Catweasel opinions, sources of info etc.

Curt Vendel curt at
Sun Mar 6 17:48:30 CST 2005


   I understand where you're coming from, however the way the product was presented, it stated it could read various formats, what wasn't mentioned on the site for the product or during the purchase process is that the "product is capable of reading such formats - if someone actually writes the code"

My Atari 800 could run linux - if someone ports it, could run CP/M too if someone wants to write the needed code, could read IBM disks on its disk drives - if someone writes it...

All of our equipment can do a lot more then it is normally capable of --- if someone takes the time to write it.

So what I'm saying is I bought the product because it stated it could do certain things which I was expecting out of the box when I bought it, just there was no fineprint saying that there were no actual s/w or drives to actually make the card work that way yet.


-----Original message-----
From: Jim Battle frustum at
Date: Sun,  6 Mar 2005 15:00:33 -0500
To: General Discussion: On-Topic and Off-Topic Posts cctalk at
Subject: Re: Catweasel opinions, sources of info etc.

> Jules Richardson wrote:
> > OK, thinking about getting a catweasel board for the museum. 
> > 
> ...
> > 2) Opinions of the board would be much appreciated, particularly in the
> > context of what it *can't* do, how easy it is to code for, how easy it
> > is to get hold of others' code to handle a particular format (rather
> > than reinventing the wheel), how well the board copes with media errors
> > etc.
> There are now four generations of catweasel cards -- the fourth is just 
> coming out now.  It is an FPGA design where the FPGA gets set up via 
> software, so the developer can actually fix bugs and add features.  The 
> mailing list was quite busy for a few weeks there but has been strangely 
> silent for a couple -- maybe I got unsub'd somehow.
> The MK3 and earlier were OK for soft sectored/unsectored disks, but 
> reading hard sectored disks was significantly harder and writing them 
> much harder yet.  The MK4 supposedly has/will have features to make 
> reading/writing hard sectored disks reasonable.
> The "3rd party drivers" for TRS-80's that someone else mentioned in this 
> list was written by our own Tim Mann.
> I think people have the wrong idea about this product.  There isn't 
> corporation behind these cards -- it is a labor of love by one 
> individual supported by a number of hobbyists.  It is a real company 
> making them, just a tiny one.  Yes, you will have to write your own 
> software if you are expecting to read/write disk formats that aren't 
> already supported.
> To give you some idea of the ethics of the company/individual (jens), I 
> bought a MK3 card a bit over a year ago.  I wrote software to decode 
> some PTDOS disks that I have.  I fed back some information to Jens about 
> how the MK3 fell short for reading/writing that particular format.  He 
> had to spin the MK3 design to make the MK4 anyway (one of the key parts 
> was end-of-lifed), and he is incorporating some of that input into the 
> design.  9 months goes by.  I get an email, apparently sent to a few 
> dozen people, saying: "What is your home address?  I'm going to mail you 
> an MK4 card."  A $100 card for free.
> My only regret is at the moment I don't have the time to work on the MK4 
> card, but I will soon.
> One pain about using the card was that I had to use it on an Win98 
> machine so I could do simple I/O to the thing.  XP doesn't allow it 
> without drivers.  Apparently under linux is isn't so hard.  Anyway, this 
> time around they are working on a driver with a mostly common API 
> between linux/XP/otherthings so that you don't have to mess with the low 
> level IO and just program the thing without jumping through hoops. 
> Supposedly it will also be able to drive MK3 cards.
> There are no hard real time constraints to programming it, making it 
> very simple.  On MK3 boads you manually step it to the track you care 
> about then you tell the controller to read or write a track.  All the 
> transition information gets captured in a RAM.  When it is done you read 
> out the data or write the next track to the RAM.  MK4 adds more logic to 
> tell apart the index hole from sector holes plus a state machine and 
> some other control bits to allow reading/writing individual sectors on 
> hard sectored devices.
> If you expect it to be plug & play for some oddball format, you will be 
> disappointed.  If you don't mind spending a week of evenings writing a 
> decoder/encoder in software, then it is a great card.

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