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Fall Project Time


REM - The Wrong Child

I recently started bringing in a truly special collection of Atari hardware. I was expecting to pick up an ST and some software, and when we arrived found not only that that ST had loads of peripherals and neat stuff to test out, but lots of 8-bit hardware and an XE Game System as well. I actually had to do this in trips just to make sure I had somewhere rational to store all of it while we inventory it and do any repairs and cleanup needed before we start trying to see what other more serious collectors might want to take in. But honestly how could I pass this up an XEGS for this room?

We really only need to make a stand for the 2600 that will let you see and use both systems. All the power and A/V stuff routes to that shelf so we can just fire them up in place and start playing.

But what this really spawned is a project to start building furniture in the office. Natalie has this habit of doing projects while I'm out of town on business as a surprise for when I get back, so in 2015, before the full house renovation, while I was on a trip to a datacenter for a week Natalie built this bookshelf. At the same time she uncovered the awesome tile floor in the office which had been hidden under the crappiest industrial carpeting for all these years.

However we're reached a tipping point with that thing. The shelves are 12" deep which is great for a bookshelf but not so great for cramming a bunch of computer equipment into. You can see it's way too narrow to comfortably fit that scanner for instance.

The goal is to build something deeper which can comfortably store an ST, Mac Classic, and some other small home computers as well as just bulk storage of Crap in My Office. At the moment all my network hardware, switches, firewalls and storage are buried under my main desk. Tidy and out of the way, but a hassle to get to if I need to plug new stuff in or actually work on anything. I don't want to be 70 years old crawling around on the floor to add a network drop, so we're going to get that stuff out of there. We also need just "Bulk Computer Storage" for larger systems like a Mac Pro, KayPro II. My desk and repair bench has been getting a little crowded lately, so I'm hoping a good amount of that stuff can move as well. Some of the details of what we're doing are going to be a surprise, but it'll be cool, I swear. I've told Natalie my only real goal is to have somewhere to put my laptop bag. All this stacking shit is making me itchy :-)

The ST is currently taking up exactly the surface area of a small storage cabinet, which is a little cramped for purposes of troubleshooting to say the least, though a couple of toys have trickled in since I got it, like an Atari 9-pin to USB adapter for a modern mouse and a supply of replacement key switch sliders/stems.

We'll be building more ST projects to share Real Soon Now, promise. Once we get our bearings from all the work office moves and re-shuffling these shelves. My word is as good as a Tremiel promising us all Falcons By Christmas!

So I wanted to save a quick "Before" of that space before we start tearing into the project:

That Panasonic boombox works and sounds AWESOME, but barely even picks up the FM transmitter from 10 feet away because the boombox's day-job is to hide multiple WiFi routers, a network switch and a 10 port power strip, so there's like 8 WiFi antennas right up against the tuner, not ideal. Be nice to clear that up.

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Photo Backup


I'm just sticking this here because it seems Mr. Santorum is reportedly expending some effort to get this photo removed from anywhere it's found on the Internet.

So here's a photo of Rick Santorum with his arm around Russian spy and notorious honey trap Maria Butina. I mean, I'm not saying he fucked her, though it seems many other Republicans did. So if he didn't fuck her, then Santorum either missed out or dodged a bullet depending on how you look at it.

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Kodi Machine Screensaver Notes


Veruca Salt - Born Entertainer

I've just spent too long messing with a small PC to replace my Raspberry Pi Kodi machine. Problem was that the system would blank the screen after 10 minutes and there's too much stuff to test, and each test takes 10 minutes. Make a change, reboot, wait 10 minutes, make another change, and so on.

The problem was the Xorg default screen blanking, and it was fixed by creating /etc/X11/xorg.conf, with only the following config in it:

Section "ServerFlags"
Option "IgnoreABI" "True"
Option "BlankTime" "0"
Option "StandbyTime" "0"
Option "SuspendTime" "0"
Option "OffTime" "0"

I had previously tried a bunch of stuff with setterm and enabling rc.local to run from Systemd, all to no avail, so I wanted to document this one for the next time.

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Twitter is going on the pile


Josh Hawley memes are the only thing trending and showing up in my feed right now.

Kinzinger and Cheney are hopefully having to do some real thinking. The fact that their entire party is still either in avid support of Trump or had no problem with endorsing him while campaigning in 2020. This was so obvious for so long, and those two are the "Your Lifelong Conservative Parents" of Congress. They will not be in Congress in January by the looks of things.

One line, just barely too far for TWO members of congress. They get zero support from their peers in public..

