My Sort of Portable Retro Gaming System

Starting Up Emulationsation running RetroPie 4.2.

Using a Pi Zero W
2.8 capasitive touch screen
pocket juice
Powered by a 4000 mAh PocketJuice portable charger with 5 volt 2.4 amp output.
And an 8Bitdo mini bluetooth gamepad.
Ready to play!

Emulationstation Pixel Desktop Shortcut No Command Line

How to create a emulationstation desktop shortcut to get to back to RetroPie from the Pixel Desktop, without going to the command line!

You can easily install the Pixel Desktop from the RetroPie setup menu (Configuration / Tools >> Raspbiantools >> Install Pixel Desktop Environment). It takes a while, but once installed and after restarting Emulationstation, it will be in the Ports menu on RetroPie.

Enter the desktop with whatever button you setup to enter the games with, on your controller.

*Note: You will need a keyboard and mouse to navigate the desktop!

Once you are at the desktop, right click somewhere on the background and choose, “create empty file” and name it, emulationstation.desktop.

Then download the icon below (right click and save as), and move it into your /home/pi directory.

emulationstation desktop shortcut

Then right click the new empty file and choose, “Text Editor” from the list. Then in the editor, copy and paste or type this information below in the box and save.

[Desktop Entry]
Name=Games
Comment=EmulationStaion
Icon=/home/pi/emulationstation.png
Exec=pkill Xorg
Type=Application
Encoding=UTF-8
Terminal=false
Categories=None;

I found this code here.

The icon should change to the ES icon, once saved. Then test it by double clicking the icon. It should take you back to the Ports menu on RetroPie. You may have to reboot for some settings to take effect.

And there you go, you can now exit the Pixel Desktop with the emulationstation desktop shortcut! Fun!

8Bitdo Zero How to Setup in Retropie 4.2

8Bitdo Zero Gamepad on Retropie 4.2!

this is how small this 8bitdo isThe 8Bitdo Zero gamepad is a cute little (as in tiny) wireless Bluetooth gamepad, that has a similar button layout of a Super Nintendo game controller. You can use it for playing games on your Windows PC, Mac, Android tablet, Android Smart Phone, iOS devices and Raspberry Pi. You can also connect it to your smart phone and use it as a shutter button to snap pictures, hands free. And, it also connects as a keyboard.

I bought my gamepad from here.

8bitdo zero

Here is a how to setup the 8Bitdo Zero Bluetooth Gamepad, on Retropie 4.2.

my raspberry pi 3Note: I have only connected the 8Bitdo Zero to my Raspberry Pi 3 and Pi Zero. I have not tried it on anything else yet. And so far, it works decently on Retropie 4.2. As long as the games you are playing don’t require more buttons, than a Super Nintendo controller would. Works well on Nintendo and SNES games!

But at 1st I had a little bit of trouble figuring out how to get it set up correctly. If you have it turned on to connect as the wrong device, it will not set up the buttons to work correctly in the games.

Step 1. Charge the 8Bitdo Zero Gamepad

Plug it in with the included short usb cable and charge it on a usb port of your computer or with a phone charger. It will blink green until it is fully charged and then shut off when done.

Step 2. Getting the Gamepad Ready

8bitdo zero layoutPush and hold the start button for 2 seconds. Then you should see it blink. If it blinks more than once in a row, the controller needs to be reset. To reset it, hold down the select button for 2 seconds. Then hold down the start button until it shuts off (8 to 10 sec).

Step 3. Retropie Configuration

With the controller off, enter the Retropie configuration menu and using another usb connected gamepad or keyboard (need to configure the keyboard in the main menu controller configuration, if not already). Then select BLUETOOTH in the menu.

select bluetooth

Step 4. Connecting the Gamepad to Bluetooth.

 register bluetooth device

On the next screen, select “Register and Connect to Bluetooth Device” and press OK. You should see a screen saying it’s searching, and then press and hold the start button for 2 seconds. It will start to flash on/off with a blue light, as the Pi searches for a Bluetooth device.

Once found, it should display the mac address and the name of the controller. Then press OK.


(If it doesn’t find it, try it again. If it continues to not find it, you may need to restart retropie. The Bluetooth on the Pi 3 isn’t really good but works most of the time.)

The next screen should show this above with 1. DisplayYesNo at the top selected. Then just choose OK.

If it connected successfully, you should see “Successfully registered and connected to”, and the mac address of the game pad. The blue light should not be blinking at all now.

Note: On the Retropie Github 8Bitdo setup guide, it shows to setup the udev rule for joypad, as described in step 12, found here. I did not do that. I also left the 8Bitdo mapping hack (OFF – new firmware)!

Now press OK and then Cancel on the next screens to get back to the the configuration menu and use the correct button to on the keyboard or other gamepad to exit and get back to the game system screen.

Step 5. Configure Gamepad

Then you will need to go to the main menu and configure the controller buttons.

configure 8bitdo controller

I just set mine up like a snes controller (used the a for the b button and b for a button and used the L and R buttons as left and right triggers).

Then you should be good to go!

Reconnecting

If the gamepad sits idle for a while, they will disconnect. You should be able to reconnect them by holding down the select button for a second or 2. It will flash really fast and then reconnect. If you restart Emulationstation, when you see the Emulationstation screen, press and hold the select button a couple of seconds to reconnect.

