Wednesday 13 March 2024

Amazon Customer Obsession

Amazon removed side stripe and images for "affiliates" so you can't embed pictures in your own web sites anymore that link to the products.

Amazon likes to say they are customer obsessed, but they really aren't.  Its all about Amazon.

Remember auto rip? Music library? Twitch ad free viewing? All good examples of features people loved but were "marinal" in their returns.

When I singned up to be an affiliate, I had some folks buy stuff through my links, but I was lazy in setting up my tax info for spifs. So Amazon cancelled my affiliate account because I couldn't sell enough, and then locked me out so I couldn't get the spif payments.

Amazon is evil. 

Friday 1 March 2024

Day Off Fixes

Today is a "Global Reset Day" so I took the opportunity to fix some things on the PacMan cabinet. First, I never hooked up the 2 pin header buttons to the 3 pin sockets - and so re-use the buttons from the original cabinet. After some research, I discovered it is as simple as "forcing" the 2 pin header into the socket leaving pin 3 disconnected. However, these buttons are cheap, and sound terrible side mounted. Then, my research on audio cables implied I should twist my speaker wires together - braid them - to reduce noise. I did this, and low and behold the hum from the HDMI connector to the speaker disappeared. I was able to remove the lo-hi pass filter and the sound is less muffled. Important to remember that the Odroid uses HDMI out, so with my last update, I need to reset sound output to the HDMI device. Also important to remember that over driving the ALSA mixer is a very bad idea (and MAME sound, like for Karate Champ, will clip out.) Good day off.

Monday 12 February 2024

Fixing Galaxian sound on ARM 8 core

** updated ** I was wrong about adding a mutex. One of the MAME developers, in pointing out I was wrong, also pointed out what was wrong, and subsequently fixed the issue and more. See for details.

Sunday 11 February 2024

4:3 MAME Project

After turning my 1Up PacMan into a MAME cabinet, I wanted to get two more cabinets because I wanted full screen experience for horizontal and square displays in addition to vertical.

I found a Marvel Super Heroes aka Marvel vs Capcom 1Up used for $200 on Facebook Marketplace.

When I went to pick it up,  I had an unexpected visitor: George.

I set it up in the living room and played a few games with the boy.

Taking it apart, I noticed the controller looked a lot like a stock USB encoder.  I wanted to reuse as much hardware as possible.  (I have another project now to revers engineer the encoder.)

The brain had an on/off switch, and a power outlet (likely for a marquee in other 1Up models).

This is what the logic board looks like (AllWinner effectvely an Android device; note the debug uart pins, the micro USB, and other cool stuff.

I wanted to reuse the power and volume buttons on this thing, so all buttons are usable.

As reverse engineering the 1Up encoder will take time, I added two DragonRise USB controller.

The joystick is a four button model. The block 4 pin terminus doesn't fit the 5 pin sawa style, so I needed to splice on a couple 2 pin terminus (22 gauge wire).

No need to solder when you can use a mini marrette. 

You can split the 3 position switch for volume into 2 x 2 pin terminus.

| A |  B | C | SWITCH
  |    |    |
  |   / \   |
  |  |   |  |
+-----+ +-----+
| 1| 2| | 3| 4|
+-----+ +-----+

Next step was taking apart the speaker assembly to map right and left wires and check the Ohms and Watts on the speakers (8O3W).

So the usual Kinter amplifier will do. Cut off the 4 contact stereo jack and connect to 22 guage wire from the amplifier.

I used a modified SVG of my previous J Panel to have two buttons and I moved the amplifier up.  Cut with the Epilog laser cutter at work.

Using hot glue like last time with a joint to add some strength. Used a grinder to allow the screws to hide flush.

The buttons are for coin or service (or whatever.)

Here is a video of how to attach the button to the switch.

A picture of the assembled J Panel.

Like last project, I attached the encoders with screws and spacers from poly tubing.  I pointed the USB B towards the guts to make room but this was a mistake.  The cables molding was way to big and even though I left room, the monitor back panel descended too low and I had to notch two holes for the plugs.  (Also don't forget to label left and right wires; I just use colored tape.)

I attached the video controller to a bit of wood so I could hot glue it to the back of the display.

Secured.  Again, poly tube and screws to secure to the wood.

Zippies on all the cables, I also added a shelf for the Geekom Mini I'm using as the brain for this cabinet. I still need to secure the display buttons and mini with a VESA (or bigger zippie).

So booting the Mini Air 11 (Windows GONE, Ubuntu 22.04 with XFCE4), 

Attract is fine. (I compile everything from current source.)

JSTest all buttons/switches firing okay (including power and volume). Sound working fine through the headphone jack and amplifier in stereo.

And now time to play Tekken 2 with the boy.

And after... It took about 8 hours to convert the cabinet. Total project cost about $450 (including the 1Up used $200, the Air Mini at $150, and $100 for amp, buttons, 2 encoders...)

Thursday 25 January 2024

Youyeetoo R1: First Impressions

Unboxing and Language

In my search for multiple core ARM processors in SBCs (I was drooling over AmpereOne's 192 cores), I found a new board called youyeetoo R1. It appears to be an Orange Pi 5 competitor. Its got a Rockchip RK3588s 8 core, big little (A76/A55) 4 and 4 core and the big cores burst at 2.4GHz. Also like the OPi5, it has a Mali 610 GPU - and more features that seemed attractive like an NPU (neural processing unit, can do simultaneous operations like you'd want in a neural net firing your activation / objective functions and back propagation weighting adjustments), and a NFC (Near Field Communication) sensor (that could be used to read you Yubi key, phone, or allow for lil' robot communication if they are in proximity to each other). It also has support for two monitors via MIPI-DSI and HDMI ports. I ordered an 8/64 EMMC with Debian pre-installed so I could play... 

