Mame Cabinet, continued.

31 10 2007


Originally uploaded by eidolon

Well last night I put in some time to assemble the frame for the pedestal. This is the bottom third of the cabinet, and will contain the PC and other hardware necessary.

It’s pretty solid (and heavy) at the moment. Once I fabricate the front and rear panels, it’ll be ready for hardware to be installed. I hope to do one of the panels tomorrow before I leave for Ubercon, so it’ll hold up for the event.

This whole project has been quite therapeutic for me. It’s getting me to get up from behind my desk and go down and work in the shop. My shop is cleaner and more organized than it’s ever been, and I feel like I’m accomplishing something. On the one hand I’m looking forward to showing off the end product, but on the other hand, the travelling the road has been rewarding in it’s own right.

Thank you Sun and Ubuntu!

29 10 2007

… and the cast of thousands that made installing a Sun JDK onto Linux as simple as:

root@endor:~# apt-get install sun-java6-jdk
Reading package lists… Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information… Done
The following extra packages will be installed:
gcc-3.3-base java-common libstdc++5 odbcinst1debian1 sun-java6-bin sun-java6-jre unixodbc
Suggested packages:
equivs binfmt-support sun-java6-demo sun-java6-doc sun-java6-source sun-java6-plugin ia32-sun-java6-plugin sun-java6-fonts
ttf-baekmuk ttf-unfonts ttf-unfonts-core ttf-kochi-mincho ttf-sazanami-mincho ttf-arphic-uming libmyodbc odbc-postgresql
Recommended packages:
libxp6 libnss-mdns gsfonts-x11
The following NEW packages will be installed:
gcc-3.3-base java-common libstdc++5 odbcinst1debian1 sun-java6-bin sun-java6-jdk sun-java6-jre unixodbc
0 upgraded, 8 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
Need to get 42.3MB/43.1MB of archives.
After unpacking 128MB of additional disk space will be used.
Do you want to continue [Y/n]?

For those on the sidelines, Sun has not been particularly forthcoming regarding a licensing arrangement that makes the RMS-ites at least mildly comfortable with automating an installation. In point of fact, I believe Debian is still uncomfortable with the whole license arrangement, though they do have it in the non-free repository.
Up until recently, getting Java onto a Linux box was, well, not difficult, but certainly not trivial. I’m happy to say it’s gotten as easy as installing any other package, which, with current package managers, means it’s a breeze.
Yay progress.

Of Systems and Services, Mame and Madmen…

28 10 2007

It’s been a challenging few days here at Chez Geek. In true journal fashion, here are the highlights, because I know my devoted readers are sitting on the edge of their seats, waiting for every geeky installment of my daily encounters with recalcitrant hardware, misconfigured servers, and twitchy environments.
Of Mame
Mame console underneathOn Friday night I finished wiring the console. I’m short a half dozen buttons, so some functionality is missing, but I really wanted coin drop buttons. I picked up a couple small single-throw pushbuttons I had lying around, and wired them in with duct tape, so now I can ‘drop coins’ to get credits just by pushing a button on the console. Looks like ass, but it does work. I’ve ordered the new buttons, and they’ll arrive in a couple days, and I wanted to play games NOW.
There’s a whole post about things I’m learning regarding building a Mame cabinet, but that can wait. For now, I’m using deathstar, my MythTV box, as my ‘mame front end’. MythGame is “okay” as far as interfaces. Mostly it’s “okay” because it’s actually working correctly, and works with the controller. I’m hoping to haul the entire setup to Ubercon this coming weekend, so minimizing fuss is a big win.
Of Stonekeep and Conventions
Next weekend I’ll be down at Ubercon in New Jersey. This of course means I need to get most of the CONGO system up and running to run badges. Unfortunately, endor is not behaving. After almost 4 years of constantly apt-getting and updating packages on it (Starting from a Debian ‘woody’ install), a series of packages failed miserably during an upgrade (I haven’t really worked on it in about a year), and has left it in an unuseable state. I’ve backed the data off it, and reloaded Ubuntu Feisty Fawn on it. There’s a bunch of configuration that still needs to be done, and that’s making me nervous so close to an event. At least the install seems to have completed cleanly.
Those are the two primary things on my mind these days. Oh, and in the background is ongoing Java work and the slow moving ahead of Mosaic Commons, but that’s sort of the ‘steady noise’ bits. I’m just covering the highlights right now.

Fall in Massachusetts

27 10 2007


Originally uploaded by eidolon

I do love the fall, particularly when it gets cool enough to really enjoy the outdoors. Hiking in the woods is one of the best ways I have of unwinding.

I took the new camera along and spent some time outside Callahan State Park, in Sudbury, and found the colors just fabulous. By this time of day, things had gotten overcast, but that certainly didn’t make it any less enjoyable.

