Sunday, April 30, 2006

News: Rainbow on Disc Volunteers

Michael Harwood, steward of the Rainbow on Disc project, recently made a call on the maltedmedia CoCo list for feedback and volunteers to assist on the project. If you can scan, clean and compile/convert images for the project, please contact him at

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Comment: What I Want for My CoCo

There's been a bit of chatter on the CoCo mailing list ( and the forum ( and chat ( about what to use a CoCo for and where it should be developed to. And yes I'm aware that sentence is not constructed properly. But the point is ... usually on top of my head.

Anyhoo, here is my list of things I'd like to do with my CoCo but are beyond my meager capabilities. But I think they would be fun and would be of great benifit to the CoCo community.

An electronics project interfacing board and kit for the beginner. It would be a full kit, with the interface board and all the components, along with say a dozen or so interfacing projects that could be completed by the beginner or intermediate electronics hobbyist. Everything except the tools, in otherwords. (Tools needed should be the minimum: pliers, wire cutter/stripper, 25W solder pencil/iron, some solder and solder wick...) The projects would be stuff like: offloading a BASIC program into a static RAM device so that it would run when plugged in, a weather station with programming examples, a sound generator, a programable LED array, a very basic PIC setup with a short introduction on how to program it through the CoCo, etc. The kit would have projects for using the pak slot with an included interfacing board and the various other inputs and outputs on the CoCo to give the beginner a) fun things to built with, and b) a primary goal as an introduction to interfacing the CoCo. As I get a little bit more knowledgable about electronics in general (very dangerous thing), I can see that have leaps and heaps of information to master before ever being able to plug something of my own design into my CoCo. This wouldn't be perzactly the same thing, but it'd be fun and go along way toward the learning by doing experience. :)

Strategy games. 3D graphic games are impressive, of course. But how about some modern war and stratey style games, with all their depth and complexity, on the CoCo? Where's our SimCity? Where's our Master of Orion II? Where's our Civilization? Where's our RTS games? Locked up in some genius programmer's brain, I'll bet. Well... Let 'em out! I want to play 'em! Pulling off something like one of these games, that is actually playable on the CoCo, would be most impressive and a true tribute to the power of our little green friend. (If your first reaction is "can't be done" see also M.U.L.E. on the 6502-based Atari 800. Arguable the best strategy game ever developed, and defiantely the best in the pre-Civ/Sid era. The 6809-based Color Computer kicks this machine's cajones, twice, in raw power. It can be done. Oh, yes. It can be done.)

I don't want a new microprocessor (sorry, but in that I'm a purist. It has to be 100% 6809 compatiable to be a CoCo), but I wouldn't mind cheap, easy memory upgrades. For the CoCo 3, or course, but also the CoCo 2 and CoCo 1. A new video chip for the CoCo 1/2 would be nice, too. And possible easier to do.

A cheap and easy way to make program paks would go a long way toward easing software distribution problems. Here's the problem: I'm convinced (mostly... well, okay not really, but probably) that one of the problems with CoCoists buying or joining in is the difficulty in getting software from the Internet. In most cases, you have to make a new 5 1/4" disk, or transfer to the CoCo in some way. So you have to hunt down a disk drive and controller, or buy a new OS and hardware solution, or use a cable that requires more software, etc. Now, let me be perfectly clear here: Some of the solutions currently available are amazing. Very workable. Every single cocoist out there should try them! But... You could eliminate the whole problem by mailing out Program Paks. Seriously. Plug the pak in and the game goes. Or the software automagically installs itself to whatever storage device you have hooked up. If it could be done cheaply, it would be a superb delivery vehicle, especially for those folks buying CoCos, but having a tremendous amount of difficulty getting floppy drives for it. If there were a quick and easy solution, why bother?

That's the trick, of coure. You need a simple (and cheap, we are hobbyists remember) way for software developers to dump their creations onto a pak. Of course, the pack itself has to be manufactuered. Plenty of challanges. But it would solve a big problem that tends to hold back the expansion of the CoCo community.

