Sunday, 18 April 2010

Chop there!

Did the dirty deed this afternoon and removed the offending metal strip from the TFT casing. Didn't want any rogue sawdust, so a dremel or similar was out of the question. Went with a very fine toothed blade on a coping saw in the end, so I could keep the frame out of the way. Marked out with a pen first, then carefully cut a straight line - not so easy with a 3mm blade freehand! Used the dust buster every 10mm or so to prevent any dust build up going inside the housing. Happy with the final result.

The area on the casing to surround the CP, which was getting in my way:

Close up of marking out, and first section cut!

Masking tape to keep the ribbon cable safe, kitchen roll to avoid hand and fingerprints on the TFT:

All done! Phew. My arm hurts.

It fits!

Access to tools!

Spent all day yesterday clearing out the garage so now my workbench and tools are accessible again. Needs a bit more of a tidy and then I can cut off the excess steel from the monitor and set up the router for doing the tabletop.

Heart & Soul

Been considering getting a dedicated PC to use in this cab, but money is tight so I'm keeping the budget as low as possible. Browsing a car boot sale this morning, I picked up an ASUS motherboard with a P4, 128mb RAM and an ATI R9200SE graphics card. 5 quid.

I have other components kicking around so now I should be able to build a nice setup to go into the base of the bottom drawer.

Good cleanup needed first though, it's about 50% dust!


Tuesday, 13 April 2010

To chop or not to chop?

Been a busy week so far, but had a chance to take a closer look at the innards of the monitor tonight, particularly the steel casing.

There was a glimmer of hope when I noticed the tabletop was a little wider than the unit overall, which would just about let the screen fit centrally with some careful use of the router. Problem is, the monitor is thicker than the tabletop, so there would need to be a little wood cut from the side of the unit, which would look terrible.

So, off out to the garage for some experimentation - it looks like some very careful sawing could remove the section around the control panel, allowing for an easy central fit on the tabletop. Not doing it tonight though, going to get a few nice fine-toothed blades for my saw first.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Not going to be easy...

Well, in my infinite wisdom I decided to put a bit more time into this project late on a Saturday night after a few bottles of cider. All things considered I've come out of it relatively unscathed.

First things first, as this is such a nice monitor I wanted to see if I could get away with keeping it in its original casing, but a quick check on top of the unit after removing the stand showed it was just too big:


It was then that I somewhat rashly decided to set about removing the casing, to see if there was any way of minimising the width...

A few tense minutes later and we have this (excuse the blurry photo!):


Unfortunately the shielding extends all the way to the bottom of the monitor where the control PCB is:


Managed to fiddle around removing screws and a very tricky ribbon cable to get the PCB out of the way and get a better look at the offending piece of metal:


I thought about using a router to remove some of the inside of the IKEA unit to allow it to fit, but I would need to remove 17mm, which is about the thickness of the wood so that's a no. My other options are to cut away the piece entirely, which is going to be tricky without damaging the TFT, or bending it, which is also going to require some cuts. That's going to have to be a more sober decision I think.

What I did do, however, was to hook up the monitor for a little testing, albeit off to one side in the cab. I removed the top of the unit and hooked up the panel to my netbook, plugged it in and lay it flat on top of the closed drawer. Got MAME up and running and all looks good:



Then, I opened up the smoked glass panel and laid it over the top, looked fantastic with Pac Man running in it, shame I couldn't have the drawer open for my stick to rest on, would probably still be playing now!



After I packed everything away, tried out the glass panel on top of the unit, it looks pretty good but the white shows up a lot. When the unit is all done I'll need a layer of black paper with a bezel cut out so the screen blends in a bit more when not in use.


So, an eventful evening. I think I needed to be a little drunk to have the confidence to start pulling such a great little monitor apart. Well, more a great big monitor really.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Just been playing some R-Type Leo and Pulstar on this screen and it's absolutely stunning.

Went to collect my monitor tonight. 60 mile round trip, but well worth it. Following a recommendation (thanks Matt) I had been looking for an EIZO monitor for this project. Spotted one on eBay that looked like it might be what I need and took a punt on it. The spec in the listing said it was an Eizo, but info in the listing was limited. It was just listed as "19 inch flat panel monitor". My winning bid was £26, and now I have the moniotor in my posession I can safely say it was a bargain. It's a 19" Eizo FlexScan L767 and it's in perfect condition. Picture and colour quality is rock solid. DVI-in, VGA-in, USB and 3.5mm connections, ability to adjust smoothing for a much nicer pixelly look in MAME, response time is good, I'm delighted with it. Seems a shame to put it in a cab; in fact I'm thinking of alternative ways of mounting it in the unit now without decasing it.

