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Adopting two 520 STe machines

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I got my hands on not one but two UK 520 STe machines. :party:

 

Last night I opened both of them to examine the motherboard. They are both dirty, one much more than the other. Both seem to be early STe models with separate Blitter chips (vs. integrated with the glue logic IC) and both have the factory installed fix for sound. I also see the "bad" DMA chip in both units as well. Then the differences begin. The cleaner board has four SIMMs (2 of 1 kind, 2 of another kind) where the dirtier board only has two SIMMS. I also see the cleaner board has 28-pin ROMs and the dirtier board has 32-pin ROMs. If I had to guess the TOS version then I would say the 28-pin is 1.06. The 32-pin version is labeled 1.6. The 32-pin ROMs are actual EPROM devices with windows vs OTP device.

 

I haven't powered up either board. My new power supply should arrive this Thursday.

 

While I wait for the power supply to arrive I will try cleaning the motherboard with a soft toothbrush and some alcohol, >90%.

 

Assuming they both fire up and work properly I'd like to install 4 MB of memory and a UK version of TOS 1.62 in both. Maybe these machines will have the improved TOS from ParanoidLIttleMan here. My 1040 STe has a standard US version of TOS 2.06. Since both have the "bad" DMA chip I would like to try installing NetUSBee with a USB flash drive instead of using UltraSatan. I don't know if the floppy drives in either system work. The drive in the dirtier system looks like a solid brick of rust and corrosion. It's a Mitsumi unit. Maybe it still works. erhaps I can get a solid state floppy emulator/replacement if it doesn't. The cleaner system has a Sony unit and looks unexceptional.

 

See the attachments in this message. I hope the images aren't scaled down and compressed too much by the forum system.

 

I plan to update this thread with my progress on getting these machines up and running.

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Hopefully they clean up nicely for you, and lets hope they fire right up when you get the supply

 

I didn't know they had such differences in ram slots, TOS and blitter even in the same model numbers. wild!

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Yeah, Atari tweaked their STe design a bit. Check out this thread on Exxos :

 

https://www.exxoshost.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=51&t=506

 

Do you see the three chips under the SIMM slots, to the right? Earlier STe like mine have two plus some jumper wire. One of the chips is actually double stacked on my board.

 

Then check this thread also on Exxos :

 

https://www.exxoshost.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=51&t=560

 

Look carefully. How many "big" chips do you see? There is one seemingly missing here. That's where the Blitter was integrated into the glue logic ASIC.

 

Changes like this are usually not a big deal. It's just part of the natural product sustaining process.

 

In terms of the SIMMs in my "cleaner" STe, I think someone added two more modules to the two that already existed ... like an upgrade.

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Update!

 

I ordered a Mean Well RPA-60A power supply and three 3-position flying lead cable assemblies from Digikey. Links below :

 

https://www.digikey.com/product-detail/en/mean-well-usa-inc/RPD-60A/1866-4008-ND/7706011

 

and

 

https://www.digikey.com/product-detail/en/te-connectivity-amp-connectors/2154828-2/A107461-ND/3929751

 

The power supply accepts 90-264VAC so it will work here in the US and elsewhere around the world. It outputs 5V and 12V which at 5A and 2A which is plenty for the STe.

 

The three 3-position flying leads are for connecting the power input and outputs. One is needed for the power input and two for the power output.

 

I removed the original 220VAC supply and carefully screwed on the new supply into one of the screw holes. This isn't meant to be permanent. I wanted it secure enough for testing only. Then I twist the wires together (5V output to 5V input, etc) and used some crude tape to insulate the bare wire. After plugging in the power cabel to the motherboard I turned on the "cleaner" STe. The computer fired right up! :party:

 

The machine couldn't run sysinfo.prg and YAART reported a ton of errors. It looks like the RAM is bad. Thankfully I had a set of 4x256MB SIMMs I could swap in. This gives me 1MB. Both programs run just fine with no hitches of glitches.

