Time flies…

I’m not getting to post here as frequently as I’d like to – real life really does get in the way. Looking for and starting a new job, having an 11yo living with us now, renovations, shopping for a new car (so many EV considerations!)…it all adds up so quickly!

That said, later this month (22 July), I will be hosting WOzFest 30! It’s hard to believe we’re up to 30+ gatherings (some minor ones between mainline ones) over the last 8+ years.

Attendee numbers have waxed and waned, but my enthusiasm has not – it’s still a lot of fun to just dedicate a day to not just my Apple ][‘s, but those of attendees (and virtual attendees – Steve in Brisbane is again simulcasting QFest on the same day) several times a year.

I recently scored four (yes, four!) europlus lids on eBay, which I’ll be allocating to my machines on the day, not sure what other work I’ll get to, but I’m sure we’ll have a ball.

We’ll also be trying to setup a video hookup with KFest 2023.

I retrospectively (is doing something on the day retrospective?) dubbed WOzFest 28 (held on 1 April) “WOzFest 28 Apple Fool’s Day“, and WOzFest 29 was held on 20 May 2023 – we had a good time mucking around with our gear, as always, and enjoyed the cider and pizza.

I had the pleasure of meeting (and hosting for a mini gathering after WOzFest 28) Ken Gagne, editor of Juiced.GS (amongst many other accolades) when he visited downunder. As my son is wont to say of good kids everywhere, “he’s a good kid”, and it really was a pleasure to shoot the breeze with him and show him some local sights.

I’m also excited that late October 2023 will see the return of Oz Kfest – the first one in 6 years.

The plan is to gather at the old Portland School of Arts just west of the Blue Mountains. The old SoA is the future site of local Apple über-enthusiast Adrian’s Apple museum. Adrian is also President of the Australian Computer Museum Society (see June 2023 Juiced.GS), which I volunteer for (as do many WOzFest attendees).

The last Oz Kfest, Oz Kfest 2017, still feels so recent in so many ways – it’s going to be great to catch up with some of my old Apple ][ friends who haven’t been able to get to WOzFests over the last few years.

But I do have to say, it won’t be the same without Tony, who attended Oz Kfests 2015 and 2017 and a few WOzFests (including WOzFest-1 in April 2015 immediately after Oz Kfest 2015). Gonna miss ya, mate.

But life relentlessly moves on, and I know Oz Kfest attendees are going to have a blast, just as Tony would want it to be.

Post-migration Twitter and Mastodon Thoughts

Note: While I recently dealt with my flight from Twitter, I’ve had some more time to think about my relative experiences, some of my motivations and changing expectations, and just where it is I feel I am heading. While originally meant as a series of Mastodon posts, it seemed to quickly outgrow that mode of expression. This topic remains, and may always remain, a work in progress for me…

I’ve been full time on Mastodon (here) since the deal closed, but had preempted that by registering soon after the deal was announced so I could start to settle in, and I fired up my own instance not long after that.

I couldn’t abide staying on Twitter (there) long term, even if the deal fell through, simply because of who the shareholders and board were choosing to approve the sale to.

Like many, I’d built a comfortable set of follows and followers on Twitter, and knew it would take a while to settle in here. I honestly resented the board for recommending the deal, although from a fiduciary standpoint I understood why they would pursue it given the tanking tech stock market.

While there are many I follow here (or am followed by here) who were on Twitter, it’s certainly not a complete overlap. But it’s certainly at least as interesting a mix!

I’m not sure if tools like Movetodon and Fedifinder will capture many more of the Twitter accounts I followed in their new home here if Twitter continues its URL ban. I may need to rely on others finding me while my Mastodon-referring Twitter account remains active, or just through mutual follows or serendipity.

As per my earlier Mastodon post, I struggle with potential rationalisations of people I followed on Twitter who it baffles me have not yet come over (or at least left Twitter).

I know for many disadvantaged folks the community there can be a literal lifeline (and I hope that can become the case here), but for those not facing those challenges, ignoring (or abetting) the cesspit that it’s becoming just seems like an especially wilful sort of ignorance to me.