Another way to go with this is to create a SD-reader in a pak. Instead of reinventing the pak, just make a pak that can read more modern media. 4MB SD cards can be had for $4 a shot (or less in bulk) and would be perfect for delivering CoCo software... if there was a way to interface it. Cost is the SD card + software development+packaging. I bet you could keep the unit price down to under $10, so most software developed this way could be sold for $20-$25 (plus shipping). I'd pay that. Easy. A program pak package for SD cards is perfect for this. Every CoCo already has the slot. The slot autoexecutes, so the driver software would be imbeded in the pak itself. No need to load software or drivers or use an alternate OS. Then just pop your SD card in and run it just like a disk drive. The trick is doing this so that it is truely plug and play. No drivers to load, no disk needed, no modifications needed. The instructions for use should be less that 250 words, or less, in length. Even easier would be the following statement included with each unit: "Plug the unit into your pak slot (or multipak). Plug in your SD card. Turn on your CoCo. Refer to Tandy Disk Operation and Programming Manual. (Download at ...)." That's it.

Why are these the things that I'd like to see most for the CoCo? Because they are three things that are missing and are needed to continue to drive growth in the CoCo community. We need most people tinkering with their CoCos. The beginners to intermediate CoCoists need an easy way to see what can be done with interfacing and programming and to learn. Games drive a computer platform. The CoCo needs some modern "just one more turn at 3 A.M." games. Games that every cocoists absolutely must have and will keep them in front of their CoCos for hours at a time. Finally, an easy, cheap, modern storage method needs to be widely available. I mean something that any intermediate level electronics hobbyist can purchase parts for, follow the plans, sell off their web site, or build for other CoCoists. I think the SD-card is the answer (cheap and easy), but anything would do, just as long as it can be massively distributed and standardized.

So there you go. That's my want-list. Feel to drop your own thoughts in here. Love to hear what you'd like to see.

Angel's Luck,

Saturday, April 29, 2006

News: NitrOS-9 V03.02.06

This is what I get for not paying attention for a couple of weeks. heh! A major software release for the CoCo and it went right by me. Sorry about that.

Boisy Petire has relased NitrOS-9 V 03.02.06. Download it:

No direct post of bug fixes and changes. Perhaps in the bugzilla tracking, but unfortunately the link off main page was dead when I tried it tonight. Regardless, it's a been a year since the last update, so jump on in there and give it a whirl.

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Comment: The CoCo to PC Connection

Hooray! Received a shiney new PC Link Cable from Taylor Software today! Okay, so the CoCo and the PC are in different rooms, and the wife will kill me if I start lugging CoCos out and spreading stuff all over the place tonight... I'll have to wait until I have a free day (and some computer alone time) to test it out.

The cable arrived quickly via Priority Mail. It appears to be nicely put together. Physically, a great quality product. The package also includes a brief information sheet. No software is included, but Roger Taylor offers basic command line transfer software for the PC for download from the website. Included in the archive is a program that translates tokenized BASIC files from the CoCo into ASCII format and DLOAD command transfer program for porting stuff from the PC to the CoCO. The instructions with the programs mention that only ASCII files can be transfered. If so, these particular utilities would limited in use (useful, but not a complete solution). The cable also works with most terminal software for both platforms. So, you could transfer binaries via XMODEM, I would assume, or something like that.

On the included sheet a little preview of CoCo Goodness to come. Transfering files between the CoCo and the PC is being implemented directly into Portal-9 and the Rainbow IDE. Also in the works is software to turn the PC into a big hard drive for your CoCo using OS-9. Both will support the super 57600 and 115200 speeds reported earlier!

Seems to me that now that this cable is cheaply and easily available, some enterprising CoCo coders out there should be able to come up with some neat applications and utilities to take advantage of it. I wouldn't mind seeing a drag and drop utility to pop stuff over to the CoCo from the PC. How about some play by email games for the CoCo? Monitoring software comes to mind. Just being able to transfer BASIC files from the CoCo will be great since more folks can easily put thier CoCo-works out there. Plenty of others, of course! :)

As soon as I get a chance to lug a CoCo around to the PC I'll post a full review here and some experiences with the new cable. In the meantime, I really don't see how anyone can go wrong with this one, specially for the price. Head over to to get yours.