 

Now I must tidy up the wring. Twisted wires should be soldered together. Insulating tape should be replaced with shrink tubing. I also need to securely mount the new power supply using all four screw holes.

 

I'm attaching pictures of what this all looks like. I'll post another update once everything is cleaned up.Oh, and I'm including a photo of the original RAM that tested bad.

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I'll be very interested in hearing of your progress. I've been searching for an STe for a while now, but they seem to be pretty rare on this side of the pond. If I really want one, I may have to go the same route as you and look for a U.K. model and make a rebel out of it.

 

Keep us posted.

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Wow, it's great news that you found a power supply that is able to provide enough power AND was short enough to fit in the ST. :thumbsup:

 

I remember back in the late 90s/early 2000s when I was given/bought cheap/inheriting :P 1040STs, the power supply was one of the things that commonly went bad (and still is). The original ST power supply was 50W and 1.2 inches tall. None of the major electronics stores (Mouser, Digikey, Jameco, etc) had a power supply that met those specs. They were either too weak (40W, 1.2 inches high) or too tall (60W, 1.6 inches high). I found one or two which was enough to fix the machines I had with bad power supplies, but wanted to have a spare or two.

 

It's great to see that technology has moved forward with smaller, more powerful power supplies that can easily fit in our STs! ;-)

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I'll be very interested in hearing of your progress. I've been searching for an STe for a while now, but they seem to be pretty rare on this side of the pond. If I really want one, I may have to go the same route as you and look for a U.K. model and make a rebel out of it.

 

Keep us posted.

 

I feel like I got lucky with this "cleaner" unit. It wasn't packed very well and despite being cleaner than the other STe it was still absolutely filthy. There was every chance it wouldn't power up. Yes, I could have exercised the option to return the STe machines but it would be at my expense. I could have lost a bit of money here.

 

I'm attaching a picture showing how the cleaner STe was packed. It's not pretty. The dirtier STe was wrapped in thin, dusty bubble wrap. Nasty.

 

After I tidy up the power supply I'm going to clean off the dirtier STe and power it up. Hopefully I get a chance this weekend.

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Yeah, I see what you mean!

 

I mean, it's cool that it came in the original box, but a thirty-year-old box likely isn't going to stand up as well as it did when it was new. At the very least, everything loose in the box should've been bubble wrapped and that original box should've been over-packed into another, newer, sturdier box.

 

At least that's my opinion.

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Just got an STE from the UK last week. Put a Meanwell supply in it and it's running great.

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With a working power supply in hand, I couldn't hold myself back from testing the dirtier STe machine. :) This is the machine with the extra dust and dirt on the components and the floppy drive with the rusted top.

 

I cleaned off the grime from the motherboard using compressed air and alcohol. The Q-tips and wipes were nearly 100% black with dirt. Yuck! After a quick cleaning I applied power ... and it's alive! :)

 

The dirt wasn't my main concern. I was more concerned with the rust on the floppy drive. When handling the drive the rust would stick to my fingers or flake off. Not good. I removed the top lid to look inside the drive. See the attached pictures. It's not a pretty sight.

 

I see a mix of dust, hair, and dirt sticking to the rails and internal surfaces of the drive.

 

Just for kicks, I decided to try formatting some floppies. None of my attempts were successful. One floppy made it to 70% complete before bonking out. A second wouldn't even start. The third one only got to 25% complete. I'm not feeling too inspired to clean and refurbish this drive.

 

The victory here is knowing the dirtier STe works and the defeat here is discovering the floppy drive is faulty.

 

Now I am thinking of floppy drives alternatives. Both the Gotek and HxC seem like great options with their own quirks ... but each requires some modification to the case. The HxC Slim would seem to require the least amount of modification. The HxC Rev F and Gotek would require the most. I'm not sure which one I would pick. Let's open this up to the forum. Which would you install?

