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Think for a moment about an arcade game you played as a youngster, you stood in front of it, you turned it on and it presented you with the game. You put a coin in, pressed Start and you played the game. This process could be repeated almost without fail. Switch on, coin in, press button, play game, coin in, press button, play game, coin in, press button, play game.

Now compare that to your experience with playing games on computers. Switch on, wait a bit, press some buttons, switch it off and on again, wait a bit more, press some more buttons, kick it, maybe switch it off and on again, finally begin to play your game ....Aaah, it froze. Switch it off and back on again.

You get the picture? Our end goal here is to build a software environment that is stable, that will turn on when we want it to and let us play a game when we want it to, and turn off when we want it to, so how best to go about it? As you know, we will be running the emulator M.A.M.E. on our cabinet, and M.A.M.E. comes in three flavours, DOS, Windows and Linux, so we need to decide which version we will run.

As we all know, Windows has a tendency to be a tad unreliable when we need it the most, and over time, it creates lots of system files and lots of little errors, and given long enough will steadily commit suicide. Not only that, but there are services and background processes running all the time that are not necessarily doing anything helpful to us, but just trying to keep the system alive and all of these have a performance impact especially on an older PC like the one we are using.

Linux can be a bit hit and miss at the best of times but a good distribution will be perfectly happy running on an old PC, and driver support for old equipment in Linux shouldn't be a problem, and in fact is generally better than new equipment. In fact the only real concern when running a Linux box of any description is how well supported we will be should anything go wrong.

I know my way around a Linux system and run one as a workstation at home. It is stable, reliable and easy on resources, but how many people run M.A.M.E. on Linux? Some obviously, perhaps even a lot, but not as many as run it on Windows or DOS so should it go wrong at some point help may be more difficult to come by.

It also comes down to confidence too, for example, do you know every major file on your Windows system? No way. How could you? Do you know every major file on your Linux system? No way. How could you?

Could you know every major file on a DOS system? Yes, probably, and you'll have to configure some of them and for this project I have chosen to go the DOS route and there are several reasons for that.

  • DOS can be had for free. Legally.
  • DOS is very stable.
  • DOS boots up very quickly. Very quickly.
  • DOS has no background services and processes.
  • DOS consumes a tiny amount of disk space.
  • DOS consumes a tiny amount of RAM.
  • DOS does not slowly commit suicide over time.
  • DOS does not need to be gracefully shutdown
  • DOS can be just powered off.
Why would you want to run anything else?

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