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Thwarted (for a time)

I went and bought an Xport 2.0 with which I can have fun doing software and hardware hacking on my GameBoy Advance. I've a couple ideas in mind for using it as a micro-controller for a project or two for Burning Man this year.

That was two weeks ago.

First, I waited a week for it to ship to me, before getting mail that told me it had been returned to them with a bad address. Oops. I sent them the right address and they reshipped it.

This Thursday it finally arrived.

I took it home with glee, and set about setting up my laptop to play with it.

Okay, so it requires Windows to use. And a parallel port. I have a Mac Powerbook. No parallel to be seen.

Hmm. I can go with that. So I buy Windows XP and a USB port replicator, fire up Virtual PC, install XP, and the drivers for the USB parallel port device, install the Xport developer's kit, launch it, and go to upload my first program.

Err, no. Apparently the Xport software wants a real parallel port, not a USB one. Even with XP's hardware abstraction it's just not going to work with it. And VirtualPC 6 won't actually translate it's virtual parallel port to a USB one. In fact, as best as I can tell, OS X doesn't even have the concept of a parallel port. And VirtualPC 6 thinks the only possible use for one is for a printer.

Drat. Well, no problem, I have an older Windows laptop I can use, and it has an honest to goodness real parallel port.

Of course that laptop was mainly used to run Linux, and it had a severely corrupted Win98 OS on it that I'd never bothered to fix. But hey, I have a new copy of XP. I'll just install that on the old laptop.

Huh. Well okay, so it won't boot from the PCMCIA based CDROM drive I have sitting around. I know I have the old internal CDROM somewhere here. *digdigdig* Aha. Err... Hmm. It only seems to read that drive for a few minutes before it stops working. Seems like a thermal issue. Just cannot get XP to install before it loses it. I spent hours on this, trying various workarounds, but to no avail. Grr.

Ah well. I'll just use one of the gaming PCs. I'll be stuck to one location, but I should be able to manage.

Huh. Apparently Shuttle PCs no longer bother with Parallel ports, since USB is so much better.

Lets see, what else can I try? I know! I'll connect it to one of the servers in our garage and...

D'OH! Those run Linux! I need Windows!

I think I still have a PC sitting about from the last time I upgraded my gaming box...

Oh wait, that's right, I gave that away last fall!

Okay, what about that ancient old Unisys box with the 100Mhz pentium? I can replace it's 1Gig HD with the spare 40 Gig and install XP. It'll be slow, but I can still use it...

Uhh.. where is that? Did we finally throw it out? AUUUUUGH!

I have like ten machines to choose from, and not a single one of them will work for this! Two run Mac OS X. Four run Linux. Two have no parallel port, and no space to put one. One has a broken CDROM. One machine I can't even find.


I == LUZ0R.

I've put in an order for a replacement CDROM drive for my ancient laptop. At least it's old enough to be cheap now.

Hah! I found the Unisys box! It even has a parallel port! But it has no CDROM drive! (and no place to put one, or power connectors available if it did!) Augh!

Found the remains of another old PC. It has a parallel port. It has a SCSI drive and a 20Gig IDE drive. It's got a not too shabby AMD Athlon 733. It has a reallllly old video card too, but that should be fine. Unfortunately it's also apparent the cats found it and marked it some months/years ago. Across the SCSI and video card, leaving lots of rust in various places. Well, I tried cleaning it up with rubbing alcohol, to see if the contacts were good enough, put a CDROM drive in it and tried to start it up.

Well at least it didn't go all rice crispies on me (snap crackle pop), and it didn't let out the magic blue smoke. But it didn't boot either, making hi-lo BIOS tones, with no video. Drat.

My roomie chipotle is offering up a sacrificial P433. I'll give that one a try next.

Success! I skipped reassembling the sacrificial P433 as I found a fully functioning Athlon 1.2GHz machine that even already has XP on it. It's only taken me 11 machines, but I can now play!


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 1st, 2004 12:29 am (UTC)
Is there such a thing as being too sophisticated, and having too much hardware around?????

Loved your tale of woe!

I got tired of "living in the past" while working on the book. So I took the day off and went over to Lancaster shopping. Got me a dress, jacket, blouse set, and a few other things including more ink cartrages for the printer. I'm having fun! It made me feel better.
May. 1st, 2004 03:11 am (UTC)
I refuse to show pity for your large surpluss of hardware! >;)
May. 1st, 2004 05:25 am (UTC)
Some time around the second or third failure, I'd have said "to heck with this" and bought a $100 used machine and thrown an old copy of '98 on it };>.

Glad it finally works =^.^=.

Still need to reinstall my own uC burner's software. Was with much glee that I finally got my Cylon-light test program working a little while back =^.^=.
May. 1st, 2004 12:07 pm (UTC)
The GBA SP plus the Xport makes a great microcontroller, though it may be a bit on the relatively large size.

The GBA SP gives me:
Low power draw 16.7 MHz ARM7 processor.
240x160 TFT color LCD display with backlight
10 button inputs built into the gameboy, 4 of them in a directional thumbpad.
Stereo sound.
Serial port.
Long life Li-Ion rechargable battery.

The Xport cartridge gives me:
Ability to program the GBA SP.
16MB SDRAM extra.
4MB non-volatile flash memory.
62 General Purpose IO pins.
50 MHz clock signal.
150,000 logic unit FPGA. (50,000 unit modules available also)

The FPGA lets you do all sorts of fun things, as it's basically programmable hardware, so if you need an output pin to not be GPIO, but instead to be a PWM analog output, you just compile a different verilog program, and feed it the new configuration.

For all you get with this, it's relatively cheap.
May. 1st, 2004 04:17 pm (UTC)
The package runs on Windows... but check out the downloads section of their website: it requires Cygwin to do so!
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )