The Festival Floppies

In 2009, Josh Miller was walking through the Timonium Hamboree and Computer Festival in Baltimore, Maryland. Among the booths of equipment, sales, and demonstrations, he found a vendor was selling an old collection of 3.5″ floppy disks for DOS and Windows. He bought it, and kept it.

A few years later, he asked me if I wanted them, and I said sure, and he mailed them to me. They fell into the everlasting Project Pile, and waited for my focus and attention.

They looked like this:

cs6rforueaagbcg

I was particularly interested in the floppies that appeared to be someone’s compilation of DOS and Windows programs in the most straightforward form possible – custom laser-printed directories on the labels, and no obvious theme as to why this shareware existed on them. They looked like this, separated out:

cs6reiouaaaamnd

There were other floppies in the collection, as well:

cswfhv2xeaa4hrl

They’d sat around for a few years while I worked on other things, but the time finally came this week to spend some effort to extract data.

There’s debates on how to do this that are both boring and infuriating, and I’ve ended friendships over them, so let me just say that I used a USB 3.5″ floppy drive (still available for cheap on Amazon; please take advantage of that) and a program called WinImage that will pull out a disk image in the form of a .ima file from the floppy drive. Yes, I could do a flux imaging of these disks, but sorry, that’s incredibly insane overkill. These disks contain files put on there by a person and we want those files, along with the accurate creation dates and the filenames and contents. WinImage does it.

Sometimes, the floppies have some errors and require trying over to get the data off them. Sometimes it takes a LOT of tries. If after a mass of tries I am unable to do a full disk scan into a disk image, I try just mounting it as A: in Windows and pulling the files off – they sometimes are just fine but other parts of the disk are dead. I make this a .ZIP file instead of a .IMA file. This is not preferred, but the data gets off in some form.

Some of them (just a handful) were not even up for this – they’re sitting in a small plastic bin and I’ll try some other methods in the future. The ratio of Imaged-ZIPed-Dead were very good, like 40-3-3.

I dumped most of the imaged files (along with the ZIPs) into this item.

This is a useful item if you, yourself, want to download about 100 disk image files and “do stuff” with them. My estimation is that all of you can be transported from the first floor to the penthouse of a skyscraper with 4 elevator trips. Maybe 3. But there you go, folks. They’re dropped there and waiting for you. Internet Archive even has a link that means “give me everything at once“. It’s actually not that big at all, of course – about 260 megabytes, less than half of a standard CD-ROM.

I could do this all day. It’s really easy. It’s also something most people could do, and I would hope that people sitting on top of 3.5” floppies from DOS or Windows machines would be up for paying the money for that cheap USB drive and something like WinImage and keep making disk images of these, labeling them as best they can.

I think we can do better, though.

The Archive is running the Emularity, which includes a way to run EM-DOSBOX, which can not only play DOS programs but even play Windows 3.11 programs as well.

Therefore, it’s potentially possible for many of these programs, especially ones particularly suited as stand-alone “applications”, to be turned into in-your-browser experiences to try them out. As long as you’re willing to go through them and get them prepped for emulation.

Which I did.

floppo

The Festival Floppies collection is over 500 programs pulled from these floppies that were imaged earlier this week. The only thing they have in common was that they were sitting in a box on a vendor table in Baltimore in 2009, and I thought in a glance they might run and possibly be worth trying out. After I thought this (using a script to present them for consideration), the script did all the work of extracting the files off the original floppy images, putting the programs into an Internet Archive item, and then running a “screen shotgun” I devised with a lot of help a few years back that plays the emulations, takes the “good shots” and makes them part of a slideshow so you can get a rough idea of what you’re looking at.

00_coverscreenshot

You either like the DOS/Windows aesthetic, or you do not. I can’t really argue with you over whatever direction you go – it’s both ugly and brilliant, simple and complex, dated and futuristic. A lot of it depended on the authors and where their sensibilities lay. I will say that once things started moving to Windows, a bunch of things took on a somewhat bland sameness due to the “system calls” for setting up a window, making it clickable, and so on. Sometimes a brave and hearty soul would jazz things up, but they got rarer indeed. On the other hand, we didn’t have 1,000 hobbyist and professional programs re-inventing the wheel, spokes, horse, buggy, stick shift and gumball machine each time, either.

screenshot_05

Just browsing over the images, you probably can see cases where someone put real work into the whole endeavor – if they seem to be nicely arranged words, or have a particular flair with the graphics, you might be able to figure which ones have the actual programming flow and be useful as well. Maybe not a direct indicator, but certainly a flag. It depends on how much you want to crate-dig through these things.

Let’s keep going.

