MAME Diary 001: DOS and Frontend

Check out the title ^^, it looks like there’s gonna be over a hundred of these things :0

Then again it could be in binary, in which case this is part 1 of 7.

Or Hexadecimal, in which case …….

OK, well before I got my cab I started on the PC build to get that side of it set up. Initially I tried using an old Dell Optiplex P3 450 but it wasn’t quite powerful enough although it ran almost silently. It was just to slow when launching games so I had to use a P3 800 instead. I put a 256 and a 128 MB stick of RAM in and a 10 Gigabyte Hard Drive and then the fun started.

The first job was obviously to format the drive so I chose a Partition Magic boot cd to do that with, just 1 10 Gigabyte partition filling the whole disk.

Next I installed MS-DOS 7.10 from 2 floppy disks which is surprisingly quick, especially if you’ve ever installed MS-DOS 6.22 before.

Once I had a working DOS system I simply used another PC to burn a CD containing DOS MAME and any other MAME files such as samples and artwork etc. I also put ArcadeOS on the disk too, but didn’t run it just yet.

Another file I discovered I needed (as with most other things through trial and error when it didn’t work) was one called CWSDPMI.EXE. This helps the primitive DOS system to manage its RAM usage better and MAME will come up with an error without it. I copied it to the MAME folder, though when I did that, MAME still ran with an error so I copied it to the root of the C Drive as well and it was fine.

The first thing to test is that MAME actually runs, and to do that change to the MAME directory with the command

cd mame

then run a game with the command

dmame 1943

MAME will ask what sound card you have but as I hadn’t set it up yet I had to select 0 for no sound but the game should run just fine without it.

This is where I hit a bit of a problem because when I ran a game, the disk would begin to thrash and the game would take a bit too long to run. After a bit of Googling (yes, it’s a verb, deal with it, move on) I came to the conclusion that it was because I had formatted the hard drive with a 4kb cluster size.

What this means is that each cluster can only hold a tiny bit of data so to run a game the hard disk has to patch together the data from lots of clusters and it degrades performance. I decided to run my Partition Magic boot disk again and change the cluster size. I changed it to 64kb and rebooted.

Oops, no dice. it failed to boot after not finding the operating system.

Once again I was regaled with the splendour of installing DOS again. DOS installation and I would become good bedfellows.

I came to the conclusion that DOS didn’t like 64kb clusters so changed it to 32kb and things went swimmingly, after copying MAME and its supplementary files over to the hard drive again and ArcadeOS as well.

Once I had tested MAME again, I decided to test ArcadeOS to see if it would successfully launch the same game. Obviously, if it doesn’t the fault is clearly with ArcadeOS rather than MAME.

To be honest though, this part of the whole setup was easy, and ArcadeOS just worked right from the word go. I never had any problem getting it to run other than when I tried to launch the executable from C:\ rather than C:\ArcadeOS, it came up with a license file error even when I added the C:\ArcadeOS directory to the paths line in my config.sys file. What this does is specifies at boot up that if you run a command that can’t be found in your current directory it will search those directories in the paths line for it and run it from there for you.

Next time: sound.

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