Elation AR-32RM DMX-512 show playback controller, repair and software driver issues

Elation AR-32RM repair, software

Story time….

So a friend and myself volunteered to do lasers, sound and lighting for an upcoming IT security conference. Seems cool. We get up balls early to drive to Towsen MD to do a walk through on the hotel and try to get the ability for fire watch and haze for the lasers (denied by hotel. Sigh.)

On the way back we stopped by the MAGFest warehouse, another event we volunteer with. Right near the warehouse is this music store (drums/guitar/keyboard/perc/pa) that has a lot of new and used music equipment. I always like to peek at the keyboards and Rob wanted to check out the PA subs. I see this unit in the racks of random bits, an Elation AR-32RM. Maybe Rob spotted the DMX connectors. Not sure. I had been thinking about looking at the OLA software on Linux or Pi/Arduino for instant playback to some RGB LED wash lights I got from a deal back in the Norfolk VA days.

This thing is pretty broken. The welds that hold the front on were broken off, so someone used thin strips of gaffers tape to hold it together. No way, I think. Last time I was in this store drooling over some old Roland analog rack synth they quoted eBay fully working prices, but it was worth a shot. “Hey man, would you take $20 for this thing? It’s pretty broken but I might have a use.” “$20 if I never see it again, no warranty” “Oh yea, deal man.” $20 in the hand, $20 in his drawer, the next step we were out the door.

Two nice black cap head screws and nuts, some time on the drill press and some luck…. good to go! Looks pro! Getting the stupid gaff tape gum off was more work then fixing the damage, goo gone was no match. Magic eraser seemed to work best.

Last step…. the software!

The software is BROKEN!

So, after downloading the software distro and digging out some old laptops I found that the Windows 32bit drivers… are broken. Off to the 64bit drivers… which are… broken. After all the work to get the thing looking good, and with the DC Dive Show around the corner (where I plan to use it) the clock was ticking. I emailed Elation but didn’t catch a response. I decided to dig a bit.

The drivers portion of the software contain a FTDI driver, which is pretty common. But the vendor ID from the unit doesn’t match the driver ID in the INF files from the FTDI driver. By changing the vendor IDs in the driver files to match, it made it work. I was able to get the software to work on both 32bit Windows running on a physical laptop, and Windows 10 64bit running in a VM. The thing is, it might have broken FTDI support for other things, I’m not really sure about that part. I will try to post the driver bundles soon but WARNING … I fudged it to make it work, no idea how proper things are or what will happen to other hardware that uses FTDI. A friend thinks you can edit the device ID and vendor ID with some tool and just make the thing use a normal FTDI driver but not sure on that.

Overall I was able to overcome limitations and get the unit recording some DMX sequences from Freestyler/Entec OpenDMX. The unit works pretty well, but there is a timer that is global not per sequence which is really annoying. But happy with the unit, and it will come in handy in driving Color Kinetics lights without a sexy City Theatrical power supply but with the PDS-500e supplies that I have.

It’s possible that some of these units have a different set of IDs? I tried archive.org and got some earlier revisions of the software and the drivers from those failed to work also.

Virtuality SU2000

Virtuality su2000

Sooo…. an opportunity came up to buy Leroy’s SU2000 system on behalf of MAGFest. Much thanks to Leroy and Buddy! The next step is to get it working, hopefully before MAGFest. So the race is on.

No hard drive/CDs. So that is the first obstacle. Second step is the cable insulation has deteriorated. I think my thing is just going to be to heatshrink it for event. We will see.

Amiga keyboard refurbs

Amiga keyboard restoration

Picture is pre-retrobrite and cleaning.
Pics not for the faint of heart!

Two Amiga keyboards came with the 2000 system I picked up via Craigslist. And the fun part is, full of bug carcasses and a few living worms.

Fully disassembled each keyboard. All keycaps soaked and washed. All the little rubber sping things were washed. Plastic part disassembled from metal backing, everything cleaned out. Space bar was not working on one but after cleaning it was back.

After everything was scrubbed and washed, the last step was to retrobrite the yellow away. Sally Beauty Supply #40 cremed it. There is some banding and you can see brush stroked under bright light, but better than it was!

Atari Centipede lands in the forest, audio repair

Centipede audio fix

I bought Matt C’s Centipede from him! Of the classic arcade titles, I think Donkey Kong and Centipede are my #1’s. They’re the games I remember playing as a little kid the most. Both games have cool sounds for the time and were good looking machines. The Centipede machine was close to solid, the big thing missing was sound. Matt had taken a shot at it, but never finished.

I bought a cap kit from my friend Buffett, to recap the G07 monitor while I was at it. Compared to the other monitors I’ve been dealing with recently like Sanwa 29E31S and Wells Gardner K9200 the G07 was a breeze.

On to the sound issue. First thing was fuses were blowing on the AR2 board which is a power supply / audio amp combined. So I needed to tackle this. Nothing looked out of place, everything seemed okay. Threw it in with a new fuse and it blew. I then tried it again and rapidly removed power and felt components. One of the caps was very warm, which seemed odd. I looked at it closer and one of them was installed backwards. Matt had recapped it, but looking at the board everything was right. But two caps were configured in a way that seemed odd circuit wise to me. I pulled up pics of the PCB and sure enough one was backwards based on pictures. But the board has a + screened right in between them both with no -, I can see where this error came from.

Put it back in. Fired it up !!! Oh yea, annnnnnnnnnd. No audio.

Someone had installed a home brew hack to move the volume potentiometer onto the front with a small hole where the sound can be adjusted without opening the cabinet. I decided to split the problem in half, and fed the audio from there to an external speaker. Got sound. So it’s the potentiometer! So I checked sound after it and… it still worked. So it wasn’t that. Huh? Pulled the speaker and one of the copper braided leads going to the speaker was fully missing. Just totally gone. Ordered a new speaker, and a new track ball. Sound was back! And track ball was solid. And it’s now in the home lineup and won’t be leaving!

Thanks Buffett and Matt !!!

Amiga 2000 Motherboard Clean Up

Amiga 2000 clean up

So I got this hit on a wanted advertisement on Craigslist. I was after an Amiga 2000 system to go with the Pangolin QuadMod16 I bought off of someone via Reddit. Oh yea, I forgot to mention, QuadMod16 in the hizzy! As I feared. As I expected. As I somewhat wanted (to save a computer from death.) The A2000 time/date/config battery had wicked it’s corrosive guts into the system board. The system booted though, so I mostly did my best to neutralize it with vinegar and baking soda.

I cleaned things up. The system was very very nicely loaded, including a Toaster, DPS TBC, DPS PAR, DPS s-video to toaster board, 030 accel, fast ram upgrade and more. I replaced the hard drives (one had failed, one was working but crazy loud) with a SCSI2SD. The one trick is the SCSI2SD boots slower than the Amiga so a soft reset is required after power on to get the system to load from the SCSI2SD board.

The toaster works but I have no way to sync up sources, the TBC-IV seems to not work. The PAR works. Most software seems to work via WHDLoad, although one or two guru meditate.

The corrosion inside is fairly bad, and I fear that in the future this system might still fail. The accelerator that takes over the role of the main CPU might be the saving grace. Also, the ISA slots have corrosion on the connectors. Seems like it might be okay, but time will tell.

The monitor will need to be pulled apart and switches cleaned, and the focus is off quite a bit. Probably could use a recap but that seems like a daunting task.

The keyboard restoration is in another post, it took a lot of work.

Overall I’m thrilled to finally have an Amiga 2000 with the proper specs. The QuadMod16 is another project, it didn’t seem to work or the software is locked to the board — I’m going to ping the original creator for some insight. But Amiga is rocking! My 600 suffered a pretty bad issue and I’m having someone else do the repairs. During the process of 2000 restoration I took a stab at two dead A500s I have, and was not successful in anything after a good number of hours of work. I found bad RAM and replaced but past that neither work at all. Oh well.

BeeCard Reader/Writer project

Beecard reader

A work in progress, so far I’ve managed to build a BeeCard reader (writing doesn’t work) around an Arduino Mega (ATMega) and a BeeCard purchased from someone who sells old Atari parts (Atari Portfolio.)

