The Commodore GEOS F.A.Q. v1.5.0



This FAQ


What is a FAQ?
What does this FAQ cover?
Who maintains this FAQ?
Where can I get updates?

The Basics


What is GEOS?
Where did GEOS come from?
Does anyone still use GEOS?
Do I need GEOS?
What versions of GEOS are there?
What can GEOS do?
What does GEOS look like?
How can I get it?
What do I need to run GEOS?
Ok, what do I *really* need to run GEOS?
What do I need to *enjoy* running GEOS?
Are there any publications supporting GEOS?
What commercial software is available?
What freeware software is available?
What Internet resources are there?
What are the GEOS file formats?
What are Convert (".cvt") files?
What are Packed (".lnx") files?
What are Wraptorized (".wra", "wr3") files?

How do I...


...transfer GEOS files to and from the Internet?
...transfer GEOS files to and from a PC/Amiga?
...use a GEOS disk in normal C64/C128 mode?
...use GEOS with a PC Printer?
...use GEOS with a Commodore Printer?
...use GEOS with a CD-ROM drive?
...use GEOS with a modem?
...use GEOS with a scanner?
...transfer text files to/from geoWrite?
...transfer pictures to/from geoPaint?
...make more GEOS boot disks?
...write GEOS programs?
...access the internet within GEOS?



This FAQ

What is a FAQ?

"FAQ" stands for "Frequently Asked Questions", and is a document intended to satisfy numerous questions on a given topic. The aim is to avoid the need to answer those common questions when they are posted to Usenet or sent through email. This is accomplished by answering them thoroughly and completely in a single document, namely this FAQ.

What does this FAQ cover?

This FAQ covers the Commodore version of an operating system called "GEOS" by Berkeley Softworks. In particular, this FAQ focuses on the Commodore 64 and 128 versions of this software. Although it is acknowledged that a version of GEOS was released for Apple II computers, and one has been ported for Commodore 264 series computers, this FAQ does not directly support those versions. However, that being said, it should be noted that much of the material in this document is relevant to users of those versions.

Who maintains this FAQ?

The Commodore GEOS FAQ is maintained by Bo Zimmerman. He can be reached via email at right here.

Numerous others have contributed to this effort, however. This includes James Hefner, Willis Patten, the inventor of the internet U.S. Vice President Al Gore, and many others.

Where can I get updates?

For the time being, the ONLY place this FAQ can be found is:
www.zimmers.net/geos/GEOSFAQ.html

When it is considered to be in a more completed state, it will be posted and uploaded elsewhere, and this section will be updated to reflect that.

The Basics


What is GEOS?

GEOS, which stands for Graphical Environment Operating System, is a GUI (Graphical User Interface) operating system for Commodore 64, 128, Apple II, and 264 (64k) computers. It was developed in 1986 by Berkely Softworks as a point and click alternative for users of those popular home computers.

The appeal of GEOS lies in its modern features, such as:

Where did GEOS come from?

Mattel, the toy company, was going great guns making video games. A young fellow named Brian Dougherty left Mattel and formed another Video Game company called Imagic. After some success Brian left Imagic and formed BSW to convert Video Games to work on Personal Computers.

One of the BSW Hardware Specialists, Dave Durran, spent time working on an In-Circuit Emulator to give software developers a faster development cycle. The ICE unit did not sell well.

BSW then paired up with a firm that made small batteries. The two companies began working on a product for the airlines called the Sky Tray. It was to be a battery powered computer with a liquid crystal display and membrane keyboard that fit in the seat trays. The Sky Tray was to be a 6502 based computer and BSW would develop the O.S. for it. The code was written for the GUI interface but then airline deregulation happened and all in-flight extras were trimmed to save weight and fuel - this included the airlines cutting plans for the Sky Tray.

Mr. Dougherty then noticed that he had an orphaned operating system for a 6502 based computer and there were a pile of Commodore 64's being sold every day without a GUI interface. With a small amount of modification to the Sky Tray code GEOS was born. GEOS was introduced in March of 1986 for the C-64. In 1987 GEOS was released for the C-128 and in 1988 a version for the Apple II computer was published. GEOS V2.0 for the C-64 was released in 1988 and GEOS 128 V2.0 was released in 1989.

Does anyone still use GEOS?

Yes. Lots of people do.

GEOS is popular for WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) word processing and desktop publishing. GEOS is also widely used for graphics manipulation and viewing, for home accounting, for database applications, for disk and system maintenance, and for the numerous other GUI applications available for it.

Do I need GEOS?

Well, GEOS is not for everyone, and this should be noted. Many people use their old Commodore computers for the hundreds and thousands of games and applications available for their computer's native operating system. While GEOS is capable of launching many of these programs, it must do so by shutting down GEOS. If you don't plan to use GEOS for its own native applications, you probably don't need it.

What versions of GEOS are there and what can they do?

The first version of GEOS 1.0 was released by Berkeley Softworks back in 1985, and included the following:

GEOS 1.2 and 1.3 added the following features over version 1.0:

GEOS 1.5 added the following features over previous versions:

The final worldwide version from Berkeley Softworks was GEOS 2.0, around 1987. This version included all the features of the previously GEOS versions, and added the following:

The absolute final version from Berkeley Softworks, however, was GEOS 2.5. It was only released in Germany, and is a bundling of GEOS 2.0, the popular deskTop replacement "TopDesk", and a few popular freeware/shareware applications. Some of its new features over 2.0 include:

Around 1996 or so, Creative Micro Designs began distributing the first upgrade to GEOS, called gateWay. Versions were available for the C64 and C128. The differences over GEOS 2.0 were as follows:

In 1998 Maurice Randall released his own upgrade for GEOS 2.0 called "Wheels". The improvements that Wheels 64 and Wheels 128 added to GEOS 2.0 include:

In 1999, MegaCom software released a GEOS upgrade for the Commodore 64 called "MP3". The improvements that MP3 added to GEOS 2.0 include:

What does GEOS look like?

You can see some screen shots of GEOS 64, along with screen shots of several GEOS applications, from the following web site:
www.zimmers.net/geos/index.html

How can I get it?

GEOS 2.0 (64 and 128 versions) and gateWay (64 and 128 versions) may be downloaded from: cbmfiles.com

Wheels (64 and 128 versions) may *POSSIBLY* be purchased from:

        Click Here Software Co
        426 Sumpter St
        P.O. Box 606
        Charlotte MI 48813

Information about MP3 can be found at:
        All countries:
        Web: http://c64.webgrimm.de/

Remember that you need GEOS 2.0 to run gateWay, Wheels, or MP3.

What do I need to run GEOS?

To run GEOS 2.0 and 2.5, all you need is a Commodore 1541/1571 disk drive, a Commodore 64 or 128 computer, and a pointing device (like a mouse or joystick).

To run Wheels, all the requirements for GEOS 2.0 must be met. You will also need a ram expansion unit with 128k or more of memory.

To run gateWay, all the requirements for GEOS 2.0 must be met. To use the task switching abilities, you need a ram expansion unit with 256k or more of memory.

To run MP3, all the requirements for GEOS 2.0 must be met. In addition, you will need a ram expansion unit with 256k or more of memory.

Ok, what do I *really* need to run GEOS?

Well, you do need everything mentioned above, but if you don't want to be screaming at your computer, you will need the following:

The mouse is listed because of the frustration one will have trying to use GEOS with a directional pointer, such as a joystick or 1350 mouse. The additional drive, even if it is just another 1541, will cut down tremendously on disk swapping during use. The ram expansion is required to use more than one TYPE of disk drive with GEOS, and it allows you to have a very speedy RAM drive for working in and restoring the deskTop from.

What do I need to *enjoy* running GEOS?

If you want unbridled bliss while using GEOS, you will need to add one or more of the following to your Commodore system:

The CMD hard drive and RamLink (ram drive) are very fast alternatives to traditional floppy disk drives. The constant disk resources that GEOS requires makes one of these a very nice addition. The SuperCPU, which makes your C64 or C128 run at 20mhz, will also make the operating systems on other computers seem like snails crawling on turtles. Period.

Are there any publications supporting GEOS?

Yes. Not many, but there are a few:

        GEOS Publication (GEOS Newsletter)
        7969 Woodcrest Drive
        Louisville, KY 40219-3859
        Email: wcpat@iglou.com
        Web: http://videocam.net.au/~wcpat/
        ChromeMag (GEOS disk magazine)
        955 Washington St.
        Douglas, Wy. 82633
        Email: cpueditor@msn.com
        Web: http://homepages.msn.com/printersalley/chromemag/
        GO64/Commodore World (Magazine with regular GEOS column)
        CSW Verlag
        Goethestra´┐Że 22
        D-71364 Winnenden
        Germany
        Email: info@go64.de
        Web: http://www.go64.de/english/frames/frame.htm

What commercial software is available?

The answer is there USED to be lots. Here's a small sample:

System extensions
-----------------
Title                   Description             Supplier(s)
----------------------- ----------------------- ----------------------------
CD_ROM 64/128           gateWay CD-ROM driver   Roy Bachmann
DoubleDesk 128          deskTop Replacement     Roy Bachmann
Double_Boot 128         Boot-disk maker         MegaCom Software
Drivers and Extras Disk                         Click Here Software
DualTop                 Alternative deskTop     ?
FONTPACK Plus           GEOS Fonts              Click Here Software
gateWay 64/128          GEOS 2.0 upgrade        Click Here Software
WinDesk                 DeskTop for MP64        MegaCom Software
geoDOS                  Read/Write DOS disks    MegaCom Software
geoMakeBoot             Boot-disk maker         Click Here Software
geoPrint                                        Roy Bachmann
GEORamConvert,GEORam512 Ram Expansion           ?
GEOS 2.0 64/128         Basic system software   Click Here Software
GEOS 2.5                GEOS 2.0/Bundle         ?
geoSHELL                Command-Line interface  Click Here Software
GEOS HP Printer Driver                          MegaCom Software
International FONTPACK  GEOS Fonts              Click Here Software
MP3 (MegaPatch 3.0)     GEOS 2.0 upgrade        MegaCom Software
TopDesk 64/128          deskTop Replacement     MegaCom Software
Turbo128 Patch          GEOS Accelerator        MegaCom Software
Wheels 64/128           GEOS 2.0 upgrade        Click Here Software

Productivity
------------
Title                   Description             Supplier(s)
----------------------- ----------------------- ----------------------------
geoCalc 64/128          Spreadsheet             Click Here Software
geoChart                Graphing system         Click Here Software
geoFAX                  FAX Send/Receive        Click Here Software
geoFile 64/128          Database system         Click Here Software
geoLabel                Label Maker             Roy Bachmann
geoMark 64/128          Teacher's Aid           Roy Bachmann
geoPublish              DeskTop Publishing      Click Here Software
Personal Newsletter     DeskTop Publishing      ?
PrintText 64/128        ESC/P2 printer prg.     Roy Bachmann
ProfiLabel 64/128       Label maker             Roy Bachmann

Assorted utilities
------------------
Title                   Description             Supplier(s)
----------------------- ----------------------- ----------------------------
Collette Utils          Handy GEOS Utilities    Click Here Software
Desk Pack Plus          GEOS Utilities          Click Here Software
Dweezils Gr.Hits        NewTools2, Stamp, etc   Click Here Software
GEOPOWER TOOLS          Assorted utilities      J & F Publishing
Perfect Print LQ        PC LQ Printer drivers   Click Here Software
RUN GEOS Companion      Assorted utilities      Click Here Software
RUN GEOS Power Pak I/II Assorted utilities      Click Here Software

Development
------------
Title                   Description             Supplier(s)
----------------------- ----------------------- ----------------------------
BeckerBasic             BASIC programming       ?
geoBASIC                BASIC programming/IDE   Click Here Software
geoCOM                  Development Package     MegaCom Software
geoProgrammer           Assembly Dev. Package   Click Here Software

Ordering information
--------------------

None Available (EMAIL ME!)

What freeware/shareware software is available?

More than you can possibly imagine. Most of it is available via FTP on the Internet, though much of it can also be found on the web.

The ZIMMERS archive is presently the largest collection:
http://www.zimmers.net/anonftp/pub/cbm/geos/

What internet resources are there?

Once again, a lot. See the previous section for information on WWW and FTP file sites. In addition to these, there are quite a few personal pages dealing with GEOS. Until they go down (as WWW pages will do), you may try the following:

Anti-Grav ToolKit page (some Files/information/reviews)
MegaCom Software
Bo Zimmerman's GEOS Page

What are the GEOS file formats?

There are numerous types of files that users of GEOS will have to deal with. They can be broken into roughly two groups: native GEOS files and GEOS-related Commodore files.

Native GEOS files come in two formats: Sequential files, and VLIR. These formats differ in their means of storage. Sequential files store all their data in a flat file where each piece of data follows the previous one from beginning to end. VLIR (Variable Length Indexed Recording) files are more akin to the Commodore Relative "REL" files. Data inside a VLIR file is broken into 1 - 128 separate records, each of which may be any size. These record segments may contain program code, pages of data, or anything else.

Both of the native GEOS formats appear in Commodore directories as "USR" type files (as opposed to "PRG" or "SEQ"). In addition to their VLIR or Sequential data portions, they also contain an information block. This block contains information such as the author, comments, file creation date, the icon image, and other information.

The native GEOS files may fall into one of several types. The types include Applications, Fonts, Application Data, Input drivers, Printer drivers, System files, Boot files, and others. Many of these file types will typically be in Sequential format, though Applications, Application Data, and Fonts will often be found in VLIR format as well.

