AMIGA alive

AMIGA alive

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Building the TerribleFire TF530 accelerator board, part 4: Software and Installation

Handling ~40GB of downloaded installation archives is not for the squeamish. And I built the M68000 CPU socket connector. And then there comes the moment of truth.

Disclaimer: This is not an instruction. Use at your own risk. No responsibility taken for whatever you do. Safety first. Kids, dont try this at home. 

That's what she looks after cleaning.

Now that I have a complete TF530, it's time to upload the firmware to the Xilinx CPLDs. Wow, Xilinx really offers a lot of software for download. (And US export regulations are weird.) Picking an older, smaller (3.5GB) version of Xilinx ISE for Linux from their website didn't work out, does not recognize my Diligent-based "Xilinx Platform Cable USB" JTAG interface. Trying Windows version, no success.

Nope, this one wouldn't do the job. Need more software.

Next Linux version (8.0GB) didn't work, too. Trying Windows version, no success. I've downloaded about 25GB so far... Well, long story short: A few days and a few more versions later, namely 14.6, there's a new button in Xilinx ISE's GUI: Diligent USB device. Yay. Finally. Job done, nerves wrecked.

Connecting the JTAG cable, and uploading the firmware then worked flawlessly.

Plug it in!

I'll be installing the TF530 into an Amiga 500. The TF530 has to be connected to the M68000 CPU socket on the mainboard. My first thoughts were to build something using wires, but that would leave the TF530 floating around the Amiga's casing, requiring some support. So I decided to go with the "68000 Relocator" board and build some connector from standard 2.54mm-grid pin headers soldered to it. The CPU socket on the mainboard is pretty flat, and it turns out that when using these pin headers you have to solder them to the "68000 Relocator" just at the tip, lifting up the board from the CPU socket as far as possible. And of course we don't want to damage the CPU socket by inserting wide pins into the very narrow CPU-pin slots, so the pin headers need some filing! Only next time I will do the filing before soldering the TF530 to the Relocator board, saves a lot of cleaning... But I'm quite pleased with the results, and it looks as if I can still - should I ever need to do so - put the M68000 CPU back into the socket and it's pins will make proper contact.

Final step of installation is to connect the TF530's "A500" header to the Amiga 500's expansion port. "OVR" to pin 17, and "INT2" to pin 19. A small 2-pin header can (and probably should) be installed there, to be able to unplug the TF530 and the wires. I created it from two individual pins, because the distance between the soldering points on the mainboard is less than 2.54mm. Now that we have pin headers on both ends, a connector cable with two individual plugs on one end and a 2-pin-plug on the other, will certainly come in handy.

The INT2/OVR header, and building the connector cable.
What's left to do? Nothing!

Turn it on!

I have to admit this is quite a moment. I started this journey about nine months ago. This is the moment of truth. I'll have a bottle of cold beer ready to go. With a display and the PSU connected, I'm powering up the Amiga...

The TF530 fully installed. Will it work?


...nothing. Black screen. No floppy clicks.

Maybe we should install some jumper at "CLOCKSEL".
Let's try again.

And...'s alive!

Now where's that bottle of beer?

Next time we'll see how she really does - watch out for part 5 of our series "Building the TerribleFire TF530 accelerator board"!

Overview and back catalogue of the series:

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Web browsers: iBrowse 2.5 news & Voyager goes GPL

It wasn't a hoax: IBrowse lives! In April 2017 we reported news about iBrowse being (still?) actively developed (again?), and a few days ago the iBrowse page was updated with more information. Additionally, Voyager web browser has resurfaced with a GPL source code release!

The changes in iBrowse 2.5 are too numerous too list, but here are some highlights:

- PPC native version for AmigaOS 4.1
- AmiSSL v4, and MUI 4 & MUI 5 support
- OpenSearch support, allowing search engines to be added to iBrowse's search bar
- support for large files/downloads (>4GB, AmigaOS 4)
- updates to the HTTP, HTML and JavaScript engines
- updates to TextEditFields, disk caching, cookie handling, password manager, etc.
- various bugfixes

iBrowse 2.5 hasn't been released to the public yet, but the authors are working hard on re-establishing the process of obtaining a keyfile for users. iBrowse 2.5 will be shown at the upcoming AmiWest and Amiga32 shows.

Voyager, the third of the three classic "big" Amiga webbrowsers (the others being iBrowse and AWeb), has been made available as GPL'd source code. With Voyager's source code released we can hope to see Voyager being updated, and/or ported to other platforms soon, namely to AROS.

See links/sources below for more details.


