I love Kyoto. I'd be happy to write a post that only said that. Usually when I'm in Kyoto, I'll either be found at the Railway Museum (actually, it's been twice now and I haven't visited it since it has been renovated!) or up at Mt. Kurama via the Eiden (Railway). This time, I was on the Eiden, but I veered right.
Demachiyanagi Station to Mount Hiei
Hiei-zan is the mountain range to the north-east of Kyoto and forms a dividing range between it and Otsu. As with all mountains in the Kyoto area, Hiei-zan has multiple shrines, multiple temples and multiple transport methods for conquering it. Fortunately, one of those is the famous Eizan Dentetsu (shortened to Eiden) which starts at Demachiyanagi station and ventures to the base of the mountain. Of course, Eiden also heads of north-west towards Mt Kurama and I recommend this trip too.
The trip to the base of Hiei-zan is quick and you'll end up at Yasehieizanguchi station in around 20 minutes.
The garden around the station is also picturesque! Autumn was a great time to come. Turns out I was there a week before the snow.
The autumn colours were so very different from the colours experienced in Nichinan a few days earlier!
After hopping off the train, we're off to the cable car. This is a standard vertical mountain climber, like the peak tram in Hong Kong. It passes the opposing car half way and offers amazing views the whole way!
There's enough seats, but I'd recommend getting up as high as possible. It'll give you a better view out the front.
The view out the side isn't bad either!
At the top, the attendants will politely ask you all to get off as quickly as possible... please follow their instructions and do this!
Are we at the top yet? Not quite. There's one more mode of transport to go! Let's just take in that view first.
That's north-east Kyoto in the left of that picture above. The loop hanging in the foreground is a target. Buy some rocks for 100yen and throw them. Make a wish and it'll come true if your lobbed rocks make it through the middle. Anyway, back to the mountain climbing.
You've made it! You're at the top of the mountain! How crisp is that air? It's now a short walk to the bus stop... so enjoy the scenery. Don't worry about the main building of the ropeway machinery, it's perfectly structurally sound.
Follow the signs and you'll end up at a bus-stop/carpark/kiosk/garden-museum.
If you head right once you're at the carpark, you'll find the toilet and a great view of Otsu city.
Heading then to the other side of the kiosk, you'll see a nice view of Lake Biwako to the north.
Follow the bus timetable and work out when the next one is. They're about 30mins apart. If you have time, grab a frankfurt with sauce from the kiosk. Yum!
Notice that set of white lines on the right of the image above? That's actually where you are meant to line up! We followed the tourists in front and lined up in the wrong spot! Either way, the bus is uneventful and you're going to want to get off at the first stop.
Sakamoto Cable Car
From here, there's only one mode of transport down. You'll hear it a few times, but it's only one method because it's the longest cable car in Japan. There's even tunnels! Before that though, there's a 20min walk to get to the station. Check out Enrakuji while you're up here!
Jump into the station and buy a ticket... but don't forget to check out the surrounds!
There's a cool display on the second floor of the station. The stairs up are inside.
Check out the times and line up prior to departure, you'll want a good seat!
The view down is fantastic and mainly out the left. There are a few bits to the right too though.
The last picture above is of the road through to JR Hiei-zan Sakamoto Station. After exiting the station, turn left and follow the road. It'll curve right and then head straight down towards Lake Biwako. The station is about 20mins down the road. (So are a few good places for lunch!)
JR Hiei-zan Sakamoto Station
This is a suburban raised station along the lake, north of Otsu. It's appropriately named as it is the closest JR station to the Sakamoto Cable Car. Some freight trains come through here, but most travel down the other side of Lake Biwako. The JR West Thunderbird express runs through this station.
A total of around 35 minutes was spent on the platform. This saw 3 local trains (green), a freight loco hauling a diesel and a Thunderbird express.
From here it was a quick ride home via Kyoto.
We spent the day driving from Miyazaki to Shimonoseki, stopping through Nobeoka, Oita and Beppu. When you're on the highways, it's a very quick trip! Detouring off every so often provided great food and great recycle shops.
JR West have wrapped one of the last remaining 500 Series Shinkansens in EVA livery and it looks fantastic. It runs a Kodama service daily from Hakata to Shin Osaka. They've even gone as far as to refit the interior!
I was so hoping they'd play the theme song when the train was approaching... no such luck. I had to settle with it being sung at karaoke instead.
