Fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity
ST NEWS HARDWARE REVIEW: THE ULTIMATE RIPPER
(Which is actually more like the ante-pen-ultimate ripper)
by Richard Karsmakers
In certain user circles people often mention the words 'rip',
'hack', 'discovery cartridges', 'freeze frame' and other things
like that. In other circles, people more often use words like
'data base', 'Calamus fonts' and 'WYSIWYG'. In a third circle,
again, one mentions words like 'coding', 'optimising', 'real time
solid 3D vector graphics' and 'MOVEM'.
If I will ever be asked to write an article about the "Ultimate
Ripper" cartridge, I will say that it's a product written by
someone from the third group, aimed at people from the first
group, with options that would barely satisfy people from the
second group on their virgin hacking evening.
I seem to have been, haven't I?
But first please allow me to present you with just the facts
(and a bit more).
The "Ultimate Ripper" is a cartridge that has to be put in your
ST's expansion port (the thing on the left of your system that
you've often peered in to acknowledge your suspicions about where
that beernut went).
"All alone now
Except for the memory
Of what we had
And what we knew
Every time I try to leave it behind me
I see something that reminds me of you
Every night the dreams return to haunt me
Your rosary wrapped around your throat
I lie awake and sweat, afraid to fall asleep
I see your face
Looking back at me
Looking back at me
Then I raise my head and stare
Into the eyes of a stranger..."
Sorry for that bit of a Queensrÿche interruption there.
Let's continue where we left off.
In case you already have something plugged in there (except for
the beernuts), you need to make a choice as there is no way to
connect anything else in that case unless the 'something else'
happens to be a (rather ancient) Navarone Clock Card, which
occupies the expansion port yet allows something else to be
plugged in it.
According to the advertisements, the "Ultimate Ripper" allows...
...you to pause any possible program at any time (whether demo,
game, or whatever else you want), enter the cartridge software
and consequently rip out music, extract graphics, and generally
peek at other peoples' code. It is thus clearly aimed at the
somewhat experienced hacker that wants to perform one of these
function, whether for dubious purposes or not.
Unfortunately, the "Ultimate Ripper" software is largely
incompetent. With the exception off the odd option that is kinda
extensively worked out, they are all blatantly incomplete or even
Let's get kicking (slightly literally)
A program is interrupted by pressing the rest button, keeping it
pressed, and flicking the switch on the "Ultimate Ripper"
cartridge. You should then release the reset button and press
either F1, F2, F7, F9 or F10.
When the system reset is taken over by the cartridge software,
it needs a bit of RAM to install itself in. This bit of RAM is
located from $4 to $17D00, so if you want to hack something
that's there you will want it buffered.
Pressing F1 does just that. It buffers it at $60000 or $80000 in
the cases of a half meg or more than half meg machine
respectively. I wonder what happens when you've got a 2 or more
meg machine with some stuff you want to hack both lower than
$17D00 and just above $80000?
Pressing F2 does not do the buffering, but is otherwise
identical to pressing F1.
Hidden under the F7 key is the so-called trainer option. This
enables the cartridge to perform exactly like "Multiface",
another hacker cartridge that was reviewed in Volumes 3 (version
1) and 4 (version 2 ) of ST NEWS already. This gets down to the
user being able to interrupt a running program, change something
and then continue it. This is completely impossible with the
"Ultimate Ripper" unless using this F7 function - and the F7
function is not 100% succesful (just like "Multiface"). For the
user to be able to do this, however, he has to do some soldering
himself. He has to (manual quote) "connect pin 20 (Dtr) to pin 22
(Ring indicator) of your RS232 on a push button; when pushing
this button, you create the interrupt 6 of the MFP". Doesn't that
sound intelligible? Though it would.
I think it's kinda stupid for them not to supply the user with
this push button. And even if it gets built, it's not 100% proof.
The option under F9 is a mystery to me (even though the game
commences, for the usual fee, plus expenses...er...). This allows
you to read the contents of address $30 and jump to it. This is
an unassigned exception vector, and they say it's useful for
programmers to debug their programs. I suppose they expect
programmers to write their own reset handlers and all that stuff,
for no further possibilities are catered for.
Pressing F10, last and least, just continues the regular system
reset while the cartridge remains on.
Are you sure? (O/N)
After pressing one of the F1 or F2 buttons, you get to the main
menu. It takes a while until this happens, during which the
screen colours are doing the usual (i.e. odd) things.
The menu (and all other texts in the software) are in French.
This does not improve usability a bit. You get "Jouer (O/N)"
after searching for a piece of music, for example, which stands
for "Play (Y/N)". A bit of a bother, really, and I can imagine
especially the British not liking that at all.
Thank God the user manual (to which I'll get later and which is
an awfully bad translation to English) enables you to get to
grips with it to some extent.
Well. What does the "Ultimate Ripper" actually offer? Let's get
down to the individual segments.
Let there be light...and there was light
The picture ripper, hidden under the F1 key in the main menu,
allows you to rip pictures from the program you have just
frozen. It is easiest to rip whatever was on the screen during
the reset, but the manual makes you believe you can rip anything
if you fiddle around with the more advanced 'superimpose' and
'modulo' parameters enough.
It consists of a menu with some main options and a load of
parameters that can be selected by cursor up/down and changed
using cursor left/right. F1 toggles the display to whatever was
on the screen at the time of interruption and the actual menu.
Whatever is on the screen can be saved as a "Degas" picture. The
screen address can be changed to check out other pieces of
program for sprites and the like. You can even rip a major part
of full-screen pictures that were on screen during reset.
Changing the 'modulo' parameter to '70' works there.
Some of the advanced options allow the switching off and on of
individual planes. The colour palette can be changed, but I find
this both odd (a colour palette value of $23F seems not to use
standard notation) and unuserfriendly (you can increase and
decrease these per word instead of per R, G and B).
I would have liked it very much if the "Ultimate Ripper" would
allow the ripping of pictures using more than the usual 16
colours, that would then be saved in .IFF format for use in
"NEOChrome Master". Alas.
Nonetheless, this is quite a good option. It can be said that
any picture on the screen can be ripped, and the colour palette
will always be right if is uses but 16 colours.
Poking in other peoples' code
The "Memory Ripper" is located under the F2 key. With this, it
is possible to check memory - whether ROM or RAM. Viewing can be
done in hexadecimal or in a disassembled listing. The latter,
though hardly revolutionary, is a definite advantage over
"Multiface". Unfortunately, editing is only allowed in hex mode -
assembling mnemonics is impossible. Manipulating memory is of
limited use anyway, as you can't normally continue a program once
The other, rather usual options in this 'ripper' are search,
fill, copy and save. Screen display is not just slow. As a matter
of fact, it seems the earliest version of "1st Word" look like a
TT running "Tempus" in comparison. I find this very strange, as
the manual states that the entire program is written in
For peeking at code, this option is rather OK - although I found
searching too slow. Don't expect to manipulate anything decently
with this. Altogether, this option tends to be rather
Like any cartridge like this, it's got some disk utilities built
in (press F3 to get to them). After all, in the middle of
hackin', you will want to format disks and delete or rename
files. Whereas "Multiface" had a very powerful disk tool built in
that would make "PC Speed" go to shame, the "Ultimate Ripper"
devolutionised. It's a very Spartan version of any disk utility,
and can't do much additional.
This is a rather useful function, but too Spartan.
I'd like to handle the option under F4 and F5 simultaneously.
These allow the loading of executable .TOS files and non-
executable files respectively. I fail to grasp what the use of
all this is, as it is not normally possible to continue a program
once it's interrupted. You can load in a separate debugger
perhaps, but what's the use of you can't continue anything? You
can replace some of the graphics by your own but, again, what's
Therefore I consider these option to be rather superfluous as
well. Maybe a hardened hacker will be able to do something with
Who the hell is Mad Max?
Under the F6 key is the most interesting option. I have to admit
that, when I got the cartridge, I considered it the best thing in
it at all. Were my thoughts in line with reality?
There are dozens of demos, if not hundreds, that employ the ST's
soundchip in one way or the other. Who does not know the "BIG
Demo", "Union Demo" and all those more modern demos such as
"Syntax Terror", "Dark Side of the Spoon", "European Demos",
"Lightning Demo", "Ooh Crikey Wot A Scorcher" and "Punish Your
Machine"? Most of the time, these are the only that use the ST's
soundchip decently, as only few commercial software houses seem
to regard music as an important thing.