 

In the mean time, I ordered 4 MB of memory and a scan doubler for the clean STe. Here are links:

 

https://www.ebay.com/itm/4x-1MB-30-Pin-2-Chip-Non-Parity-70ns-FPM-Memory-SIMMs-4MB-Apple-Macintosh/142814739559?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649

 

and

 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B074GC2K2F/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

 

 

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That's cool. :thumbsup:

 

It's too bad they are expensive and rare in the U.S. I've been messing around with mine quite a bit, and I really like it.

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Today I turned my attention back to the cleaner STe machine.

 

I tidied up the wiring on the power supply. All wires are soldered and protected with heat shrink tubing. I wanted to zip-tie the incoming and outgoing power wires into separate bundles but it turns out I'm all out of zip-ties. They are on my shopping list.

 

The Mean Well supply has a much smaller footprint than the original 220VAC supply which makes mounting a bit of a challenge. Also, only two of the supply's four mounting holes are grounded. See the attachment showing two orange circles highlighting the mounting holes.

 

I used one of the supply's grounded mounting holes for attaching the supply to Atari's mounting plate via a preexisting threaded hole. The second grounded mounting hole required adding a hole in the mounting plate. I removed a portion of the insulating plastic under the supply's second grounded mounting hole to slip in a ferrule and ring lug underneath. The ring lug is for adding another ground contact point. I drilled a hole in the mounting plate slightly smaller than the #4 screw I bought at the hardware store. Flexing a bit of strength I forced one screw through the plate to thread that hole. The steel is soft so it wasn't too hard. I threw that screw away and used a fresh screw to secure the supply, ring lug, and ferrule to the mounting plate. See the next attachment showing the "sandwich". The screw does stick out quite a bit from the bottom of the moutning plate but there's still plenty of clearance.

 

I added the extra green wire with ring lugs to give a pseudo third point of ground contact. It's probably not necessary but it was easy to do. You can see it in my third attachment.

 

In my fourth attachment you can see the bare, naked, open machine. Remember, this is is the cleaner STe which explains why it looks so pretty after a clean-up.

 

Over the weekend I also received my 4 MB of RAM. SYSINFO seemed to recognize my extra capacity and YAART tests it with no errors. See my 5th and 6th attachments. YAART is on pass # 7 as I finish this post.

 

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Wow. That power supply is puny. Nice find.

 

Excuse my electrical ignorance...Did you have to be aware of connecting the ground holes to the power supply bracket? What happens if you rotated it 180 degrees so that you mount it with the non-grounded holes? I don't recall doing that when I fitted non-Atari power supplies to the bracket. But then, that was ages ago...

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Wow. That power supply is puny. Nice find.

 

Excuse my electrical ignorance...Did you have to be aware of connecting the ground holes to the power supply bracket? What happens if you rotated it 180 degrees so that you mount it with the non-grounded holes? I don't recall doing that when I fitted non-Atari power supplies to the bracket. But then, that was ages ago...

 

That's a good question. There are lots of ground contact points in the Atari so almost no matter how you arrange your hardware you will inevitably connect to it ... or, at least you should. The outlet has a fat ground pin that connects to the metal mounting plate. The metal mounting plate screws into grounded mounting holes on the motherboard. There are multiple ground pins on the +5/+12V power connector too. So, even if you bypass any grounded mounting holes on the power supply itself you will still eventually get to ground.

 

Theoretically you want to ground to the closest possible point. Grounding through a single long lead for example gives stray currents a path to travel, radiate noise, induce electrical noise, etc. This can create what is known as a ground loop. Essentially one ground point will have a different Voltage potential than the other. Stray currents flowing around and through your ground can wreck all sorts of havoc in terms of noise levels and signal integrity.

 

Look closely at the motherboard and you ought to see many ground points and planes throughout.

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I want to use some sort of mass storage with these STe machines. Both of them have the "bad" or "buggy" DMA chip in them. There are many reports of UltraSatan not working very well, if at all, with this DMA chip. I don't know all the in's and out's of it but I do know it's more than I want to get into and gamble with!

