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Emulation (Games) Open Source Hardware Linux

Open Source Gaming Handheld Project Wants Your Money 203

Posted by timothy
from the proof-is-in-the-pudding dept.
YokimaSun writes to point out a Kickstarter project that may warm the cockles of your heart: "Fans of emulation and homebrew have not had much to cheer about over the years; the recent generation of consoles has pretty much killed off any hacking by constant firmware updates. The days of PSP homebrew have died a death and consoles like the Caanoo, GP2x and even the mighty Openpandora never really lived up to the massive expectation. There is a glimmer of hope from a team of homebrew developers who have developed a new console called the GCW-Zero, a new open source handheld system which uses the OpenDingux Linux OS. The specs are impressive, with a Ingenic JZ4770 1 GHz MIPS processor, Vivante GC860, capable of OpenGL ES 2.0, 3.5 inch LCD with 320x240 pixels; 4:3 aspect ratio, 512 MB DDR2 and 16GB of internal memory which can via external memory card be extended by another 32GB. N64 and PS1 emulation and everything below should be at full speed in time."
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Open Source Gaming Handheld Project Wants Your Money

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  • Not impressive (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fackamato (913248) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @08:56AM (#42615815)

    The specs are impressive, with a Ingenic JZ4770 1 GHz MIPS processor, Vivante GC860, capable of OpenGL ES 2.0, 3.5 inch LCD with 320x240 pixels; 4:3 aspect ratio, 512 MB DDR2 and 16GB of internal memory which can via external memory card be extended by another 32GB. N64 and PS1 emulation and everything below should be at full speed in time."

    No, that is not impressive. Super lo-res screen, slower than any phone that is available today. But it's open source, so I suppose that's good.

    But what is the point? Learning? Because the thing won't sell, like the previous models didn't do. You can have the best hardware, but if you don't have games for the device it doesn't matter.

    I, for one, would rather game on my phone which is faster and has a much higher resolution display, with a bluetooth connected game controller of my choice.

    • by L1mewater (557442)
      I'm confused. So, when you want to play your N64 emulator while out and about you carry a separate controller around with you?
    • ...and it's already in your pocket and most likely more powerful than the specs above. Who wants to carry another device around with them all the time?
    • My guess is that they are going after people who want to run emulators for old game systems. I'd pay good money for a hand held SNES emulator. I know there are Android apps to do it, but I can't imagine how you would handle the controls.
      • by Sockatume (732728)

        The Xpreia Play is basically a slightly-out-of-date Android phone with a SNES controller attached.

        • Yeah, and if I wanted an out of date phone, I'd get it. :-) I use my phone to much for non-gaming to get a gaming phone. I want something that does well at both. I'd even pay for a separate controller for my phone, but it would have to be compatible without rooting.
    • I, for one, would rather game on my phone which is faster and has a much higher resolution display, with a bluetooth connected game controller of my choice.

      Hmm! I didn't know this was possible. How many games support it? Being limited to only touch screen kind of boxes you.

    • I, for one, would rather game on my phone

      My phone is a flip phone. An Android phone would involve a much higher recurring fee. For example, Virgin Mobile USA won't activate an Android phone on a $80 per year dumbphone plan; it requires a $420 per year smartphone plan. I imagine a lot of children and teens are in the same situation: parents are willing to pay for a low-end plan to call home in an urgency but not more than that.

      with a bluetooth connected game controller of my choice.

      Provided that Android system updates don't cause your Bluetooth controller driver to fail with "No route to host", as they

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Just because you carrier sucks does not make that true universally.

        You can get a smartphone and pop in a T-mobile SIM for voice only. Pretty much any GSM carrier you would give you a sim without a device is going to do that.

        I already addressed your gamepad issue in an earlier comment.

        • You can get a smartphone

          True, one can buy a new smartphone at MSRP and a new gamepad and forfeit accumulated service credit when switching to a new carrier, or one can stay on his existing phone and carrier and buy a dedicated gaming device with a built-in gamepad. I imagine that the latter is among the use cases for which this product is intended.

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            MSRP is often lower than what carriers charge.
            You can get a Nexus 4 for $350. I am not sure what this accumulated service credit is so I cannot say anything about it, could you explain it?

            Most people do not want to carry multiple devices.

