8-Bit Software Online Conversion

8-BIT SOFTWARE ISSUE 21 ======================= INTRODUCTION & NEWS ------------------- Welcome to another issue of 8-Bit Software! This article contains a variety of important information, comments, changes that have occurred, etc.; detailed information about what is in issue 21 itself can be found in "About This Issue". ISSUE 20 Issue 20 has, at the time of writing, been distributed to thirty-three people. Hopefully this number will increase rapidly between now and mid-September; I was in fact expecting a much greater response from the mention in the Micro User (despite the inaccurate description), and unfortunately a classified ad destined for BBC Acorn User hasn't found its way into either this issue or the last. However, Duncan Webster has very generously written to nearly forty of the old members, so this should improve the situation considerably. Considering the relatively low membership at present, I very much urge members to try to recruit more people to 8-Bit Software - most disk formats are now catered for, so try to find anyone with a BBC B, Master, Compact or 512, or else put a mention on a bulletin board or anywhere else you can think of. Issue 20 is now free (upon receipt of disk plus return postage AND packing) until 16th September 1992. So far only fifteen members have written back after receiving issue 20; it has been very well received by those members who have written back - perhaps the people who haven't written didn't think very much of it??? However, I expect that many more people will write in for issue 21 as time goes by; it often takes up to six weeks to write again after receiving an issue. In answer to an enquiry, Duncan Webster is still a member of 8-Bit Software; his user i.d. is 105. ISSUE 21 Despite the numerically-small response, the quantity and quality of software in Issue 21 is quite high, with a great deal of very good software which is unavailable elsewhere, and covers a wide range of interests. The disk magazine contains several programming articles, an article explaining how to find cheats in games, a large number of messages on a (very) wide range of topics, and the results from the people who have returned the questionnaire so far, including the database (sort of) of members' interests. Issue 21 sees the return of archiving, for the simple reason that everyone sent me submissions with files exactly 2.3K long. But don't worry, de-archiving software is very easy to do even if you haven't done it before. See elsewhere for details. Nearly everyone who has ADFS has received the special ADFS conversion of issue 21, which has rather nice menus (thanks Steven) and !BOOT files and even nearly works, maybe. Also it has a total lack of archives and might even have some extra software hidden away somewhere if I remember. The documentation is written entirely for the DFS version though. Sorry if you really didn't want it in ADFS but I can't see why! If you want to convert the ADFS version back to DFS, copy everything from the DISKMAG directory onto side zero of the disk and everything from the SW directory onto side two. It will still have problems though. The disk magazine menu program is now Archimedes-compatible (I think), if that's of any use to anyone. ISSUE 22 The bad news is that the 50p charge is here to stay. At present 8-Bit Software is making a small but significant loss, despite the 50p charge on this issue, and I have no intention of turning this into a large loss. The views of the minority who have expressed doubts about charging have been noted, but there is simply nothing I can do about it since I am not prepared to pour my own money away. I would hope (eventually) to be able to reduce the charge to 20p per issue, but abolishing it altogether is entirely unrealistic. At present, it seems to make more sense to charge a reasonable amount, thus allowing 8-Bit Software to have a slightly higher profile. Recruiting additional members by (cheap) advertising, sending disks to the Micro User, writing directly to well-known programmers, enquiring about promised submissions by phone and so on, must be an essential part of keeping 8BS going. Anyway, enough of that. Issues 20, 21 and 22 are all available in the following formats, either 5.25" or 3.5": DFS 80T DS (the standard) DFS 80T SS (two disks required) ADFS L ADFS M (two disks required) If you know anyone with any of these formats, please let them know about 8-Bit Software! Just to make things absolutely clear, to obtain Issue 22 send 50p plus the correct number of (formatted) disks plus return postage & packing. PLEASE TRY TO GET SUBMISSIONS, TEXT, ETC. TO ME BY 16TH SEPTEMBER AT LATEST. Issue 22 will be distributed at the end of September, hopefully; if your disk reaches me after 1st October you stand a pretty good chance of it not being sent before I go to university, which means you will receive issue 22 as a Christmas present. ISSUE 23 There is a slight problem with this, in that I'm not going to be around to edit it. I am currently enquiring of a few people as to whether they are prepared to run, or help to run, 8BS for one issue or so during my first term at university; I would then do another issue during the Christmas holiday (rather quickly!) Chris Richardson has suggested that he could probably do it, but if YOU would be prepared to do anything to help (like: write 100K of text, edit the whole of the disk magazine, copy 50 disks, edit