KansasFest 2010: ACTION RETROCOMPUTING CONFERENCE

So, I guess it’d be a good idea to blog about my first time at KansasFest, an annual Apple II convention held at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, MO.

(For the benefit of any readers of this blog that don’t know… I have absolutely no problem with the Apple that made the Apple II, and as I grew up with an Apple //c and a couple Apple II clones, I kinda have to be a fan of that Apple. 😉 The Apple that I have a problem with is Apple, Inc.)

Due to the length of this post, I’ll use the intro feature, so everything else is after the break.

The trip out there

I think I hit a new storm every couple hours, including a couple that brought traffic almost to a stop, but otherwise, relatively uneventful, although I did manage to get lost trying to find Rockhurst, and then it took a while to find Corcoran Hall. Suggestion to the KFest committee: Put signs up saying “KansasFest,” to point traffic in the right direction.

Day 1, Tuesday – Arrival

Day 1 involved moving in. Seeing as I brought two desktops (my Apple IIGS and my Acorn RiscPC,) my RDI PowerLite SPARC laptop (Geoff and Ian wanted to look at it,) and my netbook, it took a while to get the network all set up. (I also brought a $30 router, so that I could get everything connected to one network jack, and safely NATed so that Rockhurst’s network equipment didn’t freak out.)

RiscPC and IIGS all set up and running

After setting everything up, and meeting a bunch of people (including a quick trip to Sonic for lunch,) some for the first time, some for the first time in person (I hang out on #a2c.chat, an Apple II IRC channel, quite a lot,) some for the second time, we went to Sweet Tomatoes for dinner.

Afterwards, we went for a bit of a drive around Kansas City, and then hung out well into the night, trying to help with Ian’s particularly problematic IIGS (which ended up being a project that took all of KFest to work on – I’d have worked on my own IIGS, but I needed to buy hardware, and that wasn’t happening until the end of KFest. Besides, everyone was hanging out there anyway,) and getting SCSI going on it with no success. (Then again, SCSI isn’t my forte, so I sat back and watched for quite a lot of it.)

Day 2, Wednesday – Caught in the crossfire

Wednesday, being the first full day at Rockhurst, had plenty of time to get settled in. Myself, I took the opportunity of not having any sessions to go to in the morning as an opportunity to sleep in.

Not long after I woke up, it was time for the KFest Kookout. Mmm, meat. (There were also veggie burgers for those that don’t eat meat.) But, while we were eating, Tony Diaz demonstrated how to take apart an Apple //c. When you take one apart, the case doesn’t separate very easily at all… but, the handle is positioned right in the area that’s hard to separate. So, lift the thing a few inches off of your workbench, fold the handle down, and drop it. The handle shoves the case free. Quick, easy, and doesn’t damage anything, apparently.

Afterwards, Mark Simonsen gave a keynote speech about his experience with the Apple II and being the president of Beagle Bros. While I don’t really remember Beagle Bros despite growing up with a //c (I guess I was too young to really appreciate any of their software,) it was a quite entertaining speech.

Dinner, and then a Wal-Mart run to get much needed supplies were the name of the game afterwards. Much needed supplies such as Nerf guns. Oh yeah. Corcoran Hall East was a war-zone afterwards.

Wednesday Nerf war, photo by Andrew Molloy (source)

Once the ammo was exhausted, and the innocent bystanders started throwing our darts back at us, we stopped, because it was time for a game of Bite the Bag.

Bite the Bag is a game where people take turns picking up a paper grocery bag with only one part of their body on the ground at any one time, and using their mouth to pick up the bag. This obviously requires very good balance. Something that I seem to not have – I failed out in the first round. After every round, the bag is cut down, until it’s a square on the ground. And, yes, it made it that far.

Ken Gagne, winning at Bite the Bag, photo by Andrew Molloy (source)

After that, more trying to help on Ian’s IIGS. Turns out that the motherboard was flaky… one ROM 3 motherboard later, and… still SCSI issues, but at least not crashy any more.

Somewhere in there, among the supplies from Wal-Mart was a posterboard, and I took the time to make a door sign – real life #a2c.chat. (Channel logs are available, and I plan on scanning it in eventually, somehow.)

Door sign, early in its life, photo by Andrew Molloy (source)

At 1 AM, there was an impromptu Steak ‘n Shake run, and then sleep not too long after.

Day 3, Thursday – It is pitch dark

Thursday was the first full day of sessions, and I started it off with… missing breakfast, a bunch of sessions, and waking up right before lunch. (Common theme for me at this KFest.)

