Archive

Posts Tagged ‘retro’
Orange Pi Development Boards

Kodi 18 Features and Improvements (FOSDEM 2018 Video)

February 8th, 2018 6 comments

Most Kodi users are now running Kodi 17.x Krypton that was initially released in February 2017, with the latest point version being Kodi 17.6. At the time of Krypton release, the developers had also started working on Kodi 18 “Leia” which should now be in “alpha”, and the stable release may only be a few months away although Kodi developers do not provide an ETA.

What they did provide however – via Martijn Kaijser at FOSDEM 2018 – is a progress report for Kodi 18 “Leia”, as well as some insights into Kodi 19 whose development has just started.

Click to Enlarge

Kodi 18 has gone through a lot of cleanup with the code upgraded to C++11 standard, duplicate code and obsolete libraries removed, dropped unmaintained feature, and so on. They also moved non-core features such as audio encoders and decoders, PVR, picture decoding, etc…  to external plugins. This work resulted into 299,476 deleted lines of codes, and 387,205 added lines of codes in Kodi v18 alpha.

Some of the key developments and new features you can expect in Kodi 18 include:

  • XBOX One support with Microsoft’s help
  • Improvements to the core VideoPlayer with easier to maintain, more portable and efficient code, support for DRM protected streams (e.g. Widevine), and potentially future support for PiP, headless mode, and transcoder mode.
  • RetroPlayer retro-gaming emulator is now part of Kodi
  • Rework of input handling using controller add-ons
  • Android now only uses standard Android API functions
  • Windows 64-bit release
  • Better Blu-ray support
  • DASH support
  • Other under the hood changes: Wayland support, Direct Rendering Manager, CMake build system, PVR improvements

As mentioned in the introduction, work on Kodi 19 “Mxxxxx” has also started, and one of the changes is the drop of support for Python 2 add-ons so every add-on will have to move to Python 3. Watch the video for the full picture.

You may also be interested in the presentation slides.

Pandora’s Box 5S Arcade Game Console – Teardown and Mini Review

January 22nd, 2018 14 comments

Last year – and even in 2016 – , there was a fair amount of new retro gaming news, with products such a Nintendo SNES Classic Edition or GameShell Portable Retro console, as well as community supported firmware such as RetrOrangePi 4.0. GearBest asked me if I wanted to review something a little different: Pandora’s Box 5S (aka Pandora’s Key 5S) arcade game console with 999 games most (all?) designed for two players.

This looked fun, and I was particularly interesting in checking out the hardware design, and hacking potential, e.g. if there could be a way to replace the board or firmware with your own. So in the review, I’ll focus mostly on the teardown, before shortly testing out the system and a few games.

Pandora’s Box 5S Unboxing

The device comes ins a large package (~70 x 24 x 16cm), so I’m surprised customs did not ask any questions, and it just went through without any issues.

Click to Enlarge

Once we open the package, we can see a bunch cables and accessories.

Those includes a bilingual (English/Chinese) user manual, 12V/3A power supply and power cord, VGA cable, HDMI cable, USB cable, as well as two spare gaming buttons (is that a bad or good sign?).

Click to Enlarge

Once we’ve removed all those from the package, we can take out of arcade game console itself with two sets of joystick, play/pause, player, and A/B/C/D/E/F buttons.

Click to Enlarge

The rear panel comes with an ON/OFF switch, the power jack, HDMI and VGA video output, an audio jack, a volume rocker, a CFG button, and two USB ports.

Click to Enlarge

Pandora’s Box 5S Teardown

Opening the device is very easy: Loosen the three screws on the front of the device…

.. and open it up like a car’s engine cover. I used a chopstick to keep it open.

Click to Enlarge

There’s plenty of space inside the case, with the mainboard in the middle, and RGB LED strip, fan, and speaker on the sides, and fairly neat cabling.

Click to Enlarge

The right side is used to other player 2 buttons and joystick, and is fitted with the single speaker for the system…

Click to Enlarge

… while the left side comes with player 1’s inputs, and a fan.

