Gaming Rack Design and Construction

I have collected a number of gaming systems throughout my life and there is little point in having them if they sit in a box or using them takes an annoying level of set-up time, making it fun prohibitive. I was then inspired by Perifractic Retro Recipes video where the computer museum has everything so nicely laid out. I looked at my mess and decided that I had to do something about it because my arrangement just isn’t presentable.

The Search

Started my search online and did not find anything that met my needs. I went to a few local stores, websites and found nothing that met my specifications. They were all made of particle board and not deep enough to house the consoles appropriately. Additionally, they all had closed backs which would have a negative effect on thermal ventilation of the various machines. I also didn’t like the price point on most of my options. I also didn’t want buyer’s remorse in any of this. To spend anything and be less than satisfied with it is not acceptable.

Design

I set out to design the Gaming Rack, initially on paper, then using Fusion 360, installed on my openSUSE Tumbleweed machine. I initially set out to have it exactly 24 inches wide on each shelf and about 12 inches between each shelf. With this width, I would be able to put all the machines designated on this custom piece of furniture.

I decided that the machines I wanted to house in this was my Linux Media computer, Original Xbox that was “modded” by YouTuber Modern Vintage Gamer, Playstation 3, Nintendo 64, Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Game Cube. Another machine that is on order that will occupy this shelf is a “The C64 Maxi” which is a modern release of the system. More information about it can be gained from The 8-bit Guy’s YouTube video on it.

My next step was to use a spreadsheet application, LibreOffice Calc, to create a BOM or Bill Of Material so I knew my material costs. This is where I discovered a flaw in the design and set out to change a few dimensions. Firstly, making each shelf 24 inches wide would mean that the top and bottom would have to be approximately 25-½ inches wide which means, I would either have to reduce the number of shelves or have additional waste. I also have to keep in mind the kerf of the blade or the width of cut produced by the blade. Each pass through a board will cut into dust about 1/8″ or about 3.2mm. Stain grade planks are not as cheap as construction lumber so in order to control costs, I reduced the width of the shelf by 1-½ inches which had no affect on usability. I also updated the CAD accordingly as that was going to be my source of truth for the construction. I also updated my bill of material accordingly.

I thought about how I wanted to use this Gaming Rack. I made it my intention to be able to easily switch between each of the game systems. I decided that the best way forward was to use HDMI switching which also meant I had to get some adapters to output HDMI for the GameCube and Nintendo 64. I found these online and ordered them.  Next I had to determine how I was going to wire this all up. The easy one was the Linux Box as I could take advantage of the SVGA input as it has been that way, the Xbox will get an “AV Input” and the rest will be on HDMI which means I needed a 5-in/1-out HDMI switch box.

I also wanted to have an auxiliary monitor so that I would have the option of utilizing two different machines at once. This can be done by getting 1-in/2-out HDMI splitters and having a 2nd 5-in/1-out HDMI switch box. What could go wrong?

Construction

I purchased the materials and got right to work. I set up my laptop, using Fusion 360 to be my source of design truth. I would create a drawing from the model but the unfortunate reality to using Fusion 360 on Linux is the inability to use the drawing module, at this time. Hopefully, one day, it will be fixed.

After cutting the planks I realized I had enough wood for an extra shelf and decided to revise the design, originally I anticipated that I would mess up and needed the “insurance policy” of extra wood. This prompted me to rework the design by adding one more shelf. Instead of all shelves being fixed, I then decided to leave one fixed near the center and make the rest adjustable by drilling blind holes, using shelf support pegs for 5 out of the 7 shelves (the bottom shelf is still a shelf).

Adjusted the lower three levels to be smaller but large enough to easily accommodate DVD sized cases so games can be stored. The bottom shelf was made to be large enough to easily house the tablets, phones and mobile gaming devices.

Laid out and drilled the blind holes in the 72″ long vertical boards to accommodate the shelf support pegs in groupings of three. Where ever the shelf was measured out, I added a set of holes above and below by 1 inch (25.4mm), to give me the option of moving a shelf up or down as needed.

I fastened together the top, bottom and middle fixed boards. Initially using finishing nails to pin the parts together and using construction screws to hold it together. All holes were pre-drilled to reduce the possibility of splitting the wood.

Once together, I test fit the assembly and placed the system on it to see if I needed to make any changes in spacing of the shelves. Discovered the bottom adjustable shelf was made with an error.

My initial thought was not to stain or polyurethane it and just put it in its place and start using it. Then I stained it thinking that I am not going to seal it. Decided, since I had the polyurethane, I would just do one coat and that’s it. After my second coat, I decided I would sand and apply a third. I let it dry for 24 hours, as the instructions recommended on the back of the can.

Employment

After moving aside the “entertainment cabinet” over by 2 feet, I placed the systems and ran the HDMI cabling, to include the 1 to 2 splitters. I used cable ties to keep things as neat I could with the level of patience I had available. The power cables were routed on the opposite side of the shelf to reduce the potential for interference with video signals. It is probably not an issue but it doesn’t hurt either.

When operating the Nintendo Switch I discovered it doesn’t seem to like having its video output split and seems to have a bit of an issue with the 5-in/1-out switch.

Still waiting on my The C64 Maxi so 4 of the 5 slots are taken and am just a bit unsure where I am going to set the system as one of the shelves is acting as a place to keep the extra USB cables and such.

Evaluation

In order to make an objective evaluation of this project, I will draw from another occupation I have and use this idea that I can evaluate this on my measures of performance, or how well I made it and measures of effectiveness, how well it actually does its job.

On the Measures of Performance, I would say I am mostly happy with it. It looks nice enough and I am glad I stained and sealed it. Does it look as nice as Perifractic’s retro museum? No, not even close. something about how his machines are presented looks far better. To evaluate my other silly furniture building, like my stand up desk, this looks much nicer and not something thrown together by a scrapper or scavenger.

To evaluate the effectiveness of this, I would say it met or exceeded expectations. It is the best setup I have seen first hand that allows for easy switching between devices. I would say, it maximizes my fun and reduces wasted time of plugging in and switching things on the TV for a little bit of entertainment.

What would I change

As far as the construction of the cabinet, I think I might have added some metal brackets to stiffen the cabinet a bit. It’s not bad but could be more ridged. Where it is positioned, it is not an issue but if it were not in a corner, it could be.

After having used this a new piece of furniture for a short while, the changes I would make would be to add another shelf, which could still be done and some sort of lighting, which also could yet be added.

I would really have liked not making the the mistake with the hole placement on the bottom adjustable shelf. It doesn’t affect my usage, it just annoys me that I made such a bone-headed mistake. I guess it makes it unique but that is a poor excuse.

Final Thoughts

I am quite happy with the results of this Gaming Rack. It meets my requirements and has been an quality of life improvement. I’m not yet sure how I am going to place The C64 Maxi when it arrives, perhaps adding one more shelf would just above the location of the Xbox would be the best location.

I have provided the CAD data and bill of material for you to use as it suits you.

I’m not going to pretend for a moment that this particular layout is universally a good design. It is 72 inches or 6 feet tall… 1830 mm tall for the rest of the world. I needed an open back design which may not be universally visually appealing.

I am quite happy with the results of this Gaming Rack. It meets my requirements and has been an quality of life improvement. It adds a little order to my chaos and gives a home to some consoles and other devices. The benefit of giving things a place does help to keep things a bit more tidy. Hopefully this inspires you to make improvements in your world.

