December 17th, 2014

Andy McFadden updates CiderPress and NuLib2

After several years of quiet bit-rot, CiderPress and NuLib2 have received a new coat of paint.

Both projects are now in git repositories on github.com, migrated from their CVS repositories on sourceforge.net. NuLib2 still lives at http://nulib.com/, with sources in http://github.com/fadden/nulib2. CiderPress has a new github-hosted domain, http://a2ciderpress.com/, and its sources are at http://github.com/fadden/ciderpress.

The updates to NuLib2 were fairly minor — some changes to the build and config scripts, mostly to get it to work with Visual Studio 2013, and a few tweaks. The new version is v2.2.2.

The updates to CiderPress were more significant. It now requires WinXP or later — Win98/ME/2K will not work — so I’ve bumped to the next major version, v4.0.0. This is still a work in progress, but it seems stable and offers some usability improvements over 3.x, so I’m releasing it as a “development” version (4.0.0d1) for people to play with.

A summary of changes, starting with the user-visible stuff:

(1) File+folder selection dialogs fixed

Windows has standard dialogs for selecting files. With Vista it even gained a standard dialog for selecting a folder. Selecting a collection of both files and folders is still very difficult. The previous release of CiderPress used “old-style” dialogs, the new release uses “explorer-style” dialogs. Other file selection dialogs, such as for opening an archive, use the current “vista-style” dialogs. It would be more visually appealing if all the dialogs looked the same, but vista-style dialogs don’t exist on WinXP.

The most significant impact of all this is that the Accept button in the Add Files dialog should no longer go AWOL.

(2) Help system updated

CiderPress used WinHelp, but recent versions of Windows dropped the WinHelp viewer, requiring a separate download. To complicate matters further, the help file was developed with HelpMatic Pro, which used a proprietary format and didn’t provide a way to get at the “raw” help data. I decompiled the WinHelp output file and used HelpScribble to convert it to HtmlHelp. The HTML sources are now checked into the source tree.

It appears that HtmlHelp is on its way out, so this is probably just kicking the can a bit farther down the road, but converting the help file from a proprietary format to HTML is a useful first step.

(3) File type associations fixed, sort of

You’ve probably seen installers that ask whether you want to install for all users or the current user. In recent versions of Windows, the registry keys for the machine have tighter access controls than the keys for the current user. This caused the code that handled file type associations by manipulating HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT to break.

The correct way to deal with this is to let the installer set and clear the associations, and use the Windows control panel to make any changes. The DeployMaster-based installer currently has a UI limitation that prevents it from showing all 18 file types that CiderPress handles, which means it may not give you an opportunity to prevent CiderPress from taking charge of a file extension.

So I’m keeping the file type association code in CiderPress, but now it only affects the current user rather than all users on the machine. The current-user entries take priority over the local-machine entries, so it generally works, but it may fail to recognize a previous entry that only exists in the local-machine part of the registry.

(4) Build system changes

CiderPress 3.x required Visual Studio 6, which was released in 1998. Getting VS6 installed on Windows 7 was something of an exercise, and I don’t expect that to get easier. My goal is to keep CiderPress going for another 10 years, so I updated everything to work with Visual Studio 2013.

This required a pretty significant revamp of the project/solution files, and I took the opportunity to rearrange the output directory layout a bit. The automatic conversion of the project files left a bit to be desired, but I think I’ve hammered out most of the weirdness.

In the past, NufxLib and zlib were built externally, and included as pre-built libraries. This was annoying, so now the CiderPress project includes source code snapshots, and just builds them from scratch.

Building for WinXP in Visual Studio 2013 requires selecting a WinXP-compatibility Platform Toolset, and including a couple of hefty redistributable libraries in the install package. Because of the popularity of WinXP, I went ahead and made these changes. If WinXP ceases to be interesting, we can shave a few MB off the size of the installer.

(5) UNICODE

Many Windows APIs come in two flavors. When you call SomeFunction, a header file remaps it to SomeFunctionA or SomeFunctionW, depending on whether you have “MBCS” or “UNICODE” defined. Use of the older ANSI / Multi-Byte Character Set APIs are discouraged in favor of the UNICODE / wide-character APIs.

CiderPress v3.x used MBCS. The new release uses UNICODE, which meant changing a lot of code to use wide-character UTF-16 strings for the UI and filenames.

The diskimg and nufxlib libraries still work with narrow-string filenames. This makes some sense for names of files on Apple II disk images, but will need to be fixed for the names of files on local disk. The code made some effort at separating “storage names” from Windows pathnames, but not nearly enough. (Nine years of Java has improved my understanding of character set issues.)

