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.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

More of Win Drives and QPAC2 FILES thing and .jpgs

The previous post outlined how the Q60 here at QL Heaven could have its hard drive configuration modified at boot time using a caddy system to swap the drives. The next question to consider is how the system and programs running within it can know which combination of drives had been configured at boot. The answer is the Environment Variables extension. This is LRESPRed in the boot file just before the selected drive configuration is mounted by the boot. As the drives are mounted the environment variable HDTYPE is set to a value that can be checked in a program to findout which Win drives were mounted without having to test each drive individually and trap errors. Below is a little SBASIC snippet of code that pops up a files window for each drive mounted of whichever type. Set up a little icon in launchpad, click on that and there are files windows for all drives. Handy if you cannot exactly remember which drive had that subdirectory you were looking for. 

1000  EXEP 'Files';'\DWin1_ \C1,2 \O',"Win1_"
1010  EXEP 'Files';'\DWin2_ \C1,2 \O',"Win2_"
1020  EXEP 'Files';'\DWin3_ \C1,2 \O',"Win3_"
1030  EXEP 'Files';'\DWin4_ \C1,2 \O',"Win4_"
1050    EXEP 'Files';'\DWin5_ \C3,2 \O',"Win5_"
1060    EXEP 'Files';'\DWin6_ \C3,2 \O',"Win6_"
1070    EXEP 'Files';'\DWin7_ \C3,2 \O',"Win7_"
1080    EXEP 'Files';'\DWin8_ \C3,2 \O',"Win8_"
1090  END IF
1100  IF (GETENV$("HDTYPE")="FAT32")
1110      EXEP 'Files';'\DWin5_ \C3,2 \O',"Win5_"
1120  END IF

The program in action below. There are two screen scrapes below. Both .jpg files created on the Q60. The difference between them is the size of the file - approximately 50k for an identical image. The larger file was created using QTImage while the smaller file was created using cjpeg a small very old utility obtained on a floppy disk from PD library some time in the 1990s.

Finally rereading the QPAC2 documentation revealed that the files thing can filter files as well as sorting them. Selecting the F2 source menu, inputting a source drive such as Win2_and adding an extension, Win2__bas will list only all the files with that extension in the given directory. Sometimes useful for searching out that file hidden in plain sight. 

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Boot Menu for Q60 with Multiple Hard Drive Formats

With the latest version of smsq/e the Q60 can handle files on FAT32 formatted media and QUBide formatted disks and media as well as its native QWA hard disk format.  There are also the options of booting the Q60 in to mode 4 smsq/e or the QDOS classic or Linux. In addition there may be specific configurations of the OS for some jobs. A boot options menu is a define necessity. Below are screen scrapes of QL Heaven's current boot menu showing 3 of the options in operation.

The Q60 for those who do not know comes with an ancient ROMMed version of smsq/e. This is 2.97 if my recollection is correct. The GD2 drivers are not present in this version, so mode 4 and possibly mode 8 colours are only possible. It's not a terribly good version of smsq/e now. Its function is to load a boot file that loads a newer version of  smsq/e. That is obvious but with the multiple options for launching the Q60 into action and the at least 4 different incompatible hard disk formats that could be  attached to the system there is a problem especially if a CD/DVD is also to be attached. The Q60 has 2 ISA slots which can supply IDE connections giving 4 possible maximum IDE devices. The tower the q60 board exists within has 2 internal 3.5 inch drive bays and 3 external 5&1/4 inch bays.
Mounting hard disks internally caused problems for smsq/e if the appropriate drivers are not loaded.

The answer is a boot menu and a caddy system for the hard disks to mount them in the external 5&1/4 inch bays. As a result the Q60 has a default timeout  boot with 4 QWA partitions on the primary hard disk. A second QWA disk with additional partitions can be mounted if that boot option is chosen or a QUBIDE formatted disk instead or a FAT 32 disk with 4 files acting as 4 additional partitions.

As an alternative the primary hard disk in it's caddy can be swapped out and replaced if the Q60 is to be booted in to LINUX or QDOS classic.

The trick for this system is to communicate from the boot menu to the reloaded boot file once the new version of smq/e has been loaded as neither boot file or smsq/e has any means of remembering which option had been selected so that the correct drivers are loaded for the current hard drive configuration. How that is done is quite simple and inelegant but functional, the boot file writes a note to itself on the primary hard disk. When it is reloaded it looks for the note that tells it which hard disk configuration has been selected, reads it loads the correct driver and deletes the note.