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Pseudo Saturn Kai - Black Saturday !

Written by cafealpha 4 comments
I was away from keyboard (and fortunately away from shopping malls too) during this Black Friday, so I am a bit late to celebrate this marvelous commercial event.

But any date isn't late to celebrate something, so let's tweak a little the event name and officially open the ...

!!! Pseudo Saturn Kai - Black Saturday !!!
 80% OFF on First Download
 Second Download Offered

The event is open all year, so everyone including latecomers should get their 80% off on first download

Read more Pseudo Saturn Kai - Black Saturday !

Various Pseudo Saturn cartridges

Written by cafealpha no comments
Long time no see ! It's a super long while I wanted to write about several kinds of Pseudo Saturn cartridges (other than the usual Action Replay/Gameshark couple) but as a lot of things in this blog, always postponed it.

But recently I discovered a cartridge that breaks all records in term of extra cheap design and appropriation of other people's work that now I really want to terminate this article

(Note : it's already 10 13 14 29 days after the creation of this article, and it is still not published yet ... but I do my best to finish it )


Disclaimer : I am not affiliated with the designers or developers or sellers of the cartridges below. The reviews below are just my personal opinion and may not reflect the exact contents or behavior of the cartridges. And in case of questions regarding theses cartridges, please contact their sellers instead of me.
Also, please try theses cartridges at your own risks : whatever it may be, I'm not responsible about any damage caused to your Saturn, your cartridges, your dog, your house or anything else !

And let it be clear : the first purpose of this article is to inform users that such kind of not so usual cartridges exist, so that potential users can consider about theses cartridges for their own usage.
But if a cartridge deserves to be flamed, then I don't refrain about that, especially when it concerns the appropriation of other's people work.



Saturn NinjaDrive


From what I could see, that's an Action Replay cartridge with custom label and Pseudo Saturn Kai pre-installed. The "deluxe" edition features a stylish box for the cartridge.
It probably would had been appreciated to indicate that Pseudo Saturn Kai is installed rather to rebrand everything under a different name ...

Pros :
 - The price without stylish box is not that bad
 - Pseudo Saturn Kai is pre-installed
Con :
 - It would had been fair to indicate that cartridge is made from Action Replay cart
 - There's no indication about which firmware is installed



Saturn Unlocker



That's in the same range of contents (and price) as NinjaDrive : Action Replay with Pseudo Saturn Kai pre-installed. At least there's no attempt to hide about what is installed.
A description video at the lower half of the cartridge's page shows that Pseudo Saturn 0.832 is installed, which doesn't works at all on some Japanese model 1 Saturn The video itself is quite old, so let's hope that latest version of Pseudo Saturn Kai is installed on the cartridges now

Pros :
 - Classy box and label, a must have on your collection shelf
 - Pseudo Saturn Kai is pre-installed
Con :
 - It would had been fair to indicate that cartridge is made from Action Replay cart
 - Maybe a bit expensive ?



All in One RAM Backup Cartridge


All in one cartridge, front side.
Picture credits : SaturnGuru.

I couldn't find an official homepage for this "all in one" cartridge, but this is paradoxically the most valuable cartridge in this article
This cartridge model features both Action Replay support (boot ROM and 1MB/4MB expansion RAM) and 512KB backup memory storage. In simple words, it is the result of Action Replay and official memory cartridges blended together.

The backup memory is implemented with its own flash ROM chip, in the fashion as official backup memory cartridges, thus shall provide a 99% compatible (I keep the last 1% just in case of any eventual picky game that would cause problem, but this would be surprising such one exist) and in-game support for cartridge backup memory.

Using dedicated flash ROM for backup memory unfortunately means that it will be corrupted and finally no longer accessible after many write cycles, but ... this is how official cartridges worked too
However, since boot ROM and backup memory are stored in physically different flash ROM chips, the cartridge will still boot Pseudo Saturn Kai even if backup memory chip is damaged, which is one point over Action Replay where damage of backup memory ROM means the loss of nearly all other features.

