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55five66six

Any reason to get/install a VBXE?

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It looks way cool (like everything from Lotharek's Lair does) but I don't see much software that utilizes it though..

 

Am I wrong in questioning whether I should take the plunge or not?

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If you are into gaming, then no.  If you are into "productivity" software, then yes.  Sparta DOS X has a fantastic driver for it.  You will have full colour text in 80 column mode.  Likewise, The Last Word word processor fully supports it.  There is also a great ADM3A driver for running CP/M using it.

 

In my extremely limited free time I'm working on some software to support it.  Here's a little WIP demo of a menu driven BMP viewer.

 

 

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Under $100 US - not too much more than Ultimate 1 Meg and comparable to Sophia (I have both but can't remember the Sophia price)

 

You can run in Rambo mode so have an Atari that has 320K main Ram.  You get the exellent video and 80-column text though need a 16 KHz RGB monitor which can be limiting (though you could use a converter to run on modern LCDs).

 

The game and application support isn't vast but value for money is now great - I got mine in an early run around 2009 and paid almost twice the current price at that time.

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4 hours ago, 55five66six said:

It looks way cool (like everything from Lotharek's Lair does) but I don't see much software that utilizes it though..

 

Am I wrong in questioning whether I should take the plunge or not?

If you have a VBXE, Ultimage 1mb and Rapidus, you will be able to emulate a 48k ZX Spectrum and CP/M. The ZX emulation was a big sell for me. 

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8 hours ago, Stephen said:

If you are into gaming, then no.  If you are into "productivity" software, then yes.  Sparta DOS X has a fantastic driver for it.  You will have full colour text in 80 column mode.  Likewise, The Last Word word processor fully supports it.  There is also a great ADM3A driver for running CP/M using it.

 

In my extremely limited free time I'm working on some software to support it.  Here's a little WIP demo of a menu driven BMP viewer.

Some of it is gaming.. Maybe a bit more than some. Most of what I'd see are demos, which look really good. The 80 column mode does sound pretty appealing though. 

 

6 hours ago, Rybags said:

Under $100 US - not too much more than Ultimate 1 Meg and comparable to Sophia (I have both but can't remember the Sophia price)

 

You can run in Rambo mode so have an Atari that has 320K main Ram.  You get the exellent video and 80-column text though need a 16 KHz RGB monitor which can be limiting (though you could use a converter to run on modern LCDs).

 

The game and application support isn't vast but value for money is now great - I got mine in an early run around 2009 and paid almost twice the current price at that time.

Nice, so it's also a memory upgrade too? Didn't know that. Was there a reason why extra memory was added to it in its design? 
I have the Ultimate 1MB coming in, so that wouldn't be a selling point for me.. (Although it might be in the future for another main board). 

Question about the Sophia.. Isn't that just a DVI output? I didn't think it improved things to the point of what the VBXE does. 

 

3 hours ago, Mark loves Stella said:

If you have a VBXE, Ultimage 1mb and Rapidus, you will be able to emulate a 48k ZX Spectrum and CP/M. The ZX emulation was a big sell for me. 

A Z80 being emulated by a 6502? That's awesome, hilarious and heresy all at the same time. 🙂 

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11 hours ago, Stephen said:

If you are into gaming, then no.

IMHO the clean RGB-Output and the possibility to switch between PAL and NTSC palettes (U1MB needed) make it very useful for gaming.

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There's not really "extra memory" added to the VBXE design.  It needs memory as the enhanced graphics it generates has to come from it's own RAM.

In fact, VBXE is unable to access the normal memory the Atari has (except if you run it in Rambo mode where the VBXE shares half of it's RAM as the 256K PORTB extended memory)

 

Given that a 320x240 screen at 8bpp will use 76K and that's not even the highest memory usage configuration for bitmap graphics possible, it's easy to see how 512K was the chosen RAM size.

Once you throw in sprite definitions for games, double or triple-buffering, that's a fair chunk gone.

 

Palettes - you can in fact redefine any or all of the 4 palettes.  But if you redefine Palette 0, it persists as set until the next powerup or something else redefines it again.

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11 hours ago, Mark loves Stella said:

If you have a VBXE, Ultimage 1mb and Rapidus, you will be able to emulate a 48k ZX Spectrum and CP/M. The ZX emulation was a big sell for me. 

