Showing posts with label USB-GDROM. Show all posts
Showing posts with label USB-GDROM. 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.