LOAF Fixes a PC (or: the Story of Karga the Hero)

BarFly

Rear Admiral
Hello,

love this thread too :). Dosbox is great, but running an old computer is better.
And you are right, the key to the old games is the soundcard. Setup it is often tricky.
I'm using different Bootdisks for different Dos-Games!
I used to have a 486/66 computer with DOS 6.22 8 Mb PS2 Ram, a ET4000 Vesa Local Bus Graphicscard, SB AWE32, ISA Bus Nic, 2 x 512 mb HDDs, 1 X 3,5" and 1 X 5,25" Disk, CD-Rom - @ AWE32 IDE - Port, a Sidewinder Joystick @ AWE32 Game - Port @ and a 15" Monitor.
The Board died some day und now it is a Socket Super 7 board with a AMD 6/2 450 CPU @ 450MHz. Clock speed is set to 233 MHz.
Of course, stuff has changed:
Graphics: 2 X Voodoo2 & NVidia Ti4200 64MB (AGP) - this card is overkill ;),
Ram: 512 MB Ram
Network: 3Com TX
Win 98 SE (2nd Try),
HDD: 32GB & 20GB
Sound: Still the SB AWE32,
CD-Rom: A IDE burner, don't ask anything about itIf I want pure DOS environment, I do start from a Bootdisk
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Good morning (or whatever time it is when I actually finish this) WingNuts! I hope you all had good weekends. I've got another exciting Karga update for you, with lots of pictures.

On Friday, Amazon delivered the new motherboard battery and the proper 25-pin-to-9-pin modem cable (my UPS guy must hate me by this point.)

karga-batteries.JPG


Unfortunately, you can't buy just ONE battery. But $5 will get you 25 of them. Apparently for $6 I could have had 125... but really, one lasted a decade, so I should be set for the next two and a half centuries (seriously, though, free CR2032s at LOAF's place!)

I was a little nervous when I had to do this on the Mac and found that it was as easy as pie; pull the case open (no screws!) and it's just like replacing the battery on a TV remote.

Unfortunately, Karga's innards were not as intelligently designed and the whole thing was awkward. First of all, the battery was located EXACTLY BEHIND the LAPC-I (world's longest ISA card) so I had to remove it first. And then there was no obvious way to get the old battery out, so I just had to kind of press it into it scooted out of its clip (there's probably a right way to do that, but I don't know what it is.)

Of course, I should stress that general idiocy doesn't just apply to the ABit corporation's motherboard design group: despite telling my brain that I should absolutely remember the orientation of the old battery I still managed to get it wrong and have to take the giant ISA card out a SECOND TIME to flip it around.

So, next up was plugging in the external the modem and no one is dumb enough to screw that up. I know this is normally where I point out that wait, it turns out I *am* that dumb... but no, no problems.

The next question was: how do I test the modem and NIC in Armada without a network or phone line? Luckily, Armada is actually pretty good about telling you it can't find your network setup. Of course, the process of checking reminded me of one more thing: in addition to the original game's modem battles and IPX play in Proving Grounds, straight Armada also has a "Netbios" mode.

Here's what the three modes looked like when I started:

karga-modemno.JPG


No modem plugged in.

karga-netno.JPG


No "Netbios" software set up.

karga-ipxno.JPG


No IPX network.

Plugging in the modem and turning it on, however, gives me...

karga-modemyes.JPG


Yay, the game sees the modem and initializes it.

Running the IPX... uh... thing... that came with the NIC gives me the following in Proving Grounds:

karga-ipxyes.JPG


Woo-hoo! Then there was Netbios. I couldn't remember what Netbios was, other than that my dad had used it to network some DOS 6.22 machines back in the day. I'll check Armada's help.txt file for more details. Let's check it out:

karga-armadahelp.JPG


Huh, nevermind. After an hour or so of surfing fruitlessly (to the point that even KrisV took pity on me and tried to think about it) I found this in, of course, the WCPedia files section: https://www.wcnews.com/wcpedia/NetBIOS_Binary

karga-netyes.JPG


And voila! I'll call that a win. I briefly flirted with adding a 'network' option to my config.sys that would load the NIC, the IPX overlay and NetBIOS in that order... but doing so prompted the following impressive screen:

karga-explode.JPG


... so I added it to Armada's batch file instead and all was right with the world.

Sunday morning I decided it was time to put Karga in his place. My desk area was now a tangled mess of cables and it was time to take everything apart and then shove most of the cables in back of my desk where no one would ever see them. It was a long slow process, but everything went pretty uneventfully.

Here are the two computers living in harmony:

karga-inplace.JPG


Here's a closer look at the 'stack':

karga-switches.JPG


Bertha is on the bottom shelf. The second has the SC-55mkII MIDI module and the switches (for Karga's MIDI outputs and for the monitors.) The top shelf is the modem and the receiver for the sound system.

I loaded up Wing Commander III on both Bertha and Karga and used the monitor switch to swap between them! So luxurious.

