This was too epic not to post.
4am is a well-known and gifted software cracker best known for releasing detailed step-by-step instructions for cracking commercial copy-protected programs for the Apple II series, and for also producing ‘clean’ cracks, which is to say the so-called ‘warez’ were free of any vanity crack screens (where the cracker usually takes credit for their exploits).
The Internet Archive (through the efforts of digital preservationist Jason Scott) are now hosting of over 300+ of 4am’s cracks online. You can download the disk image for transfer to your Apple II, or in many cases play the disk image online through your web browser. Many of these cracks are for titles that never got much love from the pirating community, primarily educational titles.
Finally we can reveal Tecnobytes new product is an accelerator based on the original Applied Engineering Transwarp. Behold, the Tecnowarp!
We’re big fans of the Apple IIGS (well, duh) but for all its cool graphics and sound capabilities, it’s kinda pokey when running its native GSOS GUI and compatible applications. That’s why accelerators are always in demand. They replace the stock 2.8MHz processor with a faster 65c816 on a card, usually 7MHz or faster, and give the IIGS a much needed kick in the pants. Thankfully, accelerators are about to become more plentiful.
For some people though, 7MHz isn’t good enough. The TranswarpGS accelerator itself can be made better, stronger, faster. We have the technology in the form of improved 65c816 processor, newer cache RAM, active cooling and an overall better understanding of the TranswarpGS board layout and GAL logic. Through upgrades, the TranswarpGS can be reliably overclocked beyond its original specifications.
Now we get to the figurative heart of the matter, the oscillator crystal that determines the speed of the accelerator. Like most accelerators for the Apple IIGS, the speed of a TranswarpGS is derived by dividing the oscillator’s frequency by 4. So a 28MHz oscillator results in a 7MHz operation, 32MHz equals an 8MHz board and so on. But even with upgrades, we can only push our 80’s technology accelerator so far before it balks and begins to malfunction. Not all TranswarpGS boards are equal either. Some boards upgrade more easily and go faster than others. To find out, you’ll need to keep a variety of oscillators on hand. Maybe several.
If only there was a way to easily and conveniently overclock the oscillator’s frequency until the optimal speed for reliable operation could be determined.
Now there is. From UltimateApple2 and ReactiveMicro, we have the new Scalable Oscillator, a small augmented oscillator replacement that works with your TranswarpGS accelerator (and probably ZipGS).
The Scalable Oscillator (aka SO) replaces the fixed-frequency oscillator on your TranswarpGS. A series of DIP switches determines what speed the SO runs at, from 28MHz through to a maximum 80MHz in .25MHz increments — that’s 7MHz through 20MHz in system speed.
The DIP switches from top to bottom are labeled 1-8. Switches 1-7 control the oscillator frequency using binary code, while switch 8 enables/disables the SO. You can piggyback your original oscillator into the SO for normal operation (by setting DIP 8 to off) but… we’re here to GO FASTER! AM I RIGHT?
The binary code used for DIPs 1-7 is determined by taking the desired oscillator speed and subtracting 8 from it. For example, to run your SO-enabled TranswarpGS at 10MHz, you need a 40MHz oscillator frequency signal — subtract 8 from 40, you get 32. 32 in binary is 0100000 or off, on, off, off, off, off, off. Simple, right? Don’t worry, a handy chart will be included with all (53!) possible DIP settings for the binary challenged.
A2Central and Mike Maginnis of the Open Apple podcast were allowed a sneak peek to play with this new tweaker toy. We discussed some of our hands-on experiences in OA Episode #45 but I’ll also post some of my perceptions here.
First off, the SO works as advertised. It was relatively painless to set the SO output frequency per the included chart (which you will *not* want to lose). You might be one of those set it and forget it types, but for anyone who likes to tweak their hardware, printing the chart out and taping it to your power supply or the underside of your IIGS lid might be a good idea. That way, its always there when you need it. BTW, this is *that moment* your middle school teacher said you’d need to know binary for someday.
The SO is pretty small. I had to remove it from the TWGS whenever I set the DIPs but that’s because my TWGS also has a fan upgrade installed (another fine option from ReactiveMicro). It could be tricky removing and installing the SO (but not impossible) while under the fan… but with the fan left in place setting the DIPs with a toothpick was equally tricky. That might be attributable to my excessive (i.e. obsessive) care (i.e. paranoia) over electrostatic discharge during the handling of all the components. I’m kind of a klutz.
I have to say, I very much like the Scalable Oscillator. For me, it beats keeping a drawer full of miscellaneous oscillators around.
The anticipated price of the Scalable Oscillator is a reasonable $35 USD and will be available in quantity within a few weeks.
DiscoRunner is a multi-dialect BASIC interpreter. Its initial release supports Integer and Floating Point (Applesoft) BASIC from the Apple II.
DiscoRunner is different from other BASIC interpreters in that it is 99.5% compatible with the original languages. It accomplishes this by heavily simulating the host hardware (the Apple II) almost to an emulator level without the drawbacks of running an actual emulator. For example, BASIC programs are saved as text files. We can also add new functionality, such as an editor, a navigable CATalog and a coloured LISTing mode.
DiscoRunner comes with a library of close to a thousand classic programs to play, edit and muck around with.
Whew! Busy week trying to complete the next version of the Apple Pi prototype. This version has a Clock and Firmware. We’re hoping with some help from David Schmenk to eliminate the need for a floppy when booting directly to the Pi. We’re also hoping to add support for the ‘B+’ version of the Raspberry Pi. Some users have also inquired about the feasibility of using the Ethernet port on the Pi for the Apple II. We’re looking in to this as well. If possible this will add yet another amazing feature and reason to own a Pi. We’re confident if anyone can find a way, Dave is our man.
One of the biggest questions we get asked is “What is the Apple Pi and what can it do for my retro computing experience?” So once the next version is ready for release we will put together a FAQ video demonstrating what the Pi can do for you, and all it’s available features.
A bit more testing and possibly another board revision and we’re hoping to have something worth sending out to people for reviews. Keep an eye on A2Central.com and an ear on the Open Apple podcast (www.open-apple.net) for sneak peaks and news about availability!
After much tinkering and optimizing, Bill Buckels has released v1.0 of Bmp2DHR, a graphics converter for 8-bit Apple II computers. Check out Bill’s site for the impressive results!