Sanyo Main Line
Down under the Shinkansen tracks, the Sanyo Main Line runs from Shin-Shimonoseki through Shimonoseki itself and then under a tunnel and into Hakata via Kokura. Just before Shimonoseki Station is Hatabu and a passenger yard. Turns out they're busy chopping up their stock :(
Fortunately, the timing was great that morning as the Shinkansen lined up nicely with a few freight services. An EF66 came through Hatabu as we were waiting.
Here's an EMU prior to getting the chop.
The overnighter in Shimonoseki came to a close and it was time to jump on a Hikari to Osaka.
Kyushuu is renowned for it's joyful trains. I was fortunate enough to be in the vicinity of one in the south-eastern part of the island and couldn't afford to miss it. The Umisachi Yamasachi runs on the Nichinan Line from Miyazaki to Nango nearly every weekend in the later months of the year. Here is the latest timetable. The conist uses two DMUs which used to run on the (now closed) Takachiho Railway between Nobeoka and Takachiho. I was visiting a friend who works in a local monastery that happened to be right next to the line just short of Nango.
We arrived late on a Saturday and I actually saw the consist bolt past as we drove from Miyazaki Airport to Nango. It was already too dark to bother trying to get a shot of it.
This quaint little port town is home to a fleet of fishing vessels. It's located north of the Toi Cape, just south of Aburatsu. The shrine I was staying at happened to be located right next to the railway.
The local Nichinan Line service operated like clockwork and shook the building when it went past. It worked perfectly as an alarm clock.
Every now and then you got a double-DMU consist... but I failed to get a good shot of it! There was a yellow KIHA also.
This train only runs on weekends and so I only had the following Sunday to track it down. The service runs from Miyazaki to Nango and therefore was to run right past the temple. Unfortunately we had a busy day planned, so I wasn't to be in the right spot to get it. My friend actually called JR Kyushu for us to determine where the train would be staged between runs; turns out that location was Aburatsu Station. We headed there during our travels to see it.
So... didn't get to see it running; and now that I think of it, the consist would've passed the temple 4 times! I initially thought it staged at Nango Station as there is a siding there. Either way, seeing it at Aburatsu Station was a great opportunity!
Nichinan Line Bridges
During the travels around Aburatsu and Nango, we came across some great vantage points for photos. There's a bridge in the south of Odotsu that provides a fantastic backdrop.
And then one just north of Odotsu, but do be careful: the beach there is private property and we were politely asked to leave!
As that I had the time and the location sorted, I thought I'd grab the tripod (or other suitable mounting point) and try for long-exposure shots of the DMU passing through. Turns out I suck; but it was fun trying!
That last one was actually at ~4:45am when the 'super moon' was up... hence the sky is also super-light.
We ended up driving to Shimonoseki from Miyazaki Airport. This meant a trip through Nobeoka for lunch. The main reason was to visit as many recycle shops as possible! Either way, it timed perfectly with the daily freight that heads into Nobeoka South freight depot.
Bad lighting... but I didn't have enough time to work out a better vantage point. The recycle shops were calling!
So, I totalled the previous motherboard and found a new one online. This one was the 16mhz version (the original was an SX-20) and had a different component layout. At the same time, I also purchased 8mb of RAM (Parity SIMMs!) and a 'new' Dallas Clock Chip/Battery from eBay.
After slapping it all together, the RAM counted up nicely and I could get into the setup as per usual. I configured the HDDs and then saved the settings and rebooted. Instead of working fine, each reboot presented me with the 162-System Options Not Set-(Run Setup) error. No amount of configuration would work. Everytime I continued and went into the setup, it would remove the HDD configuration. I could see that the BIOS wasn't even searching for the HDDs.
This was weird as the system was more-or-less configured back to a standard Compaq factory-issue. Everything was in good nick. I had a hunch though; maybe that Dallas Clock Chip from eBay was actually already dead!? The fact that I hadn't powered down the system meant that the configuration should have applied; this didn't seem to be the case!
I replaced the battery as per the previous one that I replaced (I actually ended up using the original one on the motherboard for the other 386 I picked up recently.) With the hack in place, the BIOS configuration saved and the HDDs were detected and ... the world was a happier place!
So... if you have a dodgy old Compaq Deskpro like mine: MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A GOOD CMOS BATTERY!
I've had Virtual Box running for ages. I use it for experimenting... I also use it to host VPN'd OS'. The whole concept of having applications and OS' fixed into a container is fantastic.
I also dabble with Smart-phone development; usually using a Macintosh or Android Studio on Windows. I recently became aware that Visual Studio Community 2015 comes with the opportunity to code Android/iOS apps via Xamarin.
I've attempted Xamarin before, but never built anything productive. This was years ago and have since forgotten about it. Seeing this option in VS meant that MS were somehow backing it and I therefore took the plunge.
