March 1987 MAGazine Volume 3 Number 3

Table Of Contents

Shhh.....!

The MAG Library

by Disk Librarian, Ron McCalla

As usual, at the time I have to write this (about 2 weeks before you're probably going to read it) I haven't finished working on the lastest disks for the library. But... I have at least one new disk done and am working on a couple more.

The new disk I have finished is going to be really useful for most of us who program or do small word processing tasks. Its called "Editors" and it contains two new full-featured editors: UEdit and MEd. Although, a text editor is not a WYSIWYG word processor, both of these editors can probably do just about anything you want a text editor to do. Both offer mouse or keyboard control of cut and paste operations, and both allow editing of several files at a time. MEd, believe it or not, is a French import! UEdit is much more complex than MEd though, and even comes with a print spooler program. UEdit lets you do math operations in your text. It lets you reconfigure all the commands to your personal preferences. It has a learn mode to remember sequences of commands for later reuse. It can even use the Amiga speech synthesizer! The biggest problem with UEdit is that there is so much of it. But if you plan to use UEdit extensively, the author will send you a 100+ page manual for about $25 to help you up the steep learning curve. Even without the manual, UEdit is quite usable. UEdit looks like a bargain for anyone who programs, but its more than I think I need.

I use Ed (which came with the Amiga) for most of my small file editing chores, but a lot of folks I know like TxED, a commercial text editor from MicroSmiths. A public domain demo version of TxED is included on the Editor disk. Also on the disk is a spelling checker called AmigaSpell which supposedly works with any standard text file.

I'm also working on several other disks. Todd Eifert and I are trying to compile several disks of IFF picture files. Don Lockard has contributed an entire disk of instrument files not found on the Deluxe Music Construction Set disk and I plan to release them along with a disk full of music files for DMCS as soon as its at least two-thirds full. If you've got some DMCS music files you suspect we might not have (and we don't have many), please call me. I'd like to get this DMCS music disk finished by the next meeting. Another disk I'm working on is full of ray-tracing pics. I thought the shareware ray-tracing program should probably go on that disk but I've not seen it yet. If anyone has that to contribute, please pass it along too. In short, if you've any files to add to our library, please upload them to our board at (901) 755-5330 or mail them to The MAG Library, P.O.Box 381462, Germantown, TN 38183-1462.

Here's a list of MAG disks completed at the time of writing. I expect one or two more by meeting time.

MAG-01 ABasiC programs
MAG-02 Addison's Games 1 (1/87) added Cribbage
MAG-03 AmigaBasic programs
MAG-04 Demos-01 (1/87) added Juggler
MAG-05 Fonts (2/87) added WB1.2 fonts
MAG-06 Games-01 (2/87) added Missle & Cosmo2
MAG-07 Icons (2/87) added misc icons
MAG-08 Telecommunications (3/87) updated ARC (ver 22)
MAG-09 Utilities-01 (2/87) updated DU, added Dotil
MAG-10 PSound
MAG-11 Printer Drivers (3/87) updated PrtDriGen
MAG-12 Music Studio Songs (2/87) added MS2SMuS
MAG-13 CGI Demo
MAG-14 Aegis Impact Demos
MAG-15 Aegis Animator Demos
MAG-16 Programming (2/87) added Berry's programs
MAG-17 Hardware (3/87) added real-time-clock plans
MAG-18 Editors

ORDERING INFORMATION:

(1) Orders placed by phone, one or more days prior to a scheduled general meeting, will be filled at the meeting; (2) Orders placed at a general meeting will be filled by the next general meeting or by mail within one week for an additional handling charge of fifty cents per disk.

ORDER FORM (send to MAG Library, Box 381462, Germantown, TN 38183-1462):

Name:__________________________________________________
Phone: ___________________
Address: ______________________________________________
City: ____________________ State:______ Zip:___________

MAG disk #(s):  ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____
Fred Fish #(s): ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ ____
# of MAG disks ordered ______ times $2 each = $________
# of Fish disks ordered _____ times $3 each = $________
If disks are to be mailed,
enter # of disks _______ times  $.50  each = $_________
Total amount enclosed = $_________

EVENTS

March's Calendar of Events

Saturday Mar 14 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). If you need directions call Audrey at (901) 755-4641. The major topic will be sound and music programs. Tom Jones will demonstrate his midi interface (built using plans from the club's hardware disk) and keyboard interfaced with Deluxe Music Construction Set.

