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.
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 ...
- The price without stylish box is not that bad
- Pseudo Saturn Kai is pre-installed
- It would had been fair to indicate that cartridge is made from Action Replay cart
- There's no indication about which firmware is installed
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
- Classy box and label, a must have on your collection shelf
- Pseudo Saturn Kai is pre-installedCon
- 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.
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
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.
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.
All in one cartridge rear side.
Flash ROM for cartridge backup memory.
- Supports basically nearly all the Saturn games library
- Pseudo Saturn Kai is pre-installed
- There's no attempt to hide that Pseudo Saturn Kai is installed
- Cartridge backup memory may deteriorate after heavy usage.
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
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
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
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
- Affordable for Thailand users.Cons
- 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
... 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 ...
... 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
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
? 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
Hi everybody, I hope you had great holidays
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
I'm glad to announce that (as indicated in the title of this article) SD card support will be improved in Pseudo Saturn Kai next release
This improvement concerns compatibility with a wider range of SD cards manufacturers.
Since Action Replay carts doesn't have SD card socket, this concerns only Gamer's Cartridge ... and no, gluing a SD card socket to Action Replay PCB won't magically make it recognized by Pseudo Saturn Kai : I didn't extended compatibility this far
More seriously, this improvement concerns Pseudo Saturn Kai itself, and all Gamer's Cartridge hardware revision will be concerned.
For example, the very first public PCB revision
(with goofy LED positioning and using official memory cartridge shell) should
be compatible with this improvement ... I write should
because I didn't actually tested with PCB from this revision, but since hardware revisions are basically cosmetic changes, I'm quite confident this improvement will work on all Gamer's Cartridge
About the technical part of this improvement (please skip this paragraph if you are not interested in technical details), Pseudo Saturn Kai was not sending enough clock pulses to SD card before sending commands. In fact, at the very beginning of Gamer's Cartridge project (long before first public release), Pseudo Saturn Kai wasn't sending any synchronization pulse at all, but this wasn't a problem since some SD cards don't need theses, and so that Gamer's Cartridge project could work ... with poor SD card compatibility, but work anyway
After that, I discovered that some
synchronization clocks before sending a command helps in getting SD card working, so I sent eight clocks, which improved compatibility enough to make a blog article about it at that time
Finally, Pseudo Saturn Kai now send enough clock until SD card replies it is ready for processing command. So yes, this improvement is just extension of a previous one from "provide eight synchronization clocks" to "provide enough synchronization clocks". It looks simple, but noticing it wasn't
This improvement is not publicly available yet, so please be patient
Before putting it in the wild, I need to test it on my SD card collection, because so far I only tested on a problematic Sand*sk
card, and a couple of other SD cards who were working well so far.
All theses SD card were recognized, but I should test with all the other ones I own : it would be a pity for Pseudo Saturn Kai to break compatibility with things working well so far !
Regarding testing schedule, I'm not sure it will be possible to do it until end of August : it's not like I don't want to do it, but just because summer holidays are likely to monopolize the free time slots usually reserved for testing on real hardware
And no, it's not about my holidays, but about my kids' ... it's a long time I personally didn't went on long vacations, but I'm looking forward for this pleasure when the benefits from Gamer's Cartridge development, manufacturing and sales will finally reach forty two million dollar
Anyway (and more seriously), this blank period until testing is a chance to improve a bit more SD card support : after a long time I didn't looked at SD card access code, I found few things that were left in a "it works, but should be improved later
My strategy about theses "should be improved later" things is to finish them in a clean way, then test them with my SD card collection until tey work well, and finally never touch this SD card access code any more !
Before publicly releasing Gamer's Cartridge, maintaining this part of the project was funny, but now it is too scary to break any kind of compatibility that I preferred not to touch it.
So for the last two years, I preferred to keep all the the code there as-is ... and sell SD cards at super low price (bought around 800 Yens, sold USD 3 ... 2+2 is 4 minus 1 that's 3. QUICK MATHS
) to avoid SD card compatibility problems. After Pseudo Saturn Kai next release, I hope that it will be compatible enough to avoid this "provide a recognized SD card" step
(Below is a bit of boring history about my Saturn project(s). Please skip if you are not interested)
SD card access code is a very old part of Pseudo Saturn Kai project : it was initially done for accessing SD card via second pad controller around summer 2011 : at that time USB dev cart project
didn't existed and my extent in electronics was to put simple components on a breadboard : it's good to see the experience I gained in electronics, and also that some code from this era kept surviving in Pseudo Saturn Kai project
SD card connected to second pad, ready to
dump my Memory Card Plus cartridge.
The menu display and starfield effect in Saturn utility
were later re-used in Pseudo Saturn Kai project The menu module evolved a lot from that time
End of the "good old times and flashback of back&white memories" ... I'm not that old enough for this crap
Instead let's back to details regarding Pseudo Saturn Kai schedule :
I still have to finish some other features (not related to SD card access) still on development, and prefer to release all the news things in a single time rather than every small feature little by little. Exception is made for critical fixes that are released as early as possible : notable (and only ?) example is Pseudo Saturn Kai 6.074, which fixed a bug regarding internal backup memory access, as detailed in this article
This SD card improvement is not a critical fix, and consequently won't be released separately before everything else. This means that extra wait is required, but on a positive side it also means that it will be released with all the new features developed from latest release.
Latest version was released one year and half ago, so there are some new features
Please stay tuned
Last but not least, it's easy to pride "I made this or that" in a blog article, but it's cool to praise people who helped
First, I would like to thank my friend Darius
, for constantly asking me when I will finally get Sand*sk SD card working correctly on Gamer's Cartridge, and -which is more important- for gathering a French Saturn community
Also, I would like to thank malachi84 for reporting incompatible SD card
. I usually answer such report by something like "give a try with a cheap SD card from another brand, and it will work", but this report came at the right time when I wanted to change my mind from current development task
So, I started to search what should be done to improve SD card compatibility, making random changes to Pseudo Saturn Kai, testing on real hardware, realizing that first beta doesn't works (from my own experience as software engineer, I NEVER had something working fine from first beta
), but keeping fighting because I really want this non working SD card report being the last one ... and also because I like to fight with software bugs
Finally, I would like to thank Ralim
for providing the technical information regarding this fix on Pseudo Saturn Kai. For those interested with technical (but easy to read) information, SD card access details are available on "SD cards with STM32 over SPI
As written above, the implementation of the fix itself is simple, but finding it in a super lengthy technical document isn't, so thank you Ralim for providing the right detail to fix for Pseudo Saturn Kai
: I had a little spare time to test several SD cards from my collection, and to update this blog with test results
Globally, SD card support seems significantly better than on Pseudo Saturn Kai current official version (v6.074) : a Sandisk SD card is recognized, and other SD cards that were recognized so far are ... still recognized
Additionally, it seems that SDXC card support is OK too ... so far I tested only with only one card, and because of high capacity, write access is quite slow, so it's not recommended however.
All SD cards working so far
It's the first time I had guts to test with a SDXC card,
and fortunately it was recognized
Read more Improved SD card support !