Console Classix, etc.

I've just discovered Console Classix, and I couldn't be happier. I'm a big fan of vintage nintendo games. The only way to play them anymore (since almost no one has an NES that still functions) is to download the ROMs (individual games) and an emulator from the internet. The problem with this is that it's illegal to download any games you don't own1. Even though almost no one is making money off the games anymore (nintendo did just release a few classics for the Game Boy Advance), it's still stealing. I keep waiting for someone to realize that there's a lot of money to be made by charging a few dollars to legally download old ROMs (StarRoms is doing this, but they've only got a handful of Atari titles).

Until that happens, though, Console Classix is the next best thing. It's a service that lets you legally play just about any Atari, NES, SNES, Genesis, or Game Boy title that you could imagine. They accumulated a bunch of physical copies of old game cartridges and put them in an on-line database. You just have to download their software, and you have access to their entire collection. This is legal since they make sure that no more than one person is playing any particular ROM (copy of a physical cartridge) at the same time. They have enough copies of the popular games that its pretty likely the one you want to play will be available when you want to play it. The only catch is that you obviously have to be online to play them.

Atari and NES titles are available free of charge, and you can access their entire library for $5/month or $50/yr, which is really next to nothing compared to the volume of games you get access to. If I had DSL at home I would be really tempted. Since the Atari/NES service is free, I was expecting it would be ad-supported and the registration would be a long, drawn-out process where they ask me every concievable question and make me uncheck a lot of "send me updates" boxes. There was none of that. I just had to fill in my name, email, usename, and password. In 30 seconds I was legally playing Mega Man, Ninja Gaiden, Double Dragon, Super-Spike Vball, Megal Gear, etc.

I know what you're thinking... emulation is nice and all, but using a keyboard just isn't the same as playing with the real controller. No problem! Just order an authentic USB-converted controller from RetroZone.

In other news, Thunderbird 1.0 (an open-source email client) is out, now with RSS/Atom support. The integrated spam filtering is what got me to switch (there's a bunch of spam blockers out there, but the seamless integration is really nice), and the RSS support has me hooked. Checking blogs is now as easy as checking my email. Instead of sifting through a bunch of pages looking for updates, thunderbird does that for me and lets me know when there are new posts. Blogger offers atom feeds of its blogs as an option. I think the option must be on by default, because lots of blogs I check that don't even list an atom link still have an atom feed (just add /atom.xml to a blogger address).

Speaking of blogs, Jonathan Bryan, the younger brother of Ben Bryan (a good friend of mine) is blogging now. He's both funny and really intelligent. Unfortunately he focusses a lot of his intelligence on trying to defeat Calvinism2, but he does spend time thinking about more interesting problems, like the ontological argument for God's existence.

1Technically, it's illegal to posess a ROM that wasn't created from a cartridge you own. So, for example, even though I own a copy of Mega Man, it's illegal for me to have a Mega Man ROM unless that ROM was created using my Mega Man cartridge. But that sounds like hair-splitting to me, and it doesn't really bother my conscience.
2This is unfortunate because I just don't think the arguments against Calvinism are very interesting. If Calvinism is wrong, it is wrong for pretty obvious reasons.

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