Tandy TRS80 M100 Serial Terminal

IMG_20160902_142116

Since getting my Tandy M100, I’ve always wondered about connecting it to my main Linux machine. Doing so wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility and if successful, it would open up a whole range of things I could do with my tiny computer. Fortunately, there are two tutorials on the subject, but sadly both of them are out of date with the current distro’s of Linux. What follows is my revised version of both tutorials.

I will point out that this setup isn’t perfect, while I had no problem going on IRC chat and browsing directories, I discovered doing other things, such as using text editors was fraught with problems. The text wouldn’t load up on the screen properly or overlapped as the screen scrolled. While this is disappointing, I did find that I could upload text to an open document on my main PC. By running a session of Nano, I could press the UPLOAD button on the M100, select a file stored locally in the M100’s memory and load it in to the empty Nano document. While this isn’t exactly ideal, it does mean I no longer have fiddle around with Minicom. I can quite literally connect the M100 to my main pc and upload the document straight to the Hard Disk.

For any serious use, I would highly recommend using mComm, developed by Kurt McCullum. Availible on Windows and Android, it offers a convenient mass storage media for any TRS80 M100 Micro  computer.

Setting up Linux

First we need to teach Linux the TRS100, so that it knows how to display the console when the Micro connects via serial. With a 40 column display, getting text to fit right is pretty important.
First type

"Sudo nano /etc/trs100"

With the empty document open, paste in the following text.

trs100|Radio Shack Model 100:\
 :am:bs:xt:\
 :co#40:li#8:\
 :al=\EL:bl=^G:cd=\EJ:ce=\EK:cl=\EE:cm=\EY%+ %+ :\
 :cr=^M:dl=\EM:do=^J:ho=\EH:kb=^H:kd=^_:kl=^]:kr=^\:\
 :ku=^^:le=^H:nd=34:se=\Eq:sf=^J:so=\Ep:up=\EA:\
 :ve=\EP:vi=\EQ

Originally part of Terminfo, because of it’s age the configuration profile for the model 100 was relegated to a UFO archive in the mid 90s. Luckily Eric S. Raymond found the file and published the details on his website.

With the text now pasted in place, save the file by pressing Ctrl+O, name it trs100. Before we can do anything with this file, we first need to make sure ‘libncurses5-dev’ and ‘libncursesw5-dev’ are installed on your computer. Type the following command in the terminal:

sudo apt-get install libncurses5-dev libncursesw5-dev

With the above files installed, we can now compile the terminfo file we
created by typing the following command

'tic /etc/trs100'

Providing there weren’t any errors, we can now move on to configuring Linux.
This is where things get a little more involved.

Since the last tutorial was written, Systemd has replaced the init sy which is used to open a console session via the serial port. Without it, it would be unable to communicate with Linux. So we must revise what the original tutorial tells us to do. Let’s begin by opening up a new document in Nano with the following command in the terminal

sudo nano /etc/init/ttyS0.conf

With nano open, copy and paste the following in to the window.

# ttyS0 - getty
#
# This service maintains a getty on ttyS0 from the point the system is
# started until it is shut down again.

start on stopped rc RUNLEVEL=[12345]
stop on runlevel [!12345]

respawn
exec /sbin/getty -L 600 ttyS0 trs100

Save and close the document using Ctrl+O to save. While still within the terminal, type the following command.

sudo start ttyS0

By entering that command, you’ve now started a console via the serial port. But before you go trying to plug in your Micro, there’s just one last thing we need to do. If you’re serious about using your Model 100 with your Linux machine, one thing you might like is to have the output of the console visiable as soon at the PC loads up. To achieve this, we will need to alter the Grub configuration file.

While in terminal, type the following command and press enter.

sudo nano /etc/default/grub

Look for the follow entries and alter them to look exactly as they are
listed here.

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX="console=ttyS0,600,trs100"

Tip- ttys0 tells Linux which serial port to use, this could be change to ttyS1. 600 sets the communication speed to 600 baud, while this might seem slow, going higher can potentially cause data corruption. Specifying the trs100 profile, allows the console to display properly on the tiny screen of the micro.
# Uncomment to disable graphical terminal (grub-pc only)
GRUB_TERMINAL="console serial"
GRUB_SERIAL_COMMAND="serial --speed=600 --unit=0 --word=8 --parity=no
--stop=1"

Tip-By invoking “console serial”, Grub is told to output via the display and serial. –unit=0, you might want to change this to 1, if your using ttys1. Providing all the fields are now updated, let us recompile the Grub configuration file using the following command

Sudo update-grub

Some text will scroll up the screen, similar to what is below.

