July 31st, 2008

A2Unplugged show #0028 released

Ryan Suenaga presents A2Unplugged, show #0028. This episode is entitled “KansasFest 2008 Wrap Up”. Ryan sums up his recent experiences while attending KFest 2008.

A2Unplugged can be freely downloaded from the podcast’s web site, or subscribed to from the Apple iTunes store.

July 27th, 2008

KFest 2008 – Saturday report

If it hasn’t sunk in by Friday night, you definitely feel it Saturday morning… a slight pang of disappointment that KFest is almost over. I’ve heard more than one person say that this year’s event seemed to fly by (as it always does). Most of us are exhausted from too little sleep but every person I’ve asked has told me they’ve had a great time and plan to come back next year. The sessions have been great, but it’s the people you get to hang out with that make this fun and worthwhile. Thanks everyone for making the 19th annual KansasFest such an enjoyable experience.

Saturday doesn’t have much on the schedule, but it’s one of the most important days of the conference. HackFest officially ends, vendors and programmers usually announce their new products and we all get to eat BBQ for dinner.

Ryan demonstrated “IItter” (too-ter) a freeware Twitter client that he wrote. Twitter is a micro-blogging social service that let’s friends “follow” each other, and keep in touch without resorting to instant messaging or e-mail. IItter requires an Apple IIGS with System 6.0.1, Marinetti, and an Ethernet card with a broadband internet connection. An accelerator is also recommended. Or, you can just use Sweet16.

Geoff Weiss reintroduced a new HASH tool for the IIGS. No offense to Geoff, but I fell asleep due to sleep deprivation, NOT because it was boring. I’m afraid I missed most of the presentation. Whoops!

Next on the agenda was James Littlejohn who announced a few new expansion and enhancement products. First up, the LittleControlPanel…

LittleControlPanel
 

The LittleControlPanel is simply a set of 4 switches and 4 LEDs to control internal devices like ReactiveMicro’s ROM switchers, or for toggling off the speaker, etc. The LEDs can be connected to internal cards like the CFFA, Zip/Transwarp or any card with visual indicators that you wish to move to the outside of the case where you can actually SEE THEM without leaving the case off.

DoubleSeven

Next we have the DoubleSeven, a card that creates a switchable slot 7 in your Apple //e, II+ or II. Have a card you don’t use very often? You can leave it in the machine, and switch to it when you want to use it. You’ll have to power off the machine first to make the switch, as it’s NOT a hot-swap card.

LittleExpanderPlus

The LittleExpanderPlus is a clone of the SCRG Switch-a-Slot, but with a major improvement. It includes an integrated LittlePower adapter, making this an INTERNAL Switch-a-Slot! The LittleExpanderPlus is designed to replace the standard Apple power supply in the Apple //e or II+, and provides 4 switchable slots that are interfaced via a BussTap. The BussTap is typically installed in slot 1, 4, or 7. Again, this isn’t a hot-swap device. You must power off the Apple II before switching cards (just like the original Switch-a-Slot). The LittleExpanderPlus can also be used externally or placed in an enclosure so IIGS users can utilize it as well. You’ll still need a power supply; either an external PSU or better yet, a micro-ATX PSU for an all-internal solution.

And then there is the Extend-a-Slot thingy… a single slot, on a cable with a BussTap on one end that can be used externally. Developers often use these to save wear and tear on an internal slot. Sorry, I didn’t get a picture of that.

All of these products (and more) will be available soon from ReactiveMicro. The LittleControlPanel will sell for $15 and the DoubleSeven for $65. Pricing for the LittleExpanderPlus has not yet been set, but it will cost less than the $180 of the original SCRG Switch-a-Slot. No price on the Extend-a-Slot yet either. James Littlejohn also let us know he’s far from done, and will be working to bring us more Apple II products in the future.

Ken Gagne announced that the Esprit de Apple Corps collection compiled by Russell Nielson is now freeware. Esprit de Apple Corps is a two-disc set of multimedia files specifically for the Apple II and contains over 4,500 MOD song files, 10,000 graphic files, games, sounds, and more.

More good news from Ken, Juiced.GS will continue to be published in 2009. You can renew your subscription here.

Ken then surprised us with a demonstration of Facebook, and told us of the “Apple II Enthusiasts” group located there.

HackFest finished with two qualified entries. Margaret Anderson programmed a Hypercard stack she titled “Game Menu”, and Ryan Suenaga produced an CDA named “Bitly”. Margaret’s stack launches games (or any application) configured within the stack. Ryan’s program submits the contents of the IIGS clipboard to the Bit.ly service and fetches a shortend URL. After reviewing both entries, our judges named Ryan’s Bitly program the winner.

Later in the afternoon, we had the vendor fair. The new hardware products announced by James Littlejohn seemed to be getting a lot of buzz. I picked up a couple of DoubleSeven cards, a LittleProto II and a few other parts.

The only thing left was the trip out to KC Masterpiece for BBQ, and then it was back to the dorms for more chatting, visiting and last minute hacking. Some of us are leaving early, and are already packed or in the process of preparing for departure. We’ve already started saying our goodbyes.

July 26th, 2008

KFest 2008 – Friday report

Before the report, some overlooked housekeeping… During the keynote, Lane Roathe gave everyone who wanted one, a CD-ROM with a bunch of his old software, source code and other interesting stuff. I have Lane’s permission to share the contents of the disc with the world, so I copied everything into a ZIP file which you can download here. Also, Lane said he is actively trying to get Dark Castle for the GS reclassified as freeware, and make it’s source code available.

Michael Mahon has allowed A2Central to share his PowerPoint slides from his AppleCrate demonstration (which I can’t help but go on and on about — it’s really an awesome hack). You can download the PPT file here.

Some pictures from Henry Courbis have been posted.

And now for Friday’s events! Margaret Anderson gave an intro to Hypercard session, going over the basics of composing a stack, layout etc. I’m still impressed by Hypercard, and how much it reminds me of the early web (circa 1996) interfaces.

Next up, Geoff Weiss gave us a technical introduction to the ZFS file system that has been introduced in products like the lastest Apple Xserve line. The network engineers and system administrators in the group found that especially useful.

Tony Diaz took the floor to give everyone a tour of 16 Sector and to talk about the availability of Sirius 8MB RAM cards, Focus controllers with compact flash adapters and other upcoming projects. It was also announced that Sirius cards would soon ship with a new RAM tester program written by Geoff Weiss, which he’s named MegaMemoryTester.

After lunch, Steve Weyhrich was back digitizing again, but this time with music and audio files.

Ryan Suenaga and Tony Diaz teamed up to demo “teathering”, or how to use your cell phone’s high speed internet with you laptop, or other mobile device utilizing various gadgets like the CradlePoint router to set up your own wireless hotspots.

The last official session was provided by Eric Shepherd, who introduced us to programming the Apple iPhone.

We had another nice banquet this year, and several prizes were given away. The fact that we have prizes to give away at all is due to the tireless efforts of one man, Howard Katz. Unfortunately, Howard’s schedule prevented him from joining us this year and he was greatly missed. Thanks Howard, for all your efforts. Tony insists that you personally deliver the prizes in person next year. No exceptions!

A2RetroSystems generously donated an UtherNet card for our grand prize drawing. Everyone got a ticket… and our winner is Jim O’Reilly! Congratulations Jim, and a BIG THANKS to A2RetroSystems for helping out with KansasFest!

Later, the gang made the annual trip out to the Apple Store, but this time we went to the Leawood location which is larger than the Country Club Plaza Store we usually go to. We did our part to stimulate the local economy by picking up some gear. One of the employees noticed we came in as a group and soon found out we were an Apple II enthusiast group. Minutes later, the manager came out with a box of 30 t-shirts left over from their grand opening and gave them to us for free. That pretty much guarantees we’ll be going back to Leawood next year. The staff at Apple Leawood were awesome.

