The MSTR Case

Showcase your build, discuss DIY cases, embedding MiSTer into existing computer cases.
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akicus
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Re: The MSTR Case

Unread post by akicus »

Just a fast doodle of how it could look with the MIDI Cassette.

Image

Milspex wrote: Thu Feb 25, 2021 2:50 pm
akicus wrote: Thu Feb 25, 2021 12:33 pm
Milspex wrote: Thu Feb 25, 2021 11:48 am where's the user I/O port?
It sits in the connector where the Player Cassette is connected. If people want the user port on the back as well I guess it could be done, and have a switch so you toggle between port on back and Player Cassette, depends on what people want.
Instead of redesigning the boards and install a switch, why not just have the user I/O inside as the main input. On the back of the case you just have a small clearing that you can guide the usb through. It gives you flexibility of putting everything inside the case or just have it outside the case.

Or have a female to female usb port mounted on the back of the case, and just connect the internal user i/o to that with a short usb adapter cable. That way you can also pick which port you want to use without the hassle of redesigning it .

Both solutions dont need any redesigning of the pcb


** Edit : Oh wait I can see these are all extremely close together (internal user io and the back of the case) so yeah a switch might even be easier.... :D
We will figure something out. Having everything inside would be nice but not sure how much space there will be after all the things we want inside are installed. I'll think about it some more during the weekend.

Bits n Stuff wrote: Thu Feb 25, 2021 2:18 pm
akicus wrote: Thu Feb 25, 2021 2:07 pm Maybe we could sell empty Player Cassettes (or "MIDI Cassette" in this case) for this specific purpose for people who already have most of the hardware? Does that make any sense?
That makes sense to me. Obviously you're losing the original controller ports but MIDI is only available on AO486, Amiga and AtariST so it's not as if the official controller ports would be the first option for people as I would expect most people to be using the USB DaemonBite ports anyway.
Yeah my thoughts exactly. If people don't want to use the MIDI cassette they can use the USER IO instead from the back (which is where it most likely will be put).
Milspex
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Re: The MSTR Case

Unread post by Milspex »

I'd focus on getting the main case versions out first and work on player modules later but thats probably your timeline anyway.
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Re: The MSTR Case

Unread post by Ryuoken »

The midi cassette idea is great!

Thank you so much for your answer.
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akicus
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Re: The MSTR Case

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Ryuoken wrote: Fri Feb 26, 2021 10:06 am The midi cassette idea is great!

Thank you so much for your answer.
The idea is good, hopefully it can be done well in reality as well.

Milspex wrote: Fri Feb 26, 2021 9:41 am I'd focus on getting the main case versions out first and work on player modules later but thats probably your timeline anyway.
Yeah, first we will test the pcbs so we know it works like we say it will do, then we adapt the final pcb designs to the metal work and finalize the design of that.
It takes time but it is nice to see that people are interested in our product.
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Re: The MSTR Case

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Bits n Stuff wrote: Wed Feb 24, 2021 10:22 am I had been tempted to ask about that, whether there could be a small window for the screen but I thought it was expecting too much because it seems like it would be a completely different case to add the extras.

Not my video.
I know him! ;-P
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Re: The MSTR Case

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I really like the console-esque design!
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akicus
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Re: The MSTR Case

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Been doing some testing with the DE10 Nano and our PCBs. Small update tomorrow, hopefully with some pics.
siskavard wrote: Sat Feb 27, 2021 7:27 pm I really like the console-esque design!
Thank you.
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Re: The MSTR Case

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Yes!! We look forward to seeing the progress :-D
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akicus
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Re: The MSTR Case

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So here is a short update. The boards were soldered with components and with the time we had this week we tested:

1. SD-Card. At first it did not work but we found the problem so now it works. We designed a new SD-Card pcb though with high speed SD-Card specs so the next/final version of the pcb will be even better.

2. Front USB-Board. Working as normal which is nice. It is a 4-layer board with matching impedance for the USB signals (for those who were wondering).

We will test the rest very soon.

Lastly, I forgot to say what that inside looking USB port would be for (on the same pcb with the front USB ports), the idea was not to use it as a bluetooth/WiFi or storage port (that can be done on the 2nd USB-Hub board on the back) but for something much more special that I can't say yet ;(, it will be shown at a later date but trust me, you will like it ;).

Oh, and here are a couple of pics of the pcb assembly.

