WOzFest DB9 Announcement

I’m very happy to announce the date for the next WOzFest, WOzFest DB9 – Saturday 28 April 2018, starting around midday Sydney time (UTC+10:00).

The theme for WOzFest DB9 is “Communications” – serial, networked, wireless, and wired. The name, and therefore theme, were suggested by Michael from The Retro Computing Roundtable podcast – thanks, Michael!

I’m hoping to have some Skype calls teed up to discuss communications issues retrocomputer-related, both back in the day and in the modern age – but given how far in advance I’m announcing this WOzFest, I haven’t gotten to that part of the organising yet…I have some great potential callers in mind, though.

Attendees are welcome to bring their favourite retrocomputer-related communications gear, and we’ll log in to some Internet-connected BBSes on the day. We may even be useful and compare the performance of an Apple //e when using an Uthernet or an Uthernet II in telnet65.

Existing projects, related to the theme or not, are more than welcome to be brought along as well – whether it be repairs, disk imaging, upgrades…whatever you want to work on. Being near the end of Retrochallenge 2018/04, I’ll likely incorporate some of my entry-related work into the day.

As always, it will be held at my place at Wollstonecraft, on Sydney’s Lower North Shore – contact me for the address. Start time is 12:00(ish), with an expected finish time of around 21:30.

No lunch provided, but nibbles, soft drinks and Apple cider will be available (I ask for a small contribution towards snacks), and we’ll all chip in for delivery pizza for dinner whenever we notice we’re hungry.

I hope to see you there!

WOzFest 8-bit Photo Galleries

Below are my photos from the WOzFest 8-bit, including a couple provided by Melody from Paleotronic.

Not really ready for attendees!

Trying to clear some Retrochallenge backlog.

Eight europlus motherboards.

Lasers and Cats don’t normally mix well.

Chatting with Steven Weyrich. [credit: Melody from Paleotronic]

Projects move ever forward. [credit: Melody from Paleotronic]

WOzFest 8-bit Recap

The last WOzFest for 2017 was held in mid-November, later than I intended due to a long recovery from the flu. The theme was 8-bit computers, especially, but not limited to, Apple 8-bits.

We had nine attendees in all, with Melody and April from Paleotronic making it all the way up from country Victoria to attend.

I used the opportunity to do a little bit of extra work on my “europlus Refurbapalooza” – I basically took apart all my europluses, and ordered the base pans by serial number, the motherboards by date code, and the power supplies by serial number.

Then, via this arrangement, each system was composed of these “chronologically aligned” sub-parts. I still have some cleaning and testing to do, as well as the replacement of any missing or damaged feet, and I expect these tasks to form the basis of my RetroChallenge 2018/04 entry.

Murray, who had brought a Hitachi Peach to WOzFest S7,D2, had recently acquired a second one, and he brought both along as alternative 8-bits. More work was done trying to identify components or assess the viability of connecting peripherals. Murray has posted info on the machine and his growing collection, and is even planning on hosting a gathering he’s tentatively named “PeachFest” in the new year – can’t wait!

Craig brought his Laser 3000 and Dick Smith Cat – these machines were quite clearly manufactured in the same factory, with the Dick Smith machine being re-labelled for sale in those stores.

Craig found a specific version of BASIC (v3.0) on one of the machines which other enthusiasts of these clones had been looking for, so he’s going to make sure the ROMs get imaged.

We had a couple of great Skype calls – the first was from Jonathan Zufi of The Shrine of Apple website (which is currently shut down) and author of the book Iconic. Jonathan regaled us with tales about his history with the Apple ][, his collection efforts for the Shrine and Iconic, and various trials and tribulations around publishing and selling the book. As a special treat for attendees, Jonathan gifted attendees with a copy of Iconic, which was exceedingly generous of him.

The book has exquisitely detailed photos of Apple products going all the way back to the Apple-1 – Jonathan said he didn’t want to create a product catalog of Apple devices, so not every device is shown, but I like to think he has showcased all the major elements of Apple design and the machines (and peripherals and packaging) those elements have been used in. It’s well worth getting your hands on if you can.

The second Skype was from another well-known Apple ][ author, Steven Weyrich, of the Apple ][ History website, which Steven has published in book form as Sophistication & Simplicity. Michael from RCR had brought his copy, and it’s a great book full of great stories about the history of Apple and the Apple ][.

We also chatted about how Steven first got into writing the history when he was on GEnie and how it morphed into a website. I’ve put it on my todo list for the new year to buy a copy, and it will make a great addition to the WOzFest Library.

