March 1994 MAGazine Volume 10 Number 3

The March General Meeting of the Memphis Amiga Group will be held Saturday, March 12 from 1:00 pm until approximately 3:00 pm in the Farris Auditorium on the campus of State Technical Institute at Memphis.

The newsletter is published monthly for distribution to the members of the Memphis Amiga Group. MAGazine contains meeting announcements, hardware and software reviews, video and book reviews, and other information of interest to Amiga and computer users in general. Contributions are welcome and may be submitted in hardcopy or via disk in ASCII format at any meeting or you can upload to Operator Headgap BBS - (901) 759-1542 or V.32bis hi speed operating CNET PRO v3.05c software. Be sure to leave a note to the sysop.

From the President's CLI

by Bob Nunn

Ice Storm

Most of us were awakened by the sound of cracking limbs and the only illumination, eerie purple and green lightning flashes. As you know the power transformers popping and arcing were responsible for that strange light show. The clocks stopped at my house at 2:00 AM early Friday the 11th morning. I put the BBS back up at 3:40 PM Sunday. Doing without power sure makes a person appreciate things we take for granted. I found myself snapping on a light switch when I entered a darkened room and trying to figure out how to get the rented tape out of the VCR to return it. I suspect that many of us will be a little better prepard the next time, like maybe a really big UPS for the whole house?

February Meeting Cancelled

We tried to get in touch with State Tech all day Friday and again Saturday morning. When we didn't reach them we tried Gridley's and finally the motel nearby. The motel answered and said they were without power and we assume the rest of the area. We were forced to cancel the meeting. We split the members list up with Tom O'Brien (Vice President) and notified all members. If we missed you and you showed up we apologize.

Club Purchase Vote

We contacted two local Amiga vendors and asked them for bids on an Amiga 1200. We asked that the machine be equipped with an FPU/Clock/Memory Board with 2 megabytes of additional ram. Both vendors expressed an interest in taking our 500 in trade. We will share the results with you at the meeting. Come prepared to vote to approve the purchase.

March Demo: AMAX & Final Writer

Shelley Franklin volunteered to bring up her Opal Vision equipped 4000 which she recently added AMAX to. AMAX is a Mac emulator that does a good job running all MacIntosh software. I have invited the Mac users from my bbs to come and visit us at the meeting. This should prove to be a very exciting demo. We are also planning to review Final Writer from the makers of Final Copy and it is their latest release. I really like Final Copy and I hope that you are as excited as I am about this Word Processor/Publishing program.

Phone Numbers & Upgrades

Most of you have made the transition to my new Operator Headgap BBS phone numbers. One feature I want to remind you of is the system automatically goes from the 759-1542 number to the 1543 line if the first number is busy. You may just want to program the 1542 number in your term, since it will automatically connect to the other. If you are having trouble connecting or anything call and let me know what problems you are having. When you call please have your modem brand, and term program information available. Our new voice number is 759-1541. I have also added a Quantam 270 to Operator Headgap which brings the storage up to 775 megabytes, and also upgraded the software to CNET PRO v3.05c. MAG members get special access.

MAG Meetings

The Memphis Amiga Group (MAG) holds general meetings the second Saturday of each month in the Farris Auditorium on the campus of State Technical Institute at Memphis (see map at left).

There will be a board of directors lunch meeting at Gridley's in the formal dining room begining at 11:00 A.M., Saturday, March 12 (before the general meeting). For more information call Bob Nunn at 901-759-1541.

Memphis Amiga Group Officers for 1994

President
Bob Nunn
(901) 759-1541

Vice President
Thomas O'Brien
(901) 872-6962

Secretary
Cheryn Nunn
(901) 759-1514

Treasurer
Terry Campbell
(601) 393-4864

Librarian
Bill Bowers
(901) 360-0003

MAGazine Editior
Charles Williams
(501) 655-8777

MAGazine Printing & Distribution
Terry A. Campbell
(601) 393-4864

Disk Sales & Video Rentals

MAG library and Fred FISH disk are $2 each.
($5 each for non-members)
Quality blank disks with labels are 65¢ each.
($1 each for non-members)
Rental of Amiga related videotapes is $3 per week.
(not available to non-members)
For all this and more contact club librarian
Bill Bowers (901) 360-0003
OR see Bill at the next MAG general meeting.

Advertising Rates

Full Page $20.00
1/2 Page $11.00
1/4 Page $7.50
1/8 Page (or business card) $3.00

(contact Terry Campbell at 601-393-4864)

INFO

The Memphis Amiga Group (MAG) is a non-profit organization whose purpose is promoting and encourageing the use and understanding of the Commodore Amiga Computer. Memberships are open to all those who share a common interest in the Amiga computer and its many wonderful and unique features. Monthly meetings are open to the public and visitors are welcome.

Annual membership dues for new members are $25.00 with an annual renewal rate of $20.00. Associate memberships are available for $15.00 per year, renewable at the same rate, to those who must travel more than 45 miles one way to attend general meetings. All memberships are family memberships and dues are nonrefundable.

Club Sponsored BBS

Scott Pitts is now running the MAG BBS which is also called the Amiga Pitts. The BBS has many excellent features including a large file transfer area and the Fred Fish Collection CD-ROM online. The BBS needs your support, call today! 901-753-9992 (16.8 HST) and 901-753-9719 (v32.bis)

DIGGERS Review

by Ron McCalla

Diggers is a strategy game from Millennium Interactive Ltd. It's been out for a while in a CD-32 version. Rumor has it, that it was even distributed with purchase of some CD-32s in Europe. I recently purchased the Amiga 1200 version which is supposedly identical except for the number of world-levels. I don't believe there is a non-AGA version for older Amigas.

On first look, Diggers resembles the classic Lemmings, but the simularities are mostly superficial. Like Lemmings, you control a team of brain-dead creatures who will gladly wanter off a cliff if you let them, but unlike lemmings, diggers have a very limited repetoire of behaviors and require much more constant attention. Each level of Lemmings is basically a puzzle; every time you play a specific level, the puzzle is the same. But in Diggers, the levels involve a bit more arcadish play as you must race against a team of computer-controlled competing miners.

According to the manual (more on that later), the game is set on the planet Zarg, a planet rich in gems. Outworlders such as yourself are allowed to prospect on Zarg during a brief one-month period each year. During that month you send a team of miners (called diggers) out to find gems and ore and bring them back to the Zargon bank. If you accumulate a specified amount of wealth before a rival team of diggers do, then you get to prospect in more areas of the planet.

At the beginning of the game, you visit the Controller's Office. There you examine a map of the planet and choose a territory in which to prospect. You also choose one of the native species to perform the actual labor. Your job is simply that of manager. Each of the four species available to you have various strengths and weaknesses.

The Grablins are the fastest miners, but they have been known to wander off to find their favorite intoxicant, Grok.

The Quarriors are the strongest. They are good fighters, handy with dynamite, and expert saboteurs. However, they tire easily and are slow diggers.

The Habbish are the weakest. They quickly lose interest in digging. Occasionally, often at the most inopportune time, they gather in a circle to chant to their Lord High Habborg. But they have the unusual power to use the telepoles of the other species to sneak into their domain and steal their treasures.

The F'Targs are the second fastest diggers, slower than the Grablins, but they persevere longer than the others. They are not aggressive, not good fighters, but they can heal themselves faster if injured.

Once you leave the Controller's Office, you begin the dig. Your five diggers begin on the surface, and you, via your mouse, select each miner in turn and give him general instructions. Pressing the right mouse button, pops up a menu of gadget icons for walking or running (left or right), jumping, stopping, digging (any of seven directions), picking up or putting down tools searching for gems, or teleporting to your telepole (normally at your base). There are also special gadgets (e.g. a timer icon) which appear when using certain tools (e.g. explosives). You can issue only one command to each digger, and he will continue to perform that task until it is completed or until you issue another instruction. A status panel at the bottom of the screen constantly display the current cash balance of your account at the Zargon World Bank, an icon indicating the selected digger's current task, a bar-graph of his health, icons showing the gems he has collected, flags showing your relative success at completing the current game level, and gadgets for selecting any of your diggers or their equipment, or for displaying their inventory or locations. During your play of the game, you will constantly be clicking this or that gadget, inspecting and changing the orders of each of your diggers. Like lemmings, they are inclined to fall into pits or wander into the clutches of dangerous creatures.

When your diggers find gems, you can send them back to the base and then to the bank. Traders there will buy your gems, (Beware! The prices fluctuate.) and you can either let the money accumulate or use some of it to buy tools at the store next door. Equipment includes flood gates, telepoles, track, mining cars, tunneling machines, bridge parts, rafts, explosives, a map, elevators, and first aid kits. Unfortunately, most of it is quite expensive and out of your reach in the early levels. At first, all you can do is tell your diggers to dig, manually, and this tires them out quickly. Too much digging and a digger will expire from exhaustion. Once is a while you have to tell them to stop and rest.

Eventually, though, your diggers should find enough treasure to satisfy the Controller that you can move on to the next territory, where you begin your hung all over again with a fresh set of diggers.

