Two A3020's out of the loft

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SimonSideburns
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Two A3020's out of the loft

Post by SimonSideburns » Fri Aug 08, 2014 3:27 pm

I was away rummaging in the loft (as you do) looking for various items, and I located a box containing two A3020's and a mouse, so I bought them down the stairs to take a look at them, and see if I could get them to display anything on an old small LCD tv with VGA input (but no Freeview, etc. and only analogue).

At first, all I could get was a badly scrolling screenful of dots that at least showed the fact one was booting into ROS3, but after some frantic reading of threads on this forum I learned the Numeric Keypad 4 trick while booting, which still wasn't working, then I found out the machine's keyboard wasn't working. After opening the second A3020, I swapped its keyboard into the first one, and got the machine to display reasonably well on the small TV. Only one of the modes fills the entire screen, but that's ok for now.

I haven't found my box of disks (yet) so I have no software except what's built in, but I thought to myself that the machine was extremely noisy when switched on, and tracked the noise down to a hard drive. After running the necessary !configure program and selecting that there was one IDE Drive, I was able to view the contents.

Not a huge amount of programs on the drive, but considering I didn't even know one of the machines had one, it's a bonus.

So, my two questions are these:

If I don't know what type of drive it is, or what size it is, how do I go about archiving the contents off?

Having not really played with one of these machines before, how can I tell if any of the programs on it are worth keeping, preserving, archiving, sharing or not?

One of the machines has a Morley user port podule (if that's the word) installed, the other has an Acorn User Port/Midi podule installed. Are these desirable, are they worth keeping, etc.

I haven't tried the other keyboard again, but if it doesn't work, is there anything I can do to fix it? The flimsy connectors that go into the main board look ok, so I will give it a go, but I might end up with one broken keyboard. Are these fixable?

Both machines look quite clear of battery leakage, but I will still replace both batteries at some point. How much are they, and how often is it recommended before replacing them again?

Many thanks for your answers in advance.
Just remember kids, Beeb spelled backwards is Beeb!

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Re: Two A3020's out of the loft

Post by SimonSideburns » Fri Aug 08, 2014 3:36 pm

Thought a screen shot would be good:
IMG_20140805_213321 (mag0.2).jpg
Screen shot (well, picture taken on my phone) showing contents of some folders on the HDD.
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Re: Two A3020's out of the loft

Post by flaxcottage » Fri Aug 08, 2014 4:58 pm

Several pointers about the A3020s

The software on the drive looks fairly uninteresting although !Advantage is a nice word processor and spreadsheet and !Symphony is an OK music program.

The machine looks as though it was a primary school computer from the software on it. Coco is a control program and if you have the hardware to go with it it can be 'fun' to use.

The user port modules can be useful if you are into control via computers and the MIDI can work with !Symphony I believe. To use MIDI you will need some MIDI gear with 5-pin DIN connectors (not USB). To sell on eBay expect £10-£15 each on a good day.

A3020s can write to HD floppy discs. Probably all the software titles on the hard disk will fit comfortably on a number of floppies by drag and drop copying. To open an application folder, eg. !Advantage hold SHIFT down whilst clicking and then drag the file inside to your floppy. Each floppy in the set must have the folder !Advantage inside which are copied some of these files. These can then be archived using OmniFlop. I did this with just 3 floppies - I kept cycling them.

As to whether these software are useful - post them to the forum and see how many downloads they get. :D

Keyboards can be revived by cleaning. The Retro-Kit website has details of doing this I think.

Definitely remove the backup battery and clean the board. There are plenty of guides on the forum. A replacement is £4-£5 from Maplin (though you can shop around for cheaper). Varta is a good make and is pin-compatible. From experience their 3.6v cell lasts weeks between charges.

You can find out the size of the HDD by middle-clicking the icon and choosing Free.

Even if the second A3020 keyboard is junk do not dispose of the A3020. It will be an invaluable source of spares. For example a replacement floppy drive can be £40.

If you are in the mood, replace the existing HDD with an SD-Card adapter. It is a straight plug-in replacement. You only need a 1Gb card as the A3020 cannot format a disc above 500Mb. This will be just as fast but silent and uses far less power. The utility !HForm is freely available on the net and is used to format the SD-card. The forum contains lots of details how to do this.

