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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 :]

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 !

Wanted : custom cartridge label

Written by cafealpha 4 comments
Good and bad news for people interested in my cartridge .
The good news is that cartridge (Saturn Gamer's cartridge) and its firmware (Pseudo Saturn Kai) are more or less ready for release
After release, project sources (PCB design files, and Pseudo Saturn Kai source code) will be publicly available, and few carts (not a lot) will be available for sale.

The bad news is that there are still few thing I would like to improve before release.

Among theses things I would like to improve, there is a custom label for cartridge case : I'm currently using second hand Action Replay cases for my project, and really don't like Action Replay label.
In fact, I removed theses ugly labels ... it was hard to do (I don't know why they're using glue so strong !), but I really couldn't stand theses out-fashioned labels

Rather than designing label by myself, it's probably better to ask everybody about their favorite design for Gamer's cartridge label !
In fact, as labels will be printed by batch of 12 per page, it's OK to print different labels at once, then, let future user choosing his favorite label when ordering cartridge :)

Rules :
 1. Width : 946 pixels, Height : 592 pixels.
Adding some margin around your label is encouraged.
Of course, larger images are accepted, but please respect image ratio, and please keep in mind that it will be resized to 946x592 when adding text or small details.
 2. Image format supported on my PC : PNG or JPG.
(Please ask if you prefer other format.)
 3. Display following cartridge description text in English :
        Saturn Gamer's cartridge
        http://ppcenter.free.fr/satcart/#gamers
         ✔ Plays CD-R game backups. (※)
         ✔ Memory Cartridge. (※)
         × Cartridge RAM.
         × Play games from SD card.
        (※) Some games may be incompatible.
 4. Copyrighted images usage forbidden.
 5. Deadline : a couple of weeks (= middle of May 2016).
 6. You allow me to re-use your label in this and future projects.


Tips :
 - If possible, please use plain color (black, white, or anything else) for label outline : as labels will be hand-cutted, I plan to add some margin around label itself, in order to avoid defect due to bad cut. (2017/03/12: my friend Darius does good job regarding label cutting, so the outline is not required )
 - It's OK to add some non-English text, but in this case, you need to display cartridge description text in English, as described in rule 3.
 - (Added 2017/03/12) Please use relatively large font for text on the label so that it can be readable after printing. At 946x592 dimensions, recommended text height is over 25 pixels. This obviously depends on font used, contrast with neighboring background, etc.
 - (Added 2017/03/12) It's OK to remove the "× Cartridge RAM." and "× Play games from SD card." messages if theses doesn't fits in the label.

Reward :
 - Your name in Pseudo Saturn Kai firmware credits


How to submit :
Please submit your label here in the comment of this article, or directly by contacting me.
In both cases, file can't be uploaded, so please provide your label(s) via external host site (imgur, sendspace, or anything else).
You can also submit your label to Pseudo Saturn Kai official thread on segaxtreme forums.


Notes :
 - I may reject dull/offendant/whatever label(s).
 - Cartridge case will be available in both black or white colors, and black will be the most available color.
 - Custom label for USB dev cart is welcome too.



Want to make your own label ? Great :)
And want some stuff to start from ? No problem, you can find some cartridge pictures below :

Cow logo, used in cartridge PCB :
 - vache.gif : initial image from which everything started.
 - vache0.bmp : first version of vache logo (silkscreen only, bottom of the PCB).
 - logo_vache.png : latest version of vache logo (silkscreen, solder mask, top right of the PCB).
 - vache_06_2_2+cornes2_-_finale.png : pixel art image used to make logo_vache.png.

Pictures of cartridge PCBs :
 - 20140314_rev2a_front.jpg : Rev 2a cartridge : Gamer's cartridge ancestor, nothing worked.
 - 20140918_vmem_first_ver_sat.jpg : First time Virtual Memory Cart worked on real hardware : PCB and dev Saturn used at that time.
 - 20140918_vmem_first_ver_tv.jpg : First time Virtual Memory Cart worked on real hardware : debug stuff displayed on sreen.
 - 20150628_rev2f_front.jpg : My Rev 2f cartridge used to debug Pseudo Saturn Kai.
 - 20150718_memcart.png : Rev 3.1 cartridge preview, last step before ordering it to PCB house.
 - 20160119_logo1.jpg : Cow logo, from vache0.bmp.
 - 20160119_logo2.jpg : Cow logo, logo_vache.png (available in Rev 3.3 and Rev 3.3a PCB only).
 - 20160126_rev33_front.jpg : Rev 3.3 PCB, front side.
 - 20160224_rev33_raw.jpg : Rev 3.3 PCB, ICs except SD card socket unsoldered.
 - 20160305_rev33a_front.jpg : Rev 3.3a PCB, front side.
 - 20160315_rev31_back.jpg : Rev 3.1 PCB, rear side.
 - 20160318_pskai_main_screen.jpg : Pseudo Saturn Kai main screen.
 - 20160324_rev32_rear.jpg : Rev 3.2 cartridge rear side.

