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Old 03 August 2010, 10:16   #1
Ze_ro
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Floppy disk Catweasel and WinUAE (and other emulators)

I've been toying with the idea of building a new PC, partially to replace my Amiga 3000, but more specifically to emulate 8/16-bit computers in general (My collection has gotten to the point where three desks are occupied with five computers, and I have others that I don't have room to set up, and others that I want to acquire, but don't have room to even store!)... and while thinking of what to put into this new computer, I thought it might be a neat idea to put a Catweasel in there so I could actually use real disks.

Now of course, all this is silly and pointless when I can just fill a hard drive with disk images, but there's something authentic and slightly clever about being able to read original disks that I really like (I'm also considering hooking up a tape player to the audio-in to see if I can play Spectrum games through it... yes, I am insane).

I can't seem to find a lot of information on this though. From what I gather, WinUAE and VICE both support the Catweasel... but there's not a lot of documentation. This page seems to be all the information available for WinUAE, and VICE has nothing more than vague references, and the official Catweasel page doesn't even mention the Mark IV... so I'm having difficulty deciding if this is going to be worth the investment, or if it'll just be a big disappointment. I gather the community here has more experience with these device than most, so maybe someone here can answer my questions:
  • Does this actually work the way I hope it will? Like, will I be able to start up WinUAE, put in an Amiga formatted 880k disk with Dungeon Master on it, and play it?
  • Will I be able to read AND write to the disks from the emulator?
  • What about protected disks?
  • If I connect the Catweasel to both a 3.5" and a 5.25" drive, can WinUAE be configured to use one and VICE use the other without having to swap the cable around? (I don't mean to run both emulators simultaneously, I just don't want to have to keep the case open).
  • Seeing as there are no 64-bit drivers (yet), should I build this new computer around Win XP, or is there some way to get them to work under a 64-bit Windows 7?
  • I'm aware of the KryoFlux, but it seems geared entirely towards preservation... are there any plans to use it to read/write disks in emulators?
  • Is the Mark IV (non-plus) model still available anywhere? Since the computer I'm building doesn't have to be powerful, I'd like to put it in as small a case as possible, and the low-profile option is attractive to me (Of course, my plan involves putting a 3.5", 5.25" and CD-ROM drive in there, so low-profile is probably not going to happen).
  • Beyond UAE and VICE, are there any other emulators that support the Catweasel in this manner? (Atari ST, 8-bit, Archimedes, Mac... I plan to get them all running at some point regardless)
  • Are there any other options that might suit my needs better?

Even if I can't use the Catweasel the way I want, I might still use one anyways... but it wouldn't be quite as valuable to me.

Last edited by Ze_ro; 03 August 2010 at 10:23.
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Old 03 August 2010, 10:55   #2
Toni Wilen
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[*]Does this actually work the way I hope it will? Like, will I be able to start up WinUAE, put in an Amiga formatted 880k disk with Dungeon Master on it, and play it?
No, it does not replace or emulate DF0: or other drives.

Quote:
[*]Will I be able to read AND write to the disks from the emulator?
Yes but only on Workbench.

Quote:
[*]What about protected disks?
Yes and no. No one has written software to do it.

Quote:
[*]If I connect the Catweasel to both a 3.5" and a 5.25" drive, can WinUAE be configured to use one and VICE use the other without having to swap the cable around? (I don't mean to run both emulators simultaneously, I just don't want to have to keep the case open).
Should be possible, it supports two drives.

Quote:
[*]Seeing as there are no 64-bit drivers (yet), should I build this new computer around Win XP, or is there some way to get them to work under a 64-bit Windows 7?
Windows 7 32-bit is better choice than XP. 64-bit drivers are supposedly coming someday..

Quote:
[*]I'm aware of the KryoFlux, but it seems geared entirely towards preservation... are there any plans to use it to read/write disks in emulators?
In theory (when/if writing is supported) it can be emulate DF0: better than CW because of streaming capability but it can never be perfect (=emulation has to be paused while waiting for real drive in some situations, mainly when emulating protections)

It won't be trivial to implement, not sure if anyone bothers with it. (It would be interesting task but also extremely boring..)
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Old 03 August 2010, 13:09   #3
Arnie
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IMO the catweasel has only one use, and that is to archive all of the unprotedted disks you have to the adf format. Then it becomes redundant unless you constantly get other disks to archive.

My Catweasel MK3 has sat in the drawer for over 2 years, never needed to use it, if you want it pm me.
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Old 03 August 2010, 22:41   #4
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My Catweasel MK3 has sat in the drawer for over 2 years, never needed to use it, if you want it pm me.
Hi Arnie,

If Ze_ro doesn't want it, can I make a bid for it, please?
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Old 03 August 2010, 22:52   #5
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....(My collection has gotten to the point where three desks are occupied with five computers, and I have others that I don't have room to set up, and others that I want to acquire, but don't have room to even store!)
Best solution for this is build a mini itx system to gain some desk space. Their small, cute and save having a massive tower or desktop system hogging your desk space (or floor space).
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Old 04 August 2010, 00:43   #6
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IMO the catweasel has only one use, and that is to archive all of the unprotedted disks you have to the adf format.
Buy a second PC floppy drive and use ADFRead for free?
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Old 04 August 2010, 02:12   #7
Ze_ro
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No, it does not replace or emulate DF0: or other drives.
So how does it actually work then? Reading the document I linked to earlier, it seems to show up as CAT:... but what can be done with it? Will it read and write just as if it were any other device, or is it limited to simple file copying?

Quote:
In theory (when/if writing is supported) KryoFlux can be emulate DF0: better than CW because of streaming capability but it can never be perfect (=emulation has to be paused while waiting for real drive in some situations, mainly when emulating protections)

It won't be trivial to implement, not sure if anyone bothers with it. (It would be interesting task but also extremely boring..)
Is this planned for UAE at some point, or is this all just hypothetical based on the design of the hardware? I would have thought that modern hardware like the Catweasel and KryoFlux would be fast enough to process/serve data within the time window that the emulated Amiga would expect (at least when talking about "standard" file access)... but I suppose using a non-real-time operating system prevents any guarantees about this.
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Old 04 August 2010, 02:13   #8
Ze_ro
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If Ze_ro doesn't want it, can I make a bid for it, please?
Go right ahead, I'm still not even 100% sure if I'm going to go through with this
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Old 04 August 2010, 11:19   #9
Toni Wilen
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So how does it actually work then? Reading the document I linked to earlier, it seems to show up as CAT:... but what can be done with it? Will it read and write just as if it were any other device, or is it limited to simple file copying?
It works just like any floppy-like Amiga device as long as software is using standard AmigaDOS access functions. (=copiers like XCopy won't work but plain diskcopy or most adf<>disk utilities work)

Quote:
Is this planned for UAE at some point, or is this all just hypothetical based on the design of the hardware? I would have thought that modern hardware like the Catweasel and KryoFlux would be fast enough to process/serve data within the time window that the emulated Amiga would expect (at least when talking about "standard" file access)... but I suppose using a non-real-time operating system prevents any guarantees about this.
Problem is not OS but latency between software and hardware (floppy drive), time between sending command to drive and getting reply back takes some time.

Also note that Catweasel can either read/write to disk from internal RAM or internal RAM is copied to/from host PC, both can't be done simultaneously. Which makes real-time emulation practically impossible (without keeping emulation paused most of the time..)

For example some copy protection might do this (just an example, there are many similar situations)

- read data until something specific happens (data matches some magic word, index sync, whatever)
- switch disk side but keep reading

Disk side switching should be instant but because USB and software is packet based, some data is still in buffers that must be flushed. Now we have the problem, it takes some time before disk side switching gets to the drive and first data arrives from drive. Only 100% compatible solution is to pause the emulation until data arrives. (we are again in "sync")

Copy protection is happy. User might not be happy enough. (especially if music or sound was playing)

Or we can keep emulation running

Copy protection is unhappy ("gap in data? that can't be original disk") and user is very unhappy (game didn't work)

Standard disk accesses don't need that kind of accuracy and would work just fine in most situations.
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Old 04 August 2010, 21:20   #10
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Hi Arnie,

If Ze_ro doesn't want it, can I make a bid for it, please?
Go right ahead, I'm still not even 100% sure if I'm going to go through with this
Thanks, Ze_ro!

@Arnie,

You have a PM.
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Old 05 August 2010, 20:29   #11
Ze_ro
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Also note that Catweasel can either read/write to disk from internal RAM or internal RAM is copied to/from host PC, both can't be done simultaneously. Which makes real-time emulation practically impossible (without keeping emulation paused most of the time..)
One of the features of the Mark IV is dual-ported memory... or is this not supported in software yet?

Quote:
Disk side switching should be instant but because USB and software is packet based, some data is still in buffers that must be flushed. Now we have the problem, it takes some time before disk side switching gets to the drive and first data arrives from drive. Only 100% compatible solution is to pause the emulation until data arrives. (we are again in "sync")
Wouldn't you be at the wrong place anyways? Seems to me like the difference in signalling time between an actual Amiga and it's floppy vs. USB/PCI would be enough that you would never get the side/track change at exactly the same time (hell, you might even change sides too fast!). Though I suppose a good protection method would never be so strict, since no two Amigas are going to be exactly synchronized either....

So copy protected discs are pretty much a wash, but unprotected stuff and cracked games (that don't use their own fastloaders or any custom methods) should work?
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Old 05 August 2010, 21:45   #12
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Buy a second PC floppy drive and use ADFRead for free?
No need for me, i have all the disks i need in adf.
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Old 07 August 2010, 20:56   #13
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Hi Arnie,

Catweasel card received and fully working!

Payment sent with thanks.
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Old 09 August 2010, 15:20   #14
jabsy
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IMO the catweasel has only one use, and that is to archive all of the unprotedted disks you have to the adf format.
And plug in joysticks via the DB9 on the back...
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Old 09 August 2010, 16:34   #15
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anyone know if the latest VICE or any other 64 emulator for the Amiga supports the full SID chip support on the the latest CatWeasel ...looks cool that you can can plug in a REAL SID in the CatWeasel

I assume you can create your own real disks as well to be used on many retro machines with the CatWeasel
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Old 09 August 2010, 21:45   #16
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I assume you can create your own real disks as well to be used on many retro machines with the CatWeasel
Yes. Create empty floppy disk images and fill them with your choice of OS/programs/files using your favourite emulator and write the images to real disks using the Catweasel.
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