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Milspex
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Re: The MSTR Case

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What are the dimensions of the case?
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akicus
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Re: The MSTR Case

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Milspex wrote: Thu Mar 04, 2021 8:54 am What are the dimensions of the case?
It is not final yet, we need to see first if everything is working as it should or if we need to change anything, BUT the idea is to have it as flat as possible. I could write a number that is around what we are going for but I will wait a little longer to avoid any confusion.
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Re: The MSTR Case

Unread post by Milspex »

cool.. If you are able to open it up easily, it would be best to at least have some room in there tbh.
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akicus
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Re: The MSTR Case

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grizzly
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Re: The MSTR Case

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Milspex wrote: Thu Mar 04, 2021 11:36 am it would be best to at least have some ROM in there tbh.
Lol i read it that way and was a bit :?: for a second or two :oops:
But it would be an awesome addition but a tap would probably be a bit too big :mrgreen:
And where would the coca cola for the grogg be :lol:
Tandy
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Re: The MSTR Case

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Will there be a way to get composite video out of this board for older CRTs?
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akicus
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Re: The MSTR Case

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Tandy wrote: Sun Mar 07, 2021 5:07 pm Will there be a way to get composite video out of this board for older CRTs?
If I remember correctly we have thought of doing a adapter cable (VGA to Composite) with a electronic circuit built in. So yes, it is possible.
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Re: The MSTR Case

Unread post by chanunnaki »

@akicus,

I've read the thread, and seen your Instagram. All super impressive stuff and I'm really looking forward to this case, and judging by the work and level of attention and care you've shown thus far, I think it would be a disservice to your project to just throw it on the market and for there to be any shortage of supply due to a limited production run. Of course it's a balancing act based on financial considerations vs demand, but with your case, or something similar, (and I don't pretend to know what your launch plans are), I see it as possibly an inflection point for the MiSTer project to reach a vastly wider audience than has been achieved thus far. MiSTer [as a retro-gaming experience] is ready for prime time. There are potentially massive things to come in terms of cores (PSX?? Saturn??), but what is here now is already utterly amazing. However, what we are seeing in the past 6-12 months or-so is that of incremental refinement of existing cores rather than many new headlining new features. This suggests to me that the project is reaching a certain level of maturity and we are quickly approaching the limits of the capability of the DE10-Nano. Once the point is reached that the DE10-Nano is fully tapped-out, it's possible the development community will want to move to another board with enhanced performance, but I think we are maybe 3 years out from that happening.

What is the MiSTer really competing against? Raspberry Pi/RetroPi on one side and Analogue systems like the Mega SG on other. Plus the myriad of other devices where people can play retro games, like Android devices and PCs. I don't want to get into the discussion of emulation vs FPGA here, we could discuss the pros & cons of that 'til the cows come home, but I think outside of a relatively few, most people don't understand the benefits of FPGA recreations of classic consoles/computers/arcade games just yet, but nor do they really need to understand the intricacies of what makes it better. Sure, FPGA isn't a silver bullet that suddenly makes everything 100% cycle-accurate, but an attempt can and should be made to educate. However, the real selling of MiSTer will be in the direct experience... and that is where a case such as yours comes in, as I believe the single biggest barrier for entry for beginners is the hardware set-up, both in terms of simple acquisition and the gap in knowledge.

The cut a long-winded comment down, what I'm suggestion is a crowd-funding campaign for your case on a platform such as Indiegogo. I think this would allow you to secure fund to complete development and production of your case and offer a turn-key solution for many people to get into this space. Perhaps production of the case in a limited capacity is all your strive for, and I wouldn't disagree with you that this might be the best approach, but I just thought I would jot my thoughts down here to maybe get you considering such a thing and to analyse the possibility a little.

