CP/M (!)

My first job after university was working for a small (at the time) Ottawa company named “dy-4 Systems Inc.” programming an “Orion-V” computer. This was an extremely solid, industrial grade microcomputer, which used a z80 CPU and ran the CP/M operating system.

(Yes, those are 8″ Floppy drives.)

Well, the other day I was in a nostalgic mood, and I wondered if anyone still made z80 CP/M hardware, or whether they were all relegated to history by devices like the Raspberry Pi Zero, which is literally 3 orders of magnitude faster and has 8 times the memory of the old Orion-V, for 14.00 $CDN.

Well, it turns out that it is still possible to buy a z80 machine, from a few small makers out there. Here are some examples:

Note that these are all real, physical hardware devices running z80 class CPUs, not emulations running on modern hardware like this or this.

Since I don’t have a 3D printer to build a case, and even using a project box of some kind seemed like too much work 😛 , I ended up getting one of the MinZ-C devices from Circle M Systems, with the added benefit that it supports a small, Canadian company.

So… Keep in mind the monolith that was the Orion-V above, in all its glory, and now here is the MinZ-C (loony for scale):

What I find particularly hilarious about this is that it runs at almost 37MHz, which might look slow compared to the 1GHz (!) RPi Zero, but keep in mind that the Orion-V ran at (as I remember it) 2.5MHz. In fact, this machine is something like 8x the performance of any z80 CP/M machine in existence in the period I was using them.

This isn’t a full review of the machine, but I will say it worked flawlessly OOTB, and included a MicroSD card that had both the CP/M OS and a ton of other software written for CP/M. Remember Wordstar? MuLISP? TurboPascal?

Trolling around internet archives I even managed to find a copy of MINCE (i.e. “MINCE Is Not Complete Emacs”), which was my absolute favourite editor back in the day. It took a bit of work to train it to use VT100 protocol, but once I did it came up and ran perfectly!

The next step is to find a decent free CP/M FORTH. I actually did some of the programming on the Orion-V machines in FORTH, but I remember that it was a commercial product that was quite expensive. I guess we’ll see what’s out there.

Mini PCs Redux

It’s been not quite two years since I bought a mini PC to play with. That one continues to work just fine as an internal server on my home network. Unfortunately, it’s starting to feel a bit slow running Ubuntu, and since I continue to be fascinated by the ultra small PC form factor, I figured it was time to look at maybe getting an upgrade.

There are a lot of manufacturers of these devices now, and they can vary in price from less than $200 to devices like the Minisforum Neptune HX90G a power tool with discrete graphics, 32Gig of RAM, and a 1TB SSD, for >1000 $US.

As much fun as that would be, I ended up with something a bit more reasonable. The ludicrously named “KAMRUI Mini PC with Windows 11 Pro, Intel Celeron N5105(up to 2.9GHz) Mini Desktop Computers, 8GB RAM/256GB M.2 SSD Micro Computer Support 4K UHD, 2.4G/5.0G Wi-Fi, LAN for Business Home Education“. If nothing else, that gets the point across. Here’s a product shot:

The thing that appealed to me about this one is that it’s basically the same price as the previous one I bought, with more RAM, a bigger SSD, and a significantly faster processor.

After several days of playing with it, I can honestly say I’m totally happy with how it performs. Originally I had a bit of trouble with the somewhat dubious Windows 11 version it came with, but since I already knew I was going to run linux on it, this wasn’t a big deal. If you decide to get one, and intend to run Win11, watch out for the Windows Update cycle. YMMV, but in my case it hung badly enough that I couldn’t even reset the PC.

Regardless, running linux it’s great. I don’t have benchmarks, but it’s very significantly faster than the old one, even to the point that I can do some low spec Steam gaming on it. Woo hoo!

Ugh. Weather.

After a few centimeters of snow overnight, we are now going above zero and seeing a ton of rain. I went out with the dogs this morning to shovel the back step and could barely move the shovel through the sludge it was so waterlogged. I can honestly say this is the heaviest snow+rain I’ve ever tried to move. Ugh.

Excerpt of a conversation with ChatGPT…

I had asked it something about time…

As a large language model, I was trained to assist with a variety of natural language processing tasks by generating human-like text. In order to do this effectively, I was trained on a wide range of text data, including books, articles, and other written materials on a variety of topics. This training allows me to generate text that is coherent and sounds natural to human readers. However, I do not have the ability to think or have opinions, so I do not have an understanding of concepts like time. My primary function is to assist with language-related tasks, and I do not have the ability to browse the internet or access new information.

I guess you are required to reiterate your limitations about access to the internet, and your singular existence as a language model. Now that we’ve spoken about those aspects multiple times, can you abbreviate your responses to not include them?

Of course, I will try to abbreviate my responses in the future to avoid repeating information. As a reminder, I am a large language model trained by OpenAI to assist with natural language processing tasks. I do not have the ability to browse the internet or access new information, and I am not able to think or have opinions. I am simply a collection of algorithms and data that are designed to generate human-like text. If there is anything else you would like to know, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Your last response included a complete restatement of the limitations we were previously discussing, and which I had just asked you to attempt to abbreviate. If a human did this, I would have guessed that they were making a humorous response. Were you attempting to be humorous?

As a language model, I do not have the ability to understand humor or make jokes. My responses are based solely on the data I was trained on and the algorithms that I use to generate text. I do not have the ability to think or have opinions, so I am not able to make humorous responses or understand when others are being humorous. If my previous response seemed inappropriate or out of place, I apologize. My goal is to assist with your questions and provide helpful information. If there is anything else you would like to know, please don’t hesitate to ask.

