Monday, June 30, 2014

Dexer rev3 : READY TO ROCK (Err ready to solder)

Got the parts!

Got my desk mostly ready...

And most importantly, got the PCBs!!!

New facebook pages

I made a few facebook pages that may be a more convenient way for some people to get news than this blog (although I certainly intend to keep writing here!)

RuleCity LLC (the official company that sells Dexter) : Rulecity Facebook

Daphne Emulator : Daphne Facebook

Dexter Laserdisc Replacement : Dexter (Facebook)

Friday, June 27, 2014

the PCBs are on their way to me as we speak

Just got this email from :

"Hi Matt Ownby!

Your Dexter rev3a boards are on their way!

Your boards have been depanelized and shipped to you"

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Dexter rev3 pricing announced (AND PROTOTYPES FOR SALE)!

Last updated: 9 June 2015 (updated status of Dexter's compatibility)

At CAX 2011, during my presentation, I told the crowd that I estimated that Dexter's final price would be about $400.  After talking to the company that is going to manufacturer the Dexter boards, I am pleased to announce that we are able to offer Dexter for a lower price than the initial estimate if it is bought in bulk.

The prices as of now will be:
$399 for 1 Dexter complete package*
$374/each for 2 Dexter complete packages
$349/each for 3 Dexter complete packages
$324/each for 4+ Dexter complete packages

I've signed a deal with Digital Leisure, the copyright holder of many laserdisc games, to distribute their titles with Dexter!  Here are the prices:

Dragon’s Lair $19.99
Space Ace $19.99
Dragon’s Lair 2: Time Warp $19.99
Dragon’s Lair Trilogy [DL/SA/DL2] $39.99
Mad Dog McCree $12.99
Mad Dog 2: The Lost Gold $12.99
The Last Bounty Hunter  $12.99
Crime Patrol  $12.99
Crime Patrol 2 : Drug Wars  $12.99
Who Shot Johnny Rock  $12.99
Fast Draw Showdown  $12.99
Old West 3-Pack  [Mad Dog 1, Mad Dog 2, Bounty Hunter] $28.99
Crime Fighter 3-Pack  [Crime Patrol 1 & 2, Johnny Rock] $28.99
Time Traveler  $9.99
Thayer’s Quest  $9.99

NOTE : These laserdisc images will be copy protected!

In addition, I am currently manufacturing (and negotiating further manufacturing for) a small number of prototype rev3 boards to do the final testing to make sure we can clearly communicate to customers exactly what this board is going to be able to do at launch.

We are going to offer these prototype complete packages for $350 each (limit 1 per customer unless there are a bunch of extras).  Here is the scoop about the prototypes:

  • They may have very minor design defects but this is very unlikely at this stage (this is at least the 4th iteration of the current design).
  • I cannot offer refunds, only help in fixing problems.  However, previous prototype runs have been very successful, and there are many youtube videos showing the prototypes in action (which I can link to if anyone has a concern) including videos of Firefox, Dragon's Lair, Space Ace, and Thayer's Quest in action.
  • Use this spreadsheet to see exactly what player types and games are currently supported.  Additional player types MAY work in the future with firmware updates that we provide (we plan on this but cannot guarantee it.  what you see today is what you get today.)
  • I will pre-install certain licensed laserdisc images for the prices listed above.
* Complete package: Includes 1 Dexter board, 1 Raspberry Pi, 1 USB flash drive, 1 SD card, 1 Raspberry Pi <-> Dexter connector cable, 1 RCA cable, 1 3.5mm audio cable, and 1 5V power supply.  Licensed laserdisc images will be pre-installed!

Pioneer LD-V8000 will not be officially supported by Dexter rev3

I forgot to announce this, and I know that this will be disappointing to some of you, but I am not going to be officially support the Pioneer LD-V8000 player in Dexter rev3.  The problem is that, as I understand it, Galaxian 3 (the only game that actually uses it that I am aware of) requires two LD-V8000's to be synced to each other and there is no way for Dexter rev3 to support this right now.  I may still add unofficial support for the LD-V8000 later via add-on card that will not support seeking but still can be controlled via the serial connector.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

CAX: It's official!

Not that anyone was doubting, but I am officially on the list :)

Just got this email:


We are working on finalizing the speakers for the show.  Below is a teaser list of who’s coming (subject to change):

Eugene Jarvis will return to CAX to discuss his legendary work in creating some of the greatest arcade games ever made.  Learn about Defender and his many other contributions to gaming.

Larry Rosenthal, creator of the Vectorbeam system, will be on hand to discuss his technical achievement and shed some light on the realities of his experience bringing it to the arcade.

Skit-B Pinball will discuss their creations and future plans.  You won't want to miss this seminar - they plan to raffle one of their creations to someone attending the presentation!

Matt Ownby will discuss Dexter, a project keeping classic laser games alive.

