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).

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.

Community Service

As per the official WOzFest 18 announcement, the theme for the upcoming event is Community Service.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about giving back to our retrocomputer communities – it’s something I’m passionate about because of the significant help and support I’ve received not only from my own local community especially, but also from the wider community online.

I was never much involved in “the community” back in the day, and it took some time from when I first started getting back into Apple ][s in 1998 to when I found and became a part of the local retrocomputer community (in 2013/14). (I was, however, quite involved in the Mac community, which ended up seeing me start my Mac consultancy in 1997.)

But in the short time since I found the local retrocomputing community, here I am in 2021 planning four WOzFests and Skyping/communicating with some of the current leading lights of the Apple ][ retrocomputer scene!

I engage with the community in other ways, sometimes just participating in conversations, but, more importantly, also trying to find ways to give back to the community that has given me so much.

This is not to big note myself – many people are doing much, much more than I, but even a schlub like me can make a positive contribution to the community, and I’d like to share some of the ways I have done so over the years.

I hope this post will serve as inspiration to others and give them ideas on how they might be able to contribute to their retrocomputer community – every little bit really does count.

Offer help

First up, I’d say if you see a request for assistance you can answer, answer it! It doesn’t get any easier than that. Try to keep all contributions positive. This is most especially applicable when dealing with new members of the community.

You might know the answer immediately, or know which manual you have to open – you might even find yourself firing up some equipment to check behaviour. But it’s amazing how strange the path to helping might be.

For example, a question was asked on the KansasFest 2020 Discord about converting a vector PICT file – modern programs were having issues interpreting it. I also found none of the graphics or DTP programs I had on my macOS Catalina iMac wanted to convert the file.

However, I remembered one semi-modern (or at least able to run on semi-modern macOSes) program which I thought might have the legacy parsing code in it, even though it’s the worst page layout program I have ever used: MYOB AccountEdge. And guess what? Under macOS Mojave (10.14), MYOB AccountEdge v11.5 was able to load the PICT into an otherwise empty invoice layout screen, and print to PDF the file in its full vector glory!

Just jump right in and try things out when helping your fellow enthusiasts – in and of itself, overcoming such technical challenges can be rewarding.

Specialist skills – Silentype font

As a long-time desktop publisher and user of vector-editing programs, I’ve always been interested in fonts. In several DTP jobs, this led to using Fontographer to create bespoke fonts for customers to simplify logo and symbol use in their work.

When I started getting back into retrocomputers, I wanted to recreate the feel of one of my first printers, the Apple Silentype. I didn’t have a Silentype, but I was able to source a full character output “rainbow” printout via a request online.

With that in hand, I released the original version of my Silentype font in March 2004. Because of character rendering changes in OS X, I had to tweak the font and released v2 in December 2012. I released it under the Open Font License so that others could work on it if they wish.

Chris Torrence has done something similar with another font I always intended to work on, Motter Tektura. Not wanting to duplicate effort, I now just use his font and am happy to see it available before I got a chance to work on my own version.

Specialist skills – Proofreading

Once again utilising my experience in publishing and editing, I have proof-read a few items for different projects, most significantly early versions of the .woz file spec for John Morris’s Applesauce and more recently passing my eye over John Snape’s reprint of the Beneath Apple DOS/Beneath Apple ProDOS books.

I don’t always bring a deep technical knowledge to such a task, but I am very details-focussed, and often pick up slight inconsistencies otherwise missed. This helps the community as the documents have had more review, and being non-technical is in some ways an advantage as I will request details to try and make sure technical material is clear to cater to all levels of readers.

Grunt work – BBS Crackscreens

Sometimes the work is much less glamorous and/or much less interesting in its actual undertaking.

Many retrocomputer enthusiasts know of Jason Scott, who not only works at the Internet Archive but also maintains his own archives of information from and relating to BBSes.

He maintains a list of BBSes – including the dialin number, sysop, date/s in operation, etc. His tweet sought volunteers to scour old text files looking for such details, and as a follower of the Apple II Crackscreen Twitter account, I knew the details available in such crackscreens would need special attention as it wasn’t just text – it would all need to be manually transcribed.

With the bot owner’s permission, Jason provided all 8,000+ source images to me. On Jason’s suggestion I removed the screens without details, then went back and transcribed the details for all the BBSes I could find in the remaining images.

I ended up with about 750 screenshots with details to transcribe, which had about 1,450 BBS listings (many of which were, of course, duplicates). Jason is incorporating these details into his main list, and many Apple ][ BBSes will now be findable. On and off, this took me three months to complete.

Twitter image bot

Speaking of the Apple II Crackscreen Twitter image bot, it inspired me to create my own image bot, the Applesauce Fluxes bot, which tweets random flux .pngs from the Internet Archive’s Flux Capacity collection several times a day.

I just love the variety and beauty of the Applesauce flux images, I felt I had to share them with the world!

While I’m not regularly updating the bot’s image collection, there were over 20,000 images at the time of my download – this will keep things fresh for quite some time to come!


This is one which gets more critical every day as bits rot, pages moulder, collections are trashed upon death (bleak, I know), and knowledge and expertise fade.

I have an Applesauce I make available to WOzFest attendees, and others are brought to spread the load. Attendees bring scanners for scanning at WOzFests, and many attendees are scanning while at home, too.

While some preservation/digitisation requires specialist knowledge or specific equipment (not always cheap), even allowing others to undertake the preservation of your own items is a contribution to the community.

Reach out to other enthusiasts and find out how you can contribute material, time or effort to this very worthy cause.

non-eBay sales/disposal

Even when I didn’t have WOzFest HQ available to me, I acted as a clearing house for old tech for customers, family and friends.

With a reduction in e-waste collections generally in Sydney, I continue to offer to hold material for people, including WOzFest attendees, and will periodically visit the local Community Recycling Centre, which accepts e-waste and is only 5 minutes drive away. Occasionally, I’ll even offer items to Freecycle before e-wasting if they seem still usable.

I am diligent, however, in ensuring this “service” does not lead to accumulation of bulk material as I very much savour the free space I have available to me and I work tirelessly against the strongest of my hoarding inclinations (and I will always want to be able to meet my preferred definition of “collector”).

Society membership/volunteering

The Australian Computer Museum Society is trying to establish a national computing museum here in Oz – I recently became a Committee member (I like the fact that several WOzFest attendees are also Committee members or volunteers).

The Society has had a checkered past, and the new Committee is trying to get things back on the rails, which I think is well worth my time.

Beyond Committee matters, I also help out as they’re moving their massive collection to a single storage location, which involves pushing heavy, dirty computers on and off trucks – but it has to get done.

I’ve previously been on local and national Committees for APANA (an Australian community-based ISP), and was co-editor of (and contributor to) the Club Mac club magazine MACinations for a few years.


And, of course, I host WOzFests! I’ve enjoyed the 5+ years of WOzFests tremendously.

Product releases, Skypes to international luminaries, interesting technical discussions all feature at WOzFests, and I am also building up tools and resources for attendees to use (and perhaps borrow) including books, manuals, and test/repair equipment.

Providing space and motivation for attendees to work on projects has proven very rewarding and instructive, and I can now offer storage space for frequent attendees who can’t complete projects in one sitting but are space-constrained at home.

This is the hardest volunteering role for me to recommend to others – not because it’s hard work (it can be), but because it relies on a reliably-available venue. I would find it very hard to commit to hosting an event without the 42 m² (360 sq ft) in WOzFest HQ.

An alternative would be to get involved in the running of other events like Oz Kfest, KansasFest, VCF events, or just local gatherings of like-minded retrocomputer enthusiasts. I’m pleased that regular WOzFest attendee Murray now holds a generalist gathering called Nozfest.

Give it a go!

I’m sure others have more ideas for what they can do for their community – focus on things that “spark joy” for you, and it will make it that much more enjoyable. That said, grunt work can also be rewarding as there is a definite physicality to the contribution you’ve made.

Please add your own suggestions in the Comments below – it may even give me other ideas on what I can do, and hopefully will do the same for other enthusiasts.

Oz KFest 2017 Recap

As I’ve previously alluded to, there was an Oz KFest this year, held on Bribie Island, which is an hour’s drive north of Brisbane, Queensland. I didn’t spend the time blogging from the event as I had originally intended to (those following my Retrochallenge entries will know where my intentions sometimes end up), so rather than a series of shorter blog posts, this will be a long post covering the whole event.

While I’ll be drawing rather heavily on my own memories of the event, I’m also relying on other sources of schedule and content info to keep me on the right track, namely:

  • the #OzKFest2017 Twitter hashtag;
  • my Skype call history (my laptop ended up being the one used for most Skype-based presentations);
  • the filenames of the live presentation recordings (helpfully numbered in order presented);
  • the contents of onsite-recorded and pre-recorded videos; and
  • the calendar entries I made when the schedule was distributed to attendees.

Hopefully, other attendees will also post about their experiences at Oz KFest 2017 – I’m bound to forget things, or not provide as much detail as some readers might like, and different perspectives can help give a real sense of the event. The presentation videos, both live and pre-recorded, will be posted on the Oz KFest 2017 Youtube channel, and I will update the session details below as they become available as well.

