Dell Latitude: Consumer Weakness

I’ve been eyeing the Dell Latitude 10 tablets for quiet some time. For those that don’t know; they are full PCs running a Dual Core (4 thread) Atom processor. Battery life is ~8hrs. While I really wanted to upgrade my Apple iPhone 4 to a Atom based cell phone like the Lenovo K900; I just don’t have 600 bucks lying around to experminet with (on the ATT network)… so I convinced myself the Dell tablet would be a good distraction for a while.

I bought a refurb unit from the Dell outlet for $360 shipped using a 30% off coupon. I went with the non-Esscential version because I wanted the pen digitizer AND the 64GB of solid state memory. The tablet arrived yesterday and so far; I like it. I’ve installed CorelDraw X6 for emergency use while at

Because this may be used as a CAD station if there are not spare systems available at… I think I want the pen interface; sadly the refurb unit did not come with a stylus. Research on the Interwebs led me to the following product:
Wacom Stylus for Windows Tablets

Why not buy direct from Dell? Well; honestly – they are running $40-$60 from their site… I want a cheaper alternative.

I also want a tablet cover… again Dell’s accessories seem to be on the expensive side so I’m going to try:
Poetic Slimbook Case for Dell Latitude 10 ST2 Window 8 Pro Tablet Black

Finally, I think I’m proably going to want a bluetooth keyboard for the tablet; as I hate long term typing on the screen. So:
Logitech Tablet BlueTooth Keyboard and Stand

Update 6/30/14: I’m pleased to report that all three work with the Dell Tablet. Keyboard paired with the tablet without issue and the pen worked out of the box. The case works fine as well; no complaints.

I also went ahead and ordered the K900 a few months ago. It’s now my daily phone; replacing the Apple iPhone4. Nice, thin, and speedy. App compatibility seems spot on. Haven’t installed an app yet from google play which did not work on the Intel(r) Atom(tm)-based phone.


Star Trek: The Mirror Universe Pinball – Head work (Part 3)

As Seen in part 1 and 2; I’ve been working on the cabinet for the Star Trek Mirror Universe.

This past weekend; I intended to wrap up the Impulse Engine modification to the Mirror Universe pinball head. Unfortunatly it spilled over to Monday; mainly because I couldn’t get my Laser cutter into a completely operational state. 🙁

Anywho; The intent was to make the vent holes to look like the Enterprise’s Impulse Engine. To do this I created a stencil using the same scale and rendering as before. Since My laser cutter only has a 12×24 table; I had to only do 1/2 the stencil opting to flip it for the opposite side. Here’s the stencil I created:

I laser cut this out of dry erase poster board and sprayed it lightly with some stencil spray adhesive. Here it is positioned for the left Impulse Engine vent:

Since I didn’t have any grey spray paint on hand… and it was near or after midnight; I opted to spray with primer grey:

I then flipped the stencil (after the primer had dried for a couple of hours) and sprayed the other side with light stencil adhesive and then grey primer:

Now I needed to do some shading of the upper piece; So I used the drop pieces cut from the stencil as a stencil. Adhesive and some transparent black airbrush paint:

Next I needed to stencil the center panel lines. I had already laser etched the panel lines into the wood; but I decided attempting to hand paint the etch lines would be problematic. Cue Stencil number 2:

Adhesive, positioned:

Sprayed with Black Opaque Airbrush paint:

With the Stenciling complete; my attention returned to the Vents themselves. When I CNCed the wood; I also Laser cut a grill based upon the original render of the engines. The CorelDraw file looked like so:

As you can see; there are two grills (finger guards if you like) and two 60mm Fan brackets. The grills were a particular bitch to cut… The heat would cause the grills to warp. I went ahead and cut them; only to find that one of the long lines broke on one of the grills. The result of these grills it pictured here:

Upon reflection; I determined that the cause of the warpage was proably the amount of heat “transferred” during the long cut lines. The “spaces” between the grill lines were about 0.1″… while the solid part of the grill was ~0.8″. This ratio was critical to the look I wanted (and to match reference photo). I also knew that the long runs were just too flimsy; so I had to modify the grill design to keep more “solid” acrylic in place. This would strengthen the grill and should help reduce the heat-induced warping. Design Rev#3:

I also changed the order of cut on the file. I opted to do the periphery outline AFTER the center grill portions were cut. Again in an effort to minimize heat transfer and aid in preventing cutting mishaps if I had to restart the cut.

