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Pseudo Saturn FAQ, May 2017 edition

Written by cafealpha 6 comments
Here is a small FAQ about Pseudo Saturn, so that it may help people experiencing troubles when installing or using Pseudo Saturn, and also ... reduce the number of inquiries in my mailbox

Pseudo Saturn 0.832 "Booting CD ... Error 1" message when trying to load a game.

The "Booting CD ... Error 1" message.
Special Thanks to C.L. for reporting the problem and sending the picture

This problem happens with Pseudo Saturn 0.832, both "no logo" initial build and final release with classy logo.

It concerns :
 - A specific hardware revision of Saturn : Japanese grey model 1 (95% sure), with power supply connector screwed to Saturn top case (not so sure).
 - Any game or application on burned on CD-R

So if you have Pseudo Saturn 0.832 and the "wrong" (incompatible) hardware revision of Saturn, it's not possible to play any CD-R copy of your games, and consequently can't upgrade your cartridge to other version of Pseudo Saturn, since it requires to boot a CD-R

Annoying isn't it ? The countermeasure is to either :
 1. Install latest Pseudo Saturn Kai on your Saturn cartridge
 2. Use another Saturn, compatible with Pseudo Saturn 0.832 :
      - Model 2 Saturns are 99% safe : I didn't received any "Boot Error 1" report with model 2 Saturn.
      - Please try on another model 1 Saturn only if you were lucky that day, else please be sure that this other Saturn won't be compatible too

Owning a spare and compatible Saturn -or being friend with somebody owning one- is the best solution, since it allows to both upgrade to Pseudo Saturn Kai, and to play games compatible with "JHL (PS 0.832)" game loader.

Owning only 0.832 incompatible Saturn(s) will bring you to "install Pseudo Saturn Kai on a bare Saturn" step, so basically requires to open your Saturn, watch swap trick tutorials on youtube, fail several times in trying that ('%)=(&$ swap trick, finally success in installing Pseudo Saturn Kai , look for one missing screw in order to put back Saturn top cover, re-open the Saturn in order to remove the tape on CD-ROM lid open switch, and finally put back the Saturn in its original condition

Long install steps ? Yes, but at the end the problem will be fixed (if not, please contact me)
However, there's a limitation when using Pseudo Saturn Kai on model 1 incompatible Saturns : the few games not compatible with Pseudo Saturn 0.831 won't be playable
Incompatible games are the ones marked as requiring Pseudo Saturn patcher utility, in Pseudo Saturn Kai compatibility list. Notable examples are Panzer Dragoon Saga, Batman Forever and Alien Trilogy.

You sold a kidney in order to buy original discs of Panzer Dragoon Saga, and really want to play their CD-R copies on your model 1 Japanese Saturn so that original discs won't be damaged ?

Except selling the remaining kidney in order to buy a Rhea/Phoebe (), the only solution is to wait until a new version of Pseudo Saturn Kai is released, and hope I find a fix to this problem.
While waiting for new version of Pseudo Saturn Kai, how about trying games that Pseudo Saturn Kai can play with its good old "CWX (PS 0.831)" game loader ? I would for example recommend NiGHTS into dreams, Shining Force 3 series, and also Virtua Fighter Kids

"Firmware file read error !" message when trying to install Pseudo Saturn Kai

"Firmware file read error !" message (hard to read, sorry).
Grabbed from reddit, special thanks to yoqu for reporting the problem

First, I fixed error text display in Pseudo Saturn Kai's latest release (v6.074) : it is now displayed with white background color. Readability varies from a TV monitor to another, so please contact me if that's still not readable on your TV

This problem is generally caused by incorrect timing when performing swap trick, which makes Saturn booting Save Data Manager and Flasher utility from CD-R, but not being able to read files from CD-R after that.
Another causes may be Saturn's laser incorrect calibration, or affinity problem between Saturn CD block and CD-R brand, or burn settings.

