8-Bit Software Online Conversion

            EDITOR. This article and the eight associated programs supplied on this issue are only a very small part of a large collection of compression/decompression routines that Steven submitted to 8BS. I have compiled a disc containing the full submission and placed it into the TBI pool as TBI-102. A single sided DFS disc.       by Steven Flintham (15A) Part 1 Introduction This article describes a set of utilities for compressing and decompressing files using LZSS compression. Unlike the more common methods (run length coding, for example) used on the BBC LZSS compression will work effectively on most files, including saved screens, text and programs. However it has its disadvantages. Compressing a file requires a lot of memory and is slow, so it is not always practical. For example, an art package might want to save screens in a compressed form. This is possible using simple run-length coding but LZSS compression is too slow and memory intensive. A lot of the time this is not a problem. If you want the title screen of a game compressing, it doesn't matter if it took a minute or two and all the machine's memory to compress it, as long as it decompresses quickly when the game is loaded. Similarly, you might want to compress an archive produced by Chris Richardson's Archiver before putting it on a public domain disc or uploading it to a bulletin board. Everyone using it will want to decompress it but it only needs to be compressed once. So LZSS compression is asymmetric - compression is hard work but decompression is quite easy. As long as this isn't a problem these utilities should be worth a look. This article will not explain how LZSS compression works, just how to use these utilities. I hope to write another article giving the technical details in a later issue. Warning Although I think these utilities are fairly reliable there is still a chance that they will corrupt or destroy files when compressing or decompressing. You are strongly advised to take care when using them and to have a backup of any important data on the discs used. In particular, just because a file compresses correctly it does NOT mean that it will decompress correctly. If you intend to delete the original you should decompress the compressed version first as a test. It seems unlikely but it may be possible that even though a file decompresses correctly once it may not do so at a later date. You should also bear in mind that if a disc fault occurs in a compressed file it will be almost impossible to recover using a sector editor or similar tool.                                         Compression Files are compressed using the program LZSSC. When you run it, it will pause for a few seconds and then ask you for the file to be compressed (the input file). At this point you can remove the disc containing LZSSC if you need to as it will not be accessed again. You can enter a * command instead of a filename but you must include the * so the program knows it's not a filename. After giving the file to be compressed you will be asked for the filename to use for the compressed data (the output file). This should not be the same as the previous filename - if it is you will lose the original file as the program cannot tell if the two are the same. You will be warned if the output file already exists. Finally you are asked for the number of offset and length bits to be used. The minimum and maximum acceptable values are shown. Changing these values will affect the size of the compressed data and you may want to experiment with them. A good 'standard' setting is 11 offset bits and 4 length bits although a smaller number of offset bits may be more suitable for short files. The program will then compress the file. As mentioned above this can take some time so you are informed of progress as it works. If the information given doesn't make sense you can just ignore it. When it finishes it will tell you how long it took, how fast it was working and (most importantly) the compression ratio. There is no standard meaning of compression ratio - in this program a compression ratio of 25% means the compressed file is a quarter of the size of the original file. The compression ratio can be larger than 100%, in which case the original file gets larger when compressed (at least for the particular number of offset and length bits used, and probably for all choices). It will still decompress correctly but there's no real point in keeping the compressed version. Finally you have the option to start again and compress another file. Note that except when compression is taking place you can press ESCAPE to quit the program. Decompression If you want to decompress a file so that you have the original on disc again you have two options, LZSSD and LZSSDF. You need not worry too much about which one you choose as both will produce the same result. However I recommend using LZSSDF most of the time as it is much faster. For very large files it will not work but it will tell you when this happens and you can then use LZSSD instead. Both programs are almost identical in use so unless one of the programs is mentioned specifically the following instructions apply to both. When you run the program after a short pause you will be asked for the filename of the compressed file (the input file). As in LZSSC you can enter a * command instead of a filename. The program will check that the file you specify is a compressed file. You will then be asked for the filename to use for the decompressed file (the output file). As in LZSSC you will be warned if there is already a file with that name and you must not use the same filename as the compressed file. You do not need to specify length or offset bits for decompression as the correct values are stored in the compressed file so decompression will then start. LZSSD will keep you informed of progress but LZSSDF will not. Both programs display the same information as LZSSC once decompression has finished. Finally you have the option to decompress another file. As in LZSSC you can press ESCAPE to quit the program at any time except during decompression. Press Space.