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Andromeda A6 OS Update Project Keyboard Synthesizers
Old 1st August 2014
  #61
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marino View Post
I had the jumpy screen problem on my A6 (which sadly, is gone by now), and I 'solved' it by cranking every pot all the way 10 or 12 times about once a month. Once I started the 'treatment' (almost a religious ritual!) the problem disappeared completely. So it's hardly a software problem..

I've always had a problem with the screen jump - I used to do the soft reset and that used to work for little while but it would start again so I just got used to it.

I have cranked the pots a few times but not as obsessively as this. ( time to start 72 knobs x 11 )

I pretty sure I have screen jumping problems with the (increment decrement) up down arrows so I always thought it was that was software problem. Maybe I should spend some more time to see whether it just on certain patches which could be maxing out the software?

Quote:

BTW, if scd has any trouble interfacing with the A6, then one goal of the OS project could be to enable better interoperability with external editors.
think this is more a TB Midi Stuff editor issue.


Quote:
Easier step entry of notes for the sequencer by just entering the notes without pressing any buttons would be great too.
Good idea. - . There's definitely some room for usability improvements.
oh now your talking!


I find not having whole numbers on the BPM when you go to set arps seq sync etc - very frustrating! usually just use external sync to avoid this. simple software fix perhaps?
Old 1st August 2014
  #62
F5D
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I just recently fired up my Andy after maybe 3-4 years of no use. This was the first time I noticed jumping of parameters due to no use of the pots. A few twists of those knobs causing jumping got rid of the problem.
Old 1st August 2014
  #63
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xparis001's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by chowderdoof View Post
I've always had a problem with the screen jump - I used to do the soft reset and that used to work for little while but it would start again so I just got used to it.

I have cranked the pots a few times but not as obsessively as this. ( time to start 72 knobs x 11 )

I pretty sure I have screen jumping problems with the (increment decrement) up down arrows so I always thought it was that was software problem. Maybe I should spend some more time to see whether it just on certain patches which could be maxing out the software?

think this is more a TB Midi Stuff editor issue.




oh now your talking!


I find not having whole numbers on the BPM when you go to set arps seq sync etc - very frustrating! usually just use external sync to avoid this. simple software fix perhaps?
not simple at all. have you read the A6 FAQ or Tips and Tricks? lots of detail in there as to why.
Old 3rd August 2014
  #64
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xparis001 View Post
not simple at all. have you read the A6 FAQ or Tips and Tricks? lots of detail in there as to why.
ok - good tip!! I will try the pass thru mode - cheers !


Quote:
A6 Tips and Tricks 22.24 preventing the screen from jumping:

Mike Peake wrote:

There is a way to reduce the jumping, but only by changing the behaviour of the potentiometers. Try the Pass-Through knob mode which can be accessed by pressing Global, then Panel, and then use the soft pots to set it to Pass-Through: ON.

This causes the pots to not produce a new value until you've turned them to the physical location of the stored parameter value. The parameter then becomes active for that Program.

The other Pass-Through mode is for the soft pots when used in selecting Mod Sources (a long list so it's a good idea). If you want the screen to cease jumping to new parameter pages, press soft buttons seven and eight together. Press them both again to unlock the function.


Last edited by chowderdoof; 3rd August 2014 at 06:08 PM.. Reason: typo
Old 4th August 2014
  #65
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J# Minor's Avatar
 

Since last update:

- Focused on getting to a "round-trippable" workflow. I hope that this will work: start with the original binary, replace a small chunk with my own code, then rebuild to produce a new binary. If the binaries are identical*, it verifies that my code is correct. Repeat until no more chunks of original binary exist.

- Deep dive on toolchain learning. Learned a TON about gcc, as, and ld that I didn't know before.

- Built gcc from source as a cross-compiler targeting the A6's CPU.

- Converted hexdumps into assembly syntax, then verified I can build them with the toolchain to produce the exact OS and bootloader binaries.

- Started converting magic numbers in my current (disassembled) code into named constants, with all the bits broken out according to their meaning.

- Verified that building my current code produces identical binary for its chunk.

*Yes, I know it will be difficult or impossible to produce identical binaries once I get out of assembly land and into C. Still, I can compare disassembly listings and verify that the behavior of the original vs. new chunks is equivalent. Also, eventually, another verification step will be to package the new binary and load it on my A6. If the functions I replaced still work, it's a similar kind of verification.
Old 10th August 2014
  #66
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Update:

- Continued translating the bootloader. Currently, I've done 3.5% of the bootloader and 1% of the OS itself.

