabinet that essentially started the arcade frenzy for Tim and I overshadowed Millipede in my mind. That Centipede cabinet is arguably the most pristine in Reclaim Arcade and being the first gives it a special place in my heart, so maybe my tepid reception of Millipede in Reclaim Arcade was a result of all these factors …. I just don’t know, I’m a technologist not a psychiatrist!

Anyway, I got a Millipede and I have a new found love for the game. What’s more, while I was digging around for high score save kits for some other games I found a mod for the Millipede game board that allows you to play several other games on that cabinet: namely Centipede, Warlords, and Super Breakout.  Some 4-in-1 Cabinet fun! So, trying to bounce back from the utter failure of trying to install the Phoenix mod kit this weekend, I got back on the arcade hobby horse.

Image of CPU Daughter Board for Multipede

CPU Daughter Board for Multipede

Image of Millipede CPU Daughter Board with riser

Millipede CPU Daughter Board with riser

I am happy to report that the CPU on the Millipede game board was socketed, so I just had to gently remove the 40-pin chip and add the above daughter card to the that socket. The CPU is placed in the provided space on the daughter card, and I used a riser (a second socket) to make sure the card would clear the metal test points on the board. It was quite simple, the next step was to remove two rom chips and add the second daughter card with the additional ROMs for Centipede, Warlords, and Super Breakout.

Image of Millipede ROM chips to be removed

Millipede ROM chips to be removed

Image of one ROM chip removed

One ROM chip removed

Image of Multipede ROM daughter board

Multipede ROM daughter board installed

And removing the 24-pin ROM chips was even easier than the 40-pin CPU chip, and I placed the second daughter board and the final piece was attaching the connector ribbon so the boards could talk to one another:

Image of connector ribbon between two boards

Multipede connector ribbon between two boards

I am going fairly light on details here cause the following two videos cover the installation and setup of the Multipede game board way better than I could:

As the videos outline, once you have the board installed you press down the player 1 button when the game is turned on to access the broader settings for the cabinet, each of the games, etc. The beauty of these mod kits is they can make what was a laborious activity of changing settings by pulling out the game, opening the back, removing the game board and changing dip switch settings a seamless process at power up:

Image of Multipede settings page

Multipede settings page – press player 1 button when powering on game to get to this screen

Once you have things set as you like them you can save your settings and you will be pushed out to the game. At any point after that you can select which game you want to play by once again pressing down the player 1 button for 4 seconds:

Image of game selection screen for Multipede

Game selection screen for Multipede

YEAH! After that, the Millipede cabinet becomes that much more awesome, allowing for some Centipede action!

Image of Centipede in Milipede cabinet

Centipede in Millipede cabinet

Centipede #4life

Centipede #4life

Or even some Super Breakout, which was Tommaso’s favorite, even though I pawned him for the high score quite quickly!

I have to say this was a welcome win after a weekend of bavacade despair. I am thrilled it worked, and I am loving the Multipede fun. It also  bolsters my confidence for two more multi-game projects I have on tap, namely the Exidy 440 muti-game mod that will add such classics as Crossbow, Combat, and Chiller (to name a few) to my Exidy Cheyenne machine.  Then, after that, I am going to take on the daunting multi-game Gyruss mod that adds Time Pilot and Pooyan to that Konami classic—Pooyan is a personal favorite, so super excited about that. But in the meantime I am going to enjoy the Multipede in all it’s 4-in-1 splendor!

Image of Multipede game

Mutipede game

Posted in bavacade, bavarcade, video games | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Phoenix High Score Save Kit Versus the NEC 8085 Chip

“Sometime you eat the b’ar, and wal (well), sometimes he eats you.”

–The Stranger in The Big Lebowski

Image of Centuri Phoenix game board

Centuri Phoenix game board

It was that kind of weekend. I was finally decompressing from travel and birthdays and trying to get back into a rhythm. I decided to try tackling some of the high score save/multi-game kits for the bavacade I had gotten this past month. I started with what I thought would be the simplest by adding yet another mod chip to Phoenix in order to not only add freeplay (I already added a mod for that), but also save high hi-scores for both bug and non-bug games (which was an awesome feature). The full list of features can be found on this KLOV forum post, but I’ll capture a few here for posterity:

