This has been a busy week for PiStorm, a majority of what is described in today’s post happened within 24 hours of my last status update! With that, lets get down to it!
First of all I want to cover something about the cost of PiStorm, as this is something that comes up a lot. For this I’m going to directly quote Leigh Russ who talked about it:
Some of these stores have spoken to the developers regarding the supply and pricing of them. With some agreeing to offer a contribution of sales back to the community to aid in future development of other PiStorm related products once a donation system is in place. The pricing that these sellers are offering them for, around the £40-£50 mark, has been discussed between the developers and is deemed to be a fair price. Not forgetting that these stores are established businesses so have additional overheads to cover within their pricing along with 20% of that cost covering the VAT. They also face the same issues as the rest of us with getting them assembled and sourcing parts during a chip shortage.
There are also further comments regarding the £11 pricing that has been referred to in various articles and YouTube videos, along the lines of:
1. YouTubers set the price at £11.
2. Nobody can assemble these for £11.
3. No one is going to make 25 of these for 50-75 hours work and sell them for £11.
4. The CPLD alone costs more than that.
+ more all along the same lines.
What it appears people are totally forgetting or failing to understand, is that when these articles were written, or the YouTubers videos were created, this was months before the chip shortage had affected supplies of the parts required. At that time the pricing of £11 was accurate and what we (the discord community) were supplying them for.
And no, obviously people are not hand assembling these for £11. These were being made fully assembled (apart from the CPU and GPIO pin headers) by JLCPCB (and no, not by slave labour as someone suggested, but by pick and place machines). We were getting these made in batches of 10-20 at a time which, after delivery, worked out around £10 each (£11 when the prices of the pin headers were added on). And if someone is truly taking 50-75 hours to assemble 25 of these (that is 2-3hrs per board), then they really are in the wrong line of work. You are also able to get them assembled with all but the out-of-stock parts, meaning you would only have to mount a few components by hand at most.
Obviously since then, the chip shortage has taken hold and prevented us from currently being able to get these fully assembled. This has left those assembling them with sourcing and assembling the missing parts themselves. Which increases the costs both with the parts themselves (many places have now increased prices due to shortages), and the work involved to hand assemble the remaining parts. As for the CPLD shortage in general. Whilst some places are selling these chips for excessive prices, we now have over 8 variants of CPLD that can be used. This has made sourcing compatible parts slightly easier with them being able to be found for £4-£10. One thing to be cautious of is eBay/AliExpress sellers, as whilst their cheap pricing and stock levels may seem tempting, it is a gamble on if what you are getting is genuine/original or will work at all (bear that in mind before ordering up loads, probably best to try a sample first).
Anyways, I hope that clears up some of the issues, concerns and negativity regarding but the original and current pricing.
GitHub user paulofduarte added some documentation on how to setup and use various features provided by the a314 feature in wip-crap. Specifically:
- a314fs – to share files between the Amiga and Pi
- pi command – to obtain a Pi command line in the Amiga
- ethernet – to use the Pi’s network as the Amiga’s network
The documentation can be found in the wip-crap a314 directory.
PiStorm Distro Wars
There have been several developments lately to create a PiStorm specific distro. Most notably from Jeff_HxC2001 (video in the YouTuber’s section below). Whilst the PiStorm developers think it might be a little too early to build a distro around the PiStorm software right now with the software still a little in-flux, they do concede it is an easier way to get it into users hands.
To aid the discussion there is now a #custom-distros channel on the PiStorm Discord server. Feel free to chat about your ideas for a distro there or try out the creations made by others.
Proto 4 Updates
Proto 4 is the new firmware for PiStorm currently in-development which could solve a lot of issues around interrupts, improve performance and support others Pis (such as Pi4). Claude has had a little time this week to work on the firmware and supporting protocol software. In theory it will give us insane benchmarks like the one below taken on an overclocked Pi Compute Module 4.
In addition to changes to the communication protocol, Claude has also been looking into bitbanging the GPIO from the Pi’s VPU. In theory this means even faster communication between the Pi and the PiStorm board and is already shown a 3x improvement in GPIO read performance.
Watch this space for further developments!
PiStorm HDF Improvements
The PiStorm HDF file is in wip-crap and is automatically mounted in the default config. It contains drivers and utilities for the Amiga to work with PiStorm. This has had several improvements, including:
- Improved compatibility with Kickstart < 2.0 (in theory)
- An RTG graphics installer created by Leigh Russ
- A couple of cleanups and general improvement
In the next few days there will be further improvements to the RTG setup.
As mentioned before Jeff_HxC2001 has a video demoing his 7 second boot time with his custom PiStorm Linux distribution. The video can be seen here:
10 Minute Amiga Retro Cast has done a six and a half minute update to his PiStorm review mentioning some of the issues that he managed to get sorted: