Gaming not what it used to be? Bored by the plethora of 3rd person shooters which seem to dominate the games market?
Well there has been no reason to say that ever since Puppy Arcade had it’s first release – Puppy Arcade caters for probably every platform of yesteryear you could want and then some more.
Puppy Arcade is a distro I have covered numerous times in the past, in fact it is one of the few which I try keeping up to date with. An excellent distro which is a testament to not only the hard work of its creator (Scott Jarvis) but also his genuine love of the emulation scene. Redundant hardware in need of a new life? Use Puppy Arcade to turn it into a retro console!
The new version of Puppy Arcade, like those before it, is further improvement on a distro that even in its early days impressed with its platform diversity and rock solid stability whilst at the same time requiring very modest specs and I think you will find that even the most dated of your rigs will be able to find life again with this distro.
Puppy arcade clocks in at a 105mb download, which is amazing in itself when you consider how much is packed into it.
Changes to version 9 include (taken from homepage):
upgraded emulators, improved system setup, more help, improved quick start dialog, BIOS installer and frontend downloaders with even more optons in all the default emulator choosers and a better all-in-one, cabinet-friendly, multi-emulator rom-loader……Various networking and system scripts have been updated, adding fixes found on the Puppy Forum, while keeping the changes that make ‘TurboPup’ such an ideal, fast, base distro. Many apps have also been added or updated, and it has a nicer desktop taskbar, with easier system setup, thanks to some updated and customised JWM tray tools.
Again taken from the site, Puppy Arcade emulates the following platforms:
Amiga (500, 1000, 2000), Apple (68k, 128k, 512k, SE, MacOS, Plus), Atari (ST, 800, 800XL, 130XE, 5200), Amstrad (CPC, Plus, VEB), Arcades, Colecovision, Commodore (64, 128, VIC20, PET), GameBoys (GB, GBC, GBA), GameGear, Genesis/MegaDrive, MasterSystem, MS DOS, MSX, N64, NeoGeo, NeoGeo CD, NES/Famicom, PC Engine/TurboGrafix, PSX, ScummVM, SNES and ZX Spectrum (16k, 48k, 128k, +2, +2A, +3) and more!
So download your copy of Puppy Arcade today. I’ve been impressed with all the releases to date with Puppy Arcade 9 being no exception.
You can visit the homepage of Puppy Arcade here: http://scottjarvis.com/page105.htm
Goblin – firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.
Puppy Arcade is one of the few Linux distro’s that Openbytes tries to keep following. Since version 5, Puppy Arcade has not only been a favorite with friends and colleagues, but also has a home on a few of my machines around the house that would otherwise be obsolete. Ive had the pleasure of a Q&A with Puppy Arcade creator Scott Jarvis and Im pleased to say that he continues to keep me updated every time a new version is released.
Puppy Arcade is one of the more difficult distro’s to review because of the plethora of systems it covers and often when I try to write about Puppy Arcade, my article turns into individual reviews of the emulation packages it contains. I will try to look at Puppy Arcade as a whole and how it performs in respect of a multiple platform emulator (and desktop distro too) For the purposes of this review, the test machine is a 1.6ghz machine with 1gig of ram and a rather ancient gfx card. I am reviewing this distro on pretty old tech, so its important to keep that in mind to appreciate how good Puppy Arcade actually is.
Puppy Arcade – The Desktop
I will only briefly mention Puppy Arcade as a desktop, since I would assume that users main requirement for it will be the default packaged emulation. Since Puppy Arcade is based upon Puppy Linux, its requirements are low and it will absolutely fly, even on the lowest of specs. The download for Puppy Arcade is only 105mb, which will be pretty speedy even for the slowest of net connection. The ISO burnt without error and since its a LiveCD, simply throw it into your drive, reboot and you’re off.
Puppy Arcade offers numerous tools and util’s for standard desktop functions (when you are not playing with the emulators) but I’d suggest that to many users most of these will be of little consequence. There is no Word Processor as such (No Abiword or OpenOffice.org) however I doubt users will be downloading Puppy Arcade with anything else than emulation as their main priority. Basic text/src editing is handled by Leafpad 0.8.16 or Geany 0.16, the later of which is rather good for src. You have other utilities available and whilst I could list and comment on everything, it would make this review far longer than it needs. What I will say is that CD/DVD burning software is included, as well as various media players and rippers.
