Wednesday, 19 November 2014

NINTENDO NES NOSTALGIA ??

Howdy Pardnurs!

This week has been a week where I've been playing some games in between doing some graphics work as a little treat for getting stuff finished and sent off. But somehow I still end up managing to fix / work around a problem with one of my consoles.

The start of last week I traded in a few old un-played xbox 360 games at CEX and picked up Dead Space 3 for the 360. I really really loved the first game and the second game was great too but it took me ages playing it in sections as I tend to play now. The xbox 360 is in the living room and seen's its the shared room I can't really hog it by playing games when my wife wants to watch a tv show or something. Its a bit anti-social especially as she hates scary stuff and Dead Space's are horror games haha. So I've started that anyway as I want to finish the series. I've heard its not as good as the other two games and the Co-op element put me off when it originally came out but for £6 I think its worth a punt to round the games series off as I really liked the story.

Also at the end of the week I got back into listening to the Retro Beats podcast on youtube by Derek Alexander, also known as The Happy Video Game Nerd. I really like his web shows and I've always loved the NES game episodes.

The Nintendo NES has always been a console I only ever played in snatches when I went to Comet in my home town. Comet was a national home appliance chain store and the one in my area, back when I was a little kid they had NES's and when they came out SNES's that you could play on until the store workers came around and moved you on. It was a try before you buy type of thing except I could never buy as I was too young haha. So I played the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles game on there as well as Mario and I think Castlevania. But in tiny tiny goes so I never ever got very far. I always loved it though.

When I was growing up I basically went through the Sega consoles so I missed the Nintendo side of things until my mate gave me his childhood NES as he was moving away at the start of this year. I couldn't believe it!! :D

Unfortunetly a few years of inactivity had some how bought upon the dreaded flashing red LED of Doom! So back then I bought a new 72 pin edge connector and replaced the old one and it worked. While I was at it I disabled the lock-out chip to hopefully stop the non-loading problem in the future.

Well that was a while ago now and listening to the Retro Beats podcast re-ignited my want to play some of the games I never got to as a kid. So onto ebay I went and managed to get Duck Tales, cartridge only, for £5 + postage which is a steal I think! :D

Here it is on top of my tiny NES collection which was all given to me by my mate.


It arrived a day early and I excitedly plugged it into my NES and turned it on....and Grey Screen!!! I blew on the cart and in the NES (Old skool fix haha) and re-seated the cart a few times but no joy. Darn it! It was knackered again.

So last night I set about taking the console apart again to clean the connectors, again, and re-seat everything.

While I was at it I decided to give everything a good clean so with my contact cleaning spray. So the motherboard is all nice and clean now and not sticky anymore from flux residue etc. I put it all back together and excitedly tried the console again but still grey screen! :,-(

Out of curiosity I un-pressed / clicked the cartridge from its locked in position and tried the power again and low and behold the game loaded up!! I turned the console off and clicked the game in place again and it Grey Screened! Weird! I tried it with my Mario 3 cartridge and again it worked in the pre-load position but Grey screened in the clicked position. I must have a dodgy new ebay connector. Doesn't matter though as it works in the pre-load position and I've managed to play through 2 levels on Duck Tales so far and its awesome!! And incredibly hard (compared to new games) but it's a really nice challenge. And Im into that kind of difficulty at the mo with trying to beat R-Type on the PC Engine, which is still elluding me haha.


So yeah, Im into this NES malarky at the minute and really loving it! I can't wait to see the other bosses on the levels I've not beaten yet on Duck Tales. And man is that music good!!!! The moon level is amazing but really all the music I've heard so far kicks ass!!


So there you go. If your NES is Grey Screening and not loading any games give the pre-load position as I call it a go. It might be the thing that works as we are always programmed to click the game down in the NES to then play. It certainly works for me :D

Have fun!!

Duck Tales Do Do Do!

Porl'' 

Monday, 10 November 2014

SEGA MEGADRIVE SONIC THE HEDGEHOG USB DRIVE

Howdy Y’all,

I’ve not had much time this past 2 weeks to play with making my Neptune hook-up wires unfortunately and I’ve been getting myself down with doing ebay searches for Sega 32x’s on there and seeing how expensive they are now. The prices of them have really shot through the roof and they seem to be becoming more and more unattainable which sucks. I’m still searching though as I need to get a working one to finish the Neptune off.

