Worklog [2022 Contest Entry] The Junkstation 2

MRKane

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Ok, so it's not secret that I'm wrapping up electronics as a hobby so that I can move onto other things, but over the last decade or so I've accrued a collection of essentially worthless bits and pieces. This is something to light a fire under my ass so that I'll either make something with them, or make an awesome and stylish "completion video" involving me throwing things out. Either way it's also my little contribution to

There's an antique kitchen table under there, somewhere...
IMG_4726[1].JPG

So what I've got:
  • Lots of PS2 consoles of varying state of functionality
  • Lots of joycon sticks, controller bits, buttons, and that sort of thing that I don't want to have to use after the nightmare that was my last PS2 portable
  • Heaps of little SBC things like OrangePis, Zeros, Mango routers, ESP32s, something the tecchie at work gave me that looks like it's from the 80s
  • A couple of screens
  • Lots of tiny electronics components that were worth 35c each before COVID and are probably almost worth the postage now
  • Wires, bits of PCB, some garbage bags, about 2kg of PLA prints that I can't recycle
  • Probably a mouse. It feels like somewhere that a mouse would live.

The plan:

To think of, and make, something that I'd find useful and enjoy using involving a PS2. After the two years of refinement and learning that's gone into trying to "perfect" the button and thumbstick feel from the last PS2 portable I think I've got to say that I just don't have the time to think about including a controller - I need a better solution for me there. The assembly has to be easy, so it'll be a carrier board that's populated by JLC, and it'd be cool to have it portable, but I've not set my heart on anything yet. It could just be a screen with batteries that clips onto the back of a stock PS2 slim making it convenient to use on the road, or a plug and play Mango SMB that attaches to the back - I don't know yet. There'll be a lot of thinking outside the box for this one so I welcome suggestions and ideas that are within my ability!

Also I'm making no promises that I'll continue this - illness is taking its pound of flesh so at absolute worst this is my $2 contribution to this years prizes, and damn I love how slick that banner looks!
 
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Portables
KiWii Portable (In progress)
This is the most unique thing I think I’ve heard in this community in my over 1 year stay. I would love to see this, and I’m hopeful for your future to give you new challenges. Good luck!
 

MRKane

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So after a few days of trying to assemble a lot of that junk, reading heaps of different things, coming to terms with the fact that New Zealand seems to be an unreachable wonderland in the eyes of the US postal service, I've finally actually got a plan. It's not pretty. Not pretty at all, but true to my mantra it'll be mostly assembled from things that I've got lying around.

Project Base:
-Use PAM8403 amplifier boards with 1kR pulldowns on the import audio channels to denoise (or build into the board). This could have been a sexy UAmp but postal systems said no
-Use spare PIC16LF15324 long-bod chip as system controller
-Use spare redboard to provide power
-Mango for SMB loading with capacitive ethernet
-8"HDMI screen left over from another project
-Dirty cheap PS2 to HDMI board because buying the Analog to HDMI from Shepard had massive postal costs
-18650s to stick out the back of the unit, because I got them
-Include onboard 5v regulator to provide 3.5A (minimum of 3A) to cover Mango, PIC, Hailraiser, screen mod etc.
-Use WeMos D1 Mini ESP32 board for controller interface, with joycon holsters on side for "portable" and a stand on the back to have unit operate as a standing screen
-Slimmed down screen controller board
-Some sort of interface tacts for unit control
-Spare volume wheel for volume
-Spare switching audio-jack for headphones
-Spare speakers for...speaking

First off I've got to give heaps of thanks to MillitaryMan20 as he provided the link to the "Blue Retro" project which will make my life heaps easier here as the controllers are now separate from the unit meaning that instead of making a full portable I'm making...a screen, but for me this is perfect as I really only play in bed and I get sick of having to hold portables up to my face. I've just spent two years trying to perfect my last PS2 portable in terms of controls and input feel, so ditching the attached controller is a real game changer for me.

After crying in a cold shower over the cost of the UAmp postage to NZ ($69usd!!!) I decided to hit up the internets and see if I could do some learning on how to denoise the PAM8403 amplifiers. I soldered assorted bits of junk into assorted different places on the V1 board for my Pi Portable and finally concluded that 1K pulldown resistors on each input line was the way to do this (and that the music I listened to kind of sounded the same irrespective of the speaker it was playing through, which is the biggest personal insight I've had for a while). Sure it makes the audio a bit wetter, but it gets rid of that annoying buzz that's plagued me for years!
AudioBoardWithResistors.jpg

I also went about hitting up blender and doing a rough base design, where there's zero attention paid to style and only the function of the unit is considered, combined with my hell-bent desire to get an acrylic frontage, I knocked together what's best described as...an iPad. I feel dirty for this conceptual converge.

