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.
Yes it’s been awhile since my last post. Not that I haven’t been busy. Far from it. Over the last few years along with developing the reimaged XF551 main board I have also been working on a secondary board that would add additional nice features. At times I explored adding various leds, switches to change drive # and OS, reset drive, adding SDrive option, USB2SIO, CSS’s XF551 Enhancement etc. I’ve had productive email/IM sessions with several others active in the Atari community, Igor Gramblicka, Pasiu, 1050, Bob1200XL and Larry. I wouldn’t have had the success I’ve had without their involvement. At this point I am reaching the final testing and refinement of that mod board. Hopefully in the next month, I’ll be able to offer it for sale. Nothing earth shaking here, but I wanted to give an update.
It’s been a long time coming. I apologize. This is the final version of the original reimaged XF551 boards. I am considering doing a proto XF551 in a 1050 case, but I doubt I’ll produce it for sale. I have all but used up the SIO connectors I could find. I could use a DB9 or DB15 or sell the board without the SIO connectors. Not really what I want to put my name on. 🙁
I have fixed the issue with format and write that cropped up on the reimaged version 1 original power supply board. The modern power supply version was a simple fix and not always needed. Some owners never had any problems. The reimaged version 1 original power supply boards were a little harder to fix, requiring a redesign of the board.
I am in the process of finalizing the mod board long promised. Testing proceeds.
Okay another couple of weeks gone and some clarification. The person who was having problems with his SIO2SD when connected to my XF551 remade board has reported that it is happening randomly when not connected, so that seems to clear my board of that issue. He also is still having problems with his XF551 original power supply. His XF551 modern power supply is working. The other person who was reporting SIO slowdown and misreads on both his reimaged XF551 original power supply boards is still having them and I still cannot duplicate it on my test board. The individual who just wanted to return his boards to be retrofitted seems not to have sent them yet, at least I haven’t recieved them yet.
I see that Igor Gramblicka has tested the XF551 board and daughter board I sent him some time back before I went public. I am using a Google translation of his post and from what I can determine his test board is also working. Some issues with the daughter board, but I expected that. I did find some minor issues myself and one major that seems to be affecting some and not other people. I will be working to implement fixes and upgrades to version 2 of my board and daughter board. Test boards are currently at the board house being made. They should arrive here in another two weeks.
I am also working on a version that will fit a 1050 case, an XF551 in a 1050 so to speak. You would need to do some mods to the 1050 housing to accomodate the drive mech. But those mods would normally be internal to the case, not seen on the outside. Of course all fixes to the original design will be implemented on this new project. This will be sold as a DIY kit, because of the needed mods on the case. More info after I finish testing my fixes.
It’s been a couple weeks now since the discovery that there is a problem with previously released XF551 boards. I have heard from four people. One said he wasn’t having any problems no fix needed. Great!
One said he was having problems with both his modern and original power supply boards. He robbed the correct part off one of his original XF551 and place it in his modern power supply remake and it seemed to solve the problem. The board now will read/write/format disks. Then he indicated that he was now getting intermittant garbling in his SIO2SD video display when my board was connected but not when he used an original XF551. And no problem with normal computer video with either XF551 connected w/o the SIO2SD. Not sure what’s going on there. Trying to nail down exactly what’s connected and how it’s configured. Even the slightest thing could be creating a problem there. His original power supply remake board seems to be having more problems after the fix parts I sent. Again trying to nail down what it is or is not doing. The time difference between Europe and the USA slows down communication.
The third has two original power supply remake boards and while one has the fix and the other doesn’t he is saying both are supposedly having SIO errors that is slowing reading and writing down by a third. I cannot duplicate his issue on my test board. I may have made an error on the first board I sent him, but I tested the hell out of the second since that was when I discovered the write/format problem.
The fourth person is unwilling to troubleshoot and simply wants me to retrofit the fix. I have advised him to send the board back and I would fix/verify that the drive board is functioning properly.
The fix works. But…. Thirty plus years of wear and tear on moving parts and electronics, 3rd party devices never dreamt of when the Atari computers were first manufactured and simple human error are conspiring to create a confusing picture.
Just when you think you are riding high and taking no prisoners. (Yea, I shoulda known) I have discovered a fatal error on my XF551 boards. I believe it affects both versions, modern and original.*
It’s not that it can’t be fixed, but it’s the loss of trust and extra expense I hadn’t counted on that’s going to hurt me most. Not to mention the hassle to my customers. I have posted on AtariAge.com and will try to send notification to those who have purchased via the email used when they purchased.
Any new boards sold will include the fix.
*Update….. At this time it seems to be only affecting the original power supply boards. Possibly a consequence of the anemic power supply design for the original Atari XF551. Anyway some people are reporting the problem, others are not having a problem. To date noone has reported the problem with the modern power supply model.
Well the mainboard is finally done. No more changes. troubleshooting etc. Not the same to be said about the mod board and the enhancements. I was hoping to be able to offer both the board and the mods at the same time, but now my tester/creator of those mods is otherwise occupied with life. So we move on. I have decided to offer the boards anyway. Once the mods have been tested and finalized, I can offer them as a plug in upgrade.
Due to the severe shortage of SIO connectors I will be limiting the number to 1 per order. That at least will give everyone a fair chance I hope to purchase.
I am looking into possibly an alternative to the SIO connectors (board redesign?) or having them 3d printed. I am thinking that the state of 3d printing might have progressed to the point that the metal pins can be incorporated during the printing process. It seems possible. 3D printing is appealing, but still just a little out of my price range for the quality I want.
I started this project a little over 2 years ago. Working part time through two different pcb board design software suites, my own inexperience and a desert of information on the XF551 I have come out on the other side a changed person. Along the way I have been helped and tutored by several people that if not for them, I would not have succeeded. I want to publicly thank Guus Assmann(guus.assmann), Igor Gramblicka, and Jonathan Halliday(flashjazzcat).
Give me a couple days to get the boards photoed and the site setup to sell them. In the meantime here’s something to wet the whistle.
Recieved what I hope is the final proto boards in Monday. Over the last few days I have soldered in all the essential parts. Not the front panel mods. That area is still in development and could change. But all parts necessary for the operation of the board have been soldered in except for the power and data cable for the drive. I have power tested the board and nothing blows up, some chips get warm but no sauna chips and no exploding caps or resistors. Since there are no Sam’s manual for the XF551 and therefor no documented measurements I can check against, that may mean nothing at all, but I am cautiously optimistic.
Next up is the attachment of the power and data cables for the floppy and the installation of the board and drive into the case. Then the next major test is the power up w/o connection to the Atari. Does the drive power up like a normal XF551? Is there backfeed through the SIO connectors etc? I don’t want to fry an Atari computer.
I am using the modern format XF551 to test with. It should prove the hardest to get up and running. What I learn here on this one will allow me to get the original setup quicker. I suppose I could have gone the other way around but I only had enough money to send 1 board format to manufacture. $80 for 5 boards 15cm X 15cm plus shipping. It ain’t cheap.
Next update should come by the end of this next week.