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 Post subject: Flyer Internet Modem
PostPosted: Thu Jan 20, 2011 10:20 am 
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First off, thank you to gsteemso for pointing us to this thread.

For those interested in our device, which is called Pilot, is a combo internet modem + disk drive emulator. We'll have a few available at the next Commodore Computer Club meeting on February 4, 2011. A lot of people got to see our demo with the first prototype at our December 2010 meeting and since then we've been working on some minor improvements with our firmware based on feedback from that meeting and we've also made some slight board revisions to cut down on final production costs and using surface mount chips verses through hole. As an added bonus, there is now more nonvolatile onboard storage. We will have the production PCB's in hand within the next week or so.

At the upcoming meeting we'll have exact pricing, specifications, etc but the device will be for sure less then $100 USD and is jam packed with features and fully upgradable via firmware updates. For now I've attached a picture of the current prototype PCB. Again the final production version will be slightly different then the attached picture but this is pretty close to the final version.

In the next few days I'll do a detailed blog post on the CCC website with more specifics but the short answer is yes, it will work with just about every 8-bit Commodore computer. So far we've confirmed 100% compatibility with the following systems: VIC-20, Plus/4, C16, C64, Commodore SX-64 / Executive 64 and C128. The device will also support JiffyDOS and other fast loaders, plus internet functionality at broadband speed and load times faster then stock disk drives which is pretty cool. Disk image support for d64, d71 and d81 comes standard which a lot of people should be pleased about. Oh and there are plenty of blinking lights and a digital display.

Something else to note, our device isn't dependent on being connected to the internet or a specific website to use it. Yes we've got a website (http://www.commodorelive.com) that will have some extra cool things to help enhance your user experience with Pilot, but we didn't want to tie people down to a website to use the device. At the present time, the website is in private beta but after our next meeting, everyone will get to see what's behind the curtain :)

Anyway, that's about it for now. Again a blog post will be coming on the Commodore Computer Club (USA) website in the next few days or so.

If you'd like more information or have any questions, please feel free to drop me a line via our http://www.commodorecomputerclub.com website contact form.

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Last edited by commodoregeek on Thu Jan 20, 2011 9:56 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 20, 2011 12:44 pm 
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Hi, This is fantastic!.

I've been wanting this exact thing for ages now..

Can I confirm the following please?

- Can I hang one of these off a Vic Switch and then allow a chain of different commodore machines access concurrently by sharing using the normal feature of the Vic Switch?

Like a Vic-20, C16, C64, C128 and so on all on the Vic Switch?

Do you foresee any possible problems with this idea?

- Any chance it can be powered by 12VDC ? Makes life easier.

Great device. Thank you for making it.

Mark me down for an order as soon as they are available.

.-.-.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 20, 2011 7:59 pm 
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vk4akp wrote:
- Can I hang one of these off a Vic Switch and then allow a chain of different commodore machines access concurrently by sharing using the normal feature of the Vic Switch?

Like a Vic-20, C16, C64, C128 and so on all on the Vic Switch?

Do you foresee any possible problems with this idea?

Currently we don't have a VIC Switch to do official testing on this, however Pilot operates just like a standard disk drive, so it should be ok. I'll start looking to track one down or see if we can get one on loan from someone to do some testing, or you can be our official tester on this once you've got a Pilot device in hand and let us know. Speaking of which, our Pilot internet modem is fixed to device 7, and the disk drive is configurable 8-11.

vk4akp wrote:
- Any chance it can be powered by 12VDC ? Makes life easier.

12vdc will just make the voltage regulator run hotter but won't fry anything. We would recommend 9vdc.

Something I forgot to mention in my first comment, with Pilot you don't need to load any software via a real floppy disk. Everything you need to operate Pilot is built in via the firmware and as needed we can add more features, etc via firmware updates. Pilot is 100% a plug and play device which is pretty cool.

Also, to confirm, Pilot is an IEC-based unit and doesn't take a port hostage or require any memory locations/CIA lines for it's use.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 21, 2011 1:13 pm 
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commodoregeek wrote:
The device will also support JiffyDOS and other fast loaders, plus internet functionality at broadband speed and load times faster then stock disk drives which is pretty cool. Disk image support for d64, d71 and d81 comes standard

Hey, that feature set sounds quite familiar. =) I wonder why the placeholder page on commodorelive.com claims "designed from the ground up" though.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 21, 2011 6:35 pm 
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Unseen wrote:
commodoregeek wrote:
The device will also support JiffyDOS and other fast loaders, plus internet functionality at broadband speed and load times faster then stock disk drives which is pretty cool. Disk image support for d64, d71 and d81 comes standard

Hey, that feature set sounds quite familiar. =) I wonder why the placeholder page on commodorelive.com claims "designed from the ground up" though.

