Letters From Our Readers
Forty Folders Fatal?
First let me say thank you for all the support you give to ST users. I have been buying START off the newsstand for some time now, and so far I've found at least one item per issue that has been a great help to me. I am now a subscriber, so please continue the good work. And by the way, I love the look of the October 1988 issue!
I do have some questions for you. Recently I experienced a near-fatal
40-folder crash. 1 had no idea that I might access that many folders in
a session. Is there a desktop accessory that can count folders or alarm
you when you get to number 39? How would I get the necessary TOS info to
write an ACC? Are there alternate Desktops that have corrected this problem?
I've seen a program called NeoDesk from Gribnif Software in Massachusetts
that seems to work. Do you know if its reliable? And is a 40-folder crash
potentially fatal to my computer system?
Note to any ST users in the South: everyone here in the eastern part of North Carolina either speaks IBM or Apple and looks askance at the mention of Atari (I smile knowing that my machine can run circles around theirs). I'd truly appreciate hearing from anyone in this area who uses STs or Megas-it's kind of lonely out here.
John Campbell Finnegan
According to the manual, NeoDesk does not purport to change the infamous "40-folder limit;" however, Atari has released a fix for this problem: FOLDRXXX.PRG, which is in the public domain. You can obtain a copy from a users group, online service or bulletin board; also, check for ads in START for companies that sell disks of public domain software. To use this program, replace the XXX in the file name with the maximum number of folders you think you will use in a session (e.g. FOLDR100.PRG). Put the program in the AUTO folder of your boot disk, and at boot time it will tell you how much memory it has reserved for additional folders.
We were able to locate several Atari users groups in North Carolina; the one closest to you is the Triangle Computer Club in Carrboro. You can get information about meeting times from Russell Gregoty at (919) 782-8122.-START Editor.
Where's the Speed?
I have one of the older model 520ST computers with an external drive and TOS in ROM. Until the current issue of START, my only exposure to alternate floppy disk formats was the explanation given in the well-written DBASIC handbook. I remember saying to myself, "Why wasn't this idea of skewed sectors incorporated into the ST?" Recent articles on the Mega ROMs claimed a change in the formatting method-skewed sectors that claimed to almost double the disk read rate.
Now my question: Does Twister achieve its increase in speed in a different way than by skewing sectors? Is it also skewing sectors (which would make your program unnecessary for Megas) or does its format actually improve speed over the Megas? I wish the article had gone into more detail about how to achieve the speed increase.
One more thing I hope you can clear up for me. I used Twister to format my ST BASIC disk, which my kids and I use a lot. However, there seemed to be no increase in speed either loading ST BASIC itself or files under BASIC. Also, why does a computer that can load a 150K file (ST BASIC) in approximately 16 seconds take the same time to load a 6-8K BASIC file. What happened to the speed?
College Point, NY
Twister formats disks in a manner similar to Megas, except that Twister adds one sector per track, which increases storage by 40K per disk side. There is no speed difference between Mega and Twister formatted disks.
The reason you're not seeing an increase in speed in ST BASIC is that the program itself takes a long time to load programs. it is probably doing some internal translation of the BASIC file as it goes along; this is separate from the amount of time it takes the drive to physically send the data-START Editor.
Thanks, Thanks and Thanks Again
Well done and thank you! Antic Publishing is providing one of the most useful magazines I have ever subscribed to. I recently found enough time to read most of the articles and look at the software programs from the past four issues. I am impressed, particularly with Discovery, Vocabularian and Microscope. I have two children in junior high school for whom these programs will be of tremendous value.
I have found many other useful articles in START written by individuals who obviously understand that not all of us are highly computer literate. I have owned my 1040ST for over a year but 1 have very little time to sit down and understand everything it can do for me and my family. But START has gone a long way in aiding me in that process and the cost of the subscription is worth every penny. Thanks again for an outstanding publication.
Robert D. Phipps
Fort Devens, MA
Another Cheer for Discovery
Please accept my thanks for your "World Discovery" program recently published in Special issue Number Four. In my opinion, it is one of the finest educational programs I've ever seen in terms of accomplishing what it sets out to do in a colorful and entertaining manner.
I look forward to related additions to this wonderful program that builds geography skills.
I also look forward to the START monthly issues coming my way, via subscription. Much success to you!
If you haven't already, check out our December 1988 issue which has more Discovery files plus a construction set so you can build your own-START Editor.
Electronic Courseware Systems Responds
We appreciate your editorial staff's willingness to review instructional materials for the Atari ST (Editor's note: Jim Pierson-Perry's review of ECS's products appeared in the October 1988 issue of START.) Unfortunately, the reviewer of our software has little knowledge of the instructional field or the purpose of software which has been published by our company. We have a very strong customer group allied to the publications developed by authors of programs which we publish. The programs which we accept for publication have been tested for a minimum of one year with students, thus validating the educational value of the products.
I do understand that professional musicians have a different view of the capabilities of hardware and a different level of expectation about the sophistication of software. A program, for instance, written for a pre-school child would have little stimulating interest for a professional musician.
Still. I hope that your readers will respond in a favorable way to the article which you have published.
G. David Peters, President
Electronic Courseware Systems, Inc.
Jim Pierson-Perry responds that he did not write the ECS review from the perspective of a professional musician, but from one who was interested in using an ST to learn music theory or piano keyboarding. He stands by his original assertion that although the ideas for the programs were sound, the implementation was "abysmal," especially for younger children. His four daughters (aged 3 through 9) became bored with the programs because of the repetition. Also, of the 16 programs in the set, five were essentially the same (although the company's product information doesn't tell you that).
The programs seemed to have been ported quickly with a teaching class in mind and did not seem appropriate for home use. Other than explaining how to boot the programs, there was no instructional material included. Some of the programs did have a good combination of MIDI input and visuals, but certain aspects of the programs' Apple II ancestry were cumbersome. For example, you must reset the computer to exit the programs and they don't take advantage of GEM or any of the STs other special features.- START Editor.
544 Second Street
San Frandsco, CA 94107
Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa