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Oops! Laser Cut Material Thickness


Manufacturing is hard. The thickness of my supplier’s clear acrylic material has magically increased 15%, meaning that the latest batch of Floppy Emu acrylic cases are impossible to assemble. The buttons and light pipes don’t fit in the cut-outs made for them, so this entire batch of product will have to be thrown out. I’m hoping the supplier will agree to re-run my order or provide a refund, but I’m not optimistic since 15% is just within their stated tolerance. An expensive mistake in manufacturing for me!

For the past year, I’ve been offering laser-cut case enclosures as a Floppy Emu accessory, and I’ve sold hundreds of the cases to happy customers. They’re made from 3.0 mm (nominal) clear acrylic. With all of my past orders from the laser cutter, the parts I received had an actual thickness between 2.73 mm and 2.83 mm, and my design accounts for that. A case assembled from the old ~2.75 mm thick material looks like this:


I just received a new delivery of parts yesterday, and the material thickness changed to 3.15 mm! Imagine if you were building a house with 8 foot ceilings, but some of the framing lumber was over 9 feet – it would never work. That’s the same magnitude of change I’m facing now. The buttons and light pipes are cut from the same material as the case body, so now they’re 3.15 mm thick. But the cut-outs in the top of the case are only about 3.05 mm, and the parts won’t fit through. It’s still possible to assemble the six sides of the case, but without the buttons and light pipes it’s useless.

The supplier’s material thickness is rated at +/- 15%, so this is really my fault and not theirs. But +/- 15% is a huge margin. How am I supposed to make that work? If I make cut-outs big enough to accept 3.45 mm (+15%) thick buttons, but the actual material thickness in a future delivery is 2.55 mm (-15%), it’ll be so loose that buttons will just fall out. There’s no way I can see to accommodate a thickness tolerance that large.

Some of you may be thinking that I should never have made a design that relied on the material thickness as a critical parameter, and you’re right. But again, I’m not sure how I could have avoided it – any design where two parts meet at right angles with a tab-and-slot system will suffer from the same problem. For now, I’m faced with either re-cutting all the buttons and light pipes using thinner material if I can find some, or re-cutting all the case tops using bigger cut-outs.

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GS/OS 6.0.2 for Floppy Emu


If you follow the Apple II world, then you probably already know that a group of hobbyists recently released GS/OS 6.0.2 – a new version of the Apple IIGS operating system based upon Apple’s last official version from 1993. This new version includes many bug fixes and added features.

To make life easier for Floppy Emu owners, I’ve created this pre-configured GS/OS 6.0.2 hard disk image. It’s a 32 MB ProDOS disk image with GS/OS 6.0.2 already installed and ready to go. If your Floppy Emu has the Apple II firmware installed and is set for Smartport mode, then all you need to do is copy the smart0.po file onto your SD card, and power up your IIGS to begin exploring 6.0.2. Even if you don’t have a Floppy Emu, this disk image should also work with other Apple II hard disk emulators – it’s just a generic ProDOS disk image.

Some software-based Apple IIGS emulators like Sweet16 don’t like ProDOS disk images that are larger than 800K. For those, I’ve also created a pre-configured GS/OS 6.0.2 hard disk image in 2MG format. This 2MG disk image will also work with Floppy Emu, but I/O performance will be worse than with the PO disk image, so the PO version is preferred.

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New Product: Universal Adapter Extension Cable


Today I’m announcing the Universal Adapter for Floppy Emu, which improves the emulation behavior with certain Apple II system configurations. If you use the Emu exclusively with Macintosh and Lisa computers, then you won’t need this. Apple II users, check the table below to see if your intended usage would benefit from the Universal Adapter:

Emulation Type Standard Adapter Universal Adapter
   3 1/2 inch floppy disk ok-green ok-green
   HD20 hard disk ok-green ok-green
   3 1/2 inch floppy disk ok-green ok-green
Apple II, II+, IIe
   5 1/4 inch floppy disk 1437100947_ko-red [1] ok-green
Apple IIc
   5 1/4 inch floppy disk ok-green ok-green
   Smartport hard disk ok-green ok-green
Apple IIc+
   5 1/4 inch floppy disk ok-green ok-green
   3 1/2 inch floppy disk 1437100947_ko-red 1437100947_ko-red
   Smartport hard disk ok-green ok-green
Apple IIgs
   5 1/4 inch floppy disk ok-green ok-green
   3 1/2 inch floppy disk 1437100947_ko-red [2] ok-green
   Smartport hard disk ok-green ok-green

[1] Reading the disk works, but writing does not
[2] Apple IIgs with ROM 01 can boot from a 3 1/2 inch disk

The Universal Adapter also contains a protection resistor to guard against accidental damage when switching between the Floppy Emu firmware for Apple II and the firmware for Mac/Lisa. With the Standard Adapter, if a Floppy Emu board running the Apple II firmware is accidentally plugged in to a Mac or Lisa, it could damage the Emu or the computer.

