"I haven't been wrong since 1961, when I thought I made a
ST (AND FALCON) SOFTWARE REVIEWS IN SHORT
by Richard Karsmakers
God (who does not exist) knows the amount of times this column
has succeeded in finding its meagre bit of space in ST NEWS
before it changed its name from "ST Software News" to "ST (and
Falcon) Software Reviews in Short". Anyway, it's not really
important and even if it was then I couldn't care a toss really.
Again, this column will try to shed some light on various things
that are worthy of having light shed on them. Or perhaps not
This is the first time ever that it has to be divided into two
segments, because the whole thing somehow got bigger than 50 Kb.
I think this is due to the fact that I've been getting rather a
lot of PD lately, and there's been rather a lot of good stuff
going around recently. Or maybe it's just because I felt more
But before I do that I have to throw in a bit of human interest,
which is in this case actually just a euphemism for ranting a
little bit. And that's an understatement.
My God I hate house music. And the fact that I use His name in
that exclamation should prove my seriousness, as I am one of
those precious few who deem His existence very unlikely indeed.
However, my use of the divine explitive is warranted for it
channels your attention in the right grooves.
I hate house (note the sudden lack of 'music'; 'house music' is
a contradiction in terms). I don't hate house the same way I hate
people who smoke. People who smoke are addicted to something.
Stupid, really, but they can't be held accountable. People who
love house are of the same mindless persuasion as those who spend
night after night in discos listening to monotonous and deafening
beats on top of which people speak with as black an accent as
possible (no discrimination intended, but just used to point out
that even 'white' house musicians find it necessary to speak
their stuff in as much of a negro voice as possible, as if this
gives them extra artistic credibility).
My neighbour is right now playing house. And it's not limited to
that. It's going as far as to vibrate the very walls. I feel the
vibes through the soles of my feet - and it's my next door
neighbour, not the one below me. As a matter of fact it is
bordering on the probability of causing my hard disk to cough up
Just now I played Pantera's "Vulgar Display of Power" for about
a minute at top level. That is altogether pretty loud. Remember,
I have ex-Stefan's superbly powerful Magnat speakers and my amp
was full-on. There was no possibility of communication within
the immediate vicinity. It must have sounded at least as loud and
doubly as violent as the house crap that was invading my personal
I failed to still hear the monotony arising from the other side
of the wall. After another half minute of 'rubbing it in' I went
back to the usual volume. Pantera relented. Some birds that had
fled the violence were gradually finding their ways back to the
trees outside of where I live.
Once my ears had grown used to the diminished amount of
decibels, a monotonous bass beat made itself audible again. My
soles felt it, too. Perhaps the house kind of people need more
It's not just that I hate house people because, somehow, they
seem to be able enjoy their music only if all neighbours (and
even the neighbours' neighbours) can enjoy it with them. I don't
even hate them because they tend to drive around in cheap cars
with expensive audio equipment, windows bulging, car hopping up
and down on the rhythm, looking dumbwittedly through smoke-
stained so people can see the fashionability of their hairdo.
I hate them because they don't feel ashamed when they do it. I
mean it is blatantly obvious that people who like house music are
lacking a few things in the brain department. I surely wouldn't
go around wearing a T-shirt saying "I am too stupid to understand
logarithms" even thought it might be true. House music is a means
of fitness. It has nothing whatsoever to do with music. Today's
hit lists are filled with people who make a lot of money despite
the fact they can't capably handle any musical instrument you
would care to throw at them - including the tambourine. House
music probably communicates with simple people's baser instincts.
And, you have to admit, everybody likes house music so it's the
perfect way to follow the herd and just be another cow. Hey, it's
the same reason why you can find behind people wanting to watch
24 hours of commercial drivel on MTV, wearing horribly coloured
Nike Air sneakers and, yes, there we have it, smoking. Admitting
to a love of house music is like openly proclaiming you've got a
PC at home.
For the risk of sounding terribly old-fashioned, what the hell
is the world coming to? It really makes me want to climb a
mountain and scream my guts out at humanity. Even swear a bit if
I feel that might help. Yes, there would definitely have to be a
few occurrences of the f-word. Why do the people with the least
sense of responsibility and the lowest IQ insist on herding
together and acting alike as much as possible?
I do realise the world would be a poorer place without them.
After all, who would there be for the more intelligent people to
make money out of? What would the world be like if there was a
total lack of people who are actually convinced by commercials?
I think that the record company honchos, who obviously make a
big buck out of house music - similarly to hospitals and
gravediggers earning a lot of money because so many people smoke
- will sit back after work and put on a nice metal CD. I firmly
believe that; it's one of the few things that keeps me going
and relatively sane in an otherwise brainless world that I
sincerely hope will never be discovered by any extraterrestrial
life forms for fear of dying of shame.
