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Thread: Hoping for your help w/ a Famicom Disk System project

  1. #21
    Ryu Hayabusa (Level 16) rbudrick's Avatar
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    Y-bot,

    Once I get the cable working, I would be prefectly willing to do it if you supplied the roms to reprogram them along with all postage costs/materials up front.

    However, there's two probelms with that. First, I haven't got my FDS to PC cable working yet. Second, These cables are not extremely difficult to make. I would very much encourge you to make your own cables, as your disks are just going to die again anyway, eventually. In fact, I'm willing to help you through it when you get stuck. It's kinda one of the reasons I 'm keeping this thread going, because I want to help everyone who needs help with this. In fact, as a payment to the author of fdsloadr, I am spreading the word. When I asked him how I could repay him he said he just would like me to spread the word about his program as much as possible, because he wants as many people as possible to get enjoyment out of it. It's the least I can do, and as many on this board know, I'm very generous with my willingness to help others achieve their gaming goals when possible. The more people I can help, the more they can help others, and so on. Besides, wouldn't you love to have a set of these cables!? :-)

    As a side note, the fds to PC cable requires a power source of 5 volts from an *external* source. Has anyone ever seen a universal power supply with a 5 volt setting? It seems they all skip from 4.5 to 6.

    Talk soon!

    -Rob
    The moral is, don't **** with Uncle Tim when he's been drinking!

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    Bell (Level 8) y-bot's Avatar
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    Hi, I have a Mac G3 not a PC and i don't know anything about ROMS or emulation or any of that kind of stuff. I can build cables though. I made one for my Coleco Kid Vid Cassette player. I have a Sharp Twin Famicom that I put a new belt in that works pretty good and a regular Famicom & Disk System that I haven't bothered putting a new belt in because I can't get it to work on any of my TV sets anyway.
    Thanks, y-bot

  3. #23
    Ryu Hayabusa (Level 16) rbudrick's Avatar
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    Hey Y-bot,

    I doubt Virtual PC would do the trick, but I'm sure you could pick up a crappy Win 98 machine at a flea market or something for $50-150. If you don't know much about roms, then it would truly be best if you searched for some online. It would be extremely time consuming for me to find them for you. They are sometimes very elusive to find (well, .fds images are....regular .nes images are everywhere).

    However, like I said, if youcan find the roms first, then I could still give it a shot once this machine is working properly.

    Now, with that being said, I have made progress, but hit a new snag. To sum it up, it is easiest to jst paste the email I just sebt the author:

    Hey Brad,

    Great news! The FDS-PC cable is working, and I managed to make it work with a 4.5 volt ac adapter. All I needed to do is try it on another system. Seems it will work with the RAM cable on the laptop fine, abut won't work with the FDS cable on the laptop.

    However, and error came up that I'd never seen before. I dumped Doki Doki Panic to a valid fds file (another completely different game), saved and exited and loaded the game. It loaded great (at first)! Now, if you've never played Doki Doki Panic before, after you load side A, the title screen comes up, and then you load side B. After I loaded Side B, it loaded, and then this:

    SORRY...

    PLEASE USE
    OFFICIAL DISK WRITER SHOP

    "Sorry" was in red letters, the three dots were orange, green and white in that order and the last 2 lines were white, not that any of that matters...just giving you a visual.

    Now, I believe this is because I have one of the disk systems with copy protection built in (pink label with a 3206? chip set).

    Ever seen this particular error before? I thought it only errored out on "Reprogram" mode.

    Either way, I have a white label 7201? chipset version in the mail to me now, so I'll test that soon. :-)

    Talk soon! Thanks again!

