[MegaST] what hw upgrades do I need in 2020

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twh
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[MegaST] what hw upgrades do I need in 2020

Post by twh »

Hi there,

I'm very very long out of the Atari ST scene now and I would appreciate your help to bring back my Atari ST 16Bit experience in a 2020-style.

My background?
In 1998 I got an Atari MegaST4 & SC1224 monitor. It came with some kind of HDD upgrade - but I don't remember anymore what exactyl it was. I toyed around a few years with it but eventually lost interest in ~2003 or so. Back then I used to create 720kB DD disks from ST/MSA images with my Windows PC / floppy drive to copy content over to the ST. There I installed it on the HDD and/or booted games directly from disks via some kind of Menu-collection (Automation or so).

Today?
Well - I still have the unit, keyboard, mouse. But I have no SC1224 monitor and I lost all my floppy disks. Today my PC does not even have a disk drive anymore. And I have no idea of today's upgrades and where to buy them. I'm basically a newbie to the Atari 16bit world and I need some help to get back.

A lot has changed I guess, so things nowadays are probably much more comfortable.

What do I want?
I would like to bring back "use" to my MegaST4. I mostly want to play games and want to watch demos. I like to play SimCity, Sierra Adventures, classics like Dungeon Master, Starglider2, Rainbow Island, etc. But I'm also interested to run some of those legendary hi-res/monochrome applications (e.g. 1st word, signum, calamus, etc.)

So basically my question list:
1) Display/Monitors
How can I attach the MegaST to a modern LED/LCD monitor (say Samsung) via HDMI or if necessary SCART?
What cables / adapters / converters / up-scaler do I need for a reasonable good display?
Are there specific requirements for mono vs. color mode? ( I would like to use both video modes actually)

2) Drive Emulation
How can I get rid of DD floppy disks?
Are there floppy disk replacements that can use SD-Cards w/ images?
What would be an efficient way to get files / archives / images from the internet on the machine?

3) HDD replacement
What HDD kits do we have these days?
Can we use SD-Cards for internal HDDs?

4) TOS/ROM
I'm not sure about the TOS-ROM that I have in my machine. But do I need replacement or even multiple TOS like a switcher for HDD/FDD upgrades?

5) Other stuff?
Is there good stuff around for let's say TCP/IP networking (e.g. for file transfers) ?
What about RAM and/or CPU upgrades?

I would be really really grateful I you guys could help me with some guidance.
Best would be if I get some concrete serious dealer recommendations where to buy all this stuff - ideally from Germany/Europe.

Once again thank you for any comments.

grüße,
\twh!
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Re: [MegaST] what hw upgrades do I need in 2020

Post by dma »

Some direct answers, also based on the shops i know, but other exist!

1) An OSSC is a great solution for quality and lag-less RGB SCART to HDMI conversion: https://videogameperfection.com/product ... converter/
If you want to use high resolution software, you can use a dedicated ST monochrome video mode to VGA converter, like: http://www.gossuin.be/index.php/shop#ATARI ("ATARI Monochrome to VGA ADAPTOR with Audio output")

2) You can use a HxC floppy emulator: http://hxc2001.free.fr/floppy_drive_emu ... ALESPOINTS
Some also use a Gotek: http://www.gotekemulator.com/ with HxC firmware (or other): https://hxc2001.com/store/
This doesn't depend on TOS, it works exactly like an original floppy drive for the system.

3) UltraSatan is the actually recommended ACSI SD card based storage device: https://www.lotharek.pl/productdetail.php?id=48
It works with any TOS, but you need an ASCI driver. You can use any ASCI driver (even the "classic" ones) as it works like any ASCI device for the system.

