Useful Newbie Links

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dilwyn
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Useful Newbie Links

Postby dilwyn » Tue Jan 28, 2014 6:34 pm

When someone is new to the QL and QL emulators, some subjects are a baptism of fire. Among these subjects, one of the hardest to get to grips with initially is that of file transfer, archiving and unzipping stuff downloaded from the web. I've got articles on these subjects on my website at http://www.dilwyn.me.uk, but there's just so much QL-related stuff on there it can be hard to find what you want when you're just starting to use a QL.

So here's a list of the links that might prove most useful to those just starting out with a QL, and also perhaps for those who may have used QLs for some time, but aren't yet confident of their knowledge and experience.

Some of the links specifically mention 'PC' and 'Windows'. In many cases the information may be at least partly relevant to other operating systems too. I don't have the experience of using Linux, Mac etc to know.

I'm aware that some of these pages were written a while back, so if you become aware of any issues that need updating, please let me know!

http://www.dilwyn.me.uk/gen/backtoql/backtoql.html - general article for those new to or returning to the QL.
http://www.dilwyn.me.uk/gen/pcqlxfer/index.html - PC-QL file transfer
http://www.dilwyn.me.uk/gen/serial/serial.html - Serial cable links between QL and PC
http://www.dilwyn.me.uk/gen/pcqlxfer/index.html - Using Unzip for QL. (Scroll down the page to the Unzip heading). See also Job2Bas below.
http://www.dilwyn.me.uk/docs/glossary/index.html - Like most computers, the QL scene is full of terminology. This article might help you a little.
http://www.theql.co.uk/Iwant2learn2 - Our very own Mr Navigator came back to using a QL after many years' absence. On this site, he shares his experiences with you!
http://www.dilwyn.me.uk/docs/index.html - need a QL manual? Need a replacement manual for second hand hardware you've bought for a QL? Articles? eBooks? Try here!

These days, a lot of QL software is available to download from the internet. Most of it comes as Zip files. By and large, don't try to unzip this in Windows or other such operating systems, they don't understand QL file headers. If you unzip a program in Windows and transfer it to a QL, you may find it doesn't work and simply gives an error message such as "Bad parameter". This is all to do with a subject called "QL file headers" - other operating systems don't understand these and simply lose them, with the result that a program you'd normally start with an EXEC or EXEC_W command ceases working.

The solution is to transfer the zipped file to the QL or emulator first, and unzip it there with the QDOS version of Unzip, by Jonathan Hudson, available from http://www.daria.co.uk/qdos/ or http://www.dilwyn.me.uk/arch/index.html. However, here is where you run into catch 22 - in order to be able to unzip a copy of unzip you first need a copy of unzip to unzip it with! Are you keeping up?

There is a self-extracting version of the Zip programs, but it's rather old an may not work on all modern QL systems, so I came up with a simpler solution. QL BASIC programs survive being transferred via other operating systems so I wrote a program which can convert QL EXEC programs into QL BASIC programs which when run rebuild the original program. This is called Job2Bas and is available at http://www.dilwyn.me.uk/arch/index.html. On the same page, there are versions of QL unzip and zip programs converted to QL BASIC. Transfer these to a QL or emulator, run them, and they'll build temporary copies of Zip and Unzip to get you started. Once you've done that, try the articles above. Happy unzipping!

Another subject which crops up from time to time is that of how to connect a QL to a monitor. These days, it is hard to get old-fashioned RGB TTL video display monitors, and the QL does not connect readily to a VGA monitor. You can connect a QL to a TV or monitor with SCART/PERITEL video connectors - see Scart Video Connection article at
http://www.dilwyn.me.uk/docs/hardware/index.html
but this is rarely completely satisfactory as you tend to lose a character or two at the edge of the 85 character QL Monitor Mode Screen and have to resort to using the narrower TV display mode instead. A workaround for this is to use one of the new video upscaler devices to modify the video signal. I've put details of three such devices in a VGA Monitors With QL article at
http://www.dilwyn.me.uk/docs/hardware/index.html
Some of these upscaler boards will let you use a flat screen TV with HDMI inputs as a QL monitor, for example. Cost varies, a few tens of pounds at the time of writing.