Jon worked on his //c+, Andrew on one of his europluses, and Melody and April gave us an update on everything they’ve been doing at Paleotronic. As always, photos from the event (including a couple from Melody) are available in a separate Photo Galleries post.

There was pizza and cider, of course, and I believe a good time was had by all – as always, I’m very much looking forward to the next WOzFest, which I’m about to announce!

WOzFest S7,D2 Photo Galleries

Below are my photos from the gathering at Adrian’s and WOzFest S7,D2, including a tweeted photo and a link to an attendee’s gallery.

Update: Jeremy’s photos from Adrians gathering have been posted.

Adrian had both familiar and rare items on display the week before WOzFest S7,D2.

Adrian had both familiar and rare items on display the week before WOzFest S7,D2.

All ready on the day.

All ready on the day.

Comparing circuit board component variations (as you do).

Comparing circuit board component variations (as you do).

Proof that autocorrect is trainable.

Proof that autocorrect is trainable.

Not an Apple, but still a fruit – an Hitachi Peach.

Not an Apple, but still a fruit – an Hitachi Peach.

So many bytes free at 40 columns…

So many bytes free at 40 columns…

…80 columns, not so much! I guess the extra characters have to be stored somewhere.

…80 columns, not so much! I guess the extra characters have to be stored somewhere.

A double interface card from the Peach.

A double interface card from the Peach.

Tony has many stories to tell…

Tony has many stories to tell…

…and circuit boards to show…

…and circuit boards to show…

…so many circuit boards…

…so many circuit boards…

…and rareties, like this prototype ADB keyboard with development Apple ][ interface card.

…and rareties, like this prototype ADB keyboard with development Apple ][ interface card.

Before he arrived, Rob tweeted this image of his preparations:

Rob has subsequently posted his images from the day.

 

WOzFest S7,D2 Recap

Sydney put on a glorious spring day for WOzFest S7,D2 attendees recently.

For enthusiasts who had not been able to make it to Oz KFest 2017, it was the last opportunity to catch Tony Diaz before he flew back to the States.

The previous week, Adrian had hosted us at his office and showed off parts of his massive Apple-related retrocomputer collection, and Tony also attended that gathering – there were some enthusiasts who could only make one or the other gathering, so it was good we were able to cater to schedules in that way.

Similar to what later became known as WOzFest-1, Tony showed attendees the rare and interesting items he had brought with him and told the stories about them. Tony’s talks and items are real eye-openers, and if you ever get the chance to catch one of them, I highly recommend it. A sense of them will be gained when the videos from Oz KFest 2017 are released.

Breaking with recent tradition, and in light of the “late notice” nature of this gathering, I didn’t organise any Skype calls for this WOzFest – but I think being able to discuss Apple ][ and retrocomputer topics with Tony in person more than made up for this “shortcoming”.

Two traditions which were fulfilled were: at least one attendee travelled from interstate (Tim from Canberra); and we had pizza for dinner (of course!).

As sometimes happens, some non-Apple retrocomputing technology made an appearance, in this case Murray brought his recently-acquired Hitachi Peach (at least it’s a fruit!), a machine I’d never seen, although I was at least vaguely aware they existed.

It was interesting seeing it in operation, and I found small details intriguing, like it reporting different amounts of free memory depending on whether it was started in 40 or 80 column mode (as more memory had to be dedicated to screen memory to hold the extra characters). For some reason, what I found most fascinating was that it had three separate “?” keys!

The A2Heaven FASTChip //e which had been eagerly played with at Oz KFest also came along and WOzFest attendees who hadn’t seen it were as blown away as it seems everyone is upon seeing it in operation.

A few attendees stayed till after midnight, which was well past my bed time, but it’s nice to be able to provide a venue for such things. As always, photos from the event (and one from Adrian’s) are available in a separate Photo Galleries post.

Because this recap is so delayed, I don’t have to say “I can’t wait for the next WOzFest”, as WOzFest 8-bit has already been held, and I’m publishing its recap at the same time as this one – I’ll see you “there”!

Oz KFest 2017 Recap

As I’ve previously alluded to, there was an Oz KFest this year, held on Bribie Island, which is an hour’s drive north of Brisbane, Queensland. I didn’t spend the time blogging from the event as I had originally intended to (those following my Retrochallenge entries will know where my intentions sometimes end up), so rather than a series of shorter blog posts, this will be a long post covering the whole event.

While I’ll be drawing rather heavily on my own memories of the event, I’m also relying on other sources of schedule and content info to keep me on the right track, namely:

  • the #OzKFest2017 Twitter hashtag;
  • my Skype call history (my laptop ended up being the one used for most Skype-based presentations);
  • the filenames of the live presentation recordings (helpfully numbered in order presented);
  • the contents of onsite-recorded and pre-recorded videos; and
  • the calendar entries I made when the schedule was distributed to attendees.

