MiSTer for Dummies

https://github.com/MiSTer-devel/Main_MiSTer/wiki

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nightshadowpt
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MiSTer for Dummies

Postby nightshadowpt » Tue Sep 05, 2017 11:12 am

Hi Guys,

Ever since getting my MiST I have been a huge fan of FPGA's and what they have to offer. Unfortunately it seems that development of cores is currently stalled for the MiST and the interest in the MiSTer seems to be growing.

Unfortunately for a regular user like me, I am still a bit puzzled by the whole MiSTer thing and because you cannot buy one off the stores like the MiST, I have no idea how to get one.

It is my understanding that the MiSTer has 2 components:

1 - A Terasic D10 board (containing the FPGA)
2 - A daughterboard for the RAM (?)

Can you help me clarifying what are the roles of each board? Am I missing something else? How do these two boards interact? Do I need to solder something or will it be just plug and play?

I understand that right now this project is still more for the electronic's hobyist, but as a consumer I would love to understand how does this all work and how to jump on board.

Can someone clarify these doubts by making a "for dummies" explanation of the MiSTer?

Thank you.

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby Slade » Tue Sep 05, 2017 11:56 am

Your best bet is to buy the Terasic DE-10 nano board from Digikey. The reason I recommend them, is two fold:
1/ I purchased mine from there, and I can say they're reputable.
2/ Fast and free shipping. Digikey use some very fast shipping. It's usually 2-3 days from shipping in the USA to arrival most places around the world, it seems.

To use MiSTer, you'll definitely need the DE-10 nano board. This is the main board that everything runs on. Think of it something like a Raspberry Pi, but a whole lot more expensive. This is the direct link to buy one: https://www.digikey.com/product-detail/ ... ND/6817231

There are two daughter boards available. These daughter boards are designed by @sorgelig, and a few people on the forums have been making and selling them.

Daughter board 1 is an IO (input / output) board that has various output methods, VGA, phono audio, toslink audio, etc. It's good for outputting video to older monitors / TV's where the core won't display via HDMI. There have been a few revisions of this board and more to come - I'd personally wait for this to mature a bit more before either building your own or buying one from someone here on the forums.

Daughter board 2 is a ram board. It's a small circuit board with a ram chip. This, like the IO board, plugs into the DE-10 and provides a number of the cores with ram that supports the correct timing. Whilst it's not 100% necessary, many of the cores don't work without this board. I'd recommend buying one. Check out the SD Ram thread for more information on who is selling these: viewtopic.php?f=117&t=32211

As for how they interact, they plug and play, if you buy one pre-made. If you want to make your own, you will have to solder them. I bought mine from @gagadagatika and couldn't be happier with how well it looks and how well it works.

How to start: Buy the De-10 from Digikey, download the software from GitHub, dump it on an SD card and you're good to go. There's a little more involved, but it's not too hard to figure out. Once you're happy with this basic setup, buy a ram board if you want, and you'll have access to more cores.

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby lp » Tue Sep 05, 2017 1:38 pm

There's additional information here: https://github.com/MiSTer-devel/Main_MiSTer/wiki

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby gagadagatika » Tue Sep 05, 2017 1:39 pm

Slade gave already a good overview, I just want to add some links to it:

The MiSTer Wiki:

https://github.com/MiSTer-devel/Main_MiSTer/wiki

It is still under construction but you can find the most important information there. Everyone is invited to help and complete the wiki!
For beginners, it is recommended to read the How To Start and Setup Guide for Beginners. After that, go through the topics in the sidebar.


Hardware

Required:
- Terasic DE10 Nano Kit - Official Website: Terasic, Shops: Digikey, Mouser
- Micro-USB OTG cable - Shop: Digikey, Mouser
- Micro-SD (Included in Terasic De10 Nano Kit)

Recommended:
- SDRAM Board - DIY (Guide) or buy it here if available: Sales Thread. Cores that require SDRAM: Wiki
- USB-Hub with external power supply (nothing specific)

Optional:
- IO Board - DIY (Guide) or buy here if available: Sales Thread


Software

1. SD-Card Installer - Download: Mega, Guide: GitHub / Setup Guide for Beginners
2. MiSter Firmware - Download: GitHub
3. MiSTer Menu Core - Download: GitHub

Selection of MiSTer Compatible Cores:
- Commodore 64
- Sinclair ZX Spectrum
- Intel 80486
- Amiga
- Nintendo Entertainment System
- Sega Genesis / Mega Drive
Last edited by gagadagatika on Sat Sep 09, 2017 9:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby nightshadowpt » Wed Sep 06, 2017 8:26 pm

Thank you all for the explanation. It is crystal clear.

By the way, the Wiki is very good.

To avoid opening another topic, can I ask what are the "immediate" benefits from the MiSTer over the MiST at this moment?

I understand the difference in power and the potential for the future, but right now, what are the benefits?

If I understand correctly, the only core that is not available on the MiST is the 486, right?

Are any of the other cores more advanced than their MiST version?

Please understand I am not trying to be negative. I am genuinely interested in knowing and in the MiSTer project.

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby Slade » Thu Sep 07, 2017 8:22 am

You're right, the immediate benefits are essentially just the 486 core, and the ZX Spectrum has had some additional work on it to load tapes, and other more specific file formats. I believe the Sam Coupe may be a little better too, but I'm not 100% sure on that.

Most of the other cores work almost exactly the same. You could, quite genuinely, hold off buying the Terasic board and wait a few months, and see how things mature. If running Win95 on a simulated 486 isn't your thing, and you don't need it right now, then you could wait.

If you're like a few of us and a little less frugal with their spending, the board isn't as expensive as the MiST and will likely offer a much bigger selection of cores to play with. Sadly VHDL is probably more complex than most of us could admit too and we won't likely be able to help in the way of porting cores.

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby gagadagatika » Sat Sep 09, 2017 7:58 pm

I have added a setup guide for absolute beginners to the wiki. This might be a bit too basic for most MiST / MiSTer veterans here in the forum, but it will hopefully help completely new users with their first setup.

MiSTer Wiki > Setup Guide (Beginners)

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby nightshadowpt » Sun Sep 10, 2017 7:59 am

Appreciate it.

This is really nice and will be helpful in bringing new users into this project.

Thank you for your effort.

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby mzry » Tue Sep 19, 2017 1:48 pm

The day someone posts a Falcon core is the day I throw my wallet at this project as fast as possible.

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby NML32 » Tue Sep 19, 2017 1:54 pm

mzry wrote:The day someone posts a Falcon core is the day I throw my wallet at this project as fast as possible.

:roll:

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby Newsdee » Tue Sep 19, 2017 1:59 pm

Very nice guide and great screenshots!

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby mzry » Wed Sep 20, 2017 1:15 pm

NML32 wrote:
mzry wrote:The day someone posts a Falcon core is the day I throw my wallet at this project as fast as possible.

:roll:


Why that response, when surely a faster FPGA should mean more powerful cores. If I wanted to emulate an ST or Amiga I'd just buy the mist. The only possible future prospect for Mister is the ability to emulate a higher performance atari machine as far as I can see.

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby kolla » Wed Sep 20, 2017 8:16 pm

Awesome guide!

It would be nice if the guide also described how to prepare card without the need of windows, for those of us who use other platforms :)

If I understand correctly, the tool writes 3 partitions, first one small partition for uboot, then 500MB linux partition, and then the rest as a FAT32 filesystem for rbf files etc? I tried using "MiSTer SD Card Utility.exe" under Windows on VirtualBox, with mapping of USB port to the vhost, but after writing the 500MB partition, it always fails.
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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby gagadagatika » Wed Sep 20, 2017 9:09 pm

kolla wrote:Awesome guide!

It would be nice if the guide also described how to prepare card without the need of windows, for those of us who use other platforms :)

If I understand correctly, the tool writes 3 partitions, first one small partition for uboot, then 500MB linux partition, and then the rest as a FAT32 filesystem for rbf files etc? I tried using "MiSTer SD Card Utility.exe" under Windows on VirtualBox, with mapping of USB port to the vhost, but after writing the 500MB partition, it always fails.


Are you on Linux or macOS?

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby kolla » Thu Sep 21, 2017 8:56 am

gagadagatika wrote:Are you on Linux or macOS?


Yes, typically macbook, and my other systems are either other BSDs (DragonFly and TrueOS) or Linux.
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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby gagadagatika » Thu Sep 21, 2017 10:39 am

kolla wrote:
gagadagatika wrote:Are you on Linux or macOS?


Yes, typically macbook, and my other systems are either other BSDs (DragonFly and TrueOS) or Linux.


I don't know if you have seen it already, but there is the advanced setup guide for linux here: Setup Guide (Advanced)

I like to use gparted for formatting partitions on linux, it gets the job done very easily and quickly.

The Advanced guide uses the sd installer script, which should be pretty straightforward. It won't format the fat partition, but you should be able to do that with gparted or any other linux formatting tool (e.g. mkfs)

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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby kolla » Thu Sep 21, 2017 11:25 am

gagadagatika wrote:I don't know if you have seen it already, but there is the advanced setup guide for linux here: Setup Guide (Advanced)
but it needs a little bit work to be more accessible. I like to use gparted for creating my linux boot and rootfs partitions, it gets the job done very easily and quickly.


Well, this is silly, somehow I have missed that guide, the create_sd.sh script answers all my questions :)

Thanks.
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Re: MiSTer for Dummies

Postby ijor » Thu Sep 21, 2017 9:13 pm

mzry wrote:Why that response, when surely a faster FPGA should mean more powerful cores. If I wanted to emulate an ST or Amiga I'd just buy the mist. The only possible future prospect for Mister is the ability to emulate a higher performance atari machine as far as I can see.


The FPGA in the MiSTer has much more capacity, but it's not (much) faster than the one in the original MiST. But that's ok, because that's what you need for a Falcon compatible core. You don't need more speed. It just (probably) won't fit on the MiST's. But developing a Falcon core is quite a task, it would take some time ...

Edit:

If I'm not mistaken, the FPGA in the MiSTer is the medium speed grade, while the original MiST is the slowest. That should make it a tad faster. But Cyclone V is not faster than Cyclone III at the same speed grade, it's actually slightly slower in some cases.


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