Friday 31 December 2021


Ok, the usual year recap thingy, biased towards the retro/c64/scifi side of things.

Retro things and machines

I've been strangely worried about being less "productive" when it comes to things like PETSCII or bitmap graphics. But all in all I did quite a lot of other things. For example, I released the C64 game Leilei Relay, even if this was mostly coded in 2020. 

Goodbye 2021

The working title was Uranus Lander (cf. Jupiter Lander), and I really did intend to make a PETSCII one-screener out of it. 

Then I got into vertical scrolling, character graphics, smooth sprite animation... This way the project grew in size.

Hyperspace PETSCII

Although I have worked on a new Multipaint version from time to time, there is no hurry and for once the program seems to work across platforms without too many bugs, so why not have a little vacation. Well, no, I did work on it but the internal overhaul is so large that it's not going to be seen out soon.

With re_monument, I did go public with the first "demo-something" intended for more modern computers. This was outed at the Vammala Party. The code was originally p5.js browser-friendly, but eventually put into Processing/Java to get the music working more easily. The music was put together with my weird MIDI-setup and the software I may eventually open up more.

Frame from re_monument

Also, I put a lot of attention on Amiga and Raspberry Pi at the first half of 2021, but stopped working on that. I'll see if I can pick up some of the things next year.

Electric kickbikes (or "scooters") became a new blog theme, first starting with the Voi rentals and eventually getting my own. It's one idea for steering my mind away from sitting in front of a computer both at work and at home. Sadly the weather's not currently very good for riding.


It looks I got to play a lot of games though.

2020 was the year of Steam/Proton, but this year I've also added Geforce Now streaming service to my arsenal. With some luck, it's possible to collect games to Steam and Epic and stream them using this service, without having to use your own hard disk space for installing.

Recently I played through last year's Cyberpunk 2077. Despite all the bloated early hype, it's a decent fairly linear story-driven game. Many in-game technologies that looked like dynamic gameplay elements in the trailers are more like skin. Granted, it might reward more in-depth play and optimizing the character's cyber implants.

Having said that, the hacking elements are rather nicely done and do not distract too much from the other gameplay. Still, it looked the fastest way to play through was to emphasize gun skills and damage hacks, then shoot everything to pieces.

Spot the glitch.

Plague Tale: Innocence was on the table too, but had to give up halfway because of stressful gameplay. Likewise Shadow of the Tomb Raider was eventually (digitally) shelved. These games are not duds but simply did not click with me now. Reventure took a surprising 16-hour chunk to play "through".

I also got round to playing Fortnite, only to find it's not that inspiring to sneak around for 20 minutes and then end up killed by the first person you meet. Somehow had already shown a better format to me. I can still understand the appeal of the game. 

Talking of, I might have continued playing, but the numerous problems with logging in, and apparent disregard for the browser version began to demotivate me. Not that many play it currently, it seems.

Proton has continued to be useful. I had quite an educational streak of fps games with the remastered QuakeBlack Mesa (Half-Life 1 remake), Halo: Master Chief Collection, and replaying Half-Life 2 once again.

Chess is still on the playlist, but the lessened playtime begins to show in the ratings. It may also be the average opponent at Lichess has become better, what with the surge in popularity of chess in general. But in any case, a vicious circle of not playing may be complete as it's not fun to see the rating drop. Yet, if the only remaining motive to play is the rating, then it may be worth reconsidering whether to continue playing at all. I'll still give it a chance when a suitable moment comes.

Sci-fi, films, TV, books

Instead of a full season there was a Doctor Who 6-parter called Flux. On one hand it was a bold experiment with disjointed story-telling, but on other hand it also suffered from the format, cramming in ideas that would have been more suitable for a full season arc. 

The show has been best when the stories have been more muted and given some time to build-up, so of course everything had to be extremely amped-up, spliced and shifting gears rapidly.

One of the Ravagers. Like, Ravages of Time. Geddit? Sigh.

Sure, Doctor saves the Earth and the Universe routinely in the season finales, an in-joke at this point, but now everything was hoovered back to the good old status quo in the most rapid and CGI-laden way possible. Plus a couple of genocides here and there.

Ok, it was actually unclear what's the state of the universe(s) now. We'll see. There's a couple of specials to come, but rumours also abound of cancelling or switching ownership of the whole series.

Sisyphus: The Myth, was initially promising but a very un-even time travel scifi show. Lost in Space ended in a decent way, but it never quite captured the concept of the original, of, you know, actually being "lost in space". Except maybe as the final punchline of the final episode. The not so great Another Life also ended, improving somewhat from the first season.

Lucifer has not that much to do with Neil Gaiman's world from which it originates, but it has been a fun and competently done series. Likewise Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency americanized the original concept a lot but was still nice while it lasted.

The 1990s mapped: as internet became widespread, Gibson had to follow

As for books, the most important was Liu Cixin and the trilogy of The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest and Death's End. (Curiously, the Finnish version of Death's End would be "Death is Eternal") It's a somewhat "post-modern" take on classic science fiction, and despite being "non-western" it's very aware of Clarke, Asimov and the like. Although working in this classical hard science fiction frame, it is comparatively pessimistic and to extent even nihilistic.

