Welcome to the Machine

One of the aspects that I like about my abstract and amorphous endeavors on the Apple II platform is the opportunity to research topics and get a better understanding about the machine.  To those ends I have been heavily  investigating Assembly Language on the Apple II platform, a topic I had dabbled in long ago.  Now, I wanted to take an honest look at what it was going to take to code a program idea that I have.  I want to fully describe the program, a program of such ridiculousness, that it’s only purpose would be to teach one how to code assembly.  I won’t give details though, because I want to see if I can do it, no matter how long the project may take, and I want to see how much of details I can solve on my own.

So I have been looking at where to start.  I reviewed Applesoft.  I must admit that I have not been using this language at all.  I pulled a physical high-school text book on Applesoft from my library .  This was my textbook and I have to admit I didn’t open it often.  By the time the system had made me enroll in an actual Applesoft class, I was well versed.  Cracking it open this time though I had a surprise for myself:  4 pages of notes regarding a incredibly convoluted RPG character generation program for a RPG game I was inventing on my own.  Among the randomly generated characteristics, six of the archetypes included, I also included astrological signs, stats for Lust, Greed, Selfishness, Leadership, Faith, Piety, Mana and a way of setting a social class of Nobility, Warrior, Landowner, Clergy, Freeman, Unfree, and Slaves.  This game, if I remember correctly, would have been very historically based.  It was very interesting for me.  All this, and I had yet to hear of a Renaissance Festival, the SCA, or even Medieval Times.  I will post the notes soon as I get some time to scan them.

After reviewing my time travelling notes, I reviewed some Applesoft and decided that that would be enough and I didn’t think I needed a six week immersion of program writing to get me back in the swing of things.  Although I might revisit this, because I really like the concept of Structured Applesoft and had begun along those ideals but did not make enough progress to speak of.  Everything looked familiar to me, although I am sure that glossing over it like that I am giving myself much more credit than would be evident of someone were to issue me a spontaneous Applesoft Challenge.  So, I moved on to looking at setting up a hard drive image that was strictly for assembly.  I chose Merlin as my editor, mostly because I had used it in the past and I admire Glen Bredon’s software prowess and sensibilities.

I spent a good amount of time reviewing the Merlin manual and entering the sample entries, and getting a feel for the open apple functional commands, that I had to look up because I was looking at an old revision.  Er- Older revision.  I took my time, and it seemed logical enough.

The next place I investigated was the book Assembly Lines by Robert Wagner.  This is a excellently written book, recommended to me, via a textfile on a floppy disk from my youth by none other than Krakowicz himself.  I began reading this book and taking notes.

After some time, I took a break and started looking around for other assembly books that might augment the experience.  I eventually ended up at Nibble.  Some few years ago I purchased the entire Nibble Magazine back catalog in OCR searchable pdf.  The collections came on 2 DVD, sent by the mighty Mike Harvey.  I have to say that this is a treasured possession of mine when I have to research some information.  These 12 years of documentation set a place in time for events in the Apple II continuum.  Prices.  New offerings and and ideas.  And as a former reader, it acts as a framework on which I can hand my memories.

I searched through he books section and selected a few choice editions including The Beginners Guide to Assembly.  I ordered them late Friday evening.  By Monday afternoon the DVD was in my mailbox.  I wrote Mike and thanked him.  He wrote back.  All around great experience!

I am somewhere in my beginning phases of learning this language and trying to be conscience of concepts I can use to give form to my ideas.  This week is a full schedule for me and I am not getting as much time as I want with the books.  I think I get a little reprieve  tomorrow night and maybe I can make serious in roads in my self-learning.

Apple II. Capital G. Capital S.

I am going to try and do justice to this entry, and I am hoping to write it in one shot, and publish it, but I am mentally spent today.  I instructed a class today, and somewhere in the presenting/expounding/redirecting/clarifying/guiding the mental energy gets drained.  It was nice today, though, as a learner turned to conversation towards Apple II’s, a topic in which I am well versed.  We talked for a good while, steering through the Apple II product lines, the chain of CEO’s, I tested my view on the new Scully paradigm, and was met with the same disbelief I once held.  All in all a memorable moment in a long day.  I don’t know how that happens, but it seems to happen a lot with me.  Since I have been a technical instructor, I have influenced and been influenced by a principal scientist who taught me about the Beeb Micro, and I think I sparked an interest for him to build a Zed 80.  In one class I was instructing, I met a man who build his own 6502 computer on board a Navy ship in the 70′s out of a electronics kit they had on-board.  We talked for some time about the way to account for bits in bygone eras, specifically Apple II’s and his experience programming games on them.  I was impressed and happy to meet such Hi-Res person.  I recommended that the engineering department pick him up, because there was more there than met the eye.  It turns out that I had just encountered the man with a heart of dice, the last man standing at Avalon Hill Games, Bill Levay.  It seems that in every class I meet someone that has an eye towards the past, I little air of nostalgia about them, and it makes me like what I do that much more.

