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XU1541 - The True Story
by Raf/Vulture

Hello hardware and truth freax, this is Raf here about to tell you some facts regarding the XU1541 device. And these are going to be the facts that you are not going to officially read anywhere else.

Let me go back to the roots: the XU1541 had been developed by Till Harbaum during 2007 using V-USB (AVR-USB then) framework allowing to use regular Atmel AVR microcontrollers as endpoints on USB bus. Till however cancelled the project in the fall of 2007. It has been then taken over by Spiro Trikaliotis (source and more technical info:, co-author of VICE and OpenCBM. What happened since then? People were and still are eager too see old LPT-based cables replaced (as of 2010 new desktop motherboards do not ship with LPT ports anymore, even considering "legacy PC I/O" chips still have such features), so such device was surely warming up the audience. There were no clear singals of any development progress, which turns out to be false if you check OpenCBM CVS logs - there were some firmware improvements to XU1541, but the device was not promoted enough, so people could not notice its current status.

At some point in 2008 Duddie (shop maintainer at a Commodore oriented website) asked me about XU1541 - he had experienced troubles running the device, but I had not been involved in this adapter at that time. However some people kept asking for cables which could run on LPT-less laptops, so by finding some spare time while working on my litentiate thesis, I successfully ran a prototype on an solderless breadboard in June 2009 (I was using Atmega8 in my thesis too, so my experince from past months was useful).

Despite the fact that I was the first one in Poland to run the device (and probably one of a few who even built and run the device until that date), I kept that silent until I managed to run the first device on a universal epoxy PCB around August 2009... I put that PCB in a nice box and started an auction at After that Duddie asked me if I can give him my "know-how" concerning how to run the device (it is just about flashing the firmware and setting up so called fuse-bits). I must admit it is a bit tricky for XU1541 due to some additional bootloader, but nearly everyone can do that. Attitude's main editor (DJ Gruby if you have not spotted that yet ;)) managed to run his self-built XU1541 with firmware flashed on his own without too much effort. I finally helped Duddie to run the device (there were also some deal beetwen two of us) and he started selling it in the Internet shop around September 2009, making many many advertisements worldwide, but not crediting me for help after all (huh, even Jack Tramiel said "bussines is war!" - he was probably right). ;) This way I cut my potential profit from selling those devices. Moreover I offered devices instantly ready to buy while Duddie has got a 21-days waiting period. In Poland sales were quite poor, googling for XU1541 reveals that Duddie probably sold much more worldwide, which would have not been possible at all without my help. Bad luck!

In the meantime I started to promote the device in Poland. First I informed people close to me - scene guys. Many Polish sceners stated that was unfair to earn money on scene freaks or GPL projects - at least judging from Polish C64 scene's forum it looks like more people (f*cking democracy ;)) were against such activities (though some factual comments were unnecessarily moderated ;)). This is not simple and straightforward case. First of all for normal people it is like someone does a job for you, so it is quite clear you want to pay back for the effort. When we talk about GPL... If you distribute GPL software you do it at no cost, however hardware always costs (for some people in Poland it looks like I should provide hardware at price of parts) - you cannot "pirate" GPL hardware either, obviously. Maybe I did set the price a bit too high (however Poles are always complaining about the prices no matter how low or high they are), maybe not. That was taken by me as a good advice from Duddie, who might have tried this way to make his offer more competitive than mine (price was similar as well) and he seemed a long established seller, too.

Maybe it was making my offer look less competitive? But it is not everything about the price. Another thing is that shop maintained by Duddie is just respected as high quality stuff dealer - even when I offered XU1541 first, it was just unspotted. When Duddie started to sell, many people instantly started to pass that news over the net. There were even opinions on forums like: "I won't buy any CBM related hardware until it hits serious hardware dealers". So can people like me just try to sell CBM hardware on their own? Maybe the key is to be small unknown supplier for a big brother and let bigger distributors earn money for... Erm... Actually nothing else than passing the hardware to the rest? Or maybe it is the way to make bigger deals? It needs to be reconsidered, for sure.

Another side effect of what I started is "XU1541 for a price of components" project started by some Polish sceners complaining that I was earning money on the project which was not mine, which was GPL'd and so on. Although that group of people formed in September 2009 or so, as for now (January 2010) there are still no units delivered, though recently some photos of finished devices appeared. So... All in all maybe it is just better to donate people and get the hardware than wait for... Something you maybe will not ever get?

Stay cool, be nice. Thanks for reading.


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