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Mar 012012
 

This isn’t right. The drive I’ve got hooked up to my Kryoflux produced this little marvel today.

Floppy problem

Floppy light

Floppy scored

Guess there’s not much hope of retrieving whatever it was that was on that disk. Also, I think I’d better disassemble that drive and figure out what’s happening before any more disks are “archived.”

Feb 122012
 

A more daunting project than using the Kryoflux to image old PC floppies is trying to image the floppies that I used on the Epson QX-10 I had for a couple of years.

There isn’t a lot out there on the QX-10, actually. There’s a page that has some information about the keyboard and components, an entry at the obsolete computer museum with some interesting information, a page in French about one person’s recent experiences with the machines. You can still download the operations manual from Epson. There are some information pages and some disk images.

There’s even an emulator, which was linked to from the “information pages” above. It’s part of a suite of emulators created by Toyisha Takeda, and you can download the lot and run them under VirtualBox running Windows 2000. It needs the ROMS in the same directory.

I got the emulator to start just fine. The keyboard layout is a bit bizarre, so I can’t just type B: to get to the B drive, because the : key is actually where my + key is. I type B+, it hears B:. But it does work. Though it also seems to constantly play an annoying squeal out of the speaker, so I had to turn the volume down.

Qx10 emulator running

The reason I’m interested in this primarily is that I ran, for a while, a small and mostly unused BBS on it. It wasn’t really ever advertised widely, but it was a somewhat extensive program, and ran natively on the QX-10. I’d like to see if I can recover it. In order to do that, I need to image the disks, which the Kryoflux should enable me to do. And if it can manage it, it is going to be a minor miracle, since the media in the disks looks terrible.

Blotchy qx10 disk

I imaged stream files with the Kryoflux, but the issue now is how to turn it into an image file that I can use in any sensible way. According to this page, the disk geometry is 40×16 256-byte sectors. When I ran it through the Kryoflux software, using MFM, 40-track distance, and 256-byte sectors, I just got a lot of sector-count mismatches.

Kryo qx10 256attempt

When I ran it through with 512-byte sectors, I got quite a lot of green (successfully-read) blocks, but it reports 10 sectors per track, which isn’t right.

Kryo qx10 mfm720attempt

A hex editor on the image confirms that I have read some real data from the disks this way.

Kryo qx10 mfm720 hex

But I have no idea what I could use to mount this image, and moreover, I don’t really trust it given the “10-sector” problem. Did it find 16 sectors and mix in 1K of garbage into 2-sector chunks? Did it lose 6 sectors? Was I wrong to expect 16 sectors in the first place? (Or is that actually 0x10, in which case it is correct?) I tried mounting it in FreeDOS and Win2K to see if I could use some CP/M disk readers to deal with them, but that didn’t work very well. The QX-10 emulator can read TeleDisk format, and a couple of versions of TeleDisk are available from the QX-10 disk image page, but neither was willing to recognize the mounted image as anything. Nor was Anadisk (linked to here) or the elusive 22disk (which I found a link to here). I even tried using Virtual Floppy Drive to try to fool those programs into thinking that the image I had was a real drive, but they’re all too “smart” and want something in the real (virtual) disk drive.

What I’d like to do is just get the files off those disks and onto a different CP/M machine. One possibility is to run the software one of the Apple ][ machines I now have with Z80 cards in them, that's my current goal. (And in that form, they would also be usable in Virtual ][, since that emulates a Z80 card as well.) But I think I’m still a ways away from being able to do that.

Feb 122012
 

So, my Kryoflux unit arrived, and I have set it up. No time for enclosures, I just used the box it shipped in as my enclosure.

Kryoflux enclosure

I ran a number of my old PC floppies through it, and for the most part had pretty good success. I recovered a number of old disks full of documents, like little journal entries of a kind of I’d written in high school. Should be interesting/embarassing to read at some point. And a working copy of WordStar, even. It was quite straightforward to install VirtualBox, FreeDOS, mount the images, and try it out.

Life 530 wordstar

It was less straightforward to actually get the files onto my computer. For that, I installed a Windows 2000 machine in VirtualBox, created a hard drive that I mounted in both the FreeDOS and Win2K machine, and then copied the files onto the shared hard drive in FreeDOS, and then out into a shared folder under Win2K. The reason for the circuitousness is that FreeDOS doesn’t support the additions required to use shared folders on the host machine.

There are also a few old programs I wrote, the most important of which is a program for scheduling appointments and charging clients in beauty salons. It’s actually quite complex, written in Clarion 2.1. I recovered the source files, and even the executable program still runs.

Salon calendar help

Salon appt setup

Jan 262012
 

I took a shot at imaging some of my 5.25″ Apple floppies from the mid-80s today, using ADTpro talking to my IIgs over the modem port connected via a Keyspan dual serial adapter (driver here) to the USB port on my MacBook Pro. Two bits of good news to report: it’s actually quite quick, and it seems to be pretty fault-tolerant. ADTpro managed to read about maybe 70% of the disks I gave it without errors on either the front or back sides, which either means that ADTpro is good at retrying read errors, or that the floppies were still in pretty good shape. Many of the errors I encountered were actually ones I remembered, disks that had developed errors back when they were being used. I’m hoping that my Kryoflux, when it arrives, might be able to reconstruct some of those wayward bits as well.

Anyway, I imaged most of my highest priority floppies, mostly source code and experiments, not many of the games that already exist in disk images on the internet somewhere, but I intend to finish this first pass through the rest of them pretty quickly. The Kryoflux is not well suited to imaging the flip side of these disks, so I’m glad that the Apple is able to read most of the flip sides.

Among the things I had that I’m pleased still to have access to (because of how 1337 it makes me) is the source code to Cat-Fur. I forget the specifics now of how I acquired it, but I believe it is The Micron’s actual Cat-Fur 3.1 source code (uncommented, but with enough symbol labels that it probably isn’t just a disassembly of the binary file). I wrote a number of Cat-Fur modifications myself, which perhaps I’ll document here at some point. Cat-Fur was a huge part of my BBSing experience, but oddly it seems to have almost no representation on the internet of today, so if you don’t already know what it was you don’t have a very easy way to find out (it was a modem-specific file transfer program, designed for the special capabilities of the Novation Apple-Cat ][ modem, which had the ability to transfer at 1200 baud, but only half-duplex, so a complex handshake system was needed in order to permit two-way communication.).

Catfur src snip