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Barcode Scanner: Cheating in Style.

I picked up a random hand-held barcode scanner from the markets a few months back and it's been sitting on the shelf waiting for a proper reason to exist. Whilst playing a marathon game of Bubble Bobble on the MSX (and losing, we just couldn't beat the boss), I google'd for cheats. They were all enterable via the keyboard on the main screen... but then it occurred to me... A barcode scanner on a PC would be the best way to quickly type in cheats for your game of choice.

The Scanner

This thing is a hand-held model with stand. It's a DataLogic QuickScan QD2100 and the drivers can be found here.

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Note that the device will install perfectly well on windows and show up as a HID Compliant Keyboard.


scanner device

Once installed, any barcodes scanned will be input via a virtual keyboard, along with a carriage return! To fix this, I'd assumed we'd install drivers and configure the device via software. It turns out instead that we'll need to directly configure the scanner itself via programming barcodes. Grab the manual here and browse to page 90. Read the instructions that they've mentioned:

  1. Go to page 91 and scan the top programming code.
  2. Scan the Set Global Suffix code
  3. Scroll all the way to page 291 and scan the 0 code twice
  4. Scroll all the way back up and scan the programming code again to exit

Making Barcodes

There's a ton of online sites that'll do this for you. My first hit was Barcodes Inc's online barcode generator. From here, even from the screen, you can zap the codes and test the device. It should all work pretty flawlessly.

Doom

I must admit, as soon as this idea came to mind, this was the game that I thought of first. Yes, it's dos-based and this scanner isn't... but that doesn't stop me from using it under DosBox.


GOD Mode

All Guns/Keys/Ammo/Armor

Show location details

Temporary automap

Temporary radiation suit

Temporary light

Temporary invisibility

Temporary invulnerability

Temporary berserk

Change map detail

Chainsaw

Walk through walls

All Guns/Ammo/Armor

What's Next?

You could use this to automate processes: Run-through an entire game maybe? Play music? Probably nothing at-all worthwhile... but nonetheless still fun!

Filed under: Retro No Comments
16Mar/180

Reveal MusicSTAR MIDI Piano Keyboard

Picked this up at a local tip shop a while ago for cheapcheap and have finally gotten around to checking it out. It's a short MIDI Keyboard from Reveal, model number MKB02. It turns out the company no longer exists; but Creative did try to save them back in the day.

Anyway, the keyboard is really nice. It has the standard IO: Power plug, power switch and MIDI out. On top you'll find buttons to adjust pitch and octaves.

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Mine didn't come with an AC adapter, so I purchased the closest 9v 200ma supply I could find.

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I was concerned whilst hooking this up as to the polarity of the plug. Usually you get the little symbol somewhere on the unit to dictate where positive is. Every other MIDI device I've seen lately has positive on the outside... but this does seem to be a Japanese thing.

The best way to solve this was to crack the unit open... it's a keyboard nonetheless, so it probably needed an internal clean anyway!

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That last photo is of the IO board. The best bit? The power runs in from the DC jack into a friggen bridge rectifier! Why am I so happy/excited about this? It means the polarity doesn't even matter! It more-or-less treats the input as AC and converts it to its own polarity. How good is that!? All devices should do this.

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Anyway, the next step was to simply hook it all together into my SC-55. Of course... it just worked perfectly!

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14Mar/180

Replacing the BIOS in an HP 250 G5 Laptop

After visiting the flea markets in Melbourne a lot, I've made quite a few friends. These include fellow shoppers and the odd store-holder. One of these store-holders at Oakleigh, in the South East of Melbourne, pulled me aside 3 weeks ago to ask if I was any good at repairing technology.

I hesitated at first... I love repairing (and breaking) my own things... but I am not so sure of destroying other people's equipment. Anyway, the issue was a laptop BIOS password that could not be bypassed. I mean, how hard could it possibly be?

The Laptop

This was to be a slow process. The markets are only held every Sunday and I was pretty busy during the week, so I could only pick the unit up the next weekend. Turns out the problem child was a run-of-the-mill HP laptop which, as soon as powered on, asked for a Power On Password.

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A quick google showed that a visit to BIOS Password Recovery for Laptops would help. All I had to do was paste in that magic code (enter three wrong passwords) and receive the master password. Unfortunately, passwords beginning with an 'i' just can't be done like this!

A Call To Support

For all intents and purposes, HP support online is actually fantastic. I was quickly informed that this unit was out-of-warranty and a real call to the telephone support would be required. I quickly tried the 'online chat' support first and the system was actually really helpful. They take in your details and then attempt to throw you to their own KB articles.

Fortunately, my problem was impossible to fix online... otherwise everyone would just be getting past this security measure making it not-so-secure. I was then asked to provide the original invoice, a letter indicating the postal address of the owner and a hand-written note from the owner requesting a formal password reset.

Unfortunately, the owner could not produce the original invoice. The item was purchased online a long time ago and he had been unable to get it printed again. From my point of view, the online retailer was definitely not going to help me. There would be too much back-and-forth... I therefore googled a little further and realised there was another way to solve this problem.

Hardware Hack

This is my specialty. Why bother with the to'ing and fro'ing when you can just crack the machine open and replace the BIOS chip. I mean, usually these things are slotted... so how hard can it be?

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Oh shit... It's a tiny 8-pin SMD IC just near the metal shielding and it's nicely soldered in place.

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You'll find pre-flashed BIOS chips for sale on eBay. This one came from Latvia and even had the very latest BIOS installed. It came with a great set of instructions too.

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Remove the current chip. I know, I know... I said above that I'm not down with wrecking other people's hardware... but here I got frustrated trying to remove this chip and just cut the legs. It's the easiest method and well... I would've been screwed if it didn't work!

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From here, tin the pads and then place the new chip in place in the correct orientation! Then just tap the legs with the soldering iron and set the item in place.

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And then... apply power!

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Yes yes... as per the instructions, the CMOS settings need to be saved. When past the screen above, his ESC and then F10... set the date/time and then go to the final menu and save.

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Well shit... it just worked! Now to clean it up and hand it back.

2Mar/180

A Western Victorian Daytrip: Ararat

There was a model railway show on in Ararat... sure, I could've taken the MR2, but I'm getting old and lazy and therefore shouldered with the geezers onto vintage trains instead.

Getting to Ararat via The Overland

OK, I lied about vintage... well... nearly. The Overland could nearly be defined as vintage. The carriages are from the 1960s, but have been kept reasonably up-to-date. It's an easy trip from Melbourne to Adelaide on this service, or so I believe... I've only been as far as Ararat on it. Ararat needs 3.5 hours, whereas it's a whole daytrip to get to Adelaide.

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The consist is loco-hauled and Pacific National gets the honours. Unfortunately, The Overland is provided with a standard NR Class locomotive and isn't offered a livery of its own (unlike The Ghan and The Indian Pacific.) So, due to loco-hauled-goodness, the rake of passenger cars is pulled from the freight yards by a wrong-way-round locomotive into Southern Cross Station. From there, the loco detaches from the rear-end and runs around to the front-end.

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From here, we just wait for the XPT to slug off to Sydney prior to receiving a green light. Inside the train, you're presented with a very run-of-the-mill economy class cabin. It's not ugly, it's not uncomfortable... and it's not modern. Actually... with the standard gauge track to Adelaide being what it is (a freight track) the seats really do help! Unfortunately, the carriages are leaf-sprung and so I can only recommend holding on to whatever you can if you're trying to get to the dunny or the bar car.

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And yes... I said bar car! Unfortunately it was 8am... so I didn't bother sampling the great wine and beer that Australia has to offer. I did enjoy the view though... it's looking very dry out west!

Ararat

We arrived a few minutes late into a very warm Ararat. The Overland doesn't hang around after dropping-off/picking-up... the engine revved nicely and got out of there in no time.

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Straight away there were things to see as VicTrack is currently upgrading the line between Ararat and Maryborough to Standard Gauge. Actually, as I write this, both a grain and a fruit train have traversed the line (at around 20km/h) with revenue services! Two ballast trains were in the yard, but we weren't too sure what they were going to do.

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Oh yeah... we were here for a model railway show... it was dismal. I mean, credit where due, thank you to Ararat for putting on a show! But there were only 4 layouts and a few shops. Still, one of my favourites was there!

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I need to work on model railway photography! But anyway... what else to do in Ararat? Well... we brought a DJI Phantom with us...

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And wanted to catch both BG and SG trains... but we chose a stupid position as I'd gotten confused with the BG and SG and the new SG to Maryborough! Either way, the trains came in and were captured.

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Getting Home

That V/Locity that rolled in above took us home at a leisurely rate of 160km/h when possible and on very smooth track. It even sounded a lot healthier than the NR class that towed us in on the more-narrow tracks. There's actually nothing to mention about the trip as V/Line do an amazing job with regional Victoria.

