Today I managed to recover data from most of the Magnetic Scrolls 5.25" floppy disks found in the backup box.

Debian Bad Hair Day

This wasn't easy, as i had a real battle with Debian that eventually failed. It fell to Windows XP to make the recovery (are you listening Debian?).

The original plan was to install Debian 3.1 (Sarge), because the machine with the 5.25" floppy disk was sufficiently old that and old Debian might be the better choice.

Sarge didn't work. it installed, the floppy drive was detected but only as a 40 track device (ie 720k). It was able to read a disk but then there was no way to get the data off the machine.

Sure the network worked, but no telnet, no FTP and no SSH. installing any of these caused the installer to kill itself. This problem. Of course, no one knows.

So, then i try Debian 6 (Squeeze). Debian 8 had already failed, as it didn't boot the installer, just giving a blank screen. This problem.

Debian 6 had the same problem, but i was able to get around it by choosing the Advanced Install option. With Debian 6, the network worked and ssh worked, nice. but hey, it was totally unable to detect or read the floppy disk drive. nothing. Since i had made no hardware changes, i assumed this a Debian problem.

By now, i was getting annoyed with installing Debian. The last ditch was to try Debian 4. Reasoning that 3.1 nearly worked and could read the floppy drive. So maybe 4 was a good choice.

It was not to be. Debian 4, did not have the blank screen, but did not manage to install. There's a point during the installation where Debian needs the internet to fetch updates and packages. Turned out it couldn't connect to any of it's package servers. This was also strange since both 3.1 and 6 managed this without any problems and no hardware changes had been made.

Debian 4 had obviously failed.

And so had Debian, because by now i was annoyed and my waste bin was full of wasted CD Roms that i had burned.

Next Day

So I found another PC lurking and transferred over the TEAC FD-55GFR floppy disk drive and cables (the one with the older connector that fits the drive).

Powering up this machine, it was running Windows XP. OK, no problem, I need it to:

  • connect to my server
  • operate the floppy drive.

Both of these operations were successful after a bit of BIOS fiddling (enable FD etc.)

So one in the eye for Linux and a hat-tip to Windows. Furthermore, I was able to read high density disks with this setup. Something that Debian said it couldn't do.

The Data

After reading all of the disks, here are the results:

Unfortunately, none of the good stuff was on them, only some bits and pieces.

Highlights are:

  • The game source code to Fish of July 28, 1988.
  • The PC EGA emulator source code for Jixter.
  • An IBM Jinxter Master (binaries) v1.02
  • A snapshot of the game system source code (newcommonlast) from Nov 1989.
  • A snapshot of the game source code to Alice from Feb 1990.

The good stuff will be the release versions and the build tools. These will be on the TK50 tapes.

Unfortunately, they are going to prove the hardest to recover.

Watch this space!

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