PPCenter :: devblog

PPcenter. Arts and craft for my Sega Saturn. Since 1847 :D

PPcenter donation system updated !

Written by cafealpha 4 comments
More than 11 years ago (from winter 2005 ?), I had a "donate" page stating something like "send your money and I will make cool things for Saturn on my free time".

During there 11 years, I received 15 US dollars.

And within theses 15 US dollars, I declined 10 because they were generously donated in exchange of "future help" in making a game for Saturn.

So that's something like 45 cents per year, which is also around 3.8 cents per month. I didn't checked in details, but that should be something like one Skittles per week. Not one bag of Skittles, but one bloody skittles. Per. Week

Fortunately, this era now ends, because I officially announce that I changed my donation system from "send your money and I will make cool things for Saturn on my free time" to "Send everything except money, and I will make cool things for Saturn on my free time. And even if you don't donate anything, I will make cool things for Saturn on my free time anyway."
More details can be found on my donate page

And to make it clear : the motivation to change donation system is not related to money : I just spoke about money received so far in order to write something funny in my blog

I make Saturn things for fun, and not for money. As some examples, I started to design rev2f PCB in hospital room from one week after undergoing cancer surgery, and Virtual Memory Cartridge add-on for Pseudo Saturn Kai was developed and tested during my post surgery chemotherapy. Theses helped a lot to think about something else than medical things during theses times.
I don't say that Kicad and gcc are a cure for cancer (), but theses were very good help however.


And to make it clearer : yes, I sell Saturn cartridges, but no I don't make a living from selling theses. I'm not even sure I produce enough carts in order to pay every-day's breakfast from cartridges sales benefits

Read more PPcenter donation system updated !

Similar looking kanji definitions file update

Written by cafealpha no comments
It's been a while I didn't received an email not related to Saturn from my homepage, so I was quite happy when siikamiika asked me if he could safely license similar kanjis definition file in MIT licence in his similar-kanji project


What is "similar kanjis definition file" ? It is a text file used in "My JWPce" which defines ... kanjis looking similar
The original idea about this is not from me : I initially found this feature in kanji.free.fr (Japanese → Omelette du fromage online kanji dictionary), and thought it would be cool if this feature could be available directly from my favorite Japanese electronic dictionary.
So I build this "similar kanjis definition file", and added support for it in "My JWPce".

data/images/20170220_jpwce_similar_kanjis.tb.png
Example of in JWPce's kanji information
dialog : "似" looks like "以",
"代" and "伐"

If you're Japanese, or were learning Chinese characters from elementary school, this definition file is probably a complete nonsense for you, since you know how to enter the correct kanji from keyboard on first try.
But that's not the same done for foreigners who started to learn Japanese in their twenties, so that this feature helped me a lot when learning new kanjis :
 1. In JWPce, enter a kanji similar the new one you can't read
 2. Search for that new kanji in similar kanjis list
 3. ????
 4. Profit !

So of course, MIT licensing of this file is OK, and I was also glad to overwrite my old definition file with siikamiika's version, so that I could enjoy all new entries added in this version
Open source is love, open source is life, thank you siikamiika

Read more Similar looking kanji definitions file update

Gamer's Cartridge out of stock :]

Written by cafealpha 5 comments
Out of stock ":]". I'm glad to have finished this batch
I don't plan to sell Gamer's Cartridge for a while, because stock of parts to build theses cartridges (electronics components, PCBs, labels, etc) is currently very low here. I'm even lacking of bubble paper used when shipping cartridges

So, what's next ? Of course, Saturn stuff  I plan to use this "break" in cartridges manufacturing and sales in order to continue Pseudo Saturn Kai development.
Main feature to add is cheat codes, which is a bit "heavy" one to implement, because processing in order to make cheat codes working isn't documented in details.
But that will be done ! Also, there are some side quests here and there regarding Pseudo Saturn Kai features. I plan to implement as far I can, so it will be limited only by my free time, my motivation, and flash ROM remaining on cartridge

data/images/20170215_sgc_v33b_gerber_preview.tb.png
Gerber preview before ordering PCB on
Seeed Studio, very classy and realistic

Edit (2017/05/11) : finally back in stock
I catched the occasion to make some minor improvements to my homepage, such as adding anchor link to some sections, adding some directions for Japanese users, etc ... and I'm already full up with writing HTML

Edit (2017/05/12) : half of the stock already reserved oO
data/images/20170512_escalated_quickly.jpg
Cartridges are assembled by hand, hence stock is small, but I'm impressed anyway

Read more Gamer's Cartridge out of stock :]

[Dev journal] Pseudo Saturn Kai game loader weird bug, and its bugfix

Written by cafealpha 3 comments
(Note : this bug was fixed something like 3 months ago. Pseudo Saturn Kai I first released last month works well  )

First : of course, old versions of Pseudo Saturn (versions up to 0.832) work
But who knows what may happen when doing software engineering (and any other engineering in fact) : it's very common to break something without directly modifying anything to it !

