Sunday, 16 January 2022

My Nintendo DS Collection… Obsession.

I have always been a portable gaming fan. My first console was a Nintendo GameBoy and I loved it. From GameBoy to GameBoy Color to GameBoy Advance and then to the amazing Nintendo DS Lite. The DS range brought a new era of gaming to the handheld market. Over the years I have owned multiple Nintendo DS Lite consoles and it is by far the platform I have used the most over the past 15+ years. I have owned several Sony PSPs and a PS Vita – but the DS line is where my love is.

After realising just how expensive the PS Vita and games where I decided to part with it and buy a Nintendo 3DS and it was a fantastic decision. Over the past 18 months my passion and collection has grown immensely. 

The Nintendo 3DS is a fantastic console with its increased hardware and new range of games it offers so much more than the DS range. Don’t get me wrong I love the DS games, but its hardware – in true Nintendo style – isn’t there to be a powerhouse, instead to be a handheld with amazing battery life. It is predominantly a 2D console although it does have some impressive 3D titles (such as Dementium, COP The Recruit and Metroid Prime Hunters). Plus the Nintendo 3DS is backward compatible with DS games – making it an awesome console. 

The Nintendo 3DS introduced the Circle Pad but it only had one, making 3D games and first person shooters difficult to play. This was rectified with the ‘New’ range which added a second pad in the form of the C-Stick, and I bought a New Nintendo 2DS XL. It has all the features of the new range, just without the stereoscopic 3D – plus it has the larger screens.

The New Nintendo 2DS XL is a fantastic console, which not only added new buttons but also drastically increased processing power, system RAM and video RAM and it easily my best console.

But that doesn’t mean I have abandoned older models. Recently I bought my wife a Nintendo DSi XL as she wanted a handheld console with larger screens and I fell in love with it. Shortly after I picked up a regular Nintendo DSi – a console I hadn’t seen the point in before as it didn’t offer that much over the Nintendo DS Lite, however the small changes it did bring make it a better gaming experience, especially these days.

And finally – for now – I purchased a console I have wanted for a long time, the original Nintendo DS, the ‘phat’ model that started it all. I have no need for one, I have plenty of other DS consoles I could play on, but I just wanted an original model to add to my collection, to sit on my shelf and look good.

I am considering looking out for a an original Nintendo 2DS – the wedge shaped one – or a New Nintendo 3DS just to add further to my collection, but only if I can find them at a decent price.

My YouTube channel is dedicated to portable and older gaming – as well as other tech – and it has become a hub for all my DS content over the last year or so.

The Nintendo DS range – with all its variants – is where I love to be. I spend just as much time talking about and creating video about as I do playing on this wonderful range of portable consoles. 

Written by Simon Royal. Follow me at

Saturday, 15 January 2022

Goodmans True Wireless Earphones Pro Review. B&M Exclusive.

I have had a love hate relationship with wireless earphones for a long time. I love the idea of them, but being small the batteries aren’t big meaning battery life isn’t great. I don’t like going out only to find the battery has run out.

However, wired earphones aren’t always practical, the cable gets caught on things or gets tangled in clothing.

So I bought some Goodmans True Wireless Earphones Pro from my local B&M Store. At £15 for a recognised brand I thought it was worth a look – and the specs looked pretty decent.

Like most mini wireless ‘stick’ earphones they come in their own charging case – charging the case rather than the earphones themselves. So I opened the box, popped the earphones in the case and started charging them. They use USB-C which I was pleased to see. 

The build quality seems good for both the earphones and case. The earphones seem a little chunky, but fit in my ears well and are comfortable. I suppose the size is to accommodate the 40mAh battery in them, which should last 5 hours on a single charge. 

The box states 20 hours, but that is with the case. When you have finished or if they run out of battery you pop the earphone back in the case and it charges them for you – given that the case has a 300mAh battery the case should charge the earphones two or three times. This is great if you are out and need to charge them.

The other thing I like about them is, if you use both they automatically sync to each other and can be used as a pair. However, you can use one at a time – popping just one back in the case will turn it off and start charging it – while allowing you to use the other one.

Pairing was easy. I just set my phone to search and it picked them up straight away. Sound quality is pretty decent too, with great volume and a good amount of bass. Listening to music through them was a joy. 

Call quality was a mixed bag. On my first call the recipient struggled to hear me – however I was beside a busy road, with a covid mask on and a beanie hat over them. Further calls inside my house had no issues.

You can also use them for your voice assistant. I know they aren’t going to be the best – but I didn’t fancy spending fortune. I have seen others brands and models priced at up to £180.

I have been very impressed. I like the audio quality, I like the battery life and I like the way they are charged in the case. For the price I think they are great value for money.

