• Commodore Free Magazine, Issue 87 - Part 7

    From Stephen Walsh@39:901/280 to All on Wed May 6 11:56:00 2015
    he Commodore. I poised my fingers on
    the keyboard as I have done for two weeks before.

    Let me magic begin anew ...

    REVIEW: UK1541
    By Commodore Free


    UK1541 is a real-time drive emulator with cycle-exact 6502 instruction execution and VIA emulation just by a tiny MCU, LCP1114, Cortex M0, 48Mhz
    (0,84 DMIPS/Mhz).

    Developed by: Krzysztof Switajski aka Kisiel/ICON


    * Core 6502 running at 1Mhz with illegal opcodes\ - 16kB Flash ROM,
    multiple custom roms (not available now)

    * 4KB Ram, from $0000 till $0fff

    * VIA port and timers emulation

    * SD card 1 - 8GB, FAT32, formatted in Windows.

    * d64 35 / 40 track with read and write (beta testing)

    * Update from standard SD card.

    * works with The c128 in 2Mhz Mode.


    The UK1541 is a real-time drive emulation with 6502 core instructions, and VIA's placed into little MCU. Plus LCP1114, Cortex M0, 48Mhz (0,84
    DMIPS/MHz) and User Port connection. The benefit of this is it works with
    c128 in 2Mhz Mode. The LCD TFT Screen 2,2", operating at a resolution of 320x240, in True Colour, with an IR receiver for remote control, mini jack
    IEC port, and two buttons: menu and reset. The LED's top is RED for the
    drive and has the same function as a real 1541 drive. The motor LED
    indicates if the motor is on or off and is coloured yellow for debugging.
    Lower red indicates errors.



    Developed by Krzysztof, and called the 'UK1541' also known as the Ultimate killer.

    So we have yet another 1541 disk drive emulator, in what seems to be like a very crowded market already!

    However this product, from opening the box looks a little different. For a start the device plugs into the User port leaving the expansion port of
    your machine free. This means the device can be used with your old fast
    load cartridge. The device has a small cable that connects to the disk
    port IEC. It looks like a small audio jack plug but it's not! The device
    also has something I haven't seen before: a full-colour LCD screen!

    Unboxing the devices was exciting; we had an IEC cable with a mini jack
    plug on one end, two "lugs" with screws and a remote control, and of course
    the device itself. Sadly missing from the box were detailed instructions
    on what to do and what goes where. Rocket science it may not be, but even
    so ...

    The one thing you need to do before rushing in and plugging the device into your machine is to connect the small lugs on the bottom of the device.
    This will allow easy removal, but also stop you from snapping the device;
    it's a really snug fit into your machine. If you don't connect them you
    could break the card or damage it because as I found out, it's almost impossible to pull the device out without them connected! It also protects
    the unit as well.

    You plug the device into the user port, the IEC lead plugs into the disk
    drive, and the mini-jack on the other end plugs into the UK1541. I also connected another joystick into the device to work the menu system
    (although this can be worked via the remote control, but without
    instructions I erred on caution and plugged in a joystick). Once connected
    to your computer the screen can be seen just popping up over your computer. Powering on you are met with a rather unspectacular screen that basically
    just tells you to insert an SD Card. Now, I am not sure if this is hot
    swap card so I powered off and plugged in my card. You need a FAT 32
    formatted card for the device to work. The creator recommends a class 10
    and your disks (for neatness) should be placed in folders with (already) unzipped D64 files. I only tried D64 images, but the author is working on other formats like PRG files, so watch the website for more news.

    I was expecting some sort of swish splash screen, but hey ho...

    Once an SD card is inserted you see a listing on the left side of the led screen showing your folders or disk images and on the right when you select
    a D64 shows the disk contents. Bottom-right shows if the disk is mounted.
    To my mind it looks very slick!

    Move a D64 over to the left pane and pressing Fire will mount the D64

    Pressing again unmounts it. This lets you use the joystick to scroll to
    side B or the next disk, and select it with Fire to mount the disk. It
    works really well and two disk demos worked without a problem.

    The LED Screen is bright and very clear, Some people claim the screen is
    too small, but I can't see how you can alter this neatly. Personally, I
    just think it needs to be in a case, and the remote control needs to have buttons to reflect what they do. The remote does adds a little to the
    package, and once learned the controller can be used at a distance from the machine to change disks. The thing is, you always sit in front of the C64
    so I can't see the screen size or font being a real issue. The screen show
    the whole disk, and it might be nice if it was tilt-able or, if you could mirror the screen on a tablet device or other CRT monitor, that would
    alleviate the screen size. I threw quite a lot of demos and games onto SD cards and it coped with them all. I am not claiming everything will run
    from this, but if someone wants an item testing for compatibility then send
    a file and I will do a follow up. I would have thought demos to be the
    most problematic, but all the ones I tried ran without issue. Even turning
    the disk worked faultlessly.

    I did have a couple of crashes, although this I think was down to the low
    grade SD cards I tried. After upgrading to a more known brand of card the crashes seemed to disappear!

    The main benefit of the Uk1541 I can see is that you don't need to load a
    disk menu system to load the items on the disks or mount disk images. All
    you do is scroll through the list shown on the left of the device to find
    the disk you need, then mount it as described above. This is a major
    benefit, and from my knowledge, is unique to this device. This also leaves
    the main Commodore screen clear to do what you need.

    However, the device is supposed to be a true clone of the Commodore 1541
    disk drive, so it doesn't feature any fast loaders, and loads disks and programmes at the same speed the 1541 would load them. Your cartridge port
    is free to add a speed loader cartridge, and you will no doubt have such a device lying around. You can easily plug it in and gain an instant speed advantage.

    Once a disk is mounted you just use the standard Commodore dos commands
    LOAD and RUN, and the LED lights will show the loading status and flash
    like the real 1541 with respect to any disk errors. At the time of writing
    the device would not load PRG files, although I was surprised CRT and G64
    files were not supported. As already mentioned the developer is said to be working on PRG file support, and of course we don't know what else, as the devices firmware can be updated, so other shortcomings could be added at a later date. Also, you have to remember the device was created to be a 1541 clone, so CRT support and even TAP files don't work on a real 1541!

    As stated in the review, I downloaded quite a few demos and games, and some that failed even on the SD2UIEC devices all ran perfectly on the UK1541. I
    was unable to find a game or demo that failed.

    I am just blown away at some of the items released recently to the
    Commodore world, and although it looks hacky (i.e. it's a bare circuit
    board), the device works perfectly and solves so many problems. Yes, of
    course would I like to load TAP files! GRC files? YES! But, as it stands it's an amazing piece of equipment, and still under development with
    firmware upgrades.

    Here is a link to the card creator's YouTube video showing the device in



    Although the version I tested was still a BETA it's a definite must-have!
    If anyone asks me for a recommended SD card reader-type device for loading
    disk images, this would be one of my recommendations.

    By Bartosz Debski

    You have decided to buy an Amiga. Regardless what model you had in the
    past or if you are completely new into this, picking the right Amiga can be confusing. There are plenty of articles and videos on which Amiga is the
    most powerful, most expandable, or what you can add to your precious
    computer, and you can easily be lost on what is right for you. Amiga is
    still alive and well. You can buy expansions, mods, and even a refurbished A1200 with a one year warranty. Altogether this creates a thriving yet somewhat confusing market. Hopefully this article should make your
    decision easier. Most of the technical specifications for each model are easily available online and the guide below is free of fine details such as clock speeds and CPU models to make it easier to digest.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    AMIGA 500/500+

    These models are not as popular today even if the A500 was the most popular machine in the whole Amiga line back in the day. The reason for this is
    lack of expansion. You can't easily add a hard drive or PCMCIA card; you
    are stuck with a floppy drive and that's it. So why would I mention the
    500 here? In Feb 2014 Hevrč Messinger created custom firmware for the
    Gotek Floppy Emulator to work with the Amiga. This little device acts as a
    USB Floppy similar to what SDIEC does for Commodore 8bit machines. This brought the A500 back to the table, as now you can download disk images to
    USB stick and play them on the Amiga as in the old days, but without the
    stress that some floppies might not work. If you are after games and not interested that much in expanding your Amiga, the 500 is ideal to have
    hours of fun. This is also probably the cheapest option you can get and
    there are plenty of them on eBay. Remember, the majority of games have
    been created to work on the most popular Amigas, but yes, not all games
    will work.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    AMIGA 600

    Next in line is a newer version of the 500+. Smaller, but better equipped
    for the future Amiga. It features an internal ATA connector for a hard
    drive and a PCMCIA slot on the side for further expansions. This allows to easily add a hard drive in the form of a 4GB CF card via a cheap adapter.
    A PCMCIA slot allows adding CF cards for convenient file transfers between
    the Amiga and a PC or network card if you want to connect to the Internet. Internal expansions also allow the user to add up to 2MB of memory via a
    trap door on the bottom. Such expansion is highly recommended if you want
    to use a hard drive as the OS takes more memory to operate.

