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How to use RetroArch

To obtain RetroArch go the the official site it can be found at retroarch.com and download the version for your operating system or device. If you are using a Linux based operating system use the package manager (Software Center) for your distro. The majority of Linux distros include RetroArch in their repositories. It is also a good idea to go through the documentation to familiarize yourself with RetroArch and it’s features, the documentation is located at Libretro Docs.

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When you first install RetroArch and open it for the first time it will instruct you to go to the “Online Updater” in the Main Menu to update its Assets. In the “Online Updater” menu you will find the “Update Assets” option. With the “Update Assets” option selected press “Enter” to start the update. Once you do that you will see all the other menus, options and icons appear. When that is done be sure to also update GLSL Shaders, Slang Shaders and Joypad Profiles.

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Next you will need to install “Cores”, RetroArch refers to emulators as Cores. In the “Online Updater” menu enter the “Core Updater” menu and select the Cores you will need in order to play the ROMs you have. If you are new to emulation here is a small list of Cores I find to work pretty well.

*Commodore 64 (C64) – Vice
*Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) – Nestopia
*Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) – snes9x (2010)
*Nintendo Gameboy / Gameboy Color / Gameboy Advance (GB/GBC/GBA) – mGBA
*Nintendo 64 (N64) – Mupen64/ParaLLel
*Sega Master System / Sega Genesis/Mega Drive / Sega CD / Game Gear (SMS/SG/CD/GG) – Genesis Plus GX
*Sega Saturn (SS) – Yabause
*Sega Dreamcast (DC) – reicast
*Nintendo GameCube (GC) – Dolphin
*Sony PlayStation (PSX) – Pcsx-Rearmed/Beetle PSX HW
*Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) – ppsspp

If you would like to learn more about the various Cores/emulators for RetroArch I suggest taking a look at the Core Library: Emulation section in the Libretro Docs as well as the emulators section of the RetroPie Docs, I have found both to be very informative.

Due to the nature of emulation you may find some ROMs a bit tricky to get working. If a Core does not work with one of your ROMs try installing another Core from the “Core Updater” to see if the ROM will work with it instead. Make sure to are use an appropriate Core for the ROM you are having difficulty with. It also helps to do research in order to find out if there are any known issues with ROMs or Cores. *I did not include a Core for the PS2 because there isn’t one for RetroArch, see the notes at the bottom of this post for a more detailed explanation.* When your done installing the cores you should also “Update Databases.”

At this point I would recommend restarting your computer, I have noticed that in order to use a recently installed core or to add ROM files to the Playlist for the recently installed Core that a system restart is required for everything to work properly.

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Adding ROMs to the RetroArch Playlist is done by going to the “Import Content” menu (the plus icon) and select either the “Scan Directory” or “Scan File” to add your ROMs to the Playlist. Please be aware you will not be able to add a ROM to the Playlist if there isn’t a Core installed to emulate it’s system. For example to add SNES ROMs make sure one of the snes9x cores is installed. Also keep in mind that if you scan a directory or file twice you may be adding multiple entries of the same ROM. So, if you scan a directory and notice that a ROM or two were not added to the Playlist don’t scan the directory a second time instead use the “Scan file” option or use the Desktop Menu.

If you are unable to add some ROMs to the Playlist and do have the required core for the system installed you can always add ROMs manually with the Desktop Menu. Go the the “Main Menu” and select “Show Desktop Menu” this will open the Desktop Menu. To add a ROM select the console for the ROM you wish to add from the Playlist coloumn on the left side of the window. Then right click in the center pain of the window and select “Add File(s)”. When the file manager opens navigate to where your ROM file is located, select it and add it to the Playlist.

Some commonly used hotkey commands for RetroArch:
F – Toggle between fullscreen and windowed mode
ESC – Close RetroArch
F1 – Menu toggle (pauses the game and brings up the RetroArch menu)
Volume Up – add button (plus sign)
Volume Down – subtract button (minus sign)

For more hot keys or to configure hotkeys and setup your Joypad go to the Settings menu (icon with 2 gears) and enter the “Input Menu.”

*PS2 Emulation Notes*
If you do want to emulate PS2 games there are the PCSX2 and Play! emulators. PCSX2 is the more mature of the two at the time of this writing. PCSX2 requires a multi-core 3.5GHz capable CPU in order to emulate games at or near full speed as well as needing SSE2 and AVX2 support with said CPU. Also of note PCSX2 will more then likely never get a Core for RetroArch due to the way it was designed, this is not a slight against PCSX2 just what I was able to understand from RetroArch developers. Play! is still very young by comparison however, it is the more likely of the two to one day have a Core for RetroArch due to the way it’s being designed. So, if you want PS2 support in RetroArch I would encourage you to help support the developers working on Play! if you can.

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Retrode2 Introduction

The Retrode2 acts like a adapter enabling your computer to access your classic game cartridges. Think of it as an external hard drive or flash drive. So, when you plug it into your computer it will appear in your file manager like any other storage device.

When using the plugins with N64 and GBA cartridges make sure you first set the voltage switch located inside the Retrode2’s SNES slot to 3.3v, 5v is used for everything else.

How to use the Retrode2

– To backup your ROMs first make sure the cartridge pins of your game cartridge are clean, this is important to make sure everything works properly.
– Next plug in the game cartridge to your Retrode2 then connect the Retrode2 to your computer via the provided USB cable.
– Once the Retrode2 is connected to the computer open your file manger and look for a new device called “RETRODE”. *It may take a few seconds for the Retrode to be recognized by your system.
– Open RETRODE with a file manger. You will see a RETRODE.CFG file, this is the configuration file for the Retrode2 do not edit this file unless you know what you are doing. You should also see the ROM and save game files in RETRODE. (It is worth noting that the SRAM file only appears if the game has a battery backed up save function.)
– Copy the ROM and save game files to where you would like to back them up.
– Once the files are done being copied you can now use them in RetroArch or your emulator of choice.

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Retrode2 Now in Stock

The wait is over the Retrode2 and its Plugins are now in stock!

Not only can you use the Retrode2 to play your classic game cartridges using your favourite emulator on your computer but you can also use it to connect your classic SNES and Sega Genesis controllers to your computer as well.

I will be posting a more in depth article about the Retrode2 and how to use it in the next little while.

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Accessibility Tips in Solus

Recently I setup a computer for a friend with a visual disability referred to as low vision. So while he is not blind and can see it is still very difficult for him to see certain things. It is particularly difficult for him to differentiate the difference between colours that are similar to each other, for example a red object beside an orange or pink object or background would be too close for him to tell apart. Also, eye strain is an issue where things like small thin text and bright themes that use light grey on white cause unnecessary difficulties.

The computer I setup for him is running Solus (a Linux based operating system) and uses the Mate desktop. All the settings I mention below can also be found in other desktops like Budgie, Gnome, Xfce and KDE. Solus was chosen because it’s a rolling release distribution. Rolling release means the operating system is installed once and is then kept up to date through regular system updates, no need to reinstall in order to upgrade to newer versions of software. So from that stand point its low maintenance. The reason Mate was chosen for the desktop was because it’s lower on system resources then the other options (Budgie, Gnome, KDE) Solus had available.

 

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To change the size of mouse pointer, go to the main menu (highlighted in the red box) and then select Control Center, located near the bottom in the left column in the menu. When the Control Center window opens head down to the “Look and Feel” heading and select Appearance. In the Appearance window there will be 4 tabs (Theme, Background, Fonts, Interface) click on the Background tab. Near the bottom of the Background tab you will see a button labelled Customize click on it. The Customize window will open and you should see 4 tabs (Controls, Window Boarder, Icons, Pointer), click on the Pointer tab. Near the bottom of the Pointer tab you should see a slider with the options small to large, slide it to increase the size of the pointer to the preferred size. While in the Pointer Tab you can also change the theme of the pointer, selecting the Mate option will give you a white mouse pointer.

 

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Head back to the Appearance window and select the Theme tab. In the preview area for themes scroll down to the bottom, you should see a theme called High Contrast Inverse (this is a Dark high contrast theme) and select it. Now lets change the background to something less distracting, click on the Background tab. In the top left of the preview area for backgrounds select the greenish blue background. Now to change the colour, at the bottom of the preview area you should see a Colors drop down menu (Vertical Gradient is the default) click on it and select Solid Color. Now to the right of the Color drop down menu you should just see one colour box, click on it to select your desired colour. Now that the colours are taken care of lets adjust the font sizes for the various interface components.

 

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Go back to the Appearance window and click on the Fonts tab. From within the Fonts tab you will see headings for Application font, Document font, Desktop font, Window title font, and Fixed width font along the left side of the window. When you click on the button beside the heading (just to the right) a new window will open titled Pick a Font. In the Pick a Font window you will be able to change the font used and in the bottom right corner of the window you will see where you can change the font size. Setting the font size will depend on how sever the persons visual disability is, my friend found that 15 was preferable for him. Keep in mind that none of these settings will effect the font size of the text used in the document of a word processor except for Fixed width font which as far as I can tell is only used by text editors like Gedit and Pluma that have a setting to enable it. So if you are wondering how to make the font used inside a word processor (like LibreOffice) larger without actually having to change the font size of the document you are working on and thus messing up your formatting here is a suggestion. With your mouse pointer over the document press ctrl and use the scroll button on your mouse to zoom in or out of the document. This will eliminate the need for having to change the font size of your document and as a little bonus it will also work in other programs like Firefox and LibreOffice Calc.

 

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The Panel can be increased in size by right clicking on it and selecting Properties from the drop down menu. I find it easiest to right click on the panel just before the Separator (vertical line) beside the volume icon (looks like a speaker). From the Panel Properties window you can now increase its size by editing the Size section located under the Orientation section.

 

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Finally here are the results of the changes that were made. Hopefully these tips are able to make it easier for you to see what you’re looking at on screen.

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Sale on V-Spec™ RTR race car

Starting today the V-Spec™ RTR race car will be on sale for only $50.00 CAD! The sale will end on February 28th.

The V-Spec RTR race car is an excellent chassis for beginners that are looking for something faster than the stock cars that come with most race sets but are still easy to control. That being said it’s also a great way for anyone that has some classic AFX Tomy chassis to preserve them by using the V-Spec RTR instead. Just add either the Standard body clip or the Low Rider body clip to the V-Spec and you’ll be able to enjoy your classic body on a modern chassis that you can actually get parts for. There’s also the Tyco 440×2 wide pan body clip for the Tyco 440×2 wide pan bodies.

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Retro Gaming Suggestions for Beginners

There are a number of different ways to go about playing your classic ROMs and each way has it’s own benefits and detractors. As for which method will appeal to you or perhaps more accurately meet your needs is up for you to decide. Never the less here are some suggestions to help you get started.

If you have a Raspberry Pi RetroPie is probably one of the best known and supported operating system options for retro gaming and for good reason too. It is very easy to setup and most importantly it is very well documented. The RetroPie Wiki is very well laid out and features clear and concise categories, want information about about a specific emulator just look under the “Emulators” category on the left side of the screen. It also has categories for Controllers, Emulation Station (The user interface RetroPie uses), and even a category for adding additional software called “Ports.” Another option for the Raspberry Pi I find very good is Lakka which has support for a wide variety of systems including desktops.

RetroPie does have instructions for setting itself up on either Ubuntu or Debian which are what you would need to use if you want the RetroPie experience on a desktop system. This process is a bit more involved but once again the RetroPie Wiki will have you covered. Depending on the age of your system it may only have a 32-bit processor (CPU) in which case you won’t be able to use Ubuntu because it no longer supports 32-bit CPUs thankfully Debian still does. The download section for Debian has a lot of options but for the sake of simplicity I’ll just point out that if you are looking for a version of Debian that works with 32-bit CPUs you’ll want to download the “i386” version of Debian. I would also recommend choosing the network install version as it will be a much smaller .iso (an .iso is an image file most commonly used to package operating systems) to download. If your system does have a 64-bit processor and you’d still like to use Debian you would then need the “amd64” version of the .iso. Don’t worry if you’ve downloaded the wrong .iso if the image is not compatible with your CPU it just won’t boot, nothing will break.

When using an old desktop for a retro gaming setup it is worth noting that even a 12 year old desktop may have a 64-bit processor and still be very capable of performing everyday computing tasks like web browsing and word processing especially if the CPU has 2 or more cores. Debian and Ubuntu are good operating systems but they use what is referred to as a fixed release cycle. This means that every 6 months or 5 years if you opt for a LTS (Long Term Support) version you will need to preform a new install in order to update to newer versions of certain programs. The upside to this method in theory is a more stable system, the downside is newer versions of programs may have new features you wont have access to until the next release cycle. This is not a big deal if you simply want to use the old system as a retro gaming console but if you want to do a bit more with your old system there are other alternatives.

Solus and Void Linux are known as rolling release distros (Linux distributions are often referred to as distros for short) this means that you install them once and then just update the system to stay up to date, no need to reinstall the operating system every 6 months or 5 years just to get updated versions of new programs. It is worth noting that the RetroPie install script will not work in Solus or Void Linux however both distros include RetroArch (the program that makes using emulators convenient for retro gaming) in there repositories (repos or repositories are like app stores for Linux based operating systems). Solus is a very user friendly desktop focused Linux distribution that is excellent for use with RetroArch, the only reason you wouldn’t be able to use it is if the CPU is 32-bit. That being said Void will have you covered here as it supports 32-bit and 64-bit CPUs it even has an image available for the Raspberry Pi. Both Solus and Void have .iso images that feature the Mate desktop which is an excellent user interface that is light on resources and easy to customize. The Solus developers also maintain the Budgie desktop which is also very nice, in fact I’d say if your system has 4gb of RAM or more then use the Budgie .iso from Solus. Void also offers a base .iso image similar to what Debian refers to as a net install that will allow you to install a very minimal base system (no desktop) that you can build into what ever you want, it will require more work on your end to setup but the Void Wiki is very helpful and at the end of the day you’ll have a retro gaming system configured to meet your needs.

These are just some suggestions with regards to retro gaming setups and rigs and as you can see a large part of what you want to do depends on what you have available to work with and how you want to work with it. Personally I like rolling release distros and the 12 year old desktop I have setup for retro gaming is powerful enough to run Solus with the Budgie desktop. For emulation I’m able to play my NES, SNES, N64, GBA, PS1 and PSP ROMs comfortably. If I want to go online I can do that easily and I can keep everything up to date with one simple command. Will this be the case for all 12 year old desktops? Probably not but you never know until you try, sometimes that old system you have may surprise you.

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USB Retro Gaming Controllers Now in Stock

New USB Retro Gaming controllers have just arrived. These controllers are perfect for use with RetroPie and RetroArch on your Raspberry Pi or PC. There are two versions of this controller one with the North American purple coloured buttons and one with the European (or Gravis) multi-coloured buttons.

Also new to the store is a convenient little tool kit perfect for opening classic game cartridges. Ideal for inspect the authenticity of potential purchases.

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Welcome to EvilRobotLabs

Hello and welcome to EvilRobotLabs!

EvilRobotLabs is now officially open for business. Everything is pretty much setup now and shouldn’t change too drastically from here on out, there are a few cosmetic changes that are still being worked on but they will not affect the sites functionality. That being said should you encounter a problem or have a question that is not already answered in the site F.A.Q please feel free to reach me by using the Contact Form.

The first products to arrive at EvilRobotLabs are from Viper Scale Racing and available in the HO Slot Cars section of the store. The V-Spec RTR race car is an excellent chassis for beginners that are looking for something faster than the stock cars that come with most race sets but are still easy to control. That being said it’s also a great way for anyone that has some classic AFX Tomy chassis to preserve them by using the V-Spec RTR instead. Just add either the Standard body clip or the Low Rider body clip to the V-Spec and you’ll be able to enjoy your classic body on a modern chassis that you can actually get parts for. There’s also the Tyco 440×2 wide pan body clip for the Tyco 440×2 wide pan bodies.

Make sure to keep an eye out in the Retro Gaming section for the arrival of the Retrode2! This fantastic device along with it’s plugins will allow you to enjoy your classic video game cartridges on your computer, via the appropriate emulator of course. The Retrode2 even allows you to backup your save games from your cartridge, truly a fantastic bit of kit that will no doubt come in handy if you should ever have to replace the battery on your classic game cartridge. Once they arrive I’ll be sure to post a few tutorials here on how to use the Retrode2.

Stay tuned to the News section (or blog if you prefer) for announcements related to new product arrivals and helpful information about HO Slot Car racing and Retro Gaming.

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