I have a feeling I might like diggers once I bet better at it, but I found the learning curve unnecessarily steep. The manual was of little help. You probably learned as much or more from reading my description than I did by reading the manual before playing. Thanks to the manual, I quickly lost the first level which should have been easy. Only through trial and error did I figure out what really was expected of me as "Master Miner".

Although it's 32 pages long, half of the manual is in French. Of the remaining 16 pages, page 1 is devoted to the title, page 2 is merely credits and copyright, page 3 is the contents page, and page 4 is mostly filled with how to begin, save, or end the game. Page 5 is more useful. It show the control and status icons, but it doesn't explain them much. Most of the information on this page can be learned by experiment (and was). Pages 6, 7, and 8 are wordier versions of the species descriptions I gave you above. Pages 9, 10, and 11 describe the land, plants and animals of Zarg. This appears to be totally useless. The land descriptions all go something like this: Grassland (or Forest, or Jungle, or Desert, or etc.) is mainly flat/dense/sandy/icy/jagged/etc. blah blah blah with underground lakes or rivers. All the descriptions like to tell you about the underground lakes or rivers. Except for the metion of strange plants in the Jungle areas or lost cities in the Canyons, they all sound remarkably the same. I found it vaguely interesting that the flora described included Triffids, and that the fauna included dinosaurs and Sand Worms, but again, it all seems to be rather useless info. Pages 12, 13, and 14 describe the types of mining equipment you can buy. This is informative, thought it could have said more. Finally, on pages 15 and 16, the manual describes the history of Zargon mining. Buried in these paragraphs are a few meager hints and a paragraph explaining how to win the game (earn a specified amount of money for each zone or eliminate your opponent's miners). I guess you can tell I didn't care much for the manual. The author tried too hard to be cutesy and didn't try enough to be instructive. By the way, the manual is in glorious black and white on cheap stock. Anyone could do better at Kinko's.

Oh well. It's the game that counts, and I would rate Diggers as a B+. The graphics are adequate (should have been better for an AGA game), the controls (once you get used to them) are easy enough. The background music does get a little grating after a while (no mention in the manual of an option to turn it off). I think if I can survive enough levels to find those lost cities and native-eating Triffids, I might come back and raise that rating. We'll see. In the meantime, when considering my rating, remember that I have only recently acquired the game and haven't gotten too far into it yet.

Diggers comes on four 880k disks, and is hard-driven installable. I haven't seen any copy-protection (yet). It's priced in the $45 range.

Picasso II graphics board Review

By Mike Meyer

PRODUCT NAME

Picasso II graphics board

BRIEF DESCRIPTION

This is a multiple format graphics board that integrates into the Monitors system found in AmigaDOS 2.04 and beyond, providing screen modes ranging from 24-bit deep 320x200 to 1600x1200.

AUTHOR/COMPANY INFORMATION

Name: Village Tronic/Expert Services
Address: 7559 Mall Road
Florence, KY
40142
Telephone: (606) 371-9690
Fax: (606) 282-594

LIST PRICE

There was some confusion about the price, caused by special "show prices" for the boards. I've heard either $500 or $550 for the 1 meg board, and $550 or $600 for the 2 meg board. I wound up paying $485 for a 1 meg board at my local dealers, and $50 for the extra meg of RAM at a local nerds' supermarket.

SPECIAL HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS: HARDWARE

Zorro II slot required. I don't know how well this works on the expansion boxes available for the low-end Amigas, but would be interested in finding out.

Two meg of Fast RAM required, and more would be useful.

SVGA or multisync monitor required, and the board is happier with a high-speed multisync.

SOFTWARE

AmigaDOS 2.04 required, 3.0 makes more features available.

COPY PROTECTION

None.

MACHINE USED FOR TESTING

A3000/25, 16 meg Fast RAM and 2 meg Chip RAM, AmigaDOS 3.1. NEC MultiSync 4FG monitor.

I bought this board specifically for use with Amiga Mosaic 1.1.

VERSION INFORMATION

The Picasso support software used was: village.library 2.53, vilintuisup.library 2.7, and PICASSO firmware v1.43 (22.09.93).

These are the versions of the software that the North American distributor recommended until January 29, 1994. PICASSO firmware v1.44 is available, but it's recommended that 1.43 be used instead.

Later versions of this software are available in Europe, and as of January 29, 1994, one is available in North America. Users are not uniformly happy with the upgrade. It corrects all or most of the bugs mentioned in this review, but introduces some rather annoying new ones. Whether you prefer the upgrade or the reviewed version will depend on what applications you use.