The house next door has ceased. Pantera is still going strong.
Perhaps I should turn it up really loud. So everybody can enjoy
it a bit better. Even my neighbours' neighbours. Yeah, let's
fight fire with fire. It might help.
Then again it might not.
On February 2nd, Cyrille Dupuydauby released version 2.52 of his
ever popular Falcon program "Backward", a program with which it
is possible to make more ST games run on your Falcon despite them
maybe not working normally. "Backward" is generally assumed to
be the best of this ST emulator programs, and I have all reason
to believe it is (I even registered it). It is certainly one of
the most flexible programs around, allowing you to emulate or
suppress old ST sound and particular ST bugs that would make
certain programs work. Apart from these more advanced options, it
can also switch off the Falcon's caches, turn down processor
speed to 8 Mhz and turn off the PMMU, all of these being things
that may increase games compatibility on the Falcon.
As I trust most of the Falcon owners out there are familiar with
"Backward" - and if you aren't then just have a look at the
programs on this ST NEWS disk - I will just sketch a brief
outline of what has improved in "Backward" since the latest
generally spread version (2.42 that could be found on "Maggie"
issue 13). Cyrille claims that only versions 2.50 and up are
actually any good, as proper operation before these seemed
limited only to 4.02.
Version 2.50 saw the inclusion of a GEM on/off switch and
autostart with the [CONTROL] key, whereas he also built in
Minidesk (which replaces the essentials of GEM if you have turned
it off). The stack size was incremented so as to correct some
bugs, and problems with TOS 4.01 were fixed. The GEM on/off
switch is a fine choice, because it can also get "Llamatron" to
work for example. Version 2.52 added protection of the SCC
interrupt vectors and supported sound handling with keyboard
For more information I direct you to the approriate program and
documentation to be found on this ST NEWS disk. There, you can
also find more information as to registering. I have discarded
the French manual (I hope you won't mind, Cyrille!) to save some
"Backward" is an essential program for every Falcon owner.
Cyrille is at the moment working on "Backward III" which will
have some more options, such as virtual ST mode (i.e. allowing to
switch between ST and Falcon sessions, possibly with ST sessions
snapped in a window), special support for TV and Multisync
monitors, a new configuration page that can be called with a
keyboard shortcut, better support for "MultiTOS", virtual RAM
emulation and better support of 1 Mb and 16 Mb Falcons.
He also has some other projects planned. They include a 2,88 Mb
disk drive driver (the Falcon's Ajax FDC seems to be designed
with it in mind), a special disk cache for 16 Mb Falcon owners
and a GEM library for easy GEM development in assembler (which
he'll also use himself in "Backward III").
The Beginning of the Ending Demo
Our Swedish distributor is a very active kinda guy. When he's
not busy distributing ST NEWS he is either writing poems (see
elsewhere in this issue) or helping out within his coding group
Flexichron. In the last of these categories falls "The Beginning
of the Ending Demo", a one-disk megademo released a few months
Actually it's not really a megademo. Basically it's an intro, a
'break' screen, and a sortof game demo that has a bonus screen
accessible by gaining a hiscore. No more, no less.
The intro is nice. There's the shape of a running man, then a
visor homes in on him and shoots. The visor turns into the "O" of
the "Offbeat" logo. Then you enter the 'break' screen, a coloury
'break' logo atop a 2 or 3 plane up and down scrolling background
(full screen). This doesn't really work on all machines - on my
machine, for example, it flashes a lot. It's not all too
Next is the main screen - the game. The top half is a kind of
"Arkanoid" game with the balls(s) and bat all drawn within the
same 1 plane. You don't have to break through a wall or
something, all you have to do is make sure at least one of the
initial five balls is kept safe by bouncing it up each time it
comes down. Each time a ball bounces you get one point. You have
to get a total of 400 (!!) points to get to the bonus screen. In
the beginning things go OK but then you lose all but one ball and
you literally spend aeons playing. I never got to the bonus
The thing that makes everything so difficult are the things on
top of that one plane that displays a bland bat and bland balls.
The score is displayed in a bunch of bright tracking sprites that
lie on top of it, which is extremely confusing. As if that
doesn't suffice the lower half of the screen sometimes stops
displaying a large scroll text to save processor time to display
a large globe made of dots that bounced across the screen (and
your playfield). They added more stuff like this, making it
impossible to get 400 points.
A bit frustrating. Very much so, actually.
