Thursday, November 29, 2018

Classic Amiga upgrades

My apologies for the big gap between blog posts. Unfortunately I have been really busy of late with home improvement projects in the evenings and weekends and work. This does not mean I haven't been active with my Amiga systems - far from it!

First up I was determined to get more of my Amiga systems setup in my very confined space. I connected up a KVM box with PS/2 connectors, and used an old Lyra PS/2 keyboard converter (with 9pin to PS/2 converter) and PS/2 Cocolino mouse converter I have had for many years to connect the Amiga 2000 and Amiga 4000T to the same TFT screen as my Amiga 4000T, DOS IBM Pentium 200MMX PC (for Demos), and Minimig! The last two machines use keyboard and mouse PS/2 ports natively.

4 computers sharing one monitor, with one keyboard and mouse to control them all. I have new audio switchboxes as well so these machines all share the same set of speakers too. I can swap out the Chameleon with the Minimig as needed. :-)

The second TFT screen is used solely for the A4000T Voodoo3 RTG output. If I had another kvm I could hook the chameleon64 to that I guess..hmm, maybe a later task.

My Amiga 2000 has a Indivision ECS installed with the VGA out on the back, piped through the Zorro2 Picasso II card and it's output to the VGA port on the KVM.

I also have the external MIDI box connected I got back in 1991 for the Amiga 2000 when I got it new! A newer (older?) addition is the Perfect Sound sampler I was given for free a year or so ago. I finally hooked it up the Amiga 2000 and it does work well (although the user interface is very clunky!).

That done I then went to Ikea to buy some cheap stands to mount the TFT screens up higher so all the messy cables and boxes could fit underneath and make it look much better, in my opinion anyway!

In addition, I setup the Amiga 500 with ACA500 and plenty of upgrades I have been working on a lot recently to another TFT screen, shared with the AmigaOne X5000 and AmigaOne A1222. (this monitor has VGA, HDMI and DVI inputs which is how this is possible).

With my new Ikea stands I could make the Amiga 500 look much better too, with the PSU nicely tucked away under the screen, leaving more room in front..

The speakers here use a switchbox to use with the X5000, A1222, Amiga 500, CDTV and my record player! The PC Engine is hooked up to a switchbox to the C64 TFT screen along with the C64, and Megadrive FPGA. Would like to hook up the Intellivision FPGA remake and Commodore Plus/4 to the C64 TFT screen too but not sure how to squeeze them in yet.

The X5000/A1222 keyboard and mouse sit in front of the A500 when I am using it (that is why there is a space in front of the A500). Definitely using every bit of desk space I have..

As a side note, here is the Rys MKII usb mouse converter installed on my Amiga 500. This allows me to use a normal USB mouse (at the moment the Raspberry Pi mouse) on my Amiga 500! 

The ACA500 has a Amiga 1200 Individual Computers 1233N 030 accelerator card installed, and USB Subway connected as well.

The ACA500 lets me boot into Workbench v1.3 or v3.1 mode from the boot menu:

Also, thanks to the Gotek I have installed internally I can boot from any ADF Amiga floppy disks too. I have a DF0 selector hardware switch installed to switch DF0 to the external real floppy drive to allow me to boot normal amiga floppy disks too.

Despite all these upgrades done though, there is a lot more I plan to do with this system.

Close up below showing the USB ports coming from the Subway USB and the DF0 Selector switch which is routed through the Zorro expansion port and wedged into position by the ACA 500. Of course you need to turn off the Amiga before you change the DF0 selector switch position!

On the same subject of the Amiga 500, I bought it some presents as part of it's ongoing upgrade work.

First up is this GuruNet parallel port network card, which uses plipbox driver to function on the Amiga 500. I got it from here.

Unlike most plipbox ethernet devices, this one is very compact.

 Here it is, plugged into the Amiga 500:

It needs power from a raspberry pi power supply (or similar):

I downloaded the plipbox v0.6 network drivers on my PC, copied to the FAT formatted CF card on the ACA500 and extracted as below:

I needed to copy the appropriate version of the plipbox.device to DEVS: and rename to plipbox.device. In my case I have an 030 accelerator, so the 020 version is the closest one I can use.

As mentioned I needed to rename the file:

Here it is in the right place in DEVS:

I then copied the network test programs to C: (choosing the 020 versions):

Renaming as well of course:

Next up I installed EasyNet, which is an AmigaKit product to install AMITCP and a nice GUI program to control and do preferences for the network settings on the Amiga. This is a commercial product you can buy on Amigakit's website:

Because I don't have a cd drive on the A500, I copied the contents from the original CD to the CF card to access from the Amiga 500.

It is important to run an assign Easynet: to the drawer I copy the Cd contents to. Then the installer works as expected:

I hit problems here as my version of EasyNet is too old to support the plipbox driver. I needed to obtain a new version from Amigakit, who were very helpful and provided the newer version that supports it.

I selected the plipbox.device when prompted in the setup:

I then put in the IP address information:

I could then launch the internet using the EasyNet Online/Offline GUI, which launches AMITCP with the configuration as selected. It went online with no errors. I first connected via FTP to my PC at home and also an german ftp site to check the local network and internet was working. Success!

As a point of interest I also received another Plipbox ethernet device for the Amiga 500, this time an A565 from Ebay with a lovely case, floppy disk and instructions included:

You can also buy an Amiga 1000 compatible version. I am debating getting one for it, since this is the only way to get an A1000 online I am aware of, unless you have a Vampire 500 installed with the SD ethernet add-on...Anyway, a little off topic.

Here are some other views of the A565 device:

It is also powered by a USB connector, and uses the same plipbox driver and methods described for the GuruNet as described earlier.

