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Tag - Floppy Disk

Pi1541 Disk Drive

Pi1541 Disk Drive

Little bit of background

I’ve been aware of the Pi1541 disk drive or Pi1541 ‘hats’ for several months now. This project was undertaken to create a ‘cycle exact’ emulation of a Commodore 1541 floppy drive using a cheap Raspberry Pi computer. The idea behind it is that by fully emulating the 6502 CPU and 6522 VIA chips you would have a 100% 1541 compatible ‘disk drive’ capable of reading any disk image, even ones with custom fast loaders and exotic copy protection schemes. By contrast the ubiquitous SD2IEC devices don’t emulate either chips but rather simulate some disk protocols and use some clever code to try to blag some fast loaders into working. This is why special versions of some games need to be created to work on SD2IEC devices.

In a nutshell a Pi1541 Disk Drive utilises a Raspberry Pi B computer running custom software along with a daughter board or ‘hat’ which sits on top and connects to the GPIPO pins of the Pi. This ‘hat’ adds the standard IEC connectors and handles the stuff that is required for the Pi to successfully communicate with the attached Commodore computer. The project was created by a guy called Steve White and if you want to know the technical ins and outs then check out his website here.

Pi1541 Disk Drives can be picked up very cheaply on eBay. In fact the whole point of the project was to create something better than an SD2IEC but much cheaper than FPGA based offerings like the 1541 Ultimate II+. Of course another option is to build your own but I have neither the time nor the inclination to attempt that. The other big turn off with both of these options is that quite frankly, the devices are just plain ugly. Which brings me neatly on to my latest acquisition…

Pi1541 Disk Drive

As I mentioned earlier I’ve been aware of this project for some time, but for the reasons I mentioned above it just didn’t appeal to me. Until that is, I saw that Tim Harris who runs sharewareplus was offering a super slick, plug and play, cased Pi1541 Disk Drive complete with OLED screen. I just had to have one and after several months of waiting it has finally arrived!

 

Pi1541 Disk Drive

Pi1541 Disk Drive

 

This really is a thing of beauty, modelled closely on the first generation Commodore 1541 floppy drive. There’s so many little design cues taken from the original case. The Micro SD card slot encased in black plastic housing complete with scaled disk ‘slot’.  The red drive activity LED and green power LED. A chicken logo moulded into the casing top. The Commodore label complete with rainbow colours and a 1541 logo where the trailing 1 is actually a letter I. It even has a built in speaker to emulate the drive sounds of the original drive!

It came supplied with a Micro USB cable (to power it) and a single instruction sheet explaining what the ports are for and what the buttons do. Disappointingly it did not include a Micro SD card, IEC cable or even further instructions.

 

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The casing is approximately 5″ (13cm) deep, 3″ (7.5cm) wide and 1.25″ (3cm) tall. On the front there is a MicroSD card slot, a green power LED, a red drive activity LED and a ‘Select/Start’ switch. On the rear there is a power on/off switch, Micro USB power socket and a standard CBM IEC drive connector socket.

 

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On the top of the device is a lovely 1″ x 0.5″ (128×64 resolution) blue OLED screen along with four navigation buttons. When the device is first turned on it operates in SD2IEC mode which allows you to browse through the contents of your Micro SD card and select an image (or multiple images) to use. In this mode all 4 top buttons have a function: ‘move up’, ‘move down’, ‘exit folder’ and ‘add disk’ (for multi-disk games). In this mode the button on the front acts as a ‘select’ button.

Once an image has been selected on the device and a ‘load “*”,8,1’ (or similar drive command) is issued from the computer, it switches to full 1541 emulation mode. In this mode only the first 2 buttons on the top have a function: ‘previous disk’ and ‘next disk’. In this mode the front button acts as ‘start’.

 

Setting it up

I was advised that this Pi1541 Disk Drive worked best if you use an 8GB Micro SD card so I just picked up this generic card off Amazon and it has worked perfectly.