You don’t kneed any of that for CP/M. All you need is a FujiNet. Load up ICE-T for software 80-column mode and type ATCPM at the terminal prompt. :)


That said, it does look much better using the latest beta of TrubTerm in hardware 80 columns with a VBXE.

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My experience with VBXE has been less than satisfactory, so to provide some perspective. 

 

  1. If you are used to NTSC, the color palette will not be familiar, as the one loaded by default is PAL.  There are workarounds, but none that allow for a cartridge to be used with an NTSC palette.  There was supposed to be a customized firmware to load an NTSC palette instead (it's one or the other due to memory constraints), but never materialized, the developer promised one, but has thus far not provided one, and questions have not been answered.  No where is this mentioned on Lotharek's website.
  2. RGB 15Khz output is the only output that will be available, again some rumors of a VGA output cropped up, but officially it's definitely not supported.  You will have to either get an RGB analog monitor that can do 15Khz refresh, or use a scaler.  I went the scaler route and was using a GBS-8200 with mods, and the results for me have been inconsistent, and recently had to get a replacement that isn't working out.  I also tried to get a monitor that was 15Khz compatible, and while the monitor I got did display, it was definitely outside of it's normal range, and the picture had a lot of artifacts.
  3. NTSC Artifacting does not work on VBXE (or Sophia), so some games like Flight Sim that use this to display color, will not render colors, and be essentially B&W.
  4. Support seems to be non-existent, or at the leisure of the developer/seller.  Lotharek is happy to sell it to you (and isn't fully disclosing issues), but any issues like this, will need to be handled by Candle, and if he decides not to, then there is no recourse, and no one else can try to come up with a solution, since it's all closed source.
  5. Yes, the 80 column is nice, but limited to software with drivers, even in Spartados, not all things are supported, different add-ins, or utils do not work in 80 columns.
  6. Don't count on the memory upgrade, there are limitations, and according to what I've read, no protected area, so if you get a situation where you are using it for Ram, and the video portion needs that ram, there is no prevention from it just using it.  It may work (I haven't tried it), but you could have issues, that won't be fixed.

 

I'm still trying to get it to work satisfactory for me, but Sophia2 has been a slam dunk for me.  It plugs in, offers output to DVI/VGA, for me it essentially just worked.  I've spent a lot of money and time trying to get VBXE working, and I'm about ready to be done with it.  I originally went to VBXE because my LCD monitor didn't work with the original Sophia DVI, and was interested in some of the other features.  I should have just spent the money on a monitor that worked with Sophia, would have saved myself a lot of headache, time, and money.  Sophia2 seems to be more forgiving on DVI, and offering the VGA output as well offers another output option.  Even if a monitor doesn't work, it's still cheaper to just find a used monitor that will work.  I completely regret my purchase of VBXE, since it's one of those products that if you don't have issues, everything is glorious, but if you do have issues, then you are quite screwed.


The only reason I'm still trying to make it work, is because Sophia2 is not available due to component availability, and that I'm too stubborn to let it go, since as you see in the posts before this one, it should work just fine.

 

As with most things YMMV..

Edited by wildstar87
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1 hour ago, wildstar87 said:

It plugs in, offers output to DVI/VGA, for me it essentially just worked.

 

With the Sophia2, will one still get the 80 column text and an increase in resolution and not just cleaner video? The DVI looks like a nice addition just looked like a change in output though when I was viewing videos on it and the VBXE looked more like an improved/compatible chipset.  

 

4 hours ago, DrVenkman said:

You don’t kneed any of that for CP/M. All you need is a FujiNet. Load up ICE-T for software 80-column mode and type ATCPM at the terminal prompt. :)

 

Curious, what's the appeal of running CP/M on the Atari 8-bit? Is there anything special that you can do with it that you can't do with Spartadosx? Also, why would a Fujinet be necessary for this? When researching the Fujinet, it looked more like an SIO device emulator and WIFI network adapter.  

 

16 hours ago, Mark loves Stella said:

If you have a VBXE, Ultimage 1mb and Rapidus, you will be able to emulate a 48k ZX Spectrum and CP/M. The ZX emulation was a big sell for me. 

 

On Lotharek's site, I've seen this..

 

RAPIDUS UPGRADE may be very problematic with ULTIMATE 1MB upgrade or VBXE.

 

Is this still true then? or are there a lot of people running a Rapidus + Ultimate 1mb + VBXE combination out there? 

