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. I believe the presentation videos, both live and pre-recorded, will be posted online and I will post about that when they’re ready 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 and 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 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 been 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!”

WOzFest S7,D2 Announcement – and a Bonus Sydney Gathering!

I’ll try and be a little more timely in my Oz KFest 2017 reminisces than I was with my WOzFest Slot 7: Your Card Recap, but in the meantime, I have great news: WOzFest S7,D2 is about to be held – details to follow after a short diversion…

As I recounted in Juiced.GS, the first gathering I held, before it was known as WOzFest, was in the afterglow of Oz KFest 2015, as Tony Diaz, who had attended all the way from the US, was in Sydney before flying back.

Seizing an opportunity to again see the items he had brought with him (and he had brought numerous supremely interesting items), and to hear his stories about them, I held a gathering for what I thought would be Sydney-siders who hadn’t been able to make it to Oz KFest.

We set a precedent that first gathering which is a bit of a WOzFest tradition now – there was an interstate attendee, Kim, who had made it all the way from Tasmania. So far, there has only been one WOzFest without an interstate attendee (WOzFest ][), and it is amazing to me that people are prepared to travel so far for what is, at its heart, a small enthusiast’s gathering in a small-population city (from a global perspective).

Well, Tony has again attended an Oz KFest, and again brought a metric shed-load of historical Apple-related items…and will again be in Sydney before heading back to the US – this time for two Saturdays.

So, over the next two Saturdays, 9 and 16 September, we’re having two gatherings in honour of Tony’s presence in Sydney!

And the first one will not even be a WOzFest!

Local enthusiast Adrian has offered space he has available for a short while at Mosman on Sydney’s Lower North Shore for the first gathering – Adrian has a staggeringly large Apple-related retrocomputer collection, and has promised some interesting items to complement Tony’s. Adrian was featured on Episode 81 of RetroMacCast (almost 10 years ago!), and I know he’s made some interesting acquisitions since then.

Start time on the 9th is 14:30 Sydney time, with an expected finish time of 21:00 – contact me for the address if you can make it.

And then, as indicated above, on 16 September we’ll hold WOzFest S7,D2. There are currently no Skype calls planned, and, given its short lead-time and the fact I’m reserving my 8-themed name for later this year, it has a name which reflects its “between 7 and 8” nature (and it ties in nicely with the “Slot 7” name for the most recent “full” WOzFest).

The usual schedule applies – start time is midday Sydney time, if people are still here at dinner time we’ll get some pizza, and we’ll aim to finish by about 21:30.

Holding two events gives Oz KFest non-attendees the maximum flexibility to attend and see Tony and his items – some couldn’t make 9th, and some couldn’t make the 16th, so I’m really pleased that between Adrian and I we’re able to cater to as many enthusiasts as possible.

I hope to see you on one or both of the coming Saturdays!

WOzFest Slot 7: Your Card Recap

Apologies for the delay getting this recap out – real life interferes with more than just my Retrochallenge entries! But given Oz KFest 2017 has started, I thought I’d better get a wriggle on! Photos are in a separate post as usual.

We had a pretty good turnout on the day, with around 12 attendees all up. Most attendees had to leave by about 17:00, so I didn’t end up leaving many attendees alone when I had to get ready for my night out, and those remaining had left before I left home myself.

Melody and April, authors of the Octalyzer, had driven up from Melbourne – they attended KansasFest last year and wanted to capture some of the KFest magic by being here for the Skype hookup to Kansas City. They discussed their work on the Octalyzer with attendees, who were impressed by its features such as 3D rendering of Apple ][ programs, rewind functionality, and online access to disk images.

Speaking of which, the hookup went pretty well with a reasonable number of KFest attendees hanging around in the basement to say “Hi!”. WOzFest regulars Michael and Jeremy were there, and another Aussie, Steve from Brisbane, also participated.

Audio was acceptable overall, but is always the weak link in the hookup – there were a couple of other groups of KFest attendees in the basement along with the Skypers, and I think that may have made the audio a little more challenging for Michael’s laptop to pickup properly.

That said, it’s great to check in with the KFesters and capture just a little bit of what it’s like to attend – Jeremy made that a little easier by providing a couple of 360° 3D pictures which we looked at in Sydney using Jon’s ViewMaster phone-holder. It was amazing to look around and feel like you were in Rockhurst. I’m sure nothing beats the real thing, though!

Craig worked on some custom ROMs for his //c+ which Leslie had burnt for him, and Mark discussed his IIgs port of Asteroids and checked out The Octalyzer.

