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Retro Gaming Machine with Recalbox in Raspberry Pi 3

This tutorial is to show you how to install recalbox 4.0.2 in a Raspberry Pi 3 and make a true retro gaming machine.

UPDATE: Recalbox 4.1 released – https://github.com/recalbox/recalbox-os/releases

Table of Contents

  1. RetroPi vs Recalbox
  2. Hardware
  3. Software
  4. RecalBox Tutorial
  5. Controller Configuration
  6. Wireless Connection Setup
  7. Recalbox Upgrade
  8. Root Access to Recalbox using SSH
  9. Installing Themes
  10. Adding ROMs in Recalbox
  11. Scraping Artwork and Game Information
  12. Backup your Recalbox
  13. Troubleshooting

First of all what’s better RetroPi or Recalbox?

RetroPi vs Recalbox

Personally for me it all depends on choice and preference. Both are good in their own ways. Both run Retroarch and Emulationstation. So not much of a difference. But there are some features that  only RetroPi has and some that only Recalbox has.

RECALBOX RetroPie
  • Web GUI (just type //recalbox in browser) to monitor system, upload roms, edit and manage files, updates, etc.
  • More like iOS where you get less complexity (don’t have to get into coding to fix/add things)
  • Easy updates
  • Better Loading of OS (doesn’t show lines of codes on boot)
  • Minimal OS Build just for retro gaming (lite buildroot)
  • Faster loading of N64 Games (search for some videos in youtube)
  • Only Root user present
  • Share folder access to add roms and themes
  • Best for less Tech-Savvy people or people who don’t want to get more out of their raspberry pi besides retro gaming.
  • Better community support and more dedicated users
  • Fast/Constant update cycle
  • Features are built especially for RetroPie and then is migrated to Recalbox
  • More Themes present
  • More configuration options like Android
  • Fully working Debian OS
  • More Emulators support
  • Pi user present along with Root user
  • Share folder access to add roms and themes

 

Now, Let’s talk about the things you need:

Go through the compatibility list first. Very very important!!! : CLICK HERE

Hardware

Raspberry Pi 3

I am sure you can install this in any other Raspberry Pis but I prefer Pi3 because of its power and support. You can buy it easily from Amazon : Click Here

Raspberry PI 3 Model B A1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARMv8 CPU, 1GB RAM

Raspberry PI 3 Model B A1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARMv8 CPU, 1GB RAM

  1. Raspberry PI 3 Model B A1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core ARMv8 CPU, 1GB RAM : Click Here
  2. Raspberry Pi 2 Model B Desktop (Quad Core CPU 900 MHz, 1 GB RAM, Linux) : Click Here
  3. Raspberry Pi Model B+ (B PLUS) 512MB Computer Board : Click Here
  4. Raspberry Pi Zero v1.3 Development Board – Camera Ready : Click Here
  5. Raspberry Pi Zero W (Wireless) (new 2017 model) : Click Here

Raspberry Pi 3 Case

Your pi case makes this build even more interesting! Therefore, I decided to get the NES Case by Old Skool from Amazon : Click Here

NES case for Raspberry Pi 3,2 and B+ by Old Skool Tools

NES case for Raspberry Pi 3,2 and B+ by Old Skool Tools

  1. NES case for Raspberry Pi 3,2 and B+ by Old Skool Tools : Click Here
  2. Super Tinytendo Case for Raspberry Pi 3, 2, Model B with Large Cooling Fan : Click Here

HeatSink

We will need some copper heatsink cooler for this setup. The case comes with airflow grill but doesn’t have a fan support.

SainSmart Copper Heatsink Heat Sink Cooler Set for Raspberry Pi RPI

SainSmart Copper Heatsink Heat Sink Cooler Set for Raspberry Pi RPI

  1. SainSmart Copper Heatsink Heat Sink Cooler Set for Raspberry Pi RPI : Click Here

Micro SD Card or USB drive

Your Micro SD Card or USB drive must be at least 8GB in size. Recalbox recommends Sandisk Ultra series cards or drives. I got the Sandisk 128GB Ultra Series Micro SDXC Card.

