Z*Magazine: 18-Dec-90 #188From: Atari SIG (xx004@cleveland.Freenet.Edu)
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From: xx004@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Atari SIG) Subject: Z*Magazine: 18-Dec-90 #188 Date: Sat Oct 2 15:38:36 1993 ==(((((((((( == Z*MAG/A\ZINE ATARI ONLINE MAGAZINE =========(( === December 18, 1990 =======(( ===== Issue #188 =====(( ======= ---------------------------------- ==(((((((((( == Copyright (c)1990, Rovac Ind Inc.. Publisher/Editor : Ron Kovacs Contributing Editor: Stan Lowell ----------------------------------------------------------------------- CompuServe: 71777,2140 GEnie: Z-NET Z*NET BBS: (908) 968-8148 ----------------------------------------------------------------------- ** EDITORS DESK by Ron Kovacs The staff extends best wishes for a Happy Holiday! Merry Christmas! The next edition will appear in about 10 days or shortly before the end of the year with a special year in review edition. Z*Magazine will enter six years in 1991 and our continued publishing of this online magazine is up to you. Please send interesting articles and information our way so that we can continue on a regular basis. Thanks for reading! ** Z*NET NEWSWIRE ================= MEGA/STE PASSES FCC TESTING Last week, Atari learned that the MEGA/STe had passed the FCC testing as a Type B (Consumer) product, and may begin US distribution as soon as production is ready. That is expected to be in mid-January. This marks the first time in memory that ANY Atari product has been approved for consumer release within 30 days of the first product announcement... (except perhaps for the $29 plastic monitor stand offered last year). TT BEGINS SHIPPING TO USA DEALERS Yes, the TT030 machine has in fact begun shipping to US dealers as a TYPE A COMMERCIAL USE device. The price for the base unit, a 2 MEG RAM, 50 MEG hard drive device, is still $2,995. Only VARs (Value Added Resellers) and "qualified dealers" can get the TT, and must send Atari a letter assuring that the machines will not be sold to consumer, residential users. The FCC is getting concerned with improper sales of Type A devices, such as the STacy and the TT, and is considering slapping a $5,000 per machine fine on those sold for improper use. SALERNO LEAVES ATARI Antonio Salerno, Vice President - Applications for Atari Corporation, resigned last Thursday, December 6. Salerno had been in charge of efforts to persuade major software companies to bring their well known products to the Atari line, and had less than dramatic success. Antonio reportedly will return to school to complete a Masters degree at Stanford University. Atari has no immediate plans for a replacement, as Leonard Tramiel and Atari USA staff members are taking over most of the duties of the position. BEACH BOY JOINS ATARI James Grunke, technical man for the super group BEACH BOYS, is leaving the band to replace Frank Foster at Atari as the Music Industry Representative and MIDI promoter. James will begin work on January 1, 1991. Foster left in early September. FULTON JOINS ATARI Formerly of NEOCEPT, makers of the powerful WORD UP graphic word processor for the Atari, programmer Mike Fulton has been hired and has begun work in Atari's customer and developer support area. This fuels earlier speculation that Atari may eventually buy and support Word Up as an Atari brand product. LYNX AT THE MOVIES A promotion running in 20 premier locations of Cineplex Odeon motion picture theaters across the USA includes an Atari LYNX game kiosk and a sweepstakes for the show-goers. Visitors to the theaters can play the hand-held games, mounted on the display stands. Companion advertising for the LYNX appears in MOVIES USA, a magazine available in most movie houses. The promotion runs throughout December, and Atari thanks a number of user groups who helped set up and are maintaining the displays in areas where local Atari representation needed a hand. Kudos to: MAST (Minnesota Atari ST Users); HACKS (Hooked on Atari Computer Keyboards Society, Glendale CA); HASTE (Houston Atari ST Enthusiasts); SPACE (Seattle/Puget Atari Computer Enthusiasts); NOVATARI (Virginia); Mid- Florida Atari Computer Club. For their efforts, the clubs will get to keep the LYNX machines and the display kiosk. FLEETWOOD MAC TOUR ENDS; ATARI IS THERE As a sponsor of the famous FLEETWOOD MAC tour, Atari provided complimentary seats at the final evening of their 1990 tour for several club officials, dealers, and the press. Friday, December 7, the music group that has been pressing hit albums since 1967 visited Los Angeles as the last stop on their tour in support of the latest LP, "Behind the Mask". Fleetwood Mac uses Atari computers to control MIDI keyboards and effects. Drummer and group leader Mick Fleetwood dazzled the sold-out Forum stadium with an extended solo on his MIDI drum-vest, which enables Mick to perform by touching, tapping, or slapping sensors in his clothing. This is the same technology that Fleetwood and Jimmy Hotz use in the HOTZ BOX, which is finally becoming available commercially. This performance is to be the final tour date that singers Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie participate in, although they may continue to be on Fleetwood Mac albums. Z*NET thanks Atari for being included in this event, and thanks Fleetwood Mac for a great show. PIRATE GETS 5 YEARS Dennis Hayes, the Cincinnati resident who pleaded guilty in late October to selling more then 5,000 copies of pirates MacIntosh ROMS was sentenced to 5 years in prison this week. In the original half million dollar chip bust, Hayes sold copied MacIntosh ROM chips for between 130 and 195 dollars per set. Atari users were said to have purchased many of the ROMs for the Spectre Mac Emulator for the ST. Dave Small of Gadget's By Small stated in October that there were many legitimate sources for Mac ROMs and that the marketplace should not be affected by this event. ATARI ELITE VS ROVAC Repeated attempts this week to contact Atari Elite's legal representation were unsuccessful and at the present time we still do not have a clear picture of the situation. Rovac's Ron Kovacs received a writ of summons in late November stating that action had commenced on the matter, but to date no further information or summons has been received. Z*Net Online continues to offer the Atari Elite response space to articles we ran earlier in the year. ATARI EXPLORER UPDATE The Atari in-house publication Explorer is still around. Production delays seem to be the problem and we have been told to expect release in January 1991. FIRST VDT SAFETY MEASURES ADOPTED San Francisco California's Board of Supervisors tentatively adopted on the nation's first active VDT safety regulations. The new regulations would require employers with 15 or more workers to provide a mandatory 15 minute break. Also, adjustable swivel chairs, document holders and computer terminals with detachable keyboards and adjustable, non-glare screens must be supplied. Private and government offices would have two years to comply with the VDT safety rules if the ordinance is approved a second time by the supervisors and signed by San Fransisco Mayor Art Agnos. Late NewsUpdate: This regulation was passed this week and signed by the Mayor. EUROPE ADOPTS SOFTWARE PIRACY MEASURES European Community ministers have unanimously adopted new measures to fight software piracy. The measures would grant software the same treatment as literary works, which are protected under the international Berne Convention on copyrights. Copyright holders would have exclusive rights to authorize the reproduction, adaptation, translation or rental of their works. ** ATARI 8 RUMBLES - RAMBLES - RUMORS ===================================== by Stan Lowell It has been much longer than I planned since my last article! Why, you ask? The exact reason seems to have slipped my mind...something to do with formatting a disk(THREE times!). At any rate, here I am again! Many thanks to those of you who sent me information on GEnie, my BBS, and elsewhere. Your input is a great resource for all Atari 8-bitters! Among the more interesting messages which I have encountered was the following capture from the ACUTE BBS(215-261-0620). This message was in their networked NEAR-US message base. Message: 194 (#4903) Title: 8 Bit Software Author: Randy Constan To: All Posted: Fri 26-Oct-90 at 2:12:00am Origin: Nest BBS, Long Island, New York Hi! I just want to tell all 8 Bit users that Elfin Magic Software is still business, and still supports the 8 Bit! While the changing market has made it impractical for me to continue advertising in major publications, I still receive dozens of calls anually from interested users. There's still quite a stock of SUPER 3D PLOTTER II, CIRCUIT DATABASE v.2.3, and CHECKING ACCOUNT MANAGER, on Hand. It's a shame when good software is available, but totally unknown to so many users that could really put it to good use. Our address is: Elfin Magic Co. 23 Brook Place E. Islip, NY, 11730 Phone: 516 - 581-7657 Free information on all products is available for the asking, with a SASE. Or, you can leave a message or personal EMAIL, or call any evening after 6:30PM (eastern time), if you need specific questions answered. The revolution lives on! -Randy After this message there was a discussion of Ads on a BBS. I brought the idea to my Network SysOps. They liked the idea. As a result, we are encouraging 8-bit developers to post information about their 8-bit software on any of our FoReM-XEP boards, in the 8-bit Networked base. Our wish is to get the users & developers together. The current list of FoReM-XEP Network boards follows: Blank Page BBS - S. Bound Brook, NJ (My Board) 908-805-3967 Gateway City - St.Louis, MO (Support Board) 314-647-3290 Cheers BBS - St.Louis, MO 314-351-2837 Atarian Domain - Orlando, FL 407-855-1317 The Oasis - Kissimmee, FL 407-846-1765 Final Frontier - Philadelphia, PA (Support Board) 215-624-6347 The Boss BBS - Houston, TX 713-479-1967 Manitou BBS - Rochester, IN 219-223-8107 The Magic Dragon - Milwaukee, WI 414-482-2635 The Outhouse BBS - Belleville, IL The Road to Damascus BBS-Sacramento, CA 916-929-4389 In my last article, I asked for overseas sources for sofware, and I received feedback from Ray Wilmott on my BBS about an overseas source with which he has done business. Their catalog is NOT a slick copy, but a computer printout. Much of the newer sofware is on cassette. According to Ray, their prices are good, and the catalog is free for the asking. Thanks for passing on the information, Ray... Stan, Was