- I think I have enough potential contacts for now. Thanks, everyone! There is nothing to report for now, but contact has been attempted with several people. There is still hope.

So far, the project has been quite time-consuming, but loads of fun. I'm surprised at how much progress I have been able to make. That said, the road ahead will consist more of slow, incremental progress rather than sudden breakthroughs. Because of that, it will probably be several weeks until the next status update. Rest assured, I'm still working on it.
Old 20th August 2014
  #67
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Maybe setup a PayPal donation or something? Some of us Andromeda users really look forward to it.

I'll gladly chip in a few bucks to give you some encouraging on this very interesting but a demanding project. If successful I reckon it'll be an invaluble experience in today's world as well - you'd probably be one of go-to person if someone plans to produce another spaceship class (8+ voice deep analog-) synthesizer with a modern modulation capabilities and build an OS for it. Would be definitely a dream come true to have an improvable & customizable OS on Andromeda.
Old 21st August 2014
  #68
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@MoTech: A donation model might be something to consider later on, but I'd rather wait until after something real is produced. Right now, there's just too much chance of failure —*though I have to say, the chances of success are rising slowly.

I definitely wouldn't mind if the A6 work helped to steer my career towards doing similar work as my day job. It's been a blast so far and is more interesting than the software I write during the day.

As for status, I'm still in the bootloader. I'm also working on a tool to automate the workflow that has developed. The tool takes advantage of some patterns in the binary to automatically find and detangle chunks of code and data. Hopefully that will help crank up the velocity.
Old 30th August 2014
  #69
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I hope you are successful. I would be over the moon to have an update for my A6 and I'm glad that you have decided to have a crack at it. Best of luck!
Old 31st August 2014
  #70
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GYang's Avatar
That is where GS community shines.
If successful, I would be more than glad to donate, as well as, it may open some new horizons for A6.
Despite some issues A6 is one of already classical polys

Last edited by GYang; 26th January 2015 at 12:49 AM..
Old 2nd September 2014
  #71
Gear Head
double post - mods please delete this.

Last edited by kcoul058; 2nd September 2014 at 01:32 AM.. Reason: double post
Old 2nd September 2014
  #72
Gear Head
Not sure if you've had this kind of an offer yet, but here goes anyways: I am another software developer/studio owner who is getting pretty sick and tired of various instabilities of my A6. For example right now, I am trying to upgrade OS 1.40.12 to 1.40.13 in an effort to try to fix screen glitches and bizarre behaviour with MIDI functionality that is making the A6 be pretty well unusable in my rig (only behaves decently in standalone mode with everything set to local, and even then...). I'm going to try the knob turning trick to prevent screen jumps, but it's one of many issues to the point where it's hard to separate the causes. Inevitably it comes down to the OS itself, for most of the critical issues.

So I would like to offer to directly help in this project any way I can, though the amount of time I can offer might be limited with a day job, contracting on the side, and the studio to continue to maintain and operate. I just finished a CS degree and enjoy embedded programming quite a bit (Raspberry Pi, Arduino, etc), and my C/Assembly is decent. Even if I can just act as someone to bounce ideas off of, however I can help, I'd be happy to.

Kudos for taking the initiative on this project, there's nothing I'd like more than to have my A6 finally pull its weight in the rig, after all the trouble I went to decking it out (I even submix all 16 voice outputs!).

I might as well make an announcement here on another project I was getting off the ground for the A6 recently - a fully fledged software programmer! I am doing this project in Max/MSP in order to re-acquaint myself with every aspect of the A6's NRPN MIDI implementation, so I am gradually working out the complete MIDI mapping scheme for the synth and rebuilding a virtual interface with Max. I am using Max for Live components, so the programmer will be fully plug and play with Ableton Live. I'll post a thread to GS when it's ready, but as always with these kinds of side projects, no guarantees as to the timeline - I'll try to dedicate as much of my limited free time as I can!
Old 2nd September 2014
  #73
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crufty's Avatar
re firmware updates, there is the process button, has 'reserved for future use'--seems like a place to hang stuff

re max/msp live, dude that would be sweet!
Old 2nd September 2014
  #74
Gear Head
Found out the workaround for the problem at hand - I was using SysexLibrarian on Mac OS (also tried MIDI-OX on Windows side, but the problem was even worse).

The problem is symptomatic of the age of the old Motorola CPU in the machine. To fix, I simply had to lower the transmit speed, which SysexLibrarian currently has maxed out to 3125 (bps, IIRC, not at the studio atm). This was set with a slider as "100%", so I lowered the slider to "50%", transmitted, and the A6 stopped dropping packets due to what I imagine to be lack of ability to keep up.

I am still having major issues with MIDI stability and LED glitches even after the update though. I'll post a screenshot of the LED screen to see if anyone had this issue before, and for MIDI I am going to look into whether I am unintentionally causing some kind of a MIDI loop (tbh my whole MIDI rig is a bit unstable, not just the A6).

I'll be trying to tackle all my MIDI issues in my studio over the month, so if I can solve it for the A6 there's nothing holding me back from completing the Max/MSP programmer quickly after that.
Old 5th September 2014
  #75
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Update:

- Translated about 50% of the bootloader code involved in flashing a new OS after it is received via MIDI. I have a good handle on how the flash works and can come back here after resolving unknowns elsewhere.

- Started to develop some understanding of how the main processor talks to the separate processor that handles the front panel. Translated perhaps 25% of the code here, which is responsible for drawing text, lines, and various shapes on the display.

- The workflow tool I mentioned in the previous update has proven quite useful. It finds the next chunk I should work on, then produces nicely-formatted assembly code for it, the magic numbers replaced with function/variable/label names. Once I translate that chunk, it feeds back into the tool and unlocks more chunks.

The plan for this weekend is to aim the tool at the OS instead of the bootloader and see what comes out. I'd like to identify what code is shared between the two. I also will continue investigating the communications with the front-panel processor.

There have been a couple offers of collaboration. I'm not quite ready for another person on the project just yet. There are two reasons. First, some basic build-tool problems remain unresolved. Second, I need to document what I've learned about the A6's internal architecture. Cleaning up these minor messes is simply not as exciting as figuring out the next chunk of code, so I haven't done it yet. At some point I will need to put on the big-boy pants and take care of it.

Any future collaborators would need to be(come) familiar with ColdFire assembly language (the ISA_A variant), the Freescale MCF5307 processor, GNU assembler, basic unixy toolchain usage, and git. The helper tools are written in Ruby. There is a lot of referring to schematics and various chip manuals to divine what bit of code is doing, so you'd have to be comfortable with that.
Old 5th September 2014
  #76
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Good job, thanks for informing us about your progress!!
Old 11th September 2014
  #77
Gear Head
That info gives plenty to do in the meantime! I will focus on my programmer for the Andromeda for the time being, but when I take my breaks when doing that project, I will be cracking into the links you provided! If I manage to finish the programmer I may be able to provide some useful information from that project as well.
Old 17th September 2014
  #78
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if it improves the andromeda, i think its perfectly reasonable to sell it, or at least accept donations. keep us posted.
good luck!
mini
Old 17th September 2014
  #79
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I don't own an A6 but this is an awesome project !
Old 20th September 2014
  #80
Gear Maniac
 

Just bought an A6, so very interested about this! Good luck, you're doing Synth God's™ work J# Minor!
Old 23rd September 2014
  #81
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Bootloader .syx file

Has anyone managed to successfully load the bootloader .syx file posted on electro-music into an Andromeda? I get a checksum error. If you're using this file to derive the checksum calculation, it may not be correct...(?)
Old 23rd September 2014
  #82
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robhukin View Post
Has anyone managed to successfully load the bootloader .syx file posted on electro-music into an Andromeda? I get a checksum error. If you're using this file to derive the checksum calculation, it may not be correct...(?)
I have not tried the posted bootloader .syx (1.20.31) on my A6, because my A6 has a newer bootloader version already. Instead, I verified the checksum with my own code. I'm quite confident that I have the correct formula.

Part of the confusion might be that there have been two .syx files posted on that forum. The first one (~22KB) is incomplete and will give you a checksum error. The second one (~44KB), posted 25 July, seems complete. Mind you, at version 1.20.31, it is not the latest bootloader.

Disclaimer: I assume that you're having a problem turning-on your A6. Otherwise, it's a bad idea to flash the bootloader. If something goes wrong, your A6 is ruined. Flashing the OS is a safer operation, because you can try again.
Old 12th November 2014
  #83
Here for the gear
 

Awesome job! Really looking forward

My Andy is stuck in the splash screen. Nothing helps, wont boot. Any ideas what should help me?
Old 13th November 2014
  #84
Gear Nut
Any updates on this project?

If this could fix some of the bugs in the Andromeda OS it would be like a dream come true. I found a bug where if you create a mix and transpose an instrument, it doesn't transpose the keyboard tracking, which can make creating a drum kit keyboard-map impossible.

I had considered reverse engineering the OS myself, as I have programmed a lot in 68000 assembly (which IIRC is similar to Coldfire) and have disassembled software and a virus (to create a virus killer) before. But it seemed like a daunting task. Much respect to you for getting this far, it seems like a massive amount of work.

I remember the original programmer of the OS being interested in fixing some things in the OS, as he still had an Andromeda himself. But Numark/Akai/Alesis wasn't interested in such a project.

As for the Andromeda refusing to start up, check the service manual. If it does start up when turning it on-off-on quickly, than an SRAM chip on the main board needs to be replaced.
Old 14th November 2014
  #85
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LamerDeluxe View Post
As for the Andromeda refusing to start up, check the service manual. If it does start up when turning it on-off-on quickly, than an SRAM chip on the main board needs to be replaced.
I have read the service manual and tried everything without success. Doesnt start up flicking that power switch either. Everything gets power too.
Old 17th November 2014
  #86
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LamerDeluxe View Post
Any updates on this project?
Still in progress.

At this point, I have a "complete" tree of source code in assembly language that I've produced using the custom disassembly tool mentioned in previous posts. The code builds and produces binaries that are identical to the current OS and bootloader. I had to write "complete" in quotes above, because I actually understand only a small part of that code. Still, I have identified the purpose of a fair number of the functions and data locations. I haven't hit any brick walls yet in terms of indecipherable code. It's just slow going.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LamerDeluxe View Post
I had considered reverse engineering the OS myself ... But it seemed like a daunting task.
To give everyone an idea of how big a project this is, the A6 OS and bootloader together are about 250,000 lines of assembly code. Yeah... That is a large software product.

At the present rate of progress, I'm a bit worried that it could be years before any results are ever produced. For that reason, I've spent the past several weeks looking at options for reducing the cognitive load of all that code. The most attractive option so far seems to be a custom programming language similar to C in information density, but able to produce exactly the intended binaries. As daunting as that sounds, it's easier than one might think. Ruby, for instance, is an excellent tool for making small, domain-specific languages without a ton of effort. It's too soon to tell if this will help, but it's worth a try.
Old 17th January 2015
  #87
Gear Nut
 

I have a unit that just boots to splash screen (seems common fault). I replaced the Coldfire part with a new one and now sometimes it will respond to soft buttons. Slow SRAM test hangs, front panel testing buttons seems good. I have ordered replacement parts for the SRAM/NVRAM/flash. My unit's flash looks like it has been removed, written, and replaced a few times (pins rough shape). Do you have an image file I could write into a new part and then try? I ordered a bios flash reader/writer thing (China) with aux. boards that will accommodate the TSOP package (we also probably have a programmer somewhere at my work). I'm curious what hardware tools you are using for your work on this. My goal is to fix my board and get it upgraded - and with success hopefully other guys will quit parting their synths out when they could really be fixed.
Old 17th January 2015
  #88
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I'd like to know if you get anywhere with this bklein. I have the exact same problem as well. Hangs on boot screen but will perform and pass the panel test. Whatever parts and knowledge you could pass on to me and my tech would be great.

For me, I got it for an ok deal locally about two years ago. I was told it was fully working but one knob was missing and that you had to use the soft buttons to change presets.

Get it home and it freezes up ALWAYS after changing a couple of presets. Turn it off and on again it loads on that preset and works until you start changing presets again. I live with it because I just like using the synth.

About 6 months ago fire it up and it won't go pass the boot screen but will do the front panel test.

I'm in the same boat as you. I don't want to sell it for parts or sell it period. I want to USE it.

It's at my tech's now. He thinks the Flash needs to be replaced and reflashed but he hasn't heard back from Alesis yet. Hell, depending on the price and the seller I'd probably pay for a main board right now.

But if there is a way to fix the Flash without replacing the whole board I'd really like to know and hope to hear how things go for you. It is good to know the Flash can be removed. Too bad they did such a rough job of it.
Old 17th January 2015
  #89
Gear Nut
 

I purchased a socket for the programmer and multiple flash chips. Just need an image of the latest flash and maybe we're good. There could be protects that may throw a wrench in the works though. Does yours pass the slow SRAM test?
Can it load an os file via midi and then fail on the flash write/verify? I think we'll get this nailed. Message to owners - don't trash boards you think are bad! Let me know what you have!
Old 17th January 2015
  #90
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Best of luck to you. I hope you don't loose motivation. The Andy is a great sounding instrument with some unfortunate downsides. Just making the poly-AT work would be absolutely humongous.
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