Some issues ago I reviewed "Ed Hak", a rather extensive editor
accessory marketed by Oregon in the USA and Douglas Comms in the
UK. In the mean time it has been updated several times, and I
thought why not include the update notes below, so you can check
out if perhaps it's worth updating to, or getting in the first
Version 3.0 (June 1993) improvements:
o MultiTOS/Falcon TOS compatible
o Allow "kwiksend" from PRG (only useful for MultiTOS)
o Greatly expanded Block handling options
o Use any of the 3 system font sizes in most resolutions
o Enhanced Scrolling to data outside edit buffer
o Enhanced text Macro operation
o Allow saving buffer -> RAM block to any RAM address
o Old bugs fixed
o You can exit the block number dialog by hetting [RETURN], as
it should be
o In TOS 1.0 (or when running in "MultiDesk") if you use the
menu to go to the config screen, you now don't instantly
skip over the first screen.
o With a column block marked, the hightlighting now never goes
beyond the edge of a window.
o Drag & drop file opening as a NeoDesk Accessory!
o Fixed display when do Alt-Delete with window shifted to
o Shift-Clr-Home from top of buffer now always sets cursor to
bottom of window even when there is less than a full windown
o Removed shift-space warning when no block is selected
o Changed non-clipboard block save/merge to BLOCK.TXT from
o Made line/char status display in current font size
o Horiz scroll much faster (now uses blitting)
o Allow bigger display fonts
o Fixed undeletable file problem (little bug in Merge routine)
o Fixed display when scrolling cursor down below screen
o Fixed crash if >128 columns displayed (was due to VDI limit)
o Fixed couple little display weirdnesses with long lines;
Version 3.03 (January 1994):
o Shift-space with no block selected just yields space
o Removed "Really want to Quit?" alert
o Added "Save Changes?" check for Closebutton exit as PRG or
o Change "too big for" to "larger than" in dialog boxes
o Add Cancel option to Text/Hack/Hex toggle
o Fixes MultiTOS kwiksend
o Fixes problem some people had with Spelling Sentry
Patch programs are available in the Public Domain for those
already with version 3.0x to change it into 3.03.
"ExtenDOS" is a low-cost extension to the standard Atari
Operating System providing support for reading CD-ROMs using the
ISO9660 format (which is the industry standard). Version 1.1 has
new features, including full Falcon support and limited
"MultiTOS" support. It continues to offer higher performance and
more features than alternative solutions.
"ExtenDOS" supports ST, STe, Mega, TT, and Falcon. It has also
been tested on the NEC 74 drive (the external version of the NEC
84) and was found to work without problems. "ExtenDOS" is now
documented to work with the following drives: Atari CDAR-504,
Panasonic (Matsushita) CR-501, NEC 74/84, Sony CDU-541 and
Toshiba 3401. It is also expected to work on any SCSI-1/2
With "MultiTOS", "ExtenDOS" will work as long as memory
protection is turned off. It is at the moment not possible to run
programs directy from a CD-ROM when using "MultiTOS".
The latest version of "ExtenDOS", version 1.1, is available from
the following address at $19.95 including p&p (US$ for US, Cdn$
for Canada, Ontario residents add 8% PST). To be payed my cheque
or money order.
6 Cobbler Court
Ontario K1V 0B8
My dear friend and ex-Minute One, yes, Gard Eggesbø Abrahamsen
of Norway, has made himself useful a lot. For those of you who
are into a particularly weird (and sometimes sad) load of
writings he co-writes and programs "Scriba Communis Responsum".
For people who have email he's a virtually limitless source of
information, help and, yes, even inspiration. His visual
appearance might drive any prospective mother-in-law up the wall,
but he's a genuinely nice chap actually and not entirely devoid
of talents either.
One such talents - his adeptness at programming computers - has
been put to good use recently when he was doing a thing called
"GBell" (which is supposed to mean either "Gard Bell" or "GEM
Bell"). Basically what he did was he took an existing concept and
fiddled around with it until it was virtually endlessly better
and had all the knobs on you might possible want (or at least
some of 'em).
Some of you are perhaps aware of a program called "NewBell". I
think it was done by Dan Wilga, and it was Colaware (you use it,
you send Cola - or Jolt - to programmer). It replaced the system
"bell" sound by a sample. This sparked something deep within the
ineffable brain coils of the Nutty Norwegian meant above (yes,
the One formerly known by many illustrious names some of which
weren't exactly flattering). Taken "SAM" (the "System Audio
Machine" by Atari) to all possible extremes except for its
userfriendliness, he made "GBell".
So what does "GBell" do?
It is a DMA sound driver (i.e. Falcon and STE only) that will
load and play a sample at a user-specifiable sampling rate
whenever a specific GEM event occurs. This means that you can
have the computer play a sample whenever you open a window, or
whenever you have an alert box displayed. He claims it can be
used for debugging "those nasty GEM calls that happen but you
don't see when they happen". This may be true, but regular
mortals like me and you will most likely use it just to add that
bit of the comic to their daily computing existence.