It arrived well packaged.

Double bubble wrap!

And the box wasn't squished in any way.

The box confirmed what I bought - though the Wifi module was misleading (it was not included). The power supply was typical 12V 4A barrel tip.

Inside we had a spacer and two anti-static bags.

The board was on top of the heat sink.

Board looked clean.

The heat sink looks like it blanket covers the CPU and other chips. It came with some thermal double sided tape.

The board is bigger than the Orange Pi.

I booted it up.  To my surprise, it did NOT launch a frame buffer (fb) console. It has U-Boot installed, and apparently dumps its console via serial tty (so if I had a debug serial cable that fit and a FTDI USB adapter, I might be able to watch it boot, and or interact with U-Boot.) See the picture below for the UART debug plug on the bottom of the board (and its #1, so pins are not shared with GPIO block.)

So it has a Debian/Linaro build with XFCE4.  I like XFCE4. But, I don't read simplified Chinese (though I have about 100 Mandarin/pinyin words in my vocabulary.)

So the first step, let's get a language we know.  Open a console, and install English.

sudo dpkg-reconfigure locales

sudo update-locale LC_ALL=en_US.UTF-8

The first command brings up a CURSES dialog in Chinese, but it is easy to find and select en_US and create the resources. The second command sets the default language to English. You need to `sudo reboot` after this.

Installing Software

So we are running a 5.10 kernel.  My Orange Pi is pegged at 5.15.  My Odroid and other machines are on 6.1.

There are a few tools I can't live without.  Most important for me are benchmarks, partition managers, developer tools, process monitors, and graphics drivers...

sudo apt install xfce4-terminal

sudo apt install gnome-system-monitor

sudo apt install gparted

sudo apt install build-essential

I hit my first glitch.  The system is pegged (more on this later).  Turns out I needed to force a dpkg and reinstall to get current build-essential.

sudo apt install --reinstall dpkg-dev libdpkg-perl

So now I can re-install build essentials.  Great. I try chromium browser, and get errors about bad dates and certs. Ok, lets fix the time ISO style.

sudo date -s "2024-01-25 17:15"

But I really want to autoset the time on boot - not just for the duration of whatever capacitor is on the board.

linaro@linaro-alip:~$ sudo timedatectl set-ntp true

Failed to set ntp: NTP not supported

Huh. No NTP?  Not good. And I can't  install timesyncd as its pegged. So how many packages are locked?

linaro@linaro-alip:~$ apt-mark showhold | wc -l 

No way. Update only told me 96 packages were locked. Now I am worried. Where are the Debian packages actually coming from?

linaro@linaro-alip:/etc/apt$ cat sources.list

deb bullseye main contrib non-free

deb-src bullseye main contrib non-free

deb bullseye-updates main contrib non-free

deb-src bullseye-updates main contrib non-free

deb bullseye-backports main contrib non-freedeb-src bullseye-backports main contrib non-free

deb bullseye-security main contrib non-free

deb-src bullseye-security main contrib non-free

Now I am worried. I am locked into an unofficial, Chinese repo. This is not uncommon.  The Orange Pi is also tied to Huawei. I know we also have Hon Hai / Foxconn SBC. I have heard horror stories (usually about Mini PCs) of all sorts of spyware and malware, usually on "Windows" distributions.  I install stock Ubuntu intel from Live USB on all my Minis.  It suffices to say, `netstat -epa` and process monitor's network traffic made me feel much better that information was not being sent somewhere I didn't want it to go. However, I could not redirect to official repos (that I can with Korean Odroid.)  This makes me unhappy.

Quick Orange Pi Comparison

The form factor is slightly bigger. But we have more ports. And we favor one side, that actually isn't bad (as it is more rack friendly.)

I am irritated by both that we don't have an EMMC socket (like Odroid). This means to flash the EMMC, you need to treat the board like an ADB/USB micro storage device (will cover in another blog).

On the Orange Pi 5 (that does have a fb console), we only have a power button.

But on Youyeetoo R1, we have 4 buttons.  From left to right: Reset, Power, Recover, and Boot.

I have not figured out exactly what the async behind the buttons actually does aside from the obvious (but I will talk about it in another blog post).

Quick GL Performance

XFCE4 performs well.  There is no cursor flicker (like on Le Potatoe). `glmark2-es2` runs okay, but oddly, benched about 760 compared to the Orange Pi 980 at same resolution (it should be the same, right, as it has the same hardware.) There were some odd artifacts with GL, so I suspect the Mali (Panfrost?) driver isn't current. Also,, not there, so glmark2 will run with the LLVM pipe (effectively unaccelerated software rendering), that means any game emulators will need to support GLES. 

Other Quirks

When I tried to get to a fb console via `alt Fx`, the device hung.

I managed to completely corrupt OS and eventually the root partition... fixing that is for another blog.

Next Steps

My next step is to try build and install Ubuntu, as unfortunately there is not an image. I understand Youyeetoo plans to provide one eventually, but I believe this device is currently not for a casual hobbyist.  To do that, the following would need to happen
  • Baked in GRUB support
  • USB boot
  • fb console
  • Use of official repositories
  • Not locking down packages 
Note that vendors lock packages to have a stable OS. But this is at the expense of developers. So... 

I do look forward to continuing to play with the device, in particular its NPU and NFC, however I won't be sticking it in a game cabinet any time soon.  It will likely get added to my home-lab rack.