Installing it was fine and building a sample 'WebView' application harmless. It even ran successfully in the emulator!
Later in the day, I attempted to boot up my trusty VM to acquire a few things. I was greeted with the error that VT-x was not available. I attempted to re-configure the machine, but the Acceleration tab was disabled as Virtual Box could not actually find any acceleration to use.
It turns out that installing the Android Emulator for VS also installed Hyper-V Virtualisation. On any windows machine, only one Virtualisation manager can be installed and VirtualBox is not compatible with Hyper-V! There's a blog post here of someone asking the same questions.
I have found one blog post by Scott Hanselman that tells you how to 'multi-boot' into Windows where Hyper-V is disabled, but then you cannot run your Android Emulator. This post was actually from January in 2014! I'm surprised I've only just hit this issue.
It turns out that VirtualBox simply cannot work with Hyper-V. I'm not sure if the Android Emulator can work without it.
I attempted a switch to VMWare only to find that it is also not compatible with Hyper-V! At least it presents you with an appropriate message.
The solution to all of this is to use the Hyper-V Manager which is installed as part of Hyper-V and create virtual machines from there. I haven't done this yet, but am not expecting too many issues.
So, I impulse-purchased this original Famicom from a Recycle Shop next to Higashi-Yodogawa Station in the Shin-Osaka area. I wasn't in the market for a Famicom originally, until I found out that the original A-Train was released for it (as well as the MSX.)
The box didn't have an AC adapter. After a little googling, I purchased one from the stalls under the train station in Akihabara. BE VERY CAREFUL if you're buying an AC adapter for a Famicom, they're non-standard. See further below for potential issues.
Of course, Japan was NTSC back in the day and so this unit outputs an NTSC signal over the RF output. This is no good for TVs in Australia as none of them are capable of decoding an NTSC RF signal. Fortunately, they can decode an NSTC Composite signal, so we'll need to modify this unit to bypass the RF modulator and provide the signal we require.
Outputting a composite signal
I initially thought I'd use this simple modification and bought the required components. At home I realised that I actually had the 1989 version Famicom with Motherboard revision HVC-CPU-GPM-02. Searching further, I found this modification which was stated to work with my revision of the motherboard.
I purchased the required components:
- 2x 1uf Capacitors (I used Monolythic. The Author says Ceramic, but the picture he shows uses Monolythic caps.)
- 33uf Electrolytic Capacitor
- 220uf Electrolytic Capacitor
- 100ohm Resistor
- 150ohm Resistor
- Two RCA jacks for mono audio and video
There is also a transistor involved. This component is already on the motherboard and does not need to be purchased.
Applying the modification
First, de-solder the transistor.
The next step is to de-solder pin 21 of the PPU and then bend the pin out of its hole. This is to prevent signal noise which shows up as vertical bars in the signal (aka jailbars.) I had issues with the desoldering and so cut the leg at the base with the scissors on my swiss-army-knife. I don't recommend this process as you scratch the crap out of the pcb. Fortunately, there are no tracks underneath, so I fluked it.
Now, flip the board over and scratch the track that 21 was attached to as below. Although you've already removed the signal running on it, all articles recommend that you also scratch the track. Supposedly the thin track next to it absorbs noise from its neighbour. I'm not so sure that the track needs to be isolated, but I did it anyway.
Next, we need to work with the transistor that was removed. Fold one leg horizontal and then solder it to the locations as shown below.
Finally, add the 33uf Cap and resistors. The negative leg of the capacitor is your video output, so wire this (with sheilded wire if possible!) to the yellow RCA jack.
Add the two 1uf capacitors to the following locations to further suppress noise.
The second-last step is to attach the 220uf capacitor for sound output. The sound output comes from pin 46 of the cartridge port, so connect the capacitor there and the other end to the black/white RCA socket. Of course, both sockets also need to be grounded! I initially thought that I could just lie the capacitor on the board and connect the leg to pin 46... turns out that the case presses against this capacitor when closed, so I had to move it and wedge it in the gap to the left.
Now the final step is simply to mount the RCA sockets on the side of the unit. I chose the front right as there is heaps of room behind.
Now... to test...
Incorrect AC Adapter
Nothing... no power... dead... I hadn't actually ever gotten a signal out of this unit; so could it be completed dead? A quick investigation with my multimeter showed that the voltage was backwards on the 7805! Oh shit. For anyone playing at home, the link here gives you all the information you need on the power supply, especially pointing out that the adapter needs to provide negative on the center pin. Of course, I had bought a power supply with positive in the center and had tried to tune the RF for a few minutes. This completely cooked the 'slow-blow' fuse in my Famicom!
