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.

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89 thoughts on “Houston, We Have a Problem

  1. Wow, that’s a failure mode I never even thought was possible. So a fast profile isn’t giving the chip or pcb time to fully come up to temp, meaning there’s a thermal expansion discrepancy at the time the solder solidifies and the pins are locked in place, followed by different contraction amounts during cooling that stresses the pins enough to crack.

    Hardware fabrication is tough.

    • It could also be copper impurities in the pins, possibly a faulty batch of chips. But I can’t tell and won’t spend money on expensive lab tests.

  2. If you need help in partnering with a company for PCB assembly work let me know! I have some connections and contacts for companies that do amazing work.

  3. You say by email that I must wait 2-3 weeks, this batch is the problem? Or I will must do other batch in the future “order-open” for GDemu?

    • If you’re already on the list then you might have to wait a bit longer but there is no need to order again. In fact I won’t open GDEMU orders before I’m done shipping current list.

      • Thanks very much for your mod! I follow the link here, but I found the order for GDEMU was closed. Will you open the order again after you solve the chip problem, Thx!

  4. I’ve already got my GDEMU, but I still subscribe to your blog because of your amazing and deep insight into the production of these chips and your transparency about the process. I love these types of posts keep up the good work!

  5. Does this issue effect the batch of GDEMUs you just shipped out or is this a new issue? Will you offer warranty work or exchanges to anyone effected by this issue?

    • This does not affect any already shipped GDEMUs and yes, if somehow a sold device does develop these cracks I will repair them free of charge.

  6. I got my GDEMU from this batch last week should I inspect it for anything? It seems to be working fine. The only issue I noticed was a freeze at the opening cinema of Skies of Arcadia but when I pressed started it worked just fine.

    • SoA has a bug in the game code, it will freeze if the GDROM read timing is too slow or too fast. Nothing to worry about.

  7. Kinda off-topic, but I got my GDEMU in today and it works perfectly.

    I noticed that I don’t have to rename the Gdi files to disc.GDI for them to run. I can just load them to the SD card as is and GDmenu loads them just fine. Was there a firmware update that changed this?

  8. Thanks for the update, hope this doesn’t case you too much problems/stress as we all love your work and want you to keep going 🙂

  9. Speaking of GDEMUs, I’ve got a question. If I set my games to region-free using the GDEMU-SD formatting tool, will I be able to play games using Japanese peripherals?

  10. Are you going to create a separate post to say when Phoebes will be going on sale? Or will you just be updating in comments? Thanks so much! Love my GDEMU, so just anxious to get a Phoebe and have the same experience with my Saturn.

    • Looking forward to finally ordering a Phoebe as well… After seeing the prices of Saturn games nowadays I think its best for me to keep my collection stored and go with an sd solution to play them.

  11. This is only a suggestion, instead of using this “first come first serve then closed, try again” model for your orders you should go by who ordered your current batch of mods, they must get theirs first of course but after those are sold out, allow for others who commented they tried to order but failed to get on the waiting list under the condition they pay up front. That way they’re automatically next in line for the next batch of mods. Then the next group of folks behind, them so long as they’re willing to pay up front they would be next.

    I tried to buy a Rhea and I was crushed when I missed it. Your last order went up at like 6:00 AM dude lol (my time IIRC). I thought it be up later in the morning/afternoon and even woke up around 9 AM with the desire to buy under said assumption. Then there was only a 5-7 minute window so I was locked-out. It was tough missing out. Now it’s left to chance once again, I’d prefer to just be allowed to pay for it up front for a guaranteed spot on the waiting list, wait for your next shipment, then when my turn comes up have my Saturn delivered. I prefer to purchase then be owned a Rhea/Phoebe as opposed to a small window of chance. Once again, after the item is paid for I’m willing to wait for as long as it takes! Does that make sense?

  12. Morning, I’d also be more than happy to pay upfront and take my place in a queue if possible.
    Cheers
    Andy

  13. Received and fitted my Rhea yesterday and installed Rmenu onto sd card, only had a short play with it, but I am unable to get any games to run. Saturn displays “game cartridge not suitable for this system ” or words to that effect. I have a jap Saturn and the game roms I tried were uk and us.
    Is the rhea region free as standard or does it require a text ini file installed to sd card? I have no idea how to write an ini file and use a mac not pc.
    I will try a jap rom later but hope that some kind person can help with getting all regions to play.
    P.s Thanks for all your hard work D, I look forward to getting the rhea sorted to go with my brilliant Gdemu.

