Keep Dreaming Project

Discussion in 'Sega Dreamcast Development and Research' started by Zeigren, Oct 3, 2019.

  1. Zeigren

    Zeigren Robust Member

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    dc_pile.jpg
    I’m starting a project for the Dreamcast, here’s a quick blurb

    The Keep Dreaming Project aims to provide the Dreamcast community with an open-source ecosystem for hardware research and development.
    Hardware
    • Breakout boards
    • Development boards
    • Other tools and final designs
    Collaboration
    • GD-ROM Drive Emulator
    • Wireless Network Adapter
    • Wireless Controller
    • Project Management Platform
    • Documentation Platform
    • Developer Chat
    There’s a thriving community developing hardware and software for the Dreamcast, however many of us work alone. How many people have tried to create a Dreamcast GD-ROM drive emulator? Network adapter? Wireless controller?

    Many of these complex projects end up taking a single person years to complete if they do at all. A common ecosystem with a solid hardware foundation will make collaboration easier, avoid reinventing the wheel, and reduce time spent troubleshooting.

    More information will be up on Patreon, but of course feel free to ask me questions here!

    Edit: Added a post about the initial progress and some of my design choices for the openGDROM
    Edit2: Discord Server
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2019 at 9:39 PM
  2. abveost

    abveost Peppy Member

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    Sounds great. An OS ODE would be great but since they're readily available for about 40 bucks I don't know how much demand there would be for it. Wireless controller options have been available for ages but it wouldn't be hard to come up with something much better. An alternative to the network adapter would be great and is the thing I'm most interested in, but honestly that homebrew modem that apparently never went anywhere would be good enough. For that matter, a pi and modem crammed into a DC modem would be as good as that.
    I think the most valuable thing is to collect information and make it freely available and ensure it stays that way. GPL would probably be more effective than MIT for that purpose.
     
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  3. Zeigren

    Zeigren Robust Member

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    Part of the reasoning is that right now we're completely reliant on Deunan sticking around and on clones, or on Mnemo being able to source 10+ year old discontinued parts. It wouldn't take much for us to go back to having no easy to buy GD-ROM emulator. Same deal with the Dreamconn.

    True the DreamPi is a good networking option but there are other reasons to create a high speed networking device, like for backing up games. Plus whatever fun stuff people can come up with for the G2 bus.

    I'm definitely with you on the info part, I've been gathering stuff for awhile now just need to get it organized nicely. I actually have some stuff already up on a different instance of BookStack but I wanted to start off fresh.
     
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  4. abveost

    abveost Peppy Member

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    It would take hundreds of clone sellers to run out of stock to run out of clones. Certainly worth preparing for as it's bound to happen some day but probably not urgent.

    I'm not sure who's completely reliant on $200 controllers but I'm sure not. So I might be able to help out there. Might be an idea to ask around about what features people would like and scope out what the objectives should be.

    Anything that could be done as far as networking would be progress. There's lots of documentation/examples of stuff for controllers but much less for that. Something high speed for moving large data or a simple plug and play device that emulates a modem over wifi would probably be interesting to a lot of people.
     
  5. Zeigren

    Zeigren Robust Member

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    Intel recently announced they're discontinuing the original Cyclone FPGA, the Cyclone II was released 3 years after the Cyclone so I wouldn't be surprised if they were discontinued within the next 5 years. Parts will be available for a while after that and they can stock up ahead of time though.

    What other wireless controller is there? Retrobit's wireless controller is currently vaporware and we don't really know what the quality will be like.
     
  6. abveost

    abveost Peppy Member

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    I have no idea what goes on inside a GDEMU and have never done a project that couldn't fit in a couple thousand LEs so I'm not familiar with the issues when migrating a Cyclone I/II to a newer part. Something to bear in mind when designing a new one. Clone prices have been dropping steadily and I figure someone will be selling them for $25-30 in some soon upcoming sale. I definitely plan on stocking up on them then. I failed to do this with 138 in 1s and have been kicking myself ever since.

    There are oodles of wireless controllers out there. Personally my go to wireless controller for the DC and many other consoles is a $10 PS2 thing from China. Adapters are easy enough to find and easier to make. And while it may not be the ideal solution in all aspects it really shines in the "kids don't stick food in my expensive original controllers and don't pull the console off the shelf" departments. I'm sure that's not what you had in mind though. But I also have a bunch of controllers, including DC, modded for wireless using simple cheap off the shelf parts. I bought a huge bag of tiny 2.4ghz transceivers several years back and have used about half of it and I have more MCUs laying around than you could shake a stick at. But if I had to do a new one today I might consider an ESP32 because it has bluetooth and everything is in a single package.
     
  7. Zeigren

    Zeigren Robust Member

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    I know Deunan in the past said that it was going to take some significant amount of work to migrate from the Cyclone II to a Cyclone V if he ever needed to do that, although that could mean anything. Right now I've settled on the MAX10 which should be around for some time. Good plan on grabbing the clones though.

    We're looking at trying to have something similar to the Dreamconn, good point it won't necessarily be the best option for everyone. But it will be fun! Bluetooth is tricky because of the overhead so we're looking at using ShockBurst as many of those cheap transceivers do at first but with the potential of using Bluetooth down the line. We were considering the ESP32 but it looked like it was going to be a bit power hungry in comparison, although without testing it's hard to know for sure.
     
  8. Teddy Rogers

    Teddy Rogers Spirited Member

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    Glad to see another Dreamcast project starting. I hope you get the support you need for this.

    Two things I would like to see most for the Dreamcast is a modern network adaptor that acts as a dialup modem and a GD-ROM emulator that can read compressed images (ZIP, 7Z, etc.)...

    Ted.
     
  9. abveost

    abveost Peppy Member

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    I don't think you'll go wrong with a Max 10. I've done a lot with Max IIs and while they work a quite a bit differently there's a lot in common designing for them. I've actually done parts for a Max II that were then combined with others in a Cyclone V, so I understand there's work involved. But it didn't seem to be a lot. At least it was done quickly. Not by me though.

    The Dreamconn looks great. My main problem with it is the price. And there's no DIY option, which probably contributes a lot to the price. The part I've been using is the nRF24L01. It does ShockBurst, so I've done something very similar what you're looking to do. I even have a "big" bag of them left. So, yeah, let's make some must have/wish lists and scope it out.

    I'm not a big fan of BT where it's not needed, such as devices that can't talk to anything except their own dongle. That being said, I've run a lot of tests with many different devices and while ESPs are notorious for being power hogs they aren't nearly as bad as people say. Especially if you turn of the stuff you're not using. I have one test rig that drives an OLED running screen updates at maximum speed and hammering wifi and I still get about 2 hours out of 180mah battery. The main reason to use BT would be the dongle. Done right people could use nearly any BT controller. Obviously there can be issues with the VMU but it's fine for most games. Maybe that would even be a different project. Do a good DIY kit for controllers using a nordic part and a simple BT dongle for people who want to use whatever BT thing they have laying around.

    I'd expect supporting ZIPs would require decompressing them before starting the game. This would take time to "load" each game and require extra hardware components. If the objective is to save space on your SD you could consider shrinking or rebuilding the GDI. It can be much more efficient. For example, here's the sizes for a random game I've been testing with.

    1204402836 Original
    182338982 Zipped
    187421 Shrunk

    You won't get those results with every game but it it should negate the need for handling zips or giant storage. I recently got a 512gb SD and put 450 discs on it. It's a little over half full.
     
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  10. megavolt85

    megavolt85 Peppy Member

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    it will work also slowly how modem
     
  11. Dreamcast

    Dreamcast Intrepid Member

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    The higher speed / all digital modem adapter (MOBAND) is the project I've been working on. I'm hoping to get back to it before this year's end and get it into production. The G2 connector is a special part made for SEGA. Finding a compatible part hasn't been successful, so I'm looking into getting one made so the community doesn't have to go the USB GD-ROM route and destroy actual hardware for the component parts. I want this device to be plug and play when ordered.
     
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  12. megavolt85

    megavolt85 Peppy Member

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    G2 in simple mode work very slow

    IMG_20190914_151654.jpg USB_G2_test.jpg
     
  13. Dreamcast

    Dreamcast Intrepid Member

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    @megavolt85 - Yes, the modem / LAN adapter use 8-bit transfer. The "higher speed" means there's no loss in the native modem's ADC / DAC - it's the maximum throughput the mode supports since it's all digital. Plus, there's practically no wait to connect as there's no handshaking / line quality testing, so connecting is almost instant.

    Anyone wanting to experience the difference in a limited capacity can play Alien Front Online through the Dreamcast's serial port. The game, like Dream Passport, supports connecting to an external modem, or for this example, a USB to serial adapter connected to a host running a PPP stack, bypassing the modem entirely.
     
  14. TriMesh

    TriMesh Site Supporter 2013-2017

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    That's probably not a great example though - the MAX II is a CPLD, and anything you can do in a MAX LE can also be done in a FPGA, so I would expect that port to present very little difficulty. Where it can get more complex is when porting things from one FPGA to another with a different architecture - for example, if you have a design that's using the Altera/Intel ALTSYNCRAM megafunction then it may be trivial to replace it with Xilinx style BRAM - or it may not, depending on the exact requirements of your design. The same thing applies to things like the transceiver megafunctions - in most cases, you can do the same things whatever device series you chose, but with varying degrees of difficulty.

    There are also obviously some edge cases - for example, if you had written your MAX CPLD design in AHDL then it would require some extra work to port it to a device like a Xilinx FPGA than it would another Altera device whereas plain VHDL or Verilog (I.E. without vendor specific functions) might simply compile with zero effort.
     
  15. megavolt85

    megavolt85 Peppy Member

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    all this means only one, it is necessary to make all online games compatible to connection through SCIF
    it will give real gain of speed
    even connection on three wires (rx, tx, gnd) is enough for stable work at a speed of 500 kbps
     
  16. Zeigren

    Zeigren Robust Member

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    Right now the plan is to use a nrf52840 with some extra bits. That's pretty decent battery life for the ESP, might still be a good option. Feature creep is one hell of a drug, I've had a bunch of ideas but first off is getting a decent bit of kit together before going down that route. I went ahead and made a Discord Server, I still need to nail down how I want to handle more formal project stuff.

    I've had some ideas for the connector but nothing that would be good for production. Glad to hear you're still working on MOBAND!
     
  17. abveost

    abveost Peppy Member

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    I'd be less worried about preserving all those terminators for future generations than I'd be about the effort involved in harvesting the connectors. That being said, I've had a lot of success printing connectors that use off the shelf terminals. I don't have any terminals that wold work for that connector but I assume they exist. Whatever's inside a PCI connector should be close enough for government work.


    The problem is supposedly moving from a Cyclone I/II to a V. I have no idea what the actual problem and cause of the problem is.
    The nrf52840 is really overkill and isn't going to use that much less power as similarly configured ESP32. That's fine because the battery doesn't have to last for days. The main thing is it has the nordic RF stuff. And a CPU in the same package. Having BT in there as well is nice in case you need your fix of feature creep. Same with USB. If you wanted to do a virtual VMU like the Dreamconn USB would come in very handy.
     
  18. Zeigren

    Zeigren Robust Member

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    Yep! Went with it partially because of the built-in USB. Hopefully we can still squeeze some decent battery life out of it, which at least seems possible.
     

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