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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA

"AutoBoot" Workbench using a Zip drive with an Amiga 1000

by intric8 Sat Jul 28, 2018 1:06 pm



If you happen to have a Starboard2 by Microbotics equipped with a StarDrive - a rare SCSI controller upgrade for the Starboard2 - there is a way to connect an external SCSI Iomega Zip drive to your Amiga 1000.
IMG_6704.jpg
An Iomega Zip drive (100mb, SCSI) seen at the far right of the pic. Attached to the A1000 via a Microbotics Starboard2 StarDrive.


Not only that, but the A1000 will think the Zip drive is an actual 100MB HDD. Back in the day, the StarDrive was built with the intention of being hooked up to “large” 20MB drives. The Zip is 5X that size. So from a retro-computing standpoint, the Zip drive is massive. Plus, disks. You can make as many “drives” as you want.

But on top of all of that, through a bit of hackery magic, during the normal FDD boot-up process you can pass control from the WB floppy over to the Zip drive and boot Workbench from the Zip! To see this in action the first time almost feels like you’re witnessing a miracle. When I finally got it working, it did nearly feel like a religious experience.
IMG_6706.jpg
Behold the Zip drive being seen and used by an Amiga 1000 as a full-fledged (and forever expandable) hard drive. And it boots Workbench!


If you happen to own a Starboard2 with the StarDrive upgrade, the following is my best attempt at sharing the process and files necessary for doing it yourself. It took me several weeks go figure this out. Hopefully, if you have the proper hardware it might take you less than an hour.

Hardware Required

  • A1000
  • Microbotics Starboard2 with StarDrive. You’ll know if your Starboard2 was upgraded by either 1) noticing a female db25 SCSI port on the back of your Starboard2 case or 2) removing the outer shell and taking a peek inside. If you have a place for a AA battery - you just won the lottery!
  • Iomega SCSI Zip 100 and 25-25 cable (the one that came with your Zip drive a million years ago is perfect).


Software

Back in the day the Starboard2 came with its own setup software. It came with some RAM checking software for the Starboard’s RAM - and it only works under 1.1. If you’re running 1.1, get the heck outta there as your RAM can’t even auto-configure. Note: Microbotics did later release an updated version of their software which would run on 1.3 in 1989. You can get a copy of it here.

The StarDrive also has an install disk, which has its own problems. The first is that it only works reliably under WB 1.2 or below. The second problem is that it was only intended to be used with a very small selection of hard drives that were available back in 1986/1987. I learned the hard way that trying to use this old software is a mistake and will lead you down some deep and dark rabbit holes of pain and suffering. And if you do go down them, you will not survive (nor get this to work). Stay away. Stay far away. I wasted countless hours and days on that hot mess.

Assumptions
  • You have no other drives attached to your Amiga 1000
  • You want the Zip drive to be a primary (DH0:) hard drive
  • You want the Zip drive to mount itself, and auto-boot workbench when you turn the Amiga 1000 on. You will still need your Kickstart disk (if you aren’t running a KS ROM board) and you will still need to use 1 WB floppy, which will be edited and only used for booting the machine for the most part.
  • You will be calling the Zip disk “DH0:”

Setup

Let’s say you have a Starboard2 with a Star Drive. It’s not required, but I’d stick a fresh AA battery in the Star Clock to test that out later.

Before you set up all of the hardware, you need to do the following: either copy one of your Workbench 1.3 disks that you’ll need to modify, or download this file and put it on a blank, fresh floppy disk. This is my edited version - it's needed to start the boot-up process and pass control to your full Workbench on your Zip drive.

Creating the disk from the linked file will essentially make this process feel almost like a plug-and-play process assuming all goes well. Nearly. The file is a modified version of Blake’s, and is specific for the Zip drive. Everything is already updated exactly the way it needs to be for this specific project. This is now your WB Boot disk (but is only used for booting the machine when your Zip is attached).

But if you want to edit your own copy of Workbench (a copy, not your original) you will need to update two files: the Startup Sequence and the Mountlist. You’d also have to move the StarDrive.device driver over… save yourself the hassle and use the attached boot disk. But if you’re wondering what is being modified, it’s essentially those 3 things.

On the Zip drive, set the Termination to ON, and set your SCSI ID number (I set mine to 5).

The Mountlist (found in Devs):
When you look at your Mountlist, you should see a lot of examples you could potentially want to try. To keep things simple, I removed all of them and focused only on DH0:
It is critical you make the Unit number on the back of the Zip drive the same as the unit number in the mountlist.
IMG_6671.jpg
The specific geometry for the Zip drive is one of the KEY pieces of the puzzle.


The Startup Sequence
IMG_6666.jpg
IMG_6668.jpg
Note that at the end of the SS I'm assigning DOpus and Might and Magic 2. You wouldn't want to do that in your own SS. I've commented them out in the attached ADF so you won't run into boot-up issues the first time.



The Process

Hook up all of the hardware. Put your good-to-go WB/Zip boot in the FDD after you’ve loaded Kickstart. It will try to seek your Zip drive and stop loading Workbench. It will do this because your Zip Disk needs to be formatted, and it also needs an entire install of Workbench.

(Note: If your boot up sequence hangs during the WB loading process, you likely have a hardware failure somewhere. I’ve seen this happen when the connection on the Microbotics Starboard is wearing out. You may have to turn off your Amiga, press the Starboard2 more firmly into the port, and try again. It’s normal for the first WB boot to not complete, but it should not hang or freeze the system.)

At this point you should be staring at a Shell window.

First you need to format the Zip Disk. You may have to navigate to the Format command on your floppy to perform the command (not low-level, it’s not necessary). If you can’t see DH0: yet, you may also need to mount it.

Code: Select all
mount DH0:


It will probably tell you it’s already mounted. But just in case.

Then, you need to format the Zip.

Code: Select all
format drive dh0: name “ZipHD” quick


Obviously you can all it whatever you want.

Once you’ve formatted the disk and given it a name, all you need to do is copy the whole WB 1.3 disk (not the custom boot disk, your original untouched version) to the Zip drive.

I used my secondary (DF1:) drive to put the Full Workbench in, then copied it over.

Code: Select all
copy df1: #? all to DH0:

IMG_6701.jpg


After the copy to the Zip is complete, pop your Boot disk back into the floppy and reboot.

This time, the boot disk will hand over control to the Zip and load your full Workbench up. In a few moments, you should see the icon of whatever you called the Zip during the format process on your desktop below your RAM Disk icon. You’ll also see your WB Boot disk on the desktop. You can pop that out now and set it aside! You don’t need that floppy anymore except for booting your machine. The full version of Workbench is over on your awesome, 100MB Zip Disk. Good times!


Side notes:

Tim Kovack:
In theory we could create a DOS driver for other Amigas, you can use the same disk to copy data back and forth it's in Amiga format, but we can create one for Fat95 or cross dos and that should work ok to format in FAT
and make it readable on a PC or Mac
but not for a WB disk, as separate disk (like add a 2nd Zip drive)


intric8:
If you have issues formatting………
I had to change Directories on the FDD to "System" in order to perform the Format command.

Don’t copy the entire full version of Workbench over to the Zip until your format completes without errors (if you get any).

We've both seen random occurrences where our machines will guru, apparently for no rhyme or reason. It is rare, but it does sometimes happen.


Recap

You’ll boot using the modified WB disk going forward. You’ll have the full version (your full, legal copy) of WB on the Zip. After booting, you can pop out your WB disk and set it aside.

If you want to use your Zip disk with other Amigas that have Zip drives
For example, if you want to use your Amiga 1000 zip disk on the 2000 you will need to use the same geometry in the DOS driver mountlist for the other Amigas.

StarClock
On your StarDrive is the StarClock. In order to get it to work properly, you might as well avoid the StarDrive software (again) which has a cool little program to help you set the thing. At least, don’t try to use it from within Workbench.

In order to set your StarClock and have it load into memory on boot, you’ll have to move the StarClock program (found on the StarDrive setup disk) to your boot disk. I put mine in the “c” directory, and you have to invoke it in your Startup Sequence. But you only want to do this after you've set the time first. You can’t use SetClock or anything else you’re used to. That won’t work. It's easiest (and seems more reliable) to run the program and set the clock from the Shell. Just remember that the clock doesn’t support years beyond 2010 (unless someone out there knows how to re-write the code). But you can set the month, day and time. That’s not too bad.

I hope a few of you out there are able to get this to work some day. It’s VERY cool and an awesome hard drive solution for the A1000. (And while it's very old school, it feels bizarrely modern.)
User avatar
genenorton
Memphis, TN

Re: "AutoBoot" Workbench using a Zip drive with an Amiga 100

by genenorton Tue Jul 31, 2018 6:43 pm

Great Job!!

I followed your instructions. At first I was getting an error when trying to format, similar to my previous attempts. As a last resort I dug out another zip disc and success! The disc was dos format but maybe it had the write protect set or something. I can't currently check it on a PC.

I do have a comment.
in this line:
updated version of their software which would run on 1.3 in 1989. You can get a copy of it here.

Should there be a link associated with the word "here"
User avatar
intric8
Seattle, WA, USA

Re: "AutoBoot" Workbench using a Zip drive with an Amiga 100

by intric8 Mon Dec 03, 2018 12:27 pm

@genenorton I'm so sorry I spaced out on your earlier comment about the missing link. I've just updated it!
User avatar
obitus1990
Louisiana

Re: "AutoBoot" Workbench using a Zip drive with an Amiga 100

by obitus1990 Mon Dec 03, 2018 4:39 pm

Will the Amiga only work with 100mb ZIPs, or, can it use the ZIP250 as well? I have a few of those laying around from old PCs I owned at the time.
User avatar
intric8
Seattle, WA, USA

Re: "AutoBoot" Workbench using a Zip drive with an Amiga 100

by intric8 Mon Dec 03, 2018 5:03 pm

@obitus it could probably use anything. The problem is correctly identifying the disk geometry, and for that we only have the Zip 100. But you can use as many disks as you want, making it a very cool HDD solution on the A1000.

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