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Please don't read into this image too much, the dimensions weren't measured or checked - it's something I threw together with maximum haste before Fluffy wanted to have pats for the evening. I understand that Fluffy is now a bit of a tradition for me in this competition according to what I've been told.
Fluffy001.jpg
 

MRKane

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So a quick touching of base - no treble.

Around the 3DS overhaul and trying to perfect my prior PS2 portable I've had a little time to look into getting this project working. The BlueRetro adapter has been nothing short of amazing*, and naturally the controller I purchased for the Switch didn't work, so I've been discussing things with DarthCloud, the owner of the project, to see if there's a way to resolve this. Hopefully he comes through with something, otherwise I might have to sell off these cool third party Switch controllers!

Aside from that I grabbed an ESP 32 D1 Mini and have found that it preforms outstandingly also! I'm not sure which pin is "boot" so welcome advice here - there's a lot of chaff online, and this button might be necessary if I ever want to use two controllers with this project. Otherwise it's really early days here, and I've done a lot of arranging components I've got and pretending things will work. I spent a few days and sketched up a basic carrier board and am trying to squeeze everything down so that I waste lots of money after making a basic mistake to try and reduce the unit cost and perhaps set it up in a way where it'll be flexible for different designs.

I'd appreciate eyes-on the PCB when I get closer to finalising things, and like last year I don't care about prizes so am unconcerned if this disqualifies me - I'm just happy to be part of this :)
RoughBoardDesign001.png

*Amusingly I've actually been using my Wii U pro controller to play my PS2 since I got this up and running - it really is a pleasure to use and it's been virtually flawless so far!
 

MRKane

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So the boards I designed with JLC arrived a couple of days ago and I've been sitting on them while waiting for the PS2 SX4MISO unit and the LEDS. As fate would have it both of these arrived today so I opted to try and do some assembly and see if the power system could at least be kicked over - and it appears to be working. So that's one part going!

I also appreciate putting the Bitbuilt competition logo on my PCB design because bits of paper always get lost.
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Ye olde red board - you won't see many of these around nowdays! I paid to have JLC mount everything besides the redboard, front LEDs, and the PS2 power port as soldering is truly getting beyond me, but SMD heat soldering always works like a charm! Turns out my measurements on the redboard were slightly out of alignment. I'll bury it in the case so that I don't have to look at it because it kind of triggers my OCD.
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So now I've got a bit of testing, and potentially some bodge wires to run if things aren't connected correctly (the SX4MISO is so that I can confirm my work), and then a little bit of setting sup with BlueRetro and the Mango before undergoing more assembly.

No photos of fluffy sorry! It's been a rainy day so she was chilling under the table.
 

MRKane

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So I put in a huge amount of effort today (possibly too much) but I'll get to that. I've assembled the majority of the carrier board and have been able to check things over as I've gone. It appears to be working well and as expected.

Fluffy looked it over even.
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Then I discovered that I'd mis-placed the SD card holder and it was colliding with some components underneath. Judging from the trimming guide it looked like they weren't necessary for the standard trim, so I opted to remove them. They came off in pieces.
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Then after lots more messing around it was finally time to fire it up and....nothing. Chips don't even get warm so I'd say that I've killed this board, be it from removing those components, or general MS-hands dodginess.
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I'll see about coming back to it tomorrow, all advice welcome here, but I might just have to go about things more methodically and when the MS isn't kicking my ass as much.

UPDATE: Decided to do another trim, except this time with "as little work as possible" because I concluded that the design could easily fit it because I'd considered as much. Didn't remove the components off of the bottom as I figure it'll *just* fit with everything layered in place. And: it works. I am properly stuffed after all of this so mightn't get any more progress done for a week or so. I still don't know why the original board wouldn't boot.
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MRKane

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So it's been a focused few days as I've been hellbent on getting this up and running so I've got limited time to do this before I have to go on holiday.

