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Posted at 9:10 am by Rob in Articles, Main, PC Related
The irony of this information is that it’s not new, just forgotten. There was a time when many of us ran DOS as our primary operating system, used CD-Rom drives, and thought nothing of it. Most CD-Rom drives came with an installation disk that copied over the specific drivers needed and added the appropriate lines to your config.sys and autoexec.bat files. Unfortunately when building a DOS virtual machine, those drivers and configuration tweaks are not included by default. Here’s how to quickly add CD-Rom support to a DOS VMWare machine.
01. Start DOS virtual machine.
02/ After machine has booted, connect “cd-install.flp” to the floppy drive.
(Note: to release the mouse from the DOS window, press CTRL and ALT)
03. Type A:\INSTALL.BAT and press ENTER.
04. Reboot the DOS virtual machine.
You can download the floppy disk image I created (cd-install.flp) HERE (unzip).
If you would like to manually install the drivers, do the following:
01. Mount the CD-Install.flp floppy disk image.
02. Copy OAKCDROM.SYS from a:\ to c:\dos
03. Add the following line to AUTOEXEC.BAT:
LH C:\DOS\MSCDEX.EXE /D:MSCD001 /L:D
04. Add the following lines to CONFIG.SYS:
[Note that some examples also add LASTDRIVE=Z. This is not necessary until you are connecting to a network, and actually uses more RAM. If you are not connecting your DOS VM to a network don’t bother with this line. DOS by default allocates 5 drives (A-E).[
Once you reboot the machine you should see the CD-Rom drivers successfully load. You can now attach to the physical CD-Rom in your host machine to read physical CDs, or mount virtual CD-Rom ISO files and use those. I used Free WinISO Maker 5.3 (which is totally free; registration information is included in the download) to create an ISO file of a directory which the DOS machine was able to read.
This configuration appears to be stable and works well for running business applications. I tried running two games on this VM (Prince of Persia and Pinball Fantasies) both ran slowly and eventually crashed the system. DosBOX is still must more compatible and stable for gaming IMHO.
Posted at 9:00 am by Rob in Articles, Main, PC Related
If you are trying to set up TCP/IP in a FreeDOS machine running in VMWare and connect it to a network, this is the post for you. If you are not trying to do that, this is not the post for you. See you tomorrow.
Also, I don’t know why you’re trying to build a virtual machine using VMWare, installing FreeDOS on that virtual machine, and trying to get TCP/IP working. It’s not for me to ask. If you’re here, I’m assuming that for whatever reason DOSBox didn’t meet your needs and you need to set this up. I’m sure you have your reasons.
Things you’re going to need:
01. VMWare Player (Free Download)
02. FreeDOS ISO (Free Download)
03. Command-line networking files (*1)
04. DOS network drivers for VMWare (*1)
05. mTCP (*2)
*1: I have created a floppy disk image with all these files: protman.zip
*2: I have created a floppy disk image with all mTCP files: mTCP.zip
With all of those files you are ready to begin.
Step one: Install VMWare Player
Step two: Create a new virtual machine. Select installer disc image and use the FreeDOS ISO image.
(We are now assuming you have a working FreeDOS virtual machine running in VMWare Player.)
Step three: On the VM, create a directory called C:\NETWORK
Step four: Inside C:\NETWORK, use EDIT to create a text file called PROTOCOL.INI. Put the following information in PROTOCOL.INI:
Step five: Mount the protman.flp floppy disk image. Copy all the files into C:\NETWORK on the VM.
Step six: Add the following lines to fdconfig.sys:
(Note: If you are using MS-DOS instead of FreeDOS, put the lines in config.sys instead.)
Step seven: Add the following line to autoexec.bat:
Step eight: Create a folder called C:\MTCP. Mount the MTCP.FLP floppy disk image. Copy all the files from that image to C:\MTCP.
Step nine: Reboot the machine (In FreeDOS, simply type REBOOT)
Step ten: Once the machine has rebooted, the network drivers should be properly loaded.
Step eleven: Change to the MCTP directory. Type DHCP to obtain a DHCP address.
(Note: If you would prefer to use a static IP address, you’ll need to do the following:
– Create a file called TCP.CFG (mine is under C:\NETWORK) and put the following lines in the file:
– Add the following line to autoexec.bat:
This will set your machine up to use a static IP instead of DHCP.
Step twelve: You should now have an IP address and be connected to the network. You can use the MTCP tools to ping, telnet, use FTP, or connect to websites.
That should be everything you need to get up and running! Tomorrow I’ll talk a little bit about getting USB devices to work in on a virtual DOS machine.
NOTE (3/7/15): I have NOT been able to get NET commands (net share, net view, etc) to work with this build. NET gives me a “file not found” error. I have pulled the net files (net.exe, net.hlp, etc) from WFW311 and continue to get prompted to turn the networking service on. Right now, the easiest ways to move files to/from the VM are to use floppy disk images, ISO images, or to launch ftpd.exe from the mTCP tools and connect to the VM using an FTP client (anonymous) and move files to/from the machine that way.
Posted at 6:00 pm by Rob in Arcade, Articles, Videogames
To whom it may concern:
I am writing to inform you that effective immediately, my son will no longer be delivering newspapers for the Daily Sun. Additionally, I have grave concerns regarding the safety of the route he was assigned that I would like to bring to your attention.
I initially allowed my son to take this part time job due to its relatively straight forward route and small number of customers. Despite only having ten customers (on a street with 20 houses), my son must cross three busy intersections. Despite having crosswalks, cross traffic does not stop or even yield. My son has been run over multiple times by men on motorcycles and women in convertibles. Throughout the neighborhood, my son has to frequently switch between riding his bicycle on the sidewalk and directly in the street. In the street my son has been involved in more than one head on collision. He has also ruined more bicycles than I can count by driving into drains and open manholes. The sidewalk is not much better; it is littered with fences, fire hydrants and other obstacles.
While logic dictates that the sidewalk would be a safe place for a child to ride his bicycle, clearly in this neighborhood it is not. The sidewalk is constantly overcrowded, filled with punks on skateboards, women with shopping carts, and breakdancers. To avoid hitting a man with a purple mohawk riding a unicycle, my son swerved into the street and struck a man using a jackhammer (with absolutely no safety cones or warning equipment set up to warn others). When he returned to the sidewalk, he was run over by an unmanned lawnmower.
The residents of the neighborhood are as unforgiving as they are careless. My son is only given ten newspapers for ten subscribers. This is not acceptable as he must constantly use the papers to thwart burglaries and defend himself from other dangers. While additional bundles of paper are scattered around the neighborhood (presumably from previous paperboys!) most of them get used to repel all the stray cats and dogs that constantly attack my son. At no point did anyone mention to me or my son that his route would be filled with so many abandoned houses, some of them bearing gravestones. When my son missed delivering a single paper to a single subscriber, they cancelled their subscription. When attempting to deliver them a paper the following day, the homeowner backed over my son with his Hearse.