Their leaders have run screaming away from their statements on the 6th and 7th. They are all actively stonewalling and obstructing the committee. Ignoring subpoenas. Literally /running/ from them, like with their actual legs. "Liberal Lies and Conspiracy". RINOs.

This could really really blow things up.

Hopefully we win.

But I'm glad to see no time was wasted scoring cheap political points after the speech against /exactly that thing/ we just watched.

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Search for Certificates on Windows Systems


Nine Inch Nails - Broken

Here are a lot of words about what's essentially a one-line CMD + Powershell script...

I've recently run into a situation where a trusted root certificate authority certificate was missing from several Windows systems in multiple locations and domains. This was causing an issue with automation which reached out to a site which had a certificate signed by that CA. I can see a good use case for this if an organization has their own CA and needs to verify that all endpoints have that CA certificate in their trust store for example.

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Mac Classic Pt. 2 - This is Fine


Pailhead - I Will Refuse

Note: I say "We" a lot. Natalie has been doing at least as much of this work as me. She has a whole method that she likes for the tantalum caps so she pretty much installed all of those. She even discharged the CRT. We learned later that the Classic seems to bleed the CRT automatically which is nice. I'm still sticking a screwdriver back there every time though just to make sure.

Good and bad news on the Mac Classic front.

If you read in part one, we over-paid a princely sum for a Mac which "Works as intended", but which should really have been "For parts or repair" for 1/3 what we paid.

So I'm personally beholden to make this fucker run regardless of personal cost in blood or treasure at this point.

"Rookies do very tidy job and rightfully feel pleased"

We recapped the motherboard on the Mac Classic. We got a heat gun, generous with the tape all around to make sure we didn't mess up any other components, and quickly and easily got the old parts off, we cleaned the pads up with solder wick, tinned them with new solder and put in the replacement tantalum caps, applying a bit of flux and cleaning regularly along the way. No damaged pads, everything went extremely smoothly regardless of which of us held the iron. Natalie really did most of the installation of the new parts.



"Rookie makes Rookie Mistake"

The eagle-eyed among you already see why my office smelled like shit all day last Saturday. Of course, tantalums don't note polarity the same way any electrolytic I've dealt with has. So we installed them all backwards.

I know I have seen at least one person mention that while doing a recap and replacing electrolytics with tantalums. In fact, in the box from the company we ordered the replacements from:

So it's not like there weren't ample people trying to get this information into my head. Oh well, happens. Here's the before & after, after the second recap:

I also took the cardboard shield off the high voltage board and saw sticky burnt electrolyte gack on the back of the board. That gack was the smell that took this machine beyond just "nicotine soaked" when you turned it on.

We've removed the high voltage board and will re-cap that in Part 3.

I'm in no position to recommend the hot air station we got, but it was just "not quite the cheapest one on Amazon". Came with some extras like a pair of side cutters and a couple pairs of tweezers, so that was helpful.

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Mac Classic - First Impression


"Works As Intended" they said....

Unless Craigslist Guy was using a sharpie to play tic-tac-toe on the wavy checkerboard screen, we have different definitions of "intended".

Of course if the intention is that we have a project now, well then Mission Accomplished. Replacement caps are on the way. The board itself looks totally clean aside from the standard nicotine layer gooped everywhere, but no visible corrosion or damage.

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The OS on the laptop I'm typing on goes back probably at least 3 years and spans a couple of different laptops that I've swapped between. I've done dist-upgrades on it and kept it current, and use it for hours a day. A couple of things stand out to show how little "work work" I do on this.

I tried to traceroute something and traceroute wasn't installed.

I was looking in my terminal config and the scrollback is only 1000 lines and not unlimited.

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Peter Murphy - The Sweetest Drop

*Skip to the RetroPie customization stuff*

Like every other moderately Vintage / Retro Computing person,
not to mention my whole job being what it is, I immediately bought one of those
12" IPS 16:9 Eyoyo monitors when I started seeing them pop up on some YouTube channels. Thing works great as a bench monitor, but it's kind of a weird size for use with 1980s OSes that expect 4:3. I found that Eyoyo also makes a 4:3 12" 800x600 monitor with all the same inputs so I grabbed one. Since the Atari branded monitors for the ST were 12", and I never saw any of these machines on anything much bigger than a 13" TV back in the day, this looks pretty much exactly as I remember and the correct aspect ratio makes everything feel "bigger" in the right way.