So, that finished I went for a much needed movie break:

karga-pokemonbreak.JPG


Who knew they still had Pokemon movies in theaters?

Sunday night I played through the Prophecy demo for the first time in years, force feedback joystick at my side, voice control set up... it was magnificent!

So... what's next?

- Still working the issue with the Wing Commander III demo not playing the movie in DOS.
- I need to slow down WC1, WC2 and Privateer 2. I have them playable but I don't have them perfect. I'm talking to HCl about my options and I'm hoping we come up with something cool that will benefit everyone.
- I need to find the rear speakers. They're lost in a pile of books and junk that's directly opposite the computers. I'll take a picture later.
- I'd like to upgrade Bertha's DOS joystick to a later model, possibly a Thrustmaster Pro FCS. My WCSmkII has seen better days, too. Just a matter of eBay watching and having some money (stupid holidays.)
- I want to get the RCS/FCS/WCS setup working in Windows 98, as an alternative to the force feedback stick (which is crazy nice, regardless.)
- There are some more perhipherals I'd like to find, discussed below.
- I need to start thinking about the OTHER Wing Commander devices and what the best way to include them or their versions of the games somewhere is. I'm talking about the SegaCD, SNES, Playstation 1, 3DO, GBA, Amiga, CD32, Xbox 360, PS3, PSP, FM Towns and PC98 (is that all?) That's mostly way, way in the future though (and many of them I already have set up somewhere.) One possibility is putting a TV pass-through card in Bertha for at least some of these systems.
- I'd like to see if there's an old KVM switch that will let me share the PS/2 keyboard and mouse with Bertha. I really like Bertha's keyboard with its power button... but the IBM Model M I use with Karga can't be beat. And Bertha's old ball mouse is more elegant than any I'd seen at the time, but it's kind of a loser today.
- I have this idea in the back of my head that I want to customize my keyboard so it looks like the Prophecy keyboard cover. Green and yellow keys and everything.

Now let's stop and talk about peripherals.

I mentioned a few things last time that I've done some followup research on.

The Microsoft Game Voice. As I said last time, it's just another voice control dealy (this time with a small hockey puck sized USB dongle) that should be utterly unnecessary since I already have Game Commander... except it supports Prophecy, and so I want it.

One aside, Microsoft's website still has their original Game Voice press release which is unusually charming: http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/features/2000/aug00/08-24gamevoice.mspx It strangely includes the story of the woman who invented the thing and how she came so to do.

Unfortunately, Game Voice is a bit of a pain because it needs the software from its CD to do voice recognition... and while cheap examples of the hardware are plentiful, no one seems to have the disc. So I won't pick one up until it either has the CD or I can find it somewhere else.

Bonus: it's a Sidewinder product so it'll match my joystick. Also, I bet there's a history to be written about how Sidewinder leads to Xbox somewhere...

Okay, then the 'mystery' keyboard addon I remebered last time. I read through all the CGWs from 1992 to 1994 to see if I could figure out what it was and... I did. The KATT Gamers Master. Here's the ad:

karga-gamesmaster.JPG


I even remember seeing one on eBay years ago, but without the Wing Commander mats. Should have jumped then!

Now I'm not kidding when I say that there is NO mention of this thing anywhere on the web (other than one post to the CIC, of course.) The whole company and anyone who remembers it seem to have been deleted from history.

Supposedly it had covers for Wing Commander, Privateer and Academy and based on the Strike Commander and Apache ones we've seen they would probably have been pretty cool looking. I have NO IDEA how to get these or if they even still exist out there... but it's a good long term quest. I've already added the eBay alerts.

By the way, if you ever want to have the BEST TIME EVER, spend a few hours wandering through old CGWs from the 1990s. You can download nice PDFs of almost every issue from http://www.cgwmuseum.org/.

Now the thing that fascinates everyone who sees it: the Master Pilot. First things first, I found the fifth Master Pilot card... it was on the back of the Cybermage one. I assumed I had kept that one out ironically! D'oh. Here are some pictures:

karga-masterpilot1.JPG

karga-masterpilot2.JPG

karga-masterpilot3.JPG


As I said last time you can have up to three Master PIlots together and they aren't impossible to find... so I'm watching eBay for a couple more of them. They're cool devices--basically each button is just some keyboard shortcut. It's kind of fun setting it to a particular game and then pressing the buttons in DOS. Especially the throttle -- pulling it up and down fills your screen with plusses and minuses.

Honestly the Master Pilot isn't practical for playing most of the time... but it's SO COOL LOOKING. And actually pressing the red 'eject' button when you're in trouble is GREAT.

Oh! And I just ordered myself a USB extension cable, since Karga predates the age of people actually being able to reach their USB holes.

I should stop ending these on such uninteresting notes...
 
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ELTEE

Vice Admiral
...since Karga predates the age of people actually being able to reach their USB holes.

I should stop ending these on such uninteresting notes...