WHY I BOUGHT A PICASSO

Those of you who know me - or at least know my view on graphics - are probably wondering what I'm doing reviewing a graphics board. After all, I always claimed that more colors weren't very important, and for resolution width (and lots of it) over either depth or height. Well, there's one application that is sufficently important and useful that I think it deserves the enviroment it expects.

Amiga Mosaic is an Amiga port of NCSA's Mosaic. It's a World Wide Web browser, with support for gopher, ftp, and news as well as the http protocol used by the web. One problem with this program is the large number of documents on the web that assume a 256-color display for embedded images. Indeed, many of those images are no more than links to photographic quality jpeg images. Surfing the web on a high resolution, interlaced 16 color display meant looking at many poorly rendered pages. The thought of being able to display those photographic images properly, as well as view the web pages the way the author intended, was too much. I went out and bought this card.

INSTALLATION

Installation of the hardware and software is dealt with in the HARDWARE and SOFTWARE sections below, respectively.

HARDWARE

The hardware is the basis for the entire product; if it's poor, nothing else really matters. This is a very solid piece of hardware.

The card installation was straightforward, though it was a tight fit in my aging A3000. The provided cable for connecting an SVGA video socket to the Picasso fit nicely in the A3000 deinterlacer port. The card plugged in and worked the first time, with no problems. Installing a second meg of memory was straightforward, though the tight fit caused a few worried moments while unplugging it.

With either one or two meg of memory, the provided viewers as well as MultiView and the ADPro driver, all produce truly amazing images on the NEC 4FG monitor. Mouse scrolling is smooth and fast, whether the sprites are the good old Amiga low resolution sprites, or sprites that use the same resolution as the screen. Screen scrolling up and down is also fast and smooth, though you can't move the mouse pointer above the top of the screen it's on, and 256 color screens don't scroll. These are apparently a software limitation fixed in the next release.

Screen flipping between screens with the same mode is as quick for Amiga screens. For screens more than 4 bits deep, which use chunky pixels, redrawing the screen is something you can watch happen. Screen flipping with a mode change has a noticeable delay, and in some cases an audible click. If you're changing between standard Amiga modes and the Picasso modes, the click always happens. If you're changing between Picasso modes, it seems to be random. If you're used to Amiga screen-switching, this might be annoying, even though it is brief. If you've been using other multi-screen systems, it probably won't be. In comparison to the multi-screen window managers for an X workstation, you get to watch the Picasso screen go briefly blank and then your new screen appears, as opposed to watching an X screen slowly redraw all the windows you had open.

Most of the new screen modes work just fine, including the 1600x1200 mode, though two modes (1120x832 and 1152x900) refused to sync on my monitor. Again, I'm not sure if that's because the hardware is trying a mode my monitor can't use, because the software isn't working properly, or because those modes are too close to the limits of my monitors capabilities.

By choosing one mode for my main working screens (1024x768, in depths ranging from 2 to 8), I avoid all of these problems, and get more usable work enviroment than I previously had. Since the Picasso II seemed a rather expensive investment for one program and viewing pretty pictures, this was a relief.

Again, those who have discussed graphics with me before will recall that I'm willing to trade speed for wider, but not for deeper. In going from super high resolution interlaced to 1024x768 I lost bits but got a tighter image. I managed to recover the lost display area by going to a smaller font. As for speed, here are the results of using the IntuiSpeed test that came with the board, for both the super high resolution interlaced screen I used to use, and various depths of 1024x768.

Super-High Res Laced
4 colors
1024 x 768
4 colors
1024 x 768
16 colors
1024 x 768
256 colors
Draw Points 75186 61154 55530 59639
Draw Lines 6124 3046 1593 1395
Draw Boxes 2051 2575 1468 1000
Draw Circles 630 427 378 455
Scroll vertical 193 690 368 183
Scroll horizontal 196 192 97 94
Draw Text 4388 6101 4085 2835
Draw Frames 2716 2570 1569 671
Window open/close 46 41 27 17
Window size change 101 91 85 75
Window Move 467 409 313 229

The test measures the number of various operations that are done in a fixed amount of time. While super high resolution interlaced is faster for simple drawing, the Picasso using 1024x768 mode with the same number of colors is faster for text (notably for the important operation of vertical scrolling) and in the error range for window operations. Notice that the 256 color mode is faster for drawing points and circles than the 16 color mode, almost certainly thanks to the chunky pixel memory organization used for that mode.

For those interested, my primary work screen is 1024x768 with four colors. Mosaic gets a 256 color screen, as I use it for displaying GIF images. While I seldom use my Workbench screen, other users of my Amiga seldom use anything else, so it's set to a depth appropriate for them. My 5-year-old child enjoys his 16-color icons.