First session I made it to was Tony Diaz’s session on Retr0blast, his method of cleaning yellowed plastics on old computers. Retr0bright is a popular method with the primary chemical being hydrogen peroxide being exposed to UV light, whereas Tony’s method uses baking soda as an abrasive blasting medium.

Next was Dagen Brock’s session on developing Apple II software using modern tools, and after that was Mike Maginnis’s session on the infamous Apple III (including its features, where it got it right, and where it got it wrong.)

After dinner, Ken Gagne presented the Penny Arcade Expo cut of Jason Scott’s GET LAMP, a documentary about text adventures and the interactive fiction community. Once the movie was over, Ken asked how many of us would be purchasing the movie… after which he said that we would all be receiving a copy of the movie for free, because we attended KFest.  :O

Not too much else happened, although it came to light why Ian was having SCSI issues… turns out, putting the SCSI card in slot 6 doesn’t work so well, when everything’s expecting it to be in slot 7. Then, to install GNO/ME… to find out that the RAM card that Ian was borrowing had an issue. My RAM card made it work again, though, and we were off.

Ian working on getting his IIGS working, photo by Andrew Molloy (source)

We decided we’d show all those people who decided to go to bed at 12:30 AM, and stay up until breakfast. Unfortunately, not long after 6 AM, that failed, but we DID make it to breakfast. And then I slept until something like 2 PM. 😛

Day 4, Friday – Step 1, wake up, step 2, ?, step 3, profit

I started my Friday waking up in time to make it to Geoff Weiss’s presentation on GNO/ME, a Unix-like environment that runs alongside GS/OS, replacing some GS/OS functions, and using GS/OS for other functions.

I decided to skip the next session, and make a tie for the tie contest, which was immediately after the dinner banquet. I went simple – a black tie, made of out black cable ties. It didn’t win, but then again, it didn’t stand much of a chance against the competition.

Yes, that’s a Tiepan. No, it didn’t win. Because it was too practical, apparently. (Tony won, with a IIGS motherboard cut into the shape of a tie, and a Focus with hard drive shoved in one of the slots.) Photo by Mike Maginnis (source)

After the tie contest, it was time for *jazzhands* ACTION CASTLE, or, “how to play a text adventure, verbally, by committee.” Yeah, there was a lot of going back and forth, but it was fun.

Once that, and the group photo, were done, it was time to unload James Littlejohn’s green bus, which was full of stuff from Sean Fahey’s garage, for Saturday’s giveaway.

Another 1 AM Steak ‘n Shake run, this one much bigger, and then the day started winding down.

Day 5, Saturday – Double Jeopardy

The last real day, Saturday began with lunch, and then popping in for the end of Ryan Suenaga’s session on his SMTP client for the IIGS, right before Tony’s session on floppy drive maintenance.

One of my floppy drives was in there, and I learned a lot about how these drives work and how they come apart.

 

Hey, that drive looks familiar… Photo by Mike Maginnis (source)

The HackFest projects were presented, and then it was time for the Vendor’s Fair. Finally, I could buy some freaking mass storage for my Apple II, and I picked up a Focus card from Tony, as well as a SoundMeister stereo card. (Actually, I didn’t buy the Focus just yet, that happened later.)

After the vendor fair, we headed to Jack Stack, a barbecue place in downtown Kansas City. Problem is, there was going to be a 2.5 hour wait… so we instead went to Lidia’s, in the same building. Much faster to get in, and excellent service.

I elected to skip the movie night, partially because I refuse to give the MPAA any of my money, and partially because I wanted to play… Apple II Jeopardy! (And, even better, the prize was a Focus card.)

First round, I think I did OK at, but the scores were corrupted, so we had to do a second round. And, well, I got owned. Oh well.

Everything was winding down, though, because…

Day 6, Sunday – Time to leave

Sunday was spent packing everything up, and getting out of there, although not before an announcement about the winning door sign. (Not mine, unfortunately. But, the one that won was the one that deserved to win.)

The winning door sign, by Mark Frischknecht. Fitting, given the keynote. Photo by Mike Maginnis (source)

Amazingly, everything fit back into my car except for one CRT (that I was planning on ditching in Kansas City anyway, if need be,) even though I ended up with an unexpected //c, and I was bringing a cooler home.

13 hours of driving (top down, much of it under the sun) later, and I was home.

I had a great time at KansasFest, and will definitely do it again.

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