References

Perifractic Retro Recipes YouTube Channel
The 8-Bit Guy’s YouTube Video on The C64 Maxi
8-bit Show and Tell on The C64 Maxi
Modern Vintage Gamer
https://retrogames.biz/

Raspberry Pi 400 | Blathering

I am not one of those individuals who gets the new fancy hardware because I am an Internet nobody and that is just fine by me (as I sulk, rocking back and forth in the corner). That doesn’t mean I am not without my opinions.

Raspberry Pi 400 Kit

I watched a video early in the morning about the Pi 400 on Retro Recipes from the perspective of using it as a kind of retro machine, like an ultimate emulation machine in a compact size. The marketing on the box says it is a “complete personal computer built into a compact keyboard” which interestingly like the Commodore 64 of years past.

Granted, that is a much larger keyboard in comparison but for the time, it was rather compact when compared to its contemporaries of similar performance. The back of the Pi 400 has all the typical ports exposed on a standard Pi 4 so you have available all that was previously available but in a different form factor.

Specifications

This isn’t, by any stretch, an amazingly high performing computer but it is also no slouch. It features a Broadcom BCM2711 quad-core Cortex-A72 (ARM v8) 64-bit SoC @ 1.8GHz processor, 4GB of DDR4 RAM, wireless networking, dual-display output through 2 micro HDMI ports for 4K video playback, MicroSD Card slot for whatever operating system you plan to run, 2x USB 3.0 ports, 1x USB 2.0 port USB-C for power a Gigabit Ethernet port and finally a 40-pin GPIO header so all the fun of the Raspberry Pi is exposed.

It is claimed to have an operating temperature from 0°C to +50°C ambient. I am quite sure that going above 50°C would likely cause some kind of thermal throttling.

Essentially, this is a Pi 4 in a different package with the intent to be manufactured until 2026. That is an incredible length of time.

Design

This machine has the footprint of 286 mm × 122 mm × 23 mm. If you are metric shy, that is 11-¼” x 4-⅜” x ⅞” That makes this machine quite small and indeed compact. According to Perifractic Retro Recipes. The design is solid with just a bit of sponginess on the Enter key, “5% from perfect” was the claim

Picture taken from Retro Recipes Pi 400 video

It is quite obvious with the internals, that this is a completely different design than the standard Pi 4.

Picture taken from Retro Recipes Pi 400 video
Picture taken from Retro Recipes Pi 400 video

I am pleasantly surprised to see this elegantly simple designed board on the interior, not just a Pi 4 with connector wires to the back. It does look like reliability was a factor in the design and manufacturing of this equipment.

I am not sure how many times one would plan on getting to the internals of this computer, as everything for which you need access is on the back, I am concerned about cooling. The CPU is heat taped to the metal shield so that should help with thermal dissipation. I know that some early Pi 4s did have serious issues with getting too hot. That makes me a bit concerned and therefore, I would be interested in seeing what some stress testing would yield on this machine.

Possible Uses

If you have any interest in developing things on single board computers, this is absolutely a great way to work on something to rapidly test it out. Since there isn’t the mess of parts and pieces as you would more likely have with a standard Raspberry Pi, here you plug in the power, the monitor, and whatever you are working on to the back of the Pi4. Admittedly, unless you are developing to deploy this on the Pi 4, some of the specifics may not work on early versions of the Pi. I can’t say for sure but I do know that there are different images for different Pis.

I see a strong propensity for this device to become the “Ultimate Retro Arch machine” that you keep in your living room or video game den. With the keyboard, sturdy case and available USB ports on the back, it would be cost effectively simple to play all the games of yester-year on this without putting at risk of damage, the real hardware. Specifically, I am thinking for those times I do play retro-games with my kids, I do worry just a bit for the safety of my machines.

Although I think there is a better argument for an old netbook, I do think that this would be a great choice for a child’s first computer. It would, perhaps be better, to have them sit properly at a desk and do their typing tutor there or a nice little work station to learn and explore, taking advantage of the GPIO on the back, making wonderful electronics creations which leads me to my last point.

As an inspiration education tool for children or adults. Lets be fair here, this is a toy for an adult, just as much as it is for a child. This is a super cool kit that is more than just an educational tool for youngest of populations. This is a great tool for any age to learn and dig into it that has the vulnerable bits protected. This frees up any apprehension of getting all the right pieces and not having some collection of things that looks like a science experiment, dominating a desktop or workbench. The GPIO pins on this device are shielded from an accidental drop or scoot that might short something out. This is a much safer way to conduct reckless mad-scientist like electronics experimentation

What I Like

The kit looks like the way to go. It has a retail of $100 (though I can’t find anyone selling it at this time) which comes with an official power supply, mouse, HDMI cable and perhaps, most importantly, a beautiful manual that is loaded with pages of all kinds of informative educational excitement. This is essentially an educational tool that comes with a real manual like the days of old. For me, the manual is key. Thumbing through the pages documentation, running my fingers down the inner spine of the book encourage it to stay open and explore all that it has to offer. There is something about that smell of a freshly bound book that makes an experience real and memorable (I realize, I am dreaming here).

The build quality looks more than adequate. I would absolutely gauge my expectations around the $100 mark and wouldn’t try to compare this with a modern Dell Latitude in fit, function and performance. That would be completely ridiculous. Based on other reviews, they keyboard looks to be just 5% from perfect which is more than adequate for me and especially more than adequate as an educational tool.

All the connections are on the back, like in good all-in-one Commodore 64 fashion and is nicely shrouded to protect against accidental shorting of pins or parts on the board. It doesn’t protect against everything but would protect against most accidental clumsiness.

Perhaps most important of all, this is spearhead into he inspiration of future generations to develop and create solutions. It is that first computer you can feel good about giving a child that he or she can take the time to learn and create. This is the beginning of something that is far better than having them plunk away on a phone or tablet being entertained like mindless automatons. This can be used to just just consume but to create and give to the world in which we live.

What I Don’t Like

The case uses clips to hold it together as opposed to screws. I am aware that screws do cause significant increases in manufacturing cost, so I understand the decision to forego case screws. That just happens to be my preference.

There are some incompatibilities between the Pi 400 and the Pi 4. Though I believe it has largely been worked out and since it is Linux that is running on top of the hardware, I am quite certain, through the magic of configuration files, kernel modules can be turned on and off based on the underlying hardware platform.

Since this is an ARM based system, anything that is built to run on top of it is likely to be unique for this specific ARM platform. ARM tends to lack standards across the architecture, which I believe is holding back the wide spread adoption of ARM (among other things). It is at least one reason I don’t just run out and by ARM devices.

Worst of all, I can’t seem to find any place that has them for sale. It looks like it’s sold out! So, all I can do at this point is kick my feat up, dream and wonder about all the fun I could be having with this… until my goldfish-like attention span drifts me off to another intellectual curiosity.

Final Thoughts

This is a great little piece of kit that is essentially a STEM course in a box. The design, the look and from what I can tell by other reviews, build quality are top notch, especially at this price point of $100 for the kit and $70 for the computer/keyboard itself.

I don’t have an immediate use for such a device but I can say that I would love to get my hands on one and play with it. Test it out and see what it can do. I do think it would make for a great Retro Arch machine. Even better would be to run openSUSE on this with all the Retro goodness and even for some productivity.

I think the best use of this particular machine is in education. The cost is low enough that you could buy for a whole classroom without breaking the bank and inspire future generations to develop and create wonderful solutions for the next generation of challenges.

Lastly, why 400? Should I have been making parallels to the Atari 400 as opposed to the Commodore 64? The keyboard on the Atari 400 was awful…

References

Retro Recipes Pi 400 Video
https://www.raspberrypi.org/products/raspberry-pi-400/
Raspberry Pi 400 Specifications
http://www.retroarch.com/
https://www.opensuse.org/

Noodlings | Inspiration Is Around You

21st Noodling of jam packed excitement… not really.

