Scott Hanselman

Building your own Arcade Cabinet for Geeks - Part 7 - Success and Conclusion

June 6, '09 Comments [17] Posted in Arcade
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This is the seventh part of a multi-part series I'm going to do about assembling an Arcade Cabinet for my house. This series has two disclaimers:

Software Disclaimer 1: There's all sorts of legal issues around emulating arcade games. This series of posts has nothing to do with that. I do own some original arcade boards, but if you want to emulate arcade games with MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator), you can search the 'tubes. What I'm doing here is putting a computer in a pretty box.

Hardware Disclaimer 2: Many folks that build arcade cabinets have a purist view of how these things should be done. They will prefer original Arcade CRT monitors and more expensive, higher quality parts. I am more of a pragmatist. I also have no idea what I'm doing, so I've also got ignorance on my side.

Video Tour

Here's a short HiDef Video shot with my Creative Vado HD showing the Arcade Cabinet:

Tour of the Complete System - Building your own Arcade Cabinet from Scott Hanselman on Vimeo.

What I Learned

I learned:

  • You can cut corners, save money and still end up with a nice system, as long as you set your goals up front.
  • Steel is hard to cut. Know what you're doing, or get a pro.
  • Acrylic is hard to cut. Know what you're doing, or get a pro.
  • Painting and sanding something is the easiest way to make it look nice.
  • Making stuff with your hands is very satisfying and easier than you think (if you're a coder and you think this stuff is hard).
  • I could do it way better next time. ;)
  • I, myself, prefer to refurb old stuff rather than make new stuff.

All in all, the wife is amazed it looks so good, and she's said I can bring it into my den/office. She's nixed the living room...for now!

Total Cost: US$441

The Complete Series

  1. Cabinet and Power
  2. Monitor and Mounting
  3. Control Panel
  4. Sound and Lights
  5. Paint and Art
  6. Computer Hardware and Software
  7. Success and Conclusion

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Building your own Arcade Cabinet for Geeks - Part 6 - Computer Hardware and Software

June 6, '09 Comments [2] Posted in Arcade
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This is the sixth part of a multi-part series I'm going to do about assembling an Arcade Cabinet for my house. This series has two disclaimers:

Software Disclaimer 1: There's all sorts of legal issues around emulating arcade games. This series of posts has nothing to do with that. I do own some original arcade boards, but if you want to emulate arcade games with MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator), you can search the 'tubes. What I'm doing here is putting a computer in a pretty box.

Hardware Disclaimer 2: Many folks that build arcade cabinets have a purist view of how these things should be done. They will prefer original Arcade CRT monitors and more expensive, higher quality parts. I am more of a pragmatist. I also have no idea what I'm doing, so I've also got ignorance on my side.

Hardware

I, like most geeks, have a number of old computers lying around. I picked the best one, a Pentium 4 I used to use as a Media Center. It has a gig of RAM, runs Windows XP SP3 and has a nice fast ATI video card. I figured since I am just as interested in regular games as I am in Arcade Classics, it'd behoove me to have a decent machine in there.

IMG_0108 IMG_0300

The insides are HUGE as I yanked out the original arcade guts. There's lots of room and the back has two holes cut with screendoor material over them. I haven't had a heat problem yet, but I suspose I could easily add a small desk fan to blow air out the back. It would turn on with the rest of the equipment.

I setup a Microsoft Wireless Desktop 6000 mouse and keyboard (to avoid cords) and I may mount a sack or something on the back to hold them. I also plugged in a Wireless Xbox Controller and Xbox USB Gaming Receiver for games like Far Cry.

Software

I put lots of emulators for classics like C64, SNS, Ataris and other old hardware I have lying around. I set a few important BIOS settings that you shouldn't miss.

First:

  • Set your Power BIOS setting to "Always On" or "On After Power Loss."
  • Set your BIOS to "quick" or "silent" in order to speed up the boot.
  • Use "msconfig.exe" to set the time that Windows waits to boot up to some small number like 3 seconds.
  • Configure XP to automatically logon as some user of your choice, per KB3152321.

There's a number of popular "Front Ends" that you can put in your Startup Folder. Some folks replace Explorer.exe as the shell, but I think that's excessive. I just set my launcher to start immediately .

If you're looking for the prettiest, most "art focused" front end, then there is no other front-end than HyperSpin. It uses a file-based system of transparent PNGs and AVIs along with a compositing engine to make a truly beautiful circular menuing system.

