August 1995 MAGazine Volume 11 Number 7

The June General Meeting of the Memphis Amiga Group will be held Saturday, August 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 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 Scott Pitts

The future of Commodore seems to be on the uprise. There have been positive articles and I even got my first issue of the replacement magazine for Amiga World. Amiga Computing had many articles about new hardware like an 060 accelerator by Cyberstorm, and software such as Twist 2 which is a relational database. The only thing we really need now is the machines which supposed to be here by the end of September.

The meeting place is still at State Tech. We have found out that the PC Users Group is utilizing the facilities at no charge. We are currently trying to get endorsements from employees of State Tech so that we may obtain the same privileges. We do still have to pay for the facilities this month, but we are trying to stay at State Tech. We can utilize the Barlett library at no charge until the end of the year, but January thru April is totally booked. If anyone has any suggestions please offer them.

I would like to invite everyone out to the business meeting and lunch at Gridley's at 11am Saturday before the meeting.

Scott Pitts, President

MINUTES

The Board Meeting was was held at Gridleys, at around 11:30. The primary topic of discussion was the meeting place. Nothing new was determined about a new location, but several options were discussed. The conclusion was made that we would wait for the regular meeting and resume discussions.

The Group Meeting started a little later than normal because of a small turnout. Instead of the normal demos, the decision was made to 'surf the net' and continue the demonstrations from last moth on the internet. Nothing new was covered, and the demos postponed until the next regular meeting.

Keith Burns, Secretary

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 BarBQ beginning at 11:00 A.M., Saturday, August 12 (before the general meeting). For more information call Scott Pitts at (901) 854-1987.

Memphis Amiga Group Officers for 1995

President
Scott Pitts
(901) 854-1987

Vice President
Steve Echols
(901) 756-9261

Secretary
Keith Burns
(901) 756-8514

Treasurer
Terry Campbell
(601) 393-4864

Librarian
Bill Bowers
(901) 360-0003

MAGazine Editior
Paul Stokes
(901) 867-8417

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

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.

Pinball Illusions

PRODUCT NAME

Pinball Illusions - Version 1.5

BRIEF DESCRIPTION

The third game in the pinball simulator family from Digital Illusions, and the first to be AGA-only.

AUTHOR/COMPANY INFORMATION

Name: 21st Century Entertainment
Address: Westbrook Street
Blewbury, Oxon. OX11 9QB
ENGLAND

Telephone: (01235) 851533 - English speaking help line
FAX: (01235) 851473

E-mail: Not known

LIST PRICE

29.99 UK Pounds

SPECIAL HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS

HARDWARE

Amiga with AGA chipset
Hard drive optional

If running from Workbench, you need around 1.7MB of Chip RAM free.

SOFTWARE

None

COPY PROTECTION

None at all!

Yes, you heard me right. NO PROTECTION. :-)

Furthermore, the game installs cleanly onto a hard drive, without the need to use a key disk. Other companies take note!

MACHINE USED FOR TESTING

Amiga 4000/030/882 2MB Chip RAM, 16MB Fast RAM, Seagate 120MB Hard Drive, Samsung 410MB Hard Drive, Workbench 3.0 (39.29), Kickstart 3.0 (39.106)

A large and varied selection of commodities and system hacks.

INSTALLATION

The provided Installer script makes this task simplicity itself.

One note: The supplied documentation directs you to Disk 1 to find the Installer. It is actually on Disk 4.

Note that the default location for the high scores (nv_location for those ENVARC: enthusiasts out there) is not the same as the location specified by Pinball Fantasies. If you have Fantasies installed on your system, you'll need to change the default directory for Illusions to point to the existing highscore directory. If you don't, then the next time you play Fantasies, your old high scores won't appear.

REVIEW

Well, this is third game in the series. What, you may ask, could Digital Illusions do to warrant the release (and purchase) of yet another pinball simulator?

The answer is this: They've polished the simulation engine until it shines brighter than a very bright thing indeed. Then they've added new features like multi-ball (yeah!) and hi-res mode. Finally, making the game AGA only allowed them to really work on the graphics until they look fantastic. If you were a bit disappointed with the AA visuals in Fantasies, preapare for a shock to the vision system. Illusions looks every inch an AGA game.

