"Fill your jrIDE" project now ready for testing

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"Fill your jrIDE" project now ready for testing

Postby Trixter » Wed Mar 15, 2017 10:06 pm

A year ago, I wrote the following:

My project is mainly something that will take a list of .zip files, build indexes for them (full titles can be contained either in them, or somewhere else), then copy those files into 8.3 filenames to a specified destination along with the index files. Then you copy the entire generated bundle to your oldskool target (anything running a flash drive, not just a jrIDE) and run it from there. .zips will be decompressed to a cache directory on-demand before being run for the first time, and will stay decompressed so that any new files you create (config files, high scores, etc.) will be persistent.


Well, I willed it into existence, and it has a name: The Total DOS Launcher (or TDL for short). On my PCjr+jrIDE+MS-DOS 5.0, it appears to work fine (it works fine on all my other boxes too, but the jrIDE was the inspiration for it, so I'm posting here first.) I've made a test distro here:

ftp://ftp.oldskool.org/pub/misc/temp/tdl_pcjr.zip

As a small test, this includes 445 games from 1984 and 1985. Grab this, burst it into a subdirectory on your jrIDE, and run TDL.EXE to test it out. Pick anything with arrow keys, and hit enter to run what you picked; it should unpack it, then run it (or give you a choice of what to run if there is more than one executable file). Optionally, look at the TDL.INI and HANDLERS.INI files to see if you understand what's going on. Also optionally, run the 0FREERAM program and use alt-f5 to check its output -- if everything is working correctly, you should see the TDL taking up less than 1K of RAM as it executes things. If your PCjr is only hooked up to a TV, you can run MODE CO40 to switch into 40-column mode and it should still work, although one of the dialog boxes wraps funny, and the screen is generally a bit crowded.

If anyone is willing to test this and post their feedback here, I'd appreciate it. I'm looking for feedback on the following:

  • The look and feel of the TDL
  • Bug reports on TDL operation
  • Anything that is confusing or not obvious
  • Suggestions, criticism

I am not looking for feedback on:

  • There was no way to exit the game (that's not my problem, some of these are converted bootable disks, just reboot to try again)
  • The game sucks
  • My favorite game isn't included in this distro
  • The game doesn't look right (it's a PCjr, not everything will run correctly)

BTW, although the test distro uses games, you can feed the TDL anything you want; as long as the .zip file has a nice long descriptive name (or not), the TDL should be able to display its full name and run it. Also, although I've included only a few hundred programs with the test distro, I've successfully tested loading up 3400+ games on my actual jrIDE (I had trouble finding more than 3400 games that would work on a PCjr, since past 1990 everything requires a 286, VGA, or both). TDL design can handle up to 32K files, which should be plenty for most use cases.
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Re: "Fill your jrIDE" project now ready for testing

Postby Tempest » Fri Mar 17, 2017 1:28 pm

I've been waiting for this! I'll try and give it a whirl this weekend.
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Re: "Fill your jrIDE" project now ready for testing

Postby Tempest » Fri Mar 17, 2017 5:42 pm

First reactions:

1. The menu is hard to read. The text (at least on my PCjr) is light gray on dark blue.
2. I couldn't get any of the games to work, they all just rebooted the PCjr. It would say that the game required unpacking, show the PKZIP screen for a split second, then reboot

I'm not sure what the problem is, but I can post my config.sys and autoexec.bat if it helps. They don't have anything interesting in them other than the jrConfig stuff.
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Re: "Fill your jrIDE" project now ready for testing

Postby Trixter » Fri Mar 17, 2017 9:32 pm

The text is indeed light gray on dark blue but that shouldn't be hard to read... My PCjr monitor looks like this:

Image

( https://goo.gl/photos/SfBhPXhDmcNZLaxe9 if it didn't show up inline above) Does your monitor look like that? If not, calibrate it. If so, and you just don't like the color scheme, that's fine -- I'll add a feature to change colors. Until then, you can use MODE BW80 to set the system to B&W mode and it will use the monochrome color scheme.

As for hanging, that should not be happening, and it doesn't happen on my PCjr+jrIDE... Please post your CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files. Also, edit TDL.INI and make sure that forcelogging=enabled and then post the TDL.LOG file too.

Does it hang even when you try to run 0FREERAM?
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Re: "Fill your jrIDE" project now ready for testing

Postby Tempest » Sat Mar 18, 2017 6:01 pm

The gray on my monitor looks a bit darker. Maybe my tube is going or something? The picture below is very washed out looking unfortunately:
Image

0FreeRAM says I have 571KB free and does not reboot the system. Here are my config.sys, atuoexec.bat, and tdl.log files. 571KB seems pretty low, I thought I had more than that. Can you help me free up some?

http://atariprotos.com/temp/pcjr.zip
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Re: "Fill your jrIDE" project now ready for testing

Postby Trixter » Sat Mar 18, 2017 8:41 pm

Tempest wrote:The gray on my monitor looks a bit darker. Maybe my tube is going or something?


Have you tried going into the diagnostics, showing the 16-color pattern, and making sure your brightness and contrast controls are set correctly?