Sandisk Ultra 128GB microSDXC UHS-I Card with Adapter

Sandisk Ultra 128GB microSDXC UHS-I Card with Adapter

One important thing to remember is that it is recommended to use USB drive or stick instead of Micro SD Card because SD cards seem to get corrupted over time. But as long as you make a backup, it shouldn’t be a big deal. I suggest you get one of the following:

  1. Sandisk Ultra 128GB microSDXC UHS-I Card with Adapter :  Click Here
  2. SanDisk Ultra 64GB microSDXC UHS-I Card with Adapter : Click Here
  3. SanDisk Ultra 32GB microSDHC UHS-I Card with Adapter : Click Here
  4. SanDisk Ultra 128GB Dual Drive m3.0 for Android Devices and Computers : Click Here
  5. SanDisk Ultra 64GB Dual Drive m3.0 for Android Devices and Computers : Click Here
  6. SanDisk Ultra 32GB Dual Drive m3.0 for Android Devices and Computers : Click Here
  7. SanDisk Ultra 16GB Dual Drive m3.0 for Android Devices and Computers : Click Here

Micro SD Card Reader

This one will be handy if you decide to go the MicroSD route. Honestly, for the case above, Micro SD looks so much better than USB drive as we won’t have to plug anything in the front.

[2-in-1] WEme Type-C (USB 3.1 Gen 1)Card Reader with USB-C Male & USB 3.0 Male Connecter, Support Micro SD/ TF/ SDHC/ SDXC for New MacBook, Google Chromebook Pixel, Surface Pro & SmartPhones

[2-in-1] WEme Type-C (USB 3.1 Gen 1)Card Reader with USB-C Male & USB 3.0 Male Connecter, Support Micro SD/ TF/ SDHC/ SDXC for New MacBook, Google Chromebook Pixel, Surface Pro & SmartPhones

  1. [2-in-1] WEme Type-C (USB 3.1 Gen 1)Card Reader with USB-C Male & USB 3.0 Male Connecter, Support Micro SD/ TF/ SDHC/ SDXC for New MacBook, Google Chromebook Pixel, Surface Pro & SmartPhones : Click Here

HDMI Cable

This might come with your raspberry pi. If you need one, my suggestion is you get HDMI 2.0 with gold plated one (for good conductivity) and preferably grey or white (to match with the pi case!) I recommend the following:

FLAT HDMI Cable – 6 FT (2-Pack) High Speed HDMI Cable (1.8m) Flat Wire – CL3 Rated, Supports, 4K, Ultra HD, 3D, 2160p, 1080p, Ethernet and Audio Return (Latest HDMI 2.0b Standard) White

FLAT HDMI Cable – 6 FT (2-Pack) High Speed HDMI Cable (1.8m) Flat Wire – CL3 Rated, Supports, 4K, Ultra HD, 3D, 2160p, 1080p, Ethernet and Audio Return (Latest HDMI 2.0b Standard) White

  1. FLAT HDMI Cable – 6 FT (2-Pack) High Speed HDMI Cable (1.8m) Flat Wire – CL3 Rated, Supports, 4K, Ultra HD, 3D, 2160p, 1080p, Ethernet and Audio Return (Latest HDMI 2.0b Standard) White – 6 FEET : Click Here

Power Cable

Make sure you get white one as it will match your case 🙂 I recommend one of the following:

Cable Matters 2-Pack, Gold Plated Hi-Speed USB 2.0 Type A to Micro-B Cable in White 6 Feet

Cable Matters 2-Pack, Gold Plated Hi-Speed USB 2.0 Type A to Micro-B Cable in White 6 Feet

  1. Cable Matters 2-Pack, Gold Plated Hi-Speed USB 2.0 Type A to Micro-B Cable in White 6 Feet : Click Here
  2. UGREEN Micro USB Cable Nylon Braided Fast Quick Charger Cable USB to Micro USB 2.0 Android Charging Cord for Samsung Galaxy S7/S6/S5/Edge, Note 5/4/3, LG, Nexus, HTC, Nokia, PS4 (3ft, White) : Click Here

Power Adapter

It is recommended to use a dedicated Power Adapter instead of using your TV’s inbuilt USB port.

