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Old 07 December 2017, 13:31   #1
jagLally
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Amiga A500 setup for development

Hi,

Many moons ago, when I was a lot younger, I had an Amiga A500 and wanted to program in C and Assembler on it. But beer and other fun at university prevented that happening. Recently I found myself wanting to scratch that itch - call it the geek midlife crisis with a computer rather than a Porsche/motorbike.

So I downloaded FS-UAE and written a "hello world" in C using vbcc. But it still wouldn't satisfy the itch and I set about purchasing the real thing.

It seems Amiga A1200 would have been my best bet but the prices... my god!! for a 30 year old hardware are astronomical on ebay. So I bought a A500 instead. I'm mainly going to write small programs to mess around with graphics etc in C and Assembler and an A500 would do I thought. I'm a Java programmer writing business software by day and feel the need to go to bare metal - kind of like hot rodding on cars.

Now I need to set up it up for a convenient workflow. I'm familiar with unix like environments so I intend to cross compile in vbcc on my Mac and then transfer to real hardware.

After all my rambling; the big question: What is the best way to expand and set up A500 for development convenience?

Hard Drive:

Is SCSI to Micro SD adaptor the best option? SCSI2MSD on amigastore.eu and ADASCSMSD on amigakit.amiga.store. They look like the same thing to me. Any other solutions out there for attaching a hard drive to A500 on kickstart 1.3?

Screen to Monitor:

I need the best picture quality. Using Amiga to Scart cable and then scart to HDMI converter and then finally a HDMI to DVI cable. My spare DELL monitor 2407wfpb has RGB, DVI and VGA input but no HDMI. I couldn't find any direct AMIGA to RGB cable and thought a scart to HDMI is a better bet to act as a scan doubler as well.

Found a scart to HMDI converter on amazon called "VCANDO" but there are several all seem to be generic rebranded designs. They all claim to convert 576I(PAL) to 720P/1080P. My guess is that will convert the interlaced to progressive nicely.

Network

I don't want to be swapping micro SD cards every minute. I couldn't find a "real" network solution which would work because I think the 68000 isn't powerful enough. I did find someone selling "plipbox" on Amibay. It seems to be enough to allow FTP via TCP. That would do for me. Are there any better solutions out there?


Any comments and advice would be appreciated. I want to be able to compile and transfer code to the A500 easily. For the extra nostalgia trip I might even attempt to edit and compile on the A500 with SASC but I think I would grow tired of the limited screen resolution and unfamiliar editor very quickly.

thanks for reading and merry xmas

Last edited by jagLally; 07 December 2017 at 22:21. Reason: Remove signature
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Old 07 December 2017, 14:33   #2
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First off, welcome!

Yeah, prices for A1200s have been steadily increasing over the past 15 or so years, and it's at least partially because they're a more powerful and flexible machine.

Now, regarding monitors, when you say your Dell has an RGB input, what exactly do you mean? VGA is essentially RGB but at a higher frequency, but some monitors take the Amiga's native RGB signal on the VGA port just fine. However, even with a monitor, an A500 sin't going to output anything in the way of high resolutions. You're still going to be limited to 640x256, or 640x512 in interlaced mode, which some monitors will show fine but will produce a horrible flicker on others. Nevertheless, that resolution might be fine if most of the development happens on another, modern machine.

As regards storage and general expansion, it's really hard to see past the ACA500Plus. This adds a faster 68000 CPU which gives the A500 a welcome boost, and also adds some fast RAM, hard drive support in the form of compact flash, Kickstart 3.1, Workbench 3.1 and a second compact flash slot for easy transfers to PCs. This doesn't give you any networking options, but pretty much overhauls the A500 into something far more comfortable for productivity use.