 

Pi1541 Disk Drive

8GB Micro SD Card

 

Unfortunately I did not fare so well with the Micro USB power supply. The device came with a Micro USB A-B cable so I plugged it into a free port on my power strip extension lead. The drive powered up and appeared to work fine until I tried to actually load a directory listing or a program and then it would just lock up and my C64 would freeze. Thinking the device was faulty, I got in touch with the guy selling it and was advised this was likely a power issue. The Pi needs a beefy PSU, especially when it’s also powering an additional board plus OLED screen. Long story short I tried several USB chargers from phones and such like but none of them fixed the problem. In the end I ordered an official Raspberry Pi PSU off Amazon and the problem just went away. Moral of the story? Don’t be a cheapskate and buy a decent power supply for it!

 

Pi1541 Disk Drive

Official Raspberry Pi PSU

 

In use

Once I’d properly sorted out the Micro SD card and PSU the Pi1541 Disk Drive worked perfectly. It loaded everything I threw at it including .G64 disk images that that won’t work on my SD2IEC device (but do work on my 1541 Ultimate II+). I also tried it with turbo load cartridges such as the Epyx Fastload and Action Replay VI’s Fastload. It worked perfectly and as you would expect loading times were significantly reduced using either cart. It is claimed to be 100% compatible with Jiffy DOS too but at the moment I don’t have the hardware to put that to the test.

There are a few other benefits that the Pi1541 Disk Drive has over it’s rivals. It doesn’t hijack the cassette port or user port for power like an SD2IEC device would as it’s powered independently from the host computer. Nor does it occupy the cartridge slot like a 1541 Ultimate does. It also works with my VIC20, something even the mighty 1541 Ultimate cannot do. I believe it will also work with both the Commodore 16 and plus 4 but I own neither of these machines so cannot confirm this.

There are a few niggles, the first being that the Micro SD card doesn’t have the ‘push to eject’ feature. When you want to remove it there is only 2mm of card protruding to grip onto and I found it difficult to pull out without using some needle-nose pliers.

My other gripe is that it didn’t come with an IEC cable, memory card or PSU. For a device costing £150 I would have expected these to be included and it would have saved me messing around trying to get a working power supply.

The sound produced is a little disappointing too. More a series of beep’s than a true emulation of drive noises (sounds a bit like what you get with a Gotek that’s had a sound mod fitted). My 1541 Ultimate II+ does a much better job of reproducing drive sounds.

Verdict

This is a terrific product and probably the best and most accurate emulation of the Commodore 1541 drive there has been to date. It also looks the part and will work across almost the entire range of 8-bit Commodore machines.

 

Pi1541 Disk Drive

Pi1541 Disk Drive next to 1541-II’s and a 1571

 

It’s definitely a luxury peripheral in my eyes though rather than an essential purchase. In this particular form it cannot compete on price with either the SD2IEC or the 1541 Ultimate II+ cartridge (which has many more features). However if you were to choose one of the more modest Pi1541’s you can find on eBay then it trounces the Ultimate on price and beats the SD2IEC on compatibility for a similar cost.

Another thing to bear in mind is that although, strictly speaking, SD2IEC devices are nowhere near as compatible as the Pi1541, they ARE ubiquitous. Because of this most games have been tweaked to make them work within the confines of the system out of necessity, so in most cases compatibility is often a moot point.

Bottom line is this; if you want the most compatible and by far the best looking modern 1541 Drive implementation there is and you don’t mind paying a premium for it, then you won’t find a better product than this.

Stop that Amiga drive clicking noise!

stop Amiga drive clicking noise

Ah, the Amiga’s Drive clicking noise… For some this is the Amiga’s heartbeat, for others like me, it’s a source of increasing irritation the longer I have to listen to it. The same was true back in the 80’s and it’s still true now, especially as I have 4 drives that all click in unison! It only occurs when the drives are empty so you could stick a disk in each one to shut them up, but I’ve never been fond of that solution.

Originally back in the 80’s I installed a ‘Noclick’ program off a magazine coverdisk that silenced my drive. Sadly I no longer have either so I had to find something else. The good news is that there are quite a few on Aminet (yes Aminet is still alive and kicking!). I tried several before finding one that would reliably silence all my drives. By the way, as a rule of thumb – if any ‘noclick’ program doesn’t silence your drive after about 10-20 seconds after running it then don’t use it – it’s incompatible with your drive type and could possibly damage it over time.

 

stop Amiga drive clicking noise

There are quite a few ‘noclick’ programs to choose from but not all worked for me…

 

The one that worked for me is:

noclick20_usr.lha – http://aminet.net/util/cdity/noclick20_usr.lha

For the record I have four drives (1x internal Chinon drive, 2x external Roctec drives and 1x Gotek with sound mod) and it silenced all of them.

 

Amiga drive clicking noise

Here’s the contents of the noclick20_usr.lha archive decompressed to my Ram Disk.

 

Like most things on Aminet it is compressed using LHA so use something like Directory Opus to unpack it to your RAM Disk. Once there you can copy it to a location of your choice to run as and when you need it. If you want it to run all the time then copy it to your WBStartup directory which will cause it to run automatically every time your boot your Amiga up.

 

stop Amiga drive clicking noise

Copy NoClick to your WBStartup directory to have it run each time you boot up your Amiga.

Mayhem in Monsterland 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition

Mayhem in Monsterland 25th Anniversary Collector's Edition

Here’s a quick look at what came in my Mayhem in Monsterland 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition game I received yesterday. I have to say I was super impressed with the design and finish of the box, it looks and feels amazing. It’s clear that an awful lot of love and attention has been lavished on this release…

 

 

The Generation Game…

Inside the box things got even better, it was literally crammed full of goodies. Box contents included the game on a 5.25″ floppy disk, a soundtrack CD, glossy full colour user manual, art postcard, key ring, loads of stickers, 2 pin badges, an A3 glossy art poster and a double sided A3 map of all the levels! There was also an unexpected, but much appreciated packet of Milky Way Magic Stars in there too. Needless to say it didn’t last long!

 

 

I’ve bought my fair share of special edition games over the years but for the money, Mayhem in Monsterland 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition is definitely one of the finest in my collection. You can find out more about this release over at the Binary Zone Interactive Store.

 

 

 

 

Farming Simulator C64 Edition

Farming Simulator C64 Edition

So here’s my look at Farming Simulator C64 Edition and the various options available if you want to get hold of a copy. Apparently this started life as an April fools joke but took on a life of its’ own as one of the programmers had friends active in the C64 scene.

 

Farming Simulator C64 Edition

Title Screen (on a 1084S monitor)

 

Digital Version

At the moment there are only two ways to get hold of the game in the here and now. The cheapest and by far the quickest is to head on over to the Farming Simulator website and pick up a digital copy of the game for €4.99. Although it states ‘PC Version’ you will actually get C64 software cartridge/disk images that you can run on the included emulator, C64 Mini or on a real C64 via an SD2IEC type device.

 

Farming Simulator C64 Edition

Gameplay screen (1084S monitor)

 

Collector’s Edition

The next method, which will bag you a physical copy of the game, is to purchase the physical ‘Collector’s Edition’ (available now) which includes the C64 Edition on a CD, housed in a 5.25″ Floppy Disk ‘look-alike’ wallet. You can pick this up from Amazon for £39.99.

Inside you will find the C64 version of the game as shown below

 

Farming Simulator C64 Edition

The 5.25″ Floppy Styled Cardboard CD Wallet

 

At first glance it appears to be a 5.25″ Floppy Disk, but in reality it’s actually a carefully designed cardboard CD wallet. Inside you will get a nicely designed ‘C64 Edition’ CD with a digital version of the game on it along with the necessary emulators to run it on a PC should you wish to do so. There is also a copy of the manual in PDF format, presented in multiple languages.