Saturday Mar 21 2:00 PM - The Hardware SIG will meet at Broadus and Joanne Weatherall's house to discuss future group projects. Proposed projects include assembling dual 3.5 inch disk drives and building a 0.5 meg internal ram board. Call Broadus at (901) 767-9239 if you need directions.

Starboard Journal

[The following issue of STARDATE is presented through the *StarBoard* Journal of the FlagShip/StarShip SIGs (Special Interest Groups) on Delphi and GEnie telecommunication networks. Different members of the Memphis Amiga Group download this information along with lots of other good stuff that we don't have room to reprint (alas). It is available in the MAG file section of The DUCK Pond BBS for those of you with modems. STARDATE is written by Steve Plegge a/k/a [OPUS]/JSP]

Amigas on the Tube

Amy appeared on the 01/02/87 NBC Nightly News; the Puerto Rican government was using it to run a database application to assist in the identification of the dead from that hotel fire. Gak.

Amy also showed up on a segment for Entertainment This week, running "Eliza" with speech.

More External Drives

Want to add more external drives to your system, but you're worried about the power situation? Help is at hand... contact Mark Freeze, 240 Rosebrooks Drive, Cary, NC 27511 (915) 481-2437. He sells an adapter that allows you to plug in a second drive and power supply. $60.

Flicker? What Flicker?

"Ideas Created" is selling a product called "Jitter-Free" that's supposed to reduce flicker in 640 x 400 interlace mode. It's a 1/16" thick polarizing mask that reduces contrast. It attaches to your monitor with Velcro. There may be versions for both the Amiga 1080 and the Sony 1201. "Ideas Created", 407 Kickerillo Drive, Houston, TX 77079 (713) 558-7465.

FastFonts/FunKeys/ScreenBlanker

New from Microsmiths (TxEd) is a utility to speed up text displays and optionally change the default Topaz fonts called FastFonts. It works, and it does significantly speed up text writes, but I occasionally get dropped characters, both in CLI and OnLine! (for instance). I also get pieces of the "ClockMem" menu bar in the middle of a "dir" or in a requester! Bizarre... Microsmiths is including a utility called "FunKeys" with "FastFonts". It uses function keys to swap/activate windows, and will do some limited macro keys. Also included is ScreenBlanker, which (guess what?) blanks the screen after a set period of inactivity. Actually, it doesn't blank the screen; it just turns the brightness way down. Looks funky...

Replacement DOS Commands?

Charlie (TxEd) Heath is working on replacements for the DOS commands (you know... those things in your SYS:C directory). They will be public domain and will be included with all the Microsmiths products. Already finished: CD, Prompt, Stack, MakeDir, Echo, Assign, Dir/List, FileNote, Break, Status, Fault, Why, Protect, and Date. About half are written in assembler, and average about one third the size of the standard BCPL programs. They're calling the project "ARP", for AmigaDOS Replacement Program.

TimeSaver

C Ltd has announced a clock/keyboard macro product that lives on your keyboard cable, called "TimeSaver". See the product announcement elsewhere in this issue of the StarBoard Journal.

C Ltd 20M Hard Drive

Oh boy! UPS showed up Friday with my C Ltd 20M hard drive. The system consists of a SCSI interface, hard drive, two floppies, and extensive documentation (making installation very easy).

The SCSI interface is 11"x1"x5" (the same size as their aMEGA board); the drive itself is 10"x10"x3.5".

The drive comes with demos of SuperBase, Logistix, B.E.S.T, Gizmoz, some TDI Modula-2 graphics demos, the "Juggler" demo, the ray-trace "Display" pictures, some IFF pictures of "aMEGA" and "C Ltd" logos, and some utilities (ARC, etc.).

