Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Clock, temperature and humidity display using Badger2040

 The Badger2040 is a RP2040 with e-ink display. Or possibly an e-ink display with a RP2040 on the back:

It has other goodies like 2Mb of flash ram, some buttons and lots of connectors such as a battery connector, stemma/qwiic socket and breakout pads for various serial connections. And USB-C for programming and serial in/out.


I've added an Adafruit temperature / humitity sensor using the stemma connector. This particular sensor is AHT20. The only negative thing about that for this project is that it has a fixed i2c address, and I would have liked to hook up two, one for indoor and one for outdoor temperature. I'll have to buy another which is a different type and has a different address.

For now my program is reading the data from the one sensor and displaying the temp and humidity. This took me some time because the libraries for this sensor (that I could find) were either circuit python or arduino.  If you want to use either of those things, you only need to write a couple of lines of code. For C (or in this case C++)  I had to write my own code starting with i2c_write_blocking() and i2c_read_blocking() and referring to the AHT20 data sheet and the Arduino library. An annoying bug (on my part) meant that I spent more hours than I should have on that.

With that done it was a breeze to print the stuff to the screen (using the Badger C++ example code). I wrote the clock from scratch using the time.h functions within the Pi Pico C SDK to access and process the hardware timer - get_absolute_time(), to_ms_since_boot() etc.  I've got the up and down buttons adjusting the hours or minutes up or down, with buttons A and B switching between adjusting hours and minutes. 

It looks great. The e-ink display is very easy to read in any light and uses no power, except when updating.  I've got the screen updating every 30s or if you push a button to adjust the time.  Another curious thing about this type of display is that it keeps displaying its contents even with power disconnected. Meaning if you wear it as an actual badge, you don't need to power it once it's displaying what you want!

The battery pack that comes with the Badger is a bit chunky (two AAAs inside). I don't know how long that lasts, but I might use a small lithium battery instead, that can be stowed more easily on the back.

UPDATE

I've now got it running off my first found-free-in-the-street  battery. This is a relatively small one compared to the 500+ mAh ones Big Clive has been finding but it is nice and flat and it has been powering another pico project of mine and showed no signs of flagging. I'll be fascinated to see how long it runs the Badger!

Another improvement I've made today is to make the clock periodically write some details to the flash memory, so that if power is removed, it'll start up displaying the same time as it did when disconnected. That saves a lot of button-pressing after a battery change.

I've been struggling with writing to the flash memory on the Pico and on this device, but today I solved my issue. Basically don't have USB stdio enabled while trying to write to the flash.







Monday, 25 April 2022

Milestone for Scrutiny - v12

Last year we spent many months rewriting our website crawling engine, the reasons are here. 

Since then, Integrity went through a beta period and eventually Integrity, Integrity Plus and Pro version 12 were released. 

There have been many updates, those apps are becoming mature, the problems found are now increasingly obscure. 

As well as fixing issues with the new Integrity, Scrutiny has been catching up. 

It's now based on Integrity. That approach comes with some compromises (see notes below) but the benefits for all of us are great. 

It also means a totally different interface. Or rather reverting, because up until version 4 Scrutiny had the open, tabbed Integrity-like interface. The move away from that wasn't popular and Scrutiny's UI has been its weak point. 


Notes: (also in the release notes within the .dmg)

There will be no autosaved data for a site until you've run a scan. Your previous scans will only be visible in the previous version. V12 requires new scans before autosaved data is available. This is due to the format of some of the data changing a little, 

V12 isn't document-based. This is part of consolidating Scrutiny & Integrity. Being document-based requires a different architecture within the app, introduces the need for all sorts of complexity and workarounds. The compromise is that it's no longer possible to run multiple scans at the same time. Until there's a 'queueing' system built into Scrutiny 12, you'll need to make sure that any scheduled scans don't overlap time-wise. 

V12 doesn't have monitoring or orphan check.  I don't think either of these features will be missed, and if there is a call for the monitoring functionality, it should be in a separate app. 

