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Old 02 August 2002, 19:26   #1
LordCrass
 
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SuperCard-Ami

Does anyone know how this thing worked? Specifically, would it be possible to write protected disk images to an external floppy with all protection intact?

Or did this hardware rely on a particular setup where the internal AND external drives worked in sync and data was just kind of "shoved" through with no conversion to mess it up?

I'm also curious as to how this device was able to write long tracks without the need for a speed-controlled external floppy.
 
Old 02 August 2002, 19:33   #2
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From what I understand, this device was copied/plagerized from the Datel hardware/software copier. If I'm wrong on this please lemme know

As for the long tracks, I think there was a control line that connected to the spindle motor or the line that controls the spindle motor in the external drive. It pulsed rapidly and/or more slowly to get the motor to act like it was being turned off and on thus causing the motor to slow down and of course this meant you could write more data to a track! I think this was really a haphazard attempt instead of actually making a modified speed controller to do this, which is much more reliable as you can get the speed pretty darn close to what you need it to be
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Old 02 August 2002, 19:49   #3
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Thread moved to proper forum
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Old 02 August 2002, 21:33   #4
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Is this a Cyclone clone? (echo echo cho cho cho )
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Old 02 August 2002, 22:52   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by Akira Is this a Cyclone clone? (echo echo cho cho cho )
Yeah I believe it is

Yeah I believe it is

Huh, what was that
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Old 03 August 2002, 20:19   #6
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I never owned a Cyclone, so I'm not sure if they are the same, but in a document I have the give instructions on how to build a SuperCard, here is what they say:

"There are many hardware copiers around. The ONLY original ones I think that are around are Cyclone and Super-Card Ami II. The others ie. Blit-a-Copy, Mac II are just blatant rip offs of Super Card. Having used both Cyclone and Super Card, it has to be said that Super Card is THE best and can copy 95% of original software."

They also mention the existance of a v4 software for the card, but the latest I was able to find was v3. Anyone know where v4 (or later) could be found?
 
Old 21 November 2004, 03:14   #7
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Ok, found this thread whilst looking for something else on the Miggy, and its over two years old, but hey.

As posted earlier there were two major hardware copiers. Supercard Ami-II and Cyclone, which shipped with the infamous software nibbler, X-Copy. Just about everything else was based on these. Both suffered from blatant clones (and odly enough, FAST were not interested in acting on the clones and taking up the blatant software piracy, but I digress).

SCA clones included Blit-A-Copy and MAC-II. I can remember the Cyclone clones but as its, oh, 10 years ago I'm not sure of the names. That said, I do know of one person who improved on the basic X-Copy hardware :-) Mac, istr his name was. A REME sergeant over in Germany. Oh, and a guy in UK did one long before Cyclone came out....

SCA was available as an internal card (for the A1500/B2000), or an external "dongle" that plugged into the floppy port and was really the same as Cyclone, as I remember. Cyclone was only available as an external unit, although an acquaintance in the mid-90's was sure he had an internal version. As I never saw it, I can't comment what it was.

How did SCA work? The internal version was a small PCB that fitted between the drive and the floppy cable, and ran two leads off to a CIA chip (cant remember if A or B, but still have the hardware in a B2000 if anyone really wants to know) to provide timing.

Software wise, I can't comment on, only that there were a number of revisions, (v2, v3, v3.x, v4) and I reviewed them for ICPUG and Amiga User International. Much like Cyclone, there were a number of different copy modes, for backing-up non-copy protected, non-ADOS, and copy protected disks. Lol, I remember buying it, and then writing a review on SCA-II (v2 iirc), coming back to UK on leave or posting (I was in the Forces at the time), and seeing an ad for the new software. Called the company (name on tip of tongue) and when I mentioned I had reviewed it, they said they had gone frantic trying to track me down to send v3 for review. Hmm, I think they sank, so Utilities Unlimited found a new UK distributor. So I was always getting updates. When v4 came out I spent an hour on the phone to Jim (Drew) in the US going through it. I dread to think what the phone bill for that was... must have been 1992/3 as I was in Kent at the time...

V4 software, as I recall, introduced two main features. A wholly revised coy method which slaved the drives together, and the concept of parameters. And of course, yet another revised interface.

