Lyonsden Blog

Category - Gaming

Zzap! Amiga Micro Action – Brand new UK Amiga magazine!

2021 was a great year for Amiga magazines. Back in January there was the launch of Amiga Addict, then towards the end of the year, another brand new magazine appeared; Zzap! Amiga – Micro Action from the same guys who resurrected Zzap! 64 – Fusion Retro Books.

Zzap! Amiga

Zzap! Amiga Front Cover

The cover design adopts the familiar Zzap appearance and represents, perhaps, what we might have seen back in the late 80’s had Zzap fully transitioned over to the Amiga.

The magazine itself is A5 sized and is printed in full colour on thick glossy glossy paper, stapled at the centre. There’s a grand total of 58 pages sandwiched between the covers comprising mostly articles with a small smattering of adverts. From what I can gather Zzap! Amiga will be published 4 times a year (quarterly).

A Look Inside Issue 1

Zzap! Amiga

Zzap! Amiga Contents Page

There’s a clear emphasis on gaming here, which is to be expected considering Zzap’s heritage. This is probably why it’s only coming out quarterly too, allowing time for enough new games and news to surface. Some Zzap! regulars make an appearance including Zzap! Rrap (letters page) and The White Wizard (adventure gaming). RetroRecipes’ Chris Simpson (Perifractic) has his own section of the mag too whilst elsewhere there’s a 6 page article reminiscing about the CD32 console launch. There’s some cool featured Amiga art and a look at the success Bullfrog had with the Amiga. Of course there’s plenty of news from the Amiga gaming scene included too.

Zzap! Amiga

AMOS

AMOS Coding

Finally I have to mention I was really pleasantly surprised to see that there was an AMOS coding section near the back of the magazine. It even included a type-in listing to enter! The article also contained information on how you can legally get a free copy of AMOS to experiment with. As a big Amiga tinkerer this was definitely right up my street. I have a boxed original copy of AMOS so this is just the excuse I need to dust it off and put it to good use! I sincerely hope to see more of this sort of stuff in the future.

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All in all this was a great read, especially if you are an Amiga gamer. It was entertaining and informative without being dry and serious. I personally would have liked to see more game reviews – hopefully issue 2 will improve things in this respect.

At £3.99 plus postage it’s a no-brainer for me and a worthy addition to my retro magazine collection. Don’t forget you can get 15% off with code ‘LYONSDENBLOG’ at the checkout!

Head on over to Fusion Retro Books to pick up your own copy. At the time of writing issue 2 is about to be published too which I’ll definitely be getting.

CD64 Interface – First Edition Review

If you’ve ever wanted to use CD’s with your C64 then this could be the gadget for you. I spotted this little gizmo on the SharwarePlus website and wanted it immediately. It arrived quickly and well packaged. Inside the box there was a CDR containing a bunch of games, the CD64 interface itself, an instruction sheet and a small Commodore bookmark type thingy.

 

CD64 Interface Package contents.

CD64 Interface Package contents.

 

A Closer look at what’s included

The CD64 Interface comprises a small circuit board with a cassette port socket one end and a single RCA socket the other. The RCA socket actually gives the first clue as to how this device works.

 

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The second big clue can be found when you insert the CD into a computer…

 

CD Tracklist showing all 33 tracks included on the CD.

 

If you haven’t already worked it out, the device lets you hook up the audio output of a CD player to the C64’s cassette port. The connected player then becomes a datasette of sorts albeit one with direct access to each program. The disc included is an audio CD and contains 33 audio tracks. Playing a track back through a stereo fills the room with that familiar screeching sound that most of us remember from the 80’s when copying games on cassette.

 

3.5mm headphone jack to Stereo RCA cable (not included).

 

In addition to the C64 game files there’s also seven Chris Hülsbeck music tracks on the CD which can be listened to on your CD player. Don’t try and do what I did and load them on the C64 thinking they were some sort of demo scene tracks – doh!

 

CD64 interface

My Sony Discman D-11 attached to the CD64 interface with a 3.5mm headphone jack to stereo RCA cable.

 

To access the CD I used my old Sony Discman D-11 and a 3.5mm headphone jack to RCA cable to try it out. I listened to the CD with a pair of headphones first just to make sure that the sound was coming out of both left and right channels (it did). Consequently it doesn’t matter which RCA plug you use to hook up the CD64 Interface, both will work.

 

C64 LOAD Screen

First attempt at loading the Menu off CD.

 

 

Loading Programs off the CD

To load stuff off the CD you press the familiar SHIFT & RUN/STOP keys and then press PLAY on the CD player. I was very quickly presented with a ‘Found CD Edition’ message which means it had at least found the first data track on the CD. However for a while I couldn’t get any further than this. After reading the guide it suggested unplugging connected devices to remove any unwanted interference. Once I had removed my 1541 Ultimate-II+ cart and 1541-II floppy drive I began to make some progress.

There was still a fair bit of trial and error to get the volume level right though. Too quiet or too loud and the programs failed to load – or loaded with an error.

 

Load error

Load Error.

 

After about 20 minutes of trying different levels I finally found the sweet spot, which for me was a volume level of 6 (my player goes up to 10). I also saw an improvement by setting the Megabass feature to the medium setting (as opposed to being turned off). Of course every player is going to be different in this respect – the key thing is to experiment.

 

Sony Discman D-11

Setting my volume level to 6 seemed to give the best results.

 

Now that I had the volume level set correctly I was finally able to get to the animated ‘Rainbow Arts’ Title Screen.

 

Rainbow Arts Title Screen.

Rainbow Arts Title Screen.

 

From here I could access each of the included 10 games via a simple menu screen.

 

Rainbow Arts Menu Screen.

Rainbow Arts Menu Screen.

 

To operate the menu it was simply a matter of selecting a game from the list with the cursor keys and then hitting RETURN.

 

Instructions for selecting the correct track on the CD.

Instructions for selecting the correct track on the CD.

 

The program then tells you which track to select on your CD player before pressing SPACE to begin loading it.

 

C64 high speed loader

All programs utilise high speed loaders.

 

All the games utilise very efficient high-speed loaders so load in no time at all. Impossible Mission took about 35 seconds to load, Dropzone just 15 which is pretty impressive.

 

A Few of the Included Games

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CD Contents

Here’s a complete rundown of the CD contents:

1. Start menu,

2. David’s Midnight Magic (Broderbund, flipper),

3. Dropzone (U.S.Gold, action),

4. Fist II – The Legend Continues (Melbourne House),

5. Impossible Mission (Epyx, action),

6-7. Jinks (Rainbow Arts),

8. Leaderboard Golf (Access, golf simulation),

9. Loderunner (Broderbund, jump&run),

10 & 11. M.U.L.E. (Electronic Arts),

12. Mission Elevator (Softgold, action),

13. Solomon’s Key (U.S. Gold),

14 to 20. Music pieces by Chris Hülsbeck,

21 to 33. Repetition of tracks 1 to 13.

 

Conclusion

This is a great little device once you’ve spent some time tweaking the sound levels. Being able to select which program to load by using the <</>> buttons on the CD player is far more convenient than using FF/RW on a Datasette so it’s shame there aren’t more compilation CD’s like this.

Although there’s only ten games on the CD there’s no reason why you can’t create your own CD compilations. I would think using something like TapWav to convert C64 .TAP files into digital WAVE files and then burning those to an audio CD would work. This is definitely something I’ll have a play around with when I have a spare moment in the future.

I had a lot of fun playing around with this little accessory and the included 10 games too. If you’d like to get hold of one for yourself then head on over to The Shareware PLUS Commodore 64 & 128 Blog and and grab one.

Zzap! 64 Issue 3

Zzap! 64 Issue 3

Zzap! 64 Issue 3 arrived in the post last week sporting a very unique addition – an actual physical cover disk! I do remember later editions of Zzap! having cover mounted cassette tapes but this is the first time (to my knowledge) that it’s ever come with a floppy disk!

 

Zzap! 64 Issue 3

Zzap! 64 Issue 3 with Disk.

 

The magazine itself is another cracking edition with plenty of game reviews and all my favourite sections featured. A text adventure was even awarded a Zzap! Sizzler –  it’s one I’ve not played and it’s free to download – how great is that!

Being a huge Synthwave (and LukHash) fan I found Chris Simpsons ‘We are Stardust’ interview with him about his latest album especially interesting.

 

Zzap! 64 Issue 3

Zzap! 64 issue 3 Contents page.

 

The cover disk itself is beautifully presented in a full colour professionally printed jacket with matching disk label. There’s an extra notch cut into the disk too which means it’s double sided so extra goodies!

 

Zzap! 64 issue 3

Zzap! 64 issue 3 Cover Disk.

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I was really excited to see what was on the disk and was not disappointed. Kudos to the person who created the disk too – it worked perfectly even though my physical 1541-II drive is configured as device 9. Nice!

 

Zzap! 64 issue 3

Zzap! 64 issue 3 Cover Disk – back of disk jacket.

 

Side One Contents

 

Directory listing for side 1.

 

A quick ‘LOAD”$”,9 revealed that this side contained a Ghost Bunny game and also the up and coming Empire Strikes back game. Sadly the latter is just a demo but it’ll be here soon hopefully!

 

The Ghost Bunny Title Screen.

 

Ghost Bunny is a flip screen game featuring a cute rabbit who you manoeuvre around ‘flappy bird’ style and it utilises the C64’s hi-res graphics mode.

 

Ghost Bunny Game.

 

The Empire Strikes Back demo is a Zzap! 64 exclusive and starts with a really cool title screen complete with the Imperial March music playing.

 

The Empire Strikes Back Title Screen.

 

Launching the demo takes you straight to a confrontation with a bunch of AT-AT’s where I subsequently died. A lot. Can’t wait for the finished game though!

 

The Empire Strikes Back Game Demo.

 

Side Two Contents

This time loading up the directory listing revealed a single game called ‘Torreoscura’.

 

Directory listing for side 2.

 

This is a full blown text adventure game which I was delighted to find. I enjoy shoot’em-ups and platform games but I also appreciate something more chilled and cerebral. I must admit I have a real soft spot for Text Adventures (as my growing Infocom collection will attest to).

 

Torreoscura Adventure Game.

 

Getting hold of a copy of Zzap! 64 Issue 3

If you are a C64 gamer then you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of Zzap! 64 Issue 3. The magazine is available from Fusion Retro Books and is priced at £3.99. Make sure you use the code ‘LYONSDENBLOG’ to grab yourself a nifty 15% off the price! This code works for everything you place in your basket too!

Here’s a small gallery of images from the magazine.

 

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Zzap! 64 Issue 2

It’s been a long 3 months since the first issue of Zzap! 64 magazine launched but my copy of issue 2 is finally here. In my ideal ‘alternate reality’ world, Zzap! 64 would be published every month but there has to be sufficient new games out there to actually review. Sadly the 80’s are long gone and though there are lots of games now being made, they’re nowhere near as prolific as they were during Zzap’s original publishing run. Three months seems to be the magic number then, allowing time for enough new games to emerge from bedroom coders around the globe to fill a magazine.

 

Zzap! 64 issue 2

Zzap! 64 Front Cover.

 

Even though the C64’s halcyon days are long gone, Zzap! 64 issue 2 still manages to feature an impressive ten brand new game reviews. One of them even receives the coveted ‘sizzler’ award. I think that’s a staggering achievement for the C64 scene and just goes to show there’s still plenty of life left in the old girl!

The page count has remained the same as before, as has the quality and use of full colour throughout. Zzap! 64 regulars like the White Wizard, Rrap and Scorelord all make an appearance. Speaking of Scorelord, one of these days I must try and get at least one of my puny high scores featured on his page!

 

Zzap! 64 issue 2

Zzap! 64 issue 2 Contents page.

 

This issue was a cracking read from cover to cover, just like the first one. The reviews were bang up to date, even covering the likes of Nixy the Glade Sprite which has literally only just released. I also really appreciate how they give honest reviews with differing viewpoints. The C64 scene is so active now that I find a more critical approach really helpful in deciding on my next purchase(s).

 

Getting hold of a copy of Zzap! 64 Issue 2

Needless to say if you are a C64 gamer then you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of Zzap! 64 magazine. It’s available from Fusion Retro Books and is priced at £3.99. Make sure you use the code ‘LYONSDENBLOG’ to grab yourself a nifty 15% off the price! This code works for everything you place in your basket too!

Here’s a small gallery of images from the magazine.

 

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Cooling my A1200 – Part 2 – Adding a Fan

In Part 1 I tried some simple passive cooling techniques to increase airflow with the aim of cooling my A1200. This time around I’m going to add a hardware device to my A1200 that will monitor the internal temperatures and also add a cooling fan. Spoiler alert – this time there will be some decent results!

To be honest I probably would have stuck with the modest improvements made from the passive cooling mods had it not been for the extra heat generated by fitting my Indivision AGA Mk3 Flicker-Fixer. When I began to see artefacts on the screen caused by the Lisa chip working overtime and heating up I knew it was time to step up my game.

AmigaKit Real Time Clock and Sensors Module

I discovered this Sensors Module quite by accident whilst browsing the AmigaKit website. It’s a little battery-backed clock module that incorporates an ambient temp sensor on the board and can be expanded to include a second temperature sensor probe by means of a small 3-pin connector.

 

AmigaKit Real Time Clock and Sensors Module

AmigaKit Real Time Clock and Sensors Module with £1 coin for scale.

In addition to monitoring temperatures and providing a clock function this module also incorporates a 5V sensor that can monitor the stability of the A1200’s 5v power rail.

 

Top of AmigaKit Real Time Clock and Sensors Module showing the remote sensor connector.

 

Handily it is also able to monitor the power level of its own battery for the clock module.

 

Remote sensor probe.

 

The temperature probe is sold separately and is available here. It simply attaches to the 3-pin socket on the sensor module and allows for monitoring a second location within the Amiga or specific chip depending on where you place the end of the probe.

 

AmigaKit Real Time Clock and Sensors Module with the optional probe fitted to clock port and probe placed over the Lisa chip/Indivision.

The sensor module attaches to the clock port next to the Kickstart ROMs’ and the probe can be placed anywhere inside the case. As I was interested in the temperature of the Lisa chip and the Indivision I placed the end of the probe there.

Software

Now having the hardware is all well and good, but how do you actually get the readings from it? Well AmigaKit supply a custom program for the Amiga that you install to take care of this. It actually comes as two separate programs, the first of which is called ‘AK_Sensors and is installed into the WBStartup folder. This program runs as a commodity and polls the sensors every 30 seconds and stores the values as environment variables in ENV. The polling interval is infinitely adjustable from between 1 second and 24 hours by means of a tooltype setting.

 

AmigaKit Real Time Clock and Sensors Module

AmigaKit Real Time Clock and Sensors Module Software.

 

The second program, AK_Sensors_Display is what actually displays the readings on the Amiga’s workbench. This can be installed anywhere you like but if you want it to be displayed all the time then place it in WBStartup.

With the hardware and software installed it was time to get some readings. To do this I left my A1200 running for a couple of hours and then checked the readings.

 

Amigakit sensor

Sensor readings after 2 hours.

 

After 2 hours the internal temperature of my A1200’s case measured 50.9C whilst the probe placed on the Indivision/Lisa chip was reading 54.2C.

Now I had accurate and easily accessible readings it was time to do something to improve them!

 

Active Cooling Time

After doing some research into quiet fans I settled on this one: a ‘Noctua NF-A4x10 FLX, Premium Quiet Fan, 3-Pin (40x10mm).  

 

Amiga Active Cooling Fan

Just a fan, ma’am.

 

It got many glowing reviews online and I was especially encouraged by seeing comments like ‘whisper quiet’ and ‘near silent’.

 

Amiga Active Cooling Fan

I’ve never seen such elaborate packaging for a simple fan before!

 

As small cooling fans go this was probably quite expensive but my Amiga is definitely worth it so I ordered one from Amazon. I was very impressed when I received it as it’s in a really cool presentation box complete with a plethora of cables and accessory doodads.

 

Amiga Active Cooling Fan

Plenty of extras come supplied in the box.

 

As the fan is 12V I intended to power it from the Amiga’s 12V floppy drive supply so I also ordered a floppy drive Y-splitter power cable from AmigaKit to take care of this.

 

Amiga Active Cooling Fan

AmigaKit floppy power splitter Y cable.

 

This will allow me to tap into the 12V supply neatly and safely and as it replaces the original floppy cable rather than modifying it, is completely reversible too.

 

Amiga Active Cooling Fan

AmigaKit floppy power splitter closer look.

 

Fitting the Fan

The fan came with a whole host of different mounting options but I chose to use the silicone anti-vibration mounts. I fitted them through the 4 mounting holes in the fan and then cut the excess lengths off flush with the fan.

 

Amiga Active Cooling Fan

Silicone anti-vibration mounts fitted and trimmed to size.

 

These mounts appeared to be sized perfectly to mount the fan above the Indivision board and by positioning them around it would also keep the fan anchored in place.

 

Amiga Active Cooling Fan

Fan fitted neatly over the Indivision. The back 2 legs are splayed slightly which actually helps to keep it held in place.

 

With the method of fitting the fan sorted I then turned my attention to wiring it up. I snipped off the power connector on one side of the Y splitter cable so I was left with 4 wire strands. Then I snipped off one of the black (ground) wires and the red (5V) wire from the same side. This left me with the Yellow (12V) and remaining black (ground) to power the fan. I then replaced the floppy power cable with the modified Y splitter version.

 

Amiga Active Cooling Fan

Tapped into the 12V and Ground wires using skotchlock connectors.

 

Next I used the ‘OmniJoin’ cable (supplied) together with a couple of Skotchlock connectors (also supplied) to attach the fan to the two wires from the floppy drive Y connector.

 

Amiga Active Cooling Fan

Wiring tucked away neatly.

 

The black wire of the floppy cable connected to the corresponding black wire of the OmniJoin cable. However the yellow wire from the floppy cable needed connecting to the red wire of the OmniJoin cable. The fan does actually have a yellow cable of its own but this for sensing the fan speed and not required for our Amiga project.

 

Amiga Active Cooling Fan

Everything fitted ready to put it all back together.

 

I also made sure that the red/black wires of the OmniJoin cable correctly lined up with that of the fan when it was plugged in. You can just make out the colours of the fan wires going into the fan plug in the image below.

 

Amiga Active Cooling Fan

Making sure that the red and black wires match up on the two connectors.

 

With everything in place I gave it a quick power-on to ensure the fan was working. It whirred into life immediately so I re-fitted the keyboard to check the clearance and was happy to find there was just enough to not cause any issues. If there had been I could have just trimmed a little off the mounts to shorten them.

 

Amiga cooling fan

Just enough clearance between the keyboard and the top of the fan.

 

Finally I replaced the lid and carefully inserted the screws from underneath. If I flipped it over like I normally would then the fan would become dislodged as it’s not actually fastened down.

 

Will you Start the Fans Please

With everything back together and the cooling fan installed in my Amiga I powered it back on to assess the fan noise. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was very quiet indeed, just as advertised. It’s not silent and I can hear it but it’s just a soft whirring sound and not at all distracting even in a quiet room.

Of course being quiet is one thing but was it actually going to cool my Amiga down? I left my A1200 powered on for a few hours just like I’d done previously without a fan installed to find out. Two hours later I checked the readings and you can see them in the image below.

 

AmigaKit Sensor

Sensor readings after 2 hours with fan installed.

 

As a reminder, without the fan, after two hours the internal Case temperature was reading 50.9C and the Indivision was at 54.2C.

With the fan installed and after running for the same length of time the internal case temperature was now 6C cooler at 44.9C whilst the Indivision had dropped an impressive 11.3C to 42.9C.  The case also felt noticeably cooler with no prominent ‘hotspots’ like before.

Needless to say I am delighted with this modification. The whole thing was non-destructive and completely reversible and it only cost around £20 all-in. As the 12V floppy power feed is for the drive motor it’s an ideal power source as most of the time it’s idle anyway. Even so I’ve used floppies pretty extensively since fitting the fan and have had no issues at all even then. Of course your mileage may vary and if you have a borderline PSU then this might just tip the balance.

 

Just one more thing…

Throughout this whole project one thing had been bugging me – the Compact Flash IDE adaptor and its ‘flappy’ ribbon cable. When it wasn’t getting in the way of the fan it was stopping the top of the case from fitting back on properly. It had to go!

 

90 Degree CF-IDE Adapter.

 

I had a look around and discovered a nifty looking right-angled 90 degree CF-IDE adapter on eBay so I bought one immediately.

 

90 Degree CF-IDE Adapter.

 

Fitting it was a breeze and the card now sits neatly just above the PCMCIA socket and everything looks neat and tidy once more, just how I like it.

 

Neat and tidy again.

Indivision AGA Mk3 Flicker-Fixer

I’ve wanted an Indivision AGA Mk3 flicker-fixer for quite some time but have been stymied by a combination of Brexit and Covid-19. Individual Computers actually halted all shipments to the UK in December 2020 as a direct result of this situation. Undeterred, I kept checking the situation periodically to see if it had changed. Sure enough, towards the end of April I saw the news I’d been waiting for. Shipments to the UK were back on! I quickly ordered myself one and waited patiently for it to arrive.

Happily I didn’t need to wait for long as it arrived within a week and with no extra fees to pay too! Needless to say it was taken straight into my man cave to open it up!

 

Unboxing

 

Indivision AGA Mk3

This is the box it comes supplied in.

 

Inside the attractive cardboard box was the flicker-fixer, a single mounting screw and an instruction sheet.

 

Indivision AGA Mk3

Contents of the box.

 

The included instruction sheet wasn’t brilliant if I’m honest as the print quality was very poor. Thankfully there’s a much better version online on the icomp.de Wiki here.

 

Indivision AGA Mk3

The Indivision AGA Mk3 in all its glory.

 

The Indivision AGA Mk3 consists of three main components. The largest circuit board is the actual flicker-fixer whilst a smaller board handles keyboard signals. Finally there is a VGA/HDMI connector attached by means of a ribbon cable to the main board.

 

Indivision AGA Mk3

The main flicker-fixer board.

 

The main flicker-fixer board (above) features a large socket which allows it to connect to the Amiga 1200’s Lisa graphics chip and perform it’s scan-doubling and flicker-fixing duties.

 

Indivision AGA Mk3

The U7 CIA chip interface.

 

The smallest board has a socket that connects to the U7 CIA chip. This allows it to check for a specific combination of key presses to bring up the ‘Live Edit mode’.

 

Indivision AGA Mk3

The double sided video connector board.

 

The Indivision AGA Mk3 supports both VGA and HDMI monitors by means of a board that incorporates both types of connectors on it.

 

 

Indivision AGA Mk3

VGA Connection.

 

You simply install the board with your preferred connection method facing outwards. It’s intended to fit in the A1200’s expansion port and a single screw is supplied to securely attach it to the bottom of the case.

 

Indivision AGA Mk3

HDMI Connection.

 

Preparation

The very first job was to remove the A1200’s metal RF shield which was blocking access to the areas of the mainboard I needed to get to. This necessitated removing the floppy drive, a couple of screws along the front edge of the board and bending up several little tabs all around the shield. Once I’d done this I was able to lift away the shield with only a little bit of leverage from a screwdriver required along the back edge. This resistance was most likely the result of the small amount of corrosion present on my RF shield.

 

Amiga 1200 RF Shield

RF Shield On.

 

With the RF shield removed I now had unrestricted access to the entire A1200 motherboard. I don’t think I will be putting it back on any time soon as it would need modifying to fit around the Indivision. Besides, with it permanently off I have easy access to the board for future projects.

 

Amiga 1200 motherboard.

RF Shield off. Motherboard revision information viewable. (Rev. 1.D.4)

 

Board Revision

Interestingly, with the shield off I could now see the information printed on my A1200’s motherboard. It was identified as being a Revision 1D4 board. These boards are also recognisable by the fact that the mouse port isn’t actually part of the board itself but rather connected to it via a ribbon cable. Earlier revisions had the mouse port on the board itself whilst the later R2 motherboard had the mouse port on a separate little board. My 1D board also has a half-width clock port header whereas earlier boards had full length ones.

 

Indivision AGA Mk3

The chips outlined in yellow show where the Indivision AGA Mk3 connects to the A1200 motherboard. The larger chip is Lisa and the smaller one the U7 CIA.

 

Installation

Fitting the main Indivision AGA Mk3 board was fairly straightforward as no tools or clips are required. The board employs an empty socket to latch onto the Lisa chip and grip it tightly. I made absolutely sure that it was aligned correctly and then carefully pressed it into place. The instructions make it very clear that it must ‘click’ into place to be properly installed and this does require quite a scary amount of pressure to be applied. After a few moments of applying steadily increasing force to the board it did eventually snap into place with a very satisfying ‘click’. I then made a visual check all around the Lisa chip to ensure it was seated completely flat.

 

Indivision AGA Mk3

The Indivision AGA Mk3 successfully mated to the Lisa chip…

 

The next stage was to fit the U7 CIA chip connector.  I had to consult the wiki to check the location and orientation of this as the instruction sheet was so murky I couldn’t make it out. It’s quite a tight fit next to the keyboard connector but at least it didn’t require as much pressure this time.

 

Indivision AGA Mk3

…and the U7 CIA chip.

 

The final installation step was to find a home for the HDMI/VGA sockets. In an ideal world the connectors would fit into the expansion bay beneath the floppy drive but that space is already occupied by my Blizzard SCSI port. My A1200 has had the RF Modulator removed and I had hoped it would fit there but unfortunately there was insufficient width to accommodate it so this location was out  too.

 

Indivision AGA Mk3

My placement of the HDMI/VGA connector between the trapdoor expansion slot and the floppy disk drive.

 

After trying a few places I settled for a position between the floppy drive and the trapdoor expansion bay. It fits there nicely and allowed me to run the HDMI cable under the case and up through the trapdoor. I applied several strips of insulating tape to the base of the HDMI/VGA board to prevent any possible short-circuits. It’s not the perfect solution as I’m unable to unplug it without removing the case but it’s an acceptable compromise. I made sure to use a nice thin, flexible HDMI cable which made routing it through the trapdoor and underneath very straightforward.

 

Indivision AGA Mk3

This is the screen overlay that provides info about the current screen mode.

 

It was finally time for the moment of truth – the big switch on. After powering on my A1200 I waited patiently and after a few tense moments an Individual Computers overlay appeared in the corner of the screen. Having seen proof of life – it was now time to see what it could do!

 

Configuring a 16:9 Workbench Screen

I downloaded the HighGFX screenmodes off Aminet and also the Indivision config tool off the icomp.de website and set to work creating the perfect Workbench screen…

 

Indivision AGA Mk3

Adjusting the screen settings.

 

There are two sides to this – the Amiga screenmode and the Indivision mode. The way it works is the Indivision detects the screenmode the Amiga is using and then maps it to one of it’s built-in preset (monitor friendly) output modes. With the Indivision Config tool you are able to create your own modes too and there’s a plethora of settings to tweak if you have the patience. Thankfully the preset modes cover most of the common Amiga screenmodes so most people will probably be fine with what’s supplied ‘out of the box’.

Back to my perfect Workbench screen… I spent the next few hours fiddling about trying to get a proper 16:9 mode working on my HDTV with a native resolution of 1366×768. I was trying to get the HD720 HighGFX mode working which should have given a perfect 1:1 pixel aspect whilst also utilising the entire screen width. However I just couldn’t get any combination of Amiga screen mode and Indivision settings to display correctly, even after painstakingly tweaking the 1280×720 preset to perfectly fill my monitor screen.

 

Indivision AGA Mk3

My widescreen Amiga display using just the output of the Lisa chip, no RTG required!

 

In the end I settled on the HighGFX Super High Res Laced 1024 x 768 mode which worked perfectly as the Indivision matched it to an existing VESA 1024×768 mode. The image fills my entire screen and is super crisp and vibrant thanks to the all-digital nature of the HDMI output. The only slight niggle is the image is very slightly stretched horizontally. This is because although the Amiga screenmode has a 1:1 pixel ratio – it’s intended to be used on a 4:3 monitor screen, not 16:9. However it’s by no means a deal-breaker and having such a massive (by stock Amiga standards) screen makes Workbench even more pleasurable to use.

 

Amiga screenmode preferences

Screenmode preferences showing HighGFX screen mode selected.

 

One day I will have another go at creating a perfect 1:1 16:9 Workbench screen but for the time being I’m satisfied with what I have now.

 

Indivision AGA Mk3

Indivision overlay showing both the detected Amiga screenmode and the preset mode being used to display it.

 

Configuration Tool

The card has its own dedicated configuration tool that you install to your Preferences folder. It allows you to create, test and tweak an almost limitless array of screenmodes, whether they be for productivity apps or PAL/NTSC games. Hidden away in the advanced section there is also an option to route audio through the HDMI cable too if you have a TV/Monitor that has speakers. I have my sound routed through a Bose Soundlink Mini as my TV speakers are pretty wimpy but this would be a great option otherwise.

 

Indivision AGA Mk3

Indivision AGA Mk3 Configuration Tool.

 

Glitch in the Matrix

I did notice an issue after using the Indivision card for a few hours – I was seeing some random flickering pixels on my screen. It got worse as time went on, and my Amiga was getting very warm too, much warmer than it would normally do. Naturally I immediately thought there was a fault with the card but after I RTFM again I discovered that this is actually quite a common issue and isn’t a fault at all. I was able to eradicate it completely by using the config tool and enabling ‘CCKLine Capacitance’ from the advanced options. I’m not going to pretend I understand what this does but it definitely fixed the issue for me. There are other settings that can fix other glitches too but thankfully this is the only issue I came across. I am still not entirely happy about the extra heat it generates but I intend to sort that with a few upgrades very soon.

 

Indivision AGA Mk3

My Indivision card stopped being recognised!

 

Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated

The Indivision card also tried to fake its own death at one point. I’m not entirely sure what happened but I had been messing around with the ‘live edit’ feature and the next thing I knew the Indi was no longer being detected. To make matters worse when I rebooted my Amiga it was using a screen mode that my monitor could not display so I couldn’t even see the screen. I tried removing the card and re-seating it but it still refused to work.

Now by this point I honestly thought it was dead and I’d have to return it. Then I remembered about the Rescue Disk recommendation I’d seen on the website. Amazingly I had read this and actually bothered to create one! I popped it in the drive, rebooted and after what felt like an eternity my Amiga booted up again and the card came back to life. I’ve never been so glad that I bothered to follow a set of instructions for once! I’m guessing I corrupted it’s firmware somehow and the repair disk re-flashed it but the main thing was my card wasn’t broken.

Live Edit Mode

Speaking of the ‘Live Edit Mode’ this is a utility that can be displayed at any time (even during a game) by holding down Left Shift, CTRL and Tilde. The fact this can be invoked at any time is thanks to that connection with the U7 CIA chip which allows it to detect the key-presses.

 

Indivision AGA Mk3

Indivision AGA Mk3 Live Edit Mode.

 

Whilst this mode is active you can move the on-screen image around your monitor with the mouse. You can also resize it whilst holding down the left mouse button in both the vertical and horizontal directions. This is a really useful feature and allows you to deal with any screenmodes that don’t have presets in the Indivision’s configuration. Once you’re happy with the screen layout simply press Tilde to exit Live Edit mode and ‘keep’ your adjustments. Whilst these ‘Live’ changes are not permanent by default (they are lost when power-cycling) there is an option to store them later in the config tools should you wish to.

 

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In the example above I used the Live Edit mode to force Cannon Fodder to fill the screen of my 16:9 TV and remove all the black borders.

 

Do Adjust your TV Set

Many interesting settings are hidden away in the ‘Test/Adjust’ section, not least of which is the ‘Darken’ option. This basically emulates the scanlines of a CRT monitor on your modern flat screen monitor. Settings range from 6% to 75% depending on how strong you want the effect. It only works on Double-scan modes and defaults to being switched off. There are also several settings for the On-Screen Display so you can tweak the size, length of time it is displayed and also which corner it appears in. Of course you can also adjust the size and position of each Indivision display mode from here too.

 

Indivision AGA Mk3

Close-up of the Adjustments tool.

 

Summing Up

This is a terrific device for anyone who enjoys using the Amiga 1200 as a hobby machine and wants to get the best possible image from it. The Indivision AGA Mk3 definitely allows one to maximise the power of the AGA chipset by allowing it to display resolutions that would never have been possible before. It also allows hassle free connection to modern LCD monitors and TV’s via both HDMI and VGA which is another huge benefit.

Of course that’s not to say it isn’t great for gaming as well because it is. However if all you want to do is play games then I’d consider this to be overkill and there are much cheaper options available. It also requires a certain degree of… experimentation which the average gamer may find off-putting.

Short of getting an actual RTG card for the Amiga this is as good as it gets and when utilising HDMI the picture quality is simply stunning. Considering this is still using the A1200’s native AGA chipset to deliver the image it’s a really impressive sight to behold.

In short; if you have the funds, want to push your A1200 graphics to the limit and enjoy tinkering then I highly recommend this device.

Cooling my A1200 – Part 1 – Passive Cooling

I’ve been using my A1200 a lot recently and noticed that it was getting pretty warm after a few hours of use. This was especially noticeable at weekends when I’ve had it running for 12-16 hours straight. The area above the trapdoor (around the cursor keys) was getting vary warm indeed and I could actually feel the heat through the underside of the desk too. I’ve been running it with the trapdoor removed to help keep the Blizzard cool but this has had a limited effect due to the small gap under the A1200.

 

Cooling Amiga 1200

The feet, well some of them anyway – forgot to take the photo before I started…

 

Putting my best foot forward

To try and improve the situation I tracked down some new silicone rubber feet that would raise my A1200 up and improve the air circulation under it. I found these on Amazon which looked ideal and I liked the fact that they were transparent so would blend in well.

 

Cooling Amiga 1200

Placing the new foot alongside the old one.

 

The pack came with 18 feet so there were plenty of spares. I’ve already used another 4 on my printer to help stop it sliding around. They’d probably also be great for a 3D printer to dampen any vibrations as they are quite pliable.

 

Cool A1200

That trapdoor slot is packed with heat generating chips.

 

Anyway I stuck one foot in each corner next to the originals which I left in situ in case I ever want to go back to a stock machine.

 

Cooling Amiga 1200

The new foot dwarfs the old one.

 

The existing feet are actually recessed so the new ones are significantly taller . This can be clearly seen in the photographs above and below.

 

Cool A1200

Another side-on view of the foot showing the difference in height.

 

In the following photo you can see there’s now a significant amount of space under the case. Probably 4 times as much as before looking at the height differential of the old and new feet. Combined with running without a trapdoor fitted hoped there would be more opportunity for air to flow under the machine to help carry the heat away.

 

Cooling Amiga 1200

Plenty of air clearance under the A1200 case now.

 

I made sure not to forget the PCMCIA adapter I have on the side of the A1200. For this I took one of the feet and sliced it in half vertically as the adapter is quite narrow. Additionally I also lopped a few millimetres off the bottom of each to ensure it sat at the correct height.

 

Cool A1200

One foot sliced in half and trimmed to the correct height for the PCMCIA adapter.

 

The increased clearance also allowed me to fit a heatsink to the CPU. There still wasn’t a massive amount of clearance so I couldn’t go mad here but I found a nice 35mm x 35mm x 5mm anodised aluminium heatsink on Amazon that looked like it would do nicely. It was a perfect match for the dimensions of the ‘030 chip and came with a strong self-adhesive thermal pad which would be essential given it would be fitted upside down.

 

68030 CPU with heatsink fitted.

 

Now I’m fully aware that heat rises and given this was to be fitted upside down there wouldn’t be much scope for heat to convect away from the CPU. However heat also travels by conduction and radiation and I hoped that combined with the increased surface area of the heatsink and the potential increased airflow under the Amiga that it would help cool the processor down.

 

The heatsink protrudes beyond the bottom of the case but there’s still plenty of clearance.

Once finished I could barely tell the difference visually. My A1200 certainly doesn’t look like it’s on stilts or anything like that. In fact unless I get get my eyes level with the desk surface I can’t even tell it’s raised up.

 

Did it actually help to cool my A1200?

Before making any changes at all and with the trapdoor fitted I left the computer on for an hour and then recorded the CPU temperature. The highest temp I recorded off the surface of the CPU was 59 degrees Celsius. I believe the maximum operating temperature of the ‘030 is 70C so this is well within acceptable levels.

After raising the case and fitting the heatsink I did the same test again and recorded a maximum of temperature reading of… 57C. So not the massive drop I was hoping for. I shouldn’t really have expected much given that it’s quite a small heatsink fitted upside down with no active airflow…

There was one positive outcome though… the top of the case directly above the CPU was noticeably cooler now. So although the changes weren’t sufficient to cool the CPU by a significant amount it did seem to be helping reduce the build-up of heat inside the case. Unfortunately I never thought to measure the surface temperature before I made the changes so I have no readings to back this up other than my own senses.

 

The Takeaway

So not the resounding success I’d hoped for, but not a complete waste of time either. The parts cost less than £15 all-in and I have a bunch of spare feet and heatsinks left over for several other projects now too.

It’s pretty clear that the only way to significantly cool the processor down is to add a fan. The heatsink needs a decent flow of air over it to permit it to do its job. Whether it would need to be directly attached to the heatsink or just blowing air under the case across the heatsink I’m not sure.

Maybe one day I might do this but I’d want one that’s practically silent. One of the joys of using the Amiga is just how quiet it is so the last thing I’d want to do is ruin that by having a noisy fan inside whirring away!

To be continued…

[Update] There is now a Part 2!

Commodore Amiga CD32 Dust Cover

CD32 Dust Cover

About a year ago I asked the guys over at Retronics if they would consider making a dust cover for the Amiga CD32 console. Their response at the time was that they would love to but they just didn’t have access to one to create the mould. Anyway they must have finally got hold of one because they’ve just added a CD32 cover to their line-up and here it is.

 

CD32 Dust Cover

Naked Amiga CD32 Dust Cover.

 

I ordered one just as soon as I could and it arrived at the weekend so here’s a quick look at it. It was packed inside an attractive box displaying a photo of a CD32 console on the cover. Opening it up revealed the cover inside, safely tucked into a plastic bag.

 

Photos

I remember having trouble photographing the C2n Datasette cover and this was similarly tricky. Transparent shiny objects are awkward things to photograph!

 

CD32 Dust Cover

When not reflecting me trying to take a photo of it, the cover is almost invisible from most viewing angles.

 

The cover has all the angles, bumps and curves it needs to mate with the CD32 perfectly.

 

CD32 Dust Cover

Cover fits nicely around the TerribleFire 330 riser card.

 

There’s a protrusion at the back where there would normally be a screw securing the expansion cover. Happily this doesn’t cause any problems with the riser card for my TerribleFire 330 expansion.

 

Side view of the dust cover.

 

So long as I made sure it slotted into the space between the case and riser card it fitted nicely.

 

View of dust cover from rear.

 

The front is perfectly angled to match the contour of the case, as is the top where the raised dome aligns with the bump in the CD lid.

 

CD32 Dust Cover

More reflections!

 

This is pretty much an essential purchase if you own a CD32 console. It’s nicely finished, fits like a glove and above all keeps the dust at bay.

I also love the fact that these covers are all practically invisible when fitted so as not to spoil my enjoyment of admiring these old machines. Definitely worth a buy. You can pick one up on eBay direct from Retronics or from the Alinea online shop.

Blizzard 1230 Badge for my A1200

I spotted this Blizzard 1230 badge whilst ‘window shopping’ on eBay and thought it looked really cool. Costing less than a fiver I just couldn’t resist clicking on ‘Buy it Now’.

It has a plastic base with a brushed aluminium top layer finished in a very attractive metallic gold colour. The text and logo are etched into the surface whilst a self adhesive layer on the reverse allows it to be affixed to anything easily.

It’s actually designed as a direct replacement for the stock A1200 badge. It fits perfectly too if that’s something you wanted to do. However I didn’t want to deface my A1200’s case so I chose to place it elsewhere and settled on a position above the drive lights. It’s basically a mirror image of the official Commodore badge on the left now.

 

Blizzard A1200 Badge

Close-up of my Blizzard 1230 Mk IV A1200 Case Badge.

 

It’s been professionally manufactured to a really high standard and I think it looks fantastic. You can find this particular badge on eBay here. The same seller also does a whole range of different badges for other Commodore systems in his shop, here. They actually do several for the Vampire accelerator so I may well end up ordering one of those for my Amiga 500 in the future.

Great Giana Sisters (Reproduction)

One of the less desirable side-effects of the booming C64 retro scene is the extra demand. The supply of old games and hardware is limited as obviously no more copies are being made. Consequently as more and more people try to get hold of stuff the more scarce and thus expensive it becomes. This is basic supply and demand unfortunately and Great Giana Sisters is a perfect example. It was already a scarce product owing to the small number of copies sold originally but add the extra demand and it becomes classic unobtanium.

 

eBay

One of the more reasonable asking prices for the game on eBay!

 

There are a few copies floating around but when they do appear on eBay they sell for hundreds of pounds. At the time of writing this there is one on there now with a ‘Buy it now’ price of £300 and several others for much more…

 

eBay

Taking the pi**?

 

Unless you have very deep pockets then that puts it out of reach of most hobbyist collectors such as myself.

 

Great Giana Sisters

Front Cover Artwork.

 

Imagine my surprise then, when I stumbled across this version on eBay selling for less than £40. I jumped at the opportunity, even though I was a little apprehensive about the quality of the item I would receive. I made the seller an offer which he accepted and then patiently waited for it to arrive.

 

Great Giana Sisters

Back of the box.

 

A few days later the game arrived, packaged securely to prevent any damage . The sturdy cardboard box the game came in was around the size of a VCR tape but about 50% thicker.

 

Great Giana Sisters

Another view of the box side-on.

 

Glossy artwork from the original game adorned the front cover whilst the back of the box had some screenshots and details of the game. Both sides of the box had matching title artwork down the spines, capped off with a couple of very attractive silver foil stickers.

 

Great Giana Sisters

Box spine.

 

Inside the box was equally well presented with a thick black foam pad sitting at the bottom and all the ‘feelies’ placed on top.

 

Great Giana Sisters

A look inside the box.

 

Besides a copy of the game on cassette tape there was also an instruction sheet, glossy colour level map, a bookmark and a postcard featuring the alternative cover artwork. Oh and a little sachet of silica gel crystals to keep moisture at bay. Keeping everything neat and tidy inside the box was a matching Giana Sisters strap around the contents.

 

Great Giana Sisters

All the ‘feelies’ included in the game.

 

Is it original? Of course not. Is it going to be worth a fortune in the future? Almost certainly not. Is it a great looking physical copy of the game that didn’t cost me an arm and a leg? It sure is and one I’m more than happy to display on my shelf.

 

Great Giana Sisters

Great Giana Sisters loading screen.

 

That tape is no mere dummy either, it actually contains a copy of the game on both sides!  🙂

 

Great Giana Sisters

Playing Great Giana Sisters on my C64C.

 

Here’s a link to the sellers items for sale on eBay if you want to take a look for yourself. He produces a few other reproduction games too although he doesn’t always have them listed for sale. If there’s none there when you look then keep checking back or fire him a message. He says he’s open to requests to produce other games too…

A look at the new Zzap! 64 2021 Annual

Picked up a copy of the latest Zzap 64 2021 Annual last week so thought I share a little look at what’s inside. Let’s start with the awesome front cover artwork by Oliver Frey, the exact same artist from the original Zzap! 64 magazines of the 80’s.

 

Zzap 64 2021 Annual

Front cover of the 2021 Zzap! 64 Annual.

 

Flipping over to the back cover we find a very interesting advert that appears to herald the return of MicroProse simulation games. MicroProse was a big player in the Commodore market (especially on the Amiga) and produced some of my favourite C64 games such as Silent Service, Gunship and Pirates!

Sadly, but not at all surprising, these new games will be coming to Windows PC’s and not the C64 or Amiga. Even so I’m still looking forward to seeing what MicroProse produces. To be honest that’s probably what they are banking on too otherwise why else would they pay for such a prominent advert in a book about 40 year old computers!

 

Zzap 64 2021 Annual

Interesting advert on the back!

 

Below is a little peek at the contents page giving you an idea of exactly what’s inside the annual.

 

Zzap 64 2021 Annual

Zzap! 64 2020 Annual Contents Page

 

A few of the many contributors this year include Andrew Braybrook, Stuart Collier, Perifratic and Trevor Storey.

 

Zzap 64 2021 Annual

Zzap! 64 2020 Annual Contents Page

 

Most of the Zzap! 64 magazine regular features like Zzap! Rrap and the White Wizard can be found within the annual and are given plenty of space to shine. There are also dozens and dozens of game reviews covering pretty much every new game that has been released over the last 12 months for the C64.

 

Zzap 64 2021 Annual

Another example of the amazing Artwork of Oliver Frey.

 

The hardback A4 annual has 120 full colour pages all packed with interesting articles, reviews and artwork.

Here’s a tiny selection of random pages from the annual to give you an idea of what it contains.

 

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Rounding off

There’s certainly enough content in this annual to keep any C64 fan quiet for a very long time. I reckon it makes a superb collectors item; chronicling the last twelve months of the C64 scene. I’ve bought every one of this new run of annuals since it started back in 2019 and I sincerely hope they continue being produced for a long time to come too.

The Zzap 64 2021 Annual is available directly from the Fusion Retro Books website for £15. You can save 15% by using the code ‘LYONSDENBLOG’ at the checkout making it even more of a bargain!

Getting an A1200 Online Part 4 – Installing an Amiga Email Client

YAM Email on Amiga.,

Installing an Amiga Email Client (How to access Gmail on the Amiga in 2021)

In Parts 1, 2 and 3 we installed a network card, a TCP/IP stack, connected to the Internet and installed a web browser. In this part we’ll add another essential Internet tool to our Amiga 1200 – an email client.

This guide has taken me a lot longer to piece together than I expected because, well quite frankly accessing email on a classic Amiga is a minefield now. A few years ago I did a similar project getting my Amiga 500 with a Vampire accelerator to access IMAP emails with SimpleMail and it worked great. If you are interested you can read about it here. However trying to replicate that again in 2021 I discovered it just doesn’t work any more. SimpleMail hasn’t been updated for two and a half years now and trying to access anything via SSL results in it crashing out. AmiSSL was at version 4.1 when I set it all up last time, now it’s just hit v4.9. I’m guessing the two just don’t play nice together any more. IBrowse 2.5.3 needs the newer version of AmiSSL to function so I needed to find a solution that worked with that too.

So I thought, well OK if I can’t have IMAP at least I can still get Amiga email access via POP3 using good old YAM… So off I popped to Aminet to download the most recent version, 2.9p1, available here:

Aminet – comm/yam/YAM29p1-AmigaOS3.lha

I eagerly installed it… only to crash and burn as soon as I ran it because it was expecting AmiSSL 3.5. Any sort of secure POP3/SMTP access was immediately off the table and I was back to square one. I must admit I was starting to despair a little bit by this point. However I was determined to get email access on my miggy so I kept hunting for a solution and, eventually I found it.

It turns out that YAM is actually still in active development and there was a new version released just last month! This new version is able to communicate with the new version of AmiSSL so I was back in business. Why they don’t publish it to Aminet I don’t know as that’s always been the first destination for Amigans looking for software. Anyway the latest version of YAM should always be available from the website below. At the time of me writing this article it’s at version 2.10 with a compiled date of 29th March 2021. I’m using AmiSSL 4.8 but over the course of doing this article I have since upgraded to 4.9 and everything still works perfectly. I just installed 4.9 over the top of 4.8.

Index of /latest-dev/ (yam.ch)

 

Amiga Email

Latest YAM ‘nightly’ build (actually more like monthly).

 

Installing YAM

OK before we get started there are a few pre-requisites that need to be considered before we attempt to get email on our Amiga.

Like most decent software on the Amiga, YAM requires MUI to be installed in order to function. It should also go without saying after my introduction that AmiSSL needs to be installed too. If you have followed the previous guides and got IBrowse up and running then you are good to go already. If not, head back to part 3 and install them first.

Also I’m not going to do a blow by blow account of how to install it. If you’ve been following along then you should be familiar with how to install programs on the Amiga by now. There are no surprises lurking within the installation. Besides, this article is long enough already!

 

Amiga Email

A warning that this is a developer version.

 

Because this is classed as a ‘developer build’ a little nag box pops up each time you run YAM. It warns about it not being for general use and that it may contain bugs but it’s perfectly safe (and stable) to use.

YAM does take a little while to load, even more so the very first time you run it. All being well you should see a nice splash screen like the one below with a handy progress bar.

 

Amiga Email

The YAM Splash screen.

 

After around 60 seconds YAM should have finished loading and you can begin the process of configuring the program to get your emails.