Software is one of those things I'll spend the next year getting just the way I want it.

Next Up: Success and Conclusion

  1. Cabinet and Power
  2. Monitor and Mounting
  3. Control Panel
  4. Sound and Lights
  5. Paint and Art
  6. Computer Hardware and Software
  7. Success and Conclusion

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Building your own Arcade Cabinet for Geeks - Part 5 - Paint and Art

June 6, '09 Comments [1] Posted in Arcade
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This is the fifth part of a multi-part series I'm going to do about assembling an Arcade Cabinet for my house. This series has two disclaimers:

Software Disclaimer 1: There's all sorts of legal issues around emulating arcade games. This series of posts has nothing to do with that. I do own some original arcade boards, but if you want to emulate arcade games with MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator), you can search the 'tubes. What I'm doing here is putting a computer in a pretty box.

Hardware Disclaimer 2: Many folks that build arcade cabinets have a purist view of how these things should be done. They will prefer original Arcade CRT monitors and more expensive, higher quality parts. I am more of a pragmatist. I also have no idea what I'm doing, so I've also got ignorance on my side.

Paint is pretty easy. Two coats people say. I am a believer. ALWAYS two coats. For this project I also did a few other things. John suggested that we use the orbital sander to really give the wood a little texture so the paint would grip. The sander also took off the side art nicely.

Paint

I sanded the heck out of it. I used some wood putty to fill in some holes and nasty parts, let them dry, then sanded over them. Then I used a small foam roller (brushes are too slow, and I really don't like the texture they often leave) to do a first coat with a "Killz" tinted primer. This stuff is amazing. It really covered stains and stickers and all sorts of crap.

IMG_0036 IMG_0332

Then I taped off all the important bits with blue painters tape. The Killz Tinted Primer is nice because I only needed an hour or so (I waited 2) to put the first coat of paint.

Cost: US$35
Cost So Far: US$341

I waited overnight for the second coat of black and let me tell you, it really took the paint to the next level. It looks cleaner, smoother, sharper, and the coverage is perfect. Really, people. Two coats. It's like flossing. If you don't floss, don't even bother brushing. Two coats, or don't bother. I'm a believer.

Art and Marquees

I went over to Mame Marquees to get the side art. I've heard nothing but nice things about their work. They often have sales and overstock, and while I was originally planning on custom "Hanselcade" art, I fell line love with this classic "atomic blue" design.

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Cost: US$100
Cost So Far: US$441

The side art came with a sticky back and was surprisingly easy to install without any bubbles. You just start at the top, remove an inch of the back, and slowly remove the back pulling down as you smooth from the top. I would say it was skill, but the decals are very think vinyl and of high quality. I don't know what kind of printer he has but it's worth the money. The art really gave the project "pop!" IMHO.

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As I mention in the Control Panel section, the vinyl for the control panel was sandwiched between the steel and the acrylic. No adhesive was used as the 19 buttons and the pressure of the outer screws hold it all in place.

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Now, I get to put the computer inside and hook it all up!

Next Up: Computer Hardware and Software

  1. Cabinet and Power
  2. Monitor and Mounting
  3. Control Panel
  4. Sound and Lights
  5. Paint and Art
  6. Computer Hardware and Software
  7. Success and Conclusion

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Building your own Arcade Cabinet for Geeks - Part 4 - Sound and Lights

June 6, '09 Comments [0] Posted in Arcade
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This is the fourth part of a multi-part series I'm going to do about assembling an Arcade Cabinet for my house. This series has two disclaimers:

Software Disclaimer 1: There's all sorts of legal issues around emulating arcade games. This series of posts has nothing to do with that. I do own some original arcade boards, but if you want to emulate arcade games with MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator), you can search the 'tubes. What I'm doing here is putting a computer in a pretty box.

Hardware Disclaimer 2: Many folks that build arcade cabinets have a purist view of how these things should be done. They will prefer original Arcade CRT monitors and more expensive, higher quality parts. I am more of a pragmatist. I also have no idea what I'm doing, so I've also got ignorance on my side.

The sounds and lights part was the easiest part of the whole thing so far. After the challenging control panel, this was a nice change of pace.

