Thursday, 23 October 2014

SLOWLY GETTING BACK INTO PROJECT STUFF

Hi Everyone,

I'm back!!! :D Well, I'm not in full on geek project mode again but it's getting there. Our wedding and Honeymoon have now passed which has gone far too quickly!! But the day was amazing and went exactly how we wanted which is all you can ask for. Perfect! Then the day after our wedding we jetted off to Singapore for 4 days then hopped onto another plane and went to Bali for 6 days. The honeymoon was so awesome and such a change of pace from here at home. It was 4 days of non-stop sight-seeing and walking about and then 6 days of non-stop chilling out and relaxing and swimming. It was absolutely brilliant!

Then the next weekend we were off to Gloucester for a Lindy Hop weekend, 3 nights of social dances and 2 full days of workshops/lessons. We love this weekend which happens every year and it was the icing on the cake of our wedding few weeks. :D

Now we're home and getting back to normal I've started finding the time to get some more work done on my Neptune. Not so much the case but the wiring for the modular idea I've had where I won't potentially be ruining an expensive 32x to make a Neptune.

So I've been doodling what I need to do.

As you can see from the picture on the right I'm going to do the Fold Under way of mounting the 32x because of the new placement of the power and reset buttons. They are moved up the board closer to the cart slot, see the photo later on, so the normal stretched out 32x layout wont work as the cartridge connecter area goes over the buttons and they wont work.

The modular idea is to desolder the megadrive's cartridge slot and rather than binning it like you would normally I'm going to solder the short wires to this so that its a repostitioned cart slot. This will mean that I wont have to solder straight to the 32x. I want to not have to do too much modding to the 32x if I can help it and if I can I don't want to put solder all over the cart pins on the 32x. Its going to be a bit tighter in there because of the cart slot but thats the plan anyway.

And once I’ve gotten the cartridge slot moved, which I’m not looking forward to as its a lot of wires to solder and they are the lovely little wires that love to pull away from solder or to snap if you move them even remotely quickly, I’ll then have to get onto making some wires that will hook the 32x up internally. Normally with the Neptune mod you either desolder the A/V in and out ports on the back as well as the PSU port and solder wires from them to the required places on the Megadrive’s motherboard. Obviously with this modular route I don’t want to be taking things off the 32x or soldering to it if possible, I want this expensive peripheral to still be nice, and also problem solvable. I think I have 2 Megadrive 2 A/V plugs in my tool box at home so my plan is to create 2 wires with A/V plugs on the ends that will plug into the 32x. One will go into the A/V in port which will be soldered to the underside of the Megadrive 2’s A/V out area. The other will be soldered to the original Megadrive 2’s A/V port which will be mounted upside down as of The Longhorn Engineer’s original design. Then, in theory the wiring will work exactly the same as the normal way of doing the mod but in a plug and play way. The PSU connection will be done the same way the Mega-CD tail I made for my Jammadrive 2. I will need to sacrifice a Megadrive PSU to get the port but it should also work fine having a plug inside the case.

—— FAST FORWARD Doodle-doodle-doodle-doodle ——

I’ve been writing this post over the span of 2 weeks when I’ve got snippets of time and I’ve actually done some of the modifications to the Neptune wiring already. So I thought I would show its progress so far. Bare in mind I don’t have a working 32x yet, I only have my original FUBAR’d one which I’m using for checking on spacings inside the case etc.


This weekend I started the long task of desoldering the cartridge port and wiring up all the extension wires to it. I’ve recently been getting into The Game Chasers web show on youtube and this kept me company through the slightly tedious task of stepping and repeating the wiring. Here are a few photos of the process of extending the cartridge slot so that it will sit in the position I’ve been thinking will work best. In these photos you can also see the power on / off and reset buttons that I’ve moved so that they will work with the new positioning of the buttons on the Neptune case. You can also see on the underside of the board where I’ve moved a load of capacitors to the make room for the extended cart slots wires to sit. ( Note - you can see the last cart solder point on the right has come away, this was a gutting moment I must admit, but thankfully I traced where it went off to and managed to patch in the wire when re-wiring the cart slot and it all works)


For doing wiring like this I highly recommend the helpful hand crocodile grip stands. They are a god send for holding parts in place while you solder them. It’s such a pain to do this sort of stuff without them.


And here you can see the cartridge slot in place with a copy of Sonic 2 in there from when I successfully tested the slot out. Phew that was such a relief when I switched it on and it worked. Its a little buzzy in the audio department but its not too bad and it could possibly be from interference / cross talk from the unshielded wires. I tried a couple of games but I had it twice not load a game for me and when I inspected the wires one or two had come away from the cart slot. I desoldered these little tinkers and tried a pile of my megadrive games out. Games from different producers and I even got the furthest I’ve ever gotten on Shadow Dancer. So while it was still playing I delicately ran some hot glue over the top layer or connections on the cartridge slot to help give the wiring a little bit more grip and hopefully stop any breaks.

The next step was to get my 32x slotted into place and see how it lines up with the cartridge slot on the top of the case. A little disappointingly I couldn’t get the case to close. It seemed to be held apart from the lower part of the case by nearly 5mm. So off I trotted outside with my dremel and a grinding bit and tried to shave out some of the inner plastic a bit more to give me a smidge more room for the chock to sit as this is the bit that seems to be the tallest part on the outer edges of the 32x.
After some trimming and testing and trimming I got the case to close. :-D

Here you can see how the 32x sits in the folded under method connected via the now repositioned megadrive 2 cartridge slot. Its sitting really neatly in there I think and doesn’t look any different to the soldered in place versions other than the fact its still plug and play.



Now onto the last step of getting the 32x to stay put inside the case, other than the outer case gripping it like a vice haha. I needed to find some screws long enough to reach through the 32x, its lower board and the megadrive 2 motherboard and into the lower cases screw holes. This has been something I’ve been trying to find whenever I’ve been in a hardware store to buy different things like paint etc. But I’ve always come up with nothing as hardware screws are always too big, they won’t fit through the cartridge slot holes. It’s been a really pain in the butt.

But like an idiot I forgot that where I work, which is a radio control car manufacturer and distributor, I might actually be surrounded by screws that could work. And low and behold that seemed to be the case!!! The trick is to find screws that are the same dimensions ( M3 ), have a similar thread spacing and also long enough, which seems to be around 30mm. Asking some of the tech guys here I’ve found that these screws fit and seem to work a treat! : http://www.hpiracing.com/en/part/Z574  I originally tried a different screw which also fit but the head of the screw was quite deep and the cartridge wouldn’t sit in the slot low enough to be very stable.

Here you can see the new long screws holding everything into place. WOOP!


So the next steps, which I haven’t actually done yet. Make some small tin-foil shields to sit between the wires to try and limit any cross talk between the wires. Make 2 sets of A/V cables which will plug into the internally mounted 32x. And finally make a wire to hook up the 32x with power.

So over the next few weeks I’ll tinker away and try to make some A/V and power wires up and get them mounted into the Neptune case. It’s actually all starting to come together finally for this project.

Catch you later


Porl’’

Saturday, 9 August 2014

LITTLE BIT OF AN UPDATE

Hi Peeps,

I've just sat down at my desktop computer and realised I hadn't made any blog updates in a while. Man it's been a hectic past month and a bit and all I've been able to do geek-wise is plan things to do.

The Naomi is up and running and worked like a dream on my stag night were a group of us had a gaming night where I put out a load of my consoles with some tv's and my two arcade machines. Everything ran like a dream which was a real relief especially seen's its all old tech really. We got a real good game of Super Mario Bros going on the Mario Allstars cart on the SNES with about 4 of us taking turns trying to beat world 5. Damn Hammer Bros!!! haha. And I also got inspired to play more Sonic Spin Ball on the megadrive where my mate how's really good at it played through the first level while giving me tips. One tip was don't play it overclocked haha as it runs a lot faster and can make a tricky game even trickier! :-P



I've had a few emails about the Sega Neptune replica I've been working on for the past two years and it's progress. Well the progress of it is the outer casing is finished. But the project has stalled because of not having a working 32x to check that it will all work within the case. So I've been checking ebay every now and again but it seems the prices are going up all the time. I've not wanted to put the case out there as finished until I know that the whole kit and caboodle works.

