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New Subsite 1088XEL.Bitsofthepast.com

I want to introduce you to an extension of the work I’ve done for the 1088XEL mini-ITX Atari.  I hope to have two builds eventually, one in the mini-ITX format and a second more advanced build of the 1088XEL based 1090XLR in a Micro-ATX case.  To that end I decided to start documenting the modification of a mini-ITX case to house the 1088XEL motherboard and accessory boards I sell.  These boards will of necessity be customized versions to better fit the particular APEX MI-008 case I’ll be using, but I hope to keep as much generic as possible.  The first few posts have already gone up on the site.  Come visit.  🙂

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Partkeepr Electronics Parts Inventory DB on PI3

A couple of years ago I got drawn into the mania surrounding the release of the then new PI3 model B.  Such a powerhouse of a computer in such a small package.  True, it couldn’t hold a candle to my main desktop pc in cpu speed, video or memory, but neither did it have a huge footprint, power appetite or  noise level.  Also about that time I graduated from just a couple three or four parts boxes to a full blown whole section of one wall lined with parts cabinets.  I was beginning to order parts for projects that I unknowingly already had in the bins.

The idea came to me that the PI3 could be used as a light weight internal parts inventory web server.  It would have the advantage of being accessible on my home network from any device connected via a browser, be on all the time and not create noise or consume lots  of power like my desktop pcs.   I had dismissed an earlier idea to use one of my NAS units to do the same due to the OS being so tightly proprietary and their cpu and memory were even less than the PI3.

At the time the PI3 was using Debian 8 Jesse as it’s main OS.  Unfortunately that release of Debian was beginning to be long in the tooth as far as what web server apps versions would run on it.  For instance PHP 7.0 had been released, but was not recommended on Jesse and there appeared to be no install package that had been released for that version of Debian.  Finally Ubuntu Mate 16.04 was released for the PI3.  Now there was a more modern version of Linux that would support the newer web server apps.

So then I went looking for an electronics parts inventory DB app.  Finally I happened upon the Partkeepr website. At that time it still hadn’t reached v1.0 yet, but I was impressed at how complete it seemed to be already.  I decided to try and get it up and running on the PI3 with the Ubuntu Mate 16.04 OS.

I began a torturous odyssey to somehow get the Partkeepr app up and running on the PI3.  Sometimes I digressed back to Debian Jesse and the older support apps, sometimes I quit the PI3 altogether and tried running a Linux machine inside VirtualBox on my backroom pc.  I got right upto the final setup screen on the Partkeepr setup app where it was trying to ‘warm up the cache’ and it would fail every time on the PI3.  Once on the virtualbox machine running Ubuntu Mate I was able to finish the setup, but that wasn’t really the way I wanted to access Partkeepr.   I would set the project aside for sometimes months at at time, but it was never completely abandoned.

Over the last year and a half Partkeepr itself has improved and added features.  It is now at version 1.3.  Also apparently I am not the only one wanting to use it on machines like the PI3.  The last time I checked the Partkeepr Wiki website there was a work around for the slow I/O issue with PI machines that caused the cache failure.  So obviously there was enough demand to support the effort to find a workaround.  Also on the Partkeepr Wiki website there is a generic Debian 9 Stretch walk through to setup Partkeepr.  Then recently the Raspberry foundation updated it’s default OS to Debian 9 Stretch.

As the first major project for the new year I decided to take up the project again.  I decided to follow as closely as possible the generic Debian 9 Stretch walk thorough, while incorporating the slow I/O fix for the PI3.  Things went rather smoothly for a change.  There were some bumps in the road, but no major roadblocks as long as I made the necessary changes for the particular setup and app versions I was using.  As I went along I kept a journal of the necessary commands and configuration settings.   If it worked, I intended to memorialize it with the intention of seeing if I could repeat the install and eliminate wasted effort for others.   I believe I was successful in both.

I now have a functioning Partkeepr installation on my PI3 machine.  I have no illusions on the speed of this installation.  After all it’s on a PI3, but since I’m the only user and my parts inventory is somewhat under the 1000 number, it should work just fine.  I wouldn’t advise trying to use the PI3 for other server functions.  The instructions I am providing assume that the Partkeepr host is the only one on the PI3.  If you want to use and add additional virtual hosts on the PI3, I suppose you can, but I have no clue what changes need to be done to the instructions I provide to allow that.  This only gets you to the first login to the Partkeepr server.  You still need to configure parts location and part categories, before you can actually begin to enter your parts.   This web page gives you basic overall info on how to do that, starting on page two of the article.  For other info, remember Google is your friend.

