Far out (useless?) idea: QIC-117 ("floppy tape") support.

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TeaRex
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Far out (useless?) idea: QIC-117 ("floppy tape") support.

Post by TeaRex » Fri Oct 07, 2011 2:44 pm

I guess that this would be what we call "Zukunftsmusik" in German, but: the Kryoflux hardware should be capable in theory of interfacing with QIC-117 "floppy tape" drives, right? They use bit patterns on the STEP, TRACK ZERO and INDEX lines (faster than for real floppy drives, 2.5 ms per step) to communicate commands between host and drive.

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Malvineous
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Re: Far out (useless?) idea: QIC-117 ("floppy tape") support

Post by Malvineous » Sat Oct 08, 2011 1:12 am

A quick Google seems to suggest the drive interfaces with a standard PC controller so in theory it would work with the KF. I don't think speed would be a problem as the KF can already communicate faster than some floppies can handle. However it also seems that custom drivers are provided for DOS and Windows to handle the unique communication protocol, so likewise you would probably need either a custom dtc, custom KF firmware, or both, to read any of these tapes.

Interesting idea though...

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mr.vince
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Re: Far out (useless?) idea: QIC-117 ("floppy tape") support

Post by mr.vince » Sun Oct 09, 2011 10:36 am

We still haven't such a drive, if anyone wants to donate one or two, we could take a look. Also some pre-written "disks" would be nice.

TeaRex
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Re: Far out (useless?) idea: QIC-117 ("floppy tape") support

Post by TeaRex » Mon Oct 10, 2011 6:50 pm

mr.vince wrote:We still haven't such a drive, if anyone wants to donate one or two, we could take a look. Also some pre-written "disks" would be nice.
I have one (a Conner drive I bought new in 1994 or 1995), which I could lend to you for as long as you like, though being the compulsive hoarder that I am, I'm not quite sure I want to give it away for good... Also I have a bunch of old tapes (only standard length DC2120 tapes however, no extra long ones) still sitting around somewhere. A few years ago I tried re-formatting one tape on a whim to see if the drive still worked, and it did. Since then I haven't used it again.

Oh and this was really just a theoretical idea on my part, I have no particular need for reading those tapes. In fact I'd personally rather see you invest your limited time in furthering floppy disk writing support and in producing IPFs for eight-bit systems, especially Apple II, Atari 8-bit and Commodore stuff. But of course that is entirely up to you.

If you want the drive, just PM me with an address to ship it to. I don't have any boxes or documentation, nor any of the original software disks that came with it. But "Conner Backup Exec" version 2.1.2 for Windows 3.1 and for DOS can be found on the net, as well as Conner Backup Exec 5.0 for Windows 95, and all the standards are still freely downloadable in PDF form from the qic.org site.

Darkstar
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Re: Far out (useless?) idea: QIC-117 ("floppy tape") support

Post by Darkstar » Tue Oct 11, 2011 7:16 pm

I think I also have one or two of these tape units lying around here, as well as a couple of tapes. Would have to take a look for the exact maker/model.

Also tapes, I could lend everything (if I actually find 2 tape drives I could even give away one for good) to KryoFlux, especially if there's a chance that you would be able to read some of my old (broken) tapes with it ;-)

On that note, does anyone know of any tool (or even some basic reverse engineering) of the old "Central Point Backup" disk/tape format? I have lots of disks/tapes written in that format and since CPBackup runs only on really old hardware (80486) it's quite hard to restore that stuff today.

-Darkstar

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IFW
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Re: Far out (useless?) idea: QIC-117 ("floppy tape") support

Post by IFW » Tue Oct 11, 2011 10:38 pm

I have a feeling that we wouldn't have any problem with reading out the data from the disk using KryoFlux, however finding out how to get your files out of that... pretty much impossible without either reverse-engineering the software or having a description.

TeaRex
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Re: Far out (useless?) idea: QIC-117 ("floppy tape") support

Post by TeaRex » Tue Oct 11, 2011 11:30 pm

As far as I understand, the file storage on those tapes is standardized too, in the QIC-80 standard. Basically:

1.) The tape has 28 or so linear tracks that go back and forth (i.e. every other track is written with the tape moving backwards).
2.) Data is organized into segments. Each segment consists of a bit of header material and 32 1024-byte floppy disk style data blocks. Every block has a unique block header created by creative abuse of the track, sector and disk side fields of the standard MFM header. Of those, 29 blocks contain user data and 3 contain ECC data. The ECC formulas are given in the standard too but I have to admit my math isn't good enough to fully understand it.
3.) Segments at the beginning of the tape that have any bad blocks have all their blocks marked as MFM "deleted" blocks. The first error-free segment contains a tape header (with volume name, date of last formatting, date of last writing and similar stuff) and a table of bad blocks that is created during formatting and updated whenever a bad block is found later. The tape header also has a pointer to...
4.) The volume directory which is normally in the next segment after the header. It contains the names, dates, beginning and ending blocks of any backup filesets.
5.) Those filesets have some kind of internal structure which I don't remember exactly. They might use compression, using a standardized algorithm IIRC.

The QIC-80 standard pretty much describes all of this. So if you actually want to try this the information should all be downbloadable from qic.org for you to take a look. But as I said - I still have a PC that can be booted to DOS off a stick, and that has a working standard floppy controller. So I could get all the stuff off those old tapes through that if I wanted to. This whole suggestion was little more than a random thought as regards myself, only I thought maybe others (archives with data migration headaches?) would have some need for this.
Last edited by TeaRex on Wed Oct 12, 2011 12:22 am, edited 1 time in total.

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IFW
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Re: Far out (useless?) idea: QIC-117 ("floppy tape") support

Post by IFW » Tue Oct 11, 2011 11:53 pm

Ok, I'll keep it as an idea then on my list... tons of other things to do anyway :)

Darkstar
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Re: Far out (useless?) idea: QIC-117 ("floppy tape") support

Post by Darkstar » Wed Oct 12, 2011 6:20 pm

The problem about CPBackup is that it used its own tape format (you could choose between standard QIC and CPB format), which could squeeze around 10% more data on the tape. That's why most people chose the CPB format instead of the default. It was the same way for floppies (they basically used a standard DOS format for track 0 with some directory information on it and formatted the remaining 79 tracks with e.g. 10 instead of 8 sectors per track)

I'll take a look tonight to see if I still have those QIC drives

Darkstar
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Re: Far out (useless?) idea: QIC-117 ("floppy tape") support

Post by Darkstar » Mon Sep 16, 2013 6:33 pm

A little bump for this topic.

Are there any news about this? Did the KF-Devs get their hands on one of those tape drive units yet? I'm really interested in getting the data off my ageing tape cartridges, and while I'll be setting up a PC with one of these drives soon, I doubt that I can get all the data back (I remember these tapes being not very reliable even by 199x standards...) so a raw dump would be preferred

-Darkstar

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