Wednesday, 6 May 2020

1541 Ultimate II

Finally I got the Ultimate cartridge for the C64.

Not the II+ mind you, but a second hand version of the II, with the tape emulation add-on and the Ethernet-USB dongle thrown in.

The adapter has the label "NO:usb 2.0 LAN JP208 MADE IN CHINA" and that's all I know of the brand and make of it. It's good to have an already proven solution included.

Firmware upgrade

I didn't really buy the cartridge for the Ethernet functions, but I was curious enough to want it to work. It happened the u1541 firmware was 2.6 and needed upgrading before this would work well. In any case it must be a good idea to update the firmware.

At this moment I realized the Ultimate cartridge, despite being highly rated and professional-looking hardware, has a rather scattered and a bit confusing documentation. Well, it's quite common for any of these hobbyist add-ons. As I got this second hand the docs may have been lacking.

So, an upgrade 2.6 version to 3.07beta needs an update.bin file in the root folder of the SD card (Usb stick is not enough). When booting, the update will run.

Afterwards, I could upgrade using u2u files. (I guess u2p files are for the plus) When I had my 3.4c version going, I could finally see the IP address on screen.

Remote control and file transfers

Now it's possible to telnet to that IP from another computer, using port 23.

PuTTy is fine, but correct settings are needed for display and cursor keys and backspace.

Initially arrow keys or function keys did not work without pressing Control at the same time. Changing PuTTy keyboard settings to VT100+ helped. "Initial state of cursor keys" is "normal".

Local echo and local line editing are both "force off". Backspace is set to "Control-H"

Also, the font did not display correctly despite changing it from UTF-8 to ISO-8859-1:

I fiddled with various settings, but apparently I needed to untick the box that says "override with UTF-8 if locale says so".

After this it started working properly:

The telnet connection is quite impressive and it's nice to have the remote for viewing files in quick succession. The software inside the cartridge does not care what state the C64 is in, so the menu can be operated all the time the power is on.

ftp is also possible, but any attempts to integrate it to caja (the Linux mint file browser) were not especially successful. I could see the folder but file transfers failed. The same with filezilla, a file manager, which seemed so convoluted I wouldn't probably use it even if I found the correct settings.

Instead, I got it to work using command line ftp to the IP address. First use 'binary' to set all further file transfers to binary, otherwise files will be sent with incorrect file lengths. (despite the system saying its switching to binary for the files.)

'ls' gives the remote folder contents. 'cd SD' is likely the first move, to get to the root folder of the drive. Then 'put' puts a file on the local current folder to the current remote folder, and 'get' does the reverse. 'bye' exits the ftp command line.

Apparently the telnet and ftp functions don't mesh together, so you can't upload a file using ftp while "in" with telnet.

Edit: Apparently they could work together, but it's just that messing back and forth multiple times with either ftp or telnet tends to lock the cartridge. A script that sends a file on ftp and launches it via telnet, may work one or two times. This could be related to a bug/oversight in the cartridge.

Some fooling around

One of the main functions of u1541 is the utility cartridge collection. For the purposes of using the cart for running files and general compatibility, the Retro Replay cartridge seems to be the standard.

But there are others, such as Final Cartridge III and my old friend Action Replay VI.

For fun, I did a code snippet on the monitor. (Invoked by MON).

Well, the monitor is in the Retro Replay version of the cart too.

AVI was the original environment where I learned the first steps of assembler in the early 1990s.

For a long time these were the last steps too, because I didn't understand how to structure these programs at all.

Now I see that it would be possible to write long programs using the monitor, giving enough room for subroutines and using a meticulous paper documentation/mapping.

There is another interesting cart, the Turbo Action ROM by Soundemon/Dekadence. This contains Turbo Assembler:

So the same code snippet can be written this way. The source can be assembled by pressing arrow left (the "esc" key, not the cursor key) followed by 3.

After assembling the source, the cart can be reset, and after activating the Tasm again the source is still in place. (If it's not overwritten I guess).

Perhaps this would have been helpful back in the day. However I must say that it would be really painful to write long sources with this one and writing code directly in machine code monitor might even have some advantages compared to an assembler. There were of course various techniques for splitting the code, and in the end it might require the kind of forethought and paper mapping as with the monitor.


The core functions of the cart are supreme and I probably won't look too much back at SD2IEC and IRQHack.

Yet, it seems the cart is trying to be a bit too many things, yet some obvious things are missing (if I'm not wrong). Effort has been put into areas that are not that interesting to me, like printing or some weird audio extensions.

For example, from what I've read and experienced, the cartridge does not seem to allow straight-up transfer+execution of the transferred file. You have to manually launch the ftp-transferred file from the menu. This doesn't sound a lot, but it's an unnecessary step and a more direct result would been better for building and executing code.

This is something the IRQhack could do (although again in a limited way) and I don't see a reason why the Ultimate would not if the software was put into place. Maybe I am wrong and the function is there somewhere.

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