Thursday, 26 March 2009

Retrobution: Bits and bobs

Last update before the actual woodwork begins. The back panel of the machine will include a power on button, a reset button and two USB ports. I've taken the front panel of the Shuttle PC off of the case and that includes a panel which contains two USB ports, a firewire port and headphone/mic jacks. This panel will be attached to the back panel.

I also have plans to include an external VGA connection and of course, the power plug socket. Not 100% sure on how those bits will be handled as yet. For the power/reset buttons I ordered two LED-lit arcade buttons from Gremlin Solutions. They were simply soldered to the other end of the motherboard's power/reset/LED wiring block.

The blue button is the power button. It is lit when the PC is powered on. The orange button is the reset light, and is lit when there's hard drive activity. Looks very cool and works well.

For the marquee backlight, I found some white cold cathode units on eBay. Each kit includes two 300mm white catchodes, power inverter block, rocker switch and pass-through molex connector. 

I ordered two kits just in case, and I'm very impressed by how bright they are. They should do the job marvellously. I may only need two to light the marquee, and my current plan is to place thw other two inside the main body of the cab as a maintenance light kind of setup. Again, not 100% sure on the details.

I had another wacky idea as I was routing through some old junk and discovered an old Matrix Orbital 2x20 LCD USB display. There were all the rage for a while back in my PC case modding days and I bought this one to fit in a 5.25" drive bay. It can be controlled using some controller software and was used to display fan speeds, temperatures, in-game FPS and all that kind of thing.

As it was simply gathering dust, I've decided to put it to use in the cabinet. I wrote a Windows service application in .NET to control the display. The service receives controller messages via UDP from a separate command-line program which I call from Maximus Arcade. The display shows instructions when MA boots up and has a few pages' worth of information which scrolls on nicely.

When a game is started, the name of the game is passed to the service and the display dims a little and scrolls the name of the game for the time that the game is being played. When the user exits the game back to MA, the controller reverts to displaying instructions again. Simple, but effective and adds a little something extra to the cab. I'm planning on locating it beneath the screen behind the bezel.

Woodwork begins this weekend!

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