Entries in linux (5)

Friday
May142010

Custom search in Chrome & Firefox

I don't know about you, but I use quite a few sites that are just forums with tons of information.  Land Rover forums, Kawasaki forums, motorcycle forums.  You name it, I'm probably an active member or at the very lest a lurker.  There is one common problem I find with most forums though: the search is terrible.  It seems to me that search should be near the top of the priority list for sites that are just piles of information that needs to be sorted through.  What I do to get around this is use Google to search these sites; but, I make it easier on myself by adding a custom search in Chrome, so I can quickly search the forums I use the most.  Below is a quick screen cast of how I do it (sorry for my heavy breathing, and next time I'll lower the resolution on my laptop, so you can see it better):

Note: I'm using Ubuntu, and I used a program called recordMyDesktop to create the screencast.

Monday
Feb162009

Let your dog Twitter with TwitPic, Perl, and Motion

Update: I guess I should give her twitter account huh? It's Twitter.com/Bailey_Boo_Bag

About a week ago or so my girlfriend Kim decided to create a Twitter account for our dog Bailey. She's been updating it and occasionally, I'll update it, but I didn't really want to update two Twitter accounts, so I decided to figure out a way to let Bailey Twitter herself. I wanted Bailey to be able to upload pictures and messages when she moves around the house. I have a webcam that I don't use very often, so I decided to write a perl script that would upload pictures to TwitPic.com and update Twitter with the TwitPic link. I also wanted this to be triggered from motion detection, so I also decided to use a great Linux application appropriately named Motion, but I digress.

First the perl script. I decided to make the act of uploading the picture and updating Twitter it's own self contained script so it could be used on it's own or for other things and it works on Windows, Linux, and Mac.

Download the script here

You can set default values in the script and then all you need to do is pass in a picture, or you can use the command line options to override all the options. I set up defaults for everything, and have been just calling the script with the --picture option and the --message option.

 Now all you need to do is set up your webcam application. As I said, I used Motion, so I'll show you how to set that up, but I'm sure you could do this with WebCamXP or something. From the command line do the following:

  1. sudo apt-get install motion
  2. mkdir ~/.motion
  3. sudo cp /etc/motion/motion.conf ~/.motion
  4. sudo chown $USER ~/.motion/motion.conf
  5. vim ~/.motion/motion.conf


Then you can just edit the conf to your liking. You can enable/disable things, capture movies, and a ton of other stuff that I don't really know much about. Or you can just copy and paste my config. I turned off the webserver and tweaked a few other things, but most of the stuff is the same. The one key line, is the line that calls the updateTwitter.pl script. My settings assume that your script is located at
~/motion/updateTwitter.pl.

 

# Rename this distribution example file to motion.conf
#
# This config file was generated by motion 3.2.9

############################################################
# Daemon
############################################################

# Start in daemon (background) mode and release terminal (default: off)
daemon off

# File to store the process ID, also called pid file. (default: not defined)
process_id_file /var/run/motion.pid

############################################################
# Basic Setup Mode
############################################################

# Start in Setup-Mode, daemon disabled. (default: off)
setup_mode off

###########################################################
# Capture device options
############################################################

# Videodevice to be used for capturing (default /dev/video0)
# for FreeBSD default is /dev/bktr0
videodevice /dev/video0

# Tuner device to be used for capturing using tuner as source (default /dev/tuner0)
# This is ONLY used for FreeBSD. Leave it commented out for Linux
; tunerdevice /dev/tuner0

# The video input to be used (default: 8)
# Should normally be set to 1 for video/TV cards, and 8 for USB cameras
input 8

# The video norm to use (only for video capture and TV tuner cards)
# Values: 0 (PAL), 1 (NTSC), 2 (SECAM), 3 (PAL NC no colour). Default: 0 (PAL)
norm 0

# The frequency to set the tuner to (kHz) (only for TV tuner cards) (default: 0)
frequency 0

# Rotate image this number of degrees. The rotation affects all saved images as
# well as mpeg movies. Valid values: 0 (default = no rotation), 90, 180 and 270.
rotate 0

