Build a handheld console — The MagPi magazine

250 03/11/2021

The PiBoy DMG is more expensive, chunkier, and much more powerful. It has a 3.5-inch640×480 display, both digital and analogue controls, and a total of ten buttons. You canaccess all Raspberry Pi 4’s USB ports and there’s an optional mini HDMI pass-through. Itwon’t run off AAs, so the full kit ships with a 4500mAh rechargeable battery.

Build 1: Raspberry Pi Zero

Step 01: Install RetroPie

Use Raspberry Pi Imager for Windows, Linux and macOS to download and writeRetroPie (RPI 1/ZERO) on a microSD card. 8GB capacity should be fine for our purposes,as none of the systems we’ll be emulating involve large files.Before you install Raspberry Pi Zero in the GPi Case, you connect it to a monitor, akeyboard, and the internet to install RetroFlag’s safe shutdown script. Insert your microSDcard and connect your peripherals. Allow RetroPie to boot, then press F4 to quit to thecommand prompt.

Step 02: Basic config & safe shutdown

Type

sudo raspi-config

. Now go to Network Options. Go to Wi-Fi and set your country,network name (SSID), and password. In Localization options, Change Keyboard to makesure your keyboard is properly configured.

TAB

to Finish on the main menu, press

ENTER

and reboot.At the command prompt, type ifconfig to confirm that your wireless network isconnectedFinally, on a single line, type:

wget -O - "https://raw.githubusercontent.com/RetroFlag/retroflag-picase/master/install_gpi.sh" | sudo bash

This will download and run the safe shutdown installer before restarting Raspberry Pi Zero.Power down and unplug the system.

Step 03: Add display support

Return the microSD card to the system you’re using to prepare the OS for use. Downloadthis patch zip file and unzip it.The readme file includes instructions for Windows and macOS – the latter also applies toLinux operating systems including Raspberry Pi OS.From the boot partition of your RetroPie disk, copy config.txt to the original_filesdirectory in the patch’s folder and replace it with the one that you’ll find in the patch_filessubdirectory.Similarly, back up dpi24.dtbo from RetroPie’s /boot/overlays folder to the suppliedoverlays directory, then copy over dpi24.dtbo and pwm-audio-pi-zero.dtbo from thepatch_files subdirectory to RetroPie’s overlays folder.

Step 04: Prepare the case

The RetroFlag GPi Case comes with a helpful illustrated installation guide, a USB powercable, plus the screwdriver and four screws you’ll need to assemble your handheld.Open the battery compartment at the back and flip the Safe Shutdown switch to the ‘on’position. Make sure the main console power switch is in the off position.Remove the ‘cartridge’ – actually a Raspberry Pi Zero case – from the slot at the top of theconsole; turn it so that the sticker’s facing you and gently but firmly pull it apart.Remove the microSD card from Raspberry Pi and the microSD cover from the case.

Step 05: Install Raspberry Pi

Place Raspberry Pi loosely into position on the four mounting posts in the shell, with theSD slot facing the gap you removed the cover from.Connect the micro USB extension ribbon cable from the I/O conversion board that comesinstalled in shell 2 to Raspberry Pi’s USB port (the rightmost – the other one is only forpower). Now seat Raspberry Pi into shell 1 and position the I/O board on top of it. Makesure both the posts and GPIO pogo pins are lined up.Reinsert the microSD cover, clip the cartridge halves back together, and install thesupplied screws into the holes on the back to secure it. Open the SD card cover, insertyour card, close it, and slide the cartridge back into the main body of the case. Insert threeAA batteries.

Step 06: Power up and configure

Flip the power switch at the top right and RetroPie will boot. The GPi Case registers as anXbox 360 pad, less a few buttons, though left and right buttons are hidden on the back ofthe case.Hold any button to start configuration. When you get to a button that doesn’t exist, pressand hold any button. Skip hotkey configuration and allow RetroPie to auto-configure it asSelect when prompted. You’ll be able to exit to the menu from games by pressing Startand Select at the same time.In the front end, tap A to enter the RetroPie menu, scroll to RetroPie Setup, and tap A. Goto Configuration / tools, select Samba, and Install RetroPie Samba share to create anetwork share so you can easily copy game files over to the console’s ~/RetroPie/romsdirectory. RetroPie Setup also allows you to install new emulators.

Build 2: Raspberry Pi 4

Step 01: Image your microSD card

Experimental Pi has its own fork of RetroPie, tweaked to fully support the handheld’sfeatures. Download and extract the PiBoy DMG Official Image operating system image and flash it to your microSD card using the Raspberry Pi Imager tool.Alternatively, you can install RetroPie – or any other Raspberry Pi OS/Raspbian-basedoperating system – but will have to add Experimental Pi’s safe shutdown and on-screendisplay scripts, available here.

Step 02: Chassis preparation

Experimental Pi’s illustrated online assembly instructions for the PiBoy DMG are amongthe best we’ve seen, so keep them on hand during this build.The PiBoy DMG Full Kit comes with the battery, screws, screwdriver, buttons, and blankingplates that you’ll need to build it. It’s worth adding the HDMI adapter to your order, too.Unscrew the back of the case, and then unscrew and lift off the fan assembly that’ll keepRaspberry Pi cool in situ.

Step 03: Install Raspberry Pi

Slip the supplied faceplate over Raspberry Pi’s ports – and, if you’re using it, fit the PiBoyHDMI adapter to the rightmost micro-HDMI port and slide its faceplate on.Gently push the SD card adapter ribbon cable into Raspberry Pi’s microSD slot, then lowerthe computer and HDMI adapter onto the standoffs. Screw the HDMI adapter into position.If you’re not going to use this adapter, fit a blanking plate in its place.

Step 04: Fit the fan

Add the fan board: making sure that it’s lined up with the GPIO, gently seat it into place – arocking motion works well for this. Make sure all cables are correctly lined up and screwthe board down. Line up and gently press into the place the IPS screen cable.Place the supplied power switch onto the switch on the top right of the board and screwthe rear of the case back on. Fit the rechargeable battery – it’ll only connect one wayround, but there are also polarity markings to help.

Step 05: Go wireless

Slide the microSD card you imaged earlier into position and power up. To add wirelessnetworking to our handheld build, mount its microSD hard disk on any other computer. Inthe top-level /boot directory, create a file called wifikeyfile.txt. It should contain thefollowing lines:

ssid="wifi_name"psk="password"

Save the file, unmount the card, return it to your handheld, and boot. From the RetroPiemenu, select ‘Wifi’, then import WiFi credentials from

/boot/wifikeyfile.txt

.As with the RetroFlag build, it’s worth enabling Samba for ease of transferring software tothe console (see Build 1, Step 6). Transfer your games and you’re ready to play on themove.

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