FCUG Meeting Reports Page 2

These are the informal reports on meetings of the Fresno Commodore User Group. Not really minutes, and not exactly news, we started this just to have a record of decisions made, attendance, etc. Notes are co-written by President Robert Bernardo and Treasurer Dick Estel, unless an individual byline appears.

The latest report will always be at the top, after that they appear in order with the oldest years at the top. Don't know what year or month you want? Start with the newest and read a few recent reports; then go back to the oldest and see what was different.

  

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2017          2010 - 2016 are on Page 1

    

Latest Meeting Report

June, 2017

By Robert Bernardo & Dick Estel

The meeting started earlier than usual -- 10 a.m rather than the usual 11 a.m. -- because another group had booked the restaurant room at 2. We were to be out of there by 1:30 or so. We had three of our long-time regulars - Roger Van Pelt, Robert Bernardo, and Dick Estel, plus two special guests. Dave Smith was a member more than 22 years ago, and he joined the club that day. He is now retired and is thinking of getting a Commodore system set up. Alex Lewandowski, a Visalia resident originally from Poland , had attended one of our meetings in the past, and this time he brought in a special piece of equipment for our enjoyment. His involvement with Commodore and Amiga began when he was about seven years old in the 1980s.

During the business meeting, Robert reported on the Maker Faire in May, where he set up several systems. Hundreds of thousands of people attended this event and hundreds came through the Vintage Computer Festivalers exhibit where Robert was. Many had questions for Robert. The items that drew the most interest were the KoalaPad and Flexidraw Lightpen. People were surprised that such items had existed for the Commodore.

In June Robert hosted the Pacific Commodore Expo at the Living Computer Museum in Seattle , now known as the Living Computers: Museum + Labs.There were between 10 and 20 people at the various presentations, plus the casual drop-ins from regular museum visitors, making the total between 50 and 60. The event will be back in 2018 on June 9 and 10.

CommVEx is coming up, and everything is ready to go. Paul Armstrong of Las Vegas will have sales tables, and Al Jackson will provide computer systems as usual. Although it will not affect our plans, the rival event planned for the same weekend has not yet locked up its venue, and their funding may be in question.

For the hardware part of the meeting, Alex showed us his Amiga A600 installed in a MacroSystem Casablanca case. This looked very much like a standard VCR and was originally an Amiga in a case for video-editing. Alex had installed a Vampire 600 accelerator and was continuing to work on the machine. He also brought a Vampire 500 accelerator, this version to go in an Amiga 500 or 2000.

Alex tried to run several Amiga game .ADF's (Amiga Disk Files), but they weren't being recognized by the HxC Floppy Emulator he had installed in the machine. He admitted that he had to tweak the system some more. Near the end of the meeting, the restaurant waitress said that the afternoon group had cancelled their reservation, so we did not have to rush out at 1:30 . Even with the more leisurely departure, we were packing up by 2:15 so that Robert could get to Father's Day festivities in Stockton .

   

Older Meeting Reports

Below this point, reports are in chronological order, oldest first

  

2017

January     February     March     April     May     June

July     August     September     October     November     December

 

January 2017

We had our biggest attendance for many months in January, thanks to a new member and the appearance of one we haven't seen for four years. Brad Strait not only made a long overdue appearance, but he paid his dues and said he would probably be able to attend more often. Meanwhile Bruce Nieman, who attended his first FCUG meeting in December, joined the club. Welcome!

Others in attendance were Greg Dodd, Louis and Vincent Mazzei, Roger Van Pelt, Robert Bernardo, and Dick Estel.

Dick presented the annual financial report. The treasury was down slightly from last year, but we have had very few expenses, so there will be enough for any costs that are likely to come up during the year.

There was a lengthy discussion of CommVEx. With the Plaza Hotel unable to guarantee a room until April, Robert booked the nearby California Hotel. There were certain limitations, including no Friday set-up and the need to remove all equipment at the end of the day on Saturday. This did not go over well with a number of people who have attended in the past, and a "rebel force," including members of our now former co-sponsor club in Las Vegas, are apparently planning a competing event for the same weekend. CommVEx will proceed as planned, and time will tell how things work out.

Robert discussed several possibilities for demos at CommVEx, including some that would be on video if the demonstrator is not able to attend.

Louis and Greg reported that they are discussing the formation of a new user group, one that will support all the many orphan computer platforms, such as Radio Shack, Texas Instruments, Atari and others. The tentative name is Classic Platforms United (CPU), and details will be revealed as they are developed.

Robert showed a section of a new Brian Bagnall book, "Commodore - the Amiga Years." The .PDF file was only available to Kickstarter backers, Robert being one of them.

Also we saw the first 12 minutes of the new film, "Viva Amiga, the Story of a Beautiful Machine" which had Amiga engineers and historians talk about the history and current state of the Amiga computer. It is available on Hulu and on iTunes, disc formats coming later this year.

Members watched as Bruce booted up his Amiga 2000 for a quick look. This demo was very short since he had to leave early, but we were able to discover that it had a 68040 processor and a graphics card. Bruce said he will be it back for the next meeting.

Roger displayed a collection of updated Commodore games on a flash drive. They have been configured to be as much like the arcade versions as possible. We saw Frogger, Donkey Kong and Jr. PacMan, while Greg demonstrated his proficiency, rarely getting "killed."

 

February 2017

Driving from Stockton, president Robert arrived to the meeting 20 minutes early. He started setting up the equipment. V.P. Roger arrived later, and both of them set up their various computer hardware bits. Roger helped Robert set up the two Dell 2001FP monitors Robert had recently bought from the East Bay Area. The Dell’s had VGA, DVI, s-video, composite inputs, and a stereo headphone jack/stereo speakers. The Dell’s were not your ordinary flat screen LCD monitors, because they could scan down to 15 KHz and thus were usable with classic Amigas with the appropriate RGB-to-VGA adapter. Also under s-video and composite modes, they were NTSC and PAL-compatible.

Eventually, members Brad, Louis, Vincent, and Greg came in, and everybody started ordering their food. While everybody waited for their food, Robert informed the group that Maker Faire was coming to San Mateo in May, and once again, an application was put in to have a classic computers’ exhibit. He also said he would be traveling to the Pacific Northwest in April so that he could check up with the Living Computer Museum, the venue for the June Pacific Commodore Expo NW. As for July Commodore Vegas Expo, he reconfirmed with Louis about the presentation on modding the Plus/4.

Just as the guys finished lunch and started seeing part 2 of the video, “Viva Amiga: the Story of a Beautiful Machine,” member Bruce dropped in, and Roger and he went out to bring in Bruce’s Amiga 2000 system.

As they were setting up, Robert showed the new Ray Carlsen power supply for the VIC-20 (early model) and the Canadian 3D-printed, VIC-20 cartridge case for the Final Expansion 3, Rev. 11.

Back to the A2000, Louis and Robert verified that it was running OS 2.0. Then Louis opened up the machine so that everybody could see what was in it – an A2320 scandoubler board for VGA output, a Progressive Peripheral & Software 68040 28 MHz. board with 16 megs of Fast RAM, a Supra board with 4 megs of RAM, a MegaChip for 2 megs of Chip RAM, and a Trumpcard SCSI board with a 120 meg. hard drive. It was a very capable machine.

However, on closer examination, Louis discovered corrosion “fuzz” on the legs of the old Ni-Cad clock battery. Both Robert and Louis urged Bruce to have the battery replaced as soon as possible so that no more damage could be caused. Louis even offered to replace the battery at the next club meeting, a task that would not be easy to do because the various boards and the internal power supply in the Amiga would have to be removed.

Then Robert and Roger concentrated on Commodore 8-bit business. Without JiffyDOS in the Vincent’s VIC-20, Robert couldn’t figure out the long commands to open the .D64 files on the Compactflash card in Robert’s uIEC-CF. Oh, well, the VIC-20 programs of $B, Maxi-Edit, and Cask Jumper would have to wait for another meeting.

For the final part of the meeting, Robert and Roger tried to make sense of the C64 educational program, “Bear Jam”, for the Chalkboard Powerpad. In past meetings Robert had brought what he thought were all Chalkboard Powerpad programs – Leo’s Links, MicroMaestro, and Leo’s Lectric Paintbrush. However, he recently discovered that Bear Jam was available for download, but he didn’t discover where the instructions were. Thus, Robert and Roger were poking at the Powerpad, trying to make Bear Jam do something for some purpose. They found some pressure points on the Powerpad which activated some graphics on the screen, but what did they mean? After many minutes of trying to discover the meaning and the manner of the program, they both gave up and promised to make a concerted effort to find the instructions on-line.

4

March 2017

By Robert Bernardo

For the March meeting, Robert and Roger were joined by Brad and two of his children, William and Charlotte. The last time we saw William was back in 2013, and back then Charlotte was just born. The older sister, Katelyn, was not present at the meeting, because she was at dance class, according to Brad. Robert reminded the family of the SX-64 commercial that he had filmed, starring Katelyn and William. Brad hadn't remembered that it was posted to YouTube, and Robert showed him where it was. Brad popped up the video on his cellphone, and the family enjoyed the commercial. Robert reminded William that he was now famous.

