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The TI-99/4A Internet Browser! (Updated 06/25/16)

Posted by --- Ω ---, 29 January 2015 · 8,425 views

TI-99/4A Browser
The TI-99/4A Internet Browser! (Updated 06/25/16)

Sometimes miracles do happen.  Years ago the idea of having an Internet browser for the TI-99/4A was just another “pie in the sky” pipe dream, a “what if” or an “if only”, well, no more!  Stuart Conner, one of Atari Age’s leading TI-99/4A “Uber-Programmers” made it a reality.
 
Stuart was not content to just make a browser compatible with P-Box RS-232 cards, like every other communications program in existence for the TI.  No, Stuart decided to think of the Nano-PEB users as well.  As of this moment, Stuart’s Internet Browser is the ONLY communications program in the world that will work with the NANO-PEB.  This awesome program works with both system configurations, and even supports multiple RS-232 cards.
 
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There are a few minor limitations, which quite frankly are to be expected from a 34 year old pre-Internet computer, even so, Stuart has done a fantastic job exploiting this new capability for the TI and getting around some of the expected roadblocks.
 
1)    The browser is only compatible with the Lantronix UDS-10.  It will not work with TCPSER or any other device.
2)    The program does not automatically allow for indented paragraphs, line wrapping at the spaces between words or for line
        breaks.  All formatting has to be done at the source webpage.
3)     The TI's video display processor has some restrictions on how many colors can be in an 8 pixel row.
4)     Most important, this program will not work with any 'modern' webpage as there are just too many tags for this classic
        computers memory to keep track of.  It does however have it's own specialized HTML like tags for it's own use.
 
There are some cool special features this browser has.
 
1)     While the default font includes numbers, upper & lower case characters as well as punctuation, it even has table drawing
         characters!
2)      Another neat little thing to point out is that ANY character can be re-defined any number of times, allowing
         the display of BITMAPPED GRAPHICS... up to full-screen size!
 
For more detailed information << CLICK HERE >> to go to Stuart's page about this awesome program.  Now available in super easy to load cartridge version.
  
  
There are already some neat webpages
and script based applications that the TI’er can use.

 
For example if you wanted to look up the IP number for a website or BBS system, “the TI can do that!
 
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Also in the year since Stuart released the first version of his browser, a lot has happened.  Atari Age user "ElectricLab" has really shaken things up with his new TI website that will let you play online chess with other users!
 
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The browser also has it’s own “FAVS” list that you can customize to your own liking.
 Posted Image
 
 
Do you know how to write scripts?  Do you have a great script idea?  Stuart is willing to host any useful scripts as long as he’s not asked to continually update them.  So if you have an idea for a neat or useful TI application/script, feel free to create it and
Send it to Stuart in a PM!  
 
Currently, PHP scripts are required to run on a Web SERVER that enables a webpage to be customized according to parameters added to the page URL entered on the TI.  (Filling in the blanks is not YET an option).
  
I'd love to see a listing of all known and available APPS/scripts or just TI webpages as they come out.  If you make one, please feel free to post a note below with the URL  and a description of your site or APP.
 
When you get up and running, let us know!  You can do that with the TI CHAT script!
 
1) To read the chat page, the url is: stuartconnerdownloads.me.uk/tichat.php
2) To add a message (from your TI) just add: ?m=text_with_underlines to the url.
 
We'll see you AND your TI online!   :) 
  
UPDATE - 02/03/2015
A German IT newsletter recently featured Stuart's Internet Browser.  You can check out the article
<< HERE >>.  Congratulations Stuart!  Your browser is now world famous!
 
UPDATE - 02/18/2015
Stuart updated his browser with some new commands.  As always you can get the updated version
<< HERE >>  You'll need to scroll down just a bit to find the link.
 
UPDATE - 12/13/2015
Stuart released the CARTRIDGE VERSION for the 512K non-inverted boards.  Also available on his website.  
 
MAJOR UPDATE - 01/24/2016
(The browser is now in Version 9.1)  This video will be replaced in the future (When I have time).

 
UPDATE - 05/08/2016
Atari Age member & TI user ElectricLab has come out with some fantastic applications for this browser.  Below is his presentation for TI-Fest West 2016.
 

