Posted on Leave a comment

Year End Musings

I find myself at the end of another year. My feelings this year are mixed, more mixed than I ever remember them being. A lot of anger, a lot of helplessness, a lot of horror and a lot of fear at what has happened in my country over the last three years. I’ve leaned both directions politically over the years, depending on the subject in question. I suppose that’s inevitable in a country that prides itself on the rule of law, democracy and the American dream(Capitalism). At times those three subjects seem at odds with one another, at other times they form the legs of a three legged stool. Cut off one of them and the stool comes crashing down. We come crashing down as a country.

I was too young, not quite 10 years old, to fully understand and appreciate the fear and anger of the summer of 1968. I remember my parents seemed tense, and sometimes lost in thought, when they had time to be. On a long saved for summer vacation to reconnect with Mom’s family in Michigan, Dad uncharacteristically rented a motel room somewhere in Illinois. He made sure that it had a TV and that it would get the national news. We’d been on the road for hours that already hot and humid early June day. Us kids just thought Mom and Dad were tired too. Why else would we be sleeping in a motel room on a real bed, instead of the hard ground under the tent floor at some state/national campground. Heck, it wasn’t even normal stopping time.

The pickup truck radio had been on all afternoon I remember, but I don’t remember anything in particular on it. A lot of static, fragments of songs and the occasional ad that seemed to come through clear as a bell as Mom, then Dad spun the dial to try to tune in a closer station. But apparently they had heard something.

That late afternoon and into the evening all of us gathered around the TV and watched history unfolding. It had happened again, another Kennedy had been shot down. Politics didn’t matter that much right then, what had happened was just wrong. You don’t murder a man because you don’t agree with his politics. Not here. Not in a country that prides itself on the right to freely express a political view. Over and over again Mom and Dad repeated that, almost to themselves. Us kids were too young to fully understand, but it has never left my memory.

Today we find ourselves once again passionately and sometimes violently in political opposition across this country. In only the fourth time in our history we find ourselves in the process of impeaching a president. Every military person and holder of high office in these United States swears too uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. In that document and it’s amendments is the only legal peaceful method to remove a perceived threat to the country who has been elected to the Presidency. It’s not a coup, or deep state threat to be defended against to the death. The process does not kill or physically harm the president. It does not even put handcuffs on or haul he/she off to jail. It does hopefully stop the perceived threat that he/she represents. He/She is simply fired, based on verifiable evidence at the instigation of the House of Representatives and by the consent of the Senate.

Whichever side you come down on, don’t drag murder into the picture. Keep some degree of sanity about yourself. We have to be better than that.

Posted on Leave a comment

New 130XE RA Adapter Boards

New to the site are these 130XE specific RA adapter boards.  Right now I am offering these on a pre-order basis.   They compliment the Dual RA Cart Adapter board I already offer.  I am also working on the details of a full 130XE Cart/ECI right angle switcher board.  Just need to work out how best to deal with the various configurations of cart/eci devices.

Not to leave out the 600/800XL entirely I am also planing on offering a Dual T cartridge port adapter board.  Hopefully in the next few weeks.

Posted on Leave a comment

Reimaged XF551 for 3.5″ SF314/SF354 Floppy Drives

For some years there has been talk of using 3.5″ floppy drives instead of the original 5.25″ drives with the Atari 8-bit line.  It is not a fantasy, in fact it has been an accomplished fact for years.  Essentially take an original XF551 case and motherboard, use an adapter for both the internal data and power cables, pop in a compatible BIOS, use a 5.25 to 3.5″ drive tray converter and put the cover back on.  Presto!

Photo posted by flashjazzcat in AtariAge

 

You want it in a 1050 case?  Here you go!

Bob1200XL posting in AtariAge

 

There’s even been some attempts at a special pcb for a 3.5″ drive using XF551  derived circuitry.   Though the enclosure was none existent.  Review of Polish 3.5″ 8bit floppy design

Review of Polish 3.5″ 8bit floppy drive

 

Now I am able to offer a somewhat different approach.   With the assistance of tf_hh and manterola from AtariAge.com I have developed an Atari SF314/SF354 ST case compatible version of the XF551 circuitry with builtin 3.5″ floppy drive support.  It is a bare board pcb only, but I will be offering both a BOM and assembly instructions.  Further details can be found here

Posted on 1 Comment

Closing out the year……

It doesn’t seem that long ago, but it’s been slightly over five years ago that BitsofthePast.com went public.

The world has changed.  The Hag and the Princess both ended their reign on this earth, but his music still echos in the Muskogee Civic Center and her regal flickering hologram still springs to life in the presence of a young boy and an old man on that silver screen.  From the blood spilled in a Florida high school a movement started,  changing the ridiculous idea that a right to own a gun for personal protection and hunting guarantees wanton access to weapons designed for the battlefield and maximum offensive carnage to a human body.   Increasingly we have people who use religion to justify taking control over another human being, usually female, ignore the other right to freedom of religion for that same human being and take away choice to control their own existence.  We elected by Russian deception and a slavery compromise holdover process a 79 year old child-man who fights and insults our hallowed institutions and allies, then invites dangerous dictators and despots to walk in the front door of our White House, allowed thousands of our people to die from neglect while patting himself on the back for the A+ way he had handled the island hurricane recovery and now he’s shutdown the government, leaving many of his people without a paycheck or services because the adults won’t give away their money to pay for a useless wall he swore another country would pay for.  More women of color, race and creed than at any other time in our history as a country, roared in an unmistakable voice of unity, love and rejection of hate and divisive words and they were heard and elected to state and federal offices.  Now hopefully we will see some moderation of this soul destroying ultra capitalism we’ve been saddled with for the last 30-40 years.

I’ve changed.  Age and arthritis in my hands forced me to sell the three guitars I had spent months finishing and assembling just a few short years ago.  I could no longer play them well enough to justify keeping them.  And the same arthritis in my knees forced me to take shorter walks and standing time.   Now my eyesight is weaker and darker.   The lighted magnifying glass is always on and positioned over the soldering area.  A lot of the restlessness I’d suffered from most of my life began to settle and I began to move slower and think longer about my actions before I did them.  Some degree of wisdom began to show up occasionally.  Burn out from a high stress telephone support job left me so tired and numb that four years ago I decided to leave the 40+ hour work week and go into semi-retirement.  It was the first real break I’d had in almost 30 years.   Though that has severely lowered my monthly bank balance I do not regret it.  I have paid the man my 30+ year work due.

But some things don’t change, at least not much.  The website still offers Atari 8bit nearly forgotten gems and new imaging of vintage hardware for a reasonable price.  I still explore new ways to connect 80s technology with today’s modern interfaces.  Hopefully this won’t change for a long time.

One thing to close out the current year with:

Release to public domain of my work on the 109oXLR.  I have proved the concept, but once done I chose to allow others to use and develop for it.

and pave the way for next year’s projects and goals.

Modified XF551 board for installation into Atari SF314/354 3.5″ floppy disk cases.  I know pc industry standard 3.5 floppy drives should work.  I’m hoping that the Atari floppy drive will also work.  Testing will begin after the New Year.

I’m working on re imaging not only the ICD P:R, but the Supra/ICD Microstuffer as well.

Additional custom boards for my miniITX case build:

Comm board to allow SIO2WIFI modem communication, and SIO2Serial/SIO2Parallel printer connection.  Beta testing also will occur after the New Year.

Status board for the 1088XEL board and a front facing audio jack.

And finally a 1088XEL version of my XF551 re image project.

