July 1994 MAGazine Volume 10 Number 7

Table Of Contents

The July General Meeting of the Memphis Amiga Group will be held Saturday, July 11 from 1:00 pm until approximately 3:00 pm in the Farris Auditorium on the Campus of State Technical Institute of 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 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

INTERNET!

The information highway of the future?? David Spence has volunteered his Sales Rep to visit with us at the next meeting. Many of you already know that David has been offering Internet access at a reasonable cost.

I am not familiar enough with the Internet to tell you much about it so I will wait for the demo. I have seen just enough to realize that this has a vast potential for not only the hobbyist but business people as well. Our government and our education and scientific institutions have paved the way for us to discover more about our world at an affordable price. Now if they just offered Yellow Net Pages.

What do you to to "skateboard the net"? Just a computer, a modem, and a term program. Most of you are already qualified. How fast a modem you might ask? Well the faster the better is always what I say. You might need a bit of hard drive space to store all of the buffers and files you download.

COMMODORE NEWS

Well from all I hear there is no new news. Perhaps by the next meeting we will have a few more details for you.

See you at the next meeting!! In the meanwhile I invite you to call my bulletin board -Operator Headgap- @ 901-759-1542 and check out the Fred Fish CD ROM with all disks from 1 to 1000 online.

Just The Facts

compiled from PORTAL

Dave Haynie has left Commodore and is now employed by Scala, inc.

AmigaWorld's Tim Walsh was sent to the Bahamas to report on the Bahamian court proceedings concerning Commodore's liquidation.

The liquidation was order to proceed as before. There are a number of bids on the table for Commodore and they've been ordered to accept the highest bid.

The list of bidders has not been released but the names of the purported players in this drama is pretty much as has been described in various postings here and elsewhere: Samsung, HP, and etc. It seems that none of them are totally out of the picture yet.

Amiga World has "stopped the presses" to get Tim's Bahamian court report into the August issue.

Future court proceedings concerning C= will take place in the USA but Tim did not know at what court location.

Things are definitely far from over. There are some companies involved in the bidding who want to rev up Amiga production immediately if they win the bidding war.

The ENTIRE Amiga product line is to be maintained and in no way splitted around among several companies or taken apart for some part of its technology.

Apparently, Commodore Germany is still delivering to distributors in Germany and now also to France. There has been a delivery of 70 A4000Ts in Braunschweig (subsidiary of Commodore Germany) a few weeks ago and all of them are sold out by now.

The assets of Commodore France have been transferred to Braunschweig, where most of the computing stuff was sold at an auction.

Jay Miner passed away June 20, 1994, at the El Camino Hospital in Mountain View. The actual cause of death was heart failure, but it was the result of kidney complications. A private memorial service will be held in July.

He'll be greatly missed and much remembered.

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, July 11 (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.

Don't forget!

Classified-style advertising space is free to members.

PURCHASE · SWAP · DEAL · CAJOLE · ELICIT · BARGAIN

Oktagon REVIEW

by Michel J. Brown

PRODUCT NAME

Oktagon 2008 (rev. 7)

BRIEF DESCRIPTION

Oktagon 2008 is a SCSI-2 controller card with up to 8 MB of RAM for the Amiga 2000/3000(T)/4000 models of personal computers. The card also functions as a hard card, with supplied mounting hardware.

AUTHOR/COMPANY INFORMATION

Name: BCS Broautomation AG Address: Lerchenstraae 5, 80995 Mnchen 50, Germany Telephone: ++49/89/357130-0 FAX: ++49/89/357130-99 E-mail: None given, although I suspect that there is one.

LIST PRICE

I do not know the list price of the product, but I paid $129.95 (US) from my local Amiga dealer in Portland, OR, USA.

SPECIAL HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS

HARDWARE

A SCSI-1/SCSI-2 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch form factor hard drive is required for operation. I have installed a Quantum 1080 Empire SCSI-2 hard drive on my controller card. No RAM is required on the card for operation, but ZIP style sockets provide for up to 8MB of Fast RAM. 1X4 ZIP chips in groups of four, either Static Column or Page Mode, are supported.

All sizes of hard drives are supported, as long as they are as I described previusly. The card is processor independent for compatibility, but a faster CPU probably means faster speed.

Supports all current Motorola CPU's including the 68040.

SOFTWARE

The Oktagon comes with its own HD toolbox, on a single, auto-booting, double-sided, double-density 720K floppy disk. Surprisingly, it works with all revisions of the AmigaDOS. All features are implemented with the latest revision of the OS, while some selections are ghosted out for older revisions (like AmigaDOS 1.3 and below).

Full functionality is obtained with AmigaDOS 2.1 and above, yet even though compatible with AmigaDOS 3.0, it doesn't seem to take advantage of any of the newer features present in 3.0 as far as I know. As the Oktagon is a Zorro II card, this may be the reason for this decision.

COPY PROTECTION

None.

MACHINE USED FOR TESTING

Amiga 2500 (rev. 4.5) with 2 MB Chip RAM, 4 MB Fast RAM. Kickstart version 37.300, Workbench version 38.35 (AmigaDOS 2.1).

INSTALLATION

Installation is simple, as the Commodore Installer software is used. I selected the "Expert" mode, and found most of the defaults to be standard, so even the "Novice" mode wouldn't be much different. You can even choose the language in which the installation will occur (English is the default, while French and German are supported), and if you have AmigaDOS 2.1 or above, locales are also supported. The Amiga Style Guide is completely supported throughout the entire installation process.

REVIEW

The Oktagon 2008 is a SCSI 1 and SCSI 2 host adapter for the Amiga 2000 family of computers, and supports the A3000T, and the A4000 as well. The card is packaged quite securely, and comes with the mounting hardware for the drive, a short, but easily installable 50 pin ribbon cable, and a power cable.

The documentation is written in a "German first, English second" booklet labeled "Harddisk Controllers & HD Installation Tools". It was well written, and includes both a step-by-step and expert installation description. Throughout the book were suggestions, warnings, and helpful tips about hard drive installation, use, and maintenance.

After I assembled the hard card, and powered my A2500, the installation software had an automatic mode by default (which I don't recommend, unless you want one single partition), or can be changed to manual mode (for creating multiple partitions). After selecting the appropriate mode, you can set the number and size of partitions by using the intuitive editor. One caveat here, though, is that you must specify the size of the partitions in blocks, so a calculator is handy.

Once the size and number of each of the partition(s) are set, then you have to format each using the AmigaDOS "Format" command from a gadget tool on the requester. Depending on the size of your drive, this can take quite a while for large drives, and seems more like formatting a large floppy than a hard drive.

After formatting your partition(s), you can either install AmigaDOS (for which there appears to be no utility included), or restore from your favorite backup program. One nice feature is the ability to update the AmigaDOS type through the corresponding utility. You can also save the RDB contents to a file on a floppy should disaster strike, like a corrupted RDB sector.

All in all, this is a fine product from a supportive and growing company, and I would highly recommend getting the card if you are in the market for a fast and inexpensive host adapter.

DOCUMENTATION

The printed documentation comes in a 136-page, perfect bound booklet, with the first half in German, the second half in English. My congratulations to the writters for the excellent translation and low spelling error count. The docs are very straightforward, and cover every aspect of installation, use, and maintenance. All levels of expertise are covered, and beginners to experts alike won't be disappointed or confused by the nomenclature.

LIKES AND DISLIKES

I like the ease of use, the intuitive system that is completely style guide compliant, and the use of many of the advanced features found on the more recent AmigaDOS upgrades.

About the only dislike I had was that in order to properly partition off the hard drive, I had to enter the number of blocks manually. This requires a calculator, or figuring out namually the size of the partition(s) in blocks, rather than using the sliding type of gadgets found on other, more intuitive installation tools, like Commodore's HD Tools. My suggestion to BSC: dump the manual entry of partition block size, and use sliding gadgets with a readout of partition(s) size in megabytes.

One surprise was the inclusion of the program GigaMem. This virtual memory manager is included in the startup disk supplied, and includes the documentation, but not the registration. I will give a review of GigaMem v3.0 in a later installment, after fully testing and evaluating it. As it sells for $79.95 (US funds) at my local Amiga dealer, it makes for the frosting on the cake, so to speak.