To be honest, I am quite surprised that anyone in this neighborhood subscribes to, let alone reads, a daily periodical. In an attempt to deliver newspapers the denizens of this town have attempted to set off bombs near my son’s path and chased him with remote controlled cars in an attempt to cause him to crash. He has been knocked off his bike more than once by winos and chased by both tornadoes and the Grim Reaper. The Grim Reaper! Yesterday he was forced to break up a fist fight between two grown men by hitting them with a newspaper!
After hearing all these tales from my son, I recommended that he work on his bicycle skills. He told me at the end of the neighborhood there is a training section filled with moving ramps and targets. My son said he did really well in the training area and was awarded bonus points. I don’t know what bonus points are worth. I know that our insurance will not accept them as deductible payments toward our multiple insurance claims, and they apparently cannot be traded in for bicycles.
Seven times this week my son has been struck by errant car tires rolling in and out of people’s driveways and down the street. I have never heard of anyone being struck by a car tire before, let alone seven times in the same week. This is absolutely ridiculous and I will not stand for it.
Please accept this letter as an official resignation for my son. I believe it would be in your best interest to warn future paperboys about the potential hazards lurking along this route. It would also be a good idea to provide pads and/or a helmet to any future paperboys. They’re going to need it.
Posted at 1:34 pm by Rob in Articles
For the past three months I’ve been dieting the old fashioned way — eating right, and exercising. But what if there were an easier way to shed a few unwanted pounds? What if, through the power of a miracle, you were able to magically shed up to ten pounds in two days? That’s what the Hollywood 48 Hour Miracle Diet promises purchasers. Normally one would think miracles would be limited to healing lepers, but no — for around $20, you can get your own liquid miracle. Please note that we were unable to test the Hollywood 48 Hour Miracle Diet on lepers. But how does the juice work when it comes to weight loss? Read on and find out!
A jug of the magical Hollywood 48 Hour Miracle Diet elixer contains 32 ounces of juice which is to be diluted with another 32 ounces of water for a total of 64 ounces of drink. Those 64 ounces are to be consumed over 48 hours in four eight-ounce servings each day. Each glass of juice is 100 calories each — that’s 400 calories per day. You are not allowed to eat or drink anything else during the 48 hour period except water (of which they recommend an additional 32 ounces of each day).
Looking over the bottle’s ingredients doesn’t reveal any miracles. The juice contains a lot of fruit juice — apple juice, orange juice, grapefruit juice, pineapple juice, prune juice, and so on. I suspect there are also some appetite suppressants in the mix as well to keep you from clawing at your refrigerator all weekend long.
So, the “miracle” here is that by drinking only 400 calories of fruit juice per day for two days, you’ll lose weight. This is starting to sound a lot less like a miracle and a lot more like simple science.
So does it work? I suppose that depends on the answer you’re looking for. Is it possible to lose 5-10 pounds using the Hollywood 48 Hour Miracle Diet? You bet. Is it real weight loss? No, not really. It’s bodily fluids. This diet will make you lose 5-10 pounds through your poo poo and pee pee. I suppose if your weight problems are a result of the fact that you retain too much of those things, then this may be the long term diet approach for you. For the rest of us, the weight will be back a couple of days (and glasses of water) later.
My Personal Experience
I decided to try the Hollywood 48 Hour Miracle Diet over a weekend. I was nervous about the experience. I was afraid I would be hungry — no, STARVING — and I had read other reviews of the diet that described explosive bowel movements, stomach cramping, vomiting, and other non-desirable effects.
I had the first glass of miracle juice around breakfast time. The diluted juice was much less tangy than I had expected, due to the watering down effect I suppose. I sipped the juice slowly, hanging on to each sip knowing that with the end of this drink came the end of my breakfast.
For the first day, the worst part was not the hunger, but the fear of hunger! I kept thinking that surely the previous day’s food would run out and the hunger pains would begin. Surprisingly, I felt fairly content at the end of the first day. If day two is anything like day one, this should be a piece of cake. Mmmmm. Cake.
Sunday morning, I began feeling a bit light headed. I thought my vision might be blurring, but it was hard to tell. After my my morning drink I wasn’t hungry, but I didn’t feel very good. By noon I was starting to get cranky and irritable. This diet is a bad idea for those with small children. My headache did not go away after my lunch drink, and my wife began to worry about my blood sugar levels. We decided it might be a good idea to eat something with some protein in it, and so I scrambled an egg and ate that on a piece of toast. That did the trick for several hours — the headache and blurry vision went away, but returned later in the evening. With the evening drink I had another egg along with a spoonful of peanut butter. Each additional snack I had was 100 additional calories, bringing my weekend total to 1,000 instead of 800.
In 48 hours I lost a total of 6 pounds. By noon the following day I had put one of the two pounds back on, and by the following morning I had gained an additional two back.
The Hollywood 48 Hour Miracle Diet does what it says it will do — cause you to lose 6-10 pounds over a 48 hour period. The catch is, they don’t say how long the weight will stay gone (not long) and what you will have to go through (a liquid fast). I suppose if you make a bet with someone over whether or not you could lose five pounds over a weekend then this product might be useful to you, but those of us who are overweight should know by now that there is no such thing as a miracle when it comes to weight loss.
The diet suggests that you do not exercise or do anything too strenuous while drinking the juice. I agree with this. While on day one you may feel fine, on day two you could get into trouble real quick by over exerting yourself. I’ve also read several websites that suggest creating your own fruit juice instead of buying the official Hollywood juice. I can’t suggest that. I suspect that the official juice contains vitamins as well as some sort of appetite suppressant, things you wouldn’t get if you made your own. I was tempted too, but I went with the official stuff. If you make your own and try this, I’d love to know how it works out for you.
Posted at 10:17 am by Rob in Articles
What were you doing on December 3rd, 1998?
On the evening of December 3rd, 1998, my wife and I went out for dinner. It was both cold and rainy that night, which made it a particularly bad night to run out of gas. Which, of course, is exactly what happened. The lights in the dash of my Chevy Astro had burned out so I never saw the fuel guage pointing to E.
My van coasted to a stop on the side of I-40 near Sara Road. There’s no exit off the interstate there, so we had to walk either a mile east to Mustang Road, or a mile west to Morgan road. We picked Mustang road, and headed out.
At this point, it was dark, raining and cold. I told my wife Susan to stay in the car, but she insisted on coming with me. It’s a good thing she did, she probably saved my life. I was wearing the absolute worst clothes possible — a long sleeve black t-shirt, complete with black shoes, and a black baseball cap.
We began walking down the side of the interstate together, holding hands. We were walking in the emergency lane at first, but Susan felt that was too close to traffic. We then moved to the outside shoulder, but again Susan felt like that was too close to traffic. Eventually, we began walking on the outside of the metal guard rail, which was really beginning to piss me off because the grass was wet and slippery.
We came to the bridge at Sara Road, and came up with the idea that we could probably climb the embankment and take a shortcut to my dad’s house, who lives near Sara Road. We were standing there, holding hands and assessing the situation, when I saw Susan turn around and say, “oh my God.”
When truly awesome things happen in your life, your eyes can deceive you. When I turned and looked I couldn’t see anything, but I did hear the sound of tires screeching. My reflexes caused me to turn and begin to jump, but it was too late.
A pickup truck travelling 75mph had just hit me in the back.
