Meet the PiS2: A PS2 Portable Built with a Raspberry Pi 2 Server


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Redditor and modder darkwingmod has posted a video of his new, homemade Sony PS2 portable — which isn’t actually a thing Sony ever built, but after seeing this, possibly should have been. According to posts he’s made, the well-named “PiS2” is based on a Raspberry Pi 2 board connected to a PS2-to-HDMI output, which is connected to a 5.6-inch HDMI display.

Ingredients. Photo by Darkwingmod.

Instead of installing a DVD drive, the portable unit uses a Raspberry Pi SMB server to deliver games. Making the Raspberry Pi fit in the back of the console shell was a bit difficult, and Darkwingmod wound up stripping most of the headers off the board. There’s an extensive thread on BitBuilt.net that dives into the construction of the unit, with various users chiming in with documents showing how components are wired together and contributing ideas towards the overall fit and finish.

It’s a rather interesting read if you are into the whole homebrew console scene. Projects like this can take years to complete — the thread picks up in 2017 after Darkwingmod took a four-year break, and continues up to the present day, showing how the various components of the platform came together. There are photos with breadboard details showing how everything is wired up internally.

One point I want to draw out is that this portable unit actually contains a physical motherboard from a PS2. The Raspberry Pi 2 SMB server is being used to transfer games to the PS2 over an Ethernet port, replacing the role of a DVD drive. So what you’ll see in the video below isn’t an emulator — it’s the motherboard from a PS2 doing the heavy lifting, with games served off a Raspberry Pi.

Don’t sneeze. Image by Darkwingmod.

The amount of wiring and soldering required to pull all of this together is rather impressive. The PiS2 even supports the option to switch the console between portable and TV output — you can still play it with the video being displayed on a larger TV, in other words.

Battery life is limited and the system displays a warning when voltage drops below 6.3V. This provides approximately 1 hour, 15 minutes of playtime. That’s not great, but remember, he’s using an original PS2 board, not a modern emulator running on a more efficient platform. In this case, an emulator running on top of the RBP natively would probably actually result in lower power consumption, but it would also come with the various headaches associated with emulation. I messed around with getting a PS2 emulator up and running on a PC this year, and while it’s absolutely do-able, there’s still some significant troubleshooting involved. A six-year project with some pretty hefty construction requirements may not qualify as less work, but it’s a really cool way to create a unique product.

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Pour One Out for the Dreamcast, Sega’s Awesome, Quirky, Gone-Too-Soon Console


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On September 9, 1999, Sega launched the Dreamcast in North America — it’s last, best hope for relevance in the console market. The console, which was intended to put Sega on a more even footing against competitors like Sony, wound up being the company’s hardware swan song. Sega never launched another console — the company’s Genesis Mini, which releases on September 19, is the first Sega-branded hardware to ship in 20 years (not counting the products Tectoy produces in the Brazilian market).

The Dreamcast is a rare example of a platform that failed despite having relatively few weaknesses or flaws relative to other consoles at the time. The N64 wasn’t as popular as Nintendo hoped because the cartridges of the day had limited storage capacity and therefore limited space for detailed textures. Despite these limits, they were also quite expensive compared with CD-based media. The previous Sega console, the Sega Saturn, was difficult to program and had been rushed out the door in an attempt to beat Sony’s PlayStation to market. The original Xbox One was less powerful than the PlayStation 4SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce and debuted with a confused, half-baked marketing strategy that saw Microsoft attempt to launch a new game console by focusing on everything it could do besides gaming, and pour substantial resources into a camera add-on rather than the actual machine.

The Dreamcast, in contrast, was a solid piece of kit. It used a 32-bit two-way superscalar RISC CPU designed by Hitachi, the SH-4, rated for 360 MIPS and clocked at 200MHz. The CPU offered an 8KB instruction cache and 16KB data cache and interfaced with a GPU designed by NEC, the PowerVR2. While reportedly not as powerful as the 3dfx hardware that Sega had originally planned to use for the Dreamcast, the PowerVR solution was an affordable option and an effective one. The Dreamcast was designed to use off-the-shelf components to make it an easier target for developers, but the platform was ahead of its time in several respects.

