MiSTer FPGA IO Board (version 6.1). Approximately $54. Use this board to connect to a VGA monitor (optional), line out for audio (analog or digital), built-in CPU fan to cool the FPGA, hardware reset and other buttons, and an IO port for using real console controllers (Nintendo, Genesis, etc).
If you are like me, you have various projects on SD cards. Raspberry Pi images are a huge example of this. I’ve had a Raspberry Pi Zero W2 running as a server on solar power in my shed and decided it’s a good time to back the card up.
Here’s one way to do this in Linux.
The first thing I usually do is bring up the “Disks” utility in Ubuntu. Your distro of choice likely has something very similar to this. I use this to double check that I’m targeting the correct drive. I don’t want to accidentally backup or erase the wrong drive!
As you can see, “/dev/sdb/” is the correct drive.
The linux command we can use to view the drives in a terminal is:
sudo fdisk -l
You will have to sort through all the drives until you find the right one, which in this case is:
We have confirmation from the two methods and can confidently determine that the drive is “/dev/sdb”. So now it’s time to make a backup image of this SD card.
sudo dd bs=4M if=/dev/sdb of=backup_sd.img
Please replace “/dev/sdb” with your drive and feel free to change the name “backup_sd” to whatever suits you.
Once the file is done, it is a good idea to compress it for storage.
Volta Wireless review: Like so many others, I tried Volta Wireless only to find out that the service DOES NOT WORK. Dial-up service from the 1990s was faster. Calls and texts do not come in. It’s a big fail.
I immediately asked Volta to cancel my account/subscription. They keep responding that they were working on it. Now a month later, they are still working on it. They just charged my account again.
They obviously intend to just eternally charge me for NOTHING. Notice how in the account section that there’s no way to end the service or remove your credit card information?
They also have no way to cancel the account online. They also have no phone number or any way to contact them outside of a form. When you contact them with the form, you are sent a robo-letter. Rest assured, they are “sorry” you are not satisfied.
If you fall into the trap of signing up for their service, you will be miserable and sorry you did so!
Create a Commodore Vic 20 D64 Image That Launches (2) ROM Cartridge Images
This is a guide to create a Commodore D64 floppy drive image that you can load into your Commodore Vic 20 to run 2-Rom Cartridge files. Feel free to use this guide and replace the games in the examples with those of your choosing!
In example, we are going to create a D64 image with several 16K Cartridges. For the example, we are going to add” “Jungle Hunt” “Moon Patrol” “Centipede” “Lode Runner” “Seafox” “Skyblazer” “Mountain King” “AE”
To get these games to run, first we have to write little programs that tell the Vic 20 (the real thing, an emulator or the Mister FPGA!) to combine both ROM images togther in memory, then do a reset. What is the secret program that allows us to do that?!!?! Believe me, I’ve searched the net and came up with nothing. I had written something several years ago and searched my retro gaming stash in the garage for it. After a while, I tracked it down. There was a file on a pi1541 SD card that had a D64 image with the secret sauce!
First, create a new D64 image using droiD64: In the menu, select Disk1, then D64 as ‘image type’ and “2-ROM CARTRIDGES” for the name. Then OK Save to your folder with the downloaded ROMs. Second, open your CBM Filebrowser D64 image by finding in in the second pane on droiD64. Refer to the image below for clarity.
Right click the “FB20-8k” file in the second pane, then select ‘copy file’. Now, eject the disk in the second pane by selection the little folder with the up-arrow in the right corner of the second pane. Navigate to where you have all of your ‘prg’ cartridge images. Hold ‘ctrl’ key and select all the images. Then copy over to the D64 image you created in the droiD64 first pane.
We now have the D64 menu and all of the game images on our D64 images. Now we need to create our launch program using the Vice Vic 20 emulator.
With the Vice Vic 20 emulator, select ‘create and attach an empty disk image’ in the menu. Name it ‘2-ROM D64 Menu.d64’ and hit ‘save’. Probably convienent to save this into the folder with your ROMs.
