Friday, 19 March 2010

RAMtastic

If you've been following my blog you might remember that one of the Falcons came with an Atari 14Mbyte RAM card (very nice) but the other had the normal 4Mbyte one so I bought a SIMM adapter from DJBase for €18 (including postage to the UK).

It wasn't straight forward though. In preparation I dug out all my 16Mbyte SIMMs but out of over 60 SIMMS only one worked.


The reason is that almost all of my SIMMS have chips which are 2Mx8 and for whatever reason this SIMM adapter needs chips which are 4Mx4. Another thing to note is that with the SIMM fitted, the metal sheilding that usually covers floppy drive will no longer fit!

Friday, 12 March 2010

A sign??

video
You probably cannot tell but this is a video taken outside my house just now and it shows two nesting Falcons in a tree next door!! I get two my two Atari Falcons and then I find my neighbour already had two!! :-)

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Key to success

The Falcon's came with three keyboards. A US, UK and German. All three were in a bit of a mess with years of hand-cheese on them. So now begins the restorations. As you can see I removed all of the keys. They just pop off with a little help from a plastic tool. (Don't use metal like a screwdriver as you'll mark the plastic)

Just look at the amount of dust and fluff trapped under the keys. Yeuch! A few minutes with a can of compressed air (available at all good electronics shops such as Maplin) and it was looking as good as new.


Unfortunately the keys were not as easy. They were covered with years of sweat and grease and as you can see at some time in the past one of the Falcon's had drawn blood and the owner had bled out over all the keys.

So they had to take a trip to the kitchen sink. 5 minutes later with a good scrubbing with an old tooth brush and they were clean and after they dried returned to the keyboard.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

You can never have too much power

The 240v AC PSU from Coze in Japan arrived today. Thanks a lot. It plugged straight into Falcon A replacing it's 110v one and it worked perfectly. No more messing around with step-down transformers.

I thought that I would try the SCSI cable that I got a few days ago. It started booting from SCSI and as you can see it identified the internal IDE hard drive (which I wasn't expecting) but failed to find the SCSI drive it was booting from! This failure actually gave me new hope. It found the IDE drive which means the IDE interface wasn't 100% toast. So what if there was a fault in the old stock 84Mbyte Conner 2.5" IDE drive. I disconnected it and powered back on and it booted from SCSI perfectly. I was a little worried as I tried a few demos (remember that I've been unable to try anything on this Falcon upto now because there was no way to get data into it) but I needn't have been because they ran fine.

Ok so I'd identified that the IDE drive or the IDE interface was faulty. But my CF cards and adapters had not arrived from Hong Kong yet. I was stuck for something to try it with. So I hunted around and found an Amiga which had an IDE->CF adapter and 1GB card. I plugged it in, tried it and nothing. Booting from the SCSI drive HDDriver failed to find it. Chatting to people on the net someone suggested that the CF adapter I was using may be incompatible with HDDriver 6.14 (the version on the SCSI HDD I got free). So I needed another IDE drive... so I dug out an old laptop and it was going to sacrifice windows to get my Falcon working. I plugged it in and boom. HDDriver found it. I ran the HDDriver app from the SCSI hard drive and partitioned and installed HDDriver on the 2.5" drive. Disconnected the SCSI drive and it booted. Amazing.

What is even better is the floppy drive is working now too. The faulty IDE drive must have been affecting the floppy. I tried the spare floppy and it too is fully working.

I now have two fully working Atari Falcon's!! YEAH!!

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Scuzzy


The Falcon SCSI II cable I ordered has arrived. That was quick. Only two days. I tried it with the external SCSI drive I got free and Falcon B (the towered one) and bang first time it detected HDDriver and booted. Not quite sure what FPATCH 2 is (but it was in the Auto folder on the drive).

I now needed to get some programs from my PC onto the drive for testing. So I downloaded lots and lots of demos from Pouet and then I plugged the hard drive into my PC's SCSI card. Now I've done this before with my MegaSTe so I wasn't surprised when no drives popped up in Windows. It is because Windows cannot read GEMDOS partitions. But there is a great little utility from a handy Atari Programmer, Pera Putnik, called Drive Imager it is a little clunky on the GUI side and it cannot transfer directories, only files but it works and I transferred all the files and you can see the Falcon running the demo BEAMS from hard drive

I'm an Atari Falcon Fan

The biggest annoyance of my new Falcon's (even more annoying than the floppy drive and IDE in Falcon A not working) is the damn FANs. They sound like a damn Jumbo Jet engine. Looking closer I can tell they are 40mm * 40mm * 10mm fans. Hopefully 12v. A little googling on the web revealed that a famous Atari and Amiga scener who I know called DJBase has already replaced these fans before as he posts (in German) on his website http://www.atariworld.org/

I want to replace both Falcon case fans ( 18 year old sepa ones) with two new PAPST Type 412 FM bought off ebay. This will involve removing the old one and soldering a 2-pin FAN header as currently the fan power is soldered to the motherboard. They are ordered and I'm now waiting their arrival although coming from Singapore they could take weeks :(

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

There are nice people in the world!

I've been chatting over at Atari-Forum about my two new Falcons and I just happened to post that I was looking for a 240v AC Falcon PSU then I didn't need to use a step-down transformer and a really nice guy called Coze who is in Japan (110v) offered me his for nothing. Not even postage. He confirmed today he's sent it so now I'll play the waiting game. I'll have to send him something nice as a thank you.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

No it cannot :(

After the elation that I might actually have two working Falcon's without any extra expense I am bummed that just as the vendor described the IDE interface and the floppy drive do not work. I swapped the floppy drive for the spare that was included free but that does not want to work either.

