Lyonsden Blog

Category - How to’s

Network your Commodore 64

I’ve had my 1541 Ultimate II+ cart for around a year now. It’s a fantastic modern addition to my Commodore 64 and one that I certainly wouldn’t ever want to be without. However in all that time I’ve never bothered to explore using its built-in Ethernet port. Well the other day I finally got around to setting it up and am really glad I did too. I thought I’d share my experience in case it can help someone else get more out of their device. Basically this post will explain how to network your Commodore 64   (with a 1541 Ultimate II) to copy your games, music, demos, documents or anything else straight to your 1541 Ultimate II without ever needing to swap USB drives around.

 

Connecting to your network

You may have noticed the red ‘Link Down’ status that appears on screen when you press the menu button on your Ultimate cart. The is basically the built-in network card of the device telling you that it’s not connected to anything. The ‘MAC’ with the 12 Hexadecimal codes along side is the ‘MAC Address’ of your cart in case you need to find it on your network router.

 

Network your Commodore 64

‘Link Down’ Status shown in red

 

All you need to do to network your Commodore 64 is connect it to your router with an Ethernet cable. Providing your router is configured to use DHCP (and by default, pretty much all of them are) your cart should pick up an IP address on your network straight away.

 

Network your Commodore 64

Ethernet cable plugged in. Note the Green link/activity light. This should blink on and off.

 

After you have plugged the cable in you should see a green activity light appear on the device itself. You should also see an IP address appear on the menu screen and the red ‘Link Down’ status should change to a green ‘Link Up’.

 

Network your Commodore 64

‘Link Up’ Confirmation Status and IP address shown

 

FTP Software

So far so good, but it’s still not much use at the moment. To be useful you’re going to need some FTP software on your PC. I’ll use Filezilla as an example as it’s free and easy to use. The principal will be the same regardless of what software you choose to use. (As a side note I normally use Directory Opus which is still going strong – only just for PC’s these days rather than the Amiga). Note, if you are going to download and install Filezilla it’s just the client you want, not the server version. Also make sure you un-tick any boxes during the install to avoid any unwanted ‘bundled extras’ being installed (one of my pet peeves these days). The FTP software is going to allow you to connect to the USB storage device that is plugged in to the 1541 Ultimate II and transfer files across.

 

Network your Commodore 64

Configuring the FTP software to connect to your C64

 

Adding your C64 as a ‘site’

Once you’ve got your FTP software up and running you need to add a new ‘site’ to it (basically your 1541 Ultimate II). Simply got to the ‘File’ menu and select ‘Site Manager’ and then click on ‘New Site’. Give the site a suitable name so you’ll be able to recognise it easily in future. I simply called mine ‘C64’. Now make sure all the various settings below are entered. These have already been entered in the screenshot above.

 

  • Protocol: FTP
  • Host: (this will be the IP address displayed on YOUR C64 screen)
  • Port: (you can leave this blank)
  • Encryption: Only use plain FTP (insecure). (You are only transferring stuff within your own home network so this is not an issue)
  • Logon Type: Anonymous

 

Once you’ve checked that all the above settings are correct, click on ‘connect’. The new site you’ve just created will be saved and it should connect to your Ultimate cart and display something similar to the screenshot below.

 

Network your Commodore 64

FTP software – PC on the left, C64 on the right

 

The top window is basically a scrolling log of the actions performed by the FTP software and is just for info purposes. The two areas highlighted in blue and red above are where you can get stuff done. The left hand side is your PC and the right hand side your C64, or rather the USB drive plugged into your 1541 Ultimate II. The upper window on each side is where you can browse through the directories / folders whilst the lower section shows you the contents of them.

 

How to actually transfer games onto your C64!

To transfer games across to your C64 all you need to do is click through to where they are stored on your PC in the left window, where you want them to go in the right window, and then simply drag and drop them over, it’s that simple.

 

Network your Commodore 64

Files being transfer over FTP

 

In the above screenshot I’ve dragged a bunch of Rob Hubbard SID tunes across from my PC to my 1541 Ultimate II’s USB drive. You can see a log of what is happening in the top window and view the individual files’ transfer progress in the bottom window.

 

Network your Commodore 64

The files on my C64 after being transferred across

 

The file transfers are really fast, taking just a few seconds so I find this a really quick and convenient way of getting new software onto my C64 without constantly faffing about with a flash drive. I definitely won’t be unplugging that USB drive from my 1541 Ultimate anytime soon now!

 

Reservations

One other thing you should probably do is to ‘reserve’ your C64’s IP address on your router. Most routers offer the facility to do this. This will ensure that every time you turn your C64 on it will pick up the same IP. If you don’t, it will likely get a different one each time and you will need to change the connection info in the FTP software.

 

Apparently you can also connect to the 1541 Ultimate using Telnet and use it for stuff life swapping disk images on the fly for multi-disk games. I might explore this in the future but I doubt it would be something I’d use much, unlike transferring files across which I do on a regular basis. Anyway I hope this has helped you to network your Commodore 64. If you have any questions or comments please do get in touch.

Replacing the Drive Belt in an AIWA HS-PC202 Mk 3 Cassette Player

AIWA HS-PC202

Introduction

I recently bought a ‘New Old Stock’ AIWA HS-PC202 Mk 3 Personal Stereo off eBay as I just couldn’t resist the idea of unboxing a ‘new’ walkman in 2018. Now I’m fully aware that you can buy brand new ones off Amazon but these are pretty cheap and nasty affairs designed to cash in on nostalgia rather than offer a quality audio experience. This Aiwa model is a quality bit of kit with the ability to play Chrome tapes, Dolby B & C noise reduction, auto-reverse and a super slim, attractive design.

However it had been sat in storage for about 25 years so when I popped in some batteries and tried to play a tape – nothing happened! I could see the power LED light and hear a hiss from the headphones but the spindles didn’t turn. Thankfully I could hear the motor run momentarily if I held the unit to my ear whilst pressing ‘play’. This was a sure sign that the belt had failed in some way which is very common on vintage cassette decks.