I did a little work on it this morning, well it's not really work but I added in a brighter red LED to the motherboard so that it shines out of the new power light area how I'd like. I've been drawing plans and steps I want to do next to make it so I can get the megadrive 2 ready for a 32x to be put into it but it will still work as a megadrive while I wait on getting one. Make it kind of modular by basically repositioning the cartridge slot so that I won't be soldering to the 32x itself. I think it will work so I'll be doing some capacitor and resistor moving to make space.

Right, well none of this is going to happen until the end of next month now as we're ramping up to the wedding and honeymoon. So it's all hands to the pumps. I best get back to it.

Catch you all soon

Porl''

Thursday, 10 July 2014

SEGA NAOMI CHASSIS SAGA CONTINUES

Hi everyone,

Been a little bit of a break between posts again I know but not as long as it has been in the past haha. We've had a chock-a-block-a couple of weeks and I'd been struggling to get some time in on the Naomi project with helping to setup for summer concerts (indoor and outdoor) practicing for playing in the concerts as well as helping to organise our wedding and our stag + hen do activities. So getting to posting some updates has been a little tight like a tiger. But! Hopefully we have a nice couple of weeks of summer holidays now and a more leisurely pace.

Well, As you probably read in my last post I had a real lemon of a monitor in the Naomi, and from some reading around on the forums I frequent I think it had been a problem for the owner at least a year before I won it on eBay. Bit crap really but I guess that's why I ended up getting it so cheaply. Anyway, nothing to it but try to get the sucker up and running.

So at the end of the last post I had my Naomi up and running via my Dreamcast and had a great time playing some Street Fighter 3 : double impact and Giga Wing. But the pin cushion controls weren't working so you couldn't get it to full screen without it pinching inwards from the sides quite a lot! Pretty annoying and obviously another fault on the chassis.

Well, the chassis lasted until I played on the machine again after having a good nose round it. It started looking like it wanted to scroll and then POP the line came back. I guess some parts of it gave up the ghost, again. So back onto the repair dude for thoughts and ideas because he'd been slowly eliminating problems as he went with my chassis.

Because I'd replaced the transistor already and it had gone again it had to be something else and Grant started thinking it could be a faulty Yoke or fly-back. Well I know what the parts of the monitor are now from doing research on them for the Naomi project but haven't got the first clue with how to diagnose and fix them. So off my chassis went again down south for Grant to do some more inspections and to soak test the chassis again on his spare tube to see if it would hold out. And if it did that would mean that I had an internally sparking Yoke or something.

I had a nose around the Yoke area after I sent the chassis off and found a piece of plastic that encloses some copper wiring was loose and flapping about so I mentioned this to Grant and super glued it back on. He said that this wouldn't be the problem though, so I glued it up so that it should help stop moisture getting into the Yoke area through that avenue.


The coiled up copper wiring on the white cone is the Yoke area. It was absolutely filthy around this area so I gave it a good ol' clean down to see if anything else looked a little suspicious.

The chassis was posted off and received and I waited to see how it would hold up to Grant's tests and started trying to do some internet research on getting hold of Sanwa 29" tubes or even worst case senario, 29" tv's to sub into place. Both lots of research basically came up bust though and it would seem I would need to drop a couple of hundred on a complete monitor and chassis if it show's up as my tube is faulty as spares for them seem to be non-existant anymore. :-(


The weekend comes and I get a PM and its good news, well for me. The chassis popped again on Grant's spare tube within about 20 minutes. This ruled out my Yoke being the issue which made me have a huge sigh of relief!!!