The layout is different. I should say 'reverted' because until version 4, Scrutiny shared the Integrity-style interface, and the move away from that wasn't popular. Scrutiny's UI for managing websites hasn't been very user-friendly and had come in for some criticism. It also made it impossible for Voiceover to work (requires visible tabs).

Automatic ftp of sitemaps is no longer available. Scrutiny saves the xml sitemap, you must transfer it yourself.  ftp and ftp+SSL (ftps) has been fine but sftp (which in my experience is now more common) has been problematic

French localisation is unfortunately no longer available. I'm grateful to French-speaking paying customers and people who have offered to help with the translation. The problem isn't paying for translation, but the fact that any new feature or change to the interface (which are happening all the time) requires an interaction with the translator and I prefer a much more agile process. The apps haven't been noticeably more popular in French-speaking countries than without the localisation.


Thursday, 21 April 2022

Having got so far with the MIDI SID project, I had this real mess of wires and boards. Then I started to add to the carnage with knobs and a display.  

The problem was that if something stopped working I couldn't be sure whether it was because I'd got something wrong, or had just jogged a connection.

Happily, prototype boards are so cheap that you can order something without worrying about the cost. This isn't even really a prototype yet, not all of the components are on the board. I just wanted the Pico, two SIDs (in this case swinsids) and the MIDI in circuit soldered firmly in place so that I could experiment with knobs, buttons and displays, and develop the software without fear of breaking it by jogging the desk!



To get you up-to-date if you haven't seen my ramblings about this, I'd love a box with MIDI input, SID chips inside, audio out, and simple controls. I'd like to be able to play a .mid file into it, or plug in a keyboard, with options for polyphonic or monophonic output. (I've done some of this using a C64 and MIDI cartridge, but it'll be good to have a standalone box.)  I'd like to try a larger version with enough SIDs to be able to map each midi channel to a voice. Maybe in time I could add the components needed to support real SIDs, but being able to use ARMSIDs would be good as they're a great replacement. (I'm not sure that it's ethical to encourage anyone to use precious real SIDs in something like this.

Quick demo of the thing working (just one channel in, one voice playing). I've got Logic Pro playing a simple tune, with a USB-MIDI converter allowing me to plug that into this board. 

If you're interested in the project, I'm going to use the hashtag #MIDISID on Twitter. 

Sunday, 6 March 2022

Minstrel the 4th is a modern recreation of the Jupiter Ace, a lesser-known home computer from 1982. It's notable for its use of Forth rather than BASIC which was common at the time.

The Ace had a ZX Spectrum-like rubber keyboard. The Minstrel's is an improvement but its small tactile switches don't really allow for fast typing.

The Minstrel and similar computer scan the keyboard by reading a group of hardware ports which correspond with half-rows of the keyboard. They expose the bus as an expansion port, so it's possible to intercept those port reads. Here's my working prototype, it uses quite a bit of logic. The Pico's main job is to act as a USB host and allow a modern keyboard to be plugged into its own micro-USB port. and maps the keypresses it receives to the appropriate rows and columns of the Minstrel's keyboard matrix.

It's not only the size and arrangement of the keys that limit typing speed, but the fact that the keyboard matrix is scanned every 1/50th second and then not buffered. So even with modern key switches, this makes typing on computers like the Ace, ZX81 and Spectrum is a bit of a plod. It's easy for the Pico to buffer the keyboard input, and present it to the Minstrel one key at a time, at a speed that it can handle.

This also opens up the possibility of connecting a serial terminal to the device to allow listings to be pasted to the Minstrel. It also means that anything you type using a USB keyboard can be echoed to the terminal giving you a paper tape of  In the top picture you can see that the finished product has a USB-FTDI adaptor attached for this purpose.

My interface is now in production in small batches, please contact me for details.