To go for higher specced use, you can always look at the Vampire as an option. It gives a vast increase in speed, and a modest RTG implementation that lets you use higher resolutions, and HDMI out, allowing you to use newer, more comfortable editors at reasonable resolutions (for now however, hardware-banging software, mostly games, will still use the original RGB output only). As with the ACA however, it doesn't provide a network option, and it isn't as convenient when it comes to transferring data via SD or CF card either.
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Old 07 December 2017, 15:10   #3
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thank you for replying.

Dell 2407wfpb Monitor: I should have said Component with the three standard connectors. I've searched high and low and can't find any information or details on it. I'm not knowledgeable enough to know if the RGB output from Amiga was to be somehow connected to the three component input on the monitor, it would work. I'm guessing not without conversion.

I'm ok with 640x512 resolution as long as it doesn't flicker. I've seen scan doublers from older forum posts and on ebay. The ones on ebay (£60ish) suspiciously like the VCANDO and others on Amazon (£23ish). I'm hoping it can covert the Amiga signal from interlaced 640x512 to progressive HDMI 720p/1080p. They do claim to support RGB in on scart.

Thank you for the ACA500Plus and Vampire suggestions. I will definitely check them out. I'm not after increase performance per se but to make life little easier by adding hard disk/memory and a display.
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Old 07 December 2017, 15:17   #4
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It's funny, but I'm doing exactly the same thing as you :-). I'm also a software engineer that wants to go back to the roots and get in touch with the machine again; the only difference is that I'm setting up both my Amstrad CPC and Amiga 500 as dev platforms.

Although I haven't tested my setup yet (my Amiga is far away from me atm), I'll post this anyway in case it gives you some other options to explore.

In my case, I've bought an ACA500+ to pimp up my Amiga a little bit. This will give me simple mass storage (using a CF card), 8MB of ram, a slightly faster 68k (14 MHz) and a rom switcher (KS1.3/3.1). I've replicated this setup in FS-UAE and it works pretty well for me; I can hardly wait to try this on the real thing.

As for the video output, my idea is to use an old 31khz VGA monitor I have around. I've bought a cheap SCART->HDMI scaler/converter, an amiga RGB->SCART cable and an HDMI->VGA adapter. Obviously, I don't have very high expectations about this, but at least it is cheap, so I think it is worth trying. If this doesn't work, I'll probably get a BenQ BL702A monitor, I've read very good things about it.

I think I'll skip the network card for the moment. The ACA has an extra CF slot that can be hot swapped, so I think that will be enough to move stuff into my Amiga.

Cheers!
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Old 07 December 2017, 15:47   #5
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Ah, component (with its misleading red, green and blue connectors)... It's actually quite different to RGB, and is used for essentially the analogue version of HDTV. I did see recently that someone was building a converter and had a little prototype running (was it in the Commodore Amiga Facebook group? Not sure...), so that might be an option. But it's not a simple conversion so an active adaptor is required. Much like the SCART-HDMI adaptors that you mention. Some people get on fine with them, others complain about a bit of lag, but for coding, a couple of frames of lag isn't a big deal so you should be fine. I'm not sure about removing the interface flicker, but even if it doesn't, the monitor might take care of that. My Dell U2410 takes the native RGB signal on the VGA input and deinterlaces it - it might be worth trying that on yours, since it had 15kHz processing at some point anyway. Some rows are lost in 640x512 mode, but you can get close to 640x480 with NTSC and overscan, and it's quite useable.
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Old 07 December 2017, 18:42   #6
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Dell 2407 should also have an S-Video port (and a native PAL screen with it). So that's an option. Amiga RGB to S-Video is fairly easy to do.
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Old 07 December 2017, 18:46   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by adolfo.pa View Post
It's funny, but I'm doing exactly the same thing as you :-). I'm also a software engineer that wants to go back to the roots and get in touch with the machine again; the only difference is that I'm setting up both my Amstrad CPC and Amiga 500 as dev platforms.
I'm glad I'm not the only mad person. There are other poor souls in the same universe....

I'm feeling the need to directly poke memory registers, make stuff happen on the screen and mess around with copper lists just for fun. It will be a slow journey as I'm not use to low level programming and what little I do know is that graphics is a lot of maths.

I'm downloading as many Amiga C and Assembler books as I can find.

I'm sure it will be cathartic release of some kind. Just like on the British TV branded 'Monkey Magic' series, I will discover the journey will be more important than the destination.

Thank you both for the ACA500Plus. It seems a very good buy for what it gives you in increased RAM and CF card slots. I think it's worth it over the SCSI to micro SD card I was looking at earlier.

The Vampire cards are too expensive and for me it goes to pointlessness territory of what I want to do with a vintage computer. I'd be better of buying a new computer and putting a plastic Amiga Shell on it instead. Just my personal opinion for my wants.

Quote:
Ah, component (with its misleading red, green and blue connectors)... It's actually quite different to RGB, and is used for essentially the analogue version of HDTV
You gave me a clue and I rummaged around in my garage and found an old scart RGB to Component converter. I use to have a component TV about 15 years ago and used it to connect my SKY box. It is a professional heavy box. I'm going to get the Amiga RGB to scart cable and plug it in and see what picture I get on the Dell monitor.
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Old 07 December 2017, 20:35   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lord Aga View Post
Dell 2407 should also have an S-Video port (and a native PAL screen with it). So that's an option. Amiga RGB to S-Video is fairly easy to do.
thanks. Definitely an option. Ideally I'd like the RGB image as it's the purest and should be the clearest in theory.

I also finally found some data on the Dell 2407wfpb monitor:

Quote:
VGA: 640 x 480 is Horizontal Freq 37.5KHz, Vertical 75Hz.
so I guess this is won't work by straight connection from Amiga RGB to VGA connector because I'v read something about Amiga having a 15KHz frequency.

Quote:
Component: 480i/480p/576i/576p/720p/1080i
Does this mean that if I use a standard scart RGB to Component converter I already have, the Amiga can drive it or I still have to worry about the horizontal frequency?

I'll give it a try and also order the Amazon one if it doesn't work. But I'm curious as to what I should look out for when looking at any converter such as RGB to HDMI.
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Old 07 December 2017, 20:45   #9
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Yep, that could work well. But seriously, all indications point to that monitor supporting Amiga frequencies directly on the VGA port, so all you might need is the appropriate adaptor and that's it. Image quality-wise, the less resampling and adapting that's done, the better.

Edit: sorry, started writing that post before your reply... Yes, the Amiga's output is 15KHz, but even though the specs say 31KHz (or higher), the panel itself is capable of 15KHz, since that's what's used for standard PAL signals. It's just a matter of whether the monitor actively rejects 15KHz on the VGA port (even though it allows it on the S-Video and component inputs) or not. My monitor also lists the VGA spec from 30KHz and 56Hz vertical, yet is perfectly happy to show 15KHz and 50Hz signals.

Last edited by Daedalus; 07 December 2017 at 20:50.
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Old 07 December 2017, 22:05   #10
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To my knowledge 2407 does not support 15KHz via VGA input. 2408 doesn't for sure, I know because I have one However, 2410 does support 15KHz via VGA (both Daedalus and I own one and can vouch for that) although it doesn't say so in the specs sheet (it never does, so don't bother reading it).

Sooo for 2407 your options seem to be Amiga RGB to component voodoo (remains to be tested by you) and S-Video (definitely works as a native PAL screen, although with a slightly worse quality).

Hope I summed this up correctly

Last edited by Lord Aga; 07 December 2017 at 22:13.
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Old 07 December 2017, 22:42   #11
jagLally
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Originally Posted by Lord Aga View Post
To my knowledge 2407 does not support 15KHz via VGA input. 2408 doesn't for sure, I know because I have one However, 2410 does support 15KHz via VGA (both Daedalus and I own one and can vouch for that) although it doesn't say so in the specs sheet (it never does, so don't bother reading it).

Sooo for 2407 your options seem to be Amiga RGB to component voodoo (remains to be tested by you) and S-Video (definitely works as a native PAL screen, although with a slightly worse quality).

Hope I summed this up correctly
Thanks both of you. You guys are so helpful. Itís a very clear summary. Iím glad I asked before pulling the trigger on the orders. Iím ordering the scart RGB cable today but Iím still waiting for the A500 to turn up from eBay before the fun can start.

Adding up cost of ACA500 plus, cable; perhaps I should have paid the extra for an A1200. But then again Iíd have to buy expansion kits for that as well. All relative I guess.
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Old 07 December 2017, 23:07   #12
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Interesting info Lord Aga - strange that they'd limit the input frequencies on some panels and not on others. Oh well...

Yeah, it's an expensive business once you go beyond the basics of playing games from floppy, but it really is night and day when it comes to how useful the machine actually is. The A1200 as you say would also need some sort of expansion and they can be pretty pricey too, so the total would be much higher - albeit a more powerful setup. At the end of the day, if you wanted to upgrade later on, your A500 and an ACA will make an epic WHDLoad machine that you can sell on for a good portion of the cost of an A1200 and accelerator, and it shouldn't go down in value.
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Old 08 December 2017, 00:35   #13
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It is strange. 2407 and 2408 definitely have PAL capable panels, and you can have your PAL picture via both S-Video and composite (forgot to mention that one, but considering the piss-poor quality I guess nobody is considering it as a long-term solution).

Now, on AGA Amigas you can have your Workbench in VGA (related) resolution which is crisp and stable, and then switch to S-Video for games, which is quite all right, and I did that for a while. But I don't think the A500 can have a VGA Workbench resolution. Is that correct?

Nevertheless I've upgraded to a sleeker solution in the face of a 2410, and have no need for switching inputs any more. The mighty 2410 handles everything via the VGA port just perfectly. Why they didn't allow 07s and 08s to do the same, when they obviously have PAL capable panels, is beyond me.
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Old 08 December 2017, 10:40   #14
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Yeah, the A500 can't do VGA unfortunately, though the A500+ should be able to with its ECS chipset. Limited to 4 colours IIRC but useable.
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Old 08 December 2017, 16:53   #15
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I wanted to scratch my 68k ASM itch this summer and I found it quite nice to use my A500+ACA500plus+ACA1221ec setup. Since my ACA500plus runs great at 42MHz, even without the ACA1221ec it still felt quite speedy with a basic WB3.1 installation and the relevant development software. For the display I was using my Open Source Scan Converter which is not cheap, but it does provide a very nice picture with modern monitors.

While I do not have it myself, a Plipbox should do great for transferring smaller files which is usually what you need for development work. For larger files, the ACA500 is also nice for this as you can hotswap the FAT formatted AUX CF card while keeping the system running on the main card.
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Old 15 December 2017, 21:00   #16
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I got my SCART to RGB cable from AmigaKit. It took a while as they make them on order. Plugged it into the Amiga - > SCART to Component Converter -> Dell 2407WFP. Switched power on to everything and switched monitor to component. Held my breath and no picture....... damn. The monitor says "Video signal out of sync. switch input to 1920x1080 @65Hz".

Tried everything and nothing worked. So I plugged the component output to my TV which has component input. A beautiful crisp picture was displayed. So everything is fine except the Dell monitor. Google search of issue brought up posts from around 2007/8 with people describing the same problem. I suspect Dell had this issue and may have fixed it with later hardware revisions but it won't work on mine.

I suspect a HDMI converter of any sort may not work as the monitor doesn't seem to be capable of displaying as advertised in the specifications.

Now I have to think of a solution without spending a lot of money. Options I can think are:
1) Buy £20ish HDMI converter and plug into Dell monitor via HDMI to DVI cable.
2) Buy some sort of SCART to VGA converter. I do have another old spare monitor with VGA only. I could try both monitors this way.

Any recommendations or opinions?
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