See here for more detail on fuses and replacing them. I was unable to find an exact replacement at my local electronics store, so I just shorted it to start with... but there was no way I was going to leave it in this configuration. If you want an exact (or best match) replacement, then search eBay for 'SNES Fuse' and you'll get quite a few results.
After this, I reversed the polarity on the AC Adapter.
NTSC vs. PAL
I tried everything to get the picture correct. There's a trimpot, but this didn't help. I also grabbed some tinfoil to shield my video cable to the port, but that didn't help either. After a little googling, I realised that the NTSC timings of the Famicon are slightly out-of-spec and that my TV would never actually decode the signal. I know it can decode a proper colour NTSC signal, so I was a little concerned.
As a final test, I plugged the machine into the big TV.
Muhahahahahaha... and then for the final icing on the cake... (Thankfully I was wearing pants...)
Now to play the game!
I needed an AT case for this naked 386 AT motherboard and hadn't had much luck searching eBay. Little did I realise that I could put the motherboard into an ATX case with minor effort. All AT cases on eBay were way out of the price range, so I went back to the store that I purchased the power supply from for the Compaq and came back with another bargain!
There seems to be a faceplate missing, but I can't complain since I got it for AUD$20. It didn't come with a power supply, so I chose to use the AT that the motherboard came with. Of course, the first problem (it's still a problem, actually) is that the power switches aren't able to be swapped. ATX uses a 'soft power' switch whereas AT runs the full 240v right up to the mechanical switch to control the power feed. This is still currently hanging out the side of the case.
Mounting the motherboard was easy enough. Turns out that the read plate actually has all the required markings for the AT motherboard spacers!
A bag of goodies was included and I quickly got the motherboard into position.
Before going any further, I realised that I'd not put a new battery on the board yet. I cleaned the remnants of the previously leaky battery and mounted a coin-cell holder.
Once screwed down, everything fit back into the case perfectly.
The majority of front-panel wires were still compatible with the old AT style pinout... I just required a quick google to find information on the AT System panel connector.
Of course, the included I/O Panel doesn't fit an AT motherboard, so there's extra ventilation at the back. There seems to be all sorts of hints online to make your own plate, but nothing off-the-shelf that I could find.
I popped the top off to see if I could mount the power switch but there was no room for it. I'll have to work out a better mount for it, as the current answer is to have it hanging out the rear.
After purchasing a PS/2 to AT-style keyboard converter, I was able to actually boot the thing up! Now to get some software onto it...
Usually public holidays means very little freight traffic, but everything-and-more was running yesterday! I promised myself to sit in front of the computer, and work on computer-related-projects, but gave up quickly when I looked at the radar and saw that XR554 was leading the Long Island. I ran out of the apartment and just managed to catch the Metro Frankston train in front of the freighter from Hawksburn Station.
Glenhuntly Station - Long Island Steel Train
Glenhuntly Station was chosen as the vantage point. I'd always wanted a shot of the steelie coming round the bend. This intersection happens to be a 'Tram Square' where tram lines cross the railway lines. The catenary has to cross at this point too, and so only one network is energised at a time. There are insulators isolating the crossing wires and, I would assume, there is some large electrical switch that chooses which network is powered into the junction.
I was paying too much attention to the infrastructure and nearly didn't hear the freighter approaching!
The sun came out perfectly for the curve. Very happy to see an XR in the lead.
Two 49s and a Tamper
I was about to head home, and continue that work I promised myself, when saw something strange on the radar. A 49 Class NSW Locomotive heading south into Melbourne. These are sorta like the Victorian T Class, and aren't often down south. Not really knowing a good location, I attempted somewhere new, on-foot. From Albion Station on the Subury Line, I walked over to the curve where the Standard Gauge joins (or re-joins, really) the electrified broad gauge.
Turned out to be a pretty good location! One other on-looker had already been waiting there too. The colour-scheme looks really good on this loco, especially in overcast lighting.
CSR002 - The Sugar Cube
The map indicated that the new SCT movement was coming through next. It wasn't for about an hour though, so I caught the train back to Sunshine and got lunch at the mall. I also purchased an external battery pack for my phone, as the radar does happily trash one's battery. These batteries usually come pre-charged and this brick happily gave me a full charge prior to giving up the ghost. After mucking around and not paying attention to the radar, I realised that I was now running late and that CSR002 was already at Jacana. A quick run from the mall straight to the overpass saw me back in location with around 1 minute to spare.