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Apollo Team Activity Report: GOLD 2.7 core, GOLD 3 core, Vampire V4

Apollo team has released an activity report on their forum website, addressing some current issues, like the halted Vampire V2 600 production, as well as ongoing new developments.

Some highlights from their report:

- GOLD 2.7 includes faster IDE, hardware sprites, optimized rewrite of RTG graphics driver, MapROM functionality, hybrid software/hardware FPU, HyperThreading, and more

- GOLD 2.7 core will be available for Vampire V2 500, V2 600, and V4

- GOLD 3 will bring AGA support to OCS/ECS Amigas, and seems to be routing Paula-audio to the HDMI output

- a list of non-Amiga website reports about the Vampire V4, which boldly shows that the outside world does take notice

Judging from the list of new features of the GOLD 2.7 core users can expect a major overall increase in performance.

Especially the Apollo core's current lack of an FPU is a crucial difference to "real" M68k based accelerators (with an FPU), but it looks as these days will soon be gone. It'll be interesting how the other manufacturers of accelerator boards will react to this - namely: phase 5 - as they now have some serious competition when it comes to floating-point number crunching.

Again, Apollo team has given us some spectacular report on their progress. Together with the latest phase 5 announcements this makes 2017 probably the most exciting Amiga year since the turn of the millenium!


The Cult of Amiga

Website "Popular mechanics" has published a nice article that kind of gives a rundown of the entire history of Amiga computing, and an insight into the enthusiasm that still keeps the platform alive.

The Cult of Amiga Is Bringing an Obsolete Computer Into the 21st Century


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

New page: More of the best - Amiga games you must have seen, part 2!

When researching for our previous article "Best of the best - Amiga games you must have seen", a lot more games came to mind that excel in one or the other way, and need to be mentioned but didn't make it into the article. So here's part 2! Again, we're focussing more on technical or stylistic achievement, and less on mass appeal or nostalgia.

Have fun with our new page...

More of the best - Amiga games you must have seen, part 2

Sunday, September 17, 2017

AmigaOne X5000 in "Supercuts" tv commercial

That's a nice one: Charles Paek has used A-EON's AmigaOne X5000 (precisely: an X5000 beta in a X1000 case) in a tv commercial for US hairdressers "Supercuts", 9000 branches strong. You can see the X5000 with it's boing ball design prominently standing on the desk, and even AmigaOS 4 running on it for a brief moment.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Building the TerribleFire TF530 accelerator board, part 3: Parts inspection, and soldering

Let's see what we've got. And how we're gonna put it together. This one had a little surprise for me.

Disclaimer: This is not an instruction. Use at your own risk. No responsibility taken for whatever you do. Safety first. Kids, dont try this at home. 

Parts and BOM, and the shiny blue PCB.
It looks like I haven't missed much so far. Everything required to populate the board is there (except for the CPU socket connector, for which some substitute will be built), and I'm still able to identify the individual components! :-)

Parts and tools.
So, with Stephen Leary's instructional video (see below) on my computer's screen, I started soldering. May I note that not only does his video provide helpful and important information and hints, but also is a pleasant accompaniment when working on the TF530.

Soldering the first SMD chip on to the board quickly resulted in the chip being roasted, and the PCB damaged. Lol. Surprise. It turned out to be waaaaaay more difficult than I had expected.

Working with tiny SMD components poses some unexpected problems. For example if you're used to soldering hole-though parts you will most likely use way too much solder on your first attempts. Well, I did. Then, when you got used to using really very little solder, you find out that you cannot easily suck away the solder if you've made a mistake, because the amount of solder is too little for the desoldering pump to work on. Then you may learn the painful way that tiny PCB chip pins are reeaaally weak, you have to treat them really gently. And finally, when checking results of your soldering, you may find out that your grandma's magnifying glass does what it's supposed to do - to magnify - but it's scratched or unclear, and really creates more confusion than it does help.

First chip in place. Dirty, but undamaged!
But after some practicing with the damaged board and chip, things looked better. I learned to use the right amount of solder, the right amount of soldering flux, and to move the soldering iron at the right speed, and started working on a new board - with far better results.

More components.
After some hours of focused soldering and (visual) checking it looks as if my first TF530 might soon be ready for testing.

TF530r2 fully populated!
She's currently no beauty and needs some serious cleaning, but she makes her owner very proud. :-)

If you wanna try to build one, here's Stephen Leary's first "how to" video (we're still waiting for the second):

Next time we need to find out if she's alive - watch out for part 4 of our series "Building the TerribleFire TF530 accelerator board"!

Overview and back catalogue of the series: