Friday, March 31, 2023

Refurb weekend: DEC AlphaPC 164LX

It's time for another Crypto Ancienne checkpoint, which will be a post Real Soon Now(tm), including some new operating system frontiers. But part of the work for Cryanc is all the build regression testing on the supported platforms: each of the platforms I vouch for has to be able to compile the updated source code and use carl, its built-in mini-curl clone (officially the "useful" demonstration application), to successfully and completely download from a selection of real websites. One of these is harlan (named for Harlan Anderson, co-founder of Digital Equipment Corporation), my one and only DEC Alpha-based machine, a DEC AlphaPC 164LX running Digital UNIX Tru64.

The DEC Alpha is a good test for Crypto Ancienne because it's a fast (for the time) and finicky (for all time) RISC architecture, with notoriously strict alignment requirements and an extremely loose memory model. Early Alpha CPUs in fact entirely lacked instructions for direct short or byte access — 32-bit, 64-bit or bust. Unfortunately the Ethernet card blew while I was testing Cryanc 2.0 and I couldn't validate that version, so I just pushed that checkpoint out the door. Well, we can't do that two releases in a row, darn it. I have a replacement NIC and a mission. It's time for a Refurb Weekend.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Printing real headline news on the Commodore 64 with The Newsroom's Wire Service

Besides other things I've written or supervised, so far in my time I've also edited three periodicals, and Springboard Software's The Newsroom is a big reason why. In today's article we'll not only look at the guts of this pioneering 1984 software package, but also solve a childhood mystery I've wondered about since the very first day I touched the program by MITMing an RS-232 connection to snoop on serial data — and then print out a brand new 2023 newspaper with 2023 headlines to prove we cracked the case. (Scroll to the end if you just want to see the finished product.)

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Refurb weekend: Cobalt RaQ 2

In the post on our recently resurrected fork of Dreamcast Linux, I mentioned the NetBSD NFS server providing basically all of its persistent storage. A few days into the development work I started hearing a weird whine coming from the server room and sure enough the NFS server had a bad fan — in fact, the only fan cooling the entire 1U system. That means it's time ... for another Refurb Weekend!