I can remember everything before, during, and after the impact. The pickup had hydroplaned and blown out its rear tire, which caused the truck to begin sliding sideways. The rear of the truck came up over the metal guardrail, and struck me in the back, launching me about 30 feet down the embankment and into a muddy ditch.
Slowly, the world began spinning. I could see my wife and realized she was screaming and crying. She began to run down the hillside but I told her to go for help. She ran down the road, waving her arms wildly, and this is when I realized I could not breath.
I tried to breath in, but I couldn’t. I’ve never been a very religious person, but at that moment I closed my eyes and said to myself, “this is it.” Suddenly, I felt myself gasp. Then again. I was breathing, that was a good start. I slowly looked at my body to see what damage was done. I could feel everything and move everything. My arm was stinging like hell and I could see it was bleeding, even in the heavy rain.
Another motorist had stopped to check on the people in the pickup. My wife ran up to them screaming, “you just kiled my husband!” The people standing there were confused; they hadn’t even seen us on the side of the road. Susan grabbed the cellphone out of one of their hands and dialed 911. She told the people on the phone that a truck had run off the road and hit me. She also called my dad.
“Denny,” she said. “We were on I-40, and we ran out of gas …”
“Ok, I’m on my way,” my dad replied.
“Wait, there’s more,” Susan said. She told him what had happened, he muttered an expletive or two, and hung up.
About this time, my wife came down the hillside to check on me, with the motorist who had stopped. “I don’t think you should move,” the guy told me. “If I’m going to die, it’s not going to be here in this muddy ditch,” I responded, and with both of their help, I walked back up the hill to the underpass.
When I got to the underpass, the passenger in the car (a kid, probably 13 or 14) came over to me and said, “man, how ya feeling?”
“Like I just got hit by a truck,” I responded, and lied down. He said something else to me, and I said, “look kid, I’m a pretty easy going person but your mother just hit me with her car so I’m not in a great mood at the moment.” He walked away.
About five minutes later (it seems instantly to me), the ambulance pulled up.
“Where’s the body?” they asked.
“I’m the body,” I replied.
The paramedic looked at me and said we needed to go to the emergency room. “Let’s go,” I said, and started to get up. They all freaked out and said, “no, you need to go on this stretcher.” They pulled out the stretcher and I laid down on it. Then they put a neck brace on me. Right about this time is when my father pulled up.
“It’s not as bad as it looks,” my wife told him. The main thing I remember about that moment is my dad was smoking heavily, and I was covered in gasoline from the pickup truck (hitting the guardrail had caused the gas tank to rupture) and I was really worried he was going to set me on fire — that would have really topped the night off.
My other concern was that the two paramedics were going to be able to lift me into the ambulance. I’m 6’0 and 300+ pounds. The guy at my feet was a big guy, about my size. The other guy was about 70 years old and 100lbs maybe — and that’s the guy that insisted on picking up my head! I just knew they were going to drop me, but they didn’t.
The ambulance ride seemed to take forever. When we arrived, my mother was on her way there as well, and showed up moments later. I immediately went for x-rays, so they could see the amount of damage I had taken. And the answer was … none. Then it was back to the operating room, where I received stitches for the laceration on my arm. Then, it was back down to x-ray, because no one could believe there wouldn’t be any damage. They all came back negative (haha, get it?). No damage, whatsoever.
After a four hour stay in the emergency room, I was dismissed. As I went to leave, I hopped off the bed and immediately realized that I could neither walk nor stand up. I remained standing and bent over at the waist until they arrived with a wheel chair. I was rolled out to my dad’s truck, and needed help getting up into that too. My back had already begun to swell and bruise.
In the end, I walked away with 14 stitches and a bruise on my back the size of a medium pizza. It was a great bruise too, it turned every color you could imagine. Not just blue and purple, but yellow, green, and all other kinds of funky colors. I also experienced some burning in my leg that week from pressure on my psiotic nerve. That too was temporary.
I was off work for one complete week, and returned to work with one hell of a story.
The legal and financial aftermath of this event was fairly minimal. We ended up having to sue the driver’s insurance company because there was some question whether they had hydroplaned, which blew out the tire, or whether the tire had blown out, which caused them to hydroplane. Their stance was, if the blow out caused the drive to lose control, then that was “an act of God” and therefore not covered. In the end my lawyer convinced them that God had not purposefully run over me in a truck, and they agreed to pay my medical bills (more importantly, the ambulance ride) as well as give me about $3000 bucks.
I can’t say that my back is 100% anymore. It hurts sometimes if I sit in the same position too long or if I try to move something a little to heavy (or even stand around too long sometimes), but it’s really a small price to pay. Things could have ended up a lot, lot worse. Had I been standing 6 inches to the left, the truck would have broken my back. Had I been standing two or three feet to the left, the truck would have went over the top of me, killing me instantly. A little back pain isn’t so bad.
I can’t honestly say that I think about the accident every day, but I can say that when things get a little rough or I find myself getting mad or frustrated over the little things, I do think back to that day and try to remember that every day since then has been a gift.
These are pictures my dad took the following morning.
This is where the truck lost control. Note the skid marks that lead off the road.
The path of the truck, sliding down the ditch.
More tire tracks.
The guard rail.
Notice how the metal stakes that go into the ground are bent.
The guard rail, the truck tracks, and my van (with no gas).
More bent guard rails.
Me, with some bandages, flowers, candy, and pain-pills.
Coulda been worse.
Posted at 3:09 pm by Rob in Articles
I’m a packrat. I admit it. In fact, I embrace it. Over the past year I’ve converted to storage tubs. They’re great, they’re cheap, and they stack easily. Unfortunately, they stack a little *too* easily! Recently I’ve found that it’s a pain to get stuff out of the bottom tubs when I’ve stacked too many tubs on top of them! I decided today to build a set of shelves in the garage for my tubs — storage for my storage!
I’ve spent the last week or so searching the web, looking for easy to build garage shelves. I wasn’t able to find exactly what I wanted, so after a little planning, this is what I came up with and how I did it. I can’t say that these are the greatest looking or best laid out shelves ever, but what I CAN say is that YOU CAN MAKE THESE! If you need additional storage, you CAN do this! On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d rate my woodworking skills somewhere around a 3. If I can build these, anyone can! Also, I built these completely by myself — you won’t even need a friend’s help.
Tools needed: 2×4’s, 3″ screws, stud finder, tape measure, a square, a pencil or marker, a drill, a saw, and some saw horses.
So basically, my idea was to make some shelves, 5 shelves high. I have 36 gallon tubs which are almost 3 feet wide, and 16 gallon tubs which are about 17 inches wide. Therefore, I decided my shelves should be 3 feet wide. I then decided that my shelves would be 2 feet deep, mostly because it was an even number.
Let’s get started!
Here’s a 2×4. It’s 8 foot long. Doing some simple math, that will give us two 3 foot pieces and one 2 foot piece.
After sawing up two 2×4’s, you’ll end up with four 3′ pieces and two 2′ pieces.
Ok, now this part’s kind of tricky. Balance a 2′ piece on top of the 3′ pieces. While it’s balanced, stick a couple of screws into each end.
