[Coco] Fest Chat Response/SuperBoard Update (WARNING: LONG POST)

Boisy Pitre boisy at boisypitre.com
Fri Apr 6 01:38:32 EDT 2007

I'll second everything Mark has said here.  As he stated, Tim Lindner  
and I have been working closely over the past year to emulate  
important features of the SuperBoard, and Tim's assistance has  
allowed me to write and test NitrOS-9 drivers for the clock, PS/2  
mouse and PS/2 keyboard.  All that is really left is to complete  
drivers for the serial and parallel ports, and BASIC support software  
to flash the VROM.  All of this software, as well as the hardware  
designs, schematics, etc, are under CVS version control and  
constantly updated between Mark and I's machines.

If you think about the progression that Cloud-9's products have made,  
it all ties together technologies that were destined to find their  
way onto the SuperBoard... SCSI, IDE, CompactFlash, Flash ROM, Super  
Expansion Bus, etc.

Everyone who has made a deposit has been patient, more so than I  
frankly.  Mark and I push each other pretty hard to excel with our  
respective designs, and as Mark can attest, I have been very vocal  
with regard to the lateness of the SuperBoard.  As he said, I did  
point out last year that it was time to either "shit or get off the  
pot" (if you'll excuse my candor).  People had placed deposits and we  
either needed to finish the SuperBoard or issue refunds.  Mark told  
me he would finish it, end of story.

One thing to consider in all of this is that when it comes to cost,  
developing software is considerably less risky than developing  
hardware.  If hardware development had the same cost and risk  
associated with software development, we would be swimming in add-on  
cards.  However, on a cost basis, the tools to develop software are  
considerably cheaper than the tools to develop hardware.  Software  
development costs for this hobby community are mostly spent in time,  
while hardware development costs are absorbed in the complex software  
used to make the hardware, as well as the manufacturing of the boards  
and the parts to populate them.  And we're not even talking about  
prototypes and volume purchasing.  As such, as a software guy I've  
gained a lot of respect for hardware designers.  They cannot simply  
recompile and test their products then deploy at the push of a button  
like software developers can.

Anyone who has vested money in the project certainly has a right to  
complain, and frankly I would have expected more of it.  Yet what is  
amazing is that not a single one of those folks (that I know of) has  
ever expressed any kind of negative sentiment in a public forum.   I  
can only attribute that to the faith that folks have placed in  
Cloud-9 to deliver this product, albeit much later than planned.  I  
can promise you that Mark and I will work to meet the expectations  
you've placed in us, and turn the SuperBoard into a reality by the  
end of the year.


On Apr 5, 2007, at 10:39 PM, Mark Marlette wrote:

> All,
> While away this past weekend in Chicago at the fest, there was a  
> chat log produced which contained references to the SuperBoard and  
> Cloud-9. I would like to take this opportunity to address the  
> contents of that chat log and update the people that were not at  
> the fest about the status of the SuperBoard.
> The chat log has been edited here only to show conversations that  
> pertain to the subject at hand.
> {1618} Roger Taylor Rodder, the SuperBoard was due 10 years ago. I  
> truly don't think this will happen. Luckily I didn't make a $100  
> deposit like so many people did.
> {1619} curtisboyle Roger - it's a pretty big undertaking (the  
> Superboard). I have seen partially working prototypes at Mark's  
> house, but there is a lot of drivers, etc. that have to be done to  
> get everything fully functional.
> {1620} Roger Taylor Anytime I was late on delivering, I got hate e- 
> mails, but I guess since they have delivered work-up-to products  
> that people think they will eventually deliver, but I dunno fellas.
> {1623} Sock Joelav - Existing 2M upgrades work just like the 512K  
> upgrade. The only difference is the MMU bits aren't readable  
> registers.
> {1622} Roger Taylor One guy reported me to PayPal 3 days after he  
> ordered something because I didn't reply to his e-mail quick  
> enough. I retaliated agressively so much that 2 days later he  
> withdrew the dispute and apologized. How Mark has deals with this  
> is beyond me.
> {1622} Nick The Superboard sounds great but it does noting for me  
> that I need for game development. It also doesn't fit a PAL CoCo3.
> [END]
> I would first like to say that this past year was a year of  
> improving processes and making tasks at Cloud-9 more efficient.   
> For example:
> 1. Boisy and I changed the way our internal sales are handled and  
> tracked in our accounting process.  This saves us time and allows  
> us to focus on our respective products.
> 2. Most all of the Cloud-9 products are now tested on an Automated  
> Test Equipment (ATE) system. There are hundreds of hours of code  
> written and debugged with hardware that allow me to rapidly test  
> and find the manufacturing problems. I had seven SuperIDEs that I  
> were dead, and I couldn't identify the source of the problem.  On  
> just one of them, I spent over 8 hours of troubleshooting and still  
> couldn't find the problem. This being a hobby, I can't afford to  
> throw away almost $800 of product.  Now with the ATE software, it  
> takes 3 minutes and 45 seconds to run approximately 4000 tests  
> across the SuperIDE with only 6 nets that I can't test or get  
> access to. EVERY board has been repaired in under 5 minutes after  
> it came off this test system. This is true for all of our other  
> products as well. I had piles of bad boards, and the pile is now  
> empty.
> These several hundred hours of hardware/software development did  
> cut into my free time which is spent on SuperBoard development.
> I also suspended sales so that I could work on the SuperBoard. This  
> allowed me to do the above. As with any business, sales are what  
> sustains the life of the business. I had to restart sales after  
> most all of the stock was replenished. I still can't keep up with  
> the SuperIDE sales. I have another board run going out soon and  
> this will then be the final chapter on it's process improvement.  
> The hand-wired modifications that are added to the board take  
> longer to incorporate than building the whole board itself!
> As Curtis stated above, he has seen various prototype while at Lab  
> North. Don't kid yourself: this project is complex (it ain't no  
> DVD). We are changing the way the CoCo 3 operates in a fundamental  
> way (VROM and booting for example) along with many other details  
> that I don't want to explain at this moment. EVERY product (both  
> software and hardware) that we have made has paved the way for the  
> SuperBoard.
> Nick mentioned that the SuperBoard doesn't fit in a PAL form. This  
> is true, but it reflects the reality that virtually all SuperBoard  
> customers will have NTSC motherboards.  I have several Australian  
> customers who have placed a SuperBoard down payment, having made  
> the switch to NTSC CoCo 3s and realize it for what it is and why.   
> I can develop a PAL board but with selling only a handful of units,  
> everyone would bear the cost of the development and the SuperBoard  
> has a high enough cost as it stands now. I cannot justify raising  
> the price of the NTSC version for the few PAL orders I would get.
> When you do this as long as we have, you will realize that you  
> can't please everyone.  That said, our customer base is GREAT and  
> have shown immense patience.  Now, am I happy that the board is not  
> done? No, it bothers me greatly; nobody wants it done more than I.   
> (Well, there is one other person... Boisy.  Do we feel good about  
> what changes we have made to make our free time more efficient? YES  
> Last year at this time I was at the end of my rope, ready return  
> the down payments and pull the plug on Cloud-9. Boisy basically  
> told me we needed to either wrap this up or throw in the towel and  
> do a mass refund.  I was exhausted... but today I feel good about  
> the company and the state it is in.  Stock is up and orders are  
> being filled in an efficient manner. The road is CLEAR to develop  
> the SuperBoard.  Currently, I have 14 orders on the floor, and not  
> a problem with any of them.
> I will also admit that the SuperBoard is holding us back from doing  
> other things with the CoCo. There are so many projects that the  
> entry level research has been performed on.. items that the  
> community wants and needs. Don't ask me what they are, just trust  
> me when I say most of you will fall over to know what they are.
> Boisy hasn't been sitting on his laurels either.  Working with Tim  
> Lindner, they have added SuperBoard extensions to the MESS emulator  
> so that he can develop drivers on virtual hardware. This was  
> discussed at the fest this year as well. Now, this will take you  
> only so far and Boisy is currently waiting to debug his code on  
> real hardware.
> So in short, is the SuperBoard not going to happen? I'll let you  
> guys (sorry Mary) and the CoCo community decide.  After being in  
> business for years and making every fest since our inception, I can  
> promise you that we aren't leaving, we aren't going anywhere, were  
> aren't selling our domain name and stock. We are committed to the  
> CoCo, the machine that made Boisy and I what we are today.
> As Boisy stated once: Now is truly the best time to own a CoCo.
> Regards,
> Mark
> Cloud-9
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Boisy G. Pitre
Email: boisy at boisypitre.com
Web: http://www.boisypitre.com/
Phone: 337-781-3570

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