Click to Enlarge

The main board – Xiyangyangs2_V55dRX – is powered by Allwinner A13 Arm Cortex A8 processor combined with 256MB (2 Gbit) SKhynix H5TQ2G63GFR DDR3. Other chips include three HC245 3-state octal bus transceivers, some STMicro 78422 IC…

Click to Enlarge

… an STMicro STM32F103C8T6 Arm Cortex M3 MCU likely used to handle I/Os from the volume rocker, buttons, and joysticks, a Lattice SII9022-ACNU HDMI 1.4a transmitter with 24-bit RGB input, and two more HC245 chips.

Where’s the storage chip? There’s none, and instead we’ll find an 8GB micro SD card with the firmware under the QC stickers. This should allow to mess around with the firmware, and potentially use it for other applications. If we have a quick look into the content, we can see the system calls /usr/init at boot time:

then a program called “emulotar” in /usr/emu.

We’ll find some audio and photo files in that directory, but those are not used by the games. Instead you’ll find game data in /usr/sd/ with game data (roms) stored in zip files, and some avi videos stored in movies folder. Both need to be accessed as root.

If you’d like to use the enclosure and buttons, and replace the board with something more powerful, you may want to check Grant Likely’s open source arcade control panel that appears to be using very similar buttons and joysticks, but with a custom wooden enclosure, as well as DragonBoard 820c board combined with STM32F3-Discovery board. ARMDevices.net has a video about his console that was showcased at Linaro Connect.

Pandora’s Box 5S Mini Review

Time to put everything back together and start playing. So I connected the device to the HDMI port of my TV, and the latter reported “Mode Not Supported”. Oh well, switching to VGA worked. Audio is going through the internal speaker, so I tried to connected my USB powered speakers to the USB port and 3.5mm audio jack of the console, and no audio from those external speakers, only from the internal speaker. Never mind, I could still play a few games as you’ll find out in the video below.

The fan is not exactly quiet, but you may not really mind with the game audio, and noise made by kids or friends may cover it up… I go through the full list of the games at the end of video. I found at least two games I used to play when I was a younger self: Mortal Kombat and Bomberman.

This should be a lots of fun for kids and adults alike. Just keep in mind that not all HDMI TV may support the game, so make sure you have a monitor or TV with VGA input as a backup. I was also unable to use anything else than the internal speaker for audio. I tried it on my other LG TV, and HDMI worked with audio, but the picture is not centered, and the left side is cropped out.

I’d like to thank GearBest for sending Pandora Box 5S for review, and if interested, you can purchase it for $146.99 shipped [Update: coupon CNX122 brings the price down to $130.99 (Valid until  2018-03-29)]. There are other Pandora’s Box 5S or Pandora’s Key 5S hardware around, but it’s often different hardware, some kind of DIY expansion, or a similar model as the one reviewed above but for a single player.

Popcorn Hour Transformer Media Computer / NAS Launched for $95.90 and Up

January 4th, 2018 11 comments

Last month, we wrote about Cloud Media’s Popcorn Hour Transformer, a platform based on Rockchip RK3328 processor that could be used a 2.5″ drive NAS, and/or a 4K HDR TV box, and looked like an interested alternative  to ODROID HC1 NAS system.

The company has now officially launch the device, and is taking orders for $95.90 or $115.90 for respectively the 2GB RAM/16GB flash, or 4GB/32GB versions.

Click to Enlarge

Popcorn Hour Transformer specifications:

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3328 quad core Cortex A53 processor with Mali-450MP GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB or 4GB LPDDR3
  • Storage
    • micro SD slot
    • 16 or 32GB eMMC flash (removable and upgradeable)
    • 128 Mbit SPI NOR flash
    • SATA interface via USB 3.0 to SATA bridge chipset for 2.5″ HDD/SSD
  • Network Connectivity – Gigabit Ethernet
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0a up to 4K 60Hz with HDR (HDR10/HLG) support
  • Audio Output – Via HDMI, and 3.5mm audio jack (analog stereo or optical S/PDIF)
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 type A ports including one OTG port
  • Misc – Power button, IR receiver, RTC
  • Power Supply – 5V/3A via power barrel jack
  • Dimensions & weight – TBD (aluminum casing with passive cooling fins)

The transformer ships with a 5V/3A power supply, and an IR remote control.

Two variants are offered with exactly the same hardware, but while the “Media Computer” version is pre-loaded with Android 7.1.2, the NAS version comes with OpenMediaVault instead. The company also mentions community supported images for the device, which should be (mostly) software compatible with Pine64 ROCK64 development board, including Lakka (RetroArch) for retro-gaming, open source Android TV and Xenial Mate Desktop both maintained by ayufan, LibreELEC maintained by Raybuntu, and others.