Here’s the Laser At cutting the Rev3 grills:

With the new grills complete; it’s time to begin the assembly of the fan brackets:


And the Test fit along with overall shot:

And a Closeup of the grills:

With that the back of the Star Trek: Mirror Universe head is complete. The grills were wrapped up and stored safely until the final stenciling is done on the sides and the whole piece is clear coated.

Star Trek: The Mirror Universe Pinball – Cabinet work (Part 2)

As seen in Part 1, I’m working on the cabinet for my Star Trek: Mirror Universe project. I decided I wanted to do a little something extra for the background of the cabinet – approx where the Klingon ship would have been. I debated internally in my head if I wanted to go this far… in the end deciding “it’s my machine; make it yours!”.

I did some looking around on google images for Hubble space telescope pictures when I came across this picture of the M82 Galaxy:

This image had the necessary items I was looking for… a purple nebula, along with a nearly black background. It also had some stars along with some nice green/white highlights.

Remember to Click the image to get higher rez shots you can zoom in on

Now that I had the picture… it was time to figure out how to get in on the cabinet. I had some White backed Water slide decal paper for my color laserjet; so I figured I’d give it a shot. Some water slide work… some Airbrush work… and we are left with two similar yet uniquely different renditions of the M82 galaxy on either side of the cabinet:

I coated the airbrush/decal work with some Matte clear spray paint while we waited on the head to cure.

I knew I wanted to do something different with the background black… that was adding holographic gold and silver flake to the topcoat before I stencil. So I did some google searching and ended up purchasing some gold and silver flake from The idea was I wanted to have a star field over the black. Nothing really special about this webstore; other than they seem to be the most competitive w/ regards to color selection as well as price/ounce.

I mixed about 1/8 a tsp of silver and 1/8 tsp of gold into the poly-acrylic clearcoat which I was going to spray over the black stain to seal it. With my Harbor Freight spray gun I sprayed the cabinet and head.

In retrospect; the metal flake at 0.004 inch was just too small… looks more like star dust; not a starry night. Ideally; I’d have gotten several sizes and mixed them for a more random look. Here’s a close up showing the gold/silver flakes:

Here’s an attempt to capture the holographic nature of the flakes in the sunlight:

If I had it to do over… I’d probably have used less “dust”… and gotten some larger flakes to try and break up the eye candy… I may still try to apply some bigger flake; but honestly… I don’t want to spend more time / money on the internet. Maybe I’ll feel differently tomorrow.

In general; I’m pleased with the result… just need to put the finishing touches on the stencil designs so I can start that process.

Star Trek: The Mirror Universe Pinball – Cabinet work

As I stated; been working on the cabinet for the Mirror universe project. I bought a couple of “project” Bally Star Treks from a fellow pinball collector out of Shertz a few years ago. These have been setting in storage for a while… and were very rough.

I took the cabinet with the most flaking and damage as the donor cabinet for this project. Here it is in all it glory:

I began by stripping all the hardware (coindoor) and side rails off of the machine so I could access the state of the “bones” (ie wood) of the cabinet. I noticed that the front corners were beginning to separate…. also some of the plywood cores were starting to come apart.

First I used some white gorilla glue to repair the plywood core:

Then I used ratchet straps to re-glue both sides:

I CNCed a diamond shaped piece out of MDF and glue it in the old shooter hole:

With that I began stripping the old flaking paint off with CitraStrip along the way I tried to save as much of the wood as I could. When possible; I reglued the laminate back to the plywood… or used some wood filler to fill in the rough areas.

I also repaired the bottom – not pictured. 3 of the four sides had lost the plywood under the grove… which means the bottom would probably fall out at some point. I fixed this by saving as much of the plywood core on the 1 “acceptable” side… then using quarter round pieces from Lowes. The quarter round piece was secured with the same gorilla glue and some 18 gauge pin nails.

I bought some mill wax ebony oil stain as I wanted to stain the cabinet black instead of paint. I wanted something “different” looking. Here’s one side stained with several coats. Looked like absolute trash…

That just would not do AT ALL.

