Lon's Apple II yule log

December 26th, 2016 7:32 AM
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There are plenty of Apple II programs that demonstrate the holiday spirit, as amply showcased by Blake Patterson's impressive annual playlist. So while such software is commonplace, it's rare to find retrocomputing hardware that's seasonally appropriate.

Lon Seidman inadvertently has filled that gap. He's built a YouTube empire of over 122,000 subscribers with almost daily reviews of any tech he can get his hands on — from the Xbox One video game console to Lenovo laptops to Samsung hard drives. His latest video is of the Apple IIGS, of which he produced a 33-minute review:

Unfortunately, his shoot was not without fatalities. When his computer started smoking, he thought the monitor had fried a capacitor, so he quickly hustled the display outside while leaving the camera running. But the culprit proved to be the CPU itself, which continued to quietly smoke in front of the camera. Lon took his lemons and made lemonade, offering the following festive video:

There may not be any actual flame (thank goodness), but this is as close as I'd want to get to an actual Apple II yule log.

Merry Christmas and Hanukkah, Lon — I hope your IIGS was okay!

(Full disclosure: I back Lon Seidman on Patreon.)

Gaming across the platforms

December 30th, 2013 11:35 AM
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I spent much of December overwhelmed by too many freelance commitments. Activities that are supposed to be fun, like writing articles and playing video games, adopt a different tone when a deadline is applied. But I kept my sanity in large part to the opportunities these pursuits gave me to interact with my fellow Apple II users outside our usual contexts of Juiced.GS, Open Apple, and KansasFest.

Specifically: we've been playing video games. Lots of them.

My YouTube channel, where I unboxed the Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One, gained the attention of prolific and accomplished media producer Lon Seidman, former guest of Open Apple. Although I lack the polish and equipment of his A/V setup, he invited me onto his show for a livestream first look at the Xbox One.

It was fun to see and work with Lon in real-time — a first! Who knows what other opportunities he and I may have to collaborate? Could an Apple II show be far off?

That same weekend, I was invited to be a guest on the weekly Internet radio show Pixel Pizza, hosted by Jared Ettinger, a student at Emerson College, where I'm on the adjunct faculty. I was concerned that I'd be outed for my lack of hardcore gaming experience, but I was able to turn the conversation to more technical details about the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 that I could expound upon. My confidence was further bolstered to know Steve Weyhrich of the Apple II History site was listening live. During sign-off, I thanked him on-air with a plug for his book, Sophistication & Simplicity.

Interviews and talk shows are all well and good — but video games are meant to be played, not discussed. So this past Friday evening, I switched on my Xbox 360, connected to Xbox Live, and met Dain Neater and Andy Molloy for some online gaming. Our weapons in this duel were high-performance speed demons, with us racing down the California coast trying to escape the police (or, sometimes, each other) as we duked it out in Need for Speed Hot Pursuit.

So thanks, Microsoft, for giving us Apple II users so many gaming platforms to discuss and play on. Any medium that serves to connect us retrocomputing enthusiasts is okay by me!

Bringing Warp Six into the 21st century

May 27th, 2013 11:59 PM
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Twenty years ago this past Presidents' Day, I launched a dial-up bulletin board system. The Playground was powered by an Apple IIGS running the Warp Six BBS software by Jim Ferr. As was often the case among the many brands of computers back then, pledging allegiance to a particular piece of hardware or software placed you into its community, connecting you with like-minded individuals. I became a frequent caller of another Warp Six BBS, the Apple Hide-A-Away (AHAW), run in Iowa by Scott Johnson. We traded many tips and tricks on how to make the most of the software. Whereas I stopped tinkering with Warp Six 16 years ago, Scott has been working on-and-off for years to update the software to v3.0, with an updater package currently in beta.

In tandem, Lon Seidman, star of last week's Apple II Bits post, is making Warp Six more accessible than ever. Using a Raspberry Pi — the same computer that was featured on the cover of Juiced.GS — Lon has made it possible to connect to his Warp Six BBS via telnet. Check out his video demonstration, which was featured on episode #1400 of The Giz Wiz:

I'm hopeful that, once Scott and Lon get Warp Six v3.0 stable, they'll be able to connect it with the BBS door game I wrote for an earlier version. Space Ship of Death (SSOD) stands as the most complex piece of programming I ever produced, at a whopping 624 lines of Applesoft BASIC and zero documentation. To see it running again would boost my already massive ego to intolerable heights.

Interested in trying Warp Six yourself? Point your Telnet client to matrixreturns.dyndns.org, port 6401. Just like the original Warp Six software, Lon's BBS accepts only one caller at a time, so for the first time in decades, be prepared to get a busy signal!

Lon Seidman's Apple IIGS on TWiT

May 20th, 2013 11:19 AM
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Unless the subject is video games, I don't listen to any modern technology podcasts. Perhaps as a result of having been a Computerworld editor for six years, I feel sufficiently connected to the state of modern IT without spending my spare time consuming audio or video content on the subject. As a result, I'm largely unfamiliar with Leo Laporte and his expansive This Week in Tech broadcasting empire. What little I've been exposed to has left me underwhelmed. When the stars of his shows are Apple II heroes such as Dan Bricklin or Jeri Ellsworth, then I always walk away satisfied and enlightened. But without those outside personalities, I find Laporte and his cronies to be pretentious and bombastic.

I recently made an exception for The Giz Wiz #1377, which aired all the way back on August 14, 2012. I'd added the episode to my queue long enough ago that I'd forgotten my motivation for doing so. But I trusted my past self and listened to the entire episode. It wasn't until time indices 52:39–58:16, after nearly an hour of listening to Laporte and co-host Dick DeBartolo discuss SkyMall's catalog, that I found the show's relevancy to this retrocomputing enthusiast:

To this episode, Lon Seidman submitted a video tour of his Apple IIGS. Enhancements include not only an overclocked Transwarp GS but also the Uthernet networking card and Rich Dreher's CFFA3000. We don't get to see much of the software or unique uses Seidman has for his Apple II, and that which we do see will be familiar to members of the modern Apple II community — but the segment was short and focused enough to get picked up by TWiT, making for excellent publicity for our hobby. Way to go, Lon!

For other video reviews and tours of Apple II hardware, check out the work of Brian Picchi and Terry Stewart.