• Arcade at Home

    So as I mentioned previously, now that I have my MythTV system rolled out (fairly successfully, I think), I’ve found myself playing a lot of old games that I haven’t touched in years. Sure, in the past, I’ve been able to play these games on a computer, but there’s nothing quite like being able to experience them in my livingroom on a proper (nice and fuzzy) TV with a decent joypad. However, the joypads I’m using (are nice cheap USB Logitech pads) don’t do a good job of replicating that true Arcade Experience (tm).

    Enter XGaming. These guys are in the business of building arcade-grade gear that can be interfaced with a PC, for use primarily with MAME. XGaming have been in the biz for quite a while, marketing their X-Arcade stick, a control built with arcade-grade joysticks and buttons, mounted on a nice, heavy base. Very nice. And at $129, their Dual Joystick, which sports two full control sets mounted on a single platform, is an absolute steal.

    But then evil-Jeremy, my Go playing friend and source of generally bad financial influence, pointed me at Treyonics Controls. Like XGaming, they build arcade-grade PC-compatible sticks, but their Centurion really stands out. Why? Well, it sports 4 more buttons than the XArcade, which is nice, but more importantly, it is equipped with a heavy-duty trackball and dial! Finally, I can play Arkanoid the way it was meant to be played, right in the comfort of my own livingroom! Further, their sticks are 4/8-way switchable, meaning you can play games like Donkey Kong, which used a 4-way stick, on proper, authentic controls, while still being able to use the 8-way stick for high-twitch games like Street Fighter II. My only fear is that they don’t currently have prices available… I can’t imagine it’s cheap (though damned tempted, whatever the price :).

    Of course, all this got me thinking: what if, one day, I could build a proper arcade cabinet? And that’s when I found arcadecontrols.com. These guys provide all the information and directions you need to build your own cabinet from scrap or pre-built parts, including explanations of various materials and technologies, wiring diagrams, tips and tricks, and links to part suppliers. Could make for a very cool project once I get my media room done…

  • It's Aliiiiiive!

    Yes, it’s true! The MythTV frontend works! But what about the RAM, you ask? Well, I decided to take the stick back to Best to get a refund/swap/something. It was at this point that I discovered that, surprise!, I can’t get a refund! Apparently it was a final sale or something, which I evidentally didn’t realize at the time. This is especially shitty since I’m willing to bet that the stick is simply incompatible with the board, for whatever reason. But, they’re testing it anyway… and if it turns out to be good, I’m either going to try to get it swapped for a DDR2-533 stick or a store credit. And worst case, I could probably sell it.

    Meanwhile, I decided to head to Futureshop and buy a stick of DDR2-533 ($71 “open box”, even though it had never been opened). My thinking was that, if I get a working stick out of Best, I can always return the new stick to Futureshop. After all, they’ll give me a refund. And, surprise surprise, with the new memory, the EPIA board POSTs just fine. Shocker!

    The bright side is I now have a working Living Room Frontend! It’s not yet perfect, of course. The video output isn’t perfectly scaled to the screen size (apparently the TV-out chipset isn’t fully supported under Linux, yet.. yay!). DVD playback is very jerky (although the CPU isn’t pegged, so something else is going on there). And there are a bunch of things I haven’t finished, such as getting the VFD working, or enabling suspend-to-RAM.

    OTOH, TV playback, itself, is perfect, with no tearing or stuttering, and the IR receiver I picked up works beautifully (although I need to adjust the receiver position a bit to improve reception). So overall, I’m pretty happy with it.

    Update: Well, I got the VFD working! It was pretty darn easy, too. Lircd, the software I’m using to receive IR signals from the remote, has a driver for the display device, so I just needed to install lcdproc, and voila!, it works!