A bit about me and crazy stuff I like..

A bit about me and crazy stuff I like..

Right-Oh. I'm Al Boyanich. Hello there :) This is a bit about me, my professional interests, hobbies and some of the silly stuff I like. I was born in 1975. Parents moved to Perth from Sydney when I was a young kid. In 2007 I moved back to Sydney and quite like it and the folks I meet here.

TL;DR .. If you're here for the newbies guide / cheat sheet for OpenVMS Hobbyists, it's located --> Here <--

After a lot of uni, I now work 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).

Computers. I like to collect, restore, run and program on them. A lot. I'm apparently a "Retro Computer Collector" but am unsure if I like the term as it generalises my reasons significantly. 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. I'm quite handy with a CRO and my soldering station and hot-air rework. I am currently getting better at surface mount (SMT) and the hot-air re-work restoring old systems. A lot more on this later. I got into computers at a young age and ended up with everyone else's 8-10 year old junkers to play and learn on. Some may say the die was cast there or at the age of 7 when I was tutored in BASIC and Math.

Languages that I like. C, Assembler (many dialects.. apparently too much friends have told me), C++, COBOL (seriously), Fortran, Ada, Object Pascal and BASIC. See later for the technologies I enjoy working and fiddling with in my spare time. I value printed documentation and have amassed quite a good programming and system internals book library. This has also frequently been useful in my career when debugging difficult issues.

I grew up on a farm in my teenage years in rural WA and had a pretty engineering-centric upbringing from my dad. If something broke, we pulled it apart, fabricated and fixed things out of financial necessity. Thesedays, I like chainsaws and garden equipment. If it's made by Stihl or Howard I'm probably really interested in it. Recently built a Stihl MS200T purely from OEM spares. I'm enjoying learning about rebuilding old engines. This is a bit of a hand-me-down hobby from my old dad. My first 'modified' saw was a 25cc Chinese Certa saw from Kogan. Gasket delete, ground out the transfer ports to agressively change the timing and replaced the crank bearings with Stihl spares. Big performance difference. It was wise to try it on something cheap first and make the mistakes there. It's fun to use.

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 2m VHF radio, or IRC on #sgi or #technest and wait.

I like amateur radio. My callsign currently is VK2FVAX (NSW) and VK6FVAX (WA). I'm often found on Chatswood (home), or if it's a weekend and the antenna is up Dural/Maddens Plains or Heathcote VHF repeaters on 147.150Mhz, 147.000Mhz, 146.850Mhz and 146.800Mhz 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! Thanks BMARC for your service!). Currently I'm sniffing AX.25 packet, APRS traffic and exploring direwolf via SDR and a TNC-X on an Rpi in RX-Only mode due to my license restrictions. (..yes I enjoy QRP and playing by the rules).

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. Sorry, I'm not terribly photogenic. Alternatively me when I'm fluffy.

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

Computers in my collection: (Some!)

  • Digital VAX Super-Mini Computers and a SPIM 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. There's a 4000-m300, couple more 3100-m10's as they're like fleas on a dog and a 3100-m88. 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, program and work 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 (..Sadly Phillip Wherry passed away in 2015 due to a heart attack)
    News site. Check the DCL section, so many useful bits! Also hobbyist licenses
    Old Hobbyist joint
    My VMS tips for newbies. Shameless self plug.

    Digital Personal Workstation 5000/25. MIPS Ultrix & OSF/1 system. Really nice little box and one I worked on for a number of years and rescued prior to disposal. (Upgraded to 40mb RAM and a 100mhz KN04 R4000 processor). Like most DEC gear, the MIPS processor runs in 'Little Endian' mode. I also have one of the modern TurboChannel TC0 USB adapters. Modern technology!

  • 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.

  • 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 compared to my VAXen (Alpha Advantage anyone?).

    Funny Bachelor 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 8RU 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 oddly stiff from the detergent.

    So in review.. 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'. For the record, I now have many spare pairs of both.

    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.

