So, last season’s cliffhanger left me wondering what, exactly, I should do to get my MAME cabinet back into prime working condition? I’d swapped out enough of the hardware to make an O/S re-install mandatory… and that left me with a difficult decision: Should I make the leap to linux? Or should I try to salvage my old, faithful, finely tuned window XP front end?
Well, to cut a long story short, I stayed with Windows. (In my defence, this *is* the only piece of hardware still running windows in the whole house, and it’s completely disconnected from the internet / my home network — so I haven’t gone completely batshit crazy!). And since I was having to do a full install of the OS anyway, I figured I might as well transfer the whole set-up to a solid state drive. Wow… what a difference! No tell-tale sounds of a hard drive emanating from the back of the cab any more, and the system boots in seconds! If it wasn’t for the briefest flicker of a mouse cursor just before the menu kicks in, you’d have no idea it was a windows-powered box. I’m very happy with that particular enhancement 🙂
A slightly less-successful mod has been a completely new sound-system. Previously, I was using a cheap 2.1 channel PC amp + speakers; the sound quality on these was pretty good, but it had an annoying tendency to hum when the system was in stand-by mode (i.e. all the time that the cab was live but the PC wasn’t running). So, I came up with a cunning plan to wire a “real” arcade amp directly into the 12v line of the PC PSU; this would mean that the sound system was only live when the cab was actually running… and therefore, I hoped, things would be nice and quiet when the cab isn’t in use.
Well… it’s been a partial success. Yes, the sound system is now only active when the cab is turned on. But what I hadn’t counted on is the fact that the power lines out of a PC PSU are really, really noisy (At least, they are on the PSU that I’m using … and reading about other folks attempts to do the same thing on various arcade DIY forums suggests it’s a common experience). So basically, when the speaker is supposed to be silent, you can faintly hear the interference of data moving around the system; kind of like the noise a modem or an old-school tape-loading computer would make. You don’t notice it when you’re playing a game and the system is making game-type noises… but… well… it’s there. And I know it’s there. And that means I need to fix it.
I’ve seen some capacitor-based smoothing circuits suggested on the net, but I’m not entirely convinced; I figure the solution will be to move the new amp over to a dedicated/isolated 12v transformer, and then possibly have some sort of relay switch powering the transformer on on via the PC PSU — that way I should get the best of both worlds.
I’ve just got to wait for another streak of cab-building inspiration to strike…
In the meantime, it’s great to have the old machine up and running again 🙂