Remembering Tony Diaz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RetroChallenge 2021/10 Endgame, WOzFest Twenty BOO! 👻 Report.

What a month October was – while not a complete wash out, I certainly did not complete as much of my projects as I’d like (please put that on my gravestone). And I was subsequently swamped with work and family matters through into the New Year (Happy New Year, by the way!).

I’d pretty well done nothing between my last report and WOzFest Twenty BOO! 👻, so there are no missing updates to catch up on.

But progress is progress, so let’s get the lowdown on what progress there was last weekend…

  • europlus Refurbapalooza Resurrection – No progress. Work was just too busy to get to this one. I’ll have to save this Resurrection for another day (RetroChallenge 2022/04?!).
  • Lockdown WOzFests – Completed! Well, this was a sort of a cheat one, but I did get to chat with some people, which was especially comforting at WOzFest Twenty BOO! 👻 (see below).
  • Pirated software manual scans – Incomplete. The progress I made on this project was to finish removing all the hundreds of rusty staples holding each manual together. Now it’s just sheet feed scanning to follow – a pretty simple, if lengthy (there is a 13cm pile of paper to scan!), task.
  • Applesaucing – Incomplete. I did do some imaging at WOzFest Twenty BOO! 👻 for Call-A.P.P.L.E. of some of their original disks I had in one of my multitude of boxes which Bill Martens (a virtual attendee) suggested they didn’t have copies of, so at least what progress I did make on this was pretty targeted!
  • Citizen Science – No (effective) progress. I now have a funky magnetic field display film which I can use in conjunction with flux images of disks to get a sense of how the physical layout of magnets on modern devices relates to disk damage. When I get to work on this one, there’ll be some cool graphics to include in the findings.

WOzFest Twenty BOO! 👻, held on Saturday 30 October, was meant to see me get more done than staple removal and imaging 15 or so disks.

In my defence, the day was severely marred by the news received mid-afternoon that my friend, Tony Diaz, had passed away in America earlier that week.

I’ll leave my thoughts on Tony and his passing to a separate post, but sharing grief with other enthusiasts both locally and internationally was indeed comforting.

I had elected to keep WOzFest Twenty BOO! 👻 as (almost completely) virtual-only as my wife and I are keeping ourselves in an almost-lockdown for some time to come – only Michael from RCR was in attendance as he is in similar almost-lockdown circumstances at the moment, and he had a delivery for me. Sharing a 42m² room with one person who’s pretty well not seeing others seemed OK.

That meant I got to share pizza and ciders in real life, and remembrances of Tony in person and via Google Meet.

An additional project I took on for Saturday was setting up a 21″ iMac 2012 I’d been gifted the prior week – I have two 21″ iMacs I use for Applesaucing and scanning, and with the 2012 replacing a Mid-2010 machine, I was able to have the new one and the other one (2015) both set up for High Sierra and Catalina dual booting. This allows me to use 32-bit software (iWeb and scanner software) when needed, but also have more recent OSes on them.

Between OS installs and data and app migrations, that went on for much of Saturday, but the new machine is significantly lighter than the one it replaces, which makes puttering around in WOzFest HQ easier as I move things around for optimal placement when doing work.

I’m now trying to plan for this year’s five WOzFests – I think I have a schedule sorted, and will make an announcement as soon as I can.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WOzFest RC21/10 & WOzFest 22 Announcement

UPDATE: See details of a new project for my RetroChallenge 2021/10 entry below.

Firstly, an apology for forgetting to announce WOzFest ]20 HOME : GOTO 20 – life got in the way, and I just didn’t get around to posting here

And although it’s not far away, I’m very happy to announce the date for the next WOzFest: WOzFest RC 21/10 will be held on Saturday 2 October 2021, starting at midday Sydney time (UTC+10:00).

And, to top off the year, I can also announce that WOzFest 22 will be held on Saturday 30 October 2021, starting at midday Sydney time (UTC+11:00).

Why two WOzFests in one month? Well the name for ’21 should give the clue – I’m entering RetroChallenge 21/10, and it seemed a good way to bookend my efforts for the month.

The theme for WOzFest RC 21/10 and WOzFest 22 is, obviously, “RetroChallenge” – drop in, check out what I’m up to, and let me know your plans at WOzFest RC 21/10 and how you went at WOzFest 22.

