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polbit

Back to Atari world - some questions...

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I have sold all my 8-bit Ataris a number of years ago - new twins and job will do that to you sometimes... Fortunately I've been lucky enough to get back into my passion, and have real space this time to set up few systems. I'm working on an 800XL set up now, and have few questions. Forgive me if I'm asking something obvious, but I'm trying here!

 

I got a mint 800XL with chroma/luma, and 1084 monitor. I want to build it out fully, so here we go:

 

1. Does anyone make modern PSUs? I have an ingot that I'm using as a decoration and a donor for cables if I have to, and the old, case-matching big PS that should be safe, but I would love to get something new, like the Commodore guys seem to have in abundance...

 

2. Planning on getting Ultimate 1mb from Lotharek, anything non-obvious that I should know about?

 

3. Is VBXL worth it? I'm decent with a soldering iron (as long as it's not SMD stuff) so installation is not a problem...

 

Thanks, hopefully this will help not only me but others just getting into this as well, all in one place...

Edited by polbit

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Welcome back. If getting an U1MB you should definitely get a SIDE2 to go with it. Together they are much better than either alone. I've never had an interest in VBXL. The UAV is a good enhancement to stock video.

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You can use a strong USB PSU and either hack/solder a cable yourself or buy it on EBay.

 

If you like to tinker an SDrive Max can be made from an Arduino Uno, an Arduino touchscreen and a SIO cable for little money (especially using Chinese parts). With Ultimate/SIDE you shouldnt need it.

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I'm using an official Raspberry Pi PSU with a new connector for my 800XL (also using a 1084 monitor and Y/C video - excellent picture!), which is available for a few pounds and is specced for the same load as the original PSU. If you wanted to keep the ingot-style PSU however, there are lots of small industrial PSU modules used for all sorts of equipment that could be fitted inside the case. One example is the Mean Well RS-15-5, which gives 3A output.

Edited by Daedalus2097

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Welcome back to your passion..

 

Ultimate1MB a must (must get one for me at some point), a SIDE add on seems a good extra, an AVG cart for cheap really handy mass storage with a really easy to use system..

 

VBXE /XL, hmmmm.....I really hoped this had taken off, its so damn capable BUT its under supported so would not be top of my list...

 

PSU, as per the suggestions..A person handy with a soldering iron could knock one up dead cheap and the din ends are still common place..

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Thanks everyone, didn't realize SIDE card was a good match with Ultimate, since their functions overlap a lot. Too bad with VBXE/XL not taking off, the specs are pretty impressive...

 

Any opinions on the RAPIDUS? Haven't seen much coverage. Not really my thing, but it's interesting nonetheless.

 

I like the idea of a PSU inside the Ingot case, so I'll work on that.

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Rapidus is nice but its in the "do I need it" section, if you like things like Mercenary then its a must, what it can do is great but its a selection of titles....

 

If you do ray tracing or stuff like that then its dead handy, don't know if would speed up assembling code but maybe.....But you can see that its a niche thing for me, what it does it does well but will it be what you use?

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Thanks everyone, didn't realize SIDE card was a good match with Ultimate, since their functions overlap a lot.

U1MB and SIDE are tightly integrated when both devices are present, but each is entirely usable on its own:

 

Ultimate 1MB on its own:

  • Three different extended RAM upgrades, up to 1MB
  • 4 x OS switcher (user flashable)
  • 4 x BASIC ROM switcher (user flashable)
  • OS agnostic high-speed SIO driver (providing up to 127Kb/s)
  • SIO2BT support for wireless connection to disk servers
  • SpartaDOS X disk operating system
  • Real-time clock (used by SpartaDOS X for date/time stamps)
  • Setup menu with settings stored in battery-backed NVRAM

SIDE on its own:

  • SpartaDOS X
  • Real-time clock
  • XEX loader (also supports BASIC files and certain 8K ROM files) which supports multiple FAT16/FAT32 partitions and read-only CIO access to FAT-hosted files
  • Hard disk partitions accessible from SpartaDOS X

U1MB and SIDE together:

  • All of the above
  • DOS agnostic bootable, CF-based PBI hard disk
  • Loader providing support for bootable FAT-hosted ATR disk images, dynamic HDD partition mounting, multi-disk titles (with disk rotation button)

Although the original firmware provides much of the functionality described above, the exhaustive list assumes use of the aftermarket firmware described in this manual:

 

https://atari8.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/Ultimate-1MB-Incognito-and-1088XEL-U1MB-Firmware-Manual.pdf

 

The AVG cart already mentioned has a SIDE emulation mode which provides much of the functionality of the SIDE cartridge (both stand-alone and in conjunction with U1MB), although the emulation mode must be explicitly enabled at the start of each session. AVG also lacks the RTC which in any case becomes redundant when the device is used with U1MB. Of course AVG has the advantage of being able to mount banked cartridge ROMs, a feature SIDE lacks (although a forthcoming firmware update includes all four OSS programming carts on the SIDE ROM).

 

Any opinions on the RAPIDUS? Haven't seen much coverage. Not really my thing, but it's interesting nonetheless.

Rapidus initially proved rather temperamental on machines already equipped with upgrades - U1MB in particular. Problems ranged from system instability to random unwanted cold reboots on RESET. Many problems were alleviated by Rapidus firmware updates and Lotharek even documents a modification to the EXTSEL signal on the Atari motherboard, intended to address Rapidus stability issues.

