Tech is Complicated

Mar 26 2010

As some of you may know, the classic arcade game cabinet that I built about a year ago died a while back.  Couldn’t even get to the BIOS.

I asked around on Freecycle for anyone local willing to get rid of an older computer.  Unfortunately, the replies I received were from people trying to get rid of ancient computers, like 386s.  That wasn’t quite sufficient.

Finally, on Wednesday, I broke down and bought a $200 desktop EeePC.  It came with Windows, a lot of games, and not much else.  I forgot how stripped down those things are:  no CD-ROM drive and no wireless card.

Of more direct concern:  it came with Windows XP pre-installed.  The first iteration of my game cabinet ran Ubuntu Linux, which drove the big question:

Do I keep Windows on it and struggle to set that up for what I need, or do I struggle to install Ubuntu and then set it up using my “known good” configuration?

This is how technology is complicated.  It’s not so much the complexity of the components; it’s the complexity of their interaction.

The EeePC isn’t built to support the installation of a Linux OS.  It’s just not easy to do (my initial attempts to boot off a USB drive were complete failure).

On the other side of the fence, it’s much harder to configure Windows and the various apps for exactly what I want to do (start an app in full-screen mode, for example).

There’s no right answer.  One makes a choice and moves forward in one direction.

I spent a few hours trying to install Ubuntu via a USB drive. Unfortunately, the EeePC simply wouldn’t boot off of USB, no matter what I did, and some Googling indicated that EeePC desktops often have that problem.

So I abandoned Ubuntu and concentrated on installing MameUI. After fiddling with the keyboard controls, I finally got it mostly, essentially, working. I’ve still got a few more things to fix, but I can play games on my cabinet now.

This is why optimization rarely works. We can’t know what’ll work until we try.

2 responses so far

  1. I was reflecting (well, “swearing loudly at no one in particular” more than “reflecting”) yesterday about how, once upon a time, when I wanted to listen to music on my computer, I just opened WinAmp or XMMS and pressed play. There was a playlist, a volume control, and an equalizer, and it all just worked. The whole thing was basically a solved problem. 10 years later, every single piece of music software I use is one or more of overcomplicated, hideously unstable, or missing some basic feature.

    Technology is hard.

  2. Amen.

    iTunes, in particular, is quite painful to work with these days.

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