Retro Nostalgia

Christmas break is nearly over, and besides fond memories of LEGO building with the kids, I recall there was a lot of dishwashing involved. And a little hacking.

As usual, my plans for tinkering with a few things I had lined up were cast asunder by real life events, so the ESP 8266 modules I finally got my hands on and the little thermal printer I brought home to fix and print a new case for are going to stay in their bags until (technically) next year…

I did manage to build myself a little Christmas present of sorts, though.

My original idea consisted of putting together a retro game console for the kids using my last 256MB Raspberry Pi on hand. The only stipulation I had was that it absolutely had to work with a PlayStation 3 controller over Bluetooth. I didn’t want any cables in the living room, and the less setup involved, the better.

So I set up Retropie on it. EmulationStation is pretty amazing, and it does what it says on the tin – namely provide a nice, fast and smooth front-end to various bundled emulators.

It requires a fair amount of manual configuration (which is manageable), but getting the PS3 controller to work with it proved to be a chore:

  • Patching the sixad daemon (as documented in various HOWTOs) made the controller worked once, and never again for some unfathomable reason.
  • Dumping Bluetooth traffic between the controller and the Pi was to no avail – the negotiation broke down every time the controller tried to connect, on three kernel versions.
  • Recompiled bluez myself and tried using that instead, only to discover that I need to wait until the Raspberry Pi kernel is moved up a few notches to provide full support.

This took entirely too much time (over a few evenings leading up to the holiday), so I eventually gave up and started testing things using my ancient Microsoft Sidewinder controller (which was probably my first non-mouse USB device ever), only to confirm that love for retro games is equal parts nostalgia and forgetfulness – i.e., most games simply aren’t as much fun as I remembered.

Well, except for R-Type – that’s still the retro game for me. There’s a decent Android port available, but the hour I spent playing it on a big screen was a good enough Christmas present to myself.

As to the kids, well… Turns out I had an ageing Namco 5-in-1 Stick, which works great and is sure to have a lot of mileage left in it. It’s not cable-free, but they love it and it’s a lot less hassle to maintain.

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