GEOS-related Commodore files are files stored in a standard Commodore SEQ or PRG file. They are typically files archives, such as Convert (.cvt), Packed (.lnx), or BEAP images (.bep). You may also find GEOS-friendly BASIC programs stored in this way from time to time. Some GEOS-related files may also contain a GEOS information block, though this is unusual.

One thing to keep in mind when dealing with disks containing any native GEOS files is that Commodore disk drives will not understand how to deal with these disks outside of the deskTop. Using non-GEOS file copiers to copy GEOS files will not work. Issuing the Validate or Collect command to a disk containing native GEOS files outside of deskTop will almost certainly damage the files on that disk. For this reason, any native GEOS files, which need to be accessed outside of GEOS, should first be Converted or Packed. See the section on Convert and Packed files for more information on converting native GEOS files into a GEOS-related Commodore file.

What are Convert (".cvt") files, Packed (".lnx"), and Wraptorized (".wra", ".wr3") files?

Native GEOS files are a different format from the Program (PRG) and Sequential (SEQ) files normally found on a Commodore 64/128 diskette (see the prior question in this FAQ regarding GEOS file types). This means that GEOS files cannot simply be uploaded to the Internet, then downloaded to another Commodore.

To resolve this problem, Berkley Softworks included a program called "Convert" on the GEOS 2.0 System disks. This program is used to convert any GEOS file to a Commodore Sequential (SEQ) file. The sequential file can then uploaded to the Internet. If you wish to use this file then, you would download it as a sequential file, and use the Convert Program to convert it back to a Commodore file. These files typically have a .cvt extension on them.

Also, it is possible to "pack" several GEOS sequential files into a single file. These files are called LYNX files, and have a .lnx extension. Spike Dethman has written a shareware program called geoPack that will take a LYNX file, extract all of the Sequential files, and convert them back to GEOS files; as well as the opposite. Both LYNX files and regular GEOS sequential files are the easiest to handle (provided you have a copy of geoPack.)

In addition to geoPack, there are also non-GEOS programs that are sometimes used for creating and dissolving archives with GEOS files in them. One such program is Wraptor and Wraptor3 by LoadStar. Wraptor creates and dissolves compressed file archives, and may contain GEOS files. Another format commonly containing GEOS files is the .D64 image. These files are images of a complete 1541 disk. A program like EMUTIL (a C64 program) or geoBEAP (a GEOS program) is sufficient to create and dissolve this format.

Convert2.5 can be found at the following FTP site:
ftp://ftp.zimmers.net/pub/cbm/geos/non-GEOS/

geoPack and geoBEAP can be found at the following FTP site:
ftp://ftp.zimmers.net/pub/cbm/geos/util/archiving

EMUTIL and Wraptor may be downloaded from the following FTP site:
ftp://ftp.zimmers.net/pub/cbm/archiving/c64

How do I...


...transfer GEOS files to and from the internet?

With the proliferation of shareware and freeware GEOS software on the internet, the need to get this software to the machines that need them has grown accordingly. Fortunately, it is not as big a problem as one might think.

The first step is to understand how to transfer files to and from the internet. Unfortunately, software does not yet exist which allows a Commodore 64 or 128 to connect to an internet FTP site directly, or through a modem. This means we must somehow make use of a machine which CAN connect to the internet to transfer files to and from our computers.

One way is to connect to the internet using a "shell" account. Using this method, we would dial up an ISP (internet service provider) using a standard terminal program and a modem hooked up to our computer. After logging in, we would be able to make use of our terminal program to upload and download files using standard modem transfer protocols like Xmodem and Zmodem. The shell account is our means of taking files we have received from the internet and downloading them to our Commodore computers, and our means of uploading files onto our shell account so that we can transfer them to the internet. To access the shell account, a terminal program such as Novaterm 9.6 for the C64, or Desterm 128 for the C128 would be fine. The section on using a modem with GEOS has more information on terminal programs.

Another way is to transfer files to an internet-ready computer is using floppy disks or cable transfers. Once you can move files between your Commodore and a machine that can connect to the internet (a PC or Amiga for instance), the link from the internet to your computer is complete. Please see the section on transferring files to and from a PC/Amiga for more information on using floppy disks and cable transfers between a PC/Amiga and a Commodore computer.

Now that we understand how to solve the main problem, namely transferring files to and from an internet-ready computer, a word must be said on what to do with the files before and after we transfer them. If you read the section regarding GEOS File Types, you know that native GEOS files are not stored in normal Commodore format. For this reason, it is imperative that understand the Convert and Packed formats used when transferring files to and from the internet. See the section on Convert and Packed files before proceeding. It is also possible to combine the Convert and file uploading process by using geoTerm. The section on using a modem with GEOS has more information on geoTerm.

