Frequently asked questions

Please note that for items involving copying or changing the MOP file, you should always make a backup, just in case something goes wrong

Checking the DU0: boot disk for problems

With time the system disk may become fragmented or nearly full which may cause unusual symptoms when creating or running job files. There are a few things that can be done to check whether the disk is having some issues.

:rsx set cli=mcr
>pip /fr
will tell you how much free space is on the disk and how many headers are available to create new files. If either number is getting very low then it may be time to expand the size of the disk (see examples below). This command will also indicate the amount of contiguous space. If the contiguous space is small then the disk is likely fragmented and you may want to make a copy of it to remove the fragmentation (see examples below)
>ins [3,54]vfy
>vfy du0:
VFY is a tool used to verify the disk directory structure. A bunch of things will appear here as the file structure of the disk is checked. You can ignore 'marked for delete' things but you will want to note any 'bad header' things or some other messages that indicate a possible problem.
>vfy du0: /dv
will check for invalid directories so you should see 0 items in a normal disk
>rem vfy
>set cli=mpc
You should be back to a MOP prompt at this point. The DU0: disk can be repaired using VFY (command syntax can be found here) but it may be easier to make a clean copy of the system disk.

Creating a formatted empty image file

The stepper upgrade kit software allows the user to create empty image files of pretty much any size. These empty files are then assigned to a device (say DU1:) and then the switch to control mode is made to operate the stepper. Using MOPS 605.x to 7.3 (the RSX-11M+ based ones), the typical sequence

:newdsk du1:
:setdsk du1:
mounts the empty file for read/write access. The MOP, by default, assumes that the device is a floppy diskette and only allocates enough directory space for about 250 files - about what would normally fit on a floppy. To get more file directory space (so that more files can be stored on the device), log in as supervisor and then do the following (the text following the semicolon is just explanation and isn't to be typed in):

:rsx set cli=mcr          ;do this from RSX MCR prompt
>alloc du1: /term=tt0:    ;give control to tt0:
>mount du1: /foreign      ;mount device foreign
>bad du1:                 ;run bad blocks check on file
>init du1:"label" /mxf=##  ;select a label for the disk, enclosed in quotes and 
                          ;set ## to the max number (octal) of files to allocate space for in the index (8000 is probably enough so octal 17500)
>dmo du1:                 ;dismount the device
>dealloc du1:             ;done so release the private control
>set cli=mpc              ;return to MOP
:setdsk du1:              ;set the new disk
:rsx pip du1:=du0:/uf     ;example copy all files from du0:[10,1] to du1: - note the UF option

You should now have a new MOP file, bigger in size than the original, containing all the original information and capable of storing more files. In Control Mode you can now assign this file to the DU0: device and then boot into Operation Mode as before.

Resizing MOP 7.2.1 file

MOP 7.2.1 normally comes as a 140Meg image file which may be needlessly large. It can be reduced in size by using BRU to initialise an empty container file (and to make it bootable) and then copying over all the files. The only things to watch for are that there is enough space in the 32M file to hold the contents of the 140M file (run 'space' and 'free' under RSX to check), and that there is enough header space allocated for the number of files being copied. The basic steps are as follows:
- create an empty 32Meg container file using the main menu in Control Mode
- assume that the MOP 7.2.1 container file is not full of data files
- assign this empty container file to device DU1: and boot the 7.2.1 MOP as usual
- log in as [10,1] and then run the following commands

 :rsx set cli=mcr
 >free du0:
 >space du0:
 >mount du1:/for
 >rem bru
 >ins [3,54]bru
 >bru/mounted/init/max:8000/hea:4000/pos:beg du0: du1:
 >free du1:
 >space du1:
 >dmo du1:
 >set cli=mpc

Remote control software for upgrade kits

Our current line of upgrade kits generally run under DOS (they need the real-time control properties of DOS). Remote control software for DOS, using the IPX network protocol is available from Netop as freeware. IPX (and NETBEUI) real-mode network support is built into Windows 9x and takes up relatively little memory. The steps involved are basically the following:

  • add DOS real mode IPX network support to the host machine (the one being controlled)
  • run the Netop Host software on the host machine
  • create a DOS virtual machine (using VmWare Player/VirtualBox/Qemu etc) with real-mode IPX network support
  • run the Netop Client software on this virtual machine (the one doing the remote controlling)
  • run the virtual machine. The detailed instructions (with links to the Netop, VmWare and DOS virtual machine software) can be found here

Rebooting the stepper MOP

For steppers based on the RSX-11M operating system, you can reboot the MOP (master operating program) without returning to the main menu screen and starting the system as usual. This shouldn't normally be required but if you are sure that you can safely kill everything that you are doing and wish to start again, try

:rsx boo [1,54]rsx11m.sys
The system should reboot and return you to the standard log in prompt.

A bug in RSX-based stepper job file names

There appears to be a bug in the MOPs using RSX-11 as the operating systems (versions 605.x and 7.x) related to job file names. The normal filename under RSX is composed of a name (up to 9 characters) followed by an extension (up to 3 characters). If you specify a job name with 10 characters (or more), SPEC will accept the name but it's going to cause some problems e.g.:

:spec test123456
is accepted, but the file that appears in the current user directory will have the odd name of '.;1' i.e. the name is just a period (.) followed by a semi-colon (for the version number) followed by a number (1 for the first version of the file). If you now try to EDIT the job (or in fact ANY 10 character file name like 123456test) you will always be accessing the same single file named '.;1'. Attempts to create (SPEC) a job with 10 or more characters (ANY 10 characters) in the name will tell you that the job already exists. This is going to confuse the operating system when things like PURGE are called to delete old copies of the job (the system will appear to hang while it figures out what to do). The answer is obviously just to make sure that your job file names have no more than 9 characters in the name and no more than 3 characters in the extension.

DLL errors when running DOS software under Windows

Normally, our simple 16-bit DOS tools run fine under 32-bit Windows NT based operating systems (XP/XP Pro/2000 etc.). This includes our free utilities(GDS2TXT, CIF2DXF etc.) as well as simple things that we write quickly to help customers using other people's software for pattern design. Sometimes, Windows will flag an error, something of the form 'An installable Virtual Device Driver failed DLL initialization'. The problem description and solution can be found here. Typically the problem is the result of an incomplete un-install of some other software that also required 16-bit DOS services.
64-bit versions of Windows after Vista no longer support 16-bit DOS programs as described here so we are converting most of our custom software utilities to Windows console applications. Our utilities will still run fine under DOSBOX from here as well as DOSEMU under Linux here .

Moving files between DOS and RSX

When running the RSX based steppers (MOP version 605 and above), it is sometimes necessary to move files back and forth between the DOS host environment and the RSX guest environment. There is an RSX task called [10,1]DOS.TSK which makes this possible. This is normally installed on all of our upgrade kits but if you can't find it, we can send you a DU2: image file called DOSIO.IMG. Use the 'Assign devices' menu selection to mount this image file as DU2: and then boot into the MOP as usual. Log in to [10,1] as supervisor and then do the following:

:setdsk du2:
:rsx pip du0:=du2:dos.tsk/co/uf
The task DOS.TSK should now be in the supervisor account [10,1] and available for use. Files can only be imported and exported between the RSX [10,1] supervisor account and the DOS subdirectory where the stepper upgrade software normally resides (usually C:\UPG_STEP). The normal procedure is as follows (the semicolons mark the start of comments that don't need to be typed):
:rsx set cli=mcr          ; restore the normal MCR command set
>ins [1,2]dos             ; install the DOS task (the acct [1,2] is typical but [10,1] may also work)
>dos get chuck.dat/i      ; import the CHUCK.DAT file into [10,1] as a straight binary image (/i option)
>dos put dos.tsk/i        ; export the DOS.TSK file to the DOS directory as a straight binary image (/i option)
>dos get notes.txt        ; import the NOTES.TXT file and do a conversion from DOS text to RSX compatible text
>rem dos                  ; remove the DOS task
>set cli=mpc              ; restore the normal MOP command prompt

HP5501A/B replacement laser

The Excel 1001F Laser head (possibly referenced as EP1001A) from Excel Precision appears to be a drop in replacement for the HP5501A/B laser head on the GCA line of pattern generators and steppers. The mechanical and the laser light specifications appear to be the same as described in these two PDF documents : Excel Precision 1001F laser head and HP 5501A/B laser head

Creating an RX50 diskette with Kermit-11

Our upgrade kits usually come with Kermit-11 (for RSX) installed. For those users with original DEC LSI/11 minicomputers, the installation of Kermit for RSX-11 (MOP versions 605.1 and above) requires an RX50 floppy diskette containing the Kermit-11 task and help files. This floppy can actually be created on a DOS PC which has a 5.25" disk drive and a 5.25" DSDD (360K) floppy disk (not the HD 1.2M floppy disk). The files to do this can be found here.
Download this file and then unzip the contents into a directory on the DOS PC. From within this directory, execute the KERMIT.BAT file as follows:

C:>kermit a:    ; (when the 5.25" drive is A:) or
C:>kermit b:    ; (when the 5.25" drive is B:)
You will be prompted to put a floppy diskette (DSDD 360K type) into the drive and then to press <Enter>. When all the drive churning has successfully completed, you should have a floppy diskette containing Kermit-11 for RSX. This diskette can be put into the RX50 drive on the original DEC computer (usually referenced as DU2:), mounted and the contents copied to the supervisor account:
:setdsk du2:
:rsx pip du0:[10,1]=du2:[*,*]*.*/uf
Kermit can then be run from the user's account. Kermit will allow the transfer of data between a stepper computer and any PC based terminal emulation package that supports the Kermit protocol (TeraTerm Pro and Hyperterminal for example). See the PUTR.DOC file for possible problems and solutions related to the use of 5.25" floppy disk drives in this manner (not all floppy drives are created equal).

