For the past week I have been tinkering with setting up a Commodore 64 with a new mass storage device (IDE64 v4.1) I bought. It plugs into the cartridge port, it has an interface for CF card, 2 IDE interfaces (for external hard drives) and a PC Link connection for USB transfers between a PC and the C64. This device makes it incredible easy to transfer files from the PC to the CF card and then e.g. write disk images to a real 1541 or 1581 floppy. It runs its own DOS, IDEDOS v0.90 which implements several additions such as fast loader etc.
One of the advantages is that it has a built-in file manager from which you can access any device, e.g. drive 8,9, the flash card (drive 12) or the PC through PC Link (drive 14). This makes it easy and fast to shuffle files back and forth. However, I had run into a bit of snag when I first started using it and I decided to write about it here so others might learn from my mistakes. The main reason I bought it was to simplify storage, so I also bought a 4GB compact flash card from a local store. Before it can be used, it must be formatted to a CFS file system by a utility called CFSFDISK10B which can be found at http://singularcrew.hu/idedos/idedos_util20100514.zip. After having enabled Direct write in the Setup utility for IDEDOS, I run CFSFDISK10B, chose the default settings for numbers of tracks, sectors etc. Then it was time for creating partitions with ‘n’, where I chose the number of the partition, the size of it, and finally the name. Finally I edited the disk label (name of the disk) with ‘g’. So far so good. Then I committed the changes with ‘w’ and waited. And waited. And waited. Creating 2 partitions on a 4 GB CF card took apx 15 minutes. Didn’t think more of that and restarted the computer after the format was complete. It appeared it worked fine as I copied a few files over from the PC. But suddenly I noticed that the directory structure was messed up on the card. I restarted the computer, and to my horror it could not find the partitions (or even the card). When I read the drive error channel, it simply returned “76, HARDWARE
ERROR,000,000,000,000”. Scratched my head and restarted the computer several times, no luck. I repartitioned the card and the problem repeated itself, it worked for 10-15 minutes, then it gave up. At this time, I was beginning to think it was a faulty cartridge, and I e-mailed the creator, Josef Soucek, for advice. He responded quickly and was very doubtful about my gut reaction of a bad cartridge, since he does test them extensively before they are shipped out. Anyways, after having troubleshooted it for a day, I finally managed to borrow a CF card from work to see if it made any difference. It only took a few seconds to create a partition that covered the entire 512 MB card. Aha! That was indeed fast, but would it work any better than the last card? Yes it did. It worked flawlessly and the next day I went out and bought a new CF card (2 GB SanDisk) which was partitioned in less than 10 seconds. If I only had knew from the beginning that a format should be that quick, I could have saved myself a lot of grief.
Now I added a few plugins to the file manager (to extend its functionality) so I could read .d64 images without uncompressing them to floppy, but every plugin I run did not work. As
seen to the left, the header and blocks free are visible, but the disk structure is garbled. Sometimes the garbled directory listing contained text from previous files I had viewed, so I assumed it was a memory error or some faulty IC. I happened to have another breadbin available, and when connecting the IDE64 to it, all file manager plugins worked as intended.
Lessons learned: CF cards can be crappy (at least the 4 GB Transcend I originally bought) and computers may become unreliable (wow, that’s a shocker 🙂 ).
Now I am happily running my system with a 1541-II, 2 1581 drives and an IDE64. Next task is to get it online using a Lantronix MSS-100 device server.. just waiting for my null-modem adapter!