It lives again... almost...

SpaceOrb drivers and software discussions
vputz
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Re: It lives again... almost...

Post by vputz » April 10 2017, 11:03 AM

Hmm, thanks. The need to switch to the 3.3v chips is a pretty hard requirement, though (since I can't even program the chips if the 5v serial chip with open connections is driving the microprocessor to 4.4v), so we'll see how it fares. I have the 3.3v chips, and they're pin-compatible so the only change to the board was powering the serial chip from the voltage converter instead of the USB line; minor change and they've been sent for production so it should only be another week or so before we'll know.

The five "dead boards" may still be semi-useful if I can program them and THEN put the serial chip on (they shouldn't be, but I think they may be since I did have that one success).

By this time it's been about a year since I had anything for sale and I'm feeling really stupid for wanting to change something that was working pretty well :) Eh, it seemed like a good idea at the time and I didn't realize how little time I'd have to devote to it. Darn real life... but I really think we're almost there, what with the one working prototype and all.

Agent_13
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Re: It lives again... almost...

Post by Agent_13 » April 10 2017, 22:31 PM

Don't feel bad. These things take time and effort, and life always finds a way to interrupt. I have a few projects here that I had big plans for, and they never saw the light of day. I designed and built an gated H-Shifter for racing sims that is all steel construction with 6 forward gear positions, and reverse lockout. I build Jigs for welding the more complex parts and purchased hundreds of micro switches, ball bearings, and other parts, with the idea I would start building copies in my spare time. About the time I was ready to start selling them Logitech came out with one that was no where near a nice but only cost around $100. I couldn't compete with that, especially with such a niche market. Anyhow..I for one am really glad you are continuing to pick this project back up when you have time. Thanks again.

vputz
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Re: It lives again... almost...

Post by vputz » April 14 2017, 15:35 PM

...actually that sounds pretty sweet. You never know... I think there's a certain market for high-end niche controllers once you get into the serious simulation crowd. But yeah, you certainly can't compete on price with someone that has mass production infrastructure like Logitech.

On the plus side, the new boards shipped, so I should get to try the new chips early next week and HOPEFULLY we'll have something to go on.

vputz
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Re: It lives again... almost...

Post by vputz » April 20 2017, 12:57 PM

AAAAARGH.

One of the new chips "works" (the other one should but for some reason the first prototype didn't do anything)--power to the main processor is down to 3.3v as it should be and it communicates with the orb...

...but exactly as predicted, it isn't powering the LEDs in the ball sufficiently, so axis information never gets transmitted but the buttons work perfectly. It may work for the SpaceBall series (4000flx etc) but it's not working for the SpaceOrb.

So now I have mounted both the trial serial chips on breakout boards so I can breadboard the heck out of it this weekend; between the old chip and level-shifters or the new chips and some sort of power arrangement, this has GOT to be solvable. But it sure is irritating.

vputz
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Re: It lives again... almost...

Post by vputz » April 20 2017, 20:33 PM

Oookay.

The problem is (and this has been a problem the entire time) the SpaceOrb, like many serial devices at the time, used the DTR ("Data Terminal Ready") and RTS (Request To Send) lines on the serial port for power (pins 4 and 7, now connected to V+ on the serial out circuit). They were never meant for this--they were meant for communications--but since DTR is always on when devices are communicating, and at a decent voltage for RS232, low-power devices used it for power, and computers almost always provided enough power.

But that was NEVER part of the spec; the spec just has to do with voltage, NOT power. Old electronics provided power probably in part because efficiency just wasn't as much of a concern.

3.3V parts ARE designed for efficiency. So the lucky chance that the serial conversion chip provides enough power has failed; we have enough power to start up the board and work the buttons (which draw virtually no power) but not enough to run the board. This has been a problem for the SpaceOrb since its inception; I can't find the link but someone actually made a battery pack adapter for it if your computer wasn't supplying enough power.

This leaves me with three choices if the other variety of chip doesn't work:

1) Battery pack. Um. No.
2) Go back to the 5v chip and do a logic level conversion so that it doesn't burn out the 3.3v microprocessor, or
3) Do it the right way and find a way to do voltage doubling or charge pumping straight from the USB 5V line and provide a nice solid 10-12vv to the DTR line, which should give enough power to get it going.

And of course I'm going to go with 3. Which means ANOTHER prototype, but I'll raid our ECE department tomorrow and see if I can find a relevant part (I'd like to only add one part to the board)... looks like a buck/boost converter is going to do the trick but I'm not positive.

SIGH. This is all... very... "educational".

vputz
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Re: It lives again... almost...