Up until this point, had you needed to say, nibble copy a whole disk and then copy track x in a slightly different way, it needed two runs of the software. Parameter files allowed you to instruct SCA how to copy a disk in one pass* and automatically switching copy modes on the fly.

Did it work? Yes. I head-to-headed it against Cyclone and X-Copy and found SuperCard's nibbler to be superior on heavily protected disks (e.g Rainbow Islands, which nothing else would touch), and a couple of others (Flight Intruder???). X-Copy (a software nibbler) was included to demonstrate the ability of a hardware copier over the popular software nibbler, given that nibble copying took 5mins anyway.

X-Copy in DOSCopy mode was fast, and out of the three the best for a first attempt at making a backup of a disk. If it didn't work, then switch to a hardware copier. Both hardware copiers in their respective "deepest" nibble mode could take some time. SCA had two "giggle2 modes; i can't remember the settings but remember the effect...

Giggle 1 - the drives were slaved, and you could watch them trying to sync. All night. This wasn't due to sync mode per se, but a combination of settings producing a bug.

Giggle 2 - drives slaved, and the heads crossed the disk in about 5 seconds, with the drives heads producing a sound akin to a machine gun. According to SCA,the disk had been copied... it hadn't! Again, not due to sync mode per se, but a combination of settings resulting in a bug.

Which did I prefer? SCA for the toughest jobs, X-Copy for the routine copying of disks, and as a "first choice" for copying a "probably protected" disk <innocent whistle>... If that didn't work, then a hardware copier, and my preference was SCA, as it was so much more versatile.

It wasn't cheap though. Going from memory (and this edit is in 2013, about 9 years on from my original response), the internal SCA card was £79, in 1991. X-Copy was around £25, and Cyclone £39.99? Those who still have magazines from the era may remember. Undoubtedly X-Copy was the leading disk copier in terms of UK volume sales, ditto Cyclone in respect to hardware copiers. SCA internal unit was never going to achieve huge volumes as it was restricted to boxed Amiga's, which were fewer in numbers. And Blittersoft (if I recall the UK distributor correctly) had a small advertising budget than Siren Software, who sold Xcopy and Cyclone.

I remember two other great software copiers. CV Parameter Copier II, which used to ship with X-Copy 1.3 (when it shipped prior to Cyclone), and the infamous Nib v2 by Shaun Liptok. superb software nibbler, but broke under KS2 or 3. Shame, as it was a great software nibbler and used parameters for a lot of titles. It may have shipped with SCA at some stage.

*pass as in run of the software. Real old amiga users may remember the early days of disk copying, on single drive 512kb boxes, having to swap the source and target disks 2-3 times when nibbling :-) God, that brings back memories! As I write I'm remembering more and more. I still have my B2000 with SCA, and external drve with X-Copy... CYCLONE, that was it! You could buy X-Copy on its own, or with the Cyclone hardware. X-Copy per-se didnt use the hardware, you had to load Cyclone to use it. Did the later versions have a button/mode that launched Cyclone? I must boot up the Mig one day and find out again.

if anyone knows this sig - TiCH'77 or PiLGRi/\/\ - hello :-)

Edit: Its 2013, and I've returned to the thread because... Once I had reviewed SCA in Amiga User International, Siren contacted me to review X-Copy 2, etc. I'd meet Simon from Siren at the various shows and he would give me the latest X-Copy. Anyway, recently I bought a Matrox RT.X2 from a video post-production company, Siren Technology and the voice on the phone sounded eerily familiar. When the seller said his name was Simon, I had to ask "did you used to work for Siren Software" Yep, same guy! And he hadn't changed a bit (well, ok, 20 years older!).

Thought I ought to tidy the original post, I've left the name blooper in :-) Regrettably sold the B2000 not long after I posted, to an Australian for £70 - it cost £140 to ship. The price included the GVP 030 board, Picasso II, GVP HD, tape drive, 14MHz 68000, Scandoubler, ICD FFV. But not the SCA-II. Sold both my A4000's and A1200's six years ago Kinda miss the Amiga, the demos, cool hardware, mods. But have to face it, as a productivity machine it was so obsolete. Maybe Scala for video titling and smooth multimedia presentations (until the advent of high-def), and ProPage/Pagestream for fluid DTP.

Last edited by alewis; 20 September 2013 at 11:31.
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Old 03 January 2005, 11:38   #8
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Coincidentally, I came across my original post on a google search after 2 years and find a recent response to it!

Thanks for the info guys! I had a suspicion that the hardware altered the drive speed through a control line of some sort, but wasn't sure.

The Maverick software and the Backup Buddy drive they sold with it was just a drive with a speed dial on it, wasn't it? I remember using the software and it asking you to adjust the drive speed on the target. Seems like a real pain if you had to do this multiple times for one disk. Was it even possible to copy some of the protections that modified the data density multiple times per track (Copylock and others) with a manual adjust drive? I thought amiga disks were written a whole track at a time, and there's no way you could adjust it while it was writing if you had to do it manually.
 
Old 03 January 2005, 16:40   #9
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The idea behind the Backup Buddy Drive was to adjust the speed slow enough within a certain range so you could archive some Long Track protection schemes like many Psygnosis titles.

No you didn't have to re-adjust this speed during the copying process at all. You just set it once at the initial copy screen for that title that required it then away it went.

You then set it back to normal speed afterwards.

As for other protection schemes, the Maverick used a parameter based system so if this title was listed then then specific protection would be checked first before copying and let the user know if it did not match so that an update could be written for it. Of course if it did match then it would go ahead and start the copying process.
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Old 03 January 2005, 19:55   #10
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Odd. I would have thought that slowing down the drive speed for the entire backup process would leave you with a copy that consisted entirely of long tracks.

The super-card software had an interesting ability that was added in later versions: it would organize the data on the target (optionally of course) so that it lined up with the index hole, meaning an index nibble would rip through a copy of a copy in no time.
 
Old 03 January 2005, 21:33   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LordCrass
Odd. I would have thought that slowing down the drive speed for the entire backup process would leave you with a copy that consisted entirely of long tracks............
It does, however since the boot track gets decoded as normal, the rest of the so called long track info just gets truncated and ignored. Basically the KS reads and decodes the entire boot track and runs the proper trackloader app that then reads and decodes the rest of the disk, the long tracks of course

I seem to recall that many of the Readysoft titles also used Long Tracks too...
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Old 09 January 2005, 22:44   #12
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Christ, backup buddy.. that brings back memories... someone <name not posted to protect the guilty> did a DIY version of this at one of the ICPUGSE meetings... to the great annoyance of J. and J. B when they found out what was going on :-)

ISTR Maverick.... might even have it here somewhere.

The Index Sync feature in SCA seemed to be hit or miss, never did work out whether it was the feature itself, or title dependent. It was certainly something I disagreed on the marketing of, as whilst it might have new to SCA, it had been available in many copiers for several years. Remember the DataBecker books - blue covers? Amiga Disk Drives Inside & Out had a listing for a nibble copier in it (this must have been 1988) that had an index copy mode, and could subsequent copies done using Index mode were faster.

But Index Syncing was never very useful anyway.... if you copied a non-sync'd disk in IS mode, the copy often didnt work.
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Old 09 January 2005, 23:54   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alewis
Christ, backup buddy.. that brings back memories... someone <name not posted to protect the guilty> did a DIY version of this at one of the ICPUGSE meetings... to the great annoyance of J. and J. B when they found out what was going on :-)
Hey, that's great, I always liked the home-brew/basement engineering stuff myself

Basically what was done to get this to work for use with the Maverick, a couple of external drives were sent to an electronics engineer that was willing to design an external speed control box for us. It was a small circuit board that patched into the speed control circuit of a drive unit via 3 or 4 wires IIRC and replaced the onboard crystal oscillator

It worked great for many/most drive units out there, Sony, Mitsumi, Panasonic, Teac. However we did find on occasion that this MOD didn't always work, even with a previously known good drive. We figured that the small percentage of drives that failed, could be resold as standard external drives. We kept the crystal oscillator for each drive until we verified that it worked as a Backup Buddy drive. If not then the crystal was resoldered to the drive unit and then re-assembled and tested to make sure it worked as a standard drive once more

Quote:
Originally Posted by alewis
ISTR Maverick.... might even have it here somewhere.

