A bit about me and crap I like..

A bit about me and crap I like..

Right-Oh. A bit about me, my hobbies and stuff I like. I was born in 1975. Parents moved to Perth from Sydney. In 2007 I moved back to Sydney and quite like it and the folks I meet here.

I work mostly in the computing and software engineering industry and enjoy fiddling around with old computers (both homebrew and commercial), hardware restoration and software development, both for work and pleasure. I am also a Ham/Amateur Radio hobbist and passionate experimenter. Additionally, I have grandeous delusions of adequacy relating to designing and building my own embedded computers based on Z80 and 6502 based systems or simply solder-by-numbers someone else's such as N8VEM or Briel's solder debug and go kits (see below).

I quite like crappy web pages. This works well because I really can't be bothered investing much time into this and am not a blogger, Stalkbook/FaceBook/twitter fan. If you know who JeffK and BIFF! were, you'll appreciate where I'm coming from with regard to this. Sorry. Yep, and I don't like or own a mobile phone so do please get over this. If you want to talk to me, try email or IRC on #sgi and wait.

I like amateur radio. My callsign currently is VK2FVAX and VK6FVAX. I'm often found on Dural and Chatswood repeaters on 147.000 and 147.150Mhz respectively. I also hang out on the Lawson 2m repeater enjoying their IRLP node so I can heckle friends in other states and countries. (Good repeater that one!). I also like to lurk on the twin linked 70cm repeaters 439.750 (Horsley park) and 439.800 (Gov Phillip Tower). One of the wags on there refers to this pair of repeaters as being "The F-Call Repeater Network" - It isn't but does often feel this way.

Computers. Where to begin. If it's made by DEC, SGI, IBM, HP, NCR, Fujitsu, Amdahl, Commodore .. does not run windows, is an SBC or generally old, I'm probably interested in it. More on this later.

Languages. C, Assembler (many dialects.. I'm quite a tart), C++, COBOL (seriously), Fortran, Ada, PASCAL and BASIC.

If you're a visual person that simply must have a picture, here's an image of me modeling a tea towel taken late 2013. You may use this to scare small children. Alternatively me when I'm fluffy.

I've also noticed that quietly over the years I've amassed quite a collection of games systems. More on this later.


Computers:
  • Digital VAX Super-Mini Computers and Workstation.

    I have many. I run numerous. I love the things. Over here I've got generally running a 4000-VLC, 4000-m90, 4000-m60, 3100-m10e, 3100-m20. Back at dad's in Perth, there's a 4000-m300, couple more 3100-m10's as they're like fleas on a dog. VMS I love on these systems. There's a tips section on the main page, go stare at it if you find this interesting, play with an emulator such as SIMH and see if you pick up the habit. Fun to engineer and program on. Wonderful machines.

    Bob Supnik's emulator suite. Includes VAX.
    Bouncing ball guide to VMS on simh on some linux host. Send Phil email and thanks. He's Awesome
    News site. Check the DCL section, so many useful bits! Also hobbyist licenses
    Old Hobbyist joint
    My tips for newbies. Shameless self plug.

    Digital Personal Workstation 5000/25. MIPS Ultrix & OSF/1 system. Really nice little box.


  • Digital pdp-11 Mini-Computers.

    I've got a few now. Thanks to Groggy off IRC getting my first, I now have board-sets for the 11/73, 11/23, 11/02, 11/23Plus, 11/53+ (ROM/Resistor hack of a DEC Terminal Server) and an 11/83 without PMI. Fun stuff. These machines are incredibly interesting to me, but sadly I am plagued with power supply problems. Once one is working for a while, something goes wrong. I think I'm just unlucky. Still love them. I enjoy RSX-11M, 2.11BSD, RSTS-E and recently fired up the ex-SOVIET era copy of tetris on the /23Plus. That was fun to get the original tetris running. Pity thought that I had another RL-02 head-crash.