Also, why/how is your font different? That is a thinner font than the actual PCjr font. You should only use the CGA "thin" font on very high resolution displays; the PCjr monitor has a really fuzzy dot pitch so you should use a thicker font with it..

0FreeRAM says I have 571KB free and does not reboot the system. ...571KB seems pretty low, I thought I had more than that. Can you help me free up some?


I have 581K free on mine. Anything 570K and above is good for running anything that can physically run on a PCjr so I wouldn't worry there.

device=jrconfig.sys /V32 /L
device=backpack.sys


My suggestions for trying to improve compatibility:

  • I'm using version 2.14 of jrconfig, the no-ramdisk version. Try that.
  • /V32 only allows for one 320x200x16 video page; games that use two of those pages will not work. Change it to /V64. Since it won't detract from free DOS RAM, I recommend making this change permanent.
  • /L is not necessary on systems that boot a patched version of DOS; try removing it.

Also, the backpack driver may be the problem; are you running the TDL off of the backpack drive? If not, try removing the driver to see if TDL works. If you *are* running the TDL off of the backpack drive, or if none of these changes helped, edit TDL.INI and set "swapping=disabled" and see if that helps. You'll have less free RAM to run programs, so it's not ideal, but it may work.
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Re: "Fill your jrIDE" project now ready for testing

Postby Tempest » Sun Mar 19, 2017 2:45 pm

It's the PCEnterprises Thin Font module. It's made for a PCjr so it should be safe.

EDIT: Ok it looks like the backpack driver is the issue. Why would that cause a problem? Also many games seem to want to dump me to a gray file select screen that says List File Selection at the top and nothing to select until I exit out to the main menu. To me it looks like the program is trying to find files to unzip but failing.
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Re: "Fill your jrIDE" project now ready for testing

Postby Trixter » Sun Mar 19, 2017 3:13 pm

In the TDL.INI file:
Try swapping=false to see if that works with the backpack driver. (Is the backpack required to run your system, or do you have a hard drive?)
Keep forcelogging=enabled so that if it does something really odd (like the gray screen which I don't understand, I haven't seen that) you can send me the TDL.LOG file.

As for the thin font module, I'm pretty sure that was intended for use with a 5153 or better monitor... Did you try MODE MONO before starting the program, and is that easier to read?
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Re: "Fill your jrIDE" project now ready for testing

Postby Tempest » Sun Mar 19, 2017 3:31 pm

Yes I can use the thicker font to make it a little easier to read the TDL menu. but I think it looks ugly for regular DOS use. Is there a way or future plans to change the colors on the menu? Like white text on a black background or something?

Turning swapping off seems to have fixed my issue. I still get those gray screens some times though. The log file says:

EDIT: Spoke too soon. Got a reboot trying to run Boogie

<standard stuff>
Attemping to Launch title #5: 3-K Trivia.img
Found 1 files in c:\temp\cache.dir\3-ktrivi
Entering handler framework: ???
Execution template: No Files
Switching to C:\temp\cache.dir\3-ktriv\ to execute c:\menu\utils\list.com No Files
Switching back to c:\temp\cache.dir\3-ktrivi
Saving DOS screen contents
Switching back to C:\menu
Debug Console Closing....
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Re: "Fill your jrIDE" project now ready for testing

Postby Trixter » Sun Mar 19, 2017 5:23 pm

If you type MODE MONO before starting, you'll get the black&white color scheme. Use this until I can add custom colors to the TDL.INI file.

Ah, thanks to the logfile I know what the "gray screen" is: When the archive extraction produces no usable files, the default handler "???" matches, which is just LIST.COM which just lists the contents of the directory. Since nothing got unzipped, LIST.COM shows an empty directory. I've built in a message that explains this if it happens, so a future version will handle this better. As to why the extraction phase went bad, it's because that specific .zip file (3-K trivia) contains a long filename which the DOS version of pkunzip doesn't know how to deal with and aborts. I probably shouldn't have put that .zip file in there -- sorry about that!

It's a shame swapping isn't compatible with the backpack driver; I'm not sure how I can fix that without having the same setup over here, and I don't have a backpack. The launcher takes up about 150K of RAM with ~450 titles, so without swapping you can only run programs that need 450K or less of RAM, roughly (whatever 0FREERAM tells you is free). If you run it with swapping=disabled, you can also set preloading=disabled to gain some RAM back, but the program will operate slower if you do that. (The original design of this was going to use batch files so that it took up no RAM, but this design would have been a lot slower and have other tradeoffs, so that's why I went with a swapping mechanism.)

I ran Boogie and it worked ok, but that's because I ran the .BAS file, which HANDLERS.INI is configured to use GWBASIC.EXE. This is not as efficient as using Cassette Basic on a PCjr, but was necessary because Cassette Basic doesn't work on a jrIDE system without preparation (Mike Brutman has probably explained why this is and how to deal with it elsewhere on this forum). But if you run BOOGIE.BAT, it runs the included version of BASICA.COM which does very bad things to the machine. So, try Boogie again but only select the .BAS file.
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