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[#] Thu Mar 25 2021 17:16:00 MST from (Donovan Colbert) <>

Subject: Resolving local host names with SAMBA on Amiga with MiamiDX

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 The release of the popular Coffin Amiga OS image for V4, and its subsequent migration to MiSTer - has caused more interest in using SAMBA (SMB) on Amiga to move files from machine to machine. SAMBA on the Amiga has some limitations (the server you are connecting to must be a SMB V1 compliant machine, and modern Windows machines require SMB V2 by default). It is easy to set up your MiSTer as a SMB V1 machine as a file-share for other Amigas or a V4, and many NAS devices support SMB V1 by default or can also be easily configured to do so. 

A reoccurring issue I hear people having is that SAMBA on their FPGA Amiga will not resolve SAMBA host file servers they know are on their network, and know are on the same subnet as their SAMBA capable Amiga. If you're using Coffin and MiamiDX (which you should be doing, Roadshow is priced too high and AmiTCP has its own set of issues,) the fix is pretty simple. Credit for reminding me about this goes to Eric Gustafson. 

In Coffin, MiamiDX tends to run iconized and hidden beneath the task bar. The easiest way to bring it up in my experience is to go to Network on the top task-bar in Coffin and select "Online". 

MiamiDX should appear. In the menu on the left, select "Database"

The Database window will default to "DNSservers" 

Change the pulldown menu from DNSservers to "hosts" and click the Add button

The fields will become un-ghosted. Enter the IP Address for your SMB server, the server name, and an alias. Hit enter and the host entry will be saved. 

With MiamiDX still the active application, go to the Workbench top menu task bar, and select "Settings/save" to save your updated configuration. 

Your SMB host should now resolve by name.

[#] Tue May 18 2021 20:14:00 MST from (Donovan Colbert) <>

Subject: Reddit Conversation on CRT/LCDs and Refresh Frequencies for Retro Gaming

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My gut instinct is to recommend a Sony PVM - basically a studio monitor. They're *expensive* and rare - and there are a lot of true multiscan/multisyncs like those from NEC, Mitsubishi and a handful of others that really have the same basic advantage of being true *syncing* multi-frequency monitors (as opposed to fixed-frequency multi-sync monitors, which... )

Ok. One thing that seems lost in the sands of time - that I'll explain now. Back in the day there were basically 3 kinds of monitors. A Fixed frequency monitor - it can do ONE frequency (sometimes two in the case of some Commodore models - but each frequency was through a different cable) - but only that specific frequency. It was a purpose driven monitor designed for a single computer or a single video card. MGA, CGA, EGA and VGA were all generally single frequency displays. They generally supported one resolution. As SVGA became a standard, first with 1mb and resolutions of 640x480, 800x600 and 1024x768 - and various color depths - Multisync monitors became super desirable. These came in two varieties. Fixed-frequency Multisync monitors - a monitor that could generally autoscan the display frequency and match it within a range of *fixed* frequencies. The other type was a Multiscan monitor - and it could scan the incoming frequency and match it across an analog range.
So in example one... if your video output was in frequency A B F Q and T (I'm making this part up...) and your Multisync supported frequencies A B Q and S...

Modes F and T would be unavailable, and S would be useless, as your video card wasn't outputting at that frequency anyhow.

But if you bought a Multiscan that could do everything between A and Z... not only would it be able to match all those modes... but if you had a mode that was, say, A.1 or S.02 - close to a standard but just a little bit off, the multiscan would adjust to that weird frequency - too.
So of course Multi-scans were way more rare, and FAR more expensive. And of course, the terminology is so close and it hasn't been important in so long - that it is real confusing today to figure out what you want... which is why people go with the Sony PVMs. They're a true multiscan and they have a huge range of frequencies they can detect and adjust to - and so... they're the least hassle if you're going this route.

NOW... with all that said... here is the caveat. I mentioned I have a Sony CPD1302. It is a multisync (not a multiscan) RGB CRT with a 15pin VGA standard input that supports a specific range of common frequencies from I think around 13khz up to around 75khz. It was from the era when 486 computers were popular, and SVGA was big, and 1024x768 by 32 million colors was considered a *very* cutting edge display.

