VSD Host SOLD OUT thank you everone

Over a year ago I started working on the Virtual Serial Host, a device about the size of a pack of cigarettes that would hold a virtual serial drive and ADT pro server, possibly a apple game server as well.

Anywho, its been over a year, progress has been stalled for a while and I have this large box of parts sitting under my desk. So I made up the PCB’s and tried my darnest to make the cases nice (machining them like I wanted to originally proved to be cost or time prohibitive), simplified the software to ONLY do a VSDRIVE host and I am ready to get them gone.

What you get:

1x PCB fully populated and loaded with firmware to emulate a ADTpro Virtual Serial Drive (2 drives) from files stored on a SD Card. VSD is not a hard disk replacement as its software driver can easily bumped out of ram by many different programs, but it does prove to be very handy with programs that play nice with it.

1x Case is a light beige box with a painted black faceplate, holes and slots have been cut in the case with varying degrees of “meh” but over all are not the worst looking things one could put on their desk. Rear of the unit contains a 2.5mm power jack for 6-12v DC, and 9 pin male DE9 port. You use the same cables that you would for ADTpro. Front contains a toggle power switch, SD card slot and dual color indicator LED (red/green + amber).

1x 6 volt DC 500mA compact switching wall wart with appropriate DC connector

1x 128MB SD card with custom home made label,  containing 2 blank 32MB prodos Images and files needed for bootstraping your apple II directly from the device itself (no floppy disk required, but floppy disk is suggested as not all programs will exit to dos files taken from adt pro distribution)

Video on how to bootstrap VSDRIVE from the device

What you need:

Apple II that works with VSDRIVE already

Null modem cable to go between male DE9 (like found on most PC’s) to whatever port your apple II has on it (25 pin for SSC, DIN5 for //c etc)

Understanding that I have only tested this with my apple //c

Limitations of Offer:

I only have 9 units, once gone I do not plan on making any more, though I will be open sourcing the arduino firmware, pcb and schematic files (altium designer and pdf) along with a bill of materials. If you are handy with arduino and or a soldering iron wait a few days you can make one on perf board with though hole parts (sd card is surface mount but it will fit)  fairly easily, more details in coming days including how to do it with premade modules.

COUSA residents ONLY, I am just getting these things out from under my desk, not starting a store. price is included with shipping … trying to keep it simple

Limit one per address, since I only have 9

Please if you have never used VSDRIVE before and think that its a magic bullet around real hard drives or a CFFA, its not

Sounds great how much and how do I get it?

I am asking 40$ (US) shipped anywhere in the continental United States, if you are interested contact me in email

osgeld (at) cheesefactory  (dot) us

This is not a pre order, I have 9 units ready to go and shipping starts Monday 7-14-14


P5250011 P6010011 P7090013 P7090015

I screwed up the PCB’s

I have the serial connector on backwards, and since I HAVE to send out for new boards a fixed a few nitpicky things that would not effect operation or performance, but it bugged me.

Gerbers going out tonight, take about 3 weeks. Meanwhile I have cases in hand just gotta machine them with the jigs I have planned out but have not made quite yet.


PCB’s in hand

Pocket Serial host PCB’s are in my hand. First time using Itead studio and I am quite happy with the result. After problems were sorted it took about 3 weeks to get them, and they look pretty darn good. The boards are 54mm x 89mm, just slightly too large to fit in the 50x100mm price category. If I shaved 2mm off each end of the board they would not fit on the enclosures supports and rattle around, so I got the slightly more expensive 100x100mm service, and instead of 10 boards, they sent me 12 (yay), which actually dropped the price by ~20 cents a unit.

Next up I have to make a solder stencil, and then I can paste, then reflow the parts at my workplace while off the clock (and wearing a sign saying I am not on the clock so leave me alone)

Here is a scanned image.

Parts Delay City

Ordered PCB’s, there was a problem with my file outputs cause they were not clear on what they needed other than “send us gerbers, heres an eagle template that doesnt work in altium” got that worked out… They should be slow boating it in the next few days

Ordered enclosures last week, got notified of a 6 week lead time UGH, so close yet so far, oh well more time for software refinement.

VSH update

After the sanity check I noticed that I forgot to add the LED(s), and that there was some high frequency oscillation in the voltage regulators. I reduced total capacitance in parallel to help squelch that. I made a PDF of that schematic and decided “eh screw it” and moved on to reworking the SMD version

but I forgot to add the LED’s (DOH) so yea, lesson learned, make multiple saves when doing different versions. Tween the two there is not much difference, the SMD version has a schottky diode for input protection, and a low dropout 5 volt regulator to account for the dirt cheap 6 volt wall warts I had bought.