Go back to your Vice Vic 20 window, and from the menu, Edit/Paste the contents of this text:
Once you have finished, eject Disk 2 in droiD64, and open your new ‘2-ROM D64 Menu.d64’ Disk image with all of the new launch files.
Now copy those over to Disk 1. You can use droiD64 to move the files up using the “Up” button in the bottom menu (optional). At this point, your D64 image is done!
Feel free to transfer to a real floppy image using a Zoom interface or by opening it with Vice Vic 20 emulator -or- the Mister Vic 20 Core. Note: You will have to expand your Vic 20 memory. The Windows & OSX version of Vice may vary but this is the RAM expansion option for Linux:
To launch the disk and auto-start the menu, select File/Smart Attach, then click on the “Autostart” button.
Have you tried to install VirtualBox on a Debian-based system and had all kinds of problems? Typically it all starts with “sudo apt install virtualbox” and then you realize that you can’t install the Oracle VM VirtualBox Extension Pack. You can’t see any of your USB devices. You can’t update the software…UGH
Here’s a fix. If you already installed using the terminal, you can first “sudo apt remove virtualbox” and then “sudo apt autoremove”. Then bring up your web browser and go to the official Oracle VM VirtualBox website. From there, you can download the .deb package. Launch it and install.
Once your program is installed, open VirtualBox and navigate in the toolbar to File/Preferences and then to the Extensions icon. Make sure the Extension Pack is installed. If not, you can download it and install with the ‘plus’ icon on the right.
Now you can create your virtual machine using ‘New’ icon or alternatively, use the “Add” icon to add an existing machine from a folder. To get your USB device working with your virtual machine, either right click on the VM and go to settings, or select the “Settings” icon to the right of it. Toward the bottom of the icon panel on the left, you will see ‘USB’. Select that and you should see USB 1.1, 2.0, and 3.0 options. Pick the relevant one and then the “+” icon on the right. You should see a list of options. Once you add the USB device, it should be available once you boot your virtual machine. Enjoy!
A cheap M1 mac would smoke it but you know… And the M1 mac can’t run linux. Looks like a fun project but a total waste of space and money. It’s one of those “let’s put a v8 in a dodge omni” kind of “what if” things.
Incidentally, my two personal computers:
An ancient mac mini 2010 running Kubuntu
A mac mini with M1 processor
Guess which one I love more and use every day? (the 2010 version). The funny thing is that both boxes look identical. I am smitten with the idea that I could find a computer over 10 years old to be perfect
You can have an inexpensive media streaming device connected to your TV or HiFi by using an inexpensive Raspberry Pi and an SD card.
If you visit Volumio.org, you can download an image for a Raspberry Pi, PC or ASUS Tinkerboard. Once you have the image downloaded, attach a micro SD card to your computer and use Balena Etcher to write the image to it. If you need a quick tutorial on how to image an SD using Etcher, here’s a video that images the Raspberry Pi OS to SD. You would be imaging Volumio instead…
Once your SD image is complete, you will want to put the SD into your Pi. A Raspberry Pi 2, 3 or 4 should be sufficient, though a 3B is probably the lowest I would go because the Pi 2 would be quite slow. The Pi 3B has an advantage over the Pi 4B because it runs much cooler.
Then attach an ethernet cable to the Pi – because wifi will not be setup. This is the lamest part of the project but bear with me. Power up the Pi and let it run a boot cycle. You can setup your Volumio now by either downloading the Volumio app in the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store, or by typing volumio.local in your browser. Because the browser method isn’t reliable initially, I would use the app if possible.
After you launch the app on your phone/tablet, the app will search for any installations of Volumio. Make sure you are on the same network between the Pi and the phone. Once the app finds it, you will be instructed to give your setup a name and configure wifi settings. To setup your plugins, click on the setup icon in the bottom right corner. There are several plugins that allow your Volumio setup to connect to Spotify, Pandora, a Subsonic server etc. After you add and enable the plugins, you will need to go to the “installed plugins” tab to configure them with your username/password.
