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08/05/2017: MECC Collection - run classic eduware titles from a hard drive as well as GS/OS!

Marco Verpelli has created something incredibly good - over 150 8-bit MECC titles, including classics Oregon Trail, Number Munchers and Odell Lake, all running from hard drive images booting directly from PrODOS 8 with a nice and easy menu selection screen created by MECC themselves.

Number Munchers

A lot of the magic comes from the MECC Copy Utility (1994-95). It was given to schools that had bought specific licenses to enable hard drive installation of their individually bought applications. Amazingly, almost most 8-bit MECC titles can be installed this way (Zooyan Patrol is one example that uses a custom operating system that can be installed to a hard drive). The Copy Utility can group different programs, so you could separate them into reading, mathematics, science, etc, but this image simply lists all 158 programs on the MECC Vol1.2mg and the rest on MECC Vol2.2mg. You can download them here:

 8-bit MECC Collection (~ 12.6meg)

You can also choose to load individual programs from other program launchers, from Bitsy Bye to the System 6 Finder on the IIGS.

Marco's outlined the process below:

It all started this summer when the disk image of the product "7015V41 Copy Utility" was made available. I had already tried something similar with previous versions but I never managed to get the result I hoped for.

This utility is the real disk to rule them all. MECC people have really done a great job and with little effort we can force the SW to go beyond what was originally designed.

It is possible to copy (many) MECC products based on both DOS and ProDOS on a hard disk. The really rewarding thing is that it even works with disks from "unofficial sources".

I can split the MECC products I have tried in three groups:

1. Mostly products on 5.25" that are neither DOS or ProDOS. That is, those that use a very personalized operating system. As expected I could not put them on the hard disk

2. 5.25" and/or 3.5" DOS or ProDOS products fully supported by the utility. Placing them on a hard disk is no problem.

3. Products on 5.25" DOS not supported by the utility but with some
modification it is possible to put them on a hard disk.

For the last point here is how we can proceed:

1. We need a "fixed" disk image because we need to edit a BAS file

2. Look for a file called BAS type MENU in the file that contains something
like:
††††††††††††
††† PRINT CL$: VTAB 11: HTAB 8: PRINT "Insert Another Diskette." CC$

†††or:

†††††PRINT CL$: & CO,0,89: PRINT "Insert another diskette." CC$

†††change to:
††††††††††††
†††††CALL 46592:O,0,89 (N.B. O letter, 0 figure)

3. If the product is two-sided, we need to create a single file using something like this:

††† †cat side1.dsk side2.dsk > MECC.PROD

†††or in the case of a single face, rename the disk image to MECC.PROD

4. We need to create a PRODUCT.INFO file, it is better to copy an existing one and edit it with a hex editor changing the title and the product number.

5. Now on the hard disk we have to create a folder where to put everything in
order to comply with the MECC standard the folder name must be A###.A
where ### = product number and .A indicates this is the first folder with
the product, if you want to have two or more independent installations of
the same product, the next folders will be called .B, .C, ...

6. We can now copy the three files into the new folder:

MECC.SYSTEM
MECC.PROD
PRODUCT.INFO

7. Use the MECC utility and ask to add an existing product to the menu.

The maximum number of products that can be installed with the utility is 158, initially I thought 157 because there was a deleted item but it still occupied an available space. Rebuilding the menu fixed the issue.

It's easier to do than to describe.

Have fun!

Marco

Thanks again Marco! This is really kick arse, and as mentioned, software can be added from unofficial sources – i.e. non MECC software. This could be an amazing solution to including more 8-bit software on a hard drive. Stay tuned for more!

03/05/2017: New Hardware Archives or It's the Best Time Ever to Buy a IIGS Sound Card

WITA2GS? now includes archives for new sound card products the 2soniq (offering stereo output) and 4soniq (offering surround output) by Manila Gear and the Dark Sound (providing stereo output and mono input) by the Byte Boosters.

It's also not a bad time to go for RAM as well - 4 and 8 meg RAM cards have never been more affordable, so small (leaving some nice breathing room for other expansion cards, not to mention airflow if you've got an accelerator) and requiring less power draw (also good if you've got a lot of expansion cards, especially accelerators). The Byte Boosters 4meg and 8meg Dark RAM have been included as memory card archives now.

The archive is still after high resolution high quality scans, or as time marches on and good quality flatbed scanners seem to be a thing of the past, high resolution photography with even light with no obvious shadows, of one sound card (the Parallax Sound Ace) and several RAM cards. If you can help out with images for these long sought after items, it would be greatly appreciated and credited.

29/04/2017: Appleshare via Ethernet - Now on an Apple IIGS!

Some great, unexpected news! You can now connect to Applesharing servers via Ethernet on a IIGS with an Uthernet I or Uthernet II, or a LANceGS card!

