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Atari STE modding

Coming soon:

Atari STE dual IDE interface

Exxos’ 1.44MB Fdd upgrade

Exxos’ fast TOS switcher

Exxos’ 32Mhz CPU booster

Amiga

Amiga

Amiga 1200


Atari ST/STE

ST

Atari STE


Being a collector of retro computers and games consoles I’ve always been disappointed to see my older kit slowly turn yellow with age, despite my best efforts to keep them away from too much UV light.

Recently I discovered that the process can be reversed, and that a handful of ingredients, all relatively easily obtained, plus a dose of UV light is the key to doing so.

Details of the process and ingredients, plus the back story of how this all came about can be found here: Retr0Bright

The basic gist is that many manufacturers added bromine to their plastic casings as a fire retardant, and it’s that bromine that causes the yellowing when exposed to UV light.

I’m not going to go into details about mixing up Retr0Bright, save to say make sure you wear eye protection and latex gloves, because one of the ingredients, hydrogen peroxide, can be quite nasty.

What I am going to talk about are my first experiences with the lovely whitening goo!

First off, it really is best to use a blender to mix in the Xantham gum used as a gelling agent, as it has a tendency to clump, and in fact I would suggest that you experiment with the amount you add, and even add in slowly in order to get a nice smooth consistency.

Personally I used the amounts recommended, dropped straight in, but ended up with something really thick and goopy, with some clumps, even when using the blender. I’ll add in a bit at a time next time with blending in between.

I had 3 items to test out the goo on, an Apple adb mouse and keyboard case, and an Atari ST case, and spread the mixture across the parts.

The key to the process is exposure to UV when coated with the goo, so mine were placed out in the sunshine. A point to bear in mind here is that you should wrap/cover the coated parts in cling film to prevent the goo from drying out.

Once the sun went in I popped them under a UV bulb on a timer, as I wanted to give the parts around 8 hours of exposure.

The results so far have been a mixed bag, with a good even change of colour on the Apple parts, but a very dappled result on the Atari, which to be fair was extremely badly discoloured.

To be fair, the Atari needs probably a second or even third go.

Looking at the process as a whole, I’d say that one of the difficulties, and aside from getting the texture of the mix right, is getting the UV distribution right, and sunlight is best for that, but I think if you wanted to do this on a regular basis, it would be worth setting up a permanent work station with multiple UV sources.

I’m going to do this again, and will also add some pictures, but it may be after I get moved to our new house.

So, as a fan of retro computers, I’m always looking for ways to expand my collection (See the Museum part of this site), and recently started looking at an area of my collection that was missing something: The Atari ST.

I managed to pick up an Atari 1040 STF fairly quickly, but the lack of modulator meant that getting anything other than Hi Res, which works on modern VGA monitors with an appropriate cable, was a pain.

So I resolved to try and get my hands on an STFM model in order to plug that gap.

A non working 520 STFM with good casework came up cheap on eBay, and I though if I could get it running again, then that would suffice, and if not, then it would hopefully yield some useful casework.

Well, I couldn’t bring it back to life, but it did yield a reasonable case, keyboard, PSU and newer TOS roms for the 1040 STF, plus the mainboard may yet be saleable as parts only, as it looks like some of the bits are in reasonable condition, and in fact somebody with greater electronics skills than I may yet be able to ressurect it.

An unexpected bonus was to find installed a Marpet 2MB ram upgrade kit, which will go with the mainboard and PSU as things I can resell to reduce the cost of Project ‘E’.

So, I determined to get a working mainboard to go into my case, and was surprised to find an STE mainboard, with PSU and 1 meg of RAM installed, and all the metal shielding, for just £26.99 plus a very reasonable £7 postage.

A few queries later, I was satisifed it was a runner, and purchased the board before somebody else could beat me to it!!

The idea of Project ‘E’ was thus born, to turn an STFM into an STE, and I awaited the arrival of the new components, which arrived on the 23rd of December, just 4 days after purchase, and quite amazing given the Christmas post!

So, I sat down with my 520 STFM case, and worked out just what would be required in order to slot the STE mainboard in.

As it happens, only 2 minor mods were needed.

1. 2x holes for the audio output.

2. The removal of a plastic lip that supports the cartridge slot.

First off was the 2x new holes for audio out.

As the picture shows, the centres line up vertically with the outside edges of the power switch slot, and horizontally with the modulator hole (At the very bottom of the picture), which is about the same size.

I marked the centres, drilling out both holes, then filing to allow a phono plug to connect properly with no interference.

Next was the lip. The next picture shows the lip beforehand, indicated by the yellow box.

With the case bare, I used a set of side cutters to remove the bulk of the lip, then filed the remainder off flat with the base of the case as below.

With both mods done, the STE board was able to slot into the STFM case, and I was able to reassemble and successfully test the machine.

The difference is visible above, with a metal tongue from the shielding supporting the cartridge slot, rather than the plastic lip on the case.

All in all about an hours work from start to fully assembled working machine.

STE fans will note that I haven’t mentioned a case mod to allow access to the STEs two additional joystick ports, found at the front left of the machine.

Well, that may come later, but since I have no intention of using them, it seemed like a lot of work to mod the case to do so, hence, for now at least, they are going to stay neatly hidden.

Interestingly, the case appears to have slight marks in the moulding that appear to indicate where the hole should be cut, which suggests to me that these, or at least some sort of other port, was intended there, and that it was catered for when the case moulds were made.

Thats my retro fun for the day, happy modding everybody 🙂

 

So, storm on Monday, there’s a power outage. Everything important is on a UPS, and though it did expire due to the length of the outage, everything seemed to survive and powered up ok.

I have a Netgear ReadyNAS Duo that I use for some storage and file backups, and normally my backup software burps, because it loses its connectivity to the ReadyNAS, and this seemed to be the case, so I did my usual tweaks to fix it, and walked away.

Unbeknownst to me, the usual tweaks hadn’t worked, because it wasn’t the usual problem! The ReadyNAS now won’t recognise either drive and I am running R-Linux for Windows to scan the drive and recover, and at the moment it looks hopeful, and I at least have a mirrored array to drop the files onto for now, but it’s a major pain in the rear!

R-Linux can be found here: R-Linux for anybody in the same boat, and I will update once I have the results, but having a wierdy file system is not one of the best features of the ReadyNAS Duo, it has to be said!

Update number 1

It’s looking good so far for R-Linux 🙂

It found about the right amount of data in my ReadyNAS disk, and is currently in the process of restoring it for me.

TBH if certain files can’t be recovered, it really isn’t the end of the world, as long as the main stuff can be dragged back kicking and screaming!

I guess my next update will be tomorrow.

Update number 2

Happy days, all data recovered. I just need to work out whats up with the ReadyNAS now!

Update number 3

So, ReadyNAS is back on line, but a factory reset was required. I’m certain I have a config backup somewhere, but I’m thinking a clean fresh setup is the way to go, so best to just crack on. Don’t you just hate it when hardware crashes that badly! Damn storm.

On the positive side, it’ll give me an opportunity to have a clean up of all the crap I kept on there!!

So, I’ve had a few issues with not being able to add accounts to WordTwit, the plugin I use to auto tweet my posts.

The fix was a bit drastic, I had to delete and recreate my Twitter app, get the new credentials from the app, then pop those into WordPress, which had just updated.

Then, and only then could I add my accounts. Be aware, it will try to auto add whatever account you’re currently logged into Twitter with, so if like me you have more than one, you need to add each account logged in separately.

Hopefully this post will serve as a test of Wordtwit in it’s new configuration 🙂

Having had a fairly lazy week off work, I’ve managed to cram in quite a few hours of retro computing. I have finally been able to get my Atari ST tested, and aside from the minor glitch of the internal floppy disk cable being partially disconnected, and having to buy a mono VGA cable because my home made one wasn’t working, I’m pretty happy with the results. Mono it may be, but it works fine on modern LCD displays. I now also have the means to write ST disk images to real floppy disks that the ST can read, courtesy of a piece of software called floimg running on an old Dell laptop with Windows 2000.

Lots more successful with the Amiga 1200 though. It has an internal scandoubler, so gives crystal clear images on any modern LCD display, boots up faster than my smartphone courtesy of the OS installed on its internal HDD, and thanks to the PCMCIA network card I just installed, I have Web access (though limited), and can upload and download stuff to it via FTP. The support the Amiga still has is ASTONISHING!

One point though, it has the WIERDEST TCP/IP setup for DNS of any computer I’ve used, but it does at least work.

I get my Amiga kit from amigakit.com, and am using the wired Easynet adapter. Wireless is also available :-), but you must have the OS installed on HDD for either the wired or wireless to work.

Hopefully the Retro scene will continue to flourish for many years to come.

Now, where did I put my Atari 800XL?

🙂

So, I just saw that Samsung has released UK pricing for it’s Gear smartwatch, and I have to say, I think they are bonkers.

At £299, it really is a gadget too far, especially since it will only work with other Samsung devices. At £100, it might have worked, but that really is just way too expensive.

Samsung, get your head in order, and make the price something that real people can afford, and stop being bonkers!!

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So, I got my first Arduino board, a UNO, on Friday (Thanks Etang Electronics via eBay), costing a smidge under a tenner.

Today was the first time I had to play with it, and the results were good. The free IDE software, downloaded from the main Arduino site here: Arduino on the web is simple and easy to use, and getting my first program uploaded and running was extremely easy.

As a first shot, I simply took some example code from the site, and modified to do my bidding.

The goal was to make the onboard LED flash ‘SOS’, wait 4 seconds, and repeat. My code is below, as it’s good to share 🙂

Go get an Arduino folks, and make stuff, the number of sensors etc is AMAZING! I can see me spending some time with it in the not too distant future.

/*
Blink
Turns on an LED on for one second, then off for one second, repeatedly.

This example code is in the public domain.
*/

// Pin 13 has an LED connected on most Arduino boards.
// give it a name:
int led = 13;

// the setup routine runs once when you press reset:
void setup() {
// initialize the digital pin as an output.
pinMode(led, OUTPUT);
digitalWrite(led, LOW);
}

// the loop routine runs over and over again forever:
void loop() {
//Signalling SOS with on-board LED
//First S
digitalWrite(led, HIGH);   // turn the LED on (HIGH is the voltage level)
delay(250);               // wait for a second
digitalWrite(led, LOW);    // turn the LED off by making the voltage LOW
delay(250);               // wait for a quarter second

digitalWrite(led, HIGH);   // turn the LED on (HIGH is the voltage level)
delay(250);               // wait for a second
digitalWrite(led, LOW);    // turn the LED off by making the voltage LOW
delay(250);               // wait for a quarter second

digitalWrite(led, HIGH);   // turn the LED on (HIGH is the voltage level)
delay(250);               // wait for a quarter second
digitalWrite(led, LOW);    // turn the LED off by making the voltage LOW
delay(500);               // wait for a half second before moving on to O
//Then O
digitalWrite(led, HIGH);   // turn the LED on (HIGH is the voltage level)
delay(1000);               // wait for a second
digitalWrite(led, LOW);    // turn the LED off by making the voltage LOW
delay(1000);               // wait for a second

digitalWrite(led, HIGH);   // turn the LED on (HIGH is the voltage level)
delay(1000);               // wait for a second
digitalWrite(led, LOW);    // turn the LED off by making the voltage LOW
delay(1000);               // wait for a second