Now I’ve had some experience in Linux from years and years ago, but I’m mainly a Windows person.  More so now that I find I don’t remember things as easily as I did in my youth.  🙂  So I have to warn you that even the simplified instruction I give you assume that you have some experience with Linux/PI3/CLI/Networking and computers in general.   If you don’t feel comfortable with the instructions, get a hold of a friend or someone who owes you that does have that level of experience and can do it for you.  One final caveat, this instruction assumes a US-Central Timezone installation.  You will have to make the necessary changes in the localization section of the PI3 for your country, keyboard and timezone settings.

 

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Update to previous posts on the XEL XF551 versions and PIC Adapter/Multi-Aux SIO boards

We are in a new month with some new boards and updates to existing boards.  I finally finished the three Youtube video series on using the PICKit3 and Microchip’s MPLAB X IDE to program the PICs used in the 1088XEL Alternate Atari Motherboard project.  The final video goes over how to use the PIC Adapter with the PICKit3.   Normally the PICKit3 is an in-system programmer, but with the adapter you have the option of programming those PICs out of system.

As an added bit of triumph I have finally been able to develop an XEL XF551 floppy disk drive board that works.  It was harder than I thought, based primarily on some stupid assumptions.  I won’t bore you with the details.  But the basic version is up and running.  This means that you can now install an XF551 capable disk drive in a free drive bay of your PC case and connect it to the board and then the board to the AUX SIO connector on the 1088XEL.  Now you can have a true PC case with Atari inside including the ability to use an original 5 1/4 inch floppy drive.

I’m still working on a combo drive that will combine the SDrive and XF551 circuitry with a front bezel control panel for a free 3 1/2″ drive bay.   Shouldn’t be too much longer on that.

 

 

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Good News on 1088XEL PIC MCU programming

 

Over the last few days I’ve been working on a pdf/video combination that would give the 1088XEL DIYers more information on how to program 1088XEL PIC MCUs using a PICKit3 Clone programmer and the MPLAB X IDE software. Finally got most of it done now.

Currently I only have a handmade adapter for 8 and 18 pin PICs, but I should be recieving a new PIC Adapter designed especially to handle all four of the PICS used in the 1088XEL build. Once they are in and I have one assembled, I’ll finish the group of videos with a short one on how to use the PIC adapter with both the JOY2PC and PICKit3 programmers.

In the meantime here are the pdf/video combinations I currently have available.

General PICKit3/MPLAB X IDE Info PDF

General PICKit3 Clone info:

1088XEL PIC MCU programming info for MPLAB X IDE and Programmer2Go PICKit3 function:

 

 

 

 

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Why………?

 

I don’t usually comment on current events.  Usually because it’s all about politics and everyone has an opinion, good bad or indifferent.   But why?

Why Charlottesville? Why New Town? Why London…. Why Paris…… Why Syria?  Why all the other mass killings in the last century?  Why?

Different races, different politics, different political systems, different continents.  The one thing in common is that men and women and children are being killed for no other reason than that they are there and available to be used by their murderers to further their own agenda.  Has life become so cheap now, that it is a disposable commodity?

Why….?

 

 

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Another 1088XEL board offer and other news

 

Time flies…..   I wait impatiently for the official release of the 1088XEL motherboard project by Mytekcontrols from AtariAge.com.  Bugs and life seemed to have conspired to delay the early summer release date.  He has released the almost final schematic, but cautions that something may yet change after testing what he hopes is the final board version due in the next week or two from EasyEDA board house.   That has delayed testing of some boards I have designed, as I want to be sure they will not only work, but work with his board.    The SDriveXEL board I can test on my current Atari machines, but the XF551XEL and XF551SDriveXEL versions almost require the combined combinations of 1088XEL and the MicroATX case and power supply to fully test fit and function.   I do what I can in the meantime.

In the meantime I have been working on one of the few remaining weaknesses of the 1088XEL. And while a lot can be builtin on the 1088XEL motherboard, you’re always going to need a way to pop in that new/old stock cartridge that you just acquired from Ebay (or the dumpster 🙁 ).   A standard miniITX/microATX case just wasn’t built with the need for an external Atari cartridge slot in mind.  There’s literally no designed slot for an Atari cartridge.    So you have to work with what is there.