The countermeasure is simple : please use Pseudo Saturn Kai alternate flasher utility, located in Pseudo Saturn Kai latest archive → pskai_alternate_flasher.iso. This requires another CD-R, but this will work
And, burning Pseudo Saturn Kai Save Data Manager and Flasher utility (pskai_sdm_flasher.iso) wasn't a waste, since it will boot correctly after flashing your cartridge to Pseudo Saturn Kai. Save Data Manager contains many save data to import to your Saturn, so you probably want to use them in order to start playing your favorite game elsewhere than level 1

So, what's the magic behind Pseudo Saturn Kai alternate flasher utility ? nothing really special in fact : both flasher executable and Pseudo Saturn Kai firmware data are packed in a single Saturn executable file. So as firmware data is loaded just after performing swap trick, file read error won't happen

Definitely not a smart way to counter a problem,
but it works, which is the most important

This "alternate" flasher utility was developed before Pseudo Saturn Kai, and used in Pseudo Saturn 0.83x flasher utilities. I then developed an "all in one" Save Data Manager & Flasher utility on a single CD-ROM which allows to flash cartridge, manage save data, etc.

I though this would make the "alternate" initial flasher utility obsolete, so that it was dropped in Pseudo Saturn Kai 6.036 and 6.037 releases ... unfortunately I was reported about that "Firmware file read error !" problem after that
So as a countermeasure, I restored this utility from Pseudo Saturn 6.074. Sorry for the troubles caused

Additionally, some more informations about this problem are displayed in current (W.I.P.) Pseudo Saturn Kai version.

Updated error message in flasher utility.

Pseudo Saturn Kai development continues ! Stay tuned

Read more Pseudo Saturn FAQ, May 2017 edition

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

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
Cartridges are assembled by hand, hence stock is small, but I'm impressed anyway

Read more Gamer's Cartridge out of stock :]

The quick lazy brown dog jumps over the foxes ?

Written by cafealpha no comments
The quick lazy brown dog jumps over the foxes ?
The brown fox quick lazy jump jumps over the ?
The ... well, I forgot what it was, but just to say that I spent a some time in messing with fonts in my Save Data Manager application
In fact, it would be more accurate to speak about code pages (*), because I finally added support for Japanese text display :]

(*) For those who forgot what code pages was :
Once upon a time, before Unicode unified every characters, (and also made strlen function not working correctly on UTF-8 text), there was a custom for all countries in the developed world to define up to 128 extra characters that would be used in second half of ASCII character table.
Of course, Japan wanted to do the same, so it added poor looking "1 byte kana" characters on this extra 128 character page, and also added the remaining characters (including kanjis) after that, which gave birth to Shift-JIS encoding.

Since Saturn was developed, during this prehistoric "codepage" era, it is normal to find can find some code page remnants in Saturn software

One of these "code page remnants" is the comment string stored in each Saturn saves : didn't you noticed that sometimes BIOS displays Japanese characters in its save management screen ?

So, Save Data Manager must display Japanese characters instead of garbage characters when showing comment in save data selection menu !

What save comment looked like before
adding Japanese characters display ...
(It's a 6 months old screenshot)

How to do this ?
First, I need to verify that BIOS was defining characters according to Shift-JIS charset, and the best way to do this was to modify some save states and see what BIOS is displaying on screen.

And if possible, displaying as much as possible characters at once would improve the job's efficiency, so I choose to modify Keio Flying Squadron saves since they take only 32 bytes each.

So here comes the reason I choose a such weird title for this article : I wanted to display all font characters at once on screen
In the facts, I didn't used such a complex "lazy brown dog jump blah blah blah" sentence. I just displayed all the character in ascending order, and here is what it looked like in BIOS screen :

Repeat after me : -アイウエオカキクケコサシスセソ...
Looks good  That's definitely 1 byte kana characters in typical order.

Saturn BIOS also has ability to display European (accented) character, and switching from a codepage to another is just the matter of changing a byte per save data, so let's try and see what it looks likes :
Same text as above, I just changed the language value

Oh, it looks like the good old ISO 8859-1 (latin1) charset

The picture above was displayed by setting French (my native language) language code in save, and setting to another language code (I tried with Spanish) gave unsurprisingly the same results.

So in the Saturn world, one byte equals one character, and there are two codepages to handle in order to display save comment string.
I first feared I had to deal with multi-byte characters (that is a real pain to handle when coding software), but that's not the case, and in fact it's relatively easy to do.

(2 hours later)
data/images/20160203_font_katakana.png data/images/20160203_font_francais.png
Katakana and European fonts

Hmm, theses characters are looking cute :)
It's seems that it is time to feed my image conversion tool ^^

(5 minutes later)
Okay, latin.bin and katakana.bin files are ready, I should add some codepage stuff in my text display code now !

