The last MIST

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SuperBabyHix
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Re: The last MIST

Postby SuperBabyHix » Mon Jan 22, 2018 6:40 pm

Just wanted to take this opportunity to say I very much appreciate everyone that has worked so hard to make the MiST such a great device with a great community. I've enjoyed it all immensely and plan to do so for many years to come.

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Re: The last MIST

Postby Newsdee » Mon Jan 22, 2018 11:58 pm

It's true, an FPGA board is to some extent independent from its cores. The MiST was developed exclusively for the ST core at first, but like Minimig the core can be ported and thrive in other boards. That said, one needs a motivated core developer to carry the torch.

The MIST innovated in many aspects which hopefully will influence design of future hardware (it already has with MiSTer):
  • Fast "live" core switch from SD card (instead of preloading cores in a flash memory)
  • USB keyboard and controller support (instead of PS2)
  • Cheapest board at the time (I remember cheapest dev board was $300+ back then)
  • Nicely finished as an end product in a metal case
  • Available in good supply (Replay had nicer hw but nobody could get one)
  • MIDI ports that works with native/legacy hardware seamlessly
  • optional ethernet and RTC via expansion
  • huge number of cores ported from the community
  • simple enough hardware that can be soldered by one person
  • VGA out with upscaler (not perfect but something)
  • active community on the forum

Now some of the above are no longer exclusives... the MiSTer will be a suitable replacement. But there is something to be said about having open hardware a la Zx-Uno that anybody could build from scratch. Perhaps a MIST2 could take this approach (CC license on schematics) once the MiSTer design is more mature. It might be more expensive than MiSTer but be an "end consumer product"... if there is a big enough niche for that. I suppose there is always the upcoming Replay2, and the Analogue products in the closed source world.

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Re: The last MIST

Postby Sorgelig » Tue Jan 23, 2018 5:37 am

I hardly imagine DIY kit for soldering with BGA chips :)
6 layer PCB alone will cost more than the DE10-nano, although i think DE10-nano is at least 10-layer board.
It's better not to make illusions of DIY similar to MiSTer. It's impossible by many aspects.

Although MiST2 with TQFP chip and other simple to solder components is possible. Probably the solution on 2 FPGAs (like C-One) is viable but still will be hard to solder by many people.

What i've learned from MiST is that simple solution is not always the best one. I'm talking about SDRAM vs SRAM. Many DIY boards (like ZX-Uno) went simple way with SRAM. It's easy to access. But you will be limited by small amount like 512KB if you go as an cheap and affordable board. Ok, may be 2MB is affordable nowadays. And you won't be able to simulate retro devices requiring bigger amount of memory.
SDRAM is harder to understand, but once you get familiar, you get 32MB at least! That's why MiSTer uses SDRAM add-on, not SRAM.

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Re: The last MIST

Postby Sorgelig » Tue Jan 23, 2018 5:42 am

Newsdee wrote:[*] Nicely finished as an end product in a metal case

it's matter of favor. When i was young, i've made some simple devices like power supply or clock generator in such cases. So, this style of cases will always remind me PSU and i really hate to have such case on FPGA board. The first thing when I've bought MiST either hide it from my eyes or find a more suitable case.

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Re: The last MIST

Postby Newsdee » Tue Jan 23, 2018 8:13 am

Sorgelig wrote:The first thing when I've bought MiST either hide it from my eyes or find a more suitable case.

Yes it's pretty brutal design but at least it's more original than 3D printed cases or acrylic cases which are prevalent now. Nothing wrong with other cases (matter of taste as you say), I just give some credit to that :) A nice injection mold case would be a dream but too expensive to produce the mold...

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Re: The last MIST

Postby AdvancedFollower » Tue Jan 23, 2018 10:14 am

Sorgelig wrote:I think the big hit to FPGA boards (ant ot MiST of course) came from Raspberry Pi. The cost of RPi is just a fraction of custom FPGA board and it can do much more than FPGA does.
Some knowledgeable guy will see the differences between FPGA and ARM, but for generic user who makes the sales is unaware and buy what is cheaper. Just insert the microSD and you get emulators of almost all retro systems with almost no difference from originals while FPGA is far behind in terms of universality.

Even Nintendo jumped to ARM platform for their mini replicas while before ASICs used for that.


You can't beat the Pi in terms of pricing and flexibility, but the Raspberry Pi 3 is actually the reason I bought the MiST. I just wasn't satisfied with the emulation, especially for the Amiga. The version of UAE it uses is quite old, and there was some stuttering and latency, depending on the game. While it was nice to have a dedicated emulation box, I always felt that if I was going to use software emulation anyway, might as well run WinUAE on my desktop system which is much, much faster, smoother and feature rich.

