Track Disk Images

V9t9 now supports disk track images (*.trk). Yes, I have been able to transfer the Advanced Diagnostics, DisKassembler, and Draw ‘n’ Plot disks and run them in V9t9.

I don’t currently have access to the software to fetch these from your own 99/4A, but I’m sure someone with a working system can do it. See Thierry’s page for details.

The format is:

'trak'       (magic, 4 bytes)
0x1          (version, 1 byte)
#tracks      (1 byte)
#sides       (1 byte) 
0            (unused, 1 byte)
track size   (maximum size in bytes, big-endian, 2 bytes)
data offset  (from start of file: usually 12; big-endian, 2 bytes)

Then, each track’s raw data follows, as you might fetch with the algorithm at Thierry’s page. Each track must use the same number of bytes. V9t9 is very relaxed about the actual track data, since the track data can have a variable number of lead bytes between sectors.

V9t9 has only been tested with FM (single-density) disks so far. If you would like to donate a dumped MFM disk image for me to test, I’d appreciate it.

V9938 / MSX2 video support

The front page mentions V9938 / MSX2 support. I emulated this strictly based on data sheets and some random pieces of documentation some people sent me in the early days of V9t9. It may, thus, be completely wrong in some ways.

For example, docs mention that the 99/4A ROM’s purportedly incorrect VDP register mappings don’t work with the V9938. V9t9 does the “right thing” and masks the address ranges to 16k for legacy graphics modes – I didn’t want to make a fake DSR ROM to patch the startup code. If it’s important to emulate all the buggy behavior, I’d appreciate references to programs that actually do V9938 rendering, so I can test.

Anyway, I was able to run ZORK in 80-column mode in V9t9. So I guess it works well enough ;)

Enabling

To enable this, you’ll need the v9t9.zip file (not the web launcher). Edit the v9t9-local.jnlp file and remove the comments (<!– and –>) lines at the end around this <argument> node:

	<application-desc 
		main-class="v9t9.gui.Emulator">
		...
             EnhancedTI994A 
		...
   	 </application-desc>
    

Or in the v9t9.sh file, add EnhancedTI994A to the command line:

	"$JAVA" -cp "v9t9j.jar:$SWT:libs/*" -Djava.library.path=tmpdir $VMARGS  v9t9.gui.Emulator EnhancedTI994A

You’ll know this worked if you start up and notice the palette in the startup screen is a bit off – the V9938 palette is slightly different from the TMS9918A’s.

Forth99B Machine

I’ll need to rename this, since it is not a 9900-based machine. But it does use the 99/4A VDP, GROM/GRAM, and disk image formats. And it uses the V9938 video chip and a crazy custom sound chip with 12 voices and sound effects.

All this stuff is only documented in the sources. It’s 100% a hobby project, so use at your own risk. It can and will change unpredictably!

Enabling

In the v9t9.sh file, add --machine Forth99B to the command line:

	"$JAVA" -cp "v9t9j.jar:$SWT:libs/*" -Djava.library.path=tmpdir $VMARGS  v9t9.gui.Emulator --machine Forth99B

Quick setup

  • Forth99 uses a GRAM disk image called f99bgram.bin. This will be copied into your ${config}/.v9t9j/module_ram directory on first launch.
  • If you want to use disk images instead, call the word DSK1. Call GRAM to get back to the GRAM image.
  • Use edit to edit the current block. Use number >edit to edit a specific block.
  • Unfortunately the built-in dictionary is stored mostly in GROM to save space, so words will only show your custom words.
    Check the sources to see what’s available.

Image Import

You can load graphics files into V9t9 and it will render them in the current graphics mode. This is totally a hobby feature and is not intended to be useful to anyone, for any reason.

This feature may be a bit of a mystery – unfortunately it only works nicely with a real video chip (e.g. V9938 / MSX2) in a high-res mode. When you try this with the TMS9918A graphics 0 mode, the results are poor.

Try it in a bitmapped mode (like for Parsec), or use the EnhancedTI994A machine (above) and the Debugger (below) to force the system into a better mode. Or, use the Forth99B machine and use one of “0 mode” through “10 mode” to activate different graphics modes.

And pause the emulator so the running program doesn’t overwrite the results ;)

RnD Settings

Right-click (or Ctrl-Click on a single-button Mac mouse) on the emulator screen and select Advanced Controls to enable a toolbar at the bottom of the screen. This allows you to:

  • view emulated CPU performance & interrupt rate
  • send a NMI (not really useful on 99/4A since it crashes the system)
  • turn on a machine listing (e.g. instrs_full.txt in your temporary folder)
  • access the built-in debugger
  • modify speech synthesis settings
  • edit configuration variables

Configuration Variables

V9t9 is a hobby project of mine, thus there are lots of ways to configure it to act slightly or completely different.