For a full video review, check out my YouTube channel for older and portable gaming as well as tech videos such as this one.

Written by Simon Royal. Follow me at

Wednesday, 10 November 2021

Installing KDE Neon on a Lenovo Thinkpad X201

I recently acquired a Lenovo Thinkpad X201 from Tech Thoughts contributor Simon Royal, as he has upgraded to a newer and quicker Dell Latitude. This is only the second Thinkpad I have owned, the first being a W500 that had a failed discrete graphics chip, so it sits on a shelf as spares. The X201 reminds me of a smaller version of that, much lighter, and significantly more powerful, having a second gen Intel i5 M520, 2.4ghz quad core CPU instead of a Core 2 Duo and has Intel GMA integrated graphics. Being a little 12.1 inch laptop, it's much lighter than either the W500 or my old E6500 Latitude.

The great thing about these old Thinkpads (and Dell Latitudes) is they are easy to upgrade and replace components, Simon fitted 8GB RAM and a 128GB SSD. And also of course, like the Dell, they run Linux like a champ!       

Installing KDE Neon

I downloaded my distro of choice, the latest version of KDE Neon User Edition, and flashed it to a memory stick using Etcher. After setting the boot device to USB in the BIOS, it was just a case of installing in the usual way from the live CD installer, which took no time at all.

On first boot I was impressed how snappy this thing runs! Neon runs much better on this than my older Dell Latitude E6500. It's a definitly a step up from the older machine. The first thing I did after logging in was disable the silly update on reboot thing that KDE has now, as I detailed in a previous blog post, and immediately switched to Breeze Dark theme. Next I removed snapd and installed Synaptic package manager because Discover is infuriating! 

I then installed all my most used apps, such as Google Chrome, Filezilla (FTP client), Soundkonverter etc, and most importantly GIMP. I mostly use my Chromebook for general browsing the net and stuff but GIMP takes a while to start and still does not work properly in Linux on my Chromebook, copy and paste does not work properly for me, so this is one reason why I like having a 'proper' Linux running laptop to hand, with more storage and proper filesystem etc. 

As with all my KDE installs, I use Latte Dock and Papirus icons and Breeze Dark is my preferred desktop theme, and I configured KDE Connect to sync with my phone and other computers. 

There was a brief hold-up when Launchpad was down for several minutes so I had to wait a bit before I could install Strawberry music player via their PPA. Strawberry is a fork of Clementine, which has not been updated in years. Strawberry is great for large collections and has transcoding and good tag editing support.  

The X201 has the old ThinkLight that lights up the keyboard somewhat, before backlit keyboards became common. It's not quite as good as backlit keyboard but still better than no illumination at all, which none of  my other working laptops have, including my Acer Chromebook 14. 

The keyboard is a small but very usable classic Thinkpad design, it's nice to type on, though let down by the very small trackpad, one downside of tiny laptops. It's wide enough but not deep enough so two finger scrolling is more awkward, compared with the large trackpads on larger or more modern laptops, like my Chromebook, so I mostly use a USB mouse. I prefer using a mouse for image editing anyway.

I disabled the Nipple Mouse (TrackPoint) in the BIOS as I have never got on with it all and it stops me accidentally moving the mouse when catching it while typing. The screen is not bad but not quite as nice as my Dell, and whoever first purchased it specced the lower screen resolution version too, it's typical for a base spec business grade laptop. It does go quite bright if you want it to but I tend to have it less than half brightness. I've also found its SD card reader (located at the front of the X201) very useful for my old camera SD cards. Unlike most of my older laptops, it can support the larger size SD cards.  

I mostly use the X201 for a bit of browsing and making memes in GIMP while relaxing on the sofa, plus other stuff that is not possible (or very difficult) with a Chromebook, such as a bit of audio transcoding with Soundkonverter, and it performs just fine at those tasks. At times lately it actually feels snappier than my Chromebook, probably helped by the 8GB RAM, compared with only 4GB on my Acer Chromebook 14. Obviously with it's 4 cores it performs audio conversion significantly faster than my old C2D Dell Latitude, so overall I really am quite pleased with it, it's a fine little machine for its age.  

Monday, 12 July 2021

Linuxiversary... One Year With LinuxMint.

Time flies when you are having fun and it certainly seems this year has been a great one for me in terms of computing. Exactly a year ago today I decided enough was enough and I left the Apple world behind after being an avid fan for over 20 years.

The build up had been coming for a few months – actually a few years previous I had ditched my iPhone for an Android handset - and the 13th July 2020 marked my first full day using Linux as my main operating system. 

I had dabbled for many years on and off, having an admiration for Linux. Early 2020 saw me switch to Linux Mint on my MacBook Air as a main OS, but that glowing fruit logo bugged me.

