December 1986 MAGazine Volume 2 Number 4

Table Of Contents

MAGNET Memphis Amiga Group Newsletter Issue # 4

Box 381462 Memphis,Tn. 38183-1462
President Audrey McCalla
Vice-President/Librarian Joe Ricklefs
Treasurer/Secretary Todd Eifert

Newsletter Contributors:
Charles Williams
Ron McCalla
Audrey McCalla
Don Lockard
Steve Gaines
Todd Eifert

Todd Eifert

Hi, hi, hi,

Newsletter time again. This month's letter is chock full o' reviews. Several people have donated articles to the newsletter and I thank them very much. If you would like to submit articles either give them to me at the meetings or upload them to the Duck Pond. Use Scribble! if you have it (set line length to 70). I am trying desperately to finish the Christmas demo. When I finish it, I will bring it to the meeting. Thanks to everyone who helped. See you at the meeting.

Todd Eifert

The PREZ Sez

Ah, here it is December, and the Memphis Amiga Group nears its first anniversary! We have accomplished much in the first twelve months, but we look for so much more as our number grows, along with our knowledge and expertise.

Please note the new meeting time and location. As discussed in our October general meeting, due to the holiday season, all future general meetings will be scheduled on the second Saturday of each month. Also, due to the lack of space at ComputerLab, we have arranged to meet at State Tech beginning with the December 13th meeting. A map showing the location is included with this newsletter, but if you're not sure about the location, please don't hesitate to call--we want to see everyone at the meeting!

I have received several interesting suggestions from many of you regarding Club policy, and ways of serving all members as best we can. I would like to detail some of them here for your consideration and discussion at the December meeting. Please express your views and needs at the meeting, to make the Club more viable for each member.

One such suggestion concerns the stated policy of annual dues, which is currently set at $20.00 per member. Because the Club's income has far exceeded it's expenditures, the recommendation is to make the membership fee of $20.00 a one-time only fee. The other means of income to the Club would remain a small profit on the sale of disks to members.

A second recommendation concerns the use of Club funds to purchase various software packages, such as Desktop Publishing, to be used in preparing the monthly newsletter, but would remain in the library for use by membership. This would, of course, be dependent upon any possible licensing agreements. And too, the Club policy against software piracy would have to be adhered to.

Along the same lines, the next suggestion is to purchase hardware additions, such as a video digitizer and camera, again to be included in the library for all members' use.

Please give these and any other suggestions you may have consideration so that we may discuss them on December 13th. Also, we should probably discuss the method of holding elections for next year's officers.

Let me close eith the warmest holiday wishes for all of you and your families. See you on December 13th!!!!!

-- Audrey Mc Calla

Review of MEAN 18

by Don Lockard

If you are a fan of sports games, you might want to consider Mean 18 from Accolade. This is a full featured golf simulation with four built-in courses: Saint Andrews, Augusta, Pebble Beach, and Bush Hill. the game supports four players and game play is fully mouse driven. The player may turn a full 360 degrees with a full view of the surrounding terrain due to having a 3-D data base for the course and not just a pretty picture of the surrounding area. On the negative side of this, the graphics are not as detailed as you might like.

After the opening sequence the program requires you to "register" and allows you to practice tee shots, practice green shots, practice an entire hole, begin the game, or quit. Once you select play you select the scoring: Stroke (Medal), Match, or Best Ball. The course is depicted on the screen with a "power bar" to the far left side and icons at the bottom of the screen. If you chose the beginner mode your tee will be a bit closer to the hole and your "caddy" will offer you a club to use. You may use this club or select another with the club select icon. You may want to get an overhead view of the hole to get a better perspective. To do this, just click on the hole icon. After you decide on the best approach to this hole, use the aiming icons to scroll the screen left or right as desired. You start your swing by clicking anywhere on the screen. I like to place the mouse pointer at the point on the power bar that I think will make the best shot and use that as a gauge. After your first click, the power level will start to climb. When it reaches the level on the power bar that you want, click again to stop the backswing. The level on the power bar will start to fall toward the bottom of the screen. If you desire to hook the ball, click again before the power level reaches 0 on the scale. If you want to go straight down the fairway, click at 0. To slice the ball wait until the power level falls below 0.

Once you reach the green, you are given an overhead view to play from. The lay of the green is indicated by V-shaped pointers. If the green is flat it will have no pointers. If the green has a slight slope to the left side of the screen there will be a line of pointers to the left. A very steep slope to the left would have a large number of pointers to the left. The pointers may point in any one of eight different directions and they may be interspersed to allow for any possible angle. To putt, you must aim taking the lay of the green in to account and position the putt-line direction indicator for the best shot. Your putting power is controlled in the same way as stated earlier.

The sound effects on this program are excellent. From the swooosh of the club to the ball dropping into the cup; from the ahaaaa's for a difficult shot that almost make it to the cheers when you do make that difficult shot. After the game, you have the option of printing out your score card.

The game also features a course architect that allows you to construct your own courses. You can place water hazards, sand traps, trees, and bushes anywhere on the course. The course is also constructed from the out of bounds, rough, fairway, and green. You may also design your own skyline. All of these components are constructed with a simple paint program, or you can load a course to modify. Courses are already showing up on the BBS's that you can download and use if you are not interested in designing your own. This "construction set" feature is easy to use and gives this program an edge in comparison to some of the similar products on the market.

The major fault with this program is that wind is not used as a game factor and the instructions are for the IBM version with an eratta sheet to cover the AMIGA differences.

The DUCK Pond

Howard Duck flew south for the winter, to Florida's Disney World (to see his friends, Donald and Daisy), so there will be no Duck Pond column this month. Howard did say though that he hopes you all had a pleasant Thanksgiving, and will have a joyous December holiday season. He expects to return for the January ish.

December's Calendar of Events

Saturday Dec 13 1:00 PM - The Memphis Amiga Group's general meeting will be held at the State Technical Institute at 5983 Macon Cove in the meeting room of the Mid-South Microcomputer Resource Center on the second floor of the Freeman Building, (between the library and the cafeteria). See the map below or call Audrey at (901) 755-4641 for directions. The meeting is expected to include demonstrations of SubLogic's Flight Simulator, Mindscape's Defender of the Crown, and (hopefully) the premiere of our locally produced Christmas Video. If they make it into our hands in time, we also hope to demonstrated the new KickStart and WorkBench disks.

Member List

Anderson Ken Memphis Tn 38128
Baleson Ed Millington Tn 38053
Burns Keith Cordova Tn 38018
Crighton Bob Millington Tn 38053
Davidson Al Memphis Tn 38115
Doss Leonard & Mary Ann Memphis Tn 38119
Eifert Todd Memphis Tn 38152
Gaines Steve & Melinda Memphis Tn 38118
Gould Philip Memphis Tn 38128
Grayson Sandy Memphis Tn 38127
Grimes Tim McLemoresville Tn 38235
Harris Mike Millington Tn 38053
Harvey Eugene Millintgon Tn 38126
Holliday Shawn Memphis Tn 38128
Jones Tom Memphis Tn 38128
Karpov Victor Memphis Tn 38115
Kligel Joe Memphis Tn 38128
Lockard Don Alamo Tn 38001
Mccalla Ron & Audrey Germantown Tn 38138
Norton Gene McKenzie Tn 38201
Pinchot David Memphis Tn 38115
Ricklefs Joe Millington Tn 38053
Rothaar Mike Atoka Tn 38004
Schwartz Dr. Alan Memphis Tn 38187
Shackleford Dennis Memphis Tn 38118
Skinner Andy Kingsport Tn 37664
Snyder Richard Bartlett Tn 38134
Stockton Mark Memphis Tn 38134
Vineyard Charles W. Memphis Tn 38118
Wade Norman Memphis Tn 38104
Williams Charles Wilson Tn 72395
Witt Patt Memphis Tn 38111

A Review of Superbase Personal

(downloaded from People Link)

Program: Superbase Personal
Publisher: Precision Software Ltd.
(American distributor: Progressive Peripherals)
Suggested List Price: 149.95

Superbase Personal for the Amiga is a powerful, smooth, and generally impressive relational database management system. It makes logical use of the mouse, menus, requestors, etc. For those of you who have read the advertisements for this product, I can assure you that the claims are all true; the ad, in fact, barely touches on the many impressive features of this product. This said, let me get a number of criticisms of this package out of the way.

i) The documentation is clear and completely adequate. However, the sample databases are obviously hastily assembled and inadequate for displaying many of Superbases's features. Tutorials painlessly take the user through elementary applications, but totally avoid the more difficult matters of establishing relations between separate files and using the elaborate query structure. Disturbing warnings are issued against trying to test these features with the sample files included on the disk. The user can, with some effort, work out how these features work -- and they do work.

ii) While most features of Superbase work surprisingly fast, one thing is annoying slow: namely, saving individual records (independent of record length) to disk. The user indicates his desires to save a record by left-clicking the mouse twice. A requestor then appears which must be clicked. The requestor box is not always conveniently located; it would have been nice to respond from the keyboard. Finally, the save to disk takes a second or two or three depending mostly on how many indices one is using.

iii) Users of Superbase on the Commodore 64 and 128 may be disappointed when they discover that the present version has fewer features. To those unfamiliar with these earlier versions, I should point out that they are extremely powerful database management/application generator systems; in my experience they are completely comparable to DBase III, etc. Through the use of an internal 'basic' style programming language, macros of considerable complexity and sophistication could be developed. This included great flexibility in the generation of forms and reports. These capabilities with respect to macros and form generation are missing in Superbase Personal. So too is the ability to select colors, decoration (boxes, separating lines, etc.), and display styles in the data entry forms. Progressive Peripherals (the American distributor) claims that all these features and more will be included in the forthcoming Superbase Professional. They claim that the present 'Personal' version is for the average entry level user. Frankly, Personal is the most sophisticated 'entry' level system I have ever seen. My guess is that the Precision Software didn't have Professional ready so they issues what they had already developed as Personal. In any event, upgrades to Professional will be possible. Professional stands a good chance of being the preeminent database management system for micros -- especially if it allows for multiple responses and user generated menus. I think it pays to get Personal just to begin getting used to what promises to be a superb system.

iv) Superbase Personal, unfortunately, uses dongle protection. This is certainly preferable to explicityly protecting the disk (you can make backups and the program can be moved to ram: or to dh0:) However, to run the program, a dongle must be plugged into the joystick port. This is a nuisance. Dongles get lost; they get in the way of using databases on different machines (for example if you have an Amiga at home and at the office, you have to carry the little dongle around with you or buy another one); finally, they get in the way of other uses of the joystick port (for example, Byte by Byte's new clock uses this port). I feel that any serious user of this program will have to invest a substantial amount of effort into mastering it (though casual use is, in fact, simple) and will have real call for manufacturer support. Under the circumstances, there will be plenty of motivation for buying the package rather than 'borrowing' it -- even without a dongle.

I have started this review with criticisms, because they are few in number and easy to state. A description of the strengths of this program would be almost as long as the manual. Anyone who has used DBase will be amazed at the ease with which a comparably powerful program like Superbase can be used. Records can be viewed in forms, field lists, or on lines (tables or spread sheet style). Paging can be turned on or off. Fields can be selected and deselected for viewing, exporting, etc. The viewing screen is 230 columns wide (accessed via scrolling). Complicated queries and filters are trivially composed via an extremely well designed requestor system which allows for all conceivable relations as well as pattern recognition via the 'Like' command. Indices can be automatically written for all fields (indexed fields need not be unique) and the inclusion of calculated fields is as easy as on the easiest spread sheets. One feature I especially appreciate is the ability to use string functions for a calculated field. In an application involving storing bibliographic references I defined a calculated field to consist in the joining of the first six letters of the first author's last name, his initials, the first five letters of the second author's last name, etc., and finally the date of publication. Using this field for indexing guaranteed a properly sorted reference list. Exporting the appropriate fields and records (both in appropriate order) to Scribble! allowed (with a little bit of editing) for the rapid generation of a reference list suitable for a scientific publication. Allowing multiple responses would have allowed for the inclusion of multiply authored papers without specifically deciding a priori how many authors to allow for. I would also have preferred to have done the editing via macros in Superbase rather than in Scribble!. Finally, it would have been nice if I could have selected journal names from a menu rather than type them in each time. Maybe Professional will provide these features. That said, I must admit that developing the application with Superbase was easier than it had been with any other database program I've used on any machine. It should be mentioned that Superbase does allow fields to include IFF pictures. Unfortunately, at present, these seem to only include full screen lo-res pictures. Frankly, disks don't have room for too many of these. Hopefully Professional will allow for small brush images which will fit into a small part of an entry form.

To conclude, Superbase Personal is an eminently worthwhile product, but it is not yet the dream database system for the Amiga that many of us were hoping for. It is miles ahead of the various Amiga filing programs (Mi Amiga, etc.) in power and functionality. Programs of potentially comparable power have appeared (Datamat and DBman), but these are, so far, hurriedly developed ports which barely capitalize on the Amiga environment. Personal is a very promising start. It offers substantial hope that Professional might be the program that will make the Amiga an office fixture. I certainly hope so.

Richard S. Lindzen
54-1416 M.I.T.
Cambridge, MA 02139

Software Review: Adventure Construction Set

by Todd Eifert

If you can't wait until Ultima gets ported over to your Amiga or are tired of playing those dull text adventures the Adventure Construction Set might cure your gaming deficiency. Electronic Arts put together a nice package when the designed ACS. They didn't make it just a Dungeons and Dragons adventure creator. The program will also let you make science fiction adventures as well as the neglected mystery scenario. ACS enables you to take a story and build an adventure around your idea. You can build large play areas which are accessible from the main world. These can be dungeons, buildings, caves, or anything you can come up with. One of the adventure that comes with the disk turns one into a spaceship. Within these large areas you place rooms. A room need not be a conventional enclosure with four walls and a roof. I used several placed next to each other as a street bizarre. Within the rooms you place props and creatures. Props are very elastic pieces used to interact with player characters. One could be a door, a chair, or a vending machine that takes fifty cents and gives your character a Coke. They are fully programmable by the adventure creator and ACS comes with enough different props that you won't have to invent many, yourself. Creatures are mobile enemies of your character. They can be Orcs, robots, or Nazis. Like props, they are fully programmable. You decide what they carry, and how they act. A very good graphic editor is built into ACS. It enable your props, characters, and play areas look exactly as you would like them. The program comes with three complete character and prop sets. If the adventure, mystery, or science fiction set doesn't suit your adventure then just build a new one utilizing whichever parts you need from the others. The program comes with a very nice manual that explains how to play and build adventures. I was disappointed that the manual is the exact same as the one in the C64 version. I had hoped, and still do, that the Amiga Adventure Construction Set allows more rooms and props than the C64 ACS. Your adventures come alive with moving characters, background music, and sound effects. Unlike most game oriented programs which you worry about how long they will keep your interest, ACS requires many hours to build or play. If you don't plan on building any adventures then don't buy the program. It may take a lot of time to design and build an adventure, but if you stick to it you and your friends will enjoy it very much!