Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Of Floppy Disks, HFS and Snow Leopard

Recently I started investigating the HFS issue in Snow Leopard. The issue is that now Leopard along with Snow Leopard no longer writes to or creates HFS volumes. This includes anything that can hold data. From floppy disks to USB flash drives to hard drives. Doing some investigative work specifically for floppy disks I found out several interesting things and ways around this problem.

1) Most modern USB floppy drives can read 1.4MB floppy disks (aka HD) and 720K floppy disks (aka DS/DD). But not 800K disks (typically HFS or ProDOS formatted) that were formatted on the floppy drive era of Macintoshes.

2) If you format a 720K floppy through Disk Utility on a pre-Leopard/post-Classic machine in Mac Standard with a modern USB floppy drive you can use that 720k Mac Standard (HFS) floppy on modern Macs. But that floppy will be read as a 300 or so kilobyte (I think it was 324K) floppy if you insert it into a floppy drive era Mac running Mac OS 9 or below. I'm guessing that there is potential for data corruption there due to the storage reporting difference. Most floppy drive era Macs can read 800K HFS or ProDOS floppies, 720K DOS floppies (FAT12) or 1.4MB floppies in compatible formats. Most floppy drives used in non-Mac x86 machines can only read 720K and 1.4MB floppies. This is how USB floppy drives work too. Note: I'm only talking about your basic floppy drives. Not the SuperDISK drives from Imation which hold (I think) 120MB or 140MB of data.

3) You can use the command "dd" in the Terminal to save an exact copy of an HFS formatted FDHD under any Mac OS X. Or for that matter any UNIX-like computer that can mount HFS volumes (there may be an equivalent in Windows if you use MacDrive by MediaFour). Then you can restore, essentially formatting and cloning, HFS FDHD's on your Mac OS X machine. This is how you do it:

First unmount (do not eject. There IS a difference) the nested volume under the floppy drive in Disk Utility (you can do this in the Terminal as well, I just forget the exact command). This will keep the floppy drive device active. Then type this in the Terminal:

dd if="/the path of the input file or device" of="/the path of the output file or device"

Typically you want to use the device path in one option (ie: /dev/disk1 or /dev/disk2 or wherever the command "df -h" tells you) and the image file path in the other option. Depending on whether you want to restore from an image file to a floppy or create an image file from a floppy.


To image a floppy disk.

dd if=/dev/disk1 of=/Users/[user name]/Desktop/BlankFDHD.img

Or the other way around to format, restore or clone a floppy disk.

dd if=/Users/[user name]/Desktop/BlankFDHD.img of=/dev/disk1

If there are spaces in your path then use quotes around the path. The brackets and the words in brackets ([]) are to be replaced by your user name on your computer.

Sadly this cannot be done for HFS formatted 800K floppies as I mentioned earlier as most USB floppy drives don't see 800K worth of floppy. Most of those drives have an FDHD 1.4MB mode and a 720K mode and that's it. I don't have a floppy drive era Mac running Mac OS X to test though so that may be a possibility if you can find a SuperDrive (the floppy drive Apple use to call the SuperDrive) driver for Mac OS X.

Essentially what you're doing is using an image file of a blank HFS formatted floppy disk made from a single HFS floppy to make more HFS floppies. Really just cloning blank floppies. The one scenario I can see this being used in is if you are using a Leopard Mac OS X Macintosh and you are nowhere near a Mac capable of formatting in HFS and you have a lapfull of floppies you want turned into HFS floppies for your museum quality vintage Mac SE back home. Not a likely scenario, but hey, if you want your HFS floppy formatting on your Leopard machine, there it is. BTW, HFS is the same as Macintosh Standard in Disk Utility. HFS+ is Macintosh Extended and its variants. Make sure you're using an HFS floppy that's using the full space of the floppy before you make that image file. A corrupted floppy can waste kilobytes of space. When formatting on, say, a Mac SE and you see the "Updating..." progress bar eat up your floppy's space. It's trying to make the floppy usable by formatting around the bad sectors so in the end you get a 1.2MB (or worse, less) out a 1.4MB FDHD which when formatted is supposed to give you 1.3MB in HFS format. In short, format your HFS floppy on a pre-Leopard/post-Classic Mac (Disk Utility is a lot better than the in-OS "Erase Disk" option in the Special menu on a Classic Mac. It gives you a full capacity floppy [nearly] every time). Also note that dd is a raw data copier. It copies exactly what it sees. If it sees a 1.0MB HFS floppy instead of a 1.4MB HD capacity/1.3MB readable HFS floppy like it should then it makes a 1.0MB image file not a 1.3MB one (which is 1.5MB in the Finder as a file). This will clone 1.0MB floppies and that's not what you want.

And of course you can use dd to "burn" those floppy image files you get from the net onto floppies.

Why would you want to do this? Well, if you don't have floppy disks or a floppy drive and/or a vintage Mac then this doesn't apply to you. Why would you want to fool around with HFS when HFS+ (or insert your favorite file system like ext3 or ZFS) is so much better? AGAIN,
if you don't have floppy disks or a floppy drive and/or a vintage Mac then this doesn't apply to you if you'd rather use non-legacy formats. Trust me, I know why you'd want to use non-legacy formats. This is often the route I'd take if I didn't have to deal with vintage hardware (along with a paperless office and using solar energy instead of grid energy). But there are a lot of people out there who still enjoy playing around with the older formats and hardware and to them this is important. This isn't a "what's better" HOWTO. This is a "what's compatible" HOWTO.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Testing the Blogger widget on iMac.

Monday, October 19, 2009

About my pet peeves:

Forums. And comment threads on sites like YouTube. This link will give you more of an idea why:

I take it further. I just don't believe in forums and comments. They're just magnets for negativity and people with chips on their shoulders looking to prove a point tothe rest of the world. They take everything to extremes, take everything personal and are oblivious that others may not be as serious as they are. I have occasionally posted in comments lately, but I don't go back and reply or "defend my position" as if it's necessary. Not that I'm saying I'm always right (I say stupid things, mainly for silly-fun-time reasons). If I'm wrong then I'm wrong, but I'm not going to waste my time fighting with someone I don't know just to feed their need for attention and conflict because they can't stand it that other people may not have the same opinion as they do (real or perceived). These people are the people who watch Jon Stewart or read the Onion and have to take everything said as a challenge for debate. And that's sad. Because they will never admit they're taking things the wrong way. There's a name for personalities like this. It's called "douchebag".

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Well... At least you have my Twitter feed there...

If anybody cares, it's been a while since my last post. Site's not dead! I just can't think of anything to post... Kinda busy making art...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Thursday, May 14, 2009

SuperNews: Celebrity Twitter Overkill

Heehee! :)

Started posting at my new DeviantArt page

This first one is my old Wild Bill Hickok drawing from 2004

Wild Bill Hickok by ~The-Penciler on deviantART

My Computer Museum: Apple IIe

A while ago I became obsessed with getting my Apple IIe back up and running in my Wall-O-Vintage computer collection. I thought I'd share the resources I used to do that. :)

Simply put is a data transfer utility for floppy disk back up. That means that you can transfer data between your modern computer and your Apple IIx (I use the term IIx to signify the range of Apple II's. II, IIe, IIc, etc) writing that data to 5.25" floppy disks. This is done by connecting your computer to the Apple IIx by one of 3 or 4 methods. 1: Serial, 2: Ethernet crossover cable, 3: audio (set at normal distortion-free levels). The 4th method is my favorite. Or 4: through a USB to serial adapter. The reason why I listed that separate is because essentially your adding a serial port to your computer through USB and the utility doesn't know any different. You will need the SuperSerialCard (SSC) adapter for Apple II's installed in slot 2 of the Apple IIx you're using if you decide to go the serial route. Or you will need an Ethernet adapter in your Apple IIx. Most people, if they have neither, opt for the audio route (very slow). However SSC's are very easy to find since there are quite a few companies still making them (as clones of the original spec), sometimes better than the original. Places to buy these things will be listed at the end of the post.