This is the 21st hot-pocket-sized podcast that won’t scorch roof of your mouth.

I have a small collection of vintage or near vintage gaming consoles. I lean mostly in the Nintendo party as I think they have a great grasp on what is fun. I don’t always agree with many of their business practices but the entertainment they have provided is multi-generationally successful. In order to lower the wasted time of hooking these systems up to enjoy and better organize their presentation, I built a Gaming Rack that was inspired by watching a YouTube channel called Retro Recipes. Seeing how nicely laid out and easily enjoyed they were set up, I made the decision that I must adapt this idea to my little world.

I’ll address this in greater length in the future but suffice to say, the creation of this Gaming Rack has made coexisting with lots of tech in the common areas of my house so much better. The big win was a place to keep all the tablets, handhelds and mobile devices so that they don’t linger in the kitchen or on the dining room table. They have a place to sit and charge and it is pretty fantastic.

The primary item of note here is, you can find inspiration all around you. The final result of my gaming rack, largely, isn’t anything like what I saw on the Retro Recipes channel but the purpose and intent is very much the same. I appreciate inspiration from wherever it materializes.

Modern Computer in a Commodore 64 Shell

The Commodore 64 was my first computer and there is something about the classic, beige bread-bin shape that brings a kind of retro-excitement. I have many fond childhood memories of flicking the switch on the side of the case where I was greeted with that “Ready” prompt and the blinking cursor on the light gray field… You see, I had a 13 inch, wood grain black and white TV that I mostly used with this fine machine. Only on special occasions did I get to enjoy it full color on the family TV in the living room. When I did though, that blue screen would fill the room with near endless possibilities of electric joy and hours of entertainment. There hasn’t ever really been an experience quite as exhilarating, as a child then when I learned how to input those load commands and hear the 1541 disk drive come to life with the warm sound of heads seeking over the spinning disk. To this day, when I use that disk drive, it takes me back to those bleak winder days where I would cozy up to a mug of hot cocoa and Commodore 64 delight.

WTTR.in | Weather Forecast in the Terminal

I have had an affinity for all things terminal in my old… or middle age. Not that I have ever spent all that much time in the terminal back in the 80s and 90s but as I transitioned into the Linux world, I started to enjoy the terminal and wanted to learn it.

What I am most interested in by this is the quick and efficient retrieval of the weather forecast. Since this is a terminal application, the actual limitations are few of what can access this information. The Commodore 64 with a text only web browser should be able to view this and certainly any other computer that came after it. In effect, this makes nearly any computer built, still quite relevant for modern tasks, or at least, it certainly helps keep computers useful.

Being able to access weather data quickly in the terminal is far preferred over using a web page as this is much quicker and does not gobble up internet bandwidth and cast a net of trackers at you.

I was made aware or rather re-aware of this information by some of the folks over at The Otherside Podcast Network.

Rickroll in the Terminal

When I was watching a YouTube channel “Adrian’s Digital Basement“, I noticed a dancing dude on some kind of small device in the background, on his wall of interesting things.

You know, I am seeing a pattern of me snooping on YouTubers…

I took me a bit of searching to realize that this was the “Rickroll” and out of curiosity, I had to see if it was available as a terminal command. Sure enough, this absolutely is a thing in the terminal and I had to Rickroll myself!

I found the project on Github, ran the commands and got an incredible laugh out of it. In an effort to not lose this again, I made a quick blathering about it on CubicleNate.com

There is nothing of any real value on this at all.

BDLL Followup

Talk on application preferences. What I got out of this was the push to use fish instead of bash for my shell. Fish stands for “Friendly Interactive SHell” So, calling it fish shell is a like ATM Machine.

In short this truly revolutionizes the terminal interface. This takes the terminal from good to awesome. The bottom line of what makes this awesome, and I will create a blathering post about this later, is that it holds your hand in using commands in the shell. It has parsed the man pages so when you start entering a command and press the tab key, it does more than just display what command you may be entering, it gives you the options and descriptions of what it is, continue to press tab and you will cycle through the similar commands. It’s

openSUSE Corner

Introducing the Open Build Service Connector

Open Build Service Connector is built around bookmarks of packages. Individual packages or whole projects can be checked out directly from within Visual Studio Code, similar as to how you would with osc.

This works well with the openSUSE project philosophy of collaboration which is at the heart of all things openSUSE and fundamentally built into the Open Build Service.

Node.js, OpenSSL, Mesa Update in Tumbleweed

Some of the major package updates in the last week of snapshots include newer versions of the Linux Kernel, Node.js, OpenSSL, Mesa, Apparmor, ImageMagick, AutoYaST and many others. Several CVEs and bug fixes have been addressed and the Mesa graphics library updates to support Intel Rocket Lake platform

Tumbleweed Roundup

https://review.tumbleweed.boombatower.com/

Computer History Retrospective

Computer Chronicles – Speech Synthesis (1984)

I think we often take for granted about how well speech-to-text and text-to-speech works these days on rather small hand held devices. I know that I have become unreasonably upset with my mobile when it didn’t translate anything or translated what I said poorly. I have to stop and look back in time at the history of speech synthesis and compare it to the size and limitations of the machines in 1984 at the commencement of commercially available solutions for speech synthesis.

Although not covered in this episode of Computer Chronicles, there was an application called “SAM” which means, Software Automatic Mouth, published in 1982 by “Don’t Ask Software”. I played with it a lot on the Commodore 64 and what I found out more recently was that this really taxed the little 64kib machine which is why it had to blank the screen when speaking.

SAM on the Web

The applications for speech synthesis in 1984 were a bit of a stretch in some ways. I’m not sure if it was the large awkward microphone or the obvious shoehorning of it’s usage for checking your stock portfolio but it did seem a bit clunky. Other uses, like the speak and spell, I thought was good but a camera or my car speaking to me is not really something I would appreciate today.

Could you imagine your camera telling you that you need to use a flash when taking a picture at a wedding?

The Speak and Spell is, in my opinion, is one of the best examples of a fantastically well executed consumer product. Though I don’t enjoy my Speak and Spell much as an adult, it is fun to pull it out from time to time and see how poorly my spelling still is after so many decades on this planet.

If speech synthesis is of any interest to you, I recommend watching this and seeing formative years of computer speech synthesis to gain a bit of appreciation on where we are today. Maybe you totally appreciate it but I know that my attitude falters from time-to-time and it’s good to look back and see how far we have journeyed.

Final Thoughts

Inspiration is all around you, it is just a matter of you taking the time to pause for a moment and look for it. There are truly creative minds out there, freely sharing ideas that you can apply in your life to make things just a bit better. Pause and appreciate the bits of inspiration throughout computing history that have made our tech lives so very interesting and fun. For a nerd, this is truly the best time to be alive.

Modern Computer in a Commodore 64 Shell

Of sorts.

The Commodore 64 was my first computer and there is something about the classic, beige bread-bin shape that brings a kind of retro-excitement. I have many fond childhood memories of flicking the switch on the side of the case where I was greeted with that “Ready” prompt and the blinking cursor on the light gray field… You see, I had a 13 inch, wood grain black and white TV that I mostly used with this fine machine. Only on special occasions did I get to enjoy it full color on the family TV in the living room. When I did though, that blue screen would fill the room with near endless possibilities of electric joy and hours of entertainment. There hasn’t ever really been an experience quite as exhilarating, as a child then when I learned how to input those load commands and hear the 1541 disk drive come to life with the warm sound of heads seeking over the spinning disk. To this day, when I use that disk drive, it takes me back to those bleak winder days where I would cozy up to hot cocoa and Commodore 64 delight.

