The Xanith Diskette Company Sub Net

This past weekend was entertaining to me, as  all real hobbies should be.  There was a lot that I pondered as I researched facts, organized my physical media (like the original Xanith Diskette Company disk) to virtual images, and experimented with my processes.  Lets talk about the set up first:

The Apples that were prominent this weekend were the Apple IIgs, which has dominated my landscape since I first booted it up.  Deep down in my grungy 8-bit heart, I realize it’s too versatile to ignore.  It was acting as a platform for ADTPro and was connected to my Ubuntu platform via Uthernet card.  This was depositing the resulting images into my Dropbox folder so that the images would be propagated across 5 separate computers and a server.  Then I got the idea to fire up my IIe, connected to the network with yet another Uthernet  card, and communicating with a separate instance of ADTPro on another computer that was also depositing the resulting image into a Dropbox folder.  The resulting process was awesome, as I was limited in copying floppies by my physical ability to insert the media and name the disk images.  I was strewing antique bits all over my network and beyond!

Somewhere in this activity I stopped to look over some of my old Newsroom files.  Newsroom was a successful desktop publishing software offering from Springboard.  The idea is that you are the editor of a newspaper and create content, place clip art, do the layout and print up the results.  I consider this software to be my first blog, as I often used it to create family newsletters.  It was amazing to go back in time a see that I had used this tool on the Apple IIe as late as 1994 to create a newsletter.  This made me think about the possibilities of creating me material with this application.  Something, that I will look closer into, as I think I have a way to create a Newsroom product without too much hassle.

I have also been interested in starting a Apple Cat II board, just for the hell of it, but again I am getting into tangents. I was thinking about a SynchroNet BBS I had for a while called The Xanith Diskette Company Sub Net. There wasn’t a lot of activity, mostly me and my brother screwing around on it while he was overseas. I have a good idea about a theme for the board, and you may say that’s dated or whatnot, but what I liked about some of the Apple Boards is that they carried a theme sometimes and it seemed to make it a more interesting place. I don’t know what I will use the board for exactly, and I guess that would depend if I could get a few users. I have this idea that I can’t determine that is would be some sort of software collective type situation, for anything you could create on the Apple II platform. And I mean anything. It’s fun to bang around on an acient platform, but it’s even more fun when you can show your work, and maybe learn a thing or two in the process. Don’t look for it, because like so many others, the Xanith Company Sub Net is gone for now, and that’s a shame. Why? Well, I wanted animate some ASCII and I ended up making the Intro page for their diskettes. I thought I would share it.  If you want to run it on real hardware, you will need 80-columns available.

You can download a disk image or you can launch it in your Browser.

Download Xanith Sub Net Intro disk (Right Click => Save Link As).

Launch Xanith Subnet Intro floppy in Browser

Extreme closeup of The Xanith Diskette Company floppy disk.

Xanith Diskette Company Serial Number PT001, 1982

Floppy Disk Transfer

I am continuing the archival floppy disk transfer of my Apple II disks.  I go from disk to disk and when I find one that was used as data storage, I jump ahead of my planned procedure and look at the data.  I can’t help it.  I am an AppleWorks guy when it comes to vintage Apple II Word Processing, although someday I’d like to make some notes as to other varieties.  The reason is simply that I “got” AppleWorks when I was using it and there wasn’t a lot of hidden commands to remember to get it to do the basic things you needed done.  This is the transcript of an .AWP file I came across an unlabeled floppy whose disk directory was entitled “Storage”.

*                    *                    *

     The first time I was crazy I lay in the floor for hours.  It was the first time I listened to my own laughter, staring across the stained floor of my dormitory room, through the shards of broken glass, the fourteen mattresses of my bed casting the hazy afternoon sun’s shadow on me.  there was always the footsteps of people walking outside the square hall, passing the room, and I had lain there so long I could recognize who they were by the sound of their gait.  In the morning, whichever morning it was that I had waken, I smashed the bottle of Southern Comfort that was in my bed against the other bottles collecting in my room.  That was the last thing I actually did.  At least that was the last thing I actually remember.

