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35618Re: [midatlanticretro] Catweasel, are they still available or is there an alternative

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  • retro
    Apr 23, 2014
      > > Catweasel, are they still available or is there an alternative
      > > to hooking up an 8" disk drive to make hard sector images and restore
      > images? Actually, I wanted to have a generic system that can do vintage
      > 8" disks and eventually 5 1/4. I want to start archiving everything
      > I get my hands on as this stuff ages, so much software is lost...

      On 4/23/2014 11:53 AM, Systems Glitch wrote:

      > You can use the host machine that the drives/controller are intended to
      > work with, if it's in working order. It's not too difficult to hack
      > together a method to dump disk data into memory and copy it off to
      > something else. That's how Dave Dunfield's North Star Transfer works.

      Dave Dunfield has done more than just write one disk-transfer program.
      He offers a suite of programs and a generic program for "vintage" and
      oddball disk format recovery.


      He has a general program - imagedisk - that manages disk images and
      can run a classic PC's floppy controller under MS-DOS to read and write
      those images in their original soft-sectored format. He describes how to
      wire an 8-inch drive to a PC.

      And, for classic systems with hard-sectored or other formats that are
      not readable by PC floppy controllers, he has written a number of
      special-purpose utilities. Those are downloaded into the original
      system, to operate that systems' controller, to read/write disks, while
      transfering by serial the imaged disk to/from a classic PC.

      So, for a system not "covered" by Dave's utilities, someone can use
      those other transfer programs as models and codes to write their own
      version. And then, make both those tools and the system images available
      to anyone else, who can find a vintage PC and run MS-DOS on it. (Pretty
      common still.)

      Why "MS-DOS"? He did his work in the 1990's. Also, MS-DOS does not get
      in the way of running the floppy controller, as would Windows or Linux
      (might). His decades-old programs don't need revisions with changes of
      OS's. Disk images can be transferred by 1.44" floppy disk to modern
      machines (no need to network a 486 computer to your desktop/laptop).
      Tedious, but so is an 8-inch drive.

      Why not just write your own programs? Then you lose the use of imagedisk
      and its tools, and the standard format of IMG disk images which anyone
      else could use to recreate the disks you save as images. Other programs,
      like emulators, use IMG formats to import and export files and disk images.

      The "Catweasel" has its merits, and when there's no vintage hardware
      available may be a choice to read some diskettes in less-popular
      low-level formats. The "technology" it needs for use, is relatively
      unfamiliar to me, so I won't make any case for or against it. Use of it
      seems to be specific and software for it seems to be a from a collection
      of individuals and less cohesive than Dunfield's work. Availability
      seems sporadic. Other people may have more to say.

      The alternative, seems to be various microcontroller products; some
      substitute for diskette drives, some are floppy drive controllers as the
      Catweasel (in a PC) is. These seem to come and go; some may be more
      supported and more available than others. Few outright support 8-inch
      drives but can be adapted to that; they may not be able to read the
      original disks and most aren't hard-sector compatible.

      I have a Web page about this, but I've already summarized it here.
      There's several pages on my Web site around this topic; Google or other
      search engines will find them.


      Herbert R. Johnson
      http://www.retrotechnology.com OR .net
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