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Prototype #3?


m00dawg
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Paging @Kevin Williams!

Heya! Sorry to be that guy, but not all of us use FB for whatever reason. I heard the 3rd prototype board has been announced over on the FB discussion board. Any chance the passionate and devoted fan base here can get some info on it as well? I've only heard about it second hand but would love to get the deets from the source!

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Kevin posted this on Facebook (to which 66 comments were added; combination of smartest-people-in-the-room and snark); see images which I pasted below:

He said:

Hey everyone, Prototype #3 PCBs have been ordered! This board incorporates all of the fixes made to the second board, with some circuitry simplification, and the other changes I dicussed in past posts. I had been holding off for awhile as we may yet use a microcontroller for PS/2 Mouse and Keyboard control if using the 6522 doesn't pan out. I had already added an ATTiny84 to control power on/off & reset, so I moved to an ATTINY861 on this board to add enough legs for the PS/2 ports. I then added jumpers so we can select either one for testing. This will be removed from the final board, but I did try to get the layout closer to what I feel the final will look like.  

Other changes include: 
  1. I moved from a 50 pin edge connector to a 60 pin! I was not a fan of using a 50 pin port as I was afraid folks might confuse it for an Apple II slot. Likewise, the 62 pin port is the same as an ISA card. Now, little to nothing that makes any sense will fit and I was able to add a few more pins from the CPU to the bus. 
  2. This PCB is 4-Layer. I did this for a few reasons, but the primary was hoping to keep the noise level IE, RF emissions as low as possible. It now has a proper ground-plane and while the PCB cost does go up a bit in low quantity, it's not actually too bad once you start looking at 100+ PCBs.
  3. Took a wild stab at adding some EMI protection on the PS/2 and IEC port. Also added resettable fuses to main PCB to limit current flow.
214978455_10159579839799913_2005577216840986599_n.thumb.jpeg.de28ad734a7f8bb1a69c1c827974c0fd.jpeg215200140_10159579840349913_5565322390593083401_n.jpeg.58f46d6d6961216365ac1d07715bef5c.jpeg
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I would still like to know why this isn't the primary location for X16 info.  Facebook is Draconian in their account rules and fast and loose with that data once they have it.  I refuse.   But if it's just me, so be it, but pretty disappointing.

Edited by x16tial
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3 hours ago, x16tial said:

I would still like to know why this isn't the primary location for X16 info.  Facebook is Draconian in their account rules and fast and loose with that data once they have it.  I refuse.   But if it's just me, so be it, but pretty disappointing.

Fun fact : I had a FB account some time ago, just for reading feeds. This account has been deleted because it was blank and I only used it a a way to read stuff. They wanted me to fill some personal info, which I refused.

I'm talking to whoever wants to make a news feed for a project : please consider social networks as closed circles. Your news will mostly be enclosed behind a login wall. Use a publicly accessible channel instead and relay the link to it into social networks.
Note : for new projects I agree social networks can push them to be popular, but when the amount of interested people grow, keep in mind that some of them may want to read you in an anonymous way.

/Out of subject

(Please see this comment above as plain info)

About this thread in particular : Sometimes people just want to share some info on the go and later make an official post about it. It's how I interpret this message here and I don't mind waiting a bit to get the news about it. Else like here some kind people will share these posts on this forum 😉

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47 minutes ago, VincentF said:

About this thread in particular : Sometimes people just want to share some info on the go and later make an official post about it. It's how I interpret this message here and I don't mind waiting a bit to get the news about it. Else like here some kind people will share these posts on this forum 😉

Yes, I was a little disappointed it did not show up here, but what I really want to show up here is a detailed description of the new expansion card format, and that post did not have many technical details.

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Similar story.  I joined Facebook for discount codes at FrontPanelExpress and joined Twitter for the Orion mission (the capsule was tweeting as it traversed space... seemed like a good idea at the time as I sat in Florida between watching launch and seeing the telecast of splashdown).

My wife is not happy that I never connected with her on FB or LinkedIn for that matter but frankly, I can't be bothered.

The development of Petscii Robots suffered an ironic but similar twist... a Facebook group was extremely active and some segment jumped over to Slack for a while.  In the end, unless you spend all day every day checking every outlet (some people have time for this), you're going to miss out.  I'd rather spend time in what I consider to be the official source.  Oh, that and complaining : )

I consider this the X16 home but disappointed that days later, nothing has been posted about Proto #3.

