Reading and writing AKAI-formatted floppies under Linux

Some words first

Unfortunately the old AKAI samplers need to be booted from a floppy (System disk) whenever you power them on. This makes the system disk rather important, but there might also be other rare floppies (containing e.g. self-made samples and loops) that you'd like to backup somewhere.

Of course there is Windows/DOS software that could help you with this task, but it's certainly much more "pure" if all of this can be done under our favourite OS, Linux, and of course it can be done. Here's how.

The AKAI low-level format on floppy disks is unlike what a standard MS-DOS formatted floppy disk has (80 tracks, 2 sides, 9 sectors/track). Instead, AKAI choose to format them with 10 sectors per track, which gives a total of:

80 tracks * 2 sides * 10 sectors/track * 1024 bytes/sectors = 1.6 MB

Reading AKAI floppy disks

To read such AKAI-formatted floppies, you need to tell the disk drive about these parameters, which is achieved through the tool setfdprm (Set Floppy Disk Parameters). setfdprm is part of the fdutils package, so you 'll have to install that if it was not part of the installation process of your distribution.

Now, the following line reprograms the floppy controller:

$ setfdprm /dev/fd0 sect=10 hd ssize=1024 cyl=80

(assuming you are using /dev/fd0 as you floppy drive). After this you can read the entire floppy contents into a file with a command like this:

$ cat /dev/fd0 >imagename

Please note that as soon as you put another floppy into the drive, the drive controller is reset to the standard parameters; this means you will have to re-issue the setfdprm command each time you put a new floppy disk into the drive.

Formatting floppy disks in AKAI format

To format a floppy, issue the superformat command (also part of the fdutils package) with the following parameters:

$ superformat /dev/fd0 sect=10 hd ssize=1024 cyl=80

That's all there is to it. After low-level formatting, superformat will usually also create a MS-DOS filesystem on the floppy (which you don't really need, as the AKAI filesystem is nowhere near MS-DOS filesystem format).

Writing disk images back to floppy disks

This is just the reverse of the above process for reading floppies: First reprogram the floppy controller (if required) as above, then do something like:

$ cat imagefile >/dev/fd0

With these steps, you should be able to create backup copies of your important floppies (System disk etc) and recreate such disks from these images once the floppies become "worn out".

Frank Neumann (franky at users dot sourceforge dot net), Dec 16th, 2001