Fun busy week this was.
So I still had to wait a couple of days to get the new 2.5" IDE HDD and the adequate wire strip with connector. These were 44pin ones, and as I might have said previously, this is awesome because the HDD only uses 5v on 2 pins of the 44, instead of an extra molex connector for the power as in the 3.5" IDE HDDs, which also uses 2 voltages of 12v and 5v.
With these hard drives and wire strip, everything necessary for the mod to work goes through the strip, and soldered on the same “space” under the Dreamcast. Also the hard drive is tiny, and fits right nicely where the GD-Rom should go.
Anyways, I had to wait a couple a days so I decided to start with the plastic work.
My plan from the start was to take out a big piece of plastic inside the CD cover. As much as I could so I could take and put the HDD whenever I wanted without having to dismantle the entire console. And if I wouldn’t have CDs running… why the hell would I need that plastic anyway? And so I did:
Yeah… I know it looks pretty nasty but the tool I use to cut plastic is not exactly a blade. More of a filing thing, but in a circle. Still does wonders for plastic because as you can see, it melts it.
But perfectly controllable specially if you leave some extra plastic there to file later… as I did:
All smooth and pretty. Talking about pretty, I probably also mentioned what I wanted to do with those led strips (well at least one of them). I wanted to put it inside the cover, around that piece of plastic that is vertical to the cover itself. However the strips I have are too big for that. They are actually more than a couple of millimetres “taller” than the plastic thingie. So… I decided to put them on cover itself pointing down into the console, instead of pointing inside. Like this:
Beautiful, just love them pretty lights:
Now the next part of the plan was to make the hole for the reset button. Like I said it was going to be under that plastic “almost triangle” on the lower part of the cover. My plan was also to use one of my small micro switches (stupid name because they are buttons), and then have the triangle thingie on top with some kind of support on both sides of the switch. But for now I was only going to put the button there, and the necessary cables:
And this is how it looked in the front.
Problem with this is that it would be terrible hard to find the right supports for the plastic piece on top of the button, and without them, the plastic piece would be all wobbly from supporting it’s entire surface on only that tiny black button. This is how it all looked so far:
Everything looked pretty enough so far, and finally… the stuff arrived. I also took my chance that same day to go to the hardware store to get some hot glue, and I got some extra stuff while I was there:
As you can see I got the hard drive, the strip, the glue. I needed the tape for a long time but the interesting part are those micro switches (the buttons) and all that stuff to the right. The micro switch is FAR larger than the one I was using before (hard to see, I know). It has a big surface on the black button top, enough to glue the triangle thingie and not being too wobbly.
The other stuff allowed me to make a connection on the SD mod board, that I can disconnect any time I want. I could also do that for the VGA mod but Takashi once told me that video signals are… touchy. The less connections you have the best it is, or if you can have only solder and cables even better. And short cables. The thing is that the more exposed connectors, and larger cables you get, the more noise you get. That’s bad on video signals because it’s a lot of stuff going there… and any noise is visible. But it is perfect for the SD because it is data. Data transmission is very robust to noise, so a couple of connectors on such a small distance like inside a console… are basically nothing. So I got his done:
Also took the chance and changed the minijack plug for my final one, and not that tiny I had for testing. This one is rather big compared to the previous one, but it fits and it has really good quality (tough and noise wise).
Now I don’t have photos os the HDD mod, but I’ve already taken a few photos of that… and I was eager to try it out. Anyway I did the thing, solder the 30 and much points. Mad work. But all seemed OK, so I tried it out. Of course it worked =D, look at this thing detecting the disk all by itself:
And then some games:
However, I was obviously having problem. Some games that were documented that should be working were not. And on every single game the sound would be super slow. Bullet time slow. In fact that was when I also noticed that the Dreamcast screen at the starting of the BIOS was also like that. I thought the music was different (I have the development consoles animation) and it is, but it was not like that. I was sure about all this when I changed to the original bios and all worked fine. Why? because the original bios only runs with the GD-Rom on top. Without it… you simply don’t get animation and jingle. Then I remembered that OBVIOUSLY that I have read before that I need the GD-Rom board to run game sound and music at the appropriate speeds. But the board and only the board… but hey… guess what happened when I put it on top?
