Super Plorrds. It’s super.

Ahhh yes, the Greaseweazle is the gift that keeps on giving, and I’m happy to report that I’m not the only one enjoying its greasy goodness.

You may remember, waaay back in the early days of the blog (in a post that’s probably hidden now) , that I talked about an Amiga game I used to play, called Plorrds. It came free on an Amiga Power coverdisk, and I loved it. Played it for hours. I even partially put it down to my crap GCSE results, as I spent so many hours staying up and playing it. Of course, the real reason might have been that I’m just a bit thick, therefore I like to blame the former.

Back in 2001, I started a job at a (now long defunct) company. The first person to introduce me to the company, was a bloke called Glen. At some point over the next few years, myself and Glen got talking about the Amiga.

At some point, the words “Plorrds” got dropped into the conversation. “Oh Yeah, I remember that!” I said, excitedly. Glen responded with “Well, I programmed it”. If there was a sound of a jaw hitting a desk, it would be a sort of “fop” sound. I couldn’t help but feel like I was in the midst of a celebrity.

Fast-forward a couple of months or so. The date is November 5th, 2001. I had just invested in a shiny new Amiga 600 (shiny and new aren’t exactly words I’d use for it, but at least it worked), and was rooting through some of my old disks. Out popped Plorrds. “Huzzah!” I thought, as I plonked the disk in the drive, and waited patiently for the menu to come up…. aaaand “Disk read error”. Oh. It turned out the disk was completely ruined. 

At some point during the intervening 21 years, Glen mentioned there was a “Super Plorrds”, but it had never got released. After my (many) posts about the Greaseweazle, Glen contacted me and asked if they were worth getting, as he had a large amount of disks from back in the day that he wanted rescuing.

I advised that it was exactly what he was looking for, so he rushed out and bought one… Or rather, sent away for one.

A week or so later, he sent me a message confirming it was all working. Of course, my next question was if Plorrds still existed.

“Even better than that”, he replied. “The unreleased Super Plorrds still exists”, and I could have the exclusive first look!

As promised, an email plopped into my mailbox a short time later, with a disk image attached.

I fired it up, and I was transferred back to 1995, albeit with more music, different colour scheme, and even different gameplay.

The premise is extremely simple. You start with a grid of numbers, half with plus figures up to 10, half with minus figures up to 10. The trick is, one player can only move horizontally, and the second player can only move vertically. The winner is the player with the highest score. Obviously. The game ends when all of the squares are gone, or a player can no longer move.

The trick is to plan ahead. You COULD go for just the highest value square, but before you know it, player two could lure you into a row of negative points. The real trick is to plan ahead, even sacrifice a few points, if it means your opponent can do nothing than lose more points than you. It gets trickier when you start running out of possible moves, and your massive lead could be wiped out within a matter of moves.

If you play the CPU, there are a number of difficulty levels. I’ve been playing the game for almost 30 years and I’ll be lucky if I can get past level 4 or 5. I don’t think I’ve ever played another human at it. It’d be great if that was a thing, as after almost 25 years, I still royally suck at it…

QUICK UPDATE: If you’re wanting to try this out in WinUAE and don’t have an official Amiga ROM, it appears to work just fine with the AROS ROM that ships with WinUAE. I’m not sure if Glen’s actually put a link to the game up yet, but I’ll update this if/when he does.

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?

More Amiga disks on the way!

You may have noticed I’ve not used my Greaseweazle for a couple of weeks. The supply of decent disks has dried up. There’s still quite a few old games to go through from that mouldy box, but I don’t fancy killing the drive if I’m honest.

Up steps ebay again. You may remember my Arcade Pool success, where i ended up getting an image of my favourite game working? Well, I took the plunge. There was a “Buy It Now” listing, with 100 Amiga disks in there.. Well, I just had to, didnn’t I? Yoink.

It’s currently on the way, and due to be here some time today. I had to quickly rewrite this, as i didn’t expect it to be turning up on Good Friday, but it seems like it is. 10 points to the delivery company, then

It could be a complete disaster These are “untested” – a word that should really strike fear into the hearts of any ebay buyer. For all I know, they could have been picked up out of a swamp… although I doubt Newton Aycliffe is known for its marshy ground. They could all be incomplete copies, or all have read errors. For all I know, they could have been already checked, found to be duff, then bundled into a box, ready for some sap to pick them up off ebay.

They might have already been wiped by a previous owner, meaning I’ve bought 100 blank disks.

There’s a large chance that I’ll do a blog, or a video. Allegedly, they’re arriving in one box, split ino 10 smaller boxes of disks, so I’m genuinely intrigued to ee what /i get. It’ll make it easier to do a series about them. Maybe 10 or 20 at a time.

Oh. I’ve just read the email. It’s getting delivered by Hermes.

Fudge.

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.

Playing with my floppy Greaseweazle day 2

Oh my. I wish I’d discovered this sooner. I’ve had so much fun with it over the last few hours, and I’ve discovered quite a few things about how it all works, and how to fix / identify problems. For now, I’ve given up on the initial box of disks that I was originally trying, that was more problems than enough. Luckily, I found another box of disks this morning. These were (mostly) my own, so I had more of an interest what was on them anyway.

I did a bit of a livestream while I was converting the disks. Enjoyed it. Got it done while reminiscing about my college days, and how I used to walk in with boxes of disks so I could download files and put them onto the Amiga. Happy days.

After I finished the stream, I intended to do a recorded version where I went through the disks that I’d imaged…. there was one slight problem. Most of the disk images didn’t actually bring anything up. It was as if the disks were corrupted. Well, that was a waste of time, then. I wanted to do some investigation on what was happening, and to see if anything could actually open the disk images. I found a program called ‘hxc’. It has cropped up a few times, so I decided to give it a go. Turns out it did more than just allow you to explore disk images. It lets you check every part of the disk, to see if it was valid, and in a recognisable format. It can even generate an image of the disk to see if there are any problem areas. I threw one of my original dodgy rips into it, and it came back with this…

Yeah, that level of red isn’t good. Almost every block was coming back as corrupted. There was no way this disk image would ever work. Thankfully, all that was lost was a bit of time. Looks like the drive heads had became clogged at some point during the process, as I was able to get plenty of good reads as the night went on. One good thing about this, is that it can show where the problem areas are on disks. Remember I was talking about that floppy disk cleaner? I guess this could help you track down bits of the disk that need cleaning. In all honesty though, it’s more than likely that the media has just degraded over the years. Here’s a screenshot where there’s part of the disk near the end not reading correctly…

OK, so that’s what an amiga disk looks like. this is what a PC-formatted disk looks like…

Oooh, pretty. This is a 720K formatted disk, as that’s what I was playing with. I then had a bit of a daft idea. This is literally just reading the magnetic information on the disk, and displaying if there’s valid information on it…. if I were to expose part of the disk to a nice, strong neodymium magnet… would that display exactly where I wiped?

The answer is yes. I purposely only wiped a specific area of the disk, and this shows exactly where the magnet went. Of course, no data was lost, as you don’t actually damage a disk by wiping it with a magnet, you simply just destroy the data. I simply wrote the image back to the disk.

I’m pretty confident that this Greaseweazle is the best thing I’ve bought for a long time. Sorry, I’m probably the only person on the planet that thought this deserved a blog post, but this has amused me greatly. It’s given me a new found affection for the floppy disk that I haven’t had since the 90s. I’ll be back to bore you more shortly.