Running Dinosaur Planet on an EverDrive-64

I recently picked up an EverDrive-64 X7 to tinker with (the version with a USB port that allows connection to a PC for homebrew). While I’m sure there will be plenty for me to say about it in the future, I haven’t had too much of a chance to dig into it yet. But nonetheless, I wanted to drop a quick note here on one *really cool* thing I have managed to do with it: play the leaked N64 version of Dinosaur Planet!

I assume most people are aware of this by now, but if not, a ROM was released a little over a week ago. For the unaware, Dinosaur Planet is an N64 game by Rare that was cancelled and later re-worked into Star Fox Adventures for the GameCube. More info on the release is here:

The best part is, if you have a flash cart, the game runs on original hardware! There’s just one trick to make it work. If you don’t do this, then your game will boot, but the game select screen won’t appear. Instead, you’ll get a black screen after the “Rareware” splash screen. Thankfully, it’s an easy fix:

  1. On your computer, edit the “save_db.txt” in the ED64 directory of your SD card.
  2. Add the following line to the bottom of the file:
DP=5        Dinosaur Planet

So, it should look something like this:

save_db.txt with additional line for Dinosaur Planet

And that’s it! Save your changes, put the SD card back in your EverDrive, and boot it up! It should now take you to the game save selection screen after the splash screens.

With that out of the way, what do I make of the game? Well, it’s quite possibly the best looking N64 game ever made, plus a ton of fully voiced dialogue. But it’s rough. Yeah, it looks great – when you’re standing still. But in motion, it chugs even more than the usual N64 fare. It’s also clearly unfinished with a number of bugs and crashes. Even so, I see the potential here. Had it not been moved over to the GameCube, I think it would have ended up being a top-tier N64 title, though it’s probably pushing the hardware past its limits. Either way, it’s a fascinating bit of history to experience, and I’m thankful I’ve had the chance!

Common PSone Repairs (PlayStation SCPH-101)

PSone Console and Controller

I grew up a Nintendo kid, but for Christmas 1995, I asked my parents for a PlayStation. They didn’t get me one. (Tragic, I know.)

In 1996, I saved up my money and bought a Nintendo 64 on launch day. Shortly thereafter, I even bought a Sega Saturn. From then on, I was a devoted Nintendo and Sega fanboy, finding any opportunity I could to look down on the lame PlayStation. At least, until I got caught up in the PS2 hype and bought one of those on launch day…

After that, I had a real justification for not getting a PS1 – I could play its games on my PS2! Still, something about the redesigned PSone spoke to me when it came out, with its compact form-factor and cool LCD screen attachment. I wanted one almost purely for its aesthetics, I could just never rationalize it.

It wasn’t until I was in my late 30s that I finally found a good justification to get one. I would buy a broken one for cheap and repair it as a project! Sure enough, I did exactly that. And through that experience, I discovered that the PSone is a genuinely fun system to work on.

The PSone is tiny, so it doesn’t take up much space in a console collection. Plus, it’s very repairable and easily moddable. Plus, who doesn’t like that cool little screen attachment!?

Now, I’ve been through the repair, refurbishing, and modding process for a number of PSones. Below are my notes on common faults and fixes. Hopefully, others may find this useful…

Scrambled, Wavy, or Black Screen

There are two surface mount capacitors near the display port, at points marked C550 and C551, which frequently go bad and leak (as so many SMD capacitors do). These two components are part of the S-Video and Composite video signals, respectively. If you’re getting a dark, wavy, scrambled, smeared, or just plain blank screen when you power the system on, it’s likely that one or both of these capacitors is going bad. They’re a common part, being 4v and 220uf, so they can be replaced for pennies. Personally, I prefer to replace them with through-hole components that I’ve trimmed and bent the legs on, but you can replace them with pretty much whatever 220uf capacitors you may already have on hand.

Finicky Power Jack

If you find yourself having to wiggle the power plug around in order to get your system to turn on, you’ve probably encountered one of the most common PSone problems I’ve come across – cracked solder joints. Thankfully, it’s also one of the easiest to fix!

Simply disassemble your system, heat up your soldering iron, and reflow the solder around the jack’s three mounting points. In fact, add some extra solder while you’re at it. This problem most commonly happens when there isn’t enough solder used on components that face lots of repeated physical stress, like power jacks and controller ports. Over time, that stress leads to breaks in the joints. It seems Sony just didn’t use enough solder.

And while you’re at it, reflow the ground points for the controller ports, too. I’ve seen a few systems with cracks there, though none of them have yet caused gameplay issues. I figure it’s only a matter of time, though.

Sticky or Broken Eject Button

I don’t know what it is about the PSone, but so many that I’ve worked on have had janky eject buttons. Most of the time, it’s because dirt and sticky stuff have accumulated under the button (gross). Other times, it’s because something has gone wrong with the springy latch that holds the lid down. There is a delicate “spring” that’s really just a loop of thin plastic which bends in and out when you press the button. That loop can crack or break over time. A little bit of glue seems to do the job to get it working again when it does break. (And, of course, soap and water to clean up whatever grossness has accumulated around it.)

Games not Loading, Slow Loading, or FMVs Skipping

This is a general “CDs aren’t being read correctly” category. If your system isn’t reading discs properly, you may be tempted to replace the whole laser assembly. While that will work, it’s probably not necessary. I’ve had systems that won’t play certain games, or which skip during certain FMV sequences, or are just weirdly noisy or slow to load. All of them have been fixed by adjusting the potentiometer on the laser’s ribbon cable. A very slight clockwise turn does the trick.

Personally, I use a multimeter to read the resistance across the pot in order to be sure of what values I’m working with. The good, working systems I’ve tested generally read between 900-950 ohms, so I aim for that when adjusting a non-working system. The systems that aren’t working properly generally show a higher value to start. (But do note that I’ve seen systems that work best at 1000 ohms, so there will be some trial and error to this process.)

PSone laser assembly. Red square denotes the potentiometer. Arrows denote the two points at which to test resistance values.

That’s all for now! I’m going to dive into a PSone LCD screen repair soon, so watch out for that next.

Newbie 3D Printing tips for the Anycubic Mega Zero

As I’ve gotten more and more into tinkering with electronics and old game hardware, my interest in 3D printing has grown with it. It’s not unusual to build a cool project then need a case for it. Or to encounter a broken part that’s no longer manufactured and impossible to buy. So, how great would it be to just make my own? Despite this interest, I mostly avoided the world of 3D printing because it seemed expensive and complicated.

But one thing that comes along with an interest in game hardware tinkering is, inevitably, an interest in Ben Heck’s work. So when he recently uploaded a video about a dirt cheap printer that he deemed to be “pretty nice” and “totally worth it” for just $140-$150, I lost all sense of self control and finally ordered one of my own.

Shortly thereafter, it arrived. After a relatively straightforward assembly process, I tried my first test print, and… yeah. Things didn’t quite go the way I expected:

That doesn’t seem right…

This was supposed to be an owl. Clearly, it is not. What happened? Well, a few minutes into the print, I could see that the corners were starting to warp and peel off the bed. A few minutes after that, the whole thing separated and started flailing around. The print had spectacularly failed. Clearly, something had gone wrong, but what? Being an absolute newbie at this, I had no idea, so I started reading up. As it turns out, I experienced a pretty common problem for 3D printing, and one that especially affects users of the Mega Zero: warping or curling.

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