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Problems with new Harmony cart


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#1 jc13 OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jul 13, 2017 5:30 PM

Hello everyone - I bought a Harmony cart a couple of weeks ago and now that I've had time to use it more, it looks like I may have a bad one.  After roughly 15 minutes of gameplay, the menu system basically becomes unreadable and the cart won't launch any games.  If I play a standard cartridge immediately afterward, it works fine.  This is a light sixer that has had caps and regulator replaced (by me), and I've tried a different SD card as well, but the screen will become scrambled even if there is no SD card installed and the Harmony is sitting at the press fire button text.  I've already refreshed the bios on the Harmony with no change. I have noticed that Draconian is very hit or miss as to whether it will work, but usually it hangs almost immediately after loading.  I'm not sure what to do next other than try to have it replaced.  I have a video I'll post when I pull it off my phone, but does anyone have ideas I haven't tried yet?

 

Thanks,

John

 

HarmonyGarbled.PNG


Edited by jc13, Thu Jul 13, 2017 5:37 PM.


#2 maiki OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jul 14, 2017 2:49 AM

I am not an expert but it seems there is something wrong with the console itself (capacitors?...).



#3 jc13 OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jul 14, 2017 5:24 AM

That was my first thought as well, so I replaced the caps and the voltage regulator to make sure.  No change afterwards.  I can play a normal cart and not have any issues, but for some reason the Harmony acts up within 10-15 minutes.



#4 jc13 OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jul 14, 2017 6:17 AM

Here's a video showing the corruption of the menu.  Sometimes it will still launch the game, but in this video I just got the spinner.  Not shown in the video, but right after this, I put in a standard cart and had no issues.

 

Attached File  harmony.mpg   11.25MB   7 downloads



#5 RevEng ONLINE  

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Posted Fri Jul 14, 2017 8:10 AM

Try cleaning the cart slot, as Harmony may be a bit more picky there. You can "quick clean" it by generously putting alcohol on a cart edge and inserting it a bunch of times. "Deep clean" it with q-tips and alcohol, or a plastic card cut to size with paper towel and alcohol. The purer the alcohol the better, and make sure it's evaporated before you try testing again.

The only other difference between normal carts and Harmony I can think of is power requirements. If your power supply is dodgy, then Harmony may not be getting enough current.

#6 swlovinist OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jul 14, 2017 8:43 AM

I would test it on another console as well just to rule that out.  



#7 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jul 14, 2017 12:37 PM

Does Harmony suffer from 3.3 <-> 5 volt translation mismatches? Does it use real buffers?



#8 jc13 OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jul 14, 2017 4:29 PM

So...  I dug out my heavy sixer to test with and after much swapping, it seems that I have a problem with the 6507 CPU once it heats up, but I've never experienced it with anything but the Harmony cart.  Just leaving it at the Harmony menu takes about 7-8 minutes for the garbled menu to start, but playing Draconian will make it freeze / black screen or reset the game in about 2.  Freeze spray on the 6507 every minute or so will let me play indefinitely (or until I run out of spray).  Not sure why, but swapping in a 6507 from the H6 got me nowhere - no menu screen with the Harmony and regular cart wouldn't start.  I may have to revisit that one now that I've got it narrowed down a little.



#9 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jul 14, 2017 4:48 PM

Does the OP's unit have steady voltage from the regulator? Any spikes on it?

 

Does Harmony suffer from 3.3 <-> 5 volt translation mismatches? Does it use real buffers?

 

Now that I looked into the design, the LPC2103 is 5V tolerant. That means the input can accept 5V from the VCS. Does it cause extra current drain? Thus heating the 6507? Just rambling on there..


Edited by Keatah, Fri Jul 14, 2017 4:49 PM.


#10 jc13 OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jul 14, 2017 8:33 PM

Swapped in the 6507 from the H6 and Draconian's been running for a solid 10 minutes now.  Looks like I've got a marginal CPU rather than a bad Harmony cart - I should have known better!     :)

 

Now, If anyone has a spare they'd like to sell me, I can move on with my UAV mod...  

 

Also, if someone could change the title of this thread to "not necessarily a problem with a Harmony cart" please do!!!


Edited by jc13, Fri Jul 14, 2017 8:57 PM.


#11 maiki OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jul 15, 2017 3:43 AM

What makes you think it is the CPU and nothing else? I am just curious...



#12 jc13 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jul 15, 2017 6:18 AM

Since it only happened once the console warmed up, I broke out the compressed air (upside down) and started cooling each chip.  When I cooled the 6507 I noticed that it started working again (for a while).  Then I swapped in the CPU from a console that didn't have the problem and the crashing stopped.



#13 SpiceWare OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jul 15, 2017 9:48 AM

Glad you were able to figure it out!

#14 macdlsa OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 17, 2017 8:33 AM

Does the OP's unit have steady voltage from the regulator? Any spikes on it?

 

 

Now that I looked into the design, the LPC2103 is 5V tolerant. That means the input can accept 5V from the VCS. Does it cause extra current drain? Thus heating the 6507? Just rambling on there..

 

Heh ! This is something we are wondering in many, even here in italy, after that "someone" has spread this link in almost every retrogaming community:

 

http://www.nintendolife.com/news/2017/07/flash_carts_could_be_slowly_killing_your_retro_consoles?utm_content=buffer721d8&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer 

 

After all, that's not completely "wrong"... but the concern of "fading" something would only exist if voltage differences were much greater and/or currents involved were higher.
A power increase of about 2mW [(5-3.3)V x 0.012A] and the consequent increase in energy dissipation in the form of heat would not even justify the substitution of the "dissipation" resistor (let's call it that)...
 