            • by tepples (727027)

              I am not sure what this accumulated service credit is

              Top-ups (money added to a customer's account) on Virgin Mobile USA carry over from month to month. As long as at least $20 was added in the past 90 days, the customer can make and receive voice calls and send and receive text messages. Otherwise, the customer forfeits the entire account balance to the carrier on the 150th day after the date of the last top-up. I'm not sure, but I think the balance is also forfeited when the number is ported to another carrier. And I imagine that other pay-as-you-go carriers

              • by h4rr4r (612664)

                I would then suggest timing it correctly to burn up unused credit.

                Any GSM carrier should be fine with the Nexus 4, so at least add AT&T to that list.

                I don't think you would need to overpay to not carry two devices. Many MVNOs operate on AT&T and Sprint and would allow you to only pay for voice.

    • Retro gaming (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MtHuurne (602934) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @09:27AM (#42616093) Homepage

      I'm one of the people working on this console. The point of it is retro gaming: emulation, classic PC games and homebrew and indie games in retro style. Touch screens and physical controls are completely types of input: you cannot play a game designed for physical input well with a touch screen or vice versa.

      We've got a light embedded Linux distro on it and with C/C++ applications writing directly into the framebuffer (set up via SDL, usually) you can get very decent performance from these specs. For example, my prototype has 256 MB of memory and 240 MB of that is available for applications. Similarly, the OS footprint on the internal storage is less than 100 MB.

      • by tepples (727027)

        I'm one of the people working on this console.

        What do you see as the device's unique selling point over pocket gaming tablets such as the JXD 5100 and 5110 [liliputing.com]? They have the advantage that any Android application is easily ported.

        • Re:Retro gaming (Score:5, Interesting)

          by MtHuurne (602934) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @09:54AM (#42616321) Homepage

          Not running Android has its advantages too: porting existing C/C++ applications to Android is quite a hassle, while porting to the Zero is often a cross compile followed by customizing the key mapping. Also we have fewer layers between the application and the hardware, resulting in lower latency. Maybe it's technically possible to get low latency on Android, but in practice a lot of devices suffer from input or audio latency.

          • Has anyone gotten GNU ported to android, so you can run a handheld with GNU and Android apps concurrently in the same userland.

            java android apps, and run "real linux" GNU apps.
            • by Annirak (181684)

              You can't. Android has a re-implementation of libc, which is missing some things you'd expect. Like any of the normal IPC mechanisms. If you want to port GNU to Andoird, you have to bring your own libc with you.

              • by n7ytd (230708)

                You can't. Android has a re-implementation of libc, which is missing some things you'd expect. Like any of the normal IPC mechanisms. If you want to port GNU to Andoird, you have to bring your own libc with you.

                Luckily, that is very doable. A handful of .so files, and programs compiled against GNU's libc run just fine. But, a more substantial hurdle might be some of the tweaks to the Linux kernel that Android introduces. Shouldn't be a problem for mainstream applications, but I'm sure there are corner cases where the kernel support just isn't there.

            • by kat_skan (5219)

              Ubuntu was demoing an Android port [ubuntu.com] at CES this year, which sounds as though it runs in something like a chroot jail. The idea seems to be to hook your phone up to a monitor to display Linux apps, but it seems at least conceivable that they could display on the phone's screen if you could get around the usability issues.

      • by pipatron (966506)
        So you want to emulate the SNES and chose a screen with an even lower resolution than this 20 years old console. You wouldn't even be able to play Amiga PAL games on this, or show border sprites on the C64 emulation without ugly scaling. I mean, wtf? Who is this for?
        • by omnichad (1198475)

          Almost everything on the SNES runs at 256 × 224. N64 runs mostly at 256x224 and 320x240.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Why is the screen so pathetic?

        Even old games were better at 640x480.

      • Why not just make a d-pad for the iPhone and Android [icontrolpad.com]?
    • Re:Not impressive (Score:5, Informative)

      by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @09:31AM (#42616131)
      It's super-low res because it's supposed to run legacy games. Your PS1 / N64 output at 320x240 typically, with capability of 640x480 "high resolution" at a push. Furthermore, your phone does more than play games, yet plays games well; The processor isn't dedicated to gameplay on your phone, so a dedicated game console doesn't need as much horsepower. Thirdly, the games are already available; IT RUNS EMULATOR ROMS.
      • Thirdly, the games are already available; IT RUNS EMULATOR ROMS.