Regarding firmware installed, the ebay pages selling this cartridge model I could see so far clearly mention that latest Pseudo Saturn Kai version (v6.074 at current time) is installed, and even explain the basis regarding cartridge usage such as loading a game, or accessing Save Data Manager, etc, which is quite a fair and remarkable way of doing

A review with only praises may look a bit biased (and no, I didn't received any money nor even any email from seller of this cartridge), so I would like to critic about the electronics parts used in this cartridges : theses are the same as used in Action Replay or official backup memory cartridges.
As a consequence, the technology used is no longer produced, thus probably coming from shady old stock, or counterfeit chips factory, or recycled from vintage devices. In each case, this means that in the long term, quality may not be at the meet.


An interesting related question is "Why releasing such cartridge around 20 years late ? This could exist at the time Action Replay cartridge development was still active !".
My guess about this question is that Action Replay development and/or sales team wanted to put everything (boot ROM and cartridge memory) in a single flash ROM chip, giving birth to the "if a ROM feature breaks, the whole cartridge is bricked" cartridge architecture used in Action Replay carts.

I personally like to write to flash ROM only when upgrading cartridge firmware, so that I dropped backup memory support on Pseudo Saturn Kai lite.
So my second guess is that it motivated someone to finally merge Action Replay and backup memory cartridge in a single one ? If this guess is right, then I'm glad to have indirectly contributed to the development of this cartridge

And yes, I am the only one responsible of this backup memory feature no longer available after installing Pseudo Saturn Kai. That's a deliberate choice to avoid cartridge bricking and I will never add a feature for that, so don't hesitate to share your hate towards me in the comments of this article 


As an extra note, I could notice that several hardware variation for this cartridge model may exist, so anyone interested in purchasing such "all in one" cartridge should carefully verify it's item description page as well as features list indicated at the back side of the cartridge.
All in one cartridge : list of features available.
Picture credits : SaturnGuru.

And finally, please enjoy a picture of each sides of the cartridge PCB Theses pictures clearly indicate how the cartridge works, and were a great help when preparing this article.

All in one cartridge font side.
Left half : expansion RAM and glue logic for each chips.
Right half : flash ROM chips for cartridge firmware.
Picture credits : SaturnGuru.

All in one cartridge rear side.
Flash ROM for cartridge backup memory.
Picture credits : SaturnGuru.

Pros :
 - Supports basically nearly all the Saturn games library
   (Except the couple of games requiring their own ROM cartridge, and those others eventually not compatible with Pseudo Saturn Kai)
 - Pseudo Saturn Kai is pre-installed
 - There's no attempt to hide that Pseudo Saturn Kai is installed
Con :
 - Cartridge backup memory may deteriorate after heavy usage.



Saturn PASS

You're full of all theses cartridges to digest in a single article ? That's bad for you, because I kept the most greasy dish for the last time

Saturn PASS cartridge

This is a very simple cartridge with only boot ROM, and nothing else : no cartridge shell, and not even decoupling capacitors near the ROM chip ...
The decoupling capacitors protect neighboring components against voltage spikes : as theses apparently don't have any functional purpose, they are sometimes removed by cheap device cloners ...

Additionally, ROM chip used seems to be a UV EPROM, easily identifiable with the small round window at the center of the chip.

UV EPROM chip detail
Yes, I did hit the snapshot key around 10 times to get
the right moment when UV window is visible
(Screenshot from this video)

As a consequence, firmware update requires dedicated device to illuminate the chip with UV light prior writing of the ROM and basically can't be easily done on user side.

