Arduboy FX

I recently picked up a neat little device called an Arduboy FX. It was a bit of an impulse buy after someone posted about getting one on Threads. It turns out it’s not actually particularly new, the community goes back quite a few years, but it’s still pretty cool none the less, and I am happy with my experience with it.

So what is it? It’s a small credit card sized handheld based on the Arduino. On a related note, it’s “credit card sized” in footprint, not so much in thickness. I wouldn’t trust putting this in a wallet at all, because I feel like my fat ass would snap it if I sat on it. The form factor is worth mentioning though. Traditionally for handhelds, I prefer the “larger options”. I had the full sized 2DS, and the XL 3DS and the large wide Retroid, and I just like, more hand real estate. Despite the Arduboy’s pretty small size, it’s still surprisingly comfortable and I don’t have any problem using it.

Also, the platform itself is open source, so one could buy components and just, build their own, if desired.

This specific version, the Arduboy FX, is different from the older original release, simply called the Arduboy. I believe the main (and possibly only) difference is that the FX includes an add on FX chip and has 200+ built in applications and games. When I ordered mine, I noticed that they sell just the FX part as an add on for the original Arduboy. They both play the same games, but the original can only play one game at a time, whatever is loaded onto it from the Arduino software. You can still load custom games to the Arduino FX.

One thing I want to mention, because it was the first question I had. What happens to the default games when you load a custom game. the answer is, they are all still there. When you upload a custom game or code from the Arduino software, the new game will load, unless you select a game from the included games list. If you choose and load another game, it will overwrite the custom game. I believe there ARE ways to overwrite the original 200 games firmware, but the standard method of upload through the Arduino IDE, does not.

As far as I can tell, most of the worthwhile available games are pre loaded on the Arduboy FX. Basically everything about this is open source in nature. I’m not going to cover any real specifics of the games here, I may do that later over on though.

The fun part here is developing games. There is a great multipart tutorial available here, though the last two parts to build Dino Smasher are not complete. The Arduboy is based on C and C++ like the Arduino is. It uses a special library to work the Arduboy functions for button presses and graphics. The tutorials are good and could be done by someone who has no programming experience, though I’ve had pretty extensive experience at this point and they were a nice refresher for my C/C++ knowledge, which I have not used in almost 20 years.

I don’t recommend the other tutorial path though, for the platform game. I’ll be blunt, its presented as beginner-ish, but it’s quite a few levels above the first set of tutorials. It introduces a lot of much more abstract coding concepts. It’s probably good information, but it’s kind of beyond a basic level and many of the comments in the community expressed as much. I was a bit worried when right out of the gate it’s starting with various types of int (integer) variables which can be used. I mean, that’s all great to know, but for the purposes of anything made here, just using int, is going to be fine.

I went through the first tutorial set myself, and built the Pong Game. This is the second time I’ve made Pong funny enough, the first being in Python. After finishing the tutorial, I went through and added a bunch of additional features. Most were things done by other commenters, but rather than pick through their code, I just made a list of ideas and added them all in. I’d recommend it for anyone looking to test their ability a bit beyond this Tutorial, especially if you have some coding ability and want to flex yourself a bit. Here is a little list of suggestions.

  • Add a pause option (easiest is when pressing A during a game)
  • Add a more complex Title screen and End Screens
  • Add a “net” line down the middle.
  • Add an ability to adjust the paddle size (this will probably also require adjusting the AI sensitivity to make the game winnable)
  • Add the ability to select how many wins are needed to win
  • Make the game a bit better by offsetting the ball starting location after scoring.
  • Make the game a bit better by starting the paddles in the middle (The AI tends to miss the first 2-3 shots right out of the gate otherwise)
  • These last couple will need to be added to the title screen.

Anyway, My finished code can be found here.

I’m pretty happy with the result. I’m looking a bit into how to embed these games into my website here, or on my page. Until then you’ll need an Arduboy to actually run the code.

I’m not sure what I want to do next yet. I may make a go at building a simple Tic-Tac-Toe game, from scratch, just to have a simple project to test my coding chops without using a Tutorial as a base. After that, I am thinking of remaking one of the first games I ever made, a simple text based RPG I had made back in High School called Dragon Quest.

Dragon Quest was vaguely based on Dragon Warrior, which at the time, I didn’t know was actually called Dragon Quest in Japan. The game itself wasn’t actually anything LIKE Dragon Warrior though, it just, was fantasy based, and had Dragons, and the name “Dragon Warrior” was taken. (and like I said, I didn’t know at the time Dragon Quest was ALSO taken, by Dragon Warrior). That game, would be well suited to remake for the Arduboy though as it too was for a simple 2 color platform, I had built it on my TI-85 Calculator. Unfortunately, I don’t have any of the code from it. A lot of people in school had gotten copies of it on their own calculators, and Iw ould get copies back after school forced my calculator to be wiped for tests, to prevent cheating. Also, my calculator is 25 years old now, so the memory has more than wiped itself. I did eventually get a TI-85 data cable, but not in time to save my RPG game code. But I still have a basic idea of how the game worked.

