Category Archives: Emulation

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.

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.