I read William Gibson's sprawl trilogy in very early 1990s, but have not really paid much attention to his later works. Now I've been going through the 1990s "bridge trilogy" of Virtual Light, Idoru and All Tomorrow's Parties.

Wednesday 1 December 2021

Zeeclo Fenix inside

As it gets somewhat trickier to drive this in the sub-zero temperatures and icy paths, it is perhaps the moment to take the Zeeclo Fenix to the garage. 

What is inside the box?

The scoot has been folded and placed upside down on top of two chairs, so the folded stem fits between them.

The bottom panel was easy to remove, there are 14 hex/Allen screws.

The inside is a curved-corner container with the battery pack, controller boxes and a huge spaghetti of cables.

Not shown is the inside of the removed panel, which also holds two more of those foam rubber bricks. It is yet unclear if there is something else than glued foam rubber holding those elements in place, because otherwise everything is simply lying on that bottom panel.

The front end after the cables is empty space, no more boxes there.

Among the spaghetti there's the grey cable loop that I understand is the speed limiter, forcing the 25km/h maximum speed. In Finland, this makes the electronic kickbike equal to a bicycle in the eyes of the law.

I've read some differing information about the true maximum speed, which might be 35 or 40km/h.

The battery pack

The battery pack certainly takes the most space. While it looks that a slightly larger pack would fit inside, I'm not sure if it would be worth the trouble. The vehicle is heavy as it is.

The amount of typos here do not really build my confidence about the quality assurances and certifications, but this alone isn't a reason to think the battery would be fake.

The ~20x10x7cm blue box contains the battery pack with this information:

Li-ion Power Battery Pack
Model: CHY3713E041090
Nominal voltage: 37VDC
Charging Voltage: 42V DC
Rated capacity: 13Ah/481Wh
Cell:18650 [=18x65mm type]
ISO9001/Authentication enterprise [=quality management standard]
IEC62133 [=certification]
UN38.3 MSDS [=certification]

Googling the "model" or a fragment of that code did not give meaningful results. Should I need a replacement, it might be not as simple to find as I thought. The DongGuan site did not have the exact model either.

18650 means the pack uses the 18x65mm cells, commonly used in electric bike and car battery packs. A 6x11 matrix of these could theoretically fit into this pack, but after peering through with a small flashlight it looks there are 5x10 cells.

Some high-level math suggests that 10 x 3.6V cells need to be in series to get at 36V. I'm thinking each odd column is upside-down in relation to each even column, as I've seen photos of comparable products do that. But this is something I couldn't see directly.

I didn't take the battery pack out now, but it shouldn't be hard to guesstimate how much the ~20x10x7cm pack could weigh:

There's a website that talks of fake 18650 batteries:

They claim that a fake 18650 battery weighs less than 42g, as little as 32g. Real cels weigh 45 or even 50 grams.


50 * 32 =1,6kg ("fake")
50 * 42 =2,1kg ("fake")
50 * 45 =2,25kg
50 * 50 =2,5kg

If the battery pack weighs less than 2kg total there might be reason to worry, but even if it weighed more it's no guarantee of best possible quality.

This also shows that the battery makes for less than 10% of the scoot's weight (27kg).

The controllers

There are two controller boxes on top of each other, and I'm now just assuming they are similar, possibly because there are two motors. At least they have the same cables coming out of them. However it looks it says "dual motor" on one, so why wasn't one enough?

Although the brakes are physical disc brakes, the levers need to override the motors, so the levers also work as a kind of clutch. This is likely the reason why the controller needs to address brakes too.

I had to tear away some of the foam rubber to see the full text, typos and all:

DC Brushless motor Contoller
Voltage: 36V
Current: 21A
Brakes: Low level
Speet set1. 1-3. 7VDUAL MOTOR

Again the codes were not that useful for finding an exact make, but the "S866" at least is a clue this plays together with the S866 display. Looking at webstores the S866 is often sold with a similar-looking controller box.

The code might actually be YKYJ06F0C01 and not "YKJY..." but that doesn't give many results either.

There are so many typos in the texts I'm unsure if the information is correct in the first place.

The indicator lights

While at it, I looked at the deck sides and pulled out one of the indicator light plastic housings. 

This was again simple to do and revealed it should be easy to remove these decorative elements.

Now if the deck and all these were removed I'd get a nice-looking black box, but I'd also have to take care of all the openings so that water and dirt don't get in. There's some black gunk that both keeps the wires in place and prevents water from getting in.

The wooden deck

I also took the opportunity to check the wooden deck and how it might be removed. 

I was afraid the deck might just be brutally glued in, but this isn't the case. Feeling around the "sandpaper" with my fingers, I discovered spots where it gave in, just a little, indicating there are bolts underneath.

The surface is probably skateboard grip tape. Pulling one corner out, the bolt could be seen, but I didn't pull it out more as this ruins the look of the surface. Perhaps after I get a replacement grip tape I can experiment more.

The deck looks like some bamboo variety, this might weigh 500 grams or even less, not very significant. The plastic decorative parts also weigh almost next to nothing.

Removing the wooden part could make the deck 8mm lower. But I'll still have to see if the wooden piece is there for a good reason or not.

Friday 12 November 2021

Halo Master Chief Collection

Halo is 20 years!

I played through the Halo: Master Chief Collection campaigns on Linux through Steam/Proton. Here are some of my experiences.

I'll say at first that at one point the MCC received a major update, and as a consequence I lost my saves. 

This means I was mid-way Halo 3: ODST and had to start it again. I'm not sure if this can be attributed to Proton, but I could not see anyone else complaining. Perhaps the lesson is, if you are mid-game, it might be wiser not to allow the MCC to update.

(21.11.2021 Edit: This actually happened again, fortunately I'd played them all through.)

I played the original Halo without knowing you can use TAB key to instantly switch between old and new graphics. Perhaps this was for the better, because doing it all the time is bound to highlight problems in a very detailed scale. As someone who is not a rabid original Halo fan, I could therefore enjoy the remaster in its totality. I've thought MCC has been a pretty good deal and do not mind that much whether the "remastering" has gone a little out of hand or not.

Most of the games worked very well, and I'll mention some basic Proton (5.0-10) experiences. The setup is GeForce GTX 1060 3GB, driver version 460.91.03. Processor is i5-4670 CPU @ 3.40GHz, 16 GiB memory and I'm running Linux Mint 19.3 Tricia 64-bit. Display resolution is 1920 x 1200.

I played these games with keyboard and mouse, but as Halo is originally a console series they should be playable with a gamepad.

Halo: Reach

I'd recommend not playing this first because you'll be spoiled. No, it doesn't reveal plot points, but it's just that good. Afterwards, playing Halo 1 and 2 may even feel like a painful experience. 

The Reach campaign is a thoroughly modern fps, with a lot of variety, clear signposting and constant narrative.

Harassing some locals

The story starts in a small way at a distant human colony of Reach, where (I think) a Hungarian agrarian settlement is suspected of disturbances. A group of elite soldiers called the Noble Six is sent to investigate. Then things start to escalate.

It does make me wonder why this Noble Six is tasked with curbing a supposed pig-sty rebellion instead of sending some mall cops, but it makes for a cool and atmospheric start. One even wishes things could have continued in this vein for somewhat longer, but there's shooting to be done.

Driving and piloting different vehicles adds spice to the game

Strangely enough, Star Wars:Rogue One (which came later) shares some plot elements with this game, and the prequel's relation to the original is also somewhat similar.

Proton verdict: Seemed to work smoothly throughout.

Halo: Combat Evolved (Anniversary Edition)

A super-soldier called the Master Chief is awoken from a deep sleep like any old frozen asset. The ship is soon breached by the alien race of the Covenant. All goes hairy, Master Chief secures the all-important ship AI Cortana, crash lands with a bunch of marines on a huge ring-world like structure and very soon the Covenant follows.

One of the few times in the series you get to be on a halo and actually see it

The forces begin to move along the Halo ring, discovering ancient structures and weird formations of nature.

To me the landing on Halo and the subsequent activity has an almost legendary status. An early example of a genuinely working outdoor environment coupled with AI that makes the game experience fun and rich rather than pedantic.

The new graphics (right) aren't always a huge improvement. The blue water looks sillier.

I'm not especially invested in the story of the Flood and the Flood enemies. It's like the game suddenly forgets the Ringworld influences and goes full-on into Aliens and Predators fare, which then mostly takes place indoors in very repetitive corridors.

As I said previously, hitting TAB will instantly switch between the new and old graphics. And I do mean instantly. Because the game physics in any case work with the original Halo meshes, in the new graphics you can sometimes see bullets hitting a tree even if they quite shouldn't!

This plays well with Proton.

Halo 2 (Anniversary Edition)

I'm not sure what happened. Of course in massive hindsight it's quite easy to say what are the good and less good parts of Halo 1. But at least during making the sequel it looks nobody thought to tone down the less interesting elements. 

Earth looks great, sadly there's not much of it.

So Halo 2 re-hashes the same ingredients from the first game, there's shooting-a-plenty of those boring aliens endlessly with their nerf guns. 

Ok, so the repetitiveness is not quite as heavy here, but it is still part of the recipe. Add to that I wouldn't compare the combat set pieces to the ones at the beginning of Halo 1. Yes, they look similar but it doesn't quite play that way.

There are some visual bugs in that the "brutes" in the videos and in actual game play look so different I was at times wondering what the hell is happening. There's also an occasional mismatch between where the cut-scenes leave off and the ensuing game situation.

Here we are again on a halo, driving another Warthog

You also get to play both the Master Chief and the Arbiter. It's a novel idea, but it doesn't add that much and I'd have preferred the game was from the Master Chief POV entirely after all. Years ago, playing the first time around I quit soon after this switcheroo.

On Proton front, this game also had the most hiccups. This could be more to do with loading and memory handling than direct GPU load, as the graphics shouldn't be too complex.

Interestingly, this choppiness occurred whenever a large and complex vista opened up, even if just turning left or right. After "eating in" the landscape, the choppiness would disappear. Reducing detail did not help that much.

Halo 3

The story continues directly from where the previous part ended. Having more fights set on Earth is a good thing because it makes the environments already more relatable. Predictably, we soon get to the other side of the universe but fortunately that part isn't overly long.