The murky light in here doesn't help for photos, I'll get some more up tomorrow.



Thursday, 8 April 2010

Been holding off on this project since deciding to get a 4:3 monitor instead of my widescreen one. Won an eBay auction this morning for a 19" one, still waiting on a reply from the seller but hoping to pick it up soon.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Checking sizes

Main unit fits the SFIV stick quite neatly on the open top drawer. This will do nicely at first, so I'll get the screen mounted first. Popped the monitor on top just to double check it wasn't too big.


After that, I put the glass on top just to get a rough idea of how it will look, should be much better to have the screen a little lower like that.


Next job is to cut a rather tricky hole out of the top; it needs to be rebated so that the top 15mm of the aperture is the same size as the TFT screen, but the rest is about 5mm or so further in to act as a support for the screen. That's the plan anyway ;)

MALM 2-drawer unit

Got up early this morning and put the main unit together. Looks good, sizes are all fine. Drawer is big enough for my joystick, bottom drawer should be ok to house a small PC or a PS2 easily enough.

Basic ingredients

Got the main bits and pieces I needed from Ikea - the MALM 2-drawer unit, smoked glass top and a cheap picture frame so I can nick the plexi from it later if I need it for a joystick CP.

Working prototype

Having had little experience of MAME in the past, I've only recently started to get the hang of it. Most of my previous projects have been based around consoles, so I wasn't 100% sure about what sort of setup I needed, so I started experimenting with my Samsung NC10 netbook, and was surprised at how much stuff ran smoothly on it. It has a VGA out port, so for the moment I'm using that and hooking it up to the monitor directly. Controller will eventually be custom built for the machine, but for now it's the SFIV TE stick, which works a treat on windows.

As you can see from the picture, it was working fine on my recent sessions on Halley's Comet :)


The initial plan was to get a 4:3 TFT monitor for this project, either a 19" or a 17".

Budget constraints meant it was best to go with the 19" TFT I already had kicking around, despite the fact that it's a widescreen unit. I've been playing around with MAME's settings and although it initially stretched across the entire screen, I've got it displaying in its native resolution. I've been looking into pinball emulation and if I decided to go this way a widescreen monitor would be a bonus.

The current plan is to use a bezel to mask off the unused parts of the screen so it appears to be a 4:3 screen anyway.

Images above show the monitor in its decased state from when I was measuring up and initial testing with full screen stretch on Dodonpachi. This is not the actual unit I'm using, just a filing cabinet we have that was the cause of my initial epiphany with this idea.
I'm going to cut out a section in the top of the unit and let the decased monitor sit in it, flush with the surface. A sheet of smoked glass will go on top, with the bezel, most likely black card, in between.


I love playing on arcade machines. The joy of playing a game via a big chunky joystick, especially on a vertically oriented screen, has a big appeal for me.

Having built a Dreamcast powered cocktail arcade cab in the past, and owned a Neo Geo upright cab, these have all had to go in favour of a more sensible home environment to make space for our two kids.

A recent hankering for a new cab brought out some interesting discussion with friends regarding the construction of a new cocktail cab. A modular approach emerged, resulting in a unit that could be packed away or remain a little less obvious when not in use. I looked at IKEA for some simple inspiration, and ended up deciding I may as well use one of their units as a starting point rather than build my own cab from scratch.

Skipping ahead, I've done some further research and decided on a 2-drawer unit called MALM to act as the bare bones for my cab. The plan is that the unit doesn't resemble an arcade cab at all, hence the "stealth" in the title. Until the joystick is revealed and the monitor fires up, it's just going to look like a normal piece of furniture.

The cab is going to be designed pretty much exclusively for vertically oriented or "tated" games, partly due to the shape of the unit I've chosen and partly due to the suitable viewing angles of the monitor I'm using. Also, I can always play standard orientation games via my TV.

Pictures to follow when I get the chance, hope this will be of interest to some people.