 

One alternative currently available is the NetUSBee device. This device plugs into the cartridge port and gives two USB ports plus a RJ45 port. Perdrix24 at the atari-forum.com site posted a group of device drivers to enable USB drives work like hard drives. The USB drive would need to be partitioned and assigned a drive letter like a classic drive.

 

Here is a link to the thread on Atari-Forum where Perdrix24 posted the drivers.

 

http://www.atari-forum.com/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=34355&sid=b14c853209d045ea272c2663f31f5fce

 

Be sure to read the README file. It contains instructions stating the order the driver files need to be loaded. I copied them one by one into the AUTO folder to ensure the proper order.

 

My STe machines have TOS 1.06 so I had a couple of issues to contend with. First, I seemingly bumped into the 40-folder bug. I had to add the FOLDRxxx.PRG to the AUTO folder and have it boot first. Second, I discovered there weren't enough cookies reserved by default in TOS 1.06. I had to include JARxxxx.PRG to the AUTO folder as well and I arranged the folder so it runs second after FOLDRxxx.PRG but before the NetUSBee drivers.

 

With all that squared away, I can run HDDRIVER to partition the USB storage device. My USB device is 32GB in size. It's what I had kicking around in my desk drawer. The TOS partition size limit is 512MB and the max letter is P: So, between drives C: and P: I can have 14 partitions. That gives a maximum utilization of 7 GB leaving 25GB of capacity unused. It's a bit wasteful in this case and I may get a smaller capacity device later.

 

HDDRIVER is a very flexible program. It will let you partition any drive any way you want. I had no problem creating 32 partitions of 1GB each. TOS couldn't read them though. With some trial and error I discovered my maximum readable partition size is 536.8MB which is above the 512MB limit and I'm not limited to 14 partitions. I could successfully read up to drive Y:!! I couldn't add Z: because TOS said it won't allow any more icons on the desktop. Maybe I could manually edit the DESKTOP.INF file and add the letters in myself? In high resolution monochrome the icons consume half of the desktop space. In my medium resolution I'm sure I would consume all of the available space. Running in low resolution would results in icons stacking on top of each other.

 

I'm not sure how or why I was able to go past the traditional limits. Is there something inside the NetUSBee drivers that extend functionality? Maybe there is something about the partition format itself that naturally allows TOS 1.06 to keep going beyond P: and a bit more beyond 512MB to 536.8MB?

 

I need to do more read/write tests to ensure reliability here. Initial indications on my 1040 STe with TOS 2.06 were promising. I could copy my upgraded Megafile 30 several times over in one USB partition and then copy that whole partition to another. Still curious to know what happens when I start writing beyond 512MB onto a partition. The data rate is pretty slow, at around 50-100kB per second. Assuming an average transfer rate of 75kB/sec you'll end up needing close to 2 hours to write 512MB. Copying 512MB to each partition will easily take all day. You may need an extra hour or two to spot check everything on top of all that. This is no small task.

 

Oh, and yes!! The USB drives are readable/writable on my Win 10 PC. Moving files between the two systems is easy, easy, easy.

 

So, the bottom line is the NetUSBee device with Perdix24's drivers is super solid. I was very impressed with how quickly and how easily I was up and running.

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I am cringing at how you have that NetUSBee hanging off the edge of the table like that. You're just begging to have that thing snap the connector off the device or, worse, tear apart the cart slot on the system. Get some support under that thing!

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:)

 

Yes, it does look a little scary. I relocated the machine to a different table after I snapped the photo and the device is now firmly supported from underneath.

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All said about NetUSBee is nice. But I getting info that transfer speed is very low - some 60-70 KB/sec. Other problem may be lot of RAM used by it's driver SW. Can you make some tests about it ?

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...

With all that squared away, I can run HDDRIVER to partition the USB storage device. My USB device is 32GB in size. It's what I had kicking around in my desk drawer. The TOS partition size limit is 512MB and the max letter is P: So, between drives C: and P: I can have 14 partitions. That gives a maximum utilization of 7 GB leaving 25GB of capacity unused. It's a bit wasteful in this case and I may get a smaller capacity device later.

