What was your first computer? For me I started my computing life with a ZX Spectrum. A rubber keyed marvel with a massive 48k memory. It makes me feel rather old to think that there are a generation of computer users who have never experienced loading software from tape.
It was only fitting then that my first experience of emulation came some years later when I owned an Amiga 500 and a Spectrum emulator. Moving on some years, my first emulator on the PC was the Windows binary Genem which only reached v0.19 and has been discontinued since 1997.
How things have changed today and the demand for retro gaming is reflected in the amount of emulation projects there are in progress. Puppy Arcade aims to satisfy all your retro computing desires. It’s based on tiny TurboPup Xtreme, which itself it a highly optimized version of Puppy Linux.
Puppy Arcade 5 offers emulation for the following systems:
Amiga, Atari, Amstrad, Arcade Machines, Colecovision, Commodore 64, GameBoys (GB, GBC, GBA), GameGear, Genesis, MasterSystem, MS DOS, NeoGeo, NeoGeo CD, NES/Famicom, PC Engine/TurboGrafix 16, PSX, Scumm, SNES and ZX Spectrum.
I don’t think you can argue that its got a comprehensive list packaged as default!
Emulation is the intent of this distro, but having said that its an equally capable distro in its own right. Being based off Puppy Linux derivative TurboPup Xtreme (an optimized version of Puppy Linux) it has a solid base. Puppy Linux is a well respected distro with a legion of users due to its breakneck speed & low system specs.
The LiveCD copies itself completely into RAM so if you are not intending on installing it free’s up your CD drive for game disks etc. Booting from the CD to memory is a rather speedy affair, due in no small part to Puppy’s small footprint.
The emulators included (which cover the systems above) are solid and in the case of older systems have been pretty much 100% for quite some time.
The other package that should be mentioned is Firedog, Puppy Arcade’s own browser based on Firefox source. Quick as lightning and rock solid stable is the best way to describe it and whilst it won’t replace my browser of choice on my main rig (Chromium) its certainly refreshing to have a browser packaged which when Puppy Arcade gets an install on one of my “retro rigs” I won’t be replacing.
A nice surprise was the inclusion of ScummVM which allows you to run some of those Windows classics like Kings Quest and has inspired me for a followup article on Dosbox v ScummVM!
Excellent work, simply excellent. The idea of a distro aimed at the emulation user is one I champion fully. In order to make this review more than simply “great, get it”, I must include some points which I think would improve the product further.
Firstly the fact that you have to select the option to “turn on” the emulation tool bar seems a little pointless. This distro is aimed at and will appeal to, emulation fans, therefore you would expect it to pop up immediately. That being said, its merely a click away on the menu.
My router had to be configured manually (maybe just an issue with my router) but I don’t think its unreasonable today to expect all LiveCD’s to automatically configure this as a “minimum standard”, the matter though was solved in seconds.
My other devices were detected out of the box, which is good because I think for some people who are tempted with Puppy Arcade 5, they may never have used Linux before and might well be Windows users after an OS for a second rig to do just what Puppy Arcade offers.
The .iso size (a tight 109mb) is an effortless download for most and the fact that the LiveCD installed completely into ram makes for a superfast distro.
The emulators packaged are decent and run your retro software well, they are accompanied with a GUI which makes operating them very simple and those frightened of the command line – fear not! I doubt you will have to drop into it for anything that Puppy Arcade offers. Having said that there are issues which a new user to Linux may find challenging, forgetting the router issue for a minute, you are going to need to install your graphics drivers in order to get better performance out of some of the more CPU demanding emulators, whilst its not a difficult task for any Linux user of over a few months, the creator of Puppy Arcade should keep in mind a new user and I think Puppy Arcade would benefit from an approach like Ubuntu (or any of the mainstream distro’s) when it comes to this subject.
I was surprised to see Snes9x included instead of Zsnes (as I was led to believe the later is faster/more stable) but having said that I did find Snes9x perfectly good.
It goes without saying that the rom’s required by some emulators (i.e Kickstart in the case of the Amiga) are not present, but you will find many links to where to get those (or how to extract them yourself) on the net.
