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Preannouncement: Dragon Cart II

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Hi,

 

I presume that some of you are interested to learn that there's a new Ethernet project. It's a cooperation between Glenn Jones, the manufacturer of Apple II Ethernet cards, and me. Here's the link to his current Ethernet card named 'Uthernet II': http://a2retrosystems.com/products.htm

 

The original 'Uthernet' card was based on the Cirrus Logic CS8900A Ethernet chip (just like the Dragon Cart). After literally years of checking alternatives Glenn and I decided to migrate to the WIZnet W5100 Ethernet chip for the 'Uthernet II' card. We believe that the very same reasons for that migration hold true for the Atari too - and therefore we want to make a W5100-based Ethernet solution available for the Atari.

 

Without going into all the details the W5100 combines from our perspective the best of two worlds:

 

- It can be used in a pure Ethernet controller mode very similar to the CS8900A. This allows for easy migration of any CS8900A-based program to the W5100. On the Apple II there's not a single (published and therefore known) network program/framework/library today that doesn't support the W5100 beside the CS8900A.

 

- It can be used in a TCP/IP offloading mode. This allows programs not caring about backward compatibility to the CS8900A to push all the TCP/IP handling to the W5100, e.g. to establish and maintain a TCP connection with just a few hundred bytes of code and no 6502 cycles at all.

 

- It can be used in both modes at the same time. This allows a CS8900A-compatible user program to use the W5100 in Ethernet controller mode while at the same time some OS driver uses the W5100 in TCP/IP offloading mode to e.g. provide access a virtual disk drive hosted on some machine on the network. This isn't just some vision but actual reality on the Apple II.

 

So after having moved from the 'Uthernet' with CS8900A to the 'Uthernet II' with W5100 on the Apple II it sort of seemed natural to move from the 'Dragon Cart' with CS8900A to a 'Dragon Cart II' with W5100 on the Atari. I asked @puppetmark about the idea to actually re-use the name 'Dragon Cart' and he liked it a lot, thanks!

 

When I got in touch with my Atari contacts about the Dragon Cart II they all replied unanimously, that they really like the idea but that Glenn and I should pretty please go for a PBI device instead of a cart. And so we did! The Dragon Cart II isn't an actual Atari cart. It's a PBI device.

 

There will be to variants. One for the XL PBI and one (a bit later) for the XE ECI. Both will have a pass-through design allowing to plug in another PBI/ECI device (or a cart on the XE).

 

Please note that it won't be a "true" PBI device in that it won't contain a ROM holding a handler. It won't be detected by the OS as I/O device. Rather a user program and/or RAM-based driver has to directly access the W5100. While this may not be the approach preferred by everybody it's for sure the only approach delivering optimal performance.

 

However, although the Dragon Cart won't come with a handler ROM it will be as compatible as possible with any other PBI device. It will fully adhere to the $D1FF PBI device activation "protocol". It will even come with DIP switches allowing the user to select the Device ID (1- 8) to be used by the Dragon Cart II.

 

The Dragon Cart II is supposed to become available in spring 2019. We'll be looking for a few beta testers sometime in February - details will follow.

 

And finally as treat for all reading through this (too) lengthy post here are some design pictures. Please note that they're just a snapshot of the current design and are subject to change - in fact some things will change for sure.

 

post-27874-0-63470800-1548112120.png

This is the top side of the XL device. On the left hand side there are the DIP switches. On the right hand side there's the RJ45 socket and a Micro-USB socket for providing power in case the XL doesn't.

 

post-27874-0-60752700-1548112140.png

This is the bottom side of the XL device. All parts not relevant to the user have been moved here out of sight.

 

post-27874-0-10410100-1548112156.png

This is a 3D picture of the XL device. It gives a visual idea of the sockets.

 

So that's it for tonight,

Oliver

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So there are two projects now for a new Ethernet/Dragoncart, your project and the polish project:

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/287229-new-dragon-ethernet-cartridge-interest-check/

Looks like I have to get both devices to find out which is the better one.

 

What's your estimated price for a PBI or ECI+Cart device ?!?

Regarding your Dragoncart programs, will you update them or will they all work with the new Dragoncart II ?

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Good news Oliver!

On Atari XL, I don't like lan cable on top of my Dragon Cart.

Dragon Cart works perfectly with crossplatform online racing game 8bit-Slicks.

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No!

 

I just paged through the Google translation of http://www.atari.org.pl/forum/viewtopic.php?id=14903 and to me it seems that there was some discussion to replace the CS8900A with the W5100. But at least as far as I understand the actual device you can now show your interest in to buy one is a straight Dragon Cart clone, meaning:

 

- Cart, no PBI

- CS8900A, no W5100

- No PHI2 "shortening"

 

Regards,

Oliver

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Is there any chance of building a combined XL/XE compatible device such as the Sys-Check 2?

 

This was actually the first idea ;-)

 

I won't pretend that I'm a regular Atari user but I tried hard to understand things (with the help of tfhh and others) and my current understanding is:

 

- A cart is supposed to provide a program (or nowadays rather many programs to choose from). As the Atari isn't a multi tasking system there's no issue with having only one cart slot as there's always only one program to run. At least originally carts were supposed to be changed frequently, therefore the easy access to the cart slot on the XL.

 

- In contrast a PBI device is supposed to provide a system extension. That extension is supposed to be re-usable by several/many/all programs. Therefore a PBI device is supposed to stay connected to the machine. And therefore there's the $D1FF device selection "protocol" allowing for up to 8 PBI devices being present at the same time - although there's no physical/mechanical daisy-chaining approach pre-defined by Atari.

 

With that understanding the conclusion was that the 'Sys-Check 2' approach just isn't right for a "usual" PBI device supposed to stay connected to the machine: It doesn't allow to add another PBI device. It doesn't allow to add a cart on the XE.