reading your intro piece in Zmag. You mentioned European mail-order software. Here's the address of the one I've used before in case you want to list it in a future Z-Mag. Please let me know of any others you find... Miles Better Software 219/221 Cannock Road Chadsmoor, WS11 2DD England -Ray Several people left me the same names of Businesses carrying software and/or hardware for Atari 8-bits. For simplicity, I have included some messages from my BBS' Networked bases. Msg# : 1243 - For Sale/Wanted Sent : 11/06/90 at 11:48 AM To : BOB WINNETT From : Tom Spencer C-net: Final Frontier-Philadelphia PA BOB, you can get 3 I/O cables for $10 (or 1 for $4.50 get the three!) from American Techna-Vision 1-800-551-9995. I just got 3 and they're good. They ship UPS "land" and it takes 7 to 10 days to receive. Also there is a $4 shipping and handling charge on all orders under all orders under $150. They also have a decent selection of software an reasonable prices and some hardware-parts, i.e. power packs, 1050 mechanisms, keyboards, upgrade kits etc. but no actual computers or drives. TOM SPENCER Msg# : 2156 - Msgs 8-Bit - Net Sent : 11/26/90 at 10:45 PM To : Nick at Night From : LARRY CHARPIAT C-net: The Oasis BBS - Kissimmee, FL. Subj : LOOKIN' FOR GAUNTLET B & C Computer Visions, 3257 Kifer Rd., Santa Clara, California 95051, (408)749-1003 has the commercial version of Gauntlet 64K disk $31.50 & the Gauntlet Deeper Dungeons disk $22.50. You need the Gaunlet disk in order to use the Deeper Dungeons disk. They are open Tuesday - Friday 10AM to 6 PM, Saturday 10AM to 5PM Pacific time. Closed Sundays & Mondays. Also available for the ST, Gauntlet $44.95 & Gaunlet II $44.95 Msg# : 1831 - Msgs 8-Bit - Net Sent : 10/28/90 at 5:32 PM To : Nick at Night From : LEN SPENCER C-net: Oasis BBS - Kissimmee, FL. Subj : LOOKIN' FOR GAUNTLET The game he is referring to is NOT PD. I bought it new last spring for $16.95. Yes, that was the price, NOT a typo. The place is called Software Plus 'n' Stuff, in Columbus, Ohio. Their BBS number is (614) 239-0349. When I was there they had a lot of good stuff at good prices. Give the board a call, they even have online price lists. Another long time 8-bit Atari software source is: San Jose Computer 640 Blossom Hill Rd. San Jose, CA 95123 408-224-8575 Another message gives us a hint of the next shareware terminal program to come from the prolific Bob Puff: Msg# : 2129 - Msgs 8-Bit - Net Sent : 11/20/90 at 4:38 AM To : Richard Welter From : Terroc C-net: Magic Dragon BBS-Milwaukee, WI Subj : Bobterm 1.22 ... BTW: Bob Puff is taking suggestions from people regarding what you'd like to see in BobTerm XE, the next release of BobTerm. So if you have any suggestions you'd like to convey him here are the BBS' that he's involved with: Computer World Jr. Bob Puff's BBS (716) 247-8355 Computer Software Services Support BBS (716) 247-7157 If you call CSS' BBS address messages to Bob Puff as SysOp Bob. -=*]Terroc[*=- Well, that about does it for this time. Once again, many thanks to those of you who have helped me with information. If you should call the mentioned places, please mention that you saw it here in ZMag. Let them know that somebody still cares and appreciates their continued support. If you should have some useful input, I can be reached on my BBS (908- 805-3967), GEnie(S.LOWELL), and on Z*Net Online BBS(908-968-8148). SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL USERS GROUP! Support those who support US! ** THE BLACKBOX VERSUS THE MIO ============================== This article originally appeared in the June 1990 issue of PSAN. PSAN (Puget Sound Atari News) is the official newsletter of several participating non-profit Atari user groups. Approximate circulation - 800. Please send any inquiries to: PSAN, P.O. Box 110576, Tacoma, WA 98411-0576 BlackBox vs. MIO by Dan Knauf of S*P*A*C*E Having had the opportunity to use both the BlackBox from CSS and the MIO from ICD, I thought I would share what I have learned about these two unique pieces of hardware for the 8-bit Atari. The systems I have used include: 130XE computers (upgraded to 512k), 1-meg MIO, 256k MIO, BlackBox, Supra Modem 2400, Seikosha MP-1300AI printer, 2 Happy 1050 floppy drives, an Adaptec 4000a hard drive controller, 2 Adaptec 5500 hard drive controllers, a Seagate ST225 20 meg hard drive, a ATASI 3046 40 meg hard drive, and a CMI 5616 13 meg hard drive. An explanation of just what the MIO and BlackBox are is in order. Both include a SASI/SCSI hard disk interface, a printer port, an RS232 port, and some type of printer buffer. The MIO comes with either 256k or 1 megabyte of dynamic ram on board which can be used as any combination of ramdisk(s) and/or printer spooler. The BlackBox comes either with no user ram or 64k of static ram which can be used only as a printer buffer. The BlackBox can also use the standard extended banks of a 130XE as a 64k printer buffer. The RS232 and/or printer ports can be disabled in both units to allow an external device such as an Atari 850 interface to be used. Both come with clear manuals printed on 8 1/2 by 11 inch unbound paper. The pinouts for all ports are clearly shown in the manuals and there are examples showing how to set up a hard disk system. The BB manual includes several short