64JPX | JoyPad eXpander for the Commodore 64

I was going down a retro computing rabbit hole and I stumbled upon this fantastic little device that allows you to plug in more modern game pads into the Commodore 64. Specifically, NES, SNES and Sega Genesis, the 64JPX. This is a small interface that plugs into the DB9 ports of the Commodore, Atari and Amiga systems that give you the option to use Nintendo, Sega Genesis or even analog PC style of controllers. How this works? Sounds like magic to me.

One of the issues I have had in playing Commodore 64 games, specifically platformers, today is how I just don’t enjoy the push up to jump as the control. When playing the game from Protovision called “Sam’s Journey” is how it takes away from the enjoyment of the game to have to push up to jump. I should be fine with it, as that is what I grew up doing on games like Mr Robot and Jumpman Jr but some years have passed and Nintendo has “changed the game” as it were.

Sam's Journey by Protovision

With the purchase of the C64 Maxi, a modern rebirth of the Commodore 64 with the common interface conveniences such as HDMI for video and USB ports for controllers and data storage. I can use a USB game pad on the C64 Maxi, although, some lack of customization is a bit unfortunate, but that is another blathering for another time.

If you are playing games on your original hardware or something more closely resembling it like the Ultimate 64, you may want some of these more modern conveniences like a multi-button SNES controller. The 64JPX is the quick and easy solution to make that happen.



This will work out of the box with any of the aforementioned systems which means no fussing about. Just plug it in and you are off to the races in some glorious 8-bit fantastic fun. There are on-the-fly, selectable gaming enhancement modes which allow you to change the configuration of the controller while in the game. This also allows you to safely connect the Sega Genesis, Nintendo or PC controllers as to not fry your CIA chips and continue to use the machine to your heart’s content.

The enhancement modes, which are controller dependent, include

  • Fire and auto-fire
  • Racing where buttons or triggers are for acceleration and braking
  • Waddle modes for sports games that use left/right waddling, like the Decathlon or Summer Games. According to the manual different speeds of waddle are accomplished by different combinations of pressing and holding a button while optionally holding right on the direction pad. I say, optionally as it has to do with different speeds of waddle. This would be interesting to play with.
  • Creep mode is for the platformers where you need to get close to the edge without falling off. Personally, this sounds like cheating but I would gladly take that cheat because I have fallen off the edge on “Impossible Mission” more times than I can count.

There are five flavors of this device to from which to choose. Your tastes are likely vary from others so the clever creator of this device, Nicholas Coplin has given you some options.

  • Red – Sega Genesis / MegaDrive controller in either 3 or 6 button varieties
  • Blue – For use with SNES and NES controllers. The Start and Select buttons toggle the different enhancement modes available.
  • Purple – A combination of Red and Blue (cleverly named purple) which auto detects the controller type.
  • Orange – A combination of Red but with added support for the analog PC type controller
  • Black – A budget friendly option for use with the Sega Master system controller that just protects the C64 from shorting out the CIA chip

Depending on the choice, you may need an adapter, specifically, a dongle to adapt the proprietary SNES controller to the DB-9 port on this adapter. There are also some other useful items like the 1351-pass-through port to allow you to leave your mouse connected at the same time as your joypad / joystick. It’s good to save a bit of wear and tear on your ports. Though, I would be concerned about the chain of devices hanging off the side of the computer. Now I am dreaming of a kind of controller hub you plug in… hmm.

Final Thoughts

I am very impressed by the work Nicholas Coplin has invested into the controller business on the systems of my youth. I am incredibly impressed that someone has taken the time to open up the use of more modern controllers on the systems I with which I grew up. The fact the Purple version has the ability to auto detect the controller when plugged in is absolutely brilliant!

64hdd.com has an incredibly neat shop of useful hardware for use on your glorious 8-bit and 16-bit era systems. I am not sure why I haven’t founds this sooner but I am sure glad I did today. There is more fun to be had on the horizon with my fun systems and I can’t wait until I can actually use this. So be watching this space for a follow up.


64JPX at 64hdd.com
Ultimate 64 | A New Commodore 64 main board

VICE v3.5 | Versatile Commodore Emulator on openSUSE

I recently received a little bit of a ribbing, I suppose, via email about not writing about emulators that were not of the Nintendo vintage. This is a fair criticism, I probably spend more time messing with Commodore 64 things such as chatting on IRC with a Commodore 64 or playing with my new THEC64 Maxi (more on that at a later date).

I have been doing some dabbling with the Commodore 64 again, but instead of just running or configuring things, I am interested in doing some application development. Instead of playing, doing something useful and practical. For real. That said, on a fresh clean installation of openSUSE Tumbleweed on my HP EliteBook I decided to install the latest VICE Emulator using the Open Build Service and do a little poking and playing around. It had been a while since I used the emulator.


The installation of VICE version 3.5 was quite trivial. Quite literally, just navigating here to install VICE for your version of openSUSE.


What’s New?