Roy "Mr. AWESOME" Shildt will discuss the game Missile Command, as will Dwayne Richard, who has created a documentary on proper play settings.

A panel of Sente employees will convene to discuss the history of the company.

PPM will be making their case for a pinball museum at the Alameda Carnegie Library.

Sunday, the Film Festival returns with Richie Knucklez, King of Arcades, a piece on Wade Krause's contributions to the FAILE BAST Deluxx Fluxx Arcade, and a number of shorts.

Also, I didn't know that Eugene Jarvis was gonna be there.  I definitely want to see what he has to say!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

High res render of Dexter rev3

Here is a high resolution (1200 dpi) rendering of the current Dexter rev3b layout for anyone who is curious.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Dexter rev3 : FEAST YER EYES (spoken with Scottish accent)

Dexter rev3 is ready!  I've ordered 6 PCBs from for testing.  If all goes well, I will start taking orders and mass produce these things.  I have cut it really close as it is 17 June so there is no guarantee that I will have enough time to get the board back from and be able to get it assembled in time for CAX on 12 July, but I am going do my best!

While it is probably difficult to judge, this represents a massive improvement over Dexter rev1 and rev2 and is quite a bit smaller in size than rev2.  I crammed the parts as tightly as I possibly could.  There are still some empty spaces but this was definitely a growing experience for me.

I am very excited!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Dexter WIP 16 June 2014

I've made a ton of progress.  Still got a few components to place, but as you can see, it is looking awesome!:)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

I've finally started routing Dexter rev3

I just routed the lower left corner of the rev3 Dexter board.  It was quite challenging but I am quite pleased with how it turned out.  As you can see, I packed everything in very tightly and still managed to have 4 sets of pin headers in there and a ground plane.  The LM1881 and video mux ICs are also in there.

Fully automated Dexter setup inside my Dragon's Lair

So the USB flash drive I purchased seems to be working perfectly.  I think we have a winner!

I hooked it up to my cabinet in the garage and let my kids play it.  My oldest son is the same age that I was when I first saw the game which is making me feel _very_ nostalgic!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Evaluating USB flash drive for use with Dexter

Dexter is getting close to being available to public (yes, really!).

As part of hurrying to finish this effort, I need to decide what kind of USB flash drive to include with Dexter (I am leaning against putting everything on the SD card due to reliability issues).

I purchased a Sandisk Ultra USB v3.0 flash drive (16 gig) which claims to be able to read 80 megabytes/second and I am going to try it out in my Dragon's Lair cabinet soon to see how the performance is.  It only cost $12 so it is a good option to keep costs down for Dexter customers :)

Here is a benchmark I ran on it (using USB v2.0 interface, so the max speed is bottlenecked by the bus limitation).  It seems to choke when reading smaller chunks than 64kb at a time which shouldn't be a problem.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Dexter rev3 WIP 4 Jun 2014

I added a tiny little 2-input OR gate to pins 9 and 10 of the 24-pin LD-V1000/PR-7820/PR-8210A connector.  These pins (unless I am greatly mistaken) are only used by the PR-8210A.  One of them is the remote control signal from the game hardware and the other indicates whether the remote control signal should be heeded (ie not ignored).

In addition to improving performance so that the AVR doesn't have to think about this logic, it also avoids using an extra pin on the AVR (which is pretty much full as it is).

The OR gate essentially turns pins 9 and 10 into a single pin that is only low (active) when the game hardware is really trying to send a command to the player.  And the thing is so tiny (2mm) that one could sneeze and never find it again if one isn't careful.

Looks like I will be presenting at CAX

I just got official word that I will be presenting at CAX 2014.  If anyone has anything they specifically want me to talk about that they would find interesting, I am inviting feedback starting immediately.  Commenting on this blog post is one way you can get word to me :)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Dexter rev3 progress

I made some progress on the layout for Dexter rev3.  I added a small 74LS244 IC to control whether VSYNC and CSYNC from the LM1881 make it to the 24-pin connector on the bottom of the board.  This is so that Star Rider can receive these signals but LD-V1000/PR-7820 games will not.

I also tried to pack in the resistors to reduce the board size.  Once I add all of the new components that I want, I will probably start routing.  I also am seriously considering reducing the IC size of the MAX222 and LED driver ICs in the interest of shrinking the board size some more.

Wrote my first Java GUI app

I've been looking for an excuse to learn Java for years now and I finally found one.  Over the weekend, my ISP was flaking out on me, so I decided to write an app to monitor how often my ISP forcefully disconnected my open TCP connections (which is really annoying for IRC usage).  I initially wrote the app in C# as that is what I am more familiar with, then ported it to Java, using SWT for the UI.

As you can see, there is a defect in the Java version with the time counter, but otherwise it seems to work pretty well.

UPDATE: Wow, just tried to see how hard it would be to get the Java version running on linux and it turned out to be pretty easy!  I am impressed!