Good luck with your machines. The A3020 is a brilliant machine and with the !LCDmodes module plays nearly all Archimedes games.
- John

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Re: Two A3020's out of the loft

Post by steve3000 » Fri Aug 08, 2014 6:54 pm

The A3020 keyboard membranes can be opened up (carefully), washed clean, dried and reassembled. Hopefully this will solve the problem.

Definitely snip the batteries out and give the PCB a quick wipe around where they were, while you've got the computers down from the loft.

Those batteries have a very nasty habit of sneaking up and destroying the computer while you're not looking...

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Re: Two A3020's out of the loft

Post by SimonSideburns » Sun Aug 10, 2014 9:08 pm

steve3000 wrote:The A3020 keyboard membranes can be opened up (carefully), washed clean, dried and reassembled. Hopefully this will solve the problem.

Definitely snip the batteries out and give the PCB a quick wipe around where they were, while you've got the computers down from the loft.

Those batteries have a very nasty habit of sneaking up and destroying the computer while you're not looking...
Looks like I've got some work to do, but hopefully it's not too much of a chore.
Just remember kids, Beeb spelled backwards is Beeb!

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Re: Two A3020's out of the loft

Post by SimonSideburns » Sat Aug 16, 2014 9:41 pm

Right, I opened the machine with the hard drive and removed said drive with a view to backing it up onto my laptop running Windows 7.

I have a small device that plugs into either a 3.5" or 2.5" drive depending on which end you use, with a standard USB plug on the end of the small length of wire. Plugging this in, I did manage to get the ST9080A drive to spin up via the laptop, but Windows was having a hard time trying to identify the drive. After one or two goes of plugging in or unplugging I at least got the drive to appear in drive management, but it wouldn't report its capacity, nor could I get a number of different programs to see it well enough to try to create an image of it.

I even tried to boot into the Hirens boot cd in both Mini XP and dos with usb support but still no luck.

Have I done something wrong, or it it the adapter that's up the creek?

Any other suggestions? Thanks in advance.
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Re: Two A3020's out of the loft

Post by steve3000 » Sat Aug 16, 2014 9:50 pm

Are you plugging a RISC OS formatted harddrive into a Windows laptop?

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Re: Two A3020's out of the loft

Post by SimonSideburns » Sat Aug 16, 2014 9:51 pm

Via a USB adapter, yes.
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Re: Two A3020's out of the loft

Post by steve3000 » Sat Aug 16, 2014 9:58 pm

Are you using any special software to read the RISC OS format?

I wouldn't expect windows to know what to do with a RISC OS drive, other than perhaps offer you the option to reformat as a Windows FAT32 drive?

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Re: Two A3020's out of the loft

Post by steve3000 » Sat Aug 16, 2014 10:22 pm

I'd also add that whatever you do, don't accept Windows offer to 'fix' the drive (if it does...) or let any windows programme write to it, as that will almost certainly render it unreadable on RISC OS.

The way I usually back up RISC OS drives and move large files to/from my PC is by using a 100mb parallel port ZIP drive on the Acorn side (you can spot them on eBay occasionally with RISC OS drivers too) and a USB ZIP drive on the PC side.

Another way, if you have an Ethernet card on the Acorn, is to use a network share from your Acorn to a RiscPC emulator running on Windows. I found RISC OS networking and RPCEm networking in particular very fiddley to set up, but it is great when it works... You can then simply 'share' the RISC OS hard drive from the desktop and pick it up on the emulator!

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Re: Two A3020's out of the loft

Post by SimonSideburns » Sat Aug 16, 2014 10:35 pm

Problem I'm getting is that the drive spins up fine (obviously I wouldn't let Windows do anything to it) but I would have thought that even it Windows doesn't know what to do with the drive, it would still report how large it is, and be able to show me the partitions on the drive (presumably the A3020 follows IDE conventions for partitioning the drive, but maybe not).

Either way, I would have thought that Ghost or something similar would be able to at least see the drive and allow a full backup, but so far no go.

Are you suggesting there are specific utilities out there that will accomplish this for me?
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Re: Two A3020's out of the loft

Post by 1024MAK » Sat Aug 16, 2014 11:12 pm

SimonSideburns wrote:Problem I'm getting is that the drive spins up fine (obviously I wouldn't let Windows do anything to it) but I would have thought that even it Windows doesn't know what to do with the drive, it would still report how large it is, and be able to show me the partitions on the drive (presumably the A3020 follows IDE conventions for partitioning the drive, but maybe not).