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40 minutes ago, 55five66six said:

With the Sophia2, will one still get the 80 column text and an increase in resolution and not just cleaner video? The DVI looks like a nice addition just looked like a change in output though when I was viewing videos on it and the VBXE looked more like an improved/compatible chipset.  

No - 80 columns are done using software modes (still 320 pixel horizontal resolution, but using a 3*5 font).  The VBXE gives 640 pixel resolution for text and graphics.

 

The graphics modes of VBXE are 160 pixel or 320 pixel wide (narrow mode and wide mode are supported) with 256 colours per palette.  Each palette is 21-bit RGB (2,097,152) colours.  640 pixel mode gives you 16 colours.

 

Text modes can have 24, 25, 30, 31, 32 lines and each character has separate background and foreground colours.

 

The VBXE also has a powerful blitter.

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2 hours ago, wildstar87 said:

I also tried to get a monitor that was 15Khz compatible, and while the monitor I got did display, it was definitely outside of it's normal range,

VBXE does not produce own sync signals, these still come from the standard Atari hardware. So if the monitor got the signal from the outside of its normal range, it definitely was not the fault of VBXE, but rather the fault of your scaler.

 

  

2 hours ago, wildstar87 said:

NTSC Artifacting does not work on VBXE (or Sophia), so some games like Flight Sim that use this to display color, will not render colors, and be essentially B&W.

NATURALLY. It is not NTSC, nor PAL. It is RGB. No artifacting or any other color distortions in RGB.

 

2 hours ago, wildstar87 said:

Yes, the 80 column is nice, but limited to software with drivers, even in Spartados, not all things are supported, different add-ins, or utils do not work in 80 columns.

"Utils" need to use system calls to produce display on 80 columns (e.g. TBXL is able to draw a circle on VBXE display - a miracle problably). Otherwise, when the ANTIC screen memory is written to directly, it obviously will produce no display on VBXE (nor XEP80 nor on anything else).

 

Edited by drac030

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5 hours ago, DrVenkman said:

You don’t kneed any of that for CP/M. All you need is a FujiNet. Load up ICE-T for software 80-column mode and type ATCPM at the terminal prompt. :)


That said, it does look much better using the latest beta of TrubTerm in hardware 80 columns with a VBXE.

I have this for CP/M on my 800 as well as Indus GT's with upgrades to run CP/M. Same with my 1200XL with Fujinet and my upgraded CA-2001 Indus GT clone. And, because I will be getting the VBXE for my 1200XL (800 has Incognito and Sophia 2) I'll have the ability for CP/M that way too. Of course there is the classic ATR-8000 too, so no shortage of ways to use CP/M on an Atari 8-bit these days. Though I still haven't fired up CP/M once on either system as I've been perfectly happy with The Last Word and Synapse' Syn-series for all my application needs.

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22 hours ago, Stephen said:

If you are into gaming, then no.  If you are into "productivity" software, then yes.  Sparta DOS X has a fantastic driver for it.  You will have full colour text in 80 column mode.  Likewise, The Last Word word processor fully supports it.  There is also a great ADM3A driver for running CP/M using it.

 

In my extremely limited free time I'm working on some software to support it.  Here's a little WIP demo of a menu driven BMP viewer.

 

 

That will be very nice to have. Any chance you might consider doing a rudimentary graphic art program for artists and fans to take advantage of the graphics with original material. After you are done with your current plans and projects of course. I plan to write one myself one day, but barely have time to teach myself programming, and 50% is used reviewing what I already learned before I move on due to long periods away. So I'm probably years away still, with all my hardware projects to boot, before I will get around  to it. But maybe you'd get to it no sooner if you were so inclined?

 

Of course if there is one already out there I'd love to get it, I haven't been keeping up on what software is available for the VBXE, something I plan on doing once I have one.

Edited by Gunstar

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17 minutes ago, Gunstar said:

That will be very nice to have. Any chance you might consider doing a rudimentary graphic art program for artists and fans to take advantage of the graphics with original material. After you are done with your current plans and projects of course. I plan to write one myself one day, but barely have time to teach myself programming, and 50% is used reviewing what I already learned before I move on due to long periods away. So I'm probably years away still, with all my hardware projects to boot, before I will get around  to it. But maybe you'd get to it no sooner if you were so inclined?

