Few days ago I got myself a uIEC/SD ordered from Jim Brain. I also bought a set of JiffyDOSes which should make a perfect match with uIEC. Even though I am a happy 1541 Ultimate user I wanted to get familiar with this device as it and other SD memory card applications using the same sd2iec firmware seems to be very popular. Also, this one can be nicely used in Commodore machines where the C64 Expansion port is not available.
The device is professionally built and the main unit is not much bigger than the SD card socket. The uIEC can be ordered with a daughtercard that makes it a plug and play device. Daughtercard also has switches that are used for swapping disk images. Nowadays the daughtercard includes another small PCB, a power adapter that plugs into cassette port. This adapter allows pass trough for the Datassette plus has a place for a small socket for a microcontroller. Without the daughtercard the uIEC has to be powered and connected with some tinkering – which is practical if the device is going to be installed for example inside C64 casing.
The JiffyDOS chips are neat flash memory based ROM chip replacements and they come with pre-installed on/off switch. Even though they are newly produced they are “genuine” as the software is licensed. I haven’t installed them yet so I have been playing around with the uIEC without the help of JiffyDOS.
Unlike 1541 Ultimate the uIEC, or sd2iec (the software running on uIEC) is interfaced only with disk drive commands. Loading programs or directory listing works in familiar way; eg. LOAD”$”,10. Almost everything else like navigating the SD card’s folders or mounting D64 images has to be done by sending commands over the command channel. This is very awkward with standard Basic commands – for example mounting a disk image would be done by typing in OPEN 15,10,15,”CD:GAME.D64″:CLOSE 15. Luckily there are many ways to make the operation much more straightforward. A DOS Wedge or any cartridge using the same command extensions will make the use of command channel simple enough. Then there are also joystick operated file browsers available.
By default the uIEC/sd2iec is about as slow in loading as the real disk drive. Because the device is working only on the protocol level and does not emulate the complete disk drive many fast loaders will fail. This applies also to most multi load games that have built-in loading systems. Still many fast loaders are supported and the sd2iec firmware is in on-going development. The list of supported loaders is likely to grow.
JiffyDOS in the host machine would address both the usability and loading time issues as sd2iec completely supports JiffyDOS. Majority of CMD commands are implemented into the sd2iec firmware, so the uIEC can be used also as CMD hard drive replacement.
I’m already convinced that the uIEC is an excellent option for running software from a memory card for Commodore 64 and other 8-bit Commodore machines as well. It’s probably also the most affordable one.
Related topic: Tips for using sd2iec