Archive for March, 2017

Bytedelight DivMMC Enjoy Black and DivMMC Enjoy Mini

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

Ben Versteeg from Bytedelight has sent me his new line of DivMMC products. Oryginal DivMMC was done by Mario Prato back in 2013, since then Ben made several versions of his DivMMC including these two newest: DivMMC Enjoy Black 2017 and DivMMC Enjoy Mini. Both units work under ESXDOS 0.8.5 – for full features see here. Maybe I will go for article about how to use more from the DivMMC and ESXDOS then just enter to load game form SD card.

Top of actual line product is dual slot DivMMC Enjoy Black 2017.2 which one has also switchable joystick interface able to work as Sinclar or more popular Kempston (so allowing to use any Atari Commodore, Amiga joystick) standards. For some of you that prefer SD over microSD – this one has regular size SD slot, so you can easy put the card into laptop SD reader port without any adapter that you have to remember about (but adapter is always included with microSD card so it’s just matter of having that around you).

I got Enjoy Black version in nice 3d printed case. It looks good with all ZX Spectrums, but best of all – works great with them. On the side we have set of dip switches allowing us to choose Spectrum model, switch off joystick port, or turn the DivMMC into flash mode (if we need to reprogram it). For so much options it could be mess to remember so Ben put a nice sticker with all dipswitch options described.

During last few days I have tried this unit with grey 128k +2, 128k +3, toastrack 128k, old rubber 16k issue 2, 48k issue 6a, so let’s say most of models that make difference when using with this kind of unit. None of my computers has problem with M1 line in Z80, so DivMMC Enjoy was working flawlessly. Switchable joystick port is nice addition, aspecially for computers without any joystick interface so, every before grey 128k +2. As mentioned in manual included with the unit – it won’t work with Investronica ZX Spectrum 128k.

Working with DivMMC Enjoy is really easy and painless: setup dipswitch up to your model, plugin this into nonworking computer (!!!) – so basically for 16k/48k and 128k +2 grey have switches 3-5 are off/top, toastrack has 4th switch on (down), +2a/3 models has 3rd switch on (down).

Two colour leds show unit status – lower one shows cards – red for card2, blue for card1, top one shows power on.

Basically using the unit looks like: after hooking it to your speccy, you gonna turn speccy on, the ESXDOS boots, recognizing the card(s) and you see copyright screen. This is user0 mode. 128k programs and games works, but it’s not working in 128k BASIC.

For playing around you will use two buttons on the unit: reset and NMI. Reset is what you are missing on your rubber 48k, NMI button invokes EXSDOS menu. I have switched to my card as I have more demos and software on the card over the card included with the unit. ESXDOS emulates tape and provides additional commands to use under BASIC, but one feature is really worth mentioning: snapshots of speccy’s memory. Imagine playing game and possibility to make save anytime, then continue from that point. In the past – Multiface interface have to be involted and these snapshots required to have multiface plugged. ESXDOS with DivMMC create .sna files that can be run on most of Speccy’s emulators like ZX Spin, Spectaculator or Fuse.

Still – has no idea of use of two slot cards, but it’s matter of time 🙂

2nd unit is small version of DivMMC Enjoy – called Mini, without any additional features from its big brother. No joystick, no case, no 2nd card slot. Simple small unit. Work as well as big brother, so when you will need this one against top model?

  • if you own 128k +2 or later model you already have joystick ports (Sinclair ones), so matter of converter Sinclar>Kempston, which is bargain cost like 5-9 EUR.
  • if you donot need two slots and bigger unit on back of your unit and you want to spend less for that kind of equipment for your retro ZX Spectrum
  • I have found that due to it’s size this one can be really nice to put inside the cut down mod of 128k +2 and have all-in-one.

When I have connected it to my black +2a unit first thought was: it will be pain to remove – that was my experience with other short vertical mount interfaces, but – surprisingly not. The connector is not working too hard when dismounting unit.

What can be problematic is the SD card is sticking out…

So I have picked up my Macbookpro SD adapter… and that’s it – if it’s problem – find cutdown SD card adapter like this one:

Summing up: unless M1 problem in your Z80 processor both models will play nice with your ZX Spectrum.

Actually played with both units during Warsaw Retro Meetup last saturday and had no single problem with them.

Both units has 128KB RAM inside, by per request Ben mentioned it can be raised to 512KB.

Bytedelight.com

DivMMC Enjoy Black 2017.2 in webshop

DivMMC Enjoy Mini in webshop

TKPie HDMI interface by Piotr ‘zaxon Bugaj

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

Since annoucment fro Victor Trucco of TKPie (also known as ZXPie) in 20.Oct 2016 and fast declaration from Piotr ‘zaxon Bugaj to bring it to his offer I was keeping my thumbs to get it fast. Just before Christmas 2016 I got it, “soldered” my spare RaspberryPi Zero, put baremetal OS on microSD card… and have enjoyed the working unit for 5 minutes. After that it went really hot so I have turned my old rubber 48k off. After cooling turned it again… but it went to black screen. It’s interesting, as RaspberryPi Zero worked flawlessly alone running Retropi.