AUKEY USB Wall Charger, ULTRA COMPACT Dual Port 2.4A Output & Foldable Plug for iPhone iPad Samsung & Others - White

AUKEY USB Wall Charger, ULTRA COMPACT Dual Port 2.4A Output & Foldable Plug for iPhone iPad Samsung & Others – White

  1. Quick Charge 3.0 AUKEY 6-Port USB Charger for Samsung Galaxy S8/S7/Edge, iPhone 7/7 Plus, iPad Pro/Air 2, LG G5 and More : Click Here
  2. AUKEY USB Wall Charger, ULTRA COMPACT Dual Port 2.4A Output & Foldable Plug for iPhone iPad Samsung & Others – White : Click Here
  3. ORICO USB Wall Charger 18W USB Charger for Power Bank, Android and iPhone devices-White : Click Here

Extras

USB Switch – Adds simplicity to your setup. Make sure you get the usb one and NOT the micro usb one as all the switches that I’ve found is black in color. We don’t want to have a black wire running from the pi to the power outlet.

JBtek® Raspberry Pi & Arduino Male to Female USB Cable with ON / OFF Switch – Easy Start / Reboot !

JBtek® Raspberry Pi & Arduino Male to Female USB Cable with ON / OFF Switch – Easy Start / Reboot !

  1. JBtek® Raspberry Pi & Arduino Male to Female USB Cable with ON / OFF Switch – Easy Start / Reboot ! : Click Here

Bluetooth / Wired Controller – I prefer 8bitdo NES30 Pro Bluetooth Controller as it looks classic with our pi setup. But, you can also use Playstation 4 controller if you have one at home. If you decide to go with PS4 controller then we might have to tweak the code a bit.

8bitdo NES30 Pro Bluetooth Controller with Dynamic Labs Bonus Carrying Case

8bitdo NES30 Pro Bluetooth Controller with Dynamic Labs Bonus Carrying Case

  1. 8bitdo NES30 Pro Bluetooth Controller with Dynamic Labs Bonus Carrying Case : Click Here
  2. 8bitdo FC30 Pro Controller with Bonus Carrying Case : Click Here
  3. 8bitdo SNES30 Wireless Bluetooth Controller Dual Classic Joystick for IOS / Android Gamepad – PC Mac Linux : Click Here
  4. NES30 Game Controller – PC Mac Linux : Click Here
  5. DualShock 4 Wireless Controller for PlayStation 4 – Silver : Click Here
  6. Xbox Wireless Controller – White : Click Here
  7. PlayStation 3 Dualshock 3 Wireless Controller (Classic White) : Click Here

Software

7Zip or any other archiving software : http://www.7-zip.org/download.html

GUI Fat32 formatter : http://www.ridgecrop.demon.co.uk/index.htm?guiformat.htm

Recalbox OS : https://github.com/recalbox/recalbox-os/releases

Recalbox Themes : https://github.com/recalbox/recalbox-themes

Putty : https://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~sgtatham/putty/latest.html

Win32 Disk Imager : http://sourceforge.net/projects/win32diskimager/

Here is the link to the file that contains all the above files. : Click Here

RecalBox Tutorial

First, just go ahead and put everything in place in terms of setup.

Things to do in PC

1. Unzip and/or install 7Zip, Putty, Win32 Disk Imager and GUI Fat32 Formatter.

Recalbox Files

Recalbox Files

2. Take your Micro SD card (or USB Drive) and insert into your PC.

3. Open GUI Fat32 formatter and format your MicroSD Card (or USB Drive). Make sure it formatted into FAT32 filesystem. You can check this by going into drive properties.

GUIFat32Formatter

GUIFat32Formatter

Check Properties for FAT32

Check Properties for FAT32

4. Unzip Recalbox 4.0.1 OS and copy it over to root of your MicroSD (or USB Drive).

Copy Recalbox to your SD Card

Copy Recalbox to your SD Card

5. Safely eject the Micro SD Card or USB Drive from your PC.

Things to do in Raspberry PI 3

1. Insert your Micro SD Card into Raspberry PI 3 and connect your HDMI to TV and Micro USB Cable to your power outlet. It is recommended that you use dedicated adapter instead of TV’s inbuilt USB port for power supply into your Raspberry PI.

2. Your Pi should boot into Recalbox Setup and install the OS automatically! As easy as 1-2-3!

3. After everything is done, you will enter the Emulationstation Screen where you will have some default ROMs that you can test it out. You are ready for some retro-awesomeness!!

Loading Emulationstation

Loading Emulationstation

 

Recalbox Main Screen

Recalbox Main Screen

Now onto how to configuring your Bluetooth or Wired Controller

Controller Configuration

For the initial setup I suggest you have a keyboard with you as we will need it to configure wifi and other settings. Also I highly recommend you use a Wired USB controller for initial setup. You can use USB cable if you have 8bitdo wireless controller.

Go ahead and connect your wired USB Controller (8bitdo, PS4 or XBox controller will work just fine). Once detected you will see an on-screen popup that will ask you to press and hold a key on your controller.

Controller Detected

Controller Detected

Then just go through your controller key mapping setup process. That’s it! You can now play all the retro games.

Map Controller Keys

Map Controller Keys

Bluetooth Controller Setup

To add a bluetooth controller, set your controller in pairing mode.

Go to the menu with wired controller or a keyboard and select Controller Settings.

A list of detected controllers will appear. Select your controller from the list pair it. That’s it! You can configure it if it’s not already a supported controller!

Bluetooth Pairing

Bluetooth Pairing

Note: When mapping keys, the HOTKEY is a button that will activate buttons combination. For example, to get out of a game into the Emulationstation main menu screen you must press HOTKEY and START button at the same time.

For more info on supported controllers click here.

Wireless Connection Setup

You will need a keyboard for this setup.

Press Start (or go to EmulationStation’s Main Menu).

Main Menu

Main Menu

Then, go to Network Settings

Network Settings Recalbox

Network Settings Recalbox

Make sure the Enable Wifi is set to ON

Type in your network SSID and Password and hit the back button

If your recalbox doesn’t automatically connect to wifi just go ahead and restart. Make sure you use 2.4GHz connection as the RPi3 does not support 5GHz connection.

Once connected, it should show the status as connected in Network Settings.

Recalbox Upgrade

The latest stable verison of Recalbox OS release that you can download, as of today, is 4.0.1 but 4.0.2 update is already out. So, the first thing I would recommend you to do after wifi and controller setup is the OS update.

Go to the main menu and to the System Settings

System Settings

System Settings Menu

In System Settings go to Updates

Updates

Updates Menu

And, make sure the Auto Updates feature is set to on. Go to Start Update and follow on screen instructions. It will ask you for a system reboot. Go ahead and hit OK.

Reboot

Reboot Screen

This might take couple of minutes and should update to 4.0.2.

 

Root Access to Recalbox using SSH

The default username and password for Recalbox is

Username: root

Password: recalboxroot

Make sure you have putty installed in your computer (look into the zip file you downloaded).

Goto Network Settings in your Recalbox.

Network Settings Recalbox

Network Settings Recalbox

Look for the IP Addresss. It should say something like 192.168.1.121.

Putty

Putty

In putty, under hostname type in this ip address. Make sure the port number is set to 22. Click the Open button.

You should see a terminal screen that asks for username and password. Type the username and password as above.

Recalbox Putty SSH

Recalbox Putty SSH

If it asks to add your login to known hosts file. Type ‘yes’ and hit enter.

You now have the root access!

Installing Themes

In order to install themes, make sure you have the Recalbox Theme folder ready from above.

Network

Network

Open your Network from your PC. If you can’t see Recalbox in there then you will have to go through the FTP route as in my case. I couldn’t see the share folder in there so had to use FTP Client like FileZilla.

Folder Options

Folder Options

Before you do that, make sure you can see all hidden files. Just go to folder options and make sure Show hidden files, folders, and drives is turned on.

FileZilla SSH FTP

FileZilla SSH FTP

Open your favorite FTP client like FileZilla and use the same credentials as above to FTP into Recalbox using SSH.

Navigate to \\recalbox\share\system\.emulationstation\themes on your network

Copy the themes you want to use on your recalbox from recalbox-themes-master/themes/ (zip file above)

Retro Gaming Machine with Recalbox 4.0.2 in Raspberry Pi 3

Simplicity Theme

Comic Theme

Comic Theme

DARKADE Theme

DARKADE Theme

And Select the theme from the UI Settings in Main Menu in Recalbox and restart your pi. That’s it!