To me, MiSTer is a miracle and an amazing demonstration of the open-source ethos and what can happen with open-collaboration. The whole software stack (from what I understand) is open-source, and all the add-on boards are also open source. Thus, I feel that if you were to go down this path of launching a crowd-funding campaign based on the work of Sorgelig and the vast army of developers, it would be prudent to make your case and its designs open-source too in order to gain the full acceptance and support of the MiSTer development community. This may not be something you are willing or prepared to do which is understandable, but without it, a crowdfunding campaign wouldn't get off the ground I think. I'm not entirely sure how money is made on open source hardware, and I don't know what your goals are with the case you're producing. Is it a passion-project? A profit-driven endeavour? Giving back to the community? Only you can answer these things, and you're completely within your right to go in whatever direction you see fit here. I do feel though, that if you open-sourced this and worked with the main MiSTer developers on making this an "official" high-end product of-sorts for the MiSTer, it would open a lot of doors, in terms of acceptance of the product within the community to secure the software support of the case for the duration of "MiSTer on DE10-Nano"'s life-cycle. All this is probably asking for way too much. Alterations would perhaps need to be made based on feedback and suggestion, but I think the foundation of what you have done is already solid, and MickGuyver's Daemonbite is already highly-regarded, so it doesn't seem like a giant leap to me, but I'm speaking strictly as an outsider here. Perhaps nobody knows what the vision and future of the MiSTer project entails for the next 3-5 years, but if anyone knows, it's the likes of Sorgelig. My estimate on the cost of the MSTR case (I forgot it has a name) is around $150-180 based on what is already on the market and the amount of other boards/components it's a substitute for and the additional features on top. I think whatever you charge, I'm on board for getting one because it's exactly what I'm looking for, but my primary concern is that perhaps a new expansion board gets pushed out, like the possibility of an add-on board for Saturn support (I don't think we'll see an add-on board for Saturn) or some other type of expansion board. Point is, it would be heartbreaking for me as a consumer if I got the MSTR, but could not accommodate newer expansions that come along, having to make a choice between continuing with the case or chasing the expansion. Perhaps the official MiSTer as-is is all that it will ever be and we don't need to worry about the future, or perhaps nobody knows because the development of MiSTer is community-driven and thus largely organic in terms of where it goes. Regardless, it seems prudent to somehow ensure the future viability of the MSTR while at the same time somehow not impeding upon the project itself to be able go where it needs to. I'm sure as a designer you only see compromise of your vision in taking this kind of approach, but again, I'm just spitballing here, just some food-for-thought.

If you were to launch a crowd-funding campaign for the MSTR, there would be a number of tiers. Off the top of my head, you would have two main targets, people who already own a MiSTer and those who don't. For those who already own a MiSTer, you could offer just the case in a single colour. You could introduce other colours or limited edition colours for higher tiers or stretch goals too. Bulk sales could be offered for retailers. You could have all the different adapters as add-on purchases. You could start with the two/three most popular ports, i.e. SNES, Genesis, DB9 perhaps, and then have other adapters as stretch-goals. Anyway, you get my point... for the maker crowd and the early adopter, you of course would offer the stand-alone case. This part is a no-brainer.

Where it gets kind of interesting as well though is the ability to offer complete systems to end-users. I think the biggest hurdle in offering complete systems is the procurement of the DE10-Nano board in sufficient quantities, and a partner such as Digikey would perhaps need to come into play here, or perhaps the board could be directly procured from Terasic. There is also the RAM expansion, and the power supply, but I think all three of these components could be offered at-cost.

One final thought I have on this is the issue of legitimacy. Acquiring ROMs and BIOSes for the system is a legal grey-area and the single biggest hurdle for a potential product such as this. Products like the Analogue devices and the Polymega have the benefit of accepting real physical cartridges and discs, something which the MiSTer doesn't have. This ability gives those devices an air of legitimacy and degree of authenticity that the MiSTer doesn't have and this may be a hurdle too far to circumvent. Could one really secure supply of the DE10-Nano board when it's heavily subsidised by the likes of Intel for a use-case such as this one? For this reason, it's probable that MiSTer remains in the realm of the hobbyist and enthusiast and it is my feeling that that is where the maintainers of the project are most comfortable in staying. The attention that something like a crowdfunding campaign might bring might not be something that would be appreciated and might even put the whole MiSTer project at risk somehow.

One way to navigate this issue might be to make available an SDK or IDE and sell it concurrently as a development and education platform for HDL and Verilog, but this is likely going way out of the remit of a product like this.

Anyway, thanks for reading if you made it this far, I'd be interested to hear some of your thoughts on this, and I know I may be speaking out-of-turn on your project so maybe you don't some of the things I've said so feel free to ignore it too. Either way, I look forward to seeing what comes of the MSTR and really excited to get one on my desk.
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akicus
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Re: The MSTR Case

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That is a long text sir :).
I'm off to bed, will make a reply tomorrow.
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akicus
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Re: The MSTR Case

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Thanks again for the long post, a very interesting and informative read.

Since the start of this thread we have gotten comments, PM’s and e-mails asking us about this case. ”Can you do this”, ”implement that” and so on. It has been super helpful in terms of guiding us down a path that is more true to what the MiSTer audience wants but at the same time opening up for the potential masses to also enjoy MiSTer by making the design more ”consolesque”.
At the very least I hope it can expand the amount of hobbyists in the community, I think I can write that without sounding like I have too much hubris.
That’s the idea at least.


