Well I'm already a week in and haven't even managed to have time to actually decide on a project this time round.
Pimped Out Master
I have several new bits of kit to potentially add to the BBC, my intention is to actually get round to doing the mods required and painting the case black.
So things that ideally need to be fitted...
This is a nice replacement board for the video ULA that allow the BBC to use and of 4096 colours in its pallet.
The kit also allows for hardware scrolling.
This is pretty straight forward to fit but I had an issue with one of the pins missing on the chip.
I've spoken to the guy who makes them and he's attending the Risc OS show this month so i'll take it along and see if he can sort it.
Apparently he's also added support for a BBC spectrum emulator so that the VideoNuLA can display the screen like the original spectrum.
DataCentre / BeebSCSI
I originally was going to have the DataCentre installed internally (which I may still do) but have recently got a new SCSI emulation card that allows the use of a SD card to be used as a hard disk.
I'm considering combining this with the GoTek floppy emulator which has a custom firmware that is pretty good.
I may connect this externally or perhaps install it inside the Beeb and connect the Wifi SD card / USB to allow remote loading of disk images.
Back at the last RetroChallenge I mentioned that I have some nice Vinyl paints that I want to customise the machine with.
The intention is to give it a black finish with a white BBC owl logo across the top.
Video Conversion Board
I have a VGA conversion board an would like to mount it inside with the VGA port accessible externally so that the Beeb can be plugged directly into a modern monitor.
As this is my main BBC and it will often require tinkering inside or maintenance then I'd like to put some kind of easy to open catches on the case.
The idea being that I can leave the screws out of the bottom to allow the top of the case to be opened (this is what it normally is like anyway) but be able to clip the top on to carry it.
Well didn't really manage to find the time to do anything on my project this time round. Various issues got in the way.
- Work - Ended up using every spare moment to work on paid projects :(
- House - We've only recently moved into a new house so there are loads of things that I need to do before our family arrive at Christmas.
Things like running ethernet cable and setting up access points for the Wifi.
- Required Items - As we've moved house most of the stuff I needed for my projects were in storage. Unfortuantly not near the house anymore (used to be just round the corner) so i've not had chance to visit the storage locker to get anything.
- Power Supply - The power supply on the modem didn't work, i've ordered and received an new one but not had chance to use it.
I'm still wanting to sort out my machine once and for all so i'm hopefully going to try and continue with everything and hope that i've finished before the next Retro Challenge in April.
Anyway good to read everyone's blog and see the cool stuff that people have managed to created.
See you all next time in April (hopefully a bit more successful that time around).
Well work is probably going to get in the way of this months RetroChallenge, so I''m not aiming too high with my project this time round.
Pimped Out Master
I currently have a BBC Master on my desk but I'd like to fully pimp the machine out.
It uses an external DataCentre at the moment but I bought an internal one which I want to fit properly, I also have various other expansion cards etc that need to be fitted.
Back at the last RetroChallenge I mentioned that I have some nice Vinyl paints that I want to customise the machine with. The intention is to give it a black finish with a white BBC owl logo across the top.
I have recently acquired a teletext inserter and initially managed to get it to output a default page.
Ideally if I have time I'd like to create some software to send pages to the unit so that I can create my own Teletext service.
I've been looking for an acoustic modem for ages and they always seem to be in the USA and fetch silly prices on eBay.
Managed to get this one at a reasonable price (completely untested), so would like to wire it up the BBC and possibly dial some BBSs with it.
Already have a tone dial converted phone suitable for using with it.
Bye Bye RetroChallenge...
And to the end of another (pretty dismal) challenge.
Didn't get that far this time, managed to get a few things done but have hopefully laid the groundwork for some more development in a few weeks time at the ABUG meeting in Cambridge.
I intend to spend the entire weekend working on my project to get a decent demonstration system.
Wakefield Risc OS Show
Got up early as I was staying at the hotel. Wasn't feeling that hot as I'd stayed up drinking with a few of the BBC crowd that were staying at the hotel for the show.
Brought the boxes with all of my kit to my stand, unfortunately the lift in the hotel wasn't working so we had to climb 3 flights of stairs with everything. Luckily a very nice porter helped with some of the stuff.
Unpacked the Communicator and set it up with the monitor and put the PABX and modem for connecting to under the table hidden out of sight.
Spent the 2 hours before the show opened ensuring that the software was running, connecting my laptop to the hotel WIFI and pointing the dial up gateway to the server backend that sits on a VM in my Manchester data centre.
Tried various times to dial the modem and nothing was happening, the Communicator would go online but it hadn't dialled correctly. My friend Ryan then managed to find an option in the settings for using Tone dialling, we set the option and the thing dialled the modem correctly.
After a few more attempts we got a response from the server side. Unfortunately something was amiss, we were getting formatting missing on the screen.
I think this may be due to the FTDI cable I was using, I had issues with the USB modems that I previously used. I think there is some issue with the actual parity settings it uses VS the ones I've asked it to use. After a bit more fiddling we managed to connect it to CCL4 (a rather random telnet available ViewData BBS).
(Photo from BeebMaster.co.uk)
Quite a few people we interested in the machine, its a fairly obscure one that not many people had come across. I had a nice conversation with a guy from the Netherlands who is setting up a show in Holland and was looking for people to show items such as this.
Ian (BeebMaster) came over and spent a while figuring out the workings of the machine. It has an interesting set of applications that can be instanciated with a specific amount of memory and unlike the BBC you can switch between applications and they stay resident in memory.
After taking a load of photos of the machine he ended up taking it apart so that he could get internal photos of the board etc.
We found some interesting things inside, the machine has 2 batteries (which I need to change) one I presume stores the settings not sure what the other is used for (you an store files in the memory so maybe it does that). There is also a pass through connector for a phone on the side but there is a removable panel that is in place so you can't see it.
Wakefield Show Preparations
Finally managed to find some time to sort the BBC out and ensure everything works before setting off to Wakefield tomorrow.
BBC Power Supply
Sorted out the PSU in the BBC, unsoldered and replaced the 3 capacitors that tend to go bad. Gave the machine a good clean and put back together.
Got the monitor and went to plug in the machine, at this point I noticed that the plug had been damaged and I went off to Tesco (at midnight) to get a new one.
Chopped off the old plug and wired the new one, plugged in the machine and BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEPPPPPPPP. Something's not right with it.
Checking Prestel Modem
Got out my master and decided that I could use that instead, setup the Prestel adapter and checked it powered on ok. Seems good.
Dialled a number to check its working and nothing, realised that the modem only does pulse dialling, my PABX requires tone. (Swore quite loudly at this point).
As it was getting on for 1am I decided to pack everything up and decided on an alternative plan.
Decided to go to the storage locker on the way home and got my Acorn Communicator out, wasn't sure how I was going to get it to dial as i'd only ever used it plugged into a real phone line. Was worried that the unit only did pulse dialling but had other equipment in the van to hopefully try if this didn't work.
I'm supposed to be demonstrating a ViewData system at the Wakefield RISC OS show at the end of April where I have a stand booked.
Therefore my Retro Challenge is to sort the stuff I need for the show...
Re-Write BBS Software
I wrote an example BBS system for a previous Retro Challenge (and won :)). I want to re-write the system to make it more expandable and easier to pipeline the components so that they can also be used for generic BBS systems as well as the more specific ViewData one.
Setup Example Pages
Once the system is up and running I need to provide some actual content for people to explore while connected to the system.
ViewData Demonstration Machines
On the last Retro Challenge I wanted to setup a set of 3 demo machines that can be used for connecting to my ViewData BBS. The idea is that I want to have a set of machines setup to show the "Internet" in 1985.
Each setup will consist of a BBC Micro, Cub Monitor and Acorn Prestel adapter.
I have decided that I will concentrate on 1 machine and then do the other 2 if I get time.
Each machine will need...
3) Fixing / refurbishing (Probably power caps etc)
I managed to acquire a nice 80s TV that will sit on the side showing clips and videos from 1980 - 1985.
Originally I wanted to show a mash-up of adverts, cartoons and music videos. After looking into the licencing for this it would require me to find the original copyright holders. Therefore I may look at getting a licence for displaying movies and I think could possibly display the BBCs "Micro Men" and possibly the old Micros Live series using the licence (although I need to verify this).
A while ago I converted a 746 phone to use tone dialling, I have the parts to do a few more and today just received new cables for them. I would like to therefore setup at least one for the demo.
Once everything is setup it needs to be connected together using a PABX. I bought another cheap one and intend to use it exclusively for this task. It will be configured to have several modems connected to the server and the machines connected to the ports to allow dialling into the system. Ideally I want to set it up to ring the next available modem so that I can also connect it to a real external phone line (it has 3 connections so I probably will have 1 real line and 2 voip ones).
I have a small HP Micro server that I want to configure as a portable BBS server, I could however run the system as I do now over a VPN from my server in Manchester. To do this I have a Draytek router that can be configured to use VPN and might be setup as a WIFI client to connect to the wireless on site.
To make the stand at the show more interesting I need to print out some instructions on how to use the system. Maybe a few movie posters from 1980-1985 and also litter the desk with Prestel guides.
BeebOPL Xmas Demo
A demo of my BBC master using the BeebOPL sound card to play Xmas tunes.
The card is a great little gizmo that basically gives the BBC a Yamaha OPL sound chip like used in the PC sound blaster cards. The system connects to the 1Mhz bus and has a through connector so you can add other devices to the chain.
The sound is pretty tinny as its going through the BBCs internal speaker, you can use external speakers via a 3.5 inch jack socket on the card to get a better sound.
If you are interested in getting one for yourself then see the Stardot Forums for details. The device comes as a kit which requires simple soldering skills.
Total Failure To Launch...
Well I managed to do very little on my projects over the month, various things have as usual got in the way.
Got a few bits today for my ViewData project...
A bunch of caps to sort the "Magic White Smoke" issue out on several of my machines.
Some new RotaTone units to convert the other rotary phones I have to DTMF so that they will work with the PABX.
Will carry on any try to get the machines sorted for an Acorn event in November.
Have managed to do very little on anything over the last few weeks.
Did however meet up with some of my friends for a weekend of drinking and was given these...
Have spent the evening archiving as many as I can, its slow work but I've now got through about a quarter of the first disk box.