The program screen should look similar to the image below. Please bear in mind that I had already configured a couple of email accounts and tweaked some of the GUI settings before taking this photo.

 

Amiga Email

The main YAM interface.

 

I have tested this out with Gmail and the mail service provided by my hosting company and had great success with both. I’d imagine that it should work with most POP3 mail services provided you are able to adapt the instructions below to fit your circumstances.

 

Want to use a Gmail account for your Amiga email? STOP now!

To get this working with Gmail there are a number of things we need to configure within Gmail itself before trying to access it on your Amiga. If you fail to do this it just won’t work at all. You have been warned!

 

Amiga email – IMAP v POP

Gmail normally uses IMAP to deliver your email to your devices. This is perfect as the mail stays on their server and you can check it from as many different devices as you like. If you delete an email on one device it will vanish on them all. POP works differently in that when you connect the messages are downloaded from the server and onto your device. They are normally then erased from the server. If you try to access your mail from another device there wouldn’t be anything there. There are steps that can be taken to mitigate the limitations of POP but the bottom line is ‘IMAP is better’.

OK, so now you are aware of the compromise we’re making by using POP rather than IMAP there are some configuration changes we must make to Gmail. Once more some compromises need to be made to make this work which I will explain shortly.

 

Enable POP Access in Gmail

By default Gmail does not support POP access. This is a feature that must be manually turned on. To do so follow the instructions below:

1. Click on the cog in the top right hand corner of the screen.

2. Click on ‘See all settings’.

 

How to enable POP access in Gmail.

How to enable POP access in Gmail.

 

3. Click on ‘Forwarding and POP/IMAP’.

4. Click on ‘Enable POP for all mail’. If you are trying to access an existing account the chances are you have a ton of emails that you might not want/need to download to your Amiga. If this is the case click ‘Enable POP for mail that arrives from now on’.

 

How to enable POP access in Gmail.

How to enable POP access in Gmail.

5. Select ‘archive Gmail’s copy’ next to ‘When messages are accessed with POP’. This will safely archive a copy of all the emails you download to your Amiga just in case you need to get them back at some point in the future. There are a few other options that you could choose here, this is just my preference.

6. Select ‘Disable IMAP’. Not strictly necessary as the two are mutually exclusive so even if you don’t disable it yourself Google will when you save the settings.

7. Click ‘Save changes’.

 

How to enable POP access in Gmail.

How to enable POP access in Gmail.

 

That takes care of enabling POP access and also what happens to your emails after you’ve downloaded them to your Amiga. However we’re still not done yet as there’s a few more security related settings that we need to tweak before Google will allow our decades old machine to talk to their servers!

 

Compromises

Remember when I mentioned about more compromises? Well this is where we have to make some more. You see in order to make their email service more secure, a few years ago Google introduced a new feature whereby ‘Less Secure Apps’ are blocked from connecting to their servers. Of course you’ve guessed it, our humble Amiga is most definitely classed as ‘less secure’.

There are a couple of ways around this problem, a quick and dirty way and a more involved but more secure way. Whichever method you choose is up to you. If you are using a dedicated Amiga Gmail account then the quick and dirty method should be fine. However if you are wanting to access your main Gmail account then I would recommend the second method. Also, if you happen to be using 2-factor authentication then you have no choice but to use the second method so skip right to that section now as you’ve already done the hardest part!

Basically if you’re here just to experiment or have a play around for nostalgias sake then create yourself a new Gmail account just for this purpose and choose the quick and dirty method. That way it doesn’t really matter one way or the other as the account will have nothing important stored on it. Likewise if you know what you are doing and can accept the calculated risk you can choose quick and dirty too – after all that’s how we rolled back in the 1990’s! Having said all that I recommend the second method.  The choice, as they say, is yours.

Quick & Dirty Method

OK the quick solution is to go back into Gmail settings by:

1. Clicking on the cog in the top right hand corner of the screen.

2. Then clicking on ‘See all settings’.

 

How to enable 'Less secure apps' in Gmail.

How to enable ‘Less secure apps’ in Gmail.

 

3. Click ‘Accounts and Import’.

4. Click ‘Other Google Account settings’.

 

How to enable 'Less secure apps' in Gmail.

How to enable ‘Less secure apps’ in Gmail.

 

5. On the next screen click ‘Security’.

 

How to enable 'Less secure apps' in Gmail.

How to enable ‘Less secure apps’ in Gmail.

 

6. Now scroll down until you see the ‘Less secure app access’ section and click ‘Turn on access (not recommended)’.

 

How to enable 'Less secure apps' in Gmail.

How to enable ‘Less secure apps’ in Gmail.

 

7. Another warning will appear – you must click the little slider to allow less secure apps.

 

How to enable 'Less secure apps' in Gmail.

How to enable ‘Less secure apps’ in Gmail.

 

And that’s it for the quick and dirty method, you will get a ‘Critical Security Alert’ warning email off Google but you can ignore it as the change was made by yourself. You’re now free to skip ahead to the YAM Configuration section and start accessing your mails.

 

Safer Method to get around the ‘Less Secure Apps’ Issue

This method is much safer in the long run but requires extra setup and will add an extra level of complexity to logging into your Gmail account in the future from any device. This method entails enabling 2-factor authentication and then creating an ‘App password’ just for your Amiga to use. It’s something I have enabled on all my online accounts from Amazon right through to Zoho and I would recommend you enable it too. It’s probably one of the best methods of protecting your online accounts against intrusion there is right now.

 

Enable 2-Factor Authentication on Gmail

Head back into Gmail settings by:

1. Clicking on the cog in the top right hand corner of the screen.

2. Then clicking on ‘See all settings’.

 

How to enable '2-step verification' in Gmail.

How to enable ‘2-step verification’ in Gmail.

 

3. Click ‘Accounts and Import’.

4. Click ‘Other Google Account settings’.

 

How to enable '2-step verification' in Gmail.

How to enable ‘2-step verification’ in Gmail.

 

5. On the next screen click ‘Security’.

 

How to enable '2-step verification' in Gmail.

How to enable ‘2-step verification’ in Gmail.

 

6. Now scroll down until you see the ‘Signing in to Google’ section and click ‘2-Step Verification’.

 

How to enable '2-step verification' in Gmail.

How to enable ‘2-step verification’ in Gmail.

 

7. Click ‘Get Started’ on the next screen.

 

How to enable '2-step verification' in Gmail.

How to enable ‘2-step verification’ in Gmail.

 

8. On the next screen enter your mobile phone number.

9. Then click ‘Next’.

 

How to enable '2-step verification' in Gmail.

How to enable ‘2-step verification’ in Gmail.

 

10. You will now be sent a code via text message to your phone. Enter this code where specified on screen. This is what ensures the security of your account. In future you won’t be able to login without entering the correct code (which changes every time).

11. Click ‘Next’ to continue.

 

How to enable '2-step verification' in Gmail.

How to enable ‘2-step verification’ in Gmail.

 

12. Provided you entered the correct code in step 10 then you should receive confirmation that it worked. You should now click on ‘Turn On’ to enable 2-step verification.

 

How to enable '2-step verification' in Gmail.

How to enable ‘2-step verification’ in Gmail.

 

13. You should be greeted with confirmation that 2-step verification is now ‘ON’ on the next screen.  At some point you may want to revisit this section as there are a whole bunch of additional ways to provide the 2-step verification if you scroll down. However for now we’re good to go so click the ‘back’ button (left arrow) to go back to the Security screen ready to create your App password.

 

How to enable '2-step verification' in Gmail.

How to enable ‘2-step verification’ in Gmail.

 

Congrats – you’ve successfully got 2-factor authentication working – now you need to configure your ‘app password’.

 

Creating an Amiga email ‘App Password’

Follow these instructions to create a unique password especially for your Amiga to access your Gmail account. By the way, if you’ve just enabled 2-step verification following the guide above then you should already be on the correct screen so can skip to step 6 below, otherwise start at step 1.

 

1. Clicking on the cog in the top right hand corner of the screen.

2. Then clicking on ‘See all settings’.

 

How to create an 'app password' in Gmail.

How to create an ‘app password’ in Gmail.

 

3. Click ‘Accounts and Import’.

4. Click ‘Other Google Account settings’.

 

How to create an 'app password' in Gmail.