This has been a wish list item since the first ethernet card, the LANceGS, came out in the '90s, not to mention that Apple's own unreleased Apple II ethernet card actually supports Appleshare over ethernet (I've seen it in use).

As a control panel device (CDev), the AFP Bridge, in league with the existing AppleTalk networking system extensions included with System 6.0.1 (and the higher revisions not coming from Apple) and the Marinetti TCP/IP stack you can now connect to AFP v2.0 servers or any Mac running the classic Mac OS all the way up to v9.2.2 and get full Appleshare file networking! You can even connect to Macs running Mac OS X 10.0 to 10.4 as well, although Apple II file types are ignored, making working with files a little more manual (e.g. you won't be able to double click on files and expect them to open in their usual program on the IIGS).

This Beta is only at v1.0, but this is a really cool development (although I haven't tried it myself yet). For anyone hesitating in getting an Uthernet II card, this really gives you a new reason to invest in one and enjoy file sharing more transparently with GS/OS.

You can grab it from this Github link as a ShrinkIt archive, or download my  System Add-ons 32 meg 2image volume - it's in the CDevs folder.

25/04/2017: Gertrude's Secrets Updated with v1.4 and Now Hard Drive Installable

Thanks to another recent 3.5" disk image by François Michaud and copy protection removal thanks to Antoine, we now have version 1.4 of Gertrude's Secrets. This classic edcuational game from Atari Adventure author Warren Robinett from the Learning Company in its last iteration promises hard drive installation (useful if you want to put a nice collection of great 8-bit eduware programs together in one place) although the hard drive installer (possibly - I haven't tested beyond using a CFFA3000 or Sweet 16 emulation) only works with SCSI hard drives.

However, I found a text document that details how you can modify a specific list of last revisions made to some Learning Company titles (Talking Reader Rabbit, Math RabbitThink Quick, Magic Spells, Gertrude's Secrets and Rocky's Boots) using a BASIC prompt and calling the monitor. Long story short – the new disk image works from a 3.5" inch disk (quite possibly from a 5.25" disk via ProDOS given the program is only 80k large) and if you copy the files to a hard drive (or any large ProDOS formatted volume) it will run from it. Awesome. I still hope to collect Magic Spells and Rocky's Boots (although USO has already done a hack to make it work from ProDOS) – the rest we have archived.

23/04/2017: My Paint v2.0 Archived with a new Art Disk

Thanks to François Michaud imaging his original rare copy of My Paint v2.0, we now have a working archive of this newer version that sports an updated interface and compatibility with the EdMark Touch Window (which makes this and HyperStudio the only IIGS specific titles that I can think of that take specific advantage of this hardware).

What I also thought was a new feature, but turns out the earlier v1.0 does as well, is when you hold down the open-apple key and click on the Disk (v1.0) or Book (v2.0) icon you can specify which art disk you'd like to access – which can be specifed for both the individual 3.5" floppes or if you copy it all to a large ProDOS volume (which I have, in an updated edition of the Science, Social Studies, Kids Creative, Computer Skills educational 32 meg image).

 

My Paint v2.0

 

That reminded me - I hadn't actually archived the art disk that came free with my original copy of My Paint v1.0 – 'God Created the Dinosaurs'. I thought I'd forgotten, but upon reviewing it again recently, perhaps I'd not archived it on purpose. It includes images of people and dinosaurs co-habiting the Earth. If golf is the worst way to ruin a nice walk, then people and dinosaurs living together is the worst way of killing any buzz associated with my favourite 'terrible lizards'. To experience both v2.0 and the 'God Created the Dinosaurs' art disk, find the .zipped disk images on the archive page.

Be sure to download the reference card for all the features and use of v2.0 of My Paint that François had already previously scanned and supplied to the archive. Also of particular note – there are other art disks we don't have on archive. If anyone has 'Numbers, Shapes & Colors', 'Mother Goose Favorites' and 'Star Kids Characters' by all means submit them so they can be archived. It might be possible to take the data files from the Amiga versions of these if they're archived – the data files use Amiga native graphic file format .IFF.

 

 

19/04/2017: Xenocide Archive Updated with Infinite Lives Patch and a Word on Cheats

Thanks to Pen Helm, we have a new patched version of Xenocide that gives you infinite lives – no excuses not to see the entire game now. Just download the .zip archive for the new disk image.

Dear readers, did you also know that If you boot up with the GameHacker classic desk accessory (CDA) installed, which my 32meg image of a preinstalled System 6.0.1 Hard Drive Image, you can run Xenocide and then access the classic control panel with apple, command and escape, select the GameHacker CDA and it will ask if you want to patch the current game in two ways: 1) Infinite Lives and 2) Infinite ammunition.

There's a tonne of other games supported by GameHacker, so be sure to use the same trick on any game that allows you to access the classic control panel. However, some games don't allow access to the text based control panel, like Great Western Shootout, Gauntlet and Paperboy. Zany Golf is also one of those titles, but a patched version was included in the archive a couple of years ago. If anyone's interested in writing infinite lives (and ammunition, where applicable) patches to IIGS games, maybe focus on those listed games as GameHacker can take care of the rest.

But I strongly recommend playing games without cheats - the reward is more satisfying.

But here are all the games GameHacker supports (from its included documentation):

Antetris
Almost infinite (65516) number of blocks that can hit you

Arkanoid 1 & 2 (3 variants of Ark II)
Infinite lives

Bounce-It!
Infinite lives

Calibus:
Infinite Lives, Infinite Ammo, All weapon types have super-powerful ammo. (Kill with 1 shot!)

Columns GS
No trouble pieces, and the screen stays on when you press escape.

Copy Killers:
Infinite Money, Virus Protection.

Crystal Quest
Infinite lives

Defender of the Crown
Always win jousts and castle raids; buying army, knights, and catapults make your treasury to 25; this
discourages others from stealing your gold and using it against you.

Elevators
Invincible men that can walk through elavators.

Hoverblade
Infinite shields, fuel. Thanks to 'RKE' (Richard K Eddington) for finding the fuel and all.

The Last Ninja

Infinite lives, bombs, stars, and hit points.

Mine Hunt (NDA version only)
Lets you tread on the mines without dying.

Naxos
Infinite Ammo, Shield Maxxed out after each level.

Orbizone:
Infinite Lives.

Pick'n Pile
Infinite time

Plotting
Infinite lives. Some people have had problems getting to the CDA menu from with plotting; the best time to
try is when the startup screen is visible.

QBurt GS
Not technically patched from within this game, but if you press the "=" key on the numeric keypad, your lives will increase.

Qix
Infinite lives, but you still have to maneuver.

Quadomino
This patch allows you to hold down keys when moving pieces for greater speed. (The first constructive patch!)

Rogue
Infinite Strength and Hit Points. Infinite items, but you can drop them.

Senseless Violence I:
Infinite babies.

ShufflePuck GS:
Your opponent's score will never go above 1. Note: apparently this game was never released, and is only available from your local pirate. I was lent this game to add support for it from an anonymous contact, and have since deleted it. This patch is included for completion only.

Silpheed
Infinite Shield. (Screen will show almost full shield points, but the shield is full in memory)

Space Ace
Infinite lives. Patch provided by Jesse Blue. Thanks! (Untested; I don't have that game.)

SpaceFox GS (2 variants supported)
Infinite lives, shot speed & # of shots are set to 9.
Note: it's best to select GameHacker _before_ the game starts; that way most of these changes will happen at the start, not after you die once. Infinite fuel, and shields are infinite, just turn them on once per level. Still no weapon select, but with these mega-shields, you won't be dying very quickly.

Spy Hunter GS v1 & 2
Infinite lives, ammo, oil, and more.

Star Trek Classic IIGS
Infinite Energy, weapons, time, and all the like.

Tetris
Disables password; type anything for the password.

The Tinies GS
Infinite time during levels, infinite lives, and restarts. Note: If you have GSBug installed, Tinies 1.0 can't get to the control panel; it will crash! Bug the authors to release 1.1!

Thexder (2 versions)
Infinite Shield points in version 2.7 (supports joystick), never die (shield indicator will be mucked, though) on an older version. Thanks for Peter Mularski for the Thexder patch.

Tunnels of Armageddon
Clock disabled, so you don't have to worry.
Also, your ship is invulnerable to damage, and once you get items, they never disappear.

Xenocide: (2 variants supported)
Infinite ammo, lives, energy/oxygen, and shields. Autoblaster is always on as well.

 

17/04/2017: Ninja Force Releases First New Demo for 20 Years – Kern Kompetenz

Ninja Force recently attended and competed in the Revision 2017 Demo Scene Party in Germany in the Oldskool category with their brand new 'Kern Kompetenz' demo. Representing our favourite cute but flawed machine against other computer platforms of the '80s and '90s, Ninja Force did us proud, but at the time of writing (at least that I could see), the results as to the best entry of the competition have yet to appear coming fourth place. You can watch each demo played at the party on YouTube (with Kern Kompetenz at around the 33 minute mark).

 

KernKompetenz

 

Now that all entries have been shown, Revision 2017 has now allowed distribution through Pouet, the demo scene archive for ALL platforms. Find the download link on the entry for it here. It's now also available from the official Ninja Force site now.

The demo's amazing - everything's bigger, faster and smoother than any IIGS demo before it. It's pretty awesome to see things you've never seen the IIGS do, or thought could ever be done. Dreamer's tune is excellent and you'll remember it's melody days afterwards. It also has a different sound compared to his earlier work – a much more contemporary track than anything else on the IIGS.

It took a bit of wrangling to get the demo working on my ROM01 (4.25meg RAM, ZipGS 8/64k, CFFA3000), but I possibly made it harder on myself by not copying it to a real 3.5" disk to run from that. Mounting the 800k disk image with the CFFA3000, it wouldn't boot - it's not Smartport compatible. Trying to load from the System 6 Finder resulted in a helpful error message: 'Unable to load from GS/OS' - so I knew there was no way of getting it to work that way.

But then I remembered how to get the Ninja Force Mega Demo running from a 'hard drive' (in this case, a 32meg ProDOS image mounted on the Smartport) - hold down the '8' key just before GS/OS starts booting. It will abort loading GS/OS and take you straight to the BASIC prompt. Type 'bye' to take you to the ProDOS Loader (or Bitsy Bye if you're using John Brooks' ProDOS 2.4.1). With the 'Kern Kompetenz Demo.2mg' disk image also mounted via the CFFA3000, tab to switch volumes and then select the 'Demo' executable. Voila!

You can use this same technique to installing the demo onto a MicroDrive, Focus, or any other type of SSD / hard drive controller to avoid loading from an actual 3.5" disk drive. See, I really am a nut about making things hard drive installable for the IIGS!

Enjoy everyone! It's great to see another IIGS specific demo so soon after the 'Look Behind You' demo. 

10/04/2017: Application Fresh Cracks

Last but certainly not least in this series of fresh cracks from Antoine Vignau, we cover applications. Not only do we have different, more unique cracks, we've also found some newer versions:

Mercury
Designer Puzzles
Designer Prints
Softwood GS File (new version 2.0 included! Patched to work from System 6!)
TopDraw v1.00A (as part of the BeagleDraw archive)
Design Your Own Home Architecture (newer v2.8)
Notes n Files
Graphics Studio

UPDATE: I've also included the newer versions of these apps where ever possible on the relevant 32meg hard drive images:

 Productivity & Visual Creative

 Utilities & Aural Creative

09/04/2017: Hardware Updates

Manila Gear and Reactive Micro team up! As part of their new partnership Reactive Micro will handle distribution as Manila Gear releases their new 2soniq card, their scaled down sound expansion that provides stereo output like other 3rd party stereo cards. Additionally, Manila Gear has a refreshed 4soniq card (the first card to support surround sound on the IIGS) based on feedback of the first batch of sales. On top of that, Manila Gear also produces the Apple IIGS VGA Adapter, which enables you to connect to a VGA monitor that supports 15Khz video input (so be sure your monitor supports this before buying the adapter, because most modern monitors will NOT support 15Mhz video signals).

Thanks to 4am (quite some time ago, and no-thanks to me for sorting a backlog of disk images in an untimely manner) we now have some new software...for hardware. Multi Drive Pro for the Checkmate MultiRAM card (for which we still need a scan!) and Checkmate Memory Saver for the Memory Saver card (a ROM backup device). Download these separately from the disk image links from each archive.

Last but not least, the Audio Animator manual has been scanned by Karl Horster.

 

28/03/2017: Fresh(er) Cracks of Educational Software

As part of some fresh cracks Antoine, or as his cracking alter ego is known 'LoGo', did back in 2016, there were quite a few Educational titles. Some revealed some newer versions, but otherwise, we now have different clean cracks, skillfully handled by Antoine to best ensure each program still behaves as originally intended by the authors:

Reader Rabbit (now including a fresh LoGo crack of v2.2)
SkyTravel (fresh Logo crack)
Read & Rhyme (fresh Logo crack with HD install - with more time, the HD patch could potentially work on all other Unicorn titles, none of which, in their original state, are hard drive installable)
National Geographic Kids Network (fresh logo crack of a newer version - v1.4)
The Playroom (fresh logo crack)
Storybook Weaver World of Make Believe (fresh crack plus inclusion of new 'Network' version of the program - allowing to be Netbooted?)
Storybook Weaver (Fresh crack by LoGo)
Storybook Weaver World of Adventure (fresh crack, 'Network' version and original System Disk included)
Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing (fresh LoGo crack)
Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego? (2x fresh LoGo cracks)
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? (fresh LoGo crack)
World Geograph (fresh LoGo crack of newer v1.2)

I've also updated the two 32meg volumes dedicated to educational software with these new additions:

 Reading, Writing and Mathematics (Educational software ~15.1meg)

 Science, Social Studies, Kids Creative, Computer Skills (Educational software ~14.4meg)

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