Category Archives: Projects

How To Install RetroArch And Libretro In Ubuntu Linux

RetroArch may be the single greatest contribution to classic gaming emulation since the dawn of Nesticle: a multi-console emulator frontend spanning the history of videogames from the Atari 2600 through Playstation eras. Libretro is the companion to RetroArch that contains all the emulator cores.

Installing RetroArch and Libretro in Windows or OSX is a fairly simple process of downloading the RA binary and the Libretro cores, but in Linux, it takes a little more effort.

First, add the Hunter Kaller repository to Ubuntu and update:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:hunter-kaller/ppa
sudo apt-get update

Install RetroArch and Libretro with a couple of terminal commands:

sudo apt-get install retroarch
sudo apt-get install libretro*

When you run RetroArch, the Libretro cores will be located in /usr/lib/libretro/

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 7.26.04 PM

How To Install The nMedia PRO-LCD USB Module In Ubuntu Linux

CREDIT: nMedia
CREDIT: nMedia

To maintain a level of authenticity, the VCR required an external display like the one originally installed to show status, function, channel number, etc. I opted to replace the original 7-segment display module with a USB-powered LCD to put a modern spin on the old look. There aren’t many display modules available, so I did a little research to make sure that the nMedia PRO-LCD would be compatible with Linux drivers. Fortunately, it is, but it took much cursing and gnashing of teeth to get it working.

First, make sure that the USB cord and power supply are plugged in.

CREDIT: nMedia
CREDIT: nMedia
cable3 USB
CREDIT: nMedia
image004
CREDIT: nMedia

Power-on the computer, and the display should show a test pattern with the words “MCE Indicator TM for Media Center” dancing around. Now, it’s time to install drivers!

From the terminal, execute the following:

sudo apt-get install LCDproc

Once LCDproc is installed, configure the daemon by editing /etc/LCDd.conf in Nano or another text editor. Change the following settings to the appropriate values:

Driver=lis

Foreground=no

AutoRotate=no

ServerScreen=no

Backlight=open

Heartbeat=open

Reboot, and your LCD is ready for input! Or is it output?

How To Setup IR Remote Control Access In Ubuntu Linux

What HTPC setup would be complete without a remote control to command your rig from across the room? For the VCR, I chose the SIIG Vista MCE Remote for its compatibility and range of functions. It also happened to be reasonably-priced at Micro Center when I bought it.

To get started, plug in your IR receiver USB dongle and install LIRC from the terminal:

sudo apt-get install lirc

During installation, you will be presented with a dialog asking you to select the specific remote control you have.

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 3.49.35 PM

For the SIIG Vista MCE remote, choose “Windows Media Center Transceivers/Remotes (all)”

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 3.49.51 PM

Then, choose your brand of IR blaster (if applicable). In this example, I do not have one installed, so I chose “None”.

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 3.50.02 PM

Allow the installation to finish, then install LIRC X Utilities from the terminal with the following command:

sudo apt-get install lirc-x

Test your remote’s communication with the irw terminal command.

Point the remote at the receiver and press a few buttons, you should get some coded output on the screen. If so, congratulations! Press C to quit IRW.

If there is no output, verify that the dongle is working (there’s usually a red light that accompanies keypresses) and that the correct remote was selected in setup. You may need to reboot for the computer to recognise the new hardware.

For more on remote control setup, click here.

I built an HTPC from an old VCR

My latest grand project has come about from a desire to have an integrated home entertainment solution and an inability to find any off-the-shelf product that handles media the way I want it to.wpid-wp-1427424367999.jpg

My first impulse was to build an HTPC in a traditional desktop-style case, but I could not locate one that would fit in my IKEA Besta TV stand. As it happens, I had a cache of old VCRs taking up space in storage after my VHS digitising project, so I grabbed one that would suit well and got to tinkering.

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A few hours of Dremel work and the original RCA and Coaxial ports are replaced with USB and HDMI.
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The front RCA ports made a convenient location to add a couple front USB ports.

┬áThe form factor of the VHS turned out to fit an mATX motherboard and power supply side-by-side almost exactly. Thankfully, there was still plenty of clearance for fans and other internal bits as well. Best of all, the case pays homage to a time in my childhood when the VCR (actually, this exact VCR) was the focal point of entertainment–perhaps even more than the NES that sat next to it. After all, you can’t play Super Mario Bros. and build Lego models at the same time!

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Still a slightly jumbled mess inside, but it works.

With the internals completed, I set about assembling the software suite. XBMC provides the main interface while Firefox and RetroArch supplement functionality for most streaming services and video games. The biggest decision I’ve had to make was whether to build the system on Linux or Windows. I’ve completed comparable versions under both, but I eventually paid for a Windows 7 license to take advantage of the superior graphics processing compatibility provided by Microsoft DirectX as well as eliminate the headache of futzing around with Wine compatibility settings.

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Original serial number and patent labels joined by the ubiquitous “Intel Inside” decal.

The end result is an all-in-one streaming media, local media, classic and modern gaming machine that evokes an aesthetic of an era that is quickly fading into the annals of history.

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The original date of manufacture label: June 1993.
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21 years of reliable service and counting!
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The unit’s cassette door broke off sometime in the late 1990s, so I 3D printed a replacement to seal the innards from dust. I also replaced the original 7-segment display with a USB liquid crystal display.

VHS catalogue digitised. Be on the lookout for some crazy retro nonsense via YouTube in the near future! My parents MIGHT have caught a few of you at Still Elementary sometime in the late 1980s….

VHS catalogue digitised. Be on the lookout for some crazy retro nonsense via YouTube in the near future! My parents MIGHT have caught a few of you at Still Elementary sometime in the late 1980s….

Remember: Keep the tip nuts tight!

A still from the never-quite-completed “Math Video.”

The long-lost “lightsaber” sequence.