Having said this, my experience with Kevin is that he works extremely hard on this and his other projects, and like Stefany from Foenix, does not spend time putting a social media presence together.  He has put a few very good video updates but they are few and far between.  We all want more and want to see this thing released.

Considering the price of prototype boards, I'm starting to get concerned about the cost and considering the time it's been taking to get something viable, the irrational side of me just wants a board with some parts on it that works and I'll manage to wire up a power supply and turn it off when I'm done the old fashioned way.  At this point a light switch in a blue plastic Home Depot old work box will do.  I don't care much about power management; just want a working unit. Waaaa...

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9 hours ago, EMwhite said:

Having said this, my experience with Kevin is that he works extremely hard on this and his other projects, and like Stefany from Foenix, does not spend time putting a social media presence together.  He has put a few very good video updates but they are few and far between.  We all want more and want to see this thing released.

This is a fair point - I experience this with my band for sure. Marketing is quite nearly a full time job just to be seen and inevitably you have to do so much duplication (tools can only help so much here). But at the same time, I agree, this is indeed the official source and Proto 3 is a pretty darn big announcement well worthy of being posted here. Likewise, all content on FB is owned (and profited by) FB, not the X16 and not the people generating the content and conversations for sure. That is a problem, especially if FB is the first source of truth when it comes to project updates. That's concerning to me.

Stefany is a good point where I have to be somewhat critical of the X16 project. They have such a huge scope and head start with marketing, synergy, "buzz", all that. In some ways I'm envious as that kind of exposure is just incredibly difficult. Sometimes I do feel like the project folks squander that. Harsh words, not meant to be, but just being honest. Stefany is a wonderful engineer (though I think the Foenix could perhaps use some project management as there is just a ton of feature and scope creep) but she doesn't have the audience David does. It frustrates me when I see the X16 team taking this for granted - even more so when I see them defend it.

Again harsh words, and certainly it's easy for me to judge. But is also perhaps the most concerning thing about the success of the project. The X16 can really shake things up in the space and I really do feel will help provide an incredible and renewed interest in bare metal computing in a way that projects before it haven't done. There's just SOOOOOO much good to come from this project. Sometimes I feel like the team just doesn't know what sort of potential they have.

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On 7/11/2021 at 6:07 PM, EMwhite said:

I had been holding off for awhile as we may yet use a microcontroller for PS/2 Mouse and Keyboard control if using the 6522 doesn't pan out. I had already added an ATTiny84 to control power on/off & reset, so I moved to an ATTINY861 on this board to add enough legs for the PS/2 ports. I then added jumpers so we can select either one for testing.

For my money, this is the most interesting point. Kevin added that there was debate whether going through the microcontroller would be faster or not. I had previously commented on Facebook, but this sounds like the team is experimenting with the difference between having the CPU communicate with PS/2 devices directly, versus communicating with PS/2 devices through I2C. The PS/2 interface requires a fair fewer bits, but the CPU spends a lot of time idling, and queries can take a significant fraction of a screen's scantime. I2C, though a much faster interface, requires a lot more bits. Since both interfaces are bit-banged, the difference may be a wash.

Personally, I'm hoping we learn what the results ended up being. 🙂

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It's a shame that PS/2 doesn't quite lend itself to using the built-in shift register functionality of the VIA 6522 chips. If there could have been a piece of silicon shifting in bits in the background into a parallel register, that would've been pretty awesome. I presume the microcontroller is ONLY accessible via I2C, eh?

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13 minutes ago, ZeroByte said:

It's a shame that PS/2 doesn't quite lend itself to using the built-in shift register functionality of the VIA 6522 chips. If there could have been a piece of silicon shifting in bits in the background into a parallel register, that would've been pretty awesome. I presume the microcontroller is ONLY accessible via I2C, eh?

For the time being, that's my assumption, and I assume there are no plans to change that. After all, the project is supposedly close to being finished, the team had even hoped to have something available last year, so I very much doubt there are any plans for a major redesign at this point. If the KB/M interfaces moves to the microcontroller, I expect that means it'll be bit-banged through I2C. I don't know what will become of the VIA bits currently used there, if they'd be left empty or if they'd go to the user port or expansion slots, or what. But I'm guessing that whatever else changes, it'll be small moves.