I don't know what you're talking about - seems like things were just getting interesting!
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Short update today.

First of all, here's the promised picture from yesterday -- other side of the desk directly facing Karga:

karga-hoarding.JPG


Somewhere in there are the two rear speakers. My job this weekend is to clean it all out and make the world safe for Wing Commander.

Of course, when I started this process the whole desk was a solid cube of the same sort of material, so this should be nothing.

No major progress last night. I fooled around with some video patches in hopes of getting the Wing Commander III demo to work properly in DOS, but didn't have any luck. I guess I'll shelve that one for now--good enough to have the demo working in DOS and the movie in Windows, I suppose. I don't /need/ the whole thing at once. But a man can dream...

(By the way, if you haven't ever played the demos do yourself a favor and... play the demos. With the exclusion of Privateer 2 and Super Wing Commander, they're all entirely new missions... often with features or design elements that didn't make it into the finished game. Wing Commander Prophecy's demo is actually a mini campaign, four missions that 'take place' in the middle of the game.)

But then I finally flipped on the SC-55, loaded up Privateer and started a new character... and boy, is that game still magnificent. What a brilliant, brilliant game. And that first flight, where you carefully reallocate a few thousand credits and a missle launcher into a ship that's barely capable of fighting... and you take a mission where taking out one Talon takes five minutes of maneuvering and carefully managing your energ and finally strategically disabling your own shields to get that last power boost? So good. And the music! I really don't want to be one of those jerks who says everyone should get high end audio hardware, but... there's nothing in the world that sounds as good as the atmospheric base music in Privateer played with an actually Roland MIDI dealy. If you can at all spare the $100 it takes to get an SC-55mk2 on eBay, you should seriously consider it. They seem to be plentiful at the moment.

(I don't remember if I pointed this out already or not, but for the record: if you're getting weird sound in Privateer it's because the game secretly HATES EMM386. Run Privateer without it and the error clears up.)

Dundradal gave me some homework before leaving, so I have a large book to read tonight... but I'm hoping to install Wings of Glory, too. That game was wonderful. Maybe Pac Strike too, if my disks are still good... (eh, who am I kidding, I have backups... Pac Strike too, then.) I'm using about 500 megs of my DOS partition right now... so there's seven and a half gigs to fill with other things. Also, apparently you can make USB thumb drives work in DOS, so I could install a mess of non-Origin stuff on one of those (old Apogee and Sierra games, I guess.) Seems like a fun feature to add at the very least. One for the weekend, though. (... and configuring a thumb drive full of lesser games is something I can do at work!) (Plus my brothers are coming to visit for the holidays, and while they almost certainly don't care about Wing Commander it might be cool to show them a few Space Quests and Commander Keens from our childhoods, with fancy music.)

Also, I still want to pick up X-Wing and TIE for Bertha. I've heard the Mac versions are great.

Gave in and bought a $3 Game Voice just now. Now to scour the dark side of the internet for the driver disc.

Oh! I'm thinking of taking a field trip -- there's this INCREDIBLE store down in Woodbridge, Virginia that Joe Garrity discovered that's just an amazing computer junk shop. I'd love to go down there and dig through old parts for Karga and Bertha addons for a few hours. Need to convince someone to go down there with me...)

The... uh... USB extention cable should get here today, too?
 
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Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
No action! I installed Pacific Strike and Wings of Glory and played the first mission of each. Wings of Glory holds up beautifully... Pacific Strike is something of a mess (ground and sky textures are just *crummy.*)

The USB cable arrived and I snaked it through my desk so it comes out under the keyboard. Exciting!
 

HotJob

Rear Admiral
I officially have QuickShot envy. Do want! That, or Z-board templates for Kilrathi Sage, WCIV, and Prophecy.
I count 5 joysticks and 2 throttles in the Karga picture. What models are they, and which ones still work?

And is it typical for Wing Commander fans to read Man-Kzin Wars? I know I read the first 6 of them...
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Nothing to report! After work last night I went to the burrito restaurant to redeem a free taco card that was going to expire and the guy scanned my burrito card and said "you know you have a free burrito on here... but you have to use it now." I didn't know that, and to make a long story short I ate a burrito and a taco and drank some Peach Sprite (the secret best softdrink.) Then I came home and fell asleep at 7 PM. And woke up at 2 AM and watched the greatest Christmas movie of all time on HBO: Star Trek: Generations.

I officially have QuickShot envy. Do want! That, or Z-board templates for Kilrathi Sage, WCIV, and Prophecy.

Oooh, a Z-board would be cool! But I'm too in love with my IBM model M, I think. Read all about them: http://www.clickykeyboards.com/

I do have that goofy Wing Commander Prophecy "keyboard cover" (thanks to Chris), but unfortunately it's too fragile to keep on all the time (made of decaying latex.) If I were better at artistic things I'd get a bunch of custom keycaps and airbrush the keyboard itself to look like the Prophecy keyboard. I need to find someone who would be interested in doing that, I guess.

