Monday 2 May 2011



Saturday 30 April 2011


Well, I thought the day would never come, but here we are. I'm at the hardware store, waiting on the saw man, to take this last panel (£10) and turn it into 2 main panels that I can cut for the sides and some off cuts for the kickboard, top pieces, etc.


And after the saw...


And after a couple of hours of cutting and drilling, I end up with the below. Note the kick board, and I've removed the transparent panel at the top. A difficult decision for me, as I spent a long time designing the logo, and getting it printed on vinyl, but it's oversized for this new cabinet, and since replacing the pc guts with an old laptop (higher spec, better performance) I no longer have a 12v supply to drive the light in the marquee.


Jobs still to do: paint new panels, replace 1UP and 2UP buttons with proper icon ones, install 12v supply and do something about the marquee, replace speakers (interference and heat on current ones) - I think that's it.

UPDATE: panels painted...


I've got the bug again now - maybe I'll start a new project? :-). I fancy an ultra small unit (small bartop, one player) with maybe a Tron-type flight-stick with trigger or a trackball or maybe a driving unit?

Monday 23 August 2010

Powered by Ubuntu (2)

Still have to get the side panels sorted, but a couple of final changes before I do that.

I was concerned that the cabinet was too short, as the angle of the screen and the angle I had to tilt my head to play, wasn't the best.

As such, I've bought some cabinet legs - the kind you put on kitchen cabinets, and have attached to the base.  They lift the unit up by about 6 or 7 inches and that makes all the difference.  I'll be able to clip a cover to the cabinet legs as per "kick boards" on kitchen cabinets.

Also, I've whipped out my paintbrushes and made a stab at putting a big ubuntu logo on the front.  I'm not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, but I think it looks ok.

Tuesday 17 August 2010

Some words about the software

It's probably worth talking a bit about the software.

This time round, I've stuck to my principles and stayed with Ubuntu, but instead a trying to build a perfectly tuned system from the ground up, i've installed an "off-the-shelf", vanilla Xubuntu desktop and trimmed off the unnecessary.

Xubuntu is a variant of the standard Ubuntu image, using the XFCE desktop instead of gnome, and is optimised for older machines, in that it's less resource hungry. This should keep the processor and memory focused on running the emulator and not on producing fancy desktops in the background, that aren't being used.

If you're not a Linux fan, think of it this way - if you're using Windows to run your arcade machine, you've got to use your antivirus software for starters (not needed on Linux) then you have the whole windows OS and all it's bloat running in the background instead of focusing on the job you want the computer to do. Linux isn't as scary as it was a few years ago, and these days, most hardware etc. works straight from the go - no driver installations or other steps to get stuff to work. It really is worth a look.

Preaching finished - back to my setup. Vanilla Xubuntu from During the install, I made sure to choose an easy username, and password and chose auto-login. The machine needs to login automatically as I will only have the arcade controls available, and it doesn't need to be secure.

I also spent some time in the partition manager, as I like my root and home partitions separate - I find it helps with reinstalls and upgrades. Just a personal preference - nothing to worry about if this isn't for you.

After the first boot, I spent some time removing everything I didn't need, such as office software, multimedia software, graphics, printing, games(!) - you get the idea.

Then added something from the ubuntu software centre - open ssh server. This will enable me to remotely connect to the machine and do anything I need to, such as upgrades, adding new ROMs, etc. And of course, I have to install mame.

Then it's installing Wahcade from - it's a free frontend to sdlmame thank has fantastic configuration capabilities, a screen layout editor, and loads more. No more trying to invent the wheel for me!

I'll post some screenshots when I can, but it's easier for you to take a look yourself.

Thursday 12 August 2010

Powered by Ubuntu

I decided to put the power button on the front under the monitor, with the HDD activity LED next to it. Bought a 30p (extortionate!) LED holder, drill and mounted on the front panel. Notice the Ubuntu Sticker on the power button recently acquired from Canonical's Store. I'll be working on some more Linux art for later on...

Finished the speaker panel

I'm afraid the photos are few and far between now.  I mounted the speakers on the speaker panel so that their centres were over the drilled hole patterns.

Attached the monitor panel to the control panel in the usual way:

I added some sides to the speaker panel, added the top, and put the marquee I made from the mark I arcade machine on the front of the speaker panel.

I have some of those cold cathode tubes from eBay (<£10) that people use to "bling" their PC cases, and have mounted these behind the marquee to provide the backlight.

Speaker/Marquee section done.

Mounted on top of the monitor section - done.

Smashed carefully extracted the power button and hard disk activity led from the front of the PC case.  I don't know about you, but I find that blinking light so reassuring when I turn a computer on, and like to see it flashing like mad if I've pressed something and the computer seems to be stuck.  I wired the power button up to my remaining arcade button that I've saved since I acquired the controls, and used some Cat5E cable to placed them in the marquee/speaker section for now, until I decide where I want them permanently.

Roughly and quickly wired everything up and turned it on:

Well blow me down, it actually works - I haven't cross wired anything and none of it caught fire - a first for me.

Drilled some holes in the back of the PC case bit so that I can put a 4-gang extension lead inside the case so that only 1 plug comes out, and also for a network cable.  Once I fasten all this together, I need to be able to manage it remotely, although I do still have access to my keyboard and mouse in the control panel section (see earlier posts for details)

That's about it for now.  Need to put some sides on at some point in the near future, but for now, here's some photos to keep you drooling.

Friday 6 August 2010

Day 3 and lots done

Day three of the recent "spurt" saw lots accomplished.

My plan today was to cut, prep and paint as much as possible early on in the day, so I can get some more of the final thing assembled.  The more this starts to look like the finished job, the more motivation I have to finish it.

The monitor I have is 17" and is that standard "computer monitor grey" colour, so I'm going to need to paint the bezel black so that grey bits aren't showing through the front of the machine.  Try as I might, I can't dismantle it to remove the bezel and paint it, so I've had to carefully mask out the screen and paint the whole thing - only need to do the front as it's the only part to be seen.

Took one of the off-cuts and will build the speaker panel from it.  Offered it up on the top of the monitor panel, marked it out, drew a speaker mesh pattern and drilled it, and also trimmed up another off-cut for the final "roof" of the whole machine.  This is a picture of the monitor and 2 speaker panels with the first coat of MDF primer on the woodwork:

With all these panels painted and dry, I turn my attention to fitting the monitor into the monitor panel.  I'm a fan of the cable-tie-mounts I've used in the past, so will be using these again - search the blog for details of the mounts if interested.

A couple at each corner, eight in total, like this:

Heavy duty cable ties, all trimmed up nicely and it should look something like this:

You'll notice I've put a couple of braces across the back of this section, just to strengthen it.  Pop it back on the control & case sections:

My 80's nostalgia gland is starting to twitch!

Last job of the day is to smash carefully dismantle an old pair of speakers ready for fitting their guts into the speaker panel - I'm using the cheapest set I have, as my memories of sound quality in arcade machines are pretty horrendous, and we do have to try and keep this thing authentic, right??