  • 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.
    Indy. R5000SC 180Mhz with 256mb RAM, XZ, Galelleo and Phobos 10/100 Ethernets on IRIX 6.5.24f on SCSI2SD.
    Indy. R5000SC 180Mhz with 256mb RAM, XZ, Indy Dual-Head FB. IRIX 5.3/6.5.24f dual-boot on SCSI2SD.
    O2. "jazz" 180Mhz R5000. 18gb disk. Needs love as it's in a bad condition.
    O2. "slippery" 400mhz R12000. 1gb RAM. 72gb disk.
    Octane 2. This machine's currently just been built. It's current spec is: here..
    Octane (1). Dual R12k@300mhz and 2gb RAM. Dual SSI+TRAM.

  • HP9000 PA-RISC

    I've developed and run PA-RISC systems since the early 90's and still continue to do so to this day. I also have them running at home and still enjoy the architecture ..warts and all (Possibly a healthy dose of Stockholm Syndrome?). Lots of people dump 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 complaining that Linux is easier. I find the attitude frustrating. 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. They're pretty nifty. Current systems I have are:

    G-Class G40. Nova64. - Little known secret.. G-Class and T-Class need warm hugs or they won't IPL/boot.
    C-Class C3750. Allegro. These were the fastest Uni-PROC systems made. Rather snappy.
    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).
    RP3440 - 2x Dual-Core PA8900's @1.1ghz. 8gb RAM. Dual-boot 11iv1 and 11iv3.
    RP3410 - 1x Dual-Core (4-Thread Itanium 2) for HPVM vPAR OpenVMS. Upgraded from PA8800.
    Paul Weissman's awesome HPPA resource site. Seriously, check this out for HPPA infos

  • 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 7.3.

    pSeries 275's.
    pSeries p520. LPAR + HMC (AIX 5.3, 6.1, 7.2, Linux64-EL).

  • 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. I got to do some work on these in the late 90's but was not allowed to touch the server side of the systems as I was only a pleb user. Later I acquired my own systems and started that journey. 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 and the system to IPL for sysgen was a non-trivial 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 much as I can tell (sadly) so every 90 days I'm forced to re-install i5r3. Pretty annoying, but still. I currently have three machines, two working. They are:

    9406-170. Upgraded it to 868mb primary storage. Nice box for a hobbyist. I call it Baboon because it has a red ...
    OS/400 (This was i5r1 early days) Installation. Login and Library. Command Menu
    9401-150. Needs a new PSU? - Nigwil now owns this one.


    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 SS10..

    Fun story. A friend wanted some of the doubles in my enormous Solaris media kit collection I'd somehow amassed over 25 years of chuckouts from places I'd worked. So I discovered I have consistently Solaris 2.0 through to Solaris 11.3 and tapes for older SunOS based off the BSD tree. I was then dutifully informed that my collection is now measured in "70 Litres" as it fits into two plastic tubs in storage. This I find oddly amusing to be asked "Have you got any Solaris media kits?" to which I can reply "About 70L worth, why?".

  • And the rest ...

    R.I.P SPARC Architecture 2018. Boo-Hiss Oracle.

  • 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..khz)
    Heathkit 3400. (Motorola 6800).
    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. Me operating it badly playing kill the bit
    MOS KIM-1. Commodore KIM-1.
    PAL-1. A KIM-1 clone.
    Z80-MBC2 (from Mc John SRL).
    Applied Engineering Microbee's. 256TC. Premium. Premium Plus. 16k. Lots of spares.
    Dick Smith VZ300. Adhoc's now the proud owner and enthusiest.
    Dick Smith VZ300 with printer. ..another.
    Commodore C64 and C128-Dcr. The Breadbox. Rev. "C". "The C64 (full-sized)".
    Commodore Business Machines CBM8032 (Same family as the PET's but with more RAM and 80col and nice keyboard).
    Sinclair Spectrum. +2B, +2, +3, Next.
    Amstrad CPC 6128. PCW8512.
    TRS-80 Model-I. Found a loving home for it.
    TRS-80 Model-4p Steve loves it.
    SpectraVideo SVI-738. My single afirmative action MSX (almost MSX2) box.
    Atari 65XE heavily modded. (1088Kb RAM. 20Mhz 65c18. $etc).
    Acorn BBC Micro B+ with a PiTube accellerator.
    Tandy/Radio Shack Colo(u)r Computer 2. 64kb RAM. Twin Floppy drives off FD502. Now with a Cloud-9 Hitachi 6309E upgrade and 64kb RAM I've modded!
    P112 single board computer.
    Texas Instruments CC-40 (Compact Computer 40).
    Fujitsu OASYS. Jordan now owns this one.
    Apple ][gs.
    Epson HX-20.
    Miles Gordon Technology SAM Coupe. Completely destroyed in it's prime for a video prop without permission by 'Creative Types'. (See below).
    V6z80P. (Fun!)
    NEC PC-8201A Adhoc is now the proud enthusiast with this guy.
    Omen Alpha. (i8051).
    Omen Bravo. (MOS6502).
    .. 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, coding (C/Pascal/COBOL) 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 internals. All the same model .. good game Amstrad. *Sigh*).
    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.
    IBM PS/2 Model 30 - With a 80386 clip on CPU accellerator made by Australian company HyperRace/HyperTec.
    Monotech NuXT. Modern 10mhz Turbo-XT. 2mb EMS RAM. SBlaster. 3com NIC. <3
    Olivetti PCS-86
    Data General Nova (1) pre-prod prototype serial #2 of 20.