At first, I found the price gap to ODROID-HC1 (sold for $49) ludicrous, but Transformer does include 16GB storage, and a power supply, which needs to be purchased separately for the Hardkernel mini NAS, so while the gap is still there, it’s not as large as the advertised prices entail. Popcorn Hour Transformer also supports video output, and comes with a fully closed case.

Sega Genesis Flashback Retro Game Console is Powered by “Monkey King 3.6” Processor, Runs Android

December 3rd, 2017 No comments

Retro gaming is cool again with products like Nintendo NES Classic / SNES Classic, DIY solutions based on firmware like RetrOrangePi, and the upcoming Atari console  among others.

Another model is AtGames Sega Genesis Flashback, a smaller replica of Sega Model 1 Genesis with 85 pre-loaded games including the Sonic series, Mortal Kombat series, Phantasy Star series, and Shining Force series games.

 

The console ships with two wireless controllers, connect to your TV via HDMI with 720p resolution, and includes a cartridge slot that works with Sega Genesis and Mega Drive cartridges. The console has been out for several months, and it would be an understatement to say reviews are not very positive with titles / bylines such as “do not buy” (partially because the console requires a power adapter….), This Genesis does not do what Nintendoes, or “More like Trashback“.

But what caught my eyes is ETA Prime’s Sega Genesis Flashback HD Teardown And Review (embedded below), which reveals the board is powered by Monkey King 3.6 processor.

Click to Enlarge

A new silicon vendor? My search attempts were unfruitful, but as we continue watching the video and ETA prime connects the box to his PC via USB we find the answer. Monkey King 3.6 processor is actually a re-branded Rockchip RK3036 SoC with a dual core Cortex A7  processor and Mali-400MP GPU, and the system runs Android 4.4. So eventually it could be feasible to add your own game. The actual review is fairly positive except for some specific games (frame skipping), contrary the gaming sites linked above.

Thanks to theguyuk for the tip.

Gameshell Portable Retro Gaming Console Features Clockwork Pi Allwinner R16 Board (Crowdfunding)

November 24th, 2017 3 comments

Allwinner R16 with its lowly four Cortex A7 cores and Mali-400MP2 GPU would not normally come to mind when designing a gaming console. But Nintendo used the R16 processor twice in their retro gaming consoles: NES Classic and SNES Classic Edition.

Clockwork, a startup based in Hangzhou, China, decided they could also do gaming console with the processor: Gameshell. But their product is quite different, as it’s both a portable console with 2.7″ display, and a development platform with the console based on Clockwork Pi development board, and an Atmel AVR (Arduino) based keypad board.

Gameshell specifications:

  • Clockwork Pi development board
    • SoC – Alwinner R16-J quad core Cortex A7 processor @ 1.2 GHz with Mali-400MP2 GPU
    • System Memory – 512MB or 1GB (in future revision of the board)
    • Storage – 1x micro SDHC slot
    • Video Output / Display I/F – 18-bit RGB display interface, micro HDMI (planned in revision of the board),
    • Audio Output – Via HDMI, 3.5 mm stereo audio jack
    • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0
    • USB – 1x micro USB port
    • Expansion – 14-pin header with UART, I2C, SPI, GPIO
    • Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port or 3.7V battery
    • Dimensions – 70×50 mm
  • Keypad board
    • MCU- Microchip Atmel ATMega160p MCU
    • 30-pin header with flat headers
    • ISP programming connector
    • I2C? interface to Clockwork Pi
    • micro USB connector
  • Display – 2.7″ RGB display with 320×240 @ 60 Hz
  • Stereo Speaker Module
  • Battery – 1,050 mAh good for 3 hours of continuous use, 100 hours standby
  • Weight – 195 grams

The console runs Linux, and supported thousands of games from Atari, GB, GBA, NES, SNES and more. Doom, and Cave Story are included in the console, with more free games coming in the future. The game console is designed to be disassembled, so that you can use it as a Linux + Arduino development platform for education and/or fun. You can run the company’ Clockwork OS with classic games support (apparently via RetroArch) and programming languages, but other OS will also be provided including Debian, Ubuntu, and Raspbian.

