which modern storage option for the BBC?

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garfield
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which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby garfield » Wed Sep 15, 2010 3:48 pm

Hello all - I'm looking for some advice.

I'm interested in being able to quickly and painlessly load/save files on a BBC Micro (B+) and load/save the very same files on a modern Windows computer. I know there are some bits of hobbyist kit out there, but could someone suggest which one is best, or what my options are?

Thanks in advance!





(Background: basically, I'd like to write my code on a Windows emulator, then transfer it quickly to a real BBC Micro to test it and change it about, then transfer the code back to the emulator environment to continue hacking.)

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andyt31
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Re: which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby andyt31 » Wed Sep 15, 2010 4:31 pm

I would suggest the retro clinic datacenter.

I have one - you can transfer files via a USB memory stick.
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garfield
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Re: which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby garfield » Wed Sep 15, 2010 4:55 pm

andyt31 wrote:I would suggest the retro clinic datacenter.

I have one - you can transfer files via a USB memory stick.


ta.



Does that work with the B+ ?

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Re: which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby AndyF » Wed Sep 15, 2010 4:56 pm

Datacentre is your best bet in that case as you want to retain ease of use. You can stick your .ssd's onto a USB stick (or external drive, as long as its fat formatted) and away you go :)

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Re: which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby garfield » Wed Sep 15, 2010 5:07 pm

AndyF wrote:Datacentre is your best bet in that case as you want to retain ease of use. You can stick your .ssd's onto a USB stick (or external drive, as long as its fat formatted) and away you go :)


Sounds close to what I'm after. Thanks, I'll investigate it more!

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Re: which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby retroclinic » Wed Sep 15, 2010 6:36 pm

Thanks for the recommendations, I concur :D

Infact, it can be even easier, depending on what you're developing, you don't even need to use an image. You can save a basic program, or data directly to the USB stick as drive 5, and that file can be read straight away in a PC.

The only thing the USB drive doesn't support directly is metadata, because FAT32 doesn't use it, so for machine code, you would need to specify the load and execution addresses. For Basic, obviously this doesn't matter. If you need metadata, then you can use an .ssd (etc) image.

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John Kortink
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Re: which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby John Kortink » Thu Sep 16, 2010 12:15 am

garfield wrote:Hello all - I'm looking for some advice.

I'm interested in being able to quickly and painlessly load/save files on a BBC Micro (B+) and load/save the very same files on a modern Windows computer. I know there are some bits of hobbyist kit out there, but could someone suggest which one is best, or what my options are?

Thanks in advance!


65Link is probably ideal for your purposes, and free (cable and ROM can be got from me if you're not able to make them yourself). Just google '65Link'.

Otherwise there are several disc image based storage systems (which will require some additional steps, to go back and forth between the disc image and the files on it). GoMMC is the most powerful storage system, but also the most expensive. There are several other cheaper and more limited clones (sometimes with relatively useless extra features like USB), some of which are advertised on Ebay.

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ukretrogamer
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Re: which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby ukretrogamer » Thu Sep 16, 2010 2:34 am

For to-and-fro development, I personally feel your best bet would be the Retroclinic Datacentre.

I can speak from experience as I've purchased most of the available storage solutions for BBC, Master and Electron. (I missed the postman today otherwise I could add an AtomMMC to the list as well).

IMHO, the most flexible solution for the BBC/Master is Mark's DC.

With the DC, you can easily work with a disk-image from USB memory (not exactly what I'd call a "useless extra feature"), bringing it into a DC RAM-Disk or writing it directly out to a physical floppy-disk.

Here, you can work on it, change it and then write it back out once you're done via USB to a disk-image for use in an emulator very quickly and with a few simple to use commands.

An alternative *free* option (assuming you can make or buy a simple RS232-to-RS432, PC to BBC serial cable) is Jon Welch's DFS/ADFS Explorer.

http://www.g7jjf.com/

Jon Welch's software doesn't require installing additional ROMs into your Beeb (or even paid registration for that matter) in order to transfer disk-images to and from a BBC Micro. It's cheap enough at £5 per license if you want the added flexibility of manipulating disk-images on a PC/Mac for use in an emulator or with Mark's DC.

I use John Kortink's GoMMC and for the Electron, it's unmatched (That's until Mark pulls his finger out and releases his promised, long-awaited and even longer-overdue ELK-DC [-o< ) but for the BBC and Master, Mark's Datacentre solution currently wins hands-down IMHO.

Just my £0.02 worth...

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Re: which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby John Kortink » Thu Sep 16, 2010 10:12 am

ukretrogamer wrote:With the DC, you can easily work with a disk-image from USB memory (not exactly what I'd call a "useless extra feature")
All flash memory based storage systems do that. Just on different media. The point is that USB is not useful for anything else.
ukretrogamer wrote:bringing it into a DC RAM-Disk or writing it directly out to a physical floppy-disk. Here, you can work on it, change it and then write it back out once you're done via USB to a disk-image for use in an emulator very quickly and with a few simple to use commands.
The better storage systems like GoMMC do all of that, and read and write straight to the disc image, which is simpler and quicker, and doesn't risk loss of work on power failure. Using an intermediate buffer provides nothing extra and is just clumsy.

Why not highlight an actual difference that provides a benefit ? Like GoMMC's support for tapes, multiple harddisks, batch processing, superior speed, filing systems, dual disc operation, etc. etc.. Those are actual benefits. :D

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Re: which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby Prime » Thu Sep 16, 2010 11:16 am

I have a radical suggestion......

Perhaps this should be a topic for the stardot FAQ, as it gets asked now and again, and always seems to descend rapidly into "my storage system is better than yours nah na nah nar nar" which is not very productive.

Said FAQ entry should list all the available storage options along with pros and cons, and should NOT be written by anyone producing / selling the storage options to help keep it free of bias, ideally it should be written by someone who has used them.

This way when someone asks "what is available" we can point them at the FAQ entry, ask them to read it, and then come back with any specific questions if not covered by the FAQ.

Cheers,

Phill.

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Re: which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby Lion » Thu Sep 16, 2010 11:25 am

Without wishing to descend into a bitch-fest (I own a DC, GoMMC, *and* an MMBeeb, and I like them all), perhaps John could answer what causes the GoMMC to occasionally suffer from the "Corrupt ROM" problem?

My biggest criticisms with the GoMMC are:
1. The corrupt ROM problem, and:
2. It uses up two banks of sideways RAM on the Master, and although it is possible to circumvent this, it is fiddly and removes the ability to load a patched FS without extra work.
3. It (and the documentation) tends to assume you're fairly expert with the BBC Micro already - and routinely suggests burning new FS roms and even OS roms, something which is far beyond my reach.

This is not to say I don't have criticisms of the other devices either, but I'm already known for being grumpy and I don't want to go too far. ;)

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Re: which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby station240 » Thu Sep 16, 2010 12:14 pm

Prime wrote:Said FAQ entry should list all the available storage options along with pros and cons, and should NOT be written by anyone producing / selling the storage options to help keep it free of bias, ideally it should be written by someone who has used them.

This way when someone asks "what is available" we can point them at the FAQ entry, ask them to read it, and then come back with any specific questions if not covered by the FAQ.


I agree, but can we just have several people write a review of a single item instead ? Just a simple pros/cons list and a few words about using the item.

I have the feeling anyone with all of these devices has already decided which one they like the most and put the others back into the box.

I'd be happy to write one for the Retroclinic CF kit, its what I use all the time.

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Re: which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby ukretrogamer » Thu Sep 16, 2010 12:31 pm

Prime wrote:Perhaps this should be a topic for the stardot FAQ, as it gets asked now and again, and always seems to descend rapidly into "my storage system is better than yours nah na nah nar nar" which is not very productive.


Agreed. But make it STICKY so it's easy to find.

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Re: which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby ukretrogamer » Thu Sep 16, 2010 12:48 pm

John Kortink wrote:...The point is that USB is not useful for anything else.
Not entirely accurate. Mark already includes a USB mouse driver on his support disk and using the second USB port, it's possible to access the DC as a device under Windows. Mark provides docmentation for more advanced users to create their own drivers to use the USB port.
John Kortink wrote:The better storage systems like GoMMC do all of that, and read and write straight to the disc image, which is simpler and quicker, and doesn't risk loss of work on power failure. Using an intermediate buffer provides nothing extra and is just clumsy
Personally, I'd much prefer to work with a copy than change the image directly.

John Kortink wrote:Why not highlight an actual difference that provides a benefit ? Like GoMMC's support for tapes, multiple harddisks, batch processing, superior speed, filing systems, dual disc operation, etc. etc.. Those are actual benefits. :D
With the exception of tapes and the (quite useful) prefix option, Mark's system does everything GoMMC does but in a much more "user-friendly" manner IMHO.

I'm not defending Mark (I'm sure he'd do a much better job than I could) but you seem intent on attacking the DC as inferior where most users seem to agree it's the other way around.

