ZX Vega+ News

(Unauthorised and Unofficial)

Vega+ Shipping Dates

  • End of September 2016
  • October 2016
  • In time for Xmas 2016
  • February 2017
  • A "few weeks" from March 10th 2017
  • Summer 2017
  • 8 weeks from August 9th (October 4th, 2017)
  • Mid October 2017
  • April 2018
  • May 8th - 12th 2018
  • May 12th 2018
  • May 31st 2018 (Indiegogo deadline)
  • June 15th 2018
  • July 6th 2018

World of Spectrum

Searchable threads in one long post:

Daily Blog

The Vega+ daily blog is now so long that by default it only shows the last 7 entries. If you wish to read the full history, click the button below.

Jump to latest blog entry

top

Wednesday 8th August, 2018

Retro Computers Ltd violate the Sky licence by showing products available for sale on their website using the Sinclair, ZX and Spectrum names.

top

Thursday 9th August, 2018

Reporter Gaz Corfield publishes a review of the Vega+ in an article called ZX Spectrum Vega+ blows a FUSE: It runs open-source emulator: Uncomfortable to hold, crap buttons – oh dear. Highlights from the article:

  • With public interest at an all-time high in what the company has actually produced during the ongoing scandal, El Reg acquired one from an RCL customer for review purposes.
  • No instructions were supplied with the console. In time-honoured retro gaming fashion, The Register’s crack review team resorted to button-mashing to figure out what did what.
  • Supplied with 18 games, our review console (lent to us by an RCL customer who wishes to remain anonymous) was finished in black plastic with a very bright screen, on which we will say more later.
  • The plastic screen cover looks cheapish in our opinion, with the Spectrum rainbow branding being a small triangle of coloured paper that looks for all the world like it was run off on a home inkjet printer.
  • There are two buttons set almost flush into the case above the D-pad and the coloured buttons. The left-hand one of these is the power button and also brings up the main menu while the device is running, with the D-pad being used to navigate around it. There are also three buttons below the main right-hand set. These appeared to have been painted to give them splodges of colour.
  • The right-hand side buttons are moulded in coloured plastic with the lettering painted or printed on. Games are loaded and played through use of the D-pad buttons and the red F button, which doubles as the enter key for most things.
  • Every game bundled with the device appears to have been written by one Jonathan Cauldwell. Given that Sky and a host of other rights-holders to ZX Spectrum games have withdrawn permission for RCL to use their games, it could be these are the only games that RCL could legally use.
  • The D-pad buttons are atrocious. El Reg suspects they were set too deep into the case so not enough protrudes above it to make gameplay comfortable. We found it necessary to use a prodding device to access the two buttons, which appear to operate on release rather than depression.
  • Using the D-pad is uncomfortable, with the low-set buttons being extraordinarily stiff to press; it really takes a toll on the left thumb. Resistance from the buttons is enough to make you stop playing it after quarter of an hour.
  • Start-up time from cold was around six or seven seconds – not unreasonable. The screen goes from a Retro Computers splash screen to the home screen, a blank white page displaying “© 1982 Sinclair Research Ltd”. From here you need to press the top left button to bring up the menu.
  • We didn’t want to risk leaving our review unit on charge for extended periods of time, bearing in mind some customers’ reports of bricking, so we don’t have an estimate of battery life. Our review unit was able to display the battery voltage but could not measure the life remaining or the charge on it.
  • The unit appears to power off at random intervals if you leave it alone for long enough, which may or may not be a power saving function; ours powered on again afterwards with no apparent problems. While charging, the screen maintains maximum brightness. We could not tell if it charged while the unit was powered off.
  • The first thing we noticed was that some of the games have not had their keys mapped to the Vega+’s controls. While the main menu has an option to “remap game keys”, this is not the state a finished product should be delivered in. That it was delivered in this state at all suggests that it was rushed out of the door to buy RCL’s management some breathing space in their ongoing corporate woes rather than with any regard for consumer experience.
  • The top right button (with a splodge of red paint on it) brings up the Game Info menu. There is a field labelled “hint” where the game designer can insert tips, tricks or explanations of gameplay. On our review console only a couple of games had this filled in.