    Yours,
    Rob
    So there you have it, folks. By the way, Zach brought up something to me that I was thinking about earlier but wanted to avoid. Instead of the 4.5 volt adapter, you could use, in Zach's words:

    A 7805 Voltage Regulator. You should be able to get one of these at any electronic component store, maybe even Radio Shack. Essentially, it's a three pin transistor that takes in anywhere from 6 to 35 volts and outputs 5 volts. You could build this into the cable assembly and then you could power it with a variety of DC power supplies. Let me know if you need some more info on this option.
    An awesome idea (I think I was thinking of 7801, but Zach is probably right). I just wanted to avoid that because it would make it overly complicated for the beginner (and non-beginner....extra steps=blegh).

    I'll keep you folks posted when I get my older model fds drive.

    -Rob
    The moral is, don't **** with Uncle Tim when he's been drinking!

  4. #24
    Ryu Hayabusa (Level 16) rbudrick's Avatar
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    Well folks,

    Looks like that error is not because of my drive having the copy protection hardware in it at all. It seems it is a result of a software copy protection scheme that is built into some disks. The author of fdsloadr explained to me:

    the error is a result of a simple software-based copy protection scheme. here's more (from the "FDS technical reference" guide, available at nesdev.parodius.com):

    ************************************
    Software disk copy protection
    -----------------------------
    Special thanks to Chris Covell for bringing this to my attention.

    Apparently, some FDS disks implement a very simple copy protection scheme, which the game relies on in order for the game to refuse to work on the copied disk. Normally, the number of files that exist on an FDS disk is stored in the second block recorded on it. However, some games maintain "invisible" files, which are basically files that exist beyond what the file count number in the file count block indicates. This poses somewhat of a problem for copy software like FDSLOADR, since these tools rely on the file count block, and don't assume that there is any valid data past the last file found on the disk. This means that when these types of disks are copied, the invisible files will be lost, and when the game loads the files that do exist, the game's going to give the user heat about there being a file missing or somthing, gumming up the works. However in practice, when an FDS disk is programmed, the unused end of the disk is usually completely zeroed out, and this makes detecting the end of the disk simple: just wait to find a GAP period of extreme length. Except in rare cases, this model for detecting the true end of an FDS disk should generally provide the best results for copying the complete contents for all types of FDS disks.
    **************************

    so in other words, FDSLOADR can't really dump games of this type (I designed it before I was even aware of the software disk copy protection scheme). However, have you ever heard of www.edgeemu.com? they host some 200+ FDS ROMs (along with ROMs for about 50+ other game platforms too), so you may not even need to dump your own FDS games (well, unless you want to preserve saved game files).

    In the short run, I can't really help you. I've discontinued development of FDSLOADR quite some time ago. If I had someone/people to work/collaborate with, I may consider revising it with relivant updates (like circumventing the software copy protection), but these days I've been busy with more advanced projects (like starting an integrated NES/SNES emulator, and even designing a 3D-based operating system). It would be nice to be able to pass the torch on to others who want to improve the quality of the FDSLOADR software (and to be specific: produce a working program under modern OSes), but the program needs dedicated processor time (as this was the trade-off for using no discrete digital electronic parts), which doesn't really make it suitable for development on multitaskable OSes like Linux or that other one I hate.

    The real problem is manpower here. I originally wrote FDSLOADR in assembly, but nowadays reading assembly code makes me cringe (as I now use schematic diagrams to display how software works with pictures, meanwhile maintaining the equivelant logic function granularity that assembly is famous for). At any rate, the whole program's architecture needs to be re-designed, and this not somthing that can be done in a short amount of time (as the existing version took 5 months to code, not to mention the time I spent changing the program to adapt to the speed of the PC it runs on).

    Anyway, let me know of your progess,


    peace.
    So, unless someone can find a work-around for it, we're screwed for dumping those certaiin games. Not too many people have the knowledge to code for this kind of thing, so unless anyone you know does and might want to collaborate with Brad, this won't get fixed. Personally, I would like to see a list of FDS games that do this...

    Yours,
    Rob
    The moral is, don't **** with Uncle Tim when he's been drinking!

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    I just love bringing dead threads back to life.

    I am thinking about making the FDS-PC cable soon and was wondering if anyone else has attempted it? Zach did you ever get around to it and if so would it be possible to have some nice pictures like you did for the first cable?.