I've never seen Mark post here saying his DC is better than the rest. The people who have bought and use his product speak for him.

As I said in my earlier post, for the ELECTRON, there's nothing (yet?) to compete with GoMMC but it's my PERSONAL opinion that I prefer the flexibility and ease of use of the DC over the GoMMC for the Beeb and Master.

I will stress the point again, this is my OWN personal opinon of these products. I'm not being paid to push one product over another but felt my answer contributed to the OPs original question.

incidentally, I've also experienced the corrupt ROM problem when using GoMMC on a number of occasions. It's not difficult to recover from but it's definately annoying when it happens.

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Re: which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby Samwise » Thu Sep 16, 2010 12:51 pm

Just to chip in here. This is exactly the sort of information I plan for us to capture in the wiki when I get it in. Which shouldn't be too far away now - once we're on the new server, we'll have complete access and be ready to get started. Wiki is next thing on the list.

The idea is that we can use these forums to discuss things, but we use the wiki to capture information and order it so that it's easy for ppl to find rather than losing it in the depths of the forum, which is what tends to happen now. There's only so many topics you can sticky in a forum before that functionality loses it's value.

This will probably prove to be an emotive topic when we get round to writing such entries, esp. as some of these kits are available for sale, so money is a factor. As such, I don't think we want to encourage writing them as "reviews" - we will simply record facts and specifications and possibly a brief list of notable features and any points of note (so long as that doesn't get out of hand), and perhaps a link to a suitable discussion topic in the forum where ppl can post their own personal views and experiences. The important point is that we need to keep the focus on what is useful from a user's perspective.

Sam.

garfield
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Re: which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby garfield » Thu Sep 16, 2010 1:33 pm

Well I'm impressed by anyone who knows their way around a PCB (especially one they've designed themselves). So my hat is well and truly off to all the creators of the various storage options mentioned here.

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Re: which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby jgharston » Thu Sep 16, 2010 5:43 pm

ukretrogamer wrote:For to-and-fro development, I personally feel your best bet would be the Retroclinic Datacentre.

USBFiler lets you access files stored on the USB device directly.

I use IDE, GoMMC and USB.

JGH

Code: Select all

$ bbcbasic
PDP11 BBC BASIC IV Version 0.25
(C) Copyright J.G.Harston 1989,2005-2015
>_

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Re: which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby John Kortink » Thu Sep 16, 2010 7:31 pm

ukretrogamer wrote:
John Kortink wrote:...The point is that USB is not useful for anything else.
Not entirely accurate. Mark already includes a USB mouse driver on his support disk
Like I said, useless. Although I realise that some may actually find the act of connecting USB mice to their beeb very exciting.
ukretrogamer wrote:
John Kortink wrote:The better storage systems like GoMMC do all of that, and read and write straight to the disc image, which is simpler and quicker, and doesn't risk loss of work on power failure. Using an intermediate buffer provides nothing extra and is just clumsy
Personally, I'd much prefer to work with a copy than change the image directly.
Then you're very special, and it is certainly the storage system for you. :-D
ukretrogamer wrote:I've never seen Mark post here saying his DC is better than the rest.
Really. You must have overlooked the childish signature he's been using for ages.

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Re: which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby andyt31 » Thu Sep 16, 2010 7:50 pm

Harry knows what to do...
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Re: which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby retroclinic » Thu Sep 16, 2010 8:00 pm

@ukretrogamer - Mark, I appreciate the effort, but just leave him to rant, I do. Notice no answer to Lion's questions in there, instead just a troll post where you end up getting insulted as well.

@samwise (and others) - Good idea, maybe have a forum with the first post is the designer saying what their product does, then the replies are reviews. Any trolling can be removed by the moderators, so you end with a user review that people can go by.

@John K - I'm not going to reduce myself to your level, so you carry on doing what you do best...
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Re: which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby John Kortink » Thu Sep 16, 2010 8:08 pm

Lion wrote:It (and the documentation) tends to assume you're fairly expert with the BBC Micro already
Such is the price of power and flexibility. GoMMC could easily be dumbed down to the level of its clones, but it serves no purpose if all that can accomplish is remove storage options. In the end, all flash storage systems, including GoMMC, require no interaction except for a simple *-command for switching discs (well, Datacentre does, if you want to write ... :-D).