    • Mac or not, the INI is a simple text file – surely you have some sort of text editor on that system?
      Yes, you do need the INI with correct settings for Rhea/Phoebe to patch images to your console region.

      • Yes i have Text Edit on the mac, but I’m just a humble retro gamer with no idea about ini files. I was hoping that someone could explain in very simple terms, for a simple person on how to achieve auto region on saturn with the Rhea.
        It would be nice if i can get my saturn to play games from any country with the Rhea,
        so any help would be much appreciated.

      • Well in your case put a line that says “auto_region = J” into the INI file. Make sure the filename and extension are correct after you save it.

  14. Thanks D for your help, finally worked out the ini file and Rhea is happily playing the uk game rom i have tried.
    Thats my Dreamcast and Saturn all working thanks to all your hard work.

  15. I accidentally chose the wrong/OLD shipping address for the PayPal transaction. I realized only after clicking submit, and I was unable to change it in PayPal. Please let me know how best to proceed to fix it.

    • @gdemu was able to take some time out of his busy schedule to help me with correct shipping address – I was very very lucky!

      Now is the easy part of patiently waiting for this awesome device to arrive to my doorstep..

      D., thank you for all your hard work and continued effort 🙂

  16. Hi there. Writing here just to give my feedback on these devices. I managed to get a Phoebe a few months ago and it is absolutely brilliant. Boots every region game first time and is just flawless! Didn’t have any problems with it.
    Also got a GDEMU on this last batch and after a few hiccups with my SD Card, which were totally my fault, it’s working great. Wasn’t expecting the loading times to be any faster, but they sure seem to be. At least on Shenmue.
    Just have one question for @gdemu. After reading this post I went and checked my board for cold joints or cracks. Couldn’t find any thankfully, but realised I have a v5.4 board. I’m not complaining or anything, but shouldn’t I have received a v5.5 or whatever current model there is? Are there any significant differences between them? Thanks for making these brilliant devices. They were well worth the effort 🙂

    • In short there is no difference to the end user. The v5.4 PCBs had, in general, better quality solder mastk and were reserved for Japanese shops.

      • Thanks for the quick response! Wow Jap edition, I like it ahaha ;). Glad it’s pretty much the same. Anyway, it’s working flawlessly as I’ve told before. Best money I ever spent!

      • Japanese shops? Then you sell GDemu for Shops? Where I could find a Japanese shop that sell this? For curiosity.

  17. Thanks gdemu!!! Received my Rhea today. The device is amazing and worked without any issues. You have an incredible mind to be able to come up with such an amazing device. I look forward to trying to get my hands on a GDEMU when the next batch is available. Thanks again!

  18. I got my Rhea today and installed it but it isn’t reading my sd card. I had the sd card ready to go with the rmenu as 001, my games 002-100, a Rhea.ini file I made with all the default values and set to 2 for the usa. I know the ribbon cable is right since I can see a disc open close when I hit the reset button. I bet it is something simple like I need to reformat as exfat or ntfs. (I think it is on fat32) I may have to redo the rmenu extraction. I am basically getting a no disk message. I am using a 128gb samsung micro with full size sd adapter. Do I need to relabel the disk images as disk.iso, disk,cdi?

    • The image files do not need to be changed. Confirm that you have formatted the card as fat32. Cards 64GB and larger come formatted as exfat by default. The standard windows tools also do not format anything above 64GB as fat32 so you have to use another tool to get them formatted as fat32.

      Did you also run the exe in the 01 folder with rhea menu to generate the ISO “map” to your games?

  19. Use a proper formatting tool and use FAT32 32/64k cluster size, not windows formatter.

    Ideally, you should test without the Rmenu first and see if the images boot and then use the menu afterwards. Not used any microSD adapters because I use a 64GB Kingston SD, so try a different card or adapter.