SOFTWARE

Without the software, the hardware is just a board. While the software isn't rock solid, it's already usable, and apparently fixable. I'm going to cover the various programs provided in order of increasing importance.

Software installation uses Commodore's Installer program, and I had no problems with it. Running it multiple times works fine. I haven't tried the "uninstall" package; I don't plan on doing so soon.

The least important program is PicassoPhoto. The documentation doesn't mention it, but it apparently lets you save Picasso screens as IFF images.

The package includes TVPaint Jr. and MainActor and their documentation. MainActor didn't impress me as an animation player nor viewer. I have so little interest in TVPaint that I haven't bothered installing it yet.

Next is PicassoSwitch. This is a commodity that allows you to switch between Picasso and Amiga graphics output. Since you can set the graphics drivers to do this automatically there isn't much need for PicassoSwitch. Except for some long delays after odd modes, the driver handles this perfectly. The only time I've dealt with PicassoSwitch was in checking to see if the two modes that didn't work on my monitor might have been a failure of the mode sensing software. It does what it's supposed to do.

StyxBlank is a screen blanker commodity that uses the Picasso screen mode. It's the now-relatively-old moving, color-changing line. The blanker is simple, with few features, but it does the job. Your old blanker may work just fine, even with Picasso mode promotion, if the program uses system calls for graphics, and checks the size of the screen it opens. For the modular blankers, this could require configuring every module separately. I use ShadowMaster, which has this problem. On the other hand, every module now runs in a Picasso screen, ranging from 320x240 up to 1600x1200.

The various viewers rank next, and we'd be getting into some really useful software with those. However, IntuiView needs to be discussed first. It implements a good idea - it's a configurable file viewer and manipulator. It's also a common idea; most of the directory utilities available already provide these kinds of facilities, as does Amiga Mosaic. Thus, I haven't used IntuiView at all.

The software includes viewers for IFF, GIF and JPEG images. The first thing you notice about the viewers is their speed. Not only do they do the conversion quickly, but also they open the display and you get instant feedback about what's going on. Compared to something like MultiView with appropriate datatypes, they're a marvel.

Their disadvantages become obvious quickly - they try to choose the smallest resolution on which your image fits. In at least one case, that means they chose a resolution that my monitor couldn't display. The IFF and GIF viewers will let you specify a resolution, but won't let you scroll the image if it doesn't fit in that resolution. The JPEG viewer lets you pick the color depth, but not the resolution, and only lets you scroll if you use the undocumented scroll switch. The net result is that I wasn't using any off them as external viewers in Mosaic, until I stumbled over the scroll switch for ViewJPEG. I recently turned that on, and will probably leave it on.

The program you'll probably use the most is ChangeScreen. It's a commodity that watches for other programs to attempt to open screens, and lets you change the screen mode they've asked for. ChangeScreen helps programs that don't give the user a chance to chose a screen mode from the 2.04 monitors list. Programs that let you select a screen mode will offer the Picasso modes as a choice, and everything should work fine.

If the program that's having its screen promoted is smart enough to check the size of the screen it opened, this can work quite nicely. Even if the program doesn't do that check, many of them can benefit from being opened on a Picasso mode screen. A few don't work very well. It takes some experimenting for each program that you're going to do this for to find out whether it will work, and the best resolution to use.

When in use, ChangeScreen allows you to promote screens of a specific type to some other type automatically, or to choose a mode for a program opening a specific screen name. Being a little paranoid, I've never tried the first option. The second works quite nicely, barring bugs in programs that cause their screen name to change.

In normal use, ChangeScreen brings up a requester every time a program that's not in its database tries to open a screen mode that's not automatically promoted, and you have to deal with that. This is what causes problems with blankers, as noted above. Normally, you tag the program as "always promote", or "never promote", and forget it. You also have the option of promoting (or not) for just that invocation. Once a program is in the database, you can change it's screen mode, including back to "leave it alone."

The ChangeScreen window also allows you to select programs from a requester and select a mode, but this doesn't appear to work. The requester puts the programs path in the database, so it fails to match when the program runs.

ChangeScreen can also force old programs to use Topaz 8 instead of the default system font, and can be set to patch only the programs that use the AmigaDOS 1.x OpenScreen call.

In practice, ChangeScreen works fairly well. The only program it's caused a problem with has been my screen blanker, because I had to set it up for each module. While this took some time to fix, it was worth it. Some of the old standards - StarBlanker, Swarm - look fantastic on a 1600x1200 display!

Now we come to the heart of the package: the Picasso Monitor. This program, and its support libraries, are what hook the Picasso card into the system so that Is modes show up on the system screen modes list. It also maps the systems graphics calls into their Picasso equivalents, so that programs that use the new mode have a chance of working properly.

