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Is a MiST worth it?

FPGA MiST Amiga

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#1 zetastrike OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Feb 21, 2018 6:13 PM

I've been so close to buying a MiST for the past couple of months, but the VGA-only keeps scaring me away.  I do have an Acer monitor that has VGA in (as well as DVI and HDMI) but I have no idea if it can support the output from the MiST.  Naturally, the Amiga, ST, and C64 are best played in PAL 50Hz mode, but I've read that most VGA screens can only do a minimum of 56 Hz.  Does this mean that at best, games would run ever so slightly too fast?  Or, if my monitor can only manage 60 Hz, then I'd be stuck playing Amiga and ST in NTSC mode and the games would be totally too fast.  

 

I've seen the MiSTer board that has HDMI, but that isn't sold by anyone and I'm not sure if it has real joystick ports which is a big reason I'd like a MiST.

 

Should I just sit out the FPGA scene until there's some kind of HDMI solution?  I don't want to shell out the dough for a MiST and end up not being able to use it.



#2 Flojomojo OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Feb 21, 2018 6:46 PM

I would keep an eye on the SuperNT, which is likely to get jailbreak firmware to make it more like a MiST. Right now it's just a Super Nintendo, but there's no technical reason it couldn't do more. 



#3 Osgeld OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Feb 21, 2018 6:54 PM

HDMI starts at 480p 60Hz its not going to solve your 50-60hz problem



#4 eightbit OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Feb 21, 2018 7:07 PM

I owned two MiST units at one point. I sold them both. While they are very cool in terms of the Amiga "feel" (and ST stuff for that matter) there are limitations. Namely the VGA out not actually being a scaler/flickerfixer. It worked fine on my old Sony Trinitron CRT at the time, but of course none of my LED flat panel displays would work with it. Maybe its core specific? I dunno...

 

I expected more out of it though. It costs as much (or more) than getting a real A500 and 520ST, and you can only use some peripherals like the old joysticks and MIDI devices if you spend more for that version. The cores for other machines are...eh. Some are nice but some are just half way done or broken in one way or another, and updates really don't happen much on this thing.

 

I really don't think the Amiga or ST really even need to be FPGA'd to be honest. Just using Amibian emulating an Amiga on a Pi3 is spot on to me and I own a real Amiga (decked out A2000) to draw my comparison. It's also about $200 cheaper to go that route and you can connect to modern HDMI displays (or VGA with an HDMI to VGA adapter). 

 

I know a lot of people will say that emulation cannot match "true hardware" (ie: FPGA programmed to be those things) and in some cases that is true. But, when the CPU is powerful enough and the emulation is refined it is all pretty much the same to me in what I see, feel and play.



#5 Osgeld OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Feb 21, 2018 7:48 PM

emulation, do you want it done in hardware (fpga) or software, its still some device emulating another, each will have their drawbacks 

 

software is usually the wiser choice as its much easier to update (both for the end user and the developers) and much less expensive (as it runs on the hardware you already have) 

 

FPGA tends to be a magic bullet term in most non electronic communities, its not its someone's interpretation of how a system works 



#6 eightbit OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Feb 21, 2018 8:08 PM

I was (and am) REALLY amazed at how well Amibian works at emulating an Amiga. But yes, there are drawbacks as with anything else. There were a few games and demos in which I had to re-enter the Amibian config menu (by pressing F12) and changing certain settings to have that particular title play correctly. But on the up side the changes were immediate. No rebooting...it just adjusted the speed or whatever else I needed. But that is minor for what the possibilities are. It is just as capable as a decked out Amiga with a Vampire when configured properly

 

The attached pictures are from my PI3 running Amibian with OS 3.9 connected to the 48 inch Seiki TV in the living room.

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Edited by eightbit, Wed Feb 21, 2018 8:09 PM.


#7 ColecoGamer OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Feb 21, 2018 9:12 PM

More recent VGA monitors are capable of downgrading the signal to 50hz. If your Acer isnt capable of doing this, you may find that some games will not function properly (i.e. graphical glitches, unstable refresh rates, etc).

Edit: I forgot to mention that your Acer may be capable of steping down to 50Hz. Do you have the user manual or some way to download it through the manufacturers website?

Edited by ColecoGamer, Wed Feb 21, 2018 9:17 PM.


#8 Laner ONLINE  

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Posted Wed Feb 21, 2018 10:40 PM

I have a MiST, and enjoy messing around with it from time to time. It's nice for goofing around with systems I'll probably never own the actual hardware for (ST, ZX Spectrum, etc.).  

 

It works fine, both PAL and NTSC on the three monitors I've tried it with - a Dell 2001FP flat panel, a late model Compaq CRT, and a Sony PVM (though that requires the DB15 -> SCART adapter and turning off the scandoubler in the mist.INI file).  I have a couple more VGA compatible monitors, but I haven't tested the MiST with it.

 

The main thing to keep in mind is that while there are lots of cores to mess around with, they are all in various states of completeness.  And development has mostly dried up in favor of the MiSTer. I bought mine about 6 months ago, and don't regret it. 


Edited by Laner, Wed Feb 21, 2018 10:41 PM.


#9 phoenixdownita OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Feb 21, 2018 10:49 PM

HDMI starts at 480p 60Hz its not going to solve your 50-60hz problem

HDMI can support 720p50 and 1080p50, my LCD TV (a 27" Vizio for the US market) supports 1080p50 but not 720p50, I use that resolution when playing RGB PAL consoles over my Framemeister to avoid frameskipping/stuttering, or when I slowdown my Jag and MD to play respectively Trevor McFur [so I have time to react in the later stages] and Xenon2.

 

Not all TV are created equals but p50 (at least in one resolution) should be supported even in sets destined to the NTSC world.



#10 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Feb 22, 2018 12:13 AM

Software emulation is going to give you a better experience, for a multitude of reasons. Some of which have already been mentioned.

And consider that MiST is being discontinued.
http://atari-forum.c...pic.php?t=32998

I like SE because of the rapid updates if a problem is discovered and reported. SE works on many generations/iterations of its target platform, Windows, Linux, x86, Arm, iOS. It isn't "locked" to one chip, one design, one product. SE has more configuration options. SE has the vast resources of a rich host environment and a heritage of code going back 20+ years in some cases.

#11 Kismet OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Feb 22, 2018 1:32 AM

Software emulation is going to give you a better experience, for a multitude of reasons. Some of which have already been mentioned.

And consider that MiST is being discontinued.
http://atari-forum.c...pic.php?t=32998

I like SE because of the rapid updates if a problem is discovered and reported. SE works on many generations/iterations of its target platform, Windows, Linux, x86, Arm, iOS. It isn't "locked" to one chip, one design, one product. SE has more configuration options. SE has the vast resources of a rich host environment and a heritage of code going back 20+ years in some cases.

 

I don't think software emulation is any better until you get to hardware that is off-the-shelf, because off-the-shelf hardware is well documented. Basically anything that has a BIOS and Operating system becomes a much easier target for dynamic recompilation efforts.

 

That said, a FPGA Amiga, Atari ST, MSX, X68000, PC88, Tandy 1000, C64, or Apple II has a lot of parts that can't be software emulated accurately, but many of the software titles were ported to these machines from another machine originally, so accuracy is not generally thought of as being as critical as say the GB/NES/SNES/SMS/MD/GG/PCE systems. Computer systems, except for the Amiga, didn't have capable hardware, and console/arcade ports were often thought of as being terrible.

 

The MiST project really needed someone like Analogue to actually produce a viable low-cost hardware box that anyone can use (eg with a USB keyboard, USB mouse and HDMI screen) and that's really the downfall here. However the larger obstacle to that was the fact that it's not possible to produce any kind of "SD-card"-only emulation box, software or hardware that isn't meant to infringe copyrights with impunity. So for a PC/Atari/Amiga/Mac/AppleII/etc all of these have a BIOS, and some version of DOS or basic OS that are also needed to boot the machine. You can't simply plug MiST into an original floppy drive or hard drive.

 

To that end, you can legally acquire the software needed for the Amiga under "Amiga Forever" cheaply, and that makes MiST/MiSTer have access to two legal sources of machines that could justify mass production. PC and Amiga. 



#12 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Feb 22, 2018 3:39 AM

I don't think software emulation is any better until you get to hardware that is off-the-shelf, because off-the-shelf hardware is well documented. Basically anything that has a BIOS and Operating system becomes a much easier target for dynamic recompilation efforts.

 

I'm not sure I agree completely. Both FPGA and SE accuracy are simply going to be as accurate as the information used to create their cores/routines. Custom or non-custom parts are going to translate equally good or bad. FPGA doesn't magically increase accuracy on its own. Software Emulation doesn't suddenly become better when you have a BIOS or OS or data sheets for individual TTL chips.

 

One style may be easier to work with in some instances. I'll agree there.

 

When I said, "It isn't "locked" to one chip, one design, one product." I was referring to FPGA cores. FPGA cores written for one FPGA chip need to be re-done for another chip. And yet again when you have a different design PCB. It may be re-write, it may be a re-compile with different options. FPGA doesn't migrate well. Software Emulation that works on a Pentium M will also work on Core i9. And in the far future when there are Core i23 chips, there will be, as there are now, virtualization tools and environments to run older softer. That includes emulations. We already see this trend. SE can operate on a huge range of host chips and umpteen trillion motherboard designs. With FPGA it's one mainboard, one layout, one product, one chip. That's what I was getting at.

 

Another advantage of software emulation is the complexity of the system being emulated. FPGA is up against hard limits because of number of elements available. While FPGA chips do increase in size and cost-effectiveness they are doing at too slow a pace to encourage migration and the rapid pace of adding new features. Developers apparently lose interest in their project too easily, before it can be improved enough.

 

SE does not have that limitation. And MAME has demonstrated it. As new knowledge becomes available, a system/driver/core/module can be expanded upon without fear of running out of room. For all practical purposes the host's memory is unlimited.

 

I've watched Emulator Stella grow from 0.8MB in 1999 to 2.6MB in 2018. All versions work on my old-ass Pentium-M through my i7. Pretty much the same deal with Altirra, from 0.3MB in 2009 to 4.6MB in 2018. MAME has an even bigger size increase, 1.4MB in 1999 to 193MB in 2018. And none of these strain the host's memory.

 

Some folks say that FPGA has the advantage of parallelism. Maybe. But consider a modern-day i5 or i7. You've got 4 cores running at 3.5+ GHz and extraordinary context switching at your disposal. You'll be running emulators just fine and with power to spare.

 

Other folks say that FPGA feels like real hardware. It probably does. I say it's psychological because you're looking at separate box away from the PC. The PC'ness "aura-of-stink" that hangs around the PC is a huge downer for some. This sort of miasma doesn't exist on FPGA boxes - because "want to believe"..

 

And then there's the common misconception that FPGA is an exact hardware recreation. Many believe someone analyzed XYZ board and duplicated its every transistor in the FPGA. Nope, not quite. Functional blocks are simulated to the best available knowledge.



#13 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Feb 22, 2018 4:00 AM

That said, a FPGA Amiga, Atari ST, MSX, X68000, PC88, Tandy 1000, C64, or Apple II has a lot of parts that can't be software emulated accurately, but many of the software titles were ported to these machines from another machine originally, so accuracy is not generally thought of as being as critical as say the GB/NES/SNES/SMS/MD/GG/PCE systems. Computer systems, except for the Amiga, didn't have capable hardware, and console/arcade ports were often thought of as being terrible.

 

Which parts are these? What is the FPGA doing that software isn't?

 

If I'm emulating a C64 and playing Gyruss I would expect and demand that my experience be like that of the original physical computer. I want to enjoy the 8-bit'ness and nuances of the port of Gyruss. On the C64 it's good and was worth my money back in the day. When I switch to the Atari 400/800 I completely expect Gyruss to behave and sound differently from the C64, but I expect it to be true to the real 400/800 version.

 

If I want reference quality I'll go with MAME or the real arcade cabinet. And BTW, NES Gyruss is stupid and sUxOrZ. Heh..!

 

Because "port" doesn't mean lack of accuracy in emulation/simulation can or should be forgiven. Nope not one iota.

 

---

 

In retrospect and in today's time, it's interesting and amusing to see the differences and similarities in the early 8-bit ports. I think we were all disappointed with what we had at home vs what the real arcades offered. And Gyruss on the 64 was great effort, it was impressive to me at the time and it's why I remember it and use it as an example today.



#14 Kismet OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Feb 22, 2018 4:10 AM

 

Which parts are these? What is the FPGA doing that software isn't?

 

 

If you learned how to do something on X hardware, and along comes Y hardware that is a port of the same game. 

 

Try playing any fighting, shump, or platformer on the arcade hardware, then try to train on the home hardware. When you throw software emulation on top, that home port becomes even worse. Today, there's even crappy mobile ports that throw the entire idea of accuracy out the window.

 

My point is that a FPGA implementation of the 8 bit and 16 bit systems is something worth doing, especially against a HDMI target, but many of those home computer systems did not have the kinds of games that arcade machines had, and many home computer versions of games only targeted the slowest version of the system.



#15 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Feb 22, 2018 5:04 AM

Mmm.. If I'm going to be competing on arcade - that's what I'm going to want to train on. Emulation of arcade is pretty spot-on and I have no trouble going from one to the other. I played Tempest on MAME and upped my game to about 400,000 points. I had a similar performance in the arcade coming in at 385,000. Prior to training my score was a third of that on both real-hw and emulation.

 

Ports, remakes, re-writes, clones. This can easily become a semantic argument.

 

The more a "port" diverges from the 1st original version, the more likely it's going to be called a remake or eventually a re-write. Go further away, like mobile, and the only thing that remains the same is the name. It's a clone or play-alike. I wouldn't bother. I would not want to train on Microsoft Arcade's Tempest. It's a re-write and enemy behavior/patterns seem different compared to the arcade.

 

When playing arcade Gyruss and C64 Gyruss I found them to be close enough I could play either and improve. I also found the patterns to be the same or similar enough.

 

I consider modern Scramble on the VCS to be the same game in spirit as the arcade. But there are too many mechanical differences to allow for cross-training.



#16 Shadowgate OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Feb 22, 2018 5:06 AM

What are you all playing on your MiST?



#17 Newsdee OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Feb 22, 2018 5:50 AM

Have you seen the MiSTer project? It's kind of a sucessor with HDMI and network capabilities for the file system. You don't get it in a nice metal box, but it's very nice to use and has a much larger FPGA (110K LE vs 25K LE ifthe MiST).

Many MiST cores were ported, and it has a PC (486) core that can run DOS games.

https://github.com/M...ain_MiSTer/wiki

Edit: I just read the rest of OP's post :P

The real joystick ports can be easily replaced with a USB adapter for Genesis. There are even some with 2 ports.

Also to get a MiSTer you just start with a board sold by Terasic, and then get a memory expansion board, for example from here:
https://www.cbmstuff...ducts.php?cat=3

The other board (I/O) is only needed if you care about VGA and other options. You can get it later.

Edited by Newsdee, Thu Feb 22, 2018 5:55 AM.


#18 Newsdee OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Feb 22, 2018 6:00 AM

As for "it feels like real hardware", instant on and very low power consumption (for the MiST) is pretty cool. MiSTer uses more power but it remains at RPi levels.

