What is retro gaming?

What is retro gaming?

What is retro gaming? The specifics depend on your age, but it generally means playing vintage (retro) video or computer games today. The part people argue about is what constitutes retro.

There isn’t a lot of agreement or consensus about that, and I have some ideas why.

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Tinkering isn’t dead, but it is changing

When Radio Shack announced its bankruptcy, I read more fears that the age of tinkering is dead than I read laments for the store.

I follow the logic, because Radio Shack was the only national store chain that ever tried to cater to tinkerers. But I don’t think people abandoning Radio Shack means tinkering is necessarily dead. I have plenty of indications that it’s still very much alive, but it’s also very different from how it used to be.

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The Logitech F310 on Retropie

I went looking for a reliable, modern controller to use on my Retropie setup. I eventually settled on a Logitech F310, betting the Logitech F310 on Retropie would make a nice combination based on my experience with other Logitech peripherals in regards to their quality and value for the money.

The reviews I found suggested the F310 continued in this tradition, and I found enough people who said they got it working with Linux to feel confident I could get it working on the Raspberry Pi. And sure enough, I did.

I paid $18 for mine, and my first impressions of the quality were good. It’s precise, and button pushes register with a slight click. It’s no worse than a Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo controller, and if anything, I think I liked it a little better. A pair of Logitech F310s costs more than the Raspberry Pi board, but playing games is a lot more enjoyable when the controller does what you want it to do all the time, not just most of the time.

The F310 wasn’t a drop-in replacement for the controller I’d been using, though. I had to configure it for Retroarch, the software that provides most of Retropie’s console emulation.

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And… Introducing the Raspberry Pi Model B+

No wonder the Raspberry Pi Model B was on sale. The day after I bought mine, the Model B+ hit the streets, at the same price of $35. Same CPU, same memory, but the board layout is much nicer–cables come out of three sides now instead of all four, which makes placement much less awkward–and it now comes with four USB ports instead of just two, so you can connect a keyboard and mouse and still have ports available for other things without having to plug in a clunky USB hub.

It’s an incremental improvement, but there’s definitely the potential to build stuff with it that looks more refined than the predecessor. I’m sure I’ll use one on my next Raspberry Pi project, and there will be another one. If not 12.

Setting up Retropie on the Raspberry Pi

I bought a Raspberry Pi over the weekend intending to turn it into a retro gaming system. I’d rather not have a mess of systems and cartridges out for my kids to tear up and to constantly have to switch around at their whims; a deck-of-cards-sized console with everything loaded on a single SD card seems much more appealing.

I followed Lifehacker’s writeup, which mostly worked. My biggest problem was my controllers. NES and SNES games would freeze seemingly at random, which I later isolated to trying to move to the left. It turned out my Playstation-USB adapter didn’t get along with the Pi at all, and was registering the select and start buttons when I tried to move certain directions, pausing the game.

When I switched to a Retrolink SNES-style pad, the random pausing went away. The precision reminded me of the really cheap aftermarket controllers of yore for the NES and SNES. I concluded my controller, which I bought used, was worn out. Ultimately I ended up switching to a Logitech controller, which worked well. Read more

Another perspective on Y2K

Rob O’Hara stumbled across a stash of Y2K survivalist magazines and wrote about it. I wasn’t going to be surprised if there were some minor glitches, but I wasn’t expecting the apocalypse. I withdrew a couple hundred bucks from the bank a few days in advance and filled my bathtub with water the night before, so I would have a supply of money and water to tide me over if some glitch interrupted either of them for a day or two.

In late 1999, a lot of people said I was being reckless. Today, people think I was being excessively paranoid. It’s funny how perspectives change. Read more

How to build Lifehacker’s retro coffee table on the cheap

Lifehacker posted a nice weekend project this week, a retro coffee table, but the price tag seems steeper than it needs to be. If you’re craving some retro goodness but think $300 is a bit much to spend to play old video games, I have some ideas for you.

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Are video games a good investment?

An article on Slashdot asked this weekend whether video games were a good investment. So are video games a good investment? Will they appreciate over time?

The answer is generally no. Collectibles in general are not–they follow a boom and bust cycle. I’ve seen it happen in my own lifetime.

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New Raspberry Pi this week

The Raspberry Pi Model A (the cheaper, stripped-down version) was just released for $25.

How is this news? Well, I thought the Model A was already available.

It has half the memory of a Model B, and no Ethernet, and only a single USB port.

If you’d like to be able to mess around with microcontrollers but prefer a self-contained environment, a Model A has potential, and the price isn’t all that high. I’d still probably develop on the $35 Model B so I can connect to it remotely, then swap the SD card into the Model A and put the Model A into use. But in a pinch, just plug the Model B in to a USB keyboard and the nearest LCD TV.

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