So... how is it? Much faster than a floppy. Quick benchmark - a 50K file (ARC21) was copied between various devices. (I have no DF1: at the moment, so I can't test DF0: to DFI: times.)

From To Time Rate
RAM: RAM: 1s 50,000/s
RAM: DH0: 4s 12,500/s
RAM: DF0: 16s 3,125/s
DH0: RAM: 4s 12,500/s
DH0: DH0: 7s 7,143/s
DH0: DF0: 17s 2,941/s
DF0: RAM: 6s 8,333/s
DF0: DH0: 7s 7,143/s
DF0: DF0: 20s 2,500/s

Not really that many significant digits here (grin)

For comparison, my BigBlue PeeCee XT copies its ARC.EXE (32K) from hard drive to hard drive in 5 seconds, for a rate of 6400/s.

Marauder II

Discovery Software has been shipping "Marauder II" for a while now. I should get my upgrade RealSoonNow. It should work on most all the latest releases, and does not require you to enter the parameters. It does it all automagically. I've heard that it not only copies, it also unprotects, so you can make more backups with "DiskCopy" (or whatever). It even (reportedly) "un-dongles" some things, such as "SuperBase" and "Leader Board", but not "Logistix".

Misc. New stuff

Coming soon... "KING'S QUEST" and "KING'S QUEST III" from Sierra On-Line / Electronic Arts. "KING'S QUEST II" to follow. (No, I don't know why they can't count.)

Also coming RSN is "PORTAL" from Activision. Text/graphic adventure with stereo sound. Comes on 3 (!) disks.

Remember PolyScope...

From your release 1.0 "Kaleidoscope" disk? Bela Lubkin suggests that you try running it with KS/WB 1.2 and external (fast) RAM for some "intensely weird graphics". I tried it, and... he's right. (grin)

QuadJet Drivers, Anyone?

The Quadram QuadJet color ink-jet uses the same Canon innards as the Canon and Tandy printers, but (of course) the ROMs are different so those drivers won't work. Want a driver? You can get one for $39.95 from Tychon Industries, 25000 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, OH 44117 (216) 261-7088. Careful, tho... I've heard it may have some problems with bold print.

1.2 RAM: Bug

Try this: create 2 files in RAM: called (say) OOP and ACK. Now rename OOP to ACK. Guess what? Now you've got 2 files named ACK. Urk.

ROOMERS

By: Steve Gaines

Digital Creations has finally announced a release date for Gizmoz v.2 and D'Buddy. They had been running ads in several publications as far back as the October issues and taking orders. I received a letter from them January 15, 1987 stating that both programs were to be released February 15 (barring any further complications).

In a live teleconference with Trip Hawkins, president and founder of Electronic Arts, on January 21, several very interesting points were brought out. EA is working on an upgrade for Deluxe Video which should be available around March. This is to have even more features. He also stated that they are working diligently on an upgrade for Deluxe Music to correct several bugs in the software. He gave no date for this release but did say that it would be a FREE upgrade. He said EA is definitely interested in further productivity packages such as page layout and others that would be useful in advertizing. An interesting quote from him, "...The ST which started 6 months earlier has sold about 180,000, about the same as Amiga. Atari intro'd a low-end PC and I expect them to focus the ST on Desktop Publishing and de-emphasize trying to sell it to mass merchants, which was not very successful and why they brought out the PC. Amiga should do better in 1987 because Commodore is feeling aggressive now that their P&L is sorted out...". When asked which machine sells the most software for EA, Trip's answer was (for 1986) in this order...C64, Amiga, IBM, Apple II and then a big drop to ST, Mac and Atari 800 with these final 3 about the same.

I received full details on the CMI Kickstart Eliminator and presented same at the Feb. 14 meeting. If anyone who wasn't there needs further info, please call me at 362-5632. We may have a technical article on the product and installation in an upcoming issue.

For anyone using a RAM disk with many of the DOS files stored there, be sure to check out ASDG.ARC, a file available on The Duck Pond and The OPUS System BBS's. This lets you set up a recoverable ram disk that will stay intact thru warm resets or guru's. If you decide to use this software, be sure to follow the instructions exactly and remember that it is SHAREWARE. By the way, it will be useable with ANY amount of memory up to 2.5 Megs and can even be useable if you have only the 512K machine (Extra FAST RAM is NOT necessary for use).