The next day I went to our local WoodCraft store … they seemed to have a better selection of stain.

Since I was in new territory on this project; I decided to get a couple of product. The first was a Ebony Wood Dye product and the second was a Black Water-based Stain. The guy at the store claimed the dye would dye the fibers of the wood in a “molecular” like fashion … while the Stain is pigment based (and would act more like paint). I added the later. I figured I’d buy both and try it on the cabinet.

After I got home; I stripped the back of the cabinet and put down some test swatches:

Upper right hand: Ebony Dye
Upper LEft: Satin Black Stain
Lower Right: Stain over Dye
Lower left: 50/50% mix of both

I didn’t like the ebony stain as is… as it still had a purple/blue hue to it. The stain looked ok; but had a paint like view. The Dye under Stain had what my mind thought was the best of the two. The Dye in effect raised the wood grain a little; and the stain still let the overall look like a satin look. The 50/50 worked; but wasn’t as vibrant as the Stain over dye.

With this decision; I proceed to dye then stain the cabinet. The outsides of the cabinet were stripped of all paint; then dyed then stained. The inside of the cabinet I decided to lightly sand the interior then spray it with a Satin Black spraypaint from Rustolem. I also sprayed the bottom side with the same Satin black so it’d look more finished.

The results:

Yes… I probably could have save myself some more time by just painting the cabinet with some latex black… Or any black paint; but I kinda wanted to have the wood grains show thru the background. I may regret this decision later… but I’m currently very happy with the way it turned out.

Tonight I worked on the stencil design for the cabinet. Obviously; it’s going to be a black background; however, I wanted to pay a nod to the original cabinet design. I traced the existing design and pulled it into Corel Draw. Given Black background; I still wanted to keep some of the same colors in the stencil. So the stars became Yellow. The planet Yellow/Red… and The Phasers became blue. I going to make the Enterprise BattleShip grey.

I removed the Klingons … instead having the Enterprise fire on the planet. 😀

I also worked on the front art; “inverting” the shooter location and making the color scheme similar to the sideart.

Not sure about the text at the bottom. Again limited by a stencil; but need to look at this further.

The Head: I’m thinking about keeping the Head design the same… but change the blue background to black.

After visiting with at Quakecon 2013, Lockman, MrRed, and I picked up a donor head from DonW in Garland. Don graciously donated this head to the Mirror Universe project.

It started life as a Supersonic head… and was a rough from a paint flaking/ding perspective. All of this mattered nothing to me… as it was going to be dye/stained black just like the cabinet. Here are some before shots of the head:

The back vent hole were coming apart; good because I wanted to improve the ventilation anyway…

I went about destructing the head… to create new vent holes. Since eventually I plan to put more than just the original boards in the head… I decided I wanted some active cooling (IE DC FANs)… What better way to integrate vents… but using something from the Enterprise.

Using the great work by; I recreated the Enterprise’s impulse engines in CAD using the following as a guideline:

The resultant CAD file yielded the following rendering of the DXF file. In order to practice for the upcoming Playfeild CNC work; I wanted to practice with by CNCing out these vent holes in the Russian Plywood. Ken and I went to this past Saturday and CNCed the back vents:

Once I got home; Saturday night I began re-assembling the head:

Then I lightly sanded and vacuumed the inside of the head to prep it for interior paint:

This time I decided to paint the inside prior to staining the outside; so:

After the interior dried; I needed to replace the Veneer which I removed during the deconstruction phase.

I thought about going to woodcraft to get it; but really; I didn’t want to drive 30minutes in traffic… so I opted to get the iron-on type from Lowes. It comes in a roll; and you melt the glue with an iron.

The smaller roll of veneer was on clearance; so I opted for it… but turned out to be a hair short. I filled the seams with Plastic Wood filler so the seams wouldn’t be visible on the back without a close inspection.

Not sure what I’m going to do about the small section… worst case I’ll apply a patch after-the-fact.

After some lite sanding with the orbital sander the back and the head was ready for the Black Dye:

followed by the Black Stain:

Even the bottom didn’t escape the black of space…

The plan is to let the Stain/Dye cure overnight. Then I’ll begin to spray the Polycrlic Satin clear coat over the stain to seal the wood and prep is for future Stenciling.

