A new user on the QL

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Haemogoblin
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A new user on the QL

Postby Haemogoblin » Fri May 27, 2016 1:11 pm

So recently I got my hands on a reasonable amount of QL gear and started on my journey of discovery. Facing the ups and downs of using a QL.

Initially my experience with microdrive cassettes wasn't that bad, most of mine worked. Then after a week I noticed not all of them were working properly and then some later out right failed. Even a quick clean of the heads did nothing to fix the ailing tapes. Pretty sure the drives work fine, just the cassettes that are old and buggered.

Where microdrives this hit and miss when they came out? As a kid, I started out on the Spectrum+2 and C64 and missed this technology completely.

A couple of people have told me to give up on using the medium completely in favor of floppy disks. Is that how most people use their QL's these days? It just seems a little sad that one part of the machine is effectively left unused.

I was wondering what people use their QL's for, I gather programming is still popular by one or two. I've never really been able to break any ground with programming, but Quill has peaked my interest as a useful wordprocessor. Could see myself using that for a distraction free typing environment.

Will the software that allows you to read DOS floppies, run on a 512kb expanded, JM Rom QL?

And finally, did Psion ever release Chess for download?

Thanks to everyone who has helped me out this past week or two, its been really interesting, learning about this ill fated machine :)


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NormanDunbar
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Re: A new user on the QL

Postby NormanDunbar » Fri May 27, 2016 8:53 pm

Evening.

My own experience with the microdrives has been fine. I had a Spectrum initially and I fitted Interface 1 nd a pair of drives. I never had any problems. Likewise the QL.

I suspect your cassettes are buggered because the foam padding that the tape runs over and helps keep the tape against the head, is no longer fit for purpose. It's probably crumbling away even as I type. Which makes me think I'll need to check out my own cartridges. Except I use QPC and don't have any drives!

That's a minor drawback!

I use my QPC to program in assembler and to write articles for my somewhat irregular Assembly eMagazine.


Cheers,
Norm.


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dilwyn
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Re: A new user on the QL

Postby dilwyn » Fri May 27, 2016 10:10 pm

Haemogoblin wrote:Initially my experience with microdrive cassettes wasn't that bad, most of mine worked. Then after a week I noticed not all of them were working properly and then some later out right failed. Even a quick clean of the heads did nothing to fix the ailing tapes. Pretty sure the drives work fine, just the cassettes that are old and buggered.

It's decades since microdrive cartridges were last manufactured. The expected lifetime means they should all be dead or dying by now. As Norman mentioned, the biggest single recent cause of failure is the deterioration of the littl sponge which presses the tape against the heads, it tnds to either crumble or unglue itself. One or two guys (names escape me at the moment) have invested time and money in getting suitable quality felt sponging as a DIY replacement thing, there's even an article about it somewhere, though I can't remember where.

Haemogoblin wrote:Where microdrives this hit and miss when they came out? As a kid, I started out on the Spectrum+2 and C64 and missed this technology completely.

There was a lesser element of hit and miss, though they were never as reliable as floppy disks. Another "feature" of these cartridges was that some would work only in one drive, and always worked best on the drive on which they were formatted, so if you knew they were to be used on MDV2_ best to format them on MDV2_. No idea why, maybe some drives could be slightly different speeds to others, maybe?

Haemogoblin wrote:A couple of people have told me to give up on using the medium completely in favor of floppy disks. Is that how most people use their QL's these days? It just seems a little sad that one part of the machine is effectively left unused.

If the machine is viewed as a collectors item which is to be used in its original format, you're right, it's sad that these drives can't be used. In purely practical terms, floppy disks are more reliable and hold many times the capacity of microdrive cartridges at a fraction of the cost. If you suspect your drives might be dodgy, Ian at Mutant Caterpillar for example can check or repair the QL at a cost. Most people use floppy disks now, or even the SD card interface or the Qubide hard disk interface (is Jose Leandro still doing those, I wonder?)

Haemogoblin wrote:I was wondering what people use their QL's for, I gather programming is still popular by one or two. I've never really been able to break any ground with programming, but Quill has peaked my interest as a useful wordprocessor. Could see myself using that for a distraction free typing environment.

I suspect that using Quill and the other Psion programs is probably still high up there in terms of what the QL is used for. The Psion programs are still surprisingly good as a modest office package, and there's also the Xchange versions for expanded QLs.

Haemogoblin wrote:Will the software that allows you to read DOS floppies, run on a 512kb expanded, JM Rom QL?

Which one? I'm not sure of the answer to this, I;m afraid.

Haemogoblin wrote:And finally, did Psion ever release Chess for download?

No, as far as I know it's still copyighted software, although second hand copies come up for sale on eBay and SellMyRetro.com every now and then. Might be worth asking Rich at RWAP Software if he happens to have a copy he can sell.

Haemogoblin wrote:Thanks to everyone who has helped me out this past week or two, its been really interesting, learning about this ill fated machine :)

It's great to hear of your experiences as a new user - glad to have you on this Forum.


Dilwyn
All things QL: see www.dilwyn.me.uk
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Haemogoblin
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Re: A new user on the QL

Postby Haemogoblin » Sun May 29, 2016 11:34 pm

Well let me phrase it another way :D Can a 512kb expanded QL with a floppy drive, be configured to read dos floppy disks?

Glad to be on the forum, my passion is old computers and the QL is certainly a unique machine. I'm still not sure how much use I'll get out of one, but I have it set up on my desk and I plan on using it for a month. Type an article or two for my blog on it, see how easy it is to get the data back on to my PC for uploading to Wordpress. I'd be very interested to know if I can uploaded / email data from the QL.

Will the QL go online? I have a modem with an RS-232 port, so my obvious thought was some how linking it to a PC or raspberry pi via serial.

I did have an idea to write a comparison between the QL and the Plus 2B, focusing on the QL's strengths and see how the old Plus 2 compares. Avoiding the temptation to jump straight to games, where the Plus has an unfair advantage. The 2B is regularly on my desk, so it would be interesting to me, to see how It fairs to Clive's quantum leap. Already I prefer the QDOS filing system, the command structure is intuitive and far easier to use then my Plus 2 :-)


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Re: A new user on the QL

Postby RWAP » Mon May 30, 2016 9:45 am

Haemogoblin wrote:Well let me phrase it another way :D Can a 512kb expanded QL with a floppy drive, be configured to read dos floppy disks?


There are lots of ways to do this (although remember that you will still need to stick to DD disks).

In my opinion, the best package is Discover - http://homepage.ntlworld.com/itimpi/djwdown.htm

There are also several tools and utilities on the Sinclair QL Homepage - http://www.dilwyn.me.uk/files/

The other option is to use an emulator on a PC which can write directly to QL formatted disks (QPC2 and q-emulator).

The only thing you need to be wary of is that you cannot store QL executable files on PC formatted disks (as the file header is lost) - so you need to put the zip files downloaded from the web onto the disk and unzip them on the QL.


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Haemogoblin
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Re: A new user on the QL

Postby Haemogoblin » Mon May 30, 2016 12:46 pm

At the moment that's how I'm getting files on the QL. Using the emulator to unpack and write data to floppy.

I wasn't able to get unzip to work on my QL, would seem I need toolkit.



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