(removed my answers to 4 & 5 as czietz answers are much more informed and valuables)
Last edited by dma on Sat Oct 17, 2020 7:43 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: [MegaST] what hw upgrades do I need in 2020

Post by czietz »

4) TOS and 5) RAM: Whether upgrades make sense depends on what you want to do most with the machine.
With 4 MB your MegaST is already maxed out on ST-RAM. You can add Alt-RAM, which can be used by many applications, but not by all. Most games, on the other hand will not benefit from Alt-RAM. Alt-RAM requires TOS 2.06, which is a nice upgrade by itself, imho, because TOS 2 for example adds a lot of features to the desktop.

With a Storm ST and a Cloudy you can get 8 MB of Alt-RAM and flash ROM for TOS to which you can install TOS 2.06. Installation requires soldering a socket on top of the CPU, though:
http://wiki.newtosworld.de/index.php?title=Storm_ST
http://wiki.newtosworld.de/index.php?title=Cloudy
Ordering information here: https://www.atari-forum.com/viewtopic.p ... 87#p401887
PS: Both are made in Germany ;-)
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Re: [MegaST] what hw upgrades do I need in 2020

Post by mjvans »

2) Drive Emulation
-CosmosEx
3) HDD replacement
-CosmosEx
5) Other stuff?
-CosmosEx
Is there good stuff around for let's say TCP/IP networking (e.g. for file transfers) ?
-CosmosEx

CosmosEx can use SD card as harddrive. It connects to your ACSI hardisk port. It can also connect to your floppy drive and emulate floppy.
CosmosEx connects to your server,NAS and makes it a gemdos drive which uses no cpu power on the ST and is fastest network connection you can get for the ST.
You can use CosmosEx STING replacement for some networking software on the ST. With a gemdos network drive you don't need this for file transfers.
https://www.atari-forum.com/viewforum.php?f=103
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Re: [MegaST] what hw upgrades do I need in 2020

Post by joska »

From what you describe it sounds like you got almost everything you need. You have 4Mb and an internal harddrive. Add a small (14-15") CRT TV with SCART and you have a very nice gaming setup. For monochrome stuff you can use a normal VGA monitor. Then get a PARCP-USB to transfer stuff from your PC.

SCART cable.
VGA adapter (monochrome only).
PARCP-USB.

Most games have been adapted to run from harddrive now, so you rarely need actual floppies. But if you want to run stuff that *needs* a floppy drive you can either transfer the disk image to the harddrive and then write it to an actual disk on your Mega, or get a Gotek/HxC. I don't have floppy emulators in any of my Ataris anymore, I never used them.

Edit: I see you asked for HDD replacement. UltraSatan has been mentioned, it's a good choice. But if your internal HDD is IDE, then it's much easier and cheaper to use IDE<->SD adapters.
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Re: [MegaST] what hw upgrades do I need in 2020

Post by tzok »

All in one solution would be CosmosEx, but there are some alternatives:
1) Display/Monitors
SCART-RGB to HDMI converter (and optionally HDMI to VGA converter)
2) Drive Emulation
Gotek with HxC or FlashFloppy firmware
3) HDD replacement
UltraSatan
4) TOS/ROM
Switchable 1.04/2.06
5) Other stuff?
NetUSBee
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Re: [MegaST] what hw upgrades do I need in 2020

Post by Count »

Regarding display/monitors: Maybe you consider buying a used LCD which can handle even colour video at 15 kHz (e.g. NEC 1970Nxp). In that case you can use Gossuin's MCSWITCH (see http://www.gossuin.be/index.php/shop#ATARI) VGA adaptor for all native ST resolutions.
Last edited by Count on Mon Oct 19, 2020 7:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: [MegaST] what hw upgrades do I need in 2020

Post by theimann »

To the best of my knowledge CosmosEx is not obtainable right now so this is a bit of a moot proposition. I'd love to stand corrected.

mjvans wrote: Sun Oct 18, 2020 7:42 am 2) Drive Emulation
-CosmosEx
3) HDD replacement
-CosmosEx
5) Other stuff?
-CosmosEx
Is there good stuff around for let's say TCP/IP networking (e.g. for file transfers) ?
-CosmosEx

