WOzFest PR#6 Galleries

Below are my photos from WOzFest PR#6 and Andrew’s tweeted photos.

Jeremy has shared his photos as well.

Dressed appropriately

Dressed appropriately

The attendee gifts are ready

The attendee gifts are ready

The fun begins

The fun begins

In full swing

In full swing

The gift revealed

The gift revealed

So useful!

So useful!

Andrew’s disk sorting

Andrew’s disk sorting

One europlus PSU repaired

One europlus PSU repaired

Neville’s imaging continues

Neville’s imaging continues

That’s a wrap!

That’s a wrap!

The neglected book scanner

The neglected book scanner

WOzFest PR#6 Recap

I think WOzFest PR#6 was a great success.

As usual, things officially kicked off at midday – Jon (half of Manila Gear and WOzFest regular) was first to arrive just before starting time.

By the time of our first Skype at 13:00, we had about six or seven attendees – the Skype caller was Paul Hagstrom, of Yesterbits and the Retro Computing Roundtable. We had a good chat about his history collecting and preserving retrocomputers, and he had several impressively precarious-looking towers of computers all around him in his office.

With a couple more attendees having arrived, our second Skype at 14:00 was with another American, John Morris, who has come to prominence on the Facebook Apple II Enthusiasts group recently as he develops Applesauce, a USB interface for the Disk ][ 5¼″ floppy disk drive which allows that drive to be connected to modern computers. John recounted his programming history and the motivations behind the Applesauce.

It was exciting to hear about John’s plans for the device, and we got the lowdown on such issues as imaging speed (unprotected disks to .dsk file in under 11s!), his new file format and the rationale for it (bit copy with more information than an EDD file, but at about a quarter of the size!), and his discussions with developers of Apple ][ emulators and solid state disk drive emulators to support the new format. I think Applesauce is going to be in high demand – I know I certainly want one.

At 15:00 we got to Skype with Terry Stewart from New Zealand about his history with retrocomputers and preserving them, especially makes and models particular to the Australasian market. Terry’s site has extensive information for use by retrocomputer enthusiasts, and his videos are always informative.

Jon had organised our next Skype call as a product update – I didn’t have any direct knowledge of the content of the call, but I expected it to be with his Manila Gear partner, John Valdezco, and about their recently released No Slot Clock (NSC). It turned out, however, to be with John Brooks (so many Jo[h]ns!), along with Michael Guidero, and started just before 16:00.

John Brooks released a couple of ProDOS updates last year, the first in 30 years, adding new features and bringing a smile to Apple ][ enthusiasts’ faces around the world. He was able to tell WOzFest PR#6 attendees that he’s adding native support for any NSC (including the DClock)  to ProDOS – it will automatically determine which clock is present – as well as native support for the Ramworks and RamFactor memory expansion cards (which should include the Apple //c RAM expansion card).

Other exciting news is that John is working on Bitsy-Rip, which, as described by John, “will make a digital image of 5¼″ disks, including copy-protected and failing disks. Bitsy-Rip uses the built-in IWM (Integrated Woz Machine) chip of the Apple IIgs to make EDD-like ‘complete’ disk images, but with no additional slot cards or hardware required.” WOzFest PR#6 attendees were lucky to get the first public demonstration of Bitsy-Rip at work, and it it feels like we’re entering a golden age of disk preservation between Bitsy-Rip and Applesauce.

Michael Guidero has recently released new ROM versions for the Apple //c and //c+, which had been very favourably received by owners of those machines. Leslie had arrived at WOzFest PR#6 with some EEPROMs burnt with the new version for attending //c owners, so Michael’s update was well-known to them, and they were able to relay their enthusiasm, questions and observations to him directly.

We still had one final Skype call to receive – at 16:30, Jorma Honkanen, a well-known Finnish Apple ][ enthusiast, dialled in to have a chat about his own retrocomputing history and preservation efforts.

Jorma relayed the difficulties he’s had securing hardware and software in Finland, where the Apple ][ was never as prevalent as in other countries like Australia and the U.S. and he told us he’s only been an Apple ][ enthusiasts for a few years – all of which makes the material he has secured and preserved, and his efforts, all the more impressive!

My thanks go out to all the Skype callers, who took time out from their Friday nights or Saturdays to chat with a bunch of Apple ][ enthusiasts in Sydney.

That brought to a close the “organised” parts of WOzFest PR#6, and people returned to the projects they’d started, or started working through the projects they’d brought. We also snuck in a couple of pizzas a little later than usual as my wife had catered finger food snacks throughout the afternoon – the snacks were very enthusiastically received.

Michael from the RCR podcast received a sheet feed scanner brought up by Jeremy, who drove up from Canberra again (what a trooper!). They then proceeded to work together to preserve a couple of software packages and associated documentation.

One of those was Learning To Cope With Pressure by Sunburst Communications. The other title was Sandy’s Word Processor, which was an Australian Apple ][ title. Thanks Michael and Jeremy for your ongoing preservation efforts!

Andrew worked on testing the capacitors in a Mac LC 630 PSU, and also sorted through a whole heap of 3½″ and 5¼″ floppy disks. On the manual labour front, he cut down plastic shells for the two ends of a IIgs VGA adaptor cable he’s been working on.

Andrew also told attendees about the release of AFPBridge, by Stephen Heumann. AFPBridge, to quote its own info pages, “is a tool that allows an Apple IIgs to connect to an AFP (Apple Filing Protocol) file server over TCP/IP. AFPBridge works by using the existing AppleShare FST, but redirecting its network traffic over TCP/IP rather than AppleTalk.” This will greatly simplify file server access for IIgs users with an Ethernet card in their machine.

Craig worked on a few things throughout the day. Firstly, he, Leslie and David installed the new //c and //c+ ROMs Leslie had brought. The testing of them included installing an A2Heaven Apple IIc RamExpress II expansion card – the goal was to use this card as a battery-backed up RAM disk with the new ROMs.

After a bit of work, David worked out the RAM card needed to be zeroed out using the new ROM’s tools before the RAM disk was then formatted by Copy II+. This then allowed the //c and //c+ to have a super-fast booting (2s), battery backed up 1MB RAM-based ProDOS disk.

Craig was also keen on getting a G4 Mac mini I’d passed on to to him tested, his goal being to get it booting into Mac OS 9. I think an iBook G4 I had also passed on to him provided a proof-of-concept boot via Firewire Target Disk Mode.

Jon worked on testing a pre-release copy John Brooks’ forthcoming ProDOS update with the Manila Gear NSC – this NSC will not only work with the Apple //e, but also the original Apple ][ and Apple ][ plus (and europlus, of course – my only currently operational europlus was used for testing this NSC) and the Apple //c and Apple //c+.

Leslie installed the new //c and //c+ ROMs he had brought, and helped out with advice and help on other projects as well.

Tim had brought an interesting collection of Apple ][ expansion cards with him from Canberra – I’m constantly amazed and thrilled that attendees would travel so far. David also made the trip down from the Blue Mountains via public transport.

Neville, who had provided the impetus to Hans Coster to re-release Caverns of Mordia, also attended – Neville had just that morning written about finding Caverns of Mordia, reaching out to Hans, and the resulting re-release of the software at WOzFest 5¼″ – it’s well worth the read for fans of preservation, digital archeology, and text adventure games.

Neville’s project was to check on his IIgs and associated equipment, which hadn’t been powered on for some 20-odd years. The IIgs powered up first go, but the monitor wasn’t faring so well. He was able to use another monitor to boot up, which allowed him to check his “Cutting Edge” brand 100MB SCSI drive.

After a bit of wrangling, Neville was able to image the four partitions on the SCSI drive to disk images via my CFFA3000 card. Each of the three main 32MB partitions took around half an hour to image! I believe there were a small number of disk errors while copying, but he’s since reported to me that the disk images have successfully loaded via the Sweet16 IIgs emulator. Throughout this project with his IIgs he was greatly helped by Jeremy, Leslie, and Jon.

I was able to get rid of some of my excess computers and associated bits: two //e’s, several Mac minis, several laptops, an old Airport Express or two – but I still have more material to shift, so hopefully the disposal doesn’t slow down.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any scanning done with the book scanner, but I have it on extended loan for a month or so, so I’m hoping to get at least a few books scanned and I’ll post-process them later.

I was able to successfully replace the filter cap in one of my europlus PSUs and test it with my known-working motherboard – this as part of my Retrochallenge entry, and more details on that are in my wrap up blog post.

Because the neighbours most likely to be disturbed by noise were away on holiday, we were able to kick on a little later than usual, and the final six or so attendees finished up their projects for the day and headed off at about 23:00.

As usual, I’ve posted the WOzFest PR#6 photos galleries in a separate post.

I know I’ve missed projects and attendees, but I can’t keep track of everything! I know some attendees come to just enjoy the vibe, some to see other attendees’ interesting items, some for the Skypes, and some to work on other people’s projects and share their knowledge and skills. These various motivations for attending are what make WOzFest so much fun to host, and I can’t wait for the next one!

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!

Thoughts on Book Preservation

I’ve been giving lots of time recently to thinking about the preservation of retrocomputer-related print media, such as books, manuals, etc.

These thoughts have primarily revolved around “destructive” vs. “non-destructive” digitisation of these items, and how those digitisation methods fit into the broader sphere of “preservation” in retrocomputing.

Bound items such as books introduce physical complexities to the digitisation effort as they are not readily scannable on a flatbed or sheet-fed scanner – one way to speed the process is to remove the spine, most often by way of a guillotine, leaving loose sheets which can be quickly scanned in a sheet-feed scanner. This method is used with saddle-stitched (aka “staple-bound”) publications (including magazines) as well as perfect-bound or case-bound books.

This, of course, has irreversibly altered the physical nature of the item, and is accordingly described as “destructive” scanning – its opposite, “non-destructive” scanning (appropriately), leaves the physical item intact during the scanning process.

(As a side note, it is possible with some “mechanically-bound” and saddle-stitched items to remove the binding to allow sheet-fed scanning – the binding is then replaced, restoring the item to its former state. I consider such re-binding as a non-destructive process if the item is, for all intents and purposes, returned to its original condition. It can be difficult, however, to re-create the binding as originally applied without the right equipment for the method used.)

Several years ago I destructively digitised the three editions of Lon Poole’s original Apple II User’s Guide. Once scanned, I intended to recreate the books in InDesign, replicating fonts, layout, images, etc. – a true re-creation.

Guillotining the spines off and sheet-feeding seemed the quickest and easiest way to get undistorted scans of all the pages (to be used as page templates during replication), and I used the worst-condition copy I owned of each of the editions (I had bought multiple copies of the editions for just this purpose).

As seems to invariably happen around the retrocomputing hobby, however, real life got in the way and the scans are sitting on my computer pretty much untouched, and not much re-creating has happened.

I now deeply regret guillotining even these extra, not-the-best-condition copies and believe destructive digitisation should be avoided in all but the most extreme of circumstances. If there’s no need to remove the spine, it shouldn’t be removed.

So, what’s changed in the four and a half years since I guillotined those books? Basically, scanner technology has changed, and there are now viable alternatives which allow undistorted digitising of bound print items without spine removal.

These viable alternatives do not in my view include flat-bed scanning systems such as the Zeutschel zeta scanner system. I know of a local Apple ][ enthusiast/preservationist who has had extensive experience with that system and he reports that the software deskewing/distortion removal never lived up to the promise his then employer had been sold on by Zeutschel representatives.

Those disappointing results really don’t surprise me – although such distortion removal is “only” a mathematical problem, real life is rarely as neat as mathematics would suggest. But that sort of flat-bed system isn’t the only non-destructive book scanning technology available, and I’d suggest will never work as well as the sort of system I’m thinking of.

What has changed my mind forever on destructive digitisation is exemplified by the Scribe book scanner from the Internet Archive.

Systems such as the Scribe non-destructively scan bound books while avoiding any skewing or distortion in the captured image. They do this by sitting the books in a V-shaped bed, having clear perspex or glass sheets press gently down on the pages to flatten them, and taking photos of the pages using two cameras, each mounted perpendicularly to the page they’re capturing.

The zeta system the local enthusiast had experience with cost AU$15,000, and before I saw the pricing for the Scribe I thought it would be similar – at US$13,000, it’s currently a little over the money (at today’s exchange rates, that’s AU$17,000).

However, DIY systems based on this concept are already becoming available via makerspaces (such as Robos and Dinos here in Sydney, of which I’m a member), and hobbyist versions are already available in kit form, much as kit-form 3D printers can be purchased.

At US$1,620 (including cameras), this seems like a relatively inexpensive way to go down the non-destructive digitisation path. I do appreciate, however, “relatively inexpensive” does not automatically mean “affordable”: I know I can’t afford to buy one of these scanner kits at the moment, much as I’d like to.

I’ll be demoing the Robos and Dinos book scanner at WOzFest PR#6 – my aim is to choose a title on the day (not too large, maybe 100-200 pages) and scan and post-process it throughout the event. I’m hoping to have the resulting digitised book uploaded to the Internet Archive by the time everyone leaves.

A major disadvantage of these book scanners is limited availability, which is likely to be true for some time to come. However, although these scanners are not yet as readily available as sheet feed scanners such as the Fujitsu ScanSnap, I believe print material preservation has less urgency than software preservation as books don’t suffer bit-rot like disks inevitably will.

We can afford to wait for an Internet Archive partner centre to open up here in Australia, or for a local makerspace to get such a scanner, or for a community member to make one themselves, or for a community member to be in a position to scan items in this way on behalf of the community.

A disadvantage of these scanners is the need to turn the pages manually, which increases the time to scan an item. The Robos and Dinos scanner has a counter-weighted system to hold the perspex down. This is easily lifted to turn the page, which reduces the time between scans, but this system is still not as fast as an automatic sheet-feeding scanner.

