Cat Weasel v4 Running in an XP VM

I’ve managed connect my PCI Catweasel card to pass-though on my ESXi server. I took a bit of work and it’s not perfect (ie no Joysticks or Mice work) but the disk subsystem works great. I added to my server a Multi-Function 3 1/2 drive with USB reader, which I thought was a stretch to get working — but in the end, it was fine. I also added a TEAC 5 1/4 drive which reads and writes perfectly. The Disk Imaging tools work reasonably well but get stuck sometimes.

I tested some Amiga, Apple and C64 floppies and was surprised how fast they imaged or transferred down.

Stability was an issue initially, but after making some adjustments to processor and memory layout of the VM, XP and the Catweasel card are working great. The other subsystems on the card are not used, but what I really wanted was a multi-format disk reader and writer.

Click on the thumbnail to see the desktop in action.

AL-1000: Saved from Oblivion.

The Commodore AL-1000, which is akin to a mini-PET (heavy and boxy). It uses tubes to display the numbers. There was some roughhousing with this venerable calculator and it needed some TLC to get going. The calculator was abandoned a long while back and found after someone was cleaning out some buildings nearby. A tip from a friend helped save this new addition.

C64: First 8K Generic Cart

As of today, I made my first C64 cartridge. Most of my programming experience is either through floppy or tape-based storage. Making a ROM/BIN file and getting it to work was tougher than I thought. It was more problems with getting a CRT/BIN combo into the toolchain for testing in an emulator than to actually make a cart and burn an EEPROM. My first cart is nothing amazing, but it pumps out the INC $d021’s.

Amiga + Gotek Floppy Emulation

GotekFloppyEmuWell, the Gotek Floppy has been running relatively well. I dragged a bunch of ADF’s over to a USB stick (with the menu ADF) and it was pretty much working.

I wish the drive face was at least the right size, to fit flush with the enclosure.

I’ve noticed a few problems here and there with some images; also when there isn’t a USB mounted you get a dead icon on the screen for drive DF0. I’m testing a variety of floppy images to put it through the paces. I’ve even made a 3.x Emergency ADF and mounted it.

Amiga 1020 5 1/4 Floppy

Amiga1020I’ve had this one in the basement for a long time, never got it working correctly — until now.

Device = trackdisk.device
 Unit = 2 /* first external unit */
 Flags = 1 /* important ! */
 Surfaces = 2
 BlocksPerTrack = 11
 Reserved = 2
 Interleave = 0
 LowCyl = 0 ; HighCyl = 39
 Buffers = 20
 BufMemType = 1 /* or 3 if you run OS 1.x */

The drive is formatting 🙂

A3000D: Random problems finally sorted.

A3000DI upgraded the A3000D with as much stuff I had in storage and few things off of Amibay. After the RTC fixes, HD LED, misc capacitors and replacement floppy I started adding:

GVP IOEtxender (high-speed serial an LPT)
BigRam+ (256MB fast ram)
X-surf-100 (network adapter)
Picasso IV with Audio add-on.

The mainboard initially had standard original custom chips (Ramsey 4, Super DMAC 2, Super Buster 7), which got upgraded to Ramsey 7, Super Buster 11. The WDC SCSI chip on the board was a type 04, which it’s now a type 08. The fast ram (8MB) was a mixed bag of chips and speeds, but they were all static column type which gave the 10% boost. A newish SCSI drive, 8.5GB which replaced a 200MB drive I found in it.

After installing the base OS, and the networking adapters — problems started to come out. Random checksum errors, enough to corrupt the drive a few times. After a few Disk Salv 4 sessions, I kept checking all the parts. I removed all the cards but the NIC and still got the errors. I had already upgraded the SCSI chip, which should have stabilized the SCSI chain. I checked the diode at D800, its direction and the voltage inside, on the port and through the cable. I double checked the drive to supply power and termination already and everything was terminated correctly.

Removing the BigRam+ for the remaining tests yielded a slightly more stable system, but the errors started coming back. I think I formatted the drive and installed the OS  too many times, I was clicking and editing things while doing other things without thinking about it. The system would last a little longer with each tweak, then it would just get worse. It’s really strange, my Amiga 2000 with a GVP Accelerator installed without a problem, ever!. For some reason, I thought the A3000D was going to be open shut case once the repairs were done. This was not the case.

I had a batch of 514402AZ-60 ZIP modules, which are supposed to be static column RAM, but are not. I thought maybe a homogeneous block of chips might help the stability, also I had 16MB’s of it. A 10% fast ram speed loss for system stability I can live with.

I was reading through other people’s issues when an article about problems with Ramsey/Super DMAC revisions. The chips are paired, according to many. Others state that sometimes the mixed bag works. I pulled my Ramsey and returned the original Ramsey. Well +1 to the Paired Chips theory, the system is rock solid.

A3000: Amber’s Variable Resistor

AmberSyncThe A3000 was randomly deciding to output a proper signal to VGA. I know the monitor I was using (or LCD) was capable of displaying in the right frequency range — but only 1 out 5 power-ups would yield an active VGA display.

It was easy to tell when a good powerup would occur, as the VGA display would have some very dark gray vertical lines in the black screen.

Putting a scope on the VGA port showed signals on the RGB and H/V sync pins. Each signal looked okay from a casual inspection (comparing a good powerup versus bad). I checked all the pins around the board to see if there was anything missing on the way into the VGA… but if the VGA signals looked ok either way (on or off) then it must be a very slight signal variance.

The variable resistor on Amber was very touchy. I had a spare that would work, but I re-soldered the old part just to be sure.. it looked like there had been some work previously done on it. Using a metal screwdriver, I noticed the signals jumping around on the V/H pins. Removing the screwdriver would change the signal as well. I had a plastic screwdriver for altering TBC signals — TBC’s did the same thing with metal tools.

Without worrying about over turning the resistor, I swung it pretty far. I then noticed it was loose. After screwing it down for a while, I felt a bump and then the signal seemed to tune easier. I found the sweet spot, rebooted — VGA stable. I waited 30 minutes with the machine off tried again, still good. Off for two days, powered it up — still working fine. Nailed it 🙂

A3000 Clock Spagetti

clockspagettiThe A3000 I am working on has a few issues, the first was NO CLOCK reported by SYSINFO and other tools. This is, of course, true, as the battery had been removed after I unboxed this machine. After the battery was removed, the gross damage to the motherboard by the leaking battery is obvious in the picture to the left.

I cleaned the board as best I could, noticed that the back of the board was OK… somehow. I didn’t want to mess with the area around where the battery was, as there was a lot of damage there and I didn’t want to add to it.

I temporarily jumped a CR2032 in a holder (the BLACK and RED leads),  to get get the clock powered. I then went into the Prefs and set the time. After a reboot, the system recognized the clock — but the time had not incremented while the machine was off.

The clock crystal was not outputting anything which ended up being a connection from C192 to R193 was lost. I jumpered them with the BLUE lead. After checking all the connections out I found C190 was not connected either, so I jumpered it with the YELLOW lead.

clocksignalAs opposed to a flatlined output from the Oscillator, I got a signal.

I loaded up the system, reset the time powered it off and waited a few minutes. Turned it back on and the time was in sync. I went out for dinner, had a few drinks and came back — powered it up, the clock still working.

I know the clock is not so important in this day and age, as NTP can handle the time sync. But who wants a broken machine?

Next on the list… Display warm up… sometimes the display shows something, sometimes it takes a few power cycles to get it going…

A3000T: New friend :) Mouse and Keyboard :(

Well, I’ve got 2 Amiga 3000’s going, which means they are in 30 pieces on my workbench.

One is an A3000D, with 2MB/16MB/256MB of various RAM types. I’ve managed to get the latest custom chips on the motherboard, all but a Super DMAC04. This machine has been in the basement for a while, with battery damage and a few blown caps. It now boots with 3.1 KS and 3.9 OS. The VGA port takes a little while to warm up, the machine needs to be on for about 2 minutes and then power cycled to get VGA back up. Working out the VGA is the next major task…

Number Two is an A3000T. I can’t think of a heavier computer. This one booted right off the bat, but for some reason, the mouse and keyboard weren’t working. Scouring the motherboard for bad components/traces, reading forums and voltmeter came up empty. I could understand why one port would go or just the keyboard… but all three ports? The system would boot to a temp OS disk I mounted, but as soon as the OS was up (or even the KS screen) not keyboard or mouse action. Weird. Even the 3 finger salute on the KS screen..

There is something to be said for computers with a keyhole embedded in its faceplate. Yes, when in the locked position — no keyboard or mouse. Funny… I have never had this happen in the last 30 years. The trick that works on old bike locks (Plastic Bik pens, cut in a particular way) works on the lock in A3000T. I can see that the lock has been manhandled before. When I opened the lock, everything started working.

This machine needs a lot of TLC. The case wasn’t intact, missing the front and top sections. It also has older chips than my A3000D. I was kind of hoping this one was going to have a late revision Super DMAC… oh well 🙂


A2000: Business up front, party out back..

YuriFrontPanelWell, it might be the other way around. Recently I picked up a really thin/small USB 4 port hub, which would get in the way (the way it was wired). But I found a use for him. The PC side of Amiga Yuri needed USB ports and other interface options.

So we begin with the left side front panel, which is two toggle switches (with LED’s :)), one momentary switch and a USB hub. The first toggle is a red LED, which is tied to the PSU for the system. When the system is powered down, the red LED lights up. The second toggle is for the Amiga’s 030 Accelerator, which can now be disabled (off) or active (on), the blue LED in this toggle is for the PC side’s HD light. The small momentary switch is to reset the PC Card, as this doesn’t have a power off/on so it would be handy to reboot it without having shutdown both sides. The USB is wired into the PC side, to allow me to mount CD-ROM, flash drives etc for the Goldfinger card.

YuriRearPanelIn the rear of the machine, I mounted all the ports that would be needed (but not all, there is not enough backplane for it :)).  From left to right:

1. Amiga SCSI2SD card drive (swap out cards for different setups DH0:)
2. Amiga Rapidroad/Xsurf combo (USB and Ethernet)
3. Ventilator Fan (strong, lots of hot stuff in there)
4. PC Audiotrix Pro sound card
5. PC IDE2CFCARD interface (different PC configs Drive C:)
6. PC Serial Ports
7. PC Goldfinger Card (PS2, 2xEthernet and VGA)

YuriFrontCaseI left the machine running doing some speed tests to generate heat and everything worked out great. I was monitoring the BIOS for the PC side, thermal sensors didn’t rise as much as I expected. I put a thermal sensor on the Amiga MB and Accelerator and it’s temperatures only went a few degrees higher than normal readings. Amazing!

The case needed some cutting and with a Dremel, which turned out pretty clean. I’ve always wanted to use that space for something, it always seems like a waste of front panel. Just have front panel power is great, as when I was done I put it in my rack, along with a cheap VGA KVM switcher. So both machines use the same monitor 🙂