As mentioned above, the Advanced Controls main screen context menu option will enable the advanced toolbar, which has a button for editing configuration variables on the far right.

Change the options to cause a change in behavior.

FAIR WARNING: several of these options refer to unimplemented or half-implemented features, and some variables are used internally and shouldn’t really be editable in this dialog. Don’t be surprised if V9t9 crashes!

Configuration Files

V9t9 stores two configuration files for your settings. Both are located under your user directory (e.g. %USERPROFILE% in Windows or $HOME on Linux and Mac OS X) in a directory called .v9t9j.

The file config stores global emulator settings, like the window location and size, monitor effects, sound volume, etc.

The file workspace.StandardTI994A file stores settings specific to V9t9 when emulating the TI-99/4A.

These files are normal XML. The conventions should be obvious from the contents: the <str> element names a single-valued configuration variable, and <strs> element names a variable representing a list of <str> elements.

Using Custom ROMs

The Setup ROMs dialog expects standard TI-99/4A ROMs but feel free to substitute your own. Since V9t9 won’t detect these by content, you’ll need to either:

  • rename your console ROM as 994arom.bin
  • rename your console GROM as 994agrom.bin

OR, these configuration variables in workspace.StandardTI994A:

  • RomFileName
  • GromFileName

For more advanced memory configuration, make a custom modules.xml and pretend your ROMs are a module. See below.

Module ROM formats

If you’re curious about the details, V9t9 supports two primary formats for module ROMs.

First, in the V9t9 family of emulators, ROMs are stored as raw binary files in named groups like:

  • <module>G.bin (GROM image at >6000)
  • <module>C.bin (ROM image at >6000)
  • <module>D.bin (ROM second bank at >6000)

The “C” and/or “D” variants may not be present, and sometimes not even the “G” variant.

V9t9 also handles naming used in the “tosec” naming convention.

Finally, V9t9 supports the MESS RPK format. This is a ZIP-format archive with raw binary images and several XML files. V9t9 uses the softlist.xml file to organize the contents.

Module list format

The modules.xml file format saved by the Module Selector dialog’s “Add” option is a simple XML file with a top-level <modules> element containing zero or more <module> elements.

Each <module> element contains <memoryEntries> elements describing the files that contribute to various memory regions. As an example:

<modules>
    <module name="My Module Name">
        <memoryEntries>
            <gromModuleEntry fileName="moduleg.bin" />
               <!-- either this or the following, or neither -->
            <romModuleEntry fileName="modulec.bin" />  
            <!-- for standard 'write to 0x6000' type bank switching -->
            <bankedModuleEntry fileName="modulec.bin" fileName2="moduled.bin" />  
        </memoryEntries>
    </module>
</modules>

Note that bankedModuleEntry supports the “standard” 2-bank-in-2-files model as well as files where N banks are stored in one file (e.g. as used in retroclouds’ Pitfall). You may need the reversed attribute as well.

The entry elements above may also include a plain <memoryEntry> element. All of them support these attributes:

  • fileName: filename, relative path, or absolute path to the file contents
  • fileName2: second filename for two-banked modules where each ROM is in a separate file. Relative path, or absolute path to the file contents for banked modules
  • fileMD5: MD5 sum for fileName
  • file2MD5: MD5 sum for fileName2
  • fileMD5Algorithm: (2015/07/21) if specified, override default algorithm. For GRAPHICS domains, the algorithm is grom, which sums every 6k of the 8k GROM banks. Else the default is full which acts as before. Alternate algorithms are segment:addr+len[;addr+len...] which sums up portions of a file.
  • file2MD5Algorithm: like fileMD5Algorithm for file 2
  • domain: memory domain: one of 'CPU', 'GRAPHICS', 'SPEECH' or 'VIDEO'
  • address: load address of file
  • size: size of memory region in bytes (can be negative to denote the maximum memory area, if the file’s size is variable)
  • offset: offset into fileName in bytes
  • offset2: offset into fileName2 in bytes
  • stored: if true, the file is non-volatile RAM (e.g. for Mini Memory) and is saved in the path denoted by the StoredRamPath variable
  • reversed: for banked module entries: if true, the banks in the file are stored in reversed order from the write address. For example, writes to >6000,

    6002, >6004, and >6006 normally select banks 0, 1, 2, 3; with true, they select banks 3, 2, 1, 0.