PPCenter :: devblog

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

P.P. Center : Security at its Finest

Written by cafealpha 2 comments
Just a quick article to announce that PPcenter (which gathers this blog, Planet de Pon, my custom cartridges, Pseudo Saturn Kai and some other projects) is now correctly supporting HTTPS !

Webou (which host PPcenter) was kindly providing HTTPS for already a long while but my homemade CMS was messing up the display of my homepage : for obscure reason (I honestly don't remember why) it was trying to load the page's CSS from an absolute URL, including the "http", and as HTTPS doesn't really likes to load something from an unsecured location, the CSS was discarded so that the page display was ... minimalistic

Saturn cartridges page before fixing HTTPS support


This is now fixed, and additionally trying to use plain HTTP should also magically redirect to HTTPS.
That's quite helpful, because all the labels for Gamer's Cartridge are referring my homepage as "HTTP" (*) and I really didn't wanted to have to re-design theses labels

(*) The labels refer to my old homepage "since 2005", http://ppcenter.free.fr/satcart/, which redirects to my "since 2014" http://ppcenter.webou.net/satcart/, and then redirect to the "ultra secure" https://ppcenter.webou.net/satcart/ ... it's a bit messy but it works

Forgive me for the link : http was still a thing when
Gamer's Cartridge labels were designed !

Read more P.P. Center : Security at its Finest

Custom Cartridge Shells : The Gallery

Written by cafealpha 4 comments
It took one eye blink from previous article to directly arrive on today, the last day of September ... time flies
And, in application of the contract between my Saturn projects and PPCenter, I have to write at least one blog article per month (*)
My remaining free time for this month is around 20 minutes, so I'm hurrying up to write an article

(*) PPCenter is the entity which manages the hobbies I do on my spare time. As a consequence, it also manages the revenues earned from my homebrew projects, which is why I should finish this damn article if I want to eat something else than cup noodles during next month
So I hope this Q&D article will please you, and in the meantime of this page being loaded, don't forget to send me a donation ! Every little bit helps and contribute to pay my the gasoline for my car as well as three meals per day


Custom Cartridge Shells

(as indicated in the title)
A while ago, I finally decided to put public the page about custom shells for my cartridges. Theses were designed, 3D-printed and offered by Zone66x : he is the only one to deserves the credits for this hard work


Main interest of theses custom shells is to have their shape carefully designed to hold SD card on the top of the cartridge : with regular shell made from Action Replay shells, the SD card sticks out by 2-3 mm, which was improved on custom shells with have enclosure to be at the same height of SD card's.
Another good point is that theses shells were prototyped in several shapes and colors ! I personally like transparent shells like this one

About the points that put the advantage on Action Replay shells is the solidity : Action Replay shells are way more stronger, but this was expected because theses are "just" prototypes. I suppose that using commercial 3D printing service and appropriate material would provide stronger shells, but I didn't tested things this far.

IMPORTANT : theses custom shells were offered, hence the cartridges using theses shells are not for sale and for my own collection or for friends, etc.
If you want a Gamer's Cartridge and are OK to get an Action Replay shell instead of custom one, then please check their order page from time to time and use the order form when it is available

Read more Custom Cartridge Shells : The Gallery

How to fix your cartridge with Pseudo Saturn Kai

Written by cafealpha 6 comments
Sorry for the clickbait title, but I'm sorry to say that it's not possible to fix your Action Replay (or any similar clone) with Pseudo Saturn Kai

Below are common myths wrongly related with Pseudo Saturn Kai : theses are detailed in this blog article in the hope it will help users with similar problems, and also to -hopefully- relieve my emails inbox regarding theses inquiries ...


Q1 : Expansion RAM no longer works ! Will reflashing Pseudo Saturn Kai help something ?
A1 : It won't change anything ! Expansion RAM is a cartridge hardware feature and consequently Pseudo Saturn Kai (software side of the cartridge) doesn't have any interaction with it.
→ If your cartridge is experiencing troubles with expansion RAM, it's likely to be related to cartridge connection or cartridge itself. So rather than e-mailing me, it's more relevant to contact the manufacturer or re-seller of your cartridge about this kind of issue.

Generally speaking, all Action Replay cartridges and their clones are using legacy electronic components no longer manufactured for nearly a decade. So even if your cartridge was sold as "brand new", it may either contain refurbished chips, or counterfeit chips, or both : there's not a lot to expect regarding quality.


Q2 : Cartridge self test feature in Pseudo Saturn Kai doesn't reports any problem : does it means that the hardware of my cartridge is working correctly ? And consequently does it means that the XYZ problem I'm experiencing is related to Pseudo Saturn Kai ?
A2 : Cartridge self test feature just tests the bare minimum of the cartridge : if it fails, then there is certainly a problem around hardware. Conversely, it doesn't means anything when no problem is reported.

BTW, I developed this self test feature to quickly test the hardware of a cartridge, and not to get a proof that hardware is not guilty when a problem happens ! It's always exhausting to read stuff like "cartridge self test passed, so my XYZ problem is caused by Pseudo Saturn Kai" ...


Q3 : I heard that game XYZ isn't compatible with Pseudo Saturn Kai ? Is that true !? Hurry up to fix that !
A3 : There are many causes of incompatibility other than Pseudo Saturn Kai :
  • Frequency incompatibility : Pseudo Saturn Kai bypasses game region check, but isn't any help regarding frequency compatibility : if a game was tailored to work on a PAL console, it may then not work correctly on a NTSC one and vice-versa.
    Simple countermeasure to this problem is to use game from same region of the Saturn where it will played on. And if it is not available then complete countermeasure is to add a frequency mod on your Saturn, or eventually to use a both NTSC and PAL Saturns for playing games of each regions.
  • CD-R and Saturn laser affinity : Saturn wasn't developed to play games from CD-R, which may be harder to read than official CD-ROM.
    So if a game doesn't wants to boot, then it's worth trying with another brand of CD-R, or to burn it at different speed etc.

