AMIGA alive

AMIGA alive

Sunday, September 8, 2019

APECAT making progress

You might have seen our little article, asking for support for APECAT, the "Amiga Processor Expansion Card for Application Transfer" - we have good news!

In case you haven't heard about APECAT before: Stian Søreng is developing a homegrown expansion device for the Amiga 500 (MC68000 CPU slot - probably Amiga 2000, too) that is designed to be able to directly upload code to the Amiga's memory, and execute it on boot.

Pretty cool, isn't it?

Stian has just reported via facebook that he's making progress, his prior problems seem to have been solved. 

In a new article on his website (see link below) published on Aug. 31st, he describes he had to fix timing issues both in hard- and software, and has started working on revision 2 of the APECAT. 

He also created a short video showing his strikingly simple and simply amazing invention doing a little work! Here it is:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJHgCr-Vl1Q


Yeah, it IS pretty cool.
In fact it's awesome.
:-D

Visit Stian's website for more information:
http://jmp.no/blog/apecat-writing-to-ram-running-code


Sources:
https://www.facebook.com/amigaalive/posts/781513535557774?comment_id=890311298011330
http://jmp.no/blog/apecat-writing-to-ram-running-code

Sunday, August 11, 2019

A501 coin-cell battery modification

The name "VARTA" strikes fear into the hearts of Amiga 500 plus, and A501 memory expansion owners: VARTA rechargeable batteries have been built into these devices, and with growing age are prone to leak green acid, damaging the printed circuit boards and other components.

Original rechargeable battery from an A501 memory expansion
So it's an absolute requirement to remove that rechargeable battery, and clean the PCB from all acid that might have spilled out, if you want to keep your device intact. Most Amigans seem to use vinegar and alcohol for cleaning, sometimes using a tooth-brush to rub off any damaged material. If you don't catch the "infection" in time, traces or components might be damaged, requiring repairs.

But still it would be nice to have a working backup battery installed to your machine. Coin-cells, type CR2032, are a good replacement, they're widely available, and do not leak. But keep in mind that these aren't rechargeable - the Amiga provides recharge-current to it's batteries, so when replacing the original rechargeable one, we need to take care of that to avoid (additional) damage.

Removing the rechargeable VARTA battery shouldn't be a problem, you just need a soldering iron. Next is the cleaning - and if you're unlucky - repair job.

When you're done so far you can install you coin-cell. The original VARTA batteries are 3.6V. CR2032 coin-cells are 3V, that's within range for the clock chips used in Amiga 500 pluses and A501 memory expansions (mostly OKI M6242 chips).

With some googling I found Daniel Schneller's nice article on how to do the replacement. He's done what's required, and added a few details, mainly putting the new battery on a separate board to avoid stress to the original PCB when exchanging the coin-cell in the future - an idea I like very much. I basically did the same, but wanted to keep my A501 in "one-piece", so I decided to put the extra board onto the A501 itself. According to one CR2032 manufacturer's docs, a diode and a 200 ohms (minimum) resistor are required to keep the Amiga's recharge-current away from the new, non-rechargeable battery. I'm using a 220 ohms resistor, just for a little bit of extra-safety.

Here's a schematic of the new battery board:
Battery board schematic (click to enlarge)

Nothing spectacular - have a piece of drilled board ready, the components as shown in the schematic, add a coin-cell holder, wires, and pin headers, and basically all that's left is the soldering.

New coin-cell battery on a separate drilled board
To fix the new board to my A501 I added several layers of duct-tape to the bottom side for padding, and a small piece of extra-strong double sided sticky tape as a (hopefully) removable glue.

The extra board is held in place by double-sided sticky tape

I'm quite pleased with the result! It doesn't look totally amateurish, there's close to zero modification to the original PCB, the sticky tape should keep the new board properly in place - and if I should ever want to do so, I could probably revert the modification completely.

And best of all: it works. :-)

Thank you very much, Daniel Schneller, for sharing your know-how and experience!


Sources:
http://www.danielschneller.com/2018/02/amiga-500-restoration-a501-memory.html 
http://www.farnell.com/datasheets/1496885.pdf
http://thomas-rapp.homepage.t-online.de/index.html
http://thomas-rapp.homepage.t-online.de/download/RestartClock.lha

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Building the TerribleFire TF530 accelerator, part 6: Faster! Hotter!

With a little more experience and new information gained, there was something left to do...

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. 

32MHz might not be too shabby, but then it's a weird number, and the TF530 is capable of more. It's been quite some time since I built my TF530. In the meantime Mr. Leary has released new firmware versions, improving the accelerator's compatibility with higher clock rates (among other things, probably). So the day had come to try a little tweaking.

First of all I had to test the latest firmware release. I fired up my laptop running Xilinx's CPLD programming software, connected the USB-cable to one, and TF530 5V power input to another USB port on the laptop. Surprise: The Amiga boots! It pulls enough power from the laptop's USB port to boot to Workbench! And of course the laptop (running Windows) complains about a USB device pulling way too much power! Ok, I'd better disconnect the power, remove the TF530 from the Amiga, reconnect, and try again...

Faster!


Without any changes to the TF530 I uploaded the latest software to the CPLDs. Hm, not bad! Worked flawlessly, and SysInfo shows a little speed increase of about... 3%! Not precisely earth-shattering, but a welcome improvement.

From ~5800 Dhrystones to ~6000 just by firmware update!

I had never thoroughly tested the memory chips, and the new firmware needed something to do, so I started Microbotic's excellent MBRTest-2 memory testing program, and ran a couple of tests. To my surprise there were no errors - my handling and soldering of the memory chips was fine from day zero!

No RAM errors, very good!
So far, so - very - good. I had seen some accelerator configurations where the 68030 had been overclocked by about 25%, and the FPU on my TF530 is a 40Mhz model anyway, so, yeah, why not try 40Mhz on the 33Mhz CPU?

33Mhz CPU and 40MHZ FPU - will they run fine at 40MHz?

Replacing the tiny SMD type 32Mhz oscillator with a 40Mhz one requires some fiddling if you don't have a heat-gun, but these oscillators seem to be quite tolerant to heat, and I managed to do it using a soldering-iron without any visible damage. After some cleaning it was time to switch the Amiga on, and see how she does...

~7500 Dhrystones!

Hotter!


Once again, to my surprise, this worked flawlessly! Wow, running at 40Mhz we get about 7500 Dhrystones in SysInfo! The 68030 is getting a bit hot - I'll be adding at least a small heatsink just to avoid unnecessary stress on the material.

TerribleFire 530 with CF card adaptor inside the "Amiga 530"

As a final touch to my "Amiga 530" I wanted to delete AmigaOS3.9 from the CF card, and reinstall OS3.1. With some little adjustments OS3.9 ran quite well on the machine, but it's still comparatively resource-hungry, and in some parts unnecessarily bloated, thus slow. Installation of OS3.1 - no surprise here - was quick and worked flawlessly, too. Another reset, and...

...the Amiga now boots to Workbench in about 9 seconds!

This is really good. I could try to get a 50Mhz CPU and install a 50Mhz oscillator - the 40Mhz FPU should be able to take that (the 33MHz CPU probably not so much...) - but for now I'm really perfectly satisfied with the performance. Firmware update, plus faster clock, plus operating system downgrade really make a difference. I'm assuming an added heat-sink will make the setup safe and stable in the long term.

Now will THIS be the last part of the series of articles about "Building the TerribleFire TF530 accelerator"? Who knows. Probably not! There's still so much to experiment with - we haven't even touched the SPI port yet!

Once again a huge Thank You! to Mr. Stephen Leary for developing and releasing this awesome accelerator!




Overview and back catalogue of the series:
http://amigaalive.blogspot.de/p/hardware-building-terribefire-tf530.html

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

retro GAMER special issue: AMIGA

"The Story of Commodore's second cult-computer": German printed magazine "retro GAMER" shows its love for the Amiga by releasing a special issue.

https://www.emedia.de/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/rgsh01_2019__cover_amiga_final_ea2.jpg

It's 196 pages strong, with more than 60 Amiga games reviews, and additional articles covering Amiga models, art on the Amiga, the public domain scene, the best Amiga 1200 games, and "outsider" games.


