Sunday, 20 March 2011

A New QL

QL users have again been discussing new hardware. The thread can be accessed through the mail archive site here ql-users where Dilwyn Jones explains the concept of a FPGA system. Various people have made suggestions as to what the "new" QL should be. Here is my suggestion as to how it should look to keep old and new QL users happy :-

The FGPA boards are apparently small enough to fit inside the original QL. The board could be programmed to emulate a 68000 or 68020 processor running at a GHz or 2 with 48MB of memory (the maximum smsq/e can address).The microdrives need to be consigned to history and the space used for a flash card reader, which could act as the heard drive as well. A couple of USB ports, legacy serial and parallel and more USB ports could be fixed at the back. The main issue is with regard to the video output. This is the killer for QLs at the moment. Only the Aurora motherboard replacement can drive flat screen monitors. But the colour resoloution is poor. Ideally only 16bit colour with a maximum resolution of 1024x768 will be required.
And thaks all for my wish list.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

New Trading QL site

Just a brief post to post this URL, only found today - possibly a new QL trader :

And the QL USBWiz device goes into public beta test!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

QL Users Discussing Hardware Again

Below are some exerpts from the QL-users list. The USBWiz device driver is almost out for beta testing and some other hardware enthusiasts have been suggesting easier ways of creating a new QL board that could fit inside an old QL case.

Here they are :

"It would be great to have a FPGA based replacement board which fits in the
original QL case. Is it not possible to use one of the existing projects like and to adopt the OS??

On the new QL hardware front, it would probably be easiest to build a system which boots directly into an emulator of some kind, probably under a stripped down Linux kernel.

With this in mind, what about looking as this hardware platform?:

It's small (could fit into a QL case), ARM based (OK, it's a derivative of Acorn technology. ;-)) and reasonably cheap. Oh, and there's a Linux version for it already."

And there is another QL blog out there - here is the link

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Least Favourite Programs - Ghostscript

Ghostscript is the underperforming over hyped bit of bloatware that the experts of the QL world applauded which gives ordinary QLers the bad taste of microsoft software from the mid 1990s.

Ghostscript was touted as the answer to QL printer driver problems and also image conversion or so it was claimed.

Sadly Ghostscript was a lost opportunity as the individual who ported it made no effort to make the program accessible to the general QL users. The default directories Ghostscript uses are precompiled in to the code. The individual who ported it made no effort to allow it to use the QDOS default directories, just compiled in the directories he happened to be using. Hence to use it a separate non QDOS system of system variables and their syntax has to be set up. The user was left to unravel the complexity of installation and use of system variables from the standard badly written documentation written for PC based systems. Ghostscript in addition in a bizarrely old fashioned way contains the drivers it uses as part of the compiled code. So no changing the drivers from those the porting individual preinstalled uless you want to recompile the program. Except that if you are a QL user Ghostscript does not compile under QDOS due to the dependencies of the original C code. Hence it needs to be cross compiled. Requires more than a little knowledge of compilation an systems.

The capper on it is that the original PD code is actually badly written bloatware. On a Q60 68060 80Mhz it provides the nostalgic feel of waiting for an original black box QL to deliver a result. It is terribly slow even on the best QL hardware. Installation also consumes hard disk space by the acre with redundant code allegedly required by the GNU PD licence. Now, while I am knocking it, I have used it and below are some pictures of what can be done.  It is undoubtedly a niche bit of software with limited usefulness, but not nice software.

Above is QD containing some procedures showing the syntax of using Ghostscript.

Above is the Ghostscript window reporting the conversion of a Gif image to a .ps file.

Above are the files on the ramdisk showing the migration of the GIf image format from .gif to .ps and to _pcx through Ghostscript. This took several minutes. I read a few pages of my book while waiting. Finally the image is converted to a .bmp through home written software in compiled C running much faster than Ghostscript, different compiler and took a few seconds, and then lastly to a .jpeg using the ported Cjpeg image conversion software, seconds again. Much much faster. All conversions occurred on a Q60. The final .jpeg image is the last image on this post.

Above is the escher .ps image file that came with Ghostscript converted to a .jpeg. By the way the driver to create .jpeg images directly through Ghostscript on the QL port is broken.
I am a fan of the Lords of Midnight and Doomdarks Revenge games on the Spectrum