Solutions At Hand

Handhelds, smartphones, mobile technology and the digital lifestyle.

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    Michael is a trainer and consultant specializing in making mobility technology work in people's everyday lives.
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Archive for the ‘Gaming’ Category

Advice sought from (Linux) gamers on controllers…

Posted by Michael Brown on July 14, 2007

I know a fair number of people read this blog every week, many looking for answers to their problems, or looking for new ideas and solutions. I’m hoping some of you readers may help me by way of your own experiences.

Earlier this week, I wrote about installing Childsplay on Freevo, our Home Theatre PC. Childsplay is normally run on a PC, so it normally expects a mouse and keyboard. I’m hoping to get a game controller to be able to have my kids play with it, but I’m not really a gamer. I’m not really sure which type of controller to get, but I do know I want to get a wireless controller.

I know there are Linux drivers available for Xbox 360 Wireless controllers (xpad), the Wiimote (Cwiid), and the Playstation 3 controller. The xpad drivers have been around for a while and are pretty stable, but I don’t know as much about the Cwiid (Wiimote) or PS3 drivers. I haven’t really spent any “hands-on” time with any of the controllers, so I’d be interested in hearing people’s advice or recommendations on the controllers in general, and under Linux in particular.

I think the Wiimote concept (pointing device with optional accessories) may be the best for my application, but I’m not sure if the drivers are mature enough for use. Here are my specific questions:

How would the three of them compare as general purpose game controllers?
(either under Linux or on their native platforms) I know it’s an “apples vs oranges” comparison in some ways, but I’m thinking along the lines of general compatibility/usability with a variety of educational games by non-gamer type adults and young kids.

How are the linux drivers?
I’ve already compiled the ones for the Xbox 360 Wireless, so it’s straight forward. I don’t have any experience with the Cwiid or PS3 ones… Is there a mouse emulation mode for the Xbox (xpad) or PS3 drivers?

Anything I’m missing? The last time I played games, it was on a Commodore 64 or Atari 2600 (I know, I’m dating myself!)

Thanks for any and all help rendered! Please feel free to use the comments for your replies, so that others may also benefit from your advice. Much appreciated!

Have a great weekend!


Posted in Freevo, Gaming, HTPC, Linux, Open Source Software | Leave a Comment »

It’s Childsplay, on Freevo

Posted by Michael Brown on July 12, 2007

Freevo has become a staple in our family’s lives, and a project I’ve enjoyed setting up for us. I have Freevo’s recordserver and webserver components running on the machine in the office, where it records the TV shows my wife and I are interested in seeing (usually after the kids go to bed). Freevo is also running on a dedicated Home Theatre PC in our family room, where it is often used to watch kid’s videos and browse family pictures and videos stored on the fileserver. It allows us to enjoy family-oriented media together as a family. My oldest child has a Leappad educational toy, but she’s getting to the age where she’s interested in more “dynamic” stuff. Now, I know there are all kinds of educational “game consoles” out there, but why would I want to hook up another gadget to the TV, especially one that requires a lot of extra software titles to make in interesting? That could get quite expensive, quite fast…

Here’s a solution that’s childs play… make use of the existing Linux-powered home theatre PC, and make it an educational console! Childsplay is a suite of educational games written in Python (the same programming language as Freevo is written in). Childsplay is available in Ubuntu’s Universe repositories (and in Debian Unstable), as well as by downloads from the sourceforge website. I enabled the games section of Freevo, and configured Childsplay as per the Linux Games Config section of the Freevo Wiki. My specific configuration was more like this…

apt-get install childsplay childsplay-plugins

In Freevo’s, I enabled the games plugin, and configured the games items as follows:
GAMES_ITEMS = [ ('Childsplay', '/etc/freevo/games/childsplay',
('GENERIC', '/usr/games/childsplay', '', '', [ 'childsplay' ] )) ]

And in the /etc/freevo directory, as root (or add sudo in front of each of these commands, where the # symbol is)
# mkdir /etc/freevo/games
# mkdir /etc/freevo/games/childsplay
# > /etc/freevo/games/childsplay/childsplay.childsplay

You’ll now have a menu item, “Play a game”, and if it’s the only game configured, it’ll run Childsplay. You can then pick which particular childsplay game you are interested in playing by clicking on the thumnail picture. We tried it with the wireless keyboard, and it works well. I may experiment with it’s “kiosk-mode” when I have some free time, which uses an on-screen keyboard, and experiment to see if it works with a joystick or gamepad.

Posted in Freevo, Gaming, HTPC, Linux | Leave a Comment »