 
UPDATE - 06/25/2016
If you have the new FlashROM 99 cartridge, you can now download the latest version of this program and install it in your cartridge!  << JUST CLICK HERE >>
 
 






I've been experimenting with my initial idea of creating a cleanser that would let Stuart's browser view any page, kind of like lynx. 
I wrote some Perl code to do this, and you can try it out for yourself. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

 

As you can see, Facebook doesn't understand Stuart's browser at this time :)

 

fbsmall.jpg

 

I've tried a few other sites with similar results, and I'll be working on ways to identify useful blocks of text to display, and to make them links.

Right now, most HTML is simply stripped out, and it breaks links as a result. I'll be able to use Stuart's link support to display them in a TI-friendly manner. Connecting to mobile versions of sites helps too, for example:

 

redditsmall.jpg

 

Anyway I just wanted to share this to see if anyone else wants to help me test it. Please share your results and feedback. You can go to the URL with your Windows/Mac computer and the system will show you the raw HTML as well as the TI-ified version.

 

I will continue to improve this xlat program as time allows.

 

Thanks,

Corey.

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Anyway I just wanted to share this to see if anyone else wants to help me test it. 

 

Oh HELL YES!  Damn right I'll help you test it! :)

I have Wednesday off, so in the evening after I get my running around done in the morning and mid-afternoon.  I'm in!

 

It occurs to me that we also need a list of compatible websites.  I had one a few months back, but it went T.U. when the el-cheapo SD card bit the dust in my HxC.

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Glad to hear it! Someone suggested a webring earlier in the thread, and I could host the code that powers the webring on myti99.com, no problem.

 

In the mean time, I'm working on a web-based chess game that people can play against each other, online using their TI 99s. I want to make 4x4

character graphics for chess pieces, kind of like in the Video Chess cartridge which I dug up to take a peek at. Does anyone have the skills to make these graphics in the format that Stuart's browser can display?

 

I already have a chess engine made for another project, so basically all I have to do is modify it so the TI can also play it. Since the TI browser doesn't support cookies or any form data inputs (or does it?) I have some challenges to work out, but I think I have solutions to make chess playable.

 

Playing will require a short account registration form to be filled out on myti99.com (forthcoming!) after which you'll be able to hop over to your TI and browse for other players and create/join chess matches, all handled on the back end by code I already wrote. 

 

I am excited about this and hopefully people will come up with other game ideas or other useful things to do with their web-connected TIs!

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You know, I've heard from a 'reliable source' that a cartridge version would give us an extra 8K for page information. ;)

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Okay... I have a couple of free hours starting now... anything to test?

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Sorry - I saw this post earlier, but couldn't get to a computer. If you want to test the tool I made for browsing the web on the TI,

for example, reddit, just enter this into Stuart's browser on the TI: myti99.com/xlat/?reddit.com 

 

You can backspace over the www, or include it for my site. Since there's an 80 character limit, you can omit it.

 

I made good progress on the chess game tonight. I have the TI able to log into the server, and I just need to translate the

HTML that's output from the game engine into TI-friendly language <99ml>. I hope to have something to show you soon, probably by the 

weekend if time permits. If you PM me your personal email address, I'll share the URL with you and maybe you can help me test?

 

I will need to make some chess piece graphics soon, and I'll probably just use alpha (K, Q, etc) for the pieces until I do. 

If anyone is good at graphics and wants to volunteer, please let me know!

 

I have been thinking it would be cool to make a text adventure that's playable over the browser as well. That shouldn't be too hard

to do. Anyway, if anyone has any ideas or wants to contribute, please let me know. The myti99.com site can support PHP and 

Perl (my language of choice) so let's make some cool web games and programs!

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this is amazing. Will try it soon :)

So, maybe MultiPlayer-Adventure is (or just: games are) coming closer ?

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Multiplayer adventure is something I definitely want to do. The Chess will be multiplayer for sure. PM me and let's start designing a multiplayer adventure. I have an engine I made for that too, which I've never done anything with so I'll be digging that out soon. 

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Hmmm, I'm having issues this morning, all the addresses I've attempted have failed.  All my settings are correct, has anyone else had a problem today? 

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I've had connectivity problems with my TI and Lantronix UDS-10 device. What happens is the browser times out on the 'Resolving IP Address' step, and sometimes even on the 'Downloading Web Page' step. I put a sniffer on the ethernet side and when this happened to me last night, and there was no traffic, so the problem is somewhere in the Lantronix/TI serial interface. I broke out my serial breakout gadget with blinky lights and I noticed that the serial traffic seems to stop as well. It may be a browser or serial port issue. I also have to occasionally restart the TI and Nanopeb to get it to load the browser from the CF card. I'll do a load and run in the EA and it will just hang up and the activity light on the Nanopeb doesn't flash. Maybe the problem is with the NanoPeb. I do have a PEB w/serial card and a sidecar RS232 box so maybe I can copy the browser to a floppy and test it using the PEB's serial card. 

 

When I restart the Lantronix, TI, and Nanopeb, it will work and generally stay working while I'm using it.

 

Do you know if I could use the sidecar RS232 and the nanopeb at the same time?

I'm wondering if the Nanopeb's serial port would collide with the TI hardware or would enumerate to port 2 or something.

 

What problems are you seeing?

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It was an embarrassing rookie move on my part. :(

I forgot to go switch ports back to 10001 from port 23 that I use when calling Heatwave BBS....

 

I'm almost out of time for today because I have to start getting ready for work..  I'll try to sneak in a couple of minutes...

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Ok :) So I fixed some bugs tonight in the chess program, and got a little more work done on the TI interface to it. I will have to spend at least one night working on chess graphics which is not my forte :)

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Update: I have been working on the chess game still, but took a break to make a javascript version of the AUTO CHARACTER DEFINITION program so that I could design the chess pieces. You all might remember from the TI manual back in the day. It's here if anyone finds it of any use:

http://myti99.com/chardef.html

I will be continuing to improve this little program and may make it so it outputs code in the correct 99ML format for the browser. Maybe some tools like this will help us get our webring going some day.

 

In the mean time I'm making graphics for the pieces and should have something for you to see soon.

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^^^^

How is progress coming?  Since Stuart released his cartridge version, we might be getting a few more interested parties soon!  What you've done sounds pretty good so far! 

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Cartridge version? Do tell! I spent Friday night trying to get the browser working (V6) and I just kept getting timeouts from his server. I think there must've been an outage between here and there. I'll hopefully get to try again today. I'd like to learn more about the browser development - is there a thread on AtariAge for it?

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Yeah, he released version 7 on cartridge.  No more hassle with the E/A 3 startup info either.  Just plug it in, load it up and GO!

 

gallery_35324_1027_38448.jpg

blog-0629607001450028785.gif

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I've been making good progress on the chess game for the TI browser. Unfortunately the browser gets stuck in a loop and states
"Resolving IP address ... failed - retrying"

I've had it do this for a few minutes, up to 10 minutes, and sometimes it will eventually work. I've even left it alone for hours and it stays stuck at this step. I have my RS232 breakout box in-line on the serial cable and I can see TX line active every so often, so I think it's on the LANtronix side. 

I've restarted everything, reloaded the browser, and it doesn't seem to matter. Not sure what the deal is.

 

I was wondering if any of you have had this experience? I'd have a working version of the chess game by now but I keep getting stymied by this problem and it's becoming more frequent, to the point that I can only load a couple of pages before it does this.

 

I'll keep working on this. My RS232 cable is a 12-footer so I may go get a shorter one in case it has to do with attenuation in my cable and the handful of adapters and gender changers in the mix.

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I've been making good progress on the chess game... 

 

My RS232 cable is a 12-footer so I may go get a shorter one in case it has to do with attenuation in my cable and the handful of adapters and gender changers in the mix.

 

 How are things coming?  I'll have more time in the middle of January to help test, so...  :)

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I had good luck with the shorter cable, although I still get a couple of lockups. I recorded the ethernet side of the conversation with tcpflow running on another host, and I am pretty sure it's the LANtronix box getting in a bad state. Stuart thinks this is the case as well.

 

As for my progress, I got stuck trying to display a proper chess board with alternating colors on the squares on the board. Due to the 6-pixel width of the characters in Stuart's browser, and the mismatch to the VDP's 8x8 tiles, I had some misaligned squares. I think I will display the board without colors for now. I have game creation and board viewing working, and am working on the interface for selecting your game moves. 

 

This is my holiday break project/obsession and I think I'm 90% there.

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-- NEWS FLASH FOR THOSE WHO MISSED IT IN THE FORUM --

 

There will be a new and improved version of the browser coming out in the future.  I was told that I'd probably want to get 'some clean underwear' before I tried it.  This to me say's it's gonna be FANTASTIC!

 

I'll post more when I have more!

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Okay... since the last update TI-Fest West has come and gone, and Corey (ElectricLab) made a great presentation about the browser and his new applications for it.  Most of you have probably already seen it, but I like to update my blog entries to keep things current, because as we already know, Stuart and Corey are Uber programmers and things can change quickly when they get busy!

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