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.

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Ruiner, contd.

This will be a rant. Though it’s a blog I normally don’t do rants – but seeing how I started this shitstorm it’s only fitting I try to clean up the mess. And I have better things to do than argue with Internet warriors in the comments, it’s a loosing battle so one last post and I’m done with it.

First, thank you people for all the kind words. I didn’t say I WILL raise the prices, just that I’m considering it. The example I gave was just that, an example. But then again if I do add more security to my new projects I might have no other choice but to revise the pricing somewhat. All of that is still something I’m thinking about.

Second, I expected the “it’s your fault” argument but it still surprises me how many people belive that. This is my last ditch attempt at explaining my position, I will ignore any further comments on that.

So you say it’s all because of poor availability that you buy clones. And you give me “an offer I can’t refuse” – either I make more devices or you will buy the clone. Moral, legal and free market arguments aside, that is simply put bullshit.

Let’s say I priced my devices 250 Euro a piece. Or, better yet, 500. How many people do you think would buy a GDEMU for 500? I’d be lucky to sell any at all. So I would have stock, since nobody is buying. Great availability. Except now you’d claim (and rightfully so) that my prices are insane, and you want to get my device but can’t pay so much so you’re going to buy the clone instead. Same story, different angle.

So, really, what you want is that I have both stock and low price. And while I fully understand that, it’s not how things work, I have my limits. And not just me, there has been and will be a lot of other products out there that people want, and cheaply too. And they are not going to get it. The latest being RAM and GPUs for example.

In fact I belive I can stretch this argument further – if I had the device more often in stock you’d demand other concessions. Lower the price. Have the orders always open. Lower the price again. Because it’s the same demand all over again – the cloners have it, and they have it cheaper.

Well, the whole point of cloning is that all you have to do is manufacturing. No R&D, no software, no testing, no work on other devices, nothing but manufacturing. And in a place where both the parts and labor are way cheaper the price is always going to be better than mine. So I can NEVER, ever, win on the price or availability – and so you’ll always have the argument that the cloner is just “better business” for you.

Now, granted, some might say that if the price is close enough they would rather buy the original. Well gee, thanks. But it’s again the same argument, either I meet your demands on what you think you should pay me, or you will just pay the thieves to steal from me instead. What’s not to like? “Here, have my 50$” for a device that costs me more in parts. “Don’t want it? I’m buying a clone instead and you should learn how to do business.”

As for the argument that you are staying up untill 5 in the morning to get into ordering queue, well, the Earth is round (belive it or not). From my point of view you live on the opposite side of it. But sure, feel free to blame me for that as well. After all I don’t need to sleep. And please spare me that old argument that you’d wait for months if necessary if you only you were sure to get the ODE. My current waiting times are weeks and already the attrition rate near the end of the list is so big that I take more orders than I have stock. So that’s bullshit too, I know from experience. I did a “long” list once, accidentaly, and that was an unmitigated disaster.

Morality and legality of buying clones aside, that is just a short-term gain and long-term loss for you, though I guess you don’t care. The message it sends is the device has to expensive and well secured. You’re going to bitch anyway, might as well profit on it. As for me – once burned, twice shy. There is perhaps a great community supporting projects like mine but it’s much smaller than it seems. Most people just want cheap toys to play with and don’t care how they get them. Seems obvious but I underestimated just how low some are willing to stoop to get what they want.

And that’s it folks. If this didn’t convince you, nothing will. Except maybe if it happens to you – and I really would like for you to learn that this stick you’re beating me with has two ends. One can only hope.

Ruiner

I think it’s high time to address the elephant in the room. Yes, GDEMU has been cloned. The clone is not perfect, it does work but not without issues and can’t have the FW upgraded.

And you know what, turns out it is – after all – my fault that it got cloned. The reason being I made my devices too affordable and picked common off-the-shelf parts with not enough security. I looked at the prices of other similar projects and figured I can make mine cheaper since it didn’t make sense to me that the ODE costs twice what the console does. Turns out that was a huge mistake, too many would rather stuff the cloner’s pockets and claim it’s competition. And best of all I’m the one being called money pinching piracy enabler – might as well play the part. Why should I care how many can afford my devices? If I price them at over 200 Euros I will get less orders but still the same profit. That’s less work for me too. Clearly I need to rethink what I’m doing here.

