Monthly Archives: February 2019

Apple II clones: “BOSS-1″ – Multi-System Personal Computer”:

boss_logo

I got few months ago keyboard for the Microprofessor III (MPF-III) among other Apple II pieces and the original owner, or actually he’s son. We thought obiously he’s father also had the MPF-III somewhere. But, now he actually found clone of it, “BOSS-1”. It’s basicly somekind of clone of the MPF-III so far i can tell. So i picked these Apple II-releated parts:

set_of_things_s
-BOSS-1 (“TYPE C”)
-Z80 processor – as the seller had bunch of processors available i added the Z80 to the empty slot.
-Apple ROM-card with 6 x EPROM’s 
-MPF-III RS-232-C adapter-card 
-ALF MC16 bare, clone, PCB-board
-Apple II prototyping board (empty PCB)
-Apple II RGB-card 
-“Bridge Challenger” (Personal Software, Casette) Apple II plus 16k. Incomplete. Box cover missing.
-Joystick enclousure and parts. Looks like the “Joystick”.
-Marconi RB2/PC-3 trackball controller (For what platform, no idea yet)

“BOSS-1 – Multi-System Personal Computer”

setup_s
Not much information could be found from this model..
This is one of those more complex and interesting Apple II clones from Taiwan. 
This clone had several different configurations or types, with 6502 prosessor or with 6502 and Z80 prosessors together in same board. So it does seem to be clone/licenced of Microprofessor (MPF-III) as their product was pretty identical by hardware and seem to use the same keyboard with some alternations to keyboard by funtionalities.

case_side_1
The enclousure is made out of fiberglass:

Different types/models:
TYPE A = 6502 – 9 slots including system slot at “J” , 48k RAM (?) 
TYPE C = 6502+Z80A – 7 slots includes system slot at “0”, 64k (RAM (?) 

board_s
Type C board layout: interesting cutout for the speaker in the right corner.

Multi OS system, either by System card (ROM) or loading from floppy. OS ROM = U24 (Type A) or U6 (Type C) if inserted no need for System card (ROM).

Video output:
Either NTSC or PAL (need PAL Expansion card)

What system cards were available:
-System Card (Apple DOS)
-Forth System card (Forth DOS)
-FP System card (Frankin DOS, CP/M, MS-DOS)

back_s
Backside:

What periphals/cards were available:
-Fan
-Joystick
-Graphics tablet
-12″ Green monitor
-12″ Amber monitor 
-Light pen
-192k RAM-card
-Z80-card 
-80-Column-card 
-Parallel printer-card 
-Serial RS232-card 
-PAL Color-card 
-Casette drive 
-Floppy disk drive 
-Floppy disk controller-card 
-Ram Expansion board-card
-Eprom writer-card
-ALF AD8088 CPU-card
-6809 CPU-card 
-Communications-card 
-Robot Controller-card 
-Chinese Character Interface-card 
-Replica interface-card 

The manual metions how you *could* write your own OS for this “Multi-System Personal Computer” if you
wanted and use it and System Card.

Testing & smoke?

psu_pins_s
I managed to get the system to startup (boot) few times and got “APPLE ][” on top of the screen with the usual beeb! The ROM-card was working obiously. Then i wanted to test booting from floppy so i attached the DISK II interface card (cloned one naturally) but that caused the system to make clicking noise… and then, nothing. It just died. The powersupply went totally dead. The extra stress to power the card and floppy drive was jus too much for the old powersupply.. I inspected the other clones i have, and the //e clone have just the same type of powersupply and pinouts – hope it works. That’s for later testing.


ROM:

eprom_s
The eprom on the board (U6 location) is preserved now.

Some pictures, information and the manual PDF at:
http://quartdepomme.fr/quartdepomme/Hardware_Apple_II_Clones/Pages/BOSS-1.html#9

Few pictures of the BOSS-1:
http://apple2.org.za/gswv/a2zine/GS.WorldView/Resources/A2.ALL.NEW/BOSS-1.An.A2.Clone/

It’s very possible that local hobbyist/electronics store “Bebek” imported and sold these. They are still around after all these years.

And yes, i’m still interested in finding that MicroProfessor III (MPF-III).

 

FinApple 2019 (c)
Apple II Forever.

 

 

“Bridge Challenger” (Personal Software, Casette):

casette_sBRIDGE CHALLENGER 
By George Dulsman. A bridge playing program for the Apple II. 16K RAM. $14.95

whole_set_s
Local, Finnish Apple II history at it’s best! Got this with the recent Apple II-clone “BOSS-1”.

cover_s
-Apple II 16k RAM.
-Clear plastic box cover missing. Will try to find replacement for this somehow.
-Box have marking of original price of “100,-” in backside.
-Original receipt for “100mk” (Topdata Oy, Helsinki, 2/10/82)
-Original manual, loading instructions and warranty card.

original_receipt_s
Original receipt

loading_s
Loading instructions

The digitized file of the tape is available from Brutaldeluxe already:
https://www.brutaldeluxe.fr/projects/cassettes/personalsoftware/

The game manual and and paper stuff from the box scanned here:
https://archive.org/details/BridgeChallengerPersonalSoftware1978InstructionsLeaflet

 

FinApple 2019 (c)
Apple II Forever.

Apple //e custom eX ROM:

menu_s
What is it?

This custom ROM eX is a BETA enhancement to the enhanced Apple //e firmware ROM built by Michael Guiderro and available at : https://github.com/mgcaret/romex 

 

Features

Upon CONTROL+CLOSED-APPLE / OPTION+RESET, presents a menu allowing you to choose to enter the monitor
or start the boot a specific slot. Menu displays the type of card found in the slot.

Menu identifies Apple II workstation cards and correctly boots them by prompting to press OPEN-APPLE to start the boot.

DELETE key works like the left arrow in programs that read input lines using the monitor ROM.

 

Versions available:

Both custom ROM versions requires 65C02 or 658xx processor in your Apple //e. Unlike the Apple //c firmware, there is no free space in the //e firmware therefore some sacrifices must be made. There are two versions of the firmware available with different features removed:

“Sacrificing the tape code (‘no_tape’)”:
-This version has a terse menu in order to fit in the available space.
-The diagnostics may be entered by pressing both apple keys with CTRL+RESET.

“Sacrificing the diagnostic code (‘no_diags’)”:
-This version has a nicer menu that takes advantage of available space.

 

Building/programming:

You must build the binaries yourself. The github page have some tips how to build it. The built binaries however are available elsewhere as well if you look around.. 

– The //e have to ROM chips, CD and EF so two binaries are required, as well two EPROM chips to be burned.
– The //e platinum have only one ROM chip, so you can use just one EPROM and double the size of the binary by copying the binary twice on the chip.

I used the (thanks to Wyatt Wong) ready built binary file (no_tape) and copied the binary twice to new binary file in order to fill it into W27E257-12 EPROM chip.

 

Installing & using:

setup_s

This ROM can be run in emulators that allow specifying a custom ROM image. It is tested on Virtual ][ (OSX) by M.G.

I tested mine (no_tape) with Platinum //e and it worked fine. I could access the menu and choose slot i wanted to boot. Dropping into monitor worked as well as one would expect. I played some games, tested the Uthernet II card by telneting to BBS and played some music with MEGA Audio as well used the monitor to access the configuration menu. The CFFA3000 and FASTchip //e menu’s worked as well.

I had cards in my Platinum //e:

#7 CFFA3000 + CF 
#6 Disk II interface card 
#5 -disk ii virtual slot for CFFA3000-
#4 MEGAaudio
#3 Uthernet II 
#2 -empty-
#1 FASTchip //e 
#AUX RamWorks III+VGA adapter

IF only similar custom ROM would be done for the Apple /// allowing it to boot from external devices. NOW THAT would be lifesafer and so much needed. There’s lots of ///’s with internal drive issues as well if it would allow booting from sd-device from external connector would open whole new worlds using the ///. I have a dream..

FinApple 2019 (c)
Apple //e Forever.

wDrive by KbooHK

World of .woz:

I must admit. Even i obtained the AppleSauce device from the first run in summer 2018, i did not have any rush to get the .woz files running in real hardware. Emulators were covered quite quicky and the support was added to OpenEmulator, Virtual II, MAME, microM8, EPPLEII. Just that “most” files read with AppleSauce to .a2r and then converted to.woz do exist on cracked .dsk format already. Most? What an excuse?! I was happy (still am) using .dsk ,as it really doesn’t matter what format i load the software in, if it works. But i do see .woz as important preservation/archive-format absolutely. It is the future.

John K. Morris have done absolutely phenomenal job with the .a2r and .woz formats as well with the AppleSauce-device itself and the software supporting it. This is absolutely what we needed in the Apple II community hands down! The other preservation efforts have not been as successful what comes to Apple II software by far sight – and we do not have too much time to loose in sake of preservation either. John also did upgrade the .woz format and the board PCB lately and you could get the upgrade board from him directly for nominal fee if you bought the first revision device.

We own you a lot John.

About the wDrive:

product_s

BUT. As “wDrive” got also .dsk, .po, .do support lately, i thought to give it a try. Why not. I’ve had heard mostly only (if not all) positive comments about the device and the developer have been actively updating the firmware that is good for the users. 

“wDrive” is designed and manufactured by “KbooHK” out of Hongkong, China. It was the first device to support the new .woz format in 2018 that are created with AppleSauce-device (.a2r -> woz). The support for .woz arrived for the Floppyemu as well, about the same time i received wDrive from Hongkong.

wDrive specifications are as follows (from kboohk.com):
-5.25″ disk image formats: .dsk, .do, .po, .nib, .edf, .woz (version 1.0 & 2.0).
-Disk image read/write.
-FAT16, FAT32 formatted SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards.
-Maximum files in each folder limited to 100.
-Maximum levels of sub folder limited to 10.
-Firmware is upgradeable.
-Dimensions are : 70mm x 40mm x 20mm.
-It comes with 20-pin flat ribbon cable.
-Includes also a 3D Printed case (color of chosing) with buttons and display.

KbooHK offers online file converter tool at their webpage, http://kboohk.com/dsk2woz/  for converting files to different formats (some format-to-format conversions are not yet supported however as of today):

.edd > .nib, .woz, .edf
.dsk > .nib, .woz, .edf
.po > .nib, .woz, .edf
.do > .nib, .woz, .edf
.zip > .nib, .woz, .edf

I’d like to see this released as offline tool as well. You never know how long this tool get’s supported, or maintained in online location. There’s however other tools for these conversions available as well, .dsk to .woz.

I however fail to see the need to convert non copyproteced disk images to .woz, but it’s available. Maybe i’m missing something here?

INSTALLATION:

The wDrive is very easy to install as any Disk II drive would be. Just look at the orientation of the cable and plug it in the Disk II interface card.

idc20todb19_adapter-s
or with adapter :

..or with suitable adapter if you’re using //c, //c+ or IIGS. I tested the wDrive with Apple //e, //c and //c+. Using the wDrive required adapter with //c and //c+, IDC20>DB19 (thanks to a2heaven.com)

THE wDRIVE ITSELF:

display_s

The display:
Nice thing about the wDrive’s display is that the chosen file, the font, get’s bigger and highlighted when it’s chosen. The built-in LED shows when the file is accessed. If anything to improve, the display could be upgraded to OLED for better quaility reading like in WiModem232-OLED but that might be more expensive option. The display have great feeling of old Nokia phones that is very nice and suits the use very nicely actually.

