What is it ?
It is a 4 megabytes reprogrammable Jaguar cartridge, also known as a "flash cart".
What is it used for ?
The main use is allowing homebrew developers to release cartridge versions of their games. It can also be useful to people who don't have an Alpine Board/Atari Flash Cart/Skunkboard, to run cartridge-based games or betas.
What's the point, since blank cartridge PCBs already exist ? / If this is meant for building cartridges, why make it programmable more than once ?
The whole point is price and availability. The standard blank PCBs need special EPROMs chips that are expensive and hard to find, whereas this new cartridge uses modern parts that are cheap and readily available. Since Flash memory chips (which can be rewritten many times) are now cheaper than EPROMs, we thought we might as well make it reprogrammable.
Are cart shells included ?
It will depend on what people want ; we have a way to get them for a reasonable price.
What is the current status of the project ?
Hardware has been finalized and shown to work. Software is being worked on, and prices are being negotiated with suppliers.
When will it be available ?
When it's done -- no hard schedule, sorry
Does this mean the JagCF project has been cancelled ?
Not at all. These are separate projects with different goals. The JagCF is still being developed.
Pricing and ordering
How much does it cost ?
We don't know for sure yet, since it will depend on the sales volume (electronic parts can be much cheaper when bought in bulk), and we have yet to get a quote on the assembly (soldering and shipping costs. For information, for 10 boards, the PCB and parts alone add up to less than 15 € (approx $19). A cart shell adds a few euros.
How many units will you manufacture ? Do I need to preorder right now ?
No need to hurry -- we'll take preorders once we know the final prices. There won't be a limit on the number of carts either ; we'll manufacture based on the number of orders.
Will you ship worldwide ? Will you accept PayPal ?
Yes to both.
Can I get a discount if I buy several carts at once ?
Unfortunately, no. Our profit margin will be very low, so we can't afford to offer discounts.
Hardware and support software
How is it programmed ?
By plugging it into the Jaguar, connecting a BJL cable to the second controller port, and running a flashing program on a PC.
Will I need a BJL-modded Jaguar, a JagCD, or something else for this to work ?
No. The cart will include the necessary code for communicating with the PC (like the Skunkboard does), so you won't need anything apart from the BJL cable.
My PC doesn't have a parallel port to plug the BJL cable into. Why didn't you include a USB connector on the cart ?
Because USB is complicated to support, and would have made the price significantly higher ; since one of the project's goals was to make the cheapest design possible for large releases, we decided not to include it. At this time, the cart requires a parallel port, either built-in or on a PCI/PCIe/PCMCIA/PC Card/ExpressCard. We're currently working on adding support for USB-based parallel port adapters, but it is too early to confirm if it will work.
What operating systems are going to be supported ?
Windows (from 98 to 7) and Linux.
What about Macintoshes ?
If the support for USB parallel ports works (as Macs don't have a built-in parallel port), and if we can find someone to port and maintain the code, it may be possible.
Will betas / commercial games work on this device ?
First, an important note : commercial games are not officially supported, and respecting copyright and other applicable laws is the user's responsibility. We don't condone or accept any liability for any illegal usage of this device.
That said, technically, the cart has a lot in common with the Skunkboard, meaning that the expected compatibility is about the same : most games will probably work fine.
Can I use it to play BattleSphere / BattleSphere Gold ?
See above. (oh, and by the way : it has not been tested, but we have reasons to believe it will not work).
Can I use it to run BJL games ? To create a cartridge version of a BJL game ?
Yes, both uses will be supported.
Can I use it to run CD games ?
In general, no.
Do game saves work ?
Is any unauthorized software list / unique identifier / copy-protection hardware... included ?
No, as these features would have made the cost higher (and we don't think they're very useful or effective, anyways). If you need them, we suggest using a Skunkboard or manufacturing your own carts.
I don't want my games to run on this device.
No problem. Contact us, and we'll give you technical information on how to detect the cart and block it.
Can it be write-protected once it has been programmed ?
Yes. The included communication code can be removed after use, and there is a solder pad on the PCB which prevents any writes to the flash memory if it's enabled. Keep in mind that a motivated used could reverse both of these operations, though.
In what ways is it different from a "real" cartridge ?
The main difference is that the bus is only 16-bit wide instead of 32, and that the read accesses are 5 cycles instead of 10 -- the same as the Skunkboard. The EEPROM for saves works just like the one in commercial cartridges. The header (from $800000 to $801FFF) is not available, as it is used for the PC communication code ; the MEMCON setup value is also different to account for the different bus width and read cycle length.
Is there a way to program a large number of those boards quickly ?
Not really. Putting the contents to be programmed on a CD and using the JagCD could be a solution, but it remains to be seen if it's actually faster, not to mention the JagCD's flaky reliability.