Author: Shalroth (cpc10-seac20-2-0-cust470.7-2.cable.virginmedia.com)
Date: 08-24-2013 00:14
Sometime between 2005 and 2007
I've been wanting to resurrect my Atari-based sequencing solution for a while. I 'd had success with using my Dell NetBook to emulate an ST, and Steem allows one to map the Atari MIDI ports to Windows MIDI ports. This is usually done to obtain high-quality soft synths, but I found I could map the ST MIDI ports in Steem to my M-audio MIDIsport UNO USB - MIDI adaptor. I've tested this solution in CuBase Lite and SWIM tested it with a cracked copy of CuBase 2.0, and the timings were fine. Tested with a Korg MS-2000 and Yamaha CS2X.
Wanting to restart using original hardware as far as possible, I decided to pull my Mega 2 out from under the TV where it's resided as a curio, conversation piece and occasional games machine for at least seven years. I have a 4MB STe with TOS 1.62, and a 520 STm upgraded to 1MB and TOS 2.06, but I settled on the Mega 2 as an initial 'middle ground.' Plus, *that* keyboard...
I bought a SatanDisk, to allow me to emulate a Hard Drive with an MMC or SD card, but I needed to get additional software. I still plan to do this, but not in the immediate future.
Early June, 2013
I won an eBay auction for a Vortex HDplus 40 hard disc, which I had to collect in person (but only ten kilometres by train). It was described as believed working, but without a DMA cable to use or test with.
Upon examination, the drive seemed in immaculate condition. Internally, I was amazed to find that the drive mechanism itself seemed to be an IDE drive. I was prepared for this from a German website that had some info on Vortex hardware. There's a board that attaches to the Atari DMA port, has an 8-bit ISA compatible slot, and an IDE interface board in said slot. It seems some versions of the drive unit had SCSI boards and mechanisms, but the DMA board was the same. Quite an advanced modular design for 1987. There's space in the chassis for a second 3.5" HDD drive.
Having noticed this, I immediately starting having thoughts of:
1) Replacing the IDE Mechanism with a larger mechanism
2) Slaving an IDE mechanism off the Primary Master mechanism.
3) Replacing the IDE Mechanism with a CF - IDE adaptor
4) Some combination of the above
...but my first priority was to get it working. I needed a DMA cable.
Around 23 September 2013
I got a DMA cable for GBP20 on eBay... add to the GBP20 for the drive (plus GBP4 rail fare). I also bought an Atari SM144 monitor, to replace my non-working SM125. That was GBP17.50 plus GBP15 for courier delivery. The display is in great condition for its age, needs focussing but I tested it on my Falcon030 and it worked great. It's a shame it only works in ST High resolution, and not any of the higher resolution colour modes available on the Falcon but in greyscale.
Having verified the SM144 worked, I dug out my Mega 2, keyboard and mouse, and took them to the 'studio.' I connected the Mega, SM144 and Vortex together, and the Mega booted to the default desktop. I noticed some unpleasant sounds (like the universally unloved attempt to read past 'Track 0') coming from the Vorrtex, and a repeatable failure to boot. I swapped the port on the Vortex that the DMA cable was attached to, rebooted, and went for a bath.
When I went back to the what-I-call studio, I was greeted with a different desktop; a system font supplied by NVDI, a desktop.inf that called for an open windows to D: and three HD partitions on the desktop, lined up along the top of the GEM desktop, just like I used to,
It would appear the drive works.
I have some difficulties with disc access, and the E: partition didn't read when I tried. I got errors trying to copy files from C: to A:, but that could be because of the format of the floppy, and I'm sure having TOS 1.2 is a major factor (it hates hard discs). I may have to dig out my STE for proper Vortex testing.
But that's where we are so far. The drive works for the most part. There are issues but I don't know where they lie. I also have additional upgrades to attempt.
I've read that the Vortex drives are slow, and use unusual driver software, which isn't AHDI compatible. HDDriver doesn't work with the Vortex as far as I read. I'm hopeful that both drivers can co-exist so I can use my SatanDisk and Vortex at the same time,
Work for Phase 4:
1) Back-up Vortex Software from existing drive
2) Attempt using different mechanism in drive chassis (clean format etc)
3) Attempt using two mechanisms at once
4) Try replacing IDE mechanisms with CF - IDE adaptors and CF Cards
5) Attempt to Combine Vortex drive with SatanDisk
6) Submit Hi-res DSLR Photos of drive internals and copy of Vortex software.