Why I left 6502.org, the disappointing OberonStation

I left 6502.org, the site devoted to the 6502, because  the owners/moderators (Mike Naberezny and Garth Wilson) allowed a commercial advertisement, completely 6502 off-topic, for the OberonStation. I regret that I bought the Oberonstation following this advert.
The questionable product, OberonStation is advertised, but is not to be critically discussed on their forum. After finding out about my experiences as documented in this blog, which I did not publish on 6502.org though, Mike asked me to ‘Please take your discussion off the forum’ instead of removing the advertisement.  So I did leave and took most of my recent topics off and I left!
See here the email discussion that led me to try to delete my account, and why I started removing my topics as I thought was ordered to do…

Here the OberonStation story, an ugly tale.

Victor Yurkovsky a.k.a. Enso, developed an FPGA based board, called OberonStation, in cooperation with Paul Reed, which is supposed to run Project Oberon.
It does work, but in a very mediocre and unreliable way. And Victor gives no warranty or  aftersales service nor  a real refund for this poorly designed and badly manufactured product.

oberon station damaged

This is the product I received: see the damaged connector in the left top.

My advice: do not buy it and work with the excellent and free emulators! 

After the initial enthousiastic reaction and the very fast decision (I can have a Wirth system to play with!) to buy it, and not checking out Enso/Victor, and now just disappointment.

The OberonStation is advertised on the website devoted to 6502:  http://www.6502.org. Why the people behind 6502.org allow commercial advertisements, not  related at all to the 6502 and disallow negative comments (this blog leaked via others on the forum there, I NEVER discussed this on 6502.org), I do not understand. So after the PM with title ‘Please take your discussion off the forum’ in June 2016 from Mike, the owner of 6502.org, I do not want to be involved with this website. And of course Enso is still a popular forum contributor there,  the advertisement is still there.

This is what I experienced and what I experienced to be wrong with this board, and the process the board is made and shipped with:

