So the Mega Drive is on hold - I can't buy parts to build an RGB cable anywhere locally, and the seller I was going to buy a cable from is off for the holiday (presumably ANZAC Day, as they claim to be in Australia, though some of the feedback suggests they're not). I don't enough enough invested in the Sega platform to consider paying the cost of a decent cable either, and honestly I really don't feel like playing it over RF on a CRT. I did pick up a 9vdc PSU for it though, so I can play it without fear of torching the poor 7805 regulators in it, and I managed to get the pad working, though it's not great. I will be keeping an eye out for a couple of cheap, legitimate pads for it (along with Streets of Rage, and maybe a Sonic game or two).

So what to do with my morning off? Honestly, if my days off weren't a "use 'em or lose 'em" situation, I would totally not take days like today off... I'd either stock 'em up to use at a time that's more convenient to me, or if they paid unused PTO out at the end of each year I'd do that. But no, it's not to anyone's benefit if I work today, so I might as well have a slack day instead.

The PSX SCART cable I bought to go with the OSSC also works on the PS2 if I turn the color space to RGB, so I decided to have a go at firing it up. The OSSC isn't much help here, because most of the games are in 480i, which it either passes through unscathed or does bob-deinterlacing on, and I can't tell which is less unpleasant... neither is particularly great. What it does do however is convert RGB into a digital signal, which is still a significant improvement over composite.

But my second (external PSU) NTSC Slim won't boot games all of a sudden... I'm sure I had this fucker working. The other one definitely did, but it's an internal PSU (110v) I loathe stepdown convertors and I might actually sell it if I ever get around to it. Messing around a bit I noticed if I held the lid down, it boots fine. A quick search suggests that this is common, and that the trick of putting something on top of the lid works - but scratches discs. I found a better solution - taping down the switches - in instructions for FreeMcBoot via the swap trick. I've been wanting to grab a FMCB memory card for a while, but I didn't realize I actually have the requisite gear to make an NTSC one myself! Once the switches are taped down so I can swap, I need a copy of 007: Agent Under Fire, which I just so happen to have.

The downside is it would require using my only PS2 memory card, so I would be unable to save, and I'd have to use an external hard disk, which I don't have. Apparently FMCB cards aren't cross region, if you make one with the NTSC games it won't work on PAL consoles, and I don't have an NTSC fat so an internal hard drive is out... argh! I lack a Windows machine with a PATA port, so using all these Windows-only tools like Apache, WinHIIP, and so on was a no go either, but it sounded weird to use WinHIIP to format the PS2 disk, then use what sounds suspiciously like a Windows equivalent of dd to write over it.

After checking around for a while, I decided "fuck it" and pulled out the parts of a machine that would read+write PATA hard disks, threw FreeBSD on it, and dd'd the FreeHDBoot image over the top of one of the hard disks I had laying around. Put it in my PS2, and it boots!

I don't know how to get a game onto it - I can't rip any of my NTSC games on a PAL console, but it boots!

Issues that I had:

  • Finding the bundles for the FreeMCBoot stuff is difficult as many of the mirrors are down. If I organize my shit correctly, I will likely mirror just the FreeHDBoot image myself to make sure I still have it.
  • FreeBSD doesn't like PATA DMA these days. I had to disable it (echo hw.ata.ata_dma="0" >> /boot/loader.conf && shutdown -r now) to get the writes to work correctly, this may have been avoided if I could find an 80-pin ribbon cable.
  • Simply writing the image over the top of the drive doesn't give you any other partitions - just a tiny partition at the start. But that seems to be fine, so I've no idea why people are using WinHIIP to format the drive first?
  • My PS2 Network Adapter appears to be no good, and I can't get hdl_dump to work correctly under FreeBSD for installing, though hdd_copy works fine - I just have to use hdl_dumb on Windows to write the image to a USB drive, then hdl_dump hdd_copy to copy it from the USB to the PATA hard drive on the FreeBSD machine.

I suspect that if I solved the last two problems I could do it entirely with self-built software and avoid the sketchy Windows binaries completely.

Update 2018-04-28: The loader stuff has worked well, but several of the games keep hanging. I suspect the 160GB hard disk may be dying. I'm not sure 40GB is enough space, and when combined with the fact I think my original network adapter is not much good, I think I will just put it on the list to buy a new network adapter with a SATA connection, and a reasonably sized hard disk for it. However it's rather low down the queue, as despite the fact I'd really like to finish God of War II I don't think it's worth spending about $100-odd bucks on - frankly, I think I'd rather spend it on RGB modding the N64.

Horsham, VIC, Australia fwaggle

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Horsham, VIC, Australia

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