Hopefully, other attendees will also post about their experiences at Oz KFest 2017 – I’m bound to forget things, or not provide as much detail as some readers might like, and different perspectives can help give a real sense of the event. The presentation videos, both live and pre-recorded, will be posted on the Oz KFest 2017 Youtube channel, and I will update the session details below as they become available as well.

A little background

This was the fourth (and my second) Oz KFest (previous ones were held in 2009, 2013, and 2015) – it’s a bit hard to match KansasFest’s annual schedule, although I suspect an eager core of local Apple ][ enthusiasts would commit to annual attendance.

Oz KFest is like KansasFest in more than just name – shared features include: it’s a multi-day event; there’s a schedule of formalised presentations on topics of interest to Apple ][ and retrocomputer enthusiasts, often delivered by internationally renowned community members; there is much sharing of information; help abounds for projects attendees might be working on; and attendees are eager to share stories about items in their collection or “ones that got away” on eBay.

Unlike KansasFest, however, Oz KFest does not have a single venue it returns to: potential venues are selected by organisers and the call put out to see if the numbers support the holding of the event at the selected venue/s.

This has seen the event held in New South Wales (2009), Queensland (2013 and 2017), and Victoria (2015). All prior Oz KFests have been held in locations which feature the letter “K” in their names – Mt Keira (2009), Kurilpa (2013), and Keysborough (2015).

Although we missed out on maintaining the name theme this year, we did come closer to the KansasFest vibe by holding the event at a conference centre with onsite dormitory-style accommodation.

This also facilitated having onsite catering – and Melody and April from Paleotronic (authors of microM8 [formerly named The Octalyzer] and DSKalzer, and soon-to-be publishers of Paleotronic Magazine, see below) put their hands up early on to take on the catering duties (with a rotating roster of other attendees lending a hand).

The catering was a massive effort, which I know all attendees were very appreciative of – shopping and cooking for 10-15 people over 4-5 days is no small feat, and I think I can state that no one went hungry at any meal.

I’ve previously mentioned that we had one international attendee this year – this was, in fact, Tony Diaz’s second Oz KFest as he reprised his Oz KFest 2015 role as International Attendee. Tony once again brought with him a metric shed-load of material, anecdotes, and observations to amuse and inform us with.

Arrival – 30 August

Most attendees arrived throughout 30 August, the day before the scheduled start of presentations, so they could settle in to their accommodation. We unfortunately had a couple of attendees have to pull out late due to unexpected work commitments, so we didn’t hit 2015 attendance levels, which was a shame, but we still had a good bunch of attendees representing a diverse set of retrocomputer and Apple ][ interests.

Andrew Roughan, one of the organisers, and I flew up together – Andrew’s wife kindly drove us to the airport, which I was quite happy about as I’d purchased extra luggage allowance and so had quite a heavy bag with not only clothes but a few boxes of material I was hoping to pass on to other attendees, was related to my presentations, or was for projects I was hoping to work on.

We also scored a lift from Brisbane airport – Melody and April kindly did the round-trip from Bribie Island to pick us up once we’d arrived. The lifts to and from the airports certainly made my life easier – I was prepared to catch public transport, but it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as convenient or pleasant.

There were enough early arrivers to do a basic venue set up that night, so we were in a good position to begin presentations on the 31st.

Day 1 – 31 August

With a bit more setup, we began formal presentations around midday – Steve Kazoullis, another event organiser, was an attendee at this year’s KansasFest, and gave the first presentation describing his trip to the US and KansasFest. It’s always interesting to hear different perspectives on this major Apple ][ gathering.

Steve was followed by his brother-in-law, Nick Marentes, who had quite a career “back in the day” writing games for the TRS-80 – Nick conveyed the amazing time it was as developers figured out what they could do with the ever-improving hardware, resulting in programs which quickly increased in complexity and sophistication.

Our first presentation after lunch was a pre-recorded one about the 4Live text editing tool co-developed by celebrated Apple ][ preservationists qkumba and 4am (qkumba gave the presentation, and answered questions by Skype after the recording was played to attendees).

The ingenuity and creativity in iterating the program to make it more and more useful, while less and less impactful on a “live” cracking environment, was fascinating, even for non-developers like me.

After dinner Jeremy from Canberra (a frequent WOzFest attendee) gave an overview of his “Year of Fun”, including his mammoth count of 23,663 pages (!) scanned from periodicals, manuals and books, most of which he has made available for download.

Jeremy provided a great overview of his methods and procedures for digitisation, including how different PDF viewers perform OCR, the challenges of grouping associated materials on the Internet Archive, and some viewing stats on his blog.

Jeremy’s attention to detail, high standard of work, and sheer volume of output is phenomenally impressive. He also showed some pictures of his (vastly) extensive collection – it really has to be seen to be believed.

Our late night treat was a pre-recorded session from noted Apple ][ developer Ewen Wannop on “How the Internet Works” – Ewen is perhaps best known for his work on the IIgs telecommunications program Spectrum and associated tools, scripts, etc. which allow the IIgs to perform many tasks on the Internet. The Skype chat with Ewen after the presentation brought the formal schedule for the day to a close at 10pm, but attendees continued to work on their own projects, or just hang around and chat, well into the night.

Day 2 – 1 September

Day 2’s schedule started with an updated version of my Oz KFest 2015 presentation, Solid State of the Nation. In this presentation I gave an overview of the types of solid state storage solutions for Apple retrocomputers, as well as detailing the features of several such products.

Of note compared to the state of play in 2015, the Floppy Emu has seen a huge amount of development by Steve Chamberlin and is one of the most flexible solid state storage solutions for Apple enthusiasts, supporting a wide range of device emulations and supported host systems. Details of the improvements to the Floppy Emu since Oz KFest 2015 are included in the slides for this year’s presentation.

Next up was a recorded presentation from Stephen Heumann on his AFPBridge tool, which allows a IIgs to connect to an AFP server over TCP/IP. Stephen detailed how AFPBridge hooks into the system and modifies its behaviour to allow such access.

Stephen also discussed how similar methods might be used to further extend the IIgs’s capabilities, such as SMB sharepoint access, and how feasible the implementation of cryptographic algorithms might be. Once again, the talk was given in a way that was accessible for non-developers like me, and it’s exciting to see such useful software still being developed for the IIgs.

Continuing the networking theme, the next presentation was a recorded one from Kelvin Sherlock on his modifications to ProLine and KEGS to allow them to work over the Internet. BBS access via the Internet is gaining in popularity as retrocomputer enthusiasts relive what “online” meant back in the day, and modification of BBS software to support TCP/IP connections is one way of achieving this (the other is TCP/IP-to-serial adaptors/bridges such as the WiFi232 [see below on Jason’s workshop]).

Kelvin gave background on MD-BASIC and ModemWorks (which ProLine is built on), and then covered the modifications he had to make to ProLine and KEGS (which he runs in headless mode on an Amazon EC2 Linux Server) to run a ProLine BBS on the Internet. It’s a testament to the flexibility MD-BASIC and ModemWorks that the changes to ProLine were reasonably minor to allow it to work in this mode.

I was next up with a presentation on Retrocomputing Preservation Using Modern Tools which, unsurprisingly, covered preservation of hardware, software, print, and other material using modern tools and techniques. Some issues covered were destructive vs non-destructive digitisation, refurbishment/repair with modern equivalent components vs period-correct ones, and the pros and cons of Retr0brighting retrocomputers.

After my talk, and continuing the refurbishment theme, Tony Diaz gave a Lightning Talk on what he calls Retroblast – using a sand blaster loaded with baking soda to remove yellowing from old plastics. He showed photos of his results using the technique. While the results are impressive, I’m really not sure I’d be entirely happy using an abrasive technique like this. That said, I’m not yet convinced to Retr0bright any of my yellowed computers, either.

Our next presentation was a live video chat with Bill Martens of Call A.P.P.L.E. – Bill gave an overview of recent Call A.P.P.L.E. projects and publications. These include the books Cyber Jack and Synergistic Software: The Early Games (both by Robert Clardy), an update to GBBS Pro and a companion book, a re-release of The WozPak (a copy of which I won at Oz KFest 2015), an enhanced and updated version of What’s Where in the APPLE (in partnership with original publisher Robert Tripp), the Call A.P.P.L.E. 1978 and 1979 Compendia, Mike Harvey’s Nibble Viewpoints, and the iOS version of Structris. Be sure to check out the Call A.P.P.L.E. Current Specials before placing any orders!

Jeremy from Canberra was next up, giving information on his (thorough) refurbishment techniques, the way he prints and laminates screenshots and places them in his machines to improve the display of his items, his experience with Retr0bright, how collecting is allowing him to relive childhood memories, how much he gets from the active Apple ][ community, and his highlights collecting retrocomputers.

