Monday, February 15, 2021

The .woz Format - Accurate Preservation of Apple II Floppy Disks

The need for proper preservation of floppy-based software cannot be understated.  Floppy disks were not designed to store data for forty plus years, but for the oldest home computer systems like the Apple II, most of its software is at least thirty years old.  But it is not preservation merely to dump a copy of a game which was pirated in the day.  Those games usually have "cracktros" which do not represent the developer's intended presentation of the game, may have cut out elements of the original game to save space or may include corrupt data in them.  Ideally one should have a proper image of original disks with all data preserved.  Of course, from almost the earliest days of the Apple II's Disk II drive, copy protection schemes were implemented on commercial software to prevent casual disk copying.  True preservation requires preserving them as well, and that requires emulation to become more accurate than it needed to be for just sector based .dsk images.  In this blog article I will describe in as much detail as I can how the Disk II Floppy Drive works, how it is different from floppy drives for other systems, how data is stored on disk, the benefits of the .woz format and how .woz images are made.

Friday, January 22, 2021

wDrive v. Floppy Emu - Comparison of the Best Apple II Disk Emulators

The 5.25" floppy disk was the principal medium of program storage for the Apple II series of computers.  Thousands of software titles were written specifically for the Apple II's Disk II drive and its successors and clones.  Using floppy disks, and more specifically disk images, is essential to using an Apple II computer.  To use a disk image is to either write the image back to a disk, a cumbersome and sometimes unreliable process, or use a disk emulator.  In a recent past blog article, I have written about the Floppy Emu, a very capable Disk II drive emulator.  I have recently acquired the wDrive, another emulator device which can simulate a Disk II drive.  While similar to the Floppy Emu in many ways, the wDrive has its own benefits and quirks, and here I will compare the two hardware floppy emulators.  

Monday, December 28, 2020

The EverDrive GB X7 - The Ultimate 8-bit Game Boy/Color Flash Cart?

EverDrive GB vs. EverDrive GB X7

For too long, the Game Boy and Game Boy Color had been rather neglected by the flash cart builders.  The old cartridges by companies like Bung faded out of existence as Nintendo sued Bung out of existence.  There were a few more recent cartridges like the 64MB EMS Smart Card, but it was really klunky to use and had poor game compatibility.  A few cartridges were more focused on music production than game playing.  In 2014 Krikzz released the EverDrive GB, a flash-based device with an FPGA with enough resources to handle basic games.  I bought one then and was satisfied with it, as I indicated in my review.  Three years later he released the SRAM-based EverDrive GB X-series.  Having finally acquired an EverDrive GB X7, let me share my thoughts and views of the device and try to answer the question, "Is it the Ultimate GB/GBC Flash Cart?"

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Life After Death - The Unlicensed Market for NES and Famicom Games after their Lifespan

When Nintendo and its authorized third parties stopped releasing new games for the NES and Famicom in 1993 and 1994, respectively, the established pattern would have dictated a period where no new games would be available until the eventual birth of the homebrew scene.  However, this really did not happen for the Nintendo 8-bit platform, games have been development continuously from the birth of the Famicom in 1983 to the present day.  In previous articles I have taken a look into Unlicensed Western and Taiwanese developers active during the active lifespan of the NES and Famicom.  In this article I will give a brief overview the afterlife of this iconic hardware.

Monday, November 23, 2020

FPGA NES and Famicom Solutions' Mapper Support Matrices

There have been several hardware devices released over the past four decades which play NES and Famicom games.  Any regular reader of this blog will know that the NES and Famicom have many, many different ways in which it supports memory management.  Hardware devices which support a wide variety of games use FPGAs to configure their logic to handle the various memory mappers used by NES and Famicom games.  Below I will give matrices of each device and identify the mappers it supports.  Both iNES 1.0 and NES 2.0 mappers will be identified.  None of these devices support UNIF format mappers and UNIF should be fully deprecated by NES 2.0 now.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Review of Products Three for my Apple //e

A minimally-functional Apple //e requires very little in the form of upgrades.  Add an 64KiB memory expansion, a floppy disk controller card and a disk drive or two and you should be all set.  But a few upgrades can really improve the experience, and to allow my Apple //e to be the best Apple //e it can be, I purchased three modern upgrades for my newest vintage computer.  Here I will review each product, describe its features and caveats and indicate whether I recommend it.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Apple II - Classic Games and Resources

When I re-started my Apple II journey I wanted to share some of the knowledge I had acquired over the years and put into full service when I began to build my Apple //e system in October.  For me, an Apple //e is a gaming machine, and there are lots of great games for the system.  I will discuss some of them first, then give links to more information which I have found helpful for Apple II users.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Running the Apple //e - Intermediate Topics

In the last blog entry I focused on the basics of how to get an Apple //e up and running.  In this entry I am going to focus on some of the more advanced issues that users may encounter with running software, programs and hardware on an Apple //e.