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:

Nintendo S colored

nintendo s painted

I’m making headway on the Nintendo S by adding some color to it. The paint is Rust-oleum Metallic chrome spray paint. This paint is not without its issues, which may or may not be caused by the fact that this particular can is at least 2 years old. It sprays on very thick and doesn’t cling to the plastic very well. There are very small specks in the paint that appear black and it doesn’t leave a very smooth, mirror-like finish. I can accept a finish that doesn’t give a perfectly reflective chrome look as long as I can get a consistent texture on it, but I’m having trouble getting even that. As I mentioned, it may be the age of the paint. It may be time to get a new can; which if I do, I think I’ll test the Krylon brand. I’ve been using Krylon for another project and am very pleased with the finish.

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.