RETRO Innovations

Archive for June, 2010

X-Pander 3/VIC Under Development

by on Jun.26, 2010, under Hardware Design

It sounds like there is enough interest for a VIC-20 version of the X-Pander 3 expansion system.  Thus, I’m sourcing the required parts for the units (the card edge connectors have the longest lead times and are the most expensive part of the design) and will work on the PCB design next week.

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64NIC+ and X-Pander 3 Now Available!

by on Jun.22, 2010, under Hardware Design, Storefront

I thought I’d compose a quick note to let folks know that 64NIC+ Ethernet cartridges are in stock once again and the new X-Pander 3 3/4 slot cartridge port expander is finally in stock.  I’m working to add 24/28 pin headers and cartridge cases to the store inventory.

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GEOS Support for uIEC Bounty!

by on Jun.22, 2010, under Software Development

One of the most often requested features for uIEC is GEOS support. Given that uIEC emulates a Commodore Disk Drive at the protocol level, not at the hardware level, such support is harder than it sounds. Like many applications of the day, GEOS uses a custom disk drive transfer routine (commonly called a “speeder” or “fastloader”) called diskTurbo to make drive access times more manageable. Since the normal protocol is discarded in favor of a faster variant, successful emulation requires emulating the custom protocol. uIEC uses the sd2iec firmware, which has supported a handful of custom protocols for some time (including JiffyDOS), but does not currently support the GEOS custom protocol.

That may soon change, though.  RedumLOA has created a site called “Commodore Bounty” that will allow interested individuals to fund project activities.  The first bounty is for sd2iec GEOS support, which has been funded to over $750.00 at the time of this posting.  If you are interested in seeing GEOS support on sd2iec and uIEC, please consider a donation.

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Cincinnati Commodore Computer EXPO

by on Jun.21, 2010, under Hardware Design, Storefront

Many apologies for the lack of postings, but I was preparing for the  Cincinnati Commodore Computer Club EXPO (C4 EXPO), which happened over Memorial Day weekend, and I am just now getting caught up on postings.

Two weeks prior to the show, I shifted all focus to ensuring newly produced products would be available at the show.  X-Pander3 expansion boards and 64NIC+ network cards were in production, but delivery had been delayed a week or so.  This seems to always happen prior to a show, without fail.  I spent evenings obtaining manufacturing and shipment statuses, making last minute parts purchases, and packing for the show.

The week prior to the show was spent traveling to Ohio, taking in some sights (Kings Island, for example), and spending time with the family.  Since we were already on the road, I rescheduled last minute product shipments from China to arrive at the hotel before the show.

Though not the only reason, it is true I offer products for sale to finance these trips.  I can enjoy catching up with old and online friends and relaxing and enjoying the hobby.  This year was no different.  I arrived mid afternoon on Friday, with the show room already open and a few folks setting up systems.  Over the years, I’ve learned how to pack lighter, so my tables didn’t take too long to setup.  Then, I spent time finishing some products for the show and chatting with the early arrivals.

I called it quits early Saturday morning (1AM or so Central), getting back to the room before 9:30AM.  Traffic was lighter than usual, and seemed light all day.  Sales were nominal, but steady.  JiffyDOS sales were hampered by issues with my Willem programmer (after I returned home, I determined the configuration switches were faulty), preventing me from flashing some of the JiffyDOS versions.

Jim and Oliver working on project

Jim and Oliver working on project

Traffic stayed light all day, which is a bit disappointing because this is the second year traffic has been light.  By afternoon, sales dissipated and I spent time fighting with the programmer.  Oliver VieBrooks (Six of Style) came over late afternoon and we brainstormed on project ideas.  Thus began the prototyping portion of the show.   Given that sales had stopped, I decided to start on a project right then, and continued through the normal annual Saturday “C4 EXPO Golden Corral” dinner period (to be fair, I probably would have went, but we’d already enjoyed GC as a family earlier in the week).

Later in the evening, I worked on a project for Leif Bloomquist. Since the Fall ECCC ’09 show, Leif and I have been working to bring his VIC-20 MIDI cartridge to fruition. The main issue with the original design is the UART utilized, a MC6850 that is hard to source and pricey. I suggested rewriting the drivers to use the much more common 16X50-style PC UART ICs. I’d source a batch of them, but still needed to wire up one to Leif’s board so he could test.

By Sunday, I was out of energy, having worked on two prototypes the previous night.  Thus, I packed up and left without much fanfare.

Seeing friends and talking hobby is always nice, but I feel the Memorial Day slot for this show hurts it quite a bit. Traffic was light, as previously noted, and sales were likewise light. Surprisingly, the Louisville crowd didn’t show, which hurt attendance more.

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