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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.

 

 

 

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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.  🙂

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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.