A Quick Look at the CFFA3000

November 9, 2011

Well on friday my CFFA3000 cards turned up :).  Now for anyone who hasn’t been aware of these cards the official site is http://tinyurl.com/3cmqb. Rich has been producing the CFFA (in a few revisions) since 2002 and I have several of his existing cards. The original CFFA 1.2/1.3 and the 2.0 allowed a Apple II user to use an normal IDE HD or a CF Card to act as a HD to the host machine (utilising several 32mb partitions as well as 2 x 1GB with a driver). Now there are other cards similar to the CFFA i.e MicroDrive, but Rich with its primary focus on CF and pricing made the CFFA more attractive to me at the time ($99). This provided a whole new way to use my GS and using Ciderpress (http://ciderpress.sourceforge.net/)  for Windows allowed me to backup and convert my real GS to 2mg files for use in emulators.

In 2009 Rich announced the new CFFA, and when he announced what he was trying to do with this card I knew I would have to get one. The card has surpassed what i was expecting. This new revision is extremely well polished, with a nicely featured and easy to use boot menu that is also accessible via control panel, and bridges the gap between real GS and the emulator world. Unlike the previous cards the new one has removed the IDE connector and its been replaced with a USB port.

In a nutshell the CFFA3000 lets you use pretty much any disk image in an Apple II as well as still supporting the raw partitions from previous CFFA cards. The card can be configured to offer both SmartPort Devices as well as a virtual Disk II. As a test I took my existing CF that had 6 RAW Partitions which contains 4 x 32MB (Prodos) and 2 x 1GB (HFS). I then used Ciderpress to make 6 image files (2mg) and copied them onto a FAT32 formatted 4GB CF  (can be FAT16 as well, but not FAT12 or NTFS). Using the boot menu i assigned each image to a SmartPort and the system booted exactly like my original CF, but now with more flexibility :).

Doing so uses up the physical slot of the card itself as well as another slot virtually (must not contain another card, well one that interacts with the bus for example my TDX sound card would be fine as that uses the slot only for power).

Another thing that is great to see on the card is that both  CF and USB are  hot pluggable and the card will detect and refresh the contents in the menu system. A double beep will notify you that the card has detected new media (On boot with both USB and CF you should hear a double double beep).

Some screen shots below of the menu system accessible by pressing “m” on startup of via the desk accessory. On disk assignment screens pressing space bar will flip between USB and CF listings. Also you can assign more than the standard 6 SmartPorts and you will see these in GS/OS.

You will notice in the pictures an accessory that Rich is also selling called the CFFA3000 Remote & Cable . I have yet to use this as haven’t play much with the Disk II support, mainly as my GS is full of cards. The board has two push switches that correspond to Disk 1 and Disk 2 and it can be used to toggle through sets of disk images.

Basically if you haven’t bought one of these yet then you need to get yourself on the list for the 2nd batch :). Contact Rich via http://shop.dreher.net/

 

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TaifunBoot

May 5, 2010

I have been looking at Taifun Boot after finding version 1.7 that worked on ROM03 and decided I would post something about for anyone that hasn’t come across this nice little utility.

TaifunBoot is a OS selection tool that installs on to your boot volume and then allows you to config booting into different OS versions (supports GS/OS, ProDOS 16 and 8 ) via a menu system or via press of key. It also provides the ability to change the system configuration of GS/OS. This means you can then enable or disable CDA, NDA, CDevs, Inits, Drivers and FSTs.  Its final feature is the ability to boot off Slot 5 and 6 via the menu if need be rather than having to configure it via control panel.

My test system was Sweet16 with ROM03 and GS/OS 6.0.1 with ProBoot installed. Installation was quick and all you have to do is run the “Install.TFB” file and select the boot volume you want TB to be installed to. The only issue i had here was having TCP/IP connected as the system would just prompt to say that TCP/IP won’t work under Prodos 8 and I couldn’t go any further. The work around was just to disconnect TCP/IP before installing TB.

Once the system rebooted TB will automatically prompt the menu. The initial configuration has the first entry (0) pre filled in with the default OS that was installed when you installed TB. On installation TB will copy itself to the boot volume and rename the standard “PRODOS” to “PRODOS.” and put itself as “PRODOS”. This means to simply remove TB you just need to reverse that.

To install a new OS you just need to copy over the necesssary system files to the boot volume (making sure they are renamed accordingly). I decided to create a System 5.0.4 entry and copied over PRODOS, SYSTEM folder and ICONS folders to my boot volume. Before I copied them I labled them for the 2nd menu item which means they were labeled as PRODOS.1, SYSTEM.1 and ICONS.1. Subsequent OS installs will follow the same pattern until .9 which is the maximum number that is supported.

Once you have labeled them reboot the system and at this stage the TB menu will still pop up. To add the new system highlight the menu on the left and click “Add System”. You will be prompted with add new system dialog window and you can just enter the name you want it to be listed as. Make sure you click save config to save the changes otherwise when you reboot it will be gone 😉

Once you have setup your menus you don’t have to always be prompted with the TaifunBoot menu.  There is an option under “Activate Menu”  called “Activate always”.  If this is unticked then the Menu won’t be displayed but just a boot message. This will wait the designated time (3 secs is default) for a specific key press. At this point if you don’t press anything it will just boot into the StandardSystem (again this is configurable). If you press one of the number keys it will boot the corresponding OS and finally you can press Ctrl,Shift, Option or Open Apple to bring up the Menu itself.

For GS/OS you can also configure what gets loaded or not loaded when booting the OS by configuring the “System Config” option. Though this seems flakey on the 1.7 ROM03 version i tried. In an emulator I was not able to untick/tick anything but on a real GS i was able to, but had to click it a few times. It seems on a ROM01 this isn’t a problem with the 1.7 version or the 1.8.