# Image width (pixels). Valid range: Camera dependent, default: 352
width 640

# Image height (pixels). Valid range: Camera dependent, default: 288
height 480

# Maximum number of frames to be captured per second.
# Valid range: 2-100. Default: 100 (almost no limit).
framerate 100

# Minimum time in seconds between capturing picture frames from the camera.
# Default: 0 = disabled - the capture rate is given by the camera framerate.
# This option is used when you want to capture images at a rate lower than 2 per second.
minimum_frame_time 0

# URL to use if you are using a network camera, size will be autodetected (incl http:// ftp:// or file:///)
# Must be a URL that returns single jpeg pictures or a raw mjpeg stream. Default: Not defined
; netcam_url value

# Username and password for network camera (only if required). Default: not defined
# Syntax is user:password
; netcam_userpass value

# URL to use for a netcam proxy server, if required, e.g. "http://myproxy".
# If a port number other than 80 is needed, use "http://myproxy:1234".
# Default: not defined
; netcam_proxy value

# Let motion regulate the brightness of a video device (default: off).
# The auto_brightness feature uses the brightness option as its target value.
# If brightness is zero auto_brightness will adjust to average brightness value 128.
# Only recommended for cameras without auto brightness
auto_brightness off

# Set the initial brightness of a video device.
# If auto_brightness is enabled, this value defines the average brightness level
# which Motion will try and adjust to.
# Valid range 0-255, default 0 = disabled
brightness 0

# Set the contrast of a video device.
# Valid range 0-255, default 0 = disabled
contrast 0

# Set the saturation of a video device.
# Valid range 0-255, default 0 = disabled
saturation 0

# Set the hue of a video device (NTSC feature).
# Valid range 0-255, default 0 = disabled
hue 0

############################################################
# Round Robin (multiple inputs on same video device name)
############################################################

# Number of frames to capture in each roundrobin step (default: 1)
roundrobin_frames 1

# Number of frames to skip before each roundrobin step (default: 1)
roundrobin_skip 1

# Try to filter out noise generated by roundrobin (default: off)
switchfilter off

############################################################
# Motion Detection Settings:
############################################################

# Threshold for number of changed pixels in an image that
# triggers motion detection (default: 1500)
threshold 1500

# Automatically tune the threshold down if possible (default: off)
threshold_tune off

# Noise threshold for the motion detection (default: 32)
noise_level 32

# Automatically tune the noise threshold (default: on)
noise_tune on

# Enables motion to adjust its detection/noise level for very dark frames
# Don't use this with noise_tune on. (default: off)
night_compensate off

# Despeckle motion image using (e)rode or (d)ilate or (l)abel (Default: not defined)
# Recommended value is EedDl. Any combination (and number of) of E, e, d, and D is valid.
# (l)abeling must only be used once and the 'l' must be the last letter.
# Comment out to disable
despeckle EedDl

# PGM file to use as a sensitivity mask.
# Full path name to. (Default: not defined)
; mask_file value

# Dynamically create a mask file during operation (default: 0)
# Adjust speed of mask changes from 0 (off) to 10 (fast)
smart_mask_speed 0

# Ignore sudden massive light intensity changes given as a percentage of the picture
# area that changed intensity. Valid range: 0 - 100 , default: 0 = disabled
lightswitch 0

# Picture frames must contain motion at least the specified number of frames
# in a row before they are detected as true motion. At the default of 1, all
# motion is detected. Valid range: 1 to thousands, recommended 1-5
minimum_motion_frames 1

# Specifies the number of pre-captured (buffered) pictures from before motion
# was detected that will be output at motion detection.
# Recommended range: 0 to 5 (default: 0)
# Do not use large values! Large values will cause Motion to skip video frames and
# cause unsmooth mpegs. To smooth mpegs use larger values of post_capture instead.
pre_capture 0

# Number of frames to capture after motion is no longer detected (default: 0)
post_capture 0

# Gap is the seconds of no motion detection that triggers the end of an event
# An event is defined as a series of motion images taken within a short timeframe.
# Recommended value is 60 seconds (Default). The value 0 is allowed and disables
# events causing all Motion to be written to one single mpeg file and no pre_capture.
gap 60

