3/15/2015, Another two weeks, oh how quickly

Another two weeks have come and gone.  Things are moving quickly, but I wonder if they are moving quickly enough.  I guess time will tell.  We are now at less than four months until Pintastic New England.  I noted to one of my friends, “Well, there is no art.  I’ve never hooked it up to a computer to keep score.  There is no sound.  There is no backglass.  There is no front door on the machine.  I’ve never tried to run LED changes, rules, and serial comms at the same time.  You have to follow a very specific boot sequence or the power supplies will incorrectly detect a short.  Besides those minor things, I’m sure it’s almost done.  Yeah, no problem.”

So that being said, let’s look at what has been done in the last two weeks:

Pinball Framework:  Added support for updating multiple LED cards at once by passing list with a mask for each card, and set bits for each card.  Added parallel port processing to support updating the incandescent driver boards.  Updated solenoid kick command and tested.

Started writing actual code for SS3.  All eleven modes have been designed with four different difficulty levels.  There are also a couple side goals to try to get more  points.  It should be full featured enough for the show.

The LED update thread updates the LEDs every 100 ms.  I measured the timing for the update to occur by bit banging the parallel port and it averages 1.5 to 2 ms.  That is probably the most time consuming thing that the SS3 needs to do all the time, so I’m feeling good about it only taking 2% of the processor.

Part of the Pintastic New England contest is to present the final cost of the pinball machine.  This includes the price of the base machine, price of all the pieces added to the machine, and money spent.  Of course, the time put into the restoration is all under the table.  So here is a quick rundown of the costs so far, and what I see in the future:

  • Playfield, $75.  It was a populated playfield with plastics.  Everything was on the bottom.  Many of the drop targets were broken.  It included wiring, which I reused.
  • Cabinet, $50.  A Gottlieb Gladiators cabinet.  Completely different pinball manufacturer and the only “fitting” that I did was making sure that the playfield fit inside the cabinet.  I assumed everything else could be fixed.
  • Backbox, $30.  It is a secret service backbox.  It was a good buy because it contained extra light bulb holders that I could use to replace the broken ones on the playfield.
  • Driver/Input cards, $100.  These are OPP cards that I had made about two years ago.  The $100 also includes the connectors needed to connect to the cards.  The boards are through-hole, so I soldered them up myself.  These are the same cards that Joe and Cactus Jack are using.  Some of the FETs and connectors are too close to each other, but Joe actually came up with a great idea of mounting the FETs to the bottom of the board.  I just squeezed everything together which also works.
  • Power Supplies, $50.  Simple PC power supplies that are tied together.  Currently using four, but I’m probably going to drop that number down to three because many things are still too powerful.
  • Art, $150.  This assumes three orders from BannerBuzz.  I’ve already ordered the side cabinet art.  I expect to need two more orders from banner buzz because the inserts might not line up perfectly.  The cabinet side art was $80 because it is so much area, but it looks really nice.
  • LEDs/parts, $100.  Pinball life got a bunch of money for LED light bulbs.  That is the majority of the money.
  • LCD monitor, $80.  Originally it was going to be for the backpack pinball machine, but well, it was sitting in the basement, so now it is in this machine.  It fits the cabinet perfectly, so I’m happy with it.
  • Old PC, free.  My wife’s grandmother’s old PC that I built for her eight years ago.  It was too old, and she has a laptop now, so she sent it back to me.  I re-purposed it, and hope it is fast enough to run the pinball machine.
  • Lockdown bar, free.  Joe provided this since it was sitting around.  Thanks Joe.

So I’m expecting the total for the whole machine to be $635 at this point.  It is going to be interesting going into the restoration throwdown where some of the people threw in a CPR playfield which can be $700 or $800.  My guess is that the end machine, even with overruns will be a total of about $700.

So Friday morning, Google sends me an email that Google code repository is disappearing.  Github has finally taken over the world of open source.  Because of that I’ve moved the repository onto Source Forge for the time being.  I’ve already done the import, and will probably keep the two repositories in synch for the next six or eight months.  At that point, I will stop updating the Google code repository and let it die.  The source forge repository is located at http://sourceforge.net/p/open-pinball-project.  I may eventually move it to Github.

I’ve been running a lot of tests with the incandescent boards, and what I thought was fixed, still has issues.  After running different patterns on the boards, it turns out that I’m not getting clean signals on the data lines going between the cards.  A single walking 0 works, or a single walking 1 works because there is only one data transition.  A pattern of 0x55 or 0xaa causes issues and gets flickering to occur.  The only signals that can have that effect is the data lines between the boards.  Simply put a series termination resistor in there and the problem will be fixed.  Bummer is that I don’t have any low value resistors sitting around.  Grrrrr.

I was going to do a video, but just don’t have time.  I’m pretty close to a breakthrough video, that I’m going to wait for a little bit more before tossing up the next video.  It would be nice to have a good video of the framework running, with sound, etc.  Another couple of weeks and all that should be happening.


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