Retrochallenge 17/10!

It’s been a couple of years since I last entered the Retrochallenge.  Hell, it’s been a couple of years since I last updated this blog!  Today, I’m doing both.

I sent in my entry a few minutes ago, and am slowly planning my projects.  I have a couple of Amigas that need a bit of TLC, as well as a Sparcstation IPC of indeterminate origin that begs to be explored.  I think it belonged to my old partner-in-crime, Slam, but I don’t know if he did anything with it.  If memory serves me correctly (and it probably doesn’t), he was running it headless with either Solaris 7 or Red Hat Linux 6.  Guess I’m going to find out…

I may attempt to incorporate my Powerbook Duo 280 somewhere along the line, assuming I can track down a RAM card for it (currently has 4 meg on the mobo).  If anyone has one for sale, even a 16 meg one, please let me know.

Treo 650 Deathwatch

It looks as though my beloved Treo 650 smartphone is on its last legs…

Its battery (original from 2004) is only holding a charge for 24 hours under use, when it used to hold a charge for days.  At this rate, it’ll be stone dead in a matter of years…

IMG_20151119_075506Ugh.  WordPress keeps rotating the image…


I say this tongue-in-cheek, of course.  The Treo’s battery life has always been phenomenal.

Despite having two vastly more capable Android phones, I can’t see myself giving up the Treo anytime soon.  It’s just too handy, and I have yet to find a software package that’s better integrated better than the Natara Smartphone Bundle (DayNotez journal, Bonsai outliner, Comet call reports) on any phone.  Replacement batteries (and parts) are readily available on eBay, so I have a feeling my Treo will be around for years to come.

Software availability is a bit of an issue (Although not as big an issue as it is on my iPhone 3G).  Since buying my first Treo in late 2010, the number of sites selling/hosting Palm software has dwindled.  Most of the online shops have either shut down or stopped carrying Palm software altogether, and I don’t see a classic Palm OS renaissance anytime soon.  There are still a few places to get Palm freeware or shareware, however most of the shareware apps are no longer registerable.

Luckily for me, I had the presence of mind to stockpile Palm apps I figured would come in handy, kept backups of apps I bought (and printouts of registration numbers I’d paid for), so my Treo will continue to be useful for at least another few years.







Up and Running!

I had the time over the weekend to set up Sigrid, my TRS-80 Model 4P, in her permanent spot in the rec room.

Sigrid-lexiDig the crimson walls!

Rather than run network cables through the walls or ceiling from the router upstairs, and suffering from a lack of wifi-enabled *nix machines, I opted to set my long-neglected Raspberry Pi B up with a USB wifi dongle, using Sigrid as a VT100 terminal.

I’d originally bought the Pi for this express purpose – to allow my retro/vintage computers to connect to the net.  Rather than rig up my own serial-to-GPIO cable (my electronic skills are nonexistant and my soldering skill worse), I took the easy way out and bought an RS232 Pi Plate from Linksprite the same day I ordered the Pi.  It took a bit of effort to get the thing to work properly – setting ttyAMA0 to 9600 & vt100, not using a null-modem cable, not enabling XON/XOFF in Omniterm, etc – but I’ve been rewarded for my efforts.

Once the Pi was set up and I was able to use Sigrid as a terminal, I updated Raspbian and installed all the command-line stuff I figured I’d want: tin for usenet news, lrzsz for serial file transfers via x/y/zmodem, lynx for browsing, etc.

While this setup performed admirably, the novelty of using my 1980s-vintage TRS-80 online wore off quickly.  I mean, I was doing all the stuff I’d do on my *nix boxes (or in PuTTY on my Windows laptop) with little change in routine.  The only real differences were not having a colour screen, and having to learn different key combinations in order to type a pipe-symbol, tilde, or underscore on Sigrid’s keyboard.

So, I thought to myself, “Shaun, what can we do to make this set-up more enjoyable?”

Games? Sure, I can install nethack, an Infocom interpreter, and the like, but that’ll only hold my attention for so long.

Command-line media player?  Yeah, that sounds like a lark!

So, I downloaded the only command-line media player I could remember, mpg321, after which I downloaded the latest World of Radio podcast (or, as my wife calls it, “You are hearing me talk“) and hooked up the speakers.  It worked rather well, so I downloaded a few more shows that I enjoy.  But I started to wonder – could I listen to streaming Internet radio?

I know I could use the Pi to listen to streaming audio if I were to start X, but wasn’t sure which command-line audio players could handle streaming audio reliably.  I tried a few (mpg321, omxplayer, mplayer), but I only achieved satisfactory results with the venerable mpg123.  I started out listening to my favourite station, Luxuria Music, which my two-year-old daughter loved but my wife hated, but soon switched to Anonradio here on SDF.  I remembered Anonradio being promoted by SDF on Twitter etc, so I thought I’d give a listen:


Video takes forever to load.  I really should shell out for more bandwidth on MOTD!


I’d call it a success!

I have a system I love using, connected to another more powerful system I love using, connected to the Internet.  The sky’s the limit!



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All Moved In!

The missus, our daughter, and I have moved into our new place, and are nearly finished unpacking.


I’m hoping to have my lab set up again in a couple of weeks, so my experiments can continue.  It’s been too long…


Retrochallenge 15-01: and we’re off!

Happy New Year!

As it turns out, the parallel port on my Tandy 2800hd is dead.  I opened it up this morning and some of the components have leaked.  I’ll have to clean the motherboard up and see what needs to be replaced, but I think the 2800 is pretty much out of the race this time around.

Not a big deal… I’ll just use Angry Red to do the things I had planned to do with the 2800.

Speaking of Angry Red, I located a copy of Lotus Smartsuite 4 for Windows 3.1 in the Retrochallenge off-season. I’ll need it for one of my projects later this month.  If I have the time, I’ll install it tonight; if not, it’ll have to wait for the weekend.

I also tracked down a copy of Desqview/X last Retrochallenge, hope to get it going this time around.

More to come tomorrow.

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Retrochallenge 2015/01: Here we go again!

I can’t leave well enough alone!  I’ve just entered the upcoming Retrochallenge, despite my earlier assertation that I’d be sitting this one out.

I couldn’t help it, I’ve been in a retrocomputing mood for the last few weeks… I may be able to resurrect my beloved Amiga 2000 after several years of it being dead, my 386 portable (Angry Red) still needs a few tweaks, and I’ve just started a new project or two.  Also, wgoodf has a TI-99 to play with, and I’m curious to see what he does with it, as I own one as well!

So, I’ve sent in my entry with the following project description:

“This winter’s project will be the continuation of my summer project (building up my Toshiba T5200 386 portable) as well as trying to get my Tandy 2800HD to mate with my TRS-80 Model 4P (while my TRS-80 Model 100 takes notes).”

It’ll be difficult to keep myself from starting the RC a couple of weeks early…


Digging Deeper in the Dirt

I did a lot of digging this past week.

I was feeling nostalgic for our old user group/proto-hackerspace, The Thugs, so I meandered over to our old website.  It has been dormant for a number of years now, since the relative dissolution of our group.  After spending some time browsing, I decided that I needed to archive the site for posterity… after all, Tripod won’t be around forever, and with services like Geocities folding and taking user data with them, it made sense to save what I could while I could.

Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten the password to the site, and also which email address I had tied to the account.

No big deal,” I thought, “I can always rip each page manually.”

As my decision to archive the page was a spontaneous one, and the fact that I was at work and on my company laptop, I opted to save everything to my SDF account rather than storing everything locally.  A few wgets later, and the whole mess was in my SDF home folder…

… and what a mess it was!

Thankfully, The Thugs’ site wasn’t extensive, and the makeshift index page still made some degree of sense after all this time.  I figured I’d spend a bit of time planning a new, hierarchal layout for the site, to attempt to clean it up a bit.  In so doing, I decided to change formats… the Thugs’ site was written in basic HTML 3 in predominantly text format, so it could be viewed in ANY browser, optimized for quick loading on ancient computers.  With that in mind, rather than simply moving the HTML pages over to my SDF website, I rebuilt The Thugs’ site in gopher format and amalgamated it with my main gopher site, The Backroad to Civilization.

As I’d already resurrected two of my Thugs projects, The Model 4P and 100 Diaries, on the gopher site already, transitioning the rest of The Thug’s website to gopher just made sense.  It took me a few hours to make the change using html2text, then pico to strip the tracking/ad-server code (that Tripod inserted into our HTML code) and to re-justify the text.  It took me another hour or so to decide on a hierarchal structure and layout, and to write the intro blurb.  By Saturday morning, the transition was complete!

As I write this, the Thugs’ gopher archive has been up for a few days.  I finished writing the “About” page this morning and, while writing it, I began to feel as though we’d left so much undone… so many projects unfinished.

Thus, I’ve decided to continue on under The Thugs banner.  Back to my roots, as it were.