And with this happening it got Grant's head scratching again and he would have to really start delving into the chassis. This could take a while, so awesomely! This is a true example of the Arcade scene's helpfulness and friendliness. He offered to send me his spare working, repaired chassis to use while he spends some time diagnosing and repairing mine so that I have a Naomi to use and play on while he gets into the nitty gritty with my faulty chassis. What a dude!! :D

So while I waited for the spare chassis to arrive I started working away on my Mame PC setup. I've played Mame before on my desktop PC but I've never set up a machine just to play Mame on an arcade machine before so I had to do a lot of reading up on what to use and how to set it so that the resolutions are fixed so they don't damage my fragile monitor and so that there isn't screen tearing etc. The last thing you would want is to give the game away that it wasn't running real arcade hardware inside with crappy looking screen tearing!

I follow a guy on YouTube called Exmosquito who does 1CC runs of some of the hardest arcade games and he runs Mame on his arcade machine and thankfully he did a video a while ago explaining his Mame setup. It looks like it runs absolutely smoothly so I wanted to copy his setup so I could have a spot on machine.

He uses GroovyMame which is a modified version of Mame and he also uses the CRTEmu drivers which are designed to work on ATI graphics cards. So I set about sourcing all the parts for making up a small PC that would run GroovyMame out of my spares.

Typically I didn't have very many parts left over at all. Since I was a teenager I've been into PC's with my Dad and whenever we'd upgrade parts I would generally keep them as spares incase anything went wrong. And over the years I've kept doing this and whenever anyone's PC's needed replacements I've popped these spares into their machines to help fix them. So when it comes round for me to want to make another PC I couldn't as I've given all the spares I need away! haha blumin' typical!

So I went on the scrounge a bit. I remembered my Brother might still have his old motherboard and processor still from when we upgraded his machine a few months ago so I gave him a call and thankfully he did! So I nipped over to pick it up. A good start! I have a mobo and processor. Next I need an ATI graphics card, which no-one I know has so I sourced a nice looking ASUS Radeon HD4350 512mb Silent PCI-express card that's compatible with the CRTEmu drivers and some memory from the local CEX. Im trying to get this little machine running on the cheap cheap if you couldn't tell. Next thing is a Power supply which is easy as I have my spare modular Corsair HX520w psu which will work a treat. And the final thing, a hard drive. I recently had a PS3 Phat 60GB that I reflowed which lasted for a very short time before it was properly bricked so before I binned it I took the HDD out of that and hooked the sucker up. Perfecto! A nice little Mame PC on the pretty cheap.

I mounted it all to the Naomi wooden board so that I knew it would fit within the bottom box of the arcade machine and it ended up looking like this :D


Not too shabby I don't think haha. I set up a switch so that it could be turned on from the front and all the ports are easily accessable from the door of the Naomi and the power cable routes out of the back of the machine.

Next step is to get GroovyMame installed and a load of games loaded and wait on the chassis to return.

More in the next post! :D

Porl''

Thursday, 12 June 2014

A NEW TOY / PROJECT : SEGA NAOMI UNIVERSAL MAME CABINET

Hi peeps,

It's been a little while since my last post. I've been itching to make posts about my new toy but I've been having nothing but trouble with it from pretty much the off so much so that I haven't gotten it to a stable position enough to make a post about it haha.

And the weird thing is I bought this under the impression that I could just plug this sucker in and play. Unfortunately that hasn't been the case.

Here is the beast, my very own candy cab! I must admit, I didn't think I would ever own a candy cab because they are so expensive!

Unfortunetly this isn't the view I had when I first got it home.

Right, how did I end up getting hold of a Naomi Universal cabinet in the first place?

Well I was sitting at our breakfast bar one evening after work with my FiancĂ© Rozzy and some how doing a random google search I came across an link to an ebay auction for a Mame ready naomi universal arcade cabinet. So being a nosey bugger I clicked the link and went through to the listing. It had 2 days to go I think and it had some bids but it was ridiculously low so I said to Roz that I might bid on it but I would never ever get it because it's going to go for at least £200. She said that if I did end up getting it for the measly sum I put in she would treat me as an early wedding present. But I was convinced that I wouldn't get it and to be honest, if I did win it where would I put it?! We live in a cosy small cottage and I don't have a garage haha.

