No one could predict that demand for Vampire 600 cards will be in such volume. Simply, in my wildest dreams I couldn't think that more than 100 of them will be sold. Now, I have no idea how much of them are send or how many more needs to be produced. It is not a problem when you need to solder few cards by hand but soldering thousands of them could take too much time, months, years... Biggest problem here is not time itself, problem is that after some time you are sick of it. You start to hate project itself each time more and more when you put single PCB on the desk and start soldering ~50 0402 capacitors by hand. Lot of people offered help in soldering but for various reasons they gave up after seeing the board. Man I trust the most when comes to soldering, kipper2k did amazing job lately by producing more than 500 Vampire 600 cards and sending them to end users. I have ended up in really bad situation because I had multiple task to handle, same time. I was soldering V600 cards for people from my pre-order list, doing 3 redesigns of Vampire 500 and Vampire 1200 design. Same time I entered into territory of high speed signals and I needed to read a lot to understand how DDR3 works. Like that was not enough I had to help with VHDL coding and Gayle/IDE integration into V500. More, BigGun Apollo-team leader after some discussion about our HDMI drivers told me that I should stop talking because I don't know anything about C++. I have found that as a challenge and took 2 months long classes about C++ at my university...
People from my pre-order list asked melot's of reasonable questions. Why they need to wait so long for the cards from me when people are getting them sooner from kipper2k. Answer is simple, if there were no my personal pre-order list none of this could happen. Without money from pre-order list I wouldn't be able to do anything. This story begins and ends with Amiga 600 but what about other models. In current situation there is no normal person who would start production of Vampire 500 without proper plan. How to announce it and survive demand who could be 10 times greater than with Amiga 600. Again, lot of people proposed that cards should be manufactured by professional company so we, from Apollo-team can concentrate on other things. I have tried to manufacture Vampire 600 V1 in Europe and cost for assembled board was around 800Eur so I had to give up. You see, for Amiga market demand is high but for professional manufacturer we are too small to reduce costs by having larger volume of the product. Yes, all is doable, but then forget about low price I m trying to keep here. As a person who want's to have control over certain things I m doing I have decided that only option is to get myself Pick and Place machine.
Professional PnP machines costs tens of thousands dollars so that was out of the question. Only company who produces affordable machine is NeoDen, but then again price is about 4000USD. Same time their low level models have one huge disadvantage, they don't have cam. In the days where USB cameras are everywhere for few USD? Searching the web I didn't find any other company in that price range but what I did find is that few people managed to build PnP machine from old printers, scanners and DVD players. There are also specialized robotics related sites where you can order everything from stepper motors to various controller boards. All of the things mentioned above were not possible in my case. Because of the price I can't buy any of commercial machines, even low end variants. On the other hand I can build machine, I can build anything but my enemy here is the time. For building PnP machine I would probably need 3 years of constant work so going in that direction could delay my other projects. By pure luck I stumbled on liteplacer.com website and start to read. The Low Cost Prototype Builder's Pick and Place Machine as is started on the site and it costs 1199â‚¬, still huge money for me but I had to do it. I was amazed how everything is well documented and I started discussion with Juha Kuusama, man behind this amazing project. He was very friendly and with help from ShK we find a way to get machine to me by using cheapest possible options. Then nightmare begins. About the things I had to do to get machine into my hands is not smart to talk. I only realized that there is close to nothing I wouldn't do for this project...
Box, huge, opening box, I m scared. There are thousands of parts inside, nuts, bolts, pipes, motors, wires. Assembly has started 28.6.2016 and ended up 4 days later, after ~18 working hours. Like I said , because all was documented properly all went fine. For tweaking machine I needed about 16 days more. So not bad. Initial plan was to dedicate on this one month, that was the only time I could afford away from Vampire project. No more or less. Complete assembly puts each of your skills to huge tests. Each time wondering is there something you did wrong. Juha did awesome job with LitePlacer and I m certain that with this project he made lifework and earned his place in scientific world's history. Combining mechanical and coding knowledge he made ultimate tool for every man cave. Using the machine is the experience that can hardly be compared to something else.
What's left to do and not included in the kit was SMDtrays, and for professional SMD trays price can go up to 1800USD, yes you read it right. To solve this problem I had to find plastic or aluminum profiles for other use who can be modified. Five days I have spend in my car, driving to every shop, store, mall in my and closest cities looking for something I can use. Sellers looked me like I m crazy because I was measuring everything from fly killing racket and his grip to the various toys. Can 8mm SMD tape fit and slide inside something. Finally I have found 10mm cable channels and used their cover bending it down to 8mm and gluing 4.8mm plastic tape on the bottom to ensure that parts won't move up and down once PnP needle picks them. In the process of making those trays I cut myself badly. That and many more pictures from LitePlacer's assembly stages you can find in Read More, Pictures, Files... section of this article.
