Personal iris dual color cursor hack

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jan-jaap
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Personal iris dual color cursor hack

Unread postby jan-jaap » Thu Mar 26, 2009 3:55 pm

I've always been intrigued by this section in the old "This old SGI" FAQ:

This Old SGI wrote:The Mysterious Cursor Hardware Hack

A number of early posts refer to a hardware hack that was apparently popular within SGI itself, and which made it possible to have a two-color hardware-supported cursor on the PI. I am not currently aware of what added value this modification actually has, but I'll include it here for anyone who wishes to experiment. The gist of the modification is the addition of a Brooktree chip (Bt431KC) to the GR1.x Graphics board. If you remove the GR1.x board, you will notice an empty IC location (I8G6) next to the a Bt431KC which is already on the board. You simply :-) install a second Bt431KC in this location. Note that the IC pads at this location will be filled with solder, so you'll have to CAREFULLY remove the excess solder from each pad hole. If I were you, I'd strongly consider using an IC socket, if the board clearance allows it. I have NOT tried this modification myself, nor have I been able to locate a source for spare Bt431KC chips. Apparently, IRIX versions 4 and above detected the extra hardware cursor support and could make use of it. I don't know if IRIX 5.x retained this support.

Recently I was able to obtain two Bt431KC chips and I decided to put this myth to the test :)
DSC_2011.JPG
The mysterious empty IC location (I8G6)

DSC_2013.JPG
Enough to modify two Personal Irises

DSC_2014.JPG
Carefully removed excess solder from each pad hole

DSC_2017.JPG
Bt431KC installed

DSC_2022.JPG
Victory!

IT WORKS!

As you can see in the last screenshot, 'gfxinfo' recognizes it, and I actually have a dual color cursor! This is IRIX 4.0.5 running on an IP10 (4D/25).

Even though the Bt431KC is in a socket, there is enough clearance to install the Z buffer board again.

As the Mythbusters would say: Myth confirmed 8-)

EDIT: the paragraph in "This Old SGI" is probably based on this message: http://groups.google.com/group/comp.sys ... e919cd89be
Good thing I installed the second Bt431KC in a socket, I don't want to loose the option of running 3.3 on this box.
Last edited by jan-jaap on Fri Mar 27, 2009 2:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Personal iris dual color cursor hack

Unread postby pentium » Thu Mar 26, 2009 5:02 pm

So what exactly does this actually do and what is your source for these Bt431KC chips? ;)
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Re: Personal iris dual color cursor hack

Unread postby AndrewR » Thu Mar 26, 2009 5:34 pm

Very nice, thanks for pictures!

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Re: Personal iris dual color cursor hack

Unread postby D-EJ915 » Thu Mar 26, 2009 5:35 pm

Haha that's cool, what colour is the cursor normally? Plain red?
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Re: Personal iris dual color cursor hack

Unread postby SAQ » Thu Mar 26, 2009 5:45 pm

plain red.

I might need to give that a try. Pity it wasn't standard.
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Re: Personal iris dual color cursor hack

Unread postby jan-jaap » Fri Mar 27, 2009 2:29 am

pentium wrote:So what exactly does this actually do

It gives you two cursor planes. In other words, it gives you a tiny white border around the normally solid red mouse cursor.
pentium wrote:and what is your source for these Bt431KC chips? ;)

eBay. Searching online is useless because you quickly get lost in the world of chip brokers etc.

I probably spent 10 EUR on this hack, which may be a lot to get a tiny white line around a mouse cursor, but not much for a fun evening :)
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To accentuate the special identity of the IRIS 4D/70, Silicon Graphics' designers selected a new color palette. The machine's coating blends dark grey, raspberry and beige colors into a pleasing harmony. (IRIS 4D/70 Superworkstation Technical Report)

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Re: Personal iris dual color cursor hack

Unread postby nekonoko » Fri Mar 27, 2009 2:39 am

So it basically updates the mouse pointer to the same scheme the more modern IRIX hardware uses - that's pretty neat!

I'm on the lookout for some chips as well; I have one I can probably salvage from a dead board, but I'd like to update all three of my working boards at some point.
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Re: Personal iris dual color cursor hack

Unread postby jan-jaap » Fri Mar 27, 2009 2:45 am

nekonoko wrote:I'd like to update all three of my working boards at some point.

Keep in mind that the original message in the usenet archives claims this will prevent IRIX 3.3 from booting. I would at least install it in a socket.
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To accentuate the special identity of the IRIS 4D/70, Silicon Graphics' designers selected a new color palette. The machine's coating blends dark grey, raspberry and beige colors into a pleasing harmony. (IRIS 4D/70 Superworkstation Technical Report)

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Re: Personal iris dual color cursor hack

Unread postby nekonoko » Fri Mar 27, 2009 2:47 am

Oh definitely - I rarely install chips directly on a board unless I can't avoid it (clearance issues or some such).
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Re: Personal iris dual color cursor hack

Unread postby fzalfa » Fri Mar 27, 2009 4:35 am

cool !!!

this feature won"t work with irix 3.x ??

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Re: Personal iris dual color cursor hack

Unread postby PymbleSoftware » Fri Mar 27, 2009 6:23 am

Very cool hack.

I could ask someone about Bt431KC chips. I have preferred access to some chip brokers in various parts of Asia who claim that they can get anything even Russian ex-military chips (supposedly high spec, extreme operating temps, etc).
I'll have to dig out some business cards. Or wait until I go back in June.

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Re: Personal iris dual color cursor hack

Unread postby nekonoko » Sat Mar 28, 2009 5:39 pm

fzalfa wrote:this feature won"t work with irix 3.x ??


Apparently. This the original Usenet post which outlines the installation procedure and lack of 3.x support:

http://groups.google.com/group/comp.sys ... e919cd89be

Tom Paquin Jul 12 1991, 4:20 am wrote:It is possible to get a two-color cursor on a PI. It is not simple, it is not low-risk, and it won't work for most existing PIs because of system software issues. It nukes warranties and bags support.

Of course, this is not a procedure endorsed or recommended by Silicon Graphics. But that's not the worst part. I am fairly sure that you'd have a tough time getting support for (allegedly) unrelated problems if you call the hotline and say "I have a PI, but I've soldered some of my own chips into it, but that shouldn't matter and anyway, I have this other thing that isn't working." I haven't read whatever agreement gets you hotline support, but I think it likely that if you do this, you are completely on your own. I'm no authority on this.

The two-color cursor mod is entirely incompatible with pre-4.0 Irix. Unless and until you get 4.0, you do NOT want to try this; the result will be a machine which won't boot. (Yes, there are intelligible reasons for this.)

The mod requires soldering your graphics board. One slip and you could waste your board. This kind of failure is not, I believe, covered by any sort of warranty. (Did you buy your PI with AmEx?)

OK, so if you're crazy, not dissuaded, or merely curious:

0) Get used to the idea that if you screw this up, you're out at least your graphics board and SGI isn't going to fix it for free. Believe that all your future support may have to come from comp.sys.sgi.

1) Make sure you're on Irix 4.0 (or later?). If you're installing 4.0 and doing the mod, you must do the 4.0 inst first.

2) Go to the store and buy a Brooktree chip which says Bt431KC on it.

3) Remove your E module. This holds the CPU and graphics board. Take the entire E module out of the PI chassis. Then turn it graphics-side up and remove the faceplate. You can tell graphics side from CPU side by looking at the connectors on the back. If you need more help than that, you shouldn't try this. Once you can see the graphics board, check for a Z buffer. If you have a Z buffer installed, remove that. Be careful, ground yourself, etc.

4) Locate through-holes for an absent chip labelled I8G6. It's right next to an existing Bt431 kinda in the middle of the board, right next to the large Weitek chip.

5) Solder the new Bt431 in the I8G6 location, oriented the same way as the existing Bt431. They'll be right next to each other. The through-holes should be filled with solder. You'll probably have to empty them first. Remember not to screw anything up with that soldering iron.

6) Reinstall your Z-buffer if you had one, put the cover back on the e-module, reinstall the e-module, and boot. Irix 4.0 will try to use the new chip.

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Re: Personal iris dual color cursor hack

Unread postby nekonoko » Wed Apr 13, 2011 2:17 pm

If anyone is looking to do this hack, there are a couple of the BT431KC chips currently available on eBay. I already bought and received two from the seller for my own use:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?Vi ... 0619029119

It took two years to get any eBay hits on BT431KC (I created the search right after jan-jaap started this thread), so grab them while you can :)
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Re: Personal iris dual color cursor hack

Unread postby smj » Thu Apr 14, 2011 12:50 am

Love this kind of thing, if I had a PI I'd be chasing that auction.
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Re: Personal iris dual color cursor hack

Unread postby jan-jaap » Thu Apr 14, 2011 1:18 am

nekonoko wrote:It took two years to get any eBay hits on BT431KC (I created the search right after jan-jaap started this thread), so grab them while you can :)

Wow, these things are rarer than a good Tezro :shock: . I must have been extremely lucky, or (more likely) the chips I bought simply had been sitting on eBay for ages.

Here's a better zoom of the empty socket:
bt431kc_empty_socket.jpg

Good luck!
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To accentuate the special identity of the IRIS 4D/70, Silicon Graphics' designers selected a new color palette. The machine's coating blends dark grey, raspberry and beige colors into a pleasing harmony. (IRIS 4D/70 Superworkstation Technical Report)


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