Generating grub configuration file …
Found linux image: /boot/vmlinuz-3.13.0-55-generic
Found initrd image: /boot/initrd.img-3.13.0-55-generic
Found linux image: /boot/vmlinuz-3.13.0-54-generic
Found initrd image: /boot/initrd.img-3.13.0-54-generic
Found linux image: /boot/vmlinuz-3.13.0-53-generic
Found initrd image: /boot/initrd.img-3.13.0-53-generic
Found linux image: /boot/vmlinuz-3.13.0-48-generic
Found initrd image: /boot/initrd.img-3.13.0-48-generic

Now connect your null modem cable to your PC and your Model 100. On your Tandy computer, run Telcom and type ‘STAT 48n1e’ followed by ‘Term’. Now place the micro to one side and reboot your Linux machine. As it is rebooting, watch the display on the Model 100, it should begin to display information. If not, you may need to look at what serial port your using, as it might be ttyS1, instead of ttyS0. An easy way to find out is to use Minicom, which allows you to quickly swap between com ports and communicate with your Model 100.

Providing all has gone well, you should see a prompt asking you to enter your username and log in to Linux.

Now go have fun!

 

Thanks goes to

Sean Gallagher, Brian Hicks, wiki.archlinux.org and help.ubuntu.com

Without whom making this tutorial would have been much much harder.


Bluetooth on the Raspberry PI

rpi2b

For anyone with a Raspberry Pi3, this topic may or may not be useful. If like me you own a Raspberry Pi2, you may be facing the challenge of using Bluetooth with your Pi and wondering how on earth you get things started. Depending on how Linux savvy you are, this can be either a walk in the park or a utter nightmare that will leave your pulling your hair out and crying in a corner.

Now thanks to a good friend introducing me to Linux, I’ve been enjoying various distros for well over seven years, my favorite being Xubuntu. But that isn’t to say that I’m by any means a Guru. There are times Linux honestly leaves me baffled, but I felt pretty confident that setting up a keyboard on the RPi would be a walk in the park. After all, the latest addition, the PI3 comes with Bluetooth built in, so you’d think it worked pretty much out the box. When I bought an ultra slim bluetooth keyboard from Pimoroni, I was a little shocked to spend the next two days fighting with it. No matter what I tried the Bluetooth software in x.org refused to work with the keyboard. Thankfully the Raspberry Pi forum came to the rescue and after an hour searching for a solution, I finally had my answer.

Bluesz-simple-agent

If like me you’ve been reading guides telling you to use bluez-simple-agent to set up your keyboard, then you know that such a command no longer works on Raspbian Jessie, Bluez has been updated since those guides were written. Fortunately however Archlinux has a great Wiki page dedicated to using Bluetooth in Linux and how to get things working using the new command “Bluetoothctl“. From what I can tell the process isn’t that dissimilar to “bluez-simple-agent“.

i9_square_large

Ultraslim, but not so easy to setup

Now I’m going to assume you’ve already installed Bluez on your machine. If you haven’t, then I suggest you get cracking.

– At the command prompt, type “bluetoothctl” and press enter.

– By default your controller is turned off, to switch it on enter “Power on“.

– Next, lets have a look at what your Pi can see, enter the command “Devices“. The computer will list any visible bluetooth devices, along with their MAC address. If you see the device your wanting to use, make a note of the MAC address now, as you’ll need it later.

– If your device wasn’t listed, try putting your pi in discovery mode with the “Scan on” command. Hopefully this will add any device that weren’t already discovered.

– Now turn agent on by typing the command “Agent on“. If successful your Pi should report: “agent registered“.

– Time to try connecting to your device using the address you jotted down earlier. Enter the command “Pair MAC address“. The PI should now attempt to pair to your device, so make sure you entered the address correctly, otherwise it will fail.

– If you’re using a device without a pin, you can manually instruct the PI to trust the device. This is sometimes necessary when your pi needs to reconnect to it. You can do this by entering the following command “Trust MAC xx.xx.xx“. Note after MAC, you should enter the address you have written down.

– Now lets finally establish a connection using the command “Connect MAC xx.xx.xx.xx“.

Hopefully your PI connected successfully to your keyboard, so why not try typing something? Did anything appear on your screen? If it didn’t, try retracing your steps. If you used the “Trust” command, you will have to use the command ‘Remove xx.xx.xx.xx’ to make your Pi forget the device. Once removed, try going through the tutorial again, making sure you didn’t miss any steps.

If typing on the keyboard resulted in letters appearing on the screen, congratulations! You successfully connected your keyboard to your Raspberry Pi. If you reboot your computer now, it will forget everything you have done so far and your Pi and keyboard will no longer be connected. To make sure this doesn’t happen and your keyboard remains connected, we’ll need to create a udev rule. This is our way of telling the Pi to look for our bluetooth device each time it boots up and if present, reconnect to it.

First quit bluetoothctl by typing ‘Quit’ and pressing the enter key, you should now be returned to Terminal. For the next step, begin by typing “nano /etc/udev/rules.d/10-local.rules“. Nano should load up a blank document, which we will use to fill with the following.

# Set bluetooth power up ACTION==”add”, KERNEL==”hci0″, RUN+=”/usr/bin/hciconfig hci0 up”

To save, press “CTRL+O” followed by the ‘ENTER’ key. Next press “CTRL+X” to exit Nano, your computer will now remember to reconnect to your device the next time you reboot.

The above guide is an adaptation of information found @ “wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/bluetooth#bluetoothctrl

 

 


Converting an Amiga Joystick to USB

AmigaPiReaders of my blog will probably have seen the Amiga 600PI I built not so long ago, using a Raspberry PI 2 under the hood. Out of all the projects, I honestly have to say this was a labour of love and a lot fun project to build. But like any build, there are the obligatory tweaks that must be made to fix things that might have been missed the first time around. Issues that only became obvious after using a build for a week or two. Which is pretty much how it was for me with the AmigaPi.

After using the AmigaPI for a couple of weeks, I began noticing one or two problems. First on the list, wasn’t so much a hardware problem as software. UAE4ARM is the de facto Amiga emulator for the Raspberry pi, in shorts it’s pretty amazing. But as fantastic as it is, there is yet to be any support for remapping the keyboard. This is useful if you like playing games using the cursor keys or say your old skool and prefer using the good old Spectrum controls Z,X,O,P. At the time of writing, this still isn’t an option, which means its still isn’t possible to make use of the built in joystick ports on my KeyRah V2 interface. Sadly it seems no matter how much people plead for the feature to be implemented, those bringing UAE4Arm to the Pi are focusing on performance over functionality. Which is understandable, as any good emulator requires a decent level of real time performance. Afterall nobody wants to play Amiga games at a snails pace with choppy sound. But in the pursuit for good performance, other features have been neglected. Making UAE4Arm a good attempt, but still vastly lacking when compared to FS-UAE or Win-UAE. Both of which offer a far more advanced level of configuration, we can only hope that UAE4Arm will one day follow suit. Given the number of people using their Raspberry Pi for gaming, it would be a missed opportunity if it didn’t.

smallxboxpad

Controller of choice for most Retroarch fans

In the meantime the only way to play games on UAE4Arm is using a controller, usually this means hooking up an Xbox 360 joypad. I know a lot of people use these on their RetroArch gaming setups as they’re easy to get hold of. Chances are if you own a 360, you already have one laying about the house. However for me, seeing one hooked up to an Amiga 600 seemed as out of place as a Chippendale in a nunnery.

My AmigaPi needed a proper looking joystick, not some Microsoft rubbish. Now there are a couple of ways this can be achieved. Firstly, you can purchase the ready made USB Competition Pro by Speedlink. It looks just like the original, except for the USB connector on the end of the lead. I did seriously consider getting one of those, however digging a little deeper, I discovered more then a few people complaining about lack luster performance. While opinions on the internet are ten a penny, usually where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And at £20 a pop, I didn’t fancy finding out which opinion was right. Especially when I was pretty confident that I could build my own joystick for a fraction of the price.