Finally you can reboot to slot 5/6 via the Reboot option without the need to configure the GS control panel

There does seem to be several versions around. 1.8 doesn’t work with ROM03 properly  and there are versions of 1.7 that don’t work either, so you might need to have a play till you find the right one. If anyone wants the version i have been using on a ROM03 drop me an email and will send it on. I also have 1.7 for ROM01. 1.8 is available from Ninjaforce’s website (http://www.ninjaforce.com/), but it doesn’t contain any documentation. I have emailed them to see if a 1.8 version is availablet that works correctly with the ROM03, if they come back with a new version I will post it.


UtilityLaunch 2

April 9, 2010

I am still amazed that after all these years I still find new bits of software for the GS that i haven’t come across.

I saw a post on A2Central for a new site called http://www.apple2online.com/. When I checked out the site it had a post about two new additons from author George R. Wilde called UtilityWorks GS and UtilityLaunch. As i hadn’t previously heard about them I thought i would check them out and was pleasantly surprised, especially with UtilityLaunch 2 and hence I decided to post something about it 🙂

(Sample Menus…yes you can change the colours ;-))

UtilityLaunch is an application launcher for the GS. It can run independently or replace START as your initial program when you boot to GS/OS. It provides upto 50 seperate Menus containing 40 small buttons or 16 larger ones with custom icons. The program seems very customisable and you can configure slot changes as well as Transwarp GS and Zip GSX  Speed changes for applications that you launch.

I found it a bit confusing initially to create and edit menu/button settings, but once you get used to that you will be creating custom layouts before you know it :).

The documentation mentions installation scripts that can be used with GS/OS installer, but I was not able to get this work and just complained about no path. In the end I just copied the UTILITYLANCH program and UL.MENUS files to the System folder.  I then renamed START to STARTOLD and UTILITYLAUNCH to START. You should also be able to use SetStart control panel as well.

There seems to be plenty of documentation for it (check out documentation at apple2online, they also have the passwords to unlock the shareware versions of the products as provided by the author) and If you are after a new launcher then I would recommend you check it out. Up to finding UL I was using Wings 1.0.4, but think I will now stick with this.

This was all tested in Sweet16, but worked fine on my ROM03, with TWGS 10Mhz and 4MB Ram.


GS Laptop ….Alternative

April 8, 2010

Well with the release of the pricing and the discussion going on over at CSA of the real GS laptop it made me think of one of my projects a few years ago to put together a “GS EmuLaptop”. I thought it would be useful to post for anyone who likes the idea of a GS portable, but struggles to justify the price tag of a real one.

The goal at the time was getting something together which had the feel and usability of a real GS.  Bernie ][ the rescue 3.0 is the most complete Apple IIGS emulator (imo) and this was the emulator i wanted to use. Obviously this means Classic Mac OS only, but this was fine as the laptops i was looking to build the emulaptop would be able to run OS 8 (best support for Prodos disks). In the end I decided that the Powerbook G3 Wallstreet 2 range was the right laptop. The second hand price of the laptops were about £50 on ebay UK and were modern enough to run some older versions of OSX (upto 10.3 I think) and get internet access. The Powerbook G3 is also very easily upgradable/maintainable and you can upgrade RAM and HD much easier than the later ibooks G3s.

The Wallstreet 2 allowed for the use of the GS keyboard and mouse (make it as authentic as possible), could read real 800k Prodos disks and with a USB/PC GamePort adapter i could also use my favorite joystick ( a CH Mach3 – you could in fact use any PC joystick here). Lombards and Pismos would also work but I wouldn’t have got ADB support/800k Floppy Support. With a Compact Flash Adapter (either PCCard or via USB adapter) you can boot directly of a real CF card from a CFFA board (or similar) on the emulated GS, though only the 1st partition is usable.

One benefit with Bernie over other emulators is the ability to calibrate joysticks that are attached. Bernie can support the Gravis Mouse Stick 2 as well as usb joysticks via Sprocket support. If you are a game player then keyboard doesn’t always cut it.

This was all done with a minimum of cost.

  • PowerBook G3 (WallStreet 2 Model), 266Mhz, 64MB, 4GB = £50
  • 512MB Ram Upgrade = £20
  • 40GB HD =£20 (not really needed, but the original HD was a little noisy)
  • USB PCCard Adapter = £10
  • Compact Flash PCCARD Adapter = £10
  • PC Gameport – USB adapter = £10
  • Mach 3 PC Joystick = £15

Edit – I will add that yes having a keyboard and mouse doesn’t make it that portable 😉 and after using Sweet16 last night with its networking feature on my laptop it is very handy when you want to have a play (for gaming I will stick to the above for best experience bar real GS).


Bit of fun…

January 31, 2010

Well last year I picked up a new sealed Transwarp GS.. Before I open it I thought it would be kool to see what was inside before I open it:). xray pics below 🙂


First Post…

September 16, 2009

I didn’t have a IIGS for very long when i was younger, and sold it around 1992 and used the money to buy my first PC. Since about late 90’s have been collecting IIGS computers and tinkering with them ever since. Nothing major i am not a electronics engineer or programmer just a user :). I have enjoyed building up the system i used to have and collecting the rarer items as they come available. I am fascinated by the machine, probably because it was an underdog at the time and the end of the Apple II line, whatever the reason its a great retro hobby to have :).

After many years of being a PC person (in fact my work is all Windows lol) I am now an owner of a modern MacBook Pro….only taken me 20years+ to forgive Apple for killing of the Apple II 😉