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My Meagre Hacks

Over the last couple of years while using Linux, I've slowly become better at what could loosely be described as "hacking".

Now DON'T PANIC! - don't get me wrong - I'm not some Linux guru who can cut perl code with my toes blindfolded...just somebody who sometimes at a very low level likes taking someone else's code & modifying it for my own needs. Sometimes I might even improve on the original! *cough*.

I mainly focus on stuff that is Palm related, mainly trying to integrate some of the command line tools available for Linux->Palm connectivity with some well known Linux applications.

Here are my (meagre) hacks:

  1. Sticky Notes Gnome Applet -> Palm - Perl/Tk Script
  2. Modded X-Box, Xebian Linux, SMC Router & Ext 56K4 Serial Modem
  3. Christchurch Address/Map Search Perl Script
  4. Dilbert Perl Script
  5. Pilot-Link read-expenses -> CSV Perl Script
  6. Palm Tungsten W & T2, Palm Bluetooth card, Holux Bluetooth GPS & Handmap
  7. Casio Exilim EX-M20U 2MP Digital Camera and MP3 player with Linux
  8. Tribute to "Thrust" & "HHGTTG". The best computer games ever written!
  9. USB ProDrive with SD/MMC card with Linux
  10. pilot-doc.el - An Emacs LISP extension
  11. Nautilus Scripts
  12. DiddleBug Sketches
  13. Iverson-Gleeson Bent Middle Finger Grip (& other thoughts...)
  14. Happy Hacking Keyboard
  15. Christchurch Bus Timetables for the Palm
  16. Connecting Palm to Linux box with USB bluetooth dongle
  17. Connecting Sony Ericsson T610 via bluetooth to Linux box
  18. -> The ZX81 & Linux <-
  19. Gameboy & Doom for the Palm!
  20. Learning Harmonica using your Palm?
  21. gtd - desktop companion to mobileGTD
  22. All of them

HHGTTG & Douglas Adams at his best! Very sage advice!

The ZX81 & Linux

As you might have noticed on my Tandy 102 page, I have a slight fascination about retro computing. Part of me thinks computing was more fun back in the 80's. Talented coders knew everything about the machines as they where fundamentally alot simplier, and extremely well documented in alot of cases.

The ZX81 was the first computer I ever saw. I think I was about 12 or something. Recently I set about the task trying to find emulators for this classic on Linux. One thing I regretted about that time was never learning machine language/assembly language. I figured emulating a ZX81, getting an assembler installed on it, then finding some info about programming it would be a good step. The ZX81 is a good machine for this as its relatively uncomplicated. Only had 4 chips on the motherboard!

There is actually only one native ZX81 emulator for Linux. And its a good one! z81 is its name. There does not seem to be a Ubuntu Linux package for it, so I downloaded & compiled from source. Its REALLY good! Check it out!

As an experiment, I also tried running some of the Winblows ZX81 emualtors on Ubuntu Linux using DOSBox and Wine. I was pleasently surprised that the following emulators all worked perfectly! :-) They are XTender 1.28 (DOSBox), EightyOne (Wine) & NO$ZX81 (DOSBox). With these 3 & z81 any software you can find to try out can be run.

Next step was finding an assembler! After some research I found one of the better assemblers for the ZX81 was the ZX-Assembler written by Artic. For an instruction manual on using the ZX-Assembler you can print off the tape inlays that exist on this page. Its seems that the developer of XTender 1.28 has also developed a modified version of the original ZX-Assembler for download. Fantastic!

Now I had to find some more documention about Z80 coding (the processor the ZX81 uses). By far the best resource apparently is "Programming the Z80" by Rodney Zaks. If you can get hold of this book either by buying it or finding an online resource you should be sweet to go!

Other great resources to get you started are the ts1000.us site & its bulletin board, and also old-computers.com. For software, try zx81.nl. If you are really keen & handy with a soldering iron, you can still buy a ZX81 kit!.

What was REALLY cool about the ZX81 was a few smart cookies found a way to coax hi-res (256x192) out of it. Particulary a company called Software Farm. A very smart guy named Wilf Ritger details how these hires hacks happen.. Some fairly amazing games where made, like Stephen McDonalds Rock Crush and Dans Revenge.

Good luck! My initial efforts in coding have been most fun!

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Thats all folks at the moment! If I come up with anything else I'II post it here.

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