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5 Basic operation

This section describes the basic things you can do once the emulator has been fired up.

5.1 The emulation window

When the emulator is run, the screen of the emulated machine is displayed in a standard X Window which we will call the emulation window. This window will be updated in real time, displaying the same contents that a real monitor or TV set would.

Below the emulation window there is an area which is used to display information about the state of the emulator; we will call this area the status bar.

On the extreme left of the status bar, there is a performance meter. This displays the current relative speed of the emulator (as a percentage) and the update frequency (in frames per second). All the machines emulated are PAL, so the update frequency will be 50 frames per second if your system is fast enough to allow emulation at the speed of the real machine.

On the extreme right of the status bar, there is a drive status indicator. This is only visible if the hardware-level ("True") 1541 emulation is turned on. In that case, the drive status indicator will contain a rectangle emulating the drive LED and will display the current track position of the drive's read/write head.

5.2 Using the menus

It is possible to execute some commands and change emulation parameters while the emulator is running: when the pointer is over the emulation window, two menus are available by pressing either the left or right mouse buttons. The left mouse button will open the command menu from which several emulation-related commands can be executed; the right mouse button will open the settings menu from which emulation parameters can be changed. The basic difference between the command and the settings menu is that, while commands have only effect on the current session, settings can be saved and later used with the "Save settings" and "Load settings" right-button menu items, respectively. "Restore default settings" restores the factory defaults. See section 6 Settings and resources. for more information about how settings work in VICE.

Sometimes commands can be reached via shortcuts or hotkeys, i.e., it is possible to execute them by pressing a sequence of keys instead of going through the menu with the mouse. Where shortcuts exist, they are displayed in parentheses at the right edge of the menu item. In VICE, all shortcuts must begin with the Meta or Alt key. So, for example, to attach a disk image to drive #8 (the corresponding menu item displays "M-8"), you have to press the Meta (or Alt) and then 8.

Note that no other key presses are passed on to the emulated machine while either Meta or Alt are held down.

5.3 Getting help

At any time, if you get stuck or do not remember how to perform a certain action, you can use the "Browse manuals" command (left button menu). This will popup a browser and open the HTML version of this documentation. Notice that this requires VICE to be properly (and fully) installed with a `make install'.

The browser can be specified via the HTMLBrowserCommand string resource (see section 6 Settings and resources for information about resources). Every `%s' in the string will be replaced with a URL to the VICE HTML pages.

5.4 Using the file selector

In those situations where it is necessary to specify a file name, all of the VICE emulators will pop up a file selector window allowing you to select or specify a file interactively.

To the left of the file selector, there is a list of ancestor directories: by clicking on them, you can ascend the directory tree. To the right, there is a list of the files in the current directory; files can be selected by clicking on them. If you click on a directory, that directory becomes the current one; if you click on an ordinary file, it becomes the active selection.

At the top, there is a directory box, with the complete path of the current directory, and a file name box, with the name of the currently selected file. At the bottom there are two buttons: "OK" confirms the selected file and "Cancel" abandons the file selector without cancelling the operation.

It is also possible to specify what files you want to show in the file selector by writing an appropriate shell-like pattern in the directory box; e.g., `~/*.[dx]64' will only show files in the home directory whose name ends with either `.d64' or with `.x64'.

5.5 Using disk and tape images

The emulator is able to emulate disk drives and tape recorders if provided with suitable disk images or tape images. An image is a raw dump of the contents of the media, and must be attached before the emulator can use it. "Attaching" a disk or tape image is like "virtually" inserting a diskette or a cassette into the disk drive or the tape recorder: once an image is attached, the emulator is able to use it as a storage media.

There are five commands (in the left button menu) that deal with disk and tape images:

The first four commands are used to insert and remove the virtual disks and cassettes from the respective units. On the other hand, the last commands tries to guess the type of the image you are attaching from its name and size, and attaches it to the most reasonable device.

Supported formats are D64 and X64 for disk images (devices 8, 9 and 10) and T64 for tape images. Notice that T64 support is read-only, and that the cassette is automatically rewound when you reach its end.