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    Insert Coin (Level 0) Zach's Avatar
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    Yes, Simplynes. I acutally just finished building the other cable last night. And I tried it out, but it doesn't seem to be working. I am not sure what the problem is, but I've not even begun to troubleshoot yet, so I still have my hopes up.

    And yes, I will certinaly post some pictures when I have it working. It's another pretty good-looking project, if I do say so myself, so I'd be happy to show it off!!!

    By the way, I built the connector out of two MadCatz SNES/GameCube S-video/AV cables. I took the two ends apart, stole all of the pins from one, and added them to the other to get a fully populated connector. Worked like a charm! Pictures coming soon!

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    Look forward to the pictures, I'm still waiting for the A/V cable from lik-sang before I can get started.

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    I, too, am interested in the results of all of this. I just received a PAL Famicom (clone, I think, but internal inspection makes me really wonder...), now I'm just waiting for a PAL tuner card to arrive (as my main computer monitor is bigger than my TV-watching device), then I will get myself an FDS to play with.

    As I will most likely be purchasing my FDS from eBay (I'm lazy), what questions should I be asking to ensure I don't end up with one with copy-protection?

    I have many, many questions, so I'll stop myself at one more for now: where can I purchase blank disks cheaply? I know I'll be coming across plenty of marginal disks, so I'd like to be able to have a few blanks on-hand. (Even if it's only a few... I mean, half of the exercise here is writing the discs back, right? )

    Anyway, keep up the good work. Hopefully, I'll be in the "successful" camp soon enough!

    --Matt

    P.S. One more question: How much should I be willing to pay for a FDS/RAM Adaptor? I'm afraid of spending too much just to find that it has a bad belt... And it seems there is currently a wide varience in price for a reason I can't discern...

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    Banana (Level 7) davidleeroth's Avatar
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    Just to note FDS won't work with Famicom clones (I suspect that your's is a clone as there's no such thing as a PAL Famicom).
    You'll have to get yourself a Japanese Famicom or a Top-loader NES. It will work with a regular NES, too, but you'll have to solve the physical incompatibility of it.

    "I never should the games I sold and I have replaced them but they are not the game just a hollow shell of the same game." -RugalSizzler

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidleeroth
    Just to note FDS won't work with Famicom clones (I suspect that your's is a clone as there's no such thing as a PAL Famicom).
    You'll have to get yourself a Japanese Famicom or a Top-loader NES. It will work with a regular NES, too, but you'll have to solve the physical incompatibility of it.
    Well... First, I know I've seen at least one clone working with the FDS. Second, as I said, I only think it's a clone. There are a few (big) giveaways:

    1) It's got AV-out.
    2) It's black.
    3) It's got no Nintendo logo anywhere.
    4) The controllers are definitely not Nintendo. (Turbo buttons, for one. The size is slightly off, for two...)

    However, internally it looks like a real Famicom. And if it's a clone, I wish they had done what all the other makers did and give detachable joysticks...

    I'm willing to give it a shot with a FDS. If it doesn't work, I can always get a real Famicom fairly cheap.

    --Matt

    P.S. If anyone's willing to help me determine more about my unit, please feel free to PM me. I want to keep this thread on-topic. (*psst* It's about cables, if you forgot to read the first page... ) But, some possibly helpful information about my console... On the back, I have the following switches and ports instead of the normal ones: AC Adaptor, 50/60 switch (which leads me to think it's PAL), Audio RCA, Video RCA, TV VHF hookup (RCA).

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    There are PAL Famicom clones I have three, anyway most of the time a Famicom Clone will work with the FDS the only problem is some times the plastic around the cartridge slot is higher than it should be and the RAM adaptor cannot reach the slot. This can be solved by removing the top of the system but I suggest getting a A/V Famicom while they're still pretty cheap and they're great.

    As for blank disks ebay is your only shot unless you know someone in Japan, When I was after my first FDS I waited months for one to be listed that had a lot of disks with it.