  1. Price. A complete board cost is $169. Add to this $26 transport costs (I live in Europe) and $25 taxes (due to not so smart paperwork by Enso) this adds up to $220.
    The FPGA used XC3S700AN FPGA costs in quantity less than $50. I did get a small refund after my complaints about the missing parts, never an offer for full refund or warranty repair.
  2. Sales process. The Paypal payment went wrong due to the sloppy salespage implementation of Enso.
  3. Shipping. Bad packaging led to a damaged connector on the board. Enso described it to ‘customs stepping on the board’, an excuse he uses often for bad manufacturing.
  4. Incomplete shipping. The network adapter was not on stock when my board shipped as told in emails, I agreed to shipping later. Later on  Enso blamed ‘customs’ again for loosing the adapter and I never received the adapter, a $5 value.
  5. Quality of soldering.  After initial working the micro USB connector for the power connection started to make bad contact and now does not work not at all, it is getting loose.
    I had to solder in pins to the empty power pads to supply power. No way Enso accepted my warranty request, blamed ‘custom’s again.My board is not the only board having problems with reliability of the connectors.  Carlos Trigoso reported that on his board the PS/2 connectors came loose and was getting the now standard ‘customs stepped on it’ reply and did not get any warranty repair either.
    Read this story about ‘home soldering’ by Victor/Enso at http://www.fpgarelated.com/showarticle/499.php
    Quote from Victor/Enso: I’ve been assembling and reflowing BGA circuit boards at home for a few years now.  BGAs and 0.5mm-pitch QFPs are well within the realm of a determined amateur
  6. Quality of the VGA signal. A combination of the Enso implementation and the choice of VGA 1024×768 at 70 Hz by Project Oberon, on none of my standard VGA to my high end Iiyama monitors an acceptable sharp image appears, all a bit fuzzy.
  7. Extreme sensitivity to PS2 device variations. It took me several keyboards and mouses to get a working system. Which is worse than the original FPGA system Wirth developed Project Oberon, he is known (seen photos of it) to use USB to PS/2 adapters. Working USB to PS/2 adapters I have tested on other computers like the Apple 1 replicas do not work at all. So now I have one (cheap) optical mouse ordered from China, arrived after some weeks  and an old Microsoft keyboard.
  8. Sincere lack of documentation. No circuit diagram, no information on the connectors layout. Unknown how to connect the network adapter, it can be inserted in two ways.  (I read reports of user snhirsch trying it obviously the wrong way , his systems hangs and he dares now not to insert the other way. The reply by Enso is ‘It plugs into the (only matching) 8-pin female header, hanging off the edge of OberonStation.’  which is not helping since it is still unclear how to orientate the insertion.
  9. No community. Instead of  enthousiast users on the support forum, is only filled with the complaints by me and others as summed above. As you would expect it is heavily moderated by Enso and of course complaining users like me are banned. The sales/info page does not display properly on an Android tablet or phone, and spam on the board is a real issue, whatever …
  10. Quotes from the OberonStation forum, I am not the only one with a quality issue and the ‘stepped upon’ reply:
    Carlos Trigoso
    Total disappointment. First note that I made sure the mouse, the keyboard (both PS/2 and tested with normal PS/2 machines) were working correctly. Also note that I tested 4 different power sources which had a stable output as specified never less than 5 V. Third note the video output worked without noticeable problem. Nevertheles neither the mouse nor the keyboard were able detected and obviously these did not work. The more I looked into this the more I noticed that both PS/2 sockets were shaky and probably the contact was bad but I confess that I am not interested in starting a dicussion about the quality of the setup. Oberon is and will be a fantastic invention. Sadly the OberonStation board I received did not work. I will stay with my other versions of Oberon on Linux, etc, all of which work perfectly well. As I say, total disappointment as the assembly could have been so much better for the price charged. Never mind.
    Administrator (Victor)
    I contacted OP. Occasionally the boards get damaged (stepped on?) during shipping. OP says he is going back to Linux and wants nothing to do with OberonStation, so I am closing this case.
  11. Another quote from the OberonStation forum, another dead board.
    snhirsch
    What is small PCB for? My Oberonstation came with a small PCB containing a 16Mhz. crystal, another component covered in epoxy and a 4-pin header. I see no mention of the board on the web site. What is it? If it’s designed to plug into port 2, in which direction should it be oriented?
    Administrator
    Yes, that is the network board. It plugs into the (only matching) 8-pin female header, hanging off the edge of OberonStation.
    It is provided to match the requirements of the ETH ‘reference platform’, and is used to network with other OberonStations. Perhaps in the future someone will make a Raspberry Pi network host…
    snhirsch
    When I install the network board “hanging off the edge..” (which I interpret to mean projecting outwards from the perimeter) the Oberonstation won’t boot. I get a mottled grey and white screen. Am I understanding this correctly? I hesitate to turn it around for fear I’ll damage something.
    Suggestion: Unless all 8 pins are required please consider plugging one of the holes in the header and clipping the corresponding pin to make it unambiguous?
  12. From user Luke:
    Hello,
    I just received the “OberonStation kit + assembly service + mounted + all extras”.
    As far as I understood I just have to follow step 2 (“Step 2. Plug in hardware and go!”) of the README http://www.paddedcell.com/projectoberon/ostation/README
    and it should work.
    The video signal is not working(black screen) and the LEDs 2 and 7 are on. My keyboard is USB and I’m using a PS/2 adapter.
    I used the same screen and mouse of the working Oberon Spartan 3 set-up I also have, so I’m sure they should be compatible.
    Am I missing something?
    Regards,
    Luca
    No answer given, another dead OberonStation
  13. Victor is quite an unpleasant  person to deal with, as I have experienced in out email and forum encounters. To illustrate this, some quotes from the Oberon mailing list:
    XXX, are you a moron or just pretending?
    No one can _make_ a $9.00 computer. You can sell a computer for $9.00, at a loss, if you are funded by a VC, for instance.
    It is fashionable for startups to lose money in order to gain market share, and then sell the business to some other moron. However, it’s only worth it if the market is more than 300 people.

    Just go be a visionary somewhere else.
    Finally, you can always just not buy it.
    Please don’t buy it.
    Some sales are not worth it because the customer will bitch and complain about everything imaginable and waste everyone’s time with their useless opinions, before asking to return the item.

    This explains a lot about why I as customer was treated the way I am: complain about a defective system and not being serviced.

The ’email’ discussion with Mike:

PM June 4

Hello HansO,

You have received a new private message from “Mike Naberezny” to your account on “6502.org” with the following subject:

Please take your discussion off the forum

Email thread

June 16 2016  From Mike:

Hans,

I’m copying Garth because we moderate the forum together. The only two people who could ban you are me or Garth. Neither of us banned you.

Garth said that you were traveling during those days and offers the possible explanation that it may have been your IP address. Whenever we ban a spammer (weekly if not daily), we ban the IP address. If you happened to be using one of those IP addresses while traveling, that could explain the message you saw.
I would have thought it’s an extremely small chance of that happening but it’s all we’ve got.

I understand why you would be upset about the ban, but can you please believe us that we never intended to ban you? I’m willing to discuss the issue with enso more, but we’ve got to get past this part where you think we banned you.