  • 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 (32bit internal and address bus) upwards so to me they're all 32bit in the world that is my head. Do we call a 386SX or 486SLC a 16bit CPU because it has a 16bit data bus originally designed for the 286 and cost reduced for 32bit designs despite the internal register width being 32bit? No, we don't. How about an 8088 being called a 8bit MCU rather than 16bit because it's expansion bus is 8bit whilst posessing 16bit width internal registers? It all gets a bit too hard and I just call them "32bit designs".

    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, CD32. 2000EATX (building ..difficult).
    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.
    Compaq Presario 7400. Win2k. Runs my scanner and fun retro-dev.
    Compaq Presario 700C.
    Cobalt Qube 2700. Kim VK5FJ is now the proud owner.
    Cobalt Qube 2. Kim snaffled it also. :)
    Fujitsu ErgoPro/X Workstation. Pentium 120 with 64mb RAM and the SCO 3.2.3 it shipped with.
    Macintosh Plus, Classic II, IIci, IIsi, Performa 475, Powerbook 540c.
    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.
    Fujitsu My333 (386-DX33 with FPU)
    IBM PS/2 Model 70 (386DX with FPU). MCA Snark Barker! SCSI and Ethernet. (The MCA Mafia. You're either in, or you're out..)
    Sun 3/80. "Hydra"
    Atari Falcon030
    Atari 1040 STFMe
    HP/Apollo Domain 425t.

  • 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. Oddly, whilst I have a soft spot for many of the games, I frequently spend more time stepping through the code than playing them if I'm honest.. maybe every ten or so years if I average them out. Odd, maybe. 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 six-switch woody and a Darth Vader. 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 (2). One 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.
    Fujitsu FM Towns Marty (2).
    Gameboy, Gameboy Colo(u)r, Gameboy Advance, 3DSXL.
    Atari Lynx (2).
    Sony Playstation Portable (flashed)

    I can be contacted via my callsign at google's email system.

    A note and a polite plea. If you want to buy something in my list, be aware I'm really not looking to sell anything and to 'trade' for things. Please don't ask. Additionally, if you are looking for props for some kind of video production, please don't bother asking. I've been burned severely by this twice in the past so the standard response is No, go away. The response for the persistent millenials who feel rules are not for them is rather impolite and in Russian. If you really want to and think you can convince me, you're up against it because the last group that tried smashed my gear and arrogantly tried to pay me $100 for my trouble. A quick ebay search showed that the unrestored replacement system would've started around $900US + shipping (It was an immaculate Bread bin and a Miles Gordon Tech SAM Coupe ..good luck trying to ever find one ..and it's been ten years) and then upgrades on it. I'm not wealthy and could not ever afford this. So, really just not interested in loans to nuffies.

    If you are looking to chat and exchange knowledge and stuff to get an old system back up and running so you can enjoy and appreciate it ..love to hear from you and share know-how. IRC is a good starting place. If you are looking for help restoring something for an ebay action, I'm not really interested ..sad to say. I've previously been roped into a lot of this over the years. It's easy to find people that will restore systems to running state for money, do a search. I help people in the hope of forming a link to someone with a similar system to me. That's the fun. Helping someone fix a system only to hear they've ebayed it and never hear of them again is tiring. Does that sound harsh? Hopefully not. I'm not a service is what I'm trying to say.

    Go back where you came from --->