Resurrected Entertainment

Archive for the 'Hardware' category

2D Scrolling and EGA Support

May 29, 2014

Originally, I was using a Matrox Millennium PCI graphics card in my DOS gaming box, but I found the 2D scrolling performance to be somewhat lacking as games like The Lost Vikings would shear while playing. The card also has virtually no EGA graphics mode support, which was important to me since I wanted to run games like Crystal Caves from Apogee, and I also wanted the development option of writing computer graphics programs written for this video mode.

Enter the S3 ViRGE (Virtual Reality Graphics Engine).

Interestingly, this was S3’s first attempt at a 3D graphics accelerator card. The performance was somewhat lower than expected, however, making the card only slightly faster than the best software renderers at the time, and equal to those renderers when anything other than the simplest 3D techniques were used. Because of the card’s poor performance, it was dubbed the “Worlds First Graphics Decelerator” by critics in the graphics and gaming communities.

I own the “DX” model of this card which is somewhat more performant than its predecessor, but I didn’t buy the card for how well it could render 3D graphics so it matters very little to me. I bought the card for how well it could accelerate 2D graphics and its support for lower end video modes, and it is very impressive thus far.

Give your NES an Audio Upgrade

January 2, 2014

I learned a little while ago from a friend of mine that the North American version of the NES is somewhat crippled in the audio department, when compared against its Japanese counterpart. The NES hardware supports five channel audio and the hardware did not permit companies to add additional sound channels. The reasons for doing are unclear but is most likely attributed to the limitations placed on North American developers in an effort to regulate the quality of the NES games being produced; in Japan, for example, the game companies were not limited to simple hardware mappers, they were allowed to add additional hardware into their NES cartridge designs. One example of this is the VRC6 chip created by Konami and used in the Japanese version of Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse.

If you are using the PowerPak, then you can perform a simple hardware mod which allows you to tap these additional music channels. Most of the work is simply removing the casing, hardware shielding, and cartridge harness. The last step is to solder a 47-ohm resistor to pins 3 and 9 on the underside of the board. I wanted to assemble a more complete walkthrough than what can be found on the Internet for those who are not use to doing this sort of thing.

First, you see the interference shield.

Step One

Remove it, and then remove the screws securing it to the base.

Step Two

Flip the assembly over so that the expansion connector is face-up. You will see two cables which need to be detached to remove the second interference shield. Be gentle when removing the cables and don’t pull the connectors out by the wires; the large plug pulled out easily by simply using my fingers, the smaller cable looks like the connector is snapped into place, but it’s simply a friction mount and can be removed with needle nose pliers by gently pulling and rocking the connector.

Step Three

Step Four

Once the shield if removed, you will see the main board and all of its components; stop and admire the beauty of this machine and smell the history. Ahhh. Now, flip the board back over and remove the last two screws for the cartridge harness. The harness slides under the cartridge slot and should be gently removed as components on the other side of the board may be damaged by your fingers if you are not careful.

Step Five

Reorient the board as shown and locate the connector pins.

Step Six

Carefully solder the 47-ohm resistor to pins 3 and 9 of the expansion bus, reassemble and you’re done.

Step Seven

Oculus Rift VR

June 27, 2013

Thanks to a generous friend, I had a chance to play around with the Oculus Rift last night. It was a little difficult to find a machine which worked completely with the Oculus hardware, but on the third try I struck pay dirt. The machine actually did work on the first computer, but the frame rate was choppy which made the experience a little more headache inducing than the designers intended — I don’t know what caused the choppiness but I suspect the HDMI driver on the laptop may be the culprit. The last machine did not have a choppy frame rate but did produce a blur when looking around, which I attribute to the refresh rate of the device. I downloaded the Oculus Beta for Half-Life 2 and played a couple of levels. It was fun but due to the resolution of the Oculus screen, it made it difficult to read text and see the pull-down menu for weapon selection in the game.

I found the device was a little on the heavy side to play comfortably for more than an hour or so. It comes with straps which help to support it on the left, right, and top of your head. These straps and the additional padding that was added really help with the comfort level, I am not sure I would have lasted 15 minutes without them.

The device provided a really nice illusion of depth and often found myself wishing I could reach out and touch the things I was seeing. A glove often used in virtual reality movies, and the less sexy versions used in real life, would provide the ideal input device but all those cables would certainly make a mess and you really feel a need for mobility while being immersed in your 3D world. Navigating with a keyboard is cumbersome unless you are a touch typist with an appropriate keyboard; if you could see the screen when needed, it would help a lot in this department (it would at least allow you to position your fingers correctly). I was thinking some sort of external camera would be very handy which could act as a window into the outside world. It would also be nice if the device could function in normal “2D” mode and the “3D” mode when required. Looking at the desktop through the headset is simply not usable, but if the device could be switch programmatically, then we have a working solution. Just make sure to provide support for dimming the screen and programmatic fade-in-and-out transitions to make it easier on the eyes.