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Retrochallenge ’14: Wrapping up

I’m a little late in posting this, so please forgive me!

I had a bit of trouble with my DOS-based scanner control program… I missed a setting and ended up wiping all the stored frequencies (RTFM)  in my Uniden BC895XLT scanner.  D’oh!

Luckily, I had a backup of sorts on paper and in an OpenOffice spreadsheet, so all was not lost.  I was able to listen in on the HAM bands and hear the weather forecasts for the surrounding area.  Unfortunately, I didn’t bother with the DOS software and tuned the scanner manually.

Didn’t end up using my Ten Tec RX320D software controlled radio either – couldn’t find a suitable power adapter in the pile.

So, That’s it for me.  The last few (extended) days of the Retrochallenge were a non-event , apart from a few rounds of Fire Hawk and Escape From the Planet of the Robot Monsters.  But, if nothing else, I didn’t bow out early this time!

If all goes well, I’ll see you all in the 2015 RC Winter Warmup… in a new house, with a new lab.


Retrochallenge ’14 Day 28: Allo, Allo…

Been a quiet ten days since my last update.

I’ve been on holidays with the family, so I’ve done little more than play Fire Hawk on my 386.

I am looking to do a bit more before the RC ends on Thursday, but nothing too ambitious.  Tonight’s project will be to install the Windows 3.1 software for my Ten Tec RX320D software-controlled radio, and probably (DOS) software to control my Uniden BC895XLT radio scanner as well.  As Angry Red has no sound card, I’ll have to work with either an external speaker or headphones…

If I have the time in the next couple of days, I may try my hand at adapting the BASIC control program for the RX320D (that was given as an example in the RX320D Programmer’s Guide) to either TRS-80 Model 4P or Model 100 BASIC.



Apparently we’ve been given an extension!  The RC will end this coming Sunday instead of Thursday!  With that in mind, I’ll do my radio stuff tomorrow.  Tonight, I’ll spend my time fixing the brakes on my mountain bike.  I plan to commute to work via bicycle from now until the winter and, until I fix my road bike, the mountain bike will be my vehicle of choice.






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Retrochallenge ’14 Day 17: Rated X.

(Note to all you watchdogs out there:  There is nothing perverse or pornographic about this post, nor in the tweet that probably led you here.  It’s all about the X Windows system.)


Haven’t had much time for the RC these last couple of days.  Too busy playing with our very active daughter Astrid, who recently turned a year old.

Asti-MSX2Seen here a few months ago, playing with Daddy’s Sony HB-F1XD MSX2.  Hacker training begins when she can read.


The only RC related thing I’ve done since last update involved armored, transforming mecha, which ended with my wife Jillian saying “Will you turn that damned thing off?  The baby is trying to sleep!”  🙂

Well, I shouldn’t say the only thing… I have been thinking about Angry Red and what function it will perform once integrated into my lab environment at the new house (which so far will consist of mostly Sun machines running various versions of Solaris)(The lab, not the house).  I mean, sure, it’ll make a dandy serial terminal and note-taker, but it’s capable of doing much more than that.  All of my machines are.  Everything was State of the Art once.

So, to that end, I felt the best way to integrate many of my old computers would be to add X-Windows functionality to each one.  Over the last few months, I’ve been hoarding different (and period-specific) X solutions for my various machines.  I have MI/X for Windows and classic Mac, AmiWin for my Amigas, MachTen for PPC Macs, eXceed for Windows, DesqView/X for Windows 3.1, and one for OS/2 Warp 4, the name of which escapes me.

Haven’t tried any of them yet, and likely won’t this time around (no Unix machines set up at the moment).  Hopefully we’ll be in a new house by the time the RC Winter Warmup rolls around.  My plan is to set up my old SparcServer 20 to serve X-sessions to the machines.  As I am only one man (gasp!), I’d only be using one or two machines at a time, so the server load should be light.

Apart from a few really old machines, most of my retrocomputers are capable of running Linux, *BSD, or old versions of Unix.  While it might be easier in the long run to operate in a homogenous *nix environment, it wouldn’t be much fun.  This is why I went with the idea of an X-client/server approach.  I could run *nix-type stuff when needed without taking away the uniqueness or strengths/limitations of the individual computers.

So, that’s my Endgame.  I have all the appropriate hardware and software, all I need now are the time and space to put it all together.  The rest of my Retrochallenge will be spent prepping Angry Red for this task, and maybe seeing what other machines I have left in the lab and what I can do with them.



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