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Quick Post: I am feeling rather chuffed with myself. [Jan. 10th, 2019|05:45 pm]
So if you've been reading this a while you'll know I bought 3 dead C64s. I managed to get one working by cleaning the power switch. (Cleaning the switch also got the next two working closer to full completion). The second one I got working by taking the RAM out of the third, which was showing symptoms much worse than the other two.

The third one was just sitting there, taunting me with a black screen and nothing else.

I did some research and it turns out the fault was likely to be one of 3 chips. Two of those chips were pretty reliable and also insanely expensive to replace, so I ordered the third chip (The PLA) on a whim and some new RAM. (Apparently, yes, you can buy new RAM for C64s. Who knew?)

All those parts arrived today.

I then took my "good" C64 (the middle one) and socketed it's PLA. (I had already socketed the RAM chip). This allowed me to test the new components in a known good machine. The new parts all worked fine.

So I socketed up the third machine and tried the RAM and PLA in there. It worked first time!

So now I have FOUR working Commodore 64s. This is 4 more than I had this time last year :-D

(Big shoutout to Shrydar for allowing me to buy his old parts for an excellent price)
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So I saw Spiderman: Enter the Spiderverse today. [Jan. 9th, 2019|09:41 pm]
And I loved it so much!

Sooo prettay!

Spoiler alertCollapse )
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More Retro goodness [Dec. 22nd, 2018|02:21 pm]
 So the Pi1541 arrived and I am amazed how useful it is. It's not 100% compatible yet, but gets better every week. I LUFF it.
I've built the PSU for the 1541 floppy drive and that drive is currently formatting up disks in the background.
The C128D monitor is fixed, but I need to build a stand for it as otherwise I won't have any desk at all. I also need to replace the failed switch with a working switch I just found.
I'll need to order parts for the second 1541 PSU and C64 PSU. I'm really tempted to build a "pure" C64 PSU as per Greisis Workshop
After that it's probably time to rejoin Artifactory, except for the small issue of their laser cutters being out of action AGAIN.

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More retro goodness [Dec. 7th, 2018|07:03 pm]
So it's been a while :-)
Where am I up to?
Well, let's see. I'm a LOT better at all this stuff. I have the A1200 booting, and more! It has:
  • A proper LCD monitor that supports the wonky frequencies the Amiga uses (15KHz vertical refresh).
  • An SD to HDD adapter, with an 8GB SD card in there pretending to be a couple of hard disks.
  • A keyboard adapter allowing me to use an old PS/2 keyboard with it.
  • A mouse adapter that I designed and made that allows me to automagically change to a joystick in the same port.
  • A Virtual Floppy drive (Works from USB thumbdrives full of disk images) that I flashed the firmware of and added all the extras such as
    • An OLED screen that shows me which image I'm using.
    • A pizeo speaker that simulates the buzzes and clicks of the original.
    • A rotary selector that makes disk choosing easy.
  • A design for a laser cut case to hold it all, only pending the Artifactory fixing their damned lasers again.
I also purchased a batch lot of Commodore stuff and now have:
  • A Commodore 64 (More on this later)
  • A Vic 20 (With a whole bunch of carts)
  • An SX64 with what appears to be a dead PSU
  • A Commodore 128D. This is a "Work in Progress" as it has a problem. I've recapped it but it fails when I plug the PSU back in. Basically I need to take it to the Artifactory and plug it into the bench PSU.
  • 2 Floppy drives, one of which definitely works, one of which needs some more love.
  • 2 Printers(!) that I'll need to gove some love to once I have everything else under control
  • A C128 Monitor which has a loud scary crackle.
I had to build a new PSU for the C64 and Vic20 as the "stock" ones are notoriously bad. They have a nasty "fail to high voltage" that's really efficient at cooking chips. This was an interesting challenge but I got there in the end. I'm always a bit squirrelley around AC voltage. 

I then purchased a job lot of dead Commodore stuff. 3 C64s and another FDD plus a joystick. This was for a fraction of the price I paid for the batch job above, but that was cos it was all failed stuff.

