Wednesday, 4 January 2017

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2017!!

Well, I was expecting to update this blog a bit sooner than a 5 month gap! wow! How the time and last year has flown by for me. I guess that's what having a little boy brings you. My time has certainly gone into basically playing with him when I get home.

But I have when I've had a little bit of time working on making an area in the garden for electronic tinkering and making things hobby and DIY. At the start of summer 2016 I started designing and making a bartop arcade machine. I'd been seeing a lot of them on the forums I frequent and I really wanted to have a go at making one. But rather than just buying a pre-cut kit I wanted to use the opportunity to teach myself wood working and really try to get my crappy wood work skills up a few notches! I've always been really bad at working with wood haha. But I've always been so impressed with what people can make.

So I started the design and when I was happy with that I got out on the tiny front little patio we have and got some of the power tools I inherited from my Father out and some MDF from my local DIY shop. And when I got a half-day friday from work or an hour here or there I'd get a little bit of work done to the project. The one main issue I was having, other than my slow learning curve was that I would spend a massive chunk of my time setting everything up on the patio and then packing it all away again into our front shed. So I wouldn't get as much done as I'd hope. And also I didn't want my wife and boy around all the MDF dust that was being generated as it's certainly no good for you. I have a nice mask I use to save my lungs!

On the way home from seeing some friends halfway through the summer season my wife mentioned the idea of getting another shed, probably from somewhere like Gumtree and turning it into a workshop. She'd noticed that I was spending ages with all the setup and pack down and that sometimes I got rained off which was always a little bit of a bummer. And even more of a surprise she found a shed locally that had just been put up on the site for a staggering £20! It was a small shed but we only have a small garden so it should be perfect. I phoned the guy up and we picked it up in the evening that week. It was hairy getting it home on top of the van we borrowed but it got home safe and sound and we then set about at the weekends repairing all of the old rotted wall, roof and floor panels. Which there were a lot of!!

 

Eventually we got all the parts repaired and excitedly started building the shed in the now cleared location at the bottom of the garden and we ran into a few hick-ups. The first being that the floor didn't fit the sides at all!! It was from a different shed! So with a bit of thinning and then extending the floor it fit. How annoying. So onto the roof. Well the roof didn't fit either! So we modded that to make it fit too. For £20 we appeared to have bought a floor from one shed, walls from another and the roof panels from another! 3 SHEDS haha!! But it all sits nicely now and the progress of moving it from a garden shed towards a workshop has really gotten going now.


I've build a small workbench and bandsaw stand from 2 old bed frames that my neighbour and brother were throwing out. And just have some shelves to make now to fit all the other bits and bobs of tools and I'll be carrying on with the Bartop project. As well as making a bath shelf to house all of my son's bath toys and an under stairs toy box.

So that's really what's been keeping me busy of the last half of a year. It's been quite exciting as I'm learning new things all the time and the Workshop is going to open up a few more opportunities for projects etc.

I did go to Revival this year too and took a load of photos which I'll just post below. It was a brilliant day!! I loved the talks I sat in on that Retro Asylum hosted and played as many games on as many machines as I could. It was so good! I fell in love with Defender as well. I'd only ever played the home version, possibly on my Atari 2600, I can't quite remember. But the arcade game, WOW! So cool! I saw some podcast celebrates around the show as well. Shaun and Vic from the Ten Pence Arcade Podcast. I was a little too scared to go and chat with them though, I can never think of things to say. And I also saw and spoke to Alex Crowley who was an original host of Ten Pence. He'd taken some of his arcade cabs to the show and I had a good go on them. The Sheriff upright cocktail being my favourite although I did really enjoy Space Launcher too! Both simple games but so playable and addictive!

Here are a few photos of the day :


















Again, I absolutely loved the day and can't wait for the Revival event that will hopefully happen this year! And hopefully it's close by as well so I can go.

So that's a basic catch-up to my blog of things that have been happening this year. Projects have slowed down but they are always floating around in my head and just waiting for the time to strike haha!

Have a good new year folks!