There aren't very many options you can set here. You need to say what bandwidth your monitor is; the installation script sets that for you. You can arrange things so that the software uses the Amiga's blitter instead of the CPU, which is useful if you have a slow CPU. You can control whether all the bit planes in a screen scroll at once (recommended. if nothing breaks). Finally, you can control whether you get a sprite in standard Amiga resolutions, or in the Picasso resolutions. This last feature caused some troubles, because the documentation doesn't mention that if you haven't created a custom mouse pointer, the default shows up as a Picasso resolution sprite even if you've disabled that. This is not only confusing, but also a bit ugly. They recommend using standard Amiga sprites if you're going to use high resolution, as the high resolution sprites are tiny, and hard to see. I heartily concur! You can get the default pointer as an Amiga resolution by invoking the pointer Preferences program, and Saving it as is.

This software works. It's not 100 percent yet; there are problems with sprites getting lost, or stuck in the menu bar. There are problems with program rendering small things that wind up on the wrong screen. It interferes with things that monitor the input stream, like AutoPoint, Snap, and WShell's DHOpt. Also, the system just feels less stable than it used to. It seems as I find it frozen after being left alone for long period of time, and that it crashes more often than It used to. I don't have any concrete evidence, just a feeling. On the other hand, the vendor claims there is a new version coming out soon that should many of the listed bugs, plus the problems mentioned in the section on hardware. That could go a long way towards making this feeling go away as well.

DOCUMENTATION

Without the documentation, the software is just code. This is where the Picasso II package has the most problems.

The documentation is a 100-page spiral-bound pamphlet. It could have come from your local copy shop. Besides the omissions already mentioned, it contained a large number of typographical errors, and was apparently printed on a 300 dpi laser printer. It gets low marks for overall quality.

It provides detailed instructions for installing the card. If you're comfortable working inside an Amiga, you don't need this. If you're not, you should have someone else install the card for you. The effort spent on this section should have gone elsewhere.

It also included a long and somewhat muddy explanation of how various monitor frequencies interact, and culminating in a specious explanation for why they don't provide 24 bit color on 1280x1024 screens. While this may be interesting, it isn't relevant, and this section be moved into the technical section.

The software documentation covers most - but not all - of the included programs. Most notably, CheckPicasso and PicassoPhoto are missing, and the IntuiSpeed documentation tells you little more than the name and display tell you. Since these three programs do not have English localization, this is particularly painful. What does exist is somewhat muddy and badly organized. Lack of an index makes this particularly painful.

On the plus side, they include a troubleshooting guide that seems to cover the obvious and some not-so-obvious problems, and complete programming information. They also include a glossary of technical terms.

LIKES AND DISLIKES

The board provides a much more usable work environment than ECS Amiga graphics; provides beautiful renderings of deep images; and takes Amiga Mosaic to a new level of usability. This board shows that working in a modern graphics environment is no longer just a luxury.

On the hardware side, the noticeable delays in switching screen modes, even from one Picasso mode to another, and the two unusable modes are annoying. These may caused by the monitor and not the Picasso.

On the software side, I dislike the problems it creates in other software, and the low quality of the documentation. The interference with input commodities is annoying, as is the instability of the software. Likewise, the provided viewers are suitable only for very specific purposes.

Fixing the stability problem has to be first on the list of suggestions. Tools for creating screen modes - especially if I could disable some of the current standard modes - would be excellent additions. Having the ChangeScreen facility use a multiselect file requester would help. Reworking the viewers to make them more intelligent, and providing scrolling where needed, would be useful improvements.

COMPARISON TO OTHER SIMILAR PRODUCTS

The similar products are the GVP Spectrum and the Piccolo board. The Picasso seems to have the best Workbench emulation, which was high on my list. It also has an edge in price, which never hurts. Its major disadvantage is missing a Zorro III mode, which makes it slower. Since Jochim Worringen's review of the Piccolo card seems to indicate that a faster CPU is more important than bus width in this regard, this is not that critical: the fastest Piccolo/Picasso configuration was a 33 MHz 68030, being 30% faster with 256 colors than the same card in 8 colors in Zorro III mode.

BUGS

I've mentioned most of them: lost sprites and things rendering on the wrong screen. In addition, text cursors sometimes get misplaced, and wind up being erased to the wrong color. The vendor believes most of these to be AmigaDOS 3.x related and expects to solve those bugs with their next release of the Picasso software, due out soon. In addition, that release will solve the limitations on screen scrolling, and should include more English text for the programs that need it.

