PPCenter :: devblog

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

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 :]

Cartridge labels available !

Written by cafealpha no comments
Finally available :]

Last June, I initially wanted to release Saturn Gamer's Cartridge with custom label, but some unexpected problems regarding label quality (not resistant to water) delayed its release, consequently, Gamer's Cartridges manufactured until now had only shell, but no label.

"Stronger" label retained for use by Gamer's Cartridge is designed for car tuning purpose, so waterproof, and even alcohol proof ! I suppose this will satisfy the requirements of typical Gamer's Cartridge user
(※) Just a (common sense) note : while labels are waterproof, cartridges themselves aren't  So no, you still can't play Saturn while taking a bath

data/images/20160914_labels.tb.jpg
Cartridges with their labels.
Bottom-right one (without LEDs) is USB dev cart.


Custom labels were the last main milestone regarding Gamer's Cartridge design : I won't design custom boxes for my cartridges.
Why ? Because I want Gamer's Cartridge users to ... use their cartridges, not collect (shelf) them

You are Saturn Gamer ? Want to share your Saturn saves with your emulator or friends ? Want to enjoy Dezaemon 2 game but don't want to purchase a modchip + memory cartridge ? Then Saturn Gamer's Cartridge is for you


Special thanks to my friend Darius who selected paper, printed labels sheet, and cut each labels
Darius provided pictures he took when cutting labels, so please enjoy the labels making-of


data/images/20160818_labels_scan.jpg
Label sheet scanned just after print-out.
Red/blue lines are used as help when cutting labels.



data/images/20160819_labels_tools.jpg
Tools used : ruler and cutter.
And also Darius' God Hand and eyes (not pictured)


data/images/20160819_labels_row_cut.jpg
In order to optimize time , labels are first cut row per row.

data/images/20160819_labels_individual_cut.jpg
After row cutting, labels are cut individually

Read more Cartridge labels available !

Pseudo Saturn Kai no longer working on Action Replay ... and its rebirth !

Written by cafealpha 2 comments
So TehNewParalyzer told me he likes Pseudo Saturn Kai and plans to put many Pseudo Saturn Kai videos on his youtube page.
Very good ! That's great to see people still enjoying using Saturn nowadays

data/images/20160803_action_replay_metal_slug.tb.png
Metal Slug with Action Replay cartridge,
compatible until you press Start button
(Click in order to see youtube video)



At that time, his last video was about Uno DX, and was experiencing issues with it.
That's a bit weird, because this game shouldn't cause compatibility/problems ... maybe a bad burn or bad dump of the game ?

By looking at the problem in details (everything is explained in his videos, which is very convenient  ), I see that CWX loader doesn't works anymore for all his games, even the ones that played well before, but JHL loader still works well.
Very weird : CWX hasn't the best game compatibility, but should work on all known models of Saturns

So I request TehNewParalyzer to give details about this problem :
1. From loader selection menu, press B button, select "Self Test", and select "Test once only".
Please let me know if error message is displayed in "Main prgm" or "Bootstub" lines.
2. Please try CWX loader with an original game, and tell me if it booted or not.
3. If possible, please try with game burned on another CD-R brand and/or burned a different (lower or higher) speed than usually, and tell me if it boots with CWX loader or not.
4. If possible, please try with another Saturn and tell me if you can get games booting.
5. If you have a spare Pseudo Saturn cartridge (Action Replay, or Game Shark, or Memory Cart Plus, or any other clone), please give a try with it and tell me if you can get games booting.


Fortunately, there wasn't need to test after step 1 : self test feature was throwing a CRC error on when checking firmware's main program.
Okay, so it looks like cartridge flash ROM is corrupted, and consequently few areas in main program code can't longer be executed.
Why Action Replay's flash ROM would corrupt ? I don't know exactly, but I suspect :
1. Extra feature in Uno DX, corrupting cartridge's firmware in the case you use too much +4 cards
2. Poor quality of Action Replay flash chips.

Rather than thinking too long about causes, let's take measures in order to fix the problem : re-flashing the cartridge should do the job.
And it did the job : no more CRC error

data/images/20160803_pskai_self_test.tb.png
Correct self-test results after firmware re-flash.
(Click in order to see youtube video)


One of the purposes of Pseudo Saturn Kai's self test feature is to help Action Replay users : by the past, I had few reports from other users having their Action Replay no longer working, so I thought about a feature in order to check the integrity of their flash ROM.
I'm glad this feature was useful to at least one Pseudo Saturn Kai user

data/images/20160803_ice_cube.jpg



For those who want more details about Action Replay flash chips :
First, Action Replay cartridges (and their clones) are using old flash chips no longer produced, which means theses chips are either old, or counterfeit. In both cases that means the quality of this chips is a bit shady.
Moreover, Action Replay original firmware may shorten flash ROM life length, because it writes to flash ROM when cheat codes selection is changed, or when cartridge internal save functionality is used : the more you store save data, or select Action Replay codes, the more likely it is to be damaged.

There are ways to improve this problem : the simplest one is to use SST39SF flash chips (5V logic, still produced ), but that requires changes on Action Replay PCB, and to make several changes Action Replay firmware (because write access to new flash chips is not compatible with old ones).

Changes in PCB is probably not a real problem for Action Replay manufacturers, since Action Replay PCB is shrinking year by year (in order to reduce manufacturing costs) so I suppose that Action Replay manufacturer still have at least one guy capable of designing PCB ...

Changes in Action Replay firmware is probably what's preventing manufacturers from using new flash chips : people who wrote Action Replay original firmware (around 20 years ago !) are probably retired now, and I doubt there are still people fluent with SH2 assembly working in Action Replay manufacturing field



A little unrelated (but I'm too lazy to create an article just for that) : Pseudo Saturn Kai compatibility list is growing little by little
There are currently 259 games available in the compatibility list, so there are high chances to find your favorite game listed in it

Special thanks to people who contributed to this list, especially Thales Peres, who provided test reports for around 150 games !

Read more Pseudo Saturn Kai no longer working on Action Replay ... and its rebirth !

Pseudo Saturn Kai development : USB dev cart support

Written by cafealpha 7 comments
It's a long time USB dev cart is supported on Pseudo Saturn Kai, but it wasn't tested seriously elsewhere than my development environment.
... Until now

(Well, in fact, it was "until a couple of months ago", because I didn't had time to write this article earlier.)


So, a USB dev cart new user (Shazz) wanted to do some Saturn development : great


USB dev cart demo
USB dev cart demonstration video (youtube).
I used Shazz's USB dev cart to make this video,
in order to be sure it worked well before sending it to him.



His dev PC runs under Linux ... I personally use Windows only, so I can't guarantee USB dev cart + Pseudo Saturn Kai will work correctly.
"Maybe it will run fine with antime's ftx tool".
"Maybe"
Of course, it didn't worked

My first suggestion was "please use an old PC with Windows installed lol", but Shazz don't like such half-concession, and really wanted his USB dev cart to work directly on his Linux dev PC.
As an USB dev cart manufacturer, I agree with him.
As a programmer already busy with other projects and real life, I disagree ^^

But, Okay, Shazz is actually a cool and chatty guy, and sharing same mother tongue with me, so I will do it for him


The cause of the problem happening when using Linux + USB dev cart with Pseudo Saturn Kai is actually still unclear.
With original USB dev cart firmware (nicknamed as "blinking screen", or sometimes "epileptic screen"), executing a Saturn program with "ftx" utility works fine.
However, with Pseudo Saturn Kai installed, the same operation didn't worked and Pseudo Saturn Kai main screen was freezing (? or continuing doing menu things ? I already forgot about details about this bug  It's really time to write it on this blog before I forget it completely ...) instead of switching to uploaded program.

I suspected Pseudo Saturn Kai ignoring two successive commands from USB dev cart ("executing" a program is actually sending an "upload" command, then "execute from specified address" command), especially because Pseudo Saturn Kai can't check for USB I/O continuously : it "just" does it once every frame.

Since I really couldn't understand why this could cause that "upload, then execute" problem, I decided to countermeasure it by adding a new "upload and execute" USB dev cart command.
And on the same occasion, I also added the "à la carte" reset flags in this command : "one stone, two birds", as people in Japan would say ... I suppose that other people would rather say "one USB dev cart command to rule them all" :D


One more problem about this "Linux + USB dev cart + Pseudo Saturn Kai" problem was that I couldn't verify if everything is working fine or not.
Shazz was OK to do some beta testing, but he can only upgrade his USB dev cart via USB link, so "breaking" USB transfer would brick his development cartridge.
Around software development, I experienced enough Murphy's law and its corollaries to be sure it won't work on first try :
 - "If it can break, it will break"
 - "The less you test, the more likely it will fail on basic pattern"
 - "The more you test, the more likely it will fail on unexpected pattern"

So I added Pseudo Saturn Kai "demo" version
As its name suggests, it actually doesn't do anything special else than showing menus, but that's enough in order to test communication with PC.
Additionally, I also displayed some debug messages to screen when doing USB related stuff.

data/images/20160324_usb_test3.tb.jpg
Pseudo Saturn Kai demo version
showing USB activity logs on screen
First two lines logs USB dev cart firmware version
verification : even if used with old (not Pseudo Saturn Kai)
version of firmware, transfer utility works

After testing many buggy versions of the firmware, Shazz tried the "20160323_test4" test pattern with his "parallax" test program, and ...

data/images/20160324_usb_test4.tb.jpg
Could upload and execute libyaul example program
from Linux via USB dev cart and Pseudo Saturn Kai !



Thank you Shazz for testing Pseudo Saturn Kai + USB dev cart Linux support !


USB debug port related support is always a hell for me and cartridge users (may not work on a given OS, etc), hence there are no plan to add it in release version of my cartridges.
But even if it requires drivers and custom transfer software on PC side, debug USB connectivity is a must have when developing things on Saturn, so rather than dropping USB debug port, I plan to make a "USB + SD card interface" cartridge for Saturn developers only.
And of course, I still continue to manufacture USB dev cart

Read more Pseudo Saturn Kai development : USB dev cart support

Scritch, scritch ...

Written by cafealpha 3 comments
Today was a coding-free recreation day
Instead of coding, I used my brand new rasp (file) on a Saturn memory cartridge shell :
data/images/20150909_memcart_shell.tb.jpg
SD card on Memory Cartridge ?

Yeah, I know, it's "homemade"

Request : I only have a limited stock of cartridge shell, so is there somebody with a 3D printer/whatever ready to produce shells ? If you have the skillz, hardware, time and motivation to produce Saturn cartridge shells, please contact me via my homepage's contact form .
I can offer one cartridge (without shell) if you fulfill my needs

Edit : I forgot to put a picture of the cartridge itself :
data/images/20150909_family_portrait.tb.jpg
Cartridges Rev 3.1, Rev 2f, Rev 1b

Read more Scritch, scritch ...

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