I also have an old "Keyboard Commander Corps" overlay for Privateer (there should be scans somewhere a the CIC so you can make your own.) It's just a laminated cardboard cutout that goes over the keyboard that shows you what the keys are, but it's kind of neat and "in universe." That said, I happened across ads for them in my CGW trawl and they cost $25 each way back when! And the advertisements make them sound like some exciting technology. Nope, piece of folded, laminated cardboard. I can only imagine some poor Falcon 3.0 player eagerly awaiting his new toy and getting that...

There's also the Wing Commander IV monitor cover which shows the controls... unfortunately it's for a 14" monitor. I believe I actually have the source Quark files for it, I wonder if PopsiclePete could make me a bigger one for Karga's 21" CRT...

I count 5 joysticks and 2 throttles in the Karga picture. What models are they, and which ones still work?

Heh -- some of those are surplus (there's a stack of not-plugged-in WC related consoles in the corner) but three of the joysticks are for Karga/Bertha:

- Plugged into Karga's SoundBlaster Live! is a Microsoft SideWinder Force Feedback Pro. It's a nice heavy duty (and physically heavy) stick that has served me well over the years. The Sidewinder software has a special profile for Prophecy, which is kind of neat.

- Plugged into Karga's SoundBlaster AWE64 Gold is a complete early Thrustmaster setup: a Flight Control Stick Mk. I joystick, a Weapons Control System Mk. II throttle and a set of Rudder Control System pedals (on the floor.) These sticks all WORK, but I'm hoping to upgrade them somewhat. The WCS makes an awful noise when you shift the throttle and a replacement WCS is a few bucks. The FCS is great but I think I'll upgrade to a higher quality Thrustmaster stick when one shows up on eBay -- probably the Pro FCS (a more durable model.)

- Plugged into Bertha are another FCS and WCS, this time the Mac-specific ADB models. While they look the same, they have different "brains" and so there's no way to share them. None of the Mac games make use of the RCS throttle, but since it's the same model for both Mac and PC I'm contemplating adding a switch so I can use it with both systems... I'll have to imagine out how that would work, the sheer number of connections on the Thrustmasters is a mind-boggler.

The stack of stuff to the right of Karga's monitor are bits and pieces for eventually setting up the console WIng Commanders. There's a Panasonic FZ-10 3DO interactive multiplayer (that's a mouthful) on the bottom and then a tiny Sony PSOne.

The big honking grey joystick is actually a cool piece of history. You can't see the whole thing, but it's a PlayStation Analog Joystick. Check it out at the Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PlayStation_Analog_Joystick As the article said, it's the technology that lead to modern Playstation controllers, which is kind of interesting... but better than that, it's natively supported by Wing Commander IV PSX and makes the game much, much better.

The black joystick at the top is just an oddity. It's a "Big Ben 4Gamers Flight Sim Stick" for the Nintendo Gamecube. Why would you want that? I'm glad I imagined you asked: what I did was add a "Gameboy Player" to my 'cube, which lets you play GBA games on the console... I think you see where I went with this! Thus the joystick lets me play Wing Commander Prophecy GBA on my TV with a real flight stick!

It actually works okay! But the best part of this story is how I got the thing. See, back in the day (2002?) whatever company made that ridiculously named product ("Big Ben," maybe) didn't sell it in the United States. In 2011 it'd be easy to go on eBay and buy a weird European joystick, but it was significantly impossibler nine years ago.

... and then my parents suddenly decided that instead of going to Thanksgiving dinner with our relatives that year, we'd go to Paris for the weekend. We used to live in France but my much younger sister had never been and... well, they just plain don't like getting together with the extended family. While there I suddenly realized: hey, why don't I buy one of those joysticks I couldn't get and bring it home." Which proved surprisingly easy, for some reason strange Gamecube accessories were available at every corner store in Paris.

But you can probably imagine how this story ends: with a French TSA-security-guy equivalent calling over uniformed security guards and demanding to know what the strange wired object he was seeing in the x-ray of my bag was. Now owing to the fact that I was busy working on a worthless liberal arts degree at the time I had regained a pretty good command of French I'd learned in my youth... through working with 18th century French literature. Where there was, of course, no word for flight stick. "It's... you know... for fun" I stammered. The horribly embarassed looks on everyone's faces prompted me to open the bag and take the thing at, at which point they said "oh, a video game!" and I was allowed to continue smuggling a weird joystick into the US.

There's another joystick on the desk, out of view -- in the stack of crap to the sides there's a 3DO Flight Stick Pro, which is awesome for Wing Commander 3. It's JUST like a regular Flight Stick Pro, but for the 3DO. Anyone who wants to play Wing Commander 3 and even SWC on the 3DO needs one. (It's natively supported by WC3 but just acts as a nicer controler for SWC.
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
And is it typical for Wing Commander fans to read Man-Kzin Wars? I know I read the first 6 of them...

Whoops, forgot this one in my eagerness to talk about joysticks!

I think it actually IS typical for Wing Commander fans to read Man-Kzin wars. Mark Minasi introduced lots of old Wing fans to the series in his book, Secrets of the Wing Commander Universe by talking about how the Kilrathi were based on the Kzin. I'm a giant nerd, though, so I've been reading Niven's Known Space stuff my whole life.
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Nothing too much to report. I'm still home sick with some kind of megacold. I did dig out
I did dig out the rear speakers and then windexed them off; wherever they were was pretty gross. I unplugged the existing speakers and set everything up again. Frustratingly I did it by touch because I couldn't find my LEGO man flashlight... only to go back to my living room and find my small grey cat batting him around.
That $3 Microsoft Game Voice I bought on eBay came, but no luck finding the install CD anywhere. I may have to buy the $40 one on Amazon and be the guy who makes the software available to everybody else.
I also e-mailed with HCl about slowing down the original games and it sounds like that's something he can do! I'll keep you updated (or he will!)

Oh! And I won a Thrustmaster Pro FCS on eBay!
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Hey guys!

Another short update today. I'm still sick, but back at work. I actually feel much better, but I have no voice whatsoever... so I sound like Batman when I try to talk.

Last night I decided to tackle the second set of joysticks in Windows 98. I decided to feed Karga Windows 98 drivers for the AWE64 Gold and pray it didn't collapse the universe. Surprisingly, it didn't: it broke the Live!'s SoundBlaster 16 emulation startup that flashes as you boot Windows, but didn't have an impact on sound itself. Subsequently disabling the 64AWE and Wavetable devices themselves (but not the gameport) fixed that.

Now I could pick which Gameport I wanted active in Windows, the one on the Live! with the SideWinder Pro FF or the one on the AWE64 with the FCS/WCS2/RCS setup. Once the Live! was disabled I had some trouble getting Windows to recognize the Thrustmaster FCS/WCS2/RCS setup, though. After a bit of Googling into the distant past of the Usenet I learned that the trick is to set the RED SWITCH on the WCS2 to analog and the BLACK SWITCH to digital. That done the process worked like a charm... and with a bit of device manager swapping I can now play Wing Commander 3 with rudders and a throttle! Very cool.

Of course the whole thing leaves me wondering if I should upgrade to a newer Thrustmaster setup. Anyone know what the last stick/rudder/throttle combo that works in DOS is? I feel like there was some reason I went with the WCS2 instead of the TQS... but I can't remember what it is. (In any event, I certainly need to replace or repair the WCS2... it works fine but the weird clicks harsh my buzz when I should be smooth throttlin'.)

The other question is: do I permanently disable the Live! gameport and add a physical switch to choose between the SIdewinder and the Thrustmaster setup... or do I just move them around in Windows when I want to change?
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Woo! Nabbed on my cell phone during an office staff meeting.
 

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Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Also man is it ever easy to attach photos using Forum Runner! Here's a cat.
 

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Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
This should be an interesting update! (... if you like reading about joystick software from the early 1990s.)

In the 1990s, Thrustmaster had three generations of 'serious' joysticks, with a variety of models and rebadged versions of each: the FCS, the FLCS and the F-22. They were based on the real 'sticks used in (respectively) the F-4 Phantom, F-16 Falcon and F-22 Raptor. At the same time there were three generations of throttles: the WCS, the WCS Mark II and the TQS. The first two were based on the F-4 and the TQS was based on the F-16.

What made these special was that when you had the whole system you could program all the buttons to work with your particular game instead of just having it assume the trigger was the space bar and another button was enter and so on. You would do this by using software to load "stick set" files into the throttle (which was the brain of the operation.) Now there's some interchangability -- you could have an FCLS with a WCS Mark II or with a TQS, for instance, but in general there were three different types of stickset files.

Back in the day people would create them, trade them, talk about them and so on. It must have been fun (I never had a fancy stick when I was a kid.) You can still find bits and pieces of this online, but it's mostly been washed away by the years and the general move to the internet being a place for spying on girls you didn't talk to in high school instead of for talking about Star Trek.

Now when I set out to build Karga I went with the system that was 'new' when the first Wing Commander games came out: the FCS joystick and the WCS Mark II throttle (the original WCS throttle wasn't programmable, I only mention it here because Bertha has one.

Was that a mistake? To make a long story short, yes it was.

karga-thrustdisk.JPG


Still works! Unfortunately I seem to have misplaced one of those Roland disks...

(Aside: I'll go ahead and explain the Mac side: this is all SO MUCH EASIER on the Mac... because there's only one stick for it. An ADB version of the FCS and WCS. On the Mac, the sticks work differently... they are programmed on the OS side with a different (much cleaner) software package. Mostly, though, it makes it easy to choose which to get.)

