So, in the ELF computing world, there is a membership card that displays blinkenlights. This is cool and I wanted to create my own for one of my hobbies in life. To me, the obvious choice was the interactive fiction space. The reasons were mostly pure:
- It needs to be portable
- It needs to be assembled easily because not everyone in the IF space are absolute techies.
- It needs to be internet enabled to download from IFDB.
I present to you the instructions for the Interactive Fiction Tech Membership Card!
- Raspberry Pi 4B 8 GB RAM
- 5 VDC power supply with a USB-C connector.
- microSD card of at least 32 GB
- microSD card writer
- USB-C cable on one end that connects via USB to your machine
- VNC Viewer (if on a MacOS device, you shouldn’t use the built-in one).
Raspberry Pi 4
You’ll need to buy a Raspberry Pi 4B with at least 4 GB of RAM and at least a 32 GB microSD card. Next, download Android Open Source Project. Follow the official instructions on how to install it from that page, too. If you don’t have a microSD card writer, you need one of those, as well. While still connected over HDMI; USB keyboard; and USB mouse, VNC needs set up. Go into the Settings app. Once there, open System, Raspberry Pi Settings. Scroll down to VNC and tick it. Also, connect to a WiFi network using the usual way Android connects to a WiFi network. All set! Now, all that remains is loading up the software.
F-Droid is an alternative to Google’s Play Store intended mostly for Open Source software. It is from here that we will spring board Fennec onto the device. To do this, first, you’ll need to download the latest APK from F-Droid. While that’s going on, you’ll need to have the Android Debug Bridge (it’s just temporary, so don’t fret about having too many tools aboard). Once that’s installed, connect your Raspberry Pi to your computer. Now, follow the instructions for enabling USB Debugging. Now, follow the instructions for installing an app to install F-Droid’s APK. For example, if the APK is named “F-Droid.apk”, run the following command:
adb install F-Droid.apk
Now, with F-Droid installed, we can proceeed with getting Fennec
Installing Fennec and IF Machina
First, get Fennec installed. To do this, use the VNC viewer to connect through the IP address of your AOSP device. If you don’t know what it is, you can see it from the Settings app and selecting “About tablet” from the left side. There is a section on the right hand side called “IP Address”. It’ll follow the following format (there may be 1 or 2 digits between the periods):
The port is 5900 if asked for one. From here, load the F-Droid application and search for Fennec, select install, and follow instructions. Now, Fennec, should be installed.
Now, we’ll get IF Machina installed. To run many interactive fiction software, you’ll need an interpreter and IF Machina is mine, and based heavily on Fabularium, for Android that is slowly, but surely, becoming useful. To do this, load in Fennec the URL: https://grunge.works/if-machina/IFMachina.apk and open the APK, follow instructions for installation, and now you have an interpreter!
Getting IFDB Installed
The final (required) step is here! In Fennec, open up https://ifdb.org and open the triple dots in the upper right hand side. Select install. There you have it! IFDB can be loaded.
There are many options for cases. For the purposes of this set up, I ended up buying the CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4B kit. It came with all that’s necessary to get one set up. Here’s what it looks like:
If you plan to be on the go, I suggest either installing a case with a touch screen or some sort of touch screen. This is so that you can connect to WiFi networks outside your own.
And there you have it! It’s a lot of work, but it is worth it to say you have a some device like this toy is. And, yes, it’s really just a fun toy!