Just bung it in the AUTO folder and make sure you have an INF
file ready for it to read and react to. That's all.
The things that make it really interesting is the fact that you
can give rather extensive commands in the INF file. A summary of
the commands may give you an idea of what I'm talking about:
PATH <spec> Sets path to find samples
BUFFER <long int> Sets size of sample buffer. The samples
will be loaded into this buffer and
then replayed. The same sample will
not load twice in a row, as GBell keeps
track of which sample is already in the
buffer, and which is not. At the time
being, the buffer will only contain one
sample at a time, meaning that the
buffer size should be the same as the
largest sample to load. Defaults to
70000 if command not included in script.
AES <integr> <sample> Activates sample when AES function
<integr> is called.
ALERT <string> <sample> Activates sample when form_alert is
called with a string of which the
beginning is like the given string.
ALERTEXT <string> <sample>
Same as ALERT, but string compare begins
at the actual text, skipping the symbol
used in the box.
WINAME <string> <sample>
Activates sample when a window's name is
set. Usually, this happens before the
window is opened, so this sample
should normally supress your "open
This gives it an obvious advantage over "SAM", which can only
assign samples to rough AES calls (no specification of strings
possible), though of course "SAM" is better insofar that it can
assign key blicks to the various keys (and different samples to
different kinds of keys) and, I believe, more different events.
The "GBell" manual lists all AES calls, so that prospective INF
file creators can experiment to their hearts' content.
Gard is planning to develop this program further. He will use a
static multi-buffer, include OBJECT, GEMDOS and XBIOS commands, a
possibility to play a specific sample on a specific date and a
I, for one, am looking forward to it, especially if ever he
should give it a proper front-end user interface that will do the
INF file generation for you (like that in "SAM"). And I predict
that a forthcoming version of "GBell" might very well appear on
an ST NEWS disk near you in the foreseeable future.
GfA FlyDials v4.7
Mid February a new version of the powerful and flexible
"FlyDials" GfA Basic dialog/window library was released by its
author, Gregor Duchalski. Apart from the fact that I am sure it's
generally optimised and improved, it adds a few extra functions
o Check boxes can now have a third state (next to 'checked'
and 'unchecked'), where it will be filled with a dot
o When loading an RSC file, you can pass -1 as the amount of
object trees. The routine will then find out how much there
are by itself.
o The 3D effect with buttons has been improved.
o A leading space in regular dialogs will be skipped. A window
title can now have a left and right space, which looks
o The RSC draw routine now has another flag, making it
possible to cause a window dialog to be drawn directly
instead of when "rsc_do" is called.
The address to send a disk to if you're a registered user is
Gregor Duchalski, Baueracker 15a, W-44627 Herne, Germany.
When you have to compile a "GfA Basic" version 3.x program you
have to use the supplied "MENU" program to access the compiler
options and actually compile and link the program. That "MENU"
program interfaces with the separate "GfA Basic" source file
compiler that creates an object (.O) file and the linker program
that creates an executable .PRG file from such an object file.
"MENU" does an adequate job, but isn't exactly userfriendly or
anything. Replacement shells have appeared regularly ever since
version 3.x of "GfA Basic" was released (such as "XMENU" and the
most excellent "Weller Tools"). A more recent addition to the
genre is Barry S. Munro's "GfA Basic 3.5 Menu Shell", currently
at version 1.5b but most likely to be updated soon. Apart from
the usual functions found in such a program - allowing for you to
switch on and off compiler options and, of course, to actually
compile and link the stuff - it also allows you to execute alien
program files, quickly access a resource construction set, and
automatically pack (compress) a program file after it having been
compiled and linked.
It also has several other options built in such as the ability
to delete, rename and copy files, change their file attributes,
format a disk, set the time and perform a reset. One of the
neater options is the possibility to have the program and object
files have the same name as the ".GFA" file, only with a
different extension. The latter is not possible with the standard
"MENU" program, at least not without actually having to type the
names in full.
"GfA Shell" comes with a 35 Kb text file explaining all the fine
bits about its operation, including a list of future improvements
such as a new interface and full "MultiTOS" compatibility. I
should like to add myself the suggestion of allowing all files to
have their paths individually specified ("GfA Basic", compiler,
packer, etc.) instead of only the resource editor.
The program is available from Barry S. Munro, 11 Station Court,
Leven, Fife, Scotland KY8 4RR, United Kingdom, or via email at
email@example.com. The program is shareware, with a
registration fee of £5, which is more than reasonable. I will put
the evaluation version on a future ST NEWS disk.
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.