 

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

New Subsite 1088XEL.Bitsofthepast.com

I want to introduce you to an extension of the work I’ve done for the 1088XEL mini-ITX Atari.  I hope to have two builds eventually, one in the mini-ITX format and a second more advanced build of the 1088XEL based 1090XLR in a Micro-ATX case.  To that end I decided to start documenting the modification of a mini-ITX case to house the 1088XEL motherboard and accessory boards I sell.  These boards will of necessity be customized versions to better fit the particular APEX MI-008 case I’ll be using, but I hope to keep as much generic as possible.  The first few posts have already gone up on the site.  Come visit.  🙂

Posted on 1 Comment

Partkeepr Electronics Parts Inventory DB on PI3

A couple of years ago I got drawn into the mania surrounding the release of the then new PI3 model B.  Such a powerhouse of a computer in such a small package.  True, it couldn’t hold a candle to my main desktop pc in cpu speed, video or memory, but neither did it have a huge footprint, power appetite or  noise level.  Also about that time I graduated from just a couple three or four parts boxes to a full blown whole section of one wall lined with parts cabinets.  I was beginning to order parts for projects that I unknowingly already had in the bins.

The idea came to me that the PI3 could be used as a light weight internal parts inventory web server.  It would have the advantage of being accessible on my home network from any device connected via a browser, be on all the time and not create noise or consume lots  of power like my desktop pcs.   I had dismissed an earlier idea to use one of my NAS units to do the same due to the OS being so tightly proprietary and their cpu and memory were even less than the PI3.

At the time the PI3 was using Debian 8 Jesse as it’s main OS.  Unfortunately that release of Debian was beginning to be long in the tooth as far as what web server apps versions would run on it.  For instance PHP 7.0 had been released, but was not recommended on Jesse and there appeared to be no install package that had been released for that version of Debian.  Finally Ubuntu Mate 16.04 was released for the PI3.  Now there was a more modern version of Linux that would support the newer web server apps.

So then I went looking for an electronics parts inventory DB app.  Finally I happened upon the Partkeepr website. At that time it still hadn’t reached v1.0 yet, but I was impressed at how complete it seemed to be already.  I decided to try and get it up and running on the PI3 with the Ubuntu Mate 16.04 OS.

I began a torturous odyssey to somehow get the Partkeepr app up and running on the PI3.  Sometimes I digressed back to Debian Jesse and the older support apps, sometimes I quit the PI3 altogether and tried running a Linux machine inside VirtualBox on my backroom pc.  I got right upto the final setup screen on the Partkeepr setup app where it was trying to ‘warm up the cache’ and it would fail every time on the PI3.  Once on the virtualbox machine running Ubuntu Mate I was able to finish the setup, but that wasn’t really the way I wanted to access Partkeepr.   I would set the project aside for sometimes months at at time, but it was never completely abandoned.

Over the last year and a half Partkeepr itself has improved and added features.  It is now at version 1.3.  Also apparently I am not the only one wanting to use it on machines like the PI3.  The last time I checked the Partkeepr Wiki website there was a work around for the slow I/O issue with PI machines that caused the cache failure.  So obviously there was enough demand to support the effort to find a workaround.  Also on the Partkeepr Wiki website there is a generic Debian 9 Stretch walk through to setup Partkeepr.  Then recently the Raspberry foundation updated it’s default OS to Debian 9 Stretch.

As the first major project for the new year I decided to take up the project again.  I decided to follow as closely as possible the generic Debian 9 Stretch walk thorough, while incorporating the slow I/O fix for the PI3.  Things went rather smoothly for a change.  There were some bumps in the road, but no major roadblocks as long as I made the necessary changes for the particular setup and app versions I was using.  As I went along I kept a journal of the necessary commands and configuration settings.   If it worked, I intended to memorialize it with the intention of seeing if I could repeat the install and eliminate wasted effort for others.   I believe I was successful in both.

I now have a functioning Partkeepr installation on my PI3 machine.  I have no illusions on the speed of this installation.  After all it’s on a PI3, but since I’m the only user and my parts inventory is somewhat under the 1000 number, it should work just fine.  I wouldn’t advise trying to use the PI3 for other server functions.  The instructions I am providing assume that the Partkeepr host is the only one on the PI3.  If you want to use and add additional virtual hosts on the PI3, I suppose you can, but I have no clue what changes need to be done to the instructions I provide to allow that.  This only gets you to the first login to the Partkeepr server.  You still need to configure parts location and part categories, before you can actually begin to enter your parts.   This web page gives you basic overall info on how to do that, starting on page two of the article.  For other info, remember Google is your friend.

Now I’ve had some experience in Linux from years and years ago, but I’m mainly a Windows person.  More so now that I find I don’t remember things as easily as I did in my youth.  🙂  So I have to warn you that even the simplified instruction I give you assume that you have some experience with Linux/PI3/CLI/Networking and computers in general.   If you don’t feel comfortable with the instructions, get a hold of a friend or someone who owes you that does have that level of experience and can do it for you.  One final caveat, this instruction assumes a US-Central Timezone installation.  You will have to make the necessary changes in the localization section of the PI3 for your country, keyboard and timezone settings.

Post Script Sept 19 2019:

Unfortunately it appears that the author of Partkeepr has decided to discontinue support and work on the software.  I have decided to also pull my instructions on how to install the software on the PI3 due to that.

Posted on Leave a comment

Update to previous posts on the XEL XF551 versions and PIC Adapter/Multi-Aux SIO boards

We are in a new month with some new boards and updates to existing boards.  I finally finished the three Youtube video series on using the PICKit3 and Microchip’s MPLAB X IDE to program the PICs used in the 1088XEL Alternate Atari Motherboard project.  The final video goes over how to use the PIC Adapter with the PICKit3.   Normally the PICKit3 is an in-system programmer, but with the adapter you have the option of programming those PICs out of system.

As an added bit of triumph I have finally been able to develop an XEL XF551 floppy disk drive board that works.  It was harder than I thought, based primarily on some stupid assumptions.  I won’t bore you with the details.  But the basic version is up and running.  This means that you can now install an XF551 capable disk drive in a free drive bay of your PC case and connect it to the board and then the board to the AUX SIO connector on the 1088XEL.  Now you can have a true PC case with Atari inside including the ability to use an original 5 1/4 inch floppy drive.

I’m still working on a combo drive that will combine the SDrive and XF551 circuitry with a front bezel control panel for a free 3 1/2″ drive bay.   Shouldn’t be too much longer on that.

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Good News on 1088XEL PIC MCU programming

 

Over the last few days I’ve been working on a pdf/video combination that would give the 1088XEL DIYers more information on how to program 1088XEL PIC MCUs using a PICKit3 Clone programmer and the MPLAB X IDE software. Finally got most of it done now.

Currently I only have a handmade adapter for 8 and 18 pin PICs, but I should be recieving a new PIC Adapter designed especially to handle all four of the PICS used in the 1088XEL build. Once they are in and I have one assembled, I’ll finish the group of videos with a short one on how to use the PIC adapter with both the JOY2PC and PICKit3 programmers.

In the meantime here are the pdf/video combinations I currently have available.

General PICKit3/MPLAB X IDE Info PDF

General PICKit3 Clone info:

1088XEL PIC MCU programming info for MPLAB X IDE and Programmer2Go PICKit3 function:

 

 

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Why………?

 

I don’t usually comment on current events.  Usually because it’s all about politics and everyone has an opinion, good bad or indifferent.   But why?

Why Charlottesville? Why New Town? Why London…. Why Paris…… Why Syria?  Why all the other mass killings in the last century?  Why?

Different races, different politics, different political systems, different continents.  The one thing in common is that men and women and children are being killed for no other reason than that they are there and available to be used by their murderers to further their own agenda.  Has life become so cheap now, that it is a disposable commodity?

Why….?