Piotr was so kind to inspect the unit, he has resoldered my Raspberrypi Zero’s connector and it works now, so assume my soldering skills was the reason of the problem 🙂

In between – it cames in real tests that initial version of baremetal OS won’t work correctly on 128k shadow screen switching, but on 10. January Victor Trucco updated the support of that in CPLD insert. It means – every unit of TKpie can be updated but of the level of CPLD (so you need to have a 3-4 USD “USB Blaster Programmer Cable For FPGA CPLD JTAG Development Board”.

So initial experience was a bit complicated as for the user, however with Piotr’s help it went all into working one.

This also may be a bit complicated for many others, also it’s not possible to stock Raspberrypi Zero as sales are limited to one unit per order – but actually if you are not skilled to make prober soldering of RaspberryPi Zero and female connector (more about it below) it may be a bit frustrating issue for you.

One thing I think is a bit “minor” is that Piotr decided to use male connector (pins) on TKpie. It’s logical from point of TKpie maker (where TKpie logially is main unit towards RaspberryPi Zero) but not towards RPizero typical distribution and connectors. Let me clear this: I’m user of RaspberryPi since first version. Raspberrypi Zero is first unit that has not soldered extension connector, so maybe that makes mess, but all extensions towards RPi works like: male pins are on Raspberrypi board, extension is with female connector. This makes mess when you order Raspberrypi with presoldered connector… and you will get it default with male connector (pins)… and try to connect it now to TKpie 🙂

When finally we have correctly soldered TKpie with Raspberrypi Zero, with new baremetal OS on microSD card we will hit another wall: there is no sound over HDMI, just video. Basically… the unit needs even simple analog-to-digital converter for sound and smart insert for this into RPizero. Or multicore Raspberrypi that will do this (as I read this is about processing limit on the RPizero). So if you use flat TV or monitor that allows you to insert separate audio signal to the video – that’s ok. If you use amplifier with speakers to run sound – that’s also ok.

I have found Tkpie to work a bit different on 48k ZX Spectrum and 128k ZX Spectrum (no matter if it’s 128k Toastrack or grey 128k +2).

For below examples and test I was using HDMI converted hooked into Avermedia Gamecapture HDII then whole thing was for my eyes on Eizo gaming FS2331 monitor. I wanted to be able to capture difference in quality of video and as screenshots – but that comes limits – cannot run the HDMI converter in other then 1080p/720p and be able to record video capture 🙁 so 1024x768px mode is not possible for that).

However I was able to hookup dual connection – so mirroring video output from speccy – (RGB Scart lead to Scart Input  or cheap HAMA composite to Scart converter inserted into Scart input in HDMI video conterter) and HDMI out directly from TKpie/RPizero, so please dig in details of the pictures and video capture.

What is important: TKPie and RPizero is powered from your ZX Spectrum, no need to power it other way. 

Starting up on 128k models is… longer, comes with kind of garbage on screen – as I know from Piotr – it’s memory test of Raspberrypi Zero, however it’s visible only on 128k models. After soft reset it becomes correct and clean – donot know why. On rubber 48k (6a issue board with composite mode) it’s instant and clean.

My conclusion is very simple: it’s great extension and solution for any 16k/48k models as composite won’t be that clear and crispy. This review brought me also thinking again (after a few years in digital connection) how proper cable and isolation is important for analog connection. I have used cinch-cinch cable that was around me – but this one was intended oryginally for stereo connection, not video, even the plug are correct, it gets a lot of garbage from PSU cable etc. So donot forget about it when connecting.

For 128k models – if you have proper RGB Scart cable – the scalling from RPizero won’t be that good as that simple 30USD unit like my HDMI converted does.

Why to have TKpie and HDMI output for your retro Spectrum?

  • if you need to test units that have no composite mod done, either you donot want to do this by making (even simple) changes inside your Spectrum and keep it original (however – when you do recapping I think it’s not issue to make composite mod also). Imagine you want to test 10 rubber units from car sale – with simple hook up to pocket HDMI monitor you can test them even outdoor at sale location.
  • if you want to hook up your Spectrum to any kind of modern HDMI monitor or LCD TV without Scart/composite input or there is a lot of noisy PSU or other sources that make your analog singal dirty and noisy.

So finally – I will pass over it for 128k Spectrums as my RGB Scart cable gives me better video… and audio together on HDMI connection thru additional but already owned HDMI converter.

Edit: above is strikethrought as I have found one thing that TKPie does: it works with every HDMI hardware I have: SmallHD 4″ monitor, HDMI converted, Avermedia Gamecapture HDII. I donot need to use flat TV or large monitor – so it can work for me as mobile solution to check or play with my speccy (just power speccy from powerbank and that’s it). 

But I will be using this for fast connect/test-pass routines as it’s very fast and reliable. The only minor with TKpie is… I cannot use it with my Retroleum Smartcard as not of these two are connection-thru unit. So I can use only one of them. Imagine you have to test rubber, you cannot open it, keyboard is not working. For Smartcard – it’s not a problem as you can run all test thru autorun ROM or use joystick thru Kemston port to go thru menu. So combining there two into one working connection is my dream. It’s possible then to test board alone, without hooking the keyboard…

Finally about the scores. From max (10) points on features I thought about three minors: no sound over HDMI, 128k screen quality is better over RGB to Scart connection then thru TKpie, no additional features (ULAplus support, different upscaling modes). For the money paid – even including RPi zero price with shipping, additional connectors, HDMI cable, paying someone to do job – it’s still bargain cost to have it as solution for old 16k/48k HDMI output. Compare to Spectra interface. 2,5x cheaper in total or even more. With price I had no wonders – it’s maximum value per money. I have divided points for quality for 48k and 128k models. For easy of use I had real dilemma. Typical use of this product for user with no soldering skills is painful at start. It will be hard to get solution as limits of buying RPizero make hard to create stock for Piotr. However I have to mention it and include in total score. It’s not for beginner until RPizero is soldered. Lack of manual makes things more for advanced one that will ask/search/get knowledge. Support/manual – also divided I would be max for support – Piotr is really helpful person, but lack of manual with TKpie, not much over internet makes for me average at 6 points in this category. But – this is easy to change – creating dedicated subpage, simple step-by-step manual with pictures. I highly suggest to reverse fale/female connectors of TKpie (to have female on TKpie and male on RPizero) as it’s more standard since all versions of RaspberryPi and some shops sell RPizero with option of presoldered connector (but as male on RPizero). In my opinion RPizero have to be lifted/supported from below as HDMI cables are hard/heavy enough to press on connector and whole unit so against computer extension connector. The 2nd unit I have received form Piotr was premade towards more durable – the pins from RPizero has been soldered directly to TKpie board.

When soldered – really nice combo with new DivMMC AY, aspecially for my old rubbers 16k/48k. For whole family of 128k prefer to use good quality of RGB2Scart leads.

 

Piotr ‘zaxon’ Bugaj on sellmyretro.com

Screenshots:

The screenshot was taken from demo “Big things” done by speccy.pl team honoured 2nd place on Forever XVIII (March 2017). You can check/compare your video output by loading the demo here or just grabbing scr screenshot here.

I can Switch

Saturday, March 4th, 2017

part one: first impression after first day.

Day has ended, and it’s Nintendo Switch day, definately.

Started with thinking when I will get it in my hands, ended thinking how good work has been done with whole The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

What was between? Got it, plugged it to charge. I’ve created user, logged into eShop to see… 18 games total. WTF? Really? 18 games? Where are indie games? Where is something that I thought will be on the start – access to Virtual Console and old games from NES and later???

A few new party games, NEOGEO ports, and three titles I really wanted but need to wait as they are unavailable at Switch lauch: Mariokart, Splatoon, Skyrim and my son will want to see Minecraft on Switch. So for the lauch line-up of games – I’m dissapointed, even I love new Zelda.

Size of the Switch. I thought it will be smaller. With joycons, it’s almost the same size as WiiU. A kind big handheld to be honest. A kind of that big, that won’t fit pants’ pockets.

Screen. B-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l. Cannot even compare to WiiU screen – my son just said ‘woooow’ seeing Zelda on it.

Zonk one: trying to connect to my wifi network. I went to the router, press Push’n’Connect button and… Switch still wanted me to input password. Why Nintendo? It was so simple with 3DS.

Zonk two: 3 hrs of Zelda and that’s it. Need to load Switch, of course, can put it in dock station and continue on my flat TV, but it’s not freedom of play. I know, big screen, quality of screen, power consumption – I know that all. But in this area Switch is half way from WiiU to 3DS. And maybe it’s great to have it right there – somewhere between. Love the fact I can simply record gameplay thru HDMI to my Gamecapture HDII as on WiiU. Still – to do this on 3DS is too expensive (need to mod the console which is more expensive then console itself).

Apart to these two zonks – great experience. I really enjoyed new Zelda. I’m happy to get this on preorder today, pity there is no Limited edition or Ambassador version like with 3DS/new 3DS.

Switch and play. So I just dit it.

tbc