The cores are also open source (unlike the NT's) so that is nice. The caveat is quite a few cores are less mature than other options. ZX spectrum or Atari 5200/800 are ezcellent though (for example)

#19 zetastrike OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Feb 22, 2018 8:12 AM

I had no idea the MiSTer was so simple, so I went ahead and bought the board and the SDRAM expansion.  I had assumed that it required soldering.



#20 Newsdee OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Feb 22, 2018 6:06 PM

The project wiki isn't very inviting and I see it can be confusing :)

There are a few cores that will run without the SDRAM expansion, including the 486, Genesis, and Apple II+ cores. Full list here:
https://github.com/M...rement-by-cores

It's true that the MiSTer is more DIY than MiST though, but it's simpler than setting up an emulator package on a Raspberry Pi.

I'd say an added bonus is that you are getting a full featured FPGA development/education board out of it as well, and the bare board price is cheaper than a MIST.

Edited by Newsdee, Thu Feb 22, 2018 6:20 PM.


#21 Newsdee OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Feb 22, 2018 6:14 PM

And consider that MiST is being discontinued.
http://atari-forum.c...pic.php?t=32998

To be clear that thread is about Lotharek stopping production of "official" MiSTs, but that's because there are several clones out there. Like the MISTICA which adds composite and SVideo out.

So the MiST platform isn't done, for example a Vectrex core just came out on it. Chances are it will get ported to MISTer, but on these things I prefer to talk about the current state and avoid speculation.

One downside of FPGA over SE is that there are less developers willing to open source. I feel that part of the reason is that it's hardware guys with their own ideas about what is a good FPGA board, so they might want to redesign instead of reusing.

Many cores are still close to perfect. Zx Spectrum, Amiga, C64, Atari 800/5200, and Sam Coupe run almost all games and you can save back to disk. Then you have "almost done" cores such as the NES and Apple II which lack save support (i.e. cant write saves or reload), limiting for long games but fine for simpler stuff.

I do recommend a MiSTer over a MiST if you want the latest though. As long as you are OK with the core list supported at time of purchase (which can only increase).

Edited by Newsdee, Thu Feb 22, 2018 6:22 PM.


#22 Osgeld OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Feb 22, 2018 6:51 PM

Then you have "almost done" cores such as the NES and Apple II which lack save support (i.e. cant write saves or reload), limiting for long games but fine for simpler stuff.

 

 

that is interesting considering the Apple II is entirely made out of logic chips



#23 Newsdee OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Feb 22, 2018 7:31 PM

that is interesting considering the Apple II is entirely made out of logic chips

Save support isn't too hard, just it needs interfacing with the core firmware (for writing to SD) and no interested developer showed up yet. It's too complex for a newbie. Otherwise the compatibility is good, including decent support for Mockingboard.

I dabbled in HDL for it but only managed to give the core a mode for green and amber screens. :)

#24 Newsdee OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Feb 23, 2018 12:55 AM

Other folks say that FPGA feels like real hardware. It probably does. I say it's psychological because you're looking at separate box away from the PC. The PC'ness "aura-of-stink" that hangs around the PC is a huge downer for some. This sort of miasma doesn't exist on FPGA boxes - because "want to believe"..


I think there is an objective difference when comparing a Retro Freak or a fully setup RPi to a MiST or MiSTer.

Both SE machines are dedicated boxes that live outside the "PC beige box" paradigm, and both are kind of tiny and can be setup next to a TV. However both have lag, take a while to boot, and updating the RPi means getting your hands dirty with Linux (not such a big deal, but there is a learning learning curve compared to just getting a few files on SD card).

#25 Hans80 OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 14, 2018 6:53 PM

Hello, i like to buy a mist board but i have some questions.
I ve seen that mist is sold by amigastore and lotharek. Amigastore says mist is 2k17 versión called 1.3 plus while lotharek has 1.3 versión. What differences are there?





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