and/or distribute the entire issue, or any combination of the above), please get in touch as soon as possible. Quite a few people have said to let them know if I want any help; please let me know how much help you can offer! POSTAGE & PACKING A few comments on this would seem to be worthwhile - I see quite a lot of it going back and forth. Some members put ridiculous amounts of stamps on their SSAEs - 48p is a bit much to post one disk considering that some people get away with 18p, though I wouldn't recommend that either if you are sending large amounts of cardboard with your disk. 36p is more than enough to post two disks, probably first class. Equally, posting a 5.25" disk in a totally unprotected paper envelope is hardly a good idea considering the care with which the post office treat them. But it also seems like a waste of time and effort encasing disks with concentric rings of cardboard, padding and/or board-backed envelopes when I have never yet seen a disk damaged in the post, despite the afore-mentioned unprotected ones. A padded envelope OR a piece of card large enough to protect the disk is usually enough, though single 3.5" disks can be posted unprotected in normal letter envelopes (seal them securely). Finally, some members determinedly re-cycle the envelopes they use for sending/receiving disks. While I agree with this, and do it myself wherever possible, it gets very worrying to see the same envelope coming back for the fourth time (having been to and from six other people in between), frayed and battered and about to fall apart. Do make sure that your envelopes are in reasonable condition at least - it saves on sticky tape. Later addition: A week or so after writing the above, I have just received a disk from Sattar Shakoor, in a padded envelope, which the postman has determinedly bent into a nice artistic curve, distorting the plastic in the process. All the software (Loopy Loop II - see elsewhere) was perfectly intact, but on verifying the disk I found a disk error on side two at track &30. After reformatting the disk, it verified with no problems, though it was still a bit curved. Whether this proves the point about packaging one way or the other, I don't know, but the disk is going back in the same padded envelope! 8-BIT SOFTWARE POSTAGE & PACKING I am now prepared to supply postage and packing to return your disks to you, at the following prices: 5.25" disks 3.5" disks One disk 0.60 0.40 Two disks 0.70 0.60 3-7 disks 1.00 1.00 Each extra disk after 7, max 15 total 0.10 0.10 All these prices are quite high since I am not prepared to buy padded envelopes etc. in bulk when I don't know how many I'll be using; they cost 28p each from the post office. Small numbers of 3.5" disks will be posted in good quality standard letter envelopes, everything else usually in standard padded envelopes. Postage will normally be first class. If you are quite happy with the usual system of supplying your own postage and packing then please continue do so - it is cheaper for you and easier for me! Also, please note: everyone still has to supply their own disk for each issue - no cash is accepted instead of this, as you have to send me a disk to send your submissions, comments etc. on! A note on payments; one member has asked if it is all right to send a cheque to cover the 50p charge or any other charge. This is fine with me, but members are advised to check whether their banks charge for each cheque; it would be a bit silly if you write a cheque for a 50p charge and then the bank deduct an extra 50p themselves! Cheques and P.O.s should be made payable to "D.G. Shimmin". OTHER ITEMS Much discussion of various other issues is contained within the results of the questionnaire, since it is more relevant to that. I have just heard that Chris Richardson's ECG Simulator V.3 and M.T. Farnworth's Power Raider have been included on this month's Micro User subscription disk, which is good news (8BS got a little mention as well). Incidentally, if you are writing a really excellent piece of software, why not put a little advert for 8BS (including the address) on the title screen just in case? I am have now received quite a few additional disks worth putting in the TBI pool, but at present I don't have the time to organise, test or catalogue them; see issue 22. APOLOGIES I know this issue is late, which will give some of you less than two weeks to meet the deadline; please do your best. In an attempt to prevent any further delay, the issue has been tested not on the BBC B but only on the Master 128, and even then not as thoroughly as I would have liked. However, I can't see any reason why anything should fail to work, and much of the software on this issue was originally written for the BBC B anyway! Please get in touch if you have any difficulties. COMING SOON (hopefully) More hardware info, including BBC B upgrades, 512 info and... 32-bit second processor review - the ultimate upgrade for only #100.00? Continuation of Steven Flintham's series on the user interface New software from M.T. Farnworth (possibly a game or Power Raider V.2) M.T. Farnworth's beginner's guide to using his Sprite Handler Questionnaire results & info from slightly more members (I hope!) Everything I promised in Issue 20 that hasn't arrived yet! Hugh William's (detailed) reply to M.T.F.'s article on program protection Sound samples, digitised graphics, etc. Software from Andy Nibb's Masterdisk magazine