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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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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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New Hardware Coming…….

XF551s

Over the last few weeks I’ve been putting the finishing touches on several small projects that have been sitting on the sidelines.   I plan to have these projects up for sale by Cyber Monday.

One project was started over two years ago, but I kept stalling out on it, or my time got switched to other projects.  I’m finally now going to offer it up for sale.  That’s the long rumored and promised XF551 Control board.  This modification will allow on both my re-imaged boards and Atari’s original XF551 floppy drives to have a track display and some front panel controls.   More info will be available on it’s  product page.

Another offering will be a simple 1200XL cartridge extension board.  I’ve always been aggravated by Atari’s funnel shaped cartridge port that was too narrow to allow the Polish cases to be inserted.   I finally got off my duff to do something about it.   Further info is also on it’s product page.

Something that came up on a AtariAge.com thread a few weeks back also sparked my creative juices.  Some people were grousing about the problem of the Atari 130XE’s cartridge port being awkward to use because a person sitting in front of the computer couldn’t see the connector when he/she was inserting the cartridge.  It seemed to become a feel_to_insert situation.  It became a particular irritation when someone frequently changed cartridges.  While it’s not a perfect solution, I decided to try a dual right angle cartridge extension board.  With it you can insert two of your most commonly used cartridges and switch between them without having to physically remove the cartridges.  You still will have to reboot the computer after the switch.  tf_hh was invaluable in developing a functioning prototype.   More info is also on it’s product page.

Another thought I just had was a modified RA SDX cartridge.  Essentially instead of the horizontal cartridge slot at the end of the internal pcb, put a vertical cartridge slot there.   It should be doable.  The tricky part’s going to be the cartridge case design.   But it might help the unstable stacking effect on 1200XL/800XL/130XE computers.   Since I already have functioning prototypes, hopefully I can have a preliminary rendering up by Cyber Monday as well.

There’s still a few small projects on the drawing board so to speak.  Hopefully while waiting for the parts and boards to come in for these projects, I can finish them as well.    At this point I am only planning one big project for next year, the 1090XLR.  Not sure yet just what shape it will take, but hopefully I can come up with a prototype box by mid year 2017.

 

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New 3D Printer Da Vinci 1.0 Pro

DaVinci1.0Pro

Well…. I recently sold my old Flashforge Creator Pro. We never really got along, it seemed that every time I was ready to do 3d printing it was feeling unwell. There were times when I looked at it wrong and it freaked. I swear. I wasn’t doing anything to it. I even left the room a few times thinking that my mad vibes were influencing it. Damned if it didn’t take that time to let the print break free of  the print bed and go swishing around with every move of the extruder head. Enough…. I wasn’t finished with 3D printing, but that printer had to go.

So up on Ebay it went and it was gone in a couple of days. Now mind you I don’t think it was a bad printer, I just never seemed to have any luck with keeping it going. Sometimes relationships are like that. 🙂

In the meantime I was surfing Youtube and came across a couple of videos on a new model of XYZprinting 3D printer. This new model allowed you to use 3rd party filament, had an aluminum heated print bed, had almost the same size build volumne as the Flashforge and was about half the cost. A teaser indicated that a laser engraver module was soon to come. Wow!

It’s even on a bit of a sale on Amazon. Thirty dollars less than normal. Okay, so I’m sold. So a few days later it comes in via the UPS truck and I spend the next hour or so unpacking it and setting it up. I don’t turn it on yet. Not yet. I poured over the documentation and watched the Youtube videos first. Then I sleep on it.

Now intially my impression is good. This printer just seems a little more finished than the Flashforge, more consumer friendly. It should be, it’s supposed to be you say. Flashforge Creator Pro is a workhorse, it’s a man’s 3D printer. Rubish. I’ll give you that the FF Pro is heavier built and has dual extruders, but it still seems unfinished, unrefined. The Da Vinci 1.0 Pro just seems so much more polished.

So now it’s morning and my anticipation is high. It’s plugged in. I’ve read up on what it’s supposed to do when I flip the power switch. I even have a small simple print ready to test the printer. Moment of truth. I flip the power switch.