This post will provide instructions on how to open up the AIWA HS-PC202 Mk 3 cassette player, and replace the belt. The only tools you need are some small watch-makers screwdrivers and a pair of tweezers. It’s quite a straightforward job as the player has been designed with the foresight that one day someone would need to change that belt!

Getting Started

The first thing you need to do is unclip the battery compartment as one of the screws you need to remove is hiding behind this. Now you need to remove the backplate from the player to expose the belt. It is held in place by 3 tiny screws and a clip that fits inside the case near the play button.

Take your philips screwdriver and remove the first screw shown in the picture below. Place it in safe place, preferably in a small container as the screw is incredibly small and easy to lose. This is a slightly different size to the next two so it should be easy to identify when you are putting things back together.

AIWA HS-PC202

Remove this screw first

Now spin the player around so you are looking at the side where the lid hinges and remove the two screws indicated in the photos below.

AIWA HS-PC202

Remove the left screw

AIWA HS-PC202

Remove the right screw

Removing the Backplate

Store these two screws safely with the other and put aside as you are ready to begin removing the backplate now. You need to be careful and not rush this next part as there are a few things that are held in place by the backplate and they will fall out and get lost if you’re not careful. The one thing seems to fall out no matter what you do is a small, circular, black plastic spacer that fits between the backplate and the DC power socket. Now you know about it, be prepared for this and catch it. Store it safely with the other screws.

The other things held in place by the backplate are the Dolby NR and Tape Bias selector slide switches. It’s simple to put them back if they fall out – but if you’re not expecting them to drop out they could easily fall on the floor un-noticed and get lost.

AIWA HS-PC202

This is the small plastic part that will fall out from around the DC power socket.

AIWA HS-PC202

These are the Bias and Dolby selector switches that may drop out when you remove the backplate.

The backplate needs to pivot away from the case from the battery end first. There is a lip at the opposite end by the volume wheel and switches so you need to picture it hinging from that position and focus your efforts on making it open that way. If you place the player vertically it’s easier to do this and it will prevent the switches from falling out.

AIWA HS-PC202

Gently prise the backplate off, starting at the battery end (the bottom in this photo)

As you can see in the above photo there is a small metal tab on the front edge of the backplate that fits into a plastic lug inside the case, above the play button. You will need to carefully slide a small flat bladed screwdriver in and gently lever the plastic around the play button outward, away from the backplate to release the tab. The backplate should now be free and you can pull it away from the body and slide it upward to remove it, leaving the switches on the top in place.

AIWA HS-PC202

The backplate – note screw holes and cut-outs for controls and DC input.

Inside the AIWA HS-PC202 Mk3

Now that the backplate if off you should see be able to see the circuit board with a cut-out for the belt and pulley wheels just like in the photo below. A belt in good condition should be taught and fit around all the pulleys tightly, something that mine was definitely not doing!

The smallest wheel is the motor pulley, the two large brass wheels drive the capstans and I think the smaller black wheel is there just to guide the belt around the others.

AIWA HS-PC202

Inside the player. See how the rubber belt is no longer taught and is just lying there looking lumpy and uneven

Replacing the Belt (Take 1)

It took quite a lot of investigative work to locate a new belt that was an exact match for the original. Avoid those cheap multi-packs you can pick up off Amazon and eBay from China – the quality of them is variable at best and the chances of getting one that actually fits correctly is next to zero.

The belt fitted to this walkman has a square cross-section, not round or flat like many other belts. It is also very thin – about 0.6mm thick. The length is 76mm. For belts most suppliers use the measurement of the diameter of the belt when laid out flat in a circle. So basically you need to find a 0.6mm x 76mm belt. I couldn’t find one this thin at first so I bought a 1mm x 76mm belt. It did fit and work but was quite a tight fit around the black wheel where it nearly touches the side of the case. It was also only a fraction of a mm away from touching itself (ooerr) where it passes beneath the nearby brass pulley (see the photo below to see how tight it was).

The company I bought the belt from (SignalsUK) was super helpful and based in the UK too. The belt arrived a couple of days after ordering. Although it was thicker than the original it did appear to work OK so I will include a direct link to it here. They supply hundreds of different belts and electronic spares so they’re a handy company to have bookmarked.

The belt is very easy to fit. Use your tweezers to place it around the motor spindle and around the other pulleys following the path in the photo below. There is a small plastic tab that protrudes out of the case towards the black plastic wheel. The gap it leaves is very small (you will find it at around the 8 o’clock position) so be careful not to snag or damage the belt here. There will be a a degree of tension in the belt and this is normal so you will need to stretch it a little over the final wheel.

AIWA HS-PC202

The 1mm thick belt – notice how it is practically rubbing against itself where it passes back beneath the left-hand brass pulley wheel.

Replacing the Belt (Take 2)

If a jobs worth doing, it’s worth doing properly – so I continued my search for a better fitting belt. Eventually I stumbled upon a place that custom manufactures belts for a variety of machines, including the AIWA HS-PC202 Mk3. The Mk3 is apparently mechanically identical inside to the Mk2 and so the belt they supply for the Mk2 also fits the Mk3. Here’s a link straight to the correct belt – here. The company, FixYourAudio, is based in Slovakia and is run by a very helpful guy who makes the spare parts purely as a hobby to help enthusiasts keep these old machines alive. A week or so after ordering my belt arrived in the UK so I have no qualms in recommending them. It is ever-so-slightly thinner than the original but is definitely a better fit than the 1mm thick one.

AIWA HS-PC202

New 0.5mm belt fitted

AIWA HS-PC202

Comparison between the old stretched and worn belt on the outside and the new one on the inside!

Putting it back together

Before you finish off – if you have any additional problems with your player such as unwanted ‘scratchy’ noises when turning the volume wheel or when the headphone jack is twisted in the socket then take advantage of the opportunity and squirt some DeoxIT on them whilst you’ve got the player open. Don’t forget to operate the volume wheel fully a dozen or so times to work the fluid into the pot and clean it up. Likewise for the headphone socket, squirt some in and then insert the plug and twist it around in circles a bunch of times to clean off the contacts.

Now you just need to put it all back together. If you knocked off the slider switches then pop them back on now. You will notice that one side of them is hollow and this will sit on top of the appropriate switch sticking out from the circuit board. The larger of the two fits on the Dolby NR slider whilst the other belongs on the Tape Bias switch. Don’t forget to place the little round spacer back over the DC input port. There is a little flat spot on one side of the circle and this should be positioned facing the outside of the case so that it fits flush against the flat edge of the backplate.

AIWA HS-PC202

View of the controls – note the small white Bias and Dolby switches. It is on these that the black ‘cross’ pieces will sit on if they have fallen off

You may need to press and squeeze gently in a few places, particularly around the play button to get the tab to engage in the lug correctly. However you should not have to force anything. If you feel any resistance stop and check, reposition the backplate, check the spacer and/or the position of the slide switches and try again. Once it has popped back into place and you are happy with the fit all around, replace the 3 screws and you should be good to go! Enjoy the new lease of life your personal stereo has been given!

AIWA HS-PC202

The small plastic spacer fits here. Flat edge towards the backplate.

If you found this guide useful then please leave a comment below, it would mean a lot to me. Likewise if you have any questions I’ll do my best to help.

How to access IMAP email on an Amiga 500 in 2018

How to access IMAP email on an Amiga 500

Yep, you read the title correctly, this article is a step-by-step guide on how to access IMAP email on an Amiga 500 in 2018! This works with any IMAP email system including Gmail!

Who would have thought 30 years ago that we’d be able to get electronic mail on our Amiga 500 computers in 2018. It really is a testament to both the original designers of the Amiga and to the ingenuity and tenacity of the current community that this is actually a real possibility now. In this guide I’ll show how to get it working, step by step. It’s entirely feasible and actually works really well! Read on to find out what you need and how to get it configured.

What you need

First things first, you need to head on over to the SimpleMail website to download the latest version of the software (currently 0.44). Click on the downloads page and select the appropriate installer file from the list. I’m using Workbench 3.9 so downloaded the simplemail-0.44-0s3.lha file. If you’re using anything less than Workbench 3 then I’m afraid you are out of luck.

access IMAP email on an Amiga

The SimpleMail page on the SourceForge website

 

access IMAP email on an Amiga

The download page – choose the OS3 version.

One you’ve download the installer go ahead and install it and meet me back here for the next step. If the program doesn’t run then go back and check the readme file. There are a number of additional custom MUI classes that it requires to run and you may need to download and install one or more of these too.

Launching SimpleMail

Find the folder where you installed SimpleMail and open it. Inside there should be a Readme, an AmigaGuide document and the program itself. Double-click the SimpleMail icon to launch the software. After a brief splash screen you should be presented with the main application screen. This is the point at which we can begin to configure the program to get our emails.

access IMAP email on an Amiga

The SimpleMail folder

 

access IMAP email on an Amiga

The SimpleMail Splash screen – very attractive!

 

access IMAP email on an Amiga

The main program window

How to Configure your email account

Select “Configuration…” from the Settings menu and then Accounts from the configuration screen that pops up. This is where we can add our account and do lots of other things later on to get the mail program working just how we want it.

access IMAP email on an Amiga

Here is how you access the configuration screen.

 

access IMAP email on an Amiga

The ‘Accounts’ section of the configuration screen.

Adding your email account

The next step is to add your email account and you start the process by clicking on the ‘Add’ button in the top right of the window. I should point out that the program has very helpful tool-tip descriptions that pop up if you hover the mouse pointer over a particular button or text entry box for a few seconds.

access IMAP email on an Amiga

Click this button to begin adding your email account

The account name can be anything you want – this is just a label so you know what the account represents in the future. Enter your name, email address and reply address (if you want one) associated with your email account.

access IMAP email on an Amiga

Entering the account name and personal info relating to the account

Setting up IMAP – the ‘Receive’ configuration

  1. Click the IMAP4 radio button in the ‘Receive’ section..
  2. Enter your IMAP server name in the ‘Server’ box.
  3. Enter the port number in the ‘Port’ box.
  4. Ignore the Fingerprint box for now – this will be automatically filled later on.
  5. Select the type of security your account uses next to the ‘Security’ drop-down menu (for SSL select TLS).
  6. Enter the username and password you need to authenticate with in the ‘Login’ and ‘Password’ boxes respectively.
  7. Lave the rest of the settings in this section as they are.
access IMAP email on an Amiga

Entering your IMAP details

Setting up SMTP – the ‘Send’ configuration

  1. Enter your SMTP server name in the ‘SMTP Server’ box in the ‘Send’ section.
  2. Enter the port number in the ‘Port’ box.
  3. Ignore the Fingerprint box for now – this will be automatically filled later on.
  4. Select the type of security your account uses next to the ‘Security’ drop-down menu (for SSL select TLS).
  5. If your SMTP server requires authentication (most do these days) then click the ‘Use SMTP AUTH’ tickbox.
  6. (If required) Enter the username and password you need to authenticate with in the ‘Login’ and ‘Password’ boxes respectively.
  7. Leave the ‘Login into POP3 server first’ and “Use IP as domain” boxes unticked.
access IMAP email on an Amiga

Entering your SMTP settings

Testing your setup

Now it’s time to see if everything works! Click the test button over on the far right. This will first test your IMAP settings and then run through your SMTP setup to make sure everything is in order.

access IMAP email on an Amiga

Testing your account settings

You will see the following error appear twice, firstly for the IMAP connection and secondly for SMTP. Click ‘Trust Always’ to have SimpleMail  save the certificate ‘fingerprint’ so this error doesn’t re-appear in the future.

access IMAP email on an Amiga

This error will appear but it’s OK to click Trust always as you know this is you email provider.

Now in order for these 2 fingerprints to be saved permanently, preventing any future warnings from popping up every time you try to download or send email you must save the configuration using the ‘Save’ button at the bottom left of the configuration window.

access IMAP email on an Amiga

Prompt reminding you to save the configuration.

Correcting Errors…

Now at this stage you might end up with the following screen with everything highlighted in red! Don’t panic – this just means that the test failed due to an error in one or more of your entries. Go through and double/triple check every piece of information you have entered. Make sure the ports are correct, there are no typos in the server name etc.

The problem in my case was the passwords as mine contain numerous weird and wonderful characters. Now this isn’t normally an issue but for some reason the keyboard mapping on my Amiga was wrong so these characters were actually appearing as something else entirely when typed…

You cannot see the password you are typing so I highly recommend opening up a shell window and typing your password into that just to check it appears correctly. Once you have ironed out any kinks with getting it to appear properly, go back to SimpelMail and enter it again in both boxes.

access IMAP email on an Amiga

This screen means you’ve made a mistake somewhere!

Final steps

Hopefully you’ve got every bit of information correct now and can see a screen similar to the one below with the fingerprint boxes fully populated.

access IMAP email on an Amiga

Success – IMAP and SMTP settings have been correctly entered and tested,

Don’t forget to click on ‘Save’ at the bottom left of the configuration window otherwise all your hard work up to this point will be lost!

access IMAP email on an Amiga

Don’t forget to SAVE the configuration!

After you have saved the configuration you will return the main program window. You should see your newly added email account appear at the bottom of the folder list. At this point it will not have downloaded any of your emails or even folders for that matter.

access IMAP email on an Amiga

Your new email account initially appears like this…

Accessing your emails

Now click on the name of your email account and SimpleMail will connect to your email server and download a list of all the folders within it. This will include your Inbox, Sent items etc. along with any custom folders your have created too. This might take a few seconds – you can see what is going on by checking the status bar at the bottom of the window.

access IMAP email on an Amiga

You will always know what is going on by checking the status area of SimpleMail

 

access IMAP email on an Amiga

Your email folder heirarchy

At this stage the program still hasn’t downloaded any of your emails. To do this you must left click on any of the folder titles for it to fetch the contents of it from the server. In the below example I clicked on my Inbox and it fetched 17 mails from the server. This took just a few seconds – if you have hundreds or even thousands of mails it will take a bit longer.

access IMAP email on an Amiga

This is the progress bar. If you have a lot of emails then it will move quite slowly

 

access IMAP email on an Amiga

Inbox with 17 new emails.

 

access IMAP email on an Amiga

Main program window with Inbox emails displayed in the top right pane

Finally – Viewing an email!

Even though the messages are now displayed in the list view, these are only email headers. The body of the messages have not been downloaded. Click on an email to download the message – the body will be display in the bottom right viewing pane. If you would like the program to automatically download full messages you can of course enable this but it will greatly slow down the process of fetching emails.

Unfortunately SimpleMail does not yet support HTML mails so you will only see the plain text version of them like the example below. Personally this doesn’t bother me too much as most HTML mails are sent from companies trying to sell you stuff. Friends and family send plain text emails so I can live with that.

access IMAP email on an Amiga

Example of how HTML mails are presented

Downloading Complete emails rather than just the headers

As I mentioned above, you can have SimpleMail automatically download complete messages, including the full body. It does make reading through your mailbox quicker, but at the expense of longer fetch times. Only you can decide if the trade-off is worth it. To do this, left click on the folder or Inbox you want to make the change to and select settings.

access IMAP email on an Amiga

Selecting the settings option

Now you should see a window like the one below. Select ‘Complete mails’ from the ‘Download’ drop-down menu and then click OK. The next time you perform a fetch/click on that folder it will download each and every message inside it in full.

access IMAP email on an Amiga

Getting the software to download Complete mails instead of just the headers

Renaming your email account

You may have noticed that your email account has an odd name. The program seems to name the account itself based off the server it connects to. Don’t worry though, you can easily change it to something more recognisable. Simply right-click on the mailbox name to bring up a folder menu and select ‘settings’.

access IMAP email on an Amiga

Selecting Settings option in the Folder menu

Here you can enter the name you want to appear in the folder list by entering it into the ‘Name’ box under Folder properties. Hit ‘OK’ at the bottom of the window when you are done.

access IMAP email on an Amiga

Entering your mailbox folder name

You should now be back at the main program window and your mailbox should be named correctly in the folder view.

access IMAP email on an Amiga

Mailbox now showing the correct name

Concluding

And that is it – you can now access IMAP email on an Amiga in 2018!

SimpleMail is constantly being worked on, so if you are reading this in the future there may well be a better version out with even more features.

I have only given you the bare minimum instructions here to get you started with accessing your email. There are plenty of other things this software can offer. Mail sorting rules, signatures, integrated address book and so on. You can also resize each of the viewing panes or remove them completely. Have a play around with it all and enjoy.

Gmail!

I run my own mail server but this should work for any IMAP email out there. I have personally tested it with Gmail and it works perfectly. Here’s a screenshot of the configuration screen so you can see what settings I used.

access IMAP email on an Amiga

Gmail configuration

Some extra info about system requirements

For the record I got this running on an Amiga 500 with a Vampire V500 V2+ accelerator card. The biggest advantage this offers is speed – up to 12 times faster than a stock A500! You certainly don’t need a Vampire to run SimpleMail though. What you will need is Workbench running off a hard drive or CF card solution already. I’m pretty sure you would also need at least an 020 accelerator card to get any of this running at all.

Of course this isn’t just limited to Amiga 500 computers, that just happens to be what I use. It should work just as well on the big box Amiga’s and of course the A1200 too.

Anyway, I really hope you found the article both interesting and useful – if you did please let me know! If you have any questions or requests then drop me a message and I’ll do my best to answer them.

access IMAP email on an Amiga

Adding an SD Card Slot and HDMI port to an Amiga 500

SD Card Slot and HDMI port to an Amiga 500

So you may be aware that the Vampire V500 V2+ Card gives your vintage Amiga 500 both a MicroSD card slot and an HDMI port for hooking up to a modern display.  Trouble is the ports are on the board itself which is rather inconvenient if you don’t want to leave the top of your Amiga’s case off.  After doing a little research and searching around I discovered that you can get some nifty little extension cables for both ports which will allow you to ‘move’ them to the exterior of the Amiga’s case.  This post will explain how to add both an SD Card Slot and HDMI port to an Amiga 500 computer.

SD Card Slot and HDMI port to an Amiga 500

Location of the HDMI and MicroSD ports on the Vampire card. Not exactly easily accessible once the lid is back on!

Purchasing the right cables for the job

The HDMI cable was a little tricky to locate at first as there are just so many options. Once I got the search term correct I stumbled into the right cable for the job.  The cable I bought (below) was an Adafruit Panel mount HDMI Cable - 40 cm which you can pick up from Amazon.  It’s just the perfect length and almost seems tailor made for the Amiga!

SD Card Slot and HDMI port to an Amiga 500

40cm HDMI extension cable

The MicroSD slot extender was a much easier product to locate.  This Micro SD to SD Card Extension Cable I picked up from Amazon is perfect.  You will find that you can actually get both MicroSD to MicroSD and also MicroSD to SD extender cables.  I decided to chose the MicroSD to SD option as I thought it would allow a little extra flexibility in terms of what cards I can use with it.  With it I have a choice of using both regular SD cards or  MicroSD cards now with the use of a MicroSD adapter card.

SD Card Slot and HDMI port to an Amiga 500

MicroSD Extension Cable

Deciding where to locate the ports

I decided the HDMI port needed to be at the back of my A500 but that the SD card would be much more useful if it was located somewhere along the side.  There is quite a lot of free space underneath the floppy drive, ample to accommodate the HDMI socket.  However because the SD Card Slot is housed in quite a chunky plastic case there wasn’t room for it under the floppy, plus I already have my floppy boot selector switch there anyway.  So, I chose a spot that sits just under the keyboard where there is plenty of space and it’s also super convenient for me to pop cards in and out.

SD Card Slot and HDMI port to an Amiga 500

Final Cable Routes

SD Card Slot and HDMI port to an Amiga 500

HDMI Socket secured with hot glue. It ain’t pretty but it’s very secure.

SD Card Slot and HDMI port to an Amiga 500

Plenty of clearance around floppy drive

SD Card Slot and HDMI port to an Amiga 500

SD Card Slot Hot Glued in position

Creating the cut-outs and securing the new ports

The slots for both ports were cut out using a Dremel tool (if you have one you should know instinctively how to do this!). Take care to use a low speed otherwise you risk melting the plastic.  The ports themselves are held in place with some hot glue, perfect for this sort of project as it flows freely around things before setting hard.  I used a few blobs of hot glue to keep the SD extension ribbon cable out of harms way too as it’s quite fragile.  It could easily become trapped and get damaged by the A500 keyboard when it is replaced if it was left unchecked.

SD Card Slot and HDMI port to an Amiga 500

Top view of HDMI Socket with floppy drive back in place

SD Card Slot and HDMI port to an Amiga 500

Finished HDMI Port

SD Card Slot and HDMI port to an Amiga 500

Finished SD Card Slot with MicroSD adapter sticking out

End Result

I’m pretty pleased with the end result, with hindsight I probably should have tidied up the HDMI cut-out a little with a file as there are a few rough bits left… but it’s around the back of the case and out of sight so no biggie.  The HDMI port is rock solid and should have no problem with me plugging and unplugging a cable in and out.  Likewise the SD card slot is nice and secure and more than up to the task of dealing with regular card swaps.  Perhaps a version in white (or off-white LOL) would have been better but I just couldn’t find one for sale anywhere.

Improvements?

Only other thing I might do in future is add an RJ45 extender when the Apollo Vampire team make the Ethernet port expansion option a reality.  Although I already have Ethernet through the use of the fantastic little plipbox device this is currently hogging my parallel port so I cannot print without first unplugging it – hardly ideal.

Fitting an SD Card Slot and HDMI port to an Amiga 500.

Installing the Vampire V500 V2+ in my Amiga 500

Vampire V500 V2+

With the arrival of the weekend it was the perfect time to give my A500 the Vampire V500 V2 treatment!

Getting started – removing chips

First off I needed to remove the original Motorola 68000 CPU and the Kickstart chip.

Vampire V500 V2

Amiga 500 motherboard with empty 68000 CPU socket

Vampire V500 V2

Removing the Kickstart chip with a chip puller

Installing the card

The next step involved carefully inserting the Vampire board connector pins into the empty CPU socket. This actually took a hell of a lot more force than I thought it would. I’ll admit I was scared of damaging the CPU socket or the motherboard itself with the amount of pressure I had to exert. Anyway it eventually slotted in all the way and no harm was done. Please do make sure you remove both the CPU AND the Kickstart chip though – this wasn’t mentioned in my instructions (but they’ve been updated since I got mine to mention this). If you don’t remove the Kickstart chip then the Vampire board won’t sit flat and the CPU connections may be unreliable. Thanks to Igor Majstorovic for taking the time out to let me know about this!

Vampire V500 V2+

Vampire V500 V2+ fitted to A500 CPU socket

Cables & CF Card setup

The next step was to hook up an HDMI cable to the socket on the board and fit a Compact Flash ‘hard drive’ to the Vampire’s 44 pin IDE header. I opted for a 32Gb CF card as this is the size of the Apollo OS (Coffin) image. (This is a pre-configured Workbench 3.9 system that you can download and use with your Vampirised A500.

Imaging the card was simply a matter of downloading the Apollo OS image from here and using Win32 Disk Imager in Windows 10 to write that image to my Compact Flash card.

Vampire V500 V2+

Vampire V500 V2+ with CF Card and HDMI connected up

For once in my life everything went as it should and when I powered up my Amiga 500 it worked! As Hannibal would say; ‘I love it when a plan comes together!’ I was greeted with a really cool Vampire logo boot screen after which the Workbench loaded just a few seconds later.

Vampire V500 V2+

Vampire V500 V2 Boot Screen

Vampire V500 V2+

Vampire V500 V2 ‘Insert Floppy’ Screen that appears if no bootable device is present

Fitting an External, Boot – selectable Gotek Drive to an A500

Amiga Gotek External Cable

I wanted to avoid having to have one of these hanging off the back of my A500.

I wouldn’t really call this an upgrade as such, more taking advantage of the latest developments in the Amiga scene. In case you’ve never heard of it, the ‘Gotek’ drive is basically a 3.5″ Floppy Drive emulator. Instead of putting floppy disks in it you plug in a USB flash drive that can contain up to a thousands Amiga Disk Files or ‘ADF’s’ (floppy disk images).

There are quite a few versions of these floating around on eBay, internal and external. I decided pretty early on that I wanted mine external so I could keep my A500’s DF0 as a real floppy drive so I opted for an external drive. I wanted to have the install look as authentic and neat as possible so I opted to install my Gotek inside an old external floppy disk drive that I picked up off eBay for spares/repairs. If you want to do the same just be careful to pick one that houses a regular sized floppy drive and not a reduced height, slim one as the Gotek won’t fit. You can see what I mean from the photo below which shows my finished Gotek drive underneath a couple of Roctec slim drives – it should be pretty obvious that the slim drives don’t have the necessary height to accommodate the Gotek drive.

The other choices available now include the option to have an OLED screen that can display the name of the ADF file you select and the track info and also a built in speaker that can simulate the noises of the real thing. It’s more of a buzzer than anything else but it’s pretty effective and much better than sitting in silence waiting for Cannon Fodder to load!

Finished Gotek Drive

Finished Gotek Drive under my two Roctec slim external floppy drives

Close-up of Gotek Drive with OLED Screen

Close-up of Gotek Drive with OLED Screen

Boot Selector Installed in Even CIA Socket

Boot Selector Installed in Even CIA Socket

Mounting of Selector Switch

Mounting of Selector Switch

DF0 / DF1 selector switch

DF0 / DF1 selector switch

Amiga 500 Super Denise Upgrade

The A500 machines shipped with a graphics chip called ‘Denise’ that is responsible for handling sprites and also all the different screen modes and resolutions you can use with Workbench and other apps. The later Amiga 500+ model sported an updated chip called ‘Super Denise’ which offered quite a few more screen modes and resolution options. The Amiga 500 Super Denise upgrade is a very straightforward modification which simply involves getting hold of the newer chip and replacing the old one with it. (It is an exact pin-for-pin replacement). For more detailed info on the Denise chip look here.

Getting hold of a new chip

The ‘Super Denise’ has the chip number 8373-R4 whereas the old regular ‘Denise’ is 8362. You can usually pick up Super Denise chips on eBay – here.  I paid around £20 for mine which I though was fair… be patient and wait for one at a fair price – don’t get ripped off.

Removal & Replacement of the chips

You can remove the the old chip with just a small flat bladed screwdriver if you are careful. Just lever up each end slowly, alternating from one end to the other, making sure it lifts evenly from each corner so that the pins don’t bend. Ideally though, use an ‘IC Extractor’ – it makes the job a lot easier and is a useful tool to have in your retro computer toolkit anyway. Again these are readily and cheaply available on eBay – here. The new chip should just plug straight into the socket. Make sure the marked end of the chip matches up with the notched end of the IC socket. If it goes in the wrong way around it won’t work and may even damage the chip and/or the motherboard. If the pins don’t quite line up you can bend them gently into place using a pair of pliers.

Amiga 500 Super Denise Upgrade – In Pictures

Below you can see before and after screens showing SysInfo details, and available screenmodes along with the two different Denise chips fitted. The end result is a success with more screenmodes (eg Super-Hi Res modes) available straight away, even with my standard 1084S monitor. However in order to benefit from the rest of the modes the Super Denise chip offers (such as Productivity) I need to get hold of a proper Multi-Sync monitor that can handle the different refresh rates they need.

Amiga 500 Super Denise Upgrade

Sysinfo Screen with Standard Denise Fitted

Amiga 500 Super Denise Upgrade

Screen Modes Available with Standard Denise Chip

Amiga 500 Super Denise Upgrade

Standard 8362R8 Denise Chip Fitted

Amiga 500 Super Denise Upgrade

Replacement 8373R4 Super Denise Chip Fitted

Amiga 500 Super Denise Upgrade

Sysinfo Screen with Super Denise Fitted

Amiga 500 Super Denise Upgrade

Screen Modes available after fitting Super Denise Chip

Repairing a Roctec Floppy Drive for an Amiga

Repairing a Roctec floppy drive

This is a guide to repairing a Roctec floppy drive for an Amiga 500 computer.  I thought I’d write this up as much for my own benefit as other peoples so I can refer back to it in another 20 years! LOL.

Roctec Amiga external floppy drive

Roctec Amiga external floppy drive

If you ever pop a disk in your external Roctec drive and hear a strange whirring noise and can’t read any of your disks then the chances are you are suffering from a perished or broken drive belt.

Perished Drive Belt

Perished Drive Belt

These drives use a rubber belt to connect the drive motor to the spindle hub. The rubber belt only has a finite life and given most of these drives are getting on for 30 years old now it’s hardly surprising that they expire.

cof

No tension in old perished belt

The good news is that it’s pretty easy to replace them and I’ll give an overview of what you need to do here.

Getting Started on the Repair

The first thing you need to do is undo the 6 screws on the underside of the drive case using a small philips screwdriver.

Underside of drive case

Remove these 6 phillips screws.

This particular drive case is made from a solid metal rectangular tube so you need to slide the floppy drive out. The aim here is to slide everything out of the BACK of the case. The first step is to gently slide the floppy drive forward out of the case far enough to detach the plastic fascia from the front of it. Unless you do this it won’t slide right into the case and out the back. There are 2 small tabs on each side of the fascia which you can gently bend with a small flat-bladed screwdriver and it will pop right off. Don’t force anything or it will break – it should come off easily.

Drive Fascia removed

Drive Fascia removed

Now you need to prise the back part of the drive out of the case using something thin enough to slide into the tiny gap between the case and the backplate, I found the blade of my pocket knife to be perfect for this but be careful not to injure yourself or damage the plastic/paint on your drive! Once you’ve got it moving slide it out slowly (a slight side to side wiggle can help here). It will be attached to the floppy drive via a ribbon cable so keep going until you’ve got the floppy drive out too.

Roctec floppy drive detached

Roctec floppy drive detached from controller board

The floppy drive has a thin metal cover that protects the mechanical innards and it is held in place by some little tabs on the edges and a solitary screw at the back right (when viewed from the front).

Roctec Floppy Drive Rubber Belt Path

Roctec Floppy Drive Rubber Belt Path

Replacing the Belt

Once the top is off you can see the drive mechanism, motors, heads and so on. Carefully remove what’s left of the old belt with a pair of tweezers. Be careful not to touch the drive heads with anything metallic or you may damage them. The photo above shows the path the rubber belt follows, indicated by the yellow line.

The next step is to remove the drive motor which is attached to a metal bracket that runs across the back of the drive. It is held in position by one screw in the far left corner and another on the right a few cm down from the corner. Don’t touch the two screws with the large flat heads either side of the motor. Be careful you don’t pull the bracket too much as there are two tiny wires connecting the motor to the circuit board here so be careful to support the bracket whilst you are handling the drive to replace the belt.

How to detach the motor and bracket

How to detach the motor and bracket

Drive motor and bracket removed

Drive motor and bracket removed

Once the bracket and motor are out of the way you can carefully thread a replacement belt around the large drive wheel, small tension wheel and keep a loop ready at the top right to go on the motor spindle. Follow the yellow path in the earlier photo and take you time as it can be a little tricky to get the belt into place. A small flat bladed screwdriver and a pair of tweezers are essential for this. Don’t forget the belt needs to thread behind the small silver pully wheel as this is what tensions the belt.

Close-up of the small tension wheel you need to thread the belt behind

Close-up of the small tension wheel you need to thread the belt behind

Once you’ve got it threaded around the wheels correctly you need to get the final loop onto the motor spindle. It helps if you grab the loop with some needle nosed pliers here and pull it taught with one hand whilst guiding the motor spindle into the loop with the other. Once this has been achieved (it may take a few goes as it’s quite fiddly) place the bracket back in place and rotate the large drive wheel slowly and check the belt stays on, is running where it should and isn’t fouling any components.

Look carefully through the tiny gaps in the top of the drive motor you should be able to see the motor armature slowly rotating as you move the belt. If it is then job  done, time to put it all back together! If it isn’t then don’t fret, just double check the belt is following the correct path, isn’t twisted anywhere and hasn’t slipped off any of the wheels.

Congratulations, your Roctec drive should now be fit for active duty for another several years now!

Upgrading my Amiga A500 to 1MB Chip RAM (1MB Chip RAM Mod)

1MB Chip RAM Mod

Introduction

My A500 motherboard is a Revision 6A which means that it is quite a straightforward modification to get a 512K trapdoor expansion to be seen as additional Chip RAM. The 6A comes with the Enhanced Chip Set (ECS) variant of the Agnus chip called ‘Fat Agnus’ which is able to support up to 1MB total Chip RAM. This 1MB Chip RAM Mod will combine the 512k onboard RAM with the 512k Trapdoor RAM to give 1MB total Chip RAM, just like you get in the later A500 Plus models.

Chip RAM is needed for stuff like graphics as it is the only memory that the custom Amiga chips are able to access and 512k goes nowhere! Opening Workbench windows, increasing the screen resolution, adding a wallpaper all gobble up precious Chip RAM. The popularity of WHDLoad as a means to run old Amiga floppy games off a hard drive is also a problem for 512k machines as most of the games require 1MB of Chip RAM to function so without this.

Checking the Amiga board revision

You can check what revision your Amiga is by opening it up and removing the floppy disk drive. The revision number will be etched into a small area underneath along with other interesting information such as the serial number and when it was made. It looks like my board was designed in 1988 (30 years old this year!) but that it might have been assembled in 1989/90 going by the serial number sticker?

1MB Chip RAM Mod

Revision 6A motherboard confirmed

1MB Chip RAM Mod

Here’s a screenshot from SysInfo confirming the presence of an ECS Agnus chip – needed for this mod.

Under the knife!

The first thing to do is cut the small trace between the lower two pads (2 & 3). I used a small craft knife but any similarly sharp knife should do the job. Be very careful not to slip with the knife as there are several other tracks on the motherboard that you do not want to damage! To check that you have successfully cut the track you can use a multimeter – there should be no continuity between the two pads if the track has been cut properly.

1MB Chip RAM Mod

JP2 – Track cut between the lower 2 of the 3 solder pads with a sharp craft knife.

Bridging the gap

After successfully cutting the track between pads 2 and 3 the next task is to solder the top two pads (1 and 2) together. I found the easiest way to do this was just to keep adding blobs of solder to one of the pads until there was enough to drag across to the other pad and bridge the gap.

1MB Chip RAM Mod

JP2 with pads 1 and 2 soldered together.

The shortcut

Traditionally the next part of this modification required cutting a track on JP7A but just by chance I stumbled across an advert for a 512K Trapdoor expansion on eBay that bypasses this requirement completely. This particular RAM expansion has a series of jumpers on it that you can use to enable/disable a number of features including using it to expand Chip RAM. It also features a clock with battery backup so it’s a very complete little package. Anyway, in order to have the 512k of RAM added to the pool of Chip memory you need to remove the blue jumper – this basically has the same effect as cutting the track on JP7A.

1MB Chip RAM Mod

512K RAM Expansion with blue jumper disabled to enable it to be seen as Chip RAM.

Testing

The final step (after putting everything back together of course) is to turn on the Amiga and check that it now has a full 1 megabyte of Chip RAM.  Easiest way to check for sure is to load up good old SysInfo and go to the Memory Information screen and you should see 1.0MB Chip RAM displayed. Job done!

