Walk Like An Egyptian

All Rheas are shipped, finally, and I’m now testing and packing the outstanding Phoebes. If all goes well I should have that all done next week so if you’re still expecting a payment request this is the time to pay attention to your email and PayPal account.

Speaking of PayPal – it seems to have glitched yesterday and some requests were duplicated (or even triplicated). I can actually see that on my side too but this is not the first time it happened (although usually it’s just one request that glitches, not all of them) and from experience cancelling one tends to remove all the copies along with it. So then I have to issue another one.

To work around it pay one and then cancel the rest on your side – this way at the very least I get a “It’s been paid” entry with your address so I can proceed with shipping as usual. If that doesn’t work for you for some reason (the glitched requests sometimes refuse to accept payment) please contact me by email to sort it out.

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The Eternal March

If you didn’t get your Phoebe payment request by today you will have to wait some more. Worst case is 3-4 more weeks. We had some production delays and I’m short on Type-2 devices, as well as a couple of Type-4. This however serves as a reminder, to me, why I should never do the long queues you people constantly ask for. You have no patience. And I have none to spare.

What I do have is some Rheas since we usually make both Saturn ODEs at the same time. I will open orders this weekend though I fully expect it will turn out just like Phoebes did – the emails will be delayed and I’ll get flooded with too many orders. I’ll decide how to tackle it once I have a full picture of the disaster.

Note that I am very busy ATM and will be during this whole month. Spamming me with “is it ready yet” messages annoys me so I’ve started to ignore those.

Oh and as for DocBrown, I’ll start shipping those out soon. I’m working on something related and was hoping to have it ready by now, and I kind of do but it needs more polishing. So there is no point in futher delays, the current menu software works well enough as-is.

UPDATE: Rhea orders are now open closed.

A Hot Mess

It seems I’ve introduced an annoying bug into some Phoebes that shipped recently (some group 1 orders). The symptoms are:

  • status LED on Phoebe is lit for 3 seconds, then blinks once, then the cycle repeats
  • games don’t work, console behaves oddly

This is triggered randomly, typically when the supply voltage is unstable (so during power-up or power-down) and will not go away on it’s own. Can’t be fixed by reflashing 3.6 FW.

Here’s the procedure you need to follow:

Do you already have the issue? If not, start RMENU and press C button to see what FW version your ODE has. If it’s less than 4.0 then it won’t happen to you.
If it is 4.0.0 there is a good chance you will eventually ecounter this problem – you don’t need to do anything right now but I’d recommend fixing it anyway, sooner rather than later.

If you already have it or want to fix it before it happens:
Download the FIX FW file and the 4.0.1 FW. Prepare a card for FW upgrade, read about the process on my Updating Phoebe page and be sure you understand the instructions. If not, ask first.

1) Flash the _fix FW, turn your console off after flashing. Remove the SD card and any Saturn slot carts you might have installed.
2) Turn the console on, without any card/cart inserted. It might not show the opening animation but it will go into the Saturn BIOS menu eventually. Turn console off once it does.

DO NOT turn it off until you get into the menu, doing so might brick your ODE.

3) Put the 4.0.1 FW on the card and flash that. Once it is done you can use the console again and the problem should not return.

Few things to note:
– The 4.0 series can’t be downgraded to anything lower than 4.0.0
– To prevent people from flashing just the 4.0.1, without the fix, it will not work unless it detects the fix being applied previously.
– You don’t need to upgrade from 3.6 to 4.0 – but if you want to, you have to apply the fix first.

The only difference between 3.6 and 4.0 is I’ve updated the bootloader so it’s much faster now. This is a backport of DocBrown code and allows flashing much bigger FW files in reasonable time.

Sorry for all that but my consoles didn’t trigger the bug (yet) so I never caught it in testing. And again, if anything is not clear ask first.

Catch Me if You Can

Seems like everybody is ditching their Intels, with new security issues found every day. I got into that mood as well and decided to retire another i386, a DX this time. Obviously it wouldn’t be any fun if it wasn’t soldered to the motherboard 🙂

And the replacement is a TX486DLC, another Cyrix in other words. I had to write my own cache configurator for the different memory map a full 32-bit Towns has, but I’m happy to report that both the CPU and the program work fine.