  • Silicon Graphics Inc

    Well. Since I got my first Indy back around 1995, I've had an SGI switched on where ever I've lived. These days it's a modest SGI o2 which does shell, compiler duties, IRC, nethack, MIPSPro ..and other fun games. Great machines. Currently I have:

    Indy. R4600SC 133Mhz with 256mb ram, XL24 (or XZ), Galelleo, Cosmo Compress. Irix 5.3.
    O2. "jazz" 180Mhz R5000. 18gb disk. Needs love as it's in a bad condition.
    Octane 2. This machine's currently just been built. It's current spec is: here..


  • Digital Alpha AXP

    I have quite a few Alpha's. They don't get much use and attention as the VAXen but they are used. Truth is that I just have more passion for the VAX than Alpha. Still..they're lovely machines and damned powerful.

    Funny Story:

    When I moved to Sydney, Uncle Doug moved down to stay with me for eight or so months. I needed a computer to work on at home as all my gear was still in Perth and hadn't been shipped yet (I arrived with two suit cases and a backpack). So I hopped on Doug's system, fired up Fleabay, and stumbled on this guy flogging a ES40 out of his garage for beer money. So I shouted "Hey Doug! Feel like grabbing the Ute and going for a drive?"

    A couple of hours later I returned with an ES40 and a 14" Samsung LCD (which burnt out a week later.. probably covered by the standard "10 or 10 warranty cover" ..ten feet, or ten seconds, which ever's soonest). I then fed it the latet firmware CD, VMS 8.3 on one drive, and NetBSD on the second. I now had my workstation. Hurray!. Next morning, I woke up and not having much in the way of clean clothes discovered there was no clean undies and socks. Quick! into the wash machine, put it on fast wash with extra soap and hot water. Eat breakfast. Hang the underpants at the back of the ES40, submit four batch jobs with dnetc cracking keys for benchmarks and go have a shower. Once the EV68's got hot, PM kicked in with those lovely 200mm fans and turbo-dried the undies. When I came out, they were clean, smelling fresh and stiff.


    So.. I heartily recommend big-box Alpha's in those rare moments when one finds themselves in a bachelors wardrobe/laundry malfunction and in desperate need of a dry 'delicates'.

    I have the following VMS systems:

    TS10 2gb RAM. Elsa Video
    DS10(s) 1gb RAM.
    DS20E(s) 4gb RAM.
    AlphaStation 4/166 firmware hack means 640mb ram ought to be enough for anybody.
    ES40 monster. 4x EV68@833mhz. 6gb RAM. Elsa video.


  • HP9000 PA-RISC

    Lots of people crap on these things, and I don't know why. Usually the people rubbishing the architecture haven't spent a great deal of time on it or was alternatively some zealot Linux user with a 32bit i386 complaning that HP-UX is not as easy to use as Linux. LOL! - Don't get me started on these people and the annoying attitude. If you've ever looked at the architecture, it's really interesting. I find the way the FPU registers can be addressed in more or less precision at the expense of more or less addressable registers in your window set to be fascinating. They were also the first CPU to be introduced with a SIMD unit (MAX(1))when the PA-7100LC came out. If your an ASM or architecture nut and you've been through the whole MIPS obsession, give these things a look. Current systems I have are:

    G-Class G40. Nova64. - Little known secret.. G-Class and T-Class need warm hugs or they won't boot.
    C-Class C3750. Allegro. These were the fastest Uni-PROC systems made. True angry-boys.
    A-Class. A180C Staccato. (Quite a workhorse).
    RP2470. hostname: grumpy.local.net - yes I named it in your honour Geoff! :P
    712/100 King Gecko. This one runs HP-UX, BSD and NeXTSTEP (seriously).
    Paul Weissman's awesome HPPA resource site. Seriously, check this out


  • Power

    I'm rather fond of working on Power based systems with UNIX. I have a few Power based systems and the Sam440EX Amiga. I find them all a bit crufty but great at getting a job done quickly. I truely hope that these new Power8+ boards that are being touted get some air-time from Google and aren't priced at insane rates. Currently I've three systems I mostly use for work running AIX 4.3.3ml7 through to 7.1.

