Supersize Your Apple II Experience by Adding a Hot Raspple Pi [Part 2]

The Raspple II package is a great interface. I am excited about the communications that it is able to do, although to be truthful I haven’t spent lot of time on that side of the house, and in part that is based on my approach to interfacing my Windows 7 machine to the Raspberry Pi. I wanted to use Xming because it would serve up individual X windows from the raspberry pi and I liked that option. The main reason for this preference is because I had to have a conceptual sorting out between emulated and real machines, I thought less is more with regards to my display.

Setting up PuTTY with X11 forwarding and installing and running Xming allowed me to access the GUI of the Raspberry Pi immediately, but when I tried to access other programs, mainly GSports and Kegs, I could see the Raspberry Pi loading the programs, and I could see the X window launch on my Windows 7 machine, but the X window would close and I was left with a segmentation fault.

My week was spent tracking down a solution to this fault.

I visited forum after forum, Apple II forums,  Linux forums, Windows forums, programmer forums, gamer forums, religious forums, weight-lifting forums. I was on the Internet, the Darknet and the Meshnet. I searched high and low and finally I found my answer here:

https://wiki.utdallas.edu/wiki/display/FAQ/X11+Forwarding+using+Xming+and+PuTTY

Near the bottom of the page, under the heading of “A Few Gotchas” you will find a link to download some fonts for Xming. That’s it. Now, I could serve up X windows for KEGS and GSports.  Nice.

While I was exploring the internet with ProTerm I realized that Raspple II didn’t come with telnet installed so from the Raspberry Pi terminal I did a quick:

sudo apt-get install telnet

Now the world of telnet BBS is available in a very satisfactory way.

Also I discovered that one can engage Twitter from the Raspberry Pi via TTYtter.

sudo apt-get install ttytter

You can read more about TTYtter here: http://www.floodgap.com/software/ttytter/

Basically, TTYtter is using OAuth and basic HTTP authentication to sign you in and streaming API to keep you updated. I find the interface a bit crowded, but it’s still amazing to use.

Althoguh the text is a bit claustrophobic, the regular refresh rate makes this application a nice addition to the Raspple II.

Although the text is a bit claustrophobic, the regular refresh rate makes this application a nice addition to the Raspple II.

So, although most of my week was spent troubleshooting a relatively easy fix, my next steps are to create the CF images I want to support this new found Apple II power and delve even further into the Raspple II.

Supersize Your Apple II Experience by Adding a Hot Raspple Pi

Not so long ago, (at least as reckoned the retro-computing event time-scale), I saw a video that blew my mind. I really didn’t understand all of what was happening when I saw it, and in the name of full disclosure, I still don’t fully understand all the ramifications. I understood that this bit magic was new, and as such I should fear and loathe it, as is meet, right, and natural. But, I fought that feeling and you should too. So, open this link in another browser tab if you have the bandwidth or ability, and I will tell you this saga of high adventure.

It was Thursday, 25 JUL 13 and I was in Kansas City, MO when I first encountered a pairing of a Raspberry Pi with an Apple II. I witnessed a presentation by Ivan Drucker on the subject demonstrating the possibilities available using the Raspberry Pi Linux based OS, Raspbian, paired with A2SERVER (Network file server and network boot host for Apple IIgs and IIe computers) and A2Cloud (Mass storage, internet access, and floppy disk transfer for any Apple II computer via David Schmidt’s ADTPro and VSDRIVE). I remember after the talk that I needed to study this more, because there was no reason that the interface between a Pi and an Apple couldn’t yield a greater overall end user experience. Just a few months later, into the mix enters David Schmenk’s Apple Pi video. Watch it and study it. There is no explanation except what you can observe . Oh yeah, and an entire blog dedicated to explaining the Apple Pi.

This is your Apple II on the Raspple II!

This is your Apple II on the Raspple II!

I have to admit, I delayed getting a Raspberry Pi because it seemed I would need a HDMI connection which for me would mean a new monitor purchase for it to be meaningful, and I didn’t want to use that for a justification to buy a new monitor, apparently. So, I put off it off until Ivan Drucker started posting about the Raspple II  and I could see this metamorphosis taking place. That broke me and I purchased a Raspberry Pi not too long after.

I wanted to get to know the Raspberry Pi and play with it a little in my way. Looking around, I found that I could run a Linux based penetration testing distro on a Raspberry Pi, and thought, “How funny would it be to demonstrate to somebody how I could hack into my home network and own my network boxes with an Apple II?”

So I pieced some things together, The Pi, Charles Mangin’s Apple II keyboard to USB Arduino, an SD card with Kali Linux ARM pentesting OS and got it up and running. In an Apple IIe the parts are very storable, enough to evade a casual inspection under the hood. Too funny. I fired it up and tested it out. Nice! I could enumerate and test my home network from an Apple II looking base. Nobody wants to hear that their security could potentially be penetrated by an Apple II! Who’s got time for that? The set up worked well, was easy to convert to, and I can’t wait to spring that illusion sometime.