The last bit of the evening was spent eating Krispy Kreme donuts (thanks Ryan!) and watching a RiffTrax of Independance Day. If you like Mystery Science Theater 3000, then you get what it’s like.

I cut out early to join a late night Steak & Shake run, then it was back to the dorms for some late (or early morning) yakking. I finally went to bed around 3:30am.

July 25th, 2008

KFest 2008 – Thursday report

Thursday morning, I managed to roll out of bed in plenty of time for our first session. Steve Weyhrich shared how he has been digitizing valuable family videos and photographs using Photoshop Elements. Overall, very informative and appreciated information.

Next up, Stavros Karatsoridis provided a beginner’s tutorial to the Apple II Monitor. Stavros has kindly allowed us to share his slideshow, converted to PDF. It is available here. Nicely done, Stavros!

Ryan Suenaga’s presentation was about blogging for fun and profit. Lots of good, practical advice for people who are interested in making money on the web.

After lunch, Bruce Baker took us on another trip through Softdisk’s library of games. Softdisk has so much content, we could have spent a whole day going through it. Fortunately, the entire collection is still available from Syndicomm.

James Littlejohn took over and shared how he became involved in designing Apple II add-ons through his robotics hobby (and with encouragement from Henry Courbis), followed by his firsthand experiences learning to use CAD software to design his nifty products. Then he teased us by announcing he wouldn’t be revealing any new products until his session on Saturday. There were a few audible groans but everyone knows a dramatic product reveal is practically a KFest tradition, if not an art form.

Eric “Sheppy” Shepherd next demonstrated the latest Sweet 16 (currently in closed beta). This release includes several enhancements and bug fixes.

  • CD-ROM support, partial ISO support
  • Wired Ethernet support via Marinetti (Airport not yet supported)
  • Joystick support (does not include gamepads)
  • Uses Sparkle framework for automatic updating
  • You can now paste text from the Mac clipboard
  • Includes an NDA to toggle fullscreen mode
  • Improved Leopard compatibility and stability
  • Fixed various bugs, notably the color palette problems with Wolf3D and Dreamgrafix.

Other cool enhancements include providing GS programmers direct access to the 640×400 frame buffer allowing for VGA quality graphics. There is also a new Javascript debugger, for setting breakpoints and automatically performing tests checking the machine state as breaks occur.

For the future, Sheppy plans to reexamine the network code before version 2.0 is finalized, hopefully resolving the lack of Airport support. Other goals include the ability to mount Mac folders as disks, importing styled text and graphics from the Mac clipboard, Imagewriter II emulation (print to PDF) and further debugger enhancements.

Sheppy anticipates the public beta will be released mid-August. Look for an announcement on A2Central.

Coinciding with the new Sweet 16, is a new version of Ewen Wannop’s SAFE2 FTP client has been released.

Press release:

24th July 2008
SAFE2 2.1.8 Released

Congratulations to Sweet16 v2.0 for gaining Ethernet connectivity!

SAFE2 is the fastest full featured, stand alone, desktop FTP application for a real IIgs, and can also now be used as an FTP application with the Sweet16 emulator.

To use SAFE2 with Sweet16 v2.0, you will need Marinetti 3.0 or later installed, a Mac running Leopard, and an Ethernet connection. You will also need to install the Sweet16 Link Layer. Both the Link Layer, and the SAFE2 update can be downloaded from my website:

http://homepage.mac.com/speccie/

When using the Sweet16 emulator, SAFE2 frees you from the tyranny of floppy disks or disk images. Simply set up access to an FTP server, either on your LAN, or one you have read write access to, and transfer files easily back and forth.

With the new ‘synchronise folder’ feature, you can easily update your web site, or backup files, in one simple action.

SAFE2 2.1.8 has many bug fixes, and other interface tweaks. It has been optimised for use with emulators, and contains two major new features, synchronising folders and synchronising the IIgs system clock.

