KansasFest 2012

KansasFest was a non-stop blast of fun, knowledge, and friends.

I presented a session on solar powering an Apple II.  To make room for luxuries like cups and water in my 70 square foot van, I had to put my Apple IIs in storage.  Due to a bit of luck, I managed to find an Apple IIc on Craigslist in Salt Lake City.  Under a nasty layer of dirt, I found a good condition ROM FF machine with a 9″ monochrome green monitor, ImageWriter printer, assorted disks, and assorted manuals.  I solar powered this machine and am currently enjoying retro-computing overlooking the The Grand TetonThe presentation slides are here, and Ken’s video recording will be on the KansasFest website.

This year’s event was exceptionally (and pleasingly) busy with barely an idle moment, and I’m not sure how to enumerate the awesomeness.  David, Earl, and Carrington recorded a live episode of RCR.  Juiced.GS announced another year of publication.  Ken and Mike of Open-Apple shared bloopers.  Vince helped me build a Replica Micro-KIM.  Martin released a new game and a nifty new programming language.  Geoff schooled us on toolsets, CDAs, and NiftyList.  Brian gave us an inside look into his Firefly documentary and the filming of Serenity.  Randy shared his long history with Apple II software, Beagle Bros, and Appleworks.  Romero captivated the audience with his stories of Apple II gaming and influence on modern gaming.  Alex shared his robot, WALTR, and other projects.  I got a shiny New Apple II User’s Guide.  I bought a SuperProto prototyping card.

I look forward to next year and am inspired to continue my Apple II related projects.

Van Projects

My work on robots and the Apple II has been quiet lately, but I’ve been busy.  My latest project is a conversion van, which I will live in full-time.  The goal is to be self-sufficient, including power and Internet connectivity, anywhere in the U.S. for at least a week.  Sure, my house will be small, but my backyard will be huge.  To achieve this, I’ve been working on several projects.

  1. Solar Power – The van carries a battery bank, solar array, and optional charging from the alternator.  I’ve spent time analyzing my power requirements, understanding how the components connect and work together.  I’m installing a battery monitor to measure charge and discharge rates.  It’ll be interesting to see how the system performs compared to my predictions.
  2. Two-way Radio – Since I’ll be traveling in places well off the beaten path, I’m installing a ham radio for emergency communication and staying connected.  I just got my first amateur radio license, KD0QXJ.
  3. Integrated computer – I’m integrating a small computer into the van to provide backup service for a laptop, wireless access point, firewall and router for a satellite Internet connection, and file server.  Also, the computer provides monitoring and data logging for internal temperature sensors, GPS receiver, battery monitor, and solar charge controller.  The goal is to monitor all the major systems of the van from a tablet computer to reduce the number of control panels mounted on the walls, consolidate monitoring in one convenient location, and capture historical data.

These projects are coming together very soon, and I’ll share details as I get them.

Brains! Boards!

Mike Willegal recently announced the new Brain Board with Wozanium Pack, and I bought one even though I don’t yet own a compatible Apple II, II+, or IIe.  It’s always exciting to see new products, whether hardware, software, podcasts, websites, or projects, for the Apple II.  The Brain Board allows you to replace the firmware, normally found in ROM chips on the motherboard, with different firmware.  Early Apple II and II+ computers used functionality like this to switch between Integer and Applesoft BASIC. Mike has cleverly coupled the “swap out the firmware brains of my Apple II” function with his custom “Wozanium Pack” firmware that replicates the functions of an Apple I!

I haven’t built the board yet, but I’m initially impressed with the quality of the kit and detailed manual.

KansasFest 2011 Countdown NDA

April is a good month for the Apple II. KansasFest registration opens. Juiced.GS ships a new issue in beautiful color. Open-Apple ought to release a new podcast soon. Brain Boards ship. Briel’s MP3 player for the Apple II is coming soon. What’s next?

How about an NDA, or New Desk Accessory, for GS/OS that counts the days remaining until KansasFest 2011?

Download your NDA now with Orca/C source code in either a disk image (PO) or ShrinkIt archive (SHK).

68000 Book Review (Part 2)

Continuing from Part 1 of my book review, here’s Part 2.

68000 Assembly Language: Techniques for Building Programs (Donald Krantz & James Stanley)

This is a software book with about half of the book dedicated to describing the 68000 instruction set architecture and the other half describing a text editor project.  If you already have the manuals for the 68000, the architecture content is redundant.  The text editor, YASE, however, is more interesting.  It’s a sizable project with good documentation on both design decisions and 68000-specific implementation.  YASE should be a great example for learning 68000 programming and organizing mid-sized code bases.  Also, YASE is modular, and you could reuse some components, such as the printf routines.

This a good book, but I don’t find it as timeless as the Wilcox text.  If you’re learning 68000 assembly language programming, this is an excellent resource.  Otherwise, it’s an interesting piece of history that I wouldn’t mind on my shelf.

View the table of contents.

68000 Book Review (Part 1)

The Motorola 68000 family of processors entered the market in 1979.  With a 32-bit CISC instruction set and 24-bit address bus, the 68000 was a powerful processor that spawned a long, successful line of microprocessors and microcontrollers.  The Freescale Coldfire line is the modern descendent.

My interest in the 68000 family started in college, and I’m still fond of it.  Good documentation and an orthogonal instruction set make the processor pleasant to program.  My robot, Bluebot, uses the 68332 descendant.

I’ve seen several references and positive reviews online about two books on the 68000, one by Wilcox and the other by Krantz & Stanley, but there are few online details about the contents.  I borrowed copies from the library and want to share my thoughts.  This book review comes in two parts with the second coming soon.

68000 Microcomputer Systems: Designing and Troubleshooting (Alan D. Wilcox, Ph.D., P.E.)

This is a hardware book detailing engineering design process, digital logic, and 68000 hardware with the S-100 bus.  The discussion of often overlooked digital design topics, such as loading, fanout, timing, propagation delay, and logic levels, is excellent.  The author presents several complete, well-documented 68000-based designs.  The N8VEM project is currently recreating a design from this book.

This book is excellent if you’re building or repairing 68000 systems.  It’s also a good general resource for digital logic with discrete gates.  The design process material is pretty good, too, although you’re probably better off with a more modern text if that’s your only interest.  I recommend this book and want to add it to my shelf.

View the table of contents.