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Genesis contd. 
3rd-Sep-2012 05:35 pm
And behold, it was very good...

Okay folks, since there are so many questions about the GD-EMU project and noone can be bothered to read the answers from the time I showed you my first iteration of the idea, here it is all again:

1) Ready when?
No idea. I would not be making a custom PCB and ordering new parts and working on it if I didn't belive it can be done, but at the same time I cannot (and will not) make any promises about delivery dates. Obviously though if I can't make it work as I'd like in the next few months it's going to be shelved again.

2) How much?
Again, no idea. In fact it's not even decided I will be selling those. If it doesn't seem like I can turn a profit without investing all my free time into it, I'll just stop at prototype phase. While I understand that it would upset many of you, I'm not a charity worker. It's one thing to code a free application and share it with the world and quite another manufacturing a hardware device for sale.

All I can say right now is the prototype is pretty expensive (compared to a price of a working, pre-owned Dreamcast). But that is true for all prototypes. Things get considerably cheaper when mass-produced. Then again it's quite possible the first batches will still be priced higher because of low volume of sales - I'm sure as hell not going to invest my own money into this.

3) Kickstarter? Preorders?
While Kickstarter seems like a good option, it's a no-no because I'm not a US resident. End of story right there. I will also not take any kind of preorders (or other money offers) until I'm certain the device will work and can be manufactured in suitable quantities. Things get serious when money are involved and I'm a rather cautious person.

4) Features?
It will be a 100% compatible replacement for GD-ROM drive, except using SD cards. It might offer better loading times but otherwise will function in the same way. It's meant to provide a backup solution for the laser and other mechanical parts of the drive which are no longer in production and fail after so many years of use. While many of you will interpret this last sentence as "it will play game rips" I'd like to point out that I never condoned software piracy. I think I made my point clear when I refused to fix any bugs in Makaron that were related to CDI rips of the games (as opposed to proper GDI images). Many of these "bugs" were actually how the rips worked on a real console, although these could be somewhat helped if I wanted to. But I didn't. So, if you are/were a Dreamcast user then you should be familiar with region locks, video cable restrictions, bootable (or not) homebrew, etc. Using GD-EMU will not remove/help with any of these. You might try image patching, sure, but I will not give any support for these modifications if there are any problems.

As for user interface - I like simple things that work as expected. I've seen too many projects that looked nice but didn't deliver what was promised in the first place. My goals are perfect compatibility and stability. Anything else is extra. I think 2 buttons is enough to select which game on the card should be "inserted".
If that's not enough for you, code a good Dreamcast app that will select games from the card - it can be put as the first image on it, which will boot by default. Then we can talk about how to make the hardware do what the app/user wants.

5) USB link to PC?
That's in plans, but no work has been done yet. I'm not even sure the USB port on the prototype works properly :) So, eventually yes, but probably not from the start. USB host support (as in USB HDDs and FLASH drives) is probably not going to happen. Did I mention I like simple solutions?

6) Other features?
Well, if it ever happens that I make tons of profit on these things, which I doubt, I might reconsider my stance on UI, USB host, and other things. But that would have to be a considerable amount of money to motivate me :)

7) Open source?
Highly unlikely. If only because some people could just take all my work and start selling their own devices. While I'm not stopping anyone from creating a different/better project, they better be prepared to spend as much time on it as I have. I've already helped many people by sharing important bits and pieces of info, and even programs made by me. There is goodwill and there is stupidity - and I have to say that more often than not I've came to regret my decisions. Once burned...

8) Pics or it didn't happen.
There are photos of my all-FPGA approach on this blog, and even some short movies on YT of it working (with minor issues) if you know where to look. I will post pictures of the V2 prototype connected once it actually does work. I'm redoing much of my FPGA code and this might take some time as I want to try another approach.
3rd-Sep-2012 07:02 pm (UTC) - High PR Backlink Pyramid
It's a pity you don't have a donate button! I'd without a doubt donate to this fantastic blog! I suppose for now i'll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to brand new updates and will talk about this site with my Facebook group. Talk soon!
3rd-Sep-2012 07:37 pm (UTC) - =)
Take your time dude ;) Great things always come to those who wait!
3rd-Sep-2012 11:47 pm (UTC)
Lot of people following this with interest, and likely interested in purchasing in the future as well. I'm one who has been silent up to know, but just wanted to post to send my encouragements! This is incredible :)
5th-Sep-2012 01:38 pm (UTC)
It's unfortunate that you don't want to open-source this project, it seems like a very good candidate for collaborative work. I understand that it would be frustrating if your work was stolen but it would also be a shame if the project died if you decided not to continue working in it.

Anyway, could you give some more technical details? The board looks like it has two QFPs, one is an Altera FPGA (?), is the other the MCU? Is the MCU just handling FPGA programming? It looks like a big package for this application.

