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Handling D64 Disk Images With IDE64
by DJ Gruby/Protovision/Triad

Welcome to another article in the series of IDE64 tutorials presented continuously on the pages of Attitude magazine. In this chapter I will provide you with all the necessary details you need to know about handling D64 disk images and help you understand the mechanics of working with D64 files directly from your IDE64 device, regardless whether it is a real piece of hardware or only a VICE emulated environment.

As usual, writing this article has been inspired by Visac/Cult, who is an inexhaustible source of IDE64 tutorial ideas. I hope that this text will become your primary reference when looking up any kind of D64 related information and that its content will satisfy even the most demanding reader.

Throughout the years the D64 format has become increasingly popular way of distributing and sharing C64 releases on other platforms than the C64 itself.

So, is it possible for your old hardware equipped with an IDE64 disk drive to directly access any content stored on D64 disk images: create, read, and write to them? Yes, of course! And everything you need is just a click away. This article will guide you through all the necessary steps you need to undertake to make it work on your personal setup.

So let us begin with a quick overview, what utilities exactly will be covered in this tutorial:

  • D64it - an old (developed in the year 1998) but still very powerful and reliable tool to convert D64 files from/to a 1541 disk drive.

  • ID64 - another program to convert D64 files from/to a 1541 disk drive, very fast, however not as reliable as a previous one.

  • D64 list - D64 content browser, extractor and instant loader.

  • VD64 plugin 0.03 - virtual file system for the MAN file manager that also allows you to load files straight from D64 images.
As always the IDE64 Warez Site should be your primary source of information when looking for any IDE64 downloads. It makes sense that you download all previously mentioned utilities before proceeding with reading this chapter.

Now, if you had already headed over to the Appz section of IDE64 Warez Site, you would probably have noticed two different versions of a VD64 plugin available. Versions 0.03 and 0.11. The first one works with IDEDOS 0.90+, the latter one only with IDEDOS 0.91. So why are we using an old 0.03 version instead of bravely proceeding with an upgrade to the latest and shiniest 0.11? Why even sticking to an old IDEDOS version, when there is a newer release available? The answer is very simple: stability. Please note that IDEDOS 0.91 is still in an experimental beta phase, and we get warned before downloading it: IDEDOS 0.91 beta release is not very well tested and could destroy your data! This is a kind of notice that should be taken seriously. No, we do not want to destroy our data, therefore we cautiously stick to the latest stable version 0.90.

Before we start copying disks and disk images back and forth, we need to undertake a few preliminary preparation steps. Let us extract the content of all downloaded tools and look into what we may find useful. As this tutorial focuses solely on dealing with D64 images, we will skip any unrelated files, but I guess you can easily imagine how similar a procedure to deal with D71 or D81 images would be.

The D64it archive consists of three files, but we are only interested in the program named d64it1b (we skip d128it, which is a native C128 version of d64it, and the d64it.txt note). Let us copy it into a separate directory called utils. This directory will contain standalone executables that do not require to be executed via the MAN plugin system.

The ID64 package provides a couple of different but useful tools: ID64 Reader, ID64 Verify, and ID64 Writer plugins. Let us dive into the zip archive and see what interesting things we can find in there. The plugins directory contains a file named d64. This is an ID64 Writer plugin that we later are going to use to, as the name suggest, write D64 images directly onto floppy disks. Extract the file into the plugins directory. We can safely skip all the other writer plugins, docs, and a registry configuration template. In the utils directory we can find two programs worth extraction: id64 reader v0.6 and id64 verify v0.6. Let us move them to the locally created utils directory that already contains d64it1b.

D64 list provides the d64l plugin that we should copy over to the plugins directory. We are not interested in extracting other files, but feel free to analyse them carefully, as they might provide extremely valuable details of inner-workings of both the plugin system of IDE64 and low-level access to D64 image data directly on your C64 (given the fact that a source code has been made available for everyone and included in this archive by Fenek/Arise).

Last but not least we look at the VD64 plugin. It is a "modern" way of accessing D64 files from within the MAN file manager, as it implements a complete virtual D64 file system driver for IDE64. At the moment only listing and loading of files are supported, but hopefully Soci/Singular will invest some of his time to further develop this plugin, as it looks very promising. It basically allows you to browse D64 image contents as if they were regular IDE64 directories. This is extremely convenient and makes D64 usage even more comfortable than on your PC, where you still need to start up a specialised tool if you want to extract individual files out of your D64 images. From this archive we will only extract a file named vd64 and ignore the rest, as it was already mentioned earlier in this article that we focus solely on dealing with D64 disk images, and not T64's, D71's, nor D81's. Put the extracted file into the plugins directory.