digitalWrite(led, HIGH);   // turn the LED on (HIGH is the voltage level)
delay(1000);               // wait for a second
digitalWrite(led, LOW);    // turn the LED off by making the voltage LOW
delay(500);               // wait for a half second before moving on to the last S
//Finally S again
digitalWrite(led, HIGH);   // turn the LED on (HIGH is the voltage level)
delay(250);               // wait for a quarter second
digitalWrite(led, LOW);    // turn the LED off by making the voltage LOW
delay(250);               // wait for a quarter second

digitalWrite(led, HIGH);   // turn the LED on (HIGH is the voltage level)
delay(250);               // wait for a quarter second
digitalWrite(led, LOW);    // turn the LED off by making the voltage LOW
delay(250);               // wait for a quarter second

digitalWrite(led, HIGH);   // turn the LED on (HIGH is the voltage level)
delay(250);               // wait for a quarter second
digitalWrite(led, LOW);    // turn the LED off by making the voltage LOW
delay(4000);               // wait for 4 seconds before looping again
}

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I have been with 3 in the UK for a long time now, probably going on 8 or 9 years, and I’ll be honest, my signay at home was ‘ok’, but not great, though usable.

Then for a while, we started to lose signal entirely (I say we, as my wife is also with them), to begin with, over the weekends, then during the week, the signal would just be poor, two bars if you’re lucky.

I’d heard from a friend that 3 offered signal boosters that were connected to your broadband, so I decided to call them and see what was on offer.

It took some prodding, and more than one call to speak to the right people, but I was eventually told that I was in a known area. It arrived a fiew days later for bad signal, and that they would offer me a Home Signal device for free. The normal cost if you just ask for one is £130!!.

However, due to the known signal issues, mine would be free. It arrived a few days later, and is the simplest set up you could wish for.

You fit the supplied SIM card in the bottom, plug it into your broadband, and power it up. Aside from telling 3 which numbers will use it (Up to 32 per home address), which you do via a website, that really is it.

We now have full signal, in and around the house, and never miss a call or text.

If you’re in the same boat, I’d advise you to call 3 and see if you’re eligible for one of these helpful little boxes. (Yes, they are really quite small).

3HSignalThere is a post script to this, in that mine started flashing a red warning light at me over the last few days. The problem? Simple fix, remove the SIM card, clean the contacts, and put it back in and reboot 🙂 Happy days!

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I have had an Untangle appliance for some years now, guarding my network from the internet at large. I like to share things like this 🙂

The great thing is, that there is a free version of this prebuilt security appliance that everybody can use, and it really is very easy to set up.

You can download it from here: http://www.untangle.com/ as an ISO file, that you can then burn to CD/DVD and use as installation media.

My original Untangle server was running on an HP DL360 G2, which was more than up to the job from a hardware perspective.

Originally, I used my BT firewall with the Untangle device in bridge mode, but recently I have removed the BT device since moving to BT Infifnity, since Untangle supports PPPOE.

This turned it into Router mode, and has greatly enhanced my security, since the Untangle firewall has a superior firewall to the BT device, let alone the configuration is easier and more flexible.

You can find the differences between Bridge and Router mode here: http://www.untangle.com/untangle/how-to-deploy under step 3.

Untangle also adds a whole host of other features, such as virus scanning, spam ans spyware scanners, ad blockers, so it really does give you a much better patform to control access to/from your network.

As well as recently moving to Router mode, I also retired my HP DL360 G2, on account of noise, heat and electricity consumption. It’s been replaced by a laptop. Yes, you heard right, a laptop.

So, not only have I now upgraded to the 64 Bit version of Untangle, it runs very nicely on a dual core 1.8GHz laptop with 4 GB RAM, a nice side effect being the fact it now has it’s own built in UPS, being a laptop 🙂

The only thing I needed was a second NIC, for which I was able to get a new Cardbus adapter off Ebay for the princely sum of £5.

The whole process was quick too. It took about an hour or so to install Untangle fresh, and then import the settings from the old server.

I really can’t recommend it enough, especially if you have some spare hardware around that meets the minimum spec.

So, go and untangle yourselves folks!

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So, I recently decided to retire my Exchange 2003 server, in favour of Exchange 2007.