If you are updating from previous versions of SAFE2, you will need to install Geoff Weiss’s TimeZone Tool if you do not already have it installed. A copy is supplied with the SAFE2 archive.

Read the Version.History file for more details on what has changed in SAFE2 2.1.8.

As Sweet16 can now access the Internet directly, do not forget that many of my other applications can also now be used with the emulator. Spectrum, SNAP, and Whozat, all work just fine!

SAFE2, SNAP, and Whozat can be obtained from my web site:

http://homepage.mac.com/speccie/

To purchase a copy of Spectrum go to:

http://www.syndicomm.com/index.html

To get a copy of Sweet16, go to:

http://www.sheppyware.net/software-mac/sweet16

Later, most of us went out to see the 25th Anniversary showing of the movie WarGames. It was the first time I had seen the movie on the big screen and I have to say, it was a lot more enjoyable than I expected. It was fun seeing and hearing the “ambience” I had missed by watching it on a dinky TV. There are a few hidden pranks in the movie for the alert viewer that I thought were great (and a little geeky). I’ve decided this is a must-have for my DVD collection.

Another cool thing I learned during the interviews portion, was that whenever the W.O.P.R. unit’s lights were blinking away, it was some guy with an Apple II inside making it all work. Every time the Apple II was mentioned, the KFest attendees cheered.

We had a funny glitch occur during the movie… during the scene when David and Jennifer are looking for a boat to leave Falken’s island, the movie stopped and the screen went black. We were left there for a few awkward moments wondering what had happened and I made an off-hand remark about the projector running Windows. It was a cheap, predictable joke, but not more than 10 seconds after I had said that, the Windows taskbar briefly flashed on the screen and the audience erupted in laughter. Another minute went by and the movie picked up where it left off.

I forgot to mention yesterday that Kirk Mitchell and Henry Courbis have been posting their KFest reports to usenet newsgroup comp.sys.apple2

Oh, and there were some interesting discussions about this site overheard, Ultimate Apple II. Check it out.

And lastly, Ken Gagne has posted a few pics to Computerworld.

Well, this update is extremely late. I’ve had a few technical problems with the wireless coverage and it’s really cramped my productivity. I’ll close for now and start working on Friday’s update. Wish you were here with us.

July 24th, 2008

A couple of Apple IIgs emulator updates

Two Apple IIgs emulator updates slipped under our radar. Richard Bennett-Forrest has ported his Florence emulator from Java–it’s now a Mac OS X native application. The version numbering was reset and presently stands at 1.0d2. Although not available for download, you can follow the progress on his site.

KEGS-OSX 1.94 added support for Intel Macs. Check out the changes here.

July 24th, 2008

KFest 2008 – Tuesday/Wednesday report

Tuesday is our usual move-in day for people who like to arrive early. It gives us a chance to unpack, unwind and socialize before sessions start. Some attendees travel pretty far to get here, and so it’s nice to just relax and catch up with old friends and meet the new people. We kept to our usual tradition of eating out as a group, followed by trips to the grocery to stock up on KFest essentials — ice, beverages, snacks and last minute supplies.

I made the rounds and got a sneak peek at few new products and software applications that are being released this week. I can’t spoil any surprises, but I think the hardware crowd will be pleased this year. I’ll be sure to post news and pictures as soon as I’m allowed to.

I turned in around 11:30pm (early for me) but the party was just getting started for some people, which included a late night Denny’s dash.

Wednesday is the official first day of KansasFest. HackFest also kicks off, and I anticipate we’ll see some interesting projects. I know of three people participating so far, and our judges for this year are Apple II notables Eric “Sheppy” Shepherd, Ken Gagne and Steve Weyhrich.

Our first KFest event is the Kookout, expertly handled by Kirk Mitchell. The weather cooperated, and we had a nice picnic outside with hamburgers, hot dogs, etc. We even had vegetarian-friendly offerings. After that, we collected our handout materials and KFest t-shirts, and retired until it was time for the keynote.