Tutorial on BBC BASIC, more PD catalogues (!), software from Carl Wheat "Bat & Ball"-type game from Sattar Shakoor There might also be new software from Chris Richardson, and I hope to see plenty more articles, software etc. coming in. I would still like to see as much "exclusive" software as possible (i.e. published in 8BS first), but this is of course your decision. CONTACTING 8-BIT SOFTWARE You can still contact me by phone on 0204 492613 any time after 7:30pm, though I don't guarantee to be in. To repeat something Duncan has said in the past, please try to leave some sort of message if I'm not in; there is at least one person who rang and I never found out who they were because they didn't ring back and didn't leave their name! The address is still: 8-Bit Software 1 Oakwood Drive Heaton BOLTON BL1 5EE But remember that I probably won't write back unless I have an SSAE! If you have received this issue after 1st October don't bother trying to contact me at all until after 9th December. ISSUE 20 ERRATA Firstly, the questionnaire seems to work or not work largely at random (whether you're using ADFS or DFS makes little difference), although everyone who has written back has been able to supply a completed questionnaire so it must have worked more often than it didn't. The following corrections/clarifications were sent out on paper with all copies of issue 20 apart from about the first ten or so: 1. Re: insertion of EPROMs into Master PCB In fact, the Master 128 circuit board has three places where EPROMs can be inserted. One (IC27) is for a 16K ROM (corresponding to ROMslot no.8) and two (ICs 41 and 37) are for 32K ROMs (only 16K of each can be selected at a time). Note however that in order to use the 32K sockets you will have to set hardware links (LK18 and LK19) which will disable two banks of your sideways RAM for each 32K ROM you insert. Refer to Master Reference Manual Sections F.2-2, F.5-4 and F.5-5 for details. It is probably easier, although more expensive, to use the ROM cartridges mentioned in the disk magazine, corresponding to ROMslots 0-3, which can be inserted in the external cartridge slots. 2. Re: co-processor compatibility in writing software I appreciate that this is extremely difficult to guarantee, especially in complex and advanced programs, or ones which require very high speed. However, it is possible even in the fastest and most detailed arcade games (e.g. the recent "Snacker" by ALT), and it is extremely helpful, especially in utilities etc., since many users have second or co-processors, and they can provide a speed increase of up to 100% To summarise the notes of the Master Reference Manual on the subject: I/O areas FRED, JIM, SHEILA should be accessed via OSBYTE calls 146-151, the I/O processor memory (e.g. screen memory) by OSWORD 5 and 6. MOS data in the machine should be changed or read via the MOS routines provided (OSWORD, OSBYTE etc.) rather than by direct memory access. Note that OSRDSC/OSRDRM, OSWRSC, OSEVEN, GSINIT and GSREAD will not function in a co-processor in any case. Further information can be obtained from the relevant sections of the BBC B documentation or the Master Reference Manual. 3. Re: 10Mb hard disks from Display Electronics The Master Reference Manual (J.1-2) states that Acorn-produced hard disk drives are ready-formatted to ADFS for use when purchased, and that HDD units by other manufacturers are unlikely to be compatible. However, other manufacturers have produced BBC-compatible hard drives in the past, and there are utilities available in the public domain to format hard disk drives. There was also a fourth note about possible difficulties with the questionnaire. SUBMISSIONS It is interesting to note that ALL the articles on this month's disk (apart from mine) have been written by Archimedes-owners; I'm not implying that there's anything wrong with owning an Archimedes, but why can't the rest of you write something? I would be interested to know what people thought of the various articles, especially the ones which may have a sequel at some stage (such as the articles by Steven and Stephen), so that I can pass on your comments to the authors. In addition, if there is ANY topic which you would like covered - anything at all - let me know and I will "encourage" someone to write an article on it... Meanwhile, I would still like to receive any new software members have written (or are thinking of writing), and please remember to send your comments on any software in this issue; but try to give constructive criticism, not just "it was good" or "it was absolutely pathetic". Hugh Williams has suggested that someone with a modem should review one bulletin board every issue (or maybe more than one?), giving full details of the facilities on offer, any charges made, software available, etc. etc., to make it easier for members with modems to choose from the vast range of bulletin boards available. If anyone is in a position to write something along these lines, please do so! If you have any answers to any of the questions/technical enquiries etc. in this issue, or have any ideas or replies concerning any of the articles, please send in some text - I have been asked by one member if text is good enough for a submission - at present good text is more valuable than good software! FINALLY... I hope you enjoy issue 21 - please try to send your submissions for issue 22 as soon as possible! Daniel G. Shimmin, September 1992