MiSTer for Dummies

https://github.com/MiSTer-devel/Main_MiSTer/wiki

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MiSTer for Dummies

Postby nightshadowpt » Tue Sep 05, 2017 11:12 am

Hi Guys,

Ever since getting my MiST I have been a huge fan of FPGA's and what they have to offer. Unfortunately it seems that development of cores is currently stalled for the MiST and the interest in the MiSTer seems to be growing.

Unfortunately for a regular user like me, I am still a bit puzzled by the whole MiSTer thing and because you cannot buy one off the stores like the MiST, I have no idea how to get one.

It is my understanding that the MiSTer has 2 components:

1 - A Terasic D10 board (containing the FPGA)
2 - A daughterboard for the RAM (?)

Can you help me clarifying what are the roles of each board? Am I missing something else? How do these two boards interact? Do I need to solder something or will it be just plug and play?

I understand that right now this project is still more for the electronic's hobyist, but as a consumer I would love to understand how does this all work and how to jump on board.

Can someone clarify these doubts by making a "for dummies" explanation of the MiSTer?

Thank you.

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby Slade » Tue Sep 05, 2017 11:56 am

Your best bet is to buy the Terasic DE-10 nano board from Digikey. The reason I recommend them, is two fold:
1/ I purchased mine from there, and I can say they're reputable.
2/ Fast and free shipping. Digikey use some very fast shipping. It's usually 2-3 days from shipping in the USA to arrival most places around the world, it seems.

To use MiSTer, you'll definitely need the DE-10 nano board. This is the main board that everything runs on. Think of it something like a Raspberry Pi, but a whole lot more expensive. This is the direct link to buy one: https://www.digikey.com/product-detail/ ... ND/6817231

There are two daughter boards available. These daughter boards are designed by @sorgelig, and a few people on the forums have been making and selling them.

Daughter board 1 is an IO (input / output) board that has various output methods, VGA, phono audio, toslink audio, etc. It's good for outputting video to older monitors / TV's where the core won't display via HDMI. There have been a few revisions of this board and more to come - I'd personally wait for this to mature a bit more before either building your own or buying one from someone here on the forums.

Daughter board 2 is a ram board. It's a small circuit board with a ram chip. This, like the IO board, plugs into the DE-10 and provides a number of the cores with ram that supports the correct timing. Whilst it's not 100% necessary, many of the cores don't work without this board. I'd recommend buying one. Check out the SD Ram thread for more information on who is selling these: viewtopic.php?f=117&t=32211

As for how they interact, they plug and play, if you buy one pre-made. If you want to make your own, you will have to solder them. I bought mine from @gagadagatika and couldn't be happier with how well it looks and how well it works.

How to start: Buy the De-10 from Digikey, download the software from GitHub, dump it on an SD card and you're good to go. There's a little more involved, but it's not too hard to figure out. Once you're happy with this basic setup, buy a ram board if you want, and you'll have access to more cores.

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby lp » Tue Sep 05, 2017 1:38 pm

There's additional information here: https://github.com/MiSTer-devel/Main_MiSTer/wiki

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby gagadagatika » Tue Sep 05, 2017 1:39 pm

Slade gave already a good overview, I just want to add some links to it:

The MiSTer Wiki:

https://github.com/MiSTer-devel/Main_MiSTer/wiki

It is still under construction but you can find the most important information there. Everyone is invited to help and complete the wiki!
For beginners, it is recommended to read the How To Start and Setup Guide for Beginners. After that, go through the topics in the sidebar.


