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COVID-19/Coronavirus Update

This is a post about availability of the Jammafier and the JVS-PAC 2, but not one I expected to write.

Because of the tragic virus outbreak in China, both JVS-PAC 2 and Jammafier production is delayed.  As the situation is still unfolding and far from over, speculation on my part is moot.  One could easily get the impression from the news that it would be back to business as usual after the extended holiday ended 10th of February – this is not the case.  Latest update I have from the assembly house I use is that they hope to get to business around February 25th.

In addition to PCB manufacture and assembly, the OLED screens and the protective acrylics I use is also sourced from China.

My thoughts go out to the people affected by this virus, which is not me and most likely not you.

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Winter update

Another production run of Jammafiers is in the works.   Thanks to all who followed my request and sent me a message expressing interest.  I have completed the layout for a new revision and I’m waiting for the prototype PCB’s.  The only real change for users is a toggle switch to enable/disable 5V for the Tri-Sync Helper, no longer a need to solder/de-solder.  When it comes to production, this revision will have the screen attached via an FPC connector – which will make it look a bit more ‘pro’, and it’s one less thing to solder by hand.

JVS-PAC 2 stock is getting really low.  Demand has been also been low lately, with only 1 unit shipped out in December.  Nevertheless, I’ve initiated another production run of these and expect them to be ready within a couple of months.

The release of the Scaler went pretty smooth with no big surprises, although I have a suspicion that something is up with the bypass feature.  I have conflicting reports on analog bypass on Atomiswave, so will investigate this to see if there are any issues.

If you bought the Scaler and like it, please help ‘spread the word’, it’s a very niche product and a success report with a photograph means helps me more than you may think!  If you have used the Scaler with a system not listed on the tested sources page, drop me a line with your preferred name/nick for credit and I will add it.  

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The Retro Scaler A1 is here

Just before Christmas I managed to fix a few outstanding issues, and after a bit of hesitation decided that enough-is-enough – time to get the scaler out. 

It is by far the most complex thing I’ve ever designed, and that took the longest time to finish.  When making something like this, one thing is to have a mostly working prototype on your desk, but something entirely different to have a product that you can charge money for with a clear conscience.  Another factor is that the final part, making something usable by just pressing a couple of buttons is not exactly exciting – it often feels like real work.

Looking back, the idea started in 2011 when I ordered a sample of the TVP7002, the same ADC that ended up being used in the OSSC.  I had no idea how to build something like this but figured it was a place to start.  I needed a scaler for my Naomi Universal Cabinet that is 31k only, I had an XRGB-2 that was great – but it has a bit of a pain to source it, and not exactly cheap.

First PCB- 2015

I decided to not use the TVP7002, as it was announced end-of-life from Texas Instruments, I didn’t want to design something that I couldn’t source parts for in the future so decided to go with Analog Devices AD9984a.  This is a newer version of the ad9983a used in the xrgb3, so I figured it was a good choice even if it cost a bit more than the TVP7002.  I built a prototyping board in January 2015 – I guess that’s the real start of this project.  I knew I had to use an FPGA but had no idea how to program them.  I connected the digital output of the ADC directly to the input of a DAC, got lucky and got a picture and then I knew this was indeed something a mere mortal could do.

RPI zero based proto – 2016

Previous projects had been done using Eagle for PCB design, but now I was going ‘pro’ and using something proper, that of course also came with a proper learning curve. The first real prototype was done in October 2016 – the idea was to use a Raspberry Zero for the brains.  I managed to get a scaled picture, and thought I was pretty close – how wrong I was ?  

Rev 1.1 2017

This idea of using a Raspbery zero was ditched as there was no way to get them in quantity.  I decided to use STM32 instead, which also had a pretty steep learning curve.  In April 2017 I had the my STM32 prototype board connected to the scaler.

By June 2017, I had a prototype that started to look like what is now for sale.  Again, I thought I was almost there.

Rev 1.2 2017

November 2017, another prototype.  Which is about the same time I started working on the Jammafier as making the scaler would be too expensive and risky to finance by savings, so I needed something “easy” to fund it.  Along with something to fund this project, I had to get legit, i.e. doing this through a a business, so Irken Labs was born.  The Jammafier project took a bit more time and was more complex than anticipated so the scaler project was put on hold for some time.

Rev 1.3 2018

Prototype rev 1.3, is from May 2018.  The really big change is that Intel had released a less expensive FPGA, that had the same capabilities of the one I used in previous revisions – I managed to build a board that would accept them both.  This revision incorporates some lessons-learned when it comes to power delivery.  I also placed all components on one side of the PCB to decrease production cost.  If the firmware had been ready, this could likely have been a viable product – although later revisions incorporates some nice tricks not yet developed.

Rev 1.4 Late 2018

I experienced some noise and bad picture quality from some sources, so as an experiment I added a video amplifier with a low-pass filter in rev 1.4, the same used in the OSSC. The low-pass filter was a disappointment, it didn’t really clear up the noise and just added cost.  I identified the source of the noise as being a combination of a bad power supply, ‘bad luck’ using Moon-Patrol and Kung-Fu master as test sources – these boards have a terribly noisy video signal.

Rev 1.5  2019

Now we are getting serious, and this board went through 3 revisions mostly to optimize for production, culminating in Rev 1.5c which is the first public release.   A crucial change in 1.5 is the ability for the FPGA to analyze sync signals.

Manufacturing of the boards were completed in August this year, but the firmware was not yet ready and a lot of testing still to be done.  The game Batsugun was a real curve-ball, but it ended up making the firmware a lot more stable and compatible.  Sadly though, there is no hope for Batsugun.

That is the story of the scaler so far – it took a bit of time, but nice things often do 🙂   

This little write up would not be complete without a big thank you to RGB and rtw – thanks for invaluable technical discussions, encouragement, tips & testing.  Also, a big thanks to all the wonderful people over at arcade-projects.com.

 

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Fall update

Just a quick update, back from vacation and store re-opened.  For now, it’s only the JVS-PAC 2 that is in stock.

I’ve fiddled a bit with the shipping, and it should now be possible to check out how much it will be without making an account, checking out etc.  Have in mind that this is FedEx International Priority, shipping times are generally only a couple of days most places on the planet.

More JAMMAFIERS?

Thanks to all for sending me messages asking about availability.  There will be more Jammafiers made, but as all funds (and time) are tied up in the Scaler project, that one has to happen first.  If all goes well, I think late 2019 or more realistically early 2020 will be when Jammafiers are back in stock.  I don’t think there will be any major changes to the design, just a couple of tweaks to make it more manufacturing friendly.

Speaking of the Scaler. when I got back from my vacation there was a heavy box with aluminium enclosures waiting, so things are getting seriously close now 🙂

 

 

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The last Jammafier (for now)

The Jammafier with serial number 100 marks the end of general availability of the Jammafier for now.   Due to real-life obligations (just had my first kid), spending hours and hours in a single sitting to assembling these is just not on the table right now.  

I hope to have them back in stock in the future if there is still demand (send me a message!), but it won’t happen for a few months, realistically we’re looking at 2020.  The JVS-PAC 2’s are a different story, as they are professionally assembled by a 3rd party.  This will also be how new Jammafiers will be made.  One of the reasons I don’t do this right away is that all available funds and time will be used towards making the Retro Scaler A1 finished and available – and pending how much time I got available, I hope to have it ‘out’ in 2019.

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JVS-PAC 2 open for order!

I’ve just opened up sales for the JVS-PAC 2.  Real-life obligations have delayed this a bit, but now it’s finally available.  

If you consider getting one, please read through the Introduction and (especially the disclaimer) and have a look at the FAQ.  In theory, it should work with pretty much everything that supports a keyboard – but no guarantees.  If you do something special with it, I would love to hear about it though.