  • number of lives
  • bonus score
  • coin settings
  • freeplay or not
  • sound in attract mode
  • enable or disable 204K point bug
  • attract maintained in freeplay mode
  • sound in attract mode (selectable on/off) – this works apart from the background noise in the mothership attract stage where the CPU just can’t manage it
  • high scores saved to FRAM (no batteries)
  • 5 position high score table (there’s plenty more NVRAM, just no space on the screen)
  • enter your initials (3 letters only, “old-school”)
  • Separate high score lists for bug and non-bug high scores

So, the bug mode referred to in this list is the 204,000 point bug that my son Miles got twice in a row while we were playing each other and crushed all my fatherhood dreams of owning my kids at 80s video games. That said, I still love it, but I posted about this feature/bug already on the bava so I will spare you anymore thoughts here. Saving high scores is a lot of fun, and given Phoenix is a personal favorite I reached out to user philmurr on KLOV and got a custom Phoenix mod-chip that does all the above and more!

8085 processor and dip switch

NEC 8085 processor and dip switch

The mod is pretty straightforward, you need to replace the 40-pin NEC 8085 8-bit processor with the daughter card that has the 8085 processor as well as several other chips to handle the modifications, and essentially allow you to choose the game settings from the screen rather than using the dip switch on the board.

image of 8085 daughter board chip set

8085 daughter board chip set

image of Underside of 8085 daughter board chip set

Underside of 8085 daughter board chip set

So, the daughter card would plug into the area where the 8085 processor is, and then the 8085 process would be plugged into the space provided for the 8-bit chip. The one issue was the 8085 processor was not socketed (so it was soldered right onto the board), meaning it would need to be removed by desoldering all 40 pins. After that it would be replaced with a 40-pin socket that would allow me to plug the daughter board in cleanly. I did this already for a Scramble high score save kit, so the process was not entirely new to me. Plus, I had watched Tim do the same thing for a Gyruss high score save kit for Reclaim Arcade, so I understood the drill.

image of 40-pin socket for circuit board

40-pin socket for circuit board

Ahhh, but confidence was not enough to remove this 8085 processor chip. It started simply enough, I fired up my desoldering gun and got to work desoldering each pin. It was hard going so I did a few passes, and then remembered that for really intractable pins you might have to re-solder and then desolder so the new solder combines with the old to aid with the removal. Nothing doing. The chip was not budging at all. So I thought I might help it along with a little wedge pressure from below to see if the solder just needed to be cracked a bit, and cracked the 8085 processor chip. The first casualty of this ordeal.

Cracked 8-bit processor chip

Cracked 8-bit processor chip

I then re-soldered everything to see if the chip still worked, and the game was throwing garbage and making a crazy muffled Phoenix sound, so I was pretty sure the broken 8085 processor was beyond repair. On top of that, the $6 soldering tool I bought from the States a while back broke, so I was not able to solder anything else. So, believing the chip was shot I decided to desolder the legs again to see if I can at least get it off the board, and while doing that my desoldering gun broke—it was a fiasco. I was not feeling all that accomplished by day’s end, so I packed up the project and re-watched Breaking Bad with Miles to see if cooking Meth was a viable option …

I feel Jesse’s pain…

…it wasn’t, but I did pick up a new soldering iron Sunday morning, along with a manual desoldering suction pump because hope springs eternal in the arcade hobby breast. I had one goal, get the 8085 chip off the board, I had already ordered a replacement from France and China, so it was going to be a week before I could test the board, but at least I could remove the broken chip and add the socket for the daughter board in the interim.

Image of The broken and cut 8085 chip

The broken and mangled 8085 chip

The desoldering pump was not working, but I had read about a nuclear option: cut the chip off the board with a pair of snips and then remove the leftover legs. After re-soldering and desoldering yet again to no effect, I cut the broken 8085 chip out. Only things left were the mangled legs on the side I had cut, whereas the other side broke off cleanly as I lifted the cut side up to be perpendicular to the board. So, after cutting out the chip I was left with a bunch of broken legs I needed to desolder and remove:

Image of Game board with 8085 chip cut out and remaining broken legs

Game board with 8085 chip cut out and remaining broken legs

You can see from the top row above that the legs I did not cut were removed more cleanly, so I started on that row for getting them out with not a little trepidation. In fact, my first attempts at soldering and then desoldering them with the new tool were not working. It took me forever to get out just 3 pins, so I regrouped after lunch and asked Anto to give me a hand. We slowly worked through that row and I realized if I solder and then lift the board up on its edge and heat up the new solder, Anto could pull the solder and pin out the other side cleanly. The same thing was not working at all when the board was flat because by the time we tried to suck the solder it was already drying, it had to be almost instantaneous.

Image of half the pins removed

20 of 40 remaining pins removed–and next 20 soldered ahead of time

So after figuring this out on the first twenty, I soldered the next 20 all at once, lifted the board on its edge and we methodically went through each pin heating and sucking the solder with the pump and it went super fast. The chip and all its detritis were out entirely and I was finally ready to try and set the socket.

Image of socket placed on pins

Socket placed on pins

Image of socket pins

Socket pins going in cleanly

Disco, the socket fit cleanly and all I needed to do now was re-solder everything and I had at least dug myself out of the hole I created the day before.

Image of soldered pins for socker

Soldered pins for socker

At this point could simply wait for the new 8085 chip and pray that it works, so there will be another update on this project in a week or so to see if there is redemption for this arcade repair boy. One more thing is you might see a wire soldered to the third pin on the bottom of the 8085 chip. That was a jumper that was already there, and you will find this on boards to route around issues.

Image of a jumper wire soldered across different chips

Jumper from chip to chip

I simply re-soldered what was already there, and luckily I have the images of the original should I need to revisit, but I believe it is correct. Anyway, I hope documenting your failures is as valuable as your successes cause if this first mod project is any indicator, there may be a few more failures yet to come 🙂

Posted in bavacade | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

WordPress Multi-Region on Reclaim Cloud

First there was WPMu, then WPMS, and now WPMR!

Image of WordPress cluster diagram

Read more about the Multi-Region WordPress setup on Jelastic’s blog (click image)

WordPress Multi-Region is more a hosting than application specific feature, and to be clear this functionality is possible for applications beyond WordPress. But Jelastic, our Cloud Provider for Reclaim Cloud, has created a one-click application for installing a multi-region WordPress cluster that can replicate across various data centers in real-time. There are a few elements of this that are exciting as hosting providers:

  • With a one-click installer it’s easy to spin-up a complex WordPress infrastructure across numerous regions
  • It has the ability to route traffic so folks get less latency being able to access the instance closest to them
  • It bakes in fail over so that if one server in one region goes down the traffic is immediately redirected to another available datacenter to avoid downtime

These are all good reasons, but the last may be the most exciting because sites go down. Data centers catch fire, DDoS attacks happen, and servers will crash; it’s not a matter of if, only when. So, as more and more edtech infrastructure has become mission critical there needs to be options to route around that painful reality, and failover is just that: it replicates a single server setup across various data centers across various regions (US-West, Canada, UK, etc.) to ensure there isn’t one point of failure for a enterprise-level service. That’s pretty exciting given this is something we’ve been dreaming about at Reclaim Hosting for a while, and given we manage quite a few large WordPress instances, this could be an immediate options for folks that want to ensure uptime.

Image of Jelastic WPMR installer

The dialogue for the 1-click WordPress Multi-Region installer on in Reclaim Cloud’s marketplace

So, that’s the logic behind WordPress Multi-Region clusters, and while in Nashville for the Reclaim Hosting team retreat Tim started playing with this setup to test fail over. It worked in theory while we set it up, and then again in practice last week when our UK Cloud server had issues in the early morning. That reminded me that I was planning to play around with a WPMR setup for this modest standalone WP bava blog—cause the bava should never, ever go down … ever.  After that, I’ll see if I can make ds106 a multi-region setup over the winter break to get a sense of how it works with a fairly intense WPMS instance. So everything hereafter will be jotting down my progress over the last two days.

Diagram of an Maria DB Asynchronous Primary/Replica setup

I started with spinning up a multi-region cluster to host bavatuesdays. It was a 3-region cluster (US-East, US-West, and UK) and after figuring out permissions to rsync files across environments in Reclaim Cloud (it was harder than it should’ve been, thanks for the assist Chris Blankenship!) the migration was fairly straight forward. The Multi-Region setup across 3 regions has one primary cluster and two secondary clusters, and you rync the files to the primary application environment as well as import the database to that environment. Soon after that it syncs with the secondary environments, and like magic the replica clusters have all the files and database settings, posts, comments, etc., imported to the primary cluster. The replication happens in less than 60 seconds, so it might say asynchronous, but it ‘s all but immediate for my purposes.