My entry for RetroChallenge 2021/10 has four five parts:

  1. europlus Refurbapalooza Resurrection – my Apple ][ europlus refurbishment project has edged along since my last Retrochallenge entries, but I’ve started to kick up the pace. Can I get all my boards tested by the end of Retrochallenge 2021/10?!
  2. Lockdown WOzFests – to celebrate Retrochallenge 2021/10, I will schedule the next two WOzFests for 2 October and 30 October. Retrochallengers from around the globe should drop in to detail their plans at WOzFest RC 21/10, then describe the pain of how it went all awry at WOzFest 22! Share the love, pain, frustration, and triumphs!
  3. Pirated software manual scans – I have a 13cm pile of photocopied Apple ][ software manuals from WOzFest attendee Neville to scan and upload to the Internet Archive.
  4. Applesaucing – Similarly, I have a metric buttload of disks to image with my Applesauce, gotta just get back to it.
  5. NEW: Citizen Science – Floppy disks vs Magnets: I’ve seen discussion of magnets affecting disks, I’ve done it myself, and I jokingly place bad disks on WOzFest HQ’s fridge with HD magnets. But magnets are all around us now, and those into software preservation have to be careful. Join me as I test the effects of the various common (and maybe not so common) magnets in our modern lives on the media we’re here to preserve. If you have equipment to flux image a disk, and some magnets laying around, add your data to the pool so we can spread the warning far and wide – disks and magnets are not BFFs!

Yes, four five projects is a crazy an extra-crazy load to take on, but I’m crazy! Aim for the stars and you’ll blow up on the launchpad, I always say!

I encourage Australian entrants to also sign up at the Australian Computer Museum Society forums and detail your entries and progress in the RetroChallenge 2021/10 category there – a $500 grant is being offered by the Society for Aussie entrants to try and drive local engagement in the retro scene. Just make sure you tick the Australian Computer Museum Society affiliation tick box when entering RetroChallenge!

In addition, regular WOzFest attendee Andrew told me HacktoberFest 2021 is happening in October, so be sure to sign up to an open source project, and let us know what you’ll be working on during the month when you drop by.

Sydney is still in COVID lockdown, and will not see any easing of restrictions in relation to visitors until the Monday after 70% of the population 16 and over are double-vaxxed. This is currently due to happen towards the end of the first week of October, so WOzFest RC 21/10 will be a stream/virtual event only.

Once we hit 70%, five double-vaxxed visitors can attend, so that will be the minimum allowed for WOzFest 22 – but we’ll probably have achieved 90% double-vaxxed by 30 October, so the restrictions may have eased even further. Please note: even without a government stipulation on the vax status of visitors, I’ll be requiring WOzFest attendees to be double-vaxxed for the foreseeable future (don’t @ me). QR check in will be mandatory, as well.

I’ll be using Google Meet to stream what I’m up to and who I’m chatting to – let me know if you’d like the link so you can connect up with us.

As per recent WOzFests, I’ll be preparing the day before – the Google Meet link will work for all four days. Runtimes are Fridays from 11:00 local time to 17:00 local time (roughly), Saturdays from 12:00 to 22:00 local time (if I can make it that long) – UTC+10:00 for WOzFest RC 21/10 (and prep) and UTC+11:00 for WOzFest 22 (and prep).

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

I hope to (virtually) see you there!

Retrochallenge 2017/10 Recap – A Soft Exit

A very short post here to confirm what my tweets have previously stated – I was unable to get any work done during Retrochallenge 2017/10 so I had to soft exit, which is a very sad story.

Well, I did line my europluses up on the table, and take one case apart, and get skewered by a keyboard ribbon cable plug, but that was it and probably took less than 30 minutes from go to (bloody) woe.

I suffer from chronic nausea, and it flared up rather badly after I got the flu recently, so it was very hard to have any energy beyond work and home commitments to do any more.

I’m certainly planning on entering Retrochallenge 2018/04 more successfully, but I can’t promise I won’t work on my europluses before then – in fact, I’m expecting to do at least a little bit during WOzFest 8-bit as penance.

Retrochallenge 2017/10 Entry – europlus Refurbapalooza Ep. 3

Retrochallenge time is almost upon us again, and, after two prior entries helping me move my europlus refurbishment project along, there’s no way I wasn’t going to enter again!