Coming home, I got a bio-chemical boost when I saw a rather large box awaiting me with a small box on the top.  Excellent.  I opened the boxes to discover 2 things that changed my experience wiht the Apple IIgs.  THe first was a RGB monitor I picked up.  Holy . . . The clarity of this screen is the best possible, and makes the graphics sing.  It was completely worth the $25 + shipping.  If you have a IIgs, lose the zero and get with the hero, drop that composite cable and get yourself a RGB monitor.

Uthernet, ComputerEyes, TDX, CF MicroDrive, 4MB Ram

The second package was sent to me from England and contained Andrew Webber’s TDX  card.  It is a stereo card the the Apple IIgs.  The Apple IIgs is not able to provide stereo sound out of the box.  Let me tall you a little about it.  This wonderful card separates the GS sound channels into a left and right output for a stereo effect.  The card connects to a 8-pin jack on the motherboard, where it picks up the channels of sound. It sends the sound out via a 1/8″ stereo jack, from which I connected a 1/8″jack to RCA connectors to my Lepai Amplifier to a pair of surround sound speakers I no longer use. This is the sound that should have been emitted from this computer.  It was wonderful!  The transaction with Drew as absolutely wonderful, as he kept me informed of the happening with the card, and when he shipped.  The turn around was absolutely top-notch and overall it was one of the better experiences an online consumer can have.   I unequivocally recommend Drew’s TDX card highly and over the next week or so, as I work my RGB monitor into the desktop, I will find some time to provide some audio samples.

This is what happens when you put a 10 MegaPixels of picture into a 16 bit sack.

Seeing the World with ComputerEyes

As I entered my abode this evening I saw on the stairs a freshly delivered package in a stale cardboard box from Subway.  A-ha! An eBay delivery, recognized it right off from the overzealous use of packing tape that was clearly not intended to just keep the box from opening, but a wholehearted attempt to keep the box together entirely. I waited until after supper to inspect further. Upon closer examination, the inspection revealed: An incredible amount of packing material, much more than what I suspected the tape/box/package-thing could hold and . . . an ComputerEyes digitizer that I have been chasing for the Apple IIe.  I had been wanting one for quite some time, at least since 11/26/09 and came into a low dollar auction for one.  Ten bucks was all it took to walk away with one, this time.

Skull goes here.

A sweet skull I digitized with ComputerEyes and a Panasonic video camera circa 1985.

I unpackaged my trophy, nay, my Major Award, and took a look at the contents.  This was an awesome package with some real life “feelies” and I will put some pics/scans up at some point soon.  What I found instide was the manual for ComputerEyes, and for the Print Shop companion software, two envelopes with the Digital Vision logo, coming out of Dedham, MA, multiple pieces of correspondence from the company, a invoice from the company, listing the ComputerEyes Digitizer for $399.95, the Print Shop Compatibility Software at $15 and a free Demo Disk plus shipping $11, totalling $425.95, paid in full.  I was very excited about this extra documentation and now considered my 8-bit Apple II ComputerEyes problem solved.

But there was another problem, one I wasn’t proud about.

Sometime after the ComputerEyes system entered my conscientiousness, and I decided I was going to make one mine, it was to the internet I trod in search of this magical device.  There was a problem though, and the problem was a serious dearth of information about the original system that I knew.  I could find no pictures, I seemed to remember a card being associated with the device, but this later proved to be false.  I couldn’t find any supporting documentation, and I was acting on a feverish impulse to buy one and in the end I ended up with a ComputerEyes card for an Apple IIgs.  I think at the time I mentioned this Twitter, got in to a short exchange with one of my favorite Retro pundits, @blakespot from The Bytecellar.  We made some chatter about my auction foibles and I am sure he went away from that dialog thinking “What is your deal, Ding-Dong?”

It was a rookie mistake.

Well I am stubborn and I held on to the card, knowing I couldn’t be beaten if I didn’t give up.  I put it away until I started noodling with this IIgs and wanted to see what it could do.  As I blogged earlier, I believed the card to be failed, D.O.A, a write off, and at that point I conceded that I was beaten but this card, on all fronts.  This 16 bit card from hell had crushed my dreams of digitization, and a new mission I was on to take a 10 MegaPixel video image and take it back to it’s 16 bit heritage.  And it was somewhere in this miasma of self-doubt that I noticed what was in the other half of the documentation.