My head did not come with any of the metal trays for the displays… if anyone is parting out a early 80s Bally Solid State machine… I’d very much appreciate the opportunity to obtain these trays for my Nixie tube displays. Please post a comment or email me. Thanks!

Star Trek: The Mirror Universe Pinball – Insert artwork

Mid week last week; I activated my membership and schedule myself for the Laser cutter SBU on Saturday. No; I didn’t feel like I needed the SBU; but given my issues with my personal laser cutter – I still needed to make some progress.

After class; I scheduled a 2hr block on Laser cutter#2. I wanted to use the Laser cutter to create the Inserts I’ll need for the new playfield. I went to Regal plastics earlier in the week and got some material:

  • Translucent White @ 0.25″
  • Translucent Yelllow @ 0.25″
  • Transparent Green @ 0.25″
  • Transparent Yellow @ 0.25″
  • Transparent Orange @ 0.25″
  • I already had Transparent Red @ 0.25″ so didn’t need it.

No; I didn’t need all these colors to exactly match the existing Inserts; but I wanted to experiment to find the right mix for what I wanted on my pinball table.

I drew up some inserts in CorelDraw X4 … and decided that I wanted to take three different tests:

  1. Try Transparent Inserts without anything. Just “clear”.
  2. Transparent Inserts Frosted.
  3. Transparent Inserts Clear with a “spiral galaxy”.
  4. Transparent Inserts Frosted with a “spiral galaxy”.

I figured; since I was creating my own table… might as well add some enhancements for some added details. Hence the spiral galaxy might look good.
I also figured that I don’t really like “clear” inserts; some frosting would hide the bulb filament and/or the electronics/LEDs under the inserts.

Here’s a Corel rendering of my work:

Inserts CAD
Star Trek: Mirror Universe - Inserts CAD

For the frosted; I hit the acrylic with a 220 grit orbital sander… the followed up with the sandblaster. The spiral galaxy would be etched into the acrylic with the laser cutter.

The Translucent White and Yellow look really good. Here they are compared against existing inserts and being back lit by a White #555 LED:

White Insert
Star Trek: Mirror Universe - White Insert
Yellow Insert
Star Trek: Mirror Universe - Translucent Yellow Insert

Now for the Red 0.61 insert test:

Red Insert
Star Trek: Mirror Universe - Red Insert

Top is the clear insert, bottom is the frosted insert.

Spiral Red Insert
Star Trek: Mirror Universe - Spiral Red Insert

Top is the clear/spiral insert, bottom is the frosted/spiral insert.

Let’s try the a bigger insert…

Stock Red Insert
Star Trek: Mirror Universe - Original/Stock/Old ShootAgain Insert


Clear Red Spiral Insert
Star Trek: Mirror Universe - Clear Red Spiral Insert


frost Red Spiral Insert
Star Trek: Mirror Universe - Frosty Red Spiral Insert

Based on the current tests; I gotta say I’m diggin the Frosted/Spiral inserts. I wouldn’t do the spiral galaxy for every insert… but as an emblieshment to specials like the green; red; amber inserts. I think they do a good job of defusing the led light while adding a little something extra.

Here’s the Clear Yellow and Green inserts. I didn’t bother to photo each version; since I pretty much decided I like the frosted Spiral Galaxy versions.

ylw/grn Spiral Insert
Star Trek: Mirror Universe - Yellow/Green Spiral Insert

I didn’t need to clear yellow; but I cut them anyway… because I need the smaller pieces you’ll see next. I think I’m going to use the clear yellow inserts to represent the 3X bonuses.

Observant people noticed there some details peices on the CAD drawing I showed earlier. These detail pieces are for the Nacelle graphics in the original playfield. I was always… disappointed these warp nacelles didn’t light up on the original PF. So; I wanted to see if I could change that on The Mirror Universe.

Anyone like Puzzles? If so… have I got some fun for you:

Puzzle Insert
Star Trek: Mirror Universe - Puzzle Insert

All kinds of colors of the rainbow. And no… I not real fond of puzzles.

