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Open Source Portable Consoles

March 12, 2014

I did mention on my last editorial that I bought portable consoles like the Wiz and the Caanoo. Let me expand on this a little, since this constitutes most of my gaming right now (at least the gaming I do while I commute) and most people don't know of them.

These consoles run an open source (which means free as in beer, and anybody can look at the code and contribute to the project) operating system like Linux or Android. They have their own screen, and traditional controls like d-pads and buttons (they don't always have touch screens). They can look like the Game Boy Advance or like the Nintendo DS, depending on the console. And they run homebrew and shareware games and emulators of old video game consoles and computers.

A few commercial games have been released for these consoles, but the people who buy them usually get them for the emulators. I definitely did. I get them primarily to play Atari 2600, Genesis, Arcade, and Neo Geo games. These are the games I grew up with, as you can tell from this website. You can get emulators for other consoles, like Nintendo consoles.

The quality of the consoles themselves and the emulators that run in them varies depending of the company who makes them. The first two I bought (the Wiz and the Caanoo) were from a company called GamePark Holdings. They are no longer making new consoles, which is why I then bought a Zero, made by a company called Game Consoles Worldwide. The consoles from these two specific companies were very well built. I broke the first one, the Wiz, by stepping of it, so it was not their fault that it broke. On the second one I bought, the Caanoo, the controller broke all by itself, so I guess it wasn't as well built. The one I currently use, the Zero, has not given me any problems so far.

One disadvantage that all these open source consoles have, especially if you use them for emulators, is that you "have to get your hands dirty" with them, so to speak. You have to install all the programs and the games that run on the emulators, and troubleshoot them until they run properly, before you get to actually enjoy them. You basically need a rudimentary knowledge of Unix. Every time I get one of these consoles I end up spending about a day getting everything to run. These are not commercial portable consoles like the ones Sony and Nintendo make, where you buy the cartridges, plug them in, and play. On the other hand, once you buy the consoles, you don?t have to spend any more money on them, since the emulators are free.

Open Source Portable Consoles are perfect for retro gamers like me. I can play some King of Fighters or River Raid while I ride the subway. And it has real buttons, which are necessary for playing arcade and console games. Using a touch screen for these types of games is a joke and will make you lose.

Of course, people in the subway think I'm using a phone or a PSP, ha ha.


Previous editorial, When You No longer Buy New Games

Previous editorial, My Memories and Experiences With the Neo Geo

Previous editorial, The New Retro System

Previous editorial, I Heard That Before

Previous editorial, Skipping a Generation

Previous editorial, The Forklift

Previous editorial, The Saturn 2

Previous editorial, RPG Masterpieces

Previous editorial, Sega, the Master of Narrowband

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Previous editorial, The Next Genesis

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Previous editorial, The Second Time I Play an RPG

Previous editorial, Tons of Crap

Previous editorial, The PlayStation from a Sega Fan's Perspective

Previous editorial, Thoughts about the Genesis Nomad

Previous editorial, Mainstream

Previous editorial, Why I love the Atari 2600 so much

Previous editorial, Can Sega avoid its past mistakes?