Retrochallenge meets WOzFest – Check Your Caps!

Retrochallenge 2017/04 is almost over!

WOzFest PR#6 has now started!

It’s time for the two parts of my retrocomputing life to collide in the most resourceful of ways…

My “europlus Refurbapalooza”, whereby I’m trying to get all my europluses operational, has been the thrust of my two Retrochallenge entries in 2016/10 and 2017/04. With the vagaries of “real life” impinging more the second time around (just that time of year, I think), I’ve gotten even less done this month…but that doesn’t mean I’ve been entirely unproductive.

I’ve been able to test the electrolytic capacitors in all seven of my europlus Astec AA11040C power supply units (PSUs). Despite 14 electrolytic capacitors per PSU (so 98 total) and the PSUs being at least 35 years old, I was pleased to find only four capacitors are exceeding (or almost exceeding) their maximum ESR (Electrical Series Resistance) value.

I’m also going to follow the general guideline to replace the C1 filter capacitor, even if the original hasn’t blown (two of the seven originals have definitely blown, and a further three or four are showing cracking in their plastic covering). I’ve bought all the replacement capacitors I need, and hope to install them all and test the PSUs during WOzFest PR#6.

While carrying out these ESR tests, I wanted a ready-reference to the capacitor specifications for determining the correct ESR value to be testing and for when I came to purchase replacement capacitors.

As a non-expert, I also wanted a reference to the position and polarity of the solder points for each capacitor on the underside of the PSU circuit board – I was testing the capacitors “in-circuit” rather than removing them for testing (while not ideal, I’m trying to keep the task manageable).

I had found online a scan of a 1982 document from Apple which provided a great start to what I wanted. It has schematics and circuit board layouts for several Apple PSUs, as well as a components list for each of the PSU models it includes.

Although it has info on the AA11040B (while I have AA11040Cs), upon inspection I believe the primary difference is the AA11040C is the 230V version of the AA11040B with the “115V Select” wire removed and a 250V/2A fuse replacing the 125V/2.75A fuse.

So I decided to prepare just the sort of ready-reference I would have liked to have started with. Over several iterations to refine the design and info included, and taking input from enthusiasts with more PSU repair experience than me, (thanks Mark, Martin, Jon, Geoff and John!), I’ve created the “WOzFest Labs Apple Astec Power Supply Unit AA11040B/C Electrolytic Capacitor ‘Spec & Check’ Sheet” (it just rolls of the tongue!) – and I’m pleased to announce the release of v1.0 of this “Spec & Check” sheet for use by other enthusiasts looking to test and refurbish their AA11040B/C PSUs.

This release is the major result of my Retrochallenge 2017/04 entry and in line with WOzFest PR#6’s theme of “Preservation”.

I’ve designed the sheet so that it can be printed at 100% on A4 (297✕210mm) or US Letter (8.5″✕11″) without any information being cropped. When printed at 100%, the picture of the underside of the PSU circuit board is “life size”, so it’s easy to correlate the highlighted solder points to a physical circuit board.

The sheet can be used as a checklist of capacitors that are in or out of spec, has the maximum ESR values listed for each capacitor (as well as other specs) in both tabular and “call out” forms, and the polarity of the solder points are annotated and colour-coded.

This is only v1.0, and suggestions/corrections from other enthusiasts will be included in updates. If I’m able, I’ll also release versions for other PSU models that Apple used in Apple ][s.

This is the first resource issued under the name “WOzFest Labs”, and hopefully there’ll be many more (I’ll probably re-release my Silentype Font under that name, too). I’d be interested in collaborating on other resources, too, so hit me up if you have any ideas you”d like to work on with me.