assembler listings showing some methods of accessing the BB from machine language. Appearance: ---------- The MIO comes in a nice gray case with the SCSI connector and printer port on one end. The other end has the RS232 port, on/off switch, power plug, and two LED's - one is a power indicator the other lights up when the MIO is busy. My 1-meg MIO has a second 9 pin plug on this end for a planned 80 column adapter which never happened. The 50 conductor ribbon cable which plugs into the computer is on one side. The BB comes with no case. Cases are available for it for $39.95 (and they are even black!). On the front edge is the connector which plugs into the 130XE. The other side has the SCSI connector, the floppy controller connector (see below), and the power plug. The printer plugs onto one end and the modem on the other. The BB also has two LED's which serve the same functions as the ones on the MIO. Plugging it in: -------------- The MIO has a 50 pin connector which plugs in to the parallel expansion port on a 600XL or 800XL. An XE adapter must be purchased for $16.95 to plug the MIO into a 130XE computer. This adapter plugs into both the ECI port and the cartridge port on the 130XE and has sockets for two cartridges on it. The second cartridge plug is primarily for the Rtime-8 cartridge from ICD. The BlackBox is built to plug directly into the 130XE. It comes with a short 50 pin cable for plugging into an XL machine. No extra adapter is needed. For my own system, I use the XE adapter from ICD and plug the 50 pin cable on the BB into it. (I use the Rtime-8 and this keeps the cartridge stack shorter.) The MIO has the expected 9 pin and 15 pin d-connectors for plugging in your printer and modem. The BB comes with 34 pin card edges for use with 34 conductor ribbon cable. You can use standard crimp-on connectors for both cables (use 25 conductor ribbon cable for the modem cable) or you can buy the cables you need from CSS. There is also an unused 34 connection card edge on the BB. This is for the floppy controller that CSS is planning to release. This floppy controller will allow the user to attach industry standard disk drives - up to 80 track 720k - to the BB. The MIO comes with a heavy duty 9v power supply. The BlackBox comes with a power supply which has +12v, -12v and +5v output. All three voltages are used by the BB. Menus: ----- Both the MIO and the BlackBox have menus. Here is a list of options available from the main menu of both: 1) Assign drives as floppy disks, or hard drive partitions. When assigning floppy drives, you can assign any physical floppy drive respond as any drive from D1: to D8: (and D9: on the BlackBox). Note: On the MIO ramdisks can also be defined. These ramdisks refer to MIO memory only - not memory available inside the computer. Use a DOS ramdisk handler for the extended memory in the computer. 2) Swap Drives - shows up as 'Exchange Drives' on the BlackBox and allows you to swap the drive assignments of two drives. For example, you could swap drives 1 and 4. The drive assigned to D4: would then become logical drive #1 and you could boot from it while the drive that was drive 1 would then be addressable as D4:. I am writing this using PaperClip which I booted from my hard drive using this method. 3) Lock Drive - Write locks a drive if it is a hard drive partition or a ramdisk. 4) Save Congfiguration - this writes the current configuration to the first sector of device 0,0 (the first Hard drive on your system). If no hard drive is present this option does nothing. The other options available from these menus are different enough to need separate descriptions. The MIO Menu: ------------ The MIO menu is entered by holding down the SELECT button and pressing RESET. This loads the menu into the computers program ram starting at address $3000. This destroys whatever was there, so it is best to re- boot the computer after accessing the menu. The main menu is the drive configuration menu. This is where you set up your hard drive partitions, partition the MIO ram into ramdisks, and assign floppy drives. The printer and RS232 menus are also accessed from here. Available from the printer menu: 1 - Pause/Resume Printing. 2 - Clear Spooler. 3 - Print Repeat Copies. 4 - Set Port Type. 5 - Set Spooler Size. 6 - Set Port Number. The 'Repeat Copies' option allows you to print copies of any text currently in the MIO print spooler. Setting the port type allows printing to either parallel and serial printers. This function is also used to turn line feeds on/off. Spooler size is adjustable in 32k byte increments from 0 (OFF) up to the maximum ram available on the MIO. Maximum available ram includes all ram on the MIO not already assigned to ramdisks. The port number can be set to P1:, P2:, or OFF. Available from the RS232 menu: 1 - Set Baud Rate. 2 - Set Stop Bits. 3 - Set Parity. 