How to create an ‘app password’ in Gmail.

 

5. On the next screen click ‘Security’.

 

How to create an 'app password' in Gmail.

How to create an ‘app password’ in Gmail.

 

6. Now scroll down until you see the ‘Signing in to Google’ section and click ‘App passwords’.

 

How to create an 'app password' in Gmail.

How to create an ‘app password’ in Gmail.

 

7. It will ask for your password so enter it and then click ‘Next’ to continue.

 

How to create an 'app password' in Gmail.

How to create an ‘app password’ in Gmail.

 

8. You should now see the ‘App passwords’ dialogue. Select ‘Mail’ from the drop-down menu where it says ‘Select app’. This means that the password only grants access to email on your account – nothing else.

9. Then select ‘Other (Custom Name)’ from the ‘Select device’ drop-down menu.

 

How to create an 'app password' in Gmail.

How to create an ‘app password’ in Gmail.

 

10. Give the device a name. I chose ‘Amiga Mail’ but you can use pretty much anything you like here.

11. Click ‘Generate’ when ready to have Google create your app password for you.

 

Amiga Email

How to create an ‘app password’ in Gmail.

 

12. A window should now pop up with your new Amiga email App password. Make a note of it as you will need it when you configure YAM and you will never be able to view it again once you move onto the next step!

13. Click ‘Done’ when ready.

 

Amiga Email

Our Amiga email ‘app password’.

 

14. You should now be back on the ‘App passwords’ screen where your new Amiga email password should be listed. If at any point in the future you need to revoke access to your Amiga then you can delete this password from here.

 

How to create an 'app password' in Gmail.

How to create an ‘app password’ in Gmail.

 

Now at long last you we’re ready to move back over to the Amiga to configure YAM.

 

Configuring YAM to connect to your Amiga email Provider

POP3 (Receive) Settings

To access the POP and SMTP settings screen click the ‘Config’ icon on the toolbar. It’s the last icon on the right with a question mark on it. The configuration screen should pop up after a few seconds. It’s a little sluggish so give it a moment before you start trying to choose a category to work on.

 

Amiga email

The YAM POP3 settings screen.

 

We need the TCP/IP section so click on that. For the remainder of this section I am going to assume that you are using Gmail and I will provide the settings required to get that working. Of course if you are using another provider then feel free to enter the settings required for your service.

Now enter the following information into the POP3 Server Settings section.

 

  • Active – Tick the box.
  • Description – ‘Amiga Gmail’ (though it can be anything you want).
  • Server – ‘pop.gmail.com’.
  • port – ‘995’.
  • Connection Security – SSL/TLS.
  • Authentication – Plain Password.
  • Username – Your full Gmail address (eg james.kirk@gmail.com).
  • Password – Your password.

 

The rest of the settings are down to personal preference and affect when and how often YAM will check for mail and whether you want it to delete emails on the server or not.

If you would like all your emails to be put into a specific folder when downloaded you can specify that in the ‘incoming folder’ section using the drop-down menu. By default all new messages will go into the ‘Inbox’ folder.

Once you are happy with your message handling settings, double check you have entered everything correctly and then click on ‘Test connection settings’.

This is the moment of truth when you will see if everything you’ve done so far has worked…

Be prepared to receive an SSL certificate warning as YAM doesn’t support SNI. This is not a major problem though as we can manually approve the certificate by clicking ‘Accept Permanently’.

 

Amiga email

Manually accepting the Gmail SSL certificate in YAM.

 

All being well you should get a very satisfying little message appear like the one below stating ‘Connection to POP3 server ‘pop.gmail.com’ was successful.

 

Amiga email

Successfully connected to Gmails POP3 server.

 

SMTP (Send) Settings

With POP3 configured to receive emails it’s now time to set up SMTP so we can send emails too. To reach the SMTP settings simply click on the ‘Send mail (SMTP)’ tab.

 

Amiga email

YAM’s SMTP configuration screen.

 

Enter the following information into the SMTP Server Settings section.

  • Active – Tick the box.
  • Description – ‘Amiga Gmail’ (though it can be anything you want).
  • Server – ‘smtp.gmail.com’.
  • port – ‘465’.
  • Connection Security – SSL/TLS.
  • Authentication – Auto.
  • Username – Your full Gmail address (eg james.kirk@gmail.com).
  • Password – Your password.

If you would like all your sent Gmail messages to be put into a specific folder you can specify that in the ‘Sent folder’ section using the drop-down menu.

As before double check you have entered everything correctly and then click on ‘test connection settings’.

With a bit of luck you should get a message confirming that ‘Connection to SMTP server ‘smtp.gmail.com’ was successful.

Congratulations – you’ve successfully configured YAM to work with Gmail/your email provider, enjoy!

 

Amiga email

Successfully connected to Gmails SMTP server.

 

 

Tying up a few loose ends on our Amiga email project

 

YAM features a built in software updater that checks for updated dependencies periodically. It successfully informed me about two packages that needed updating the first time I ran the program but unfortunately it seemed unable to download either of them.

 

Amiga email

YAM’s automatic updater window.

 

Needless to say the OCD in me had to sort this out. Couldn’t be running a program knowing there are updates available – no matter how trivial the may be! Happily I was able to locate both of the updated packages on Aminet.

TheBar.mcc is available here: Aminet – dev/mui/MCC_TheBar-26.21.lha. This version is actually slightly newer than the version reported in the updater.

 

 

Amiga Email

Where to find TheBar on Aminet.

 

Whilst codesets.library is available here: Aminet – util/libs/codesets-6.21.lha

 

Amiga Email

Where to find codesets.library on Aminet.

 

They both had installers and were very straightforward to install. The Amiga needs a reboot before the new libraries can be accessed by YAM. So after dutifully rebooting my Amiga I ran the updater again and was greeted by a reassuring ‘no software updates available’ message. Happy days.

 

Amiga Email

Fully updated!

 

Obviously these files will be updated at some point in the future and the above links will stop working. However if you just search for the respective packages on Aminet without the version numbers there’s a very good chance you will find their newer incarnations.

Tweaks

I made the following tweaks to YAM in the ‘Look and Feel’ section of the configuration screen.

  • Changed the icons (there are a few sets to choose from) to the ones you see in the screenshots.
  • Turned off the fixed font size for viewing emails as I thought they looked terrible presented this way.
  • Reduced the size of some of the fonts used for various parts of the UI as the default size was too large to comfortably fit everything on screen.
  • Even after reducing the font size the toolbar icons didn’t fit and were truncated on the right hand side of the screen so I moved the icons across the top closer together to make sure they all fitted on the screen.

Mission accomplished! – There’s a tremendous amount of customisation on offer here that certainly puts a lot of modern mail software to shame. Windows 10 Mail app I’m talking about you!

Apart from being a little sluggish when opening up the config screen I found using YAM on the Amiga a delight. Pretty much everything you would expect from a modern mail package is available from spam filtering to mail filters. Very impressive for a free program running on 30 year old hardware!

 

Supporting YAM

Speaking of free, YAM has a homepage on Github here: https://github.com/jens-maus/yam and I would encourage you to visit it and maybe send them a PayPal donation if you appreciate their continued support of the Amiga. IMAP support is on their future ‘to do list’ and if you’d like to see that happen then let them know and support them in any way you can.

 

Rounding Off

And that concludes part 4 – Installing an Amiga email client. I hope you found it useful and easy enough to follow. It was quite a voyage of discovery for me but definitely a satisfying one by the end of it.

I realised by the time I had finished writing this that it had become more of a ‘how to get Gmail on the Amiga’ guide. This was never my intention when I started out – it was supposed to be a generic guide.  However there were so many things required to get Gmail working that I felt I should include them otherwise anyone following would hit a brick wall and give up. Mind you seeing as Gmail is by far the most popular email provider I suppose that may not be such a bad thing after all?

As new versions of YAM and AmiSSL come out I may update this article from time to time just to confirm everything still works… or not, as the case may be. Likewise if SimpleMail gets updated I’ll check that out and report back too.

I don’t think I’ll produce a ‘Part 5’ as I’ve covered the main features that one would expect to have for a ‘full’ online experience now. At some point I might do a separate article about connecting an Amiga to a local area network to access shared folders and such like. This is something I’d find very useful and I’d guess others would too. Anyway I hope you enjoy using your Amiga online in the 21st Century!