Now that you understand how to get files to and from an internet-ready machine, and you understand how to handle the files before and after you transfer them, the only matter remaining is how to use internet applications such as "FTP" to transfer the files across the internet. Unfortunately, this FAQ cannot cover everything. But that's ok; since you had to be on the internet to read this FAQ anyways, no doubt this information is already familiar to you.

...transfer GEOS files to and from a PC or Amiga?

The problem of transferring files to and from a non-compatible computer such as a PC-clone or an Amiga has been around for quite awhile. Lucky for us, this means that quite a few solutions have been found since the problem first arose. In general, there are three categories of solutions available for transferring files between a Commodore computer and a PC or Amiga. One of them involves overcoming the inability of these machines to read each other's floppy disk formats. Another involves a special cable connection between the machines involved, along with special software to transfer files and data across the cable. The last is to use a go-between that both machines can understand.

Of these, the first solution is the easiest to do, since it only involves special software to be used on either the PC/Amiga or the Commodore. On the Commodore side, software such as Big Blue Reader from SOGWAP will allow either a C64 or C128 to read from and write to PC disks from a 1571, 1581, or CMD FD-2000 disk drive. A program called the Little Red Reader (LLR), which runs on a Commodore 128, will do the same thing. You may download the latest version of LRR by clicking here.

Of course, neither is a GEOS specific solution, and both require that you Convert the GEOS files before transferring them. For GEOS users, a product called geoDOS is available from MegaCom Software. It exists as both a stand-alone application, and as a disk driver available with MegaCom's MP3 operating system. geoDOS is described as being able to read from and write to 1581 and CMD FD-2000/4000 disk drives. You should contact MegaCom Software for more information on this product.

For Amiga and PC users, there are also means of reading Commodore formatted disks. For the Amiga, there is an application for reading 1581 disks called "Copy1581", and a complete 1581 read/write filesystem for the Amiga called "c1581". Both are available for download from Aminet. There is also rumored to be a solution involving the CatWeasel interface and the Amiga 1020 disk drive for reading 1541 disks. However, there is no more information available regarding this solution at this time. All of these solutions, of course, require that GEOS software be Converted before transferring. For the PC, there is "Read81" and Wolfgang Moser's 1581COPY (1541cp54.zip), which is free software.

The second means of transferring files between a Commodore computer and an Amiga or PC involves the use of special interface cables, ranging from the home built user-port/parallel cables, to serial adaptors. There are *way* too many to give them all the justice here they deserve, and most of them are not directly GEOS compatible. I will therefore focus only on those with can be used from GEOS. If you are interested in some of the other solutions, ftp.zimmers.net is a good source for Amiga users, while Star Commander and other good PC solutions are available from ftp.zimmers.net here and here.

The most geoFriendly method for cable transfers between GEOS and a PC-Clone is a product called "64NET". It works by using a specially constructed cable between the C64/C128 user port and the parallel port PC-Clone computer. On the PC side, a special 64NET server is run whenever you wish to transfer files to/from the PC. Special autoexec utilities separately available for GEOS are then installed on the Commodore side, making the PC appear as another disk drive. Up to four Commodore computers can be connected to a PC in this way. Information and binaries for 64NET are available from ftp.zimmers.net/pub/cbm/crossplatform/transfer/CBM-to-PC/. The filename is 64nt8265.zip.

The only known GEOS-specific cable transfer method for the Amiga is a very old piece of software called FastAmi!. Since I have no first hand knowledge of this program, I can't give any more details other than the fact that a special interface cable needs to be built, and that software for the Amiga and GEOS is included in the package. It may be downloaded from ftp://ftp.zimmers.net/pub/cbm/geos/util/misc.

A tried and true cable-based method for transferring between a C64/C128 and an Amiga or a PC is a direct serial port connection. This would require that you first construct a special null-modem serial cable capable of connecting the C64/C128s User port with the Amiga or PC Serial port. A standard GEOS terminal program, such as geoTerm, can then be used for making file transfers between GEOS and a similar terminal program running on the Amiga or PC. Information on geoTerm can be found in the section describing GEOS and modem use. Instructions for building a null-modem serial adapter cable can be found at ftp.zimmers.net/pub/cbm/documents/projects/rs232/rs232-userport.txt.

...use a GEOS disk in normal C64/C128 mode?

The simplest answer is: don't. GEOS stores files differently than standard Commodore files. This means that Commodore disk drives, in general, have no native understanding of GEOS disks. Only from within GEOS will your disk drives be told how to correctly handle disks with GEOS files on them. However, there are some dos and don'ts which you can follow if you would like to safely use a disk with GEOS files on it outside of GEOS.

Don't...

Do...

...use GEOS with a PC Printer?

The problem with using a PC Centronics-port printer on a Commodore system has been a lack of port compatibility. The Centronics port is a parallel connection, while the Commodore 64/128 is used to communicating with a printer over its serial port.

Traditionally, this problem has been solved with third party adaptors (such as The Card?, Super Graphics Jr., etc) which make the PC printer appear as a printer on the serial bus. This is a fine solution for generic text printing, but is not quite good enough for the more advanced graphics printing done in GEOS. However, if text printing is your only concern, a CBM Serial->Centronics adapter, along with a generic GEOS printer driver, may be good enough.

The best solution to this problem, however, is a special cable called the geoCable. It connects from the Commodore 64/128's user port to the Centronics port on the PC printer. Since both ports are parallel, this is also the fastest solution. It can also be built by viewing the schematics on ftp.zimmers.net.

When using the geoCable, it becomes especially important to make sure you are using the correct GEOS Printer Driver. geoCable Printer Drivers are especially written not only for the printer being used, but for the geoCable itself. They typically have '(GC)' or '.gc.' tacked to the end of their names, to let you know that they are meant for the geoCable. Some of these drivers can be found on ftp://ftp.zimmers.net/pub/cbm/geos/drivers/printers".

...use GEOS with a Commodore Printer?

All printers designed for use with the Commodore 64/128 will connect to your computer through the same serial cable as your disk drives. Since this is the standard method, the only problem with using a Commodore printer within GEOS tends to be the selection of the proper GEOS Printer Driver. Selecting an improper driver will make graphics printing malfunction or not function at all, and may disable the NLQ features of your printer.

Once again, the best this FAQ can do for those seeking GEOS Printer Drivers is point you towards an internet FTP archive. Many drivers can be found at ftp://ftp.zimmers.net/pub/cbm/geos/drivers/printers.

If you do not see your printer listed, the only thing you can do is try many different drivers until you find the one that works best with your printer.

...use GEOS with a CD-ROM drive?

The most practical way to interface a CD-ROM drive with a Commodore 64/128 is through the use of a CMD HD (Hard Drive). The hard drive contains a versatile SCSI adapter that allows you to plug an external SCSI CD-ROM drive into the back of it. Through the use of special software, the Commodore 64/128 is able to communicate with the CD-ROM drive via the CMD HD's internal SCSI controller.

For GEOS users, there is presently only one way to access a CD-ROM drive in this way, and it is through a disk driver written for the gateWay desktop by Roy Bachmann.

...use GEOS with a modem?

The answer to this questions depends on a couple of things. First, what interface to your modem you are using, and second, what you would like to do with your modem.

The most standard modem interface employed by Commodore 64/128 users is the User port. There were many modems made by Commodore and other third party manufacturers which interface with the computer in this way. These include the Commodore 1650, 1660, 1670, and the Aprotek Minimodem 1200 and 2400. For these kinds of modems, there is really only one piece of software which will support them, and it is called geoTerm 64 v2.0.

geoTerm is a full featured terminal program which will allow you to communicate with a User-port modem at speeds of 300 and 1200 baud. It includes a phone book feature, a limited text buffer, Xmodem, Punter, and other transfer protocols, and the ability to Convert files before and after transferring them. geoTerm 64 also will allow you to view 80 columns of text, though speed concerns arise at 1200 baud, and it is not easy to read. The default is a 53 column mode. geoTerm is found on the "GEOS Power Pak II" disk.

In more recent years Commodore 64/128 users have been upgrading their systems with modem interface cartridges containing some variation on the 6551 UART. These interfaces provide true RS232 at speeds the C64/C128 user port is incapable of. GEOS users may take advantage of these interfaces through two programs: the commercial program geoFAX, and a freeware demo terminal for GEOS called "The Wave". geoFAX may be ordered from Click Here Software. "The Wave" browser and terminal program may be downloaded from ftp.zimmers.net/pub/cbm/geos/comm

...use GEOS with a scanner?

The most popular and, as far as I know, the only scanning device for C64/C128 computers is the Handy Scanner. The Handy Scanner is a small hand-held black and white scanning device which plugs into a C64/C128 joystick port and includes special software for retrieving images. Sources for this device are unknown at present.

It has been rumored that GEOS specific software exists for this device, allowing images to be directly imported from the scanner to geoPaint format. This rumor cannot, as yet, be confirmed. The only other alternative would be to scan the images using the non-GEOS software provided with the Handy Scanner, and then import the images to geoPaint format using the Handy Import program. This program can be download from ftp://ftp.zimmers.net/pub/cbm/geos/graphics/converters

...transfer text files to/from geoWrite?

Clearly one of the greatest strengths of the GEOS operating system is its native word processor, geoWrite. With the popularity of this program has come a desire to convert the many other text document formats into one usable by geoWrite. Below are some of the common formats which may be imported into geoWrite.

Format                          Program(s)
----------------------          -----------
OpenVMS Vax Text                geoVax
Commodore SEQ (PETSCII)         Wrong Is Write, TEXT GRABBER
geoWrite 1.X                    Wrong Is Write
SpeedScript                     TEXT GRABBER
Standard ASCII                  Wrong Is Write
Word Writer                     TEXT GRABBER
EasyScript                      TEXT GRABBER
PaperClip                       TEXT GRABBER

The programs "Wrong Is Write" and "geoVax" are available for download from ftp://ftp.zimmers.net/pub/cbm/geos/text. "TEXT GRABBER" can be found on the official GEOS "Writer's Workshop" disk.

...transfer pictures to/from geoPaint?

The geoPaint application is a powerful graphics tool which comes stock with most versions of GEOS. Its picture data files are the standard format for full screen graphics in GEOS. However, there have also been many programs used outside of GEOS to produce graphics, and many other picture formats enjoyed outside of the GEOS platform. For this reason, many applications have been written to convert these other formats to and/or from geoPaint format. These programs, and the formats they support, are listed below:

Format                          Program(s)
----------------------          -----------
Print Shop                      GetGraphic, GRAPHICS GRABBER, Graphic Storm
Handy Scanner                   Handy Import
MacPaint                        MacAttack
Doodle                          PIConvert, ScrapIt, Graphic Storm
CompuServe GIF                  geoGIF
IBM PCX                         geoPCX
Koala                           ScrapIt
CBM Hi-Res/Bitmap               PicShow, Graphic Storm
CBM Multi-Color                 PicShow
Print Master                    Graphic Storm
Newsroom                        Graphic Storm

Most of the above programs are available for download from "ftp://ftp.zimmers.net/pub/cbm/geos/graphics/converters. "GRAPHICS GRABBER" can be found on the official GEOS "Desk Pack" disk.

...make more GEOS boot disks?

There are many reasons why an alternative GEOS Boot disk is a good idea. In general, backups are always wise, since all original disks under constant use will eventually go bad. Beyond that, however, the biggest flaw with the original GEOS 2.0 boot disks is that they are all in 170K 1541 format, which does not allow many programs to be placed on the boot disk. The 1541 format of the boot disk is also a problem because the Commodore 5.25" drives are among the slowest mass-storage devices in creation. Even GEOS turboboot is no match for a CMD RamLink or CMD Hard Drive boot.

For these reasons and more, numerous methods for duplicating GEOS boot disks have presented themselves. Some merely make duplicates of the original boot disk, while others allow any disk in any kind of disk drive to be made into a GEOS boot disk.

The most recent programs to do this are those which come stock with the alternative GEOS operating systems. gateWay, Wheels, and MP3 all come with the ability to create boot disks on any drive type.

Beyond these upgrades, there is also a program called geoMakeBoot which will allow you to create a GEOS 2.0 boot disk on any disk drive. There is also a program called GEOS1581 which will allow you to make bootable 1581 disks from your GEOS 64/128 2.0 boot disk. This program may be downloaded from ftp://ftp.zimmers.net/pub/cbm/geos/util/misc.

There are several different copy programs which may be used to create backups of the original GEOS boot disk, as well as to backup different GEOS application disks. These programs are as follows:

Copy Program               Program(s) backed up
-----------------          -----------------------------------------
Maverick 5.0               GEOS 64/128 1.3 - 2.0, all GEOS App. disks
geobusters 3.0             GEOS 64 1.0 - 1.3, GEOS App. disks 1.0 - 1.3
geohacker 2.0              GEOS 64 2.0 boot disk
Fast Hack'em 4.5           GEOS 64 1.0 - 1.2 boot disks
SuperKit                   GEOS 64 1.0 - 1.2 boot disks
Diskbusters 2.0            GEOS 64 1.2 boot disk
Mirror 32                  GEOS 64 1.0 - 1.2 boot disks

Of the above programs, most are going to be tough to find. GEOHACKER 2.0, however, can be downloaded from ftp://ftp.zimmers.net/pub/cbm/geos/util/misc.

...write GEOS programs?