        If something is advertised as running ROMs, what will the console makers say? I'm not a lawyer, but I see potential for a lawsuit on grounds of "inducing infringement" (MGM v. Grokster) unless the manufacturer makes a point of advertising it for use with the Retrode [retrode.org] or similar copier, which opens up a defense under 17 USC 117(a)(1):

        It is not an infringement for the owner of a copy of a computer program to make or authorize the making of another copy or adaptation of that computer program provided that such

        • Obviously this isn't meant to play unlicensed copies of games for other consoles. I'm simply stating, as the stub does, that the specifications of the hardware are in line with those of two generations of console for which emulators are available, and those emulators will run at full speed (WRT to the console) on this hardware. There's nothing wrong with that!

          >_>
          <_<
          >_>
      • by Fackamato (913248)

        OK that's cool, it'll be able to run those systems fine I think.

        Now the problem is with emulators as usual is that it's not legal to download the ROMs for your system, even if you own the cartridge. (this might be system dependant)

        There are devices that can extract the ROM from a cartridge though, but I'm guessing they aren't that cheap (niche market).

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        It's super-low res because it's supposed to run legacy games. Your PS1 / N64 output at 320x240 typically, with capability of 640x480 "high resolution" at a push.

        And that's why this device should have a 640x480 display. That's not even high-res any more. 320x240 is for cheap crap mirrors with a display for a backup camera, not a handheld gaming platform. The real problem comes when you're dealing with a low-res source near the panel's resolution. Either you can have black bars or you can use a very expensive scaling algorithm and still have it look pretty bad or you can use a cheap scaling algorithm and have it look like dogshit.

  • People who do gaming have widescreen TV's and monitors now. The days of teenagers gaming on tiny screens are over now. If they are looking at tiny screens its because they're busy cyberbullying their peers,not gaming. Too little too late.
    • by tepples (727027)

      People who do gaming have widescreen TV's and monitors now. The days of teenagers gaming on tiny screens are over now.

      Teenagers can't drive. So what do they use for gaming on road trips? Are you trying to imply that they use a laptop? Phones and pocket tablets work, but some genres really need physical buttons.

    • So you've never herad of Angry Birds...?
    • by omnichad (1198475)

      What about the under-served market of bathroom gaming? This is why I have a 3DS.

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      People who do gaming have widescreen TV's and monitors now. The days of teenagers gaming on tiny screens are over now. If they are looking at tiny screens its because they're busy cyberbullying their peers,not gaming. Too little too late.

      No, they're playing games on their phones with ever-larger (5"/6"+) screens. Hell, even a 3.5" screen is considered "tiny" (which is why Apple had to go 4" on the iPhone 5, and even people consider that too damn small).

  • The big challenge for the developers will be creating a device that's small, runs well, runs for a long time, and is cheap. The current handheld console companies - who set people's expectations of the technology - use economies of scale to push cost down, and often rely on hacker-unfriendly industrial design to cram components into the smallest possible space. They'll have to find a way to get around those limitations. And that's before you consider smartphones, which have set a ludicrously short life cycl

  • The problem with a home-brew or emulation-only game system is that the hardware is now easier than the software. We're now well into the age of mobile devices. The hardware here is basically a smartphone with a lower-resolution screen and slightly different processor. (Although the screen choice seems like a bad idea: 320x240 is just too low.)

    The hard part is getting developers to write native games for it. Good luck with that in this day and age unless you're Sony or Microsoft and can spend millions on woo

    • The hard part is getting developers to write native games for it.

      Games for GP2X and the like are already written for SDL, Allegro, and the like. Porting them to use a particular platform's screen size, audio output frequency, and button layout is likely a couple days' work at most.

    • by omnichad (1198475)

      As someone who doesn't want his retro gaming graphics stretched or blurred, I would prefer my 256x224 SNES games showing up matted on a 320x240 screen so there's a 1:1 pixel representation. 640x480 offers nothing for even Playstation, which maxes out around 320x240.

  • by pecosdave (536896) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @09:19AM (#42616013) Homepage Journal

    Mini-USB is theoretically deprecated in favor of Micro-USB. [wikipedia.org] You could have saved someone carrying an extra wire around, and it's not like the ports or cables cost much different when it comes to production.