(1 hour later)
Finally some exotic language displayed !
I lost 30 minutes in wondering why application wasn't
initially showing Japanese characters ... and it appears that
I was "cleaning up" the comment string by replacing exotic
character into space character
"It wasn't a bug, it was a feature "

It made sense when Japanese character wasn't displayed
correctly, but it was time to remove this string cleanup code.

Job complete ? Well, there are still some details to fix, and this is what take the most of time when developing software, but at least the boring part of the job is done :]

As a reward for me, I can now set save comment to a cool one when importing save data and that comment isn't defined.
I initially used a dummy "ImportData" string, but the holy "セガサターン,シロ" string defined in hitomi2500's ss-save-parser project is definitely better.
セガサターン,シロ !

Last but not least : finishing this main quest opens doors to firmware translation side quest !
Well, Japanese translation would be ugly, because kanji characters are not available (just old-looking katakana characters : this article title would look like ザレージフォックスジャンプオーバーザブラウンドッグ on firmware :D), and on software side, handling multi byte characters is a real mess, so I don't want to do make a Japanese version of Pseudo Saturn Kai and Save Game Manager.

However, translation for European languages is now technically possible
Well, "possible" doesn't means I will do this right now  This is a low priority job, so I will do it when I will have enough time and motivation for it.

BTW, in order to test if exotic character display was OK on Pseudo Saturn, I tried to print "beta" glyph (defined in European codepage) on the title bar :
Pseudo Saturn Kai main menu
Without any surprises (text display routines are common between Pseudo Saturn Kai and Save Data Manager), it works !
I can finally indicate that this is a beta version ^^

Edit : oops, the feature to inform me when a comment is posted seems (once again) not to work, and consequently I didn't noticed new comments :/

Here are the comments I replied so far. Since I'm late, they deserve to be re-posted here :

I am really happy to hear that you don't have cancer anymore!! Congratulations! I wish you a really long and happy life! :)     Anon

@Anon : It doesn't guarantee I'm cancer free !
CT scans indicate that there is no evidence of cancer relapse, but CT scan has limits (it doesn't shows millimeter-order tumors), so I continue regular cancer screening and taking care in everyday life

Hey @Spawn, could you upload those Saturn saves you have on your PC?
I have been looking for an archive of Saturn game saves for months now and I haven't found any.
Maybe with the save states I have, and your saves I can upload them somewhere and start an archive? I'll give you credit for it of course.     ReyVGM
@ReyVGM : Thank you for sharing your saves on segaxtreme !
They will be available for everybody on Save Data Manager, so that it will be easy to import on Saturn or emulator.

best wishes for 2016 !!!     vbt
@vbt : Thank you ! Best wishes for 2016 too !!!
Well, we are already in February, sorry ^^;

It's great to see your active development, cause my saturn projects are almost in hibernation today (i'm a bit in a time trouble). And i'm glad my code is of some use.
Good luck!     hitomi2500
@hitomi2500 : Hehe, I got some free time until end of March ... I don't know what it will be after that, but what's sure is that I will continue to have fun with my Saturn  Please keep continuing the good work too :]


stunned and confused

last night I went on a sega saturn nostalgia trip.

I had to catch up with 8+ years @ segaxtreme.
I found antime's usbcart, hitomi2500's fork, hitomi2500's new "wasca" and your stuff here.

sounds great ...
I need to dig up my saturn and finally start something.
I have a usb-cart from 2006 from pinchy (he seems inactive since 2007).     seal1
@seal1 : Hey, I remember seeing your nick in segaxtreme thread about yano/Freewing transfer device (I built a Freewing device at that time).
It was a long time before I made my first USB dev cart ... nostalgia.
Many members forgot about Saturn and left segaxtreme, but luckily vbt and antime are still active.
You're always welcome on segaxtreme, even if it just to say "hi"

Read more The quick lazy brown dog jumps over the foxes ?

WIP : Saturn Save Data Manager, Pseudo Saturn Kai & USB dev cart, etc

Written by cafealpha 6 comments
Pseudo Saturn Kai  firmware development is currently paused in order to focus development into Save Data Manager application

Saturn Save Data Manager is an application in order to manage (copy, delete, etc) save data on your Saturn.
Basically, it is similar to the save data manager provided by Saturn BIOS, but also offers extra things, such as multiple selection of items to copy/delete, GPL license, and also save data import from various formats.

Saturn Save Data Manager main screen running on emulator.
It also works on real hardware, but I was too lazy
 to take a picture of my TV screen

At first, this Save Data Manager was made only in order to test Virtual Memory Cart behavior, so maybe user interface looks a little cheap, but I plan to improve this in the future according to first users eventual feedback

I really want to thank two people whose work helped to make this application :
 - Rockin-B : for his good old SaveGameManager application (yes, I copied the name of the application).
 - hitomi2500 : for his ss-save-parser application that really helped to understand Saturn Save Data structure. Also, I merged its Save Import related sources to my project, so that copying save data from dump file is possible directly on Saturn too

And, there's one screen that I need to show from ss-save-parser application : the "extract options screen". This is image is worth a thousand words when trying to explain how save data is arranged in Saturn backup RAM

THE screen everyone need to see before
hacking Saturn saves data
Save data is arranged as header
(containing save name, comment, etc),
then blocks allocation table,
then data itself, with header data at
the beginning of each blocks.

Extra #1 : last month, I took a video of USB dev cart in action !
Nothing really spectacular however, but please watch it if you want to see what developing application with USB dev cart looks like
My dev laptop, a plain, not modded Saturn and USB dev cart,
ready for testing Saturn application on real hardware

Summary of the video (more details available in youtube page of the video) :
 - USB dev cart firmware update
 - CD-ROM unlock by using Pseudo Saturn hack
 - Upload and execution of program from PC to Saturn via USB, allowing testing of application performing CD-ROM access.

Extra #2 : with this USB dev cart, I could dump Shining Force Scenario 1 saves from Gosub .
You can find theses saves here.
Backup cartridge with gosub's saves on it.
Thanks to Darius for providing me the cartridge

Gosub pushed each Shining Force character to their maximum competence on real hardware without using any cheat.
Really impressing work oO

Extra #3 : last month, my car reached its life achievement : 777777 kilometers :]
Wow. Many lucky seven. So beauty
Next challenge : 777 777 kilometers !

Read more WIP : Saturn Save Data Manager, Pseudo Saturn Kai & USB dev cart, etc

Backup Manager - Early Version #1

Written by cafealpha 8 comments
So I'm currently making a Saturn Backup Data Manager utility.
What's this ? It is a remake of "Memory Manager" utility present in Saturn BIOS.
Sega Memory Manager utility : main screen

It already exists, and can be used from BIOS, so why making such an utility ?
I have some reasons that pushed me making this, and one of theses is that Memory Manager user interface is very cheap, especially, it doesn't allows to select multiple backup data and copy/delete them. (Dear Sega, why didn't you developed this feature ??)
Also, there are some new features I would like to add, such as hex-edit of memory data ... I have very few time to play now (real life, children, cancer, etc), so 999 lives in Backup data is a must-have feature

This utility is currently WIP, so no download link is available right now, but it is WIP enough to publish screens on my blog
So here is what it looks like now :
Backup Data Manager Main Screen

Don't trust the development progress only by looking at the main menu : everything behind is far for being finished
But at least, menu library itself is more or less completed, and I'm very glad about this point.

Here is a comparison of data selection screens :
Data Selection (Sega)
Data Selection (this utility)

Yeah, I know that Japanese text is not displaying properly ... this will be fixed, but the priority for this is low, so please be patient.
And what is the green text display on Backup Data Manager screen ? This is multiple items selection

As a bonus, here are screens of Backup Manager running on real hardware.
Pictures were taken last September, when I still had a modchipped Saturn ready for use ... after that I was busy with medical stuff, and moving to a new apartment, so my Saturn I used for testing is currently hidden in a cardboard ...
Early version of Backup Manager, picture was taken 4 months ago.
Can you spot the differences with current version ? ^^

SatLink running on my 8 years old laptop, connected to my Saturn via USB dev cart.
This development environment is by faaar more convenient than $500+ vintage
development hardware/carts/whatever floating on ebay ♪

Among the things I would like to add before a release, there is the Saturn FDD support ... but I don't own Saturn FDD unit, and the cheapest unit I could find on auction sites costs 10'000 Yens, and the seller doesn't guarantee that it still works ...
I won't pay 10K Yens for a vintage objet I will only use once a year (and I fear my wife would trash it if she founds it ), so if somebody is ready to give some time for beta testing with Saturn Floppy Disk Drive, please let me know in the comments

Read more Backup Manager - Early Version #1

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