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VEXTREME for Vectrex

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24 minutes ago, Game-Tech.US said:

which BTW were made before any solder mask warnings were put out

I posted about the soldermask issue about a month before you made your 100 boards: https://github.com/technobly/VEXTREME/issues/10

You didn't start selling the boards until long after I had confirmed this issue with you.  So let's not pretend we didn't know about it ;-) 

There are lots of customers that posted on the Vectrex Fans Unite Facebook group with game crashing issues, and I suspect many of them just didn't contact you for support or a refund.  I replied to them with how to test for this issue, and how to contact you.  I didn't see you there offering support.

 

37 minutes ago, Game-Tech.US said:

Now the only known issue seems to be cart detection, sometimes his console will not know the vextreme cart is there and will boot straight to built in game.

I could see this still being a solder mask issue, but not on all pins, could it be just pin 32 of the cart?

There is a lot more to go wrong to make the Vectrex drop back to the built in Mine Storm than just pin 32 (/CARTS) line which no carts ever used AFAIK.  All carts use /CE and /OE to effectively do the same thing as /CARTS and so does VEXTREME.  That said, if any of the 8 data lines, 15 address lines, /CE, /OE, R/W, or +5V or GND are intermittently making contact with the Vectrex connector... the game can crash, or not be seen.  So that's pretty much every pin of the cart.  Which is why the soldermask must be removed in front of the fingers, because it might work on one machine, but not on another... or might be intermittently making contact on the same machine between cart updates i.e. adding some new games (this is a very commonly reported issue on the FB group BTW).  I'm guessing many users remove the cart to do the updates, and then put the cart back in.. not they have to though.

 

17 minutes ago, Game-Tech.US said:

Also seeing this in changelog:

- Made the contacts on the edge connector thinner (1.52mm) and made sure they were
   spaced properly (2.54mm).

Maybe they are too thin now?

How wide are the original contact pads?

The fingers are still wider than original carts (which are 2.54mm/2 and spaced every 2.54mm).  I would not suspect this to be the issue.  The cart PCB is also 48.0mm wide, so it perfectly centers itself as well.  Same width as original carts.

 

19 minutes ago, Game-Tech.US said:

I also noted obvious line in the contacts made from the console's fingers, all were on the contact pads, none were out on the solder mask...

Well the leading edge of the PCB is the first thing the Vectrex connector contacts touch, and as they wipe across they make their way finally to the PCB fingers.  If you don't see marks on the soldermask, it's because it is sufficiently harder than the HASL finish of the PCB fingers (which is just solder).  Soldermask is typically a hard epoxy based ink... so not likely to show much abuse.

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50 minutes ago, playvectrex said:

I posted about the soldermask issue about a month before you made your 100 boards: https://github.com/technobly/VEXTREME/issues/10

You didn't start selling the boards until long after I had confirmed this issue with you.  So let's not pretend we didn't know about it ;-) 

There are lots of customers that posted on the Vectrex Fans Unite Facebook group with game crashing issues, and I suspect many of them just didn't contact you for support or a refund.  I replied to them with how to test for this issue, and how to contact you.  I didn't see you there offering support.

 

There is a lot more to go wrong to make the Vectrex drop back to the built in Mine Storm than just pin 32 (/CARTS) line which no carts ever used AFAIK.  All carts use /CE and /OE to effectively do the same thing as /CARTS and so does VEXTREME.  That said, if any of the 8 data lines, 15 address lines, /CE, /OE, R/W, or +5V or GND are intermittently making contact with the Vectrex connector... the game can crash, or not be seen.  So that's pretty much every pin of the cart.  Which is why the soldermask must be removed in front of the fingers, because it might work on one machine, but not on another... or might be intermittently making contact on the same machine between cart updates i.e. adding some new games (this is a very commonly reported issue on the FB group BTW).  I'm guessing many users remove the cart to do the updates, and then put the cart back in.. not they have to though.

 

The fingers are still wider than original carts (which are 2.54mm/2 and spaced every 2.54mm).  I would not suspect this to be the issue.  The cart PCB is also 48.0mm wide, so it perfectly centers itself as well.  Same width as original carts.

 

Well the leading edge of the PCB is the first thing the Vectrex connector contacts touch, and as they wipe across they make their way finally to the PCB fingers.  If you don't see marks on the soldermask, it's because it is sufficiently harder than the HASL finish of the PCB fingers (which is just solder).  Soldermask is typically a hard epoxy based ink... so not likely to show much abuse.

Please don't read in to this that i'm angry or combative, i'm not, mistakes were made, i'm just trying to get through this...

I can't make people come back to me first for help, they know how to contact me, there's a contact page on my site, but yes please tell them to contact me.

No I don't visit the FB or dicord regularly, sorry can only do so much...

Oh and no my boards were gold fingered not HASL. I think the owners Vec was just dirty and left marks, but it cleaned off.

I had the order in around Dec 16th, so yes before the warning posted on github, but yes I was aware of it before I shipped.

I just still think it's not the whole story...

I keep thinking about all the things i'm seeing that can't be explained by the solder mask.

Ok first the cart detection issue didn't come up at all, that I know of, until I did the FW update, all 100 of the boards i prog'd and tested never failed to detect, and i wiggled each during final boot, which you'd think would show a solder mask issue, all booted fine.

Both my Vec and the customers Vec showed the roms crashing and not booting issue and both showed it fixed after fw update.

Are there other complaints i'm not hearing about, like not detecting, on the FB and discord?

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1 hour ago, Game-Tech.US said:

No I don't visit the FB or dicord regularly, sorry can only do so much...

Well that's unfortunate for those 100 people.  I do check these places regularly, so yes.. even though I don't want to have to support 100 v0.2 carts with soldermask issues, you've kind of made it my problem... especially since you are vacant. I'm also not trying to be combative, but I'm not entirely happy either... seeing these troubled carts with no follow up support being sold for quite a mark up.

 

There were many reports of games crashing, and also booting up with mine storm instead of the menu after adding roms.  Mostly on FB.  Both can easily be explained by soldermask issues.

Testing on one machine is not a great indicator for how the carts will operate on all units out there.  I've had varying results with my 3 Veccy's with the soldermask issue carts, and I also see other minor issues that will be addressed at some point.  Again, just to note: this is not a finished product right now, we're on v0.23 of this project, everything has been pre-production releases.

 

There was a change to how games reset as well in v0.21 SW, which would have helped the runtime operation of games, preventing them from crashing.  This was only an issue on certain games AFAIK, but it might have extended to more games on certain Vectrex units with really long reset delays (not sure why there would be such long delays though, like well into the game play).

 

The "not detecting" as you call it is just the Vectrex not being able to read a valid cart header.  Lots of reasons why this can happen as well, many of which are soldermask related.  But one that might explain some cases is misuse of the cart... you cannot leave the cart plugged into USB after adding roms, without ejecting it, before turning on the Vectrex.  If you do, it will just boot into mine storm.  I would think that would be discovered easily by the user though.

 

Just speaking to all reading this back and fourth: This is part of the potential drama that comes with open source HW/SW... I'm trying not to let it affect me because I really want to continue to create a great product for the Vectrex community (along with others that are contributing), and I will.  I'm not trying to profit off of it.  It certainly makes development harder when people are trying to profit off of this work, without contributing back to the project.  So if you would like to help the VEXTREME project, we are here: https://discord.gg/xH22tzW  If you see units for sale, and are wondering if you should buy them, just ask and we'll let you know the state of things.  Game on people!

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10 minutes ago, playvectrex said:

"...I really want to continue to create a great product for the Vectrex community (along with others that are contributing), and I will"

Thank you for doing it.  Much appreciated.

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1 hour ago, playvectrex said:

one that might explain some cases is misuse of the cart... you cannot leave the cart plugged into USB after adding roms, without ejecting it, before turning on the Vectrex.  If you do, it will just boot into mine storm. 

If this does happen, what is the fix?

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16 minutes ago, Game-Tech.US said:

If this does happen, what is the fix?

Turn off the Vectrex and unplug the USB cable.  Then power up just the Vectrex.  Basically, if it ever messes up... just remove all power, and start over. 

v0.3 hardware will have a reset button so in theory to recover from a mishap you could just press reset on VEXTREME, and reset on Vectrex.  Most carts won't have reset exposed though, I'd guess.  Definitely something developers would want though.

In the future, if updating and adding games.  Eject the USB and unplug it before turning on the Vectrex.

 

With >=v0.24, you'll be able to Eject the USB and leave it plugged in, but you must still Eject it first before turning on the Vectrex. v0.24 will bring Developer Mode to VEXTREME, which will allow you to very rapidly flash games to VEXTREME have them boot instantly on the Vectrex. Coming soon!

 

v0.3 hardware will bring "Lazy Developer Mode" :D which will allow you to turn your Vectrex on without Ejecting the USB, and it will still work and boot properly.  This will also be considered "Whoops, I forgot to eject my USB mode".

If you want to help me stay fueled on this project, please consider buying me a coffee: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/XzUGYrhL3 ❤️ 

Edited by playvectrex
added v0.3 stuff
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