Nice foliage

I'm sorry to repeat how my benchmark for "great Halo experience" are the beginning parts of first Halo. But in this measurement Halo 3 does not offer as many comparable thrills. I still think it does the generic fps action nicely and the surroundings have variety. The change of pace is orchestrated well. 

Fighting the large Scarab spider-mechs is both somewhat frustrating but also very exciting, a set-piece in itself. The Flood continues to be as boring as ever.

It takes more than blasting at weak spots to kill a Scarab

Instead of video clips the cut-scenes are made with the engine graphics. To my current eyes this seems the better choice, but some of the characters look silly considering they are supposed to be the same as in Halo 2.

At this point game storytelling had advanced strides, but had still some ways to go. For some reason the characters end up caring about each other a lot, despite not spending much time together. There's a grand sci-fi setting and a nice, if obligatory, "reveal".

I enjoyed this more than Halo 2, and it also runs smoother through Proton. Perhaps it had tiny hiccups here and there. 

Halo 3: ODST

Not very promisingly the game starts with the most immature super-soldiers I've seen for a long time. There's also "Coming in hot! We are going to crash! Aarrgh...!" type of plotting so familiar from the other games.

This time the hero isn't the Master Chief, but a bunch of military types called the ODST. The story takes place during the alien invasion of New Mombasa in Halo 3.


The play begins from a seemingly open-ended city that is soon revealed to be quite closed after all. Yet it's quite maze-like and you need to learn to use the visor to navigate around. The waypoint creation system is something I would have thought as cool around 1994, but luckily it is only really needed in these "framing story" portions.

But now I'm making ODST sound like it's a crap game, which it is not. On the contrary, along Halo:Reach it might be the most fun Halo game I've played.

The image intensifier is almost necessary so this view gets a lot of use.

The framing story has the player moving about the nightly streets of New Mombasa. The story becomes interspersed with flashback vignettes about what happened to the other teammates, as "evidence" of their actions are found from the street.

This story device then allows the game to switch between different times and combat situations without having to bridge them directly. The threads eventually converge to the climax that happens in the present. The player as a silent "Rookie" merely observes the story that happens to the other soldiers.

A Warthog sequence with a twist.

What with the Noble Six and the ODST crew it appears there's quite a lot of these super-hero characters around, and all seem just as bad-ass as the Master Chief. I guess the player couldn't be made to suffer to play a Halo game with less effective heroes.

This game worked fine through Proton and despite having to play the first half twice I enjoyed it a lot.

Halo 4

Halo 4 looks like a stylistic leap compared to all the other games. It was released in 2012. To give perspective, this is not far from the new Tomb Raider of 2013. The fourth part was made by 343 Industries and not Bungie, the original developers of Halo.

Master Chief wakes up again.

I felt at first this might have the potential to be the best Halo yet. But then... what can I say. Well, I've been thinking Halo games are maybe a little too similar, but when they come up with something new I'm not quite happy either.

I'd think it's fair to assume that in an fps it's usually more satisfying to fight something that's at least remotely humanoid. And not some totally unrelatable, annoying flying mechanic-metaphysical fucks that take million shots from these wonky new guns.

A weird new world and weird new guns...

Things get better though. It's just that the superiority of these new hostiles has to be first underlined by having them really resilient, which isn't that fun.

The story attempts to put more focus on the few characters, including a distinct enemy leader persona. Although the storytelling might be now more competent, this emphasis is somewhat hit-and-miss.

...and some mandatory Warthog driving.

The quality of visuals is uneven. As I said the beginning looks surprisingly next-gen. There are more environment effects, and the Covenant aliens look far more detailed. But then there are sections that are not so far developed and would not have looked out of place in Halo 3.

Again, Proton did not have any major problem with this campaign and it was very playable.

On the whole

So, that's it, more Halo than a person can bear, and I'd say the campaigns are a good deal if it can be found in the 20-30€ range or less. In this I don't include the multiplayer, which due to Easy Anti-Cheat probably won't work in Linux/Proton without tinkering.

The achievements didn't work, not sure if that has something to do with my settings or not.

The games look good, obviously much better in motion than in these static and somewhat random screenshots.

There's loads of stuff that probably only relates to multiplayer

I'd perhaps nominate Halo:Reach as the best here, partly because it's so clear, concise and sweet, partly because it doesn't have the Flood and the Master Chief/Cortana interactions that tend to get somewhat boring in the long run.

Without thinking too much, from best to worst:

Halo: Reach
Halo: ODST
Halo 1
Halo 4
Halo 3
Halo 2

Saturday 6 November 2021

Handlebar adjustments

Dott me a favour and don't Tier me up

A few notes after a some more kilometers behind with Zeeclo Fenix. The season has not yet closed in Helsinki, there's no snow on the ground and it's not significantly colder than it was a month ago. If anything, rain and work has prevented me from trying it out more.

I had a 6km and then 13km trip with the fully charged battery, so I'm starting to think it's safe to say 20km is possible. I weigh about 80kg, temperature has been around 5-10 degrees celsius.

I thought I'd not be self-conscious while driving a scooter, being past that after driving the rentals. But I have regressed a little, thinking this might look silly(!) It might help to remove that logo and the "wooden" decorations. The deck part doesn't really even exist in comparable models.