So, it's worth buying. Go out and buy it then.

For two and a half of you out there that aren't quite convinced by all that, here's a slightly more in-depth review.

Unlike it predecessors, Illusions provides only three tables. But don't let that put you off, since each table has been worked on until it plays like a dream: something that was not always true of all the tables in the previous releases. For instance, although I just love Stones n Bones and Partyland from Fantasies, I rarely play the Billion Dollar Gameshow or Speed Devils. On the other hand, all three Illusions tables get regular use; so for me, Illusions is better value for money, as I get three great tables rather than two great and two so-so tables.

Of course, some of you might still have preferred four tables, and I'll admit that if Digital Illusions had provided four tables, I wouldn't have complained. However, this is absolutely NO REASON for not buying the game.

A quick description of each table seems in order:

"Law n Justice":

This table is based around a nightmare future of lawlessness (as portrayed in Robocop) and places you in the position of a police officer, trying to keep the peace whilst all around you villains are doing their best to break it. My least favourite of the three, but that's only because the other two tables are so good. (Featured in the playable demo available on Aminet.)

"Babewatch":

One for the Beach Boys fans, this table sees you as a beach bum, trying to impress the babes by various means (surfing, muscle building, gambling, etc., etc.). Fun, fun, fun 'till my Daddy took the T'Bird away... ........My second favourite table.

Extreme Sports:

WHOOOAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

I just LOVE this table. You are a grungy kind of guy who likes nothing better than a bit of bungee jumping or skydiving. (For UK readers, think of the Pepsi Max adverts....) Everything about this table screams EXTREME, from the music, via the sound effects, to the scoreboard animations. I could play this table all day.

So, three tables, each with a different theme. What about the common eleements to the game? Firstly, if you're used to the single-shade score panels in Fantasies or Dreams, the multi-shade panels in Illusions will be a bit of a surprise. The extra shades are used for purely consmetic uses, to enhance the bonus/special mode animations. But so what, if DI want to give us better looking graphics, then so be it. At least they haven't short changed us on the gameplay side of things.

The flippers seem to work slightly differently to the earlier games, in that they "feel" different. If you press and hold down the flipper key, the effect seems to be different to when you press and release the key. This effect isn't mentioned in the manual, so it might just be psychological, and then I might just be going crazy...........well, I have just bought a PC :-(

Finally we get multi-ball, and boy is it fun! Up to three balls in play at once, you just won't be able to flip fast enough at times. It works beautifully and shows no signs of slowdown (though note my system configuration above -- I cannot vouch for the speed of this game on an unexpanded A1200 :)).

Nudging the table is somewhat more involved now, with the old and faithful vertical nudge being joined by left and right nudges, which can be combined to produce diagonal nudges as well. I found that nudging the ball has less effect on it than in the earlier games, which can be frustrating at time, but with a bit of practice you can get out of most nasty situations.

If you've launched the game from Workbench, you can return to Workbench during play by pausing the game and pressing the Tab key. This places you back on the Workbench and adds an extra option to the Tools menu. Selecting this option returns you to the game. Slightly neater than some of the methods used in other games, and it seems to be stable. I've run Illusions without any problems from a Workbench overloaded with commodities (including screen blankers, normally the first thing to cause a problem). The only thing I have to do is free up around 1.7 MB of Chip RAM, which is easy enough to do. Unlike Fantasies, I've never seen Illusions crash, though I haven't been playing Illusions nearly as long as Fantasies.

The scoring system has been changed to produce scores roughly 10 times higher than those in the earlier games, so whereas previously the highest preset highscore was 100,000,000, it's now 1,000,000,000. Is this just a gimmick to make you think you're doing better than you really are? I don't know, but it doesn't make much difference to the game play, which is excellent.

I guess a few of you are wondering about the game dynamics. Well, the ball rolls around with much more realism than ever before. Ramps actually work like ramps, multiballs collide into one another and rebound satisfyingly, and generally the game feels more like the real thing than either of the prequels. This is helped somewhat by the hi-res mode.......