Sounds

This was pretty straight-forward. There's a compartment at the top of the cabinet. I took some zip-ties and essentially lashed some computer speakers, facing down, to the sides of the inside of this area. There's speaker-shaped drilled holes in the bottom of the top, so the sound can get out. There's a subwoofer in very bottom of the machine, next to the computer.

IMG_0086 IMG_0108

The speakers and sub were just old computer audio stuff I had lying around. I could have reused the tinny speakers that were already in it, but I wanted to punch up the sound a smidge. You can see the subwoofer in the right-hand side picture, sitting on a sturdy shelf, next to the coin collection box.

Cost: US$0 (Had speakers lying around.)
Cost So Far: US$306

Now, lights.

Lights - Marquee

In the top compartment, we put in a small 18" florescent light tube. Then when we ordered the art from Scott at Mame Marquees, we made sure it was translucent and that he'd throw in the Plexiglas for free. I didn't want to cut any more of that again. :)

IMG_0073IMG_0299

Then I threaded the AC cord and plug down the inside-back of the cabinet and plugged it into the smart Power Strip. This was clean, easy and had a big pay off. It looks bright in the picture because of the camera, but wait until the end. It looks niiiice.

Lights - Coin Door

In every write-up of every Arcade Cabinet I've ever read, folks have fun doing the coin door lights. You can't have one of these without doing it. It's just required. It also requires some thought, which I forgot.

I started by going to Radio Shack and buying two random, but bright-looking LEDS. Then I tool an old USB cable, which I knew was 5 volts and I hooked it up directly to the LED. It was bright for about 5 minutes then died. Then I remembered I was an idiot. I was so excited I just went nuts and forgot about resistors.

I went to an LED Calculator and put in the source voltage, 5V, the LED voltage, 3.5V and their current, 20mA. There would be two LEDs, so it spit out this recommendation for two 82 ohm resisters in parallel.

image

I got my multi-meter out and found an 85 ohm resister I had lying around. I figured that was close enough. I busted out the soldering iron and got to work.

IMG_0346 IMG_0347 IMG_0348

I plugged my old USB cable into an old cell-phone BlackBerry AC adapter that put 5V and .5A through the USB cable and there was light!

Cost: US$5 (Resisters, Solder, Random Radio Shackiness.)
Cost So Far: US$311

Ok, time to paint.

Next Up: Paint and Art

  1. Cabinet and Power
  2. Monitor and Mounting
  3. Control Panel
  4. Sound and Lights
  5. Paint and Art
  6. Computer Hardware and Software
  7. Success and Conclusion

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Building your own Arcade Cabinet for Geeks - Part 3 - Control Panel

June 6, '09 Comments [4] Posted in Arcade
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This is the third part of a multi-part series I'm going to do about assembling an Arcade Cabinet for my house. This series has two disclaimers:

Software Disclaimer 1: There's all sorts of legal issues around emulating arcade games. This series of posts has nothing to do with that. I do own some original arcade boards, but if you want to emulate arcade games with MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator), you can search the 'tubes. What I'm doing here is putting a computer in a pretty box.

Hardware Disclaimer 2: Many folks that build arcade cabinets have a purist view of how these things should be done. They will prefer original Arcade CRT monitors and more expensive, higher quality parts. I am more of a pragmatist. I also have no idea what I'm doing, so I've also got ignorance on my side.

This part, the Control Panel, truly kicked our collective butts. We were rockin', working occasional evenings and making progress until we got here. This took probably 3 weeks (a day here and there, wait, a day here and there) and was a huge hassle. In retrospect, we know what we could do to make it easier on ourselves, but you live and learn.

Custom or Stock

Arcade Purists will say you should design your control panel custom, to suit your needs. You can visit a site like Happs Controls and buy the buttons and sticks and trackballs and what not, all to your specs. You can then buy a PCB Board that will let you map your buttons to keyboard strokes. Ultimarc has one called the I-PAC that seems to be the standard. If you like wiring and customization, this could be a good choice for you.

Buttons and Sticks the Easy Way

However, on this project I was really trying to find a balance, and stay cheap and pragmatic but with an eye on quality. So I decided to do a combination. I bought the Tankstick from X-Arcade with the plan to take it apart and install it into the original control panel that came with my arcade cabinet shell.

image IMG_0100

You can see from the picture on the right that I attempted to make a trackball fit, but ended up sending it back. It just was too large.

