17/03/2019: Updates and the Current State of Solid State Storage

Following on the last series of updates, Antoine's now been able to scan the tricky manual for Color+, one of those ones that goes recto/verso when you disassemble it and have to reassemble it in the right page order once scanned. Additionally, Antoine's been able to crack The Word Master, although the hard drive installation patch will take a bit more work. Thanks as always to Antoine for his incredible diligence for archiving IIGS stuff!

Chris Morrison has let me know (some time ago) that some of my 32meg disk images (available at the bottom of the home page) show up with different file sizes – 32,768k and 32,769k as they appear in Windows. Images that are 32,769k can't be loaded onto previously formatted 32meg ProDOS partitions for use with the MicroDrive Turbo (or CFFA1, CFFA2, Focus, etc.) when using the Windows Apple II volume and file utility CiderPress. I don't know how some images ever became 32,769k, and as Chris noted, it's never been a problem using them with the CFFA3000 and emulators, but I've recently been setting up a MicroDrive Turbo for a friend's IIGS setup (and in the process added the driver disk and manual to the archive entry here on WITA2GS?), and came across this very issue – it's frustrating. So, I've fixed all the 32 meg images (available from the homepage) – so now no-one should have any problems loading these images onto 32meg ProDOS partitions on compact flash cards.

However, I've come across another weird problem with the MicroDrive Turbo – some (but not all) ProDOS 8 based IIGS games (Rastan, Task Force, Pipe Dream, Battle Chess, Neuromancer, Gnarly Golf, Zany Golf, John Elway's Quarterback, Bard's Tale I & II (the original IIGS versions) fail to run from a MicroDrive Turbo. But Tass Times in Tonetown and Antoine's crack and hard drive installable versions of Gauntlet and Paperboy, all ProDOS 8 based, work. The problem presents itself in GS/OS with it asking to insert the disk it's actually currently on, but can't seem to find the data it's looking for even though it IS "inserted". The same happens if you boot directly to ProDOS 8. From my personal testing, this behaviour is not present on a CFFA2, CFFA3000, Apple High Speed SCSI card with SCSI2SD or even a 40meg Vulcan hard drive, so the issue lies firmly with MicroDrive Turbo. Anyone with a bit more tech know-how want to look into this issue to see what the common cause is?

This also relates to a weird issue found with playing the IIGS version of the Black Cauldron with a FloppyEmu. After the game asks for disk 2, ejecting the disk image on the FloppyEmu and replacing it with the disk image for the second volume, the program can't seem to see the change and won't continue loading. However, the same disk images run fine from real 3.5" floppy disks, as well as a CFFA3000. You can also combine the contents of both disks to run it from a "traditional" hard drive without issue as well.

The bottom line is that while all these solid state solutions are great, not one product seems to offer 100% compatibility with IIGS software. Even my preferred CFFA3000 can't boot custom operating systems (like FTA demos) for which bootloaders depend on the IWM chip on the IIGS that can only be accessed by the floppy port. The FloppyEmu CAN load custom bootloaders however, because it's directly connected to the floppy port.

No one solution is perfect – but the perfect solution would be something like the CFFA3000, which enables you to mount and hot swap between disk images with a well designed control panel, but at DMA speeds and full compatibility with the IWM. And something like SCSI that handles I/O so you can take the heat off the processor, which as everyone knows is slow enough as it is! Hope someone's up for the task of creating the ultimate solid state solution for slot based Apple IIs!