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    Zach do the MadCatz cables have a hard rubber casing on the connector or is it a normal hard plastic? I got bored of waiting for the lik-sang cable so I started to search through my box of cables and actually found one with all 12 pins only problem was the rubber casing around the connector made it impossible to get into without damaging it but i tried anyway and failed I'm just hoping the lik-sang cable isn't going to be the same.

  13. #33
    Insert Coin (Level 0) Zach's Avatar
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    The MadCatz connector is made of clear, hard plastic. There are two halves that snap together, and if you're gentle, you can pop them apart without doing any damage to any of the plastic clips or pins that hold everything together. And once you de-solder the wires, you'll be able to slide the individual pins right out of one connector and into another one to make all 12 connections. Very slick way to go for building this cable!

    I haven't messed with my cable since the first time I tried. I'll let everyone know when I get it working.

  14. #34
    drowning in medals Ed Oscuro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lewellyn
    1) It's got AV-out.
    2) It's black.
    3) It's got no Nintendo logo anywhere.
    4) The controllers are definitely not Nintendo. (Turbo buttons, for one. The size is slightly off, for two...)
    That actually sounds vaguely like a Famicom titler, not sure about the turbo buttons but some of Sharp's Famicom systems had a turbo switch. On the other hand, it's not likely to be a Titler because they're expensive and it's got S-Video, not just A/V out. Not sure about the Nintendo logo, but I don't think my Sharp Fami has one.

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    Ryu Hayabusa (Level 16) rbudrick's Avatar
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    Famiclones are almost always compatible with the FDS if it can reach the slot.

    Now, regarding what to look for to find a compatible FDS, I just received a new FDS last night with a white label on the bottom (I hear this generally indicates an older model w/o the copy protection). It in fact, HAD the copy protection and DIDN'T EVEN WORK! Guy said he tested it, whatever...

    So, only use that whole white label thing as a general guideline....it's really not the best indicator. However, ALL of the pink label machines (AFAIK...not fact, could be total bull), have the copy protection. Some say Hong Kong units may be switched, but whatever, mine was from Thailand.


    The main thing you must know is the chipset in the machine. The only way to find out is to open it up and look. Open it and take out the actual drive. Open the bottom of the drive and pull the board slightly out enough to get a look at the bottom of it. If there is a chip labelled FD3206 something, it has the copy protection. If it has a 7201 (or maybe FD7201 something), then you are good to go. Unfortunately, that's the only definite way. Otherwise you can try the work around featured here (in Japanese):

    http://nesdev.parodius.com/fdscopy.zip

    Or

    http://nesdev.parodius.com/fds-copytool2.zip

    The first doc is actually instructions to build an FDS to FDS dubbing cable and the second half of the first doc is how to build the copy-protection defeating mechanism. If anyone can figure out that part, lemme know! Stupid black and white scans....sheesh.


    As far as finding blanks, plenty of japanese shops sell em. Don't pay more than 5-8 bucks for em.

    I also may have found a new mega supply on them, but I will keep you in suspense until I know my facts....this might be a huge breakthrough on the origins of these odd little 2.8' disks. I'll keep you posted.

    -Rob
    The moral is, don't **** with Uncle Tim when he's been drinking!

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    Banana (Level 7) davidleeroth's Avatar
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    I have three Famiclones and one Famicom. On the Famiclones the FDS doesn't work (I can assure you reaches the connectors as I have tested them without casing) but on the Famicom it works every time. I guess I have been struck by bad luck on those clones.

    Well, actually the Famicom was pwned last summer by a lightning or a power surge but it worked well before that. The Ram adapter was slightly damaged, too (scrambled graphics) but could be used for projects. Pay the postage and it's yours. I have a spare one waiting a new Famicom.