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Re: which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby John Kortink » Thu Sep 16, 2010 8:18 pm

retroclinic wrote:@John K - I'm not going to reduce myself to your level
You have, way before me. :^o
Last edited by John Kortink on Thu Sep 16, 2010 8:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby John Kortink » Thu Sep 16, 2010 8:20 pm

andyt31 wrote:Harry knows what to do...

Who the hell is Harry ? :o

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Re: which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby AndyF » Thu Sep 16, 2010 8:26 pm

John Kortink wrote:
andyt31 wrote:Harry knows what to do...

Who the hell is Harry ? :o


Harry Hill :)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Hill%27s_TV_Burp

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Re: which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby Lion » Thu Sep 16, 2010 8:39 pm

It wasn't that I was asking for it to be dumbed down. I at least partially agree with you - the GoMMC does a lot of stuff that the DataCentre doesn't.

But ultimately, I find the DataCentre to be the more useful device, simply because it is more approachable and usable. Loading "tapes" from flash is all very well, but how many people ever want to do this when doing so requires you to burn a new OS ROM, and 99% of software is also available on disk anyway.

Neither device is exactly what I want, for every use. The GoMMC gets more bad press than it deserves, but that's partially your own fault, John, you do tend to assume that all potential GoMMC users should be able to solve their own problems. If the entire world worked that way, only mechanics would be allowed to own cars. I think you and the GoMMC have a bit of a PR problem, which is a shame.

Mark lives somewhere near the opposite end of the scale. His product is easy to use and well advertised, with a good reputation. But some of what John says it true - the "RAM drive" feature is clever, but it *would* be nice to directly mount SSDs off the stick. Saving your game in Elite and then forgetting to write the disk back to the stick is a pain in the arse. (And Mark's signature is *little* adverhappy.)

Additionally, I don't think I can see many popular alternative uses for the USB port being developed. But on the other hand - it's external and easy to hot-swap, so it deserves some forgiveness. The GoMMC requires you to dig around inside your beeb every time you want to change the contents of the card.

So OK, here's my super quick summary of the various devices:

DataCentre
+ Easy to setup and use. (Especially if you get Mark to install it for you!)
+ Easy to change the contents of the disk
+ Permanent ADFS "hard disk" available.
+ No special software needed on your PC.
+ Reliable.
- Have to import disks into "RAM drives" and then write them back again if you change anything.
- Expensive
- A pain to work with if you have a very large number of disk images.

GoMMC
+ Incredibly flexible.
+ Direct r/w access to disk images.
+ Fantastic search program provided for working with large numbers of images.
+ Handy Mac software available ;)
+ ADFS "hard disks" supported but:
- ...these use up one of your two virtual drives and so sometimes needs to be "unplugged".
- Needs special software on your PC.
- Harder to setup, arcane command syntax difficult to learn.
- Poor documentation
- Eats up sideways RAM on the BBC Master without fiddly modifications.
- Poorly behaved beeb software will cause it to fall over and sulk.

MMBeeb
+ Drop-dead simple.
+ If all you want to do is play games, a widely available card image makes it nearly plug-and-play.
+ Super-cheap.
- DFS only.
- Read-only.
- Needs special software on your PC.
- Unusable for Mac or Linux owners.

So there we go. Possibly my longest post ever. I need a drink.

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Re: which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby Prime » Thu Sep 16, 2010 9:00 pm

John Kortink wrote:
Lion wrote:It (and the documentation) tends to assume you're fairly expert with the BBC Micro already
Such is the price of power and flexibility. GoMMC could easily be dumbed down to the level of its clones,


I'm sorry I must take issue with this, you keep saying 'clones' I think that's a little misleading, yes all the solutions discussed (plus the ADFS based CF one), can use solid state storage, some of them also use SD/MMC cards, but since the hard or software isn't really anything like GoMMC's then I think 'clones' is a little misleading.

A clone to me would be a re-implementation that could use almost the same software like if for example someone designed a logically identical copy of the GoMMC hardware using say an FPGA. So if you dropped in the GoMMC rom it would work identically to the way it would work with your hardware.

Phill.

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Re: which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby retroclinic » Thu Sep 16, 2010 9:14 pm

Lion wrote:Mark lives somewhere near the opposite end of the scale. His product is easy to use and well advertised, with a good reputation. But some of what John says it true - the "RAM drive" feature is clever, but it *would* be nice to directly mount SSDs off the stick. Saving your game in Elite and then forgetting to write the disk back to the stick is a pain in the arse. (And Mark's signature is *little* adverhappy.)


Constructive critisism, now that's what I like. Signature changed with help from you :wink: Altho it does need changing completely for something else, I'll have a think on that.