So, I checked around in the AAforum(s) but I haven't seen a thred about this "5-:-3.3 mismatch"... so I ask here  ;) !

Does anyone have any idea about this thing and if it could also involve our Harmonies+VCS' ?

Edited by macdlsa, Mon Jul 17, 2017 8:34 AM.


#15 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 17, 2017 10:50 AM

I'm pretty sure this is what you're looking for.

http://atariage.com/...stem/?p=3804678

 

While I have not analyzed the VCS and its interaction with the Harmony, and current draw on each address line during operation, I will have to say that the Harmony cart is 5 volt tolerant. Not native. And the datasheet of the LPC2101 confirms it. But is being 5volt tolerant an unusual strain on the console? That depends on how the two entities interface. Simply being 5v tolerant could create heat if the tolerant part draws too much current.

 

Someone will need to add up the current draws and sinks and pull-ups and see if they put undue strain on the 40+ year old parts in the VCS. The LPC2101 was chosen because it had a lot of the right functional features and happened to work with the VCS' 5v bus. But it's really a 3.3V part.

 

Someone should put the combo on the bench and do a couple of tests. Watching the power supply, watch the rise and fall times, checking for sagging and ringing, checking for incomplete pull-ups and pull-downs.

 

---

 

It is of my official professional opinion that 3.3V parts and 5V parts can co-exist quite safely with no long-term ill effects to either, provided they are interfaced with level translators or buffers spec'd for that purpose.

 

Some flash carts do this. Others do not and fudge it with direct connect (very bad), or pullup/pulldown resistors and tolerant parts (slightly bad).

 

---

 

Parts operated without level translators may not fail right away, but they do age faster. Anything operating out of specification will have a shortened life.

 

It is important to note that different parts (of the same number, i.e. 6507, TIA, whatever) can and do age differently and at different rates. So some combinations of swapping things might make you a system totally out of spec and incapable of operating. But put some of those parts with "stronger" parts, and it evens out. And the system works.

 

And the trick here is to realize that with 40 year old parts some of them have naturally drifted close to their min/max specification. And when you have a lot of things going on, like in a computer, that can all add up. Like a house of cards. One little nudge in the wrong direction and a logic gate fails to trigger on-time or weakly, and the house falls down. Do the address/data lines in the VCS look any different with/without a Harmony plugged in? Inquiring minds want to know!



#16 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 17, 2017 11:05 AM

In any case, with this information thrown into the spotlight, I believe any conscientious vintage gamer should verify that their Multicarts, Everdrives, and SD adapters, are properly designed and don't employ any cost-cutting measures when it comes to the critical interface.

 

I also suggest this advice be applied to internal hardware add-ons like display boards, or extra memory and multifunction boards, and perhaps even more complex video mods that go beyond the 1-transistor "fix"; and verify they are designed correctly with no cost-cutting measures that could place undue stress on nearly 45 year old hardware.

 

Heh, we all tend to think certain consoles are built like tanks, but inside all of them are delicate parts still prone to cumulative effects of many power cycles and static discharge and general manhandling with slamming cartridges, playing on the floor, overheating from blocked vents, and constantly changing controllers. Hardly a controlled environment. Every little bit adds some fragility and they aren't going to last forever.



#17 maiki OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 17, 2017 1:03 PM

It is going to be funny when it comes out that those AV (RGB) mods cause damage to 2600 in long term...



#18 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 17, 2017 1:37 PM

I've already seen a few go bad. Analysis identified a wrong value resistor by one whole magnitude smaller. And another had a leaky transistor with too little resistance on the base.

 

I think the more complex mods, like the internal mini-PCB ones are more likely to kill the host. Though when working they look rather nice.

 

So modder beware. Check the circuit design!



#19 batari OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 17, 2017 4:22 PM

Hi all,

 

It's probably about time I checked in anyway, as it's been a while. I had some health issues then a divorce and so I haven't been on this site as I used to be but hopefully that will start to change!

 

I'm glad the OP here has solved the problem. A flaky chip on the console could have just enough of a timing issue that makes it not work with certain bank switch methods (such as the one used for the menu or DPC+.) I don't think it has anything to do with voltage.

 

As said the chip in Harmony is 5v tolerant, and that alone is enough to ease all concerns. From an engineering standpoint, all 5v tolerant means is that it is 100% safe to connect 5v devices to it.

The article linked above talks of NON-5v tolerant parts connected to 5v CMOS devices. The article does raise valid points, none of which apply to the Harmony or the 2600.

This is because the 2600’s chips are not CMOS. They use NMOS technology which have very high impedance, and this means their maximum current source from a 5v output is on the order of 100 microamps - several orders of magnitude lower than CMOS parts.

From an electrical standpoint, the 3.3v-5v transition here is a non-issue.



#20 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Jul 17, 2017 4:41 PM

Good to hear it! And welcome back.



#21 macdlsa OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Jul 18, 2017 7:45 AM

Thanks for the clarification, Ketah, impeccable esamination !

And thnx to you, too, Fred ! (Heh... Who better than you can know these things ?  :thumbsup: )

-[ Hope it's all right for you now  :thumbsup: ]-

 

Just wonder if that "5-:-3.3 matter" would affect the LTOflash for Intellivision (yep, many people asked me about it, but being able to repair TV and building audio amplifiers does not turn me into one who knows everything...  :_(  :-o )...



#22 jc13 OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Jul 20, 2017 8:43 AM

Thanks everyone - new 6507 arrived yesterday from Best and it's working well now.  

 

-John






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