But, first adjustments first.

Handlebar adjustments

Tinkering was one motive to get this particular model. I had done some basic alterations but was not satisfied with the position of the 2nd motor button.

The old arrangement

I moved the button cluster to the left side and the display to the right. Now pressing the dual motor button is done with the left hand and does not conflict with the throttle.

Of course now the 3 different speed modes cannot be as easily accessed but I generally only use the mode 3 anyway. It's also better not to fiddle with the display options while driving.

It's not obvious that three attachments fit on the same side, because to fold the handlebar, the "locks" have to be pulled outwards and the bar needs to have some room for that, about ~1.4cm each side.

The new arrangement

About that moving. It would have been easier if both the display and the button block could have been exchanged, but only the display can be removed "upwards". Everything else has to be pulled out via the handlebar ends. 

So I had to pull out the rubber handles, levers and the thumb throttle just to exchange the handedness of these two items. 

The rubber grips were diabolical. Loosening the screws did not help much, so they are just inched out by rotating them with full-body force. I got a blister but at least no hernia. They went back far more easily. 

By the way the included wrenches did not have a size for these grip tightening screws, so I used my own.

Almost needless to say, I liked the new arrangement better. As a further adjustment I rotated the button block so the 2nd motor button is closer to the thumb. (Not done in the above image).

The button is still quite tiny. A future idea might be to have an additional well-placed, "boost" button that simply keeps the 2nd motor on while pressed. There's no complex electronics inside that button block, just switches.

What else?

Another thing I did was to measure the display speedometer against a mobile phone GPS-based speedometer app. This could be done more systematically, but at least it looked that while driving the 25km/h cruise, the app showed the same.

I've occasionally had a feeling the steering is more hungry to turn to left than towards right. It's worth investigating, possibly something to do with the cable lump.

There are many parameters inside the display menu, and I'll get back to those later. 

I also need to understand the disc brakes better, and if there are some adjustments to be done there.

Saturday 30 October 2021


So I went and bought a Zeeclo Fenix Dual e-scooter, also known as U322.

My previous experiences are based on driving the Voi Voiager 3X rental scooter for a couple of months. Ultimately the itch to have my own got the best of me.

Comparison and choice

I did an uncharacteristic amount of searching and comparison of features, compiling them into a spreadsheet, and even watched Youtube video reviews. 

First I didn't know what factors to choose, starting from price, range, top speed, weight and wheel size. I realized only later that deck size, clearance and wheel type might matter. Or that power could be discussed in terms of V/mAh and not just wattage. 

The Voi rental scooters set the bar quite high. I felt I wouldn't want less than ~10" wheels, and all the smaller scooters looked too feeble anyway. So scratch Ninebot E45E, E22 and the like. Scratch everything that can't make 25km/h. In fact, if it can go bit more on paper, the better, because then the scooter can likely do the actual 25km/h.

The final choice was between a Segway Ninebot Max G30LE (G30LP) and the Zeeclo Fenix with dual motors. The Ninebot would have been cheaper and a rational choice for a first scooter: a well known make, a clear design iteration, probably more sophisticated battery, better water resistance and some anti-theft measures.

Comparing numbers was a valuable process, but ultimately I made the choice based more on feeling than justifying features through price. The Fenix looks more interesting and is probably more powerful.

What confused me is that Zeeclo Fenix looks outwardly quite similar to many models, such as Smartgyro Speedway/Rockway. At Aliexpress I could find a very similar MaxWheel T4 MAX 600W that's also much, much cheaper with many similar parts.

The Manfirth site on UK, sellers of MaxWheel T4, says "We also now have the T4 Max DUAL electric scooter available c[o]urtesy of Zeeclo." So again I'm not sure what all this means, likely that the normal T4 is not as powerful.

The similar appearance doesn't mean they are the same scooter. For example, the Smartgyros are more expensive and have more powerful engines and batteries. (Likely too powerful for the local law here). I'm simply hoping the price was reasonable for the dual motors.

The Fenix

So, what about this "patinete?" 

Firstly, I'm not sure if the two 500W motors make it comparable with a 1000W single-motor scooter, but there they are.

The whole scooter is somewhat larger than I expected, a tiny bit longer than the Voi, 122cm from the tip of the rear fender to the front wheel. Weighing at about 28kg, which is a horrible amount to carry in stairs. Also forget about popping inside a store and casually carrying the scooter in one hand.

Despite having large ground clearance and very visible shock absorbers, it is not marketed as an off-road scooter. The Ninebots might have better water resistance.

Friends with Voi.

The deck size is 54 by 19.5 centimeters. The entire block is 23 centimeters wide. The deck is slightly more elevated than in many scooters at ~22cm. The wheels looked like ~25cm size.

The deck is covered with what appears to be sandpaper(!) but it gives a good grip. The edges look like they are wooden. The huge logo on the deck is not that pleasant and I could think of covering or replacing it in the future, sorry. The logo on the stem is more stylish.

There's a normal-looking LED headlight, small taillight and large-ish indicator lights at the front and back of the deck sides. I've understood the indicator lights are not very visible during daylight, and there are no lights at the top of the handlebar. There's also a co(s)mic LED ribbon light around the deck, which can illuminate the ground at night. To my surprise these ribbons were quite loosely fit.

