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Freeplay Zero finally done! Pictures and final thoughts - Printable Version

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Freeplay Zero finally done! Pictures and final thoughts - sygyzy - 09-25-2017

I finally wrapped up my FPZ build tonight. I actually fully finished it about a week or two ago but the X and Y button holes kept bugging me, so I bought a completely new shell and made all the mods over again. In the end, the new holes were just as bad as the old except this time X is wonky and Y is pretty close to perfect (the reverse of last time). To me, drilling these holes is the hardest part of the whole thing. I don't know how people make it look so simple. I bought a set of stepped bits, used the pencil trick to mark, measured multiple times, and even wiggled the template back and forth to find the "center". I am either terrible at drilling holes in plastic, or as crazy as it sounds, I think the template is off! Sorry, I called it! Tongue

I also needed to get a Y (triwing) screwdriver since I didn't own one. Now everything is nice and secure and I don't want to make a third attempt at the shell. I am happy with the way things are. The only small issues I am having now is seemingly decreased audio quality. It used to be pretty silent but now there's white noise. Not sure something crossed paths while I kept assembling and disassembling things. I am also suddenly getting really slow responsiveness in ES, just scrolling between games and consoles. I don't even have that many roms (25 in 4 consoles). Hopefully this isn't a hardware issue.

Thanks to Ed for all the patience and support. This ended up being a really great project to work on thanks to the support and the high quality product.

Gallery - https://imgur.com/a/Siccb


RE: Freeplay Zero finally done! Pictures and final thoughts - Flavor - 09-26-2017

Thanks for the photos.  They actually look really nice.  I agree that the X/Y is a bit wonky, so let's discuss that.

Before I get into this, in no way am I trying to disprove what you're saying.  We were/are legitimately concerned about you and any future builders going through this and want to be sure that the tools/information we're supplying are correct.

This morning we took 2 of the guides (one from a Freeplay Zero and the other from a prototype Freeplay CM3) to check out.  The holes in the guides are meant to be just a guide for marking drill positions, so they aren't quite large enough to push the button shafts through.  We oversized them slightly to allow the button shafts to protrude through the guide holes.

[attachment=669][attachment=670]
(Those are clickable thumbnails if you want a clearer view.)

That is a system that I built where I decided not to use button caps.  I will admit that the Y button isn't perfect on this build.  It works, but I will probably get in there with an X-Acto knife to open it up just a tiny bit more.

That being said, the guide does fit pretty much as intended.  You can see how well it fits over all 4 buttons.  This is just to compare the guide to a working system.

I will say that this is one of the better builds I've done.  Some aren't anywhere near this nice, and that's where the button caps come in.  When the buttons (without caps) don't line up perfectly with the initial holes, then the caps can really help.  As you have seen, though, when the buttons with caps don't line up with the shell holes, then there isn't much you can do.

We are really busy with all sorts of things, but I think that we really need to hone in on this X/Y button hole issue.  It's definitely not easy.  It's hard to get them perfect.  I guess I've done it enough times now where I feel pretty good about my process, but that doesn't mean I'm doing a good job of communicating it to everyone else.

Tri-Wing Screwdriver
It seems like we used to get a screwdriver with all the GBA-style shells we'd purchase.  Maybe it's less common to get them that way now.  I'm not sure.  Thanks to you, though, we're realizing the need to inform people and give them some options.  We're doing 3 things to help with this, now.  
1)  We explicitly added mention of the tri-wing in the build document.  I think it was in the photo before, but it wasn't mentioned explicitly.
2)  We bought some cheap Y (TriWing) screwdrivers and put them for sale on the site in case people needed them.
3)  We bought some phillips head screws that we think should work in the shell.  If they work well, we'll toss them in future DIY kits as an option for people.


Audio Quality
What we've noticed is that there is this background noise at times, and it's worse when the system isn't pumping audio out.  In the config.txt, we use audio_pwm_mode=2 and it really helps.  If you changed/removed that, it would likely have a noticable effect on the white/background noise.  Otherwise, what we've seen is the noise is likely due to interfering signals that the amplifier amplifies when there isn't anything else going on with those audio pins (of the Pi).  When the Pi is actually sending signals on those pins (like when you run a game), then the pins don't pick up that interference the same way.  Even a game running silence will sound better than no game running at all, in our experience.