So, there will be changes. Let’s start with the rules – mentioning or discussing the clones is fair enough but posting links to ebay or sales pages is not. Don’t do it. Also, commenting only to say that you want a clone or got one and it works great? That’s trolling (not even very creative) and wasn’t allowed anyway but I mostly turned a blind eye so far. Too much, I suppose.

As for new projects – I will use more expensive parts now. I’m experimenting with clone-resistant code, and new ideas in general, and DocBrown is going to be the first device to test some of those. That’s why the menu software isn’t ready yet – or actually, it is, but I’m going to release it along with newer FW and not any sooner.

The PCE ODE will require a major redesign though, I’ve put too much time into it to just see it cloned right away. I was too obsessed with cost cutting and frankly I don’t care if I only sell 5 of these by the time I’m done. This was a hobby project I had hoped would be useful for other people as well and initially I only wanted to make just a bunch for some guys I know.

TL;DR: Enjoy your cheap SEGA CD ODE “competition”. Oh wait…

Motherboard, contd.

Pretty please don’t start or fuel flame wars in the comments. Accept that there are people with different views than yours, and/or trolls, and move on. I really don’t have time to moderate so when/if I get another complaint about it, I will not be merciful.

I’m about done shipping Rheas so GDEMU orders will open this Saturday. Which brings us to another issue – it seems some of you think it’s acceptable to send multiple orders “just to be sure you get one”. While that might work, what it also does is flood me with bogus duplicates and blocks other people from ordering since I close earlier. Then I have more work compiling the list and removing these duplicates – and some of them I miss. Then I expect to be paid but these requests are ignored and have to wait 7 days to time out, slowing everything down.
Don’t do that please because I’m annoyed to a point where I might start removing such orders completly as a punitive action. Nobody wants that.

With that out of the way, here’re some results of synthetic benchmarks of the 486 Marty. Keep in mind this is a CPU-heavy code and typical games will be more memory bound. Then again a 386 has to fetch each instruction from RAM to execute it while the cache on 486 allow it to fully utilize the memory bus for actual data transfers. It makes a huge difference.

Time (m:ss.ds)
Marty FMTg3 Marty (486) Marty (486, cache) Marty (486×2, cache)
1:05.84 1:06.04 0:45.46 0:29.86 0:17.82

As you can see CPU-heavy code clock for clock is considerably faster on 486, and with cache enabled the system gets twice as fast. With clock doubler enabled you get almost another such speedup but beware, Marty chipset doesn’t deal well with so fast CPU. It’s difficult to get things working. That being said remember the clock-doubled variants of the 486SLC have 8kB of cache rather than 1kB that Cyrix originally used – that too is a very good reason to be looking for x2 CPU.

Now some memory-bound loops (you can compare the results with my previous post below):

Marty (486) Marty (486, cache) Marty (486×2, cache)
Read (ms) Write (ms) Read (ms) Write (ms) Read (ms) Write (ms)
BYTE 15170 9980 14880 9505 12195 4785
WORD 7590 5000 7465 4770 6125 2405
DWORD 5010 3170 4930 3040 4270 2400

 

UPDATE: GDEMU orders are open closed. If you didn’t get it there will be another batch very soon.

UPDATE 2: There will be another opportunity to order GDEMU this Saturday, same time as before. With two back-to-back ordering windows the crazy rush hour should not happen – that’s the idea, anyway. That’s done.

Motherboard

First, to answer the #1 question popping up in comments after each ordering window closes – yes, there will be more devices available in near future (several weeks). So if you missed it this time just try again later.

Now, I belive I promised some nudes a while ago and today I finally had the time to deliver. This is for those who actually appreciate all the R&D and testing work I put into my devices.

Step 1 – research and secure suitable replacements. The one on the left I bought in unknown condition, the right one was gifted to me. Obviously I’m going to try the faster one first 🙂

Step 2 – disassemble Marty, locate the original CPU. The hard part is actually keeping track of all the screws, I like to put them back in the exact place I removed them from. Marty can have either Intel or AMD 386SX in it, I think AMD was more common since it used smaller process and run cooler with less power. At the very least the Intel one is a low power variant.