So initially I plugged all three C64s in one by one and documented the faults. Two had a problem where I got monitor sync and nothing else. One had zip. Nada. Nothing.
Doing standard fault finding I found the first two had no DC voltage and the second had no AC voltage. Turns out the switches on C64s have an effective lifespan of about 20 years... These were 1986 models. 
I had to desolder the switches, which turns out to be one of those understatement things like "And then the atomic bomb exploded" as Commodore must have hated their service technicians. There is an RF shield that's soldered on to the motherboard. I manged to desolder the RF Shield through a combination of my soldering iron on maximum and using a set of dental picks as prys. Once THAT was off my desoldering station made quick work of the switches.
I desoldered, cleaned, greased and assembled and suddenly 2 of the 3 were booting! The third was now getting sync.
Of the two booting ones, one was perfect. It's now in my stack of "working" gear waiting for a recapping. I'll probably sell one of the working ones.
The other was showing rainbow garbage, an issue consistent with bad RAM. This led to more purchases.
I next purchased a couple of cartridges (Dead Test, 60 in 1) and some bits and pieces.

My next project was to build a pair of paddles for the C64. Unfortunately I haven't had a chance to test them yet.

I used the Dead Test to confirm which chips were bad in the dead RAM c64 and I decided to use the OTHER dead c64 as a parts donor (As it was showing fatality on one of the key chips)

I have, however, been unable to desolder the RAM off my sacrifice board! I'll try again this weekend if I can but it's more challenging than I would have expected. After half an hour I've manged to get ONE of the chips to sit at a jaunty angle and that's it.

Still to do:
  • I need to build a pair of 1541 ii PSUs. I have the parts for one but will need to order more bits.
  • I need to recap all of the c64s
  • I need to build more PSUs for c64s
  • I need to get to the Artifactory and test what's wrong with the c128D and get it working!
  • I need to get my c128D monitor to the guy who has offered to have a look at it.
Stuff "in the mail"
  • Utility cart (Including Fastload, Freeze and loads more stuff)
  • Pi1541 (This is an awesome doodad you plug into a Raspberry Pi and it emulates a Floppy Drive.

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World of Retro [Jul. 11th, 2018|10:15 am]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]

Hi DW, Been a while since I posted.
What have I been up to? Well, a bit of this and a bit of that. Picked up a new hobby, BTW.

What's that? You wanna know more about my new hobby? OK.

So after watching many YouTubers playing with classic computers I decided I wanted in. I'd recently acquired an Amiga CD32, which I got recapped (It was all SMT so I wasn't going to do it I can tell you) so I had a foot in the door. I built a new PSU for it and I had a working console but I wanted MOAR!
At Swancon I asked around and a friend came to the party as she had a few more systems gathering dust. (I won't name her to respect her privacy) This netted me an N64, a NES and, most interestingly a Sinclair ZX Spectrum.
Meanwhile I ordered an Amiga 1200 off AmiBay in a semi-working state (Don't ask how much it cost. I'm mostly using it for parts.) which took three months to get here.
I have had some leave recently, so in a flurry I have:
Recapped the NES and the Spectrum
Purchased a new PSU for the Spectrum.
Replaced the cartridge connector on the NES <- At this point it was working.
Converted the Spectrum to use Composite out rather than TV Out. <- At this point the spectrum was booting.

The Spectrum needed much more work.
Although it was booting, the keyboard was unreliable. It was in an aftermarket case which meant I didn't need to deal with the notorious membrane. This took me ages to fix as it was multiple issues overlapping. Firstly, all the contacts were corroded. This was solved with some contact cleaner, a bamboo chopstick (They make excellent "soft" contact cleaners) and some strips of cardboard. Secondly, some of the wires on the keyboard connectors had poor solder joints. I desoldered / resoldered them and that fixed that. I needed to also trim the edge of one of the connectors to ensure a better electrical connection with the motherboard. Now I could boot and type.
It took me a while to work out exactly HOW to load a game, and I didn't have a tape deck in a working state. I solved this issue by using my Android phone, a piece of software called "TeeZiX", and an eeevil custom made cable. Now I could even load games.
This is the point one of the key buttons on the keyboard stopped working. Thankfully I was able to resolve that with some contact cleaner.
I was loading games! I was even playing them! W00t!

My next step is to wait until next month so I can afford to buy another PSU to hack into the Amiga 1200. I think at this point I should be able to get it to boot to the "Insert Disk" screen (I hope). I'm not sure how I'm going to proceed from there to be honest. My big challenge will be getting bootdisks ready to boot the Amiga to the point where I can format and install an OS. The Amiga uses a non-standard floppy disk format (880K) that I may need to build a USB to FDD bridge just so I can write out the disks from images.

So that's kept me busy.