Yes, hi-res mode makes its appearance here. Now you can almost entirely say goodbye to vertical scrolling (since each table is slightly taller than two low-res screens, there is still a little bit of scrolling necessary). The advantages are multiple. Firstly, you can actually see where the ball is going to go, rather than having to learn the layout of the table in order to be able to hit a certain ramp or target. Secondly, you get more warning when the ball is about to reach the flippers, which in multi-ball mode is crucial. Finally it's more realistic; how many of you play real pinball looking through a letterbox? No, I didn't think many of you would own up, so why should you have to play simulated pinball with a letterbox view of the table... well, no more.

Some of you folks may be concerned about interlace flicker. I know I was before I played the sim, especially as I very rarely use interlace now (the joys of multiscan). Well, on a decent monitor you'll hardly notice the flicker at all. I've played for hours in hi-res mode and I haven't felt any ill effects, whereas after 10 minutes or so using a word processor in interlace gives me a headache. So, unless you are using a cacky TV which flickers badly to start with, or you are ultra-sensitive to interlace flicker, hi-res mode is just as easy on the eye as low-res.

Of course, if Illusions supported multiscan screenmodes, life would be even better, but they don't. Bummer. What more can I say? The background music and effects are better than ever before, the ball really looks like a polished metal ball, erm, erm......I can't think of anything else. Pinball Illusions is just one of those games you'll either love or hate. If you like simulated pinball and you have an A1200/A4000, this is most definitely the next game on your purchase list.

DOCUMENTATION

A 64 page multilingual (English, French, German and Italian) manual featuring descriptions of each table.

A multilingual card describing the loading procedure, and how to install the game onto hard drive (though note my earlier comment about the location of the installer)

What more do you want? This is a pinball simulator, not a flight simulator.

LIKES

Quite simply it is the best pinball simulator I have played on ANY system.

Furthermore, it seems to be as system friendly as it can be, and it installs to hard drive.

No protection at all. At last we get treated like the responsible and law-abiding people we all are...

DISLIKES AND SUGGESTIONS

Maybe a fourth table should have been included; but then again, the three that are supplied are so good -- who cares?

No table editor. It would be fun to try designing your own tables, though I'm not so sure how practical it would be.

Hi-res mode doesn't offer a multiscan mode, which is a minor black mark. If the interlace flicker had been more intrusive, I'd have really made a fuss about this.

COMPARISON TO OTHER SIMILAR PRODUCTS

All through this review I've been using Pinball Fantasies as a relative benchmark. Illusions beats it hands down. Pinball Dreams doesn't even get a look in.

BUGS

One bug noted. If you press both the left and right nudge keys together, the program registers this as a tilt. Better be careful with those combination nudges then.

VENDOR SUPPORT

Unknown.

WARRANTY

Unknown.

CONCLUSIONS

You've read the review, you know what I think.

Pinball Illusions is THE FINEST pinball simulator. If you even remotely liked either Pinball Dreams or Fantasies, and you have the required hardware, then Illusions is a must buy.

I'll give it 4.9 out of 5 stars.

Review created on 18th April 1995 by Chris Coulson. Use it for your own pleasure (ooer), use it for fun, wave it in the air, stick it in a bun. If you want to use it in a publication, do so. I'd appreciate an email telling me about it though.

Be seeing you.......

Chris Coulson
A4000/030/882 - 18MB/530MB
A500 - 1MB
Pentium 60 - 16MB/540MB
Postgraduate - Robotics Group
email: c.j.coulson@ncl.ac.uk

PowerCom CD-Rom Drive

PRODUCT NAME

Power Computing CD-ROM Drive

BRIEF DESCRIPTION

The Power CD-ROM drive is an external SCSI drive for the A1200. It comes with a PCMCIA SCSI adaptor (an unbadged HiSoft Squirrel device)

AUTHOR/COMPANY INFORMATION

Name: Power Computing
Address: 44 a/b Stanley Street, Bedford, MK41 &RW England

Telephone: (01234) 273000
Fax: (01234) 352207

LIST PRICE

I purchased the package directly from Power for 199 UK Pounds.

SPECIAL HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE REQUIREMENTS

HARDWARE

An Amiga 1200. Also usable on an Amiga 600 with some limitations.

SOFTWARE

None. It comes with its own driver software and CD32 emulation.

COPY PROTECTION

None.