The idea here is to build a square, with two 2×4’s in the middle. Now, if instead you wanted to cover the shelves with some particle board or plywood, you probably wouldn’t need these middle 2×4’s. However, since I’m just stacking tubs on them and not smaller items, I opted for 2×4’s in the middle. Since the end piece is 2′ long, I drew a couple of lines 8″ apart and screwed in the middle 2×4’s there.
Here’s where it starts to come together. Read this paragraph closely. The way I make my shelves is by using whatever I’m going to put on the shelves as spacers. To do this, I used one of the tubs. Now, you don’t want to make your shelves exactly the same distance apart as the tubs or they won’t fit, so I used 2 VCR tapes on TOP of a tub to build my shelves. Take a look at the pictures, and it should make sense. It’s very easy, and makes your shelves all come out the same size!
Here are the first couple of shelves, already screwed into place. You’ll need two 2×4’s for the front support of the shelves. Now let’s put on that new shelf we just made!
Here is a tub in place, with two VHS tapes on each end.
Now we’ll put the shelf in place, resting it on top of the VHS tapes to give us an extra inch or two of space.
Here’s a shot of it from the side. See the extra space we get with the tape spacers?
It’s a good idea to throw a level on top of the shelf and make sure it’s, well, level! It is, so let’s move on.
This is a stud finder. It finds the studs behind your wall, so you can screw into them. It’s a good idea to screw directly into studs when you can, since the wood will hold much more weight. Put a couple of screws into each stud you find. You will be surprised at how sturdy the end result is — I was able to climb my shelves, no problem!
Once you remove the tub and tapes, voila! Another shelf has been added! Keep going up until you run out of room.
Here we are with three shelves in place. Looks like room for one more for me.
And this is what it looks like with four shelves! If you’re going to expand out (like I planned), I overlapped the front 2×4 support. In other words, the shelves are screwed into the right half of the shelves, leaving room for more shelves to the left. You can basically repeat this until you run out of either wood, tubs, or wall space.
The idea of adding on is the same. Set up a tub, put VHS tapes on top for spacers and slide your shelf into place. There should be enough studs so you’ll have at least 2 per shelf.
Take another look at the front 2×4 support. See how I only used half? The new shelf will be screwed into the remaining half.
Like I said, you can keep repeating this as many times as needed. Here are two completed sections …
… and, here are three!
2×4’s are about $2.50 each here. Since I used two 2×4’s per shelf, that means each shelf costs $5 to build. On top of that price, you’ve got your screws and tools, if you didn’t already have them. I can tell you at Lowes, that level cost about $3, the orangle plastic triangle square was $5, and the 5lb box of screws was $20. I used about 1/10th of the box of screws. The tape measure was a buck at Big Lots.
From here, I plan on extending the shelves out two more sections. On these, I’m going to cut pieces of wood for each shelf, so I can stack smaller odds and ends in them. Basically it should cost about the same, as the price of the wood is basically the same as the cost of the extra 2×4’s I’ll be able to leave out.
Posted at 3:05 pm by Rob in Articles
After seeing my MAME cabinet, my friend The Stranger decided he wanted one as well. Several hundred dollars and months later, here is his the story of his cabinet.
The Stranger’s MAME cabinet began life as a 1976 Atari LeMans cabinet. As far as MAME cabinets go, this is one of the worst you could choose. For starters, it has a steering wheel and gas pedal on the front. It also has a sloped control panel area, for the steering wheel. This particular cabinet had mouse crap and bird’s nests all through it. It was also free.
The first thing we did was completely gut the cabinet. This meant removing the bezel, the marquee, the speaker … basically anything we could unscrew and remove, we did.
Here’s what we ended up with — an empty cabinet. We peeled the artwork off of one side and eventually gave up. Since the goal of this project was to finish it in a weekend, we decided to spray paint the cabinet black. By the way, the cabinet took about three months to finish, due to my busy schedule.
Here’s me, stuck in the cabinet. Aren’t I funny.
And more of me, posing by the cabinet. You can start to see why it took three months.
OK DEAR GOD WE GET IT. Actually, the reason I posted this picture is so you could see one of the problems we would later face. Not only is there no conventional control panel, there’s really not even a good place to build one.
The inside of the cabinet was exactly two feet wide, so starting with a 2’x1′ piece of wood and a goofy grin, we started drawing. Then, we started drilling.
If you don’t already know, button holes are 1 1/8″ holes. This drill bit was less than 5 bucks at Lowes, and made the entire process really easy. Basically we just pretended we were playing video games, and then kind of guessed where we wanted the buttons. A couple of pencil marks and a few measurements later, we were drilling away.
When we got done with the control panel, we went to Wal-Mart (at around 1am) and picked up a roll of marble-print shelf paper. We wrapped the control panel in it, but it didn’t stick so great, so on the underside we duct taped it into place.
Since the original control panel was sloped, we had to make a piece of wood to cover that too. We just cut another piece of wood, also wrapped it in the same contact paper, and stuck it into place. Here I am, pointing to it. Whee!
No cabinet would be complete without side art and a bezel. Here is the side art that the Stranger found via eBay. Expensive, but completely worth it. It immediately changed the look of the cabinet. Here’s me pointing at it.
Here’s the underside of the control panel. We used an iPac to wire everything up (SO easy … God I would not build one any other way). Every button has one wire running to the iPac, and one common ground wire. Wiring the whole thing up would have taken less than an hour but of course we learned everything the hard way on this one. I bought the wrong kind of wire, so one night we ran up to Radio Shack and got the right kind.
Half of building a MAME cabinet is the MAME half — that is, getting your computer configured and running just right. Trust me on this one folks, it’s a HECK of a lot easier to get everything working while it still looks like a computer instead of working on it when you’ve got it already installed into a cabinet.
Since we were building a cabinet mainly to play old school games, we had to run through everything and make sure MAME was rotating the games to the left. I used LemonMAME front end, which is very easy to configure for a vertical monitor as well.
Here’s another shot of the MAME guts. There’s the monitor, the motherboard (which unfortunately did not have an onboard sound card), the keyboard/mouse, hard drive, CD-Rom, and power supply.
Here’s us installing the monitor. We maintained the original slope of the original monitor. We bought a few metal L brackets, and I cut some 2×4’s 2′ long. Then, The Stranger held the monitor in place while I frantically screwed in the 2×4’s to support the weight. In the end I think we used 4 2×4’s. 2 probably would have held it, but we wanted to be super sure that this thing wouldn’t move.
Not only does he drill, he looks good doing it. What can I say, folks. :) Once we had the monitor secured, we measured the distance from the sides of the cabinet, centered it, cut little blocks of wood to hold it in the middle and screwed those into place as well. Then we shook the cabinet violently and nothing moved. Then, we danced.
The original marquee light was shot so we went to Wal-Mart and bought an 18″ desk light. Then I cut a piece of wood to fit and we screwed it into place. Simple. To make the bezel we went to Wal-Mart (again) and bought some black poster board. We laid the original plexiglass sheet in place, and then market on the posterboard where the monitor screen would be. Then we went into the living room and cut out the square with an exacto-knife. This MAME Cabinet is has more Wal-Mart parts and duct tape than any other one on the planet.