Some key measures, centimeter accuracy. Picture not to scale.

At places the build quality is very robust but in details there are some rough choices. The brake wires and electric wires are very visible all around, and are kept in place with zip ties. I also found myself adjusting and tightening many rubber and plastic parts after taking the Zeeclo out of the box. 

The upside of this might be the parts are then more visible for repairs and adjustments. Many of the parts look like you can buy them from Aliexpress or something, such as the Focan S866 generic E-bike display. So the Fenix may be less black-boxed than for example a Ninebot/Xiaomi.


I gave a little kick and went on. Not much power, so let's put on the third "gear". My very first emotion was of horror mixed with disappointment—the acceleration felt feeble and the smallest climb looked like a problem.

Then I turned on the second motor and all was fine, it's really brisk and powerful. Every small hill I've climbed with the Voi was easily conquered with the Fenix dual motors. It's silent, too.

The slowish acceleration with single motor is not a big problem, but I had to learn to anticipate stops and starts differently in actual traffic.

Switching the 2nd motor on and off during driving adds some complexity to the task, especially when the display has no indicator about the dual motor status. I tried to keep from using the 2nd motor constantly, as I believe it is a battery-eater.

Friends with Tier.

I drove from Vallila to the Helsinki City centre, using the bikeway next to the railroad track, probably the best place for test driving (and photos). There are peaceful long straights and also some short but steep hills. It's also a typical trip I've done a few times with the Voi. The weather was near-raining, so I didn't dare go further.

The Fenix has an automatic "cruise control" that maintains the speed. At times this got stuck to 20 or under, and the system had to be shaken out of it to get to 25 km/h. This takes some time to get accustomed to. The cruise control reacts naturally to braking so no problem there. 

The dual motor drive is powerful and responds almost too aggressively to the thumb throttle. Starting from stand-still it can give quite a kick and throw dirt, I'd perhaps prefer only use it to boost the hill climbs.

Edit: I wrote of "pneumatic" tires, but looking at them they appear to be "tubeless", which brings in some pros and cons. But as opposed to solid tyres, they are not that dissimilar. So I just removed the word "pneumatic" although they are air-filled.

The hugely visible suspension didn't do much in the urban context, the wheels are more important for the overall experience. The wheels are so smooth they actually felt a little "flabby" when compared to the Voi hardness. I tried the scooter on a cobblestone-like surface and it's certainly more bearable than with the hard tires.

I was worried about driving on piles of wet fallen leaves, because I can't really see if there are dangerous items under.

The first push towards scooter ownership came from the speed reduction of the Voi rentals (from 25 to 20). Now, the extra speed meant surprisingly little, and I nearly forgot to write about it. The difference wasn't that huge after all. Or: it's easier to notice a cut in speed than a small increase.

Much like with a bicycle, everything at the handlebar can be adjusted. Wrenches are included.

I rotated the light/dual/horn switch block to make the 2nd motor switch more accessible. This also helps the handlebar to fold into smaller space as the block is not in the way. 

The gear is more like Eco-mode select.

The DUAL button is quite small given how often it is needed. Only afterwards I saw it is an on/off switch with a click, but driving with gloves on I didn't really get that.

Final notes

At least out of the box (after recharge) my feel was positive. Time will tell how durable the battery and the wheels are. 

The stem and handlebar do feel somewhat light in comparison, but the ride is still smooth. The scooter is collapsible, and the main hinge is a great piece of work. The joint doesn't move or shake at all during driving, and the folding is very easy to do. Sand can get in there, though.

I suspect the battery does not give much range despite the weight. Already after 10 km (odometer insists 8), the battery had gone down a few notches. After driving 5 km more the indicator was on the last notch.  However the voltage was still at 37, which according to one chart I downloaded should mean there's still lot to go. 

I'll try to verify the range issue later, which may be tricky as one is not supposed to drain the battery fully! I have no idea how the battery indicator is scaled, the manual might have more information about it.

Optimistically, the range might be about 20 km for a person of 80kg weight. What I've read about scooter ranges, it's not uncommon to have 50% of the advertised range, so the 35 kilometers here probably translates to less than 20.

I won't give up driving rentals because they are more functional for going to many places, but I hope to continue with the Fenix before the weather becomes unbearable. I guess I'll need a helmet, too.

More final notes

Google translate does an ok job with the warnings at page 16, so I'll just replicate it here:

Before connecting the charger to the charging port, make sure it is in the "off" position. Connect the charger plug to the charging port, which is located on the lower right side of the battery case.

Plug charger into outlet. A light signal will turn on indicating the state of the battery. The red light signal indicates that the battery is charging and the green light signal that it is already charged.

Under no circumstances allow the battery to discharge completely as you run the risk of permanent damage.

Warning: Before using the electric scooter for the first time, the battery must be fully charged - eight hours. Failure to do so will risk permanently damaging the battery and voiding the warranty.

NOTE: the charger has a green or red light signal to indicate the charging status of the battery. During the charging process, it is normal for the charger to become warm.

NOTE: In case of not using the scooter periodically, it is recommended to charge it monthly. Failure to do so will risk permanently damaging the battery.