Although, today, I do keep a real Commodore 64 running and use it from time to time, often wish there was a modernized version of that bread-bin shell so that I could enjoy a flavor of computer goodness performing “modern” computational work loads. It almost came to pass, some years back as there was a project from Commodore USA where you could buy a computer that ran a modified version of Linux to look and feel a bit like the Commodore 64. I searched far and wide to get one of these cases to build myself a modern computer in the style of the Commodore 64. Why? Mostly… just because of the smiles that the computer brought me and the smiles I would like to continue to have, day in and day out.

As it goes, a few days ago Matt, one of my co-hosts on DLN Xtend send me this link where I was greeted with what what I assumed would remain unobtainable and I nearly fell out of my chair in excitement. It appears that an industrious entrepreneur from the UK managed to acquire the website, molds and some stock from the now defunct CommodoreUSA and is offering the sale of Commodore 64 styled enclosures.

The long term plan for My Retro Computer is to sell complete systems but the short term is to sell cases, presumably to build up some capital and take the next step. The Commodore OS that was developed by CommodoreUSA is available for download. I am not really interested in this as my it is now pretty far out of date and I much prefer to shoe-horn openSUSE on all my computer things.

Key Features

I am not going to make this an exhaustive list of every feature of this retro case. I want to keep this short and not an endless blathering of my excitement. There are three key features of this machine, as I see it:

Number 1

The retro styled case. I can see this as being the natural progression of the original Commodore 64 bread-bin case. The same basic shape but taking into account modern hardware and in this case, taking a mini-ITX motherboard, a slot for optical media on the left side and the right side having a multi-format SD card reader.

Number 2

It comes with the keyboard that is a low noise, USB, mechanical, Cherry Switch keyboard. Just based on the description, this isn’t an inexpensive keyboard. Cherry Switches are well known by the keyboard enthusiasts and although I am not a keyboard snob, I do like a quality, modern keyboard and mechanical switches are known to last longer than many other variants. The fact that they took modern components and arranged them in such a fashion that removes the annoyance of the cursor keys and gives you a full 12 Function keys along the top is very welcoming.

Number 3

Prominently displayed on the key features section on the MyRetroComputer.com site, it boasts Linux compatibility (with other things that are far less cool). Although this goes without saying, since it is nothing more than a case with accommodations for standard components, what it does mean is that this computer is “future proof.” That means, I can build it, and rebuilt it again as the component standards are essentially used in perpetuity. Standards may not be fun on the surface, but they can make for so much fun in other aspects in the sense of unleashing creativity.

What I would Do With It

I have thought a lot about setting up a workstation that would generally stay put in my “SuperCubicle.” separate from my AMD system I recently assembled. This would be a fairly low cost build and I would use the monitor I already have in place. I envision this machine to be more of a production machine that would be set up for recording, graphic design, etc. That would free up my laptop to do more mobile tasks. I would call it my “anchor system” as it were and it would fit my enthusiasm for vintage tech and my almost unhealthy obsession with openSUSE Linux all in the same package.

That Windows machine isn’t there anymore, nothing is there currently, perfect spot for this machine.

Pricing It Out

Obviously, there are cheaper ways to accomplish this that are probably more pragmatic but the joys in life are not all pragmatic at all. For instance, my Linux powered festive lights is not really practical at all from a certain perspective but it brings me a lot of joy, all year. In a similar fashion, this would bring daily fun to my desktop experience. It wouldn’t be the exact childhood experience with all the same warm sounds but it would be some of the feel along with the modern conveniences. I decided to do some digging and estimate what it would cost me to build my ultimate retro-modern computer.

Case

The case is about $250. On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a good deal but when put into perspective, it’s not so bad. A Cherry switch keyboard can range from $40 to $200 depending on the grade of switches. This is also a very custom layout with only the switches themselves being off the shelf. The rest of this is very custom. Even if we are going mid-grade here, but taking into account the very custom nature of this layout, lets say this is an $100 keyboard. Maybe it is a little on the low side, I don’t really know for sure. Take that into account that would make the case about $150 and that, to me, is reasonable, considering the niche nature of it.

Motherboard

Doing some searching, and I haven’t actually decided on a board yet. Just some quick searching, there are some gaming mother boards that are not so expensive, even some kits out there but I don’t see how I would be able to add a graphics card to this setup, so I would certainly get an AMD motherboard to take advantage of the power of the Ryzen processors with . between $60 and $80 that would fit the bill quite nicely and give me a lot of use out of it.

CPU

Since I am going with an AMD based system, so long as there is the room for a decent cooler, I am currently interested in a Ryzen 5 3400G with the RX Vega 11 integrated graphics. It should be at least 50% faster than my Dell Latitude E6440 with the i7-4900MQ. Practically speaking even better considering the cooling limitations of the laptop form factor. I am looking at about a $160 price point here.

Memory

I wouldn’t go with, at a minimum 32 GiB of RAM and I am estimating about $120 for two 16 GiB sticks of SDRAM. I would probably just get 2 sticks and leave the other two open to double the memory down the road.

Cooling

I would get a 40mm case fan and some kind which would cost around $6. The CPU cooler would have to be low profile enough to fit in this case and the options I have seen are in the price range of about $50, depending on the design.

Power Supply

Here is where I am uncertain the implementation of the power supply. Looking at the case, it almost appears that the power supply is expected to be external. The cost for internal power supplies are around $50 but here I need to do a little more research.

Operating System

This is kind of a no-brainer as I will of course use openSUSE Tumbleweed running the Plasma Desktop. There really isn’t another choice. I would have access to all my retro system emulators and productivity software so it would just, frankly be perfect for my use case. The reality is, just about any Linux distribution would be great

Final Thoughts

This Commodore 64 retro computer case plus openSUSE Linux with a little mix of DIY is a perfect mixture of Linux and vintage tech enthusiasm with a dash of my almost unhealthy obsession of openSUSE Linux. It just all comes together here.

I have often heard from some people that standards aren’t fun or standards restrict too much. I think this idea is rather absurd as it is the “restriction” of standards that give us the framework to support the freedom to create new and interesting things. Everything from this “Modern” Commodore 64 case to house standard components is cost effective because of the standard interfaces. I think we can see evidence of this everywhere. This can be everything from programming languages to graphical widget toolkits. Not to say that standards need to be static but having a solid foundation from which to build allows for wonderful and interesting creations. The Commodore 64 Retro Case is just one example of it.

References

MyRetroComputer.com Home
Commodore USA OS
https://www.xtremegaminerd.com/ryzen-cpus-with-integrated-graphics/


MechBoard64 | Replacement Commodore 64 Keyboard

It happened again, unfettered access to the Internet has yielded yet another romp down the bunny trail to places that I don’t have time in which to go. I have previously discovery of the Ultimate 64, a modern replacement board for the Commodore 64, now I have come upon another amazing bit of tech. A modern replacement keyboard for the Commodore 64, the MechBoard64.

Every day, when I walk back to my “healing bench,” the place I fix my kids toys or things I break around the house, I see my extra, empty bread-bin box Commodore 64 shell. It has been sitting empty since sometime in the early 90s and my mind will wonder to a place where that would be a functional computer once again. Not that I need another Commodore 64, but I am thinking, often, I would like to have a modern re-implementation of the Commodore 64, specifically, with that Ultimate 64. When I play games or do IRC with the Commodore 64, I am periodically reminded that old hardware can have some unwelcome hiccups and remind me why we moved beyond the 8-bit era. Some behaviors of it are just not very welcome. Glitching out, occasional crashing after hours of usage, lack of complete drive compatibility with the SD2IEC device and so forth. I would like to have the best of both worlds, 8-bit fun and charm along with the modern conveniences of storage and reliability. Is that too much to ask?