A point to note is that unlike previous versions of Puppy Arcade, there is no default packaged web browser, you can choose this from a sort of ballot screen, which works very well. This does pose a slight issue if you are booting from a LiveCD, that being you are going to have to install a browser to ram every time you boot (unless you install to HD). The reasoning behind the removal of the browser is to reduce the download and to be fair its a great idea. I don’t think many will mind. I was pleased to see Chrome offered as I have championed it for a long while and since I have never been a fan of Firefox plugins, the faster browsing experience of Chrome on any desktop is a big plus for me.
All in all as a standalone desktop Puppy Arcade 8 is great on any machine (new or old) and whilst in respect of a home desktop machine, it might seem a little lacking in util’s, there’s a plethora of software to install should you require, that can make Puppy Arcade 8 whatever you want it to be.
Puppy Linux has come on in leaps and bounds over the years and this is reflected in the out of the box experience. Puppy had no issues detecting any of my hardware, from USB keyboard to monitor settings.
Puppy Arcade – The multi-platform Emulation distro!
Here is where we get to the real “meat” of the review. This afterall is why you downloaded Puppy Arcade. What is included? What can it emulate? How well does it do it? and what do I need?
As I said earlier on my specs for this test are very low, but regardless of that, the experience is blisteringly fast. The machines emulated in Puppy Arcade 8 are: Amiga, Amstrad, AppleMac, Arcade, Atari (8/16bit). Colecovision, Commodore, Doom, Gameboy, Genesis, N64, Nes, NeoGeoCD,PCEngine, PSX, Snes, Sega Saturn, Sega (8bit) and ZX Spectrum. You’ve also got compatibility with DOS binaries (via Dosbox 0.73) and ScummVM to play many of those point and click games from yesteryear. Openbytes featured a comparison of Dosbox and ScummVM which you can read here.
The standard desktop menu has been hidden by default (expanding when your mouse is over it) in favour of a custom dock with icons for all the emulators included.
Keeping it legal – No system roms included!
It’s often discussed in emulation forums about the legality of rom’s from obsolete machines. Puppy Arcade removes this problem by not packaging any as default and instead having a simple GUI that allows you to download the system roms as and when you need them. It’s a completely automated process and it will keep track of the rom’s which you have downloaded. It’s a great little package which works well.
Whats new in version 8?
The rom loader (for starters) which I detail above. I look forward to seeing this mature over the next releases of Puppy Arcade. Importantly VLC has replaced Xine which is a great media player which can handle just about anything you throw at it. As detailed earlier the removal of a default packaged web browser and theres been many GTK frontends updated (as well as the emulators themselves with later versions) is a change over the last version.
You can read more about the changes here: http://scottjarvis.com/page105.htm
Yet another great release for Puppy Arcade. I like the idea of having a poll for the browser, which means that not only do you get a smaller .iso download, but you don’t have to waste your time downloading a browser which you are going to replace anyway. The size of the download is another massive plus and will have you enjoying emulation in no time at all. It’s quite amusing to think that the whole distro is downloaded in 105mb which is less than many PSX games themselves!
I think Puppy Arcade 8 is a landmark release, Scott, its creator has now had a few versions to fine tune and tweak the direction in which he is taking this project and now as we see more intuitive interfaces, it provides a solid foundation for future versions. The delivery of Puppy Arcade reeks professionalism and from install to messing around with system BIOS files , there were no broken menu’s or incomplete features. The only limitation to the emulation Puppy Arcade offers are the limitations of the emulators themselves, of which I’m pleased to say with my testing were very few.
You can download a copy of Puppy Arcade here: http://scottjarvis.com/page105.htm
And if you are interested in reading previous reviews on Openbytes:
So what are you waiting for? Give yourself a little computing nostalgia and download Puppy Arcade!
Goblin – email@example.com
If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the Openbytes statement, here.
Complicated title? I did try! In a nutshell MAME is the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator (version 0.106) which has been a project running for many years. A commandline emulator which has many front-ends released for it, and one of the best ones in my opinion is gxmame (version in use 0.35beta2) Xmame is the Linux implimentation of this emulator.
So what does this package emulate? Hundreds of Arcade PCBs, far too numerous to list here from the more recent titles of yesteryear to the real old classics. The MAME project is probably one of the most impressive on the net, since the work that has been put into it for the emulation of the various processors/gfx/sound chips is astounding. The 68000 emulation is particularly impressive and I dont think theres many 68000 based PCB’s that are not emulated in this package.
My favorites? Well Im lucky enough to have the original Street Fighter 2 PCB and with many titles released legally into the public domain (check first to confirm) you are able to get plenty of fun legally out of this package.
So the question (as it always does) arises about the legality of downloading PCB images for the various arcade games, and with that I would say be careful. If you own the original PCB as I do, I personally can see anyone having a problem with you dumping it to your harddisk for personal use. That being said, if you download any images which havent been released into the public domain, you are infringing someones copyright.
So how does it operate? Id firstly recommend any new or inexperienced Linux user using a frontend since the commandline can be daunting to any new users (I hasten to add before any Windows supporters pipe up) that the Windows version is also commandline and also requires a separate frontend should you wish to avoid it.
The nice thing about gxmame is that it lists all of the MAME supported titles, allowing you to change setting such as sample rate/scanlines/input devices etc uniquely for each title. The emulation of the PCB images tested was solid and consistant with 0.106 and since its emulation of years old tech, unless your machine is extrememly old, you will have no problem running all the titles.
So having used both the Windows and Linux versions how do they compare to each other? Id say no difference. Firstly because they are based on the same code and secondly because todays PC has more than enough power to deal with a 16bit 68k processor of yesteryear.
MAME has spawned some very interesting projects over the years, most noteably custom arcade cabinets with a PC core and a collection of hundreds of titles. Some of these sell for large amounts of money.
As said earlier MAME has been in development for many years, with contributors adding to it and correcting bugs on a regular basis. For many of us old timers there are fond memories of one or two machines where we pumped 10p after 10p into at the fairground or seaside! Some of my favourites, which by the way are all supported in MAME are Narc – A sideways scrolling shootemup where you blast drug pushers and users with a combination of a machine gun and rocket launcher. A truely great game and whilst at the time was considered violent, its really a rather innocent title by todays standards! Afterburner was a favorite of mine where you sat in a cabinet and talking of cabinets who can forget the vector graphics Star Wars? One of the classics! I could bang on all day about the greats from my youth, but I have a feeling nobody wants to listen to my trip down memory lane and its nothing more than self indulgent nonsense!
Lets move on to where you can get your hands on this fantastic software (and a little bad news) it appears there has been no update to Xmame since 2006, however you can still download the binary from here: http://freshmeat.net/projects/xmame/ or if you wish to grab it with your command line in Ubuntu: sudo apt-get install xmame-x xmame-sdl myou can download gxmame 035beta2 as a .deb from http://surfnet.dl.sourceforge.net/sourceforge/gxmame/gxmame_0.35beta2-1_i386.deb
Apparently there is another Linux implimentation of MAME (SDLMame) which I will be looking into and reporting here. In the meantime, go grab yourself a piece of computing history, from the days when arcade machines were seen as the ultimate platforms and the home computer version was always the poorer cousin.
Goblin – firstname.lastname@example.org
The world of FOSS is not simply limited to the PC or the many homebrew games played on vintage systems either natively or via an emulator, development for current platforms is possible and it is for this reason I am running this article on the R4 Revolution for the DS. How did I come by it? At a market today, being sold quite openly (since its not breaking any laws) for the very reasonable price of £35 per unit. I had doubts the hardware would work but figured for that small amount of money it could provide me with hours of entertainment as I get to grips with creating a few little programs for the DS.
I have been experimenting a little already with coding for the DS. A while ago we ran some articles on DS emulation on Linux, you can see the review of iDeaS v188.8.131.52 here and the review of DeSmuME v0.8 here. Both packages, whilst still in early versions were very impressive and great for using to test your DS homebrew creations. We will be looking at both of those projects again at a later date, hopefully with more features and better compatibility. Remember to support these projects and report bugs in the software to the authors!
Before I go any further, Im sure Im going to have the piracy allegation thrown at me, however what I would say is that R4 Revolution is intended as a tool to enable home brew software to be played and created for the Nintendo DS. If users choose to abuse its purpose, then fine, just dont bring it here. The R4 is no more of a piracy device than a DVD writer. OpenBytes does not support the use of this device for piracy or infringing copyright. I will not link to any copyrighted products and the only links here are to home brew games/demos/projects where there is permission to distribute freely.
So what is the R4 Revolution? Quite simply its a multimedia player for your Nintendo DS, allowing files from your PC to be copied onto a MicroSD card, inserted into a DS sized cartridge and then run via a menu system. Its runs off the media player Moonshell which is currently at 2.00 beta 7.00.
So whats in the box?
A DS sized cartridge with a slot for a MicroSD card.
A 2GB MicroSD (plenty for your projects).
A USB stick that also has a slot for the MicroSD card, which can be pluged into your PC for copying files to any from your DS and acts as an adaptor if you dont have a MicroSD memory card slot on your PC.
What features/file formats can it handle?
Video files are handled by nDs-mPeG (or DPG) its own special version of mpeg1. This is important to know because if you intend to put any video files onto your DS, you will need to convert them first. In regards to the ROM files, .NDS and in respect of audio, mp3, ogg are amongst those supported. You can also view jpegs on your DS through Moonshell aswell!
For Linux users wanting to convert their video files to the native NDS format, there is a great Python script which can be downloaded from: http://theli.is-a-geek.org/blog/static/dpgconv
From the site:
-2nd generation storage device (no booting tool required)
-Flush fitting slot 1 card
-Uses MicroSD card, FAT16 or 32
-Supports any MicroSD card speed with no lag in game
-Supports Clean ROM, drag and drop. Works on any OS
-Built in NoPass
-Automatically detect save type
-Save directly to MicroSD card, not to onboard chip
-Supports Moonshell and other homebrew. Open I/O interface
-User friendly skinnable interface. Touchscreen or button operation
-Supports rumble pak and memory pak
-Supports the WiFi game, DS Rumble Pak, DS Browser
-Supports changes of the background of Operation Interface
– Support Skin DIY by setting background and font colors on Main Menu and Game Menu manually and automatically
-Supports 4-scale-lightness adjustment ( DS Lite only )
-Supports the Soft Reset.
-Supports Action Replay cheat
-moonshell 1.6 support Software Reset function( Press START key back to the R4 menu)
For those of you interesting in developing your own software for the DS, get yourself over to http://www.devkitpro.org/ I will probably be covering some devolopment issues on the DS, but in the interests of keeping the R4 review shorter and to the point, Ill refer you to the link for now.
A few great places for homebrew games/tech demos/applications are at the following sites:
In addition, there is a growing emulation scene and already you can play a few retro titles on your DS. Check out: http://www.zophar.net/ I dont intend to go into emulation on the DS at the moment (for the same reasons as development) but I will be taking a look at DS home brew titles in the future.
Using in a Linux enviroment
Its always a common theme amongst the ignorant that Linux either cant use or needs special drivers to run hardware. Its rubbish. There are a few pieces of hardware that may need a little “tweeking”, but then thats the advantage of a LiveCD, you can see for yourself without commiting. In the case of the R4, there are no issues at all (not really a surprise) within seconds of pluging the device in, I was transfering my music collection and some great homebrew demos in seconds. I can confidently say that since this device is nothing more than a memory card adaptor, you will have no problems whatever distro you are running.
I dont believe I can praise highly enough the value and functionality of this product. It is simplicity itself to use, and even with the traditional “unconventional” coding styles of a home brew developer on a console, Ive yet to come across any work that fails to load. One of the most interesting things of the R4 is experiencing the demoscene actually on the DS as it was intended, and I hope we will see more demo and displays of creativity on the DS in upcoming Demo Parties this year. Although I paid £35 for my unit, from briefly looking around the net it can be bought for around the £25-30 mark, that was for the 2gig version.
Where the R4 opens up even more is in the area of emulation, and there are already numerous emulators for the DS which allow you to play many retro titles from other platforms on it.
It is a shame its not an official Nintendo product, since I think the hobbyist developer and “emulator” would snap this up. Allowing users to be creative on your hardware (IMO) extends its life, and creates more of a buzz about a product.
Maybe Nintendo should consider this hardware for the future?
I have run quite a few sucessfull blogs/sites that Ive handed over to others over the years. I come from a GFX coding background and on coders forums have made many friends. Since the Nectarine site was brought down, Ive met other like-minded people, so yet again I have been supprised with this little gem of a site.
As Ive said before, Ive been a fan of emulation and retro computing for a long time, but after years of visits to zophars.net, IRC and various other places, Im am supprised I havent visited The Old Computer.com. The site has roms for loads of systems. It has bios images, it has a blog and it also lists many radio stations.
I used a couple of the Spectrum games on this site to test the Xspect software (reviewed a few days ago)
Its a great site, and the one good thing to come out of the Nectarine attack, as if Nectarine hadnt been brought down, I may never have found this site.
Ill shortly be adding it to my blog roll.
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.