Before I installed the second meg of RAM, the graphics problems were even worse. Normally, this involved artifacts from an already-open Picasso screen appearing on a newly opened screen. In one case, using the console clear screen sequence to clear it up caused a checkerboard to cover the console window. You can usually clear these by flipping screens away from and back to the dirty screen. All these problems vanished with the two-megabyte upgrade.

VENDOR SUPPORT

I contacted the US vendor on a Saturday, to find get the chip types for the second meg of RAM (another omission from the manual). I also discussed the bugs mentioned in the first paragraph of the BUGS section. They were polite, provided the information I needed, or quickly admitted when they didn't have it, suggesting I call back during the week.

WARRANTY

One year from the manufacturer. Local support depends on your dealer.

CONCLUSIONS

This board does what I bought it for. With two meg of RAM, the hardware seem to function quickly and reliably. The software still needs work, but that is apparently happening in a timely fashion. In this case, those of us in North America are on the slow end of the pipeline. While I'm not 100% satisfied with the board to date, I don't regret the purchase.

Copyright 1993, Mike Meyer

Another Look at 3DO

Well.. here is the SF bay area (not sure about elsewhere) Blockbuster video has been renting the units and many of the titles, so a few weeks ago I rented on and hung onto it for a week or so. I got a chance to play Crash and Burn (thru to the end..) Escape from Monster Manor (like Wolf 3D or Doom on the PC), Total Eclipse, Battle Chess, Stellar Seven (narration by Michael Dorn of ST:TNG!) and several of the multimedia educational titles.

My impressions?

I was suitabily impressed by the speed and color of the graphics, but the form of video compression they use (cinepak) is lossy and leaves their full-motion quarter screen video looking a little artifacted and rough. I understand that an Mpeg module is in the works, however, and that should help out quite a bit. Another problem was the muddy composite video out, which is most likely a problem directly related to the Panasonic player. If you have seen the A1200's color composite out, then you may be disappointed by 3DO's signal quality. They have thoughfully included an S-video connector, and this is much better IMO, almost computer grade on my TV. The multimedia titles (all ports from various platforms) were weak, but the games were all strong or promising. Of special note were Total Eclipse and Escape from Monster Manor, which, while not perfect, were simply amazing looking and very promising. Escape has the added appeal of being written by some Amiga alumni, and at the end of the game credits thanks is given to Amiga owers/users everywhere...

The unit is well made and quite a blast to play around with, but in no way is it worth the 699$ entry price. 499$ list, with a lower street price, is ideal for the price/performance it provides.

News from Trip during a meeting with a friend of mine confirmed that end users are not the only ones who feel 3DO's price is way out of line, and he expects the prices to drop shortly, altho he wasn't saying exactly how much...

>Jim N

ADpro 2.5 released by ASDG

ADPro 2.5 is now available for upgrading. For the first time, you can upgrade your ADPro over the phone via credit card. Mailings are going out now to registered users. Upgrade line is: (608) 273 9240. The upgrade cost is $45 plus shipping.

ADPro now offers unmatched display board support, over 100 pre-written ARexx programs, direct support for the Fargo Primera dye sublimation printer, new file formats and operators, and an entirely new look and feel which dramatically boosts ease-of-use. According to the company, ADPro 2.5 is "the most significant upgrade in the product's history".

Rumors

by Rick Gideon and Harv Laser

WOW! This week the rumor mill has been producing many interesting things.

First, rumors of the AAA chipset being tabled this has not been confirmed by anyone, although I have heard it from many people. Also rumors of World of Commodore Amiga, New York being cancelled, this has pretty much been verified, by reports on usenet and by people on IRC. Also, it has pretty much been verified that Commodore Australia has been closed and is being sold, this has been apparently been caused by debts that C= Australia had.

Rick Gideon

Paul Montgomery (VP), Mark Randall (Public Relations Mgr), Kiki Stockhammer (Title unneeded ;), Steve Hartford (Engineer), Ken Turcotte (Engineer), Daniel Kaye (Head of Product Development)... have all left the employ of NewTek Inc, Topeka Kansas to pursue other goals. They are leaving Topeka for the "Bay Area" of Calif and will eventually have one or more new product announcements. Their split from NewTek was "amicable" according to Randall, who phoned me today to give me this news, and to clear the air of various rumors flying around.

Mark would give me no info about what company they intended to start, exactly where it would be located, or what products (for what platforms) they would be designing and producing, or how many more people would be hired/involved in this new enterprise.

I asked Mark about the status of Brad Carvey and Allen Hastings and he told me they are not NewTek employees but outside contractors and were not involved in this situation at all.