LitePlacer - Placing 0805 capacitors on Vampire 600 V2 accelerator
Question is simple but in the same time not easy for me to decide what to do and there are certain things that needs to be considered. From the start I had an idea to keep this in form of early developed blogs, to write down my own experiences using Amiga computers, or my work regarding FPGA accelerators. So here we go.
Cons: 1. Pages of the site are heavily linked on various forums and Google search results so building new site means that we lose direct connections
2. Building new site will take lot of my time so I won't be able to work on the project itself
3. Site must be build by me, I must understand every part of it, can't call someone each time I want to publish some news
4. We will lost all the features that CMS like this provide, so each time I need to add something to the site I need to code
Pros: 1. New site HTML5 based could prove that this is serious project
2. Could be done to detect and support every single platform old and new
3. Look very modern and professional
Problem is that there is quite a lot comments about this site lately. Someone says that this is just the place where one person write nonsense and that this don't look like professional work. Others says that this is place where they can track complete progress easily and find lot of valuable information's for their own projects or simply for easier understandings how things works in retro scene. Keep it simpler, leave it as is, site like this is not secure, add animations... For me most important thing is that I can use this CMS easily and don't waste too much time on it to say what's on my mind. On the other hand should I build modern site like everyone is doing to make people thing that behind me is army of the people working to get things done. To put shiny pictures of some facility representing it as a new place where Amiga will be reborn. So last months I was confused and in parallel with the Vampire designs I worked on the new site constantly asking myself what is the point. Here is the the demo, yes it looks nice, but that demo also represents one man soldering in his basement. It is fake show without any real purpose than to let you say wow I will follow this project because site looks interesting.
Few days ago I received one interesting mail with screenshot showing that someone entered into administration services of this site using my personal password. My response was that I will not change the password and I said to that person to have fun. Today this site was offline. If you was visiting and your antivirus reported that there is a virus somewhere on this site that was just a detection of an changed title of this site to something like "You are hacked by bla, bla, bla" something. Ok let's play now, password will stay the same for you, I didn't fix any bugs inside the code, but I did something smarter. Let's see you now :)
I m sorry to say this to you but I think that there is nothing special about the fact that you hacked 10 years old PHPnuke site no one uses anymore. I will not waste my time to track you or to fix bugs inside sites code simply because you should know that those days everyone backups their databases. How much time you need to do this again, I think few minutes then I will upload clean database again and it will take me few minutes also, then you will hack the site again and then, imagine I will upload clean database again, then you will hack it again, and then I will build automatic system to upload clean database every hour, then you will sit those few minutes in front of your computer to hack it again and my system will repair it automatically, I will not do anything. Then you will build automatic system to destroy my site every minute, then our systems will play together and imagine site will work anyway. And then you will find out that you should do something smarter than to waste time here reading this anyway and that I should do something smarter instead writing this stupid text. And so on and so on...
Unfortunately due to damn Bitcoin fever I was literally forced by my friends to join and eventually build new hardware for it. For about half a year they are asking me to start so i didn't get any chance to get away. For now, I will stop my Amiga development and I hope I will get back to it soon enough. For now everything going as planned, production is going nice and waiting list is still long. Development of new core is put on hold for now but it is about 70% done and Apollo crew will start working on it in short period of time. Back to Bitcoin. Lot of time I was thinking about creating coin build for Amiga. Coin that we could only dig with Amiga machines, maybe something like that could bring life into old computers.
I need to take few days to clear my mind and to have strength to continue. This is third time since project is started that I ended so tired and devastated again without any strength to continue. Those days I went to see a doctor and he told me that I need to slow down with my work or I will end up in hospital. So it is time to clear my mind for few days because even in sleep so much codes are in my dreams that I just can't rest properly. Also every day I have so strong headaches after working on this project that I just can't take it anymore. It seems that i have migraine. Five or six hours of pain every day so strong that you can't talk or look at the light. Why? This design is now at the stage where my little and undeveloped brain just can't keep up. Solution: Rest for few days and hang with girls!!! They have cure for everything :)
UPDATE: June 25, 2013 I m back, but for now I will not work on the project more than one hour per day.