Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Qcascade Menu Editor for Q68

After some more work the mini menu editor for Qcascade has reached operational capability.
The idea of MenuEdit_QCSCDE_rc_bas and Make_Qcascade_rc_bas was to simplify and make more flexible the creation of small menus for use with Qcascade. As explained in the previous post the Qcascade _rc file and all the applications that will feature on the menu are located in a directory called APPS on win1_. EX Make_Qcascade_rc_bas, ideally from the Qcascade menu, and it will create a simple qcascade_rc filr incorporating all the files in the APPS directory. Next once the
 basic _rc file has been created EX MenuEdit_QCSCDE_rc_bas to embellish the menu derived from the _rc file with additional discription of the featured files if required. To add files to the menu add to the APPS directory and EX Make_Qcascade_rc_bas to update the _rc file, and that's it.

Writing MenuEdit_QCSCDE_rc_bas with the QPTR toolkit has not only refreshed my knowledge of this amazing toolkit but has also been a major learning experience as although I have written a number of QPTR based programs previously It seems I have only scratched the surface of what can be done with QPTR. Thanks also to Wolfgang Lenerz programming QPTR series in QLToday from the July/August 2002 issue through to the August/October 2004 issue.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Qcascade Menu Editor a work in progress for the Q68

There are now a plethora of free front ends for QL systems, many formerly commercial programs are now freeware. Several such as Launchpad, QDock and Go are from Dilwyn Jones. Then there is QTOP from CWO and Cueshell and QDT. There are also the more complex to customise ProWess and Proforma. Some require a bit of customisation but those from Dilwyn Jones are usually set up through the familiar config block and menu config and the point and click with the program. Where does this leave an old program like Qcascade, a drop down menu system from the 1990s written in C and using environment variables and a configuration script. The configuration script can be quite a tortuous process to set up especially if all the potential complexity of the software is used. As a result once configured it is not one that encourages change and adaption.

Acquisition of a Q68 has resulted in a new look at the use of Qcascade in the set up of this system. The Q68 system with 8 QXL.win files on SDHC card as "hard drives" has the potential to have access to up to 2-4 GB of files depending on the size of the QXL.win containers. The Q68 comes with a boot file for QDT and QDock as alternative desk top front ends. Speed on the Q68 system is dependent on screen size and colours used. Here there is a Q60 so for compatibility the 512x384 16 bit colour resolution works best with a speed that is similar to a SGcard/Aurora set up.

Given that Qdock had been chosen for the main front end it seemed that the best role for Qcascade would be to provide a menu of little apps that might be used to help with other tasks. As there was plenty of disk space programs were copied in to a directory on Win1_, neatly called APPS_.

A SBASIC program called "Make_QCSCDE_rc_bas" was created. When run this program scans the APPS_ directory and creates a new _rc file for Qcascade. To add programs to the menu, copy the program to the APPS_ directory and run "Make_QCSCDE_rc_bas"., place the mouse over the Qcascade button and press ESC and next time the menu is used the new app is on the menu. To remove - delete the program from the APPS_ folder and rebuild the menu as before. To make it really easy copy "Make_QCSCDE_rc_bas" to the APPS_ folder and run it from the menu. Simple.

Anyway here are 2 screen dumps.  One of the menu, and one of the next part of the project a pointer driven menu editor.Both programs have been written using QPTR 0.14 and show the use of 16 bit WMAN colours.

Friday, 25 May 2018

Q68 in QLHeaven

A Q68 is here at last. It is a lovely QL replacement/development. Loads of memory, a 68000 compatible processor emulation making loads of old software run well, 16 bit colour and a range of screen modes that all display well on flat screen monitors. It comes supplied with a 4 GB SDHC card containing 8 QXL.WIN type hard drive files absolutely loaded with freeware software. The super QDock front end comes as part of the package.

The preferred display here is 16 bit mode 33 512x384 giving high colour compatible with modern software, a slighly larger display than the original QL and a speed that is the same a superGoldCard QL or slightly faster. All in all a super QL system. More later.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

More Stuff for QLers - are things hotting up??

Recently CueShell was released as freeware. This is not a program that QLHeaven ever thought to buy, mores the pity. The down loadable demos of the program did not do the program itself justice and so did not attract attention from this quarter. But now the full version is available and what a useful program. The only downside is that  the colours it can use remain locked in to the old mode 4 colours but even so on a modernish QL system it can be quite colourful.