COMPARISON TO OTHER SIMILAR PRODUCTS

I have owned three hard drive controllers and three hard drives in the past several years, and the Oktagon compares quite favorably. As it stands, it's easily the fastest and most compatible of the three controllers I have owned. Unlike previous products, this one was up and running in less than half an hour, which by my previous experience is a record. The external 25 pin SCSI connector is also a plus, and has provision for both snap-in and screw-in connectors, while past controllers used only one or the other.

BUGS

None noted.

VENDOR SUPPORT

Full addresses and phone/fax numbers are supplied, but the hotline for technical support is sent back only after registration card is received by BSC. I am not associated with the vendor in any way other than being a satisfied customer of BSC/Alfa Data.

WARRANTY

Full one year warranty on parts, and the installation software. Warranty appears to be transferrable, as no mention is made about the transfer of title to warranted merchandise.

CONCLUSIONS

This is an excellent product at a fair price. Considering the performance capabilities exhibited, I would hazard a guess that the faster your machine, the faster the throughput. According to SysInfo 3.14, I get 2.5 MB/sec reads, and 2.48 MB/sec writes. Diskspeed 4.2 also gave very high marks, and I will UUencode the tabulated results to anyone with a valid E-mail address, if requested. Seek speed showed my drive had seeks of about 6 ms from beginning to end of each partition, and 2 ms average seek from adjacent tracks, and 4 ms for 8 random seeks on 90 percent of the drive. It would appear that faster processors coupled with faster drives will produce the best results, naturally enough, but faster than your average comparable equipped host adapter. I'd give BSC and Alpha Data (the manufacturers) a rating of 4+ stars out of 5, and a full five stars if they make the appropriate changes to the partitioning software.

Copyright 1994 by Dr. Michel J. Brown. All rights reserved

Retina BLT Z3 graphics card

by Michael Schuldman

PRODUCT NAME

Retina BLT Z3, Hardware v1.0, Software 2.1.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION

24-bit, Zorro III graphics card.

AUTHOR/COMPANY INFORMATION

Name: MacroSystem Computer GmbhH.
Address: Fruedruch-Ebert-Str 85
58454 Witten
[Germany, I assume]

LIST PRICE

I have no idea. I paid 4800SEK (Swedish krones, check current value rates as US$ changes quite ofter) + Postage & Packaging. Bought from DE-LIKATESS-DATA AB, tlf +46-31-300 580, FAX: +46-31-302 983. They provide me (and others) with truly excellent and fast service and are highly recommended.

SPECIAL HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS

HARDWARE

An Amiga with a Zorro III slot (i.e., A3000 or A4000). At least 1 MB Chip RAM and 2 MB Fast RAM recommended. 4 MB Fast RAM would be better. Hard drive recommended (for large images).

The manual states, "A cheap VGA monitor is recommend, while Retina can only be brought to its limits by using an enhanced monitor, such as the NEC 5 FG or similar."

SOFTWARE

AmigaDOS 2.0 (from Kickstart V37.175, WB 37.67, onward). The manual states "please do not use unofficial beta versions".

COPY PROTECTION

None.

MACHINE USED FOR TESTING

Amiga 3000/25, 4MB Fast RAM, 2MB Chip RAM Softkicked Kickstart 40.62, Workbench 40.29.

INSTALLATION

The software uses the Commodore Installer program. Everything went smoothly.

The card is approximately 3/4 length and installs in a Zorro slot with a little trouble (but no more than other cards). Why do they always say "use light pressure"? So they won't have to replace the card if it breaks after I almost had to hammer it into the slot? "You didn't use light pressure now, did you?"

I had of course read the manual before doing anything. The card arrived the day before an exam, so I just browsed through the manual during a study break and felt well prepared. I had configured the "RetinaEmu" program (which is SUPPOSED to take care of stuff) so it would output to the Retina card instead of the Amiga, as it said in the manual.

So, happily I switched on my Amiga. It took some seconds before Kickstart was loaded, etc. I didn't see anything on the screen (my monitor told me Retina wasn't sending any understandable signal), but I was not worried. Anyway, Kickstart had loaded and I was eagerly waiting for my 8-bit Workbench to turn up. At this point my monitor told me Retina was sending 31.5 KHz and 59.5Hz, the mode I had used until I got the Retina. I waited and waited, but nothing happened, so I rebooted. and thought I'd try again. Same thing. So, I switched of the machine and let Kickstart load again. Same thing.