I always like MAME cabinets to look like real arcade cabinets on the inside, so were we are mounting the motherboard to the side of the cabinet.
The hard drive, CD-Rom drive, and iPac board are all duct taped into place. Mu-ha-ha-ha …
I wasn’t kidding. BTW, we cut the wires that went to the motherboard for the CPU’s power button, and ran them to a spare arcade button which we hid on the top of the cabinet. Works great, and looks cool
Final results — here’s the machine, up and running. The picture on the screen is a custom background I made out of The Stranger’s favorite arcade bezels (we used the artwork from MAME). The red/blue joysticks from Happs were a nice touch. The Stranger got the marquee from the same guy he got the side art from. Lit up from the back, it looks awesome, just like the real thing!
Here’s a link to the 600×800 Background, if you want to check it out or use it:
Here I am, covered in saw dust, playing a little Ms. Pac-Man.
The last thing we need to do is finish up closing up the control panel, but everything works so well at the moment we hate to mess with it.
Posted at 3:01 pm by Rob in Articles
Tunica Trip – April 22nd, 2005.
Ever since my wife Susan took me to Vegas last year for my birthday, I’ve wanted to go back to Tunica again for a weekend of gambling. Don’t get me wrong; I loved Vegas, but Tunica is just a cleaner, friendlier place.
Last Wednesday I finished by bachelor’s degree at Southern Nazarene University. Also last week, my good friend Andy filed for divorce (our weekend introduction was, “I just finished college and he just finished his marriage …”). We decided that both of those accomplishments deserved a weekend road trip, and it just so happened that we both had a three day off this past weekend. Early Friday morning, we piled into the mini-van and set out for Tunica, Mississippi.
It’s a complete coincidence that Andy is standing next to a sign that says “Quick N EZ”. Honest. Here we are, filling up the gas tank for the first of three times. Tunica is almost exactly 500 miles and due east of Oklahoma City in the northwest corner of Mississippi, about 20 miles south of Memphis, Tennessee. It’s about an eight hour drive.
Several years ago Oklahoma City used to have KFC Buffets but for some reason they all disappeared. 200 miles into our trip, we came across this one in the middle of Arkansas. As Andy said, “just put clouds around it and it would look like Heaven.”
There’s a blurry shot of Andy (he’s on the right). Even though we were only about 200 miles from home, we already noticed that things were different. That’s Arkansas for you, I suppose. People were staring at us the entire time we were there eating. Maybe it’s because we were already wearing our obligatory cool poker-playing sunglasses.
A few hundred miles later, we crossed over the mighty Mississippi River. You can see three important things in this picture. One of course is the river. The second is Lucky Larry the Wonder Chicken, my lucky antenna topper. The third is all the print outs I brought which supposedly told us all the gambling secrets we would need to know for beating the odds and breaking Tunica. (Note: Neither one helped us win a dime.)
Yet another lovely photo taken through a dirty windshield while driving. I wish I could say it was for artistic reasons and that I was commenting on the state of Americans and their cars or something, but in reality it’s just because I don’t want to hold my camera out the window while driving down the Interstate.
We arrived in Memphis around 4:30pm. One of the tips in my printed out guide to Tunica said to be sure and take local supplies like snacks and drinks with you, since the casinos are located 20 miles from a town and the only place you’ll be able to shop is in one of the gift shops (home of the $2 Coke). We heeded the guide and stopped at Walgreens to pick up some chips, drinks, and Little Debbies. About a block down the road we made another pit stop at a gas station for a quick bathroom break. At that convenient store we also found six-packs of bottled water for $2. We bought two, which rang up at $8. When we told the cashier they were marked $2 each, she said “musta went up” and stood there staring at us. After a minute or so, she voided the transaction and rang them up again at $2/each. I jokingly said. “dang water inflation!” and got nothing in return. Eventually we got our water and slowly backed out of the store. At first we thought it might be some sort of racial tension, but as the weekend went on we realized it’s more of just a common hatred of tourists. It is nice to know that such abhorrence transcends any racial barriers.
Finally, at around 5:30pm, we arrived in Hollywood.
Hollywood Casino, that is! Once we got up to our hotel room, Andy broke open the ice chest and we each had a Coors Lite to kick the weekend off. Then, we hit the casino floor running. The first thing we did was get our players cards. These are cards that keep track of how much you gamble. Spend big and you’ll get treated like the high roller you are. Act like a little fish and there will be no VIP Lounge for you. (Note: Lose big and apparently you get nothing either).
Our big master plan for the weekend was to bring enough money so that we could gamble all weekend and drink for free. We initiated this plan by picking slot machines next to the bar. To simplify things, whenever one of us ordered a drink the other would get the same thing, so Friday night we began drinking Seven and Sevens. The waitress brought one pair by and then a second a few minutes later. I made some comment about them being mostly 7up and so the third pair she brought by were strong enough that hair began to grow on my chest instantly.
The drinks were getting better but the floor action wasn’t so hot and we were getting hungry, so we decided to relinquish our barside presence and go find something to eat. Hollywood didn’t have a buffet (if they did, we couldn’t find it) so we walked next door to Harrah’s. By this point we were already getting giggly and I demanded that the security guard strip search Andy (he declined). Unfortunately Harrah’s doesn’t have a buffet either. They did have signs up for some sort of steak and seafood night, but neither Andy nor I care much for seafood, so we hung around for a few minutes, had a couple more drinks and left.
On the way out we asked the security guard who had the best buffet in town. He mentioned some casino 10 miles away. We hopped in the van, but while we were pulling out we saw a big sign which read “Corky’s BBQ Buffet: $9.99 Fri-Sun) in front of Sam’s Town Casino. It was close and it sounded affordable, so we went there instead.
Well, almost. We got in line to pay and asked to pay separately. Andy’s bill was $20.80. When he said it was supposed to be separate, the lady said “that is!” We then said we had just seen a sign that said “$9.99″ and she said “on a Friday night? No way.” Of course we had already started drinking so we thought maybe it was our mistake, so we paid the $20 for Sam’s Town’s Grand Buffet and moved on.
Now one thing I will say is, The Sam’s Town Grand Buffet is worth $20. Similar to the Rio in Vegas, there are different food stations (Asian Station, Down-Home Cooking, etc). The whole center of the buffet was a pile of shrimp and crab legs, about eight feet wide and two or three feet tall. Andy grabbed not one but two steaks for his plate, while I loaded up on Chinese cuisine and Tex-Mex specialties. When the waiter came by and asked me what I wanted to drink, I said “Diet Coke.” When they asked Andy, he said Coors Lite. “Why are you going to go and pay for a drink when we can get them free in the casino?” I asked him. Andy then pointed to a sign on the table which read, “beer and wine included in the buffet.” We then decided that this buffet was actually closer to Heaven than the KFC buffet. For the next hour or so we ate, drank, and stumbled around the buffet.
After we got done gorging ourselves, we headed into Sam’s Town. We played a few slot machines and started playing video poker. After losing money for a while I hit four of a kind and won $40. The machine I was playing let you do a double or nothing by playing a hi/low card with the computer. I did it, and doubled my winnings to $80. I took the money and ran.