The 3.3 volt regulator changed as well to a smd version but after that its all the same parts, just in smd packages (so a atmega328p-pu changes to a atmega328p-au type of stuff)

Here is schematics as of now for both, keeping in mind the though hole version does not have the indicator led’s in place … fix that later



Quick picture, note at my employment it is a sin to make a PCB without all 3d models populated, im not at work so its missing models

Retro Challenge Review

Three goals I had in mind for retro challenge this year were projects I was already working on:

Graphics for retrospectiva: I one DHGR image out there, wanted to do more but I got one!

Finish Ballbuster for retrospectiva: … um yea not done

Get the pocket serial host out of the way: This thing has been working for quite some time now, I just got to get the material printed and the PCB’s out the door. A sanity check was made on perfboard and is working. I wanted to get a quick video up for retrochallenge of it working, but I got sent to Michigan with no notice this week, and just returned tonight. A very basic schematic and code is published on this site if one wanted to whip it together using an arduino and a breadboard though.

Not quite as sucessfull as I had hoped, but better than previous years

Sanity Check Passed Smoke Test

No smoke, pop’s bangs or fire to report of. During my poking around I noticed I wired a TX line going from the serial port to the MAX232 converter to ground, fixed that … got some oscillation in the voltage regulators.

Power comes in clean from a wall wart thanks to some input filtering , hits the 5 volt regulator and it starts oscillating around 131Khz at ~100 millivolts, that hits the 3 volt regulator and oscillates about the same frequency at around 200milivolts sending my 3.3 volt to 3.5 volt peak. None of that is critical and the thing works fine, but I make electronics for a living and it would not pass any of the testing I would subject it to at my work, so its not good enough here.

Its an easy fix, in a nutshell I went capacitor mad, thats good, but in reality all those caps are in parallel making a large capacitor that cant really shunt out “high” frequency noise cause it cant react fast enough, hince the wiggle on my scope screen. So I have a few options there, and once I pick out the best one, its a minor schematic update.

First Sanity Check

Finally got done making a point to point wired board for the Pocket Serial Host / VSHOST whatever I am calling it this week as a sanity check for the schematics. Of course I had to pencil in a couple changes, nothing major just details.

Does it work? ell if I know, its too late tonight to smoke test it, load software and run it though its paces, those activities will be started tomorrow night. Smoke test is what it sounds like, I will take all the IC’s out apply power and see if anything is shorted (with a current limited supply to not cause any damage). After that its a matter to see that the correct voltages go to the correct places.

Then I will bootload the AVR, which means it can be programed though a normal serial port, and upload the latest firmware … which takes advantage of a DS1307 realtime clock, with battery backup. The SMD versions will be bootloaded as well so that its easy for users to do firmware updates once they are out in the wild, course since I have no plans to produce a though hole version, if you make your own, that will be up to you.

Think thats about it for now


(click for larger versions)

Strange World

This retrospectiva entery I went into the relm of color DHGR graphics, which I have never done before. Using bmpA2FC by Bill Buckels for image conversion. I have to say I was getting seriously aggravated with this program… that is until I read the instructions (doh!)

I will update with retrospectiva link when its available, which includes a self booting disk image like all my other entries


Pocket Serial Host Enclosure in hand

I procrastinated for the longest time after picking out this plastic box, but I didnt really need to have it on hand. I have a crappy PDF with all the mechanical details, and I slipped that info to our ME at my work who clapped his hands and provided me with a 3D cad model in what seemed to be an instant, that I could load in Altium to make sure my physical parts would not crash into the case.

You got to love mechanical engineers, it would have taken me a week to make something close, this guy does a primitive model in 10 min meeting all the critical measurements while on a phone call.

Anywho, I finally ordered one for a sanity check, physical parts vs physical parts, and it arrived today. The box is an off the shelf pactec HM series and is listed in “PC BONE” color. If you look at the website it shows a fairly tan box, but in reality the box is lighter in its tan color. Sitting on top of my //c it doesn’t look too far off.

(color under daylight CFL)

(picture under incandescent lights  but compare the reset key to the box, dead on, just give it 20 years lol)

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BALLBUSTER an Applesoft BASIC Game for Retrospectiva 2012: Introduction

Not quite finished yet, but I have not mentioned it yet


It is a breakout style game that has no levels and never ends. Unlike most breakout style games, where you clear out a set number of bricks, take a moment and start a new set of bricks… This shit never ends until you DIE

You break out X amount of bricks and it adds a line of bricks marching down on you and speeds up… Can you keep up?


coming in January 2013, 160 lines of basic written, four HGR screens, two shape tables, two text screens  and over 2/3rds the way done.



