Beyond Super Gold Card

A place to discuss general QL issues.
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Pr0f
Super Gold Card
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Re: Beyond Super Gold Card

Postby Pr0f » Wed Nov 13, 2019 9:27 am

USB support is not trivial - even the basic primer for USB 1.1 is a good 100+ page read. It's quite an involved protocol, because it's extensible, but you can offer a limited supportability of simple devices and for those there are some microcontroller devices already programmed with the hard work of the protocol itself.

However, you'd still need to provide QL drivers to talk to the USB micro, and relate the devices back into the QL's device driver architecture.

Devices worth supoorting and of a simple enough nature:

Keyboard
Mouse / Pointer device
Joystick
Printer
Storage device
Floppy
Serial
Parallel

I found a device that handles all but the Floppy, but has limitations on the Storage device (only 1 open file). Trying to implement any kind of plug and play may well be a different matter!


stephen_usher
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Re: Beyond Super Gold Card

Postby stephen_usher » Wed Nov 13, 2019 10:01 am

Derek_Stewart wrote:Hi,

The hardware to interface to a QL or Q68 is relatively easy, the problem area is the software driver.

There is not many people that could write driver software to interface to a RPi.

I am open to any suggestion to implement the software interface to connect a QL based system to a RPi.


Why? You define the protocol to use over the memory mapped GPIO interface I/O port (it would probably best implemented to appear as a set of registers in the memory map, adding the ability fr the Pi to raise and interrupt would be useful too, so the QL doesn't have to poll) on the QL side and then use whatever you like on the Pi to interpret that and do as commanded. You could write it in C, C++, Java, Python, or even Scratch if you like on the Pi. It's not as if you're creating the whole operating system on the Pi from scratch, you'll boot a cut-down Linux installation, which will do all the hardware interfacing etc. for you. The Pi side programming is the easy bit, defining the communications protocol between the Pi and the QL is the harder bit as you need it to be flexible enough to handle whatever a future developer wants to do. The only other issue is that the Pi GPIO is 3V3 rather than TTL, so you'd have to add voltage level conversion.

You might want to stick a UART on the GPIO serial connections also.

The way I envisage this working would be that you'd have a protocol where the sending party (either QL or Pi) latches data into its write register (readable by the other side only) and then sends a command value stating what type of data it is (e.g. keyboard, mouse, file data packet, etc.) and the other side then reads this and decides what to do with it. In this way anything can be done as long as the protocol is well thought through.

For example, you could have a "disk" driver which on the QL side merely asks its Pi side counterpart to do the work, a simple shim. On the Pi you could implement direct access to vFAT formatted USB drives adding SMSQ/E or QPC headers to the files as necessary and transparently. The access to the VFAT filesystem and USB would be via the Linux drivers, so no programming effort needed by the QL community for that, the QL interface program would merely be reading and writing normal files and translating the filesystem into something the QL side can handle. All the intelligence would be on the Pi side, leaving the QL side to do what it's best at and speeding things up (and using less memory).


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Peter
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Re: Beyond Super Gold Card

Postby Peter » Wed Nov 13, 2019 12:40 pm

stephen_usher wrote:On the Next it will be being used for general USB interfacing (and all the code is being written by one or two people as the hardware interfacing is using the Linux kernel drivers), but that's beside the point.

I don't think it is beside the point! Quite the opposite, this shows where the real points are for the QL: Project size too large, and lack of interest in doing this kind of work.

Firstly you say "it will be", which means it "does not" for two years of Spectrum Next. Whether it will ever reach the plenty of functionality you advertised, is totally unknown. Indicating the project size is too large.

Secondly, they have one or two people with enough interest to actually work it, while we have zero. I see nobody here interested to work on this ARM and/or Linux project, apparently not even yourself. The Q68 provides all interfaces you need for at least a prototype implementation, so technically, nothing holds you back.

(I blame nobody. Our extremely few developers are already beyond their working capacity with their existing QL projects and ideas.)


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Peter
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Re: Beyond Super Gold Card

Postby Peter » Wed Nov 13, 2019 1:27 pm

Let's go back to the topic: Why do people want a successor to the SuperGoldCard, while they could have a Q68?

There is the emotional side of wanting it in the original case. Also that some still really work on the original QL keyboard or wish microdrive support.

Let's assume a new card offers the following additions and improvements over the SGC:
- Integrated video controller with higher resolutions + colours
- Newer video output standard, like VGA or HDMI
- More RAM
- Integrated SD card mass storage, much faster than Qubide or QL-SD
- PS/2 mouse interface
- Fast serial port
- Sampled sound and/or AY sound

Then how about the speed issue? Would such a card be much wanted, even if it is not (much) faster than a Q68 (roughly equivalent to a QXL)?


bixio60
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Re: Beyond Super Gold Card

Postby bixio60 » Wed Nov 13, 2019 3:32 pm

Hi,
I am following this discussion with interest and cannot resist to tell my opinion.
I have 4 QL with different interfaces (GC/SGC/Tetroid IF/Miracle HD/WiFi modem etc etc), sometime I switch them on just to see if they are still operative, a sort of nostalgia matter. The BBQL even with the expansions, lack of acceptable video resolution, 512x256(4 Colour) is very limited, let say, and the original keyboard is according my feeling unacceptable nowadays
Alternatives :
- Q68 is a perfect alternative but (always there is a but) at video high resolution lack considerably of speed. I am waiting Peter implementing cache ...... and the PS/2 keyboard is not optimal due the lack of finding new wireless replacement.
- "Mister FPGA" again could be a perfect alternative having ethernet/SD/USB but lack of SMSQ/E and it is a super QL but limited by Minerva OS, I know that someone is working on it.....

