We Need You! (April 23, 2008)


Mission programmer
Yay ! Coming soon :

Watch Ben and the CIC crew while they embark on a whole new adventure where there will be no nazi, no femme fatale, just Originite archeology !

The adventures of Ben Lesnick:
Raiders Of The Lost Origin Treasures

June 2008, only on the CIC

I can't wait to see this one :p

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
I just realized that I haven't really explained to you folks some of the things we'll be recovering -- I'll try and write a little narrative for my livejournal later... but here are a few things I saw:

* The design document (including character sketches and 'in universe' history) for "Wing Commander: Phantom Force", a post Secret Ops concept.

* CDs labeled "Privateer 3", "Privateer 3 Artwork" and "Privateer 3 Docs" - on the top of a collection of ~500 backup CDs.

* A copy of Technosaur, a cancelled FPS that involved dinosaurs and tanks.

* A book of Privateer Online artwork/sketches.

* VHS tapes of game footage - could Wing Commander III be among them?

... and 'Earth and Beyond' shirts being used as packing material. I guess it did come in handy after all.

Capn Johnny

Cap'n Johnny
Yeah, I'm really curious about the Phantom Force docs..

is it something from after I left..?
something I've forgotten about in my old age?
or something that I have intentionally tried to erase from my mind?

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
My three seconds of looking at it left me with the impression that it was post-Secret Ops. The cover was a pretend "CLASSIFIED - TCIS BRIEFING MATERIAL" page done in the WCP/WCPG manual style of text. When I first picked it up I thought it might be a printout of the WCSO fiction, even.

(I'm not entirely sure but I *think* 'TCIS' is a concept that you folks came up with for Secret Ops. The usage here reminded me of some of the second-attempt Privateer Online background material which drew heavily from things mentioned in WCSO...)

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Hey gang! Good news - we have a date! Our team deploys on July 21st! Anyone interested in coming along?


Frog Blast the Vent Core!
Great news LOAF! I wish I could but I'll be in the middle of writing my thesis so I can't spare a single off day. I hope all goes well and that drive let's us have access to some great WC material!


Wow, I hope you guys find a lot of good stuff. :D

Maybe you'll hit the jackpot and get something really spectacular like an unreleased WC beta, or Source Code. :D :D

Can't wait to hear about the findings.


This sounds very exciting indeed guys cant wait to see what you find!

My only thought is what happens if you stumble across some source code doesn't that bring up Intellectual Property rights problems or something?

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
We'll cross that bridge when we come to it :)

Right now our big problems are manpower and 8mm tapes. We need some more bodies on ths project, if anyone in the area is interested in helping out (even if just for a day)...

Beyond that, does anyone have any experience with Novell? We've learned that the 8mm tapes are backups of Novell servers -- how do we restore them? We have a working SCSI rig that restores random DoD 8mm backups that Joe found in a computer junk shop... but we're not confident at all that we can bring back those tapes right now.

(Which is important, since the tapes have the very earliest Origin stuff in the collection - the project archives for the early-1990s games like Wing Commander II and Ultima VII...)


Vice Admiral
Sadly, I really wish I could help on this project but "The Man/New York State" has me strapped down here to good ole Albany, New York.... If there's anything I can do from afar I'd be happy to. I just can't travel :(


It would be awesome if some former origin employees decided to help...they might remember a few things...but alas they probably don't have the time...I wish you guys much luck and if I lived nearby I would probably considering helping but southern Alabama is a little too far south.


Rear Admiral
I have a few comments based on my experience with hardware and software since the early 1980s:

LOAF expressed concern on #Wingnut tonight about the need to find out how long it takes to copy a single tape. Given the fact that you have limited manpower and time to access the archive, it will be crucial that you make sure that the drives, interfaces and computers you use to make the recordings or copies are set to transfer at the fastest possible speed (preferably before you get to the archive site) in order to minimize copy times. One of the (possibly) relevant settings will be the DMA speed for each of these three components in the system.

DMA (Direct Memory Access) is a data transfer technique where a device is permitted to access memory without something like a device driver or other hardware to act as an intermediary. This technique greatly speeds data transfers, so you want to make sure that all components in the system are set to use DMA if it is available, and if different levels of DMA are allowed, you want to make sure you are using the fastest level available. 8-bit DMA is the oldest and slowest DMA speed and 16-bit DMA (aka Wide DMA) is at least twice as fast, although it is common to transmit as many bits as the data bus allows. This means that a 386 or faster machine may actually be transmitting 32 or more bits in a single operation, and this translates into a huge reduction in the time required to transfer data. Ultra-DMA (UDMA) transfers are faster still, and there are different UDMA levels as well.

As an example, I was involved in a short-term project to capture data in remote locations in Alaska in 2000 using a Windows 95 machine with a 486 processor. Every night we would capture several hours worth of data and then transfer the data to an IOmega Ditto drive the following morning. The project involved four teams at different geographic locations. Most of the teams were reporting that the morning transfers of data to the Ditto drives were taking about two hours, but one team was consistently taking ten hours to do so, and they were desperate to reduce this time. The computer operator of the slower transfer system and I compared settings on our machines, and it turned out that either his machine or the Ditto drive was only set to use 8-bit DMA transfers while both were capable of Wide DMA transfers. After changing the settings, he was able to perform the transfers in two hours like the other teams, so this improper setting increased the time required by a factor of five.

I don't know what kind of computers and OSes you will be using but you should make a point of making sure that device drivers for the external drives use DMA or UDMA if the drive supports it. It may be necessary to set DIP switches or adjust software interface settings in order to turn on DMA/UDMA support in the external drive as well.

I would also recommend that if you are using a SCSI interface that you check to see if it is set to operate at the maximum speed supported by the device you are connecting to it. For example, I have seen Adaptec SCSI interfaces that allowed users to set maximum data transfer speeds independently for particular device IDs. You have to use the SCSI BIOS interface at boot time in order to access and set these device speed settings, and you will have to consult the external drive documentation in order to determine the maximum permissible speed. Don't take it for granted that the SCSI host interface is set for the maximum speed available or the maximum speed supported by the SCSI drive!

If you manage to capture the Novell server data, you also need to be concerned about trying to lay your hands on the passwords for the server as well. At the least, you will want the administrator passwords, and it would also be convenient or perhaps necessary to have access to the user passwords as well. So keep an eye out for that information when you are going through the archive or communicating with someone who knows something about it. You might also inquire about the exact version and type of the Novell servers in question. Based on this Wiki, you are probably dealing with Novell NetWare 386 or NetWare 3.x servers, although they could be earlier versions. Knowing the exact versions will reduce the amount of legwork your Novell researchers have to do.

LOAF suggested that it would be necessary to take along some Linux installations on one or more machines. One thing to keep in mind is that there is a great deal of variation among Linux distros in terms of what software and drivers are included. Even among versions of a specific distribution, you will likely find a great deal of variation. The point here is that you should try to make sure that you select particular distributions which not only run on the computers that you take to the archive site, you should also make sure in advance that they actually have drivers that support the external drives you plan to use and that the drivers are set up correctly prior to your arrival at the archive site.

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Wow, thanks!

I'll admit it: I'm completely confused. I'm a historian, not a techno-wizard... but I can follow instructions!

I'm very much buoyed by the idea that we can use Linux to grab the contents of the tape and leave them for future study... but just reading about it is hitting on the edges of my understanding of how to do stuff with computers. Our big problem is that we have access to the tapes for only five days - then we pack them back into an EA archive and bring the data home to study.

At present we have (or will have) two PCs running Win98. They each have an Adaptec SCSI card and an Exabyte tape drive (I do not have the specific models here, but I can pull them up tonight.)

So, I need to know (treat me like a child, as this is beyond me):

- What do I need to do to install Linux? What version should I use and where do I get it? What do I need to configure? Note that I need to dual-boot, as we will also be using one of the machines to recover SyQuest disks in Windows.

- What do I need to do about drivers? Where can I get them and how do I install them?

- How do I do the things you just said. :) If I provide the SCSI interface and the tape drive information then can someone figure out how I should configure them?

- What is the exact process for using 'dd' to grab everything from the tape? What do I need to watch out for here?

- Once that is all over, how do I get these files from my Linux setup to our archival drive?

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
... and wait, is there a 'dd' for Windows that we could use to image the tapes in the same fashion?