 

You can see the denouement of a four-part build of a 130XE with VBXE, U1MB and Rapidus here:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lfrrOTnJwM

 

The owner was satisfied with the machine's functionality, as I recall.

 

Rapidus may be used as a hard disk accelerator via the 'RAPIDISK' driver supplied with the U1MB firmware. The driver roughly doubles HDD bandwidth by running code from fast linear RAM.

 

Other interesting uses of the Rapidus include ZX Spectrum emulation. :)

 

Regarding VBXE: although VBXE is not overwhelmed by software specifically targeting the device, SpartaDOS X includes a screen driver which allows a VBXE machine to run with a very nice 80 column hardware display. VBXE is also designed to be controlled by U1MB where present; one may enable or disable the 'FX Core' via the U1MB setup menu and change the address at which the hardware is decoded.

Edited by flashjazzcat
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FJC, appreciate the details, makes it much clearer. I have lots of catching up to do!

 

I'll definitely get the U1MB and SIDE, haven't had a PBI drive since Black Box days...

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Rapidus is nice but its in the "do I need it" section, if you like things like Mercenary then its a must, what it can do is great but its a selection of titles....

 

If you do ray tracing or stuff like that then its dead handy, don't know if would speed up assembling code but maybe.....But you can see that its a niche thing for me, what it does it does well but will it be what you use?

That's the $1 question, what would I actually use it for ;) When I had the SuperCPU for Commodore 64, I used it very sporadically.

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My Rapidus lives in the spares box for most of the year until it's time to test another U1MB firmware update. I have not yet tried out the ZX Spectrum emulation I mentioned earlier, and find that I can live without the HDD speed boost offered by my 'RAPIDISK' driver. While I was honoured to receive (apparently) the 'SN/001' Rapidus as a gift from the vendor some three years ago, I did not have any particular desire to own one prior to that, nor any intention of purchasing one. As it turns out, I do need it for development work once in a while, so it's rather fortunate that Lotharek sent one.

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I was an early adopter of VBXE and converted/produced some stuff for it. These days I don't really have the time and haven't done any serious Atari stuff for over 5 years.

 

Sophia seems to be a more simple and affordable way to get similar decent video quality (I'm not sure on cost/availability there, can someone fill that in?) - another downside to VBXE is that it requires a 16 KHz old style RGB monitor, or modern day device that can handle that type of signal.

 

The ideal system - well, I think I'm near that. 800XL with VBXE and Ultimate 1 Meg built in. Externally, the choice of IDE +2 and a SIDE cartridge, as well as a bare board SIO2SD.

VBXE appears to be somewhat more affordable vs when I got mine around 10 years ago - about 50 to 70 bucks less.

 

If I was to add/change at the moment I'd consider a faster CPU (Rapidus?) and stereo Pokey.

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There are a couple of different Sophia board revisions; the earlier boards output 15KHz RGB or Component video, and more recently a DVI version became available. I'm not sure if there's any means of delivering audio across the DVI connector (I know DVI is able to support audio), so that's something to bear in mind. I've installed numerous VBXEs and a few RGB Sophias (although I don't own an example of the latter) with Atari ST-style DIN13 connectors which are able to carry the RGB video plus two channels of audio to a SCART or DB9/dual RCA connector at the other end of the cable. This minimises the amount of ugly modifications required on the back of the machine for those to whom aesthetics are a concern.

 

When I was testing a couple of Sophia boards last year, I found the component signal to be a bit patchy. It failed to work on a Samsung Plasma TV but worked OK on a Samsung 1080p LCD. RGB was solid across all displays I tried, meanwhile. I have not yet laid hands on a DVI version.

Edited by flashjazzcat

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This may be an unpopular opinion, but I really feel there's a line that you can cross in terms of upgrades. Stuff like U1MB and SIDE really expand the machines in-built capabilities. But if you're looking to replace the machines in-built capabilities by installing VBXE, Rapidus, etc. I feel you're better off looking at an ST or an Amiga. Those platforms have a lot more software available to take advantage of very similar CPU/graphics capability.

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It's a valid point of view. I don't so much feel that way towards VBXE (since I just use it for improved video quality 90 per cent of the time), but something about running the Atari 8-bit at 20MHz with with 14MHz of linear RAM still doesn't sit quite right for me. I completely get the argument that accelerators have been around forever and I have no ethical objection to others capitalising on accelerators, but I think the limitations of the machine in terms of computing power form part of its charm and its fascination. And regardless of the fact that coding for the 65C816 still presents some interesting challenges, I would prefer to target something like the Apple IIGS were I to focus on developing for that CPU.

 

That said, I also object to the indiscriminate use of illegal 6502C opcodes and I take pains wherever possible to ensure that my software does not depend on CPU speed for timing purposes. Where 65C816 support can be optionally provided, I'm happy to make provision for it (e.g. RAPIDISK for the U1MB).

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Ok,order placed. Got the U1MB and SIDE with JFC's firmware, stereo Pokey and helped myself to that PS as well, looks really nice ;)

 

Now I have to read up on the Sophia board!

Edited by polbit
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I know I'm late to this conversation, but I made 2 power supplies by buying this Midi cable:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01CQR5L1C/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

 

Cutting it in half and then wiring each half to one of these:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01ERJIA42/ref=ppx_od_dt_b_asin_title_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

 

Seems to be working well for me and not too costly. ($25.50 for two chargers....)

 

-Todd

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