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EricBall's Tech Projects - DIY microconsole


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Bought: Raspberry Pi Zero W, Pro: cheap at C$13.50 (+tax & shipping, case C$6), tiny (65mmx30mm), low power (powered via USB on TV), WiFi & Bluetooth (for controllers). Con: can only handle 8 bit & 16 bit gen consoles, miniature connectors require special cables (C$6)
On-Hand: 4GB micro-SD card, HDMI cable (dollar store), micro USB cable (for power), PS3 controller
For initial set up: PC (downloads etc), USB keyboard (to set WiFi passphrase), mini USB cable (for PS3 controller pairing),

I decided to use Lakka. The other popular option is RetroPie. However, both use RetroArch / libretro for the actual emulation (which is also used by a lot of other current non-PC emulator suites). Lakka is done by the same people as RetroArch and seems to have a minimalist ethos; which I tend to prefer. RetroPie can do more than just RetroArch, but I've read that makes configuraton more complex.

Getting the system up and running was a little rocky because the battery on the PS3 controller was dead - which made me think it wasn't connecting via Bluetooth. Before I realized that I charged up my son's 8bitdo NES30 Pro controller and got it connected - although that required SSH-ing into the box.

Then it was a simple matter of loading up some Vectrex ROMs (which are usable legally), clicking "Scan" and then playing some rasterized vector games.

The scanning process uses the No-Intro ROM database and automatically determines which console each ROM is for then puts them into a single list by platform. While uber-simple it does cause some issues, IMHO. The No-Intro database limits itself to perfect images of the commercial releases. So while this does exclude the huge number of hacked ROM images which other ROM images include, it also excludes homebrews. It may also cause frustration if the easiest to find ROMs for a game aren't in the database. It also lacks any kind of organization - a must when several consoles have over a thousand titles.

I started by hauling out my external backup drive and started to search for the ROMs I snarfed from USENET 25 years ago. I then took the original yencoded messages, dumped them in almost 100 separate directories (to avoid possible name collison) and extracted the file. After clean-up, I had some 6000 archives of unknown contents. Fortunately, I was able to use clrmamepro to load up the No-Intro database and use the Rebuild function to scan through those archives for any matching ROMs and re-archive them to files usable in Lakka. (Unfortunately this requires about an hour per platform.)

Of course that still leaves me with several thousand ROMs (although I'm missing some notables as my collection is mostly pre-1993). My solution is to use Wikipedia's lists of best selling video games to pull out the most popular titles and do some additional pruning by language and to remove duplicates.

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