A USB to serial adapter
Usually these come in the DB9 variety and are primarily meant for old PDA's that use a serial connection. Most likely you will find you have to buy a DB9 to DB25 connector adapter unless you had the foresight in finding a USB to DB25 serial adapter. They're also great for old serial modems (Mac or PC. "Mac," since most "Macintosh" modems are really PC serial modems in disguise and all you have to do is adapt the DIN connector to a DB9 connector or toss aside the Mac cable and connect the adapter directly to the DB9 port on the modem). Really anything requiring a serial connection. Most of these adapters are by default, being very basic and standard types of hardware, supported by most operating systems (OSes) and in turn the Java app ADTPro will see them since the OS sees them. I'm using the adapter that came with the Collectorz application/barcode scanner set I have.

Ziotek Adapter Thin DB9 Female to DB25 Male ZT1310142
In case your adapter ends in a DB9 (9 pin) instead of a DB25 (25 pin) connection and it didn't come with an adapter here is a connector changer that will solve your connector woes. The connector on a SSC is a DB25. Item # 131 0142

You will also need at least 1 (ONE) Apple 5.25 Floppy Drive to even start using ADPro. I use 2 for games that require a second floppy disk. Just follow the directions on the ADTPro site and you'll be off to the races! And depending on what kind of floppy drives you have you will need floppy disks that are compatible. Usually this means not using the 1.4MB (MegaBytes) 5.25" floppies in the original Apple 5.25 Floppy Drives as they were sold before the 1.4MB floppies came out for x86 PCs. You will run into errors using ADTPro if you use the wrong floppy disks. That isn't to say that there aren't floppy drives that can use 1.4MB 5.25" floppies for the Apple II line of computers. There are, I know there are (I'm not crazy! I know there are! Get me out of this straightjacket! LOL just kidding), I just haven't been lucky in finding them. What you need are the old 720KB (KiloBytes) single-sided 5.25" floppy disks. I have many 1.4MB ones and I was lucky that I still had working 720KB ones. 1024KB = 1MB. So 720KB x 2 sides = 1.4MB approximately.

You will also need a source for old Apple II disk images. Don't ask me as that's a legal gray area that I won't venture into. I have my sources. I suggest Google-ing for them. Though most of those old Apple II apps are abandonware and have fallen into public domain. Some haven't though (especially the office apps), so my refusal to show you where to get them stands.

If you have any apps on old 5.25" floppies you'd like to back up onto your modern computer's hard drive ADTPro is great for doing that as well.

What ADTPro is NOT is a server for simply using floppy disk images on your modern computer's hard drive as a replacement for a physical Apple 5.25 Floppy Drive. Essentially using your modern computer as a virtual floppy drive for your Apple II by connecting your modern computer to the floppy drive port on an Apple II. It's a good idea and there are ways of doing this, but the link I had for that is lost to me. I had a link, but unfortunately I didn't save that link. Basically you'd use ADTPro in conjunction with this method (if the method didn't already do it) in order to make the floppy images for the image server to use. ADTPro IS a server, but it's mainly for writing data to and reading data from physical floppies, not simply to send data to the Apple II as a virtual floppy drive. ADTPro is often confused as a way to virtually use floppy disk images in place of physical floppies. It's just a back up utility. You still need physical (real) floppies and floppy drives.

Here is that hardware source I promised:

Monday, May 11, 2009

Firefox Poster Sample

Just thought I'd share something I did last night. Currently looking into how to publicize this. Hope you like it. :)

From The Penciler

WOOT! Domain: Registered!

Just registered two domains which, to me, were a freakin' find. You know my online name? ThePenciler? Yeah, got it in the form of and For the moment the .NET one is forwarding to this blog, but the .COM one is having trouble. Hopefully this will resolve and fix itself. I have saved the forwarding preferences one more time just to make sure.

Eventually I plan on forwarding the two domains to a Squarespace gallery. But for now they're pointing to my Blogger blog. 'Tis awesome to have a web presence now. And such a cool domain to boot. I'm amazed nobody beat me to it yet. And on both COM and NET! As said: W0 to the 0T! :)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Yay! A new look!

Awesome! Ok, I just reorganized things as stuff was getting pretty out of hand. I added a new virtual theater sidebar for anybody who finds themselves stranded here. You don't have to go unentertained. Once I can find a multi-game widget it's going right in there too. All links are up front. These are places I either do business at or really believe in and want to promote them. I just love the simple clean look of it all. Yay!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Steps to restore a slow Windows PC

Steps for a fresh install (assuming you're starting over from a current Windows environment) and a zippier Windows computer:

NOTE: These are only steps to remind you of the order or what to do next. They're generalized for that reason.

Step 1

A 4 part consideration:

  1. Back up any user data. This means anything in the My Documents folder and anywhere else on the main drive you may have saved files.

  2. Save any save files in game folders in the Program Files folder. You don't have to back up the entire game programs themselves, just keep track of where the save files go for after you restore everything. Save files include files from saved games to settings files to other saved data you created from within the game. Usually a game will save these things in an obvious place within the game folder in folders either named along those lines or in some sort of folder named something like “Resources” or “Player” or something.

  3. Also some programs, be them games, office suites or other, may have a built in way to back up settings to a file. Firefox lets you back up the Bookmarks.html file from within the browser itself and lets you put the file anywhere you choose (preferably on external storage for later retrieval). Word and other Microsoft programs also have a back up wizard. The massively multi-player on-line role playing game City of Heroes, for instance, now has a way to back up settings files in the options window but saves and automatically loads those files within the game's program folder (as do many other games). Think of all the programs you'd like to save settings and files from.

  4. And be sure you back up any data you purchased. Like music which is usually located in your My Documents folder unless you chose to save your music somewhere else. Fonts as well if you bought those. And eBooks or audio books. If you chose to save and play these files from another hard drive then don't sweat this step as all you have to do is unplug that hard drive before you do all this.

Step 2

  1. Erase the hard drive.

  2. Partition the hard drive.

Step 3

  1. Reinstall Windows.

Step 4

  1. Connect computer to the router which is connected to a broadband modem which is connected to the internet.

  2. Run Windows update as soon as you have the computer connected to the internet. Run it until there are no more updates to be seen. This may require several reboots.

Step 5

  1. Install only the needed software that you use on a daily to semi-daily basis.

  2. Restore any settings you backed up. This is why step 1 is so important.

Step 6

  1. Use a program that clones hard drives to make a clone of this hard drive. Make two if you feel you need it. This involves buying 1 or 2 more hard drives. Use imaging programs like Ghost if you feel you need to. But I recommend just cloning because if anything happens to your main hard drive all you have to do is swap it out with a known good hard drive and you're ready to go. Ghost does both. It images the hard drive partition and clones it.

Step 7

  1. Do regular backups of your user data (as listed earlier in this article). Keep one copy at home for convenience, keep another copy offsite either by way of simply having a relative or friend you trust keep the drive or using an online backup solution like Carbonite or Drop Box (or soon to be released Gdrive from Google). And do regular backups to these solutions. The one or two other drive(s) in the previous step that you cloned to are different from user data backup as they're just used to restore to a known good base/foundational copy of the operating system with preferred software installed and an updated OS. Personally I like to keep this and user data separate to reduce the chance of getting screwed doubly by a bad bootable cloned hard drive and loss of personal data in the same hardware. Restore drives are for convenience and can be kept locally, user data backups are for safety and can be spread out to different locations to avoid catastrophes like flood or fire. You can certainly keep a restore drive offsite as well if you want so you can get up and running on similar hardware right away.

Step 8

  1. Enjoy your peace of mind.

Addendum I

  1. When you do need to swap hard drives then do so and restore your settings from the regular backups. Then when you have everything set up the way you want it clone your hard drive again like in the previous steps. The idea here is to make it as painless AND updated AND complete an all around process as possible.