Having completely forgotten how sticksets worked, I decided to dust off my brain last night and install the "ThrustWare" (real name) package that came with the WCS. This (as I came to remember) would let me load pre-programmed

karga-thrustmenu.JPG


ThrustWare installer

Here's why I chose the WCS!, I said to myself, the ThrustWare actually includes profiles for Wing Commander I/II and Privateer! With a little fiddling I loaded the Privateer set into memory and shot down a few Talons.

karga-thrustwait.JPG


Thrustmaster was such a cool company; super serious expensive joysticks and entirely dedicated to making you feel like a fighter pilot.

... but wait--if the WCS Mark II comes with software, what about the FLCS? Or the F-22? I'd better investigate. And what I found shocked me to my core. Sort of. Okay I pretty much expected it.

After a little searching, I found this great little site that has an archive of the old factory-fresh Thrustmaster software: http://www.cvscorp.com/thrustmaster.html

I also enjoyed this site's disclaimer, in that it made me fairly sad and is relevant to what we're doing here (and how we all are starting to feel): "After searching around the internet, there appears to be only my site left offering scripts and profiles for TM Sticks. I want to thank all those who downloaded these files over the years. I'm getting older now, and these sticks have become relics, like myself. Enjoy them while you can. I no longer have the energy, money or interest in providing support for ThrustMaster."

Anyway, I installed all of the different Thrustmaster packages (on my work computer, no less) and learned...

The FLCS comes with the same two WCS sets... and then two more for the TQS: Wing Commander Armada and Wing Commander III.

... and then the F-22 comes with a treasure trove: conversions of the earlier four sets plus two more advanced sets for Wing Commander III and Armada!

Long story long, it's time to upgrade my joystick. Out with the WCS Mk. II and Pro FCS (which hasn't even shown up in the mail yet!) and in with a TQS throttle and an F-22 Pro stick.

(And yes I checked to see if the next generation setup, the HOTAS Cougar, came with Wing Commander sets; it does not! I-War, though, for some reason.)

Here for you, dear readers, are all the "official" Thrustmaster Wing Commander sticksets in one convenient archive: http://download.wcnews.com/files/other/wcpc/STICKSETS.zip

So what's next? I can't seem to find a TQS at the moment, so I'll need to wait a bit before my joystick upgrade (F-22 Pros seem common.) I am headed to that rad computer store I mentioned earlier in the thread on Saturday, though, which should be a totally cool update in and of itself (maybe they'll even have a TQS!)

I've also decided to add a physical switch so I don't have to fiddle with Windows' hardware manager every time I swap between the Thrustmasters and the Sidewinders. I'm also pretty sure I'm going to add two additional switches so I can share the Thrustmaster rudders between Bertha and Karga. There's no Wing Commander reason for this (no Mac WCs support the rudders) but I still think it would be pretty cool. I'm short on extra funds due to the holidays, so I will have to wait a bit until I make a big Monoprice order.

By the way, if anyone wants any of the "extra" stuff I abandon during this process you're more than welcome to it... you just need to come get it (or I can hold it to some WC event.)

I have one more picture but my phone refuses to send it, so I'll add it as another post through Forum Runner.
 
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Dundradal

Frog Blast the Vent Core!
It's good to see you upgrade a real stick setup now.

I have the exact same setup. The sheer amount of buttons, hats, toggles, switches, wheels, and I'm sure a few other things I'm forgetting is mind-boggling. There are more options for mapping then I think there are keyboard commands in some of the games! The F-22 Pro is a beast. It weighs a few pounds and has a better decent base to keep it from rolling since the stick is so tall. The handle is actually filled with glass! It makes the whole thing feel pretty solid. The TQS is great but it's not as heavy as the F-22 and sometimes might move around a bit on you during combat especially in things like WCP and SO. Both sticks (and the RCS) make playing WCP and SO a real treat because those games can take full advantage of all the available options on the sticks.
 

Worf

Vice Admiral
Actually, there's some nicer programming software called Foxy for programming these sticks.

It was so nice Thrustmaster started licensing it instead of their own software.
 

Dundradal

Frog Blast the Vent Core!
Yeah I linked that program a while back. It is a good improvement over Thrustware.

The Pro version is also free now.
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Good afternoon!

As promised, I had a busy weekend of (tangentially) Karga-related things.

On Friday after work, my dad needed to go to Microcenter to get a new cooling system for his work PC and so I tagged along. I really racked my brain coming up with something I could buy at Microcenter that I would work into Karga but all I could come up with was hard drives.

... and while it would be kind of neat to max out the available hard drive space it also wouldn't be that interesting or useful. I'm barely using any of the 80 gigs I have at the moment and it's not like I have big plans to add much data.

They DID have big foam bins of 160 gb IDE drives in the middle of the store, which would have been perfect if I'd have a little more money to burn. $27.99 each. But I demurred (and I couldn't find an IDE cable anyway.) I also thought that this sign was great:

karga-nodrives.jpg


There's your first world problem! Actually, the supply of 'real' SATA hard drives did seem kind of there's-going-to-be-a-tornado'y.