I was now getting a little worried. (Defective card? No.) So I actually started to read the manual (like I'm some kind a lamer), but I couldn't find anything useful.

So I switched the monitor cable back to the Amiga output and rebooted. There! Now I knew what was wrong: my Kickstart was not yet supported. It was released by Commodore to developers almost a year ago, and it says "08/16/93" while the Retina software is at most a month old judging from the date on some files. So, I pressed the gadget which says "OK" below the "Kickstart not supported" crap, with the effect that after some seconds the screen went black.

Hmm..., I said to myself. I found out that the genius people at macroSystem (not) had found it smart to let that message pop up BEFORE switching the display to Retina (clever, very clever). Thus, the requester was logically being displayed but the screen was blank. Now, since it is a little diffult to see this button and click on it without a display (remember, we only switch the display after clicking "ok") to look at, and me now having 1 monitor, and not wanting to fry it by changing the plug from Amiga to Retina with the power on, there was a problem.

Luckily, just some days ago I had read in some old documentation that I can press Right-Amiga V to cancel (or was it retry?) a requester. That actually worked, so after some more fiddling with monitor cables and a shower later, I could actually watch my first output from the Retina. Stunning (not).

I am not exactly sure what it means that "RetinaEmu" doesn't support my Kickstart "yet" (its been a year since it was sent out, about time or ?). Perhaps it means that I can only use a certain number of colors (since WB does turn up)? No, not exactly. It seems it means that the Workbench windows will only be displayed in ECS number of colors. I tried it out and switched 2 colors (in Amiga prefs) which made the windows use only 2 colors, but the icon were still using more colors (i.e., an 8-color icon looked just fine on the 2 color Workbench), so I am not sure what it means.....

Well, now I started to configure for my monitor. The documentation says it defaults to VGA output. There were many monitors, but no MAG17, so I deleted all of those useless monitors and created my own entry for my MAG. After this was done I started up "define monitor", which lets you define various resolutions for the monitor (when creating the MAG entry you can only type the supported Horizontal KHz frequency and the Vertical Hz screen update rate).

This program was actually OK (not like the crappy others) and lets you optimize for your monitor pretty well (has a test picture even, stunning!). After having created some suitable X x Y resolutions for 8, 16 and 24 bit (which you have to append to a temporary file) I had to use another program to "append" my new resolutions to Retina's own private gfx.base thing. This does not always (often) work, having created a nice 1024 x 768 in 83Hz entry, this did not show up anywhere, so I am as of now limited to 76Hz (Which I defined previously). The program tries to calculate for instance what the KHz frequency will be if you update Hz from 70 to 80. In my opinion, the only decent program here.

REVIEW

Having played a little with the tools which came with the Retina, which all have "liesmiech" files, (since I don't know German, it doesn't enlighten me), I thought I'd get down to business. So, I loaded "RetinaDisplay" which brought up an appicon (drop image files onto it, and they will be displayed) and a requester where I couldn't select more than one file at a time. I opted for using it from CLI (which I do anyway). It shows some options when you type "?" for the filename. Apparently, these options are explained somewhere else (where?).

Now I was ready for business. I changed directory (using Elvind Nordseth's excellent "qcd" program -- get it from Aminet now! Yes, Elvind paid me to say this... not!) and tried to display some image files. I aliased "rd" to "RetinaDisplay", typed "rd erika#?", and got a stupid error message. Apparently the program does not even support wildcards. So I typed "rd `dir erika#?`", using the backquotes and "dir" to expand wildcards. This of course worked, kind of. RD decided to switch from the 1024 x 768 I was using to 800 x 600 which made my monitor produce a rather loud "ZonKKkk". Anyway, I didn't care for that, Erika was on my screen, then some seconds passed and another erika picture was on my screen, and so on...

This program is so cool, it does NOT allow scrolling, does NOT wait for me to say "next picture" or anything. It just displays the pictures as fast as it can (some pics take 10 seconds, and others 1 second, so I never see the 10 second picture if there is a 1 second picture following directly afterwards). Also I cannot make rd display the pictures in any particular resolution: it just seems to send a certain KHz and HZ to my monitor and hopes it goes well. Luckily, the monitor supports most resolutions, but it's annoying that rd wants to switch resolution all the time ("ZonKKkkK ZonKKkkK"). The manual says I should define this (in another program), which I have tried with no luck (rd seem particular intent on displaying them in 800 x 600 (SVGA) 60 Hz). I do not manage to define a 24bit screenmode in more than 800 x 600 non-interlaced (haven't managed so far ar least, perhaps all this is explained in the "liesmiech" file). Update: I have not managed it, but it is only temporarily. I can select a 24-bit mode in "Retina screenmode" which Retina display will then use, as will any other 24 bit program do.