Of course the MiST is more limited (no RTG, limited performance etc.) but it feels more "genuine" and closer to the A1200 I used in the 90's which I was trying to re-create in the first place. I'm also very happy with the C64 core, which has seen some development recently. Sometimes, less is more, especially when you're dealing with retro systems.

Of course it would have been nice with a faster core (68060+ speeds), higher resolutions etc. to re-create some kind of "dream Amiga" of the 90's, but mainly I'm just hoping someone will keep developing the cores, porting over improvements from other boards etc. There are still some minor compatibility issues in most cores, and fixing those doesn't require a new FPGA or board, just a talented VHDL developer who has the time and motivation to carry on.

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Re: The last MIST

Postby Sorgelig » Tue Jan 23, 2018 11:19 am

AdvancedFollower wrote:someone will keep developing the cores

This is the main issue.

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Re: The last MIST

Postby Foxie » Tue Jan 23, 2018 1:25 pm

Personally I think the price of the MIST is reasonable. I don't mind spending a bit more to support Atari developers and it's comparable with the cost of an actual Atari.

One dirty trick that some companies use is to rat their competitors out to law enforcement. They test competitors' products to see if they comply with CE. That can easily get your competition taken off the market (and in some cases the people behind the products sent to jail - one person who ran a small computer shop went to jail for assembling computers for their customers, since they didn't CE test their assembled machines). Not that I'm suggesting such dirty tricks per se, but it's an option some companies pursue.

The whole CE hell is the reason I'll never sell finished commercial products. It's the worst thing that ever happened to small developers. Instead, I might make some kits for various Atari MIDI projects. I'm not aware of any regulation covering kits since they're just a collection of parts.

There is one clear area where FPGA clones have the lead over the Raspberry Pi. They have the potential to break out legacy interfaces - allowing connection to real Atari and Amiga hardware. A MIST with a cartridge port, printer port and modem port would be essential for music. That's something no Raspberry Pi can ever do. The Firebee would be the perfect musician's machine because of the ports except it can't run Cubase yet. I have considered getting a MIST but I need those legacy ports.

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Re: The last MIST

Postby seastalker » Tue Jan 23, 2018 2:08 pm

Thank you all for the MIST and the continued support of the MIST. It's my favorite thing that keeps getting better. I have a ZX Spectrum Recreated bluetooth keyboard in usb mode on the MIST for my perfect simple speccy. It is my gateway into Amiga, even WITH a RP3 with a dedicated Sd card Amiga build. It's my ST and my Atari 8bit. I'm so glad I went for the MIDI port one, though haven't tested that feature yet.

I'm sad that the production is ending, but that makes this little guy on my desk all the more special. Anyone who contributed to it who sells future products of interest will get my first buying priority. Lotherek's shop is a regular visit, as are the core update news sites.

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Re: The last MIST

Postby eeun » Tue Jan 23, 2018 6:49 pm

Thanks for sharing your work with us, Till. And a thank you to all the others who worked on the various cores. :cheers:

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Re: The last MIST

Postby ex68k » Wed Jan 24, 2018 9:18 am

Newsdee wrote:It's true, an FPGA board is to some extent independent from its cores. The MiST was developed exclusively for the ST core at first, but like Minimig the core can be ported and thrive in other boards. That said, one needs a motivated core developer to carry the torch.

The MIST innovated in many aspects which hopefully will influence design of future hardware (it already has with MiSTer):
  • Fast "live" core switch from SD card (instead of preloading cores in a flash memory)
  • USB keyboard and controller support (instead of PS2)
  • Cheapest board at the time (I remember cheapest dev board was $300+ back then)
  • Nicely finished as an end product in a metal case
  • Available in good supply (Replay had nicer hw but nobody could get one)
  • MIDI ports that works with native/legacy hardware seamlessly
  • optional ethernet and RTC via expansion
  • huge number of cores ported from the community
  • simple enough hardware that can be soldered by one person
  • VGA out with upscaler (not perfect but something)
  • active community on the forum


Two more, which I think are important:
[*] works with a FPGA software without any additional licenses
[*] atmel MCU is also just gcc and some programming skills

which makes it very easy for beginners.