Monday, 28 February 2022

Integrity v12 launched

You may already know that we spent a chunk of last year bringing Integrity's engine up-to-date. You can read the reasons for this in an earlier post:

https://blog.peacockmedia.software/2021/08/the-future-for-integrity-and-scrutiny.html

In the new year, this was released in the form of Integrity Pro 12 beta which was free and unrestricted. Jan and Feb have seen gradual fixes and improvements to that and this week v12 has quietly become the general release (with v10 also available and supported for a while as a safety net).


In case you're not familiar with the range, Integrity is a link checker, it's free and no-frills.

Integrity Plus allows you to manage settings for multiple sites, adds xml sitemap functionality, csv exporting and search box / filter button.

Integrity Pro adds many of Scrutiny's features; a SEO table, HTML validation table and spell-checking.

If you already hold a licence for Plus or Pro then that key will work with version 12, it's free for you. If you'd like to go from Plus to Pro then there's a lose-nothing upgrade, and also from Plus or Pro to Scrutiny.

(Note that if you're moving from v10 Integrity Plus to v12, or from Plus to Pro, this will be useful.)

If you're a blogger or journalist, I've updated the Press Materials to include the new icons.

Scrutiny 12

Scrutiny 12 is very much in progress. As with Integrity, there will be a revision of the pricing, and again, there'll be no fee for existing licence holders (v7 onwards). (Hint: now is a good time to buy or upgrade).

One big question: Scrutiny moved to a very different layout at version 5, which wasn't a popular decision, people liked the more open-plan tabbed layout of Integrity and the classic Scrutiny.  Should we return Scrutiny to that look?  Your opinion on this would be gratefully received.


Tuesday, 22 February 2022

This is a quick help document showing how to transfer website configurations between Integrity Plus, Integrity Pro or Scrutiny.

For legacy reasons*, you may also need to do this if you're moving from the web download of Integrity Plus (non-App Store version) to the new v12 Integrity Plus.

First of all, run the new version to see whether this applies to you. You may see the websites that you set up in your previous version. If you don't, then read on.


This is simply an export / import. 

Using version 10 of Integrity Plus, File > Export > Settings > All websites

Integrity will save a .lcsbatch file. Choose a location and confirm.
Using the new version 12, File > Open... and choose the file that you just saved.




*Previously, the web downloads of Integrity Plus and Pro were not sandboxed, while the app store versions were sandboxed. Also, the web download and App Store versions of Integrity Plus had different bundle id's (meaning MacOS will see them as different apps). 

Version 12 corrects these inconsistencies, but means that the new Integrity Plus can't 'see' the location where the previous version stored its data, making an automatic import impossible.

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

In simple terms, the best settings for Integrity and Scrutiny

The default settings for Integrity, Integrity Plus, Integrity Pro and Scrutiny have been tweaked over 15 years. Generally speaking, they will be the best settings and the most likely* to perform a successful, full  and useful scan.

The very short version of this post is: go with the defaults, and only adjust them if you understand and want to use an additional feature, or if you have a problem that may be cured by making a change. Please contact support if you're unsure about anything. 


The rest of this post gives a very basic 'layman' explanation of the site-specific options and settings. 

In version 12 (in beta as I write this) these settings have been rearranged and grouped into a more logical order. They're listed below as they are grouped in version 12.


Options

These are optional features. In general, only enable them (or change the default) if you understand what they mean and are prepared to troubleshoot if the option causes unexpected results.


  • This page only:  Simple - sometimes you may want to scan a single page. If you want to scan an entire site, leave this switched off.
  • Check linked js and css files:  This will drill more deeply into the site. If you're looking for a straightforward link check, leave this off.
  • Check for broken images:  Finding broken images is probably as important as finding broken links, leave this on
  • Check lazyload images/load images:  It's possible that your site uses lazyloading of images. If you know that it does then you may want to enable this. NB there is no standard for lazyloading images. Integrity will try to find the image urls in a couple of likely places, but this option can lead to false positives or duplication. Be prepared for troubleshooting.
  • Check anchors:  An anchor link takes you, not just to a page, but to a specific point on a page. With this option on, Integrity will check that the anchor point exists on the target page. If you know that your site uses this type of link, and you want to test them, enable this option.
  • Flag missing link url:  Sometimes during development, you'll create links with empty targets, or use # as a placeholder. This is a way to find those 'unfinished' links.