Dreamcast Controller

The Dreamcast controller, with Video Memory Unit (VMU)

The Dreamcast shipped with a modem at a time when 80 percent of the US population was still using dial-up to get online. It used a GD-ROM format that could hold up to 1GB of data — not as large as DVDs, but more capacity than a typical CD-ROM offered. It offered a memory card that doubled as a miniature gaming device, the Visual Memory Unit. Sega’s overall goal with the Dreamcast was to build excitement around its products in the months before the PlayStation 2 would debut, to give it a leg up on the next-generation competition.

From the beginning, however, the console faced an uphill battle. Retailers who had been burned by short-lived Sega products like the Sega CD or 32X (not to mention the Sega Saturn) were unhappy with the company. Sega had initially intended to use hardware from 3Dfx, but when 3Dfx filed for its own IPO it revealed the Dreamcast before Sega had been prepared to make the announcement. Meanwhile, EA decided not to support the Dreamcast, despite having been a major partner on previous Saturn systems. According to a retrospective on the console, this decision was driven by a host of factors, including the specific component choices Sega made, the company’s indecision over whether to make a modem standard on the entire console range, and Sega’s hardball tactics during licensing may have killed EA’s interest in the platform. A different source in the same article, however, claims that EA walked away from Dreamcast because Sega wouldn’t give it a guaranteed exclusive on all sports’ titles for the console, given that Sega had just purchased a development studio, Visual Concepts, to build these titles.

Sony’s PS2 Marketing Blitz

The other factor that has to be factored into the Dreamcast’s demise is the absolute torrent of marketing Sony unleashed. In September 1999, all eyes were on Sony’s PlayStation 2, still over a year away. In theory, this should have opened a window for the Dreamcast to establish itself. In practice, that didn’t happen. Sony put an all-out marketing blitz behind the PlayStation 2, with its “Emotion Engine.” Sony’s reputation, by this point, was also better. The company had shipped one massive hit, the original PlayStation. Sega, in contrast, had shipped a number of half-baked, expensive flops. The Sega Saturn debacle was only part of the problem. The Sega CD and Sega 32X — both Genesis / Mega Drive add-ons — had failed to impress the market. Handheld products like the Sega Nomad had flopped.

If you were on the fence between Sega and Sony in the late 1990s, Sony looked like the safer bet. Sega’s Dreamcast enjoyed a very strong North American launch, but sales dropped off as the PS2’s launch date approached. Sony had the deep pockets to dramatically outspend Sega in terms of marketing dollars, while Sega was losing money despite brisk hardware sales. It cut Dreamcast prices to boost demand, but that meant taking a loss on the platform. While the attach rate for games was reportedly high, the install base wasn’t large enough for the company to achieve profitability this way. By the time the PS2 actually launched, Sega was hemorrhaging cash. Unable to compete with the PS2, Sega threw in the towel on hardware manufacturing altogether.

Image credit: TheDreamcastJunkyard, which has additional screenshots of comparisons between PS2 and Dreamcast visuals in Ferrari F355 Challenge, for the curious.

Compare Dreamcast and PlayStation 2 games today, and it’s clear that the gap between them wasn’t as large as Sony wanted it to seem. Sega Retro notes:

Compared to the rival PlayStation 2, the Dreamcast is more effective at textures, anti-aliasing, and image quality, while the PS2 is more effective at polygon geometry, physics, particles, and lighting. The PS2 has a more powerful CPU geometry engine, higher translucent fillrate, and more main RAM (32 MB, compared to Dreamcast’s 16 MB), while the DC has more VRAM (8 MB, compared to PS2’s 4 MB), higher opaque fillrate, and more GPU hardware features, with CLX2 capabilities like tiled rendering, super-sample anti-aliasing, Dot3 normal mapping, order-independent transparency, and texture compression, which the PS2’s GPU lacks.

Today, the Dreamcast is remembered for the uniqueness of its game library. In addition to absolutely stunning arcade ports like Soul Calibur, the Dreamcast had Phantasy Star Online, which was the first online console MMORPG. Games like Shenmue are considered to be progenitors of the open-world approach favored by long-running series like Grand Theft Auto (which itself began life as a top-down game, not a 3D, open-world, third-person title). Games like the cel-shaded Jet Set Radio and Crazy Taxi established the Dreamcast at a platform willing to take chances with game design. Titles like Skies of Arcadia offered players the chance to be sky pirates. Games like Seaman were… really weird.

Really, really weird.

Sometimes, the issues that sink a console are technical. Sometimes, the hardware is fine and it’s everything else that goes wrong. Here’s to one of the short-lived champions of a bygone age — and a more daring era in gaming, when developers and AAA publishers took more chances with quirky titles than they do today.

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Disney+ comes to Canada and the Netherlands on Nov. 12, will support nearly all major platforms at launch – gpgmail


Disney+ will have an international launch that begins at the same time as its rollout in the U.S., Disney revealed. The company will be launching its digital streaming service on November 12 in Canada and The Netherlands on November 12, and will be coming to Australia and New Zealand the following week. The streaming service will also support virtually every device and operating system from day one.

Disney+ will be available on iOS, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Android, Android TV, PlayStation 4, Roku, and Xbox One at launch, which is pretty much an exhaustive list of everywhere someone might want to watch it, leaving aside some smaller proprietary smart TV systems. That, combined with the day-and-date global markets, should be a clear indicator that Disney wants its service to be available to as many customers as possible, as quickly as possible.

Through Apple’s iPhone, iPad and Apple TV devices, customers will be able to subscribe via in-app purchase. Disney+ will also be fully integrated with Apple’s TV app, which is getting an update in iOS 13 in hopes of becoming even more useful as a central hub for all a user’s video content. The one notable exception on the list of supported devices and platforms is Amazon’s Fire TV, which could change closer to launch depending on negotiations.

In terms of pricing, the service will run $8.99 per month or $89.99 per year in Canada, and €6.99 per month (or €69.99 per year) in the Netherlands. In Australia, it’ll be $8.99 per month or $89.99 per year, and in New Zealand, it’ll be $9.99 and $99.99 per year. All prices are in local currency.

That compares pretty well with the $6.99 per month (or $69.99 yearly) asking price in the U.S., and undercuts the Netflix pricing in those markets, too. This is just the Disney+ service on its own, however, not the combined bundle that includes ESPN Plus and Hulu for $12.99 per month, which is probably more comparable to Netflix in terms of breadth of content offering.

 


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At a Glance: 8Bitdo SN30 Pro+ Review


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In the last few years, nostalgic video game devices like Nintendo’s NES Classic and Sony’s PlayStation Classic have been all the rage. It’s clear that many adult gamers today want to recreate the gaming experience they had as children, but buying a shrunken down game system isn’t the only way to do this. 8Bitdo’s SN30 Pro+ gaming controller ($49.99) was designed to mimic the look and color scheme of the class SNES controller, but with a few modern additions to make it easier to use on today’s games.

Design

If you used to own a Super Nintendo back in the 1990s, then the SN30 Pro+SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce will instantly look familiar with you, and yet distinctively unfamiliar. It’s almost as though someone took the original and glued handles and a couple of thumbsticks onto it. This gives it the appearance of something halfway between an NES controller and one of Sony’s DualShock controllers. The controller also has two trigger buttons that the original SNES model lacked.

These added buttons and thumbsticks are key to the success of this gamepad. The original SNES controller worked well for its time, but modern games simply utilize more buttons and multiple thumbsticks are essentially a must for 3D games.

Usage and Gameplay

Despite having a similar configuration to Sony’s DualShock controller, the SN30 Pro+ is not compatible with any of Sony’s game consoles. It is compatible with Nintendo’s Switch, however, and it also can connect to PCs, Macs, and Android devices using Bluetooth or a USB cable.

8Bitdo includes a software utility that allows you to remap the buttons to support various games. It also supports a somewhat rare feature that gives you granular control over the triggers and analog sticks.

PCMag reported in their review of this device that its the first time they have seen a sub-$100 controller that has this feature. The reviewer at PCMag also indicated that the controller worked nearly perfect in the games that he tested and that the direction buttons on the SN30 Pro+ were superior to the ones on Nintendo’s Joy-Cons. The controller’s vibration is apparently weaker than the Joy-Cons, but the reviewer went on to say that the controller worked perfectly with solid vibration when used on a PC.

Conclusion

8Bitdo retails the SN30 Pro+ for $49.99. At this price point and with its reportedly excellent performance, the SN30 Pro+ is well worth considering if you need a new controller for your PC or Nintendo Switch. It’s significantly less expensive than buying a new set of Joy-Cons, which retail for $69.99. Nintendo’s Switch Pro Controller also retails for $69.99, and while it is on sale for $62.06, it’s simply can’t stand up against the $49.99 SN30 Pro+.

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