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phorneker's 2017 Holiday Gift Guide

by phorneker

The holidays are fast approaching. As early as late August, retailers began hiring for the holiday season, and now have holiday merchandise already in the stores. So, it would not be unreasonable to come up with a holiday gift guide for this year.

One thing that is trending is retrogaming. Earlier this year, I wrote some articles on retrocomputing with Virtualbox. Atari is still alive as a company, and is about to release the Ataribox, a hybrid video gaming system and home computer powered by Linux and (as expected) contains emulators such as Hatari and Stella (both of which are in the PCLinuxOS repository) to emulate the classic Atari systems of the day.

I have always been a fan of Atari systems, as these machines were well known for their graphics and sound capabilities. Programming graphics on the Atari 400/800 was facilitated with graphics commands included with Atari BASIC. Atari DOS was easy to navigate as it was menu based.

Contrast that with the Apple II series machines that I worked with at the time. DOS commands can be embedded in Applesoft BASIC programs by prepending the command inside quotes with a Control-D. For example,


Is the equivalent of the ls command in a terminal window. Commands such as HGR and HGR2 turn on the high resolution graphics mode (which by today's standards is anything but!). The difference between these two commands is that HGR adds four lines of text to the bottom of the screen, at the same time clipping the graphics from that same area on the screen.

Of course that machine will not be out until next year.

Gift Idea #1: The Chimpbox

But why wait for the Ataribox, when you can purchase a Chimpbox for about the same price as the projected price for the Ataribox, and then add the Atari emulation (mentioned) from the PCLinuxOS repository today.

Prices start at $325.00 USD for 4GB of RAM and 500GB SSD drive for local storage.

Also available is the GorillaBox for $435.00 USD for 16GB of RAM and 1TB SSD drive for local storage. This is a better value, especially with the current offerings available at OfficeMax Office Depot (the combined name of the two merged chains), Wal-Mart, Best Buy or Staples, and you get PCLinuxOS already installed, so you do not need to mess around with the UEFI just to get the installation DVD to boot.

Gift Idea #2: Retro Gaming Consoles

Retro gaming consoles are not just a nostalgia trip, but proof that anything old can be new again.

Atari Flashback (in versions 7 and 8), Sega Genesis Flashback, Intellivision Flashback and Colecovision Flashback have been on the market for the past few years. Joining this list is a miniature version of the SuperNintendo Flashback.

Not all of these are going to be available in stores, so if your local discount retailer (including Dollar General) or department store does not have the console you want, you can always shop the retailer's websites or Amazon, or you can simply do a web search for the product you are looking for.

Average price for these consoles is between $30.00 and $50.00 each.

If you have old Sega Genesis cartridges, those games should be playable on the new consoles as that console has a slot for the cartridges.

Many of these consoles were designed to work with older TVs through composite video outputs. Newer versions of these consoles are starting to include HDMI output, especially with the SuperNintendo Flashback.

Gift Idea #3: For the cats...

If you have cats, you know they love to scratch on most anything. You could buy a wooden scratching post for them ... or you could buy them the Mona Lisa.

This could be the world's most expensive scratching post ($222.75 USD at the time of writing), but it is still a bargain compared to replacing the real thing (if it could be done). This version of the Mona Lisa is available at:

Gift Idea #4: RFID Wallet

If you know somebody who carries around a set of credit and debit cards in his/her wallet, give him/her this accessory to prevent would-be crackers from electronically stealing card numbers.

Prices for this gift start at about $5.00 and vary as widely as the product is available, from Wal-Mart to Nordstroms.

Be sure to check out the holiday gift ideas from parnote, YouCanToo and Meemaw, elsewhere in this issue.

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