Being a special issue some of the articles have been published previously, but there are also many new articles, and the majority of pages has been reworked or newly created. New articles include reviews of Alien Breed, Another World, Dune 2, The Great Giana Sisters, The Secret of Monkey Island, Sensible Soccer, Stunt Car Racer, Wing Commander, Worms, and more.

Retro Gamer "Amiga" special issue costs 14.95EUR, and can be purchased at magazine stores, or online at Heise store.

Go to retro GAMER's website for more information:
https://www.emedia.de/magazin/retro-gamer-spezial-amiga-1-2019/

Monday, July 8, 2019

AmigaOS 3.1.4.1 update released

Hyperion Entertainment CVBA show their commitment to AmigaOS: Today an update for AmigaOS 3.1.4 has been released, fixing some bugs, and adding some new features.

http://www.hyperion-entertainment.com/images/stories/OS3.1.4/005.png

According to Hyperion's press release (see "Sources" below) this update aims to improve user experience and adds more workarounds to improve compatibility with existing software.

It's mainly a bugfix update to AmigaOS 3.1.4, but there are also a couple of new features:
  • Danish and swedish translations
  • Setpatch updated
  • Audio.device compatibility improved
  • HDToolBox improved (default blocksize for large harddrives)
  • CrossDOS compatibility improved
The complete list of bug fixes is considerably longer, Hyperion says the change log is more than 260KB in size. Changes include: updates to CDFileSystem, intution support, audio device, Format, FastFileSystem, HDToolBox, Shell, several AmigaDOS commands, DiskDoctor, and more.

Go to Hyperion's download area for registered customers, and get your free update to AmigaOS 3.1.4.1:
http://www.hyperion-entertainment.com/index.php/downloads?view=files&parent=39


Sources:
http://www.hyperion-entertainment.com/index.php/news/1-latest-news/280
http://amiga-news.de/de/news/AN-2019-07-00016-DE.html

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Games galore: Reshoot R, Rygar, BioJet, Pong 4K, AirTaxi - and Trap Runner sourcecode

It very much looks like 2019 will surpass many previous years in number of new games released for the Amiga. In fact it becomes pretty hard to keep up with all the new developments.


RESHOOT R


"RESHOOT" from 2016 by Richard Loewenstein looked awesome, and was kind of something new on Amiga, but Richard isn't done with us yet: now he's given us "RESHOOT R" with more assembler coded action, more bullets, extra weapons, more outlandish looking enemies, more insane sound effects, and more awesome pounding, hypnotizing music. It runs on AGA Amigas (CD32 included), claims to put up to 100 objects on screen at the same time, more than 400 colors, with transparency effects, still parallax-scrolling at 50Hz - no accelerator required, yet runs on 68020 to 68060, taking advantage of additional RAM if present.

Hats off, RESHOOT R rivals "T-Zero" in being the most advanced shoot'em up on the Amiga ever. ESCALATION!

Here's a gameplay video - but beware: this might be a bit of a spoiler!
Better buy the game, start playing, and have your jaw drop as you progress though the levels! It's insanely good!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0FQrXxwtSs

RESHOOT R - additional info / download / purchase:
http://reshootr.richard-loewenstein.de
https://www.amigashop.org/product_info.php?products_id=294 (purchase "signature" edition)
https://www.amigashop.org/product_info.php?products_id=295 (purchase digital)

https://www.amigashop.org/product_info.php?products_id=293 (purchase "pure" edition)
https://amigastore.eu/627-reshoot.html (RESHOOT, predecessor)
https://www.patreon.com/loewenstein


Rygar


Not finished yet, but with preview videos out, we can pretty safely assume a 2019 release. "Rygar" is a fantasy themed game for AGA Amigas, a remake of the 1986 Tecmo arcade game. Jump, shoot, dodge, run - somewhere in between "Lionheart", "Shadow of the Beast", and "Ghosts'n'Goblins". It already looks very good, and has some above-average game mechanics. Expect some more improvements and bugfixes, this is gonna be an exciting game.