image of bavatuesdays blog running on bavafail-1 .us cluster

bavatuesdays blog running on bavafail-1.us cluster

I did get bavatuesdays.com running in a WPMR setup for several hours yesterday while experimenting, but had to revert to the stand-alone instance given I ran into an issue creating new posts that I’m still investigating. But as you can see above the blog is running on the domain bavafail-1.us.reclaim.cloud, and there was another instance at bavafail-2.wc.reclaim.cloud, and a third at bavafail-3.uk.reclaim.cloud. You can see from the URLs they are in different regions, US (East coast), WC (US West Coast), and the UK. These all worked perfectly, and the way to have them all point to bavatuesdays.com was to add the public IP from the load balancer for each of the different regional clusters as an A record in your DNS zone editor.

Example from Jelastic's blog about adding A record for each WPMR cluster public IP address in Cloudflare

Example from Jelastic’s blog about adding A record for each WPMR cluster public IP address in Cloudflare

Reclaim Cloud provisions the SSL certificates, and after clearing the cluster’s cache the 3 sites were loading as one, with failover and regional traffic routing working well. It was pretty awesome, but there was one small issue, I could not create new posts, which is kind of a deal breaker for a blog. So I had to revert to the old server environment until I figured that issue out.* I was using the failover and routing baked into Jelastic’s setup seamlessly, but wanted to test out Cloudflare’s load balancing as well, but I’ll save those DNS explorations for another post. That said, Jelastic lays out the possibilities in their post on DNS load balancing for WordPress clusters quite well.

After setting up the A records and issuing SSL certs the bava was beaming across 3 regions. And when I turned one of the three regional clusters off, the site stayed online—so failover was working! The one issue that was also the case when Tim tested in Nashville is that when the Primary cluster goes down the secondary clusters are supposed to let you write to them. In other words, the WP authoring features accessed at /wp-admin should only work on the Primary cluster by default, but if it were to go down one of the other two secondary clusters should allow you to write.  This would not only keep the site online, but also allow posting to continue without issue, all of which should then be synced seamlessly back to the primary cluster once it comes back online. I was not able to get this functionality to work. After stopping the primary cluster, the secondary clusters would throw 500 internal server errors when trying to access /wp-admin -so that is another issue to figure out.

I have since spun down the bavafail 3-region test instance after hosing the application servers trying to downgrade PHP from 8.0.10 to 7.4.25 to test out a bad theory, so the first attempt of operation bavafailover with WPMR is dead on the operating room table. Although hope springs eternal at the bava, so I have plans to resuscitate that WPMR setup given I believe it’s a permissions issue—which means I’ll be bothering Chris again.

Image of bava.rocks failover test site

bava.rocks failover test site

In the interim, however, I’ve spun up a two-region WPMR setup using the domain bava.rocks as a way to ensure adding new posts works on a clean instance (it does), and also to see if you can access the secondary clusters to write to the database when the primary is down (you can’t), so there is still definitely more work to do on this, but it is really exciting that we are just a couple of issues away from offering enterprise-level traffic routing and fail over for folks that need it. Reclaim Cloud is the platform that just keeps on giving in terms of next-level hosting options, and I love it.

________________________________________________

*I was running into the same critical error that folks mention in this forum post, but after downgrading PHP versions from 8.0.10 to 7.4.25 on the WPMR cluster everything broke. I then tested PHP 8.0.10 on my LEMP environment for bavatuesdays (not a WPMR setup) and that worked fine. So not sure if it is specific to the WPMR setup in Jelastic, which uses LiteSpeed whereas my current blog uses Nginx, but this is something I am going to have to revisit shortly.

Posted in reclaim, Reclaim Cloud, WordPress | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“Domains in the Cloud” at Vanderbilt

The Reclaim Hosting team has our first get together since 2019 (the Domains 2019 conference) after any such travel possibilities were impossible since the pandemic. It’s been over two years since we have met up in physical space, and this time we choose to converge as a team in Music City. Reclaim is soon to be 11 people strong, 7 of which were able to make it to Nashville in person. Lauren Hanks, Pilot Irwin, and myself came in a day earlier to get a campus visit in at Vanderbilt University before the team “retreat” got going.

