Sunday, December 11, 2011

Never rains til it pours...

Quite a while back there was a discussion on the CFFA discussion forums about a native driver for the CFFA card for CP/M. While at the time all I had was a Softcard clone, I was interested to see that Bob Applegate had developed the initial version of a native driver for Applicard CP/M and the CFFA. Unfortunately after letting us know the driver was underway Bob got busy with other things! 

Fortunately, after persistent bugging (sorry Bob!) he was kind enough to mail me disks for the driver (his hardware is currently non-functional) and I have posted the driver. There are two places where you may get hold of this code.


On Sourceforge there is now an active project for the driver at:

https://sourceforge.net/projects/cffaapplicard/

Also, I have uploaded the code, driver and disk images to the Apple CP/M conference, at:

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/applecpm/files/Apple%20II/Cards/APPLI-CARD/gtulloch/

The state of the driver is IN DEVELOPMENT and while it appears to be functional there are probably lots of bugs and opportunities for optimization. Do not use this driver with data you care about! I have a CF card devoted to testing this driver to avoid potentially losing data.

On my queue after I get my CFFA booting CP/M directly and my CFFA3000 plugged in (been a busy week!) I'll write up my first testing experiences with Bob's driver. I guess I need to set up a development environment for Applicard drivers as well. More retro-goodness, I love it! Just wish I had more hours in the day...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Up and running with CP/M on the CFFA!

With a few false starts, my Apple //e now has 4 CP/M partitions on my CFFA card! Since it's not entirely clear from the documentation what the process is to get Steven Hirsch's PCPIPRO and ProPartition software working on a ProDOS/Applicard system, so here's the steps involved I SHOULD have went through knowing what I do now!

1. Download ProPartition from the Yahoo AppleCPM group (http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/applecpm), NOT other sources like Asimov. There's a corrupted version of the software floating around that causes the core application, PRO/PART.COM, to hang with no messages (in my case) or partway through (in a number of other cases reported.)

2. Follow the instructions carefully (also on the AppleCPM group) - you need ProPartition to set up CP/M partitions in a ProDOS volume. As Steven Hirsch says:

Pro_Partition 'steals' space at the end of a ProDOS hard disk volume. At the minimum, 256k (512 blocks) of contiguous free area must exist past the highest block used by ProDOS.  During installation, you will be given the opportunity to decide the number of logical CP/M drives to be installed, the total amount of space dedicated to CP/M, and the number of allowable directory entries per logical disk. The option to remove an installed partition exists and will return the space to ProDOS under most circumstances.

3. I created a new 32 meg partition on a 256MB CF card bought from eBay ( I got a couple for $16.99US ea free shipping) - obviously you can use your existing partition but I wanted a dedicated CF card with just CP/M stuff. My CFFA card has a IDE->CF card adapter extended out to the front of the computer so I can swap CF cards at will so this is very convenient.  I installed a 32MB ProDOS partition on the card using the excellent ciderPress software (available here) - I note a post by Steven recently (on this thread) indicated that there are some parameters you need to pay attention to:

If you create a ProDOS volume for the CFFA using CiderPress, do NOT make it 65535 blocks or the partitioner will think there is no room left due to numeric underflow in the code.  Use 65534 as the maximum.  I will try to fix this in the future.... The ProDOS volume MUST be formatted for ProDOS in addition to being created. I can probably detect this in the future, but for now be careful.

4. I loaded the card on my //e and ran CopyIIPlus to format the drive for ProDOS and copied the PRODOS system file and BASIC.SYSTEM onto the drive to make it bootable. This gets you to the BASIC prompt when booting so you can PR#6 to boot off the floppy drive with CP/M.

5. Boot a working PCPI CP/M disk to get into CP/M. You now need to run the PRO/PART.COM utility to create CP/M partitions on the ProDOS volume. The utility will ask you to identify the drive slot for the hard drive and what you would like to create. Since the max hard drive size for CP/M is 8 meg I created 4 8 meg partitions (the last being a bit smaller because of the ProDOS volume being a tad shy of a fill 32 megs.)  You now have 4 CP/M hard drives unformatted on the ProDOS volume! Now to make a disk that can actually access them!