# Maximum length in seconds of an mpeg movie
# When value is exceeded a new mpeg file is created. (Default: 0 = infinite)
max_mpeg_time 0

# Number of frames per second to capture when not detecting
# motion (saves CPU load) (Default: 0 = disabled)
low_cpu 0

# Always save images even if there was no motion (default: off)
output_all off

############################################################
# Image File Output
############################################################

# Output 'normal' pictures when motion is detected (default: on)
# Valid values: on, off, first, best
# When set to 'first', only the first picture of an event is saved.
# Picture with most motion of an event is saved when set to 'best'.
# Can be used as preview shot for the corresponding movie.
output_normal on

# Output pictures with only the pixels moving object (ghost images) (default: off)
output_motion off

# The quality (in percent) to be used by the jpeg compression (default: 75)
quality 100

# Output ppm images instead of jpeg (default: off)
ppm off

############################################################
# FFMPEG related options
# Film (mpeg) file output, and deinterlacing of the video input
# The options movie_filename and timelapse_filename are also used
# by the ffmpeg feature
############################################################

# Use ffmpeg to encode mpeg movies in realtime (default: off)
ffmpeg_cap_new off

# Use ffmpeg to make movies with only the pixels moving
# object (ghost images) (default: off)
ffmpeg_cap_motion off

# Use ffmpeg to encode a timelapse movie
# Default value 0 = off - else save frame every Nth second
ffmpeg_timelapse 0

# The file rollover mode of the timelapse video
# Valid values: hourly, daily (default), weekly-sunday, weekly-monday, monthly, manual
ffmpeg_timelapse_mode daily

# Bitrate to be used by the ffmpeg encoder (default: 400000)
# This option is ignored if ffmpeg_variable_bitrate is not 0 (disabled)
ffmpeg_bps 500000

# Enables and defines variable bitrate for the ffmpeg encoder.
# ffmpeg_bps is ignored if variable bitrate is enabled.
# Valid values: 0 (default) = fixed bitrate defined by ffmpeg_bps,
# or the range 2 - 31 where 2 means best quality and 31 is worst.
ffmpeg_variable_bitrate 0

# Codec to used by ffmpeg for the video compression.
# Timelapse mpegs are always made in mpeg1 format independent from this option.
# Supported formats are: mpeg1 (ffmpeg-0.4.8 only), mpeg4 (default), and msmpeg4.
# mpeg1 - gives you files with extension .mpg
# mpeg4 or msmpeg4 - give you files with extension .avi
# msmpeg4 is recommended for use with Windows Media Player because
# it requires no installation of codec on the Windows client.
# swf - gives you a flash film with extension .swf
# flv - gives you a flash video with extension .flv
# ffv1 - FF video codec 1 for Lossless Encoding ( experimental )
ffmpeg_video_codec swf

# Use ffmpeg to deinterlace video. Necessary if you use an analog camera
# and see horizontal combing on moving objects in video or pictures.
# (default: off)
ffmpeg_deinterlace off

############################################################
# Snapshots (Traditional Periodic Webcam File Output)
############################################################

# Make automated snapshot every N seconds (default: 0 = disabled)
snapshot_interval 0

############################################################
# Text Display
# %Y = year, %m = month, %d = date,
# %H = hour, %M = minute, %S = second, %T = HH:MM:SS,
# %v = event, %q = frame number, %t = thread (camera) number,
# %D = changed pixels, %N = noise level, \n = new line,
# %i and %J = width and height of motion area,
# %K and %L = X and Y coordinates of motion center
# %C = value defined by text_event - do not use with text_event!
# You can put quotation marks around the text to allow
# leading spaces
############################################################

# Locate and draw a box around the moving object.
# Valid values: on, off and preview (default: off)
# Set to 'preview' will only draw a box in preview_shot pictures.
locate off

# Draws the timestamp using same options as C function strftime(3)
# Default: %Y-%m-%d\n%T = date in ISO format and time in 24 hour clock
# Text is placed in lower right corner
text_right %Y-%m-%d\n%T-%q

