SpartaDOS X / Operating System / commercial

From: Atari SIG (xx004@cleveland.Freenet.Edu)
Date: 10/29/91-08:42:48 PM Z

From: xx004@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Atari SIG)
Subject: SpartaDOS X / Operating System / commercial
Date: Tue Oct 29 20:42:48 1991

                            The SpartaDOS X cartridge
                                    a review

                                 by  Doug Wokoun

     The SpartaDOS X cartridge is the latest incantation of SpartaDOS for
the 8-bit Atari and very possibly the most powerful Disk Operating System
available for any 8-bit computer.

     The SpartaDOS X cartridge consists of 64K of ROM, with 48K (or 6
cartridge banks) formatted into a ROM-disk, and the remaining 16K used as the
main DOS core.  The ROM-disk contains files and drivers used by the system
and SpartaDOS X versions of several utilities found in the SpartaDOS ToolKit.
It also contains a very versatile ARC utility package.

     Some of the new features of SpartaDOS X (referred to as SDX):

     o  built in, memory resident FORMAT utility.  Old versions of SpartaDOS
          could only initialize Atari format disks using 'AINIT'.  To
          initialize a SpartaDOS disk required the loading of a program called
          'XINIT'.  Now, any time an XIO #254 call is made, the SDX format
          menu is brought up.  With this, you can select a variety of disk
          densities and types.  It will also allow "1-second" formatting by
          simply rewriting the root directory on a formatted disk.

     o  High speed disk I/O with U.S. Doubler, Atari XF551, and Indus GT disk

     o  New file loader supporting relocatable files (certain disk based
          commands can be held in memory and later removed) and symbol linking.

     o  Probably the lowest MEMLO of any DOS.  The DOS can load drivers under
          OS-RAM, into extended memory on an XE or at MEMLO on an 800.

     o  Environment variables: user definable PROMPTs, search PATHs, parameter
          passing on batch files, and a CARtridge or BASIC memory save 
          capability will retain programs even if the machine is shut off.

     o  The ability to go from a cartridge to internal BASIC without
          rebooting.  The CAR command enters the external cartridge, 
          "BASIC" enters internal BASIC.  You can go from Turbo BASIC XL to
          Atari BASIC to BASIC XE without rebooting! (with some provisions)

     o  Support of up to 1 Meg internal memory as a RAMDisk.

     o  "Persistent" batch files.  Continued batch file processing even after
          loading binary programs.

     o  Fast, powerful, versatile ARC utilities.  Supports ALF files.
          With these, you can Add files to an ARChive, Move (delete after
          Adding), Freshen (update files by date), Update (Freshen with Add
          capability), Delete files from an ARChive, View files in ARC,
          eXtract files, and Print ARC'd files to screen.  The ARC utilities
          also support password encryption and can function
          with the screen off to increase speed.  Also, all files are sorted
          in alphabetical order when added to the ARChive.

     o  A new MENU program very similar to the MS-DOS XTREE.EXE program.  This
          program allows multi-file operations and displays the entire
          directory tree, so files anywhere on a disk can be accessed easily.

     o  Command compatible with MS-DOS.  Directory commands have several 
          aliases.  CWD from disk based SpartaDOS can also be accessed
          as CHDIR, or CD from SDX.

     o  Drives can be referred to by letter or number.

     o  Drives can be remapped.  D1: can be SWAPped with D2:, etc. and from
          that point on, any referrences to D1: will be sent to D2: and vice

     SDX can be configured to take advantage of different hardware.  A file
placed on D1: called CONFIG.SYS is used for this, or the default configuration
can be used.  SDX can be configured to use OSRAM, or an extended bank of memory
for its drivers.  With the right setup, MEMLO can be pushed to below memory
location $1000!