Porl''

Monday, 18 July 2016

JULY 2016 UPDATE

Hi Guys,

It’s been a little while *again* for updates. I keep meaning to do little posts but time just keeps getting away from me. But this month I’m super excited about an event that’s happening at the end of it. Revival Summer Solstice!! I bought my ticket about 2 months ago now and it took me ages to decide which day to choose to go on. I knew that there were going to be talks at this event, much like they had at the original Revival event a few years ago but I wasn’t sure which day would have which speakers etc as they’ve been drip feeding information about the show every couple of weeks. Well I decided in the end, as its school summer holidays and me and my wife don’t have to work on the saturday morning running a band that I will take the opportunity and go on the Saturday. Well I found out last week that I lucked out!! 50/50 chance mind you. But the saturday is the day they are having all the talks from people who used too and still do work in the industry. And on the sunday is when Retro Asylum are recording for a podcast from the show. So, even though that would be cool I’m stoked I should be able to attend some of the talks from people such as Jim Bagley who must be a super interesting guy because he’s creating some of the coolest “I just want to do this because no-one else has” kinds of projects over the last few years. So as well as going on all the arcade machines I can get my hands on again I’m psyched to get to hear some people talk too!

So if your going to the event on Saturday and do read my stupid blog you might end up having a 2 player game with me on an arcade machine and not even know haha.

I can’t wait to go man! WOO!!

Other updates?

Well project wise I’ve just been plugging away on my Summer Project I issued to myself when I get chance. Each stage is taking me so long because Im completely learning new things and skills every time I get to work on it. So each step is very drawn out but so far *touch wood* its going okay. One of the things I had been doing was playing around with my Raspberry Pi 2 which I got for christmas. I have Retro Pie on there but I’ve been really wanting to set it so that vertical games are orientated the correct way, so I have to turn my monitor. I’m not a fan of the fit it to a landscape screen setting that seems to be on all MAME setups as standard. But I’ve been struggling a lot with it. I don’t ever use Linux so again I’m learning in bits each time I play with it. And you might thing “well, why bother messing around with rotating your screen?! You can still play the game. Well, if you see below where I was playing a bit of Gunbird, you get to see it so much better! Look how it fills the screen. Your not leaving half of the screen for just black space, that suckers getting full with shoot-y goodness! ahem. haha.


But I’ve got to figure out how to get my Pi-Mame / AdvMame or whichever to do game by game screen rotation / orientation. I’ve joined a retro pie group on Facebook though that seem to be super knowledgable so I should hopefully be able to get some help at some point. I need to get scan lines going on there too, that would be the icing on the cake! :-P

Anyway, I’ve not really been up to much other than playing in bands and helping do other things that aren’t really retro / geek related. I’ll get there though, chipping away.

Right, time to sign off and ticking off the days till its Revival !

Catch you later

Porl''


Wednesday, 20 April 2016

CAPCOM CPS2 ALL-IN-ONE BLACK MARVEL VS CAPCOM BATTERY CHANGE

Hey guys,

I've finally done it! I've finally grown the balls to tackle the battery change on my Capcom CPS2 All-in-one black metal case Marvel VS Capcom game. I've done a battery change on a regular CPS2 board, the plastic cased A board which you can do without the game connected but when it comes to the All-in-one games their different...

....you need to change the battery while the game is on!..

...WHILE IT'S TURNED ON!!!

haha, yeah that's why I've been putting off doing it. You need to keep the game on while you desolder the old battery and then solder in the new one. I mean, the process of changing the battery is super simple but doing it while the board is propped on its side so you can get easy access to the top and bottom makes it a lot more delicate. If you press too hard on anything the board will move, potentially slide and you can touch other parts of the board by accident with the soldering iron or your hand and short something. Or cause it to lose power, which while the battery is disconnected will just brick your game and it's phoenix time. Which is what I didn't want to happen.

So I set myself up as best as I could and did everything methodically and checked my work at each stage just because I wanted to be super careful and I love this game and really don't want to knacker it up.


Here you can see the offending battery, which to be honest was still in good shape. No leaking or bloating or anything. But it's been in there since 2011 and I wanted to get a fresh one in to help prolong the life of this game in it's original form.


Sorry this image is a screenshot from the video I made documenting my progress with this swap (see bottom of this post for video). I forgot to take a photo of it propped up as I was psyching myself up to go for the desolder haha. So this is how I had the game propped up. I electrical taped both sides of the edge of the board that's touching my hobby mat so that the game couldn't slide out from under itself. That would be pretty disasterous! And you can hopefully see its leaning against my plastic main soldering box. It's pretty heavy and with it leaning towards it the game can't fall forward as I work. And you can see the Jamma edge on there too.


And SUCCESS!!! Here you can see the game working with it's fresh new battery in place! WOO!! The actual swap was a simple job in the end, I was just super careful with how I put the solder sucker on there etc to desolder the old battery. I did have a little bit of a heart attack when I was cleaning the last bit of solder of one of the pads that looked like it might be obscuring a bit of one of the holes and it might make pocking one of the legs through a little tricky. I didn't realise but the games music had stopped! I looked over to my TV and the screen was frozen with the small Capcom logo in the middle bottom bit of the screen and the rest of the screen had a Patent number, Patent number text written all across the screen. I thought for sure it's dead and I'd moved the board too much or something. I was gutted. Well I finished putting the new battery in and trimmed its legs. Then I turned it off because I'd have to turn it off at some point to put the game away. And when I turned it back on the flippin' thing worked!! Man I was so happy! haha

So I did it! The battery change didn't take very long at all in the end and now I'd done it it's not that scary anymore. I must admit that I couldn't find much at all about changing the batteries on these boards just comments about doing it while the game is on. The only real posts I did find ended up being from a Blog written by the guy who owned this game! I bought it off him via Arcade Otaku. I recognised the scratches on the metal casing. So this game seems to be the poster boy for the battery swap :-P

Below is the video I made of the battery change each step of the way. Except for the actual battery swap. I was too scared to do that on video in case I messed it up worrying about talking on camera or if the camera was in focus or had fallen over etc.



So there you go, I wanted to post up something about the swap I did as information is fairly scarce on swapping out the batteries on these boards. And hopefully it'll help if you have an All-in-one and want / need to change the battery on it but don't really know how to go about it.

Good luck and see you soon

Porl''

Monday, 11 April 2016

YES ANOTHER GAMEBOY....


So again it's been a while since I posted anything up on my Blog. The past few months have flown by and I've just bit-d and bob-d about with projects but haven't really got any finished during the time. It's a shame but I'm still super excited about retro gaming projects and still have several lined up. One major one I need to get to is changing the battery on my CPS2 all-in-one Marvel Vs Capcom board. The battery is pretty old on it and I need to grow the nerve up to change it. Apparently they work differently to normal CPS2 boards and you have to change it while the game is on and playing!! If theres no power and the battery gets taken out it dumps the encryption keys and thats it, you need to get it phoenixed! And I don't want that at all!

Anyway, what's the story with me getting another Gameboy!??! Well it was a bit random really, I'd been into my companies (where I work, I don't own it haha) RnD department on the scrounge for some AA's to run my DMG Gameboy and told them why I wanted them. They very kindly gave me some retro fuel cells for the Gameboy and then a few days later one of the guys from there came over to my desk and gave me his old Gameboy Color! For Free!!! Woo! It's been sitting in his loft and when he saw I was interested in playing them he thought someone should play it and just bought it in. Man I was stoked! And green is my favourite colour so its even better! It came with Star Wars pod racing in it which I haven't tried and Brain Training for Nintendo DS (Which I have been using to get my maths skills better than the crappy Graphic Designer stage they are at now haha).

The Gameboy isn't in mint condition or anything, it's been played and Im more than happy with that. The screen is scratched slightly but you don't see them when the game is on. Oh and the battery cover was missing. I don't understand how so many Gameboys have no battery covers?! Do the clips break on them or do kids just not put them back on when changing the batteries and they disappear? Anyway, I dropped £3.99 on amazon and got a repro cover and its now complete. :-)


And I've started working my way through Zelda : Links Awakening. It's really good so far and I've just entered the second dungeon ; Bottle Grotto. I've got a lot of game to play but It's very much a game I can pick away at I think. Also Im very impressed with the screen on the Gameboy Color. I didn't think the viewing angles etc would be improved over the DMG but it really is a step up! It's a lot easier to see in normal daylight. When it gets dark etc the game gets switched into the backlight DMG ;-)

Oh also, I got this game with some of my birthday money and I've started the trek into Dark Souls 2 on PS3. I've heard that it is a solid game and I've not really been interested in it for years, but I watched a Giant Bomb quick look on Dark Souls 3 and they completely hooked me. It actually looked really fun and the style, graphics and gameplay looked really good! So I dropped £6 and picked it up. Well, It IS FOOKING SOLID!! haha. I've played a few hours of it and Im totally stuck already. Its not a hand holder at all which is really interesting and Im determined to get further, it has definatly hooked me!

I've looked up a tutorial and I was heading into an area I'm no way near strong enough to go through yet which has been why I've died, and died and died etc etc etc over and over again :-P

Oh and I also have Metal Gear Solid V : The Phantom Pain to play through. Im super into MGS and Im really looking forward to getting some play time in on it, I think Dark Souls 2 needs to be done first though...we'll see.

So I thought I would drop an update and I need to get more projects finished.

Hopefully I'll have some actual finished stuff to show soon.

*fingers crossed*

Porl''

Friday, 22 January 2016

PLAY IT LOUD!! BACKLIGHT + BI-VERT MOD

Hey, how’s it going? Hopefully well. :-)

A few posts ago I showed the Play it Loud! Gameboy I got locally for a real deal. Well I got round to backlighting and bi-verting my Gameboy so that I can play it in any light :-D


As an example, this is the original screen. You can see the title screen for Zelda : Links Awakening okay in this photo but you really struggle when your holding the Gameboy and its moving around in the light.

I was a little worried I must admit because I watched a few tutorials on doing the backlight mod and one of the main things everyone says is how easy it is to ruin the screen by prying the screen out too far and snapping / breaking the connections between it and the main board. I really wanted to do this mod though so I had to be brave, take my time and go for it.

I went to a really cool UK Gameboy mods site to order my backlight kit. Check them out here : http://www.gameboymods.co.uk/ Shaun who runs the site was really helpful with my questions and the backlight arrived super quick. I highly recommend getting your backlight from him!






When the backlight arrived I got started that night on the mod. I couldn’t wait haha. Here you can see front main board out and the really tricky back reflective sticker removed. I didn’t want to take any in progress photos as I did this, I just wanted to concentrate on getting it all out in one piece and not wrecking the screen. Its this process that can damage the screen. There are solder points under the glass that can easily be pried away from the solder pads if your not careful.


I didn’t end up photographing the light in place, I’m not sure know why but I connected the power and grounds up to the capacitor you see in the above photo. Its directly below the screen. Its a nice short location and keeps everything clean.

Here you can see the Gameboy back together and the light working!! Whoop whoop!! What you might notice is that the image is now inverted compared to the first non-backlit image. Once of the cool things you get with the back-light is a contrast sheet and if you turn it one way the image is normal and you rotate it and the image is inverted. Its important if your going to do the Bi-vert mod to have the sheet set to invert. When I add in the invert chip to the gameboy its going to re-invert the screen which will result in a really nicely contrasting screen image.

That was all I managed to do in the one night, and I must admit I was really happy I’d gotten that far with it as I really did take my time removing the reflective sticker.

I played the machine for about a week inverted until I got another chance to open it up and install the small 7404 Hex Inverter chip to switch the image back over.






This really was a simple mod to do and I followed the excellent guide on mmmonkey’s site : http://www.mmmonkey.co.uk/gameboy-dmg-01-screen-invert/ He always does great write ups and has really informative photos so you shouldn’t have any problems following them.


Here you can see my inverted back-lit Gameboy sitting on the tutorial I printed out. This is a reference of how it looks before for a late photo ;-)


There isn’t much to write about the process really, the guide is so good I just followed it and kept my wiring as neat as possible. The chip just wedges in the top of the case and it all closes up absolutely fine! Here you can see my wiring and the chip in place. Looks pretty neat I think!

And here it is all Bi-verted for comparison! Look at that backlit bi-verted contrasty goodness!! :D


And heres another one of the first level of MegaMan as it shows more depth in the screen image.


These two mods really have made my Gameboy way more useable in everyday life. I can see the screen in any situation now and I have it in my rucksack at all times for whenever Im having to wait for anything and I want a hit of retro gaming.

I really recommend trying this mod out if you feel brave enough or get someone to do it for you. It really does add loads of extra usable life to you Gameboy and looks top banana! I went for the green backlight just to keep the feel of the machine original. But I saw several Gameboys backlit with other colours and they all looked great! I was really Impressed with the light blue and the pink ones.

So yeah, go for it and have fun with your Gameboys!

Porl’’