A few notes:

  • I’ve provided specs and solder points for the C1 filter cap to ease replacement of this component along with any out-of-spec electrolytic capacitors;
  • Capacitors C13 and C14 are in parallel on the circuit, so testing either one to half the usual maximum ESR is adequate when testing them “in-circuit” – if capacitors are removed for testing, double the stated maximum ESR value for these two capacitors;
  • Capacitors rated to 105°C are recommended;
  • The 1982 document from Apple has at least two errors in the components list for the AA11040B PSU, so check its information carefully if you’re using it as a reference.
  • If you’re wondering about the typewriter-like font I used, it’s Prestige Elite, which, by my reckoning, is the font used in early Apple spiral-bound manuals such as The Applesoft Tutorial. It’s my theory that these early manuals were “typeset” using material printed by the ubiquitous IBM Selectric typewriter.

So, other than some soldering, testing and writing a recap on my re-capping adventures, that’s pretty well it for my Retrochallenge entry this time around. I’m looking forward to getting to the meat of my europlus refurbishment – testing (and hopefully repairing) motherboards – next go ’round in October!

WOzFest PR#6 Approaches

It’s now less than two weeks to WOzFest PR#6 and I’ve barely begun prepping.

The re-organisation of the Man Cave has begun, and I’m hoping to have that much further along before the big day.

I’ve had to pare back my Retrochallenge ambitions as I’ve just had too much real life stuff to find much free time anywhere.

That may also mean I pare back my book scanning ambitions – I still aim to have a book scanner at WOzFest PR#6 (subject to its availability), but I may not get to the post-processing stage, so it might be primarily for basic demonstration purposes.

Despite this, I think attendees are in for a treat with the four Skype sessions I’ve teed up with well-known retrocomputer enthusiasts/preservationists from around the world, and, although I’m not aware of any new product announcements happening on the day, there will be a timely update on a product announced during a previous WOzFest.

The usual schedule applies: start from around midday (Sydney time, UTC+10:00), I’ll pepper the Skype calls and product update throughout the event, dinner (pizza) will likely be around the 18:00-19:00 mark, and a wrap-up by sometime between 21:30 and 22:30 (depending on attendee energy and sound levels).

I hope to see you there – please let me know if you’re planning on attending.

Jason Scott Puts Call Out for Apple ][ Software Collections

Are you, or someone you know, sitting on a horde of unpreserved Apple ][ software?

Jason Scott has put out the call for such collections which might still be “in the wild”.

In his capacity as Software Collections Curator at the Internet Archive, Jason has been instrumental in garnering preserved titles for that site and making them playable, in-browser(!).

The summary in Jason’s post says:

Conditions are very, very good right now for easy, top-quality, final ingestion of original commercial Apple II Software and if you know people sitting on a pile of it or even if you have a small handful of boxes, please get in touch with me to arrange the disks to be imaged.

I don’t really need to add anything to what Jason has already said in that summary, or in the detail Jason adds in his post – if you have (or know of) such a collection, reach out to Jason (or me) to find out how you might be able to preserve it.

Maybe we can get some disk preservation done at WOzFest PR#6 – with newer versions of i’m fEDD up and Passport available (and other products in the pipeline) it might be a good time to redouble our Apple ][ preservation efforts!

Your only other job is to spread the word!

WOzFest PR#6 Announcement

I’m exceedingly pleased to announce that the next WOzFest, WOzFest PR#6, will be held on Saturday, April 29 2017, starting around midday Sydney time (UTC+10:00).

The theme of the day will be “Preservation”, with a special emphasis on grass-roots preservation efforts.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say all retro-computer enthusiasts are preservationists of one kind or another – software, hardware, documentation, books: you name it, we preserve it!

With that in mind, I’ve lined up three Skype video chats with well-known grass-roots retro-computer preservationists from around the world – it will be great to hear their history, get their thoughts on preservation and just how far we can take these efforts, as well as generally celebrating keeping items available in one form or another for decades to come.

And in honour of the theme, I’m going to borrow the book scanner from Robos & Dinos (a local maker space I’m a member of) to non-destructively scan and (hopefully) post-process a previously unpreserved Apple ][-related book or manual throughout the day. The aim is to upload the resulting PDF on the Internet Archive for all to enjoy.

Let me know in the comments if you have any thoughts on other preservation-related projects for the day – I can’t promise we’ll get to them, but they can be food for thought for preservationists around the world.

