This will be the first instalment of my new monthly feature, affectionately called Ross’ Dross, which may contain news on games, films, tech products and software, or services I like. As well as anything weird I spot online that I deem worthy of sharing. If at any point I mention a product, it’s because I use it, want it, or hate it. I won’t be plugging headsets or loot crates hoping somebody in a PR department somewhere notices me and decides to sends me a freebie. So without further ado, off we go.
Rediscovering Retro in 2015:
After having the sudden urge to play Fantastic Dizzy on the Mega Drive, and not being able to find either Fantastic Dizzy or my Mega Drive, I thought to myself; what’s new in the world of emulation, and how much hassle would it be to integrate some emulators into my existing multimedia PC (I’m currently running Kodi TV, previously XBMC Media Centre Software)? So I decided to test it out and see just how effective my existing HTPC setup faired when running emulators. Firstly my HTPC worked surprisingly well, thanks to a copy of RetroArch (a little line of code), a bit of trial and error launching the emulators, and a custom setup of button configurations for use with an Xbox 360 Wireless controller.
Over the next few columns I’ll go through building a HTPC, suitable components, optimum software, network sharing, file formats, HD audio and video playback and anything else I imagine could be relevant to someone looking to create the same setup. I already use a similar version on my laptop - minus the emulation - to watch films and TV shows when I’m holed up in hotels. At the moment I’m using a 2012 i5 HP laptop, with HD 4000 integrated graphics, so I’ll slip in some emulation action and see what runs and what doesn’t and report my results.
My Broken Onkyo 609, resurrected by Onkyo for free (Product Recall):
I was once the proud owner of a shiny new Onkyo 609 just under four years ago and couldn’t fault it, that was until it died spectacularly and stopped producing any audio whatsoever, thus being rendered totally useless. It happened on the 23rd of December 2013, out of warranty of course, so I had just dumped it under the stairs as it was too painful to even look at it. Since then I had bought a Yamaha as a replacement and have been relatively happy ever since. When the new amps come out every year I find myself looking for a new mistress to tend to my audio visual needs, and whilst hunting for bargains I came across a thread, one where people who had their broken out of warranty Onkyo AV receivers repaired by Onkyo for free.
Obviously I went to Onkyo’s official website to find out more. Soon I had discovered that several of their AV receivers built between 2009 and 2012 had various audio related issues, and that by simply clicking a link on the page and entering my serial number could see if my product was eligible for a free repair by Onkyo. The bit that really caught my eye was the fact that Onkyo would extend warranty for the issues they listed until the 31st of December 2018. Naturally I checked my serial number and thankfully I was eligible for said free repair. All I had to do was enter my contact details and tick a preferred date to have it arranged, and if I didn’t want the repair I could have returned the amp in exchange for an £80 discount off one of their latest models. I chose the repair as, personally speaking, the 609 was worth more to me than £80. I loved my 609 and its sexy illuminated volume dial, and they’ve since removed this from later models.
So after filling out the request form on the Thursday, they emailed me confirmation of my claim and arranged for a courier. I received a text from the courier later on the same day saying they could collect it the following day, if that suited me of course and of course it did. I was given the standard one hour window for collection, they provided the box and then packed it away securely before whisking it away. The following Monday I was contacted by the Onkyo services to let me know my receiver had had a new HDMI board fitted and would be shipped back on the Wednesday, a turnaround of less than a week!
I should add that from looking through the case venting that it looks like most of the PCB boards inside my 609 have been replaced, they’re now a bright glossy green (whereas the old boards were a matt olive green). Needless to say I’m more than impressed with the service Onkyo provided, the whole process was easy to arrange, fast and effective and completely free. The fact that a company like Onkyo are offering this shows how important product reliability is to their brand. As far as I can tell the majority of faults were caused by faulty capacitors that can traced back to a specific supplier - one that supplied Onkyo for a certain period - and I for one now feel confident in buying their products again.
The Recreated Sinclair ZX Spectrum £99.99 (I want this):
After being a Commodore and Spectrum lover in the 80’s and sadly missing out on the early crowdfunding backed option of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum Vega, which will hit retail channels in September as a sexy miniaturized rework of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. I was hoping for a small miracle and just noticed the Recreated ZX Spectrum by Ceratech. The Recreated is a full size recreation of the original 1980’s classic and is available for pre-order for around £89.99 to £99.99. With its release date set for 31st of July it will definitely be a new addition to my collection, as well as a Vega when it’s eventually released. I’ve left the product description below in case, like myself, you’re keen to pick one up.
Recreated ZX Spectrum:
The only full-size recreation of the 1980s personal computer
Dimensions; 550g weight, 250mm height , 170mm width, and 50mm depth
Supplied with free apps including; Sinclair Basic & Game Bundle
Exclusive to the Recreated ZX Spectrum; Manic Miner, Jet Set Willy & Chuckie Egg
Wireless (Bluetooth 3.0) compatible with phones, tablets, Macs/PCs & TVs
Authentic rubber-key, play-control of games
Recreated 'Game’ layer perfected for both iOS and Android apps
Supports 'Apple AirPlay' & 'Google Chromecast' enabling wireless streaming