     SDX uses a series of drivers to control most disk functions.  SPARTA.SYS
is the main driver and must be installed.  'DEVICE SPARTA' is used in the
CONFIG.SYS file to do this.  The number of sector buffers and file buffers
can be control by passing parameters to this driver.  Another driver is
ATARIDOS.SYS used to read Atari DOS 2.x disks.  Not installing this driver
saves memory, but then Atari DOS disks cannot be read.  The SDX cart also
contains a RAMDisk driver which can be used to install up to 3 RAMDisks of
any size.  An INDUS.SYS driver is used to program the INDUS GT to operate
at high speed.  There are also two clock drivers, used depending on whether
or not you have an R-Time 8 cartridge.

     A major change with the X cart is the way devices are addressed.  Since
ICD wanted drives to be addressed by letter or number, conflicts would have
occured with existing devices.  Also, ICD wanted SDX to be more similar to
MS-DOS, so those conventions were adopted.  E: has become CON:, P: has become
PRN:, and D1: D2: and D3: are A: B: and C:.  Switching between an IBM
machine and SpartaDOS X is much easier with these changes.

     Another feature of SDX is its I/O redirection.  With this, you can send
the output of a program to another device.  Ex: DIR >>PRN: would do a 
directory, but the results would be sent to the printer.  Also, you can
use a file to "feed" a program with input redirection.  Ex: BASIC <<file.ext
would call up internal BASIC and send it file.ext as if the contents of
that file were being typed into the machine.  This would be used in place
of batch files because you can no longer send input to BASIC from a batch

     SDX recognizes two new file attributes in addition to protected, hidden
and archive.  Hidden files do not appear in the directory, and archive is
used to mark files for backup.  This is normally used with a hard disk backup
program.  When a file is updated, the archive bit is cleared, telling a
program like Flashback that the file needs to be backed up.  All of these
are set with the ATR or ATTRIB commands (same thing).  You can also scan
directories for files with certain attributes.

     Two new commands, PEEK and POKE make many operations easier.  Instead of
going to BASIC to execute these commands, they can be sent to the command
line.  PEEK will also display the value of the memory word stored at that
location and the one following in hex and decimal.

     Parameters can now be passed to batch files.  In the batch file itself,
these are referred to as %1 through %9.  With this, you can create general
purpose batch files to automate tasks.

     Internally, SDX is very different from earlier versions of SpartaDOS.
All of the files on the cartridge are relocatable and can be held in memory.
COMMAND.COM, the command processor is one of these files.  It is 
non-resident in nature and is unLOADed from memory when binary files are
run.  This saves about 4K of memory.  It is reLOADed when the program is
exited to DOS.  Disk based programs written in relocatable format could
be loaded at MEMLO, and held, eliminating the need to reload from disk
each time.  Unfortunately, information on how to write these modules is
almost non-existant, so for now, only the programs on the cartridge can
be held.

     Some of the new commands and changes with SDX not mentioned above:

     CHTD/CHVOL - now built in
     COPY - now checks to see that there are two files specified.  Files
          could be lost with disk based SpartaDOS by accidentally not
          specifying a second filename
     DIR - /p directive pages output, /c directive gives file count.
     DUMP - Hex dump of file
     FIND - search all drives for filename
     MEM - displays banks available, extended memory
     PATH - Set search path
     PROMPT - set system prompt with meta-strings
     RS232 - now built in
     SET - display/set environment variables
     UNERASE - restore file(s)
     X - load file/disable cartridge (for long binary files)

     This is an incomplete listing of the features of SpartaDOS X.  There
are many others and new uses for the functions appear constantly.  While
learning to use SDX will take some time, it is well worth it in the end.

     SDX is available direct from ICD.  The ICD BBS contains a listing
of ICD products available direct at prices much lower than through a store
or even mail-order.  Check for the latest price.  ICD BBS: 815-968-2229.

Doug Wokoun
        Doug Wokoun            /      /                | If you don't
(aa384@cleveland.Freenet.Edu)  [o]-[o]                 |  stand for something,
            |||                   L     (((( STe ))))  | you will
    Atari  / | \  S I G         \___/                  |  fall for anything.

Return to message index