I laser cut some plywood in about the size of the nacelle image on the PF. and put together the puzzle of Yellow, Red, Orange to replicate the nacelle. Once I had the 20some odd peices in the correct order I “tooth pick” clamped the pieces tightly together:

Pin Clamp
Star Trek: Mirror Universe - Pin Clamp

and then used some acrylic solvent to glue the pieces using capillary action. I made sure these peices were tight together to ensure a tight bond was formed. I haven’t really tried to “Break” these parts; but I’ve dropped them a couple of times and they haven’t shattered.

I made two with the Yellow/Orange/Red/Yellow combo – the identical combo as the PF graphic. Since I had the peices; I went ahead and created a combo which more closely resembles the Enterprise… W/ Red as the main color; orange/yellow/white.

Once I had the pieces welded together with the solvent; I need to make them level. However, I notices that even tho I cut these parts from the same file; their with minor gaps between some of the pieces where they didn’t meet. I didn’t want to see unfiltered light come from between the acrylic. I pondered; thought about Epoxy w/ some kind of dye… but remembered that I created some crafts with the wife many years ago. It was some plastics stained-glass in a bottle. I had pearl white; but couldn’t find the Red or Yellow. I tried Michael’s… and all they had was some sh1tty martha stewart glass “paint” for $4 a bottle. “Meh” I thought. So I waited until Monday when Hobby Lobby would be open. A lunch trip turned up the exact thing I remembered:
Ruby Red Gallery Glass and the Sunny Yellow. These two oz bottles were like $2.75 a bottle. Using the bottle applicator; I filled the cracks with the appropriate color. I didn’t get the Orange- because I wan’t sure Pumpkin Orange would match the acrylic orange. Since red and yellow always border orange; I could use one of the two. I used pearl white for the center “star” on the red insert.

Once I had the cracks filled; I proceeded to attempt to use the orbital sander to help level these inserts; at which one of the yellow inserts went flying into the nether regions of my garage. a quick search didn’t turn it up. At that point I went to manually sanding these parts flat.

The result?

Yellow Nacelle
Star Trek: Mirror Universe - Yellow Nacelle
Red Nacelle
Star Trek: Mirror Universe - Red Nacelle

And the money shot:

Nacelle Inserts
Star Trek: Mirror Universe - Backlit Nacelle Inserts

I like the red a lot better than the yellow.

Star Trek: The Mirror Universe Pinball – Plastics artwork

I’ve been working on the Plastics for the machine…

remember to click the images to get larger/higher rez renderings

Here’s what they basically looked like on a prototype machine … I re-did the text here:

Why ProtoType? Well… YEllow/Silver uniforms do not fit the theme of the known Mirror Universe… That and I really enjoy the Busty Blonde. 😀

So; now I needed to “mirror universe” it up.

However, I’m kinda torn between two designs. First; here’s a screen cap of Scotty put on one of the pieces:


  1. Busty Blonde has been Mirrorized.
  2. Spock has a beard.
  3. Uhura has been Mirrorized – complete with black stockings.
  4. Those…. um… who-knows what has been removed and cartoonized-screen-caps of Kor and the Romulan Commander have replaced them. With the req factional logos in place.
  5. Scotty Screen cap from Mirror Mirror.

My issue with screencap is it kinda looks out of place with cartoonized Evil-Spock and Evil-Uhura… but “matches” the screencaps of the foes.

Option 2:

Took a screen cap of Scotty from The Animated Series (TAS) and heavily modified him to make it a mirrored version.

I’m also thinking about putting Evil-Sulu on the other arrowed plastic. But depends on which direction I got in.

Should I loose the arrows on these plastics?
Which should I go with?

Star Trek: The Mirror Universe Pinball – Playfield artwork

A few months ago; I bit the bullet and got myself a membership for the Austin/RoundRock location. While not cheap; I expect to make good use of the money spent.

For those that don’t know what Techshop is… in short it’s a “gym-membership” type of place which has over $500k in high tech machinery which the hobbyist can use once they’ve taken the required safety courses. Austin has a Waterjet, 2 shop bot CNC machines, mills, laser cutters, cnc sewing machines, tig/mig/welders, sand and powdercoating , etc.

My first course was Shopbot CNC … Last month I completed Waterjet.
This means I’m now able to use either of these machines.

For the last couple of years; I’ve been wanting to do my own pinball table. Those that know me… will already know the subject matter in question.

