My eldest brother and I recently discussed plans for building a retro video game cabinet. I’ve been interested in retro gaming and computing for some time, however I haven’t had the room or money to build up a hardware and software collection. At the moment I possess only a PlayStation, Mega Drive, and a TRS-80 Model III. My friend I live with has a few other bits and pieces, such as a Mac Classic, a Compaq Portable Computer II, an Amstrad laptop from 1990, a Toshiba Libretto from the mid 90s, and god knows how many other old bits of hardware. I did have an Nintendo 64, however I sold that a couple of years back, to my regret. Anyhow, my brother and I thought that building the cabinet would be a fun project to do together. We have decided to try using RetroPi on the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, combined with various bits and pieces we have lying around (keyboard, mouse, controllers, monitor, etc). Once we get it working we’ll plan and build a portable controller unit with the Pi integrated into it. Ultimately we’ll build a full arcade cabinet, complete with screen and speakers, into which we’ll slot the controller unit. I’m hoping this will be a great social thing for our family and friends. But for now I have to wait for delivery of the Pi from element14, then the fun will begin…
I’ve spent around 50 or so hours of the last two weeks roaming the wastelands of Fallout 4. Something that has struck me is how Bethesda have tried to tell something of the lives of the people who lived in encapsulating their last moments before the bombs fell in 2077:
There are so many of these scenes throughout the game. Makes me wonder what I’ll stumble onto next.
Two years ago I made the switch from using Firefox password manager to LastPass. Exactly why I can’t remember, but I do seem to remember finding it frustrating to get passwords out of the Firefox vault when I needed to use another browser. I’d also heard that LastPass was very secure. For those of you who don’t know about it LastPass is a neat little app that stores all your passwords in a encrypted vault that can be accessed from any web browser on any platform. This became particularly handy when I switched from Android to iOS, as at the time Firefox was not available for iOS (it is again now in a new form). LastPass acts as a plugin for all major web browsers, can be accessed via their website, and is available as a standalone app for iOS (not sure about Android).
It seems we read more and more about people’s user accounts being hacked on various websites. One way to help reduce this risk is to use something called Two-Factor Authentication (2FA). Not all websites support it, but many major ones do. Lastpass also supports it, and yesterday I finally decided to give it a try. I installed an app called Google Authenticator onto my iPhone, which I used to read a QR code generated by LastPass that linked to my account. Now whenever I login to LastPass I am prompted with a second screen where I need to enter a six digit code generated by Google Authenticator. I then proceeded to set up 2FA with Google, PayPal, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, and a few other websites. Some sites don’t use Google Authenticator, but instead send a four or six digit code to a registered mobile phone via SMS.
Now things are a little more secure. Downsides include that I need to have my phone with me and working to access some sites, and that I need to enter a code whenever I login from a web browser I haven’t deemed secure. Another is that many sites allow password resets to be sent to a registered email address, and since my email provider has a rather clunky 2FA implementation, there is still a risk that if my email gets hacked I could be in trouble. Perhaps until I either get a new provider, or my current provider improves their 2FA implementation, I’ll need to be more vigilant with updating my email passwords.
I’ve had this old PC hanging around the place for some time, and recently I decided to do a revival job on it. It’s an Athlon X2 6400+, the result of a build I first did in early 2008. Back then the PC had the following specs:
- Athlon X2 3600+ CPU
- 2GB RAM
- 2 x 320GB Western Digital hard drives
- nVidia 7600GT video card with 256MB GDDR3
- Gigabyte GA-590SLI-G5 motherboard
- DVD rewriter
- Windows Vista
It was a pretty decent PC. I tried to rig it up using the onboard RAID so that if one hard drive failed the other could still be used, but I didn’t do too well at getting it working well, so I decided to use one drive for the OS and the other for swap and extra storage space.
Several upgrades later and the system now sports the following:
- Athlon X2 6400+ CPU
- 4GB RAM
- 128GB SSD
- 320 hard drive
- 2 x nVidia GTX560 Ti video cards in SLI configuration
- Windows 10 & Linux Mint 17.2
- Same motherboard and optical drive.
It was a fun build, and it will certainly function well as a backup PC, but for now I don’t have a great deal of use for it, other than to play around with seeing how games run on an older system, and to try out the odd Linux app.
I partitioned the SSD that Windows 10 and Linux Mint shared the drive – 64 GB each – and the hard drive was partitioned similarly so that each had about 160 GB for apps and swap. The SSD made booting nice and fast, once the PC had made it past the slow old BIOS. The SSD is SATA2, but that’s perfect for this build as the motherboard only supports SATA2 anyway.
SLI was simple enough to get going under Windows 10, but it was a different story with Linux Mint. Mint does not use the official nVidia driver, so I needed to install it manually. After trying others’ solutions that involved editing the xorg.conf file (which didn’t work) I came one that required me to completely delete all previous drivers and reinstall the latest nVidia driver, all from the command line (unfortunately I can’t find the post). Only to find out about the ‘broken’ state of SLI on Linux. Perhaps this at least partly explained why Borderlands The Pre-Sequel performed noticeably better on Windows than on Linux. Maybe I’ll do some benchmarking on games on Linux and Windows some day and post the results.
Networking is a little dodgy. The motherboard has two gigabit ethernet ports, but unfortunately I’ve maxed out the ethernet ports on the room’s 8-port switch. I decided to dig out an old 802.11g (54Mbit) wireless card I had lying around and install that. The PC is just out of range of the house’s wireless access point, so I utilised internet sharing over wireless on the iMac. This gives me a 20 Mbit connection, which is a bit naff for local file transfers, but acceptable for our 50 Mbit fixed-wireless NBN connection.
I am interested to know how much power the system is drawing. Although I haven’t fully checked it out, with two old nVidia cards and a CPU with a 125 watt power draw, during SLI gaming I daresay it’s straining the 650 watt PSU, though so far I haven’t had any problems. Though it does make a heater redundant during the winter with the other three or four systems going on (two PCs and two Macs).
To round out the system I connected a HP L2445w 1920×1200 24″ monitor, much like the one I use for my main desktop. I also used an old Microsoft optical mouse and a cruddy old Dick Smith keyboard, the keys of which feel pretty yuck under my fingers, but it’s adequate for what I use the system for. Sound is provided via my AKG K99 headphones. Unfortunately the onboard sound suffers from inteference, but I have an old Sound Blaster from the system’s original build lying around, so I might install that some time.
Anyway, it will be interesting to see if what uses I can come up with for the PC. No need to use it as a file server or jukebox, as those are taken care of by my Synology DS-211 server. If you have any ideas feel free to let me know 🙂
For some time now I’ve been thinking about this. No, scratch that. For a LONG time now I’ve been thinking about this, that is, writing a blog. Every now and then I would install WordPress onto my site space, setup it up with a brand spanking new theme, get the plugins sorted out, take a deep breath and…….nothing. OK, once I did get a little further than that, but then got paralysed by thinking that my site would not be good enough, because there’s always someone out there who knows more, there will always be someone there to criticise my posts, all the negative stuff. I’ve begun to learn in my first year psychology studies the reasons for those fears and how they plague us, but I won’t go into detail here. So, I’ve finally decided to just put the things in my head into words and put it out there.
So what will this blog be about?
Well, my interests revolve around technology, gaming, urban planning, local history, and psychology, so it’s going to be some kind of mish-mash of those things. I’m also trying to develop my photography skills, so I may throw some of my photographic work in the blog too. I don’t quite know where I’ll start, but I’ll figure that out.
I hope you enjoy whatever comes…