Again, this info came to me from a now EX NewTek employee, not from anyone still employed there, so if and when NewTek offically acknowledges any of this or not is up to them.

(I have absolutely no personal involvement with NewTek Inc., in any way, shape or form, and am just presenting this info here to quell some incessant rumors). -----

Harv Laser
harv@cup.portal.com

MEMPHIS AMIGA GROUP MEMBERS March 1994

If your name is underlined check your renewal date.

If you have a change of address or phone, please notify; Terry Campbell (601) 393-4864

LAST NAME FIRST NAME CITY ST ZIP EXPIRES
1. Akey Brian L. Memphis TN 38107 OCT 94
2. Andrews Freddie L. Memphis TN 38128 JAN 95
3. Barnhart Ken Memphis TN 38118 MAY 94
4. Bilson Edward Memphis TN 38115 JAN 95
5. Bonk Bruce West Memp AR 72301 FEB 95
6. Bowers William Memphis TN 38118 MAY 94
7. Browne Kevin Memphis TN 38111 DEC 93
8. Brockway Dennis M. Memphis TN 38107 SEP 94
9. Burns Keith Cordova TN 38018 NOV 94
10. Campbell Terry A. Horn Lake MS 38637 DEC 94
11. Castillo Jose M. Memphis TN 38118 DEC 93
12. Chiego John & Sara Memphis TN 38119 DEC 94
13. Cobbins Gerald Memphis TN 38109 Jan 95
14. Cumby Rick D. Memphis TN 38120 AUG 94
15. Condo Casey L. Memphis TN 38134 OCT 94
16. Crockett Robert Horn Lake MS 38637 DEC 93
17. Dunn Jimmie L. Memphis TN 38106 APR 94
18. Dobbins Chris Memphis TN 38152 NOV 94
19. Echols Steve Memphis TN 38125 DEC 94
20. Franklin Shelley Memphis TN 38120 MAR 94
21. Gates Terrence Memphis TN 38109 MAY 94
22. Ginn Raymond Memphis TN 38127 APR 94
23. Hooker William H. Barlett TN 38134 NOV 94
24. Ingerson Steve Walls MS 38680 SEP 94
25. King Guy Collierville TN 38017 JAN 94
26. Knight Bill L. Memphis TN 38118 NOV 94
27. Man Samuel Germantown TN 38138 FEB 94
28. McCalla Ron & Audrey Jackson TN 38305 DEC 99
29. Montgomery Ronald Memphis TN 38108 FEB 94
30. Morgan Andrew Memphis TN 38168 SEP 94
31. Morris Louis Sr. Memphis TN 38125 APR 94
32. Norman Joe R. Dyersburg TN 38024 JAN 95
33. Nunn Bob & Cheryn Memphis TN 38141 AUG 94
34. O'Brien Thomas T. Millington TN 38053 SEP 94
35. Photo Grafix (Jim) Memphis TN 38112 MAY 94
36. Pitts Scott Collierville TN 38017 NOV 94
37. Rush David Memphis TN 38127 NOV 93
38. Sanders Joe Memphis TN 38134 JAN 95
39. Spence David E. Memphis TN 38104 JUL 94
40. Stokes Paul Eads TN 38028 DEC 94
41. Swope Sara Beth Braden TN 38010 APR 94
42. Torrence Samuel Tupelo MS 38801 AUG 94
43. Vineyard Charles W. Memphis TN 38118 AUG 94
44. Wallace Michael S. Marion AR 72364 AUG 93
45. Walker Jim Memphis TN 38128 JAN 95
46. Walp Len Memphis TN 38128 DEC 94
47. Waters Robert Memphis TN 38116 OCT 93
48. Weatherall Broadus Memphis TN 38111 JAN 95
49. Webb Donnie Memphis TN 38118 JAN 94
50. Williams Charles Wilson AR 72395 DEC 95
51. Winfield Kenneth Memphis TN 38128 OCT 94
52. Wirth Charles Memphis TN 38128 FEB 94
53. Wulff John Memphis TN 38115 AUG 94
54. Wyatt Joel Jackson TN 38301 FEB 94

Memphis Amiga Group Financial Report February/March, 1994

DISK SALES $
Mag ADD $
Dues $
Rentals $
New Members $
Cash ON Hand $ 48.52
New Memb. Pack $
Months Receipts $
     
Tax $ .00
Postage $ 29.00
Mag Printing $ 27.06
Mis. Expenses $
New Disks $
Fish Disks $
On-Line Charges $
Months Debits $ 56.06
     
Bank Balance
12-31 Balance $ 888.75
Deposits $
Checks Out $ 56.06
New Balance $ 822.69
     
Total Assets $ 871.21