The Index Sync feature in SCA seemed to be hit or miss, never did work out whether it was the feature itself, or title dependent. It was certainly something I disagreed on the marketing of, as whilst it might have new to SCA, it had been available in many copiers for several years. Remember the DataBecker books - blue covers? Amiga Disk Drives Inside & Out had a listing for a nibble copier in it (this must have been 1988) that had an index copy mode, and could subsequent copies done using Index mode were faster.

But Index Syncing was never very useful anyway.... if you copied a non-sync'd disk in IS mode, the copy often didnt work.
Ah yes, I do remember that book and I think I may still have it packed away in a box in the attic.

Because a standard AmigaDOS disc didn't require the index sync to read, there were probably only a few titles that used the hardware IS in this fashion, I bet many of these were custom formatted discs that had both the ST and Amiga games on them
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Old 10 January 2005, 05:26   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alewis
The Index Sync feature in SCA seemed to be hit or miss, never did work out whether it was the feature itself, or title dependent.
Same here. I believe it was very picky about the drive hardware. If your drive motors had a lot of torque and you could adjust the sync delay properly, it would sync almost every time and the copy would be pretty quick. With some drives though, it'd take like a minute to copy one track.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alewis
It was certainly something I disagreed on the marketing of, as whilst it might have new to SCA, it had been available in many copiers for several years. Remember the DataBecker books - blue covers? Amiga Disk Drives Inside & Out had a listing for a nibble copier in it (this must have been 1988) that had an index copy mode, and could subsequent copies done using Index mode were faster.
There was a difference between the software-based index nibble mode that almost every program had and the hardware based index copy in SCA, although I don't know the technical details of it. SCA had a regular software index nibble mode as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alewis
But Index Syncing was never very useful anyway.... if you copied a non-sync'd disk in IS mode, the copy often didnt work.
I never understood why this is. I've seen it explained that if the start of the track is 180deg off the index hole, the index copy won't work properly. Why? You start reading at the index pulse and stop when you hit it again. Why should it matter WHERE in that rotation the start-of-track actually is? Shouldn't all the data get read and written regardless?

I remember early Psygnosis (Barbarian, Obliterator, etc) games as the ones that could be index nibbled very reliably.
 
Old 10 January 2005, 05:44   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LordCrass
I never understood why this is. I've seen it explained that if the start of the track is 180deg off the index hole, the index copy won't work properly. Why? You start reading at the index pulse and stop when you hit it again. Why should it matter WHERE in that rotation the start-of-track actually is? Shouldn't all the data get read and written regardless?

I remember early Psygnosis (Barbarian, Obliterator, etc) games as the ones that could be index nibbled very reliably.
Well to explain how this works, it's due to the fact that with AmigaDOS formatted discs, they were software decoded in that the whole track was read into a buffer and decoded that way from the what could be called a software index mark, I believe it was 4489h IIRC.

The hardware index sync negates this kind of decoding in that it expects each track to be written to and read back from the disc where that index sync mark starts, this in many cases would not be the location of where the AmigaDOS software index mark would start of course
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Old 10 January 2005, 06:00   #16
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Packrat that I am, I still have a Super Card Ami (internal version). I was sure that thing was long gone, but found it in a box a couple of days ago (with the manual, yet!) Not that it's of any use to me, but it's there...
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Old 10 January 2005, 06:08   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Twistin'Ghost
Packrat that I am, I still have a Super Card Ami (internal version). I was sure that thing was long gone, but found it in a box a couple of days ago (with the manual, yet!) Not that it's of any use to me, but it's there...
So the internal version then worked with only DF0: or what ?!?
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Old 10 January 2005, 06:17   #18
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It's been so long, I don't even remember. We used all sorts of hardware copier thingies back then. I remember more about the one from Utilities Unlimited (Emplant) that copied Mac disks into A-Max disks. When I get home, I'll pull that thing out and refresh my ever dwindling memory, then reply again.
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Old 10 January 2005, 06:26   #19
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Thanks TG, this is more of a curiousity thing, so you can take your time in replying
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Old 10 January 2005, 11:51   #20
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Apparently, more than my memory is dwindling. It wasn't the SCA at all, but a MultiStart II Kickstart Rom Expansion Board. It's in the same kind of bag that the SCA is in, so I thought that was it. So now I don't know if I even still have the SCA or not. If I run across it, I'll let you know.
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