Crypteque

If you haven’t received your GDEMU payment request yet you need to add 2 weeks to the waiting time. Long story short is the vacation season is not over and some of my coworkers had plans I was not aware of. This kinda wrecked my schedule so I will need more time to finish everything.

It’s also another reason why I don’t make long waiting lists – these otherwise small things can basically derail everything at any moment. The main reason is still the same though, the endless “Is it ready yet?!” messages I get after only 3 weeks (when I said it would take that many) are quite annoying. Imagine what 3+ months would be like. Also the comments are nothing compared to the amount I get directly via email…

Unfortunately this delay also affects the PCE project, and there’s another family visit coming up this weekend so not much will be done 😦 When it rains it pours.

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Wishes and Truth

GDEMUs will be available for ordering this weekend, probably Saturday. I have a few devices ready right now and more will come in about 3 weeks – so you might have to wait a bit because it’ll be one list for all of them.

There’s a new batch of PCBs so there will be more devices of every kind in few weeks, but keep in mind assembly and testing takes time and I can’t do everything at the same time.

The new PCE prototype board is ready but the last two weeks it was too hot to do anything, so I played a bit with Marty instead. I had a 386 system a long time ago and coding for FMT is just so much fun. Even if this ends up completly personal project I will make ODE for it. And more 🙂

Anyway, the temperatures outside dropped considerably so I should be able to work on PCE soon. Keep your fingers crossed I don’t have to fix any more silly errors – this PCB already has one more capacitor and a wire that was not in the project, and one driver chip had to be replaced completly. But I have a good feeling about this one.

EDIT: Orders are open closed.

Distant Calling

Not much to report, other than GDEMU orders will open in a moment are closed again – more will come though – so here’s a couple of random photos. I planned on making a simple “guess what it is” quiz, maybe with prizes, but it’s too easy and I’m too lazy to rename the files 🙂

If it seems weird that this Super System card doesn’t have a picture on it, you’re right, it got washed away in ultrasound cleaning. I bought this as dead/not working so no harm done. The original idea was to maybe create a replacement as apparently the ver 3.0 cards are expensive and hard to come by, and not already emulated by various Flash-based carts due to additional RAM chips and logic.

And this is my new toy since I’m still waiting for the latest PCE proto boards to arrive. Again if it seems a bit different it’s because I recapped this PCB (and the Marty PSU, and fixed the mainboard leaking cap, and replaced the dead 3V battery with a holder). Works much better now but still has some issues which seem to be temperature related. The drive performance degrades as it gets warmer inside the console and I found that adding a small radiator to that driver chip you can see on the bottom right helps a lot. Still, that thing is terrible and has to go – and this is where I step in 🙂

The Lesser of Two Evils

Let’s start with the bad news – effective immediately I’m raising GDEMU price to 130 Euro (shipping included).

It’s a little known fact but over 25% of the price goes to cover various taxes. It wasn’t much of a problem when I was making GDEMUs myself, whatever was left after parts costs and taxes was my cut. The work involved and time spent was “free” in the sense that the profit made it worthwhile. However there is a team now, and nobody wants to spend his/her time assembling PCBs for a couple of Euros a piece. That and apparently the Cyclone II FPGA I use is now actually more expensive than a faster Cyclone IV with more logic cells. I might be forced to do a full HW redesign with more modern chips if this gets any worse… That would take time. Lots of it.

While I realize the new price will have some chilling effect, that’s actually good for me too, should help with the usual inrush that happens every time I open orders.

The good news is Rhea/Phoebe price remains the same, and I have some Rheas for sale right now so orders are open (though again, it’s a small batch). GDEMU will be available next week and I might also sell a couple of Phoebes that were reworked after failing initial testing.

Also, PCE ODE almost worked this weekend but I’ve hit a major problem that requires (yet another, sigh) PCB redesign. But it’s almost there.