Andrew worked on a few projects: he troubleshot a non-working Ensoniq chip in one of his IIgs’s; he changed the config of a Toshiba FlashAir SD card (which has built-in WiFi and HTTP POST-based access to contents) with the aim of updating it from an emulated IIgs build environment; he helped David check his //e PSU; and he helped Murray check the operation of his IIgs and IIgs PSU.

Look for an announcement soon on a mini-WOzFest in honour of Tony Diaz’s attendance at another Oz KFest – the gathering I held after Oz KFest 2015 before Tony flew back to the US became the seed that has germinated into WOzFest, so it seems appropriate to have another gathering with him in Sydney before he flies back this year.

Welcome to the europlus zone!


While I struggle to find the time to write up my WOzFest Slot 7: Your Card recap and post the galleries photos and links, I may as well write a quick post on the “re-branding” of my blog here.

A year and a half ago, when I moved the hosting from MacGUI Vault’s A2HQ, I went searching for a domain name to host under and settled on “europlus.zone”. Following my Twitter handle, I made “apple2.europlus.zone” the main domain for blog URLs, and left “][europlus” as the blog title.

Earlier this year, I was thinking about the blog name (I think in response to it being mentioned on the Open Apple podcast) and changed it just to “europlus” to simplify mentions of the blog – it could be referred to as just “the europlus blog”.

This also made my WordPress e-mails a little tidier, as they use square brackets around the blog title, so I was seeing lots of e-mails with subjects starting “[][europlus]” (the square brackets also do funny things at line ends, which is an occasional source of annoyance on Twitter and Facebook).

A few months later and I’m pondering such issues again, and I realise what I should have back when I first registered the “europlus.zone” domain – a suitable name for the blog, matched with the corresponding domain name for URLs, was “the europlus zone”.

I’d already set up Let’s Encrypt certs earlier this year, so I needed to add the new domain name to the cert, which was a little bit of an exploratory adventure, but I figured it out eventually (I’m looking forward to Let’s Encrypt’s support of wildcard domains early next year, let me tell you).

Setting up the new domain in my hosting settings was relatively straightforward – as was allowing the existing “apple2.europlus.zone” domain to continue to point to this site (and “www.europlus.zone” and “europlus.zone”). Plain http connections are also automatically redirected to https.

I’m yet to go through prior posts to update the links to use the new URL, that will be dependent on me finding the time and inclination to do so. It doesn’t help my motivation that the old ones will continue to work.

I’ve gotten a strange sense of satisfaction making the changes to the site name and setup – I’m not sure why that is, but who am I to argue with my strange senses of satisfaction? All that really matters is I like the sound of:

“Welcome to the europlus zone!”

Update: after posting this, I went to the trouble of reading my post about moving from A2HQ, and what do I see but me referring to this blog on my hosting as “The europlus Zone”! Nothing new under the sun and all that, eh what? I think my brain dropped that name from its awareness in the two months between setup and my first real post here, and the rest is (forgotten) history. So consider this a faulty recollection of how I came about the name, when, in fact, it’s simply an implementation of something I did think of back in the day (albeit with tortured capitalisation). I hadn’t made the URL or title match that name, so it’s no wonder I got confused!

Oz KFest 2017 Registration Open

Registration is now open for all Apple ][ enthusiasts interested in attending Oz KFest 2017.

Oz KFest is Australia’s premier gathering of Apple ][ fans, and is being held this year on Bribie Island, Queensland.

The multi-day event will see Apple ][ aficionados from around the country converge on the Bribie Island Retreat and Recreation Centre from 30 August-3 September (official program starts on 31 August).

Camping facilities and dorm-style cabins are available onsite for the first time at an Oz KFest, and there are numerous accommodation options on the island.

A Call for Sessions has been put out and, while the full schedule is yet to be finalised, a basic overview of the event has been put together by the organisers.

Oz KFest 2015 played a major part in my Apple ][ “re-emergence” and was a significant motivator to keep me writing this blog (albeit sporadically). It was also the inspiration for me to begin hosting WOzFests.

I’m hoping to blog regularly from the event, and attendees are encouraged to tweet using the official hashtag #OzKFest2017 – event notifications before, during and after Oz KFest will be tweeted by the official Oz KFest Twitter account.

I’ve put my hand up to present a session or two – further details to come when the full schedule is finalised (I’d better get back to prepping for them!).

It’s a great event with fantastic, information-soaked sessions and I wholeheartedly recommend it to Apple ][ enthusiasts – I hope to see you there!