About two months ago; I settled on a plan.

Create a Star Trek: Mirror Universe pinball table.

The plan; Scan in a 1979 Bally Star Trek pinball table. Mirror it. And customize it for the mirror universe.

Before (my previous PF/machine restore):

After: (click the picture to get a larger higher rez on flickr)

Yeap; that’s right… the shooter lane will be on the left side (evil grin) and will have a negative feel. What has been done:
Re-colored the playfield; fixed worn areas (in computer). Then flipped the playfield.

Areas changed:

  1. “vectorized” nearly all aspects of the PF.
  2. removed “reversed” text and replaced with Star Trek: series font.
  3. USS becomes I.S.S. Enterprise.
  4. Space Station K0 becomes Battle Station K0
  5. Transporting people become their “mirrored universe” counterparts complete with sashes and skin.
  6. “enter Hyperspace” becomes “Avert Subordinate Promotion” “by thwarting and assassination conspiracy”.
  7. “jump to warp” becomes “Employ Agonizer on Crewman”
  8. “where no man has gone before” becomes:
    “Your Mission: Conquer all worlds and civilizations to expand the empire like no man before”
    (may be too wordy)
  9. “Ready Photon Phaser” becomes “ready photon torpedo”
  10. Spelling “bally” becomes “Terra” (Terra meaning Earth. Short for “Terran Empire”; the mirror universe’s “federation”)
  11. Removed same player shoots again language; opting for “shoot again” text over insert.
  12.  Drop Target Special becomes Terran Empire logo.
  13. colorized planet with purple glow like the re-mastered series from cbs. Not sure I like it… may go back to original look.

You’ll note that I’ve removed all the switch lanes from the design. The plan is to design a set of hall effect pcbs which replicate functionality without slots in the PF.

I also did the inital CAD work on getting a CNC-ready Playfield.

My next step is to see if I can source some inserts from Pinball Resource. I’ll need to do this before I commit to keeping the same sized inserts as on the original.

I’m curious how Kevin O’Connor would have approached a project like this.

I’ve also been in touch with Kevin at ; unfortunately – the printer purchased by the Austin / RoundRock Techshop is only 24in wide… and the 4mil pressure sensitive adhesive film I wanted to use only comes in 36inch widths. The only material that comes in 24inch is a non-adhesive roll; meaning I’d have to find some kind of adhesive to attach the graphics to the PF.

Kevin did put me in contact with a local printing company:
whom may have a large format printer which can print directly to the Playfield; which should make it easier to create as I won’t have to “register” and “line up” the graphics to the inserts/table.

Modernized Williams Serial Kit

For the last couple of months; I’ve been working on a redesign of the willams printer kit for my Star Trek: The Next Generation pinball. Much of the work as been in the Complex Programmable Logic Device (CPLD) which is in 256BGA form. Why a CPLD? Long term I intend to replace the Intel 8251A USART (which is becoming increasingly difficult to find and expensive) with a “soft IP” core. The only pseudo-free 8251A core I could find was by ALTERA. They allow free use of that IP; but only as long as you put it in an Altera device. I’m ok with that; but to be honest, I really do not like the company. My first tech-support request was “refused” because I wouldn’t provide them with a company or university name. I’m a hobbyist for crying out loud; support your damn products or bite me. If I had any other choice I’d go with another CPLD/FPGA company for this reason alone. But I digress…

This is a 1mm pitch BGA – needed it because the whole design requires logic blocks which only come in bga form factors. 🙁
I was forced to go to a 4 layer PCB to get the smaller 13mil drill sizes for “escape routing” the bga signals. I designed the pinout of the BGA to mainly use the outside peripheral pins of the bga. Pinouts were made to make for easier routing to U3 (Ti’s 74LVCH16T245), U2 (Ti’s 74LVC4245A), and U6 (FTDI’s FT232RQ) chips.

The design used the Ti 245s to translate between the MaxV’s VCCIO of 3.3V and the WPC/USARTs system voltage of 5Vs. Linear 1.8V and 3.3V LDOs from Ti drive the MaxV VCCINT (1.8V) and VCCIO (3.3V) pins. 3.3V also drives the other support chips; the UART->USB (FT232RQ) and the RS232 charge pump (U5/MAX3242UI). Logic in the CPLD controls “enables” to the MAX3243 from the USB chip; so that if a laptop/computer is plugged into the usb (J710U); the rs232 port at J710 is “off”.