Main Menu

Main Menu

UI Setttings

UI Setttings

Adding ROMs in Recalbox

Just like installing themes, go to \\recalbox\share\

You will see a folder named ROMs and inside it you will see all the supported systems.

Just copy your game ROMs to the respective folders.

Scraping Artwork and Game Information

On your Recalbox Main Menu go to Scraper

Scraper

Scraper

Scrape From Source

Scrape From Source

On scraper window select the scraper source(from). And start scraping! This will add beautiful artwork and game images into each games you have.

Scraping Progress

Scraping Progress

If it gives you multiple option to choose from for a game artwork, select the one that best fits the name and press A key (or any other key that selects the option).

Backup your Recalbox

This is just a precautionary step. Once you setup everything you might want to make a backup copy of a working OS. Just go ahead and use Win32DiskImager to create an .img backup of your SD Card / USB device.

Win32DiskImager

Win32DiskImager

Connect your USB/SD Card to your PC and Open Win32DiskImager

Give your backup a name in the Image File section and select your device from the drop down list

Click on the Read button and this should create  a backup file in your PC.

Troubleshooting

Audio Issues When using PS4 Controller

The PS4 controllers have an integrated audio module that prevents the broadcast of sound on your tv, or speaker. You need to blacklist audio module.

Connect in ssh via putty (follow directions above)

Mount partition :

Edit this file:

Add this line:

Save (Ctrl+X and Y) & reboot


Kindle Fire HD 8.9 Root, Roms and Troubleshoot

Just recently, I got a Kindle Fire HD 8.9 with LTE for very cheap price from Woot.com, one of amazon.com companies. My idea is that once you own a product, you should be able to do whatever you want. Sure it does void warranty and you might not be able to get it replaced/repaired but for a very cheap tablet I decided to take that risk. This tablet has a lot of potential given the LTE connection but because of the restricted OS that amazon has, we generally can’t do much outside of Amazon ecosystem when it comes to apps.

This tablet in particular uses Android 4.0.4, one of the KitKat versions and is considered a legacy system or OS. It was really hard to find a good solution to root and change things especially when most of the links out there no longer work and the codes were not maintained well. So in this tutorial I will try my best to provide you with all the links and downloads that are available to root your device and install latest TWRP and some custom roms.

Important: I am personally not liable if something goes wrong in the process. It’s up to you to take the risk!

What you need:

Download Zip File: Click Here!

  • Kindle Fire HD 8.9 (LTE/non-LTE) with 8.5.1 stock rom
  • Micro USB cable that came with the Tablet (important!)
  • Mac or PC
  • Adb and Fastboot installed
  • Latest Kindle USB Driver
  • Install a File Explorer app (any app will do(e.g. ES File Exp but I am using File Explorer app from Amazon App Store)

File Explorer
Before we begin, make sure your settings are set to the following:

  1. Swipe Down and tap on More button
  2. Select Device
  3. Make sure the “Allow Installation of Applications from Unknown Sources” is turned On
  4. Go back and select Security
  5. Make sure the “Enable ADB” is turned On

More Settings

Achieve Root Access

 

Getting a root access on this device is relatively easy. You just have to install the latest version of KingRoot app and try the root process. If it fails, just uninstall the app, restart the tablet, install the app and try again. Now, I have heard couple of bad things about KingRoot. It shows as threat when scanning with AVG app and says that it is a kind of an adware. But I have not found any other good rooting method that actually works. There are other apps like KingRoot but all of these apps seems to come from China 🙂 So it’s up to you to decide.

  1. Head over to Kingroot.net and download the latest apk file.
  2. Copy the apk to your tablet or Use Silk Browser to download the apk
  3. Open File Explorer and go to Downloads folder
  4. Install the apk
  5. Open the app and start the root process, make sure you are connected to internet and if it fails you try again.
  6. Once rooted, you should see as follows.
  7. Make sure everything is green and says Root Successfully and you Disable the Silent Install Option.
  8. Go to Settings inside KingRoot and see if you have Root Authorization Enabled!