Additionally from being technically difficult to upgrade, Saturn PASS users will also have to enjoy the custom firmware pre-installed : apparently it's a stripped version of Pseudo Saturn (or it will be an huge coincidence that log message under "Loading CD" is the same in both firmwares) with only the bare minimum remaining :
 - No boot menu
 - "Pseudo Saturn" name changed to "Saturn PASS"
 - Addition of URL to Saturn PASS homepage
 - Removal of Pseudo Saturn credits

Saturn PASS boot screen
For unknown reason they left as-is the
log display in is_audio_cd function.
(Screenshot from this video)

Pseudo Saturn is open source, so anyone with enough skills is free to change things in the firmware to their preferences. But rebranding the whole thing and trashing credits to original development team is not how open source works.
So if someone wants to thank somebody for Saturn PASS to exist, they should refer to credits displayed in Pseudo Saturn :
Copyright 2011-2015 Pseudo Saturn Team
http://github.com/cyberwarriorx/pseudosaturn
At a glance, removal of boot menu and only keeping the Pseudo Saturn exploit sounds a good idea, because that's one step less to do on user side before playing a game.
But except that point, it's complete crap : extra features (to verify if cartridge is working correctly or not, or to verify version of Saturn internals, etc) are no longer available, as well as credits page too.

Personally, I derived Kai from Pseudo Saturn specifically for adding features other than Pseudo Saturn exploit : memory cartridge support in previous releases, cheat codes in next release(s), and probably something more in future release(s). So removing all the menus and extra features just to spare the push of one button to play a game is "no, I won't do that"

Pseudo Saturn Kai credits page is probably just a feature to boost my own ego, but I am not the only one listed there, and everybody credited contributed for free : done on their free time and without financial compensation. So muting them is definitely not an option. Also, I made several graphic improvements when displaying credits, so I hope you will enjoy them in next release

To finish on a positive note about Saturn PASS, it should be mentioned that its price is relatively reasonable : 350 Thai Bath = around 10 US Dollars, which makes this cartridge affordable for Thailand users

Pro :
 - Affordable for Thailand users.
Cons :
 - Poor hardware design.
 - Can't upgrade firmware.
 - No credits to original firmware developers.

PS : I heard about this cartridge from furrtek. Special thanks to him for the information

Read more Various Pseudo Saturn cartridges

I wanted to publish an article this October ...

Written by cafealpha no comments
... and all of a sudden, November arrived

It's not like being under a quota of articles to write every months would stop the financing of my Saturn projects and in fact, as described on my "donate" page or this blog article, I don't have any interest in crowdfunding, or some kind of third party financing : if I'm not in the mood, or don't have enough free time to update this blog, then I don't update it

But well, moreover not being paid for not writing blog articles, as I actually have to pay to keep this blog alive (web page hosting is cheap but not free, but at least it's my own homepage ), I like to feed this blog from time to time even when being busy with real life things
So don't worry, I didn't stopped this blog : currently, I have one ongoing article that is waiting for its last paragraph and proofreading etc, but as I started more than two weeks ago (yes, that's my usual pace when preparing blog articles), please be patient until I finish it
I do have some ideas for future articles too, but theses are just ideas currently recorded as single lines in my TODO list, so I don't know when I actually start writing them


Regarding Pseudo Saturn Kai project, I ... didn't had a lot of free time to continue it recently In fact, I think I just turned on my Saturn once last month just to test if -as requested by someone by email- DoDonPachi worked with Pseudo Saturn Kai or not. The game worked fine here, so I turned off my dev Saturn an put it back in my closet for better times when I will be more available
BTW, I'm currently experiencing an unexpected burst of things to do at work, so it may take a while until things return back to normal But as I can't live without doing my Saturn projects, I promise that things will return back to normal as soon as possible


... Well, the contents in this article are a bit poor, so let's fill remaining space with random facts about my life recently The "okra" plant I wrote about in a previous blog article is still going well and I continue to water it regularly.

Okra in all its glory, 2018/10/18

Since summer is now finished, I no longer have to water it everyday, so that I now just do this regularly enough to prevent it from finishing yellow and burned  And yes, the kid who took back that from school completely forgot about its existence
I'm not keen on gardening (as suggested on the picture above, I don't even own a garden), but have a couple of pictures of other green things in reserve ... and I keep theses to fill future small posts

Read more I wanted to publish an article this October ...