Oh, and if you happen to have an old C64, C128, or an Amstrad CPC machine you no longer want / love, let me know :-)
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(no subject) [Apr. 9th, 2017|10:35 am]

I upport the LGBTI community. Putin and all his little homophobes can bite my shiney metal ass.
(BTW LJ, your new policies can go get stuffed)
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With apologies to Scott Westerfeld [May. 2nd, 2016|12:14 pm]
Some times you find something that you did that makes you smile.
Years ago I was involved in a GURPS campaign involving an above average points spread, so I decided to make a "psuedo" super-hero based on the "Uglies" universe of Scott Westerfeld. The character worked well and seemed to have a life of her own, which is exactly what you want when gaming and trying to stay in character. Here's the Bio of the character. It helped me to play her and it helped the GM understand quite why "Jenny Bladestar" was not the easiest person to work with...
Jenny is mad. Angry mad. You get that when someone destroys your world and you are young and angry and you secretly suspect it's ALL YOUR FAULT.
Jenny is Special. Thats Special with a capital S. That means something to people on that world she used to live in. Specials were special. Human augmented with extensive bio-surgery and nanotech. She's strong, fast and tough. Jenny is a Cutter. They were the elite Specials. All in their late teens. She's also always this close to losing the plot. They made her that way. She looks like somebody crossed an angry teenager with a wolf. They made her that way too. She has claws. They pop out when she's angry or bored or horny. This does not make for good interpoersonal relationships.
Jenny watched her world dissolve. The people who made her and the other Cutters made her too well. The other cities objected. Her city let the Cutters "Sort things out". Not a good idea for a large gang of people who are always this close to losing the plot. Things were burned. Things blew up and then, finally things escaped. Nano things. Grey Goo things. Things that ate the world. Jenny ran away and was hiding in the ruined wasteland of her hometown while the Grey Goo encroached. At the last moment some people appeared and saved her. She watched her world die. This does not help her being always this close to losing the plot.
Jenny misses her hoverboard and her spikesuit. Jenny misses her friends. This makes her Angry mad.
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Webcomics I am reading - Pt 2 [Aug. 16th, 2015|01:53 pm]
There are other webcomics I read too.

Sunday Comics - These update once a week so I read them on Sunday as many of my comics don't update on Sunday
Curvy - Sexy adventures of two girls in love, one of whom happens to be made of liquorice?
Earthsong - Strange fantasy adventure in the afterlife
Flaky Pastry - 3 women explore their fantasy world. Humorous and sometimes very silly.
Manly Guys Doing Manly Things - Uhh. They're so manly that they're not. Its hard to explain.
RED MEAT - Featuring Bug Eyed Earl. Sort of clip art. VERY disturbing in a good way.
Three Panel Soul - Quirky comics with lovely art. It goes all over the place.
Sluggy Freelance - I read this weekly otherwise it doesn't make sense.
Newman - Modern day urban fantasy about a Gnome and a Drow who are engaged. They both work for the police department.
The Forgotten Order - Fantasy story about the youngest child of a family of sorcerers. She appears to have no power. OR DOES SHE?
Oglaf - The dirtiest webcomic I read. Also probably the funniest. By half of the "Platinum Grit" team.

RSS Feed comics. These update intermittently so I read them whenever they update...
Sunstone - A fetish webcomic about poly couples into rubber and rope. I also collect this as TPBs.
Erfworld - Very wordy webcomic about a fantasy world based on a turn based wargame. The "Perfect Warlord" turns out to be a gamer from Earth
Full Frontal Nerdity -  A group of dysfunctional gamers and their RPGs
Girl Genius - Gaslight Adventures in a world of mad SCIENCE!
Goblins - AD&D theme adventures of a group of Goblins who become adventurers
ZebraGirl - After an incantation goes wrong, Sandra finds herself turned into a demon.
Order of the Stick - D&D Pastiche comic that's become surprisingly "deep" over the years
Partially Clips - 3 panels of a single piece of clip art each time. Surprisingly funny.
PS238 - A primary school for super powered kids.
Real Life Comics - A strange little comic about the author of the comic... sort of.
VG Cats - Comic commentary on videogames as told by 2 cats, one of whom is a tad insane.

There's one or two others I read, but that's the vast majority.