At those resolutions - another CRT factor called "dot pitch" came into play as very important. There is an aperture grill (I think it was called a shadow mask in Sony Trinitron displays). It is a sheet of metal with holes punched in it that the red, green and blue guns in the CRT tube were aligned to shoot through to "fire" the phosphorus on the tube and light it up. Because the holes were round - there were tiny little fine "dead spots" (put four circles next to each other in a grid, and there is a little diamond of dead space between them.) The tinier the holes, the better aligned the 3 guns were firing through those holes, the less dead space, and the crisper the image was.

Kind of like this. That diamond in the middle - that is *part* of where you get your "visible scan line" - the black dead lines on a TV or Monitor. 

So... by the time we got to multifrequency high resolution CRTs - the standard was a .28mm hole (or dot pitch) - and Sony had a .25mm dot pitch (smaller is better here...)

And honestly, that resulted in a display almost as crisp as a modern LCD display with hardly and visible scan lines.

Older systems like the C64, the Amiga, CGA and EGA - were so low resolution by comparison that they could get away with .35, .38, even .48 dot pitch CRTs.

That is what causes "pixel bleed" - the guns weren't real precise, they were poorly aligned, there was lots of dead space in huge visible scan lines and so you could offset pixel colors and *mix* one row of pixels with the one near to it and get a completely different *visible* color, and the blurriness of the whole thing actually made the image look BETTER and less "digital"... and modern LCDs can't do this - but a real high quality CRT with a fine dot pitch won't get the effect quite right, either.

Super fine pitch is GREAT for text. LCD precision is GREAT for text. But the blurry inaccuracy of older monitors allowed digital artists to do tricks that *simply won't work on a crisp display*.
And simulated scan lines don't fix that. It is a physical property of the design. To get the best genuine pixel bleed you actually need a low quality CRT with a big dot pitch.

And TVs back then, way before HD, 480i, 720i/p and all of that... weren't designed to be displaying text at all - even 40 column text at 320x200 or lower resolutions. So... the TV you played your console on had a HUGE dotpitch, super poorly aligned guns, and giant visible scan lines when you hooked up your Sega or SNES to it.

One side effect of this was that as we moved to HD - we started noticing things like the makeup covering the zits on a newscaster or other flaws that old TVs *masked*. Sets looked cheaper, you could tell it was peeling wallpaper, not real bricks in Monica's home on Friends. The blurry covered up a lot of things and allowed anyone using CRTs as a medium to manipulate the inherent flaws of the technology to do things that weren't possible when those flaws were "fixed".
So... the bottom line is - the the *most* accurate display you're going to get is by matching genuine hardware with a genuine monitor that was appropriately matched at the time when that hardware was "new". Your FPGA SNES will probably never look quite right to you unless you can figure out how to output it to a woodgrain 27" RCA console TV like you had in your living room in 1990 when you were 11. Even on the Sony studio monitor.

I run MiSTer and MiST on my CPD1302 for Minimig - and it is close - but really, it is too crisp. It would look *much* more authentic to me on a Maganvox 1084S with a far less fine dot pitch. The Sony CRT looks MORE like an LCD than it does like a period appropriate CRT for an Amiga 500/2000.

TL:DR - for a purist, A Sony PVM is the closest you're probably going to get - but even that won't be perfect. ;)

*Whew*. I should cut, copy, paste, and save this somewhere so I can post it whenever this question comes up.

Again, I'm not an *expert* on all of this. I'm sure if I got any important details wrong - someone who is will jump in and tell us how wrong I am - because this is the Internet. ;)

[#] Sun Jul 18 2021 09:13:00 MST from (Donovan Colbert) <>

Subject: The History of the CFRP Game

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Like many gamers of my generation - my introduction to the world of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons happened at my local GEMCO. The genre of High Fantasy had been "a thing" among the generation immediately previous to mine - embraced by Led Zepplin and an army of stoners scrawling, "Frodo Lives!" graffiti on their college campuses for at least a decade before that, but TSR and GEMCO were about to bring epic High Fantasy into the mainstream consciousness. 

Previously, nothing quite like AD&D existed in the mainstream consciousness. Medieval themes were relegated to princesses in towers and valiant Knights on brave white steeds dispatching dragons with a lance. Thundarr the Barbarian was possibly the closest thing my generation had been exposed to - but this was more of a Gamma World/Planet of the Apes post-apocalyptic genre thing. That was a genre that was huge from the late 60s to the late 70s - at which point the Star Wars Space Opera was replacing it as the favorite franchise trope in media and entertainment. 

