Hardware Pr0n III - "This Time It's AGA!": An Amiga 4000 Story

AndyLandy

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Amibay is all about the pr0n, it really is. We do love it so. So, here's a photo diary of my current miggy project. As you can guess from the title, it's an A4000 this time. (And for those who missed them: Hardware Pr0n: An Amiga 2000 Story, Hardware Pr0n II: An Amiga 3000 Story)

Part 1: Let's begin at the beginning

01-board.jpg

We begin with a plain old A4000 motherboard. This is a Rev. C with an A3630 CPU card and 2+16MB Fast RAM. I acquired the CPU card from the rather splendid Kin Hell and the board from my good friend Chiark as faulty and dispatched it to Castellen in NZ to get it fully refurbished. Anthony worked his magic and I was returned a good-as-new A4000 board. He also de-soldered the Super Buster-9 and fitted a socket instead. You will notice that said Super Buster-9 is missing, expect it to appear soon in Hardware Pr0n thread near you!

02-board.jpg

The lovely people at Amigakit dispatched me some goodies last week, including (amongst other things) a shiny Super Buster-11 and an IDE terminator. I haven't decided whether I'm gonna use the on-board IDE for anything, but having a terminator while testing is an absolute godsend!

03-case.jpg

Now all it needs is a home. I had originally intended to mod an ATX tower case, but then the incredibly generous Fizzy offered up this rather spiffing Micronik A4000 aftermarket tower in the Amibay recycling bin and I just had to have it!

04-atxpwr.jpg

POWER! I don't have an A4000 power supply, but fortunately this case allows me to fit a standard ATX supply. Once more Kin Hell comes to the rescue with an Elbox ATX-to-A4000 PSU converter. A quick mod to the power button on the front of the case to remove the latching and we have a proper ATX-esque solution to powering the old girl.

05-floppies.jpg

Now these I'm proud of. I acquired a couple of Chinon FB-357A high density drives, one from Kin Hell and the other from someone on eBay. The eBay one was yellowed horribly and whilst Charlie's was beautifully clean, it sadly had a crack down the fascia. In another place and time I'd also bought a couple of NOS FB-354 drives from Jon Hare. Those drives were modded to fit in an A500 and an A3000 and are working an absolute treat, but I was left with these nifty little 5.25" mounting brackets for Chinon 30mm drives. Some further bodgery later and the two 357As are now in pristine condition and fit perfectly into a 5.25" drive bay.

06-begging.jpg

At this point, I think it's time for a test. I plug it all in, take a deep breath, hold it in and hit the 'on' button. RESULT! We do love the purple begging screen. I guess we should give it a disk...

07-sysinfo.jpg

No hardware pr0n thread is complete without some gratuitious Sysinfo shots, and this thread is no exception. The 25MHz 68030 gives us a modest 4.38 MIPS/4204 Dhrystones, almost identical to my A3000 (4.39 MIPS/4207 Dhrystones), both of which are 10% less than the Sysinfo A3000 rating. One assumes that if there were a way to fit Static Column RAM into an A4000, you'd be able to use the CPU in burst mode for that extra 10%

08-showconf.jpg

Oh, and just a quick shot of Showconf as well. AGA 030 with 2+16MB. A nice little starter A4000. I apologise for the TV shots, for ease-of-setup, I pinched the kitchen telly and plugged the miggy in via SCART. Eventually we'll have a full-on RTG/Scandoubler solution, but for testing purposes, this is the easiest way to check the old girl works!

Part 2 will be with you shortly!
 

fitzsteve

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Great stuff Andylandy and nice catch on the Tower (y)

Look forward to the updates :)

Steve.
 

AndyLandy

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Part 2: The Acid Test!

OK, so that's all well and good, but it's not tremendously impressive yet. Let's do something about that!

09-busboard.jpg

Tower cases are great for pimping your computers to the full, not only do they provide copious places to fit disks, CD drives and other paraphernalia, they also allow you lots of room for expansion cards. Amiga-Digital supplied me with this rather impressive Zorro busboard. No less than 7 Zorro III slots, with 5 inline ISAs and 2 inline Video slots! Now, let's install it...

10-busboard.jpg

Ahh, there we go. Busboard fitted and screwed into place. Now, let's find a Zorro card to test it with. I know...

11-fastlane.jpg

Now THAT'S what I'm talking about! Fastlane Z3 with 64MB FastRAM and a SCSI-II controller. If anything will give this baby a workout, it's this wee beastie. Well, I say 'wee beastie', the Fastlane is anything but wee as we'll see in a moment...

12-wedged.jpg

WOAH! After a lot of struggling and wriggling and fiddling and prodding, the Fastlane is finally in a Zorro slot. These cards really do push the Zorro form factor and there's a knack to fitting them. The back edge is chamfered so that you can slide the back end down after you've fitted the front end. Even still, it was a right menace to fit, particularly since all the dimensions of this case have seemed 'slightly off' the whole way through. So, does it work?

13-working.jpg

First we hit up the Early Startup Menu, your one-stop shop to see if your Zorro cards are playing ball. So far so good! It shows up as two separate Zorro devices, one is the FastRAM, the other is the SCSI.

14-showconf.jpg

Showconfig gives us a nice display of what the boards are and what they're doing. You can also see all the FastRAM in the Workbench screen titlebar.

15-sysinfo.jpg

"Can we have another Sysinfo shot?" I hear you all asking. Very well, here you go. Ooh, 4.43 MIPS/4246 Dhrystones, that's a whole 0.05 MIPS faster. Clearly the Fastlane RAM is marginally nippier than the on-board stuff, but there's not a lot in it. Still, for sheer volume, 64MB is quite tasty! Now, shall we test the SCSI?

16-ultrascsi.jpg

What have we here? 36GB Ultra 320 UW-SCSI 15,000RPM disks. Very tasty indeed! Let's wedge one onto the Fastlane and see what happens!

17-hdtools.jpg

WOOHOO! HDInstTools has detected it (and the CD-RW drive too, for good measure), let's partition it up and see what happens.

18-diskspeed.jpg

Ahh, Sysinfo, you're so full of useful little features. Here's our freshly-formatted DH0: 3,375,244 Bytes/sec, or ~3.3MB/sec in real money. We like that, don't we!

Sadly this is where Part 2 comes to an end. The SCSI isn't quite playing ball, and I'm going to need something more than plain old FFS to make use of such large disks. I'm calling it a day for now, will pick up with Part 3 when I get a chance to fully troubleshoot the SCSI issues. Thanks for reading this far!
 

salaxi54

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Nice build Andy! I hope you excuse the bitten-fruit sticker up front on that tower by setting up a ShapeShifter/Fusion installation! (y)
 

Geraldine

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I am watching this thread like a hawk Andy! Dying to know how you get on with setting up that SCSI drive. (y)
 

AndyLandy

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Nice build Andy! I hope you excuse the bitten-fruit sticker up front on that tower by setting up a ShapeShifter/Fusion installation! (y)
There's an A-Max II card lying about the place and it's gonna need a home somewhere... :)

I am watching this thread like a hawk Andy! Dying to know how you get on with setting up that SCSI drive. (y)
Haha, you and me both, I've no clue what's gonna happen with that yet, never tried anything as extreme as this before, but fingers crossed, eh?

(y)
 

fitzsteve

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@AndyLandy

If you have any problems with the Z3 Fastlane/Ram you might want to re-distribute the Simms, they like to be matching sets within each bank, i.e:

--------------- ---------------
Bank 1 Bank 1
--------------- ---------------
Bank 1 Bank 1

--------------- ---------------
Bank 2 Bank 2
--------------- ---------------
Bank 2 Bank 2

--------------- ---------------
Bank 3 Bank 3
--------------- ---------------
Bank 3 Bank 3

--------------- ---------------
Bank 4 Bank 4
--------------- ---------------
Bank 4 Bank 4



But I guess if it ain't broke, dont.... ;)

Keep up the great work, awesome project (y)

Steve.
 

BrooksterMax

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I thought fitzsteve was king of boards and hardware but wow. I have never seen so many sockets and green boards! That 7 slot zorro thing looks awesome!

Good luck with it all! Nice read as well. (y)
 

PhilipMcD

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I thought fitzsteve was king of boards and hardware but wow. I have never seen so many sockets and green boards! That 7 slot zorro thing looks awesome!

You can't be a King of boards and hardware until you've at least owned an A3000. ;)

Then there's the tower models...
 

fitzsteve

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I thought fitzsteve was king of boards and hardware but wow. I have never seen so many sockets and green boards! That 7 slot zorro thing looks awesome!

You can't be a King of boards and hardware until you've at least owned an A3000. ;)

Then there's the tower models...

Nope, I'm but still an appentice in the Amiga world. ;)

But BrooksterMax, its a shame you didn't look inside my A4000 Tower, you would have seen one of those 7 Slot Zorro Bus Boards (y)

Steve.
 

BrooksterMax

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:oops: ooops didn't notice it fitzsteve, it was such a large case with boards plugged in at all sorts of right angles I missed it!

I must admit my Amiga knowledge is limited to stock machines :) These customisations confuse me!

I'll look more closely next time - and ask questions! (y)
 

Buzzfuzz

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Nice one Andy (y)

Micronik towers FTW ha :D
Now to fetch a good 040/060 :D

Certainly would like to have a few more of these towers, they are excellent for expanded 4000D boards.