Tony Diaz took the floor again next and discussed some of the background to GBBS and its derivatives, the history of the Disk ][, duodisk, and unidisk, and showed pictures of some of his collection – it’s hard to convey the sheer volume of material in his collection. Tony has some interesting plans for making material available online moving forward which he discussed as well.

The stories Tony tells offer fascinating glimpses into the history of numerous products – like the time Central Point Software lost the source code to Copy II+ (due to the death of the primary author) and had to write the next (widely panned) version from scratch. And how that source code, and code for other projects from other companies, turned up on an initially non-functioning hard drive from the author’s estate at Tony’s place of employment purely by chance years later.

Melody and April from Paleotronic gave a presentation after dinner, detailing the work they’ve been doing on several fronts. Firstly, they gave a demonstration of DSKalyzer, their disk image management and manipulation tool. To say that DSKalyzer redefines what a disk image management app does is a massive understatement. Its features set a new benchmark for such tools, and will be a phenomenally useful tool for Apple ][ preservationists worldwide.

I can’t give a thorough overview of DSKalyzer or do it full justice, but I think it will become an indispensable tool for Apple ][ software preservationists. It’s not surprising to hear that it came about after discussions with Jason Scott and the challenges he faced assessing material for the Internet Archive.

You pass a directory structure of disk images to DSKalyzer, it ingests the images and their contents, and then the fun begins. Firstly, disk images are cataloged and fingerprinted. The individual files are fingerprinted. BASIC files (Applesoft and Integer BASIC) are recognised (detokenised) for listing, and text files are recognised.

It’s read and write, handles .do and .po disk images, can create new ProDOS directories in disk images, can do file-level management (copy, delete, create), can compare disk or file fingerprints to identify duplicates (or different versions!), can be automated or operated as an interactive shell, and is cross-platform.

And the matching of disk contents can be “fuzzy” – i.e. which disks match each other to a chosen percentage. Imagine different copies of the same cracked game disk having different high scores files – finding such “mostly identical” disks with just a disk-level hash would be impossible, but these really are the same disk, and being able to determine that, and investigate the differences, will be a boon for preservationists dealing with large quantities of disks to process.

DSKalyzer will show, when doing fuzzy matching, which files have been added and/or removed between disks (not just which common files between disks are different), which will potentially help with the creation of “phylogenetic trees” of disks. Between DSKalyzer and Applesauce, I’m seeing the next few years of Apple ][ software preservation becoming a much richer field of research.

DSKalyzer is only in the early stages of development, and Melody and April have some great features planned for future versions – already it’s really got to be experienced to be believed, so download it and start playing!

Melody and April also gave an update on The Octalyzer (since renamed microM8), their Apple //e emulator on steroids. Live rewind, rendering graphics as voxels (with the ability to rotate the canvas in 3D), loading software from an online library – these are just some of the features that make microM8 stand apart from other emulators. It will support other Apple ][ models and computer platforms in the future, and support for those other platforms’ disk images will also flow into DSKalyzer.

Don’t let my shorter coverage of microM8 indicate it’s lighter on features than DSKalyzer – my emulator use is pretty light at the moment, and I’m channeling most of my retrocomputing energy to preservation and WOzFest – this emulator has a long list of mind-blowing features both already in-place or planned.

I haven’t played with DSKalyzer or microM8 as much as I’d like, but the effort that’s gone into these programs is impressive to say the least.

And, on top of all this, Melody and April are in the throes of launching Paleotronic Magazine. Aimed at the wider retrocomputing enthusiast community, the magazine will, to quote their website, “provide a monthly dose of both nostalgia and education, highlighting the best (and worst) of early electronics with a modern context, and provide ways to leverage their lessons to solve current problems or find new (old) ways to be entertained!”

There was a lot to cover in their talk, and I’ve no doubt left out some of what they discussed, but I’m hoping the products they’re releasing will be enthusiastically embraced in both the Apple ][ and wider retrocomputing communities and continue to be rewarding for them to work on – they recently held a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for publishing the magazine and offering online microM8 services and easily exceeded their funding goal.

At this point we were approaching the time for A2Central Downunder Chat, so several of us fired up our IRC clients and got chatting. It was quite odd to be simultaneously IRCing and talking to people in the same room, but it did allow us to update some of those who couldn’t make it to Oz KFest on what had been happening.

During the Downunder Chat, Alex from Brisbane (Lukazi) gave a couple of Lightning Talks – the first one was on a modification by Nick Westgate to Robotron which, in conjunction with Alex’s 4play card (announced at WOzFest ///!) or with two analog joysticks attached via a splitter, makes it play like the arcade version: one joystick is used for movement, and the other for shooting. Alex had a system set up at Oz KFest with the relevant joystick hardware to demonstrate the modified game.

