The disks! They’ve arrived!

I’m happy to report that the disks were handed to the guards at Mercuryvapour Towers, and not just thrown over the portcullis. I now have in my possession 100 floppy disks, Woohoo!

I rushed hurriedly upstairs, with my precious cargo under my arms. I ripped the cellophane off, to be confronted with a nice neat cardboard box with “MISC BACKUPS” written on the side. No signs of mould / damp. No smell like they’d been rotting in a pool of water for 20 years. Things were looking promising

The sellotape holding the box shut looked like it had been there for a long time. This was a good sign. Someone had clearly backed these disks up, then filed them away. I guess it meant that they hadn’t been touched, and had data on them.

I was even more impressed when I opened the box. 10 neat boxes of 3.5 floppies. All of the same make. I was even more impressed when I opened the disk, and found that each disk had a protective sleeve on them too! I couldn’t wait to try them. Each box even had a little label on them saying what was in there…

On goes the PC. The Greaseweazle lets out a little squeak as I stuck the USB cable up its grundle. We were good to go.

Firstly, just a random disk. Just to make sure it was all going to be working. Everything sounded perfect. Not a single unexpected noise from the drive. These disks were perfect. time to fling it into hxc and take a look what’s on them…

Waaaaaait, what? Why does that disk look like it’s only formatted on one side? Was the drive dead? I stuck in my test disk, and it came back fine. Both sides read correctly. I’d noticed that it had actually recognised the disk as a 360K formatted disk. I didn’t even know this type of thing existed. One thing had became very, very clear… These disks waren’t going to be reading in my Amiga emulator any time soon.

I read a couple more. These came back as 720K disks, so I checked the files. They might still be of use if they had PC compatible stuff on them…

***** EASY TEXT v 1.23 from zzSoft *****

This version of EASY TEXT is suitable for high res AND medium res
ATARI ST'S.

Oh, well isn’t that just effing marvellous. I now have a nice box of 100 disks that are only useable in a computer I have absolutely no interest in owning or emulating. Well, there’s my night’s entertainment (and £30) down the bloody kermit. I suppose I could still image them and stick them somewhere. Don’t know what I’ll do with them after that.

So, this post is a lot shorter (and infinitely more disappointing) than what I was anticipating. Still, some you win…

FOR SALE: APPROX 100 ATARI ST DISKS…. anyone? £31?

Opening files from Amiga disks on the PC…

A nrecent commenter asked about the disk images that I’ve recently created… “Can you browse the contents of the disk images you create without loading them imto an emulator”?

The answer is… “Of course.”, and it’s all done using HxC. (Note: Not to beconfused with HxD, the hex editor).

I can’t remember if I mentioned HxC in any of my last posts, but it’s what I’ve been using to get those pretty green circles as shown in my other posts on the subject, but here it is in all its glory.

To load your freshly created disk image, you can either click “Load”, or drag the file onto the program.It’ll confirm it’s loaded by giving you the file name.

Click on “Disk Browser”. If it’s in a format that’s recognised, such as PC DOS, Amiga DOS, etc, you’ll see the disk contents. Note that this won’t allow you to read the files on protected disks / ones that aren’t in a standard format, but hopefully you expected that…

After that, the files are saved onto your computer. Naturally, what you’re able to do with the files is going to vary wildly. In my example, thankfully, the IFF / ILBM image format, along with the HAM variant, open up in a few modern programs. My example below is from XNview MP.

That means if you have a disk of images you made with Deluxe Paint back in the day, there’s a very good chance you’ll find something to open them with. Sadly, the GIMP, as of version 2.10.30 doesn’t want to open these examples. Shame.

It’s not going to do any harm to have a bit of a play around

Arcade Pool… it WORKS!!

I’m a happy little camper right now.

You can’t have failed to mention that in my last post, I drooled a bit about getting “Arcade Pool” for the Amiga through the post. It’s a game I’ve had pretty much since its day of release, but my disk really will have seen better days. I know for definite it has no metal cover, and although the last time I fired any of my amigas up in anger back in 2006, it worked correctly, but I wasn’t taking any chances. I just ordered an original loose disk off ebay.

I checked today at the base of the Mercuryvapour Towers portcullis, there was a box staring up at me. Strangely familiar, yet also alien to me. For you see, a box for “Make-A-Chip” on the ZX Spectrum stared back at me…

It soon dawned on me that this must have been the “Arcade Pool” disk in some very innovative, and perfectly suitable packaging. Eventually, after a night at the pub, I sliced through the parcel tape, and yes! there it was!

Now, I originally planned to do a video on this, it was filmed, but it’s awful, so instead of fresh photos, you’re just getting screenshots instead.

So, the image above is, of course, the disk, fresh from its cardboard catacomb.

In it goes, and I fire up the disk image program. My heart sinks just that little bit… Click-click-click-click… This usually means the disk is warped / damaged… usually if a speck of dust has been pressed against the disk surface, causing a lump or a mark.

The clicking fades shortly after. I’m left with the faint rumble of the disk spinning, and the soft, rhythmic clunk of the head moving across the disk. Eventually, all 82 tracks are imaged. I go to make sense of the disk image…. aaaaaaand…

Those red sectors stared up at me like blood in a stool. It’s not always as bad as you think, but you’re programmed to think the worst. Those blue “unrecognised” sectors didn’t have me holding out much hope either. Had it worked? Was I about to relive my childhood? I fired up WinUAE. My voice in the video didn’t hold out much hope. I even said so in the video. I loaded the disk image, and watched in surprise, joy, and just a hint of speculation, when the company logos came up, followed by the screen I expected to see…

Mere seconds later, I had the title screen, as the sounds of Scott Joplin’s “Fig Leaf Rag” rang through my speakers…

It worked! The blue sectors are a by-product of the custom disc format it had used back in the day. Annoyingly, because of this, I was never able to make a backup copy of the disk, which is how/why my original disk survived, albeit in an unknown state

It soon became apparent that everything in this Amiga journey had came full circle. My rekindled love affair with the Amiga started on a Sunday afternoon in February last year when I came downstairs and Daddykins was watching a steam train video that happened to be playing the “Fig Leaf Rag” as its background music. It suddenly occurred to me just how much I missed Arcade Pool, and just the Amiga in general. I rushed upstairs, installed WinUAE, downloaded a disk image of the afore-mentioned pool game, and had a right old time but where was the fun in that? This wasn’t the original disk.

The fun has been in the whole journey I’ve taken in the last year. Managing to convert my original Amiga drive, finding out some of the stuff on it, reliving some of the many memories I have stored on it.

There has, of course, been downsides… Discovering the box of Amiga stuff I bought a few years ago was completely rotten. Constantly corrupting my hard drive image and having to start from scratch with it… my fault for not regularly backing it up I suppose.

Oh, just one quick thing on the Arcade Pool image. While checking the disk image, I noticed some text in the first sector of the disk…

Version 1.01 - May 1994 - pippistrello pippistrello, perchè hai fatto la pipi dentro all'ombrello?

Now, my Italian isn’t the best, so I had to rely on Google Translate for this one, but it comes back as roughly “Bat, do you think it is nice to pee in an umbrella”? It made me smile somewhat. the fact that I’ve owned an original disk of this software for 28 years, and have only just discovered this, amuses me greatly.

Greasy Weazles and dodgy disks

Ahhh, I’m still not having much luck, I’m afraid. I’ve still not got many of these games to work. It’s not the fault of my Greaseweazle, more my fault for neglecting my Amiga disks as a teenager and beyond.

I thought I’d had luck getting my version of “Aquatic Games” to work, seeing as it’s one of the best Amiga games in my humble opinion. It converted almost perfectly, but sadly, track 72 had one single bad sector.

It booted, and I hoped it was going to work, but as soon as WinUAE reaches that track, it just freezes to a black screen. Bah. I do have one last trick up my sleeve. I’m sure I mentioned that I was going to buy a floppy disk cleaner? Well, it’s arrived!

You simply slap the disk into there, and the metal cover locks against a little hook, and you can then have access to the disk surface. The disk pictured is the first one I tried, aaaaand I had no luck at all. This wasn’t to do with the cleaning. The magnetic disk had came away from the metal spindle… The conditions these were stored in were so bad, the adhesive had dried out. So that’s one disk that’s never getting recovered.

I tried “New Zealand Story” next, and this was also a depressing sight.

I didn’t get an image of the disk before the cleaning, but that still looks completely knackered. The red ring going around the image above coincides with a scratch on the disc surface, so I’m surmising this has absolutely no chance either. Shame. I loved that game.

I tried another random disk. Remember in my first post, I posted the image of the disk with its surface lifted? Well, this was one of its 2 brother disks. I’m guessing that as they were kept together, it’d be in a similar state to the first one. A good candidate to see if it could be cleaned….

Yep, still not good. Still unusable, and still pretty noisy when converting. At least it didn’t instantly crumble into a pile of black dust like its fallen brother. I’m not even going to look at the third one, they’re both just going in the bin. A shame, as they’re KAO branded disks. I had quite a few of these when I was a kid. Always reliable.

I think the best test for this, is to locate one of the disks that was “OK”, but appeared to have a cluster of bad blocks in a certain area. That would suggest there’s dirt on the disk. It’ll be interesting to see if I can get it working 100%.

In other related news, I’ve been on ebay, and have picked up “Arcade Pool” for the Amiga. I think, out of every game I owned, this was the one I spent the most time on. I still have it somewhere, and the last time I tried it back in 2006, it still worked. The disk was pretty messed up though. One of the corners had been snapped off, and the metal cover was missing, so even if it was to turn up I wouldn’t fancy my chances in actually getting it imaged.

At the time of typing, it’s not arrived, as I only ordered it a few hours ago. I’d expect it to arrive here within the next week.

My Amiga drive! It lives!

Today is a joyous day. well, yes, technically, it was yesterday now, but quite unbelieveably, my Amiga drive survived, and I’m over the moon to confirm that it actually works.

I know, over the last few days, I’ve promised some type of fanfare, or some type of great reveal about it. I decided that it would just be the worst thing, that I spent the time setting up a live stream, getting all excited, and finding that the drive didn’t work, or not spin up, or anything like that. Obviously, I’m typing this now, so I can confirm none of this actually happened. But still, I decided it wasn’t worth the risk.

On the off-chance, anyone is here to find out how to convert an A1200 hard drive to a machine readable format, let me give you a quick run-down. Now, unfortunately, despite me slamming the “PrtScr” button for all its worth, I totally forgot that UAE and Dropbox don’t play nicely when it comes to taking screenshots, so sadly, I didn’t get any of the procedure, but it was unbelievably painless. The one thing to remember is that you *must* run WinUAE as administrator, otherwise the drive will appear with [ACCESS DENIED] next to it.

I initially had a panic about having to set the amount of heads and cylinders, but thankfully, this never materialised. Despite the drive’s age, it still had an automatic config, and WinUAE picked it up correctly. It’s then just a case of creating the image fine, and sitting back while it chugs though.

I was almost certain there was one bad sector on the drive, so I watched with baited breath, as the bar chugged its way across the disk, and eventually to the end. Nothing reported, we were all good to go. I hoped.

I mounted the image, held my breath, and pressed “Start”…

It’s a picture of a street light. I have no idea where this streetlight was (EDIT: See the end of the post). It caused me mto let out the biggest yelp of excitement in a very, very long time. This was the image I chose to display, way back in 1996ish, while my amiga went through its “startup-sequence”. It looks low-quality now, compared to the megapixels of 2021, but back in the day, to have a full colour image showing on your TV was quite a sight to behold. The image is slightly broken, as it turned out I was using the standard non-Commodore / Cloanto ROM that comes with WinUAE. It proved, at least, the drive image worked.

A quick switch over to a better ROM, and oh-my, away we went. This is where I would have left it so many years ago.

Turns out I was slightly wrong in my years, about the last time it booted up. Turns out the last time it was properly used was December 2000 – in one of the first posts I ever did on this site, I slapped this image up… (EDIT: Hopefully I’ll remember to fix this at some point, oops)

I’d forgotten about this, and was surprised to see a webcam image (oddly not mine, an image I saved of a mate and his ex from back in the day), with a timestamp of 2000, then yes, I had flashbacks of connecting a modem to my Amiga’s serial port, then transferring data using the two landline numbers we had back in the day. While this allowed SOME data to come off, the speed, and technical issues meant that I was only able to pull off a few megs of info, nothing close to the funn contents of the drive.

There was also a brief connect of the computer back in the mid 2000s, but this was only for a few minutes, as I’d discovered the graphics failure my Amiga had suffered had got considerably worse. From what I’ve seen, this could be leaky capacitors, but to me, at least, at the time of typing, the value of keeping my Amiga, all lived in the data stored on this drive. My worry about never being able to power it on again, all came from the worry about not seeing what was on here.

Amiga emulaton has came on leaps and bounds since I first heard about UAE – back when its name stood for “Unusable Amiga Emulator” because all it would display is a black screen. It’s 2021 and it’ll play everything I’ve thrown at it, but most importantly, I’ve got my hard drive. I can access everything that was on it. I’ve already got several security copies of the image on servers all around the world (y’know, just in case I was to listen to some .mods during the apocalypse), and the whole thing just feels like the end of a 25-year chapter.

Saying that, it also opens a new one. Granted, now, 240Mb is barely any information at all, but it’s not the size, it’s what you do with it that counts. The next few days will be just exploring the drive, and seeing just exactly what has survived over the years

EDIT: Naaaah. You won’t have believe that I’ve just found, because I can’t believe it either. That image above…. STILL EXISTS on the internet. Now, all I have to go ff was the name, SUNSET.JPG. Not really very descriptive. Tonight, for some unknown reason that’s not even coming to mind, I started doing a Google Maps wander around Los Angeles. I noticed, concidentally, that the lighting columns looked very similar to what was on my Amiga’s startup screen. Just for giggles, I typed into Google Image search “Los Angeles Sunset 1996”. I incremented down the years, and sure enough, when I reached 1992, up came the original image…

So, I feel I absolutely must give credit to the fine folks at the City of Los Angeles Public Works – Bereau of Street Lighting (Updated link March 2022 – you have to click the “General Interest” section now to see it) for this almost 30-year-old image, and I hope you don’t mind me using this image for what is, essentially, one man’s lonely deep-dive into his own braincells during a desperately lonely lockdown period. Thank you for keeping it alive.

Upgrades, downgrades and funky theme music

(I’m republishing an old article from 2008, as the “funky theme music” is now MIA.

Tomorrow, I return to Employment Place, after three days on the sick, as last week I came down with some dreadful flu thing. Once again. Unfortunately, this time, instead of it just affecting my nose and throat, this time it decided to take my left ear and chest with it. I’m still not right. My ear still feels like there’s a bowling ball stuck in it, and my throat is once again making it difficult to swallow.

Oh, the joys of being poorly.

The time off, however, has allowed me to get some of the things I meant to do ages ago out of the way. Firstly, I upgraded Beastbits, my main machine. You may remember on 31st March, I tried to install Windows XP onto a SATA drive, with absolutely no success at all.

Yesterday, I tried a different approach, which I didn’t think would work. I backed up my installation of Windows XP onto 2 bootable DVDs with the help of Nero BackItUp (or whatever it’s called). I then put in the new hard drive, and restored the image back to the hard drive.

It only bloody worked.

Not only did this bypass the rigmarole of having to restore everything, it means that I know this method actually works. Unfortunately, the whole process seemed to take forever. Sooo, now I have XP installed on a SATA drive. Wooty.

On the subject of upgrades, the amount of free space I have on mercuryvapour.co.uk has increased too! It WAS 800Mb, it’s now 2Gb. Unfortunately, as of yet, there has not been any bandwidth increase, so basically they’ve gave me a larger bucket, but the same amount of water to keep in it…

Yeah, that analogy works.

So, onto the theme music bit. None of you will remember a show that aired on the Disney channel (and at come point Channel 5) named “Okavango”. It was one of those awful Sunday afternoon things, about a family who moved from the city to… er, “Okavango” to look after all the wildlife. Or something. I didn’t really watch it. It did have one good thing about it. The theme music. I loved it.

Eventually, the show fizzled off the airwaves, and was never seen again. No DVD release, no repeat, nothing.

A few years ago, I tried to locate the theme music, with absolutely no success. in fact, I was amazed by the amount of information I DIDN’T find.

Following on from a thread about “Theme music”, on Glen’s forum, I suddenly had a recollection of Okavango, and how much I liked the theme tune.

I tried to find the video on Youtube, with no luck. I had to resort to a google search which turned up a low quality video.

I didn’t expect anyone to have heard of the show, and indeed, they didn’t. Glen said…

“Never heard of it, but I recognised the bird off of Alien Nation. Do I win a prize?”

To, which, I replied, jokingly…

“Only if you can find a better copy of that theme music.”

At this point, if I had a sound effect for a jaw dropping, I’d be playing it right now. I do have this picture, however.


Within two hours, Glen had tracked down a 2-minute long MP3 of it. Oh my! But, it was just a preview, thetrefore low quality and no ID3 information at all. Unbelieveable.

He titled the email “I rock”, and he certainly does rock. Not stopping there, however, I badger him for some further information, and his response….

“It’s Invent Yourself by Julian Laxton”

In the posting was the link where he got the preview from, and also a link to where it can be purchased. Turns out the full track is just under 6 minutes long. Awesome!

So, I purchased it. The site was located in South Africa, which means the cost of getting the track was 8.74 Rand. And that works out at roughly 60p. Bonus!

I shall be back at work in 7 hours time. Apparently there’s a new phone system. This WILL be fun.

EDIT:2021. I’ve republished this one, as I’m a bit gutted… “Invent yourself” by Julian Laxton has apparently vanished off the internet. This was the first MP3 I ever bought so I’m glad I still have a copy of it, but it’s disappeared off Spotify. I can’t stress this enough. Get a physical, or even a file copy of the music you love, otherwise it could be gone forever and you can’t do a thing about it.