Audacity Ate my Konqueror

26 10 2007

I’ve been having a problem in KDE for the last 6 months or so (perhaps longer, I’m not sure). On the face of it, it seemed like a standard file association problem, but it was pervasive.
Recently I switched to using Konqueror as my primary web browser. With the advances in plugin support for things like Flash and Shockwave, the actual browser platform has become less important. Since I switched away from Firefox, I’ve been using Konqueror and, for the most part, things have been pretty good.
Except for one annoying bit.
Because I’m a developer, I have to, on occasion, do the ‘View Source’ thing from inside my browser to see how the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript in a page I’m working with is put together. For some bizarre reason, Konqueror had decided that when I selected View Source, it would try and open the source in… Audacity.
Now, I’m all for great programs like Audacity. It’s a fantastic multi-track audio editor. But in no way, shape, or form is it a source code viewer.
This afternoon I finally sat down to try and figure out what the heck was wrong. Konqueror has a great tool for associating various file types with helper applications (something old time users of Mozilla are very familiar with), but the sheer number of associations is staggering. And since I didn’t know what type was that was causing the external app to be launched, I didn’t know which one to look for.
I got my first clue when I noticed that Konqueror had associated .py (Python) files with Audacity. “Aha!” sez I, “That’s not right!” – I started to change the association, then went “Wait, I don’t want Audacity started ever. Just remove the helper.” Which confronted me with the dialog box stating that Audacity had been attached to text/plain and could not be removed.
Another clue! Navigated to text/plain, saw Audacity listed in the helpers, and promptly moved it down to the bottom of the list (Okay, maybe someday I’ll want to use Audacity. Allow me my foibles.) Clicking Apply and then trying a view source finally got me… the source!
Note that this entire problem was solved inside KDE without resorting to editing configuration files, typing cryptic commands, or knowing esoteric and mystical Linux incantations. It was a misconfigured browser, nothing more. In the good old days this would have required said gyrations to fix, but I’m constantly impressed at how far environments like KDE have come, making problem solving like this a lot more intuitive.

My Gibbons Runneth Over

25 10 2007

Now there’s a topic that won’t make much sense unless you’re in the Linux community.
This week saw the release of Ubuntu 7.10, aka ‘Gutsy Gibbon’. I’ve been firmly in the “Stick with the stable releases” Linux camp for quite a while, even when Debian was pushing 2 years behind on their ‘stable’ release.
I’ve been running Ubuntu 7.04 (aka ‘Feisty Fawn’) on yawl for the last year or so, and have had nothing but good things to say about it. It’s been stable, useable, and lets me do my work. Excellent.
Yesterday I ran the update process and told the system to update itself to 7.10. The total processing time would be about 2.5 hours, due to a gig and change of data that needed to be downloaded (okay, I have a lot of packages), so I decided to go to lunch.
Upon returning, I answered 2 questions about local files I had modified, let the installation finish, and, with a small dose of trepidation, rebooted.
It came back fine.
In fact, everything came back fine. I have seen not the tiniest indication of a problem. Ubuntu just upgraded something like 1100 packages on this machine to newer versions, and everything Just Plain Works. All my basic tools are fine, if upgraded and showing some new bells and whistles. The traditional boondoggles of Linux system maintenance never even flinched. Sound, network, accelerated graphics (I have an nVidia card) – all came back up flawlessly, even with my desktop back as it looked before.
There are some noteable changes in the new release. The file manager has been replaced with ‘Dolphin’, which I have to say the jury is still out on. Initially I was very nervous about replacing my beloved Konqueror file system browser with something new, but my initial impressions of Dolphin are good. Everything seems there, if a little heavy on the big icons. I’ll play with it a while and see if it will cut the mustard.
This is how computers are supposed to work. No license hassles, no nightmare changes from one revision to another, no “Burn it to bedrock and reinstall from scratch” problems with upgrades, or problems with “This app worked with my old OS, but doesn’t work with the new one!” – one big distribution contributed to by everyone, with everything updated at once and confirmed to work together.
Yay Ubuntu!

Mame project – Some more work done.

22 10 2007

Tonight while Catya and Zach were off doing stuff, and after a frustrating afternoon of successfully NOT getting an LDAP server working, I decided to put in some time on the cabinet.
IMG_0855.JPGI needed some minor parts, so I went by Home Depot and picked up some basic assembly hardware (screws and some electricians bolts and nuts, etc).
Most of tonight was measuring, measuring, and re-measuring, THEN cutting… the pieces for the console ‘box’. This was a little tricky because it’s angled, but after screwing everything together, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.
I also installed the second joystick and re-mounted the first one with the correct bolts.
I’m short a couple buttons, and I’m considering getting the trackball sooner than later. Probably off to an arcade supply store later tonight / tomorrow to quick-order some buttons.
In all the blogs, websites, and books regarding building Mame cabinets, one thing is said over and over again. Plan, plan plan. I’m really glad I took quite a long time planning, drawing, re-drawing, and sketching components of this thing before I started cutting wood. So far I haven’t had to ‘go back on’ anything, or re-think anything on the fly. Since everything is already measured out, the assembly is not running into any problems along the way.
Some minor geekynotes…
I have mad, deep love for Irwin quick-grip tools. These are one-handed rubberized wood clamps (or anything, really) that you can put in place very quickly. They hold things incredibly well, and since I work primarily on sawhorses for cutting, these things are awesome.
It’s funny also that my workspace is getting CLEANER the more I work on it. With my new tool cabinet, I’m getting things organized as I’m working. This is the most use I’ve gotten out of my shop space in a while, and it’s nice knowing where tools are and what I have and don’t have.
I may be able to start work on the base cabinet by this weekend. We’ll see!