One of the big outstanding issues I've had is that my desolder pump has become increasingly unreliable. The little metal grommet had some loose from the back of the insulation tube. I crimped it in place and used a washer to stop it from pushing through so now it kind of works, and it's the upgrade I should have done in the beginning.
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Fluffy advised on the repairs.
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So onto the unit itself. I've done too much testing on everything, there were a handful of issues getting the BlueRetro working with the second-party Switch controllers I had, which lead me down having to get the bluetooth going on my ThinkPad which windows just flat out refused to do. After a good three hours of wrangling I got it going on Linux and was able to calibrate the ESP32 WROOM D1, which I promptly blew up so needed to purchase some more.

Image from iOS (2).jpg

Sorry about the angle, my phone didn't rotate it'd seem. The control is super-responsive and a pleasure to use, this was after I found the hare-line short between two of the pins - that managed to hold me up for a day or so! My guess is that it was a tiny stray piece of wire.


So the memory card placement was intended to be temporary, but we all know it's permanent now. I'm also not thrilled that it's only a 16mb card when I was sure I'd purchased larger. there should be sufficient play in the lines to swap it out in future if it proves too small.
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So one of the last things I did was toss in the SD4MXISO as a micro SD port when I designed the PCB - it's more of an afterthought than anything else. As discussed on Discord the placement proved to be sub-optimal as it collided with some large components on the underside of the PS2 board, and I kind of had to wing it when it came to the wiring based off of what little I could find pertaining to wiring the port to a micro SD. As fate would have it, it worked! Amusingly the games however, don't always work but it's nice to have it as a feature.

I wonder if it'd be possible to piggyback an actual memory card port on top of this as I don't see why it wouldn't read if there's no SD card in place.
Image from iOS (3).jpg

So I'll no doubt be back on the warpath again over the rest of the week, but am planning on chipping away at it as I go :)
 

MRKane

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So after over four days of troubleshooting and trying to figure out why, I've been unable to get the Mango to talk with the PS2 board in this project. I found that the wiring was wrong, so steadied my hands as best I could to solder to traces and see if I could rectify the issue.

Short answer: Didn't work, but I'm 100% sure that this is the correct linage for the ethernet port now - still no love however.
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I've had plenty of chatter on the unit lights and the USB, but I couldn't get it to connect. Unusually I couldn't even seem to get it to show up through a WiFi connection, so essentially ended up experimenting on it until the solder pads were properly buggered. I've concluded that I'll have to fall back on the MS4SIO which I know works, and it's a good plan B.

So as part of the testing process I also wanted to see about getting a fresh board to test against, so the "Colossus" PS2 portable for a few years back got turned into spare parts. I'll be a shame to see the unit go, but I've managed to get to the point where I properly hate the project so it was with a weird hit of pleasure that I started pulling the chips off.
Image from iOS (1).jpg

Man it'd be nice if things "just" worked, and I hope that it's a mistake of mine and not a fault with the article that I posted about capacitive coupling a year ago as I could be leading people astray there - still, I'll not be buying another Mango, and the SD option will work just fine (as it's now kind of the new standard for portables anyway).
 

MRKane

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This post comes with a little bit of bad news - Fluffy the Waxeye died yesterday. We don't know why, but these things aren't unheard of in little birds, but she won't be in any more posts and there's a strong possibility my work standard will sink without her constant checking that everything is in order.

Anyway, I've kept pushing forward with the case design, and decided to cannabalize the Colossus for parts, including it's Eyoyo 8" crazy-good quality screen - which just so happens to be larger than the one I'd intended to use. Turns out it's large enough to cause problems for the design but seeing as it's the better quality one (and the harder one) that's where I'm starting!

The design has a 3D printed board sandwiched between the electronics and the screen to separate them and also hold the screen in place - I'm feeling a bit stupid for not taking a photo of that but we all know what those look like (broken from printing on low quality - that's what it looks like).

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It's worth noting that splitting the difference with the extra size has rendered all ports unusable, and the printer failed on the case (hence the bulge up top). I'll have to come up with a clever solution there that'll probably involve a recessed plug hole.

My design intends to use an acrylic frontage, and my "master plan" is to hold it down using two "castle" pieces on the left and right, with little bolts in them. I'm unsure about the exact design here and feel that I'll need to make room for more than two bolts. These bolts will also hold the unit together hopefully.
Image from iOS (2).jpgImage from iOS (3).jpg

So, problems: I'll need to get very clever with how the headphone jack up the top of the unit can be accessed, or drop it as a feature, and I'd like to squeeze in a few more bolts on the castles. I'll keep updating as I nut things out, but it's coming together almost fast enough to be finished before I go on holiday.
 