Attendees, bring you preservation projects to work on, items from your collection for others to admire, your retro-computing stories, and anything else you feel is appropriate.

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 21:30-22:30.

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!

 

Caverns of Mordia Re-released at WOzFest 5¼″

I’m very happy to announce that Australian-produced text adventure game, Caverns of Mordia, was officially re-released at WOzFest 5¼″.

Written by Hans Coster, it was originally released in 1980, and the game saw an update in 1982. Hans had further updates which were never released.

At the prompting of another WOzFest attendee, Hans attended WOzFest ///, and attempts were made to image an original game disk. Unfortunately, efforts to create an EDD image were unsuccessful, but a still protected .dsk disk image file was able to be provided to Hans.

A short while ago, prompted by a Comment on this blog seeking disk images for Caverns of Mordia, I began to consider releasing an update with Hans as I was aware he was working on deprotecting and updating it.

With WOzFest 5¼″ being a celebration of the 5¼″ disk it seemed a great thing to not only announce the re-release, but to prepare physical disks to give to attendees and participants.

Hans was keen, and his grandson Sebastiaan was already engaged in typing in the manual.

Once I had the manual text and a scan of the original, I began laying it out and tidying up the graphics (the original manual was printed on orange paper to make copying difficult, so the graphics needed some tidy up work).

There were 20 copies produced for WOzFest 5¼″ – attendees and participants accounted for 17 copies.

What that means for you, dear reader, is that you have a couple of ways to secure your very own copy of this limited edition disk and manual.

Firstly, one lucky Juiced.GS subscriber will be randomly drawn from all subscribers (except those who already have one of the 17 distributed copies) to receive copy #10 with their December issue. The winner will not be pre-announced – we’ll all just have to wait for the lucky winner to crow about it online! Thanks, Ken Gagne, for being willing to be involved in the re-release.

The other way to score one of the remaining copies (copies #1 and #20) will be via eBay auctions for them. I’ll be posting the eBay auctions this coming Sunday, 27 November 2016, and making announcements everywhere I can. They’ll be 10 day auctions, so bid early, and bid often!

Proceeds from the auctions will offset the production costs of the physical disks and manuals, as well as some WOzFest-hosting incidentals, and the remainder will go to Hans.

For those unlucky enough to not score a WOzFest Special Edition physical copy, there is still one small consolation prize: I’ll be posting the disk image and manual PDF on the Internet Archive to play there or download (links to come).

To any potential bidders, and all Juiced.GS subscribers, I say: good luck!

UPDATE: I’ve now uploaded the disk image and manual PDF to the Internet Archive – you can find them here.

The game is playable in your browser, or you can download for use on a real Apple ][ or via an emulator.

The manual is worth a quick read through before playing, and it has a command reference you’ll want as well. Enjoy!

[On a side note, there was a printing error I noticed on the night {page 2 reprinted in place of page 4}, and I corrected all manuals…except three whose owners declined the update {I’m not sure if this is some sort of rarity speculation}. I’ve also made a slight modification to the Preface in the posted version compared to the printed manual: I was made aware that a non-EDD disk image was able to be made at WOzFest ///, so I’ve changed the Preface to reflect that. Three versions in three days! Who’s going to collect them all?!]

UPDATE #2: Copies #1 and #20 of 20 are now on eBay.

WOzFest 5¼″ Galleries

These are my pictures (and Michael’s) from and related to WOzFest 5¼″ – please link to any galleries of your own photos in the Comments below.

I used this teaser of the Caverns of Mordia Special Edition manual in the days leading up to WOzFest 5¼″.

I used this teaser of the Caverns of Mordia Special Edition manual in the days leading up to WOzFest 5¼″.

The label for the WOzFest 5¼″ Apple Cider my son brewed.

The label for the WOzFest 5¼″ Apple Cider my son brewed.

Attendees drew a number which determined which copy of Caverns of Mordia they were given.

Attendees drew a number which determined which copy of Caverns of Mordia they were given.

That's about as clean as I could get the Man Cave before WOzFest started.

That’s about as clean as I could get the Man Cave before WOzFest started.