MISTer is a completely other beast, and can also heat your apartment ;-)

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Re: The last MIST

Postby MasterOfGizmo » Wed Jan 24, 2018 10:30 am

DanyPPC wrote:Hoping in a future MiST2 platform.


For me a MIST2 has one huge technical question mark: I am pretty sure you all agree that a MIST2 would need HDMI more than anything else. Setting all the licensing issues etc aside that would arrive with the use of HDMI i still have a very fundamental problem with this.

Currently we use analog VGA and as you are aware most cores don't include much more than a simple scan doubler. The resulting video is more a "retro video mode teaked to be somewhat acceptable to many VGA screens" than a regular VGA video mode. And you know how many screens and especially TVs have a problem with this. Using HDMI or DVI would increase this problem as HDMI also specifies the allowed video modes. A HDMI MIST2 would have to generate HDMI compliant video modes exactly like e.g. a PC. This in turn would mean that s simple scan doubler wouldn't be sufficient. We'd need a flexible video scaler with full scan rate conversion. By doing that we'd imho loose THE major feature of the MIST: The super smooth scrolling. This is the one thing that the MIST does better than any emulator ... if the screen copes with it of course.

So if we go for HDMI the video would not be that fluid anymore. Especially horizontal scrolling games would start to show tearing or stuttering. Unless really, REALLY big effort is being put into video processing. E.g. most cores run the native video at 50Hz. Most HDMI modes require at least 60Hz. Doing this conversion perfectly requires inter-frame interpolation. This is really advanced video processing required there. But even if all this processing is being implemented and all scaling is in place then you have a new problem: This processing creates a delay. You'd have the smooth scrolling but with an additional delay. :(

I am not saying iit's impossible but I am afraid this definitely exceeds my capabilities and many of you would be very disappointed with the result as it wouldn't be much more than raspberry pi anymore. The more we migrate from the original interfaces to modern ones the more we'll loose the feeling of the real thing. Squeezing the perfect Atari ST experience into a USB3 driven HDMI unit is imho really, really difficult ... and impossible to me ...

So how to proceed from here? The MISTer already has all the required hardware to prepare for a VGA to HDMI transition. If the MISTer supports all existing MIST cores without any visible loss in video quality and e.g. horizontal scrolling 50hz PAL cores run smooth as butter with no noticeable delay. Then one of you/us "just" needs to redesign the entire unit into one board and get into mass production. I'd be more than happy to see this happening.

A few years ago we took a few thousand bucks at risk to get the MIST into production. We definitely could have failed and simply burn the money. We were lucky and the result was ok (it wasn't perfect, i e.g. never completely solved my SPI clock noise issues). I am looking forward to see the next generation of boards. And hopefully it'll be open source to allow for yet another generation afterwards ...
MIST board, FPGA based Atari STE and more: https://github.com/mist-devel/mist-board/wiki

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Re: The last MIST

Postby Sorgelig » Wed Jan 24, 2018 12:28 pm

Moving to HDMI is inevitable. Even real retro computers like Amiga have modern add-ons to provide HDMI like Indivision AGA.
For license workaround DVI can be used. It doesn't require special license fee.
Affection to smooth scrolling is not that much as expected. 50Hz video converted to 60Hz HDMI without interframe interpolations and stuttering almost invisible. They are more visible when you set 50Hz on HDMI but output framerate is not locked to input. In this case you can see periodic jerkness.
Simple monitors accepting any frequency probably will output with the same frequency as input. But modern smart TVs with embedded OS wurely will do frame conversion to their standard (probably 60Hz) framerate.

About creating the single board based on MiSTer - i don't believe it's possible with affordable price. It's more wise to make something like a single breakout board which will hold all current addons and where DE10-nano will be plugged. There is no reason to re-design the whole board which will cost around 4 times more.

MiSTer is modular platform which is easy to integrate into some existing cases thanks to its small dimensions. I'm working on integrating it into pi-top case.
Since pi-top display accept any refresh rate, it's possible to output HDMI with original retro refresh rate and have butter smooth scrollers.
So, there are different ways to use MiSTer. It depends on user creativity.

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Re: The last MIST

Postby MasterOfGizmo » Wed Jan 24, 2018 12:58 pm

Sorgelig wrote:MiSTer is modular platform which is easy to integrate into some existing cases thanks to its small dimensions. I'm working on integrating it into pi-top case.
Since pi-top display accept any refresh rate, it's possible to output HDMI with original retro refresh rate and have butter smooth scrollers.
So, there are different ways to use MiSTer. It depends on user creativity.


Yes, of course you can output any signal you want. But my TV e.g. won't accept anything that's not a signal matching one of it's DDC entries. Back in the day the computer was generating just any video signal it liked and the TV had to cope with it. Today the TVs tell the computer via DDC how the correct signal has to look like. You can of course ignore that request but in my experience most TVs incl. my own one won't accept such a signal.

Having MISTer sending non-conforming HDMI signals to a TV set imho isn't any better than having MIST sending non-conforming VGA signals. In my experience HDMI/DVI screens are even more picky than VGA screens. E.g. my Dell computer screens will accept a MISTs VGA signal but won't accept the same signal converted 1:1 to HDMI on it's digital inputs. In VGA it's fine but in HDMI/DVI it's shaky and off-center and the screen won't allow me to adjust the picture in digital mode at all. That's why i gave up on HDMI/DVI.

I may just have bad luck with my TV and MISTer is working perfectly on most TVs. Then i wish you'd just start mass production of MISTers. I got a bunch of complaints of being too greedy since MISTer shows what you can get for the same money. I think some comments along this line can even be found in this thread. Maybe one of those complaining is willing to spend some money to start a MISTer series production run.
MIST board, FPGA based Atari STE and more: https://github.com/mist-devel/mist-board/wiki

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Re: The last MIST

Postby DanyPPC » Wed Jan 24, 2018 1:06 pm

My LED Monitor TV accepts 50hz on HDMI.
Tested with PC and Raspberry.

My LCD Sony TV accept 50Hz on HDMI too.

I think for a PAL compatibility reason most modern TV LCD/LED are compatible with 50Hz signals.
I play with VICE on RaspBerry using a 1920 x 1080 50p resolution and i have perfect scrolling.

VGA inputs indeed are more squeamish.
My LED TV/Monitor sinchronizes Amiga, ST and C64 VGA output to 56Hz, even if they are at a 50Hz.

Only Turbo Chameleon 64 VGA output at 800 x 600 @50Hz is well sichronized on my Monitor.
So, the HDMI is more compatible than you expect.

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Re: The last MIST

Postby SLiX » Wed Jan 24, 2018 1:55 pm

The fact that the MiST can be directly plugged (with the right cable) to an old 15Khz CRT monitor is really a nice feature. I use one of my MiST boards this way for retro-gaming, and this is incredibly "realistic" with perfect pixels and scrollings.

Also, I use an other MiST as a small Atari ST MIDI station and maybe an HDMI output would have been nice, but for Atari ST core, other video modes would be a lot nicer. 1024x768, 800x600, or even just 640x480 on VGA would be really handy. I keep hope...

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Re: The last MIST

Postby MasterOfGizmo » Wed Jan 24, 2018 5:10 pm

SLiX wrote:but for Atari ST core, other video modes would be a lot nicer. 1024x768, 800x600, or even just 640x480 on VGA would be really handy. I keep hope...


Uhm, the Atari ST core supports 1280x1024 ...
MIST board, FPGA based Atari STE and more: https://github.com/mist-devel/mist-board/wiki

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Re: The last MIST

Postby Foxie » Wed Jan 24, 2018 5:38 pm

MasterOfGizmo wrote:Having MISTer sending non-conforming HDMI signals to a TV set imho isn't any better than having MIST sending non-conforming VGA signals.


I'm pretty sure HDMI is fully compatible with 50Hz field rates. Most TV sets in the world use HDMI at 50Hz without any compatibility issues. Since HDMI was designed to be able to convey SD video content, it should be able to cope with standard 1040ST / OCS Amiga modes without any violation?

VGA is definitely more of a problem since many modern monitors can't lock below 60Hz. But TVs are designed to accept a 50Hz signal via HDMI as well as SCART.

Couldn't you get around the licencing problems by using a DVI-D output? You can just use a DVI-D to HDMI cable then.

What I really dream for is a cartridge port and printer port. Without those, music software is no-go.

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Re: The last MIST

Postby Sorgelig » Wed Jan 24, 2018 5:59 pm

MasterOfGizmo wrote:Having MISTer sending non-conforming HDMI signals to a TV set imho isn't any better than having MIST sending non-conforming VGA signals. In my experience HDMI/DVI screens are even more picky than VGA screens. E.g. my Dell computer screens will accept a MISTs VGA signal but won't accept the same signal converted 1:1 to HDMI on it's digital inputs. In VGA it's fine but in HDMI/DVI it's shaky and off-center and the screen won't allow me to adjust the picture in digital mode at all. That's why i gave up on HDMI/DVI.

No no, you've missed my point. MiSTer outputs standard 1280x720@60 signal by default which is compatible with all HDMI TVs.
Recent changes in MiSTer code allows to define any HDMI resolution, any pixelclock and of course any refresh rate. My comment was toward exactly pi-top display. It requires exact 1920x1080 resolution but completely indifferent to pixelclock and refresh rate. So you can write desired pixelclock and blanking size in MiSTer.ini for specific core and get for example 48Hz refresh matching original refresh of ZX and some other cores.

Of course for TV you cannot output any refresh rate or pixel clock. But you can try to adjust resolution for specific TV and may be get a better result - it's up to user preference.

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Re: The last MIST

Postby SuperBabyHix » Wed Jan 24, 2018 7:47 pm

I really like the idea of being able to do both a standard 60hz signal and an optional one matching the specific core's original signal.
That would be perfect for me since my monitor can sync to most of the Mist's line doubled modes over HDMI but my TV wont sync to anything under 60hz. Flexibility and choice is always a good thing.

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Re: The last MIST

Postby Foxie » Wed Jan 24, 2018 9:04 pm

SuperBabyHix wrote:That would be perfect for me since my monitor can sync to most of the Mist's line doubled modes over HDMI but my TV wont sync to anything under 60hz. Flexibility and choice is always a good thing.


Where do you live? America, I'm guessing? I would have thought modern TVs would contain the firmware to sync to 50Hz since there's no hardware reason why not. Most of the TVs in the world need to run at 50Hz. But I have heard of people in America having difficulty with 50Hz systems.

You could just set the ST or Amiga itself to 60Hz mode. At least then you'll get smooth scrolling, albeit too fast. I'd rather have too fast scrolling than awful jerky frame rate converted scrolling any day. There might be some games and especially demos that malfunction at 60Hz. But from what I've seen under emulation, many will run with artifacts.

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Re: The last MIST

Postby SuperBabyHix » Wed Jan 24, 2018 11:43 pm

Foxie wrote:
SuperBabyHix wrote:There might be some games and especially demos that malfunction at 60Hz. But from what I've seen under emulation, many will run with artifacts.


That's kind of goes with my point. If the user has the ability to choose if the output is frame rate converted or not a situation like that is not such a big issue. If someone has a display that only works at 60hz and they would prefer to run, say, their Amiga as NTSC to keep smooth scrolling they can, then if they run into the odd game or demo that only works at 50Hz, switch over to a PAl system with frame rate conversion and they can at least run that game or demo, albeit with jerky scrolling.

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Re: The last MIST

Postby SLiX » Thu Jan 25, 2018 9:53 am

MasterOfGizmo wrote:
SLiX wrote:but for Atari ST core, other video modes would be a lot nicer. 1024x768, 800x600, or even just 640x480 on VGA would be really handy. I keep hope...


Uhm, the Atari ST core supports 1280x1024 ...


Yes, I've already tested and used it, very nice feature, but a little too much for my actual needs.

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Re: The last MIST

Postby Xyla » Thu Jan 25, 2018 7:45 pm

Yesterday I got my MIST... and I love it. Today I read this... and I am now sad. I hope you will reconsider and this isn't the end of MIST.

I thought about buying a MISTer but it's ridiculous there's no Atari ST core!!! I know, I know, "I can port it". I considered attempting that (even though I know very little about programming FPGAs) but besides not having the time for such an undertaking, I decided I'd much rather support a product where the Atari ST is already a focus... so I bought the MIST instead. Now I'm extremely glad I did.

I will plan to buy a few more MISTs before they are sold out. I don't care about HDMI... I can't stand ST resolutions stretched across 16:9 LCD screens... I use CRTs.

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Re: The last MIST

Postby MasterOfGizmo » Thu Jan 25, 2018 8:23 pm

Xyla wrote:Today I read this... and I am now sad. I hope you will reconsider and this isn't the end of MIST.


It's great that you bought a real MIST!

This isn't a "decision". It's just that the MIST doesn't sell anymore (agreed, you obviously bought one :D ). So Lotharek has plenty of them in stock since quite some time now. The fact that they don't sell means that his stock will last pretty long. And if it doesn't last for long since for some magic reason his stock sells within a reasonable time then he might of course build more of them. After all he's a business man and it doesn't make much sense not to satisfy a demand. Currently there isn't demand so it looks this is the last batch to be produced. That's all.
MIST board, FPGA based Atari STE and more: https://github.com/mist-devel/mist-board/wiki


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