Speeding Up Disk Loading Of Large Files On Minerva - Hint (from Silvester on QL Forum)
There has been a long-standing problem with Minerva >v1.93 using FLP on non-Gold machines. The reintroduction of the IPC interrupt can add enough overhead to upset disk sector interleave. The solution was simple enough, use POKE!!53,128 in boot files to disable it (restored using POKE!!53,192 or upon reset). It can make a considerable difference to the time taken to load large files!


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Re: Useful Newbie Links

Postby Dave » Tue Jan 28, 2014 6:38 pm

I vote we sticky this!


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vanpeebles
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Re: Useful Newbie Links

Postby vanpeebles » Tue Jan 28, 2014 6:40 pm

Excellent post, now a sticky :)


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dilwyn
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Re: Useful Newbie Links

Postby dilwyn » Tue Jan 28, 2014 6:42 pm

vanpeebles wrote:Excellent post, now a sticky :)

Oops, I sent a PM to you about this but you were too quick, so ignore the PM!


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Re: Useful Newbie Links

Postby RWAP » Tue Feb 04, 2014 8:52 am

Some more useful jottings about using a serial cable to transfer programs to the QL appear at:

http://oldmachinery.blogspot.hu/2014/01 ... erial.html


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Re: Useful Newbie Links

Postby Mr_Navigator » Tue Feb 04, 2014 9:38 am

The RS232 connection is interesting as he has actually done it, however on another tab regarding the net connection, he describes this:

The screen memory (32k) of the computer A will be filled with the contents sent from the other QL in about 11 seconds. LOAD and SAVE and LRUN ought to work too.


Incidentally, here's the way to draw filled triangles on QL Basic.
neto_0 and neti_0 can apparently be used for broadcasting and receiving on every ID. The manual says broadcasting more than 256 bytes is unreliable, possibly because there's no two-way protocol when broadcasting. So things like sending screen memory the way described above, is not likely to work with "broadcasting".

It should be possible to OPEN channels (OPEN #10,neti_) for printing and inputting text, but this is also not so straightforward. Perhaps with machine code.


I've highlighted certain words to indicate that he hasn't tried this or has tried this between two QLs and cannot get it to work, this was always my experience :(

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Separately, without getting my Minerva / Hermes kit out and actually installing it in to a QL or RTM, was the communication improved on the NET channels with this mod does anyone know?


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Re: Useful Newbie Links

Postby RWAP » Tue Feb 04, 2014 11:34 am

The Toolkit II certainly improved it substantially - for the SBASIC/SuperBASIC Reference Manual, I set up 2 QLs and was using FSERVE to run a fileserver on one QL without any problems....


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Re: Useful Newbie Links

Postby tofro » Tue Feb 04, 2014 2:26 pm

Broadcast transfers work pretty reliably with TK2 if you can make sure the rest of the network is "silent" during transmission. If there are collisions on the network while the transfer is running, the content is however lost for all receivers - But that's more a principal problem than unreliability. I would think broadcast was never actually intended for large transfers.
With TK2 or SMSQ/E, the QL network runs all in all surprisingly reliable. I normally have my QXL set up as a server for the black box to connect and that runs really nice.

Hermes won't help with improving networking, Minerva maybe (don't know), but TK2 was the piece of software that fixed networking on the QL.

Tobia


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Re: Useful Newbie Links

Postby RWAP » Tue Feb 04, 2014 3:38 pm

I would have thought that the idea of a broadcast signal was for handling small signals between computers on the network:

For example:
Computer 1 : Broadcasts - 'File Waiting' - then waits to hear for messages from other computers
Computer 2 : Connects to Computer 1 to download the file directly using the fileserver, or maybe a direct transfer
Computer 3 : Ignores it as it is not waiting for a file.

The other example is for example, when using something like Fleet Tactical Command:

Computer 1 : This is the control computer waiting on signals - it broadcasts the latest positioning data
Computer 2 : This allows Player 1 to take their turn, then broadcasts 'QL2 Turn Taken'
Computer 1 : Interrogates Computer 2 directly to update its data about what Player 1 did
Computer 3 : This allows Player 2 to now take their turn, hearing the signal from Computer 2 (or possibly triggered by the signal from Computer 1), the broadcasts 'QL3 turn taken'
Computer 1 : Interrogates Computer 3 directly to update its data about what Player 2 did

Loop back to start....



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