PSH Starter Schematic and some Code

So I (finally) started drawing schematics tonight, its been one big delay after another in osgeld Labs, some of it unavoidable some of it very avoidable. Since that’s the way its working I would like to announce 180$ preorders (kidding guys) no I would like to announce a basic starting point schematic and firmware for the hardware tinkerers.

First a rant on KiCad. KiCad is a open source EDA (electronics design automation package) you draw a schematic, assign footprints, make a pcb, ship it off and get back a printed circuit board. Though I have been using it for years, tonight I just about lost it… every simple durn thing turned into a MAJOR pain in the BUTT! Thats it, I am done, when peoples software just gets more and more broken over time, I dont have time to screw with it anymore, its not worth the stress, and this downhill slide has been going on for a long while it seems.

After taking 3 hours to do something that would have taken an hour min in Altium (another EDA that cost thousands of dollars, we use at my work) I was trying to export the schematic to PDF, SVG, any darn thing where it would loose half my work. So in a nutshell screw that, and for now you will have to deal with a crappy screenshot.

Word of warning, I have not actually made hardware off of this schematic… it should be correct (I kind of do this for a living), but I don’t guarantee it. Its also very basic hardware and there will be more things added into it in the future, mostly basic things like an LED, a switch, maybe a couple jumpers, but a biggie is a Real Time Clock … if I ever settle on one.

Software is also in a very basic state. this is not my current build, but its one that works as a VSDRIVE host, and nothing more. Since this is all in a very basic state, and not at all close to what I consider ready.

I will not be held responsible if you hook it up and blow something up… so dont save your tax forms on it, and accept personal risk to your hardware if you tinker with it.

(click for large version)

To compile software you need Arduino 1.01 (should work with 1.02 and 1.03 I will check in the near future) software and fatSDlib library installed in the libraries folder of wherever you install arduino.


you also need the apple II software, from the last 2-3 revisions of ADTpro

Pocket Serial Host Gets a Power Supply

As I gear up for a run of 10 of these devices, one of the major issues has been to power the silly things. As this grew from a //c to a //c+ to an every apple ][ project it became apparent that there was no way I could tap a port on the computer for power, so a plug in wall-wart was needed.

These things can be retarded expensive, like this 24$ radio shack, transformer based hunk of crap. BUT I found a awesome deal on sale at electronic goldmine on a switching model wall-wart. Switching means its stout (enough) in the current department, while being compatible with 120-240 volt AC input, and compact … bout the same as any normal modern celphone charger.

Its probably a garbage design, but nothing worse than any other Chinese stuff that comes packed in with various gadgets of the modern age

Retrospectiva 2012

I have submitted 2 graphic entries and am working on a mystery game for Retrospective 2012 … The game is not completed yet (heck I got 5 more months) but here are my 2 current graphics entries…




Retrospectiva is a year long “contest” for us 8 bit nerds, Graphics, Music, and Games are allowed as entries but, it has to be for a vintage 8 bitter, and has to be done in BASIC, well let me just quote them.

Short rules:

What?: Create a BASIC game, graphics or music for 8-bit computers.

How?: The Games can be created on any variant of BASIC and any graphic mode. Use of non-native tools is allowed, with certain restrictions.

When?: The call for entries is open between May 14, 2012 and April 14, 2013 inclusive.

Voting: There will be a week long public voting phase on Retrospectiva site.

Prizes: Major prizes, courtesy of the fundación museo ICATEC.

Entry submission: Choose between e-mailing your already complete entry or signing up and reporting the progress as you go along.


VSDrive minus PC (long winded intro)

A little while back, there was a flurry of activity on the comp.sys.apple2 group that started innocently enough. User Riccardo found some software that allowed you to serve a prodos disk image (up to 32MB) from a PC to your apple via serial port, but he could not get it to work.

Wanting something just like that, I jumped in with a little google magic, found the original authors website …


But discovered that it was (only slightly) unfinished, and pretty much hard coded for some models of the IIGS. Luckily David Schmidt of ADTPro fame took an interest, and very quickly the Virtual Serial Drive was included in ADT 1.2.4 (along with an Ethernet version as well)

While its not perfect, its darn handy for many programs and it gives us //c owners an option for mass storage!

Even-though I was tickled beyond pink, I wanted to cut the PC life support, and I did just that.

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