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

Saturday 4th August, 2018

Lee Fogarty posts the contents of an email David Levy sent to testers on April 26th 2017:

Beige jacketed cloud headed fraudster David Levy

Dear All,

First I would like to thank all of you most sincerely for giving up your valuable time to test the Vega+. We are enormously grateful to all of you for doing this and especially to Lee for the huge amount he has done to assist us in this process and in many other ways. With your help we will hopefully be able to iron out the various issues which between you have already been reported, and any others which are discovered.

As you probably know, the development work is the responsibility of Janko Mrsic-Flogel and Davide Guidi at Private Planet. Janko and I are good friends and have worked together on various projects for 30 years.

As we move forward with the testing and the curing of the various issues we need to manage this in a structured and calm way. What we have decided is that all reports of bugs and other issues should be sent to me, with cc to Suzanne, not direct to Private Planet and I will add my two pence worth of comments/questions and pass them on to Janko. When Private Planet respond they will likewise do so to myself (cc to Suzanne) and I will similarly pass them on to you guys together with any comments or questions that I wish to add. We very much hope you will agree with this approach whereby I will be in the loop as moderator.

I do not have any Spectrum expertise, but I have been managing development projects in consumer electronics for getting on for 40 years, so hopefully I will be able to assist the process.

— David Levy

According to Lee, Janko Mrsic-Flogel's company Private Planet had quit the previous October and had no intention of finishing the Vega+ project:

Lying Lee Fogarty

Bug report… http://live.worldofspectrum.org/Vega+TaskReport-%2008%20November2017%20.pdf

That was the last we heard about testing. The document I posted was exported from a project management tool I registered with, and put the entries in. David refused to use it, insisting all bug reports were in a word or excel document to be passed around. Because it’s 1995.

It also transpired after that, PP had downed tools the previous October and had no intention of finishing – hence my involvement sourcing replacement FW which was ignored (can’t risk Andrews getting a unit, so dev units)

— Lee Fogarty

A second report of a Vega+ failing to charge is posted by Barel Barelon to the Vega+ Shareholders Petition facebook group:

Well, my unit has stopped working. I left it charging overnight and now it won't turn on. It has not even lasted 48h :(

— Barel Barelon

Barel Barelon's unit stopped working after charging overnight

No reply is made by the RCL twitter account when asked:

top

Sunday 5th August, 2018

Lee Fogarty posts another 2 messages on Indiegogo claiming that Suzanne Martin has been contacting his friends on facebook.

Lying Lee Fogarty

If anyone else receives a phone call from Suzanne Martin from Retro Computers Ltd, I am really sorry – ignore her and hang up. She has gone through my friends list on FB.

— Lee Fogarty

Lee also posts a reply to Gary's question on Indiegogo about which SD cards can be used and that lots of games on the card will slow the unit down significantly:

Lying Lee Fogarty

@Gary- 16gb worked ok on the units I had. I put in 8, 16 & 32gb sd cards. One thing you probably can’t do is have sub folder – so loading 100’s of games slows the unit down. You have to reboot when you put the card in as the unit reads the details on boot. People struggling to get it to charge need to let the battery drain, then plug in – wait until it powers up, then turn brightness right down. It should charge then.

— Lee Fogarty

Lee Fogarty also claims to have emailed David Levy and posts in the World of Spectrum facebook group:

Lying Lee Fogarty

I emailed David Levy last night:-

David,

Please tell your staff - in particular Suzanne, to refrain from contacting my friends on facebook.

Got a reply today:

Dear Mr Fogarty,

Please cease and desist from harassing Suzanne Martin and myself, and do not contact either of us again save for the service of legal documents.

Yours sincerely,

David Levy

— Lee Fogarty

Lee Fogarty emails David Levy

Lee Fogarty also posts on the World of Spectrum facebook group claiming that he has been marked refunded to silence him on Indiegogo:

Lying Lee Fogarty

hi folks.

RCL have refunded my contribution to indiegogo to stop me posting there. Can someone point them to the WoS FB page if they need help getting games working? Ta.

— Lee Fogarty

Lee Fogarty marked as refunded

Lee Fogarty message from Indiegogo marked as refunded
top

Monday 6th August, 2018

Gareth Corfield publishes an article on TheRegister called ZX Spectrum reboot latest: Some Vega+s arrive, Sky pulls plug, Clive drops ball. Highlights from the article:

  • Sir Clive Sinclair's company has accused flailing ZX Spectrum reboot firm Retro Computers Ltd of trading while insolvent. Meanwhile, the firm has delivered some consoles – and been stripped of the brand rights to its flagship product.
  • Last week some customers of Retro Computers Ltd reported on social media that they had received samples of the infamous ZX Spectrum Vega+ console, the firm's flagship product.
  • Initial reviews were not positive, with many commenting on the lack of packaging and absence of items such as an instruction manual or a charging cable, as well as the need for users to manually map keys by themselves before being able to play games.
  • Although the company claimed it was posting out 400 consoles, one irritated customer spun up a probability distribution based on an analysis of serial numbers seen in social media pictures of the device that estimates a figure that is closer to 50.
  • The ZX Spectrum Vega+ scandal has become synonymous in the public eye with the pitfalls of crowdfunding. RCL's raising of £513,000 from more than 4,000 members of the public and subsequent failure to deliver the promised product for two years threw into stark relief the fact that crowdfunding platforms such as Indiegogo are wide open for abuse.
  • Though some lucky customers secured county court judgments against RCL to get their money back, the vast majority have been left out of pocket while RCL's management pumped out unkept promises of production and delivery.
  • In light of last week's developments, The Register is concerned that the first batch of consoles may be the last of the Vega+ ever to see the light of day.
  • The BBC reported that RCL has been stripped of its right to use the ZX Spectrum brand by Sky, which owns the trademark, having bought out Amstrad which in turn acquired the brand from Sir Clive Sinclair himself. Sky also owns the rights to a number of games that were supposed to be bundled with the console, which cannot now lawfully be done.
  • "In a statement provided to the BBC, we confirmed our decision – made in February – to terminate the licence as of 8 May 2018," the company told the Beeb. "To allow as many fans as possible to receive the console, we provided an additional 90 days grace period, which runs until 7 August 2018. This decision has also been communicated directly to David Levy of RCL."
  • Levy, RCL's chairman, had tried to suggest to the BBC that Sky withdrawing the licence was "completely untrue" – ironically.
  • The Register has spoken to irate RCL customers who say they have reported the company to the Insolvency Service. The service has the power to investigate alleged irregularities within registered UK businesses, can apply to have companies wound up and can have individuals disqualified from being company directors.
  • The Register has seen proof that the company bank account was all but empty in early 2017, while around 530 customers have requested refunds totalling £60,135 at the time of writing.
  • The Insolvency Service's involvement could be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, forcibly winding up RCL and holding its management to personal account would satisfy a great number of people. On the other, such moves would also hammer a stake into the corpse of the Vega+.
  • Last week also saw a crunch shareholder vote to dismiss RCL's current board, consisting of Levy, managing director Suzanne Martin and CTO Janko Mrsic-Flogel. They would have been replaced by someone appointed by SRL and the other shareholders: former MD Paul Andrews and former CTO Chris Smith, who designed the firmware for the Vega+ before the directors split in April 2016.
  • The Register understands that the intention was to examine RCL's management accounts and figure out if production of the Vega+ was possible from whatever resources were left in the firm's control.
  • At the twice-delayed shareholders' meeting, SRL abstained from voting on the motion to dismiss the directors. With Andrews, Smith and Levy each owning 25 per cent of RCL, and a 75 per cent threshold being needed to sack the directors, the motion failed.
  • Although SRL failed to take any action, a statement from SRL seen by The Register openly questions whether RCL is trading while insolvent.
  • It should be noted for the record that SRL have serious concerns regarding the solvency of the company and the ability to continue to trade and fulfil all of its obligations. The directors should consider the position and seek the appropriate advice as there is a real concern that the company is trading whilst insolvent.
  • Trading while insolvent is defined as a company being unable to pay its debts as they fall due and its assets being of less value than the total of its liabilities (debts). In plain English, if the cash in RCL's bank account plus whatever can be earned from flogging off company property is less than the total of its debts, the firm is insolvent.
  • The Register has asked RCL to comment on this allegation from SRL. We have also asked an SRL director why, if the company truly believes RCL may be trading while insolvent – which is against the law – it abstained from voting against the people who ostensibly got it into that position.
  • In summary: a handful of RCL customers have received a device that looks something like the originally advertised Vega+. It appears to have been completely redesigned in a great hurry and pushed out of the door to coincide with the shareholders' meeting, presumably to deter SRL from voting to sack the directors – a strategy that paid off.
  • However, for the other 4,250 customers awaiting consoles, they may well be left out of pocket. As RCL can no longer lawfully use the Sinclair branding or more than half of the original 1,000 games that were supposed to be bundled with the Vega+, hope of further deliveries has all but disappeared.
  • What happens next is in the hands of SRL and the Insolvency Service.
  • Crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, which RCL used to raise its initial funding from the public, appears to have changed its systems so money pledged by "backers" (as it calls customers) is recorded as a "pledge" and not an "order".
  • This appears to be a direct result of the January 2018 court case against RCL where the use of the word "order" was what convinced the judge to sweep aside Indiegogo's terms and conditions and rule that a contract of sale had been created.