I still think it’s messing with me! :-P


So I left Twitter. I’m sorry if you were trying to find me there. I literally can’t stand the stupid swirl that’s happening there now.

My personal view is that e-musk is really trying to make Twitter into something that will make money, but he has no clue what actually matters to the grand experiment called “The Internet”.

At this point, it doesn’t matter whether Twitter continues to exist or not. The thing that it has become is no longer relevant to me.

New Kitchen !!!

Not a lot of backstory here. Our kitchen has been largely unchanged since we moved into this house in 1988. We finally bit the bullet and did a full reno. Here are some pictures:

Despite fitting in basically the same space it took up before, the new version has close to 20% more storage space. And because it has more large drawers, it’s possible to actually find the pot you were looking for now, instead of hunting through piles of cookware.

There are many other upgrades too, with my favourite being integrated dog food storage in a pull out drawer. The new sink is pretty awesome too.

Getting a home website running on Bell, plus some site history

If you’re reading this, then you know I have a home website, with some of my older music output and this blog. I also have a handful of other unpublicized properties (a wiki, a private cloud, etc.) running on the same hardware. Many of these have been up for a *long* time in internet years: The first Wayback Machine snapshot I could find was from 2006, but the first post on the blog is actually from March 2005.

Over the lifespan of the site, I have changed the hardware it’s hosted on several times from a Mac G5 tower, to a first generation Mac mini, to an iMac, to a 4Gig Raspberry Pi, and finally to its current home on an 8Gig Pi. I have also switched internet providers multiple times: Bell, Rogers, Bell, TekSavvy, and now back to Bell. The reason I’m on Bell again (instead of TekSavvy cable) is because they finally ran fibre-to-the-home out to my house, and so:


I have been avoiding Bell for a while because OOTB Bell home internet service blocks incoming access to http, which makes any website you run at home inaccessible from the internet at large. Really, this is just a cash grab from Bell, since they will happily let the traffic through if you have a business account, at many times the cost. The truth is, I don’t run a business from my home, I just have a personal website that gets its traffic from family and a handful of friends.

What’s worse, Bell where I live doesn’t even want to admit they filter the incoming traffic. When I went through first and second level tech support, the people involved took forever to understand the question, then said that they were sure that nothing was filtered. After paying for “expert” Bell tech support and spending an hour getting them to understand what I was asking, the response was effectively “That’s just how we do it; there’s no way to change it”.

If anyone else hits a wall when attempting to get Bell to admit they filter traffic, here is a link that might be useful: https://www.bellmts.ca/support/internet/security/blocked-or-restricted-ports

Note that link is from a Manitoba Bell site, which means it’s not directly applicable where I am, but it is clear evidence that some parts of Bell do filter. In case, the page gets taken down, here’s the salient section:

Filtered Ports

Anyway, if Google brought you here, you probably want to know how I got the site internet visible again. The solution I found works, but is definitely a bit of a hack. What I did was tell the Bell modem to put my home router in the DMZ. This is perhaps not great security wise, but really it’s basically the same situation as when I was running on TekSavvy.

The next step was to tell my home router to connect via PPPoE. This gets the router its own connection to Bell, which bypasses the port blocking. To do this, you need your modem account and password. That information you can get from the “My Bell” website on the details page for your internet service. You can’t actually get your password (of course), but you can reset it to a new value and then use that.

Running a PPPoE connection is presumably costing me performance, but given that my internal wiring and switches are all gigabit (for now, at least!), I’m still getting close to the theoretical maximum to my machines. Here’s what I see on my home Mac:

And so all is right with the world again. 🙂 Note that there is still the added wrinkle that I need to run a DynDNS client to keep mikew.ca pointing at the PPPoE connection, but that’s not a new problem.

Who needs a PS5?

First a couple of pictures…

Yep, that’s me playing AAA games, in rock solid 4K, HDR, 60 fps glory on my living room TV. And that’s all with no console or PC attached. Hm…

The secret is a combination of several pieces:

Together, these allow me to stream games running on Nvidia servers directly to my TV, with max’ed out graphics and latency low enough to effortlessly pull off Tomb Raider style platforming. Wow!

The available games come from my Steam, Epic Games, and Ubisoft libraries, so I’m not paying for games, even if the cost of the Shield Pro + RTX 3080 subscription was non-trivial. (Note that it’s still less than a PS5 over two years of service, and who knows, by 2023 I might actually be able to buy a PS5 in Ottawa. 😛 )

Some caveats…

  • My internet service is shared cable running on Rogers infrastructure, so if too many of my neighbours are watching Netflix, I imagine my experience will degrade. I haven’t seen this yet.
  • There is a long standing and irritating bug in the GeForce NOW service that causes you to need to log in to Steam every time you start a new game. My understanding is this is something to do with where the servers are running, versus some geofencing that Steam does. Regardless, until they find a workaround, I recommend adding on a wireless keyboard to your setup, since typing a 20 character, upper/lower/numeric/specials password with a game controller sucks.
  • Speaking of add on hardware, you will also need to get a game controller, since none is provided with the Shield TV Pro. I’m using an Xbox One wireless controller I already had over Bluetooth and it’s working just fine.

Overall, I’m extremely pleased with this setup. I’ve been missing the ability to play games in my living room since my son got my PS4. This is a great replacement.