Page 8 of 14

Re: Faster/wider CPU...

Posted: Thu Feb 02, 2012 10:07 am
by Peter
Hi Brane,

it's not a good idea to announce new hardware in public before it is likely that a product will result. An announcements create hopes, and not being able to fulfil them, is worse than no hopes at all. Once I made the mistake to leak that I work on something FPGA based, but please don't push for more details.

As for the operating system(s) I use, they are open source and free of course. As for schematics and PCB data, they are unlikely to be pubished, at least before the one who builds/sells the boards had return on investment. For hardware, publishing these sources, does not make the boards "available". The effect goes more toward making them "unavailable" for everyone but hardware tinkerers. The one who wants to build them, could not invest in full quantities because someone else might reproduce the boards, too. This makes the boards more expensive, inefficient to handle production, and less likely someone wants to invest in series production at all.

The system would not be optimized for speed, mostly because the chips have aged during the time I lost with the OS/driver issues. It will be more important to have something working at all. If the system gets finished and well accepted, nothing forbids new boards using a faster FPGA a few years later.

The problem we work on, is triggered by Minerva, but a problem within the chip. Nobody can blame Minerva for that. Maybe it is even a problem with the FPGA synthesis tools. QDOS Classic works better but still not correct. It would be lengthy to explain, why debugging the faulty CPU is so difficult under the given circumstances. Sorry, but I won't, unless you are a hardware _and_ FPGA _and_ assembler specialist who has too much time and is eager to debug this himself :-)

All the best
Peter

Re: Faster/wider CPU...

Posted: Thu Feb 02, 2012 5:53 pm
by Dave
Peter wrote:The system would not be optimized for speed, mostly because the chips have aged during the time I lost with the OS/driver issues. It will be more important to have something working at all. If the system gets finished and well accepted, nothing forbids new boards using a faster FPGA a few years later.

This is my view, also. It is also why I am taking the low-hanging fruit of working with existing components - the cost, time and investment needed is substantially smaller than Peter's effort. It also eliminates a lot of the problems Peter has. It's hardly an ideal end result, but it is something.

That said, I look forward to buying Peters board some day :)

Re: Faster/wider CPU...

Posted: Thu Feb 02, 2012 6:03 pm
by Brane2
Sorry, but I won't, unless you are a hardware _and_ FPGA _and_ assembler specialist who has too much time and is eager to debug this himself


Nah. I'm more in the "asshole" part of the spectrum... :lol:

Just out of curiosity, which brand are you using ? If its XIlinx, haven't they hyped ability to debug internals through virtual signal analyzer ? I think it is called Chipscope...

I'm not trying to bug you about details, just to inquire whether such tools were of use for you in practice... :roll:

Re: Faster/wider CPU...

Posted: Thu Feb 02, 2012 6:57 pm
by Peter
Dave wrote:This is my view, also. It is also why I am taking the low-hanging fruit of working with existing components - the cost, time and investment needed is substantially smaller than Peter's effort. It also eliminates a lot of the problems Peter has. It's hardly an ideal end result, but it is something.


Good luck. Something finished is always better that a nice concept which becomes an endless story. I also plan for some "last resort" in case we fail to debug the FPGA CPU. There are provisions to add a hardware CPU on a daughterboard ;) I was near to that decision already, but the partial success with QDOS Classic gave new hope. My biggest obstacle has become lack of time, and I'm therefore very glad that Adrian has taken over the QL-SD project from me. This is of great help.

Re: Faster/wider CPU...

Posted: Thu Feb 02, 2012 7:10 pm
by Peter
Brane2 wrote:Just out of curiosity, which brand are you using ?


Hehe... nice try ;-)

Brane2 wrote:If its XIlinx, haven't they hyped ability to debug internals through virtual signal analyzer ? I think it is called Chipscope...


Thanks I'm aware of this kind of tools ;) The only method guaranteed to locate the problem would be a cycle-by-cycle comparison to a correct CPU executing Minerva in exactly the same context. It would have to be so exact that even hardware interrupts occur at the very same cycle. The effort to build such a system would take too much of my time though.