4 - Assign Port Number. Baud rate can be set from 110 to 19,200 baud. Stop bits can be set to either 1 or 2. Parity can be set to none, odd, even, or space. Since most terminal software handles these items, I am not sure why they are on the menu. Maybe it looked empty without some extra options... :-). R1:, R2:, or NONE are the allowable port assignments. The BlackBox Menu: ----------------- The BlackBox menu is entered by pressing a button on the BlackBox. This menu does not use any programming ram and is therefore non-destructive. You can enter the menu and usually exit with no effect on the program you are running. Available from the BlackBox menu are: 1 - Drive Configuration Menu. 2 - Port Status Menu. 3 - 6502 Monitor. From the Drive configuration menu you can partition your hard drive, assign floppies, add hard drive partitions to the partition list (explained below), enter the controller menu, or enter the partition list menu. The controller menu allows you to add up to 8 different hard drives to your system. The BlackBox allows you to have up to 96 hard drive partitions. The information on these partitions (size, start sector, controller and drive number, etc) is kept in the partition list. You are allowed to name each partition with any name of up to 11 characters 10 of which show up in the menu. The main configuration table of the BlackBox has room for nine drives (and/or partitions). You can load any partition from the partition list into the main configuration table by going to the partition list, moving the cursor to the partition you want and pressing RETURN. You will then be returned to the main configuration table and asked what drive you want the partition loaded as. Options on the port status menu are: 1 - I/O Sound On/Off. 2 - RS232 Port On/Off. 3 - Printer Port Number. 4 - Printer Line Feeds On/Off. 5 - Spooler Status. 6 - HD Partition List Start Sector. 7 - Save Configuration. Yes, I/O sound with a hard drive, heh. The RS232 port can only be turned on/off with no option to be assigned as anything other than R1:. The printer port can be assigned as any one of P1: through P8:, ALL, or NONE. Spooler status cycles between off, XE extended banks, and BlackBox ram (if the ram is available on the BB). This is also where you tell the BB where to look for the partition list which takes up to 14 sectors and can be located anywhere on the first hard disk on the system. You can save the configuration here as well as from the drive configuration menu. The 6502 monitor is the best I have seen for the 8-bit Atari. It doesn't have as many features as others but it is transparent to the system and does a MUCH better job of interupting a program than either DDT or Omnimon. I have retired my Omnimon and never used DDT much anyway. With the BB monitor you can interupt a program, examine/change memory, and usually resume right where you left off. Ever had a lockup you couldn't get out of by pressing RESET? With the BB monitor you can change the program counter to point to E477 (the cold start vector) and when you exit the BB the computer will cold start. This is nice for saving the files in your ramdisks. Note: While snooping in the BB ROM I discovered that holding the HELP key and pressing RESET causes a cold start. Holding SHIFT-HELP does not cause the cold start. This feature was not mentioned in the documentation. Software: -------- Other than programs to format hard drives, the only software I am aware of for these devices requires SpartaDOS. There are programs to: 1) swap drive assigns. 2) Lock/Unlock drives/partitions. 3) Load/Save configuration tables from/to disk files. 4) Load/Save BB partition lists from/to disk files. 5) Print info contained in config files and partition list files. 6) Load a partition from the partition list into the configuration table of the BB. There are also some .CMD files used by BBS Express Pro! sysops to work with the MIO. I am sure there is software available that I don't know about or forgot to mention here. Miscellaneous: ------------- There are two buttons, two switches, and a bank of eight dip switches on the BlackBox. One of the buttons is used to access the menu. The other dumps the screen to the printer. This can be done at any time. One of the switches allows you to select either text or graphics mode for the screen dump. In graphics mode all Atari graphics characters appear on paper just like they do on your screen. In graphics mode, screen dumps take the full width of 8 1/2 by 11 inch paper. This makes a graphics 0 screen look like graphics 2 on the print-out. The other toggle switch write protects ALL hard drives. This is handy when you want to try out a new program and don't want it to mess with the hard drives. The dip switches are used as follows: 1) Force printer fault line to NO FAULT. This causes the BB to not send any data to the printer. You could have another printer interface (and printer) attached to your computer and control which printer prints with this switch. 2) Enable hard disk port/high speed floppy SIO. This allows you to disable access to your hard drives and disable the BB's high speed SIO code for floppy disks. *3) Enable parallel printer port. *4) Enable RS232 port. *5) Enable printer line feeds. 6) Printer is a Prowriter. (Used by graphics dump routine.) 7) MIO compatibility mode where hard drives are concerned. The MIO inverts all data as it writes to the hard drive. In normal mode, the BlackBox doesn't to this. Flipping this switch to the MIO mode allows a hard drive to be used by either the MIO or the BlackBox. Note: this affects ALL hard drives that are online. 8) unused. * Switches 3-5 are mainly for systems with no hard drives online. If a hard drive is present this info is contained on the configuration sector. The BB gives more storage capacity on hard drives than does the MIO. It is able to format a drive using 512 byte sectors. These are accessed as 256 byte sectors after formatting. (Each 512 byte physical sector contains two 256 byte logical sectors). CSS claims that using 512 byte sector format can add up to 20% to the storage available on a hard drive. I gained a little over 10% formatting my 40 meg hard drive in this mode. I have a 40 meg drive that formats out as follows: Format type sectors MIO - 256 byte sectors 146685. BB - 256 byte sectors 148994. BB - 512 byte sectors *162530. * This is the number of logical (256 byte) sectors. The only way I have found to empty the printer buffer on the BlackBox is to enter the port status menu and cycle the buffer off/on. Printing through the Printer buffer with either the BlackBox or the MIO slows down both the printing process and the computer (especially when accessing other devices like disk drives). Reliability: ----------- The MIO has been plagued by problems and rumors of problems since it was released. I personally know of at least 11 MIO's that had to be sent in for repairs at one time or another. (And I only know 8 people who own MIO's.) I bought my MIO's second hand and both had been sent back by the original owners to be fixed. Here are some problems I have experienced when using the MIO: 1) Wierd things have happened when I used the printer buffer. Everything from wierd flickering and characters showing up on the screen to garabage being sent to the printer. 2) I could not use my Mac/65 cartridge and the ram in the MIO at the same time. When I tried, the ramdisk(s) formatted themselves whenever they felt like it and I had to use a sector editor to recover anything important. To my knowledge no one else has had this particular problem. 3) When using terminal programs the MIO frequently locked up on me while I was online. I suspect that this is a problem when the MIO is the originator of a call because I know of many BBS's using the MIO that have been online for a long time with no such problem. Note: BobTerm 1.20 claims to solve this lockup problem by supplying it's own handler for the MIO which also allows it to transfer at a true 19200 baud rate. I have had no problems with the BlackBox except when I wired it into my 230 watt power supply. I reversed the +12v and -12v lines and fried a couple of chips. A normal person would not have done this. Product Support: --------------- ICD has apparently lost interest in the Atari 8-bit machines. At this time they offer little support for the MIO. If anything goes wrong, they are not likely to offer any help to the user at all beyond fixing them for $40.00+parts+shipping. My own experience with ICD has left a lot to be desired. I have been using ICD products since about 1984. I use the SpartaDOS X-cartridge and when I first got my MIO, I couldn't exit the menu without the computer doing a cold-start. Thinking something was wrong with the MIO, I called ICD for help. My call was forwarded to to a technical assistance person. I explained my system and the problem to him and he told me that the MIO was faulty and to send it in for repairs. He informed me that the repairs would cost $40.00+parts+shipping. Well, it turns out that exiting the MIO menu with a cartridge plugged in causes a cold-start with all MIO's. So much for getting good help from ICD for their 8-bit products. (In fairness to ICD, I hear that they do a better job supporting their ST product line.) CSS, on the other hand has proved to be a gold mine for Atari 8-bitters. As I mentioned above, I fried a couple of chips on my BlackBox. I called CSS and (with some embarassment) told Ron exactly what I did. Instead of saying 'Send it in with your wallet, checkbook, and credit cards' he told me exactly what chips I had probably fried. I found the chips at Radio Shack (for about $2.00) and fixed my BlackBox. These folks really do care! The people at CSS have answered some pretty dumb questions for me (one or two intelligent ones too). They have even helped people with their ICD products. They have also given me any technical information I needed - or thought I needed - to write programs for the BlackBox. Trivia: ------ BB really stands for BobBox. (For creator Bob Puff.) Conclusion: ---------- The MIO has been plagued with reliability problems. The RS232 handler has been known to cause lockups when online and drops the carrier (hangs up the modem) when RESET is pressed. The print spooler sometimes does wierd things and is only semi-reliable. I have been told that the spooler sometimes writes to hard drives instead of the printer. I kept the spooler turned off when my hard drive was attached. I just didn't want to verify this the hard way. Thee MIO is also known to have (electronic) noise problems, especially when used with 130XE's. The result is loss of ramdisk configuration and/or contents. I have only heard a few complaints about the hard disk interface on the MIO. I have experienced no problems with the hd interface. Pretty is as pretty does. I have found the BB to be a far more reliable tool than the MIO. It is more flexible in most areas, offers more options, and product support is just fantastic. And it costs less too. The