April 1990 MAGazine Volume 6 Number 4

CALENDAR OF EVENTS - APRIL 1990

Saturday April 14, 1990 - 1:00 pm - The General Meeting will be held in the Parrish Building, Room #7, which is east of Jennings Hall on the campus of State Technical Institute of Memphis. Because of conflicts with his job Keith Burns has resigned as Treasurer of Mag. The floor will be open for nominations for the vacancy followed by a special election. Due to the power failure last month Charles Williams was unable to present his demonstration comparing PageStream to Professional Page so we have asked him to give it a try this month.

See you there.

HAPPY EASTER

You can always tell when Spring is here even if the weather says differently. One of the ways is that the talk about "Memphis In May" escalates. The other is the arrival of the Easter Bunny. I looked and looked to find an appropriate graphic for this special column and I found this one of Garfield on Compuserve I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

If you have not already guessed this column is about the programmers tradition of Easter Eggs. For those of you in the dark about Easter Eggs, they are surprises and extra help hidden in the software by the programmers. Since Easter and this months newsletter coincide I decided to go on an Easter Egg hunt and publish the treasures I discovered.

Populous - If you would like to try out level #999 enter "KILLUSPAL"

Datastorm - To receive the hidden message left by the game designer, Soren Gronbech, after booting, wait for the Datascores screen to appear then hit F10.

Falcon - If you get into trouble near a runway in the higher levels of the game and you are about ten to twenty feet above the ground if you press help your plane will become a Harrier Jumpjet and will float down to the runway.

Dungeon Master - Did you know that if you go to the dungeon's entrance and face the door and cast the spell "oh ew ra" so you can see through the door you will be surprised by someone or something.

There are Easter Eggs even in our trusty workbench if you know where to look. You may have to get some help trying these since they require some fancy fingerwork.

First, click on the workbench screen screen. Then press left shift and left alt keys, the right shift and right alt keys, and while holding these down, press each function key in turn. Watch the title bar, and read the messages (all 10 of them). There are two additional messages hidden here, also, but these are not quite so innocent and are not as easy to get to. If you can't find them ask me and I'll tell you how to reach them.

Now for the messages hidden in preferences. You can give these a try so far I have not been able to make them appear. Bring up the preferences screen find the two pictures of the mice, the mouse buttons are supposed to actually be gadgets numbered left to right as 1, 2, 3, 4. Click on these buttons in this order

1234, 1234, 1234, 1234

Now select "Change Printer" Then scroll the printer driver list downward with the up arrow gadget. When you reach the top, click the arrow once more and read the message in the title bar.

The next message also uses the mouse buttons in the following order

3242 4322 3242 4322

Now select "Change Printer", then select OK, Then select "reset Colors". Read the message in the title bar.

As I said I have not been able to verify the preferences Easter Eggs if anyone succeeds please Tell me what I'm doing wrong. If you would like to see this become a regular column in our newsletter or if you have an Easter Egg or hint to share please give me a call. We will publish your find along with name in the following Magazine.

David Bath
Editor

Happy Easter

THE FOLLOWING PRODUCTS WERE USED TO CREATE THIS NEWSLETTER

PAGESTREAM

PENPAL

DELUXE PAINT III

PLATINUM WORKS

COMPUSERVE

HAMSHARP

MAGazine
Memphis Amiga Group
Box 17426
Memphis, TN 38187

MAGazine is published monthly by the Memphis Amiga Group (MAG), a nonprofit organization offering assistance to fellow Amiga owners and those interested in the Amiga. Membership in the Memphis Amiga Group is available for an annual fee of $20 per family. Memphis Amiga Group officers for 1990 are:

PRESIDENT
Todd Rooks
(901) 373-0198

VICE PRESIDENT
Brian Akey
(901)458-3699

SECRETARY/TREASURER
LIBRARIAN
Bill Bowers
(901) 360-0003

MAGazine EDITOR
DAVID BATH
(901) 458-8937

ATTENTION AMIGA RETAILERS

REACH A DEDICATED CUSTOMER BASE BY ADVERTISING IN THE MAGazine

FULL PAGE - $25.00
HALF PAGE - $15.00
1/4 PAGE $10.00

FOR MORE INFORMATION
CALL DAVID BATH 458-8937

From the Presidents Keyboard

by Todd Rooks

Your president has been at work this month trying to tie up loose ends in our group's business. I now regularly harvest our weekly mail, a large portion of which is product announcements. I intend to highlight all major announcements as well as other interesting news in this article from now on.