Whilst on the subject of rom’s, I cannot find a reference to Puppy Arcade on Distrowatch. I am assuming that due to the intention of this distro, Distrowatch has decided to leave it out. If I’m right then thats a shame as I think many people will miss out on an excellent project and in any case if you wished to avoid proprietary roms, there is a massive library of homebrew (public domain) software available on all the included platforms.
You can visit the Puppy Arcade homepage here: http://scottjarvis.com/page80.htm
Puppy Arcade creator Scott Jarvis has put much work into this distro, the results speak for themselves. If emulation is an interest of yours, I would encourage you to get involved, support or donate to his work. Its a really great project and a testament to the obvious love of emulation that Scott has. Highly recommended!
Scott Jarvis also runs a web design business which can be found at http://scottjarvis.com and if the quality of Puppy Arcade is anything to go by, you will get a fantastic service from him.
Q&A with Puppy Arcade creator Scott Jarvis
I had an opportunity to put some questions to Scott in regards of the future of Puppy Arcade, I must thank him for his time and the fast and friendly response. Another unsung hero in the FOSS world!
What was your first computer & your first piece of software?
A Pentium 2, 32mb ram, windows 95, no brand, just a generic locally built machine – my parents bought it and wouldn’t let me touch it!
How long have you been a Linux user?
I first used linux when i was 16 or so, using Damn Small Linux, which I preferred to Red Hat on my old AMD K6 PC – it was much quicker… But I never stayed with linux for more than 2 or 3 months until last year when i found Puppy Linux.
What was your first experience of emulation?
Playing SNES games (unirally!!) with my brother, using snes9x on win 98..Then trying to get GoldenEye to work (well) in UltraHLE on a 12mb 3dfx voodoo 2 card.. Not good :( So disappointed…
What inspired you to create a distro aimed at emulation?
I created Puppy Arcade because I noticed long ago that lots of people wanted a lightweight live CD, designed especially for videogame emulation, that works well on older PCs and laptops.
AdvanceCD is a MAME only solution, but many people left comments around the web stating they wanted a multi-system solution. When I first saw Puppy Linux, I realised it would be the perfect platform to attempt such a project – and Puppy Arcade was the result.
What plans do you have for Puppy Arcade in the future?
I plan to release Puppy Arcade v6, which will be based on Puppy Linux 4.3.1 or a derivative of it, as it uses a newer kernel and works better on netbooks, Eee PCs and so on.. However, Puppy Arcade is ‘stripped-down’ for maximum free RAM and speed on all hardware, and this takes a while.
Putting aside Puppy Linux & Puppy Arcade, what is your distro of choice?
Aside from these, I still like Damn Small Linux – I like the home-made feel of certain Linux distros. I’ve yet to try many distros that interest me, but like anything small, clever and fast.
A good distro, for me, should be small, preferably running in RAM and installable to USB/SD…
What do you consider the most exciting emulation project today?
I’m currently loving the fact that lots of SDL based emulators (which includes a large number of linux emulators) are being ported to the Nintendo Wii, and ported VERY well indeed… UIsing the Wiimote on ScummVM is great!
And not to sound boring, but Puppy Arcade is a good development, as there’s nearly nothing else that can facilitate such great gaming options on such old, slow hardware – which I still own, because I’m skint – not because I’m an enthusiast! :(
Whats your browser of choice, Chrome/Firefox/Safari or other?
My main business is in website design, so I cannot say Internet Explorer!! Standards-compliant browsers are always best. When designing ScottJarvis.com, I use Firefox (with lots of great design addons), and only use IE to check it’s working as expected. I like Safari, Chrome and Opera as well..
However, my favourite browser by far is ‘Firedog’, which is my own, customised version of Firefox for Puppy Linux. It’s very good, with a TON of cools features added as standard, making browsing very fast and productive.
Windows 7 or Linux? ;)
Linux. Every time. I’ll always say Linux, because it’s FREE and because, for anyone who can be bothered to learn a little, it’s so powerful, rock-solid, and does the job.