Here's the latest in-development video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0MwnJisMt4


Rygar - additional info / download / purchase:
http://www.seismicminds.com/downloads/RygarEAB0C.adf (demo beta version download)
https://www.facebook.com/RygarAmiga/
https://vintagecomputerssociety.blogspot.com/2019/05/rugar-aga-gets-playble-demo-version.html


BioJet


Inspired by the classic "H.E.R.O." game, "BioJet" is a variation of the fly/dodge/explore genre for all Amigas (with 512KB FastRAM). This looks like a smooth, fun game, and has some interesting technical details (see Aminet readme). Last but not least: it's freeware!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3H1AqOaA2f8

BioJet - additional info / download / purchase:
http://aminet.net/package/game/misc/BioJet (download) 
http://www.pouet.net/prod.php?which=81083 (download) 
http://amiga-news.de/en/news/AN-2019-05-00014-EN.html
http://www.indieretronews.com/2019/04/biojet-flying-platformer-as-first.html


PONG 4K goes commercial


One of the oldest gaming ideas got a massive update with "PONG 4K". You still try to catch and reflect a ball, but that's pretty much where the similarities end. "PONG 4K" is the successor to "PoNG4" - for Amiga CD32 only, has an intro video, CD soundtrack, lots of bleeps and blurps, dark yet colorful graphics, giving it a "Speedball" like dystopian future atmosphere, with parallax scrolling, four players simultaneously, gravity effects, obstacles, ... you name it. Originally released in 2018 it's got a commercial release in 2019. Pong is dead, long live PONG!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfbcLjjoWBs


PONK 4K - additional info / download / purchase:
https://amiga.net.pl/index.php?lng=eng&kwt=10010&tms=427 (purchase physical)
http://www.pouet.net/prod.php?which=78586 (PONG 4K download)
https://vintagecomputerssociety.blogspot.com/2019/05/pong-4k-new-pong-genre-game-for-aga.html
http://www.indieretronews.com/2019/06/pong-4k-wicked-amiga-cd32-pong-stye.html
http://amiga-news.de/de/news/AN-2018-10-00034-DE.html
http://amiga-news.de/de/news/AN-2019-06-00010-DE.html
http://aminet.net/package/game/2play/PoNG4 (predecessor, all Amigas)


AirTaxi full version released


Dave May's "AirTaxi" is a 1994 game heavily-inspired by "SpaceTaxi", in fact it looks like a super-polished, enhanced version of the classic. A demo has long been on AmiNet, but recently the full version (.adf) has been released, and even an updated rework is considered by the author. "AirTaxi" can be played by up to 5 human players simultaneously (2 joysticks + 2 joysticks on parallel port + keyboard), and runs smoothly on any Amiga with 1MB ChipRAM and some acceleration (25Mhz). It's got speech, soundfx, obstacles, weather conditions, bad guys, nice little character animations, etc. - this looks very entertaining to play with a couple of friends!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7fHJtLUm1Y

AirTaxi - additional info / download / purchase:
http://airtaxigame.com
http://aminet.net/package/game/2play/airTaxi (demo version)


TrapRunner source code released


Frank Wille's "Trap Runner" had a "party release" in 2018, but is still going strong in 2019 with an updated "final release", and recently the sourcecode has been released. The game is a "Giana Sisters" type jump-and-run with super cute graphics and sounds, very classic, and it also has the best storyline ever: rescue girl from bad guy. Add playability, intro screens, and of course this irresistable marshmellow-smurf-kindof character - you just can't go wrong with "Trap Runner".

