April 18th, 2015

Tecnobytes new Tecnowarp accelerator demo

Finally we can reveal Tecnobytes new product is an accelerator based on the original Applied Engineering Transwarp. Behold, the Tecnowarp!

April 18th, 2015

Ewen Wannop releases BrkDown, new Disassembler for Apple IIGS

Announcing a new Disassembler for the IIgs.

As my tribute to OZ Kfest, I am announcing my latest project…

BrkDown is a desktop WYSIWYG disassembler for the IIgs, and disassembles to source code from both the 8 data forks, and 16 bit multi-segmented data and resource forks, of an application or binary file. The output is optionally in either ORCA/M or Merlin 16 compatible format.

Powerful Functions allow manipulating of the resulting source, so it can be worked up into valid source code that can be later reassembled.

Many other tools are provided to make working with source files as painless as possible.

Please download and read the BrkDown PDF Manual for more information on how BrkDown works, and how to use it.

Both the PDF manual, and the application archive, as well as all my other software, can be downloaded from my web site:

http://www.speccie.co.uk

April 5th, 2015

Scalable Oscillator for TranswarpGS

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).


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Scalable Oscillator front and back

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.

April 4th, 2015

Coming soon from Tecnobytes Classic Computers


Coming Soon

March 31st, 2015

UltimateApple2 and ReactiveMicro refine the No-Slot Clock

If you’ve listened to the latest Open-Apple podcast (#45), you’ll know that Mike Maginnis and I have recently had the opportunity to test a few new products from UltimateApple2 and ReactiveMicro.

First up is an improved clone of the No-Slot Clock (NSC), aka the Dallas Smartwatch DS1216E. Well, it’s more than a clone, really. It’s more of a refinement.

The original NSC was a bit of a breakthrough — no Apple II (prior to the IIGS) had a built-in clock. So if you wanted your Apple II to keep track of the time and date, timestamp documents, etc. you had to use a clock card which used up a valuable slot. For example, the Thunderware ThunderClock Plus was a popular product but it was just one of dozens of similar but incompatible competing products. The NSC on the other hand was a chip and lithium battery within a 28-pin socket. You could install the NSC into just about any other 28-pin ROM socket, piggyback the ROM into the NSC, patch your ProDOS and viola’ — your Apple II could tell the time. Compared to many of the clock cards of the day, the NSC was an inexpensive (and ultimately disposable) alternative. It’s expected 10 year lifespan seemed more than adequate… at least at the time.

The NSC wasn’t perfect for everyone though. For Apple //c users in particular, the NSC with a ROM piggybacked on it was just too thick and often interfered with some of the RAM expansion products inside the //c’s cramped interior. Even in the Apple //e, there were occasional clearance issues with thick ‘double wide’ cards.

That brings to the here and now. The NSC has been discontinued but is still available from various sources. New, old stock units with indeterminate batteries are for sale on eBay, but like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, “you never know what you’re gonna get.”

Happily, something new and better has now been produced. UA2/RM has developed an NSC successor that is slimmer and features a user replaceable coin cell battery. Why didn’t Dallas Semiconductor think of this? They probably did but wanted to sell their expendable Smartwatches as cheaply as possible.


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Compared to an original NSC, the new one is much more svelte.

We were given a couple of prototypes to examine, the original v1.0 and a revised v1.1 unit. While both function perfectly, neither represents the final product. During initial assembly of the first prototype, Henry Courbis determined a few changes were necessary to make future assembly easier (circuit routing apparently) and during our testing, we made a few suggestions of our own. There will be a v1.2 and that *should* be the final production unit.


photo 1

So how well do these new NSC units work? Flawlessly. The legacy Smartwatch software we use now works with the new NSC adapters just fine — of course you only use it to set the time and date initially, and patch ProDOS. I’m hoping UA2/RM distributes a Y2K-compliant version of the software with this product.

More good news, this new NSC fits into Apple //c computers with memory expansion ports just fine. It’s still a tight fit, but you can now have your clock and RAM at the same time.

As of this writing, pricing hadn’t yet been determined. I expect that if it sells for the same or even a little higher than the old-fashioned NSC, it will be a good value. The user-replaceable coin cell battery alone insures this will be the last clock you’ll ever need to buy for your Apple II.

UPDATE: The anticipated price will be USD $40.

March 30th, 2015

David Finnigan announces Marina, IP stack for 8-bit Apple II computers


Marina

MacGUI operator David Finnigan has announced ‘Marina’, a TCP/IP stack for 8-bit Apple II computers.

The web page says Marina is written in assembly language (Merlin Pro source code), and contains numerous features such as link-local addressing, address conflict detection, built-in DHCP client, malicious IP packet rejection and much more.

Cool stuff to be sure — we will eagerly keep an eye on this project’s progress!

March 28th, 2015

Juiced.GS Volume 20, Issue 1 now available

Juiced.GS Volume 20, Issue 1 (Mar 2015)Volume 20, Issue 1 (Mar 2015) of Juiced.GS, the longest-running Apple II publication in print, is now arriving in subscribers’ mailboxes. This issue features a guide to compiling cc65 code in Xcode on the Mac; the first chapter of a serialized Apple II mystery; a review of Assembly Lines: The Complete Book; instructions for using the GSport emulator on an AppleTalk network; a review of the Apple III emulator Apple3rtr; reflections on the Apple II community’s best years; and much, much more!

This is Juiced.GS‘s first quarterly issue of 2015, it’s twentieth year in print. Subscriptions for 2015 are also available at $19 each for United States customers, $24 for readers in Canada and Mexico, and $27 for international customers, with several free sample issues available as PDFs.

March 15th, 2015

Cloned TranswarpGS in testing — IT LIVES!

Achievement Unlocked! ReactiveMicro and UltimateApple2 appear to have successfully cloned the Applied Engineering TranswarpGS! A2Central has been granted exclusive access to pictures of the prototype running self-diagnostics during a marathon burn-in session (at 16.5MHz), along with pics of the assembled prototype’s front and back. Within a week or so, prototypes will be shipped out to A2Central and Open-Apple Podcast for actual real-world testing and review!

THIS IS SO EXCITING but it’s just the beginning! Geoff Body is close to releasing the schematics for the TranswarpGS, and is working with Henry Courbis to develop updated firmware and features (like larger cache, faster performance or even a redesigned board using modern components). Dagen Brock is also helping out, so expect something fun on the software side later on.

Wait… we mentioned we had pics. Are you ready for those?


IMG_20150315_101840

IMG_20150314_234007

IMG_20150314_234027

isb

March 3rd, 2015

Mouser now stocking WDC development boards

Western Design Center (aka WDC) 65xx/65xxx development boards are now in stock at Mouser Electronics. Click HERE for the complete product list.

March 2nd, 2015

Coming soon from Tecnobytes – ClassicIDE mk-II


Coming soon from Tecnobytes Classic Computers, the ClassicIDE mk-II


ClassicIDE

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