    This is a very compact model but with the ability to expand; the A600
    survived better than the A500. The only problem you have from a gaming perspective is that games which use the numeric keyboard can't be played properly as this part is missing by design on the A600. It featured an improved graphics chipset, although most of the Amiga 500 games could be
    made to run on the machine.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    AMIGA 1200

    This model is the most powerful one and comes with a brand new AGA graphics chip, better CPU, 2MB RAM, and can be greatly expanded. If you are
    thinking about getting an Amiga where you want to do more than just games,
    then this one is for you. With the right expansion in memory and CPU you
    can even run a modern operating system. One might assume that the A1200
    being the last model, it will play "most" of the games without any problem. There are a number of games that simply will not work on an unmodified
    machine. On the other hand the A1200 does have the best-looking games
    designed to utilize the AGA chip. Being the most expandable Amiga comes
    with a price. A1200 are usually most expensive to buy, even in an
    unmodified setup. The last thing to remember is WHDLoad. If you plan to
    use it, you need to arm your A1200 with extra memory, either with a PCMCIA
    SRAM expansion card (min. 1MB) or by trap door expansion card. WHDLoad
    needs memory to run and that will prevent you from running many games, including AGA ones.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    AMIGA 1000

    This was the first-ever Amiga to hit the market. This personal computer is
    now more of a collector item than an actual gaming machine. It was quite
    ahead of the time when first released and is highly modular. Today the
    A1000 is not an option for casual Amiga fan as they are much rarer than any model.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    AMIGA 2000/3000/4000

    All models are built in a modern, modular fashion, and are an option for
    those who want to invest time and money. In comparison to the A500, A600,
    and A1200 there are far fewer units on the market and they usually require
    some work to achieve a working state, and are more for the power user than
    a casual gamer.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    AMIGA CD32

    Commodore's own home console is a nice piece of kit. With the right customization it can be turned into an A1200 with a CDROM. Due to
    commercial failure there are not many of them around. This again boosts
    the price for those machines that survived. Additional modifications are needed so it can be used for more than CD32 games - it is more of a
    collector piece than good alternative to the A1200.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


    This is an A500-based system targeted for the multimedia market. With an additional keyboard and mouse you can turn it into a working computer. As
    the CDTV has a CDROM drive as default media, a floppy is an optional
    add-on. Personally, I class this model as another collector item,
    providing you can find one.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


    Getting an Amiga today is usually a purchase which you need to invest a bit more than in just the computer itself. Unfortunately the 3.5 inch floppy
    disk did not age well, and replacing it with either Gotek floppy drive
    emulator or adding a CF card as your HDD is almost a must. Games are found easily online and with the help of such tools such as WHDLoad your Amiga
    can be a great machine to use. If you decide to use a CF card and/or
    explore the Amiga world beyond gaming it is essential to have Workbench
    (Amiga OS) and at least Kickstart 3.0. Workbench is still sold
    commercially and can be purchased either on the AmigaForever or AmigaKit websites.


    An Amiga can be connected to normal TV via Composite Out or RF but as with
    all older hardware, trying to get a nice picture on LCD/LED TVs is a
    problem. Amiga was designed to work with CRT TVs/Monitors so getting a
    small CRT TV is advisable. A small LCD TV also will also do the job but without scan lines. Games and programs will never look as good.


    Getting an Amiga to play games on original hardware is the most common
    reason to get one. On eBay, retro markets, and car boot sales you can find plenty of them but I would not advise to get your games from such sources. Unless you are after original boxes and manuals, downloading a game from
    the Internet is a much safer option. A lot of original games spend years
    in the attics, and are exposed to humidity and dust, which is very damaging
    for floppy disks. Such disks can ruin your floppy drive or contribute
    heavily to destroying other floppies by getting your floppy drive head
    dirty. A Gotek drive or hard disk with WHDLoad is the most convenient and up-to-date solution.

    Whereas a Gotek drive will emulate a floppy drive and trick the Amiga into thinking data is coming from a normal floppy drive, it will not be any
    faster (but it is reliable). Employing WHDLoad will allow you to run games from a hard drive even if that was

    --- MBSE BBS v1.0.4 (GNU/Linux-i386)
    * Origin: Dragon's Lair ---:- bbs.vk3heg.net -:--- (39:901/280)