    7011-250.
    pSeries 275's.


  • RS64 AS/400

    Okay, these things I'll admit to knowing very little about. They're a close cousin to Power called RS64, but aren't strictly Power. Now days they iSeries systems have evolved to run on Power, but this wasn't always the case. Previously they appear to have been 48bit CISC (IMPI systems) before the move to 64bit RS64. This is very left-field for me but they are interesting machines. It'd taken me more than 3 years to accumulate sufficient bits to get one up, OS/400 installed and to potter about doing simple and trivial things. I really don't know terribly much about these systems and have had to guerilla them from scratch. Just getting the console to come up was a mission. That being said, the little I've learnt about them, the more interesting they seem. Unfortunately IBM licenses the machine and there's no hobbyist program so every 90 days I'm forced to re-install i5r3. Pretty annoying, but still. I currently have three machines, two working. They are:

    9406-250
    9406-170. Upgraded it to 868mb primary storage. Nice box for a hobbyist. I call it Baboon because it has a red ...
    OS/400 Installation. Login and Library. Command Menu
    9401-150. Needs a new PSU? - Nigwil now owns this one.


  • SPARC

    I used to have a real passion for SPARC based systems till around 2008. Especially the 90's when I was a student. Since the Oracle merger, too much Java, rah rah etc.. things are far less interesting but I still continue to work with these systems. Currently I have:

    SunFire v480. Hostname: loudness.local.net. ..if you've owned one, you know why
    SPARCStation Classics (few), Fujitsu IPC, Fujitsu IPX (80Mhz Weitek!), SparcSTATION-2.
    Netra T105, v240(s)
    I think I'm most attached to the SS2..

  • And the rest ...


  • 8-bit Wonderland.

    Okay, this is going to be a long one. I have a lot of 8bit systems, both old and modern stretching from the original Altair 8800 through to the modern Briel Altair 8800 clone. I love and have built a number of homebrew 8bit SBC's, and have enjoyed soldering-by-numbers a few different homebrew projects from N8VEM and the recent P112 SBC and a couple of Briel computing jobs. I also have a number of 8bit commercial systems. Ah this is too messy and I don't know how to categorise so I'll just list the systems off the top of my head that I fiddle with.

    HP-85B. 600khz Capricorn RISC 8bit. (Not a typo..)
    Heathkit 3400.
    N8VEM ZetaSBC, N8VEM SBCv2. Both are CP/M systems. >14Mhz angry-boys and 512kb ram with banked BIOS.
    Briel Computing Altair 8800 clone. and a MicroKIM-1.
    MITS Altair 8800 with 24kb RAM.
    MOS KIM-1. Commodore KIM-1.
    Applied Engineering Microbee's. 256TC. Premium. Premium Plus. 16k. Lots of spares.
    Dick Smith VZ300. Adhoc's now the proud owner and enthusiest.
    Commodore C64 and C128CR. The Breadbox. Rev. "C".
    Sinclair Spectrum. +2B, +2, +3.
    Amstrad CPC 6128. PCW8512.
    TRS-80 Model-I.
    SpectraVideo SVI-738. My single afirmative action MSX (almost MSX2) box.
    P112 single board computer.
    Texas Instruments CC-40 (Compact Computer 40).
    Fujitsu OASYS.
    Apple ][gs.
    V6z80P. (Fun!)
    NEC PC-8201A
    .. and a lot more


  • 16bit Zoo.