    I also, still used D tools to mount Bin&Cue images and create CDI’s via Discjuggler, as imo, creates cleaner images when using using high quality rips. Never had one fail with this method and I have followed it more or less when Rhea was released.

    • Thanks for the help. I got it going. I had it as fat32 so it was reading but my folder structure was wrong. I thought if you had 100+ games you started out as 001. I tried using a 64gb card and copied the first 10 games over and relabeled the folders 01-11. It was then that I noticed that when you made the rmenu iso it actually lists all the games. Just had to go back and relabel the folders and recreate the rmenu iso to get the samsung evo 128gb card working. Just have to swap out a few bad cdi images and I am in business.

  20. Random question here, is it possible to still have the Dreamcast startup clip load when the Dreamcast turns on before the gdemu menu loads using gdemu?

  21. Alright, this time I managed to submit my form. I am officially throwing my hat in for the Sega Saturn Phoebe SD card mod. Looking forward to the email!

  22. Hello gdemu, I ordered Phoebe just a few minutes ago and unfortunately I clicked on Type2 instead of Type4.

    I think this Information is needed for the correct length of the pegs.

    It would be very nice if you could correct my mistake and send me Phoebe with the right pegs for the Type 4 version

    Thank you very much

    • I ordered again, now with the correct Type4.

      Hope that is no Problem that I’ve ordered twice and that you can cancel my first false order.

      Thank you

      • checked it and it’s definetly type 4
        🙂
        …the one with the white stripe around the PCB

      • Mr. GDEMU I actually put type 2 on the form, not type 4. Something tells me the e-mail you sent was meant for someone else… however, I beileve I can accommodate a type 4, I know someone who has one.

        Alright, how do I pay for the mod again? You contacted my e-mail after I submitted my form which tells me I made the cut. Now all that remains is sorting the details, you giving me your PayPal info, so fourth and so on. I need your address too so I can know where to ship the Saturn.

      • Crap I just realized something, you didn’t email me yet Mr. GDEMU (or at the very least I don’t think you did…). My email is set-up to receive new responses from this thread and I wound up getting producto’s response thinking it was yours GDEMU. I apologize for that, it appears you haven’t gotten around to me yet.

        The important part is I submitted my order form. Looking forward to hearing a response from you Mr. GDEMU, I put some cash to the side for this Phoebe mod, ready and waiting.

      • You’ll get your email, or maybe even a payment request right away, once I’m done processing all the orders.

      • Steven would you please stop messin’ up my conversation with gdemu.

        Thank you

  23. I was amazed that I managed to place an order after checking the blog every 5-10min since 7 o’clock this morning. Also looking forward to the email. Finally my gdemu will have a Phoebe-friend 🙂

  24. In for a Phoebe as well. Can’t wait to check it out. I’ve been anxious to play so many Saturn games. Thank you!

  25. Steven would you please stop messin’ up my conversation with gdemu. 😉

    Thank you

  26. Super bummer I missed the Phoebe. I’ll have to be more diligent keeping my eyes peeled next time!

  27. Damn! I miss the phoebes order, despite I’m looking one since september! I miss the small letters at the end of the post!

  28. Damn.. I checked this page every single day looking for those new orders… I always expected a NEW post about orders being opened, never would have thought to scroll down and see updated text on an old post… *sigh* 😦

  29. I would like to ask if is there a way to load old non-selfboot DC images with the Utopia cd loader using the swap disc feature of gdemu. Somehow I’m unable to get it to work properly. trided all different formats (cdi, ccd, iso…) but none boots after swap. I’m asking this only for nostalgic proposes, of course I have all newer releases on selfboot format but I just want to test utopia loader on gdemu!

    • It should work, I used to boot homebrew that way but I haven’t tested this method lately. Are you sure the the images are properly made/converted?

  30. Absolutelly, because I have a huge experience in disc images of all kind ‘cos I dedicated my entire life to the consoles world!
    I started tests with the original bin+cue files of some non-selfboot release (I know gdemu can read bin+cue because this format works wih PSX images for Beta Bleem). And this doesn’t work either. The reindeer freezes on swap. Then tried to convert to cdi, ccd, mdf+mds, iso… some formats are not even recognized as a disc. I finally tried swap to a gdi image just for curiosity, and I found this is the only one that works with Utopia CD loader. It passes the reindeer screen and the game starts.
    I also noticed, if I go back to bios with a non-selfboot CD loaded, the formats that freezes the reindeer, are recognized on the CD audio player of dreamcast, as if I have a disc inserted. The Utopia Loader should be able to read from it. For some unknown reason it freezes instead =(
    Didn’t tried homebrew yet!
    Thanks anyway… I will be back to you if I discover something new about this, but I think it’s a firmware limitation, just like retail Bleems.