The next step requires us to set up a man,usr configuration file that enhances functionality offered by the MAN file manger to instantly recognise D64 format upon pressing any one of the manager "function" keys (2, 3, 4, and RETURN) in the context of an indicated D64 image file. We do not need MAN to create D64 images from our floppy disks, however we will need it to facilitate browsing of the contents and copying of our D64 images downloaded from the Internet straight onto floppy disks. Let us have our configuration prepared already now at the beginning of the setup procedure, as you will most likely rush to inspect copied disk contents shortly after creating them.

This tutorial does not cover the details of man,usr configuration file setup. You can refer to the IDE64 Plugins Setup chapter published in Attitude #14 to remind yourself all the details.

Here is a proposed setup you can use as an input for your configuration file generator:

1//plugins/:

sid *,sid
txt *,txt
vd64 *,d64
=
d64 *,d64
=
vd64 *,d64
=
d64l *,d64


Once executed using the familiar command perl create_man_usr_file.pl config.txt, you will get a new man,usr file generated in the current working directory. This file used together with MAN file manager on your IDE64 device provides the following key/file associations:
  • Pressing RETURN on any selected file with sid, txt, d64 extensions will respectively trigger execution of the sid, txt, vd64 plugins.

  • Similarly, pressing keys 2, 3, 4 on any files of a d64 type will respectively run the d64, vd64, d64l plugins using selected file name as their sole argument.
Now transfer all the files straight to your IDE64 drive using either the CFS mount utility (see How To Setup FUSECFS Driver? chapter published in Attitude #10 for more details on that) or simply by starting up an ideservd deamon and connecting a PC directly to your C64 via (USB) PCLink.

Make sure that you copy man,usr to the top directory of your primary partition. The same rule applies to your plugins directory. You can transfer the utils directory anywhere you want, as its location is not in any way bound to the plugin configuration of the MAN file manager, so you can simply execute those programs from any subdirectory. Also make sure that all transferred files have the "executable" flag set after copying, otherwise you will not be able to load them from your IDE64 disk.

With all this initial effort being already in place, it is time to act. I will show you how to accomplish the following operations directly from your IDE64 device:
  • Creating a D64 image file directly from the content of a 5,25" floppy disk in your 1541 drive.

  • Verifying that a created D64 image has been correctly transferred from a source floppy disk to your HDD (and vice versa).

  • Writing back any D64 image (for example a trackmo downloaded from the Internet) onto a 5,25" floppy disk.
FROM A DISK DRIVE TO A D64 IMAGE

Creating D64 image files is pretty straight-forward. There are two ways to achieve it. Head to the utils directory you have copied over to your HDD during the preparation phase. You should see i.a. these two programs there: d64it1b and id64 reader v0.6. Let us begin with the first one. Select d64it1b from the directory listing and press RETURN. All of the available options should be self-explanatory. Most of the settings will require some modifications though, however at least source and target devices should be configured automatically from the start. You might want to change the target directory by pressing - (minus) and entering something like 0://stuff/import/ if the utils directory does not seem like the right location to create new D64 files in (keep in mind that you can also use the MAN file manager later on to conveniently move D64 files). Any time you can press F3 to verify that you are really writing into the desired directory by listing its contents. You will definitely want to change target file name by pressing F5 and entering a custom name for your D64 image. Now comes the most crucial part. You have to pay attention to the transfer Mode. Pressing F6 flips between 1541 to d64 file and d64 to 1541 disk. You want to always make sure that it says 1541 to d64 file, otherwise the content of your floppy disk will be irreversibly destroyed. After checking that, there is nothing left to do but pressing F8 to begin the transfer process. Since this program allows you to perform the reverse process of copying disk images from D64 files to 5,25" floppy disks by simply flipping the direction with F6, you could be tempted to try it out immediately. Hold your horses for now, however. You'll soon learn that there are better ways to achieve the same result!

