March 2009 Archives

Captain's Log / star date 2009.0330

Last week I faced Dutch prime time traffic in order to pick up a Commodore 128. I spent a total of nearly 4 hours in my car for a trip that shouldn't have taken more than 2 hours. But in the end my troubles were more than worth it as I got the following setup pretty cheap: A boxed C128 including manuals, a 1541-II disk drive, one Final Cartridge III, some boxed original software, two small boxes of floppy disks and a Suzo Arcade joystick.

I have owned a C64 back in the day. As a matter of fact it was my first real computer and I have fond memories of using it along with a 1541-II drive. I have a few C64's lying around but never got around to properly hooking them up. I also only recently managed to buy a boxed 1541-II drive and was planning to connect it to one of my C64's. I have never owned a C128 though and everything I've read about it really convinced me this was a nice little machine to have. It was Commodore's last 8-bit machine (not counting the C65, which was never released) and features near perfect C64 compatibility. But next to that it also runs CP/M (an OS closely related to MS-DOS) and ofcourse the original C128 mode.

This weekend I unboxed the C128 and cleaned it up. The 1541-II disk drive was very dirty, but has cleaned up nicely as you can see from the photographs. After I hooked the C128 up to my 1084S monitor everything worked straight out of the box, as they say. I popped the included Commodore test disk into the 1541-II and ran the performance test program that was included, which runs a test of the drive's mechanics, formats a disk and does some test reads and writes. Thankfully the drive passed with flying colours! The C128 and the drive worked perfectly. As coincidence would want it, I happen to have a spare 1541-II box lying around that came with some Amiga disks I bought off someone a couple of months ago, that will go nicely with the 1541-II I just got as part of this deal.

Well, the rest of the Saturday was spent playing Arkanoid, Last Ninja III and listening to some cool SID tunes! Been a long time since I last enjoyed Commodore's 8-bit goodness and I'm looking forward to going through the stack of floppy disks that I still haven't checked. Good times! Check out more photographs of the C128 and the 1541-II by clicking on the corresponding links in the Collection Menu on the right!

Captain's Log / star date 2009.0304

Recently I continued playing around with my A500 setup and I spent some time finnicking around with the Screenmode settings to try and find the optimal resolution. I have my A500 (A500 Plus actually) connected via RGB to a standard Commodore 1084S monitor. Although I'm pretty content with the standard PAL High Res mode of 640x256, this screenmode isn't really useful when using IBrowse, because of the limited vertical resolution. This means having to switch to interlaced High Res mode, which is 640x512, but the drawback of this mode is the annoying flicker caused by the interlacing. I do have a MultiVision 500 scandoubler lying around, but unfortunately there's no way it will fit inside my A500's case together with the Viper 530 accelerator and I'm more fond of the accelerator!

I did manage to alleviate the annoying flicker problem somewhat by doing two things. First of all I decreased the intensity of white, which causes the most flickering, especially when a horizontal white line is directly above or below a horizontal black line. The other thing was switching the Screenmode to NTSC interlaced High Res. Although this reduces the available vertical resolution from 512 to 400 lines, it offsets this by using a higher refresh rate of 60Hz instead of 50Hz. This makes the  flickering a lot more bareable. The 1084S supports both PAL and NTSC, so no problem there.

I further installed AmiSSL which is an SSL implementation for Workbench and works perfectly with IBrowse. SSL is needed to e.g. access GMail accounts. I was quite surprised with the readability of websites even though I'm just using an 8 colour palette in Workbench! Because I have a pretty good accelerator installed I'm also able to push the serial port up to an amazing, planet destroying 76800 baud. I can increase the colour palette to a total of 16 colours which results in even better looking graphics, but whenever I do that AmiPPP starts to stutter as the serial port obviously isn't able to run at such a high speed combined with a colour palette of 16 colours. I've yet to discover at what speed PPP will function again when using 16 colours and see whether the speed decrease makes up for the prettier graphics. 

I've still yet to install a replacement for the standard serial device, which could potentially allow for faster baud rates. Also I still need to replace my current trial version of AmiPPP with ppp.device, because it's not possible to register AmiPPP anymore and I suspect AmiPPP throttles the speed of my PPP connection (at least the documentation and the actual transfer rates I measure seem to indicate so). To be continued!

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