Lion wrote:Have to import disks into "RAM drives" and then write them back again if you change anything.

Agree, if you just want to change one little thing, then it is a slight hassle, although only 5 seconds in and 5 seconds back out again (for this version... :wink: ). But remember you don't need to save to an image, you can load and save direct to USB.

Lion wrote:Expensive

For what you get with it, I think that's a little unfair, although I'll take it on board. If I could have the boards made up by a 3rd party in china, then the cost would come down, but hand assembling those SMTs takes time.

Lion wrote:A pain to work with if you have a very large number of disk images.

I get asked that from a few people, until I remind them that the USB drive does support directories! You can have different folders for different things, and it's only one command to switch between them, or load an image straight off from root if you know the path.

That's all I can type in this post, as the post editor still goes crazy after 15 or so lines on this PC!

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Re: which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby Lion » Thu Sep 16, 2010 9:22 pm

retroclinic wrote:I get asked that from a few people, until I remind them that the USB drive does support directories! You can have different folders for different things, and it's only one command to switch between them, or load an image straight off from root if you know the path.

This is true, but that's not really the problem, which is that both files and directories are limited to 8.3 length filenames, and there's no way to search the stick.

The GoMMC has neither limitation, and this is probably my favourite feature of it.

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Re: which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby John Kortink » Thu Sep 16, 2010 11:11 pm

Lion wrote:It wasn't that I was asking for it to be dumbed down. I at least partially agree with you - the GoMMC does a lot of stuff that the DataCentre doesn't.

But ultimately, I find the DataCentre to be the more useful device, simply because it is more approachable and usable.

Simpler devices are by nature more approachable, and that may be desirable. But 'usable' is nonsense. Once you have your discs stored, whether you put them on by dragging or by command-line (and remember, GoMMC supports BOTH), all you do is switch discs with a *-command, and use the disc like any other.

Lion wrote:Loading "tapes" from flash is all very well, but how many people ever want to do this when doing so requires you to burn a new OS ROM, and 99% of software is also available on disk anyway.

It appeals to the very few. Mainly purists who appreciate the genuine nostalgic experience. But it's there for them.

Lion wrote:Neither device is exactly what I want, for every use. The GoMMC gets more bad press than it deserves, but that's partially your own fault, John, you do tend to assume that all potential GoMMC users should be able to solve their own problems.

That is so nonsensical, it's insulting. Email to me personally is always promptly answered, all evening back and forth sessions if need be, as many users can attest to. And many more specific questions are (usually promptly) answered on the dedicated mailing list. GoMMC's support is in fact, as some have put it, second to none.

Lion wrote:But on the other hand - it's external and easy to hot-swap, so it deserves some forgiveness. The GoMMC requires you to dig around inside your beeb every time you want to change the contents of the card.

It's small and neatly tucked away, which is part of its appeal. And leaving the top unscrewed gives access to the MMC in five seconds. But I suppose that is all just a question of taste.

Lion wrote:GoMMC
+ ADFS "hard disks" supported but:
- ...these use up one of your two virtual drives and so sometimes needs to be "unplugged".

Nonsense. DFS can use one disc image as drives 0 through 3, while ADFS simultaneously uses another as drives 4 and 5.

Lion wrote:- Harder to setup, arcane command syntax difficult to learn.

That's funny. What is arcane about '*MMCDisc <fill in disc name>' ? Perhaps you mean the tools, but that's simply a reflection of their flexibility (in the same way that something like *SRLoad is 'arcane').

Lion wrote:- Poor documentation

The fact that it contains absolutely everything you need to know, which is a lot, doesn't make it poor. Perhaps it causes a steep learning curve for some (including you, apparently), but that is another matter entirely.

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Re: which modern storage option for the BBC?

Postby John Kortink » Thu Sep 16, 2010 11:22 pm

Prime wrote:
John Kortink wrote:
Lion wrote:It (and the documentation) tends to assume you're fairly expert with the BBC Micro already
Such is the price of power and flexibility. GoMMC could easily be dumbed down to the level of its clones,

I'm sorry I must take issue with this, you keep saying 'clones' I think that's a little misleading, yes all the solutions discussed (plus the ADFS based CF one), can use solid state storage, some of them also use SD/MMC cards, but since the hard or software isn't really anything like GoMMC's then I think 'clones' is a little misleading.

Like GoMMC before them, they all 'happen' to be based on flash memory devices, store multiple, named disc images in their original format, and allow access to them via (patched) Acorn filing systems.


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