There are many other nice features, like the ability to make this setup a DLNA server. When everything is done and setup to your taste, you can go back into the menu, shut down the Pi and unplug the ethernet cable.
You can plug an HDMI cable into the Pi and run it into your TV or Stereo now and turn them both on. Once your Pi boots you will hear a chime through the TV/Stereo and that tells you it’s ready. You can now use your app to control Volumio to play internet radio, Spotify, etc.
You can also add music to Volumio. If you put mp3s or FLAC files on a thumb drive, plug it in before boot and the system will index the files so that you can play them. If you are technologically inclined, you can find your IP address by going into Volumio’s network settings. Then use that address, followed by /dev (example: 10.0.0.100/dev). From there, you can enable SSH, then use Filezilla or similar SFTP/FTP program to add music and video files to the /mnt/INTERNAL directory.
Volumio allows you to create an account. Though the setup is free, there is a paid tier that allows other features like the ability to use HiRes streaming services Tidal and Qobuz among other features like connecting a CDROM to rip CDs. At one time, I did subscribe to this a few years ago, but found that the free features like internet radio, local media and my own Subsonic server were enough. So for now I’m happy to use the free version. If you end up setting this up, I hope you enjoy it! I work from home and believe me, it’s nice.
There are so many Debian-based Linux distros to choose from that look and work great, with Ubuntu and Linux Mint being the most popular. The best feature is the easy install method and the vast amount of available software.
One of the things people often don’t discuss is the higher gaming capabilities because of Linux’ lower overhead. If you are into retro gaming, Linux is the obvious choice with options like “retropie”, which can be installed on pretty much any Linux PC or Raspberry Pi computer. Here’s an option to install retropie on your Debian-based PC.
Modern games are trickier to find in terms of compatibility and obviously more difficult to install. That is unless you are using Steam, which makes modern gaming on your Linux platform a dream! Installation and access open up. In the Steam Store, you can see which games are compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux. Windows is the obvious choice for the hardcore gamer obviously because of the higher compatibility rate, but you would be surprised at how many are compatible with Linux.
Look for the Steam app in your menu under “Games”. You can setup your account and start looking for games! It may take a few moments to launch initially, so be patient.
You can spot the compatibility of games in several places, including the game pages:
You can also shop for Linux-only games by going into the menu and choosing the “Categories” tab and then “SteamOS + Linux”.
Once you buy your game, installing it is easy. Look for purchased games in the “Library” tab. Choose a game and click on the “Install” icon. It takes a little time to install so be patient. Once the game is available, you can find it under your menu’s “Games” tab.
One caveat: On every platform you install these modern games, you will need a modern PC to run the games. I am using an old 2010 (almost 11 years old!) Mac Mini with Xubuntu and some (not all) of these games run slooooow. If you are running this on a more modern, conventional PC, you will likely have much better results.
Open letter to Costco (I actually sent this as a real email):
Good afternoon Costco Administration,
I’m writing to you in the hopes that you could inform your organization about how the Costco Concierge service may be frustrating your customers and potentially cause harm to your brand. Feel free to forward this email to any relevant parties in your organization.
I have been a Costco member since 2004 and have been buying electronics (as well as many other goods) because of their promise to provide a concierge service and a 2-year warranty.
I haven’t had an issue with any of my electronics. They tend to work until they are obsolete. This, until my 28″ LED Acer Monitor (VG280K) gave out after 1 year. I use this monitor for my work-from-home setup, so it’s pretty critical.
I turned it on and saw colorful vertical bars, like you would see with a dropped laptop. The problem is, we are talking about a stationary monitor. I’m not sure what happened. Maybe someone threw something on my desk and the vibration caused the issue? Manufacturing issue? Not sure. I’ve never had a computer monitor die before and had no reason to believe this would happen.