Time for some sexyness (perversely looking at hawt polygons):
Happiness in the world. Time for a sausage fest (not dicks fest… actual sausages… and beer… obviously that is fresh tomatoes and cheese… I’m mediterranean):
Ok, next day I resumed my plastic work. I took out the previous reset button, made the hole bigger, and installed the new bigger one. As you can see it now the difference is quite evident:
Afterwards I tried to put the main board inside the casing, with the shielding, but it wouldn’t fit. I had to touch some of the glue, cut some tall points or glue too near where the screw go. Those points is also where the plastic supports the shielding and the board. But still because of the HDD mod strip (now full of hot glue just to be sure I won’t pull anything in the future), the board wouldn’t get good support. So I took even more shielding just under the mod and the board fitted nicely:
Afterwards it was time to put the SD mod on it’s final place. I was thinking about somewhere on the side, inside the casing. There just wasn’t enough space. But then I had this fantastic idea of fixing it under the cover with hot glue. That way I would only have to open the cover to remove or insert either the HDD or the SD card. It wouldn’t look very elegant on the inside, but nothing too big on the outside:
The cover now has more problem opening up. it’s slower because it’s heavier. But still opens and you can always give it a hand. Proceeding with everything was time for more holes in the plastic. Minijack plug, VGA plug, and 2 small holes for LEDs that would indicate SD or HDD activity. Minijack was no sweat… simple 11mm hole (yeah big), but a perfect fit:
Then the hole for the D-Sub plug for the VGA. I hate to do these to be honest, and it didn’t came out too good. But good enough to fit the plug on the inside, but no screws to hold the cable. But honestly… those are 15pin on the VGA D-Sub plug… they hold pretty well, the screws are for extra security (you don’t want a medical screen to have the cable unplug mid way through a brain surgery… but for a console… come on press that Start button).
Also got a great place for the LEDs holes:
And it was time to start assembling the console again. First the LEDs for data activity. Real simple stuff, the holes were big enough for the LEDs to fit through, some glue under it would hold them. LEDs do warm up, but these are 3v ones, so… not enough to melt the glue, they will hold in place. also I left the legs exposed because I will use them to fit a connector to them directly.
Then a bunch of hot glue on the minijack plug and the VGA mod. Protection against shorts is always important… but I might have gone a bit too far =P:
Not the LED strip inside the cover needs 12v. I got them directly under the pins that come from the power supply with some long cables, that went all the way to the back of the console to a connector that could disconnect from the cover:
And this was how all look like disconnected. Also no more reader, but the board is still there with all the shielding:
And once connected. You can also noticed some isolating tape on top of the fielding for the GD-Rom board. On top of that I had some 2 sided take to hold the VGA mod in place. Again not elegant but since it is inside the console… no one really cares.
All fitted into place, a bit tight but well in place, and finally everything was assembled. Time to try it out:
However… after about an hour playing and testing (the reset button works pretty well btw), I started smelling like melted hot glue. Touched the console and it was COOKING. I immediately thought it was the power supply. I’ve read someplace that the DC without the reader, tends to have the power supply heating a bit more. Stable but stable at a higher temperature. However when I hovered my hand over the power supply… it was hot… but not much. When I touched the cover on the other hand it was very VERY hot. The LEDs strips are 12v ones… these babies warm pretty much. I couldn’t simply have them there and risking burning something on the process. Sooooo… much to my shame… pretty light had to come out. The video was also giving me some noise. Some dithering lines… always on the same place independently of the picture. I needed to reduce that somehow.
So new plan was to take out the LEDs strip on the cover, and reduce the VGA noise. The second is… really hard. Noise on video is a hard thing to work with. So I decided to apply everything I could, do some beer can shielding for the mod, make the cables shorter where I could, and put some ferrite beads every place I could. I wish I knew how to do filters for this kind of signal… but I do not. Did all those things and this was the new configuration:
As far as I can see the noise on the signal is almost totally gone (you have to make an effort to see it, maybe a shorter and better VGA cable would make it near invisible).
The power supply still warms quite a bit, but as far as I remember it is a normal heat. Doesn’t go to far.
So at this points the planned mods are all done, and the console is 100% functional. Great stuff going on in here. I would consider this console finished… buuuuuuuut. I know I’ll ruin the look on the console but I will apply another 40x40mm fan on the outside of the console, on the side of the power supply. It will make the console noisier, but I just don’t want to risk it warming too much. I will also try some new LED strips, with a voltage limiter resistor. Maybe it will work and if not, at least I tried.
Paint work… I’ll think about it at a later time, when I feel more confident =P.