Archive for May, 2011
Oh goodness. This waiting is painful. I guess I’ve been waiting for over 10 years for a new linker/flash kit, so what’s a few more weeks/months, right? Things just don’t go as quickly as I’d like. It seems like I’m constantly waiting for parts to arrive or PCBs to be etched. Then, when something goes wrong, the waiting game starts all over again.
Here’s the latest for those of you following along at home.
- 8 new NGPC-only Linkmasta USB linkers
- Prototype NGPC/Savemasta with expansion port
- Flash Cart Woes
- Unanswered Questions
I ordered another batch of PCBs to make 8 more Linkmasta units. Two of these are already in the wild. Well, that is if you count France as “wild.” Thor and Ice Man have been kind enough to help out the cause and order these two units. I had 3, and the third went to Gerry in Canada. The funny part is that I sent Gerry’s and Thor’s on the 16th and Ice Man’s on the 18th. Two have arrived in France, but Gerry’s hasn’t arrived in Canada yet.
Those three look exactly like the one pictured to the right. The 8 I just had made will look essentially the same. I think they’ll have fixed silkscreen (hopefully the words aren’t cut off), but be pretty much the same otherwise. If anyone else wants one of these, please let me know. I’m expecting them to be ready for you around June 6th. If you have a Bung flash cart and want to upgrade from the old parallel-port solution, this is for you.
I designed and ordered 3 boards for a Linkmasta that will support either Neo Geo Pocket carts or Neo Geo MVS/AES SRAM cards. There is a lot more to building this board than the NGPC-only design mentioned above. I will need to solder lot of surface-mount components on these boards, and I hope it’s within my skillset. Snow_Cat designed the layout for this board to fit in a “hobby” enclosure/box. Even if it doesn’t ultimately work out that way in the end, I will test the prototypes that way. When I get the stuff in, I’ll be sure to let you know what the enclosure looks like.
The initial design of the flash cart is not working. Gerry has built the cart, but I have the tools/knowledge to debug/test it. Since it’s not working, we need to get these things lined up somehow so that we can actually fix the problem. I sent Gerry a USB linker. He sent me the parts to build another flash cart. Hopefully, when we both have all the pieces, we can figure it out.
I think that I know one problem already, though. I’m hoping that it’s THE problem (as in the only). The flash chips we chose have a command-set that’s one bit off from the one we need to support. This throws the whole thing off. When I get the cart (or when Gerry gets the linker), we may be able to work around the problem to make use of the board for testing. It will not, however, be good for a final design. I’m currently working on sourcing chips that will be 100% compatible.
Here are some questions for you.
First, do you care if the Linkmasta is enclosed or not? I’m currently thinking of producing it as a working board without an enclosure. If my idea of making it for an enclosure works out, we could offer the enclosure as another item. Then, if you wanted yours enclosed, you’d just buy the enclosure along with your order. The main issue, though, is that the enclosure will need to be cut to allow the cartridge/USB/Savemasta to be inserted. I guess I’m thinking of leaving the cutting to the end user. What do you think of this solution?
Along the same lines, do you want your Flashmasta cart to arrive enclosed? This one is a bit trickier. The cart will need to be enclosed. That means that it will need to be put into a cart casing. Do you want to supply your own cart case (salvaged from another cart)? Would you want us to ship the flash cart already enclosed in a case? If we did this, I think we would pull the PCB out of an official cart, place the flash cart PCB in it, and then put a new sticker on it. The final option would be for us to offer some cheap game that you could optionally add to an order. Then you could “sac” it for the case on your own.
I’d like to hear what people think on this. I think there’s a stigma connected with “saccing” a cart for a purpose like this. Unfortunately, I don’t think we have the means to make custom plastic cases for this stuff. Turfmasta and I have talked about it in the past, but we’ve not come to any conclusion. Please let us know if you have any ideas or thoughts about anything relevant to this process.
I’ll leave you with this. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to show this off or not, but I’m going for it. What it’s being used for will be left to your imagination.
The first “release candidate” Linkmasta was built last night. This is intended to be Thor’s unit. You might remember Thor from such scene releases as:
Anyway, the plan is to get this unit ready to send to him, so he can use it, test it, and get some new creations prepared for the NGPC. Check out some shots of it.
Unfortunately, it’s not quite ready for me to send. There’s an issue with writing. It seems to dump carts just fine, but writes aren’t going through properly. I haven’t yet debugged this, so I’m hoping it’s a minor issue (hopefully software).
Also, the latest news on the Flashmasta is disappointing. Gerry got the PCB and soldered it all up. However, it’s not working. At this point, I’ve started wondering if it’s possibly a bad chip, because the symptoms are so crazy. I’m going to have to make a custom app for the parallel port linker (since Gerry doesn’t yet have the USB version) to aid in debugging this latest speedbump.
Wow, I feel like this is a teaser trailer for big things to come. I mean, I saw my name, “Flavor,” up there just as the White Zombie track kicked in. I can’t lie. It kinda gave me chills. Who knew electronics could be so AWESOME! It’s like watching Neo fight Morpheus for the first time.