Jason Brooks responds to a question about an EBay auction for a Vega+ that was removed, and admits he removed it as his Vega+ has also died. This is the 3rd known Vega+ to have died within days of them being released.

This one was actually mine , but after 3 days of not touching it , I picked it up to put some games on it . Only to find its died........ Thought best to take it off in the end ! I wonder how many of these will be brought on eBay then sent back as they aren't working .

— Jason Brooks

Jason Brooks Vega+ has died, the 3rd known defective unit

Lee Fogarty posts in the World of Spectrum facebook group:

Lying Lee Fogarty

This weeks entertainment.

On 17th November 2016, I was emailed some court documents from Paul Andrews/Chris Smith lawyers. They stated I was due in court in London at 10am next day, and any defence had to be filed months before. It was a 5 part case, and there were 5 defendants. RCL, David, Suzanne, Janko & myself.

It was clear to the courts that Andrews/Smith evidence was faked, which included implying I had driven to Luton, hired a van and parked it on Andrews drive. At the same time he was also posting the same photos on twitter accusing others. Another piece of evidence was a screenshot from WoS around 2003 with a joke reference to Renegade - with the year left on the screenshot - that was supposed to be me threatening Andrews.

So, ultimately, on 18th November 2016, I was removed as defendant and all accusations of harassment and abuse dropped. I was to be removed from further documents. In addition, because of the timescales, Michelmores law firm had requested that all defendants sign a form stating they were happy to be represented, and David Levy agreed all costs would be met by RCL.

A few weeks after that, more legal documents were sent to my gf's address despite me no longer being listed as a defendant. These were returned as I don't live with her. The excuse was that they couldn't find my address (despite posting a picture on twitter, and me being on the electoral roll). Ignoring the fact I shouldn't have been sent them anyway.

Because I was removed, an application for my costs was made by RCL. This was awarded in February 2017. In a sealed court document, it clearly states I am not a defendant, and the costs were awarded with only the other 4 named defendants.

There is one paragraph in that document that stands out:-

(1) Such costs as ordered shall be subject to a detailed assessment, if not agreed, and are without prejudice to the obligation of the Claimants to pay the costs of the Fifth Defendant as a result of the discontinuance of the claim against him.

However - to reiterate, these costs were awarded *after* I was removed as defendant, and I'm not named in this document.

All of this is of course old news.

On Friday last week, I received a load more documents stating there is a hearing on 17th August for the costs to be disallowed, and hoho - they want me to pay £2k for their costs in filing!

So, in short, I was taken to court with fake evidence, it was thrown out, I was removed from all further court documents and actions, costs were awarded TO RCL, and now Smith/Andrews want me to pay for them to be removed.

Good luck with that.

— Lee Fogarty

Lee Fogarty this weeks entertainment
top

Tuesday 7th August, 2018

Today is the final day that Retro Computers Ltd are allowed to use the names Sinclair, ZX, and Spectrum.

Carry on Gaming release a YouTube video review called Vega+ or Vegargh+?

The ZX Vega+ Refunds Request page shows 530 backers have requested refunds totalling £60,135.

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

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.

 

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