Another important feature is that raw Commodore BASIC binary files and .P00 files can be attached as tapes. As you can autostart a tape image when it is attached (see section 5.5.2 "Autostarting" an image), this allows you to autostart these particular files as well.

You can attach a disk for which you do not have write permissions: when this happens, the 1541 emulator will emulate a write-protected disk. This is also useful if you want to prevent certain disk images from being written to; in the latter case, just remove the write permission for that file, e.g., by doing a chmod a-w.

5.5.1 Previewing the image contents

It is possible to examine the directory of a disk or tape image before attaching it. Just press the "Contents" button in the file selector window and a new window will pop up with the contents of the selected image.

Notice that this function automatically translates the directory from PETSCII to ASCII; but, due to differences in the two encodings, it is not always possible to translate all the characters, so you might get funny results when "weird" characters such as the semi-graphical ones are being used.

5.5.2 "Autostarting" an image

If you want to reset the machine and run the first program on a certain image without typing any commands at the Commodore BASIC prompt, you can use the "Autostart" button in the file selector window after selecting a proper disk or tape image file.

Notice that, if true drive emulation is turned on, it will be turned off before running the program and then turned on again after it has been loaded. This way, you get the maximum possible speed while loading the file, but you do not lose compatibility once the program itself is running.

This method is not completely safe, because some autostarting methods might cause the true drive emulation not to be turned on again. In such cases, the best thing to do is to disable kernal traps (which will cause true drive emulation to be always kept turned on), or to manually load the program with true drive emulation turned on.

5.5.3 Using compressed files

It is also possible to attach disk or tape images that have been compressed through various algorithms; compression formats are identified from the file extension. The following formats are supported (the expected file name extension is in parenthesis):

PkZip, tar.gz, lha and zoo support is read-only and always uses the first T64 or D64 file in the archive. So archives containing multiple files will always be handled as if they contain only a single file.

Windows and DOS don't contain the needful programs to handle compressed archives. Get gzip and unzip for Windows at ftp://ftp.freesoftware.com/pub/infozip/WIN32 and for DOS at ftp://ftp.freesoftware.com/pub/infozip/MSDOS. Don't use pkunzip for DOS, it doesn't work. The programs to use BZip2 archives may be found at http://sourceware.cygnus.com/bzip2. Just put the programs (unzip.exe, gzip.exe, bzip2.exe) into a directory of your search path (e.g. C:\DOS or C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND; have a look at the PATH variable).

5.5.4 Using Zipcode and Lynx images

Since version 0.15, the VICE emulators have been able to attach disks packed with Zipcode or Lynx directly, removing the need to manually convert them into D64 or X64 files with c1541. This is achieved by automatically invoking c1541, letting it decode the file into a temporary image and attaching the resulting temporary image read-only. For this to work, the directory containing c1541 must be in your PATH.

This uses the -unlynx and -zcreate options of c1541 (see section 13.3 c1541 commands and options); these commands are not very reliable yet, and could fail with certain kinds of Lynx and Zipcode images (for example, they cannot deal with DEL files properly). So please use them with caution.

Lynx files usually come as `.lnx' files which are unpacked into single disk images. On the other hand, Zipcode files do not have a particular extension (although `.z64' is sometimes used), and represent a disk by means of component files, named as follows:

If you attach as a disk image (or smart-attach) any one of these files, the emulator will simply pick up the other three (by examining the name) and then build a disk image using all four.

5.6 Resetting the machine

You can reset the emulated machine at any time by using the "Reset" command from the command menu. There are two types of reset:

A soft reset is the same as a hardware reset achieved by pulling the RESET line down; a hard reset is more like a power on/power off sequence in that it makes sure the whole RAM is cleared.

It is possible that a soft reset may not be enough to take the machine to the OS initialization sequence: in such cases, you will have to do a hard reset instead.

This is especially the case for the CBM-II emulators. Those machines examine a memory location and if they find a certain "magic" value they only do what you know from the C64 as Run/Stop-Restore. Therefore, to really reset a CBM-II use hard reset.


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