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MiSTer: the thread of cycle accuracy

Phantoon

I cuss you bad
I thought Shakewell's excellent thread from the old place should continue here.

So, what is MiSTer? It's a homebrew system for playing classic games, continuing where the MiST left off.
Why not get a mini console / Raspberry Pi? They're cheaper and easier to set up. This is true, but these solutions use emulation, which generally isn't very accurate; accuracy to the level of BSNES requires a beefier CPU than is found in these computers. MiSTer instead uses an FPGA to run these old games - the FPGA is a reconfigurable chip which can effectively become the old console's chipset, ensuring incredible accuracy when programmed correctly. Games run with no lag, exactly as they did on their original hardware. And the upscaling and optional filters look spectacular.
Added to that, the FPGA in the MiSTer is pretty beefy; it is thought that eventually it will be able to run PlayStation games and already runs Game Boy Advance ones.

 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
MiSTer users well know the suffering of not having a dedicated power switch for the system. You can buy in-line switches that connect to the 5.5mm connector that the DE-10 uses, but some of them cause voltage drops that might impact performance of the FPGA board. You can get a more expensive power switch in a different shape, which should fix that problem, along with an adapter. Some people even get a version of the IO board with a power switch on it, but I don't have one of those. So far, I've been literally plugging and unplugging the power cable at the wall outlet every time I've wanted to turn the MiSTer on or off (or both in rapid succession).

But no more! I stumbled across a tweet where someone suggested using a smart outlet that you can control with a voice assistant and my eyes lit up. I have a bunch of smart plugs in my house that I use to control various lamps, so I decided to grab a couple more and hook one up to the MiSTer. It's possible that there will still be voltage issues, but for $15 that's a gamble I'm willing to take. My new plugs arrived this afternoon, so I'll get it set up tonight and report back.
 

Phantoon

I cuss you bad
Heh, that's pretty clever. At some point I need to work out how to get my SN30 to work over a USB connection. I have a USB 6 button Mega Drive pad and great though it is, it's terrible for SNES games.
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
You should be able to get the SN30 to work via Bluetooth, I have a cheap adapter and it works very well (with an Xbox One controller, anyway).
 

John

(he/him)
Porkchop Express/Mister Addons compiled a spreadsheet of different controllers and latency, and it confirms there's a pretty wide gulf between wired/Bluetooth, but it depends on the controller. Microsoft controllers fared really well using Bluetooth, 8bitdo's across the board, and Nintendo's universally poor.

 

Phantoon

I cuss you bad
Well, I finally worked out what's wrong with mine. It behaved itself for days, then yesterday went bad. I ran the memory test while it was bad and it failed. Transient fault on the memory. I emailed the place I bought it from and they agreed to fix it within about ten minutes. So I was quite impressed by that.
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
Nice! I think the MiSTer community is still very small and generally quite passionate about the project, so I’m not too surprised to hear that. It’s still pretty cool though.
 

Phantoon

I cuss you bad
During the time it was working it was the best experience I've had with old games. Can't wait to get it properly fixed.

Edit: it was a pretty smart thing to do, with a small knowledgeable crowd it's not wise to get a bad reputation. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to anyone who asked now.
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
So, I did the thing and installed a smart switch to control my MiSTer! So far it seems to work like a charm. I also installed a new HDMI switch that I bought to switch between the MiSTer, SuperNt and Wii, which reminded me that merely connecting a MiSTer to your TV can break HDMI CEC. I have no idea why this is, but I read it somewhere on Twitter and it's absolutely true. The very moment that I connect an HDMI cable from my TV to my MiSTer (whether it is on or not), I lose the ability to control other devices over HDMI or auto-switch TV inputs. You can actually buy HDMI adapters and cables that remove CEC from the signal, but I'm already in possession of something that can fix the problem: my old 2-way HDMI switch. So now my MiSTer runs through my old HDMI switch into my new HDMI switch into my TV. It's stupid as hell, but it works: the new switch automatically shows whichever console is running, and HDMI CEC works again. The downside is that I had to use an extra HDMI cable to make this setup work and I've actually run out of them now, to my surprise (I have like 10 of the damn things and apparently that's still not enough). I did a quick test with Street Fighter Alpha to see if there were any visual problems or additional latency, but it all seemed to look good and respond quickly. There's probably an easier setup I could be using, but this whole mess was cheap to setup and it does what I want.

In actual core-related news, today marked the beta release for Jotego's Street Fighter (1) core. So, uh, get excited about playing a really bad fighting game soon, I guess?
 

Phantoon

I cuss you bad
That's exciting! I got my memory back from the supplier and mine's been excellent so far. Can't wait to play with it properly.
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
Because I am a ridiculous person, I've been looking at local classified ads for old monitors to use with my MiSTer. And not just one type of monitor, but two different ones! First, I'm trying to find an old CRT computer monitor that I could potentially use with the VGA-out on the IO board (that I don't own). Obviously, I need this so that I can do simultaneous analog and digital video output, which will let me stream kaizo Mario hacks while playing with zero lag on the CRT. The second monitor that I'm looking for is a 1600x1200 LCD, since that would allow for perfect 5x scaling of 240p video sources (ie, almost everything on the MiSTer right now). What would I actually do with that monitor? I don't know! I could try to use it to build myself a bartop arcade cabinet or something, but it would literally be years before I actually completed a project like that. Still, it's a tempting idea, and to my surprise someone just listed one in Montreal! But it's waaaaaaaaaaaaaay across town and I don't think I can invest the 2 hours it would take to go get it when I'm not even sure what I would do with it. It's tempting nonetheless, since it's a fairly rare monitor resolution and they don't come along all that often.

As for the CRT, I might have a line on one in my neighbourhood. It's a 14" monitor with a broken stand, but it's also close to home and the seller is only asking $5 for it. I think CRT computer monitors are pretty easy to come by in the grand scheme of things, but this one is right here and I can at least try fiddling around with it to see if I want to look for a nicer one later on. I would eventually like to order the IO board, the USB hub and possibly the sexy aluminum case that Mister Addons is working on right now. Though I am a bit worried of how much it will cost to ship all that to Canada, and whether it will even make it across the border under current conditions...
 

MCBanjoMike

Infamous third lava dolphin
(He/him)
Well I didn't get a CRT, but I DID get a 1600x1200 LCD monitor last night! It's an HP L2035 20" screen, which I just now learned had a product recall for giving people electric shocks, so I'll have to check that out! Anyway, it's in very good shape, but it's also an LCD screen from 2005, so I don't know yet how nice the picture quality will be for retro games - I suspect the refresh might be a little slow to eyes that are used to modern screens. I've ordered a DVI to HDMI cable recommended by Smokemonster that should be able to support the full resolution properly; once it arrives I'll see if I can configure the MiSTer to output at 1600x1200. Maybe some day I'll even convert this thing into a MiSTer multicade, but for now it's a fun toy that is serving as a second monitor for my computer, and it was cheap to boot. Don't expect any MiSTer footage captured at 1200p, however, as that seems to require a video card that sells for $700 USD.
 

Phantoon

I cuss you bad
I'm more excited about the MiSTer news than I am about the other stuff, and the other stuff was pretty exciting.
 
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