Instead, I took part the X-Arcade stick and used its wood top as a template for my stock steel control panel. I took a piece of Plexiglas and made a template out of it. Unfortunately this kind of acrylic is very hard to drill and I cracked two before I gave up. More on the plastic later.

 IMG_0116 IMG_0110

Cutting and Cutting and Cutting

Then, John and I transferred our button layout to the original steel panel with a Sharpie Pen. We got a bit-metal "hole saw," is is apparently what you call a big drill bit. It's a 29mm hole, which is standard for arcade controls. We had 19 to drill.

IMG_0125 IMG_0126

The drill bit lasted exactly 1 and 1/2 holes before it burned up. After the fact we learned that there are specific RPMs (speeds) that you should drill steel and we were drilling WAY to fast. I bought another drill bit and we got through a few more, but the drill press we were using wasn't strong enough to hold on to the bit. I wouldn't want to try this with a hand-held drill.

At this point, I had a choice. Spend more money on a drill and/or more bits, or enlist the help of a professional. I went to a local "machine shop" and told them to do their best.

IMG_0151IMG_0154 

They thought what I was doing was pretty funny, but they sure nailed it. The result was laughed at on Twitter, but it looked great to us.

IMG_0152 IMG_0178

It looks funny, like there's too many holes because there are too many! There were a few holes underneath the vinyl. Apparently the Video Trivia game had been ANOTHER game before! However, none of the holes were positioned in any way that would compromise the structure of the steel. Notice the Player 1 button in a new hold intersecting with an old hole. No problems.

Cost: US$100 (hired a pro)
Cost So Far: US$231

Now, we need to make a sandwich. First steel, then new vinyl art, then an acrylic/Plexiglas layer.

The Sandwich

We thought we'd need a piece of wood to stabilize the whole panel and give the buttons something to hold on to, but we underestimated how strong the steel was. Even though we added piece of wood underneath, we ended up abandoning it as a waste of time.

IMG_0180 IMG_0177

However, drilling all those holes in the wood wasn't a waste. We used the filler pieces of holes to fill up the holes that we didn't need. We put them in the holes and used an orbit sander. This provided a smoother surface for the vinyl to lie on.

Back to the Plexiglas. I tried to drill a bunch and just couldn't get it right. We'd do a bunch of holes and it would crack. After the fact, we learned there are specially designed drill bits for drilling holes in this kind of acrylic. Again, hindsight is 20/20, but live and learn.

Again, to a pro. I called a local plastics shop and they said if I gave them a Corel Draw file that was accurate to a 1/2 mm that they could cut it with freakin' lasers.

IMG_0333 corel

Awesome. Since I love lasers, all the better. I downloaded the Corel Draw 30-day trial and got to work with a small ruler. I measured the heck out of my stuff, praying I wouldn't be off by a millimeter and have things not line up. Here's the EPS and Corel Draw files if you want them.

Cost: US$75 (hired a pro)
Cost So Far: US$306

Turns out I nailed it. I was off by less than a half millimeter in a few spots, but nothing that we couldn't work around with a small hobby razor blade.

I'll talk about Art in Part 5, but I have to mention it here as it's part of the sandwich. We ordered art from Scott at Mame Marquees and were thrilled with the results.

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With the vinyl applied to the cut steel, I used the hobby knife to cut the holes for joysticks and buttons.

Wiring, Joysticks and Buttons

Next, John and I took the X-Gaming Arcade Stick apart on his counter. We labeled each button so we could put it back together in the SAME way inside our control panel. We also took a LOT of high-res photos as a reference.

IMG_0101 IMG_0294

The picture on the left is the inside of the X-Gaming stick as we purchased it. The right side is the buttons, controller board and joysticks. Note there are a few buttons that don't go in the control panel like the side flippers, programming switch and learn button.

Here's the complete control panel sitting on John's kitchen counter.

IMG_0293

Cost: US$0 (John is nice to me, and free.)
Cost So Far: US$306

At this point we have the exact guts of an X-gaming Arcade Stick inside our stock control panel. The controller for the thing includes a PS/2 port, so as long as my computer has a PS/2 port (or I get an X-Gaming USB or Xbox adapter, etc) then it'll just look like a keyboard to the system.

Next Up: Sound and Lights

  1. Cabinet and Power
  2. Monitor and Mounting
  3. Control Panel
  4. Sound and Lights
  5. Paint and Art
  6. Computer Hardware and Software
  7. Success and Conclusion

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.