That was years ago.

Maybe it was years ago, because I can only remember today, and the dreams I had last night.  I only allow myself to remember today and the dreams.  I doubt I could survive if I didn’t.  And yesterday?  What of yesterday?

Yesterday was only true at the time.  To guide your life by the things you said or believed yesterday can only lead to your ruin.  People don’t.  Oh sure, they say the things you remember them saying yesterday or six weeks ago, but they never mean them.  Not as much as when it first occurred to them.  When they repeat it, it’s more for the sake of their own nostalgia, for if they have a past, then somehow they become more real today.  I haven’t had that problem since I got up off the floor.

That wasn’t the letter William really planned to send to his mother.  He really didn’t even know why he wrote it.  Today, however, he knew that it was the pen trying to betray him.  Pens always had that characteristic and given the least chance, they could always lead to your undoing.  Time and care went into everything William wrote or said.  Oh yes, William knew that the tongue was just as difficult a compatriot as the pen, but to survive you just had to know how to coax them into submission.

William lifted the pages from his writing tablet and removed them.  He took the next blank page, tore it out and ripped it up.  Carrying the pages that the pen had written, he went to the closet, unlocked it, and took out the milk crate where he kept the papers that other pens had written.  When he had the new pages filed, he locked the closet, and went back to the kitchen table to throw the treacherous pen away.

He stopped by the refrigerator and looked in at milk containers.  There were twelve of them and they were the only objects in the refrigerator, besides a dozen or so avocados that rolled sightly on the shelf.  They used to be filled with milk but now they contained avocado juice.  It had taken him hours to fill the containers.  He used the money from the last paycheck he received from being Kroger’s bag boy to buy an electric juicer.  William poured himself a glass of the thick, green liquid and wondered why he hadn’t realized years ago that all life runs on simple sugars, and that must be the easiest fuel for the body to break down.  With all the wear and tear he would save by only consuming simple sugars, he may live forever.  He tried the same principle last week with beer, but he couldn’t remember much about it except the vomit.  There was still a stain on the couch he couldn’t remove.

*                     *                   *

I have no idea where I was going with that story,  I think that the gist of it was a exercise showing a writer slowly losing his sanity and bringing everyone around him into the void.  Now that I’m older, there’s not a lot of appeal to following this start through.  People can get it into their minds, how things are going to be in the world, and sometimes they have no basis.  It can be a painful process to watch, and the worst part is the ability of the mind to rationalize.  You mind wants everything to have a reason, and if no reason is apparent, it will create it’s own reasons that actions have transpired, which is just as illogical as the original series of events.

You know, I like the tautology of that last thought.

Maybe I will continue the story.

State of the Apples

I have had quite a bit of Apple II activity, but haven’t written about it.  I feel that I should make an entry, though, for two reasons.  The first reason is to solidify amorphous, ephemeral, short term project ideas I have.  The second is to share them with you, and maybe get a random comment that lets me see things from a different perspective.

Let’s talk about how and what I am working.  I have the IIGS up and running and am primarily using it to transfer actual Apple II disks in to disk images.  These are the same disks that you may have read about in my previous e-log.  I had a catastrophic file system failure that left me hurting and bitter and almost misanthropic enough to take up fly fishing, but somehow I managed the strength to carry on.  So I am now archiving my original disks locally and via CrashPlan back ups, DropBox, SkyDrive, GoogleDrive, and Ubuntu Unity.  Not counting CrashPlan, I have managed to wrangle about 25GB of free cloud storage.  I imagine that the free cloud storage business has an Eric Cartman-type plan that goes along the line of “Hey guys, give me your info, I’ll hold it for you,” followed by, “Hey guys, I have your info.  Times are tough.  I am holding it hostage, what’s it worth to you?” Between the choices, though, I have distributed the info.  Informational survivalism is like evolution in that the information that adapts it’s form to it’s environment and propagates widely has better odds of surviving in the long term.  I really am enjoying the DropBox DiskBox that I have set up.  I can use emulation to work on hard disk setups and to update across platforms and locations.  If I have an idea, I have instant access to my disk images.