Keyboard Features

I am not a huge proponent of the whole microswtich / mechanical keyboard craze, however, in the case of a Commodore 64, I think I very much indeed am interested in such. The MechBoard64 has microswitches from Gateron fitted on a black PCB and mounted in laser cut aluminum brackets. The aesthetic quality of the craftsmanship of that aluminum bracket with those microswitches affixed to the top has me gazing at it, very much desiring to posses such a carefully engineered labor of love.

I must admit, it is a beautiful looking piece of hardware and everything about it makes me want to build a re-implemented Commodore 64 to enjoy the reliability of the new hardware along with the charm and fun of the 8-bit era.

The Plan

I have priced none of this out, but I am intending on taking that old case of mine,

an Ultimate 64 and a new MechBoard64 keyboard to have a premium Commodore 64 experience.

I would be short a user port but I am willing to bet I can do something more with those USB ports. I am going to pause and day dream of the possibilities…

Final Thoughts

Since life has yielded me some extra time to think and do things, the time is right to go forth and make my childhood and adult fantasies coalesce into something I can use day-in and day-out. Nothing against the original hardware but the reliability concerns have made it less fun to share with the next generation of technical enthusiasts. I realize it is not exactly the same, but using the 37 year old hardware regularly does put it at risk of a fatal end. I can’t help but come to the conclusion that I should protect it and keep it from the harmful effects of its usage .

This is going to be a fun project, not yet, but soon. A re-implemented Commodore 64 with modern technology sounds like a winning proposition for those retro-computing compulsions. New, yet not, familiar, yet not. How fun!

References

https://www.breadbox64.com/blog/the-mechboard64/
Ultimate 64 | A New Commodore 64 main board

Noodlings | Quick Tiling Fusion 360 in the Kitchen

New episode for the New Year and that title is almost entirely nonsensical because they are different subjects.

Have a listen to episode 11 of this jibber jabber!

Fusion 360 Review

Fusion 360 is a CAD / CAM application with finite element analysis capabilities. I was going through the Autodesk forums and read a lot of chatter about their position on the Linux client. It appears that for several years, there have been requests but there is no plan to support it.

One user gave a fantastic well thought out, logical reason for building Fusion 360 to work in Linux and he gave the typical reasons for not doing so with answers:

  • the management sees not enough customers here. It’s a question about cost/income ratio.
  • I think if done right, there are not much costs (keyword continuous integration)
  • Number of potential customers. Linux users need to raise there hand and write to Autodesk, so that they can see, there are potential customers. Linux leads already on the server market, and on embedded devices, smart phones and tablets (if you count Android as Linux).
  • On the desktop, Windows is still the dominating system (88%), Mac (9%), Linux (2%). But this is for the average user, this doesn’t need to be true for engineers and makers using CAD software.
  • I have no statistic here, but I personally have never seen engineers working on Mac.
    But I have seen many engineers, software developers and scientists that work on Linux.
  • Linux users are willing to Beta test and are able to generally figure things out for themselves.

There was a lot more that you can look at here:

Autodesk support for Fusion 360 Discussion

There were a lot of hostile responses from Windows users that were just… hostile. I do think that is a large part of the untold story. There are those that point to Linux and talk of the technological elitism but I don’t think that is a behavior that exclusive to Linux users at all. I can refer to this post for evidence otherwise.

Even though Autodesk has stated that they have no plans to support Linux, it is always with the caveat that of “at this time.” I still have hope that Linux will be supported in the future. It’s inevitable as there are a larger percentage of Linux users in the engineering field, Autodesk does support Linux on the Maya application and since there are more and more professional tools on Linux, I truly believe it will follow.

Quick tiling Windows in Plasma

It took me far too long to complete the write up and video but I must say that the tiling features in Plasma are pretty fantastic. I spent this past weekend doing a lot of administrative work for another job of mine and the tiling manipulation of windows and desktop navigation made the tasks far less painful than they have been historically. I have to emphasis once again that it is important to have key combinations that make sense that are easy to remember that can are quickly intuitive to you.

I made a little video about this with Kdenlive and put it on YouTube. I had a less than stellar comment about my production quality. For that, I can say, I’ll try better next time.

Linux in the Kitchen

I did a post this last week on my use of Linux in the kitchen. I did appreciate a lot of the great feedback II received from this. I don’t want to understate, at all the value of technology in the kitchen. It is not at all a strange science experiment being shoe-horned into a role in which it doesn’t make sense. Linux and the array of tools make several kitchen tasks more efficiently completed.

For my case, the right hardware was an important part of the implementation as I have a very limited amount of counter space. There were already several software applications I had been using, I just happen to further expand how I had been using them.

How it recently made the Christmas season more efficient…

What would improve Linux in the Kitchen is going to take some real effort on my part. Most of these things will be aided by single board computers or IoT like devices. I need more metrics in order to improve my results when baking. Improved inventory management, improved meal planning. All but the last one will take some serious work and effort in order to implement.

BDLL Follow Up

Fedora 31 challenge. Lot of people were rough on it and in some ways I understand but in others I do not. I have used Fedora periodically and I have always found it to be an enjoyable experience. Fedora is a lot more like getting a Lego set with some instructions than it is a ready-made product. I look at Fedora as being a more industrial grade Linux system that you implement for a specific feature. While distributions from the Ubuntu flavors are more like products that are ready to be used that focus on the out-of-box experience. All the flavors of Linux have a place and a target audience. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions about a distribution experience but I think it is almost a bit unfair to evaluate Fedora in the same way you would evaluate an Ubuntu.

I have decided to use Fedora’s Plasma edition and I am going to give it a fair, but biased, review. My expectations are very focused. I don’t need the “last mile” type polish, nor do I expect that from a Fedora or an openSUSE for that matter. What I do expect is something very easy to work with and mold to my wishes.

openSUSE does a great Plasma. I don’t mean out-of-the-box perfect for my needs. No distribution should ever target me as the core user, that would be tremendously silly. I am an edge case and I am never satisfied, I am a moving target of requirements and expectations for what I want as my personal workspace. I would be a high maintenance target for a perfect out-of-box experience.

openSUSE Corner

Snapshots 20191225, 20191227, 20191228, 20191229, 20191230

wiggle (1.1 -> 1.2) a program for applying patches that ‘patch’ cannot apply due to conflicting changes in the original. Wiggle will always apply all changes in the patch to the original. If it cannot find a way to cleanly apply a patch, it inserts it in the original in a manner similar to ‘merge’ and reports an unresolvable conflict.

bubblewrap (0.3.3 -> 0.4.0) The biggest feature in this release is the support for joining
existing user and pid namespaces. This doesn’t work in the setuid mode (at the moment). Other changes include Stores namespace info in status json, In setuid mode pid 1 is now marked dumpable also now build with musl libc.
gthumb (3.8.2 -> 3.8.3)

gnome-shell (3.34.2+0 -> 3.34.2+2): polkitAgent, Only set key focus to password entry after opening dialog. The keyboard now stops accessing deprecated actor property.
libnl3 (3.4 -> 3.5.0) * xfrmi: introduce XFRM interfaces support
xfrm: fix memory corruption (dangling pointer)
mypy (0.720 -> 0.750) More Precise Error Locations and the daemon is No Longer Experimental
python-Sphinx (2.2.2 -> 2.3.1)
python-Sphinx-test (2.2.2 -> 2.3.1)
python-jedi (0.15.1 -> 0.15.2)
python-mysqlclient
python-parso (0.5.1 -> 0.5.2)
python-pybind11 (2.4.2 -> 2.4.3)
python-typeshed (0.0.1+git.1562136779.4af283e1 -> 0.0.1+git.20191227.21a9e696)

wireshark (3.0.7 -> 3.2.0) bug fixes and updated protocol support as listed

Firefox (70.0.1 > 71.0) Improvements to Lockwise, integrated password manager, More information about Enhanced Tracking Protection in action, Native MP3 decoding on Windows, Linux, and macOS, Configuration page (about:config) reimplemented in HTML, New kiosk mode functionality, which allows maximum screen space for customer-facing displays. Numerous CVEs were addressed relating to memory.