only problem I have heard of regarding the BB had to do with printer dumps when an older Gemini-10X printer was used. A ROM upgrade has fixed this problem. The RS232 handler doesn't cause lockups, and you can press RESET without losing the carrier. I have never had any wierd stuff happen when using the printer handler. I don't have the 64k spooler on the BB but am sure it meets up to the standards of the rest of this fine product. The screen dump feature works well. It will dump any graphics 0-2 screen with no problem and has no problem with most other graphics modes. The hard disk interface works flawlessly and allows use of 512 byte as well as 256 byte sector formats. The BB also has an MIO compatible mode so that you can use hard drives that have been written to by an MIO. CSS claims that the BB is up to 20% faster than the MIO depending on the brand of controller and drive used. I noticed only a slight increase in speed after converting to BB format using my Adaptec controllers with 3 different brands of hard drives. I really like the BlackBox. I heartily recommend the BB over the MIO and encourage all 8-bit Atari users to support CSS. After all, they are supporting us. Now if they would only get that floppy controller out... The BlackBox - $199.95 w/64k ram $249.95 BB Case $ 39.95 Available from: Computer Software Services P.O Box 17660 Rochester, NY 14617 Phone: (716) 586-5545 BBS (716) 247-7157 The MIO w/256k ram $239.95 w/1 meg ram $469.95 XE adapter $ 16.95 Available from: ICD, Inc 1220 Rock Street Rockford, IL 61101 Phone (815) 968-2228 BBS (815) 968-2229 ** REVOLUTIONARY CONCEPTS ========================= PART 34 - "The Transportable Computer" by Donald A. Thomas, Jr. (c)1990, ARTISAN SOFTWARE (This is PART 34 of a series of articles published and distributed by Artisan Software. Please feel free to copy and distribute this article as you please provided you include all unedited text. Also feel free to upload to boards and communication services. These articles are designed to entice you to take constructive action. Write to involved parties and tell them how YOU feel about the subject.) NOTE: THIS ARTICLE MAY BE EDITED AND IS ENCOURAGED TO BE PUBLISHED BY ATARI AND/OR OTHER COMPUTER RELATED PUBLICATIONS. SUCH USE OF THIS ARTICLE MUST INCLUDE COPYRIGHT AND AUTHOR DESIGNATIONS AS WELL AS THE NEW PRODUCT RELEASE INFORMATION AT THE END OF THIS ARTICLE. The Atari Portfolio is a stick of dynamite that has explosive power. For less than three hundred dollars, an individual can obtain a fully functional and programmable MS-DOS command compatible computer that fits in the palm of their hand. Even adding the cost of peripherals, the Portfolio is more than a thousand dollars less than the its nearest competitor- The Poquet computer (retailing at $1999). This is NOT meant to be a sales pitch, it's pure fact. Anyone who has the need for a portable computer can link the Portfolio and quickly transfer compatible data within seconds. Not hours, not minutes, but seconds. And this link is not limited to MS-DOS platforms. Virtually any computer in the world can exchange data with the Portfolio. The secret lies in two areas. The most significant of the two is the ASCII character set standard. A pure ASCII text file on one computer means exactly the same thing on another. Therefore, the files that are transmitted between two incompatible computers are 100% compatible. This has always been true, but is now being better understood by more and more people. The second part of this secret is the ease of the physical link. There is an energy department in Canada which is looking at Portfolios as a remote, unmanned environmental data collecting device. Reporters and photographers are discovering the Portfolios' ideal design for notetaking and scheduling. Salespeople are providing customers with quotes and receipts instantly. Marketing people are compiling statistics with up to a 15 pound lighter load than the laptop alternatives. Hackers like the uninterrupted on-line time since the desktop is difficult to take on vacation. Executives keep in touch with their E-mail and appointments all in one machine. Students find the Portfolio easy to carry between classes. The Portfolio has already proven its broad potential and is fast becoming a trusted tool. I think the most amazing phenomenon I have encountered in regard to the Portfolio, is how well every platform is quickly learning to make the connection. The Portfolio has already been advertised as "the Portable Mac". Of course MS-DOS users get along fine with it and have since the beginning. Just about every category is covered. Well, except for the Atari ST market. I am simply dumbfounded at how many Atari 16-bit computer users struggle with the Portfolio. Now before you all start writing and telling me you get along fine with it, I am talking general terms here. It seems that the Atari 16-bit community has the most difficult time exchanging files with the Portfolio. Of course, you are probably an exception. I personally feel that the Atari ST and MEGA computer user should investigate the Portfolio closely, even if it is not purchased. For those who are committed to help spread the Atari namesake around, the Portfolio is the easiest advertisement Atari has ever produced. One of those