Slow Responsiveness
This one is new to me.  I'd like to know more about this problem.  Can you tell what it's related to?  Does it happen for a while and then go away?  Do you have a USB device plugged in?  I'm not sure where to start with it, actually, but I'd like to figure it out.

Thanks!


RE: Freeplay Zero finally done! Pictures and final thoughts - sygyzy - 09-26-2017

Screwdrivers and Retromodding
Having no experience with GBA modding or third party shells previously, I didn't even know they used security screws. I bought the shell and parts from Retromodding since it was recommended and it didn't come with the screwdriver. Only later when I bought the exact same shell from an eBay seller, did I notice it was very common for sellers to include both a Tri--Wing and small Philips screwdriver. This leads me to my second bit of feedback which I am kind of dissatisfied with Retromodding as a vendor. They fulfilled my order just fine but there are some issues with them as a "preferred" vendor. First they are in Canada so slower shipping times and no tracking (though they are up front about this). You can pay extra if you want tracking. Processing took about 3 days before it even shipped. Then I had a problem with the d-pad and found their only support venue is through Facebook Messenger. No email; at least not an address they easily want you to find or use. They are supposedly sending me a replacement d-pad and silicone pad, so that's nice. And finally, like I mentioned - no screwdrivers for a shell that comes with these things "stock" from other sellers. Come to think of it, I had to buy pads separately from them too, which were also included in the shell I bought from the eBay seller.

X & Y Holes
I was only half joking about the template being off. I know you can get them working perfectly but for my second shell, even with double checking, the hole I drilled was immediately slightly off from the template, then got progressively worse. I think the real tough part is the X button since it's path goes straight through the walls near the right shoulder button and part of the top of the A button. Depending how you are cutting away at the plastic, your bit actually might walk or jerk since it's not a clean uniform edge. In other worse, when you get near those walls, you are hitting irregular terrain.

I honestly don't know how to improve this. I suspect if I were to see you do it in person, it would "just" work. I actually doubt you have some magical technique you haven't described in the doc. I think you must have good muscle memory or maybe a special talent to screw really straight or maybe eyeball it well.

Sound
I haven't modified the config.txt entry so the suggested audio entry is still present. I can live with the sound and I can't think of anything else I can really do to fix it. I guess it's just a "thing" that audio out via the speaker is pretty bad for these small systems. Just curious - how is audio handled? Is there an onboard sound card? Does it take audio out from the 3.5mm out? 

Slowness
This one is an oddity since I didn't change a single thing except put it in a new shell. It was updated to Retropie 4.3 prior to the swap. Since then, it's just really glitchy and seems like it freezes at random points. For example, when you first start it up, if you press left or right to enter a console then press A to enter, then down to scroll, there's a noticeable delay. Like it just pauses for 2 seconds, then it finally moves. Or right now, it's been running for 10 mins, I am in SNES and I pressed up from Tetris to Super Mario Bros. Deluxe and a full 2 seconds passed before the Mario game was selected. Last night my gf was playing Tetris and she said it was slowly down, and you could actually hear the music  slowing down, like the opposite of a Turbo button on 486 days. If this is a Retropie config issue, that's on me but I am wondering if anything could have happened that would make the board act funny. For example, if I made a mistake somewhere and maybe the L button is being held down (not true but just go along), would that cause some kind of issue with the OS?

Screen
I just realized I never removed my front screen film so I just took it off and wow it looks a lot better, lol! But I noticed an issue with the screen. I can see that the display is sitting to the lower left corner. In other words, I can see a clear border all along the top and right of the screen. It's uniform. Is this true in your builds too? I assume I can probably adjust this in software, but I never noticed this before. Also, I should mention that in my second shell mod, I accidentally took off to much off the wall right below and next to the speaker slot. This wall previously acted as a physical part for the screen to rest against, to  prevent it from sliding down too much. I can't put the plastic back, obviously, so I just make sure that the screen is flush against the top edge of the LCD slot. Then with the board screwed on top of it, I figure it was sandwiched in there. Now I am wondering if it's shifting? Now I can't unsee this alignment issue. Any ideas?