Number one on the list is that the GUI for VICE has completed transitioning to the GTK3 toolkit. This certainly is an improvement to the user experience. The menus work so much nicer now. They weren’t bad before but just had a bit of weirdness.

Mapping for THEC64 joystick has been added. Although, it would be nice to be able to map those buttons to specific keys, for instance, when playing the game Commando, it would be nice to have the other button or any of the buttons be the space bar so I could very easily play with just the joystick. If there are custom mappings, they don’t seem to easily present themselves.

The emulator’s timing is now directly driven by the host system’s audio device. I know that in previous versions, I have had issues with PulseAudio and VICE. I can say for certain, that is no longer an issue.

A bug in .tap file handling was fixed that caused some .tap files to not work in the preview widget(s). I have almost no childhood tape application usage, outside of me playing with it when creating my own applications.

There are numerous other fixes and improvements, for that list, navigate here. It is an extensive listing of changes which shows that the team has been incredibly busy. From my viewpoint, many of these fixes are issues that my limited usage wouldn’t see. I am impressed by the work being done on the finer details. Things I would not ever have picked up on.

Interesting User Interface improvements

I am going to admit right here, right off the cuff that I haven’t been using VICE much in the last few years so I do not know exactly when this was a thing. The first improvement that I really enjoy is the CPU and FPS tweaks that are easily accessible at the bottom of the window.

The reason for this is simple, really. There are some games that could use a slight speed boost to make more fun to play. Commando, for instance, when run on a “PAL” machine as opposed to “NTSC” just seems… slow. Or Karateka feels a bit slow to play and a speed boost, not too much, makes the game a lot more enjoyable to play.

Another nice feature is the joystick status along the bottom of the screen. A simple click on that pops up another menu where you can easily swap joystick ports or go right to the configuration tab in the settings. This is, without question, very handy.

The drive control in the corner is also incredibly handy for multi-disk games as well. I do appreciate these little details that make the user experience so much better. Sure, it isn’t quite as much fun as the real hardware but also doesn’t have the frustrations of the real hardware either.

Final Thoughts

Generally, it is more common to see some sort of Raspberry Pi OS or Debian based system as a retro gaming machine but the fine folks of the openSUSE community keep the repos up to date to have the latest in retro Commodore experiences. I love seeing the work being done to keep the Commodore experience alive. I know that much of this work has trickled into other projects which is what make the community based open source projects so wonderful.

I do want to highlight two individuals that are directly responsible for my excellent experience on openSUSE: Wolfgang Bauer and Karol Sławiński. You see these two names on the package change log for the last year. My sincere thank you goes to them.

If you haven’t kicked the tires of VICE recently, I highly recommend downloading version 3.5 and giving it another try. The GUI is better, the sound and video is better, the system controls are better based on the change log, the underpinnings are better. I think you will be pleasantly surprised on this refreshed experience.

Further Reading

VICE Project Home
Emulators on CubicleNate.com
Commodore 64 on the Internet with IRC | YouTube Edition
RetroGames.biz The C64
HP EliteBook 840 G7 running openSUSE Tumbleweed

Wild Wood | Commodore 64 Game

I have purchased a few Commodore 64 games in recent years. I recently stumbled upon this game that is a work in progress. It is a platformer style game where you take on the role of a hare (rabbit) where you journey in search of your ancestral home in the ancient Wild Wood. In this face-paced game you will use your superior agility and speed to survive the treacherous trails and outmaneuver enemies and hungry predators. At least, that is what the website says.

This platformer promises to be a multi-directional, high-speed, side-scrolling game with bosses, hidden secrets and bonus stages. The graphics look to be of premium C64 quality. Knowing the graphical limitations of the system, this is quite impressive. It takes some skill and forethought to make look so good.

The creators of this game have created full-screen bitmaps that intersect ever stage. With all the emphasis on the graphics, game-play and sound, I can’t help but wonder what the memory footprint is going to be of this game.

The game is under active development and not ready for any kind of beta testing, I know this because I asked. I am already impressed with what I see, from the graphics to the musical score sample it all seems to be shaping up quite nicely. Sure, I’d like to be able to play a sample of the game, but I can wait, I’m patient.

I do hope that the developers will make a C64 Maxi/Mini image for those of us that have such things. “Sam’s Journey” another game I recently purchased works incredibly well on my C64 Maxi and the ability to save your progress makes for a more enjoyable gaming experience. So, this is a little bit of a request as well as a hope.

More information about the game and how to support it can be found on their website:


If you are into such things, I encourage you to continue to explore.

Final Thoughts

I get excited about seeing new developments on the Commodore 64. It is amazing that people invest time and effort into a 30+ year old computer that is fueled by a nostalgic passion that I share. I make it a point to purchase new C64 games that I enjoy when they become available.

I am starting to think… it would be fun to perhaps do some real reviews on these games, you know for all seven people that would actually watch the video…



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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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

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.


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.


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…


Retro Recipes Pi 400 Video
Raspberry Pi 400 Specifications

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


MyRetroComputer.com Home
Commodore USA OS

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!


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-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.