After cashing out there we went to Fitzgerald’s. Fitzgerald’s was very busy, very bustling, and very Vegas-like. Now one thing you have to know is Andy’s favorite musician is Elvis. The last time we went to Tunica we found these Elvis slot machines that paid great and had little screens in them that played Elvis videos and whatnot. After searching the casinos and asking employees, we finally found some at Fitzgerald’s.
Fitzgerald’s has an Irish theme so I thought we would do well here using the Luck ‘o the Irish, but it just wasn’t in the cards (note: worst cliché ever). Even Elvis wasn’t good to us. “Damn the King!” we shouted after each loss on the slots. Eventually we got bored of losing money to Elvis so we made our way to the stage at the bar (imagine that) where we sat for a few minutes, drinking Rum and Cokes (my turn to order) and listening to the band. At one point Andy changed it up and ordered us a pair of Strawberry Daiquiris but pretty much we stuck to the basics.
After our bad luck at Fitzgerald’s we decided to head back to the Hollywood and call it a night. It was midnight.
We stumbled out of bed around 7am and had Little Debbie’s Honey Buns and flat Diet Pepsi for breakfast. One of the first things I wanted to do was check out all of the memorabilia at the Hollywood Casino and take some pictures, so we started that around 8am.
Next to the elevator were several props from the Adams Family movies. That’s Uncle Fester’s electric chair, Gomez’s boots, Lidia’s wig, and Cousin It.
Andy stands next to the train used in Under Seige 2, starring Steven Seagal.
These are the costumes from Jurassic Park. That’s a raptor’s head.
Here’s a helicopter model used in Rambo. It’s hard to tell the scale in this picture but I would guess that the model was about four feet in length.
Next to Rambo’s helicopter was a miniature of the jet from True Lies. Those are 12″ dolls hanging off of the plane, so you can kind of tell the scale (again, about four feet in length). It’s too bad they didn’t have the full sized plane there though.
OH WAIT THEY DID. Yup, hanging over the casino floor was the full sized plane used in True Lies.
This mermaid wasn’t from a movie or anything, but “have my picture made with a mermaid” was on my list of “things to do before I die”, so I guess I can mark that one off.
I’m Batman. Or at least his car.
Here’s me with Batman. Or at least his car.
Andy the Elvis Fan got a kick out of Elvis’ car from Spinout. Each of these car displays also had small monitors running video loops of each of these movies. I can now say I’ve seen 20 seconds of the movie “Spinout” starring Elvis.
The centerpiece of the room is this mamma-jamma Titanic display. It weighs 6,000 lbs according to the informative placard and I’m guessing it stuck out of the water somewhere between 30-40 feet. Surrounding the display were several props used in the Titanic movie and (I believe) a few vintage Titanic items.
My favorite item was the DeLorean from Back to the Future. Here I am blocking most of it.
Here it is, without me blocking it. We decided that if worst came to worst and we lost all of our money, we could hop in the car, hit 88mph and go back in time to before we got to Tunica and try all over again.
Here are the controls. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be that hard to set it back two days.
Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World. I don’t think this was from any particular movie. Still, it was pretty cool to sit under both him and a helicopter and drink.
Once our little sight-seeing adventure was over we decided to walk next door to Harrah’s and try our luck at a little table action. It was 9am.
After scouting out the action (and trying to figure out the rules), Andy and I plopped down at a Blackjack table. The cheapest we found was $5/hand, so that seemed like the best place to learn the ropes. Now despite anything I’ve ever said about being a lucky Irish boy, Andy is lucky at cards. Before long he had turned his $40 worth of chips into a $100 stack. He made it look so easy that I decided to have a sit and try it out. In ten minutes I managed to lose my $40 allowance. Andy was pretty much staying even around $100 at this point. After the cocktail waitress came by, I headed over to the Elvis slots while Andy stayed at the table. I’m not sure what happened, but within another fifteen minutes both of us were broke, so we decided to say “screw Harrah’s” and see what other casinos Tunica had to offer.
First we hit Sam’s Town. Not much luck there, so it was back to Fitzgerald’s. No luck there either.
Next we hit the Horseshoe and the Sheridan. No exciting action at either one.
Finally, we hit Bally’s.
When we got to Bally’s we were thinking about eating lunch but we ended up finding Video Blackjack at the bar. We found that with our new found Blackjack knowledge, we were actually doing pretty good. The bartender at Bally’s name was Brian, but he had a nametag on that read “Chachi” (said he had lost a bet). Brian kept the Coors flowing (I think at one point we each had six bottle caps) and then asked us what we were doing later. When we told him we didn’t have any plans, we got our first comp of the trip.
For about ten seconds we actually considered driving over to Cabaret Tunica for lunch, until we realized that those places actually charge for beer, so we scrapped the idea. By that point in time we had knocked back another five or so Rum and Cokes (plus we had learned the secret of ordering “double-shots”) and were getting a little tired of just sitting and drinking all morning, so we decided to head into the town of Tunica itself and see what they had to offer for lunch (note: don’t bother).
After a 20 minute drive to Tunica, we found: McDonald’s, Sonic, Church’s Chicken, and Subway. The actual town of Tunica is about three blocks long, one block wide, and crawling with cops. We counted eight different cop cars as we sat and ate our Sonic burgers. Bored and full, we headed back to the casinos.
Over the next couple of hours we tried our luck at the Goldstrike, the Horseshoe, and the Sheridan. What we eventually realized was that we weren’t having nearly as much fun as we had been having back at Bally’s, so back to Bally’s we went.
Once back at Bally’s we went straight back to the bar again and started playing video Blackjack once again. After about two hours there, we told the new bartender (a cool guy named Randy) that we were thinking about leaving to go find some dinner. Randy would have no part of that! Before we knew it, the floor manager was standing between Andy and I, giving us free buffet passes. The staff informed us that a band would be hitting the stage soon and that they would save our places for us, so off to the buffet we went.
Now by this time I have to say that the two of us were pretty smashed. Since we had been back at Bally’s we had had seven or eight drinks, on top of the six beers and five or six double shots we had downed before we left the first time, so we went to the buffet and ate and basically wound back down a little. After a few minutes of chilling out, we headed back to our poker machines.
Back at the bar these two girls and their husbands sat down. They were all in town for a big blackjack tournament. We had a good time talking to them and took turns ordering drinks for one another (all drinks are free at the bar). So I would order four and shout, “drinks on me!” and everyone would laugh, and then they would do it the next time around.
I lost track of how much we drank while the band was playing but the little note I wrote down read “5 BN” (five Buttery Nipples), “2 CL” (two Coors Lites), “1 WA” (one Washington Apple that tasted just like a Jolly Rancher!), “5 RC” (five double rum and Cokes), and “2 ?”. The “2 ?” drinks are what did me in. While Andy was in the restroom I told the bartender to make us two really strong drinks to surprise Andy with when he got back. Randy gave me two drinks and I drank mine and instantly my chest started burning and my face got all hot. But then I thought “hey, wouldn’t it be funny if I downed them both?” so I drank Andy’s too and then I instantly thought, “boy I shouldn’t have done that.” I sat back down and the girls next to us and the bartender were all staring at me and all I could say is, “I shouldn’t have done that.” Then Andy came back from the bathroom and I told him the good news and the bad news (that I had ordered a drink for him and that I drank it). Then Randy came back and said that we was going to start “slowing down the party” for all of us and he was going to go on a 30 minute break and that we couldn’t have anything to drink until he got back.