How much heavy-lifting is the PFGA doing? Is it just decoding requests for disc sectors and returning equivalent data from the SD card or is it more complex? Any idea of how much logic/how many gates are used?
6th-Sep-2012 03:50 pm (UTC)
"Collaborative work" is a nice term, but it only applies to cases where people actually agree to share the workload and the resulting profits (if any). In this case the work is all but finished - all the reverse engineering, coding, testing, designing and hardware purchases are already done. So, what project(s) did you collaborate on?

As for the technical details - it's an ARM-based MCU and small FPGA to handle the external I/O (including DMA transfers). Having MCU of any kind just to configure the FPGA is a silly idea by the way, unless the config is changed as a part of normal operation.

Also, "just decoding requests for disc sectors and returning equivalent data from the SD card" - you know, this "just" is what this projects does, more or less. I'm having hard time figuring out if you're serious with these questions (and what do you need this knowledge for anyway) or trolling me... So, all I'm going to say is the previous iteration was done on EP2C20F484 and it had all the required glue logic as well as soft-core CPU plus necessary modules to use external SDRAM, LEDS and buttons. And there was still space to fit a logic analyzer in there.
(no subject) - Anonymous - Expand
6th-Sep-2012 01:25 am (UTC) - StoneAgeGamer.com
I am from Stone Age Gamer (StoneAgeGamer.com). We would be interesting in helping you finish and produce this product.

We have experience with similar items. We are currently working on bringing a similar product for the 3DO to market.

Please e-mail us at purchasing{at}stoneagegamer{dot}com. We are interested in discussing a possibility of bringing this product to market once you have finished. I know your fans would love to see it. :)

Thank you for your time.

Edited at 2012-09-06 01:28 am (UTC)
6th-Sep-2012 11:00 pm (UTC) - Game selecting image is easy
The Dream on demo disc, the Dream Passport 3 and the Web Browser could be used to load multiple games with a nice selection screen, specially the Dream On demo with a nice 3D selection Screen, surely you can't include them with the ODDE for obvious reasons but anyone who buys it (like I intend to do) can easily make it by following the tutorials on the net.
9th-Sep-2012 07:38 am (UTC)
I would pick one of these up immediately if StoneAgeGamer carried them! They have helped make avaliable a lot of similar products in the past, adding Dreamcast to the list would be amazing :D
10th-Sep-2012 03:40 pm (UTC) - Indiegogo
This is amazing! Thank you for your hard work. Have you considered Indiegogo for crowd funding? I'm pretty sure you can start a campaign outside the US there.

13th-Sep-2012 02:03 pm (UTC) - Manufacturing
I just had some JVS-PACs manufactured in China, low volume (100). I wish I had done this sooner. Get in touch if you want some details on the process/pricing etc.

16th-Sep-2012 11:08 pm (UTC)
Good work, have been following your progress for what seems like forever. Really enjoyed the journey!

100% agree with you for keeping the project your own
18th-Sep-2012 12:24 pm (UTC)
I sincerely hope this does come to fruition. I've been in the Dreamcast scene for the past 12 years, and unfortunately for the past 8 years I haven't been able to enjoy my Dreamcast(s). The weak link of these systems has always been the GD-Rom, and it would amazing if we had an alternative to it. I'm ready and willing to buy two.

Best of luck, and thanks for your hard work!

Code-Red @ Dcemulation.org
19th-Sep-2012 11:14 am (UTC) - about link to DC
Hi,when it final completion and sales,this "GD-EMU" will be link up to the dreamcast's g2 bus?
19th-Sep-2012 12:43 pm (UTC) - Re: about link to DC

No, direct to GD-Rom Connection

look this image
3rd-Oct-2012 09:15 am (UTC) - why dont you decide.
its might infuriating watching you toy with this and other hardware projects. why dont you just release the stuff you already did and let people who can do so create on top of the work. you do not want to put in the time.

if you in this for the money then just stop. you will never make enough money to satisfy the time needed to put into this.

3rd-Oct-2012 02:39 pm (UTC) - Re: why dont you decide.
I do understand your impatience but you seem to have forgotten it's _my_ project. If you're unhappy with it's pace then just start your own. It's easy to be an armchair critic.

And it's not about money. During those last few years I've devoted a lot of my time and other resources to create Dreamcast, NAOMI and VMU emulators - which are free to use software. However, even if I was in it for the money I don't think you'd have any right to complain. It's not like you already paid for the device and I failed to deliver on schedule...
3rd-Oct-2012 10:50 am (UTC) - Updates
Hello nice project can you update the status at list once per month to see if you made any progress ?
4th-Oct-2012 05:28 pm (UTC) - Do your thing!!!
Well if anything like this ever goes to market I know I will be buying five of them. DC 4 LIFE!
5th-Oct-2012 02:54 pm (UTC)
dknute dont let any negativity bring you down , theres always going to be some but try and focus and be positive.

With your Projects do what makes you happy and dont be pressured in any way , whatever you do is a blessing to us and we appreciate it a lot.

5th-Oct-2012 06:59 pm (UTC) - First off I think you are awesome.
As my subject says, I think you and what you do is awesome. I really hope you bring this to market, I know I'd personally buy one... as long as the price wasn't astronomical.

Although, I have to say I hate knowing that you may just shelve the whole thing if you can't bring it to market, I really do hope you consider either partnering with a company who can sell these for you and is willing to pony up the cash.... or if you would outright sell your work (plans, software, ect) to a company or private group.
Hell, even a Kickstarter like funding to just buy the plans from you.

Ideally, I'd rather buy a finished product from you, but if you were going to shelve it anyways, might as well make some money and give other people a headstart by selling plans.
7th-Oct-2012 04:32 pm (UTC)
That's showing some love for the Dreamcast. Keep up the good work !
14th-Oct-2012 10:09 pm (UTC)
Just want to throw in my support. I'd most likely pick up 2 of these units should they ever appear, and if they don't, it's a super cool project anyway. Along with all the other stuff you've done. Please continue posting about future projects :) And of course, don't let the assholes get to you.
15th-Oct-2012 02:16 pm (UTC) - Respect
Please sell these for us Dreamcast fans that lack the electronics skills to understand even half of what you're showing us! XD

I'd pay big money for your genius and ambition! These would be like the flash carts of the disc world. :D
16th-Oct-2012 05:27 am (UTC) - Very Cool
This is a very cool project, keep up the interesting work.
17th-Oct-2012 09:47 pm (UTC) - Thank you very much
As a fellow emulation author and enthusiast, I whole-heartedly thank you for your contribution and wish you all the best success in getting this project finalized (or at least "good enough" for a release. ;-)

Can you shed some light on your decision not to support the XA-formatted ISO images? Yes, piracy is bad. But I would like to know where you expect us to find these games anymore. ;-) But seriously (you can disregard the last sentence) it would be nice to have a way to put homebrew ISOs on a card and test them. I'm so darn tired of making light-green drink coasters.

20th-Oct-2012 01:41 pm (UTC) - Re: Thank you very much
"XA-formatted ISO"?

By "ISO" you mean "a generic term used to describe a digital media image" I suppose? For me ISO stands for ISO9660 which is very well defined format that can only have one track, containing data, with 2048 bytes per sector format. As such it is not bootable by Dreamcast, so it will simply not work (unless you combine it with so-called boot-disc).

An image that is bootable will boot fine, that does include CD rips of games. But I never did and never will support that so if there are any problems I won't fix them. There are a few legitimate MIL-CD spec discs that are bootable by Dreamcast and those will work, and any issues with them will be resolved (if at all possible).
18th-Oct-2012 06:49 am (UTC) - There is a much easier way of doing this...
A much simpler and cheaper way of doing this would be to only emulate the Dream-shell SD loader disc on the GD-Rom side and patch into the serial port for an external SD Card Reader. it should be much easier than attempting to emulate all Dreamcast discs, and allows for as many games and home-brew you can fit on a SD card to load. not to mention it will allow for programming in/on the Windows CE portion of the Dreamcast. Win-Win-Win as they say.

Edited at 2012-10-18 07:17 am (UTC)
19th-Oct-2012 11:08 pm (UTC) - Re: There is a much easier way of doing this...
the problem with that is the SD card to serial link is so slow that a lot of games don't work and the ones that do have crazy load times and audio problems. besides if you can emulate one disc you've most likely done the hard part of getting all discs working anyway. pretty sure there's a BIOS file with dreamshell hacked in too so you could just flash that.
18th-Oct-2012 06:06 pm (UTC) - IC choices
I noticed you said you needed glue logic and MCUs. I would like to suggest you look into using and XMOS processor which specializes in concurrency. Looking at your setup, I think you could replace everything (except the RAM IC) with a single chip. It's completely software driven so there are no hardware interfaces. However, there are pre-written protocols for lots of stuff including an SDRAM interface and SD Card with full FAT support. Just a thought.

While I'm not actually interested in your source code, I am interested in the protocol(s) and pin layout used to interface with the DC. Would it be too much to ask for you to post details about it?
20th-Oct-2012 02:17 pm (UTC) - Re: IC choices
One chip solution would probably be better but this approach has it's merits:
- I can reuse a lot of my code that has already been shown to work
- It's not really that expensive even with FPGA, these are popular devices so the prices are reasonable and there is no problem sourcing parts
- I have some experience with ARMs and Altera FPGAs, and some dev kits that I can test on

Belive it or not but I did put some thinking into this setup :)

About the pinout, there are already some other (open) projects being made, and at least one comes with schematics. There is also a SEGA document (that came with DC SDK) on the GD protocol, "available" if you search for it in the right places. That should answer many of your questions.
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