So at the end, when I am at home, I use my "old" Q60 that include all the feature I need : SMSQ/E, speed, Video resolution and good keyboard, when I am abroad ....emulators :D

I am not really interested in a SuperDuperGoldCard (even if when it will appear I will buy one :D ), we have already the Q68, better to spend time/effort/money to improve it

Saying this, fully respect for the other opinion that like BBQL, microdrive, etc.

Fabrizio


Peter wrote:Let's go back to the topic: Why do people want a successor to the SuperGoldCard, while they could have a Q68?

There is the emotional side of wanting it in the original case. Also that some still really work on the original QL keyboard or wish microdrive support.

Let's assume a new card offers the following additions and improvements over the SGC:
- Integrated video controller with higher resolutions + colours
- Newer video output standard, like VGA or HDMI
- More RAM
- Integrated SD card mass storage, much faster than Qubide or QL-SD
- PS/2 mouse interface
- Fast serial port
- Sampled sound and/or AY sound

Then how about the speed issue? Would such a card be much wanted, even if it is not (much) faster than a Q68 (roughly equivalent to a QXL)?


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Peter
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Re: Beyond Super Gold Card

Postby Peter » Wed Nov 13, 2019 8:44 pm

Hi Fabrizio,
bixio60 wrote:So at the end, when I am at home, I use my "old" Q60 that include all the feature I need : SMSQ/E, speed, Video resolution and good keyboard, when I am abroad ....emulators :D

I feel honoured by your enormous loyalty to my good old 68060 design. It is so sad, that at Q60 design time it was not foreseeable the future flatscreen monitors would no longer be capable of multisync. I have considered the Q60 video issue from all sides, but every attempted solution would be similar work as a completely new design.

I still think about a 68060 design now and then, be it Q68 successor / add-on*, or be it SGC successor. But the amount of work is huge and we would run into the problem of high cost and bad availability of 68060 CPUs.

Peter

* I say "add-on" because the Q68 is designed in a way that a board with 68060, a PLD and 128 MB SDRAM could be connected to the Q68 extension bus, which would then be re-dedicated to serve as highspeed link to the classic Q68 FPGA, reprogrammed to act as video+peripheral card. This was my "parachute" solution, just in case I'd not be able to find all the FPGA CPU bugs.


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Peter
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Re: Beyond Super Gold Card

Postby Peter » Wed Nov 13, 2019 11:30 pm

bixio60 wrote:- Q68 is a perfect alternative but (always there is a but) at video high resolution lack considerably of speed. I am waiting Peter implementing cache ......

More precisely, it is not the high resolution which slows the Q68, but the combination of high resolution and high colour, which takes away memory bandwidth.

Could you try the 1024x768 in low colour (DISP_MODE 4) and give me your feedback how you perceive working with that? It will roughly show you the speed the Q68 would have also in high colour, if video memory and main memory were separated. Does it feel right for you, or still too sluggish?

(Separating main memory and video memory would be doable in a future design, at moderate extra work and cost.)


bixio60
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Re: Beyond Super Gold Card

Postby bixio60 » Thu Nov 14, 2019 8:47 am

Hi,
the problem rely mainly on the fact that i consider Q68 and SMSQ/E a modern system, saying that the resolution of 1024x768 is an acceptable resolution but 4 colours are absolutely ....insufficient, valid only for using old program done for QL.

This is why I still use Q60, the video adapter speed is enough and the video is refreshed in normal way, I am using your new chip for 1024x764 and it works well with all LCD and no need of CRT anymore

In summary my feeling: BBQL is fine for retro computing, the Hardware future is represented by Q68 and we should mode forward with a new "Q68 Gold": 1st cache speed, 2nd usb.....

Fabrizio


Peter wrote:
bixio60 wrote:- Q68 is a perfect alternative but (always there is a but) at video high resolution lack considerably of speed. I am waiting Peter implementing cache ......

More precisely, it is not the high resolution which slows the Q68, but the combination of high resolution and high colour, which takes away memory bandwidth.

Could you try the 1024x768 in low colour (DISP_MODE 4) and give me your feedback how you perceive working with that? It will roughly show you the speed the Q68 would have also in high colour, if video memory and main memory were separated. Does it feel right for you, or still too sluggish?

(Separating main memory and video memory would be doable in a future design, at moderate extra work and cost.)


Derek_Stewart
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Re: Beyond Super Gold Card

Postby Derek_Stewart » Thu Nov 14, 2019 8:56 am

Hi Peter,

I would require a good connection of the QL video directly to a modern monitor. I have a monitor TV with only HDMI based video inputs, so it looks like VGA is being phased out on large screen TVs.

On the Q68, I mainly use 1024x768 Mode 4 (DISP_MODE 4), as most of the QL software is not High Colour aware. There looks to be no speed reduction. In comparison, to an Atari QL Emulator and QVME, there is not much difference.

Could we have this type of display on the QL, with the same speed as the Q68.

When I started building the Q60, over 15 years... I wanted a fast QL with a 68060 CPU, High Colours were not available then and 1024x512 Mode 4 was what I wanted. There was the SGC+Aurora which gave the same resolution, but tI felt the Q60 did the same and better.


Regards,

Derek
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Peter
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Re: Beyond Super Gold Card

Postby Peter » Thu Nov 14, 2019 9:07 am

bixio60 wrote:the problem rely mainly on the fact that i consider Q68 and SMSQ/E a modern system, saying that the resolution of 1024x768 is an acceptable resolution but 4 colours are absolutely ....insufficient, valid only for using old program done for QL.

I know. I didn't mean this as a solution, just as a test. I would just like to know if the speed is okay for you then. I could then meet your requirements also for highcolour, by adding a seperate video memory. (It makes no sense to possibly inverst considerable work, just to find it is still too slow.)



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