    "I never should the games I sold and I have replaced them but they are not the game just a hollow shell of the same game." -RugalSizzler

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    Insert Coin (Level 0) Zach's Avatar
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    I have two drives. One has a white label, and the other one has a pink label. I just took both of them apart, and they BOTH have a chip inside that says FD7201P. I wonder what that means. Does the "P" stand for "Protection"?

    Seriously, any idea if the P means anything? I still haven't gotten the PC to FDS cable working, but I have a feeling that I might just not know what I'm doing with the software. It's just unresponsive in this mode. Rob, can you explain a little more about the process of reading a disk? I just want to get that working first, then I'll dive into the writing process. Does it start reading the disk automatically? Does the drive spin the whole time you're in the software? What keys do you hit to initiate the transfer? Stuff like that...

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    Ryu Hayabusa (Level 16) rbudrick's Avatar
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    Hey Zach,

    Could I please buy one of those 7201 drives off of you? Send me a PM if this is cool. That would be awesome since I've had an incredibly difficult time finding one!

    As far as reading the disks, it's like this:

    Start the program using the command line:

    fdsloadr.com anyfdsimage.fds

    The fds image you reference in that command line can be any valid game that's already been dumped. If you wanna dump. say, Falsion and you have a SMBros2.fds image, that's fine. Type, say fdsloadr.com smbros2.fds. Just make a copy of that file before you overwrite it. :-)

    Then, if you haven't inserted your actual FDS disk yet of Falsion, for example, insert it now. The dumping of side A should automatically start. When you hear the motor of the drive stop, hit "2" on your keyboard, and turn the disk around to side B. You should see red bars fill up when you do both sides. When side 2 is finished dumping, fit F2 (or is it F4?) to save the file. It will merge both sides it dumped onto that image you referenced in the command line, overwriting it. Rename the file now if you want. Try the image in an emu or switch cables to load it onto RAM adapter.

    I don't think the P on that chip stands for anything, really.

    If you want to overwrite an actual disk, switch the program to reprogram mode (instead of read mode) and then insert the disk to start the process. It works pretty much the same as in read mode, from my understanding. Now, obviously, since I have a 3206 drive, I haven't yet tried the reprogram mode yet, but I believe this is how it works.

    Try overwriting a disk to see if your 7201 drive will do it. If you don't have a blank, try overwriting a disk that has failed working. Usually they just have to be remagnetized with the image, I hear.

    My ram adapter to PC cable works on my laptop, but my FDSunit to PC cable only works on my desktop. Weird, huh? If you are sure your wiring is correct, all I can say is try a different PC. It took me a while to figure that one out. Pain in the ass for many, I'm sure. I am seriously considering putting a second partition on my HD to put a win98 partition on there to see if I can use this program without having to borrow my girlfriend's laptop or my dad's desktop.

    -Rob
    The moral is, don't **** with Uncle Tim when he's been drinking!

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    Quote Originally Posted by rbudrick
    I am seriously considering putting a second partition on my HD to put a win98 partition on there to see if I can use this program without having to borrow my girlfriend's laptop or my dad's desktop.
    This leads into something I was wondering: which operating systems has this been tested to work OK on? I was planning to be doing this sort of thing from either a 486 or 1st gen Pentium PC-DOS machine. (Yeah, I've got all sorts of old stuff around here...)

    But if it works OK in some form of Windows (which would surprise me, based on the earlier comments from the program's author), that would keep life simpler for me and others, I'm sure...

    --Matt

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    Ryu Hayabusa (Level 16) rbudrick's Avatar
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    If you download the FDSLoadr program, it comes with some docs explaining what hardware it will work on. A 486 probably won't cut it. You need at least a pentium based processor, as fast as possible. You will probably need Win95 or 98 booted into pure DOS mode, though. Download the program and it should have all those details, because my memory is a bit fuzzy right now...but I believe there are some Pentium based processor instructions that don't exist in a 486 that are needed to run the program properly. However, the program is highly timing sensitive, so its best to get a fast machine.

    -Rob
    The moral is, don't **** with Uncle Tim when he's been drinking!

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