Sometimes when it reconnects, it will go haywire and make the system screen scroll fast. Just push any button to make it stop, usually. I have had some issues where it wouldn’t stop and had to do a shutdown or restart by way of ssh (or just unplugged the power).

Also, you may have to go through the Bluetooth setup again, once in a while if you have problems. And, the charge lasts a long time, but if you continue having connection issues, try recharging it.

Anyway! Enjoy playing your games!

Raspberry Pi Zero – I finally got one!

What is a Raspberry Pi Zero?

The Raspberry Pi Zero has 1Ghz single core cpu, 512mb’s of RAM, a mini hdmi port, mini usb port, and a micro usb for power (you can us a 5v 2a phone charger).

raspberry pi zero

And costs only $5 before s/h or tax! IF you can find any in stock!

I bought mine from a shop called Pimoroni in the UK. Took a couple of weeks to get here but nobody else had it in stock at the time! This is one of those items, if you want it and find it, you better buy it! Another popular place to get one is Adafruit.com. They sell out fast though! You can use this website here to see when they are back in stock in the usual stores that sell them.

The 1st thing I did with mine was install a retropie on it, to see how it handles with less CPU speed or memory than what’s on the Pi 3. Worked pretty good! Also handled Kodi with no problem!

Now to plot what else to do with it!

I want build one of those handheld retro game consoles that has the controller and screen, built into it. But, the kits to build them with, are kind of pricey for my budget. And, like the Zero, they are always out of stock!

I was also thinking of using it to control the volume on some powered pc speakers I have connected to my TV. I will have to find out if that is even possible!

Or maybe, a build a remote control robot car! That would be cool!

And, hopefully I will be able to share some of my experiences here.

What have you used the Raspberry Pi Zero for?


Retro Gaming on the Raspberry Pi – Simple to Install!

How to Turn the Raspberry Pi into a Retro Gaming Machine!

retro gamingI am a big fan of many of those old video games I use to to play on my old Atari and Nintendo consoles. One of my favorites has always been Donkey Kong. I actually still have a few of the old Atari 2600 and Nintendo cartridges. But, unfortunately my Atari and Nintendo consoles stopped working a long time ago. But, I have a raspberry pi 3 and I was really exited to learn that you could emulate these old consoles on it and basically turn it into a retro gaming system!

So, how do you turn a Raspberry Pi into a retro gaming system? One way is by installing emulators. 

What is an emulator?

I don’t know all the technical details behind how it all works, but in short, an emulator is a software program that emulates the hardware of a game console. But you can’t stick a cartridge in your computer (actually I wouldn’t doubt there is a way). You will need something called a ROM image, of the original game.

What is a ROM image?

A ROM (read only memory) image is like a data copy of the original cartridge or disk. It utilizes the emulator program code, to play the game. It’s sort of like a virtual cartridge.

WARNING: There is a legal gray area surrounding the use of ROMS. Some will say, If you own the original game cartridge, it’s ok to be downloaded and played. Some say, it isn’t legal at all. Then there is the adage that it’s preservation of history and nostalgia. If these games are no longer being sold in circulation for a current console and you’re not selling them, then they are perfectly legal. So play at your own risk. You can google all this, to find out more information.

Several Emulators to Choose From

You can install several different emulators on the Raspberry Pi. I won’t go into detail on how to install them, but the Raspberry Pi Pixel desktop does contains an Add and Remove software GUI utility. You can search from there to find emulators to try. Some of them run ok on the Pi, and some don’t. Or you can install a whole operating system (OS) that contains already installed emulators, all in one place. You can also add more!

Retro Gaming OS’s for the Raspberry Pi.

Two OS’s I have tried are called Retropie and Recalbox. Both were built on a platform called Emulationstation, and are very similar with about the same functionality.

To install these retro gaming OS’s on your Pi, you simply download the SD card image and burn it to your SD card (recommend class 10 16gb or higher), using your favorite SD card writing utility. Then pop the SD card into your Pi and then follow the prompts to get it going.

Download the RetroPie image, here.

Download the Recalbox image here.

They are both pretty simple to get started. Recalbox however is probably the easiest for the novice, that requires less configuration. It almost works “out of the box” so to speak. But more experienced Linux users will probably like Retropie, because you can configure and tailor things the way you like them. There is plenty of documentation found online, to help you get started.

As far as where to get ROMs, google is your friend. I will not tell you were to get them. But, they can be found on this planet among the emu and caught with a dot net. However, they don’t speak English! You can use the google translator to figure out what they are saying.

Note: Retropie and Recalbox does not contain or authorize the use of any copy righted game ROMs, that you do not own! And, will not be distributed with any copy righted games. Use at your own risk! Also, neither system is for resell!

Build Your Own

There have been many people build their own retro gaming cabinet, tables, and gameboy type hand held devices. The possibilities are endless with a Raspberry Pi! You can see many examples on Youtube.

retro gaming arcade cabinet

Sounds like a fun weekend (or over 3 or 4 weekends maybe) project!

By the way, you can do a lot more than play games with a raspberry pi! You can also use it as a second hand desktop computer, a media center pc, or to create many other neat projects.

Anyway! Enjoy your retro gaming! Good luck and have fun!

If you are looking to get started with a Raspberry Pi, I highly recommend this kit below!