(The use of Unicode strings creates an opportunity for improvement: we can use “Mac OS Roman” characters. The IIgs used the Mac definitions for high-ASCII values, and there’s an official Unicode definition for each value. The current code bludgeons Mac OS Roman into Windows CP1252, which can screw up filenames on HFS volumes and in ShrinkIt archives created from HFS data.)

(6) Source code and documentation improvements

Various minor improvements have been made to the source code. Visual Studio discovered variadic macros in 2005, so the debug log macros have been redone. Variables with specific bit widths now use appropriate types, e.g. “uint8_t” replaces “unsigned char”.

The README text has been ported to markdown for easy viewing on github. The diskimg README was expanded, and a Linux build README was added.

The current state of testing can be summed up:

+ All basic features have been exercised on Win7. Some light testing has been done on WinXP.
+ CF cards and HFS CD-ROMs work (tested on Win7).
– No testing on Vista or Win8, as I have no machines running those.
– No testing of SCSI-attached devices, due to lack of SCSI card. Win7 disallows access to the boot volume, not sure what it will do with an external drive.
– No testing of 3.5″ floppies, due to lack of 3.5″ floppy drive.

Because the testing is a bit thin, and because I’m not done adding features, this is a “development” release. v3.0.1 is still the official “stable” release. From a user perspective, 4.0.0d1 is feature-equivalent to v3.0.1.

Win32 installers for the various releases can be found on http://a2ciderpress.com/.

NOTE: the 4.0.0d1 executable has debug logging enabled. It will try to create a file called “C:\Src\cplog.txt”. If it succeeds, you’ll get a running commentary of CiderPress activity. This can be handy if something fails.

December 9th, 2014

Carte Blanche II nearly finalized, pricing to be announced soon


CBII TEXT INCLUDED

November 30th, 2014

Open Apple #41: Randy Brandt, IO Silver, Bob Bishop, Neuromancer and Castle Smurfenstein

This month on Open Apple we present an early holiday gift, in the form of an epic three hour episode. We sit down for a great conversation with Apple II legend Randy Brandt, perhaps best known for his work at Beagle Bros. We go deep on Beagle Bros, exploring the making of their quirky, innovative software and the wacky characters that produced it. Never one to rest on his laurels, Randy is now helping to produce a modern reboot of Beagle Bros’ only major game release, I/O Silver. The game will be released very soon as of when you’re reading this, and it runs on all major mobile platforms. Look for it in an Apple App Store or Google Play Store near you.

If that’s not enough, we have a huge pile of news to talk about this month, joined together by the most epic series of segues ever to grace the history of podcasting. We talk Transwarps, we talk Woz, we talk Neuromancer, we talk Wizardry, we talk to our listeners, and we talk smack. That’s just how we roll here on Open Apple. We also spend a lot of time pretending to know anything about Apple II mice.

In addition, we have the unfortunate duty to recognize the passing of some Apple II luminaries- Bob Bishop and Mike Pfaiffer. The Apple II community is great because of a lifetime of hard work by many talented people. Join us as we remember the contributions of two of those people.

Don’t worry, there’s much Apple II stuff to be thankful for in this month of American Thanksgiving. So put down the turkey leg and get caught up on ye olde stripey Apple. The biggest episode of Open Apple ever!

November 29th, 2014

Kevin Smallwood to release GBBSPro under the GPL

Kevin Smallwood announced in the Facebook Apple II Enthusiasts forum that he intends to release the GBBSPro bulletin board system (along with ACOS and other related products) under the GPL. Kevin is the current owner of the GBBSPro product.

To my fellow Apple // fans. Tony Diaz and I are going to GPL the GbbsPro source code. Stay tuned. -Kevin Smallwood

Tony Diaz has a huge collection of GBBSPro/ACOS material, so in tandem, they will be releasing a literal treasure trove of Apple II telecommunications history and source code. We could even see a resurgence of interest in good ol’ fashioned Apple II BBS’ing, as several people have expressed their desire to update the code to support telnet access.

November 28th, 2014

CFFA 3000 run #4 delayed until November 2015

In an e-mail to interested buyers, Rich Dreher dropped the bombshell that the next run of CFFA 3000 boards will be delayed until November 2015! The community had been looking forward to early spring 2015 for availability.

Rich’s announcement is posted below:

Dear Apple II fans,

You are receiving this email because you have expressed an interest in the CFFA3000 card (an Apple II interface card). If you want to be removed from this list please let me know.

After 12 years of building cards the interest level in the CFFA remains high, with over 200 people expressing an interest in purchasing a card from Run 4. Unfortunately, for personal reasons, I need to postpone the next run of the CFFA3000 cards (Run 4) until November 2015.

I will notify you as soon as we are ready to take pre-orders, in late fall 2015. I am sorry for the delay.