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

News: Compuserve OS-9 SIG online

L. Curtis Boyle has put the Compuserve OS-9 SIG messages up on his new website:

I've been browsing these for a couple of months now off of the CoCo Collection CD from and they are well worth a look. Some great information there!

While on the subject, Mr. Boyle has relocated his amazing CoCo Games List to the new address, as well as the NitrOS-9 pages and other goodies like the original Radio Shack CoCo 3 Demo by Spectral Associates. Go get it:

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

News: DSKExtract Utility Available

Talk about ask and ye shall recieve! Chipple has added another quick and useful utility to the CoCoist's arsenal with DSKExtract:

This one extracts files from a DSK image, making it super easy to mix and match to make your own custom DSK images (with File2DSK), as well as transfer .bin and .bas files extracted from DSK images to your CoCo. Using a cable such as Cloud-9's DriveWire, or Roger Taylor's PC Link Cable, you can easily trasfer programs to your CoCo extracted out of DSK images on your PC. Then let your CoCo save them on whatever storage device you have hooked up. (No more antique 5 1/4" disks, if you're so inclined!)

Like File2DSK, DSKExtract only works on single sided, 35 track images (JVC format, no header). But with few exceptions, that's exactly what you need. Give it a try. It doesn't get much easier!

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News: MESSyFront 0.24 Released

Mannequin has released version 0.24 of MESSyFront for the Linux operating system:

MESSyFront acts a front end for the MESS emmulator and is currently specifically targeted at CoCo users. The new version ads icons and a menu item for FreeDesktop, as well as patches a minor bug the Glade XML file. MESSyFront is free. For more information and to download the most recent version, visit Mannequin's web site linked above.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

News: Rainbow IDE Now Available

Super CoCoist Roger Taylor (maltedmedia,, Taylor Software) has released the Rainbow IDE.

An Integrated Development Environment for the CoCo 3, Rainbow IDE makes software development easier for 6809-based computers such as the CoCo and Vetrex systems. Unlike Taylor's Portal-9, though, Rainbow IDE does much more. It also supports development for Atari, Commodore, Apple and other vintage computer systems! It also integrates support for MESS and creation of virtual floppy disks. In other words, developing software for multiple vintage systems just got a lot easier!

The 4.43MB demo is available for download now, with a Toolpak and Sourcepak coming soon. Pricing is US$59.00 to register, or US$69.00 (+shipping) on CD with manuals.

If you're doing CoCo development, I don't think you can go wrong here. I've downloaded the demo, and will post a Comment as soon as I have a chance to check it out.

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Monday, April 17, 2006

News: New DSK File Utility Available for Windows

Patrick Benny (Chipple) has released a quick and easy DSK utility for Windows that coverts Color Computer .bin and .bas files into DSK images for use in an emulator. The program is called FILE2DSK.

The program can be used from the DOS command line, like others, but has the added benifit of working fine under Windows via drag-and-drop. Just drag your .bin or .bas files onto the program and out pops a .DSK image. It only writes the standard 1-sided 35 track CoCo disks, but for most purposes that's all you'll need.

I tested the program under Windows ME, and the author uses Windows 2000. I had a ton of .bin files for games I've gotten off the Net, but haven't gotten around to converting. After downloading File2DSK, every one of them was in DSK format in just a few minutes. I use MESS to test the resulting files and all worked perfectly. The small ZIP file includes instructions for command line operation and the C source code. For those that don't want to mess with command lines, though, DSK creation doesn't get any easier than this!

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Friday, April 07, 2006

Site: Still plugging away, no updates recently

I haven't updated Capt's CoCo Hut in a few weeks, or the price guide, so I figured I better post something before people think I'm dead. (Yes, someone already wrote in, youknowhoyouare... heh!)

1. It's Spring. The point of acquiring CoCos again was so that I'd have something to do during the Winter and hot, hot Okie Summer months. Something a 6 year old and 2 year old couldn't easily destroy and/or seriously injure themselves with (like oil based paints, chewable, lead figures, hobby knives, little bits of ships and airplanes, rocket engines, etc). As it warms up (still a bit nipply, but getting there) I'll be spending more time in the Evil Lab (the non-climate controlled Evil Lab, that is) with little miniature soldiers and models and stuff like that. Plenty more CoCo stuff coming out of Evil Lab Sublevel 2, Dept. 8 (the indoor hobby area), but it'll be a bit slower than during the Summer or Winter.