Either way, I would have thought that Ghost or something similar would be able to at least see the drive and allow a full backup, but so far no go.

Are you suggesting there are specific utilities out there that will accomplish this for me?
[-X [-X [-X
Windows will ONLY see partitions written like a Windows file system partition. Don't forget, a hard disk file system is not that much different from that of a floppy, and how many floppy disk file systems are there?...
There are many other hard disk formats and unless they are based on a file system that Windows knows about, Windows will not see any of them...

Linux may, if you give it the right information.

Mark
Last edited by 1024MAK on Sun Aug 17, 2014 7:06 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Two A3020's out of the loft

Post by 1024MAK » Sat Aug 16, 2014 11:13 pm

Oh, forgot to say, the "space" on a hard drive (as far as Windows knows) is actually the size of the partition.

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Re: Two A3020's out of the loft

Post by steve3000 » Sat Aug 16, 2014 11:14 pm

SimonSideburns wrote:but I would have thought that even it Windows doesn't know what to do with the drive, it would still report how large it is, and be able to show me the partitions on the drive (presumably the A3020 follows IDE conventions for partitioning the drive, but maybe not).
Unfortunately the formats are completely different - that's the problem. We're talking early 90's here, the only 'conventions' were a 512 byte sector size and fixed location of the MBR - it was up to the format what goes in the MBR. Just in the same way you couldn't take a BBC DFS or RISC OS ADFS floppy and expect windows to read them, even though they store their catalogue information on the same track as DOS floppies.

I'm fairly sure there was some commercial PC software in the 90s which could read ADFS hard discs. Maybe one of the commercial emulators still can? Another possibility is Linux - but that's really beyond my knowledge - there may be a suitable tool for imaging or backing up a 'foreign' format drive?

I do have a PC programme from the late 90s which can read ADFS 800k and 1.6Mb floppy discs perfectly and generate images etc. but this doesn't work on USB floppy drives (limitation of USB drives!) so I've not been able to use it for some time...

EDIT: Mark beat me too it!

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Re: Two A3020's out of the loft

Post by poink » Sun Aug 17, 2014 12:46 am

steve3000 wrote:Another possibility is Linux - but that's really beyond my knowledge - there may be a suitable tool for imaging or backing up a 'foreign' format drive?
'dd' under linux will enable you to copy the entire disk. (dd_rescue will attempt to do so in the presence of errors).

Linux can deal with Acorn partition formats and mount ADFS harddisks (and presumably images), there are some serious restrictions; for instance, I don't think it can do RISC OS 3.8/4 format ADFS. I do remember having my RiscPC's RISC OS hard disk partition mounted whilst running Linux on it many years back.

I'd expect most distributions to ship with support in the kernel and in programs like mount. Personally, I'd connect the drive via a USB-IDE cable, make an image with dd, and then mount the image (mount -o loop -t adfs ...).

Thinking about it, I should probably get around to doing this to my RiscPC's old harddisk, from when it had RISC OS 3.7 on it. I could use this as an excuse and report back. :wink:

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Re: Two A3020's out of the loft

Post by SimonSideburns » Sun Aug 17, 2014 9:08 am

I do have a tower case that runs CentOS which I can plug it in to. Give me an excuse to switch it on...
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Re: Two A3020's out of the loft

Post by SimonSideburns » Sun Aug 17, 2014 5:26 pm

What happened wasn't what I had expected.

Linux (CentOS 6.5) did show the drive had been plugged in, but it reported it to be a 2.2 Tb drive with no partitions on it (the former I wasn't expecting, the latter I was).

When I tried to run a dd command to copy the contents of /dev/sdi (which is the device name given) it wouldn't even read a single byte from the drive, saying that there were i/o problems, and as I've forgotten the root password I couldn't even try to mount the drive as an adfs drive which I know is a valid option after viewing the man page for mount.

I will try to dig out the CentOS install disk as it is also a live disk, try it again on my laptop and then??? I will at the very least have to make sure the drive is still working on the A3020, and think of some sort of A3020 based solution to the situation.

I do not have any way to network the machine to anything else, otherwise I would have tried to plug my A3020 into Econet with my Model B with a data centre and tried to access the data from the beeb side and stick it on a USB stick plugged in to the DataCentre. Scrub that idea, as my model B doesn't have the Econet interface chips etc. fitted anyway. Did the Master have Econet as standard? I do have one of those in the loft...

Next option would be to find out how much an Ethernet interface is for an A3020.
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