6. Have a formatted CP/M disk ready and run the PCPI INSTALL.COM program. If you've never created a new Applicard boot disk in the past with drivers and so on, try this out before you attempt to set one up to access the CFFA. I ran into problems with a bad image of the PCPI INSTALL.COM on disks I downloaded (from J.D. Baker's site here) but Eric Neilson was kind enough to send me a known good Applicard disk that worked fine - you can grab a copy from the AppleCPM group here. Do not put I set up a new Applicard boot disk with the following drivers:

APLFLPY.DVR as device 0 with 2 drives (A: and B:)
PDOSHD.DVR as device 2 with 4 drives (C: D: E: and F:)

Obviously you can add other drives such as FAST2E80.DVR (//e 80 column video) but do not put a printer buffer driver in, the PRO/PART.COM utility will not work when such a driver is installed. Note Steven's advice below!

Please follow my notes carefully with regard to setting device numbers and number of devices for the various block drivers.  Both the stock Apple floppy driver and the PDOSHD driver default to device "0" (disk A:).  They cannot BOTH by disk A!  I suggest assigning A and B to floppy until you are confident that things are working.  That would mean that the Apple floppy driver is set for Device=0 (default) and NumDevices=2 (default is 6!!).  The PDOSHD driver gets configured for Device=2 (allowing room for 0 and 1) and NumDevices equal to however many CP/M volumes you created on the CFFA.

6. Write the new CP/M to a new boot disk and reboot. You should now be able to format C: D: E: and F: with the Applicard COPYFRMT program and access them! You can apparently have multiple instances of the PDOSHD.DVR driver running if you want to set up still more CP/M drives on additional PRODOS volumes on the CFFA (you can have up to 4 32 meg volumes on a //e with a 256MB CF card) You still need to boot from floppy (for now) but Steven's got that covered as well.

One note that I am profoundly appreciative of what Steven Hirsch has done for the community in releasing ProPartition and PCPIPRO - these were commercial products as I understand it now released to the community. Thanks Steven!

Next installment will detail how to get CP/M booting from the hard drive with PCPIPRO! And, my new CFFA3000 is in, so I'll be installing that. Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

In the Beginning...

This blog is intended to provide a repository of information related to Apple II CP/M. There seems to be a real shortage of sites on the web that consolidate information on this topic so as I encounter sites and resources in my travels I'll post them here.

My own situation is I am a collector of Apple II hardware and software, including several CP/M boards such as the Microsoft Softcard (and clones thereof) as well as the PCPI Applicard. Of the two, the Applicard certainly seems to be the most capable as it uses a drivers based system to augment the BIOS (Basic Input / Output System) which controls the hardware on the computer. Since my ambition is to get CP/M working with my CFFA (see here for info on this awesome modern hardware add-on for Apple II!) the PCPI card offers a possibility of doing so without needing to rewrite the BIOS for Apple CP/M. Softcard CP/M lacks this driver based approach so it would be somewhat more difficult to do so.

The approach I'm taking is to implement Steven Hirsch's PCPIPRO software to install CP/M partitions on a ProDOS based disk partition of my CFFA card. To date I've had problems getting the INSTALL.COM program on the PCPI disks I've gotten from the internet (from here) to successfully create a bootable CP/M disk but today Eric Neilson sent along some disk images to the Apple II CP/M list on Yahoo (see here) so I'll try writing those to physical floppies and boot them up on the IIe to try out.

My main machine is an Apple //e enhanced (65C02) with the following goodies:

1 - Grappler+ printer card (connected to a Fujitsu DL24 dot matrix printer (awesome!))
2 - Apple Super Serial Card (connected to my Acer netbook via a serial USB adapter and null modem cable)
3 - PCPI Applicard
4 - Apple Mouse Card
5 - empty
6 - Duodisk controller card
7 - CFFA (firmware v1.4 I think)
AUX - Apple 64k 80 column adapter