End of 2018 Summer vacations

Written by cafealpha 6 comments
... One month ago, I wanted to announce that I wouldn't be available for several weeks, but I was suddenly taken in a storm of bringing/taking kids to/from schoolchildren care, washing bento boxes, going to work and the usual dish-wash/throw trash/laundry/whatever daily routines

Personally, I only had two rest days at the middle of August generously offered by employer as summer holidays ... two days !! That's one day, and ... one another day  Moreover both are consecutive And  that's ... so long I fear I would forget everything about work after such a long rest
Well, more seriously I took some day-off here and there during August too, and theses were a good occasion to refresh from everyday life

As a consequence, I completely neglected my email box during this period of time. Sorry to all concerned people !
I will try to tidy-up my mail box this week, but can't guarantee that everything will be done on planned time since day work went a bit crazy recently

So here comes some lines about my summer holidays ... hey, that's my homepage which I pay for hosting and where I installed and filled this blog, so I write whatever I want on it

So if you're not interested in me talking about my life, please skip until next horizontal separator


Summer 2018 activity #1 : going to the beach

As every summer, I celebrated the lapse of one year by going to the beach : four years ago, I spent nearly two months at hospital without any occasion to go outside, so that I like to take a revenge every year
At that time, I had around 50-60% of chances to be still here today. It's good to be alive

Well, there were a bit more medusa than usual, so I didn't swam so much, but that's better than not being able to go to beach at all anyway


This is an illustration photo : the girls are just
to boost my blog audience.
And I own TI-89 calculator rather than TI-83+


The kids wanted to make a sand castle, which
ended in some kind of free-style art
Title: Japanese style toilet, by cafe-alpha kids, 2018

I like that they didn't spent half a day to do a instagram-compliant thing that would then be destroyed by the sea but had fun anyway


Summer 2018 activity #2 : watching typhoons
I don't know if that's limited to the region I live, but there were a lot of typhoons this year ! There wasn't any kind of major damage nearby, but not everybody in Japan could be that fortunate ...

Personally, it was the occasion to do some cleanup on the balcony : I trashed several things that accumulated over past year, and Mr Typhoon helped to clean up dust after that

I wish typhoon and other similar kind of natural disasters could evolve into intelligent entities to clean up earth from climate-skeptical trolls



Rare footage from the birth of a French citizen
(That's not super related with typhoons, but this is my blog,
and I write whatever I want on it )


Summer 2018 activity #3 : going to several kinds of museums
The kids like museums, especially to watch insects, machines or similar stuff. But museums close early, unfortunately.

Close at 4PM ?!
That's not a museum, but an hideout for civil workers

Always should read the little letters : "open until 4:30 PM ... but can't enter after 4PM"
The rear door was still open, so we could sneak inside anyway ... that's funny to hack museum rules

Went to aquarium too. That's a Hammerhead Shark.
And it's also a multi-purpose drawing :
tilt your screen and E.T. will appear


Summer 2018 activity #4 : watering plants
Kid bring back okra from school. One of summer vacations homework was to take care of that thing, but from the limited range I could see, only me was doing such boring duty
Mr Okra in all its glory.
I put it near the space for hanging
laundry so that I don't forget to water it


Summer 2018 activity #5 : watching Saturn for real !
Local astronomy group prepared an "Watch Jupiter, Saturn, and also a bunch of other stars I forgot their name" event ... so I was super interested in it

土星, during small explanations about how to locate things in the sky.
Saturn was so bright it's hard to miss it in the night sky
But Mars was even brighter this summer !

This was also an occasion to assemble a small telescope by oneself. That's a cheap "30 bucks" model, but with lens good enough to see Jupiter moons oO


Summer 2018 activity #6 : adventuring in Tokyo

In order to renew a identification paper, I had to go to embassy located Tokyo : this was basically one day spent in transports, except 15 minutes at the embassy itself to sign a couple of papers, have my fingerprints taken, and pay 12198 yens

That's a long time I didn't get lost in Tokyo Everything was more or less smooth in changing from plane → train/subway → bus, but in the last steps walking to the embassy, the battery of my phone decided take a little rest for the remaining of the day
I was aware that battery wouldn't last long, so I printed nearly all directions, but last "use your own foots" steps weren't detailed a lot Fortunately the "ask random people around" solution could guide me to the embassy