MRKane

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Update time: I hoped to get the portable finished this weekend, but spanners got in the works so it'll have to be finished this coming week. Still, there's a bit that's been done, I'm short on time so this post is unstructured and long, think: Blaise Pascal quotes.

To kick off with: the screen. I can't remember how I came by this 7" 16:9 screen. I knew it was for something computer, for someone, years ago, and it did component. I sat down with it and did some dry tests to see what it's lowest voltage was and was pleased to find that it dropped out at 6v. Wiring it up it promptly didn't work, but would flash on and off intermittently. I checked the regs, and then the board serial and what would you know it was a L7009! Past me apparently only buys people the best for their projects!

Semi-final internals assembly.

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Would have been divinely thin had the screen board fit like this, but naturally it didn't and had to go up the other way.
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Caps relocated, board wired up to the 5v line, screen humming along beautifully with a fantastic picture. Really thankful for everyone here who's done the yards to figure out how things worked because given how life is this almost made it into the fuckitbucket. With this orientation it might just end up taped down, and a little thicker.


So about that case design...
The case has been designed like a sandwich, mainly to make it easy as easy is the best I can do when it comes to fiddly things now.
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Screen in the top plate.
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"Screen holder" over that (note the mounts to fix the PS2 board on the right there)
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PS2 board fitted neatly in place.

And the front. I'm intending to cut a piece of acrylic that'll be held in place by the two "castle mounts" either side of the screen here:
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And everything is run through with some 20 to 50mm M3 bolts, that attach to what I feel is my greatest achievement in this hobby: super-gluing nuts into my case designs so that nothing threads and it always has a tight grip!
IMG_5104.jpg
 

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MRKane

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Well this was cool, but we all know that sometimes we just can't have awesome things. I got the acrylic milled today for the front screen, and underwent a horribly fiddly assembly process to do a test fit. Suffice to say: it looks really cool. Period.
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The acrylic frontage is held in place by the side "castles" and is cut with a recess around the lip to make sure everything is snug with the fit.


But here's the rub - the tallest tact switch I can get is 13mm which means that I'll not be able to make controls that can actually be used. Add to that that the whole assembly is held together with through-bolts, superglue, and wishful thinking. It felt surprisingly solid albeit being finger tight.
IMG_5107.jpg

So now that I've got the "tablet" design concept out of my system I think I'll sit down and re-design it to have a more traditional setup. This will also shave off the better part of 5 to 7mm from the thickness of the design. It's a cool concept but a bit much to tackle all up. Took a video of the unit, and I'll have it assembled as such for a few days at least before I design and assemble a different shell.

 

MRKane

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It's worth noting that there's suddenly a lot going on with life right now (unexpected hospital visits) so my standard for this years competition is about to take a massive slump as I kind of, really, don't actually care...

Anyway, it provides a distraction I guess, so here's the progress!

I took to my case design like a loose propeller and really drilled it down to "just another box" with little regard to assembly or how things went together. My theory here is that the first revision is never going to be perfect so I may as well start making failures to step off of. I was surprised when it didn't turn out as thick as I was expecting, being only 28mm from top to bottom. Of course that's without the batteries, which will be mounted in a holder on the back. I happen to have this battery case lying around that just might get glued onto it with a fancy aesthetic cover.
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So the benefit of dropping the acrylic screen is that it's trimmed over 4mm off of the overall thickness, and now the tact buttons for the controls will fit. At this stage I'm more interested in getting it working than getting it pretty.
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I'm also ever wary of ventilation, which I'm sure will mean I make another case back as what I've got at present probably doesn't have sufficient airflow. I was reminded of this a few days ago when our FireStick decided to overheat. Now I see where the name came from...
IMG_5117.jpg
 

MRKane

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It's done. This was quite a task to get everything in order. I guess I'd better start with the internals.

So wrapping up the internals for the Junkstation was supposed to be a straightforward operation: add the extra bits in, put things in place, walk away laughing. Oddly enough the audio started giving me issues so I put everything down and came back to find that there were no issues. Weird.