Buiding A Joystick

The first thing I had to find was a bust Amiga Joystick, I certainly wasn’t about to break a working one just for a hack. At least taking something that is broken and giving it a new life, you’re recycling and not just throwing it in landfill. Luckily in my loft I had a non-working Cheetah 128, which had been
a spare for my Spectrum, until it died.PRODPIC-13190-1

Taking it apart, I was surprised with the simplicity of the internal workings. Unlike some of my quickshot sticks, the Cheetah use simple metal pads to create open and shut gates. Press forward on the joystick and two metal pads would connect to make a circuit. Luckily for me, this would actually worked in my favour, as it would make converting the stick to USB pretty simple. The only problem now was finding the right sort of USB controller. Scouring the net, I found one company that sold a custom analogue to USB adapters, however they wanted £16! I thought this was a little pricey for a single sided, through hole PCB with only chip. It was after all, doing essentially what all the cheap Chinese controllers were doing – translating the inputs from a series of switches / buttons into something the computer could understand as UP, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT and FIRE.

Ebay is full of USB controllers styled after SNES, NES and 360 joypads, which you can pick up for as little as a few quid. I was pretty sure one of these would contain everything I needed to convert the Cheetah to USB. So biting the bullet, I bought myself one and waited for it to arrive in the post.

A Note on Retro Game Pad Copies

Clones, not always as good as the originals.

Clones, not always as good as the originals.

After arriving at my doorstep, the first thing I noticed was the quality or lack of it Looks were pretty much the only thing the USB pad shared with the original super Nintendo controller. Unlike the latter, the build quality was cheap and flimsy and not at all solid as you’d expect. A quick game of Super Frog on the Amiga Pi quickly revealed how bad it really was, with the D pad often mashing two directions together. Resulting in a lot of unintentional left and right jumps that left me crying for it to end. After ten frustrating minutes I’d had enough and unplugged it. After seeing how rubbish it performed, I felt less guilty about scavenging it’s innards for my joystick mod.

 

Fitting A Square Block In A Round Hole

Inside the controller, I was faced with a major problem. The joy pad wasn’t constructed anything close to how I’d been expecting. Spanning the full width of the pad was a single PCB, populated with contact-less switches. I’d foolishly been expecting the pad to use mechanical switches, which I could have easily rewired. However a friend later explained to me that a lot of things these days are built using single a PCB to cut down the cost on components. In light of this revelation, I faced having to solder to the surface of the board. While not my joystick1preferred way of doing things, I’d just have to like it or lump it. If that wasn’t bad enough, the darn PCB turned out to be 2cm wider then the base of the Cheetah. I’d have to work some serious magic with my Dremmel if it was ever going to fit in the base.

One of the hazards with chopping up a PCB, is that they don’t usually work afterwards, not without a bit of rewiring. Such as reconnected broken ground planes etc, which are needed for the circuit board to function. Lucky for me the design was pretty simple, but I was still thrown a couple of times, chasing the ground. Having never attempted anything like this before, it was a learning process for me, figuring out how the board worked and where best to solder to. This was especially true, as I began cutting portions away to make it fit inside the base. After removing almost all the direction pads and three of the fire buttons, the PCB was finally narrow enough to fit inside the Cheetah, hurray!

joystick2If you fancy trying your hand at hacking your own joystick, my advice is to take your time, don’t rush and make a photographic record of your progress. Pictures can come in really handy if a wire pops out and your left wondering where the heck it came from!

To reduce the number of wires I had floating around inside the joystick, I shared the ground from one point on the PCB to all the other contacts. Interestingly, unlike other joysticks of the day, the Cheetah uses a cloverleaf for the main directional stick (pictured left). The only other joystick I know that shares this design, is the original Sinclair sticks that came with the grey Plus 2. This design actually made wiring everything up a lot easier, as its much simpler than those with internal switches. Beneath the star shaped metal plate are four contact screws, which represent UP, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT. Using wire I’d stripped from an old IDE cable, I hooked the contacts up to those on controller’s D-pad. This is when having photo’s comes it really handy, as more then once I lost my way with the traces on the board. But consulting some photos, I figured out what I was doing wrong and soon had UP going to UP, LEFT going to LEFT and so on.

joystick3

IDE cable is great for fine work like this

In theory, when connect to a USB port, the board would register the movement of the stick just as it had the original D-pad. While I recycled a lot of the Cheetah’s original wiring, I also used a lot of wire from an old IDE cable. Not only is it very flexible, but its also very low gauge, which makes it perfect for soldering to the tiny traces on the joypads PCB.