CosmosEx can use SD card as harddrive. It connects to your ACSI hardisk port. It can also connect to your floppy drive and emulate floppy.
CosmosEx connects to your server,NAS and makes it a gemdos drive which uses no cpu power on the ST and is fastest network connection you can get for the ST.
You can use CosmosEx STING replacement for some networking software on the ST. With a gemdos network drive you don't need this for file transfers.
https://www.atari-forum.com/viewforum.php?f=103
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Re: [MegaST] what hw upgrades do I need in 2020

Post by DoG »

theimann wrote: Mon Oct 19, 2020 2:28 am To the best of my knowledge CosmosEx is not obtainable right now so this is a bit of a moot proposition. I'd love to stand corrected.
It is not available at the moment. They are all sold out. There was talk about doing another run of them. But all the problems and waiting time (with lack of info) the last run took, I hope some change and realistic expectations are met before hand.

There is also rumors about a rerun of Alan's Monster card.

If you want stuff now, take another route.
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Re: [MegaST] what hw upgrades do I need in 2020

Post by twh »

Hi guys,

thanks a lot for all your feedback. Amazing what is possible these days and how much support the 16bit Ataris still have. Impressive.

So after reading & compiling all your comments I came to a set of decisions / hw upgrade I'm going to buy. But I have a few remaining questions. So again if you could help me?

1) Video


"RGB SCART High Quality Cable": 18 €
https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Atari-ST-Hig ... SwYSBbUuYI
( that's fine. That's a BUY in anyway.)

But its for Color-Only and LCD with SCART-only.

OSSC - HDMI
This is very nice device but I'm unsure if it supports my idea to make me use Mono + Color in an easy way

Q: Would it be possible to use the VGA "MCSWITCH (ATARI Monochrome & Color to VGA ADAPTOR)" with a VGA cable that I attach then to OSSC?
(Does OSSC support 15khz RGB/Color and ST Mono combined with a VGA plug?)


OSSC: 130 €
MCSWITCH: 30 €
(+VGA Cable, but I have one)

2) Disk Drive
To me I don't really understand what I must now do to replace the MegaST internal drive with the "HxC floppy"
looks confusing to me esp. when you guys say use "HxC Floppy" or "Gotek with HxC" ?!


3) HDD
I think it's fine to replace my old 2001 HDD solution against an UltraSatan.
(I could go with a IDE <-> SD Adapter, but I really like the SD Card Swap functionality.)

So I would order:
* Lotharek UltraSatan Cased (81 €)
* Ultrasatan adapter for Mega ST (8,50 €)
* PP's Harddisk Driver (15 €)
(i have a few 8GB SD Cards spare, so I will use these)

Anymore recommendations here?

4) TOS
That one is still confusing to me. I'm pretty sure my MegaST has a TOS1.02. Not sure anymore.

Question:
* Where is TOS 2.06 actually beneficial?
* Can I use the "Cloudy" hardware as TOS-Switch only, without "Lightning" or "Storm"?
* Must "Cloudy" be combined with "Storm" (8MB) upgrade?
(100 €, not cheap)



5) Other

I really like the idea of the Netusbee thing. -> Connect the Atari to local network / internet.

Is it a good & useful device that I can use to download stuff using the ST? Or must I combine a session with PC+ST?
(I want a "Atari only" session, I don't want to swap seats start ST, change to PC, Connect here, Connect there)

The "PARCB-USB" seems to me outdated. I don't want my ST wired with USB-Parallel cable and use both systems in parallel.
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Re: [MegaST] what hw upgrades do I need in 2020

Post by czietz »

twh wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 8:13 pm
Question:
* Where is TOS 2.06 actually beneficial?
* Can I use the "Cloudy" hardware as TOS-Switch only, without "Lightning" or "Storm"?
* Must "Cloudy" be combined with "Storm" (8MB) upgrade?
(100 €, not cheap)

Many users like the much-improved TOS 2 desktop. TOS 2 adds IDE support (important for the Lightning ST) and Alt-RAM support (important for the Storm ST). It also fixes some bugs in TOS 1. Read this German article for more information: http://www.stcarchiv.de/stc1992/03/tos-206

As stated in the wiki, Cloudy needs to be used with Lightning ST and/or Storm ST. Cloudy lacks the address decoder needed for TOS 2.06. This decoder is present on both Lightning ST and Storm ST.

