Monday, 9 July 2012

Whats new Dream Cat? (wooah-wooah)

Arrived into the office this morning, rebooted the Dreamcast and started it building zsh and bash (bash is still compiling as I type). Rather than actually accomplish anything Retrochallenge related today I spent a little time browsing the InterTubes and wondering if there was anything obvious NetBSD could do better to take advantage of the Dreamcast.

Found a very interesting Russian site discussing Dreamshell - a
homebrew OS for the Dreamcast.

They have some very nice hardware pages, including schematics for:

Obviously the SD serial adaptor is going to be slower than directly
attached hardware, but people are reporting 650KBytes/sec write speed
(out of a theoretical 1.5Mbytes/sec, which isn't bad for a $20 shipped
to your door adaptor). Oh, and have ordered one :)

Also, while the Dreamcast is typically quoted as having 16MB of  RAM, it also has 2MB of "audio RAM" (attached to the ARM sound controller), and another 8MB of video RAM. If you're running a 3D game on the Dreamcast this division of memory may make a lot of sense, but when running a general purpose OS much of that 10MB could be put to better use. Even if its too slow (or simply unavailable) to run programs in directly (more research needed), it should at least be possible to make it available for swap space or even a ram disk.

So, I think there is real scope for some NetBSD/dreamcast related kernel hacking during the rest of RetroChallenge 2012. It will make a change from just plugging together existing stuff in unusual ways, or writing vintage fantasy computer simulators.

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