Personal data lineage

May 16th, 2011 11:19 AM
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The many hours of driving that composed my weekend were filled with podcasts. Among them were This Week in Tech's interviews with first Bob Frankston and then Dan Bricklin, creators of VisiCalc. The two pioneers must've been happy to finally talk about something other than their spreadsheet, as there was nary a mention of the Apple II to be found.

But around time index 34:03, Bricklin said something to which I can relate:

Every time I get a new hard disk with a new machine, I take everything I used to have from that old, huge 300 gigabyte, and put it the corner of the new drive, and then take that and put it in the corner of a new drive. I've been doing that for years. You always make copies.

This passage describes my practice perfectly. Although I occasionally clean my computer of any unused applications and extensions, the data is persistent, migrating with me from one machine to the next. As a result, I can at a moment's notice access any email I've sent in the last 14 years, or any school paper I've written in the last 23. All this data takes up less than one gigabyte. By 8-bit standards, that's staggering; by today's, having the output of an entire era fit on 0.2% of my current computer's capacity is humbling.

Other Apple II users are likely also inclined to be digital packrats — but what shape does that take? Have you converted your data to disk images? Do you keep your Apple II up and running, able to access the data in its original environment? Or are your hard drives long disconnected, waiting to be archived before it's too late?

Quality Computers on Vimeo

December 13th, 2010 9:54 AM
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Just a brief note today to point out that both the Quality Computers videos I previously digitized and made available via YouTube — those being the Q-Drive care & feeding video and the System 6.0.1 introduction — are now available on Vimeo.

Quality Computers Q-Drive care & feeding video from Ken Gagne on Vimeo.

Quality Computers System 6.0.1 video from Ken Gagne on Vimeo.

I started using Vimeo in conjunction with KansasFest 2010, which marked the first official effort to create a video record of the event. Having previously uploaded Quality Computers videos to YouTube, I knew that the service's ten-minute maximum movie length imposed on standard users would be a significant barrier to publishing multiple and lengthy KansasFest videos. Vimeo has no such limits, and its premium service offers high-definition videos and downloadable source files. True, it's easy enough to download YouTube videos with Safari, but Vimeo makes the process that much more transparent.

So although the content of each Quality Computers video is unchanged from YouTube to Vimeo, you can now watch each in one segment instead of seven, and you can download it at such for your own archives as well — making the history of the Apple II all that much easier to access and preserve.

Quality Computers Q-Drive tutorial video

May 31st, 2010 11:00 AM
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The Lost Classics project serves to reclassify formerly commercial Apple II software, preserving it for current and future users of the classic computer. But there exists a variety of other Apple II products that require not just reclassification, but digitization, as their original format was physical and prone to decay or destruction.

Of late, Antoine Vignau of Brutal Deluxe Software has made it his mission to convert various VHS recordings and upload them to YouTube, where anyone can see and share them. Inspired, I decided to follow suit. I rummaged through my modest tape collection and found one from Quality Computers covering the installation and maintenance of their Q-Drive external SCSI hard drive. Concerned about copyright, I recalled that Sean Fahey had recently contacted Joe Gleason, former president of Quality Computers, and had been granted permission to distribute these videos, putting my efforts in the clear.

To make the conversion, I used the Pinnacle Video Transfer tool, which takes A/V input on one end and outputs to a USB storage device on the other. My VCR is old (but then, aren't they all?) and lacks an S-Video jack, so I relied on composite, or RCA, cables. Although this limitation may've impacted the final product's quality, I don't think the potential improvement would've been great given the VHS source material.

Once I had a digital file, Eric Shepherd recommended I use the program JES Deinterlacer, but its powers were beyond my ken. The filter's multiple options and settings were not obvious to someone unfamiliar with video editing, and I found that running a file through the program took several hours to output a final product, which deterred experimentation. In the end, and with Antoine's seal of approval, I skipped this step and uploaded the result to YouTube. Due to the service's 10-minute limit on individual files, I broke the 30-minute video into thirds. You can now view parts one, two, and three online, or altogether in this playlist:



Q/Vision, a division of Quality Computers, presents this tutorial for installing and maintaining their Q-Drive external hard drive on your Apple IIGS computer. Starring QC employees Michael Heintz, Walker Archer, and Jerry Kindall, this 1992 video is posted here with permission from Joe Gleason.


Thank you to Sean, Antoine, and Sheppy for their help!