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Archiving diskettes

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    Archiving diskettes

    My vintage machines are fortunate enough to use 5.25 diskettes (double density, soft sectored) which are no where near rare yet. However, the hardware is getting flakey - heads are out of alignment, belts aren't as tight as they used to be, and the media is aged and fragile. So I'm interested in preserving the diskette collection.

    For non copy protected diskettes it's an easy solution - make a raw diskette image using an archiver. I prefer the simple ones that just do a block-by-block read of the disk, and dump it in a file. The file size tells you the format of the diskette, and these can be mounted in Linux using the loopback option. You can also copy the files, but you miss the boot sector and the placement when you do that.

    For copy protected diskettes it's a bit more difficult.

    CopyIIPC will copy most software, and make another diskette of it. I generally don't like my diskettes begetting other diskettes, so this is not a great solution. However, it works.

    CopyIIPC and Snatch-It can make a disk file of a diskette. Haven't used this solution yet.

    Teledisk (2.12 though 2.16) has mixed results on copy protected diskettes. Many work, but a suprising number do not.

    The Central Point Option Board works well most of the time, but that's another piece of hardware that just doesn't seem to grow on trees in my neighborhood.

    The general idea is to have diskette images and files burned onto CD-ROM, so that I can make copies quickly and I don't have to worry as much about bit-rot. (Yes, CD-ROM will eventually go bad too.)

    What is everybody else doing out there?

    #2
    Re: Archiving diskettes

    Originally posted by mbbrutman
    My vintage machines are fortunate enough to use 5.25 diskettes (double density, soft sectored) which are no where near rare yet. However, the hardware is getting flakey - heads are out of alignment, belts aren't as tight as they used to be, and the media is aged and fragile. So I'm interested in preserving the diskette collection.
    The nice thing about your situation is that the hardware is nowehere near rare either. You can still find spare drives and drive parts fairly easily at salvage or recycler prices. At least for the soft-sector drives. eBay also provides a fairly ready source for drives and media. Of course, this is dodging the topic. . .

    Originally posted by mbbrutman
    For copy protected diskettes it's a bit more difficult.

    Teledisk (2.12 though 2.16) has mixed results on copy protected diskettes. Many work, but a suprising number do not.

    The Central Point Option Board works well most of the time, but that's another piece of hardware that just doesn't seem to grow on trees in my neighborhood.
    I've wanted a Central Point board but have never managed one. Someday. . .

    One thing to try, for some of the software at least, is cracking the copy protection then copying the disk. The vast majority of copy protected 5.25 software out there was cracked almost immediately after release and much of the documenation on how to do it should still be out there. You are archiving copies of your own software so this shouldn't be an issue. (We aren't talking piracy here)

    This can be tedious and time consuming, but it may help preserve software that other options don't work for.

    Originally posted by mbbrutman
    The general idea is to have diskette images and files burned onto CD-ROM, so that I can make copies quickly and I don't have to worry as much about bit-rot. (Yes, CD-ROM will eventually go bad too.)
    You also get the option of making the titles that have been released to the public domain available for others to enjoy.

    Originally posted by mbbrutman
    What is everybody else doing out there?
    I've got a somewhat more sticky problem on my hands. My systems have media that's harder to come by and drives that are a pain to replace. My Altairs have hard-sector 8" disks. My CP/M system(s) have soft sector 8" disks. My PCs, Apples, Atari's and Commodores have soft Sector 5.25s and some of my other machines may have hard sector 5.25s.

    My PC type systems have little or no way to gather the data from some of those systems so I'm going to have to roll my own in order to do any credible archiving.

    On the Altair, for instance, I have a BASIC program that does disk copy (I've also got a BASIC version of PIP) and what I'll need to do is modify that to read in a sector and spit it to the serial port rather then another drive. I'll probably need to put some simple error checking in to ensure that I don't garble bits and then I'll have to write the reverse process that accepts serial data and dumps it to disk.

    Once that's done I'll need to do the same thing on the PC side to accept the data stream and toss it into an archive file of some sort.

    This is NOT a project that I'm going to have time for soon. . .

    I'm also trying to get Kermit to run on my Altos so I can transmit files from CP/M to the PC for storage. I've got the Kermit source on the Altos, now I just need to track down a linker to build it. . . then I have to fix and debug the communications routines.

    This is another project I have too little time for right now.

    At least the Apple, Atari, Commodore and PC software as well as the 5.25" CP/M software (Kaypro, Osborne, etc.) is fairly easy with Teledisk and similar software.

    Erik
    The Vintage Computer and Gaming Marketplace
    The Vintage Computer

    Comment


      #3
      Yes, the hardware is still pretty available too. But it's hard to find working samples. Even if a drive works, it often does make diskettes that are reliable on other drives due to alignment and speed differences.

      To me, cracking the software is better than nothing, but I'd like to preserve the copy protection intact. That makes it more of a preservation project. The Option Board is good for that - the only things it can't seem to copy are the laser burned diskettes, which is understandable. (And they even had a system to get around that.) The problem I find with the option boards is the software - the different versions seem to create images that are not compatible (upwards or downwards) with other versions. And the different versions behave differently on certain diskettes too. Not very confidence inspiring. There isn't a user community to ask either ...

      The good news about your older systems is the serial port, which all of the good ones used. Serial port programming is easy, and adding a CRC to ensure data integrity is no big deal. Do you have to deal with copy protection issues on those older boxes? I know the Apples had copy protection, but I didn't think the earlier stuff did.

      I kind of which my old machines used serial ports for consoles .. Text/graphics consoles are fast, but serial is so easy to work with.

      Comment


        #4
        re. archiving old diskettes

        Originally posted by mbbrutman
        To me, cracking the software is better than nothing, but I'd like to preserve the copy protection intact.
        Probably not a very good idea. Some copy protection schemes make the diskette more likely to eventually become corrupted. Add problems like slower access, inability to run on emulators (for some schemes), larger archive size, cumbersome transfers, ..., and there is practically nothing good about preserving copy protection.

        I guess your idea is that a copy protected copy is more likely to preserve Everything. If you actually manage to get a good copy, that may be so. However, making sure you have a good copy can be time consuming. For instance, you may have to play through an entire adventure and experiment with numerous branches, etc. to be reasinably sure your copy won't snag on some clever protection check.

        Another thing to consider is that deprotected copies available from good archive sites often include fixes for bugs in the original.


        Rubywand

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          #5
          Doggy Drive

          "Erik" wrote in message:

          Hi Erik,

          > The nice thing about your situation is that the hardware is
          > nowehere near rare either. You can still find spare drives
          > and drive parts fairly easily at salvage or recycler prices.
          > At least for the soft-sector drives. eBay also provides a
          > fairly ready source for drives and media. Of course, this
          > is dodging the topic. . .

          Yes, my 5.25" disk drive on my 486 suffed up a month or
          so ago. Hopefully, I'll be able to find one locally &
          reasonibly priced.

          Cheers.
          Generic and Amstrad CPC based Programs written in Turbo Pascal 3

          Comment


            #6
            Rubywand,

            Yes, your points are valid. I've had problems verifying that my copies are 'correct' because it is impossible to know which errors are intentional and which are developed. I always verify my copies, but not to the full extent of playing each game out - it is just too time consuming.

            On the other hand, cracked versions are readily available, so the 'preservationist' in me isn't as concerned ..

            The issue with emulators is that you *cant* run copy protected software, unless in your diskette image file you can simulate errors as well. (i.e.: Giving it a teledisk image or an Option Board file.)

            Comment


              #7
              Preserving old software

              I have bought a bunch of 5.25 drives (360 and 720)on eBay for as low as $2.00 a piece and have had no bad luck yet.

              Comment


                #8
                Re: Preserving old software

                "mrdo" wrote in message:

                > I have bought a bunch of 5.25 drives (360 and 720)on eBay
                > for as low as $2.00 a piece and have had no bad luck yet.

                Just make sure you don't store them in any hot rooms
                (otherwise you will have problems). I basically got mine
                for nothing, since they came with the machine they were
                giving away.

                Cheers.
                Generic and Amstrad CPC based Programs written in Turbo Pascal 3

                Comment


                  #9
                  Catweasel seems to be the best solution?

                  After a little bit of research, the Catweasel Mk4 PCI floppy controller seems to offer the best solution.

                  The standard PC floppy controller simply can't handle a number of disk types that are sure to be in most people's collection: Apple 2/Mac GCR disks, early PC single density disks (TRS-80, Atari, TI, etc.).

                  The Catweasel appears to handle many types of disks. I don't think it handles the hard sectored disks Erik mentioned. The documentation about the product doesn't seem to be widespread, so I have some questions.

                  Does anyone have any experience with this controller in a PC? Is my understanding correct (i.e., what types of disks can it handle)?

                  In particular, I'm wondering about the quality of the software. How well does it work? Is it suited for quick "batch" archiving?

                  Of course, I'd like to take a stack of floppies, cycle them through a drive, and have a bunch of floppy disk image files saved, which I would later burn to optical disk.

                  One last question - Assuming the Catweasel software generates an image file, what is the format of the file? Is it documented?

                  Thanks, Matt

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by mbbrutman View Post
                    {..}
                    What is everybody else doing out there?

                    Well, to be honest, worrying about the same, so I am following this with interest.
                    I have used copyIIpc, but not yet for my non-DOS disks (CPM, etc). Not sure if it will work.
                    “Thus, we see that one of the obvious origins of human disagreement lies in the use of noises for words.”

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Oh yeah!! This thread brings back memories!

                      Cheers.
                      Generic and Amstrad CPC based Programs written in Turbo Pascal 3

                      Comment


                        #12
                        hard sectored disks supported

                        One correction - the Catweasel MK4 does support hard sectored diskettes.

                        I did buy one on eBay. Once I get some time to evaluate it, I'll report back on how well it works.


                        -Matt

                        Comment


                          #13
                          On the topic of Teledisk, I suppose this webpage by Dave Dunfield is well-known, but I stumbled across it today:

                          http://www.classiccmp.org/dunfield/img/

                          In particular I look forward to try that TestFDC program he has, and possibly submit my results. In particular-particular, I look forward to try it on my previous Athlon computer, which had obvious problems with writing 3.5" floppies using Omnidisk. I suspect the results will be sub-optimal.
                          Anders Carlsson

                          Comment


                            #14
                            to OP: If you'd like I'd be willing to backup your images on my archive at http://vintage.tsfsc.com ...PM me if you're interested in such an arrangement and we can from there decide on how the delivery of the images to the archive should be done so as to further preserve these great historical pieces of software (or of course you can at any time upload the images using the public upload ftp information available on the front page of the archive's website)

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