[vcf-midatlantic] Jason Scott is making a renewed push to image Apple ][ software...

Hagstrom, Paul hagstrom at bu.edu
Wed Mar 22 23:53:30 EDT 2017

Without getting too deep into this: nothing that uses the Disk II analog board (that is, essentially, the Disk II drive) is exempt from the worry about missing/false bits.  It's the signal amplifier on the board inside the drive that causes this.  The bits captured in EDD files bypass the state machine on the Disk II controller card, that's the point of the EDD+ card.  So, while the state machine does filter the actual bits on the disk a bit, the EDD+ card captures them before the state machine does its filtery magic.  For capturing the flux on the disk perfectly, something like CatWeasel, DiscFerret, SuperCard Pro, Kyroflux -- hooked up to a more modern drive -- is the thing to use.  They have a more precise head, access to an index signal for synchronization, and doesn't have the overactive auto-gain amplification problem that the Disk II has.  I also find that "modern" drives scrape the disks more, and they don't handle flipped disks without hardware mods, so I prefer the Disk II for anything it can read sufficiently well.  And, also, though these flux stream files have been producible for a while, the software to do the analysis of them has never gotten really beyond the point of converting standard 16-sector unprotected disks into DSK images, and hasn't moved in a long time.

I'm not aware of anyone advocating for throwing out a bit image after a cracked/normalized copy has been produced.  Or throwing away a 1980s warez group's crack.  Our storage is measured in terabytes now.  Keep them all.  4am's Passport auto-cracking program handles a large number of common protections and verifies the disks, it's the best thing out there for verifying a read of a disk was good.  If you have an emulator that can boot a protected disk image, perfect -- otherwise, a silent crack that preserves the loading art, etc. is better than a defaced crack that put the pirate's name over the authors and removed original game art to do it.  But the defaced crack is an artifact in its own right, too -- I just wouldn't call it a preserved copy of the original software.  But there's no reason to throw things away, I'm not sure why this would be a worry.

One actual worry would be that a disk's bits would fall off before a proper image is made -- and if a failed imaging attempt isn't detected before that happens, the window could be missed.  So, that's the downside to not having a good way to test a disk read.  But the process of testing a protected disk to see if the read was good can I think in principle only be as good as what Passport does.  It tries to get the disk to read itself and see if it can read all of the tracks it is supposed to be able to read.  Blindly checking an image can reveal that there are damaged areas, but they might be part of the protection itself and "properly" damaged.  Passport brings some knowledge of expectations to the verification task.

Anyway, EDD is a good format that squeezes about as much as the Apple II can from a Disk II drive.  And the Apple II is what needs to read these, in the end.  The thing John's working on improves on that by increasing the resolution (and also not requiring an actual Apple II in the loop, making the imaging workflow quite a bit more painless).  Both formats can increase the number of samples of each track and improve reliability.  And both are still limited by the capability of the drive itself, its fat head, not 100% consistent rotation speed, and probably the onboard signal amplifier it uses.

All in all it's better not to wait for the perfect imaging solution if that arrives after all the bits have fallen off the disks.  Image now, EDD will work most of the time.  Image later again if there's a better imager and the disks are still ok, and maybe some of the things that didn't work properly using EDD (or would have taken a lot of surgery/syncing) can be imaged properly.

Anyway, let me stop there.  That's me "not getting too deep into this."