To begin, Grass Roots Video Productions has released two new instructional video tapes for the Amiga. The first one, titled "Mastering Amiga Workbench and CLI" takes the beginner through various aspects of the two operating environments. The second, "Amiga Desktop Publishing with Page Stream", should prove handy to you fledgling Page Stream users (maybe even our editor). The officers will discuss purchasing these tapes for MAG in the executive meeting this month.

Another publisher, Microsearch Inc., has begun shipping their Electronic Color Splitter for use with Digi-View and color video equipment. The device eliminates the need for a color wheel and no doubt enhances output.

For any programmers who write productivity applications, The Puzzle Factory, Inc. (out of Veneta, Oregon) wants to help you market your programs. For info call (503)935-3709.

In our mail this month was a premier issue of "Amiga Games Guide" a bi-monthly newsletter of American and European Amiga Games. Although a bit skimpy on screen shots, this magazine was packed with 66 quality software reviews this month. Also received this month was the premier issue of "Amiga Crossings", an information source for the Amiga Bridge Board.

Attention parents!

Just released is a new disk magazine called the "Ready Robot Club Disk Magazine" for kids in K through 6th grades. Demo issues are available for $5.00. See me for subscription info about any of these publications.

In addition to the above, we received newsletters from six other Amiga users groups including California. Oregon and Georgia just to name a few.

To close, I would like to announce that we will be holding elections for the treasurer position this month. Be sure to attend so that your vote may be counted in this important decision. I hope that this article is a benefit to as many readers as possible, so if you have any suggestions, feel free to send them my way.

ANNOUNCMENT

ROBERT HANSEN WILL BE
INSTALLING FATTER
ANGNUS CHIPS AFTER THE
EACH MEETING. LET HIM
KNOW IF YOU WANT ONE SO
HE WILL KNOW HOW MANY
CHIPS TO BRING.

ANTI-ALIASING

by X-Editor/ED

Anti-What ? --- Aliasing, Jaggies - that ugly stair-step effect created by the square pixels of your computer monitor when it attempts to render a diagonal or curve. Low-Res and high contrast really accentuate this problem. Of course, if your not into computer graphics, right about now your saying "what problem?". For those of you who are interested, I will continue.

What can be done to eliminate or lessen the effect? You could work in high-res and keep the contrast low. For those of you who wear glasses try taking them off, or putting some on if you don't. Or you could buy real long cords for your keyboard and mouse and work 10 or 20 feet back from your monitor. Then there's always a 2000 with a brigeboard, targa board, and a high res multi-sink monitor. All workable, but not very desirable solutions. This is were Anti-Aliasing cornel to the rescue.

This software option "anti-aliasing" avialable in some of the paint and object modler programs smooths the transition between high contrast areas. Two colors from the high contrast area are mixed together in a proportion determined by the percent of the area that would be covered by eachcolor. Than a pixel of that new color is placed between the two high contrast colors. Let me go into a bit more detail about how much of each color is used to make up the new color. Lets imagine a square that will represent our pixel. Now lets draw a diagonal line through it and color one half white and the other half black. The white and black areas each cover a certain percentage of the total area. If I now mix the two colors in the same percentage as the area they cover and recolor the total area with the new color I have a gray square or pixel. On your monitor you would see white then gray (the new pixel) and black. Now do this along the total edge. Some of the new programs allow you to set the amount of anti-aliasing you want. What you will see is white - light gray - medium gray - dark gray - black. This option is not always desirable, but it does help.