MACHINE USED FOR TESTING

Amiga 1200
Philips CM8833 Monitor.
80 Meg Internal IDE hard drive.
MTEC Accelerator-
68030 CPU running at 28 MHz
68882 FPU running at 28 MHz
4 MB RAM

REVIEW

I had been looking to buy a CDROM drive for my A1200 for some time. However, the available options were limiting - an Archos Overdrive which was basically an AT-Bus drive with A1200 interface (no further expansion potential), or an accelerator with an SCSI card (not easy to source, and I already had an accelerator card). When I saw the adverts for the Power CD ROM drive, it seemed ideal with its SCSI interface, and early magazine reviews were favourable.

The drive itself comes in an attrative off-white, metal case, which is little larger than the drive mechanism itself - about 15x4x26cm deep. On the back panel there are 2 large amphenol-style SCSI connectors, phono sockets for Amiga audio in and mixed audio out, and a connector for an external DC power supply. It's clear that for cost reasons, Power have decided to manufacture their own external casing rather than use a more standard (and expensive) external SCSI box, and this has advantages and disadvantages. Advantages are that the unit is more compact and cheaper, but compromises mean that an external DC unit has to be used and the drive is internally terminated. This means that despite the dual SCSI connectors, the Power Drive must be the last drive in the chain. Also, the drive has the SCSI ID # internally set (in this case, to 3) and in order to change this, one must dismantle the case and set jumpers - not the easiest of operations to perform. Still, most users will have little need to change the SCSI ID anyway.

The front panel is the standard drawer with an eject button, busy light, headphone socket and volume control. There's a small hole to stick a paperclip in for emergency eject. It should be noted that the volume control affects the headphones output only, and not the volume on the phono plugs at the back.

The drive mechanism is a double-speed Sanyo device. The manuals list it as being a CDR-H94S type, but the SCSI mounter reports it as a Sanyo CRD 250S. Sysinfo gives it a speed of 315,836 bytes per second which is pretty much on par for a double speed CD. Certainly, although it's not as quick as a modern HD, it's more than acceptable for getting archives off of CD or playing games from.

In order to interface the drive to the A1200, a PCMCIA card adaptor is provided. Although the instructions don't mention it, this is a HiSoft Squirrel SCSI adaptor. The squirrel has been reviewed as an adaptor before on c.s.a.reviews, so check that review out for a more in-depth description of the interface.

[MODERATOR'S NOTE: See the file hardware/scsi/Squirrel in our archives. - Dan]

Suffice to say that it does a perfectly good job as an interfaces to the CDROM drive and, being SCSI, leaves the door open for adding future SCSI devices like hard disks, DAT drives, or even devices like the new Iomega ZIP drive. This is a strong point in favour of the package - you are not just getting a CDROM drive, you are getting an interface which allows access to a vast range of external data products. The only reservation I would have is the rather short cable coming from the Squirrel - it's only about 40 cm long and comes directly out of the interface, rather than being detachable. It makes placement of the CD drive awkward, and you will need to buy an adaptor in order to use devices with the increasingly common compact 50-way D plug interface.

Power Computing supplies two disks - one of which is the standard HiSoft Squirrel driver disk, which has an installer script to load the CD drivers and the CD32 emulator onto your hard disk, or can make a special boot floppy to boot into CD32 games from. The second disk contains some PD utilities like an audio CD player and some photo CD readers. Obviously no support is provided from Power for the PD stuff, and some of the utilities are shareware so you will have to register them if you intend to keep using them.

Installation is pretty much a matter of plug in and go. Leads are provided to link to phono sound outputs of the Amiga to the CDROM drive, and you just use the leads you were using for the Amiga to link the CD/Amiga mixed output to your monitor or HiFi. If you are using the RF output of your Amiga to view the display on a TV set, then you are out of luck, as you will be unable to get a mixed audio signal from the Amiga and CD on your TV. This is an inconvenience, but I'd recommend moving to using some sort of proper audio system anyway as the increased sound quality offered by CD titles will be wasted on a TV set. Running the installer scripts results in quite a painless procedure where everything is set up on your hard drive. If you are using floppies, things are more complicated, as you need to make a special boot disk in order to access the drive. This is because SCSI drives on the Squirrel interface can't self boot. You may well need to add things to the boot disk for your system, as the installer just creates a basic boot disk and you may have made many customisations to your Workbench disk.