Using Kermit-11 for stepper file transfers

Once Kermit-11 is installed, you can run it from the [10,1] supervisor account:

:rsx run [1,2]k11rsx		; the account [1,2] is typical but it may also be [10,1]
From the Kermit prompt, you'll have to configure the system slightly:
  • Attach a PC or laptop running a terminal emulation capable of handling the Kermit protocol. Standard Hyperterminal for Windows will do this but better choices include TeraTermPro and Putty . TeraTermPro allows for the transfer of multiple Kermit files at once from the PC to the stepper.
  • Either
    • use this terminal emulation in place of the VT100 terminal (TT0:) and continue running Kermit-11
    • attach the terminal emulation to an unused TT: (TT1:) port at the back of the Micro-11, log in to [10,1] and run Kermit-11 as above
  • In the terminal emulation software, select the same baud rate as set in Kermit-11 below and select to use the Kermit protocol for all file transfers.
  • In order to transfer files from the LSI-11 to the PC, do the following from the Kermit-11 prompt appearing on the terminal emulation screen:
    kermit-11>set line ttxx:       { xx is the LSI-11 serial port connected to the terminal e.g. 0 for TT0: or 13 for TT13: } 
    kermit-11>set speed 19200      { baud rate could also be 38400,9600 or slower }
    kermit-11>set file type binary { forces binary transfer mode }
    kermit-11>send filespec        { where 'filespec' is the name for the job file(s) }
                                   { wildcards can be used e.g. [10,10]*.* or [*,*]job*.* }
    The system should show a progress screen for the transfer of all the specified files. You can do the 'send' as many times as you like with different wildcard specs. Try a couple of small transfers first to see how files are created on the PC end.
  • Alternatively, you can transmit files from the PC to the stepper:
    and then select the terminal emulation menu option that transmits one or more files using the Kermit protocol.
  • kermit-11>exit            { quit out when done } 

Resizing MOP files

For the RSX-11M+ based GCA steppers (basically anything running MOP 605.x or 7.x such as the ALS200 and Autostep machines) there will probably come a time when the user will experience odd behaviour such as the inability to create or save job files. In the original system, this would likely be caused by the disk drive (somewhere between 20 Meg and 140 Meg in size) having filled up or run out of header files. Under the ODS-1 file system (the one used in the RSX-11M based steppers), there is one header file for each file on the disk with the number of header files fixed when the disk is created. In our upgraded systems, the original disk is represented by a disk container file (e.g. MOP_730.IMG) which can be as big as desired and initialised to have enough header files to meet any needs. The process to create a bigger disk container file is as follows:

  • in DOS, create an empty disk file using the UPG_STEP main menu
    • select 'Data_files'->'Create data files...'
    • check the 'User defined' box
    • enter the disk size in kilobytes e.g. 200000 would be a 200 Megabyte disk file
    • enter the 'File' name e.g. data200m.img
    • press the [Create] button
  • Having created a large empty container file, assign it to the DU1: device using the UPG_STEP main menu
    • select 'Operate_stepper'->'Device setup...'->
    • press [Add] and assign DU1: to the file data200m.img
    • [Save] the setup
  • start the stepper operation as usual and login as supervisor
  • enter the following commands from the user prompt:
    :rsx set cli=mcr
    >mount du1:/for
    >rem bad
    >ins [3,54]bad
    >bad du1:
    >rem bad
    >rem bru
    >ins [3,54]bru
    >bru/mounted/init/max:10000/hea:5000/pos:beg du0: du1:
    >rem bru
    >dmo du1:
    >set cli=mpc
    :setdsk du1:
    :rsx free du1:
    :rsx space du1:
  • At this point, DU1: should contain everything that is on DU0: except that it will appear as a larger disk with more header files and more disk space.
  • exit the MOP by pressing on the PC keyboard or on the VT340 or VT100
  • from the UPG_STEP main menu, assign DU0: to the new, bigger container file (e.g. data200m.img), save the settings and restart the stepper operation

H&L Associates, 21 Parkmount Crescent, Ottawa, Ontario K2H 5T3, Canada
Tel: (613) 828-1462 Last updated : 2023-Jun-01