The Tumbleweed Snapshot Reviewer:

20191225 – Stable 99
20191227 – Stable 99
20191228 – Stable 99
20191229 – Stable 99
20191230 – Stable 99

Computer History

The Computer Chronicles – Computer Music (1983)

I think we often take for granted the multimedia capabilities of computers today. It seems like someone is always harping about PulseAudio on Linux. I’d say they are likely not using the right distribution, by that I mean openSUSE, I don’t have these issues. The purpose of the section is not to tout the superiority of my favorite operating system when it comes to audio subsystem, rather, it is to talk and reflect about how great we have it today with all things audio on modern computers.

In 1983, the state of digital music was not as rich as it is today. We can enjoy a virtually endless supply of content never before available in human history. Let’s go back in time to an era when the Commodore 64 was the pinnacle in home computer audio. Where audio was entirely programmed, limited to 4 wave forms of sawtooth, triangle, pulse and noise. A multi-mode filter featuring low-pass, high-pass and band pass outputs and three volume controls of attack / decay / sustain / release (ASDR) for each audio oscillator and a few other things I barely understand. Regardless, the capabilities were limited and synthesizing voice was an incredible undertaking that took years of work long after the chip was in the wild. This was one of the first polyphonic sound chips on the consumer market that, to this day, is held in high regard and many still like the sounds this chip produces.

Example of Chip Tunes from 8-bit Versus

All this said, this was very interesting record of computer generated music that is certainly worth a listen. I find the experimentation and musical education tools used in this perod incredibly fascinating. Today, things are very different. Musical composers and artists use computers in music production and to do so otherwise would likely be considered insane. I now wonder if individuals in the 80s that pushed the art and science of computers in music were considered insane by their peers.

Commodore 64 on the Internet with IRC | YouTube Edition

This is nothing more than a placeholder post and an announcement of a somewhat embarrassing example of my poor video editing abilities. I previously created a blathering about getting the Commodore 64 on the Internet with IRC and step by step instructions but under the pressure of one person (see how easily I am swayed). I made a short video about the process.

Feel free to watch if it you wish and if you want more low quality, low budget productions, let me know. I just may get to it. I need more practice with Kdenlive.

Noodlings | BTRFS, Ultra Widescreens and Floppy Drives

Not having faded into the Podcast ether yet, I bring this nonsense to you almost a week late. At least, a week later than I wanted to complete this. In an effort to keep you interested

The 7th Noodling place of unrest

BTRFS

I have been using BTRFS on all of my openSUSE machines without issue. In my quest to build a new multi-roll system to act as a server, workstation and occasional casual desktop use, I wanted to have a storage solution that was very fault tolerant and would allow me to expand my disk size with minimal effort. That is in both replacing individual drives with larger drives and potentially adding another controller card to have more drives.

ZFS is in the news as the new “hotness” for a file system and it does indeed have a lot of the really awesome features BTRFS provides, maybe more but support in Linux doesn’t appear to be as robust as BTRFS. Could my mind change in the future? Absolutely, but for now, until I get the stability of BTRFS on root, the snapshot system and the ease of flexibility in altering the array of storage, I will stick with BTRFS.

https://btrfs.wiki.kernel.org/index.php/Using_Btrfs_with_Multiple_Devices

Ultra Widescreen Monitors

I have been looking at doing an upgrade to my monitor situation, for numerous reasons. The monitors I am using are of unequal resolution, size and aspect ratio, it has been fine but I am becoming less satisfied with its usability. This is especially true since I started to use some of the tiling techniques built into Plasma. I just happen to need more pixels. Looking at my available options, I became interested in one of these 1440p monitors. My issue is, I am not interested in a curved monitor. I think they look just a bit silly and I don’t stand directly in front of the computer all the time. Interestingly, it seems as though the curved screens are less expensive then their flat counterparts with the same resolution and frequency. Although I would prefer a flat screen, it is more economical and of better specifications to go with the curved model.

I’m not prepared to make a purchase today as I need to do some more research on the subject but I am now very much interested in a single 1440p monitor rather than my two cobbled, odd lots hanging above my laptop.

https://ark.intel.com/content/www/us/en/ark/products/80345/intel-core-i7-4610m-processor-4m-cache-up-to-3-70-ghz.html

End to Floppy Drives

US military has been using 8-inch floppy disks in an antiquated ’70s computer to receive nuclear launch orders from the President. Now, the US strategic command has announced that it has replaced the drives with a “highly-secure solid state digital storage solution,” Lt. Col. Jason Rossi

The 8-inch floppy disks have been used in an ancient system called the Strategic Automated Command and Control System, or SACCS.

It’s used by US nuclear forces to send emergency action messages from command centers to field forces, and is unhackable precisely because it was created long before the internet existed. “You can’t hack something that doesn’t have an IP address.

Despite the age of the system, the Air Force is confident in its security and has a pretty good handle on maintaining it. By contrast, installing an all-new system isn’t as easy as it sounds. “You have to be able to certify that an adversary can’t take control of that weapon, that the weapon will be able to do what it’s supposed to do when you call on it,”

https://www.engadget.com/2019/10/18/us-military-nuclear-missiles-floppy-disks/?guccounter=1

Sad Commodore 64 News

My U13 Logic chip is likely failing. I am sure it’s not the RAM as I am having an intermittent problem with my system. Sometimes I get a blank screen and sometimes some garbled mess of characters in a range of colors. Based on the likely causes, I am quite sure it is the 74LS257A Logic IC. That should cost me less than $1 for the part and around $10 on shipping.

https://retrocomputerverzamelaar.nl/commodore-64-problems/
https://www.retroleum.co.uk/results.php?q=logic

BDLL Follow Up

I am late on the release of this podcast, not because I am fading out already, but because of life things. Regardless, I wanted to follow up on a BDLL from 19 October 2019. The discussion was about distro hopping, why Linux users distro hop. Often when people are new to Linux, they hop around and try new distributions. Some people like to jump around every time there is something new released.

Some Distros cater to some bits of hardware better than others. MX Linux on old hardware, openSUSE on newer hardware, Manjaro or Pop!_OS for gaming. Debian for obscure hardware. Ubuntu and its flavors for the mainstream.

I am not a distro hopper, embed myself, decided to stick around and help out to the best of my ability.

Between Mandrake / Mandriva fading and embedding into openSUSE I jumped around a bit. When I decided on openSUSE, I knew it wasn’t perfect, there were some issues but they were easily mitigated, I was most enamored with the friendly and helpful community along with the “ecosystem” of tools around openSUSE. The ease of installing software the graphical way and a pretty awesome wiki.

I mostly try out other distros to see what else is out there. Nothing ever seems to capture me like openSUSE. There are many good choices of Linux and I would probably be content elsewhere but nothing quite gives me the excitement that the green chameleon clad openSUSE provides.

