Some upgrades and catching up

I was going to post on Friday, honest… but the last couple of days have been spent rebuilding my Beloved’s old HP DC7700 as a workstation for myself and then experimenting to find out if it’s powerful enough to grab better quality videos for YouTube than I was managing previously. With that in mind, here’s a recent test where I played Warhawk badly to the point where my arse was handed to me on level 7:

This was recorded straight from WinVICE 3.0 using OBS Studio at what I think should be 480P and, although it’s better than my previous uploads which were dumped straight from the emulator, there’s still some tweaking to do. The next trial will probably be without VICE‘s scanline generation enabled to see if that makes a difference and I’m open to suggestions on what else might help!

The machine itself isn’t done yet; most of my regular software is installed but not fully configured and it’ll be getting more RAM and a second hard disk – shown above and labeled as a “surveilance hard drive” which is slightly concerning, I don’t want Amber Rudd rifling through my source code – as well. I’m hoping those upgrades will improve things on the video grabbing front, but failing that a dive into eBay for a better GeForce card than the one already in there will possibly be in order…

YouTube activity

So things have been a little quiet of late, but people following me on social media (I think there are four… it would be more but my mum isn’t interested in the internet for some reason!) will have seen a couple of videos with test code so I might as well post here to talk about them a little more because it’s a bank holiday Monday and what else is there to do apart from watch Bond films?

The first video from a few weeks ago stars a Mockingboard sound driver. The Mockingboard series of cards seem to be the most common sound expansion for the Apple II series so when I was in a demo coding mood a few months back, it seemed a good idea to write something to play tunes with it rather than using the beeper. The tune itself is the loader from the excellent Atari ST demo Ooh Crikey Wot A Scorcher by the Lost Boys, composed by Jochen “Mad Max” Hippel.

Essentially, the driver is playing back a .YM sound file (the idea came from the legendary Matt Simmonds’ recent work at playing these files on the C64) which has been unarchived and unceremoniously ripped apart into individual streams by a cheap and cheerless converter before being RLE compressed to make it marginally more efficient. I’ll be the very first to raise my hands and admit that it’s a hideously messy and memory-consuming approach, but it was a first attempt and the next step will be to write an actual music driver for the Apple II game I started ages ago. The three reasonably complete demo parts already using this driver should hopefully be tidied up and linked for release fairly soon.

Secondly, there’s the footage above of a 24 character line scroller on the Commodore PET. Everybody knows how it happens; you wake up one morning and just get that urge to write a hardware scroller for a 1970s home computer that updates at one character per frame… erm, right? Oh, just me then.

This was something I was messing around with ages ago but tidied up and modified to move actual tile compressed landscapes past. The start of screen RAM is being incremented once per frame so the only real CPU usage comes from adding new column of data is added to the right hand side in a similar way to my Callisto scroller for the Atari 8-bit but, surprisingly, a bit more memory efficient. I’ve no real plans for anything to do with this code at the moment, but a “dodge the landscape” style game might be an option at some point…