So I sold my beautiful slim and lightweight 11” MacBook Air and replaced with a rather large and chunky Dell Latitude E5410. Specification wise both laptops were similar – especially after upping the RAM in the Dell and swapping out the old hard drive for an SSD. My road to full time Linux and the final nail in leaving the Apple ecosystem had began.

It has been an amazing year. I have really gotten to grips with Linux. It is hard to learn a new way of doing things after 20 years but it soon felt natural. I am by no means a Linux expert, but I had enough knowledge to get me going and each day I learnt more and the last year has been fun.

It has been a fairly easy ride with only a few minor hiccups along the way which required me to learn how to overcome these - but at least it gave me even more knowledge.

In February 2021 I swapped my large Dell for a slimmer ThinkPad X201 – once again similar specs, just smaller.

I have never been happier. Linux is a great alternative. The mid 90s saw me venture into Windows which I didn't enjoy and I very quickly swapped to MacOS. I have never been a fan of Windows (to put it lightly), so there really was only one way out of the Apple world for me and that was via Linux.

I have modest needs when it comes to computing. I don't play games on my computer and only use it for web browsing, writing and  as well as picture, music and minor video editing and my 11 year old ThinkPad more than copes with my needs.

Linux is truly where I want to be and it is hard to believe I have been using it full time for a year already. Here is to many more happy years as a Linux user.

Check out my YouTube channel for portable and older gaming as well as tech videos, including ThinkPad X201 running Linux video.

Also check out my review of the ThinkPad X201.

Written by Simon Royal. Follow me at

Monday, 28 June 2021

Hardware Review: Kygo B9/800 Wifi Smart Speaker with built-in Chromecast

The Kygo B9/800 wireless speaker is a portable speaker with Google Chromecast and Google Assistant built in, which means you can "OK Google" it to play something from Spotify or Youtube Music, or some other services. It is priced around the same price as a Google Nest Mini, usually about £20 from Amazon, but unlike the Nest, it also has Bluetooth and a line-in jack, and an internal battery which means the Kygo can be used when out and about without wi-fi, away from a plug socket. 

In the box, the device comes with a 2.1A 5.0V power supply with a USB socket on it, much like a phone, and a swappable 2 pin plug, that could be used in a shaver socket and what looks like a US plug, and a 3 pin plug adaptor if you are in the UK. 

The Kygo uses a supplied USB C cable to charge the internal battery. There's also a handy 3.5mm jack-to-jack lead for using the line-in.    

The Kygo is "waterproof" or actually water resistant, with a flap that covers the ports, so it could be useful in the bathroom. 

According to the little instruction book, it has an IPX7 rating, which means it can be "immersed in water for up to 1 meter for 30 minutes (3 feet)", though I have not tested it, and it can float!  

The tiny instruction booklet reminds me of the Little Book of Calm from Black Books...

On the side there are Power, Bluetooth, Mic Mute and Volume buttons. Hold the power button to turn on and it starts the setup process, just like a Google Nest or Chromecast, setup is all done using the Google Home. Similarly hold the Bluetooth button to pair that to your phone. There's also a special Kygo button, apparently for Kygo content but I have yet to try that.

Sound quality is surprisingly good, fairly decent volume for a speaker of its size, with some bass to it but only if you sit to the side of it, still comparable to the Nest Mini. You can also use Speaker Pairs to create a stereo pairing if you have two of them. In stereo they sound even better, in fact very much better.   

Overall, the Kygo is a good alternative to the Google Nest Mini, with the added advantage of being portable and having a line-in and Bluetooth, which makes it much more useful. With fairly decent volume, reasonable sound quality and water resistance, it's a good little portable speaker for the price.

Sunday, 16 May 2021

Linux Audio: ALSA & PulseAudio - My First Linux Headache

I have been using Linux full time for about 9 months and it has been both a breath of fresh air and a steep learning curve. I had a basic knowledge of Linux, enough to get me by and enough to know I wanted to use it full time.

After using Linux Mint without any major dramas, this week I hit my first stumbling block. It was enough to make me question briefly if I had made the right choice. Being an Apple user for over 20 years I knew their hardware and operating systems inside out and being a relatively newbie to Linux I am still finding my feet and occasionally feel out of my depth.

I was trying my hand at music production using Reaper – a digital audio workstation - and purchased a USB MIDI keyboard (my second actually) and struggled to get the two to work properly.

Playing the keyboard it was hit and miss if the sound came out all the time. Rapidly pressing the same note it wouldn’t always play. Like I said I bought a keyboard prior to this – an Akai LPK25 – which suffered the same problem as this Korg NanoKey2.

After a process of elimination, I realised it wasn’t my rather aged hardware or my on-board sound, nor were either keyboard at fault. The problem lies with Linux itself and the way it handles audio. After some rather heavy reading on how audio works in Linux, it came down to a problem with PulseAudio.

Linux uses ALSA – Advanced Linux Sound Architecture - as a base for audio. It is built in to the kernel, but to use it within a desktop environment you use an additional layer called PulseAudio. It is this additional layer that causes audio delays. 

Latency is a big problem with Linux audio and eliminating this can be awkward. You can use a low latency kernel – although this didn’t make any difference for me - or even a real time kernel - but that requires a specific distro.

JACK is another option, but getting JACK to work can be tricky and a bit hit and miss. I couldn’t get JACK to work with ALSA, but JACK with PulseAudio didn’t solve my skipping audio issue.

I finally got ALSA working on its own and tweaking the settings in Reaper (the Periods and RT Priority) overcame my missing note problem. 

I am not going to say it is 100% perfect, but it certainly perfectly useable. I am sure further tweaks could improve my situation and even the possibilities of killing PulseAudio temporarily to free up more resources.

This is my first real problem with Linux. It pains me to say this, but it doesn’t happen in Windows and if your audio drivers do cause this issue you can install ASIO easily to overcome it. Mac has Core Audio which doesn’t suffer from latency issues either.

You can install ASIO via Wine in Linux, but I didn’t want to go down this route as that can cause more issues to resolve.

For me ALSA is working at present and that is good enough for me. It has been a huge learning curve and quite a stressful experience, but I am all the wiser now.

Written by Simon Royal. Follow me at

Monday, 26 April 2021

ThinkPad X201... Beautiful & Tiny

About 9 months ago I switched from Apple and my ultra-thin MacBook Air to Linux and picked up an older Dell Latitude E5410. Performance was great, but the size and weight bothered me. So I decided to look for a smaller alternative.

I have always liked ThinkPads and had a few very old IBM ones in the past. After a week of looking I went for an X201, this is my first Lenovo ThinkPad I have had. Specs wise it isn’t much different to the Dell it was replacing, but it wasn’t about getting a faster machine.

The ThinkPad X201 packs in an Intel Core i5 2.4Ghz processor (second gen), a 12.1” screen, older style keyboard (not a fan of the new chiclet style) plus g/n wifi, USB 2, Ethernet and ExpressCard slot. Mine came with 4GB of DDR3 RAM, but it takes the same as my Dell so swapped and upgraded the ThinkPad to 8GB.

I had a 240GB SSD running Linux Mint 20.1 and it was simple case of taking it out of one laptop and putting it in the other without any fuss or needing to reinstall anything. This I have to thank my friend, and blog owner, Carl for, as I had no idea you could do this and would have wiped and reinstalled. Linux has a long history with ThinkPads and the current latest 64-bit Mint runs a dream on this X201.

Within half an hour of this tiny beast arriving this morning I had upgraded the RAM, swapped the SSD, gave it a good clean and fixed a slight bulge in the keyboard caused by a small piece of shield underneath not being in the right place.

This is a decade old business class machine. It isn’t going to suit everyone, but for web browsing, article writing and the small amount of music, image and video editing I do, this is perfect. The integrated GMA graphics card isn’t suitable for gaming, even basic games will struggle, but I have never used my laptops for gaming.

Despite its small size, the keyboard is full size with the exception of smaller arrow keys. Typing this article on it was fantastic with the only issue being the red TrackPoint button occasionally catching my fingers when typing – something I will get used to again.

The trackpad is quite small, but you expect that on a small laptop. I like the dual mouse option, TrackPoint with buttons and a multitouch trackpad with its own buttons.

It has a few extras such as built in webcam and a ThinkLight, which is a small light above the screen which will shine down on the keyboard.

This is a beautiful laptop. My Dell weighed a whopping 2.1kg and you really felt it sitting on your lap and really that is the only thing that bugged me about it. The ThinkPad however weighs around 1.4kg and is so much lighter and smaller.

For its age, it is in excellent condition, with just a few scratches on the sides and a small patch on the top that has peeled, but it looks like it is a rubbery surface.

I am very happy. I now have a great performing laptop that doesn’t crush my legs and is just the perfect combo. Modern computers are so locked down, which is why I prefer something older that I can upgrade the memory and drives in or can insert a card such as PCMCIA or ExpressCard in to add extra functionality.

Knowing the Dell ran Linux Mint fine I was expecting the same performance from this ThinkPad. I wasn’t wrong and if anything it runs a little smoother but I cannot work out why.

This really is perfect.

Check out my YouTube channel for portable and older gaming as well as tech videos, including my video review of the ThinkPad X201.

Written by Simon Royal. Follow me at