The occasion to visit Vanderbilt was fortunate happenstance given I have been in discussions with Mickey Casad, Executive Director of the Vanderbilt Center for Digital Humanities, around a project she is working on and I was wondering if it might make sense to meet up. Admittedly, part of this was selfish given Lauren and I love to visit campuses given it helps reconnect and ground the work we do at Reclaim. What’s more, I am a sucker for a beautiful campus, and Vanderbilt is just that: gorgeous quad with rarefied buildings smack down in the middle of a happening city. Not a bad re-entry into the campus visiting circuit.

After talking with Mickey it turns out the folks at Vanderbilt were in much the same mindset, having foregone any on-campus events like this since Spring 2020, so it was a shared return, and like I imagine many post-pandemic meet-ups will be—it was both face-to-face and virtual given an entire contingent joined via Zoom. It was good to be back!

A couple of other things I relished from the visit were catching up with Derek Bruff, who now adds Assistant Provost to his list of titles at Vanderbilt. I met him last at an ALT Lab conference in 2015, so it was super cool to find him in the room, and online tweeting!

Another highlight was getting to hear Lauren Hanks present about Domain of One’s Own to this group. She’s been with Reclaim for a while, and with every year takes on a bigger role in our organization and its success. An absolute honor to work beside here, and I have to say COVID-19 to not dull her presentation chops. She was as good as I have seen her yesterday, and it is really cool to see how comfortable, thoughtful, and personally-targeted her talk about the simple experience of exploring your own domain on the web. She captured brilliantly how much the magic of the web is a personal journey of intellectual discovery.

What’s more, it was cool to have one of our recent hires, Pilot Irwin (who was a Domains admin at Carleton College), on the ground taking it all in and fact-checking my ass given I am not to be trusted with acronyms and code base discussions 🙂

That’s right, the final highlight would be my taking yet another crack and trying to pull together a cogent discussions of cloud computing and the shift of computing resources to a utility model, the rise of next-generation applications beyond the LAMP stack, and the shift to container-based infrastructure that should revolutionize the idea of a sandbox for higher ed’s edtech, libraries IT, and digital humanities groups—to name just a few.

I tried to use a quick clip from Stephen Fry’s illustrated explanation of Cloud Computing from 2013, but I messed up the audio setup, my bad. That said, This is the first time I returned to this topic in earnest for a while. I first tried something like this at the University of Oklahoma in 2015, and it failed given I was getting too technical and was not entirely clear what I was arguing. I took another shot at it in 2016 with a Networked Learning virtual event, but that was not satisfying either. Since then I’ve been pretty much heads-down, full-time helping to keep the growing ship that is Reclaim Hosting floating along smoothly, making exploratory presentations less and less a focus. I do miss presenting to folks in-person, and it is the closest I will ever get to being a performer, which is something I enjoy. What’s more, using these occasions to try and connect and explain things that have eluded me for years is invaluable.

So anyway, I do thinking I was able to get some of these things across yesterday, and I actually jotted down the entire talk in text first, and then filled with images and presented on the fly. But the text as a frame to work from was really useful, so I will copy the slides and text below, and hopefully get to re-visit and refine this talk and take it on the road to start getting out in front of Reclaim Cloud—my new Reclaim love affair 🙂

I starting by quoting Tim who often notes “There is no cloud, it’s just someone else’s computer.” While true, I think the idea here was to try and make a deeper dive to try and explain Reclaim Cloud in regards to the idea of usage-based computing, or computing as utility. So this is when I moved to the minute long clip from Stephen Fry’s Cloud Computing explanation:

From there I noted that the utility nature of cloud is no longer anything new to higher education institutions, noting that most IT organizations in higher ed are already using services like AWS, Digital Ocean, Google Cloud, and/or Azure in some fashion. In fact, the predominance of infrastructure like AWS is no longer simply rarefied IT. Noting that just recently Kathleen Fitzpatrick of MSU’s MESH are looking for an AWS administrator to run their Humanity Commons project, underscoring this is not an IT department position and is also an exploratory position for the group.

My assertion is that this increasingly become a norm for edtech, digital humanities and other academic computing groups around higher ed.

I think tried to dig in on how cloudlets and reserved computing resources work in Reclaim Cloud, but after talking with Lauren and Pilot this might have been the weakest part given I was keeping things conceptual and did not need to jump into a cloudlet explanation at this point, should maybe have waited for the demo, or not at all.

After that I asked the question “Why Reclaim Cloud?” To which I said:

Reclaim Cloud was born out of us not being able to meet the needs of our community beyond the LAMP stack, which was (and arguably still is) the most popular open source stack behind PHP applications like WordPress, MediaWiki, Drupal, Omeka, etc.