# Draw a user defined text on the images using same options as C function strftime(3)
# Default: Not defined = no text
# Text is placed in lower left corner
text_left "Living Room"

# Draw the number of changed pixed on the images (default: off)
# Will normally be set to off except when you setup and adjust the motion settings
# Text is placed in upper right corner
text_changes off

# This option defines the value of the special event conversion specifier %C
# You can use any conversion specifier in this option except %C. Date and time
# values are from the timestamp of the first image in the current event.
# Default: %Y%m%d%H%M%S
# The idea is that %C can be used filenames and text_left/right for creating
# a unique identifier for each event.
; text_event %Y%m%d%H%M%S

# Draw characters at twice normal size on images. (default: off)
text_double on

############################################################
# Target Directories and filenames For Images And Films
# For the options snapshot_, jpeg_, mpeg_ and timelapse_filename
# you can use conversion specifiers
# %Y = year, %m = month, %d = date,
# %H = hour, %M = minute, %S = second,
# %v = event, %q = frame number, %t = thread (camera) number,
# %D = changed pixels, %N = noise level,
# %i and %J = width and height of motion area,
# %K and %L = X and Y coordinates of motion center
# %C = value defined by text_event
# Quotation marks round string are allowed.
############################################################

# Target base directory for pictures and films
# Recommended to use absolute path. (Default: current working directory)
target_dir .

# File path for snapshots (jpeg or ppm) relative to target_dir
# Default: %v-%Y%m%d%H%M%S-snapshot
# Default value is equivalent to legacy oldlayout option
# For Motion 3.0 compatible mode choose: %Y/%m/%d/%H/%M/%S-snapshot
# File extension .jpg or .ppm is automatically added so do not include this.
# Note: A symbolic link called lastsnap.jpg created in the target_dir will always
# point to the latest snapshot, unless snapshot_filename is exactly 'lastsnap'
snapshot_filename %v-%Y%m%d%H%M%S-snapshot

# File path for motion triggered images (jpeg or ppm) relative to target_dir
# Default: %v-%Y%m%d%H%M%S-%q
# Default value is equivalent to legacy oldlayout option
# For Motion 3.0 compatible mode choose: %Y/%m/%d/%H/%M/%S-%q
# File extension .jpg or .ppm is automatically added so do not include this
# Set to 'preview' together with best-preview feature enables special naming
# convention for preview shots. See motion guide for details
jpeg_filename %v-%Y%m%d%H%M%S-%q

# File path for motion triggered ffmpeg films (mpeg) relative to target_dir
# Default: %v-%Y%m%d%H%M%S
# Default value is equivalent to legacy oldlayout option
# For Motion 3.0 compatible mode choose: %Y/%m/%d/%H%M%S
# File extension .mpg or .avi is automatically added so do not include this
# This option was previously called ffmpeg_filename
movie_filename %v-%Y%m%d%H%M%S

# File path for timelapse mpegs relative to target_dir
# Default: %Y%m%d-timelapse
# Default value is near equivalent to legacy oldlayout option
# For Motion 3.0 compatible mode choose: %Y/%m/%d-timelapse
# File extension .mpg is automatically added so do not include this
timelapse_filename %Y%m%d-timelapse

############################################################
# Live Webcam Server
############################################################

# The mini-http server listens to this port for requests (default: 0 = disabled)
webcam_port 0

# Quality of the jpeg images produced (default: 50)
webcam_quality 50

# Output frames at 1 fps when no motion is detected and increase to the
# rate given by webcam_maxrate when motion is detected (default: off)
webcam_motion off

# Maximum framerate for webcam streams (default: 1)
webcam_maxrate 1

# Restrict webcam connections to localhost only (default: on)
webcam_localhost on

# Limits the number of images per connection (default: 0 = unlimited)
# Number can be defined by multiplying actual webcam rate by desired number of seconds
# Actual webcam rate is the smallest of the numbers framerate and webcam_maxrate
webcam_limit 0

############################################################
# HTTP Based Control
############################################################

