MechBoard64 | Replacement Commodore 64 Keyboard

It happened again, unfettered access to the Internet has yielded yet another romp down the bunny trail to places that I don’t have time in which to go. I have previously discovery of the Ultimate 64, a modern replacement board for the Commodore 64, now I have come upon another amazing bit of tech. A modern replacement keyboard for the Commodore 64, the MechBoard64.

Every day, when I walk back to my “healing bench,” the place I fix my kids toys or things I break around the house, I see my extra, empty bread-bin box Commodore 64 shell. It has been sitting empty since sometime in the early 90s and my mind will wonder to a place where that would be a functional computer once again. Not that I need another Commodore 64, but I am thinking, often, I would like to have a modern re-implementation of the Commodore 64, specifically, with that Ultimate 64. When I play games or do IRC with the Commodore 64, I am periodically reminded that old hardware can have some unwelcome hiccups and remind me why we moved beyond the 8-bit era. Some behaviors of it are just not very welcome. Glitching out, occasional crashing after hours of usage, lack of complete drive compatibility with the SD2IEC device and so forth. I would like to have the best of both worlds, 8-bit fun and charm along with the modern conveniences of storage and reliability. Is that too much to ask?

Keyboard Features

I am not a huge proponent of the whole microswtich / mechanical keyboard craze, however, in the case of a Commodore 64, I think I very much indeed am interested in such. The MechBoard64 has microswitches from Gateron fitted on a black PCB and mounted in laser cut aluminum brackets. The aesthetic quality of the craftsmanship of that aluminum bracket with those microswitches affixed to the top has me gazing at it, very much desiring to posses such a carefully engineered labor of love.

I must admit, it is a beautiful looking piece of hardware and everything about it makes me want to build a re-implemented Commodore 64 to enjoy the reliability of the new hardware along with the charm and fun of the 8-bit era.

The Plan

I have priced none of this out, but I am intending on taking that old case of mine,

an Ultimate 64 and a new MechBoard64 keyboard to have a premium Commodore 64 experience.

I would be short a user port but I am willing to bet I can do something more with those USB ports. I am going to pause and day dream of the possibilities…

Final Thoughts

Since life has yielded me some extra time to think and do things, the time is right to go forth and make my childhood and adult fantasies coalesce into something I can use day-in and day-out. Nothing against the original hardware but the reliability concerns have made it less fun to share with the next generation of technical enthusiasts. I realize it is not exactly the same, but using the 37 year old hardware regularly does put it at risk of a fatal end. I can’t help but come to the conclusion that I should protect it and keep it from the harmful effects of its usage .

This is going to be a fun project, not yet, but soon. A re-implemented Commodore 64 with modern technology sounds like a winning proposition for those retro-computing compulsions. New, yet not, familiar, yet not. How fun!

References

https://www.breadbox64.com/blog/the-mechboard64/
Ultimate 64 | A New Commodore 64 main board

Noodlings | Quick Tiling Fusion 360 in the Kitchen

New episode for the New Year and that title is almost entirely nonsensical because they are different subjects.

Have a listen to episode 11 of this jibber jabber!

Fusion 360 Review

Fusion 360 is a CAD / CAM application with finite element analysis capabilities. I was going through the Autodesk forums and read a lot of chatter about their position on the Linux client. It appears that for several years, there have been requests but there is no plan to support it.

One user gave a fantastic well thought out, logical reason for building Fusion 360 to work in Linux and he gave the typical reasons for not doing so with answers:

  • the management sees not enough customers here. It’s a question about cost/income ratio.
  • I think if done right, there are not much costs (keyword continuous integration)
  • Number of potential customers. Linux users need to raise there hand and write to Autodesk, so that they can see, there are potential customers. Linux leads already on the server market, and on embedded devices, smart phones and tablets (if you count Android as Linux).
  • On the desktop, Windows is still the dominating system (88%), Mac (9%), Linux (2%). But this is for the average user, this doesn’t need to be true for engineers and makers using CAD software.
  • I have no statistic here, but I personally have never seen engineers working on Mac.
    But I have seen many engineers, software developers and scientists that work on Linux.
  • Linux users are willing to Beta test and are able to generally figure things out for themselves.

There was a lot more that you can look at here:

Autodesk support for Fusion 360 Discussion

There were a lot of hostile responses from Windows users that were just… hostile. I do think that is a large part of the untold story. There are those that point to Linux and talk of the technological elitism but I don’t think that is a behavior that exclusive to Linux users at all. I can refer to this post for evidence otherwise.

Even though Autodesk has stated that they have no plans to support Linux, it is always with the caveat that of “at this time.” I still have hope that Linux will be supported in the future. It’s inevitable as there are a larger percentage of Linux users in the engineering field, Autodesk does support Linux on the Maya application and since there are more and more professional tools on Linux, I truly believe it will follow.

Quick tiling Windows in Plasma

It took me far too long to complete the write up and video but I must say that the tiling features in Plasma are pretty fantastic. I spent this past weekend doing a lot of administrative work for another job of mine and the tiling manipulation of windows and desktop navigation made the tasks far less painful than they have been historically. I have to emphasis once again that it is important to have key combinations that make sense that are easy to remember that can are quickly intuitive to you.

I made a little video about this with Kdenlive and put it on YouTube. I had a less than stellar comment about my production quality. For that, I can say, I’ll try better next time.

Linux in the Kitchen

I did a post this last week on my use of Linux in the kitchen. I did appreciate a lot of the great feedback II received from this. I don’t want to understate, at all the value of technology in the kitchen. It is not at all a strange science experiment being shoe-horned into a role in which it doesn’t make sense. Linux and the array of tools make several kitchen tasks more efficiently completed.

For my case, the right hardware was an important part of the implementation as I have a very limited amount of counter space. There were already several software applications I had been using, I just happen to further expand how I had been using them.

How it recently made the Christmas season more efficient…

What would improve Linux in the Kitchen is going to take some real effort on my part. Most of these things will be aided by single board computers or IoT like devices. I need more metrics in order to improve my results when baking. Improved inventory management, improved meal planning. All but the last one will take some serious work and effort in order to implement.

BDLL Follow Up

Fedora 31 challenge. Lot of people were rough on it and in some ways I understand but in others I do not. I have used Fedora periodically and I have always found it to be an enjoyable experience. Fedora is a lot more like getting a Lego set with some instructions than it is a ready-made product. I look at Fedora as being a more industrial grade Linux system that you implement for a specific feature. While distributions from the Ubuntu flavors are more like products that are ready to be used that focus on the out-of-box experience. All the flavors of Linux have a place and a target audience. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions about a distribution experience but I think it is almost a bit unfair to evaluate Fedora in the same way you would evaluate an Ubuntu.

I have decided to use Fedora’s Plasma edition and I am going to give it a fair, but biased, review. My expectations are very focused. I don’t need the “last mile” type polish, nor do I expect that from a Fedora or an openSUSE for that matter. What I do expect is something very easy to work with and mold to my wishes.

openSUSE does a great Plasma. I don’t mean out-of-the-box perfect for my needs. No distribution should ever target me as the core user, that would be tremendously silly. I am an edge case and I am never satisfied, I am a moving target of requirements and expectations for what I want as my personal workspace. I would be a high maintenance target for a perfect out-of-box experience.

openSUSE Corner

Snapshots 20191225, 20191227, 20191228, 20191229, 20191230

wiggle (1.1 -> 1.2) a program for applying patches that ‘patch’ cannot apply due to conflicting changes in the original. Wiggle will always apply all changes in the patch to the original. If it cannot find a way to cleanly apply a patch, it inserts it in the original in a manner similar to ‘merge’ and reports an unresolvable conflict.

bubblewrap (0.3.3 -> 0.4.0) The biggest feature in this release is the support for joining
existing user and pid namespaces. This doesn’t work in the setuid mode (at the moment). Other changes include Stores namespace info in status json, In setuid mode pid 1 is now marked dumpable also now build with musl libc.
gthumb (3.8.2 -> 3.8.3)

gnome-shell (3.34.2+0 -> 3.34.2+2): polkitAgent, Only set key focus to password entry after opening dialog. The keyboard now stops accessing deprecated actor property.
libnl3 (3.4 -> 3.5.0) * xfrmi: introduce XFRM interfaces support
xfrm: fix memory corruption (dangling pointer)
mypy (0.720 -> 0.750) More Precise Error Locations and the daemon is No Longer Experimental
python-Sphinx (2.2.2 -> 2.3.1)
python-Sphinx-test (2.2.2 -> 2.3.1)
python-jedi (0.15.1 -> 0.15.2)
python-mysqlclient
python-parso (0.5.1 -> 0.5.2)
python-pybind11 (2.4.2 -> 2.4.3)
python-typeshed (0.0.1+git.1562136779.4af283e1 -> 0.0.1+git.20191227.21a9e696)

wireshark (3.0.7 -> 3.2.0) bug fixes and updated protocol support as listed

Firefox (70.0.1 > 71.0) Improvements to Lockwise, integrated password manager, More information about Enhanced Tracking Protection in action, Native MP3 decoding on Windows, Linux, and macOS, Configuration page (about:config) reimplemented in HTML, New kiosk mode functionality, which allows maximum screen space for customer-facing displays. Numerous CVEs were addressed relating to memory.

The Tumbleweed Snapshot Reviewer:

20191225 – Stable 99
20191227 – Stable 99
20191228 – Stable 99
20191229 – Stable 99
20191230 – Stable 99

Computer History

The Computer Chronicles – Computer Music (1983)

I think we often take for granted the multimedia capabilities of computers today. It seems like someone is always harping about PulseAudio on Linux. I’d say they are likely not using the right distribution, by that I mean openSUSE, I don’t have these issues. The purpose of the section is not to tout the superiority of my favorite operating system when it comes to audio subsystem, rather, it is to talk and reflect about how great we have it today with all things audio on modern computers.

In 1983, the state of digital music was not as rich as it is today. We can enjoy a virtually endless supply of content never before available in human history. Let’s go back in time to an era when the Commodore 64 was the pinnacle in home computer audio. Where audio was entirely programmed, limited to 4 wave forms of sawtooth, triangle, pulse and noise. A multi-mode filter featuring low-pass, high-pass and band pass outputs and three volume controls of attack / decay / sustain / release (ASDR) for each audio oscillator and a few other things I barely understand. Regardless, the capabilities were limited and synthesizing voice was an incredible undertaking that took years of work long after the chip was in the wild. This was one of the first polyphonic sound chips on the consumer market that, to this day, is held in high regard and many still like the sounds this chip produces.

Example of Chip Tunes from 8-bit Versus

All this said, this was very interesting record of computer generated music that is certainly worth a listen. I find the experimentation and musical education tools used in this perod incredibly fascinating. Today, things are very different. Musical composers and artists use computers in music production and to do so otherwise would likely be considered insane. I now wonder if individuals in the 80s that pushed the art and science of computers in music were considered insane by their peers.

Commodore 64 on the Internet with IRC | YouTube Edition

This is nothing more than a placeholder post and an announcement of a somewhat embarrassing example of my poor video editing abilities. I previously created a blathering about getting the Commodore 64 on the Internet with IRC and step by step instructions but under the pressure of one person (see how easily I am swayed). I made a short video about the process.

Feel free to watch if it you wish and if you want more low quality, low budget productions, let me know. I just may get to it. I need more practice with Kdenlive.

Noodlings | BTRFS, Ultra Widescreens and Floppy Drives

Not having faded into the Podcast ether yet, I bring this nonsense to you almost a week late. At least, a week later than I wanted to complete this. In an effort to keep you interested

The 7th Noodling place of unrest

BTRFS

I have been using BTRFS on all of my openSUSE machines without issue. In my quest to build a new multi-roll system to act as a server, workstation and occasional casual desktop use, I wanted to have a storage solution that was very fault tolerant and would allow me to expand my disk size with minimal effort. That is in both replacing individual drives with larger drives and potentially adding another controller card to have more drives.

ZFS is in the news as the new “hotness” for a file system and it does indeed have a lot of the really awesome features BTRFS provides, maybe more but support in Linux doesn’t appear to be as robust as BTRFS. Could my mind change in the future? Absolutely, but for now, until I get the stability of BTRFS on root, the snapshot system and the ease of flexibility in altering the array of storage, I will stick with BTRFS.

https://btrfs.wiki.kernel.org/index.php/Using_Btrfs_with_Multiple_Devices

Ultra Widescreen Monitors

I have been looking at doing an upgrade to my monitor situation, for numerous reasons. The monitors I am using are of unequal resolution, size and aspect ratio, it has been fine but I am becoming less satisfied with its usability. This is especially true since I started to use some of the tiling techniques built into Plasma. I just happen to need more pixels. Looking at my available options, I became interested in one of these 1440p monitors. My issue is, I am not interested in a curved monitor. I think they look just a bit silly and I don’t stand directly in front of the computer all the time. Interestingly, it seems as though the curved screens are less expensive then their flat counterparts with the same resolution and frequency. Although I would prefer a flat screen, it is more economical and of better specifications to go with the curved model.

I’m not prepared to make a purchase today as I need to do some more research on the subject but I am now very much interested in a single 1440p monitor rather than my two cobbled, odd lots hanging above my laptop.

https://ark.intel.com/content/www/us/en/ark/products/80345/intel-core-i7-4610m-processor-4m-cache-up-to-3-70-ghz.html

End to Floppy Drives

US military has been using 8-inch floppy disks in an antiquated ’70s computer to receive nuclear launch orders from the President. Now, the US strategic command has announced that it has replaced the drives with a “highly-secure solid state digital storage solution,” Lt. Col. Jason Rossi

The 8-inch floppy disks have been used in an ancient system called the Strategic Automated Command and Control System, or SACCS.

It’s used by US nuclear forces to send emergency action messages from command centers to field forces, and is unhackable precisely because it was created long before the internet existed. “You can’t hack something that doesn’t have an IP address.

Despite the age of the system, the Air Force is confident in its security and has a pretty good handle on maintaining it. By contrast, installing an all-new system isn’t as easy as it sounds. “You have to be able to certify that an adversary can’t take control of that weapon, that the weapon will be able to do what it’s supposed to do when you call on it,”

https://www.engadget.com/2019/10/18/us-military-nuclear-missiles-floppy-disks/?guccounter=1

Sad Commodore 64 News

My U13 Logic chip is likely failing. I am sure it’s not the RAM as I am having an intermittent problem with my system. Sometimes I get a blank screen and sometimes some garbled mess of characters in a range of colors. Based on the likely causes, I am quite sure it is the 74LS257A Logic IC. That should cost me less than $1 for the part and around $10 on shipping.

https://retrocomputerverzamelaar.nl/commodore-64-problems/
https://www.retroleum.co.uk/results.php?q=logic

BDLL Follow Up

I am late on the release of this podcast, not because I am fading out already, but because of life things. Regardless, I wanted to follow up on a BDLL from 19 October 2019. The discussion was about distro hopping, why Linux users distro hop. Often when people are new to Linux, they hop around and try new distributions. Some people like to jump around every time there is something new released.

Some Distros cater to some bits of hardware better than others. MX Linux on old hardware, openSUSE on newer hardware, Manjaro or Pop!_OS for gaming. Debian for obscure hardware. Ubuntu and its flavors for the mainstream.

I am not a distro hopper, embed myself, decided to stick around and help out to the best of my ability.

Between Mandrake / Mandriva fading and embedding into openSUSE I jumped around a bit. When I decided on openSUSE, I knew it wasn’t perfect, there were some issues but they were easily mitigated, I was most enamored with the friendly and helpful community along with the “ecosystem” of tools around openSUSE. The ease of installing software the graphical way and a pretty awesome wiki.

I mostly try out other distros to see what else is out there. Nothing ever seems to capture me like openSUSE. There are many good choices of Linux and I would probably be content elsewhere but nothing quite gives me the excitement that the green chameleon clad openSUSE provides.

BigDaddyLinux Live 19 October 2019

openSUSE Corner

Lots of snapshots have rolled through with new software and subsequent bug fixes. Of note Plasma 5.17.0 has arrived in all of it’s Glory

Tumbleweed Snapshots 20191009 20191011 20191012 20191014

Firefox has been updated to version 69.0.2 which contained a single fix for Linux-only crashes when changing the playback speed of YouTube videos. Fwupd shipped at version 1.3.1, that is a daemon that allows session software to update the firmware. It now allows for disabling of all plugins and added support for thunderbolt interfae for kernel safety checks. Gstreamer and many of it’s plugins were updated to version 1.16.1 which offered performance improvements. nodejs12, python-packaging and tcpdump were updated to address more than two dozen CVEs.

Plamsa 5.17.0 arrived with some significant changes to the new version. The release announcement says that this new version is as lightweight and thrifty with resources as ever before. Notably, the start-up scripts were converted from a slower Bash to a faster C++ and now run asynchronously, which means it can run several tasks simultaneously, instead of having to run them in sequence. KDE Applications 19.08.2 improved High-DPI support in Konsole and other applications. Many bug fixes in Kmail and saving messages directly to remote folders has been restored. Many other KDE applications received updates as well. e2fsprogs update 1.45.5 addressed a CVE where an attacker would have been able to corrupt an ext4 partition. Updates to gnutls, Nano and php7 were also included.

Mumble was finally updated to 1.3.0 after getting through the rigorous legal review of the SUSE lawyers and now those crazy lips are gone.

The Tumbleweed Snapshot reviewer gives 20191009 a moderate score of a 90; 20191011 a stable score of 92; 20191012 a stable score of 96; and 20191014 a moderate score of 82.

The Project Name Change Vote Continues

The discussion around changing the name of the project is still continuing in the mailing list. The vote has been extended out to the 7th of November, 2019. It has been decided to create a wiki page to consolidate the information. The keypoints can be summarized by the following:

For Keeping the project name

  • If the name is changed, we would lose brand reputation earned over the years.
  • Many members and other contributors are strongly attached to the current name.
  • Changing the name might give the impression that the relationship between SUSE and openSUSE is strained.
  • A lot of work will be required to rename domains, OBS projects and metadata, GitHub namespace, packages trademarks, etc.
  • Rebranding requires a tremendous amount of communication (and money) over years to establish the new brand name.
  • SUSE can transfer or license relevant trademarks to an openSUSE Foundation.
  • The relationship with SUSE is part of our marketing strategy, e.g. Leap/SLE’s shared codebase.
  • Changing the project name will make current openSUSE swag (T-shirts, mugs, stickers, etc) obsolete.

Reasons in favor of the name change

  • openSUSE is often typed and/or pronounced incorrectly (e.g. OpenSUSE, OpenSuSE etc). Watch how do you say SUSE?
  • The Free Software Foundation (FSF) complains about the looseness of the term “open”.
  • The distinction between openSUSE and SUSE can be confusing to people new to either brand. Some people have been known to shorten openSUSE to SUSE.
  • If the community thinks that the project benefits from a new name then this is the moment to change it, i.e. before registering a new legal structure (like a foundation).

My thoughts on this, the reasons for a name change seams superfluous. Although I understand the there is some confusion and how it is typed is often wrong, those do not outweigh the marketing strategy of the Leap/SLE’s shared codebase, the amount of work that would go into rebranding, renaming and making all the cool things I have today obsolete.

I think it is good that we the openSUSE community have this discussion. It has been good for me as I can reflect on my reasons I don’t care for it and rather than just make it an emotional and close-minded decision, I can look at the facts and make a rational decision to keep the name just as it is.

If the name changes, I won’t be upset, disappointed, yes, but not upset. It is the community and the technology that I like, the name is secondary.

Noodlings | Building and Converting

This is my fifth noodling and I did cut a few things. I will be playing with the length but this is about 13 minutes of my nonsense to chip tunes.

The 5th noodling installment can be found here

Commodore 64 IRC Success

I was able to get my Commodore 64 under its own power to access the IRC chat rooms, specifically the BigDaddyLinuxLive room where I was able to chat with such folks as Bill, Popey, Chris and another Allen. It is very satisfying experience. More on that here:

Commodore 64 on the Internet | IRC

Tech in the Courtroom

I recently had jury duty and the courthouse in my small-ish community, Windows 7 which is near end of life. For each bit of evidence, they used CDs and DVDs to store each individual item as evidence.

Building a Computer

I am building a computer for the first time in a very long time. I want to do it on a budget. I received some components at no cost to me, the case and motherboard so that drove the purchasing of the rest of the products.

Motherboard MSI 970A-G43

AMD FX-9590 CPU

Memory, 32 GiB DDR3 1866MHz

Video Card RX570

Storage 6x 2-TiB drives

1000 Watt Power Supply

Rather large case

All for about $350.00

More on this in the future.

Acer AspireOne Netbooks

Recently Set up two AspireOne Notebooks with openSUSE Tumbleweed using the Xfce environment. Initially one had had 1 GiB of RAM but an SSD, the other with 2 GiB of RAM and a slightly faster CPU but with a traditional hard drive.

https://cubiclenate.com/2019/09/29/acer-aspireone-d255-with-opensuse-tumbleweed-xfce/

Making Meringue from Egg Whites

Told after the fact two points of advice, whip the egg whites before you add the sugar, contrary to the directions and questioning whether or not there was any amount of egg yolk.

BDLL Follow Up

Manjaro is the current Distro Challenge… It’s Arch based so…

Eric Adams talked about how people can get “bug apathy” when they experience a problem on Linux or other open source software. know that I am guilty of that.

Bug reporting is something we Linux or free and open source software users should do. The vast majority of the software I don’t pay for, it’s open source and I believe that I have a social contract with these developers and maintainers to either help with the project or donate to it.

BigDaddyLinuxLive | 28 Sep 2019

openSUSE Corner

Tumbleweed Snapshots 20190918 20190920 20190921

PulseAudio 13.0 arrived which improved initial card profile selection for ALSA and improved 5.1 surround audio when set up.

LibreOffice 6.3.2.2 package received some stability tweaks and addressed two CVEs

Bash has been updated from 5.0 to 5.0.11 wich includes a minor update to bash to change POSIX mode behavior.

The Mesa 3D graphics library was updated to 19.1.7 wich fixed a Kwin compositor crash as well as cleaned up a few other bugs

The Python development tool Swig 4.0.1 added Python 3.8 support and fixed some regressions that were introduced in the 4.0.0 major release.

Plymouth added a time delay of 8 seconds to fit an AMD graphics card for graphical boot animation.

Mozilla Thunderbird was updated to 68.1.0 which eliminated some bugs, one of which is a CVE-2019-11739 that allowed for a Covert Content Attack on S/MIME encryption.

The file searching utility, Catfish 1.4.10, added some new features and cosmetically improved the application menu to make better use of space, padding and margins.

The snapshot reviewer gives a score for 20190918 of 90 for moderately stable; 20190920 a score of a stable 95 and 20190921 a stable 97.

Co-Conference Logo Competition for 2020

LibreOffice and openSUSE communities are having a joint conference next year in Nuremburg, German. For this special conference, they are having a logo competition. A logo is believed essential for the conference and they want to visualize both communities during this co-conference. LibreOffice will celebrate its 10-year anniversary and openSUSE will celebrate its 15-year anniversary during the conference.

Co-Conference Logo Competition for 2020 Post

Election Committee Set to Open Vote on Project Name

There have been discussions about the “openSUSE Project logo & name change” that started in June 2019 on the openSUSE Project mailing list. The Election Committee received a request from the Board to conduct a vote whereby openSUSE members can indicate whether they are for or against the project name change.

The voting will start on Oct. 10 and end on Oct. 31, which will provide three weeks for members to vote. The result will be announced on Nov. 1.

The voting exercise is limited to openSUSE members only.

Commodore 64 on the Internet | IRC

The Commodore 64 was my first computer and as such, now holds a special place in my heart and probably forever more, or at least until I lose my mind completely. In all the years I had a C64, I never visited a BBS as I didn’t get that bit of tech until I got my Commodore Amiga 600. Due to the wonders of the Internet, and a global effort to keep these old machines relevant from guys like The 8-Bit Guy, Perifractic Retro Recipes, Retro Man Cave, Dan Wood, LGR and so many others, I was inspired to take the time to make my Commodore 64 more than just a stroll down vintage lane for me. I have seen others make use of it for writing and developing new games and such for it but how could I incorporate it into my life was the question. That answer, IRC, it must do IRC.

So, lets use the “scientific method” on this as I make my kids do it, so why not force myself to do the same.

Purpose

Make use of my beloved Commodore 64, my first computer, in some practical way. I am going to use “practical” fast an loose for this. I have seen many examples of using the Commodore 64 in some sort of networked fashion but I wanted to see if I could have it serve a specific purpose. Chat on IRC, Connected through the Ethernet into my home network using it’s own power and capability.

Hypothesis

I think I am able to get the Commodore 64 to access the IRC function on the Internet without having to telnet into another server as a bridge to make it happen. I also think this is going to be a bit of a headache and everything is going to fight me along the way.

Materials

Here is my list of “materials” in order to conduct this experiment.

Commodore 64

This computer has a whopping 64K of memory to which, in it’s time was an extraordinary amount of memory, generally about 16 times that of its contemporaries at the time. If you know anything about the Commodore 64, nothing I am going to tell you here will be new. If you don’t know much about the commodore 64, this is a great video on YouTube with a great breakdown of the chip design.

SD2IEC drive

Purchased from The Future Was 8-Bit, this is a fantastic device that came included with an 8 GiB SD Card filled with all kinds of goodness. It is a joy to use and makes for reliving the Commodore 64 history so much more enjoyable. Although, you don’t get to enjoy the warm purring the 1541 5¼” Floppy Drive, this is a more practical and sustainable solution. If you purchase newer software for the C64, they usually build it to be compatible with this device. It was a great deal and allowed me to be able to use the .d81 image Contiki OS image that will be described below.

RR-Net MK3

This is a 10Mbit network card from icomp.de that comes form a rather long line of similarly designed devices. This is said to work with Contiki, Codenet and WarpCopy. The nice feature of this card is that it can be used as a stand alone or on a Carrier Card so that you can add this “feature” to another device like the MMC Replay or Chameleon. This will not work with a C128, SX-64 and very old C64 main boards. I don’t have a “very old” main board (just really old), so this works fine with my computer.

Wired Ethernet line

There really isn’t much to report here. I just made a cable and strung it from my router over to the Commodore 64. It is neat to see the flashing activity light when it’s running and doing it’s network activity.

CRT display

Why a CRT? To be more genuine to the period in which it came from? No, it is because it is what I have and it should also be noted that this is an old SVGA, CAD monitor that I once used for such activities. Now it serves are more noble function as my “retro corner” display. I have a ViewSonic that converts the S-Video and Composite signals to SVGA.

Contiki OS

Software package that is accessible from here on GitHub that comes in a few different builds. I used the .d81 image as that would eliminate the need to swap disks, or at least the risk of me screwing up the process of disk swapping should that become necessary.

Procedure

Assemble the components, plug the computer into a working Ethernet line and attempt to get online to chat in an IRC room. The intent here is to use the Commodore 64 as the client, not to use any other machine as a spring board.

Results

The results are mixed but I am going to break it down a bit so that you can replicate it and adjust the process to fit your situation.

Since I have the SD2IEC, I used the .d81 image and put it on the root directory of my SD Card that is in my SD2IEC. Why the root directory? Just to make it quicker to access it.

With the RR-Net MK3 installed in the cartridge port, the start screen is quite different, displaying information about the card. With the SD2IEC connected and the SD Card inserted, I loaded the drive management software which is a simple interface for navigating the contents of the drive. After all, it is 8 GiB of storage so the traditional methods are a bit cumbersome in this regard.

There are two applications that you have to run before you can begin doing the IRC you have to set up what is the “Ethernet device” and set the IP Addresses.

I am not sure if it is critical to do them in any particular order but I started with ETHCONFIG to set the Ethernet device.

Once it is set, all you can do is power cycle the machine to perform the next step. That means, enjoying the lackadaisical loading times of the Commodore 64. Even with an SD Card… not real fast.

Next was to run IPCONFIG to define the IP addresses of the Contiki OS. To navigate up and down in the fields, use the F5 and F7 keys. ENTER to select Save & Close

After this ready prompt, you will have to power cycle the machine once again to load the IRC application. The first run of this, I went for just IRC as opposed to IRC80 as that 80 means column and I like the C64 font.

