ROMs and GUIs

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dilwyn
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ROMs and GUIs

Postby dilwyn » Mon May 23, 2016 11:28 am

Haemogoblin wrote:The haul came with two QL's, one working and one not. I've since parted out the none working one to a friend. As he's a big Sinclair fan like myself, but not overly sure on the QL.

I do have a question about these machines. I understand you can upgrade the roms, what is the benefit of doing so? Also I keep reading about mice and pointers. Does the QL have some sort of GUI interface?

(Reply to a post in the Welcome area).

1. Upgrading the ROMs.
The main benefit to this is fixing bugs in earlier versions of the ROM and to some extent the introduction of new facilities. The ROMs were identified by a 2 to 4 letter prefix, which strictly speaking was the version of SuperBASIC - QDOS had a separate version number which was not easy to check from BASIC, but there's a list of QL ROM versions on my site at http://www.dilwyn.me.uk/qlrom/index.html. Check the rom version with the command PRINT VER$ in BASIC.

FB - disaster area of a first public Sinclair ROM for QL, eventually recalled and replaced with anything from AH, JM or JS.
AH - substantial improvement over FB. Slightly less common than JM. Only allowed one peripheral card to be plugged in.
JM - slight improvement over AH, the most common of the early ROM versions. More than good enough for general use, though still only allowed one peripheral card to be plugged in.
JS - major enhancement, added error trapping (WHEN ERRor keywords which remained largely undocumented for ever), allowed more than one card.
MG - by and large only ever released on the continent, an international version of JS with a few changes.
Minerva - a non-Sinclair ROM, produced by the team at QView. Fixed all sorts of bugs in the Sinclair ROMs. Surprisingly, introduced software incompatibilities despite the bug fixes, as prior to this software writers had been very lax in terms of writing software which complied with standards laid down and this started to show as Minerva tightened the rules a bit. To be fair, the authors of Minerva put in a lot of effort to improve compatibility so in time it became rare to find software which didn't run on it.
SMSQ/E - this is an entiely new non-Sinclair operating system for the QL and compatibles. It runs in RAM on these machines and emulators so requires more memory than a standard QL, usually 2MB or more (e.g. Gold Card or Super Gold Card 2MB or 4MB RAM on a QL or Aurora card). Largely compatible with QDOS, it also adds loads of new facilities. On suitably equipped systems like Aurora, Q40, Q60, some emulator it adds 8-bit and 16-bit colour modes, for example.

Of the original QL ROMs, the most common are versions JM and JS and both are perfectly good for everyday use.

2. Mice and Pointers
The original Sinclair QL had no form of windowing (save and restore windows as you switch between programs) or mouse system. So various companies produced add-on hardware and software.

Probably the most widely used early one was the ICE (Icon Controlled Environment) from Eidersoft. Added a mouse and a form of windowing system via a small board which plugged into the EPROM connector at the back of the QL. In its time was a pretty good system, but largely obsolete now.

Mice came in two forms, the first emulated the arrow keys (mouse movement) and space/enter (mouse buttons). OK if you just want cursor emulation.

QJump introduced a system called the Pointer Environment and it quickly became the standard windowing system for QL systems. It changed the "CON" (console) driver so that as you switched between programs with CTRL-C the contents of windows were preserved and restored automatically. It also introduced things like standard appearances for programs via something called the window manager, and hotkeys (key definitions which are assigned to key combinations such as ALT A).

The Pointer Environment is actually supplied as three separate system files:

PTR_GEN - this is the 'pointer interface' which saves and restores window contents and also provides the mouse drivers
WMAN - the window manager
HOT_REXT - the hotkey system

The combination of all three is called the Extended Environment although most people just call it pointer environment or PE. They are usually loaded via a simple BOOT program:

100 TK2_EXT :REM activate toolkit 2, not required on every system
110 LRESPR FLP1_PTR_GEN
120 LRESPR FLP1_WMAN
130 LRESPR FLP1_HOT_REXT
140 HOT_GO : REM activate hotkeys

That little program proides a minimal pointer environment system while you get used to what it can do. You can get the pointer environment files themselves from my website at http://www.dilwyn.me.uk/pe/index.html. There are plenty of articles about the system on my website and other sites out there.

3. Mouse
The most common mouse systems compatible with pointer environment are the QIMI, a small board which plugs inside a QL, and a Serial Mouse which plugs via a small plug adapter into a QL serial port and needs a small driver software to interface it to the pointer environment.

4. GUIs
Probably the most modern and most used GUIs for QL are Jim Hunkins' QDT (QL Desktop) http://www.jdh-stech.com/ and my Launchpad http://www.dilwyn.me.uk/gen/launchpad/launchpad.html

(Slightly longer posting than I'd have liked, hope it answers someof your questions).


Dilwyn
All things QL: see www.dilwyn.me.uk
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Haemogoblin
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Re: ROMs and GUIs

Postby Haemogoblin » Mon May 23, 2016 2:51 pm

Thank you for all of this info! I can confirm that mine is a JM.

Are gold cards something that can still be bought? I noticed the SD card adapters, but it looks like those have dried up.

I have to say I really dislike the mircodrives, I've a handful of cassettes and they are so unreliable. Reading one moment and not the next. I have a single floppy drive and thus far I've managed to get unzip on a disc. I've looked on your website, but your guide for unzipping files is geared towards someone with two drives. Which sadly I don't have.


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Re: ROMs and GUIs

Postby dilwyn » Mon May 23, 2016 3:42 pm

Haemogoblin wrote:Thank you for all of this info! I can confirm that mine is a JM.

Are gold cards something that can still be bought? I noticed the SD card adapters, but it looks like those have dried up.