So while I was fiddling on that set up I remembered about using Putty and Xming. briefly, Xming is an X Server for Windows and I remembered that I could SSH into a Linux OS and have it serve up X Windows. I’ll explain more about this later on, but the big picture is that I would not be needing to purchase a new monitor.

Yesterday was the day that I had everything I needed to made a foray into this Raspple II adventure including the enthusiasm. I decided that the platform would be the Apple IIGS, I set about with the set up, picking the cards and what not. This setup will include a Uthernet card, a Drew ][ audio card to feed GS audio into my computer's audio, and a hard drive of some type that I have not determined as of yet. Choices include a Focus card with a 500MB IDE hard drive, a Focus card with 256MB CF, a CFFA 3000 with USB support, and a MicroDrive CF. Currently I am using the 256MB CF Focus because it was the first one I loaded out and it had ProTerm on it.

One minor setback, but I am glad I found it: My second(fifth?)-hand Apple IIgs came with a corroded battery pre installed. I finally observed it and pulled it out for replacement. I was lucky in that the battery did not leak to badly, although there was a lot of corrosion, not so much to the to the battery holder terminals, so my afternoon was engaged in a clean up operation. I then discovered hoe amazingly sophisticated the Apple IIgs was designed: All of the major computer component fasteners are tabbed allowing easy access and replacement. I did not know that. When I was satisfied I moved on with the set-up.

Before and after battery maintenance.

Before and after battery maintenance.

 

I set up the Raspple II. The package is downloadable from Ivan’s site, and the instructions are very clear and easy as far as SD card set up and deploying the system. After I had the package set up and working, I disconnected everything on the Raspberry Pi board except the ethernet and the USB power. I then added a USB to serial connection. This was attached to my printer port on the Apple II gs.

That’s it so far, I do not even have the Uthernet connected as of yet.

My Putty SSH session and LinApple window.

My Putty SSH session and LinApple window.

I was able to connect to the Rasberry easily through the serial port using ProTerm 3.1 Just by going to Online => Parameters and choosing Baud Rate:4800/Emulate:DEC VT-100/Uncheck Status Bar?/Line Status:Online, I was now at the Raspberry Pi command line from the Apple IIgs’s screen. I am also able to log in to the Raspple II via ssh connection using Putty and issue the command “startldxe” to bring up the GUI on the windows machine. I can also use SFTP to transfer files between Windows and Raspbian. There’s a lot more that I can experiment with, but I am currently having an issue with KEGS deploying and want to work some more to figure this out. I will update soon when I make some more headway.

Raspberry Pi desktop served up with Xming.

Raspberry Pi desktop served up with Xming.

Due Diligence for a Replicant

I have spent the past 24 hours searching gathering and assimilating information about a topic I find most interesting and rewarding:  Infocom. I admit that it was an unusual turn that brought me back to this old haunt, and one, that I have learned from the archives, which, historically, has a well-traveled path. And I blame it all on the Replica 1TE.

There is far more reading and investigating that goes on with the Replica 1TE than I would have thought initially.  Due to the fact I like to exhaust resources before I ask questions, I should have seen that coming.  This past week I have been deep inside the document archives looking for information and it has paid off well. I love pulling the string on the sweater just to see what unravels. Early this week I continued to research magazines, trying to support my QUarterly Accurate Software Apparatus and References (QUASAR) proposition that I made last weekend. It was during this period that I became very curious to look at Open Apple Magazine as I had only read it when it was current and wanted to go back and have a read. I made it through precisely one sentence. From Open Apple Volume 1 Number 0:

“Uncle DOS, the beloved leading character of Softtalk magazine’s monthly DOS talk column, is in good condition after a close brush with death.”

All right.  That was a detail I had missed: Open Apple was kind of sequel to a magazine that is mysterious to me. I stopped right there and decided to investigate Softtalk magazine.  I’m glad I did. I learned that Softtalk illuminated all parts of the Apple world of the time, from programming, game playing, business use, home use, as an industry, as a hobby, as a toy, and a culture. It even ran fiction. This magazine had it all, at least for me, because it saw the Apple II as I do: A cultural touchstone.  I began in earnest to look for scans of this magazine and found a few issues. It’s a beautiful magazine, and I pondered reasons that I may not have come across it in my Uncle’s computer shelves. There are only 2 reasons I can think of.  First of all, my uncle embodied the definition of hardcore computer hobbyist and this magazine didn’t have the myriad of dry technical articles, useful and not, that were abundant in other computer journals of the time, so the issues that must have come with his Apple II were not well-regarded.  The second is that I didn’t see them for what they were, and overlooked them amongst the copies of Byte, 73, CQ, Nibble, Compute and others that he subscribed to, because it didn’t look like a computer magazine.  It looked like an entertainment magazine, to judge a book by the cover. I found some good information about maybe coming across scans of this publication in the future, but for now I am on hold. I did, however find the Softtalk Facebook page.

