Tuesday, June 19, 2012

FireBee arrives!

I have followed the Atari Coldfire Project (http://acp.atari.org) off and on for nearly three years now.  This April, I decided it was time to fnally see about getting one.  Here’s a brief timeline:

April 20: Contacted ACP to place order.  Got in touch with Mathias, who was very helpful in getting me up to speed on the project status.

April 25: Sent my payment with the expectation it would still be a few weeks before shipping due to the timing needed to acquire the cases and prepare the OS image for the complete systems.

May 20: Mathias wrote to confirm my shipping address.  In other words, they were nearing time to ship!

June 4: Notified by Mathias that my FireBee shipped that day!  Now it was just a matter of waiting for it to make its way overseas.

June 18: I got back from an early meeting to find this box sitting on my desk:


In other words, my FireBee had arrived!  It was tough, but I made it through the rest of the workday in anticipation of getting to play with the machine that evening.  As I already knew, one thing that would not be included was a power adapter.  Rather than take a chance on a 15-year old laptop adapter or similar, I invested just a little more cash on the way home in a new laptop adapter providing plenty of voltage (19.5VDC) and current (4A).

After initial unpacking, here’s what I found very well packed inside the shipping box:


I was very impressed by the professional look of the packaging, including the box, slipcover labeling, and getting started guide inside the box.  Of course, then, this is the part of most interest:


The FireBee itself is housed in a case about the size of a Netgear 16-port switch.  In fact, with the blue case I chose, it might go unnoticed in a pile of said switches.  And the back:


The external ports I’ll be most interested in for the short term are:

USB: For my modern keyboard and mouse.

DC-IN: For power, of course.

POWER: Power off/on, reset.

SD (side): Floppy disk emulation.

DVI (side): Video out to my panel.

Ethernet (side): Gotta be hooked up to everything else.

A quick look inside:


If you’re saying to yourself “it looks like they did the whole thing on a PCI card”, you are correct.  Besides running bare or in the specially designed case, you can run the entire machine from the power provided by typical PC expansion slots.  That’s great for someone who might like to convert an old desktop/tower case into a FireBee host.

As you can see, there are all kinds of things going on in there, including the Coldfire processor, ram, flash containing upgradeable firmware, lots of ports, and even a battery to provide a short period of operation without connect power.  The CF card in there comes pre-staged with a base MiNT installation and a few options for desktop environment selection.  Once hooked up, here’s what my desk looks like:



It’s finally time to turn it on, and after some silent blinking of lights from the FireBee, I’m greeted by my first setup decision to be made:


Stay tuned…