A portable game system for your life

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By Benjamin Kwiecien

By Benjamin Kwiecien

Gaming just isn’t what it used to be.

Decades ago, it was hard to use a computer without having to program it, and therefore it was hard to sell a computer without ensuring user programmability; everybody had a chance to invent new ways to enjoy their machines.

Whatever happened to those days when men were men and wrote their own programs? Back then, the best program was the one you wrote yourself after staying up all night coding while eating Hot Pockets.

Today, video game systems are nothing more than computers that you are not allowed to program (unless you are willing to pay their parent companies hundreds of dollars more than the system itself). If you do program them, you may not be allowed to market your software without engaging in costly licensing agreements.

If you have a passion for tinkering with technology and the creativity to express your imagination with it, you may not be able to do that on today’s game systems. Even if you were, you may not be able to share it.

If you don’t have such a flair for technical stuff, you might at least want to enjoy the products of that kind of passion, but if they can’t make it, you can’t enjoy it!

Granted, the market is against you-how game technology works is usually a closely guarded secret so that profits can be maximized. If you want a taste of freedom, however, check out the GP2X:

The GP2X, officially dubbed the GP2X-F100, is a video game system that comes from Korea. Erroneously referred to as “game park” by some, this system is produced by a company called Gamepark Holdings, whose slogan is “Best Partner For Life Style.”

Don’t let the cheesy tag line fool you-the GP2X is serious business; sporting a full color LCD display, stereo sound, 64 megabytes of memory, dual processors, and expandable flash storage, this system delivers a unique package.

To put things into perspective, the memory on the GP2X is two times the capacity of Sony’s PSP and a whopping 16 times what the Nintendo DS (the DS is for “Dual Screen”) has.

It may not have two screens, but how many can you watch at one time?

Out of the box it plays games, movies, music, views photos, runs applications, and opens text files.

The GP2X is an “open” console. What makes it open is the fact that anyone who buys it is free to program it however they want; the necessary tools can be downloaded free of charge on the Internet, and sharing is encouraged.

Because the software that drives the GP2X is based on the popular Linux system, it is legal to study its inner workings and make your own customizations.

Since the GP2X is open to everyone, hundreds of people from around the globe have contributed to the rapidly growing software library available for it.

So far the most popular use of the GP2X is to mimic other systems, allowing it to play games for systems like the Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and Nintendo Gameboy in their original splendor.

Hobbyists have even created software to emulate even older, more antiquated systems, such as the Atari ST, a personal computer from 1985.

Other software for the GP2X include numerous original games as well as adaptations of classics like Quake and Star Control 3.

Also available are software utilities that can browse web pages, read PDF files, and do word processing-it’s almost like having a miniature PC.

In fact, you can buy an optional expansion board the enables you to plug in a mouse, keyboard, and display for the full PC experience.

To use the GP2X by itself, you just need two AA batteries and a computer for data transfer.

Because the GP2X is a real “do it yourself” piece of equipment, Gamepark Holdings relies on community members to provide games and applications. There aren’t any companies that sell software for it, so you won’t find GP2X games in stores.

So far only one commercial game exists, though there is a cash prize contest to produce a second.

Another limitation of the GP2X is that it lacks wireless communication, which means that in order to use Internet applications and play with another person, a wire connection is needed, and you have to set that up all on your own.

Most notably, the GP2X has no 3D graphics processor. Because of the absence of fast 3D capabilities, the system is restricted to running 2D and simple 3D games.

This will leave many modern gamers dissatisfied, but the system is still capable of a lot. The 2D graphics hardware is quite fast, and is able to do tricks like scaling and accelerated movie playback.

You can order the GP2X on the Internet from between $150 and $200, which is a fair price considering that there are similar hand-held devices for sale that cost a bit more than that.

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