Alex’s second talk was on Checkpoint, a driving game he wrote which has to be seen to be believed – a relay control Apple ][ interface card, remote control cars with video cameras in their windscreens, video overlay, wireless checkpoints all combine on an Apple ][ so that you drive around a course, passing checkpoints with time limits, viewing a live feed from the camera on the host computer’s screen.

This development all came about after Alex saw a relay card and remote control car auction several years ago – while he couldn’t afford the high-priced auction, he was able to get photos of both sides of the relay card and reverse engineer the design. Read Alex’s post and, when it’s available, watch the Oz KFest video of his talk – Alex’s ingenuity continues to astound me.

Day 3 – 2 September

The first presentation for Day 3 was Jason’s overview of the WiFi232 serial-to-WiFi adaptor from Paul Rickards. Jason had organised a group buy of the WiFi232 kits when they were available, and also bought the other parts needed – and even 3D printed a case reminiscent of the Apple TV. After being taken through the build, attendees who had bought the kit started to work on constructing their own unit.

Our next presentation was a pre-recorded one from Eric Shepherd, known in the Apple ][ community for his work on the Sweet16 IIgs emulator, amongst other Apple IIgs-related software. Eric’s topic was “Making the IIgs Future Our Own” and he covered some ideas for ways that the OS and Toolbox might be enhanced to make IIgs developers’ lives easier.

Much of this talk was above my head as a non-developer, but Eric’s enthusiasm for future development for the IIgs platform shines through as he discusses the challenges he faces as a developer of both IIgs software and a IIgs emulator, and potential solutions moving forward.

Tony Diaz was next up, offering his reflections on the “Evolution of the Apple ][ Series” – this included, of course, illustration of some amazing “what might have been” moments with prototype boards Tony had brought with him (or a complete system, such as his Cortland IIgs prototype).

This is perhaps the presentation I could do the least justice to trying to convey to non-attendees. If I had to, I’d say it’s like Tony has a travelling Apple ][ prototype museum which he has the knowledge to do more than just a vanilla “show and tell” of. These aren’t just static artefacts laid out on a table – Tony knows their quirks, their backstory, how they fit into the full Apple ][ timeline, where their foundations ended up being implemented in other devices, or which foundations were abandoned by Apple.

Oz KFest attendees get a rare glimpse into these artefacts through Tony’s attendance – it’s something I know all Oz KFest attendees value greatly, and we’re all very appreciative of Tony taking the effort to once again join us so far from home.

Our last session for the day was a pre-recorded one titled “Behind the Scenes of an Apple IIgs Demo” from Jesse Blue of NinjaForce (perhaps best known for their 1997 IIgs Megademo and their Bomberman clone, KABOOM!) – Jesse took us through the artistic and technical building of the Kernkompetenz demo, which NinjaForce presented at the Revision 2017 demo party.

Jesse gave an overview of colour palette use on the IIgs and graphics tricks like Fill Mode, as well as the challenges faced by IIgs demo-makers, such as the lack of sprites, no double buffering, and no hardware scrolling – and all while writing the graphics memory is speed-limited to 1MHz!

Once again, although this was a fairly technical presentation, Jesse presented it in a way that was interesting to non-technical/non-programming attendees like myself. It really is amazing what can be squeezed out of these old machines!

Saturday was unusual in that there was an outing into Brisbane proper – the local Commodore enthusiasts group was holding its annual gathering in a local hall, and the organisers kindly invited us Apple blow-ins to come and enjoy their hospitality.

I must admit to being less than well-informed on Commodore machines, and I was surprised at the number of models there were on show – and these were machines which were operational and set up for demonstration or use. There was the obligatory pizza, and a high score game competition, but much of the software I saw wasn’t familiar to me either.

It was well worth the round trip to see what our fellow enthusiasts are enthusiastic about…but I wasn’t converted away from my love of Apple ][s (my tattoo must have acted as a protective talisman!).

Once we got back to the Oz KFest venue, we did some more experimenting with the FastChip //e, and ended up trying to find the speed boost for Wavy Navy that didn’t make it unplayable (by us amateurs, anyway). We settled on 1.2MHz, and then there was a friendly high score competition of our own. As often happens, once I decided I was in the competition, I was not going to rest until I had beaten the high score, and I finally did so at 01:30 (my latest night at the gathering).

