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.
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.