Wednesday, June 15, 2011

PinLed replacement cpu installation

Installed a Pinled replacement WPC cpu board in a Hurricane.

The game had damage on the original cpu board because of a leaked battery.
It had switch matrix problems, some switches wouldn't register well, when you went in test, the game always went back out of the menu, turned the sound down, ..

While it is possible to repair this, it takes a lot of time and when you don't repair everything, it's possible that the damage will still continue to spread, and somewhere in the future the board will break down again.
With new reproduction cpu boards available for a reasonable price, it's usually better to buy a new board, than to pay someone a lot of hours to repair the damage and replace all the resistors/diodes/ics that are in the area below the batteries.

So a new reproduction WPC cpu board was bought from
Its size is the same as the original board, connectors are in identical positions.
What I found odd was that there was no documentation at all provided together with the board.

There are 3 ICs you need to replace, one of which is the ASIC.
You need a special tool for this, don't try it without !

Replaced the 3 ic's, put the new board in.. didn't work. Damn.. did I by accident damage the asic or another ic ? There are also some dip-switches, maybe they needed to be set.. but no documentation on how to do it, there is only some printed text on the board.

To be sure I put the ic's back onto the original board. This still worked. Good news, I didn't damage them. Then put them again on the pinled reproduction board.

Checked the website, searching for information about these jumpers.
All our boards come with detailed installation instructions.. yeah sure :-(
Found a page with installation instructions in german and english for all of their boards.. all of their display boards that is - but not for boards 10036 and 10037, which are their WPC and WPC-S replacement boards.

So time to read the small print on the board and try some settings.
All dip-switches by default come in the off position. The board won't work like that :( The game seems to reboot the whole time, of the 3 leds on the top left of the cpu board, the bottom will stay on, and middle will blink 1 time. As on the original cpu board, the top one should go out, bottom stay on, and middle should go on/off all the time.

Dipswitches 1 and 2 are set according to the eprom size. 512/1mb, or 1/2/4mb.
Therefor you set them on/off or off/on.

The other switches have something to do with ram size and battery settings.
Some of their default presets are printed on the pcb.
Anyway I just started testing some combinations and finall got the board to start.
Don't remember exact settings, I'm certain it was set for 1/2/4mb, don't remember if the other settings about battery were all off or some on.

Once the board worked, I had no issues with it. It works identical to the original board. The game played well, all tests, settings and adjustments were done, ..

So when you have a battery damaged board that has switch matrix problems, just buy a new one. It works - but it would be a bit better if pinled would provide it with installation instructions for the dipswitch settings (or let you say for what game it is so they already set it)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Flat IJ

Went to look at an IJ with flipper problems, the coils got very hot and weak.
Another known repair person had already tried to help the owner by email, but when he contacted me, he suspected the problem to be on the fliptronics board and the owner couldn't test this himself.

Went over there, put the game into switch test, pushed the flipper button, noticed the switch didn't nicely stay on but switch on/off rapidly.
Cleaned all the optos inside the cabinet near the flipper switches, and the problem was solved.

Not really a type of problem that a repair person has to do a house-call, probably this could've been done by email too.

What could not be found by email was the other problem on this game.
Played a testgame, noticed the ball got stuck on the top of the droptarget in front of the captive ball. OK remembered I had to adjust this (there's a screw at the bottom of this target to adjust its height).
When multiball started, the ball also got stuck on the edge of the lock plastic, it made the sound twice before the ball rolled out. Asked the owner about this, he said the game always did this..
And then I noticed when a ball got out of the popbumpers, it really rolled very SLOOOOOOOOOOW back towards the bumpers.

I look under the game and what do it see ?! This game is levelled incorrectly.
The owner had this game for three years, and probably switched the front and back legs when installing the game. There wasn't much difference between them (it's not that the playfield sloped down to the back), but the front leg levellers where more turned out then the back.
Adjusted this, and the game played suddenly a lot faster !
(don't know if the owner likes it now :-)

It's not the first time I see this - I know another pinball machine owner that writes on the legs where they go - so LF, RF for left front, right front, ..
same legs goes on same place, seems easier than to level the game himself..
While that's not difficult to do, I wrote an article about how to level a pinball machine.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

hacked fliptronics 2 board on a fish tales

Been repairing a Fish Tales.

The powerdriver board was very badly repaired.. don't have pictures available now, they're still on my phone and I have to upload them to my pc (don't have a smartphone...)

All bridge rectifiers had been replaced in the past, but the soldering was done very badly. 3 different types of rectifiers were installed (some with fast-on lugs, some with wires, ..)

Using an incorrect type of bridge isn't a problem on itself. The problem was the bad soldering to keep them in place. Only the thick traces were actually connected to the bridge. And not all of them, some pins have traces at both the top and bottom of the pcb, and sometimes only 1 side was soldered. Some traces were burnt around the pin hole.
There are also a few very small traces going to the bridges, and they didn't make continuity.

One of the capacitors was also loose. Just replaced it and made sure it was soldered well (making continuity on both sides of the board).

I had so much fun desoldering everything, replacing the bridges and trying to figure out how every trace should be connected. :-/

It seems the repair person had read Clays guides as there were some jumper wires in the back added (not all of them like Clay recommends). Unfortunately one jumper was totally wrong !