The AbSoft AmigaBasic compiler just started beta testing and is receiving good reactions so far. No release date reported as yet though.

Finally, Discovery Software now has their BBS up & running so that registered Marauder II owners can call & DL new "Brain Files" as they become available to backup new software releases.

Notes

In a live conference with R.J. Mical, father of Intuition, on February 16, several very interesting comments were made. According to R. J., a 1.3 Kickstart and Workbench is in the works, at least conceptually. And it will support booting from any device! No further details or possible ready dates were given but, the impression was left that this will be a reality though not necessarily from Commodore. They seem committed to 1.2 as it is being burnt into ROMs for the new machines. Also, he is negotiating with Commodore on sales and marketing of The Programmer's Suite, a series of developer's tools to help ease software development. When asked his opinion of Commodore's marketing and product direction he said, "I think Commodore could have done better, but they also could have done a lot worse. If not for Commodore, Atari would own the Amiga today. Yuck." He says the last he heard, Sidecar will be about $800. Lastly, when asked his opinion of various programming languages, he gave one of his typical humorous answers. "I like C best. After that, assembler. I like forth, but it can leave you really mystified one day later. I like lisp too, but one must be mad to really use it. Pascal is pleasant, but it gets in the way too much. I am keen to get my hands on a good modula 2."

Many of you probably already know this but, there is a new BBS in town supporting the Amiga, Jerry Hindle's OPUS board now has an Amiga section open offering message bases and a file download area. We have just started this area and have about 1 1/2 Megs of the latest PD software there so far. Jerry told me he has about 45 Megs more disk space available and we can use all of it that we want! Anyone not a member of his board may join by logging on at 353-4563. Jerry welcomes all new members. This board is run on a Leading Edge model D and uses OPUS software, a variation on FIDO but with much better speed. He will also be installing SeaDog, a fantastic messaging and mail facility in the near future. Everybody check it out and support this board too; the more access we have the better for all of us.

ComputerLab has received several new pieces of software recently. In addition to the 1.2 Enhancer package, they have several new games such as World Games, Winter Games, and Sinbad (the second release in the Cinemaware series). They still have the Sidecar on display also as they got an extension on the time they are allowed to keep it. No word yet on when they will have units to sell though.

I just got word on a new Amiga dealer offering products at fantastic prices here in Tennessee. They are Abel Supply and have a modem ordering and catalog line (615) 453-0643. Their prices seem very good to say the least and, they are nearby.

The Hardware Forum

By: Steve Gaines

C-Ltd. has intoduced and is shipping their 20 meg hard disk drive and an SCSI hard disk controller card for the Amiga. The controller card which conforms to the Zorro standard for fixed memory devices will support up to 7 SCSI devices including CD-ROM drives. The hard drive is $799.95, the SCSI controller card is $299.95, or both for $995.95. Both are being discounted by mail order houses.

Side Effects Inc. has developed a full line of Amiga expansion products including a six-slot expansion box, 1 and 2 meg RAM boards, and a 20 meg hard disk drive. All devices fully conform to the Amiga auto-configuration standard. This hard disk drive is the first true DMA access device released for the Amiga. Prices are as follows: expansion box w/power supply $949.00, 1 meg ram board $649.00, 2 meg ram board $799.00, 20 meg hard disk w/controller $799.00.

Commodore has shown their new model 2080 RGB monitor for the Amiga. This is a long-persistance phosphor monitor so that the sometimes annoying flicker is controlled when using interlaced mode. No prices or availability have been announced. They have also shown several prototype DMA hard disk drives. More details of these devices as well as the next members of the Amiga computer family are supposed to be released during the second half of February. So, stay tuned!

Could the release of the Amiga 500 machine, scheduled to be priced in the range of $500 - $600 spell the demise of the C128, also from Commodore? One thing for sure, it will give extremely stiff competition to the Atari 520 and 1040ST machines, although there are rumors that these 2 machines are to be dropped later this year after the release of their mega series machines.

StarBoard Reviews

Microbotics Starboard 2

From: HARRYF on DELPHI

Picked up a Starboard 2 today. Initially, I have it configured with 1 meg and it seems to be very fast. The new virtual disk utilities in DA NEW complement the board very well.

One touchy part of installation was screwing the board into the Amiga's chassis....I managed to strip one of the holes that the board mounts on that is physically in the Amiga. Doesn't take much to do it...if you're installing a board...use care! Wow...it's like a new machine!

From: DRX (Sheldon) on DELPHI

An unsolicited testimonial for the Starboard 2 from Microbotics. It comes in a neat package (about the size of a couple of Allegra's stacked together). The motherboard comes with 512K and has sockets for another 512K. It uses plain-vanilla 256K chips (no, you can't change to 1M'ers later). It passes the buss through. You can get another deck of sockets for another Meg. The price for the board with 512K and sockets for another 512K is $450 retail. The bare-socket upper deck costs $99 retail. So we're talking $550 for the hardware, and another $120-$150 for the chips to bring it up to 2 meg, making a total of about $650-$700 for the 2 Meg. Not bad, and the board is done right. It has no wait states, auto-configs, and passes the buss. Also it's got a space for a multi-function card, due in a couple of months for $99, that will add a 68881 socket and reset-protection for your RAM disk (as well as clock-calendar). I've seen them all, and this is the one I like best, far and away. They are thinking of selling the boards bare in the future, BTM, for even greater savings.

The only other plan I like is some of the internal boards that plug into the 68000 processor sockets. There is one that is supposed to come with a Meg for $350, upgradeable to 4M with 1M chips. That one has a clock-calendar on board. It shouldn't auto-config, though, so you will need to addmem, and there will probably be no reset-protect of RAM disk, either.

From: Bob Wilcox

I have been using a Starboard 2 for several weeks. I have the 2 meg version. It cost $531.00 UPS blue label to my door from Computer Best (1-800-221-6086). Physically, it is the same height as Amy and sits behind the joystick ports (see the Microbotics picture ads in AmigaWorld). The unit took about 10 minutes to install. The setup instructions are clear. The unit has zero wait states and autoconfigs under 1.2. When using 1.1, you must add a program which calls AddMem to the startup-sequence of the boot disk. These are included on a setup disk along with a diagnostic program.

Some programs, e.g. Dpaint, must be processed thru a PD utility called FixHunk to work properly (it appears that some stuff must be force fed into chip memory). Other programs may work OK alone but may produce software errors if other programs are running. Again, after using Fixhunk things seem OK. I have experienced problems with the SHOW feature on DU (software error or guru) when attempting to display some pictures. I think that the 1.2 AddBuffers command is responsible. My experimentation suggests that AddBuffers allocates a portion of the memory area needed for graphics. Removal of AddBuffers from the Startup-Sequence allows the pictures to be displayed. In my view these are software problems, probably occur with other boards, and are not hardware design defects.

Even when a software error occurs, I have continued other tasks without incident. Sometimes you can run the locked up program from another window or by reclicking the icon. Term programs tie up the serial port though so you must reboot. In addition to FixHunk, I use the utilities MakeACV/LoadACV described below.

MakeACV/LoadACV allows you to archive (but not squeeze) files into 1 file. This causes less head seeks by the disk drive when copying to RAM: and reduces the time to copy the C directory by about 50%. The LoadACV command de-archives the file as it loads into RAM. My boot disk copies most of WB into RAM, does the ASSIGNs etc. in 2 minutes and I still have around 1.5 megs left.

Before getting the Starboard 2, I avoided WB whenever possible. Now I use the interlace mode (after tweaking Preference colors) and use WB most of the time. Software errors and gurus were much more devastating and frequent with my 512K system. Best of all I am able to silence my internal drive a lot. It is one of the very noisy ones.

Overall I am quite satisfied with this board. These are only my experiences with this product and I do no intend my comments as a hyperbolic endorsement of Microbotics. There certainly could be defective samples from any manufacturer and/or bugs in this product that escape my limited experience. I am interested in the experiences of owners of Microbotics and other expansion products.

PAGESETTER

From: MIDNIT (Tim Siebert) on DELPHI

Good Morning!

I have Gold Disk's Pagesetter for the Amiga. It really is pretty nice. The main thing is that it does work, and it does do what it promises, even though it has a couple of glitches.

Pagesetter will allow you to enter/edit text, create/edit graphics, and import either one from current popular programs. Graphics should be black/white or very simple gray scale (I don't believe that color printers are supported). Then, you can put the text and graphics in boxes on a page. You can move, link, and resize these boxes; each box is independently formatted (borders, font, leading, background, justification, etc).

It is a little bit slow, and a little bit cumbersome for large projects, but it is a very nice tool for several high quality pages.

The main glitch is in the Pagesetter's print routine. It does not always work correctly. Another utility, provided on the disk, is a viable and almost painless workaround. Printing, however, is slow.

The other glitch has to do with gray scales - apparently it uses its own patterns, which can make some color or gray scaled pictures look quite odd. Line drawings are no problem at all.

In sum, I use it, and I like it. As the first real page-layout software for the Amiga, it is not only promising, but it does set a real standard by which others might be compared.

PageSetter Printing

by Arno Krautter for Gold Disk

Some people have asked about the use of PageSetter with an HP LaserJet or a 24 pin printer. As the program stands now (V1.0) it will output print resolutions up to 120 DPI horizontally, and 72 DPI vertically. If you use a printer with higher resolutions the DumpRPort routine will expand the pixels on the printer, but it'll still look "chunky" although a bit better than "Epson" resolution. The problem is that since we do use DumpRPort, it's limited to a RastPort of 1008x1024 pixels. So, if we wanted to dump to a hi-res printer at full resolution (say 240 DPI for quad density) we'd need a RastPort of 1920 pixels for an 8" page! The only real way around this would be to go the route a la PClones where you have separate specific printer drivers and the program would have to be "configured" for each printer. Another problem is that you'd need screen fonts in all of the resolution corresponding to these printer pixels (to preserve WYSIWYG). Fear not though!

In the works we have a version of PageSetter that will give PostScript output so you can dump a PageSetter document to printers (such as the Apple LaserWriter) which support the PostScript page definition language. In fact this version was demo'd at the CES in Vegas. It can produce full (300 DPI) laser printer resolution. We're also planning to release a PagePostScript module (like PagePrint) for PageSetter V1.0 so that current users will have an easy upgrade path. This will include a set of Amiga format fonts corresponding to the ones built into PostScript (Times, Helvetica, and Courier), and in the future, we'll try to supply the other fonts that Adobe currently offers for PostScript. Also in the pipes is a module that will allow printing on the HP LaserJet and the 24 pin printer, although the screen display will not be WYSIWIG at full resolution (it'll show a Lower Res Version Of What You Get - LRVOWYG!) So, you can see that if you have access to a PostScript printer you could soon be totally independent of the Mac!

Gold Disk will be coming out with a PostScript driver for PageSetter next month. It'll be in the style of PagePrint and will output PostScript sources code to a disk file or directly to the printer. This will allow any document made with PageSetter to be printed on a PostScript laser printer provided that you use the PostScript fonts (these will be supplied with the driver). All registered owners of PageSetter will receive the notice in a mailing to be sent shortly.

Soundscape(tm) Pro MIDI Studio by Mimetics Corporation User Review

by D.GORE on GEnie

I've always been some what cautious about what I read in software product review articles. More often than not, the more informative articles are found within the pages of magazines supported in part by the developers of the software reviewed. It's difficult to believe that anyone is going to bite the feeding hand very hard.

This is no such article. My decision to buy a copy of Soundscape, however, was strongly influenced by such an article. I'm more wary of product reviews as a result.

I'm sure the attitude generated thus far leans heavily toward gloom and doom, but that attitude isn't entirely justified. Let's look at the good, first.