As a 9 year old, my original encounter with the 1st generation AD&D Monster Manual was an amazing event. I was an avid reader, and when I opened the pages of this book in the toy section my mind was blown. I didn't even realize it was part of the rules for a game - I just knew I held a magical tome, an encyclopedia of a mind-blowing assortment of monster descriptions with their stats and vivid descriptions. It lit my imagination on fire.  

Around this same time, a new and emerging type of entertainment was starting to explode. The video game, both the "arcade console," and the "home console," (and to a lesser extent, among the very fortunate, the home computer,) were creating the first generation of children spending hours at a time planted in front of a screen blowing their allowance a quarter at a time to experience virtual realities.   

Due largely to limitations in the technology of the time, and the parallel development Star Wars as the Biggest Thing In The World - the vast majority of those games involved Science Fiction themes. You could take control of a spacecraft and avoid asteroids, defend your base or earth from invading aliens, or go where no man had ever gone before all day long. 

What you couldn't do was enter a dark dungeon teeming with orcs and goblins and beholders in search of plunder and treasure. 

The desire for this type game was palpable among my friends and I. Occasionally there would be an arcade title like "Warrior" - a vector graphics game where two knights battled with swords gladiator-style near open pits. For some reason these titles were rare and mechanically unreliable - frequently out-of-order. Much as depicted in Toy Story, the Cowboy was on his way out, and the Space Ranger was on his way in, and somewhere in between, overlooked, was the band of sell-sword mercenaries looking to make a fortune while also becoming legends of the realm by vanquishing some great evil menace (and maybe robbing some graves in the process.) 

The guys writing the games had all toked many bongs while listening to The Misty Mountains and reading Lord of the Rings - but their bosses, the guys in suits who approved projects - they were from a different generation. Their vision of Middle Ages fantasy adventure was firmly this: 

These were not the droids we were looking for

If you ask people the history of computer fantasy adventure games, you'll get a lot of disagreement on what the "first" computer Fantasy adventure/rpg games were. Rogue and Adventure tend to be popular choices. The problem with these earliest attempts is they were almost exclusively played on college mainframe computers by students and faculty that were already a niche group involved in "pen and paper" gaming too. There was no wide, mainstream consumer access to these titles - and for the most part, only those in academia had opportunity and access to experience these games. The games were crude and primitive, and did not have massive commercial appeal. In my mind - they don't count. 

This was what you got, and you were happy with it.

One early obstacle to these type of adventure games was that you really couldn't just pick up the game and play it - learning the rules quickly by trial and error. In a world of games like Space Invaders, Asteroids and Pac Man - adventure games required you to read and comprehend some fairly complex rule sets in order to understand the goal and how to succeed. There were no "in-game" tutorials and you couldn't just hop online and watch a Lets Play or read a walkthru. 

I think the earliest game that brought the framework of what would develop into FRP and Adventure games was actually 1979's Atari 2600 "Superman" cartridge. Significantly, this was a one player game, with a quest completed by collecting items randomly scattered in a number of different "rooms" or "scenes" that depicted the cities and subways of Metropolis. There were enemies and obstacles that could set you back, there were side-quests (saving Lois Lane from Lex Luther), and you could change identities. Fundamentally, Skyrim operates on an engine that isn't tremendously different than the engine Superman introduced in the 70's. 

Superman wins as the earliest attempt to bring a FRP game to video-gaming on a technicality. It is built on the engine for a game that was started before but released after Superman - a game which was arguably the first game on any home console to deliver a very primitive experience of the high fantasy Dungeons and Dragons FRP genre. 

There are 3 castles, gold, white and black, there are a yellow, red and green dragon most often described as giant ducks, a sword that looks like an arrow and your valiant knight is a block. There is a bat that steals things from you (and sometimes carries the dragons around), and keys. As a 10 year old in 1980, I played Atari 2600 Adventure obsessively with my friend. Adventure is also notable as the first game to have a secret Easter Egg included. A magic invisible dot that revealed a hidden room with the programmer's name inside it - snuck by the "suits" at Atari who would not credit the programmers who designed Atari games. Like Superman, it offered hours of play, multiple different difficulty levels. Once mastered, it was like a bicycle - I can still complete level 3 without a reset after 5 or 10 minutes of warming up, over 40 years later. 