A little background

This was the fourth (and my second) Oz KFest (previous ones were held in 2009, 2013, and 2015) – it’s a bit hard to match KansasFest’s annual schedule, although I suspect an eager core of local Apple ][ enthusiasts would commit to annual attendance.

Oz KFest is like KansasFest in more than just name – shared features include: it’s a multi-day event; there’s a schedule of formalised presentations on topics of interest to Apple ][ and retrocomputer enthusiasts, often delivered by internationally renowned community members; there is much sharing of information; help abounds for projects attendees might be working on; and attendees are eager to share stories about items in their collection or “ones that got away” on eBay.

Unlike KansasFest, however, Oz KFest does not have a single venue it returns to: potential venues are selected by organisers and the call put out to see if the numbers support the holding of the event at the selected venue/s.

This has seen the event held in New South Wales (2009), Queensland (2013 and 2017), and Victoria (2015). All prior Oz KFests have been held in locations which feature the letter “K” in their names – Mt Keira (2009), Kurilpa (2013), and Keysborough (2015).

Although we missed out on maintaining the name theme this year, we did come closer to the KansasFest vibe by holding the event at a conference centre with onsite dormitory-style accommodation.

This also facilitated having onsite catering – and Melody and April from Paleotronic (authors of microM8 [formerly named The Octalyzer] and DSKalzer, and soon-to-be publishers of Paleotronic Magazine, see below) put their hands up early on to take on the catering duties (with a rotating roster of other attendees lending a hand).

The catering was a massive effort, which I know all attendees were very appreciative of – shopping and cooking for 10-15 people over 4-5 days is no small feat, and I think I can state that no one went hungry at any meal.

I’ve previously mentioned that we had one international attendee this year – this was, in fact, Tony Diaz’s second Oz KFest as he reprised his Oz KFest 2015 role as International Attendee. Tony once again brought with him a metric shed-load of material, anecdotes, and observations to amuse and inform us with.

Arrival – 30 August

Most attendees arrived throughout 30 August, the day before the scheduled start of presentations, so they could settle in to their accommodation. We unfortunately had a couple of attendees have to pull out late due to unexpected work commitments, so we didn’t hit 2015 attendance levels, which was a shame, but we still had a good bunch of attendees representing a diverse set of retrocomputer and Apple ][ interests.

Andrew Roughan, one of the organisers, and I flew up together – Andrew’s wife kindly drove us to the airport, which I was quite happy about as I’d purchased extra luggage allowance and so had quite a heavy bag with not only clothes but a few boxes of material I was hoping to pass on to other attendees, was related to my presentations, or was for projects I was hoping to work on.

We also scored a lift from Brisbane airport – Melody and April kindly did the round-trip from Bribie Island to pick us up once we’d arrived. The lifts to and from the airports certainly made my life easier – I was prepared to catch public transport, but it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as convenient or pleasant.

There were enough early arrivers to do a basic venue set up that night, so we were in a good position to begin presentations on the 31st.

Day 1 – 31 August

With a bit more setup, we began formal presentations around midday – Steve Kazoullis, another event organiser, was an attendee at this year’s KansasFest, and gave the first presentation describing his trip to the US and KansasFest. It’s always interesting to hear different perspectives on this major Apple ][ gathering.

Steve was followed by his brother-in-law, Nick Marentes, who had quite a career “back in the day” writing games for the TRS-80 – Nick conveyed the amazing time it was as developers figured out what they could do with the ever-improving hardware, resulting in programs which quickly increased in complexity and sophistication.

Our first presentation after lunch was a pre-recorded one about the 4Live text editing tool co-developed by celebrated Apple ][ preservationists qkumba and 4am (qkumba gave the presentation, and answered questions by Skype after the recording was played to attendees).

The ingenuity and creativity in iterating the program to make it more and more useful, while less and less impactful on a “live” cracking environment, was fascinating, even for non-developers like me.

After dinner Jeremy from Canberra (a frequent WOzFest attendee) gave an overview of his “Year of Fun”, including his mammoth count of 23,663 pages (!) scanned from periodicals, manuals and books, most of which he has made available for download.

Jeremy provided a great overview of his methods and procedures for digitisation, including how different PDF viewers perform OCR, the challenges of grouping associated materials on the Internet Archive, and some viewing stats on his blog.

Jeremy’s attention to detail, high standard of work, and sheer volume of output is phenomenally impressive. He also showed some pictures of his (vastly) extensive collection – it really has to be seen to be believed.