Sincerely,

Rich Dreher
R&D Automation
http://dreher.net/?s=projects/CFforAppleII&c=projects/CFforAppleII/main.php

November 25th, 2014

David Schmenk releases updated PLASMA

PLASMA for the Holidays

(For all you programmer types looking to escape from the relatives this week)
Just like last year, here is an update to the PLASMA sandbox (an Apple II IDE to play around with PLASMA). It is (sort of) self-documenting progression through some PLASMA example code. PLASMA has grown up a lot since last year. With much input from actual users, it now resembles a real language. It has also sped up quite a bit, about 25-30% over the previous version. By speeding up the VM, I was able to remove the native compiled routines, which sped it up but at the expense of a large increase in memory usage. So now, all the examples can be loaded and compiled in the sandbox. You can download the disk image from GitHub here:
https://github.com/dschmenk/PLASMA/blob/master/SANDBOX.PO
Don’t forget to check out the documentation on GitHub as well:
https://github.com/dschmenk/PLASMA/blob/master/doc/User%20Manual.md
Any and all feedback appreciated. Enjoy,
Dave…

November 23rd, 2014

UltimateApple2 preparing to release several new products

Anthony Martino and Henry Courbis are about to offer for sale several new products. First up is the new ‘8 MEG RAM CARD v2.0′ for the Apple IIGS that is switch selectable between 4MB-8MB in 1MB increments, making it fully compatible with both the ROM 01 and ROM 3 Apple IIGS. We’re anticipating being able to review this card very soon, so stay tuned for updates. Pricing has not yet been disclosed but availability should be only a few weeks away.


10383639_1504720386447868_4655326932500518638_n

Just built and testing the first few 8 Meg RAM Cards (see pic). What makes this card unique and the best solution out there for your IIgs memory needs? Well I’m glad you asked!

The Ultimate-ReActiveMicro 8 Meg RAM Card features Gold Fingers for superior oxidation prevention and long life.

Tantalum and Ceramic capacitors for longer life (4x minimum), extreme reliability, and they are very stable over time especially when compared to aluminum electrolytic capacitors.

A resettable Fuse for short-circuit protection and to help prevent Tantalum Capacitor thermal runaway.

ROM Expansion/Direct Access for future projects.

DRAM Address Termination.

Full Power Decoupling and Filtering for ALL chips.

Power LED to show the board is receiving power and the Fuse is functioning correctly.

And of course what project is complete without a blinky LED? We have TWO DRAM LEDs to show access and functionality! One LED for each bank of 4 Megs.

As you can see from the pic we also did away with the jumper and used a simple to understand DIP Switch along with adding the legend on the board so it can’t be lost.

Some may wonder why we used a CPLD yet kept the 74F245. Yes we could have added the logic to the CPLD however the 74F245 is meant to drive a higher TTL load (the data bus) than a CPLD. So although it would technically work it’s not good practice. This is also why we used DRAM Address Termination – to reduce ringing and related signal issues, and is just good design work.

Apple //e users and other 8bit fans won’t be left behind. Got RAM? Also coming are cloned versions of the Applied Engineering RAMWorks 2MB expansion and RAMFactor 4MB expansion cards. Expect a much improved No-Slot-Clock with user replaceable battery as well!

From James Littlejohn, offered exclusively through UltimateApple2 will be the new ‘LittlePower Flip’. The new LittlePower Flip is an improved design, essentially combining the previous LittlePower IIGS, IIe and II+ (three separate adapters!) into a single ‘flippable’ super adapter. The Flip will be perfect for quickly testing those dodgy power supplies, motherboards or even when used as a permanent part of your Apple II computer’s power solution.

November 18th, 2014

Pictures of upcoming Carte Blanche II posted

A gallery showing the upcoming programmable Carte Blanche II from AppleLogic is available online for viewing here: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B6UD-1FjUTjkZ0NmZF9Zb0VUSjg&usp=sharing

Contact AppleLogic SOON if you want to get on the waiting list!

November 14th, 2014

Apple luminary Bob Bishop passes

The Facebook Apple II Enthusiast’s forum is discussing the sad news that Bob Bishop, famed programmer and early Apple employee has passed away. Call-A.P.P.L.E. has a nice write-up of what’s known so far, and the KansasFest site has posted a tribute to Bob, who was keynote speaker at KansasFest 2011.

RIP Mr. Bishop.

November 13th, 2014

Tecnobytes sells out limited batch of Apple IDE cards… more coming soon

Tecnobytes Classic Computers announced yesterday via the Facebook Apple II Enthusiasts forum a small run of 10 boards for their new Apple IDE card (a ‘replica’ of the original CFFA v2.0 from R&D Automation) would be for sale. Within a few hours, they were quickly snapped up for $125 each (including shipping). Tecnobytes promises more are coming — and as soon as they’re available, we’ll post it here.


soldout2

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