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Questions & Answers

FIRMWARE

Sometimes when I'm typing a document or worksheet, it disappears and other things appear on the screen.

You have accidentally invoked a command, possibly by pressing FUNCTION instead of SHIFT or CONTROL.  Press FUNCTION and RED or FUNCTION and WHITE to return to what you were doing.  In the NC150/200 spreadsheet, select the 'Restart' option to continue where you left off.

Amstrad NC200 manual

How does password protection work on the NCs?

There are two forms of password protection on the NC.  Firstly, you can type your secret information into a special password-protected word processor document which is accessed by pressing FUNCTION and MENU.  Secondly, you can lock the whole machine by pressing CONTROL, and MENU at any time.  To unlock the machine, the password must be typed in.

To set a password, press FUNCTION and MENU.  Type in a password of up to 4 characters and press ENTER.  Type it again for confirmation and press ENTER again.  You can now edit your secret information.  Press STOP to exit.

To change your password, press FUNCTION and MENU followed by MENU on its own.  Type in your old password and enter a new one.

Tim Surtell (Tim's Amstrad NC Users Site)

I have set a password but forgotten it.  What do I do?

If you are just protecting your secret information using a password, you must delete the current password and secret information.  Press FUNCTION and MENU from the main menu, then press FUNCTION and DELETE LEFT.  Press Y to confirm that you wish to delete your secret information.  You can now start again and set a new password.

If you have set a complete lock on your NC using a password, your only option is to reset it by holding down FUNCTION, STOP, and DELETE LEFT while switching on the machine.  The NC memory will be cleared, but anything stored on a memory card will not be lost.

Amstrad NC200 manual

Discussion from the NC User Group, started 07/04/2001...

Russell Marks:  I haven't used my old NC-100 for a few years, and when I turned it on today it was on the password request screen.  I must have had the 'preserve context' option on, so a simple off-on won't clear this request.

Problem being, I can't for the life of me remember my password!

Does anyone know how I can get myself out of this predicament with as little (read: NO) data loss as possible?

I've already emailed Simon about this (it's probably `locked', so essentially he needs to guess his password or lose the data), but I was inspired by this to write a brute-force password-finding program.  It would be a bit slow on the NC itself, but on my (by current
standards) relatively slow PC it takes less than a second to search the entire password space. :-)

I can't quite be bothered to stick it on a website or anything, but it's quite short so I thought I'd post the source. I've only tested it against an NC100, but I expect it'll probably work for the NC200 as well. It's public domain, so do what you want with it.

PS: If anyone wants to make an executable and distribute that, or convert it to some other language, or absolutely anything, that's all fine too. Hence it being PD.

/* nchex - find forgotten NC ROM OS password.
 * No good for getting into a `locked' NC, but should help you save
 * any `secret data' you might otherwise lose.
 *
 * PD by RJM 2001-04-03
 */

#include <stdio.h>
#include <string.h>
#include <stdlib.h>


void trycode(unsigned char *str,unsigned char *target)
{
int f,val;
unsigned char out[4];

val=str[0];
val&=0xff;
val=(val<<3|val>>5);
val+=str[1];
val&=0xff;
val=(val>>3|val<<5);
val+=str[2];
val&=0xff;
val=(val<<3|val>>5);
val+=str[3];
val&=0xff;

memset(out,0,4);
for(f=0;f<4 && str[f];f++)
  out[f]=(((str[f]^val)+1)&0xff);

if(memcmp(out,target,4)==0)
  {
  printf("password is %s\n",str);
  exit(0);
  }
}


int main(int argc,char *argv[])
{
int a,b,c,d;
unsigned char str[5],target[4];
char *lookup="ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ0123456789";
unsigned long orig;

if(argc!=2)
  {
  printf("usage: ncpwd hex\n");
  printf("  where hex = response to  P.~!&B3C7  in BBC Basic\n");
  exit(0);
  }

orig=strtoul(argv[1],NULL,16);
for(a=0;a<4;a++,orig>>=8)
  target[a]=(orig&0xff);

memset(str,0,5);

/* one-char */
for(a=0;a<36;a++)
  str[0]=lookup[a],trycode(str,target);

/* two-char */
for(a=0;a<36;a++)
  {
  str[0]=lookup[a];
  for(b=0;b<36;b++)
    str[1]=lookup[b],trycode(str,target);
  }

/* three-char */
for(a=0;a<36;a++)
  {
  str[0]=lookup[a];
  for(b=0;b<36;b++)
    {
    str[1]=lookup[b];
    for(c=0;c<36;c++)
      str[2]=lookup[c],trycode(str,target);
    }
  }

/* four-char */
for(a=0;a<36;a++)
  {
  str[0]=lookup[a];
  for(b=0;b<36;b++)
    {
    str[1]=lookup[b];
    for(c=0;c<36;c++)
      {
      str[2]=lookup[c];
      for(d=0;d<36;d++)
        str[3]=lookup[d],trycode(str,target);
      }
    }
  }

printf("failed search - did you type the hex correctly?\n");

exit(1);
}

I can't print signs on my printer?

  1. Make sure you have set the NC for the correct sort of printer (FUNCTION and P, then MENU)
  2. Make sure your printer and NC are set to use the same character set before you print.  The IBM character set will give you the largest range of characters (possibly including box symbols), however you may not get italic characters printed.  The Epson character set may limit the range of characters but should always enable italics.

Amstrad NC200 manual

I can't get italics to print?

Some printers (such as the original Canon BJ10e) simply don't support printing in italics.

If you are unsure that your printer can print italics, read the above answer about printing signs.

Amstrad NC200 manual

What do I do if my NC crashes?  How do I reset it?

If you're lucky, switching it to standby and back will get you out.  If you've got context-saving on then it definitely won't.

Try these:

  • If you cannot switch off the NC using the on/off switch, pull out the mains adaptor or remove the main batteries to force the NC to switch off.  Replace the batteries or mains adaptor and see if switching on the NC has an effect.  Chances are it will perform a Hard Reset as described below.
  • Switch on the NC while holding down FUNCTION and STOP.  This is known as a Soft Reset, and it will keep your documents intact while setting system settings and menu choices back to their factory settings.
  • Switch on the NC while holding down FUNCTION, STOP, and DELETE LEFT.  This is known as a Hard Reset and will reset everything in the NC apart from the time and date.
  • Remove all power sources including the lithium battery if the above resets fail.  This will obviously clear all parts of the memory including the time and date.

Mark Ray (Amstrad Notepad Users Web), Tim Surtell (Tim's Amstrad NC Users Site)

Where can I find a manual?

Printed manuals are not available brand new, but you may be able to purchase one second hand from an advertiser on the Buy & Sell page of the website.  Parts of the NC100 and NC200 manuals have been typed/scanned and posted on this website in the Datasheets section.  Most of the the information is relevant to users of all NC models, regardless of the model the manual was intended for.

Tim Surtell (Tim's Amstrad NC Users Site)

How do I get back deleted files?

You simply cannot.  Once a file is deleted it is gone for good.  If you think you may lose something because of this, always copy your complete list of documents to a memory card or floppy disk before deleting any.  (You should always routinely backup your work anyway - preferably to disk or via a link to a PC. - Tim)

Amstrad NC200 manual

Does the NC have a test routine?

Yes.  Press FUNCTION, CONTROL, and SYMBOL when switching on the NC to enter the test routine.  Press ENTER to run each test.  The routine tests the memory ICs, the sound generator, the keyboard, the screen and the ports.  The version I have also shows the firmware version number and gives the names of the Arnor programmers who wrote it.

Tim Surtell (Tim's Amstrad NC Users Site)  

Who wrote the firmware?

Project Management Cliff Lawson and Bill Edwards
BBC BASIC Richard Russell
Terminal & Disk Software Ranger Computers Ltd.
Word Processor Spell Checker Based on Proximity Linguistic Technology
The Proximity/Collins Linguibase
Proximity Technology Inc.
Spreadsheet Ian W. Searle
NC200 Games Blockade Game, Super Blockade Game, and Incidental coding by Brian Chappell
Trikade Game coding and graphics by Cliff Lawson, BSc (Hons)
Blockade Game, Super Blockade Game, and Incidental graphics by Colin Seaman
Game music by Anne Booth, BA
Revision 1 Mods - all code and graphics by Bill Weidenauer, BSEE (Magna Cum Laude)
All other software Designed by Alan Sugar, Cliff Lawson and Arnor Ltd.
Written by Gavin, Mark, and Ray at Arnor Ltd.
NC200 Manual Written by Alan Sugar, Cliff Lawson, and Sue Maybee
Typeset by Cliff Lawson and Janet Kiddier
Illustrations by Colin Seaman, Steve Hope, and Cliff Lawson

Compiled by Tim Surtell

How does the NC allocate its memory?

Regarding the NC200:

As you create documents and worksheets and make diary and address book entries, there are three areas of memory in which the Notebook can store the information you type.  These areas are the Lower Memory, the Upper Memory, and the Card Memory - if a PCMCIA card is fitted.

If you switch "Document sizes and date display" on in the system settings menu you will see that each file in the List Stored Documents screen has an L, U, or C showing where it is stored.

The Notebook has 128kb (131,072 bytes) of memory as supplied.  It uses 20,200 bytes of this for its own operation (including 8,192 bytes for the screen memory).  The remainder appears as two separate areas.  The Upper Memory is about 72,704 bytes while the remainder (38,184 bytes) forms the Lower Memory.

Whenever you edit a document it must be loaded into the Lower Memory while editing - this is why the maximum size of document you could ever edit is limited to 38kb.  When you press STOP, if there is sufficient room, it will be stored away in the Upper Memory.  If there is not sufficient room in Upper Memory, documents will be stored in Lower Memory and this reduces the amount of free space available for editing other documents.

If you receive the "Memory is full" message, you should copy to disk and then try to delete some old documents, old worksheets or remove old entries from your address book and diary.  You can increase the available memory by adding a PCMCIA static RAM card.  If you have a RAM card, then documents will always be stored on that while there is room and it is write enabled.  However, when a document is edited, it must still be loaded into the Lower Memory while you work, so the maximum document size is still 38kb.

When you start BBC BASIC it also takes as much of the free space in Lower Memory as it can for its own program memory.  when you SAVE programs they will be stored on the card (if fitted), then in Upper Memory (if they will fit), or in Lower Memory otherwise.

When you start the spreadsheet, all documents in memory are reorganised to see if a full 64kb of Upper Memory can be made available (that's what happens when it shows "Preparing memory" on the screen).  If 64kb can be made available, the spreadsheet starts with the maximum amount of memory available which gives you about 32,000 bytes to hold data (plus another 12,800 bytes used for cell indices).  The spreadsheet shows you how much memory is available on its status line.  Its X command can be used to see how much memory is available for index information - press ENTER to see the figure.

If 64kb of Upper Memory is not available when the spreadsheet is started it will start with just over 20,000 bytes for data and 8,500 bytes for indices.  If memory is severely limited, there will only be about 8,000 bytes for data and 4,700 bytes for indices.  In these last two cases, the Trace Graph function cannot be used.

When you have a memory card fitted and run the spreadsheet, any documents in memory (that will fit) are copied to the card.  This almost always ensures that the spreadsheet starts with as much free memory as possible and its graphics functions can, therefore, be used.

Amstrad NC200 manual

How do I copy files to an NC200 disk?

Here's how you do it...

  1. Press FUNCTION and L to get to the file list.
  2. Select the files you want to copy by pressing the Spacebar over each one. The selected files will be highlighted in bold.
  3. Insert the disk and press C to copy the files to the disk. Press Y to confirm. The files are copied to the disk.
  • By default, files are copied to the NOTEBOOK folder on the disk, if there is one (this folder is created if you formatted the disk on the NC200)
  • To see the files that are on the disk, press FUNCTION and L, then press L on its own.
  • Copying from the disk to the NC200 is done in the same way as given above.
  • To see all the options to do with disks and copying, press MENU when in the file list.

Tim Surtell (Tim's Amstrad NC Users Site)

 
1997–2017 Tim Surtell

Tim's Amstrad NC Users Site
www.ncus.org.uk

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