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About this blog

Geeky things I'm up to

Entries in this blog

 

I want (but don't need) a portable system

A few weeks ago a YouTube video about the G-Boy kit caught my interest.  This isn't a portable cobbled together from old smartphone components, but an actual Wii PCB, cut down to remove unnecessary components & to make in smaller, then wired up to custom PCB to provide battery power, controls, LCD interface and replace the DVD drive with an SD card, and finally put in a custom case with the LCD etc.  Of course, many Wii titles would be problematic without the Wii remote, but the Wii can play

EricBall

EricBall

 

Vertical MAME pt 15

The base software install and configuration has been completed!  Now I just need to build the final cabinet (current roadblock is persuading my son to work on the control panel artwork).  For those who might be interested, here is the "top 40 classic vertical arcade games" which are playable:     I'm hoping I will be able to track the number of plays for each game.  I suspect there will be few which get played a lot and a few which aren't played.  

EricBall

EricBall

 

Valve SteamPal musings

https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2021/05/exclusive-valve-is-making-a-switch-like-portable-gaming-pc/   Not to be a wet blanket, but I predict failure (based upon the info in the article).   IMHO the main problem going to be processing power.  A decent gaming PC has a CPU & GPU far more powerful than the Switch and if Valve tried to squeeze that into a portable system the battery life would be very short.  But downgrading the CPU & GPU to a level where battery life if re

EricBall

EricBall

 

Vertical MAME pt 14

I got the Raspberry Pi 3A+ last week and the HDMI to DVI adapter finally showed up on Friday.  So I immediately hooked everything up and started to redo the setup (fortunately I'd tried to keep notes for most of the config changes).  I had powered the Zero off the USB hub built into the monitor which meant I could turn both on and off with the monitor's power button.  At first I did the same with the 3A+, but I got occasional "under voltage detected" errors.  At first I ignored it as it didn't s

EricBall

EricBall

 

Vertical MAME pt 13

The other day I learned lr-mame2000 doesn't save high scores.  Part of me thinks I should just accept it.  But the more I play the more I want to have the high scores saved over time.  Being on or first on the high score table is part of the arcade experience.  (Ideally I'd love it if Libretro saved the entire system state on exit so it wouldn't have to go through the initialization sequence.)  And while lr-mame2003 does support high scores, it needs more CPU.  So either I'd end up cutting my li

EricBall

EricBall

 

Vertical MAME pt 12

Focusing on the "best of the best" games was a very good idea. It meant I only had to do marquees, attract videos and control panel diagrams for 19 games rather than over 100.   This is a screenshot of my Attract Mode theme.  The marquees are instead of the more typical text game list.  And when the game is selected it shows a video of the game's attract mode.  The bottom is a basic diagram of the cabinet control panel to show which controls are used for what in the game.  

EricBall

EricBall

 

Vertical MAME pt 11

The first pass through the vertical games has been completed!  I've marked a little over 100 games as "perfect - include".  So now I'm doing a second pass.  My original thought was to have a second look at the "perfect - maybe" and "playable, 50 fps" (where MAME was skipping some frames) games, but now I'm thinking maybe I might want to whittle down even the main list.  Is it better to have more games to chose from or to try to only include those game which will probably get played?  

EricBall

EricBall

 

Vertical MAME pt 10

I've been playing through the games and I'm up to R so the end is in sight!  77 games on the "perfect - include" list so far.  So now I need to start thinking about what comes next.   Double check the games which didn't quite make the cut, in particular any "top 100" entries. For each of the games to be included, check to see if there's a child rom which should be used instead. Create merged sets for the child roms. Remove all of the roms, config files, etc for

EricBall

EricBall

Vertical MAME pt 9

Vertical MAME pt 9

Unfortunately the cardboard box didn't really have the strength to hold he monitor in place.  But I wasn't ready to build the final cabinet (i.e. spend $$ on materials).  Fortunately I was able to build a replacement using a 12x24 shelf cut along the diagonal and some Ikea scraps which were the perfect length.  I used some "hockey tape" to decorate the cut edge.  (Not sure what I'm going to do on the final version as I don't feel like spending the $$ to buy the slot cutter to use T moulding.)

EricBall

EricBall

 

Vertical MAME pt 8

So I've started playing the vertical games which MAME 0.37b5 supports and I've learned a few things.   First, while the Raspberry Pi Zero is incredibly powerful compared to the CPU of the arcade games, it is also having to emulate the graphics and audio processors as well.  So while the majority of the games are playable, the game isn't displaying all of the frames and the sound is choppy or worse.  The lower fps actually turns out to not be a big deal, but it's difficult to listen to

EricBall

EricBall

Vertical MAME pt 7

Vertical MAME pt 7

In the words of Sinstar, "Beware, I live"     As I mentioned in the previous post, I started over with lr-mame2000 (MAME 0.37b5 as a Libretro core) on RetroPie 4.7.1 (current).  While mame4all-pi is supposed to be faster, it doesn't do me any good if it doesn't support rotation.  It also became obvious that mame4app-pi is basically an unsupported hack.   Once I started over I tried the recommended solution of disabling the internal "soundcard" without success, like

EricBall

EricBall

 

Vertical MAME pt 6

While researching for whether anyone else had found a solution for my audio issues, I discovered that mame4all doesn't support screen rotation.  Bogus!   So now I'm going to try to use lr-mame2000 (the same version the MAME core code, but built on top of the Libretro platform) on the current release of RetroPie (4.7.1) - hopefully I won't have as many issues (or it won't be such a headache to resolve them).  

EricBall

EricBall

 

Vertical MAME pt 5

My current challenges are with getting the audio working - not something I expected, so it's fortunate I realized I could use the USB headset.  I've been working with RetroPie 4.5 as RecalBox is locked down by using a read-only partition.  (So I can't rotate Emulation Station.)   Audio on Linux is handled by ALSA.  It provides a lot of flexibility in order to handle the breadth of soundcards - which means a lot of complexity.  Unfortunately, there's not a lot of good, authoritative, cu

EricBall

EricBall

 

Vertical MAME pt 4

While I have made some progress, I've also encountered a bunch of frustration.   The progress is mostly on the hardware side where I realized I could plug the Raspberry Pi back into the monitor's USB hub with a old USB A to B cable via the USB B jack to micro USB OTG cable.  Then I had the second realization I could simply plug in a pair of USB headphones for audio (and use cheap USB speakers in the final build).  While the USB speakers won't be as loud as ones powered by the 12V jack

EricBall

EricBall

 

Vertical MAME pt 3

There's a saying which goes something like "progress is seldom made in a straight line" - which basically means you can't really anticipate what you need to do until you've started.  But if you're wise you'll minimize your losses.  For me that means spending time rather than $$, which is why I am forcing myself to work out the software before I spend too much on hardware.   Last night I plugged the RPi0w into the monitor (I did buy a mini-HDMI to DVI-D cable as I couldn't assume that w

EricBall

EricBall

 

700 arcade games

Several years ago I rescued a number of old 4:3 LCD monitors my employer was discarding, including several particularly nice 20" 1600x1200 Dell 2007 FP.  My plan was to use them to create vertical monitor MAME cabinets.  But having learned from past projects, I resisted doing anything on the hardware side until I'd figured out the software side.  And then, like many of my projects, that's where it waited.  I'd occasionally give the idea some thought, but never really do anything serious.  

EricBall

EricBall

 

retro 720p GPU

This is the result of think exercise to design a 2-D GPU similar to those used by 4th generation consoles (e.g. SNES, Genesis, TG16) but at HDTV resolutions.  Rule of thumb is to make it easy to program (i.e. minimum updates), while still being flexible.   Output is 1280x720 @ 60fps.  For reference, this has a 22.2usec line interval and 30 lines of VBLANK.   GPU contains internal 2.5Kbyte RAM for two 1280 x 8 bit line buffers (one is written while the other is read), reset to $0

EricBall

EricBall

 

New PC - now with Windows 10!

One side effect of trying to install SteamOS is realizing doing the base install & updates while hardwired is a pretty good idea.  However, I did take the advice of JayZ and disconnect the PC from the network for the initial install to avoid having the Admin user tied to an email address.  I've also created individual normal users for each member of the family.   The actual Windows 10 install & update went smoothly.    Then came the big test - I installed Steam, CS:GO

EricBall

EricBall

 

New PC - lessons learned (updated)

I've bought a new primary computer to replace the current one - a late 2013 27" iMac.  The iMac has been a great computer and for the most part not being able to use it to run Windows apps has been offset by being able to run MacOS apps.  Plus it gave me the opportunity to develop an iOS app.  And it has a really nice 27" 2560x1440 screen.   The problem is games.  I've been playing CS:GO's Danger Zone mode and putting up videos on YouTube for over a year and have been getting comments

EricBall

EricBall

 

making an app

YouTuber Tom Scott has just released a 16 episode series on making an app.  (YouTube link behind the Spoiler.)   I haven't watched the series (although I will), but IMHO the first question you need to ask yourself is what it's going to cost on an ongoing basis and how you plan on paying for it.   For Slide Tilt Roll, the only ongoing costs were my Apple Developer ID* and a small website & domain name**, but something like Tom's failed messaging app is going to require s

EricBall

EricBall

 

Why CS:GO Danger Zone is better than PUBG

Valve decided to make CS:GO free to play and at the same time add a battle royale mode "Danger Zone". This is great for me as I was looking for a way to scratch my PUBG itch on my 27" iMac rather than playing PUBG on phones. But IMHO Danger Zone is better than PUBG because it is only 16 players on a correspondingly smaller map. This leads to quicker, more intense gameplay and shorter games. With PUBG, I typically spent the first third of the match (10-15 minutes) looting up, the second thi

EricBall

EricBall

 

Fortnite keyboard trainer

One of the big challenges in getting good at Fortnite is getting good at building. While many hours of playing Wolf3D, DOOM, Descent etc have drilled the standard WASD key mapping into instinct, but I find I'm fumbling when I want to build. I realized I needed something akin to typing drills, so I coded something up in Javascript: <html><head> <title>Fortnite keyboard trainer</title> <script language="Javascript"> var h1txt = ""; var h2txt = ""; var id

EricBall

EricBall

 

Fortnite versus PUBG

I've been feeling minor PUBG withdrawal since my son took his Samsung tablet to college as I'm unwilling to spend the $$ to buy my own tablet for a "free to play" game. Last night i broke down and installed Fortnite on my 27" iMac. I've played about a dozen games so far and noted the following differences: The big one is the whole building mechanic. It's hard! I'm not sure I have the free time to be more than a noob. I'm certainly not expecting to win any time soon. Unlike PUBG, it look

EricBall

EricBall

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