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Hey Everyone, 

  Sorry for the delay on an update.  It's been a hectic year once again and there never seem to be enough hours in the day.  I'm not a huge FB fan either,  but the reality is with our business, it's pretty key I keep on top of FB & the even more dreaded Twitter. 🙂  I meant to post the same day, but for the brief second I tried, the site wouldn't let me login, and I just forgot to come back.  However, I just posted a video of Attack of the Petscii robots on the X16.  It's still the second proto, but I have it wired as the third board is designed.  I did this for testing the new design before running it of-course, and David just wanted to make sure the game was still running ok.  

I am catching up on the thread and I will answer some questions here in a second.  For the moment, the PCBs are 100% complete and should be shipping tomorrow.  This means probably Friday or Monday they will be here and I should have all of the parts in-hand too.  We're still not done with the Kernal, so this is not the end of the story by any stretch, but it should be pretty close to the end of the HW specs. 

Attack of the PETSCII Robots on the Commander X16 Prototype 3 - YouTube

Thanks,
-Kevin

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Thanks for the post @Kevin Williams! And thanks very much for all your hard work, this project wouldn't be nearly where it is without your talents.  And please don't take my questions as a criticism of you personally, I'm just wondering if the mindset of the X16 team as a whole shouldn't shift to this board as the go-to place and everything else secondary, that's just what makes the most sense to me.  I'll say no more on that subject 😄

Edited by x16tial
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10 hours ago, Cyber said:

PETSCII Robots has a Slack workspace? Or is it X16? Either way I know about neither. Please, share.

PETSCII Robots.  The Channel is hosted on Apple2Infinitum https://app.slack.com/client/T1J8S1LGH/C01JKQJBYQN/thread/C01JKQJBYQN-1612744612.106300

Try that link... you may need to be on Apple2Infinitum first.  I'm not a Slack expert but used Slack in a MERN Stack bootcamp I attended a few years ago and have been viewing the 'forum' through it.  The PETSCII Robots channel started as discussion David and the Apple developers (for the Apple port) but has jumped all over the place including many OT posts, as tends to happen.

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On 7/14/2021 at 12:10 AM, ZeroByte said:

It's a shame that PS/2 doesn't quite lend itself to using the built-in shift register functionality of the VIA 6522 chips. ...

That seems to be going around ... the VIA serial clock register is not the right clock/shift polarity for SD card SPI mode, either.

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You could make the SNES controllers work with it, but only one per VIA, and still having to use at least one GPIO pin to act as the strobe line. The VIA could shift in 8 bits and then automatically shift in the next 8 bits after each read. You'd just have to pulse the strobe yourself - I think you'd be able to pulse the strobe, then read the upper 8 bits so it would go ahead and shift in the first 8 low-order bits. It'd be nominally faster than doing it manually with the CPU, but not so much faster that it'd make noticeable savings on the VSYNC IRQ routine's performance.

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On 7/15/2021 at 5:09 AM, ZeroByte said:

You could make the SNES controllers work with it, but only one per VIA, and still having to use at least one GPIO pin to act as the strobe line. The VIA could shift in 8 bits and then automatically shift in the next 8 bits after each read. You'd just have to pulse the strobe yourself - I think you'd be able to pulse the strobe, then read the upper 8 bits so it would go ahead and shift in the first 8 low-order bits. It'd be nominally faster than doing it manually with the CPU, but not so much faster that it'd make noticeable savings on the VSYNC IRQ routine's performance.

Yes, the SNES controller is very close to half of an SPI port, where you typically need one GPIO per selectable device. The main difference is you strobe the select line rather than holding it in the selected state.

But it can't read 4 SNES controllers that way with 2VIA's.

With a dual 2x4 demultiplexor maybe you could have one GPIO select the controller to strobe and read, and also select which clock line gets the clock signal. I don't recall offhand whether the SNES Data line works correctly to be bussed in that situation, or whether the controller selector has to also isolate the pin it is trying to read ... obviously an active high 3x8 demux with the correct outputs wired-or together can do that if necessary.

For four controllers, you'd need two 3x8 demuxes for the select and SCLK lines and it would be REALLY handy if the MISO can work bussed. But that would use 3GPIO plus the serial shift register, so it would take the serial shift register off of the User Port, but free up one GPIO.

Edited by BruceMcF
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