I’m working on a new MAME build, and it seems the path of least resistance that gives the best results is to use a fresh install of Windows 7, attract-mode for front-end and most likely GroovyMame. 

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Perfect is the enemy of good – JVS-PAC 2 in progress..

While having coffee the other day, jotting down notes as I usually do, I got into thinking about all the unresolved issues surrounding the JVS-PAC 2.  I started writing down these issues, and upon looking at what I had written I came to the realization that these are not show-stopping road-blocks at all but more in the ‘fancy features’ category.  I’ve been getting a few requests for JVS-PAC’s in the last few months, and none of them were for specific JVS-PAC 2 features – most people simply want something that ‘just works’ like the old JVS-PAC.  Clearly, there is only one logical thing to do – which is to get the JVS-PAC 2 into production as quickly as possible, and that is exactly what I’m doing. 

At first it will likely have just the MAME features of the original, which should get the job done for most people :).  Firmware update is really fast easy though, and I still want to make it easy to use with steam titles – but this intention will not stand in the way of people just wanting to play Mame in their JVS cabinets.

The assembly houses operate with a 5-6 week lead time, and with Chinese new year holiday coming up I don’t have a specific date, but if I suspect within a couple of months.

There will be no pre-orders or preferred order processing, but unless I have totally misjudged the demand there should be enough units for everyone.

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Christmas update

 

Happy holidays everyone!  2018 has been interesting, moving to a new web site and getting the Jammafier and tri-sync helper out.  2019 should see the completion and availability of the JVS-PAC2, and hopefully the scaler.

Jammafier

I got parts for 10 units just before the holidays kicked in and should have them ready for shipping early 2019.  Apart from implementing a screen-saver to conserve the life of the OLED, I think this project is mostly done and I’m very happy about the reception and support it has gotten.  The initial inrush of orders has calmed down a bit, but I plan on having this available on a continuous basis – real-life obligations permitting.  I’ve enabled stock counting in the store, which either shows stock available or units not already sold in an imminent production run.

One big issue with the Jammafier is the time it takes to assemble it, it has a lot of parts that require manual soldering.  I got another 40 Jamma edge connectors, the hardest part to source, and when those are gone I’m done with manual assembly.  If there is still demand, I will look into having it assembled in China.

Retro Scaler A1

I got both the PCB’s and parts for a new revision just before the holidays, and have spent a few nights playing wit it.  Acouple of my arcade PCB’s are very noisy so in the revision I wanted to try a selectable low-pass-filter (LPF) to see if it would make a big difference – it didn’t.  It’s an improvement, but not sure if it’s worth the added cost.  Firmware is pretty much the same between rev 1.4 and rev 1.3, so I don’t have to make a decision right now.  The 240p test suite https://junkerhq.net/xrgb/index.php?title=240p_test_suite has proven quite useful in exposing some oddities with the ADC I’m using.  All tests look really good, only thing I haven’t figured out yet is PAL interlace (625i).

My goal when I set out to make this was to make something as good as or better than the XRGB2 for arcade games, and I’m happy to say that this thing is way better when it comes to image quality.  I hope to have it ‘out’ in 2019, which is about time – I’ve been messing with this thing for years.  Apart from a firmware development, the big hurdle is manufacturing cost. I hope revenue from the Jammafier and JVS-PAC2 will contribute to making this a reality.

JVS-PAC2

Sorry for the delay on this one, I do appreciate getting requests for it though.  I will not do manual batches  apart from an initial proto-type testing batch, but rather go straight to having them manufactured in China like the red original JVS-PAC’s.  So when it’s finally available, it should be available 🙂  At least that’s the plan.  It’s based on the code and hardware of the Jammafier, so it should not take too long. Stay tuned..

 

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New batch of Jammafiers

Just a short update on things cooking in the lab.  A new batch of Jammafiers is in the works, almost ready to go out – except the audio connectors are still missing, but supposedly in transit.  There are a few units in this batch that are not spoken for, so if you are in need of one – pre-order yours today 🙂