A Proper Netboot Setup

Thursday May 16, 2024

In my last post about the Naomi, I mentioned that there was something up with the Raspberry Pi that loaded the games onto the NetDIMM. I never really figured out what the problem was. I won’t get into details, but after a few failed attempts to fix it, I decided to just use my laptop for loading games. In that post, I also said this:

“The easier it is to switch games, the more my friends will request that I change it.”

In reality, the amount of effort required had no impact on the amount of requests I got to switch games. I don’t blame them. If the only other guy who plays Capcom vs. SNK 2 is gone and 5 people want to play Virtua Athlete, of course I’ll switch it to Virtua Athlete. These are the steps I would go through each time:

  1. Acquire my laptop
  2. Plug crossover cable stored under the control panel into my laptop
  3. Change my laptop’s IP address so it can communicate with the Naomi
  4. cd into the Naomi games folder and run TransferGame.exe
  5. Wait for the transfer to complete
  6. Wait for the memory to be checked
  7. Wait for the Naomi to reboot once more
  8. Get fucked by Sagat in CvS2

That isn’t too bad, but little annoyances add up. What makes the process worse is that there is something weird about my monitor. If you didn’t already know, Naomi games can run at 31Hz “high-res” on capable monitors, and 15Hz “low-res” on the rest. For whatever reason, this monitor will sometimes decide to run in 15Hz mode instead of 31 each time the Naomi boots.

Fucked up monitor

It reboots twice every time it loads a game, which means if I lose the last coin flip, I have to start over. It’s not the original monitor, and I’m lucky to have a working monitor at all after the incident, so I can’t really complain. I decided I was sick of messing with my laptop, and I didn’t really need a Pi since I already have a server at home.

This plan was possible because I finally wired an Ethernet cable into the garage. The Ethernet cable coming from my router goes into an Ethernet switch. Currently, the Naomi is the only thing being used on the switch, but surely I’ll fill it up later. Another Ethernet cable connects the switch to the NetDIMM via a convenient Ethernet sized hole on the versus kit. Not seen in this picture is 24 feet of slack on the other side of the cab.

Ethernet cable through the versus kit

My server checks for when the cab is powered on and sends Capcom vs. SNK 2 over the network to the Naomi. No manual IP address changes required. While it’s on, I can wirelessly send the command to switch games from my phone or laptop. I still have the “coin flip” monitor problem sometimes, but sending the game again is much easier now since I’m not tied to the cab. I made a bash alias so I don’t have to type the whole command, just “naomi” plus the ROM name.

SSH from my phone

This netboot setup is just a “wireless” version of what I already had, with the addition of autobooting CvS2. That’s all I really need, but I do see the appeal of WiPi Netbooter since it has a girlfriend-friendly web UI. The software I’m using also has a web UI available, but I haven’t tried to set it up yet. I’ll get some kind of web UI working eventually, but for now I’m satisfied with what I have.

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