  • Disc image dump quality : iso+mp3 format was good when downloading few tenth of MB cost time and money but is an aberration regarding compatibility.
    Nowadays, downloading large files is not a real problem hence bin+cue format should be considered as the bare minimum requirement that usually plays well but may cause problems with some games.

    And, most accurate dumps are usually found in format supported by Rhea and Phoebe and should be preferred if you want to avoid problem(s) caused by discs badly dumped.

    Additionally, I would like to remind that Pseudo Saturn Kai main role is to play CD-R backup copy of games from your collection, so if you want to ask me about the not playing iso or bin dump of the game you don't even own, then you're about to knock to the wrong door

    → First, purchase the original CD-ROM of your game, and test if it works on your Saturn or not : if it doesn't play, then supported frequency and/or hardware problem on Saturn side should be considered before asserting anything about Pseudo Saturn Kai. If the original game plays correctly it is then time to copy it on CD-R and then preserve original game preciously

    Finally, it would be appreciated from users (you) to report non-working dumps to the webmaster of the page where theses were downloaded from : this would help whole community regarding preservation of Saturn games.


Q4 : Are you earning royalties from Action Replay (and other clones) cartridge manufacturers ? If yes, then hurry up to fix my hardware problem !
A4 : I don't earn anything from legacy cartridge manufacturers : you paid $35 for your Action Replay cartridge ? I received $0 from it. You paid $60 for a red "all-in-one" ©®TM cartridge ? I received $0 from it.
Also, I never begged any crowdfunding to develop Pseudo Saturn Kai, and even preferred to nullify my donate page rather than receiving donation related to Pseudo Saturn Kai. You paid $0 for Pseudo Saturn Kai to be developed ? I did it during hundred of hours of my free time and sometimes with high doses of motivation

And while restricting Pseudo Saturn Kai usage to my own projects (USB dev cart and Gamer's Cartridge) would had significantly simplified software architecture, I did my best to keep Pseudo Saturn Kai compatible with other legacy cartridges so that a wide range of users can enjoy playing Saturn.
Maybe that looks simple to do, but it's really not : the more complex the software architecture is, the more likely development becomes difficult, or that unexpected problem happens in the meanwhile.

So if your cartridge is experiencing a problem, it would be appreciated if its manufacturer could be blamed instead of me



This Q4 / A4 is an half-joke : so far I wasn't asked about that, but it is mentioned here to put emphasis on all the time and energy it cost to develop Pseudo Saturn Kai (I started its development at the end of 2014 !), and all the returns I have from it ("fix my flaky cartridge", "fix support for that poorly dumped game") ...



It took time, but I could find a card a bit linked to customer support from my Dragon Ball cards collection, and hope you will appreciate it ... the card, not my customer support skills
「お父さんは、エンジニアリング以外のことは苦手なんです。」
だから、開発すら関わってないモノのサポートについては期待しないでね。

Read more How to fix your cartridge with Pseudo Saturn Kai

Pseudo Saturn Kai v6.314 : Easter Egg !

Written by cafealpha no comments
That's a bit late for Easter, but did someone noticed the one hidden in Pseudo Saturn Kai v6.314 ?

Easter Egg in Pseudo Saturn Kai v6.314

This can be triggered by a key combo from Pseudo Saturn Kai main menu and ODE image selection menu. It's available in both lite and full versions of the firmware and can also be triggered from RmenuKai too.
Keys sequence was changed after taking the video above, so don't try to guess it from there ! Unsurprisingly, keys sequence is more complex in Pseudo Saturn Kai v6.314


Why such kind of technical demo in Pseudo Saturn Kai ? Simply because it was fun to implement
Additionally, this is also a small wink to the good old times I was daily using a TI-89 calculator : this Easter egg was ported from Voxel2Space demo by Kai Kostack.

I still keep using my TI-89, but way less more than when I was a student. It's actually quite handy to do quick math or binary to (hexa)decimal conversions at work : the more Windows evolves, the more horrible its builtin calculator becomes (seriously, my eyes are about to bleed each time I see the Windows 10 calculator ), so it's good to have a physical calculator at reach of hands




Let's play a game with this Easter egg : the first one to find the correct keys combo will be rewarded by a Gamer's Cartridge from my own collection !

During the last years, I was gathering Gamer's Cartridges with custom 3D printed shells and PCBs from various production batches and different times of the development of the cartridge.
Rather than just putting on sale, theses are kept for good occasions, and finding this keys combo is one of such kind of good occasions
Custom cartridge shell .
Thanks to zone66x for designing
and printing them


Rules :
 - Post the correct keys combo in the comments of this article.
 - This is limited to one Gamer's Cartridge, for one lucky Pseudo Saturn Kai user.
 - Don't forget to indicate an email address where you can be contacted !
   This is necessary for offering the reward.
 - Choice of the Gamer's Cartridge shell color etc is at my own discretion.
 - Application will end in December 31st, 2019 : if nobody find the key combo until that time, I shall re-use this Gamer's Cartridge for similar kind of games with my Saturn projects.

Read more Pseudo Saturn Kai v6.314 : Easter Egg !

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