By means of the "Ultimate Ripper" you can rip music - whether
standard soundchip music or digi stuff. The manual states that
50% of all modern musix can be ripped with it, provided they use
a 'standard' format, i.e. when they're made using a sound play
routine that the author of the "Ultimate Ripper" has analysed.
I think the 50% is not attained in reality.
I had a go at ripping some of the music in some demos. I tried
"Punish Your Machine", "Lightning Demo", "Ooh Crikey" and even
"BIG Demo" and "Union Demo". It did find the start and end
address of Big Alec's and Count Zero's music routines, and it
even estimated them to be '100%' correct. Trying to play them
revealed nothing more than ultimate silence, however. It found
some music in "Lightning" with a estimated '30%'. Playing it
resulted in a lockup of the system. Only in "Ooh Crikey" did it
find Mad Max music (which it could play and all, very neat) and
Dave's music - the latter are all made with the standard
"Quartet" play routine so I wasn't surprised at that. Although
75% of all demo musix nowadays turn out to have been made by Mad
Max, none of them were found in either "Union Demo", "BIG Demo",
or some of the ST NEWS issues. "NO MUSIC FOUND" it said (in
The music in "Magic Pockets" and "Gods" turned out to have been
made with the "TCB Tracker". I had expected better of the
Bitmaps, really. When scanning all memory of my 4 Mb ST it found
a "TCB Tracker" module at $400000 to $400132 each time. That's
above the RAM limit, in case you don't know, and there's only air
in my machine there. This is clumsy.
Ripping digital music consists of two parts: First you have to
find the sound table (like "Quartet" or "TCB Tracker" make them)
and then you have to find the sampled sounds. The latter can be
done with a special memory player with a graphic display of
Although I acknowledge the complexity of the routines involved,
I think this option should have been a lot better. Some more
sound routines should be recognisable so that the success rate is
increased. You can forget ripping soundchip music from games
unless these are made by people from the demo scene. Once a piece
of music is found you can save it as executable file to disk -
but the manual does not explain how to use them unless by double-
clicking from the desktop. I guess this should prove to be no
problem for the target group, though.
The disk ripper
Finally, the "Ultimate Ripper" has a 'disk ripper'. Although
fairly advanced, it is nothing compared to the software offered
on Claus Brod's "Kleisterscheibe" with his book
"Scheibenkleister". In the Public Domain there are loads of
programs that can do better, and I am told "Knife ST" is better,
With this option you can either read sectors (you can
disassemble them, and edit them - in hex mode only) or entire
tracks. The latter reads in all information, including gaps and
headers and ID's and all that stuff. That way, you can check for
read errors that have to do with copy protection and things like
that. Before I forget: Screen display is dead-slow again.
This option is close to being average, but should have been a
lot better - again.
The excuse for a manual
It has to be said: The manual looks slick. Paper quality is
good, setting is good, and the layout is OK too I guess. So
everything is alright esthetically, but the contents is just as
much a failure as that of the cartridge itself. It's written in
English, but it's clear that the translation has been done by a
non-qualified person, probably someone from France).
Most of it is filled with some remarks on how the ST works and
all, but I guess every hacker has "ST Internals" or something -
which explains it more complete and a lot clearer. The things
that pertain to the actual cartridge are explained in a very
short fashion, sometimes assuming too much knowledge on the side
of the user.
A very average manual indeed.
What it comes down to
It all sounds a bit tough, maybe, but the cartridge deserves it.
It costs 40 quid, and I would be jolly pissed off if I got this
for my money. The rather arrogant use of the word 'ultimate' in
the name should also be punished, as the cartridge is everything
but 'ultimate'. All offerings are average or even below average,
with the exception of the image-and music-rippers - but these are
both very much improvable. You cannot make backups with it (which
was one of "Multiface"'s possibilities), you cannot assemble, and
it's all kinda slow and average.
The only thing that has to be said to its credit is that you can
get into any program. If the software had been properly done
(including a real debugger and all that stuff) it would have been
For 10 quid or something the thing would have been OK.
Currently, the "Ultimate Ripper" is only useful if you're a
hardened hacker who has too much money to spend.
I, for my part, will continue to wait for the really ultimate
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.