Also arriving for the 8-bit version of the ComputerEyes module, I found the manual and software that supported ComputerEyes for the Apple IIgs.  This was too good to be true.  I now had full documentation for both devices.  This made me check myself, I opened the chassis on the GS and pulled the ComputerEyes card and gave it an quick visual inspection to look for wear on the contacts, or any tell tale signs of a fault.  Nothing.  I decided to reseat the card in slot #4 and as I did so, I noticed how tight the fit was.  I made a very dedicated effort to ensure the card seated properly, brought up the software and I had a sweet success! I hooked up the Nikon camera composite video out and captured the image with the Digitizer.  Awesome!

I have to tell you haw thrilled I was at this little success, and embarrassed again at not planting that card with the deft hand that I should have.  ComputerEyes IIgs, you have been a hard task master, but my stubbornness has paid off, and my 16 bit experiments in imagery can begin.  Victory will be mine, ComputerEyes, even if I have to conquer each of your 16 dithered colors.

SheppyWare & More Tweaking

I’ve had to slow it down a little, my friends.  I’ve been getting a lot of hangout time with the Apple IIgs, lately.  In fact, I have had so much hang out time that my wife has put the kabosh on it while she’s around.  Oh well, I suppose I was getting a little obsessive.  I can’t help it as it is a new platform to me, and one that on some levels I am intimate with, but on other levels I am not at all.  It’s exciting to me and has taken me down some good paths.

This weekend I decided to primp up my CF image I am booting from.  I wanted some software, but I really have not a clue what the spectrum of quality is for different offerings.  It’s a complete trial by error methodology that I am implementing, and I like it that way, because the surprises to me are infinitely entertaining.  The first big surprise for me was SheppyWare.  I hadn’t spent much time there, because of my self-imposed 8-bit limitations of time gone past, but, I am happy to report that it is great, at least what I have experimented with so far.  You know, no actually meeting people, and only knowing of them from pieces you can glean from articles, chat rooms, text files, pod casts and the like, only really let you see them from a small crack of a door.  I have chatted with Sheppy a bit, but never looked closely at his offerings.  I can read a bit more about he man but the programs he’s written and I was impressed.  Granted, this impression is not of one who know the details, but by reading the docs, you can see the Sheppy identified a problem that irked him, and created the code to work around the problem, all in an effort to make the IIgs more like it should have been.  Yeah, that’s right.  You just read me getting excited about nearly 20 year old shareware.  The best part about reading the descriptions, hand choosing what I needed and putting them on my image (via the KEGS emulator, mind you) was that a few times I was referred to software that I didn’t know about such as Signature and Twilight II, that provide custom sound for events and a impressive screen saver.  I was also prompted to get a copy of Merlin16 on my drive as well as Wolfenstien 3D and a word processor or two.  If you are running  a IIgs and haven’t checked Sheppy’s site out, you are delinquent.

In addition to tweaking up the GS, I also began some reasearch int to the Apple-Cat II, entirely for my own edification, of course.  I came across a great page that if you have had an interest in the Apple-Cat I you probably have come across before.  I took a very close and discerning look this time and downloaded some of the files that the author had made available.  I was hoping to be more successful with reconstituting these files but I was not successful.  I do see some more Apple Cat time in my future and have been thinking aobut how I can create a setup that is optimal for how I want to explore the with the Cat.  That may be some weeks away.

I have a IIgs RGB monitor coming in a day or few, and need to reorganize the set up to support the room I need for it.  I am also going to reorganized the card  distribution inside the machines as well.  I haven’t the optimal plan as of yet, but am working on it.  Until I get a secondary CF Drive, I am limited to using CF images one machine at a time.  My GS is mot accelerated, and despite the cost I am highly interested in acceleration, but I am second thinking that.  I have a IIe that is accelerated, I love it, but I may be able to get by without on the GS by using the emulator when I need it fast.  That is kind of a lo-res way of looking at it, but I think I can get by.  I know I need more clock cycles on the GS before I have a good grasp of what counts and an opinion that means anything about it, but I am really liking the experience.  There is something about this experience that fits a quirk I have in my personality.  I don’t know if there is a word for it, but it probably should have it’s own Sniglet.  I will try to describe it.  When I was on a submarine, it was only a matter of time before you were only way to familiar with damn near everybody on board.  Familiar enough to write a biography.  So, to offset that, I desperately tried not to meet anyone new that came on board.  The goal was to have a stranger on board the boat when we were underway.  It was great to look over, see some face, and have no idea who they were or (rarely) what they did.  Somehow that made the experience better.  I think the same is true with the IIgs experiment.  There are a ton of expert human resources I could call on, who know the best way, but I already know that I am going to give there minds a break, because I am having a lot of fun experimenting with the system like it’s the first time.  Because it is.  As I proceed on that route I am constantly catching myself being impress with the capability of the machine.  And because of that, I keep wondering just how far I am likely to take it.