BigDaddyLinux Live 19 October 2019

openSUSE Corner

Lots of snapshots have rolled through with new software and subsequent bug fixes. Of note Plasma 5.17.0 has arrived in all of it’s Glory

Tumbleweed Snapshots 20191009 20191011 20191012 20191014

Firefox has been updated to version 69.0.2 which contained a single fix for Linux-only crashes when changing the playback speed of YouTube videos. Fwupd shipped at version 1.3.1, that is a daemon that allows session software to update the firmware. It now allows for disabling of all plugins and added support for thunderbolt interfae for kernel safety checks. Gstreamer and many of it’s plugins were updated to version 1.16.1 which offered performance improvements. nodejs12, python-packaging and tcpdump were updated to address more than two dozen CVEs.

Plamsa 5.17.0 arrived with some significant changes to the new version. The release announcement says that this new version is as lightweight and thrifty with resources as ever before. Notably, the start-up scripts were converted from a slower Bash to a faster C++ and now run asynchronously, which means it can run several tasks simultaneously, instead of having to run them in sequence. KDE Applications 19.08.2 improved High-DPI support in Konsole and other applications. Many bug fixes in Kmail and saving messages directly to remote folders has been restored. Many other KDE applications received updates as well. e2fsprogs update 1.45.5 addressed a CVE where an attacker would have been able to corrupt an ext4 partition. Updates to gnutls, Nano and php7 were also included.

Mumble was finally updated to 1.3.0 after getting through the rigorous legal review of the SUSE lawyers and now those crazy lips are gone.

The Tumbleweed Snapshot reviewer gives 20191009 a moderate score of a 90; 20191011 a stable score of 92; 20191012 a stable score of 96; and 20191014 a moderate score of 82.

The Project Name Change Vote Continues

The discussion around changing the name of the project is still continuing in the mailing list. The vote has been extended out to the 7th of November, 2019. It has been decided to create a wiki page to consolidate the information. The keypoints can be summarized by the following:

For Keeping the project name

  • If the name is changed, we would lose brand reputation earned over the years.
  • Many members and other contributors are strongly attached to the current name.
  • Changing the name might give the impression that the relationship between SUSE and openSUSE is strained.
  • A lot of work will be required to rename domains, OBS projects and metadata, GitHub namespace, packages trademarks, etc.
  • Rebranding requires a tremendous amount of communication (and money) over years to establish the new brand name.
  • SUSE can transfer or license relevant trademarks to an openSUSE Foundation.
  • The relationship with SUSE is part of our marketing strategy, e.g. Leap/SLE’s shared codebase.
  • Changing the project name will make current openSUSE swag (T-shirts, mugs, stickers, etc) obsolete.

Reasons in favor of the name change

  • openSUSE is often typed and/or pronounced incorrectly (e.g. OpenSUSE, OpenSuSE etc). Watch how do you say SUSE?
  • The Free Software Foundation (FSF) complains about the looseness of the term “open”.
  • The distinction between openSUSE and SUSE can be confusing to people new to either brand. Some people have been known to shorten openSUSE to SUSE.
  • If the community thinks that the project benefits from a new name then this is the moment to change it, i.e. before registering a new legal structure (like a foundation).

My thoughts on this, the reasons for a name change seams superfluous. Although I understand the there is some confusion and how it is typed is often wrong, those do not outweigh the marketing strategy of the Leap/SLE’s shared codebase, the amount of work that would go into rebranding, renaming and making all the cool things I have today obsolete.

I think it is good that we the openSUSE community have this discussion. It has been good for me as I can reflect on my reasons I don’t care for it and rather than just make it an emotional and close-minded decision, I can look at the facts and make a rational decision to keep the name just as it is.

If the name changes, I won’t be upset, disappointed, yes, but not upset. It is the community and the technology that I like, the name is secondary.

Noodlings | Building and Converting

This is my fifth noodling and I did cut a few things. I will be playing with the length but this is about 13 minutes of my nonsense to chip tunes.

The 5th noodling installment can be found here

Commodore 64 IRC Success

I was able to get my Commodore 64 under its own power to access the IRC chat rooms, specifically the BigDaddyLinuxLive room where I was able to chat with such folks as Bill, Popey, Chris and another Allen. It is very satisfying experience. More on that here:

Commodore 64 on the Internet | IRC

Tech in the Courtroom

I recently had jury duty and the courthouse in my small-ish community, Windows 7 which is near end of life. For each bit of evidence, they used CDs and DVDs to store each individual item as evidence.

Building a Computer

I am building a computer for the first time in a very long time. I want to do it on a budget. I received some components at no cost to me, the case and motherboard so that drove the purchasing of the rest of the products.

Motherboard MSI 970A-G43

AMD FX-9590 CPU

Memory, 32 GiB DDR3 1866MHz

Video Card RX570

Storage 6x 2-TiB drives

1000 Watt Power Supply

Rather large case

All for about $350.00

More on this in the future.

Acer AspireOne Netbooks

Recently Set up two AspireOne Notebooks with openSUSE Tumbleweed using the Xfce environment. Initially one had had 1 GiB of RAM but an SSD, the other with 2 GiB of RAM and a slightly faster CPU but with a traditional hard drive.

https://cubiclenate.com/2019/09/29/acer-aspireone-d255-with-opensuse-tumbleweed-xfce/

Making Meringue from Egg Whites

Told after the fact two points of advice, whip the egg whites before you add the sugar, contrary to the directions and questioning whether or not there was any amount of egg yolk.

BDLL Follow Up

Manjaro is the current Distro Challenge… It’s Arch based so…

Eric Adams talked about how people can get “bug apathy” when they experience a problem on Linux or other open source software. know that I am guilty of that.

Bug reporting is something we Linux or free and open source software users should do. The vast majority of the software I don’t pay for, it’s open source and I believe that I have a social contract with these developers and maintainers to either help with the project or donate to it.

BigDaddyLinuxLive | 28 Sep 2019

openSUSE Corner

Tumbleweed Snapshots 20190918 20190920 20190921

PulseAudio 13.0 arrived which improved initial card profile selection for ALSA and improved 5.1 surround audio when set up.

LibreOffice 6.3.2.2 package received some stability tweaks and addressed two CVEs

Bash has been updated from 5.0 to 5.0.11 wich includes a minor update to bash to change POSIX mode behavior.

The Mesa 3D graphics library was updated to 19.1.7 wich fixed a Kwin compositor crash as well as cleaned up a few other bugs

The Python development tool Swig 4.0.1 added Python 3.8 support and fixed some regressions that were introduced in the 4.0.0 major release.

Plymouth added a time delay of 8 seconds to fit an AMD graphics card for graphical boot animation.

Mozilla Thunderbird was updated to 68.1.0 which eliminated some bugs, one of which is a CVE-2019-11739 that allowed for a Covert Content Attack on S/MIME encryption.

The file searching utility, Catfish 1.4.10, added some new features and cosmetically improved the application menu to make better use of space, padding and margins.

The snapshot reviewer gives a score for 20190918 of 90 for moderately stable; 20190920 a score of a stable 95 and 20190921 a stable 97.

Co-Conference Logo Competition for 2020

LibreOffice and openSUSE communities are having a joint conference next year in Nuremburg, German. For this special conference, they are having a logo competition. A logo is believed essential for the conference and they want to visualize both communities during this co-conference. LibreOffice will celebrate its 10-year anniversary and openSUSE will celebrate its 15-year anniversary during the conference.

Co-Conference Logo Competition for 2020 Post

Election Committee Set to Open Vote on Project Name

There have been discussions about the “openSUSE Project logo & name change” that started in June 2019 on the openSUSE Project mailing list. The Election Committee received a request from the Board to conduct a vote whereby openSUSE members can indicate whether they are for or against the project name change.