  • by ledow (319597)

    I posted a question on their kickstarter, asking what they would do to avoid being another OpenPandora fiasco (four years later, first-day pre-orderers are still without hardware and being asked to stump up again for the device to be delivered and refund requests ignored), what sort of experience they have in the area, what sort of business acumen and supplier management they have in the project, etc.

    i.e. I trust you can BUILD the device, how are you going to buy the parts, pay someone to put it together, d

    • Re:Well (Score:4, Informative)

      by MtHuurne (602934) on Thursday January 17, 2013 @10:31AM (#42616687) Homepage

      I'm "mth" and I'll answer as many of your questions as I can.

      The devices are built in China by a factory who have done this sort of thing before. I don't know all the details, but while the yield of the first batch wasn't great, it also wasn't worse than what one would expect from a first production run. Justin has been a reseller of devices like the Dingoo A320 for several years, so he has practical experience in distribution.

      Regarding the software, we build the root file system using buildroot [buildroot.org] with as few customizations as needed. Our SDL is using the Linux framebuffer for graphics and ALSA for audio, no acceleration is implemented but it's not necessary either: pushing pixels at 320x240 or synthesizing stereo audio at 44.1 or 48 kHz can easily be done by the CPU.

      We do want to add acceleration for OpenGL ES. We're working to get the proprietary driver from Vivante up and running in our system (this wasn't trivial because we're using uClibc instead of glibc). We're also looking at the open source etna_viv [github.com] project, but that's in an early stage of development, so it will be a while before it is usable as a full driver replacement. Note that the GPU renders from memory to memory; the framebuffer is handled by the LCD controller and that part is already fully open source, so if you want a fully open kernel you can run SDL applications just fine today.

      All sources can be found on github [github.com]. This includes the kernel, buildroot, the boot loader, the image generation tools and more.

      • Why answer now on slashdot and not before on the actual kickstarter?
        • by MtHuurne (602934)

          I didn't see the questions before, it was Justin who answered earlier.

  • 3.5 inch LCD with 320x240 pixels

    1999 called and wants their resolution back. not acceptable in 2013 on a 3.5 inch handheld. especially not with a ghz class CPU, MIPS no less.(equiv or around 2ghz x86?)

    wvga
    800&#195;--480 or better, is the bare min.
    • 1999 called and wants their resolution back.

      Funny, I thought this console was supposed to emulate consoles from 1980 up to 1999, I thought the 320x240 display was a perfect match. I do wonder if it's powerful enough to run Neo Geo games at full speed, however.

    • by omnichad (1198475)

      The device is geared toward emulation. By definition, that requires a much stronger CPU even if the graphics and sound load are fairly low.

  • The only reason this might be interesting is if its very cheap, I don't see a price listed anywhere. Why do people insist on re-inventing the wheel when it comes to portable consoles. I keep hearing of some ARM/MIPS-Linux hand held that turns out to be vaporware or bombs. Who is going to carry a 1ghz, 512MB 320x240 Linux console when their phone already has a quad-core ARM, 1-2GB RAM, gigabytes of storage and a high rez screen? Just because its open source doesn't mean much at all unless it can compete with

    • by omnichad (1198475)

      I may not jump on this, but I sure do want something like it.

      I have a 3DS now. I don't take it everywhere with me. I mostly play it at home. But if I could get a device that could do Atari-PS1, I already own a fairly large game library in that range. And the resolution of the screen is a close to perfect match. I'm the type that would rather play SNES games matted to 256x224 on the 320x240 screen just to have 1:1 pixel representation. All the way through N64 and PS1 there's not much gain in having any

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Why do people insist on re-inventing the wheel when it comes to portable consoles.

      Name one wheel this reinvents. If one exists, I'll buy it today.

      Who is going to carry a 1ghz, 512MB 320x240 Linux console when their phone already has a quad-core ARM, 1-2GB RAM, gigabytes of storage and a high rez screen?

      I don't have a phone and don't want one. But I sure as hell want a portable Linux PC with solid gaming controls on which I can run any emulator I want.

      Just because its open source doesn't mean much at all u

  • I can get something like this [dx.com] for a few dollars more and still run my Android apps. Also the link above has a touch screen. I just don't see why anyone is getting excited.
  • I know of a way to make a handheld console with much wider software compatibility and access to a larger community.

    1. Build a handheld case for the Raspberry Pi.

    2. Profit.

    So it'll be a little bigger than this -- so what? The wider userbase means that stuff will actually be written that works with it.

  • A majority of the games on PS1 are 320x240, however, there are a significant minority of games that use more than that. Some of these are pretty popular titles. I know that tekken 3 at least uses 320x480.

Vitamin C deficiency is apauling.

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