Projects started getting worked on pretty quickly.

Projects started getting worked on pretty quickly.

Our Skype call to 4am.

Our Skype call to 4am.

Michael very much enjoyed the home-brewed cider. [Credit: Michael Mulhern]

Michael very much enjoyed the home-brewed cider. [Credit: Michael Mulhern]

Michael's µ-Sci Havac clone – the most loveable, most ugly clone there is. [Credit: Michael Mulhern]

Michael’s µ-Sci Havac clone – the most loveable, most ugly clone there is. [Credit: Michael Mulhern]

The Havac boot screen. [Credit: Michael Mulhern]

The Havac boot screen. [Credit: Michael Mulhern]

Our Skype call with Jason Scott. [Credit: Michael Mulhern]

Our Skype call with Jason Scott. [Credit: Michael Mulhern]

Our Skype call with Jason Scott. [Credit: Michael Mulhern]

Our Skype call with Jason Scott. [Credit: Michael Mulhern]

Our Skype call to John Valdezco of Manila Gear. [Credit: Michael Mulhern]

Our Skype call to John Valdezco of Manila Gear. [Credit: Michael Mulhern]

The Special Limited Edition disk and manual for Caverns of Mordia’s re-release. [Credit: Michael Mulhern]

The Special Limited Edition disk and manual for Caverns of Mordia’s re-release. [Credit: Michael Mulhern]

WOzFest 5¼″ Recap

Well, WOzFest 5¼″ seems to have been a successful last hurrah for my Apple ][ events this year, and a great celebration of the 5¼″ floppy disk.

Including myself, we had 12 attendees, which I think is a good size for these gatherings. The Man Cave was not bursting at the seams the way it did for WOzFest ///.

Jeremy was our furthest flung attendee, driving up from Canberra again – he really does put in the hard yards (and many kilometres) to attend, and his enthusiasm is a great addition to the WOzFest vibe.

As a special treat, my son Cal (who has been brewing up a storm at home) provided 12 bottles of apple cider for the event. Low fizz, super-dry, and packing a punch (at 8-9% alcohol), it was a big hit with some attendees (and me, who got to test a few bottles beforehand [QA is very important to me]).

It wasn’t quite to some attendees’ taste, and others couldn’t indulge due to needing to drive home – but that just meant there were more bottles for those of us able to enjoy it! I made a special numbered label for them, check out the WOzFest 5¼″ Photo Galleries post for the pics.

Our three Skype hookups started with a 45 minute video chat with Apple ][ disk cracking legend, 4am. 4am’s cracks are “clean”, meaning they only defeat the copy protection scheme without affecting the operation (or contents) of the programs themselves (unlike pirated software “back in the day” which often had parts removed to allow multiple titles to fit on a single pirated disk, and also often included “crack screens” singing the praises of the pirates and dissing their rivals).

In only a few short years, 4am has not only cracked hundreds of copy-protected floppy disks, but he’s also released an automatic cracking tool called Passport which has programmed into it his knowledge of copy protection schemes. With this knowledge programmatically built in, anyone is able to use Passport to crack disks using schemes it knows about.

For example, Jeremy from Canberra has been sourcing and cracking (mostly local) educational titles which may share protection schemes with their American sibling titles, but would never have made the journey across the Pacific and be caught in 4am’s efforts to gather as many physical Apple ][ disks for cracking as possible.

This distributed preservation effort therefore gets us closer to the aim of capturing and preserving as close as possible to all the released Apple ][ 5¼″ software titles.

Another luminary in this field is Jason Scott, noted documentarian of digital history and Software Curator at the Internet Archive – we were lucky for Jason to be our second Skype video chat for the night, and he gave us over an hour of his late Friday night.

Jason’s and the Archive’s goal is to capture everything, and the archive has a truly impressive collection of digital media and website archives. Jason has been instrumental in having uploaded software titles run directly in Web browsers via a Javascript port of emulators. This allows people to discover (and re-discover) titles of old simply by following a link to a website.