The voting will start on Oct. 10 and end on Oct. 31, which will provide three weeks for members to vote. The result will be announced on Nov. 1.

The voting exercise is limited to openSUSE members only.

Commodore 64 on the Internet | IRC

The Commodore 64 was my first computer and as such, now holds a special place in my heart and probably forever more, or at least until I lose my mind completely. In all the years I had a C64, I never visited a BBS as I didn’t get that bit of tech until I got my Commodore Amiga 600. Due to the wonders of the Internet, and a global effort to keep these old machines relevant from guys like The 8-Bit Guy, Perifractic Retro Recipes, Retro Man Cave, Dan Wood, LGR and so many others, I was inspired to take the time to make my Commodore 64 more than just a stroll down vintage lane for me. I have seen others make use of it for writing and developing new games and such for it but how could I incorporate it into my life was the question. That answer, IRC, it must do IRC.

So, lets use the “scientific method” on this as I make my kids do it, so why not force myself to do the same.

Purpose

Make use of my beloved Commodore 64, my first computer, in some practical way. I am going to use “practical” fast an loose for this. I have seen many examples of using the Commodore 64 in some sort of networked fashion but I wanted to see if I could have it serve a specific purpose. Chat on IRC, Connected through the Ethernet into my home network using it’s own power and capability.

Hypothesis

I think I am able to get the Commodore 64 to access the IRC function on the Internet without having to telnet into another server as a bridge to make it happen. I also think this is going to be a bit of a headache and everything is going to fight me along the way.

Materials

Here is my list of “materials” in order to conduct this experiment.

Commodore 64

This computer has a whopping 64K of memory to which, in it’s time was an extraordinary amount of memory, generally about 16 times that of its contemporaries at the time. If you know anything about the Commodore 64, nothing I am going to tell you here will be new. If you don’t know much about the commodore 64, this is a great video on YouTube with a great breakdown of the chip design.

SD2IEC drive

Purchased from The Future Was 8-Bit, this is a fantastic device that came included with an 8 GiB SD Card filled with all kinds of goodness. It is a joy to use and makes for reliving the Commodore 64 history so much more enjoyable. Although, you don’t get to enjoy the warm purring the 1541 5¼” Floppy Drive, this is a more practical and sustainable solution. If you purchase newer software for the C64, they usually build it to be compatible with this device. It was a great deal and allowed me to be able to use the .d81 image Contiki OS image that will be described below.

RR-Net MK3

This is a 10Mbit network card from icomp.de that comes form a rather long line of similarly designed devices. This is said to work with Contiki, Codenet and WarpCopy. The nice feature of this card is that it can be used as a stand alone or on a Carrier Card so that you can add this “feature” to another device like the MMC Replay or Chameleon. This will not work with a C128, SX-64 and very old C64 main boards. I don’t have a “very old” main board (just really old), so this works fine with my computer.

Wired Ethernet line

There really isn’t much to report here. I just made a cable and strung it from my router over to the Commodore 64. It is neat to see the flashing activity light when it’s running and doing it’s network activity.

CRT display

Why a CRT? To be more genuine to the period in which it came from? No, it is because it is what I have and it should also be noted that this is an old SVGA, CAD monitor that I once used for such activities. Now it serves are more noble function as my “retro corner” display. I have a ViewSonic that converts the S-Video and Composite signals to SVGA.

Contiki OS

Software package that is accessible from here on GitHub that comes in a few different builds. I used the .d81 image as that would eliminate the need to swap disks, or at least the risk of me screwing up the process of disk swapping should that become necessary.

Procedure

Assemble the components, plug the computer into a working Ethernet line and attempt to get online to chat in an IRC room. The intent here is to use the Commodore 64 as the client, not to use any other machine as a spring board.

Results

The results are mixed but I am going to break it down a bit so that you can replicate it and adjust the process to fit your situation.

Since I have the SD2IEC, I used the .d81 image and put it on the root directory of my SD Card that is in my SD2IEC. Why the root directory? Just to make it quicker to access it.

With the RR-Net MK3 installed in the cartridge port, the start screen is quite different, displaying information about the card. With the SD2IEC connected and the SD Card inserted, I loaded the drive management software which is a simple interface for navigating the contents of the drive. After all, it is 8 GiB of storage so the traditional methods are a bit cumbersome in this regard.

There are two applications that you have to run before you can begin doing the IRC you have to set up what is the “Ethernet device” and set the IP Addresses.

I am not sure if it is critical to do them in any particular order but I started with ETHCONFIG to set the Ethernet device.

Once it is set, all you can do is power cycle the machine to perform the next step. That means, enjoying the lackadaisical loading times of the Commodore 64. Even with an SD Card… not real fast.

Next was to run IPCONFIG to define the IP addresses of the Contiki OS. To navigate up and down in the fields, use the F5 and F7 keys. ENTER to select Save & Close

After this ready prompt, you will have to power cycle the machine once again to load the IRC application. The first run of this, I went for just IRC as opposed to IRC80 as that 80 means column and I like the C64 font.

When the application completes loading from the SD Card, you are the prompted for the IRC server and nickname. Using F5 and F7 to navigate up and down will take you to each of the fields and RETURN to Connect. I want to note here that you must write your IRC nickname in all lowercase and numbers. If you use any uppercase numbers, the IRC server will not be able to recognize the characters.

It will take just a bit but you will see the typical IRC “chatter” fly past on the screen.

Well… I wouldn’t say “fly past” for this. More like trot steadily through. To join a channel enter

/join #<room name here>

In my case, I decided to join the #bigdaddylinuxlive room because, why not? I know the people there, they are friendly and I knew that someone would get a kick out of it.

I made some observations that whatever you type into the prompt, whatever case it is, will be displayed as all uppercase.

I further compared it against what I see in comparison between the Qt based IRC application Konversation. How would it be displayed to “normal” or I guess, “modern” clients.

I was able to see that the Commodore 64 client could only send all lowercase characters, display it locally as Uppercase characters but be able to receive a mix of characters. I thought it all to be quite interesting.

I did test the 80 column mode of the IRC client. It did indeed work and was readable but but I have had it crash on me a few times. I can’t say as to why so I have decided to stick with the 40 column mode for now.

It should also be noted that the screen scrolling is quite a bit slower in this mode. Not terrible, just quite noticeable. The

Conclusion

The Commodore 64 is very much able to, under it’s own, power, unmodified with the additional components is able to access the Internet and perform communication in IRC chat rooms. It does work better in 40 column mode than it does 80 column but is very usable.

Getting online with the Commodore 64 to hang out in IRC chatrooms is really quite a satisfying experience. The fact that it is a computer from an age before the internet and when BBS systems were in their early stages, having the ability to plug an Ethernet line into it and with a little configuration was able to get onto the World Wide Web… of sorts, at least a part of it.

Final Thoughts

I am impressed that I am able to do this much with an unmodified Commodore 64. I am quite impressed that with 64 KiB of RAM, it is still a productive and usable tool. It is quite single purpose but absolutely useful.

I want to note that the web browser does work in this Contiki OS but not with HTTPS so that is out. It does make requests as you would expect and I think I just may revisit the rest of this on another blathering at some point in time.

Future plans, I really want to be able to telnet into a Linux machine with the Commodore 64, I have some other hardware and software I want to try out with this machine to see what other greatness can become of it.

References

Contiki OS for 6502 based computers from GitHub
25c3: The Ultimate Commodore 64 Talk
RR-Net MK3 from icomp.de
The Future Was 8-Bit SD2IEC Drive