I've included a photo, hopefully you can make it out (look to the top and right)


RE: Freeplay Zero finally done! Pictures and final thoughts - Flavor - 09-26-2017

(09-26-2017, 07:16 AM)sygyzy Wrote: Screwdrivers and Retromodding
Having no experience with GBA modding or third party shells previously, I didn't even know they used security screws. I bought the shell and parts from Retromodding since it was recommended and it didn't come with the screwdriver. Only later when I bought the exact same shell from an eBay seller, did I notice it was very common for sellers to include both a Tri--Wing and small Philips screwdriver. This leads me to my second bit of feedback which I am kind of dissatisfied with Retromodding as a vendor. They fulfilled my order just fine but there are some issues with them as a "preferred" vendor. First they are in Canada so slower shipping times and no tracking (though they are up front about this). You can pay extra if you want tracking. Processing took about 3 days before it even shipped. Then I had a problem with the d-pad and found their only support venue is through Facebook Messenger. No email; at least not an address they easily want you to find or use. They are supposedly sending me a replacement d-pad and silicone pad, so that's nice. And finally, like I mentioned - no screwdrivers for a shell that comes with these things "stock" from other sellers. Come to think of it, I had to buy pads separately from them too, which were also included in the shell I bought from the eBay seller.

I totally understand that you wouldn't know about the tri-wing screws, but it's something that I didn't even consider before. I knew it, and we had the screwdriver, so it was never an issue for me. Sorry about that!

I told our contact at RetroModding to check out this thread. I don't think they've ever posted here, so I doubt we'll see a reply. I do, however, hope that it'll be something they fix on their end. At least they should realize that they had the same problem I did. I do know that (before they partnered with us on this) they were really focused on GBA stuff. Those users would be really likely to know about the tools they need, because they would often be taking an existing GBA apart (instead of making a whole new console like you did).

I don't want to make any excuses for them, because it's not my company. It is a fine line, of course. As a company trying to launch this Kickstarter (and ultimately Freeplay Zero/CM3 product), we really don't want to worry about building consoles for people or stocking all sorts of different color shells and all that. If we try to sell something (like maybe the battery or WiFi dongle), it's a test thing and we don't want to have a bunch of options sitting around. Anyway, I feel like I'm getting a bit too deep into this discussion that wasn't meant to be about "business."

Let's just say that it works well for us to have a "partner" that can do those things. I agree that it's far less than ideal that they're in another country. I wish that weren't the case. I also agree that what they do reflects on us even if we don't want it to (like when it's negative of course).

(09-26-2017, 07:16 AM)sygyzy Wrote: X & Y Holes
I was only half joking about the template being off. I know you can get them working perfectly but for my second shell, even with double checking, the hole I drilled was immediately slightly off from the template, then got progressively worse. I think the real tough part is the X button since it's path goes straight through the walls near the right shoulder button and part of the top of the A button. Depending how you are cutting away at the plastic, your bit actually might walk or jerk since it's not a clean uniform edge. In other worse, when you get near those walls, you are hitting irregular terrain.

I honestly don't know how to improve this. I suspect if I were to see you do it in person, it would "just" work. I actually doubt you have some magical technique you haven't described in the doc. I think you must have good muscle memory or maybe a special talent to screw really straight or maybe eyeball it well.

You're right that the "wall" that's really close to the holes is an issue. It will push your drill bit off center if you're not ready for it. At any rate, we need to do a better job of getting the point across here. The X/Y holes aren't as straightforward as the rest of the mods, AND they are the one main mod that can be always be seen once it's all put together.

(09-26-2017, 07:16 AM)sygyzy Wrote: Sound
I haven't modified the config.txt entry so the suggested audio entry is still present. I can live with the sound and I can't think of anything else I can really do to fix it. I guess it's just a "thing" that audio out via the speaker is pretty bad for these small systems. Just curious - how is audio handled? Is there an onboard sound card? Does it take audio out from the 3.5mm out? 

I'm running out of time to type here. I gotta be somewhere real soon.

No. The Pi Zero has no 3.5mm audio out, but the CPU has the capability to put that same signal on the GPIO pins. That's what we use. The Pi 1/2/3 would have some additional circuitry paired with the 3.5mm jack. We have the same type of circuitry (plus an amplifier) on the FPZ/FPCM3 board.

(09-26-2017, 07:16 AM)sygyzy Wrote: Slowness
This one is an oddity since I didn't change a single thing except put it in a new shell. It was updated to Retropie 4.3 prior to the swap. Since then, it's just really glitchy and seems like it freezes at random points. For example, when you first start it up, if you press left or right to enter a console then press A to enter, then down to scroll, there's a noticeable delay. Like it just pauses for 2 seconds, then it finally moves. Or right now, it's been running for 10 mins, I am in SNES and I pressed up from Tetris to Super Mario Bros. Deluxe and a full 2 seconds passed before the Mario game was selected. Last night my gf was playing Tetris and she said it was slowly down, and you could actually hear the music  slowing down, like the opposite of a Turbo button on 486 days. If this is a Retropie config issue, that's on me but I am wondering if anything could have happened that would make the board act funny. For example, if I made a mistake somewhere and maybe the L button is being held down (not true but just go along), would that cause some kind of issue with the OS?

This is weird to me, and I want to do some more thinking/research on it. I wonder if it could be a RetroPie 4.3 thing. I don't know.

(09-26-2017, 07:16 AM)sygyzy Wrote: Screen
I just realized I never removed my front screen film so I just took it off and wow it looks a lot better, lol! But I noticed an issue with the screen. I can see that the display is sitting to the lower left corner. In other words, I can see a clear border all along the top and right of the screen. It's uniform. Is this true in your builds too? I assume I can probably adjust this in software, but I never noticed this before. Also, I should mention that in my second shell mod, I accidentally took off to much off the wall right below and next to the speaker slot. This wall previously acted as a physical part for the screen to rest against, to  prevent it from sliding down too much. I can't put the plastic back, obviously, so I just make sure that the screen is flush against the top edge of the LCD slot. Then with the board screwed on top of it, I figure it was sandwiched in there. Now I am wondering if it's shifting? Now I can't unsee this alignment issue. Any ideas?

I've included a photo, hopefully you can make it out (look to the top and right)

Quickly, yeah, I see the issue. If it were in my hands, I'd kinda slap it down on my hand to see if the LCD would shift into place. I don't know if that makes sense. I think the LCD could be loose/floating in there a bit. You could also pop off the lens cover and see if you could push it back into place. It just seems like it shifted.

GOTTA RUN


RE: Freeplay Zero finally done! Pictures and final thoughts - sygyzy - 09-26-2017

Yup, I just hit it with my hand and it's shifting. But any big hit moves it. Any suggestions on how I can fix this since I removed the wall that stops it from shifting down? I don't want to hot glue the screen in place.


RE: Freeplay Zero finally done! Pictures and final thoughts - Flavor - 09-26-2017

I do think a dab of hot glue on the bottom corners could work.

I also think that putting a bit of thin foam between the LCD and the FPZ board can be good. It could also be the sort of thick double-stick tape, but if you use that, I would NOT stick it to the LCD and the circuit board. I think we included some foam with the LCD itself. That might be good if you fold it once or twice to get a little more thickness. Just be careful to not put any real pressure points on the LCD. Having the foam compress to add tightness is good. Compressing the foam to the point where it flexes the LCD itself is bad.

You can do it between the LCD and the battery compartment, but that's trickier to do properly.

If you take the back off of the shell (and leave the circuit board screwed down), you might be able to push the LCD "up" and then run a strip of masking tape or something along the bottom of the LCD (sticking it to the LCD and the shell). With your translucent shell, you might see it, though. This is how I would go about adding hot glue, but again that may be noticeable from the front (through the translucent shell).

