Rob's Ramblings

Thursday, 12 March 2009

BeebEm Comms ...

Just thought I'd show a couple of screenshots..

Yep.. that's logging into CCL4 (viewdata BBS) and some random MUD using CommStar on an emulated Beeb... via telnet ...

Still a little more work to do before it's polished, but so far, it's working...


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Monday, 9 March 2009

Random BeebEm Thoughts

Following talks at Byte-Back I have set myself  two tasks to accomplish.  

  1. Adjust BeebEm's econet support to talk (optionally?) in AUN format, so it can talk directly to e.g. an A5000 running an econet fileserver, or simply via such as a gateway to other Beebs on the far side.  
    ..Hmm.. What happens if you are running tcp-over-econet on the emulated B?
    ..use mapping file like in RISC OS rather than current econet.cfg file?
    ..can real AUN talk to alternate port numbers, or will we be limited to one instance per IP address? - can we bind to individual addresses if host has multiples?

  2. Implement another serial device "hayes modem" that will actually talk IP.  It looks like I can lever 'tcpser' to do the job - this is a GPL'd serial modem emulator which normally sits between a serial port and an IP network. I think if I modify this to talk via a pipe to BeebEm instead of to a serial port, this would do everything we need to accept and initiate telnet sessions without re-inventing the wheel!  On the BeebEm side, just need to bolt pipe code in alongside the touch-screen code..
    ..need to think about multiple-instances and how they behave.

(Since its over 4 years since I wrote the first econet code, it's high time I finished it... Thanks to Mike Wyatt for taking it and making it work properly.)

other things to think about -

  • headless operation - disable all screen and sound output - incorporate vnc server instead
    ..encourage unix version to do offer same...

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Byte Back

Well, I spent much of yesterday in the outskirts of Stoke-0n-Trent at the 2009 Byte Back retro-gaming event.  Due mainly to the efforts of Dave More from Stairway to Hell, and the BBC Micro mailing list, there was a huge Acorn and BBC micro presence. It was my first trip to a show for at least two decades, so I met lots of people I'd only heard of before, and had lots of great chats and saw lots of wonderful bits of kit.  Seeing the Domesday was definitely a highlight. All in all, I had a whale of a time, and I even manged to get my old viewdata bbs back up and running for the first time in 20 years, all on possibly the largest econet still working in the country.   Well, with nine stations and three different types of fileserver...

Oh, and there were lots of video games there too.

I didn't take many pictures, just a few to set the scene those I did are here... Mine is the last photo of a table with the A5000 running Level 4, and a Model B running the Autonomic host software.  (I had more stuff with me, but no room!)

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Wednesday, 4 March 2009

It only took 20 years...

Back in the 1980s, the computer I used pretty much exclusively was the BBC Micro.  I had written a fair bit of software for it, including two products sold commercially, and a number of items I was commissioned to write.  I ran two dial-up bulletin boards and a moderated chatline/forum thing on Prestel. I was a committee member of ClubSpot 810, responsible for the BBS listings, and was employed by Micronet 800 in the Technical Help Department.

Most of what I did at home, including a multi-line viewdata bulletin board, was run from an "Econet" network I had at home.  Using a slightly modified BBC Master ET and a 10MB hard disc. (Yep, ten megabyte... I've got nearly a million times more space on the home LAN now!)  It used to take over 30 floppy discs to back-up, and the external drive unit was almost the size of a Mini-tower PC today!

By the end of 1989 and after two house moves, a new family and a full time job, most of the Beeb stuff was packed up and in boxes.  Over 15 years later, in about 2006, after two further moves, with nostalgia in my mind, some of it got unpacked again.   The hard disc seems to be unwilling to perform any more, but I did still have some backups.  In odd moments over the next year, and with an A5000 obtained from Freecycle running as a filesever, I managed to get a network up and running again between a stack of machines balanced on an overly small desk, and after a few false starts, restored a backup set!  Then we found out we were having a baby, and all time for tinkering stopped.

Three years later, with the addition of an ethernet card in the A5000, and much help from members of the BBC Micro mailing list, I got IP working and the A5000 on the LAN.  Unfortunately I was unable to find any SMB, FTP or NFS server software for the A5000 that would run on the RISC OS 3.1 A5000 , so nothing would actually talk to it.

In steps a RISC PC... It only took three days of snatched minutes here and there to get it to log into the Econet server across the ethernet.. and I finally had a machine that the riscos samba server would work on.  It crashes a LOT, so it's going to be unuseable, so I'm going to have to try another protocol, but at least it's a start: I mapped a drive on one of the PCs, and was able to list the directory!

So, over 20 years since I was last able to properly access this data, it looks like it's going to be available again!

I'm thinking that I'll have to move it all from the A5000 onto the RISC PC, and run the econet fileserver on there, then just use the A5000 as a gateway between the econet and the ethernet -that way I don't need to have both machines on as much - most of the time I'm going to want to be accessing it from a PC.

Once that's all done - next task is to sniff some of the AUN traffic (econet over ethernet) and adjust BeebEm's econet support to use that protocol - it will be rather cool to have an emulated BBC Micro talking to a real one across the networks!

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