Zachu / Jani Korhonen

Game Room Maximum Gaming with Puppet and Raspberry Pi

Overview

I previously posted a brief blog post (in Finnish though) about my work in Game Room Maximum Gaming (site in Finnish), The Youth Activity Centre Happi (site again in Finnish, but there’s English brochure), Helsinki Youth Department and how we’re planning to use Puppet here to manage some of our computers. The Game Room is almost like a cybercafé, but without the café part. Here is 40 brand new gaming computers available for youth and young adults to come and play lots of games for free. We also have groups for game programming and beta testing and once in a while gather together for card or board games.

The Game Room is located in Sörnäinen, Helsinki, but we have also smaller Game Rooms around the Helsinki in a different youth centers. In addition of our 40 computers, we have computers in Pasila youth center, Malminkartano youth center, Youth center Merirasti, and Viikki youth center, 10 in each place. Because there’s only 10 computers and usually much more kids wanting to play with them, we’ve made our own waitingline system for each Game Room.

Currently we’re using Smartlaunch Internet Café as our platform on client computers. It handles our users, licenses and lots of other stuff as well. It really doesn’t quite fit for our needs at the moment, since it’s designed for real internet cafés with selling items and computer time as it’s main priorities. It also is quite expensive and buggy. We’re planning to switch to Gizmo Applications Management Program, which almost fits for our needs but still needs some features before we can do the switch. In time I can give you more information about this and the problems we’re running into.

Waitingline computers

Every waitingline computer has only a barcode reader as an input device and a screen as an output device . It runs a certain web site were all the waitingline logic is calculated, so the computer doesn’t really need much power. That’s where the Raspberry Pi comes in. If you don’t already know, Raspberry Pi is a credit card sized computer that costs $35 (that’s less than 27 euros). This is also where the Puppet comes in, since we need some kind of maintainance for those waitingline computers.

Since the Raspberry Pi architecture is ARM, not all currently available software work on this device. We’ve had some difficulties getting our barcode scanners to work in Linux, and believe me, the ARM didn’t make things any easier. I’ll be giving you some information of this too later on in a second post.

Another thing is that the Raspberry Pi isn’t designed for awesome web browsing experience. It has its main focuses elsewhere mainly on video playback. Jquery animations don’t work smoothly and we had to drop them off from our waitingline software. The browsing is slow, but with few tweaks to our code, we could get it run decently enough. It still doesn’t run well on another websites.

Some closing words

In this post I gave you some overview of the system we’re running on. Later on I’m going to dig more deeply to the technics, since that’s the more interesting part in here. I’ll be most likely giving you some code snippets and configurations of how we do things in here. You can give me some ideas also you’d like me to blog about. Since the comments aren’t yet working, I’ll be happy to recieve email to zachu[at]zachu.fi. Thanks for reading!

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Under heavy construction :(