You can buy a physical edition of the game, and you can also try your hands on the sourcecode. It's designed to be portable to other platforms, but there's some assembler code involved.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wUDTTE5tgg

Trap Runner - additional info / download / purchase:
http://www.retroguru.com/trap-runner/
http://www.pouet.net/prod.php?which=78069 (download) 
https://www.amigashop.org/product_info.php?products_id=289 (purchase physical)
http://amiga-news.de/en/news/AN-2019-04-00046-EN.html (sourcecode announcement)
http://server.owl.de/%7Efrank/TrapRunner1_2.lha (sourcecode)
http://eab.abime.net/showthread.php?t=94066


Bonus game: Cuba 1898


And we have one more that popped up recently: "Cuba 1898" by Irongate / José A. González P. is a neat sidescrolling jump'n'shoot that puts you right into the Spanish-American war of 1898. Well, kinda. Shoot enemies "Green Beret" style, collect boni - win a war!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IbNghJFjZaY

Cuba 1898 - additional info / download / purchase:
http://eab.abime.net/showthread.php?t=95734
http://www.indieretronews.com/2019/01/cuba-1898-new-amiga-game-in-development.html

- - - - -

In addition to the above, also make sure to check out these releases we've given coverage in individual articles:

SkillGrid
https://amigaalive.blogspot.com/2019/05/skillgrid-new-vertical-shootem-up-game.html

Shogo (digital download edition released)
https://amigaalive.blogspot.com/2019/03/shogo-mobile-armor-division-available.html

Yeah, and of course we're looking forward to the very promising "Scourge of the Underkind".

- - - - -


Fire up your joysticks!

Will 2019 go down in history as the year Amiga gaming returned from the underground?

Support Amiga game development!
Buy a game!

Friday, May 3, 2019

SkillGrid - new vertical shoot'em up game for Amiga!

Amiga games developers are pretty active these days - here's the latest release in Amiga shoot'em up games. And it's an impressive one.

"SkillGrid" is a new vertical shoot 'em up for AGA Amigas by Simone "RETREAM" Bevilacqua, who by the way is also responsible for the excellent BOH and Huenison games, among others, and has created a little gaming universe made of his creations.

So now he's released SkillGrid, which takes place in the same universe, and again has somehow to do with some Evil Masters - you can read the full saga on SkillGrid's homepage (see links below).

https://img.itch.zone/aW1hZ2UvMjc1ODAwLzE2OTU5ODgucG5n/original/i%2B3Q9L.png

Among SkillGrid's features are
  • original tactical gameplay mix of shooting and catching/dodging
  • endless game with procedurally generated stages
  • in-depth scoring system
  • sub-games and boss battles
  • parallax scrolling
  • transparency
  • pixel-perfect collision detection
  • hi-quality prog-rock music [Author's note: Yeah, baby!]
  • speech

...and many more.

https://img.itch.zone/aW1hZ2UvMjc1ODAwLzE3MDUyMjUucG5n/347x500/5YhmqE.png

A couple of different editions are available, including a physical "Deluxe Edition" with CD, floppy disks, 16-page booklet, postcards, badges, and even a A3 sized poster! Very nice.


Here you can see SkillGrid in action:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLLtD4nr5ck

Judging from the screenshots, the music, and the video, this is an awesome game. Gameplay looks above-average, the action is frenetic, graphics are good to stunning, smooth and stylish, and then there are these outstanding music tracks (some of which almost speak out "I love Iron Maiden!") and sound effects.

Bevilacqua's work is really impressive, he's applying minimalistic gaming ideas from the smartphone-generation to the Amiga, and does so with amazing technical skill. The boxed "Deluxe Edition" of SkillGrid (or any of RETREAM's games, for that matter) is just beautiful, a must-have for any serious Amiga gamer.


Find out more, listen to the music, and get your copy of "SkillGrid" at:
https://retream.itch.io/skillgrid

If you just want to order your physical edition you can go here directly:
https://rgcd.bigcartel.com/product/skillgrid-amiga

* * *


Have you played "SkillGrid" yet? Please leave a comment below!

* * *
Sources:

https://rgcd.bigcartel.com/product/skillgrid-amiga

https://retream.itch.io/skillgrid

https://www.retream.com/

https://www.facebook.com/R37R34M/

http://www.indieretronews.com/2019/04/skillgrid-wicked-aga-shoot-em-up.html