Hardware

Required:
- Terasic DE10 Nano Kit - Official Website: Terasic, Shops: Digikey, Mouser
- Micro-USB OTG cable - Shop: Digikey, Mouser
- Micro-SD (Included in Terasic De10 Nano Kit)

Recommended:
- SDRAM Board - DIY (Guide) or buy it here if available: Sales Thread. Cores that require SDRAM: Wiki
- USB-Hub with external power supply (nothing specific)

Optional:
- IO Board - DIY (Guide) or buy here if available: Sales Thread


Software

1. SD-Card Installer - Download: Mega, Guide: GitHub / Setup Guide for Beginners
2. MiSter Firmware - Download: GitHub
3. MiSTer Menu Core - Download: GitHub

Selection of MiSTer Compatible Cores:
- Commodore 64
- Sinclair ZX Spectrum
- Intel 80486
- Amiga
- Nintendo Entertainment System
- Sega Genesis / Mega Drive
Last edited by gagadagatika on Sat Sep 09, 2017 9:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby nightshadowpt » Wed Sep 06, 2017 8:26 pm

Thank you all for the explanation. It is crystal clear.

By the way, the Wiki is very good.

To avoid opening another topic, can I ask what are the "immediate" benefits from the MiSTer over the MiST at this moment?

I understand the difference in power and the potential for the future, but right now, what are the benefits?

If I understand correctly, the only core that is not available on the MiST is the 486, right?

Are any of the other cores more advanced than their MiST version?

Please understand I am not trying to be negative. I am genuinely interested in knowing and in the MiSTer project.

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby Slade » Thu Sep 07, 2017 8:22 am

You're right, the immediate benefits are essentially just the 486 core, and the ZX Spectrum has had some additional work on it to load tapes, and other more specific file formats. I believe the Sam Coupe may be a little better too, but I'm not 100% sure on that.

Most of the other cores work almost exactly the same. You could, quite genuinely, hold off buying the Terasic board and wait a few months, and see how things mature. If running Win95 on a simulated 486 isn't your thing, and you don't need it right now, then you could wait.

If you're like a few of us and a little less frugal with their spending, the board isn't as expensive as the MiST and will likely offer a much bigger selection of cores to play with. Sadly VHDL is probably more complex than most of us could admit too and we won't likely be able to help in the way of porting cores.

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby gagadagatika » Sat Sep 09, 2017 7:58 pm

I have added a setup guide for absolute beginners to the wiki. This might be a bit too basic for most MiST / MiSTer veterans here in the forum, but it will hopefully help completely new users with their first setup.

MiSTer Wiki > Setup Guide (Beginners)

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby nightshadowpt » Sun Sep 10, 2017 7:59 am

Appreciate it.

This is really nice and will be helpful in bringing new users into this project.

Thank you for your effort.

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby mzry » Tue Sep 19, 2017 1:48 pm

The day someone posts a Falcon core is the day I throw my wallet at this project as fast as possible.

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby NML32 » Tue Sep 19, 2017 1:54 pm

mzry wrote:The day someone posts a Falcon core is the day I throw my wallet at this project as fast as possible.

:roll:

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby Newsdee » Tue Sep 19, 2017 1:59 pm

Very nice guide and great screenshots!

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby mzry » Wed Sep 20, 2017 1:15 pm

NML32 wrote:
mzry wrote:The day someone posts a Falcon core is the day I throw my wallet at this project as fast as possible.

:roll:


Why that response, when surely a faster FPGA should mean more powerful cores. If I wanted to emulate an ST or Amiga I'd just buy the mist. The only possible future prospect for Mister is the ability to emulate a higher performance atari machine as far as I can see.

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby kolla » Wed Sep 20, 2017 8:16 pm

Awesome guide!

It would be nice if the guide also described how to prepare card without the need of windows, for those of us who use other platforms :)

If I understand correctly, the tool writes 3 partitions, first one small partition for uboot, then 500MB linux partition, and then the rest as a FAT32 filesystem for rbf files etc? I tried using "MiSTer SD Card Utility.exe" under Windows on VirtualBox, with mapping of USB port to the vhost, but after writing the 500MB partition, it always fails.
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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby gagadagatika » Wed Sep 20, 2017 9:09 pm

kolla wrote:Awesome guide!

It would be nice if the guide also described how to prepare card without the need of windows, for those of us who use other platforms :)

If I understand correctly, the tool writes 3 partitions, first one small partition for uboot, then 500MB linux partition, and then the rest as a FAT32 filesystem for rbf files etc? I tried using "MiSTer SD Card Utility.exe" under Windows on VirtualBox, with mapping of USB port to the vhost, but after writing the 500MB partition, it always fails.


Are you on Linux or macOS?

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby kolla » Thu Sep 21, 2017 8:56 am

gagadagatika wrote:Are you on Linux or macOS?


Yes, typically macbook, and my other systems are either other BSDs (DragonFly and TrueOS) or Linux.
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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby gagadagatika » Thu Sep 21, 2017 10:39 am

kolla wrote:
gagadagatika wrote:Are you on Linux or macOS?


Yes, typically macbook, and my other systems are either other BSDs (DragonFly and TrueOS) or Linux.


I don't know if you have seen it already, but there is the advanced setup guide for linux here: Setup Guide (Advanced)

I like to use gparted for formatting partitions on linux, it gets the job done very easily and quickly.

The Advanced guide uses the sd installer script, which should be pretty straightforward. It won't format the fat partition, but you should be able to do that with gparted or any other linux formatting tool (e.g. mkfs)

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby kolla » Thu Sep 21, 2017 11:25 am

gagadagatika wrote:I don't know if you have seen it already, but there is the advanced setup guide for linux here: Setup Guide (Advanced)
but it needs a little bit work to be more accessible. I like to use gparted for creating my linux boot and rootfs partitions, it gets the job done very easily and quickly.


Well, this is silly, somehow I have missed that guide, the create_sd.sh script answers all my questions :)

Thanks.
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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby ijor » Thu Sep 21, 2017 9:13 pm

mzry wrote:Why that response, when surely a faster FPGA should mean more powerful cores. If I wanted to emulate an ST or Amiga I'd just buy the mist. The only possible future prospect for Mister is the ability to emulate a higher performance atari machine as far as I can see.


The FPGA in the MiSTer has much more capacity, but it's not (much) faster than the one in the original MiST. But that's ok, because that's what you need for a Falcon compatible core. You don't need more speed. It just (probably) won't fit on the MiST's. But developing a Falcon core is quite a task, it would take some time ...

Edit:

If I'm not mistaken, the FPGA in the MiSTer is the medium speed grade, while the original MiST is the slowest. That should make it a tad faster. But Cyclone V is not faster than Cyclone III at the same speed grade, it's actually slightly slower in some cases.

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby athensnet » Sat Oct 07, 2017 7:07 pm

All writen here are very usefull but please confirm me :
There is no way to physical connect a real amiga/atari joystick onto Mister board.
ONLY by an usb adapter.
Is this correct?

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby Sorgelig » Sat Oct 07, 2017 9:38 pm

athensnet wrote:All writen here are very usefull but please confirm me :
There is no way to physical connect a real amiga/atari joystick onto Mister board.
ONLY by an usb adapter.
Is this correct?

Of course there is a way. If you are familiar with HDL programming then you can change the required core to use free GPIOs for DB9 joystick.
Since MiSTer is universal board for many emulator, it's pretty hard (and probably expensive) to add support native joystick connections for each core. Different cores may require different joystick connections.
Thus USB is a right way to connect all that "zoo" of joysticks.

Basically, cheap chinese USB pad a-la PS3-pad provides enough buttons to act as joystick for any retro platform. So i even don't see why you need to connect real DB9 joysticks.
USB joysticks can be wireless, so you won't be bound with short distance.

P.S.: using direct FPGA connection for such external full of static electricity devices as joystick may damage FPGA! So some buffers with good anti-static protection are required.

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby athensnet » Sun Oct 08, 2017 8:00 pm

Thank you for the detailed answer.
Since I am not a programmer a usb/bluetooth joypad is good :D

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby error1 » Wed Nov 22, 2017 6:53 pm

I am having difficulties booting my MiSTer, I have gotten to the menu once but the "snow" in the background eventually froze and since then I don't get any HDMI output. But the original included microSD still boots fine to the graphical Linux desktop. I hope I haven't permanently damaged anything :(

I am not sure what's going on, but would really appreciate it if someone could SSH into their MiSTer and copy the output from a working system when launching the mister binary

On mine it gets stuck here with the MiSTer binary showing 100% cpu use in top:

Code: Select all

# md5sum /media/fat/menu.rbf
c4341960a2d78dd244a2e195662a705d  /media/fat/menu.rbf
# md5sum /media/fat/MiSTer
f3b1901b41684d4c016ee1ac898cfd27  /media/fat/MiSTer
# /media/fat/MiSTer

Minimig by Dennis van Weeren
ARM Controller by Jakub Bednarski

Version HPS171115

Looking for root device...
FileLoad(open) File:/media/fat/device.bin, error: -1.
Using SD card as a root device
IKBD: Init
FileLoad(open) File:/media/fat/config/MIST.CFG, error: -1.
Init SPI.
Identified 8BIT core


if i copy menu.rbf to device.bin the messages change but it still hangs the same way with 100% cpu

Code: Select all

# mister

Minimig by Dennis van Weeren
ARM Controller by Jakub Bednarski

Version HPS171115

Looking for root device...
/media/usb0 is NOT a VFAT mountpoint.
/media/usb1 is NOT a VFAT mountpoint.
/media/usb2 is NOT a VFAT mountpoint.
/media/usb3 is NOT a VFAT mountpoint.
Waiting for USB...
OSD is now invisible


I can ctrl-c out of it just fine so I'm not sure what's happening. I've tried to follow the source code to understand what it's having trouble initializing but I keep getting confused by parts from the minimig code that I don't know is supposed to generate errors or not on a working install. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby Sorgelig » Wed Nov 22, 2017 7:39 pm

CPU will always have 100% loading as there is no idle mode in this CPU.
Try to be not so smart (without linux shell, command line, etc..) and follow as Wiki says. Just create a fresh SD card with tool, update MiSTer and Menu.rbf with latest version and it should work as it does for all other people.
Do not switch to USB storage as long as you are not familiar with system yet.

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby error1 » Wed Nov 22, 2017 9:27 pm

I am not trying to use USB storage! All that is connected is a HDMI display and a USB keyboard (and the network). Those messages are maybe misleading and just displayed if device.bin exists?

The SD card was created with the windows utility, but I get error messages on two different microSD cards and windows 10 computers, one with a USB SD card reader and the other with a built-in microSD slot. Both seem to write the linux partition fine but fail on the step where they are supposed to copy the cores to the fat partition. I had to do that step manually afterwards. I haven't tried on a windows 7 machine yet, I dont have one here. I haven't really had any indications that the base linux image is incomplete or damaged though, but I guess the microSD card is one of the main suspects...

Image

The wiki is unclear on what is the absolute minimal configuration for testing. Should I expect to see the menu if a compatible keyboard isn't detected? More importantly, is the SDRAM board required for the basic menu.rbf core now?

I have built my own SDRAM board from scratch and wanted to make sure my de10-nano is good before I start plugging in extra potentially dodgy stuff.

It really feels like my de10-nano might be a dud, even with the included linux image I often have to power cycle the board several times and reinsert the microSD before it gets going. There's no uart console output either when that happens, just a faint glow from the 8 green leds. I am also a bit afraid of damaging the board if I end up backfeeding power from an incompatible powered USB hub so for now I've been trying to connect the keyboard directly.

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby NegSol » Wed Nov 22, 2017 10:27 pm

De10 Nano is pretty forgiving when it comes to power. Do not worry. OSD will show even when no keyboard is attached. You have to get the sd card prepared by the tool, you need the partitions to be correctly setup. Try another sd card maybe, or try using Linux to prepare the card. However, the windows tool should work. We all use it :–)


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