Using a “word cloud” script that showed up as part of an open source package, I rewrote it into something I call a “DOS Cloud”. It goes through these archives of shareware, finds all the textfiles in the .ZIP that came along for the ride (think README.TXT, READ.ME, FILEID.DIZ and so on) and then runs to see what the most frequent one and two word phrases are. This ends up being super informative, or not informative at all, but it’s automatic, and I like automatic. Some examples:

Mad Painterpaint, mad, painter, truck, joystick, drive, collision, press, cloud, recieve, mad painter, dos prompt

Screamer screamer, code, key, screen, program, press, command, memory, installed,activate, code key, memory resident, correct code, key combination, desired code

D4W20timberline, version, game, sinking, destroyer, gaming, smarter, software,popularity, timberline software, windows version, smarter computer, online help, high score

Certainly in the last case, those words are much more informative than the name D4W20 (which actually stands for “Destroyer for Windows Version 2.0”), and so the machine won the day. I’ve called this “bored intern” level before and I’d say it’s still true – the intern may be bored, but they never stop doing the process, either. I’m sure there’s some nascent class discussion here, but I’ll say that I don’t entirely think this is work for human beings anymore. It’s just more and more algorithms at this point. Reviews and contextual summaries not discernible from analysis of graphics and text are human work.

For now.

screenshot_00

These programs! There are a lot of them, and a good percentage solve problems we don’t have anymore or use entire other methods to deal with the information. Single-use programs to deal with Y2K issues, view process tasks better, configure your modem, add a DOS interface, or track a pregnancy. Utilities to put the stardate in the task bar, applications around coloring letters, and so it goes. I think the screenshots help make decisions, if you’re one of the people idly browsing these sets and have no personal connection to DOS or Windows 3.1 as a lived experience.

I and others will no doubt write more and more complicated methods for extracting or providing metadata for these items, and work I’m doing in other realms goes along with this nicely. At some point, the entries for each program will have a complication and depth that rivals most anything written about the subjects at the time, when they were the state of the art in computing experience. I know that time is coming, and it will be near-automatic (or heavily machine-assisted) and it will allow these legions of nearly-lost programs to live again as easily as a few mouse clicks.

But then what?

screenshot_03

But Then What is rapidly becoming the greatest percentage of my consideration and thought, far beyond the relatively tiny hurdles we now face in terms of emulation and presentation. It’s just math now with a lot of what’s left (making things look/work better on phones, speeding up the browser interactions, adding support for disk swapping or printer output or other aspects of what made a computer experience lasting to its original users). Math, while difficult, has a way of outing its problems over time. Energy yields results. Processing yields processing.

No, I want to know what’s going to happen beyond this situation, when the phones and browsers can play old everything pretty accurately, enough that you’d “get it” to any reasonable degree playing around with it.

Where do we go from there? What’s going to happen now? This is where I’m kind of floating these days, and there are ridiculously scant answers. It becomes very “journey of the mind” as you shake the trees and only nuts come out.

To be sure, there’s a sliver of interest in what could be called “old games” or “retrogaming” or “remixes/reissues” and so on. It’s pretty much only games, it’s pretty much roughly 100 titles, and it’s stuff that has seeped enough into pop culture or whose parent companies still make enough bank that a profit motive serves to ensure the “IP” will continue to thrive, in some way.

The Gold Fucking Standard is Nintendo, who have successfully moved into such a radical space of “protecting their IP” that they’ve really successfully started moving into wrecking some of the past – people who make “fan remixes” might be up for debate as to whether they should do something with old Nintendo stuff, but laying out threats for people recording how they experienced the games, and for any recording of the games for any purpose… and sending legal threats at anyone and everyone even slightly referencing their old stuff, as a core function.. well, I’m just saying perhaps ol’ Nintendo isn’t doing itself any favors but on the other hand they can apparently be the most history-distorting dicks in this space quadrant and the new games still have people buy them in boatloads. So let’s just set aside the Gold Fucking Standard for a bit when discussing this situation. Nobody even comes close.

There’s other companies sort of taking this hard-line approach: “Atari”, Sega, Capcom, Blizzard… but again, these are game companies markedly defending specific games that in many cases they end up making money on. In some situations, it’s only one or two games they care about and I’m not entirely convinced they even remember they made some of the others. They certainly don’t issue gameplay video takedowns and on the whole, historic overview of the companies thrives in the world.

But what a small keyhole of software history these games are! There’s entire other experiences related to software that are both available, and perhaps even of interest to someone who never saw this stuff the first time around. But that’s kind of an educated guess on my part. I could be entirely wrong on this. I’d like to find out!

Pursuing this line of thought has sent me hurtling into What are even musuems and what are even public spaces and all sorts of more general questions that I have extracted various answers for and which it turns out are kind of turmoil-y. It also has informed me that nobody kind of completely knows but holy shit do people without managerial authority have ideas about it. Reeling it over to the online experience of this offline debated environment just solves some problems (10,000 people look at something with the same closeness and all the time in the world to regard it) and adds others (roving packs of shitty consultant companies doing rough searches on a pocket list of “protected materials” and then sending out form letters towards anything that even roughly matches it, and calling it a ($800) day).

Luckily, I happen to work for an institution that is big on experiments and giving me a laughably long leash, and so the experiment of instant online emulated computer experience lives in a real way and can allow millions of people (it’s been millions, believe it or not) to instantly experience those digital historical items every second of every day.

So even though I don’t have the answers, at all, I am happy that the unanswered portions of the Big Questions haven’t stopped people from deriving a little joy, a little wonder, a little connection to this realm of human creation.

That’s not bad.

screenshot_00-1

Source: http://ascii.textfiles.com/archives/5063

Permanent link to this article: https://www.internetking.us/wordpress/2016/09/22/the-festival-floppies/

Why the Apple II ProDOS 2.4 Release is the OS News of the Year

prodos-2-4-splash

In September of 2016, a talented programmer released his own cooked update to a major company’s legacy operating system, purely because it needed to be done. A raft of new features, wrap-in programs, and bugfixes were included in this release, which I stress was done as a hobby project.

The project is understatement itself, simply called Prodos 2.4. It updates ProDOS, the last version of which, 2.0.3, was released in 1993.

You can download it, or boot it in an emulator on the webpage, here.

As an update unto itself, this item is a wonder – compatibility has been repaired for the entire Apple II line, from the first Apple II through to the Apple IIgs, as well as cases of various versions of 6502 CPUs (like the 65C02) or cases where newer cards have been installed in the Apple IIs for USB-connected/emulated drives. Important utilities related to disk transfer, disk inspection, and program selection have joined the image. The footprint is smaller, and it runs faster than its predecessor (a wonder in any case of OS upgrades).

The entire list of improvements, additions and fixes is on the Internet Archive page I put up.

prodos-2-4-bitsy-boot

The reason I call this the most important operating system update of the year is multi-fold.

First, the pure unique experience of a 23-year-gap between upgrades means that you can see a rare example of what happens when a computer environment just sits tight for decades, with many eyes on it and many notes about how the experience can be improved, followed by someone driven enough to go through methodically and implement all those requests. The inclusion of the utilities on the disk means we also have the benefit of all the after-market improvements in functionality that the continuing users of the environment needed, all time-tested, and all wrapped in without disturbing the size of the operating system programs itself. It’s like a gold-star hall of fame of Apple II utilities packed into the OS they were inspired by.

This choreographed waltz of new and old is unique in itself.

Next is that this is an operating system upgrade free of commercial and marketing constraints and drives. Compared with, say, an iOS upgrade that trumpets the addition of a search function or blares out a proud announcement that they broke maps because Google kissed another boy at recess. Or Windows 10, the 1968 Democratic Convention Riot of Operating Systems, which was designed from the ground up to be compatible with a variety of mobile/tablet products that are on the way out, and which were shoved down the throats of current users with a cajoling, insulting methodology with misleading opt-out routes and freakier and freakier fake-countdowns.

The current mainstream OS environment is, frankly, horrifying, and to see a pure note, a trumpet of clear-minded attention to efficiency, functionality and improvement, stands in testament to the fact that it is still possible to achieve this, albeit a smaller, slower-moving target. Either way, it’s an inspiration.

prodos-2-4-bitsy-bye

Last of all, this upgrade is a valentine not just to the community who makes use of this platform, but to the ideas of hacker improvement calling back decades before 1993. The amount of people this upgrade benefits is relatively small in the world – the number of folks still using Apple IIs is tiny enough that nearly everybody doing so either knows each other, or knows someone who knows everyone else. It is not a route to fame, or a resume point to get snapped up by a start-up, or a game of one-upsmanship shoddily slapped together to prove a point or drop a “beta” onto the end as a fig leaf against what could best be called a lab experiment gone off in the fridge. It is done for the sake of what it is – a tool that has been polished and made anew, so the near-extinct audience for it works to the best of their ability with a machine that, itself, is thought of as the last mass-marketed computer designed by a single individual.

That’s a very special day indeed, and I doubt the remainder of 2016 will top it, any more than I think the first 9 months have.

Thanks to John Brooks for the inspiration this release provides. 

Source: http://ascii.textfiles.com/archives/5054

Permanent link to this article: https://www.internetking.us/wordpress/2016/09/15/why-the-apple-ii-prodos-2-4-release-is-the-os-news-of-the-year/

Who’s Going to be the Hip Hop Hero

People often ask me if there’s a way they can help. I think I have something.

So, the Internet Archive has had a wild hit on its hand with the Hip Hop Mixtapes collection, which I’ve been culling from multiple sources and then shoving into the Archive’s drives through a series of increasingly complicated scripts. When I run my set of scripts, they do a good job of yanking the latest and greatest from a selection of sources, doing all the cleanup work, verifying the new mixtapes aren’t already in the collection, and then uploading them. From there, the Archive’s processes do the work, and then we have ourselves the latest tapes available to the world.

Since I see some of these tapes get thousands of listens within hours of being added, I know this is something people want. So, it’s a success all around.

mixtape

With success, of course, comes the two flipside factors: My own interest in seeing the collection improved and expanded, and the complaints from people who know about this subject finding shortcomings in every little thing.

There is a grand complaint that this collection currently focuses on mixtapes from 2000 onwards (and really, 2005 onwards). Guilty. That’s what’s easiest to find. Let’s set that one aside for a moment, as I’ve got several endeavors to improve that.

What I need help with is that there are a mass of mixtapes that quickly fell off the radar in terms of being easily downloadable and I need someone to spend time grabbing them for the collection.

While impressive, the 8,000 tapes up on the archive are actually the ones that were able to be grabbed by scripts, without any hangups, like the tapes falling out of favor or the sites they were offering going down. If you use the global list I have, the total amount of tapes could be as high as 20,000.

Again, it’s a shame that a lot of pre-2000 mixtapes haven’t yet fallen into my lap, but it’s really a shame that mixtapes that existed, were uploaded to the internet, and were readily available just a couple years ago, have faded down into obscurity. I’d like someone (or a coordinated group of someones) help grab those disparate and at-risk mixtapes to get into the collection.

I have information on all these missing tapes – the song titles, the artist information, and even information on mp3 size and what was in the original package. I’ve gone out there and tried to do this work, and I can do it, but it’s not a good use of my time – I have a lot of things I have to do and dedicating my efforts in this particular direction means a lot of other items will suffer.

So I’m reaching out to you. Hit me up at mixtapes@textfiles.com and help me build a set of people who are grabbing this body of work before it falls into darkness.

Thanks.

Source: http://ascii.textfiles.com/archives/5049

Permanent link to this article: https://www.internetking.us/wordpress/2016/09/07/whos-going-to-be-the-hip-hop-hero/

Paying to make Internet unequal

Quoted from: http://www.thewatchdogonline.com/paying-to-make-internet-unequal-18382

For over a decade, net neutrality has been a topic of heated discussion in the technology world. Put plainly, net neutrality means that everybody can access the same Internet in the same way, regardless of one’s Internet Service Provider or what they are accessing. Today, Comcast doesn’t really care if a user is accessing a U.S. government site, reading anarchist literature, gaming, watching YouTube or farting around Facebook. Losing net neutrality would mean that service providers would be able to change what can be accessed and how on the Internet.

One of the single most distinctive and important aspects of the Internet is how anybody can do anything on it, even a punk kid living in his mother’s basement eating Hot Pockets can make millions with the right idea. What makes the Internet such an incredible force in today’s world is how accessible it is to anybody of any status. The homeless and destitute can get online at locations all over the place and be equal to everybody else – write essays that are instantly available worldwide, watch lectures on any subject under the sun or play chess against the best of the best. The Internet is a great equalizing factor and the benefit it has provided to humanity will probably never be fully appreciated. On April 23, the FCC announced that it would put forth new rules to let companies pay ISPs for faster data rates, what has been described as a “fast lane” for the Internet. What this means is the richest corporations in the country can make their content more easily

accessed and the Internet ceases to be an equalizer and becomes yet another facet of our corporatist economy. The raw amount of competition on the Internet is amazing. The number of social networks, games, video streaming sites and news outlets are astronomical, and the only way one succeeds is by being a better product.

The end of net neutrality changes everything. When a small business has an idea and Google has an idea, Google has the millions to pay ISPs to make its idea work faster while the small business is considering which brand of instant ramen is cheaper. The Internet is an amazing source of alternative news media. Every day, stories not seen on TV are shared to millions of Americans, things for whatever reason not covered by the major networks. The new FCC rules will allow the major networks to make their sites run faster, gaining more viewers, increasing ad revenue and outcompeting alternative media outlets. Small businesses already have a hard enough time surviving and competing in the economy we have now, with millions of pages of regulations, a skyrocketing minimum wage and millions of dollars of subsidies going to politically-connected corporations. The principle that all content on the Internet was equal gave everybody equal footing and equal opportunity and that era appears to be at an end. Is it just a coincidence that the current head of the FCC, Thomas Wheeler, worked as a lobbyist for cable companies and has been inducted into the Cable Television Hall of Fame? This also gives our government the ability to hinder access to materials it doesn’t agree with, and with its track record, how can it be trusted?

Net_Neutrality_Panel

Permanent link to this article: https://www.internetking.us/wordpress/2014/05/05/paying-to-make-internet-unequal/

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