users referred to above is a broadcaster in the Los Angeles area. I spoke to him one day and he told me he was ready to buy a desktop. He said Memory Cards were beginning to cost as much as one anyway and the Portfolio inspired a confidence in computers. Since he was so pleased with the Portfolio, he wanted advice as to what desktop to buy. I sent him to our friends in Bellflower (Mid-Cities Comp Soft) and this broadcaster is now a proud owner of an ST. The Portfolio is CLEARLY THE MISSING LINK BETWEEN THE REST OF THE WORLD'S COMPUTERS AND THE ENTIRE ATARI LINE. When I first learned of the Portfolio, I resented Atari's apparent departure from the ST/MEGA environment. I still cringe from time to time to think that Atari could ever decide to abandon their traditional line of computers. It is obvious they will not as they have now the new STEs and TTs being introduced in the United States. As I learned more about the Portfolio, I was amazed at its total function abilities. The Portfolio is enhanced even more by optional software and hardware. I use mine for light spreadsheets, but mostly for writing my thoughts as I commute to work each day. I also take it along on business trips for the address book functions. And everywhere I go someone stops and asks about it. If they heard about it, they are amazed that it is exactly as advertised. If they didn't, then they are simply amazed. If you have been considering to link the Portfolio to an ST/MEGA computer, then read on. It's easy, inexpensive and some fun too. What you will need is the optional Serial Interface and a "DB9 (female) to a DB25 (male) null-modem serial cable". If that sounds like a lot, just know it is a rather standard cable and your computer dealer will know what all that means. The cable should not cost more than $20. You will also need communications software on the host computer (the ST/ MEGA). One popular title is FLASH, but there are many good ones. You will not need a communications program on the Portfolio. Read my lips ... you will not need a communications program on the Portfolio. Make the connections between serial ports using the interface and cable. Run your communications software on the host and designate a TEXT receive. When that is set up, then go to the Portfolio and type COPY FILENAME.EXT AUX. This will issue a copy of your file out through the serial port. To receive a file on the Portfolio, type COPY AUX FILENAME.EXT. Please replace FILENAME.EXT with the true filename. If you have problems, it may be because you have not initialized the serial interface through the SETUP menu or some parameters are mismatched. The only parameter you will probably need to set is the baud rate on the host computer. 9600 baud is the default on the Portfolio and the suggested speed. As you become more sophisticated with the Portfolio, you may discover that your file transfer needs have grown. You will need a communication program on the Portfolio if you wish to do non-ASCII file transfers, for instance, ARTISAN SOFTWARE has just released TRANSPORT for the ST/MEGA computers to help you through the confusion. It is written specifically to link traditional Atari computers to the Portfolio. For beginners, an express menu system will enable fast file transfers and display exactly what and when to type the commands you need. Advanced users will learn to access two advanced menu option screens. Included is the ability to generate non-transferrable file reports, strip files on non-ASCII code characters, Xmodem file transfers and much more. It will work on color or monochrome systems and sells for $24.95. You may obtain TRANSPORT from your local Atari computer dealer or you may order direct from Artisan Software. Direct orders must add $1.50 shipping/handling and California must add 6.25% sales tax. If you desire more information about the Portfolio, consider one of the many Atari publications, visit some users' groups meetings and subscribe to GENIE or COMPUSERVE. For information on how you can "JOIN THE REVOLUTION" and actively support the exposure of Atari computers, write: ARTISAN SOFTWARE, P.O. Box 849, Manteca, California 95336. ======================================================================= Z*MAGAZINE Atari 8-Bit Online Magazine is a bi-weekly magazine covering the Atari and related computer community. Material contained in this edition may be reprinted without permission, except where otherwise noted, unedited, with the issue number, name and author included at the top of each reprinted article. Commentary and opinions presented are those of the individual author and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Z*MAGAZINE or the staff. Z*Magazine Atari 8-Bit Online Magazine, Z*Net Atari Online Magazine, Z*Net are copyright (c)1990 by Rovac Industries Inc, a registered corporation. Post Office Box 59, Middlesex, New Jersey 08846. (908) 968-2024. Z*Net Online BBS 24 Hours, 1200/2400 Baud, (908) 968-8148. We can be reached on CompuServe at 71777,2140 and on GEnie at Z-NET. ======================================================================= Z*Magazine Atari 8-Bit Online Magazine Copyright (c)1990, Rovac Industries, Inc.. =======================================================================
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