The previous repair person probably made a mistake and switched the numbers of 2 connectors around.. it had to go to J104 pin 1 and went to J101 pin 4 (or something like that, going from memory here). Anyway, this gave a big short, and the bridge was dead.. this probably made one large trace on the board just disintegrate.

After all my work the powerdriver board was done, this pinball machine booted fine.
All leds on the powerdriver board lit up, the cpu got its voltages, ..
All coil worked, switches also, .. I was happy to see there were no playfield issues. At this point I had expected to have found some stuck on transistors and burnt coils too..

The only thing wrong with this pinball machine was that the flippers did not work.

Power was present on the flipper coils, connecting the middle lug of the flipper coil to ground activated the flipper... the flipper buttons themselves registered fine in switch test.. so problem was on the fliptronics 2 board.

Removed the board and then I saw this:

aaah.. so nice. A totally burnt away trace. It was enough for me not to try and repair this on location (it was getting late) but to take the board back home.

Now I've inspected this more closely, I notice this burnt trace isn't a problem anymore. On the back it has been jumpered with a wire. I do wonder what happened to this machine, as there was 1 trace burnt on the powerdriver board and also this one on the fliptronics board. These are pretty thick traces, to have them completely disintegrate like this you need quite some voltage hooked up wrong..

Anyway, the board didn't work even with the jumper.. so inspecting it further I noticed the row of burnt resistors ! R13 to R20 (the whole horizontal row of resistors below the 8 transistors - click on the image to see a larger version) are all brown and broken. They're burnt in the middle, probably acted like fuses..

Don't know what happened to this fliptronics board (I assume too many voltage) but I'm afraid the board will not work after just replacing these 56ohm resistors..

When I look at the schematics these resistors are somewhere in the middle between a lot of other components (like all the transistors). If they were the first thing in the schematics near a connector, they could have acted like fuses and protected the rest of the circuit.
But now they're in the middle of the circuit.. so I'm pretty sure that other small components (like the 8 smallest transistor, possible the ic's also) are damaged too.

Don't know yet if I'm going to put time into this board and try to repair it, or just get a new one..

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tron LE security issues

Visited the local Stern importer yesterday as I needed to buy some parts.
Just wanted to quickly retrieve them, but as always staid too long talking about everything.
He had some interesting information about the Tron LE and parallel imports.
(all this I have just been told, haven't seen/checked/confirmed it myself, but it's a reliable source so I don't think any of this is incorrect information)

UPDATE: not a rumour - Stern does ship USB keys with updates.

Seems Stern is doing more and more to try to prevent grey import.

Not that Stern is completely successful, as in Europe there are USA Sterns being sold that are switched from 50/60Hz.
The cpu will detect if it's in the wrong continent (Europe or USA) and give an error message. So you can't just buy a Stern pinball machine in the USA, export it to Europe, plug it in (after converting to 220v) and expect the game to work.
Some dealers hack the cpu power board to bypass this detection, so they can sell USA games to Europe.

Problem is, this voids your warranty. If you buy a Stern pinball machine from one of these dealers because it's cheaper, if you ever have a problem with the cpu, you'll pay much more.. (unless the seller will back it up and replace it for you, which may be for the first months, but don't expect replacement warranty after a year or more..)

You can't go trough official channels to have the cpu repaired. Can't send it in Europe for repair as the serial number isn't registered for being sold in Europe.. You'll have to send it back to the dealer in Canada where it came from, but he can't send it back to Stern as they'll detect the 50/60Hz hack and will not repair the board.
So your warranty is only as good as the repair skills and goodwill of the dealer where you bought the game from.

Now this hasn't stopped people from buying these games. After all, big cpu problems don't often happen.
But when it would ever happen, the only way to get your game working is to buy a new European cpu board, which will cost you a lot more than what you saved by buying not from an official dealer.

It seems Stern has added some extra security steps with Tron LE.
Not just to prevent parallel import, but also to make the difference between the Pro and LE version bigger.

The LE games have a different cpu. Haven't seen one myself, but there should be a physical difference.

An LE cpu can only work in an LE game and accept LE rom updates.

Do not expect like with Shrek/Family Guy that you can upload any rom update and the game will accept this and work.

Only the Pro version rom will be available at Sterns website. This will not work on an LE model (and you wouldn't want this to work anyway as it would not do anything with the extra hardware you get on an LE and which is why you paid more for the game).

The LE rom image will not be available for download at all on Sterns website.
New versions will be distributed on USB sticks, one for each game. These sticks are sent to the dealers that bought the games, which in turn have to send them to their customers.
It seems the usb stick can only be used once and the pinball machine will delete the rom image on the stick once it's been updated.

OK as an IT guy I have my doubts about this security - files on usb sticks are easy to copy, don't know how hard the security will be for the pinball cpu to detect the correct stick is used and to use a similar cpu stick. But at least you need access to one original usb stick before you can try to copy them..

But anyway, suppose Stern is successful with this usb copy protection - it can be a huge problem for parallel import dealers.

If you ever want to upgrade the rom version of your LE game (and you probably will, given Sterns history), you cannot do this yourself anymore.
You have to hope that the dealer you bought it from, got enough usb sticks from his source, and provide one (for free ?) to you, and hope it works on your hacked cpu board. That's a lot of risk to take.
Your other option; keep the game forever on the rom it shipped with and be frustrated that people who spend a few $100 more get official upgrades with more rules, bugfixes, sound effects, animations, and whatever else that is possible with new rom versions..