Now, when you boot your Amiga from HD (or with the boot floppy), the machine will attempt to boot from the CD drive if a CD32 disk is present. The whole process of setting up the CD boot takes about 10-15 seconds and this will happen whether or not you have a bootable CD in, so your Workbench bootup now takes quite a bit longer which can be irritating. It'd be nice to see some way of bypassing the CD initialisation process for those times when you don't need to access the CD drive.

Assuming you had a CD32 disk in the drive, the emulator will attempt to run it. I found it to be very good. I tried 4 CD32 titles - Microcosm, Liberation, Flink, and Super Putty. It ran three of the titles with the only non-working one being Super Putty. This title apparently won't work with any of the other available CD32 emulation systems either. In general, compatibility should be at about 85%+. If you can find a list of titles compatible with the Zappo (Archos Overdrive) drive, it's a good bet that the Zappo compatible titles will also work on the Power drive, and the incompatible ones won't. HiSoft are working on updates all the time and release them on Aminet. If you desperately need a specific title to work, check with Power/HiSoft first or put out a message on Usenet as there is bound to be someone who has tried it before you.

If you haven't booted a CD32 disk then you go into Worbench, but you now have access to a new device called CD0: which is the CDROM drive. Just put any standard CDROM disk in and you can read it in CD0:.

Personally although much is made in the advertising of the CD32 game compatibility I must say that I derive most value from it as a way of accessing 'serious' disks like the Aminet archives. I have tried it with the Aminet 1-4 set, the 17-bit software collection, various Amiga CD cover disks, a CD-R (recordable CD disk) and a variety of PC CDROM disks with absolutely no problems. Access to disks is speedy and for pulling archives off CD, the drive is perfect. If you have a good file management tool like 'Directory Opus' you will find it an invaluable tool and the combination of the Power Drive, Directory Opus and a hard disk makes for a useful system.

DOCUMENTATION

The documentation for the package consists of a well-written, but rather sparse, manual and the standard Sanyo manual for the CDROM mechanism (which could be useful if you want to transfer the drive to a PC or 'big box' Amiga at a later date).

I'd have liked to see a more comprehensive 'getting started' guide, but the information provided does give enough for even a moderately experienced user to get by on.

LIKES

DISLIKES AND SUGGESTIONS

COMPARISON TO OTHER PRODUCTS

From what I've seen of the Zappo drive, the Power CD beats it hands down in expansion potential. As a simple CD32 games player, both drives are about equal in capability but the Power has a more compatible feel by virtue of it being a standard SCSI device. Both are a similar price, but some dealers sell the Zappo in a bundle that includes some games and a joypad so pure games players might prefer that. For serious users though, the Power is a superior drive.

BUGS

Apart from the PSU voltage being set too low, I haven't come across any bugs in either the hardware of software.

VENDOR SUPPORT

Hmmm, well after a faulty mechanism in my first drive, I have to say the Power tech support people can be hard to reach - they don't work Saturdays and only work 10:30 to 4:30 weekdays. On the other hand, they were friendly enough when I did talk to them and promptly gave me a return authorisation. I shipped the drive back Monday lunchtime and had a new one (that worked perfectly) on Thursday of the same week. That's pretty good service.

WARRANTY

No mention of warranty in the documentation. I think it's 90 days, but best check with Power if you are concerned.

CONCLUSIONS

This product gets my definite recommendation. It's well priced, well specified, and will give your Amiga 1200 system a new lease of life. Compatibility with CD32 is good and the ability to access products like the Aminet set and the GoldFish CDs in my view justifies the cost of the drive to any serious user.

If you have already got an accelerator card without SCSI interface, then this is an excellent way to access CDROM technology and to gain a SCSI port in one fell swoop. If you are just considering getting a CDROM drive to play CD32 games then get this as it gives you a decent CD32 emulator (with better than CD32 performance on a fast system) and opens the way for lots of exciting products in the future.

I rate this product as excellent - 88% out of 100. (It would have been more but for a few niggles with presentation.)

You can freely distribute this article over the Internet, but for any conventional 'newsprint' publication you must ask my permission first. If you publish this electronically over the Internet (or elsewhere) please credit this article to me and include my email address.

- gmoran@nyx.cs.du.edu