Our late night treat was a pre-recorded session from noted Apple ][ developer Ewen Wannop on “How the Internet Works” – Ewen is perhaps best known for his work on the IIgs telecommunications program Spectrum and associated tools, scripts, etc. which allow the IIgs to perform many tasks on the Internet. The Skype chat with Ewen after the presentation brought the formal schedule for the day to a close at 10pm, but attendees continued to work on their own projects, or just hang around and chat, well into the night.

Day 2 – 1 September

Day 2’s schedule started with an updated version of my Oz KFest 2015 presentation, Solid State of the Nation. In this presentation I gave an overview of the types of solid state storage solutions for Apple retrocomputers, as well as detailing the features of several such products.

Of note compared to the state of play in 2015, the Floppy Emu has seen a huge amount of development by Steve Chamberlin and is one of the most flexible solid state storage solutions for Apple enthusiasts, supporting a wide range of device emulations and supported host systems. Details of the improvements to the Floppy Emu since Oz KFest 2015 are included in the slides for this year’s presentation.

Next up was a recorded presentation from Stephen Heumann on his AFPBridge tool, which allows a IIgs to connect to an AFP server over TCP/IP. Stephen detailed how AFPBridge hooks into the system and modifies its behaviour to allow such access.

Stephen also discussed how similar methods might be used to further extend the IIgs’s capabilities, such as SMB sharepoint access, and how feasible the implementation of cryptographic algorithms might be. Once again, the talk was given in a way that was accessible for non-developers like me, and it’s exciting to see such useful software still being developed for the IIgs.

Continuing the networking theme, the next presentation was a recorded one from Kelvin Sherlock on his modifications to ProLine and KEGS to allow them to work over the Internet. BBS access via the Internet is gaining in popularity as retrocomputer enthusiasts relive what “online” meant back in the day, and modification of BBS software to support TCP/IP connections is one way of achieving this (the other is TCP/IP-to-serial adaptors/bridges such as the WiFi232 [see below on Jason’s workshop]).

Kelvin gave background on MD-BASIC and ModemWorks (which ProLine is built on), and then covered the modifications he had to make to ProLine and KEGS (which he runs in headless mode on an Amazon EC2 Linux Server) to run a ProLine BBS on the Internet. It’s a testament to the flexibility MD-BASIC and ModemWorks that the changes to ProLine were reasonably minor to allow it to work in this mode.

I was next up with a presentation on Retrocomputing Preservation Using Modern Tools which, unsurprisingly, covered preservation of hardware, software, print, and other material using modern tools and techniques. Some issues covered were destructive vs non-destructive digitisation, refurbishment/repair with modern equivalent components vs period-correct ones, and the pros and cons of Retr0brighting retrocomputers.

After my talk, and continuing the refurbishment theme, Tony Diaz gave a Lightning Talk on what he calls Retroblast – using a sand blaster loaded with baking soda to remove yellowing from old plastics. He showed photos of his results using the technique. While the results are impressive, I’m really not sure I’d be entirely happy using an abrasive technique like this. That said, I’m not yet convinced to Retr0bright any of my yellowed computers, either.

Our next presentation was a live video chat with Bill Martens of Call A.P.P.L.E. – Bill gave an overview of recent Call A.P.P.L.E. projects and publications. These include the books Cyber Jack and Synergistic Software: The Early Games (both by Robert Clardy), an update to GBBS Pro and a companion book, a re-release of The WozPak (a copy of which I won at Oz KFest 2015), an enhanced and updated version of What’s Where in the APPLE (in partnership with original publisher Robert Tripp), the Call A.P.P.L.E. 1978 and 1979 Compendia, Mike Harvey’s Nibble Viewpoints, and the iOS version of Structris. Be sure to check out the Call A.P.P.L.E. Current Specials before placing any orders!

Jeremy from Canberra was next up, giving information on his (thorough) refurbishment techniques, the way he prints and laminates screenshots and places them in his machines to improve the display of his items, his experience with Retr0bright, how collecting is allowing him to relive childhood memories, how much he gets from the active Apple ][ community, and his highlights collecting retrocomputers.

Tony Diaz took the floor again next and discussed some of the background to GBBS and its derivatives, the history of the Disk ][, duodisk, and unidisk, and showed pictures of some of his collection – it’s hard to convey the sheer volume of material in his collection. Tony has some interesting plans for making material available online moving forward which he discussed as well.

The stories Tony tells offer fascinating glimpses into the history of numerous products – like the time Central Point Software lost the source code to Copy II+ (due to the death of the primary author) and had to write the next (widely panned) version from scratch. And how that source code, and code for other projects from other companies, turned up on an initially non-functioning hard drive from the author’s estate at Tony’s place of employment purely by chance years later.

Melody and April from Paleotronic gave a presentation after dinner, detailing the work they’ve been doing on several fronts. Firstly, they gave a demonstration of DSKalyzer, their disk image management and manipulation tool. To say that DSKalyzer redefines what a disk image management app does is a massive understatement. Its features set a new benchmark for such tools, and will be a phenomenally useful tool for Apple ][ preservationists worldwide.

I can’t give a thorough overview of DSKalyzer or do it full justice, but I think it will become an indispensable tool for Apple ][ software preservationists. It’s not surprising to hear that it came about after discussions with Jason Scott and the challenges he faced assessing material for the Internet Archive.

You pass a directory structure of disk images to DSKalyzer, it ingests the images and their contents, and then the fun begins. Firstly, disk images are cataloged and fingerprinted. The individual files are fingerprinted. BASIC files (Applesoft and Integer BASIC) are recognised (detokenised) for listing, and text files are recognised.

It’s read and write, handles .do and .po disk images, can create new ProDOS directories in disk images, can do file-level management (copy, delete, create), can compare disk or file fingerprints to identify duplicates (or different versions!), can be automated or operated as an interactive shell, and is cross-platform.

And the matching of disk contents can be “fuzzy” – i.e. which disks match each other to a chosen percentage. Imagine different copies of the same cracked game disk having different high scores files – finding such “mostly identical” disks with just a disk-level hash would be impossible, but these really are the same disk, and being able to determine that, and investigate the differences, will be a boon for preservationists dealing with large quantities of disks to process.

DSKalyzer will show, when doing fuzzy matching, which files have been added and/or removed between disks (not just which common files between disks are different), which will potentially help with the creation of “phylogenetic trees” of disks. Between DSKalyzer and Applesauce, I’m seeing the next few years of Apple ][ software preservation becoming a much richer field of research.

DSKalyzer is only in the early stages of development, and Melody and April have some great features planned for future versions – already it’s really got to be experienced to be believed, so download it and start playing!

Melody and April also gave an update on The Octalyzer (since renamed microM8), their Apple //e emulator on steroids. Live rewind, rendering graphics as voxels (with the ability to rotate the canvas in 3D), loading software from an online library – these are just some of the features that make microM8 stand apart from other emulators. It will support other Apple ][ models and computer platforms in the future, and support for those other platforms’ disk images will also flow into DSKalyzer.

Don’t let my shorter coverage of microM8 indicate it’s lighter on features than DSKalyzer – my emulator use is pretty light at the moment, and I’m channeling most of my retrocomputing energy to preservation and WOzFest – this emulator has a long list of mind-blowing features both already in-place or planned.

I haven’t played with DSKalyzer or microM8 as much as I’d like, but the effort that’s gone into these programs is impressive to say the least.

And, on top of all this, Melody and April are in the throes of launching Paleotronic Magazine. Aimed at the wider retrocomputing enthusiast community, the magazine will, to quote their website, “provide a monthly dose of both nostalgia and education, highlighting the best (and worst) of early electronics with a modern context, and provide ways to leverage their lessons to solve current problems or find new (old) ways to be entertained!”

There was a lot to cover in their talk, and I’ve no doubt left out some of what they discussed, but I’m hoping the products they’re releasing will be enthusiastically embraced in both the Apple ][ and wider retrocomputing communities and continue to be rewarding for them to work on – they recently held a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for publishing the magazine and offering online microM8 services and easily exceeded their funding goal.

At this point we were approaching the time for A2Central Downunder Chat, so several of us fired up our IRC clients and got chatting. It was quite odd to be simultaneously IRCing and talking to people in the same room, but it did allow us to update some of those who couldn’t make it to Oz KFest on what had been happening.

During the Downunder Chat, Alex from Brisbane (Lukazi) gave a couple of Lightning Talks – the first one was on a modification by Nick Westgate to Robotron which, in conjunction with Alex’s 4play card (announced at WOzFest ///!) or with two analog joysticks attached via a splitter, makes it play like the arcade version: one joystick is used for movement, and the other for shooting. Alex had a system set up at Oz KFest with the relevant joystick hardware to demonstrate the modified game.

Alex’s second talk was on Checkpoint, a driving game he wrote which has to be seen to be believed – a relay control Apple ][ interface card, remote control cars with video cameras in their windscreens, video overlay, wireless checkpoints all combine on an Apple ][ so that you drive around a course, passing checkpoints with time limits, viewing a live feed from the camera on the host computer’s screen.

This development all came about after Alex saw a relay card and remote control car auction several years ago – while he couldn’t afford the high-priced auction, he was able to get photos of both sides of the relay card and reverse engineer the design. Read Alex’s post and, when it’s available, watch the Oz KFest video of his talk – Alex’s ingenuity continues to astound me.

Day 3 – 2 September

The first presentation for Day 3 was Jason’s overview of the WiFi232 serial-to-WiFi adaptor from Paul Rickards. Jason had organised a group buy of the WiFi232 kits when they were available, and also bought the other parts needed – and even 3D printed a case reminiscent of the Apple TV. After being taken through the build, attendees who had bought the kit started to work on constructing their own unit.

Our next presentation was a pre-recorded one from Eric Shepherd, known in the Apple ][ community for his work on the Sweet16 IIgs emulator, amongst other Apple IIgs-related software. Eric’s topic was “Making the IIgs Future Our Own” and he covered some ideas for ways that the OS and Toolbox might be enhanced to make IIgs developers’ lives easier.

Much of this talk was above my head as a non-developer, but Eric’s enthusiasm for future development for the IIgs platform shines through as he discusses the challenges he faces as a developer of both IIgs software and a IIgs emulator, and potential solutions moving forward.

Tony Diaz was next up, offering his reflections on the “Evolution of the Apple ][ Series” – this included, of course, illustration of some amazing “what might have been” moments with prototype boards Tony had brought with him (or a complete system, such as his Cortland IIgs prototype).

This is perhaps the presentation I could do the least justice to trying to convey to non-attendees. If I had to, I’d say it’s like Tony has a travelling Apple ][ prototype museum which he has the knowledge to do more than just a vanilla “show and tell” of. These aren’t just static artefacts laid out on a table – Tony knows their quirks, their backstory, how they fit into the full Apple ][ timeline, where their foundations ended up being implemented in other devices, or which foundations were abandoned by Apple.

Oz KFest attendees get a rare glimpse into these artefacts through Tony’s attendance – it’s something I know all Oz KFest attendees value greatly, and we’re all very appreciative of Tony taking the effort to once again join us so far from home.

Our last session for the day was a pre-recorded one titled “Behind the Scenes of an Apple IIgs Demo” from Jesse Blue of NinjaForce (perhaps best known for their 1997 IIgs Megademo and their Bomberman clone, KABOOM!) – Jesse took us through the artistic and technical building of the Kernkompetenz demo, which NinjaForce presented at the Revision 2017 demo party.

Jesse gave an overview of colour palette use on the IIgs and graphics tricks like Fill Mode, as well as the challenges faced by IIgs demo-makers, such as the lack of sprites, no double buffering, and no hardware scrolling – and all while writing the graphics memory is speed-limited to 1MHz!

Once again, although this was a fairly technical presentation, Jesse presented it in a way that was interesting to non-technical/non-programming attendees like myself. It really is amazing what can be squeezed out of these old machines!

Saturday was unusual in that there was an outing into Brisbane proper – the local Commodore enthusiasts group was holding its annual gathering in a local hall, and the organisers kindly invited us Apple blow-ins to come and enjoy their hospitality.

I must admit to being less than well-informed on Commodore machines, and I was surprised at the number of models there were on show – and these were machines which were operational and set up for demonstration or use. There was the obligatory pizza, and a high score game competition, but much of the software I saw wasn’t familiar to me either.

It was well worth the round trip to see what our fellow enthusiasts are enthusiastic about…but I wasn’t converted away from my love of Apple ][s (my tattoo must have acted as a protective talisman!).

Once we got back to the Oz KFest venue, we did some more experimenting with the FastChip //e, and ended up trying to find the speed boost for Wavy Navy that didn’t make it unplayable (by us amateurs, anyway). We settled on 1.2MHz, and then there was a friendly high score competition of our own. As often happens, once I decided I was in the competition, I was not going to rest until I had beaten the high score, and I finally did so at 01:30 (my latest night at the gathering).

Day 4 – 3 September

The last day was primarily used for packing up and some lightning talks, which were quite varied, and included:

  • Tony Diaz showing and describing a prototype ADB keyboard (which looks like an early Mac keyboard) and its Apple ][ interface card – ADB made its first appearance on the IIgs, so its not surprising the prototype was Apple ][-based;
  • I showed some of the operations possible in the Applesauce software – this hardware project and its companion software is being eagerly awaited in the Apple ][ community;
  • Jason gave an update and overview of the Apple II Oz website;
  • Andrew gave an overview of the FastChip //e, and also discussed TransWarp GS acceleration, and what is the best bang for the buck as far as speeds go.

With that, the sessions finished up, and we all dejectedly packed up and left around lunchtime.

Multi-day and Random Observations

One of the nice things about a multi-day event is that, not surprisingly, projects or hardware set-ups can be worked on/played with over multiple days.

For example, a //e system was set up by Alex with A2Heaven’s FASTChip //e, the recently-released speed-selectable (from 0.2-16.6MHz) Apple //e accelerator. Not only is this an amazing feat of engineering for what it does, it’s a beautiful thing to look at as well (with colour-changing LED-illuminated perspex). The speed is not only selectable, but it can be changed while the //e is running(!), allowing for testing different speeds, or changing speeds depending on what you’re doing with the machine.

That //e system was the first to emit Magic Smoke™ at Oz KFest early in the afternoon of Day 2. The PSU that blew was an Astec AA11040C, which I have some experience with. The capacitor which blew was the larger, 470nF filter cap Apple added to the original AA11040B/C design, which they connected across the Active and Neutral power socket terminals in parallel with a 680kΩ resistor. This modification towards the end of the use of the AA11040B/C PSU was incorporated into the main circuit board of the next version of the Apple ][ power supply.

This design meant that, given the capacitor is “before” the power switch, turning the power off didn’t stop the Magic Smoke™ from being (copiously) emitted! We figured it out in the end and unplugged the cord, which had the desired effect. There was a fair amount of gunk inside the power supply, and it was still liquid in some places, but cleaning it with Isopropyl so soon after the capacitor blew made cleanup much more straightforward.

I had brought one of those late-model AA11040C PSUs with me for troubleshooting as part of my ongoing europlus refurbishment project – despite all the caps testing as OK and the 100nF filter cap having been replaced, it still wasn’t working. When Dean, who does a lot of recapping as a service to retrocomputer enthusiasts, arrived on Saturday I decided to commission him to check it over an make any necessary repairs – it turned out a dry solder joint or two was the culprit. I’m not going to put the 470nF capacitor and 680kΩ resistor back in it as it will then be more like the versions of that PSU used in the europlus.

Amongst those attendees working on projects throughout the event, Tony Diaz could often be seen poring over one circuit board or another trying to edge them towards being operational. Attendees who participated in Jason’s WiFi232 workshop could be seen continuing work on their projects well after Jason’s talk concluded, and Dean and others worked on a IIgs brought by single-day attendees on Saturday which was suffering from bad battery leak corrosion on its motherboard.

I didn’t get to work on as much as I’d hoped as I was too interested in talking to other attendees and seeing what they were working on! I did get to replace some faulty RAM chips in some third party language cards I’d brought with me for testing. And I tested the RAM (and replaced faulty chips) on the motherboard of Kent’s europlus which he had brought with him when he came as a single-day attendee on Saturday.

Final Thoughts

It’s difficult to convey what it’s like to attend an event like Oz KFest – and I suspect KansasFest is yet another level of difficult-to-convey.

It’s not exactly “WOzFest On Steroids”, but it’s not exactly not that, either. It’s camaraderie, it’s informative, it’s uber-geeky…and a lot more. While I’m proud of what WOzFests are and get a lot out of hosting/attending them, there’s just something else about getting together for several days and having more formalised and scheduled presentations – it’s more immersive, and allows deeper conversations (deeper technically, that is) to carry on for longer, and people can see what projects you’re working on, too, and even lend a hand.

You see aspects of this hobby you may not be normally motivated to delve into, and because it’s all part of the same cloud of material related to what you’re interested in, you’re interested in learning about that stuff, too. Being presented with it, rather than having to go off seeking it yourself, means you look at topics you wouldn’t normally look at.

And that can spark new interests, or allow you to make connections for other enthusiasts because of something else you read, or someone else you spoke to, or to recommend something you’ve worked on that you never realised could be used in a different area of interest.

I hope one day to get to KansasFest – everyone I’ve spoken to who has attended does nothing but recommend it. In the meantime, I think I’m getting a not insignificant portion of what I’m missing out on by attending Oz KFest, and hosting/attending WOzFests.

I can’t wait for the next Oz KFest (hopefully closer to home), and I’m looking forward to renewing acquaintances and geeking out again over several days with like-minded Apple enthusiasts.

WOzFest 8-bit Announcement

I’m very happy to finally announce the date for the next WOzFest, WOzFest 8-bit – Saturday 18 November 2017, starting around midday Sydney time (UTC+11:00).

The theme for WOzFest Slot 7: Your Card was the Apple IIgs, Apple’s only non-8-bit Apple ][. It therefore seemed appropriate to set the theme for WOzFest 8-bit to all the other Apple ][s (which were 8-bit)…and the Apple-1, Apple /// and Apple ///+.

On the Apple ][ front, this runs the gamut of the original Apple ][, the ][+, the //e, the //c,  //c+, and the IIe LC PDS card – and variants such as the euromod, the europlus (of course!), the j-plus, etc. And that’s without even starting on the numerous clones!

I have a couple of great Skype calls teed up to discuss this seminal time of Apple’s history – so many iconic models and such a phenomenal growth time for the company.

Attendees are welcome to bring their favourite 8-bit computer(s!) – I’ll even allow ring-ins if you have a non-Apple 8-bit you’d like to bring along. Projects are more than welcome to be brought along, of course – whether it be repairs, imaging, upgrades…whatever you want to work on.

As always, it will be held at my place at Wollstonecraft, on Sydney’s Lower North Shore – contact me for the address. Start time is 12:00(ish), with an expected finish time of around 21:30.

No lunch provided, but nibbles, soft drinks and Apple cider will be available (I ask for a small contribution towards snacks), and we’ll all chip in for delivery pizza for dinner whenever we notice we’re hungry.

I hope to see you there!

Juiced.GS Publisher Announces Two New Retrocomputer Services

Gamebits, publisher of the sole remaining Apple ][ print publication, Juiced.GS, has announced two new online services for retrocomputer enthusiasts: Retro Roundup and a2.click.

Retro Roundup is a feed aggregator of retrocomputer-related sites (disclaimer: including this one!) which can be filtered in several ways. Interested users can read the feed “onsite”, subscribe to RSS feeds, or receive weekly updates via e-mail. Sites are being actively added by Gamebits, and site publishers can submit their own site for inclusion in the aggregator feed.

a2.click is a URL shortener with an Apple ][ focus. Links on a curated whitelist of sites (disclaimer: this site is on the whitelist!) can be shortened to make them more easily shared. For example, after setting it up, rather than sharing “https://europlus.zone/resources/silentype-font-v2-0-released/” as a link to my Silentype font, I can now just share the link “https://a2.click/silentypefont” instead. Much easier!

I’ll be using both sites (and encourage you to do the same), and really appreciate the effort Ken Gagne at Gamebits puts into supporting the Apple ][ community in particular, and the wider retrocomputer community in general – thanks, Ken!

WOzFest S7,D2 Announcement – and a Bonus Sydney Gathering!

I’ll try and be a little more timely in my Oz KFest 2017 reminisces than I was with my WOzFest Slot 7: Your Card Recap, but in the meantime, I have great news: WOzFest S7,D2 is about to be held – details to follow after a short diversion…

As I recounted in Juiced.GS, the first gathering I held, before it was known as WOzFest, was in the afterglow of Oz KFest 2015, as Tony Diaz, who had attended all the way from the US, was in Sydney before flying back.

Seizing an opportunity to again see the items he had brought with him (and he had brought numerous supremely interesting items), and to hear his stories about them, I held a gathering for what I thought would be Sydney-siders who hadn’t been able to make it to Oz KFest.

We set a precedent that first gathering which is a bit of a WOzFest tradition now – there was an interstate attendee, Kim, who had made it all the way from Tasmania. So far, there has only been one WOzFest without an interstate attendee (WOzFest ][), and it is amazing to me that people are prepared to travel so far for what is, at its heart, a small enthusiast’s gathering in a small-population city (from a global perspective).

Well, Tony has again attended an Oz KFest, and again brought a metric shed-load of historical Apple-related items…and will again be in Sydney before heading back to the US – this time for two Saturdays.

So, over the next two Saturdays, 9 and 16 September, we’re having two gatherings in honour of Tony’s presence in Sydney!

And the first one will not even be a WOzFest!

Local enthusiast Adrian has offered space he has available for a short while at Mosman on Sydney’s Lower North Shore for the first gathering – Adrian has a staggeringly large Apple-related retrocomputer collection, and has promised some interesting items to complement Tony’s. Adrian was featured on Episode 81 of RetroMacCast (almost 10 years ago!), and I know he’s made some interesting acquisitions since then.

Start time on the 9th is 14:30 Sydney time, with an expected finish time of 21:00 – contact me for the address if you can make it.

And then, as indicated above, on 16 September we’ll hold WOzFest S7,D2. There are currently no Skype calls planned, and, given its short lead-time and the fact I’m reserving my 8-themed name for later this year, it has a name which reflects its “between 7 and 8” nature (and it ties in nicely with the “Slot 7” name for the most recent “full” WOzFest).

The usual schedule applies – start time is midday Sydney time, if people are still here at dinner time we’ll get some pizza, and we’ll aim to finish by about 21:30.

Holding two events gives Oz KFest non-attendees the maximum flexibility to attend and see Tony and his items – some couldn’t make 9th, and some couldn’t make the 16th, so I’m really pleased that between Adrian and I we’re able to cater to as many enthusiasts as possible.

I hope to see you on one or both of the coming Saturdays!