Charging first time, I've got to say the charger light was green already after few hours. What can I do but to follow the instructions. The instructions also say that the following charges should be 6 hours.

Thursday 21 October 2021

Halo and Half-Life 2

Since I played both Half-Life 2:Update and Halo: Anniversary Edition back-to-back, I felt it might be fun to reflect on both of these two early-2000s games.

Whereas Half-Life 2 works natively on Linux, I used Steam/Proton to run Halo: Anniversary Edition, which is an updated version of the original Halo:Combat Evolved. I'm pleased to say at least the single player campaign worked rather well and there's nothing a 1060 GPU couldn't handle.

Start me up (Halo)

I did once play Halo on Xbox for a while, but I probably gave up around the map with snow, tanks and floating gimmicky craft. Or when the new alien faction appeared.

The original Halo 20th anniversary is close by, and the Anniversary Edition will be 10 years old, so it's a fitting moment tor play it through.

Half-Life 2 (and the update) has become a replaying favourite, I think I've now played it and the two episodes through more than 5 times over the years.

The beginning (Half-Life 2)

It's worth noting the Xbox original Halo was played with a console game controller, but I feel it's now much better to play using the accepted mouse and WASD combination, just like HL2. I nudged the mouse sensitivity to make the turning speed closer to what it is in Half-Life.

Combat and game play

I'll say this straight away: Halo at its best has more dynamic combat situations than in HL2, which is largely scripted. I also like how Halo fights can have a tactical angle, as positioning the Warthog and flanking the enemy yourself can have a nice crossfire effect from your team.

The battlefield does on occasions feel like a living thing, with the player as Master Chief doing his scalpel movements. The co-working marines actually do something, unlike the NPCs and the "squad" in Half-Life 2.

Send in the space marines! (Halo)

I remember when playing Halo on Xbox I was struck by the appropriateness of the marines' banter and the aliens' reactions: the little monsters running away from you screaming in terror was a novelty.

Now, to my more experienced eyes it all doesn't seem quite as seamless, and the AI reactions appear far more mechanistic. Those critters do little else except run aimlessly and scream!

It can look surprisingly nice... (Halo)

However, the above praise mostly applies to the beginning half of the game. After that Halo tends to be more repetitive in its surroundings and reverts to solo fighting towards the end. The interiors tend to be more monotonous, relying surprisingly lot on 90-degree angled corridors. Some levels like the "library" are just sadistic repeat. 

At points, the game can generate infinite amounts of monsters, unless the player has the wits to move past them. So, situations I was stuck in for a while could be played quite quickly with this in mind. After completing I had 15 hours of gametime on my Steam.

...but you'll be spending more time looking at this. (Halo)

Looking this from more positive angle, Halo has a more "arcade" feel, the player blasts away against hordes of alien creatures, picking up bonuses and extra ammunition on the go.

Half-Life 2 environments are mostly unique, and the player rarely gets disoriented. The spaces are also more subtly three-dimensional than in Halo, which often has enormous diagonal platforms for transporting the player and enemies between floors. This seems a little "1990s".

One of the micro-puzzles peppered around the game. (HL2)

The physics engine in HL2 also helps make combat richer. After the objects can be manipulated with the gravity gun it's possible to fight with explosive barrels, gas containers, blades and plain bricks. Bashing crates with the crowbar to get supplies can sound primitive, but it adds a little "something" to the game.

There are situations where the scripted Half-Life approach fails. The "squad" element later in the game is largely an illusion. It supports the narrative turn where Freeman, previously on the run, now storms the Combine stronghold alongside the rebels. The sections with the NPC Alyx, again mostly scripted, works better.

Meet the cannon fodder. (HL2)

But although the squad can be commanded, this has little use as the battlefield doesn't really work that way. The jumping mines are another rather useless addition in this context. Sure, you can position your squad and position the mines, but unless enemies are triggered to appear, there's little use trying to fortify a situation that's not meant to be fortified.

Instead of the direct hit points of Half-Life and the like, Halo has the famous "halo shield", wait for a moment and your shield will replenish. I guess this helped level design as the distribution of health packs doesn't need to be so balanced. After surviving a desperate skirmish you are as good to go after the shields revive.

The beginnings of a "cover" system. (Halo)

In Halo's favour, limiting weapons to two at a time modulates the combat experience in a fun way. Marine and alien guns are suitably different and you need to think of the combinations, or have to make do with a bad weapon for a while. The Half-Life 2 "carry all" policy is in turn a little old fashioned here. Master Chief can also hit the enemies with the weapons, whereas Gordon has to switch to the crowbar in order to melee.

Grenades are more important in Halo and can be thrown using a single key. (They are carried alongside the two weapons) Again, HL2 insists you select the weapon first and then throw them. The gravity gun does mean that grenades, including enemy grenades, can be manipulated in more ways.

The inevitable "exploding barrels" (HL2)

As for saving, Half-life 2 has the Doom/Quake style exact game state, so a difficult situation can be negotiated by saving often. Which is sort of silly, but less frustrating and nice for someone who just wants to revisit the game. Halo saves "checkpoints", so be prepared not only for similar situations but to play a difficult spot multiple times.

