ObsoNET

by MSX Resource Center on 02-05-2005, 09:00

ObsoNET - Ethernet for MSX. It sounds so simple. It looks so simple. Still, the MSX community had to wait for 22 years until they were able to connect their MSX computers directly to an ethernet network. In 2004, hardware designer Daniel Berdugo and software developer Nestor Soriano joined forces and started developing ObsoNET. Suddenly, there it was: in August 2004 they revealed their project to the MSX Community. 6 months later, an ObsoNET cartrige from the very first batch is lying on my desk. Time for a review.  

 

www.msx.org/images/articles/obsonet01.jpg www.msx.org/images/articles/obsonet02.jpg

 

Hardware

 

The ObsoNET cartridge comes without a casing. The print itself looks well-designed, clean and simple. I was actually quite amazed to see it takes this little to connect an MSX to an ethernet network. It makes one wonder why it hasn't been done before. On the back of the cartridge there's a Realtek RTL8019AS chipset, the core of the ObsoNET cartridge. Flash memory makes it possible to update the BIOS of the ObsoNET cartridge without having to perform any hardware modifications. This way, bugfixes, new features or performance improvements can easily be implemented in the future. On the top of the cartridge 2 leds can be found, showing connection/datatransfer status. A small red button on the backside can be used to reset a connection. On the side of the cartrige there's a regular RJ45 connector, firmly attached, to connect a network cable to. The leds, button and RJ45 connector are all mounted in a way that make it possible to build a casing for the ObsoNET in the future. Daniel Berdugo has clearly been thinking about the future when designing the cartridge print. As an added bonus, it's not possible to insert an Obsonet cartridge into an MSX the wrong way around.  

 

www.msx.org/images/articles/obsonet03.jpg

 

Software

 

Of course, making the hardware is one thing, without software the ObsoNET cartridge would be completely useless. Luckily Nestor Soriano had already finished an Internet connectivity suite for MSX-DOS, Internestor, which had evolved into InterNestor Lite. This toolkit offers the most essential features that are needed to connect an MSX to the internet using an RS232 interface. InterNestor Lite for ObsoNET adds BASIC ethernet features to that. Apart from the TCP/IP stack, IP/DNS and Gateway management and hostname lookups, InterNestor Lite comes with a TFTP client, a PING tool and a TELNET utility. Documentation and libraries that allows MSX developers to create their own MSX software supporting ObsoNET is available for Assembly, C and (Nestor)BASIC are available as well, greatly enhancing the chances more ObsoNET software will be released in the future. As an example, a fully functional FTP client can be downloaded from Konamiman's website. A webbrowser and IRC client for MSX have already been announced, as part of the ILAC'04 competition as well. Admittedly, there is not much ObsoNET software available at the moment, but with InterNestor Lite there's a solid basis for many future softwaretitles to come.  

 

www.msx.org/images/articles/obsonet04.jpg www.msx.org/images/articles/obsonet05.jpg

 

Connecting

 

Of course, I could not wait to connect my turboR to my home network. Configuration took only a matter of seconds. Editing a simple, 4 line configuration file was all it took. It takes a turboR with ObsoNET and CompactFlash-IDE interface less than 17 seconds to perform a cold boot, detect the CompactFlash cards, boot MSX-DOS2 and connect to the ethernet network. Modern personal computers: eat your heart out. Perhaps it's best to show how easy it is to connect an MSX with ObsoNET to the internet. Just watch this movie which shows a turboR booting, connecting to the ethernet, pinging msx.org and then showing a bit of telnet ASCIImation.  

 

 

Speed

 

Using a 512KB file with randomly (compressed) data, I measured the following transfer speeds on my turboR:  

 

  • Z80 mode: 2,67 KB/s upload, 2,05 KB/s download  
  • R800-ROM mode: 5,03 KB/s upload, 10,48 KB/s download  
  • R800-DRAM mode: 7,73 KB/s upload, 10,56 KB/s upload  

Of course, the MSX doesn't come even close to the maximum transfer speeds that could be reached on an ethernet line. However, these transfer rates are more than sufficient enough for multiplayer gaming or simple internet tools, even on an MSX2 with a 3.57MHz Z80. Admittedly, browsing the web on an MSX is only interesting from a cool-factor point of view, but chatting on IRC or MSN with your friends or better yet: playing games like Bombaman over the internet is a lot more than that.  

 

Conclusion

 

Although there is little software available yet, I'm very enthusiastic about ObsoNET. The low price of 50 euro's (about $68), combined with its ease of use and InterNestor Lite makes for a complete package which offers basic ethernet and internet connectivity for MSX at a low price. But, more important, InterNestor Lite also offers an easily understandable platform for the development of network/internet software for MSX from Assembly, C and even (Nestor)BASIC! Provided that active developers can get their hands on an ObsoNET cartridge (or emulator) in the near future, the ObsoNET cartridge can become a huge success. Once cool multiplayer games, webbrowsers, IRC clients or other network/internet software appears, more and more people would like to have an ObsoNET cartridge and its price is more than friendly enough to justify a purchase. MSX developers around the world: the future of ObsoNET is in your hands!

Comments (5)

By djh1697

Paragon (1371)

djh1697's picture

02-05-2005, 10:47

The AVI file seems to be just a white screen? Is there a problem here ?

Where can i get an OSBOnet cartridge from? I emailed nestor (konamiman'at'konamiman'dot'com) but had no reply ?

By snout

Ascended (15187)

snout's picture

02-05-2005, 10:51

You'll need a DivX codec to make the movie work. As for your order: mailing Konamiman would indeed be the right thing to do, but as he's a busy man receiving a reply might take a while. I got mine in the end ;)

By POISONIC

Paladin (1012)

POISONIC's picture

02-05-2005, 14:44

When can i put this magic hardware tool into my MSX ????? finaly a new piece of hardware Smile after opl4,ideCF obsonet is the best custom built piece harware for msx to reconnect the msx comunity on a real msx i cant wait.
when is nestor planning to mass produce the obsonet?

By viejo_archivero

Paragon (1372)

viejo_archivero's picture

03-05-2005, 09:58

Great video and cool review, snout. And, of course, awesome piece of hardware, Nestor Smile

By wiebe

Resident (33)

wiebe's picture

06-05-2005, 03:28

this device is COOL! totally obsolete, not needed, no practical usage, but still: WOW! Snout, you should 'sacrifice' one of your MSX machines, insert an obsonet cartridge, write an telnetd/sshd server and let all of us with no working msx hardware log on to your machine.
"telnet z80.msx.org"
to get an MSXDOS prompt <g>

there should be at least one 1 MSX connected to the internet ..

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