# TCP/IP port for the http server to listen on (default: 0 = disabled)
control_port 0

# Restrict control connections to localhost only (default: on)
control_localhost on

# Output for http server, select off to choose raw text plain (default: on)
control_html_output on

# Authentication for the http based control. Syntax username:password
# Default: not defined (Disabled)
; control_authentication username:password

############################################################
# Tracking (Pan/Tilt)
############################################################

# Type of tracker (0=none (default), 1=stepper, 2=iomojo, 3=pwc, 4=generic, 5=uvcvideo)
# The generic type enables the definition of motion center and motion size to
# be used with the conversion specifiers for options like on_motion_detected
track_type 0

# Enable auto tracking (default: off)
track_auto off

# Serial port of motor (default: none)
; track_port value

# Motor number for x-axis (default: -1)
track_motorx -1

# Motor number for y-axis (default: -1)
track_motory -1

# Maximum value on x-axis (default: 0)
track_maxx 0

# Maximum value on y-axis (default: 0)
track_maxy 0

# ID of an iomojo camera if used (default: 0)
track_iomojo_id 0

# Angle in degrees the camera moves per step on the X-axis
# with auto-track (default: 10)
# Currently only used with pwc type cameras
track_step_angle_x 10

# Angle in degrees the camera moves per step on the Y-axis
# with auto-track (default: 10)
# Currently only used with pwc type cameras
track_step_angle_y 10

# Delay to wait for after tracking movement as number
# of picture frames (default: 10)
track_move_wait 10

# Speed to set the motor to (stepper motor option) (default: 255)
track_speed 255

# Number of steps to make (stepper motor option) (default: 40)
track_stepsize 40

############################################################
# External Commands, Warnings and Logging:
# You can use conversion specifiers for the on_xxxx commands
# %Y = year, %m = month, %d = date,
# %H = hour, %M = minute, %S = second,
# %v = event, %q = frame number, %t = thread (camera) number,
# %D = changed pixels, %N = noise level,
# %i and %J = width and height of motion area,
# %K and %L = X and Y coordinates of motion center
# %C = value defined by text_event
# %f = filename with full path
# %n = number indicating filetype
# Both %f and %n are only defined for on_picture_save,
# on_movie_start and on_movie_end
# Quotation marks round string are allowed.
############################################################

# Do not sound beeps when detecting motion (default: on)
# Note: Motion never beeps when running in daemon mode.
quiet on

# Command to be executed when an event starts. (default: none)
# An event starts at first motion detected after a period of no motion defined by gap
; on_event_start value

# Command to be executed when an event ends after a period of no motion
# (default: none). The period of no motion is defined by option gap.
; on_event_end value

# Command to be executed when a picture (.ppm|.jpg) is saved (default: none)
# To give the filename as an argument to a command append it with %f
on_picture_save perl /home/rtu/motion/updateTwitter.pl --picture %f

# Command to be executed when a motion frame is detected (default: none)
; on_motion_detected value

# Command to be executed when a movie file (.mpg|.avi) is created. (default: none)
# To give the filename as an argument to a command append it with %f
; on_movie_start value

# Command to be executed when a movie file (.mpg|.avi) is closed. (default: none)
# To give the filename as an argument to a command append it with %f
; on_movie_end value

############################################################
# Common Options For MySQL and PostgreSQL database features.
# Options require the MySQL/PostgreSQL options to be active also.
############################################################

# Log to the database when creating motion triggered image file (default: on)
sql_log_image off

# Log to the database when creating a snapshot image file (default: on)
sql_log_snapshot off

# Log to the database when creating motion triggered mpeg file (default: off)
sql_log_mpeg off

# Log to the database when creating timelapse mpeg file (default: off)
sql_log_timelapse off

# SQL query string that is sent to the database
# Use same conversion specifiers has for text features
# Additional special conversion specifiers are
# %n = the number representing the file_type
# %f = filename with full path
# Default value:
# insert into security(camera, filename, frame, file_type, time_stamp, text_event) values('%t', '%f', '%q', '%n', '%Y-%m-%d %T', '%C')
sql_query insert into security(camera, filename, frame, file_type, time_stamp, event_time_stamp) values('%t', '%f', '%q', '%n', '%Y-%m-%d %T', '%C')