Robert and Roger had their usual two-item combination lunches, while Brad ordered the easy-to-eat and fun cheese quesadillas for himself and the kids. As lunch neared the end, Robert started with club old and new business. He talked about the upcoming shows – the May Maker Faire, the June Pacific Commodore Expo NW, and the July Commodore Vegas Expo. Just as he finished his summary of the shows, a visitor came in – Alex Lewandowski.

We tried to view part 3 of the newly-released film, "Viva Amiga: The Story of a Beautiful Machine, " but Robert couldn't find the external speakers for the laptop which was to play the movie, and so, the movie was delayed until the next meeting.

In hardware, Robert showed the Final Expansion 3, Rev. 11, for the VIC-20 – this time with the board and 3D-printed case all assembled. However, he was without his usual VIC-20, because it was under repair by Ray Carlsen. In a few days, he was to go to the Washington state and pick up the VIC from Ray. Robert then showed the new SwinSID Ultimate. For about $34 from Austria , the SwinSID U was advertised as a very proficient replacement for the SID chip. Robert couldn't decide which Commodore computer would receive the SwinSID U. Though he had a few PAL C64's with burned-out SID chips, he was leaning toward installing it in his B128 which runs its SID chip at 2 MHz. With the chip running that fast, the SID would run hotter (than its usual hot temperature) and be prone to failure.

Brad borrowed Robert's Kim Uno (KIM-1 replica), and he actually knew how to use it, except for discovering how to use its built-in Chessmate.

At the February meeting, Robert and Roger flailed around with the Bear Essentials and the Chalkboard Powerpad for the C64; they had no instructions nor the Powerpad overlay for the Bear Essentials, and so, they were just poking at the Powerpad without knowing what they were doing. This month Robert brought back the Bear Essentials and Powerpad, but this time he had the instructions and a color printout of what the overlay was supposed to show. Roger had more success in finding the particular pressure points on the Powerpad and had the Bear Essentials respond a bit more. However, without the exact-fitting overlay, Roger was still estimating where the points were and was not able to find all of them. All in all, getting to use the program was partially successful. Robert had the idea that the color printout of the overlay would have to be enlarged and proportioned to the size of the overlay and be printed on something like acetate.

Robert had brought in the A2000 which will be at the May Maker Faire and at the July CommVEx. Refurbished by Duncan MacDougall, this one was loaded with a Blizzard 2060 50 MHz. board, 128 megs of Fast RAM, 2 megs of Chip RAM due to MegaChip, SCSI controller board with 8 megs of RAM, NewTek Video Toaster, Digital Processing Systems Personal TBC, A2065 Ethernet card, Digital Processing Systems Personal Animation Recorder (PAR), OS 3.1, SCSI CD-ROM drive, 4 gig SCSI main hard drive, 500 meg SCSI hard drive for the PAR. Robert brought up a few windows to show what was in the computer, but mainly he had brought it to show how Duncan redid the cabling and cards inside the computer. With Alex's help, he then tried to install more memory onto the Blizzard, but the eBay SIMMs he had bought were too thick and wouldn't fit the SIMM slots. He would have to buy thin-line SIMMs. At the end of the meeting, when all other members had departed, he and Alex carried on with a far-ranging discussion about classic Amiga and Amiga NG issues.

April 2017

We started small but finished big as far as attendance was concerned. Robert, Roger and Dick were present for the opening of the meeting. Robert noted that a free condo room is available in Las Vegas for the CommVEx weekend, to be used by a club member or a special guest.

Robert also reported on his trip to the Pacific Northwest , where he visited repair guru Ray Carlsen, and checked out our location for the Pacific Commodore Expo Northwest, scheduled for June 10 and 11 at the Living Computer Museum in Seattle .

There was preliminary discussion of the future of CommVEx. This year's show will go on as planned, on July 29 and 30 at the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas . With the increased room cost and the movement of a number of regular attendees to another show, it's not certain that we can continue with the show in Las Vegas . A small room is now about $1,900 for two days, and the large rooms that we have become used to the last two years are over $3,700. A final decision will not be made until we see how things go at this year's event.

As he has done for several years, Robert will be attending Maker Faire on May 19-21. He will be displaying a collection of vintage Commodore machines. Due to the conflict with our meeting date, the May FCUG meeting will be May 7.