1MB Chip RAM Mod

SysInfo screen confirming 1MB of Chip RAM 🙂

Adding Bluetooth Audio to a Range Rover Sport Mk1

Ranger Rover Sport Bluetooth Audio

If, like me, you were disappointed to discover that your beautiful, highly specc’d Range Rover Sport Mk1 did not come equipped with Bluetooth Audio then I have a solution for you that will cost less than £20. Once you’ve got hold of the kit the whole job should only take you about 5 minutes.

 

range-rover-sport-mk1

Mk1 Range Rover Sport

 

 

What you need to buy…

The first thing you need to purchase is a USB car charger adaptor for your rear cigarette lighter socket. The more slimline the better, I used this one which works really well. In fact I’ve got one of these in my front power socket too!

Next you need purchase yourself this little gadget from Amazon which is a bluetooth audio receiver and will convert your bluetooth audio back into good old analogue for your Range Rover sound system to play.

Once the above gizmos have arrived follow the super-easy instructions below to enjoy wireless music playing in your car.

 

Bluetooth Adaptor

Bluetooth Adaptor connected to Aux rear aux socket

 

 

Installation…

First off you need to plug the USB adaptor into the rear passengers power socket (it hides underneath a flap on the centre armrest). Now plug the Bluetooth receiver into that USB adaptor . Finally you need to plug one end of the (supplied) auxiliary audio cable into the socket on the end of the Bluetooth adaptor. Plug the other end into the aux socket on the back of the centre armrest, located just to the left of the power socket. That’s it for the hardware side of things, the next step is configuring your phone.

 

Android Bluetooth Screen

Screenshot showing Bluetooth adaptor paired.

 

The next stage of the install requires your backside in the drivers seat and turning on the ignition. Get your phone out and go to the ‘Add Bluetooth devices’ part of the phone settings. I have tested this with both an Android Marshmallow Galaxy S7 and an Android Nougat Huawei Mate 9 with no issues, although the settings on all phones will probably look a little different. I see no reason why this wouldn’t work for an iPhone/iPod but I don’t have access to any Apple stuff so can’t guarantee it. I’d be very surprised if you had an issue though.

Once you have got to the ‘add Bluetooth devices’ screen, make sure your bluetooth is turned on and wait for the device ‘BTR003’ to appear. This is the bluetooth adaptor – add it as a paired device (there is no pairing code) for ‘Media Audio’ ONLY and you should be good to go. Turn on your Range Rover sound system and select AUX as the input and play some music on your phone and it should come through loud and clear! I find the AUX input a little on the quiet side compared to the CD and Radio but you can easily compensate by turning the volume up on your phone and/or the sound system itself.

Every time you get in your car and turn on the ignition your phone will automatically pair with the bluetooth adaptor so you should never have to mess with the settings again – it’ll just work. Your phone will still work for bluetooth handsfree calling through the car phone as that uses a separate ‘Call Audio’ bluetooth connection.

 

Aux Input

Range Rover Stereo Aux Input

 

Have fun and if you find a better way to do this or have any questions please contact me!

I know it’s not a perfect solution as the adaptor does stick out a few cm and if you have kids in the back it may not last long… but as it’s just me and the wife in our car I’ve not had a problem so far…

Changing a Boogie Board Battery

Boogie Board LCD Slate/Tablet

Boogie Board LCD Slate/Tablet

A couple of years ago I bought a cool looking gadget called a Boogie Board from Firebox. Intention was to attach it to the fridge-freezer and use it as a paperless notepad for shopping lists, reminders and so on. It has performed that job flawlessly until a week ago when it suddenly refused to erase the contents of the screen. To cut a long story short, the battery was flat and without any power the e-ink display (similar to the original Kindle) couldn’t be erased. The device is sold with a NON-REPLACEABLE 3V battery and is supposed to last for 50,000 screen wipes before losing charge. I’ve had the thing for not much longer than 2 years and even if it had been used and wiped every single day that would be less than 800 wipes, a figure massively short of the touted 50K. I’ve probably erased it once or twice a week so probably erased it 250-300 times, tops!!! When you consider that is cost me £30 and they expect me to throw it in the bin and get another one you can imagine I was not too pleased!

So, being a tinkerer and having nothing to lose if things went wrong I decided to open it up and see if there was anything I could do to salvage it. Turns out it is fitted with a normal 3v Lithium CR2032 Button Cell with the only complication being that it is soldered onto the small PCB inside. The good news is these can be purchased off eBay for less than £2, complete with the solder tags – a much better prospect than throwing a perfectly good product in the bin and spending £30 to replace it! Incidentally, I did try my local Maplins but they don’t stock this type of battery..

I thought I’d share my exploits in case it can help anyone else in a similar situation.

 

Prising the cover off

Prising the cover off with a screwdriver

First off, you need to remove the thick top strip (the bit that houses the erase button). There are no screws, it appears to just clip into place by means of four studs spaced across the width of the board. I was able to carefully prise this strip off using a very thin precision flat-head screwdriver, just be careful not to push the screwdriver in too far as you may damage the components inside.

 

Boogie Board with cover removed

Boogie Board with cover removed

Once it is off you will be able to see the old battery in the centre, soldered to the PCB by means of two ‘tags’. You will need to de-solder the old battery to make way for the new one. Be careful though, I was a little ham-fisted and accidentally pulled away some of the solder pad on one side – luckily enough remained to allow me to continue.

 

Old battery removed

Old battery removed

Here’s the PCB with the old battery removed.

 

 

 

Replacement 3V CR2032 Battery

Replacement 3V CR2032 Battery

Here’s the replacement battery, complete with tags. You need to make sure you observe the polarity of the tags when you solder it back onto the PCB otherwise it may not work.

 

New battery fitted

New battery fitted

Once the battery is soldered back on, check the erase function now works by depressing the little silver switch to the top left of the battery. You can then replace the cover strip by simply pressing it back into place and you’ll have a fully working Boogie Board once more!

 

My fixed Boogie Board

My fixed Boogie Board