Linux will never compare to Windows for gaming and compatibility, but if you take some time, Linux can do nearly anything you like! Windows 7 looks nice, but a lot of the ‘clever new ideas’ can already be found in other operating systems, and it’s still very expensive, compared with Linux.
Also, when Microsoft release a new OS, new software will often require this OS (as that’s what Bill wants) which in turn means that people have to update their OS, not just their libs!
Also, and here is a KILLER point for me, Microsoft’s releases usually require more and more power, forcing people to upgrade to new hardware and throw away or waste old hardware (if they can afford it) … NOT GOOD!
I have received a few emails asking about emulation on the Linux platform. These questions were mostly by Windows users who enjoy running retro titles and don’t know much about Linux and its thriving emulation scene. From being active in many forums I think retro gaming is one of the most popular pastimes of the hobbyist computer user and I think that mainstream gaming of the latest modern titles is moving away from the PC and to the consoles, where patches and workarounds are a thing of the past with consoles really being “plug in and play”.
Many users without experience of Linux will not know how well catered for Nintendo, (or indeed most system) emulation is. The is one of a few articles I will be writing on the subject as I think a barrier that prevents people from running Linux will be area’s like this.
Of course FOSS/Linux does have its own gaming scene with many FOSS titles looking very modern and being a lot of fun. Example (which was featured here a while ago) was Alien Arena – an FPS which has a massive following. Other titles include Eternal Lands (RPG) and a plethora of those fun mini games that everyone has installed on their desktop from time to time.
That being said, this article is specifically about emulation of the Nintendo family of consoles and with that we will press on.
Before we go into this article, it is worth noting that there are copyright issues with running Nintendo Roms through an emulator. Make sure you have any permissions required. This article will not link to where you can get roms, its merely a showcase of some of the best software required to run them. Of course it goes without saying that if you are using these emulators to run homebrew software (or indeed develop your own) then thats slightly different.
NINTENDO 8BIT (NES)
The NES was Nintendo’s offering from around 1983 (in Japan) to current day where via emulation there is still a dev scene for it! Running on a Ricoh 8bit processor at 1.79 mhz however the UK version ran off the Ricoh 2A07 which had a clock speed of 1.66 mhz.
One of the best NES/Linux packages I’ve found to date would be FCEUX. It is currently in version 2.1.1 and offers a plethora of features ontop of the most important one (NES emulation) FCEUX allows you to configure up to 4 controllers, openGL rendering and CPU/memory wise has very low requirements using less than 8% of a 1.8ghz AMD Sempron CPU and less than 10mb of ram (in OpenGL rendering).
Speed wise it has low requirements and I’ve had this running quite happily on low-spec machines at full speed. If you are a fan of 8bit consoles then the NES was one of the more popular choices of the time.
compatibility wise, I can find no issues with FCEUX, every title I have tried works flawlessly and at full speed. Sound emulation is complete and both full screen/windowed modes work effortlessly. I have tested the latest source on the following distro’s: Wolvix2(beta) , Mepis 8, Zenwalk 6 Gnome, Ubuntu 8.04, Fedora 11
You can visit the homepage of FCEUX at: http://fceux.com/web/htdocs/index.php where you can download the source or a .deb build.
SUPER NINTENDO (16BIT) (SNES)
The SNES was released in 1990 and was a major upgrade to the NES. Certainly in the UK it was in direct competition with Sega Megadrive. In Japan it was called the Super Famicom. The SNES sported a Ricoh 5A22 processor (16 bit) running at 3.5mhz.
ZSnes is probably the best emulator available for the Linux (and others) platform. It supports full emulation of the CPU and even the SuperFX chip found in titles such as StarFox. I have yet to find a title that does not work within Zsnes, and the software also offers the feature to engage in online play (something which was not present for users at the time of the Super Nintendo) Emulation with Zsnes is, as far as I can tell, flawless. I have yet to find a title that doesn’t work, homebrew or not and even on a relatively low spec machine the original frame rate is more than matched.