There were a lot of reasons for this.

Firstly, my Windows 2003/Exchange 2003 server was an old HP DL380 G3. In itself, a great, reliable server, which cost me only £20 off Ebay, but getting on a bit, and very noisy in my home office, especially combined with the HP DL 360 G2 I was using for an Untangle server, and the newer Dell T105 which was already running Windows 2008 and Exchange 2007.

Secondly, at work we have Exchange 2007/2010, so I had a desire to expand my skills to better enable me to understand the environments I need to support.

Thirdly, I wanted to also migrate a number of sites I ran (OWA, WordPress) over to IIS 7 due to the improved security features, and ease of management.

And last, but by no means least, the two HP servers are making my electricity bill look like that of an actual data centre, so I wanted to retire them both, enjoy the quieter office, and save some pennies.

The migration from Exchange 2003 -> 2007 was really not so difficult, with the only issue being the move of my wife’s mailbox, which reported there may be activesync issues. It would be her account! She did have issues, so I had to re-do the account on both her iPhone and Galaxy Tab, but all was fine after that.

So why, I hear you asking, is it more secure, but more annoying?

Well, certain feature like tarpit are enabled by default, and also it’s more secure when trying to connect over telnet, and it has some excellent anti spam features built in.

Now comes the annoying bit. Many things can be done via the GUI, but if you want to get at all the really neat stuff, you have to visit the Exchange Powershell CLI. Yes, I said CLI.

For example, enabling the anti spam features requires running some scripts from the CLI, as does adding a list of custom blockwords to the anti spam component.

You can add blockwords via the GUI, but it takes FOREVER!!!!

Same goes for blocked email domains and senders.

CLI = power in the case of Exchange 2007 and beyond. I guess I’d better get used to it!!

So, it’s been a while now since I updated to Jelly Bean, and also since the enforced factory reset due to the fact that things just weren’t quite right after the update.

The factory reset really was the charm though, as everything is running beatifully now, and the battery life is nothing short of amazing compared to before.

What I have noticed though, is that my Nexus 7 doesn’t seem to suffer in the same manner as my One X or Galaxy S2 (Work phone).

It has now had 2 or 3 updates with no factory reset rquired, so that does beg the question ‘Do skinned versions of Android have an update issue?’.

I’d certainly like to know, so if there is anybody out there who has a vanilla Android device, has found a factory reset is needed for updates, please comment!

Otherwise it has got me wondering if my next phone will be an unadulterated Google device. Don’t get me wrong, I love HTC Sense to bits (Touchwiz, not so much), but if it means I have to do a factory reset for each an every update that comes through, I won’t be too happy.

My S2 did just get an update to Jelly Bean, and so far seems fine without a reset, but I’m keeping an eye on it. Maybe It’s just the main version updates that need it, who knows.

For now though, happy bunny, lets just wait to see what the next update brings.

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So, I was pretty happy about the Jelly Bean update for my HTC ONE X, but that diminished as over time as things started to slowly go downhill.

I found the camera app was really slow from time to time, and only a reboot would get things going again, and the performance generally was the same, again needing a reboot.

I’d had issues with my work phone, a Galaxy S2 after that received both the ICS and JB updates. Not the same issues I might add, instead the battery life being sucked dry by a vampiric Exchange email client. The solution to this was a factory reset each time.

So, I thought ‘what have I got to lose?’ and proceeded down the factory reset route with my own phone.

I was pretty impressed by the Google experience, as my phone was reset and had all apps automatically restored by Google and within an hour was back up and running, albeit without any personalisation, other than having all my account information back in.

I’d taken screen shots of all my personalisation for the home screens (press power and volume down on the ONE X to do this), and in another 30 minutes my phone was back as it was before by referring to these.

So far it’s looking good, the phone being much more spritely than before, with no signs of camera or other slowdowns, and everything is buttery smooth again, and battery life seems to have shot up immensely.