 

 

Apple-Cat

Kind of a disappointing Apple II day.  Cue the Trombone players in 3 … 2 … 1 …

Waaaah   Waaaah    Waaaah  WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

I finally came across the ComputerEyes GS software I needed as a .sdk file.  I opened it up in CiderPress, made a disk, tried it out on KEGS and had a successful boot.  Later, I brought the image to life as a 5 1/4″ floppy, transferring the image from ADTPro.  I booted it up on the GS and . . . the software failed to find my Computer Eyes card.   That is real disappointing, and may be my first card failure ever.  The version of computer eyes for the GS is 3.2, and I wouldn’t think that the software is highly specific to the card, but it might be.  I will take a close look at t he card later and try to determining of there is a version associated with it and maybe I just have the wrong package for it. Rest assured, the investigation is underway.

But like everything, there is an upside to today:  I grabbed a stack of albums from one of several bins and came across classic rock central.  CSNY, Hendrix, Eagles, Butterfield Blues Band, Buffalo Springfield, The Cars, The Yes Album.  I put on side one of The Who’s “Tommy” (on the Decca label) after given a pass to a few Nancy Wilson (not associated with Heart) albums.  The Who album looked brand new, on heavy vinyl, but no booklet.  They were numbered correctly, sides 1 and 3 on one album, sides 2 and 4 on the other, so that they could drop from a stack for continuous listening.  As the introduction piece of Tommy played, I made some floppies.

I moved my operations over to the Apple II+ which I had acquired to experiment with a Wild Card that I purchased from eBay, presumably from Joe Grand.  I had made some disk to play a bit with the Apple-Cat II.  I had been lucky and picked one up with a 212 expansion card.  So I spent some time experimenting with Cat Dialers, Cat-Fur, Cat’s Meow and other such software.  I listened as I sent busy signals, blue boxed, and straight up sent 2600 Hz tones down the line.  And then I paused, and wished as hard as I could that I had someone to trade wares with on the Cat-Fur, because lets face it, 1200 baud is 1200 baud.

I came across a program entitled JOSHUA.  “Hmm, I wonder what this does,” I thought.  Would you believe it was a War Dialer.  No kidding.  Started war dialing straight away.  “Should probably be sending that to my printer in case I find W.O.P.R.”  I think I actually said that out loud.  I was hacking.  Big time.  I felt naked without a ski mask, mirrored aviator sunglasses, or some fingerless gloves, but somehow, I would continue hacking, despite my fashion handicap.  And then I was foiled.  My area dials all 10 digits, but poor old JOSHUA only dialed 7 at a time.  I spat a curse upon the children of the recorded digital voice that told me to “Please hang up and dial again,” because I was already doing that automatically, baby!  Yeah!  JOSHUA!  Go, Man, Go!  I pressed CTRL-Reset, and JOSHUA returned to the Main Menu.  I stopped wardialing in case someone was trying to wardial me.

From the No Big Whoop department:  I figured out that I can drag and drop files on System 6 OS.

KansasFest Talk Around the Office

Arriving at the house, most of the snow fall had given way to a dense slush, temperatures climbing to 47°F, reminding me how far away KansasFest is.  Inside I found 3 packages waiting for me:  The T-Amp, which although as of yet untested, seems to be of a very solid construction for a $20 something piece of gear, A track ball for the IIGS and a 4MB RAM upgrade.  That should warm the little Gnome Sorcerer up.

I went downstairs and grabbed a handful of records out of my bins in the garage.  The Best of George Shearing.  No.  Kenny Rankin – Like a Seed.  No.  The Eagles. The Carpenters. Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks. No. No. No. Baroque Music for Trumpet Virtuoso.  Tempting. . . No.  I passed up Ritchie Havens – Something Else Again and decided to spin Steely Dan – Can’t Buy a Thrill.

I then greedily dropped the pieces pieces parts into the system, and was well pleased with what I found, although I did have some trepidation when I saw a small taped notice on the package imploring me to “Take Proper ESD Precautions!” which I was hoping wasn’t CYA-speak for fried RAM.  I can report, happily, that is not what the code meant, and realized after I put away the glass rod and fur I used to install the card, that it probably referred to ElectroStatic Discharge.  Oh, well.  The trackball also moved the little black arrow across my CRT.  Hey, it was a good day on deliverables.

I put Ritchie Havens – “Something Else Again” on the turntable.  This was a little more livelier.

I thought about a System 6 hard drive I needed to more from my work computer.  I opened it in CiderPress and converted the .HDV image to a .2mg image so that I could look at it in KEGS.  There was a little bit more here than the drive I was using.  I transferred it to my n900 phone via Bluetooth networking, and then ftp’d the thing to my site so I could pull it down when I got home.  I smiled thinking about the elderly data flying the friendly skies that way.  and that reminded me of something that happened earlier in the day.

This morning a colleague stopped by the cubical to have a chat and noticed last year’s KansasFest poster  gracing the wall.  He quickly identified the key information, dates, subject matter, the fact that it was in Missouri, and we began to talk.  We were trading some serious stories about our computer experiences, making friendly and minor corrections to each other’s story line, I talked about Chuck Peddle, his contribution to spoilage and the rise of the $25 processor then begrudgingly broke off so that we could actually do some work.  And in other workplaces that may have be that.  Where I work, however, that was most certainly not that.

Lunch time came and I headed to the break room to eat my victuals.  I was at a table with several of the company’s veterans, when, inexplicably, the same colleague (an old school veteran himself) sat down, and brought up the KansasFest 2011 poster.  What followed was a very cool lunch hour, as I received a history of computing platforms as it pertained to this company and themselves.  Everyone had an experience to share, a finer point to make,  and generally made me feel quite privileged to be sitting at this place at this time.  We talked about the 6502, the 8008, 8080 and moved into the 8088.  I mentioned the CP/M card and it’s co-processing magic that allows legitimate business software through the door on the Apple II, and as I understand it, creating a kick-start to Apple II’s sales.  Most of them talked about having their first computer for the home around 1983, although some were less clear on the subjects than others.  I was lucky, I had started with Apple II’s about five years earlier. We talked about the 286 and how our company at the time actually used a 386 in their tools, which was very impressive to the story teller.  I did not relate the story of the slow talking shop keep on the submarine that earned the nickname 386.  By far the best story was by our receptionist who went on to speak of a horrible word processor that required 8″ floppy disks: The VAX/VMS.  We talked about floppy disks, the evolution of micro-processors, the telex machine that stored messages until there were enough to send economically, and their eventual demise due to the fax machine, (which ended the days of the uncertain overnight wait for further instructions/reports, for better or for worse).  I am glad that mentioning an interest in “Legacy Systems” carried a little weight here.

Navigation

Xxxxx xx xx xx xxxxx, xxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxx xxx xxxxxxxx,
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So that mess was a pair of couplets from “Starship Troopers” by Yes.  I wanted to put them at the head of this post as a reminder of the mood last night, as a slight snow began to fall, and I began to explore the old roads I remember.  After a little nagging question arose, I looked around, and discovered, that it probably wouldn’t be fiscally advisable to do so, even though the lyrics were freely available on many websites.  I remember when I was younger,  I looked on the recording industry with awe, as genius doing work for which they should be proud.  Now, to me, they are like a billionaire recluse, locked up in a penthouse in Vegas, doing unspeakably weird things in a sunless room, a prisoner of their own diseased mind.  I try to avoid interaction with them if at all possible, mostly, because it seems that many interactions for them eventually lead to litigation.  At least that’s what I’m getting from the past couple of decades.

Enough of the rant, on with the blog.

So I spent the majority of the night last night trouble shooting the Amplifier on the sound system.  I was intermittently getting music on one speaker, but not the other, randomly.  I cracked the thing open and had a look.  Ye Gods!  The inside of this thing was where cobwebs go to die, full of old yellow/gray dust accumulations.  I went out to the garage, gave it a quick dusting with low pressure compressed air and wiped it down.  Looking at the build, I found it to be very interesting.  I could see that the boards were crafted with High Reliability solder work.  This pleased me.  There was a large heavy transformer, some Toshiba brand IC’s, 2 of the largest capacitors I have seen in a commercial product, and a giant heat sink.  I removed a small board that acted as SW1 to the mains and beneath that I removed the Speaker selection board.  I thought maybe the switch was dirty and needed some attention.  I brought out the meter and made some continuity checks.  I checked the switches for the A and B speaker sets, and pinned them out to the inputs and output sides of the device. I made a quick diagram and determined that there was no open.  This looked like trouble to me, because I would have to search the board to find the problem, which was going to take longer than the night would allow.  I reseated the boards in the plastic retention clips and screwed them down.  I then began to check continuity on all sides of the RCA connections, I checked my RCA cables front the phonograph.  When I was done, I cleaned the backside of the cover and fit it back on, and carefully reconnected the system.  I cut some new speaker wire, tinned the ends, and wouldn’t you know, I didn’t see trouble again.  I do not know the root cause, and that is going to bother me, so I will just have to attribute it to dirt.

I put on Classic Yes on the turntable, and sat back to reap some of the benefit of the work.

I know that this 1981 album is a collection of earlier works of Yes (and it was missing the 7″ 33 & 1/3 single that accompanied it with live versions of “Roundabout” and “I’ve Seen All Good People”) and although the styling is a bit dated, and to be honest, Yes has always fallen to far on the side of the aloof prog-rock types for my liking, but the sound engineering was such that it felt very contemporary.  Maybe contemporary is not word I am looking for, because the temporal point of our existence has nothing to do with it, and, as I’ve been thinking, it sounded better to me than the modern systems on which I have listened to contemporary music.  I am not saying that the phonograph is magic, and all the psychedelics from the 60′s somehow ended up in it and it will blow your mind, but what I am saying is that the practice of recording was approached on a different philosophical level in those days.  You see, back in the day of Caesar, audio engineers were very cognizant of presenting a sound field that emulated being at the source of the music.  The Stereo equipment was fairly standard, so that was a known factor, and the speakers for Hi-Fi systems was actually designed to emphasize different portions of the sound spectrum, to make the music sound better, and that was a known factor.  It was like a physical EQ, at least the way I understand it.  Listening to records in the near field speakers, brought he recording closer to the sound in which it was recorded.  Today is different, it seems, and without empirical data, I am just spouting off.  Stand by.  The digital age has brought emulated sound processing into the studio.  This shortcut as well as software that allows easy replication of tracks, in my opinion, has taken the time element out of record creation and has reduced it to the status of efficiently making a generic product.  Time is one element that isn’t being captured, and I don’t mean physically.  When you have the luxury of having some time on your hands, this allows for the generation of ideas, and also the reworking of ideas in the context of creative works that you already have.  This element of time and creativity is the core of making a worthy piece of art as opposed to moving units.  This efficient recording machine is processing an element of sound, digitally manipulating it, maximizing the mix of each into a hyper-clarity that no longer resembles the reality of sound , and it misses the mark that genuine distance and space between source and microphone, the physical translation of compressing and decompressing air, can bring to a well engineered sound field.  I suppose another problem is the type and quality of different systems that the modern producer has to construct music for.  And, it also makes me wonder if the modern engineer isn’t making music on a small scale for ear buds as opposed to real, natural, powerful, air moving, sound.

How much does this have to do with Apple II’s?  Very little.  How much does it have to do with setting up my retro-capsule?  Everything.  To me, at least, the way I have functioned with the old bit threshers,  I have always had an eye to bringing in a little something else into the room when I am clicking keys.  Whether it is a vintage poster, music that conveys the era, a familiar book, or some other material component, I’m am always on the prowl from some kind of token, a Infocom “feelie” for rea life.

Music is an awesome way to do just that, because it is passive in nature, and when it is off, the influence is gone.

The last thing I remember, I was mentally soaring above the wintry, terrestrial scene that was beginning to accumulate.  I had gone back decades.  I was in the backseat of a blue Buick.  I heard “Long-Distance Runaround”.  There were a few amber lines of #a2c.chat scrolling up my screen and then darkness.  Suddenly, the very next thing I heard was the loud click of the phonograph and thump of the speaker as my sonic navigation system powered down and the sound field collapsed.

I arose from the command center chair of the retro-time machine and proceeded to my quarters.

Mr. Clean & Metacognition

Buenos-ding-dong-diddly-dias, Amigos!  How was your weekend?  Mine?  Not bad, glad you asked.  This weekend wasn’t what I wanted it to be, but it’s the weekend, you can do what you want, I just tend to want more than what I can squeeze out of 48 contiguous hours.  Friday, I finalized some of the computer set up and made it more friendly.  After a Skype test with my overseas brother, I realized that my initial plan just wasn’t working for me, and the main problem lies with the Linux version of Skype that I appreciate, it has features not found on other versions, but on a functional level we are not compatible, there are issues with my webcam, mainly that make video conferencing difficult and Google Hang-outs are right out.  So that means that the Windows Auxiliary Support Platform that my wife’s old computer has become, needed to pick up the slack on Skype duties. In addition, the W.A.S.P. also had a lock up like Windows boxes are prone to do, and I had to reboot,which means that the VNC link needed attention and I could see that that was quickly going to escalate to a pain I didn’t need, so I broke out a monitor and gave the W.A.S.P. one I could vid chat with and then installed Synergy so that I could share the mouse and keyboard from the Linux box with the Windows box.  It also support OSX, so it can be quite handy.