So we went driving instead.
Whee! I’m really not as bad off as this picture makes it look. Something about taking your own picture always makes you look like an idiot.
I don’t know what Andy’s doing on his phone in this picture, or why his door is open. Fortunately the air bags never deployed so nothing too major must’ve went wrong.
We made it back to our room at the Hollywood. It was 10:30pm. Andy said we were going to go upstairs, regroup ourselves, and hit the casino floor. Two minutes later, he was snoring in his bed, lying the wrong way.
Sometime shortly after, he took this picture of me.
I’m not sure which one of us took this picture but I think it accurately depicts how we both felt at the time.
Believe it or not, we got up and around at 8am. The Hollywood desk clerk told us to go check with the VIP lounge to see if they would comp part of our room price off, but the problem ended up being we spent all our money at Bally’s, so no deal for us.
Andy and I took one last stroll through the casino, looking for a place to spend all his left over nickels and dimes. We couldn’t find any machines to take them and the cashiers wouldn’t take our small change, so we decided it was a sign to leave with what little money we (he) had left and call it a trip.
After loading up the van, we headed west. We made it about two hours and I told Andy I really needed a break from driving. We pulled over at a rest stop, and while Andy went to go use the restroom, I went to sleep.
The entire side of that hill was covered in stickers and I couldn’t have cared less.
It seemed comfy at the time.
Then I made Andy give me the camera and while I took his picture I remember thinking, “wow he’s really tall.” Finally I got up and Andy picked all the stickers out of my shirt. We drove for a couple more hours until we found a good place to stop and eat.
This is by far the most ghetto Western Sizzler either of us have ever seen. Their buffet consisted of about eight items: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, and okra were the four I had. I think they also had beets and maybe liver. The salad bar was slightly better (but not much). Believe it or not, Andy ran into some people he knew there who were also from Mustang, so we talked to them for a few minutes.
We didn’t ask.
Our final fill up of the trip.
Although we walked away from Tunica with empty wallets, we also brought home with us some great memories of a fun weekend. Our new goal is to learn all the strategies of Blackjack so that next year when we come back we can break the bank.
Yeah, right. ;)
Posted at 8:10 am by Rob in Articles
Approximately an hour southwest of Oklahoma City lies Fort Cobb Lake, a 4,000 acre lake with another 2,000 acres of park area surrounding it. It’s a really quiet place, great for getting away and relaxing a weekend at a time. My buddy Andy and his family just put a brand new mobile home a lake lot down by the lake. His brother-in-law and I joined Andy on this weekend’s mission: his farewell to a piece of jewelry.
That’s Andy. During the week, Andy is a firefighter in Mustang, OK. He is also, after ten years of marriage, now single. Without going into too many details, Andy took the “nice guy” approach (because he is one) throughout the divorce and it bit him in the ass. His name was drug through the mud both in and out of court, and things began to get nasty. Throughout it all Andy took the high road, because he’s just that kind of guy. Besides, this weekend, I think he had the last laugh.
Andy is very talented with woodworking, although this particular piece of work might not show it. This is a small piece of wood with holes drilled in it, designed to hold golf tees.
Here are several practice golf balls Andy brought along on the adventure. Andy is also a certified scuba diver, and retreived these balls from a pond near a local golf course.
This one, however, is the most important one. That’s Andy’s wedding ring, attached to the side of it. The whole ring was covered in epoxy. Ain’t no way that thing’s coming off. Ever.
Andy’s brother-in-law Kenny videotaped the event as it unfolded.
Here’s Andy, on the edge of the Fort Cobb dock, explaining to Kenny and I what he is about to do.
Andy tees up one of the practice golf balls …
… begins to swing …
… CRACK! That baby’s out of there!
Andy prepares another practice swing.
This shot was snapped seconds before I began running for my life. Andy whacked this ball hard. REALLY hard. Unfortunately, the ball hit the metal railing and shot back at us, whizzing right past Kenny and I and both of our cameras. We decided we might want to seek higher ground before anyone got injured.
I’m not saying Andy has any pent up aggression over the divorce, but here Andy points to the chunks of wood he’s taken out so far.
After relocating to the boat loading dock, Andy re-set up his tee holding contraption.
POW. Andy lets another one fly.
Here, Kenny interviews Andy before the final shot. Andy explained to us that he had thought about pawning or selling the ring, but felt that it might be cursed and he didn’t want to hurt anyone else with it.
Andy also explained that he didn’t donate it to anyone because he didn’t want any good to come of it either. It had to be destroyed. Andy even used the worst, oldest, nastiest golf ball he could find to attach the ring to.
Unfortunately, all of Andy’s practice shots had also launched all the golf tees out into the lake as well! There’s no tee for the final shot!
Kenny and Andy search for a tee, using the light from Kenny’s camcorder.
Andy, always thinking, decides the ring itself will also work as a tee. The ball with the ring attached is placed on the board, ring down.
This is the last known shot of Andy’s wedding ring. If you would like to see it again, it’s about 200 yards out in the middle of Lake Fort Cobb.
After the impressive drive, Andy is interviewed by Kenny.
“I’ll drink to that!” says Andy.
Andy and I celebrate with Mr. Bud Lite on the Fort Cobb dock.
Andy and his brother-in-law, Kenny.
The rest of the night was filled with tons of festivites. Here, Andy tells me about the one that got away (yeah, right). A few minutes later, some old man wandered by and asked us if we had caught any fish. I told him I had caught a marlin but threw it back. He didn’t believe us.
Here Kenny shows what a wimp he is by not baiting his own hook.
Here, Andy baits both Kenny and my hooks. Hey, I never said I wasn’t a wimp too.
This was pretty much the fishing technique used all night. Leaning the poles up against the railing left both hands available for beer drinking.
Andy proudly displays the only fish caught that night. Amazingly, he caught it with no bait on his hook.
Woo, that’s a keeper baby.
Close inspection shows that somehow, Andy managed to hook the fish IN THE EYE. Andy threw the one-eyed swimmer back to the lake.
After a couple of hours of fishing, Kenny drove Andy and I (riding on the tailgate) back to the cabin.
On the way back we stopped by the Crow’s Roost. It was closed.
Firefighters are really strong. That’s what I always tell Andy when there are heavy things around to lift, like beer coolers.
Inside the cabin, Andy breaks out two of his favorite snacks. Pepperonis, and marshmellows. Mmmmm!
My eyes were really sticky after this picture.
Kenny thought he would take advantage of two drunks by getting us to play poker with him. $20 buy in, winner takes all. You might want to look closely, because this is the last known shot of Kenny’s money. To see it today, you’ll have to look in MY WALLET! Boo ya!