So it happened : in December 2015, Pseudo Saturn Kai beta tester reported that it wasn't possible to load CD-R game.

data/images/20160325_loader_bug.tb.jpg
What game loader bug looks like.
disc_type=0x0003 means that CD-ROM authentication failed


As usual, I first asked if something was wrong on tester side  "Bad game dump ?", "Bad burn to CD-R ?", "Did you do something else bad ?", etc.
(I know that's a bad habit to suspect beta testers doing something wrong, but it sometimes help in fixing problems)

Beta tester was actually doing his job well, and bug couldn't be reproduced in next beta version, so I though it was caused by outdated intermediate file in build process (this happens, for example when I modify header file only : I'm too lazy to fix makefiles about this ) : cleaning up whole project and rebuilding everything prevents such kind of problem.

But I wasn't satisfied with such "half-baked" bugfix, and actually could hear it saying to me "I'll be back"


And, two months after that time, I receive same bug report from same beta tester ...
Well, at least, I didn't had to re-ask him if he tested correctly or not : it was clear that this was December 2015 bug returning back.


First, let's verify do simple things and try to reproduce the bug here : my "main" dev Saturn is a modchipped one that plays CD-R, even when firmware is reported not working. Trying with a "plain" (unmodded) Saturn actually reproduces the bug : cartridge boots, but definitely doesn't want to play CD-R.
In same conditions, let's try with an old version of the firmware : oh, it can play CD-R

So I could "feel" the bug, and its capricious nature.
"Typical" capricious bug is "uninitialized global variable" one, that reproduces after doing the same action twice, or after going to a given screen, returning back to another screen, and doing a given action.
Saturn has relatively few RAM available, and I don't want to use dynamic memory allocation on such "low specs embedded device", so such "uninitialized global variable" happens from time to time.

But this bug was even more capricious than "uninitialized global variable" one : same action reproduces the bug with a given firmware, but can't reproduce the bug with another firmware

First, since I have no idea about the cause of such bug, I added some debug screen that displays few details (= the return values of each functions called when unlocking the CDROM unit), and also some text-based logs, plus RAM dumps stored SD card : that was one of the reasons why I made SD card-based cartridge for Saturn : it allows to prepare bug report on user side

So I "just" have to wait until bug is reproduced with next versions, and beg for logs/dumps/etc on that time.
Of course, the bug reproduced, and of course ... logs/dumps/etc didn't helped a lot

data/images/20160408_sakura_6008.tb.jpg
Game loader failure screen.
Basically, it shows that something is wrong after
calling cd_move_sector_data_cd_auth function.


Fortunately, there are some explanations about Pseudo Saturn CD unlock exploit on assembler forums :
1. Use the Put Sector Data command to put a whole bunch of sectors into the CDB - all with FAD 150, Mode 2 in their headers.
2. Call End Data Transfer to push them into the selector.
3. Call Copy Sector Data, starting a copy of all those fake sectors into the selector that the Authenticate Disc command will be using.
4. Immediately (like 15 microseconds later immediately) call the Authenticate Disc command, specifying the same selector.


"Immediately" : firmware have to be fast on step 4.
And what changes in CD-ROM unlock code from a firmware beta version to another is basically its execution start address.
So I started to think : "maybe CD-ROM unlock code will work better if loaded from a constant address ?" : to do this, I moved all CD-ROM code to a separate stub, loaded from a constant address (0x06004000).

And bug didn't reappeared so far

Okay, this way of fixing things without a proper verification is a bit dirty
But it works, and that's the most important
(I suspect the cause of this bug related to SH2 cache : if SH-2 have to refresh cache during time critical section of CD-ROM exploit, code takes too long to execute, and CD-ROM exploit fails ... it's just a guess, and I realized about it after fixing it.)

Special thanks to Stac, Shazz and A Murder of Crows for beta testing
And special thanks to jhl and CyberWarriorX for detailing Pseudo Saturn's CD-ROM exploit ! This helped a lot in fixing this bug

Read more [Dev journal] Pseudo Saturn Kai game loader weird bug, and its bugfix

RC2 - The good one

Written by cafealpha no comments
Pseudo Saturn Kai Release Candidate 1 : flasher utility wasn't very intuitive to use → fixed.
Release Candidate 2 seems to work fine, so ...