  • Using the red F button, we found more than once that it tends to input through several menu levels with a single button push, so trying to open the game list resulted in instantly re-opening the last selected game several times. That aside, the menu worked OK. With better buttons this could have been a much better experience.
  • Some of the games we tried seemed to work well. "Byte Me", while fully functional, was particularly hard to play because of the lack of tactile feedback from depressed buttons. Opening "Egghead 5" produced an edge-of-hearing high pitched buzz which prompted us to close it again immediately. Some other games, such as "Izzy Wizzy Versus The Mutants", were unplayable out of the box unless the keys were remapped.
  • The key mapping option in the menu would only bring up a virtual on-screen keyboard, appearing to only allow the mapping of keys to a keyboard that doesn’t exist on the Vega+. You'd need to have an external keyboard that functions through a Micro USB port, something Vulture Central is sadly lacking, even assuming the console can handle external inputs through the charging port.
  • The Vega+ is uncomfortable to hold because of its rough edges. As is inevitable with injection moulding, the two clamshell halves of the case are not flush, leaving a sharp-to-the-palms edge that digs in. Some more bezelling work or a dust channel would have helped. One thing is plain; this is not a Rick Dickinson design. Rather, it’s what happens when you look at a picture of a Rick Dickinson case design and trace round it with crayons.
  • On the bright(ness) side, the unit is very light – while we did not weigh it, it comes in lighter than most modern smartphones – and is only slightly larger than a smartphone in a case, so the Vega+ will fit into your pocket for on-the-go retro gaming.
  • We also discovered that the screen on this unit has an unpleasant high frequency flicker if used at anything other than maximum brightness and contrast. In addition, the console occasionally freezes – a pleasant relief from the flicker.
  • The micro SD card slot in the back of the Vega+ is unsprung. This means getting a card out of the unit needs a tool such as a pin. The headphone jack didn’t work on our review unit, either when plugged in during gameplay or when plugging them in with the unit off and then powering it on.
  • Much was made, at the outset of the Vega+ project, of it running custom firmware – something RCL, the console’s makers, had to abandon after a dispute over payment with Chris Smith, author of the original firmware intended for the Vega+. Since then rumour and speculation has abounded as to what it is running.
  • The Register can confirm that the Vega+ is in fact running the Free Unix Spectrum Emulator (FUSE), version 1.3.0, as released on 3 October 2016. By saving a game to a micro SD card and then opening the .s03 file generated by the Vega+ in a text editor on a PC, we found plain text that confirmed the presence of FUSE.
  • FUSE author Philip Kendall also examined the savegame file and he confirmed our findings. RCL itself had said it was using software that "incorporates" FUSE, in a post from late July on its Facebook page.
  • FUSE is licensed under the GNU General Public Licence version 2, which tells those distributing software under that licence: "You must make sure that [customers], too, receive or can get the source code. And you must show them these terms so they know their rights."
  • Neither the GPL nor the FUSE source code were referenced on RCL's website at the time of publication.
  • The Reg verdict: Not worth the £105
  • The Vega+ is, in our view, not worth the £105 that RCL customers each paid for it. The buttons are borderline unusable, the case is uncomfortable to hold and the screen is either far too bright at a usable setting or flickers.
  • Most pertinently, it does not include 1,000 games and it is not the console that RCL’s customers originally paid for in the first £513,000 crowdfunding exercise through Indiegogo.
  • Rating out of 10? We'd give it a solid 4. It powers up, which is a positive point. But out of the box some of the games aren't playable, the case is poorly designed and joined, and the entire feel is plasticky and inconsequential. The screen is far too bright and unusable when dimmed. And, despite everything, it's just a GPL'd emulator in lightly customised hardware.
  • Why Sir Clive Sinclair’s corporate shareholder in RCL, Sinclair Research Ltd, has not intervened is a source of ongoing confusion. Robert Freestone, an SRL director, failed to respond to The Register’s previous enquiries about SRL’s decision not to dismiss the RCL management last week.

The RCL facebook page has disappeared for the second time in recent weeks.

Lee Fogarty posts a message he apparently received from David Levy on the World of Spectrum facebook group:

Beige jacketed cloud headed fraudster David Levy

Dear Mr Fogarty,

We understand that you have today telephoned SMS Electronics Ltd and requested that they provide you with the Vega+ software in their possession.

SMS Electronics Ltd have the object code for the Vega+ but not the source code.

You do not have any legal right to the object code, so we require you to cease and desist from attempting to acquire it. Should you do so again we will contact the police.

Yours sincerely,

David Levy
[Chairman - Retro Computers Ltd]

— David Levy

Lee Fogarty posts various comments in the same facebook thread:

Lying Lee Fogarty

I didn’t ask for the software, I asked which open source drivers were used. In addition, the entire firmware and emulator are open source and you are legally obliged to provide full source code to the public, which you haven’t. So, in conclusion, EVERYONE has a legal right to all code on the Vega+, and it is in fact yourselves breaking the law.

Should you continue to refuse to do so, I will be contacting the relevant authorities.

Sincerely,

Lee


To note:- I didn't ask SMS for any software, and Fuse was never mentioned to them - all I asked was if they knew which source for drivers that had used, or if they knew which supplier might have sold the parts, and the reply I got was "even if I was inclined to help, I don't know". All he would say was it's an NXP chip, which I already knew.


TBH - it's a none starter anyway. They have used generic software for custom parts, which is why large parts of the firmware doesn't work. Without a bill of sales for the parts there's no real way of fixing the firmware, and only Dave Woodfield has that info.


I DID NOT ask SMS for any software. I asked if they knew who provided the components as the current firmware isn't using the correct drivers. We know it's Private Planet that should be supplying this info, but they won't - it was Private Planet that sent the binaries.


The buttons are fixable with a hack

It's possible to replace the crappy connectors inside the unit with decent ones that are $2 online. People are still testing but fixes will appear online at some point.

Rebuilding is relatively easy - and for another $11 adding touch screen. The firmware is proving a bit more tricky. Not impossible though with some more digging. I suspect I know who supplied the parts so some trial and error with individual components might be the way to go.

— Lee Fogarty
top

Saturday 11th August, 2018

Lee Fogarty posts a document in the World of Spectrum facebook group called fuse.pdf showing his "attempts" to prove the original Vega ran Fuse.

Lying Lee Fogarty

As some may know, I was asked by RCL to prove that the original Vega ran with Fuse. I did a couple of documents for this, however this is the last one I produced, formatted to PDF today for ease of use, This may be of interest to the techie people out there - and to rip apart my findings! Interestingly, at the end I point out my thoughts, and RCL demanded that I change my opinion! I had to decline that offer :) They also wanted me to remove mention of speaking to anyone from the Fuse team as that wouldn't work well for them in court!

— Lee Fogarty

The author of FUSE Philip Kendall tears Lee Fogarty's findings apart just 4 minutes later:

I ripped this apart 18 months ago. Those strings are in there because they are embedded SZX snapshots which were saved with Fuse. I've posted the video a year ago showing significantly different behaviour between Fuse and the Vega.

As I requested earlier this week, please stop. You're not helping anybody or the reputation of WoS - if you have the slightest care for that, keep all this crap off this page and on your personal one.

https://jorallan.dreamwidth.org/2474.html

— Philip Kendall

Lee Fogarty's FUSE PDF ripped apart p1

Lee Fogarty's FUSE PDF ripped apart p2

Lee also uploads a firmware investigation he created called firmware.pdf.