I am not exactly sure of the reason but that branched me into looking at Beagle Bros and I think it was because as I studied my machine language book I wanted a reference and made the wall paper from the previous post.  I started looking into Beagle Brother catalogs, trying to get information about the time frame of each software release.  This came about because I wanted more information about Shape Mechanic.  I was inspired by a stray idea about making a shoot ‘em up for the Apple II.  I have a theme for the game and even have the screen layout and style.  I sketched out a few of  the shapes I am going to need. I do not have the permissions to do it, but I am going to do it anyway, try to stay high quality, and let the chips fall where they might. Along these lines I wanted to see if Beagle Bros could help me with some shapes as I designed them.  I was looking for a manual or information on Shape Mechanic, and came up empty. It was then that I saw something in Beagle Bros catalog 2.5 and got lost in some US Festival moments via YouTube.So, researching my game idea, I discovered that Jordan Mechner actually made available some project notes from the days when he was working on Karateka and Prince of Persia.  This may be old news to some, but I was genuinely excites when I tumbled across this information on Amazon. I am looking forward to this as I hope it will help me bitsmith my game idea.

1983 US Festival

Woz’s favorite invention is titled by Beagle Bros

And it is at this point that the thing I am waiting for arrives.  I met the postman at the door and snatched it from his hands.  I was now the owner of  Rich Dreher’s CFFA 1.  That’s right, my Replica 1 had more available storage space than it could imagine in its little electric dreams.  Within hours of receiving it I began toying with where I could take this machine now that my files have permanence, and lots of it. Within hours of exploring the new set up I had locked in on an idea I had read about that combines the Replica 1TE with Infocom adventures and all weekend I have been hooked into finding out how to make that weird but beautiful thing happen.

I will update you about that later this week, as I think it’s a post that deserves its own entry.

Beagle Bros Wallpaper

I’ve been studying the programmer’s equivalent of Latin as of late, and have spent more time in the books that I have on the keyboard.  Because my Apple II command center is next to my main computer I decided I could make reference desktop wallpaper (1920×1080) to help me cheat along the way as I explored.  It’s a little busy, I’ll admit, but readable in a pinch (currently).

I am only putting this here as a reference as the original source images have been made available from the good people at the Internet Archive and the Beagle Bros Software Repository.

(Click . . .Right Click . . .Save Image As. . . )

Beagle Bros Desktop Wallpaper

Beagle Bros Desktop Wallpaper (1920×1080)

Replica 1TE: Chicken Soup for the Digital Soul.

Three weeks ago I found a Replica 1TE in my mailbox and it has altered the way that I think about my Apple II computers.

(Please wait here, in the dramatic pause, until the above statement sinks in.)

 

 

I had purchased the Replica 1TE because I was curious about the Apple I after getting the chance to see and operate one of few known legitimate and functioning models in real life.

Apple I computer at KansasFest 2013

Apple I visiting KansasFest 2013

Although there are variations of the Apple 1 re-models available with varying degrees of physical mimicry of the original design, I decided to go with the Vince Briel model, in part because it was immediately available, in part because the design is compact and to my eye elegant, and in part because I have had correspondence with Vince and, also by all accounts of mutual acquaintance, seems to be a Super-Dynamite Human Being™ which is the highest title that I am willing to confer to anyone.

My initial thoughts were like this: I would have this board that I could reference once in a while, when seeking out some more esoteric information, or at the bare minimum a reference point to compare the operation differences between what I only knew as a predecessor and my first experiences on the Apple II.  In the first week that changed drastically.  That innocuous green board sitting on my desk with the patience of a chopping block drew me in.  There were some things I had to gather to determine the assembled operational status of this device.  I needed a 7-9VDC  power supply, a ps-2 or Apple II Keyboard and a monitor of some type. I had some 8-32 standoffs that I screwed into the PCB, just barely, that would support the board above a surface.  I was literally tapped the fastener holes because the fit was so close, but in the end the standoffs were a satisfactory fit.

New Replica 1TE with Stand Offs

My New Replica 1TE. Stand-offs not included.

 

I began, what was for me at this particular moment a literal scavenger hunt for these excess components that I have stashed in various places like the pack rat that I can’t admit that I am. after 3 days I had the final set up: A Cherry industrial keyboard salvaged from its electronic recycling destiny, a 9VDC wall wart, a 7 inch LCD DVD player with A/V input, and a Composite to 1/4 inch video cable.  I spent another day looking at the assembled parts and then I saw how it should go together.  I had an old wooden cigar-box that a friend had sent me as part of a mailed package. It was just before bed during the work week that inspiration hit and the muse took over and I began working the wood on the cigar-box. I carved out a pass-through or two and a recess to fit the edge connection outcropping from the board. I worked out the rudimentary design and in a little while had a working case for this  electric collection.

Replica 1TE in Cigar Box.

Replica 1TE in the Cigar Box Case with display. Perdomo Lot 23, if you must know.

Initial testing reveal that I had a high resistance connection on R4 and a re-solder job showed the board working in perfect order.  I flipped through the manual and began some machine language demos and received the proper responses from the machine. And it was during this exercise that I realized this board was going to change my relation ship with my Apple II computers.  There is a certain austere purity to the Replica 1TE that forces your mind to deal to the elemental properties of computing.  Every chip and component is literally naked before you and there are no excesses to be bothered with.  I now have a drive to seek more information than the 6502/Apple I articles I may have glanced over before. I want to know more about these processor level operations, immersing myself in various means to gain knowledge, and I and doing this for one sole reason:  I find it incredibly fun.  There is something fun about manipulating that little chip and the limited environment, at least for me, keeps me from getting distracted with all the things I find great about an Apple II.  The limited environment gives me the sensation that it is actually enhancing my working knowledge of my Apple II’s in an engaging manner that, quite honestly, I felt I was too  jaded to feel. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Apple II platforms, but the way I was perceiving my experience with them. . . well, I was getting in a rut and didn’t quite know how to get out.

So here is the question:  ”What did the Apple I bring to the table that wasn’t there before?”

Chiefly, I wanted to know more about the Apple 1 and you can’t know more about the Apple 1 without knowing more about the 6502, so I began learning and refreshing what I knew.  In that process I had remembrance of an idea the Sean Fahey and I had talked about a long time ago, and the was the idea of  chronologically correct computing wherein an enthusiast would pick a time frame and match platforms, peripherals, software, and references to the time selected to have a very real retro experience in our modern setting. I began to get a renewed interest in this idea, maybe choosing not only a year but maybe a quarter wherein all quotable sources before the selected time would be permissible.  I even thought of naming the idea:  QUarterly Accurate Software Apparatus and References (QUASAR) if such an idea isn’t already fashioned. So as I researched original documents like the Manual for the Apple 1, I started to discover some of the details Vince had included in his manual, such as the demo program I began my Apple 1 life with, was the original demo program from the Apple 1 manual. Intriguing!

I started to develop even more questions.

I wanted to get a timeline of Apple II related magazines and other computing magazines in general, and publishing dates. In this research I found the point where Open-Apple magazine became A2-Central magazine.  I subscribed to Open-Apple and couldn’t believe I didn’t know this happened, but alas, it occurred when I left to pursue Art School education and my relationship with the Apple II was waning.  I also became curious about Byte magazine, since it was so ahead of the curve for micro magazines starting in 1975.  That’s when I learned how Wayne Green started “Byte” as an offshoot from “73″ magazine (an Amateur Radio publication) due to the many micro articles that were appearing therein.  That explained why my uncle was so on board with the Apple II when it became available in 1977.  He had been reading and experimenting with micro as it related to his Amateur Radio obsession. I went back to find Byte Magazine in PDF form  and then looked into earlier 73 articles looking for micro articles. I wanted to see if there was an inflection point of articles that spurred the decision to publish a separate magazine, but I think Wayne Green just spotted the trend early and seized it. Reading the early 73 magazines were amazing for me.  I found an 1975 advertisement for a surplus electronics store that I frequented when I was in the Navy twenty years ago and is still in business today. It’s the little things I am reading that keep drawing me in.

By the end of my second week I had a stack of sources I wanted to look into further, to get a better picture for an Apple II that I want to set up QUASAR style. I also started to take a closer look at programming the Replica I and realized my machine language/assembly language skills are abysmal. It’s not that I need a crash course to operate the Replica 1. It comes with stacks of extras so that you aren’t limited to machine language. It includes Apple 1 BASIC and mini assembler, KRUSADER, on board, awaiting your call.  Each is robust and easy to program, I just felt that I need to know more about what I was toying with.  I began to seek out information.  As a leftover of my magazine searches, I looked at the Book of Softkeys. What I immediately wanted out of this book was to take notes from a couple of articles about Boot Tracing that I found.  I wanted to reconcile this information with what I realized about Boot Tracing this summer at KansasFest thanks to a talk that I saw Martin Hayes give. I thought I understood it, but time has passed and I want to learn it again in my way I suppose.  Martin gave his talk with an Apple II keying in the outline of his discussion as he went along.  I wish I had taken a video of the talk, or had access to some audio so I could refresh that “a-ha” feeling I had when he finished.  Even so, the larger details remain an I have begun to reconcile them with these instructions to give me a better grasp.

I also have been investigating 6502 references to help me understand and learn a bit more.  I am working through a book entitled “6502 Assembly Language Programming” that is a textbook with quizzes that is possibly below the bar for some but for me, I think it is just the remedy. The second impressive learning resource I have been hanging out at is the tutorial section at 6502.org, specifically the Easy 6502 tutorial by Nick Morgan which features an in browser assembler for one to learn with, so, for me, it’s 6502 anywhere that has an Internet connection these days.

BRK.

The RetroConnector

Whilst the annual Apple II celebratory activities were drawing to a close, I found myself wandering the vendor fair, my mind agog with the oddities and wonders that can only fascinate the Apple II eccentrics and their onlookers. It was during this experience, that I stumbled across the table manned by Charles Mangin, who had presented several variations of RetroConnector in an earlier presentation.

“What the hell is a RetroConnector“, you ask.  Hey, no need to get ill-tempered, my level-headed friend, just collect yourself and I’ll explain.  The RetroConnector that I own is an Arduino shield interface that turns the built-in keyboard of an Apple  //e into a standard USB keyboard that is recognized by any modern computer. There is also a version for the Apple //c.  ”Why would I want to do that”, I can hear you thinking. Again I will tell you:  Because it is wonderful.

Charles Mangin's RetroConnector //e

Charles Mangin’s RetroConnector //e

I bought a RetroConnector for my IIe, stuck it in my cargo pocket and rode all the way home, through TSA, who seemingly unconcerned about the RetroConnector as a threat. Monday evening I hustled my desk area into a new configuration, wherein I deployed the Apple IIe as my main keyboard.  I simply grabbed my fully stocked Apple IIe, pulled the keyboard cable from the motherboard, popped the keyboard cable to the RetroConnector, and integrated the device betwixt the Apple IIe and my laptop with a USB Type-A to Mini-B connector.

At this frame in time, the universe paused for a moment, I saw a preternatural golden shimmer transverse the green hues of my motherboard circuitry and I think Slot 6 winked at me.

Immediately upon trying it out on my lappy, the tactile response was perfect.  It was exactly the subtile ingredient missing from hundreds of base station set ups I had tried over decades to get the feel right. For me this feel is right, as the Apple II is the keyboard that I learned to touch type on, and the keyboard that will always feel right to my sense of how a keyboard should function.  It is also the keyboard I have been writing this post with.

For the past 2 weeks or there a bouts, I have been using this Apple IIe keyboard as my daily rig and have been loving it.  The first thing I noticed is that the DELETE key functionality has been restored to the way I have learned it should work; as an erasing backspace instead of a cursor that eats letters to the right of it.  It took me years to retrain my brain and fingers to accept this lie when I started using a PC.  So, I’d like to thank Charles for showing up in the Nebuchadnezzar and pulling me out of the Matrix.  Of course, there is a quick firmware change to fix that functionality if you decide to take the blue pill and live the lie.

But what if I were to tell you that the RetroConnector could do more?

Well buckle up, Spanky, you going for a ride.  Check out this video that details the result of a RetroConnector experiment involving a Raspberry Pi and an Apple IIc.  Do it.  Do it even if you are not interested because the music is great.

And then get yourself one of these things!

The Wozpak Special Edition

Early upon my visit KansasFest, and I mean something on the order of me carrying my luggage to my dorm room, I had the pleasure of meeting Brian Wiser. I will admit this, but not proudly:  I didn’t really know who he was, at first,  until we had talked for a bit.  And talking for a bit was actually quite easy, as Brian is a genuinely nice guy to talk with.

I learned a lot about Brian during my time at KansasFest.  I learned he is an Apple enthusiast, Archivist, Film Director of “Done The Impossible,” and, probably my most direct interface with his work up until this point, he runs the Beagle Bros  and Applied Engineering Archive web sites.  I was really glad to meet Brain because the information I gleaned from those two websites alone were phenomenal. Any long time reader of both this web page and it’s Rev. 1 incarnation can tell you, I am a huge Beagle Bros fan.  I always found their public interface, tips, tricks, and code to be succinct, elegant, and sophisticated, three adjectives I try to apply with varying degrees of success to my own endeavors.

Brian had the opportunity to present a Special Edition Apple II book to the public.  Now, anytime an Apple II book makes it to press I am interested, an this was no exception, but there was a heightened experience about this announcement. The book itself, A.P.P.L.E Apple Pugetsound Program Library Exchange Presents “The Wozpak Special Edition: STEVE WOZNIAK’S Apple-1 & Apple ][ Computers" was announced with Steve Wozniak in attendance.

Wozpak Announcement

Brian Wiser announces The Wozpak Special Edition

It was a grand moment, and Woz spoke a little about how his notes came about and some early Apple history. It was impossible for me not to purchase a copy of the book.

Straight out of the gate, delivery of the book was ever so quick. The publishing of the book is by Lulu Press who, because they are transcendent and state-of-the-art, are able to deliver copies of this book quickly. Opening the book I find quite readable printouts and hand written notes about the routines and operations of both the Apple-1 and Apple ][ machines.  This is an incredible package, allowing me to keep a bound physical medium desk side and I continue to drill down in understanding the workings of my hardware of choice.  Benefits that I can clearly see in this tome is that I will be able to keep my own hand written notes and pages with the volume for my own reference, as I am apt to do.  I am a big user of physical media, mainly because its physical presence acts as a residual reminder of what you were trying to accomplish at a later date.  Needless to say I am notably pleased with this book of the most august quality and its high-standard reproduction of Woz's notes to the public about his most wonderful machines.

Currently, I am perusing page 249, concerning "Using RTWS Routine".  In part because this is a huge basis for Randy Wigginton's work with Apple, but also because it great to see the original schemes and how they are initially explained so that when I am reading later documents/books I understand the frame-work that they are trying to expand.  I understand that this type of research is not everybody's bag, but for me I truly enjoy this past time, and the have such a high quality source to refer to makes me glad to have me this investment in my basement Apple ][ pursuits.

KansasFest 2013

Originally called The Apple II Summer Conference, KansasFest is a 5 day conference for Apple II computers that has been happening in Kansas City, Mo since 1989 and it has been  the best week I’ve spent anywhere in recent memory.

KansasFest is an experience that I had been hoping to attend. I had made a commitment early in the year to be able to attend.  Making an early reservation proved to be  the anchor I needed to schedule my life around these most important dates and finally make it happen.