The second thing I have been thinking about is setting up a Cat-fur board, and last week I was actually working to this end.  I was hoping that I could make a connection with a willing Apple-Cat II owner / volunteer and test the system.  I’d also like to work out a way to keep the board up 24/7 but right now the idea I have is that is would have calling hours, but I haven’t solidified that idea as of yet.  I have some ideas for the board, but again I don’t want to get ahead of myself.  I should probably develop this idea as some kind of Retro Challenge.  Early testing though has proven problematic as I have to major roadblocks.

The first obstacle is this:  I have an order in for an undisclosed CF Drive for the Apple II’s that has been outstanding since last November with no clarification as to order status, which is depressing, but understandable, since I expect few things move quickly in the retro world, so the hard drive for the system is up in the air. But here is the thing that gets me.  I am interested in 2 CF card readers.  I have asked to be on the waiting list for one brand, I’ve crossed the six month mark waiting for the other brand, and I am considering ordering a second CF card from anyone that I can get to take my money.  Do I sound desperate?  Because I kinda am.

The second problem that I have to overcome is that three of my Disk II hard drives seem it have stopped reading/seeking floppy data.  My Duo Disk sees the info, but various combinations between the Apple IIe and Apple II+, 2 separate drive controllers and the 3 Disk II drives have proven fruitless.  All have failed overnight.  It’s puzzling and I am now researching how to troubleshoot this.

If I can overcome my data storage and retrieval issues, I can begin to live the dream that all healthy young lads strive for the opportunity to be found fit for:  Apple-Cat II Sysop. For now, though, I am going to be tinkering way at the mundane task of troubleshooting my gear.

Another thing that I have found immensely satisfying for personal reasons was a task I underwent to give me a better idea obout the Apple II timeline.  I have been operating under an untrue but understandable assumption that I know a lot about how the Apple II period went down.  I am kind of being funny there, as really, I have to do a lot of research to find things out.  I was kind of isolated, and I know how things went down on my desert island, but I don’t have good perspective overall.  One of the things I did to remedy that was to make an excel spreadsheet by year that corresponds to A2 History’s time line for software and hardware.  This is a work in progress and as I find new information and have time to do so, I add entries into the spread sheet.  In reality I should begin a database along side.  In many instances I was surprised by the actual dates that things were released and when I experienced them.  This project also gave me more clarity on the programmers that created some of my favorite software, and showed me how I gravitated to certain programmers without knowing they were responsible for the offerings.  Each programmer is very distinctive, like each author, each song writer, each band, and are somehow able to create artifacts that you enjoy rediscovering time and time again.  It also is helping me make my Apple set-up more anachronism free, which jangles my nerves when I realize them.  I am also going to a point when I am categorizing my physical floppies by year of release and only want to operate software on the temporally sensible machine for the job.

Finally I am going to put this here:

Last night I woke up from a dream.  In the dream I was watching a history of Apple II Software.  The documentary detailed the first software protection schemes and also talked about software firsts that occurred in Apple II software and continued to be used today.  The dream/film was incredibly interesting to me and when I awoke, I realized that maybe I had been spending too much time looking at the Top Software by Year at A2 History.

AppleSoft Magnum Opus

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time writing and not enough time working my Applesoft.

It was February 26th, 1986, Third Period Computer Basic Class. This
was the day I would write my greatest Applesoft program ever.  What it lacks in
actual program content, it more than makes up for in setting the stage
for the antagonistic relationship I was developing with the instructor.
I only had to print it a few times for debugging purposes to seal the
deal for the rest of the semester.

 1  REM  *********************************************************
 2  REM  *                                                       *
 3  REM  *                   Copyright (c) 1986                  *
 4  REM  *    Xanith Diskette Company and/or its affiliates.     *
 5  REM  *                   All rights reserved.                *
 6  REM  *                                                       *
 7  REM  *  Redistribution and use in source and binary forms,   *
 8  REM  *  with or withoutmodification, are permitted provided  *
 9  REM  *  that the following conditions are met:               *
10  REM *                                                       *
11  REM * -Redistributions of source code must retain the above *
12  REM *  copyright notice, this list of conditions and the    *
13  REM *  following disclaimer.                                *
14  REM *                                                       *
15  REM * -Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the    *
16  REM *  above copyright notice, this list of conditions and  *
17  REM *  the following disclaimer in the documentation and/o  *
18  REM *  other materials provided with the distribution.      *
19  REM *                                                       *
20  REM * -Neither the name of Xanith Diskette Company or the   *
21  REM *  names of its contributors may be used to endorse     *
22  REM *  or promote products derived from this software       *
23  REM *  without specific prior written permission.           *
24  REM *                                                       *
39  REM * IBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE.                               *
40  REM *                                                       *
41  REM * The SUMS program impliments an application that simply*
42  REM * allows a third party (hereby referred to as "user") to*
43  REM * assign numeric values to variables, which are held in *
44  REM * memory, called upon, and used to calculate a total    *
45  REM * sum.  No claim of ownership will be brought against   *
46  REM * the user values and such intent is neither implied or *
47  REM * expressed for the term in which the user values are   *
48  REM * contained in memory.                                  *
49  REM *                                                       *
50  REM *                                                       *
51  REM *                     SUMS                              *
52  REM *                                                       *
53  REM *                      by                               *
54  REM *               Daniel McLaughlin                       *
55  REM *                  Third Period                         *
56  REM *               February 26, 1986                       *
57  REM *                                                       *
58  REM *                   STARRING                            *
59  REM *                     The                               *
60  REM *               DECLARED VARIABLES                      *
61  REM *         A$ as User Numeric Input No. 1                *
62  REM *         B$ as User Numeric Input No. 2                *
63  REM *                                                       *
64  REM *********************************************************
67  C = A + B
68  PRINT  
69  PRINT A;" + ";B;" = ";C
70  FOR I = 1 TO 2500 : NEXT I
71  TEXT  : HOME
72  END

Fantasy Wargaming

It’s was no secret at the time, that I spent an inordinate amount of my attention to creating fantasy wargaming worlds to explore.  I guess it’s no secret now, either.  So why am I blurting this out now?  I was cleaning and organizing things, trying to reign in my uncontrolled accumulation of stuff, and opening up my Applesoft textbook from high school, entitled “A Guide to Programming in Applesoft” by Bruce Presley.  I remember the class.  It was taught by an abnormally masculine girls sports coach, and was pretty much a sleeper class for me.  I remember that the instructor (who may have only paged through the textbook that summer) had a problem with me keying in “?” for print statements.  That was the first time it was suspected that I may be engaging in hacker-like activities.  I never did show her that I could edit my code with ESC + I,J,K,M.  Oh well.

At this time, it was my dream to capture lightning in a bottle and pick up where Richard Garriott left off.  It’s true, I was going to be the next Fantasy Wargaming superstar.  “Fantasy Wargaming” was a book by Bruce Cordell that I found infinitely more interesting than all other D&D books, with the exception of the “Grimtooth’s Traps” series for 2 reasons: The first was that depth of historical detail and breadth of research that went into compiling the source material for the gaming rules.  It’s seemed every detail was covered, and actually led me into reading historical thesis based on medieval day to day activities.  The second is that the rules were not coherent and complete nor were they by any means playable in any enjoyable fashion.  It took me a while to catch on to that second fact, but in the mean time, I would continue to operate in my deluded milleu, trying to eke out a playable game.  As other students learned how to make student rosters, and report semester grades, I worked on making a gaming master piece.

So why haven’t you heard of this marvelous endeavor?  Because, as I just discovered, it only exists on a few sheets of paper jammed in my High School text book.

I present the hand written notes for Fantasy Wargaming, scribbled during my Computer Basics class of the 1984 Fall semester.

Fantasy Wargaming Programming Notes