Images related to USB dev cart :
 - 20120709_usb_dev_cart_logo.jpg : My favorite logo for USB dev cart
 - 20160308_routing_printout.jpg : very old (Rev 1c proto ?) routing printout.


Not interested in designing a cartridge label, but interested in Saturn cartridge ?
No problem, the Saturn Homebrew Cartridges's gallery section is waiting for you

data/images/20160512_satcart_gallery.tb.png
Saturn Homebrew Cartridges gallery
Click on the link if you want to see more

(Added 2017/03/12) : All the images above can be used without restrictions.

Edit
: everything is now available here.
Future contributions are always welcome

Re-edit : here is what it looks like after printing :
data/images/20160622_gamers_cart_label.tb.jpg
Gamer's Cartridges with labels
Thanks to jjennings089 for label design and printing

Read more Wanted : custom cartridge label

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

Pseudo Saturn Kai lite firmware fixes and improvements

Written by cafealpha no comments
One month from last update, but not significant updates
The reason is that children fought with nearly all typical winter diseases during the last three weeks : mumps, influenza (x2), gastro enteritis, and finally otitis ... x2 too

data/images/20160314_gg_winter.tb.jpg
Internet husband ...
I hesitated to put other pictures like "x2 combo !"
and "body temperature over 40 ? High score !"

Children were relatively safe from winter diseases until last month, but last spurt until summer was relatively heavy for them


So, no significant updates, but various minor updates :]

Among theses updates, main menu display has been improved when lite version of the firmware is used :
 - "Extra" features moved to main menu
 - System status now displays Saturn related informations (BIOS version and PAL/NTSC frequency information) rather than nothing when USB and SD card aren't detected.
Theses changes concerns USB dev cart and Action Relay users, hence the majority of Pseudo Saturn Kai future users, so theses changes couldn't be avoided before initial release

Here are pictures taken before and after the changes.
Many thanks to Zone66x for testing and taking theses pictures

data/images/20160303_pskai_5820.tb.jpg
Pseudo Saturn Kai v5.820 : status display was a little "empty"
And USB port was incorrectly detected when running from Action Replay ...



data/images/20160310_pskai_5875.tb.png
Pseudo Saturn Kai v5.875 : some saturn informations are now displayed.
There's no simple way to detect if cartridge is Action Replay or not,
so generic "Boot Cart" string is displayed when cartridge type is unknown.

And main menu is a little simpler :
no longer need to go to sub menu in order to access extra features.


Also, Zone66x verified that Action Replay communication port (parallel-like port) was usable with Pseudo Saturn Kai. Thank you for testing



Another new feature I'm proud enough to introduce it on my blog is the soft reset "à la carte"
Soft reset is used in Pseudo Saturn Kai when loading game from CD-ROM, and also when executing program received from USB port.
Basically, it wipes all memory, and puts VDPs memory and registers in initial state, which is good when loading game from CD-ROM, but causes problem when Saturn developer wants to do something else than "just" executing program on main RAM.
The "à la carte" advantage comes here : it is possible to select which module to soft-reset, and which one to let as-is before executing program.

Here is an example :

data/images/20160318_pskai_main_screen.tb.jpg
Pseudo Saturn Kai (lite version installed on USB dev cart) main screen.
Test program will be executed from this screen.

Let's try to let VDP registers and VDP1 RAM as-is when uploading test program :
data/images/20160318_test1_satlink.tb.jpg data/images/20160318_test1_result.tb.jpg
Soft reset "à la carte" settings and execution result :
Starfield (VDP1) remains in memory and is displayed on test program.


One more try, but with VDP1 RAM clear before execution :

data/images/20160318_test2_satlink.tb.jpg data/images/20160318_test2_result.tb.jpg
Soft reset "à la carte" settings and execution result :
As VDP1 RAM is cleared, starfield is no longer displayed.

Possibilities for this features are relatively wide : it's for example possible to upload graphics on VRAM, then level data on sub RAM, then execute test program on RAM.
I hope this will help to improve Saturn homebrew development scene :)

Read more Pseudo Saturn Kai lite firmware fixes and improvements

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