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Floppy Emu Update: UI Goodies and More

Please enjoy this new update for the BMOW Floppy Emu disk emulator as we head into the Thanksgiving holiday week. The new firmware brings a UI refresh, scrolling of long filenames, bug fixes, performance tweaks, a couple of new disk formats, and a simplified naming scheme and update process. I think you’re going to like it. Here’s a look at what’s changed.

UI Graphics Galore

For the Floppy Emu Model C, the user interface has been overhauled to take better advantage of the extra display resolution (compared to the previous generation of hardware). There’s a new start-up screen to replace the old smiley-face, and improvements to how the current emulation mode is displayed. I sometimes hear from customers who are confused about which disk emulation mode they’ve chosen, or how to change the emulation mode, and this UI should help with both. The active emulation mode is now displayed in both text and graphics during startup, along with a prompt “press SELECT to open emulation mode menu”. If you can’t remember that you chose Lisa 3.5 inch floppy disk emulation, now you’ll see a bitmapped Lisa logo and a 3.5 inch disk icon. All of the references to the PREV, SELECT, and NEXT buttons have also been enhanced with triangle and square icons to match the legend on the Emu’s acrylic case. It looks slick.

The new UI extends to the main disk emulation display as well. You’ll see one or two icons depicting the types of disks that Floppy Emu is currently emulating. Read-only disks are displayed with a padlocked icon, and in Dual 5.25 Inch Floppy mode the icons are also numbered for Drive 1 and Drive 2. It may be eye candy, but it’s so much better than boring text.

Long Filename Scrolling and Size Display

Do you have a file or directory name that’s too long to fit the Floppy Emu’s display? The new firmware also implements filename scrolling in the menus and disk emulation screens. It’s hard to capture in a photo, but it’s a smooth pixel-by-pixel scrolling and it looks great. This features was suggested several times in the past, but I used to believe it wasn’t necessary. The firmware truncates long filenames by omitting the middle section, rather than the end, so “Welcome Aboard – Disk 1, Size A.woz” becomes “Welcome Aboard A”. That’s enough to tell apart side A, B, and C, but now that I’ve seen filename scrolling in action, I have to admit it’s much nicer. The original method is still used when you’re quickly scrolling through a menu listing, but if you pause for a second, the highlighted menu entry begins to scroll and reveal the full name of the file or directory.

For technical reasons, long filename scrolling isn’t available for Unidisk 3.5 disk emulation. Whomp whomp.

Filename scrolling also creates an opportunity to show more information about the highlighted item in disk selection menus. If Floppy Emu recognizes the disk image as a supported type, it’ll show the size/type as a suffix on the filename, right in the menu! Imagine you’ve got your Floppy Emu connected to a Macintosh Plus, which supports 400K and 800K floppies only. If you scroll through a directory listing and see “Stuffit Expander 5.5.dsk 1440K” then you’ll immediately know the Mac Plus can’t read it. With the earlier firmware, you had to guess at this, and try inserting the disk before you could learn its size and type.

Bug Fixes and Enhancements

The new Apple II firmware fixes a rare bug that occurred when Dual 5.25 Floppy mode was used with a Yellowstone universal disk controller card, and Drive 2 was empty. Why would you run Dual 5.25 Floppy mode but leave one of the drives empty? I don’t know, but it’s fixed now.

For Macintosh/Lisa users, menu scrolling and alphabetic sorting have been sped up to match the behavior of the Apple II firmware. There are also three new floppy disk type variations, which I’m calling Small 400K, Small 800K, and Small 1440K. These are standard raw floppy disk images, except instead of filling empty sectors with zeros at the end of the disk image, the image file is simply truncated. You might recognize these as a disk image like “Tools.dsk” that’s 717K instead of 800K. It’s rare, but I’ve run across a few examples.

New Firmware System

The final change is the one I’m most excited about: an all-new system for naming and applying firmware updates. Before now the firmware versions had complex names like “Mac-Lisa-0.8H-F15”, which made sense to me but confused everybody else. The firmware was also distributed as two separate data files, one for the AVR microcontroller chip and another for the CPLD logic chip, and both parts needed to be installed separately.

No more. Beginning with this version, I’m moving to a simplified naming scheme using the date in YYMMDD format, with an A or M suffix to indicate the Apple II or Macintosh/Lisa version of the firmware. I’ve also merged the two data files into a single unified file, requiring only a single step to perform the update. If you’re familiar with the old update process, make sure to view the README file since the process has changed. Behind the scenes the AVR can now detect when it’s just been updated, and it automatically unpacks and applies the CPLD update too. I should have done this years ago.

Download the latest Floppy Emu firmware from the project page, or buy a new Floppy Emu Model C at the BMOW Store.

Read 2 comments and join the conversation 

2 Comments so far

  1. John Payson - November 27th, 2022 11:29 am

    What is the maximum length of a Woz-format track in this firmware, and what will happen if a file contains a track longer than that? Is there any support for groups of three or more consecutive zero bits (i.e. passing such data through unaltered), and/or 500kbps output rate? For applications only requiring 7 data bits/byte (e.g. double hi-res graphics), grabbing and storing a byte every 16 cycles would allow much faster animation than would be possible using 250kbps data rate.

    Also, forgive me if this has been asked and answered already, but I’m looking at setting up my Apple //c again and playing with it after a haitus. Is there an easy way to control from the front panel whether a disk is being mounted in read-only or read-write mode?

  2. Steve - November 28th, 2022 3:03 pm

    5.25 inch WOZ support hasn’t changed, and it follows John Morris’ specification. There aren’t any current plans to expand beyond the spec, sorry. The maximum track length in this implementation is 9216 bytes and oversized tracks will be truncated beginning with firmware 221128A. Floppy Emu honors the read-only state of the disk image as it’s stored on the SD card; it doesn’t have a separate UI for write protection.

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