The Buttons:
UP – SELECT – DOWN + RESET (on right side)
Navigating thru the files and folders is done by buttons in front of the enclousure. UP, SELECT and DOWN and in the right side there’s the RESET button. The buttons however are quite slow and unresponsible in my opinion and need pressing harder that one would maybe expect. But that’s something to get used to.

3d_printed_case_3_s

The Case:
The 3d-printed case is good quality (at the time of odering only frosted-transparent was available) and it’s really nice small and light weighted. The print quality is fine, as it’s 3d printed you can see the printhead marks but i don’t see that as a issue of anykind. The casing is very smooth, cute and small.

3d_printed_case_2_s

SD-card slot:
The SD-card slot is in the front and the card it inserted upside down (label facing down). The drive looks like an small 3.5″ drive.

USAGE:

apple_iic_romx5_gaming_wdrive_woz_s

Using the wDrive with Apple //e was very straight forward. Just plug it in and use. Every .woz file i used loaded perfectly and worked fine. The device is using regular SD-cards as storage medium.

With Apple //c and //c+ (both had custom ROM’s on them) it was different. The //c would not boot every .woz image due the restrictions of the model, as it’s external drive and some software are hardcoded to boot from internal drive only. With the //c+ this wasn’t the case, it booted everything i could throw at it and the loading times were quite fast. 

wDrive vs Floppyemu disk image loading times differences?

I tested few .woz files with both (Apple //c+@4MHz), wDrive and the Floppyemu (Rev.A with latest “beta” .woz firmware) and both were about the same. I’d say there’s no performance differences between these two drives.

online_converter_too_s
Converter software online:  http://kboohk.com/dsk2woz/ 

.edd > .nib, .woz, .edf
.dsk > .nib, .woz, .edf
.po > .nib, .woz, .edf
.do > .nib, .woz, .edf
.zip > .nib, .woz, .edf

Usefull converting might be the .edd > .woz (but it isn’t supported yet). Converting non protected format to .woz would serve no purpose in my mind.

I tested several (known good) .edd-files and converted them to .edf with this tool and the .edf files booted fine with the wDrive. Edd-file format might be pretty much obsolete now as everything is moving towards .woz but there might be some cases it might be proven usefull.

OTHER TOOLS:

Other tools for manipulating WOZ-files:
https://applesaucefdc.com/woz/

wozardry
A multipurpose tool for manipulating WOZ disk images.
https://github.com/a2-4am/wozardry

dsk2woz
A tool for converting DSK images to WOZ format.
https://github.com/TomHarte/dsk2woz

Apple II Disk Browser
A tool that allows you to view the contents of disk images.
https://github.com/dmolony/DiskBrowser

DskToWoz2
A tool that converts DSK images into WOZ 2.0 format.
https://github.com/cmosher01/DskToWoz2

THOUGHTS?

floppyemu_and_wdrive_s
wDrive reminds a lot of FloppyEmu, the design is similar, the size is similar, the display is similar.  Differences come from the connectivity. Both are connected with IDC 20-pin (or DB 19-pin connector with adapter) but Floppyemu have support for smartport 3.5″ and HDD devices/images as well. wDrive have support for .edf (from .edd). Both use sd-card as storage medium, wDrive uses the older (regular) sd-card and Floppyemu (B) uses the micro-SD card. It would be nice if the wDrive would support 3.5″ devices/images as well HDD images. Doable with future firmware update maybe?

For the future, as i’m mainly using //e and IIgs, i’d hope, possible “wDrive 2” that would be .. slot based, with on-screen menu, USB-connector for mass storage instead of SD-card and keeping the features what it have now naturally with added smartport support.

Overall, the wDrive does what it is advertiseed for. It’s cheaper than other similar SD-reader solutions for your Apple II and if the external device design doesn’t bother you or lack of smartport device support, this is the product for you. Sadly as when i’m writing this the wDrive is no longer available but it should (?) be available again some time soon.

kboohk
wDrive retails $69.00 + shipping from http://kboohk.com [currently unavailable]

FinApple 2019 (c)
Apple II Forever.