1996 was the year of the N64, which promised much. The N64 was in direct competition with the massively popular PS1 and the fact that the N64 was still cartridge based and the PS1 was able to cater for the craving for cut scenes et al, IMO made the N64 on a looser from day one. That being said there were many great titles available for it and the N64 version of Mario saw his first steps in 3d. Running off a NEC VR4300i processor it was a far more powerful system than its PS1 counterpart at the time (IMO) and the first true 64bit console clocking in at 93.75mhz
Mupen64plus is the emulator of choice for the Linux platform (IMO) which full frame rate emulation on the rom files I have thrown at it.
Theres a large list of titles compatible with the software.
You can find Mupen here: http://code.google.com/p/mupen64plus/
The Gamecube saw Nintendo break away from its cartridge past to DVD (albeit mini) which enabled larger and more multimedia rich titles to be developed for Nintendo’s console. Unfortunately on the back of disappointing N64 performance (IMO) and the fact that the PS2 had continued with the legacy started by PS1, the Gamecube had much the same reception as it predecessor the N64. Released in 2001 and running off a 486 MHz IBM “Gekko” PowerPC CPU it unfortunately fell behind the Xbox and PS2 mainly I believe, because of the legacy created by the N64.
Gamecube emulation in Linux is surprisingly advanced. The title currently being developed is called Dolphin, which already is boasting an impressive list of titles working on it.
Unlike the N64 emulator (and below) the Gamecube emulator needs more powerful specs, full details of this can be found on the website.
You can visit the homepage of Dolphin here: http://www.dolphin-emu.com/news.php
2006 saw the release of the Nintendo WII and despite the previous sales issues of the Gamecube/N64, it seems all had been forgotten, which massive sales of the WII console on its launch which (IMO) blew both Sony’s PS3 and Microsoft’s 360 out of the water. With its more interactive style of play (through its controllers and various addon’s) The WII introduced a new innovation into the gaming market for the masses.
It is alleged that the WII clocks in at 729mhz and unlike previous Nintendo consoles it seems that they are realized that their own “custom” media was not needed this time and have opted for DVD (like the other “players” in its class)
Surprisingly WII emulation has already begun and is coming along nicely. Dolphin (see above) not only offers support for the Gamecube, but sucess with WII emulation is also present in it.
Again requirements for running WII software will be higher than the older Nintendo consoles.
NINTENDO’S HANDHELD OFFERINGS
Since 1989 Nintendo has offered handheld consoles (although there were single game handheld devices before this). Emulation of these systems requires relatively low specs since two of the three are now rather old. There were some real classics available for these systems and even today theres more than one hobbyist who enjoys making homebrew titles for these systems.
GAMEBOY / GAMEBOY ADVANCE
Released in 1989 the 8bit Gameboy was a brick of a handheld console (although still quite comfortable to hold) running on a 8-bit Sharp LR35902 at approximately 4.5mhz it was a hugely popular handheld that outsold the Gamegear and had a plethora of titles available for it.
It then progressed onto Gameboy Colour and subsequently the Gameboy advance. VGA (Visual Gameboy Advance) caters for the entire range and is a very good, compact and fast emulator for Linux.
You can download Visual Gameboy Advance here: http://vba.ngemu.com/downloads.shtml
At time of writing this is the current handheld offering from Nintendo. Its now just been revamped into a smaller (and to quote the MS faithful’s favorite words “Feature Rich” system) The DS runs off two processors, a ARM946ES and ARM7 co-processor. It has two screens with the lower one being used for the touch screen.
Released in 2004 it is still going strong with a massive software catalogue. I don’t think its unfair to say that in my opinion the Sony PSP never stood a chance. Emulation is obviously on-going with success on many titles to date. You will need a reasonable spec machine to get a decent emulation experience out of DeSmuME (imo the best DS emulator on Linux) but then “reasonable spec” in the world of Linux is far lower than that in a Windows world (IMO).
You can download DeSmuME here: http://desmume.org/
This section is more general and it will highlight equipment that Nintendo probably doesn’t/didn’t want you buying. Certainly in the UK, since the release of the SNES devices were sold (in some of the independent stores) that allowed the backup/running of Nintendo software.
For me these kits had another purpose, to enable the coding of homebrew titles (a little side hobby of mine) and I recently wrote a review on the R5 (for the Nintendo DS)
The Super Nintendo had a device which was commonly called a Super Magicom, this allowed the copying of a cartidge to HD floppy disk from which the game could run. Later, the N64 had the diskdoctor V64 which ran titles from CDROM in very much the same way. Of course these pieces of equipment were not approved nor condoned by Nintendo if used to copy material which you didn’t have permission for, however in the case of the SNES and N64 at the time the internet/filesharing was not an issue to be concerned about and certainly in the UK, market penetration of these items and their bootlegs were limited at best.
The many copying devices for the Nintendo family have many names and whilst (IMO) the Magicom and diskdoctor were generic names for their many clones.
The following links may be useful if you are interested in development on any of the above mentioned system. This is not a comprehensive list but will prove a starting point for anyone wanting to get into the scene:
For those of you interested in the rather good DS Demoscene (and the Demoscene in general) , look no further than:
and for those who don’t want to download and run (or maybe don’t have the specs for) the demanding Demoscene, check out DTV which has streamed footage of demo’s on many platforms:
Its been too long since we’ve had software highlighted here, so here is a small list of updates to excellent packages that have already been reviewed here and this month have had new versions released. I saw no point in re-reviewing the original work, so the list merely intends to highlight the updates.
PokerTH 0.6.3 The popular game of Texas Holdem has had a new version released. It includes improved GFX a feature to kick players from a room (good if a user has gone AFK and not left the game) You can read our original review here. Then visit the PokerTH Homepage and download! Well worth a download if you are a fan of the game and in my opinion the definative version on the Linux platform!
In other releases, we have Wine 1.1.13 (development version) which continues to add to its already massive list of features. For anyone interested in the the Wine software, you can see the current compatability chart. I bet there will be a few people that will be amazed just how many modern and complex titles actually run with Wine! If you want to see the Openbytes view on Wine, then click here.
A new paint package called Nathive has been released in Alpha form (0.813) and aims to provide a smoother learning curve of a paint package for everyone. I wish the product luck, since I been looking for a suitable image editor to the Gimp (I simply dont need all the features, and find its learning curve rather steep)
Yabause is a Sega Saturn emulator which is due for the treatment on Openbytes. It reports a number of Saturn ISO images playable and is currently in version 0.9.9 visit the site and check it out, or wait for the Openbytes report soon!
It appears that Linux is very well supported in terms of emulation. From the description on the site, the emulator handles .ISO format only.
iDeaS is another DS emulator for the Linux platform that I discovered recently. Supporting the dual screen of the Nintendo DS and allowing
I am sure I dont have to explain what a Nintendo DS is and if I do, then you probably would not have use for this software anyway.
This particular Linux version was released on 13th November 2008. Testing the package through Ubuntu 8.10, provides very good compatibility and speed, however like other alternatives out there, sound emulation appears to be buggy and incomplete and will infact hamper the performance of the emulation if switched on (that was certainly the case on my system)
On a few random tests of rom files. I was able to keep a decent frame rate, scrolling was smooth and emulation of opcodes (seems) pretty comprehensive. The memory footprint for this package is low, but where I can really see this package coming into its own is for the testing of your own software, without the need for a dev kit.
The current beta is 18.104.22.168, which was released on the Windows platform on 21.12.08, so I am sure that the Linux version will be along shortly. The good news with this emulator appears to be the commitment to it (keeping in mind the most recent release date) I hope anyone who is wanting to get involved in DS emulation will support the author, and the nice thing about the work is that its catering for Windows and Linux users alike.
Once the archive is downloaded, its simply a case of unpacking it to a directory and running it from there. No complex terminal instructions, and no installation issues that would make it unfriendly for the newer user. The GUI is comprehensive, and its not hard to get the emulator runing a rom within a few seconds , without the need to read the instruction manual! The package is about 350k in size, so even the slowest connections will have it in seconds. No execuses! Download now!
It is my opinion that iDeaS currently offers the best in DS emulation on Linux at the present time.
Here is a list of features/fixes for the latest stable version:
- Fixed bugs in Console Window.
- Fixed bugs in Palette Viewer.