Day 4 – 3 September

The last day was primarily used for packing up and some lightning talks, which were quite varied, and included:

  • Tony Diaz showing and describing a prototype ADB keyboard (which looks like an early Mac keyboard) and its Apple ][ interface card – ADB made its first appearance on the IIgs, so its not surprising the prototype was Apple ][-based;
  • I showed some of the operations possible in the Applesauce software – this hardware project and its companion software is being eagerly awaited in the Apple ][ community;
  • Jason gave an update and overview of the Apple II Oz website;
  • Andrew gave an overview of the FastChip //e, and also discussed TransWarp GS acceleration, and what is the best bang for the buck as far as speeds go.

With that, the sessions finished up, and we all dejectedly packed up and left around lunchtime.

Multi-day and Random Observations

One of the nice things about a multi-day event is that, not surprisingly, projects or hardware set-ups can be worked on/played with over multiple days.

For example, a //e system was set up by Alex with A2Heaven’s FASTChip //e, the recently-released speed-selectable (from 0.2-16.6MHz) Apple //e accelerator. Not only is this an amazing feat of engineering for what it does, it’s a beautiful thing to look at as well (with colour-changing LED-illuminated perspex). The speed is not only selectable, but it can be changed while the //e is running(!), allowing for testing different speeds, or changing speeds depending on what you’re doing with the machine.

That //e system was the first to emit Magic Smoke™ at Oz KFest early in the afternoon of Day 2. The PSU that blew was an Astec AA11040C, which I have some experience with. The capacitor which blew was the larger, 470nF filter cap Apple added to the original AA11040B/C design, which they connected across the Active and Neutral power socket terminals in parallel with a 680kΩ resistor. This modification towards the end of the use of the AA11040B/C PSU was incorporated into the main circuit board of the next version of the Apple ][ power supply.

This design meant that, given the capacitor is “before” the power switch, turning the power off didn’t stop the Magic Smoke™ from being (copiously) emitted! We figured it out in the end and unplugged the cord, which had the desired effect. There was a fair amount of gunk inside the power supply, and it was still liquid in some places, but cleaning it with Isopropyl so soon after the capacitor blew made cleanup much more straightforward.

I had brought one of those late-model AA11040C PSUs with me for troubleshooting as part of my ongoing europlus refurbishment project – despite all the caps testing as OK and the 100nF filter cap having been replaced, it still wasn’t working. When Dean, who does a lot of recapping as a service to retrocomputer enthusiasts, arrived on Saturday I decided to commission him to check it over an make any necessary repairs – it turned out a dry solder joint or two was the culprit. I’m not going to put the 470nF capacitor and 680kΩ resistor back in it as it will then be more like the versions of that PSU used in the europlus.

Amongst those attendees working on projects throughout the event, Tony Diaz could often be seen poring over one circuit board or another trying to edge them towards being operational. Attendees who participated in Jason’s WiFi232 workshop could be seen continuing work on their projects well after Jason’s talk concluded, and Dean and others worked on a IIgs brought by single-day attendees on Saturday which was suffering from bad battery leak corrosion on its motherboard.

I didn’t get to work on as much as I’d hoped as I was too interested in talking to other attendees and seeing what they were working on! I did get to replace some faulty RAM chips in some third party language cards I’d brought with me for testing. And I tested the RAM (and replaced faulty chips) on the motherboard of Kent’s europlus which he had brought with him when he came as a single-day attendee on Saturday.

Final Thoughts

It’s difficult to convey what it’s like to attend an event like Oz KFest – and I suspect KansasFest is yet another level of difficult-to-convey.

It’s not exactly “WOzFest On Steroids”, but it’s not exactly not that, either. It’s camaraderie, it’s informative, it’s uber-geeky…and a lot more. While I’m proud of what WOzFests are and get a lot out of hosting/attending them, there’s just something else about getting together for several days and having more formalised and scheduled presentations – it’s more immersive, and allows deeper conversations (deeper technically, that is) to carry on for longer, and people can see what projects you’re working on, too, and even lend a hand.

You see aspects of this hobby you may not be normally motivated to delve into, and because it’s all part of the same cloud of material related to what you’re interested in, you’re interested in learning about that stuff, too. Being presented with it, rather than having to go off seeking it yourself, means you look at topics you wouldn’t normally look at.

And that can spark new interests, or allow you to make connections for other enthusiasts because of something else you read, or someone else you spoke to, or to recommend something you’ve worked on that you never realised could be used in a different area of interest.

I hope one day to get to KansasFest – everyone I’ve spoken to who has attended does nothing but recommend it. In the meantime, I think I’m getting a not insignificant portion of what I’m missing out on by attending Oz KFest, and hosting/attending WOzFests.

I can’t wait for the next Oz KFest (hopefully closer to home), and I’m looking forward to renewing acquaintances and geeking out again over several days with like-minded Apple enthusiasts.