A final shot of the internals before putting the housing down, which naturally didn't go as well as I'd hoped. See I left about 1mm worth of play in the case and promptly found that it didn't fit! Put it down, had a break. The problem there was solved by actually pressing my snap edging closed all the way around, and then magically it fit.
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One thing that I feel I'll really appreciate is the PWM controlled fan which will hopefully only make noise when it's necessary. Because of how the screen was arranged getting the 7" L7009 to fit correctly was a bit niggly, and you bet it ended up hot glued in place.
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A few quick shots of the back of the case before assembling. The red insulation tape makes it go faster.
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So something I wish I'd thought of sooner is using nuts glued into the print to give a good seating for the bolts. It works really well, and now I use it liberally everywhere. This is the underside of the battery holder for instance.
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And a quick shot of the battery holder, showing the luxurious spring terminals!
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And finally a shot of the unit assembled and running! You'll notice that the controllers aren't slotted onto the side, because I used the wrong screws with the dome heads instead of the recessed ones, so after spending a half hour getting my MS-hands to put in f*cking tiny screws that always fell off the screwdriver and vanished I found I couldn't slot them in. I screamed silently inside and decided that this was a problem to fix tomorrow.
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So I guess all that remains is swapping out the screws, and getting some sort of video assembled, before sitting down and burning hours playing PS2 anywhere I want!
 

MRKane

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Sometimes it feels like there isn't a hot minute before something goes wrong. I was cooking in the kitchen when I heard a faint "plink" sound on my bench. Thinking that I'd left the iron on I investigated and found that the case on the portable was lifted at a corner. Turns out it had broken a screwpost while I had been standing beside it.
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Pulling the top off, AGAIN (it involves soldering lines because there's zero space for a 'fold open' design) I found that the issue was the internals had shifted ever so slightly when I dropped it, and the fan was now putting too much pressure on the inside of the case. While my design was snug it'd appear that it was just too much (look for the faint white marks in the corner).
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After I'd finished scowling at it I figured that I'd try moving the fan and chamfering off the edge as much as I could get away with. Turns out it fit like a glove!
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So I'd really like to make a cool movie, and I've started collecting clips and bits and pieces, but opening up the generic video editing software I'm reminded that I still hate editing video. We'll see how we go, but we might just end up with a handheld stream at this stage.
 

MRKane

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This post was supposed to have some photos, notes, bits and pieces associated with polishing the portable off, but I'm kind of out of time right now so they may have to be added later.

I spent the entire day getting the competition video cobbled together, I'm 100% sure I've probably missed something that it had to have on it (does anyone read the fine-print on the guidelines for the entries?) and I guess there's time to go back and fix said issues as time allows.

Until then - enjoy this janky AF effort to cobble something together, on my own, in under 5 hours!
 

MRKane

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Did you think there wouldn't be more updates to this thread now that the competition was over? FOOLS! THERE WILL ALWAYS BE IMPROVEMENTS TO BE MADE!

ahem

So one of the core issues I had with this build was that the MX4SIO was intermittent, and it really felt like it depended how you held your tongue when it came to getting it to work. Naturally I stripped a large part of the portable trying to figure out just why this was and eventually found that the issue was a broken trace on the PS2 board. So after muttering "I hate trace repair" and having ruined my ability to wire up the original SD port I just wired in the MS4SIO memory card and screwed it onto the back-plate that I had in the unit. It now sticks out the top slightly - in a hole that's slightly too large because I measured twice, cut once, and then changed things around on the inside.
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But I've also been trying to figure out just what was wrong with the Mango loading over ethernet, and after far too much searching, experiments, testing multiple PS2 and Mangos to death I finally discovered that the problem was because the pull-up resistors on the Mangos ethernet needed to be connected to RX0 and not 3.3v. I'll need someone to explain why this is the case because I can't figure it out, and it also means that the first time I did this was a seriously happy accident.
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So Armed with that knowledge I also had to figure out what my wiring was, and I made the noob mistake of flipping things upside down while constructing the PCB, which was another issue that had to be resolved. This lead to a prolonged struggle getting tiny bits of wire to line up with the holes in a freshly shucked Mango board.
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And it works! The second unit that I've built out of frustration now correctly loads games over ethernet off of the mango, running at full speed from a NTFS USB drive that's connected to the attached USB. Of course the question I've got now is: Is this second build a new work log, or a continuation of this one? ;)
 

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