Dilwyn Jones Q-Dock is also now freeware.It is an impressive development of Launchpad also now freeware.

On the hardware side of things the Q68 seems to be selling well.

There are also Qubide, Goldcard, Trumpcard and Backplane clones from Tetroid - see sell my retro

The Qubide hard drive roms have been updated to v3.10 with the Qubide drivers becoming part of smsq/e.

And Dave from Austin Texas on the QL forum has been discussing many new hardware ideas.

One thing there has been less of are 2nd hand QLs and peripherals for sale on ebay. While in the past there have been 2 or 3 pages or more of items for sale now there is only one and prices do seem to be going up. Does this mean that people are now hanging on to their old QLs as support for the system has been growing in the QL forum?   

Finally  there has been discussion of the future of the Q60 with a sadly heated exchange with the designer of the Q60 provoked by another longstanding QL figure.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Looking through old floppy disks

Here in QL Heaven there is a store of old commercial and PD floppy disks for the QL, both DD and HD along with a few ED. What is on them is mainly unknown. The floppy disk labels tend to indicate only the main content so there can be surprises sometimes. Looking through the disks for something else this intriguing disk was discovered:

It had not been well looked after. Initially it would not read on the ED drive on the Aurora but the HD floppy drives on the Q60 were up to the job.

 The file that was interesting was the smsq_con. What was this? Menuconfig showed that it was an original replacement screen driver for smsq/e for the Aurora and interestingly is seemed to suggest that some work had been done on the colour screen drivers even at that stage. How it should be used is unknown as there is no documentation. Could there be rudimentary 8 and 16 colour drivers in the file? Who knows.

Friday, 16 March 2018

IDE adapters for the QL systems

There is a trend to replace hard disks with card media in retro computing in general and for QLs in particular. There are and have been a number of different interfaces for memory cards for QL systems. There was the Serial USBWiz device which worked as shown on this blog but the complexities of the serial systems across a range of QL platforms ultimately made this too complex to  manage in the long term. The new Q68 uses an SD card as its "hard drive". Small runs of SD card adapters for the microdrive slot on original QLs have also been produced. The QUBide IDE interface is still being produced. A clone version can be found on sellmyretro and the drivers for this have recently been updated. This IDE interface will connect to original black box QLs and to Aurora card QLs. The Qx0 systems have their own IDE controller board. So there are quite a few QL systems that have IDE hard disk interfaces.

IDE adapter boards for CF cards and SD cards can be found on Amazon and ebay but not all of these boards will work with QL IDE controllers. Two CF card adapters have already been mentioned in previous posts on this blog here and here.

Now 2 more adapters have been found to work with the Q60 here. First a CF card adapter with and without CF card. This one worked without fuss. There is a jumper to select master/slave and the power connector is underneath the board and is a floppy type connector.

An SD card adapter has also been assessed. Initially this adapter crashed the IDE controller. A bit of research on the web suggested that this controller which does not have a jumper for master/slave suggested it was configured to always be the master device. If fact this was not quite correct. This device is not only the master but must also be the sole device on the IDE controller. It is not possible to add a slave device. So if a single IDE device is all that is required this card actually works well on the Q60.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Looking Through Old Quanta Magazines 1996

Some interesting gems.

There was a request for a CTRL D function in QDOS to permit reverse stepping through programs in the opposite direction to CTRL C. Did this ever get made? In theory it should not be too difficult to make a DIY version of this. A background task/thing to sniff the keyboard queue, a quick examination of the jobs list and pick the job above the current job in the list or should it be below. Anyway why bother as the pick menu of QPAC2 lets you go directly to the desired job. Here in QLHeaven CTRL C is only used rarely.

Next a JAVA steering committee was set up consisting of John Hall, Dave Walker, Jonathan Hudson and Joachim van der Auwera. Did anything come of this committee? Perhaps JAVA grew too complex to port to a QL.

PROGs announced a SBASIC interface to ProWesS, this was interesting as earlier one of the doyens to programming had denounced ProWesS as too complex and C based to ever interface to SBASIC.

Buttons without QPAC2 was the title of another article. The author had found a small extension from Ralf Biedermann that created buttons without the button frame anywhere on the screen. That is something that interests us here. So far searches have only found Ralf Biedermann's archiver program in the online PD libraries. If anyone knows where it can be found please let QLHeaven know.

Serial connections were then also a topic with an article Mark J Swift and Simon N Goodwin, "How to connect almost anything", if only it were that easy. This topic has never gone away as the QL Forum shows.