    • GDEMU doesn’t support CUEs, only single-track BIN images (exactly for the purpose of loading some PSX games into Bleem).
      Converting CUEs is not trivial since there are many unsupported extensions and in fact most versions of DaemonTools will not even mount these image properly (so conversion produces invalid results).

      • cue file is not a problem. as you know old non-selfboot games are only one data track, so the bin file is only a single data track on its pure form. convert a one track bin to ISO is completely easy and proof of convertion problems. homebrew is just like a non-selfboot game. DC recognizes the disc. On audio player it shows as 1 track (71 min..) so it’s sounds good here too. result: Utopia cd loader (all versions) frezees on swaping. I tried 2 different non-selfboot games just to be sure. But I will make one last 3rd test with another one!
        thanks

  31. I have GDemu! This is a great product.

    But I want know: Why my GDemu say “5.4” and 2014-09-09 if I bought it this year?

    • That is the version of the raw fab (bare board) and when it was released and not when it was assembled with components.

      • GDEMU already answered that question above:

        “gdemu
        2017/05/29 at 12:56
        In short there is no difference to the end user. The v5.4 PCBs had, in general, better quality solder mastk and were reserved for Japanese shops.”

  32. Luckily I was able to get on the waiting list. Now all that remains is the waiting game, until then I have money put to the side for this very mod.

    Likewise I’m impressed and surprised this lasted 24 hours. Thus granting those who knew about it the night before a fair shot. GDEMU supplier must have hit the jackpot on parts!

  33. I used only 2 days GDemu, and now my Dreamcast power on but not show video or audio… Why? The fan works and VMU show image.

  34. Hopefully one of these time I’ll get luck and be able to order a pheobe/rhea. I have two saturnd, which the optical drive works fine, but would really like one of these in case the drives ever go bad. These seem like a great solution, I also like the idea of being able to store my large physical library of games.

  35. Hey Deunan, not sure where else to post this, but have you ever noticed some Saturn games when using a Rhea have desynced voice lines? One game immediately noticeable is Twinkle Star Sprites (J) – before every mission there are voiced lines with animations but the audio/animation sync is completely off when using the Rhea. I’ve compared to a Saturn using a real disc drive and the audio/animation sync is fine. I’m thinking the lack of mechanical delay in the Rhea is causing these less-than-optimally programmed games to have some audio sync issues. Another I noticed is in Sengoku Blade (J), but it’s not as prominent in the voiced dialogue lines. If you manage to duplicate this issue, do you think there will be any chance of somehow adding a delay or some other workaround to make these games work more like an original disc? Thanks.

      • The image did come from CUE’s, but I don’t think it’s a CDDA issue as the voices aren’t stored there – only BGM there. The voice desync is initially fairly short (voice comes too early, but much less than 2 sec initially), but I think in Twinkle Star Sprites, it gets worse as the cutscene goes on from what I remember, with audio voices being played back one after another with breaks in between not feeling as long as they should. If you want me to post a video that displays this, let me know.

    • I guess this is in the same category as Gradius, because that has audio sync issues too, BGM cut outs out on the beginning of the 2nd level (entering the alien base) if you don’t lose a life from the start of the 1st level.

      If you lose a life at any point it does not occur.

      It’s been a known issue for a good while on Pheobe and Rhea, past and recent firmware updates. All images were images sourced from verified rips too.

      • Gradius BGM issue I know of, I’m working on some changes that might help. But audio sync problems I haven’t heard of.

  36. I got my Phoebe in the mail yesterday. Great service as usual. It was simple to change a type3 into a type2 thanks to the info on your page (realised I’d want to use my jp-saturn rather than my Pal-unit). Thanks! Looking forward to see what will happen with the pc engine. 🙂

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