Re: Faster/wider CPU...

Posted: Thu Feb 02, 2012 7:25 pm
by Mr_Navigator
Oh your that Peter, let me publicly thank you for all the work you have put in to the SD card interface :)

Re: Faster/wider CPU...

Posted: Thu Feb 02, 2012 9:06 pm
by Peter
Mr_Navigator wrote:Oh your that Peter, let me publicly thank you for all the work you have put in to the SD card interface :)


Your very welcome ;) Let's hope that my SuperGoldCard related problems with QL-SD were not general, but just my second hand black box. I now bought a brandnew German QL, which I shall try after I found the time to modify the power supply. I would enjoy to own a SuperGoldCard QL where no floppy and harddisk is needed and no other stuff sticks out of the black case. :D Feels good to use the microdrives slots again :mrgreen:

Re: Faster/wider CPU...

Posted: Fri Feb 03, 2012 11:46 am
by dilwyn
Dave wrote:Hi Peter,

I really appreciate your input into this thread.

I agree with you on the SMSQ/E license situation - I think it is a very unfortunate license that was designed not to encourage development (which it hasn't) but to protect incumbent interests (which it has.)

Is it possible to contact Lau and obtain the sources or rights to Minerva? I am convinced he knows it's economically worthless now, and if he decided to extract a price for it, it could be reasonably small. Is that an option? I know most of it is freely available, but the whole thing, not quite.

The sources and Minerva 1.98 ROM images are freely downloadable from my website http://www.dilwyn.me.uk/qlrom/index.html to anyone who wants to have a look. I haven't checked the licence terms to see if it allows for modified derivatives to be used - I would presume that Peter has already looked at this. Alternatively, if it doesn't, it might be possible to supply a program which patches an existing Minerva ROM as required, perhaps. Also, I wonder if QDOS Classic author Mark Swift is still around to provide input to this?

Dilwyn

Re: Faster/wider CPU...

Posted: Fri Feb 03, 2012 12:02 pm
by dilwyn
Peter wrote:
Good luck. Something finished is always better that a nice concept which becomes an endless story. I also plan for some "last resort" in case we fail to debug the FPGA CPU. There are provisions to add a hardware CPU on a daughterboard ;) I was near to that decision already, but the partial success with QDOS Classic gave new hope. My biggest obstacle has become lack of time, and I'm therefore very glad that Adrian has taken over the QL-SD project from me. This is of great help.


The history of the QL is peppered with hardware designs which nearly failed because insufficient consideration was given to software/OS (e.g. QXL, Aurora, to some extent Q40). Which is why I am glad that Peter has given this a lot of thought and time to try to implement two versions of QDOS and chosen not to announce this board too early. I knew of it a few years back when the hardware was being designed, but chose not to say anything.

Peter - while the situation is not too promising at the moment, I nonetheless wish you every luck with this project and would like to thank you here in public for your efforts to continue making new QL hardware.

Now the next thing I wanted to find out was whether zeccie has made any progress with the Java QL system? viewtopic.php?f=8&t=170#p888

Dilwyn

Re: Faster/wider CPU...

Posted: Fri Feb 03, 2012 10:29 pm
by Peter
dilwyn wrote:The sources and Minerva 1.98 ROM images are freely downloadable from my website http://www.dilwyn.me.uk/qlrom/index.html to anyone who wants to have a look. I haven't checked the licence terms to see if it allows for modified derivatives to be used - I would presume that Peter has already looked at this. Alternatively, if it doesn't, it might be possible to supply a program which patches an existing Minerva ROM as required, perhaps.

Laurence Reeves has kindly released the sources for Minerva 1.98 under the GNU General Public License. He states that the license covers all supplied files, even if not individually mentioned in each file.
See http://bergbland.dyndns.info/downloads.htm

dilwyn wrote: Also, I wonder if QDOS Classic author Mark Swift is still around to provide input to this?

I tried to contact Mark years ago, but received no reply. QDOS Classic is offered as a free program, but a specific license is not mentioned. Both sources and binaries can be downloaded from http://www.mswift.unisonplus.net/ql/index.html