Step 3 – remove original CPU. Don’t inhale the flux smoke, label says it causes death or worse. BTW be careful not to short or overheat your CMOS/RTC battery. I have mine replaced with a holder.

Step 4 – retire old CPU. Don’t discard it in case the new one is dead or damaged. This is also why I had 2 to choose from (and a backup solution in form of an AMD 386SX on an old PC board).

Step 5 – so far so good, clean the pads. This is the most stressful step for me as it can be very easy to rip pads/traces on these older PCBs if you’re not careful.

Step 6  – solder the new CPU in, enjoy your 486SX2 Marty.

Do note that the CPU says 50 (as in, 25×2) but the actual clock is what the crystal generator next to CPU provides (32/2=16). So it’s actually 16MHz CPU still but when you enable the internal clock multiplier it will be 32MHz. And this is really the only way of doing it unless you replace the generator too – but then you’ll have problems with the rest of the mobo being overclocked, which it might not like.

Also, the clock multiplier and internal cache is disabled after reset (in order not to cause any compatibility issues) and has to be enabled by software. Which Marty BIOS won’t do, obviously. So you only get a small boost from 486 advanced pipeline but you’ll still be limited by the clock and memory bus. Game images have to be modified to include a small program to be run before the actual game executable – and that will be easier with ODE, obviously.

Null Sheen

Phoebe batch is almost done, sorry for the delay but I run out of bubble wrap and ordered a new roll but it got lost somewhere, I had to order yet another one and wait for it to arrive. On top of that my weekends are quite busy now.

I’m going to take orders for Rhea on Thursday, it’s a free day here. Gives me opportunity to unload the Saturday a bit. Sorry the last batch got sold out in minutes, I really have no idea why, it was actually bigger than usual. I try to plan these things well in advance and with such crazy ups and downs it’s quite difficult to balance the production.

In other news, I’m looking for 386 owners, early Intel pre-D1 stepping. I don’t think AMD ever made those due to Intel lawsuit but if you do have such AMD chip I’m interested in it as well. Basically I’m trying to verify if my CPU bug detection code actually works on other stuff than POPA (which is common even in AMD processors) so I need a known defective CPU to test on. I will ask you to run some DOS executables I prepared and report the results. I can make the tests run headless, booting from a floppy and write the result to a file – that’s in case you don’t have a working monitor or it’s a laptop with dead LCD/backlight.

You can test what stepping your 386 is by running NSSI from here: http://www.navsoft.cz/products.htm (boot your system without EMM386). Value of 8 is D1 (for AMD it’s reported as B but it’s actually a clone of Intel D1). Do note FM-Towns machines can’t run that program (and most of PC DOS stuff actually) and Gen3+ are D1 anyway, though perhaps the very first Towns is actually using something older.

Anyway, if you have an old 386 and would like to help out please leave a comment. AMD 40MHz owners need not apply – these things are too new 🙂

UPDATE: Orders open closed.

Royalty

I’m pretty much done shipping GDEMUs and so now Phoebe is in full swing. Time to plan ahead.

I would like to start the DocBrown batch but it seems there has been a lot of interest in my ODEs lately and I agree it would be unfair if a small batch was sold out in seconds, only to be resold for profit. There’s nothing wrong with that in general but if the actual Marty owners can’t get DocBrown at all then what point is there in me setting a fixed price.

So… I will open orders for DocBrown on Saturday but with a twist. Once you place the order I will contact you and demand a proof of Marty ownership. To make it simple – every Marty has a serial number sticker in the SRAM card bay area. Make a legible photo of that, that’s all. If, for some reason, your Marty has lost that sticker we will work something out – dont’ worry.

This will make sure actual owners get the ODE and if there is still interest I will just make another batch for anyone to buy, that’s in case you’re planning on getting Marty but don’t have it just yet. I think that’s fair and also I can make the batch smaller or bigger if needed. So this will be a true preorder since I don’t have the PCBs ready yet.

Oh and to make this clear, if you try to order DocBrown but can’t provide the proof I need I will remove you from the list. And if there are a lot of such entries I will think of some sort of punitive action – you were warned. I want this to be a nice, slow-paced preorder for once.