Gameshell is now on Kickstarter, and it’s going rather well right now with over $180,000 raised for the project. A $109 early bird pledge will include the white and gray Gameshell, a micro SD card preloaded with the OS and games, and a logo sticker. They also have rewards with different a rear shell with a different colors, and bundles with multiple consoles. Shipping add $10 for one console, and delivery is planned for April 2018. You may also find more details on Clockworkpi.com website.

RetrOrangePi 4.0 Released

November 6th, 2017 9 comments

RetrOrangePi is a retro gaming & media center firmware based on Armbian Debian image and working on Allwinner H3/H2+ based Orange Pi boards, Banana Pi M2+, and NanoPi M1, as well as Beelink X2 TV Box.

Right at the end of last year, I reviewed RetrOrangePi 3.0 on Orange Pi One board to which I connected Mars G01 gamepad, and I could play some games like Wolfenstein 3D and Quake, and watch videos on OpenELEC/Kodi 16. The firmware also comes with various emulators, but you’d have to load the ROMs yourself due to intellectual property / license issues. The developers have now released RetrOrangePi 4.0.

RetrOrangePi 4.0 changelog:

  • Latest Armbian v5.32 (Debian Jessie kernel 3.4.113)
  • RetroPie-Setup v4.3.3 (unofficial fork, upgradeable)
  • New RetrOrangePi repository for easy updates and fixes
  • EmulationStation v2.6.5 with video and game collection support, Desktop/OpenELEC shorcuts from main menu
  • New ROPi “Attract-Mode”-like theme (based on Cosmos theme)
  • Retroarch 1.6.7 – Retroachievements tested
  • Kodi Krypton 17.4 (hardware acceleration provided by MPV + VDPAU): IPTVsimple included, quit button fixed
  • OpenELEC (Kodi Jarvis 16.1) with CEC support by Jernej Skrabec (optional installation)
  • Slim and Full versions for all compatible boards
  • All Libretro cores updated
  • All RetroPie themes available for installation
  • Experimental new libretro cores: DOSBox, MAME2014, VICE, X68000, Amiga PUAE
  • PPSSPP latest v1.42
  • Mupen64Plus standalone emulator (with hires textures support)
  • AdvanceMAME 3.5
  • AdvanceMENU frontend integrated
  • AdvanceMESS (support for ancient platforms, tested OK: Bally Astrocade, BBC Micro, Channel F, Colecovision etc.
  • New Quake 2 port (Yamagi Quake)
  • New Streets of Rage Remake port (needs BennuGD engine downloaded to home folder)
  • Improved Amiga emulation – fullscreen UAE4ARM with JIT support, optional WHDLoad
  • Hatari 2.0 (SDL2) – atariST emulator
  • Vice 3.1 (SDL2) – Commodore emulator
  • Boot selection – from Desktop (EmulationStation, Kodi, AdvanceMENU, RetroArch, Desktop)
  • Onscreen keyboard (Florence)
  • Overscan fix in AV outputs (Allwinner_TVOUT_manipulator)
  • New Desktop wallpaper, wifi config, ES, Kodi, Donate and Support icons
  • Customized Retroarch configuration (optimal settings, appearance tweaks, original aspect ratio)
  • New HDMI/Analog AV configuration tool (thanks Jose Rios) + our overscan fix
  • New exclusive ROPi Radio beta version
  • Scraper by Sselph update
  • Universal XML Scraper integration and tutorials
  • Binary cores updates
  • GPIO driver can be installed from driver section.
  • RetroPie services tested: USBROMSERVICE – create a retropie-mount folder in your FAT32 flash drive, Virtual gamepad
  • Custom ES splashscreen by Francois Lebel @MagicFranky – the number 4 was on us :p (great skills!)
  • Custom MOTD with ROPi invader + Armbian info
  • Improved filesystem support: FAT32 automount, ExFAT support

The full images are not yet available, but if you are an existing users with ROPi 3.0.1 instead, you can upgrade to version 4.0 by running ropi4.sh script in your board/device as pi user:

The images for new users will be coming later once one of the developers involved get more free time. In the meantime, you’d have to download & install RetroOrange Pi 3.0.1, and run the script to upgrade to 4.0.

You’ll find more details about the release in the forums, where you can also ask for support questions. The source code can be found on github.

Orange Pi Lite Based Seedi Retro Gaming Console Takes Your Old DVDs or CD-ROMs (Crowdfunding)

October 6th, 2017 4 comments

Shenzhen Xunlong’s Orange Pi family is a nice collection of low costs ARM Linux development boards that can be used in all sort of projects, just like Raspberry Pi boards, but cheaper at the cost of requiring more skills, and/or efforts to complete a project. One popular use for Orange Pi boards is retro gaming thanks to community supported images like RetrOrange Pi supporting games for Atari, Amiga, DreamCast, and other consoles.

The implementation looks good enough for startups to sell their own products based on Orange Pi  hardware and RetrOrangePi software, as we’ve already seen with RetroEngine Sigma Retro Game Console which had a very successful Indiegogo campaign with $629,368 USD raised. “Seedi Team” has now launched their own game console apparently based on Orange Pi Lite, but it’s a little different as instead of copying “ROMs” , you can simply insert your old CD-ROMs or DVDs.

Seedi game console hardware specifications:

  • SoC – Quad core ARM processor
  • System Memory – N/A
  • Storage – 32GB micro SD cards, CD/DVD reader / CD burner
  • Video Output – HDMI up to 1080p60
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth
  • USB – 1x micro USB OTG port
  • Case – Horizontal or vertical orientation

The CD/DVD drive can play PSX, TurboGrafx, Neo Geo, and Sega CDs, but you can also read any other CD or DVD disks, as the drive is allegedly region-free. A separate Retrode adapter will allow you to use cartridges to play games from Sega Genesis, Game Boy, etc… For other platforms, including NES, MAME (arcade), Atari 2600, or TurboGrafx 16 you can always load the ROMs in other ways. Ports of Doom, Quake, or other DOS games are also available.

Beside the specifications above, the developers only mention it’s been developed using open source hardware and software, but based on various photo of the device and screenshot, it’s pretty clear the console is powered by Orange Pi Lite board with an Allwinner H3 processor and 512MB RAM, and runs RetrOrangePi with Kodi [Update: The list of software used is here. Not based on RetrOrangePi, but still based on Retroarch + Libretro]

The console launched on Indiegogo a few weeks ago, and raised a little over $20,000 out of its $50,000 target. A Seedi System with a vertical stand, a Bluetooth game controller, a controller charging/pairing cable, and power adapter requires a $125 pledge, and they also have other rewards  with a retro green case, or multiple controllers. The cartridge reader is not sold in the crowdfunding campaign. Shipping adds $10 to the US, $15 to the rest of the world, and delivery is scheduled for March 2018. They’ve sent early prototype to reviewers, and I included one of those video reviews below.

Having Old Floppy Disks Around? You Can Still Buy a USB Floppy Disk Drive to Read Them

July 18th, 2017 14 comments

If you are young enough, you may never have heard about floppy disks. They were the equivalent of “micro SD card” in the 1970’s to 2000’s , in the sense they were portable mass storage device, but the comparison stops there, as the size and capacity were quite different, and they relied on magnetic storage technology. The first 8-inch floppy drives appeared in 1971/1972 and the best models could eventually store 1.2 MB, they were following by 5¼-inch drives later the same decade with 360KB being the most common capacity, and finally 3.5-inch floppy drives coming with either 720 KB or 1.44 MB capacity in the 80’s. The latter were used until the early 2000’s, and I can remember Windows 3.1 being sold with 7 or so floppy drives. They were eventually replaced by CD ROMs, and USB flash drives. I’m writing about this, because I found out that Aliexpress is selling USB floppy disk drives for just under $10 shipped.

If you have working 3.5″ floppy disk drives in 2017, I congratulate you, as I remember backups on floppy drives would not last that long, with data becoming corrupted after a few years. I could not find drives for the older and larger floppy drives. Those larger floppy drives (aka diskettes) are still in use however, and our lives may depend on them, as part of the US nuclear arsenal still rely on 8″ floppy drives.

As a side note, I also discovered today that Aliexpress worked again with PayPal, and they offer a $5 coupon to new users using PayPal. It may only be available in some countries, as I don’t have the option to pay by PayPal yet in Aliexpress.

Thanks to Bruce for the tip.

Categories: Hardware Tags: retro