 

HDDRIVER is a very flexible program. It will let you partition any drive any way you want. I had no problem creating 32 partitions of 1GB each. TOS couldn't read them though. With some trial and error I discovered my maximum readable partition size is 536.8MB which is above the 512MB limit and I'm not limited to 14 partitions. I could successfully read up to drive Y:!! I couldn't add Z: because TOS said it won't allow any more icons on the desktop. Maybe I could manually edit the DESKTOP.INF file and add the letters in myself? In high resolution monochrome the icons consume half of the desktop space. In my medium resolution I'm sure I would consume all of the available space. Running in low resolution would results in icons stacking on top of each other.

....

Sorry, but your 536.8 MB is decimal MB and that's why number is so big. 512 MB (binary) is exactly 536870912 bytes, so it is not over 512 MB at all. And can not be, since TOS is what limits it, and hard disk driver SW can not override that. There is solution for 1GB partitions and 30 of them, so 32 GB card can be used fully - especially because it is never full 32 GB, it's usually about 28-30 binary GB .

The math: 512 binary MB = 1024*1024*512 bytes .

This 2.4 % diff. between decimal and binary KB will be 1.024x1.024 > 4.86 % in case of MB, and 7.37 % in case of GB .

My 2000 GB (2 TB) drive is actually 1863.02 GB (check your with Windows Disk Management) - and that's that 7.37% . Even Atari used 520 KB instead real 512 KB in model marking.

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Sorry, but your 536.8 MB is decimal MB and that's why number is so big. 512 MB (binary) is exactly 536870912 bytes, so it is not over 512 MB at all. And can not be, since TOS is what limits it, and hard disk driver SW can not override that. There is solution for 1GB partitions and 30 of them, so 32 GB card can be used fully - especially because it is never full 32 GB, it's usually about 28-30 binary GB .

The math: 512 binary MB = 1024*1024*512 bytes .

This 2.4 % diff. between decimal and binary KB will be 1.024x1.024 > 4.86 % in case of MB, and 7.37 % in case of GB .

My 2000 GB (2 TB) drive is actually 1863.02 GB (check your with Windows Disk Management) - and that's that 7.37% . Even Atari used 520 KB instead real 512 KB in model marking.

 

Yes, good point! :)

 

The 536.8 MB is the value entered in HDDRIVER. Dr. Seimet must be using 1,000,000 as the number for "1 mega-byte". You/Atari/me always use 1,048,576 (i.e. 220). He has some screens where I can choose between MiB and MB units but maybe it's not universally applied, like in the partition size editor. So, my initial claim of 536.8 MB is not correct. Thanks for pointing that out. :thumbsup:

 

I think I was more amazed with the fact I can define hard drive letters up to Z and even read/write to them. This is well beyond P. I'm not sure if this is an "easter egg" feature of NetUSBee.

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A quick update!

 

I have finally finished cleaning up one of the two dirty STe machines. The machine has 4 MB of RAM, TOS 1.06, a new power supply, and a NetUSBee with a thumb drive + cheapie wired USB mouse. I am generally very happy with this machines increased compatibility with games and demos compared to my TOS 2.06 machine. However, some games and demos still do not work. For example, most of ParanoidLittleMan's excellent collection of cracked-for-harddrive games do not load. I think this has something to do with the NetUSBee drivers and how they handle I/O calls. Games from places like planetemu.net have a better chance of loading from the USB thumb drive. Some cracked games still are hard coded for running on a floppy. So, I start the game from USB drive and the floppy spins up. Example is Marble Madness. On a positive note, ParanoidLittleMan's version of Marble Madness that is cracked for hard drive use worked perfectly on my TOS 2.06 machine. :)

 

I think the increased compatibility comes from two places. First, TOS 2.06 is known to "break" programs because of changes and updates to code. Second, this STe is a UK model with a 50 Hz display.

 

I attach a picture showing the STe machine up and running. :grin:

 

Now I turn my scattered attention to the next STe machine. I want to take a different approach to this machine. The floppy drive is completely rusted and doesn't work. Rather than find a replacement floppy drive I will try installing a floppy emulator. My only complaint about these emulators is how to change disks. It is not elegant. Ideally, I would love to have something like APE from AtariMax or the open source RespeQt running on a PC where the software controlls the floppy image. I do this with my 8-bit machines and the control is a pleasure! I don't like the idea of working with small 7-segment displays or tiny buttons.

 

What do you think? :)

 

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Some notes about game running problems: TOS 2.06 is least compatible with games, but my HW adaptations override that problem, at least most of them. And I usually tested right with 2.06 on Mega STE, which has some smaller HW differences too, what may affect some games, even when running from floppy, if floppy code is not done that good.

Indeed, most of problems with STE and Netusbee are because it's drivers. But that problem is not because some way of I/O calls, thing is more complex. Driver is done in C, in multiple layers, takes lot of RAM and is terribly slow. Although I really don't know can it be much faster - USB mass storage is not simple thing, and question is how fast used USB chip is. NetUsBee was not planned for mass storage, driver is done recently.

Then, mouse via NetUsBee is not good for many games, which use own mouse read code.

Really don't see why floppy images at planetemu would work better via some mass storage. Especially with driver SW what takes lot of RAM. You need more games to test before making some conclusions.

Unless you talked about Gotek :)

Finally: TOS does not break any programs, well at least that formulation is strange for me. Programs just not work well, or at all . The reasons why many does not work are really trivial, could say stupid:

1. Timer-C dependance of 2.06 floppy driver - they changed code of floppy driver, so it's timing stay good at higher CPU clocks. But it was nowhere stated in Atari DOCs that Timer-C must remain intact. And if some game using it for own purposes, floppy access via TOS will not work. Same stays for most of hard disk drivers (except mine) - they will now work well if TImer-C is changed. Example: Space Harrier.

2. Increased RAM usage of TOS 2.06 - some games may need 1 MB RAM to work with 2.06 instead 512 KB. But more common problem is that game is coded for lower RAM area, and when loads there will destroy TOS workspace - and crash. Example: Millennium 2.2 .

Well, maybe Atari thought that Mega STE will be used strictly for business :?

Who to blame ? Both Atari and game programmers. First because not giving good enough documentation and for changing some relevant things in HW and TOS. Second for not making enough compatible code. But that is not easy, especially if you want it to work with 512 KB RAM.

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I think my TOS 2.06 setup is also handicapped by HDDRIVER. It also consumes space and I'm sure has customized drive access code. That may be what is actually "breaking" my machine when playing games. I use the word "break" kind of loosey-goosey. ;) I always remember thinking TOS was kind of not finished by Atari. It felt like a dinner meal that was not fully cooked. Game designers and other software engineers worked around the difficulties and undocumented features. When Atari would update TOS they were finishing what they should have finished at the very start. While finishing one function they would fix another and also introduce new bugs along the way.

 

Microsoft was no different with Windows. The only difference is Windows stayed long enough for enough revisions and software engineers to work through the issues. I wonder where TOS and GEM would be today if it was still being developed like Windows and Unix platforms?

 

NetUSBee does take up a lot of memory. I'm not sure why. Each driver is small ... but all the drivers put together is big. It also need Cookie Jar driver and Folder Fix driver.

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I'm starting the same conversion process on my recently adopted U.K. STE. I was wondering if someone could confirm the pinout of J100 for me, the connector coming off of the power supply. I believe the pins are numbers left to right when looking at the connector from the front of the machine. If I'm correct, I believe the two red wires on the left, pins 1 and 2 are both +5VDC, the black wires on pins 3, 4 & 5 are all commons, and the blue wire on the far right, pin 6 is +12VDC. If someone could confirm that for me I'd be most appreciative.

 

Thanks.

 

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