First Test

After the wiring, came the next challenge: hooking the joystick up to a USB port and hoping it worked. I’d already had the pad albeit in original form, connected to my Windows PC. It worked straight out the box with a minimal amount of setting up. Hooking it back up, I was pleased to find everything worked first time! joypad4After a game of Stunt Car (obviously!) on WinUAE, I began wondering about the buttons in the base of the Cheetah and whether or not they could be made to work. True the wiring inside was more jammed than a sumo wrestler in a phone box. But I wasn’t satisfied, I wanted those darn buttons to work. After all, the natural way of holding the Cheetah was with both hands. The whole time I’d been playing Stunt Car, I kept feeling the urge to use the lower buttons instead of the trigger.

Achieving this feat took some hacking, I can tell you. First I had to find room for the micro switches. There was barely any for them to sit between the PCB and the lid, the only option was to cut out a cavity in the buttons for the switches to sit inside.

 

joystick5

From left to right, a converted button next to one waiting to be altered.

As you can see pictured, this was finally how the buttons looked, with the switches recessed inside the red plastic housing. It took several failed attempts on my part, before I found the right depth for the switches. But eventually I was firing nitros in Stunt Car without a hitch. I think the scariest moment was when I screwed everything together. With the top and base finally secured, I was worried everything would squashed together. Luckily, I didn’t need to worry, as it worked fine.

 

And here is a final image, which I think pretty much captures my feeling at the end of this hack.

 

joywin

This trophy’s bigger then my head!!

 

 


Update

A Brief Update

Its been a little quiet on BMV of late, but that is only because I’ve been busy with projects and researching material for my blog. Things I think you lot will enjoy reading about. Such things as an awesome retro terminal emulator for Linux, that makes you feel like your back in the 70s, including phosphorescent glow! Next is a spectacular reindition of PacMan for the Atari 2600. Righting the wrongs of the original version, that angered so many gamers back in the 80s at the time of its release. But wait theres more, we have a new RPI build, paying homage to the C64 SX, the Nomad SX/Pi. A compact portable computer with a 3.5″ display and removable wireless keyboard. I’m sure there are things I’ve missed, so you’ll just have to keep popping in and seeing what has been posted up!

 

James


Raspberry Pi 4th Birthday Bash

birthday
Held in Cambridge on the 5th and 6th of March at the Cambridge Computer Laboratory, the official Raspberry Pi birthday celebrates the fourth year since the release of the original Raspberry Pi Model B. Going from strength to strength since its initial release, the success of the Raspberry Pi can’t be denied. This is made even more apparent by the fact the birthday bash is a sold out event, with people coming from all around the country and also Europe to celebrate this tiny micro computer. Attending the event where Pihut, CPC, IQaudio, PiTop, { Code Club }, Pimoroni and LinuxUser Magazine, to name but a few. This only skims the surface, as the event was teeming with clever boffins with something to display. If you missed this year’s birthday bash, I highly recommend trying to attend one or any Pi event in your area in the future. The atmosphere is inspiring and the people warm and friendly.

End of Day One

Thoroughly geeked out, the first day was a blast. This was my first time at a Raspberry Pi event and I have to say, it was an eye opener. Making it certain that I’ll be attending more in the future. Over the Saturday, I met some wonderful, friendly people, such as the

Amazing Pi Laptops from Pi-Top

Amazing Pi Laptops from Pi-Top

fantastic peeps from LinuxUser, who are clearly just as passionate about retro gaming as they are about Linux. The dead give away to this was the Pi Zero powered Xbox controller on their table, running Retroarch. Not only was I invited to play a game of Doom, but they even gave me a copy of their Magazine, containing tips on the Linux Terminal. Now I ask you, who can turn their nose up at that, seriously? Next in line for a mention is the chap from Pi-top, if you’ve not heard about Pi-top, they produce two impressive cases specifically for the Raspberry PI and I highly recommend looking them up. Having played around with the laptop model of the Pi-top, I can honestly say I was impressed. As you can probably tell from the photo, the striking green case it certainly eye catching. Pimoroni were also present, showing off their popular Picade and Flotilla products, which as one can expect, drew in a crowd.

Raspberry Pi3

Released only days before the birthday bash, the Pi 3 comes with Bluetooth and wireless built in, not to mention an A53 processor, clocked at 1.25Ghz. 10x faster than the original Pi, the Pi 3 is a quad-core computer like the Pi 2, however unlike the P2, which uses a 32bit CPU, the Pi 3 is 64bit. This step up, will scientifically improve the performance of the Pi, placing feasibly within the same realm of some laptops and Atom based net tops.