 

Of course if there is one already out there I'd love to get it, I haven't been keeping up on what software is available for the VBXE, something I plan on doing once I have one.

The desire and thoughts are certainly there.  The time and ability to stick with it are what always stops me from finishing anything :( on the little Atari.

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7 hours ago, DrVenkman said:

You don’t kneed any of that for CP/M. All you need is a FujiNet. Load up ICE-T for software 80-column mode and type ATCPM at the terminal prompt. :)


That said, it does look much better using the latest beta of TrubTerm in hardware 80 columns with a VBXE.

You can even get Fujinet CP/M to run through the XEP80 if you've got one of those.  Produces a nice clean output in 80 columns - makes CP/M look sweet.

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3 hours ago, drac030 said:

VBXE does not produce own sync signals, these still come from the standard Atari hardware. So if the monitor got the signal from the outside of its normal range, it definitely was not the fault of VBXE, but rather the fault of your scaler.

 

  

NATURALLY. It is not NTSC, nor PAL. It is RGB. No artifacting or any other color distortions in RGB.

 

"Utils" need to use system calls to produce display on 80 columns (e.g. TBXL is able to draw a circle on VBXE display - a miracle problably). Otherwise, when the ANTIC screen memory is written to directly, it obviously will produce no display on VBXE (nor XEP80 nor on anything else).

 

I'm am not talking about design specifics, I'm just telling my experience, he wanted to know if it's worth getting, and I felt I had to speak up, especially since unless you are willing to go through extensive threads on message boards, this information is NOT disclosed on the Lotharek website, and Candle's webpage is no longer there.  Someone may be expecting to get the stock video experience PLUS the extra functionality, where it actually may not even offer what you expect a stock Atari video to do.

As I said, if you had very little issues setting it up, then great, but the problem becomes when you do have issues, and basically there is no support.  If had known about this all ahead of time, I probably wouldn't have bothered.  Personally I think it's a disservice to not only the customers, but also to the adoption of an enhanced video standard.  I saw some complaining about why VBXE has very little products supporting the enhanced modes, well sales are directly impacted by customer experience so I can see why.

 

I'm talking about utilities that are part of Spartados, not something outside of that.  I know you are part of the development team, and the Atari community has obviously benefited from the continued development of Spartados, but as with all software development, you have to pick and choose which things have priority.  I'm not even necessarily complaining about the fact that these things don't work, it is just the expectation when people say, "yeah Spartados supports it.." That stuff should just work if it's part of the OS, and when it doesn't, that's just one more thing to detract from the product.  I always want as much information, when making a decision.  Finding out only after you have made the purchase, is not a recipe for satisfaction.  Putting this stuff in the sales information just makes sense, so your customer know what to expect, and if they can live with whatever the feature set, or lack thereof is.

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1 minute ago, wildstar87 said:

I'm am not talking about design specifics, I'm just telling my experience, he wanted to know if it's worth getting, and I felt I had to speak up, especially since unless you are willing to go through extensive threads on message boards, this information is NOT disclosed on the Lotharek website, and Candle's webpage is no longer there.

 

I actually asked partly because of the above. I had dug a little into the threads and saw what was talked about when it came to problems with NTSC palette and didn't know if that was still a thing and if it was with everyone or if the VBXE was only for people with PAL systems. 

 

Looking at a lot of the cool demos on youtube, I am interested, yet.. I didn't know how much support there was for it and what kinds of applications were developed for it. 🙂 

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1 minute ago, 55five66six said:

 

I actually asked partly because of the above. I had dug a little into the threads and saw what was talked about when it came to problems with NTSC palette and didn't know if that was still a thing and if it was with everyone or if the VBXE was only for people with PAL systems. 

 

Looking at a lot of the cool demos on youtube, I am interested, yet.. I didn't know how much support there was for it and what kinds of applications were developed for it. 🙂 

It can be used on NTSC or PAL systems, just don't expect the color palette to reflect NTSC standards.  For people in Europe that grew up with PAL, it would be fine, for people that grew up in US/Canada, the NTSC palette is very different.  I didn't even know there was a difference in the default colors until I ran into this issue.  I spent a lot of time trying to figure out if it was the scaler, or something I didn't configure right, and after all that, come to find out it is because of the default palette.  I feel this should be disclosed on the sale page, because I either wouldn't have purchased, or I would have gotten it, knowing there were some differences.  This had been going on for YEARS before I bought it, and finally it looked like Candle was going to put in the NTSC palette from Alterra in a core that could be flashed, even said when the decision was made, he would do it, but he never did, and at least for me, I have been roundly ignored when asking, politely when this fix would be available.  This among my other difficulties, is why I wanted you to know ALL the facts (that I know of anyway) so you can make an informed decision.