So I took the monitor to my local Costco. I was told that they couldn’t return it after 90 days but was given a card with the contact information for their “concierge service”. Very reasonable. Okay.
This morning I had the day off so I called the concierge service. I was told to do some tests. Next step, I’m transferred to “Acer”. This is the first hand-off.
“Jason” with a thick Indian accent assures me that he will definitely fix the issue and apologizes for the issue. We ran through the same story that I already told Costco concierge services about the monitor. He has an answer! Call 800-999-4409. Can he help me with anything else? I say, “You said you would fix the issue. But you did not.” He’s sorry. We are at the 2nd hand-off and the third contact.
I call the number. “Captial Data Services” in Lansing Michigan. Oh. There are three people that work at this third-party. Lola, Charlotte and Mark. I’m not having a great feeling. I hit 1 for Lola. Please leave a message. Called back and tried Charlotte and Mark too. Please leave a message. This whole process is meant to wear you down. UGH. I kept calling and finally got Mark.
Mark assures me that he is going to help! How? He has another phone number! 866-695-2237. Welcome to Acer! I called the number. They want to know if I’d like to buy something. Further down the menu is an option for service. Okay. Someone answers. He is my fourth person. I explained the situation again. He asks slyly…(I can tell by his tone what is happening next), “When did you buy this monitor?” I told him August, 2020. He says, “Oooh sorrrrrrry. It’s out of warranty. We cover it for one year.” But I have an ace up my sleeve. I have Costco’s guarantee of a 2 year warranty!
“No. Acer has a one year warranty. There’s nothing on record for a two year warranty. It’s been one year, I’msorry.” I go on to tell him that all electronics at Costco have a two-year warranty. He says, “No, I’m sorry.” I ask if I can escalate and he declines. I’m so frustrated and know this process is meant to wear me down. It’s working.
I called Costco’s concierge service again. From my experience, It’s obvious that at this point I am just repeating the loop of failure. I’m now talking to the fifth person. She apologizes.
She tries to contact “Acer” (a third-party call center in India). She is given a phone number. After 20 minutes of waiting, she reaches a call-center agent who says, “the serial number does not match.” I read back the serial number. “The number is too long.” I tell her, there’s also an “SNID” number. That number is too short. The Costco concierge woman goes in circles with this. She finally tells me I can call Costco concierge back at a later time. This is the end. Nothing achieved.
Conclusion: From my perspective, and pardon my language, Costco Concierge service is COMPLETE BULLSHIT and Acer will run you in circles through a series of third-party call centers. I will not buy anything from Acer again and I’m starting to really resent Costco for the false promise of service. Instead of an actual service, Costco Concierge service appears to be a short checklist of tests (read from a script), followed by a pass-off to a manufacturer. Not good.
Maybe I had a rare experience? I’m not so sure. On another occasion, I ordered a dishwasher from Costco, which was shipped by a third-party. The dishwasher arrived smashed. I waited several weeks for another model, which also arrived smashed. I ended up canceling the order and going with a local company named ABC Warehouse, which delivered without issue.
It is my belief that the loose-network of third-rate, third-party services is damaging Costco’s reputation, frustrating your customers and costing Costco business. I could be wrong but in the meantime, I’m having better luck with BJs Warehouse with parking, customer service and product availability issues. These are things that actually matter to regular people like me.
This is not an ad. I use PIA and find it both useful and affordable.
If you have been frustrated as I have with the implementation of VPN using Debian-based Raspberry PI Linux distros, you will be happy to know that PIA has created an ARM version of their VPN client software.
The most recent version of the program as of this writing is: pia-linux-arm64-3.3.1-06924.run
Once you have downloaded it, in a terminal:
Change directories to the directory you downloaded the file in. In my case: cd Downloads Make the file executable: chmod u+x pia-linux-armhf-3.1-06756.run Launch the setup program: ./chmod u+x pia-linux-armhf-3.1-06756.run
Now you can simply log in and use the VPN program. Enjoy!