Showing posts with label GD-Rom. Show all posts
Showing posts with label GD-Rom. Show all posts

Hardware Review: GD-ROM & Compact Flash Modded Dreamcast

Technology fails. It's as simple as that. With the passage of time, and daily wear and tear, eventually even the most robust equipment will suffer a breakdown. We can do plenty to prevent this atrophy, but inevitably, anything that employs moving parts will break. As Dreamcast owners, we're probably all too aware of the various failures that can besiege our favourite console, and the list of potential faults is long. Power boards, main boards, controller boards...pretty much everything in a Dreamcast is prone to the ravages of time, and public enemy number one is undoubtedly the GD-ROM drive. More than any other component as the Dreamcast rapidly approaches its twentieth anniversary, the main, bespoke optical drive that is a key component to enjoying those brightly hued games of yore is becoming a weak link. Raise your hand if you've ever put a game in a Dreamcast only to be met with the dreaded 'please insert game disc' message.
The catalyst for many a clenched fist and jaw
To remedy this, there are several devices on the market that allow users to negate the need for a GD-ROM drive; and in many cases they allow for the complete surgical removal of the optical drive in favour of solid state storage for games and other applications. The two most popular variants currently available are the GDEMU and the USB-GDROM.
These two devices require complete removal of a Dreamcast's optical drive and offer the option of using either an SD card or USB flash drive respectively from which to boot Dreamcast ISO files. There are also further alternatives that employ the use of a traditional hard drive, but these are not as popular or widespread as either of the two options mentioned above.
Internal HDD mod (courtesy of Pcwzrd)
Both GDEMU and USB-GDROM are great alternatives to the ailing GD-ROM drive - with both offering minimal loading times and enhanced curation of game files. Both also employ proprietary software for operation and boast almost 100% compatibility with games in the Dreamcast library. With the Compact Flash and other alternatives, DreamShell (the open source OS created by DC-SWAT) is employed, and while this benefits from being customisable, it doesn't offer the near full compatibiltiy enjoyed by GDEMU and USB-GDROM. That said, DreamShell is in a constant state of flux, with new updates always being worked on, so in the future full library compatibility is more than possible. In the meantime, here's a handy list of Dreamcast games that will work with DreamShell, courtesy of Pcwzrd of Dreamcast Live fame. The crux of the matter is this though: all of the other options for eschewing optical media listed here require the removal of the GD-ROM drive.
So, what to do? How can you have the best of both worlds? The solution is combining the convenience and enhancements that come with solid state storage, with the ability to still use a standard game GD (or CD) if the need arises. Enter the latest modification on the market that hits both these targets with quite some accuracy: the Compact Flash Dreamcast. Coming from Austrian modder Jan, this Dreamcast keeps the standard GD-ROM drive intact and perfectly functional, but also adds a fairly discreet CF card slot on the right hand side and a BIOS switch on the rear. This switch allows for the console to be booted in either 'standard' mode where the console is just a normal retail unit able to read disc-based games; or to be booted in DreamShell mode, where the CF card is interrogated and any game files on the card are presented in a rather nice menu using aesthetically appealing icons. There's plenty of other functionality too, but first, let's take a look at the hardware and just why Jan chose to use Compact Flash in this modification...

Stone Age Gamer Drops USB-GDROM Controller

Online retailer Stone Age Gamer has announced that it will no longer be distributing the USB-GDROM Controller made by hardware modder MNEMO. The custom made device hit the headlines a few years ago as a viable alternative to the GDEMU because it allows you to run Dreamcast games from a USB stick and completely do away with the GD-Rom drive.

Personally, I've never actually used the device as contrary to popular belief, writing this guff isn't my full-time job (it's just a hobby) and I can't afford to blow hundreds of pounds on a PCB. Paying the rent, running a shitty diesel car and buying the odd pair of jeans are far higher on my agenda than emulating a GD-Rom drive. That said, from what I can gather it is a cool device and the reliance on USB sticks rather than SD cards makes it the superior option if you're looking to negate the need to own physical disc versions of games.

Until recently the only place you could buy a USB-GDROM Controller was Stone Age Gamer, but it appears they've had enough of the unpredictable behaviour of the device's creator MNEMO and released the following statement (be warned - it's quite lengthy):

"Dear Stone Age Gamer Customers,

Unfortunately, we must announce that we will no longer be carrying any product created by the developer known as Mnemo.

After over a year of dealing with Mnemo we have found him to be impossible to do business with. We normally would not attempt to cause any drama, but in this case we feel without explaining our reasons because it may be hard for our customers to understand why we would stop selling a product that seemed to be in such high demand.

This HKT-01 Dev Box Can Be Yours...For £1000

I have issues sleeping. Most nights I just lie there awake until Hypnos leaves his sunless cave, breaks in through the bedroom window and kindly grants me the power of divine rest at around 5am. Which isn't much help when I usually get up at 7, but I appreciate the sentiment. Yes, I've read all that guff about not looking at phones/tablets/PS Vitas/ Tapwave Zodiacs at night...but even when I don't, I still just lie there like an idiot staring into the darkness waiting to drift off.