To use the Universal Adapter, set its slide switch to the appropriate position, depending on the selected emulation mode of the Floppy Emu. If the Emu is set to 3 1/2 inch floppy disk mode, then set the switch to the “3.5” position. If the Emu is set to any another mode (5 1/4 inch floppy, HD20 hard disk, Smartport hard disk), then set the switch to the “other” position. Setting the switch to the wrong position won’t harm anything, but it may cause disk-related errors.


So how does the Universal Adapter work, and how does it differ from the Standard Adapter? The Standard Adapter is a passive device that maps the 19 pins of a male DB-19 connector to the 20 pins of a male 10×2 shrouded header. It rearranges the order of the signals on the pins, but it doesn’t alter them or affect them in any way. In contrast, the Universal Adapter is an active device with an on-board IC that helps with Apple II disk connections. Because the Floppy Emu hardware was originally designed for the Macintosh, it can’t handle some Apple II disk signals correctly, so the Universal Adapter does the necessary interface work. Depending on the switch setting, the disk drive enable signal from the computer may be modified before it’s passed on to the Floppy Emu, and some signals will be forced to different voltages.

It’s OK to use the Universal Adapter with a Mac or Lisa computer, even though it’s not needed for those systems – that’s why it’s called “universal”. People who use a single Floppy Emu board with both Mac and Apple II computers may find this convenient.

The Universal Adapter is available for sale now at the Floppy Emu product page. It includes a detachable three foot extension cable (about 1 meter), just like the Standard Adapter/Cable, and it’s available by itself or bundled with a new Floppy Emu board.

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Smartport Firmware Update

I’ve posted a new version of the Apple II firmware for Floppy Emu, that addresses some issues with Smartport hard disk emulation on the Apple IIc and IIc+:

  • Fixed a display bug with ProDOS disk names on the LCD
  • All Smartport disks should now be detected during the first cold boot – no warm restart necessary
  • Apple IIc+ can now use the internal 3.5 inch floppy drive simultaneously with external emulated Smartport disks

You can download the new firmware here: apple-II-0.1J3-F6

On the Apple IIc and IIGS, you can have up to four Smartport disks, which will appear as slot 5 drives 1 and 2, and slot 2 drives 1 and 2. On the Apple IIc+, slot 5 drive 1 is the internal 3.5 inch drive, and the computer is limited to using at most three Smartport disks.

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Floppy Emu – Apple II Demo Video

11 minutes of unrehearsed video showing off the new Apple II firmware features of Floppy Emu. And you get to see what a mess my desk is.

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2 GB Smartport Hard Drive for Apple IIGS

Fancy a 2 GB mass storage solution for your Apple IIGS? Last week I released new Smartport-capable firmware for the Floppy Emu disk emulator. It can emulate up to four simultaneous Smartport hard drives, which I thought were limited to 32 MB each, but it turns out that’s not true! As Ken Buchholz of explained to me, 32 MB is the maximum size of a ProDOS volume, but the underlying Smartport protocol supports drive sizes up to 8 GB. By using a filesystem other than ProDOS that supports larger volume sizes, you can take advantage of that extra potential.

So what filesystem should you use? On the Apple IIGS, the computer must boot from a ProDOS volume, but under GS/OS 6.0.1 it can mount secondary volumes in HFS format – the same filesystem format used by vintage Macintosh computers. Of course you won’t be storing Macintosh files in that volume, but Apple II files. HFS supports volume sizes up to 2 GB, so if you combine a 32 MB primary ProDOS volume for booting with a 2 GB secondary HFS volume for all your warez, you’ll be good to go! On a IIGS with the Floppy Emu under Smartport emulation mode, this is as easy as putting two files on your SD card: a 32 MB smart0.PO containing GS/OS 6.0.1, and a larger (up to 2 GB) smart1.PO formatted as an HFS volume, containing whatever other files you want. Apple2Online has some blank HFS disk images of various sizes in their CFFA3000 area, which are perfect for Apple II usage.

The screenshot below shows a 512 MB HFS volume, with a few Apple II files stored on it. I got impatient and didn’t want to wait for a 2 GB disk image to copy to my SD card. :-)


There’s one extra wrinkle to watch out for when using very large disk images like these. Due to the way it works, Floppy Emu requires all disk images to be contiguous on the SD card. A 500 sector image must occupy the contiguous range from sector N to sector N+499, or else Floppy Emu will display an “image not contiguous” error when it mounts the image. For smaller disk images this is rarely a problem, but for a large disk image on an SD card with some fragmentation, it’s more likely to be an issue. If necessary, you can reformat your SD card, then copy the large disk image to it first, in order to guarantee it will be contiguous.

New Apple II firmware apple-II-0.1G-F4 adds support for parsing the HFS volume name of a large disk image, so it’s displayed correctly on the Floppy Emu’s LCD. Have fun!

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