We discussed with 4am and Jason the challenges they face in their quest for software preservation, and discussed their successes so far, as well as other issues and topics related to preservation in general and specifically of software.

I’m exceedingly grateful for the time these two gentlemen took out of their Friday evenings to chat with a bunch of Apple ][ enthusiasts half a world away – both 4am and Jason have attended and presented at KansasFest, and so for those of us who have been unable to attend KFest, it was great to hear their stories.

Before we ordered pizza in, I announced the big surprise for attendees: Hans Coster (author of Caverns of Mordia) had deprotected and updated the adventure game, and attendees received a limited edition physical disk and printed manual (see this post for more details).

Once we’d eaten, we had our third Skype video call with John Valdezco of Manila Gear – he and his business partner, Jon Co (who was in attendance), announced they are developing a new No Slot Clock product for the Apple ][ line of computers.

With easily replaceable batteries, suitability for both 24 and 28 pin ROM sockets (both active high and active low chip enable pins), and an interesting “skateboard” form factor (the batteries are mounted at each end – one or both can be snapped off the main board and a lead run from the now separate batteries to the board), I think this will fill a niche in the Apple ][ market. It can also be run with one or two batteries.

Jon is still working on the driver software, but Manila Gear is hoping to have the board available by December this year.

As always, attendees worked on their own projects – or the projects others brought along – throughout the event.

New WOzFest attendee Phil brought a malfunctioning Apple //e and a few other attendees helped to check what might be wrong with it. Jon worked on the keyboard to get several non-functioning keys up and running.

Jeremy got some imaging done, including an original Caverns of Mordia disk (EDD disk image and Passport crack), two DLM software titles (which Passport was able to crack), and “How about a game of Chess!” (EDD format for 4am to look at as Passport didn’t crack it).

Leslie, as is often the case, provided invaluable support for various projects, both on the knowledge and soldering fronts – I’d say I only invite him because he’s so handy at the soldering station, except I also happen to actually like the guy as well!

Andrew (who brought some apple cider, aged double Brie and crackers – thanks!) worked on his Transwarp GS using the scalable oscillator from Craig’s to determine its fastest stable speed. It topped out at 16.25MHz (thanks in part to recently installed high-speed GALs).

Speaking of Craig, he brought along two Cortland IIgs prototypes he’s trying to resurrect (and a pile of other gear). Although “all” that was achieved was to get the keyboards and power supplies working, it was great to see these early IIgs’s. Hopefully this ongoing project will reach fruition soon.

And speaking of early IIgs’s, Adrian ducked out at some point to grab his IIgs in a //e case (an upgrade of this form was offered in the early days of the IIgs). It seems odd to see the badge on an old-style case like that.

Adrian had already brought his Apple ///+, which isn’t operational, and when he picked up the IIgs in a //e case, he also picked up his working Apple /// to bring back and play with.

A big hit with attendees was the µ-Sci Havac clone (the “missing” picture on that page is a working link to another picture) which Michael from the RCR recently scored off eBay. He’s nicknamed it “Fuglie” (which is a really apt description) but I think everyone fell in love with this ugliest of ducklings. While Caverns of Mordia wouldn’t boot on it, I’m sure Hans will do whatever’s necessary to support this market of one!

Michael also brought his recently acquired Ultima V package (including “tea towel” map), which was a nice eBay score, and some Night Owl composite video mini-LCD monitors which work well with the Apple ][ (and the Havac!) for distribution to their new owners.

I’ve no doubt missed out on some stuff that was done on the day – it always seemed pretty hectic, and, from what I can tell, everyone had a great time. Attendees, feel free to add any other details in the Comments below.

I can’t wait for the next one – I still love organising and holding them. Look for the announcement next year!

WOzFest 5¼″ Approaches

Not long to go now till WOzFest 5¼″ (19 November), and, as previously mentioned, it will be a celebration of that venerable storage medium, the 5¼″ diskette.

I hoping to deliver a couple of surprises to attendees, and adventurous types will get a kick out of one of them – the other surprise is a bit fluid at this point.

Additionally, there may also be a product announced on the day – and it’s about time this product hit the markets!