Luckily, one stupid toy HAD arrived for me to play with that night: the much-maligned "Microsoft Game Voice," now with actual driver CD. The box was still sealed:

karga-gvbox.jpg


... but weirdly warped like it had been wet. I probably don't want to know what happened there. But the CD was present and now I offer to you, the internet, some files!:

GameVoice 1.0 CD: http://download.wcnews.com/files/other/wcpc//GmVoice1_0.iso

GameVoice 1.5 Update: http://download.wcnews.com/files/other/wcpc//GVUpdate.EXE

Wing Commander Prophecy Profile: http://download.wcnews.com/files/other/wcpc//WingCommanderProphecy.exe

By the way, if anyone really WANTS a Game Voice, I have an extra one that was $2.99 on eBay. Here's the hub itself, waiting to be installed:

karga-gvhub.jpg


Then the install process. The whole setup was VERY clear that you should not try and plug it in before installing the software. Easy enough!

karga-gvinstall1.jpg


... until this step, anyway:

karga-gvinstall2.jpg


But with some careful back-of-the-computer feeling I was able to get everything in the right place without needing to look at it (I *knew* all those braille lessons weren't for nothing.)

I ran into a little problem running the software, since it wouldn't configure correctly without a network card. I'd previously disabled the NIC in Windows 98 to speed up startup... back it went and everything was fine. I updated to version 1.5 and then added the Prophecy profile.

It works just fine. It does annoyingly ask me to register MSN Messenger every time I start up the software, since that's the basis for the multiplayer chat portion of the GameVoice. I'm pretty sure I can break that, though.

Voice recognition works great. The one setting I had to chance was that it defaults to turning itself off after a single command... so you press the nub to activate voice commands, you say one thing and then you have to do it again. Which is better than a keyboard how? But there was a setting to fix it.

Here's the WCP profile:

karga-gvwcp.jpg


It's cool, it repeats your command back in either a male or female computer voice after you say it (you can switch this to a confirmation beep or nothing.) Basically the same as Game Commander (which still works through the Game Voice) but with a goofy light up nub.

And what a cool goofy light up nub it is! Here are some pictures of it lighting up:

karga-gvlight1.jpg


Green means it's accepting voice commands.

karga-gvlight2.jpg


And red means you've pressed the central mute button.

karga-gvlight3.jpg


And these are the different active channels for multiplayer. I will never use them.

When I woke up the next morning I decided to update Karga's motherboard's BIOS. One thing that nagged me was that it identified his Pentium III/600 as a Pentium II/400 on startup... and I still had the idea to add some more hard drives in the back of my head, too.

Luckily aBit still has new BIOSes available at their website along with the software for loading them. The process was really easy, too, since it was designed for DOS and 90% of the instructions at the aBit site were how to boot to DOS from future Windows that I don't care about. Now I have a "Pentium III MMX" when I start up. Yay!

I also found that there was $50 in my Paypal balance, so I went ahead and ordered some switchboxes and cables so I could swap the joysticks and the throttle as thought out earlier. Monoprice was VERY concerned that I might not get my big box of DB-15 cables before Christmas.

So then it was on to the computer junk store! Now I had no idea what I was going to find or even look for for Karga. I'm now 100% desperate to find a TQS throttle, which doesn't seem to be available online at the moment... but that was a feint hope. Anything would be cool, or nothing. So I'll go ahead and spoil it for you: while I spent a great deal of money and found some amazing things I didn't actually buy anything in Karga. But read on for the adventure anyway...

My buddy John and I started the day off with a hearty breakfast at the IHOP. Pro tip: even when there are five million families waiting for tables on Saturday morning there's still probably a tiny table ready for two people immediately. Because no one goes to IHOP alone, I guess. Anyway, I ate this:

karga-bacon.jpg


And then when we got outside this had parked across from John's car: an original Mini! Its license plate was "MINI 40" and I took it as a good omen. I know they're probably more common in Europe, but you never see them here ever at all even once. The only thing rarer/cooler in my mind would have been a 2CV.

karga-mini.jpg


Then we drove for 45 minutes.

The store is called L&Y Electronics and it's in Woodbridge, Virginia. If you like old computers as much as I do, it's basically the best place in the world. Giant stacks of old technology, old games, old... cables. Floor to ceiling. Joe Garrity discovered it many years ago and shared it with me and we used to go there and buy armloads of Origin games for nothing. The place is run by a Korean woman who will happily haggle with you over the price of your treasures. It's great. Here's part of the outside:

karga-lyexterior.jpg


And here are just a few shots of random bits of the interior. I always feel weird taking pictures in a store, so it's not everthing and they're quick images... but you get the idea! Look at all that stuff! You could spend a lifetime digging through it and you would be sure to find some treasures:

karga-lyin1.jpg

karga-lyin2.jpg

karga-lyin3.jpg

karga-lyin4.jpg

karga-lyin5.jpg

karga-lyin6.jpg

karga-lyin7.jpg


I asked the guy there about throttles and he said he hadn't seen one in a while. Ditto KVM switches that let you use a PC keyboard on a Mac.