Now, you have surely noticed how slow d64it1b is. It is true that this program is not what we are used to in terms of disk copy speed. This is where id64 reader v0.6 enters the stage. Load it from within MAN and try it once, I am sure it will become your program of choice when it comes to transferring your old 5,25" floppy disks. After starting a program you are prompted to interactively specify a couple of options. Target device is obviously drive number of your HDD (defaults to 12, when in doubt consult the device numbers section of your CMOS setup utility). Then you enter a name for the target D64, answer yes or no to a question about copying 40 tracks (in most cases you will just press N), and finally specify device number of your disk drive (unless you modified your hardware configuration or connected more than one disk drive to your C64, this is always going to be 8). As soon as you pressed 8, the transfer process begins. Notice how fast it is. You can now enjoy a backup copy of your disk, preserving it for future generations and maybe uploading its content to CSDb.

VERIFICATION OF A D64 IMAGE

It is time to verify that the transfer process did not end up in creating a damaged D64 image file. Go to the utils directory in the MAN file manager and execute the id64 verify v0.6 program. The procedure is similar as in the case of the reader utility. You are interactively prompted to specify a couple of options before the actual verification process begins. As the source device you specify drive number of your HDD (12), source D64's name is naturally the image file you created in the previous step using the reader program, then again you answer yes or no to the question whether you want to verify 40 tracks, and finally specify the device number of your disk drive (8). If everything goes fine, in about 20-30 seconds you will see a confirmation message: Verify passed ok... bye. Now we are ready to get back to the MAN file manager and look at the content of the D64 image files as well as transfer some of them to a 1541 disk drive.

FROM A D64 IMAGE TO A DISK DRIVE

Browse into a directory (no, not plugins directory!) where an interesting D64 image file is located. We will inspect it and write it back to a 5,25" floppy disk. After selecting a file using the cursor keys and pressing one of the MAN manager shortcut keys, you can check what your IDE64 device has got to offer for the D64 file type.

Pressing 2 loads id64 writer v0.6 utility from the plugins directory and sends the selected D64 file name as its sole argument. ID64 Writer, as the name suggests, is used to copy D64 image file directly to a 5,25" floppy disk of a disk drive. It works in a similar fashion to the already discussed family of ID64 tools (reader and verify). After starting the program you are prompted to interactively specify a couple of options. First comes the target disk drive number (8), followed by whether you want to copy 40 tracks, and another question about formatting target floppy disk first before transferring the data (and when answered positively, another prompt appears, asking for a source of a disk ID). Please note that disk formatting takes a little while, and is slower even than the copying process itself. When done, you can use the verification procedure described in a previous section in order to validate the copy.

WHAT IS IN THE D64 FILE?

Pressing 3 or RETURN opens the content of a D64 image directory directly in a manager window. This is possible since the MAN file manager supports implementing virtual file systems. You can browse the content of any D64 disk image this way. Unfortunately, the possibilities of VD64 plugins are still very limited and do not allow you to, for example, copy files from/to a D64 image. Additional support for copying individual PRG files from/to D64 images would be great. If you think we are asking too much, consider the fact than an experimental VD64 plugin version for the unstable IDEDOS 0.91 supports this and even more features already. I keep my fingers crossed for Soci/Singular to eventually backport copying functionality into a stable version of a VD64 plugin, or even better to fix all the outstanding issues with the new IDEDOS system and declare it stable after many years of development. It will surely be a big milestone in the IDE64 development efforts, and an important day for the entire community of IDE64 users.

Pressing 4 loads the D64 lister plugin, developed in 2006 by Fenek/Arise. It is a fairly old tool, but it still gives you an excellent deep view into the heart of your D64 images. It is also very powerful, as it implements a feature that is still missing in the VD64 plugin, namely extracting individual files from disk images. Press INS/DEL to select/deselect individual disk files for extraction, + (plus) to select all files at once, - (minus) to deselect them, * (asterisk) to invert current selection, and finally E to extract all selected files to the current directory (the directory where the current D64 disk image is located).

You can of course load and run the selected file while still browsing an image directory simply by pressing RETURN. Another excellent feature of D64 lister lets you fetch and display load addresses of all files on disk simply by pressing A. Pressing RUN/STOP lets you return to the MAN file manager.

SUMMARY

I have not covered every single existing way to access D64 image files directly from your IDE64 device in this article. You can browse the IDE64 Warez Site at any time if you crave to discover more options. If the ones described here do not appeal to you, you might be lucky to find more suitable tools. The utilities I covered in this chapter are my personal and arbitrary choices, which I am strongly inclined to recommend you. They serve me well, and I am sure they will do the same for you. With direct D64 read/write access on your IDE64 device, you can introduce an even better directory structure on your HDD and experience more pleasure from satisfactory use of your hardware. Good luck!

DJ GRUBY/PROTOVISION/TRIAD

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