Retrochallenge 2017/10 Recap – A Soft Exit

A very short post here to confirm what my tweets have previously stated – I was unable to get any work done during Retrochallenge 2017/10 so I had to soft exit, which is a very sad story.

Well, I did line my europluses up on the table, and take one case apart, and get skewered by a keyboard ribbon cable plug, but that was it and probably took less than 30 minutes from go to (bloody) woe.

I suffer from chronic nausea, and it flared up rather badly after I got the flu recently, so it was very hard to have any energy beyond work and home commitments to do any more.

I’m certainly planning on entering Retrochallenge 2018/04 more successfully, but I can’t promise I won’t work on my europluses before then – in fact, I’m expecting to do at least a little bit during WOzFest 8-bit as penance.

WOzFest 8-bit Announcement

I’m very happy to finally announce the date for the next WOzFest, WOzFest 8-bit – Saturday 18 November 2017, starting around midday Sydney time (UTC+11:00).

The theme for WOzFest Slot 7: Your Card was the Apple IIgs, Apple’s only non-8-bit Apple ][. It therefore seemed appropriate to set the theme for WOzFest 8-bit to all the other Apple ][s (which were 8-bit)…and the Apple-1, Apple /// and Apple ///+.

On the Apple ][ front, this runs the gamut of the original Apple ][, the ][+, the //e, the //c,  //c+, and the IIe LC PDS card – and variants such as the euromod, the europlus (of course!), the j-plus, etc. And that’s without even starting on the numerous clones!

I have a couple of great Skype calls teed up to discuss this seminal time of Apple’s history – so many iconic models and such a phenomenal growth time for the company.

Attendees are welcome to bring their favourite 8-bit computer(s!) – I’ll even allow ring-ins if you have a non-Apple 8-bit you’d like to bring along. Projects are more than welcome to be brought along, of course – whether it be repairs, imaging, upgrades…whatever you want to work on.

As always, it will be held at my place at Wollstonecraft, on Sydney’s Lower North Shore – contact me for the address. Start time is 12:00(ish), with an expected finish time of around 21:30.

No lunch provided, but nibbles, soft drinks and Apple cider will be available (I ask for a small contribution towards snacks), and we’ll all chip in for delivery pizza for dinner whenever we notice we’re hungry.

I hope to see you there!

Juiced.GS Publisher Announces Two New Retrocomputer Services

Gamebits, publisher of the sole remaining Apple ][ print publication, Juiced.GS, has announced two new online services for retrocomputer enthusiasts: Retro Roundup and a2.click.

Retro Roundup is a feed aggregator of retrocomputer-related sites (disclaimer: including this one!) which can be filtered in several ways. Interested users can read the feed “onsite”, subscribe to RSS feeds, or receive weekly updates via e-mail. Sites are being actively added by Gamebits, and site publishers can submit their own site for inclusion in the aggregator feed.

a2.click is a URL shortener with an Apple ][ focus. Links on a curated whitelist of sites (disclaimer: this site is on the whitelist!) can be shortened to make them more easily shared. For example, after setting it up, rather than sharing “https://the.europlus.zone/resources/silentype-font-v2-0-released/” as a link to my Silentype font, I can now just share the link “https://a2.click/silentypefont” instead. Much easier!

I’ll be using both sites (and encourage you to do the same), and really appreciate the effort Ken Gagne at Gamebits puts into supporting the Apple ][ community in particular, and the wider retrocomputer community in general – thanks, Ken!

Retrochallenge 2017/10 Entry – europlus Refurbapalooza Ep. 3

Retrochallenge time is almost upon us again, and, after two prior entries helping me move my europlus refurbishment project along, there’s no way I wasn’t going to enter again!

And so, for the third Retrochallenge in a row, I am entering my “continuing stooooooory” of a europlus Refurbapalooza into the mix for Retrochallenge 2017/10.

I’m now at the stage of chronologically aligning the base (with serial number) to power supply to motherboard – my intention is to troubleshoot the motherboards once attached to the bases and connected to the power supplies, but before affixing the top case – it will make swapping chips out that much easier, especially at the front and back of the motherboards.

I’ll also aim to replace any missing/damaged/moved rubber feet on the bases, and hopefully clean the top plastic cases.

My minimal aim is to have at least one extra fully operational unit by the end of October – given the glitches I saw when I quickly ran through all the machines, I think it’ll be a stretch to get them all working, but I will try.

If you’re vacillating about entering, or have never considered entering, I can highly recommend it as a way to help you move your retrocomputing project/s forward.

For anyone who does enter, whether for the first time or as a returning entrant, I wish a heartfelt “Good luck!”