Monday, February 20, 2023

Mame-Nabu under Linux

I bought a Nabu PC, a new batch has went up for sale. I missed the first batch and decided I was not going to buy one, but as usual, I find my impulse control to be lacking. It is going to be a while before it arrives, so I decided to check out the Nabu PC Mame emulator, so I could check out the Nabu Internet Adapter software so I could sort that out before I got my machine and maybe do some programming on it. I am not going to go into how to set that up, it is easy enough to do. You can get it at

The problem I did run into was getting the emulator. The only pre compiled binaries were for Windows and there were no instructions on what you needed to get it running under Linux. It was not just a matter of install it from a repo or downloading the code and compiling it, Nabu support is new and is not available in the mainline code. I am going to assume you have some experience in using Linux, otherwise you would not be doing this.

Goto, click on the <>Code button and click on Download zip. Do not use git to retrieve the code, for some reason the nabupc code is not included in the git repository, but is included in the zip file. Once you have it downloaded, extract the file and cd into the folder containing the code.

To compile Mame, you will need some dependencies, install them using this command;

sudo apt-get install git build-essential python3 libsdl2-dev libsdl2-ttf-dev libfontconfig-dev libpulse-dev qtbase5-dev qtbase5-dev-tools qtchooser qt5-qmake

You can just type "make" at this point and it will build, however this will build Mame with everything and will take a while to do, we really only need it to build the Nabu emulator, so we start the compile process with;

make SOURCES=src/mame/nabu/nabupc.cpp REGENIE=1

Next go grab the Windows Nabu Mame file from here, This file has everything needed including the ROM files and disk images, this will save you a bit of time in figuring out what you need and where to put it. Extract it to where you plan to run the emulator from. Delete mame.exe, floppy-boot.cmd and nabu.cmd, you will not need these files. Next copy the mame executable you just built into this new folder.  Run the Nabu Internet Adapter, and start the TCP service, you must do this before you start the emulator, or it will crash. You can now run the emulator with this command.

./mame nabupc -window -kbd nabu_hle -hcca null_modem -bitb socket.

That is it, the emulator should come up and connect automatically.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Thoughts on Mastodon

 When Elon Mush took control of Twitter, a couple of million people went to Mastodon, an alternative to Twitter, built to be a decentralized platform that no single person controlled and didn't vacuum up your personal data or push advertisements into you feed. The hypothesis was solid, it is a good idea, so I decided to dip my toe in and see if reality matched the hypothesis.

My first issue was getting signed up, you have to find a server to sign up with, I did what any reasonably competent internet user would do, I googled the most popular servers and found several lists all nearly identical. I started at the top and tired to sign up. The first one was not taking any new users, same with the second and 3rd. The fourth put me on a waiting list and on it went. I found a few more, but the servers were either not accepting new users or simply did not exist anymore. If I were a Twitter refugee, i would have gotten very frustrated at this point and been done with it.

I am however, not a Twitter refugee, I am a nerd with home lab infrastructure, so I decided I would simply setup my own Mastodon instance. I am not going to get into the process I went through to build it. It was not particularly difficult and I had very few problems, but again, I already had everything I needed, I could fire up a virtual machine, I had a domain name with DNS redirection, so it was just a matter of following some instructions on getting the software up and running, it took me the better part of a Sunday to get everything the way I wanted, but it has been humming along perfectly since then. I provided an overview of this process just after I did it, you can read it here.

So now I had a Mastodon account, so what to do now. Well I needed to find people to follow, so once again I went to google and found some lists of interesting accounts to follow. Once again, all of these lists were nearly identical and I was only really interested in a couple of them. I also found a couple of Youtube content creators who use Mastodon. Once I had some posts coming into my feed, I found some other folks who were posting mildly interesting things, so I followed them as well. Then I got to where I was following about 20 accounts and I had a steady stream of posts, but I was not seeing any new people to follow.

I had no trouble finding other Tech nerds interested in Retro computers, Linux, home labs, that sort of thing. What I found difficult, was finding people interested in Science Fiction/Fantasy Literature, Dungeons & Dragons, Comic Books, or any of my other interests. The problem is, to get these things into my feed, I need to know who to follow. There are of course lists of people by subject matter floating around and I even found one for RPG's with a good 30 accounts listed. When I started going through those accounts, many were just flatly gone, hadn't posted in months/years or were posting cat pictures and nothing else. I am use to being able to curate my feed, which I can do easily in Facebook and Twitter, it seems nearly impossible to get a nice balance of posts about a variety of topics unless you already know at least a few people already on Mastodon.

Now for the BIG problem with Mastodon, and this is not Mastodon's fault really. No one I personally know uses Mastodon. Sure, my wife signed up on my server when I was testing it and I had 1 friend also sign up, but neither of them use it. The reason I use social media is to interact with friends and family. If my Nephew was not using Twitter as his only social media platform, I probably would not have a Twitter account. On Facebook, I have maybe 40 friends, all of whom I know personally and have an active relationship with. By comparison, my Mastodon feed is very flat, there is nothing personalized about it, there are no people I know post about their lives or sending me messages. It feels like I am reading a blog written by multiple strangers. Yes, there are interesting posts, but there is no personal connection or depth.

All in all, I don't really think setting up my own instance is worth the trouble, simply because if you don't have a built in group of followers, it is just too difficult to get an interesting balanced feed going. If you can get onto a big server with lots of people, you get access to their local feed and better access to other large federated sites. Otherwise, I think you will just be wasting your time.