Well, obviously I kept watching how the auction was progressing and no more bids came for a while and I was winning and thinking "crap! Im actually going to win this and I have no where to put it!!! what was I thinking!?" but it still had time and any arcade machines I normally watch for curiosities sake have a blitz near the closing time and shoot right up. Well finally another bid came but I was still winning. Then Wednesday lunchtime comes and Im watching for the Blitz like a hawk on my phone and .....I won it! I only went and blumin' won it and for the princely sum of £64!!!! £64 for a candy cab! And the description said that all I would have to do after collecting it was to plug in a Mame set up PC and it's ready to go! Wowzers!!

I had a bit of a panic about the whole situation to Roz and being awesome she got on the phone and sorted out with her family that I could keep it at their farm until we eventually end up getting a bigger house and I can take it home then. I had the idea that it could go up into our hobby room (this was before I saw how big it actually was and how heavy it is. jeez is it heavy!) but the floor wouldn't be able to hold this kind of machine as its an old place. So I have to store it and work on it at the minute.

Well, we borrowed the Discovery and headed off to Birmingham to pick it up and hope that it would fit in the back. We met up with the seller and had a good ol' chat and nose around his lock up which was packed to the gills with other arcade machines and spare parts. Pretty awesome! And the 3 of us, lifting with our legs, managed to get it to fit quite nicely in the back of the Discovery without any disassembly other than taking the top marquee out. Phew, that was a worry! I really wish I'd taken a photo of the machine in the back of the Disco but with all the excitement I didn't get my phone out. Oh well!

Off we trotted carefully back home in the Disco in rush hour traffic and got the machine out and across the yard to where I'll be working on the machine.

Super excitedly I looked over the machine, got my Dreamcast out of its carry case as the Dreamcast (VGA modded) should be able to plug straight into the Naomi and play straight off and plugged it in. Turned all the power on and I get an image on the screen but it is rolling like a maniac!! Vertical sync isn't working! The image filled the screen from what I could tell but it was scrolling really really fast. I switched off the Dreamcast and tried it a few more times checking the cable was sitting correctly but no go.

I tried my laptop set to 640 x 480 but got the same result :-(

Here you can see the Dreamcast image rolling and rolling and rolling.

So I gave up for the day and headed home and onto the Forums and google to get a hold of a manual and do some research.

The next day I went back to the Naomi with an idea that I'll take the back hood off the machine and hunt down the vertical hold / sync and get it adjusted to settle it down.

Unable to find a V Hold pot I started adjusting the H hold and got the image tuning in and out like you get with an Old TV tuning a station in. I got all the way to the left and got a vertical thin line. This must be the left hand side of the adjustment so lets turn right and see what happens when we get going. Turn......nothing......turn.......still nothing. I got a very cold feeling go down my spine with a realisation that it had just broken big time!!!! Oh man!! This was meant to be an easy plug and play system.

See the image to the left. This is all that happens when tried with either the Dreamcast or the laptop. Oh, and the thin vertical line is still rolling without Vertical sync.

So I got back on to the forum and I got chatting with a guy who is the go to man for repairing the chassis in Naomi's and he's confident that he can repair it.

Of I headed to take the chassis out of the machine and send it off for repair and he found a multitude of things that had gone wrong on the chassis. Cold solder, capacitors gone as well as the vertical transistor and safety resistor. I think I'd been sold a bit of a dog of a monitor set up within this machine. The machine as it is is sound even if it needs a little bit of work to tidy up but the main bit being the monitor seems a bit boned!

Anyway, after a week Grant sent me back my repaired chassis and I installed it into the cabinet and I get a full screen view but its got a twitch to it. It seems like its trying its hardest to roll but something is holding it back. You could really tell it was itching to roll. I adjusted the image with the control panel break-out board and had a quick go on Street Fighter 3 double impact on the Dreamcast. This go was without sound though as the speakers are mounted within the rear hood of the machine. So I got up and headed over to get the hood so I could plug the sound in and I heard a really loud SNAP!!. I quickly turned round and the thin, glowing vertical line was back! Flippin eck!! :-(

After some further PM's Grant really nicely sent over a replacement Transistor and resistor as he thought that the transistor was faulty. The next weekend I replaced the components and BINGO!! I got a steady image! Its on a slight tilt but not so much that the lay person could see without being told. I've got weird pincushion squeeze that I can't adjust out but I'm able to finally play some games on it using my Dreamcast and my Dreamcast arcade stick as I haven't got any pad hacks done yet.