When the application completes loading from the SD Card, you are the prompted for the IRC server and nickname. Using F5 and F7 to navigate up and down will take you to each of the fields and RETURN to Connect. I want to note here that you must write your IRC nickname in all lowercase and numbers. If you use any uppercase numbers, the IRC server will not be able to recognize the characters.

It will take just a bit but you will see the typical IRC “chatter” fly past on the screen.

Well… I wouldn’t say “fly past” for this. More like trot steadily through. To join a channel enter

/join #<room name here>

In my case, I decided to join the #bigdaddylinuxlive room because, why not? I know the people there, they are friendly and I knew that someone would get a kick out of it.

I made some observations that whatever you type into the prompt, whatever case it is, will be displayed as all uppercase.

I further compared it against what I see in comparison between the Qt based IRC application Konversation. How would it be displayed to “normal” or I guess, “modern” clients.

I was able to see that the Commodore 64 client could only send all lowercase characters, display it locally as Uppercase characters but be able to receive a mix of characters. I thought it all to be quite interesting.

I did test the 80 column mode of the IRC client. It did indeed work and was readable but but I have had it crash on me a few times. I can’t say as to why so I have decided to stick with the 40 column mode for now.

It should also be noted that the screen scrolling is quite a bit slower in this mode. Not terrible, just quite noticeable. The

Conclusion

The Commodore 64 is very much able to, under it’s own, power, unmodified with the additional components is able to access the Internet and perform communication in IRC chat rooms. It does work better in 40 column mode than it does 80 column but is very usable.

Getting online with the Commodore 64 to hang out in IRC chatrooms is really quite a satisfying experience. The fact that it is a computer from an age before the internet and when BBS systems were in their early stages, having the ability to plug an Ethernet line into it and with a little configuration was able to get onto the World Wide Web… of sorts, at least a part of it.

Final Thoughts

I am impressed that I am able to do this much with an unmodified Commodore 64. I am quite impressed that with 64 KiB of RAM, it is still a productive and usable tool. It is quite single purpose but absolutely useful.

I want to note that the web browser does work in this Contiki OS but not with HTTPS so that is out. It does make requests as you would expect and I think I just may revisit the rest of this on another blathering at some point in time.

Future plans, I really want to be able to telnet into a Linux machine with the Commodore 64, I have some other hardware and software I want to try out with this machine to see what other greatness can become of it.

References

Contiki OS for 6502 based computers from GitHub
25c3: The Ultimate Commodore 64 Talk
RR-Net MK3 from icomp.de
The Future Was 8-Bit SD2IEC Drive

Ultimate 64 | A New Commodore 64 main board

i heart commodore-64

I am a Commodore 64 enthusiast. It is still my favorite computer system ever made. My childhood initiation into the computer world was through this machine. I dreamed of making an “Ultimate” Commodore 64 with sketches and specs with all kinds of nonsense. Today, my Commodore 64 sits beside me in my SuperCubicle with an SD2IEC drive from TheFutureWas8bit.com and an Ethernet adapter from Individual Computers. There is a back-burner project that has been on going with my C64. I hope to be able to get all that to a point that it is worth talking about.

 

Recently, I stumbled upon this very interesting bit of hardware. It is a replacement main board for the Commodore 64. It’s called the Ultimate 64. According to the site, it is a hardware implementation using FPGA of the entire C64 and it includes the Ultimate-II+ solution so a kind of all-in-one machine with the latest “enhancements” as it were.

ultimate64-motherboard-sm

Features

No more is there an RF modulated output. The original component remains but now there is an HDMI output. There is even a mode to emulate the CRT feel on a modern screen. That probably won’t be how I’d use it but most certainly the HDMI output will be used.

An upgraded yet compatible audio system is built in. It has an 8 voice SID implementation as well as 7 voices of sampled audio in 8 or 16-bit samples of up to 48 kHz sample rate. There are open slots to put in original SID chips if you so choose.

ultimate64-sid-sm

It still accepts cartridges and you can set the machine to have the RAM Expansion Unit (REU) of up to 16 MB. How they get that to work is a mystery to me since the 6510 can only address 64KB of RAM. Some sort of bank switching… I guess… according to this. How they do that sounds like some magic to me.

A bunch of C64 cartridge emulations to include the Epyx Fastloader, Retro Replay and many others.

Flexible Freezer menu that allows you to select, mount and create D64 (the native Commodore 64 disk images).

Most importantly, are the little upgrades that make me smile, 3 USB ports, Ethernet and even Wifi. I am interested in seeing what fantastic software creations will come of these little upgrades, especially those that would make use of Commodore 64 networking.

ultimate64-ports-sm

It can still make use of the original disk drives, if you so choose. Also note, there is no userport on this board. There are headers, however so that you can either create a cable to userport or eventually one will be released.

Commodore 64 Unix

Although it hasn’t been updated since 2004, there is a project on Sourceforge called LUnix, meaning, Little Unix. It is a preemptive multitasking operating system for the Commodore 64 and Commodore 128 with dynamic memory management. It supports TCP/IP networking has a terminal with basic support for shell scripts and quite a lot more. It gives me pause to think, there is much, much more than my C64 can do, especially if you were to run it on a modernized implementation like the Ultimate 64.

I did try running the latest version, v0.21 but I got a kernel panic. Due to a lack of time, this is something I will revisit at another time.

IMG_20190107_161808.jpg

Final Thoughts

I am really excited to see this rather fantastic bit of innovation for the Commodore 64. This certainly keeps the platform alive much longer and maybe even see it morphed into something that is even more capable without losing the charm of the original machine. I will be interested in seeing what new and wonderful creations will come of this enhanced breed of Commodore 64s. Today, I have two disabled machines due to hardware failures I cannot diagnose. I am thinking the Ultimate 64 might be my course of action to get one of those machines operational once again. Every house needs at least two functional Commodore 64s, right?

Further Reading

https://ultimate64.com/Ultimate-64

https://www.thefuturewas8bit.com/

https://icomp.de/

LUnix Project Site on Sourceforge.net

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commodore_REU

Commodore 64 CubicleNate Page

The End of Google Plus — Just Another Blathering

Google Plus Grave StoneIt never gained as much popularity as some other social media platforms but I liked Google Plus. It was (is) a social media platform whose users seemed to focus on positive things, projects and so forth. It lacked the kind of cruft that keeps me from spending much time on other social media platforms.

My primary reason for liking Google Plus was that it seemed as though it was used for productive conversation and collaboration. I have enjoyed the positive sharing and discussions on interesting topics from different Google community Groups. I wonder where a few of these Google Communities will find another home such as the “Going Linux Podcast” and some retro tech Communities for the Amiga and Commodore 64.

What I like About Google Plus

I really enjoy the tech content on Google Plus. Two of which being the Going Linux Podcast and Linux in the Hamshack. I am a regular listener to the podcasts and like to participate from time to time. I read pretty much everything posted there. It is active enough to keep me interested but not so active that I can’t keep up.

I like to keep up on the Solus Project from their Google Plus Community Page, though admittedly, it hasn’t been as active as it once was but this has been my preferred method for keeping up to date on how that project has been rolling along.

Commodore-64-Computer-sm.pngGoogle Plus has become a kind of bastion of a lot of the Retro Tech communities too. I follow Commodore and Amiga groups where I have seen some fascinating projects. I have recently learned about some other new hardware initiatives for the Amiga 1200 and 4000 or something rather fun was this Commodore 64 Paper craft that I found on one of the community pages.

Despite the somewhat clunky interface, my main reason for liking Google Plus is that it doesn’t seem to have any of the cruft you see on some other social media sites. It’s just a nice place to visit that just doesn’t have the propensity for polarizing or aggravating conversations. It is a nice place where people happily share their hobbies.

The Problem with Google Plus

I will not pretend like Google Plus was all peaches and cream. The fact is, the layout of Google Plus got a little weird and never recovered. I liked how it looked much better some 4 years ago and I never utilized the circles. I think I understand what the designers were going for but I just didn’t want to invest the time and effort in meta-tagging people and things. I knew where people belonged. I didn’t particularly care for the three column layout, although, not a horrible thing, it was just a bit more challenging to figure out what was new. It took some time to scan through to find specific posts as they would shift around.

Google Plus 3 columns.png

The interface for Google Plus was a bit cumbersome. It took a few extra clicks to get to where I wanted to go but once you got used to this quirkiness, it wasn’t so bad. I would say, it felt like Google kind of gave up on Google Plus about two years ago. They didn’t really continue to invest in it, which I think is unfortunate as it resulted in it became a bit of a social media joke.

Final Thoughts

I don’t have a replacement for Google Plus at this time. I have heard about and just started looking into Diaspora but I don’t have the mental space to figure it out. I also like Mastodon but I don’t have the WordPress auto share tie to use it.

I have enjoyed the pleasant Google Plus communities for years and they will be missed. I hope that they will find another place to land to continue to exist. Knowing that Google Plus only has about 10 months of life left, I am not going to abandon it. I will continue to use it until the bitter end.

Related Links

Diaspora Foundation

Mastodon Federated Social Network

Commodore Amiga Revitalized with New Retro Hardware

Going Linux Podcast Google Plus Community Page

Linux in the Hamshack

WordPress Mastodon Share Plugin

Commodore 64 Paper craft

Solus Project

Amiga Google Plus Community Page

Commodore 64 Google Plus Community Page