I am going to order a spare floppy drive off ebay and while I am at it I am ordering some IDE->Compact Flash adapters and a SCSI II cable so I can use the external SCSI drive which came free. Both absolute bargains at about £2 each. Also bought an Atari SCART cable which will work with the RGB dongle and my MegaSTe. Wasn't cheap at £13 but I know the ebay merchant and his stuff is always good quality.

It can't be that simple?

The success of bringing up Falcon B yesterday still hasn't settled in, but I am turning my attentions to Falcon A. I knew that it had been electrocuted from what the vendor told me and in anticipation I was prepared to have to replace the power supply and I was just praying that when I opened her up for heart surgery I didn't find lots of burnt bits inside :(

I remove the screws from the bottom of the case and the shielding inside. Putting all the screws in labelled bags so I know where they come from. (Previous fixes I've always just left all the screws in a heap in the middle of the table and lost half of them!)
Inside everything was immaculate. Much more so than Falcon A who's case was full of dust and dead spiders. It even smelled like it had just been manufactured.

On closer inspection of the PSU I noticed that the fuse was blown. It couldn't be that simple could it? A blown fuse?

A friend I met in the pub the previous night had loaned me a spare 110v Falcon PSU in preparation and I just whipped out the fuse, transferred it to the existing PSU and using a 240v AC to 110v AC step-down transformer and a USA kettle lead I powered her on.


Wow, she came up first time. And much to my surprise showed that she had a 14Mbyte RAM card in. Very nice.

Beauty and the Beast


I whipped off the front Bezel and discovered the case opens like a suitcase. Drives in the top half and motherboard in the bottom half.

Once I'd familiarised myself with everything I followed the external keyboard wire across from DIN input on the side of the tower.


Over to where in connected to the motherboard of the Falcon. I got out the Multimeter and buzzed through the cable to check for continuity. There are only 3 wires so it didn't take long. Everything seemed fine. I buzzed the cable and that seemed fine too. So I unscrewed the external keyboard and checked inside. Everything seemed in very good condition so I decided to bypass everything and plug the keyboard directly into the Falcon motherboard just like it would have been in a stock case. I powered it up and bingo it worked fine. I put in a disk and it booted and I ran a quick demo. Ironically enough it is called AmigaDemo2 by Oxygene and you can see it running here. Sound was coming out. CPU was working. Keyboard and mouse working.


Inside the external keyboard was a small PCB with a DIN plug and a PIN header replicating the PINS on the falcon motherboard. I got the multimeter on the PCB and it soon became obvious that the numerous plugging and unplugging had worked the solder loose. I got out the soldering iron and just touched each solder joint gently. Tried the multimeter again and everything was good. Reassembled the case and the keyboard and tried it again. Success.

She's alive! Alive!

I connected a 240v AC kettle lead and plugged in the VGA adapter dongle that came in the box. Hooked up the monitor, keyboard and mouse and pressed the button expecting an all mighty bang or silence. Instead there was the whir of a tired old fan and an image popped onto the screen. The ATARI logo! What ever happened from now on I was almost certainly guaranteed a working Falcon at the end!! Whoopie. Erm. I mean great. :)

The memory check came up and tested 4Mbytes which is OK I guess. Falcons come in 1Mbyte, 4Mbyte or 14Mbyte. But I was more than pleased to get anything. After a few seconds timeout the GEM desktop appeared with the Falcon coloured background. No hard drive icon so I guess no working drive.

Just as the vendor said the keyboard and mouse wouldn't work and no amount of wiggling or pressure would get it to work.

Out with the screwdriver.

Freebies


The parcel contained a few nice surprises.

A spare Atari Falcon 2.5" IDE mounting bracket kit (unopened), A spare official Atari Falcon floppy disk drive with colour coded bezel. An external SCSI hard drive (unfortunately no cables or terminator). An official Atari Falcon VGA dongle, RGB dongle and most importantly the cable which runs from the LightHouse Tower to the external keyboard (which the vendor thought he had lost).

There are birds here!


Atari Falcon A

This is a USA Falcon in its original case. The vendor said that this Falcon had been accidentally plugged into UK 240V AC mains instead of using a 110v AC stepdown transformer. Before it was "blown up" the vendor said he was having trouble with the internal IDE hard drive and the floppy
drive, i.e. neither worked.


Atari Falcon B

This is a UK Falcon rehouse in a Lighthouse Tower Case. It was described by the vendor as fully working except for the external keyboard which used to work if you put a book on the cable. To me this sounded like an easy fix. Just a loose connection and I could have a working Falcon!! It's not the prettiest cases by far (Actually it is damn ugly) but if it works I can always transfer the motherboard to the stock case.

Right I need a kettle lead and a screwdriver, but first a beer!

Grand opening


Everyone at work thinks I've got a new Flat Panel TV because the vendor shipped the two Atari Falcon's in an old TV box.

The last few hours have been somewhat hampered by the anticipation of getting home to open the box. Unfortunately our USB3 ASIC is very near completion and so I had to stay until 17:30


I've opened the box and the vendor certainly likes DVD's cos it's packed (very well) with old Play.com padded envelopes.

Friday, 26 February 2010

They arrive

My two "spares or repairs" Atari Falcon computers have just arrived at work. I bought the two from a nice guy over on Atari Forum for well below what even a single Atari Falcon would sell for on eBay. I put the low price down to the fact that neither are working correctly and that the vendor was a really nice guy who just wanted them to live on. After contacting him I made the decision to do all of the work in arranging shipping so I used the courier middle man Parcel2Go.com I've used them before and they are pretty good and very cheap.