Check it out! That's me playing some Street Fighter 3 Double Impact on the Naomi :D It's stripped down because of fitting the repaired chassis but its working and MAN IS THAT SCREEN BIG!!! It's like sitting in the cinema on the front row, you actually have to turn and really look around the screen or you'll miss something. Its awesome!!!

The pin cushion pinch is a bit anoying though as you can't get the image full screen without it pushing in at the sides so this needs to be adjusted (see right) but the next main job is building a Mame PC from as many spare parts as I can find so its nice and cheap as it's going to sit in the lower part of the Naomi perminantly and only play games. So it doesn't need to be any kind of real power house! And once the PC is working I can get the control panel hooked up via the iPac thats installed in there. :-D

Here's a few shots of the Dreamcast running on screen :



I've also made a video explanation of the progress so far so you can see it actually playing Street Fighter 3 Double Impact.


Looks pretty sweet I think!! :D

Geeky exciting stuff!!!

Catch you in the next update y'all.

Porl''

Monday, 19 May 2014

ARCADE MACHINE REFURBISHMENT - RESURRECTION PART 6. FINISHED!

Hi all,

It's been a couple of weeks since my last update so I thought I would post up a quick update on the Jamma arcade machine resurrection.

ITS FINISHED!!! :-D

Yep indeedy. I've been over to the machine over the last weekend and finished up the last little touches I wanted to do to it so I can call it done. And its a pretty great feeling to know that I've taken a machine that was basically sitting and rotting broken and unusable and its now a tidied up and rejuvenated arcade machine that can be used to run both Jamma and MVS games.

The main finishing touch I wanted to do was re-fit the blackout card around the monitor so that you couldn't see into the machine while playing it and it just makes you focus on the game your playing. When I was removing the card to do the cleaning a part of it got torn so I had to tape it back together.

You can see the join if your looking but Im pretty sure if you didn't know it was torn and repaired you wouldn't spot it. It needed a little trimming and adjusting to get it to fit the new monitor shape nicely but in the end (with some stapling and then re-stapling) I got it to fit how I wanted and closed up the front of the machine and clamped the latches down so its all secure at the front.

On the left you can now only see me and the wall behind me reflecting in the glass rather than seeing straight into the cabinet.


Below you can see a kind of POV of how it looks when your playing. You really just see the game now.



The next step was to tidy up the dangling wires inside the coin door area so I got some of my cable tie bases stuck to the inside of the wood and cable tie'd the wires out of sight. Nice and easy.

I also wanted to mount the Test Switch within the coin mech area on the back of the coin door but the wires weren't long enough so I got a pair of off cuts from the jamma harness and extended them so that I could neatly route the wires along the inside of the cabinet and out to the coin mech nicely. So now when you open the coin door to get to the remote to set the TV to AV so that the picture is perfect the Test switch cabling is no longer pulling on the harness wiring and the door swings freely. :-)

And that's it! :-D I wanted to make a new marquess sign for the machine which I might still do at some point but It all still works and fits and is how the machine was last set up so I think its good for now.

The machine now needs some games played on it so it can be used again. At the minute I've gotten my Jammadrive 2 in permanent residence so that I can get blasting some of the amazing Megadrive arcade conversions I have. Golden Axe really plays nicely in the stand up cab set up even though its still the megadrive version.

Here is the arcade machine in its new location for a while. As you can see I had my trusty assistant with me helping me out. Unfortunately he's too short to reach the Player 2 controls. haha :-P

As I said numerous times Im really stoked out with this project and how I've managed to bring an actual arcade machine back to life from the dead! Its been a project where I've learnt a lot and gained a lot of confidence in this area of retro games electronics / wiring etc.

I have another arcade machine project on the go at the minute, yes I know! Another! But this project is very different to this machine so again its a neat learning experience.

So expect another post up here soon. Hopefully I get a major component for it back tomorrow (fingers crossed) so I can really get to work on it.


Porl''