I have to say I really dislike the mircodrives, I've a handful of cassettes and they are so unreliable. Reading one moment and not the next. I have a single floppy drive and thus far I've managed to get unzip on a disc. I've looked on your website, but your guide for unzipping files is geared towards someone with two drives. Which sadly I don't have.

Gold Cards/Super Gold Cards can occasionally be bought second hand, but they are a bi like, umm, Gold Dust. Have a look on SellMyRetro.com and eBay.

SD cards - QL-SD is made in small batches by Paul Veltjens, who is on here. I don't know when he plans to make any more, or if he has any to sell at the moment - Paul?

Microdrives are best forgotten if you ask me, they were a barrier to the success of the QL back in 1984.

The use of Zip/Unzip with two disks is for convenience in the article. Back when it was written double drives were more common. It isn't really a problem to change references to flp2_ to flp1_ as long as the disk has space for both the zipped and unzipped files. Also, if your system has a ramdisk (most disk systems do), which are like "temporary" floppy disks in RAM, and they work like floppy disks or microdrives but using the name RAMn_ instead of FLPn_ or MDVn_ (n is 1 to 8). Experiment with using one of the ramdisks instead of flp2_


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All things QL: see www.dilwyn.me.uk
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Re: ROMs and GUIs

Postby Haemogoblin » Mon May 23, 2016 5:38 pm

Right well I have some news


First the command EW FLP1_UNZIP;'-d FLP2_ FLP1_EXAMPLE_ZIP'

Does not work on my QL, it doesn't seem to know what I'm talk about. Where as it worked fine in the emulator QPC 4.04.

At the moment I'm having a devil of a time getting things to run. I extracted 3d tictactoe, wrote it to floppy which runs fine on the emulator but for some unknown reason errors on the real thing. Telling me read / write fail.


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Re: ROMs and GUIs

Postby RWAP » Mon May 23, 2016 6:58 pm

Haemogoblin wrote:Right well I have some news


First the command EW FLP1_UNZIP;'-d FLP2_ FLP1_EXAMPLE_ZIP'

Does not work on my QL, it doesn't seem to know what I'm talk about. Where as it worked fine in the emulator QPC 4.04.


That is because EW is a Toolkit II command (short for EXEC_W).

Unfortunately, EXEC_W which is found on the standard QL does not support a string at the end of it....

See http://www.rwapsoftware.co.uk/SBASIC_re ... tml#EXEC_W

At the moment I'm having a devil of a time getting things to run. I extracted 3d tictactoe, wrote it to floppy which runs fine on the emulator but for some unknown reason errors on the real thing. Telling me read / write fail.


Ah - have you used a HD disk for QPC2? The QL can only read DD disks, unless you use a Gold Card / Super Gold Card (which support DD, HD and ED 3.2MB disks!)

If you tape over the HD detect hole to try and make a DD disk, this might work (especially if you format it on the QL first), but chances are that it will fail due to the differences in drive mechanisms.

It could also be an error with your disk interface.


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Re: ROMs and GUIs

Postby Haemogoblin » Mon May 23, 2016 7:04 pm

I'm an Amiga user, do i have DD disks? Does a Lemming like cliff?? :D

I have successfully transfered 3dtictatoe over to my QL. I cheated by making a virtual floppy in QPC and copy the disk contents over. I then formatted the original floppy and copied everything back over. I think the floppy drive was a bit dirty. But I've given it a clean now and all seems well.

I'm now having a look at software, just to well have some fun with the computer. I've spent all flipping day trying to figure out how to get things copied over.

Luckily my Cumana 3.5" supports an extra floppy drive on the cable. So i might look in to turning it in to a dual floppy unit.

Any recommendations to what I should try out after I've done playing a few games? :-)


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Re: ROMs and GUIs

Postby vanpeebles » Mon May 23, 2016 7:55 pm

Play some more games :D


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Haemogoblin
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Re: ROMs and GUIs

Postby Haemogoblin » Mon May 23, 2016 8:11 pm

Roger that! I'm about to play Golf! :D


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dilwyn
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Re: ROMs and GUIs

Postby dilwyn » Mon May 23, 2016 8:20 pm

Haemogoblin wrote:Right well I have some news


First the command EW FLP1_UNZIP;'-d FLP2_ FLP1_EXAMPLE_ZIP'

Does not work on my QL, it doesn't seem to know what I'm talk about. Where as it worked fine in the emulator QPC 4.04.

At the moment I'm having a devil of a time getting things to run. I extracted 3d tictactoe, wrote it to floppy which runs fine on the emulator but for some unknown reason errors on the real thing. Telling me read / write fail.

Sounds like your disk interface doesn't have Toolkit 2 extensions, although if you only have a single drive do NOT use -dFLP2_ as it won't make sense on a single drive system.

What disk interface do you have? If it doesn't say on the casing it might announce itself top of screen on startup, that way we can deduce if it has the right commands you require.

Without Toolkit 2 (and it can be downloaded from my website at http://www.dilwyn.me.uk/pe/index.html#tk2download - go for the version which runs from ram for now, I think it's called tk2_bin on there ) you won't be able to run the commands needed for Unzip. Strange - with that QL haul you got I'd have expected there to be Toolkit 2 as either built into a disk interface or as a plug in eprom cartridge for example.

On some interfaces, the toolkit needs to be awakened with a command such as TK2_EXT. Rarely, on some interfaces, the command FLP_EXT may be needed to initialise all disk interface commands.


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Re: ROMs and GUIs

Postby dilwyn » Mon May 23, 2016 8:21 pm

Haemogoblin wrote:Roger that! I'm about to play Golf! :D

Have fun!


Dilwyn
All things QL: see www.dilwyn.me.uk

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