THE HELPING HAND

TIPS FOR THE AMIGA TENDERFOOT
(FOR THE TOUGHFOOTED TOO)

New Users

Every day I can surprise more Mac and IBM users just by demonstrating the Amiga's ability to Multitask. It seems even-though multitasking is one of the Amiga's strongest points, it is also one of the least known feature among other computer users. While on Compuserve I came across the article written by Larry Phillips, which should make multitasking a little clearer for our new users and maybe even some of our older ones, like me.

Editor

Multitasking

Some of the most common misconceptions about the Amiga concern its most powerful feature, multitasking. I am constantly hearing such things as "Does this game/spreadsheet/demo multitask?" or "How do I write this program so that it will multitask?" First, let's look at what we really mean by a multitasking environment. On many machines, you are allowed to have more than one program loaded into memory at any time, and to select which one you want to be active. The action you must take to do this does not matter. What does matter is that you have consciously decided to stop the operation of one task, and to start the operation of another. On a machine of this type, the overhead involved may be quite heavy, since the operating system itself does not keep track of the tasks on an ongoing basis. To someone used to multitasking operating systems, this seems to be a patchwork solution at best.

The Amiga's operating system, designed from the start to be able to handle many tasks at once, is far different from the above mentioned machine. Using a system of linked lists of tasks, priorities, and interrupts, the operating system will examine each task at specified times (interrupts) for tasks that are "ready" to run. It will look at their priorities to decide whether or not to switch tasks from whatever is currently running, or to allow the currently running task to continue. The rules of task scheduler are simple. When an interrupt is received by the CPU, the scheduler will be invoked. Interrupts may come from I/O operations, either input or output, or from a timer that interrupts the CPU on a regular basis.

  1. If a task is "waiting", it may be switched out and another task may run. This state may be because the task itself is waiting for an "event", and has explicitly told the operating system that it doesn't need any resources for the time being. It may be because the task has asked for an I/O operation, and can do nothing further until the operation is complete.
  2. When a regular timed interrupt occurs, the task scheduler will look at the current task's priority, and the priorities of all tasks ready to run, and will take an action dependent upon what it finds.
    1. If a ready task has the same priority, the ready task be will be activated.
    2. If a ready task is of higher priority than the current task, the ready task will be activated.
    3. If there are not tasks of equal or higher priority ready, the current task will not be stopped, but will be allowed to carry on. The task scheduler itself is a very small and efficient piece of code, a requirement for any code that will be called so often. In spite of its small size and relative simplicity, it does everything it needs to, with the help of some very powerful instructions built in to the 68000 CPU chip. Without going into too much detail, suffice it to say that the 68000 has the ability to keep many stacks, and to switch between them with a single instruction. This is handy for "putting away" the current state of all the information regarding the active task, fetching the information necessary to the task to be activated, and giving control back to the newly active task.

What this means to the user is that all these operations are transparent, that is, you are not required to tell the operating system that you want to switch tasks. You are not even required to write any special code into your programs to allow for this switching. In fact, the Amiga's operating system allows you to write every program as if it were the only program this is running on the system.

There are a few rules that should be followed, as will be evident if you think about what sort of nasty things could happen if you decided to write data into an absolute memory location without knowing if there was another program, or another program's data there. The beauty of a properly implemented multitasking environment (the Amiga's isn't perfect, but it is pretty darned good). is that you would actually have to make an effort to prevent multitasking from taking place. Doing so is just a bit risky because it would require an intimate knowledge of all the things that have to be handled while you have the operating system tasks disabled.

Let's try a few experiments to see multitasking in operation. You will need a CLI, and you will also need to be running 1.2 Kickstart and WorkBench. Bring up a CLI, CD to RAM: and then bring up another CLI (with the NEWCLI command). Arrange these on the screen so that one is above the other. Let's call them CLI 1 (the top one), and CLI 2 (the bottom one).

Now for a bit more setup... using either CLI, copy your new "STATUS" command (in the ARC file with this text) into RAM:, copy the "TYPE" command from your C: directory to RAM:, and find a text file that is about 40 or 50K bytes long (a C source code file will do). Use either CLI for this setup.