 

Farming Simulator C64 Edition

Rear of the CD wallet

 

Farming Simulator C64 Edition

The CD sliding out of the “Floppy Disc” wallet

 

Now this might seem like an expensive way to get hold of ‘Farming Simulator C64 Edition’ but you do get a really nice big collectors edition box, 10 stickers, a beanie hat, a DVD containing a ton of tutorial videos, 5 concept art cards, exclusive DLC content, a miniature John Deere tractor, 2 A2 posters and of course the full PC game on DVD for the PC.

 

Farming Simulator C64 Edition

Farming Simulator 19 Collectors Edition Box

 

Farming Simulator C64 Edition

Contents of the Farming Simulator 19 Collectors Edition (Official Image)

 

If you are only interested in the C64 version this might not be the choice for you. However if you’ve got even a passing interest in playing the PC version then this option begins to make a lot of sense.

 

Farming Simulator C64 Edition

Here’s the control setup for the C64 version of the game

 

The C64 Cartridge Version

Finally, if you want Farming Simulator C64 Edition in a physical C64 themed box complete with the game on a proper C64 Cartridge then you can place a pre-order for the game from Protovision. This will also ship with an instruction book and the aforementioned CD version of the game for use with emulators or the C64 Mini.  The cost for this version is €50 plus postage. Granted it’s a lot more and you don’t get the PC version but for collectors this will be a tempting choice. At the time of writing this post they currently have no stock available.

*UPDATE 1 – 9th December – As of this morning they have 12 copies of the game left in stock!

*UPDATE 2 – 18th December – After snagging one of those 12 copies it has now arrived safely so here’s a few pictures of what you get inside. Unlike the PC Collectors Edition this one has been made especially for the C64 and in very limited quantities it would seem!

Inside the box is the same copy of the game on CD as found in the PC collectors edition. There is also a nice little instruction booklet and of course the main event… a proper physical cartridge containing the Farming Simulator C64 Edition game itself.  Needless to say I’m really happy I managed to get my hands on a copy of this!

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*UPDATE 3 – 21st December – Looks like the cartridge version is no longer available to purchase. The listing for it on Protovision’s website has vanished. Not sure exactly when it disappeared.

Happy farming, whichever version you go for!

 

 

 

Eight Bit Magazine

Eight Bit Magazine

In this post I’m taking a look at Eight Bit magazine, another new (to me at least) retro computer magazine. I actually ordered these 6 issues 4 months ago as part of a Kickstarter campaign but they took a fair bit longer to arrive than expected. I’ve only had time to read through the first issue so far but things are looking promising. The magazines are well written and interesting to read and feature multiple contributors rather than being written by just one person.

 

Eight Bit Magazine

Genesis article

 

Issue one weighs in at almost 70 pages so there’s plenty to keep you occupied. As the title suggests, the content is spread across all 8-Bit formats. There’s a very interesting and in-depth look at the ‘Genesis’ of gaming. Here they delve into the history of the first arcade machines and home consoles that appeared in the 1970’s and early 80’s. This is a very long (14 pages) and text heavy article, but thankfully the font and colours used in the printing make it easy to read. Having lived through the entire period the article covers I found it to be a great trip down memory lane. I particularly enjoyed reading about long forgotten software companies such as Imagine (which was based in my home city) – as a child I used to dream of getting a job with them and razzing around in a flash car!

 

Eight Bit Magazine

Commodore 64 Collectors Guide

 

Elsewhere in the magazine the article ‘Collectors Guide: The Commodore 64’ caught my eye. This is a brief introduction to the machine, what it can do and some of the most popular peripherals available for it. I hope to see more in depth articles about the 64 in future issues as this one didn’t really tell me anything new. However I think the point of these features is to give non-owners of such systems an idea of what the machine is capable of and what is available for it. The article did hint that they would be looking at GEOS in a future issue so I’m really looking forward to that!

