My first day with the Greaseweazle

No, I haven’t gone and got myself a new girlfriend.

Instead, I’ve invested in a little PCB known as the Greaseweazle. And I’m sure I’m spelling that incorrectly, as I think I’ve spelled it about 4 different ways in the last hour alone. Basically, it allows you to create images from floppy discs, most notably, Amiga disks As you can imagine, this is somethingthat’s of interest to me, as I’ve been an Amiga fan for…. ooh, almost 30 years.

As I ‘m sure you’ll be aware, I’ve spent the last year reliving some of my amiga memories, especially afterresurrecting my old machine’s hard drive, and wallowing in the nostalgia of the old photos and music that was on there. there was one area that was, sadly, locked away. I had no way of converting my existing floppy disks to a readable format. There had been rumours that an Arduino based all-in-one USB device was coming onto the market, but the manufacturer is having difficulty with getting the parts, so I don’t think that’ll be available any time soon. While randomly browsing the net on Friday, I saw this thing called the Greaseweazle, and it was only £20. Yoink. I wasn’t even drunk.

I paid a little more to have the cables included. I’m sure I have loads of old floppy cables, but no idea where. Oh, and I also got a floppy drive cheap enough off Fleabay. again, there’s probably half a dozen kicking around this roomy mansion, but knowing I wouldn’t find one when I actually wanted one, I just plumped for buying one.

Days passed by, and they both landed through the Mercuryvapour Towers portcullis with a thud.

It seemed extremely easy. Connect the three wires, download the software, run it, aaaand…

Z:\greaseweazle-tools-v0.38>z:gw info
Host Tools: v0.38
Device:
Not found

Turns out all I had to do was switch it over to a different USB port, and I was good to go. I think that USB port was dodgy anyway. Within seconds, I was imaging my first disk!

This was purposely a brand new blank disk, as I knew at least it’d work. It did, I think, as I shortly had a 70Mb(!) floppy image. At this point, I’m still not 100% sure why the size is so large, some 60 times bigger than a regular floppy disk. All I can garner from the manual is stuff about flux, and magnets, and it’s all going over my head.

Anyway, the initial test passed. I decided to try with an Amiga disk… Now, I didn’t have many of my own to try, so I dug into a box of random disks I bought from a radio rally several years ago. This one in particular intrigued me…

No, they’re not pics of ham, but HAM was an image format on the Amiga that used special trickery to get more colours on the screen than the chipset could natively handle.

They’re mediocre by today’s standards, and the pixel-perfect screengrab probably doesn’t do it justice, I’m sure it’d have looked infinitely better when smoothed out via an RF signal on a CRT telly…

And that’s really where the fun ended. I tried other disks, and instantly found a problem. As I said, these disks never belonged to me originally, so I have no idea how they were stored, but they made some EEEVIL noises….

Initially I thought it might have just been the drive slipping. The drive was off ebay, as I mentioned earlier, so this was another unknown factor. The date code on the drive itself was 2006, so it might not have been used for 16 years. I left it to do its thing. It might work, it might not.

I fired up the image, and of course, it didn’t. Dammit. I was about to give it another go, but I thought I’d check the surface of the disk…. Oh.

Yeeeah. Those patches shouldn’t be there. That’s where the magnetic layer is missing from the disk, rendering it completely and utterly useless. Well, shite. This was disk 1 in a 3 disk software package, so they’re all pretty much useless. I checked some of the other disks, and I can see what looks like mould on some of them, so I’m guessing they weren’t stored in the best of locations. A friend, Rob, has pointed me in the direction of a floppy disk cleaner, which I’ll probably end up getting, along with a bottle of Isopropyl alcohol

Damn it. All this time and effort, and all I have to show for it, is a ladies’ bottom. I’ve had worse days.

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MercuryVapour

I'm a man of few words. Any questions?

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