This leaves a question; Why have the i8251A device onboard. This is a debug feature. Given I’ve never done a CPLD or FPGA design before; I’m thinking it may not work “right out of the shoot”… so I’m providing myself with a short term verification feature; where I can prove a real 8251 works … but there is a bug in the IP core (or my implementation of it). Long term; my goal is to de-pop U1 and U2 to reduce bom costs once the design is proven functional.

The FabA schematics and FPGA high level schematic is posted in the PDF below:
Williams Serial Printer Kit (pre-debug)
I retain all rights to the implementation and schematics.

The top layer board will look something like this:
FabA PCB top layer

When installing in the pinball machine; one would disconnect the main cpu ribbon cable and plug it into J701B. The connect a short “jumper” ribbon cable from the cpu board to this board via J710A.

I got to be honest; the bga on the board is very scary. $20 a piece… and BGAs aren’t really known for their ease in the DIY workshop. But; it’ll be fun to see how pcb assembly goes.

I hope to order the PCB shortly… then be “waiting” for the batch pcb service to pool with others. I may quote with as they seem to have very reasonably priced 4 layer boards with a quick (compared to batchpcb, 5 day turn).

Next step after ordering boards and BOM for assembly; is to get back to the visual pinmame source code in order to begin “simulating” the printer kit from a software prospective. Long term; I want to test the ROM hacks to dump the high scores via serial port and the Serial kit. Once I’ve tested the roms in pinmame; then I can commit them to the real machine. I did have some success compiling pinmame from source; but for some reason I get an assertion about filetypes when running the compiled images.

I’d also like a benchtop WMS debug system… thought about using a P-Roc – but not sure if close enough to the original WMS board to be compatible with the WMS printer kit.

Sega Star Trek Captain’s Chair Coinbox

Madaracs on the KLOV forums was kind enough to loan me his Sega Captain’s Chair CoinBox for measurement of the dimensions. With his coinbox I was able to modify the preliminary plans I had posted to my Captain’s Chair Restoration.

I have decided to release the plans to the public under the TAPR Non-Commercial Open Hardware License which indicates:

You may make products based upon this design, provided you do not make more than ten units in any twelve month period for your personal use.

If you agree with the license terms and are interested in the coinbox plans; they are here:

Sega Coin Box Plans (PDF)
Sega Star Trek Captain's Chair CoinBox Plans (PDF)

Thanks to Muel and Madaracs for the help enabling these plans. Now all I need to do is gain access to Austin’s TechShop to waterjet me some material from these plans.

Color Vector Pattern Generator

Almost a year ago I posted in my Star Trek Captains’ Chair worklog that I intended to modernize a old XY Pattern Generator design on the interwebs. Many of the guys on VectorList provided valuable insight into the interworkings of the circuit… and provided many layers of helpful advice.

The result was a working prototype board from as a dual sided board. Surface Mount ( yes; I can hear the screams of horror ) as I wanted to minimize PCB size and thereby cost.

There were several key learnings that I’ve noted while building, debugging, and using the Vector Pattern Generator. These learning were as follows and have been incorprated into the FabB design:

  1. The clock generator circuit (3.578MHz xtal) and U1ABC was not “locking”. This was due to the buffered logic of the newer 74HC* logic. Some research on the internet indicated I needed a 150pf cap from pin1 U1A to ground to allow the clock generator to exite enough to lock.
  2. The -12V buck converting power supply wasn’t outputing the correct voltage. It’d start out at ~11V…. the drop to ~5V over several minutes. On my debugged board; shorting R26 (10meg ohm) allows the -12V to become rock steady at -11.8V. Unsure here; the Maxim EE sim was very specific on the 10meg ohm value… but the maxim datasheet indicated two modes for VL to operate in. So for now will error on the practical side.
  3. The 5V regulator did not have enough copper to heatsink to. FAB B has a large 5V copper heatsink built into the board for the linear regulator. For my prototype; I thermal epoxied a small heatsink from a old motherboard onto the top of the regulator to give it some thermal sink.
  4. The Linear POT datasheet was missing details regarding the LED side of the POT. One hole was off and was moved to match the device.