- Fixed bugs in VRAMCNT_F,VRAMCNT_G.
- Fixed bugs in Textures Management.
- Fixed bugs in BGxCNT registers.
Click here to visit the official website! and remember to show your support to the author!
With most people these days only interested in FPS’s and fast/furious games full of CGI and surround SFX, its easy to forget about the older consoles. Emulation is a popular pastime for many, and on the Linux platform you are just as spoiled for choice as how to do it.
Remember the days of the little old NES? the 8bit console that brought Mario to your TV? I personally didnt own one at the time, I had a Spectrum and a Sega Master System. I do remember (for a short while anyway) many pubs used to have a NES arcade machine where there was a selection of games and you paid for an amount of time on the system. There were many games which came on the system which were really good fun (Duck Hunt for starters!), and I believe Nintendo fun that “fun” ingredient again with its latest console the WII. Dont you think it scarey that one day we will look back at the current generation of consoles in the same way we regard the NES now?
Anyway I digress, and youre interested in my opinion of GFCE v0.6.0. I will begin by saying that there is a later version, as I recieved this from Intrepids repository. The website shows that there is a cross platform v0.6.1 and then it joins with another emulation project to be v2.0.0.
Its a very simple emulator to use. You select the ROM you wish to play, and execute! Sound support is here, as is full screen. The speed is great and its the same as the original product! Now a few gripes, which hopefully will get resolved (and may have in later version) Redefining the keys when emulating the NES gamepad is very un-userfriendly. There is no gfx representation of the controler and its all rather confusing, this supprised me because the rest of the package is so easy to use.
It may be a fault of my system or the fact that Im used to playing HQ ogg files, but the sound is a tiny bit crackly, maybe that is how the original system was and Im just being fussy!?!
Ive tested this software on many ROMS and have yet to find an incompatible one.
If you are running Ibex, you will have this review version in your repository, otherwise:
80% – A great NES emulator, let down a little by an over complicated/confusing controller configuration.
Due to my uncle working at Sinclair at the time, I got a ZX Spectrum 48K (the one with the rubber keys) as a present. I loved that trusty computer, and over the years had 100’s of games for it, until it disapeared from the shelves, replaced by bigger and better things, and its “soul” was put onto the world wide web, albiet via emulation and rom images.
As readers of this site know, I run Ubuntu 8.04 at the present time, and whilst I was told there was a spectrum emulator located in the repository called Xspect, I couldnt find it. A quick search of the net located the Ubuntu .DEB package, and it can be found at the end of this review.
Installation/download took seconds, and although there is no pre-installed front end for it, a simple terminal command of XSPECT <game rom> in the directory where your games are located will bring up the emulator (or alternatively XSPECT will just boot the Spectrum) One of the nice features allongside being able to run the majority of file formats for Spectrum files, is the ability to load tape images, yes! you can hear it load and appreciate how long it took in those days to load 48k of data.
The emulator works perfectly, same Spectrum sounds, same Spectrum speed and because the hardware being emulated is decades old, no matter what system you have it should run perfectly.
XSPECT is available for all Linux flavours and a quick search on google will locate your desired one.
My only wish is that there would have been support for the 128k spectrum as well.
85% – An excellent emulator that misses the mark of being perfect due to only emulating the 48k.
Hidden in the Ubuntu repository, is this little gem of an emulator. Its a DS emulator for Linux.
Its still in its early stages, but the more popular, common games are working on it. Games such as Warioware Touched, Golden Eye, Zoo Keeper are all playable.
The DS stylus is emulated with your mouse.
Speed wise is does sometimes suffer slowdown in places, although my rig is not that powerful and more modern PC’s should not have a problem. Sound is also emulated, and very well. It is worth noting though that you need ROM images of your games in order for the emulator to play them, and for this reason it is important you own the original ROM.
This can only get better with later versions, and already it is an impressive emulator. Emulation is an area of interest to me personally so expect more reviews of Linux emulator software on this blog. Once the email is back up and running I would encourage anyone who has emulator experiences to email me and let me know.
85% – Despite some minor speed issues and compatibility still being worked on, this is a great emulator!