For as long as I can remember I have associated specific songs with specific memories, and for me, an arcade wouldn’t be an arcade without the music. All of my old arcade memories including a backing soundtrack of 80s music. Different arcades had different playlists: family friendly arcades like Le Mans and Tilt pumped in 80s pop music, while seedier arcades like Cactus Jack’s and the Bowling Alley delivered a constant stream of 70s arena rock and 80s hair metal.
When my backyard shed begin to make the transition from “collection of arcade machines in a shed” to “backyard arcade”, having music playing was one of my very first considerations. My first plan was to gut an old jukebox, stick a computer inside it, and set it up to play MP3s around the clock. I got as far as picking up the broken jukebox — turns out, shoehorning a PC inside an old jukebox takes a lot of work. Additionally, old jukeboxes are really big, taking up valuable real estate in an already crowded backyard shed. After giving up on that project, I went with the much simpler approach — sticking a PC out there, connecting some really big speakers, and having the thing play MP3s in random order.
In the early 90s, Le Mans Arcade added a music video jukebox to their arcade. The large screen was a panel of televisions, and the jukebox played music videos constantly. That wall of monitors made an impression on me, and as I started putting together a PC for playing music out in the arcade, I thought it would be a neat idea to get it to play videos as well. Through the newsgroups I found alt.binaries.videos.music and I downloaded away. One video turned into ten, one gig turned into ten, then twenty, and so on. By the time I was done I had amassed 20 DVDs full of music videos — approximately 80 gig. I should mention that the criteria for what I downloaded and what I didn’t is fairly specific; to make the collection, the videos had to be of songs I liked, and the videos/songs had to be family friendly. While “family friendly” is fairly subjective, the idea was that I wouldn’t include anything that might be offensive if kids (mine or someone else’s) were out in the arcade.
While not particularly important to the story (not that that would ever stop me), I should note that I wrote my own software to run out in the arcade. The software is called Jukebox Zero (a play on the song “Jukebox Hero), as is the machine it runs on. The program launches with Windows, scans a pre-determined directory (and sub-directories), and plays the contained MP3 and video files contained within. To be honest there are a zillion other PC-based jukebox programs out there, most of them better than mine, but none of them seemed to do exactly what I wanted. Sometimes, writing your own is simpler, so that’s what I did. I don’t think I ever publicly released Jukebox Zero because, frankly, it’s so specific that I can’t imagine anyone else ever wanting a copy.
Back to the problem at hand, which has been moving of the 80 gigs of videos from my house (where I downloaded them) to Jukebox Hero, which sits out in the arcade. Jukebox Zero (the PC) is old and crappy, a 600mhz machine with a CD-Rom drive and two (funky) USB ports that cancel each other out when they’re used at the same time. In the beginning, videos were transferred out to the machine a few at a time via USB memory sticks. As the video collection grew and was moved to DVD, I lost track of which videos had been moved to Jukebox Zero and which ones had not. I really wanted to have the machine filled with videos before all my friends came over to visit the weekend of OEGE, and so I did something foolish and deleted all the videos off of Jukebox Zero, with the intention of moving them back over … somehow.
With help from an external USB DVD drive, my first plan involved copying the DVDs one at a time to Jukebox Zero. This proved to be much more of a pain in the ass than it might sound. Each DVD was taking over an hour to copy over — too long to stand there and watch, but short enough that I didn’t feel like I had enough time to go do anything else. After one or two DVDs, I gave up on this plan. (I should mention that out in the arcade there is no comfortable place to sit. Standing and watching files copy makes one feel stupid(er).)
The next plan involved setting up a wireless network out in the arcade and copying the files wirelessly to Jukebox Zero. This turned out to be a monumental waste of time that took me at least a week to decide was pointless. Here are the highlights: I installed a wireless card into Jukebox Zero, but could not get a strong enough signal to connect to my home network — this is despite the fact that from the exact same location, I could connect to my home network using my laptop. This led me to believe that, for whatever reason, the wireless card in my laptop had more power than the wireless card I installed in Jukebox Zero. I still had my old wireless router lying around, so I then decided to install that out in the arcade, physically connect Jukebox Zero to it, and connect to that network wirelessly from the house. This created another huge network mess, since both routers are hard set to exist in the same IP space (192.168.1.x) so switching back and forth was screwing up my routing tables and causing me to continually reboot. When I DID finally get everything working, I found I could copy about three videos before the wireless signal would drop (which, oddly enough, is why I bought a new router in the first place …). The best part of this whole adventure was troubleshooting the wireless router out in the arcade, which cost me several dozen trips back and forth from the house in the middle of the night while testing. What a pain in the ass.
After giving up on the network I decided to copy all the music DVDs to an external USB hard drive, take the hard drive out to the arcade, connect it to Jukebox Zero and copy the files that way. This is friggin’ foolproof … or so I thought. I copied all the music DVDs to my 300 gig external hard drive, carried it out to the arcade, connected it and started the files copying. The next morning when I went out to check on the progress, I found that it again had copied less than a dozen files before dying. “I/O error” was all Windows offered. Since I/O means “input/output,” I found the error accurate although not particularly helpful. The problem turned out to be my external hard drive, which picked THAT MOMENT to die. Further inspection determined that it was actually the enclosures power supply and not the drive itself that died. The drive was transplanted into a new enclosure and the whole process was repeated. This time I got through almost 5 DVDs of videos before the machine locked up. THIS SHOULDN’T BE THIS HARD.
Since I can connect to the machine still via wireless, I’m going to connect to the machine today and attempt to copy the DVD directories one at a time — sneaking up on the project, so to speak. Should that fail I’m going to take an axe to the whole god damn pile of electronics and set up a VCR full of old music videos and call it good.