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16Jan/180

Windows 7 doesn’t boot after installing on Hyper-V

Thanks to my fresh windows 10 install, I had to re-install Hyper-V. No real issues... made a new machine and booted a Win7 ISO. All well... installed quick... reboot just gave me a black screen with a flashing cursor.

Googling came up with this link... Lots of rubbish replies... but there was another one of those gems. Those one-liners that save the world.

Boot your installation media and go to command prompt via recovery, it said. Just type the following, it said:

bootsect.exe /nt60 all /force

And, well, shit... it worked perfectly.

16Jan/180

Amstrad CPC6128 – Repairing the internal floppy drive

The internal drives in these machines need their own separate 12v supply. It's really quite a strange setup... as it means the power supply needs a male (positive on the inside) 5v DC jack and a female (positive on the outside) DC socket to get the machine up and running.

It all makes sense once you realise that the power was supplied by the monitor that came with the set. And since you don't want want the user to be able to get the plugs in the wrong order, having them oppositely-sexed means that there's only one-way-round that they can be connected... unless you try to connect the devices to themselves?

Anyway... I built the required power setup in the prevous post. This time around I actually have a set of strangely-sized Amstrad 3" floppies to test!

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I bit the bullet and just tried to read the disks as soon as I got them... because, hey, sometimes things just work... Of course, no dice; it was either "no disc present" or "failed to read" each time. What next? Time to pull the thing apart! I really should've taken photos when I first did this as the amount of ... insect (I think?) debris inside the machine was intense. There were quite a few of either ant, moth or some other cocooning insect homes installed around the motherboard and, as expected, right inside the floppy chassis too. These things seemed to like to be near the warmer components.

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There was also a very thick and protective layer of dust. The entire machine was pulled apart and 24hours were spent cleaning and drying. Again, I should've taken photos... but I was too scared to move everything on to the workbench. I didn't want a biohazard scene to break out. A lot of soap-suds later and the machine came up much nicer, but still had a pretty mottled outer-case.

Anyway, back to the floppy drive again. The discs weren't reading... so I watched them try to work whilst powered up. The head was happily scanning through the tracks, but the disc wasn't spinning. Turned out to be the age-old totally-trashed-drive-belt trick. Actually, when I first opened the case I should've realised that the 10mm x 5mm shards of black plastic (of which the texture should've been rubber) were chunks of the belt. They were actually so solid that I didn't recognise that they could've ever been elastic or soft!

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Yup, those chunks above are the remnants of the belt. What to do? You could go on eBay and find a legit belt... or you could dig in your stationary draw for something like this.

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And then, well, just undo all the screws on the underside of the drive, disconnect a cable or two and fit a rubber band. Be careful not to damage the band on sharp edges when you install it as you'll just be creating a weak-spot which'll tear when you least expect it.

Put everything back the way you found it and give it a go. I managed to get past the "no disc found" errors... but I still couldn't list a directory structure. I popped the disc back out and wiped down the head (there's a single-sided head in the drive, but the disks are double and need to be flipped) with alcohol wipes. No luck... but something occurred to me; there was a lot of play in the part of plastic that pushed the disc down onto the head... which meant that it wasn't actually properly being pressed down?

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I gently pressed down on the metal plate that the disc actually sits on, just to see if there'd be better contact with the head, of which is under the inserted disc. Damn! It worked! I had no idea how to run LOGO3.COM, but the directory was there, printed in all its glory.

So, not enough downward force once the disc is inserted... how to fix? There happens to be a spring on either side of the 'floating' part of the chassis that the disc is supported on. I assumed that these springs were life-expired and weren't pulling down as hard as they should be. Probably explains why the disc doesn't 'click' in when you insert it either... it goes in and floats around.

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Thanks to Jaycar, I purchased a box of springs. Actually, further thanks to Jaycar... they were free... as I received an AUD$25.00 giftcard in the mail for christmas due to my shopping last year!

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Finding matchingly-sized springs was easy enough and installing them was pretty straight forward... just use tweezers to hook the inner loop.

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From here, the 'click' was intense. Powering it all back up got me the following...

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Snap. Just works(tm). Now... how do I even run Logo?

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Nope... After a little googlin', turns out that it needs to be run from the CPM operating system... which is on the disk? Or something...

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Getting somewhere...

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And then... I have no idea how to use logo...

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But win! I now have both an internal and external drive!

Filed under: Retro No Comments
8Jan/180

The annual Christmas pilgrimage – December, 2017

Both directions this time... also some nice new liveries thanks to SCT's new east-coast running. Aurizon's (QR) last intermodal also passed through, but I wasn't going to get up at 0400 to see it. Early on a Thursday, Qube was first off the blocks with a southbound CM service from Harefield.

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I then just managed to catch the Southbound Albury V/Line service just south of Benalla. Last time I tried to do this I received a speeding ticket.

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The new livery is being called "Polly Waffle" or "Turkish Delight". It's really a little-too-bright, but hey... something different. I then caught a southbound steelie at Bomen... but lighting wasn't the best.

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A bit further on, I fluked a meeting with the southbound Qube Harefield shuttle. First time I've seen the 44s actually moving!

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Further into Junee saw a pair of 81s shunting around... the best part was that they were coming off the Coolamon branch to head north!

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And so... I checked in to my hotel and then bolted to Frampton Siding once they started moving. This is an adjusted alignment for northbound freight to get over the grade... hence the veering to the left.

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The usual midday lull coincided with a dip in the pool. Alerts were set so that I knew when something was approaching. This time it was to be a single QBX flogging it up the mainline with a rake of new flats for the Harefield service.

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Pretty random and moving! Couldn't beat it back to Junee. The afternoon was then spent at Jindalee. First up was a pair of CSRs on a southbound intermodal. I'm starting to like them, even though they had a problematic (asbestos! reliability!) debut.

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Of course, an evening in Coota isn't complete without an NR-led heavy freight through the curves. This time from a little higher up the road.

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And finally a trio of 81s with an empty grain.

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A week was then spent in CBR with the family. On the return trip, I chose to spend another night in the country to catch a few special movements. First up was a northbound steel train of which I just managed to get at Cootamundra.

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And next was the fun part. There was a shutdown between Melbourne and Adelaide, so all westbound services from SCT were being redirected via Parkes... talk about the long way around!

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Terrible morning light meant awful photos... but it was cool to see an intermodal using the other leg of the triangle. Later on in the afternoon a grain train was held in the loop to the east of Cootamundra to let the XPT and then a northbound intermodal pass.

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I then caught the grain train itself around the curves at Jindalee.

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Finally, an Ore train came south from Stockinbingal. These always have random locos on them. This time it was two 82s with an 81 sandwiched inbetween. The last 82 had a nice fresh paintscheme as well!

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After that last shot, I travelled a little further up the hill from the usual photo-point on West Jindalee Road. Turns out, further up, you can see a lot more of the trains coming down the curves. This was perfect, as there were two southbound intermodals on their way.

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I then returned to Melbourne the following day, as there was an SSR grain train loading at The Rock. Originally with 4 locos, it'd left two in the station area and I perfectly timed getting there to see the northbound steel.

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The rest of the grain train was busy loading in the silos...

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And that was another successful christmas trip. I tried a few tip-shops on the way back, but the only one open was Wagga Wagga and there wasn't much to be bought. Albury and Wodonga both seem to have huge tip-shops, but they were closed for the holiday season!

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2Jan/180

Windows 7 64-Bit to Windows 10 Upgrade Error

New year, new OS install. Windows 10 was lagging badly and took around 20 minutes to boot... sure... it was probably PLEX just trying to checksum 4TB of media, but I was sick of it. So, fresh install of Win7 on that 1TB SSD I installed into my previous Vaio. All went well with Windows 7, apart from crappy installation media... but upgrading to Windows 10 took a lot of effort.

Actually, Windows 7 had enough trouble with its own updates. I think that, nowadays, due to the sheer amount of updates that'll try and download and install (at once) on a fresh Windows 7 installation, it's nearly impossible to have them actually all install and succeed.

Therefore the windows updates process took around 10 reboots, with the progress counter getting to 70% and unwinding with an error... but each time more updates would succeed, so it just seemed that they needed intermittent reboots which aren't automated.

Anyway, once I finally had a Windows 7 desktop with an who-knows-how-successful SP1 install, I did the lovely accessibility Windows 10 update. I am hard of seeing, you see?

I came straight away into this error...

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The program can't start because api-ms-win-core-libraryloader-l1-1-1.dll is missing from your computer. Try reinstalling the program to fix this problem. Re-installing what program? I'm running an installer! :)

After a large amount of googling... I stumbled across a one-liner in this post. Someone briefly mentions swapping wimgapi.dll from your c:\windows\system32\ folder into the c:\windows10upgrade folder... it then just worked!

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Well.. I hope it will... at least it's installing...

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

Filed under: Retro No Comments
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!