Benchmark results are pretty much identical to the 486 Marty, though this CPU doesn’t have a clock doubler so it’s still a 16MHz system. I know some people opt to change the clock generator to overclock it a bit but I decided not to. With cache enabled and possibly RAM timing tweaked it’s plenty fast for that machine already – twice faster than the 386 in fact.

I’m almost done shipping group 1 Phoebes so now I’ll have a week or two to fully dedicate to DocBrown. BTW, another Rhea batch will be ready soon as well, as usual watch the blog for ordering window announcements.

The Rhythm of Everyday Life, contd.

There had to be some page caching issue that, coupled with the massive inrush of orders since I gave the exact opening time, caused way more orders to be accepted than I have stock. WAY more.

So, emergency procedures are now in effect. I will need days to process the emails and weed out duplicates and send confimations. Note that some providers tend to block me since I send out bulk emails – if you don’t hear from me before next Saturday assume your order didn’t get through. But keep an eye on your PayPal account just in case.

The orders will be split into 2 groups. The first will ship in 1-3 weeks, the second will have to wait for more devices – which, considering the weather, may take up to 2 months. So here is your chance to prove that you can indeed sit patiently on a long waiting list. You’ll know what group you’re in once you get the confirmation. Which BTW you should read, it’s not  just a “You got in” email.

Speaking of patience, I did a long list once so I know what’s in store for me. I’m going to make this clear – you bother me for no good reason, and that includes “Is it ready yet?” questions, and I will eventually get annoyed enough to do something about it. Most likely I’ll just cancel your order and ignore you.

And, as I’ve explained last time, all the people that didn’t do their job and check their Saturn type properly before ordering will be penalized by being moved to the end of group 2 orders.

The Rhythm of Everyday Life

Phoebe orders will open this Saturday at about 11:00 Central European Summer Time. I expect the devices to be ready in 1-2 weeks but do note it’s the middle of Summer here and it’s hot. 30C during the day doesn’t exactly motivate me to work faster.

DocBrown FW seems to be finally working with the security changes I introduced so now I can plan the actual shipping. Due to the weather though it will probably wait untill Phoebe is done.

Owners of the pre-order DocBrowns, I will contact you in a week or two with a customised FW upgrade for your devices if you want to use the software menu. Again thank you for your patience.

UPDATE: I forgot to add this: Last time there were A LOT of people who figured they’d just fill in the order form first and check their actual Saturn type later, and email me to “correct” it. This is not how it works. Not only I get a lot of emails that I have to process and reply to, I end up with Phoebes that I need to reconfigure and retest. So from now on you will get your Saturn type right or I reserve the right to move to the very back of the list and even remove you if I run out of the specific type you need. You were warned.

UPDATE 2: Phoebe orders are now open closed. That was unusually fast. I went to splash my face now I have twice as many orders as I have stock… What to do.

Still Loving You

It turned out that we are short on capacitors for Rhea and Phoebe as well so these will be delayed a week or two. Therefore,  since it always takes a bit of time to switch production to another device, it makes more sense to open orders for GDEMU again as these will be ready faster: Saturday, same time as before.

DocBrown PCBs have arrived and I’m pretty much done with the FW changes. After some more testing I will attempt to process these already overdue orders alongside GDEMU or Phoebe. Again, sorry for the delay. BTW the early prototype for FM Towns tower is kinda done but I’m having a hard time coming up with acceptable installation solution. Not to mention the darn connectors that are, as always, so unique that nothing seems to fit properly. One of the ideas I had is to make a pass-through ODE that would actually let you keep the original drive and still use it. But there are two major cons: 1) The ODE would be inside the tower and only accessible once the side cover is taken off, and 2) There would be some wire soldering involved. Nothing too difficult but it’s won’t be plug’n’play. But that would both allow a pass-through and solve the connector issue. What do you think?

Phoebe will be the next device to be made, after GDEMU orders are shipped, but I expect the whole next week to be very busy – so no estimates. Keep your eyes on the blog as usual I guess.

UPDATE: GDEMU orders are open. And we are done for this batch.