Building SyncTerm on Ubuntu 18.04

SyncTERM is a Bulletin board system (BBS) terminal program. BBSes can be seen as the precursor to the internet as we know it – back from a time where you would dial in to the server that you wished to view. Not all BBSes are gone. Surviving BBSes can be accessed via Telnet or by using a program such as SyncTerm.

(Un)fortunately I am too young that I missed the heyday of the BBS. But, when I read the blog post: Bulletin Board Systems: The VICE Exposé on TwoBitHistory.org I was excited to learn that the BBS is alive and well, and anyone can “dial in” and have the experience of years gone by.

Two Bit History‘s post mentions that you will be required to build SyncTERM from the source code. This isn’t anywhere near as daunting as it sounds. I’ll take you through those steps now.

Building SyncTERM

First of all open Terminal – we’ll start by installing the dependencies that are required during the build process:

sudo apt install build-essential libncurses5-dev libncursesw5-dev

Once this is completed, change in to your home directory and then download the source code for syncTERM:

cd ~ && wget http://syncterm.bbsdev.net/syncterm-src.tgz

After the sourcecode downloads, extract the code from the archive:

tar -zxvf syncterm-src.tgz

We now want to change in to a subdirectory – that contains the source – of the archive we just extracted:

cd syncterm-20200309/src/syncterm

Before we can build syncTERM, we have to tell the compiler where the source is located. This can be done with the following command:

make SRC_ROOT=/home/YOURUSERNAME/syncterm-20200309/src

After this completes, build the software and install it:

sudo make install

This may take some time. Once it completes you can run SyncTERM by typing syncterm into terminal or by finding it in the Application menu.

Now you can exchange information the way Ward Christensen and Randy Suess intended.

While you’re here check out my earlier posts! If you have any interesting BBSes you wish to share feel free to email me!

Windows 3.1.1 Virtual Box

For a bit of fun I thought I would run Windows 3.1.1 in a Virtual Box.

Although I spent my early days mucking around on MSDOS, I do remember coming across Windows 3.1.1 on some old machines I was dismantling as a kid.

I really do like the simple GUI, it’s just nice to look at. Just takes you back.

Create an old school gaming console with RetroPie

Single-board computers such as the Raspberry Pi are quickly surpassing the computers of yesteryear. They are perfect for building all kinds of projects, and when looking for a way to emulate the old snes, n64 and dos games I played as a kid, I stumbled across RetroPie. It is simple to setup and I will elaborate more below. For this project you will need a Raspberry Pi 2. I have attempted to do this with a Raspberry Pi B+ but I found it was a little slow emulating some games. Pi 2 has played everything I have wanted to play so far, and I might put together a list of games I have had success playing. I have done this using Windows, but if I get time I will write up a Linux or Mac tutorial as well. Note: I have kept these steps very simple, but If you need a hand let me know and I may be able to assist.

raspberrypi

What hardware do you need?

Raspberry Pi 2 – Get from your favorite electronic shop or buy online.
Micro USB Cable – To power your Pi. You are bound to have one or two of these around the house somewhere.
USB Wall Adapter – To power your Pi. Again, you most likely have one of these around the house. Think phone/tablet/etc.
Micro SD Card – For installing the operating system/storing the games. I’ve used a Verbatim 8GB Class 4 Micro SDHC
Ethernet Cable – To connect your Pi to the internet. You are bound to have one of these around the house.
Keyboard – To use as a controller – I all looking to get some USB Snes controllers, when I do I will add my experience with them on here.
HDMI cable – To connect to your TV.
Case for the Raspberry Pi – To help protect your Pi. Plenty of different option available.

What software do you need?

Win32 Disk ImagerFor copying the SD Card Image to the SD Card.
FileZilla ClientFor transferring games to the Raspberry Pi.
RetroPie SD Card Image – I downloaded version 3.0 for Raspberry Pi 2.
WinRAR – To extract the .img file from the compressed RetroPie SD Card Image.

Lets get started

First things first – download and install Win32 Disk Imager, FileZilla Client and WinRAR. Download the RetroPie SD Card image and extract the .img file ,using WinRAR, to Desktop.

Copying the RetroPie image to the Micro SD Card

win32disk
  1. Make sure your SD card in your card reader.
  2. Check your device drive letter in Computer and select that from the Device drop down box.
  3. Type the path for the SD card image we extracted earlier. e.g. C:/Users/PCUser/Desktop/retropie-v3.0rc1-rpi2.img
  4. Press Write. If you get the message:
    “Writing to a physical device can corrupt the device.
    (Target Device: [D:\]””)
    Are you sure you want to continue?
    Press ‘Yes’. The image will now be copied over to the SD Card.You will be prompted with the message box below when transfer has finished.

Setting up RetroPie

After the image has copied over successfully, put the SD card into your Raspberry Pi and power it on. Ensure you have you Pi plugged into the TV via HDMI and plugged into your home network via the Ethernet cable. If all has gone well you should eventually see this screen.

retropie

RetroPie recognises if you have no controllers. You will need to configure your controller. In this case I am just using a standard keyboard. Hold a key on the keyboard and set the keys to whatever you wish.

controllers

After you have completed this configuration press the Menu button and then select quit. A prompt will appear to ask if you want to quit Emulation station. Press yes. You will then need to press any key (where’s the any key?) to get the terminal emulator,  otherwise emulation station will restart.

Some simple configuration

Now we will be prompted with the Terminal emulator. In which we will run a few commands. First type in sudo raspi-config and press enter. The first option is expand filesystem. Select this and press enter again. – This is the only real option we need to worry about at the moment. but it is also wise to change the password from raspberry to something a little more unique. You can change other settings, timezones, overclock, etc. We don’t need to change other settings for RetroPie to work, but feel free to have a look through the menu.

After looking though the menu select finish. You will be asked if you wish to reboot. Select ‘no’ for now.

The next command we will type is ifconfig. Ifconfig will show us the raspberry pi’s IP address. You will find this information under eth0 on the line starting with inet address. E.g. 10.0.0.6 or 192.168.20.13 or something similar. Take note of this IP.

Now we can reboot the raspberry pi. Type in the command sudo reboot

The Raspberry Pi will reboot back into Emulation Station.

Copying games over using FileZilla

Open FileZilla. In the Quickconnect bar, type in your IP address, username (pi), password (raspberry if you haven’t updated the default) and set the port to 22. Click quickconnect.

filezilla

Once connected you will see a list of folders. Double click the RetroPie folder. Double click the ROMS folder. Choose the Gaming console and transfer the ROM file into the folder. For this example I have chosen PC.

filezilla2

Transfer your ROM folder into the correct game console folder. For example I have transferred the Jazz Jackrabbit folder into the PC folder.

filezilla3

Closed FileZilla and you are ready to play.

Playing Games

Power on the Pi so that it boots into EmulationStation. Simply select the gaming console you wish to use and the games should be listed underneath. Select your game and it will open the emulator and play. If you are going to play DOS games, you will need to open DOSBox under the IBM menu. Type in the commands to open the exe and you’re right to go.

Happy gaming!

jazz