Oh, by the way, I have a Type-4 Saturn for sale. It’s a Brazilian Tectoy unit, black, that was originally US model then made to output PAL-M, then changed back by me to 60Hz NTSC. Region is US, that hasn’t changed, and it requires 110V input so needs a step-down transformer in 230V countries. Long story short is it works with Phoebe now, after a few changes to the motherboard. The case is in reasonable state but the insides… well let’s just say people who originally “tweaked” it with a region/50/60 switch didn’t give a damn about looks. I’ve done what can be done, the wire hell has been removed and it works but a VCD card might not fit there anymore – well, not without some hammering. So that we are clear on this. I still need to make sure the cart slot is functional.
I’d like to sell it with a Phoebe inside, though I could provide the original drive as well if necessary (worked OK last time I checked). Price hasn’t been decided yet due to it’s history. Also I’d prefer to ship it within EU – less hassle with customs. Let me know if there is any interest – keep in mind shipping a big box like this is not cheap.

EDIT: More info and quick photos:

Case is a bit dirty and scratched here and there (plus some marks from dried water droplets – rest assured it was just those few, no water contact). Could use some cleaning but is otherwise complete, including the 3V battery cover. There is a small bit of plastic missing on the bottom, the corner with video output. Wasn’t me, and I haven’t actually noticed until very recently.

Upper right corner – battery / VCD card slot, the metal cover was badly mangled and drilled to provide support for region switch. I more or less restored the original shape but you will have to work on this some more to fit the VCD card.
The lid switch was also damaged by clamping the metal protector into it, to have the switch permanently closed. Again I fixed that and it works but is not pretty, but then again you won’t even need it with Phoebe anyway.

As mentioned earlier it comes with Phoebe, tested and working. Cart slot works too, tested with AR 4M+. Has 110V PSU. Outputs 60Hz NTSC, US region. No cables or pads included, just the console itself. If requested I can add the original drive with the ribbon cable, it works but I can’t quite say how well it’ll take the trip.

Make me an offer I guess?

Sound Glyph

I got this a few days ago and didn’t realize it at first, until someone pointed it out to me, that it’s a numbered item. Huh, apparently a limited edition sort of thing:

I wonder what “mobile” means here, exactly. Hopefully not the Switch 🙂

Houston, We Have a Problem

Next GDEMU batch will be delayed. Somehow in our attempt to speed up the production we overstressed the TQFP pins and they cracked. This is the first time I see something like this and quite frankly the exact cause is yet unknown. It could be something related to (too fast?) heating and cooling cycle during soldering. Point here is though the cracks aren’t always so bad as to open the circuit right away and so some devices might seem to work now only to fail due to vibrations during shipping. Below some photos of the issue.

Part of the 2nd pin gone missing completly in the ultrasound cleaning step (so there had to be two cracks) plus barely visible cracks in the 1st and 4th pins:

These pins were suspect and sure enough even a little bit of pulling force caused a full separation:

All GDEMUs in this batch that I have ready and tested will undergo another visual inspection, focused on finding these cracks. This is really time consuming though and it’s hard to say how many (if any among the working ones) devices are affected by this. Obviously this is also a lesson learned and hopefully won’t be repeated.

In the meantime I will probably have more Rheas and Phoebes for sale, as usual I’ll let you know when the orders are about to open.

EDIT: GDEMU problems have been mostly resolved but it took a lot of time, as expected. I will open Phoebe orders on Saturday – Rheas and more GDEMUs will hopefully follow soon.

EDIT 2: Phoebe orders open closed. Hopefully almost 24 hours was enough for everybody to get one – but if not, more will come in future.

Factory

There were so many GDEMU orders (the initial inrush is always very bad) that I had to make a difficult decision. Rather than close orders after 5 minutes and engrage a lot of people I’ve included the units that I don’t yet have – but will, in about 2-3 weeks – in the count.

What that means is some of you will have your devices shipped ASAP and some of you will have to wait.

As usual give me some time to compile the list and send confirmation emails. In fact I’d like to try something new here as well – rather than email you I’m going to request payment for all the devices that I have ready and ship them once you pay. Do note though that I’m unable to do it all at once, it does take time to prepare the envelopes and pack everything, and print address labels, etc. So it might take a week or so, between your payment and actual shipping taking place I mean. It should end up being faster for everyone though, and less work for me.

For the orders that I can’t fulfill right now I’ll send confirmation emails soon. And in case you missed it, Rhea sale will happen tomorrow.

UPDATE: Rhea order opened and closed. One would think there aren’t that many VA0/VA1 Saturns owners out there… Well, more will come in few weeks.