Commodore 64 BBS with Petscii on your PC using SynchTERM

Would you like to enter the exciting world of Commodore 64 BBS?

If you do not own an actual Commodore computer, you can visit a Commodore BBS with full Petscii (similar to ASCII) graphical support! The open source program SynchTerm allows you to do that.

If you are using a Windows or Mac OSX machine, you can download a binary here:
https://sourceforge.net/projects/syncterm/

Windows and Mac users can skip to the part below titled, “To *use* SynchTerm


If you are using Linux (preferably Ubuntu or something Debian based), you can install the program using these instructions. In a terminal:

wget 'http'://syncterm.bbsdev.net/syncterm-src.tgz
(downloads the program)
tar xvzf syncterm-src.tgz
(extracts the program)
cd syncterm-20200223/src/syncterm
(enter into the program's directory; replace "20200223" with your directory name)
pwd
(tells you what directory you are in)
sudo make SRC_DIR=/home/user/syncterm-20200223/src/syncterm
(replace "20200223" with the number you see when you type "pwd")
(replace "user" with your username)
In my case, the program refused to "make" because I was missing ncurses.
If you run into this, install ncurses:
sudo apt-get install libncurses-dev
Then install the program:
sudo make install

If everything goes well, your computer will crunch away for a while and then install SynchTerm.

*SynchTerm homepage for more details:
http://syncterm.bbsdev.net/

For reference,  here’s a list of BBSs: http://cbbsoutpost.servebbs.com/
Example of a BBS listing with name, address and port:Screenshot from 2020-02-23 13-11-08

To *use* SynchTerm, click on the icon.

Click in the area of the “Directory” (First box)Screenshot from 2020-02-23 12-50-45

Select your keyboard’s “insert” key and type in the BBS nameScreenshot from 2020-02-23 12-51-58

Select “Telnet” for connection typeScreenshot from 2020-02-23 12-52-17

Enter in the address of the BBS you want to visit. Screenshot from 2020-02-23 12-52-34

Select F2 to edit the entry you just created for fine tuning:

TCP Port: 6400 (that’s just an example)Screenshot from 2020-02-23 12-52-54
Choose “C64” for Screen ModeScreenshot from 2020-02-23 12-53-10
Esc to save
Now highlight the new entry and hit enter. If the BBS is available and you entered in the information properly, you should see something like this. You will need to create an account. Enjoy!

Screenshot from 2020-02-23 12-50-01

Screenshot from 2020-02-23 12-50-23

Ripping Compact Discs with dbpoweramp

I am working on a mass CD-ripping project. Currently, I do have a hard drive filled with FLAC copies of all my CDs. The only issue is that they were ripped over the span of 10+ years and I can’t trust their accuracy. I was thinking of re-ripping them all at the same time with the best DVD/CDROM drives I can find and the best CD ripping program.

The CD ripper I’m using is called dbpoweramp. It reports errors on discs by comparing the rip to the central database. I am seeing 1-2 errors in about one out of six discs with my CD collection. Some of the CDs are as old as 1986, when I first started buying them. In some cases, It’s enough to clean the disc and they rip without errors. In other cases, there are tiny scratches and nothing can fix the issue. There’s almost 2k cds to rip so in most of the cases, I have to make a quick determination of whether I have time to try again and again to rip the discs. So far the favorite ones have been re-ripped. At this point, I’m not even sure if one inaccurate track will even play in a way that seems off.

On a side note, the dbpoweramp suite comes with a batch ripper, so I’m able to rip from several CD drives at once. Right now I have five drives connected with two on the way. When all of the drives are running and the CDs aren’t in rough shape, the system can average a combined ripping speed of 150-205x.

