SNES Computer [SNESpc]

It’s been a while since I first posted about needing an unused SNES for a project, and while I haven’t posted anything else about the project, I haven’t been idle.

Project Information
I’ve always been a fan of the “old-school” games of my childhood. The SNES, with its two-dimensional graphics and abundance of quality games of the RPG genre, is, hands-down, my favorite console. Unfortunately, my SNES is on its last metaphorical leg. So when I heard about the Mini-ITX motherboards, I realized that I could not restore my SNES, per se, but make a new one. Better. Faster. Stronger.

With the help of some pretty tiny computer components and two SNES controller to USB port converters, I will be able to play games on a computer running Linux, using SNES controllers.

Images and Commentary
Note, this will just be brief. I have a website in the works for more in-depth information. I’ll post here when it’s complete.
^ This is the SNES case mostly closed up, with the electronics (sans controller converters) tucked away snugly inside. I purchased three cases from Ebay for $20 (including shipping). Two of the cases were an old yellow-plastic color, and one was grey. The grey one, unfortunately, was slightly smashed on alternate corners.

I figured that with some spray paint, the yellow ones could look just as good as new. The best paint match I could find was from Krylon’s “Fusion” spraypaint for plastic line. “Satin Twilight,” #2440. It’s a decent match, but it’s a blue-based grey, where I really needed a red-based to get the slight purple hue.

The top half of the case has been painted. The cartridge slot where the “Super Nintendo” logo appears is the original color. The bottom half of the case is still the unappealing drab yellow. It’s been humid and raining, so I haven’t been able to paint it yet.
^ Here’s the SNES computer with the top off. It’s… a bit cramped, eh? :laughing:

All these specs here are from memory right now… I’ll look up more details and / or provide links later.

The mainboard is a VIA EPIA M10000, with a 1Ghz processor. I’m using a Pico-PSU (tiny board where the orange and yellow is) paired with an external power supply (think of a laptop’s power setup). That memory stick is 1GB.

I’m using a 100GB Hitachi Travelstar laptop harddrive. This requires me to use a latptop hard drive converter to be able to use it with this non-laptop device. It’s the little black device in between the hard drive and the cable. The ATA device cable I’m using is a 10" round, which fits fairly well. I’m going to cut off the clear bits as they’re just in the way.

There are two USB ports at the back of the board, but as I want the SNES controller to USB converters to be plugged in at all times, I’m getting two additional ports out of an adapter that came with the board. (The business end is currently in the lower left of the case.) There were two firewire ports on this adapter as well, but I didn’t need them so I cut the device in half.

I’m still waiting for my SNES controller adapters to come in the mail, thus the conspicuous absence of controller ports on the case.

Right now, nothing is actually mounted in place. I have to do a bit of cutting on the back panel to allow the ports on the main board to stick out.

Oh, and see my high-tech power switch? It’s the pair of yellow-and-red wires sticking up. You just touch them together, and, voila! The computer turns on! I will hook this to the power switch on the SNES case eventually, but right now the wires work just fine.

My goal for right now is to install the latest stable Debian Linux release. Of course, I really have no idea how to go about doing that, so… :laughing:
Can anyone take some time to help me out with this? I’d be extremely grateful!

As far as I can tell, I need one or more of the .iso files from this page. But I’m not sure which one I need, and that’s a lot of large files to download. I think I read somewhere that most users don’t need more than just the first three .iso files, so I’m downloading them right now.

If I’m not on the right track, someone please let me know. I’ll have more specific questions when I’m ready to begin the installation process, I’m sure. :wink:

Apologies for being a bit long-winded. :smiley: Please leave your comments, questions, concerns, etc. Thanks!

Looks good.

1st I would say an old ribon cable might fit better than the rounded one. The rounded cables are for Air flow in PC’s.

also the Pull tabs (big blue tab on the EIDE cables) can be removed to cut down on clutter.

as for Debian, have you looked at the netinstall version (would require your SNES be plugged into a network). this will let you download only the packages you tell it to install. Some times faster in the long run if you have a good Internet connection.

If you have not installed a version of linux before maybe trying a different (more windowy version) would be better. I do like debian but advice on what you want installed and need installed is more the prefeance of the user and what the hard ware can handle.

I run DSL linux on my MINI-ITX board installed on a CF card and NFS mount things over to my NSLU2 NAS disk for extra space.

Yeah, this all occured to me, too. :smiley: I’ll mess with the round cable a bit more before I give up on it. It was only $2 so it’s not a big deal.

Hm, now that I think about it, I think that was how my other computer’s Debian was installed. (I didn’t install it, a friend of mine did.) That’ll probably be the way I’ll go, as I don’t need too many different things installed.

Thanks for the input! :smiley:

Wow! Looks great! I wouldn’t have anticipated the space the round IDE cables would require… but it does look like that may be something you may want to change. For an SNES emulator check on I have heard nothing but good out of them.

Also if you don’t require tons of stability but want features and speed you may want to try Debian etch. There are a lot of package changes but it’s a great OS.

If you really want Sarge though the netinstaller ISO for it is here: … etinst.iso

It is true that the netinstaller is the best way to install Debian… but you will need an internet connection and a cdrom. I think that board has ethernet though so provided you have a spare cdrom, it may be easy…

Yeah, it surprised me, too. There’s a thick plastic tube around the whole thing; I think it should be safe to remove it. The cable will be much more flexible afterwards. I already took off the big clear plastic pieces at each end (I had moved them nearer the middle of the cable in the image above) and it fits much better.

Yep, I have a CD rom drive and a regular IDE cable to use just for that purpose. And yes, the board has ethernet. So I think I’ll try my hand at this netinstall thing. =D

You said you were away to long, but to me, it looks like you have come a long way in a very short time. Very nice project.

Do you plan to run clasic SNES games on it?

the plastic around the EIDE cable is to hod the shielding (and protect other things from it. The end cover peices should be fine to remove.

Yep! This is going to replace my SNES, so I can play all my games on a reliable console that isn’t 15+ years old. :wink:

Haha, yeah, I figured that out right before I started taking it off. Then I was thinking that maybe I could take the plastic tube off and replace it with something more flexible, but I’m not really sure if it’s really going to be necessary.

We’ll see. As I get everything mounted properly, I should get a feel of what modifications need to be made for space.


I’ve had to subsist on playing my Killer Instinct and Super Mario World with my crappy laptop keyboard.

I wholeheartedly agree that SNES is and was the best all-round gaming platform.
Developers put a lot more time into the actual play of the game, back then, rather than focusing intently on the high-end graphics that today’s gamers supposedly desire.

Ten thumbs up, Beth!
You’re my shero!

Thanks, although you might want to hold your praise until I get this thing working. :wink:

Project Update

I tried to install Debian via the netinstall CD over this weekend. Everything worked great until I got past the Debian splash screen, at which you have to press enter to boot from CD.

After I press enter, however, the screen becomes distorted. It looks like there’s supposed to be a blue box in the center of the screen, but it’s chopped up and skewed and all the text is unreadable. In general, it looks… not good. :laughing:

I’m going to test it with a different monitor tonight to see if that fixes the problem.

Has anyone encountered this before?

I’ll update again tonight after I’ve tested with the new monitor. I’ll also try to get an image of the trouble screen.

since I have not installed Debian is a while … does it look like its going into a graphix mode?? If so it might be trying to do a resalution that is not support by your monitor and/or is picking the swrong information about your graphics card.

try a newer monitor 1st like you have planned. It does need to support at least 800x600x256 (typical default for most installs).

If that is still a problem see if there is a non-graphical install mode.

I tried using a newer monitor, with no luck. By the way, both monitors have supported the 800x600x256 minimum. I did manage to get some pictures so my ineloquency when describing the problem isn’t such a big deal. :laughing: (Click on the images to see bigger images.)

Splash screen on which you have to press enter to boot from CD:

Three subsequent weird-looking screens, each viewed by pressing enter:

If I can’t get this to work, I was told that Kubuntu would be a suitable Debian-substitute. I’ve done a bit of work-break-research, and as long as I can still install the emulators I need, Kubuntu sounds fine.

Anyway, as usual, input is greatly appreciated.

that is deffently a bad video configuration. Might be an issue with the video card that debian is auto-detecting.

hit F1 at the slash screen and see if there is a linux text or something that you can enter after the boot:

ok download the net install and ran it on my mini-itx system (Phylon 627fwe-1g)
The screen you are getting to is a text screen that is asking what language you want. I had no issue with it.

It does look like your not syncing right with the display mode. f1 then f7 talks about problems with laptops. Might want to add the command after boot:
linux debian-installer/framebuffer=false

see if that clears it up (also check the command via the f1 - f7 for correct spelling) doing it from memory.

Tried that and it worked! I’m now typing this on my snes computer! :smiley:

Unfortunately, I think I may not have set something up correctly, as the only monitor resolution available to me is 640 x 480. :open_mouth:

So I still have a bit of work to go before I would call the software installation done. :wink: This was good experience, though!

turning off the framebuffer may have caused the 640x480 … as teh default …

Now lets see what you can support or what it thinks you can support


will give you the list.

to change it (if possible) is

xrandr --size 800x600

where I borrowed this information:

Well, xrandr returns that the only resolution available for me is 640x480 with a refresh rate of 60.

My motherboard came with a drivers CD; the manual says to install the VIA driver before going to the VGA driver… Not sure if a drivers CD works on Linux the same way it does on Windows, as I didn’t have a lot of time to play with it.

I started re-installing Linux last night; now I’m at the part where I probably messed up last time. I have to start choosing drivers and telling it what monitor settings to use… :open_mouth:

I went with the VIA driver last time, as the motherboard’s manual says to. Maybe I should use the VGA driver instead?

1st drives work some what the same way, but you need the linux version not the windows. VIA I am sure has drivers for linux on the CD.

Your at the point where if you dont know what you have it can cause problems (Like over volting the digital servos). Selecting the wrong VGA card will limit you on your resolution and/or have it so you cant see anything on the screen (CTRL-ALT-BACKSPACE) Kills the X server and brings you to a CLI (Command Line Interface). If you have the X server starting at start up. CTRL-ALT-F2 should bring you to an alternat text login. You will just need to reconfigure X to select a new card without having to reload everything.