Once I got all that sorted out I realized that I needed a deep clean of the area, yet another re-arrangement, and I would be closer to the vision I have for the Apple Lab.  I took a Skype call from my brother, chatted a bit and did a few things, but nothing of note, other than check my TI-89 calculator.  It needed batteries.  I found some and then started it up. I made the command (uv) and pressed the Enter key.  I then feasted my eyes on this:

I had thought that I may have to re-install, but no, I was in good shape.  If you have some time on your hands and a TI-89 calculator you can find the proper files at ticalc.org, including a README that had decent installation instructions.

Saturday was a day of upheaval in the Apple Lab as I undid all of my work from the foundation and deep recesses and went in deep to make the experience even more satisfactory.  I organized, cleaned, piled, threw out, boxed, bagged and tagged everything that was not in sight.  I though about a passing chat I had earlier this week with Sean over at A2 Central.  He mentioned a concept that I had given much thought to, but was profound.  I am kind of paraphrasing but the concept was period piece Apple II’s.  So you could have a specific period of time, and build to that period with a specific Apple, and available peripherals.  So the build had to be historically supported by the  peripheral availability, and serial numbers, etc.  I thought about that idea a lot.  I really liked it.  It’s bad-ass in my opinion to get together the stuff you need to build a nice tool to begin with, but to do it completely elitist in that manner was mind blowing to me.  How awesome would something like that be?  I may never see that as a contest anywhere, but it might make a great Retro Challenge.

So I cleaned and thought about things like that all morning, but by the afternoon the wife, inspired by what I can only imagine as the emotional surge of seeing her man cleaning fervently and in a manner only known by the likes of Mr. Clean or maybe Brawny, was inspired to re-arrange the entire house.  Which meant for this point on, I was needed on hand for the heavy stuff and some help, and I put the room aside.

When we finished, the home looked great, and I now had a new addition to the Apple Lab, a Pioneer Turntable and Amplifier.  I set about to connecting them to my near field studio monitors and listened to some vinyl.  It sounded so great.  I turned it up.  It sounded GREAT!  This was good, as in addition to really being able to capitalize on my own record collection, I could begin the process of sorting through the 1300+  Long Playing Record Albums I picked up earlier this year.  I haven’t even taken a close look at them.  The benefactor had been a musician in L.A. in the 70′s and one rumor I heard, and may have even repeated is that there are album that were never released in the collection.  I had been thinking of bring the turntable to the Lab for a while, and had even ordered a small T-amp for it.  I am excited about yet another aspect of this lab.  Are you crazy about the idea of Record Reviews & Apple II’s?  Then, you should see your doctor.

Sunday, well that was some more clean up.  Somehow I have an entire large bin of cabling of every type, now.  I have no idea where all of them were hiding out before.  I have the Apple II library organized and sorted.  It seems I have everything except extra desktop space, which I am going to need.  We did some chore and some groceries, and the room is going to hang out and be stale for another night.  So, I did get a lot done, but not everything I wanted.  I still have some things I need to do tonight, and I am going to set about doing some more organizing.

The Sorcerer

I came home to the Apple Lab after work to find the state in which I left it during my late night re-arrangement session.  I must have been tired, or maybe someone slipped me an Ambien, because I don’t remember leaving it all that badly.  So I cleaned up the loose power and network cables and after a while I was finally able to feel a little more at ease.  My first order of business was to get a working version of System6 up and running, an OS I have only experimented on the KEGS emulator.  I pulled my 64MB CF card from the candy apple USB CF card reader that came with my MicroDrive.  I had backed up the data on the CF card last night and I was eager to populate a fresh 32MB partition I had made on CiderPress the night before.  I was excited about this because I had a feeling that there were things about this system that would impress me as I have never actually used it on a real IIgs machine.  I transferred a vanilla install of System6 hard drive to the CF card and booted it right up.  I was impressed.  The GS saw the disks I had in the 3.5″ drive and one of the 5.25″ drives.  OK.  That’s good.  I saw The Bards Tale drive, clicked it, and watch it open up in finder.  I started the Bard.System file and off it went.  It felt slick. I quit the game and the GS started again and opened tot he desk top.  Nice.  I can see that the ways in which this machine functions is much smoother than the equivalent process from my 8-bit world.