I may try to make the “first game”, which was just a loop of battling and healing in town, with two monsters and an end boss. Then expand it to be more like the second game which was similar, but added equipable items, more monsters, and just more complex game play. If that works out, I can try to add in the map system I had planned to use for a 3rd iteration, written in C, that I had never finished. I do have the code for that floating around.

Internet of Things, Internet of Stuff

I wanted to take some time to touch on my every changing collection of Internet of Things style devices.  Honestly, it’s kind of iffy what constitutes an “IOT” device, but for the most part I’m sticking with “cheap” and “non traditional computing devices”.

The chief player among these are of course…

The Raspberry Pi

I’m up to 5 Raspberry Pis, a B+, two B2s, one B3, and one Pi Zero.  I have already discuss these quite a bit so they don’t need a ton of additional discussion.  The B+ still operates my DNS/DHCP server, one B2 still runs my IRC stuff, one B2 still runs a Minecraft server.  I actually have not yet come up with a good use for the B3 and Zero yet.  I’ve started messing with Windows 10 IOT on the B3 a bit and there is a Retro Gaming GameBoy project using the Pi Zero floating around on Reddit I may have a go at.


If Raspberry Pi is the king of IOT, then Arduino is definitely the Queen. I’ve kind of dropped out of doing Arduino projects a bit and dismantled most of the ones I had built.  Other than adding a WiFi enabled board to my set (by mistake, I thought I was ordering a Shield not a board), not much has changed on my Arduino library.

i did try to build a little digital hourglass project I found online but it’s not going super great.  Stay Tuned for More

Next Thing’s CHIP

CHIP is still one of the most annoying and impossible to search for terms online.  I’m up to three CHIPs now, I’ve received my second Kickstarter CHIP and my VGA DIP.  I’ve still been having some bad luck getting my CHIPs to do much of anything.  I tried to build an Amazon Alexa with no luck in the end after a ton of troubleshooting.  I’ve been trying to get Synergy combined and running on one to let it work with my multi monitor set up.

Now that the Kickstarter campaign is more or less finished and the CHIP is reaching a wider audience I’m hoping it starts to get more support online.

Remix Mini

Another kickstarter product, the Remix Mini is a small computer that runs Android as a desktop.  It works pretty well, I mostly used it last year while traveling for work in the Hotel Room.  I have not touched it since, for one simple, stupid reason.  The HDMI output doesn’t support any of my HDMI to DVI cables.  I can’t plug it into a regular monitor, so I just have… not used it.  I could plug it into a TV but it’s effectively a simple desktop machine and doesn’t work as well for a “lean back” experience.  Maybe if I had a wireless KB and Mouse it would work better.

It’s a shame to because I was really looking forward to this one and it runs a lot of my apps surprisingly well.


I picked up a Chromecast last year on Black Friday. I used it a bit but in the end, it’s ended up in a drawer.  It’s just too much of a hassle and it caused too many problems.  First off, the hassle.  My crappy old Nexus 7 is partially to blame here but in general the lack of any built in interface is just a flat out pain.  Having to dig out my tablet to use it is a pain.

Worse yet, it was causing problems with the Wireless in the house.  I disabled guest mode which eliminated the problem (eliminating the interference) but it’s still kind of lame that it was an issue to start with.

Kindle Fire Stick

A more recent addition to the network, I added a Kindle Fire Stick.  This is effectively the same as the Chromecast, without the hassle and bull shit of needing a separate device to use it.  It’s not completely without it’s issues but it works pretty well.  The main problem I’ve had is that it loses signal, a lot.  It doesn’t work as all directly hooked to my HDMI switch and at this point it’s cabled out and laying out on the floor behind everything to get it away from any interference.

It runs Amazon videos, which I don’t really use, it runs Netflix, which is used a lot.  It also works well with the fact that I buy my MP3s primarily through Amazon.  Another nice bonus, I use Amazon Cloud to backup all of my Photos, so they are all available through the Fire Stick now to view on the TV.


 Another newer addition is the SteamBox.  Specifically, the cheap streaming box.  It works pretty nicely.  I haven’t had a chance to really put it through the loops yet but my first tests worked well.  I’ll probably do a more in depth write up at some point on it.