As a rough summary Halo does outdoor combat better, whereas HL2 has more clever and varied interior situations. Add to that every occasion in HL2 tends to be unique in some way, and the physics-based objects add greatly to the feel of being there.

Milieu and Story

Much has been said how Half-Life 2 manages to tell a story through simply showing details about the world. The protagonist, Gordon Freeman, "wakes up" in a train car headed for a derelict city, apparently somewhere in Russia. It's not initially clear how everything relates to the Black Mesa incident in HL1, but soon it dawns on the player years must have passed. This city has become a kind of concentration camp in some kind of police state, oppressed by a Civil Protection with futuristic equipment.

In many places you can see touches of brutalist alien technology, culminating at the enormous Citadel. As the player character says nothing, the explicit parts of the story are advanced through NPC exposition at key moments in the game. Yet there's no-one to fill in with the full history of the Combine invasion and how Earth was oppressed.

Dr. Breen supplies some of the backstory (HL2)

Halo utilizes third person and cinematic cut-scenes to show the interaction between the Master Chief, Cortana AI and other characters. The Master Chief himself is apparently a cryogenically stored super-soldier which is woken up in the time of dire need.

Now, the humans are losing a space-operatic space-battle against something called Covenant, and the only course left is to salvage the precious ship AI and crash land on the inner surface of a massive ring-shaped structure floating in space, the titular Halo. The Covenant lands there too though, and a race towards securing the assets of Halo begins.

The story is a mix-and-match of science fiction ideas, ranging from Ringworld to Starship Troopers/Aliens, with a touch of Ender's Game and perhaps even Dune.

Now where I've heard that one before... (Halo)

I'd say the Half-Life 2 story and world-building aspects always felt more original than Halo, which relies more on the typical science-fiction grandeur and the gung-ho space marine antics. Then again Halo was hugely influential on game visuals, and the creators of HL2 had ample time to create a clear response to what had became a cliché.

Instead of grand space operatic sci-fi fare, Half-Life 2 world uses ordinary, mundane looking cityscapes to a great effect. There are dilapitated rusty structures peppered with garbage, graffiti and everyday objects.

There's a lot of what I'd call a micro-narrative in HL2. Not only are the NPCs orchestrated to comment and move around as the player enters their sphere, but many spaces seem to "say" something by itself. Also, various mini-puzzles and different opportunities arise here and there, both optional and mandatory.

One of the atmospheric interiors (HL2)

Still, the Halo approach is done rather well too and the musical score helps tie it all together.

But I'll again point out how artificially stretched out Halo felt. This is also reflected in the narrative. The player is dragged in by sophistication and complexity and yet the second half of the game is mostly blasting away. The AI-driven situations are soon replaced with mindless, repetitive zombi-alien bashing. Well, there's some cleverness in identifying which faction needs to be supported as the creatures and other actors battle it out. 

There's also less of that micro-narrative. On occasions the AI comments on something but that's about it. Additionally, the idea of advancing the ring structure is soon forgotten and even made trivial. Certainly it has little geographical meaning. The setting could just as well be some strange planet or moon.

Give me my Warthog! (Halo)

Half-Life 2 throws constantly new elements to the mix and just about as an environment starts to get boring there's a change of scenery. The meticulous geographical advancement parallels the narrative, and although it may be a strained as a story device ("The teleporter didn't work! You'll have to come by land!") it is satisfying. Although the Citadel at the end is not a high point of the game it is fortunately not very long and at least offers one more gameplay twist.

Both games have vehicles. Half-Life 2 has an airboat and a car. These are features of a particular part of the story, and once those acts are finished the vehicles are not seen again. It is also possible to play the areas without using the vehicles, but this isn't exactly normal play.

Driving the airboat (HL2)

Already near the beginning, Halo has the Warthog, an extension of the soldiers' military capacity. Later, some more alien crafts are used but in my opinion they are mostly boring and move in uninspired ways. There is also one forced Warthog sequence near the end which is rather painful to perform considering the clumsy car controls and the checkpoint save system.


My experience with the repetitiviness of Halo makes it unlikely I would play it again in the near future.  But I have the sequels and a prequel if I want to go on exploring the Halo-versum. For those just wanting to see the game through I'd recommend playing it on easy difficulty.

I believe Half-Life 2 is ultimately the better game, but then again it was published a few years later.

I did start playing the Halo: Reach prequel and it looks like a much more modern, story-driven game with twists and variety all around. Linux had perhaps slightly more hiccups with this one, I had to explicitly set pulse audio, and also encountered some fullscreen glitches, but once it runs it plays good. 

Although the Master Chief collection order suggests playing this prequel first, I think it was still a good choice to start with the original Halo.

What with Quake, Black Mesa, Half-Life 2 and Halo, this has become a season of fps for me. To end on this note, here's a semi-random timeline of fps games from the golden age:

  • Quake: Jun 1996
  • Goldeneye 007: Aug 1997
  • Unreal: May 1998
  • Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Aug 1998
  • Half-Life: Nov 1998
  • Medal of Honor: Dec 1999
  • Perfect Dark: May 2000
  • Counter-Strike: Nov 2000
  • Halo: Nov 2001
  • Call of Duty: 2003
  • XIII: Nov 2003
  • Half-Life 2: Nov 2004