This is going to be an easy transition.

So, the next phase is to decide how I am going to populate this tool.  Right now the inner plastic chamber echoes like a sacred temple watched over by three peripheral cards, and a Gnome Sorcerer.

The three cards hanging as of now are a ComputerEyes Digitizer card (the software of which I am most desirous for), an UtherNet card (which is so Crescent Fresh), and the MicroDrive CF card Drive on loan from the IIe.  And thus my research began.  I had some curiosity about the CFFA 3000 card, which confidential informants have indicated is excellent quality, but I wanted to know more, so I explored You Tube, and found something great: The Video Works of Brian Picchi.  These were very helpful, and took me from being non-committal about the CFFA 3000 to buying the engagement ring.  I also got a good idea of what a well stocked IIGS looks like on the inside, as well as a good look at Suzi and Melissa.  Hubba! Hubba! Hubba!

So armed with this new knowledge I set out to populate the system in a descent manner.  Which is going to take some time.  First I will make my list of wants and needs, weight them out, get an idea of pricing, and start my hunt.  I also want to upgrade my GS hard drive.  I was fortunate today in that somehow I found a left over copy of a GS hard drive I had been emulating some time ago.  Tomorrow I bring it over to the real machine and begin to explore software options.

Its been a real good week.

Off-Site Storage

I know that there is ample documentation to do any Apple II thing you want to try.  There is a deluge of places to go to get information about trying anything, everything, even stuff that some 13-year-old from 1983 made up to impress people he’d never met.  There resources in place to ask Apple II questions in real time, with real experienced Apple II users.  There are things that I know, and there are things that I believe.  I was currently holding the belief that if there were dire consequences, by now, I would have known about it, so, I plugged my MicroDrive CF into the IIgs.  I hated to do that, but only because it was something new to me, so I naturally feared and loathed the idea, but in my mind it should work.  I flicked the switch on the IIgs and lo and behold my default ProSel 8 menu was looking at me.  This is a good omen.  Since at this point, I am operating on raw instinct verse any real documentation, omen is a good word.  Time to get hermetic.  I’m going to need some tea leaves and a crystal ball.

OK.  First things first.  After dealing with the demoralizing crash of my computer I realized I had violated the first general order as a user, I never backed up my CF card partitions that I worked so hard on.  Luckily, I had the ones worth keeping wither on the Micro Drive or on other CF media.  It was like having Off Site Storage that was only a foot and a half away.  I copied what was on the CF cards with ADTPro whilst I engaged in some re-ordering.

I brought in my wife’s old computer, an XP desk top, set it on top of my desktop, and made a giant double desktop static sculpture that somehow reminded me of a dalek.  I wired everything up, troubleshot and finally got networking communications (which always takes me a hell of a lot longer than my conscience mind tells me), opened a VNC connection on the Linux machine to the XP, and started making it mine, all while juggling CF partition copying. This is going to be a good working setup, and a god-awful modern experiment in home office decor.  I downloaded some of my favorite Windows Apple II support programs and apple emulators.  Where did I begin?

I am glad you asked, my somewhat curious friend.  I consulted my astrological chart and noted favorable signs, but I couldn’t be sure until I cast the bones, but their readings were not so clear cut.  In the end, a passing Oracle advised me to go with the following:  CiderPress, AppleWin, FishWings, WASP, pom1, KEGS, ADTPro, Mini vMac.  I even divined a site that has some icons representing old A2 machines.  Naturally, I downloaded them all and archived them.  Nice.  Now I can have an icon for some of the programs that have gone without a  familiar retro-rainbow motif, and visually mark shortcuts to image folders I frequently use.  I dropped an Apple II wallpaper on that desktop and that’s that.

Now I have access to CiderPress via VNC from my Linux box.  Excellent.  There are probably other ways in which one could move images with the limitations I’ve imposed on myself by my decisions, but this is a solution that worked for me.  I immediately began to create new images in CiderPress.  I want a System 6 CF Partition.  I want a ProSel 16 Partition.  There going to be more that I want, it’s just going to take some time to move those nibbles around until I have something I like.

And with those actions I have overhauled the Apple Laboratory to a more usable environment for me.  Hopefully, in the next couple of days I can get a working hard drive image together, and start to experience 16-bit in all of it past lauded glory.