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DirtyHairy

Stella 6 on the R77: the eagle is landing

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Ladies and gentlemen, the Stella team is proud and happy to present the second beta release of Stella 6 running on the R77. With this release, you will get Stella 6 on your R77 at full speed, including cycle exact audio, TV emulation, scanlines and phosphor, all with beautiful, tear-free vsync. You can grab the latest release from the github page. The installation procedure is largely the same as with the original community image, but be sure to read the installation instructions and the readme nevertheless before embarking on this adventure.

 

With the second beta release, we mainly focused on usability and bug fixing, including a dedicated mini UI menu for the R77 and key mappings for controlling the menus directly with the buttons on your joystick and your R77. You can find the full changelog below and on the github page (including more documentation). With this release, we have started to move storage to a SQLite database file. This has several advantages, the most important one for the R77 being resilience to sudden power off. Global settings are now saved in the SQLite database, per ROM properties will follow in one of the next releases. This means that, once we switch ROM props to use the database, any props you previously configured will be lost. So, don't indulge yourself too much with customizing the props for individual ROMs right now ;)

 

WARNING: With this release, you can change all of Stella's settings directly on the console, without using a keyboard, and the result will be saved immediately. However, there are several settings that, if changed, will impact Stella negatively on the device or even crash it. In particular, this applies to the audio and time machine settings. If encounter any issues, please remove the settings database (\mnt\stella\settings.sqlite3) from the SD card and retry before reporting an issue.

 

If you encounter any issues even after nuking your settings, please report them here or on the github tracker. Also, please be aware that you are using this on your own risk; nobody else will be liable for any damage to your R77, your computer or yourself. Note that Hyperkin is not involved in involved in the development of this image in any way (beyond providing the source for their original FW on their webpage).

 

Special thanks goes out to Fluxit for discovering that the micro USB port is indeed connected, and to Remowilliams for the original community images which already fixed many of the shortcomings of the original firmware.

 

Enjoy!

 

===

 

Changes from 6.1-beta1 to 6.1-beta2

 

  • R77 mini settings UI for easy access to the most common settings
  • Quick in-game command menu by pressing "4:3 / 16:9"
  • Menus can now be navigated by both joysticks and the console buttons
    (see the documentation in Stella for details)
  • 16:9 mode is now available again (via the command menu)
  • All changes to the settings are now saved immediatelly.
  • Paddles connected to the 9 pin port of the R77 now work without additional mappings
  • "Dejitter" filter for cleaning paddle input (enabled by default)
Edited by DirtyHairy
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Wow, this is great! Can't wait to try this out.

 

Can I create any folder to store homebrew binaries?

And does this version allow you to choose a TV mode?

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Wow, this is great! Can't wait to try this out.

 

Can I create any folder to store homebrew binaries?

And does this version allow you to choose a TV mode?

 

 

You can create a folder "games" on you SD card to put your ROM images there, just as with the community build. Switching the TV mode is only possible using game property files, but auto detection should work reliably for almost all games. This may change at some later point, though.

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I just tried it. Great Job.

 

Seems to work fine. Hooked up a Keyboard works fine.

 

How do you change the display from the scan line look to non-scanline? How do you access the options and settings with a keyboard on the R77?

 

Enquiring minds would like to know.

 

Thank you,

 

John

 

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Please remember, this is an early beta. For bells and whistles you have to wait a bit. :)

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Yep, to reiterate what Thomas said, our goal here is to get it up to the level of Stella 3 in the previous community build. And then build from there. So anything that you couldn't do in the previously released community build, you probably still can't do here :) That being said, there are some improvements that are part of what will become Stella 6.1:

  • controller autodetection: so for the most part, the old problems of running a (for example) paddle ROM that Stella doesn't know about is no longer an issue; paddles are auto-detected
  • NTSC vs PAL modes are normalized: still a WIP, but NTSC and PAL modes will no longer create widely differing window sizes, so scaling should start working better for both
  • vertical aspect correction: also a WIP, and related to the previous point

There's a bunch of other stuff too, but again, this is just a first step. But I have to say it's a pretty big one. You have no idea what was involved getting even to this point.

