Mini Office II disk protection (Split from: Legacy of the BBC Micro User magazine / Database Publications Ltd)

reminisce about bbc micro & electron games like chuckie egg, repton, elite & exile

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Rich Talbot-Watkins
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Mini Office II disk protection (Split from: Legacy of the BBC Micro User magazine / Database Publications Ltd)

Postby Rich Talbot-Watkins » Tue Nov 14, 2017 2:25 pm

(Split off from this post)

Kevin Edwards wrote:You can find more information about Database Publications / Europress here:-

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Europress


Playing 'follow the links' from that Wikipedia page led me here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mini_Office_II

...which contains this pioneering bit of 20th century thinking:
The word processor on Mini Office II allows the user, after having loaded the word processor and created a word file and saved it, to load the word file directly from the tape without re-loading the word processor. If the user has a word file on tape it therefore loads in about three seconds.

One day, maybe all word processors will work like that...

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Re: Legacy of the BBC Micro User magazine / Database Publications Ltd

Postby Kevin Edwards » Tue Nov 14, 2017 2:37 pm

Amazing!

Mini Office sold like hot-cakes and made them a small fortune - much cheaper than the View suite or Inter-series from CC. Not sure how they compare in terms of quality or features.

I just had a flashback and remember working on Micro Olympics for Database - about 1984ish? Totally forgot about that one...not that it was any good. :P

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Rich Talbot-Watkins
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Re: Legacy of the BBC Micro User magazine / Database Publications Ltd

Postby Rich Talbot-Watkins » Tue Nov 14, 2017 2:51 pm

...and of course it had a famously evil disk protection system, which (as far as I know) you had nothing to do with! :D

(Mini Office II that is, don't think I've even heard of Micro Olympics!)

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Re: Legacy of the BBC Micro User magazine / Database Publications Ltd

Postby Kevin Edwards » Tue Nov 14, 2017 2:57 pm

I doubt it had ANY protection on it.

I vaguely remember helping out on the Spectrum and possibly C64 versions for a week or two. It was a pretty awful game that tried to copy Hyper-Sports ( arcade ). Looks like it was written in BASIC, but actually used some machine code IIRC!

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Re: Legacy of the BBC Micro User magazine / Database Publications Ltd

Postby Rich Talbot-Watkins » Tue Nov 14, 2017 3:10 pm

Kevin Edwards wrote:I doubt it had ANY protection on it.

Sorry, I was talking about Mini Office II (edited my other post for clarity)!

I remember I had a disc copying program (might've been Vector 2) which had a special option just for Mini Office II!

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Re: Legacy of the BBC Micro User magazine / Database Publications Ltd

Postby Kevin Edwards » Tue Nov 14, 2017 3:23 pm

Ah, OK. I don't know who did the protection for MOII - pretty sure it wasn't me. :-)

I left Database to write Galaforce before MOII was finished. Probably had the obligatory duff track / sector somewhere!

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Re: Legacy of the BBC Micro User magazine / Database Publications Ltd

Postby ghbearman » Tue Nov 14, 2017 3:27 pm

I once wrote and had published a disk protection that relied on track 81 being readable! you can't even run this in an emulator, lol.

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Re: Legacy of the BBC Micro User magazine / Database Publications Ltd

Postby billcarr2005 » Tue Nov 14, 2017 3:28 pm

I have a feeling that Disc Duplicator III (the freeware version) had additional "finishers" to make copies of Mini Office II and AMX Pagemaker (amongst others - perhaps something by Clares) work correctly... although I can't find the disk image anywhere at the moment...

