Monday, October 4, 2021

Vampire 1200 v2 on my Amiga 1200

I finally got around to installing my new Vampire 1200 v2 accelerator into my Amiga 1200 and it works great! A Vampire that actually works for me, finally!

As regular readers will know, I have had plenty of issues with multiple failed Vampire 500 and 600 installations over the years resulting in a few broken Amiga systems, lost money and a lot of unhappiness. 

For those who want to read more details about those previous projects, the links are below:

So it was with lot of trepidation that I decided to give it another go, and bought the Vampire 1200 v2 accelerator from which was in stock at the time, and cost EUR560.23.

Some close up photos of the Vampire 1200 V2 board:

As with other Vampire cards for Classic Amiga systems, this includes the 68080 CPU which runs at the equivalent of a 68060 at 250Mhz(!), 128MB fast memory, a MicroSD slot for additional file storage, hardware accelerated video playback and HDMI port for included SAGA RTG graphics chip support for Amiga Workbench 720p/1080p video output. It also soft kicks the kickstart rom, so the Vampire doesn't use the onboard kickstart rom chips.

What makes this particular Vampire a winner for me, is that unlike the Vampire 500 and Vampire 600, you don't have to do a CPU chip replacement (500/2000, etc) or pushing down the accelerator over the top of the existing CPU chip on the A600 and hoping it doesn't pop off (it does). 

This Vampire 1200 accelerator connects directly to the standard expansion port bay on the A1200, and you can feed the HDMI cable and port out through the normal expansion port on the back right on the 1200. Awesome!

I read online recently that the Apollo team has apparently stopped developing new FPGA based functionality for the V2 accelerators like this one, and is now focused on it's new v4 Vampire boards with more FPGA capacity, which at the time of writing can only available to buy as a standalone machine without a host Classic Amiga system. 

Some long promised upcoming Beta functionality for Vampire 500/600 v2 like AGA support, and sending native video output via the HDMI instead of needing two screens, appears doomed to never be released to the public. 

While this is disappointing, we should enjoy these cards for the significant functionality they provide today, and not buy them in the expectation of future new features that may never be released, as with the items just mentioned. Vampires do a lot already out of the box.

So, this is it I guess - the Vampire 1200 v2 is likely the last hurrah for V2 Vampire cards for the Classic Amiga.

As you can see, it comes with an onboard IDE connector, which they advise upfront doesn't play nice with the onboard IDE port on the A1200.

I had bought a Vampire 1200 IDE to CF Card converter from Arananet also to use with the port, as I knew it was a tight fit in the A1200 to add a IDE drive due to the proximity of the floppy drive.

So naturally, I next needed to make changes to my Amiga 1200, which has had a lot of upgrade work done on it in recent years since I bought it second hand from Ebay. 

I have done a lot of things which doesn't make sense to go into detail about again here, as I already covered them in a lot of detail. You can read more about the A1200 build I have covered on this blog in the links below:

Opening up the Amiga 1200 case, you can see the upgrades already there. ACA1233 55Mhz 68030 accelerator with 128MB memory, AmigaOS 3.2 roms, PCMCIA timing fix hardware module, IDE to CF card converter, Indivision AGA Mk 2 scan doubler with DVI output, and my trusty Subway USB clock port. 

The Subway USB I have removed from my Vampire 600 damaged Amiga 600 recently, and used it to replace the (once again) failed Rapid Road USB clockport module - this is the 3rd one to fail on me with no warning. I am not sure I want to buy another Rapid Road to replace it. From my experience the rapid Road USB devices seem to be much more reliable when mated to the X-Surf 100 Zorro card.

Anyway, let's move on. First, I removed the ACA-1233 accelerator card:

Next, I installed the Vampire 1200 v2 accelerator in it's place, and as you can see, the Vampire 1200 board is very compact, leaving plenty of room for the cabling. with this extra space, you can also easily eject and insert the MicroSD card by opening the trapdoor slot at the bottom, rather than opening the Amiga 1200, which is very handy.

You could also use a MicroSD card to female MicroSD cable converter to mount it in your expansion slot at the back for even easier eject/insert operation, but I have not done that. I don't think I will do it often enough for the work needed.

Turning my attention next to the expansion slot, I already have a DVI output connector that runs from the Indivision AGA Mk2 to output scan doubled native video output to my TFT screen.

Fortunately there is a space for me to run the HDMI cabling through a gap between the DVI port and the edge of the expansion bay.

I unscrewed the floppy drive to get at this space, so I can work on the HDMI cable routing next.

Next I got my previously purchase right angle HDMI male to HDMI female extension lead, as it will be very useful here:

Initially I had planned to just run the cable straight out of the case, below:

With this setup I could then connect any standard HDMI cable to it outside the case without having to route a cable directly to the Vampire. 

Maybe someone will make a 3D printed mounting bracket for the expansion port for mounting DVI and HDMI port more neatly - maybe they have already?

Anyway, I tweaked it a bit to run the extra cable length within the A1200 expansion bay area to keep the HDMI female connector a short as possible outside the case for easy transport. 

This also means if someone pulls on the cable, it is unlikely to pull on the Vampire accelerator board inside. 

Since the floppy drive sits directly on top of this, it is unlikely to move once in place, so I didn't bother to hot glue or otherwise secure it. The weight and position of the floppy drive nicely takes care of keeping the cable in place.

With the floppy drive in place below, I then also attached the IDE to CF card converter to the IDE port on the Vampire 1200:

It is a seriously snug fit.

I mean, really snug. Routing the USB cables and ground for the USB card underneath was challenging.

I put in a 64GB MicroSD card in the slot, used my PC to download and write the latest CoffinOS v58 build image onto the 32GB CF card attached to the IDE port, removed the old CF card from the main IDE port and we are now ready to try it out. 

