VCF East Wrapup MegaPost

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VCF East, the fabulous retrocomputing festival held in Wall, NJ this last weekend was a blast. We had a great time, dropped t-shirts and stickers to just about anyone who wanted one, took a lot of pictures, and shot a lot of video. Now that it’s over it’s time for the post-mortem, with one insanely long post.

We saw some very cool stuff that merited its own post, and much more that we simply didn’t have time to video. The previous posts from VCF East:

There’s still tons more, including a tour of the retrocomputer museum that hosted VCF East. The biggest talk was from [Dave Haynie], lord of the Amiga giving part three of a multi-year talk on the soap opera that was Commodore International.

Click that ‘Read more…’ to see all this.

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Hackaday Links: February 2, 2014

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[Michel] was in need of a 9V battery connector, and in a brilliant bit of insight realized 9V batteries will plug directly into other 9V batteries (just… don’t do that. ever.) Taking a dead 9V, he tore it open, was disappointed by the lack of AAAA cells, and soldered some wires onto the connector.

Sometimes a project starts off as a reasonable endeavour, but quickly becomes something much more awesome. [Wallyman] started off building a hammock stand and ended up making a giant slingshot. We’re not one to argue with something that just became a million times more fun.

We’ve seen solder stencils made out of laser-cut metal, photoetched metal, plastic cut on a vinyl cutter, laser-cut plastic, and now finally one made on a 3D printer. It’s a pretty simple process – get the tCream layer into a .DXF file, then subtract it from a plastic plate in OpenSCAD.

Apple loves their proprietary screws, and when [Jim] tried to open his Macbook Air with the pentalobe screwdriver that came with an iPhone repair kit, he found it was too large. No problem, then: just grind it down. Now if only someone could tell us why a laptop uses smaller screws than a phone…

[Victor] has been playing around with an RTLSDR USB TV tuner dongle for a few months now. It’s a great tool, but the USB thumb drive form factor wasn’t sitting well with him. To fix that, he stuck everything into a classy painted Hammond 1590A enclosure. It looks much cooler, and now [Victor] can waterproof his toy and add a ferrite to clean things up.

Apple And Raspberry Pis

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Deep in the bowels of the Internet there are some crazy people who have a wish list for what the next Apple II should look like. The capabilities of this dream machine of 80s retrocomputing is generally said to be something with a 32-bit CPU, a UNIX OS, modern graphics, and networking. This sounds a lot like a Raspberry Pi, so [Dave] built an Apple II to Raspberry Pi adapter card.

Having a Pi talk to an Apple II over a serial connection doesn’t really give either machine the full capabilities of the other. To fix this issue, [Dave] wrote two pieces of software. The first is a UNIX daemon that listens to the Apple II on a serial port connection, handling the Apple II keyboard connection. The second piece of software is a ProDOS disk image file running on the Apple II. With these two pieces of software, [Dave] can run the Apple on the Raspi, or run the Raspi on the Apple, sending files and data back and forth with no problem.

Aside from providing a strange and awesome Apple II to UNIX interface, the Apple II Pi also has a lot of advantages that might not be readily apparent. An Apple II compact flash adapter can be used as an internal hard drive for these pieces of classic apple hardware, and the Uthernet Ethernet card for the AII brings networking. Both of these devices are absurdly expensive compared to the component cost of the Apple II Pi, and what they bring to the table can be easily copied by the Apple II Pi.

The Apple II Pi is just a simple double-sided board with a few resistors, a cap, header, a 7404 inverter, and a communications chip that’s $5 for quantity one. If you already have a Raspi hanging around your workbench and want to soup up an Apple II with some crazy hardware capabilities, you really can’t do better than getting one of these Apple II Pi boards. Now if we could only find the board files…

Video of the Apple II Pi below, showing off all the awesome capabilities of a Pi-powered Apple. Thanks [Itay] for sending this one in.

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Examining Vintage Printer Server Hardward for Apple II

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Need to share a printer between several Apple II computers? Of course you don’t, but back in the day this would have been a really awesome piece of hardware to own. It’s a Pacemark iiEasy Print (we’re not sure on the capitalization of the name so talk amongst yourselves). It is an automatic buffer and switch that you can have now-a-days for just a couple of Hamiltons. [David] doesn’t mention where he “acquired” his specimen, but all the details about his adventures reverse engineering the card are shared in detail.

First off, we have to mention his unorthodox bench tools. To the untrained eye it would appear that he has attached the iiEasy Print to a Commodore 64; and that eye would be right. [David] says he uses the C64 something like an Arduino (if that’s even possible). The green card is plugged into the C64 memory bus, connecting to the DIP socket breakout board on the left and the chip select pins for most of the other IC’s on the original board. The gist of this setup is that it’s simple to use the “passthrough” DIP socket to monitor what the 6502-like processor is doing, while mapping the memory with the help of the chip select signals.

What did he learn from all this? Quite a lot but you might as well click that link above and hear it from his own mouth.

Rant: Why I love what the Chromecast stands for

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I’ve had my hands on this Chromecast for almost a week now and I love it. Years ago I hacked my first Xbox after seeing [Kevin Rose] do it on The Screensavers (I did the hardware mod but that’s inconsequential). Why did I do this? So that I could run Xbox Media Center, the predecessor of XBMC. Since then I’ve dreamed of a device which can be hung on the back of the TV with Velcro and run XBMC. We basically got there with the Raspberry Pi, but the Chromecast is the form-factor that I had always envisioned. This lets me watch Netflix, while the RPi runs XBMC. The two are match made in heaven for under a hundred bucks.

That’s why I love the Chromecast device itself, but the bigger picture is that I love what it stands for. Keep reading to see what i mean.

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Anachronistic Hard Drive for the Apple II

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Not wanting too many disks lying around his Apple II battlestation, [NeXT] started looking into hard drive solutions. There is the old-time solution – a ProFile hard drive initially designed for the Apple /// and Lisa, but those are rare as hen’s teeth, and just as expensive as newer Compact Flash adapters. [NeXT] had another option – SCSI, with an adapter card, but most of the SCSI devices of the era didn’t fit in with the cool ‘stackable’ aesthetic of AII peripherals.

With a bit of Bondo and some paint, [NeXT] modded an old dual disk drive into a retro-looking hard drive perfect for storing and running hundreds of old games.

[NeXT] began his build by taking an old Apple DuoDisk (the two-disk drive seen above) and Bondoing over the holes in the front. A drive activity light was added above the Apple logo, and the old drives saved for another day. Inside the new enclosure, an old 40MB hard drive, tested on a Macintosh SE/30, was installed along with a small power supply for the drive. With a few custom SCSI cables, the drive will be ready for it’s grand debut. We think it looks awesome just sitting there, and is sure to be the pride of [NeXT]‘s collection.

Apple MagSafe cord repair

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[Tommy Ward] had a big problem with the cord for his laptop power supply. This thing’s not cheap so he figured out a way to fix the frayed cord on his Apple MagSafe. He asserts that the shortened rubber collar on the plug end of the cord is to blame for this type of damage. We think rough use may have something to do with it too, but having had to repair our own feline-damaged power cords we’re not about to start pointing fingers.

To pull off an appropriate fix [Tommy] pries apart the case housing the power converter. This lets him get at the solder connections of the cord. After removing it from the circuit board he clips off the damaged portion of the cable. To reuse the strain relief grommet he drilled out the old portion of wire and insulation, making room for the undamaged cable to pass through, adding a cable tie on the inside to aide in strain relief. The last part of the fix involves gluing everything back together.

If your power supply problems have to do with the computer connector itself there’s a fix for that too.