Pi

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I wanted a nintendo classic mini console.  I’d seen them advertised online for months, thought they looked pretty cool and for 60 bucks why not pick one up?  The release date just happened to coincide with a day we had off from school.  I woke up about 7 that morning and started reading the news for the day.  That’s when I found out that supply would be no where near able to meet demand for this device.  Given nintendo’s release history I should have thought of this…but I didn’t.  The 4 year old and I headed to minot to see what was up.  Target was sold out within 10min of opening their doors, same at best buy.  I did head over to gamestop and stood in line.  I was #10…they had 8 boxes…jfc!

I was pretty pissed off at nintendo, so then I searched the internet to see what I could do to make my own retro gaming machine.  I have used (lap/desk)tops to run emulators and for the most part that works decently.  I wanted a black box I could just plug in to the TV and go.  I stumbled on to the raspberry pi device and “retropie”.  I’d seen pi’s before but didn’t really see a use for them.  I decided to give it a go so I ordered one.  Within 15 min or so of it arriving I had retropie up and running…waiting for games to be loaded.  I’ve messed with it a bit and things seem to work well.  The biggest problem I’m having is finding a cheap and sturdy retro controller.  There’s lots of them out there, but finding one that will stand up is a challenge.  I seem to have a classic nes controller that is lasting now, and I have a snes controller on the way that is getting good reviews.  I had previously bought a nes/snes 2 pack combo for about 15 bucks.  Without any abuse, they both died pretty quick.  Buttons just decided to stop working.  The one off’s I’ve found run about 12 bucks a piece.  That’s not too bad a price, the issue is “will they work”.  I’ll get a couple snes controllers if they work well.  I don’t think I need more than 1 nes controller.  Player 2 can use a snes controller for those games if need be.  Those games are still kinda fun..and the value is tough to ignore.  The machine should be able to play games up to playstation 1’s without too much problem.  Obviously the graphics are lagging behind what we have today, and the story telling in some places is a little lacking but the value is still there.  For the device itself I’m in for 50 bucks.  Controllers run about 12/per.  In the end I’m spending a little more than the nes classic mini, but it’s a far more functional system.  Next year when they come out with the snes mini, I won’t need/want to look at it.  The portability of the system is pretty impressive as well.

After I had this setup I started looking around to see what else I might be able to use a rPi for.  I wanted to replace my firewall.  I have been running ipcop on an old tower which used to be a gaming machine.  It functions very well, I’ve had no problems with it, but it’s loud..takes up space and probably sucks $350 in power a year.  The pi would run, from what I’ve read, about $7/year in power.  One of the reasons I’ve had to go with a more powerful machine than just a home router is due to all the connections that are made for file xfr’s.  My last router would keep crashing.  I fought with the pi for a couple days to do this.  The base problem was me not having a sufficient understanding of iptables and how to forward traffic properly though that.  I still have a very limited understanding of iptables, but the pi is now running my firewall very well.

I also replaced my web server and download box with a pi.  I switched from apache to nginix, which I’ve used before without problems.  I then replaced my media server with a pi.  Both of those processes were easy.  It’s all working with a modified debian and setting up web and samba services.  All pretty straight forward if you’ve seen that stuff before.  I’m going to monkey with “plex” some…just to see what it’s all about.  Being able to stream things from my home machine to a mobile device has some appeal.

After this was setup, I looked around the web and saw some tutorials for setting up a “pihole”.  It was again another very easy install and straight forward to use.  This blocks some of the ads on the network so the browsing device doesn’t load anything.  It’s moderately useful on a computer, but it’s really nice on handheld devices.  More and more media sites are over laying a full screen ad before you can see the content…so far the pihole has eliminated those ads.

So far I’m impressed at the value of these devices.  I’ve replaced 2 machines with 4, but they are low power devices.  it runs me about 50 bucks and an hour or so to spin up a debian box…kinda crazy.

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