Slow posts, Free Computer and Game Reviews

Things have been a little quiet here on BMV, but that isn’t to say that there hasn’t been any geeky goings on behind closed doors. At a recent Amiga club meeting, a member of the public brought in their old Amiga rig and software. Left to gather dust in their attic, they brought it to LAG hoping to find it a new home. By sheer coincidence I had brought along my own Amiga 500 Plus to the LAG meeting, along with an external hard drive I was trying to install games to. Having owned an A500 back in the day and only ever used the floppy drive, I was eager to experience all the IDE goodness. Sadly my Amiga was choosing not to work with the GVP expansion, so when the offer came of a free boxed A500, I jumped at the chance. When I opened the boxed, I discovered it was complete, with manuals and polystyrene packaging, just as it had been the day it was sold. From what I gather the A500 is faulty, so I will have to check it out when I can get around to it.

Along with his A500, the gentleman brought in two boxes worth of Amiga games. Sifting through them, I found titles such as Desert Strike, Monkey Island, Rocket Ranger and Castle Master. All classic games in their original boxes. I goes without saying that a number of the games ended up coming back home with me and it’s a sure thing I will be reviewing them here on my blog. Sure there are plenty of places online filled to the brim with Amiga game reviews. But as I seldom review games, I figured what the hell, why not have a go. Besides that is what ByteMyVdu is all about, talking, discussing and reviewing everything old bit of computer kit I can get my grubby hands on.

In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be writing about repairing or trying to repair an Nintendo 64 and also doing a review of “Return To Atlantis”, one of the games acquired at the LAG meet.

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Till next time, keep on geeking!

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Heating & Good Ventilation

Nomad Update

A couple of years ago I wrote an article on BMV about a retro themed computer I’d built, designed to look like a Z80‭ Micro ‬computer from late‭ ‬70‭s. ‬The build went pretty well and overall I have to say it was a success.‭ The front panel even had blinky lights! ‬But like many prototypes, there were one or two unanticipated bugs.‭ ‬Today’s article will cover the biggest of them all: heat, and how its ultimately in your own best interest not to ignore it. So pull up a chair, grab a hot beverage and lets get the party started.

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Linux offering a serious alternative to Windows

At the heart of the Nomad is an MSI Fuzzy‭ ‬945GM2‭ ‬motherboard, fitted with an Intel Core Duo T5500‭ ‬central processor and 2GB of DDR2‭ ‬memory.‭ ‬By today’s standards  the hardware isn’t very impressive,‭ ‬but powerful enough to run old DOS games, emulate other systems and still provide a decent working system. Windows XP Professional, while not so safe online, is still the best option for running most old software, while still being able to run Photoshop and Illustrator. Due to XP’s vulnerability on-line, I installed Xuntubu along side it, so I had a secure platform for surfing the Internet. Seriously if you have never considered Linux and you are moving away from XP, then I couldn’t recommend it enough. It’s free, open source and runs really well even on a system with limited resources. ‬I also discovered that interfacing my TRS80‭ ‬M100‭ ‬via serial is much less of a headache through Linux,‭ ‬than it ever was using Windows.

For those of you that may have missed my earlier‭ article‭‬,‭ ‬I originally used an ABS plastic enclosure to house the Nomad.‭ ‬At the time I thought the case would be fine,‭ ‬but later discovered the motherboard was cooking inside the tiny case. So much that the hot glue I had used to construct part of the case has melted and one of the SATA cables was stuck to the underside of the top lid.  Using a digital thermometer I’d built, I discovered the inside of the case was reaching close to‭ ‬85‭ ‬degrees‭! ‬Ouch‭!

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Nomad Part 2 Taking Shape

So it was back to the drawing board,‭ ‬I could either find a larger case or replace the MSI board with something cooler,‭ ‬such as a dual core Atom board.‭ ‬Having past experience with Atom chips,‭ ‬my feelings towards them was a little jaded. ‬As low cost CPUs go, they serve a purpose, but I’ve never found them to be that impressive in a desktop environment. ‬I’ve seen Atom based systems advertised as compact desktop replacements, but in my experience,‭ ‬that is a load of old twaddle.‭ ‬Atom powered machines are little more than Netbooks that have been stuffed inside a compact desktop box and we all know what happened to the ill fated Netbook‭! Using an Atom board was simpy out of the question,‭ ‬for a start I was doubtful it would handling emulating a Spectrum, let alone a Commodore Amiga. I had to stick with using the Fuzzy board, so I needed to find a better case to house the guts of the Nomad.‭ ‬Thanks to the popularity of the Raspberry Pi,‭ ‬eBay is now flooded with project boxes and kits catering for hackers and builders alike.‭ ‬ Unlike before when I struggled to find even one case, I was now faced with a torrent of cases to choose from. It still took me over a month to find a decent case that still had that‭ ‘‬Altair‭’ ‬look.‭ ‬Advertised as a Raspberry Pi enclosure,‭ ‬I have to say the seller was being modest.‭

From This

The New Nomad?

To This!

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You could probably fit‭ ‬20-30‭ ‬Pi inside the one case.‭ ‬Constructed of metal, it would be perfect for the Nomad v2. ‬Cutting out the back and front panels proved to be a challenge, ‬but I had faith in my trusty Dremmel.‭ ‬The new case was double the price of the ‭original plastic enclosure,‭ ‬but for a metal case it was still relatively cheap.‭ ‬

Once it had arrived, I began the process of transferring the guts from the old case to the new one.

Disaster…Panic…Death

A month after the Nomad v2 was built,‭ ‬it randomly stopped working.‭ At first I wondered if my fears come true‭, that exposure to high temperatures in the old case had damaged the components, leading to the main board giving up the ghost. ‬Exhausting every theory, ‬I couldn’t figure out for the life of me what was causing the machine not to work.‭ ‬In the end,‭ ‬I took the‭ machine over to friend’s,‭ ‬hoping a fresh pair of eyes would see something I hadn’t.‭ ‬Thankfully this paid off,‭ ‬unlike me,‭ ‬my friend Peter went straight for the power supply.‭ ‬Not the one inside the machine,‭ ‬but the external brick I was using to supply‭ ‬12v to the computer.‭ I’d been so convinced heat had damaged something, I’d overlooked the simplest answer. I later realised I’d overlooked the load the Nomad was placing on the external power supply. ‬The motherboard,‭ ‬CPU and drives needed at least‭ ‬125watt’s and the power supply I was using fell short by a long way. ‬Before rebuilding the Nomad,‭ ‬I sat down and calculated the systems power requirements and bought a PSU and ATX Pico adaptor better suited to the system. ‭ ‭ ‬Overall the rebuild has been a success and I always get a special buzz when someone asks about the odd looking machine on the desk.