Advanced

Here we have the controls that may sometimes need to be altered to 'tune' Integrity to your site. In general, the default values should work, only change them if you have a reason.


  • User-agent string:  The default values should work almost all of the time. If the user-agent string is how Integrity identifies itself. If this is set to that of a real browser (which is now the default value) then that should be fine. (Occasionally a site will give different pages for a mobile browser / desktop browser. Or to Googlebot.) 
  • Accept language:  can be used to check specific language pages of a multilingual site.
  • Timeouts and delays:  Use the defaults. If you have problems with timeouts or certain errors then it may be necessary to adjust these settings.


Site characteristics 

Here are a few settings which may need to be adjusted for your particular site. Again, the defaults should be fine, but refer to this guide or ask for help if you have problems.


  • Ignore querystrings: This is the option that is most likely to need changing to suit your particular site. The default is off and that'll probably be fine. However sometimes a session id or other things can be included in the querystring (the part after the ? in a url.) and sometimes these can cause loops or duplications. In that case the setting should be on.  On the flip side, sometimes important information can be included in the querystring, such as a page id, and so for those sites you definitely need the setting to be off.
  • Page urls have no file extension (more recently renamed 'Starting url has page name without file extension'): The explanation of what this box actually does is lengthy and it's more than likely that you don't need it switched on.  In the case where it's required, Integrity should recognise this and ask you an explicit question, and set this box accordingly.
  • Ignore trailing slash: It's very unlikely that this needs to be switched off (default is on). It has become less important in version 12 because its inner workings are slightly different.


If you're using version 10 or earlier, then you'll have the option to Check links on error pages.  I strongly advise leaving this switched off, as it's pretty likely to cause problems or confusion. v12 doesn't have the option. 

If you have a custom error page (which is likely to be one page) and want to test the links on it, then test it separately by setting up a single-page configuration to a non-existent url (such as mysite.com/xyzabc) 


Rules

If you have a specific problem, then you can sometimes cure that with a targeted 'ignore' or 'don't check' rule.  

The other very useful use for rules is to either ignore an entire section of a site, or to limit the crawl to a specific part of a site.




*It may not seem that way if yours is one of the sites that needs a change from default settings, but that's probability for you.  In practice, only the querystring setting is an unpredictable 'it depends' setting. Go with the default, contact support if you need help.




Monday, 31 January 2022

Locate : an overlooked feature in Integrity and Scrutiny

 The Locate feature is an overlooked feature in Integrity and Scrutiny. It answers the common question, "Integrity is reporting a broken link on a page but I don't know where to find that page" or "that page shouldn't exist any more".

It tells you, as a user, how to find the link in question and the page it's on. These hyperlinks are clickable.


There may be more than one route to click through from the home page (or your starting url) to the link in question, but this tool should show the shortest.

It's important to distinguish here between link urls, and a single instance of a link.

In this example, I've selected a link url which has tested as good. There may be links with that target url on multiple pages (or multiple links on the same page). For example a link to the home page probably exists on every page of a site, maybe in more than one place on a page.


A context menu* triggered by a right-click or control-click on that url row will only show options that are relevant to that url, or the page at that url. In order to access the Locate feature, you need to right-click one of the link instances, which are revealed when you expand the row.

The By page and By status views both show link instances when the page / status is expanded, so Locate can be accessed in those views after expanding a page/status. All Links is a flat table showing link instances, so Locate will appear when you right-click any row. In all of these cases it's important to only select a single row, Locate can't work on multiple selected items.

Similarly, if you open the link inspector, it concerns a link url and the status of that url when tested, and it has a table listing the instances or occurrences of that url in links. Before using the Locate button (or context menu in that table) it's important to select one of the instances in the table.



Recent versions of Integrity and Scrutiny may have Locate in these context menus but it may not appear to do anything. This is fixed in Integrity and Scrutiny v10.4.12+


Sunday, 16 January 2022

UPLOAD.COM for Z80 CP/M - usage

 I feel very honoured to have written a utility which will be distributed as part of the system included with RC2014 kits with CP/M or ROMWBW.


Since upgrading my first RC2014 to CP/M, transferring files has been a bit tricky. My storage medium is a compact flash card, which I can't read with my modern computer system. I can "dd" it to make a backup, which is easy to transfer to a new card. But that doesn't allow me to put a file onto the card, or copy one off using my Mac.

There are methods of reading the CF card on a new system, but I've not made anything work for me. 

My favourite method of transferring my files onto the card is a combination of the DOWNLOAD.COM utility which comes with the CP/M system on the A: drive, and my own utility for creating a .PKG file. That's a hex format that works with the download utility. I've written about that here.  Spencer now provides a web utility which creates the same pkg file. 

The problem

That still leaves me unable to acquire a file that I've created on the RC2014. I tend to develop in Forth and assembly on my modern computer, transferring the files to the RC to run them, so I rarely create files there on the card. But there have been times when I've done so, and it would also be good to selectively back up files from the card rather than making an image of the whole thing.

Spencer asked me to have a go at writing UPLOAD.COM, the partner to DOWNLOAD.COM. I've written about the process of creating the utility separately if you're interested in Z80 programming and the CP/M's BDOS.

Using UPLOAD.COM

Sit UPLOAD.COM in A: alongside DOWNLOAD.COM

Then browse to any drive and use it like this:
A:UPLOAD MYFILE.COM

It is happy for you to give it wildcards in the standard way:
A:UPLOAD MAT?????.COM or 
A:UPLOAD *.* for every file in the directory, as I've done below.
Note that my terminal (minicom) doesn't do wrapping, and it doesn't allow me to select and copy the characters that are off the right-hand side. Those characters seem to be lost. The pkg format doesn't allow for breaks in the stream of hex characters.

The answer to this is to use the capture feature of your terminal program. In the case of minicom it's -C filename.  With that option, everything that comes to the console is also written to the file.
Here is my capture file, after UPLOADing all files in my B: drive. The process happens very quickly, and I was able to make a very convenient backup of every file in every drive on my CF card in a matter of minutes. 
It's very easy to copy and paste any of those files back into CP/M. The first line of the PKG is the instruction to use DOWNLOAD to put the file into the current drive.

UPLOAD.COM for Z80 CP/M - writing the utility

Below is a pkg file. It's easy to see what's going on. Your source file is in hex and padded to the 128-byte boundary. There's a count and checksum at the end. The first line is the instruction to use 'download.com' to put the file into the current directory as the name specified.

I wrote this utility for my Mac some time ago, it allows me to convert any file, paste the result into the Terminal app I'm using to communicate with my RC2014 and have the file copied onto one of the drives.

What has been missing is a way to do the opposite. To grab a file from the RC2014 as the original binary file. I've written about that problem here. The very neat solution would be to have a Z80 program which does this same conversion on the RC2014 and displays a file that you can copy and paste - and either convert back into a binary or store for re-downloading at some later point.

Conveniently, there's an example program in the CP/M Operating System Manual called A Sample File Dump Utility (5.4). This very nearly does what we want. It takes a filename as an argument and dumps that file as hex to the console (formatted neatly with numbering and spaces, which were easy to take out).

It was also easy to add the necessary count and checksum, output A:UPLOAD at the start along with the filename. 

I decided to look up the actual user number, rather than just printing "U0". This is the start of my deep dive into BDOS - a series of operating system calls, documented and available for you to use in your programs. They tend to involve setting up parameters in Z80 registers, setting the C register to the number of the call that you want to make, and then CALLing the base of the BDOS.

I've dabbled in this before, it provides convenient ways to receive keys and output characters to and from the console.

Getting the user number is simple. 

But then we came to parsing the passed argument for wildcards and finding matching files. The example program doesn't do this. It simply OPENs the file that's specified by the user, and if that happens to contain wildcards, the first matching file is opened. 

UPLOAD.COM would be a whole lot more useful if it does pattern matching and spews out all of the matching files. It now does and I've demonstrated this in my guide.

The CP/M documentation isn't bad. It allowed me to discover that you can pass a filename to a 'first' and 'next' functions (17 and 18) which give you the first and subsequent matches for your filename which contains ? or *.

I learned that the system has a 128-character buffer at a known location, which is used for passing results for certain functions. For filenames It's divided into 4 32-byte buffers and you get a number 0-3 in A which you shift-multiply by 32 and add to the base address of the buffer for the result you need.

After calling the 'first match' function, you have to call the 'next match' immediately, and then again, as long as you receive a valid result. (You can use this same process without checking whether your filename contains wildcard characters. If it doesn't, then 'first match' just returns your file, and 'next' will return 255 meaning 'no more results').

It would seem sensible to use the 'first' and 'next' system at the start and make an array of matching filenames. Instead I chose to do something less efficient, but that I thought was simpler to write, which is a 'get_nth_match' function, which passes the original filename to 'first' and then calls 'next' the appropriate number of times.

UPLOAD.COM is available here and included alongside download.com with the CF cards that you can buy for your RC2014.


Thursday, 6 January 2022

Creating a custom template for custom cards in Dendrite

As is sometimes the case, I'm writing this post primarily for my own future reference.

Dendrite is a development environment that allows you to work with tokens for commonly-used blocks of text when hand-coding a site. Further to that, it gives you simple dialogs for special blocks with structured text and images, known as 'cards'. 

It allows me to paste an image and fill in a few fields when I add stories to a page like the one above, this is a newsletter I manage.

There's a block of code near the top of this page, which generates a feature image. This is the code:
It's an image (with 2x and 3x versions) with a caption, all within a div which is floating right.

Each month for some years I've created the resized images and edited this code manually, because that's less effort than remembering how to set up a new template for a custom card in Dendrite. 

So today I've gone to the trouble, and have also gone to the trouble of documenting it here for you and for myself.

This text only appears once on the page, but the real benefit is being able to use the 'insert card' dialog to paste the image and write the caption.  Turning multiple fiddly copy-and-paste operations into a few slick and mindless strokes.

So here's the procedure. You're welcome, future-me.

Adding a new template to a Dendrite website

First copy one of the existing default templates, found in <website folder>/Templates. (use 'News' because that one uses all of the tokens, which will serve as a temporary reference). Change its name to something memorable (In this case, FeatureImage.txt) 
A template file consists of the code for that card, with dendrite-style tokens inserted where information from the card dialog is to appear. The example above should be self-explanatory.

With that in place, Insert Card in Dendrite offers this dialog, which you can use to fill in the information, and Add Image allows you to paste the image (past it once, Dendrite can create the 2x and 3x versions. All you have to do is give it a base name, which also serves as the id for this particular object.)


I use a keystroke to grab a roughly-square image to the clipboard. A paste into the image well in the dialog above crops it to the selected proportions and resizes it with 2x and 3x versions. It's a remarkably efficient way to add 'cards' containing images to a hand-coded web page. (Note that in this example, my new template doesn't use the body, the link text or the link target. So those can be ignored when filling in this card.)

Important things to remember

  • Remember to select your new template before OKing this card dialog (the drop-down button at the very top of the Insert Card dialog.) I think it defaults to 'News' rather than the last one you chose. 
  • If you use a different image format (as I do here, 200w and locked proportions rather than 150x150 for the regular news stories) remember to make sure those settings are right for this special card and future regular ones.