Commodore C64 ITX PC – Part VII ‘Finished’

Today I finally finished my C64 PC project.

Following on from yesterday, the first job on the list was to create the internal header cable to connect to Keyrah interface board to the motherboard.

Using a USB header cable from my spares, I cut away the USB socket and recrimped the four cables using crimps I picked up from Maplins.

Next, I fitted the pins to a floppy disk IDC following the color coding on the Keyrah schematics sheet. Here’s both ends, original and new.

….fitting to the Keyrah board and  hoping I’ve got the wires the right way around!

With that done, time to start cutting into the rear of the C64 case to allow for the motherboard I/O sockets to poke through.

Ideally I need to cut in the area I’ve marked in red  following the path of the blue line.

The cutting tool took some getting used to but after a short time I started to get the hang of it and was able to cut, grind and sand my way through the case. The tea towel was to stop plastic shavings from going everywhere….it didn’t work! 🙂

Just a little more sanding and I think we’re done.

Next, I tested fitted the PC components to checked the motherboard ports were accessible through the slots I’d just cut. It’s here that I decided not to use the motherboard I/O back plate as this would mean more cutting into the case and I preferred the thin slot that I’d created instead.

At first, the C64 case lid wouldn’t shut correctly as the C64 keyboard wiring loom was getting in the way. After a few well placed tie-wraps I had it tucked away but still the case lid wouldn’t shut completely. It’s then when I noticed that the SATA/ATX molex plugs were getting in the way. For the SATA cable, I simply  moved it to the other SATA port on the motherboard but for the ATX plug had nowhere to go.

I found that it was catching on the C64 keyboard mount so it was out with the cutting tool again to shave off a centimeter or two.

In the end, I had to make multiple cuts, refit and cut again but after a while I’d managed to get it just right. The only other adjustment I had to make was to cut a few  millimeters of each motherboard mounts.

As well as tie-wraping the cables out of the way, I affixed adhesive velco pads to each corner of harddrive. These worked out really well and do a good job of holding the drive in place. They also increase the drive slightly to help increase airflow.

The only things left was to plug in the monitor, power etc, hit the on button and pray!

WOOHOO! It’s alive 🙂

After a victory dance around the garden, the first thing to do was to check to make sure the C64 keyboard worked. With Notepad open they all checked out fine.

Next, I launched a program called ‘Core Temp’. This would give me a desktop widget showing current CPU temperature and also based on what I preconfigured would auto shut down the PC if it reached a high tempreture. On first boot the temp was at 43c and after about 3 hours the temp had raised to 51c. Not too bad but I think I’d feel alot better with a small internal fan fitted.

After setting up the USB wireless dongle I copied over the Gamebase64 files from my main PC and setup the frontend and Vice64.

…..and my first game? Chuckie Egg of course!

Commodore XP.

…and the finishing touch 🙂

 

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Commodore C64 ITX PC – Part VI ‘ITX testing’

With my new ITX motherboard arriving the other day I spent this afternoon testing it and getting the PC components ready for installation into the C64 case.

The box contents include the ITX board, x2 Sata Cables, x1 Sata/molex power cable. I/O backplate, driver CD, motherboard diagram and registration document (also containing a nifty Intel Atom sticker!).

Intel D945GSEJT ITX motherboard with Intel Atom 1.6mhz CPU. I’ve already fitted the SO DIMM containing 2Gb of DDR2 ram.

You can see here, how slim this motherboard is compare to a penny.

I/O ports comprise of DC mains socket, audio jack, VGA & DVI ports, e-Sata port, x2 USB ports and LAN socket. Note, there is no PS/2 port (although there’s pins on the motherboard to connect one should you wish to make up your own.

The first thing I needed to do was to make appropriate header cables for the on/off button, reset button and power LED. I’m still unsure if I want to install a HDD activity LED yet so that might come later.  For now, I just wanted to check that the board was working o.k. so diving into my spare parts box, I found an on/off button and LED that used to belong to another PC front panel.

My initial problem was that the header block from the old PC wasn’t wired in the same order as the header pins on the ITX board. It was also contained in one large single block rather than modern individual header blocks. Second problem was that I also had to make room for the original C64 power LED header block.

I had a look online to see if I could source the parts locally (and without having to wait for delivery) but alas no. Plan ‘B’ was called for…I went to fetch my tool box 🙂

Inserting a small screwdriver I was able to move the locking plastic lug and remove all of the existing cables.

…and using a sharp knife was able to slice away a block of four.  Two for the power switch and two for the power LED.

It’s a bit rough at the moment but I’ll soon have it tidied up. At the moment, this is the power switch and power LED fitted with room for the other header cables.

With that done, I fitted the nylon motherboard standoffs (thanks for these Bobby!) and connected the 2.5″ SATA hardisk and temporary DVD drive. Note, the motherboard does supports IDE devices but has the smaller 44 pin IDC fitted.  Finally, the audio, VGA, power and USB wireless keyboard dongle was fitted.

What a mess 🙂

Woo, green light…so far so good.

Always a sweaty moment, time to press the temporary power button!

‘Big blue flash time!’

Having a look around the BIOS settings. All the usual setting were here and a few extra’s to play with. For now, just checking the memory & HDD have been detected and to note the CPU temperature.

Formatting the harddrive. I should really think about setting up a work area out in the garage. Making a right mess in the kitchen 🙂

…and there we go, Windows XP (MCE edition) and Intel drivers installed.

Next on my list of todo’s was to fabricate a male to male header cable to connect the internal USB header on the motherboard to the internal usb header on the Keyrah. This will ensure that the cable is hidden inside the case as opposed to an external USB cable.

Originally I was going to take two spare USB header – USB A port cables found in most PC’s, cut off the USB port and solder them together (thus making a male to male header cable) however, I didn’t really like this idea. I could solder the bare cable to the Keyrah which I seen done before but…hmm, didn’t want to slip and bugger the Keyrah!

So, with that in mind I headed on out to our local Maplins electronics store to see what I could find and then onto my friend Andy’s house to pick up his Dremel which I’d need to cut  C64 case for the motherboard I/O back panel.

Whilst I was there and browsing at various cables, I picked up a better red power switch that looked much better than the temporary solution I’d fitted. It kinda reminds me of those switches you used to get on C64 reset/action replay cartridges.

Maplins also had a Dremel (well a Rolson rotary tool kit) on sale too so I picked one of these up too. Always wanted one myself and saves me having to disturb Andy.

Tomorrow i’ll finish off making the header cable and them start putting all the various bits together.

 

 

 

Commodore C64 ITX PC – Part V

This evening, I’ve mainly been prepping the emulator files that i’ll be using with my C64 ITX PC.

Emulation-wise, I’ll be using Vice64 – http://www.viceteam.org/ In my opinion, the best C64 (plus Vic20, C16 etc etc) emulator there is. ‘Frodo’ is also another great emulator but I find that Vice64 has just a few more extra features that I find really useful.

Vice64 on MS Windows XP.

Ideally I’d like to use Hyperspin-Fe as the graphical frontend for Vice64 and am currently working on my own custom C64 theme. http://www.hyperspin-fe.com/

Hyperspin theme for the Daphne Laser disk emulator.

However, until I can fully test it on my new ITX board, I won’t know if all that lovely Hyperspin eye-candy will run o.k. on the hardware therefore, for the time being, I’ll be using another favorite – Gamebase64 – http://www.gamebase64.com/

Gamebase64 is a very plain but powerful graphical frontend providing a simply menu system for browsing and launching C64 games  automatically with the C64 emulator. You simply scroll to the game you want to play, hit the space bar and Vice64 will launch and auto load the game.

Configuring Gamebase64 is quite simple once you downloaded all of the necessary files. After installation and launching GB64,  you just need to point the frontend to where the C64 emulator & disk images are stored on the PC. Additional files can be downloaded from the Gamebase64 website which includes C64 game screenshots, game information databases and SID tunes. It’s a shame game box art isn’t included though:-(

Here’s my current setup –

Granted, it’s not at stunning to look at compared to Hyperspin but Gamebase64 works perfectly even on low spec hardware.

Until then, I’ll be using the

Commodore C64 ITX PC – Part IV

At the weekend, I thought I’d see if I could get away with using the older ITX board I mentioned I had spare in my previous post… alas, it’s not the ideal solution!

With the ITX board fitted loose inside the case, the Keyrah interface board fitted, the ‘big ‘n’ hot’ 3.5″ IDE HDD installed, the 12v DC to DC power board next to it and not forgetting all the associated cables inside the C64  it really was a squeeze to get everything there (not helped by the large IDE and ATX cables too).

In this state, I’m a little concerned about air circulation and heat build up, especially as there’s no room to install a fan. The C64 is often known as ‘the breadbin’ not ‘the toaster’ 🙂

In addition, even with the ITX board installed without any motherboard mounting standoffs (again, not ideal) the CPU heatshield is almost touching the C64 keyboard circuitry.

A bit of a shame really so it’s back into the spare parts drawer  until another day (maybe it’ll fit inside a Nintendo NES case 🙂 ).

So, with notes taken I had a look-see around the internet to see what other ITX boards I could find that would meet my requirements. After a hefty surfing session I came across this one and it’s absolutely perfect…..hopefully!

Intel D945GSEJT

You can see from the picture above that this is one hellava slim ITX board. The actual height is only 2cm!

It’s got an embedded Intel Atom N270 CPU which is more than enough to run XP and Vice64. In fact I’d like to try other intense 16 bit emulators like Winuae on this board.

It’s got all the usual interface ports…specifically SATA so that I can use a slim 2.5 drive and SO DIMM slot for horizontal RAM installation thus keeping the slim profile.

..and best bit of all. The DC converter is built directly on to the board and as a result I won’t have to install a DC to DC board into the C64 case. Simple plug it into the laptop style mains PSU I have and all should be fine – o.k i could install a PicoATX power supply but then again, I’d have the height issue to deal with again.

I just placed my order this evening along with a 2GB ram module. Hopefully it’ll arrive before the weekend and can really get this project started!

Full ITX specs are here –

Form factor
  • Mini-ITX (6.70 inches by 6.70 inches [170mm x 170mm])
  • Board z-height is 20mm
Processor Passively cooled, integrated single core Intel® Atom™ processor N270 with a 533 MHz system bus and 512KB L2 cache
Chipset Passively cooled, mobile Intel® 945GSE Express Chipset:

  • Intel® 82945GSE Graphics and Memory Controller Hub (GMCH)
  • Intel® 82801GBM I/O Controller Hub (ICH7-M)
Memory Single 200-pin DDR2 SO-DIMM connector:

  • Support for DDR2 533 MHz SO-DIMMs (DDR2 800 MHz and DDR2 667 MHz validated at 533 MHz)
  • Support for up to 2 GB single-channel system memory
Audio Realtek ALC662* codec for 2+2ch (multi-streaming) Intel® High Definition Audio (Intel® HD Audio):

  • Front panel microphone/headphone header
  • S/PDIF digital audio header
  • Internal mono speaker header
Video Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator 950 (Intel® GMA 950) dual-onboard graphics support:1

  • Analog displays (VGA)
  • Digital displays (DVI-D)
I/O Control Legacy I/O controller:

  • 1 PS/2 header
  • 2 serial headers
  • 1 parallel port header
LAN support Realtek 10/100/1000 Ethernet Controller*
Peripheral interfaces
  • 7 USB 2.0 ports (3 back panel ports, 4 front panel ports)
  • 2 Serial ATA 3.0 Gb/s connectors (supporting IDE and AHCI)
  • 1 power header for storage devices
  • 1 parallel ATA port (44-pin mobile header)
Expansion capabilities One PCI Express* Mini Card slot for low-profile expandibility (I/O shield can mechanically support up to three external antennae for use with wireless adapter)
Power Integrated DC-to-DC circuitry:

  • 12 VDC jack on back panel for external power supply
  • ATX12V 2 x 2 power connector for alternate internal power supply

Commodore C64 ITX PC – Part III ‘Keyrah testing’

On with the next bit, fitting the Keyrah interface board into the C64 case and testing it.

Fitting the board was quite easy and the screw holes line up perfectly on the right hand side of the C64 case.

The Keyrah has been designed so that the original C64 input plate can be used that provides nice original look one the case is fitted back together. You can see here how the key map selector switch matches that of the original C64 on/off switch.

Next, the C64 keyboard wiring block is installed on to the Keyrah interface board. It will only fit one way due to a blocked pin so there’s no fear of getting anything the wrong way around. I also connected the C64 power LED cable (the red and black cable) to test that the original LED is working.

With the C64 case fitted back together, I inserted one end of the USB cable into the Keyrah and the other into the USB port on our laptop…….and prayed:-)

I fired up Windows notepad and pressed a few keys on the C64 keyboard…yay, everything worked perfectly.

With everything working o.k, I moved everything into the study as the light reflecting on the laptop screen from the kitchen window was too bright.  Here I’ve plugged in an old school Cheetah Annihilator 9-pin joystick.

Testing the joystick interface with IK+ running on the C64 emulator Vice64.

…and finally, more testing…actually scrub that, it’s just an excuse to play one of my favorites…Bubble Bobble 🙂

The next bit is the fun bit, installing the ITX board and PC components. However, I’ve had to have a bit of a rethink about this part though. Originally, the ITX board I was going to use is actually quite modern and powerful including HDMI ports/Hardware MPEG encoder etc etc and is probably a little overkill for a C64 emulation PC and better suited as a ITX HTPC.

I’m actually wanting to downsize my current HTPC from a M-ATX format to ITX so i’m going to use this board for that project. This leaves me with one more spare ITX board but the only trouble with that one is that a) there’s no I/O blanking shield and b) there’s no Sata input, only IDE. I don’t mind using IDE but I’d prefer not to have a large 3.5″ drive inside the C64.

I just need to decide the best way to go. i.e Buy a cheap sata based ITX board on eBay, buy a Sata to IDE interface or try out one of those SD card to IDE interface boards……thinking!