I was pleasantly surprised how well the internet works over a parallel port! Here I am browsing using iBrowse on the Amiga 500:

Obviously it is not as fast as a zorro based ethernet card would be, but it is not unusably slow either.

Next, I downloaded some stuff from Aminet while listening to a mod or two in Hippoplayer on the A500:

As you can see the download speed was quite acceptable:

It is great to finally get my Amiga 500 online!

I also received some stuff from - namely an AmigaOS4 guidebook, and the Solid Gold and Lumberjack Reloaded games released in the last few years for the classic Amiga! I didn't have them before in a boxed version.

I fired up the CDTV to try out Lumberjack Reloaded as it works natively on the CDTV and CD32, which is great to see:

I am pleased to report it worked great! Having never played this game before, I was surprised how addictive and fun this simple game is.

I set to work installing the Warp graphics datatypes (which need to be purchased from here) on my A500 so I could display modern image formats like PNG, etc.

One gotcha to note is that you need to install Picasso96 on your Amiga 500 to get the updated graphics library if you are only running Workbench 3.1 (like I am). If you are running AmigaOS 3.5 or 3.9 this is not required.

Just select the uaegfx driver as part of the install. and remove it from the DEVS:dosdrivers drawer after the install is done, since you don't actually need it.

My next upgrades for the Amiga 500 arrived recently too, courtesy of Individual computers. I needed a new Joystick, and also picked up the new recently released ACE2 and X-Surf 500 hardware.

The ACE2 was the most important new hardware for my Amiga 500. ACE2 allows you to upgrade an Amiga 500 with 512k Chip memory to have 2MB chip memory! (check the Revisions of A500, A2000, etc, it is compatible with as I believe some revisions are not compatible. Mine was fine. :-)

Here is a close up look at the new ACE2:

Here is the underside:

So I quickly set to work unscrewing the case on my Amiga 500 to get the ACE2 installed. I had to remove my 512k expansion since it doesn't get used with the ACE2 installed:

Here is the A500 motherboard, ready for installation:

To install the ACE2 I needed to carefully remove the Fat Angus chip 8371, taking careful note of the orientation of the chip.

Unfortunately my chip extractor has seen better days and it was hard to get it out cleanly. Ended up with a scratch across the surface - damn. I really should buy a new one.

I then needed to remove the Gary chip:


Here is the ACE2, with the Gary chip put on top of the new chip connector and ribbon cable to the Agnus section of the hardware:

I needed to rotate the Agnus part of the ACE2 to fit the original orientation of the original agnus chip (now stored away as no longer needed). I could then push the chips into their final positions.

With that done, I put the Amiga 500 back together and fired it up, which I am happy to say worked first time!

Upon booting my A500 into Workbench 3.1 from the CF card on the ACA500, I could see I now have 2MB Chip memory! Success!

By having more chip memory, I can finally run a Workbench with more colours and higher resolution. With only 512k you are very restricted with this. I decided to move to Hires laced (as the indivision ecs has a inbuilt flicker fixer) with 16 colours. Previously as below it was Hires with 8 colours.

Loving the extra real estate on the Workbench screen now, and plenty of chip mem still available:

As mentioned I also received the X-Surf 500, which provides a full ethernet connection to the ACA500. As it is not using the parallel port, I would expect much better performance for internet use with this card:

Some more close up pictures:

To install this means removing my ACA500 custom case:

This of course gives me a long overdue opportunity to show the upgrades already in here!

In this shot you can see the ACA1233n 030 accelerator card with 128MB fast memory installed. Also the Subway USB which is connected to the clockport expansion on the ACA500:

Unfortunately the network expansion port on the ACA500 is underneath the ACA500...

With the bottom half of the ACA500 casing removed, we can now see the port needed for the X-Surf 500:

Close up of the network port:

This is however where I hit trouble. The X-surf 500 expects to screw into the ACA500 directly using the holes that are used to hold the casing for the ACA500....

This of course means I would have to remove the casing and riser nuts entirely in order to use this expansion - as you can see it is not going fit as-is:

This is very disappointing and not what I was hoping for. Without the casing this expansion would be coated in dust in quick order and that is not what I want at all.

Hmmm...more thought needed.

In addition to this, the ACA500 requires a firmware update to use the X-Surf 500 expansion card. I downloaded the update menu.aca and put it on the FAT formatted CF card as per the instructions.

On the boot menu on power on, the Amiga 500 shows the ACA500 menu. In the System Information section you can see the ACE2 2MB chip expansion and 030 accelerator installed. You can also see the current firmware is version 0.99.

I tried to initialise the firmware update, but several times I got this worrying red screen on reboot:

Eventually though, on the third try, the upgrade process initialised as expected:

As you can see the upgraded firmware is from November 2016 (0.111).  It then set to work upgrading the firmware:

It soon finished and I had to power cycle the Amiga 500 for the changes to take effect:

On reboot I am pleased to say the Amiga 500 and ACA500 worked! The upgrade worked successfully and the updated firmware v0.111 is now on the ACA500, as below:

Unfortunately, the fact that the X-surf 500 couldn't be installed unless I didn't use my case was not acceptable to me. So for now I will continue to use the GuruNet plipbox on the A500.

Hyperion Entertainment has released Workbench 3.1.4 recently, and I have ordered it for my Amiga with the disks and rom chips. I plan to install in this Amiga 500, as well as my Amiga 2000 and A600 at some point.

With an ACA500, I am not sure how you would get it to use 3.1.4 roms on boot (via the menu). If anyone knows please let me know!

In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying your Amiga systems, Classic or NG, and hopefully I should be able to do another blog entry soon.