Lucky for those of us who enjoy programming, there are numerous packages of varying quality one may use to develop applications. They range from Assembler packages on up to high level languages, and all take advantage of the very well written GEOS 2.0 kernel's powerful GUI support.

The first package came from Berkeley Softworks themselves and was called geoProgrammer. It consists of a full symbolic Assembler package complete with Assembler, Linker, and symbolic Debugger applications. Support for macros, and Debugger support for ram expansion is included. Assembler source is written using geoWrite and may include multiple source files. The package also includes a 200+ page manual detailing the numerous assembler and linker directives, the myriad of debugger capabilities, and the full source for all example programs. The example programs include a sequential application, a VLIR application, and desk accessory.

Next to appear from Berkeley was geoBASIC. geoBASIC includes a complete integrated development environment with menu designers, icon and sprite editors, and an easy to use high level language based on BASIC. geoBASIC, at first glance, appears to be a dream for rapid application development. The full-featured system is intuitive and easy to use, the manual adequate to explaining the system, and the language simple to learn. However, geoBASIC suffers from many fatal flaws: the applications it produces are interpreted and slow, the amount of memory available to the programmer is inadequate for anything beyond the trivial, and the system is laden with numerous undocumented bugs. These bugs are highlighted (along with many possible work-arounds) at www.zimmers.net/geos/geodev.html.

Shortly before geoBASIC came a third party product called BeckerBasic. This is an extremely odd system because, while requiring GEOS to use, it doesn't really take advantage of GEOS. Development is done using the Commodore 64 basic environment, and appears, for the most part, to run within it. Support for some GEOS dialog functionality is included, and the language is an extended version of CBM BASIC. Compatibility is questionable, all applications produced by BeckerBASIC require a run-time application to be distributed along with it, and the manual is horrible. Luckily, BeckerBASIC is no longer available from anyone.

A newer package is available from MegaCom Software called geoCOM. After a short review of the manual and the package, it appears geoCOM is a step up from geoProgrammer as a GEOS development package. It mixes nicely the low-level functionality required to make efficient GEOS applications, with the higher level language and development environment needed to take away some of the tedium. The manual falls short in many places to adequately detailing how to use the numerous programs which come with this package. The development tools are also a little tough to pick up. However, if someone is willing to dedicate the time and energy to learning geoCOM, it appears to be a nice addition for GEOS programmers.

The only geoProgrammer upgrade available is a freeware assembler package from Maurice Randall called Concept. Concept only runs under the Wheels 64/128 operating system. It is designed as an integrated improvement of the geoProgrammer package, providing a single stop for assembly and linking, the ability to jump straight to geoWrite for development, and numerous small enhancements and bug fixes over geoProgrammer. Concept is otherwise 100% compatible with geoProgrammer, and is a very convenient addition to those who use both Wheels and geoProgrammer. Concept may be found at ftp://ftp.zimmers.net/pub/cbm/geos/programming.

Last but not least, if you wish to write GEOS programs using a cross compiler on a PC, there is a C library for the Commodore GEOS Kernel called "GEOSLib" available at http://www.cc65.org/doc/geos.html.

...access the internet within GEOS?

As is also the case outside of GEOS, there are two principle ways to access the internet for Commodore computers: directly and indirectly.

The indirect method is the most common for Commodore users, and involves dialing into an Internet Service Provider (ISP) "shell account" using a text-based terminal program. These terminal programs are discussed above in the section on using a modem within GEOS. From within the shell account, you may then run certain programs that access the internet, such as "pine" for email, "lynx" for web access, "ftp" for file transfers, and so forth.

The direct method, more common with PC users, involves making an internet connection with an ISP, usually dialing in with a modem. This internet connection often involves certain protocols which allow the computer to communicate as an internet entity, such as "SLIP" or "PPP". The only program for making a direct internet connection within GEOS is a package from Maurice Randall called "The Wave". "The Wave" includes the ability to make a "PPP" connection with an ISP, as well as built-in terminal and web browsing programs. However, "The Wave" has some hefty hardware and software requirements in order to run. These requirements include a SuperCPU 64 or 128 processor upgrade from CMD with a SuperRAM card and at least 320k of free available ram, the SwiftLink or Turbo232 modem interface also from CMD, and an RS232 modem. "The Wave" also requires the Wheels operating system upgrade. If you have all of these things, however, you may download either the Wheels 64 or Wheels 128 version here.

Another direct method is the geoLink application from "ShadowM". It requires a network cartridge for your commodore computer, such as RR-NET, MMC Reply, FB-Net, 1541 Ultimate, or 64NIC+. At the moment, the geoLink application only supports an IRC client, but is still a great little program.

The above mentioned hardware can be found: