środa, 30 stycznia 2013

Airsoft gear, part 1: the teaser.

Okay, so one of the things planned for this year is to finish the airsoft gear. As it is nearly finished I post a teaser picture now and tomorrow I'll follow with a more extensive description of the kit.

poniedziałek, 28 stycznia 2013

386 update

As I have recently acquired an 3C87-33 math coprocessor from IIT, I have thought about getting back to finishing the 386 setup I have.

I managed to install the coprocessor easily, despite its bent legs. The POST test and BIOS info claims that the IC is working which is a very good info for me. Additionally I have recently acquired an 3com Etherlink II 8 bit ISA Ethernet card. This card also is installed now in the 386 machine. This means that all five ISA slots are currently occupied. wow.

Pictures update:

The inserted shiny FPU (left), next to the grim, black CPU. You migh note that the 3C87 FPU is rated for 33 MHz and the CPU is running at 40 MHz... that's true, but still the FPU works, beeing overclocked a little  (20%, heh).

Two empty 8 bit slots on thie riser for the I/O card and ethernet controller. Everything is so crammed here that I had to remove the power supply in order to put the FPU and cards inside. You might note that there are still empty RAM slots - this will be filled as soon as I get some 30 pin SIMM sticks.

3com Etherlink II ethernet (UTP and AUI) card. An 8 bit ISA NIC, a thing that you do not see often. I hope It will work properly under MS-DOS or something similar.

Everything packed together except the PSU.

PC summary from BIOS. Still no success with the FDDs. This is the only lacking hardware issue to solve now. Apart from that everything is working alright I guess.

Back connectors - an overwiew. Starting from the top left:

COM                      COM                     VGA
MIDI/Gameport         LPT                 SCSI-1
UTP        AUI           Digital I/O card bracket.
Lots of outputs :-).

Now I have to fix some minor issues with the FDD controller and install MS-DOS on this setup to run some tests (especially I would love to test the floating point math of the 3C87). After that? installing software I guess - some calculation software would be good (mathematica?) and Turbo C I guess, to develop my own software and to use the digital I/O card.

Car PC, vintage style, part 3

So I have started debugging the Car PCs software and getting really into programming on that thing. I have divided the work into several 'modules' so I can gather information about one specific part of the device, independent of the rest.

1. Keypad:
Fairly simple, or event very simple. You can program it to output any character you want to using some dedicated software that I do not have. Currently the arrow keys on the front-panel go a b c d and enter is just enter.

2. LCD:
Quite easy. There are two ways of using the character LCD on the front panel: with or without drivers. If one  wants to do everything manually Data bus is under 0A9h indexed through port 22h and the control  bus is under 0A8h indexed through port 22h. Also there is a *.COM driver that allows to remap the first four lines to the LCD. The driverless version of LCD control seems nicer to me, as long as the LCD used in the PC is a HD44780 compatible.

3. GPS:
Harder. Now I know only that the GPS is residing at COM1 interface. I hope this is a fairly standard COMport GPS device and will work with nearly standard communication protocol.

4. I/O:
There is a CAN interface, Analog in and Digital in/out. Still no clues how to get to that.

5. Front panel connector:
Localized and nearly ordered.

6. Sound card:
probably there is one.

That's all for now I guess.

Geode is up and running

So I have managed to run the Geode setup. Instead of an hard drive I have utilized a Disk on Module SSD. You might note that there is a second floppy disc drive connected. This is due to the first ones malfunction. I hope a good isopropanol cleaning will be enough for it to run one more.

On that I have installed MS-DOS 6.22 together with Norton Commander and a Borland Turbo C Proffesional bundle. In the bundle there is Turbo C, Turbo Debugger and Turbo Profiler. The first two will be used to work with the Car PC.

poniedziałek, 21 stycznia 2013

Car PC, vintage style, part 2

So I have managed to run this piece of hardware. It powers up when 12 V is applied to some pins of the back connector:

So this means that this hardware is worth the work I will put into it. After double checking if everything that I was able to check is alive (LCD, VGA out, keypad) I removed the flash disc (8 MB Disk-on-Chip), and carefully placed it in the Geode PC (as it is my only running PC with DoC slot). Geode booted from the DoC, as it has no operting system at the moment. It seems that this PC is running a normal MS-DOS - yay! On the DoC I have found also some applications for this system - this will be disassembled soon. Also this means that I will have to put the Geode in working condition - put an HDD inside (there is a 20 GB HDD waiting) and install MS-DOS or something compatible, together with an C compiler, disassembler and what not.

Second thing I have noted is the connector for the Car PC:

This connector has COM, VGA and most important a Keyboard signals inside. The last thing is quite crucial at the moment I guess. It will allow me to install a normal MS-DOS on the DoC and add some hardware sniffing and testing programs. This is a must if I want to use it (and I do).

So - things to do:

1. Finish working on the Geode (HDD, OS - MS-DOS, software).
2. Get the round 19 pin connector for the front-panel of the Car PC.

czwartek, 17 stycznia 2013

Car PC, vintage style, part 1.