At the time of its release, the Pi 2 Model B was considered by many, myself included, as a lightweight desktop computer. That being the case, the specs of the Pi 3 most certainly elevate the fruity micro from just an educational computer to something that could easily be used at home for surfing the net and playing games. And while the primary goal of the Pi is to get kids back into computers (something it is doing remarkably well), both the Spectrum and C64 of yester years, owe much of their success to the games that were developed for them. Many of the kids playing those games back in the day later become programmers in their own right. Perhaps it’s just nostalgia, but I would love to imagine there are a bunch of kids out there some place, learning Python or Scratch, developing the next Dizzy or Crash Bandicoot on their humble Raspberry Pi 2/3, perhaps because playing games on Retroarch, inspired them to do so.

 

Day Two

The beginning to the second day at the birthday bash, began with a sausage sandwich and a cup of tea. Not very technical I know, but essential if you want the grey matter in your noggin to boot up! Fuelled up, the first event on my schedule was to sit in on Eban Upton’s talk about the Rapberry Pi. I had intended to record the talk for you guys to hear, so I set my Nexus 5 recording throughout the session. Sadly the recording sounded more akin to a scuba diver dictating into a baked bean tin while riding upon a flatulent whale. Instead you’ll have to settle for a photo of the Eban I took just before he beganeban. The talk overall was insightful and fun, Eban was down to earth in explaining the development of the Pi 3. He also made a point of crediting the people behind its development, the faces we don’t see who work tirelessly to develop, innovate and burn much of the midnight oil in an effort to make the Pi 3 a reality.

There was also mention of the AstroPi, which recently travelled in to space, on its way to the international space station. Without the doubt, the Astro Pi is one of the most expensive Pi every built, requiring a specially built enclose and mounts, made from some pricey materials.

After the talk, I found myself chatting to Jon Prove, director of Sales for Pi Top, a cool guy, who is clearly enthusiastic about the Raspberry Pi in general. I’d already spoken to one of his colleagues the previous day. I had seen Jon, but he was knee deep in people interested in his product.

Later I caught a talk on Sonic Pi, an adaptable music generator which you can program to create a wide variety of sounds. At the party the night before, its creator, Dr Sam Aaron performed live. Being as it was my first exposure to Sonic Pi, I have to say I was impressed. At times the music Aaron was playing, sounded uncannily like Daft Punk. It certainly left me wanting to learn more about the software, which thanks to the talk I now feel a little more informed about.

Dr Sam Aaron rocking with SonicPi

Dr Sam Aaron rocking with SonicPi

Not all the vendors who attended the first day, were present on the Sunday. CPCs table was unoccupied, but left on their table were freebies and a note, wishing everyone a fun day and to help themselves to one of the goodies they had left behind, ranging from Pi shaped coasters, pens, stickers and even some Pi cases. Now wasn’t that jolly well nice of them? FYI, I nabbed a coaster!

One of the nice features of the event was the layout, the ground floor held all the vendors and talks, the second and third floor were for workshops and also quiet spaces. Handy if you happen to be carrying around your G4 iBook and wanting to quickly jot down notes for your blog. Thank goodness I bought a new battery as the old one would never have lasted long enough!


Using Alpine with POP3 Hotmail accounts

clippit

I really, really wish I’d found a page with that heading when I’d been trying to configure Alpine to work with Hotmail. A lot of us, myself included, don’t understand the inner workings of Alpine, which is no surprise as I gather it’s a pretty powerful email client.
Like many, I’m used to application being glossy and intuitive, all thanks to the colourful GUI OS’s we use today. The downside however, and bare in mind this is just my personal opinion. Is that all this eye candy is making us stupid and overly dependent on dumbed down interfaces that a 3 year old could follow.
Developers today work hard to make modern operating systems easy to use. So much so, that when we are faced with the bleak barren landscape of DOS or the Unix Terminal, the absence of pretty buttons has us running for the hills. I grow up in the 80s, Spectrum’s, C64s, DOS 6.22, I lived through all of that and was pretty good in using the lot, apart from the old BBC Micro. I always felt intimidated whenever I sat in front of a Model B at school. But somewhere along the way, I lost the ability to bend my head around a simple blocky, ASCII based program like Alpine. Worse still was after going online I found I wasn’t the only one. So after an evening with my thinking cap firmly on, here is how you get pop3 Hotmail working on Alpine.

When is an IMAP, not an IMAP, when its a POP!

So your struggling with Alpine and still cant retrieve your mail from hotmail yes? Well your possibly in luck, because below are the settings I used to get my mail via Microsofts POP3 servers. I’ll even walk you through what I did, so you can replicate it.

Things you need
-Linux Ubuntu or Xubuntu (will probably work on other destros)
-Liquid refreshment and snacks
-Internet access

First let us install Alpine, open up a Terminal and type;
“Sudo apt-get install alpine”

BMV-alpine4

Fig.1

Once your computer has finished unpacking and installing the package, lets run it, in Terminal type;
“Alpine”

You should see something similar to fig 1, continue to the config screen by pressing “S”, then press “L” for “Add a new collection”. You should see a page similar to the one in fig 2.

Enter the fields as follows
Nickname: Hotmail
Server: pop-mail.outlook.com:995/pop3/ssl/user=BGates@hotmail.com
Path: mail/
View:

‘In the server address, replace BGates with your own email address. Unless you are BGates, in which case, hello! *waves* ahem!’

Fig.2

Fig.2

Once everything is entered, press Ctrl+X to save and exit the screen, then press ‘E’. You should now be back to the main menu, press ‘S’ and then ‘C’, you should see something like fig 3. This is the main configuration panel and we have a few things that still need entering.

Fig.3

Fig.3

Personal Name: B Gates
User Domain: hotmail.com
SMTP Server (for sending): smtp-mail.outlook.com:587/user=bgates@hotmail.com
Inbox Path: pop-mail.outlook.com:995/pop3/ssl/user=bgates@hotmail.com

Compare your screen with fig 3, the only fields I had to change were the ones I’ve listed above. Now scroll down the screen until you reach “Folder Preferences” and make sure “Enable Incoming Folders Collection” has a cross next to it. Now for all the changes to take effect, you must quit out of Alpine by pressing ‘E” and then ‘Q”. This will bring you back to the command
prompt. From here, type;
“Alpine”

If all has gone according to plan, Alpine should now prompt you for a password, so that it can log on and retrieve your mail. Finally enter the “Message Inbox” by pressing “I”.

Voila! Your online and accessing your POP3 hotmail!

BMV-alpine3


Dell Inspiron 4000 Retro Gaming and ‘How to’ on Internal Wifi

dell_inspiron_4000

 

Manufactured for Dell by Taiwan based Compal Electronics in early 2000, the Inspiron 4000 was a lightweight, business laptop offering a sturdy chassis and good performance, boasting a Pentium III or Celeron processor, 512mb of memory, dual PCMCIA ports, two modular bays and an internal mini PCI port for networking.

I acquired the Inspiron a couple of years ago, thinking it would make a good portable DOS gaming system. While DosBox is a handy piece of software, it doesn’t always work according to plan and some games simply require the real thing to run properly. I do have a Pentium 133mhz DOS machine, running Windows 98, but the thing is rather cumbersome and occupies a lot of room once it’s setup on my desk. Really, I was looking for something compact and easy to put away when I wasn’t in a gaming mood. The Dell ticked a lot of those boxes, not to mention having a PIII 700mhz processor, it could still manage a little light surfing if need be.

A Functional Operating System in 2015

There is only one problem with running modern-ish applications on a single core system, everything tends to run damn slow. Especially when compared to the dual and quad core systems we have today. Even the humble Raspberry Pi eventually branched out into multicore territory last year, with the Pi 2 model B. So where does that leave the old Intel Pentium III? Down the river without a canoe or a paddle? Not really, there are in fact many distributions of Linux that will still happily run on a single core computer, Puppy Linux and Mint to name but a few. Even the now deprecated Windows XP offers a reasonable performance and if you’re wanting to run old DOS or Windows software it’s probably the best route to take. Depending on where you go on the internet, XP is either one of the best OS that Microsoft ever made and a solid foundation for a retro system, or it’s an eyesore, with more holes then a rusty Ford Anglia, continuing to linger longer after the party ended. Either way, if like me, you want to run games from 1996 to 2005, XP is really the best that’s out there in terms of hardware support and performance. Backwards compatible with Windows 98 and 2000, it will run most things you throw at it. I could if I’d been so inclined, opted for Windows 2000, which actually came pre-installed on the Inspiron 4000. But Win2k hasn’t seen an update since 2005, where as XP was only dropped by Microsoft as recently as last year. People still like XP and as long as it remains popular, software will still come out supporting it. Don’t believe me? One only needs to check the OS market share;

https://www.netmarketshare.com/operating-system-market-share.aspx?qprid=10&qpcustomd=0

As of January 2016, XP is still holding a strong third place, ahead of Windows 8.1, Mac OS and Vista the XP’s intended replacement. Why this is, I’ll leave it to you to ponder. Personally I still think XP rocks! But don’t quote me on that!

Installed and Running

Up and running with XP service pack 3, the Inspiron is surprisingly nippy for a single core machine with only 512mb ram. The only time it does slow down to a crawl is online, visiting flash heavy websites which effectively kill it. With half a gigabyte of ram, Firefox and Google Chrome gobble up memory like there is no tomorrow. Not a problem if your computer has one or two gig of ram handy, but with 512mb the strain begins to show. Things weren’t helped much by the hard drive fitted inside the laptop, a 10gb, 4200rpm, 2.5” IDE Fujitsu. Over ten years old the drive was not only noisy and slow, but once I’d removed it. I discovered had an alarming habit of rattling if tipped on it’s side or gentle shaken. Hard drives shouldn’t rattle, not unless they’ve come out of a computer that took a trip down the stairs. Chucking it in the bin, it was quickly replaced with a younger 30Gb 7200rpm, Hitachi. Being significantly newer then the Fujitsu, the Hitachi was visibly quicker at booting up and performing in general. And now with 20 gig extra space, it gave me ample space to install all my old programs and games of course!

So what games will run on a Y2k laptop you ask? Well the large majority of games from 1996 onwards will run happily on a PIII with little or no protest. Equipped with an 8mb ATI Rage Mobility video card, it’s only when we get to about 2002 that games start to expect a little more from a graphical stand point and by 2004 we are all out of luck.

Here’s but a few games that do work:

Abe’s Oddworld

Star Trek: The Fallen

Star Trek: Generations (with some tweaking)

Dungeon Keeper

The Sims

Deus Ex

Baldurs Gate

Diablo II

Star Trek: Klingon Honour Guard

There are plenty more games I could add to the list but those are just a few of the ones I plan on playing on the Inspiron and maybe even doing a review or two for ByteMyVdu while I’m at it.

If your after a cheap knock about laptop for blogging, gaming then I wouldn’t be to hasty in dismissing these early 2000 machines. Ok they might not handle newest version of Windows, run Sims 3 or handle Facebook (is that a bad thing?) but if you’re after something you can throw about in a rucksack and not worry if it picks up a dint or a scratch, then perhaps it’s worth looking at.

Networking

Equipped with an internal mini PCI 56k Lucent modem and on board ethernet, when new, the Inspiron offered users all they needed to get jacked in. However times have changed and using a phone line is no longer the trendy way the kids get online in 2016. In fact, I think if I showed a teenage a modem from 16 years ago, they would wonder what the hell it was showing them. On most old laptops, the default answer to getting wifi is to plug a wireless card in an empty PCMCIA slot. Personally I find the wireless card hanging out the side a tad ugly and just asking to be caught or knocked. Now if you recall, I said earlier that the 4000 had a PCI modem which meant the Inspiron had an internal mini PCI port. This led me to wonder what would happen, if I replaced the Lucent card with a Broadcom wireless card. After finding one with XP drivers, from Dell no less, I popped open the panel on the underside of the laptop and swapped the cards. After some fiddling, I finally got the Broadcom working. Usually when you install a wifi card in a laptop, you’ll find one or two antenna wires that connect to the “Main” and “AUX” ports of the wireless card. Because the 4000 doesn’t come with wifi, the laptop didn’t have an internal antenna. How then does one hope to get a signal? Well you could buy an antenna if one is available specifically for your laptop. This would then involve stripping down your machine and installing the antenna loom around the screen. In other words a lot of faffing about, just to get a decent wireless signal. I decided there had to be a better way and it turned out I was right. A quick look  online and I discovered Pimoroni in the UK, sold a mini 2.4Ghz wireless antennas for putting inside electronic projects. Measuring in at just 100mm, I wasn’t sure whether the tiny aerial would get much of a signal from within the base of the laptop. But after installing it, I realised there wasn’t any cause for concern. Windows reported a modest two bar signal coming from the router, even carrying it to the furthest part of the house, I was still receiving one bar and a stable online connection.

While my solution might not work for everyone, it certainly breathed life in to the Inspiron 4000 which can now get online, without needed an ugly PCMCIA card sticking out the side.

The antenna I bought can be found on Pimoroni’s website here.