Chameleon V2 stopped working!

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Don't Panic. Please wash hands.
  • Hey guys,


    I was lucky enough to get my hands on a second-hand Chameleon v2 sometime last year. I fiddled around with it a few times, only using the C64-Core in standalone mode. Then I stuck it in the closet for far too long.

    Last weekend I decided it was time for a little nostalgia.

    I flashed the newest firmware (Beta-9p) using Chaco on Windows 10 and finally tried to flash some additional cores to it. I went for the Vic20 Core that was linked in the wiki, flashed it in slot1, inserted a freshly formated SD-Card afterwards, lanched the core aaaaaaand....nothing!

    The Monitor went black, the green and red leds on the chameleon stayed on, that was it. I restarted the device a few times. NOTHING, the monitor stayed dark!

    I instantly tried to reflash the core but then discovered that no version of Chaco (I tried several) could connect to the Chameleon anymore. Chacocmd says "USB initialization failed" and the Chaco-GUI-Version just gives me "ERROR: No Chameleon found on Bus".


    I think by now I tried the most obvious fixed mentioned in the manual.

    - disconected everything that was not necessary

    - restarted countless times (also with all mentioned buttons pressed - individually of course - on the keyboard and chameleon itself)

    - Chaco and Chacocmd in different versions 3 diffent machines (Windows and Linux)

    - tried different monitors, cables and power supply....


    Nothing,....and I'm ready to throw in the towel. The last thing I stumbled upon in the manual was the section about reflashing the microcontroller on the board, which I haven't tried because it mentions something about a necessary hex-file. Could that be the solution?


    I would highly appreciate if someone could share some advice. I really don't know where I went wrong and would absolutely hate to throw my chameleon out.



    cheers

    Aru

  • MMmh, that sounds like the microcontroller is broken... Jens should be able to repair this.


    In any case, first try:

    use different USB cables than before, connect the barebones chameleon (no sd card, no keyboard etc) with both USB connections to your PC, then try connecting with chaco again. Also try to run the flasher.exe that comes with the update. If they both fail to connect, it might indeed be the microcontroller.

  • Thanks for replying so fast, Tobias.

    Do you mean the microcontroller needs reflashing using the methods mentioned in the manual (with the hex-file provided by you guys)?
    Or do you mean like really broken so that the controller itself needs relacing?


    Anyway, thanks for your suggestions, but I already tried ALL of them. For real. I spend literally a dozen hours with this problem already and really hope Jens can help :-(

  • I have my doubts that there's a chip-defect on this unit, just from a non-working core.


    The most likely thing I can think of is a broken solder joint on the second USB connector - the one that supplies power (and only power!) to the Chameleon. So first of all, remove everything - including the RTC battery - from the Chameleon. Then...


    1) plug in the USB power cable - the one that's directly in the yellow casing, not near the PS2 connectors.

    Observe if any of the LEDs comes on. Wiggle on the cable, see if the LEDs flicker.


    2) if you have stable power, add the next cable, the USB data cable. That's the connection from "near the PS2 connectors" to the computer. Upon plugging in, you should hear the windows sound for "found new USB device". If not, please go to the device manager, navigate to the USB devices and see if you can gather any information about a device with a problem, usually marked with a yellow triangle. If there is nothing, you're looking at a broken cable, or a power-only cable, which is quite common (we've had this before on C64 Reloaded MK2 support cases).


    Anytime I hear that a used Chameleon has been sold, I think "what was wrong with the unit?" - I can't think of many reasons why anyone would sell it, as it's such a cheap device for the wealth of utility you get out of it. So if somebody sold it, he may have experienced problems with it, maybe even knows what happened to the unit (heavily bent plug, fell on a hard floor or so). Anyway, knowing that it's pretty hard to really destroy a Chameleon, I expect to find something simple like a cold solder joint on the daughter PCB that holds the power-USB connector.

  • Thanks for getting back to me so quickly, Jens.

    You're certainly right when it comes to the value of the chameleon for the price. Still, over 200 EUR, although little for what you get, is still a lot of money for some people. Back then, I had the feeling the person selling it to me had financial trouble,...which quite frankly was the reason why I was looking into buying one second-hand myself.


    Anyhow, thanks for your suggestions. I already tried all those steps in the last few days. I removed everything including the battery, tried various USB-cables, inserted them at various angles, gently wiggled around like an idiot, tried different monitors...Nothing worked.

    The green led turns on, then the red one - no flickering on any of them - but nothing on the screen and no connection in Chaco.

    I also checked the device manager like you suggested, but it displays no new devices upon connecting and there's nothing marked with a yellow triangle either.


    I also took the time to inspect the solder joints under a maginfyinger, but couldn't detect anything obvious (I'm not a pro, though).
    That's why I thought maybe it could be a broken IC or something. But you're the man and you know your stuff. If you say it's unlikely, then that's probably true.


    You wouldn't happen to have any other advice for me, would you?

    Otherwise I fear my Chameleon is just busted ;(

  • 200 EUR is certainly a good chunk of money, I didn't want to diminish that in any way.


    If one of the LEDs is "always on", not flickering when you wiggle on cables, you definitely have power in the system.


    Just to be 100% sure: You write you've tried different cables. Do you have any means to test these cables with a different device? There are lots of cables out there that are only meant for "charging" or other power supply, so they do not make data connections. Do you have a way to verify if the cable you have used is also good for data connection on a different USB device?


    If you have disassembled the unit to a certain degree, you could post high-res pictures of the connectors and the edges of the PCB here. Maybe there's something obvious. The next step after that would be to send it here, so our staff can take a look at it. This will cost you shipping only - we don't charge for an unsuccessful repair, and we don't perform a repair unless you confirm the cost.

  • Mhhh, maybe I could indeed try out a new MiniUSB-cable. I have three lying around and I know that at least two of them worked for the Chameleon in the past. Unfortunately, I have no other device left, that uses MiniUSB for data-transmission...

    But you never know,...it's at least something I could try. Still wished the Chameleon would use MicroUSB, since I (and probably most people) have dozens of cables lyring around with that connector. But you probably had your reasons for chosing MiniUSB, I guess.

    Just ordered two datacables with that connector just to make sure.


    I will certainly try to post highres pictures of the pcb on the weekend. Thanks for that advice, maybe you guys can spot something.

    I'am not sure when it comes to repairs, though. It's nice to hear that you don't charge for unsuccessful repairs, but that still gives me no idea of the possible costs that would come with a successful one.
    I know it's probably hard to guess as long as you don't know excactly what's broken and needs to be repaired. But maybe you can provide me with a min to max range, based on what chameleon repairs amounted to in the past? That would be helpful. Thanks again.

  • Still wished the Chameleon would use MicroUSB, since I (and probably most people) have dozens of cables lyring around with that connector. But you probably had your reasons for chosing MiniUSB, I guess.

    The reason is stability and longevity: Mini-USB connectors are available as through-hole parts, while micro USB is only available as SMD part. This means that any force applied to the connector must be held by the tiny solder pads, which in turn are copper glued to the circuit board. This is fairly easy to rip apart, while through-hole parts are MUCH more sturdy.


    But maybe you can provide me with a min to max range, based on what chameleon repairs amounted to in the past?

    So far, we've only had a single Chameleon V2 repair, and that was mechanically damaged by DHL. Actually took a lawsuit to make them pay the just-under-50 EUR cost for replacing the case and black insulation, so they ended up paying almost a whole Chameleon in legal fees, but that's a different story.


    An electrically-defective Chameleon V2 is a "first"; I can't remember writing any invoice for that.

  • I see. Although I've never managed to rip a microUSB-port off of a pcb, I can understand why this could be easier done than with miniUSB. Btw, is the same true for USB-C jacks? Could that be an alternative for a possible chameleon v3 (don't know if that will be a thing in the future, though)


    Anyway, the high res pictures will take another two days or so. Continuing to go with murphy's law, my smartphone - or more precisely it's camera - was the next thing to break down. So I have to wait my brother can come over and help me take high quality pictures...


    It's great (and in my case also somewhat unlucky) to hear that you only had one Chameleon v2 repair so far, and therefore cannot make any guesses on the repair cost. I thought maybe they are fairly similar to V1 and you could take your guesses from their or just your general repair experience. Don't get me wrong, I really don't need any exact numbers, just a ball park guess, if a repair could easily be the same as a new unit. Then it wouldn't make any sense,...at least economically ;-)

  • I thought maybe they are fairly similar to V1 and you could take your guesses from their or just your general repair experience.

    V1 and V2 are pretty different in component choice, especially in terms of "parts that break more often": While for V1, I have used a CPLD for 5V-tolerant signals to/from the C64, I have eliminated that for V2, as the CPLD was the thing that went bust on most repairs. V2 is on the market since 2018, so I'd rate that choice a success.


    The MCU is the same on both.


    USB-C is a whole different ballgame, as it allows much higher voltages for fast-charging. If we'd go that way, the MCU would also have to be different, and I'd have to add a DC-DC converter to allow input of around 20 Volts if I remember right (haven't fully read the specs). Instead of making it that complicated, I'd use a 12V input and go with a standard DC-DC converter that doesn't require extra "intelligence" to talk to the power supply. That's just "in theory", as V2 is a good design that doesn't need any updates anytime soon. Remember that we've built V1 for almost ten years - would be nice if we can keep that pace of upgraded hardware :-)