And there’s certainly no point staying to try and fight the good fight – that fight is so heavily weighted in the opposition’s favour it’s no fight at all.

The “Mastodon’s too hard“ argument doesn’t cut it for me – Twitter was hard once (I can’t tell you how difficult it was for me to learn direct messages in the early days, or how to effectively use the . tagging method!), Facebook has a learning curve…in fact MySpace, Insta, Yahoo Groups – they all had learning curves!

For some, I think it’s a handy and especially wilful sort of laziness to just stay where they are. As in physical reality, inertia can be pretty powerful.

I’d originally intended on leaving my accounts there as zombie accounts to prevent my handles being overtaken, but that is seeming less and less useful as time goes by. If I’m never going back (and I am never going back), what do I care if my handles are snaffled? They weren’t even my first choices!

But I haven’t decided between just deactivating or deleting tweets then deactivating (would be interested in pros and cons). And I do want some more time for my inactive accounts to grab a few more of my contacts from there.

As it started to be the case on Twitter, I find I’m struggling to keep up with my timeline, but I think a not insignificant part of that is discussion about Twitter, so I’m going to filter relevant terms and obfuscations to improve the signal-to-Musk ratio. I don’t quite feel ready to unfollow anyone at the moment, so I’m hoping that brings things back under control. At least I’m not suffering the sort of low level anxiety I did on Twitter at not keeping up.

At least I can check in on my instance’s Federated Timeline every now and then in case I feel I’d like an update on Twitter goings on – I do still care about what’s happening over there, but I need some clearly delineated space, too.I

I very quickly settled on a strict rule that I don’t cross-post from my main account – Twitter gets nothing from me now.

And while I intended to extend this to phasing out posting to the Applesauce Fluxes Twitter account, I cut that offf early after one of the many egregious decisions Musk made (I think it was unbanning Trump, but it’s honestly all becoming a blur now).

I’ve seen so many interesting introduction posts here, not all overlapping my interests, but I’ve made an effort to boost as many as I remember to in case they overlap my followers’ interests. Now is the time for community building, and this seems a low effort contribution I can make towards that goal.

I still have to get in the habit of using more (don’t forget to !), but I think I’ve been remembering image descriptions/alt-text pretty reliably – CamelCasing hashtags and adding image descriptions are low cost (especially for what my time is worth!) ways of supporting accessibility here which I endorse wholeheartedly.

I know hashtags improve discoverability, but I’m not on a “get followed” drive, which is why I may have a lower impetus to actually utilise them more (for now).

I think that’s pretty well it at this stage. I’m enjoying Mastodon, recommend it wholeheartedly, and am still considering other fediverse usages. But for now, I really want to bed Mastodon down and feel as comfortable as I can.

P.S. Oh, and enough with the “John Mastodon” stuff already – I personally think owning that RWNJ would have been better by saying he either misread #JoanMastodon as , or, in typical RWNJ fashion, downplayed any role Joan Mastodon, John’s partner/mother/predecessor/whatever, had in establishing Mastodon the social network. And now I want to subvert the subversion, but it’s probably too late…

Flying free

Wow, what a year!

I’ll save you the boring details…well, most of them – I have something in particular I’d like to discuss today: joining The Federation.

No, not that Federation! Seriously! That Federation doesn’t even exist (yet).

I’m talking about the “federated universe”, or “Fediverse”, which has been in the news a bit recently with the shenanigans going on at Twitter (has it really only been 6 weeks since the takeover?!).

I’ve now abandoned Twitter and have hung out my shingle on Mastodon.

Note: don’t worry, I won’t provide a manifesto on why I’ve abandoned Twitter. Suffice it to say, I won’t be going back, and I’m very happy on Mastodon at this time.

For those new to the concept, the Fediverse is not a “Twitter replacement”, it’s really just all the servers online running an open protocol call “ActivityPub”, which is published/supported by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Similarly, Mastodon, while a microblogging platform like Twitter, is not a “drop in replacement” for Twitter. It has some very basic differences “baked in” at the design level which are beyond the scope of this post. Mastodon is also not the Fediverse – it is just a part of it.

The CliffsNotes version is that ActivityPub allows servers to talk to each other and clients to present a data model that allows sharing data across different server types.

Imagine if you could directly subscribe to/follow an Instagram account from Twitter, then like, repost, and respond to Instagram content from within your Twitter client.

For the various social networks which support ActivityPub, that sort of cross-network interaction is supported and designed into the protocol. Additionally, no single person or company (or group of people or companies) owns the Fediverse.

Me being me, I have created my own vanity Mastodon instance (server) which is the home for myself, WOzFest, and my Applesauce Fluxes image bot. I’ve actually consolidated that Mastodon server with my WordPress blog and image-posting bot code on the OCI instance I’ve discussed previously, in an attempt to simplify my life – of course, instead, it has introduced some complexities while I got things sorted, but it does make sense moving forward.

I honestly do feel better not being on Twitter and being on an open standard, non-algorithmic social network. Only about ⅓ of the accounts I followed on Twitter have migrated to Mastodon (or at least advertised the fact they’ve migrated), but I certainly feel it’s fulfilling my retro community social networking urges already.

I’m also considering the following ActivityPub servers (self-hosted or externally hosted) for my various needs:

  • OwnCast (streaming, to replace Twitch [WOzFest livestreams])
  • Write Freely (blogging, to replace WordPress [this blog])
  • Mobilizon (events, to replace Facebook Events [for WOzFest])

If I had the desire to post pictures or videos beyond the basic needs of this blog, I’d consider Pixelfed and PeerTube respectively, but I don’t foresee the need to do so in the near future.

For now, I’ll settle into Mastodon and possibly roll out the above useful (to me) instances/accounts, and hope to see many more do so as well across my many interests.

I’d love to hear about others’ experience with the Fediverse – feel free to comment here or reach out to me on the Fediverse: @europlus@europlus.zone.

Note: this blog is also available as a Fediverse account to follow: @europlus@blog.europlus.zone.

Update 8 December: manually reviewed my list of Twitter follows and I’ve found some more on Mastodon, so it’s not ¼, but ⅓ that have accounts there (out of a total of about 200).

New server, new look…new headaches!

Save some money, I thought.

Have some fun, I thought.

I’ll set up a free Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) instance and host this blog there, and, while I’m at it, I’ll set up another instance and post to the Applesauce Fluxes Twitter image bot account from that instance, I thought.

Easy-peasy, I thought.

Well…no, I discovered.

I know if I laid out what I did I’d be here longer than it took to set up(!), and, while I understand video guides can be really annoying, it actually makes sense for me to just post this handy video representation of what happened next:

Yes, this is really what happened 😞

In the end, I went through probably eight OCI instances, four WordPress setups/migrations, two nervous breakdowns, and one case of wine (only three of those facts are true, no matter how you swap the numbers).

I’m happy to discuss at length what I did/learnt throughout this process in direct messages or e-mail (or via a Zoom if [and I {very much} doubt it] there’s enough interest), but I won’t inflict every step I took on anyone who’s paying me the respect of reading this blog – I have too much respect for you.

However, I will offer some takeaways:

  • Nothing, and I mean nothing, is easy – OK, the decision to go down this path is way too easy, but after that, a big fat nope!
  • OCI works well and is performant enough for the tasks at hand – I would definitely recommend it for technically-savvy self-hosters;
  • Don’t bother if (often) being elbow deep in a Linux CLI scares you;
  • SSH key-based login is your friend;
  • Webmin is your friend;
  • OCI Boot Volume Backups are your friend;
  • Don’t expect to get it right the first (or second [or third {or…}]) time;
  • Unicode characters in WordPress posts don’t migrate via the Duplicator plugin I used (or its MySQL code is unable to cope with them);
  • twitterImgBot has bugs (and extraneous code for most uses) – but it’s generally clear enough to work through the code;
  • Custom Permalinks vs Virtual Hosts…OMFG, WHY?!;

Why did I inflict all this on myself (other than being a techno-masochist [of the geek {not perverted} kind])?