And so, for the third Retrochallenge in a row, I am entering my “continuing stooooooory” of a europlus Refurbapalooza into the mix for Retrochallenge 2017/10.

I’m now at the stage of chronologically aligning the base (with serial number) to power supply to motherboard – my intention is to troubleshoot the motherboards once attached to the bases and connected to the power supplies, but before affixing the top case – it will make swapping chips out that much easier, especially at the front and back of the motherboards.

I’ll also aim to replace any missing/damaged/moved rubber feet on the bases, and hopefully clean the top plastic cases.

My minimal aim is to have at least one extra fully operational unit by the end of October – given the glitches I saw when I quickly ran through all the machines, I think it’ll be a stretch to get them all working, but I will try.

If you’re vacillating about entering, or have never considered entering, I can highly recommend it as a way to help you move your retrocomputing project/s forward.

For anyone who does enter, whether for the first time or as a returning entrant, I wish a heartfelt “Good luck!”

Retrochallenge 2017/04 Recap – europlus Refurbapalooza Edges Along

I was right in my suspicion that I would not get as much done with my europlus refurbishment this time ’round, but I am actually happy with what I got done during April (and just outside the competition deadline) given my “real life” constraints.

During April, I tested the electrolytic capacitors on all seven of my europlus AA11040C power supplies, developed my capacitors “Spec & Check” sheet for that model PSU (which was definitely not on my original April agenda), and during WOzFest PR#6, I replaced the filter capacitor on one of my PSUs and tested it in a europlus.

On 1 May local time (after “tools down”), I found some time towards the end of the day to replace the necessary filter and electrolytic capacitors on the remaining six PSUs, and all but the last one are now working.

That last one is a bit of an oddball compared to the others – it had a large filter cap (which had blown) and resistor soldered directly across the Live and Neutral pins of the power cord socket on the PSU case. It’s also the highest serial number AA11040C I have.

Subsequent discussions on the local Apple ][ enthusiasts mailing list were held regarding this apparent modification – in fact, it looks like the PSU shipped from the factory with this modification. This is consistent with several such examples owned by local enthusiasts, and the cord socket being riveted to the case as with the other PSUs (although rotated 180° compared to my other AA11040Cs).

In the longer, later Apple //e PSUs (the AA11040C was used in the plus, europlus and //e), this larger filter cap and resistor were incorporated into the main circuit board of the PSU, further strengthening the evidence the capacitor and resistor on the socket were a modification made by Apple in-factory.

The PSU should work without them (it’s not working, so will need further investigation), but I will replace the blown filter cap and the resistor (which I removed when I removed the filter cap) once I’ve got the PSU working.

Anyway, it was an instructive April for me, and I’m pleased with having six refurbished PSUs and having created the “Spec & Check” sheet – roll on the next Retrochallenge!

Retrochallenge meets WOzFest – Check Your Caps!

Retrochallenge 2017/04 is almost over!

WOzFest PR#6 has now started!

It’s time for the two parts of my retrocomputing life to collide in the most resourceful of ways…

My “europlus Refurbapalooza”, whereby I’m trying to get all my europluses operational, has been the thrust of my two Retrochallenge entries in 2016/10 and 2017/04. With the vagaries of “real life” impinging more the second time around (just that time of year, I think), I’ve gotten even less done this month…but that doesn’t mean I’ve been entirely unproductive.

I’ve been able to test the electrolytic capacitors in all seven of my europlus Astec AA11040C power supply units (PSUs). Despite 14 electrolytic capacitors per PSU (so 98 total) and the PSUs being at least 35 years old, I was pleased to find only four capacitors are exceeding (or almost exceeding) their maximum ESR (Electrical Series Resistance) value.

I’m also going to follow the general guideline to replace the C1 filter capacitor, even if the original hasn’t blown (two of the seven originals have definitely blown, and a further three or four are showing cracking in their plastic covering). I’ve bought all the replacement capacitors I need, and hope to install them all and test the PSUs during WOzFest PR#6.

While carrying out these ESR tests, I wanted a ready-reference to the capacitor specifications for determining the correct ESR value to be testing and for when I came to purchase replacement capacitors.

As a non-expert, I also wanted a reference to the position and polarity of the solder points for each capacitor on the underside of the PSU circuit board – I was testing the capacitors “in-circuit” rather than removing them for testing (while not ideal, I’m trying to keep the task manageable).

I had found online a scan of a 1982 document from Apple which provided a great start to what I wanted. It has schematics and circuit board layouts for several Apple PSUs, as well as a components list for each of the PSU models it includes.

Although it has info on the AA11040B (while I have AA11040Cs), upon inspection I believe the primary difference is the AA11040C is the 230V version of the AA11040B with the “115V Select” wire removed and a 250V/2A fuse replacing the 125V/2.75A fuse.

So I decided to prepare just the sort of ready-reference I would have liked to have started with. Over several iterations to refine the design and info included, and taking input from enthusiasts with more PSU repair experience than me, (thanks Mark, Martin, Jon, Geoff and John!), I’ve created the “WOzFest Labs Apple Astec Power Supply Unit AA11040B/C Electrolytic Capacitor ‘Spec & Check’ Sheet” (it just rolls of the tongue!) – and I’m pleased to announce the release of v1.0 of this “Spec & Check” sheet for use by other enthusiasts looking to test and refurbish their AA11040B/C PSUs.

This release is the major result of my Retrochallenge 2017/04 entry and in line with WOzFest PR#6’s theme of “Preservation”.

I’ve designed the sheet so that it can be printed at 100% on A4 (297✕210mm) or US Letter (8.5″✕11″) without any information being cropped. When printed at 100%, the picture of the underside of the PSU circuit board is “life size”, so it’s easy to correlate the highlighted solder points to a physical circuit board.

The sheet can be used as a checklist of capacitors that are in or out of spec, has the maximum ESR values listed for each capacitor (as well as other specs) in both tabular and “call out” forms, and the polarity of the solder points are annotated and colour-coded.

This is only v1.0, and suggestions/corrections from other enthusiasts will be included in updates. If I’m able, I’ll also release versions for other PSU models that Apple used in Apple ][s.

This is the first resource issued under the name “WOzFest Labs”, and hopefully there’ll be many more (I’ll probably re-release my Silentype Font under that name, too). I’d be interested in collaborating on other resources, too, so hit me up if you have any ideas you”d like to work on with me.

A few notes:

  • I’ve provided specs and solder points for the C1 filter cap to ease replacement of this component along with any out-of-spec electrolytic capacitors;
  • Capacitors C13 and C14 are in parallel on the circuit, so testing either one to half the usual maximum ESR is adequate when testing them “in-circuit” – if capacitors are removed for testing, double the stated maximum ESR value for these two capacitors;
  • Capacitors rated to 105°C are recommended;
  • The 1982 document from Apple has at least two errors in the components list for the AA11040B PSU, so check its information carefully if you’re using it as a reference.
  • If you’re wondering about the typewriter-like font I used, it’s Prestige Elite, which, by my reckoning, is the font used in early Apple spiral-bound manuals such as The Applesoft Tutorial. It’s my theory that these early manuals were “typeset” using material printed by the ubiquitous IBM Selectric typewriter.

So, other than some soldering, testing and writing a recap on my re-capping adventures, that’s pretty well it for my Retrochallenge entry this time around. I’m looking forward to getting to the meat of my europlus refurbishment – testing (and hopefully repairing) motherboards – next go ’round in October!

Retrochallenge 2017/04 Half Time Report: Nothing to Report, Captain

As I feared, the greatest challenge I’m facing this month is doing anything retro-related, including an on-time half time report!

The Man Cave has been in dire need of some organisation, and I got to spend Good Friday at least processing the mess on the table tennis table: it can now serve as my workspace when I get to my first task, a PSU checkup.

At least the PSUs have all been cracked open during Retrochallenge 2016/10, and I’ve borrowed an ESR meter off Jon from Manila Gear to assess the health of the PSU capacitors.

Being able to check each capacitor type across all PSUs at the same time will be quite a time-saver, I think.

With WOzFest PR#6 fast approaching, I’ll likely have to limit my Retrochallenge work to the PSU health check, but if at all possible, I’ll try and get to other items on my europlus refurbishment to-do list.

Perhaps April isn’t such a good time of the year for me and October is my sweet spot – I guess we’ll find out in six months’ time!