Image of Reclaim Cloud Applications

At the same time, programming languages like Node.js, Ruby, Java, Go, and many others were becoming increasingly more popular and they depend on entirely different technology stacks, making hosting applications like Jupyter, Ghost, Minecraft, Discourse, R Studio, ShinyApps, Etherpad, a hard no from Reclaim. We were cPanel shop almost exclusively, and while the power it provides is apparent, as you saw in Lauren’s presentation, the demand for applications that ran on different infrastructure was not going away.

Image of Reclaim Containers shipping

What’s more, the cloud is not so much someone else’s computer as it is their container 🙂

The big shift we happening alongside the explosion of cloud computing and next-generation applications beyond the lamp stack, was the rise of container-based infrastructure. And this is where the three elements discussed here (usage-based resource allotment, next-generation applications, and containerized infrastructure) provides a deeper sense of what the cloud is.

The virtualization that enables containers allows for the provisioning of numerous, variegated and bespoke technology stacks almost instantly and all on the same server. The shipping container metaphor is apt, the ship (the server) carries independent, self-contained applications that all function independently within a unique tech stack-but share a common set of protocols that allows them co-exist.

After that it was time to explore the Reclaim Cloud with a quick demo, and I show off the marketplace installers and used the Docker Hub link to find and install OwnCast on the fly, so that was awesome. Below are the points I wanted to hit, but only covered a few, but think this is a good template for any upcoming presentations cause blogging is #4life!

Demo of Reclaim Cloud:

  • Look at installing an application from marketplace, talk about how each is a different stack that can almost instantly run on the Reclaim Cloud server thanks to container technology
  • Look at the ability to create a stack from scratch across multiple programming languages
  • Demo the ability to install Docker engine and pull a Docker container in from scratch
  • Cloudlets and pay as you go pricing
  • Collaborative feature
  • Moving environments seamlessly between users
  • Mapped domains, SSL certificates, etc.

I also wanted to speak to how MSU uses Reclaim Cloud as a sandbox, but that did not come up until the following discussion, but here are my points there:

Look at how MSU uses Reclaim Cloud as a next-generation sandbox to explore applications they might recommend MSU’s IT department host for the broader community:

-Using applications like Discourse forum, Mattermost, Jitsi, Etherpad, and Custom Docker apps -> https://valuessorter.humetricshss.org/

And that is a fairly solid template for future talks on Reclaim Cloud, I do think it is starting to come together, but I need to do some more research and reading to make it even tighter, but it does finally feel like progress after 6 years of trying to communicate an idea.

Posted in presentations, Reclaim Cloud | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Gyruss and Robotron in the Reclaim Cloud

There is some stream-crossing going on in the Reclaim universes as our most recent shared hosting servers were named after 1980s arcade cabinets. That should keep the server naming fun for a little while, although this switch also serves a practical function. Changing the names of our servers to arcade games like Gyruss and Robotron will help us identify if a shared hosting server is hosted on Reclaim Cloud or Digital Ocean, where our punk-themed servers live.

The value of Reclaim Cloud for hosting our managed hosting and Domain of One’s Own instances was apparent quite early on, and that has proven a huge boon for immediate scaling of resources and storage while keeping server costs under control. So pushing shared hosting servers to our cloud marks a further investment in shifting our infrastructure to an elastic cloud, kind like what the digital revolution of the 80s arcade cabinets meant for the future of gaming 🙂

It’s crazy to think Reclaim Cloud has been live and available for over a year now; its value to us as a company has been huge in terms of expanding our options. What’s more, it has pushed everyone at Reclaim to step-up their comfort level with managing containers and supporting cloud native applications. It’s a brave new world, and the fact that Jelastic was recently acquired by Virtuozzo after a 10-year partnership points towards a broader push in this direction across the entire hosting landscape.

That said, changes like this raise questions around existing licensing and pricing models. One thing that’s become painfully apparent over the last several years is that the cost of software in this field (whether cPanel, WHMCS, CloudLinux, ZenDesk, etc.) has gone up significantly. Our monthly software bill has nearly quadrupled over that time period, so paying attention to changing business models around software as we commit to providing a cloud-based option to the Reclaim faithful becomes increasingly important. Sometimes you kinda feel a bit like Robotron: the last human defense against the robot revolution 🙂

Posted in reclaim | Tagged , | Leave a comment