Tototek PCE Pro 32MB Flash Cartridge

November 22, 2011

The device has a few quirks to it that you will soon come to enjoy; however, in order to make its hard love easier to bear I have come up with a nice list to follow if you are trying to use it:

1. Make sure the cable is IEEE 1284 compliant (the cartridge will report a size of zero, if the cable, or if any communication is disrupted between the cartridge and your computer).

2. I assigned the printer port to port 0x278 in the BIOS and in Windows; I also configured the port to use the EPP protocol v1.7.

3. I only use version 1.13 (1.3 depending on where you look) of the DreamWriter software.

4. You do not need the “pceboot.pce” file; ignore it, it’s for something else entirely.

5. When you select multiple ROMS for upload, the DreamWriter software will install a bootloader; however, it will install a Japanese version of it by default, instead of the U.S. version (assuming you are using a U.S. TurboGrafx system). Once you have chosen your ROMs (and have correctly set the U.S. region box for those Japanese games you want to play), you must select the “U.S. Region” checkbox in the lower left corner of the interface — this will ensure the right bits have been flipped on the Japanese ROM.

6. You must start the program after the USB power and printer cables have been connected; the switch labeled “SW” does not need to be “ON” for the upload to work; in fact, I have no idea what that switch does.

7. The program will never show you how much space is occupied on the cartridge (after a fresh execution), or which games have already been flashed, so don’t bother scratching your head. The DreamWriter software only knows how much space remains after writing a set of ROM files.

64 KBs Should Be Enough for Anyone

November 2, 2011

Montezuma's RevengeIf you’ve tried playing a few games on an actual Atari 800 XL computer, or through APE or AspeQt and you end up with garbage on your screen, or perhaps the game or application is behaving weirdly, try disabling the BASIC ROM from creeping into the Atari’s address space. By default, the Atari will copy BASIC from ROM into RAM, which in turn will consume a certain amount of memory (around 8 KB), which is located at the address $A000 and runs until $BFFF. The Atari doesn’t have memory protection mechanisms; if a program overwrites that location, the OS will not tell you about it.

If the program you are trying to load uses most of the Atari’s 64 KB of memory, then will get memory overwrites at certain address locations. This in turn will likely cause corruption of the program and may lead to crashes, asset corruption, and other oddities. To prevent BASIC from being copied into RAM, press and hold the OPTION key during the boot process.

Sega Dreamcast VGA Box

October 30, 2011

Just a quick note for those experiencing a display shift when using a VGA box with their Sega Dreamcast (mine shifts to the right). This seems to happen only when using LCD monitors or televisions; I have been using it on my CRT monitor and it works great thus far.

Flashing the Atmel AT91SAM9M10-G45

September 15, 2010

This is a very cool board and has a lot of good features, but for those of you who are attempting to install your own operating system, you’d better make sure that only one of the jumpers are closed (either the data flash or the NAND flash)!  The flashing script will start the procedure but will halt after fetching the CPU id (incorrect) and will not continue. This is all very logical and there are good reasons behind it, but if you weren’t aware of the existence of the “data flash” jumper, then it can be very puzzling indeed.

Bringing multi-touch support to the much neglected PC

October 20, 2009

While touch interfaces for small devices are creating a small revolution in our technoverse, the problems of transitioning the personal computer into this space is a little more problematic. The folks over at 10/GUI have done a good job in summarizing the problem and presenting a nice solution. Of course, whenever I look at new technologies like these, my mind always wanders to how they could be used to enhance the games I play. It’s nice to have these kind of vices.

Interesting video on new human-computer interaction techniques

Xbox 360 DvD Drive Woes

August 1, 2009

Our 360 optical drive is stuttering and causing the video playback to freeze sometimes. It doesn’t always do it, but once it gets going, it won’t stop. We always need to turn it off and hope for the best the next time we use it. It may be a dirty lens, since I have never cleaned it the entire time we have owned it (around 5 years). Does this sound like the problem? Has anyone ever tried to replace the drive?

How to fry Bacon on your Lap

June 28, 2009

Here I am in an air conditioned house on a Sunday morning playing a nice game of Contra III on my Macbook Pro and I’m sweating. Why? Because my Macbook Pro runs only slightly cooler than the surface of the sun. Ok, that’s an exageration, since the sun only run at 9800 degrees Fahrenheit, so my apologies to any astronmony group members out there who might have been offended.

I would love to know is if the new Macbook models (2009) run any cooler than the original Macbook Pro models sporting the Core 2 Duo 1.X GHz processors? Also, since I don’t have the money to drop on a new Macbook right now, I would love to hear more information about a store which allows trade-ins of used Mac hardware in Canada. Any ideas?