> I haven't seen the final hardware or understand how it works together. I know there
> is at least 1 custom PCB (io board). Maybe more.
most of the PC based ones have 'custom io boards'
that's about the only part of them those loader programs 'emulate'
actually I think at this point in time we've come full circle, and a PC based arcade platform is the worst thing you can have, because it doesn't matter what encryption or protection you throw on there, or what custom IO you have, it's easy to hack because it's just a PC, so if somebody gets hold of one, it ends up ripped and 'emulated' in no time. The only thing it protects against is MAME, and ensuring that in 15 years nobody can run it anymore because it's incompatible with whatever Windows / video drivers etc. we're using by then
running Linux buys you a bit, because nobody wants to install Linux just to run a few pirated arcade games, and running Linux in a VM to run games doesn't really give you the performance you need.