EDIT: Found DD3 on 8BS, BBC-132
http://8bs.com/catalogue.htm

DD3 DEDICATED.png


Also, for reference, the offending tracks on Mini Office II had the following format

Code: Select all

Tr.#  No.S  Sec.# Tr.ID Head# SecID IDsiz REsiz Error

00    0A    00    00    00    00    0100  0100  OK
            01    00    00    01    0100  0100  OK
            02    00    00    06    0100  0100  OK
            03    00    00    03    0100  0100  OK
            04    00    00    04    0100  0100  OK
            05    00    00    05    0100  0100  OK
            06    00    00    02    0100  0100  OK
            07    00    00    03    0100  0100  OK
            08    00    00    04    0100  0100  OK
            09    00    00    05    0100  0100  OK

01    10    00    01    00    00    0080  0100  OK
            01    01    00    02    0080  0080  OK
            02    01    00    03    0080  0080  OK
            03    01    00    04    0080  0080  OK
            04    01    00    05    0080  0080  OK
            05    01    00    06    0080  0080  Deleted data
            06    01    00    07    0080  0080  Deleted data
            07    01    00    08    0080  0080  Deleted data
            08    01    00    09    0080  0080  Deleted data
            09    01    00    0A    0080  0080  Deleted data
            0A    01    00    0B    0080  0080  Deleted data
            0B    01    00    0C    0080  0080  OK
            0C    01    00    0D    0080  0080  OK
            0D    01    00    0E    0080  0080  OK
            0E    01    00    0F    0080  0080  OK
            0F    01    00    10    0080  0080  OK


As well as having 42 tracks (although only CONVERT was on the spillover).
!BOOT occupied the same sector as a file called MINI also... :)

ghbearman wrote:I once wrote and had published a disk protection that relied on track 81 being readable! you can't even run this in an emulator, lol.

Could make an FSD out of it! :P

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Re: Legacy of the BBC Micro User magazine / Database Publications Ltd

Postby Kevin Edwards » Tue Nov 14, 2017 3:43 pm

Ah, track 1 has mixed sector sizes 128 and 256 byte with some normal and deleted data sectors.
Additional sectors added due to 128 byte ones being used.

Track 1, Sector 00 is interesting
01 10 00 01 00 00 0080 0100 OK

For sector 0 the CHRN has been set as a 128 byte sector ( on format ), but actually has a readable 256 byte sector?

This could cause big problems on some DDFS systems when performing OSWORD &7F calls.

What Disk Analysis software created the sector dump, by the way?

I had a really cool TRACE DFS that would print out the OSWORD &7F calls that were performed and told you the results ( erros ). So useful for hacking disk formats!

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Re: Legacy of the BBC Micro User magazine / Database Publications Ltd

Postby ghbearman » Tue Nov 14, 2017 3:45 pm

yeah it was only meant as something simple but defeated Howard Spurr's copier.

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Re: Legacy of the BBC Micro User magazine / Database Publications Ltd

Postby Rich Talbot-Watkins » Tue Nov 14, 2017 3:54 pm

And track 0 has duplicated sector IDs! That's a more tricky one to defeat! I guess you need to sync with the index hole (how?) and read N-1 sectors (or perhaps, better, N-1 sector IDs), and then read the sector you want as a second step, now that the disk is more or less in the right place.

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Re: Legacy of the BBC Micro User magazine / Database Publications Ltd

Postby Kevin Edwards » Tue Nov 14, 2017 4:04 pm

I missed the duplicated sectors. Interesting.

It depends what they try and do with them during the load.

Do they simply check for duplicate sectors ( read CHRN values ) or do they actually read and use data from the duplicate sector IDs?

I think on some disk controllers you can actually write the entire track as one lump. Perhaps this is how they generated the disk format they require - with unique data in matching sectors - not sure how you would be able to read the same sector to get the different data through so seems unlikely that they do have different data in the duplicated sectors - no guarantee that you can read them individually. However, there is a read track command, but I don't think that exists on 8271? I don't have the datasheets to hand to check.

I'm guessing they simply read the CHRNs and check for duplicate sectors rather than attempt to read their contents.

I found that Disk Duplicator 3 > Vector 2 > Basil Blooms Copy All.

When used together, these three would copy MOST protected disks.

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Re: Legacy of the BBC Micro User magazine / Database Publications Ltd

Postby billcarr2005 » Tue Nov 14, 2017 5:09 pm

Kevin Edwards wrote:What Disk Analysis software created the sector dump, by the way?


It's a BBC BASIC for Windows program that just looks at the FSD file and produces a report. The format is heavily borrowed / copied from Enigma Disc Imager's *IDDUMP, as is the FSD maker program!

Kevin Edwards wrote:I think on some disk controllers you can actually write the entire track as one lump. Perhaps this is how they generated the disk format they require - with unique data in matching sectors - not sure how you would be able to read the same sector to get the different data through so seems unlikely that they do have different data in the duplicated sectors - no guarantee that you can read them individually.


MINI0, the loading / menu MODE7 screen is at absolute (logical) sector 002, and !BOOT & MINI occupy sector 006 (physical sector 2), so they have unique data.
It's a while since I imaged the disk (January 2013), so not entirely sure of the details, but with the FSDBeebEM emulation, i have a "last sector read" value, so the next read just picks up from there and it seems to work :?
The main thing was, most (all?) off the shelf copiers couldn't handle the format, and I've never attempted to rewrite it, but it can be reproduced in an FSD :)

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Re: Legacy of the BBC Micro User magazine / Database Publications Ltd

Postby Rich Talbot-Watkins » Tue Nov 14, 2017 5:35 pm

I think the disk format can be reproduced easily - just by specifying duplicate sector IDs in the format command. The difficulty is getting an 8271 to read it, as it uses the logical sector number, not the physical sector number, to match the requested sector ID.

Just looking at the 8271 datasheet, you can read the required one by using the Read ID command (which always starts at the index mark) to read N-1 IDs (N being the physical sector you want to read), then a Read Data command to read the sector itself.

I think the tricky one is writing sectors whose sizes don't match the ID size on a 1770... far as I know there's no way to reproduce that (even though you can read them OK).

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Re: Legacy of the BBC Micro User magazine / Database Publications Ltd

Postby Rich Talbot-Watkins » Wed Nov 15, 2017 10:35 am

billcarr2005 wrote:Also, for reference, the offending tracks on Mini Office II had the following format

Code: Select all

Tr.#  No.S  Sec.# Tr.ID Head# SecID IDsiz REsiz Error

00    0A    00    00    00    00    0100  0100  OK
            01    00    00    01    0100  0100  OK
            02    00    00    06    0100  0100  OK
            03    00    00    03    0100  0100  OK
            04    00    00    04    0100  0100  OK
            05    00    00    05    0100  0100  OK
            06    00    00    02    0100  0100  OK
            07    00    00    03    0100  0100  OK
            08    00    00    04    0100  0100  OK
            09    00    00    05    0100  0100  OK

etc

Out of curiosity, when building these sector dumps, how do you determine how many sectors a track has? There's no way of reading that as far as I can tell - you just have to use 8271 command &5B to read sector IDs, and you have to specify how many you want. I assume if you specify more than there are, it'll wrap around and you'll get the first ones again. So how can you distinguish wrap around from new sectors with duplicate IDs? Are you adding up the real sector sizes (not from the IDs) and stopping when you reach full track capacity? Never struck me until now how complicated it is to determine something so simple!

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Re: Legacy of the BBC Micro User magazine / Database Publications Ltd

Postby Kecske Bak » Wed Nov 15, 2017 6:50 pm

Rich Talbot-Watkins wrote:(Mini Office II that is, don't think I've even heard of Micro Olympics!)

IIRC The Micro User ran a news story boasting Micro Olympics featured paid-for advertising on the advertising hoardings in the game and claimed this was a first.

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Re: Mini Office II disk protection (Split from: Legacy of the BBC Micro User magazine / Database Publications Ltd)

Postby Kevin Edwards » Wed Nov 15, 2017 10:45 pm

Yes, i remember that. Good bit of journalistic marketing!


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