Fixing my CHIP

chiplogoI mentioned getting my CHIPs from NextThing aq bit ago, but I have not really done much with them. I noticed a bit of an issue keeping them powered when I set them up and assumed I had been using a power supply that wasn’t ideal. I believe it was the one off of the Chromecast on the TV, just because it was handy. It turns out, this is not the case, there is actually an issue with the software of the CHIPs that have shipped so far. I don’t beleive it affects all of them but it’s probably a good idea to update anyway.

It’s a pretty simple process, you can review the boot repair process here. The main issue you may have is that it requires you be running Ubuntu (or really just Linux). You can get a live image and load it using a USB drive though, and being familiar with Linux is useful for working with the CHIP itself since, it runs Linux.

I’m already running Ubuntu on my Laptop, so no issues for me there, my issue was actually getting something to short the pins for FEL mode. I didn’t have any breadboard wires handy at the time. I tried a paperclip as suggested but it was too large to stick in the pin holes. Instead I found a piece of wire to strip off. The point is, almost any melat strip would work to conduct between the pins.

You may also want to try flashing the whole image. Details on this process can be found on the NextThing’s website. It’s the same basic process of fixing the boot but you need to do more work yourself instead of just running a pre made fix app.

I’ve been trying to find some good plans and ideas for my CHIPs. There are some good ideas listed here.

I wanted to try turn a USB camera into a Streaming camera, but I can’t locate any of the USB cameras I used to have.

This Web and Bluetooth Sniffing device seemed neat, though once I started looking at it it looks more like it just tracks Wireless APs in the area, I’m more interested in building a network monitor.

This homemade Amazon Echo clone is pretty neat, and seems like an interesting project to work on that involves some hardware set up as well as software.

Microsoft’s Windows Remote Arduino Experience Test

I found a couple of Arduino apps in the Windows 10 App store recently, both put out by Microsoft.  There is an app that allows your Windows Phone to act as a virtual shield for an Arduino board which I ave not tried yet, but I set up and ran a quick test of the second app which lets you remotely trigger and monitor the pin inputs and outputs.

I set up a simple circuit with some LEDs on pins 2, 3, and 4, and toggle them from my desktop using the app.  There isn’t any special code needed for this, the Sketch used is the StandardFirmata sketch listed in the Arduino app under the example sketches.

There doesn’t seem to be a lot more that can be done with this app.  As far as I can tell, it’s not really set up for any sort of customizing such as naming the triggers or causing any sort of action to be taken when a trigger is activated on the Arduino (such as pressing a button to open a URL).

There is some additional information available from Microsoft about setting up Visual Studio to build Arduino projects but I have not tested it yet, I actually have run into an error in Visual Studio when trying to load the projects.

CHIP – the $8 Computer

CHIPS!I just want to start here by saying CHIP is kind of a shitty name for a computer thing, there is no effective way to do any sort of search for “Chip computer” since “computer chip” has been a thing for eternity and gives the same results. This thing really needs a re-branding or something.

I’m also not entirely sure it’s still an $8 computer, It looks like they are charging $9 now on their website, and there is shipping costs involved.

Anyway, I’ve received two of these cheap computers from my Kickstarter contribution. I have a third one coming in 4-6 months that will include a VGA adapter. For some reason all of the peripherals are delayed. I wanted to get a December release CHIP and they offered the option to buy more once the Kickstarter ended, so I ended up with two.

CHIP is essentially a micro computer in the vein of the Raspberry Pi, though it’s more like a Pi Zero than the larger models. The main advantage the CHIP has over the Pi Zero is that it has built in WiFi and Bluetooth.

I’m not entirely sure what I want to do with these yet, though I have some ideas. They are almost as cheap as my Arduino clones (probably cheaper once I add WiFi to an Arduino), and they have a slightly more versatile interface since it’s running Debian Linux. It would be really simple to add a basic web server to this device.

The board itself seems sturdy enough. It comes in a plastic cradle that covers the bottom and three of the 4 ports are on one end which is convenient. There is a normal USB port, a micro USB for power, and a headphone style jack that has an A/V breakout cable to hook it to a monitor and speakers. The molex style battery connector is on the opposite end. The base set up only has composite output for video, the breakout cable gives you a standard Red, Yellow, White set of hook ups.

CHIP Desktop

I hooked both of my CHIPS to a TV so I could easily connect each to the WiFi in my house. Once they are online the video isn’t really necessary since I can SSH to them over the network using Putty.

On a side note, the default SSH log in information is username: root, password: chip .

I have not done much else with it yet, but it’s a nifty little device. I have a vague idea of building a Podcast radio for my car out of one with some push button controls but I have not checked if there is a CLI based podcatcher available, or even a CLI based audio player I could tie push button commands to.