Floppy Autoloader is Ten Years Too Late, Still Awesome

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JusTalkin

I spent 7 years working at Sony making these confounded disks. We actually produced a 10 meg version for IBM that never really took off. We had a few different types of autoloaders though most of them were much larger than this one.
Pretty cool design.

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fry

5000 hunks of plastic and pot metal reduced to less than 7GB of data on a hard drive. I approve.

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Ocelotty

I have to say Kudos to the rig, but I really wanted to say thanks for the trip down memory lane - Amiga Floppys :)

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mochong

It seems to fill a need for you Dweller, good job.

My only question is did you consider loading a new disk while you were waiting for the picture to be taken and then saved?

It seems like it could save a bit of time having the next disk in there transferring data while the camera was working its magic. Especially since it takes seems to take significantly longer to copy the data.

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Dweller

A frequently asked question that ;p (I never thought I'd actually have to write an FAQ for something I'd created, but I'm rapidly sensing the appeal of one answering across all the different blogs).

Yes, you could absolutely do that, if you had a host pc that was capable of successfully saving the floppy drive data, while also transferring the image from the camera, (and running the software coordinating it all)..

The system I was running there, was an old Dell Mini 9, with an early Intel Atom CPU, that was only just about up to the task for running the software, so I left them sequential, the last thing I wanted was to screw up the data transfer, which is the entire reason for it's existence.

Yes, maybe not writing the host software in Java, and running it inside Eclipse would have helped, but at the end of the day, I had something that worked, and what's an extra few days reading disks? ;p

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gruvsf

Bravo, Dweller, bravo!

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Rift2

Just made a pencil holder out of 5 floppy disks see a few videos on you tube.
Use zip ties to hold them together and poke out the holds on the side that doesn't have holes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOLmXf6eRqA

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JohnP

The maker should have just thrown out the disks.
The most intensive intellectual exercise is "selective destruction of information and objects". That is why so many people have messy desks, drawers full of junk, photographs in drawers that show your feet, the sky, etc, and an endless inbox (my son has NEVER deleted an e-mail for instance) . It is really hard work for most people.
The project is impressive but the reason for it is not. How many of these disks actually contained useful information? If you have not had any reason to convert any before now, why was it necessary to have it all done now? Time should have sorted out 95% of these disks as junk, thus saving you endless hours of work building the thing in the 1st place.
Ask yourself, would anyone else in your family or friends would have been interested in ANY of these disks if you had died? Will ANYONE, including yourself, look at more than 1% of the information on the disks when you are done? "One man's treasure is another man's junk".
The ONLY thing that should be preserved is physical photographs and slides but only if they are sorted and labeled for posterity.

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Kaldor

Really?

Obviously you cant get past the point of this, which is to create a machine that will do the work for him. Who cares what he is backing up.

I have stuff that was originally on floppies on my computer as well. Some of that stuff cannot be found or is very difficult to find on any other medium.

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Andacious

Right? The machine should just eject the disks directly into the garbage.

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Dweller

The reason is simple.. the disks take up quite a bit of physical space, which I need back, to use for more recent stuff ;p

"How many of these disks actually contained useful information?"
- Probably 4 to 5 hundred or so, containing tunes I wrote back then, source code, etc. Just because the format they were stored in then is old, doesn't make the content any less re-usable if I reuse the melodies.. The issue is of course, which 4 to 5 hundred, of the whole lot had that info, something that is pretty hard to determine when the rate of exploration is limited by your willingness to manually work through the set of disks to find the proverbial needle in a haystack.

"If you have not had any reason to convert any before now, why was it necessary to have it all done now?"
- The disks were just fine in their crates.. and I didn't need the space. I was getting a little concerned about their age, but the thought of processing them manually was daunting enough to suppress that ;p

"saving you endless hours of work building the thing in the 1st place."
- And depriving me of all the fun of building it!

"Ask yourself, would anyone else in your family or friends would have been interested in ANY of these disks if you had died?"
- Umm.. just because I'm a geek with data I care about does not imply my family or friends are ;p

"Will ANYONE, including yourself, look at more than 1% of the information on the disks when you are done?"
- Almost certainly =) I've already looked at more than that =)

"The ONLY thing that should be preserved is physical photographs and slides but only if they are sorted and labeled for posterity."
- Im glad you at least find some things worth preserving =)

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biggiebob12345

I agree...just throw the damn things away or leave them boxed up and let them slowly magnetic-fade. At this point he has 3000 disk images. Who cares? He has no clue what's on 95% of them and unless he comes up with a way of automatically indexing them in a searchable format, his jpeg images are just as useless as the physical copies.

And I also don't really delete emails that I read. Emails that are unimportant I don't read and get deleted immediately. Storage is cheap and it doesn't take much effort to organize email.

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Dweller

I've got a fair idea whats on the majority of them.. (since most of them are exactly as labelled) and I've got a decent idea of the information that should be on some of the remainder.. the issue is mapping that information, to which floppy I left it on..

I've already got the basics done for searching, browsing, and processing the data, not much point in only doing half a job! The tough part is to handle all the data that requires a human to step in and confirm it really is 'just coverdisk x of magazine y with a timestamp change' and not 'coverdisk x of magazine y with all the files erased, and my tunes stored on it' .. yes I did that...

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Supall

Oh how the perception of history changes when you throw away "junk". All items have value to one person or another in one time or another. Heck, if someone has the unedited, original version of Star Wars lying about because they didn't think it was junk...

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dgrmouse

How long did it take you to build the machine, Dweller?

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Dweller

More or less a couple of weekends, if you don't count the few days spent learning basic electronics. ;p

Hacking the wiring, coding the arduino to manage the duplicator guts, and slaving that under a java prog took a weekend or so. Building the wooden frame, and rehousing it all took another, add a few evenings for testing & getting the timings right.

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sinan

Wow, he's backing some Amiga discs. That first disc looks to eb a demo disc included with one of the Amiga magazines. Now that's oldskool. :)

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Zoandar

This is cool, and yes I DO still have a floppy drive in a couple of my PCs. :-)

But, I am disappointed in 2 issues that would have so easily been addressed. First, mount the camera upside down, so the disc pictures are right side up. Second, add another nice guide chute and a box at the bottom to neatly re-stack the floppies instead of having them pile up in an ugly mess on the floor. You really want to pick up 3000 floppies thrown in a pile?

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Dweller

Firstly, there's no real 'right side up' for floppies.. (trust me on this, I have a LOT of jpgs of them now ;p) some labels put the shutter at the top, some at the bottom. Secondly, flipping the images in software takes so little time, that figuring out how to mount a camera upside down just isn't worth it.

It was never 3000 in a pile, since the hopper could only hold 120 or so, I'd have to go back every so often to add more to the hopper & I'd tidy up at the same time. Although an exit chute would have been 'nice', the lack of one didn't stop me achieving the overall goal, getting all the data, without having to do it all by hand.

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Caboose

Why does he need to take a picture of each disc? Is the image loaded in to the folder for that diskette to help him know what the contents are/were?

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Dweller

Exactly.. imagine a dir with 5000 subdirs, labelled 1, 2, 3, 4, ... 4999, 5000. Inside each are a pile of files essentially 'track0a, track0b, track1a, track1b..' and 'amiga.adf'.

Without the jpeg, to find out what each was, you'd need to hope you could make sense of the adf.. which isn't easy (imagine trying to figure out if dir 14 was disk 8/10 of beneath a steel sky, or if it were disk 7/10 .. etc)

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Supall

Now that's awesome! Its shame that the limiting factor is the speed at which the drive loads and reads each floppy disk. Still, that's pretty amazing.

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tugboat_2

Now THAT'S a machine you guys need to review IN PERSON and IN DEPTH.

Look guys and gals, I'm really (normally) a big fan and regular reader. BUT you folks have been, lets say, kind of slack with "Maximum PC" class articles.

Granted hardware news has been a little slack lately. But you folks are supposed to more than just another Fudzilla or whatever.

Something like this would rank right up there with the article on building that touch operated desk top built into a desk. BEFORE Apple did it. Yeah it's probably not what you would call current tech. But it is Max geek with a real purpose.

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rosant1

I totlly agree with everything you said to the point that is all I
have to say.

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