> On Mar 22, 2017, at 8:36 PM, Support via vcf-midatlantic <vcf-midatlantic at lists.vintagecomputerfederation.org> wrote:
> Jeffery:  In short - kind of.
> There were some copy programs but nothing that was 100% all the time.  From
> what I understand some tricks even involved calculating things like track
> length - something that couldn't be duplicated on-platform with any copy
> program or hardware.
> 4AM has made some good strides with preservation.  The main issue is
> anything protected is unable to be backed up or have an image created.  On
> top of that the software used, based on EDD, doesn't really capture all the
> bits from this disk.  It's long and boring story why, but basically the
> State Machine in the Disk II Controller was never meant to get as low level
> or as granular with bits as off-platform hardware could.  Hence, as a
> Floppy Publisher with production hardware I could write things to the
> floppy medium an Apple never could.  Then base a protection scheme on those
> unreproduable artifacts.
> Crackers can at best remove protection and preserve the program, but
> there's 2 caveats to this as you may notice.  First being - it's not
> technically a "copy", it's cracked version without any of the art that is
> the protection.  And second being - if EDD can't read all the bits from the
> disk, then it's not really a true copy.  And yes, there can even be missing
> bits.  And then there's the possibility the program doesn't fully work and
> no one will know for sure without at lest very through testing or looking
> at raw code and tracing it all - something no one is doing I might add.
> "It boot - it works" is kind of the motto right now.
> John Morris has been working on this issue however with a new project
> called Applesauce.  With some luck I'll be helping him with the hardware
> side of things and providing distribution and support to the Community.
> The concept of the project is to take a Disk II Drive off-platform where a
> Micro Controller can do what the Disk II Controller does but over-sample
> many times more than is possible on-platform.  Capturing the actual raw
> data stream from the head this means software can now be "totally" backed
> up and even new copies produced.
> So although there has been a lot of things "backed up" all the software
> images need to be at least validated to known good disks.  And at worst,
> reimaged.  We have also discussed the concept of creating a website to
> organize images in a database, with hashes, metadata, and tags for
> example.  The more samples of a disk the better we know we have a good
> image.  Allow users to upload images they scan, testing, voting, etc.  But
> it's a major undertaking that even Scott isn't looking at touching.  So if
> anyone wants to discuss ideas off-list or would like to help, please
> contact me.
> The project could also be ported to other platforms however I'm not sure
> it's needed.  Commodore is the only other platform I heard of with copy
> protection, and I think there was a project already (CatWeasel) that fully
> backed up disks.  However I'm probably wrong since I know little of other
> platforms.
> Thanks!
> Henry S. Courbis
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> On Wed, Mar 22, 2017 at 4:21 PM, Jeffrey Brace via vcf-midatlantic <
> vcf-midatlantic at lists.vintagecomputerfederation.org> wrote:
>> I don't know about the Apple 2, but the Commodore 64 had great copy
>> protection removal with a piece of software called Macerick. It effectively
>> was a quick and easy silent crack. Did Apple 2 have such great copy
>> programs?
>> On Wed, Mar 22, 2017 at 1:44 PM Joseph Oprysko via vcf-midatlantic <
>> vcf-midatlantic at lists.vintagecomputerfederation.org> wrote:
>>> The thing with the various cracking group titles, it's early demo scene
>>> music and graphics. Occasionally pushing the limits of the machines. I
>>> think those are important as artifacts as well.
>>> I do understand the requests for the silent cracks as well. But do you
>> have
>>> the skills/know someone with the skills to do that?  That's where things
>>> might get a bit difficult, as much of that requires intimate knowledge of
>>> both the copy protection schemes as well as being able to code in machine
>>> language.
>>> On Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 11:37 PM Jonathan Gevaryahu via vcf-midatlantic <
>>> vcf-midatlantic at lists.vintagecomputerfederation.org> wrote:
>>>> I've got two boxes of stuff i need to inventory and ship him already...
>>>> On 3/21/2017 5:51 PM, Mark Whittington via vcf-midatlantic wrote:
>>>>> Jason (of archive.org and textfiles.com fame) is renewing efforts to
>>>> track
>>>>> down and image as much of the existing original Apple ][ software as
>>>>> possible.
>>>>> More info here, summary below --
>>>> http://ascii.textfiles.com/archives/5180
>>>>> In short, a lot of the software that's been archived so far was
>> sourced
>>>>> from cracked versions that were often modified greatly from the
>>> original
>>>>> releases.  There's now a team of very skilled folks who want to be
>> sure
>>>>> that the pristine versions of these programs are archived and that
>>>>> so-called "silent crack" versions are available for future
>> generations
>>> to
>>>>> enjoy.  In this context, a "silent crack" is one that removes the
>> copy
>>>>> protection and nothing more, and without adding crack screens or
>>>>> attributions.
>>>>> They're getting to the end of the collections that they already have
>>> and
>>>>> are putting out the call for more from people who may have
>> collections
>>>>> sitting around gathering dust in boxes.
>>>>> <
>>> https://www.avast.com/sig-email?utm_medium=email&utm_
>> source=link&utm_campaign=sig-email&utm_content=webmail&utm_term=icon
>>>>> Virus-free.
>>>>> www.avast.com
>>>>> <
>>> https://www.avast.com/sig-email?utm_medium=email&utm_
>> source=link&utm_campaign=sig-email&utm_content=webmail&utm_term=link
>>>>> <#DAB4FAD8-2DD7-40BB-A1B8-4E2AA1F9FDF2>
>>>> --
>>>> Jonathan Gevaryahu
>>>> jgevaryahu at gmail.com
>>>> jgevaryahu at hotmail.com
>>>> --
>>> Normal Person: Hey, it seems that you know a lot.
>>> Geek: To be honest, it's due to all the surfing I do.
>>> Normal Person: So you go surfing?
>>> Normal Person: But I don't think that has anything to do with knowing a
>>> lot...
>>> Geek: I think that's wrong on a fundamental level.
>>> Normal Person: Huh? Huh? What?
>> --
>> Jeff Brace - ark72axow at gmail.com
>> Sent from my Commodore 64

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