I officially declare Pseudo Saturn Kai version 6.036 as first publicly released version

Want to upgrade your cartridge firmware ?
No problem, firmware installer, source code, and many other things are available from /pskai/#download address


Many thanks to beta testers who could make this project mature enough to be releasable
And of course, many thanks to Pseudo Saturn team too

Note : this doesn't means that Pseudo Saturn Kai is bug-free !
But, I consider that Pseudo Saturn Kai is stable enough to open it to circle wider than beta testers. If you find a bug, please report it in Pseudo Saturn Kai official thread .


On my side, releasing Pseudo Saturn Kai was the occasion to :
 - Release Gamer's Cartridge (page is still not up-to-date, I shall update it soon)
 - Delete beta builds for testers : here is the delete log as a souvenir :
Response:    250 Deleted Planche_20160514.png
Response:    250 Deleted Planche_20160514.pdf
Response:    250 Deleted pskai_20160426_wip.7z
Response:    250 Deleted pskai_20160424_wip.7z
Response:    250 Deleted pskai_20160421_wip_6028.7z
Response:    250 Deleted pskai_20160416_custom_logo.7z
Response:    250 Deleted pskai_20160415_wip.7z
Response:    250 Deleted pskai_20160414_wip_6025.7z
Response:    250 Deleted pskai_20160414_wip_6022.7z
Response:    250 Deleted pskai_20160412_wip_6019.7z
Response:    250 Deleted pskai_20160412_sakura_wars_deza2.7z
Response:    250 Deleted pskai_20160411_sakura_wars.7z
Response:    250 Deleted pskai_20160410_wip.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160409_jhl_cd_hack.7z
Response:    250 Deleted pskai_20160408_ubc_test_v2.7z
Response:    250 Deleted pskai_20160408_ubc_test.7z
Response:    250 Deleted pskai_20160408_sdm_flasher.7z
Response:    250 Deleted pskai_20160406_ubc_debug.7z
Response:    250 Deleted pskai_20160404_vmem_test.7z
Response:    250 Deleted pskai_20160403_wip.7z
Response:    250 Deleted pskai_20160402_jhl_cd_hack-v2.7z
Response:    250 Deleted pskai_20160331_jhl_cd_hack.7z
Response:    250 Deleted pskai_20160331_O3.7z
Response:    250 Deleted pskai_20160329_compat_vmem_test.7z
Response:    250 Deleted pskai_20160328_wip.7z
Response:    250 Deleted pskai_20160326_wip_saves.7z
Response:    250 Deleted pskai_20160324_ftx.7z
Response:    250 Deleted pskai_20160324_ftx_flasher.7z
Response:    250 Deleted pskai_20160323_linktest.7z
Response:    250 Deleted pskai_20160320_flasher_ftx.7z
Response:    250 Deleted pskai_20160318_satlink.7z
Response:    250 Deleted pskai_20160311_ftx_sdm.7z
Response:    250 Deleted SMPSCL5_20160311.7z
Response:    250 Deleted flasher_arp_20151005_tp.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160308_pskai_wip_flasher.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160308_pskai_wip.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160306_pskai_savemanager_flasher.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160305_FlashSave000.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160228_pskai_savemanager_flasher.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160226_pskai_flasher.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160226_pskai_lowram.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160223_pskai_wip.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160222_pskai_latest.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160222_pskai_5.776.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160216_pskai_loader_fix.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160216_pskai_test.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160215_pskai_wip.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160214_pskai_wip_jhl_cd_hack_test.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160214_pskai_wip.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160210_pskai_wip_saves.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20151230_pskai_wip_saves.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160209_ReyVGM_test2.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160209_ReyVGM.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160205_ReyVGM.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160204_ReyVGM.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160203_ReyVGM_test.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160202_ReyVGM_test.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160129_commslink_saves.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160127_pskai_shazz.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160129_vfk_test.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160126_bkram_planetweb.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160125_bkram_test.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160124_bkram_test.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20160112_sonicr_save_test.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20151230_pskai_hybrid_device.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20151223_pskai_v2.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20151223_pskai.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20151219_pskai_bootstub.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20151218_flasher_src.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20151218_pskai_wip.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20151214_pskai_rmenu_dbg.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20151110_pskai_spi_fix.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20151002_pskai_selftest.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20151031_pskai_scu_test.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20151030_pskai_sd_card_debug.7z
Response:    250 Deleted 20151028_pskai_fat_io_lib.7z



Completely unrelated : I'm experiencing troubles with my email provider (*1), and consequently plan to change to another one soon.
(*1) : mail provider is sometimes messing up with email titles, such as using neighboring (unrelated) conversation title when sending email ...

data/images/20160609_y_u_no_mail.tb.jpg
Y U NO MAIL ?

If you're waiting for one week or more for a reply from me, please re-contact me
Email timeout value is "one week" : I'm not a machine, so please don't mailbomb me if I can't reply you soon

Read more RC2 - The good one

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