What exactly do you mean by your comment? Please elaborate.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2011 12:28 am 
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commodoregeek wrote:
we added support for it and other fast loaders based on feedback we received while designing Pilot

Interesting - which ones (besides JiffyDos obviously) do you expect to support in the first public release?


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2011 1:03 am 
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commodoregeek wrote:
we've got a website (http://www.commodorelive.com) that will have some extra cool things to help enhance your user experience with Pilot


This looks like a really interesting concept. There seems to be quite a lot of overlap in ideas with http://www.commodoreserver.com/ & the Comet 64 (although interfacing via IEC instead of userport like the Comet 64 did has a lot of advantages i.e. speed, compatability with a wider range of CBM machines, and easy to make remote disk access completely transparent; I assume with the appropriate "device 2" driver installed you could even make this device work with BBS software)

The obvious next step (to me at least) is to use a central web site as a hub to enable multiplayer gaming on the c64 (I assume your site name is a referrence to that potential). Which I think is a great idea, but I think developers will be more inclined to build such games, and customers inclined to purchase a device, if they don't have to worry they are backing the wrong horse in what seems to be a 2 horse race. In a small market, fragementation hurts everyone :-)

Is there any possibility if you and the commoderserver team working together? Even if there ends up being 2 separate devices with unique web servers behind, it would be great if you could come up with unified interface, such that a developer could build an online game that worked with either system (and potentially even with other as-yet-unthought-of)


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2011 3:48 am 
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Unseen wrote:
commodoregeek wrote:
we added support for it and other fast loaders based on feedback we received while designing Pilot

Interesting - which ones (besides JiffyDos obviously) do you expect to support in the first public release?

Not sure where you got that quote, but what I actually said in part was "The device will also support JiffyDOS and other fast loaders".

To clarify after talking to the device architect and programmer, I'm told as of yet no fast loader support has been added to the official firmware, however incremental support for specific fast loaders is planned, which is why I said "will also support", not it will support. Of course this is pending the availability of adequate documentation or source code whose distribution terms we can comply with.

As for JiffyDOS, Jim Brain was already consulted on having our Pilot device support it, however the unit is already a bit faster than a stock 1541 due to the fact it is a solid state device.

Fast loader support is honestly at the bottom of our pre-release to-do list currently. Rest assured that exact specifications and supported protocols (along with any credit due) will be fully detailed before the first unit is shipped.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 24, 2011 6:59 am 
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jonnosan wrote:
commodoregeek wrote:
we've got a website (http://www.commodorelive.com) that will have some extra cool things to help enhance your user experience with Pilot

This looks like a really interesting concept. There seems to be quite a lot of overlap in ideas with http://www.commodoreserver.com/ & the Comet 64 (although interfacing via IEC instead of userport like the Comet 64 did has a lot of advantages i.e. speed, compatability with a wider range of CBM machines, and easy to make remote disk access completely transparent; I assume with the appropriate "device 2" driver installed you could even make this device work with BBS software)

The obvious next step (to me at least) is to use a central web site as a hub to enable multiplayer gaming on the c64 (I assume your site name is a referrence to that potential). Which I think is a great idea, but I think developers will be more inclined to build such games, and customers inclined to purchase a device, if they don't have to worry they are backing the wrong horse in what seems to be a 2 horse race. In a small market, fragementation hurts everyone :-)

Is there any possibility if you and the commoderserver team working together? Even if there ends up being 2 separate devices with unique web servers behind, it would be great if you could come up with unified interface, such that a developer could build an online game that worked with either system (and potentially even with other as-yet-unthought-of)

Thank you. We feel Pilot is indeed an interesting concept and a really fun project to work on.

About product overlap...

Comet64 and our device (Pilot) are quite different devices. Comet64 appears to be a simple serial-to-ethernet device interfaced via the user port, and requires driver software (v-1541) to extend the kernel to support most of its functionality.

Pilot is an intelligent IEC based device which provides two peripherals in one - an internet modem and a basic drive emulator. A primary goal was to provide an easy to use, plug-and-play device which is fully functional even without the companion website we've developed (commodorelive.com). In addition, the host machine will be completely "clean", as no drivers, kernel hacks, or any other software is required to use Pilot.

