Monthly Archives: February 2017

Old friends

Finally got my hands on my Amiga 500 that had been stored in my parents garage for the last 23 years or so.

I bought this amazing machine back on January 2 1991 from a reseller who also was a hardware engineer specializing in Amiga accessories. With it I got a Philips CMxxxx 14″ monitor with SCART input (the unbadged version of the CBM 1084S), a DB23 to SCART cable, and a NEC P20 printer. Oh, and a Hardital RAM expansion with RTC. Hardital was the name of the reseller/manufacturer, entirely run by an engineer whose pieces of hardware weren’t exactly of the highest quality, but cheap enough for a 16yo whose passion wasn’t weel seen by his parents (remember Springsteen’s “goddammit guitar” intro to “Growin’ up” in the Live 75-85 album? At my home, it was the goddammit computer. And yes, there was a goddammit guitar as well. But I digress.).

The Philips monitor blew up after a couple years and I got a Philips TV to replace it. I kept using this machine until 1994, when I inherited my first DOS machine, a 2Mb RAM, 60Mb HDD 386SX 1992 laptop that belonged to my grand-uncle, and stopped using the A500 altogether.

I did and learned many things with the A500. C. BASIC. A68k. Hacks – software and hardware. First experiments with an audio digitizer – self built, connected to parallel port, at a ridiculous sample rate, mono only – but hearing Freddie Mercury singing “We are the Champions” from a file, albeit full of jitter because of how bad I was (am) at soldering, sent shivers down my spine back in 1992. I was the guy who published the high school magazine. Published means I typed it (often with a little help from my friends), pageset with a painfully slow software using my single floppy drive, and preprinted it on Postscript files which then I transferred to DOS floppies and printed to a friend’s dad Postscript printer. Tough times.

Sometime between 1997 and 2000 I tried to power the Amiga back on to recover some data (mostly said high school magazine’s stuff) but got stuck on a color error code – can’t remember which one, might have been red/purple – some years later I managed to save the data using a Windows software and two FDU and never thought of the machine again.

After toying for some months with the idea of getting my hands on the machine again, I finally did a trip to my parents garage today and found the machine still in its original box. Disks are long gone but some manuals I still have them.

I didn’t remember I had swapped the original mouse with a Boeder aftermarket one but as soon as I saw it I remembered it was because the ball on the original one had become so slick it didn’t move the rollers anymore. Screws are missing everywhere – I did some experiments with hardware from time to time, including a funny modification on the FDU flat cable that was supposed to make some sound in case of disk writes – if I remember correctly the original circuit was for a LED but somehow I decided I could put a buzzer instead. I was young and stupid.

There’s a LOGICA board as well to supply the machine with 512Kb Kickstart (2.04 37.175, unlicensed so to speak); it has a couple jumpers to set the motherboard release and the ROM default.

Well, unsurprisingly the machine doesn’t work: it powers up but the power LED stays half-lit. I have lost the SCART cable somewhere so I can only use the composite mono output and thus can’t see the color check, but I don’t think the color really changes and this could mean a fried CPU, CIA or ROM (as the color changes are a routine in ROM). Given that the LOGICA board has a wire that should be put on the ODD CIA pin #8 this is highly possible. I only tried putting the original 1.3 ROM back in its socket removing the ROM board but since nothing has changed I should try putting the board back in changing the jumpers to force using the other kickstart.

Getting a 520 also would be good, or a way to feed color signal from the RGB port into a digital TV…

More to follow.

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The thing that amazes me the most is that the box is intact.

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With all its polystyrene and stuff.

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Trapdoor RTC/RAM expansion removed, this is it. Notice the hack on the FDD cable and the ROM piggyboard.

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Close up of the piggy board. The blue wire was supposed to go on pin 8 of the odd CIA, so that you can switch ROM by pressing both mouse keys while powering on.

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Better light, worse focus.

Ugly but useful: VMware VI Perl Tools on Debian

If you need to connect Perl (ugh!) to Vsphere, with a Nagios Perl plugin for example, you’ll need the VMware VI Perl Tools SDK. It’s a .tar.gz (be sure to download the x86_64 unless you’re still on 32 bit architecture, but then you’ll have different priorities I guess). Unpack it, and, if you’re on Debian, open the vmware-install.pl file and change “ubuntu” to “debian” (don’t say anything).

Should work well. At least, it does for me, YMMV.