Pictured: Green Duck, sword and noble hero

Here we should also mention Atari's Haunted House. Set in a multi-floor Victorian mansion infested with ghosts, winds that blow out the candle which is your only source of light, and other challenges, it was built on a similar game mechanic to both Superman and Adventure. Instead of a square, your avatar had been upgraded to a pair of eyeballs roaming in terror through the dark halls of the mansion, trying to gather and re-assemble the 3 scattered pieces of an urn.  

Possibly the most underappreciated early CFRP game came 2 years later, in 1982 when a company named "Starpath/Arcadia" released a peripheral called the Supercharger for the Atari 2600.   

This peripheral upgraded the 2600 to 6kb (up from 128 bytes) of ram with relatively high resolution graphics. If development of new hardware cycles hadn't been so rapid and the video game crash imminent - it would have been a far more popular peripheral for the Atari 2600. It loaded games from tape-cassettes - something at this point still relegated to home computer systems which were rare and generally incredibly expensive. Commodore was about to blow the doors off this barrier to entry, but that was still a ways off.  

Dragonstomper was arguably the first, most authentic and most epic fantasy role playing video game to arrive to market at that time. It really got the atmosphere right. The game starts in an overhead map featuring castles, temples, lakes, and forests. Monsters inhabit the countryside, often lurking near particular features. Dispatching them gains you treasures and plunder. Items can enhance or decrease your stats (Strength, Dexterity and Hit Points). 

The monster selection was sometimes anticlimactic

The goal is to amass enough wealth, strength and treasures (including papers that allow safe passage across a brdige) to enter a village. There you can stock up on an inventory of supplies and hirelings, at which point you venture on to the third segment, a dragon's cave full of traps eventually leading to an encounter with the titular Dragon you intend to stomp. While Ultima I had been available since 1981 on the Apple II - Richard Garriott's first two games were in many ways far less realized as a CFRP game than Dragonstomper. The price of an Atari 2600 and a Supercharger was a fraction of the cost of a single peripheral on the home PCs of the time. Dragonstomper was a more fully executed and far more accessible early CFRP in the spirit of AD&D than either Ultima I or II. There is no time travel, are no energy weapons, no space-ships to be found in Dragonstomper. But the general design of Dragonstomper shares much with Ultima III, where Lord British found his stride with his seminal Computer FRP franchise.   

The elements all come together in this game in a way that console games wouldn't match until much later when the NES arrived on US soil. By then, the landscape had changed with computer gaming becoming accessible and dominant. The NES FRP titles almost all had a distinctly Japanese anime/kawaii fairy-tale style unlike the more grittier, dramatic and realistic style of US games. Dragonstomper was the closest that the first wave of computer gaming ever got to an affordable, accessible computerized Fantasy Role Playing game, and it would be a long time after until the C-64 made this a reality for people of modest income again.

It is worth noting that around the same time that Dragonstomper was released, Pitfall on the 2600 and Advance Dungeons & Dragons became available for the Intellivision. The Intellivision was always an odd console that Mattel didn't quite know who to market to, and their AD&D is an interesting game, but more like Hunt the Wumpus on the TI99/4A than like Adventure or Dragonstomper. Pitfall is one of the earliest "platformer" games, with running, jumping and climbing from screen to screen to collect items for a score - but it is also an early "adventure" game in that it is a fairly open world, with different rooms, and a clear quest goal that can be completed, as opposed to just playing indefinitely until you ran out of lives. 

Around this time, two other titles showed up in my life. Venture was an arcade game by Exidy. There was a little neighborhood market in my neighborhood that had this arcade cabinet for a short while. When it worked, it was an incredible game. Unfortunately the hardware was notoriously fickle and it spent most of its time out-of-order, before finally the owner replaced it with a more reliable game. Eventually Coleco would license the title for their Colecovision console and I'd get to play the game to my heart's content. In Venture, you had gone from being represented by a square or a dot to being a smiley face holding a bow, chased through the hallways of a dungeon inhabited by giant troll-like monsters to enter rooms of diabolical design inhabited by a variety of dungeon dwelling enemies including skeletons, goblins, snakes and griffons. It was an arcade game with no quest and endlessly increasing difficulty. The goal was to retrieve as much treasure as possible before the game became so difficult it consumed all of your lives. 

The more interesting title on the Colecovision was the Epyx title, "Gateway to Apshai". This dungeon crawler started you off with low stats and lightly equipped. Exploring the maze-like dungeon revealed more and more of its shape as you moved forward, and encounters with monsters gave you treasure, score, and better equipment. At the end of each level, you could upgrade your stats, improving your abilities as the monsters encountered grew more difficult to dispatch. It was a hybrid between the arcade-scorer gameplay mechanics of Venture and the more FRP quest-based approach with persistent elements like an inventory of titles like Dragonstomper. Apshai was a port of a game previously available on home PCs, but its faithful arrival on a home console announced that consoles were beginning to deliver PC style gaming experiences on a far more affordable budget. 

Around this time, just as things were getting good, the video-game crash occurred. It caused major upheaval and disruption to the video game industry, with some analysts predicting that video games were just a fad and had lived out their moment. 

They were wrong, of course. On the other side, the Commodore 64 and Nintendo NES would change the world. Older first generation gamers who had cut their teeth on domestic gaming systems tended to gravitate toward the C=64, which had become nearly as affordable as consoles had been, with software and hardware easily accessible at your local Gemco or Toys R Us instead of difficult to find and intimidating computer specialty stores or mail-order. 

A second generation of younger gamers would move on quickly from Super Mario Bros. to Legend of Zelda. There is a generational divide in gaming there that still exists to this day, with a legion of younger gamers who cut their teeth on d-pads and cute, kid-friendly Nintendo titles. There is cross-over between both generations of gamers - but as a general rule, older gamers prefer grittier, more realistic "hardcore" gaming and later gamers are far more fond of friendly, stylized gaming with an emphasis on cute, cartoon style graphics and themes. 

The affordable cost and department store availability of the Commodore 64 suddenly made more complex ports of older Atari and Apple computer FRP games available to a previously inaccessible market. Though those titles had existed for much longer, very few gamers had access to them because of the prohibitive cost of the systems they ran on. The Ultima series owes much of its status as the first fully realized commercially successful CFRP to the success of the Commodore 64. 

Shortly after the explosion of affordable home computers after the crash, a promising company called Electronic Arts released a seminal title that for the first time reimagined the formula that arguable had been prototyped with Dragonstomper and was made the default for CFRP gaming with the Ultima series. 

1985's Bards Tale I was in some ways more limited in scope than the Ultima series, containing you inside the walls of a single city under siege by evil monsters rather than a world map full of cities to travel to and explore. Inside this city were various dungeons, all leading to a confrontation with the source of the evil infestation - a predictable rogue wizard. But the level of emersion in this 1st person, "pseudo-3D" presented dungeon crawler was unprecedented. Borrowing heavily on the game mechanics of Ultima III (so much so that some versions could import your characters from Ultima III into Bards Tale,) which in turn itself copied AD&D concepts and ideas - Bards Tale had brought the CFRP game genre into the mainstream. The early levels were mercilessly hard. It is my opinion that most gamers who bought the title didn't get past level 3 or 4 without rage-quitting, cheating using an editor, or finding out the trick to grinding on a specific monster encounter until they were high enough level to make fleeting expeditions into the first 2 levels of the first dungeon. It is really a wonder that The Bard's Tale didn't kill the fledgling genre just as it began to mature. The arrival of the unprecedented graphics capabilities of the Amiga was something EA quickly leveraged, and the Amiga version of Bards Tale had no peers in graphics experience at the time. Coupled with an encounter engine that did play a lot like a tabletop version of AD&D, while Bards Tale 1 was an imperfect game - it laid the foundation for a franchise that still does well today. Eventually the SSI AD&D "Gold Box" titled would appear. These would be the first licensed AD&D CFRP titles that faithfully applied the official AD&D rules and allowed character progression from title to title in the series. 

 From 1979 until 1985 may not sound like that long of a time, but for those who wanted to experience the dungeon adventures of the AD&D FRP game but did not have access to a circle of friends smart enough to puzzle out the complex and arcane rules of the pen and paper game, it was an eternity of waiting for an industry to catch up with the tastes of its audience.