Here's an errant copy of Prophecy. I left it there, since I like thinking there's a Wing Commander game for sale somewhere.

karga-lyinwcp.jpg


And here's a lawsuit waiting to happen! Oh wait, it's a lawsuit that DID happen. Origin won:

karga-lylawsuit.jpg


John, the guy who destroyed Karga originally, used the fact that he speaks Korean to full effect to get us a great price on games. We ended up paying less than five bucks each for a whole stack of things, most of which were marked much more (for years they've had mint sealed copies of Strike Commander and Pac STrike, which they've insisted to Joe and I were worth the $60 price tags still on them... not this time!)

I even picked up a copy of the fancy release of Falcon 3, thinking that once I have a nice throttle/rudder/stick setup it would be neat to learn how to fly a serious sim. But here's the loot, on the hood of John's car:

karga-gameshood.jpg


We were there for two hours digging through things! I could have easily spent another million years at it.

Oh, but wait, I did make one stupid purchase that you folks might appreciate. And here it is, riding in the car home:

karga-newfriend.jpg


An original Mac Plus! It starts up and everything. I need to get/make a system disk for it, but it was very cheap and is in great shape. Exactly the kind of machine that goes with my initial pre-Karga pre-Bertha Steve Jobs memorial post that started this whole adventure.

It won't run any Wing Commander's, but it should be a fun addition to the family! And I've already put in a bit for an earlier Origin game or two for it on eBay...

How exciting was this trip? Apparently John forgot whether or not we ate lunch:

karga-nolunch.png


(We didn't.)

And here's Bertha turning a duct taped 1.44MB diskette into an 800k boot disk for the new guy! More on that story later.

karga-800k.jpg


... and then one short addition, I ordered a Thrustmaster F-22 stick on Amazon (of all places) this morning.

So what's next?

- Find a Thrustmaster TQS somewhere! This is my top priority.
- Set up the rudder and joystick switches when Monoprice delivers them.

Maybes:
- Add RAM and disk space to Karga? Add memory to Bertha? There's no reason to do any of this, other than that it would be something to do. Speed up booting maybe?
- Look into a KVM switch that will let me use the PS/2 mouse and keyboard with Bertha?
- Do some fun stuff to the new ancient Mac! It'd be cool to find copies of the three or four original Origin games for the early Macs... but I bet that's expensive.
 
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Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Here's a little aside that I meant to include yesterday. If you look at the 'Happy ThrustMastering' picture from a few days ago you'll see that the text file is signed by "Buzz Hoffman, Chief Test Pilot." Well, that's an unsual name and so I happened to notice when it showed up again in some of the sticksets REM lines and elsewhere in the documentation. So I decided to Google the guy.

Turns out he's dead, which is a shame... and it also turns out he was very interesting. He was an actual F-16 pilot who came to work for ThrustMaster during the golden age of flight sims. He championed the HOTAS setup that's the standard for serious joysticks today and he designed a lot of ThrustMaster's great hardware... including the F-22 setup I'm trying to find for Karga!

More than that, though, it sounds like he was an amazing person. The Usenet is full of his posts personally trying to help everyone with their ThrustMaster questions. Reading these years later and on a very different internet he sure seems endlessly patient. He died in 2000 and there's a usenet thread responding to the news where 130-odd people reply sharing their stories about how he'd personally affected them.

I thought that was an interesting aside. I'm not sure if the same hardcore flight sim group is still around today like we still are, but I sure hope so.

No changes to Karga last night. I played a little Wing Commander Academy... it's such an easy game to load up and play! I thought that was just a line to get away with not having a plot back in the day, but now that I'm a busy professional it really DOES feel good to jump right in the cockpit.

Oh, I had a question via PM: what's the OTHER box on top of Karga? That's a Roland MCB-1 breakout box, which is needed to chain other MIDI devices to the LAPC-I (in this case, the SC-55.) Having to dig one up does make the process a little complicated, but when I initially bought it back in 2003 or so they were actually pretty common. It looks little, too, but it's made of heavy metal.
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Mark your calendars - Wednesday, December 21, 2011... the night we went from experimental prototype to active duty! Dundradal and I were writing that update about the Medal of Honor and I wanted to be sure and include the version of it seen in Super Wing Commander. In the past that would have been nigh-impossible... but last night I fired up Bertha, used the SWCBuster cheat to jump to Venice 4, played the mission and grabbed a shot of the medal! Then I put it on a 3.5" diskette and moved it over to a netbook for editing.

karga-spacecondoms.png


A cropping of the shot in question. Note Armstrong's cache of space condoms.

Question: would you folks rather see these posts as a blog? I know the screenshots cause the thread to load slowly when you go back to see the latest update... I could link to blog posts as they're written instead. Let me know.

I have ABSOLUTELY NO MONEY, but there are several eBay auctions for Karga-relevant toys going on today. I'll let you know what happens!
 
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