Monday, April 17, 2006

OK, so I finally got the spinner working with the ME4. I first tried replacing the active low optical board on the spinner with a homemade active high board. This appeared to work great but for some reason the ME4 wouldn't read the signals correctly. Basically the mouse would jump back and forth rapidly instead of moving in one direction. This would lead me to believe the signals weren't actually quadrature, but after looking at them with an o-scope they certainly looked quadrature. So at this point I was somewhat disapointed and so I went back to the pullup resistor idea. This time I used two variable resistors as pullups. Once again at 1Kohm the ME4 was not reading the signals, but I turned up both resistors and at about 1.8K the ME4 started responding. Now on to control panel construction...

Thursday, April 13, 2006

I've now had a chance to try out the ideas Hagstrom sent me (see the 4/10 post) for getting my Tornado spinner working with the ME4. They didn't work. At least now the voltage on the spinner sensor lines is changing but the levels are all wrong (the low level is about 2.2V and the high is about 3.5V). So I wrote Hagstrom back and they suggested that I increase the value of my pullup resistors from the 1K they suggested. I think this may work, but it might be simpler to just build an active high optical encoder board for the Tornado. I've already got all the parts (two optical interruptor sensors, a resistor, and a 4 contact 0.1" header) I need to do it and the circuit is pretty simple; then I won't have to worry so much about resistor values and voltage levels.

Incidentally, I hooked up one axis of my trackball to the spinner input on the ME4 and it worked fine. So at least the spinner channel isn't fried or anything.

UPDATE: I breadboarded the active high optical encoder circuit last night and it seems to be working. Now I just have to solder it onto some perf board and mount the board to the spinner. I'll probably post some pics of the finished product and the circuit schematic after I have it done.

Monday, April 10, 2006

I started officially working on the arcade project this weekend. I started by hooking up my Happ Controls trackball to a Hagstrom Electronics ME4. The ME4 basically just makes a trackball (and optionally a spinner) look like a mouse to your PC. So the trackball went off without a hitch, but then I tried to hook up my SlikStik Tornado spinner and that did not work. So I spent some time debugging (hooked up the spinner to a breadboard to make sure that it was working, etc.). It turned out that the spinner is active low (meaning the signal lines need to be pulled UP to 5V) and the ME4 expects an active high signal (meaning it is pulling the signals DOWN to ground via some 2.2K resistors). So I emailed Hagstrom Electronics at 11PM and the next morning before 9AM they had replied and said I was indeed correct and I needed to pull up the signal lines to 5V using a 1K resistor. I'm pretty impressed with their customer service. Nice job Hagstrom. I think I'll test out the fix tonight.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

I bought a Ryobi BT3100 table saw from HomeDepot not too long ago. I found out about it from Make magazine, and then checked out the fanpage. It seemed like a pretty good tradeoff between price and features/precision. So far I've been pretty happy with it. I've now started watching The New Yankee Workshop obsessively. I think pretty soon I'm going to buy a router, since the saw already includes an accessory table that allows a router to mount underneath. So now I'll have a table saw and a router table. Now I just have to figure out what to make with it...
UPDATE: I just got a Ryobi router (RE180PL) too. Purists would make fun of me for not getting a Porter Cable, but since I'm only a weekend warrior in this hobby and I'm not making 30 cuts a day I went with the Ryobi because it was half as much and it easily mounts to my table saw. So there.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Recently I got a 27" TV from a guy off of craigslist, with the intention of using it for my arcade project. So here's the thing: I looked at TVs at the big stores like Best Buy and Fry's and 1) they're expensive and 2) all the current designs have speakers attached to the sides of the TV which make it too big to fit in my arcade enclosure. So I started looking for older TVs on craigslist, and I found one that was only $25 because the sound didn't work (the picture is fine). The guy lived down on Town Lake in downtown Austin, and he was cool as hell. He was definitely a hippy and he even said "Peace, man" as his parting comment to me. What can I say, you gotta love hippies (and Austin too for that matter since the two are inextricably linked).

So my next big project is a stand-up arcade. It's going to be your typical one with a PC running MAME plus some other emulators (NES, SNES, GB, GBA, Genesis, etc.). I think I'm going to use GameEx as the front end for it. My inspiration for it comes from two arcade projects: The Supercade and Jubei. Basically, I want the natural wood look of Jubei, and the 2-tiered control layout of Supercade (although I'm going to make the 2nd tier detachable so I can create modular control panels for positional guns and steering wheels). The only thing that's unique about my design is that it's going to be the most complete arcade that I've seen yet: it'll have joysticks and buttons for 4 players, a Tornado spinner, a trackball, a 4-way joystick, two light guns, ports for attaching 4 PSX and N64 controllers, a flightstick, and in the future I should be able to add expansions for positional guns and steering wheels. So it's going to be the cadillac of arcades.

Monday, April 03, 2006

It's been quite some time since I've posted. I guess getting married and buying a house will do that to you. So I'm going to try and start posting more now. I've been busy in my spare time, so I'll be posting more info about what I've been up to over the next week or two.