PS: I always tend to be a bit miffed when people describe newly designed retro HW as expensive. No one gets rich from that. In fact, many retro developments will barely reach financial break-even or even fail doing so. Even though, we, the developers, put in our spare time for free!
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Re: [MegaST] what hw upgrades do I need in 2020

Post by twh »

czietz wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 9:02 pm Many users like the much-improved TOS 2 desktop. TOS 2 adds IDE support (important for the Lightning ST) and Alt-RAM support (important for the Storm ST). It also fixes some bugs in TOS 1. Read this German article for more information: http://www.stcarchiv.de/stc1992/03/tos-206
thanks. It was a good read.
czietz wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 9:02 pm As stated in the wiki, Cloudy needs to be used with Lightning ST and/or Storm ST. Cloudy lacks the address decoder needed for TOS 2.06. This decoder is present on both Lightning ST and Storm ST.
To me it was not perfectly clear when I was skim-reading the text. So it is clear now. I would have to combine Cloudy + Storm. So I end up with TOS2.06 and 8MB.
czietz wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 9:02 pm PS: I always tend to be a bit miffed when people describe newly designed retro HW as expensive. No one gets rich from that. In fact, many retro developments will barely reach financial break-even or even fail doing so. Even though, we, the developers, put in our spare time for free!
You are absolutely right and I didn't meant to start a discussion like this. I must be crazy anyway to invest in a 1988 platform . But I said "100€ is not cheap" - meaning that I have to understand what I will get from it :)

So my invest would be:
OSSC = 130€
RGB Scart=17 €
MCSWITCH = 30€
UltraSatan+Cable+PP = 120€
Cloudy+Storm = 100€
Netusbee = 60€

so ~ 460 € ... not bad.

thanks for your help
\thomas
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Re: [MegaST] what hw upgrades do I need in 2020

Post by dma »

1) Not sure if OSSC supports VGA video from ST mono resolution. Most probably it does with 15hz colors resolution.
I could probably try it, but not sure i still got a standalone VGA cable.
I'll check.

But then, if using the color+mono to VGA adapter (MCSWITCH) with OSSC works in color+mono modes, you wouldn't even need a SCART cable.

Otherwise, using a monitor with HDMI input (for ST color video modes via OSSC) and VGA input (for mono video mode) would be the alternative.
But sure it wouldn't be as convenient, compared to a no unplugging/plugging setup. ;)

2) HxC floppy replacement device was conceived and produced first.
Then Gotek cheap mass produced alternative appeared.
And seeing this, HxC conceptor made an alternative firmware for Gotek (HxC firmware for Gotek then), with similar functions compared to the HxC device.
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Re: [MegaST] what hw upgrades do I need in 2020

Post by joska »

twh wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 8:13 pm The "PARCB-USB" seems to me outdated. I don't want my ST wired with USB-Parallel cable and use both systems in parallel.
Not sure what you mean by that. PARCP-USB is for file transfers. I have both PARCP-USB and network cards, and prefer the PARCP-USB 95% of the time. It's faster than the ROM-port network cards, extremely reliable and very easy and efficient in use. There is only one situation where I prefer the network cards, and that's for actual networking. But unfortunately that's just too slow and resource hungry on the 68000 machines. Nowadays I only use networking on my 060/040-equipped machines, but even on those I use PARCP most of the time. PARCP is twice as fast as UIPtool for file transfers on my 95MHz Falcon060, and a lot more reliable. Software setup is much easier too.
twh wrote:I really like the idea of the Netusbee thing. -> Connect the Atari to local network / internet.

Is it a good & useful device that I can use to download stuff using the ST? Or must I combine a session with PC+ST?
(I want a "Atari only" session, I don't want to swap seats start ST, change to PC, Connect here, Connect there)
What do you mean by "download stuff"? ftp - yes. Sftp - no. Web-pages - no. Internet - except for really simple stuff like telnet or unencrypted ftp and mail - is a pain on any Atari, including the high-end clones or accelerators. If you want to transfer software to your Atari via a network card you will in practice locate and download stuff using your PC, and then transfer it to your Atari using something like UIPtool. Or via a USB memory stick.
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Re: [MegaST] what hw upgrades do I need in 2020

Post by twh »

Hi Joska,
joska wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 9:39 am What do you mean by "download stuff"? ftp - yes. Sftp - no. Web-pages - no. Internet - except for really simple stuff like telnet or unencrypted ftp and mail - is a pain on any Atari, including the high-end clones or accelerators. If you want to transfer software to your Atari via a network card you will in practice locate and download stuff using your PC, and then transfer it to your Atari using something like UIPtool. Or via a USB memory stick.
well this is valuable input - thank you. I actually thought that network would maybe work with low overhead protocols like FTP and TNFS, but you are right - in practice I need the PC in any internet-scenario.

Can you tell me if there is a hardware to attach a USB memory stick as transport media to the Atari ST?

(But I guess it does not make much sense once over a UltraSatan with SD-cards, which in turn can be directly accessed / written on the PC.)


thanks
\twh
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Re: [MegaST] what hw upgrades do I need in 2020

Post by czietz »

twh wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 8:05 pm Can you tell me if there is a hardware to attach a USB memory stick as transport media to the Atari ST?
You already have one on your list: the NetUSBee. (Advertisement: The Lightning ST has faster USB and also adds IDE, but it is more complicated to install.)

USB drivers exist for TOS and MiNT. Note that TOS only has limited FAT16 support, so you might need to repartition the USB stick to match what TOS expects, or use EmuTOS, or use Big-DOS.
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Re: [MegaST] what hw upgrades do I need in 2020

Post by joska »

Again, I can't recommend PARCP-USB enough for this kind of use. I have SD-cards in most of my Ataris, but unless the amount of data is very large, it's easier and quicker to use PARCP to transfer data than moving physical storage between computers.
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Re: [MegaST] what hw upgrades do I need in 2020

Post by dma »

So i don't have a VGA cable handy by now... Frustrating, because i really wanted to try it now.
I'll have one in the next weeks. So if you can wait, i'll do the test and report then.

Otherwise, maybe someone else can check now?
That is : Trying the OSSC VGA input with ST output rewired to VGA using the MCSWITCH adapter, in both color and mono modes.

[EDIT] But searching here, it seems evil tried that, successfully : https://www.atari-forum.com/viewtopic.p ... 44#p349644
evil wrote: Wed Aug 01, 2018 1:20 pmThe STe have a VGA-adapter that can be switched between colour and mono then sent to OSSC on to a HDMI-screen. The OSSC nicely display the ST output frequencies and that matches what can be expected
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Re: [MegaST] what hw upgrades do I need in 2020

Post by twh »

dma wrote: Sat Oct 24, 2020 6:15 am So i don't have a VGA cable handy by now... Frustrating, because i really wanted to try it now.
I'll have one in the next weeks. So if you can wait, i'll do the test and report then.
sure no problem to wait. But as Evil said I would expect no issues to support OSSC support on both resolutions. I think this would be ideal. No manual plugging/unplugging or change input on the monitor.
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Re: [MegaST] what hw upgrades do I need in 2020

Post by twh »

czietz wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 9:02 pm
twh wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 8:13 pm
Question:
* Where is TOS 2.06 actually beneficial?
Many users like the much-improved TOS 2 desktop. TOS 2 adds IDE support (important for the Lightning ST) and Alt-RAM support (important for the Storm ST). It also fixes some bugs in TOS 1. Read this German article for more information: http://www.stcarchiv.de/stc1992/03/tos-206
Yesterday I opened my Atari Mega4 and it turned out that it was already equipped with a nice TOS-Switcher hw upgrade. I could identify it as "Advanced TOS Expansion Board (C) Hard & Soft A.Herberg by U.Biletzke, T.Wahle".

I have to wait for my RGB cable delivery so that I can hook up the device to a screen. But I'm sure it is a TOS2.06 installed already.
So I guess the "TOS Expansion Board" is already good enough? Not sure if it is any good. But I think so.

greetings
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Re: [MegaST] what hw upgrades do I need in 2020

Post by calimero »

# offtopic (but in same time: ontopic!) :)

All you give great replays and suggestion to twh. It would be even "GREATER" if we could put all this information (compilation of information) in one place, like wiki (or author could edit first post in this thread?).

So what is current situation with http://www.atari-wiki.com (except that domain redirect to this forum)?

(For answer to my question, please use this thread: https://www.atari-forum.com/viewtopic.p ... 96#p406296)

I post here because this thread is great example how wiki would be extremely useful as first-stop place for such question: "what hw upgrades do I need in 2020"
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Re: [MegaST] what hw upgrades do I need in 2020

Post by calimero »

Regarding what hw upgrades question:

You will need harddisc driver for mass storage. You cen get:

pp hard disk driver - https://atari.8bitchip.info/pphdr.php
hddriver - https://www.hddriver.net
ICD driver - http://joo.kie.sk/?page_id=306

as a bonus, you can get an upgrade TOS by petari (ppera) with many goodies:

http://atari.8bitchip.info/VirtualFloppy.html
https://atari.8bitchip.info/tosimav.html
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Re: [MegaST] what hw upgrades do I need in 2020

Post by dma »

twh wrote: Tue Oct 27, 2020 7:41 amsure no problem to wait. But as Evil said I would expect no issues to support OSSC support on both resolutions. I think this would be ideal. No manual plugging/unplugging or change input on the monitor.
OK i will then confirm that when i got the VGA cable.
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Re: [MegaST] what hw upgrades do I need in 2020

Post by dma »

OK, i've put hands on a VGA cable.
So i tried color and mono ST video output through MCSwitch -> VGA cable -> OSSC input 3 -> HDMI output -> HDMI TV.

I can confirm that i works in both color and mono modes.

Mono mode needed some tweaking, as described on this AtariAge post: https://atariage.com/forums/topic/30208 ... s-on-here/
It still displays a non exact pattern on the desktop background with those settings. Not sure a better result could be achieved.
CIMG1268.JPG
Concerning my color mode result, it could probably be tweaked better. I get really noticeable slightly darker vertical lines.
[edit: more on this in the next post]
CIMG1269.JPG
OSSC can save settings in profiles (up to 10, numbered 0 to 9).
So if color and mono modes requires different optimal sampling/synch options, these can be saved in two separate profiles.

Also notice that your monitor will probably need some adjustment on aspect ratio and zoom for optimal display.
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Last edited by dma on Mon Nov 02, 2020 2:21 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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dma
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Re: [MegaST] what hw upgrades do I need in 2020

Post by dma »

To compare, here is a picture of a setup where the ST video VGA adapter is connected to a monitor with VGA input.
The background pattern in mono mode is displayed is it should.
CIMG1277.JPG
As this is a 15khz compatible monitor, here is a picture in color mode.
CIMG1279.JPG
You can see the slightly darker vertical lines here too, like when i used VGA input on the OSSC.
So it doesn't seem that the OSSC was misinterpreting on those vertical lines.

:arrow: If someone knows about best OSSC configuration for ST mono and color modes using VGA cable, that would be interesting.

I will also check if i don't get vertical lines in color, using SCART cable to connect the ST on the OSSC.

[edit]

OK, absolutely no slightly darker vertical lines when using SCART input in the OSSC.
CIMG1280.JPG
So using a VGA adapter and cable doesn't seem optimal for color mode.

If someone knows better than my conclusions here, please correct me, i'd love to be proven wrong.
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