Lying Lee Fogarty

So, the result of me not producing what RCL wanted from the Fuse document, they refused to pay for the firmware investigation to continue. Provided here is as far as I got and by no means a complete document - it's also left out the technical bits (hows & whys), as well as screenshots.

— Lee Fogarty

Lee Fogarty's firmware investigation
top

Monday 13th August, 2018

YouTube channel Mark Fixes Stuff reviews the Vega+, scoring it 2 out of 10 in a video called Sinclair Vega Plus Handheld - One Week Review - Vega + - RCL - Retro Computers Ltd.

top

Wednesday 15th August, 2018

A new 22 minute long review (including a drop-test) is released called A Cannibalvern special - The Vega+ Review:

top

Friday 17th August, 2018

Gareth Corfield attends the court hearing to decide the costings between Paul Andrews vs David Levy, Suzanne Martin and Janko Mrsic-Flogel. Gareth publishes an article on TheRegister called ZX Spectrum reboot scandal biz gets £35k legal costs delayed: But just for a month - and what a month September will be for its directors. Highlights from the article:

  • The directors of the company at the heart of the ZX Spectrum reboot scandal have been ordered to pay yet more legal costs as they keep trying to kick their financial woes into the long grass.
  • At a hearing in London’s Royal Courts of Justice earlier today, David Levy, Suzanne Martin, Janko Mrsic-Flogel and Retro Computers Ltd (RCL) succeeded in having an oral hearing to assess earlier legal costs delayed until mid-September – but were ordered to pay £900 to cover the costs of today’s legal wranglings.
  • The hearing shed light on RCL’s steadily mounting legal costs following the ZX Spectrum Vega+ handheld game console scandal.
  • Claiming legal costs against RCL and its directors are former directors (and current shareholders) Paul Andrews and Chris Smith. The two sides are arguing over who should pay the lawyers’ bills from a High Court case heard last year brought by Andrews and Smith to stop RCL stripping them of their shares. RCL has repeatedly sought to delay anything that might be a step towards a final costs judgment, with today seeing a repeat of the same behaviour. Approximately £35,000 is now at stake.
  • Hearings in the Senior Court Costs Office, itself a court, are not like other court hearings. They take place when two (or more) sides in a High Court case can’t agree on legal costs. Both sides’ lawyers prepare detailed breakdowns of how money was spent during a previous court case (for example, preparing documents, replying to letters, etc) and a costs judge then rules what must be paid and who must pay it.
  • Costs proceedings are supposed to be finished within three months of the main case. RCL's case has taken more than a year, achieving legal time extension after time extension.
  • As he tried to convince the judge to set the next hearing date as far into the future as he could, RCL chairman David Levy, wearing a pale jacket and an open-necked shirt, complained to the judge: “We have to get hold of various documents... this is one of the problems, [Andrews and Smith] sent us some documents during this whole horrible dispute but we haven’t got everything.”
  • Chief Master Marsh, presiding at today’s hearing and the most senior judge of the Senior Court Costs Office, told RCL’s directors: “I appreciate life wasn’t straightforward for you. Nonetheless, we are over a year from when we should have done this. The claimants are entitled to require you to get on with it so really it’s just a question of you getting on with it.”
  • Undeterred, Levy continued: “May I ask the question, if our solicitors are unable or unwilling for any reason to provide the documents, are we entitled to seek those documents from the other side and are they?”
  • Chief Master Marsh, smiling patiently but firmly, interrupted Levy: “They’re not obliged to provide them. The obligation is on you to obtain the documents from your solicitors. If you have difficulties you can apply back to the court for an extension of time. That’s not going to be looked on with great sympathy.”
  • Some days before the hearing, RCL’s solicitors, Michelmores LLP, told the court they were no longer acting for the scandal-hit company. All its directors were present in person to defend themselves.
  • Janko Mrsic-Flogel, RCL’s CTO, piped up towards the end of the hearing to ask the master why the directors were individually liable for costs from the High Court case. Chief Master Marsh replied: “Those proceedings have effectively finished. We’re now dealing with costs, everybody entitled with costs needs to be a party, or be obliged to pay costs. You all need to be parties for the purposes of paying costs in proceedings.”
  • When Mrsic-Flogel asked if there was “a way to get the personal names removed” the judge said “I very much doubt it.”
  • The master also asked Levy in passing whether RCL was still in existence, to which its chairman replied: “Yes.”
  • Chief Master Marsh ordered at the end of the hearing that unless RCL, Levy, Martin and Mrsic-Flogel filed requests for provisional costs assessments by 4pm on 14 September, “the costs to which they would otherwise be entitled... shall be disallowed.” The costs bill before this hearing was just over £34,000, with today's costs order of £900 being added to that.
  • Lee Fogarty, a former RCL contractor who has since entered his own legal dispute with it over allegedly unpaid money, was dropped from today's costs order at Andrews and Smith’s barrister’s request. It was said that he only became aware that he was named in the proceedings very recently and that he first contacted the Senior Court Costs Office about it on 8 August.
  • This means September will see more legal wranglings over RCL. Whatever happens next, it definitely won’t involve the delivery of more ZX Spectrum Vega+ consoles because a fed-up Sky has withdrawn the right for RCL to use the ZX Spectrum brand.
  • Two RCL customers have recently secured county court judgments against the firm, with one confirming to The Register that he has secured a warrant to enforce it, the full value being £277 including costs.

Immediately after the court case loss, Suzanne Martin and Janko Mrsic-Flogel are terminated as directors but back-dated several weeks. Suzanne Martin shows an apparent termination of August the 3rd and Janko Mrsic-Flogel terminated on August the 7th, 2018.

In a case of incredibly poor timing, Thomas Eberle posts that he stills believes everybody will get their console in the Spectrum Forever facebook group. Thomas Eberle was previously trolling backers by posting a staged handover photo of a Vega+ prototype involving Lee Fogarty at the Spectrum 35 event. 

You think? And what is the reason why the sent out that 400 machines... Just to get some quiet? It won't work because are still about 4000 others who didn't get anything. I still believe all will get their console.

— Thomas Eberle

Thomas Eberle believes all will get their consoles

An updated prediction analysis of how many Vega+ have been shipped has been shown in the backers collective facebook group:

It looks as though almost all of the RCL Vega+ shipment has been delivered. Prediction suggests the most likely figure is 215 units. Playing statistically safe, we can be 95% confident that deliveries are less than 223 units.

I've been using three ways to predict the total delivered from the subset of serials that have been reported. The assumption is that they used serials, starting at one, and incrementing. The only data-driven challenge to that assumption, is that serials 61-80 remain missing from the reported data.

  1. A bit crude. Take the average and double it: Gives 215 units.
  2. German Tank Problem method: Gives 215 units.
  3. Using Monte Carlo method: Gives 213 units at 50/50 confidence.

Verified delivered units: 87

Serial numbers: 45 100 23 95 12 93 179 182 6 147 158 59 91 154 155 50 141 203 210 198 138 164 31 194 133 97 92 207 38 107 35 14 19 52 169 152 172 160 82 159 53 84 99 199 123 113 105 90 85 36 4

data count=51, max serial=210, average=107

Reporting rate: reports/estimated deliveries 39.05 percent

Scatter map
----x-x-----x-x----x 20
---x-------x---xx-x- 40
-----x----x-xx-----x 60
-------------------- 80
--x-xx----xxxx-x-x-x 100
x----x-x-----x------ 120
---x---------x----x- 140
-x-----x----x-xx--xx 160
x---x----x--x------x 180
--x-----------x---xx 200
---x---x--x--------- 220
-------------------- 240
-------------------- 260
-------------------- 280
-------------------- 300

50 percent confidence bound in range 1 to 213
95 percent confidence bound in range 1 to 223
99 percent confidence bound in range 1 to 230

— Chris Whittington
top

Saturday 18th August, 2018

Paul Andrews posts in the ZX Vega Plus Backers Collective Legal Action Group:

Paul Andrews

The following statement has been sent to Levy by email, copying in the various SRL representatives. It will be followed up by formal paperwork on Monday to call for a new second shareholders vote to remove Levy as the sole remaining director of RCL, and replace him with an independent one to assess the state of the company. I also made it clear the following statement of why we are taking this action will be posted to you, the backers.


