Author Archives: Allen Huffman

About Allen Huffman

Co-founder of Sub-Etha Software.

CoCoWiFi fork of ZiModem updated to current 3.5 build.

Updates:

  • 2019-05-03: I’ve had a report of my build not allowing you to type. I have seen this before, and am investigating this. Anyone else having issues? Also, I missed something in my merge which may have affected over-the-air updates (AT&U). I am pushing out a new build. Also, added a screen shot showing 3.5. Also, note about no ESP32 build.
  • 2019-05-04: I started over with Bo’s unmodified source code, then did my changes to zimodem.ino and zcommand.ino. I am still seeing the issue where, via USB serial connection, I can’t type of my TTL-to-RS232 adapter is hooked up. Without it, it works fine. I need to do some testing via the CoCo with it’s bitbanger and RS-232 Pac ports to see what behavior I get. In the meantime, I appreciate your feedback.

Yesterday I updated my fork of Bo Zimmerman’s ZiModem. My custom fork is 100% his code, with only some configurations changed to make it default to standard RS-232 signals instead of inverted like the Commodore uses. (Basically, it’s what his “Guru modem” firmware defaults to, and the over-the-air update changed to point to builds on my service. Guru modem only builds for ESP32, so eventually I just need to figure out how to modify the project so it builds Guru modem for ESP8266, I think.)

NOTE: I only built for the NodeMCU-12E ESP8266 module and the generic ESP8266 (whatever that is) module. I did not have ESP32 libraries installed so there is no build for that currently.

If you want to pull the source code and build it directly through the Arduino IDE, you can find my fork here:

https://github.com/allenhuffman/Zimodem

The binaries I built are located here:

http://subethasoftware.com/files/zimodem/

I also wrote up some instructions for updating that firmware from a PC, Mac or Linux machine without having to build it with the Arduino IDE. (I had to use these steps myself, since I couldn’t remember how it worked.)

NOTE: If you have the ESP8266 wired up to a TTL-to-RS232 adapter, you may find that firmware updates will not work. On my device (using the full-signal TTL adapter and a NodeMCU ESP8266), I had to unplug the 3.3V power wire that goes from ESP8266 pin to the TTL-to-RS232 board. That was enough to make firmware updates work. I’m still not sure why having the TTL adapter hooked up affects loading firmware over USB, but apparently it does.

A final option is to use the ZiModem built-in over-the-air update capability, which we haven’t gotten to test yet since this is the first time I’ve updated firmware for the CoCoWiFi fork. That is done through the command:

AT&U

That should grab the latest build on my server. I believe it reads a .txt file from my server to get the version number and builds the filename out of that, then downloads that filename. You can also specify the version manually. Currently, there is a 3.4 build and a 3.5 build available on my site.

AT&U=3.5

Please let me know if this works for you. You should see the startup banner (1200 baud) show 3.5:

ZiModem (CoCoWiFi config) 3.5

Original instructions on this WiFi modem for $10 can be found here:

Good luck!

CoCoFEST! near Chicago on May 4-5, 2019

Although I am not certain I will make it (hopefully at least a day trip on Saturday), the 28th annual “Last” Chicago CoCoFEST! is coming up soon. Find details here:

http://www.glensideccc.com/cocofest/

I am hoping to find time to update my fork of ZiModem firmware for the CoCoWiFi project, and also dig out some more goodies to donate to the Glenside Color Computer Club for their fundraising auction. If nothing else, maybe I can get those items there with some others that will be passing through Des Moines on their way.

More to come… I hope.

Arcade1Up replacement trackball rotary encoders

NOTE: I do not own an Arcade1Up, but I have a friend who has the Centipede version. I am posting this article to give some extra exposure to research he and others are doing on the trackball problems.

Arcade1Up is a 3/4-sized 80s arcade cabinet for home use. They have several units available, with most playing four classic arcade games (and one special edition with 12 games).

The Centipede unit has a vertical monitor and comes with Centipede, Missile Command, Millipede and Crystal Castle.

After first playing my friend’s unit, we both agreed that Centipede played very poorly. This led him to dig into the problem, and he found this Do-It-Yourself solution on YouTube:

Fixing the trackball rotary encoder on the Arcade1Up Centipede machine.

The trackball is a rotary encoder where, as it spins, a little wheel turns and is either blocking or allowing light to flow through and be detected by a light sensor. The software counts the pulses and determines how far the wheel has spun. (Here’s the Arduino playground on them.)

The stock encoder wheel has 30 spokes, and this D-I-Y solution shows how to make one with 24. My friend decided to try it and designed one on his 3-D printer. After installation, Centipede does indeed play much, much better, and the other games seem to still play as well as they did before (they were mostly fine, so I can’t tell if there was any significant improvement without doing a side-by-side comparison with an unmodified cabinet).

I think we could convince him into making these replacement parts available at a low-cost for folks who don’t want to DIY. Comment to this post if you might be interested.

Until then… There is an active discussion on Reddit about various problems, solutions, and modifications to the Arcade1Up machines. Be sure to drop by there check it out.

RadioShack is back!

Have you checked the RadioShack store locator page lately? I did, last week, and instead of just finding three dealer stores in my state (none within an hour), I was surprised to see on in nearby Ankeny, Iowa. It was in some place called HobbyTown.

Somehow I missed the announcement that the Shack posted to their Facebook page back in July. Indeed, they now have a store-within-a-store at some HobbyTown locations.

I went to visit this location, and thought I’d share a trip report.

HobbyTown… Remote controlled cars, model rockets, and … RadoShack Express!
Yes, Virginia. There IS a RadioShack inside.
They only have the electronics parts, all displayed on the wall. No answering machines, video cables, or cell phones.
Even perfboards! This IS your father’s RadioShack! Except it’s still missing the space between the words :(

There was also another small glass cabinet nearby with a few other parts, and at the front checkout counter they had RadioShack brand batteries and such.

I have been working on some projects for Halloween, and found several items that I could put to use. I picked up a 12V buzzer, some 12V lights, some button switches, and some wire nuts. (Yeah, I know I could buy a whole bag of industrial wire nuts at the hardware store for just a bit more, but I only needed a few and “it was just a few bucks.”)

My bounty from my first trip to a RadioShack Express. They even use the old RS catalog numbers (after the RSH).

Leave a comment if you have a RadioShack near you.

Halloween DMX lighting and sound – introduction

Years ago, I worked with a local guy on bringing in computer controlled lighting and sound to a local haunted house attraction. The original attraction just used light bulbs of different colors and actors to make everything happen. Our upgrade included the following:

  • We used a cheap Windows PC and VenueMagic show control software.
  • We ran a chain of RGB DMX lights throughout the attraction.
  • About 14 speakers were installed, all wired back to a stack of cheap Pyle brand amplifiers.
  • A cheap USB hub and some $2 USB sound cards was used to get multi-channel audio from VenueMagic, and it worked great.
  • We installed pressure mats to trigger audio and effects.
  • I built an Arduino input box to read triggers from pressure mats and send them to VenueMagic as serial data.
  • There was also a DMX controlled relay board that was used to trigger air jets and control pneumatic doors.
  • When building regulations changed a few years into operation, the haunt was wired with illuminated exit signs and smoke detectors. Those were brought into the system so it could halt the show and turn on white work lights for safety.

The end result was a living, breathing attraction with flickering “flame” light, atmospheric moonlighting, strobe effects, as well as immersive surround sound throughout.

The VenueMagic software was, by far, the most expensive element of this project, and also the one that provided the most headaches. While the software itself was amazing and powerful, running on Windows was not. We had numerous issues over the years with Windows crashing, USB devices failing to be recognized, audio devices being remapped (requiring editing the show control configuration), etc.

Once the computer was in control, if it went down, you lost the entire show. The lights had a backup mode (we called it “party mode”) where they would begin randomly cycling through colors if there was no DMX signal. At least it didn’t leave the guests in the dark, but a silent haunt with circus lighting was far from scary.

In upcoming articles, I plan to discuss various ways you can show with complex lighting and audio, and make it play without needing a PC.

Just in time for the holidays ;-)

The CoCo is hooked back up.

Last week, I finally got around to unpacking and hooking back up all the Tandy Color Computer gear I took with me to the 2018 Chicago CoCoFEST! I am now using Ed Snider’s two-slow mini MultiPak replacement, so I ever have more room on my desk. I hope to get the Matchbox CoCo (new name for Roger Taylor’s FPGA CoCo recreation) permanently setup on the desk as well.

Even though I’m still going to be quite busy with summer activities (mostly taking bicycle rides), this gets me one step closer to returning to work on various CoCo projects, including SirSound.

I also got a cheap 3-D printer I will be reviewing, soon. The first thing I printed with it (other than the demo “cat” that it had) was an enclosure for the CoCoWiFi device (compliments of designer Travis Poppe). Now I know why John Strong of StongWare has been so into these printers for the past few years. Even this cheap “toy” one is great!

More to come…

Mandela Effect and Wayne’s World

I’m placing this here for searching engine visibility…

Mandela Effect amuses me because there was one that impacted me, involving a painting I remember seeing in the past twenty years, which does not exist. I have a plausible theory to explain that one, though.

Tonight, I saw Wayne’s World at a local theater. Two things stood out at me:

  1. During the first Wayne’s World segment, they bring on a guy who invented a Flowbee parody called the Suck Cut. I had remembered it being called the Suck ‘n Cut, but since I haven’t seen the movie since it first came out, I guess I just made the actual name more complicated and less like what it was a parody off. Flowbee, Suckcut. Not sure why I remembered it with extra stuff added.
  2. During the guitar store scene, Wayne picks up a guitar and starts to play the intro to Stairway to Heaven. I was very familiar with this song because I worked in a music store that sold guitars at the time of the movie’s release. But what he plays was not at all Stairway. But the joke was still there.

Well, number two is a licensing thing. I found an article explaining that only the original theatrical print had him playing a few notes from Stairway, and all subsequent releases from VHS on had those notes changed.

I am wondering if number one was something similar. I do find references on the internet to folks calling it “Suck ‘n Cut” as well, but the clips are Suck Cut. Mandela Effecters call this residual effect.

I think I just misremembered. It’s just rough to suddenly realize you have been wrong for a quarter of a century and no one corrected you :)