Our keynote this year was presented by Lane Roathe, cofounder of Ideas From the Deep and a former managing editor at Softdisk. I won’t rehash all of Lane’s accomplishments and professional background here; the press release covers all that. Suffice to say, we had a good time hearing how Lane got started programming with the Apple II, and his experiences as a contract programmer and developer over the years which included a few Romero and Carmack anecdotes.

Next up was Michael Mahon and his fabulous AppleCrate II, a 17 mainboard monster of Apple II parallel computing. The AppleCrate could have accomodated even more mainboards, but I think Michael ran out. This has got to be one of the greatest hacks on the Apple II ever conceived and executed. Wow!




Michael’s demonstration started with overview of his previous AppleCrate project, and NadaNet followed by an introduction in parallel computing on the new and improved AppleCrate II over NadaNet. Then we got to see theory put into practice as the AppleCrate crunched a Mandelbrot in about 32 minutes, that would take a single Apple //e eight and a half hours to complete. We also heard a 16 channel demo of the AppleCrate playing “When I’m 64”.



Our next session was with Rob Walch, from the Today In iPhone podcast. Rob gave us a presentation covering the new iPhone 2.0 software, some useful tips and then fielded our technical questions.

That was it for today’s sessions. Later we had a pizza reception sponsored by Syndicomm and Juiced.GS.

Well, it’s almost 1:00am and lots of people are still up so I think I’ll make another pass around the area and see what everyone is up to. Wish you were here with us!

July 22nd, 2008

KansasFest starts today

KansasFest 20087 logo

July 20th, 2008

Apple II Quickies (7-20-08) UPDATED

We’re getting packed and ready to attend KansasFest this week. We’ll be providing daily updates as soon as the conference starts. In the meantime, here are some quickies… Jonno Downes released dsktool.rb 0.5.1, now with CP/M support. Blake Patterson of BYTECellar, one of the more interesting retrocomputing sites I follow (and personally recommend) tracked down and interviewed Demco Electronics President Darrell Hoblack. Hoblack is the creator of the Graphics Tool Kit, an advanced, high-end graphics card and software package for the Apple II that rivaled anything the Mac could do back in the day. Finally, Bill Buckels recently released MeToo! (download/PDF manual), a children’s word association program. Mike Willegal has posted info on a PS/2 keyboard interface (with serial option) that he has designed for the Apple II. There seem to be a lot of these kinds of adapters in development lately but this is the first one with a serial option I’ve seen, for monitoring what’s going on over the interface.

July 19th, 2008

Computist Project improved, archive now searchable

Mike Maginnis has announced major improvements to the Computist Project. Brian Wiser has taken the archive scanned by Mike to the next level by re-cropping, color correcting and running the content through optical character recognition (OCR) making the Computist Project archives completely text-searchable.

Mike scanned (with the original publisher’s permission) the entire run of Computist to PDF a few years ago, and has since been distributing the content for FREE on DVD (and for download) to anyone who asks.

Computist is an immensely important collection of information; it covered many technical aspects of the Apple II, but it’s main focus was on copy-protection circumvention methods and other “underground” topics. It was equally popular with technical users, hackers and (gasp!) software pirates.

Personally, I hope anyone taking Mike up on his generous DVD offer is contributing a little pizza and beer money for all his hard work. Big THANKS to Mike and Brian for their contributions to the Apple II community!

July 15th, 2008

Reconstructing Apple-1 BASIC

Michael Steil has produced what he calls “the first confirmed perfect dump of the 4096 bytes” that constituted the BASIC that shipped with the original Apple-1 computer. This software was recovered after Steil received a copy — in MP3 format. From his blog:

The Apple I is extremely rare. Only 200 were built, and less than 100 are believed to be in existence … The cassettes are even rarer, as not every Apple I came with one. There has not been a dump of the tape until 2002, when Achim Breidenbach of Boinx Software got an MP3 recording of an original Apple 1 BASIC tape … [and] managed to decode it by writing a program — in GFA BASIC on an Atari ST.

Hat tips to TUAW and 9 to 5 Mac.

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