The project had 2 very productive days in a row this weekend. It seems like we haven’t taken a step like that in quite some time, what with all the waiting that’s been going on.
First of all, on Saturday, Gerry and I had some time online at the same time. I had been talking to a new friend, Corey, about VHDL. He had given me some pointers earlier that day, and I wanted to test out some of the ideas generated while discussing it with him. It just happened that Gerry was ready to do some testing. Unfortunately, we don’t live nearby, but we still managed it.
I built some new code, sent it to Gerry, he tested it, sent me back the results, and I tweaked based on the results. We repeated that process quite a few times on Sat evening. The result at the end of the evening was a flash cart that acted like an official cart when plugged into the Linkmasta. It has not been perfected to the point of working on the actual NGPC, but I think we’re very close.
It’s much easier to instrument the cart and get data back when using the Linkmasta. Obviously, this is no full replacement for the actual console. The next step seems to be for Gerry to hook up a logic analyzer to the NGPC and watch the lines during boot. Then we will see what we’re doing differently and tune for those cases.
Also on Saturday, I received a parcel containing a batch of new PCBs. 8 of them are to finish off the initial run of 11 NGPC-only Linkmasta Neo Geo Pocket USB linkers. I did the surface-mount soldering on all 8, but I only had enough pin headers to complete 2 full units. This means that I will have some Linkmastas ready for those of you that are itching to flash your Bung carts via USB. If you want one of these (and haven’t already contacted me), leave a comment. Your email address won’t be public, but I’ll be able to see it. When one is ready, I’ll let you know. I’ll be contacting the first 2 people on the list to see if they want to claim these two that are ready.
Once I get the pin headers in (I’m guessing in a day or two), then I think I will have some more units ready. Please keep some things in mind, though. See the picture at the right with the 2 completed units and 5 partially built units. I am designing and hand assembling the 5 boards you see pictured. Then, I am adding interconnects and building them to fit with a board I was able to source elsewhere.
On each Linkmasta I’m building, the Neo Geo Pocket socket (where the cartridge connects) has to be hand made. It starts from a general-purpose socket, and is hand-cut and formed to the size and shape necessary to accept a NGP cartridge. In some cases, the original socket has been recycled from some other part that would have ended up in a landfill, so you might say that these Linkmastas are a Green product. You may see nicks and imperfections in these, but that makes each one unique. 😛 As far as I can tell, there is no way to purchase these parts, so we’re having to make them. This process is not an exact science, so please understand that you’re not looking at a mass-produced widget here.
Second, the stock on that board I was building the PCB to interconnect with is no longer available. There is a different version, but instead of relying on an outsider to build/develop part of the project, we’re going to build a single-PCB Linkmasta. That’s the other thing that was included in the shipment of PCBs. You may recall from the previous post that I mentioned Snow_Cat laid out the dimensions of a PCB to fit within an enclosure. Well, that was for this idea. The proto boards arrived, and they fit nicely in the enclosure. The next step is to determine if we can get them to work as well as the current design and make them multipurpose. The plan is to have 3 different connectors on the board. The most obvious one (to readers here) is the NGPC socket. The next is a socket to support Turfmasta’s Neo Savemasta boards.
Finally, the board will also feature an expansion port. I don’t know if this will actually be populated or if that’s up to people that want to tinker. I’m thinking that this could be used to plug in a ribbon cable to another PCB that might have an adapter to plug in other cartridge types. I’m thinking Genesis, SNES, PCE/TG16, etc. would work.