MSTR
The idea with MSTR is to make a high quality case that is similar to what Analogue offers with their higher end products but at the same time offer a more modular solution.

The back of the case will have a ”I/O Shield” so the MSTR will be as future proof as possible. We plan on adding several threaded holes inside the bottom of the case as well (holes in the aluminium and have custom stainless steel threads glued with Loctite), so when the time comes for a new ”DE10 Nano” there is a a high probability that it is able to be installed.


Developing
We refuse to use crowd-funding for the development process, this is completely paid by ourselves. We will develop some working pcb-prototypes, send them out to people who are respected in the community for testing and be validated this way, it is the only way we think and we don’t want any money involved in this process.
Once the pcb-prototypes are proven to work as described we will manufacture a couple of cases and have it sent around as well and see what people think and move on from there.


Funding
The MSTR case is one of the things we need funding for, we plan to also sell cables (SCART et.c), Player Cassettes and other smaller things to give proper support for those who invest in the case. So with this in mind we think there are a couple of ways to get funding for the project and we would rank it as follows.

1. If we get enough support just by posting here and on Instagram then that is fine with us. We could first make a list of customers who are interested in pre-ordering and evaluate the situation after the list is finished. If it is enough then we could setup a simple Shopify page so people could pre-order directly through there.

2. If we don’t get enough funding then we are thinking of going to Kickstarter. Indiegogo let’s you keep the money regardless of what happens to the project (if I remember correctly) so we rather go the extra mile and use Kickstarter, it hopefully gives the project some extra validity this way.

We are of course interested in selling to both individuals and shops, both with and without DE10-Nano installed. We will post more about this at a later date though.


Manufacturing and Open-Source
The MSTR case will be pretty advanced in terms of how you manufacture it. It will have a lot of after-manufacturing processes and specifications that needs to be followed correctly for it to even be a MSTR case and function/feel like one.
As much as I would like to have everyone make their own case it could give it a bad rep if people make their own and it does not look or feel like it should and people maybe sell it to others. This case will be regarded as a high quality product and we need to have some control over it.

This does not mean that we won’t present anything open-source though, I have a alternative version of MSTR planned as well (a little bit smaller) that can be 3D printed and I will gladly give this out for free to the community, no problem at all. This will come after the MSTR though.


Legitimacy
I have been thinking about this as well. If we just want to adhere to the hobbyists I guess that is fine but if we want to explore some sort of wider audience this could indeed become a problem. Something to think about…
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akicus
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Re: The MSTR Case

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Image

Tested

1. 2nd USB-Hub (on the back) is working great it seems. Tested with a keyboard but will test with more stuff later.

2. Player Cassette (with headers for testing) is being tested, more info soon.

3. Sound from the back is working as well.

More to follow...
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akicus
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Re: The MSTR Case

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Testing

Front Audio - Works great, fantastic audio. We use a wheel instead of a slider in the picture if you are wondering, it is testing after all...
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akicus
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Re: The MSTR Case

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Testing

VGA - We tested VGA on a computer monitor and a CRT TV, works great. Will do more testing just to make sure nothing is wrong.
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Re: The MSTR Case

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Testing

Audio in - We tested loading games through a phone (PlayZX app) and it works great. Only problem is the game Knight Lore, not sure why but will look into it some more (the game loads fine but crashes once you try to start playing it).
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Re: The MSTR Case

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akicus wrote: Thu Mar 11, 2021 4:25 pm We tested loading games through a phone (PlayZX app) and it works great.
Wait a minute!
What exactly do you mean by loading games?
Cores only or Roms too?

In the Retroarch tread and some others there have been a discussion on using a different GUI for the mister and deemed almost useless.
Since you can only load Cores over the network and not Roms.
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akicus
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Re: The MSTR Case

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grizzly wrote: Thu Mar 11, 2021 4:57 pm
akicus wrote: Thu Mar 11, 2021 4:25 pm We tested loading games through a phone (PlayZX app) and it works great.
Wait a minute!
What exactly do you mean by loading games?
Cores only or Roms too?

In the Retroarch tread and some others there have been a discussion on using a different GUI for the mister and deemed almost useless.
Since you can only load Cores over the network and not Roms.
Well you load the core on MiSTer first, then you get the games (roms) from the app on the phone.
It gets to the MiSTer through the audio port.
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