 

After all the decision against the 'Sys-Check 2' approach wasn't an easy one - producing two variants is at least as hard as (potentially) buying two variants ;-)

 

Regards,

Oliver

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Why have you decided to do it as a NewDevice instead of CartDevice? Do you have any functions which require NewDev infrastructure? Any hardware requirements (ECI/PBI signals, interrupts, etc.)?

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So there are two projects now for a new Ethernet/Dragoncart, your project and the polish project:

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/287229-new-dragon-ethernet-cartridge-interest-check/

Looks like I have to get both devices to find out which is the better one.

 

Hm, the only benefit of the Dragon Cart (clone) over the Dragon Cart II that I could see is that there might potentially be software supporting the Dragon Cart not being adapted to support the Dragon Cart II as well.

 

What's your estimated price for a PBI or ECI+Cart device ?!?

There's no official announcement yet but my very personal guess is that it will be more expensive than the Uthernet II (http://a2retrosystems.com/products.htm) as it contains (a lot) more parts (incl. a CPLD which needs to be programmed) but that Glenn will try hard to keep it in the two-digit USD range. But again that's just my personal guess!

Regarding your Dragoncart programs, will you update them or will they all work with the new Dragoncart II ?

The Dragon Cart II uses the W5100 chip instead of the CS8900A chip. Therefore no program supporting the (original) Dragon Cart will support the Dragon Cart II without adjustment.
Let's define the term "my programs" as "programs provided by me" for the sake of simplicity here...
I will certainly update them! They will work in the same way their Apple II and C64 siblings already do. This means in detail...
There will be a program ETHCONFI.COM allowing to select between the 'Dragon Cart' and the 'Dragon Cart II'. It needs to be run once before running IPCONFIG.COM.
- Date65, Telnet65 and Tweet65 will autodetect the 'Dragon Cart' and the 'Dragon Cart II'.
- HFS65 will autodetect the 'Dragon Cart' and the 'Dragon Cart II' as soon as the program becomes available for the Atari (hopefully soon).
- Wget65 will only support the 'Dragon Cart II'.
- All programs will autodetect the 'Dragon Cart' and the 'Dragon Cart II' simply be using the updated library. However, the updated library will be somewhat larger which might potentially cause RAM issues.
- There will be an additional library for the 'Dragon Cart II' beside the existing one for the 'Dragon Cart'.
- There will be an additional library allowing programs to autodetect 'Dragon Cart' and the 'Dragon Cart II' which - again - will be somewhat larger than the device specific libraries.
The only 3rd party program known to me to make use of an IP65 library is 8bit-Slicks (http://8bit-slicks.com/). It uses the IP65 C library. So what I wrote there applies here.
Regards,
Oliver
Edited by ol.sc
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Why have you decided to do it as a NewDevice instead of CartDevice? Do you have any functions which require NewDev infrastructure? Any hardware requirements (ECI/PBI signals, interrupts, etc.)?

 

No, there aren't any hardware requirements requiring a NewDevice. The reason for the decision was "only" that everybody I've been in contact with so far pushed us (actually pretty hard) in that direction.

 

And reading through the Google translation of http://www.atari.org.pl/forum/viewtopic.php?id=14903 it seems that people consider there too the Dragon Cart being a CartDevice as a major issue (beside not allowing to offload the TCP/IP stack).

 

Regards,

Oliver

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Another advantage of this PBI card is that you can load software from a multicart.

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No!

 

I just paged through the Google translation of http://www.atari.org.pl/forum/viewtopic.php?id=14903 and to me it seems that there was some discussion to replace the CS8900A with the W5100. But at least as far as I understand the actual device you can now show your interest in to buy one is a straight Dragon Cart clone, meaning:

 

- Cart, no PBI

- CS8900A, no W5100

- No PHI2 "shortening"

 

Regards,

Oliver

The new Dragon cartridge will use W5100 too.

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The new Dragon cartridge will use W5100 too.

 

Ah, thanks for pointing out :-)

 

How / where will the 4 W5100 I/O ports be mapped into the 6502 addr space?

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Will this come with an adapter for the MPBI connection in the 1088XEL?

 

Love the dragon breathing smd led's :D

Edited by Mr Robot
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"After all the decision against the 'Sys-Check 2' approach wasn't an easy one - producing two variants is at least as hard as (potentially) buying two variants ;-)" (quoted from earlier post)

 

Ok, thanks for the detailed explanation. In all fairness, the Sys-Check 2 is available in XL, XE and combined types, and I went for the combined version on the basis that was the best one for me.

 

Good luck with producing the new device, I had a look at the data sheet for the ethernet chip and it looks like it is doing almost all the work for you, so interfacing to it via software should be fairly straightforward.

Edited by E474

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Good luck with producing the new device,

 

Thanks :-)

 

I had a look at the data sheet for the ethernet chip and it looks like it is doing almost all the work for you, so interfacing to it via software should be fairly straightforward.

 

There's at least one bug to workaround - and TCP/IP neither includes DHCP nor DNS. Anyhow, at least from my perspective software development is already complete.

 

Edited by ol.sc

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Will this come with an adapter for the MPBI connection in the 1088XEL?

 

I don't think so.

 

Love the dragon breathing smd led's :D

 

I was sort of wondering why nobody commented on that so far... There's even a small power LED "in" the eye :-)

 

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I don't think an adapter for the MPBI will be hard, I'm sure mytek will be along shortly to correct me if I'm wrong. I'd like to get this sitting above my XEL-CFIII with the case lid on, so it'll have to be a right angle bend as well.

 

 

I didn't notice the LED eye but the first thing I thought when I saw the board was 'Oh that's a well known dragon image, I love the "fire"!' I'm surprised no-one mentioned it too!

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