Post by vputz » April 21 2017, 12:29 PM

No luck in ECE. Parts on order but will breadboard it out before ordering more boards.

These boards MAY work with other orb models; if I have a chance I'll try, but they all use the same basic ball sensor so I'm not optimistic. The "add chip, program, add rest of components" that sort of made the first board work is... eh, let's not.

Agent_13
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Re: It lives again... almost...

Post by Agent_13 » April 22 2017, 0:50 AM

Sorry you are having so much trouble. Best luck.

vputz
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Re: It lives again... almost...

Post by vputz » April 23 2017, 11:41 AM

I'll get there; I just wish it was faster. I'm pretty convinced that if nothing else the level shifter on the old 5v chips would work, it's just not "the right thing"; I would have tried it this weekend but my wife's coming back into town early so deserves the time spent (my parents are about to visit, which is going to bring its own level of stress and frustration). The voltage boosters should be in... say Monday or Tuesday; I probably won't have much time in the week for it but I might have some. We'll get there.

Doosh
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Re: It lives again... almost...

Post by Doosh » May 03 2017, 6:32 AM

Hi Vputz

Just found out reading the forum about the news that you are developing a new serial to USB converter for the SpaceOrb 360. Can wait to buy the final version once it is available.

Have you any details when you might release it, and details on how it will be presented (ie. in a case, what size ... etc).

Thank you in advance.

D

vputz
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Re: It lives again... almost...

Post by vputz » May 05 2017, 13:53 PM

Hey, Doosh--the short answer is it's pretty small (the width of the RS232 plug and about twice as long, so about as long as your thumb), there's a "case" (two pieces of plexiglas, so it's sturdy but not watertight), and it was released about two years ago and like an idiot I decided to "improve" it after I ran out of inventory, and then moved intercontinentally, and then got really busy...

SO the new version is inches away from working, with a more powerful processor and memory and a slightly simplified circuit board; I've had one fully-working prototype but I'm having the voltage problems mentioned above. However, since my wife just moved out to start a new job (I'll follow her in a few months) I have more time to work on it and I really expect to have a working design by the end of the weekend, which means about 3 weeks to prototypes (If they work I'll sell two of the three) and then a small production run.

The annoying thing is that it's felt close for months. Things worked a little faster when I could prototype faster, but it's really really close, promise (the current version works perfectly except that it's not providing enough power to the orb for the ball sensor to work; I have the chips to try for making an additional voltage doubler and I think we'll get that running on a breadboard this weekend and press on from there).

Doosh
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Re: It lives again... almost...

Post by Doosh » May 08 2017, 6:44 AM

Hi Vputz

Thank you for your reply.

Look forward to the production run version. Please put me down for one of them.

Thank you.
D

vputz
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Re: It lives again... almost...

Post by vputz » May 08 2017, 13:09 PM

Will do if I can ever get the thing out the door. Lost a lot of time this weekend playing with voltage doublers with mixed results. Best candidate so far is the TC1240a, a tiny little six-pin sot-23 device... and man, I could NOT get the thing to work well with the capacitors I had, but I can't see a reason why not... seemed to be working for a while, then two of my three samples completely failed (I'd put in 5v but instead of getting 10v out, I'd get 1-2v).

Took the last one to work today and tested it in the lab and it worked flawlessly, nice solid 10v out. I'll bring that set home tonight and if I can bodge together something on the "closest match" board (basically I'll try cutting the traces to the DTR/RTS pins and splicing in the TC1240) that works, I'll do a new prototype and we'll be ready to go finally.

If that fails, man, I'm running low on ideas :) But I have some confidence.

vputz
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Re: It lives again... almost...

Post by vputz » May 09 2017, 19:35 PM

CROSS YOUR FINGERS

I cut what I thought was the power pin off the serial chip so the DTR/RTS lines were isolated, and clipped the 10v charge doubler I was testing to the underside of the serial port and...

Works great with Overload :) All axes and all 16 virtual buttons remap in-game. Man, that's a relief.
orb_overload.jpg
orb_overload.jpg (139.11 KiB) Viewed 188 times
OK, really close now. I just need to update the schematic and PCB, and send for moar prototypes (about 2-3 more weeks, sigh...) but I've got a really good feeling about this one. Board's getting a little cramped, but we can do this.

vputz
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Re: It lives again... almost...

Post by vputz » May 10 2017, 20:29 PM

Prototypes away! Now just another wait. Feeling much better about this one though.

Agent_13
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Re: It lives again... almost...

Post by Agent_13 » May 13 2017, 1:23 AM

Excellent! Congrats!

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