At first everything is proceeding normally. The lights inside come on, the led displays the initialization message, the extruder starts moving to home position. I’m thinking al…..right….!

Bang! Grinding….. Bang! The lights start flashing. The machine is beeping hysterically. The led flashs and finally displays Error 31.

I slap power button off frantically, merciful silence. I’ve just ruined the printer by turning it on and lost nearly $600 I can’t afford to lose. So thinking I have nothing to lose, I turn the printer back on. Same horrendous banging and grinding as the extruder attempts to go to home. Finally the error is displayed on the led screen again. I turn the printer off again in frustration.

I think great….. leave it to me to have problems with a new printer that nobody else has. I begin to have dej vu.

But the extruder hot end isn’t hitting the bed and I’ve already checked half a dozen times to make sure I haven’t left any packing material in the machine, so what is causing the noise and error. Onto Google and several hours pass. It’s a new model. Not many people have bought it yet, much less had problems.  Finally I find a single post on an obscure webblog. Like me the poster had just turned his new printer on and had the exact same thing happen. He has contacted XYZprinting and they have diagnosed the problem as a misaligned Y axis. Their solution, decidedly low tech. Bring the extruder assembly all the way forward and then pull hard on both sides where the black plastic covers are.

Huh…..?

Well what the hell…. It can’t get any worse, can it?

I’m glad I didn’t find out. I do the hard pull and after a few minutes gather my courage up to flip the power switch back on. The printer comes on like before and the extruder assembly proceeds to home it’s axis. A little whine, a little stutter and then the quiet whir of the power fan on the back. The printer is homed and waiting patiently for my next command. I realize I need to tell my body to breath when the dark spots start dancing in my vision.

At that point I decide to leave well enough alone.  I call it a day.

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XF551 Mod board update others too

XF551s

Yes, I know it’s been more than a month since my last update.  Sorry about that.  Life kinda got in the way.  Finances are starting to get a little thin too.  So I am having to spread out the testing, board orders and parts purchases etc.  I am really close now.  I have what I hope is a small production order into the board house ITead now.    They go on holiday in a few days and the pcb fabricator will shut down for about a week.  I hope I made the cutoff.  If I did I should recieve my board order by the end of next week.  If not then I don’t expect the order to come in until the middle of Oct.  I’m crossing my fingers.  🙂

I will have various board configurations depending on which version of my boards you purchased, currently three versions are out in the wild now.  I’ll also have a generic board for anyone adventurous enough to attempt soldering on the original Atari XF551 board.

This is actually a kit.  It will include the main board and two smaller boards to be fitted to the left front side of the case and in the drive faceplate.  This board will allow front panel selection of a dual OS configuration, front panel display and selection of the drive number, front panel drive CPU reset and a LED dual digit track # display.  Definitely some assembly required.  I am trying to keep the case modifications, soldering etc to a minimum.

Pictures will be forthcoming as soon as I have fitted the boards into the case.

I also have two other projects on going right now.  I am closing in on a reimaged Super SDX cart that I hope will include not only the original ability to stack carts but also have battery backup included too.   It’s a joint project with tf_hh from AtariAge and myself.   This order hopefully will produce a working version sans the battery backup.

The second project is still in testing phase.  I am venturing into the 1050 drive world with it.   Guus Assmman and I are working on reimaging CSS’s Bitwriter board with the Super Archiver chip builtin.   This board will be the first prototype and mostly likely will be pretty rough around the edges, if it works at all.

That’s all for right now.

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Reimaged XF551 Disk Drive Controllers v2.0

XF551s

 

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.

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XF551 Issues Update 2

XF551s

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.

 

 

 

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Warning: XF551 board write/format error

XF551s

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.

Damn….

*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.

 

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Reimaged XF551 Control Board is Done!!!

XF551s

 

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.

 

 

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XF551 Update

XF551s

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.  Smile

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.  Frown

Next update should come by the end of this next week.