These sugar cubes get their name from their very boxy shape, and the fact that their class name is 'CSR' (a famous Australian sugar company.) The train hurtled round the bend with 2 vans which it had retrieved from the new SCT depot in Wodonga.
The 49s return home
These two didn't hang around long. After the CSR came through, I ventured back to Albion station and awaited the next Metro train. I just missed one and so the next service wasn't for ~20mins. This was fortunate as the 49s showed up on the radar on the triangle near the LPC in Dynon. It turns out that they were turning around on the triangle; I assume 4911 has the accreditation to run in VIC and 4917 was there as backup.
They bolted through at track-speed and headed home. It always seems to be the days you least expect that provide the most excitement.
Whilst browsing the usual Vintage Computing column on eBay, I came across a naked computer. The seller described it as a functional 386 with RAM, CPU and all cards/cables; but no disk drives. No real issue there as I had the missing components at home.
Upon further inspection, a few of the cards caught my eye. They were all 8-bit ISA and had huge IDC headers on them. One had 4-in-a-row internally and another had one on the rear plate. These seemed to be I/O controllers, and so I endeavoured to win the auction.
Once everything arrived, I asked a few more questions and was told that this rig was initially in a corroded standard PC case (of the time) and had a large quantity of ribbon cables hanging out the back. This makes perfect sense as each of those headers would fit a 50-pin ribbon cable, and four of those hanging out the back would take up a lot of space. I was then told that the machine was used at the Siding Spring Observatory. Who would've thought that a random 386 would have so much history!? No wonder they needed so much I/O!
I googled for images of internal computer systems at the observatory, but couldn't find any pictures of anything resembling this machine. Here's some links: The 2.3m Advanced Technologies Telescope at Siding Spring Observatory, Anglo-Australian Telescope control room, 40 Years of the Australian Astronomical
Observatory and The Anglo-Australian Telescope and Siding Spring Observatory.
Cyrix 387 FastMath Coprocessor
|Very OEM-looking board, but turns out to be a popular brand back in the late 80s. This is nearly the board, but it seems like there is very little information. There are some brochures on the machines! It gives you a good idea as to what the case used to look like.
8 SIPP modules installed. These have pins, instead of an edge-connector, connecting them to the motherboard. Very difficult and fragile to deal with!
The EEPROM was oncovered to start with and the sparkly internal chip was visible. I'd not exposed it to direct sunlight, but I was worried for it's 1s and 0s! The battery was also in an awful state. This was removed and cleaned up post-haste.
|16-bit Controller Card|
|PRIME 3B MKII||Nothing special about this card...just your standard ISA 16-bit controller with all cables and ports provided for.|
|16-bit VGA Card|
ZTECH Electronic Corp
Licensed by WDC
|Really nice 16-bit VGA card. Seems to be a clone (or produced under license) of WDC.|
|Axiom Tech AX5210 A/D Interface Card|
|8-bit ISA bus with 50-pin IDC male port.
16 analog/digital inputs.
8 Digital-only inputs.
8 digital-only outputs.
|This thing looks awesome. At first I thought I'd have trouble with connectors, but it uses a standard SCSI 50-pin IDC connector! There's a lot of documentation and (thankfully) the source code online too!|
|8-bit ISA I/O Card|
|All cabling internal.
Small slot under backplane to allow ribbon cables through?
4 50-pin IDC headers.
|This thing is huge. After investigating the ICs I can see that there are 8 74LS244Ns that run to the 50-pin IDC ports. Therefore I'm guessing this is a 64-bit I/O card. Programmable as well. Maybe similar to this. Zero documentation online, but I did find another going on eBay for over AUD$100!?|
|8-bit ISA I/O Card|
2 PORT 422/485 I/O CARD
Startech Semiconductor Corp (on chips)
PLC 37-pin Female Socket
|Not much online for this one either. Seems to be a 2-port RS422/485 serial card? Not overly interesting as I have nothing else for it to talk to! Here's a datasheet of the major ICs on board (ST16C550CP).|
|AT Power Supply|
|TERVAN PTY LTD
"INSTALLED 29 JULY 2004"
"FAN REPLACE 25 JAN 2011"
|This power supply has, relatively recently, been maintained? Does that mean that this machine was still operational at the Observatory right up until (or past!) 2011? Amazing usage of the rule don't-fix-what-ain't-broken!|
Quick POST Test
Yes, the age-old Power-On-Self-Test-Test. Just like the ATM Machine. Not all of us know English. Anyway... removed the battery, cleaned the area of residue and thankfully there was no corrosion! The motherboard was inspected. The power supply was too.
All received a brief clean and then the machine was assembled on the workbench with the VGA card installed.