Now we will look at the two CLIs to see what priority they are. Type "STATUS", in CLI 1, then click on CLI 2 and do the same. Look at the first number. It tells you what tasks we are looking at. The status command is only concerned with processes that are running from CLIs, and you should see the command "STATUS" listed under number of the CLI that invoked it. The second number is the priority. They should be the same in both CLIs, (0 if you haven't changed them to something else). Now in CLI 1, type "TYPE filename" (where filename is the name of the file you copied into RAM:), but DON'T hit return yet. Click the mouse pointer in CLI 2, and type "TYPE filename" (same file as in CLI 1).

Now, position the mouse pointer in CLI 1, but before you click, type a <return>. It will activate the TYPE command in CLI 2. Now click the mouse pointer to activate CLI 1, and quickly type a <return>. Notice the activity. CLI 1 and 2 will be typing the same file to their respective windows, but you will notice that they seem to take turns, one typing the file while the other waits. This is in fact what is happening. The task scheduler is looking at both of their priorities, and switching them automatically. Use CTRL C to stop both operations, and now click in CLI 1 and type "CHANGETASKPRI -1" (this command is only available under version 1.2 of the operating system). Type "STATUS" in both CLIs again and take a look at the line that has the STATUS command listed. Notice that CLI 1 now is running at a priority of -1, while CLI 2 is still at 0. The 0 is the higher priority of the two, and when the task scheduler looks at the two tasks, it _should_ give priority to CLI 2. Let's see if it does.

Without hitting a <RETURN>, type "TYPE filename" into CLI 2, then do the same in CLI 1. Hit <RETURN> in CLI 1, and notice that it is running at full speed. Click the mouse pointer in CLI 2 and hit <RETURN>. Lo and behold, CLI 2 now starts to print the file, but CLI 1 has stopped altogether. What has happened is that CLI 2, being of lower priority, never gets a turn.

Now lets look at a "wait" in operation. Remember that a wait can be specifically requested by the active task, or it can be the result of an incomplete I/O operation. Press any key. The active CLI (2 if you have been following directions) will stop. This is an Amigados function, and has nothing to do with the active task, except that it now has to wait for its last requested I/O operation to stop before it does anything else. When you stopped Amigados from outputting text to CLI 2, the task scheduler recognized the fact that CLI 1 was waiting for an I/O operation, looked in its task ready list, found the other TYPE command, and started it up again. Press the backspace key to erase the key you typed in, and the TYPE command in CLI 2 will carry on where it left off, the task scheduler having received an interrupt from the output device, and having recognized that a task of higher priority needed to do some that CLI 1 was waiting for an I/O operation, looked in its task ready list, found the other TYPE command, and started it up again. Press the backspace key to erase the key you typed in and the TYPE command in CLI 2 will carry on where it left off, the task scheduler having received an interrupt from the output device, and having recognized that a task of higher priority needed to do some more processing. The TYPE in CLI 1 is again relegated to the task ready list until conditions are right for it to continue. Press control C. The task in CLI 2 will now stop. Notice that when the TYPE in CLI 2 stops, the one in CLI 1 will again go full blast. Select CLI 1 with the pointer, click, and then type a CTRL C to end the program.

Pretty logical and straightforward isn't it? The amazing thing about all this is that even though large computers have been using these techniques for a long time, the Amiga is the first affordable (to consumers) computer that has incorporated such a powerful idea as a standard feature of its operating system. The examples I have given have a very real and practical use (and you thought it was just a cute bit of comptuer magic).

Let's say you want to run a terminal program. The first thing to remember is to type "RUN ATERM" (or the terminal program of your choice) so that you leave a free CLI. Now you can, at any time, click on the "back" gadget and do things with the CLI. Before doing anything though, use "CHANGETASKPRI -n" (where n is one less than the priority of the terminal program). The STATUS command will tell you what the priorities are. While I think about it, copy this new STATUS program into your command directory, replacing the one that was supplied with your Amiga. Since a properly written terminal program will only need to process keyboard, serial port, and disk data, it uses very little in the way of CPU resources, and anything you run in the reduced priority of the CLI will get a lot of time to do its thing. The net result is that your productivity increases because the otherwise wasted cycles during which the terminal is waiting get full use by the other program. As an experiment, try setting the priorities the same for the terminal and the other task, and you will notice that the terminal program starts displaying rather erratically, getting a smaller share of the time.

Just one more point to cover before we close this up. When multitasking with tasks of equal priority, the clock on the wall will tell you that the tasks each take longer. They are actually executing in the same amount of time, but are not executing ALL the time. The actual time to finish two tasks of equal priority will be the sum of the times they would have taken running alone (not exactly, but close enough). There is an exception, though, and it pays to be aware of it. If there is a competition between two tasks for use of a mechanical device such as a disk drive, the operation could take a lot longer. This is because of the extra time required for moving the head back and forth to the different tracks needed by each task. Seek times are very long in comparison to read times, and the extra time will be significant.

(c) Copyright 1987
by Larry Phillips.

CANDO REVIEW

BY KEN WINFIELD

PUBLISHED BY INOVATRONICS

The Amiga uses a unique interface that made it very easy, but yet powerful to use. Most utilities, paint programs, word processors and desk top publishing programs seem to adhere to this interface. In other words all a person need to know is point and click to do any of a number of tasks on the Amiga. But until now no one has let all of us point and clickers out there to do any programming. To program one must know all of the proper syntax and correct program structure, right?....WRONG!

With the release of CanDo by INOVAtronics all of us have the power to write first class, powerful programs that can call data in from other files, load IFF pictures and sounds, pull-down menus the whole works. CanDo is an Amiga only program that supports almost every feature the Amiga has built into it. CanDo allows you to use the point and click interface to manipulate graphics, sound, animations, calculations, mouse movement, file requesters and on and on and on. And then after you have made your program it allows you to compile it into a form that will run independently of the master CanDo program and is yours to sell, give away etc..

CanDo's ease of use is its' most powerful feature, it doesn't force you to type in pages of text to execute a program. Some but not all of CanDo's features are..

NEW NEWS

...AND THIS JUST IN!

by Johnny C. Lately

Hello. I'm Johnny. Johnny Come Lately, or just Johnny C. for short. I'll be around from now on to keep you informed of the latest and the greatest hot new Amiga titles, and also let you in on the status of those that SHOULD be here but ain't yet. I may even let slip a rumor or two occasionally. (I just KNOW how you like those juicy rumors! Here's one for you: The Software Toolworks - makers of Mavis Beacon Typing, ChessMaster, and Life & Death - is in the process now of dissolving its distribution relationship with Electronic Arts and will shortly ink a deal to buy up Mindscape! How about THAT, software fans!)

For starters we'll plan to just stick ot the hot games and the major productivity products, such as Deluxe Paint and ProWrite, but if a lot of you want to know about other type of new releases, maybe the "techie" stuff and maybe even some hardware, let the editor know at the meetings or on The DuckPond so he can pass it on to me and we'll see if we can't slip 'em in!

Recently out are Amiga conversions of some popular games -

Leisure Suit Larry III: Passionate Patty in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals, Ghostbusters II, Clue: The Master Detective, The Sim City Terrain Editor, Risk, Doulbe Dragon II, Space Rogue, Altered Beast, and Hoyle's Book of Card Games Vol. 1 to name a few. Johnny's HOT NEW CONVERSION of the month is Crystal Quest, which has actually been out for a little while but kind of got lost in the shuffle. It has all the fun and all the graphics and digitized sound of the Mac version, lovingly converted to the Amiga. There IS a bit of screen flicker, since it's an interlace mode, but you hardly notice it once you get lost in this addictive game. Ooo-ohh!

Also new and only for the Amiga right now are T.V. Sports Basketball, Dragon's Lair II: Escape from Singe's Castle, DigiMate 3 (a Digipaint 3 add- on, Aquanaut, Drakkhen, Puffy's Saga, and New York Warriors. Johnny also points to the not-too-old-yet Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a good game to get into with the new live-action movie probably hitting the top of the charts even as you read this.

WHERE THE %$?!# IS IT!!!

Personal Computer veterans know that release dates are more apt to change than the number of pimples on a teenager's face! There are many Amiga titles that were supposed to be out before this past holiday season, and STILL haven't made it to the store shelves! These include such highly wanted items as Their Finest Hour, Pool of Raidance, Dragon Wars, European Challenge (The Duel data disk), Hardball II, Mech Warrior, Mean Streets, Pirates, Star Trek V, and Sierra titles King's Quest IV, Police Quest II, and Silpheed. Sierra tells me that those three titles have been taken off their calendar for right now, so don't hold your breath! But hopefully (for you breath-holders) by the time this column sees print Their Finest Hour from Lucasfilm will finally bein your hands. Pool of Radiance MIGHT be out soon, too, but according to Johnny C.'s sources Amiga fans might be treated to Champions of Krynn first!! The other delayed titles I mentioned have all just kinda floated away for now, and Johnny's got NO info on them at the moment. Hopefully by next month I'll be able to clue you all in on the status of this seeming vaporware...

...A former piece of vaporware, ISHI-DO by the now-defunct Epyx, now looks like it'll be released by Accolade. What's more, after THAT deal came about, it seems that Epyx and their software line was picked up by someone, but Johnny doesn't have a name yet. More on this when I do! Two other long- awaited titles, Life & Death and Chessmaster 2100, seem to have been pushed back to the Fall. Guess all you amateur surgeons and budding chess champions will have to sweat it out a few more months!

NOW FOR THE IMPORTANT STUFF: What! You say THAT'S coming out? For the AMIGA!?! When!? When?! Hopefully by the time the big summer avalanche of new software hits we should be seeing the following titles (barring, of course, delays and bugs and bankruptcies and the programmer quitting/getting fired/getting arrested, etc!). Some of these assuredly won't make it out until the late summer/early fall or even later. But here's Johnny's list of titles expected to be out soon for your Amiga:688 Attack Sub 'Vette Turbo Out Run Hero's QuestThe Colonel's Bequest Loom F-19 Stealth FigherSkate Or Die The Fool's Errand ProWrite 3.0 Might and Magic II Greg Norman's Shark Attack Golf Sci-Mutant Priestess Neuromancer Sword of Aragon Manhunter 2: San Francisco The Conquests of Camelot

TECH-stalgia

Last week David Lambert, another Software Etc. manager and I were talking. During the conversation we started reminiscing about the early days of home computers.

At the time I purchased my first computer my father was nearby to offer me his expert advice. I listened to his every word after all he had been involved with the first computer that maintained Southeaster section of the Strategic Air Command.

My choice at this time was between an Atari 400 w/48k, An atari 800 w/64K, and a Commodore 64. I made a long study before making this major purchase and decided on the Atari 800, (wrong as usual).

My next concern was a disk drive and the possibility of more memory. The disk drive won out at a price of almost $450.00. I didn't worry much about the extra memory because my father had assured me that I would never use 64K.

As I related this story David and I laughed as we both are now memory hungry, and we dream of super fast read, write, and erasable optical disk drives promised us for the future.

We began thinking that if we could get a laugh out of the old days so could the MAG Members. This is how TECH_stalgia was born.

We began pulling out old magazines we have collected during our love affair with our computers and rediscovered things we had forgotten long ago. So I invite everyone on a journey each month for a humorous look at our roots. I welcome any contributions and anecdote, from the membership, to add to the column.

We have found a lot of old advertisments for the original Amiga company, which distributed accessories for items like the Atari 2600. In Electronic Games December, 1984 there is an ad for an amazing controller named FOOT ON CONTROLLER, manufactured by a small company named Amiga, known for its unusual joysticks.

The ad reads as follows.

Fancy Footwork ....

And the joystick beget the joyboard. Amiga's skateboard-like controller plugs into your game or computer consul and lets you direct the action with foot and body movement. Sail down ski slopes in Amiga's "Mogul Maniac" game or wrestle through waves in surf's up. The joyboard is compatible with most games and computer software. Joyboard and "Mogul Maniac" game retails for $50.00

Does the joyboard remind everyone, like me, of a certain product called the powerpad that was released by the dreaded "N" word. Until next month,

David Bath

Welcome to our new members
Scott Brown
Jack Corbin
Eddie Yarbough
Robert Criton