Flashmasta/Linkmasta In Japan

Ponrev's Package From Here

Well, our friend Ponrev received his unit in Japan already. That was fast! I don’t have much to report about this, but he did! Check out his blog post. Even if you can’t read Japanese, you can still look at all the pictures.

http://ponrevival.blogspot.com/2011/08/ngp-linkmasta.html

If you want to see what Google Translate makes of it, try this.

He seems to be putting it through a bunch of tests. That’s great. Keep messing with it, and keep us updated. Just don’t find any bugs. 😛

Anyway, of these Flashmasta+Linkmasta bundles, we’ve now sent 2 units to Japan, 1 to Canada, 1 to the US, and 1 to Taiwan. That’s on top of the early version linkers that were almost all sent to Europe. It seems like this has pretty good worldwide appeal.

Neo Linkmasta and Neo Pocket Flashmasta Available Now

3 Flashmasta Linkmasta Bundles

I just built 3 NGPC Linkmasta + Flashmasta bundles. To test the waters, I am making these available for purchase. Please keep in mind that there is a lot that has been going into developing and building these. I am not a professional producer of electronics or hardware. This is something that, for years, I’ve tried to get other people to do. Ultimately, I took it upon myself, and we are now starting to see the fruits of this effort. If you are interested in one of these bundles, head over to the Purchase Page and check it out. If you try to purchase one, and they’re out of stock, PayPal will inform you. When I notice that they are out of stock (which would be very exciting to me), I’ll edit the Purchase Page to reflect that. I’ll do the same when I get some more built.

If you’re not prepared to be an early adopter (and maybe even a bit of a testing guinea pig), consider waiting. There will be more of these available. I’m trying to focus on making my process more efficient, and we’re still developing software.

I really appreciate you guys that have been following this project. I know that some of you have been waiting for the chance to get one of these units. Here’s your first opportunity. If you miss it, though, I expect that there will be other chances soon.

UPDATE: I finished 3 more Flashmasta. When I listed the first 3 bundles, I had 6 Linkmastas ready. That means that I now have 3 more Flashmasta+Linkmasta bundles available on the Purchase Page. The first set of 3 out in less than 48 hours. That’s quite encouraging, and it’s why I was so quick to assemble these next 3 Flashmastas. After this, it will probably be a while before I have more bundles ready, because I don’t currently have any Linkmasta or Flashmasta assembled/tested.

Neo Geo Pocket Color USB Linker for Bung Flash Development For Sale

In an attempt to promote this project, we have listed another Neo Pocket Linkmasta unit on eBay. The auction is only a 3-day deal, so get your bids in. Even if you don’t plan to bid, please feel free to mention the link elsewhere!

Remember, any proceeds we can generate from these go right into helping the project move forward, and we appreciate whatever help we can get.

http://cgi.ebay.com/110718025033

Logic Analyzer -> Working Flashmasta

Logic Analyzer Hooked To NGPC

I finally got myself a logic analyzer (LA), so I hooked it up to the NGPC to see what was going wrong. It’s a bit funny, because ultimately, I think my code may have already worked. The LA helped me track down some connection issues. I also cleaned up a bit of code but nothing major there. Here’s the result.

The project is still moving forward even though I was out of town for a couple weeks. I have 2 Linkmasta units still waiting for homes, and new Linkmastas and Flashmastas should be on the horizon now that things seem to be pretty functional. There’s plenty to be done still, but this shows that good progress is being made even if it’s not as quick as I’d like it to be.

Oh Canada!

As you may know, Gerry lives in Canada. He has been working on the flash cart side of things. I have too, but up to now my main focus has been the USB linker stuff. Well, Gerry had some parts ready for me, so he sent them to me. It’s not that far, but it is international. The first shipment was returned to him after quite some time. I guess the post office spilled something on the package making the TO address unreadable. It finally found its way back to Gerry.

He decided to reship it, with some other parts, expedited this time. Yeah, it costs, more, but there’s a better chance it will arrive. RIGHT? Well, now it sits in a postal facility somewhere in Ottawa. The Canadian Post is on strike. Important parts for our project lie in wait.

There are other things we can do in the meantime. Some of them require other parts. Those parts are coming, I hope. They’re just slow to arrive. I expected PCBs to arrive on Saturday. I have yet to see them. I also expect some flash chips to arrive sometime. If both shipments arrive tomorrow, that would be fantastic. Otherwise, more delays are on the horizon.

The waiting game sucks. Blame Canada! 🙂

Neo Pocket USB Linker No Longer Available on eBay

eBay sent me an email just now. They just wanted to inform me that…

Your listing has been removed.

I assume someone that saw my auction, didn’t like it, and flagged it as copyright infringement. I really don’t agree, but once it’s done, eBay doesn’t much care. That’s about the end of it. I feel a bit like ranting more here, but it’s really no use.

The auction was up to $80 US, and it still had about 4 days left. It’s very hard to gauge where it would have ended up. I’m very saddened that it was removed.

I have to say sorry to those of you that wanted to bid. I will try to come up with another option for you to get this Neo Geo Pocket USB Linker unit. I’m just not sure what to do with it at the moment.

Leave a comment. I like reading ’em!

Neo Geo Pocket Color USB Linker for Bung Flash Development Available on eBay

In an attempt to promote this project, I have listed one Neo Pocket Linkmasta unit on eBay. I started it low to attract more attention, but I hope it gets bid up. I don’t have much to say here other than to let you know about the auction. Feel free to bid on it yourself or mention the link elsewhere!

eBay Neo Geo Pocket Color USB Linker auction (http://cgi.ebay.com/320712475066)

Weekend Of Win

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.

Slow and Painful

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.

  1. 8 new NGPC-only Linkmasta USB linkers
  2. DSC08268I 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.

  3. Prototype NGPC/Savemasta with expansion port
  4. 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.

  5. Flash Cart Woes
  6. 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.

  7. Unanswered Questions
  8. 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.