I bought a case to house the DVD/CDROM units called Copystars Duplicators Case (see above). The case was designed for a CD/DVD duplicator system but it keeps five drives nice and tidy. I can cram all of the cables on the inside of the case. The SATA connector cables I’m using are called Inateck SATA to USB 3.0 Converter Adapter. I have also installed a USB 3.0 PCIe card called FebSmart 4 Ports USB 3.0 for fast transfers of data. Please let me know if you have any questions about the setup. So far I’m very happy with this project and I’m well underway, having ripped about 25% of the collection.

 

Ripping compact discs with Ubuntu OS

The two main Linux programs I use in Ubuntu to rip CDs are Sound Juicer and XCFA.

Sound Juicer is the easiest to use and setup. However there are limitations. If a CD is not in the MusicBrainz database, the program will error out. Also, the type of encoders you choose cannot be fine tuned (AAC, mp3, FLAC). You can’t choose the level of compression. There’s also no apparent way to add album art.

XCFA has much more fine tuning, however, this increases the complexity. You can chose the level of compression. There are many more encoders like APE, WavP, Ogg, Mpc, etc. Another caveat is that it is more confusing and difficult to setup in Ubuntu. I had to do some workarounds to get it going.

The best way to figure out your CD ripping process is likely to try them both. I tend to use Sound Juicer for the mainstream artists and XCFA for CDs I’m having trouble with (like no entry in the MusicBrainz database).

The easiest way to install Sound Juicer in Ubuntu is to open the Ubuntu Software store, type “sound juicer” in the search and select install. If you want to install it in the terminal, here’s how:

sudo apt-get install sound-juicer

Once you install, you will simply need to update the settings from the “preferences” pull-down.

Installing XCFA is a bit more complicated. First you need to install the program, then the “goodies”, then any missing programs (like the ripper).

sudo apt-get install xfce4
sudo apt-get install xfce4-goodies

Once these two programs are installed, you will need to launch the program and install the missing programs. These include: a52dec, mp3check, faac, and so on. You can see which programs are present and missing under the “Applications externes” tab. I couldn’t figure out how to install some of these programs, including ‘aacplusenc’ and ‘monkeys-audio’ but for now I’m not interested in that functionality. Once you update your system with the missing external programs, restart XCFA and fill out your settings with the “preferences’ tab.

Once you have completed your burning task, you will probably want to verify and update some metadata/tags. A great program for this is ‘Kid3-qt’. To install, do a search for “kid3” in the Ubuntu Software store or:

sudo apt-get install kid3-qt

There are other programs too; if you find a good one, let me know!

Good luck and happy burning.

Social Media-Free 2020

As of today, I’m totally social media free!

I want to head off the new year by being free of pervasive propaganda and toxic manipulation. Today I deleted my Twitter account. I had previously deleted Facebook in 2016 after the election. It was epic toxic – people tearing each other down. Very bad for the soul.

While I believe in free speech, I don’t think wading a cesspool of negativity, lies and manipulation is good for humanity. Do as you wish, but I’m out. People who want to get a hold of me know how.

Vegetable Barley Soup v1

The Broth
Fry a handful of garlic, onions and green peppers in the bottom of a saucepan with a splash of olive oil

Once fried up, add 4 cups of water with 2 bouillon cubes and boil this mixture
The stock

Add 2 cups of veggies (meat optional) in any configuration. Here’s my suggestion for veggie soup:

Could be more or less of any of these things. Frozen or fresh are okay, as long as they are 2 cups or less:

Broccoli
Carrots
Cabbage (Napa preferred)
Celery
Diced potatoes
Cauliflower
Peas
(Whatever you want)

Add 1/8 cup quick barley. If you want more barley, add another cup of broth because it absorbs liquid.

Spice it up as desired. I usually add a few shakes of pepper and maybe one shake of red pepper.

Simmer on low for :30 minutes, almost covered. Serves one as a big meal or two with a side dish.

Enjoy!