Inevitably, I end up looking at Twitter or some other rubbish online but occasionally I stumble across something worthy of sharing here on this hallowed blog. Last night was no different, as I unwittingly found myself mindlessly browsing online retrogaming store Imagine my surprise then, when I stumbled across this HKT-01 Dreamcast development machine, complete with GD burner and a stack of GDs:
These don't come up for sale very often, and this one comes with all the relevant cables and software required to use it (providing you have an old Windows 98 PC to connect it to). Priced at £1000, this particular specimen is way out of my price range, and to be totally honest I don't want any more useless old technology cluttering up my house...but I thought somebody out there may find this to be of interest. There's a nice article here giving further details on what you can (and can't) do with the HKT-01, and that this one comes with the HKT-04 GD-Rom burner as an added extra is pretty cool.
Sometimes, these units have tags on them giving clues as to where they've been recovered from, but this one doesn't. That said - who knows what could be lying in wait on the unit's hard drive? As an interesting side note, the same site is also listing a box of 50 blank GDs (priced at £250) so the chances are both of these items came from the same place. If you're particularly well off and end up purchasing this item, please be sure to let us know if you find anything interesting on it. Right, it's 6.50am now - I'm off to get some sleep.

Unknown Gundam GD-Rom Surfaces On eBay

Well this is interesting. A Katana development GD-Rom has shown up on eBay Germany, with 'Gundam' written on it. Is this a previously unknown PAL version of Gundam Side Story 0079, or something completely new and hitherto undocumented? Either way, The Dreamcast Junkyard fully intends to secure this disc and investigate it further. If it turns out to be something previously unseen, we will be releasing it to the Dreamcast community. We have reached out to the seller for further information, but the real mystery here is that it is a Katana GD-Rom not a regular Dreamcast one. The plot thickens.
Want to help us secure this and release it to the community? Any financial help in the form of  a doantion is welcomed! In other news, we are looking into the idea of launching a full Kickstarter project for a new hardback version of the Ultimate Collectors Guide, complete with artwork and full hardware section. Stay tuned!

Update: Unfortunately, we didn't win the auction. However, all is not lost. The winner of the disc has been in touch and assured us that this will be released to the community! Huzzah!

Bonus Feature: The Corpse Bride – Deleted Scenes

While researching for my previous two-part article (Part 1, Part 2), I stumbled across something interesting that I hadn't encountered before. It ended up on the cutting room floor due to space, but I thought it was worth exploring further in this diverting little side topic. If you could just scooch over a bit closer and allow me to whisper conspiratorially in your ear: the MIL-CD enhanced audio disc might not have been the only special multimedia format that Sega invented especially for the Dreamcast - they may have also toyed with the idea of snubbing the DVD Consortium by producing their own proprietary digital video disc format for movies and films. Hush, stifle your gasp, they'll hear you.
N-n-no Mr. Bighead, I didn't tell them. Honest.
You may have noticed some logos during the start up sequence of many Dreamcast games for ADX and Sofdec. These are the CRI developed middleware tools for sound compression and multi-streaming video respectively. ADX allowed for CD quality audio to be compressed and encoded into the high-density GD-ROM layer (as opposed to standard 'red book' audio tracks). Sofdec was an enhanced version of the MPEG-1 video standard which not only encoded standard FMV cut-scenes into games, but was also tailored towards providing 3D game designers with access to some pretty swish graphical trickery. Video files could be rendered as textures over 3D objects and they could also utilise full alpha blending for effects such as explosions, fire and smoke. Multiple video files could be played synchronously or asynchronously and they could also be looped and stitched together seamlessly. All in all, Sofdec is probably a substantial reason as to why Dreamcast games looked so good (and have aged well like fine wines too). CRIWARE, as they are now known, continue to flog their wares to this day, proudly waving their flag in recent games like Bungie's Destiny.

Forensic Examination Of The Dreamcast Corpse - File 2 of 2

Recently, we featured the first of two revealing articles looking at the secret life the Dreamcast lead behind the scenes after it's official death. Here, Doc Eggfan of Sonic Retro returns with part two, speculating about what happened to all those surplus GD-ROM drives...

In the first half of our exposé, we established that reports of the Dreamcast's demise in 2001 may have been a little exaggerated, and that the spirit of the system would go on to live a long and fruitful life as Sammy's Atomiswave arcade system. While this covers part of the Dreamcast's hardware legacy, there's a whole other side yet to be covered around the use of GD-ROM drives and the proprietary GD-ROM media itself. Did the Dreamcast live another second life beyond the grave? Let's find out...

Well Oiled Machine

The Dreamcast is knocking on a bit these days - as you're probably no doubt aware, the entire planet celebrated the 15th year since the system's US launch barely a week ago. With age, comes knowledge and wisdom...but also wear and tear, and Old Father Time does not discriminate between the mechanical or the biological. To this end, you've probably noticed that occasionally your Dreamcast may not load certain games or that the system sometimes resets in the middle of a game. You may also be more acutely aware that the console's GD-Rom drive makes way more noise than any of the more modern systems. There are remedies to both the disk reading errors and the cacophony of grinding drives and GD access though, and these videos from Youtubers Mark Fixes Stuff and Carl Eggett will show you how to go about banishing those ear-shredding noises and game resets from your Dreamcast once and for all: