Site Maintenance – Comments and Readability

Joseph FerrisNotifications0 Comments

Today, I have made a few minor usability and readability changes to the site, based on user feedback.

  • Commenting – I have gotten reports that user have left comments and they had not been approved.  When I look in Discus, I am not seeing anything pending, which appears to be somehow related to when I moved this site to its own domain.  To mitigate this, I have migrated to a different commenting system, which should work more reliably.  Have tested it, and all appears to be working.  Not completely happy with how it all looks, but I will address that as time allows.
  • Font Colors – The original font color, while readable on my own display, is not highly readable on smaller devices.  The new font color is simply a darker shade, which shows up much more favorably on smaller devices and at lower resolutions.
  • Miscellaneous Changes – Heading sizes have been adjusted to be more consistent, primarily when dealing with the leading heading of an article.  Article icons to the left of the titles have been removed, as they serve no purpose.  Social sharing toolbar has been also added as a floating set of buttons, so that they do not get lost under the article.  More tweaking to follow on that.

Please feel free to try out the new commenting system and continue to send any feedback on what I can do to improve.

Site Maintenance – Comments and Readability was last modified: March 18th, 2017 by Joseph Ferris

Using a PowerBlock with a Raspberry Pi

Joseph FerrisHow-To0 Comments

One of the early design goals that I had for the bartop arcade cabinet was that it needed to be as user-friendly as possible.  To a person using the cabinet, the actual inner workings should be both hidden and non-intrusive.  With a Raspberry Pi, the largest obstacle in the way of that is that in order to power off the device safely, the standard practice is to either shut down from a menu in a front end, such as EmulationStation, or to issue a shutdown command from the command line.  Neither of those options are particularly attractive to me and this is a common problem faced when creating a project that is not intended to run as a headless setup.  After a bit of evaluation, the solution that I have chosen to use comes in the form of petRockBlog’s PowerBlock.Read More

Using a PowerBlock with a Raspberry Pi was last modified: March 14th, 2017 by Joseph Ferris

Sample Output from Focus Attack SCAN.DL VGA Scanline Generator (Updated)

Joseph FerrisProjects0 Comments

When I had put together the Adding a Scanline Generator article, a little over a week ago, I had hoped on quickly capturing some sample output.  While already having a capable HDMI capture solution in place for my day-to-day needs, capturing 800×600 VESA output proved a bit more difficult, and required an additional upscaler to get usable captures.  Capturing the upscaled and converted VGA output does capture the gist of the differences between running with the scanline generator on or off, but it still does not capture the quality of the output on the monitor.  Without further ado, I’ll get into the first captures from the full setup and add some more over the next day.

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Sample Output from Focus Attack SCAN.DL VGA Scanline Generator (Updated) was last modified: March 9th, 2017 by Joseph Ferris

Bartop Cabinet Audio Options

Joseph FerrisProjects0 Comments

As I have been refining my expectations for this project, I recently evaluated my audio options for my bartop cabinet.  Having gone through a few different configurations, I found that there were various pros and cons to each setup that I tried.  Even as recently as this week, my plans for how I will deliver audio has changed, yet again.  It is worth going over what I had considered as my options, and determining what is actually the best solution for the purpose of this cabinet.

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Bartop Cabinet Audio Options was last modified: March 2nd, 2017 by Joseph Ferris

Adding a Scanline Generator

Joseph FerrisProjects3 Comments

One of the most immediate feelings that hit me when I was emulating on a computer was not that I missed the era-correct controls for game, but rather they did not look like I had remembered them to look.  Playing these games on any modern monitor, even at lower resolutions, leaves a fair amount to be desired.  Sprites looked washed out and the colors were brighter than they should be, which was directly related to the shift in technology away from CRT displays.  As technology evolved to the point where modern monitors were smaller and lighter than CRT displays, it was only a matter of time until CRT displays started to disappear from the market.  Today’s monitors are primarily either LED or LCD, and they are getting thinner, lighter, and less expensive every model year.  Reproducing an arcade experience on such a monitor presents a number of challenges.  Resolution aside, most class arcade games were displayed on CRTs that had a 4:3 aspect ratio, and not on widescreen LED/LCD displays with a 16:9 resolution.  With a little bit of hardware, and a few adapters, it is fairly easy to capture a bit more of that retro experience, including scanlines.

