Kicking off 2019
The new year is already well and truly underway, and in the past couple of weeks we’ve been working to converge the keyboard tasks in order to wrap it up. The complete assembled keyboard for testing is scheduled to be ready on the week of the 21st of January (a couple of days from now), and we’ll proceed to ensure its quality (keys’ laser etching, general assembly) and perfect fit to the Next case.
The goal is to have the keyboard checked and validated before the Chinese New Year kicks in, allowing us to work on a few bureaucratic steps during their break, priming for full production of the plastics and keyboard immediately afterwards.
The keyboard metal backplate and its plastic frame are done (although we haven’t yet seen the frame, it will come together with the assembled testing keyboard), meaning we can cross out another pending task on the Project X Ray list, leaving one final keyboard task to complete before we can move ahead. For ease of access, here’s the plastics tasklist from the X Ray update:
- Case design v0 (DONE)
- Case design v1 (DONE)
- Case CADs (DONE)
- Case molds (DONE)
- Case test injection T1 (DONE)
- Case T1 adjustments (DONE)
- Case test injection T2 (DONE)
- Case T2 adjustments (DONE)
- Final Case test injection (DONE)
- Stripes and light column test injection (DONE)
- Stripes and light column final test injection (DONE)
- Keyboard design v0 (DONE)
- Keyboard design v1 (DONE)
- Keyboard CADs (DONE)
- Keyboard molds (DONE)
- Keyboard test injection T1 (DONE)
- Keyboard T1 adjustments (DONE)
- Keyboard test injection T2 (DONE)
- Keyboard T2 adjustments (DONE)
- Keyboard keys printing test (DONE)
- Final Keyboard backplate test injection (DONE)
- Final Keyboard assembly & Case fit test (TO DO)
Extra bits and bobs
While the work on the keyboard is underway, we had the chance to tweak some extra bits, making use of the extra time the delay has created. The last two weeks yielded two improvements to the Next. First, we got a finer polish to the keys’ ‘piano finish’ effect making the part more shiny.
Second, you may recall from the September Update that Phil added some extra structures to the case to counter a slight bending effect we discussed back then. While the structures solved the problem, Phil wanted to have a deeper look into it.
With the help of a fellow member of the British Plastics Federation, Phil run an advanced plastics flow simulation, and together they found that adding extra cooling channels to the mold would result in a better injection and less reliance on the additional structures developed by Phil to keep the case straight as it should. So, why not? Therefore our partners are adding these cooling channels this week as they also believe it would be helpful with little risk to the mold itself.
Phoebus, Garry, Allen and the folks keep on improving the Next core, and here’s v2.00.25 beta 10 with yet new features. Thanks to Jim Bagley, Kev Brady and Mike Dailly for the ideas and testing. Hold on to your hat…
- The sprite engine has been further enhanced and now allows up to 128(!) sprites with further memory optimisations. Also sprites can now be anchored together and moved as one big sprite allowing for some super-sized sprites.
- A nexreg mirror was also set up on register 0x34 (RW) to select sprite number and registers 0x35-0x39 (W) to directly access the corresponding sprite's attributes.
- A second set of registers at 0x75-0x79 (W) are identical to 0x34-0x39 but a write to those will auto-increment the sprite number in register 0x34.
- Sprites: Setting bit 7 of the sprite number in nextreg 0x34 will tie the sprite number used by nextreg and io ports together.
Documentation about these will appear by Sunday 20/01/2019 on SpecNext.com.
Finally: a brand new video mode has been introduced with several bells and whistles. We'll announce the specs and features of the new video mode shortly... ;)
A new version of NextZXOS will be waiting board owners on the website as well!
- AY port decoding relaxed to work with sid-type music players.
- Clip window for sprites in over-border mode now extends to X2*2+1 instead of X2*2-1.
- Layer 2 now allows 14MHz operation when outside the layer 2 clip window vertically.
Mobile Next hardware
Richard Spencer recently posted this picture of his project for the Next, a 4G LTE module that plugs in the Accelerator port of the Next to allow mobile networking. Richard is in the process of finding out the cost for manufacturing and will keep the community updated on the FB group, keen to find out more about this one!
Power Blade: Delta’s Shadow
Evgeniy Suhomlin shared a video of his new game for the Spectrum Next, featuring the entire first level in action. Love the explosion sprites and the hero’s upgrades, this is one title to grab hands down as soon as it’s out.
Xalior released PLOTIT, an awesome art editor for the Next available for download. Check out the video of it in action and head to the download link right away, you don’t want to miss this in your Next collection!
A word on Brexit
A few international backers have been expressing worry with the specter of Brexit and what it would mean to shipping the Next overseas in case of a no-deal situation. We’ve spoken with our accountants and tax lawyers about the situation, and while the following is advice (meaning it’s not fact, given no one really knows what is going to happen), it points in the general direction of ‘it will be fine’.
Whatever the outcome of Brexit, with or without a deal, it’s likely a transition period will be in place for the purpose of taxes, or failing that, bilateral agreements will be deployed on day one with European countries. There’s also a fallback related to WTO rules that should rule that we’ll be able to export the Next to European countries without import duties -- this is the current official Government position on the matter.
So, in a nutshell, we should be OK.