8-Bit Software Online Conversion

Hello once more. FREE STUFF Hopefully, most of you receiving your magazine disc on or around issue date will find an extra free disc in the envelope. This is one of the many 'throw away' discs I have, so do not bother returning it. It is disc one of the DFS TBI-00, the catalogue disc. Members receiving their issue via Email are invited to download it from the 8BS website. What shall I send you for Christmas this time then? Any requests? I think I know what it will be though! Can't wait? Well, you will just have to. MANY thanks to Paul Clucas for checking out the issue once more. He has checked all but this bit in white. I have to make sure that there are a few errerers, don't I? A long bit about BBC disc images and the PC I try to avoid talking about PC's as much as possible here as 8BS is a BBC thing. However, from time to time I have to mention PCs as mine does play a very important part in the running of 8BS. It helps me maintain the 8BS website which is attracting a fair bit of interest. Many more people manage to find 8BS using the internet than any other method now. Another use the PC has is to store the backup of the 8BS pool. I originally copied just a few discs onto the PC as images to see if there was any mileage in it. Over a period of two or three months, I copied the whole of the pool onto it. As time went on, I realised this was a very safe way of storing the pool, to the extent that I de-commissioned the 5.25" discs that were the backup, I gave them away as freebies mostly. Can you imagine the space that 1000 5.25" discs in disc boxes took up? A more recent addition to my setup as you discovered last issue was a read/write CD rom, so that I can now make CDs. I copied the pool onto CD, in the various formats that BBC emulators use. I thought long and hard about whether CDs containing the 8BS pool should be made available. You can now obtain the whole of the 8BS pool on 7 CDs. See the catalogue for details. The CDs contain an Access database that with a simple mouse click will run the PCBBC demo and load the selected file. Mark Usher and myself have put a great deal of work into the database and we are quite proud of it. As a result of making these CDs available, I have had several enquiries about BBC emulators and transfer of software from PC to BBC. Emulators is simple, Stuart McConnachie's PCBBC wins hands down. You have to register to get the full version of the software, £10 but it is definately worth it. You don't have to take my word for it, many peple have now got back to me to say that they think it is an excellent emulator. Try it out for free, the PCBBC demo. Transfer of software is not as difficult as you might think. There are two ways to do it. My least favoured method (one that I have not tried) is a direct link. You must make up a lead and then use software available (Xfer). This method is slow and is only for transferring individual small files. To make an image of a disc (a single file that is a copy of the whole disc) is far quicker and simpler. Images can then be used in PC emulators and also written directly to a disc that will then be useable on a BBC. The public domain PC program FDC will read/write a BBC disc with a few simple commands. You need a disc drive on the PC capable of 720K. Your PC and BBC drive must also be the same size of course 5.25" or 3.5". I have made up a couple of hundred 3.5" HD discs for use on the PC that have the PCBBC emulator demo, transfer utilities, info and a few images from the 8BS pool on them. Just send me an SAE and I will send one to you, free while stocks last. A copy of this disc is also available for download on the 8BS website. Disc images in greater depth I feel a brief explanation of the way I store/read/write disc images is required. Archimedes users may have problems reading them. There is a separate article about this. Personally, I have no experience with the Archimedes and therefore cannot offer help. I use the program FDC (Floppy Disc Controller) on the PC. This program is very easy to use. Run the program. Enter: fd0 then bbc then cyl 80 and you are ready to read or write 80 track DFS discs using the following commands: read <filename> to read both sides in interleaved format and produce the file on the PC hard disc called <filename> read0 <filename> to read side 0 of the disc read1 <filename> to read side 2 of the disc To write an image from the PC to a BBC DFS disc, simply replace 'read' with 'write' in the above examples. The single sided images are a straight copy of the disc surface, exactly what you would see if you used a sector editor on the BBC. The double sided images are read into the PC in 'interleaved' format. The drive heads read the disc in one sweep, reading the track on side 0, then the track on side 2 before moving on to the next track on side 0. The image is therefore stored in an odd way (interleaved). On the 8BS CDs, I have added a failsafe by not only putting the double sided interleaved images, but also including single sided copies of the same discs. So for each interleaved image, there are also two single sided images provided. Right! That was DFS. What about ADFS L? The program FDC requires a few extra parameters entering in order to read/write ADFS: sectors 16, bytes 256, dd, head1 1 (or head1 0 if that does not work when reading) This reads a double sided 80 track disc. The vast majority of ADFS 8BS discs are ADFS L. There are a couple of ADFS 800K in the 512 section but I have not provided them on CD. This method of reading the discs again produces an 'interleaved' image to which I have given the extension .a. I have also converted the images to .adf format. Adf format is the interleaved image de-interleaved by the PC program BBCIM and then the two images concatenated in to one file (stuck back together one after the other). Updates A big thank you to Jonathan Harston for his work on the menuing system and all the 8BS utilities associated with it. He has made changes to many of the programs. The end user, you, should not really notice anything. Jonathan has removed a few bugs and tidied up the whole system properly. If you have any problems with this 8BS issue, please let me know as soon as possible. There is always one more bug! Greenacre Services and Ramblings I stuck some Greenacre Services adverts in with early issues of 8BS 63 as these people offer lots of BBC related bits for sale. Ron Marshall of Solinet pointed me towards a letter in a recent Solinet Magazine received from one of his members. It would appear that he sent off for a Master 128 keyboard for £20 and received a faulty one. This faulty one was replaced twice before he managed to get a working one. The cost of the keyboard went up because the return postage was not fully refunded by Greenacre Services, apparently. This raises a couple of interesting points. Point one is that his own original MAY have been repairable. Point two is that 8BS has a Master keyboard for £15! The replacement keyboards were apparently advertised as refurbished but arrived faulty. It does't inspire a lot of confidence does it? However, as you know, I supply a lot of bits. Now and again despite the care I take, an item arrives at its destination broken or faulty. I always refund or replace the item in these circumstances, as did Greenacre Services. It is a tricky game flogging second hand stuff through the post, I can tell you that for nothing! There was one exception to the above rule, one person in Cyprus took a ATPL board off me. It was definately working at this end. I know he had trouble fitting it, he said it was faulty and returned it. He sent it back loose in a box, it had rattled itself to pieces inside the box and was irrepairable. I refunded the guy all the same and told him he should have packed it a little better. A while afterwards he returned another item supposedly faulty, a ROM. He sent it in an envelope with a piece of card! All the way from Cyprus. D'oh! It arrived flat of course, I was unable to straighten the legs to test the rom. I was so incensed by this that I photographed it and stuck it on the 8BS website on the 'Horrors' page. I wrote back to the guy refunding his money and telling him not to bother buying anything off 8BS again. He hasn't! The above is a very rare event, usually it is a pleasure to supply people with stuff at a fair price that they thought they would never be able to get.