The Pi 3 seems to be completely sufficient for emulating a stock 8Mhz 68000, it just needs enough power, swapping a 750ma power supply for 2.5A made a huge speed difference in emulation. I'm not trying to make this a "modern" experience like PiMiga or anything that requires any more horespower. For software, I started with RetroPie for their package management and the fact that they've already done the work of building all their packages to run from the command line with SDL/framebuffer, plus the ease of tweaking things like the boot splash screen, etc.

Aside from that, it's really just Hatari and Amiberry. I found a 1GB ACSI disk image for the ST which is split into thirds and had a bunch of preloaded software. I've not added anything to it yet, but apparently the hero at 8bitchip has also archived over 1500 ST games and has patched them to run from a hard disk so I won't need to sort through a bunch of disk images which is great. I already spotted Oxyd in the list.

That all makes me want to get NeoDesk running, which I gather is possible though it didn't immediately work in the 5 minutes I had to spend on it. Like I said, for this machine I'm not interested in running a "modern" take like PiMiga. But "nostalgia", well, while I'd certainly love to have original ST or Amiga hardware, I really am more nostalgic for the content and getting in front of Vroom or Nebulus for 10 minutes every 2 months, and it's awesome that it's using the same desktop I spent so much time in front of.

The little boot menu I wrote just replaces the RetroPie autostart.sh file at /opt/retropie/configs/all/ with one that shows the user a menu to select the boot OS or shutdown. Windows 3.11 is a menu option, that's kind of TBD. DosBox is installed but I haven't done the full Windows install yet but it'll be fun to play Solitaire on this thing.

Little tweaks I made to RetroPie

I used RetroPie as my base rather than regular Raspbian because of their great packaging and basic customization tools. I just installed Hatari and Amiberry from the retropie_setup installer and they worked immediately at the command line. The retropie_setup tool also lets you swap out the default boot splash screen. I was expecting to just find the location of the file and swap in an Atari Fuji logo and be done with it. But they've built the tool into their setup utility, and even let you assign an MP4 so I was able to use an animated rainbow Fuji logo so it just looks awesome.

I made one edit to /boot/cmdline.txt to suppress the bootup log output, so cmdline.txt looks like this now:

console=serial0,115200 console=tty1 root=PARTUUID=8ee2ea28-02 rootfstype=ext4 fsck.repair=yes rootwait loglevel=3 quiet consoleblank=0 plymouth.enable=0

I copied /opt/retropie/configs/all/autostart.sh out of the way and replaced it with:



That's pointing to the boot menu screen. It's really simple but really what am I trying to do here? I did add a countdown timer so it will automatically boot to an ST desktop after 20 seconds:

# /opt/retropie/configs/all/autostart.sh

echo "POMPEY PIRATES" | sed -e :a -e "s/^.\{1,$(tput cols)\}$/ & /;ta" | tr -d '\n' | head -c $(tput cols)
echo ""
echo ""
echo "Press '1' For Atari ST"
echo "Press '2' For Amiga"
echo "Press '3' For Windows 3.11"
echo "Press '9' For Bash Shell"
echo "Press '0' For Shutdown"
echo "Press 'T' For Trainer"
echo ""
echo ""

msg="Booting Atari ST in"
tput cup 12 0
echo -n "$msg"


l=$(( l+1 ))

for i in {15..01}
tput cup 12 $l
echo -n "$i Seconds"

read -t 1 -n 1 system 2>/dev/null

if [ "$system" = "1" ]
/opt/retropie/emulators/hatari/bin/hatari --timer-d 0 && reset; /home/pi/bin/menu
elif [ "$system" = "2" ]
/opt/retropie/emulators/amiberry/amiberry.sh && reset; /home/pi/bin/menu
elif [ "$system" = "9" ]
exit 0
elif [ "$system" = "0" ]
sudo shutdown -h now


/opt/retropie/emulators/hatari/bin/hatari --timer-d 0 && reset; /home/pi/bin/menu


  • I'll probably install Windows and Mini vMac just to do it
  • Add ST High Res mode
  • May add a timer to the menu to boot to the ST after some number of seconds just to make it more immersive.
  • Add a "POMPEY PIRATES" at the top and "PRESS 'T' FOR TRAINER" at the bottom for authenticity

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    Nixie Clock


    Bloodshot Bill - Mary Ann

    Natalie got me a cool nixie clock project for Christmas. We've split duties putting it all together and we just finally got it all worked out and on the shelf.

    Overall the project was pretty easy, though you can see there's one pretty badly folded in place resistor that wasn't in the directions so we had to cram it in last minute. And we had a couple of issues with certain numbers on certain tubes, but it looks great in the end.


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