Regards,
Mike

On 6/16/16 11:05 AM, Hans Otten wrote:
> Mike,
>
> This is how it looks from my side and why I want to leave 6502.org.
>
> I have followed, respected and find it a nice peaceful location since
> many years, my oldest post is from 2004.
>
> I really do admire yours and others work in making 6502.,org the
> authorative location for 6502 information. I have been involved since
> 1978 with 6502, professional editor of dutch electronics magazine
> Radio/Computer Bulletin and as board member and chief editor of the
> dutch
> 6502 club, during the 80ties. I build 6502 systems, and collect and
> publish mostly European based SBC information on my website
> retro.hansotten.nl. All good fun and a nice hobby I tell about on the forum.
>
> My other ICT interest is computer language design, especially the
> Wirth languages such as Pascal and Oberon, for small computers. I
> publish about that subject on pascal.hansotten.com And when these two
> worlds met in October 2015 things went wrong for me.
>
> A member of 6502.org, Enso, placed an advertisement on the 6502.org
> forum for OberonStation,
> http://forum.6502.org/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=3496 . Now that
> advertisement should never have been allowed on the forum, its
> completely off-topic, no relation at all with the 6502 and of commercial nature.
>
> Instead of checking out this guy, Victor Yurkovsky, I placed an order
> for that board. It turned out to be a very unpleasant experience . A
> mediocre design, badly manufactured, badly packaged, high price, no
> customer support, no refund offered nor repair and Victor is a rude person.
>
> After January 2016 I gave up and took my loss of more than 200 dollar,
> no way this guy would deliver. I am not the only one, I know of at
> least two others who had the same experience with bad manufacturing
> and no support. I did publish a blog with facts on my
> pascal.hansotten.com and I know that made Victor quite angry. So be it, closed story, lets move on.
>
> I NEVER did talk about this on 6502.org in the advertisement thread.
> Another use, whartung, did after reading my blog and Enso decided to
> publish his, for me familiar, lies and insults directed at me.
>
> Since the PM system on 6502.org was down that day (sql errors) I
> published a short reply, not reacting or discussing the Enso lies, but
> instead said this was not 6502 related, and off topic, so please
> moderators do something.
>
> On june 3 I saw the Enso reply and my reply had disappeared, so my
> plea for help was achieved, the forum was clean again.
>
> And now things again got a weird turning for the bad.
>
> I left on June 4 for a trip through Europe. At june 4 evening, in
> Germany, I found an email about a PM from you: Please remove your
> discussions of the forum. What? My discussions? Ok, lets login the
> forum to read the PM. YOU ARE PERMANENLTY BANNED was the forum reply.
> No access anymore to the forum, no PM to read, blocked!
>
> June 5 at my next hotel,  the ban was still operational, so I thought maybe Garth, who I
> know also from Facebook, knows more. As you can see from the messages
> he forwarded to you, he could not help.
>
> The message Please remove your discussions of the forum and the ban in
> operation made me quite angry to be honest.
>
> June 6th the ban was lifted (I was then in Switzerland) and I read
> your PM, you asking me to stop the discussion about the feud with
> Enso. What? I never discussed this on the forum! Enso did, I did not.
>
> So that leaves me still angry and quite distressed, banned for some
> days, and now falsely accused of discussions about a lousy product
> that never should have been advertised on 6502.org in the first place.
>
> So I decided to leave 6502.org, it is not a good place anymore when
>Enso can seel a defective product to innocent members and any
> discussions about this (which I did not enter!) are suppressed, the advertisement is still there!
> Our discussion did take place, it was one sided, you told me to
> remove discussions I did not enter at all.
> The forum does not allow a member to terminate his account, so I PM’ed
> you about that on june 7th.
> My account is still operational, I do not wish that, so please remove it.
> Hans
>
> —–Original Message—– From: Mike Naberezny
> Sent: zondag 12 juni 2016 04:48 To: HansO Cc: Garth
> Wilson Subject: Re: forum membership
>
> Again, I am sorry that I didn’t read your PMs on June 7 yet. I just
> started a new job. But here’s a screenshot of them. I don’t think
> this changes anything. I never replied to any of this. I don’t think
> it is fair to call this a “discussion about the ban” (and there was no
> ban anyway).
>
>
>
> On 6/11/16 7:40 PM, Mike Naberezny wrote:
>> Hans,
>>
>> Garth has told me that you PM’ed him the following:
>>
>> 1. You tried to login and it said that you were permanently banned. 2.
>> You have had discussions with me about the ban, and you have come to
>> the conclusion that it is best to terminate you account.
>>
>> This is distressing to me because this is what actually happened:
>>
>> 1. I never banned or made any changes to your account in any way. 2.
>> I haven’t had any discussions with you about the ban or anything
>> else. I see now that you sent me two PMs on June 7, but I just
>> started a new job and I haven’t read any forum mail this week. I
>> didn’t reply to you and we didn’t have a discussion.
>>
>> The only thing that actually happened was that I left a single post
>> in public asking you both to please try to end it. I did this
>> because some people PM’ed me asking me to do that. I’m not trying to
>> take sides and I’d rather not ban anybody if that can be avoided.
>>
>> Your comments to Garth upsetting to me because I’ve been running my
>> forum for over fifteen years and I haven’t banned anyone ever (except
>> for the spammers).
>>
>> You are welcome to use the forum. I’d rather not terminate your
>> account because I’ve never done that to anyone. Maybe in some time
>> you might want to join again. I’ll ask that if you don’t want to use
>> the forum, then just don’t login.
>>
>> Mike