We started watching the next segment of the film "Viva Amiga: The Story of a Beautiful Machine." During this time we had an infusion of guests, in the form of Roger's parents, Mary and David Van Pelt, and his brother Aaron. During the early years, David made use of computers in his work, and he was interested to see the new hardware that has been developed for Commodore.

For the second time, Robert brought the new Final Expansion 3, Rev. 11, the cartridge for the VIC-20, with custom-made 3D-printed case.  With the help of its manual, he and Roger figured out its RAM options and DOS wedge.  Then they tried to run a new program, the "CGA emulator" which needs 35K RAM, the maximum attainable on the Final Expansion.  They did see a high-resolution, 320x200 screen, but the graphic was corrupted, probably due to the fact that the picture was for PAL video and not for NTSC.  Then they tried to run Doom for the VIC, a program which also needed 35K RAM.  The opening title screen ran, but then when the next part of the program was called, it crashed, probably due to the fact that the SD card in the FE was not a real disk drive and the program expected to load from a real disk.  Robert and Roger decided that next time a real disk with Doom would have to be used.

Five programs from OS4Depot.com were installed in the AmigaOne G4, but the two games - Tux Football and Fighter - would not run.  The successful programs that did run were the demos, Ballfield and Etch-a-Sketch, and the emulator, ViCE (Virtual Commodore Emulator). In C64 software, the newly-made Bruce Lee II was tested.  In this part-platformer, part-fighting game, movement was smooth and the music was nice, but both Robert and Roger couldn't figure out how to escape out one of the beginning levels.  Then they turned their attention to which two-player game would be used in this year's CommVEx game competition -- Way of the Exploding Fist or World Karate Championship. After looking at both of them, Robert and Roger decided that neither of the games had the smoothness or the responsiveness required of a karate game.  The search would have to continue.

May 2017

The May meeting took place on a day with fluctuating weather. It had been 99 degrees the Thursday before our May 7 gathering, 69 two days later. Sunday started out with a cold rainstorm and ended with temperatures heading back up.

However, everything was just right inside Bobby Salazar's Cantina, with a small but lively group. In attendance were Robert Bernardo, Dick Estel, Brad Strait, and the latter's two youngest kids, William, 7, and Charlotte, 4. Bruce Nieman came in later for a while.

At first it seemed to be stormy inside, when several pieces of equipment failed to work. Equipment Manager Roger was ill, so Robert had gone to his storage facility and pulled out a 1084-S monitor, which he connected to his VIC-20. Although the monitor had been working recently, on this day it displayed nothing but a narrow horizontal line, leading to a couple of lame, flat-lining jokes.

No problem, we thought, as Robert set the VIC and the monitor aside and moved his SX-64 into its place. However, the SX monitor produced nothing but a plain, light gray glow, so it also was banished to the corner. Using the BenQ VGA monitor, Robert set up his tower AmigaOne G4, and finally we had a working computer, just as our food arrived.

Equipment matters were set aside as we enjoyed lunch and started the official business meeting. Robert will be attending Maker Faire in San Mateo later in May, an event that draws around 100,000 people. A fair number of them always stop and ask about the old computers he displays, which this year will include a C64 and an A2000.

On June 2nd Robert will be at the William Shatner Weekend in southern California , where he will ask the one-time VIC 20 spokesman to autograph a piece of Commodore equipment.

The big event in June is the Pacific Commodore Expo at the Living Computer Museum in Seattle , an event Robert is producing with the help of other Commodore enthusiasts in the area. We had been told there could be no selling at the event, but it has been determined that commercial activities are allowed under certain very stringent circumstances, including the completion of tax forms for three different jurisdictions and obtaining a business license. In other words, we will not be selling.

In CommVEx news, Robert reported that he will be putting advertisements for the show on Craig’s List in several areas.

There will be a time change for our June meeting, scheduled for June 18, Father’s Day. Another group has booked the room we use at 2 p.m. that day, so we will start our meeting at 10 a.m. , and be out of the restaurant by 1:30 .

At the conclusion of business, we watched the final segment of the movie “Viva Amiga: the Story of a Beautiful Machine,” this part focusing on music creation, and a few minutes of the follow-up movie, "Viva Amiga: the Bil Herd Story."

There was not much in the way of hardware and software demos, due to malfunctions. William sat at the AmigaOne and wrote a short story about Fire Monsters, and the rest of us discussed all kinds of things, many of them computer-related.

June 2017

See above

July 2017

 

August 2017

 

September 2017

Meeting date September 10 - SPECIAL DATE CHANGE

October 2017

Meeting date October 15 (Annual Club Lunch)

November 2017

Meeting date November 19

December 2017

Meeting date December 17

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Updated August 21, 2017