############################################################
# Database Options For MySQL
############################################################

# Mysql database to log to (default: not defined)
; mysql_db value

# The host on which the database is located (default: localhost)
; mysql_host value

# User account name for MySQL database (default: not defined)
; mysql_user value

# User password for MySQL database (default: not defined)
; mysql_password value

############################################################
# Database Options For PostgreSQL
############################################################

# PostgreSQL database to log to (default: not defined)
; pgsql_db value

# The host on which the database is located (default: localhost)
; pgsql_host value

# User account name for PostgreSQL database (default: not defined)
; pgsql_user value

# User password for PostgreSQL database (default: not defined)
; pgsql_password value

# Port on which the PostgreSQL database is located (default: 5432)
; pgsql_port 5432

############################################################
# Video Loopback Device (vloopback project)
############################################################

# Output images to a video4linux loopback device
# The value '-' means next available (default: not defined)
; video_pipe value

# Output motion images to a video4linux loopback device
# The value '-' means next available (default: not defined)
; motion_video_pipe value

##############################################################
# Thread config files - One for each camera.
# Except if only one camera - You only need this config file.
# If you have more than one camera you MUST define one thread
# config file for each camera in addition to this config file.
##############################################################

# Remember: If you have more than one camera you must have one
# thread file for each camera. E.g. 2 cameras requires 3 files:
# This motion.conf file AND thread1.conf and thread2.conf.
# Only put the options that are unique to each camera in the
# thread config files.
; thread /usr/local/etc/thread1.conf
; thread /usr/local/etc/thread2.conf
; thread /usr/local/etc/thread3.conf
; thread /usr/local/etc/thread4.conf

 

This script will upload pictures very quickly to your twitter account, and spam the hell out of people when motion is found, so you'll need to adjust the frame rate/sensitivity.

Tuesday
Jan202009

Today's obscure Linux problem

With this post, I'll be taking a cue from my friend Stu over at Corrosive Content, and posting something helpful. At work I often run into obscure problems that take a lot of time to solve. Because I work on Windows, Mac, and various other Unix flavors, I get a chance to see the worst each operating system has to offer. This little "bug" is one of those neat bugs that just doesn't seem like it can actually be true.

You run a df and notice that your /tmp directory is full. No problem, just cd /tmp and then see what's in there. After listing the files, you notice that there are a lot of .shitty files in the directory and you know you can delete those. No problem, a quick rm *.shitty should do the trick...Only one problem, you run the command and you get this cute little message:

Argument list too long

What? Let's just list the files and see what this is all about: ls *.shitty

Argument list too long

You've got to be kidding right? As it turns out, there is a limited size buffer created for shell commands and rm *.shitty actually expands to rm 1.shitty 2.shitty 3.shitty, which quickly becomes too big for the command line. Here are a few options I came up with:

The simplest answer is to do something like this:

find . -name "*.shitty" | xargs rm

This doesn't work if you have spaces in the names of the .shitty files or if the .shitty files have special characters. So you should do this:

find . -name "*.shitty" -print0 | xargs -0 rm

And finally, an extra little tid bit...Say you are in a parent directory and you want to get rid of all the files in a set up children directories:

find . -wholename "*/FunctionTests/InputData/*.shitty" -print0 | xargs -0 rm

This will go through all the directories in the current directory and look for *.shitty files in the FunctionTests/InputData folders under them. The option that is special here is the -wholename option. If you try to do this with -name, you will get an error or on some versions of find, you will get unexpected results.

- - Rob

Tuesday
Nov252008

Cheap time lapse with a webcam, VLC, and ffmpeg

I've always been fascinated with time lapse videos of all sorts. Recently I've had the urge to do a little time lapse myself. My ultimate goal is to do something with my DSLR, but I guess you have to crawl before you walk right?

 

 

1. Get a webcam

2. Get VLC from Videolan.org (Windows, Mac, and Linux)

      * if using Ubuntu type the following: sudo apt-get install vlc

3. Get ffmpeg from ffmpeg.mplayerhq.hu

      * if using Ubuntu type the following: sudo apt-get install ffmpeg

      * You can find Windows binaries for ffmpeg from Google

4. Capture your stills using VLC

      * cvlc v4l2:// :v4l2-dev="/dev/video0" -V "image" --image-out-prefix img --image-out-format jpg --image-out-ratio 10 --v4l-fps 30

This means you'll save every 10th image from /dev/video0. You'll want to replace that with where ever your webcam is. It'll most likely be under /dev/video, but you can use dmesg to find your cam.

5. Let your video run as long as you'd like (or until your hard drive fills up)

6. Stitch your images back together using ffmpeg

      * ffmpeg -b 1800 -i img%06d.jpg video.mpg

After that you'll have a video named video.mpg that looks similar to the one above. You'll want to play with the number of images you grab with the image-out-ratio and you may want to explore varying the play back speed by taking a look at the options ffmpeg has to offer.

Although I had to figure out the VLC command by reading and just trying stuff, I found the ffmpeg command from: Catswhocode.com

It's also worth mentioning that I found a good article about extracting time lapse from a video. This sounds good for shooting video with my camcorder and then getting different types of time lapse from the video. You can find that article at: wp.pr0gr4gr4mm3r.com

Tuesday
Sep162008

How to build an arcade using Kubuntu, MAME, Wahcade, and X-Arcade

A friend and I have been wanting to build a MAME cabinet for the last few years. Recently we decided to go ahead and jump into the deep end. We took a lot of help from the internet, but found that we had to go it alone for a large part of the build. So I decided that it would be good for the both the internet at large as well as me to document my findings.

As far as building the arcade goes we used the directions at Arcadecab.com as a guide. These are great instructions, and the only issues I have are that his parts estimate is a little off (we spent about $475 w/o the coin door) and you have to make a few assumptions on finishing stages that could be a little more clear. You may want to check out his new plans. I will say that he probably made the parts list a few years ago, and prices have more than likely gone up. Lastly, you'll want to print out the directions or have a computer handy, because you'll need to read and re-read them a few times to get the point. As far as the build goes here are a few side notes:


  1. We didn't add the coin door so that we could save money
  2. Don't paint anything until you get the entire thing together. It's worth taking it back apart to paint it, so you can make sure it all fits together
  3. Think about a better way to mount the glass. We did, and it worked out great (Pics - None of these have the marquee in yet and some were with my iPhone so quality isn't the best). I'd tell you how to do it, but I'm going to focus on the software install. Email me if you have any questions, and I can help you with it.

Ok, with that out of the way I can tell you how to get your software up and running:

The first thing you're going to want to do is install your OS. I used Kubuntu and I'm going to base my directions off that, however once you get MAME installed the Wahcade directions should work for Windows.

To install Kubuntu go to Kubuntu.org. Once there, click on the download button to the left. Once you download and burn the ISO, pop it in your CD tray and restart your computer. The install is self explanatory, and there is plenty of help at the Ubuntu forums if you have any problems.

After you get Kubuntu installed, you need to install MAME. We used SDLMAME, but you could probably just as easily use XMAME.

To install MAME open a termial and type the following:

sudo apt-get install sdlmame

After you get MAME installed, you'll want to configure it. First, edit the mame.ini by doing the following:

sudo gedit /etc/sdlmame/mame.ini

You can also substitute gedit for vim or whatever you like. I'm using gedit for simplicity. The only thing we changed in here was the rom location. I took all the other directories out and put in:

~/roms/mame

I did this for a few reasons. First I want the location of my roms to be apparent because this is a community machine for work. Second, I want there to be only one location for my roms, so I know where all the roms are and lastly, I created a mame dir under roms because I may want to incorporate other emulators in the future (which Wahcade can do).

So after you save the mame.ini, you'll want to create the roms dir under you home directory by doing the following:

mkdir -p ~/roms/mame

Also, make a directory for your artwork (this is for Wahcade).

mkdir -p ~/roms/artwork/mame

We just decided to have screen shots and forgo the extra artwork. You can make the call on that and make other directories the extra artwork. Either way, you can find some artwork here.

To learn more about how to use mame either do the following:

man mame

at the console, or visit the website located here.

Now that you have MAME running, you need to get some roms. Getting roms is a grey area, so I'll leave out the specifics of where to get them, but I bet you can find some good ones here. Once you get your roms (and artwork if you want to be complete), save them in:

~/roms/mame

and

~/roms/artwork/mame

respectively. You need to make sure that the name of the screen shot matches the rom that it belongs to. This is how Wahcade will find your artwork. Next you need to configure your X-Arcade buttons in MAME. To do so, make sure your X-Arcade joystick is attached (I found that both USB and PS/2 connections worked) and type:

mame

at the command line. When you open MAME, your joystick will most likely not do much.

Use the keyboard to arrow up and down and go into the controller settings (you don't need to worry about having the arcade stick let you select games in MAME because you'll be using Wahcade). You'll want to map the player 1 buttons using the left side of the joystick and the player two buttons with the right side. All I did was map any of the up, down, right, and left key mappings to the up, down, right, and left joystick buttons. In the menu settings I also mapped the combination of first and second player buttons to exit a game. You'll want to map some kind of button combo to exit a game so you can get back to Wahcade. For some games, you'll need to map the "ball" to the joystick as well (unless you got the X-Arcade with the ball built in). After you do this, you'll want to go to each game and make sure all your controls work. You may find some don't work and you can figure out what button on the keyboard does what and then remember that and go back into the settings and map a button on the arcade pad. I also noticed that the buttons for player to seem to be opposite of player one. So I just recently switched the buttons around for player two. This is just a personal preference. You don't need to spend the time on this if you don't care. You can also map keys on a game by game basis by opening the game and pressing tab. This allows you to you a specific key combination for a certain game without having to change the global map. You can also edit the dip switch settings. You can change things like the difficulty of the game, the number of lifes, continues, etc... The settings will be different for each ROM.

Now you need to install Wahcade by doing the following:

cd ~/home
wget http://www.anti-particle.com/projects/wahcade/wahcade_0.99pre3_all.deb
dpkg -i wahcade*

Alternativly, you can point your browser to Anti-particle.com and find the latest version and download and install it.

Once you install Wahcade start up the Wahcade Setup Editor. You'll want to go to the "Keys" tab first and map all the up and down buttons to the up and down keys on the joystick and do the same for the left and right. All you have to do is select the function you want to re-map and then hit "enter". Then you just push the button you want to map. You can map more than one button to do the same thing. You can also map a combination of buttons to do one thing. The Setup Editor crashed on me a few times, but I just opened it back up and continued where I left off. The editor definitely needs a little more polishing, but it does the job. You can get more info on setup by going to the Wahcade site (these are for XMAME and an older version of Wahcade).

Next I went to the Emulators tab and selected MAME in the drop down. Next expand the List Generation section.

Set the ROM dir to

~/roms/mame

And set the List Generation Method to XML. Expand the Screen Saver section. I set mine to slide show and pointed it to the artwork directory. If you'd like to do a movie screen saver, then you need to find a movie you want and point Wahcade to the directory. You'll also need to install GStreamer by doing the following:

sudo apt-get install gstreamer

Next expand the Artwork section and point screen shot area to the artwork directory you created earlier (~/roms/artwork/mame). The last thing I did was go to the MAME only tab and edit the layout. I just edited the layout so it only showed the artwork that I have (screen shot in this case).

Now all you need to do is fire up Wahcade and give it a whirl. You can start it by opening up a command window and typing:

wahcade

I also created a few shortcuts on the desktop and by moving the joystick up and down, you can select it and fire it up with the player one button.

Here is a video of our arcade in action (minus the marquee):

I hope you find these directions useful and sorry they aren't more in depth. I should have created them while I was doing the work, but I didn't think about it, so I had to create them by memory. In the future, I'd like to add a history file so that we can keep high scores, add more games, and add more emulators. The arcade has been in action for about a month now, and it's a hit. It runs all the time and hasn't crashed often and is played everyday. If you have any questions or would like me to elaborate more, leave a commit or shoot me an email.