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I just tried it. Great Job.

 

Seems to work fine. Hooked up a Keyboard works fine.

 

How do you change the display from the scan line look to non-scanline? How do you access the options and settings with a keyboard on the R77?

 

The UI can be fully navigated with the keyboard. Tab/Shift-Tab moves between UI elements, Ctrl-Tab/Shift-Ctrl-Tab moves between tabs, arrow keys and enter, etc do what you would expect. Basically, this is just like Stella on a normal PC, except there's no mouse support (the underlying graphics library doesn't support it on such a device). So the question of "how to change setting x" is to read the manual; it works the same here as anywhere else.

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The UI can be fully navigated with the keyboard. Tab/Shift-Tab moves between UI elements, Ctrl-Tab/Shift-Ctrl-Tab moves between tabs, arrow keys and enter, etc do what you would expect. Basically, this is just like Stella on a normal PC, except there's no mouse support (the underlying graphics library doesn't support it on such a device). So the question of "how to change setting x" is to read the manual; it works the same here as anywhere else.

Ah, that is the missing component, Tab/Shift-tab. Thank you very much. I will google for the manual.

 

I tried plugging in paddles on the front of the r77, it sorta noticed them but would not move back and forth, but the fire button on player one worked I dont know if it is able too. I do not have a 2600daptor to check through USB, also I haven't tested the paddles to see if they are working fine on my 2600.

 

I was playing Ms. Pacman and it crashed when I died. I had to turn off the whole system.

 

I hope this helps....

Edited by Zaltran

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I did a cursory read through of the Stella user guide but I'm still not sure about two things:

1. How do I permanently save settings? Every time I restart the R77, any changes I've made to the video modes revert back to default.

2. Is there any way to go to the different option tabs/panes when I'm in their menus? I can cycle through options with the tab button but I can't figure out how to select different pages (e.g. Video Options > TV Effects). [Edit] Just read that it's Ctrl-Tab. Thanks!

 

Lastly, is there any chance we could get bolder highlight options for the Stella Settings menu? From the couch it can be a little tricky to see which menu option is highlighted.

Edited by Drunk_Caterpillar
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I haven't tested the paddles to see if they are working fine on my 2600.

 

The paddles were fine on the 2600

Edited by Zaltran

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The paddles were fine on the 2600

 

Paddle support even on official R77 firmware was sketchy at best; on mine, the paddles vibrated so much that games like Breakout were totally unplayable. They work great with a 2600USB adapter though.

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Saving settings is not yet supported. Remember, we're trying to get to where Stella 3 was on this device. For that, you couldn't even change settings at all, let alone save them. We are not yet assuming that anyone is using a keyboard with this device. So it is very bare-bones and assumed to be used with only a joystick. And even there is still needs work.

 

Paddles aren't improved yet at all. If they were poor on the old release, they still will be :) This may be quite a bit of work, since it is not a Stella problem, but how the underlying hardware is reading the joystick ports.

 

Fonts/UI stuff is definitely an area for improvement. I personally have a 4K monitor on my development system, and seeing anything in Stella is very hard. Once I get that working better, it will automatically make it better for the R77 too.

 

All of these are being worked on. The eventual goal is to get Stella 6 on R77 up to the same level as the PC, then all future changes will benefit all ports.

 

At this point we're mostly concerned with basic functionality. Does it start up, can you play the games, does the joystick keep working or die at some point (a common problem with the original release of this hardware), are there slowdowns with certain games, etc.

 

EDIT: To add, it is our eventual goal that one will not need a keyboard to use this device. That's not the way it was sold, and that's not how I envision it working. Of course one can use a keyboard to get to more advanced functionality, but the plan is to be able to change basic settings with the joystick only, and have it be a fairly self-contained, locked-down device. Many people using this product are not savvy emulation (or even PC) users, so we don't want to offer too many options to overwhelm the user.

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To double down on what Stephen said: don't play around with the settings ;) While you can worm your way into the settings menu and do changes there, most of them are not saved currently, and some may definitely cause issues. In particular, anything that enables the time machine **will** crash the device --- it only has 128MB of RAM, and the continuous snapshots created by the time machine will exhaust it after a few minutes.

 

In the future, there will be an easily accessible, stripped down settings menu for adjusting TV emulation and a few other things, but the main settings menu will always be more of an expert mode, with the potential to cause issues.

 

We also definitely don't require people to connect a keyboard, either; the default mode of operation is just how the device was intended: start a game (either via cartridge or, preferably, from a ROM on SD) and play it via joystick or paddles. This is the mode of operation that we are currently aiming at with Stella 6, and this is where feedback currently is most valuable :)

 

Also, most limitations from the original R77 that are related to the hardware responsible for dumping and for handling joysticks remain and cannot be improved on by us:

  • The dumper is crappy. It is sensitive to electrical issues and can produce bad dumps. Imho, the more reliably way to play is to launch a game from SD
  • Paddle readout is very sensitive and fluctuates a lot.
  • Alternate controllers (Trackball, etc.) do not work.

To work around the input issues, you can connect a Stelladaptor via USB.

Edited by DirtyHairy

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I was playing Ms. Pacman and it crashed when I died. I had to turn off the whole system.

 

Any reason for crashing will almost certainly be unrelated to the individual game played, or to any event in gameplay. A few questions to better understand what happened:

  • How did the crash manifest? Did the screen freeze, or did it go black?
  • Is it reproducible?
  • Were you playing a cartridge, or did you launch a .bin?
  • Did you try pressing fry to return to stella, or plugging / removing a cartridge?
  • Did you change any settings before launching the game?

The only known cause for crashes is the time machine. If you enable it in the settings (either on purpose or accidentally), it **will** crash the device within a few minutes after RAM is exhausted.

 

In addition, Stella 6 runs the CPU close to its limits (Stella 3 didn't load it to more than 30%-40%, and that at a reduced clock rate), so if you have a bad power supply, Stella 6 might be pushing it over the ledge. Another issue to watch out for is heat: while I have been running the device overnight on ARM-based games (which push the CPU to its limits) without crashes or excessive temperature, it is a good idea to make sure that the device can radiate the generated heat; don't bury it under a stack of books ;)

Edited by DirtyHairy

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Any reason for crashing will almost certainly be unrelated to the individual game played, or to any event in gameplay. A few questions to better understand what happened:

  • How did the crash manifest? Did the screen freeze, or did it go black? The Screen Froze
  • Is it reproducible? didn't think to try
  • Were you playing a cartridge, or did you launch a .bin? .bin
  • Did you try pressing fry to return to stella, or plugging / removing a cartridge? no
  • Did you change any settings before launching the game? no, but I did a bunch of screen snapshots for image preview in the game select menu

The only known cause for crashes is the time machine. If you enable it in the settings (either on purpose or accidentally), it **will** crash the device within a few minutes after RAM is exhausted. Probably enabled by the image snapshot?

Sorry about that, next time I will have a note pad ready, so I am able to provide more information to help out. I have provided in responses in red that i can remember.

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Did you change any settings before launching the game? no, but I did a bunch of screen snapshots for image preview in the game select menu

 

 

Seems we got a winner ;) It looks like you have found a memory leak in Stella. I can't try on the R77 (I don't have an USB keyboard around to try), but by launching a few ROMs from the launcher and taking a bunch of snapshots of each, I can easily increase RAM consumption by more than 80MB. I guess your snapshots drove memory usage near the limit, and when something tried to allocate some more memory, the kernel OOM killed Stella.

 

This may be a bug in Stella that we need to fix, but till then: don't take any snapshots :P I have added a few notes to the readme.

Edited by DirtyHairy
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I just tested Stella 6 on the RetroN77, and I'm really impressed by it!

  • No more screen tearing
  • The default scan-line TV mode is perfect
  • Games finally start up in normal 4:3 mode (I still don't understand why anyone would prefer the deforming 16:9 mode)
  • Sound emulation is much better than on Stella 3

My R77 will stay out of its box and is now placed next to my TV set permanently.

 

And from now on I'm calling it the "StellaBox" :-)

 

post-63708-0-60856100-1554641886_thumb.jpg

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