I had been following KansasFest online and reading the mailing list.  I had seen the schedule and the schedules of past years in my research.  That research had found me immersed in what I could find online about the events, but even then, I still didn’t feel that I had a good grasp on what it would be like as an experience.  I have been a traveler in one way or another for my entire life. and by now I can pack for a week just about anywhere in the world and never fill a carry on bag,  but this occasion was different. I planned to bring an Apple IIgs with me and I needed a sound strategy.  I decided I need a suitcase,  in part, so that I would have room if I wanted to bring something back that I found a KansasFest but it would also give me the opportunity to bring some iron to KansasFest.  I thought that I would like to have a machine with me, because I did not know what the wee hours would be like in the dorms with so many Apple II enthusiasts running amok.  In my mind’s eye, if there were to be late night cracking sessions, or disk copying sessions, or even some sort of telecommunication exercises, I was not going to be caught off guard.

So, my plan was this: I packed a sleeping bag, so that I would have something to sleep on, aside from the prisoner bedding that was supplied by Rockhurst University, but it also worked for me another way as well.  By spreading a sleeping bag out in my suitcase, it would act as the packing material for my Apple IIgs. I wasn’t sure how this would work out in the end.  I had removed the boards and secured them in ESD preventive packaging and storing them inside a Pelican dry box.  By carefully packing objects strategically around the inside walls of the suitcase, I soon created an environment that I thought would be safe to  fly with. I also packed this suitcase with cabling and with other gear but I did not want to carry with me through TSA security.  The only questionable gear that made it  into my carry on bag where the disk drives, a 3.5″ and a 5.25″ and I can say that the TSA were not threatened by them in the least.  I’m also glad to report that this rig survive successfully through my multi-flight trip to Kansas and also arrived safely back to Boston Logan International.

The exercise of packing for Kansas fast is also very beneficial to me in other ways.  Having decided to bring the IIgs to KansasFest, it forced me to address so gaps in my knowledge about organizing a IIgs hard drive. In coming up with a quick configuration that wouldn’t embarrass me too much should someone take a look at it, I found that by using CiderPress, DropBox and  my CFFA 3000 card with my Windows system. I was able to easily configured the hard drive to the manner that I wanted relatively easy and changes I would make to it virtually could easily be updated physically. (As a side note, a KansasFest presentation by Eric Shepherd regarding Sweet 16 has made me doubt that I should ever use a Windows system again.)

I think I should touch on how I came to know about KansasFest to begin with. In 2008 I found myself with a little spare time on my hands and I began researching Apple II’s as I wanted to build the finest example I could thing of to satisfy some sort of itch I was having.  Popular media, I think, would call it a mid-life crisis, maybe.  It never felt like a crisis to me.  When I think of a mid-life crisis it’s always in a worst case scenario, some kind of Pyrrhic victory wherein someone sacrifices family, friends, values, careers on a Ponce de Leon style quest that really ends up leaving you in far worse shape than if you had just conceded that actions in life have consequences, both benefits and drawbacks.  It maybe that the mid-life crisis that presents itself in different ways, a new wife, a new car, a new profession.  In my case, it was an old computer, and I think it was a way of reaching out across the years and touching something that profoundly shaped my personality, just as it probably is in the aforementioned examples for others.  The act of reaching into the past and embracing some kind of anchor, for me, reinforced who I am in my present. It let me remember and the consequences within my living framework, benign.  My gateway back to the Apple II computer started with Carrington Vanston’s podcast “1MHz”, a hitchhiker’s reference to the Apple II CPU speed.  I found it looking for that exact  tidbit of information. It opened my eyes to Apple II possibilities and that there were new things happening in the Apple II community.

In no time after “1MHz” my mid life crisis arrived via USPS in a poorly packaged cardboard box:  An Apple IIe Platinum, DuoDisk, and Monitor from Mississippi. $18.00 well spent. I immediately set out to make the Apple IIe of my teenage dreams, but that was going to require a little research.  It was the research that made KansasFest such a powerful experience for me.  Reaching out and searching the internet, one by one I found the landmarks that would guide me in the quest to re-establish myself with a significant part of my past.  At first Ryan Suenaga’s “A2 Unplugged” podcast, A2Central, the #a2c.chat irc hangout, KansasFest, Juiced.GS, the Apple II Twitter presence that was so strong.  All of these waypoints were critical to helping me do what I wanted to do with my Apple II. Over the years, I devoured the KansasFest information that came out, photos, topics, etc. in a quest to learn more about it. I knew that one day I would attend, yet year after year the event became submerged in the events of my life.

Wozniak and the Apple I at KansasFest

When the conditions are right at KansasFest, Woz will take the time to talk about the Apple I

So there I was, somewhere after my 5th year of KansasFest observance that I made the commitment to attend.  I purchased my tickets as soon as early registration was announced.  Soon thereafter I bought my airline tickets, my really cheap and really crappy, multi-flight, exit row, back-breaking, knee crushing tickets.  This is one aspect I need to re-think next time. I arrived around noon on Tuesday and was immediately greeted by 2 people who I have only known online.  This was the beginning of the most unusual feeling that would last for the next 12 hours.  As I registered, found my room and my bearings and unpacked, I would again come into something like a lucid dream state  as I met person after person I knew strictly by their online presence or by the websites that they administered.  My cyberspace and my meatspace had found unity and it was the most unusual feeling, one I can only liken to a type of  temporal displacement.  Time had shown itself to be relative and strictly speaking a man-made metric susceptible to manipulation by the current relative experience.  In this unique cloud chamber of sorts,  I can remember in full detail the  events and functions that I attended, but a precise reckoning of time is impossible from my mental records.  I am sure the thing to remember concerning time and the KansasFest event is that there will never be enough of it.

Randy Wigginton and Steve Wozniak pose for the KansasFest paparazzi.

Randy Wigginton and Steve Wozniak pose for the KansasFest paparazzi.

I have to say, between the presentations, the people and the ideas that I encountered at KansasFest, I feel really refreshed and encouraged to pursue some Apple II projects in the upcoming year.  My mind is awash in new concepts that are connected by the some of the achievements presented at KansasFest.  My mind was blown over and over again during the event, and not just by the technical presentations; the experience also reinforced my belief that Apple II people, generally speaking, are one of a kind and willing to nourish ideas in any way they can and it’s that spirit that makes me glad to have been a part of it.  That spirit was everywhere, from the documentaries being shot, the pod casts being recorded, the surprise appearance of Steve Wozniak, it was in the very words of Randy Wigginton’s keynote address.  For one week Rockhurst University was saturated in the Apple II atmosphere and there wasn’t anyone who did not benefit from it.
I am still digesting the experience, and want to write more in-depth about small slices of the experience that were profound to me.  It  seems that although the presentations were world-class, the subjects that they broach are going to cause me to do some research so I can process them and hopefully make some practical applications of the knowledge that was hinted at.  I know so many hours were dedicated to some of the topics being presented and to distill that into about around an hour time slot for presentation means I am going to have to expand some of  it on my own terms a bit.  Hopefully I can share some of my thoughts of these topics with you in the upcoming weeks.

The CFFA 3000: My First Week

Drive Options

I have spent a week with the CFFA 3000 and it has radically changed the way that I approach my Apple IIe.

That is a profound sentence. I have been on Apple computers since 1977. I was there before the disk drive. I saw the rise of the disk II drive and the hard drive. Through out that period, small things changed in the approach to computing with the Apple II’s but the access to information was similar. Warp forward to near present day and the CF MicroDrive.  This was an amazing advance, a ProDOS based hard drive. 128 Megs, partitioned 32 Meg a piece.  Yet because it was ProDOS based, the ability to elegantly access other DOS based software was problematic.  If the program was dos 3.3 based, you could count on Glen Bredon’s Dos.Master to see you through.  But you were still limited, and dependent on a disk drive to access more exotic DOS.

Enter the CFFA 3000

As I covered in the previous post, I spent time re-archiving my original floppy disks with the CFFA 3000.  The methodology of doing this was so simple and brilliant, that the functionality of copying mass disks alone was worth the entry fee to owning this card.  During my first week, I found that this is just the beginning.

The CFFA 3000 is the genius of Rich Dreher. Reading the background information on the website for the CFFA 3000, Rich ran into some of the same obstacles in using other drive cards and then coordinating an Apple II card design effort that perfectly addresses some of the problems in other systems.  The background page is a great overview as to how Rich came back into exploring the Apple II platform, and eventually describing the process that eventually led him to designing the card, and ultimately gaining enough experience levels to become a minor deity by figuring out a way for disk images of many types and DOS persuasions to live happily together on a singe media home.   And I still haven’t explored the full scope of the CFFA 3000.

How I use the CFFA 3000

This first week, as I used the CFFA 3000, I eventually realized I have little use for my floppy disk drives after turning my physical floppy disks into images.  So I removed them from slot six.  Never have I felt more like I was living in the future of retro computing. The CFFA 3000 was living in slot 7, virtual disk II drives assigned to slot six, and my 32 Meg CF .po image that I used with my CF MicroDrive, and had backed up with ADTPro was now assigned to a virtual smart port. That image was residing on a 16 GB USB stick, along with a modified mirror of the Asimov Apple II ftp site.  Now, I could drop a disk image into the root of the USB stick from my main computer and when using the USB stick with my CFFA 3000 and a USB extension i bought separately, I could assign the disks to virtual disk drives 1 & 2.  I could also configure the card to stack the images up on the virtual drives and switch between them with the optional remote.

It made me feel like I was running an Apple IIe in god mode.

I had a USB containing a comprehensive disk image librarythat I could hot swap between my computer and the Apple II.  I could easily backup my files to DropBox  and access them again via an emulator anywhere.  Anywhere, physical or virtual. My Cyber Space and Meat Space are becoming a singularity.

I can’t say enough good things about the CFFA 3000, but as with many things with every benefit there are drawbacks.  In particular case, the drawback is availability.  Mr. Dreher understands and explains that he is primarily a hobbyist in this field and as such he tends to produce this card in batches, and these runs tend to sell out in a short amount of time.  So you can’t get one when you want one, unless you want one when you can get one.  There can be quite a wait for availability, but he is very good about announcing his intentions, challenges in production that cam affect the projected ship date and the like.  The communication whilst waiting for mine was solid and he is fastidious in assuring in deliverables are complete.

Rich Dreher also has a full and interesting gallery of pictures of the CFFA 3000 board being created.

Link to CFFA 3000 Prototype pictures

Click to Check Out The CFFA Prototype Pictures.

Copy the Disk. Repeat.

Set it Up, Grab a Disk.

Prompted by an opportunity to help out a  comrade with some disk archiving , I dusted off the Apple II’s that I had put into storage whilst I updated the home a bit.  I pulled out what has become my main rig, a smart clock enabled zip chip accelerated Apple IIe Platinum.  I took the opportunity to clean it a bit, and ensure everything is in good working order.  I fired it up with a CF MicroDrive that acts as a hard disk and has a PROSel text interface that I am addicted to. And this set up really shows off the abilities of my Kensington track ball.  I attempted to connect to ADTPro via my Uthernet and home network, but I did not.  I needed to configure my home network, and as an exercise I wondered if there might be another way to rig for mass floppy duplication.

I love ADTPro.  It is a fast way to duplicate disks when used in conjunction with a Uthernet card, I am still in awe of the speed of 8-bit information transmission.  I initially duplicated my home library from the 80′s using this method and had no qualms. I recently updated some of my home network components, operating systems and failed initially to make ADTPro connect.  I knew that it would be easy to change the configuration, but I wondered if I it were possible another way.  So now I wanted to look at other possible means.

I knew that I could copy from disk to the CF drive in my CF MicroDrive using standard disk copy software, but then something occurred to me.

Disk Nox Notes

My disk box was the ultimate document filing system.

A New Level of  Disk Copy Power.

Did I mention that I received a CFFA 3000 some time ago?  Probably not, because I have never used it.  I received and put it away a number of long months ago. It was right about the time I took down my Apple II installation to revamp the home a bit. So, I pulled that card from storage and in it went. It only took me a few minutes of experimentation and reading the manual to decide that this was just the thing. By interacting with the firmware n the card, I could store the image of the physical floppy directly to USB, but better yet, it was automated to name them DISK001.DSK, DISK002.DSK, etc., so that was a part of the process I no longer had devote time to.

This simple difference in pre-designating the image file name numerically was a huge difference when I started to copy the same images the second time around. When I made file images the first time, I relied on the image name to remind me what was on the disk, and I found that this method was terribly inefficient when I was looking for specific files, programs, and graphics. With disk image files being numerically named, I could reserve less mental processing power to naming the files and more to concurrently updating the spreadsheet I had open. Now when I copy a disk, the spreadsheet has a column for a disk number, a column for image number (there’s 2 image numbers per disk number in most of my collection), the floppy disk brand, if the disk side copied, if not did the disk boot, notes about track errors during the copy. All in all the process is still fast and a million more times desirable for data sorting purposes. The floppies, once copied, are placed in order of processing in a disk box where I should be able to revisit them for further documentation. Best of all, when the imaging is done, I will have them on a USB that I can then transfer to many storage locations. I am very pleased about how simple this process is.

The way the copy process works with the CFFA 3000 is well suited to my preferences as well.  When the CFFA 3000 does come along a problem sector in a track, it tries to read each sector in the track, and repeats the process quite a umber of times until it succeeds in copying the information or it fails and moves to the next sector.  I was surprised quite a number of times when I heard the drive re-calibrating to find disk information and was sure that the disk would fail only to be amazed when it did not.

After a few hours I had imaged 434 floppy disk sides.  In the end, about 16% failed to copy correctly, typically with a single problem track.  But even though all the disks didn’t copy correctly, some of the files were still readable using CiderPress software.  Also, some of the files are directly replaceable right down to the crack screen on some from on-line archives.  All in all about 5% of the disk library was not copyable.  I made appropriate notes in a spreadsheet and tried to keep my documentation tight. I should, for the most part be able to recreate my classic disk line up.

Having a systematic way of looking at these images also has allowed me to examine some of my teen history.  I can see that a majority of the titles were brought to me by The Midwest Pirates Guild, High Society, and The 1200 Club.   That being said…

                    ¦¯-_-¯¦¯-_-¯¦¯-_-¯¦¯-_-¯¦¯-_-¯¦¯-_-¯¦¯-_-¯¦¯-_-¯¦¯-_-¯¦     

                       Thanx to:  The Freeze
                                  Dr. Micro
                                  The Burglar
                                  Apple Bandit
                                  Mini Appler
                                  Sinbad Sailor

                       Special Thanx:   Hot Rod
         oOo.oOo.oOo.oOo.oOo.oOo.oOo.oOo.oOo.oOo.oOo.oOo.oOo
                      CALL THE ADVENTURERS TAVERN
         oOo.oOo.oOo.oOo.oOo.oOo.oOo.oOo.oOo.oOo.oOo.oOo.oOo
 


A User and his Digital Companions Adventure in the Greatest Computer Age Mankind Has Ever Known

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