Note that for legal reasons I can't include any links to CoffinOS, but a quick Google will turn it up. You should own the rights to use the software included on it, which I do.

Green screen on power on - Not a good start.

Fortunately it was not a difficult issue. I determined the issue definitely relates to the Vampire IDE port. They did warn me after all...

Once I removed the IDE to CF converter from the IDE port on the Vampire, it booted to the Insert disk screen:

Thinking it might be the new IDE to CF card converter, I tried an older one that I know works:

It looks terrible when hooked up to the Vampire IDE port but at the moment I was just trying to get it working..

No joy with that either. Disk doesn't show up.

So I put the CoffinOS 32GB CF card into the Amiga 1200 motherboard IDE port, using the previous CF to IDE converter and it all worked straight away. Lesson learned, forget about the Vampire 1200 IDE port.

On first boot, CoffinOS asked to upgrade the firmware on the Vampire to the latest version, needed for it to work with this build of CoffinOS. I don't understand why these accelerators don't come shipped with a disk with the latest version from the reseller so we can upgrade it. 

So I got the flashing process underway:

All done, ready for Power off and power on:

With that done, CoffinOS boots into a rather nice initial setup process, based on the AmigaOS 3.9 build that it is using as a base:

At some point it would be nice to upgrade it to the latest AmigaOS 3.2 release - I gather it can be done but is fiddly. I will leave it for now.

The setup is fairly straight forward, except this bit I hadn't seen before - I said Yes:

The install first run setup wizard completes successfully:

We now boot into the CoffinOS setup, using the RTG HDMI output to the screen. I also have the DVI native Amiga output going to the same screen so I can switch using the screen as needed, to avoid having to have two screens.

Have to say the setup is very nice:

MP3 playback is perfect via AmigaAmp, using a WinAmp style skin: 

Riva video playback is very impressive with the included videos on the CF card.

Love the video preview icons too:

More games and demos than you could probably ever hope to run are available on the CF card in the iGame setup in the dock, all ready to run.

With the Vampire extra speed, iGame loads very quickly even though it has a huge number of entries in it.

Love it when someone does all the hard work of setting this stuff up so I don't have to - just enjoy!

That said, some great AGA demos I think are in order right now which are also set with a separate iDemo launcher - I'll start with Essence with Crazy Sexy Cool :-)

It runs using the native Amiga output, so of course you need to switch the input of the screen from HDMI to DVI to see it.

I ran a few more demos too, because why not? Plenty to choose from using iGame or directly as below :-)

You can see I can run 060 AGA demos like Elude's "We Come In Peace" fine too with the Vampire 1200, which is great.

You can never run too many demos - so many awesome Amiga demos:

Anyway, enough demos for now. They work well.

Someone has gone to a lot of trouble to make the icons under CoffinOS look fantastic. I am impressed.

Lets take a closer look:

The CoffinOS setup is split between the Programs drive, which contains most of the data, and the System drive which a minimal sized drive to hold the operating system (AmigaOS 3.9 in this case).

The prefs icons look terrific too:

There is plenty of software on the CF card to play with out of the box:

Perhaps sir would like to muck around with MacOS under CoffinOS? No problem, one MacOS 8.1 virtual hard disk setup and ready to play with on my Vampired Amiga 1200.

DOSBox is also there in the latest version, but you will need to set it up yourself.

The Commodore 64 emulation is all setup and ready to use on the CoffinOS setup:

Plenty of pictures are included in CoffinOS to use for your backdrops:

The Music drawer has all the usual Amiga programs to immediately just run and use:

Quickly fired up Eagleplayer to enjoy the significant collection of mods included on the CF card - I also copied my own large collection to MicroSD card to transfer to the system later on.

Multitasking on my Vampired Amiga 1200 with Photogenics 5 and Eagleplayer mod playing..nice

I ran Final Writer next:

Moving back to the CoffinOS setup on the Workbench, they have provided customised menus to easily access various parts of the system:

Easy route to get to Prefs elements for example:

A simple reboot option is included. Still prefer CTRL-Amiga-Amiga but it is nice to see the option is there:

Something we all do, editing the startup-sequence and user-startup. Now easily available from the Menu in Workbench:

If you have a wireless network card on your Amiga 1200 and the full version of Roadshow installed and configured (not by default), you can also connect to the wireless network or adjust wireless parameters through the Workbench title bar menu - very convenient.

Under the Vampire title bar menu, you can mount/dismount the onboard MicroSD card.

Here is my mounted 32GB MicroSD card:

Virtual disks and CD iso images can also be mounted, with DiskImageGUI also setup on CoffinOS, ready to use:

Here is the obligatory SysInfo screen to prove the speed point - the Vampire 1200 runs rings around any 680x0 accelerator on Classic Amiga.

Beyond the usual WHDLoad Classic Amiga games and programs, beyond Riva and MP3 video playback, you can also run a number of games that run beautifully using the extra power of the Vampire 1200 - after all, that is why we got one right?

I was impressed you can now play Starcraft on a Classic Amiga with a Vampire installed!

OpenTyrian is also installed and runs perfectly. Loved this game on PC back in the day - now I can enjoy it on my Amiga too:

Something a little more taxing, lets run Quake II - not high resolution, but runs fine:

Rise of the Triad works perfectly:

I didn't realise there was a Classic Amiga version of Diablo, but here it is, on CoffinOS, running perfectly on the Vampired Amiga 1200:

The most remarkable thing about all this is the fact I could finally do all this - no issues, no significant problems I couldn't quickly sort out. 

Just a working Vampire Amiga 1200 setup in 2021, running very stable.

Finally, I can enjoy a Vampire accelerated Amiga. Thanks to Apollo Team for finally bringing out an accelerator in 2021 that I can really recommend.