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Adding a Scanline Generator was last modified: March 9th, 2017 by Joseph Ferris

Keyboard Volume Control with Triggerhappy

Joseph FerrisHow-To0 Comments

One feature that is common in cabinets is the inclusion of some sort of simple volume control. Some of the examples that I have seen involved simply exposing an amplifiers control panel through the back of the cabinet, custom wiring a mounted control knob, or providing buttons which are mapped to a keypress. The latter is the most alluring to me, and the one that I will focus on getting working. What I originally expected to be just a minor project, though, this turned out to be more than I expected. Despite all of the improvement in Linux, sound can sometimes still be a bit of a pain point.

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Keyboard Volume Control with Triggerhappy was last modified: March 7th, 2017 by Joseph Ferris

Getting Rid of the Raspberry Pi Boot Screen

Joseph FerrisHow-To0 Comments

Raspberry Pi Logo

One of the purposes of building an arcade cabinet is to “suspend disbelief”.  In other words, even though the cabinet is meant to look like the real thing, it is ultimately just a fancy computer case housing some sort of computer.  When that computer is a Raspberry Pi, it inherits the very Linux roots of Raspbian’s Debian boot screen.  The first thing that you are greeted with are the raspberry logo, followed by all of the boot messages.  Thankfully, this is incredibly simple to change.

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Getting Rid of the Raspberry Pi Boot Screen was last modified: February 25th, 2017 by Joseph Ferris

Transferring to New Domain

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The new home of this blog will shortly become  As of yesterday, the domain name was registered, and I am waiting for it to propagate before beginning the migration process.  I expect for a seamless transition, and a majority of the preparatory work has already been done.  Once I see that the domain is reachable from a majority of worldwide DNS servers, I will perform the cutover.  Considering that the blog has just been started and has not yet been indexed by the major search engines, this will likely just become a historical footnote for this site.

Update [February 25, 2017]: Domain propagation is saturated enough to where the domain has been cut over.  A redirect is in place on the old site, so that all traffic is redirected here.

Transferring to New Domain was last modified: February 25th, 2017 by Joseph Ferris

A Tale of Two Cabinets

Joseph FerrisProjects0 Comments

Despite having the final location of my eventual upright cabinet build cleared away, I had decided that it will be the bartop cabinet that I will approach first.  Since this is going to be my first build, it makes sense to start small and then to further build upon that to complete the upright cabinet.  These two cabinets both share a fair amount of common requirements, while having their own unique constraints and build challenges.  Before starting to get in to actually starting to put things together, it would be beneficial to establish a number of requirements that I feel that I need to reach to accomplish successful milestones for each build.

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A Tale of Two Cabinets was last modified: February 25th, 2017 by Joseph Ferris

Getting Back to the Arcade

Joseph FerrisGeneral0 Comments

Being born just a few days before the United States’ Sesquicentennial, I was fortunate to have spent a large percentage of my youth in the 1980s. We had wondrous things, like Saturday Morning Cartoons, mall creatures, big hair, neon clothing, Garbage Pail Kids, and a MTV which actually played music videos. Also, we lived in the golden era of arcade gaming. While the arcade still lives today, it generally can only be found in forms that consist of poorly maintained systems that are drowned out by horribly loud music. At one time, practically every mall in America had at least one arcade. No doubt, considering the amount of cabinets that could be fit in a relatively small space, they were making money at an incredible rate. Arcade culture also could be found in a large number of convenience stores and pizza parlors, albeit usually just in doses of one or two games at a time.

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Getting Back to the Arcade was last modified: February 23rd, 2017 by Joseph Ferris