Wednesday, December 18, 2013

When will Dexter be ready?

Although there is no formal release date for the next run of Dexter boards, here is what I can tell you:

I am extremely motivated to finish this project and am working on it constantly.  I am trying to prioritize finishing laserdisc players that have the most games associated with them.  This is why I did LD-V1000 first, then Sony LDP-1450, and now PR-8210 (Neil W. contributed the firefox player code).  I also tend to prioritize doing what will make the finished product as easy for the customer to use as possible (I've learned by working on Daphne that releasing something very hard to use is just not worth it).  I did release the rev2 board which falls in the "hard to use" category but that was because I needed testers and also capital to make the boards in the first place so I could keep development going.

It's been about 2 years since I made the rev2 boards (December of 2011).  I think people have been very patient and therefore I really want to release a rev3 to "the world" soon, hopefully within the next 6 months (but no promises).

My plan for rev3 is that it will be somewhere between a completely finished product and a product still in development meaning that it will probably be something like this:
- two bare boards (Dexter and Raspberry Pi) that will sit inside your cab (we'd like to come up with a fancy way to protect the boards and mount them but I don't want to delay production for people who want them Right Now and have waited so long)
- Officially supported modes will be LD-V1000, VP931 (firefox only), LDP-1450, and PR-8210.  The rest of the modes will be included on the LEDs on the board (like rev2) but will be clearly marked as "not working, may never work" on the silk screen so that there are no false expectations.
- During this time, I will keep working on releasing new modes such as PR-7820, Hitachi (astron belt), VP932 (PAL euro), PR-8210A (Star rider), VP-931 (for freedom fighter), Simutrek (cube quest).  I'll do my best to predict whether I can implement these modes before actually doing it.
- LDP-1000A and VP-380 will _not_ make it in.  These require a new architecture.
- Updating the firmware will be easy (much easier than rev2).  You won't need to program the microcontrollers as I've written a bootloader so that they can be automatically updated via the raspberry pi's serial port.
- We will also need to bottom out on how to provide the disc images to the customer.  I may write a "Dexter Loader" spin-off of DaphneLoader that will load the images and software/firmware updates to a USB thumb drive which can then be inserted into the pi.
- Price of the boards will be determined by how many people pre-order.  My minimum goal will be making 50.  I will be hand soldering prototypes ahead of time to make sure the bulk production run is correct.

As you can see, there is still a lot of work to do, but we are closing in.

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