Sunday, August 31, 2014

Software Preservation, Kryoflux, and Politics

I recently got a Kryoflux board. (much more info here). It's a nice board, and once I got the little problem with my usb board sorted out (Egad, you have to set jumpers to make the internal USB A port live.) it works nicely with the ancient tandon full height 5.25 inch 360k ds/dd drive in my junkbox PC. I've already used it to extract whole floppies full of data from my Ampro Littleboard's floppies, and through the twin miracles of cpmtools and cpmfuse I can mount the sector images and copy out the files. Which I've done.

It'd be nice to be able to write the images back out. Apparently the kryoflux /can/ write files out, but only for certain kinds of files dedicated to preserving every last byte, error, bad sector and so on, which is necessary for copy protected software.

Seriously, why the hell preserve the copy protection? I get preserving the software. The days of the floppy are past, and a lot of interesting software was written that's just fading away as the floppies go bad. (In fairness to those long ago floppy manufacturers, some of the CPM floppies I've been playing with are nearly 30 years old and still not only are readable with the kryoflux, but still work in the Ampro. Properly stored they last quite a long while.) But why preserve the copy protection? Strip it out. Patch it. Yes, it's not a pristine copy, but the point of software is not that every byte is where it was in the original, it's that the software runs (in an emulator, at least) and can be experienced. Cycle accuracy I get. Good emulation, I get. Copy protection, IMHO, should be consigned to the dumpster of history along with its offspring DRM. Computers should do what they're told. It's up to their operators to be moral.

The end result of all of this is that I can't use the Kryoflux as I'd hoped to, to read and write floppies and break my dependence on the floppy interface in the motherboard of my junkbox PC. The Kryoflux folks have promised the ability to write mfm sector images, but they've been promising it for years, and if they've delivered, it's been buried in the groundswell of b******t about open source licenses, "proper" preservation, and all that.

Still. It's a useful gadget. I have exactly one machine left that needs floppies, since I stole the drives out of the Ampro. Hopefully they'll deliver on the ability to write sector images to floppies before my last floppy-capable motherboard dies. I don't /care/ if they're exact physical duplicates of the original disk. Will the original hardware read them? Will the program run? That, IMHO is all that matters.

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