Kingroot v5

Install Kingroot App

Disable KingRoot's Root Protection

Make Sure the Root Authorization is Enabled
Once the device is rooted, you should be able to verify in the settings or you can even download Root Checker app from Amazon App Store.
RootChecker


There you go! You have successfully rooted Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 (LTE). Now, off to TWRP and Custom ROMs. 🙂

Backup What you have:

This step is very important! These backup files will be needed if anything goes wrong.

Make sure you have adb running. Just run this command in your cmd or terminal as an administrator. Your backup files should be available to you in C: drive under KFHD89 folder.

Installing Unlocked Bootloader, TWRP and Custom ROM

Since this tablet uses a legacy OS it was really hard to find the proper flashing tool to flash Recovery partition. The only apk that seems to work is called FireFlash. Also you do need the TWRP image to flash into the recovery partition.

Important: Amazon OS seems to delete the Recovery partition every time you reboot the device (or keep it in stand-by mode for a long period of time)

What you need:

  • FireFlash 1.1 APK
  • Unlocked Bootloader image file
  • TWRP image file

Go ahead and follow these steps:

  1. Install the FireFlash APK and open it
  2. Make sure you select (as shown in the image below)
    1. Flash kfh8-u-boot-prod-8.1.4.bin (check the box) it will have some red text below saying your tablet doesn’t have 8.1.4. If not, it means you already have 8.1.4 bin and you will not be able to check the check box which is all right.
    2. Select unlocked 8.4.6 bootloader image kfhd8-freedom-boot-8.4.6.img for boot partition
    3. Make sure you check Apply stack override which uses Hashcode’s bootloader
    4. Select TWRP image file kfhd8-twrp-3.0.2-2-recovery.img for Recovery Partition
    5. Make sure you disable recovery auto update
    6. Tap on Flash, Install Script
    7. It should now show a popup saying Flashing and complete the flash process
    8.  You will see a report window when done. Go ahead and hit ok.
    9. Now immediately, tap on the Reboot into recovery button. This is important because Amazon OS tends to wipe the recovery partition from time-to-time.
    10. Your tablet will restart and you will see Kindle Fire logo with the text Fire in red color. You should now boot into Recovery Mode with TWRP.
    11. If for some reason you restart or decide to go to recovery mode later, just flash the recovery partition with recovery auto update disabled using FireFlash and reboot into recovery.
    12. To know that your bootloader is unlocked, whenever you restart your tablet you’ll see Kindle Fire logo with Fire text in blue color.

Install Custom ROM

In order to install custom ROMs, make sure you have the correct rom that supports your device. It is usually in a .zip format. Once you choose the ROM that you want, just boot into recovery and in TWRP select the zip file and flash it. Make sure to wipe data, cache and davlik to restore to factory settings.

Now I heard that ROM from LiquidSmooth (they closed a while ago) is the best ROM out there for Kindle Fire HD 8.9 (both LTE and non-LTE) but I couldn’t find it anywhere. It should have been available here as LS-KK-MileStone-3.2-jem.zip for non-LTE device and LS-KK-MileStone-3.2-jemlte.zip for LTE device, but the links don’t work. So if anyone come across this ROM please do let me know. I’ll host it somewhere so that others can download. For now, I prefer to stick to stock OS as that is by far the best os for this device but will have a root so that I can install launchers that need root access.

Troubleshoot using Fastboot Command

If anything fails or you are stuck in bootloop, there is still a chance that you can fully recover your device. Make sure you have fastboot running in pc/mac and you have a backup of all your partitions as mentioned above. Now to go to a stock firmware all you need to do is shut the tablet down, open up command prompt(cmd) in Windows or terminal in Mac and do the following:

Fastboot Flash Boot Partition

Type this and hit enter it should say <waiting for device> and then go ahead and plug your device into your pc/mac. This should flash your boot image.

Fastboot Flash Recovery Partition

Type this and hit enter. (Now if it doesn’t do anything and is stuck. Take the USB cable out and plug it in again. Type the code above and hit enter. Do the same for the following codes.)

Fastboot Flash System Partition

Type this and hit enter. It will take a while. Once done type the following.

Fastboot Reboot

Your device should boot up into stock firmware!