Andy decides that mashmellows go better with beer than lime. After the game had ended (did I mention I took everyone’s money?) we decided to watch a movie around four in the morning. Andy was snoring during the opening credits and my eyelids were drooping as well, so we called it a night.
Here are a few pictures I took on the drive back home Sunday morning, just to give you an idea of how far out there Fort Cobb really is.
Yeah, it looks like this for about an hour.
Out one window …
…and out the other.
Posted at 2:32 pm by Rob in Articles
Tower Records, the music chain that once toted 171 stores and annual sales of over $1 billion, has now filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. And according to both them and the media, you are to blame.
You, that is, if you’ve ever downloaded music. Tower Records “succumbed to the newest phenomenon in music, Internet downloading,” according to the reports.
This is just what the corporate music world has been waiting for. A martyr. “One who makes a great show of suffering in order to arouse sympathy.” And now they’ve got one, in the form of Tower Records — a company going down with the ship, and willing to point the finger at evil music downloaders on the way.
In the early 1960’s, Tower Records invented the “music megastore”. The “music megastore”, in my town and towns all across America, is responsible for the death of the independent music store. In Yukon, Oklahoma, a city with a population of around 25,000, you can buy music in one of the following places: Wal-Mart, and Hastings. Branch out into the city, and there are many more megastores competing for your cash: Blockbuster Music, Camelot Music, and of course, Tower Records. Sure, there are still some independent shops around town, shops like Shadowplay Records, Rainbow Records, Happy Days Records and Size Records, but I’ll bet even combined, they didn’t make a billion dollars last year.
I’ve been in to a few of those megastores. They’ve got televisions in every corner, sometimes walls of them. Spotlights dance to the musical thump-thump-thump that’s being pumped into the multimedia chamber of happiness. Want to listen to an album? No problem, grab one off the shelf and head over to the listening area! About the time you think to yourself, “how can they afford this?” you see the price tag. $14, $16, even $18 for a CD. DVDs aren’t any better, usually one and a half to two times higher than anyone else in town.
The Oklahoma City market isn’t about the megastore. It’s about the used CD store. CD Trader. CD Warehouse. CD Outlet. Plus let’s not forget all the independent music stores I talked about (Shadowplay, Rainbow, Happy Days, Size), and the hundred(s) of pawn shops around town, which also sell used CDs.
Now let’s think for a minute — how did all those used CDs end up at all those used CD stores? A few of them were probably overstock from other stores that closed down, but the majority of them came from people like you and me, who sold their old CDs to them. And why do people sell CDs? The CDs I have (or should) get rid of are albums that have one hit song.
I said two years ago that the solution to the great CD dilemia is for stores to lower the price of their music. Both the latest Primus and the Rob Zombie albums included videos on DVD packaged with them, and retailed for $9.99. I bought them of both at Best Buy, and I’m pretty sure these are the first two new CDs I’ve bought in the 2000’s. As a consumer, I spoke. Essentially, I said, “Hey! Music industry! I haven’t bought a new CD in five years and I just bought these two at $9.99!” Their answer? Primus’ Animals Should Not Try To Act Like People now lists for $15.99 at Best Buy.
CDs don’t have the mystique that LP had. Albums were cool. Big, thick, black, flat disks which somehow held music within its little grooves, and big, huge artwork and booklets that you could read and hold. More importantly, I never met anyone who could make a vinyl album with their home computer, whereas my Grandmother burns CDs with her computer (which also came from Best Buy). We’ve all bought blank CDs and we all know what they cost. Normal prices are about a quarter each for blanks, less if you buy them in bulk. Even with professional duplicating you can have CDs made for about a buck each; actually it’s closer to .50 for the big companies who do it in bulk. People don’t want to pay $15 for something that essentially cost fifty cents to make. Oh, let’s not forget about the artist. He or she gets about a buck per unit sold too, so now we’re up to a buck-fifty. That’s a whole lot of money left padded into that $15-$20 price tag. A lot of it goes to the record company who signed, promoted and recorded the act. And a lot of it goes to places like Tower Records.
I used to own AC/DC’s Back in Black on vinyl. Later, I bought it on cassette, and again on CD. The last time I pulled the CD out, it was really scratched up. I can only assume after a few more listenings, it won’t even play. Who knows, maybe it was from all the bumps on the “Highway to Hell”. If you figure I paid $10 for the album, $10 for the tape, and $15 for the CD, I’ve got $35 invested into Back in Black. And now my options are to either buy it new (again) from places like Tower Records for $15, buy it used for $5 from one of the used CD places around town, or I can download it and burn a copy of it for a quarter.
So in a nutshell, that’s it. Consumers now have three options: buy it new, buy it used for a fraction of the cost, or download it for free.
When you download music for free, neither the artist nor the record label makes any money. In fact, they claim they lose that money, a gripe I don’t agree with. I’ve downloaded plenty of albums I would never buy. Would I listen to Kelly Clarkson’s CD once for free out of curiosity’s sake? Sure. Would I pay $15+ for it? Never. They didn’t lose any money from me — they weren’t getting it from me in the first place. Are there people out there who might possibly have bought it otherwise? Sure — but from where? Tower Records, or CD Trader?
When you buy music in used CD stores, neither the artist nor the record label makes any money either. Again, you could argue either way whether or not artists and record labels are losing money. “They” would say that you bought an album that you would have normally bought at a new store, so they lost that income. “I” would say that while I was willing to drop .99 cents on The Fat Boys Greatest Hits and Air Guitar Classics, those probably aren’t titles I would have paid full price for. And while I don’t feel guilty that the recording industry doesn’t make a dime off of these sales, I do feel bad that the artist doesn’t. So why isn’t the music industry going after used CD retailers? They are. In 2002, the music industry propsed that all used CD retailers should pay royalties back to the original label for each CD sold — kind of like when television shows go into syndication. In my opinion, the only reason this hasn’t happened to date is because the recording industry has been spending all their time and energy chasing (and suing) music downloads. If MP3s are ever “done away” with, used CD outlets will be the music industry’s next target.
As we already know, when you buy new music, everybody makes money (although as I mentioned, not equally; the record label makes approximately 10-15 times what the artist makes). And, as we now know from Tower Records, people aren’t buying new music anymore, or at least not as much as they used to. Or are they?
I kind of lied when I said there were only two places to buy CDs from in Yukon, Oklahoma. Actually there’s a third, and it’s called the Internet. From the comfort of my own home I can now buy CDs from a multitude of places — big monsters like Amazon, smaller, independent shops, or occasionally directly from the artists themselves.
But the dilemia remains. How will musicians make any money when they don’t make anything from music downloads or used CD sales, and the megastores are shutting their doors?
Well, I’ve got a plan.
Musicians will tell you they don’t make much off of new music sales. Remember they only get about a buck per unit sold, right? Here’s a simple solution. Add a $1 tax to all music downloads and used CDs.
So now when I buy a used CD for $5, the price tag can say “$5 + $1 Artist Tax”. That’s fine, I’d pay $6 instead of $5. What else does this mean? We would be able to download any album for $1. Not $1 per track, $1 per album. And that $1 goes right to the artist. They make the same amount either way.
And either way, I think Tower Records would still be filing for bankruptcy.