Saturday, December 27, 2014

Pre RetroChallenge Spending Spree

Macintosh Floppy Emu
Hakko FX888D
Original AirPort Card
To satiate my excitement for the upcoming RetroChallenge, I have resorted to buying stuff for my computers. The idea of my 400k floppy disk drive grinding away every time the web server had a hit concerned me, so I reserved a Macintosh Floppy Emu floppy and hard disk drive emulator for vintage Macs. A new batch is expected mid January.

While browsing around that website, I noticed a review for a Bus Pirate interface. I remember seeing these on hackaday a while ago, but I didn't realize you could buy them on ebay now. So, I got one.

Since I need to do some soldering on the original Macintosh, I decided that the dollar store soldering iron wasn't good enough, so I splurged on a Hakko FX888D-23BY Digital Soldering Station.

I bought a $3 Airport card for my G4, just for the heck of it.

Because my Inside Macintosh book made for some interesting reading, I bought the Apple publication Designing Cards and Drivers for the Macintosh Family.

RetroChallenge, please come quickly before I spend all of my Christmas money!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Retro Prep Problems

Macintosh analog board connection cable
The analog board connection cable.

Macintosh analog board connector solder joint
The top and bottom large solder joints are suspect.
I had some free time this weekend to make sure all the retro Macs were working before the start of Retrochallenge 2015/01. The G4 booted up as expected (I use it semi-regularly). The SE booted up as expected (it has proven very reliable). The original Macintosh booted up, but there was no video. I could tell it was limited to a video problem because clicking the mouse around would cause some disk activity.

I opened the computer up to investigate, but I didn't see anything obvious. I started it up while open (DANGER!) and noticed that slight pressure on the analog board connection cable would cause the video to come back temporarily.

I looked closer and noticed a questionable solder joint which seems to correspond to video out, according to this Macintosh Schematic (J7, pin 1, VIDOUT).

I'm not sure I will have time to fix it before January, but it looks like it might be an easy fix.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

RetroChallenge preparation

I recovered from the hard drive crash pretty well. I was able to make a disk image of the slowly dying drive, which I restored onto a newer drive. Fortunately, it retained all of my licensing information for the Adobe Creative Suite I have installed. I don't think the Adobe CS2 registration servers work anymore, so that would have been a real pain.

The Dual processor PowerMac G4 with Mac OS X Tiger is a real joy to work on, even though it is now 15 years old. The user interface is far more appealing than OS X Yosemite, and compiling programs proved quite snappy. The Mac OS 9 compatibility mode is nearly flawless. Plus, parts are dirt cheap for the old G3 and G4 towers.

On that note, I just received a new (to me) Belkin F5U220 USB 2.0 card to replace the old USB 1.0 card which temporarily replaced the OrangeMicro USB Firewire card that would crash on wake with the G4. It works great, and only $10.

No more excuses to not backup my drives!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Early Christmas gift: Fire in the Valley

Early christmas gift from a thrift-shopper friend. First edition!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Hard Drive crash!

I have already had a major setback for the RetroChallenge. While getting things organized, my hard drive started clicking and slowing down. Unfortunately, I backed up the wrong drive. By the time I figured out which drive was making the noise, it was too late to backup.
I ended up putting it in the freezer for a while and had a few error free minutes to get the most important stuff off. After tightening up the screws on the top and sending it in and out of the freezer, it seems to have shaped up considerably though, but it is running very slowly. I am now backing up the entire disk which, by the progress indicator, will take several days. So, at least there is some hope.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Retrochallenge 2015/01 Entry

Retrochallenge is back!
I seem to be able to get more done during the Winter Warm up than the Summer Challenge, so I am feeling ambitious. I still want to get a web server working on my Mac 128K, so that is my primary goal.  I have renewed my interest in working on my 1991 Nissan, and interfacing with the ECU using the Nissan CONSULT protocol.  It is a JECS microprocessor which is either a Motorola 6802 or Hitachi 6303 equivalent. It isn't the typical retro computer, but it seems to qualify.