I’m sure this has done the trick, so I think the moral of the story is ‘do a factory reset when you upgrade to a new version of Android’.

Hopefully somebody else in the same position will find this useful 🙂

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So finally Jelly Bean finally arrived on my HTC One X on Monday, a couple of months behind unlocked/unbranded phones.

The delay was due to the first build failing testing with 3, and HTC having to deliver a second build. The guff that 3 add has more than a little bit to do with that.

What annoys me the most is that valuable customers get left behind, and folks who don’t pay for a contract phone jump the queue.

Still, the I have it now, and so far so good. Battery life doesn’t seem that different so far, but I need to give it a chance I guess.

One big difference for me is the improved email client, which now allows html email with my Exchange 2003 activesync setup, whereas before I could only get plain text.

The addition of the Best Deals application gives you localised deals to you, and there are minor updates to some of the other embedded apps.

Google now is also a welcome addition, providing up to date information based on things you do, when you do them and where you are. For example, driving home it automatically gives me an eta.

The updated UI is not massively different, mostly minor tweaks and changes, but the underlying changes from project butter make what was an already slick UI email even better.

So, so far so good, and I’m a happy bunny 🙂

Ok, so after some badgering, I finally got some information on the Jelly Bean update for locked/branded handsets on Three UK.

It seems that they have a second build in testing now, the first having failed, and it will be released ‘as soon as its ready’.

Overall I’m more than a little disappointed with Three on this. As a loyal customer of about 7-8 years I’ve always had a branded\locked handset and stuck with them as overall I have no problems, but users of unlocked\unbranded handsets get the updates first, and as a customer who is paying more to be loyal to Three, I expect to have the update at the same time or earlier.

It isn’t like the update suddenly surprises them, they know it’s coming, so concentrate on getting the updates ready for the same time.

I guess the argument is that HTC are in control of the updates, so they can release to handsets with non brand CIDs when they want, but the carriers should either stop filling their handsets with unwanted bloatware so that the update is simple, or work harder with HTC to get the updates ready for all in time.

I had exactly the same issue with my HTC Desire, and I ended up rooting and flashing it in order to get the software level I wanted, something I don’t want to do with my One X.

What is even more galling is the fact that Samsung look to be releasing Jelly Bean officially for the Samsung Galaxy S2, which means my work phone, a much older model, may possibly get the update before my One X.

I may yet have to consider unlocking my bootloader so I can get a custom recovery on my phone, and back it up so I can try flashing to a stock JB rom, but each time I think of doing it I have a little twitch…….

Ok, so I found out today that the HTC One X has a safe mode that I accidentally went into when trying to get to recovery mode.

I’d held the volume – button down whilst holding the power button down until the 3 icons at the bottom of the screen flashed, and when nothing happened I simply powered up the phone to have it come up with ‘Safe Mode’ overlaid at the bottom left of the screen.

In safe mode, you can only use preinstalled apps, so none of my 3rd party apps would work.

So I rebooted figuring it would go away, but it didn’t, which led to several minutes of frantic Googling and minor panic.

As it happens, the answer didn’t come from Google, but from my own brain 🙂

So, I figured that it was only fair to share with the world at large, so here we go:-

Power off your phone and wait for the screen to shut off.

Hold down the power button until the 3 icons at the bottom flash and release the power button.

The phone will still be off, now power it on normally and safe mode will be turned off.

This worked for me, hopefully it will for others too, since with the One X there is no option to remove the battery!!

I love Delicious, and it has been my portable Internet index, full of all those useful links I’ve found over the years.

I have used its sidebar a great deal, so when the plug in for Firefox updated and the sidebar disappeared, along with its icon, I was a tad annoyed.

However, after a little digging I found that the sidebar is still there.

Just hit ctrl + B and there it is again 🙂

I am really getting into Minecraft now, but so annoying that I can’t connect to my home server from the Xbox and Android versions. I do hope this happens in the future, or I’m going to end up with 3 or 4 different worlds on the go!