Luma 64 – a portable Nintendo 64

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Without a doubt this post is long overdue. After roughly five years of off-and-on work, I completed my Nintendo 64 portable gaming device, dubbed Luma 64. I built the shell out of two Tupperware-style containers; one comprised the bulk of the handheld while the other was chopped apart and used as an extension to house the cartridge slot. I doubt I’ll ever use a case like this for any future projects because it ends up being rather thick for a portable and as polished as I tried making the end result, it’s still not very professional. As a friend of mine put it, “you can be the best case-maker in the world, but at the end of the day it’s still Tupperware.”

One feature I made sure to include in this handheld is a LOB64 jack. This multiplayer/AV out jack isn’t built into very many Nintendo 64 portables, but the idea upon its inception was to create a standard connection throughout the modding world. The more portables that incorporate the standard, the more likely you are to encounter another LOB64 portable at a convention or expo.

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In the Pages of Guitar World

I don’t claim to be a good guitar player. I can strum my way through most songs on barre and power chords and I have a fairly decent sense of rhythm. But a guy like me isn’t going to make it into the pages of a major guitar magazine without doing something that will turn a few heads. And apparently I managed to pull that off.

If you happen to find a copy of the Holiday 2015 issue of Guitar World magazine, flip to the inside of the back cover, where I’m proud to announce that my Guitar Boy has been featured in the regular “It Might Get Weird” column. I know that my guitar received some attention when it made the rounds on Facebook (pretty impressive for a guy without an account!) as well as a few other news sites, but making it into the pages of a printed publication sold nationwide quite honestly has me flying on cloud nine.

With my work now in print, I keep thinking of the Dr. Hook song “Cover of the Rolling Stone” where they sing, “Wanna buy five copies for my mother.” Sorry, Mom. I’ll buy you one copy.

Guitar Boy – Completed Project

guitarboy

I put in a LOT of work and am happy to finally present the Guitar Boy. This fully functioning electric guitar has a Raspberry Pi built in which runs retro video games on a 5″ LCD screen. All of the controls on the front of the guitar perform as regular Game Boy controls, with the A and B buttons pulling double duty as volume and tone knobs.

I built this as an exhibition piece for the BitFix Gaming 2015 Game Boy Classic build-off and finished working on it September 13, just before the competition’s deadline. Check out this video of the Guitar Boy in action:

Guitar Boy – Game Boy Guitar WIP

With my Game Boy-themed competition already half over, I thought it would be a good time to share my current project.

Although I am exempt from the competition itself (for the same reason any company restricts its employees from winning its own promotions), I wanted to create something in the spirit of the competition in order to draw some attention toward the BitFix community. As can be guessed, what I’m building is a Game Boy guitar. Rather than sacrificing any model of Game Boy, the brains of the Guitar Boy will be a Raspberry Pi running RetroPie. With the A/B/Start/Select button layout, NES, Master System, and Game Gear games will also be fully playable, as well as a few others.

Game Boy Build-Off!

The Game Boy build-off competition at BitFix Gaming has officially begun! Everyone is welcome to participate in the competition, so long as they register as a member of BitFix. The rules for the competition are fairly simple: no modding may be performed prior to today, finished projects must be functional, and all projects must fit the Game Boy theme.

I have intentionally left the theme open to loose interpretation to allow for a wide array of creativity. Examples that fit the theme include a Gamecube portable that plays Game Boy games via the Game Boy Player, virtually anything recased inside a Game Boy shell, or an electronics project shaped and painted to resemble a Game Boy. There are so many possibilities!

I’m really excited to see what kind of awesome projects are going to come out of this competition and yes, I will be creating a project of my own for this comp.

For more details on the competition visit the official competition thread on BitFix.

Dreamcast ControlView

My portable Playstation took a turn for the worse when I accidentally fried the system board. Since then I’ve found a replacement PS1 on the cheap, but started another project rather than finishing what I had already started.

The Dreamcast ControlView

ControlView

This is a specialized Dreamcast controller with a 3.5″ screen built-in, allowing me to play Sonic Adventure and Shenmue completely free from the TV.

I built this from start to finish in just under 2 weeks. Build started on Sunday, January 4 and finished January 15, just in time to make the entry for the 2014 Build-off Competition on the bacman.co.uk forums. Build log here.

