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Modernising a Vintage Fluoro Magnifying Lamp

I found this thing a while back at the flea markets in Canberra and instantly decided that I needed it. I mean, who doesn't need a lighted magnifying glass on their workbench!?! It sorta reminds me of the Pixar Lamp.



Out with the old...

This unit had a 12" fluoro tube, which worked very well. I often just used it to light the apartment... but from this, could also often hear an audible buzzing from the ballast. Although the ballast provided a nice weight at the base of the adjustable arm, I wanted it out... or at least off!

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To gut everything, I first removed the tube and associated housing. It then became apparent that the wiring went through a DPST switch and nice heavy-duty cabling was therefore already provided for me.

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The next step was to remove the ballast. It turns out here that they've actually glued it into the base. Not a bad thing, I'm happy to just disconnect it as the weight it handy. Doing so, I simply gutted all the wiring to the terminal block and then wired in my own power brick.


From here, I quickly tested the power supply and polarity.


In with the new...

It was off to Jaycar again to find some LED strip lighting. This turned out to be really easy! It comes in short segments and already has circuitry embedded requiring a 12v power supply. Each segment needs only 50mA and the brightness is insane for the power usage. I purchased 8 segments (at a guess) to hopefully run a full lap inside the lamp recess.

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Tinning up the wires, they were then soldered on the correct way around.

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And a quick test...


Finally, the backing was peeled off and the strip was secured around the inside of the shade.

The result

I was a little concerned when I tested it during the day... that all changed when I turned it on at night!

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Yes, that's a 386DX40 rendering 3D cubes... and doing pretty damn well!


Of Pin Straightening and CMOS Batteries

Whilst rebuilding a motherboards thought long dead, I have been required to perform a myriad of tasks. These have been related to anything from re-building PCB traces to fabricating batteries to straightening IC pins. Honestly, there's nothing quite like a good challenge and, recently, there's been nothing short of serious challenges appearing on my workbench!

CMOS Batteries

Some older motherboards have the batteries soldered on... or worse... incorporated into the freaking CMOS RAM chips! Luckily, this latest motherboard had no provisions for an on-board battery. Instead, it just had the usual 4-pin header for an external battery. Of the four pins, the two next to eachother are ground and the single pin to the side is positive. Don't be fooled by the CON1 label thinking that anything with a 1 should be positive!


I ended up at the usual Jaycar franchise and purchased a coin-cell holder and plug socket. It's a little chunkier than a standard header, but it is so much easier to work with!


Solder everything up and determine which way is positive. Note that, for coin-cells, the positive side is the 'bottom'. I had always assumed it'd be the 'inner-ring' (as per AA and AAA and all other batteries)... but it ain't. So be careful!

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Once rigged together... install!


Yosh! Worked like a charm. If only all motherboards came with external batteries... the next mobo on the shelf has so much corrosion that I just feel like throwing it out.

Pin Straightening

Whilst doing the previous Recycle-Shopping-Tour-Of-Kumamoto, I stumbling across this 100-yen dream. It's a 386/486 era CPU with an alloy heatsink to obscure its actual identity!


I spent no extra effort breaking it out of the bag... and probably bent more pins... I wonder if works? Or what spec it is?

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First step... pop that heatsink off. This required a fair amount of jimmy'ing...


Ooooo! It's a 486 DX2/66. This is seriously my favourite 486 CPU. So much natsukashiiii.


Will have to find a motherboard to slap it into... but before I even have a chance to do that, it's time to break out the tweezers. Actually, I discovered a better method this time around. Use a credit-card/transport-card/library-card to align an entire row of pins at the same time!


Nothing like being an adult and using adult tools!

Filed under: Retro No Comments

Apple IIc – Floppy via Serial

I've recently acquired an Apple IIc and it's time to play games! As previously mentioned, the best way to do this is to hook up the Apple to a PC and transfer data via serial cable. This is all done via the aid of a software program known as ADTPro.

Building the serial cable

You'll find the required information on the connection page of ADTPro. Back to Jaycar we go to get the required components. Needed was a DB-9 female serial connector and a DIN-5 male plug. Some 6-core wire helped also.


Soldering it all together is very straight forward. Firstly, bridge pins 1 and 5 on the DIN side, then solder up pins 2-4.

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Next, on the DB-9 port, join pins 1,4,6 together. Then join pins 7 and 8 together. That's two separate groups, not all 5 in one join! Finally, wire through (DIN-DB9) the three wires, 4-3, 2-2, 3-5.

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Bootstrapping the software

Everything you need to know is on the ADTPro bootstrapping page. Java is required, so grab a JRE and install it on your platform of choice. Make sure your hardware has a functioning serial port! A USB->Serial adapter will work fine here. Download ADTPro from sourceforge and the RXTX Java Libraries. If you don't install the libraries, the application will remind you anyway...

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To install RXTX, unzip the downloaded archive and move RXTXcomm.jar to \jre\lib\ext (under java) and rxtxSerial.dll to \jre\bin. Open the program once you've got it all installed. It'll be asking what serial port and what speed to use. Leave the speed as default and then choose the correct port.

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At this point, you'll want to copy your disk image files into the disks subdirectory inside the ADTPro folder. Once you're ready to go, turn on your Apple IIc, holding down CTRL-RESET to get to the prompt. Expect ugly characters on the screen... it's no issue.


Once up (disregard that I already typed the first step above!), go back to ADTPRO and choose Bootstrapping -> ProDOS -> Speediboot.

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Follow the instructions and type out the commands on the Apple. Note: Replace the # with the pound sign on UK keyboards! From here, you'll hopefully load into the main menu.

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Hit R for Receive File and then make sure you are in the correct 'working directory'... i.e. where you copied your disk images to! I found Frogger, renamed it as frgr.dsk and copied it into the ADTPro disks folder. I was about run the floppy disk image from RAM... but why? I have spare floppies... lets use this thing as a floppy image writer!


It took a good amount of time... sounding REALLY unhealthy. Those Xs didn't look too good either. Turns out this was because I was trying to use PC formatted high-density disks... and that would never work! Regardless, due to the sounds, I wanted to open up the drive to check if it need maintenance.



For its age, it was in perfect condition. Dusty, yes... and the top padded head was deteriorating... but nothing a little cleanup with alcohol wipes wouldn't fix! I then remembered I had a 'disposable' 360k disk in my repertoire. Using this, I finally had a bit of success... it read the disk header!


Frogger then burnt, but wouldn't boot :( As that I had no idea if this version of Frogger was for my machine, or if it was even a bootable disk, I thought I'd try the actual images that come with ADTPro. I therefore chose the first image and wrote it to the disk. TADA! It booted!! Very different menu from the remote version when loaded over the wire.


What next? Oh yeah, Police Quest 1. Turns out this is in NIB disk image format, but it seems ADTPro can handle this. There was a warning of file size mismatch, but I went ahead and burnt it anyway... I didn't bother burning the second side. Once cooked, I turned the machine off.. counted to 10... held breath... crossed fingers... powered on...

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Hahahaha! It worked! But I can't flip the disk without repeating the whole process and writing the other side. I don't think I'll bother as the game loaded so bloody slowly. I'd probably never end up actually playing or using this machine... so it's now on eBay. What a perfect unit if you loved these old games!?

Filed under: Apple 2 Comments

Melbourne – B74’s Birthday Bash

Another weekend in Melbourne brings about another Heritage Train Trip. This time it was Seymour Railway Heritage Centre running an excursion to celebrate the 65th Birthday of locomotive B74!

The trip was initially meant to run via Newport and Werribee, so I located myself on the curves into Albion Station to snap it as it came through. The following shot is of a track-machine transfer back in 2016 and shows the angle you can get from the road overpass.

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It was touch-and-go to get there in time... but then I noticed that the train had disappeared at Jacana junction. Broad-gauge trains only do this when they're running through Essendon into town, so I was a little perplexed. Further googling resulted in the revelation that the train would 'run around' at North Melbourne. I assumed it'd then run via the triangle and head into Newport... so I re-located to Brooklyn.

After a little time passed, I checked the radar and noted that the train hadn't actually shifted. Quickly off to the Facebook page for SRHC I went; only to find that the train was to run via the RRL! This was great news... but I was in the wrong location. I've previously caught consists approaching Tarneit before and wanted to do it again with this one. Back in the car... back on the highway... and based on timetables, with very little time to spare.

Regardless, by the time I got to Tarneit, the train had not moved from North Melbourne. Hah. Such is the Australian Railway life. I waited at the station and watched two train-loads of AFL fans head into Melbourne.

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Whilst this was happening, the suspense was building outside... Seems like others had a better idea as to where to find the perfect angle.


I had a better position inside on the walkway to the platform. There's a good viewpoint, framed nicely by the station and the signals (if you wish), that let me get the previous shot of the steamer in the link above. I was the only one there, with a nice and clear line-of-sight. In due course, the train thundered through...


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And then I was off to Sunbury for computer markets and tip-shop scrummaging.

Filed under: AUS No Comments

Introducing the Apple IIc

I suppose I should be using italics there, but the heading doesn't allow it. The Apple IIc is an all-in-one (apart from the monitor) unit from Apple, built in 1984. Amazingly, this model was released at the same time that the original Macintoshes were hitting the market, directly competing with their own graphical systems?

I happened to stumble across one recently at the Camberwell Markets and haggled it down to a price I was comfortable with.



This thing is like a cute little suitcase. It has a fold-out handle at the back which actually makes it really portable. What doesn't make it portable is the power supply! It's huge and heavy and really does ruin the whole 'portable' aspect.

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The keyboard is relatively clicky, but a little sluggish. From what I read, they fixed this in later versions which came out with 'alps' switches. Note that you can determine your model by typing PRINT PEEK(64447) at the BASIC prompt...


Mine is a 255... the earliest revision.

ROM Upgrades

Fortunately, the ROM is a socketed EPROM and therefore easy to upgrade. Big Mess O' Wires has a great blog post on upgrading the ROM. Turns out that my version of the motherboard has a 16k ROM in it, but the board has provisions to support a 32k (27256) ROM. A 64k ROM is also usable, if you burn the image to the 'second half' of the chip. See my old post here on burning EPROMs if you need a hand to do so.

Firstly, download the ROMs. I'd recommend ROM 5x as it is a modified ROM with extra features. Unfortunately, they don't provide a direct link, so you'll have to follow the instructions there to create it. There's another link here.


I spent a bit of time trying to see if I could use Windows 10 to burn... short answer is that I couldn't. I booted up the old IBM NetVista which had a fresh install of XP, but that was also troublesome. So I threw in a spare HDD and re-installed 98se. Note, make sure you set your parallel port to just ECP. I'll try XP again as this setting made the burning work under 98se. Also make sure your EPROMs are blank!

Next, pop the thing open. Firstly, undo the top two and bottom 4 screws. The 4 middle screws are for the floppy drive and aren't required to remove the case lid. Once you've popped the lid off... and be very careful, there's clips all around that just need manipulating, you can disconnect the data cable to both the floppy and the keyboard.

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You'll then have the mainboard totally exposed. One thing to note is the Integrated Wozniak Machine, used to drive the floppy.


The ROM is the bottom-middle IC. Hahaha... look at that copyright requirement... it says MICROSOFT '77!


From here, pop out the old chip and slap in yours. You'll need to break W1 and bridge W2 (as per the instructions in the link above) if you're not replacing with a 27128.

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First boot and I got the following...


Oh bullocks... but hey, if you actually plug the keyboard in, then it'll actually work!



Colour Video

I was a little disappointed that this only had monochrome composite output. Fortunately, Kaput(?) has created a schematic for a Apple II Colour Demodulator. The inline images seem to be dead, but just click the first link for the circuit. My main issue is that I found that shitty little TV above, as it nicely matched the IIc. It's monochrome also... so... I'm not overly fussed if the unit stays mono.


Turns out there's a whole lot of popular games on this unit! Here's the list, thanks to Wikipedia.. And what!?!?... Police Quest 1? I wonder how hard it is to write a 5 1/2" floppy for this thing. Here's Frogger. A little googling tells me that writing floppies needs to be done via ADTPro and a serial cable. That'll be another post!

Filed under: Apple No Comments

Main South – June 2018

I had to drive to Sydney for work.. so I via'd Canberra and the railway line. Didn't get to see much as I was mainly on-the-clock and had places to be... but fluked a few sightings. First up was perfect timing with the Harefield shuttle. Whilst waiting for it, there was (as there always is) amazing cloud formations to drool over. Not so easy to capture on an SLT though.


The light is never in the right area in the afternoon and so I've got a favourite place at the top of the climb from Harefield to Junee on an S-Bend. It gives you a minute possibiliy of having the loco on a good angle.


It also lets you take a photo of the train seemingly driving on the road...


And then some great angles of the consist traversing the curves...

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There's always a good lash-up on this train. Qube run the shuttle and, since it's such a short trip between Harefield and Junee, use a miriad of vintage locomotives.


There wasn't much else happening on the rails, so I bolted through to Harden and caught a northbound PN intermodal trying not to roll too fast down the hill.

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The leg from Canberra to Sydney was a little quieter, but I did manage to intercept a northbound SCT service just near Bargo. SCT have recently acquired a bunch of LDPs from QR who no longer do southern intermodal trains, so this was an interesting lash-up.


Next is the Griffith Explorer passing through Galong. This is train has an every-second-day timetable and isn't an easy one to catch. The weather was also disturbingly cold and wet.

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A few KMs down the track I intercepted the northbound Melbourne-Sydney XPT. It absolutely flew past me!

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Further down in Yerong Creek, I intercepted a north-bound Steel Train.

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In Culcairn I thought I found one of the ex-ARHS Canberra passenger cars, but alas, supposedly it's been here for years. I'm usually too distracted by the local bakery and don't actually check out this corner.

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The weather stayed absolutely awful...


But I hung around in the cold for the southbound XPT.

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And then continued home through a heavy downpour... car needed a wash anyway.


Melbourne Randomness – 2018

How do you post photos that (are really cool but) really don't relate to eachother and have been taken over a large period of time? You start a randomness-post! ...And so I present the following...

Here's Steamrail's Y112 passing through Hawksburn Station. Fortunately, I guessed the correct tracks and was in a good location.

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A regular in my area, the steel train is always trundling past. Here it is traversing the mudholes below Cromwell Road.

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And then again.. with an XR up front, this time.

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Now we're off to Flinders Street Station. Here we get to see Steamrail up to mischeif again with a double-ended heritage passenger train. They were running shuttles in all sorts of directions.

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One of the shuttles was off to Essendon, so I made my way to Kensington to see it fly though. Fortunately enough, SSR had their grain rake stabled there.


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A further shuttle then saw the consist pass through Hawksburn twice.

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Hanging around North Melbourne Station saw a newly refurbished Comeng set shunt around. These have had face-lifts, amongst other changes. The gangways between carriages are also now covered.


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Finally, another Steamrail shuttle was captured up north.

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And then... another steelie, from the other side of the tracks... with my old apartment in the background. Boo hoo.


...the end.