Well, I’d been forced to migrate my G Suite legacy free edition mail hosting services, and I chose to migrate them to iCloud+, so I was out AU$10/month more for the additional iCloud+ subscription…but I was saving about AU$2/month not needing extra Google Drive storage (I have a lot of archival e-mail)…and I would have been paying about AU$6/month for my hosting next year so I thought I could eliminate that and almost break even compared to my current setup…and I had unexpected free time (due to some dodgy employment shenanigans [not on my part])…and I’d done all this before at one time or another so it was going to be smoooooth.

NARRATOR: It was notsmoooooth”.

But I’m here now, I think I’ve squashed all the WordPress issues (Permalinks work, Unicode characters updated, incompatible table-generator replaced), I have the Applesauce Fluxes Twitter image bot humming on the same OCI instance (after a few glitches, some also Unicode-related, some bug-related) and I’ve even decided to update from the old Twenty Eleven WordPress theme to something much more modern – Twenty Sixteen!

Yes, I’m a techno-masochist luddite – put it on my gravestone.

Remembering Tony Diaz

Mid-afternoon during WOzFest Twenty BOO! 👻, frequent attendee Andrew, who had dialled into the Google Meet, announced in a shocked voice he’d just discovered Tony Diaz had passed away earlier in the week.

To say Andrew, Michael, and I were bewildered is an understatement. A real jolt, not only because Tony was only 54, but also because some of us had been in communication with him about a week before his passing.

Between then and now I’ve had time-consuming work and family matters to attend to, hence the delay in this post, but I was given the opportunity to contribute to the memorial for Tony published in the current issue of Juiced.GS, which can be found as a free download on the mag’s Samples page.

I’ve said much of what I felt I needed/wanted to say in that piece, so I’ll keep this short.

Tony was anti-exclusionary, loved to share his knowledge, and revelled in being around people who were enthusiastic about retro Apples and flying, his two great loves (actually, should extend that to three to include In-N-Out!).

I feel lucky to have met and known him, and to have seen him share his rare prototypes and knowledge, including at WOzFest-1 and WOzFest S7,D2.

He’ll be sorely missed at the next Oz KFest, and I’ll miss his virtual and occasional in-person WOzFest drop-ins. Take care, mate.

RetroChallenge 2021/10 Days 2-3 Report: Progress, of sorts, and a WOzFest!

I’ll be honest – I didn’t get as much done during WOzFest RC 21/10 as I’d hoped – I did continue to set up WOzFest HQ for working on my projects, and I did get some Applesaucing done, but I hit a few roadblocks…

Firstly, I think one of my disk ][ drives with an Applesauce sync sensor is having issues, which I only fully appreciated after about 10 disks (with quite a few multiple attempts to capture some of them). At four plus minutes per attempt, well…

I put the “track 0 always coming up orange” as attributable to some sort of protection scheme Personal Software applied to the Visi* range of products, but I finally tried an unprotected disk and had similar issues.

Of course, that first unprotected disk I tried had actual track 0 issues when I tried a new drive, but fewer of them, and a second disk I tried worked first time.

And it wouldn’t be a RetroChallenge without further confounding issues – the first Visi* disk I went back to also had real issues on track 0! Gah!

Oh, and of course, in the mix was the drive’s head cable occasionally getting caught and making captures useless (the same data being captured as different tracks). Between all that, it took me a while to get in my groove!

Anyway, I was able to capture several disks, sometimes using multiple captures to create a single working image (a newer [and long desired] feature of the Applesauce software).

I still have a lot more disks to do, but am now feeling at least in a better position than mid-afternoon Saturday.

Today, I’ve just tided up a little and started to set up my second spare iMac so I can use my ScanSnap sheet feed scanner for the pirated software manuals. The scanner uses 32-bit software, so I’ve installed High Sierra and am just migrating the other spare iMac’s High Sierra apps and user so I don’t have to set everything up from scratch.

This will allow me to use either machine for Applesaucing or scanning, or a single machine for both in less busy times.

Google Meet worked OK once I installed and set up the “auto admit” extension – for some reason, even with the invite link, Google doesn’t allow attendees outside of the inviting domain to just enter the meeting. And the first “auto admit” extension I tried didn’t work. And you have to restart Chrome to make the settings stick.

For sharing my projects, I joined from the Applesauce-connected iMac to stream various windows as I captured disks, and from an iPhone above the disk ][ drive to watch the drive do its thing.

My first two attendees were international – RetroChallenge judge Eric and Josh “Get The Damn Batteries Out” Malone, both from the US, joined for a while at the start. We had a few Australians hooking in across the day and evening, and everyone just worked on their own projects or whatever and discussed whatever came to mind.

It was nice having the company throughout the day, and I can’t wait for WOzFest 22 when I’ll hopefully get a few updates on where everyone go to – and with the way our vaccine rollout is finally going, I’ll hopefully be allowed to have 10 attendees as well!

I also responded to a few posts on the Australian Computer Museum Society forums site in relation to our Team ACMS project – a AU$500 grant is up for grab for Australians who register an ACMS affiliation when entering RetroChallenge and post about their entry on the forum. There’s a large Aussie/ACMS contingent this RetroChallenge, which is great to see.

I can’t wait to get some more progress under my belt – the nice thing about the scanning especially is it’s pretty brainless for me to keep plugging away at (even during the week), while my other projects are more hands-on.

Catch up in a few days – will I be able to report useful progress?!

RetroChallenge 2021/10 Day 1 Report: Prep is all you need

Just spent the time after a morning work meeting prepping WOzFest HQ – mostly sorting and getting rid of rubbish.

Bought some chips and some booze, even if I will have to be a martyr and consume them myself!

Ready for a proper day or retro tomorrow during WOzFest RC 21/10 – DM me on Twitter for the Google Meet link.

Apple ][/][+ Motherboard Test Sheets v1.2

Not long after WOzFest 18 I released some test sheets for Apple ][ and ][+ motherboards, to help tracking the testing of components on a motherboard, with separate sheets for the major motherboard revisions from Rev0 to RFI.

I silently updated them to v1.1 after correcting a weird default in my layout program that saw much of what was supposed to be solid black set to a very dark grey. No actual content changed, so I didn’t make a hullabaloo about that minor revision.

Today, however, I’m proud to release v1.2 of all the sheets, with improved content and some rewording I think makes things a bit clearer. In the background, I’ve also re-organised the underlying Affinity Publisher file to make changing common components between motherboard revisions easier.

Importantly, I’ve also included a second page with more space for notes and a representation of the keyboard so you can quickly record which keys work and which don’t.

I appreciate the feedback I received from Mark and Ross here in Australia, which helped me to either include extra info or clarify existing info.

Using the sheets on a couple of my machines also helped, and drove me to prepare the keyboard representation as well.

Mark also pointed out that printing onto A3 (i.e. at about 140%) makes the board layout roughly life-size – he placed this enlarged printout over some anti-static foam and pushed the chip pins through the printout into the foam while cleaning the board – a great way to store chips while cleaning or working on a bare board!

So, give the below a squiz and let me know if there’s anything else I need to do – or just use them as you check your Apple ][s.

WOzFest 19 Announcement

Hot on the heels of WOzFest 18 I’m very happy to announce the date for the next WOzFest: WOzFest 19 will be held on Saturday 1 May 2021, starting at midday Sydney time (UTC+10:00).

The theme for WOzFest 19 is “Freedom” – a good friend and frequent WOzFest attendee retires the day before, so I thought what better way to celebrate than to get together with Apple ][ enthusiasts?! I’ll leave it to attendees to interpret the theme as they see fit.

WOzFest 19 will be streamed on Twitch via WOzFest TV for the whole duration. I’ll be aiming to do some productive work to stream, and will have some Skype calls as well.

That said, I’ve not yet organised any Skype calls – but I’m sure I’ll be able to rustle up some Apple ][ enthusiasts from around the world to participate.

The COVID-19 situation has seemed to stabilise here. That said, all prospective attendees will need to pre-register their interest, and sign-in via QR code upon arrival. Masks are optional, hand sanitiser will be provided. I ask all prospective attendees to follow the NSW Government’s self-isolation rules.

Snacks and cider will be provided (I ask for a small donation for same), and those present at dinner time are welcome to join in our pizza order.

Lastly, for WOzFest 19 I’m continuing to raise funds via Ko-Fi. This allows small (or large!) donations to be made – check out my intro post there for the lowdown, and feel free to drop anything you can in the can to help me to run WOzFest moving forward.

I hope to see you there!

P.S. If you happen to be in Sydney and available on 30 April, drop me a line, I’m planning on taking the day off and will be in WOzFest HQ for much of the day.

Apple ][/][+ Motherboard Test Sheets

Towards the end of WOzFest 18, frequent attendee Andrew and I started to look into the use of the ROMX programmable ROM product in a pre-Revision 7 motherboard.

This requires a different character generator (CHARGEN) chip, and also the replacement of two logic chips that aren’t next to each other (the ROMX designers have created a U-shaped sub-board to allow the non-adjoining chips to be replaced in one go).

I only have one pre-Revision 7 board – something Andrew and I determined after checking each and every europlus board I have (not a small task, as those who know me understand). And, of course, it’s in my “to-be-refurbished” pile, so I wasn’t sure it would work. In fact, with several missing logic chips, I could tell it wouldn’t, so off we went scavenging the needed chips to try and get some joy.

However, joy was not to be had – we were unsuccessful in booting, but I could see a non-standard font was being used, so partial success as far as the character generator goes.

At this stage of the night, I was not up to pulling out my logic chip tester and working through the board, so we called it a night.

But this isn’t a single-board consideration for me. I have quite a few boards I need to check and try to get up and running, and that’s daunting enough that I have procrastinated on that part of my europlus Refurbapalooza.

I gotta say here, though: I promise the next step is not a further pit of procrastination – but I decided if I was going to check this board, I needed a resource to help me do so which might be usable on other boards, and, if it takes several sessions, to keep track of where I was at, and also to maybe record some other salient information about the board I was working on.

With my experience designing the “WOzFest Labs Apple Astec Power Supply Unit AA11040B/C Electrolytic Capacitor ‘Spec & Check’ Sheet” (over four years ago!), I thought I might be able to do something similar for Apple ][ motherboards – of course, it would have to have different versions for the main motherboard revisions, so you can see why there’s a risk it might end up being a useful way for a procrastinator to put off productive work!

But I’m a New Age Procrastinator! I’m happy to wastespend time preparing for a small job while accommodating the larger task it’s a part of. So for the last week I’ve been working on test sheets based on Winston D. Gayler’s RFI motherboard block diagram on page 177 of The Apple II Circuit Description. I’ve also referenced Jim Sather’s Understanding the Apple II, which, in Appendix G, details revision differences.

The result? Four test sheets covering the major revisions of Apple ][ and ][+ motherboards:

The sheets show most major components, including product codes, which motherboard product codes are relevant for that revision, areas to record info like case and PSU serial numbers and notes, and an area to record the dates of test sessions and progress through the board.

I would suggest first filling out the serial numbers, date code and (if not standard for the board) crystal frequency, along with any other salient info in the Notes area. Then mark missing (or clearly damaged) components with a red pen.

When testing components, I would mark bad components with a red pen and good components with a green highlighter. When bad or missing components are replaced, highlight with a green highlighter. Whether pads are cut or soldered can be indicated as well.

If switching components from other boards, some collectors might like to indicate that either at the component location or in the Notes area. Most collectors would likely be able to identify individual motherboards by date code – for those with larger collections with duplicate date codes, perhaps a numbering scheme will be need to be implemented by those collectors.

I’ll be leaving a test sheet in each of my machines not only to easily identify them and their operational status, but also keep track of any other work I might be doing on the machine (replacing speaker foam, etc.).

I want this to be as useful a resource for the community as possible, so any suggested changes are welcome. While I won’t be working on other Apple ][ models, I’m happy to discuss with others such sheets and provide info and files.

I’m now actually looking forward to the next stage of motherboard refurbishment, knowing I have the info I’ll need and an ability to keep track of each motherboard’s progress, as I rarely get enough time to work through a whole board in one sitting.