The "RetinaEmu" is supposed to include all screen names in a 'display.base' and let me select individual resolutions for them, but that never seems to work. Only way I manage to get the resolution I want is by selectiong "use" in the Retina screenmode program after selecting the resolution. For example, DiskMaster is patched for an 8 bit screen, so I select the wanted 8 bit resolution in "RetinaScreenmode" and click "use", which DiskMaster (and other programs I do not want to run in this resolution) then will use.

The software is not good. It's supposed to patch programs whem they open a screen and I guess it does, but unless you like DiskMaster in 1024 x 768 using 1/6 of availble space and the rest of the screen unusable, it doesn't work right. Programs which let you select the displaymode without considering what the chipset supports work fine sometimes; on the other hand, programs too stupid to imagine someone would like to scroll the screen, or even use a graphics card, do not work, and you end up with a quarter of the scren or something, and rest of the screen is just blank.

SPEED

Well I don't notice any big speed increase compared to what I was running before the Retina (1440 x 478, 60 Hz, 4 colors), using the standard ECS. Perhaps this is because Workbench emulation is "not supported yet" on my Kickstart.

Also, the memory clock program isn't working 100% (unless there's some hidden information in the "liesmiech" file). It's supposed to be automatically set and saved on first boot with Retina. For me, it was set to 65 MHz, which was too fast (ugly stripes on screen), so I am now using 61, but the program (which lets you click a button to determine maximum) has given me results ranging from 58 to 64. This is a little disappointing. The manual says you should use chips faster or equal to 70NS. Apparently MacroSystems have sent the board with 70NS, while it it seems the board could benefit from somewhat faster chips (I'll bet they're not even static column :-)).

TESTS

(AIBB Test tables deleted for lack of space. -MAGazine Editor.)

Well, it's obviously faster than a stock A3000 in all tests, and on some tests (line test) a lot faster than an A4000/40.

No question here. But apparently the Picasso II uses a chunky mode in 8 bits. Couldn't select more colors for my test in WSpeed -- guess it goes by the Workbench Prefs, which also won't allow me more colors, probably because Retinaemu is not working on my Kickstart. WSpeed uses random routines, and I don't know how acurate they are.

Also, WSpeed dies NOT disable multitasking and I have some commodities running. I also had some artware patches installed (speeds up most things) I now remember, so the results might be a little wrong.

"EXTRA" SOFTWARE

AnCos (animation software), VDPaint (paint program which sucks in my opinion, but only tried it for 30 seconds), Real3D "something", ADPro Saver, Imagemaster rt "something". Almost all the readme's are "liesmich" and I haven't got a clue as to what it means. The manual for VDPaint is also in German, as is the registration card (going to make some random guesses when I fill it out).

Well, the tests are up there. To sum it up, the only thing I can say is that the software totally sucks, is unpractical, and stupidly made (need I say "kickstart not supported...yet" ? :-)). Knowledge of German is definitely a help when using the software.

BUGS

The software generally speaking is buggy: more logical bugs than programming bugs, it seems.

Oh, almost forgot, you're going to love this...

WB_2.x> retinaavail

Available     In-Use       Maximum
2010944       2183360      4194304

From      To      (Length)
2010944 - 2014591 (  3648)
2014592 - 2018239 (  3648)
2018240 - 2192256 (174016)  SysScreen:  "RetinaEmu"
2192256 - 2195903 (  3648)
2195904 - 2199551 (  3648)
2199552 - 2373567 (174016)  SysScreen:  "RetinaEmu"
2373568 - 2374015 (   448)

[deleted for space]

2451520 - 2451903 (   384)
2451904 - 2605503 (153600)  SysScreen:  "RetinaEmu"
2605504 - 2619639 ( 14336)
2619640 - 3406271 (796432)  SysScreen:  "RetinaEmu"
3406272 - 3407295 (  1024)  Sprite
3407296 - 4193727 (786432)  SysScreen:  "RetinaEmu"
4193726 - 4194047 (   320)
4194048 - 4194303 (   256)

Wondering what all the "RetinaEmu's" are? Well, the first two are for DiskMaster (identical), third is WSpeed, fourth is an editor, fifth is "RetinaEmu", always running. Really, whoever programmed this should have his braindamage fixed (those with 1MB Retina can probably not even start a single program besides RetinaEmu").

Also, often the mouse pointer refuses to move below or above an invisible magic line. I must click on the screen before it moves there. This happens almost all the time.

There are also oocasionally some corrupted graphics appearing in a corner for a tenth of a second before disappearing. Perhaps I should even further lower the RAM clock.

The RetinaDisplay program does not handle many types of JPEG (just says "depth is 0") which other programs (FastJPEG, PPSHOW, ViewTek) have no problems with. And when it can't handle a picture, it just displays a requester on the Workbench (doesn't bring it to front) so only way you know if something is wrong is when you have tired of waiting for the picture to load and flip screens.

PowerSnap by Nico Francois for some reason stopped working with the Retina -- no snapping whatsoever.

And there are other bugs "everywhere", most of these can of course be caused by the Workbench emulation not working on my kickstart yet, and from what the bugs do, that actually seems quite possible but there's just so many of them...

All this is a real shame, especially since the original Retina was one of the first released graphics boards and they should have had plenty of time to get things straight (at least more than it is). Generally, the software is something I would never use unless I had to.

I also tried Michael Van Elst's Mpeg_player (supports Retina and some other cards as well). I think it was written for Retina Z2, but it works fine on Z3 and gives a decent speed (uh..well, guess that's as good as it gets unless I plug In a 68040/060) and very nice graphics. The speed when dithering for Retina is about a frame faster than for A3000.

DOCUMENTATION

Comes wIth 2 printed manuals, one for Retina (English) and 1 for VDPaint (which the Retina manual advertises as something you would have to pay $500 if bought separately). The VDPaint manual is in German so I didn't read it.

The Retina manual about forty 3/4-size A4 pages. (Low quality, just a leaflet really.) It explains most, but is very "basic" I feel. It has a section "for advanced users" which is about as advanced as "how to use c:avail." Also the manual does not list any concrete specifications apart from that the pixel frequency is 110MHz (which the manual compares to the 7MHz Amiga pixel frequency :-)), that the maximum Vertical Hz is 89 and the maximum resolution is 2400 x 1200, which is just mentioned on a "general" page.

LIKES

Tough one. :-) Well the hardware seems great and that is I believe the most important. Hardware can't be fixed (apart from sending it to Germany and getting it upgraded), but software can be fixed, and hope it will.

DISLIKES

The software is in my opinion very bad. Some things work sometimes, other times not. The software is what I would call a first beta release. I mean, having 700K's "RetinaEmu" for each program? That's braindead.

Another irritating thing is that there are lots of "liesmiech" files, even a rather big manual on disk, but they're almost all in German. I don't really know what they are thinking when they make a "readme" which says "this directory contains this and that" and then all the readme's for the utility is in German.

And it doesn't patch the display until the very end of startup-sequence, when WorkBench loads, which makes it possible to see any guru messages. This also makes it hard for me to use certain programs which I run from special startups to save memory.

WORKAROUNDS

None I know of. and currently I have no time to find out either.

VENDOR SUPPORT

Haven't had any reason to contact them. I guess I could call them and express my views on the software, but they probably speak only German.

Also, some of the programs (RetinaEmu among others) are included with source code and documentation in a "developer" directory. This is nice. The manual says they are in assembler language (only translated to C now and then), but I could only find C source. The manual boasts that it is all programmed in assembler. Too bad the Retina people really can't program assembler.

WARRANTY

Actually, I can't find any mention about it in the manual. Strange...

CONCLUSIONS

Software sucks, cool hardware, all in all I don't regret buying it, even if it might have sounded so. :-) If you can live with these "glitches" while waiting for updates, buy it, and as said, the "developer" directory is nice, and this is judging by benchmarks the fastest card for the Amiga.

It is also very fast to use generally when the programs work right. Nice.

Now, where can I find a non-beta Kickstart for A3000? Guess that would be, uh...2.1, damn.

Jim Godown (901) 454-0001
Viva L' AMIGA
BUY · SELL · TRADE
Memphis, Tennessee

Microcosm CD32 Game Review

by Aad Nieuwmans

PRODUCT NAME

Microcosm CD32

BRIEF DESCRIPTION

MicroCosm is a shoot-em-up game for the CD32.

AUTHOR/COMPANY INFORMATION

Name: Psygnosis Ltd.
Address: South Harrington Building
Sefton Street,
Liverpool L3 4BQ
England
Telephone: +44 51 709 5755

LIST PRICE

129.00 (Dutch Guilders) for the Limited Edition, which comes with an audio CD (Psygnosis Soundtrax Vol.1) and a T-shirt of MicroCosm.

99.00 (Dutch Guilders) for the normal edition.

SPECIAL HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS

HARDWARE

A CD32.

SOFTWARE

None.

COPY PROTECTION

??

MACHINE USED FOR TESTING

Amiga CD32

INSTALLATION

None.

REVIEW

The game is based on the move Inner Space, where a miniature spacecraft is travelling through the body of a human.

INTRO

The Intro is most fascinating and extremely cleverly done. As we go to the Cyber*Tech corporation, we get a 3D look at the city and see some common vehicles run by. The next step is on top of the building where security agents are waiting for the transport to arrive. Incredible graphics and stunning action give you the impression that you are looking at a movie instead of a video game.

GAME

The game starts in a vein. The craft you're steering is simply drawn. The vein itself is very nicely done, like plasma. On your way to the control center we meet some body-inhabitants, which we must shoot down.

With the help of a map (warning, the map is shown, but the action will continue as you read it), we can determine our way out. Different weapons can be selected, but there's no noticeable clue on the screen!

Shooting at those weird-looking objects at a rapid speed seems to be the task here. There's some interaction; for example, when a vein splits in two we can actually choose to go right or left. When completing the first (still intro) level, you'll get the chance to enter at different locations, e.g., left brain or right brain. This will only show other aircrafts and other vein-graphics. The graphics in betwen all the action are superb.

Although the gameplay is very difficult (you could be dead in seconds), continuing the game to see some other levels is done some five times. Maybe there's more to come...

DOCUMENTATION

Good. Normal explanation of the world and vehicles. The parts of the body you can enter are described.

LIKES AND DISLIKES

I like the Intro very much, and the animations shown throughout the game. They show what a machine the CD32 really is.

The game however is not so exciting as I thought it would be. If the Intro shows so many nice/neat animations, then the game itself could be better.

It would be best if this product had improved gameplay and maybe some improvement on the interactivity, controlling the ship better.

The most annoying part is the loading disk at the screen, so the animation simply stopped and started.

BUGS

None.

CONCLUSIONS

Good. It's definitely a must-be-in-my-collection game. Although the gameplay isn't that exciting at all, the intro and animation make it all better.

This review is freely distributable.

REAL 3D Training tapes

by Stew Perkins

As you may already know, Acongard Productions has released 2 training tapes on Real 3D (with more to follow). I have purchased these 2 tapes and here is a rundown of what they cover.

TAPE 1: The Basics

As it turns out, I already knew most of what this tape had to say, but there were a few time saving tips that definitely helped.

The tape covers the initial startup and configuration of Real 3D. In addition, it covers path creation and the use of compound tools. As it turns out, I found that most of the things I learned were (of course) not derived from the creation of objects or paths, but how they are implemented. There are many different ways to implement these controls, but this training tape cuts right to the bone of the matter.

TAPE 2: Motion Magic

This tape is where I really started to get some meaty info on the program. There are some hints that you would probably never know by reading the book. Also, there are so any things on the tape in the tape, that you'll constantly be pausing the tape as you go through the tutorials, simply because you'll have to take a breather to soak up the info.

The tape covers camera, view, and animation controls. This includes inverse kinematic (keyframe and path), morphing (extremely powerful), and particle.

More tapes are to follow, but with regards to these tapes, I found them invaluable for filling in "the cracks" in my understanding of Real 3D. It also justified my initial purchase of the program. It IS truly powerful (if not widely used by U.S. Amiga users).