Recently I have bough, out of curiosity, something called "bordcomputer küpper weisser infotech" - whatever it migh mean, it was sold as a scrap, rather than tested and working device. I bought it mainly because it has an VGA port, so I guessed it also might have an real PC inside. This is how it looks from the outside:

So, the first thing to do, as a reverse engineer, I had to do was to open it, and see whats 's inside. I was kinda lucky, as the stuff inside was the stuff I wanted to be inside. What I have found and identified:

Smart486PC from Digital-Logic is the main part of this PC. This is the actual PC here. Fortunately I found a manual for that system-on-chip. Above that you can see a GPS module and on the right there is a 3V Lithium accumulator and a Disk-on-Chip with 8 MB of space. On the left from the smart486PC module there is an PC/104-shaped connector, that probably IS an PC/104, why not.

Such a setup means that this could be perhaps used as an PC. Regular, DOS-Compatible PC. The plan is to  power this thing up and see what happens next. If it will show some kind of normal startup  then the next step is to try to put something more generic on the Disk-on-chip. How? No idea, although the BPC is equipped with DoC socket. Then - deassemble everything that is in the firmware of this device and try to write own firmware. 

niedziela, 13 stycznia 2013

the Touching Ending

Finally I have completed the Book-Sized PC (BPC) that I was writing recently. The final step was adding a touch screen to the system as I intend to use this setup for controlling some processes (details will be given when this plans will come closer to realization).

So, I have acuired a LCD and TS and a controller recently,from a dismantled CNC controller. The only problem was the fact that the whole thing was dead. Really dead. With the LCD it was quite simple - totally exploded power supply and dead capacitors. Piece of cake (actually I just bought a new 12 V power supply).

The harder part was with the touch screen controller. Apparently it's PSU did something nasty when dying, as I have encountered really burned pcb:

Power filtering capacitor was totally fried, together with pcb - few layers deep. Fortunately only this was destroyed, and the 3M EXII ASIC was alive. Unfortunately I do not have any pictures of this fixed, as I forgot to make a photo before installing it in the LCD.

The last problem was with the configuration, but this was only software related. 3Ms drivers do not work well when you want to have multiple displays with only one beeing touch-sensitive. But I do not need multiple displays at the moment (although I can have up to three of them).

środa, 2 stycznia 2013

New Years resolutions

So, the New Year is here, so I have some plans for 2013, these concern historical reenactement, airsoft gun and of course electronics and vintage (or not only) computing and of course science. Of course this is only the part that will be published on the blog.

As I have some spare time in my last day of holiday I'll write some details about these fields. This also is a good thing for me so I can list some plans for this year.

1. Finish my XVI century kit - a lot of work. Still need to obtain shoes and sew trousers and this is a minimum plan! The maximum includes also making an sayan or some other kind of outer garment and a hat&coif set. Also I would need some armour, but this depends mainly on the money I have, not the work I put into that.

2. Finish my early medieval kit - much less work than above. The only thing that I really need to obtain are the shoes/boots, probably an Oseberg replica. And finish sewing some extra clothes. Apart from that I would love to finish puting together a belt and a spear, plus buying some padded garment and some details.

3. Put together an working Amiga 500. Currently my A500 is quite dismantled at the moment. I have to put everything together and install some nice operating system.

4. Obtain/put together an working 8088 or 8086 or at least 80286 system. I have enough stuff  to be able to do that, apart from a AT case (a desktop is a must be!) and an MFM hard drive.

5. Finish the 386 setup by installing the system - MS-DOS with NT or some linux, but I do not know any linux that could run on 386...

6. Finish the 486 setup by installing system and putting the thing into a AT case - must be a desktop one.

7. Put together the Pentium on a PICMG single board PC setup - lots of tinkering to do, I have to buy a 2,5" HDD, install everything in a 1U Rack case that I have prepared for such systems etc..There is a slim chance that I will exchange the Pentium MMX in this setup for something newer at some point...

8. Put the touch screen together and install it in the Protech PC. This is the final step, after this computer will be put to some serious use.  Done!

9. Finish systems for data acquisitions... and there are several of them, at least one that will be put to some serious use - the precise Analog-to-Digital converter with an USB interface, that I have described earlier.

10. Finish the electrodes for the microscope and make it soon. If this will work as planned I will show you some nice experiments (as soon as the get published or presented to the scientific society). Done!

11. Finish my rifle for airsoft. Currently I need only to put an outer barrel extender and measure how fast the BBs are. I do not plan to do much more, but without this I cannot really put it to use outdoors. Done!

12. Finish my airsoft gear. Currently I have bough all I need, it needs only putting together and adjusting some details... and photoshooting it thoroughly. And then probably I'll buy more gear.  Done!

Aaaaaand this seems to be all. At least for now, probably I'll add something more if I'll remember... or add some photos, especially of the reenactement or ASG part.

So I add the thing(s) that I have forgot to add before:

13. Streaming DVB-T using DLNA over WiFi. Currently I own a DLNA TV (LG LCD) with a ethernet connection. I work on connecting a WiFi AP Client-mode receiver to make it work over WiFi. This is a multi-step project as I have never worked with DLNA or DVB or streaming any content through network. So the first thing to do is to stream anything over small net (cable) consisting of a router and TV. Then do the same thing using WiFi. Then I plan to install MediaTomb on my LinuxBox server and use this software for streaming content over DLNA using wireless connection. And the final step - stream DVB-T content in real life (from an DVB-T receiver/decoder in the LinuxBox).