So, during the pandemic I decided I needed a little project to keep me busy. I’ve recently been promoted into a more Cybersecurity focused role, and had a large collection of Raspberry Pi‘s laying round, so made sense to combine the two… Which is when the ‘war chest’ was born!
I wanted to focus on creating something self-contained, and portable – so as a result, my initial hunt was for a ‘flight case’ to house all of the cool stuff! I searched for quite some time before settling on the Rock Box 2 Utility Case, which is the perfect combination of rigidity and compactness.
One of the most inspirational Raspberry Pi projects I’ve seen since the dawn of the tiny computer is the magic mirror project. The magic mirror uses a pi running a web server instance and a natty little webpage to display time, date, weather and an inspirational quote.
All this runs behind a sheet of two way mirror ‘glass’, you have to admit the end product is pretty cool! I’d be digging out my wood work tools if a) I had any, and b) was any good at practical/diy work…
Dylan Pierce has written a brilliant in depth tutorial on how to create this magic mirror which you can find here.
They say “sorry” is the hardest word, so I’ll get it out of the way straight away. It’s taken far longer than I intended to write Part 2 of this series, and many of you must have feared it had come to an abrupt end. That’s not the case though, so let’s insert an extra coin and hit continue!
In the first article I outlined the hardware we’d be needing for the project, and today we’ll be doing the initial setup and configuration on our Pi.
We’ll be using the latest version of the outstanding RetroPie project for our base install. RetroPie is available in a handy image that includes not only the Operating System for our Pi, but also a variety of emulators. Head over to petRockBlog to download the latest RetroPie SD Card Image.
After your download has completed, we need to write the RetroPie image to your SD card. The steps for doing this vary depending on if you are using Windows or Mac, so follow the appropriate section below:
First, download the very useful Fedora ARM Installer utility – it’ll make writing the image to our SD card nice and easy.
Extract the RetroPie .img file you downloaded earlier and place it on your desktop.
Insert your SD Card. It’s a good idea at this point to disconnect any removable media you might have connected (USB sticks, portable drives etc.). This will help us easily identify the SD card when we write the image.
Run the Fedora ARM Installer we just downloaded, and under the “Source” option click browse.
Navigate to your desktop and select the RetroPie image.
For the Destination option, drop down the list and select the SD card we will be writing to. You should be able to identify it fairly easily by its size.
This is super important. DOUBLE CHECK YOU HAVE SELECTED THE CORRECT DESTINATION. The data on whatever drive you’ve selected is about to disappear faster than pound coins into Dragons Lair. It goes without saying that this could really spoil your day if it’s the wrong one.
Re-read point 7, promise not to sue if you accidently wipe your PC, and then click Install. After a couple of minutes the install will complete and you’ll have a shiny new RetroPie install to play with.
I covered how to write a SD Card image using Mac Terminal in this earlier article, so head over there and follow the instructions.
OK, so now we’ve got a nice fresh install on the SD card it’s time to put it in the Pi and fire it up! On first boot you’ll be asked to set some controls for the Emulation Station front end. Emulation Station is a fantastic interface that allows us to navigate through all our emulated systems and select our games.
Once you’ve selected the controls (cursor keys are a good idea here), you’ll be presented with the menu proper. Because it’s a fresh install there is not a lot here yet, but take a minute to have a flick through the default emulated systems. Pretty cool huh? That’s enough of that though, we’ve got more work to do! Press Esc and select exit to go to the command prompt.
It’s a good idea to set some options for our new installation. These will help us manage our system and help to get the best performance out of the Pi.
Set the root account password
The root user account is very important, and has permissions over everything on the system. While it’s not necessary to set the password, setting one will allow you to log on directly as the root user. Logging in as root is not best practice, and there is probably a mob of pitch fork wielding Linux admins heading my way just for suggesting it. With projects like this though I do find it useful to have it as an option in case things go wrong. To change the password enter “sudo passwd” at the command line, enter your password when prompted and don’t forget what you set it to!
Raspi-Config is a great utility that allows you to set some low level configuration on your Pi. To run it type sudo raspi-config at the command prompt. Once in the menu, do the following:
Expand Filesystem: This allows your new RetroPie install to use all the space on your SD card.
Overclock: The Pi is an impressive piece of kit, but emulation is demanding. We need to squeeze all the juice we can out of the Pi, so we’re going to set the processor to punch well above its starting weight. On the overclock menu select the highest option, “Turbo” to give us the power we will need. If anything goes wrong after setting this option and the Pi will not boot, you can hold shift during the boot sequence to temporarily disable the overclock.
Memory Split: This option tells the Pi how much memory the GPU can use. We need to give it some extra, so allocate it 256MB.
That’s all for this instalment, but you should now have a fully functioning RetroPie install, just waiting to be crammed full of gaming goodness. In Part three we’ll begin our attack on the meat of this project – adding some hardware controls and getting our first game up and running. See you next time!
Walk into any arcade/amusements today and it’s likely you’ll be met with a sad sight. A painfully rigged grabber machine plays the same 10 seconds of some god awful pop song while inviting you to win knockoff Angry Birds plushies. A 2p pusher with a glued down plastic watch for a prize continues to pointlessly shove it’s shelves back and forth, and a Virtua Racer machine with a knackered seat and half broken screen tries to tempt you out of 50p. All the while an elderly lady who may or may not have passed away props up an aging fruit machine whose reels stick between symbols. Not even Wreck-It Ralph would want to live here. It didn’t used to be this way though, and I’m going to bring the glory days of the arcade back to my living room with the help of the Raspberry Pi.
Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be building a Raspberry Pi powered arcade emulator integrated into an arcade style controller. It’ll also be capable of emulating some retro home gaming systems (SNES, MegaDrive etc.), so by the time it’s finished we should be able to party like it’s 1989. This first version is a test bed and template for a desktop sized arcade cabinet I have planned, but I’m waiting for the awesome looking HDMIPi display I backed on KickStarter to be released before I go that far.
If like me you haven’t held a soldering iron since that “unexplained” fire at school, don’t worry, this is firmly in the beginner difficulty category. We’ll need some hardware, and for all the arcade controls I’ll be buying from the fantastic ModMyPi, a UK based company who among other things are resellers of Adafruit products. Adafruit have an excellent tutorial on their site that covers the construction of a similar setup that I used for the base of my project, but I’ll be tweaking this build by adding more buttons and pairing it with the excellent RetroPie project. My initial shopping list is:
The above linked products are just suggestions, and there are a wide variety of alternatives available. In many cases the best option is the hardware you already have, so feel free to substitute any equivalents you might have lying around. This list should see us through the project, but as this is a work in progress I’ll be sure to add anything else I come across that might be handy (or remove anything that didn’t quite work!).
In the next post I’ll cover the initial Pi setup and configuration of RetroPie, then we can move onto burning our fing- I mean, careful soldering! In the meantime I’ll leave you with an amazing arcade fact to get you motivated. In 1981, just 3 years after release, the original Space Invaders had made more than $1bn in the US. That’s well over $2bn in today’s money and each play cost just 25c…that’s a lot of quarters!
So today saw the launch of the long awaited Raspberry Pi Model B.. This small yet perfectly equipment little circuit board is almost certainly going to change many peoples lives.. Booting from an SD card the Raspberry Pi is currently able to support a hand full of Linux Distributions, including Raspbmc, OpenELEC, Debian GNU/Linux, Fedora, Arch Linux.
“So what?” I hear you cry.. Well look at it this way, how many other functional machines can you get for a mere £21.60! Sure, the Pi looks tiny, but check out the list of features below..
Broadcom BCM2835 700MHz ARM1176JZFS processor with FPU and Videocore 4 GPU
GPU provides Open GL ES 2.0, hardware-accelerated OpenVG, and 1080p30 H.264 high-profile decode
GPU is capable of 1Gpixel/s, 1.5Gtexel/s or 24GFLOPs with texture filtering and DMA infrastructure
Boots from SD card, running the Fedora version of Linux
10/100 BaseT Ethernet socket
USB 2.0 socket
RCA video socket
SD card socket
Powered from microUSB socket
3.5mm audio out jack
Header footprint for camera connection
Size: 85.6 x 53.98 x 17mm
Not only that, put the Pi supports AirPlay, making it a cheap customisable stand in for the Apple TV devices.
Popular desktop based applications have already been ported over to Raspberry Pi including XBMC, which as you can see from the YouTube video below suits the device perfectly!
That’s the exciting stuff out of the way, now for the bad news.. This device is almost certainly going to sell out in seconds.. So if I was you, I wouldn’t get my hopes up of getting one too soon. However to stand a better chance, you might want to register over at RS Components website, who will let you know when there available