2. What CoCo time I have is being devoted to CoCo projects. There was a discussion on the maltedmedia list recently about what people are actually doing with their CoCos. And the main theme is right on. All the high tech development of the CoCo on the more modern hardware is awesome. But... we still need something to do with it! We need programs, news, events, projects, and games! (Games drive a computer, so get in there and write some!) I can't contribute too much on that front, but I have a couple of projects in the works that need to finish. Maybe someone will enjoy them. So most CoCoing is going in that direction with the collecting bit on the sideline at the moment. I'm also in the lab learning new skills, namely how to solder/desolder, which is not as tricky as I once thought. Thanks Paul B. for the encouragement and tips! Of course we'll see how it goes when I plug in my first circuit... heh... And learning to actually build electrical circuits, with thanks Electronics for Dummies and Hobbylinc. Tis key to one of my main CoCo projects. I know, I know. I try to stay as ignorant as possible about the technical stuff, but this had to be done. I'll try not to let it happen again.

3. The planned collector's guide is on hold for now. I really was looking forward to this and it's still definately in the works. I flat ran out of time. So the work will continue on it and the collector stuff will continue to be serviced through the CoCo Price Guide and the monthly CoCo Collector. The work on the stand alone collector's guide will apply to the 2007 edition, which will obviously be the first edition. (This actually works out better because by then I'll have almost 2 years of data to work with!)

4. The gift shop IS going to go online. It's just pissing me off at the moment because the designs I want to do aren't working. But it IS coming, hopefully by the end of the month.

5. There IS an April issue of the CoCo Collector and it's about half written at this point. I'm on it, but it's going to be late. The Price Guide Update should be here very quickly, within the next few days.

6. Museum stuff also flat ran out of time. Tons of pictures and half articles done, but major editing and formatting to do. I plan to just plug away at those as I go, which was the original idea anyway. ha!

7. Just about everything is gone from the Project CoCo Rescue! Sent out two CoCo 2s, a busted multipak (that got fixed!), several ROM paks, and a busted CCR-82 (no word on it yet). I have another of the latter, if I can find it. What's left is here:

Email if you want it! And remember, dont' throw it out! Some CoCo but can use it! :)

I really, really need a full copy of CoCo Max 3 (or 1 or 2) if anyone has one they can part with on 51/4" disk. I have a license (and original disks if I can find them), but no working copy, so a back up would be fine. I promised some CoCo graphics and I just haven't the time to write something myself. Pleeease? I'll trade ya! :)

Okay, so there you go... Still here, still CoCoing, still lovin' it! :)

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Angel's Luck!

end of line

News: BitBanger hits 115200 bps!

Feeling the need for speed?

Well, then feel the CoCo love...

Roger Taylor of has announced to the matledmedia CoCo list that he has achieved a 115200 bps connection between the CoCo and the PC using the CoCo's sorta-RS232 port, AKA The BitBanger. The announcement was on April 4th and the digest was Vol 32, Issue 12. Holy crap! :)

Mr. Taylor also has a cable available now at to hook the PC up to the CoCO. Cost is US$12.95 (+shipping). The cable attaches to the CoCo's serial port (The BitBanger) and to the PC's DB-9 serial port. And you thought you'd never use those old PC serial ports again? ha! The DLOAD transfer software for Windows is currently available for download to assist in transfers. You can, of course, use standard communications terminal software on both ends to transfer stuff in either direction.

I'll be ordering as soon as the government sends my refund. Of course, I'll post a comment here as soon as I get it up and running.

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Saturday, April 01, 2006

News: New CoCo Nutz! Available!

A new edition of the CoCo Nutz! newsletter is now available at

This is issue has multiple reviews, one liners, a great solitaire program, a rather useful DOS boot article and an interview with CoCo graphics genius SockMaster! Read it, enjoy it, donate to it, and contribute! This is one of the best things to come along for the CoCo in years.

Angel's Luck,

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