I also included the following “Nice to Haves” into the FabB design:

  • Retrofitted EPROM sockets to enable A11 for a 27C32 eprom(s)… allowing for more user designed test patterns.
    NOTE: A11 is hardwired to high to match 2716 eproms configurations. No clock/decode is provided for A11. Future FabC work if a solution can be found.
    At this time you can use either 2716 or 2732 eproms in this design.
  • Renamed topside adj pots to indicate X and Y.
  • Converted to 3pin jumpers so the jumpers can be mechanically sound when output swing is not shorted.

I have decided to release my portions of this design under to the public under the TAPR Non-Commercial Open Hardware License which indicates:

You may make products based upon this design, provided you do not make more than ten units in any twelve month period for your personal use.

If you agree with the license terms and are interested in the FabB schematics; they are here:

Vector Pattern Generator: Fab B Schematics(Click here to open as PDF)

For those without PCB layout tools; a bare PCB is available from the batchpcb service for under $65. You can purchase the boards from this link:

The Bill Of Materials (BOM) of the board is available from Digikey for $75.51 (as of this post).
A bom is included with the schematics PDF above, but An XLS file with the digikey part numbers with the complete package of the materials above as a single download: XYpatternFabB_pkg.ZIP
You will need to source your own 2716 or 2732 EPROMs as Digikey does not carry them. You’ll also need to source your own 14-16VDC wallwort … you may already have a donor in your parts bin leftover from a defunct piece of equipment.

ROM images for the EPROMs can be downloaded from several sources. Hint: Do a search for XY ROM images .zip in Google.

Use the ROM images as-is for 2716 EPROMs. For 2732 EPROMs; just dup the roms using the following dos commands (as an example):

copy /B X.BIN+X.BIN x32.bin

/B is important as it tells copy that the files are binary, not ASCII files.

The Author is still using the FabA prototype; he has not yet built FabB so YMMV.  The changes from FabA were relatively simple; so building these should be a low risk.

The active components (switches, linear pot, adjustment pots, jumpers, and video connector) are all populated on the reverse side. This will allow me to put the board on standoffs and a acrylic top on the device to protect it from dust/flying multimeter/scope probes.

The board is still quite big even with the surface mount components measuring 5.1×3.9in tall. By far the largest parts on the board are the EPROMs… maybe one day I’ll figure out how to move the EPROMS into a single EEPROM device and surface mount it.

So; what does the Fab A prototype look like?

Click to see higher rez pictures

Vector Pattern Generator: Primary side

This is the primary side; which faces the workbench in normal operation.

Vector Pattern Generator: Secondary side

This is the secondary side. It becomes the “top” of the unit so the user can adjust settings and the like.

Please Note: This implementation is not perfect… there are some issues with the vector generation that I haven’t been able to debug. The imperfection does not really limit the functionality; as you can easily converge and debug a vector monitor with the vectors. I am hopeful someone can help me debug the issues so we can release a better project long term.

Overall the generator worked quite well as I was able to get my ElectroHome G08 monitor converged.

Vector Pattern Generator: Box pattern

I can’t explain the center vectors… nor why the lines become squiggly. They don’t move; it’s always that way.

Vector Pattern Generator: Cross pattern

Strange that the site pattern doesn’t seem to suffer from odd vectors.

Vector Pattern Generator: Box & Cross pattern
Vector Pattern Generator: Horizontal Lines pattern
Vector Pattern Generator: Vertical Lines pattern
Vector Pattern Generator: H&V Lines (crosshatch) pattern

As you can see; the generator works well enough to converge a vector monitor…
At this point I’m not sure if the odd vectors / none straight vectors are the result of a software problem (EPROM images) or a hardware problem.
It’s possible the software isn’t reacting well with the faster hardware (HC logic, better opamps); but unsure.

Things I still need to do [if I ever find the time]:

  • check the +12V portion of the buck converter. Right now I’m using the backup +12V linear regulator (U9).
  • Create an enclosure to house the unit.
  • Figure out how to clock A11 to enable full 2732 support; thereby more test patterns.
  • Figure out why the vectors aren’t “clean”.