Egg Foo Young Recipe (Vegetarian)

The Rice
Make the rice any way you wish but if you have a rice cooker (described for the newbie):
Rinse 1 cup of dried rice in a sink
Add rice to rice cooker
Add 2 cups of water
Press your "cook" button
The Gravy
Pan fry a handful of green peppers, onion and garlic in olive oil

Boil 2 cups of vegetable broth* and the fried veggies in a saucepan

In a shaker bottle (or mixed with a fork in a bowl), mix:

1 cup water and 1/2 cup flour 

Then slowly add the flour/water mixture to the 2 cups broth (avoid lumps)

Determine thickness (your preference) and remove from heat

Put aside

*Broth: If you do not have pre-made vegetable broth on hand, you can mix 1 vegetable bouillon cube with 2 cups of water and boil to get your broth
The Egg Patty
Mix 2 eggs in a bowl

Add 2 cups of mung bean sprouts to the bowl and mix with fork

Fry up a few tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan and add mixture

Fry each side

Add a cup of rice to a plate
Place your egg patty on top of the rice and pour gravy over it

*Could be (2) servings if served with a side dish

Unrar multiple files + file name spaces in the terminal

First, when dealing with the spaces in a file name while using the terminal, you can use a back-slash before the space.

Example:

File name with spaces.txt

For the terminal:

File name with spaces.txt

Sometimes we run across a downloaded file online that was created by utilizing the winrar multiple-file feature to make a huge file downloadable. A good example would be an ISO image that is more than 1GB in size. The rar program can break up the file into smaller pieces. Example:

bigiso.part01.rar
bigiso.part02.rar
bigiso.part03.rar
bigiso.part04.rar
and so on

To unrar multiple files into one, first install the unrar program in linux. In this case, I’m assuming you are using Ubuntu or any Debian-based distribution (like Raspbian):

sudo apt install unrar-free
sudo apt install unrar

Then use the unrar command to unrar. Remember to use the before any spaces.

unrar x -e bigiso.part01.rar

This should build the large file back up into its uncompressed state.

Install Retropie on Ubuntu 18.04.03

I found a nice guide to installing Retropie on Ubuntu 18.04.03 at a website called markontech and it works brilliantly.

sudo apt-get install -y git dialog unzip xmlstarlet
git clone --depth=1 https://github.com/RetroPie/RetroPie-Setup.git
cd RetroPie-Setup
sudo ./retropie_setup.sh

Once the Retro-Pie install script is running, you will want to do a Basic Install and then navigate back to the menu and install the desired optional packages.

One thing I have learned: if you copy the retropie directory to a thumb drive (once it’s setup) each time you have a new setup, if you plug the thumb drive in, the computer will automatically copy the roms and bios files to the new install when emulation station is running. 🙂

Private VPN on Ubuntu Server or Raspberry Pi

I can run my own VPN that becomes an encrypted, point-to-point connection from anywhere? Say what? Relatively safe and secure using public wifi?

Yes, it’s true. You can setup PiVPN on your Ubuntu Server or Raspberry Pi device. There are three components to this: PiVPN running on the server, the UFW firewall configuration, and the mobile device app.

First, install PiVPN

curl -L https://install.pivpn.io | bash

Most of the suggested configuration options should be applicable.

Once PiVPN is installed, you will need to add a user.

pivpn -a

Give it a profile name and password. The file will be saved in a folder in your home directory called ‘ovpn’. You will want to save that to a flash drive and then import to your phone/tablet. I used FTP. There are many other ways to do this, but the flash drive method is most secure.

Configure UFW

sudo ufw allow 1194/udp
sudo ufw allow OpenSSH

Ask UFW to generate a list to make sure there are no double entries and delete them! Those double entries can mess up the PiVPN’s ability to connect.

sudo ufw status numbered

sudo ufw delete x ("x" is the double entry)

Now, download “OpenVPN” app in your smartphone app store. It’s free. Then open the app and choose the third option, “OVPN Profile”.

Add the ovpn file you generated on your server. You can choose the “save private key password” if you would like. I use this because my phone has a fingerprint security feature. Once you connect, you will be connected to your home network from anywhere! Perfect security for pubic wifi.