When loading disks from the internet, the Pilot caches one or more disks in local non-volatile (flash) memory, then serves the disk data to the computer via the disk drive device. The final Pilot hardware will have approx. 3MB available for cache memory, enough to hold quite a few disks for offline use. Disk image compression is planned for future firmware updates, allowing you to store many more disk locally (however any compressed disks will be read-only).

In contrast, all disk activity for the Comet64 is streamed live over the internet. Without an internet connection, the device appears to be useless.

This is a very fundamental difference between the two devices and websites that makes unification almost impossible. As I touched on earlier, the Pilot can even be commanded to download disk images from individual websites with a simple LOAD command in BASIC.

As the Pilot is an intelligent device, we have decided to provide a high level networking interface initially supporting TCP and UDP protocols. The current goal is to extend this over time to support additional established protocols such as FTP and SMTP (thanks to gsteemso for the suggestion) with the Pilot doing the "heavy lifting". This should one day provide rich internet capabilities to even an unexpanded VIC-20 :)

Once again, since it seems impossible for Comet64 to provide this same level of functionality, we don't see how the programming interfaces between the two can be standardized.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2011 6:42 pm 
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Really cool project and kudos for pulling it together. Do I understand it correctly that this device doesn't have any memory storage, such as a SD-card, instead all disk images needs to be accessed over the internet? What about 1541 compatibility - how accurate is the emulation?


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2011 7:06 pm 
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RaveGuru wrote:
Really cool project and kudos for pulling it together.

Thank you for your reply and kind words.

RaveGuru wrote:
Do I understand it correctly that this device doesn't have any memory storage, such as a SD-card, instead all disk images needs to be accessed over the internet?

You are correct, Pilot doesn't have an SD-card memory slot, however as mentioned in my previous comment, Pilot does have 3MB available (onboard) for cache memory, enough to hold quite a few disks for offline use. Disk image compression is planned for future firmware updates, allowing you to store many more disk locally (however any compressed disks will be read-only).

You won't need internet access to use Pilot to grab disk images. To clarify, not all disk images will need to be accessed from the internet. You will be able to point the device to just about any location to grab disk images, like your local computer (Windows, MAC, Linux, etc). Again this goes back to being able to update the firmware as needed for features, enhancements, bug fixes and more.

RaveGuru wrote:
What about 1541 compatibility - how accurate is the emulation?

1541 support is pretty good at the moment and is currently being fine tuned thanks to some beta testers of our latest firmware revision. 1571 and 1581 disk drive compatibility is also being worked on. The nice thing with Pilot is our device can be updated at anytime with new firmware, so if something isn't working as expected, we can make changes, fixes or additions to the firmware feature set.

In other news, we've hit a snag with delivery of our production PCB's, but they should be in hand hopefully this week. The first "official" production release of the firmware and CommodoreLive.com website are actively being worked on night and day getting things ready for public release.

If things stay on schedule, in the coming week we'll have a better update for anyone interested in the device. Thank you for your continued support and understanding.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2011 7:28 pm 
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When can I place my order? ;)
.-.-.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2011 7:42 pm 
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vk4akp wrote:
When can I place my order? ;)
.-.-.

Soon my friend :D

Once we have the production boards in hand, we'll have ordering information on CommodoreLive.com ready to go and of course I'll follow up with a comment here as well. We don't want to take money from people in advance without at least having the production boards ready to be delivered.

However we do have a want list of people ready to order. If anyone would like to be added to the Pilot order list, please send an email to commodorelive [at] gmail [dot] com as our first run of production boards is a quantity of 100 and will probably sell out pretty quickly based on the want list we already have.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2011 7:43 am 
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commodoregeek wrote:
1541 support is pretty good at the moment and is currently being fine tuned thanks to some beta testers of our latest firmware revision.


Sounds good. Is the goal to get 100% emulation similar to the 1541 Ultimate? Very nice to see some efforts to emulate 1571 and -81 as well!


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2011 6:32 pm 
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Sent my details in on the Gmail email list.

Can't wait to get one. I've been suggesting IEC networking for far too long now. I'm glad someone has finally picked up the idea.

A good addition to this device design would be an SD card slot to expand storage ability. In fact I'm very surprised it wasn't included as a standard feature.

Also if it had an RS232 connector it could be used for many other retro computer platforms.
(Apple, Atari, Tandy, etc).

.-.-.


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