In light of yet another frivolous visit to court yesterday, David Levy has saddled RCL with yet more debt. Friday's appearance had nothing to do with RCL or its future success it was in a vain attempt to remove himself, Martin and Mrsic-Flogel as co debtors in the previous high court action.

Let's remind ourselves that this previous action was as a direct result of David Levy’s (as the judge confirmed in the high court) unlawful attempt to steal the shares held by myself in RCL, and potentially those of Chris after that. Even though there was no basis in law for this action, in his hubris, Levy continued with his activities, certain of victory. Instead he was soundly beaten with judgment in our favour for costs in that matter. This will cost RCL potentially anything between £35,000 and £49,000 depending on the final amount awarded (with potentially further costs on top on that without wishing to pre-empt the decision of the courts), this also being on the presumption the company has the money currently with which to pay these court award debts, if not the debt will be shared by the remaining director David Levy, and the now two ex-directors, Martin and Mrsic-Flogel, as all four parties are jointly and inseverably responsible in this matter.

In light of Mr Levy's failure to produce more than a handful of VEGA+ units, his loss of the Sinclair trademark, his inability to fulfil the remaining backer orders, his suspected false accounting to HMRC, the flow of County Court actions against RCL (with two backer CCJs already showing on credit records, and more ongoing which RCL is no longer even contesting we understand), the resignations of Martin and Mrsic-Flogel yesterday, and of course his squandering of almost £1m in company funds as evidenced in the company bank statements, we will once more call a shareholders meeting for a vote on the removal of David Levy as the sole remaining director of RCL, and the replacement of him with an independent director who can assess the past 2.5 years of trading, and the current state of the company, and take the appropriate action upon these findings.

It has come to our attention also that a potential group action against RCL has been actioned by a growing number of backers, this is also without the publically confirmed legal action by Indiegogo to recover backer money (who have once more confirmed I am not down as the campaign owner), and the ongoing and growing press coverage in this matter.

We will continue to do this until Mr Levy is removed from office, and can no longer damage our company. As shareholders we are liable to prevent our company from trading insolvently, and currently this is the situation it is believed, and there is no likelihood of trading out of the current position it would seem, and the only way to establish this, is by the appointment of an independent director who can make this assessment.

Formal physical documentation will be sent to the company registered office on Monday, to accompany this statement.

— Paul Andrews

Latest Funky Spectrum RCL Videos

More terrible press for the much maligned console and to make matters worse, Sky have now insisted that the company no longer use the Sinclair name and its related trademarks.
(02/08/2018)

A tiny amount of the promised 400 have been spotted in the wild and there's not a single positive review.
(01/08/2018)

RCL really do seem to be trying to "go for broke" here, with their lawyers now contacting them to chase over a quarter of a million pounds in unpaid fees...
(03/07/2018)

Indiegogo Campaign

"Our Indiegogo campaign is to raise funds to manufacture the first 2,500 or more units of the Vega+ in the UK, and to prepare us for the second production run."

— RCL (15/02/2016)

Vega+ Status

  • All refunds processed:
  • Roll of honour email:
  • Address confirmation:
  • Battery specification:
  • PEGI certification:
  • Final specs released:
  • Games list released:
  • Finished box design:
  • Manual released:
  • Working website:
  • Final devices made: 0
  • Small claims victories: 0
  • Prototypes made: ~100-200