    Right. Other than the obvious pdp-11's I mentioned earlier, there's quite a bit of intel 8088/8086 systems here. I rather enjoyed CP/M on 8bit systems and MS-DOS for the era running single-tasking systems I rather enjoyed using, programming and assembling on. Feel free to bag me for this, but I quite enjoy even today settling down and assembling some code and being in complete control of the entire system.. and all the consequences. You just don't get this with modern systems. So here's a quick list of some of the 16bit systems I have:

    NCR PC4i. (Really like this thing needs PSU work). It also has the NCR Mini-computer dev boards and software for it.
    Amstrad PC 5286 (3 radically different ones. All the same model .. good game guys).
    Compaq Portable III. The early 286 version. Lovely amber gas plasma display.
    N8VEM Xi8088 and the ISA backplane - This one needs more work to get it stable
    N8VEM SBC188.
    NEC Powermate Portable - Luggable 286.

  • 32bit Randoms.

    Okay, before we get started, I like to think of anything with a 68000 and up as being 32bit, despite the original 68000, 68010, 68012 all having 16bit buses and the 68008 (and 68EC000 in 8bit mode) having an 8bit data bus / 24bit address bus. Internally they have 32bit registers so this "16/32" definition people like to use gets messy with the 68020 upwards so to me they're all 32bit in the world that is my head. Same goes for things such as 386SX and 486SLC. VAX was dealt with earlier and deserves it's own spesh section up above. Basically if it's running m68k, VAX, PA-RISC, Power, MIPS and is 32bit, I'll be interested. If it's a 32bit PC, vaguely interesting. List:

    Amigas: 1000, 2000, 3000, 3000UX, 1200T, Sam440EX, MiniMig, MiST.
    IBM RS/6000s. There's a few.
    HP-9000. G-Class (really!). 713/100 King Gecko, A180C. Several others.
    Digital Venturis 486's. Couple. One gets considerable use.
    Compaq Portable III - early 386DX prototype with without the 386 badges. Luggable.
    Cobalt Qube 2700.
    Cobalt Qube 2.
    PowerMac's .. three. Not particulary interesting any more.
    Fujitsu TeamServer M700i. - I quite like this thing. 1gb RAM. 6xPPRO cpu's. Runs BSD nicely
    HP9000-3xx. Old motorola 68k HP-UX and BASIC systems. Pretty interesting.
    Sun 3/80. "Hydra"

  • Games Systems

    I've noticed over the years that I've amassed a number of games systems. I realise that this doesn't fit with my traditional computing interests. One thing I've done on and off for most of the platforms I've collected over the years was experiment with getting code I've written to execute on them. On second thought, perhaps this is where it fits in with my other interests as I enjoy coding on esoteric computer systems, games systems are probably "just another interesting system". I think I'm most interested in the NeoGeo gear and my Sega Master System. I also like to track down Flash carts so I can stick all of the actual cartridges away in air-tight boxes and avoid the space. For this sort of thing I enjoy generally the "EverDrive" products. They're great. So, here's a partial list:

    Neo Geo MVS 2F. Consolised. I've put a scan line and scan doubler board in it, and HDMI with sound out. Games List
    Taito-F3 Current restoration project
    Atari 2600. Harmony Cart
    Sega Master System II. Master Everdrive
    Nintendo Wii. Gave to my mate Greg. Discovered I wasn't ineresed in it.
    Sega Mega Drive. Mega Everdrive
    Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Super EverDrive
    Nintendo 64. 64Drive from RetroActive
    Sony Playstation (1). Original grey box
    Sony Playstation 2. Fat with HDD and Ethernet Adapter. 2 more for spare parts
    Sony Playstation 3. On loan. Not terribly interested in this system.
    Nintendo GameBoy. EverdriveGB. Love this old thing
    Nintendo GameBoy Advanced. R4 cart. Good fun, not as much fun as original.
    NEC Turbo Grafx-16. TurboEverDrive. Second favourite to my SMS
    MicroSoft Xbox (Classic)
    MicroSoft Xbox-360
    Microsoft Xboxone.


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