For awhile yet most tower cases in the mini-ITX and micro-ATX format still offer at least one 3 1/2″ and one 5 1/4″ external drive bays.  Some have two external 5 1/4″ drive bays.   Riches……  🙂  So rather than expecting the Atarian to take a hack saw/Super Dremel cutter to the case to fashion a cartridge slot,  I decided to see if I could fit a cartridge slot into the space of a 5 1/4″ drive bay.  And then because sometimes the distance between the drive bay and the motherboard connection could be 12″ to 18″,  I worked with tf_hh to deal with signal loss on that long a ribbon cable connection.  After testing and finding what I think are all the flaws I’ve decided to release the product for sale.

On the 1090XLR front, I am happy to report that Roland Scholz, who developed the prototype PCBridge some years ago has successfully developed the first internal expansion card for the 1090XLR project.  The card is a combination dual serial/single parallel port I/O card.  Both the 1090XLR and card are still in prototyping mode.  tf_hh is also working on a version for the 1090XLR of his SysCheck device.  Progress should go much quicker once both have returned from their much deserved vacations this month.

 

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New 1088XEL compatible storage mediums

With the imminent release of Mytekcontrol’s 1088XEL project I have decided to reimage the SDrive and XF551 floppy disk drive boards to allow an in case storage medium.   Depending on your preference you can purchase an SDriveXEL for floppy disk emulation only or go almost totally retro with a real modernized XF551 floppy disk drive pcb that will drive a compatible 3 1/2″ or 5 1/4″ drive mech.    There’s even an option to combine both SDrive and XF551 features on a single 4 layer pcb.  For the die-hard DIYer there’s even the option to buy the bare boards and build from the ground up.

Your choice of mini-ITX case will be crucial as not all will have the required disk drive bays.  The SDriveXEL option only requires a single 3 1/2″ or 5 1/4″ drive bay with adapter rails.  The XF551XEL options all require both a 3 1/2″ and a 5 1/4″ drive bay or (2) 5 1/4″ drive bays in the case.  I have listed some compatible cases below.  By no means is this list exhaustive, but it gives an idea of what is needed.  MicroATX cases that also handle mini-ITX boards are also an option.

Another crucial requirement is an adequate power supply to support the real 3 1/2″ or 5 1/4″ drive mech.  I recommend an actual ATX12V standard pc power supply.  A 200-300W power supply should be more than sufficient.  No need to go higher.  I have created a ATX12V adapter board to ease the use with the 1088XEL motherboard.  It should work for either a 20 or 24 pin mainboard connector.

In other news….. the 1090XLR project continues in fits and starts.  Currently the main prototype board and a serial/parallel I/O plug in board are in testing.  I hope to begin testing Ralf David’s ROMDISK board soon as well.

Links to suitable mini-ITX tower cases:  (I recommend this webbased pc component supplier due to several years worth of business with them.  However they are not the only source for mini-ITX cases by any means.)

APEX MI-008

Rosewill RS-MI-01 BK

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Restocked, reloaded and something…… something else…..

Well……  I’ve been restocking pcbs and some parts.  Mostly parts that I have to order on Ebay and get from China.  Those typically take upto three weeks to arrive.  Other parts that I can get state-side within a week I’ll wait until I have an order in.  Still have a couple of boards to come in.  Namely the final board I need for the RD Eprom burner board kit.  Should have that by the end of the week though.

The 1090XLR project is in full swing.  I’ve got a website and forum up for it at this address. 

The one thing I’ve been planning has not happened yet.  I was planning to start the new year with a website redesign.  Hasn’t happened yet as you can tell.  I’m still working on it.  A little at a time.  I might have it done for Jan 1 2018.  🙂

 

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Yesterday, website nuked by mistake…..

It was bound to happen at some point.   No person is perfect.  In fact most people would agree that if they do most things half right most of the time they are satisfied in their perfection.  Well… I guess I am satisfied.  🙂

I was in the process of trying to add additional features for the 1090XLR project to the domain when I veered off course and started doing clean up from past mistakes.  I had some orphaned databases and folders that were left over.  The orphaned databases were easy to deal with.  But then I discovered a scripted uninstall app in the Cpanel of the website domain manager.  It was listing several lingering breadcrumbs to failed or abandoned projects.  So happy that I had an easier way to clean the site up, I started selecting the orphaned breadcrumbs for deletion/uninstalling.  Only the listing was slow in updating and in the process I selected the active app for deletion.   WTF???!!!

Four hours later I finally had a functioning website back.  Fortunately I had done a brute force backup of the website, late last November and so I was able to use it to get back up.   So right after I finish writing this post, I plan to make a backup both on the domain and off-site.  I really did have other things to do yesterday and I don’t want to repeat this.  Especially since there are so many other things to only get half right most of the time.  🙂