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Thread: Linux/BSD for 4 floppy drives

  1. #1
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    Default Linux/BSD for 4 floppy drives

    Just after some suggestions here, I'm planning to use a 386 or 486 (or whatever is needed) + primary and secondary (separate) floppy controllers.
    Ideally I want to be able to:

    - ssh or telnet in
    - support the secondary floppy controller
    - be able to "dd" raw images to various formats
    - able to access or provide a network share accessible by either Windows or newer Linux systems (probably Ubuntu)

    I haven't picked or built the hardware I want to use yet, just want an idea of OS options and also if anyone knows of any information regarding a secondary controller.

    It's not something that's necessary, but I figured it'd be a fun project. I've got 5.25 DD 40 + 80 track, 5.25HD, and 3.5HD drives to put in.
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    Of course after posting that, I immediately discovered afterwards that you can add floppy=two_fdc to LILO for most distro's in that era and get 4 floppy support.

    But still after recommendations.
    An added bonus for me, would be being able to write 3.5" DD disks double stepped too (yey IBM PC JX). I know some of the older distro's had a /dev/fd entry for each format type - not sure if that'd help or not.
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    Are you sure that the JX double stepped? I thought it single stepped out over 40 tracks before stopping leaving the other 40 tracks unused.

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    Using Linux "dd" would be extremely limiting. You would only be able to write 100% compatible 1.44mb, 1.2mb, 720k, and 360k disk images. I'd be very surprised if 160k, 180k, 320k, or DMF formats would work.

    If you really need to run headless, you might consider using DOS with something like PC Anywhere. That should let you run tools like ImageDisk, Teledisk, or Copy II PC. (Have not actually tried that, some tools may prevent serial or network I/O during operation). If that worked, it would give you access to many more disk formats and even some copy protected formats. Although if you are dealing with copy protections, a Kryoflux or SuperCard Pro is recommended.

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    Quote Originally Posted by krebizfan View Post
    Are you sure that the JX double stepped? I thought it single stepped out over 40 tracks before stopping leaving the other 40 tracks unused.
    Yes, can absolutely 100% guarantee it's double stepped. I had to make my own boot disks to get my JX running.
    I guess being 1984 they were imitating how the IBM AT wrote 360KB disks.

    A later (1986 or 1987?) BIOS update allowed full 720K access, I do have another JX system with that ROM installed.

    Quote Originally Posted by SomeGuy View Post
    Using Linux "dd" would be extremely limiting. You would only be able to write 100% compatible 1.44mb, 1.2mb, 720k, and 360k disk images. I'd be very surprised if 160k, 180k, 320k, or DMF formats would work.

    If you really need to run headless, you might consider using DOS with something like PC Anywhere. That should let you run tools like ImageDisk, Teledisk, or Copy II PC. (Have not actually tried that, some tools may prevent serial or network I/O during operation). If that worked, it would give you access to many more disk formats and even some copy protected formats. Although if you are dealing with copy protections, a Kryoflux or SuperCard Pro is recommended.
    Cheers for the feedback. I can probably live with those drawbacks if necessary. 99% of the time it's just things like DOS boot disks, or writing images of software that I own but the disks have gone sour. I'd like to push it as far as I can but ultimately it's just a fun excuse to build a semi-vintage 'nix based system that'll serve some purpose in the workshop.

    I'll also get some geek joy out of writing scripts to improve the process. For special cases I can pull out a PC with DOS.

    Edit: oh and headless isn't necessary. I kind of just realised I don't want to have to walk across the room each time I change a disk - so I'll just put it under the workbench and hook it to the KVM.
    Last edited by SpidersWeb; October 30th, 2017 at 12:43 AM.
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  6. #6

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    In theory, you could run DOSEMU on the machine and allocate access to the IO ports that the internal drives, and the drives hooked up to the secondary controller are attached to. This is assuming that both fake floppy drives are disabled in DOSEMU. However, you will need to load a TSR that simulates your usual INT 13h handler and uses the same port areas while also supporting more than two floppy drives.

    DOSEMU is laughably worser than DOSBox at this point, but at least this suggestion could be given a try.
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    I can tell you that it's more complicated than that. Many of the direct-hardware packages (TD, IMD) are also timing-sensitive. Anything that steals time slices is going to bollix things up.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck(G) View Post
    I can tell you that it's more complicated than that. Many of the direct-hardware packages (TD, IMD) are also timing-sensitive. Anything that steals time slices is going to bollix things up.
    Funny that I just had that realization 10 minutes before I read your post. The only thing that I can think of now when it comes to using low level imaging for 5.25 drives on a 486 Linux computer is a Catweasel card. You can use the special low level writing tools, but reading and writing on high level is pretty limited; http://www.soundtracker.org/raw/cwfloppy/index.html
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    That's because the CW has RAM local to it (i.e. 128K buffer), so its timing constraints are much looser.

  10. #10
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    Linux supports virtually all possible floppy formats available for 82x72 floppy controller (FM and MFM).
    There is fd-utils package:
    https://fdutils.linux.lu/
    https://fdutils.linux.lu/disk-id.html
    It allow to use floppy controller directly and setup 82x72 parameters: number of sectors, tracks, floppy density, track gaps e.t.c. e.t.c.
    You can also use pre-defined floppy formats in /dev

    Unfortunately, most of modern Linux dictributivers has no this package (or limited amoutnset of utilities) and it shoud be compiled locally.

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