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unknown floppy format from gravograph engraving machine

Posted on 2000-03-22
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I have a Gravograph engraver which uses 2 1/2 floppy disks, type & format unknown.  When I tried to read the disk in my PC, it says "disk not formatted, do you want to format?" but the disk works fine in the engraver.
Fonts are stored on the disks, and if I want a new font or a special scan of a  logo then I have to pay HEAPS to the machine maker for a disk.
Q. Does anybody have any idea on the format of the disk? is it Mac/Apple ?
The machine is  approx 5 years old and the local supplier wont give me any information.
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Question by:gumsta
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jhance earned 1500 total points
ID: 2644226
It's not uncommon for proprietary systems, like you engraver, to use proprietaty schemes to keep you as a willing or unwilling customer.

There are many ways of formatting a floppy disk that will render it unrecognizable to a PC.  You can mess with the sector and track numbering, the internal format numbers, who knows.  An old MAC or Apple II floppy is an example of this using custom disk controller hardware.

If you just wanted to copy the floppy for a backup, one of the disk "bit -level" copiers probably will work since they just duplicate the data pattern on the disk without having to recognize it's file structure.  Actually reading the data off of the floppy requires 3 things:

1) An understanding of how the disk is formatted physically. This is stuff like sectors/track, checksums, etc.

2) An understanding of how the files are stored logically.  This is stuff like FAT, NTFS, etc.  It's the filesystem used.

3) How the data you are interested in is stored in the file.  Is it a GIF, JPEG, BITMAP, or what?

I'm not saying that all of the above cannot be done, it's just going to take some work.  My guess, however, is that their scheme is fairly simpleminded and you can probably crack it if you know what you're doing.  The first step is getting the data off of the disk so you can analyze it.  I'd start with some sort of disk imager utility (look on SIMTEL or WINFILES.COM).  If you have a linux systsem the "dd" command can also sometimes to this.

Once you have an image in a computer, you can open it up in a hex editor and start looking at what's there.  You are somewhat familiar with what is there so that should give you some clues to go by.

If all else fails, do what the "professional" game and copy protection hackers do, get a logic analyzer and capture what the disk is doing while their system is running it.
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by:vikiing
ID: 2644514
You can also try with program like Transmac, a specialized software which permits read and write Mac-formatted disks.

You can use any search engine (there are some shareware versions).
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by:jhance
ID: 2644638
vikiing,

I didn't see that this was indicated to be a Mac floppy.
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Expert Comment

by:slmcgill
ID: 2645506
The link below is the WEB page.

Worth checking out:
http://www.gravograph.co.uk/about.html
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by:vikiing
ID: 2648707
>>I didn't see that this was indicated to be a Mac floppy

The look of any diskette is the same, no matter what OS you use it with. Unless you are SURE it's NOT a Mac diskette, there's a possibility it be...
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by:jhance
ID: 2648960
>The look of any diskette is the same, no matter what OS you use it with

Duh!  I'm not a moron.  However, it would be highly unusual for a dedicated computer built into a machine like this engraver to be built around a MAC or to use the proprietary MAC-type floppy controller.  Much more common would be something build on a PC hardware base or if it's custom built hardware, to use the NEC765 (i.e. PC compatible) floppy disk controller chip.
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by:vikiing
ID: 2649023
>>However, it would be highly unusual for a dedicated computer built into a
>>machine like this engraver to be built around a MAC

I agree, dude; but, as we don't have any other presumption, all is possible. Mac format would be a possibility, but you can't leave it aside just only because "it's unusual".
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Author Comment

by:gumsta
ID: 2651030
I meant to say 3 1/2 inch disk not 2 1/2 (typo). the disk has no hole so it is probably only double- density (720kb).
I am gonna tryout TRANSMAC and see if that works. I can't seem to find any type of disk imager at winfiles, anyone got any idea of the program's name?
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by:jhance
ID: 2651661
Try GRDUW from www.grsoftware.net
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by:vikiing
ID: 2652694
The file name is exactly so: "TRANSMAC"; it's foundable through a lot of search engines.
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Expert Comment

by:lordzola
ID: 2772864
I cannot give you any suggestion on how to read that disk. But All I can suggest you is make an image of the floppy before you do anything. and use the copied version to test with.

to make an image of the floppy  try

winimage

http://www.winimage.com/winimage.htm
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