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Webcomics I am reading - Pt 1 [Aug. 16th, 2015|12:18 pm]
Inspired by [personal profile] alias_sqbr I'm posting my current Webcomic lists...
Daily (Except Sunday)

ACCURSED DRAGON! - The adventures of a cursed wanderer. Been reading various comics by the author for years
Atomic Laundromat - The secret lives of the people who clean the capes of the supers.
Ctrl+Alt+Del - All sorts of random comics including space and supers themed.
Dangerously Chloe - The adventures of a succubus. Edited by T Campbell (His name will come up a lot on this list)
Darths & Droids - Reinterpreting the Star Wars movies as a pen & paper RPG.
Devil's Panties - Jennie Breeden does a bebcomic about going to conventions selling a webcomic. It's self referential.
diesel sweeties - Long running Pixel Art webcomic about hipsters and robots.
Dilbert - Dilbert... Yeah. I still read it.
Dork Tower - Comics about a group of gamers by the guy who illustrates Munchkin. This came first.
Dumbing of Age - Teen University hijinks, as the cast come to terms and grips with their various sexualities.
Eerie Cuties - A chocolate loving vampire girl attends monster high school. Edited by T Campbell
El Goonish Shive - I can't really describe this one. Long running series about teens in an Urban Fantasy world where magic exists but is secret
Evil Inc. - Who keeps the heroes employed? These people!
Girls with Slingshots - Now in repeat. A writer and her pet talking cactus.
General Protection Fault - Mad SCIENCE about a bunch of people working for an ISP. Or at least that's how it started...
Guilded Age - Fantasy / Steampunk but simultaneously about a conspiracy in a MMORPG. Written by T Campbell.
Gunnerkrigg Court - The school near the magic woods.
Kevin & Kell - LONG running furry comic about a rabbit married to a wolf.
Legostar Galactica - Lego based webcomic composed of all sorts of memes and tropes mashed together, Jedi on board the Enterprise.
Looking For Group - Another fantasy adventure comic. Humourous.
Menage a 3 - Adult comic about the sexual adventures of a very adventurous group. Edited by T Campbell
Nukees - Postgraduates with Giant Robot Ants.
Pearls Before Swine - Offensive rats, Aloof Zebra and Zeeba Zeeba Eeta Crocs.
PVP - A game magazine re-invents itself as a mobile app developer
Questionable Content - Features Pintsize, the word's most offensive robot.
Sam and Fuzzy - A clueless mophead and an adorable bear inherit a ninja empire
Star Power - An astronomer gains amazing powers and fights threats to her friends in a far future world
Magick Chicks - Spinoff from Eerie Cuties about a school for witches. Edited by T Campbell
Sticky Dilly Buns - Spinoff from Menage a Trois about the acting career of one of the characters.
Sinfest - Was once a fun but misogynistic comic. Now a fun but feminist comic. Really really good once you get to the stuff from the last 5 years.
SotR - Spin off from Menage a Trois about one of the characters getting into modelling for video games. Edited by T Campbell
Slightly Damned - Strange fantasy world, Two of the characters start out as dead and it goes from there
Something Positive - Another long running story about a group of friends. They've slowly grown apart into their own stories.
Spinnerette - A super hero comic about a girl with 6 arms. She can shoot webs but finds it disturbing as she shoots them from her butt.
Strange Candy - A group of wanderers explore the metaverses. Vaguely Manga influenced.
Vexarr - A green tentacled alien discovers "There's no such thing as a free launch"
Weregeek - Gaming adventures of a group of players. There's a conspiracy story running over the top.
Widdershins - Steampunk and magic in Victorian England
YAFGC - Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic. Contains boobies and a 2000+ page archive. One of my faves.

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Plot Seed number ? [Aug. 2nd, 2015|06:00 pm]
So ages ago I was trying to d a new gaming plot hook per week. Think it's time to start this up again.

Things randomly inspire me and I like that.  It means I feed stuff into my brain as a randomiser and games spit out the back.

Today's plot idea is arguably a variation of a reasonably well known one. I blame Shadowrun Returns and This Video...

Worlds Ending '83

So this is how the world ends. Not with a bang, but with a warp. On the 12th of August 1983, all semiconductor based electronics across the world stopped working. The Age of Aquarius had begun. Within a week, several things had begun. The Soviets immediately begin a strike across the German border and quickly consolidate with complete control of greater Germany. They are only held back from further expansion as the British and French amateur Magi appear, and using escoteric magic hidden in the bowels of the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan, repel the threat at the borders. A limited nuclear war follows, with the US leading the attack with hastily refitted B52s and the Soviet strike being partially neutralised by Navaho shamanistic magic. The slide continues and states and nations descend into chaos. Magicians rise and form their own, new, empires from the rubble of the old. 

The world has fallen apart. That was 20 years ago. You are a group of survivors, armed with scavenged weapons, spell and escoterica. You seek fame and fortune in a world turned inside out by the war between technology and magic.
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