 

Eight Bit Magazine

Commodore 64 Collectors Guide

 

Also in issue one there is a brief (and I do mean brief) look at BASIC programming and machine code. I really hope they expand on this in future issues as I’ve got a strong hankering to get back into programming on the C64 and would love to see some proper tutorials. There’s also an extensive look at the early Apple 8-Bit computers, a quirky computer from Yugoslavia and even a couple of short game reviews. All in all I’m very pleased with this magazine and look forward to getting stuck into the other five issues. I’ll definitely be subscribing to future issues too.

If you would like to find out more information about the magazines or order your own copies then you can visit their webpage here: Eight Bit Magazine.

K&A Plus Issue 11

K&A Plus Issue 11

This magazine is only published a couple of times a year but is always packed with great content and K&A Plus Issue 11 is no exception. This is probably the biggest magazine both in terms of thickness and content there is for the Commodore range of machines in 2018, packing in a whopping 81 pages and none of them are filled by adverts!

 

K&A Plus Issue 11

Single Button Games & Exploding Fish Reviews

 

This issue has a fairly even split of content between the Commodore 64 and Amiga computers which is fantastic for me as I actively support both formats. There’s news, reviews, tutorials and retrospective articles covering both machines and even some stuff for the Vic 20 and the post Amiga MorphOS and AROS systems.

 

K&A Plus Issue 11

Mini reviews of C64 Racing Games.

 

The star of the whole issue for me is the included (if you pay a little extra for it) 5.25″ Coverdisk featuring a brand new game for the Commodore 64 – ‘Tower of Rubble’. This is the first 5.25″ Coverdisk I have seen since Commodore Disk User ceased publication back in 1991.

 

K&A Plus Issue 11

Tower of Rubble Coverdisk

 

There’s loads of content, far too much to list but some of the highlights for me are: A look into the Spy vs Spy franchise, H. R. Giger’s Dark Seed, reviews of ‘Retro Radio Stations’, an article about the pro’s and cons of modifying/upgrading retro machines and an ‘Amiga in your pocket’ tutorial showing you step by step how to convert a windows tablet into a portable Amiga!!!

 

K&A Plus Issue 11

A look at Dark Seed on the Amiga

 

If you want to find out more, or order yourself a copy, head on over to the Komoda & Amiga Plus website. The magazine is produced in Poland and shipping to the UK only takes a few days.

 

Worthy

Worthy Amiga game

It certainly took quite a while for Worthy to arrive, at least in physical form, but it was well worth the wait. This is the first new (physical) Amiga game I’ve bought in about 25 years! It includes both a CD and Floppy Disk copy of the game plus a digital version too so all bases are covered! It’s an OCS game so will work on the original A500 no problem.

 

Worthy Amiga game

Back of the box

 

I have to say I was really impressed with the physical presentation. The packaging is very faithful to the type used back in the Amiga’s heyday with a large cardboard box and glossy outer sleeve. Inside is the more modern and mundane DVD case that houses the floppy and CD.

 

Worthy Amiga game

The DVD style case inside the big box

 

I won’t bother reviewing the game as there’s plenty of info here but I will say I’m thoroughly enjoying it and it’s great to see new games making an appearance in 2018!

 

Worthy Amiga game

Contents of the DVD case with instruction manual, floppy and CD versions of the game

 

Anyway, here’s one final photo showing the game on a shelf alongside a few of my other Amiga games. It certainly doesn’t look out of place next to its much older forebears!

 

Worthy Amiga game

Worthy next to popular games from the Amiga’s heyday

Planet X2 a New Commodore 64 RTS game in 2017!

Planet X2

How cool is this? It’s like being back in the 80’s! Planet X2 is a brand new Commodore 64 game that has just been released by “The 8-Bit Guy” (of YouTube fame) – on 5.25″ Floppy Disk no less! Also included is a cassette tape featuring additional music for the game.

Think this might actually be the first (and therefore only) RTS for the Commodore 64! If you are in Europe you can get hold of a copy here.

 

Planet X2

Planet X2 Front Cover

 

Planet X2

Planet X2 Back Cover

 

Planet X2

Planet X2 Contents