Has the GD-rom and GD-drive patent expired?

Discussion in 'General Sega Discussion' started by doc eggfan, Jun 25, 2020.

  1. doc eggfan

    doc eggfan

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    It's been more than 20 years since Sega first used the GD-rom format, so seems like it would be out of patent now? Or are there other legal issues that prevent the release of GD media into the public domain?

    I know it would only be of niche interest, but couldn't someone now release a disc drive for PC that reads GD discs? It's not really anything that special, isn't it just a regular disc with tracks more tightly packed than a CD-rom but not as tight as a DVD, so you'd just need to calibrate the drive to the GD spec?

    I suppose you could even go so far as to produce recordable GD discs, but maybe that's a step too far in terms of profitably (too niche to justify mass production).
     
  2. Overlord

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  3. Pirate Dragon

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    Yeah, it doesn't really matter anyway as Sega doesn't care enough to prosecute anyone. The Dreamcast homebrew community have settled on CD-ROM a long time ago, so what demand is there for GD-ROM?

    Is there a niche for people who want an all in one optical media drive which could play GD-ROM and others such as GameCube Game Disc? I guess so, but you just need an optical drive with firmware that can use those standards. Maybe Nintendo could cause legal problems, but Sega really doesn't care.
     
  4. doc eggfan

    doc eggfan

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    Mostly to make it easier to rip the whole GD-ROM for preservation, or to run a legit disc in an emulator. Like I said, only for a niche market, most people won't care.

    It would have been interesting if the homebrew market adopted GD-ROM instead of CD-ROM. There's no reason why a CD manufacturing plant can't stamp out a GD-ROM as they are manufactured the same way. And then there would be no compatibility issues, as only Dreamcasts that can run the MIL-CD exploit can play the homebrew games (although it doesn't seem like this excludes many machines).
     
  5. Pirate Dragon

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    If the reason is the same as Edmund Hillary's "because it's there", then that is something that I can get behind. I'm just not convinced that this is needed to dump games or run them in emulators. I'm actually quite interested in an optical drive that can support all formats (certain drives could support GD-ROM, and others could support Nintendo Optical Discs ... the FW had to be able to play the disc backwards at a certain speed). It would be cool to have a drive that could support GD-ROM and other formats, but the way that things are going is that optical media is considered bad, and everyone wants either an ODE, or an FPGA solution such as a MegaSD, or Everdrive Pro.

    So, yeah, I'll totally support a GD-ROM solution ... but it's going to be super-niche. On the other hand ... the legality of it is so niche that Sega really isn't going to cause an issue about it.
     
  6. Aesculapius Piranha

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    Most if not all of the Dreamcast patents are rip in peperioni from what I've seen. This also means both the pocketstation and VMU are fair game these days. This also means its been that long since a company has had a cool memory card... :(
     
  7. Cooljerk

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    For many years, "ripping" dreamcast games was an arcane ritual with logistical roadblocks that made creating dumps very difficult, but that isn't the case anymore. To explain why dumping GD-Roms isn't considered daunting today, I'll need to explain why it was so difficult back in the day in the first place.

    Obviously, the primary problem is that you can't just stick a GD-Rom into a PC CD/DVD drive and read it, so the alternative is to somehow use the Dreamcast itself as an external drive that your PC can interface with. And doing that is actually super easy today. Back in the late 90's and early 2000s, when Dreamcast game dumping was at its peak, this was done in a few ways, each with a draw back. There are two ports available on the dreamcast that are suitable for connecting it to a PC: The serial port, and the Modem port.

    Obviously, using the modem port is the easiest way to connect a dreamcast to your PC in terms of mechanical skill required. Actually interfacing your modem with your PC used to require very specific equipment, however. The Dreamcast shipped with a dial up modem, and only certain kinds of routers will let you network a dial up device to a windows network, like a netopia R2020 router. That this specific router can do this made it a sort of hot item for hobbyists, and thus getting your hands on one was very expensive (not to mention they're rare today... but if anyone wants one, I have 3 if they'd like to buy one off of me). The alternative was to use the dreamcast BBA or LAN adapter, but both of those items were also super rare and expensive. The Dreamcast BBA, for example, was only sold online in the USA for a very short period of time.

    Going through the modem port to connect your dreamcast to a PC is still a problem being worked on at this very moment, but it's significantly easier. Today, DreamPi exists which lets you use a Raspberry pi in place of the netopia R2020 to network the 56k modem to a modern windows network. The trouble with going through the modem port to dump discs currently lies in a software problem - to interface your DC with your PC, you need to use a program called DC Load, which comes in a few flavors depending on which method you are using. For the last 20 years, all that has existed is DC Load-IP, which is for the BBA/LAN Adapter, and DC Load-Serial, which is for the serial port. So even if you used a netopia router, you couldn't actually dump with it. However, I and a few other people are actually working on DC Load-PPP, which will allow you to do everything you can with a BBA/LAN adapter on the dreamcast, via DreamPi and the 56k modem. So, work in progress.

    On the flip side, the problem with the serial port is the proprietary interface, the serial port on the dreamcast is a unique shape that isn't readily available to be sourced. Back in the old days, if you wanted to build a Dreamcast coder's cable, you had a few options - for a very short period of time, Lik Sang actually sold custom made coder's cables so if you were lucky you could snag one. If that wasn't an option, you could build one yourself, but doing so came with it's own caveats. If you wanted to find an adapter that could fit the serial port, your only other real option was to source a Neo Geo Pocket Link cable, which are outstandingly rare. So for most people, that wasn't an option. So the last remaining option if you wanted to build your own cable was to solder a serial cable directly to the serial port, and the pins on the port are very tiny, which means doing this requires quite a bit of skill.

    Today, however, this isn't nearly as much of a problem, because over the years the existence of test points on the dreamcast motherboard have been fully documented. I made a topic about it here: https://forums.sonicretro.org/index...cast-usb-coders-port-for-gdb-debugging.38811/

    It is significantly easier today to build your own coder's cable due to the documentation of the test points on the DC that weren't available back in the turn of the millennium. I flat out don't have the skill to solder directly to the serial port pins, but the test points on the mobo are about as idiot proof as a soldering project can be. Seriously, newbies to soldering can do this now with relatively low difficulty.

    To top it off, with today's rapid prototyping world with servies like oshpark and such, there are actually open source projects out there currently building breakout boards for the serial port. For example:

    [​IMG]

    There is another project out there that is trying to build what looks like a USB stick you can pop into the serial port to do the same exact thing.

    Another problem with going through the serial port was speed. Back in the old days, you were limited to using something like a MAX32222CPN IC to handle the serial transfer through your coder's cable, which was extremely slow. Like, just a few KB/s. But today, things like the FTDI 232rl serial to USB board are ultra cheap (like $5) and thousands of times faster. I can hit the full 1.5 MB/s this way, which makes using a coder's cable to dump discs pretty much on par with using the BBA or LAN adapter. No more dumping discs for a full day if you need to use a coder's cable.

    So actually connecting your DC to the PC is a more solved problem these days, but that's not why people used to have so much problems dumping discs. The other half of the equation was that dumping your discs circa 2001 was pretty much pointless, because the Dreamcast has copy protection. It can detect if you are booting from a CD-Rom or a GD-Rom, and if you are booting from a CD-Rom, the Binary on the disc will be read into memory using a psuedo-random pattern, destroying it in the process. Dreamcast games that were pirated needed to actually be cracked by hand, even if they fit on a CD-Rom without chopping up assets. To do this, you would reverse scramble the binary, so that when it was read into memory in the psuedo-random order, rather than destroying the binary it would reassemble it in memory.

