[production] cites several previous, similar projects that showed how to interface with the click-wheel, a perfectly fitting color display from Waveshare, and open-source software called Rockbox to run on the pi. We all stand on the shoulders of giants.
Some nice innovations to look for are the Pi Zero’s micro-SD card and a micro-USB charging port aligned to the large slot left from the iPod’s original 40 pin connector. Having access for charging and reflashing the card without opening the case seems quite handy. There’s a nice sized battery too, though we wonder if a smaller battery and a Qi charger could fit in the same space. Check the project’s Hackaday.io for the parts list, and GitHub for the software side of things, and all the reference links you’ll need to build your own. It looks like [production] has plans to turn old iPods into Gameboy clones, you may want to check back for progress on that.
Last week we saw the announcement of the new Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W, which is basically an improved quad-core version of the Pi Zero — more comparable in speed to the Pi 3B+, but in the smaller Zero form factor. One remarkable aspect of the board is the Raspberry-designed RP3A0 system-in-package, which includes the four CPUs and 512 MB of RAM all on the same chip. While 512 MB of memory is not extravagant by today’s standards, it’s workable. But this custom chip has a secret: it lets the board run on reasonably low power.
When you’re using a Pi Zero, odds are that you’re making a small project, and maybe even one that’s going to run on batteries. The old Pi Zero was great for these self-contained, probably headless, embedded projects: sipping the milliamps slowly. But the cost was significantly slower computation than its bigger brothers. That’s the gap that the Pi Zero 2 W is trying to fill. Can it pull this trick off? Can it run faster, without burning up the batteries? Raspberry Pi sent Hackaday a review unit that I’ve been running through the paces all weekend. We’ll see some benchmarks, measure the power consumption, and find out how the new board does.
The answer turns out to be a qualified “yes”. If you look at mixed CPU-and-memory tasks, the extra efficiency of the RP3A0 lets the Pi Zero 2 W run faster per watt than any of the other Raspberry boards we tested. Most of the time, it runs almost like a Raspberry Pi 3B+, but uses significantly less power.
Along the way, we found some interesting patterns in Raspberry Pi power usage. Indeed, the clickbait title for this article could be “We Soldered a Resistor Inline with Raspberry Pis, and You Won’t Believe What Happened Next”, only that wouldn’t really be clickbait. How many milliamps do you think a Raspberry Pi 4B draws, when it’s shut down? You’re not going to believe it.
You can’t search for “retro gaming” without hitting a plethora of single board computers attached to all manner of controls, batteries, etc. Often these projects have an emphasis on functionality above all else but [Kite]’s Circuit-Sword is different. The Circuit-Sword is the heart of a RaspberryPi-based retro gaming machine with an enviable level of fit and finish.
Fundamentally the Circuit-Sword is a single board computer built around a Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3. We don’t see many projects which use a Compute Module instead of the full Pi, but here it is a perfect choice allowing [Kite] to useful peripherals without carrying the baggage of those that don’t make sense for a portable handheld (we’re looking at you, Ethernet). The Circuit-Sword adds USB-C to quickly charge an onboard LiPo (rates up to 1.5A available) and the appropriate headers to connect a specific LCD. The Compute Module omits wireless connectivity so [Kite] added an SDIO WiFi/Bluetooth module. And if you look closely, you may notice an external ATMega mediating a familiar looking set of button and switches.
We think those buttons and switches are the most interesting thing going on here, because the whole board is designed to fit into an original GameBoy enclosure. It turns out replacement enclosures are available from China in surprising variety (try searching for “gameboy housing”) as are a variety of parts to facilitate the installation of different screen options and more. One layer deeper in the wiki there are instructions for case mods you may want to perform to make everything work optimally. The number of possible options the user can mod-in are wide. Extra X/Y buttons? Shoulder buttons on the back? Play Station Portable-style slide joysticks? All detailed. For even more examples, try searching the SudoMod forums. For example, here’s a very visual build log by user [DarrylUK].
The case mod instructions are worth a glance even if you have no intent to build a device. There are some clever techniques to facilitate careful alignment of buttons and accurate hole drilling. Predicting their buyers might want a variety of options, [Kite] added reference drill holes in the PCB for the builder to re-drill for mounting buttons or joysticks. To facilitate adding status LEDs externally there is a tiny PCB jig included. There are even instructions for adding a faux game cartridge for the complete look.
If you want to buy one (we certainly do!) [Kite] does group buys periodically. Check out the wiki for links to the right interest form.
In the years since the Raspberry Pi and other similar inexpensive Linux-capable single board computers came to the market, we have shown you a huge variety of projects using them at the heart of portable computers. These normally take the form of a laptop or tablet project, but today we have one that starts from a completely different perspective.
The “Kindleberry Pi Zero W” from [Ben Yarmis] does not attempt to create an enclosure or form factor for a portable computing solution. Instead it’s fair to say that it is more of a software hack than a hardware one, as he’s created something of an ad-hoc portable Raspberry Pi from other off-the-shelf pieces of consumer hardware.
The Zero W is a particularly useful computer for this application because of its tiny size, lowish power consumption, on-board Bluetooth, and wireless networking. He has taken a W and put it in the official Pi case, with a portable battery pack. No other connections, that’s his computer. As an input device he has a Bluetooth keyboard, and his display is a jailbroken Kindle Touch tied to the Pi using his Android phone as a WiFi router. We suspect with a little bit of configuration the Pi could easily serve that function on its own, but the phone also provides an Internet connection.
The result is a minimalist mobile computing platform which probably has a much longer battery life and higher reliability than portable Pi solutions using LCD displays, and certainly takes up less space than many others. Some might complain that there’s no hack in wirelessly connecting such devices, but we’d argue that spotting the possibility when so many others embark on complex builds has an elegance all of its own. It has the disadvantage for some users of providing only a terminal based interface to Raspbian, but of course we’re all seasoned shell veterans for whom that should present no problems, right?