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19Dec/170

Amstrad CPC6128

A friend had one of these a very long time ago and I couldn't resist the urge to snap one up online when an auction came up! I'm really impressed with the size and design of this unit. It's quite heavy and solidly built. The keys have a nice tactile feel to them also.

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The CPC6128 produces video through a 6-pin RGB DIN video port, so we'll need to convert that to something more usable. Thank fully I have a SCART to HDMI converter from the MSX. It also has a standard 3.5mm stereo output jack, so that can be fed into the SCART port also.

The internal floppy drive is non-standard. It requires 3" disks, as compared to a PC that uses 3.5". They're also slightly longer than usual disks. Fortunately Amstrad put an edge-connector on the rear for 'Drive B' which is pin-identical to old 5.25" PC disk drive plugs and I happen to have a ribbon cable that'll work.

Anyway.. let's get this thing powered up and running!

Power

The CPC6128 needs 5v @ 2A and 12v @ 0.5A. You'll also need power for an internal PC floppy drive.. so I've used an internal hard disk power supply splitter for my source. This was chosen as I have an external USB-IDE power supply which has the right power requirements for the whole setup.

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I found a DC plug and quickly hooked up the 5v line (red wire!) to see if the Amstrad would power up.

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Yosh! We have activity (red light illuminated in test above)! The 12v line is actually for the internal floppy drive, of which I don't have disks for, so I'm not too concerned with it. I proceeded and soldered on a floppy power plug, 5v DC plug and 12v DC socket.

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After the final changes, the red power light was still illuminating, so it was now time to convert the video output.

Amstrad RGB to SCART

This looked similar to my MSX machine, but there's only 6 pins instead of 8. I followed the instructions here at CPC Wiki and created a cable with a 6-pin DIN on one end and a SCART plug on the other.

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Initially, I used the first wiring diagram at CPC Wiki, but this didn't work! I got a quick view of the CPC, but the image wouldn't last. I then tried the Alternative RGB Wiring with LUM to SYNC and SYNC to 16 and we got a picture! I must admit that my SCART to HDMI convertor is noisy!

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Note that the picture would blink and the OSD for my TV kept appearing telling me that HDMI 4 was connected. It turns out (as per the instructions on CPC Wiki) that you need to install a 10uf Capacitor across pins 16 and 18 to rectify this.

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This was installed and fitted nicely in the plug-housing. Audio was then run through to a 3.5mm jack for the side connector.

Using a PC floppy drive

You'll find all the information you need here to connect a PC 3.5" drive to the CPC. Finding a ribbon cable will be the hardest part... but luckily I've had a few old machines pass through my pile'o'junk lately and there were enough older-style cables spare. I actually swapped a few cables out from older machines for standard newer floppy cables that don't have the edge-connector as the other machines won't ever need them.

We've already got the power plug from above, so all we need to do now is correctly plug the data cable through. It's as simple as pushing the edge connector socket onto the port at the back and then pluging the IDC header plug into the floppy drive. Make sure to get the cable on the right way... if your machine fails to boot at this point, then swap it around.

Final step... add a jumper wire between pins 33 and 34.

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I must note that, when idle, the floppy drive's reading light was always illuminated. It also then illuminated the internal drive's busy light also!

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I tried a standard 3.5" HD Disk.. but it hated it..

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Floppy Disk Images

This was a little trickier. You'll find CPCDiskXP. The latter is a very power piece of disk writing software specifically for the CPC.

I tried initially to get CPCDiskXP to write a DSK file straight to my USB floppy drive, but it failed. It wanted to install a 3rd party 'direct access' driver and this then told me it wouldn't work with USB floppy drives. Fortunately, you can get around this by converting all images to 'usb floppy compatible' images.

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Open CPCDiskXP and click the bottom-middle DSK Editor button. From here, choose 'New'.

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You'll now be provided with a selection of floppy image formats. Select the USB Compatible radio and then choose a format from the drop-down that'll fit the contents of the disk in question.

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Once done, hit Add Files From Another Dsk. Open the relevant disk image and select everything.

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You should now see your new image populated with the files from the source disk.

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Hit the Write USB Floppy button up top and make sure USB Floppy Drive is selected.

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Make sure you have your drive connected and a valid disk inserted. (I didn't, so the next shot is dark and full of errors.)

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And now... test!

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Winner.

Other games: Prince of Persia, Stunt Car Racer, TMNT, Chase HQ, Spy vs Spy, Locomotion

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15Dec/170

Windows 7 Setup asks for a CD/DVD Drive Device Driver

I have gotten a little sad recently. My Windows 10 machine now takes 10 good minutes to get to a usable desktop. Sure, Plex is trying to wrangle 4TB of media and ... well ... there's 3 other years of crap on the main partition ... but it's now beyond a joke.

To get anywhere near back to normal, I'll need to re-install the licensed version of Windows 7 and follow the standard sneaky upgrade path.

I therefore grabbed the installation disk and booted from it. Not too far in and I was already at a road-block. Excuse the image quality... my ultra-wide screen doesn't like the installers basic 4:3 resolution!

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A required CD/DVD drive device driver is missing? Ok.. sure... maybe you don't like the RAID setup in this Dell Precision T3500. I proceeded to kill 20 minutes rebooting to a usable desktop and trying to guess what drivers to download and install... I grabbed a myriad and burned them all to a CD. Rebooting, I swapped this in and tried to load the INFs.

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Wait... Windows Setup can see the hard drives it's supposedly missing? Wait... it can also see the DVD drive?... wait... what's going on here? What's it actually complaining about? Ohhhhhhhhh... it hates the installation media? Why didn't you just say that the first time?

I then re-burnt the DVD at a slower speed (as per instructions) and got a little further...

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Finally... I found a real DVD (DL RW Disc)... burnt it... all worked. Moral of the story? Use proper DVDs. Maybe DVD+R as the DVD-Rs that I burnt above were totally unreliable!

13Dec/170

Microtek MDC-1 Parallel Port Camera

This thing just looks cool! Advertised as 'really simple to use' since it only needs your parallel port, it's a true-colour 640x480 webcam for the Windows Millenium era. Well, I say Win ME, but I could be wrong... the drivers I found are for ME though, so it definitely hung around.

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It has a lengthy cable with a little bit of 'interesting' at the end. Sure, you have the parallel port.. which we're expecting.. but then you have an 'adapter' that has male PS/2 on one end and a female AT keyboard connector on the rear. Wait... so... If my PC has an AT Keyboard port, I'm screwed because this has male PS/2... BUT I can plug my keyboard in to the back of it? Vice-versa, if I only have PS/2 ports, I then need an AT Keyboard? The only real answer to this is that it came with two converters... Of which I happened to find in my box'o'junk!

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So, in my AT case, I converted the AT to PS/2, plugged in the webcam and then plugged in ANOTHER AT to PS/2 to connect my keyboard! Hooked together...

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We have power!

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Software

Thanks to webarchive, the original page for the camera is here. Unfortunately, the snapshot they've taken doesn't include drivers. Regardless of the list of files here, they all seem to be for their scanners. Fortunately, Driverguide has a Windows Millenium Driver for the MDC-1.

Downloading and installing was simple enough on Windows 98 SE. The software needed a reboot and then I had a program folder with Camera Test in it... sure! Why not?

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Nice... it just worked perfectly. Terrible in low-light, but that's to be expected!

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For those running open source software, you may be in luck. Is this a Linux Driver? Is this the same one? Maybe this?

Looks like they made sequels: Microtek Eyestar 2? And a USB version also.

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11Dec/170

Revolution 3D – Ticket To Ride – AGP Graphics Card

I didn't even know this company existed. I've recently acquired a box'o'crap and there was a really strange-looking AGP graphics card in it.

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Turns out it's a Number Nine Visual Technology Ticket To Ride Revolution 3D AGP Graphics Card with 8mb of WRAM? There's more information on it here at the VGA Museum. Vogon's Driver Library has the drivers for it for Windows 9x! (Note that they're always in 7-zip format, so get the Windows 9x version of that here.) Here's Wikipedia's data on Number Nine Visual Technologies.

They actually used Beatles lyrics/song-titles for the names of their chipsets/cards. How very random. The card used the IBM RAMDAC and had WRAM ... of which I'm still trying to understand.

Wait... woah... the wayback machine not only has the original Number Nine Technologies website saved, but you can even download the original HawkEye drivers for this card!

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So, crap 3D game performance and 'very good' 2D performance/image quality. The card has a 'VGA Enable' on it, so I assume, like early 3dfx cards, you could have this as a secondary and only use it when the application required it. Which is interesting; if the 3D is crap.. then you'd have a second monitor for crap-ness. Instead they supposedly actually were good enough for their 2D!?

Here's a demo of the 3D performance... browse right to the end to see Unreal. Here's a review of it on Tom's Hardware, pitted against a few other cards of its time. All under Windows 95! Shock, it didn't score good at all for 3D... but for 2D it wiped the field.

VC Collection (Russian) has a review of the card. I was happy to see it not coming last! Then I realised that it was being compared against an S3 Virge DX!

Installation

Software was instead pulled from vogons and running setup produced the following...

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Wait, what? Setup won't actually install the drivers? It'll just install the control panel? Time to fight through Device Manager...

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And, of course, it wouldn't be Windows 98SE without a reboot...

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The desktop then rendered beautifully over VGA at 1600x1200.

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Games!

Screamer ran very nicely... but this isn't a true 3D game. It has it's own engine and just renders as standard 2D.

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Quake 2 was a different story. It ran 'OK' at 320x240. 'Sluggish' at 640x480 and 'Useless' at 800x600.

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But that was to be expected as this is not a powerful 3D card!

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