    All that is to say that, if you managed to dump your disc back in the day, the average person couldn't do anything with the dump because you couldn't burn it back onto a disc to play on the DC. So, for that reason, most people just didn't bother and waited for cracks to drop. It got around that dumping a DC game into something playable was a very complex, very hard process.

    But today, things like ODEs exist, as does emulation, so handling an unscrambled dump isn't worthless anymore. Half of the orignal process of "ripping" a game, the "crack" portion of the process, no longer needs to be done. It's easier to work with dumps today, than it was 20 years ago. The ability to dump a game today is now more useful than it was back in the day.

    Additionally, there are readily available tools like serial to SD Card adapters for the Dreamcast, which modern homebrew ripping programs can use to dump directly to an SD card with without using a connected PC. SD Card adapters for the DC are like $10 on ebay, they're dirt cheap. And 99% of all dreamcasts can read burned CDs. For a long while, I actually doubted that any dreamcasts existed that couldn't read burned discs as I was actively searching for one. After years, and years of searching, thus far I have only found one model that can't read burned discs: The hello kitty limited edition dreamcast only sold in japan. If regular model dreamcasts exist that can't run burned discs, they are likely extremely rare and probably were only ever sold in japan, so that's not much of a concern.

    And, just to note, the entire dreamcast library has been dumped and preserved as part of a project. This was started because the common GDI files online that people burn are cracks, with degraded assets and such. So, from a purely preservation vantage point, the entire library is backed up with 1:1 copies already.

    So, long story short, it'd be significantly more work to build modern, bespoke PC drives that can read dreamcast games to dump GD-Roms, than it would be to just use the modern tools available to do the same job these days. Dreamcasts are cheap and plentiful, you can put together an entire dumping kit sourced from Ebay for like under $75 if you know what you're picking up.

    If you are interested in going down this route and want more information, please ask and I'll be happy to walk you through this a bit more. My recommendation would be to either A) build a USB coder's port today and use an application like DreamRip to dump to your PC, or B) grab a SD Card adapter and use a similar application.
     
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  8. doc eggfan

    doc eggfan

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    Cool, thanks for all that info. I had assumed we were still in this weird limbo of some games in the library being the old school rips from back in the day that were hacked to fit onto CD-rom, with only some but not all games ripped more recently in a 1:1 fashion.

    Are you sure the entire library has been backed up. There are some very weird and obscure curios from Japan that I can't imagine have all been ripped (those Toyota showroom GD-roms, that Japanese fashion magazine that released a GD-rom, the fishtank simulator ones....)
     
  9. Cooljerk

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    The goal was for the Sega dreamcast library to be preserved, but the things you mention aren't technically dreamcast games. Like, the fish tank simulator you mention isn't a dreamcast game, it's a kiosk that runs on dreamcast based hardware, and could probably boot on a dreamcast, but isn't usable without the bespoke hardware it uses for input that isn't available on the dreamcast.

    That said, Im not involved in the dump project so I can't speak to its totality, but the goal was indeed to be as complete as possible. This comes from the same scene as the people who found the lost sonic adventure dlc recently, so obscure stuff are at least in their sights.
     
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  10. JaxTH

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    What about all the aftermarket games?
     
  11. Sappharad

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    It was available for a single evening back in April 2001 before they ran out. I probably could even give you the exact day, but I can't find my receipt email. They announced it was coming to the US at some point in late 2000; it was supposed to be released around January 2001 and got pushed back to April. I have some emails archived regarding the delay, even though I can't find my receipt. But then Sega of Japan announced in February or March 2001, before it had even been released in the US, that they were ceasing production of it. So it literally came out in the US after they had already stopped making them and was only sold on Sega.com's online store. Anyone who didn't order on day 1 was out of luck. I had cable internet at that time and needed one for games like PSO, so I just got lucky that I was able to order one.

    Fish Life has been hacked to run on a normal Dreamcast, VERY recently. GDI is available in this blog post about it:
    https://blog.japanese-cake.io/index.php/2020/05/11/catching-up-part-2-fish-n-chips/
     
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