Thursday, 6 February 2014

Cheapo Amiga Floppy Emulator Inbound!

Almost seems to fit the case, almost...

Just saw a thread over at English Amiga Board about this... You can now get a 20 quid (delivered) floppy emulator, and with just a quick flash of its firmware you can turn it into a shugart drive emulator, allowing you to read and write virtual ADF files.

I'll be picking one up shortly for my un-accellerated second A1200 machine, which i'm presently running on floppys 'burned' from my more upgraded machine (look, if you're going to have 2 machines you'd better use both of them, right?;))

So now its incredibly cheap to get access to a huge array of amiga games and run them on real hardware without needing WHDload and the associated Amiga upgrades required to play many of the games:

Amiga 1200 ~ £75
CF HDD + CF card ~ £30
WHDload license £15
020 + fastram accellerator (bare minimum) £80

So really if you're looking to get into amiga gaming on the real hardware, you can either spend probably more than £200 on a WHDload machine or less than 100 on a machine and floppy emulator, this may open up the hobby some more for those on lower incomes as the only previous efforts at producing a floppy emulator weigh in at around £60 - not far off the cost of a brand new ACA 020 (and IMHO, you'd be much better off with the accellerator at that point)

Here's a link:

Hats off and bravo to the man who figured this out! I knew there was some potential here, I am really pleased that someone else had the idea, someone with the actual skills to do something with it!

GOTEK emulators are available on ebay (of course!) probably best to order one from the far east, you'll need to buy or make up a cable for the flash software and a pc to soft mod the drive. 

Wait! Dont run away and get drunk yet, there's more! If thats not good enough, and you have a Raspberry Pi languishing under a pile of old circuits then good news!  At the moment there are at least 2 different projects are underway for an interface board which allows the Pi to be installed inside any Amiga and handle a much larger number of .ADF files.

You can follow the development along in english here

A whole 500mhz ARM equipped Pi might be a bit of a sledgehammer to merely act as a fake floppy drive/disk manager for machines that rarely operate at over 14mhz but just goes to show how much computers have developed over the last 20 years.  I wonder what other ways new computers could be interfaced with old to add further capabilities? Perhaps a tiny but powerful Raspberry Pi could serve up disks and perhaps also act as a soundcard or graphics card?

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Remember the dead HDD I mourned in this first post of this blog?

Well it came back to life!

Last year I took the drive out of its protective anti-static bag, to see if I could do something with it.  I noticed that inexplicably, some thermal conductive paste had become smeared over part of the logic board.  I removed the paste but some of it was still lodged in vias, I plugged it into the modified external enclosure/caddy and tried reading the disk.  It spun up and stayed spun, I was then able to read off all the files I really wanted to keep and then attempt to copy the entire disk, I got every last bit of data off that drive and onto a much new 3Tb unit.

So what happened? Holy intervention? Aliens? Anti-Gremlins?

I think the initial failure was entirely to do with the logic board, which had perhaps overheated, or through lots of heating and cooling cycles had fractured a solder joint between one of the components and the PCB.   This is at least partly to do with the ROHS certified lead free solder that the logic board is held together with, its the same thing that causes Xboxes to die early deaths with that annyoing red ring.

I believe that when I cleaned off the conductive paste some of it became lodged in whatever cracks had appeared, re-bridging the connections and allowing charge to flow around the board and through all the components again.

Presumably, if this is the problem then the fix will only be temporary, but could be fixed permanently by reflowing the IC's, however I've now put the drive to a more dignified rest along with many others in a storage cupboard, in a stolen green tesco crate. Even if i reflowed it it would not be reliable enough for any serious use and 500Gb really isn't much these days anyway!