I had tried to use the Portfolio BeeCard (32K SRAM) in my Korg Wavestation however it doesn’t provide the battery voltage on a certain pin therefor the keyboard always rejects it as a low battery.

My attempts to write data to the writable BeeCards I have has yet to work. I’m not sure where I’m going wrong, I’ve tinkered with the various control lines and can’t seem to get a write to happen.

My read ability might of been an accident? But it’s what I needed. A sloppy python script dumps the card to a file. Not sure if I will revisit writing the writable cards.

Elmco First Class Slushie Machine, Gearbox repair

Elmco First Class Transmission Repair

So this machine is something of a pain in the ass. I decided to pick up a slushie machine before MAGStock, to bring to MAGStock. I didn’t jump on the more expensive Bunn unit and opted for a Elmco unit which was located farther away. The journey to get the machine from Ocean City Maryland was fun, and I visited 5 arcades on the trip. But, so far the repair of the machine hasn’t been the easiest.

For the first post, I’ll talk about the gearbox. In a slushie machine if the slush mix is just water it will freeze. There has to be a certain content of sugar. And when cleaning the machine, or running it it seems like it’s a pretty big risk of it happening. The machine has a optical sensor on the input side of the gearbox so the controller can monitor the RPMs of the motor, but there isn’t an encoder on the output side. If there was one on the output side it could cut power to the motor and save it from expensive damage. But no, they put it on the wrong side.

When I bought the machine, it appears that one side had a cracked gear. The gears are easy to buy, and to be honest removing the gearbox wasn’t too bad! It was made to be serviced, probably because they break easily. So for $60 you can get a new plastic gear and be set!

This fully fixed the machine, until slush mix dripped down into one of the controllers and it died. So that repair is in another post (I’ve cleaned it up but haven’t tested it yet.) Slushie machine ownership is not to be taken lightly, setup and tear down time (and mess) is pretty strong. The bowls sit on a seal and the seal doesn’t always seal so well until everything is cold.

Commodore 64 repair, machine #2

So the prior Commodore 64 audio issue had seemed to be resolved, but when I went to test it with an actual demo it didn’t seem to work. Frustrated I figured I should look into the 3rd C64 that was given to me by Matt C and Mike W. It came from the surplus of Grande Junction in VaBeach, but had markings on it like it had come from CHKD Thrift in it’s past.

Originally there was no life on powerup, but then that changed. It was spotty and upon poking around the glass fuse holder was to blame. Reflowed solder on it and it will still problematic, cleaned the fuse and holder and it was still spotty, bent holder to get tighter grip on fuse and that cured it.

Next sympton was pink screen, orange screen, but not working. Searching online I found a bunch of pointers to things I had already tried (voltage checks.) Finally pointers said it might be the PLA chip, so I desoldered the one out of the donor board (#2) that supplied the SID chip for #1, and placed it in the socket of #3. Came to life, and there was sound from the demo loaded from the SD2IEC.

The metal shielding in #3 was way rusted, and bottom plastic heavily stained. So I combined some parts from #2, and wirewheel cleaned the top shield (which acts as heatsink for ICs.) I sprayed it with yellow rustoleum paint and it looks like a sad Tonka truck but it will perform it’s function and hopefully not rust more.

So check mark on a C64 finally. Claude and Tom are printing me a case for the SD2IEC — whoot! Now to find more d64 images.

LED Video Screen Update, it’s done!

A little bit late on this post, but the screen was 100% before MAGFest 2017. 6 frames each containing qty 9 32 pixel x 16 pixel modules are complete. I want the metal ones like the rental screens, but in the meantime it will suffice! The screen is 3 meters wide by 1 meter high, or can be setup as 6 meters wide by 1/2 high. I have the drivers on hand to split it into 2 or 3 separate units as well.

Power consumption can hit 12 amps. There is 480 amps of 5V power behind the screen. 4 modules have color issues (very red), I have spares but have yet to swap them.

LED Expansion 3