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3 hours ago, Stephen said:

The desire and thoughts are certainly there.  The time and ability to stick with it are what always stops me from finishing anything :( on the little Atari.

Isn't that how it always is with every personal coding project? 🙂

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4 hours ago, drac030 said:

NATURALLY. It is not NTSC, nor PAL. It is RGB. No artifacting or any other color distortions in RGB.

 

By RGB, you'd mean I'd need one of these to convert to HDMI? (Component video to HDMI) https://www.amazon.com/Portta-N3CVRHP-Component-Converter-support/dp/B003VJ9RP6/?th=1

 

Or am I mixing up my video connection types again? 

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43 minutes ago, wildstar87 said:

I'm talking about utilities that are part of Spartados, not something outside of that.  I know you are part of the development team

Yes. Nowadays everyone has the luxury of being able to contact active developers directly, either via e-mail or through the fora. It is not 1990, when, to get some support, I had to send a letter written on paper (and in a truly alien language!) to the other half of the globe, only to receive no reply just after six months. And now, as to the point being raised, we all are here on AAge. Maybe not every day, but still.

 

43 minutes ago, wildstar87 said:

I'm not even necessarily complaining about the fact that these things don't work, it is just the expectation when people say, "yeah Spartados supports it.." That stuff should just work if it's part of the OS, and when it doesn't

So, what, specifically, are the things that do not work, when they should?

Edited by drac030
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11 minutes ago, 55five66six said:

By RGB, you'd mean I'd need one of these to convert to HDMI? (Component video to HDMI) https://www.amazon.com/Portta-N3CVRHP-Component-Converter-support/dp/B003VJ9RP6/?th=1

 

Or am I mixing up my video connection types again? 

This is another confusion, there are so many types of RGB, and they all seem to be non-interchangeable.  Component RGB (YPbPr) is not the same as RGBs which is what the VBXE outputs, along with Atari ST, Amiga.  It is also not the same as RGBI (Digital RGB) used by CGA.  What VBXE outputs is 15Khz RGBs (Analog RGB).  From what I have been able to determine, the closest example would basically be a VGA signal, which is also Analog RGB but with a higher refresh rate, that's why some of the older Multisync CRTs could display both 15Khz RGB, and VGA.  There are some LCDs that support this, but I don't think any of them officially support 15Khz.  There is a list here http://15khz.wikidot.com/, but even if you get one on this list, it may not work as expected, I tried with two different models on this list.  Trying to get an 15Khz RGB CRT is prohibitively expensive nowadays, as prices on Ebay, or other sale sites are taking advantage of the retro demand.  The only other option other than those is some type of scaler.  https://www.retrorgb.com/, has a bunch of information on this stuff.

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26 minutes ago, 55five66six said:

By RGB, you'd mean I'd need one of these to convert to HDMI?

Not sure. As said above, VBXE outputs the same kind of signal as Amiga or Atari ST. Monitors like Commodore 1084S, 1085S, Atari 1224 or 1435, European TVs with SCART connector should be okay. Any converter from that format to VGA/HDMI should also be okay.

Edited by drac030

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5 minutes ago, drac030 said:

Yes. Nowadays everyone has the luxury of being able to contact active developers directly, either via e-mail or through the fora. It is not 1990, when, to get some support, I had to send a letter written on paper (and in a truly alien language!) to the other half of the globe, only to receive no reply just after six months. And, as to the point being raised, we all are here on AAge. Maybe not every day, but still.

 

So, what, specifically, are the things that do not work, although it should?

Honestly since I don't have it working right now, I couldn't tell you exactly I ran into, but I think it might have been like Fdisk, Date/Time bar, the menu system, some other stuff.  I wasn't using it enough at the time to warrant contacting you about it, and I never want to abuse that sort of thing.  I appreciate that you make yourself available, I know it's not something you have to do.  Also, having been in a large software company, I'm well aware of the difference between nice to have fixes, vs show stopping bugs, so didn't think it was that important at the time.  Nonetheless, it colors my experience with VBXE, which is why I mentioned it.

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