Post-processing is another area where the kit and DIY book scanners currently fall behind commercial sheet-fed scanners. They often rely on open source software for not only capturing the page scans, but also for cropping and doing other necessary adjustments to make them into easily distributable and good quality PDFs.

But, as with most areas of computing, progress is swift, and I believe there is no longer any need to remove the spines of items being digitised – they can be digitised and physically preserved, which is surely a win-win.

With the removal of the need to destructively digitise print items, I believe physical preservation of items being digitised should be as high a priority as the digitisation itself.

The strength of my belief does vary (very slightly) according to the nature of the item:

  • I think one-off or rare items should be physically preserved during digitisation;
  • I think books which are known to have several or many surviving copies are potential candidates for destructive digitisation, but I still strongly prefer all copies remain physically preserved;
  • I think more widely disseminated items such as user group magazines are the ones I feel least strongly about – as long as there are confirmed multiple extant copies (or they can be dismantled and re-bound as mentioned above);
  • I think there are some items which cannot be easily digitised either way – books with large fold out leaves, for example: a per-item judgement call would need to be made by the owner of such items and/or the community the digitised copy is meant for (NB: the Scribe system does have a large image capture accessory which I think can cater to at least some of these edge cases).

The actual condition of the item itself does not enter the equation for me – while I sacrificed the “worst condition” copies of Lon Poole’s books I owned, I still deeply regret even this “lesser” sacrifice. If I only had one copy of an item which was in poor, but still bound, condition, I would only non-destructively scan it, rather than having its spine removed just to make digitisation easier.

The Internet Archive is taking the time and spending the money to digitise and physically preserve print items – that fact alone was what got me started adjusting my attitude. Seeing the non-destructive book scanner at Robos and Dinos cemented this form of digitisation as the preferred default in my mind.

When researching others’ views for this post, I found a blog post written by Internet Archive preservationist, Jason Scott (who was one of the Skype video callers during WOzFest 5¼″). Jason makes the case that something is lost when an item is physically altered for the sake of digitisation, and that really struck home with me.

After reading that post and giving it more thought, I came to realise how much binding can tell you about an object or its producers – it’s a form of physical metadata:

  • Did a usergroup skimp on production costs and only use one staple?
  • Did user groups or software publishers who staple-bound print items guillotine it after stapling to avoid pages extending past the cover (which would speak to having extra money to spend on appearances)?
  • Did publishers or software houses change their binding methods according to the whim of their business performance or prospects? An example would be small software or book publishing houses moving from staple-bound to perfect-bound titles as their business grew.
  • Did page elements extend into the inner margin, and, if so, how carefully were the elements on facing pages made to line up (which speaks to paying printers more for such alignment and “quality assurance”)?

Of course, much of this information is secondary to the goal of digitisation and dissemination of the content of these books – but we don’t know today what will interest researchers or enthusiasts in the future.

While dissemination of information is important to a vibrant retrocomputer community, I strongly believe physical preservation of items is equally important for historical context – physical preservation along with digitisation gives the widest view of the past to future enthusiasts and researchers, and, I believe, should be a goal we all strive for.

This sort of “physical metadata” is potentially lost to future researchers if “only copies” of items have had their spines removed – and it’s sometimes hard for an owner to know if a particular edition or print run survives in only one copy, while other editions may have several surviving copies.

Is my recently acquired (and prized) early copy of the First Edition Apple II User’s Guide with apples of layered colours (as opposed to other Editions having single colour apples on the cover, see below) the only extant copy with that design? It may or may not be, but I’d not seen it before, despite a 15 year interest in that title and its variants. I wouldn’t want to damage it physically only to subsequently find out it was!

Additionally, what might pass as an acceptable scan today may be found wanting in 1, 2, 5…maybe even 10 or more years. Having undamaged physical items available for rescanning with better technology in the future allows that better technology to be utilised to its fullest extent.

On this point, I’ve noticed several preservationists have revisited their earlier scanning efforts to re-scan items at higher resolution and/or to post-process them with newer tools – it will always be better to have an unaltered original for such rescanning efforts.

Another important consideration is that while scanning technologies for non-destructive digitisation will only improve, they will also continue to get cheaper – since Jason Scott wrote the above-linked post, the Scribe system has reduced in price from US$25,000 to US$13,000, just shy of a 50% price drop in three years!

Reduced cost and improved post-processing will see non-destructive digitisation be within the reach of more and more retrocomputing enthusiasts as time goes by, and I’m hoping that destructive scanning will fall by the wayside. As far as I’m concerned, this can’t happen fast enough!

Be sure to let me know your thoughts in the Comments below.

Apple II User's Guide 1st Edition Comparison

Apple II User’s Guide 1st Edition Comparison

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!