Fun with RF & PAL TVs

Since I was a kid growing up in Canada, everything was NTSC. And my first computer the Commodore 64 was of course NTSC based. My parents refused to get me a monitor, so I had to use the RF modulator to get it to work on a TV. In north America we had these RF modulators on the back of the TV’s to connect our systems up (Atari, Commodore, Nintendo, SEGA etc..)

Vintage Atari 2600 Colecovision C64 Computer Switch Box RF Adapter

And the picture looked terrible, it was an antenna so it was suspectable to all kinds of RF emission interference, grounding issues and all kind of all around problems. It’s no wonder I had 20/20 vision as a kid, but it was absolutely destroyed because I was even forbidden to buy a proper monitor.

So thanks to patreon and ebay, I found this amazing bundle for 49GBP, a Commodore 64, plus tape drive. The catch being it didn’t include any proper cables, so I went to Tesco and bought an RF lead. I have this weird LG TV, a LG 50PC1D 50in Plasma TV. The original list price was an eye watering £1800! I got it used a while back for a more reasonable £130.

Lots of Inputs!

While I was at Tesco, I didn’t see any kinds of RF boxes. I was hoping I could just plug the cable directly from the TV into the Commodore C64, and it turns out that is exactly how it works.

With the cable plugged in, I was able to eventually get an image. I found out that the LG is more than capable of locking the RF image from the Commodore 64, and it looks awesome!

One man and his Droid over the RF on the LG 50PC1D

It’s a lot better than I was expecting. Clearly RF on a ‘modern’ TV works great.

Of course getting this to work wasn’t all that intuitive, and again probably because I’ve only delt with NTSC TV’s where the channel would be locked to either 3 or 4. Not so in Europe.

Channel 4

So setting the TV to channel for, and the band to ‘cable’ you can see the distinct border of the basic screen. The image of course is useless but you can see it trying. And that is because after letting the TV scan and find the picture on it’s own it’s actually channel 36.

Messing with the image options I found that there is 3 systems to choose from:

System L

You can see the image trying to form under System L, but it’s obviously no good

System BG

While the image looks better, the speakers erupt with absolute static. And the image is a bit faint, but immediately recognizable. It does look better in person however.

System I

And finally we have System I, over V/UHF on Channel 36.

I don’t know if this will help anyone trying to get anything working. Maybe it’s only relevant for people new to PAL territories like me.

ERYING HM570 Motherboard with i9 11900HA

I found out about the board from some YouTube videos. An i9 laptop chip on a PC motherboard?! And for cheap! Intrigued, I looked around on AliExpress and sent away for one. The board retailed for £123, of course you need to add a tariff and shipping, bringing it to around £150.

Garbage bag of “kwality”

After two weeks it arrived!. Despite the garbage bag packing, it was wrapped in some strong bubble wrap, and the box was fully intact, no issues.

Since I don’t have much in the way of PC detritus on hand, I got the machine memory & CPU cooler for the system. Anyways yes the big outstanding feature is the big copper slug that sits between the processor and the height of a normal CP cooler. It’s a laptop processor so it doesn’t run that hot so I’m not all that worried. As expected, assembly is a snap, but because of the absolute paranoia of shipping lithium ion batteries, be sure to bring your own CR2032. Just don’t ask how it made it’s way to you.

The board is very basic, 2 DDR4 slots, a single PCI-E x16 slot, a hand full of USB 2/3 built in audio, and a single LAN jack. This is not a very expandable system, but we didn’t come here for that, it’s all about the performance per $

Blinky! blink!

I have to admit, one nice surprise feature of the NVMe is that it does have an activity light on the unit. Nice!

So what has been the downside? The integrated video only works on ONE level of the driver. So if you are going to use the integrated iGPU, you want to make sure you get one of those patched drivers that’ll block windows updates.

Ive read a few things about raising the thermal envelope of the system beyond the stock 45 watts for additional performance, but to be honest the stock config seems fine enough to me.

The other catch being no Hyper-V, so that also means no WSLv2 either. VMware player however works fine, as does nesting VM’s so I was able to move my VMware ESX 5.5 install and run it on the Erying no problem.

I have to say that overall I’ve been happy, especially at the price point, as a normal user it’s a fine machine, but I think the next time I’ll avoid engineering samples as I do like WSLv2/Hyper-v.

When 0 is greater than 1.0

I came across this fun thing debugging a QuakeWorld client on a RISC machine. I think something is failing as I’m using terminal server. For some reason width is being passed as 0. Not sure why I didn’t debug it enough to care, so I setup a quick block to only evaluate the Fov if the calculated x was greater than 1.0

And Microsoft C did not disappoint.

I think it may have been some incremental linking issue? I’m not sure I purged the build directory and re-ran make and didn’t experience the crash again. I had to get the screenshot or even I wouldn’t believe it.

In the end I got it running:

Of course among the eagle eyed you may notice this is version 13.00.8499 of the compiler. But the last compiler for the Dec Alpha / Windows NT was version 12…

More on that later!

OpenVMS x86 hobbyist finally here!

(This is a guest post by Antoni Sawicki aka Tenox)

After years of waiting, VMS Software finally released OpenVMS x86 for hobbyist use. Luckily I was able to download the install media and a hobbyist license pack from the Service Platform portal. So lets have some fun with virtualization!

OpenVMS x86 has pretty strict hardware requirements. It only works as a VM (no physical hardware support). It wants a recent CPU. The VM must have EFI BIOS and E1000 NIC. As for storage controller – both HDD and CDROM must be on the same SATA controller.

The ISO image boots to a fancy new loader screen:

OpenVMS x86 on VMware ESXi

However as cute as it looks, don’t have your hopes up for a real GUI. That’s as far as it goes:

Once the OS boots up, it switches to a serial console for the rest of installation and operation. Being a VM and having no access to physical serial port, I hooked it up via named pipe to another VM’s serial port.

Just for fun let’s use a recent build of C-Kermit by David Goodwin!

The installation is pretty straightforward. I picked all the defaults and off you go.

The system installs under couple of minutes. A boot takes just couple of seconds and it’s extremely fast end responsive. This is somewhat expected as the VMS dates back to 1977 and hasn’t grown in bloat much like more “modern” OSes.

One of first things to do after installation, is to register the license packs and configure TCP/IP.

For license pack I added the “BOE” pak by hand and transferred the rest as a `.com` file after TCP/IP was setup.

To configure IP you simply run @sys$manager:tcpip$config and go through the steps. Networking doesn’t start by default, so you need to edit sys$ file and uncomment line saying @sys$startup:tcpip$ After that you should be able to telnet to the VM at every boot. Also note that OpenVMS comes with some unix commands for the tcpip subsystem, you can find them in help under TCPIP_Services -> UNIX_Commands

You can setup auto boot in the graphical console by typing “auto boot”, this way you never have to open the graphical console to type boot.

Browsing through software packages on the VMS service portal you can find a C compiler, Fortran, as well as some typical OSS packages like OpenSSH, SSL, Samba, Git and many more.

Apparently there also is a WebUI for VMS?

I’m hoping that in future OpenVMS will be available on some public clouds like AWS, Azure and GCP. This would open some interesting possibilities.

I’m going to go and port some apps to x86 VMS!