Anyway, that’s not what this post is about. Its about a little mid-week recycling project that I’ve been thinking about. I like most megadrive owners / collectors have a couple of spare Sonic the Hedgehog 1’s knocking about that no-one wants and I’ve been feeling that its such a shame that such a great game is just gathering dust getting absolutely no love as there are so many of them about.

Well I had the idea that the cartridges are around the same kind of size as some usb portable HDD’s so I thought I could use the casing to house a HDD and make a geeky drive to carry around. Getting one of my spares out and looking over it I saw that they are a bit too small so I did some research on the internet to see if people have made retro game USB drives and saw that some people sacrifice some awesome looking Nintendo games to use the cases to house the drives. And when I saw this I actually thought its such a shame that the actual game, the physical chips and board are just getting binned so that the cases are empty enough to make room for the HDD’s to fit in. So I opened up my Sonic cartridge to see if there was anyway I could keep the game in there and hopefully make it playable still while also being a USB drive.


Once opened you can see that the actual game board doesn’t take up all the room inside the cartridge and the space available is just a bit bigger than a USB pen drive with some room to spare around the sides. This is a pretty good result as I have a spare USB pen drive knocking about that I don’t use as I always end up losing them seen’s they are so small. And it was also free as I got it in a promo goody bag gift.


I found some sticky back velco strips as I thought that I might get a larger capacity pen drive in the future and if I glue gun the pen drive in place it will be stuck there forever. A rare bit of forward thinking from me haha. I also quickly ordered up a usb extension wire from the interwebs to give me a wire that can connect the cart / usb to my computer. I don’t really like the look of just the USB connector sticking out of the sides so wanted to go the dangly wire way.


Here you can see how the insides of the cartridge will look with the USB pen drive in place and the extension cable hanging out the side. Looking pretty neat.


And here you see how it looks with the little security screws put back into place and the cartridge all closed up.


When I was brainstorming how to have the USB extension cable and have the game playable I thought that if I have the cable coming out of the top of the back alignment groove the cartridge should still fit into the Megadrive 1 and 2 and not crimp or squash the cable. And it was a bit of a relief when I tried it after screwing it back together and it still fit into the cart slot and switched it on! :D


WOOP! Now I have a retro styled backup USB drive which has given a dusty unused cartridge some new life AND the game is still in there and working. So if there is an emergency situation where I see a Megadrive and heaven forbid there isn’t a game available to play then POW! USB Retro pen drive saves the day!

Hopefully this little post will inspire some other people to give their spare cartridges a new lease of life without sacrificing the actual game itself as that seems a big shame to me too.

I’m going to be making some time to make the hook-up wires for the Neptune next so hopefully there will be a post on those soon.

Catch you later

Porl’’


Friday, 31 October 2014

R-TYPE 1CC FIRST LOOP - PC ENGINE

Hi Guys,

This has been something that I've been wanting to attempt since I watched Ex_Mosquito's awesome R-Type arcade 1cc first loop on youtube and when he released the video with commentary I really started trying to get somewhere on my PC Engine version.

The deal with the PC Engine version is they couldn't fit all of the game onto 1 Hu-card as its a really accurate conversion (except they added in vertical scrolling which isn't in the arcade version) so they split it into 2 releases. Misleadingly they named the second half of the game R-Type 2 but this is actually the second half of the first game. Confused? haha

I've tried and tried since being a young lad to get anywhere on the R-Type games on the arcade or on any computers or consoles I found it on and always got stuck on the 2nd level. Its such a hard game. So a stupid dream is to actually get to the end of the game and this has always seemed like a fruitless dream.

With the R-Type version on the PC Engine you get to have a little halftime break so I've been practicing and practicing and I've finally managed to crack the first half of the game. Which is technically, on the PC Engine the first game finished :P it has an ending etc.

I'm so happy right now that I've managed to get through the first part of this game as level 4 is so tough!!! And that I managed to get it on camera. It wasn't the smoothest run that I've had but it's the first time I've been able to beat it. So no more waffle, more video.



Now I'm going to start practicing R-Type 2 so I can finally beat this game! More studying of Ex_Mosquito's commentary and lots and lots of practicing. :D

Catch you later

Porl''

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''