We may even have a Skype hookup or two – it’s always nice to surprise attendees with a virtual visit or two.

Michael from RCR has suggested he’ll bring his newly arrived Havac Apple ][ clone – I’ve never seen anything like it, so that’ll be another treat for attendees.

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 21:30-22:30.

No lunch provided, but nibbles, beer and 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.

Hope to see you there!

Re-emergence

If there’s one thing that can shake you out of a lull, it’s holding yourself accountable to your tribe.

These days, what with Facebook, newsgroups, Twitter, reddit, and the whole pantheon of online services, we all seem to have as many tribes as we feel we can handle. Meetups and conferences can help bring those tribes into the real world.

Without it being too much of a revelation to anyone, I belong to the Apple ][ Clan, previously primarily online. But that changed significantly in 2015 with my attendance at Oz KFest, Australia’s own Apple ][ conference, loosely based on the KansasFest model.

2015’s was the third Oz KFest – so far, all of them have been held in towns strongly featuring “K” in their names to ensure we can stay “in the franchise”. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in a position to go to the first Oz KFest held in Mt Kiera south of Sydney in 2009 or the second one held in Kurilpa (a suburb of Brisbane, Queensland) in 2013.

In 2015, I was finally able to attend and it was Keysborough, a Melbourne suburb quite away from the central hub, which was our host city for the third Oz KFest. We were hosted by CompNow, an Apple reseller/service centre in a semi-industrial area – but what the heck, I was wasn’t there for the views, I was there for the ][s!

On the subject of the venue, a huge shout out to Jason Griffiths, who works at CompNow, and CompNow itself – the venue was phenomenal as far as space and facilities available, so thanks – you guys rock!

As anyone who has attended one of theses sorts of gatherings knows, it’s a great opportunity to re-invigorate your interest.

I know that the anticipation of the event, participating in the event (I even presented a session!) and the headspace it put me in afterwards will have a lasting impact on my Apple ][ hobby.

Tony Diaz made it all the way from the U.S. and it was an opportunity for those of us who have never been to KansasFest to tap into his vast reserves of knowledge and experience in all things Apple ][ – and be shown a not insignificant portion of his vast collection of rarities and prototypes.

I met some great friends, the atmosphere was positive and generous, with information and bits and pieces being swapped and just outright given, and there’s just that certain buzz from sharing a passion with similarly-minded people. If you get the chance, watch the time lapse video Jason recorded during the event to get a feel for it.

A direct and lasting outcome of my attendance at Oz KFest 2015 is WOzFest. After Oz KFest 2015, Tony Diaz drove his way to Sydney, and I held the first WOzFest in his honour before he flew home. For those who had been unable to attend Oz KFest, it was an opportunity to see Tony’s amazing collection of rare items, including one-of-a-kind prototypes. And those of us lucky enough to have been at both events still enjoyed the opportunity to see the items again, hear their stories again, and just be that much closer to them.

In regards to Apple ][s, 2015 was absolutely a year of re-emergence for me – right into the thick of the local Apple ][ community.

Feel free to share in the Comments what has launched you back into your retrocomputing community.

WOzFest 5¼″ Announcement

I’m pleased to announce WOzFest 5¼″ is going to be held on Saturday, 19 November 2016!

It is, as its name suggests, a celebration of that venerable storage medium, the 5¼″ floppy disk.

The 5¼″ floppy disk was critical to the Apple ][’s success in the market.

Woz’s engineering prowess and ethos permeates how floppy disks and drives were implemented in the Apple ][ – the controller card is considered one of his great engineering feats.

I have a few ideas for the night – nothing I can really go into yet, and I always like to have a surprise or two – but I’d be interested to hear attendees’ thoughts on projects or things to do throughout the event.

As things firm up I’ll post further details of what’s happening – as usual, arrival is from midday onwards, there’ll be snacks and apple cider and we’ll order in pizza for dinner. Wrap-up is likely by about 10:30pm (all times AEDT/UTC+11:00). Please let me know if you’re intending on attending.

Hope to see you there!