2-Part Update

Nintendo S Repainted
I’ve been doing a lot of work trying to get the feel of the paint on the Nintendo S just right. It’s been a real struggle with the Rustoleum paint that I was using because it goes on way too thick. What I really needed was a little bit of paint thinner. When dealing with plastics – especially ABS – you need to be very careful with paint thinner as it can erode your plastic. Instead, I’ve been trying to smooth out the texture with good old sandpaper, 320 grit. I think I’ve finally gotten a texture I like. As you can see from the picture, I’ve finally drilled speaker holes in the front of the case. Like the SuperCon, I intend this project to be a gift for my friend DJ Psychoh! So before I put on a final layer of clear coat, I want to paint his OH! logo somewhere on the case.

SuperCon mounting parts
Speaking of the SuperCon, I’m finally in the homestretch. If you’ve been following my progress on the Bacteria forums, you would know that I ran into some trouble with the controller that I was using. Because I had chopped it up, the left arrow button wasn’t working consistently. Yesterday I bought a new 3rd party SNES controller and it worked perfectly when I wired it up. I’m in the process of mounting everything inside the case, so expect to see this project completed shortly!

SuperCon logo

SuperCon logo

I just wanted to add a really quick post to show off the logo that I made for the SuperCon. This was made in PhotoShop, printed onto decal paper (which gave a much crisper image than regular printer paper), then glued into place with superglue gel. I cut a piece of acrylic to the same shape, which I glued over the graphic, also with the gel. The gel works much differently than regular superglue. Whereas superglue is very runny, the gel is actually a bit thicker than ketchup and takes about half an hour to set. The upsides are that it’s easier to clean up than regular super glue because of its slower drying time and it can be easily spread out over a surface. I was worried about leaving a mess underneath the acrylic until I realized that the gel wouldn’t smudge the ink on the paper. So I spread a large gob of the gel between the paper and acrylic and squeezed it until all the air bubbles were pushed out. I then held it in a small clamp overnight.

The Nintendo S: a work in progress

DS primed
A friend of mine picked up an original Nintendo DS in less than perfect condition. The hinge which connects the two screens together was cracked and broken and the top screen displayed only a white background. This is apparently a very common occurence for DS systems because the upper screen is only connected to the rest of the system via a rather flimsy ribbon cable. The only thing protecting that cable form damage is the hinge and its housing. Thus, if the hinge is damaged, there is little hope for the top screen.

Fortunately, the DS (and DS Lite) are not completely useless when their top screens have bit the dust. Both of these systems have a second cartridge slot for playing Game Boy Advance games. The idea behind this project is to turn a partially functioning Nintendo DS into a dedicated GBA. So if DS stands for “dual screen” (which, although never officially acknowledged by Nintendo to my knowledge, many gamers profess to be the case), then I christen this handheld the Nintendo S.

DS single speaker
First, I tore the DS open. The stereo speakers are both housed in the top half of the clamshell design, which poses two problems: how do you wire the speaker so that it works in the lower half? And will it fit? To answer the second question, all it took was to cut away at one of the screw post supports to squeeze the small speaker into place.

DS audio pinout
With a little help from a user who goes by the alias john sparks over at the Bacteria forums, I was able to convince the DS to boot without it’s upper screen. John also pointed me in the right direction toward finding the audio pinouts for left and right speakers. Because I’ve only allocated room for one speaker, I eventually only wired up the right speaker.

DS and board
At this point the electronics are DONE! The rest of the project is casework. The largest chunk of the work, as made evident by this photo, is to remove what’s left of the upper screen hinge and to smooth it out. Of course, a repainting is in order after that.

DS cart covered
Some minor alterations must also be done to the shell’s underside. I’ve covered up the DS cartridge slot first by epoxying a small piece of acrylic over the gap, then by applying Bondo to start smoothing it out. I’ve also filled in the stylus holder, as the touch screen will not be utilized for GBA games.

DS initial bondo
The hinge is cut off and what remains is sanded down to match the shape of the rest of the face. Then applied Bondo to fill in all the gaps. After that Bondo dried, I smoothed it out further with some glazing putty, then applied a coat of primer. The result is the first image in this post. I think it looks good, but the untouched portions of the shell didn’t have the same texture as the portion that was built back up with Bondo.

DS glazed over
Coated the entire face with glazing putty. I thought this would be a good idea; it was not. The concave corners turned out to be very difficult to sand and because of that, the putty built up too high in some spots. I finished sanding it down. Primed, sanded more, primed again, then sanded a bit more.

DS perfecting
This is the current state of the face of the shell. I wanted to see what effect my Dremel’s cottony cleaning attachment had on the primer; I ended up rubbing a dent into the case. Applied a small dab of glazing putty to smooth it back out. It’s almost finished now and ready for its first coat of paint.