The return back to home without help from phone was more or less OK, and when back to home I finally could unlock my phone
Why unlock ? Because my phone's power switch is broken At a moment, I asked for an estimation to my phone carrier to get this fixed, and price was around 80 buck-ish, so I decided it would be better to live with this broken switch rather than paying that
Now, I'm used enough to my phone power in sequence that I no longer consider it as a problem, but instead as child lock feature : if kid try to play game on it while it is running on battery, it turns off after around 5 minutes

My secret method to turn the phone on is to tweak the debounce circuit with a small wire. Electronics components there are super small (which is probably why the power switch broke ...), why requires the usage of tweezers or a small pliers hence can't be done outside since I don't always bring my electronics toolbox with me when I go on travel

My phone, and its broken power switch.
I feel like MacGyver when I turn on my phone


Summer 2018 activity #7 : going to hospital
This was "just" a routine appointment for periodic screening, and everything was OK This time was the occasion to celebrate the fourth year still alive after surgery

This is an archive picture : all the "no pokemon go in hopital"
warnings were removed. Instead there was a notice that
North side parking is not available, but I didn't took a
picture of it since I doubt the average reader of this
blog is concerned by such news



End of the personal and boring news August was also a time do PCB design to celebrate the 10th birthday of my favorite PCB house
(More pragmatically, I rushed to finish PCB design until August 31st because they were offering discount coupons until that date to celebrate this event )

Among PCBs ordered, there was minor change for Gamer's Cartridge, and a small board to flash MAX3000A CPLDs used in Gamer's Cartridge.

Gamer's Cartridge PCB rev 3.3 (c)

There's nothing changed nor deleted : I just added footprints for alternate voltage regulator : I'm using this alternate regulator in another project, so I would like to unify electronic components used in order to reduce stock management/space/etc to store theses two components.
Additionally, this alternate voltage regulator is a bit easier to solder, so at the end I would like to stick with this one

CPLD flash board

That's a really simple board to interface between CPLD and programming hardware : so far I was flashing Gamer's Cartridge CPLD one by one after soldering each cartridges, but thanks to this board it may be possible to flash a batch of CPLDs in a row hence save some bits of time on my side

Read more End of 2018 Summer vacations

Back to Saturn occupations

Written by cafealpha no comments
Hi everybody, I hope you had great holidays
On my side, I was busy with holidays during second half of July and whole August, but now back normal days routine

I plan to write a blog article about my holidays, but since preparing it takes longer than initially expected, please accept this small article to give a proof I'm still alive even after an handful of typhoons that crossed here during this summer

And, as I'm back to normal days routine, I would like to introduce to you -and in exclusivity- a free virtual tour to cafe-alpha's Saturn cartridges productions facilities

... Well, I'm too lazy to take a lot of pictures, so let's introduce the cartridges warehouse #2
I own three warehouses for storing cartridges before putting them on sale :
 - Warehouse #1 : receives cartridges from production facilities, and waiting for final QA testing.
 - Warehouse #2 : stores cartridges from warehouse #1 after QA testing. Also stores cartridge labels.
 - Warehouse #3 : stores cartridges which failed QA, or cartridges not for sale such as USB dev cart, or old prototypes, etc.

Warehouse #2 front entrance.
In the background can be seen the iron table ... not for
soldering, but for clothes
Please wear helmet before entering


The inside of warehouse #2

There are several labels available for Gamer's Cartridge, and I let user to choose their favorite one during ordering process. So in order to speed-up ordering process, I usually prepare one or two cartridges with popular label ... and hope that user will choose it
Of course, I also keep remaining cartridges with Action Replay labels (as received from cartridge shells supplier) so that it is possible to respond to unusual label choice too

Capacity of warehouse #1 is similar to warehouse #2, and there are no plans of construction works to extend them : developing and assembling Saturn cartridges started as an hobby, and I really don't want all the magic and fun from this hobby to vanish by making production, management, etc as serious as a work activity

Read more Back to Saturn occupations

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