Otherwise, with the back off, I'd loosen or remove the PCB screws and then slide in a bit of padding/foam/etc between the PCB and LCD. Again, just put in something that will compress when you tighten the screws.

The next thing step you could do is to take some thin double-stick tape (a rather thin strip) and put it around the edges of the LCD area. Then you can drop the LCD back down into place. This should do a good job combined with padding between the LCD and PCB. The goal here wouldn't be to really stick the LCD to the shell but to add just enough adhesive friction to keep it in place when combined with the padding.


RE: Freeplay Zero finally done! Pictures and final thoughts - sygyzy - 09-26-2017

Hmm so an interesting development. I took the thing apart and the LCD was already sitting flush to the top and centered (as far as I could tell) left and right. I put a piece of thin foam below the screen and the horizontal wall. The top and right border is still there. I am sure the top wall is correct (just like in the pictures). Since the borders are on the top and right (near the A/B buttons), I wonder if I need to remove more of the plastic around that area to let it shift over more. This is weird because if I remove too much, it will sit against the opposite wall (toward D-Pad) and can shift.

Does the FPZ image have overscan settings built in somewhere? I see the config.txt has the settings commented out (default). I tried adding negative top and right values but really can't tell if it's make a difference.

Update: I took it apart and reassembled it three more times trying to fix the problem. My piece of foam at the bottom seems to be helping since the top border is practically gone now. I still have the right one. Can I use overscan settings to fix this?


RE: Freeplay Zero finally done! Pictures and final thoughts - Flavor - 09-26-2017

First, the screen "lens" can shift a bit. There's some play there. So, yeah, if you have the top good, then I think it's likely as good as it will get.

The right side will never be perfect, because of exactly what you mentioned. There's no more room to move the LCD itself further to the right. You don't want to take that wall down and get it closer to the A/B and X/Y.

Also, I think I mentioned it before, but there's a small area that would be the right side of the LCD that looks like part of the LCD but actually isn't. I don't really know how to describe this, but there's an are of the LCD that looks black like the rest of the viewable area, but it's not. it's part of the construction of the LCD panel, but there are no pixels there. That area is likely what you're seeing as a border on the right side, and I think you can't get it further to the right.

Overscan: There are 2 ways to do this screen "downsizing" when going from HDMI to the LCD. Overscan works pretty well, but it affects all of the output. I feel like overscan works pretty well if you don't care about extra borders on the HDMI output.

But the "new" way that the Freeplay Zero/CM3 does it is with changes I made to the cloning code. There are a bunch of improvements, but the main changes are that the cloning code actually clones the entire HDMI output and then scales it properly for the viewable area of the Freeplay LCD. The one little hiccup here is that the width needs to be in a 16-pixel increment. It's a bit tricky, but I feel like I've tuned it quite well and that it's better than the overscan method.

If you wanted to try going to the overscan method, we could set that up for you. In fact, I've considered adding this as an option in the /boot/freeplaycfg.txt file.

I hope that makes sense. I tried not to get too technical there, but maybe it wasn't clear.


RE: Freeplay Zero finally done! Pictures and final thoughts - sygyzy - 09-28-2017

Yup, super clear. To be honest, I am done fiddling with it now especially after you just told me that there's probably no more improvement. I appreciate you taking the time to explain why it can't move right anymore (and to tell me not to shave down the walls) and that there is part of the LCD that doesn't really display anything. I am using some test values for overscan top and overscan right that look pretty good.

Thanks again! As for the slowness, it's still happening. I may try doing a fresh 4.3 image with your changes applied to see if it makes a difference. I am not sure how it got like this.


RE: Freeplay Zero finally done! Pictures and final thoughts - Flavor - 09-28-2017

Do you think that there was no slowness prior to RetroPie 4.3? If that's the case, you could try an earlier SD image. I'm not 100% sure, but I think that the 17091902 image still used v4.2.

I'll try to do some searching to see if anyone else seems to be reporting similar issues. To be honest we've been using the latest image, but we've been much more interested in hardware matters than testing the software recently.