Soundscape is a complete package containing a MIDI editor, sequencer, sound editor, library systems for individual sounds and entire songs, a 16-track multi-mode 'tape deck' for track recording and playback with punch in and punch out capabilities... the list goes on. The system is programmed in several modules, each operating within its own window. These modules include:

Console Keyboard
Play from the computer keyboard, edit its 'switches' to set the current octave, MIDI channel and key.
Sound Editor
Create a sound or edit a sampled sound.
Player Piano
Watch the keys played on the 'piano', different key colors represent different tracks.
Clock
System timer, with start, stop, presets. Monitor in clocks per second or beats per minute.
Tape Deck
Record, playback, punch in, punch out, vary speed, set track mode (good feature!) and channel; this is the workhorse of the system.
Sequence editor
Full sequence editing capabilities, track-by-track justification. Workhorse #2.
Song Editor
The 'tape splicer'; split, combine songs section by section or track by track.
Patch Panel
Lots easier than cables and RCA plugs!

Each module serves the other, and the sharing of information between modules is reasonably good. In the beginning, the system looks and feels much like a jigsaw puzzle whose pieces weren't cut just exactly right, but when the learning curve flattens a bit, the pieces begin to fit well. Soon, the 'puzzle' can practically be assembled in the dark.

The Negative Side

Soundscape is a powerhouse, but it has a few thorns. The problems aren't numerous, but those that exist can be represented by the weak link in the chain - when that link breaks, what good is the chain?

Soundscape is copy-protected. The full name of the system is Soundscape Pro MIDI Studio, and the caption at the bottom of the manual's front cover says, "...the Professional Software Source" (in reference to Mimetics Corp.). Somehow, "copy protection" and "pro" don't mix. This link, however, won't render the chain useless.

The Soundscape system has difficulty identifying its target audience. It is feature-packed for the serious user, but its windows, gadgets, and other bells & whistle soon become laborious. Its ease of use (easy after conquering the fairly long learning curve, that is) would appeal to a casual user, but the features get in the way. It seems the author was trying to please all of the people all of the time.

The stated 512K Amiga requirement is a bare minimum. I recommend no less than 1 megabyte, twice that to make the system behave well. On a 1 megsystem with Workbench and Soundscape loaded, and one of the demo songs using only one sampled sound, Workbench showed 518K left. With more than 1 or 2 sound samples loaded, Soundscape would easily exceed 512K.

The above problems are reasonably minor ones. The weak link that make the chain useless, however, is apparently insurmountable. The author apparently felt that either speed of operation or program size took priority over error checking, specifically memory overruns. In the first five hours of working with Soundscape, the ever-present Guru consulted with me 22 (that's twenty-two, not a misprint) times to crash the system. Memory overruns are my primary suspect, although the Guru visited after the machine was standing idle for a few minutes on at least two occasions. I have yet to guess a cause of that one! A polite phone call and a civil letter to Mimetics has yet to yield even a response.

It's discouraging to see a good piece of software ruined by a lack of support. If for this reason only, I cannot recommend its purchase; in fact, I would encourage anyone to contact Mimetics and simply ask, "Why?".

Last of all, a clasified ad: For Sale: one copy of Soundscape - cheap.

ASDG Mini-Rack & 2M RAM Board

by Rick Schaeffer

I finally got my ASDG Mini-Rack and 2 Meg RAM board up and running so thought I'd plop a one word review of it here (Well... maybe a few more than one <grin>). FANTASTIC! The board plugged right in, power came right up, diagnostics ran fine, and things have been super ever since! The ASDG RAM board seems particularly well made... it auto configures... and it's quiet (electrically and physically).

Best of all, though, is the recoverable RAM disk driver that ASDG supplies with the board. It allows me to keep most of my frequently used commands & files in the RAM disk... yet seems to be able to survive any disaster so that re-booting finds the RAM disk still intact. I was especially pleased to find that I could boot things (like Dpaint II or Draw Plus) that didn't have the RAM disk configured... run them (simultaneously!) and re-boot my normal workbench and still find the RAM disk intact. Saves lots of time!

I'm not an employee of ASDG's or anything... just a very satisfied customer!