You can't be a King of boards and hardware until you've at least owned an A3000. ;)

Then there's the tower models...

I do, both a 3000D and 3000T, only Amiga remaining on the checklist is a 4000T.
Today I checked off the CDTV.
 

AndyLandy

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Part 3: Just how much can you cram into one Amiga?
We left off with me testing the SCSI and having a few difficulties, well, I've decided to give things another bash. I'm ignoring the SCSI shenanigans for the moment, let's see what else I can do to this machine, starting with some Zorro cards:

19-zorrocards.jpg

There's the Fastlane Z3 from earlier, a Thylacine USB card, an AD1012 soundcard, an A-Max Macintosh emulator board and right at the top, a Multivision 2000 Scandoubler, let's shoehorn them all in there... Hang on a moment, aren't we missing something? No network? No RTG? Have I gone mad? Nope...

20-prometheus.jpg

Oh, hello, what have we here? This is the infamous Prometheus PCI board. Conceptually it's magnificent, a Z3 card that has a bunch of PCI slots. I've even got a compatible graphics card and network card. In practice however, the thing is a menace, the PCI slots are completely randomly located, they don't line up with the back of any case that was ever made for an Amiga, so we'll have to bodge it!

21-rtghackery.jpg

OK, the graphics card is the biggest issue, so you can see above what I've had to do to work around the problem. Firstly, I've taped some cardboard over both sides of the board to stop it shorting out, since it's going to be wedged goodness-knows-where inside the case. Next, I've removed the mounting bracket, since it's only getting in the way. The Prometheus has a little VGA extender cable, so I've mounted that onto the card's original mounting bracket, then tie-wrapped the card and the VGA extender together. Next step, a rather long PCI extension thingy allows me to hang the card up-and-over-the-top of the Prometheus. By installing the Prometheus in the lowest Zorro slot, I can stick the card to the bottom of the case and mount the VGA bracket in the bottom slot cover. Neat, huh?

The next step is the network card, but that's a simple one. I've just removed the bracket and put in a right-angle PCI adapter. I'm only going to use the two cards on the Prometheus anyway, so it's no big deal that it blocks the other slots. I'm running out of room to install anything else anyway! Ideally, I'll build a small Ethernet extender thingy as well and mount that on the back of the case, but I'm short on the bits for that.

The scandoubler was a no-go, it's designed for an A2000 video slot, which has a wider cover. I could mod the case to make it fit, but it was only ever going to be a temporary solution (This model can't do AGA modes, so is somewhat wasted in an A4000) so it's going back in the pile-o-Zorro for now.

So, what's it all look like?
22-tightfit.jpg

Yuk! What a mess! This is a total nightmare, the Zorro backplane sits slightly too low in the case, so some of the Zorro cards won't actually make contact with the socket, I'm probably gonna have to dismantle this and wedge something in to make the busboard sit a little higher. And that's supposed to be the easy bit! The Prometheus is now wedged in at the bottom (top in this photo) and the graphics card has been taped to the bottom of the case to stop it floating about inside. OK, so fingers crossed as I hit the big red button...

23-boarddiags.jpg

ALMOST! My faithful ally, the early startup menu tells me I have four Zorro boards installed. Thing is, there should be five. One is missing; looks like it's the A-Max...

At this point, it becomes Zorro roulette:
Bash cards, hit power: 3 Zorro boards!
Bash cards, hit power: 2 Zorro boards!
Bash cards, hit power: 4 Zorro boards!

In the end, I decide to lighten the load and take out the AD1012. I was thinking of making the A3000 my OctaMED machine, so I'll find a home for it in there. A few bashes later and the A4000 is recognising all the Zorro boards that are actually installed.

At this point, I think it's also time to fill up all the drive bays:
24-front.jpg

We have our two modded floppy drives at the top, then a SCSI CD-RW, an IDE DVD-RW, an IDE ZIP drive and hidden are the two 36GB SCSI disks.

Some dicking about with SCSI termination and other weird options on the CD-RW drive (It has 'Parity' and 'Block Size' jumpers which seemingly decide whether or not the CD-RW will work or not) and I have a working SCSI chain. I think one of the hard disks is dead, the RDB doesn't persist between reboots, but the other disk is fine and I have successfully installed Workbench 3.1 onto a 1.5GB partition on the front of the disk!

The IDE is still terminated, and the ribbon that connects the DVD and ZIP drives is just hanging loose, I'm not sure whether to use the onboard IDE or get a Zorro IDE card.

Anyways, this seems like a good place to leave things for the moment. There are a few little issues still outstanding, but I'm almost at the point where I can start installing some actual software. In the mean-time, I think I'll fire up Frontier, after all, if there was ever a definitive way to test out an Amiga, it's Frontier! :)
 

fitzsteve

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That thing is indeed the beastiest of beasties :D
 
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